About Spirit, Mind and many other things...
Svetlana de Rohan Levashov
Part 1. Childhood. Vol. 1. Awakening
Axel, who had apathetically kept aloof from all that, transformed as if by magic! The bored young man vanished somewhere in the wink of an eye and instead a living embodiment of the loftiest feelings appeared, which "devoured" the beautiful woman who slowly approached him with a blazing look…
– Îh! What a beautiful lady she is! – Stella rapturously breathed out. – She always is so beautiful!
– Why? Do you see her often? – I asked with an eager interest.
– Oh, yes! I look at her very often. She is like spring! Don’t you think so?
– Do you know her? Do you know who she is?
– Of course I do! She is a very unhappy queen. – The little girl grew slightly sad.
– Why unhappy? To me, she looks very happy. – I was surprised.
– It’s now... Later she will die... She will die a terrible death. They will cut off her head... But I don’t like to look at that. – Stella whispered sadly.
Meantime the beautiful lady came up to young Axel and, on seeing him, stiffened unexpectedly for a fraction of an instant and then smiled a very pretty smile, charmingly turning red. I had the weird impression that the world around these two people stood still for an instant, as if everything and everybody ceased to exist for a split second, except for them... But then the lady continued to move and the magic moment disintegrated into thousands of brief instants that interlaced into a strong shining thread and connected these people never to release them...
Axel stood absolutely stunned. He continued to notice nobody but followed his fair lady with his eyes and his heart, which she had conquered so effortlessly... He was absolutely oblivious to the admiring glances which young beautiful ladies constantly cast at him and did not return their shining and beckoning smiles.
Axel was truly a handsome man, "both inside and out" as they say. He was tall and elegant and had enormous serious grey eyes, always polite, restrained and modest, which attracted both women and men. A smile rarely lit his regular serious features, but when it happened, Axel’s charm was absolutely irresistible... Therefore the ladies’ increased attention toward him was natural, but, to their regret, Axel was interested in only one creature in the whole world – his fascinating and magnificent Queen...
– Will they be together? – I could not wait to know. – They both are so handsome!
Stella just gave a sad smile and "submerged" us in the next "episode" of this unusual and very touching story.
We found ourselves in a very comfortable, fragrant little summer garden. A luxurious park, splendidly well-groomed and decorated with numerous statues, surrounded us with green for as far as we could see and in the distance there was a stunningly enormous stone palace which looked like a small city. Only this cosy garden, totally protected from indelicate strangers’ glances gave a feeling of real comfort and some warm, "homely" beauty in the middle of all this slightly oppressing grandiosity...
A dizzyingly-sweet fragrance of blooming acacias, roses and something which I could not define soared in the air, being intensified by the heat of the summer evening. Enormous cups of gently-pink water-lilies and the snow-white "coats" of lazy, ready to fall asleep, majestic swans were reflected in the pure surface of a little pond, as in a mirror. A beautiful young couple promenaded along a narrow path around the pond. Music, a merry female laugh which sounded like little bells and the happy voices of many people were heard somewhere far off, but the whole world stopped here, in this little corner of the earth, for these two people, where birds sang their tender songs only for them; a playful breeze rustled in the petals of roses only for them; and time obligingly stopped only for them, giving an opportunity to be together – just as man and woman who came here to say goodbye, without knowing whether they would ever see each other again some day...
The lady was charming and seemed "flimsy" in her modest, white summer dress embroidered with tiny green flowerets. Her beautiful ash-grey hair was tied with a green ribbon which made her look like a charming forest fairy. She looked so young, pure and modest that I did not immediately recognize the majestic and dazzling Queen in her magnificent "parade" beauty that I saw just several minutes ago.
"Our acquaintance" Axel walked next to her without taking his eyes off her and catching her every motion. He seemed very happy and at the same time deeply sad for some reason... The Queen linked her arm through his with elegant motion and gently asked:
– But what about me? I shall miss you so much, my dear friend. Time flows too slowly when you are so far away...
– Your Majesty, please, don’t torment me... You know what all this is for... And you know how hard for me is to leave you! I have already managed to avoid unwanted marriages twice, but, nevertheless, my father still cherishes hopes to get me married... He dislikes rumours about my love for you. I too don’t like them. I cannot… I have no right to do you harm. Oh, I wish I could be somewhere near you; to see you, to touch you! ... It is so hard for me to leave! And I am so worried about you...
– Go to Italy, my friend, you will be awaited there. Only don’t stay long! Know, I shall be waiting for you too... – The Queen said, affectionately smiling.
Axel kissed her elegant hand with a long kiss and when he lifted his eyes, there was so much love and anxiety in them that the poor Queen exclaimed:
– Oh, don’t worry, my friend! I am so well protected here that even if I wanted, nothing could happen to me! Go and may God be with you; and come back as soon as possible...
Axel looked at her wonderful face, so dear to him, for a very long time, absorbing every detail and trying to remember this instant in his heart forever, and then he gave a low bow and quickly went along the path toward the exit without turning around or stopping, as if being afraid of not having the strength to leave her, if he did...
She followed him with her enormous blue eyes which suddenly became damp and deeply sorrowful... She was a queen and had no right to love him, but she was also a woman, whose heart belonged to this purest and bravest man forever, without asking anyone’s permission…
– Oh! How sad is all this? – Stella whispered. – I wish I could help them!
– Do they need anybody’s help? – I was surprised.
Stella nodded with her curly head without saying a word and showed a new episode... I was very surprised at her deep concern about this charming story which still seemed to me just a sweet history of somebody's love. However, I already knew pretty well about the sympathy and kindness of Stella’s big heart and therefore I was almost sure that everything would not be as simple as it seemed in the beginning, and I only had to wait...
We saw the same park, but I had no idea how much time had passed since we had seen them in the last episode.
This evening the park sparkled with thousands of coloured lights which, on merging with the glimmering night sky, created a magnificent continuous firework "blaze". Judging by the splendour of the preparations, it certainly was a grandiose evening party where all the guests were dressed exclusively in white, fulfilling the Queen’s whimsical desire. They looked like ancient priests and moved in an "organized" manner through the blazing park ingeniously lit up with thousands of lights, heading for the beautiful stone gazebo which all called the Temple of Love.
Suddenly, a fire flared behind it... Blinding sparks soared up to the tops of the trees, staining the dark night clouds with blood-red light. The guests exclaimed in delight, approving the beauty of the happening, but nobody knew that according to the Queen’s plan the raging fire expressed the force of her love, and only one person understood the real meaning of this symbol...
Axel was thrilled. He leaned against the tree and closed his eyes. He could not belive that this spectacular beauty was meant exclusively for him.
– Are you pleased, my friend? – A quiet tender voice whispered behind his back.
– I am delighted... – Axel answered and turned around. Of course it was she.
For only an instant they looked at each other with rapture, then the Queen gently squeezed Axel’s hand and disappeared into the night...
– Why was he always so unhappy in all his "lives"? – Stella was still sad about our "poor boy".
To tell the truth I still saw no "unhappiness" whatsoever and looked at her sad face with surprise, but for some reason the little girl persistently refused to explain anything...
The picture sharply changed.
A luxurious and very large green carriage rushed at full speed along the dark night road with Axel as a coachman. He managed this enormous vehicle with admirable mastership and from time to time looked around with obvious anxiety. There was an impression that he was in a mad hurry to get to some place or was escaping from somebody...
We recognized the King and Queen inside the carriage and a pretty girl of probably eight years old and two ladies who we did not know. Everybody looked sullen and disturbed, and even the little girl was very quiet, as if she felt the general mood of the adults. To my surprise, the King wore very modest clothes – a simple grey frock-coat and a round hat of the same colour; the Queen hid her face behind a veil and it was obvious that she was afraid of something. It all looked very like an escape.
I glanced at Stella, hoping for explanations, but no explanation followed – the girl watched what was happening with utter concentration and a deep sorrow, inappropriate for a child, was hidden in her enormous doll’s eyes.
– Why? Why did not they listen to him, for heaven’s sake?! It was so simple! – Unexpectedly she exclaimed in indignant despair.
The carriage rushed at a mad speed. The passengers looked tired and somewhat lost... Finally they drove to a large yard obscured by black shade from the stone building in the middle and the carriage sharply stopped. The place looked like an inn or a large farm.
Axel jumped down to the ground, approached the window and was going to say something, as suddenly an authoritative masculine voice was heard from the carriage:
– It is time to say goodbye, Count. It is unworthy of me to expose you to danger further on.
Certainly, Axel did not dare to object to the King and could only briefly touch the Queen’s hand at parting... The carriage darted away into the night... and quickly disappeared in the darkness. He stood alone in the middle of the dark road, wishing with all his heart to himself after them... Axel felt with his whole being that he had no right to leave everything to the mercy of fate! He simply knew that something would certainly go wrong without him and everything that he had been carefully preparing and organizing for such a long time would fail because of a ridiculous contingency...
It had been quite a long time since the carriage disappeared from his sight but poor Axel still stood motionless, peering into the darkness which swallowed them; his fists squeezed in despair. Scanty angry tears rolled down his deathly pale face…
– It’s all over... I know, this is the end... – He whispered.
– What happened to them? Why do they escape? – I asked, understanding nothing of what was going on.
– Oh! Very bad people now will catch them and put them into a prison... even the boy.
– Where do you see a boy here? – I was surprised.
– Haven’t you got it? He is dressed up as a girl!
I shook my head. I still did not understand almost anything about what the matter was – neither the royal escape, nor the "bad people". So, I decided to watch what would be next, without asking about anything any longer.
– These people treated the King and Queen really badly and wanted to capture them. Therefore they tried to escape. Axel arranged everything... But when he was ordered to leave them, the carriage went slower, because the King got tired. He even got out for "some fresh air"... and he was recognized right there and caught, of course...
Stella sighed... and threw us into the next "episode" of this not so happy, but still beautiful story...
This time everything looked ominous and intimidating.
We found ourselves in dark and repulsive quarters which looked to me like the most truly wicked prison. In a tiny, dirty, damp and stinking room a thin grey-headed woman, exhausted by sufferings and dressed in black, in which it was quite impossible to recognize the fairy-tale beautiful and ever smiling miracle-queen who the young Axel loved more than anything, sat on the wooden stove-bench with a straw mattress...
He was in the room too, punch-drunk by what he saw, noticing nothing, bending his knees, pressing his lips to her still beautiful white hand, unable to utter a word... He came in absolute despair, having tried everything possible and impossible in the world to save her and having lost the last hope of doing so... Nevertheless, he again was ready to offer his last, already almost impossible, help... He was obsessed with only one aspiration: to save her, despite everything... He just could not allow her to die, because his life, which he did not need without her, would be over...
They looked silently at each other, trying to hide disobedient tears which rolled down their faces leaving narrow paths on the cheeks... They could hardly take their eyes off each other, because they knew that if he failed to help her, it would be the last time they looked at each other...
The bald jailer stared at the visitor broken with grief and looked at the sad scene of other’s sorrow, having no intention whatsoever of turning away his impertinent gaze...
The picture disappeared and we saw another, worse than the previous one – a yelling crowd, terrifying in its brutality, armed with lances, knives and guns, was pitilessly crushing a magnificent palace…
Then Axel appeared again. This time he stood near the window in a very elegantly decorated and exquisitely furnished room. The "friend from childhood" Marguerite, who we saw with him in the beginning, stood next to him. But now her arrogant coldness had vanished somewhere and her beautiful face expressed concern and pain. Axel was mortally pale and, pressing his forehead to the window-pane, watched with horror at what was happening outside... He heard the noisy crowd and repeated one and the same words, being in a horrific trance:
– My Soul, I could not save you... Please, forgive me, my dearest... Lord, help her; give her strength to bear it!
– Axel, please! You must pull yourself together for her sake. Please, I beg you, be prudent! – His old friend tried compassionately to persuade him.
– Prudent? What prudence are you talking about, Marguerite, when the whole world has gone mad?! – Axel exclaimed. – Why her? For what; what has she done to them?!
Margaret unfolded a little sheet of paper and pronounced, obviously not knowing how to ease his pain:
– Calm down, dear Axel. You’d better listen to this: "I love you, my friend... Don’t worry about me. The only thing I miss now is your letters. Probably we are not fated to meet again... Farewell, my most beloved and most loving of all..."
It was the Queen’s last letter which Axel had read thousands of times, but for some reason it sounded even more painful when a stranger pronounced the bitter lines.
– What is it? What happens there? – I asked impatiently, unable to restrain my inquiring mind.
– The beautiful Queen dies... They are going to execute her now. – Stella sadly answered.
– Why don’t we see anything? – I asked again.
– Oh, believe me. You don’t want to look at it. – The girl shook her head. – What a pity! She is so unhappy... How unfair is all that.
– Nevertheless, I would like to see... – I asked.
– All right, watch... – Stella sadly nodded.
A scaffold ominously towered in the middle of an enormous square crammed full of highly excitable people... A mortally pale, very thin and exhausted woman in white proudly stepped up its small crooked steps. A plain white nightcap almost fully covered her short cut fair hair; deep gloomy sorrow was reflected in her tired eyes, reddened by tears or insomnia...
Slightly rocking – she found it difficult to maintain equilibrium because her hands were tightly tied behind her back – the woman somehow managed to climb the dais, still trying to remain straight and proud with all her might. She stood and looked at the crowd, without lowering her gaze or showing how truly scared she was... There was nobody around whose friendly look would warm the last minutes of her life... There was nobody, who would help her, with the warmth of their heart, withstand this horrific moment, when her life had to leave her in such a cruel way …
The raging, excited crowd suddenly fell silent, as if it had bumped into an insuperable obstacle... The women in the front rows began to cry silently. The thin figure on the scaffold came to the block, stumbled and very painfully fell down on her knees. For a few short seconds she lifted her exhausted face, pacified by the closeness of death... deeply breathed... and, on proudly looking at the executioner, laid her tired head on the block. The crying became audible, women closed children’s eyes. The executioner came to the guillotine....
– My God! No!!! – Axel uttered a bloodcurdling cry.
At the same moment, suddenly the grey sky was split by a sunray which peeked from the clouds, illuminating the last path of the ill-fated victim... It gently touched her pale, terribly emaciated cheek, as if tenderly saying the last earthly "Good bye". Something flashed brightly on the scaffold – the heavy knife fell down and splashed scarlet drops... The crowd gasped. The blond head fell into the basket and everything was over... The beautiful Queen went where there was no more pain or mockery... only peace...
Mortal silence reined in the square. There was nothing to look at any longer...
This was how a tender and kind Queen died. To the last minute of her life she managed to stand, head proudly raised, which was then so pitilessly cut by the heavy knife of the bloody guillotine.
Pale Axel, stockstill, like a dead corpse, looked at the window with blind eyes and it seemed that life left him drop by drop, painfully slowly, carrying his soul very far away in order to merge forever in the light and silence with the one who he loved so strongly and selflessly...
– My dearest... My soul... How could it happen that I did not die with you? Everything is over now for me... – Axel whispered with stiff lips, still standing near the window.
But everything will be really "over" for him much later, in twenty long years, and his end will be no less terrible than that of his unforgettable Queen...
– Do you want to look further? – Stella asked gently.
I nodded, unable to say a word.
We saw another crowd, raging in a wild frenzy, and Axel in front of it. It happened many years later. He still was a very handsome man, only his hair was almost completely grey. He wore a magnificent, military uniform of a very high-rank and looked the same as before, elegant and slender.
So, the same brilliant and cleverest of men stood before a crowd of half drunk, brutal people and in vain tried to outvoice and explain something to them... Regrettably, nobody wanted to listen to him... Stones started to fly toward poor Axel; the crowd, kindling its malice with swearing, began to push. He tried to defend himself, but he was knocked off his feet. They began to trample him brutally and strip off his clothes... A tall fat person suddenly jumped on his chest, breaking his ribs, and easily killed him striking Axel’s temple with his knee-boot. Axel’s naked, disfigured body was thrown on the side of the road, and there was nobody who would pity him, dead already. There was only a drunken and agitated mob, roaring with laughter, which had just needed to unleash its beastly malice on somebody…
At last Axel’s pure, worn out with suffering, soul was free and flew away to join his light and only love, who had been waiting for him for so many long years...
Here was how very cruelly (again) the life of a man called Axel, who Stella and I had not known before but who became so dear to us, was over. He was the same little boy which, on living for just five short years, could perform the only and most shocking feat in his life, of which any adult could be proud...
– It’s terrible! – I whispered in shock. – Why did they do such things?
– I don’t know... – Stella whispered too. – For some reason people back then were very wicked; worse even than beasts... I looked at it so many times to understand why, but I could not... – the girl shook her head. – They did not listen to their mind, simply killed and for some reason crushed every beautiful thing too …
– What about Axel’s children or wife? – I asked, recuperating from shock.
– He never married. He always loved only his Queen. – Stella answered with tears in her eyes.
Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind. I understood who we had just seen and so worried about! It was the French queen Marie Antoinette. Recently (and very briefly!) we studied her tragic life in a history lesson and our teacher strongly approved of her execution, considering such a frightful end very "correct and instructive"... apparently, because of all history subjects, he mostly specialized in teaching "Communism"…
Despite the sadness I felt after what I had seen, my soul rejoiced! I could not believe the unexpected happiness that came like a bolt from the blue! I had waited for this for such a long time! It was the first time that I, at last, saw something that could be easily checked and I almost squeaked with the puppyish delight which seized me! Certainly, I was not so glad because I disbelieved what constantly happened to me. On the contrary, I always knew that everything I went through was real. Probably, like any ordinary human being and child, in particular, I, nevertheless needed sometimes even the simplest confirmation that I was still in my senses, had not gone mad, and could prove to myself that everything that was happening to me was not a figment of my imagination or fiction, but purely real fact described or seen by other people. Therefore such a discovery was a real gift for me!
I already knew beforehand that, as soon as I came home, I would at once rush to the municipal library to gather everything I could find about poor Marie Antoinette and I would have no rest until I found any fact consilient with our visions... Regrettably, I found just two thin books which did not describe many facts, but it was absolutely enough, because they fully confirmed that what Stella and I saw was the truth.
Here is what I succeeded in finding then:
These little details were enough for me to continue my odd experiments with much greater enthusiasm, but that happened later... right then, in order not to seem strange or heartless, I tried to conceal my delight about my exciting "enlightening" with all my might and asked, in order to dispel Stella’s sad mood:
– Do you like the Queen very much?
– Oh, yes! She is kind and so beautiful... And look at our poor "boy", he suffered so much here too...
I felt pity for this sensitive and nice girl who even in her death worried so much for the people she hardly knew unlike many others who do not care even for their nearest ...
– Probably, there is a share of wisdom in suffering without which we would never understand what a precious gift our life is? – I said with a great deal of uncertainty.
– There! Gran says that too! – The girl cheered up. – But if people only aspire to good, then why should they suffer?
– Maybe because even the best people would not truly understand what good is without pain and ordeal? – I joked.
But for some reason Stella did not take it as a joke and said very earnestly:
– Yes, I think, you’re right... Do you want to look at what happened to Harold’s son next? – She asked even merrier.
– Oh, no! Please, I’ve had enough! – I begged.
Stella chuckled joyfully.
– Don’t worry. There will be no trouble this time, because he still lives!
– How is that, he lives? – I was surprised.
A new vision appeared again and to my utter surprise we were in our century (!) and even our time... A grey-haired, very good-looking man sat at a writing desk and was deeply engrossed in thoughts. The room was crammed with books; they were everywhere – on the table, floor, shelves and even on the window-sill. An enormous fluffy cat sat on a small sofa, paying no attention whatsoever to his owner, washing itself with a large and very soft paw. The "scenery" created an atmosphere of "erudition" and coziness.
– What does it mean? He lives again? – I did not understand.
– And it happens right now? – I went on.
The girl again nodded with her lovely red head.
– It is, probably, very strange for Harold to see his son being another person? How did you find him again?
– Oh, the same way! I simply "felt" his "key" like Gran had taught me. – Stella pronounced thoughtfully. – When Axel died, I was searching for his spirit on all "floors" and could not find it. Then I looked among the living – and he was there.
– Do you know who is he now in this life?
– Not yet... But I shall. Many times I tried to reach him, but for some reason he does not hear me... He is always alone and spends most of the time with books. Only an old woman – his maid – and this cat are with him.
– But what about Harold’s wife? Did you find her too? – I asked.
– Of course, I did! You know his wife. It’s my Gran! – Stella smiled slyly.
I was really shocked. For some reason this unbelievable fact was absolutely beyond my comprehension...
– Your grandmother? – That was the only thing I could squeeze out of me.
Stella nodded, being extremely pleased with the produced effect.
– Wow! How is that? Is that why she helped you to find them? Did she know? – Thousands of questions simultaneously spun in my agitated brain. I feared that I would not have time to ask about everything I wanted to know so eagerly. I wanted to know EVERYTHING! And at the same time I perfectly understood that nobody was going to tell me "everything"...
– Probably I felt something and that is why I chose him. – Stella said thoughtfully. – But maybe it was Gran who "put me on the trail"? Well, she will never confess. – The girl waved with her hand.
– And HE? Does he know too?
– Of course, he does! – Stella broke into laughter. – Why are you so surprised?
– Well, it’s just, you know, she is already old... It must be hard for him… – I faltered without knowing how to express my feelings and thoughts more exactly.
– Oh, no! – Stella laughed again. – He was glad! He was very, very glad. Gran gave him a chance! Nobody could help him, but she could! And he saw her again... Oh, it was great!
Only now at last I understood what she was talking about... Apparently Stella’s grandmother gave her former "knight" the long-awaited chance about which he had desperately been dreaming for his whole long life after physical death. After all, he had been looking for them for so long and so persistently, he wanted to find them so desperately just to tell them one thing: how awfully sorry he was that once he went away... that he was unable to protect them... to show how strongly and devotedly he loved them... He needed them so badly to understand and forgive him somehow, otherwise there would be no sense for him in living in any of the worlds...
So, she, his sweet and only wife came to him, appearing as he always remembered her, and gave him a wonderful chance – she gave forgiveness and therefore, life…
It was only then that I truly understood what Stella’s grandmother meant when she told me how important the chance that I gave to the "gone" people was... Because, probably, there is nothing more frightful in the world than to live with the unpardoned guilt of any offence and pain you once inflicted on those, without whom, the life you lived would not make any sense...
I suddenly felt very tired, as if this very interesting time I spent with Stella took the last drops of my forces... I absolutely forgot that this "interesting" thing, as well as all interesting things before, had their "price". Therefore now, as well as before, I had to pay for today's "adventures"... It happened that the "viewings" of other’s lives produced enormous loads for my poor physical body which had not got used to them yet, and to my huge regret, I could only hang on for quite a short time...
– Don’t you worry; I’ll teach you how do it! – Stella said merrily, as if reading my sad thoughts.
– Do what? – I did not understand.
– Well, how to last out so that you could be with me longer. – The girl answered, surprised at my question. – You are alive, therefore you find it difficult. But I’ll show you. Do you want to go where "others" live? Harold will wait for us here. – Slyly wrinkling her little nose, the girl asked.
– Right now? – I asked with a great deal of uncertainty.
She nodded... and suddenly we "fell through" somewhere, "leaking" through "star dust" which sparkled with all the colours of the rainbow and appeared in another "transparent" world which looked quite different from the previous one...
* * *
Here is some Marie Antoinette's rare pictires.