Summer blazed everywhere and the sea lay like a blue pool of melted sky
and sunshine. The summits of the Caucasus soon faded to the east and north,
and to the south the wooded hills of the Black Sea coast accompanied the
ship in a line of wavy blue that joined the water and the sky indistinguishably.
The first-class passengers were few; O'Malley hardly noticed their existence
even. An American engineer, building a railway in Turkey, came on board
at Trebizond; there were one or two light women on their way home from
Baku, and the attaché of a foreign embassy from Teheran. But the
Irishman felt more in touch with the hundred peasant-folk who joined the
ship at Ineboli from the interior of Asia Minor and were bound as third-class
emigrants for Marseilles and far America. Dark- skinned, wild-eyed, ragged,
very dirty, they had never seen the sea before, and the sight of a porpoise
held them spellbound. They lived on the after-deck, mostly cooking their
own food, the women and children sleeping beneath a large tarpaulin that
the sailors stretched for them across the width of deck. At night they
played their pipes and danced, singing, shouting, and waving their arms
- always the same tune over and over again.
O'Malley watched them for hours together. He also watched the engineer,
the over-dressed women, the attaché. He understood the difference
between them as he had never understood it before. He understood the difficulty
of his task as well. How in the world could he ever explain a single syllable
of his message to these latter, or waken in them the faintest echo of desire
to know and listen. The peasants, though all unconscious of the blinding
glory at their elbows, stood far nearer to the truth. ... -
"Been further east, I suppose?" the engineer observed, one afternoon
as the steamer lay off Broussa, taking on a little extra cargo of walnut
logs. He looked admiringly at the Irishman's bronzed skin. "Take a better
sun than this to put that on!"
He laughed in his breezy, vigorous way, and the other laughed with him.
Previous conversations had already paved the way to a traveller's friendship,
and the American had taken to him.
"Up in the mountains," he replied, "camping out and sleeping in the
sun did it."
"The Caucasus! Ah, I'd like to get up there myself a bit. I'm told they're
a wonderful thing in the mountain line."
Scenery for him was evidently a commercial commodity, or it was nothing.
It was the most up-to-date nation in the world that spoke - in the van
of civilization - representing the last word in progress due to triumph
O'Malley said he had never seen anything like them. He described the
trees, the flowers, the tribes, the scenery in general; he dwelt upon the
vast uncultivated spaces, the amazing fruitfulness of the soil, the gorgeous
beauty above all. "I'd like to get the overcrowded cities of England and
Europe spread all over it," he said with enthusiasm. "There s room for
thousands there to lead a simple life close to Nature, in health and peace
and happiness. Even your tired millionaires could escape their restless,
feverish worries, lay down their weary burden of possessions, and enjoy
the earth at last. The poor would cease to be with us; life become true
and beautiful again...." He let it pour out of him, building the scaffolding
.of his dream before him in the air and filling it in with beauty.
The American listened in patience, watching the walnut logs being towed
through the water to the side of the ship. From time to time he spat on
them, or into the sea. He let the beauty go completely past him.
"Great idea, that!" he interrupted at length. "You're interested, I
see, in socialism and communistic schemes. There's money in them somewhere
right enough, if a man only could hit the right note at the first go off.
Take a bit of doing, though!"
One of the women from Baku came up and leaned upon the rails a little
beyond them. The sickly odour of artificial scent wafted down. The attaché
strolled along the deck and ogled her.
"Get a few of that sort to draw the millionaires in, eh?" he added vulgarly.
"Even those would come, yes," said the Irishman softly, realizing for
the first time within his memory that his gorge did not rise, "for they
too would change, grow clean and sweet and beautiful."
The engineer looked sharply into his face, uncertain whether he had
not missed a clever witticism of his own kind. But O'Malley did not meet
his glance. His eyes were far away upon the snowy summit of Olympus where
a flock of fleecy clouds hung hovering like the hair of the eternal gods.
"They say there's timber going to waste that you could get to the coast
merely for the cost of drawing it - Caucasian walnut, too, to burn," the
other continued, getting on to safer ground, "and labour's dirt cheap.
There's every sort of mineral too God ever made. You could build light
railways and run the show by electricity. And water-power for the asking.
You'd have to get a Concession from Russia first though," he added, spitting
down upon a huge floating log in the clear sea underneath, "and Russia's
got palms that want a lot of greasing. I guess the natives, too, would
take a bit of managing."
The woman beyond had shifted several feet nearer, and after a pause
the Irishman found no words to fill, his companion turned to address a
remark to her. O'Malley took the opening and moved away.
"Here's my card, anyway," the American added, handing him an over-printed
bit of large pasteboard from a fat pocket-book that bore his name and address
in silver on the outside. "If you develop the scheme and want a bit of
money, count me in."
He went to the other side of the vessel and watched the peasants on
the lower deck. Their dirt seemed nothing by comparison. It was only on
their clothes and bodies. The odour of this unwashed humanity was almost
sweet and wholesome. It cleansed the sickly taint of that other scent from
his palate; it washed his mind of thoughts as well.
He stood there long in dreaming silence, while the sunlight on Olympus
turned from gold to rose, and the sea took on the colours of the fading
sky. He watched a dark Kurd baby sliding down the tarpaulin. A kitten was
playing with a loose end of rope too heavy for it to move. Further off
a huge fellow with bared chest and the hands of a colossus sat on a pile
of canvas playing softly on his wooden pipes. The dark hair fell across
his eyes, and a group of women listened idly while they busied themselves
with the cooking of the evening meal. Immediately beneath him a splendid-eyed
young woman crammed a baby to her naked breast. The kitten left the rope
and played with the tassel of her scarlet shawl.
And as he heard those pipes and watched the grave, untamed, strong faces
of those wild peasant men and women, he understood that, low though they
might be in scale of evolution, there was yet absent from them the touch
of that deteriorating something which civilization painted into those other
countenances. But whether the word he sought was degradation or whether
it was shame, he could not tell. In all they did, the way they moved, their
dignity and independence, there was this something, he felt, that bordered
on being impressive. Their wants were few, their worldly possessions in
a bundle, yet they had this thing that set them in a place apart, if not
above, these others: - beyond that simpering attaché for all his
worldly diplomacy, that engineer with brains and skill, those painted women
with their clever playing upon the feelings and desires of their kind.
There was this difference that set the ragged dirty crew in a proud and
quiet atmosphere that made them seem almost distinguished by comparison,
and certainly more desirable. Rough and untutored though they doubtless
were, they still possessed unspoilt that deeper and more elemental nature
that bound them closer to the Earth. It needed training, guidance, purifying;
yes; but, in the last resort, was it not of greater spiritual significance
and value than the mode of comparatively recently-developed reason by which
Civilization had produced these other types?
He watched them long. The sun sank out of sight, the sea turned dark,
ten thousand stars shone softly in the sky, and while the steamer swung
about and made for peaked Andros and the coast of Greece, he still stood
on in reverie and wonder. The wings of his great Dream stirred mightily...and
he saw pale millions of men and women trooping through the gates of horn
and ivory into that Garden where they should find peace and happiness in
clean simplicity close to the Earth....
There followed four days then of sea, Greece left behind, Messina and the
Lipari Islands past; and the blue outline of Sardinia and Corsica began
to keep pace with them as they neared the narrow straits of Bonifacio between
them. The passengers came up to watch the rocky desolate shores slip by
so close, and Captain Burgenfelder was on the bridge.
Grey-headed rocks rose everywhere close about the ship; overhead the
seagulls cried and circled; no vegetation was visible on either shore,
no houses, no abode of man - nothing but the lighthouses, then miles of
deserted rock dressed in those splendours of the sun's good-night. The
dinner-gong had sounded but the sight was too magnificent to leave, for
the setting sun floated on an emblazoned sea and stared straight against
them in level glory down the narrow passage. Unimaginable colours painted
sky and wave. The ruddy cliffs of bleak loneliness rose from a bed of flame.
Soft airs fanned the cheeks with welcome coolness after the fierce heat
of the day. There was a scent of wild honey in the air borne from the purple
uplands far, far away.
"I wonder, oh, I wonder, if they realized that a god is passing close...!"
the Irishman murmured with a rising of the heart, "and that here is a great
mood of the Earth-Consciousness inviting them to peace! Or do they merely
see a yellow sun that dips beneath a violet sea...?"
The washing of the water past the steamer's sides caught away the rest
of the half-whispered words. He remembered that host of many thousand heads
that bowed in silence while a god swept by....It was almost a shock to
hear a voice replying close beside him: -
"Come to my cabin when you're ready. My windows open to the west. We
can he alone together. We can have there what food we need. You would prefer
He felt the touch of that sympathetic hand upon his shoulder, and bent
his head to signify agreement.
For a moment, face to face with that superb sunset, he had known a deep
and utter peace in the vast bosom of this greater soul about him. Her consciousness
again had bruised and fringed his own. Across that delicately divided threshold
the beauty and the power of the gods had poured in a flood into his being.
And only there was peace, only there was joy, only there was the death
of those ancient yearnings that tortured his little personal and separate
existence. The return to the world was aching pain again. The old loneliness
that seemed more than he could bear swept icily through him, contracting
life and freezing every spring of joy. For in that single instant of return
he felt pass into him a loneliness of the whole travailing world, the loneliness
of countless centuries, the loneliness of all the races of the Earth who
were exiled and had lost the way.
Too deep it lay for words or tears or sighs. The doctor's invitation
came most opportunely. And presently in silence he turned his back upon
that opal sky of dream from which the sun had gone, and walked slowly down
the deck towards Stahl's cabin.
"If only I can share it with them," he thought as he went; "if only
men will listen, if only they will come. To keep it all to myself, to dream
alone, will kill me."
And as he stood before the door it seemed he heard wild rushing through
the sky, the tramping of a thousand hoofs, a roaring of the wind, the joy
of that free, torrential passage with the Earth. He turned the handle and
entered the cosy room where weeks before they held the inquest on the little
empty tenement of flesh, remembering how that other figure had once stood
where he now stood - part of the sunrise, part of the sea, part of the
morning winds. ... -
They had their meal almost in silence, while the glow of sunset filled
the cabin through the western row of port-holes, and when it was over Stahl
made the coffee as of old and lit the familiar black cigar. Slowly O'Malley's
pain and restlessness gave way before the other's soothing quiet. He had
never known him before so calm and gentle, so sympathetic, almost tender.
The usual sarcasm seemed veiled in sadness; there was no irony in the voice,
nor mockery in the eyes.
Then to the Irishman it came suddenly that all these days while he had
been lost in dreaming the doctor had kept him as of old under close observation.
The completeness of his reverie had concealed from him this steady scrutiny.
He had been oblivious to the fact that Stahl had all the time been watching,
investigating, keenly examining. Abruptly he now realized it.
And then Stahl spoke. His tone was winning, his manner frank and inviting.
But it was the sadness about him that won O'Malley's confidence so wholly.
"I can guess," he said, "something of the dream you've brought with
you from those mountains. I can understand - more, perhaps, than you imagine,
and I can sympathize - more than you think possible. Tell me about it fully
- if you can. I see your heart is very full, and in the telling you will
find relief. I am not hostile, as you sometimes feel. Tell me, my dear,
young clear-eyed friend. Tell me your vision and your hope. Perhaps I might
even help...for there may be things that I could also tell to you in return."
Something in the choice of words, none of which offended; in the atmosphere
and setting, no detail of which jarred; and in the degree of balance between
utterance and silence his world of inner forces just then knew, combined
to make the invitation irresistible. Moreover, he had wanted to tell it
all these days. Stahl was already half convinced. Stahl would surely understand
and help him. It was the psychological moment for confession. The two men
rose in the same moment, Stahl to lock the cabin doors against interruption,
O'Malley to set their chairs more closely side by side so that talking
should be easiest.
And then without demur or hesitation he opened his heart to this other
and let the floodgates of his soul swing wide. He told the vision and he
told the dream; he told his hope as well. And the story of his passion,
filled in with pages from those note-books he ever carried in his pocket,
still lasted when the western glow had faded from the sky and the thick-sown
stars shone down upon the gliding steamer. The hush of night lay soft upon
the world before he finished.
He told the thing complete, much, I imagine, as he told it all to me
upon the roof of that apartment building and in the dingy Soho restaurant.
He told it without reservations - his life-long yearnings: the explanation
brought by the presence of the silent stranger upon the outward voyage:
the journey to the Garden: the vision that all life - from gods to flowers,
from men to mountains - lay contained in the conscious Being of the Earth,
that Beauty was but glimpses of her essential nakedness; and that salvation
of the world's disease of modern life was to be found in a general return
to the simplicity of Nature close against her mothering heart. He told
it all - in words that his passionate joy chose faultlessly.
And Heinrich Stahl in silence listened. He asked no single question.
He made no movement in his chair. His black cigar went out before the half
of it was smoked. The darkness hid his face impenetrably.
And no one came to interrupt. The murmur of the speeding steamer, and
occasional footsteps on the deck as passengers passed to and fro in the
cool of the night, were the only sounds that broke the music of that incurable
idealist's impassioned story.
And then at length there came a change of voice across the cabin. The Irishman
had finished. He sank back in the deep leather chair, exhausted physically,
but with the exultation of his mighty hope still pouring at full strength
through his heart. For he had ventured further than ever before and had
spoken of a possible crusad...crusade that should preach peace and happiness
to every living creature.
And Dr. Stahl, in a voice that showed how deeply he was moved, asked
"By leading the nations back to Nature you think they shall advance
to Truth at last?"
"With time," was the reply. "The first step lies there: - in changing
the direction of the world's activities, changing it from the transient
Outer to the eternal Inner. In the simple life, external possessions unnecessary
and recognized as vain, the soul would turn within and seek Reality. Only
a tiny section of humanity has time to do it now. There is no leisure.
Civilization means acquirement for the body: it ought to mean development
for the soul. Once sweep aside the trash and rubbish men seek outside themselves
to-day, and the wings of their smothered souls would stir again. Consciousness
would expand. Nature would draw them first. They would come to feel the
Earth as I did. Self would disappear, and with it this false sense of separateness.
The greater consciousness would waken in them. The peace and joy and blessedness
of inner growth would fill their lives. But, first, this childish battling
to the death for external things must cease, and Civilization stand revealed
for the bleak and empty desolate thing it really is. It leads away from
God and from the things that are eternal."
The German made no answer; O'Malley ceased to speak; a long silence
fell between them. Then, presently, Stahl relighted his cigar, and lapsing
into his native tongue - always a sign with him of deepest seriousness
- he began to talk.
"You've honoured me," he said, "with a great confidence; and I am deeply,
deeply grateful. You have told your inmost dream - the thing men find it
hardest of all to speak about." He felt in the darkness for his companion's
hand and held it tightly for a moment. He made no other comment upon what
he had heard. "And in return - in some small way of return," he continued,
"I may ask you to listen to something of my own, something of possible
interest. No one has ever known it from my lips. Only, in our earlier conversations
on the outward voyage, I hinted at it once or twice. I sometimes warned
"I remember. You said he'd 'get' me, 'win' me over - 'appropriation'
was the word you used."
"I suggested caution, yes; urged you not to let yourself go too completely;
told you he represented danger to yourself, and to humanity as it is organized
"And all the rest," put in O'Malley a shade impatiently. "I remember
"Because I knew what I was talking about." The doctor's voice came across
the darkness somewhat ominously. And then he added in a louder tone, evidently
sitting forward as he said it: "For the thing that has happened to yourself
as I foresaw it would, had already almost happened to me too!"
"To you, doctor, too?" exclaimed the Irishman in the moment's pause
"I saved myself just in time - by getting rid of the cause."
"You discharged him from the hospital, because you were afraid!" He
said it sharply as though are instant of the old resentment had flashed
By way of answer Stahl rose from his chair and abruptly turned up the
electric lamp upon the desk that faced them across the cabin. Evidently
he preferred the light. O'Malley saw that his face was white and very grave.
He grasped for the first time that the man was speaking professionally.
The truth came driving next behind it - that Stahl regarded him as a patient.
"Please go on, doctor," he said, keenly on the watch. "I'm deeply interested."
The wings of his great dream still bore him too far aloft for him to feel
more than the merest passing annoyance at his discovery. Resentment had
gone too. Sadness and disappointment for an instant touched him perhaps,
but momentarily. In the end he felt sure that Stahl would stand at his
side, completely won over and convinced.
"You had a similar experience to my own, you say," he urged him. "I
am all eagerness and sympathy to hear."
"We'll talk in the open air," the doctor answered, and ringing the bell
for the steward to clear away, he drew his companion out to the deserted
decks. They moved towards the bows, past the sleeping peasants. The stars
were mirrored in a glassy sea and towards the north the hills of Corsica
stood faintly outlined in the sky. It was already long after midnight.
"Yes, a similar thing nearly happened to me," he resumed as they settled
themselves against a coil of rope where only the murmur of the washing
sea could reach them, "and might have happened to others too. Inmates of
that big Krankenhaus were variously affected. My action, tardy I must admit,
saved myself and them."
And the German then told his story as a man might tell of his escape
from some grave disaster. In the emphatic sentences of his native language
he told it, congratulating himself all through. The Russian had almost
won him over, gained possession of his heart and mind, persuaded him, but
in the end had failed - because the other ran away. It was like hearing
a man describe an attempt to draw him into Heaven, then boast of his escape.
His caution and his judgment, as he put it, saved him, but to the listening
Celt it rather seemed that his compromise it was that damned him. The Kingdom
of Heaven is hard to enter, for Stahl had possessions not of the wood and
metal order, but possessions of the brain and reason he was too proud to
forego completely. They kept him out.
With increasing sadness, too, he heard it; for here he realized was
the mental attitude of an educated, highly civilized man to-da...representative
type regarded by the world as highest. It was this he had to face. Moreover
Stahl was more than merely educated, he was understandingly sympathetic,
meeting the great dream halfway; seeing in it possibilities; admitting
its high beauty, and even sometimes speaking of it with hope and a touch
of enthusiasm. Its originator none the less he regarded as a reactionary
dreamer, an unsettling and disordered influence, a patient, if not even
Stahl's voice and manner were singular while he told it all, revealing
one moment the critical mind that analysed and judged, and the next an
enthusiasm almost of the mystic. Alternately, like the man and woman of
those quaint old weather-glasses, each peered out and showed a face, the
reins of compromise yet ever seeking to hold them well in leash and drive
Hardly, it seems, had the strange Russian been under his care a week
before he passed beneath the sway of his curious personality and experienced
the attack of singular emotions upon his heart and mind.
He described at first the man's arrival, telling it with the calm and
balanced phrases a doctor uses when speaking merely of a patient who had
stirred his interest. He first detailed the method of suggestion he had
used to revive the lapsed memory - and its utter failure. Then he passed
on to speak of him more generally: but briefly and condensed.
"The man," he said, "was so engaging, so docile, his personality altogether
so attractive and mysterious, that I took the case myself instead of delegating
it to my assistants. All efforts to trace his past collapsed. It was as
if he had drifted into that little hotel out of the night of time. Of madness
there was no evidence whatever. The association of ideas in his mind, though
limited, was logical and rigid. His health was perfect, barring strange,
sudden fever; his vitality tremendous; yet he ate most sparingly and the
only food he touched was fruit and milk and vegetables. Meat made him sick,
the huge frame shuddered when he saw it. And from all the human beings
in the place with whom he came in contact he shrank with a kind of puzzled
dismay. With animals, most oddly it seemed, he sought companionship; he
would run to the window if a dog barked, or to hear a horse's hoofs; a
Persian cat belonging to one of the nurses never left his side, and I have
seen the trees in the yard outside his window thick with birds, and even
found them in the room and on the sill, flitting about his very person,
unafraid and singing.
"With me, as with the attendants, his speech was almost nil - laconic
words in various languages, clipped phrases that sometimes combined Russian,
French, or German, other tongues as well.
"But, strangest of all, with animal life he seemed to hold this kind
of communication that was Intelligible both to himself and them. Animals
certainly were 'aware' of him. It was not speech. It ran in a deep, continuous
murmur like a droning, humming sound of wind. I took the hint thus faintly
offered. I gave him his freedom in the yards and gardens. The open air
and intercourse with natural life was what he craved. The sadness and the
air of puzzled fretting then left his face, his eyes grew bright, his whole
presentment happier; he ran and laughed and even sang. The fever that had
troubled him all vanished. Often myself I took the place of nurse or orderly
to watch him, for the man's presence more than interested me: it gave me
a renewed sense of life that was exhilarating, invigorating, delightful.
And in his appearance, meanwhile, something that was not size or physical
measurement, turned - tremendous.
"A part of me that was not min...sort of forgotten instinct blindly
groping - came of its own accord to regard him as some loose fragment of
a natural, cosmic life that had somehow blundered down into a human organism
it sought to use....
"And then it was for the first time I recognized the spell he had cast
upon me; for, when the Committee decided there was no reason to keep him
longer, I urged that he should stay. Making a special plea, I took him
as a private patient of my own. I kept him under closer personal observation
than ever before. I needed him. Something deep within me, something undivined
hitherto, called out into life by his presence, could not do without him.
This new craving, breakingly wild and sweet, awoke in my blood and cried
for him. His presence nourished it in me. Most insidiously it attacked
me. It stirred deep down among the roots of my being. It 'threatened my
personality' seems the best way I can put it; for, turning a critical analysis
upon it, I discovered that it was an undermining and revolutionary change
going steadily forward in my character. Its growth had hitherto been secret.
When I first recognized its presence, the thing was already strong. For
a long time, it had been building.
"And the change in a word - you will grasp my meaning from the shortest
description of essentials - was this: that ambition left me, ordinary desire
crumbled, the outer world men value so began to fade."
"And in their place?" cried O'Malley breathlessly, interrupting for
the first time.
"Came a rushing, passionate desire to escape from cities and live for
beauty and simplicity 'in the wilderness'; to taste the life he seemed
to know; to go out blindly with him into woods and desolate places, and
be mixed and blended with the loveliness of Earth and Nature. This was
the first thing I knew. It was like an expansion of my normal world - almost
an extension of consciousness. It somehow threatened my sense of personal
identity. And - it made me hesitate."
O'Malley caught the tremor in his voice. Even in the telling of it the
passion plucked at him, for here, as ever, he stood on the border-line
of compromise, his heart tempting him towards salvation, his brain and
reason tugging at the brakes.
"The sham and emptiness or modern life, its drab vulgarity, the unworthiness
of its very ideals stood appallingly revealed before some inner eye just
opening. I felt shaken to the core of what had seemed hitherto my very
solid and estimable self. How the man thus so powerfully affected me lies
beyond all intelligible explanation. To use the obvious catchword 'hypnotism'
is to use a toy and stop a leak with paper. For his influence was unconsciously
exerted. He cast no net of clever, persuasive words about my thought. Out
of that deep, strange silence of the man it somehow came. His actions and
his simple happiness of face and manner - both in some sense the raw material
of speech perhaps - may have operated as potently suggestive agents; but
no adequate causes to justify the result, apart from the fantastic theories
I have mentioned, have ever yet come within the range of my understanding.
I can only give you the undeniable effects."
"Your sense of extended consciousness," asked his listener, "was this
continuous, once it had begun?"
"It came in patches," Stahl continued. "My normal, everyday self was
thus able to check it. While it derided, commiserated this everyday self,
the latter stood in dread of it and even awe. My training, you see, regarded
it as symptom of disorder, a beginning of unbalance that might end in insanity,
the thin wedge of a dissociation of the personality Morton Prince and others
His speech grew more and more jerky, even incoherent; evidently the
material had not even now been fully reduced to order in his mind.
"Among other curious symptoms I soon established that this subtle spreading
of my consciousness grew upon me especially during sleep. The business
of the day distracted, scattered it. On waking in the morning, as with
the physical fatigue that comes towards the closing of the day, it was
"And so, in order to examine it closely when in fullest manifestation,
I came to spend the nights with him. I would creep in while he slept and
stay till morning, alternately sleeping and waking myself. I watched the
two of us together. I also watched the 'two' in me. And thus it was I made
the further strange discovery that the influence he exerted on me was strongest
while he slept. It is best described by saying that in his sleep I was
conscious that he sought to draw me with him - away somewhere into his
own wonderful world - the state or region, that is, where he manifested
completely instead of partially as I knew him here. His personality was
a channel somewhere out into a living, conscious Nature...."
"Only," interrupted O'Malley, "you felt that to yield and go involved
some nameless inner catastrophe, and so resisted?" He chose his phrase
"Because I discovered," was the pregnant answer, given steadily while
he watched his listener closely through the darkness, "that this desire
for escape the man had wakened in me was nothing more or less than the
desire to leave the world, to leave the conditions that prevented - in
fact to leave the body. My discontent with modern life had gone as far
as that. It was the birth of the suicidal mania." ... -
The pause that followed the words, on the part of Dr. Stahl at any rate,
was intentional. O'Malley held his peace. The men shifted their places
oil the coil of rope, for both were cramped and stiff with the lengthy
session. For a minute or two they leaned over the bulwarks and watched
the phosphorescent foam in silence. The blue mountainous shores slipped
past in shadowy line against the stars. But when they sat down again their
relative positions were not what they had been before. Dr. Stahl had placed
himself between his listener and the sea. And O'Malley did not let the
man*uvre escape him. Smiling to himself he noticed it. Just as surely he
noticed, too, that the whole recital was being told him with a purpose.
"You really need not be afraid," he could not resist saying. "The idea
of escape that way has never even come to me at all. And, anyhow, I've
far too much on hand first in telling the world my message." He laughed
in the silence that took his words, for Stahl said nothing and made as
though he had not heard. But the Irishman understood that it was in the
spirit of feeble compromise that danger lay - if danger there was at all,
and he himself was far beyond such weakness. His eye was single and his
body full of light, and the faith that plays with mountains had made him
whole. Return to Nature for him involved no denial of human life, nor depreciation
of human interests, but only a revolutionary shifting of values.
"And it was one night while he slept and I watched him in the little
room," resumed the German as though there had been no interruption, "I
noticed first so decisively this growing of a singular size about him I
have already mentioned, and grasped its meaning. For the bulk of the man
while growing - emerging, rather, I should say - assumed another shape
than his own. It was not my eyes that saw it. I saw him as he felt himself
to be. The creature's personality, his essential inner being, was acting
directly upon my own. His influence was at me from another point or angle.
First the emotions, then the senses you see. It was a finely organized
"I definitely understood at last that my mind was affected - and proved
it too, for the instant effort I made at recovery resulted in my seeing
him normal again. The size and shape retreated the moment I denied them."
O'Malley noticed how the speaker's voice lingered over the phrase. Again
he knew the intention of the pause that followed. He held his peace, however,
"Nor was sight the only sense affected," Stahl continued, "for smell
and hearing also brought their testimony. Through all but touch, indeed,
the hallucination attacked me. For sometimes at night while I sat up watching
in the little room, there rose outside the open window in the yards and
gardens a sound of tramping, a distant roaring as of voices in a rising
wind, a rushing, hollow murmur, confused and deep like that of forests,
or the swift passage of a host of big birds across the sky. I heard it,
both in the air and on the ground - this tramping on the lawns, this curious
shaking of the atmosphere. And with it at the same time a sharp and mingled
perfume that made me think of earth and leaves, of flowers after rain,
of plains and open spaces, most singular of all - of animals and horses.
"Before the firm denial of my mind, they vanished, just as the change
of form had vanished. But both left me weaker than they found me, more
tender to attack. Moreover, I understood most plainly, that they emanated
all from him. These 'emanations' came, too, chiefly, as I mentioned, whilst
he slept. In sleep, it seemed, he set them free. The slumber of the body
disengaged them. And then the instinct came to warn me - presenting itself
with the authority of an unanswerable intuition - the realization, namely,
that if, for a single moment in his presence, I slept, the changes would
leap forward in my own being, and I should join him."
"Escape! Know freedom in a larger consciousness!" cried the other.
"And for a man of my point of view and training to have permitted such
a conviction at all," he went on, the interruption utterly ignored again,
"proves how far along the road I had already travelled without knowing
it. Only at the time I was not aware of this. It was the shock of full
discovery later that brought me to my senses, when, seeking to withdraw,...found
I could not."
"And so you ran away." It came out bluntly enough, with a touch of scorn
but ill concealed.
"We discharged him. But before that came there was more I have to tell
you - if you still care to hear it."
"I'm not tired, if that's what you mean. I could listen all night, as
far as that goes."
He rose to stretch his legs a moment, and Stahl rose too - instantly.
Together they leaned over the bulwarks. The German's hat was off and the
air made by the steamer's passage drew his beard out, The warm soft wind
brought odours of sea and shore. It caressed their faces, then passed on
across those sleeping peasants on the lower deck. The masts and rigging
swung steadily against the host of stars.
"Before I thus knew myself half caught," continued the doctor, standing
now close enough beside him for actual contact, "and found it difficult
to get away, other things had happened, things that confirmed the change
so singularly begun in me. They happened everywhere; confirmation came
from many quarters; though slight enough, they filled in all the gaps and
crevices, strengthened the joints, and built the huge illusion round me
all complete until it held me like a prison.
"And they are difficult to tell. Only, indeed, to yourself who underwent
a similar experience up there in the mountains, could they bring much meaning.
You had the same temptation and you - weathered the same storm." He caught
O'Malley's arm a moment and held it. "You escaped this madness just as
I did, and you will realize what I mean when I say that the sensation of
losing my sense of personal identity became so dangerously, so seductively
strong. The feeling of extended consciousness became delicious - too delicious
to resist. A kind of pagan joy and exultation known to some in early youth,
but put away with the things of youth, possessed me. In the presence of
this other's soul, so strangely powerful in its silence and simplicity,
I felt as though I touched new sources of life. I tapped them. They poured
down and flooded me - with dreams - dreams that could really haunt - with
unsettling thoughts of glory and delight beyond the body. I got clean away
into Nature. I felt as though some portion of me just awakening reached
out across him into rain and sunshine, far up into the sweet and starry
sky - as a tree growing out of a thicket that chokes its lower part finds
light and freedom at the top."
"It caught you badly, doctor," O'Malley murmured. "The gods came close!"
"So badly that I loathed the prisoned darkness that held me so thickly
in the body. I longed to know my being all dispersed through Nature, scattered
with dew and wind, shining with the star-light and the sun. And the manner
of escape I hinted to you a little while ago came to seem right and necessary.
Lawful it seemed, and obvious. The mania literally obsessed me, though
still I tried to hide it even from myself...and struggled in resistance."
"You spoke just now of other things that came to confirm it," the Irishman
said while the other paused to take breath. All this he knew. He grew weary
of Stahl's clever labouring the point that it was madness. A little knowledge
is ever dangerous, and he saw so clearly why the hesitation of the merely
intellectual man had led him into error. "Did you mean that others acknowledged
this influence as well as yourself?"
"You shall read that for yourself to-morrow," came the answer, "in the
detailed report I drew up afterwards; it is far too long to tell you now.
But, I may mention something of it. That breaking out of patients was a
curious thing, their trying to escape, their dreams and singing, their
efforts sometimes to approach his room, their longing for the open and
the gardens; the deep, prolonged entrancing of a few; the sounds of rushing,
tramping that they, too, heard, the violence of some, the silent ecstasy
of others. The thing may find its parallel, perhaps, in the collective
mania that sometimes afflicts religious communities, in monasteries or
convents. Only here there was no preacher and eloquent leader to induce
hysteria - nothing but that silent dynamo of power, gentle and winning
as a little child, a being who could not put a phrase together, exerting
his potent spell unconsciously, and chiefly while he slept.
"For the phenomena almost without exception came in the night, and often
at their fullest strength, as afterwards reported to me, while I dozed
in his room and watched beside his motionless and slumbering form. Oh,
and there was more as well, much more, as you shall read. The stories my
assistants brought me, the tales of frightened nurse and warder, the amazing
yarns the porter stammered out, of strangers who had rung the bell at dawn,
trying to push past him through the door, saying they were messengers and
had been summoned, sent for, had to come, - large, curious, windy figures,
or, as he sometimes called them with unconscious humour, 'like creatures
out of fairy books or circuses' that always vanished as suddenly as they
came. Making every allowance for excitement and exaggeration, the tales
were strange enough, I can assure you, and the way many of the patients
knew their visions intensified, their illusions doubly strengthened, their
efforts even to destroy themselves in many cases almost more than the staff
could deal with - all this brought the matter to a climax and made my duty
very plain at last."
"And the effect upon yourself - at its worst?" asked his listener quietly.
Stahl sighed wearily a little as he answered with a new-found sadness
in his tone.
"I've told you briefly that," he said; "repetition cannot strengthen
it. The worthlessness of the majority of human aims to-day expresses it
best - what you have called yourself the 'horror of civilization.' The
vanity of all life's modern, so- called up-to-date tendencies for outer,
mechanical developments. A wild, mad beauty streaming from that man's personality
overran the whole place and caught the lot of us, myself especially, with
a lust for simple, natural things, and with a passion for spiritual beauty
to accompany them. Fame, wealth, position seemed the shadows then, and
something else it's hard to name announced itself as the substance....I
wanted to clear out and live with Nature, to know simplicity, unselfish
purposes, a golden state of childlike existence close to dawns and dew
and running water, cared for by woods and blessed by all the winds...."
He paused again for breath, then added: -
"And that's just where the mania caught at me so cunningly - till I
saw it and called a halt."
"For the thing I sought, the thing he knew, and perhaps remembered,
was not possible in the body. It was a spiritual state..."
"Or to be known subjectively!" O'Malley checked him.
"I am no lotos-eater by nature," he went on with energy, "and so I fought
and conquered it. But first, I tell you, it came upon me like a tempes...hurricane
of wonder and delight. I've always held, like yourself perhaps, that civilization
brings its own army of diseases, and that the few illnesses known to ruder
savage races can be cured by simple means the earth herself supplies. And
along this line of thought the thing swept into me - the line of my own
head-learning. This was natural enough; natural enough, too, that it thus
at first deceived me.
"For the quack cures of history come to this - herb simples and the
rest; only we know them now as sun-cure, water-cure, open-air cure, old
Kneipp, sea-water, and a hundred others. Doctors have never swarmed before
as they do now, and these artificial diseases civilization brings in such
quantity seemed all at once to mean the abeyance of some central life or
power men ought to share with - Nature....You shall read it all in my written
report. I merely wish to show you now how the insidious thing got at me
along the line of my special knowledge. I saw the truth that priests and
doctors are the only possible and necessary 'professions' in the world,
and - that they should be really but a single profession...."
He drew suddenly back with a kind of jerk. It was as though he realized
abruptly that he had said too much - had overdone it. He took his companion
by the arm and led him down the decks.
As they passed the bridge the Captain called out a word of welcome to
them; and his jolly, boisterous laugh ran down the wind. The American engineer
came from behind a dark corner, almost running into them; his face was
flushed. "It's like a furnace below," he said in his nasal familiar manner;
"too hot to sleep. I've run up for a gulp of air." He made as though he
would join them.
"The wind's behind us, yes," replied the doctor in a different tone,
"and there's no draught." With a gesture, half bow, half dismissal, he
made even this thick-skinned member of "the greatest civilization on earth"
understand he was not wanted. And they turned at the cabin door, O'Malley
a moment wondering at the admirable dignity with which the "little" man
had managed the polite dismissal.
Himself, perhaps, he would not have minded the diversion. He was a little
weary of the German's long recital. The confession had not been complete,
he felt. Much had been held back. It was not altogether straightforward.
The dishonesty which hides in compromise peeped through it everywhere.
And the incoherence of the latter part had almost bored him. For it
was, he easily divined, a studied incoherence. It was meant to touch a
similar weakness in himself - if there. But it was not there. He saw through
the whole man*uvre. Stahl wished to warn and save him by showing that the
experience they had partly shared was nothing but a strange mental disorder.
He wished to force in this subtle way his own interpretation of it upon
his friend. Yet at the same time the intuitive Irishman discerned that
other tendency in the man which would so gladly perhaps have welcomed a
different explanation, and even in some fashion did actually accept it.
O'Malley smiled inwardly as he watched him prepare the coffee as of
old. And patiently he waited for the rest that was to come. In a certain
sense it all was useful. It would be helpful later. This was an attitude
he would often have to face when he returned to civilized life and tried
to tell his Message to the thinking, educated men of to-day - the men he
must win over somehow to his dream - the men, without whose backing, no
Movement could hope to meet with even a measure of success.
"So, like myself," said Stahl, as he carefully tended the flame of the
spirit-lamp between them, "you have escaped by the skin of your teeth,
as it were. And I congratulate you - heartily."
"I thank you," said the other drily.
"You write your version now, and I'll write mine - indeed it is already
almost finished - then we'll compare notes. Perhaps we might even publish
He poured out the fragrant coffee. They faced each other across the
little table. But O'Malley did not take the bait. He wished to hear the
balance his companion still might tell.
And presently he asked for it.
"With the discharge of your patient the trouble ceased at once, then?"
"Comparatively soon. It gradually subsided, yes."
"And as regards yourself?"
"I came back to my senses. I recovered my control. The insubordinate
impulses I had known retired." He smiled as he sipped his coffee. "You
see me now," he added, looking his companion steadily in the eyes, "a sane
and commonplace ship's doctor."
"I congratulate you..."
"Vielen Dank." He bowed.
"On what you missed, yet almost accomplished," the other finished. "You
might have known, like me, the cosmic consciousness! You might have met
"In a strait-waistcoat," the doctor added with a snap.
They laughed at one another across their coffee cups as once before
they had laughed across their glasses of Kakhetian wine - two eternally
antagonistic types that will exist as long as life itself.
But, contrary to his expectations, the German had little more to tell.
He mentioned how the experience had led his mind into strange and novel
reading in his desire to know what other minds might have to offer by way
of explanation, even the most fanciful and far-fetched. He told, though
very briefly, how he had picked up Fechner among others, and carefully
studied his "poetic theories," and read besides the best accounts of "spiritistic"
phenomena, as also of the rarer states of hysteria, double-consciousness,
multiple personality, and even those looser theories which suggest that
a portion of the human constitution called "astral" or "etheric" may escape
from the parent centre and, carrying with it the subtler forces of desire
and yearning, construct a vivid subjective state of mind which is practically
its Heaven of hope and longing all fulfilled.
He did not, however, betray the results upon himself of all this curious
reading and study, nor mention what he found of truth or probability in
it all. He merely quoted books and authors, in at least three languages,
that stretched in a singular and catholic array from Plato and the Neo-Platonists
across the ages to Myers, Du Prel, Flournoy, Lodge, and Morton Prince.
Out of the lot, perhaps, - O'Malley gathered it by inference rather
than from actual statement, from fragments of their talks upon the outward
voyage more than from anything let fall just then - Fechner had proved
the most persuasive to this man's contradictory and original mind. It certainly
seemed, at least, as if he knew some secret sympathetic leaning towards
the idea that consciousness and matter were inseparable, and that a Cosmic
Consciousness "of sorts" might pertain to the Earth as, equally, to all
the other stars and planets. The Urwelt idea he so often referred to had
seized a part of his imagination - that, at least, was clear.
The Irishman drank it all in, but he was too exhausted now to argue,
and too full besides to ask questions. His natural volubility forsook him.
He let the doctor have his say without interruptions. He took the warnings
with the rest of it. Nothing the other said had changed him.
It was not the first sunrise they had watched together, and as they
took the morning air on deck once more, Corsica rising like a dream the
night had left behind her on the sea, he listened with fainter interest
to the German's concluding sentences.
"At any rate you now understand why on that other voyage I was so eager
to watch you with your friend, so keen to separate you, to prevent your
sleeping with him, and at the same time so desirous to see his influence
upon you at close quarters; and also - why I always understood so well
what was going on both outwardly and within."
O'Malley quietly reiterated the belief he still held in the power of
his own dream.
"I shall go home and give my message to the world," was what he said
quietly. "I think it's true."
"It's better to keep silent," was the answer, "for, even if true, the
world is not ready yet to listen. It will evaporate, you'll find, in the
telling. You'll find there's nothing to tell. Besides, a dream like yours
must dawn on all at once, and not on merely one. No one will understand
"I can but try."
"You will reach no men of action; and few of intellect. You will merely
stuff the dreamers who are already stuffed enough. What is the use, I ask
you? What is the use?"
"It will set the world on fire for simplicity," the other murmured,
knowing the great sweet passion flame within him as he watched the sun
come slowly out of the rosy sea. "All the use in the world."
"None," was the laconic answer.
"They might know the gods!" cried O'Malley, using the phrase that symbolized
for him the entire Vision.
Stahl looked at him for some time before he spoke. Again that expression
of wistful, almost longing admiration shone in the brown eyes.
"My friend," he answered gravely, "men do not want to know the gods.
They prefer their delights less subtle. They crave the cruder physical
sensations that bang them towards excitement..."
"Of disease, of pain, of separateness," put in the other.
The German shrugged his shoulders. "It's the stage they're at," he said.
"You, if you have success, will merely make a few uncomfortable. The majority
will hardly turn their heads. To one in a million you may bring peace and
"It's worth it," cried the Irishman, "even for that one!"
Stahl answered very gently, smiling with his new expression of tenderness
and sympathy. "Dream your great dream if you will, but dream it, my friend,
alone - in peace and silence. That 'one' I speak of is yourself."
The doctor pressed his hand and turned towards his cabin. O'Malley stood
a little longer to share the sunrise. Neither spoke another word. He heard
the door shut softly behind him. The unspoken answer in his mind was in
two words - two common little adjectives: "Coward and selfish!"
But Stahl, once in the privacy of his cabin, judging by the glance visible
on his face ere he closed the door, may probably have known a very different
thought. And possibly he uttered it below his breath. A sigh most certainly
escaped his lips, a sigh half sadness, half relief. For O'Malley remembered
"Beautiful, foolish dreamer among men! But, thank God, harmless - to
others and - himself."
And soon afterwards O'Malley also went to his cabin. Before sleep took
him he lay deep in a mood of sadness - almost as though he had heard his
friend's unspoken thought. He realized the insuperable difficulties that
lay before him. The world would think him "mad but harmless."
Then, with full sleep, he slipped across that sunrise and found the
old-world Garden. He held the eternal password.
"I can but try...!"
And here the crowded, muddled note-books come to an end. The rest was action
- and inevitable disaster.
The brief history of O'Malley's mad campaign may be imagined. To a writer
who found interest in the study of forlorn hopes and their leaders, a detailed
record of this particular one might seem worth while. For me personally
it is too sad and too pathetic. I cannot bring myself to tell, much less
to analyse the story of a broken heart, when that heart and story are those
of a close and deeply admired intimate, a man who gave me genuine love
and held my own.
Besides, although a curious chapter in uncommon human nature, it is
not by any means a new one. It is the true story of many a poet and dreamer
since the world began, though perhaps not often told nor even guessed.
And only the poets themselves, especially the little poets who cannot utter
half the fire that consumes them, may know the searing pain and passion
and the true inwardness of it all.
Most of those months it chanced I was away, and only fragments of the
foolish enterprise could reach me. But nothing, I think, could have stopped
him, nor any worldly selfish wisdom made him even pause. The thing possessed
him utterly; it had to flame its way out as best it could. To high and
low, he preached by every means in his power the Simple Life; he preached
the mystical life as well - that the true knowledge and the true progress
are within, that they both pertain to the inner being and have no chief
concern with external things. He preached it wildly, lopsidedly, in or
out of season, knowing no half measures. His enthusiasm obscured his sense
of proportion and the extravagance hid the germ of truth that undeniably
lay in his message.
To put the movement on its feet at first he realized every possession
that he had. It left him penniless, if he was not almost so already, and
in the end it left him smothered beneath the glory of his blinding and
unutterable Dream. He never understood that suggestion is more effective
than a sledge-hammer. His faith was no mere little seed of mustard, but
a full-fledged forest singing its message in a wind of thunder. He shouted
it aloud to the world.
I think the acid disappointment that lies beneath that trite old phrase
"a broken heart" was never really his; for indeed it seemed that his cruel,
ludicrous failure merely served to strengthen hope and purpose by making
him seek for a better method of imparting what he had to say. In the end
he learned the bitter lesson to the full. But faith never trailed a single
feather. Those jeering audiences in the Park; those empty benches in many
a public hall, those brief, ignoring paragraphs in the few newspapers that
filled a vacant corner by labelling him crank and long-haired prophet;
even the silence that greeted his pamphlets, his letters to the Press,
and all the rest, hurt him for others rather than for himself. His pain
was altruistic, never personal. His dream and motive, his huge, unwieldy
compassion, his genuine love for humanity, all were big enough for that.
And so, I think, he missed the personal mortification that disappointment
so deep might bring to dreamers with an aim less unadulteratedly pure.
His eye was single to the end. He attributed only the highest motives to
all who offered help. The very quacks and fools who flocked to his banner,
eager to exploit their smaller fads by joining them to his own, he welcomed,
only regretting that, as Stahl had warned him, he could not attract a better
class of mind. He did not even see through the man*uvres of the occasional
women of wealth and title who sought to conceal their own mediocrity by
advertising in their drawing-rooms the eccentricities of men like himself.
And to the end he had the courage of his glorious convictions.
The change of method that he learned at last, moreover, was characteristic
of this faith and courage.
"I've begun at the wrong end," he said; "I shall never reach men through
their intellects. Their brains to-day are occupied by the machine-made
gods of civilization. I cannot change the direction of their thoughts and
lusts from outside; the momentum is too great to stop that way. I must
get at them from within. To reach their hearts, the new ideas must rise
up from within. I see the truer way. I must do it from the other side.
It must come to them - in Beauty."
For he was to the last convinced that death would merge him in the being
of the Earth's Collective Consciousness, and that, lost in her deep eternal
beauty, he thus might reach the hearts of men in some stray glimpse of
nature's loveliness, and register his flaming message. He loved to quote
from Adonais: He is made one with Nature: there is heard His voice in all
her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb
and stone, Spreading itself where'er that Power may move Which has withdrawn
his being to its own.......He is a portion of the loveliness Which once
he made more lovely: he doth bear His part, while the one Spirit's plastic
stress Sweeps through the dull dense world...
And this thought, phrased in a dozen different ways, was always on his
lips. To dream was right and useful, even to dream alone, because the beauty
of the dream must add to the beauty of the Whole of which it is a part
and an interpretation. It was not really lost or vain. All must come back
in time to feed the world. He had known gracious thoughts of Earth too
big to utter, almost too big to hold. Such thoughts could not ever be really
told; they were incommunicable. For the mystical revelation is incommunicable.
It has authority only for him who feels it. A corporate revelation is impossible.
Only those among men could know, in whose hearts it rose intuitively and
made its presence felt as innate ideas. Inspiration brings it, and beauty
is the vehicle. Their hearts must change before their minds could be reached.
"I can work it better from the other side - from that old, old Garden
which is the Mother's heart. In this way I can help at any rate...!"
It was at the close of a wet and foggy autumn that we met again, winter
in the air, all London desolate; and his wasted, forlorn appearance told
me the truth at once. Only the passionate eagerness of voice and manner
were there to prove that the spirit had not weakened. There glowed within
a fire that showed itself in the translucent shining of the eyes and face.
"I've made one great discovery, old man," he exclaimed with old, familiar,
high enthusiasm, "one great discovery at least."
"You've made so many," I answered cheerfully, while my real thoughts
were busy with his bodily state of health. For his appearance shocked me.
He stood among a litter of papers, books, neckties, nailed boots, knapsacks,
maps and what-not, that rolled upon the floor from the mouth of the Willesden
canvas sack. His old grey flannel suit hung literally upon a bag of bones;
all the life there was seemed concentrated in his face and eyes - those
far-seeing, light blue eyes. They were darker than usual now, eyes like
the sea, I thought. His hair, long and disordered, tumbled over his forehead.
He was pale, and at the same time flushed. It was almost a disembodied
spirit that I saw.
"You've made so many. I love to hear them. Is this one finer than the
He looked a moment at me through and through, almost uncannily. He looked
in reality beyond me. It was something else he saw, and in the dusk I turned
"Simpler," he said quickly, "much simpler."
He moved up close beside me, whispering. Was it all imagination that
a breath of flowers came with him? There was certainly a curious fragrance
in the air, wild and sweet like orchards in the spring.
"And it is...?"
"That the Garden's everywhere! You needn't go to the distant Caucasus
to find it. It's all about this old London town, and in these foggy streets
and dingy pavements. It's even in this cramped, undusted room. Now at this
moment, while that lamp flickers and the thousands go to sleep. The gates
of horn and ivory are here," he tapped his breast. "And here the flowers,
the long, clean open hills, the giant herd, the nymphs, the sunshine and
So attached was he now to that little room in Paddington where his books
and papers lay, that when the curious illness that had caught him grew
so much worse, and the attacks of the nameless fever that afflicted him
turned serious, I hired a bedroom for him in the same house. And it was
in that poky, cage-like den he breathed his last.
His illness I called curious, his fever nameless, because they really
were so and puzzled every one. He simply faded out of life, it seemed;
there was no pain, no sleeplessness, no suffering of any physical kind.
He uttered no complaint, nor were there symptoms of any known disorder.
"Your friend is sound organically," the doctor told me when I pressed
him for the truth there on the stairs, "sound as a bell. He wants the open
air and plenty of wholesome food, that's all. His body is ill-nourished.
His trouble is mental - some deep and heavy disappointment doubtless. If
you can change the current of his thoughts, awaken interest in common things,
and give him change of scene, perhaps..." He shrugged his shoulders and
looked very grave.
"You think he's dying?"
"I think, yes, he is dying."
"From lack of living pure and simple," was the answer. "He has lost
all hold on life."
"He has abundant vitality still."
"Full of it. But it all goes - elsewhere. The physical organism gets
none of it."
"Yet mentally," I asked, "there's nothing actually wrong?"
"Not in the ordinary sense. The mind is clear and active. So far as
I can test it, the process of thought is healthy and undamaged. It seems
He hesitated a moment on the doorstep while the driver wound the motor
handle. I waited with a sinking heart for the rest of the sentence.
"...like certain cases of nostalgia I have known - very rare and very
difficult to deal with. Acute and vehement nostalgia, yes, sometimes called
a broken heart," he added, pausing another instant at the carriage door,
"in which the entire stream of a man's inner life flows to some distant
place, or person, or - or to some imagined yearning that he craves to satisfy."
"To a dream?"
"It might be even that," he answered slowly, stepping in. "It might
be spiritual. The religious and poetic temperament are most open to it,
and the most difficult to deal with when afflicted." He emphasized the
little word as though the doubt he felt was far less strong than the conviction
he only half concealed. "If you would save him, try to change the direction
of his thoughts. There is nothing - in all honesty I must say it - nothing
that I can do to help."
And then, pulling at the grey tuft on his chin and looking keenly at
me a moment over his glasses, - "Those flowers," he said hesitatingly,
"you might move those flowers from the room, perhaps. Their perfume is
a trifle strong....It might be better." Again he looked sharply at me.
There was an odd expression in his eyes. And in my heart there was an odd
sensation too, so odd that I found myself bereft a moment of any speech
at all, and when my tongue became untied, the carriage was already disappearing
down the street. For in that dingy sick-room there were no flowers at all,
yet the perfume of woods and fields and open spaces had reached the doctor
too, and obviously perplexed him.
"Change the direction of his thoughts"! I went indoors, wondering how
any honest and even half-unselfish friend, knowing what I knew, could follow
such advice. With what but the lowest motive, of keeping him alive for
my own happiness, could I seek to change his thoughts of some imagined
joy and peace to the pain and sordid facts of an earthly existence that
But when I turned I saw the tousled yellow-headed landlady standing
in the breach. Mrs. Heath stopped me in the hall to inquire whether I could
say "anythink abart the rent per'aps?" Her manner was defiant. I found
three months were owing.
"It's no good arsking 'im," she said, though not unkindly on the whole.
"I'm sick an' tired of always being put off. He talks about the gawds and
a Mr. Pan, or some such gentleman who he says will look after it all. But
I never sees 'im - not this Mr. Pan. And his stuff up there," jerking her
head towards the little room, "ain't worth a Sankeymoody 'ymn-book, take
the lot of it at cost!"
I reassured her. It was impossible to help smiling. For some minds,
I reflected, a Sankey hymn-book might hold dreams that were every bit as
potent as his own, and far less troublesome. But that "Mr. Pan, or some
such gentleman" should serve as a "reference" between lodger and landlady
was an unwitting comment on the modern point of view that made me want
to cry rather than to laugh. O'Malley and Mrs. Heath between them had made
a profounder criticism than they knew. ... -
And so by slow degrees he went, leaving the outer fury for the inner
peace. The centre of consciousness gradually shifted from the transient
form which is the true ghost, to the deeper, permanent state which is the
eternal reality. For this was how he phrased it to me in one of our last,
strange talks. He watched his own withdrawal.
In bed he would lie for hours with fixed and happy eyes, staring apparently
at nothing, the expression on his face quite radiant. The pulse sank often
dangerously low; he scarcely seemed to breathe; yet it was never complete
unconsciousness or trance. My voice, when I found the heart to try and
coax his own for speech, would win him back. The eyes would then grow dimmer,
losing their happier light, as he turned to the outer world to look at
"The pull is so tremendous now," he whispered; "I was far, so far away,
in the deep life of Earth. Why do you bring me back to all these little
pains? I can do nothing here; there I am of use...."
He spoke so low I had to bend my head to catch the words. It was very
late at night and for hours I had been watching by his side. Outside an
ugly yellow fog oppressed the town, but about him like an atmosphere I
caught again that fragrance as of trees and flowers. It was too faint for
any name - that fugitive, mild perfume one meets upon bare hills and round
the skirts of forests. It was somehow, I fancied, in the very breath.
"Each time the effort to return is greater. In there I am complete and
full of power. I can work and send my message back so splendidly. Here,"
he glanced down at his wasted body with a curious smile, "I am only on
the fringe - it's pain and failure. All so ineffective."
That other look came back into the eyes, more swiftly than before.
"I thought you might like to speak, to tell me - something," I said,
keeping the tears with difficulty from my voice. "Is there no one you would
like to see?"
He shook his head slowly, and gave the peculiar answer:
"They're all in there."
"But Stahl, perhaps - if I could get him here?"
An expression of gentle disapproval crossed his face, then melted softly
into a wistful tenderness as of a child.
"He's not there - yet," he whispered, "but he will come too in the end.
In sleep, I think, he goes there even now."
"Where are you really then?" I ventured, "And where is it you go to?"
The answer came unhesitatingly; there was no doubt or searching.
"Into myself, my real and deeper self, and so beyond it into her - the
Earth. Where all the others are - all, all, all."
And then he frightened me by sitting up in bed abruptly. His eyes stared
past me - out beyond the close confining walls. The movement was so startling
with its suddenness and vigour that I shrank back a moment. The head was
sideways. He was intently listening.
"Hark!" he whispered. "They are calling me! Do you hear...?"
The look of joy that broke over the face like sunshine made me hold
my breath. Something in his low voice thrilled me beyond all I have ever
known. I listened too. Only the rumble of the traffic down the distant
main street broke the silence, the rattle of a nearer cart, and the footsteps
of a few pedestrians. No other noises came across the night. There was
no wind. Thick yellow fog muffled everything.
"I hear nothing," I answered softly. "What is it that you hear?"
And, making no reply, he presently lay down again among the pillows,
that look of joy and glory still upon his face. It lay there to the end
The fog came in so thickly through the window that I rose to close it.
He never closed that window, and I hoped he would not notice. For a sound
of wretched street-music was coming nearer - some beggar playing dismally
upon a penny whistle - and I feared it would disturb him. But in a flash
he was up again.
"No, no!" he cried, raising his voice for the first time that night.
"Do not shut it. I shan't be able to hear then. Let all the air come in.
Open it wider...wider! I love that sound!"
"There is no fog. It's only sun and flowers and music. Let them in.
Don't you hear it now?" he added. And, more to bring him peace than anything
else, I bowed my head to signify agreement. For the last confusion of the
mind, I saw, was upon him, and he made the outer world confirm some imagined
detail of his inner dream. I drew the sash down lower, covering his body
closely with the blankets. He flung them off impatiently at once. The damp
and freezing night rushed in upon us like a presence. It made me shudder,
but O'Malley only raised himself upon one elbow to taste it better, and
- to listen.
Then, waiting patiently for the return of the quiet, trance- like state
when I might cover him again, I moved towards the window and looked out.
The street was empty, save for that beggar playing vilely on his penny
whistle. The wretch came to a standstill immediately before the house.
The lamplight fell from the room upon his tattered, broken figure. I could
not see his face. He groped and felt his way.
Outside that homeless wanderer played his penny pipe in the night of
cold and darkness.
Inside the Dreamer listened, dreaming of his gods and garden, his great
Earth Mother, his visioned life of peace and simple things with a living
And I felt somehow that player watched us. I made an angry sign to him
to go. But it was the sudden touch upon my arm that made me turn round
with such a sudden start that I almost cried aloud. O'Malley in his night-clothes
stood close against me on the floor, slight as a spirit, eyes a-shine,
lips moving faintly into speech through the most wonderful smile a human
face has ever shown me.
"Do not send him away," he whispered, joy breaking from him like a light,
"but tell him that I love it. Go out and thank him. Tell him I hear and
understand, and say that I am coming. Will you...?"
Something within me whirled. It seemed that I was lifted from my feet
a moment. Some tide of power rushed from his person to my own. The room
was filled with blinding light. But in my heart there rose a great emotion
that combined tears and joy and laughter all at once.
"The moment you are back in bed," I heard my voice like one speaking
from a distance, "I'll go..."
The momentary, wild confusion passed as suddenly as it came. I remember
he obeyed at once. As I bent down to tuck the clothes about him, that fragrance
as of flowers and open spaces rose about my bending face like incense -
And the next second I was standing in the street. The man who played
upon the pipe, I saw, was blind. His hand and fingers were curiously large.
I was already close, ready to press all that my pockets held into his
hand - ay, and far more than merely pockets held because O'Malley said
he loved the music - when something made me turn my head away. I cannot
say precisely what it was, for first it seemed a tapping at the window
of his room behind me, and then a little noise within the room itself,
and next - more curious than either...feeling that something came out rushing
past me through the air. It whirled and shouted as it went....
I only remember clearly that in the very act of turning, and while my
look still held that beggar's face within the field of vision, I saw the
sightless eyes turn bright a moment as though he opened them and saw. He
did most certainly smile; to that I swear.
But when I turned again the street immediately about me was empty. The
beggar-man was gone.
And down the pavement, moving swiftly through the curtain of fog, I
saw his vanishing figure. It was large and spreading. In the fringe of
light the lamp-post gave, its upper edges seemed far above the ground.
Someone else was with him. There were two figures.
I heard that sound of piping far away. It sounded faint and almost flute-like
in the air. And in the mud at my feet the money lay - spurned utterly.
I heard the last coins ring upon the pavement as they settled. But in the
room, when I got back, the body of Terence O'Malley had ceased to breathe.