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A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands

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Author Topic: A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands  (Read 1580 times)
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« Reply #60 on: December 21, 2008, 05:30:05 pm »

At the top of the staircase we passed into a large magnificent room, lighted up by a glare of fire and hung around with dark draperies which were in perfect rags and tatters and all splashed with crimson stains of wet blood, as though this had been the scene of not one but many, murders. Around the rooms were placed ghostly phantoms of ancient furniture--ragged, dirty, and defaced, yet retaining in them a semblance to an earthly apartment of great pretensions to splendor. This room was filled with the spirits of men and women. Such men! and alas! such women! They had lost all that could ever have given them any claim to the charms and privileges of their sex. They were worse to look upon than the most degraded bedraggled specimens to be seen in any earthly slum at night. Only in Hell could women sink to such an awful degradation as these. The men were to the full as bad or even if possible worse, and words utterly fail me to describe them, were it indeed advisable to do so. They were eating, drinking, shouting, dancing, playing cards and quarreling over them--in short, going on in such a way as the worst and lowest scenes of earthly dissipation can but faintly picture.

I could see a faint reflection of the earthly lives of each, and knew that each and all of them, men and women alike, had been guilty, not only of shameless lives, but also of murder from one motive or another. On my left was one who had been a Duchess in the days of the sixteenth century, and I beheld that in her history she had from jealousy and cupidity poisoned no less than six persons. Beside her was a man who had belonged to the same era, and had caused several persons obnoxious to him to be assassinated by his bravoes, and had moreover slain another with his own hand in a most treacherous manner during a quarrel.

Another woman had killed her illegitimate child because it stood between her and wealth and position. She had not been many years in this place and seemed more overcome by shame and remorse than any of the others, so I resolved if possible to get near to and speak to her.

My entrance was greeted with great shouts of laughter and wild applause, while half a dozen or so of eager hands took hold of me and dragged me to the table, whereupon there were cries: "Let us drink to the damnation of this our new Brother! Let us baptize him with a draught of this our new Brother! Let us baptize him with a draught of this fine cooling wine?" And before I well realized their intentions, they were all waving their glasses aloft amidst yells and shouts and horrible laughter, whilst one, seizing a full glass of the fiery liquid, tried to throw it over me. I had just presence of mind enough to step lightly aside, so that the liquor was nearly all spilt upon the floor and only a small portion fell upon my robe which it scorched and burned like vitrol, while the wine itself turned into a bluish flame--such as one sees with lighted whiskey--and disappeared at last with an explosion as of gunpowder. Then they put before me a tray full of dishes which at first sight resembled earthly delicacies, but on closer inspection I saw they were full of the most horrible corrupting and loathsome maggots. As I turned away from them one hag of a woman (for she was much more old and ugly and horrible to look upon than the most degraded specimen you can imagine) whose bleared eyes and fiendish expression made me recoil from her, seized me round the neck and tried, with many grimaces which she intended for coquettish smiles (she had been, oh ye powers! a great beauty on earth) to induce me to join her and her party in a little game of cards. She said: "The stakes for which we would play consist of the liberty of the loser. We have invented this pleasing mode of passing our time here since it revives for us the divertissements of the past; and because there is no money here which one can win, or use if you win, seeing it all turns to dross in your hands, we have adopted this mode of paying our debts, and we agree to be the slave of anyone who beats us at our games of chance and skill till we can turn the tables on them by ourselves winning and making them in turn our slaves. 'Tis a charming arrangement, as you would find did you join our party for a little. These others here," she added, with a strange mixture of insolent arrogance and animosity in her tone--"these others here are but the canaille, the scum of the place, and you do well to turn from them and their amusements. But for me, I am a Royal Duchess, and these my friends are all noble also--and we would adopt you, who are also, I perceive, one of the elite, among ourselves."
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