"We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries,
seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of
the meaning of it all."
"There are certain persons who, independently of sex or comeliness, arouse
an instant curiosity concerning themselves. The tribe is small, but its
members unmistakable. They may possess neither fortune, good looks, nor
that adroitness of advance-vision which the stupid name good luck; yet
there is about them this inciting quality which proclaims that they have
overtaken Fate, set a harness about its neck of violence, and hold bit
and bridle in steady hands.
- William James, A Pluralistic Universe...
"...man's vision is the great fact about him. Who cares for Carlyle's reasons,
or Schopenhauer's, or Spencer's? A philosophy is the expression of a man's
intimate character, and all definitions of the Universe are but the deliberately
adopted reactions of human characters upon it."
"Most of us, arrested a moment by their presence to snatch the definition
their peculiarity exacts, are aware that on the heels of curiosity follows
- envy. They know the very things that we for ever seek in vain. And this
diagnosis, achieved as it were en passant, comes near to the truth, for
the hall-mark of such persons is that they have found, and come into, their
own. There is a sign upon the face and in the eyes. Having somehow discovered
the 'piece' that makes them free of the whole amazing puzzle, they know
where they belong and, therefore, whither they are bound: more, they are
definitely en route. The littlenesses of existence that plague the majority
pass them by.
"For this reason, if for no other," continued O'Malley, "I count my
experience with that man as memorable beyond ordinary. 'If for no other,'
because from the very beginning there was another. Indeed, it was probably
his air of unusual bigness, massiveness rather, - head, face, eyes, shoulders,
especially back and shoulders, - that struck me first when I caught sight
of him lounging there hugely upon my steamer deck at Marseilles, winning
my instant attention before he turned and the expression on his great face
woke more - woke curiosity, interest, envy. He wore this very look of certainty
that knows, yet with a tinge of mild surprise as though he had only recently
known. It was less than perplexity. A faint astonishment as of a happy
child - almost of an animal - shone in the large brown eyes..."
"You mean that the physical quality caught you first, then the psychical?"
I asked, keeping him to the point, for his Irish imagination was ever apt
to race away at a tangent.
He laughed good-naturedly, acknowledging the check. "I believe that
to be the truth," he replied, his face instantly grave again. "It was the
impression of uncommon bulk that heated my intuition - blessed if I know
how - leading me to the other. The size of his body did not smother, as
so often is the case with big people: rather, it revealed. At the moment
I could conceive no possible connection, of course. Only this overwhelming
attraction of the man's personality caught me and I longed to make friends.
That's the way with me, as you know," he added, tossing the hair back from
his forehead impatiently...pretty often. First impressions. Old man, I
tell you, it was like a possession."
"I believe you," I said. For Terence O'Malley all his life had never
understood half measures.
"The friendly and flowing savage, who is he? Is he waiting
for civilization, or is he past it, and mastering it?"
O'Malley himself is an individuality that invites consideration from the
ruck of commonplace men. Of mingled Irish, Scotch, and English blood, the
first predominated, and the Celtic element in him was strong. A man of
vigorous health, careless of gain, a wanderer, and by his own choice something
of an outcast, he led to the end the existence of a rolling stone. He lived
from hand to mouth, never quite growing up. It seemed, indeed, that he
never could grow up in the accepted sense of the term, for his motto was
the reverse of nil admirari, and he found himself in a state of perpetual
astonishment at the mystery of things. He was for ever deciphering the
huge horoscope of Life, yet getting no further than the House of Wonder,
on whose cusp surely he had been born. Civilization, he loved to say, had
blinded the eyes of men, filling them with dust instead of vision.
"We find ourselves to-day in the midst of a somewhat peculiar state of
society, which we call Civilisation, but which even to the most optimistic
among us does not seem altogether desirable. Some of us, indeed, are inclined
to think that it is a kind of disease which the various races of man have
to pass through.... "While History tells us of many nations that have been
attacked by it, of many that have succumbed to it, and of some that are
still in the throes of it, we know of no single case in which a nation
has fairly recovered from and passed through it to a more normal and healthy
condition. In other words, the development of human society has never yet
(that we know of) passed beyond a certain definite and apparently final
stage in the process we call Civilisation; at that stage it has always
succumbed or been arrested."
- Edward Carpenter, Civilisation: its Cause and Cure.
An ardent lover of wild out-door life, he knew at times a high, passionate
searching for things of the spirit, when the outer world fell away like
dross and he seemed to pass into a state resembling ecstasy. Never in cities
or among his fellow- men, struggling and herded, did these times come to
him, but when he was abroad with the winds and stars in desolate places.
Then, sometimes, he would be rapt away, caught up to see the tail-end of
the great procession of the gods that had come near. He surprised Eternity
in a running Moment.
For the moods of Nature flamed through him - in him - like presences,
potently evocative as the presences of persons, and with meanings equally
various: the woods with love and tenderness; the sea with reverence and
magic; plains and wide horizons with the melancholy peace and silence as
of wise and old companions; and mountains with a splendid terror due to
some want of comprehension in himself, caused probably by a spiritual remoteness
from their mood.
The Cosmos, in a word, for him was psychical, and Nature's moods were
transcendental cosmic activities that induced in him these singular states
of exaltation and expansion. She pushed wide the gateways of his deeper
life. She entered, took possession, dipped his smaller self into her own
enormous and enveloping personality.
He possessed a full experience, and at times a keen judgment, of modern
life; while underneath, all the time, lay the moving sea of curiously wild
primitive instincts. An insatiable longing for the wilderness was in his
blood, a craving vehement, unappeasable. Yet for something far greater
than the wilderness alone - the wilderness was merely a symbol, a first
step, indication of a way of escape. The hurry and invention of modern
life were to him a fever and a torment. He loathed the million tricks of
civilization. At the same time, being a man of some discrimination at least,
he rarely let himself go completely. Of these wilder, simpler instincts
he was afraid. They might flood all else. If he yielded entirely, something
he dreaded, without being able to define, would happen; the structure of
his being would suffer a nameless violence, so that he would have to break
with the world. These cravings stood for that loot of the soul which he
must deny himself. Complete surrender would involve somehow a disintegration,
a dissociation of his personality that carried with it the loss of personal
When the feeling of revolt became sometimes so urgent in him that it
threatened to become unmanageable, he would go out into solitude, calling
it to heel; but this attempt to restore order, while easing his nature,
was never radical; the accumulation merely increased on the rebound; the
yearnings grew and multiplied, and the point of saturation was often dangerously
near. "Some day," his friends would say, "there'll be a bursting of the
dam." And, though their meaning might be variously interpreted, they spoke
the truth. O'Malley knew it, too.
A man he was, in a word, of deep and ever-shifting moods, and with more
difficulty than most in recognizing the underlying self of which these
outer aspects were projections masquerading as complete personalities.
The underlying ego that unified these projections was of the type touched
with so sure a hand in the opening pages of an inspired little book: The
Plea of Pan. O'Malley was useless as a citizen and knew it. Sometimes -
he was ashamed of it as well.
Occasionally, and at the time of this particular "memorable adventure,"
aged thirty, he acted as foreign correspondent; but even as such he was
the kind of newspaper man that not merely collects news, but discovers,
reveals, creates it. Wise in their generation, the editors who commissioned
him remembered when his copy came in that they were editors. A roving commission
among the tribes of the Caucasus was his assignment at the moment, and
a better man for the purpose would have been hard to find, since he knew
beauty, had a keen eye for human nature, divined what was vital and picturesque,
and had, further, the power to set it down in brief terms born directly
of his vivid emotions.
When first I knew him he lived - nowhere, being always on the move.
He kept, however, a dingy little room near Paddington where his books and
papers accumulated, undusted but safe, and where the manuscripts of his
adventures were found when his death made me the executor of his few belongings.
The key was in his pocket, carefully ticketed with a bone label. And this,
the only evidence of practical forethought I ever discovered in him, was
proof that something in that room was deemed by him of value - to others.
It certainly was not the heterogeneous collection of second-hand books,
nor the hundreds of unlabelled photographs and sketches. Can it have been
the MSS. of stories, notes, and episodes I found, almost carefully piled
and tabulated with titles, in a dirty kitbag of green Willesden canvas?
Some of these he had told me (with a greater vividness than he could
command by pen); others were new; many unfinished. All were unusual, to
say the least. All, too, had obviously happened to himself at some period
of his roving career, though here and there he had disguised his own part
in them by Hoffmann's device of throwing the action into the third person.
Those told to me by word of mouth I could only feel were true, true for
himself at least. In no sense were they mere inventions, but arose in moments
of vision upon a structure of solid events. Ten men will describe in as
many different ways a snake crossing their path; but, besides these, there
exists an eleventh man who sees more than the snake, the path, the movement.
O'Malley was some such eleventh man. He saw the thing whole, from some
kind of inner bird's-eye view, while the ten saw only limited aspects of
it from various angles. He was accused of adding details, therefore, because
he had divined their presence while still below the horizon. Before they
emerged the others had already left.
By which I mean that he saw in commonplace events the movement of greater
tides than others saw. At one remove of time or distanc...minute or a mile
- he perceived all. While the ten chattered volubly about the name of the
snake, he was caught beyond by the beauty of the path, the glory of the
running glide, the nature of the forces that drove, hindered, modified.
The others reasoned where the snake was going, its length in inches
and its speed per second, while he, ignoring such superficial details,
plunged as it were into the very nature of the creature's being. And in
this idiosyncrasy, which he shared with all persons of mystical temperament,
is exemplified a certain curious contempt for Reason that he had. For him
mere intellectuality, by which the modern world sets such store, was a
valley of dry bones. Its worship was a worship of the form. It missed the
essential inner truth because such inner truth could be known only by being
it, feeling it. The intellectual attitude of mind, in a word, was critical,
not creative, and to be unimaginative seemed to him, therefore, the worst
form of unintelligence.
"The arid, sterile minds!" he would cry in a burst of his Celtic enthusiasm.
"Where, I ask ye, did the philosophies and sciences of the world assist
the progress of any single soul a blessed inch?"
Any little Dreamer in his top-floor back, spinning by rushlight his
web of beauty, was greater than the finest critical intelligence that ever
lived. The one, for all his poor technique, was stammering over something
God had whispered to him, the other merely destroying thoughts invented
by the brain of man.
And this attitude of mind, because of its interpretative effect upon
what follows, justifies mention. For to O'Malley, in some way difficult
to explain, Reason and Intellect, as such, had come to be worshipped by
men to-day out of all proportion to their real value. Consciousness, focussed
too exclusively upon them, had exalted them out of due proportion in the
spiritual economy. To make a god of them was to make an empty and inadequate
god. Reason should be the guardian of the soul's advance, but not the object.
Its function was that of a great sandpaper which should clear the way of
excrescences, but its worship was to allow a detail to assume a disproportionate
Not that he was fool enough to despise Reason in what he called its
proper place, but that he was "wise" enough - not that he was "intellectual"
enough! - to recognize its futility in measuring the things of the soul.
For him there existed a more fundamental understanding than Reason, and
it was, apparently, an inner and natural understanding.
"The greatest Teacher we ever had," I once heard him say, "ignored the
intellect, and who, will ye tell me, can by searching find out God? And
yet what else is worth finding out?...Isn't it only by becoming as a little
chil...child that feels and never reasons things - that any one shall enter
the kingdom?...Where will the giant intellects be before the Great White
Throne when a simple man with the heart of a child will top the lot of
"Nature, I'm convinced," he said another time, though he said it with
puzzled eyes and a mind obviously groping, "is our next step. Reason has
done its best for centuries, and gets no further. It can get no further,
for it can do nothing for the inner life which is the sole reality. We
must return to Nature and a purified intuition, to a greater reliance upon
what is now subconscious, back to that sweet, grave guidance of the Universe
which we've discarded with the primitive stat...spiritual intelligence,
really, divorced from mere intellectuality."
And by Nature he did not mean a return to savagery. There was no idea
of going backwards in his wild words. Rather he looked forwards, in some
way hard to understand, to a state when Man, with the best results of Reason
in his pocket, might return to the instinctive life - to feeling with -
to the sinking down of the modern, exaggerated intellectual personality
into its rightful place as guide instead of leader. He called it a Return
to Nature, but what he meant, I always felt, was back to a sense of kinship
with the Universe which men, through worshipping the intellect alone, had
lost. Men to-day prided themselves upon their superiority to Nature as
beings separate and apart. O'Malley sought, on the contrary, a development,
if not a revival, of some faultless instinct, due to kinship with her,
which - to take extremes - shall direct alike the animal and the inspired
man, guiding the wild bee and the homing pigeon, and - the soul towards
This clue, as he called it, crystallized so neatly and so conclusively
his own mental struggles, that he had called a halt, as it were, to his
own intellectual development....The name and family of the snake, hence,
meant to him the least important things about it. He caught, wildly yet
consistently, at the psychic links that bound the snake and Nature and
himself together with all creation. Troops of adventurous thoughts had
all his life "gone west" to colonize this land of speculative dream. True
to his idea, he "thought" with his emotions as much as with his brain,
and in the broken record of the adventure that this book relates, this
strange passion of his temperament remains the vital clue. For it happened
in, as well as to, himself. His Being could include the Earth by feeling
with her, whereas his intellect could merely criticize, and so belittle,
the details of such inclusion.
Many a time, while he stretched credulity to a point, I have heard him
apologize in some such way for his method. It was the splendour of his
belief that made the thing so convincing in the telling, for later when
I found the same tale written down it seemed somehow to have failed of
an equal achievement. The truth was that no one language would convey the
extraordinary freight that was carried so easily by his instinctive choice
of gestures, tone, and glance. With him these were consummately interpretative.
Before the age of thirty he had written and published a volume or two
of curious tales, all dealing with extensions of the personality, a subject
that interested him deeply, and one he understood because he drew the material
largely from himself. Psychology he simply devoured, even in its most fantastic
and speculative forms; and though perhaps his vision was incalculably greater
than his power of technique, these strange books had a certain value and
formed a genuine contribution to the thought on that particular subject.
In England naturally they fell dead, but their translation into German
brought him a wider and more intelligent circle. The common public unfamiliar
with Sally Beauchamp No. 4, with Hélène Smith, or with Dr.
Hanna, found in these studies of divided personality, and these singular
extensions of the human consciousness, only extravagance and imagination
run to wildness. Yet, none the less, the substratum of truth upon which
O'Malley had built them, lay actually within his own personal experience.
The books had brought him here and there acquaintances of value; and among
these latter was a German doctor, Heinrich Stahl. With Dr. Stahl the Irishman
crossed swords through months of somewhat irregular correspondence, until
at length the two had met on board a steamer where the German held the
position of ship's doctor. The acquaintanceship had grown into something
approaching friendship, although the two men stood apparently at the opposite
poles of thought. From time to time they still met.
In appearance there was nothing unusual about O'Malley, unless it was
the contrast of the light blue eyes with the dark hair. Never, I think,
did I see him in anything but that old grey flannel suit, with the low
collar and shabby glistening tie. He was of medium height, delicately built,
his hands more like a girl's than a man's. In towns he shaved and looked
fairly presentable, but once upon his travels he grew beard and moustache
and would forget for weeks to have his hair cut, so that it fell in a tangle
over forehead and eyes.
His manner changed with the abruptness of his moods. Sometimes active
and alert, at others for days together he would become absent, dreamy,
absorbed, half oblivious of the outer world, his movements and actions
dictated by subconscious instinct rather than regulated by volition. And
one cause of that loneliness of spirit which was undoubtedly a chief pain
in life to him, was the fact that ordinary folk were puzzled how to take
him, or to know which of these many extreme moods was the man himself.
Uncomfortable, unsatisfactory, elusive, not to be counted upon, they deemed
him: and from their point of view they were undoubtedly right. The sympathy
and above all the companionship he needed, genuinely craved too, were thus
denied to him by the faults of his own temperament. With women his intercourse
was of the slightest; in a sense he did not know the need of them much.
For one thing, the feminine element in his own nature was too strong, and
he was not conscious, as most men are, of the great gap of incompleteness
women may so exquisitely fill; and, for another, its obvious corollary
perhaps, when they did come into his life, they gave him more than he could
comfortably deal with. They offered him more than he needed.
In this way, while he perhaps had never fallen in love, as the saying
has it, he had certainly known that high splendour of devotion which means
the losing of oneself in others, that exalted love which seeks not any
reward of possession because it is itself so utterly possessed. He was
pure, too; in the sense that it never occurred to him to be otherwise.
Chief cause of his loneliness - so far as I could judge his complex
personality at all - seemed that he never found a sympathetic, truly understanding
ear for those deeply primitive longings that fairly ravaged his heart.
And this very isolation made him often afraid; it proved that the rest
of the world, the sane majority at any rate, said No to them. I, who loved
him and listened, yet never quite apprehended his full meaning. Far more
than the common Call of the Wild, it was. He yearned, not so much for a
world savage, uncivilized, as for a perfectly natural one that had never
known, perhaps never needed civilizatio...state of freedom in a life unstained.
He never wholly understood, I think, the reason why he found himself
in such stern protest against the modern state of things, why people produced
in him a state of death so that he turned from men to Nature - to find
life. The things the nations exclusively troubled themselves about all
seemed to him so obviously vain and worthless, and, though he never even
in his highest moments felt the claims of sainthood, it puzzled and perplexed
him deeply that the conquest over Nature in all its multifarious forms
to-day should seem to them so infinitely more important than the conquest
over self. What the world with common consent called Reality, seemed ever
to him the most crude and obvious, the most transient, the most blatant
un-Reality. His love of Nature was more than the mere joy of tumultuous
pagan instincts. It was, in the kind of simple life he craved, the first
step towards the recovery of noble, dignified, enfranchised living. In
the denial of all this external flummery he hated, it would leave the soul
disengaged and free, able to turn her activities within for spiritual development.
Civilization now suffocated, smothered, killed the soul. Being in the hopeless
minority, he felt he must be somewhere wrong, at fault, deceived. For all
men, from a statesman to an engine-driver, agreed that the accumulation
of external possessions had value, and that the importance of material
gain was real....Yet, for himself, he always turned for comfort to the
Earth. The wise and wonderful Earth opened her mind and her deep heart
to him in a way few other men seemed to know. Through Nature he could move
blind-folded along, yet find his way to strength and sympathy. A noble,
gracious life stirred in him then which the pettier human world denied.
He often would compare the thin help or fellowship he gained from ordinary
social intercourse, or from what had seemed at the time quite a successful
gathering of his kind, with the power he gained from a visit to the woods
or mountains. The former, as a rule, evaporated in a single day; the other
stayed, with ever growing power, to bless whole weeks and months.
And hence it was, whether owing to the truth or ignorance of his attitude,
that a sense of bleak loneliness spread through all his life, and more
and more he turned from men to Nature.
Moreover, foolish as it must sound, I was sometimes aware that deep
down in him hid some nameless, indefinable quality that proclaimed him
fitted to live in conditions that had never known the restraints of modern
convention...very different thing to doing without them once known. A kind
of childlike, transcendental innocence he certainly possessed, naïf,
most engaging, and - utterly impossible. It showed itself indirectly, I
think, in this distress under modern conditions. The multifarious apparatus
of the spirit of To-day oppressed him; its rush and luxury and artificiality
harassed him beyond belief. The terror of cities ran in his very blood.
When I describe him as something of an outcast, therefore, it will be
seen that he was such both voluntarily and involuntarily.
"What the world has gained by brains is simply nothing to what it has
lost by them..."
"A dream, my dear fellow, a mere dream," I stopped him, yet with sympathy
because I knew he found relief this way. "Your constructive imagination
is too active."
"By Gad," he replied warmly, "but there is a place somewhere, or a state
of mind - the same thing - where it's more than a dream. And, what's more,
bless your stodgy old heart, some day I'll get there."
"Not in England, at any rate," I suggested.
He stared at me a moment, his eyes suddenly charged with dreams. Then,
characteristically, he snorted. He flung his hand out with a gesture that
should push the present further from him.
"I've always liked the Eastern theory - old theory anyhow if not Eastern
- that intense yearnings end by creating a place where they are fulfilled..."
"Of course; objectively means incompletely. I mean a Heaven built up
by desire and intense longing all your life. Your own thought makes it.
Living idea, that!"
"Another dream, Terence O'Malley," I laughed, "but beautiful and seductive."
To argue bored him. He loved to state his matter, fill it with detail,
blow the heated breath of life into it, and then leave it. Argument belittled
without clarifying; criticism destroyed, sealing up the sources of life.
Any fool could argue; the small, denying minds were always critics.
"A dream, but a damned foine one, let me tell you," he exclaimed, recovering
his brogue in his enthusiasm. He glared at me a second, then burst out
laughing. "'Tis better to have dhreamed and waked," he added, "than never
to have dhreamed at all."
And then he poured out O'Shaughnessy's passionate ode to the Dreamers
of the world: We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams; World-losers
and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams; Yet we are the movers
and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems. With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities, And out of a fabulous story We fashion
an empire's glory; One man with a dream, at pleasure, Shall go forth and
conquer a crown; And three with a new song's measure Can trample an empire
down. We, in the ages lying In the buried past of the earth, Built Nineveh
with our sighing, And Babel itself with our mirth; And o'erthrew them with
prophesying To the old of the new world's worth; For each age is a dream
that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.
For this passion for some simple old-world innocence and beauty lay
in his soul like a lust - self-feeding and voracious.
"Lonely! Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the
March had passed shouting away, and April was whispering deliciously among
her scented showers when O'Malley went on board the coasting steamer at
Marseilles for the Levant and the Black Sea. The mistral made the land
unbearable, but herds of white horses ran galloping over the bay beneath
a sky of childhood's blue. The ship started punctually - he came on board
as usual with a bare minute's margin - and from his rapid survey of the
thronged upper deck, it seems, he singled out on the instant this man and
boy, wondering first vaguely at their uncommon air of bulk, secondly at
the absence of detail which should confirm it. They appeared so much bigger
than they actually were. The laughter rising in his heart, however, did
not get as far as his lips.
For this appearance of massive bulk, and of shoulders comely yet almost
humped, was not borne out by a direct inspection. It was a mental impression.
The man, though broad and well- proportioned, with heavy back and neck
and uncommonly sturdy torso, was in no sense monstrous. It was upon the
corner of the eye that the bulk and hugeness dawned, a false report that
melted under direct vision. O'Malley took him in with attention merging
in respect, searching in vain for the detail of back and limbs and neck
that suggested so curiously the sense of the gigantic. The boy beside him,
obviously son, possessed the same elusive attributes - felt yet never positively
Passing down to his cabin, wondering vaguely to what nationality they
might belong, he was immediately behind them, elbowing French and German
tourists, when the father abruptly turned and faced him. Their gaze met.
"Whew...!" ran some silent expression like fire through his brain.
Out of a massive visage, placid for all its ruggedness, shone eyes large
and timid as those of an animal or child bewildered among so many people.
There was an expression in them not so much cowed or dismayed as "un-refuged"
- the eyes of the hunted creature. That, at least, was the first thing
they betrayed; for the same second the quick-blooded Celt caught another
look: the look of a hunted creature that at last knows shelter and has
found it. The first expression had emerged, then withdrawn again swiftly
like an animal into its hole where safety lay. Before disappearing, it
had flashed a wireless message of warning, of welcome, of explanation -
he knew not what term to use - to another of its own kind, to himself.
O'Malley, utterly arrested, stood and stared. He would have spoken,
for the invitation seemed obvious enough, but there came an odd catch in
his breath, and words failed altogether. The boy, peering at him sideways,
clung to his great parent's side. For perhaps ten seconds there was this
interchange of staring, intimate staring, between the three of them...and
then the Irishman, confused, more than a little agitated, ended the silent
introduction with an imperceptible bow and passed on slowly, knocking absent-mindedly
through the crowd, down to his cabin on the lower deck.
In his heart, deep down, stirred an indescribable sympathy with something
he divined in these two that was akin to himself, but that as yet he could
not name. On the surface he felt an emotion he knew not whether to call
uneasiness or surprise, but crowding past it, half smothering it, rose
this other more profound emotion. Something enormously winning in the atmosphere
of father and son called to him in the silence: it was significant, oddly
buried; not yet had it emerged enough to be confessed and labelled. But
each had recognized it in the other. Each knew. Each waited. And it was
Before unpacking, he sat for a long time on his berth, thinking...trying
in vain to catch through a thunder of surprising emotions the word that
might bring explanation. That strange impression of giant bulk, unsupported
by actual measurements; that look of startled security seeking shelter;
that other look of being sure, of knowing where to go and being actually
en route, - all these, he felt, grew from the same hidden cause whereof
they were symptoms. It was this hidden thing in the man that had reached
out invisibly and fired his own consciousness as their gaze met in that
brief instant. And it had disturbed him so profoundly because the very
same lost thing lay buried in himself. The man knew, whereas he anticipated
merely - as yet. What was it? Why came there with it both happiness and
The word that kept chasing itself in a circle like a kitten after its
own tail, yet bringing no explanation, was Loneliness...loneliness that
must be whispered. For it was loneliness on the verge of finding relief.
And if proclaimed too loud, there might come those who would interfere
and prevent relief. The man, and the boy too for that matter, were escaping.
They had found the way back, were ready and eager, moreover, to show it
to other prisoners.
And this was as near as O'Malley could come to explanation. He began
to understand dimly - and with an extraordinary excitement of happiness.
"Well - and the bigness?" I asked, seizing on a practical point after
listening to his dreaming, "what do you make of that? It must have had
some definite cause surely?"
He turned and fixed his light blue eyes on mine as we paced beside the
Serpentine that summer afternoon when I first heard the story told. He
was half grave, half laughing.
"The size, the bulk, the bigness," he replied, "must have been in reality
the expression of some mental quality that reached me psychically, producing
its effect directly on my mind and not upon the eyes at all." In telling
the story he used a simile omitted in the writing of it, because his sense
of humour perceived that no possible turn of phrase could save it from
grotesqueness when actually it was far from grotesque - extraordinarily
pathetic rather: "As though," he said, "the great back and shoulders carried
beneath the loose black cape - humps, projections at least; but projections
not ugly in themselves, comely even in some perfectly natural way, that
lent to his person this idea of giant size. His body, though large, was
normal so far as its proportions were concerned. In his spirit, though,
there hid another shape. An aspect of that other shape somehow reached
Then, seeing that I found nothing at the moment to reply, he added:
"As an angry man you may picture to yourself as red, or a jealous man
as green!" He laughed aloud. "D'ye see, now? It was not really a physical
business at all!"
"We think with only a small part of the past, but it is with
our entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire,
will, and act."
The balance of his fellow-passengers were not distinguished. There was
a company of French tourists gong to Naples, and another lot of Germans
bound for Athens, some business folk for Smyrna and Constantinople, and
a sprinkling of Russians going home via Odessa, Batoum, or Novorossisk.
- Henri Bergson
In his own state-room, occupying the upper berth, was a little round-bodied,
red-faced Canadian drummer, "travelling" in harvest-machines. The name
of the machine, its price, and the terms of purchase were his universe;
he knew them in several languages; beyond them, nothing. He was good-natured,
conceding anything to save trouble. "D'ye mind the light for a bit while
I read in bed?" asked O'Malley. "Don't mind anything much," was the cheery
reply. "I'm not particular; I'm easy-going and you needn't bother." He
turned over to sleep. "Old traveller," he added, his voice muffled by sheets
and blankets, "and take things as they come." And the only objection O'Malley
found in him was that he took things as they came to the point of not taking
baths at all, and not even taking all his garments off when he went to
The Captain, whom he knew from previous voyages, a genial, rough-voiced
sailor from Sassnitz, chided him for so nearly missing the boat - "as usual."
"You're too late for a seat at my taple," he said with his laughing
growl; "it's a pidy. You should have led me know py telegram, and I then
kepd your place. Now you find room at the doctor's taple howefer berhaps...!"
"Steamer's very crowded this time," O'Malley replied, shrugging his
shoulders; "but you'll let me come up sometimes for a smoke with you on
"Of course, of course."
"Anybody interesting on board?" he asked after a moment's pause.
The jolly Captain laughed. "'Pout the zame as usual, you know. Nothing
to stop ze ship! Ask ze doctor; he knows zooner than me. But, anyway, the
nice ones, they get zeazick always and dizappear. Going Trebizond this
time?" he added.
"Caucasus generally - up in the mountains a bit."
"God blenty veapons then, I hope. They shoot you for two pfennig up
there!" And he was off with his hearty deep laugh and rather ponderous
briskness towards the bridge.
Thus O'Malley found himself placed for meals at the right hand of Dr.
Stahl; opposite him, on the doctor's left, a talkative Moscow fur-merchant
who, having come to definite conclusions of his own about things in general,
was persuaded the rest of the world must share them, and who delivered
verbose commonplaces with a kind of pontifical utterance sometimes amusing,
but usually boring; on his right a gentle- eyed, brown-bearded Armenian
priest from the Venice monastery that had sheltered Byron, a man who ate
everything except soup with his knife, yet with a daintiness that made
one marvel, and with hands so graceful they might almost have replaced
the knife without off offence. Beyond the priest sat the rotund Canadian
drummer. He kept silence, watched the dishes carefully lest anything should
escape him, and - ate. Lower down on the opposite side, one or two nondescripts
between, sat the big, blond, bearded stranger with his son. Diagonally
across from himself and the doctor, they were in full view.
O'Malley talked to all and sundry whom his voice could reach, being
easily forthcoming to people whom he was not likely to see again. But he
was particularly pleased to find himself next to the ship's doctor, Dr.
Heinrich Stahl, for the man both attracted and antagonized him, and they
had crossed swords pleasantly on more voyages than one. There was a fundamental
contradiction in his character due - O'Malley divined - to the fact that
his experiences did not tally as he wished them to do with his beliefs,
or vice versa. Affecting to believe in nothing, he occasionally dropped
remarks that betrayed a belief in all kinds of things, unorthodox things.
Then, having led the Irishman into confessions of his own fairy faith,
he would abruptly rule the whole subject out of order with some cynical
phrase that closed discussion. In this sarcastic attitude O'Malley detected
a pose assumed for his own protection. "No man of sense can possibly accept
such a thing; it is incredible and foolish." Yet, the biting way he said
the words betrayed him; the very thing his reason rejected, his soul believed....
These vivid impressions the Irishman had of people, one wonders how
accurate they were! In this case, perhaps, he was not far from the truth.
That a man with Dr. Stahl's knowledge and ability could be content to hide
his light under the bushel of a mere Schiffsarzt required explanation.
His own explanation was that he wanted leisure for thinking and writing.
Bald- headed, slovenly, prematurely old, his beard stained with tobacco
and snuff, under-sized, scientific in the imaginative sense that made him
speculative beyond mere formulæ, his was an individuality that inspired
a respect one could never quite account for. He had keen dark eyes that
twinkled, sometimes mockingly, sometimes, if the word may be allowed, bitterly,
yet often too with a good-humoured amusement which sympathy with human
weaknesses could alone have caused. A warm heart he certainly had, as more
than one forlorn passenger could testify.
Conversation at their table was slow at first. It began at the lower
end where the French tourists chattered briskly over the soup, then crept
upwards like a slow fire o'erleaping various individuals who would not
catch. For instance, it passed the harvest-machine man; it passed the nondescripts;
it also passed the big light-haired stranger and his son.
At the table behind, there was a steady roar and buzz of voices; the
Captain was easy and genial, prophesying to the ladies on either side of
him a calm voyage. In the shelter of his big voice even the shy found it
easy to make remarks to their neighbours. Listening to fragments of the
talk O'Malley found that his own eyes kept wandering down the table - diagonally
across - to the two strangers. Once or twice he intercepted the doctor's
glance travelling in the same direction, and on these occasions it was
on the tip of his tongue to make a remark about them, or to ask a question.
Yet the words did not come. Dr. Stahl, he felt, knew a similar hesitation.
Each, wanting to speak, yet kept silence, waiting for the other to break
"This mistral is tiresome," observed the doctor, as the tide of talk
flowed up to his end and made a remark necessary. "It tries the nerves
of some." He glanced at O'Malley, but it was the fur-merchant who replied,
spreading a be-ringed hand over his plate to feel the warmth.
"I know it well," he said pompously in a tone of finality; "it lasts
three, six, or nine days. But once across the Golfe de Lyons we shall be
free of it."
"You think so? Ah, I am glad," ventured the priest with a timid smile
while he adroitly balanced meat and bullet-like green peas upon his knife-blade.
Tone, smile, and gesture were so gentle that the use of steel in any form
The voice of the fur-merchant came in domineeringly.
"Of course. I have made this trip so often, I know. St. Petersburg to
Paris, a few weeks on the Riviera, then back by Constantinople and the
Crimea. It is nothing. I remember last year..." He pushed a large pearl
pin more deeply into his speckled tie and began a story that proved chiefly
how luxuriously he travelled. His eyes tried to draw the whole end of the
table into his circle, but while the Armenian listened politely, with smiles
and bows, Dr. Stahl turned to the Irishman again. It was the year of Halley's
comet and he began talking interestingly about it.
"...Three o'clock in the morning - any morning, yes - is the best time,"
the doctor concluded, "and I'll have you called. You must see it through
my telescope. End of this week, say, after we leave Catania and turn eastward...."
And at this instant, following a roar of laughter from the Captain's
table, came one of those abrupt pauses that sometimes catch an entire room
at once. All voices hushed. Even the merchant, setting down his champagne
glass, fell silent. One heard only the beating of the steamer's screw,
the rush of water below the port-holes, the soft scuffle of the stewards'
feet. The conclusion of the doctor's inconsiderable sentence was sharply
audible all over the room -
"...crossing the Ionian Sea towards the Isles of Greece."
It rang across the pause, and at the same moment O'Malley caught the
eyes of the big stranger lifted suddenly and fixed upon the speaker's face
as though the words had summoned him.
They shifted the same instant to his own, then dropped again to his
plate. Again the clatter of conversation drowned the room as before; the
merchant resumed his self-description in terms of gold; the doctor discussed
the gases of the comet's tail. But the swift-blooded Irishman felt himself
caught away strangely and suddenly into another world. Out of the abyss
of the subconscious there rose a gesture prophetic and immense. The trivial
phrase and that intercepted look opened a great door of wonder in his heart.
In a second he grew "absent- minded." Or, rather, something touched a button
and the whole machinery of his personality shifted round noiselessly and
instantaneously, presenting an immediate new facet to the world. His normal,
puny self-consciousness slipped a moment into the majestic calm of some
far larger state that the stranger also knew. The Universe lies in every
human heart, and he plunged into that archetypal world that stands so close
behind all sensible appearances. He could neither explain nor attempt to
explain, but he sailed away into some giant swimming mood of beauty wherein
steamer, passengers, talk, faded utterly, the stranger and his son remaining
alone real and vital. He had seen; he could never forget. Chance prepared
the setting, but immense powers had rushed in and availed themselves of
it. Something deeply buried had flamed from the stranger's eyes and beckoned
to him. The fire ran from the big man to himself and was gone.
"The Isles of Greece..." The words were simple enough, yet it seemed
to O'Malley that the look they summoned to the stranger's eyes ensouled
them, transfiguring them with the significance of vital clues. They touched
the fringe of a mystery, magnificent and remote - some transcendent psychical
drama in the 'life of this man whose "bigness" and whose "loneliness that
must be whispered" were also in their way other vital clues. Moreover,
remembering his first sight of these two upon the upper deck a few hours
before, he understood that his own spirit, by virtue of its peculiar and
primitive yearnings, was involved in the same mystery and included in the
same hidden passion.
The little incident illustrates admirably O'Malley's idiosyncrasy of
"seeing whole." In a lightning flash his inner sense had associated the
words and the glance, divining that the one had caused the other. That
pause provided the opportunity....If Imagination, then it was creative
imagination; if true, it was assuredly spiritual insight of a rare quality.
He became aware that the twinkling eyes of his neighbour were observing
him keenly. For some moments evidently he had been absent-mindedly staring
down the table. He turned quickly and looked at the doctor with frankness.
This time it was impossible to avoid speech of some kind.
"Following those lights that do mislead the morn?" asked Dr. Stahl slyly.
"Your thoughts have been travelling. You've heard none of my last remarks!"
Under the clamour of the merchant's voice O'Malley replied in a lowered
"I was watching those two half-way down the table opposite. They interest
you as well, I see." It was not a challenge exactly; if the tone was aggressive,
it was merely that he felt the subject was one on which they would differ,
and he scented an approaching discussion. The doctor's reply, indicating
agreement, surprised him a good deal.
"They do; they interest me greatly." There was no trace of fight in
the voice. "That should cause you no surprise."
"Me - they simply fascinate," said O'Malley, always easily drawn. "What
is it? What do you see about them that is unusual? Do you, too, see them
'big'?" The doctor did not answer at once, and O'Malley added, "The father's
a tremendous fellow, but it's not that..."
"Partly, though," said the other, "partly, I think."
"What else, then?" The fur-merchant, still talking, prevented their
being overheard. "What is it marks them off so from the rest?"
"Of all people you should see," smiled the doctor quietly. "If a man
of your imagination sees nothing, what shall a poor exact mind like myself
see?" He eyed him keenly a moment. "You really mean that you detect nothing?"
"A certain distinction, yes; a certain aloofness from others. Isolated,
they seem in a way; rather a splendid isolation I should call it..."
And then he stopped abruptly. It was most curious, but he was aware
that unwittingly in this way he had stumbled upon the truth, aware at the
same time that he resented discussing it with his companion - because it
meant at the same time discussing himself or something in himself he wished
to hide. His entire mood shifted again with completeness and rapidity.
He could not help it. It seemed suddenly as though he had been telling
the doctor secrets about himself, secrets moreover he would not treat sympathetically.
The doctor had been "at him," so to speak, searching the depths of him
with a probing acuteness the casual language had disguised.
"What are they, do you suppose: Finns, Russians, Norwegians, or what?"
the doctor asked. And the other replied briefly that he guessed they might
be Russians perhaps, South Russians. His tone was different. He wished
to avoid further discussion. At the first opportunity he neatly changed
It was curious, the way proof came to him. Something in himself, wild
as the desert, something to do with that love of primitive life he discussed
only with the few who were intimately sympathetic towards it, this something
in his soul was so akin to a similar passion in these strangers that to
talk of it was to betray himself as well as them.
Further, he resented Dr. Stahl's interest in them, because he felt it
was critical and scientific. Not far behind hid the analysis that would
lay them bare, leading to their destruction. A profound instinctive sense
of self-preservation had been stirred within him.
Already, mysteriously guided by secret affinities, he had ranged himself
on the side of the strangers.
"Mythology contains the history of the archetypal world. It
comprehends Past, Present, and Future."
In this way there came between these two the slight barrier of a forbidden
subject that grew because neither destroyed it. O'Malley had erected it;
Dr. Stahl respected it. Neither referred again for a time to the big Russian
and his son.
- Novalis, Flower Pollen. Translated by U.C.B.
In his written account O'Malley, who was certainly no constructive literary
craftsman, left out apparently countless little confirmatory details. By
word of mouth he made me feel at once that this mystery existed, however;
and to weld the two together is a difficult task. There nevertheless was
this something about the Russian and his boy that excited deep curiosity,
accompanied by an aversion on the part of the other passengers that isolated
them; also, there was this competition on the part of the two friends to
solve it, from opposing motives.
Had either of the strangers fallen seasick, the advantage would have
been easily with Dr. Stahl - professionally; but since they remained well,
and the doctor was in constant demand by the other passengers, it was the
Irishman who won the first move and came to close quarters by making a
personal acquaintance. His strong desire helped matters of course; for
he noticed with indignation that these two, quiet and inoffensive as they
were and with no salient cause of offence, were yet rejected by the main
body of passengers. They seemed to possess a quality that somehow insulated
them from approach, sending them effectually "to Coventry," and in a small
steamer where the travellers settle down into a kind of big family life,
this isolation was unpleasantly noticeable.
It stood out in numerous little details that only a keen observer closely
watching could have taken into account. Small advances, travellers' courtesies,
and the like that ordinarily should have led to conversation, in their
case led to nothing. The other passengers invariably moved away after a
few moments, politely excusing themselves, as it were, from further intercourse.
And although at first the sight of this stirred in him an instinct of revolt
that was almost anger, he soon felt that the couple not merely failed to
invite, but even emanated some definite atmosphere that repelled. And each
time he witnessed these little scenes, there grew more strongly in him
the original picture he had formed of them as beings rejected and alone,
hunted by humanity as a whole, seeking escape from loneliness into a place
of refuge that they knew of, definitely at last en route.
Only an imaginative mind, thus concentrated upon them, could have divined
all this; yet to O'Malley it seemed plain as the day. With the certitude,
moreover, came the feeling, ever stronger, that the refuge they sought
would prove to be also the refuge he himself sought, the difference being
that whereas they knew, he still hesitated.
Yet, in spite of this secret sympathy, imagined or discovered, he found
it no easy matter to approach the big man for speech. For a day and a half
he merely watched; attraction so strong excited caution; he paused, waiting.
His attention, however, was so keen that he seemed always to know where
they were and what they were doing. By instinct he was aware in what part
of the ship they would be found - for the most part leaning over the rail
alone in the bows, staring down at the churned water together by the screws,
pacing the after-deck in the dusk or early morning when no one was about,
or hidden away in some corner of the upper deck, side by side, gazing at
sea and sky. Their method of walking, too, made it easy to single them
out from the res...free, swaying movement of the limbs, a swing of the
shoulders, a gait that was lumbering, almost clumsy, half defiant, yet
at the same time graceful, and curiously rapid. The body moved along swiftly
for all its air of blunderin...motion which was a counterpart of that elusive
appearance of great bulk, and equally difficult of exact determination.
An air went with them of being ridiculously confined by the narrow little
Thus it was that Genoa had been made and the ship was already half way
on to Naples before the opportunity for closer acquaintance presented itself.
Rather, O'Malley, unable longer to resist, forced it. It seemed, too, inevitable
Rain had followed the mistral and the sea was rough. A rich land-taste
came about the ship like the smell of wet oaks when wind sweeps their leaves
after a sousing shower. In the hour before dinner, the decks slippery with
moisture, only one or two wrapped-up passengers in deck-chairs below the
awning, O'Malley, following a sure inner lead, came out of the stuffy smoking-room
into the air. It was already dark and the drive of mist-like rain somewhat
obscured his vision after the glare. Only for a moment though - for almost
the first thing he saw was the Russian and his boy moving in front of him
towards the aft compasses. Like a single figure, huge and shadowy, they
passed into the darkness beyond with a speed that seemed as usual out of
proportion to their actual stride. They lumbered rapidly away. O'Malley
caught that final swing of the man's great shoulders as they disappeared,
and, leaving the covered deck, he made straight after them. And though
neither gave any sign that they had seen him, he felt that they were aware
of his coming - and even invited him.
As he drew close a roll of the vessel brought them almost into each
other's arms, and the boy, half hidden beneath his parent's flowing cloak,
looked up at once and smiled. The saloon light fell dimly upon his face.
The Irishman saw that friendly smile of welcome, and lurched forward with
the roll of the deck. They brought up against the bulwarks, and the big
man put out an arm to steady him. They all three laughed together. At close
quarters, as usual again, the impression of bulk had disappeared.
And then, at first, utterly unlike real life, they said - nothing. The
boy moved round and stood close to his side so that he found himself placed
between them, all three leaning forward over the rails watching the phosphorescence
of the foam-streaked Mediterranean.
Dusk lay over the sea; the shores of Italy not near enough to be visible;
the mist, the hour, the loneliness of the deserted decks, and something
else that was nameless, shut them in, these three, in a little world of
their own. A sentence or two rose in O'Malley's mind, but without finding
utterance, for he felt that no spoken words were necessary. He was accepted
without more ado. A deep natural sympathy existed between them, recognized
intuitively from that moment of first mutual inspection at Marseilles.
It was instinctive, almost as with animals. The action of the boy in coming
round to his side, unhindered by the father, was the symbol of utter confidence
There came, then, one of those splendid and significant moments that
occasionally, for some, burst into life, flooding all barriers, breaking
down as with a flaming light the thousand erections of shadow that close
one in. Something imprisoned in himself swept outwards, rising like a wave,
bringing an expansion of life that "explained." It vanished, of course,
instantly again, but not before he had caught a flying remnant that lit
the broken puzzles of his heart and left things clearer. Before thought,
and therefore words, could overtake, it was gone; but there remained at
least this glimpse. The fire had flashed a light down subterranean passages
of his being and made visible for a passing second some clue to his buried
primitive yearnings. He partly understood.
Standing there between these two this thing came over him with a degree
of intelligibility scarcely captured by his words. The man's qualities
- his quietness, peace, slowness, silence - betrayed somehow that his inner
life dwelt in a region vast and simple, shaping even his exterior presentment
with its own huge characteristics, a region wherein the distress of the
modern world's vulgar, futile strife could not exist - more, could never
have existed. The Irishman, who had never realized exactly why the life
of To-day to him was dreadful, now understood it in the presence of this
simple being with his atmosphere of stately power. He was like a child,
but a child of some pre-existence utterly primitive and utterly forgotten;
of no particular age, but of some state that ante-dates all ages; simple
in some noble, concentrated sense that was prodigious, almost terrific.
To stand thus beside him was to stand beside a mighty silent fire, steadily
glowing, a fire that fed all lesser flames, because itself close to the
central source of fire. He felt warmed, lighted, vivified - made whole.
The presence of this stranger took him at a single gulp, as it were, straight
into Natur...Nature that was alive. The man was part of her. Never before
had he stood so close and intimate. Cities and civilization fled away like
transient dreams, ashamed. The sun and moon and stars moved up and touched
This word of lightning explanation, at least, came to him as he breathed
the other's atmosphere and presence. The region where this man's spirit
fed was at the centre, whereas to-day men were active with a scattered,
superficial cleverness, at the periphery. He even understood that his giant
gait and movements were small outer evidences of this inner fact, wholly
in keeping. That blundering stupidity, half glorious, half pathetic, with
which he moved among his fellows was a physical expression of this psychic
fact that his spirit had never learned the skilful tricks taught by civilization
to lesser men. It was, in a way, awe-inspiring, for he was now at last
driving back full speed for his own region and - escape.
O'Malley knew himself caught, swept off his feet, momentarily driving
The singular deep satisfaction of it, standing there with these two
in the first moment, he describes as an entirely new sensation in his life
- an awareness that he was "complete." The boy touched his side and he
let an arm steal round to shelter him. The huge, bearded parent rose in
his massiveness against his other shoulder, hemming him in. For a second
he knew a swift and curious alarm, passing however almost at once into
the thrill of a rare happiness. In that moment, it was not the passengers
or the temper of To-day who rejected them; it was they who rejected the
world: because they knew another and superior one - more, they were in
Then, without turning, the big man spoke, the words in heavy accented
English coming out laboriously and with slow, exceeding difficulty as though
utterance was a supreme effort.
"You...come...with...us?" It was like stammering almost. Still more
was it like essential inarticulateness struggling into an utterance foreign
to it - unsuited. The voice was a deep and windy bass, merging with the
noise of the sea below.
"I'm going to the Caucasus," O'Malley replied; "up into the old, old
mountains, to - see things - to look about - to search..." He really wanted
to say much more, but the words lay dead or beyond reach.
The big man nodded slowly. The boy listened.
"And yourself...?" asked the Irishman, hardly knowing why he faltered
The other smiled; a beauty that was beyond all language passed with
that smile across the great face in the dusk.
"Some of us...of our...." he spoke very slowly, very brokenly, quarrying
out the words with real labour, "...still survive...out there....We...now
go back. So very...few...remain....And you - come with u...."
"In the spiritual Nature-Kingdom, man must everywhere seek
his peculiar territory and climate, his best occupation, his particular
neighbourhood, in order to cultivate a Paradise in idea; this is the right
system....Paradise is scattered over the whole earth, and that is why it
has become so unrecognizable."
"Look here, old man," he said to me, "I'll just tell you what it was, because
I know you won't laugh."
- Novalis. Translated by U. C. B.
"Man began in instinct and will end in instinct. Instinct is genius in
Paradise, before the period of self-abstraction (self-knowledge)."
We were lying under the big trees behind the Round Pond when he reached
this point, and his direct speech was so much more graphic than the written
account that I use it. He was in one of his rare moments of confidence,
excited, hat off, his shabby tie escaping from the shabbier grey waistcoat.
One sock lay untidily over his boot, showing bare leg.
Children's voices floated to us from the water-side as though from very
far away; the nursemaids and perambulators seemed tinged with unreality,
the London towers were clouds, its roar the roar of waves. I saw only the
ship's deck, the grey and misty sea, the uncouth figures of the two who
leaned with him over the bulwarks.
"Go on," I said encouragingly; "out with it!"
"It must seem incredible to most men, but, by Gad, I swear to you, it
lifted me off my feet, and I've never known anything like it. The mind
of that great fellow got hold of me, included me. He made the inanimate
world - sea, stars, wind, woods, and mountains - seem all alive. The entire
blessed universe was conscious - and he came straight out of it to get
me. I understood things about myself I've never understood before - and
always funked rather; - especially that feeling of being out of touch with
my kind, of finding no one in the world to-day who speaks my language quite
- that, and the utter, God-forsaken loneliness it makes me suffer..."
"You always have been a lonely beggar really," I said, noting the hesitation
that thus on the very threshold checked his enthusiasm, quenching the fire
in those light-blue eyes. "Tell me. I shall understand right enough - or
"God bless you," he answered, leaping to the sympathy, "I believe you
will. There's always been this primitive, savage thing in me that keeps
others away - puts them off, and so on. I've tried to smother it a bit
"Have you?" I laughed.
"'Tried to,' I said, because I've always been afraid of its getting
out too much and bustin' my life all to pieces: - something lonely and
untamed and sort of outcast from cities and money and all the thick suffocating
civilization of to-day; and I've only saved myself by getting off into
wildernesses and free places where I could give it a breathin' chance without
running the risk of being locked up as a crazy man." He laughed as he said
it, but his heart was in the words. "You know all that; haven't I told
you often enough? It's not a morbid egoism, or what their precious academic
books so stupidly call 'degenerate,' for in me it's damned vital and terrific,
and moves always to action. It's made me an alien and - and..."
"Something far stronger than the Call of the Wild, isn't it?"
He fairly snorted. "Sure as we're both alive here sittin' on this sooty
London grass," he cried. "This Call of the Wild they prate about is just
the call a fellow hears to go on 'the bust' when he's had too much town
and's got bore...call to a little bit of licence and excess to safety-valve
him down. What I feel," his voice turned grave and quiet again, "is quite
a different affair. It's the call of real hunger - the call of food. They
want to let off steam, but I want to take in stuff to prevent - starvation."
He whispered the word, putting his lips close to my face.
A pause fell between us, which I was the first to break.
"This is not your century! That's what you really mean," I suggested
"Not my century!" he caught me up, flinging handfuls of faded grass
in the air between us and watching it fall; "why, it's not even my world!
And I loathe, loathe the spirit of to-day with its cheap-jack inventions,
and smother of sham universal culture, its murderous superfluities and
sordid vulgarity, without enough real sense of beauty left to see that
a daisy is nearer heaven than an airship..."
"Especially when the airship falls," I laughed. "Steady, steady, old
boy; don't spoil your righteous case by overstatement."
"Well, well, you know what I mean," he laughed with me, though his face
at once turned earnest again, "and all that, and all that, and all that....And
so this savagery that has burned in me all these years unexplained, these
Russian strangers made clear. I can't tell you how because I don't know
myself. The father did it - his proximity, his silence stuffed with sympathy,
his great vital personality unclipped by contact with these little folk
who left him alone. His presence alone made me long for the earth and Nature.
He seemed a living part of it all. He was magnificent and enormous, but
the devil take me if I know how."
"He said nothing - that referred to it directly?"
"Nothing but what I've told you, - blundering awkwardly with those few
modern words. But he had it in him a thousand to my one. He made me feel
I was right and natural, untrue to myself to suppress it and a coward to
fear it. The speech-centre in the brain, you know, is anyhow a comparatively
recent thing in evolution. They say that..."
"It wasn't his century either," I checked him again.
"No, and he didn't pretend it was, as I've tried to," he cried, sitting
bolt upright beside me. "The fellow was genuine, never dreamed of compromise.
D'ye see what I mean? Only somehow he'd found out where his world and century
were, and was off to take possession. And that's what caught me. I felt
it by some instinct in me stronger than all else; only we couldn't talk
about it definitely because - becaus...hardly know how to put it - for
the same reason," he added suddenly, "that I can't talk about it to you
now! There are no words....What we both sought was a state that passed
away before words came into use, and is therefore beyond intelligible description.
No one spoke to them on the ship for the same reason, I felt sure, that
no one spoke to them in the whole world - because no one could manage even
the alphabet of their language.
"And this was so strange and beautiful," he went on, "that standing
there beside him, in his splendid atmosphere, the currents of wind and
sea reached me through him first, filtered by his spirit so that I assimilated
them and they fed me, because he somehow stood in such close and direct
relation to Nature. I slipped into my own region, made happy and alive,
knowing at last what I wanted, though still unable to phrase it. This modern
world I've so long tried to adjust myself to became a thing of pale remembrance
and a dream...."
"All in your mind and imagination, of course, this," I ventured, seeing
that his poetry was luring him beyond where I could follow.
"Of course," he answered without impatience, grown suddenly thoughtful,
less excited again, "and that's why it was true. No chance of clumsy senses
deceiving one. It was direct vision. What is Reality, in the last resort,"
he asked, "but the thing a man's vision brings to him - to believe? There's
no other criterion. The criticism of opposite types of mind is merely a
confession of their own limitations."
Being myself of the "opposite type of mind," I naturally did not argue,
but suffered myself to accept his half-truth for the whole - temporarily.
I checked him from time to time merely lest he should go too fast for me
to follow what seemed a very wonderful tale of faery.
"So this wild thing in me the world to-day has beggared and denied,"
he went on, swept by his Celtic enthusiasm, "woke in its full strength.
Calling to me like some flying spirit in a storm, it claimed me. The man's
being summoned me back to the earth and Nature, as it were, automatically.
I understood that look on his face, that sign in his eyes. The 'Isles of
Greece' furnished some faint clue, but as yet I knew no more - only that
he and I were in the same region and that I meant to go with him and that
he accepted me with delight that was joy. It drew me as empty space draws
a giddy man to the precipice's edge. Thoughts from another's mind," he
added by way of explanation, turning round, "come far more completely to
me when I stand in a man's atmosphere, silent and receptive, than when
by speech he tries to place them there. Ah! And that helps me to get at
what I mean, perhaps. The man, you see, hardly thought; he felt."
"As an animal, you mean? Instinctively...?"
"In a sense, yes," he replied after a momentary hesitation. "Like some
very early, very primitive form of life."
"With the best will in the world, Terence, I don't quite follow you..."
"I don't quite follow myself," he cried, "because I'm trying to lead
and follow at the same time. You know that ide...came across it somewhere
- that in ancient peoples the senses were much less specialized than they
are now; that perception came to them in general, massive sensations rather
than divided up neatly into five channels: - that they felt all over so
to speak, and that all the senses, as in an overdose of haschish, become
one single sense? The centralizing of perception in the brain is a recent
thing, and it might equally well have occurred in any other nervous head-quarters
of the body, say, the solar plexus; or, perhaps, never have been localized
at all! In hysteria patients have been known to read with the finger-tips
and smell with the heel. Touch is still all over; it's only the other four
that have got fixed in definite organs. There are systems of thought to-day
that still would make the solar plexus the main centre, and not the brain.
The word 'brain,' you know, never once occurs in the ancient Scriptures
of the world. You will not find it in the Bible - the reins, the heart,
and so forth were what men felt with then. They felt all over - well,"
he concluded abruptly, "I think this fellow was like that. D'ye see now?"
I stared at him, greatly wondering. A nursemaid passed close, balancing
a child in a spring-perambulator, saying in a foolish voice, "Wupsey up,
wupsey down! Wupsey there!" O'Malley, in the full stream of his mood, waited
impatiently till she had gone by. Then, rolling over on his side, he came
closer, talking in a lowered tone. I think I never saw him so deeply stirred,
nor understood, perhaps, so little of the extreme passion working in him.
Yet it was incredible that he could have caught so much from mere interviews
with a semi-articulate stranger, unless what he said was strictly true,
and this Russian had positively touched latent fires in his soul by a kind
of sympathetic magic.
"You know," he went on almost under his breath, "every man who thinks
for himself and feels vividly finds he lives in a world of his own, apart,
and believes that one day he'll come across, either in a book or in a person,
the Priest who shall make it clear to him. Well - I'd found mine, that's
all. I can't prove it to you with a pair of scales or a butcher's meat-axe,
but it's true."
"And you mean his mere presence conveyed all this without speech almost?"
"Because there was no speech possible," he replied, dropping his voice
to a whisper and thrusting his face yet closer into mine. "We were solitary
survivors of a world whose language was either uncreated or" - he italicized
the word - "forgotten...."
"An elaborate and detailed thought-transference, then?"
"Why not?" he murmured. "It's one of the commonest facts of daily life."
"And you had never fully realized it before, this loneliness and its
possible explanation - that there might exist, I mean, a way of satisfying
it - till you met this stranger?"
He answered with deep earnestness. "Always, old man, always, but suffered
under it atrociously because I'd never understood it. I had been afraid
to face it. This man, a far bigger and less diluted example of it than
myself, made it all clear and right and natural. We belonged to the same
forgotten place and time. Under his lead and guidance I could find my own
I whistled a long soft whistle, looking up into the sky. Then, sitting
upright like himself, we stared hard at one another, straight in the eye.
He was too grave, too serious to trifle with. It would have been unfair
too. Besides, I loved to hear him. The way he reared such fabulous superstructures
upon slight incidents, interpreting thus his complex being to himself,
was uncommonly interesting. It was observing the creative imagination actually
at work, and the process in a sense seemed sacred. Only the truth and actuality
with which he clothed it all made me a little uncomfortable sometimes.
"I'll put it to you quite simply," he cried suddenly.
"Yes, and 'quite simply' it was...?"
"That he knew the awful spiritual loneliness of living in a world whose
tastes and interests were not his own, a world to which he was essentially
foreign, and at whose hands he suffered continual rebuff and rejection.
Advances from either side were mutually and necessarily repelled because
oil and water cannot mix. Rejected, moreover, not merely by a family, tribe,
or nation, but by a race and time - by the whole World of To-day; an outcast
and an alien, a desolate survival."
"An appalling picture!"
"I understood it," he went on, holding up both hands by way of emphasis,
"because in miniature I had suffered the same: he was a supreme case of
what lay so deeply in myself. He was a survival of other life the modern
mind has long since agreed to exile and deny. Humanity stared at him over
a barrier, never dreaming of asking him in. Even had it done so he could
not by the law of his being have accepted. Outcast myself in some small
way, I understood his terrible loneliness, a soul without a country, visible
and external country that is. A passion of tenderness and sympathy for
him, and so also for myself, awoke. I saw him as chieftain of all the lonely,
exiled souls of life."
Breathless a moment, he lay on his back staring at the summer clouds
- those thoughts of wind that change and pass before their meanings can
be quite seized. Similarly protean was the thought his phrases tried to
clothe. The terror, pathos, sadness of this big idea he strove to express
touched me deeply, yet never quite with the clarity of his own conviction.
"There are such souls, dépaysées and in exile," he said
suddenly again, turning over on the grass. "They do exist. They walk the
earth to-day here and there in the bodies of ordinary men...and their loneliness
is a loneliness that must be whispered."
"You formed any idea what kind of - of survival?" I asked gently, for
the notion grew in me that after all these two would prove to be mere revolutionaries
in escape, political refugees, or something quite ordinary.
O'Malley buried his face in his hands for a moment without replying.
Presently he looked up. I remember that a streak of London black ran from
the corner of his mouth across the cheek. He pushed the hair back from
his forehead, answering in a manner grown abruptly calm and dispassionate.
"Don't ye see what a foolish question that is," he said quietly, "and
how impossible to satisfy, inviting that leap of invention which can be
only an imaginative lie?...I can only tell you," and the breeze brought
to us the voices of children from the Round Pond where they sailed their
ships of equally wonderful adventure, "that my own longing became this:
to go with him, to know what he knew, to live where he lived - for ever."
"And the alarm you said you felt?"
"That," he added, "was a kind of mistake. To go involved, I felt, an
inner catastrophe that might be Death - that it would be out of the body,
I mean, or a going backwards. In reality, it was a going forwards and a
way to Life."
And it was just before the steamer made Naples that the jolly Captain unwittingly
helped matters forward a good deal. For it was his ambition to include
in the safe-conduct of his vessel the happy-conduct also of his passengers.
He liked to see them contented and of one accord, a big family, and he
noted - or had word brought to him perhaps - that there were one or two
whom the attitude of the majority left out in the cold.
It may have been - O'Malley wondered without actually asking - that
the man who shared the cabin with the strangers made some appeal for re-arrangement,
but in any case Captain Burgenfelder approached the Irishman that afternoon
on the bridge and asked if he would object to having them in his state-
room for the balance of the voyage.
"Your present gompanion geds off at Naples," he said. "Berhaps you would
not object. I think - they seem lonely. You are friendly with them. They
go alzo to Batoum?"
This proposal for close quarters gave him pause. He knew a moment or
two of grave hesitation, yet without time to analyze it. Then, driven by
a sudden decision of the heart that knew no revision of reason, he agreed.
"I had better, perhaps, suggest it to see if they are willing," he said
the next minute, hedging.
"I already ask him dat."
"Oh, you have! And he would like it - not object, I mean?" he added,
aware of a subtle sense of half-frightened pleasure.
"Pleased and flattered on the gontrary," was the reply, as he handed
him the glasses to look at Ischia rising blue from the sea.
O'Malley felt as though his decision was somehow an act of self-committal,
almost grave. It meant that impulsively he accepted a friendship which
concealed in its immense attraction - danger. He had taken the plunge.
The rush of it broke over him like a wave, setting free a tumult of
very deep emotion. He raised the glasses automatically to his eyes, but
looking through them he saw not Ischia nor the opening the Captain explained
the ship would make, heading that evening for Sicily. He saw quite another
picture that drew itself up out of himself - was thrown up, rather, somewhat
with violence, as upon a landscape of dream- scenery. The lens of passionate
yearning in himself, ever unsatisfied, focussed it against a background
far, far away, in some faint distance that was neither of space nor time,
and might equally have been past as future. Large figures he saw, shadowy
yet splendid, that ran free-moving as clouds over mighty hills, vital with
the abundant strong life of a younger world....Yet never quite saw them,
never quite overtook them, for their speed and the manner of their motion
bewildered the sight....
Moreover, though they evaded him in terms of physical definition he
knew a sense of curious, half-remembered familiarity. Some portion of his
hidden self, uncaught, unharnessed by anything in modern life, rose with
a passionate rush of joy and made after them - something in him untamed
as wind. His mind stood up, as it were, and shouted "I am coming." For
he saw himself not far behind, as a man, racing with great leaps to join
them...yet never overtaking, never drawing close enough to see quite clearly.
The roar of their tramping shook the very blood in his ears....
His decision to accept the strangers had set free in his being something
that thus for the first time in his life - escaped....Symbolically in his
mind this Escape had taken picture form....
The Captain's voice was asking for the glasses; with a wrench that caused
almost actual physical pain he tore himself away, letting this herd of
Flying Thoughts sink back into the shadows and disappear. With sharp regret
he saw them g...regret for long, long, far-off things....
Turning, he placed the field-glasses carefully in that fat open hand
stretched out to receive them, and noted as he did so the thick, pink fingers
that closed about the strap, the heavy ring of gold, the band of gilt about
the sleeve. That wrought gold, those fleshy fingers, the genial gutteral
voice saying "T'anks" were symbols of an existence tamed and artificial
that caged him in again....
Then he went below and found that the lazy "drummer" who talked harvest-machines
to puzzled peasants had landed, and in his place an assortment of indiscriminate
clothing belonging to the big Russian and his son lay scattered over the
upper berth and upon the sofa-bed beneath the port-hole.
"For my own part I find in some of these abnormal or supernormal
facts the strongest suggestions in favour of a superior consciousness being
possible. I doubt whether we shall ever understand some of them without
using the very letter of Fechner's conception of a great reservoir in which
the memories of earth's inhabitants are pooled and preserved, and from
which, when the threshold lowers or the valve opens, information ordinarily
shut out leaks into the mind of exceptional individuals among us."
And it was some hours later, while the ship made for the open sea, that
he told Dr. Stahl casually of the new arrangement and saw the change come
so suddenly across his face. Stahl stood back from the compass-box whereon
they leaned, and putting a hand upon his companion's shoulder, looked a
moment into his eyes. With surprise O'Malley noted that the pose of cynical
disbelief was gone; in its place was sympathy, interest, kindness. The
words he spoke came from his heart.
- William James, A Pluralistic Universe.
"Is that true?" he asked, as though the news disturbed him.
"Of course. Why not? Is there anything wrong?" He felt uneasy. The doctor's
manner confirmed the sense that he had done a rash thing. Instantly the
barrier between the two crumbled and he lost the first feeling of resentment
that his friends should be analyzed. The men thus came together in unhindered
"Only," said the doctor thoughtfully, half gravely, "tha...may have
done you a wrong, placed you, that is, in a position of..." he hesitated
an instant, - "of difficulty. It was I who suggested the change."
O'Malley stared at him.
"I don't understand you quite."
"It is this," continued the other, still holding him with his eyes.
He said it deliberately. "I have known you for some time, formed - er -
an opinion of your type of mind and bein...very rare and curious one, interesting
"I wasn't aware you'd had me under the microscope," O'Malley laughed,
"Though you felt it and resented it - justly, I may say - to the point
of sometimes avoiding me..."
"As doctor, scientist," put in O'Malley, while the other, ignoring the
interruption, continued in German: -
"I always had the secret hope, as 'doctor and scientist,' let us put
it then, that I might one day see you in circumstances that should bring
out certain latent characteristics I thought I divined in you. I wished
to observe you - your psychical being - under the stress of certain temptations,
favourable to these characteristics. Our brief voyages together, though
they have so kindly ripened our acquaintance into friendship" - he put
his hand again on the other's shoulder smiling, while O'Malley replied
with a little nod of agreement - "have, of course, never provided the opportunity
I refer to..."
"Until now!" the doctor added. "Until now."
Puzzled and interested the Irishman waited for him to go on, but the
man of science, who was now a ship's doctor, hesitated. He found it difficult,
apparently, to say what was in his thoughts.
"You refer, of course, though I hardly follow you quite - to our big
friends?" O'Malley helped him.
The adjective slipped out before he was aware of it. His companion's
expression admitted the accuracy of the remark. "You also see them - big,
then?" he said, quickly taking him up. He was not cross-questioning; out
of keen sympathetic interest he asked it.
"Sometimes, yes," the Irishman answered, more astonished. "Sometimes
"Exactly. Bigger than they really are; as though at times they gave
out - emanated - something that extended their appearance. Is that it?"
O'Malley, his confidence wholly won, more surprised, too, than he quite
understood, seized Stahl by the arm and drew him towards the rails. They
leaned over, watching the sea. A passenger, pacing the decks before dinner,
passed close behind them.
"But, doctor," he said in a hushed tone as soon as the steps had died
away, "you are saying things that I thought were half in my imagination
only, not true in the ordinary sense quite - your sense, I mean?"
For some moments the doctor made no reply. In his eyes a curious steady
gaze replaced the usual twinkle. When at length he spoke it was evidently
following a train of thought of his own, playing round a subject he seemed
half ashamed of and yet desired to state with direct language.
"A being akin to yourself," he said in low tones, "only developed, enormously
developed; a Master in your own peculiar region, and a man whose influence
acting upon you at close quarters could not fail to arouse the latent mind-storms"
- he chose the word hesitatingly, as though seeking for a better he could
not find on the moment, - "always brewing in you just below the horizon."
He turned and watched his companion's face keenly. O'Malley was too
impressed to feel annoyance.
"Well...?" he asked, feeling the adventure closing round him with quite
a new sense of reality. "Well?" he repeated louder. "Please go on. I'm
not offended, only uncommonly interested. You leave me in a fog, so far.
I think you owe me more than hints."
"I do," said the other simply. "About that man is a singular quality
too rare for language to have yet coined its precise description: something
that is essentially" - they had lapsed into German now, and he used the
German word - "unheimlich."
The Irishman started. He recognized this for truth. At the same time
the old resentment stirred a little in him, creeping into his reply.
"You have studied him closely then - had him, too, under the microscope?
In this short time?"
This time the answer did not surprise him, however.
"My friend," he heard, while the other turned from him and gazed out
over the misty sea, "I have not been a ship's doctor - always. I am one
now only because the leisure and quiet give me the opportunity to finish
certain work, recording work. For years I was in the H..." - he mentioned
the German equivalent for the Salpêtrière - "years of research
and investigation into the astonishing vagaries of the human mind and spirit
- with certain results, followed later privately, that it is now my work
to record. And among many cases that might well seem - er - beyond either
credence or explanation," - he hesitated again slightly - "I came across
one, one in a million, let us admit, that an entire section of my work
deals with under the generic term of Urmenschen."
"Primitive men," O'Malley snapped him up, translating. Through his growing
bewilderment ran also a growing uneasiness shot strangely with delight.
Intuitively he divined what was coming.
"Beings," the doctor corrected him, "not men. The prefix Ur-, moreover,
I use in a deeper sense than is usually attached to it as in Urwald, Urwelt,
and the like. An Urmensch in the world to- day must suggest a survival
of an almost incredible kin...kind, too, utterly inadmissible and inexplicable
to the materialist perhaps..."
"Paganistic?" interrupted the other sharply, joy and fright rising over
"Older, older by far," was the rejoinder, given with a curious hush
and a lowering of the voice.
The suggestion rushed into full possession of O'Malley's mind. There
rose in him something that claimed for his companions the sea, the wind,
the stars - tumultuous and terrific. But he said nothing. The conception,
blown into him thus for the first time at full strength, took all his life
into its keeping. No energy was left over for mere words. The doctor, he
was aware, was looking at him, the passion of discovery and belief in his
eyes. His manner kindled. It was the hidden Stahl emerging.
"...a type, let me put it," he went on in a voice whose very steadiness
thrilled his listener afresh, "that in its strongest development would
experience in the world to-day the loneliness of a complete and absolute
exile. A return to humanity, you see, of some unexpended power of mythological
The shudder passed through him and away almost as soon as it came. Again
the sea grew splendid, the thunder of the waves held voices calling, and
the foam framed shapes and faces, wildly seductive, though fugitive as
dreams. The words he had heard moved him profoundly. He remembered how
the presence of the stranger had turned the world alive.
He knew what was coming, too, and gave the lead direct, while yet half
afraid to ask the question.
"So my friend - this big 'Russian'...?"
"I have known before, yes, and carefully studied."
"Is it not just possible that there is a mode of being as much
transcending Intelligence and Will as these transcend mechanical motion?"
The two men left the rail and walked arm in arm along the deserted deck,
speaking in lowered voices.
- Herbert Spencer, First Principles.
"He came first to us, brought by the keeper of an obscure hotel where
he was staying, as a case of lapse of memory - loss of memory, I should
say, for it was complete. He was unable to say who he was, whence he came,
or to whom he belonged. Of his land or people we could learn nothing. His
antecedents were an utter blank. Speech he had practically none of his
own - nothing but the merest smattering of many tongues, a word here, a
word there. Utterance, indeed, of any kind was exceedingly difficult to
him. For years, evidently, he had wandered over the world, companionless
among men, seeking his own, finding no place where to lay his head. People,
it seemed, both men and women, kept him at arm's-length, feeling afraid;
the keeper of the little hotel was clearly terrified. This quality he had
that I mentioned just now, repelled human beings - even in the Hospital
it was noticeable - and placed him in the midst of humanity thus absolutely
alone. It is a quality more rare than" - hesitating, searching for a word
- "purity, one almost extinct to-day, one that I have never before or since
come across in any other being - hardly ever, that is to say," he qualified
the sentence, glancing significantly at his companion.
"And the boy?" O'Malley asked quickly, anxious to avoid any discussion
"There was no boy then. He has found him since. He may find others too
- possibly!" The Irishman drew his arm out, edging away imperceptibly.
That shiver of joy reached him from the air and sea, perhaps.
"And two years ago," continued Dr. Stahl, as if nothing had happened,
"he was discharged, harmless" - he lingered a moment on the word, "if not
cured. He was to report to us every six months. He has never done so."
"You think he remembers you?"
"No. It is quite clear that he has lapsed back completely again into
the - er - state whence he came to us, that unknown world where he passed
his youth with others of his kind, but of which he has been able to reveal
no single detail to us, nor we to trace the slightest clue."
They stopped beneath the covered portion of the deck, for the mist had
now turned to rain. They leaned against the smoking- room outer wall. In
O'Malley's mind the thoughts and feelings plunged and reared. Only with
difficulty did he control himself.
"And this man, you think," he asked with outward calmness, "is of -
of my kind?"
"'Akin,' I said. I suggest..." But O'Malley cut him short.
"So that you engineered our sharing a cabin with a view to putting him
again - putting us both - under the microscope?"
"My scientific interest was very strong," Dr. Stahl replied carefully.
"But it is not too late to change. I offer you a bed in my own roomy cabin
on the promenade deck. Also, I ask your forgiveness."
The Irishman, large though his imaginative creed was, felt oddly checked,
baffled, stupefied by what he had heard. He knew perfectly well what Stahl
was driving at, and that revelations of another kind were yet to follow.
What bereft him of very definite speech was this new fact slowly awakening
in his consciousness which hypnotized him, as it were, with its grandeur.
It seemed to portend that his own primitive yearnings, so-called, grew
out of far deeper foundations than he had yet dreamed of even. Stahl, should
he choose to listen, meant to give him explanation, quasi-scientific explanation.
This talk about a survival of "unexpended mythological values" carried
him off his feet. He knew it was true. Veiled behind that carefully chosen
phrase was something mor...truth brilliantly discovered. He knew, too,
that it bit at the platform-boards upon which his personality, his sanity,
his very life, perhaps, rested - his modern life.
"I forgive you, Dr. Stahl," he heard himself saying with a deceptive
calmness of voice as they stood shoulder to shoulder in that dark corner,
"for there is really nothing to forgive. The characteristics of these Urmenschen
you describe attract me very greatly. Your words merely give my imagination
a letter of introduction to my reason. They burrow among the foundations
of my life and being. At least - you have done me no wrong...." He knew
the words were wild, impulsive, yet he could find no better. Above all
things he wished to conceal his rising, grand delight.
"I thank you," Stahl said simply, yet with a certain confusion. "I -
felt I owed you this explanation - er - this confession."
"You wished to warn me?"
"I wished to say 'Be careful' rather. I say it now - Be careful! I give
you this invitation to share my cabin for the remainder of the voyage,
and I urge you to accept it." The offer was from the heart, while the scientific
interest in the man obviously half hoped for a refusal.
"You think harm might come to me?"
"Not physically. The man is gentle and safe in every way."
"But there is danger - in your opinion?" insisted the other.
"There is danger..."
"That his influence may make me as himself - an Urmensch?"
"That he may - get you," was the curious answer, given steadily after
a moment's pause.
Again the words thrilled O'Malley to the core of his delighted, half-frightened
soul. "You really mean that?" he asked again; "as 'doctor and scientist,'
you mean it?"
Stahl replied with a solemn anxiety in eyes and voice. "I mean that
you have in yourself that 'quality' which makes the proximity of this 'being'
dangerous: in a word that he may take you - er - with him."
They moved further up the deck together for some minutes in silence,
but the Irishman's feelings, irritated by the man's prolonged evasion,
reached a degree of impatience that was almost anger. "Let us be more definite,"
he exclaimed at length a trifle hotly. "You mean that I might go insane?"
"Not in the ordinary sense," came the answer without a sign of annoyance
or hesitation; "but that something might happen to you - something that
science could not recognize and medical science could not treat..."
Then O'Malley interrupted him with the vital question that rushed out
before he could consider its wisdom or legitimacy.
"Then what really is he - this man, this 'being' whom you call a 'survival,'
and who makes you fear for my safety. Tell me exactly what he is?"
They found themselves just then by the doctor's cabin, and Stahl, pushing
the door open, led him in. Taking the sofa for himself, he pointed to an
"Superstition is outside reason; so is revelation."
And O'Malley understood that he had pressed the doctor to the verge of
confessing some belief that he was ashamed to utter or to hold, something
forced upon him by his out-of-the-way experience of life to which his scientific
training said peremptorily "No." Further, that he watched him keenly all
the time, noting the effect his words produced.
- Old Saying
"He is not a human being at all," he continued with a queer thin whisper
that conveyed a gravity of conviction singularly impressive, "in the sense
in which you and I are accustomed to use the term. His inner being is not
shaped, as his outer body, upon quite - human lines. He is a Cosmic Bein...direct
expression of cosmic life. A little bit, a fragment, of the Soul of the
World, and in that sense a surviva...survival of her youth."
The Irishman, as he listened to these utterly unexpected words, felt
something rise within him that threatened to tear him asunder. Whether
it was joy or terror, or compounded strangely of the two, he could not
tell. It seemed as if he stood upon the edge of hearing something - spoken
by a man who was no mere dreamer like himself - that would explain the
world, himself, and all his wildest cravings. He both longed and feared
to hear it. In his hidden and most secret thoughts, those thoughts he never
uttered to another, this deep belief in the Earth as a conscious, sentient,
living Being had persisted in spite of all the forces education and modern
life had turned against it. It seemed in him an undying instinct, an unmovable
conviction, though he hardly dared acknowledge it even to himself.
He had always "dreamed" the Earth alive, a mothering organism to humanity;
and himself, via his love of Nature, in some sweet close relation to her
that other men had forgotten or ignored. Now, therefore, to hear Stahl
talk of Cosmic Beings, fragments of the Soul of the World, and "survivals
of her early life" was like hearing a great shout of command to his soul
to come forth and share it in complete acknowledgment.
He bit his lips, pinched himself, stared. Then he took the black cigar
he was aware was being handed to him, lit it with fingers that trembled
absurdly, and smoked as hard as though his sanity depended on his finishing
it in a prescribed time. Great clouds rose before his face. But his soul
within him came up with a flaming rush of speed, shouting, singing....
There was enough ash to knock off into the bronze tray beside him before
either said a word. He watched the little operation as closely as though
he were aiming a rifle. The ash, he saw, broke firmly. "This must be a
really good cigar," he thought to himself, for as yet he had not been conscious
of tasting it. The ash-tray, he also saw, was a kind of nymph, her spread
drapery forming the receptacle. "I must get one of those," he thought.
"I wonder what they cost." Then he puffed violently again. The doctor had
risen and was pacing the cabin floor slowly over by the red curtain that
concealed the bunk. O'Malley absent-mindedly watched him, and as he did
so the words he had heard kept on roaring at the back of his mind.
And then, while silence still held the room, - swift, too, as a second
although it takes time to write - flashed through him a memory of Fechner,
the German philosopher who held that the Universe was everywhere consciously
alive, and that the Earth was the body of a living Entity, and that the
World-Soul or Cosmic Consciousness is something more than a picturesque
dream of the ancients....
The doctor came to anchor again on the sofa opposite. To his great relief
he was the first to break the silence, for O'Malley simply did not know
how or where to begin.
"We know to-day - you certainly know for I've read it accurately described
in your books - that the human personality can extend itself under certain
conditions called abnormal. It can project portions of itself, show itself
even at a distance, operate away from the central covering body. In exactly
similar fashion may the Being of the Earth have projected portions of herself
in the past. Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a
survival...a survival of a hugely remote period when her Consciousness
was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before
the tide of advancing humanity...forms of which poetry and legend alone
have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings
of all sorts and kinds...."
And then, suddenly, as though he had been deliberately giving his imagination
rein yet now regretted it, his voice altered, his manner assumed a shade
of something colder. He shifted the key, as though to another aspect of
his belief. The man was talking swiftly of his experiences in the big and
private hospitals. He was describing the very belief to which he had first
found himself driven - the belief that had opened the door to so much more.
So far as O'Malley could follow it in his curiously excited condition of
mind, it was little more or less than a belief he himself had often played
lovingly with - the theory that a man has a fluid or etheric counterpart
of himself which is obedient to strong desire and can, under certain conditions,
be detached - projected - in a shape dictated by that desire.
He only realized this fully later perhaps, for the doctor used a phraseology
of his own. Stahl was telling calmly how he had been driven to some such
belief by the facts that had come under his notice both in the asylums
and in his private practice.
"...That in the amazingly complex personality of a human being," he
went on, "there does exist some vital constituent, a part of consciousness,
that can leave the body for a short time without involving death; that
it is something occasionally visible to others; something malleable by
thought and desire - especially by intense and prolonged yearning; and
that it can even bring relief to its owner by satisfying in some subjective
fashion the very yearnings that drew it forth."
"Doctor! You mean the 'astral'?"
"There is no name I know of. I can give it none. I mean in other words
that it can create the conditions for such satisfaction - dream-like, perhaps,
yet intense and seemingly very real at the time. Great emotion, for instance,
drives it forth, explaining thus appearances at a distance, and a hundred
other phenomena that my investigations of abnormal personality have forced
me to recognize as true. And nostalgia often is the means of egress, the
channel along which all the inner forces and desires of the heart stream
elsewhere toward their fulfilment in some person, place, or dream."
Stahl was giving himself his head, talking freely of beliefs that rarely
found utterance. Clearly it was a relief to him to do so - to let himself
be carried away. There was, after all, the poet in him side by side with
the observer and analyst, and the fundamental contradiction in his character
stood most interestingly revealed. O'Malley listened, half in a dream,
wondering what this had to do with the Cosmic Life just mentioned.
"Moreover, the appearance, the aspect of this etheric Double, moulded
thus by thought, longing, and desire, corresponds to such thought, longing,
and desire. Its shape, when visible shape is assumed, may be various -
very various. The form might conceivably be felt, discerned clairvoyantly
as an emanation rather than actually seen," he continued.
Then he added, looking closely at his companion, "and in your own case
this Double - it has always seemed to me - may be peculiarly easy of detachment
from the rest of you."
"I certainly create my own world and slip into it - to some extent,"
murmured the Irishman, absorbingly interested...reverie and so forth; partially,
at any rate."
"'Partially,' yes, in your reveries of waking consciousness," Stahl
took him up, "but in sleep - in the trance consciousness - completely!
And therein lies your danger," he added gravely; "for to pass out completely
in waking consciousness, is the next step - an easy one; and it constitutes,
not so much a disorder of your being, as a readjustment, but a readjustment
difficult of sane control." He paused again. "You pass out while fully
awak...waking delusion. It is usually labelled - though in my opinion wrongly
so - insanity."
"I'm not afraid of that," O'Malley laughed, almost nettled. "I can manage
myself all right - have done so far, at any rate."
It was curious how the rôles had shifted. O'Malley it was now
who checked and criticized.
"I suggest caution," was the reply, made earnestly. "I suggest caution."
"I should keep your warnings for mediums, clairvoyants, and the like,"
said the other tartly. He was half amazed, half alarmed even while he said
it. It was the personal application that annoyed him. "They are rather
apt to go off their heads, I believe."
Dr. Stahl rose and stood before him as though the words had given him
a cue he wanted. "From that very medium-class," he said, "my most suggestive
'cases' have come, though not for one moment do I think of including you
with them. Yet these very 'cases' have been due one and all to the same
cause - the singular disorder I have just mentioned."
They stared at one another a moment in silence. Stahl, whether O'Malley
liked it or no, was impressive. He gazed at the little figure in front
of him, the ragged untidy beard, the light shining on the bald skull, wondering
what was coming next and what all this bewildering confession of unorthodox
belief was leading up to. He longed to hear more about that hinted Cosmic
Life...and how yearning might lead to its realization.
"For any phenomena of the séance-room that may be genuine," he
heard him saying, "are produced by this fluid, detachable portion of the
personality, the very thing we have been speaking about. They are projections
of the personality - automatic projections of the consciousness."
And then, like a clap of thunder upon his bewildered mind, came this
man's amazing ultimatum, linking together all the points touched upon and
bringing them to a head. He repeated it emphatically.
"And in similar fashion," concluded the calm, dispassionate voice beside
him, "there have been projections of the Earth's great consciousness -
direct expressions of her cosmic life - Cosmic Beings. And of these distant
and primitive manifestations, it is conceivable that one or two may still
- here and there in places humanity has never stained - actually survive.
This man is one of them."
He turned on the two electric lights behind him with an admirable air
of finality. The extraordinary talk was at an end. He moved about the cabin,
putting chairs straight and toying with the papers on his desk. Occasionally
he threw a swift and searching glance at his companion, like a man who
wished to note the effect of an attack.
For, indeed, this was the impression that his listener retained above
all else. This flood of wild, unorthodox, speculative ideas had been poured
upon him helter-skelter with a purpose. And the abruptness of the climax
was cleverly planned to induce impulsive, hot confession.
But O'Malley found no words. He sat there in his arm-chair, passing
his fingers through his tumbled hair. His inner turmoil was too much for
speech or questions...and presently, when the gong for dinner rang noisily
outside the cabin door, he rose abruptly and went out without a single
word. Stahl turned to see him go. He merely nodded with a little smile.
But he did not go to his state-room. He walked the deck alone for a
time, and when he reached the dining-room, Stahl, he saw, had already come
and gone. Halfway down the table, diagonally across, the face of the big
Russian looked up occasionally at him and smiled, and every time he did
so the Irishman felt a sense of mingled alarm and wonder greater than anything
he had ever known in his life before. One of the great doors of life again
had opened. The barriers of his heart broke away. He was no longer caged
and manacled within the prison of a puny individuality. The world that
so distressed him faded. The people in it were dolls. The fur-merchant,
the Armenian priest, the tourists and the rest were mere automatic puppets,
all made to scale - petty scale, amazingly dull, all exactly alike - tiny,
unreal, half alive.
The ship, meanwhile, he reflected with a joy that was passion, was being
borne over the blue sea, and this sea lay spread upon the curved breast
of the round and spinning earth. He, too, and the big Russian lay upon
her breast, held close by gravity so-called, caught closer still, though,
by something else besides. And his longings increased with his understanding.
Stahl, wittingly or unwittingly, had given them an immense push forwards.
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