The Lost Door Part 4
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It was a picture that an artist would have delighted to paint: the stiff, crimson skirts of Helene d'Harcourt's gown stood wide on either side, and Wrexler's blue doublet and hose against them was in bold relief. His long over-sleeves edged with fur hung gracefully.
I could not speak. This mating of man with ghost was almost more than my poor mortal brain could bear, yet with every atom of my being I wished that I could have been in Wrexler's place. I remembered the one chaste kiss I had had from her, and I almost fainted at the thought of possessing those lips for my own, as Wrexler was doing. Strangely enough, mingling with this emotion was another--a feeling of fear and anxiety for my friend. Cold horror that froze my blood kept me rooted to the spot.
Behind me de Lacy had fallen to his knees. I could hear him repeating the Latin words of a prayer. All at once I saw where the light was coming from. The entire north wall, ordinarily lined with books, had gone. In its stead was a stone wall, and in the center of the wall was a low-hung Gothic door, carved and ornate. It was standing open, and beyond was a pale, luminous yellow mist. I could see nothing of what else was beyond the door, for the yellow haze filled the entire space.
It was like a golden fog, and its radiance lighted the library with a strange, unearthly glow. Its luminosity glowed upon Helene and Wrexler like a spotlight.
For a moment I thought Rougemont, de Lacy, everything of the past weeks, must have been a dream and that I was watching a cinema of past days.
All at once, before my astonished eyes Helene gently drew her lips away from Wrexler's. She slipped from his arms and extended her hands to him.
"Come," I heard her say.
Wrexler had been right: her voice was like golden honey. It was like the music of willow trees in early spring. Wrexler grasped her hands. For the first time I saw his face. Joy transfigured it, such joy as I have never seen before, and never shall see again.
Helene moved backward, slowly but surely, drawing him toward the little Gothic door that stood open. With her soft lips half parted, she whispered, "Come."
"Wrexler," I cried suddenly.
He did not hear me. As he looked into her eyes, he might have been a bird charmed by a snake. Nothing could break through the spell that bound him.
They were nearer the door. Each second brought them closer to it. Now Helene was on the other side. The golden mist concentrated upon her, until she looked like a goddess in its eery light.
"Wrexler! Wrexler!" The words tore through my throat.
Wrexler stepped over the threshold. Through the golden mist I saw him clasp Helene in his arms again. I saw her smile triumphantly at me, as she raised her lips to his. There was something in her eyes that filled me with horror.
The mist swirled about them until I could barely discover the outlines of their figures through its gleaming haze. Then the door swung slowly shut.
I awoke to feverish activity. "Wrexler! Wrexler!" I shouted and rushed forward to the door.
I grasped the iron ring that hung in its center. I pulled on it with all my might. When I found that it resisted all my efforts I began beating against the door itself. Presently I felt myself being pulled away.
"There is no use, my lord," de Lacy's voice was saying. "The door is gone."
"Gone!" I ejaculated, and even as I spoke I saw what he meant. The north wall of the library was lined with books as it always had been. I had been beating upon them impotently.
I looked down at my hands; the knuckles were raw and bleeding, just as they would have been from pounding on a heavily carved wooden door. De Lacy caught my meaning. "The door was there, my lord. It was the lost door--the door behind which Black George buried Helene d'Harcourt. It had been lost for centuries."
I sank into a chair, weakly, for now the fact that I had lost Wrexler, my friend, was paramount. "I will tear down the walls until I find it."
"That has been done, my lord, and it has never been found. It will never be found again. Only for a brief moment you and I have been granted a glimpse of something we can not understand."
"And Wrexler----" I groaned.
"He was happy," de Lacy comforted. "No matter what happened after, he has had happiness such as I have never seen before."
My head pitched forward and I knew no more.
Three days later, I was escorted to the library by de Lacy, to whom since Wrexler's loss I was more devoted than ever. With great ceremony I was given the key to the gilded casket, then left alone.
Seated in the great chair before the oaken table, I unlocked the casket.
It contained many pages closely written in my father's hand. In them were instructions as to my future conduct, my care of Rougemont, what he had done and what he expected me to do. But the lines that interested me most were these:
"_I bought Rougemont for your mother, shortly after your birth, because when riding through this country, she saw and loved it. It was a purchase that cost me dear. For Rougemont held a curse and an avenging spirit in the form of a beautiful young girl who could not bear to see others' happiness. So my wife died._
"_Two months after your mother's death, I first saw la belle Helene. We fought a long battle, she and I, but I was strong, my son, because I loved your mother. No other woman's charms could lure me to my doom.
Finally I made a bargain with a ghost._
"_She hated modern things and longed for Rougemont to be great again. I promised to restore the chateau to its former splendor, to make it just as it had been in her days, and in return she promised immunity to me, and afterward to you, and to all my court when I should have established it._
"_I restored Rougemont. I repeopled it. With her help and advice, I have made it as it was in her own day._
"_She showed me the hidden treasure vaults of the d'Harcourts so that I would have enough money to purchase the things she wanted._
"_She too has kept her bargain, for I and my court have lived happily here unmolested. Only when an outsider came or someone disobeyed or longed for the outside world, has she wreaked vengeance._
"_She has sworn to give you the kiss that promises immunity, the night you come. Only, beware, my son, whom you bring here from the world you know, and beware of the lovely Helene. Old man as I am, devoted to your mother's memory as I am, she can still make my pulses leap._
"_Above all things, if she shows you the Lost Door, do not be tempted to cross its threshold, for that way, unless you are the reincarnation of the Englishman, annihilation lies._"
There was more, pages more, of other matters, but I left them for another day. Alone there in the library, I let my eyes wander to where the little Gothic door had been.
Had Wrexler been the Englishman come back to earth to claim his bride?
Could that account for the strange, unsatisfied longings he had always had, his unearthly feelings, his unlikeness to other people? Or was he Black George, lured back to Rougemont for Helene's vengeance? I hope for his sake that was not the explanation; that he and Helene would find bliss waiting for them behind the Lost Door and I would never see Helene again.
The days pass. I do what my father set out for me to do. I keep his bargain with the ghost of the fair Helene. I never leave Rougemont. I have no desire to, for I am always hoping that some day I shall again find the Lost Door.
The Lost Door Part 4
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The Lost Door Part 4 summary
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