“Of my own free will and accord, in the presence of the Grand Architect do I swear to follow the path of reason and reject the passions of the flesh.”
— Excerpt from a Masonic oath
Let me tell you now, friend, the path which fate had chosen for me, and the tragedy that brings me to this cold and Godless place. It was not by any devil’s work that I was doomed into this prison, but by the flames of my own desire and heat of my passion. Let me recall this to you, and may you learn, perhaps, from hearing this tale.
In deep consideration of our last meeting at the Lodge, I pondered that oath we had sworn. So lost was I in reverie that I scarce noticed the wind that passed the curtains of the chamber that gave cause to flickering in the hearth and candles. And I thought, then, upon the kind words and fair face of Helen, the daughter of our Lodgemaster, who had been so welcoming on the rare occasions we had met. Her eyes, I recalled, were lively and warm and bore the deep colour of hazel. Whilst captivated by this image another gust of wind fanned the flames of the hearth, unbeknownst to me, as I was lost in my monomania.
My glass empty I raised myself to return to the soiree, hoping, by chance, to meet Helen there, but whereupon I talked with my brothers and friends about the events and accomplishments of past months. After a time, I was met with the familiar face of Hans Linden.
“See here”, said my old friend upon sipping his glass; “This is truly a fine Pineau d’Aunis!”
“Quite so,” said I; “and note, if you will, how few here try your Merlot!”
“Ah, but the night is still young my friend”
And so we talked for some time on matters of little concern to anyone but us two. When descending the staircase with the guise of an angel, Helen joined our company. Oh, to recall her graceful form only to tell this tragic account, for what fate should befall poor Helen. After meeting with some other guests she gazed, with loving eyes, at me.
“Good evening,” she said; “and how are you finding the occasion? I hope everything was to your liking.”
Hans opened his mouth, but my tongue was the faster “The dinner was splendid and the company twice so.”
Hans soon departed and I was left to speak with Helen, who beguiled me with stories and with light conversations on the topic of literature. We talked for a time and I soon fancied that she had taken to me, as hitherto she had spent far more time with me than any other guest. And so we talked and wandered as others departed, returning to their homes, and I found myself with her back in the chamber, a gust of wind fanning the heart-fire into a magnificent blaze.
“My dearest Helen,” said I “how lovely are your eyes in the firelight.”
These words gave way to much more courting; what a wanton fool I had been! And much coy blushing on her part also, until we stood and I pulled her into an embrace.
Suddenly a shocking pain met my cheek and I stood flabbergasted, gaping in total astonishment. “How dare you! You drunkard!” Cried Helen, breaking me free of my lustful fantasies. And then I struck also, not with an open hand as had she, but with my glass still firmly clasped in my palm.
Oh the wind! Aeolus himself could not contend with such ferocity! As it passed through the curtains and chilled my very soul quite utterly. The hearth now cold, I awoke from my trance, and my heart leapt at the moment of this revelation. Lust had its sway, and my thoughts had been tainted by cupidity most wretched and abhorred. Those eyes, oh God! No longer hazel but black as pitch and in them I saw my own image reflected. No courting or blushing had there been but by only my own passions. I had been fooled. I threw myself to the ground, before the body of Helen, and wept, not for her loss but for mine.