The Tortures Of Hell

There is no punishment that men can devise so terrible in its effects
as remorse. Physical tortures cannot last longer than a certain period
without wearing out the body, but remorse is a monster which feeds
upon itself and, little by little, gains possession of the whole inner
life, making outward things hateful to the sight. It was this feeling
that Adrian experienced after he had surrendered his liberty to gain
safety in the body of Dr. Roversmire. The memory of his crime was
constantly with him, reminding him at every moment of the day that his
soul was held in the bondage of an alien body, and that, even if
Philip Trevanna recovered, he would be powerless to break the chain
which fettered him. The deed, once done, could not be recalled, and,
of his own free will, he had entered into a prison from which nothing
short of a miracle could release him.

As the days went slowly by he strove mightily to adapt himself to the
dreary, monotonous life which he was now leading. Roversmire had
indeed been able to draw entertainment from his stores of knowledge,
his vast experience, and his power of releasing his soul from his body
whenever earthly things grew too irksome to him, but Adrian, having
lived all his life in a frivolous world, had not a well-stored mind to
draw upon, consequently being debarred by his strange position from
his ordinary pleasures he did not know how to employ his time.
Furthermore, the memory of his folly stung him sharply, and the forced
inaction of the life of seclusion, to which he was now condemned, made
his tortured soul writhe in its new dwelling-place with a hideous
sense of impotence and weariness.

Day by day the papers informed him of the progress which Philip
Trevanna was making towards recovery, and the astonishment excited by
his own strange disappearance, but he was powerless to come forward,
explain the circumstances of the affair, and resume his place among
his fellow-men. He had sinned in permitting his temper to lead him to
so nearly kill a human being, and this was his punishment–this dreary
life of forced inaction, of agonising remorse, and of terrible
self-reproach. Truly he was paying dearly for the one mad act of his
life, and to his mind the punishment appeared immeasurably severe to
the magnitude of the crime. Had Philip Trevanna died, he would have
accepted his terrible situation with sullen apathy, looking upon it as
a fit reward for taking the life of a fellow-man, but seeing that his
friend was recovering, that the crime was unpremeditated, and that
Trevanna had provoked him beyond all powers of endurance, it seemed
bitterly hard that he should have to pass an indefinite period in a
constant state of torture.

This unpleasant state of things was not rendered any more bearable by
the presence of Dentham, who, Adrian knew, kept a constant watch upon
his every action. What the man suspected he could not tell, but that
he was suspicious of the life led by Dr. Michael Roversmire was
certain, as Adrian felt rather than saw the stealthy glances with
which he watched his goings out and comings in, gettings up and
layings down. This, in itself, was enough to irritate a sensitive
mind, but added to the appalling tortures the unhappy young man was
constantly feeling, it drove him nearly to the verge of distraction,
and he longed for something to happen which would give him, if not a
release, at least change of life. At last an event happened which
caused Adrian to make up his mind to leave his seclusion, and which
also caused considerable anxiety to the enquiring mind of Mr. Dentham.

One day, about two weeks after the transformation had taken place,
Adrian saw in the paper a notice of a reward offered for the discovery
of the whereabouts of Adrian Lancaster.

“I’m wanted by the police, I suppose,” he muttered gloomily to
himself; but this idea was soon dispelled when he read the last lines
of the advertisement, which said that all information was to be given
to O. M., The Nook, Marlow, Bucks.

“It’s Olive! Olive!” cried Adrian, throwing down the paper, “she wants
to find out where I am and help me, God bless her; if I could only
reveal myself to her–but it’s impossible. Dr. Roversmire is a
stranger to her, and if I told her what had taken place, she would
look upon me as a madman. What am I to do?–God help me, what am I to
do?”

He walked up and down the room, plucking at his long grey beard as if
he would tear from his young soul this mark of age.

“She could never love me as I am now,” he said, clasping his hands,
“for that would be treachery to my memory, and this face is not the
one to win any girl’s love–did not Roversmire himself say that the
woman he loved refused to return his passion?–stay! perhaps if I look
through this desk I may find out the name of the woman he loved, and
go and see her–something may come of it, though I dread even to hope
that things will turn out well.”

Sitting down at the desk near a deep, wide window, he unlocked it with
the key which was placed therein, and began to turn over the papers in
the hope of finding some clue to the name of this girl, whose
rejection of Roversmire’s suit had indirectly led up to the
catastrophe which had happened to himself.

He was about an hour looking through the papers, but found nothing
likely to lead to discovery, until at length he found a locked book,
which he immediately guessed was the diary of Roversmire.

“If it’s anywhere, it will be in here,” he said to himself, “but it’s
locked–I wonder where the key is–it’s a very small hole, so the key
must also be small. I don’t think I’ve seen any key that size, and
yet–ah!” with a sudden recollection, “it’s on the watch chain.”

And so it was, a long slender golden key of Indian workmanship, with
which Adrian easily unlocked the book, and was soon deep in the
contents written in the small, clear handwriting of the doctor. For a
long time he read steadily on, without finding what he was in search
of.

The entries principally related to the writer’s life in India, the
periods of his fasts, the statements of his feelings, the dates upon
which he arrived at and departed from different places, and every now
and then, wild rhapsodies, peculiarly Oriental in their poetic thought
and imagery of the delights, ecstacies, and marvellous pleasures he
had tasted of, when set free from his earthly body. Later on in the
book, the doctor recorded his arrival in England, the disposition of
his affairs with regard to money; the taking of his house at
Hampstead, and the way in which he lived secluded from all men.

Then, at last, came a declaration of his passion, and at the sight of
the name of the woman he loved, Adrian Lancaster gave a low cry, and
letting the book fall upon the floor, arose quickly to his feet.

“Olive Maunders!” he whispered clutching his throat, “he loved Olive
Maunders, and she never told me anything about him–oh, impossible–it
cannot be true.”

It was true however, for on recovering his composure, and resuming the
reading of the diary, he found the whole facts of the case, plainly
set out. Dr. Roversmire had called at the town house of Sir John
Maunders with a letter of introduction from a friend in India, and Sir
John, having a leaning towards occult science, had been much taken up
with the curious character of his guest. Roversmire saw Olive, fell in
love with her, and recorded his impressions in a series of broken
paragraphs, which were anything but pleasant reading to the fastidious
mind of Adrian Lancaster, seeing that they were about the girl whom he
intended to make his wife.

“. . . . She is certainly a most beautiful woman, but it is not her
outward form which attracts me, fair though it be as the lotus
floating on the wave of the holy Ganges. The pure crystal of her body
encloses the still purer flower of her soul, a soul which possesses
strong masculine characteristics . . . . after the soulless women of
the East, this discovery is to me a source of wonder and admiration.

“. . . . I have observed her narrowly, and am still constant to my
first opinion; with such a strong soul as she possesses, Olive might
go through the ordeal with unshaken firmness of purpose, and be
enabled to release her soul from this clinging vestment of clay
. . . . I must explain as much as I can to her and see if she will make
the attempt.

“. . . . All in vain . . . . I have told her of my idea that she
should marry me, that I should initiate her into those strange
sciences of which the West knows nothing, and when she attains the
mastery of the last great secret, we will float together, radiant
spirits in infinite space.

“. . . . It is quite useless, not even this destiny I offer her can
gain her love! and why? Because it is given already to some brainless
dandy of to-day called Adrian Lancaster . . . he is abroad now, and
hence the mistake I made in thinking she was free–ah, it is unkind of
Fate to thus mar the destiny of a fair strong soul by such a vulgar
obstacle.

“. . . . By means of my astral body, I have seen Mr. Adrian Lancaster,
who is at Monte Carlo . . . . a handsome face certainly, but no
brains, and if he has any, he never uses them . . he seems to me to
lead a debauched life–ah, the pity that such a soiled soul should
seek union with the stainless, spiritual part of Olive Maunders. It
will be like fire and water coming together, and the mastery will be
with the strongest.

“. . . . I have tried again and failed, her material part is stronger
than her spiritual one, and she has set her heart upon marriage with
Adrian Lancaster, so there is nothing left for me to do, but to retire
peacefully from the field . . . . I should like to teach her a lesson,
and show her what she has lost in refusing to marry me . . . well,
time will show, and I may some day, have an opportunity of doing
so . . . .”

There were several other entries about Olive and himself, but Adrian
had read enough, and closing the book with a frown, locked it up again
in the desk. It was clear Dr. Roversmire had not held a very good
opinion of him, and Adrian could not help acknowledging to himself
that the view taken by the savant was a correct one. He had brains in
plenty, but had never exercised them–never mind, there was yet time.
The experiences he had undergone, while in the body of Roversmire, had
not been without a salutary effect, and he would benefit by them, when
he returned to his own body. But when would he return? Ah! that was
the question; at all events, he would go down to Olive Maunders, and
find out from her demeanour towards him, if she really was true to
Adrian Lancaster, or if her ambition had caused her to look kindly upon
Michael Roversmire. The entries in the book were plain enough–she did
not love anyone else but himself, still the demon of jealousy was
gnawing at Adrian’s heart, and only a personal interview could
satisfy him on the subject.

He rang the bell, and Dentham appeared with such rapidity that Adrian
felt convinced he had not been far away. However, listen as he might,
he could not learn anything likely to endanger the safety of Dr.
Roversmire, so Adrian asked at once for what he wanted.

“Have you a Bradshaw?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Dentham, and thereupon vanished, quickly returning
with the book in question.

Adrian took it, and Dentham was about to retire when his master called
him back.

“Wait a moment, I may want you,” he said, without raising his eyes
from the Guide, whereupon Dentham wondered greatly what could have
occurred to alter so suddenly the general habits of the old doctor.

Adrian soon found out that there was a train late in the afternoon to
Great Marlow, and laying down the book open on the table, rose to his
feet.

“I am going to my room, Dentham,” he said abruptly. “You can come in
shortly to pack my portmanteau–I shall be going away for a few days.”

“Going away,” echoed Dentham when the door had closed on the tall
figure of his master. “Where to, I wonder; there’s something queer
about this–why, he’s hardly been out of the house for the last six
months, and now he makes up his mind to be off in half a minute. I’ll
have a look at this and find out where he’s going to.”

The Bradshaw was lying on the table, still open at the place to which
Adrian had referred, so Dentham had no difficulty in discovering that
Dr. Roversmire was going to Great Marlow, in the county of Bucks.

“What does he want there?” mused Mr. Dentham, laying down the
book–“more mysteries.”

Here he caught sight of the paper crumpled up on the floor, where
Adrian had thrown it, and picked it up.

“He’s been asking for the papers a lot lately,” said the astute valet
to himself, “I wonder if there’s anything in this that’s got to do
with his going to Marlow–I’ll see.”

He looked carefully over the paper, and at length came upon the
advertisement for Adrian Lancaster’s whereabouts.

“That’s it,” said Mr. Dentham in a satisfied tone, “it’s the only
mention of Marlow in the paper, and he only made up his mind to go
there since he read the paper; and now I think of it,” muttered
Dentham sagaciously, “the walking-stick I picked up as he said
belonged to himself, which was a lie, had the letters A L on it–now A
stands for Adrian and L for Lancaster, and Adrian Lancaster’s
disappeared. I wonder–now I do wonder if the voice I heard that night
was Mr. Lancaster’s, and what his walking-stick is doing in this
room–jumping at conclusions this is, I’m afraid, still, something may
come of all this, but I shan’t move till I’ve got more to go on.”

He put the paper in his pocket, intending to place it beside the
stick, which he had securely hidden, and then went off to pack Dr.
Roversmire’s portmanteau with a self-satisfied smirk on his white
face.