35. Beyond The Veil
Rita Irvin's awakening was no awakening in the usually accepted sense of the
word; it did not even represent a lifting of the veil which cut her off from the world,
but no more than a momentary perception of the existence of such a veil and of the
existence of something behind it. Upon the veil, in grey smoke, the name
"Kazmah" was written in moving characters. Beyond the veil, dimly divined, was
As of old the victims of the Inquisition, waking or dreaming, beheld ever before
them the instrument of their torture, so before this woman's racked and half-
numbed mind panoramically passed, an endless pageant, the incidents of the night
which had cut her off from living men and women. She tottered on the border-line
which divides sanity from madness. She was learning what Sir Lucien had meant
when, once, long long ago, in some remote time when she was young and happy
and had belonged to a living world, he had said "a day is sure to come." It had
come, that "day." It had dawned when she had torn the veil before Kazmah--and
that veil had enveloped her ever since. All that had preceded the fatal act was
blotted out, blurred and indistinct; all that had succeeded it lived eternally, passing,
an endless pageant, before her tortured mind.
The horror of the moment when she had touched the hands of the man seated in
the big ebony chair was of such kind that no subsequent terrors had supplanted it.
For those long, slim hands of the color of old ivory were cold, rigid, lifeless--the
hands of a corpse! Thus the pageant began, and it continued as hereafter, memory
and delusion taking the stage in turn.
* * * * *
Complete darkness came.
Rita uttered a wild cry of horror and loathing, shrinking back from the thing which
sat in the ebony chair. She felt that consciousness was slipping from her; felt
herself falling, and shrieked to know herself helpless and alone with Kazmah. She
groped for support, but found none; and, moaning, she sank down, and was
unconscious of her fall.
A voice awakened her. Someone knelt beside her in the darkness, supporting her;
someone who spoke wildly, despairingly, but with a strange, emotional reverence
curbing the passion in his voice.
"Rita--my Rita! What have they done to you? Speak to me. . . . Oh God! Spare her
to me. . . . Let her hate me for ever, but spare her--spare her. Rita, speak to me! I
tried, heaven hear me, to save you little girl. I only want you to be happy!"
She felt herself being lifted gently, tenderly. And as though the man's passionate
entreaty had called her back from the dead, she reentered into life and strove to
realize what had happened.
Sir Lucien was supporting her, and she found it hard to credit the fact that it was
he, the hard, nonchalant man of the world she knew, who had spoken. She
clutched his arm with both hands.
"Oh, Lucy!" she whispered. "I am so frightened--and so ill."