ARRIVING at Paris, Garcia hailed a cab, and we were driven rapidly across the city to the palatial residence of Monsieur (M.) Durant, an old-time friend of my parents, from whom I had a sealed letter from my father.
M. Durant, an elderly gentleman of about sixty years with a military looking beard and mustache slightly sprinkled with gray, met us at the entrance in person, and grasping my hand and speaking most cordially, he led the way to his private reception rooms.
After some time in pleasant conversation, Garcia arose and, saying he would see me again, departed, leaving me alone with M. Durant to whom I now gave the letter from my father as he had instructed. As he broke the seal and opened the letter, a casual glance showed me it was written in hieroglyphics.
M. Durant read its contents in silence, then turned, and setting his dark, piercing eyes on me, held them there for several seconds as though trying to read my inmost thoughts. At last, evidently satisfied with his inspection, he kindly remarked that I would be his guest for some time and, as I was no doubt tired, he would accompany me to my room. Reaching a nicely furnished room upon the lawn, he told me to rest and make myself perfectly at home; he would call me in the course of an hour and accompany me to tea with Madame (Mme.) Durant and their daughter Camille.
An hour later M. Durant returned, and we proceeded to a private supper-room where I was introduced to Mme. Durant and Camille. Madame was a rotund woman of medium height with a broad, motherly face, black eyes and hair, and very kind and agreeable in her manner. Camille was a stately brunette with lustrous eyes that spoke welcome as she shook my hand and took her seat beside me at the table. The pleasant manners of all soon made me feel as one of the family, and I soon cast off all reserve.
The lunch was very light, and consisted solely of fruits and nuts, Mme. Durant remarking by way of explanation that their rules were to have only two regular meals a day and a light repast for supper.
I assured them that it was no hardship for me, as I had been raised from childhood on a strict Buddhist diet of only two meals a day and no meat. After a half hour’s conversation, Camille and I were fast friends, and with the smiling consent of her parents, we started on a tour of the mansion.
Camille’s education had evidently not been neglected, for as we walked along the richly furnished halls and up the marble stairway, she talked with equal fluency and show of thought upon art, science, and philosophy. Her mind seemed to glide by instinct into the channels of my own, and our sentiments were nearly one on almost every subject. How pleasant it is to converse and be with those whose thoughts are in harmony with your own. Over an hour was spent in the magnificent art gallery, and not a word was foolish or frivolous in its nature. When at last we parted for the night, a carriage drive over the city was on the program for the morrow.
On the following morning, M. Durant met me in the hall and said he wished to have a talk with me before my drive with Camille. So immediately after breakfast, we proceeded together to his private room. Having closed the door, he offered me a seat opposite him at a center; then leaning forward on his hands and looking me fixed in the eyes, he said:
“Alphonso Colono, your father informed me by his letter that you desire entrance into certain secret schools that exist in Paris, and he further vouches for your preliminary training and knowledge. Now, do you earnestly desire to enter these schools? If so, what motive prompts your desire?”
“M. Durant,” I replied, “from a child I have been fond of knowledge, and knowledge is now the ambition of my life."
The information that the outside scientific world can give me does not satisfy; it can tell me nothing concerning the real nature of things, and its knowledge consists of a mass of unexplained facts and phenomena only. But, from the teachings received from my father, I am led to believe that there are those in the world whose knowledge is not confined to such narrow limits; that they will aid me to reach real knowledge. It is these I seek.
“Do you realize the serious nature of true knowledge? Do you know the requirements necessary to its possession? Do you know the immense responsibilities and duties that it brings?”
“These to some extent I know and realize; these I am ready and willing to meet and assume.”
“You speak bravely and with confidence, but I fear you know not all. Nevertheless, I believe your motives are pure and will try to find someone who is associated with this school and tell him of your desires. In the meantime, you are not to speak or talk with Camille upon this subject; furthermore, you are pledged to silence. Do I hear your pledge?”
“You do,” I answered.
“Now, referring to your knowledge: your father says you are well advanced in medicine, art, and law; this is well, for these are indispensable requisites for an active life for mankind. He further says you have not yet received the formal and superficial titles that are deemed so essential in the world, the great majority of whose people never look beneath the surface. Therefore, I advise you to enter the exoteric schools and institutes and get diplomas and certificates in these three professions. Your knowledge will enable you to carry on all three subjects at the same time. And, while they can give you no real knowledge, they can teach you much that will be of advantage in the world. In art, they can teach you skill with the hand; in law, they can teach you diplomacy and forms; in medicine, they can teach you surgery and give you confidence in yourself from the ignorance they show. Then, further, you will form acquaintances, gain influence, and, if you are accepted as a candidate for the secret schools, be ready for consideration without delay, for these qualifications are necessary to all who would enter therein. Now, be silent, for the present, you may go.”
I left the room and, proceeding along the hall, met Camilla and accompanied her in a pleasant drive over the city. As on the evening before, she again demonstrated her ability as a conversationalist and entertainer, and when we returned, our friendship was established.
Thus, time passed, and Camille and I were almost constantly together. She was a student of art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and, at her request, and in accordance with M. Durant’s advice, I also matriculated. At the same time, I entered two of the most celebrated schools for instruction in medicine and law.
Through the Durants, I gained entrance into the highest social circles of Paris, forming many strong friendships with her beautiful and intellectual women and becoming closely associated with many men of serious and studious minds. Although surrounded and in almost constant association with the beauty and intellect of the French metropolis, I had not, as yet, found my ideal love. Camille and I were closely attached to each other but only as brother and sister, and we called each other such.
I often recalled the remarks of my father about my sympathetic soul, and questioned myself if my ideal of love was not too high. Born in purest wedlock, taught from youth to view love in its purest beauty, I pictured it in most exalted form. I found great pleasure in dwelling upon ideal conceptions of the beautiful and good; and, as this habit continued, my ideals grew stronger and purer, until perfect man and woman and perfect civilization were constantly uppermost in my mind. Father corresponded regularly, and his letters were always filled with words of loving tenderness and good advice. He urged me to prosecute my search for knowledge and learn patience, so as not to be discouraged by the apparent slow manner in which true knowledge comes.
“For,” he wrote, “knowledge is a growth, and not an external acquirement, and all enduring growths are slow. As your faculties unfold and your organism becomes perfected, true knowledge, which ever dwells within, will find the instruments necessary for its manifestation, and come forth.”
Garcia, without a word of explanation, had altogether disappeared and trusting M. Durant to attend to my application for membership into the secret schools, I settled down to business and concentrated all my energies upon my studies, and this without divorcing myself from social life, for the keynote of my father’s teachings was concentration. I had so cultivated this power, that while in my study I was all student, elsewhere, I was in harmony with my surroundings.
Father’s letter contained not a word concerning mother and sister and, notwithstanding his peculiar remarks to the contrary, had concluded they had perished in that fateful storm.
This conclusion soon received a startling contradiction.
It was on the night of the fifth of September, one year after my arrival at the Durant mansion, and Camille and I occupied a box at the Grand Opera House where Mlle. Vivani, the world-renowned prima-donna, was to appear that evening.
The house was filled to its utmost capacity in expectation of the great event, and the elite of the city were out en masse. The hour had arrived for the performance to commence and the audience was eager with expectation when the manager appeared before the curtain and, with a low and courteous bow, addressed the questioning audience:
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “it is with mingled feelings of sorrow and pleasure that I have to make an announcement.”
“Mlle. Vivani has contracted a severe cold and will not be able to appear this evening.”
A shuffle of feet and murmur of disappointment ran through the audience, when the speaker continued: “But I am pleased to announce that another will appear in her place, who, while not known upon the stage, has a right to be ranked with the highest who are and who will surely meet and gratify our highest expectations. It is my pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to present to you, Mme. Nina, the unknown queen of song.”
As he spoke a beautiful and stately woman, dressed in a Grecian costume of purest white, appeared upon the stage.
A thrill ran through my form, my limbs trembled with agitation, a suppressed cry escaped my lips; I leaned forward with a startled look, and as Camille, dumbfounded by my actions, laid her hand on my shoulder and asked me what was wrong, I uttered the one word, “Mother!” Yes, there upon the stage, in all her queenly beauty, her broad white brow and dark lustrous eyes now more beautiful than ever, was my mother — Mother, or her living image?
As though the intensity of my gaze attracted her, she turned, and her eyes met mine. A momentary pallor came over her face and she gripped her hand; then, as if by a supreme effort of will, she turned her eyes to the audience.
Now, her voice rises in song. Yes, it is the same sweet voice I had listened to so often but, if anything, more sweet than ever.
With wondrous power, her voice rises and falls in almost celestial harmony as she sings that great love song, “Utopian Lovers,” each word carrying with it the power of a virgin heart. Under its soul-soothing power, I forgot my agitation, and, entranced, was only aroused as the last words died away, followed by a deafening roar of applause.
“Oh, Camille!” I cried, as she disappeared, “that is my long-lost mother, whom for years I have thought dead. I cannot be in error. I must see her.”
“Alphonso, what ails you? Your mother died eight years ago. ‘Tis only a resemblance; don’t be so agitated.”
Again, she appeared, and, as though she knew me, her eyes again met mine in a kind and loving look.
And, was I deceived? I heard the words as though coming from within my ears: “Be calm, my son, be brave and do your duty; all is well.”
“Camille, did you hear that?” I asked.
“No; hear what?”
Then her voice again arose in the deep and soul — thrilling words of the “The Virgin Wedding.” A death-like stillness seized the audience; an all-pervading calm seemed to hold each being. Never had Paris been so entranced before.
For several moments after she had ceased, a hush pervaded all, as though too sacred for applause, and then a heavy breath, as from a thousand souls at once, was followed by a deafening roar. Tears had come to many eyes: not tears of pain, but tears of suppressed emotion.
Souls, that had never before given thought to beauty and love, were thrilled by the all-pervading love stirred by that heavenly voice and soul.
It was the last appearance.
“Camille,” I said, “It is my mother. I must speak to her; I must see her. Let us to the stage entrance.”
“I don’t know what is the matter with you,” she replied, “but lead the way; where you go, I follow.”
Quickly, we hurried to the stage entrance most convenient, and, pushing open the door, entered but to be confronted by a tall, cloaked figure.
“Albarez!” I exclaimed, for I could never forget his face.
“Alphonso Colono,” replied the adept, “away and do your duty; when that is done, then can you meet your mother. All is well; away!”
“And then she is my mother?”
“She is or was; now she awaits you in the Brotherhood where alone will you ever meet her. Away!”
And, as though I could not disobey, I turned, and hurrying with Camille to a cab, returned home all agitation and excitement.
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