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                           THE EYES OF ST. LJUBOV:

                     DE LA RATIBOISIERE'S ACCOUNT OF THE

                        TYPHLOSOPHISTS OF SOUTH RUSSIA

                                      BY

                    J. F. C. FULLER AND GEORGE RAFFALOVICH







                            THE EYES OF ST. LJUBOV

                                      I

"TELL it us!  O tell us it!"
   Elph‚nor Pistouillat de la RatiboisiŠre, the Master Magician, hearkened
unto his disciples, who sat cross-legged around his incense-bowl.  His lips
parted in that unapeable grin of his, and he stopped his nostrils awhile with
his two forefingers.  Then he blew on the charcoal and began.
   "Yes, I will tell it to you, intellectual infants, I will.  Listen.  Two
hundred and one years ago --- when I was thin and thirty --- I chanced upon a
couple, living in South Russia.  Boy and girl they were still; but, as it
were, they unwittingly founded a strange sect of self-mutilated followers,
and, being the only man alive who witnessed the beginnings thereof, I will
undertake to keep you interested for more than sixteen minutes with their
history."
   The room was now darkened, and three large globes of crystal, set under the
rays of a lamp, stood alone, attracting the eyes.  The first globe was limpid
and colourless, the second was of the palest amethyst, the third of a rich
yellow.  Worlds were revolving within.  Then Elph‚nor broke the silence again.
   "She was a little girl and he was a little boy ..." {295}
   "She looked like a penny toy," murmured the Neptunian of the party.
   None of the others smiled, for the Ancient was already beginning:
   "Per illud nomen per quod Solomo constri8ngebat daemones, et conclusit ..."
   He stopped short, however, seeing that the irrelevant interruption had
found no echo; and he went on with his narrative, moving his arms to the
rhythm of his voice, and with his fingers kneading unseen shapes in the air.



                                      II

"THE boy comes in later.  I want you to realize how beautiful was the little
girl.  Like a thick thread of scarlet were her lips, comely was her
countenance, most pleasing to the sight was her earthly body, a temptation to
the Angels her soul.  Her eyes  expressed the Infinite Sweetness, the Love
Merciful; the Pure Innocence of the Eternal Equi-balanced.  They were like
crystalline drops of dew falling on a perfect rock of Carrara marble; eyes
that looked upon you and created you holy; eyes clearer than the clearest
rivulet, more beautiful than the most royal amethyst; eyes that illuminated
the darkest corner of Hell; eyes that set the fashion to the stars of the
Celestial Vault of Heaven; eyes that were but the imperfect mirror of the soul
behind.  Such was the ten-years-old Ljubov of the goodly countenance.
   When, later on, the usual legend grew around her, it was said that wolves
had once entered the village, in the midst of {296} winter, starved to
madness, and had begun eating two cows in their shed, when little Ljubov
chanced upon them and was discovered half an hour later, surrounded by two
hundred of these wolves, which were pushing and kicking one another to lick
her hands.
   On another occasion, extraordinary miracle, one glance from her eyes had
stopped the tongue of a drunken pope who was swearing at a peasant in the
foulest language.
   She was, of course, a favourite with all in the village: the simpler and
nearer Nature their souls, the more they gave the child her proper place.  But
it must not be inferred that little Ljubov was either worshipped or freed from
such menial works as children of her age are called upon to perform.  Nor did
her playmates realize her superiority.  The alleged miracles and the reported
cases of healing were heard of some ten years after her death, when eye-
witnesses had all departed from this world.  Yet, of course, they were
possible, quite possible, quite.



                                     III

"ALL of you, suckling babes, have read the Russian tale of the Man who bought
souls --- or heard of it.  Men of a similar turn of mind exist in Russia, and
I want you to concentrate your mind upon such a man, albeit his bargains cost
him even less, and were of a more physical reality.
   From town to village he went, in search of treasures ion the shape of eyes.
The tools of his trade were a few walnut shells, enamelled within, and a
certain magical liquid preparation, which he used to preserve the qualities,
freshness and beauty of his acquisitions. {297}
   On the second day after his arrival in the village where Ljubov lived, he
noticed the child and her marvellous beauty.  For hours, having retired to the
house belonging to a rich lady whose guest he was, he drivelled, with before
him the enrapturing vision of Ljubov's priceless jewels.  He proceeded
carefully; made friends with all the children; and, the seventh day having
come, he met her outside the village, by chance --- so she thought --- and
made her a present of a few trifling ornaments.  Then he placed over his own
eyes two empty shells of walnut, and pretended to play some childish game of
hide-and-seek.
   After a few minutes, it was her turn to don the blinding apparel.  But
there were different from his, the empty shells he fixed under her eyebrows!
   Ljubov felt no pain, rather an exquisite sensation of physical "bien-ˆtre,"
of wondrous languor.  Ay, but a few minutes later, the sun and moon and stars
had lost their beauty for her.  There were two large cavities under her eye-
lids.  The force within the nutshells had drawn the eyes out of them.
   The Man ran away, carrying a treasured little box, and no more was ever
heard of him in those parts.



                                      IV

   "What boots it to tell of the long, awful days of darkness through which
poor little Ljubov lived before she grew accustomed to her blindness?  I am
not a medical philosopher; I like home and comfort far too much.  If I
journey, I must needs travel in state,and my staff includes both a medial
{298} man and a philosopher.  Therefore, what need is there for me to think,
to fathom the depths of childish or human sorrow, to send my brains into a
tiring process of elucidation? far more pleasant it is to remain a
contemplative individual.  There fore, O Mexican Gaucho, pass me thy pellote
pouch and let me take a helping of the leaves and root of thy wonderful mescal
plant.  And without thought and without fatigue, I can then "SEE."
   Where was I. my little brethren, fathers of larvae, sons of the she-goat?
Ah, I know.  Well, poor little Ljubov was saved by her magnificent soul from
despairing thoughts.  She lived, very miserable at first, more resigned later
on.
   And there was a boy, too.  He was the blind-born son of an ex-soldier, and
because of his father's queer and unsocial manner, few people in the village
would condescend to take interest in him.  But he was no mean child,
nevertheless, and his heart was big.
   Ljubov had denied herself the pitiful satisfaction of explaining her
accident.  No one ever heard from her lips the tale of her list eyes.  And, as
the months passed by, all remembrance of her, as she had bee, died away.  Men,
women and children passed her by, and took no notice of her.  Her parents were
kind, but over-worked.  Only Piotr, the blind-born child, realized Ljubov's
beauty.  For if he had no eyes to see with, his other perceptions were
sharpened for that very reason.  he could not very well understand at first
how, and why, it had come to pass that he, alone in the world --- for he was
but an ignorant peasant child --- had not received the use of the five
operations of the Lord.  But the village deacon, who had been in trouble for
some cause or another, {299} and was almost a genius in disgrace --- "terribly"
"clever" the old men said --- once told the little Piotr what it was to be
blind.  Fortunately for the child's mental equilibrium, he also spoke of the
compensation.
   "What they mean, boy, when they call you blind, is that you cannot see," he
said; "that is, your eyes have been given unto you by the devil, and not by
god.  Your father must have been rather a bad fellow, you know.  when you hear
the women singing at the dance, it is that God has given you your ears; if you
didn't enjoy the sounds it would mean that the devil has given you your ears,
as the Book says, which God wrote in Russian for our people: "They have ears"
"and they hear not."  However, you hear well, and smell well, and your two
other senses are all right.  What you miss, it's the colour of things.  I
cannot explain it to you, and it would do you no good if I did.  Your
compensation is that you do not see that which is ugly, ugly like old Ivan
Semenovich, and also that you hear and feel and smell with more accuracy than
we do.  Of course, it is nice to see as well, and I will pray Christ for you,
especially if you can give me a few coppers with which to buy tapers.  You
must have plenty of them; people seem to give you very freely."
   Thus the tiresome brute, who had but a few chances of getting drunk in the
place.
   Happily, Piotr and little Ljubov taught one another a simpler and more
natural theory.  She was now twelve, and the boy fourteen years old.  And I
chanced to be staying in the neighbourhood.  I met them, as hand in hand they
cautiously crossed a lane, close to the spot where I was meditating.  The girl
I had seen before the accident, and only {300} by her golden voice did I
recognize her.  I listened to their childish talk, and joined in it, and heard
it all from her lips.  Then, a few days later, something happened.  A lady
entered.
   There Elph‚nor became silent, for the door was violently shaken from the
outside.
   "Come in," he said.
   The door was pushed open, then shut again, but no one had entered.  The
disciples exchange a glance of amusement; one of them said:
   "Has a lady entered?"
   They were all made merry by that exhibition of Neptunian spirit of apropos.
But Elph‚nor Pistouillat, like the French Southerner he was, missed the
courteous element in life, and began to curse the twelve young men.  He was a
bad-tempered man, and a very theatrical one.
   He rose and walked to him who had caused them all to laugh.
   "I know you, sir," Elph‚nor said, purple in the face, "I know you,
unwholesome monkey.  Your father was a dealer in pork sausages and cooked ham,
a trader in swine.  Nothing better could be expected from you than your pig-
like groans."
   His blood was boiling already, and these few words he uttered were but a
preliminary letting out of steam.  He walked in the dark to a large cupboard
at the far end of his room and took from a shelf twelve little wax figures
which he stood on a small table.  Rapidly he mumbled an invocation, an
incantation, and a depreciation.  Then he walked to the fireplace, took the
red-hot poker which he kept ever ready for the purpose of lighting his
charcoal, and returned with it to the table. {301}
    The twelve disciples felt that something was going to happen, but knew not
what.  An awful feeling overcame their will; they dared not move.  Then,
suddenly, the twelve of them jumped up and fell on the floor, curling
themselves, howling with intense pain and agony, all in a sweat, their bodies
aching with all the torments of Fire.  The could hear the old man, by his
table, cursing them and hitting the wax figures with the hot poker, haphazard,
careless of the spot where he struck; but he struck them all equally.  The
contortions of the men on the yellow painted floor were terrible.  he took no
heed of them, and went on, cursing them each by name and each time hitting one
figure, corresponding the the name he was cursing.
   Finally, the red-hot iron had turned black again; and Elph‚nor's arm was
becoming tired.  he gathered all the wax figures and went and threw them all
into a large pail of water, pushing them down again and again as they came to
the surface.
   His victims were gradually coming back to their senses.  Once more he
gathered their waxen images and replaced them on the shelf.  Then he turned to
his disciples and shouted:
   "Sit down, ye workers of Iniquity.  Did you feel the draught --- or not?
do not interrupt me again.  And if anyone knocks again at the door, clear ye
out of my visual path."
   They were all trembling with excitement and a mixed feeling of anger and
desire for a power equal to his.  Elph‚nor blew on the charcoal and incense,
turned out the lamp over the three crystal globes, so that they were now
almost in utter darkness, and took up the thread of his narrative.
   "The Lady who now comes before the footlights fell short {302} of being a
great hysterical Countess Tarnowska; she had many lovers who went mad over her
body, and whom she "could" drive to drink --- or to murder, but she had not done
so; she had only driven some of them to suicide, and some even to the loss of
their self-respect.  The Man who stole Eyes was one of these.
   Without going into their respective or joint history let it be simply
recorded that the proud collector of ocular jewels made present to the Lady of
a pair of magnificent ear-rings --- which were none other than the eyes of
little Ljubov set in gold.  When the Lady came to stay at the country house on
the outskirts of the village, she wore her jewels.  The simple peasants fell
to gossip.  The eyes they took for two weird precious stones resembling lapis
lazuli.  One of them spoke of his meeting with the Lady before poor blind
little Piotr, who listened intently.
   I will now, my friends, give you --- nay, lend you --- a piece of
information of the utmost importance.  It's a fine bit of psychology, too.  "A"
"man is not a wee bit interesting when he speaks of others, but let the beggar"
"ride his own horse, expound his own experiences, and "(you can bet your shirt
upon it) "he will be worth listening to."
   Thus the peasant-who-had-met-the-lady.  He was usually very dull.  But the
poor fellow had not had any interesting experience in his life, until he met
Her.  She was walking in the garden, cutting flowers for the table, and,
seeing a moujick digging the soil, summoned him.
   "When thou hast done digging this hole, cut me some flowers," she said.
   And he fell to work with all his might, his body seeming {303} young and
beautiful in the precision of its mechanical actions.  She let her eye fall
upon him and wondered. ... Presently he had done digging and set to cut her
some flowers, looking at her all the while, already feeling strange and new
sensations, sweating in an uncontrolled Sukshma-Pranayama.
   Alack-a-day, fellows!  That was a fine lady for a poor ignorant moujick to
behold.  She stood, to the end of his days, for a divine apparition.  Had he
know of OUR LADY HECATE, (blessed be he who murmurs her name with awe! may she
gleefully look upon us!) he would have considered his vision to be a visit of
the great Goddess (her name be rapidly uttered in the Vault of our beloved
Brethren the Ka D Sh Knights of Water P.A...P.P. Water).
   to cut our tale short, for the time is approaching for our libations, the
peasant heard the voice of the Lady.  She thanked him, him, a poor peasant,
her slave, and left him to his work.  Her image, however, remained clear
before his eyes and he did not fail in his description of her.
   Well, little Piotr heard it all.  As there was but one woman in the whole
world whom he loved, the description of another woman did not in the least
attract his attention.  Only when mention was made of her magnificent jewels
did his ears stand up.
   "What are ear-rings?" he asked of Ljubov, when he felt her tiny hand in
his, a little later.
   "They are beautiful things, Piotr," she answered.  "They are beautiful to
the eye."
   "Hah!" he sighed --- for that was the one thing he could not well realize.
   "They are stones with fire or water in them." {304}
   "What, do they burn? do they feel cool to the hand?"
   "Only to the eye, dear.  "I" remember.  One sets them in gold and wears them
hanging from the ear, or round one's neck."
   "Would you like to "feel" some, Ljubov?"
   "Oh yes! ... But, it's no use, dear, I couldn't "see" them."
   "Perhaps you would like just to pass your fingers over then, and try to
imagine what they ... er ... look like?"
   "I think I would.  Then I could explain better to you what I mean."
   Piotr signed again and soon left her.  In the evening he wandered around
the house where the Lady was staying.  She was walking in the garden and he
listened to her voice while she sang softly to herself.  Presently she sat
down.
   Piotr was well used to directing his steps without the use of eyes, and he
managed to creep behind her.  A fixed idea had taken possession of his
childish brain.  He would take the jewels everyone thought so beautiful, and
take them to Ljubov.
   Suddenly, he sprang forward and his hands searched in the darkness for the
ears.  A tiny little sound, made by the Lady, as she turned round, helped him
to find the place.  His fingers closed on each side over the ears and he
pulled out with a violent movement.  The Lady fell unconscious without having
uttered a sound, so acute and sudden had been the pain.
   Piotr went away slowly, his hands grasping two ear-rings with a little
piece of human flesh attached to them. {305}



                                      V

   He sought Ljubov.  She, who was like a shoot out of the stem of Jesse, who
did not judge after the sight of her eyes, who could stretch out her hand on
the den of the basilisk and play on the hole of the asp, without ever coming
to grief, fell a-trembling with an unconscious knowledge of that which was
going to happen.  It dawned upon her that she had come to a point where the
road was to become broad under her feet and of an easier walk than the dark
path upon which she had of late journeyed.  I was hiding behind a tree when
Pitr approached her, and so I witnessed their meeting.
   He, also, was quaking with excitement.  Brandishing his two hands, somewhat
red with the blood of his victim, he spoke pantingly.
   "Ljubov, my little sister" he said, "I have two fine jewels for thee.  Feel
them."
  But as she put her hand forward he withdrew his; and, instinctively, rubbed
the two ear-rings with a corner of his blouse.  The particles of flesh fell
down during the process.
   Then he took a step nearer to her and seized her shoulder, endeavouring to
place one pendant where he knew it ought to be worn.  But his hand trembled
much; neither was her own body steady.  They both laboured under great nervous
excitement."
   "I could not," Elph‚nor went on, "tell you how the thing happened, unless I
used my imagination --- and the whole pack of you are unworthy of that
exertion --- nor will I take the trouble to search the bottom drawers of my
reason for any explanation of what I take to be a very scarce phenomenon."
{306}
   Briefly --- for the time is approaching which we must better utilize ---
Piotr's hand shook so that he missed touching the lobe of little Ljubov's ear.
The jewel he held up to her face touched, instead, one of the empty orbits of
his little friend.
   Our villain, the Man who bought and stole Eyes, must have done his job very
properly indeed, for Ljubov, who, in a vain attempt to see that which was
shewn her, had open wide the dark cavities under her eyebrows.  Well, I
suppose the eye touched a still sensitive nerve.  No sooner had it done so
than she uttered an exclamation.
   "I see! Piotr, I SEE!  I SEE!"
   And helping herself now, she rapidly unset the eyes from their golden crown
and thrust them where they ought to have been all that time.  Miracle of
Miracles!  She saw as you and I do.  She saw poor little Piotr who stood
before her, almost out of his mind, sharing her excitement.
   She took his hand, drew him to her and kissed his forehead.  Then she wept
for a long time.  finally, she sat down by him and told him of her new
sensations.



                                      VI

   But they were unsatisfactory.  The sky she saw was, in spite of the Stars,
inferior to the beauty she had endowed it with.  The sweet face of her little
friend even was less sweet to behold than it had been to her childish fancy.
And, gently, with an extraordinary delicacy, she spoke of her disappointment.
   "Oh! it was more beautiful as we thought it, Piotroushka!" she exclaimed.
{307}
   And, acting upon an impulse, she dropped her eyes in her hand and threw
them behind her without a sigh.
   I picked them up, my friends, while the two children stood, their arms
linked together, a sad by resigned expression gradually coming over their
faces.
   Ay, I picked them up, but I won't shew them to you, unworthy foxes.
   And now, Lights please ... let us take to the ritual.  Brother H., fill the
Holy Cups ... Holy be the Lamps of Joy!  Holy be the Lamps of Sorrow!  Let us
enter the Ark of Increased Knowledge!"



                                     VII

   A little late one of the Disciples inquired of the Master:
   "You spoke of a strange sect of self-mutilated followers, O Master, what of
them?"
   "What of them?"  Elph‚nor repeated.  "Well, they were those who listened to
Ljubov, and took her word for it --- that one sees a better world if one has
no human eyes.  They put it into practice and their ranks were soon filled.
They blinded themselves; they blinded their children almost in their cradles.
Oh yes, there were soon hundreds of them who worshipped the Lord our God in
that manner; and Ljubov and Piotr were their ministers.  Is that all you want
to know?
   "Master, what of the Lady?"
   "The Lady?  Faugh!  She went away; the spirits of the Earth prevented her
from lodging a complaint; she hid her {308} wounded ears under a thick
ornament of pearls and gold.  it was not bad with her!  Besides, what is she
to you, anyhow, billy-goat?
   "And now, all of ye, clear out, and walk ye all to your rooms with the
mantra."









                                    FINIS


{309}