The lights in the saloon were out, the smoking-room empty, the passengers
in bed. The ship seemed entirely deserted. Only, on the bridge, the shadow
of the first officer paced quietly to and fro. Then, suddenly, as they
approached the stern, O'Malley discerned anther figure, huge and motionless,
against the background of phosphorescent foam; and at the first glance
it was exactly as though he had detached from the background of his mind
one of those Flying Outlines upon the hills - and caught it there, arrested
visibly at last.
He moved along, fairly sure of himself, yet with a tumult of confused
sensations, as if consciousness were transferring itself now more rapidly
to that portion of him which sought to escape.
Leaning forward, in a stooping posture over the bulwarks, wrapped in
the flowing cape he sometimes wore, the man's back and shoulders married
so intimately with the night that it was hard to determine the dividing
line between the two. So much more of the deck behind him, and of the sky
immediately beyond his neck, was obliterated than by any possible human
outline. Whether owing to obliquity of disturbed vision, tricks of shadow,
or movement of the vessel between the stars and foam, the Irishman saw
these singular emanations spread about him into space. He saw them this
time directly. And more than ever before they seemed in some way right
and comely - true. They were in no sense monstrous; they reported beauty,
though a beauty cloaked in power.
And, watching him, O'Malley felt that this loosening portion of himself,
as once before in the little cabin, likewise began to grow and spread.
Within some ancient fold of the Earth's dream-consciousness they both lay
caught. In some mighty Dream of her planetary Spirit, dim, immense, slow-moving,
they played their parts of wonder. Already they lay close enough to share
the currents of her subconscious activities. And the dream, as she turned
in her vast, spatial sleep, was a dream of a time long gore.
Here, amid the loneliness of deserted deck and night, this illusion
of bulk was more than ever before outwardly impressive, and as he yielded
to the persuasion of the boy's hand, he was conscious of a sudden wild
inclination to use his own arms and legs in a way he had never before known
or dreamed of, yet that seemed curiously familiar. The balance and adjustment
of his physical frame sought to shift and alter; neck and shoulders, as
it were, urged forward; there came a singular pricking in the loins, a
rising of the back, a thrusting up and outwards of the chest. He felt that
something grew behind him with a power that sought to impel or drive him
in advance and out across the world at a terrific gait; and the hearing
of his ears became of a sudden intensely acute. While his body moved ordinarily,
he knew that a part of him that was not body moved - otherwise, that he
neither walked, ran, nor stepped upon two feet, but - galloped. The motion
proclaimed him kin with the flying shapes upon the hills. At the heart
of this portion which sought to detach itself from his central personality
- which, indeed, seemed already half escaped - he cantered.
The experience lasted but a second - this swift, free motion of the
escaping Double - then passed away like those flashes of memory that rise
and vanish again before they can be seized for examination. He shook himself
free of the unaccountable obsession, and with the effort of returning to
the actual present, the passing-outwards was temporarily checked. And it
was then, just as he held himself in hand again, that glancing sideways,
he became aware that the boy beside him had, like his parent, also changed
- grown large and shadowy with a similar suggestion of another splendid
outline. The extension already half accomplished in himself and fully accomplished
in the father, was in process of accomplishment in the smaller figure of
the son. Clothed in the emerged true shape of their inner being they slowly
revealed themselves. It was as bewildering as watching death, and as stern
For the boy, still holding his hand, loped along beside him as though
the projection that emanated from him, grown almost physical, were somehow
difficult to manage.
In the moment of nearer, smaller consciousness that yet remained to
him, O'Malley recalled the significant pantomime of Dr. Stahl two days
before in the cabin. It came with a rush of fire. The warning operated;
his caution instantly worked. He dropped the hand, let the clinging fingers
slip from his own, overcome by something that appalled. For this, surely,
was the inner catastrophe that he dreaded, the radical internal dislocation
of his personality that involved - death. The thing that had happened,
or was happening to these other two, was on the edge of fulfilment in himself
- before he was either ready or had decided to accept it.
At any rate he hesitated; and the hesitation, shifting his centre of
consciousness back into his brain, checked and saved him. A confused sense
of forces settling back within himself followed; a kind of rush and scuttle
of moods and powers: and he remained temporarily master of his being, recovering
balance and command. Twice already - in that cabin-scene, as also on the
deck when Stahl had seized him - the moment had come close. Now, again,
had he kept hold of the boy's grasp, that inner transformation, which should
later become externalized, must have completed itself.
"No, no!" he tried to cry aloud, "for I'm not yet ready!" But his voice
rose scarcely above a whisper. The decision of his will, however, had produced
the desired result. The "illusion," so strangely born, had passed, at any
rate for the time. He knew once more the glory of the steadfast stars,
realized that he walked normally upon a steamer's deck, heard with welcome
the surge of the sea below, and felt the peace of this calm southern night
as they coasted with two hundred sleeping tourists between the islands
and the Grecian mainland....He remembered the fur-merchant, the Armenian
priest, the Canadian drummer....
It seemed his feet half tripped, or at least that he put out a hand
to steady himself against the ship's long roll, for the pair of them moved
up to the big man's side with a curious, rushing motion that brought them
all together with a mild collision. And the boy laughed merrily, his laughter
like singing half completed. O'Malley remembers the little detail, because
it serves to show that he was yet still in a state of intensified consciousness,
far above the normal level. It was still "like walking in my sleep or acting
out some splendid dream," as he put it in his written version. "Half out
of my body, if you like, though in no sense of the words at all half out
of my mind!"
What followed he relates with passion, half confused. Without speaking
the big Russian turned his head by way of welcome, and O'Malley saw that
the proportions of it were magnificent like a fragment of the night and
sky. Though too dark to read the actual expression in the eyes, he detected
their gleam of joy and splendour. The whole presentment of the man was
impressive beyond any words that he could find. Massive, yet charged with
swift and alert vitality, he reared there through the night, his inner
self now toweringly manifested. At any other time, and without the preparation
already undergone, the sight might almost have terrified; now it only uplifted.
For in similar fashion, though lesser in degree, because the mould was
smaller, and hesitation checked it, this very transformation had been going
forward within himself.
The three of them leaned there upon the rails, rails oddly dwindled
now to the size of a toy steamer, while thus the spirit of the dreaming
Earth swam round and through them, awful in power, yet at the same time
gentle, winning, seductive as wild flowers in the spring. And it was this
delicate, hair-like touch of delight, magical with a supreme and utterly
simple innocence, that made the grandeur of the whole experience still
easily manageable, and terror in it all unknown.
The Irishman stood on the outside, towards the vessel's stern, next
him the father, beyond, the boy. They touched. A current like a river in
flood swept through all three.
He, too, was caught within those visible extensions of their personalities;
all again, caught within the consciousness of the Earth. Across the sea
they gazed together in silence - waiting.
It was the Oro passage, where the mainland hills on the west and the
Isle of Tenos on the east draw close together, and the steamer passes for
several miles so near to Greece that the boom of surf upon the shore is
audible. That night, however, the sea lay too still for surf; it whispered
softly in its sleep; and in its sleep, too, listened. They heard its multitudinous
rush of voices as the surge below raced b...giant frieze in which the phosphorescence
painted dancing forms and palely luminous faces. Unsubstantial shapes of
foam held hands in continuous array below the waves, lit by soft-sea-lanterns
strung together along the steamer's sides.
Yet it was not these glimmering shapes the three of them watched, thus
intently silent. The lens of yearning focussed not in sight. Down the great
channel at whose opening they stood, leading straight to the Earth's old
central heart, the message of communion would not be a visual one. The
sensitive fringe of their stretched personalities, contacting thus actually
the consciousness of the planet-soul, would quiver to a reaction of another
kind. This point of union, already affected, would presently report itself,
unmistakably, yet not to the eyes. The increased acuteness of the Irishman's
hearin...kind of interior hearing - quickly supplied the key. It was that
all three - listened.
Some primitive sound of Earth would presently vibrate through their
extended beings with an authoritative sweet thunder not to be denied. By
a Voice, a Call, the Earth would tell them that she heard; that lovingly
she was aware of their presence in her heart. She would call them, with
the voice of one of their own kind.
How strange it all was! Enormous in conception, enormous in distance,
scope, stretch! Yet so tiny, intimate, sweet! And this vast splendour was
to report itself by one of the insignificant little channels by which men,
locked in cramped physical bodies, interpret the giant univers...trivial
sense- impression! That so terrible a communication could reach the soul
via the quivering of a wee material nerve was on a par with that other
grave splendour - that God can exist in the heart of a child.
Thus, dimly, yet with an authority that shakes the soul, may little
human hearts divine the Immensities that travel with a thunder of great
glory close about their daily life. Through regions of their subliminal
consciousness, which transcends the restricted physical expression of it
called personality as the moisture of the world transcends a drop of water,
deific presences pass grandly to and fro.
For here, to this wild-hearted Irishman with the forbidden strain of
the Urmensch in his blood, came the sharp and instant revelation that the
Consciousness is not contained skin-tight around the body. It spread enormously
about him, remote, extended; and in some distant tract of it this strange
occurrence took place. The idea of distance and extension, of course, were
merely intellectual concepts, like that of Time. For what happened, happened
near and close, beside, within his actual physical person. That physical
person, with its brain, however, he realized, was but a fragment of his
total Self. A broken piece of the occurrence filtered through from beyond
and fell upon the deck at his feet. The rest he divined, seeing it whole.
Only the little bit, however, has he found the language to describe.
And that for which all three listened was already on the way. For ever
it had been "happening," yet only reached them now because they were ready
and open to it. Events upon the physical plane, he grasped, represented
the last feeble expression of things that had happened interiorly with
a vaster power long ago - and are ever happening still. This Sound they
listened for, coming from the Spirit of the Earth, lay ever close to men's
ears, divinely sweet and splendid. It seemed born somewhere in the heart
of the blue gloom that draped the hills of Greece. Thence, across the peaked
mountains, stretched the immense pipe of starry darkness that carried it
towards them as along a channel. Made possible of approach by the ancient
passion of beauty that Greece once knew, it ran down upon the world into
their hearts, direct from the Being of the Earth.
With a sudden rush, it grew nearer, swelling with a draught of sound
that sucked whole spaces of sky and sea and stars with it. It emerged.
They heard, all three.
Above the pulse and tremble of the steamer's engines, above the surge
and gurgle of the sea, a cry swept towards them from the shore. Long-drawn,
sweetly-penetrating, yet with some strident accent of power and command,
this voice of Earth rushed upon them over the quiet water - then died away
again among the mountains and the night. Its passage through the sky was
torrential. The whole pouring flood of it dipped back with abrupt swiftness
into silence. The Irishman understood that but an echo of its main volume
had come through.
A deep, convulsive movement ran over the great body at his side, and
at once communicated itself to the boy beyond. Father and son straightened
up abruptly as though the same force lifted both; then stretched down and
forwards over the bulwarks. They seemed to shake themselves free of something,
Neither spoke. Something utterly overwhelming lay in that moment. For the
cry was at once of enchanting sweetness, yet with a deep and dreadful authority
that overpowered. It invited the very soul.
A moment of silence followed, and the cry was then repeated, thinner,
fainter, already further away. It seemed withdrawn, sunk more deeply into
the night, higher up, too, floating away northwards into remoter vales
and glens that lay beyond the shore-line. Though still a single cry, there
were distinct breaks of utterance in it this time, as of words. It was,
of a kind - speech: a Message, a Summons, a Command that somehow held entreaty
at its heart.
And this time the appeal in it was irresistible. Father and son started
forwards as though deliberately pulled; while from himself shot outwards
that loosening portion of his being that all the evening had sought release.
The vehicle of his yearnings, passionately summoned, leaped to the ancient
call of the Earth's eternally young life. This vital essence of his personality,
volatile as air and fierce as lightning, flashed outwards from its hidden
prison where it lay choked and smothered by the weights and measures of
modern life. For the beauty and splendour of that far voice wrung his very
heart and set it free. He knew a quasi-physical wrench of detachment. A
wild and tameless glory fused the fastenings of ages.
Only the motionless solidity of the great figure beside him prevented
somehow the complete escape, and made him understand that the Call just
then was not for all three of them, especially not for himself. The parent
rose beside him, massive and stable, secure as the hills which were his
true home, and the boy broke suddenly into happy speech which was wild
He looked up swiftly into his parent's steady visage.
"Father!" he cried in tones that merged half with the wind, half with
the sea, "it is his voice! Chiron calls...!" His eyes shone like stars,
his young face was alight with joy and passion. - "Go, father, you, or..."
He stopped an instant, catching the Irishman's eyes upon his own across
the form between them.
" - or you!" he added with a laughter of delight; "you go!"
The big figure straightened up, standing back a pace from the rails.
A low sound rolled from him that was like an echo of thunder among hills.
With slow, laborious distinctness it broke off into fragments that were
words, with great difficulty uttered, but with a final authority that rendered
"No," O'Malley heard, "you - first. And - carry word - that we - are
- on the way." Staring out across the sea and sky he boomed it deeply.
"You - first. We - follow...!" And the speech seemed to flow from the entire
surface of his body rather than from the lips alone. The sea and air mothered
the syllables. Thus might the Night herself have spoken.
Chiron! The word, with its clue of explanation, flamed about him with
a roar. Was this, then, the type of cosmic life to which his companions,
and himself with them, inwardly approximated...?
The same instant, before O'Malley could move a muscle to prevent it,
the boy climbed the rails with an easy, vaulting motion that was swift
yet oddly spread, and dropped straight down into the sea. He fell; and
as he fell it was as if the passage through the air drew out a part of
him again like smoke. Whether it was due to the flying cloak, or to some
dim wizardry of the shadows, there grew over him an instantaneous transformation
of outline that was far more marked than anything before. For as the steamer
drew onwards, and the body thus passed in its downward flight close beneath
O'Malley's eyes, he saw that the boy was making the first preparatory motions
of swimming, - movements, however, that were not the horizontal sweep of
a pair of human arms, but rather the vertical strokes of a swimming animal.
He pawed the air.
The surprise of the whole unexpected thing came upon him with a crash
that brought him back effectually again into himself. That part of him,
already half emerged in similar escape, now flashed back sheath-like within
him. The inner catastrophe he dreaded while desiring it, had not yet completed
He heard no splash, for the ship was high out of the water, and the
place where the body met the sea already lay far astern; but when the momentary
arrest of his faculties had passed and he found his voice to cry for help,
the father turned upon him like a lion and clapped a great, encompassing
hand upon his mouth.
"Quiet!" his deep voice boomed. "It is well - and he - is - safe."
And across the huge and simple visage ran an expression of such supreme
happiness, while in his act and gesture lay such convincing power, that
the Irishman felt himself overborne and forced to acknowledge another standard
of authority that somehow made the whole thing right. To cry "man overboard,"
to stop the ship, throw life-buoys and the rest, was not only unnecessary,
but foolish. The boy was safe; it was well with him; he was not "lost"...
"See," said the parent's deep voice, breaking in upon his thoughts as
he drew him to one side with a certain vehemence, "See!"
He pointed downwards. And there, between them, half in the scuppers,
against their very feet, lay the huddled body upon the deck, the arms outstretched,
the face turned upwards to the stars. ... -
The bewilderment that followed was like the confusion which exists between
two states of consciousness when the mind passes from sleep to waking,
or vice versa. O'Malley lost that power of attention which enables a man
to concentrate on details sufficiently to recall their exact sequence afterwards
Two things, however, stood out and he tells them briefly enough: first,
that the joy upon the father's face rendered an offer of sympathy ludicrous;
secondly, that Dr. Stahl was again upon the scene with a promptness which
proved him to have been close at hand all the time.
It was between two and three in the morning, the rest of the passengers
asleep still, but Captain Burgenfelder and the first officer appeared soon
after and an orderly record of the affair was drawn up formally. The depositions
of the father and of himself were duly taken down in writing, witnessed,
and all the rest.
The scene in the doctor's cabin remains vividly in his mind: the huge
Russian standing by the door - for he refused a seat - incongruously smiling
in contrast to the general gravity, his mind obviously brought by an effort
of concentration to each question; the others seated round the desk some
distance away, leaving him in a space by himself; the scratching of the
doctor's pointed pen; the still, young outline underneath the canvas all
through the long pantomime, lying upon a couch at the back where the shadows
gathered thickly. And then the gust of fresh wind that came in with a little
song as they opened the door at the end, and saw the crimson dawn reflected
in the dewy, shining boards of the deck. The father, throwing the Irishman
a significant and curious glance, was out to join it on the instant.
Syncope, produced by excitement, cause unknown, was the scientific verdict,
and an immediate burial at sea the parent's wish. As the sun rose over
the highlands of Asia Minor it was carried into effect.
But the father's eyes followed not the drop. They gazed with rapt, intent
expression in another direction where the shafts of sunrise sped across
the sea towards the glens and dales of distant Pelion. At the sound of
the plunge he did not even turn his eyes. He pointed, gathering O'Malley
somehow into the gesture, across the AEgean Sea to where the shores of
north- western Arcadia lay below the horizon, raised his arms with a huge
sweep of welcome to the brightening sky, then turned and went below without
a single word.
For a few minutes, puzzled and perhaps a little awed, the group of sailors
and ship's officers remained standing with bared heads, then disappeared
silently in their turn, leaving the decks to the sunrise and the wind.
But O'Malley did not immediately return to his own cabin; he yielded to
Dr. Stahl's persuasion and dropped into the arm- chair he had already occupied
more than once, watching his companion's preparations with the lamp and
With his eyes, that is, he watched, staring, as men say, absent-mindedly;
for the fact was, only a little bit of him hovered there about his weary
physical frame. The rest of him was off somewhere else across the threshold
- subliminal: below, with the Russian, beyond with the travelling spirit
of the boy; but the major portion, out deep in space, reclaimed by the
So, at least, it felt; for the circulation of blood in his brain ran
low and physical sensation there was almost none. The driving impulse upon
the outlying tracts of consciousness usually submerged had been tremendous.
"That time," he heard Stahl saying in an oddly distant voice from across
the cabin, "you were nearly - out..."
"You heard? You saw it all?" he murmured as in half-sleep. For it was
an effort to focus his mind even upon simple words.
The reply he hardly caught, though he felt the significant stare of
the man's eye upon him and divined the shaking of his head. His life still
pulsed and throbbed far away outside his normal self. Complete return was
difficult. He felt all over: with the wind and hills and sea, all his little
personal sensations tucked away and absorbed into Nature. In the Earth
he lay, pervading her whole surface, still sharing her vaster life. With
her he moved, as with a greater, higher, and more harmonious creation than
himself. In large measure the cosmic instincts still swept these quickened
fringes of his deep subconscious personality.
"You know them now for what they are," he heard the doctor saying at
the end of much else he had entirely missed. "The father will be the next
to go, and then - yourself. I warn you before it is too late. Beware! And
His thoughts, and with them those subtle energies of the soul that are
the vehicles of thought, followed where the boy had gone. Deep streams
of longing swept him. The journey of that spirit, so singularly released,
drew half his forces after it. Thither the bereaved parent and himself
were also bound; and the lonely incompleteness of his life lay wholly now
explained. That cry within the dawn, though actually it had been calling
always, had at last reached him; hitherto he had caught only misinterpreted
echoes of it. From the narrow body it had called him forth. Another moment
and he would have known complete emancipation; and never could he forget
that glorious sensation as the vital essence tasted half release. Next
time the process should complete itself, and he would - go!
"Drink this," he heard abruptly in Stahl's grating voice, and saw him
cross the cabin with a cup of steaming coffee. "Concentrate your mind now
upon the things about you here. Return to the present. And tell me, too,
if you can bring yourself to do so," he added, stooping over him with the
cup, "a little of what you experienced. The return, I know, is pain. But
try - try..."
"Like a little bit of death, yes," murmured the Irishman. "I feel caught
again and caged - small." He could have wept. This ugly little life!
"Because you've tasted a moment of genuine cosmic consciousness and
now you feel the limitations of normal personality," Stahl added, more
soothingly. He sat down beside him and sipped his own coffee.
"Dispersed about the whole earth I felt, deliciously extended and alive,"
O'Malley whispered with a faint shiver as he glanced about the little cabin,
noticing the small windows and shut door. "Upholstery" oppressed him. "Now
I'm back in prison again."
There was silence for a moment. Then presently the doctor spoke, as
though he thought aloud, expecting no reply.
"All great emotions," he said in lowered tones, "tap the extensions
of the personality we now call subconscious, and a man in anger, in love,
in ecstasy of any kind is greater than he knows. But to you has come, perhaps,
the greatest form of all - a definite and instant merging with the being
of the Earth herself. You reached the point where you felt the spirit of
the planet's life. You almost crossed the threshold - your extension edged
into her own. She bruised you, and you knew..."
"'Bruised'?" he asked, startled at the singular expression into closer
"We are not 'aware' of our interior," he answered, smiling a little,
"until something goes wrong and the attention is focussed. A keen sensation
- pain - and you become aware. Subconscious processes then become consciously
recognized. I bruise your lung for instance; you become conscious of that
lung for the first time, and feel it. You gather it up from the general
subconscious background into acute personal consciousness. Similarly, a
word or mood may sting and stimulate some phase of your consciousness usually
too remote to be recognized. Last night - regions of your extended Self,
too distant for most men to realize their existence at all, contacted the
consciousness of the Earth herself. She bruised you, and via that bruise
caught you up into her greater Self. You experienced a genuine cosmic reaction."
O'Malley listened, though hardly to the actual words. Behind the speech,
which was in difficult German for one thing, his mind heard the rushing
past of this man's ideas. They moved together along the same stream of
thought, and the Irishman knew that what he thus heard was true, at any
rate, for himself. And at the same time he recognized with admiration the
skill with which this scientific mystic of a Schiffsarzt sought to lead
him back into the safer regions of his normal state. Stahl did not now
oppose or deny. Catching the wave of the Celt's experience, he let his
thought run sympathetically with it, alongside, as it were, guiding gently
and insinuatingly down to earth again.
And the result justified this cunning wisdom; O'Malley returned to the
common world by degrees. For it was enchanting to find his amazing adventure
explained even in this partial, speculative way. Who else among his acquaintances
would have listened at all, much less admitted its possibility?
"But, why in particular me?" he asked. "Can't everybody know these cosmic
reactions you speak of?" It was his intellect that asked the foolish question.
His whole Self knew the answer beforehand.
"Because," replied the doctor, tapping his saucer to emphasize each
word, "in some way you have retained an almost unbelievable simplicity
of heart - an innocence singularly undefile...sort of primal, spontaneous
innocence that has kept you clean and open. I venture even to suggest that
shame, as most men know it, has never come to you at all."
The words sank down into him. Passing the intellect that would have
criticized, they nested deep within where the intuition knew them true.
Behind the clumsy language that is, he caught the thought.
"As if I were a saint!" he laughed faintly.
Stahl shook his head. "Rather, because you live detached," he replied,
"and have never identified your Self with the rubbish of life. The channels
in you are still open to these tides of larger existence. I wish I had
The German hesitated a moment. "Most men," he said, choosing his words
with evident care, "are too grossly organized to be aware that these reactions
of a wider consciousness can be possible at all. Their minute normal Self
they mistake for the whole, hence denying even the experiences of others.
'Our actual personality may be something considerably unlike that conception
of it which is based on our present terrestrial consciousnes...form of
consciousness suited to, and developed by, our temporary existence here,
but not necessarily more than a fraction of our total self. It is quite
credible that our entire personality is never terrestrially manifest.'"
Obviously he quoted. The Irishman had read the words somewhere. He came
back more and more into the world - correlated, that is, the subconscious
with the conscious.
"Yet consciousness apart from the brain is inconceivable," he interposed,
more to hear the reply than to express a conviction.
Whether Stahl divined his intention or not, he gave no sign.
"'We cannot say with any security that the stuff called brain is the
only conceivable machinery which mind and consciousness are able to utilize:
though it is true that we know no other.'" The last phrase he repeated:
"'though it is true that we know no other.'"
O'Malley sank deeper into his chair, making no reply. His mind clutched
at the words "too grossly organized," and his thoughts ran back for a moment
to his daily life in London. He pictured his friends and acquaintances
there; the men at his club, at dinner-parties, in the parks, at theatres;
he heard their talk - shooting - destruction of exquisite life; horses,
politics, women, and the rest; yet good, honest, lovable fellows all. But
how did they breathe in so small a world at all? Practical-minded specimens
of the greatest civilization ever known! He recalled the heavy, dazed expression
on the faces of one or two to whom he had sometimes dared to speak of those
wider realms that were so familiar to himself....
"'Though it is true that we know no other,'" he heard Stahl repeating
slowly as he looked down into his cup and stirred the dregs.
Then, suddenly, the doctor rose and came over to his side. His eyes
twinkled, and he rubbed his hands vigorously together as he spoke. He laughed.
"For instance, I have no longer now the consciousness of that coffee
I have just swallowed," he exclaimed, "yet, if it disagreed with me, my
consciousness of it would return."
"The abnormal states you mean are a symptom of disorder then?" the Irishman
asked, following the analogy.
"At present, yes," was the reply, "and will remain so until their correlation
with the smaller conscious Self is better understood. These belligerent
Powers of the larger Consciousness are apt to overwhelm as yet. That time,
perhaps, is coming. Already a few here and there have guessed that the
states we call hysteria and insanity, conditions of trance, hypnotism,
and the like, are not too satisfactorily explained." He peered down at
his companion. "If I could study your Self at close quarters for a few
years," he added significantly, "and under various conditions, I might
teach the world!"
"Thank you!" cried the Irishman, now wholly returned into his ordinary
self. He could think of nothing else to say, yet he meant the words and
gave them vital meaning. He moved across to another chair. Lighting a cigarette,
he puffed out clouds of smoke. He did not desire to be caught again beneath
this man's microscope. And in his mind he had a sudden picture of the speculative
and experimenting doctor being "requested to sever his connection" with
the great Hospital for the sake of the latter's reputation. But Stahl,
in no way offended, was following his own thoughts aloud, half speaking
"...For a being organized as you are, more active in the outlying tracts
of consciousness than in the centres lying nearer home...being like yourself,
I say, might become aware of Other Life and other personalities even more
advanced and highly organized than that of the Earth."
A strange excitement came upon him, making his eyes shine. He walked
to and fro, O'Malley watching him, a touch of alarm mingled with his interest.
"And to think of the great majority that denies because they are - dead!"
he cried. "Smothered! Undivining! Living in that uninspired fragment which
they deem the whole! Ah, my friend," - and he came abruptly nearer - "the
pathos, the comedy, the pert self-sufficiency of their dull pride, the
crass stupidity and littleness of their denials, in the eyes of those like
ourselves who have actually known the passion of the larger experience...!
For all this modern talk about a Subliminal Self is woven round a profoundly
significant truth, a truth newly discovered and only just beginning to
be understood. We are much greater than we know, and there is a vast subconscious
part of us. But, what is more important still, there is a super- consciousness
as well. The former represents what the race has discarded; it is past;
but the latter stands for what it reaches out to in the future. The perfect
man you dream of perhaps is he who shall eventually combine the two, for
there is, I think, a vast amount the race has discarded unwisely and prematurely.
It is of value and will have to be recovered. In the subconsciousness it
lies secure and waiting. But it is the super- consciousness that you should
aim for, not the other, for there lie those greater powers which so mysteriously
wait upon the call of genius, inspiration, hypnotism, and the rest."
"One leads, though, to the other," interrupted O'Malley quickly. "It
is merely a question of the swing of the pendulum?"
"Possibly," was the laconic reply.
"They join hands, I mean, behind my back, as it were."
"This stranger, then, may really lead me forward and not back?"
"Possibly," again was all the answer that he got.
For Stahl had stopped short, as though suddenly aware that he had said
too much, betraying himself in the sudden rush of interest and excitement.
The face for a moment had seemed quite young, but now the flush faded,
and the light died out from his eyes. O'Malley never understood how the
change came about so quickly, for in a moment, it seemed, the doctor was
calm again, quietly lighting one of his black cigars over by the desk,
peering at him half quizzingly, half mockingly through the smoke.
"So I urge you again," he was saying, as though the rest had been some
interlude that the Irishman had half imagined, "to proceed with the caution
of this sane majority, the caution that makes for safety. Your friend,
as I have already suggested to you, is a direct expression of the cosmic
life of the earth. Perhaps, you have guessed by now, the particular type
and form. Do not submit your inner life too completely to his guidance.
Contain your Self - and resist - while it is yet possible."
And while he sat on there, sipping hot coffee, half listening to the
words that warned of danger while at the same time they cunningly urged
him forwards, it seemed that the dreams of childhood revived in him with
a power that obliterated this present day - the childhood, however, not
of his mere body, but of his spirit, when the world herself was young....He,
too, had dwelt in Arcady, known the free life of splendour and simplicity
in some Saturnian Reign; for now this dream, but half remembered, half
believed, though eternally yearned for - dream of a Golden Age untouched
by Time, still there, still accessible, still inhabited, was actually coming
It surely was that old Garden of innocence and joy where the soul, while
all unvexed by a sham and superficial civilization of the mind, might yet
know growt...realm half divined by saints and poets, but to the gross majority
forgotten or denied.
The Simple Life! This new interpretation of it at first overwhelmed.
The eyes of his soul turned wild with glory; the passion that o'er-runs
the world in desolate places was his; his, too, the strength of rushing
rivers that coursed their parent's being. He shared the terror of the mountains
and the singing of the sweet Spring rains. The spread wonder of the woods
of the world lay imprisoned and explained in the daily hurry of his very
blood. He understood, because he felt, the power of the ocean tides; and,
flitting to and fro through the tenderer regions of his extended Self,
danced the fragrance of all the wild flowers that ever blew. That strange
allegory of man, the microcosm, and earth, the macrocosm, became a sudden
blazing reality. The feverish distress, unrest, and vanity of modern life
was due to the distance men had travelled from the soul of the world, away
from large simplicity into the pettier state they deemed so proudly progress.
Out of the transliminal depths of this newly awakened Consciousness
rose the pelt and thunder of these magical and enormous cosmic sensations
- the pulse and throb of the planetary life where his little Self had fringed
her own. Those untamed profundities in himself that walked alone, companionless
among modern men, suffering an eternal nostalgia, at last knew the approach
to satisfaction. For when the "inner catastrophe" completed itself and
escape should come - that transfer of the conscious centre across the threshold
into this vaster region stimulated by the Earth - all his longings would
be housed at last like homing birds, nested in the gentle places his yearnings
all these years had lovingly built for them - in a living Nature! The fever
of modern life, the torture and unrest of a false, external civilization
that trained the brain while it still left wars and baseness in the heart,
would drop from him like the symptoms of some fierce disease. The god of
speed and mechanism that ruled the world to-day, urging men at ninety miles
an hour to enter a Heaven where material gain was only a little sublimated
and not utterly denied, would pass for the nightmare that it really was.
In its place the cosmic life of undifferentiated simplicity, clean and
sweet and big, would hold his soul in the truly everlasting arms.
And that little German doctor, sitting yonder, enlightened yet afraid,
seeking an impossible compromise - Stahl could no more stop his going than
a fly could stop the rising of the Atlantic tides.
Out of all this tumult of confused thought and feeling there rose then
the silver face of some forgotten and passionate loveliness. Apparently
it reached his lips, for he heard his own voice murmuring outside him somewhere
across the cabin: -
"The gods of Greece - and of the world..."
Yet the instant words clothed it, the flashing glory went. The idea
plunged back out of sight - untranslatable in language. Thrilled and sad,
he lay back in his chair, watching the doctor and trying to focus his mind
upon what he was saying. But the lost idea still dived and reared within
him like a shining form, yet never showing more than this radiant point
above the surface. The passion and beauty of it...! He tried no more to
tie a label of modern words about its neck. He let it swim and dive and
leap within him uncaught. Only he understood better why, close to Greece,
his friends had betrayed their inner selves, and why for the lesser of
the two, whose bodily cage was not yet fully clamped and barred by physical
maturity, escape, or return rather, had been possible, nay, had been inevitable.
Stahl, he remembers, had been talking for a long time. The general sense
of what he said reached him, perhaps, but certainly not many of the words.
The doctor, it was clear, wished to coax from him the most intimate description
possible of his experience. He put things crudely in order to challenge
criticism, and thus to make his companion's reason sit in judgment on his
heart. If this visionary Celt would let his intellect pass soberly and
dissectingly upon these flaming states of wider consciousness he had touched,
the doctor would have data of real value for his own purposes.
But this discriminating analysis was precisely what the Irishman found
impossible. His soul was too "dispersed" to concentrate upon modern terms
and phrases. These in any case dealt only with the fragments of Self that
manifested through brain and body. The rest could be felt only, never truly
described. Since the beginning of the world such transcendental experiences
had never been translatable in the language of "common" sense; and today,
even, when a few daring minds sought a laborious classification, straining
the resources of psychology, the results were little better than a rather
enticing and suggestive confusion.
In his written account, indeed, he gives no proper report of what Stahl
tried to say. A gaping hiatus appears in the manuscript, with only asterisks
and numbers that referred to pages of his tumbled note-books. Following
these indications I came across the skeletons of ideas which perhaps were
the raw material, so to say, of these crude and speculative statements
that the German poured out at him across that cabin - blocks of exaggeration
he flung at him, in the hope of winning some critical and intelligible
response. Like the structure of some giant fairy-tale they read - some
toppling scaffolding that needed reduction in scale before it could be
focussed for normal human sight.
"Nature" was really alive for those who believed - and worshipped; for
worship was that state of consciousness which opens the sense and provides
the channel for this singular interior realization. In very desolate and
lonely places, unsmothered and unstained by men as they exist to-day, such
expressions of the Earth's stupendous, central vitality were still possible....The
"Russian" himself was some such fragment, some such cosmic being, strayed
down among men in a form outwardly human, and the Irishman had in his own
wild, untamed heart those same very tender and primitive possibilities
which enabled him to know and feel it.
In the body, however, he was fenced off - without. Only by the disentanglement
of his primitive self from the modern development which caged it, could
he recover this strange lost Eden and taste in its fullness the mother-life
of the planetary consciousness which called him back. This dissociation
might be experienced temporarily as a subliminal adventure; or permanently
- in death.
Here, it seemed, was a version of the profound mystical idea that a
man must lose his life to find it, and that the personal self must be merged
in a larger one to know peace - the incessant, burning nostalgia that dwells
in the heart of every religion known to men: escape from the endless pain
of futile personal ambitions and desires for external things that are unquenchable
because never possible of satisfaction. It had never occurred to him before
in so literal and simple a form. It explained his sense of kinship with
the earth and nature rather than with men....
There followed, then, another note which the Irishman had also omitted
from his complete story as I found it - in this MS. that lay among the
dust and dinginess of the Paddington back- room like some flaming gem in
a refuse heap. It was brief but pregnant - the block of another idea, Fechner's
apparently, hurled at him by the little doctor.
That, just as the body takes up the fact of the bruised lung into its
own general consciousness, lifting it thereby from the submerged, unrealized
state; and just as our human consciousness can be caught up again as a
part of the earth's; so, in turn, the Planet's own vast personality is
included in the collective consciousness of the entire Universe - all steps
and stages of advance to that final and august Consciousness of which they
are fragments, projections, manifestations in Time - GOD.
And the immense conception, at any rate, gave him a curious, flashing
clue to that passionate inclusion which a higher form of consciousness
may feel for the countless lesser manifestations below it; and so to that
love for humanity as a whole that saviours feel....
Yet, out of all this deep flood of ideas and suggestions that somehow
poured about him from the mind of this self- contradictory German, alternately
scientist and mystic, O'Malley emerged with his own smaller and vivid personal
delight that he would presently himself - escape: escape under the guidance
of the big Russian into some remote corner of his own extended Being, where
he would enjoy a quasi-merging with the Earth-life, and know subjectively
at least the fruition of all his yearnings.
The doctor had phrased it once that a part of him fluid, etheric or
astral, malleable by desire, would escape and attain to this result. But,
after all, the separation of one portion of himself from the main personality
could only mean being conscious it: another part of it - in a division
As Stahl so crudely put it, the Earth had bruised him. He would know
in some little measure the tides of her own huge life, his longings, loneliness,
and nostalgia explained and satisfied. He would find that fair old Garden.
He might even know the lesser gods. ... -
That afternoon at Smyrna the matter was officially reported, and so
officially done with. It caused little enough comment on the steamer. The
majority of the passengers had hardly noticed the boy at all, much less
his disappearance; and while many of them landed there for Ephesus, still
more left the ship next day at Constantinople.
The big Russian, though he kept mostly to his own cabin, was closely
watched by the ship's officers, and O'Malley, too, realized that he was
under observation. But nothing happened; the emptied steamer pursued her
quiet way, and the Earth, unrealized by her teeming freight so busy with
their tiny personal aims, rushed forwards upon her glorious journey through
O'Malley alone realized her presence, aware that he rushed with her
amid a living universe. But he kept his new sensations to himself. The
remainder of the voyage, indeed, across the Black Sea via Samsoun and Trebizond,
is hazy in his mind so far as practical details are concerned, for he found
himself in a dreamy state of deep peace and would sometimes sit for hours
in reverie, only reminded of the present by certain pricks of annoyance
from the outer world. He had returned, of course, to his own state-room,
yet felt in such close sympathy with his companion that no outward expression
by way of confidence or explanation was necessary. In their Subconsciousness
they were together and at one.
The pricks of annoyance came, as may be expected, chiefly from Dr. Stahl,
and took the form of variations of "I told you so." The man was in a state
of almost anger, caused half by disappointment, half by unsatisfied curiosity.
His cargo of oil and water would not mix, yet he knew not which to throw
overboard; here was another instance where facts refused to tally with
the beliefs dictated by sane reason; where the dazzling speculations he
played with threatened to win the day and destroy the compromise his soul
The Irishman, however, did not resent his curiosity, though he made
no attempt to satisfy it. He allowed him to become authoritative and professional,
to treat him somewhat as a patient. What could it matter to him, who in
a few hours would land at Batoum and go off with his guide and comrade
to some place where...? The thought he could never see completed in words,
for he only knew that the fulfilment of the adventure would take place
- somewhere, somehow, somewhen - in that space within the soul of which
external space is but an image and a figure. What takes place in the mind
and heart are alone the true events; their outward expression in the shifting
and impermanent shapes of matter is the least real thing in all the world.
For him the experience would be true, real, authoritative - fact in the
deepest sense of the word. Already he saw it "whole."
Faith asks no travellers' questions - exact height of mountains, length
of rivers, distance from the sea, precise spelling of names, and so forth.
He felt - the quaint and striking simile is in the written account - like
a man hunting for a pillar-box in a strange city - absurdly difficult to
find, as though purposely concealed by the authorities amid details of
street and houses to which the eye is unaccustomed, yet really close at
hand all the time....
But at Trebizond, a few hours before Batoum, Dr. Stahl in his zealous
attentions went too far; for that evening he gave his "patient" a sleeping-draught
in his coffee that caused him to lie for twelve hours on the cabin sofa,
and when at length he woke towards noon, the Customs officers had been
aboard since nine o'clock, and most of the passengers had already landed.
Among them, leaving no message, the big Russian had also gone ashore.
And, though Stahl may have been actuated by the wisest and kindest motives,
he was not quite prepared for the novel experience with which it provided
him - namely, of hearing an angry Irishman saying rapidly what he thought
of him in a stream of eloquent language that lasted nearly a quarter of
an hour without a break!
Although Batoum is a small place, and the trains that leave it during the
day are few enough, O'Malley knew that to search for his friend by the
methods of the ordinary detective was useless. It would have been also
wrong. The man had gone deliberately, without attempting to say good-bye
- because, having come together in the real and inner sense, real separation
was not possible. The vital portion of their beings, thought, feeling,
and desire, were close and always would be. Their bodies, busy at different
points of the map among the casual realities of external life, could make
no change in that. And at the right moment they would assuredly meet again
to begin the promised journey.
Thus, at least, in some fashion peculiarly his own, was the way the
Irishman felt; and this was why, after the first anger with his German
friend, he resigned himself patiently to the practical business he had
The little incident was characteristically revealing, and shows how
firmly rooted in his imaginative temperament was the belief, the unalterable
conviction rather, that his life operated upon an outer and an inner plane
simultaneously, the one ever reacting upon the other. It was as if he were
aware of two separate sets of faculties, subtly linked, one carrying on
the affairs of the physical man in the "practical" world, the other dealing
with the spiritual economy in the subconscious. To attend to the latter
alone was to be a useless dreamer among men, unpractical, unbalanced; to
neglect it wholly for the former was to be crassly limited, but half alive;
to combine the two in effective co-operation was to achieve that high level
of a successful personality, which some perhaps term genius, some prophet,
and others, saint. It meant, at any rate, to have sources of inspiration
Thus he spent the day completing what was necessary for his simple outfit,
and put up for the night at one of the little hotels that spread their
tables invitingly upon the pavement, so that dinner may be enjoyed in full
view of one of the most picturesque streams of traffic it is possible to
The sultry, enervating heat of the day had passed and a cool breeze
came shorewards over the Black Sea. With a box of thin Russian cigarettes
before him he lingered over the golden Kakhetian wine and watched the crowded
street. Knowing enough of the language to bargain smartly for his room,
his pillows, sheets, and samovar, he yet could scarcely compass conversation
with the strangers about him. Of Russian proper, besides, he heard little;
there was a babel of many tongues, Armenian, Turkish, Georgian, explosive
phrases of Swanetian, soft gliding Persian words, and the sharp or guttural
exclamations of the big-voiced, giant fellows, all heavily armed, who belonged
to the bewildering tribes that dwelt among the mountains beyond. Occasionally
came a broken bit of French or German; but they strayed in, lost and bizarre,
as fragments from some distant or forgotten world.
Down the pavement, jostling his elbows, strode the constant, gorgeous
procession of curious, wild, barbaric faces, bearded, with hooked noses,
flashing eyes, bourkas flowing; cartridge- belts of silver and ivory gleaming
across chests in the glare of the electric light; bashliks of white, black,
and yellow wool upon the head, increasing the stature; evil-looking Black
Sea knives stuck in most belts, rifles swung across great supple shoulders,
long swords trailing; Turkish gypsies, dark and furtive-eyed, walking softly
in leather slippers - of endless and fascinating variety, many coloured
and splendid, it all was. From time to time a droschky with two horses,
or a private carriage with three, rattled noisily over the cobbles at a
reckless pace, stopping with the abruptness of a practised skater; and
officers with narrow belted waists like those of women, their full-skirted
cloaks reaching half-way down high boots of shining leather, sprang out
to pay the driver and take a vacant table at his side; and once or twice
a body of soldiers, several hundred strong, singing the national songs
with a full- throated vigour, hoarse, wild, somehow half terrible, passed
at a swinging gait away into the darkness at the end of the street, the
roar of their barbaric singing dying away in the distance by the sea where
the boom of waves just caught it.
And O'Malley loved it all, and "thrilled" as he watched and listened.
From his hidden self within something passed out and joined it. He felt
the wild pulse of energetic life that drove along with the tumult of it.
The savage, untamed soul in him leaped as he saw; the blood ran faster.
Sitting thus upon the bank of the hurrying stream, he knew himself akin
to the main body of the invisible current further out; it drew him with
it, and he experienced a quickening of all his impulses towards some wild
freedom that was mighty - clean - simple.
Civilian dress was rare, and noticeable when it came. The shipping agents
wore black alpaca coats, white trousers, and modern hats of straw. A few
ship's officers in blue, with official caps gold-braided, passed in and
out like men without a wedding garment, as distressingly out of the picture
as tourists in check knickerbockers and nailed boots moving through some
dim cathedral aisle. O'Malley recognized one or two from his own steamer,
and turned his head the other way. It hurt. He caught himself thinking,
as he saw them, of Stock Exchanges, twopenny-tubes, Belgravia dinner-parties,
private views, "small and earlies," musical comedy, and all the rest of
the dismal and meagre programme. These harmless little modern uniforms
were worse than ludicrous, for they formed links with the glare and noise
of the civilization he had left behind, the smeared vulgarity of the big
cities where men and women live in their possessions, wasting life in that
worship of external detail they call "progress"...
A well-known German voice crashed through his dream.
"Already at the wine! These Caucasian vintages are good; they really
taste of grapes and earth and flowers. Yes, thanks, I'll join you for a
moment if I may. We only lie three days in port and are glad to get ashore."
O'Malley called for a second glass, and passed the cigarettes.
"I prefer my black cigars, thank you," was the reply, lighting one.
"You push on to-morrow, I suppose? Kars, Tiflis, Erzerum, or somewhere
a little wilder in the mountains, eh?"
"Towards the mountains, yes," the Irishman said. Dr. Stahl was the only
person he could possibly have allowed to sit next him at such a time. He
had quite forgiven him now, and though at first he felt no positive welcome,
the strange link between the two men quickly asserted itself and welded
them together in that odd harmony they knew in spite of all differences.
They could be silent together, too, without distress or awkwardness, sure
test that at least some portion of their personalities fused.
And for a long time they remained silent, watching the surge and movement
of the old, old types about them. They sipped the yellow wine and smoked.
The stars came out; the carriages grew less; from far away floated a deep
sonorous echo now and then of the soldiers singing by their barracks. Sometimes
a steamer hooted. Cossacks swung by. Often some wild cry rang out from
a side street. There were heavy, unfamiliar perfumes in the air. Presently
Stahl began talking about the Revolution of a few years before and the
scenes of violence he had witnessed in these little streets, the shooting,
barricades, bombs thrown into passing carriages, Cossacks charging down
the pavements with swords drawn, shouting and howling. O'Malley listened
with a part of his mind at any rate. The rest of him was much further away....He
was up among the mountain fastnesses. Already, it seemed, he knew the secret
places of the mist, the lair of every running wind....
Two tall mountain tribesmen swaggered past close to their table; the
thick grey bourkas almost swept their glasses. They walked magnificently
with easy, flowing stride, straight from the hips.
"The earth here," said O'Malley, taking advantage of a pause in the
other's chatter, "produces some splendid types. Look at those two; they
make one think of trees walking - blown along bodily before a wind." He
watched them with admiration as they swung off and disappeared among the
Dr. Stahl, glancing keenly at him, laughed a little.
"Yes," he said; "brave, generous fellows too as a rule, who will shoot
you for a pistol that excites their envy, yet give their life to save one
of their savage dogs. They're still - natural," he added after a moment's
hesitation; "still unspoilt. They live close to Nature with a vengeance.
Up among the Ossetines on the high saddles you'll find true Pagans who
worship trees, sacrifice blood, and offer bread and salt to the nature-deities."
"Still?" asked O'Malley, sipping his wine.
"Still," replied Stahl, following his example.
Over the glasses' rims their eyes met. Both smiled, though neither quite
knew why. The Irishman, perhaps, was thinking of the little city clerks
he knew at home, pigeon-breasted, pale- faced, under-sized. One of these
big men, so full of rushing, vigorous life, would eat a dozen at a sitting.
"There's something here the rest of the world has lost," he murmured
to himself. But the doctor heard him.
"You feel it?" he asked quickly, his eyes brightening. "The awful, primitive
"I feel - something, certainly," was the cautious answer. He could not
possibly have said more just then; yet it seemed as though he heard far
echoes of that voice that had been first borne to his ears across the blue
AEgean. In the gorges of these terrible mountains it surely sounded still.
These men must know it too.
"The spell of this strange land will never leave you once you've felt
it," pursued the other quietly, his voice deepening. "Even in the towns
here - Tiflis, Kutai...have felt it. Hereabouts is the cradle of the human
race, they say; and the people have not changed for thousands of years.
Some of them you'll find" - he hunted for a word, then said with a curious,
shrugging gesture, "terrific."
"Ah..." said the Irishman, lighting a fresh cigarette from the dying
stump so clumsily that the trembling of the hand was noticeable.
"And akin most likely," said Stahl, thrusting his face across the table
with a whispering tone, "to that - man - who - tempted you."
O'Malley did not answer. He drank the liquid golden sunshine in his
glass; his eyes lifted to the stars that watched above the sea; between
the surge of human figures came a little wind from the grim, mysterious
Caucasus beyond. He turned all tender as a child, receiving as with a shock
of sudden strength and sweetness a thousand intimate messages from the
splendid mood of old Mother-Earth who here expressed herself in such a
potent breed of men and mountains.
He heard the doctor's voice still speaking, as from a distance though:
"For here they all grow with her. They do not fight her and resist.
She pours freely through them; there is no opposition. The channels still
lie open;...and they share her life and power."
"That beauty which the modern world has lost," repeated the other to
himself, lingering over the words, and wondering why they expressed so
little of what he really meant.
"But which will never - can never come again," Stahl completed the sentence.
There was a wistful, genuine sadness in his voice and eyes, and the sympathy
touched the inflammable Celt with fire. It was ever thus with him. The
little man opposite, with the ragged beard, and the bald, domed head gleaming
in the electric light, had laid a card upon the table, showing a bit of
his burning heart. The generous Irishman responded like a child, laying
himself bare. So hungry was he for comprehension.
"Men have everywhere else clothed her fair body with their smothering,
ugly clothing and their herded cities," he burst out, so loud that the
Armenian waiter sidled up, thinking he called for wine. "But here she lies
naked and unashamed, sweet in divinity made simple. By Jove! I tell you,
doctor, it burns and sweeps me with a kind of splendid passion that drowns
my little shame-faced personality of the twentieth century. I could run
out and worship - fall down and kiss the grass and soil and sea...!"
He drew back suddenly like a wounded animal; his face turned scarlet,
as though he knew himself convicted of an hysterical outburst. Stahl's
eyes had changed even as he spoke the flaming words that struggled so awkwardly
to seize his mood of rapture...thought the Earth poured through him for
a moment. The bitter, half-mocking smile lay in them, and on the lips the
cold and critical expression of the other Stahl, sceptic and science-man.
A revulsion of feeling caught them both. But to O'Malley came the thought
that once again he had been drawn - was being coaxed for examination beneath
"The material here," Stahl said presently, with the calm tones of a
dispassionate diagnosis, "is magnificent as you say, uncivilized without
being merely savage, untamed, yet far from crude barbarism. When the progress
of the age gets into this land the transformation will be grand. When Russia
lets in culture, when modern improvements have developed her resources
and trained the wild human forces into useful channels...."
He went on calmly by the yard, till it was all the Irishman could do
not to dash the wine-glass in his face.
"Remember my words when you are up in the lonely mountains," he concluded
at length, smiling his queer sardonic smile, "and keep yourself in hand.
Put on the brakes when possible. Your experience will thus have far more
"And you," replied O'Malley bluntly, so bluntly it was almost rudeness,
"go back to Fechner, and try to save your compromising soul before it is
"Still following those lights that do mislead the morn," Stahl added
gently, breaking into English for a phrase he apparently loved. They laughed
and raised their glasses.
A long pause came which neither cared to break. The streets were growing
empty, the personality of the mysterious little Black Sea port folding
away into the darkness. The wilder element had withdrawn behind the shuttered
windows. There came a murmur of the waves, but the soldiers no longer sang.
The droschkys ceased to rattle past. The night flowed down more thickly
from the mountains, and the air, moist with that malarial miasma which
makes the climate of this reclaimed marsh whereon Batoum is built so unhealthy,
closed unpleasantly about them. The stars died in it.
"Another glass?" suggested Stahl. "A drink to the gods of the Future,
and till we meet again, on your return journey, eh?"
"I'll walk with you to the steamer," was the reply. "I never care for
much wine. And the gods of the Future will prefer my usual offering, I
think - imaginative faith."
The doctor did not ask him to explain. They walked down the middle of
the narrow streets. No one was about, nor were there lights in many windows.
Once or twice from an upper story came the faint twanging of a balalaika
against the drone of voices, and occasionally they passed a little garden
where figures outlined themselves among the trees, with the clink of glasses,
laughter of men and girls, and the glowing tips of cigarettes.
They turned down towards the harbour where the spars and funnels of
the big steamers were just visible against the sky, and opposite the unshuttered
window of a shop - one of those modern shops that oddly mar the town with
assorted German tinware, Paris hats, and oleographs indiscriminately mingled
- Stahl stopped a moment and pointed. They moved up idly and looked in.
From the shadows of the other side, well hidden, an armed patrol eyed them
suspiciously, though they were not aware of it.
"It was before a window like this," remarked Stahl, apparently casually,
"that I once in Tiflis overheard two mountain Georgians talking together
as they examined a reproduction of a modern picture - Böcklin's 'Centaur.'
They spoke in half whispers, but I caught the trend of what they said.
You know the picture, perhaps?"
"I've seen it somewhere, yes," was the short reply. "But what were they
saying?" He strove to keep his voice commonplace and casual like his companion's.
"Oh, just discussing it together, but with a curious stretched interest,"
Stahl went on. "One asked, 'What does it say?' and pointed to the inscription
underneath. They could not read. For a long time they stared in silence,
their faces grave and half afraid. 'What is it?' repeated the first one,
and the other, a much older man, heavily bearded and of giant build, replied
low, 'It's what I told you about'; there was awe in his tone and manner;
'they still live in the big valley of the rhododendrons beyond ...' mentioning
some lonely uninhabited region towards Daghestan; 'they come in the spring,
and are very swift and roaring....You must always hide. To see them is
to die. But they cannot die; they are of the mountains. They are older,
older than the stones. And the dogs will warn you, or the horses, or sometimes
a great sudden wind, though you must never shoot.' They stood gazing in
solemn wonder for minutes...till at last, realizing that their silence
was final, I moved away. There were manifestations of life in the mountains,
you see, that they had seen and knew about - old forms akin to that picture
The patrol came out of his shadows, and Stahl quickly drew his companion
along the pavement.
"You have your passport with you?" he asked, noticing the man behind
"It went to the police this afternoon. I haven't got it back yet." O'Malley
spoke thickly, in a voice he hardly recognized as his own. How much he
welcomed that casual interruption of the practical world he could never
explain or tell. For the moment he had felt like wax in the other's hands.
He had dreaded searching questions, and felt unspeakably relieved. A minute
more and he would have burst into confession.
"You should never be without it," the doctor added. "The police here
are perfect fiends, and can cause you endless inconvenience."
O'Malley knew it all, but gladly seized the talk and spun it out, asking
innocent questions while scarcely listening to the answers. They distanced
the patrol and neared the quays and shipping. In the darkness of the sky
a great line showed where the spurs of the Lesser Caucasus gloomed huge
and solemn to the East and West. At the gangway of the steamer they said
good-bye. Stahl held the Irishman's hand a moment in his own.
"Remember, when you know temptation strong," he said gravely, though
a smile was in the eyes, "the passwords that I now give you: Humanity and
They shook hands warmly enough.
"Come home by this steamer if you can," he called down from the deck.
"And keep to the middle of the road on your way back to the hotel. It's
safer in a town like this." O'Malley divined the twinkle in his eyes as
he said it. "Forgive my many sins," he heard finally, "and when we meet
again, tell me your own...." The darkness took the sentence. But the word
the Irishman took home with him to the little hotel was the single one
- Civilization: and this, owing to the peculiar significance of intonation
and accent with which this bewildering and self- contradictory being had
He walked along the middle of the street as Stahl had advised. He would
have done so in any case, unconsciously, for he knew these towns quite
as well as the German did. Yet he did not walk alone. The entire Earth
walked with him, and personal danger was an impossibility. A dozen ruffians
might attack him, but none could "take" his life.
How simple it all seemed, yet how utterly beyond the reach of intelligible
description to those who have never felt it - this sudden surge upwards,
downwards, all around and about of the vaster consciousness amid which
the sense of normal individuality seemed but a tiny focussed point. That
loss of personality he first dreaded as an "inner catastrophe" appeared
to him now for what it actually was - merely an extinction of some phantasmal
illusion of self into the only true life. Here, upon the fringe of this
wonder-region of the Caucasus, the spirit of the Earth still manifested
as of old, reached out lovingly to those of her children who were simple
enough to respond, ready to fold them in and heal them of the modern, racking
fevers which must otherwise destroy them....The entire sky of soft darkness
became a hand that covered him, and stroked him into peace; the perfume
that wafted down that narrow street beside him was the single, enveloping
fragrance of the whole wide Earth herself; he caught the very murmur of
her splendid journey through the stars. The certitude of some state of
boundless being flamed, roaring and immense, about his soul....
And when he reached his room, a little cell that shut out light and
air, he met that sinister denial of the simple life which, for him at least,
was the true Dweller on the Threshold. Crashing in to it he choked, as
it were, and could have cried aloud. It gripped and caught him by the throat
- the word that Stahl - Stahl who understood even while he warned and mocked
and hesitated himself - had flung so tauntingly upon him from the decks
Upon his table lay by chance - the Armenian hotel-keeper had evidently
unearthed it for his benefi...copy of a London halfpenny paper, a paper
that feeds the public with the ugliest details of all the least important
facts of life by the yard, inventing others when the supply is poor. He
read it over vaguely, with a sense of cold distress that was half pain,
half nausea. Somehow it stirred his sense of humour; he returned slowly
to his normal, littler state. But it was not the contrast which made him
smile; rather was it the chance juxtaposition of certain of the contents;
for on the page facing the accounts of railway accidents, of people burned
alive, explosions, giant strikes, crumpled air-men and other countless
horrors which modern inventions offered upon the altar of feverish Progress,
he read a complacently boastful leader that extolled the conquest of Nature
men had learned by speed. The ability to pass from one point to another
across the skin of the globe in the least possible time was sign of the
development of the human soul.
The pompous flatulence of the language touched bathos. He thought of
the thousands who had read both columns and preened themselves upon that
leader. He thought how they would pride themselves upon the latest contrivance
for speeding their inert bodies from one point to another "annihilating
distance"; upon being able to get from suburbia to the huge shops that
created artificial wants, then filled them; from the pokey villas with
their wee sham gardens to the dingy offices; from dark airless East End
rooms to countless factories that pour out semi- fraudulent, unnecessary
wares upon the world, explosives and weapons to destroy another nation,
or cheapjack goods to poison their own - all in a few minutes less than
they could do it the week before.
And then he thought of the leisure of the country folk and of those
who knew how to be content without external possessions, to watch the sunset
and the dawn with hearts that sought realities; sharing the noble slowness
of the seasons, the gradual growth of flowers, trees, and crops, the unhurried
dignity of Nature's grand procession, the repose-in-progress of the Mother-Earth.
The calmness of the unhastening Earth once more possessed his soul in
peace. He hid the paper, watching the quiet way the night beyond his window
buried it from sight....
And through that open window came the perfume and the mighty hand of
darkness slowly. It seemed to this imaginative Irishman that he caught
a sound of awful laughter from the mountains and the sea, a laughter that
brought, too, a wave of sighing - of deep and old-world sighing.
And before he went to sleep he took an antidote in the form of a page
from that book that accompanied all his travels, a book which was written
wholly in the open air because its message refused to come to the heart
of the inspired writer within doors, try as he would, the "sky especially
containing for me the key, the inspiration..."
And the fragment that he read expressed a little bit of his own thought
and feeling. The seer who wrote it looked ahead, naming it "After Civilization,"
whereas he looked back. But they saw the same vision; the confusion of
time was nothing: - In the first soft winds of spring, while snow yet lay
on the ground - Forth from the city into the great woods wandering, Into
the great silent white woods where they waited in their beauty and majesty
For man their companion to come: There, in vision, out of the wreck of
cities and civilizations, Slowly out of the ruins of the past...
...Out of the litter and muck of a decaying world, Lo! even so I saw
a new life arise. O sound of waters, jubilant, pouring, pourin...hidden
song in the hollows! Secret of the Earth, swelling, sobbing to divulge
itself! Slowly, building, lifting itself up atom by atom, Gathering itself
round a new centre - or rather round the world- old centre once more revealed
- I saw a new life, a new society, arise. Man I saw arising once more to
dwell with Nature; (The old old story - the prodigal son returning, so
loved, The long estrangement, the long entanglement in vain things) - The
child returning to its home - companion of the winter woods once more -
Companion of the stars and waters - hearing their words at first-hand (more
than all science ever taught) - The near contact, the dear dear mother
so close - the twilight sky and the young tree-tops against it; The few
needs, the exhilarated radiant life - the food and population question
giving no more trouble; No hurry more, no striving one to over-ride the
other:...man the companion of Nature. Civilization behind him now - the
wonderful stretch of the past; Continents, empires, religions, wars, migrations
- all gathered up in him; The immense knowledge, the vast winged powers
- to use or not to use - ...
And as he fell asleep at length it seemed there came a sound of hushed
huge trampling underneath his window, and that when he rose to listen,
his big friend from the steamer led him forth into the darkness, that those
shapes of Cloud and Wind he now so often saw, companioned them across the
heights of the night towards some place in the distant mountains where
light and flowers were, and all his dream of years most exquisitely fulfilled....
He slept. And through his sleep there dropped the words of that old
tribesman from the wilderness: "They come in the spring...and are very
swift and roaring. They are older, older than the stones. They cannot die...they
are of the mountains, and you must hide."
But the dream-consciousness knows no hiding; and though memory failed
to report with detail in the morning, O'Malley woke refreshed and blessed,
knowing that companionship awaited him, and that once he found the courage
to escape completely, the Simple Life of Earth would claim him in full
Stahl with his little modern "Intellect" was no longer there to hinder
"Far, very far, steer by my star, Leaving the loud world's
hurry and clamour, In the mid-sea waits you, maybe, The Isles of Glamour,
where Beauty reigns. From coasts of commerce and myriad-marted Towns of
traffic by wide seas parted, Past shoals unmapped and by reefs uncharted,
The single-hearted my isle attains......... "Each soul may find faith to
her mind, Seek you the peace of the groves Elysian, Or the ivy twine and
the wands of vine, The Dionysian, Orphic rite? To share the joy of the
Maenad's leaping In frenzied train thro' the dusk glen sweeping, The dew-drench'd
dance and the star-watch'd sleeping, Or temple keeping in vestal white?
"Ye who regret suns that have set, Lo, each god of the ages golden, Here
is enshrined, ageless and kind, Unbeholden the dark years through. Their
faithful oracles yet bestowing, By laurels whisper and clear streams flowing,
Or the leafy stir of the Gods' own going, In oak trees blowing, may answer
For the next month Terence O'Malley possessed his soul in patience; he
worked, and the work saved him. That is to say it enabled him to keep what
men call "balanced." Stahl had - whether intentionally or not he was never
quite certain - raised a tempest in him. More accurately, perhaps, he had
called it to the top, for it had been raging deep down ever since he could
remember, or had begun to think.
From Peregrina's Song
That the earth might be a living, sentient organism, though too vast
to be envisaged as such by normal human consciousness, had always been
a tenet of his imagination's creed. Now he knew it true, as a dinner-gong
is true. That deep yearnings, impossible of satisfaction in the external
conditions of ordinary life, could know subjective fulfilment in the mind,
had always been for him poetically true, as for any other poet: now he
realized that it was literally true for some outlying tract of consciousness
usually inactive, termed by some transliminal. Spiritual nostalgia provided
the channel, and the transfer of consciousness to this outlying tract,
involving, of course, a trance condition of the usual self, indicated the
way - that was all.
Again, his mystical temperament had always seen objects as forces which
from some invisible centre push outwards into visible shape - as bodies:
bodies of trees, stones, flowers, men, women, animals; and others but partially
pushed outwards, still invisible to limited physical sight at least, either
too huge, too small, or too attenuated for vision. Whereas now, as a result
of Stahl and Fechner combined, it flamed into him that this was positively
true; more - that there was a point in his transliminal consciousness where
he might "contact" these forces before they reached their cruder external
expression as bodies. Nature, in this sense, had always been for him alive,
though he had allowed himself the term by a long stretch of poetic sympathy;
but now he knew that it was actually true, because objects, landscapes,
humans, and the rest, were verily aspects of the collective consciousness
of the Earth, moods of her spirit, phases of her being, expressions of
her deep, pure, passionate "heart" - projections of herself.
He pondered lingeringly over this. Common words revealed their open
faces to him. He saw the ideas behind language, saw them naked. Repetition
had robbed them of so much that now became vital, like Bible phrases that
too great familiarity in childhood kills for all subsequent life as meaningless.
His eyes were opened perhaps. He took a flower into his mind and thought
about it; really thought; meditated lovingly. A flower was literally projected
by the earth so far as its form was concerned. Its roots gathered soil
and earth-matter, changing them into leaves and blossoms; its leaves again,
took of the atmosphere, also a part of the earth. It was projected by the
earth, born of her, fed by her, and at "death" returned into her. But this
was its outward and visible form only. The flower, for his imaginative
mind, was a force made visible as literally as a house was a force the
mind of the architect made visible. In the mind, or consciousness of the
Earth this flower first lay latent as a dream. Perhaps, in her consciousness,
it nested as that which in us corresponds to a little thought....And from
this he leaped, as the way ever was with him, to bigger "projections" -
trees, atmosphere, clouds, winds, some visible, some invisible, and so
to a deeper yet simpler comprehension of Fechner's thundering conception
of human beings as projections. Was he, then, literally, a child of the
Earth, mothered by the whole magnificent planet?...All the world akin -
that seeking for an eternal home in every human heart explained?...And
were there - had there been rather - these other, vaster projections Stahl
had adumbrated with his sudden borrowed stretch of vision - forces, thoughts,
moods of her hidden life invisible to sight, yet able to be felt and known
That "the gods" were definitely knowable Powers, accessible to any genuine
worshipper, had ever haunted his mind, thinly separated only from definite
belief: now he understood that this also had been true, though only partially
divined before. For now he saw them as the rare expressions of the Earth's
in the morning of her life. That he might ever come to know them close
made him tremble with a fearful joy, the idea flaming across his being
with a dazzling brilliance that brought him close to that state of consciousness
termed ecstasy. And that in certain unique beings, outwardly human like
his friend, there might still survive some primitive expression of the
Earth- Soul, lesser than the gods, and intermediate as it were, became
for him now a fact - wondrous, awe-inspiring, even holy, but still a fact
that he could grasp.
He had found one such; and Stahl, by warnings that fought with urging
invitation at the same time, had confirmed it.
It was singular, he reflected, how worship had ever turned for him a
landscape or a scene enchantingly alive. Worship, he now understood, of
course invited "the gods," and was the channel through which their manifestation
became possible to the soul. All the gods, then, were accessible in this
interior way, but Pan especially - in desolate places and secret corners
of a wood....He remembered dimly the Greek idea of worship in the Mysteries:
that the worshipper knew actual temporary union with his deity in ecstasy,
and at death went permanently into his sphere of being. He understood that
worship was au fond a desire for loss of personal life - hence its subtle
joy; and a fear lest it be actually accomplished - whence its awe and wonder.
Some glorious, winged thing moved now beside him; it held him by the
hand. The Earth possessed him; and the whole adventure, so far as he can
make it plain, was an authoritative summons to the natural, Simple Life.
For the next month, therefore, O'Malley, unhurrying, blessed with a
deeper sense of happiness than he had ever known before, dismissed the
"tempest" from his surface consciousness, and set to work to gather the
picturesque impressions of strange places and strange peoples that the
public liked to read about in occasional letters of travel. And by the
time May had passed into June he had moved up and down the Caucasus, observing,
learning, expanding, and gathering in the process through every sense -
through the very pores of his skin almost - draughts of a new and abundant
life that is to be had there merely for the asking.
That modification of the personality which comes even in cities to all
but the utterly hidebound - so that a man in Rome finds himself not quite
the same as he was in London or in Paris a few days before - went forward
in him on a profounder scale than anything he had known hitherto. Nature
fed, stimulated and called him with a passionate intimacy that destroyed
all sense of loneliness, and with a vehement directness of attack that
simply charged him to the brim with a new joy of living. His vitality,
powers, even his physical health, stood at their best and highest. The
country laid its spell upon him, in a word; and if he expresses it thus
with some intensity it was because life came to him so. His record is the
measure of his vision. Those who find exaggeration in it merely confess
thereby their own smaller capacity of living.
Here, as he wandered to and fro among these proud, immense, secluded
valleys, through remote and untamed forests, and by the banks of wild rivers
that shook their flying foam across untrodden banks, he wandered at the
same time deeper and ever deeper into himself, towards a point where he
lost touch with all that constituted him "modern," or held him captive
in the spirit of to-day. Nearer and ever nearer he moved into some tremendous
freedom, some state of innocence and simplicity that, while gloriously
unrestrained, yet knew no touch of license. Dreams had whispered of it;
childhood had fringed its frontiers; longings had even mapped it faintly
to his mind. But now he breathed its very air and knew it face to face.
The Earth surged wonderfully about him.
With his sleeping-bag upon a small Caucasian horse, a sack to hold his
cooking things, a pistol in his belt, he wandered thus for days, sleeping
beneath the stars, seeing the sunset and the dawn, drenched in new strength
and wonder all the time. Here he touched deeper reaches of the Earth that
spoke of old, old things, that yet were still young because they knew not
change. He walked in the morning of the world, through her primal fire
and dew, when all was a first and giant garden.
The advertised splendours of other lands, even of India, Egypt, and
the East, seemed almost vulgar beside this country that had somehow held
itself aloof, unstained and clean. The civilization of its little towns
seemed but a coated varnish that an hour's sun would melt away; the railway,
crawling along the flanks of the great range, but a ribbon of old iron
pinned on that, with the first shiver of those giant sides, would split
Here, where the Argonauts once landed, the Golden Fleece still shone
o' nights in the depths of the rustling beech woods; along the shores of
that old Phasis their figures might still be seen, tall Jason in the lead,
erect and silvery, passing o'er the shining, flowered fields upon their
quest of ancient beauty. Further north from this sunny Colchian strand
rose the peak of Kasbek, gaunt and desolate pyramid of iron, "sloping through
five great zones of climate," whence the ghost of Prometheus still gazed
down from his "vast frozen precipice" upon a world his courage would redeem.
For somewhere here was the cradle of the human race, fair garden of some
Edened life before the "Fall," when the Earth sang for joy in her first,
golden youth, and her soul expressed itself in mighty forms that remain
for lesser days but a faded hierarchy of visioned gods.
A living Earth went with him everywhere, with love that never breathed
alarm. It seemed he felt her very thoughts within himself - thoughts, however,
that now no longer married with a visible expression as shapes.
Among these old-world tribes and peoples with their babble of difficult
tongues, wonder and beauty, terror and worship, still lay too deeply buried
to have as yet externalized themselves in mental forms as legend, myth,
and story. In the blood ran all their richness undiluted. Life was simple,
full charged with an immense delight. At home little cocksure writers in
little cocksure journals, pertly modern and enlightened, might dictate
how far imaginative vision and belief could go before they overstepped
the limits of an artificial schedule; but here "everything possible to
be believed was still an image of truth," and the stream of life flowed
deeper than all mere intellectual denials.
A little out of sight, but thinly veiled, the powers that in this haunted
corner of the earth, too strangely neglected, pushed outwards into men
and trees, into mountains, flowers, and the rest, were unenslaved and intensely
vital. In his blood O'Malley knew the primal pulses of the world.
It was irresistibly seductive. Whether he slept with the Aryan Ossetines
upon the high ridges of the central range, or shared the stone huts of
the mountain Jews, unchanged since Bible days, beyond the Suram heights,
there came to all his senses the message of that Golden Age his longings
ever sought - the rush and murmur of the Urwelt calling. ... -
And so it was, about the first week in June that lean, bronzed, and
in perfect physical condition, this wandering Irishman found himself in
a little Swanetian hamlet beyond Alighir, preparing with a Georgian peasant-guide
to penetrate yet deeper into the mountain recesses and feed his heart with
what he found of loneliness and beauty.
This region of Imerethia, bordering on Mingrelia, is smothered beneath
an exuberance of vegetation almost tropical, blue and golden with enormous
flowers, tangled with wild vines, rich with towering soft beech woods,
and finally, in the upper sections, ablaze with leagues of huge rhododendron
trees in blossom that give whole mountain-sides the aspect of a giant garden,
flowering amid peaks that even dwarf the Alps. For here the original garden
of the world survives, run wild with pristine loveliness. The prodigality
of Nature is bewildering, almost troubling. There are valleys, rarely entered
by the foot of man, where monstrous lilies, topping a man on foot and even
reaching to his shoulder on horseback, have suggested to botanists in their
lavish luxuriance a survival of the original flora of the world. A thousand
flowers he found whose names he had never heard of, their hues and forms
as strangely lovely as those of another planet. The grasses alone in scale
and mass were magnificent. While, in and out of all this splendour, less
dense and voluminous only than the rhododendron forests, ran scattered
lines of blazing yellow - the crowding clusters of azalea bushes that scented
the winds beyond belief.
Beyond this region of extravagance in size and colour, there ran immense
bare open slopes of smooth turf that led to the foot of the eternal snow-fields,
with, far below, valleys of prodigious scale and steepness that touched
somehow with disdain all memory of other mountain ranges he had ever known.
And here it was this warm June evening - June 15th it was - while packing
his sack with cheese and maize-flour in the dirty yard of a so-called "post-house,"
more hindered than helped by his Georgian guide, that he realized the approach
of a familiar, bearded figure. The figure emerged. There was a sudden clutch
and lift of the heart...then a rush of wild delight. There stood his Russian
steamer-friend, part of the scale and splendour, as though grown out of
the very soil. He occupied in a flash the middle of the picture. He gave
it meaning. He was part of it, exactly as a tree or big grey boulder were
part of it.
"Seasons and times; Life and Fate - all are remarkably rhythmic,
metric, regular throughout. In all crafts and arts, in all machines, in
organic bodies, in our daily occupations everywhere there is rhythm, metre,
accent, melody. All that we do with a certain skill unnoticed, we do rhythmically.
There is rhythm everywhere; it insinuates itself everywhere. All mechanism
is metric, rhythmic. There must be more in it than this. Is it merely the
influence of inertia?"
Notwithstanding the extent and loneliness of this wild country, coincidence
seemed in no way stretched by the abrupt appearance; for in a sense it
was not wholly unexpected. There had been certain indications that the
meeting again of these two was imminent. The Irishman had never doubted
they would meet. But something more than mere hints or warnings, it seemed,
had prepared him.
- Novalis. Translated by U. C. B.
The nature of these warnings, however, O'Malley never fully disclosed.
Two of them he told to me by word of mouth, but there were others he could
not bring himself to speak about at all. Even the two he mentioned do not
appear in his written account. His hesitation is not easy to explain, unless
it be that language collapsed in the attempt to describe occurrences so
remote from common experience. This may be so, although he grappled not
unsuccessfully with the rest of the amazing adventure. At any rate I could
never coax from him more than the confession that there were other things
that had brought him hints. Then came a laugh, a shrug of the shoulders,
an expression of confused bewilderment in eyes and manner and - silence.
The two he spoke of I report as best I can. On the roof of that London
apartment-house where so many of our talks took place beneath the stars
and to the tune of bustling modern traffic, he told them to me. Both were
consistent with his theory that he was becoming daily more active in some
outlying portion of his personality - knowing experiences in a region of
extended consciousness stimulated so powerfully by his strange new friend.
Both, moreover, brought him one and the same conviction that he was
no longer - alone. For some days past he had realized this. More than his
peasant guide accompanied him. He was both companioned and - observed.
"A dozen times," he said, "I thought I saw him, and a dozen times I
was mistaken. But my mind looked for him. I knew that he was somewhere
close." He compared the feeling to that common experience of the streets
when a friend, not known to be near, or even expected, comes abruptly into
the thoughts, so that numberless individuals may trick the sight with his
appearance before he himself comes suddenly down the pavement. His approach
has reached the mind before his mere body turns the corner. "Something
in me was aware of his approach," he added, "as though his being were sending
out feelers in advance to find me. They reached me first, I think" - he
hesitated briefly, hunting for a more accurate term he could not find -
"You dreamed that he was coming, then?"
"It came first in dream," he answered; "only when I woke the dream did
not fade; it passed over into waking consciousness, so that I could hardly
tell where the threshold lay between the two. And, meanwhile, I was always
expecting to see him - at every turn of the trail almost; a little higher
up the mountain, behind a rock, or standing beside a tree, just as in the
end I actually did see him. Long before he emerged in this way, he had
been close about me, guiding, waiting, watching."
He told it as a true thing he did not quite expect me to believe. Yet,
in a sense, his sense, I could and did believe it. It was so wholly consistent
with the tenor of his adventure and the condition of abnormal receptivity
of mind. For his stretched consciousness was in a state of white sensitiveness
whereon the tenderest mental force of another's thought might well record
its signature. Acutely impressionable he was all over. Physical distance
was of as little, or even of less, account to such forces as it is to electricity.
"But it was more than the Russian who was close," he added quietly with
one of those sentences that startled me into keen attention. "He was there
- with others - of his kind."
And then, hardly pausing to take breath, he plunged, as his manner was,
full tilt into the details of this first experience that thrilled my hedging
soul with an astonishing power of conviction. As always when his heart
was in the words, the scenery about us faded and I lived the adventure
with him. The cowled and hooded chimneys turned to trees, the stretch of
dim star-lit London Park became a deep Caucasian vale, the thunder of the
traffic was the roaring of the snow-fed torrents. The very perfume of strange
flowers floated in the air.
They had been in their blankets, he and his peasant guide, for hours,
and a moon approaching the full still concealed all signs of dawn, when
he woke out of deep sleep with the odd sensation that it was only a part
of him that woke. One portion of him was in the body, while another portion
was elsewhere, manifesting with ease and freedom in some state or region
whither he had travelled in his sleep - where, moreover, he had not been
And close about him in the trees was - movement. Yes! Through and between
the scattered trunks he saw it still.
With eyes a little dazed, the active portion of his brain perceived
this processing movement passing to and fro across the glades of moonlight
beneath the steady trees. For there was no wind. The shadows of the branches
did not stir. He saw swift running shapes, vigorous yet silent, hurrying
across the network of splashed silver and pools of black in some kind of
organized movement that was circular and seemed not due to chance. Arranged
it seemed and ordered; like the regulated revolutions of a set and whirling
Perhaps twenty feet from where he lay was the outer fringe of what he
discerned to be this fragment of some grand gambolling dance or frolic;
yet discerned but dimly, for the darkness combined with his uncertain vision
to obscure it.
And the shapes, as they sped across the silvery patchwork of the moon,
seemed curiously familiar. Beyond question he recognized and knew them.
For they were akin to those shadowy emanations seen weeks ago upon the
steamer's after-deck, to that "messenger" who climbed from out the sea
and sky, and to that form the spirit of the boy assumed, set free in death.
They were the flying outlines of Wind and Cloud he had so often glimpsed
in vision, racing over the long, bare, open hills - at last come near.
In the moment of first waking, when he saw them clearest, he declares
with emphasis that he knew the father and the boy were among them. Not
so much that he saw them actually for recognition, but rather that he felt
their rushing presences; for the first sensation on opening his eyes was
the conviction that both had passed him close, had almost touched and called
him. Afterwards he searched in vain among the flying forms that swept in
the swift succession of their leaping dance across the silvery pathways.
While varying in size all were so similar.
His description of them is confused a little, for he admits that he
could never properly focus them in steady sight. They slipped with a melting
swiftness under the eye; the moment one seemed caught in vision it passed
on further and the next was in its place. It was like following a running
wave-form on the sea. He says, moreover, that while erect and splendid,
their backs and shoulders seemed prolonged in hugeness as though they often
crouched to spring; they seemed to paw the air; and that a faint delicious
sound to which they kept obedient time and rhythm, held that same sweetness
which had issued from the hills of Greece, blown down now among the trees
from very far away. And when he says "blown down among the trees," he qualifies
this phrase as well, because at the same time it came to him that the sound
also rose up from underneath the earth, as if the very surface of the ground
ran shaking with a soft vibration of its own. Some marvellous dream it
might have been in which the forms, the movement, and the sound were all
thrown up and outwards from the quivering surface of the Earth itself.
Yet, almost simultaneously with the first instant of waking, the body
issued its call of warning. For, while he gazed, and before time for the
least reflection came, the Irishman experienced this dislocating conviction
that he himself was taking part in the whirling gambol even while he lay
and watched it, and that in this way the sense of division in his personality
was explained. The fragment of himself within the brain watched some other
more vital fragment - some projection of his consciousness detached and
separate - playing yonder with its kind beneath the moon.
This sense of a divided self was not new to him, but never before had
he known it so distinct and overwhelming. The definiteness of the division,
as well as the importance and vitality of the separated portion, were arrestingly
novel. It felt as though he were completely out, or to such a degree, at
least, that the fraction left behind with the brain was at first only just
sufficient for him to recognize his body at all.
Yonder with these others he felt the wind of movement pass along his
back, he saw the trees slip by, and knew the very contact of the ground
between the leaps. His movements were natural and easy, light as air and
fast as wind; they seemed automatic, impelled by something mighty that
directed and contained them. He knew, too, the sensation that others pressed
behind him and passed before, slipped in and out, and that through the
whole wild urgency of it he yet could never make an error. More - he knew
that these shifting forms had been close and dancing about him for a time
not measurable merely by the hours of a single night, that in a sense they
were always there though he had but just discovered them. His earlier glimpses
had been a very partial divination of a truth, immense and beautiful, that
now dawned quite gorgeously upon him all complete.
The whole world danced. The Universe was rhythmical as well as metrical.
For this amazing splendour showed itself in a flash-like revelation
to the freed portion of his consciousness, and he knew it irresistibly
because he himself shared it. Here was an infinite joy, naked and unashamed,
born of the mighty Mother's heart and life, a joy which, in its feebler,
lesser manifestations, trickles down into human conditions, though still
spontaneously even then, so pure its primal urgency, as - dancing.
The entire experience, the entire revelation, he thinks, can have occupied
but a fraction of a second, but it seemed to smite the whole of his being
at once with the conviction of a supreme authority. And close behind it
came, too, that other sister expression of a spontaneous and natural expression,
equally rhythmical - the impulse to sing. He could have sung aloud. For
this puissant and mysterious rhythm to which all moved was greater than
any little measure of their own. Surging through them, it came from outside
and beyond, infinitely greater than themselves, springing from something
of which they were, nevertheless, a living portion. From the body of the
Earth it came direct - it was in fact a manifestation of her own vibrating
life. The currents of the Earth pulsed through them.
"And then," he says, "I caught this flaming thought of wonder, though
so much of it faded instantly upon my full awakening that I can only give
you the merest suggestion of what it was."
He stood up beside me as he said it, spreading his arms, as so often
when he was excited, to the sky. I caught the glow of his eyes, and in
his voice was passion. He spoke unquestionably of something he had intimately
known, not as men speak of even the vividest dreams, but of realities that
have burned the heart and left their trails of glory.
"Science has guessed some inkling of the truth," he cried, "when it
declares that the ultimate molecules of matter are in constant vibratory
movement one about another, even upon the point of a needle. But I saw
- knew, rather, as if I had always known it, sweet as summer rain, and
close in me as love - that the whole Earth with all her myriad expressions
of life moved to this primal rhythm as of some divine dancing."
"Dancing?" I asked, puzzled.
"Rhythmical movement call it then," he replied. "To share the life of
the Earth is to dance and sing in a huge abundant joy! And the nearer to
her great heart, the more natural and spontaneous the impulse - the instinctive
dancing of primitive races, of savages and children, still artless and
untamed; the gambolling of animals, of rabbits in the meadows and of deer
unwatched in forest clearings - you know naturalists have sometimes seen
it; of birds in the air - rooks, gulls, and swallows; of the life within
the sea; even of gnats in the haze of summer afternoons. All life simple
enough to touch and share the enormous happiness of her deep, streaming,
personal Being, dances instinctively for very joy - obedient to a greater
measure than they know....The natural movement of the great Earth-Soul
is rhythmical. The very winds, the swaying of trees and flowers and grasses,
the movement of the sea, of water running through the fields with silver
feet, of the clouds and edges of the mist, even the trembling of the earthquakes,
- all, all respond in sympathetic motions to this huge vibratory movement
of her great central pulse. Ay, and the mountains too, though so vastly
scaled their measure that perhaps we only know the pauses in between, and
think them motionless....The mountains rise and fall and change; our very
breathing, first sign of stirring life, even the circulation of our blood,
bring testimony; our speech as well - inspired words are ever rhythmical,
language that pours into the poet's mind from something greater than himself.
And not unwisely, but in obedience to a deep instinctive knowledge was
dancing once - in earlier, simpler day...form of worship. You know, at
least, how rhythm in music and ceremonial uplifts and cleans and simplifies
the heart towards the greater life....You know, perhaps, the Dance of Jesus...."
The words poured from him with passion, yet always uttered gently with
a smile of joy upon the face. I saw his figure standing over me, outlined
against the starry sky; and, deeply stirred, I listened with delight and
wonder. Rhythm surely lies behind all expression of life. He was on the
heels of some simple, dazzling verity though he phrased it wildly. But
not a tenth part of all he said could I recapture afterwards for writing
down. The steady, gentle swaying of his body I remember clearly, and that
somewhere or other in the stream of language, he made apt reference to
the rhythmical swaying of those who speak in trance, or know some strange,
possessing gust of inspiration.
The first and natural expression of the Earth's vitality lies in a dancing
movement of purest joy and happiness - that for me is the gist of what
remains. Those near enough to Nature feel it. I myself remembered days
in spring...my thoughts, borne upon some sweet emotion, travelled far....
"And not of the Earth alone," he interrupted my dreaming in a voice
like singing, "but of the entire Universe. The spheres and constellations
weave across the fields of ether the immense old rhythm of their divine,
Then, with a disconcerting abruptness, and a strange little wayward
laugh as of apology for having let himself so freely go, he sat down beside
me with his back against the chimney-stack. He resumed more quietly the
account of this particular adventure that lay 'twixt dream and waking:
All that he described had happened in a few seconds. It flashed, complete,
authoritative and vivid, then passed away. He knew again the call and warning
of his body - to return. For this consciousness of being in two places
at once, divided as it were against himself, brought with it the necessity
for decision. With which portion should he identify himself? By an act
of will, it seemed, a choice was possible.
And with it, then, came the knowledge that to remain "out" was easier
than to return. This time, to come back into himself would be difficult.
The very possibility seemed to provide the shock of energy necessary
for overcoming it; the experience alarmed him; it was like holding an option
upon living - like a foretaste of death. Automatically, as it were, these
loosened forces in him answered to the body's summons. The result was immediate
and singular; one of these Dancing outlines separated itself from the main
herd, approached with a sudden silent rush, enveloped him for a second
of darkness and confusion, losing its shape completely on the way, and
then merged into his being as smoke slips in and merges with the structure
of a tree.
The projected portion of his personality had returned. The sense of
division was gone. There remained behind only the little terror of the
weak flesh whose summons had thus brought it back.
The same instant he was fully awake - the night about him empty of all
but the silver dreaming of the moon among the shadows. Beside him lay the
sleeping figure of his companion, the bashlik of lamb's wool drawn closely
down about the ears and neck, and the voluminous black bourka shrouding
him from feet to shoulders. A little distance away the horse stood, munching
grass. Again he noted that there was no wind, and the shadows of the trees
lay motionless upon the ground. The air smelt sweet of forest, soil, and
The experience - it seemed now - belonged to dreaming rather than to
waking consciousness, for there was nothing about him to confirm it outwardly.
Only the memory remained - that, and a vast, deep-coursing, subtle happiness.
The smaller terror that he felt was of the flesh alone, for the flesh ever
instinctively fought against such separation. The happiness, though, contained
and overwhelmed the fear.
Yes, only the memory remained, and even that fast fading. But the substance
of what had been, passed into his inmost being: the splendour of that would
remain for ever, incorporated with his life. He had shared in this brief
moment of extended consciousness some measure of the Mother's cosmic being,
simple as sunshine, unrestrained as wind, complete and satisfying. Its
natural expression was rhythmical, a deep, pure joy that drove outwards
even into little human conditions as dancing and singing. He had known
it, too, with companions of his kind....
Moreover, though no longer visible or audible, it still continued somewhere
close. He was blessedly companioned all the time - and watched. They knew
him one of themselves - these brother expressions of her cosmic life -
these Urwelt beings that To-day had no external, bodily forms. They waited,
knowing well that he would come. Fulfilment beckoned surely just beyond...
"...And then suddenly...
Thls, then, was one of the "hints" by which O'Malley knew that he was not
alone and that the mind of his companion was stretched out to find him.
He became aware after it of a distinct guidance, even of direction as to
his route of travel, The "impulse came," as one says, to turn northwards,
and he obeyed it without more ado. For this "dream" had come to him when
camped upon the slopes of Ararat, further south towards the Turkish frontier,
and though all prepared to climb the sixteen-thousand foot summit, he changed
his plans, dismissed the local guide, and turned back for Tiflis and the
Central Range. In the wilder, lonelier mountains, he felt strongly, was
where he ought to be.
While perhaps twice my heart was dutiful
To send my blood upon its little rac...
I was exalted above surety,
And out of Time did fall."
Lascelles Abercrombie, Poems and Interludes.
Another man, of course, would have dismissed the dream or forgotten
it while cooking his morning coffee; but, rightly or wrongly, this divining
Celt accepted it as real. He held an instinctive belief, that in dreams
of a certain order the forces that drive behind the soul at a given moment,
may reveal themselves to the subconscious self, becoming authoritative
in proportion as they are sanely encouraged and interpreted. They dramatize
themselves in scenes that are open to intuitive interpretation. And O'Malley,
it seems, possessed, like the Hebrew prophets of old, just that measure
of judgment and divination which go to the making of a true clear-vision.
Packing up kit and dunnage, he crossed the Georgian Military Route on
foot to Vladikavkaz, and thence with another horse and a Mohammedan Georgian
as guide, Rostom by name, journeyed via Alighir and Oni up a side valley
of unforgettable splendour towards an Imerethian hamlet where they meant
to lay-in supplies for a prolonged expedition into the uninhabited wilderness.
And here, the second occurrence he told me of took place. It was more
direct than the first, yet equally strange; also it brought a similar authority
- coming first along the deep mysterious underpaths of sleep - sleep, that
short cut into the subconscious. ... -
They were camped among low boxwood trees, a hot dry night, wind soft
and stars very brilliant, when the Irishman turned in his sleeping-bag
and abruptly woke. This time there was no dream - only the certainty that
something had wakened him deliberately. He sat up, almost with a cry. It
was exactly as though he heard himself called by name and recognized the
voice that spoke it. He looked quickly round. Nothing but the crowding
army of the box-trees was visible, some bushy and round, others straggling
in their outline, all whispering gently together in the night. Beyond ran
the immense slopes, and far overhead he saw the gleaming snow on peaks
that brushed the stars.
No one was visible. This time no flying figures danced beneath the moon.
There was, indeed, no moon. Something, however, he knew had come up close
and touched him, calling him from the depths of a profound and tired slumber.
It had withdrawn again, vanished into the night. The strong certainty remained,
though, that it lingered near about him still, trying to press forwards
and outwards into some kind of objective visible expression that included
himself. He had responded with an effort in his sleep, but the effort had
been unsuccessful. He had merely waked...and lost it.
The horse, tethered a few feet away, was astir and troubled, straining
at the rope, whinnying faintly, and Rostom, the Georgian peasant, he saw,
was already up to quiet it. A curious perfume passed him through the air
- once, then vanished; unforgettable, however, for he had known it already
weeks ago upon the steamer. And before the gardened woods about him smothered
it with their richer smells of a million flowers and weeds, he recognized
in it that peculiar pungent whiff of horse that had reached him from the
haunted cabin. This time it was less fleetin...fine, clean odour that he
liked even while it strangely troubled him.
Kicking out of his blankets, he joined the man and helped to straighten
out the tangled rope. Rostom spoke little Russian, and O'Malley's knowledge
of Georgian lay in a single phrase, "Look sharp!" but with the aid of French
the man had learned from shooting-parties, he gathered that some one had
approached during the night and camped, it seemed, not far away above them.
Though unusual enough in so unfrequented a region, this was not necessarily
alarming, and the first proof O'Malley had that the man experienced no
ordinary physical fear was the fact that he had left both knife and rifle
in his blankets. Hitherto, at the least sign of danger, he changed into
a perfect arsenal; he invariably slept "in his weapons"; but now, even
in the darkness, the other noted that he was unarmed, and therefore it
was no attempt at horse-stealing or of assault upon themselves he feared.
"Who is it? What is it?" he asked, stumbling over the tangle of string-like
roots that netted the ground. "Natives, travellers like ourselves, or -
something else?" He spoke very low, as though aware that what had waked
him still hovered close enough to overhear. "Why do you fear?"
And Rostom looked up a moment from stooping over the rope. He stepped
a little nearer, avoiding the animal's hoofs. In a confused whisper of
French and Russian, making at the same time the protective signs of his
religion, he muttered a sentence of which the other caught little more
than the unassuring word that something was about them close - something
"méchant." This curious, significant word he used.
The whispered utterance, the manner that went with it, surely the dark
and lonely setting of the little scene as well, served to convey the full
suggestion of the adjective with a force the man himself could scarcely
have intended. Something had passed by, not so much evil, wicked, or malign
as strange and alien - uncanny. Rostom, a man utterly careless of physical
danger, rising to it, rather, with delight, was frightened - in his soul.
"What do you mean?" O'Malley asked louder, with an air of impatience
assumed. The man was on his knees, but whether praying, or merely struggling
with the rope, was hard to see. "What is it you're talking about so foolishly?"
He spoke with a confidence he hardly felt himself.
And the involved reply, spoken with lips against the earth, the head
but slightly turned as he knelt, again smothered the words. Only the curious
phrase came to him - "de l'ancien monde - quelque-chose..."
The Irishman took him by the shoulders. Not meaning actually to shake
him, he yet must have used some violence, for the fact was that he did
not like the answers and sought to deny some strong emotion in himself.
The man stood up abruptly with a kind of sudden spring. The expression
of his face was not easily divined in the darkness, but a gleam of the
eyes was clearly visible. It may have been anger, it may have been terror;
vivid excitement it certainly was.
"Something - old as the stones, old as the stones," he whispered, thrusting
his dark bearded face unpleasantly close. "Such things are in these mountains....Mais
oui! C'est moi qui vous le dis! Old as the stones, I tell you. And sometimes
they come out close - with sudden wind. We know!"
He stepped back again sharply and dropped upon his knees, bowing to
the ground with flattened palms. He made a repelling gesture as though
it was O'Malley's presence that brought the experience.
"And to see them is - to die!" he heard, muttered against the ground
thickly. "To see them is to die!"
The Irishman went back to his sleeping-bag. Some strange passion of
the man was deeply stirred; he did not wish to offend his violent beliefs
and turn it against himself in a stupid, scrambling fight. He lay and waited.
He heard the muttering of the deep voice behind him in the darkness. Presently
it ceased. Rostom came softly back to bed.
"He knows; he warned me!" he whispered, jerking one hand towards the
horse significantly, as they at length lay again side by side in their
blankets and the stars shone down upon them from a deep black sky. "But,
for the moment, they have passed, not finding us. No wind has come."
"Another - horse?" asked O'Malley suggestively, with a sympathy meant
to quiet him.
But the peasant shook his head; and this time it was not difficult to
divine the expression on his face even in the darkness. At the same moment
the tethered animal again uttered a long whinnying cry, plaintive, yet
of pleasure rather than alarm it seemed, which instantly brought the man
again with a leap from the blankets to his knees. O'Malley did not go to
help him; he stuffed the clothes against his ears and waited; he did not
wish to hear the peasant's sentences.
And this pantomime went on at intervals for an hour or more, when at
length the horse grew quiet and O'Malley snatched moments of unrefreshing
sleep. The night lay thick about them with a silence like the silence of
the sky. The boxwood bushes ran together into a single sheet of black,
the far peaks faded out of sight, the air grew keen and sharp towards the
dawn on the wave of wind the sunrise drives before it round the world.
But to and fro across the Irishman's mind as he lay between sleep and dozing
ran the feeling that his friends were close, and that those dancing forms
of cosmic life to which all three approximated had come near once more
to summon him. He also knew that what the horse had felt was something
far from terror. The animal instinctively had divined the presence of something
to which it, too, was remotely kin.
Rostom, however, remained keenly on the alert, much of the time apparently
praying. Not once did he touch the weapons that lay ready to hand upon
the folded bourka...and when at last the dawn came, pale and yellow, through
the trees, showing the outlines of the individual box and azalea bushes,
he got up earlier than usual and began to make the fire for coffee. In
the fuller light which soon poured swiftly over the eastern summits and
dropped gold and silver into the tremendous valley at their feet, the men
made a systematic search of the immediate surroundings, and then of the
clearings and more open stretches beyond. In silence they made it. They
found, however, no traces of another camping-party. And it was clear from
the way they went about the search that neither expected to find anything.
The ground was unbroken, the bushes undisturbed.
Yet still, both knew. That "something" which the night had brought and
kept concealed, still hovered close about them. ... -
And it was at this scattered hamlet, consisting of little more than
a farm of sorts and a few shepherds' huts of stone, where they stopped
two hours later for provisions, that O'Malley looked up thus suddenly and
recognized the figure of his friend. He stood among the trees a hundred
yards away. At first the other thought he was a tree - his stalwart form
the stem, his hair and beard the branches - so big and motionless he stood
between the other trunks. O'Malley saw him for a full minute before he
understood. The man seemed so absolutely a part of the landscape, a giant
detail in keeping with the rest - a detail that had suddenly emerged.
The same moment a great draught of wind, rising from depths of the valley
below, swept overhead with a roaring sound, shaking the beech and box trees
and setting all the golden azalea heads in a sudden agitation. It passed
as swiftly as it came. The peace of the June morning again descended on
It was broken by a wild, half-smothered cry...cry of genuine terror.
For O'Malley had turned to Rostom with some word that here, in this
figure, lay the explanation of the animal's excitement in the night, when
he saw that the peasant, white as chalk beneath the tangle of black hair
that covered his face, had stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth was open,
his arms upraised to shield; he was staring fixedly in the same direction
as himself. The next instant he was on his knees, bowing and scraping towards
Mecca, groaning, hiding his eyes with both hands. The sack he held had
toppled over; the cheese and flour rolled upon the ground; and from the
horse came that long- drawn whinnying of the night.
There was a momentary impression - entirely in the Irishman's mind,
of course, - that the whole landscape veiled a giant, rushing movement
that passed across it like a wave. The surface of the earth, it seemed,
ran softly quivering, as though that wind had stirred response together
with the trembling of the million leaves...before it settled back again
to stillness. It passed in the flash of an eyelid. The earth lay tranquil
But, though the suddenness of the stranger's arrival might conceivably
have startled the ignorant peasant, with nerves already overwrought from
the occurrence of the night, O'Malley was not prepared for the violence
of the man's terror as shown by the immediate sequel. For after several
moments' prayer and prostration, with groans half smothered against the
very ground, he sprang impetuously to his feet again, turned to his employer
with eyes that gleamed wildly in that face of chalk, cried out - the voice
thick with the confusion of his fear - "It is the Wind! They come; from
the mountains they come! Older than the stones they are. Save yourself....Hide
your eyes...fly...!" - and was gone. Like a deer he went. He waited neither
for food nor payment, but flung the great black bourka round his face -
And to O'Malley, bereft of all power of movement as he watched in complete
bewilderment, one thing seemed clear: the man went in this extraordinary
fashion because he was afraid of something he had felt, not seen. For as
he ran with wild and leaping strides, he did not run away from the figure.
He took the direction straight towards the spot where the stranger still
stood motionless as a tree. So close he passed him that he must almost
have brushed his very shoulder. He did not see him.
The last thing the Irishman noted was that in his violence the man had
dropped the yellow bashlik from his head. O'Malley saw him stoop with a
flying rush to pick it up. He seemed to catch it as it fell.
And then the big figure moved. He came slowly forward from among the
trees, his hands outstretched in greeting, on his great visage a shining
smile of welcome that seemed to share the sunrise. In that moment for the
Irishman all was forgotten as though unknown, unseen, save the feelings
of extraordinary happiness that filled him to the brim.
"The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient British bards
had for the title of their order, 'Those who are free throughout the world.'
They are free, and they make free. An imaginative book renders us much
more service at first, by stimulating us through its tropes, than afterward,
when we arrive at the precise sense of the author. I think nothing is of
any value in books, excepting the transcendental and extraordinary. If
a man is inflamed and carried away by his thought, to that degree that
he forgets the authors and the public, and heeds only this one dream, which
holds him like an insanity, let me read his paper, and you may have all
the arguments and histories and criticism."
To criticize, deny, perhaps to sneer, is no very difficult or uncommon
function of the mind, and the story as I first heard him tell it, lying
there in the grass beyond the Serpentine that summer evening, roused in
me, I must confess, all of these very ordinary faculties. Yet, as I listened
to his voice that mingled with the rustle of the poplars overhead, and
watched his eager face and gestures, it came to me dimly that a man's mistakes
may be due to his attempting bigger things than his little critic ever
dreamed perhaps. And gradually I shared the vision that this unrhyming
poet by my side had somehow lived out in action.
Inner experience for him was ever the reality - not the mere forms or
deeds that clothe it in partial physical expression.
There was no question, of course, that he had actually met this big,
inarticulate Russian on the steamer; that Stahl's part in the account was
unvarnished; that the boy had fallen on the deck from heart disease; and
that, after an interval, chance had brought O'Malley and the father together
again in this valley of the Central Caucasus. All that was as literal as
the superstitious terror of the Georgian peasant. Further, that the Russian
possessed precisely those qualities of powerful sympathy with the other's
hidden longings which the subtle- minded Celt had been so quick to appropriate
- this, too, was literal enough. Here, doubtless, was the springboard whence
he leaped into the stream of this quasi-spiritual adventure with an eagerness
of fine, whole-hearted belief which must make this dull world a very wonderful
place indeed to those who know it; for it is the visioned faculty of correlating
the commonest event with the procession of august Powers that pass ever
to and fro behind life's swaying curtain, and of divining in the most ordinary
of yellow buttercups the golden fires of a dropped star.
Again, for Terence O'Malley there seemed no definite line that marked
off one state of consciousness from another, just as there seems no given
instant when a man passes actually from sleep to waking, from pleasure
to pain, from joy to grief. There is, indeed, no fixed threshold between
the states of normal and abnormal consciousness. In this stranger he imagined
a sense of companionship that by some magic of alchemy transformed his
deep loneliness into joy, and satisfied his passionate yearnings by bringing
their subjective fulfilment within range. To have found acceptance in his
sight was thus a revolutionary fact in his existence. While a part of my
mind may have labelled it all as creative imagination, another part recognized
it as plainly true - because his being lived it out without the least denial.
He, at any rate, was not inventing; nor ever knew an instant's doubt.
He simply told me what had happened. The discrepancies - the omissions
in his written account especially - were simply due, I feel, to the fact
that his skill in words was not equal to the depth and brilliance of the
emotions that he experienced. But the fact remains: he did experience them.
His fairy tale convinced.
His faith had made him whole - one with the Earth. The sense of disunion
between his outer and his inner self was gone.
And now, as these two began their journey together into the wilder region
of these stupendous mountains, O'Malley says he realized clearly that the
change he had dreaded as an "inner catastrophe" simply would mean the complete
and final transfer of his consciousness from the "without" to the "within."
It would involve the loss only of what constituted him a person among the
external activities of the world to-day. He would lose his life to find
it. The deeper self thus quickened by the stranger must finally assert
its authority over the rest. To join these Urwelt beings and share their
eternal life of beauty close to the Earth herself, he must shift the centre.
Only thus could he enter the state before the "Fall" - that ancient Garden
of the World-Soul, walled-in so close behind his daily life - and know
deliverance from the discontent of modern conditions that so distressed
To do this temporarily, perhaps, had long been possible to him - in
dream, in reverie, in those imaginative trances when he almost seemed to
leave his body altogether; but to achieve it permanently was something
more than any such passing disablement of the normal self. It involved,
he now saw clearly, that which he had already witnessed in the boy: the
final release of his Double in so-called death. ... -
Thus, as they made their way northwards, nominally towards the mighty
Elbruz and the borders of Swanetia, the Irishman knew in his heart that
they in reality came nearer to the Garden long desired, and to those lofty
Gates of horn and ivory that hitherto he had never found - because he feared
to let himself go. Often he had camped beneath the walls, had smelt the
flowers, heard the songs, and even caught glimpses of the life that moved
so gorgeously within. But the Gates themselves had never shone for him,
even against the sky of dream, because his vision had been clouded by alarm.
They swung, it had seemed to him before, in only one direction - for those
who enter: he had always hesitated, lost his way, returned....And many,
like him, make the same mistake. Once in, there need be no return, for
in reality the walls spread outwards and - enclose the entire world.
Civilization and Humanity, the man of smaller vision had called out
to him as passwords to safety. Simplicity and Love, he now discovered,
were the truer clues. His big friend in silence taught him. Now he knew.
For in that little hamlet their meeting had taken place - in silence.
No actual speech had passed. "You go - so?" the Russian conveyed by a look
and by a movement of his whole figure, indicating the direction; and to
the Irishman's assenting inclination of the head he made an answering gesture
that merely signified compliance with a plan already known to both. "We
go, together then." And, there and then, they started, side by side.
The suddenness of this concerted departure only seemed strange afterwards
when O'Malley looked back upon it, for at the time it seemed as inevitable
as being obliged to swim once the dive is taken. He stood upon a pinnacle
whence lesser details were invisible; he knew a kind of exaltation - of
loftier vision. Small facts that ordinarily might fill the day with trouble
sank below the horizon then. He did not even notice that they went without
food, horse, or blankets. It was reckless, unrestrained, and utterly unhindered,
this free setting-forth together. Thus might he have gone upon a journey
with the wind, the sunshine, or the rain. Departure with a thought, a dream,
a fancy could not have been less unhampered.
The only detail of his outer world that lingered - and that, already
sinking out of sight like a stone into deep water - was the image of the
running peasant. For a moment he recalled the picture. He saw the man in
the act of stooping after the fallen bashlik. He saw him seize it, lift
it to his head again. But the picture was small - already very far away.
Before the bashlik actually reached the head, the detail dipped into mist
Go to Next Part...