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Title: Julius LeVallon - An Episode
Author: Blackwood, Algernon
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



JULIUS LEVALLON



  Julius LeVallon
  An Episode

  By
  Algernon Blackwood

  _Author of “The Centaur,” “John Silence,”
  “The Human Chord,” etc._

  Cassell and Company, Ltd
  London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne


  First published 1916


  TO
  M. S-K.
  (1906)



Contents


                                       PAGE
  _BOOK I_
  SCHOOLDAYS                              3

  _BOOK II_
  EDINBURGH                              77

  _BOOK III_
  THE CHÂLET IN THE JURA MOUNTAINS      149

  _BOOK IV_
  THE ATTEMPTED RESTITUTION             267



Book I

SCHOOLDAYS



  “_Dream faces bloom around your face
     Like flowers upon one stem;
   The heart of many a vanished race
     Sighs as I look on them._”
                                      A. E.



Julius LeVallon

CHAPTER I

  “_Surely death acquires a new and deeper significance when we
  regard it no longer as a single and unexplained break in an
  unending life, but as part of the continually recurring rhythm
  of progress--as inevitable, as natural, and as benevolent as
  sleep._”--“Some Dogmas of Religion” (Prof. J. M’Taggart).


It was one autumn in the late ’nineties that I found myself at Bâle,
awaiting letters. I was returning leisurely from the Dolomites, where
a climbing holiday had combined pleasantly with an examination of the
geologically interesting Monzoni Valley. When the claims of the latter
were exhausted, however, and I turned my eyes towards the peaks, it
happened that bad weather held permanent possession of the great grey
cliffs and towering pinnacles, and climbing was out of the question
altogether. A world of savage desolation gloomed down upon me through
impenetrable mists; the scouts of winter’s advance had established
themselves upon all possible points of attack; and the whole tossed
wilderness of precipice and scree lay safe, from my assaults at least,
behind a frontier of furious autumn storms.

Having ample time before my winter’s work in London, I turned my back
upon the unconquered Marmolata and Cimon della Pala, and made my way
slowly, via Bozen and Innsbruck, to Bâle; and it was in the latter
place, where my English correspondence was kind enough to overtake me,
that I found one letter in particular that interested me more than all
the others put together. It bore a Swiss stamp; and the handwriting
caused me a thrill of anticipatory excitement even before I had
consciously recalled the name of the writer. It was addressed before
and behind till there was scarcely room left for a postmark, and it had
journeyed from my chambers to my club, from my club to the university,
and thence, by way of various poste-restantes, from one hotel to
another till, with good luck little short of marvellous, it discovered
me in my room of the Trois Rois Hotel overlooking the Rhine.

The signature, to which I turned at once before reading the body of the
message, was Julius LeVallon; and as my eye noted the firm and very
individual writing, once of familiar and potent significance in my
life, I was conscious that emotions of twenty years ago woke vigorously
into being, releasing sensations and memories I had thought buried
beyond all effective resurrection. I knew myself swept back to those
hopes and fears that, all these years before, had been--me. The letter
was brief; it ran as follows:

  FRIEND OF A MILLION YEARS,--Should you remember your promise,
  given to me at Edinburgh twenty years ago, I write to tell you
  that I am ready. Yours, especially in separation,
                                              JULIUS LEVALLON.

And then followed two lines of instructions how to reach him in the
isolated little valley of the Jura Mountains, on the frontier between
France and Switzerland, whence he wrote.

The wording startled me; but this surprise, not unmingled with
amusement, gave place immediately to emotions of a deeper and much
more complex order, as I drew an armchair to the window and resigned
myself, half pleasurably, half uneasily, to the flood of memories
that rose from the depths and besieged me with their atmosphere of
half-forgotten boyhood and of early youth. Pleasurably, because my
curiosity was aroused abruptly to a point my dull tutorial existence
now rarely, if ever, knew; uneasily, because these early associations
grouped themselves about the somewhat unearthly figure of a man with
whom once I had been closely intimate, but who had since disappeared
behind a veil of mystery to follow pursuits where danger to body, mind
and soul--it seemed to me--must be his constant attendant.

For Julius LeVallon, or Julius, as he was known to me in our school
and university days, had been once a name to conjure with; a
personality who evoked for me a world more vast and splendid, horizons
wider, vistas of possibilities more dazzling, than any I have since
known--which have contracted, in fact, with my study of an exact
science to a dwindled universe of pettier scale and measurement;--and
wherein, formerly, with all the terror and delight of vividly imagined
adventure, we moved side by side among strange experiences and
fascinating speculations.

The name brings back the face and figure of as singular an individual
as I have ever known who, but for my saving streak of common sense and
inability to imagine beyond a certain point, might well have swept me
permanently into his own region of research and curious experiment.
As it was, up to the time when I felt obliged to steer my course away
from him, he found my nature of great assistance in helping him to
reconstruct his detailed mental pictures of the past; we were both “in
the same boat together,” as he constantly assured me--this boat that
travelled down the river of innumerable consecutive lives; and there
can be no doubt that my cautious questionings--lack of perspective, he
termed it--besides checking certain aspects of his conception, saved
us at the same time from results that must have proved damaging to our
reputations, if not injurious actually to our persons, physically and
mentally. Yet that he captured me so completely at the time was due
to an innate sympathy I felt towards his theories, a sympathy that at
times amounted to complete acceptance. I freely admit this sympathy. He
used another word for it, however: he called it Memory.

As a boy, Julius LeVallon was beyond question one of the strangest
beings that ever wore a mortar-board, or lent his soul and body to the
conventionalities of an English private school.

I recall, as of yesterday, my first sight of him, and the vivid
impression, startling as of shock, he then produced: the sensitive,
fine face, pallid as marble, the thatch of tumbling dark hair, and the
eyes of changing greeny blue that shone unlike any English eyes I have
ever looked upon before or since. “Giglamps” the other boys called
them, of course; but when you caught them through the black hair that
straggled over the high white forehead, they somehow conveyed the
impression of twin lanterns, now veiled, now clear, seen through the
tangled shadows of a twilight wood. Unlike the eyes of most dreamers,
they looked keenly within, rather than vaguely beyond; and I recall to
this day the sharp, half disquieting effect produced upon my mind as a
new boy the first instant I saw them--that here was an individual who
somehow stood aloof from the mob of noisy, mischief-loving youngsters
all about him, and had little in common with the world in which this
school was a bustling, practical centre of educational energy.

Nor is it that I recall that first sight with the added judgment of
later years. I insist that this moment of his entrance into my life
was accompanied by an authentic thrill of wonder that announced his
presence to my nerves, or even deeper, to my very soul. My sympathetic
nervous system was instinctively aware of him. He came upon me with a
kind of rush for which the proper word is startling; there was nothing
gradual about it; its nature was electrifying; and in some sense he
certainly captivated me, for, immediately upon knowing him, this
opening wonder merged in a deep affection of a kind so intimate, so
fearless, so familiar, that it seemed to me that I must, somewhere,
somehow, have known him always. For years to come it bound me to his
side. To the end, moreover, I never quite lost something of that
curious first impression, that he moved, namely, in an outer world
that did not claim him; that those luminous, inward-peering eyes saw
but dimly the objects we call real; that he saw them as counters in
some trivial game he deemed it not worth while to play; that while,
perforce, he used them like the rest of us, their face-value was as
naught compared to what they symbolised; that, in a word, he stood
apart from the vulgar bustle of ordinary ambitious life, and above
it, in a region by himself where he was forever questing issues of
infinitely greater value.

For a boy of fifteen, as I then was, this seems much to have discerned.
At the time I certainly phrased it all less pompously in my own
small mind. But that first sense of shock remains: I yearned to know
him, to stand where he stood, to be exactly like him. And our speedy
acquaintance did not overwhelm me as it ought to have done--for a
singular reason; I felt oddly that somehow or other I had the _right_
to know him instantly.

Imagination, no doubt, was stronger in me at that time than it is
to-day; my mind more speculative, my soul, perhaps, more sensitively
receptive. At any rate the insignificant and very ordinary personality
I own at present has since largely recovered itself. If Julius LeVallon
was one in a million, I know that I can never expect to be more than
one _of_ a million. And it is something in middle age to discover that
one can appreciate the exceptional in others without repining at its
absence in oneself.

Julius was two forms above me, and for a day or two after my arrival
at mid-term, it appears he was in the sick-room with one of those
strange nervous illnesses that came upon him through life at intervals,
puzzling the doctors and alarming those responsible for his well-being;
accompanied, too, by symptoms that to-day would be recognised, I
imagine, as evidence of a secondary personality. But on the third
or fourth day, just as afternoon “Preparation” was beginning and we
were all shuffling down upon our wooden desks with a clatter of books
and pens, the door beside the great blackboard opened, and a figure
stole into the room, tall, slender, and unsubstantial as a shadow, yet
intensely real.

“Hullo! Giglamps back again!” whispered the boy on my left, and
another behind me sniggered audibly “Jujubes”--thus Julius was
sometimes paraphrased--“tired of shamming at last!” Then Hurrish, the
master in charge, whose head had been hidden a moment behind his desk,
closed the lid and turned. He greeted the boy with a few kind words
of welcome which, of course, I have forgotten; yet, so strange are
the freaks of memory, and so instantaneous and prophetic the first
intuitions of sympathy or aversion, that I distinctly recall that I
liked Hurrish for his words, and was grateful to him for his kindly
attitude towards a boy whose very existence had hitherto been unknown
to me. Already, before I knew his name, Julius LeVallon meant, at any
rate, this to me.

But from that instant the shadow became most potently real substance.
The boy moved forward to his desk, looked about him as though to miss
no face, and almost immediately across that big room full of heads and
shoulders saw--myself.

That something of psychical import passed swiftly between us is
indubitable, for while Julius visibly started, pausing a moment in his
walk and staring as though he would swallow me with his eyes, there
flashed upon my own mind a thought so vivid, so precise, that it took
actual sentence form, and before I could possibly have imagined or
invented an idea so uncorrelated with a previous experience of any kind
at all, I heard myself murmuring: “He’s found me...!”

It seemed audible, at least. I hid my face a second, thinking I had
spoken it aloud. No one looked at me, however; Hurrish made no comment.
My name did not sound terribly across the class-room. The sentence,
after all, had remained a thought. But that it leaped into my mind at
all seems to me now, as it did at the time, significant.

His eyes rested for the fraction of a second on my face as he crossed
the floor, and I felt--but how describe it intelligibly?--as though
a wind had risen and caught me up into another place where there was
great light and an impression of vast distances. Hypnotic we should
call it to-day; hypnotic let it be. I can only affirm how, with that
single glance from a boy but slightly older than myself, seen then for
the first time, and with no word yet spoken, there came back to me a
larger sense of life, and of the meaning of life. I became aware of an
extended world, of wonder, movement, adventure on a scale immensely
grander than anything I found about me among known external things. But
I became aware--“again.” In earlier childhood I had known this bigger
world. It suddenly flashed over me that time stretched _behind_ me as
well as before--and that I stretched back with it. Something scared
me, I remember, with a faint stirring as of old pains and pleasures
suffered long ago. The face and eyes that called into being these
fancies, so oddly touched with alarm, were like those seen sometimes in
dreams that never venture into daily life--things of composite memory,
no doubt, that bring with them an atmosphere, and a range of query,
nothing in normal waking life can even suggest.

He passed to his place in front of Hurrish’s desk among the upper
forms, and a sea of tousled heads intervened to hide him from my sight;
but as he went the afternoon sunshine fell through the unfrosted half
of the window, and in later years--now, in fact, as I hold his letter
in my hand and re-collect these vanished memories--I still see him
coming into my life with the golden sunlight about his head and his
face wrapped in its halo. I see it reflected in the lamping eyes,
glistening on the mop of dark hair, shining on the pallid face with
its high expression of other-worldliness and yearning remote from the
chaos of modern life.... It was a long time before I managed to bring
myself down again to parse the verbs in that passage of _Hecuba_, for,
if anything, I have understated rather than exaggerated the effect
that this first sight of Julius LeVallon produced upon my feelings and
imagination. Some one, lost through ages but ever seeking me, rose
suddenly and spoke: “So here you are, at last! I’ve found you. We’ve
found each other again!”

To say more could only be to elaborate the memory with knowledge
that came later, and thus to distort the first simple and profound
impression. I merely wish to present, as it occurred, the picture of
this wizard face appearing suddenly above the horizon of my small
schoolboy world, staring with that deep suggestion of having travelled
down upon me from immense distances _behind_, bringing fugitive and
ghostly sensations of things known long ago, and hinting very faintly,
as I have tried to describe, of vanished pains and alarms--yet of
sufferings so ancient that to touch them even with the tenderest of
words is to make them crumble into dust and disappear.



CHAPTER II

  “_‘Body,’ observes Plotinus, ‘is the true river of Lethe.’
  The memory of definite events in former lives can hardly come
  easily to a consciousness allied with brain.... Bearing in mind
  also that even our ordinary definite memories slowly become
  indefinite, and that most drop altogether out of notice, we
  shall attach no importance to the naïve question, ‘Why does not
  Smith remember who he was before?’ It would be an exceedingly
  strange fact if he did, a new Smith being now in evidence along
  with a new brain and nerves. Still, it is conceivable that such
  remembrances occasionally arise. Cerebral process, conscious or
  subconscious, is psychical._”--“Individual and Reality” (E. D.
  Fawcett).


Looking back upon this entrance, not from the present long interval
of twenty years, but from a point much nearer to it, and consequently
more sympathetically in touch with my own youth, I must confess that
his presence--his arrival, as it seemed--threw a momentary clear light
of electric sharpness upon certain “inner scenery” that even at this
period of my boyhood was already beginning to fade away into dimness
and “mere imagining.” Which brings me to a reluctant confession I feel
bound to make. I say “reluctant,” because at the present time I feel
intellectually indisposed to regard that scenery as real. Its origin I
know not; its reality at the time I alone can vouch for. Many children
have similar experiences, I believe; with myself it was exceptionally
vivid.

Ever since I could remember, my childhood days were charged with
it--haunting and stimulating recollections that were certainly derived
from nothing in this life, nor owed their bright reality to anything
seen or read or heard. They influenced all my early games, my secret
make-believe, my magical free hours after lessons. I dreamed them,
played them, lived them, and nothing delighted me so much as to be
alone on half-holidays in summer out of doors, or on winter evenings
in the empty schoolroom, so that I might reconstruct for myself the
gorgeous detail of their remote, elusive splendour. For the presence
of others, even of my favourite playmates, ruined their reality with
criticising questions, and a doubt as to their genuineness was an
intrusion upon their sacredness my youthful heart desired to prevent
by--killing it at once. Their nature it would be wearisome to detail,
but I may mention that their grandeur was of somewhat mixed authority,
and that if sometimes I was a general like Gideon, against whom
Amalekites and such like were the merest insects, at others I was a
High Priest in some huge, dim-sculptured Temple whose magnificence
threw Moses and the Bible tabernacles into insignificance.

Yet it was upon these glories, and upon this sacred inner scenery, that
the arrival of Julius LeVallon threw a new daylight of stark intensity.
He made them live again. His coming made them awfully real. They had
been fading. Going to school was, it seemed, a finishing touch of
desolating destruction. I felt obliged to give them up and be a man.
Thus ignored, disowned, forgotten of set deliberation, they sank out of
sight and were prepared to disappear, when suddenly his arrival drew
the entire panorama delightfully into the great light of day again. His
presence re-touched, re-coloured the entire series. He made them true.

It would take too long, besides inviting the risk of unconscious
invention, were I to attempt in detail the description of our growing
intimacy. Moreover, I believe it is true that the intimacy did not grow
at all, but suddenly, incomprehensibly _was_. At any rate, I remember
with distinctness our first conversation. The hour’s “prep.” was over,
and I was in the yard, lonely and disconsolate as a new boy, watching
the others playing tip-and-run against the high enclosing wall, when
Julius LeVallon came up suddenly behind me, and I turned expectantly at
the sound of his almost stealthy step. He came softly. He was smiling.
In the falling dusk he looked more shadow-like than ever. He wore the
school cap at the back of his head, where it clung to his tumbling
hair like some absurd disguise circumstances forced him to adopt for
the moment.

And my heart gave a bound of excitement at the sound of his voice. In
some strange way the whole thing seemed familiar. I had expected this.
It had happened before. And, very swiftly, a fragment of that inner
scenery, laid like a theatre-inset against the playground of to-day,
flashed through the depths of me, then vanished.

“What is your name?” he asked me, very gently.

“Mason,” I told him, conscious that I flushed and almost stammered.
“John Mason. I’m a new boy.” Then, although my brother, formerly Head
of the school, had already gone on to Winchester, I added “Mason
secundus.” My outer self felt shy, but another, deeper self realised
a sense of satisfaction that was pleasure. I was aware of a desire to
seize his hand and utter something of this bigger, happier sensation.
The strength of school convention, however, prevented anything of the
sort. I was at first embarrassed by the attention of a bigger boy, and
showed it.

He looked closely into my face a moment, as though searching for
something, but so penetratingly that I felt his eyes actually
inside me. The information I had given did not seem to interest him
particularly. At the same time I was conscious that his near presence
affected me in a curious way, for I lost the feeling that this
attention to a new boy was flattering and unusual, and became aware
that there was something of great importance he wished to say to me. It
was all right and natural. There was something he desired to find out
and know: it was not my name. A vague yet profound emotion troubled me.

He spoke then, slowly, earnestly; the voice gentle and restrained, but
the expression in the eyes and face so grave, almost so solemn, that it
seemed an old and experienced man who addressed me, instead of a boy
barely sixteen years of age.

“Have you then ... quite ... forgotten ... everything?” he asked,
making dramatic pauses thus between the words.

And, singular in its abruptness though the question was, there flashed
upon me even while he uttered it, a sensation, a mood, a memory--I
hardly know what to call it--that made the words intelligible. It
dawned upon me that I _had_ “forgotten ... everything ... quite”:
crowded, glorious, ancient things, that somehow or other I ought
to have remembered. A faint sense of guiltiness accompanied the
experience. I felt disconcerted, half ashamed.

“I’m afraid ... I have,” came my faltering reply. Though bewildered, I
raised my eyes to his. I looked straight at him. “I’m--Mason secundus
... now....”

His eyes, I saw, came up, as it were, from their deep searching. They
rested quietly upon my own, with a reassuring smile that made them
kindly and understanding as those of my own father. He put his hand on
my shoulder in a protective fashion that gave me an intense desire to
remember all the things he wished me to remember, and thus to prove
myself worthy of his interest and attention. The desire in me was
ardent, serious. Its fervency, moreover, seemed to produce an effect,
for immediately there again rose before my inner vision that flashing
scenery I had “imagined” as a child.

Possibly something in my face betrayed the change. His expression, at
any rate, altered instantly as though he recognised what was happening.

“You’re Mason secundus now,” he said more quickly. “I know that.
But--can you remember nothing of the Other Places? Have you quite
forgotten when--we were together?”

He stopped abruptly, repeating the last three words almost beneath
his breath. His eyes rested on mine with such pleasure and expectancy
in them that for the moment the world I stood in melted out, the
playground faded, the shouts of cricket ceased, and I seemed to forget
entirely who or where I was. It was as though other times, other
feelings, other scenery battled against the actual present, claiming
me, sweeping me away, extending the sense of personal identity towards
a previous series. Seductive the sensation was beyond belief, yet
at the same time disturbing. I wholly ignored the flattery of this
kindness from an older boy. A series of vivid pictures, more familiar
than the nursery, more distant than a dream of years ago, swam up
from some inner region of my being like memories of places, people,
adventures I had actually lived and seen. The near presence of Julius
LeVallon drew them upwards in a stream above the horizon of some
temporarily veiled oblivion.

“... in the Other Places,” his voice continued with a droning sound
that was like the sea a long way off, or like wind among the branches
of a tree.

And something in me leaped automatically to acknowledge the truth I
suddenly realised.

“Yes, yes!” I cried, no shyness in me any more, and plunged into myself
to seize the flying pictures and arrest their sliding, disappearing
motion. “I remember, oh, I remember ... a whole lot of ... dreams ...
or things like made-up adventures I once had ages and ages ago ...
with ...” I hesitated a second. A rising and inexplicable excitement
stopped my words. I was shaking all over. “... with you!” I added
boldly, or rather the words seemed to add themselves inevitably. “It
was with you, sir?”

He nodded his head slightly and smiled. I think the “sir,” sounding so
incongruous, caused the smile.

“Yes,” he said in his soft, low voice, “it was with me. Only they were
not dreams. They were real. There’s no good denying what’s real; it
only prevents your remembering properly.”

The way he said it held conviction as of sunrise, but anyhow denial in
myself seemed equally to have disappeared. Deep within me a sense of
reality answered willingly to his own.

“And myself?” he went on gently yet eagerly at the same time, his eyes
searching my own. “Don’t you remember--me? Have I, too, gone quite
beyond recall?”

But with truth my answer came at once:

“Something ... perhaps ... comes back to me ... a little,” I stammered.
For while aware of a keen sensation that I talked with someone I knew
as well as I knew my own father, nothing at the moment seemed wholly
real to me except his sensitive, pale face with the large and beautiful
eyes so keenly peering, and the tangled hair escaping under that
ridiculous school cap. The pine trees in the cricket-field rose into
the fading sky behind him, and I remember being puzzled to determine
where his hair stopped and the feathery branches began.

“... carrying the spears up the long stone steps in the sunshine,”
his voice murmured on with a sound like running water, “and the old
man in the robe of yellow standing at the top ... and orchards below,
all white and pink with blossoms dropping in the wind ... and miles
of plain in blue distances far away, the river winding ... and birds
fishing in the shallow places ...”

The picture flashed into my mind. I saw it. I remembered it in detail
as easily as any childhood scene of a few years ago, but yet through
a blur of summery haze and at the end of a stupendous distance that
reduced the scale to lilliputian proportions. I looked down the wrong
end of a telescope at it all. The appalling distance--and something
else as well I was at a loss to define--frightened me a little.

“I ... my people, I mean ... live in Sussex,” I remember saying
irrelevantly in my bewilderment, “and my father’s a clergyman.” It was
the upper part of me that said it, no doubt anticipating the usual
question “What’s your father?” My voice had a lifeless, automatic sound.

“That’s now,” LeVallon interrupted almost impatiently. “It’s thinking
of these things that hides the others.”

Then he smiled, leaning against the wall beside me while the sunset
flamed upon the clouds above us and the tide of noisy boys broke,
tumbling about our feet. I see those hurrying clouds, crimson and gold,
that scrimmage of boys in the school playground, and Julius LeVallon
gazing into my eyes, his expression rapt and eager--I see it now across
the years as plainly as I saw that flash of inner scenery far, far
away. I even hear his low voice speaking. The whole, strange mood that
rendered the conversation not too incredibly fantastic at the time
comes over me again as I think of it.

He went on in that murmuring tone, putting true words to the pictures
that rolled clearly through me:

“... and the burning sunlight on the white walls of the building ...
the cool deep shadows where we talked and slept ... the shouting of
the armies in the distance ... with the glistening of the spears and
shining shields ...”

Mixed curiously together, kaleidoscopic, running one into the other
without sharp outlines of beginning or end, the scenes fled past me
like the pages of a coloured picture-book. I saw figures plainly, more
plainly than the scenery beyond. The man in the yellow robe looked
close into my eyes, so close, indeed, I could almost hear him speak.
He vanished, and a woman took his place. Her back was to me. She stood
motionless, her hands upraised, and a gesture of passionate entreaty
about her plunged me suddenly into a sea of whirling, poignant drama
that had terror in it. The blood rushed to my head. My heart beat
violently. I knew a moment of icy horror--that she would turn--and I
should recognise her face--worse, that she would recognise my own.
I experienced actual fear, a shrinking dread of something that was
nameless. Escape was impossible, I could neither move nor speak, nor
alter any single detail in this picture which--most terrifying of
all--I knew contained somewhere too--myself. But she did not turn; I
did not see her face. She vanished like the rest ... and I next saw
quick, running figures with skins of reddish brown, circlets of iron
about their foreheads and red tassels hanging from their loin cloths.
The scene had shifted.

“... when we lit the signal fires upon the hills,” the voice of
LeVallon broke in softly, looking over his shoulder lest we be
disturbed, “and lay as sentinels all night beside the ashes ... till
the plain showed clearly in the sunrise with the encampments marked
over it like stones ...”

I saw the blue plain fading into distance, and across it a
swiftly-moving cloud of dust that was ominous in character, presaging
attack. Again the scene shifted noiselessly as a picture on a screen,
and a deserted village slid before me, with small houses built of
undressed stone, and roomy paddocks, abandoned to the wild deer from
the hills. I smelt the keen, fresh air and the scent of wild flowers.
A figure, carrying a small blue stick, passed with tearing rapidity up
the empty street.

“... when you were a Runner to the tribe,” the voice stepped curiously
in from a world outside it all, “carrying warnings to the House of
Messengers ... and I held the long night-watches upon the passes,
signalling with the flaming torches to those below ...”

“But so far away, so dim, so awfully small, that I can hardly----”

The world of to-day broke in upon my voice, and I stopped, not quite
aware of what I had been about to say. Martin, the Fourth Form and
Mathematical Master, had come up unobserved by either of us, and was
eyeing LeVallon and myself somewhat curiously. It was afterwards, of
course, that I discovered who the interrupter was. I only knew at the
moment that I disliked the look of him, and also that I felt somehow
guilty.

“New boy in tow, LeVallon?” he remarked casually, the tone and manner
betraying ill-concealed disapproval. The change of key, both in its
character and its abruptness, seemed ugly, almost dreadful. It was so
trivial.

“Yes, sir. It’s young Mason.” LeVallon answered at once, touching his
cap respectfully, but by no means cordially.

“Ah,” said the master dryly. “He’s fortunate to find a friend so soon.
Tell him we look to him to follow his brother’s example and become Head
of the school one day perhaps.” I got the impression, how I cannot say,
that Martin stood in awe of LeVallon, was even a little afraid of him
as well. He would gladly have “scored off” him if it were possible.
There was a touch of spite in his voice, perhaps.

“We knew one another before, sir,” I heard Julius say quietly, as
though his attention to a new boy required explanation--to Martin.

I could hardly believe my ears. This extraordinary boy was indeed in
earnest. He had not the smallest intention of saying what was untrue.
He said what he actually believed. I saw him touch his cap again in
the customary manner, and Martin, the under-master, shrugging his
shoulders, passed on without another word. It is difficult to describe
the dignity LeVallon put into that trivial gesture of conventional
respect, or in what way Martin gained a touch of honour from it that
really was no part of his commonplace personality. Yet I can remember
perfectly well that this was so, and that I deemed LeVallon more
wonderful than ever from that moment for being able to exact deference
even from an older man who was a Form Master and a Mathematical Master
into the bargain. For LeVallon, it seemed to me, had somehow positively
dismissed him.

Yet, to such extent did the pictures in my mind dominate the playground
where our bodies stood, that I almost expected to see the master go
down the “long stone steps towards the sunny orchard below”--instead
of walk up and cuff young Green who was destroying the wall by picking
out the mortar from between the bricks. That wall, and the white wall
in the dazzling sunshine seemed, as it were, to interpenetrate each
other. The break of key caused by the interruption, however, was barely
noticeable. The ugliness vanished instantly. Julius was speaking again
as though nothing had happened. He had been speaking for some little
time before I took in what the words were:

“... with the moonlight gleaming on the bosses of the shields ... the
sleet of flying arrows ... and the hissing of the javelins ...”

The battle-scene accompanying the sentence caught me so vividly, so
fiercely even, that I turned eagerly to him, all shyness gone, and let
my words pour out impetuously as they would, and as they willy-nilly
had to. For this scene, more than all the others, touched some intimate
desire, some sharp and keen ambition that burned in me to-day. My
whole heart was wrapped up in soldiering. I had chosen a soldier’s
career instinctively, even before I knew quite the meaning of it.

“Yes, rather!” I cried with enthusiasm, staring so close into his face
that I could have counted the tiny hairs on the smooth pale skin, “and
that narrow ledge high up inside the dome where the prisoners stood
until they dropped on to the spear-heads in the ground beneath, and how
some jumped at once, and others stood all day, and--and how there was
only just room to balance by pressing the feet sideways against the
curving wall...?”

It all rushed at me as though I had witnessed the awful scene a week
ago. Something inside me shook again with horror at the sight of the
writhing figures impaled upon the spears below. I almost felt a sharp
and actual pain pierce through my flesh. I overbalanced. It was my turn
to fall ...

A sudden smile broke swiftly over LeVallon’s face, as he held my arm a
moment with a strength that almost hurt.

“Ah, you remember _that!_ And little wonder----” he began, then stopped
abruptly and released his grip. The cricket ball came bouncing to
our feet across the yard, with insistent cries of “Thank you, ball!
Thank you, LeVallon!” impossible to ignore. He did not finish the
sentence, and I know not what shrinking impulse of suffering and
pain in me it was that felt relieved he had not done so. Instead, he
stooped good-naturedly, picked up the ball, and flung it back to the
importunate cricketers; and as he did so I noticed that his action was
unlike that of any English boy I had ever seen. He did not throw it as
men usually throw a ball, but used a violent yet graceful motion that I
vaguely remembered to have seen somewhere before. It perplexed me for
a moment--then, suddenly, out of that deeper part of me so strangely
now astir, the hint of explanation came. It was the action of a man who
flings a spear or javelin.

A bell rang over our heads with discordant clangour, and we were swept
across the yard with the rush of boys. The transition was abrupt and
even painful--as when one comes into the noisy street from a theatre
of music, lights and colour. A strong effort was necessary to recover
balance and pull myself together. Until we reached the red-brick porch,
however, LeVallon kept beside me, and his hurried last phrases, as we
parted, were the most significant of all. It seemed as if he kept them
for the end, although no such intention was probably in his thought.
They left me quivering through and through as I heard them fall from
his lips so quietly.

His face was shining. The words came from his inmost heart:

“Well, anyhow,” he said beneath his breath lest he might be overheard,
“I’ve found you, and we’ve found each other--at last. That’s the great
thing, isn’t it? No one here understands all that. Now, we can go on
together where we left off before; and, having found you, I expect I
shall soon find her as well. For we’re all three together, and--sooner
or later--there’s no escaping anything.”

I remember that I staggered. The hand I put out to steady myself
scraped along the uneven bricks and broke the skin. A boy with red
hair struck me viciously in the back because I had stumbled into him;
he shouted at me angrily too, though I heard no word he said. And
LeVallon, for his part, just had time to bend his head down with “work
hard and get up into my form--we shall have more chances then,” and was
gone into the passage and out of sight--leaving me trembling inwardly
as though stricken by some sudden strange attack of nerves.

For his words about the woman turned me inexplicably--into ice. My
legs gave way beneath me. A cold perspiration broke out upon my skin.
No words of any kind came to me; there was no definite thought; clear
recollection, absolutely none. The strange emotion itself I could
not put a name to, nor could I say what part was played in it by any
particular ingredient such as horror, terror, or mere ordinary alarm.
All these were in it somewhere, linked darkly to a sense of guilt at
length discovered and brought home. I can only say truthfully that I
saw again the picture of that woman with her back towards me; but that,
when he spoke, she turned and looked at me. She showed her face. I
knew a sense of dreadful chill like some murderer who, after years of
careful hiding, meets unexpectedly The Law and sees the gallows darkly
rise. A hand of justice--of retribution--seemed stretched upon my
shoulder from the empty sky.

I now set down my faithful recollection of what happened; and,
incredible as it doubtless sounds to-day, yet it was most distressingly
real. Out of what dim, forgotten past his words, this woman’s face,
arose to haunt “me” of To-day, I had no slightest inkling. What
crime of mine, what buried sin, came as with a blare of trumpets,
seeking requital, no slightest hint came whispering. Yet this was the
impression I instantly received. I was a boy. It terrified and amazed
me, but it held no element of make-believe. Julius LeVallon, myself,
and an unknown woman stood waiting on the threshold of the breathless
centuries to set some stone in its appointed place--a stone, moreover,
he, I, and she, together breaking mighty laws, had left upon the
ground. It seemed no common wrong to her, to him, to me, and yet we
three, working together, alone could find it and replace it.

This, somehow, was the memory his words, that face, struggled to
reconstruct.

I saw LeVallon smiling as he left my side. He disappeared in the
way already described. The stream of turbulent boys separated us
physically, just as, in his belief, the centuries had carried us apart
spiritually--he--myself--and this other. I saw a veil drop down upon
his face. The lamps in his splendid eyes were shrouded. At supper we
sat far apart, and the bedroom I shared with two other youngsters of my
own age and form, of course, did not include LeVallon.



CHAPTER III

  “_Souls without a past behind them, springing suddenly into
  existence, out of nothing, with marked mental and moral
  peculiarities, are a conception as monstrous as would be the
  corresponding conception of babies suddenly appearing from
  nowhere, unrelated to anybody, but showing marked racial and
  family types._”--“The Ancient Wisdom” (A. Besant).


As the terms passed and I ceased to be a new boy, it cannot be said
that I got to know Julius LeVallon any better, because our intimacy had
been established, or “resumed” as he called it, from the beginning;
but the chances of being together increased, we became members of the
same form, our desks were side by side, and we shared at length the
same bedroom with another Fifth Form boy named Goldingham. And since
Goldingham, studious, fat, good-natured, slept soundly from the moment
his head touched the pillow till the seven o’clock bell rang--and
sometimes after it in order to escape his cold bath--we practically had
the room to ourselves.

Moreover, from the beginning, it all seemed curiously true. It was
not Julius who invented, but I who in my stupidity had forgotten.
Long, detailed dreams, too, came to me about this time, which I
recognised as a continuation of these of “Other Places” his presence
near me in the daytime would revive. They existed, apparently, in
some layer deeper than my daily consciousness, recoverable in sleep.
In the daytime something sceptical in me that denied, rendered them
inaccessible, but once reason slept and the will was in abeyance, they
poured through me in a continuous, uninterrupted flow. A word from
Julius, a touch, a glance from his eyes perhaps, would evoke them
instantly, and I would _see_. Yet he made no potent suggestions that
could have caused them; there was no effort; I did not imagine at his
bidding; and often, indeed, his descriptions differed materially from
my own, which makes me hesitate to ascribe the results to telepathy
alone. It was his presence, his atmosphere that revived them. To-day,
of course, immediately after our schooldays in fact, they ceased to
exist for me--to my regret, I think, on the whole, for they were very
entertaining, and sometimes very exquisite. I still retain, however,
the vivid recollection of blazing summer landscapes; of people,
sometimes barbaric and always picturesque, moving in brilliant colours;
of plains, and slopes of wooded mountains that dipped, all blue and
thirsty, into quiet seas--scenes and people, too, utterly unlike any
I had known during my fifteen years of existence under heavy English
skies.

LeVallon knew this inner world far better and more intimately than
I did. He lived in it. Motfield Close, the private school among
the Kentish hills, was merely for him a place where his present
brain and body--instruments of his soul--were acquiring the current
knowledge of To-day. It was but temporary. He himself, the eternal
self that persisted through all the series of lives, was in quest
of other things, “real knowledge,” as he called it. For this reason
the recollection of his past, these “Other Places,” was of paramount
importance, since it enabled him to see where he had missed the central
trail and turned aside to lesser pursuits that had caused delay. He was
forever seeking to recover vanished clues, to pick them up again, and
to continue the main journey with myself and, eventually, with--one
other.

“I’ve always been after those things,” he used to say, “and I’m
searching, searching always--inside myself, for the old forgotten
way. We were together, you and I, so your coming back like this will
help----”

I interrupted, caught by an inexplicable dread that he would mention
another person too. I said the first thing that came into my head.
Instinctively the words came, yet right words:

“But my outside is different now. How could you know? My face and body,
I mean----?”

“Of course,” he smiled; “but I knew you instantly. I shall never forget
that day. I felt it at once--all over me. I had often dreamed about
you,” he added after a moment’s pause, “but that was no good, because
you didn’t dream with me.” He looked hard into my eyes. “We’ve a lot
to do together, you know,” he said gravely, “a lot of things to put
right--one thing, one big thing in particular--when the time comes.
Whatever happens, we mustn’t drift apart again. We shan’t.”

Another minute and I knew he would speak of “her.” It was strange, this
sense of shrinking that particular picture brought. Never, except in
sleep occasionally, had it returned to me, and I think it was my dread
that kept it out of sight. Yet Julius just then did not touch the topic
that caused my heart to sink.

“I must be off,” he exclaimed a moment later. “There’s ‘stinks’ to mug
up, and I haven’t looked at it. I shan’t know a blessed word!” For the
chemistry, known to the boys by this shorter yet appropriate name, was
a constant worry to him. He was learning it for the first time, he
found it difficult. But he was a boy, a schoolboy, and he talked like
one.

He never doubted for one instant that I was not wholly with him. He
assumed that I knew and remembered, though less successfully, and that
we merely resumed an interrupted journey. Pre-existence was as natural
to him as that a certain man and woman had provided his returning
soul with the means of physical expression, termed body. His soul
remembered; he, therefore, could not doubt. It was innate conviction,
not acquired theory.

“I can’t get down properly to the things I want,” he said another time,
“but they’re coming. It’s a rotten nuisance--learning dates and all
these modern languages keeps them out. The two don’t mix. But, now
you’re here, we can dig up a jolly sight more than I could alone. And
you’re getting it up by degrees all right enough.”

For the principle of any particular knowledge, once acquired, was never
lost. It was learning a thing for the first time that was the grind.
Instinctive aptitude was subconscious memory of something learned
before.

“The pity is we’re made to learn a lot of stuff that belongs to one
particular section, and doesn’t run through them all. It clogs the
memory. The great dodge is to recognise the real knowledge and go for
it bang. Then you get a bit further every section.”

Until my arrival, it seems, he kept these ideas strictly to himself,
knowing he would otherwise be punished for lying, or penalised in
some other educational manner for being too imaginative. Yet, while
he stood aloof somewhat from the common school life, he was popular
and of good repute. The boys admired, but stood in awe of him. He
pleased the masters almost as much as he puzzled them; for, unlike most
dreamy, fanciful youths, he possessed concentration and an imperious
will; he worked hard and always knew his lessons. Modern knowledge he
found difficult, and only mastered with great labour the details of
recent history, elementary science, chemistry, and so forth, whereas
in algebra, Euclid, mathematics, and the dead languages, especially
Greek, he invariably stood at the head of the form. He was merely
re-collecting them.

During the whole two years of our schooldays at the Close, I never
heard him use such phrases as “former life” or “reincarnation.” Life,
for him, was eternal simply, and at Motfield he was in eternal life,
just as he always had been and always would be. Only he never said
this. He was a boy and talked like a boy. He just lived it. Death to
him was an insignificant detail. His whole mind ran to the idea that
life was continuous, each section casting aside the worn-out instrument
which had been exactly suited to the experience its wearer needed
for its development at that time and under those conditions. And,
certainly, he never understood that astounding tenet of most religions,
that life can be “eternal” by prolonging itself endlessly in the
future, without having equally extended endlessly also in the past!

“But _I’m_ going to be a general,” I said, “when I grow up,” afraid
that the “real knowledge” might interfere with my main ambition. “I
could never think of giving up _that_.”

Julius looked up from tracing figures in the sand with the point of his
gymnasium shoe. There was a smile on his lips, a light in his eye that
I understood. I had said something that belonged to To-day, and not to
all To-days.

“You were before,” he answered patiently, “a magnificent general, too.”

“But I don’t remember it,” I objected, being in one of my denying moods.

“You want to be it again,” he smiled. “It’s born in you. That _is_
memory. But, anyhow,” he added, “you can do both--be a general with
your mind and the other thing with your soul. To shirk your job only
means to come back to it again later, don’t you see?”

Quite naturally, and with profound conviction, he spoke of life’s
obligations. Physical infirmities resulted from gross errors in the
past; mental infirmities, from lost intellectual opportunities;
spiritual disabilities, from past moral shirkings and delinquencies:
all were methods, moreover, by which the soul divines her mistakes
and grows, through discipline, stronger, wiser. He would point to a
weakness in someone, and suggest what kind of error caused it in a
previous section, with the same certainty that a man might show a scar
and say “that came from fooling with a mowing machine when I was ten
years old.”

The antipathies and sympathies of To-day, the sudden affinities like
falling in love at sight, and the sudden hostilities that apparently
had no cause--all were due to relationships in some buried Yesterday,
while those of To-morrow could be anticipated, and so regulated, by
the actions of To-day. Even to the smallest things. If, for instance,
Martin vented his spite and jealousy, working injustice upon another,
he but prepared the way for an exactly adequate reprisal later that
must balance the account to date. For into the most trivial affairs
of daily life dipped the spirit of this remarkable boy’s belief,
revealing as with a torch’s flare the workings of an implacable
justice that never could be mocked. No question of punishment meted
out by another entered into it, but only an impersonal law, which men
call--elsewhere--Cause and Effect.

At the time, of course, I was somewhat carried away by the thoroughness
with which he believed and practised these ideas, though without
grasping the logic and consistency of his intellectual position. I
was aware, most certainly, in his presence of large and vitalising
sensations not easily accounted for, of being caught up into some
unfamiliar region over vast horizons, where big winds blew from dim and
ancient lands, where a sunlight burned that warmed the inmost heart
in me, and where I seemed to lose myself amid the immensities of an
endless, vistaed vision.

This, of course, is the language of maturity. At the time I could not
express a tithe of what my feelings were, except that they were vast
and wonderful. To think myself back imaginatively, even now, into that
period of my youth with Julius LeVallon by my side, is to feel myself
eternally young, alive forever beyond all possibility of annihilation
or decay; it is, further, to realise an ample measure of lives at my
disposal in which to work towards perfection, the mere ageing and
casting off of any particular body after using it for sixty years or
so--nothing, and less than nothing.

“Don’t funk!” I remember his saying once to a boy named Creswick who
had “avoided” the charging Hurrish at football. “You can’t lose your
life. You can only lose your body. And you’ll lose that anyhow.”

“Crazy lout!” Creswick exclaimed, nursing his ankle, as he confided
to another boy of like opinions. “I’m not going to have my bones all
smashed to pulp for anybody. Body I’m using at the moment indeed! It’ll
be life I’m using at the moment next!”

Which, I take it, was precisely what LeVallon meant.



CHAPTER IV

  “_In the case of personal relations, I do not see that heredity
  would help us at all. Heredity, however, can produce a more
  satisfactory explanation of innate aptitudes. On the other hand,
  the doctrine of pre-existence does not compel us to deny all
  influence on a man’s character of the character of his ancestors.
  The character which a man has at any time is modified by any
  circumstances which happen to him at that time, and may well be
  modified by the fact that his re-birth is in a body descended
  from ancestors of a particular character._”--Prof. J. M’Taggart.


There were numerous peculiarities about this individual with a foreign
name that I realise better on looking back than I did at the time.

Of his parentage and childhood I knew nothing, for he mentioned
neither, and his holidays were spent at school; but he was always well
dressed and provided with plenty of pocket-money, which he generously
shared. Later I discovered that he was an orphan, but a certain cruel
knowledge of the world whispered that he was something else as well.
This mystery of his origin, however, rather added to the wonder of him
than otherwise. Compared to the stretch of time behind, it seemed a
trifling detail of recent history that had no damaging significance.
“Julius LeVallon is my label for this section,” he observed, “and John
Mason is yours.” And family ties for him seemed to have no necessary
existence, since neither parents nor relations were of a man’s own
choosing. It was the ties deliberately formed, and especially the ties
renewed, that held real significance.

I thought of him as “foreign,” though, in a deeper sense than that he
was not quite English. He carried me away from England, but also away
from modern times; and something about him belonged to lands where
life was sunnier, more passionate, more romantic even, and where the
shadows of great Gods haunted blue, wooded mountains, vast plains and
deep, sequestered valleys. He claimed kinship somehow with an earlier
world, magical, unstained. Even his athletic gifts, admired of all, had
this subtle distinction too: the way he ran and jumped and “fielded”
was not English. At fives, squash-racquets, or with the cricket-bat he
fumbled badly, whereas in any game that demanded speed, adroitness,
swift intuitive decision, and physical dexterity of a certain
un-English kind--as against mere strength and pluck--he was supreme. He
was deer rather than bull-dog. The school-games of modern days he was
learning, apparently, for the first time.

In a corner of the field, where a copse of larches fringed the horizon
against the sloping woods and hop-poles in the distance, we used to
lie and talk for hours during playtime. The high-road skirted this
field, and a hedge was provided with a gate which, under penalties, was
the orthodox means of entrance. Few boys attempted any other, though
Peabody was once caught by the Head as he floundered through a thorny
opening with the jumping pole. But Julius never used the gate--nor was
ever caught. He would dart from my side with a few quick steps, leap
into the air, and fly soaring over the hedge, his feet tucked neatly
under him like a bird’s.

“Now,” he would say, as we flung ourselves down beneath the shade of
the larches, “we’ve got an hour or more. Let’s talk, and remember, and
get well down into it all.”

How it was accomplished I cannot hope to describe. The world about
me faded, another took its place. It rose in sheets and layers,
shimmering, alive, and amazingly familiar. Space and time seemed to
overlap, objects and scenery interpenetrated. There was fragrance,
light and colour; adventure and alarm; delight and ceaseless
expectation. It was a kind of fairyland where flowers never died, where
motion was swift as thought, and life seemed meted out on a more lavish
scale than by the meagre measurements of ticking clocks. And, while
the memories were often hard to disentangle, the marked idiosyncrasies
of our separate natures were never in the least confusion: _my_ passion
for adventure, _his_ to find the reality that lay behind all manifested
life. For this was the lode-star that guided him over the hills and
deserts of all his many “sections”--the unquenchable fever to learn
essential truth, to pierce behind the veil of appearances and discover
the secret nature of the soul, its origin, its destiny, the methods of
its full realisation.

It was a pastoral people that interested me most, primitive folk with
migratory habits not yet abandoned. Their herds roamed an enormous
territory. There was a Red Tribe and a Blue Tribe. The fighting men
used bows, spears and javelins, and carried shields with round, smooth
metal bosses to deflect the rain of arrows. And there was cavalry--two
thousand men on horseback called a “coorlie.” Julius and I both knew
it all as if we had lived with them, not merely read an invented tale;
and it was pictures of this land and people that had first flared up in
me that afternoon in the playground when he asked if I “remembered.”
Memories of my childhood a few years before had not half the vividness
and actuality of these. Nothing could have been more stupid than such
undistinguished legends, but for this convincing reality that was their
outstanding characteristic.... It all came back to me: the days and
nights of hunting, nomad existence, the wild freedom of open plains and
trackless forests, of migrations in the spring, wood fires, lawless
raids, and also of some kind of mighty worship that stirred me deeply
with an old, grand sense of Nature Deities adequately approached.

This latter fact, indeed, rose most possessingly upon me. There came
a vague uneasiness and discomfort with it. I was aware of brooding
Presences....

“And they are still about us if we care to look for them,” interrupted
a low voice in my ear, “ready to give us of their strength and
happiness, waiting to answer if we call....”

I looked up, disagreeably startled. A breath of wind stirred in the
branches overhead. The tufts of ragwort bent their yellow heads. In
the sky there was a curious glow and warmth. A sense of hush pervaded
all the air, as though someone had crept close to where we lay and
overheard our thoughts with sympathy.

And in that very moment, just as I looked up at Julius, the picture of
the woman, her face averted and her hands upraised, stole like a ghost
before my inner vision. She vanished into mist again; the layer that
had so suddenly disclosed itself, sank down; the other shifted up into
its former place; and my companion, I saw, with sharp amazement was
stretched upon his back, his head turned from me, resting on his folded
hands--as though he had not spoken any word at all. For his eyes, as
I then leaned over to discover, were gazing into space, and his mind
seemed intent upon pictures that he visualised for himself.

“Julius,” I said quickly, “you spoke to me just now?”

He turned slowly, as with an effort to tear himself away from what he
saw within him; he answered quietly:

“I may have spoken. I can’t be sure. Why do you ask? I’ve been so far
away.” His face was rapt as with some inner light. It had a radiant
look. There was no desire in me to insist.

“Oh, nothing,” I answered quickly, and lay down again to follow what
memories might come. The slight shiver that undeniably had touched me
went its way. There was relief, intense relief--that he had not taken
the clue I recklessly had offered. And, almost at once, the world about
me faded out once more, the larches dipped away, the field sank out of
sight. I plunged down into the sea of older memories....

I saw the sunlight flashing on shield and spear; I saw the hordes
all gathered in the plains below, a mass of waving plumes, with red
on the head-dress of the chieftains; I saw the river blackened by
the thousands crossing it, covering the opposite bank like swarms of
climbing ants.... I saw the chieftains lay aside their arms as they
entered the sacred precincts of the grove; I smelt the odour of the
sacrificial fires, heard the long-drawn droning of petitions, the cries
of the victims.... And then the sentry-fires behind the sleeping camps
... the stirring of the soldiers at dawn ... the perfume of leagues of
open plain ... muffled tramping far away ... wind ... fading stars ...
wild-flowers dripping with the dew....

There was fighting, too, galore; tremendous marches; signalling by
night from the mountain-tops with torches alternately hidden and
revealed; and of sacred rites, primitive and fraught with danger to
human life, no end....

In the middle of which up stole again that other layer, breathing
terror and shrinking dread, and with a vividness of actuality that put
all the rest into the shade. It could not, _would_ not be dismissed.
Its irruption was of but an instant’s duration, but in that instant
there flashed upon me a clear intuition of certainty. I knew that
Julius refrained purposely from speaking of this figure, because
he understood my dread might drive me from his side before what we
three must accomplish together was ripe for action, and because he
waited--till she should appear in person. And, before it vanished
again, I knew another thing: that what we three must accomplish
together had to do directly with the worship of these mighty, old-world
Nature Deities.

The stirring of these deep, curious emotions in me banished effectually
all further scenery. I sat up and began to talk. I laughed a little and
raised my voice. The sky, meanwhile, had clouded over, there was no
heat in the occasional gleams of sunshine.

“I’ve been hunting and fighting and the Lord knows what else besides,”
I exclaimed, touching Julius on the shoulder where he lay. “But somehow
I didn’t feel that you were with me--always.”

“It’s too awfully far back, for one thing,” he replied dreamily, as
if still half withdrawn, “and, for another, we both left that section
young. The three of us were not together then. That was a bit later.
All the same,” he added, “it was there you sowed the first seeds of
the soldiering instinct which is so strong in you to-day. I was killed
in battle. We were on opposite sides. You fell----”

“On the steps----” I cried, seizing a flashing memory.

“Of the House of Messengers,” he caught me up. “You carried the Blue
Stick of warning. You got down the street in safety when the flying
javelin caught you as you reached the very steps----”

There was a sound behind us in the field quite close.

“What in the world do you two boys find to talk about so much?” asked
the voice of Hurrish suddenly. “I’m afraid it’s not all elegiacs.” And
he laughed good-humouredly.

We turned with a start. Julius looked up, then rose and touched his
cap. I followed his example the same moment.

“No, sir,” he said, before I could think of anything to answer. “It’s
the Memory Game.”

Hurrish looked at him with a quiet smile upon his face. His expression
betrayed interest. But he said nothing, merely questioning with his
eyes.

“The most wonderful game you ever played, sir,” continued Julius.

“Indeed! The most wonderful game you ever played?” Hurrish repeated,
yet by no means unkindly.

“Getting down among the memories of--of before, sir. Recovering what we
did, and what we were--and so understanding what we are to-day.”

The master stared without a sign of emotion upon his face. Apparently,
in some delightful way, he understood. He was very sympathetic, I
remember, to both of us. We thought the world of him, respecting
him almost to the point of personal affection; and this in spite of
punishments his firm sense of justice often obliged him to impose. I
think, at that moment, he divined what Julius meant and even felt more
sympathy than he cared to show.

“The Memory Game,” he repeated, looking quizzically down at us over the
top of his glasses. “Well, well.” He hummed and hesitated a moment,
choosing his words, it seemed, with care. “There’s a good deal of that
in the air just now, I know--as you’ll discover for yourselves when
you leave here and get into the world outside. But, remember,” he went
on with a note of earnestness and warning in his voice, “most of it is
little better than a feeble, yet rather dangerous, form of hysteria,
with vanity as a basis.”

I hardly understood what he meant myself, but I saw the quick flush
that coloured the pale cheeks of my companion.

“There are numbers of people about to-day,” continued Hurrish, as we
walked home slowly across the field, “who pretend to remember all kinds
of wonderful things about themselves and about their past, not one of
which can be justified. But it only means, as a rule, that they wish
to appear peculiar by taking up the fad of the moment. They like to
glorify themselves, though few of them understand even the A B C of the
serious belief that _may_ lie behind it all.”

Julius squeezed my arm; the flush had left his skin; he was listening
eagerly.

“You may later come across a good many thinking people, too,” said
the master, “who play your Memory Game, or think they do, and some
among them who claim to have carried it to an extraordinary degree of
perfection. There are ways and means, it is said. I do not deny that
their systems may be worthy of investigation; I merely say it is a good
plan to approach the whole thing with caution and common sense.”

He glanced down first at one, then the other of us, with a grave and
kindly expression in the eyes his glasses magnified so oddly.

“And most who play it,” he added dryly, “remember so much of their
wonderful past that they forget to do their ordinary duties in their
very commonplace present.” He chuckled a little, while Julius again
gripped my flesh so hard that I only just prevented crying out.

“I’ll remember him in a minute--if only I can get down far enough,” he
managed to whisper in my ear. “We were together----”

We had reached the gate, and were walking down the road towards the
house. It was very evident that Hurrish understood more than he cared
to admit about our wonderful game, and was trying to guide us rather
than to deride instinctive beliefs.

That night in our bedroom, when Goldingham was asleep and snoring,
I felt a touch upon my pillow, and looking up from the edge of
unconsciousness, saw the white outline of Julius beside the bed.

“Come over here,” he whispered, pointing to a shaded candle on the
chest of drawers, “I’ve got something to show you. Something Hurrish
gave me--something out of a book.”

We peered together over a page of writing spread before us. Julius
was excited and very eager. I do not think he understood it much
better than I myself did, but it was the first time he had come across
anything approaching his beliefs in writing. The discovery thrilled
him. The authority of print was startling.

“He said it was somebody or other of importance, an Authority,”
Julius whispered as I leaned over to read the fine handwriting. “It’s
Hurrish’s,” I announced. “Rather,” Julius answered. “But he copied it
from a book. _He_ knows right enough.”

Oddly enough, the paper came eventually into my hands, though how I
know not; I found it many years later in an old desk I used in those
days. I have it now somewhere. The name of the author, however, I quite
forget.

“The moral and educational importance of the belief in metempsychosis,”
it ran, as our fingers traced the words together in the uncertain
candle-light, “lies in the fact that it is a manifestation of the
instinct that we are not ‘complete,’ and that one life is not enough to
enable us to reach that perfection whither we are urged by the inmost
depths of our being, and also an evidence of the belief that all human
action will be inevitably rewarded or punished----”

“Rewards or punishes _itself_,” interrupted Julius; “it’s not
punishment at all really.”

“And this is an importance that must not be underestimated,” the
interrupted sentence concluded. “In so far,” we read on together,
somewhat awed, I think, to tell the truth, “as the theory is based upon
the supposition that a personal divine power exists and dispenses this
retributive justice----”

“Wrong again,” broke in Julius, “because it’s just the law of natural
results--there’s nothing personal about it.”

“--and that the soul must climb a long steep path to approach this
power, does metempsychosis preserve its religious character.”

“He means going back into animals as well--which _never_ happens,”
commented the excited boy beside me once again. We read to the end then
without further interruption.

“This, however, is not all. The Theory is also the expression of
another idea which gives it a philosophical character. It is the
earliest intellectual attempt of man, when considering the world
and his position in it, to conceive that world, not as alien to
him, but as akin to him, and to incorporate himself and his life
as an indispensable and eternal element in the past and future of
the world with which it forms one comprehensive totality. I say
an eternal element, because, regarded philosophically, the belief
in metempsychosis seems a kind of unconscious anticipation of the
principle now known as ‘Conservation of Energy.’ Nothing that has ever
existed can be lost, either in life or by death. All is but change; and
hence souls do not perish, but return again and again in ever-changing
forms. Moreover, later developments of metempsychosis, especially as
conceived by Lessing, can without difficulty be harmonised with the
modern idea of evolution from lower to higher forms.”

“That’s all,” Julius whispered, looking round at me.

“By George!” I replied, returning his significant stare.

“I promised Hurrish, you know,” he added, blowing out the candle.
“Promised I’d read it to you.”

“All right,” I answered in the dark.

And, without further comment or remark, we went back to our respective
beds, and quickly so to sleep.

Before taking the final plunge, however, into oblivion, I heard the
whisper of Julius, sharply audible in the silence, coming at me across
the darkened room:

“It’s all rot,” he said. “The chap who wrote that was simply thinking
with his brain. But it’s not the brain that remembers; it’s the other
part of you.” There was a pause. And then he added, as though after
further reflection: “Don’t bother about it. There’s lots of stuff like
that about--all tommy-rot and talk, that’s all. Good night! We’ll dream
together now and p’raps remember.”



CHAPTER V

  “_We have no right whatever to speak of really unconscious
  Nature, but only of uncommunicative Nature, or of Nature whose
  mental processes go on at such different time-rates to ours that
  we cannot easily adjust ourselves to an appreciation of their
  inward fluency, although our consciousness does make us aware of
  their presence.... Nature is a vast realm of finite consciousness
  of which your own is at once a part and an example._”--Royce.


There was a great deal more in LeVallon, however, than the Memory Game:
he brought a strange cargo with him from these distant shores, where,
apparently, I--to say nothing of another--had helped to load it. Bit by
bit, as my own machinery of recovery ran more easily, I tapped other
layers also in myself. Our freight was slowly discharged. We examined
and discussed each bale, as it were, but I soon became aware that
there was a great deal he kept back from me. This secrecy first piqued
and then distressed me. It brought mystery between us; there stood a
shadowy question-mark in our relationship.

I divined the cause, and dreaded it--that is, I dreaded the revelation
he would sooner or later make. For I guessed--I _knew_--what it
involved and whom. I asked no questions. But I noticed that at a
certain point our conversations suddenly stopped, he changed the
subject, or withdrew abruptly into silence. And something sinister
gripped my heart. Behind it, closely connected in some undiscovered
manner, lay two things I have already mentioned: the woman, and the
worship.

This reconstruction of our past together, meanwhile, was--for a pair
of schoolboys--a thrilling pursuit that never failed to absorb. Stone
by stone we built it up. After often missing one another, sometimes by
a century, sometimes by a mere decade or so, our return at last had
chimed, and we found ourselves on earth again. We had inevitably come
together. There was no such thing as missing eventually, it seemed.
Debts must be discharged between those who had incurred them. And,
chief among these mutual obligations, I gathered, were certain dealings
we had together in connection with some form of Nature worship, during
a section he referred to as our “Temple Days.”

The character of these dealings was one of those secret things that he
would not disclose; he knew, but would not speak of it; and alone I
could not “dig it up.” Moreover, the effect upon me here was decidedly
a mixed one, for while there was great beauty in these Temple Days,
there lurked behind this portion of them--terror. We had not been alone
in this. Involved somehow or other with us was “the woman.”

Julius would talk freely of certain aspects of this period, of various
practices, physical, mental, spiritual, and of gorgeous ceremonies
that were stimulating as well as true, pertaining undoubtedly to
some effective worship of the sun, that resulted in the obtaining of
enormous energy by the worshippers; but after a certain point he would
say no more, and would deliberately try to shift back to some other
“layer” altogether. And it was sheer cowardice in me that prevented my
forcing a declaration. I burned to know, yet was afraid.

“I do wish I could remember better,” I said once.

“It comes gradually of itself,” he answered, “and best of all when
you’re not thinking at all. The top part gets thin, and suddenly you
see down into clear deep water. The top part, of course, is recent; it
smothers the older things.”

“Like thick sand, mine is,” I said, “heaps and heaps of it.”

He shrugged his shoulders and laughed.

“The pictures of To-day hide those of Yesterday,” he explained. “You
can’t remember two things at once. If your head is stuffed with what’s
happening at the moment, you can’t expect to remember what happened a
month ago. Dig back. It’s trying that starts it moving.”

Ancient as the stars themselves appeared the origins of our friendship
and affection of to-day.

“Then I didn’t get as far as you--in those Temple Days?” I asked.

He glanced sharply at me beneath his long dark eyelids. He hesitated a
moment.

“You began,” he answered presently in a low voice, “but got
caught later by--something in the world--fighting, or money, or a
woman--something sticky like that. And you left me for a time.”

Any temptation that enticed the soul from “real knowledge” he described
as “sticky.”

“For several sections you fooled with things that counted for the
moment, but were not carried over through the lot. You came back to
the real ones--but too late.” His voice sank down into a whisper; his
face was grave and troubled. Shrinking stole over me. There was the
excitement that he was going to tell me something, yet the dread, too,
that I should hear it. “But now,” he went on, half to himself and half
to me, “we can put that right. Our chance--at last--is coming.” These
last words he uttered beneath his breath.

And then he abruptly shifted the subject, leaving me with a strangely
disquieting emotion that I should be drawn against my will into
something that I dreaded yet could not possibly avoid. The expression
of his face chilled my heart. He pulled me down upon the grass beside
him. “You’ve got to burrow down inside yourself,” he went on earnestly,
raising his voice again to its normal pitch, “that’s where it all lies
buried. Once you get it up by yourself, you’ll understand. Then you can
help me.”

His own excitement ran across the air to me. I felt grandeur in his
wonderful conception--this immense river of our lives, the justice of
inevitable cause and effect, the ultimate importance of every action,
word and thought, and, what appealed to me most of all, the idea
that results depended upon one’s own character and will without the
hiring of exalted substitutes to make it easy. Even as a boy this all
appealed strongly to me, probably to the soldier fighting-instinct that
was my chief characteristic....

Of these Temple Days with their faint, flying pictures I retain
fascinating recollections. In them was nothing to suggest any country
I could name, certainly neither Egypt, Greece nor India. Julius spoke
of some great civilisation in which primitive worship of some true kind
combined with accomplishments we might regard to-day as the result of
trained and accurate science. It involved union somehow with great
“natural” forces. There was awe in it, but an atmosphere, too, of
wonder, power and aspiration of a genuinely lofty type.

It left upon me the dim impression that it was not on the earth at
all. But, for me it was too thickly veiled for detailed recovery,
though an invincible instinct whispered that it was here “the woman”
first intruded upon our joint relationship. I saw, with considerable
sharpness, however, delightful pictures of what was evidently
sun-worship, though of an intelligent rather than a superstitious
kind. We seemed nearer to the sun than we are to-day, differently
constituted, aware of greater powers; there was vast heat, there were
gigantic, mighty winds. In this heat, through these colossal winds,
came deity. The elemental powers were its manifestation. The sun, the
planets, the entire universe, in fact, seemed then alive; we knew it
was alive; we were kin with every point in it; and worship of a sun,
a planet, or a tree, as the case might be, somehow drew their beings
into definite relationship with our own, even to the point of leaving
the characteristics of their particular Powers in our systems. A human
being was but _one_ living detail of a universe in which all other
details were equally living and equally--possibly more--important.
Nature was a power to be experienced, shared, and natural objects had
a meaning in their own right. We read the phenomena of Nature as signs
and symbols, clear as the black signs of writing on a printed page.

Out of many talks together, Julius and I recovered all this. Alone
I could not understand it. Julius, moreover, believed it still
to-day. Though nominally, and in his life as well, a Christian, he
always struck me as being intensely religious, yet without a definite
religion. It was afterwards, of course, I realised this, when my
experience of modern life was larger. He was unfettered by any little
dogmas of man-made creeds, but obeyed literally the teaching of the
Sermon on the Mount, which he knew by heart. It was essential spiritual
truth he sought. His tolerance and respect for all the religions of
to-day were based upon the belief that each contained a portion of
truth at least. His was the attitude of a perfect charity--of an
“old soul,” as he phrased it later, who “had passed through all the
traditions.” His belief included certainly God and the gods, Nature and
Christ, temples of stone and hills and woods and that temple of the
heart which is the Universe itself. True worship, however, was _with_
Nature.

A vivid picture belongs to this particular “layer.” I saw the light
of a distant planet being used, apparently in some curative sense, by
human beings. It took place in a large building. Long slits in the roof
were so arranged that the planet shone through them exactly upon the
meridian. Dropping through the dusky atmosphere, the rays were caught
by an immense concave mirror of polished metal that hung suspended
above an altar where the smoke of incense rose; and, since a concave
mirror forms at its focus in the air before it an image of whatever is
reflected in its depths, a radiant image of the planet stood shining
there in the heart of the building. It was a picture of arresting
beauty and significance. Gleaming overhead, hung a mirror of still
mightier proportions that caught the reflected rays and poured them
down in a stream of intensified light upon the backs of men and women
who lay naked on the ground, waiting to receive them.

“The quality of that particular planet is what they need,” whispered
Julius, as we watched together; “the light-cures of that age have
hardly changed,” he laughed; “the principle, at least, remains the
same.”

There was another scene as well in which I saw motionless, stretched
figures. I could never see it clearly, though. Darkness invariably
rolled down and hid it; and I had the idea that LeVallon tried to
prevent its complete recovery--just then. Nor was I sorry at this, for
beyond it lay something that seemed the source of the shrinking dread
that haunted me. If I saw all, I should see also--_her_. I should know
the secret thing Julius kept back from me, the thing we three had
somehow to “set right again.” And once, when this particular scene was
in my mind and Julius, I felt sure, was seeing it too, as he lay beside
me on the grass, there passed into me a sudden sensation of a kind I
find it difficult to describe. There was yearning in it, but there was
anguish too, and a pain as of deep, unfathomable regret wholly beyond
me to account for. It swept into me, I think, from him.

I turned suddenly. He lay, I saw, with his face hidden in his hands;
his shoulders shook as though he sobbed; and it seemed that some
memory of great poignancy convulsed him. For several minutes he lay
speechless in this way, yet an air of privacy about him, that forbade
intrusion. Once or twice I surprised him under these curious attacks;
they were invariably connected with this particular “inner scenery”;
and sometimes were followed by bouts of that nameless and mysterious
illness that kept him in the sick-room for several days. But I asked no
questions, and he vouchsafed no explanation.

On this particular point, at least, I asked no questions; but on the
general subject of my uneasiness I sometimes probed him.

“This sense of funk when I remember these old forgotten things,” I
asked, “what is it? Why does it frighten me?”

Gazing at me out of those strange eyes that saw into so huge a
universe, he answered softly:

“It’s a faint memory too--of the first pains and trials you suffered
when you began to learn. You feel the old wrench and strain.”

“It hurt so----?”

He nodded, with that smile of yearning that sometimes shone so
beautifully on his face.

“At first,” he replied. “It seemed like losing your life--until you got
far enough to know the great happiness of the bigger way of living.
Coming back to me like this revives it. We began to learn together, you
see.”

I mentioned the extraordinary feelings of the playground when first I
spoke with him, and of the class-room when first we saw each other.

“Ah,” he sighed, “there’s no mistaking it--the coming together of old
friends or enemies. The instant the eyes meet, the flash of memory
follows. Only, the tie must have been real, of course, to make it
binding.”

“How can it ever end?” I asked. “Each time starts it all going again.”

“By starting the opposite. Love dissolves the link. Understand why you
hate--and at once it lessens. Sympathy follows, feeling-with--that’s
love; and love sets you both free. It’s not thinking, but feeling that
makes the strongest chains.”

And it was speaking of “feeling” that led to his saying things I
have never forgotten. For thinking, in those older days, seemed of
small account. It was an age of feeling, chiefly. Feeling was the
way to knowledge: here was the main difference between To-day and
those far-off Yesterdays. The way to know an object was to feel
it--feel-with it. The simplicity of the method was as significant as
its--impossibility! Yet a fundamental truth was in it.

To know a thing was not to enumerate merely its qualities. To state the
weight, colour, texture of a stone, for instance, was merely to mention
its external characteristics; whereas to think of it till it became
part of the mind, seen from its own point of view, was to know it as
it actually is. The mind felt-with it. It became a part of yourself.
Knowledge, as Julius understood the word, was identifying himself with
the object: it became part of the substance of the mind: it was known
from within.

Communion with inanimate objects, with Nature itself, was in this way
actually possible.

“Dwell upon anything you like,” he said, “to the point where you feel
it, and you get it all exactly as it _is_, not merely as _you_ see it.
Its quality, its power, becomes a part of yourself. Take trees, rivers,
mountains, take wind and fire in this way--and you feel their power in
you. You can use them. That was the way of worship--then.”

“The sun itself, the planets, anything?” I asked eagerly, recognising
something that seemed once familiar to me.

“Anything,” he replied quietly. “Copy their own movements too, and
you’ll get nearer still. Imitate the attitude and gestures of a
stranger and you begin to understand what he’s up to, his point of
view--what he’s feeling. You begin to know him. All ceremonies began
that way. On that big plain where the worship of the sun was held, the
smaller temples represented the planets, the distances all calculated
in proper ratio from the heavens. We copied their movements exactly,
as we moved, thousands and thousands of us, in circular form about the
centre. We felt-with them, got all joined up to the whole system; by
imitating their gestures, we understood them and absorbed a portion of
their qualities and powers. Our energy became as theirs. Acting the
ceremony brought the knowledge, don’t you see? Oh, it’s scientific,
right enough,” he added. “It’s not going backwards--instinctive
knowledge. It’s a pity it’s forgotten now.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked.

“I’ve done it so often. You’ve done it with me. Alone, of course, it’s
difficult to get results; but when a lot together do it--a crowd--a
nation--the whole world--you could shift Olympus into the Ægean, or
bring Mars near enough to throw a bridge across!”

We burst out laughing together, though his face instantly again grew
grave and earnest.

“It will come,” he said, “it will come again in time. When the idea of
brotherhood has spread, and the separate creeds have merged, and the
whole world feels the same thing together--it will come. It’s another
order of consciousness, that’s all.”

His passionate conviction certainly stirred joy and wonder in me
somewhere. It was stupendous, yet so simple. The universe was knowable;
its powers assimilable by human beings. Here was true Nature Magic, the
elements co-operating, the stars alive, the sun a deity to be known and
felt.

“And that’s why concentration gives such power,” he added. “By feeling
anything till you _feel-with_ it and become it, you know every blessed
thing about it from inside. You have instinctive knowledge of it.
Mistakes become impossible. You live and act with the whole universe.”

And, as I listened, it seemed a kind of childish presumption that had
shut us off from the sun, the stars, the numerous other systems of
space, and that reduced knowledge to the meagre statement of a people
dwelling upon one unimportant globe of comparatively recent matter in
one of the smaller solar systems.

Our earth, indeed, was not the centre of the universe; it was but
a temporary point in the long, long journey of the River of Lives.
The soul would eventually traverse a million other points. It was so
integral a part of everything, so intimately akin to every corner and
aspect of the cosmos, that a “human” being’s relative position to
the very stars, the angle at which he met their light and responded
to the tension of their forces, must necessarily affect his inmost
personality. If the moon could raise the tides, she could assuredly
cause an ebb and flow in the fluids of the human body, and how could
men and women expect to resist the stress and suction of those
tremendous streams of power that played upon the earth from the network
of great distant suns? Times and seasons, now known as feast-days
and the like, were likewise of significance. There were moments, for
instance, in the “ceremony” of the heavens when it was possible to see
more easily in one direction than in another, when certain powers,
therefore, were open and accessible. The bridges then were clear, the
channels open. A revelation of intenser life--from the universe, from a
star, from mountains, rivers, winds or forests--could then steal down
and leave their traces in the heart and passion of a human being. For,
just as there is a physical attitude of prayer by which the human body
invites communion, so times and seasons were attitudes and gestures
of that greater body of Nature when results could be most favourably
expected.

It was all very bewildering, very big, very curious; but if I protested
that it merely meant a return to the unreasoning superstitious days of
Nature Magic, there was something in me at the same time that realised
vital, forgotten truth behind it all. Cleansed and scientific, Julius
urged, it must return into the world again. What men formerly knew by
feeling, an age now coming would justify and demonstrate by brain and
reason. Touch with the universe would be restored. We should go back to
Nature for peace and power and progress. Scientific worship would be
known.

Yet by worship he meant not merely kneeling before an Ideal and praying
eagerly to resemble it; but approaching a Power and acquiring it. What
heat in itself may be we do not know; only that without it we collapse
into inert particles. What lies behind, beyond the physicist’s account
of air as a gas, remains unknown; deprived of it, however, we cease to
breathe and be conscious in matter. Each moment we feel the sun, take
in the air, we live; and the more we accomplish this union, the more we
are alive. In addition to these physical achievements, however, their
essential activities could be known and acquired spiritually. And the
means was that worship which is union--feeling-with.

To Julius this achievement was a literal one. The elements were an
expression of spiritual powers. To be in touch with them was to be
in touch with a Whole in which the Earth or Sirius are, after all,
but atoms. Moreover, it was a conscious Whole. In atoms themselves he
found life too. Chemical affinity involved intelligence. Certain atoms
refuse to combine with certain other atoms, they are hostile to each
other; while others rush headlong into each other’s arms. How do the
atoms know?

Here lay hints of powers he sought to reclaim for human use and human
help and human development.

“For they were known once,” he would cry. “We knew them, you and I.
Their nature is not realised to-day; consciousness has lost touch
with them. We recall a broken fragment, but label it superstition,
ignorance, and the like. And, being incomplete, these remnants of
necessity seem childish. Their meaning cannot come through the brain,
and that other mode of consciousness which understood has left us now.
The world, pursuing a lesser ideal, denies its forgotten greatness with
a sneer!”

A great deal of this he said to me one day while we were walking home
from church, whose “service” had stirred him into vehement and eager
utterance. His language was very boyish, and yet it seemed to me that I
listened to someone quite as old as Dr. Randall, the Headmaster who had
preached. I can see the hedges, wet and shining after rain; the dull
November sky; ploughed fields and muddy lanes. I can hear again the
plover calling above the hill. Nothing could possibly have been more
uninspiring than the dreary hop-poles, the moist, depressing air, the
leafless elms, and the “Sunday feeling” amid which the entire scene was
laid.

The boys straggled along the road in twos and threes, hands in pockets,
points of Eton jackets sticking out behind. Hurrish, the nice master,
was just in front of us, walking with Goldingham. I saw the latter turn
his face up sideways as he asked some question, and I suddenly wondered
whether he knew how odd he looked, or, indeed, what he looked like at
all. I wondered what sort of “sections” and adventures Goldingham,
Hurrish, and all these Eton-jacketed boys had been through before they
arrived at _this;_ and next it flashed across me what a grotesque
result it was for LeVallon to have reached after so many picturesque
and stimulating lives--an Eton jacket, a mortar-board, and tight
Wesleyan striped trousers.

And now, as I recall these curious recollections of years ago, it
occurs to me as remarkable that, although a sense of humour was not
lacking in either of us, yet neither then nor now could the spirit of
the comic, and certainly never of the ludicrous, rob by one little
jot the reality, the deep, convincing actuality of these strange
convictions that LeVallon and I shared together when at Motfield Close
we studied Greek and Latin, while remembering a world before Greeks or
Latins ever existed at all.



CHAPTER VI

  “_There seems nothing in pre-existence incompatible with any
  of the dogmas which are generally accepted as fundamental to
  Christianity._”--Prof. M’Taggart.


By my last half-year at Motfield Close, when I was Head of the school,
LeVallon had already left, but the summer term preceding his departure
is the one most full of delightful recollections for me. He was Head
then--which proves that he was sufficiently normal and practical to
hold that typically English position, and to win respect in it--and I
was “Follow-on Head,” as we called it.

I suppose he was verging on eighteen at the time, for neither
of us was destined for a Public School later, and we stayed on
longer than the general run of boys. We still shared the room with
Goldingham--“Goldie,” who went on to Wellington and Sandhurst, and
afterwards lost his life in the Zulu War--and we enjoyed an unusual
amount of liberty. The “triumvirate” the masters called us, and I
remember that we were proud of topping Hurrish by half an inch, each
being over six feet in his socks.

With peculiar pleasure, too, I recall the little class we formed by
ourselves in Greek, and the hours spent under Hurrish’s sympathetic and
enthusiastic guidance, reading Plato for the first time. Hurrish was
an admirable scholar, and myself and Goldie, though unable to match
LeVallon’s singular and intuitive mastery of the language, made up
for our deficiency by working like slaves. The group was a group of
enthusiasts, not of mere plodding schoolboys. But Julius it undoubtedly
was who fed the little class with a special subtle fire of his own,
and with a spirit of searching interpretative insight that made the
delighted Hurrish forget that he was master and Julius pupil. And in
the “Sympathetic Studies” the former published later upon Plotinus and
some of the earlier Gnostic writings, I certainly traced more than
one illuminating passage to its original inspiration in some remark
let fall by LeVallon in those intimate talks round Hurrish’s desk at
Motfield Close.

But what comes back to me now with a kind of veritable haunting wonder
that almost makes me sorry such speculations are no longer possible,
were the talks and memories we enjoyed together in our bedroom. For
there was a stimulating excitement about these whispered conversations
we held by the open window on summer nights--an atmosphere of stars
and scented airs and hushed silent spaces beyond the garden--that
comes back to me now with an added touch of mystery and beauty both
compelling and suggestive. When I think of those bedroom hours I step
suddenly out of the London murk and dinginess, out of the tedium
of my lecturing and teaching, into a vast picture gallery of vivid
loveliness. The scenery of mighty dreams usurps the commonplace
realities of the present.

Ten o’clock was the hour for lights out, and by ten-fifteen Goldie,
with commendable regularity, was asleep and snoring. We thanked him
much for that, as somebody says in “Alice,” and Julius, as soon as the
signal of Goldie’s departure became audible, would creep over to my
bed, touch me on the shoulder, and give the signal to drag the bolsters
from a couple of unused beds and plant ourselves tailor-wise in our
dressing-gowns before the window.

“It’s like the old, old days,” he would say, pointing to the sky.
“The stars don’t change much, do they?” He indicated the dim terraces
of lawn with the tassel of his dressing-gown. “Can’t you imagine it
all? _I_ can. There were the long stone steps--don’t you see?--below,
running off into the plain. Behind us, all the halls and vestibules,
cool and silent, veil after veil hiding the cells for meditation, and
over there in the corner the little secret passages down to the crypts
below ground where the tests took place. Better put a blanket round
you if you’re cold,” he added, noticing that I shivered, though it was
excitement and not cold that sent the slight trembling over my body.
“And there”--as the church clock sounded the hour across the Kentish
woods and fields--“are the very gongs themselves, I swear, the great
gongs that swung in the centre of the dome.”

Goldie’s peaceful snoring, and an occasional closing of a door as one
master after another retired to his room in the house below, were the
only sounds that reminded me of the present. Julius, sitting beside me
in the starlight, his eyes ashine, his pale skin gleaming under the mop
of tangled dark hair, whispered words that conjured up not only scenes
and memories, but the actual feelings, atmosphere and emotions of
days more ancient than any dreams. I smelt the odour of dim, pillared
aisles, tasted the freshness of desert air, heard the high rustle
of other winds in palm and tamarisk. The Past that never dies swept
down upon us from sky and Kentish countryside with the murmur of the
night-breeze in the shrubberies below. It enveloped us completely.

“Not the stars we knew together _first_--not the old outlines we once
travelled by,” he whispered, describing in the air with his finger the
constellations presumably of other skies. “That was earlier still.
Yet the general look is the same. You can feel the old tinglings
coming down from some of them.” And he would name the planet that was
in ascension at the moment, with invariable correctness I found out
afterwards, and describe the particular effect it produced upon his
thoughts and imagination, the moods and forces it evoked, the mental
qualities it served--in a word its psychic influence upon the inner
personality.

“Look,” he whispered, but so suddenly that it made me start. He pointed
to the darkened room behind us. “Can’t you almost see the narrow slit
in the roof where the rays came through and fell upon the metal discs
swinging in mid-air? Can’t you see the rows of dark-skinned bodies on
the ground? Can’t you feel the minute and crowding vibrations of the
light on your flesh, as the disc swung round and the stream fell down
in a jolly blaze all over you?”

And, though I saw nothing in the room but faintly luminous patches
where the beds stood, and the two tin baths upon the floor, a vivid
scene rose before my mind’s eye that stirred poignant emotions I was
wholly at a loss to explain. The consciousness of some potent magical
life stirred in my veins, a vaster horizon, and a larger purpose than
anything I had known hitherto in my strict and conventional English
life and my quaint worship in a pale-blue tin tabernacle where all was
ugly, cramped, and literally idolatrous.

“And the gongs so faintly ringing,” I cried.

Julius turned quickly and thrust his face closer into mine. Then he
stood up beside the open window and drew in a deep breath of the June
night air.

“Ah, you remember that?” he said, with eyes aglow. “The gongs--the big
singing gongs! There you had a bit of clean, deep memory right out of
the centre. No wonder you feel excited...!”

And he explained to me, though I scarcely recognised the voice or
language, so strongly did the savour of shadowy past days inform them,
how it was in those old temples when the world was not cut off from
the rest of the universe, but claimed some psychical kinship with all
the planetary and stellar forces, that each planet was represented by
a metal gong so attuned in quality and pitch as to vibrate in sympathy
with the message of its particular rays, sound and colour helping and
answering one another till the very air trembled and pulsed with the
forces the light brought down. No doubt, Julius’s words, vibrating
with earnestness, completed my confusion while they intensified my
enjoyment, for I remember how carried away I was by this picture of the
temples acting as sounding-boards to the sky, and by his description
of the healing powers of the light and sound thus captured and
concentrated.

The spirit of comedy peeped in here and there between the entr’actes,
as it were, for even the peaceful and studious Goldie was also
included in these adventures of forgotten days, sometimes consciously,
sometimes unconsciously.

“By the gods!” Julius exclaimed, springing up, “I’ve an idea! We’ll try
it on Goldie, and see what happens!”

“Try what?” I whispered, catching his own excitement.

“Gongs, discs and planet,” was the reply.

I stared at him through the gloom. Then I glanced towards the
unconscious victim.

“There’s no harm. We’ll imagine this is one of the old temples, and
we’ll do an experiment!” He touched me on the back. Excitement ran
through me. Something caught me from the past. I watched him with an
emotion that was half amazement, half alarm.

In a moment he had the looking-glass balanced upon the window-ledge at
a perilous angle, reflecting the faint starlight upon the head of the
sleeping Goldingham. Any minute I feared it would fall with a crash
upon the lawn below, or break into smithereens upon the floor. Julius
fixed it somehow with a hair-brush and a towel against the sash.

“Get the disc,” he whispered, and after a moment’s reflection I
understood what he meant; I emptied one bath as quietly as possible
into the other, then dragged it across the carpet to the bedside of the
snoring Goldie who was to be “healed.” The ridiculous experiment swept
me with such a sense of reality, owing to the intense belief LeVallon
injected into it, that I never once felt inclined to laugh. I was only
vaguely afraid that Goldingham might somehow suffer.

“It’s Venus,” exclaimed Julius under his breath. “She’s in the
ascendant too. That’s the luck of the gods, isn’t it?”

I whispered something in reply, wondering dimly what Goldie might think.

“You bang the bath softly for the sound,” said he, “while I hold it
up for you. We _may_ hit the right note--the vibrations that fit in
with the rate of the light, I mean--though it’s a bit of a chance, I
suppose!”

I obeyed, thinking of masters sleeping down below in the silent
building.

“Louder!” exclaimed Julius peremptorily.

I obeyed again, with a dismal result resembling tin cans in orgy. And
the same minute the good-natured and studious Goldingham awoke with a
start and stretched out a hand for his glasses.

“Feel anything unusual, Goldie?” asked LeVallon at once, tremendously
in earnest, as he lowered the tin bath.

“Oh, it’s only _you!_” exclaimed the victim, awakened out of his first
sleep and blinking in the gloom, “and _you!_” he added, catching sight
of me, my fist still upraised to beat; “rotten brutes, both of you!
You _might_ let a fellow sleep a bit. You know I’m swotting up for an
exam.!”

“But do you _feel_ anything, Goldie?” insisted LeVallon, as though it
were a matter of life and death. “It was Venus, you know....”

“Was it?” spluttered the other, catching sight of the big bath between
him and the open window. “Well, Venus is beastly cold. Who opened the
window?” The sight of the bath apparently unnerved him. He hardly
expected it before seven in the morning.

Further explanations were cut short by the sudden collapse of the
mirror with a crash of splintering glass upon the floor. The noise of
the bath, that pinged and boomed as I balanced it against the bed,
completed the uproar. Then the door opened, and there stood--Martin.

It was an awkward moment. Yet it was not half as real, half as vivid,
half as alive with the emotion of actual life, as that other memory so
recently vanished. Martin, at first, seemed the dream; that other, the
reality.

He entered with a lighted candle. The noise of the opening window and
the footsteps had, no doubt, disturbed him for some time. Yet, quickly
as he came, Goldie and I were “asleep” even before he had time to cross
the threshold. Julius stood alone to face him in the middle of the
floor. It was characteristic of the boy. He never shirked.

“What’s the meaning of all this noise?” asked Martin, obviously pleased
to find himself in a position of unexpected advantage. “LeVallon, why
are you not in bed? And why is the window open?”

Secretly ashamed of myself, I lay under the sheets, wondering what
Julius would answer.

“We always sleep with the window open, sir,” he said quietly.

“What was that crash I heard?” asked the master, coming farther into
the room, and holding the candle aloft so that it showed every particle
of the broken glass. “Who did this?” He glanced suspiciously about him,
knowing of course that Julius was not the only culprit.

LeVallon stood there, looking straight at him. Martin--as I think of
the incident to-day--had the appearance of a weasel placed by chance in
a position of advantage, yet afraid of its adversary. He winced, yet
exulted.

“Do you realise that it’s long after eleven,” he observed frigidly,
“and that I shall be obliged to report you to Dr. Randall in the
morning....”

“Yes, sir,” said Julius.

“It’s very serious,” continued Martin, more excitedly, and
apparently uncertain how to drive home his advantage, “it’s very
distressing--er--to find you, LeVallon, Head of the School, guilty of
mischief like a Fourth-Form boy--at this hour of the night too!”

The reference to the lower form was, of course, intended to be
crushing. But Julius in his inimitable way turned the tables
astonishingly.

“Very good, sir,” he said calmly, “but I was only trying to get the
light of Venus, and her sound, into Goldingham’s head--into his
system, that is--by reflecting it in the looking-glass; and it fell
off the ledge. It’s an experiment of antiquity, as you know, sir. I’m
exceedingly sorry....”

Martin stared. He was a little afraid of LeVallon; the boy’s knowledge
of mathematics had compelled his admiration as often as his questions,
sometimes before the whole class, had floored him.

“It’s an old experiment,” the boy added, his pale face very grave,
“healing, you know, sir, by the rays of the planets--forgotten
star-worship--like the light-cures of to-day----”

Martin’s somewhat bewildered eye wandered to the flat tin bath still
propped against Goldingham’s bedside.

“... and using gongs to increase the vibrations,” explained Julius
further, noticing the glance. “We were trying to make it do for a
gong--the scientists will discover it again before long, sir.”

The master hardly knew whether to laugh or scold. He stood there in his
shirt-sleeves looking hard at LeVallon who faced him with tumbled hair
and shining eyes in his woolly red dressing-gown. Erect, dignified,
for all the absurdity of the situation, the flush of his strange
enthusiasm emphasising the delicate beauty of his features, I remember
feeling that even the stupid Martin must surely understand that there
was something rather wonderful about him, and pass himself beneath the
spell.

“I was the priest,” he said.

“But I did the gong--I mean, the bath-part, please sir,” I put in,
unable any longer to let Julius bear all the blame.

There was a considerable pause, during which grease dripped audibly
upon the floor from the master’s candle, while Goldingham lay blinking
in bed in such a way that I dared not look at him for fear of laughter.
I have often wondered since what passed through the mind of Tuke
Martin, the senior Master of Mathematics, during that pregnant interval.

“Get up, all of you,” he said at length, “and pick up this mess.
Otherwise you’ll cut your feet to pieces in the morning. Here,
Goldingham, you help too. You’re no more asleep than the others.” He
tried to make his tone severe.

“Goldingham only woke when the glass fell off the ledge, sir,”
explained LeVallon. “It was all my doing, really----”

“And mine,” I put in belatedly.

Martin watched us gather up the fragments, Goldie, still dazed and
troubled, barking his shins against chairs and bedposts, unable to find
his blue glasses in the excitement.

“Put the pieces in the bath,” continued Martin shortly, “and ring for
William in the morning to clear it away. And pay the matron for a new
looking-glass,” he added, with something of a sneer; “Mason half, and
you, LeVallon, the other half.”

“Of course, sir,” said Julius.

“And don’t let me hear any further sounds to-night,” said the master
finally, closing the window, and going out after another general look
of suspicion round the room.

Which was all that we ever heard of the matter! For the Master of
Mathematics did not particularly care about reporting the Head of the
School to Dr. Randall, and incurring the dislike of the three top boys
into the bargain. I got the impression, too, that Tuke Martin was as
glad to get out of that room without loss of dignity as we were to see
him go. LeVallon, by his very presence even, had a way of making one
feel at a disadvantage.

“Anything particular come to you?” he asked Goldie, as soon as we were
alone again, and the victim’s temper was restored by finding himself
the centre of so much general interest. “I suppose there was hardly
time, though----”

“Queer dream’s all I can remember,” he replied gruffly.

“What sort?”

“Nothing much. I seemed to be hunting through a huge lexicon for verbs,
but every time I opened the beastly thing it was like opening the lid
of a box instead of the cover of a book; and, in place of pages, I saw
rows of people lying face downwards, and streaks of light dodging about
all over their skins. Rotten nightmare, that’s all!”

Julius and I exchanged glances.

“And then,” continued Goldie, “that bally tin bath banged like thunder
and I woke up to see you two rotters by my bed.”

“If there had been more time----” Julius observed to me in an aside.

“I’m jolly glad it’s your last term,” Goldingham growled, looking at
LeVallon, or LeValion, as he usually called him; “you’re as mad as a
March hare, anyhow!”--which was the sentence I took into dreamland with
me.



CHAPTER VII

  “_The blue dusk ran between the streets: my love was winged within
       my mind,
   It left to-day and yesterday and thrice a thousand years behind.
   To-day was past and dead for me, for from to-day my feet had run
   Through thrice a thousand years to walk the ways of ancient
       Babylon._”--A. E.


It was another time, very early in the morning, that LeVallon called
me from the depths of dreamless sleep with a whisper that seemed to
follow me out of some vast place where I had been lying under open
skies with the winds of heaven about my face and the stars as close as
flowers. It was no dream; I brought back no single detail of incident
or person--only this keen, sweet awareness of having been somewhere
far away upon an open plain or desert of enormous stretch, waiting for
something, watching, preparing--and that I had been awakened. Great
hands drew back into the stars; eyes that were mighty closed; heads of
majestic aspect turned away; and Presences of some infinite demeanour
grandly concealed themselves as when mountains become veiled by the
hood of hurrying clouds. I had the feeling that the universe had
touched me, then withdrawn.

The room was dark, but shades of tender grey, stealing across the walls
and ceiling, told that the dawn was near. Our windows faced the east; a
flush of delicate light was in the sky; and, between me and this sky,
something moved very softly and came close. It touched me.

Julius, I saw, was bending down above my pillow.

“Are you ready?” he whispered, as I felt his hand upon my hair. “The
sun is on the way!”

The words, however, at first, seemed not in English, but in some
other half-familiar language that I instantly translated into my own
tongue. They drifted away from me like feathers into space. I grew
wide awake and rubbed my eyes. It startled me a little to find myself
in this modern room and to see his pale visage peering so closely into
mine. I surely had dropped from a height, or risen from some hollow of
prodigious depth; for it flashed across me that, had I waked a moment
sooner, I must have caught a glimpse of other faces, heard other voices
in that old familiar language, remembered other well-known things, all
of which had fled too suddenly away, plunging with swiftness into the
limbo of forgotten times and places.... It was very sweet. There was
yearning desire in me to know more.

I sat up in bed.

“What is it?” I asked, my tongue taking the words with a certain
curious effort. “What were you saying...? A moment ago ... just now?” I
tried to arrest the rout of flying sensations. Dim, shadowy remoteness
gathered them away like dreams.

“I’m calling you to see the sunrise,” he whispered softly, taking my
hand to raise me; “the sunrise on the Longest Day upon the plain. Wake
up and come!”

Confusion vanished at his touch and voice. Yet a fragment of words just
vanished dropped back into my mind. Something sublime and lovely ran
between us.

“But you were saying--about the Blue Circle and the robes--that it was
time to----” I went on, then, with the effort to remember, lost the
clue completely. He _had_ said these other things, but already they had
dipped beyond recovery. I scrambled out of bed, almost expecting to
find some robe or other in place of my old grey dressing-gown beside
the chair. Strong feelings were in me, awe, wonder, high expectancy,
as of some grand and reverent worship. No mere bedroom of a modern
private school contained me. I was elsewhere, among imperial and august
conditions. I was aware of the Universe, and the Universe aware of me.

I spoke his name as I followed him softly over the carpet. But to my
amazement, my tongue refused the familiar “Julius” of to-day, and
framed instead another sound. Four syllables lay in the name. It was
“Concerighé” that slipped from my lips. Then instantly, in the very
second of utterance, it was gone beyond recovery. I tried to repeat the
name, and could not find it.

Julius laughed softly just below his breath, making no reply. I saw his
white teeth shine in the semi-darkness. He moved away on tiptoe towards
the window, while I followed....

The lower sash was open wide as usual. I heard Goldingham breathing
quietly in his sleep. Still with the mistiness of slumber round me,
I felt bewildered, half caught away, as it seemed, into some web of
ancient, far-off things that swung earthwards from the stars. In this
net of other times and other places, I hung suspended above the world I
ordinarily knew. I was not Mason, a Sixth-Form boy at a private school
in Kent, yet I was indubitably myself. A flood of memories rose; my
soul moved among more spacious conditions; all hauntingly alive and
real, yet never recoverable completely....

We stood together by the open window and looked out. The country lay
still beneath the fading stars. A faint breath of air stirred in the
laurel shrubberies below. The notes of awakening birds, marvellously
sweet, came penetratingly from the distant woods. I smelt the night,
I smelt the coolness of very early morning, but there was another
subtler, wilder perfume, that came to my nostrils with a deep thrill of
happiness I could not name. It was the perfume of another day, another
time, another land, all three as familiar to me as this Kentish hill
where now I lived, yet gone otherwise beyond recall. Deep emotion
stirred in me the sense of recognition, as though smell alone had the
power to reconstruct the very atmosphere of those dim days by raising
the ghosts of feelings that once accompanied them....

To the right I saw the dim cricket-field with hedge of privet and
hawthorn that ran away in a dark and undulating line towards the
hop-poles standing stiffly in the dusk; and, farther off, to the
left, loomed the oast-houses, peaked and hooded, their faces turned
the other way like a flock of creatures that belonged to darkness. The
past seemed already indistinguishable from the present. I stood upon
shifting sands that rustled beneath my feet.... The centuries drove
backwards....

And the eastern sky, serene and cloudless, ran suddenly into gold and
crimson near to the horizon’s rim. It became a river of fire that
flashed along the edge of the world with high, familiar speed. It
broke the same instant into coloured foam far overhead, with shafts
of reddish light that swept the stars and put them out. And then this
strange thing happened:

For, as my sight passed from the shadowy woods beyond, the scene before
me rose like a lifted map into the air; changed; trembled as though
it were a sheet shaken from the four corners, and--disclosed another
scene below it, most exquisitely prepared. The world I knew melted and
disappeared. I looked a second time. It was gone.

And with it vanished the entire little bundle of thoughts and feelings
I was accustomed to regard as John Mason.... I smelt the long and windy
odours of the open world. The stars bent down and whispered. Rivers
rolled through me. Forests and grass grew thickly in my thoughts. And
there was dew upon my face.... It was all so natural and simple. It was
divine. The Universe was conscious. I was not separate from it at any
point.... More, I was conscious with it.

Far off, as an auditorium seen with a bird’s-eye view from some
gigantic height, yet with the distinctness of a map both scaled and
raised, I saw a treeless plain of vast dimensions, grey in the shadows
just before the dawn. In the middle distance stood a domed white
building upon the summit of a mound, with broad steps of stone in
circles all about it, leading to a pillared door that faced the east.
On all sides round it, covering the plain like grass, there was a
concourse, many thousands strong, of people, upright and motionless,
arranged in wide concentric rings, each one a hundred to two hundred
deep. Each ring was dressed in coloured robes, from blue to red,
from green to a soft pale yellow, purple, brown and orange, and the
outermost of all a delicate and tender green that merged into the tint
of the plain itself at a distance of a mile beyond the central building.

These concentric rings of colour, this vast living wheel of exquisitely
merging tints, standing motionless and silent about the hub of that
majestic temple, formed a picture whose splendour has never left my
mind; and a sense of intoxicating joy and awe swept through me as
something whispered that long ago, I, too, had once taken my appointed
place in those great circles, and had felt the power of the Deity of
Living Fire pass into me in the act of worship just about to begin. The
courage and sweetness of the sun stole on me; light, heat and glory
burned in my heart; I knew myself akin to earth, sea and sky, as also
to every human unit in the breathing wheel; and, knowing this, I knew
the power of the universe was in me because the universe was my Self.

Imperceptibly at first, but a moment later with measurable speed, a
movement ran quivering round the circles. They began to turn. The
immense, coloured wheel revolved silently upon the plain. The rings
moved alternately, the first to the right, the second to the left,
those at the outer rim more swiftly, and those within more slowly, each
according to its distance from the centre, so that the entire mass
presented the appearance of a single body rotating with a uniform and
perfect smoothness. There rose a deep, muffled sound of myriad feet
that trampled down the sand. The mighty shuffling of it paced the air.
No other sound was audible. The sky grew swiftly brighter. The shafts
of light shot out like arms towards the paling zenith. There came a
whir of cool, delicious wind that instantly died down again and left
the atmosphere more still and empty than before.

And then the sun came up. With the sudden rush of an eastern clime,
it rose above the world. One second it was not there, the next it
had appeared. The wheel blazed into flame. The circles turned to
coloured fire. And a roaring chant burst forth instantaneously--a
prodigious sound of countless voices whose volume was as the volume
of an ocean. This wind of singing swept like a tempest overhead, each
circle emitting the note related to its colour, the total resulting in
a chord whose magnificence shook the heart with an ecstasy of joyful
worship.... I was aware of the elemental power of fire in myself....

How long this lasted, or how long I listened is impossible to tell
... the dazzling glory slowly faded; there came a moment when the
brilliance dimmed; a blur of coloured light rose like a sheet from the
surface of the wheeling thousands, floating off into the sky as though
it were a separate shining emanation the multitude gave off. I seemed
to lose my feet. I no longer stood on solid earth. There came upon me
a curious sense of lightness, as of wings, that yet left my body far
below.... I was charged with a deific power, energy.... Long shafts of
darkness flashed across the sea of light; the pattern of interwoven
colour was disturbed and broken; and, suddenly, with a shock as though
I fell again from some great height, I remembered dimly that I was no
longer--that my name was----

I cannot say. I only know confusion and darkness sponged the entire
picture from the world; and my sight, I suddenly realised, went groping
with difficulty about a little field, a rough, uneven hedge, a strip of
ribboned whiteness that was a road, and some ugly, odd-shaped things
that I recognised as--yes, as oast-houses just beyond. And a pale,
sad-looking sun then crawled above the horizon where the hop-poles
stood erect.

“You saw...?” whispered someone beside me.

It was Julius. His voice startled me. I had forgotten his very presence.

I nodded in reply; no words came to me; there was still a trembling in
me, a sense of intolerable yearning, of beauty lost, of power gone
beyond recall, of pain and littleness in the place of it.

Julius kept his eyes upon my face, as though waiting for an answer.

“The sun ...” I said in a low and shaking voice.

He bent his head a moment, leaning down upon the window-sill with his
face in his hands.

“As we knew it then,” he said with a deep-drawn sigh, raising himself
again. “To-day----!”

He pointed. Across the fields I saw the tin roof of the conventicle
where we went to church on Sunday, lifting its modern ugliness beyond
the playground walls. The contrast was somehow dreadful. A revulsion of
feeling rose within me like a storm. I stared at the meagre building
beneath whose roof of corrugated iron, once a week, we knelt and
groaned that we were “miserable sinners”--begging another to save us
from “punishment” because we were too weak to save ourselves. I saw
once more in memory the upright-standing throng, claiming with joy
the powers of that other Deity of whom they knew they formed a living
portion. And again this intolerable yearning swept me. My soul rose up
in a passionate protest that vainly sought to express itself in words.
Language deserted me; tears dimmed my eyes and blurred my sight; I
stretched my hands out straight towards that misty sunrise of To-day....

And, when at length I turned again to speak to Julius, I saw that he
had already left my side and gone back to bed.



CHAPTER VIII

  “_Not unremembering we pass our exile from the starry ways:
   One timeless hour in time we caught from the long night of
       endless days._”--A. E.


And so, in due course, the period of our schooldays came to its
appointed end without one single further reference to the particular
thing I dreaded. Julius had offered no further word of explanation, and
my instinctive avoidance of the subject had effectively prevented my
asking pointed questions. It remained, however; it merely waited the
proper moment to reveal itself. It was real. No effort on my part, no
evasion, no mere pretence that it was fantasy or imagination altered
_that_. The time would come when I should know and understand; evasion
would be impossible. It was inevitable as death.

During our last term together it lay in almost complete abeyance, only
making an appearance from time to time in those vivid dreams which
still presented themselves in sleep. It hid; and I pretended bravely to
ignore it altogether.

Meanwhile our days were gloriously happy, packed with interest, and
enlivened often with experiences as true and beautiful as the memory
of our ancient sun-worship I have attempted to describe. No doubt
assailed me; we _had_ existed in the past together; those pictures of
“inner scenery” were memories. The emotions that particular experience,
and many others, stirred in me were as genuine as the emotions I
experienced the last term but one, when my mother died; and, whatever
my opinion of the entire series may be to-day, on looking back, honesty
compels me to admit this positive character of their actuality. There
was no make-believe, no mere imagination.

Our intimacy became certainly very dear to me, and I felt myself linked
to Julius LeVallon more closely than to a brother. The knowledge that
much existed he could not, or would not, share with me was pain, the
pain of jealousy and envy, or possibly the deeper pain that a barrier
was raised. Sometimes, indeed, he went into his Other Places almost
for days together where I could not follow him, and on these occasions
the masters found him absent-minded and the boys avoided him; he went
about alone; if games or study compelled his attention, he would give
it automatically--almost as though his body obeyed orders mechanically
while the main portion of his consciousness seemed otherwise engaged.
And, while it lasted, he would watch me curiously, as from a distance,
expecting apparently that I would suddenly “remember” and come up to
join him. His soul beckoned me, I felt, but half in vain. I longed to
be with him, to go where he was, to see what he saw, but there was
something that effectually prevented.

And these periods of absence I rather dreaded for some reason. It was
uncanny, almost creepy. For I would suddenly meet his glowing eyes
fixed queerly, searchingly on my own, gazing from behind a veil at me,
asking pregnant questions that I could not catch. I would see him lying
there beneath the larches of the cricket-field alone, rapt, far away,
deep in his ancient recollections, and apart from me; or I would come
upon him suddenly in the road, in a sunny corner of the playground,
even in the deserted gymnasium on certain afternoons, when he would
start to see me, and turn away without a word, but with an expression
of unhappy yearning in his eyes as though he shared my pain that he
dwelt among these Other Places which, for the moment, I might not know.

Many, many, indeed, are the details of these days that I might
mention, but their narration would prove too long. One, however, may
be told. He had, for instance, a kind of sign-language that was quite
remarkable. On the sandy floor of a disused gravel-pit, where we lay
on windy days for shelter while we talked, he would trace with a twig
a whole series of these curious signs. They were for him the alphabet
of a long-forgotten language--some system of ideograph or pictorial
representation that expressed the knowledge of the times when it was
used. He never made mistakes; the same sign invariably had the same
meaning; and it all existed so perfectly in his inner vision that he
used it even in his work, and kept a book in which the Greek play of
the moment was written out entirely in this old hieroglyphic side by
side with the original. He read from it in class, even under the eagle
eye of the Head, with the same certainty as he read from the Greek
itself.

There were characteristic personal habits, too, that struck me later
as extraordinary for a boy of eighteen--in England; for he led an
inner life of exceeding strictness, not to say severity, and was for
ever practising mental concentration with a view to obtaining complete
control of his feelings, thoughts and, therefore, actions. Upright as
a rod of steel himself, he was tolerant to the failings of others,
lenient to their weaknesses, and forgiving to those who wronged him. He
bore no malice, cherished no ill-feeling. “It’s as far as they’ve got,”
he used to say, “and no one can be farther than he is.” Indeed, his
treatment of others implied a degree of indifference to self that had
something really big about it. And, even on the lowest grounds, to bear
a grudge meant only casting a net that must later catch the feet.

His wants in the question of food were firmly regulated too; for at
an age when most boys consider it almost an aim in life to devour
all they can possibly get and to spend half of their pocket-money on
tempting eatables, Julius exercised a really Spartan control over these
particular appetites. Not only was his fare most frugal in quantity,
but he avoided the eating of meat almost entirely, alcohol completely,
and sometimes would fast for a period that made me wonder for his
health. He never spoke of this. I noticed it. Nor ever once did he use
his influence to persuade me to like habits. No boy was ever less a
prig than LeVallon. Another practice of his was equally singular. In
order to increase control of the body and develop tenacity of will, I
have known him, among other similar performances, stand for hours at a
time on winter nights, clad only in a nightshirt, fighting sleep, cold,
hunger, movement--stand like a statue in the centre of the room, as
though the safety of the world depended upon success.

Most curious of all, however, seemed to me his habit of--what I can
only call--communing with inanimate things. “You only remember the
sections where we were together,” he explained, when once I asked the
meaning of what he did; “and as you were little with me when this was
the way of getting knowledge, it is difficult for you to understand.”
This fact likewise threw light upon the enormous intervals between
remembered sections. We recalled no recent ones at all. We had not come
back together in them.

This communing with inanimate things had chiefly to do, of course, with
Nature, and I may confess at once that it considerably alarmed me. To
read about it comfortably in an armchair over the fire is one thing;
to see it done is another. It alarmed me, moreover, for the reason
that somewhere, somehow, it linked on to the thing I dreaded above all
others--the days when he and I and _she_ had made some wrong, some
selfish use of it. This, of course, remained an intuition of my own.
I never asked; I never spoke of it. Only in my very bones I felt sure
that the thing we three must come together to put right again somehow
involved, and involved unpleasantly, this singular method of acquiring
knowledge and acquiring power. We had abused it together; we had yet to
put it right.

To see Julius practising this mysterious process with a stone, a
flower, a tree, and to hear him then talk about these three different
objects, was like listening to a fairy tale told with the skill of a
great imaginative artist. He personified them, gave their life history,
rendered their individual experiences, moods, sensations, qualities,
adventures--anything and everything that could ever happen to a stone,
a flower, a tree. I realised their existence from their own point of
view; felt-with them; shared their joys and sufferings, and understood
that they were living things, though with a degree of life so far below
our own. Communion with Nature was, for him, communion with the very
ground of things. All this, though exquisitely wonderful, was within
the grasp of sympathetic comprehension. It was natural.

But when he dealt with things less concrete--and his favourites were
elemental forces such as air and heat, or as he preferred to call them,
wind and fire--the experience, though no whit less convincing owing to
the manner of his description, was curiously disturbing, because of the
results produced upon himself. I can describe it in two words, though I
can give no real idea of it in two thousand. He rushed, he flamed. It
was almost as if, in one case, his actual radiation became enormous,
and in the other, some power swept, as in the form of torrential
enthusiasm, from his very person. _I_ remember my first impression in
the class-room--that a great wind blew, and that flaming colours moved
upon the air.

When he was “feeling-with” this pair of elemental forces he seemed to
draw their powers into his own being so that I, being in close sympathy
with him, caught some hint of what was going forward in his heart.
Sometimes on drowsy summer afternoons when no air stirred through
the open windows of the room, there would come a sudden change in my
surroundings, an alteration. I would hear a faint and distant sound of
roaring; something invisible drove past me. Julius, at the desk beside
me, had finished work, and closed his books. His head in his hands, he
sat motionless, an intent expression on both face and body, wrapped
deep in concentrated effort of some kind. He was practising.... And
once, too, I remember being waked out of sleep in the early morning
with an impression of a stimulating heat about me which amounted to an
intensification of life almost. There he stood beside the window, arms
folded, head bent down upon his breast, and an effect about him that
can only be described as glowing. The air immediately round him seemed
to shine with a faint, delicate radiance as of tropical starlight, or
as though he stood over a dying fire of red-hot coals. It was a half
fascinating, half terrifying sight; the light pulsed and trembled with
distinct vibrations, the air quivered so as to increase his bodily
appearance. He looked taller, vaster. And not once I saw this thing,
but many times. No single dream could possibly explain it. In both
cases, with the wind as with the fire, his life seemed magnified as
though he borrowed from these elemental forces of Nature their own
special qualities and powers.

“All the elements,” I remember his saying to me once, “are in our
bodies. Do you expect Nature to be less intelligent than the life that
she produces?” For him, certainly, there was the manifestation of
something deeper than physics in the operations of so-called natural
laws.

For here, let me say now in conclusion of this broken record of
our days at school together, was the rock on which our intercourse
eventually suffered interruption, and here was that first sign of the
parting of our ways. It frightened me.... Later, in our university
days, the cleavage became definite, causing a break in our friendship
that seemed at the moment final. For a long time the feeling in me had
been growing that his way and mine could not lie much farther together.
Julius attributed it to my bringing up, which I was not independent
enough to shake off. I can only say that I became conscious uneasily
that this curious intercourse with Nature--“communing” as he termed
it--led somehow away from the Christianity of my childhood to the gods
and deification of the personal self. I did not see at the time, as he
insisted, that _both_ were true, being different aspects of the central
fact that God is the Universe, and that man, being literally part of
it, must eventually know Him face to face by actually becoming Him. All
this lay far beyond me at the time.

It seemed to me then, and more as I grew older, an illegitimate,
dangerous traffic; for paganism, my father taught me sternly, was the
Devil, and that the Universe could actually be alive was a doctrine of
heathenish days that led straight to hell and everlasting burning. I
could not see, as Julius saw, that here was teaching which might unify
the creeds, put life into the formal churches, inspire the world with
joy and hope, and bring on the spirit of brotherhood by helping the
soul to rediscover its kinship with a living cosmos.

One certainty, however, my schooldays with this singular boy bequeathed
to me, a certainty I have never lost, and a very gorgeous and inspiring
one--that life is continuous.

LeVallon lived in eternal life. He knew that it stretched infinitely
behind his present “section,” and infinitely ahead into countless other
“sections.” The results of what lay behind he must inevitably exhaust.
Be that harvest painful or pleasant, he must reap what he had sown. But
the future lay entirely in his own hands, and in his power of decision;
chance or caprice had no word to say at all. And this consciousness
of being in eternal life now, at the present moment, master of fate,
potentially at least deific--this has remained a part of me, whether
I will or no. To Julius LeVallon I owe certainly this unalterable
conviction.

Another memory of that early intercourse that has remained with me,
though too vaguely for very definite description, is the idea that
personal life, even in its smallest details, is part of a cosmic
ceremony, that to perform it faithfully deepens the relationship man
bears to the Universe as a living whole, and is therefore of ultimate
spiritual significance. An inspiring thought, I hold, even in the
vagueness of my comprehension of it.

Yet above and beyond such notions, remained the chief memory of all:
that in some such ancient cosmic ceremony, Julius, myself and one other
had somehow abused our privileges in regard to Nature Powers, and that
the act of restoration still awaiting fulfilment at our hands, an
act involving justice to the sun and stars as well as to our lesser
selves, could not be accomplished until that “other” was found on earth
together with himself and me. And that other was a woman.



Book II

EDINBURGH



  “_We do not know where sentient powers, in the widest sense of
  the term, begin or end. And there may be disturbances and moods
  of Nature wherein the very elemental forces approach sentient
  being, so that, perhaps, mythopœic man has not been altogether a
  dreamer of dreams. I need not dwell on the striking reflections
  to which this possibility gives rise; enough that an idealistic
  dynamism forces the possibility on our view. If the life of
  Nature is from time to time, and under special conditions,
  raised to the intense requisite level, we are in the presence of
  elemental forces whose character primitive man has not entirely
  misunderstood._”--“Individual and Reality” (E. D. Fawcett).



CHAPTER IX


There was an interval of a year and a half before we met again. No
letters passed between us, and I had no knowledge of where LeVallon
was or what he did. Yet while in one sense we had gone apart, in
another sense I knew that our relationship suffered no actual break.
It seemed inevitable that we should come together again. Our tie was
of such a kind that neither could shake the other off. In the meantime
my soldier’s career had been abandoned; loss of money in the family
decreed a more remunerative destiny; and the interval had been spent
learning French and German abroad with a view to a less adventurous
profession. At the age of nineteen, or thereabouts, I found myself at
Edinburgh University to study for a Bachelor of Science degree, and the
first face I saw in Professor Geikie’s lecture room for geology was
that of my old school-friend of the “Other Places,” Julius LeVallon.

I stood still and stared, aware of two opposing sensations. For
this unexpected meeting came with a kind of warning upon me. I felt
pleasure, I felt dread: I cannot determine which came first, only that,
mingled with the genuine gratification, there was also the touch of
uneasiness, the sinking of the heart I knew so well.

And I remember saying to myself--so odd are the tricks of memory--“Why,
he’s as pale as ever! Always that marble skin!” As though during
the interval he ought somehow to have acquired more colour. He was
tall, over six feet, thin, graceful as an Oriental; an expression of
determination in his face had replaced the former dreaminess. The eyes
were clear and very strong. There was an expression of great intensity
about him.

His greeting was characteristic: he showed eager pleasure, but
expressed no surprise.

“Old souls like ours are bound to meet again,” he said with a smile as
he shook my hand. “We have so much to do together.”

I recalled the last time I had seen him, waiting on the school platform
as the train went out, and I realised that there were changes in him
that left me standing still, as it were. Perhaps he caught my thought,
for his face took on a touch of sadness; he gazed into my eyes, making
room for me beside him on the bench. “But you’ve been dawdling on the
way a bit,” he added. “You’ve been after other things, I see.”

It was true enough. I had fallen in love, for one thing, besides
devoting myself with the ardour of youth to literature, music, sport,
and other normal interests of my age. From his point of view, of
course, I had not advanced, whereas he obviously had held steadily
to the path he had chosen for himself, following always one main
thing--this star in the east of his higher knowledge. His attitude
to me, I felt moreover, had undergone a change. The old sympathy and
affection had not altered, but a strain of pity had crept in, a regret
that I suffered the attractions of the world to interfere with my
development.

A delay, as he called it, in our relationship there had certainly been,
though the instant we met I realised that something bound us together
fundamentally with a power that superficial changes or external
separation could never wholly dissolve.

Yet, on the whole, I saw little enough of him during these Edinburgh
days, far less certainly than at Motfield Close. I was older, for one
thing, more of the world for another. As a boy, of course, the idea
that we renewed an eternal friendship, faithful to one another through
so many centuries, made a romantic appeal that was considerable. But
the glamour had evaporated; I was a man now, I considered, busy with
the things of men. At the same time I was aware that these other
tendencies were by no means dead in me, and that very little would be
required to revive them. Buried by other interests, they were yet ready
to assert themselves again.

And LeVallon, for his part, though he saw less of me, and I think cared
to see less of me than before, kept deliberately in touch, and of set
purpose would not suffer us to go too far apart. We did not live in
the same building, but he came often to my rooms, we took great walks
together over the Pentland Hills, and once or twice wandered down the
coast from Musselburgh to the cliffs of St. Abbs Head above the sea.
Why he came to Edinburgh at all, indeed, puzzled me a little; but I am
probably not far wrong in saying that two things decided the choice:
He wished to keep me in sight, having heard somehow of my destination;
and, secondly, certain aspects of Nature that he needed were here
easily accessible--the sea, hills, woods, and lonely places that his
way of life demanded. Among the lectures he took a curious selection:
geology, botany, chemistry, certain from the Medical Course, such
as anatomy and materia medica, and, above all, the advanced mental
classes. He attended operations, post-mortems, and anything in the
nature of an experiment, while the grim Dissecting Room knew him as
well as if his living depended upon passing the examination in anatomy.

Of his inner life at this period it was not so easy to form an
estimate. He worked incessantly, but at something I never could quite
determine. At school he was for ever thinking of this “something”; now
he was working at it. It seemed remote from the life of the rest of us,
students and others, because its aim was different. Pleasure, as such,
and the usual forms of indulgence, he left on one side; and women,
though his mysterious personality, his physical beauty, and his cold
indifference attracted them, he hardly admitted into his personal life
at all; to his intimacy, never. His habits were touched with a singular
quality of selflessness, very rare, very exquisite, sincere as it was
modest, that set him apart in a kind of divine loneliness, giving to
all, yet asking of none. My former feeling that his aims were tinged by
something dark and anti-spiritual no longer held good; it was due to a
partial and limited judgment, to ignorance, even to misunderstanding.
His aims were undeniably lofty, his life both good and pure. Respect
grew with my closer study of him, for his presence brought an uplifting
atmosphere of intenser life whose centre of activity lay so high above
the aims of common men as to constitute an “other-worldliness” of a
very unusual kind indeed.

I observed him now as a spectator, more critically. No dreams or
imaginative visions--with one or two remarkable exceptions--came
to bewilder judgment. I saw him from outside. If not sufficiently
unaffected by his ideas to be quite a normal critic, I was certainly
more prosaic, and often sceptical. None the less the other deeper
tendency in me was still strong; it easily wakened into life. This deep
contradiction existed.

The only outward change I noticed, apart from the greater maturity
and decision in the features, was a look of sadness he habitually
wore, that altered when he spoke of the things he cared about, into an
expression of radiant joy. The thought of his great purpose then lit
flames in his eyes, and brought into the whole countenance a certain
touch of grandeur. It was not often, evidently, that he found anyone
to talk with; and arguing, as such, he never cared about. He knew. He
was one of those fortunate beings who never had felt doubt. Perfect
assurance he had.

Julius, at that time, occupied a suite of rooms at the end of Princes
Street, where Queensferry Road turns towards the Forth. They were, I
think, his only extravagance, for the majority of students were content
with a couple of rooms, or a modest flat on the Morningside. This suite
he furnished himself, and there was one room in it that no one but
himself might enter. It had, I believe, no stick of furniture in it,
and required, therefore, no dusting apparently; in any case, neither
landlady, friend nor servant ever passed its door.

My curiosity concerning it was naturally considerable, though never
satisfied. He needed a place, it seems, where absolute solitude was
possible, an atmosphere uncoloured by others. He made frequent use of
it, but whether for that process of “feeling-with” already mentioned,
or for some kind of secret worship, ceremonial, or what not, is
more than I can say. Often enough I have sat waiting for him in the
outer room when he was busy within this mysterious sanctum; no sound
audible; no movement; a bright light visible beneath the crack of the
door; a sense of hush, both deep and solemn, about the entire place.
Though it may sound ridiculous to say so, there was a certain air of
sanctity that hung like a veil about that inner chamber, the silence
and stillness evoked a hint of reverence. I waited with something
between awe and apprehension for the handle to turn, aware that behind
the apparent stillness something intensely active was going forward,
of which faint messages reached my mind outside. Certainly, while
sitting with book or newspaper, waiting for his footstep, my thoughts
would glow and burn within me, rushing with energy along unaccustomed
channels, and I remember the curious feeling that behind those panels
of painted deal there lay a space far larger than the mere proportions
of a room.

As in the fairy-tale, that door opened into outer space; and I suspect
that Julius used the solitude for “communing” with those Nature Powers
he seemed always busy with. Once, indeed, when he at length appeared,
after keeping me waiting for a longer period than usual, I was aware
of two odd things about him: he brought with him a breath of open air,
cool, fresh and scented as by the fragrance of the forest; about him,
too, a faintly luminous atmosphere that lent to his face a kind of
delicate radiance almost shining. My sight for a moment wavered; the
air between us vibrated as he came across the room towards me. There
was a strangeness round about him. There was power. And when he spoke,
his voice, though low as always, had a peculiar resonance that woke
echoes, it seemed, beyond the actual walls.

The impressions vanished as curiously as they came; but their
reality was beyond question. And at times like these, I confess,
the old haunting splendour of his dream would come afresh upon me
as at Motfield Close. My little world of ambition and desire seemed
transitory and vain. The magic of his personality stole sweetly,
powerfully upon me; I was swept by gusts of passionate yearning to
follow where he led. For his purpose was not selfish. The knowledge and
powers he sought were for the ultimate service of the world. It was the
permanent Self he trained rather than the particular brain and body of
one brief and transient “section,” called To-day.

These moods with me passed off quickly, and the practical world in
which I now lived brought inevitable reaction; I mention them to
show that in me two persons existed still: an upper, that took life
normally like other people, and a lower, that hid with Julius LeVallon
in strange “Other Places.” For in this duality lies the explanation of
certain experiences I later shared with him, to be related presently.

Our relations, meanwhile, held intimate and close as of old--up to a
certain point. There was this barrier of my indifference and the pity
that it bred in him. Though never urging it, he was always hoping that
I would abandon all and follow him; but, failing this, he held to me
because something in the future made me necessary. Otherwise the gulf
between us had certainly not widened.

I see him as he stood before me in those Edinburgh lodgings: young,
in the full tide of modern life, with good faculties, health, means,
looks, high character, and sane as a policeman! All that men hold dear
and the world respects was his. Yet, without a hint of insincerity or
charlatanism, he seemed conscious only of what he deemed the long,
sweet prizes of the soul, difficult of attainment, and to the majority
mere dreams. His was that rare detachment which sees clear to the end,
not through avoiding the stress of perilous adventure by the way,
but through refusing the conclusion that the adventures were ends in
themselves, or could have any other significance than as items in
development, justifying all suffering.

Eternal life for him was _now_. He sought the things that once acquired
can never be forgotten, since their fruits are garnered by the Self
that persists through all the series of consecutive lives. Through
all the bewildering rush and clamour of the amazing world he looked
ever to the star burning in the depths of his soul. And for a tithe of
his certainty, as of the faith and beauty of living that accompanied
it, I sometimes felt tempted to give all that I possessed and follow
him. The scale at any rate was grand. The fall of empires, the crash
of revolutions, the destiny of nations, all to him were as nothing
compared with the advance or retreat of a single individual soul in the
pursuit of what he deemed “real knowledge.”

Yet, while acknowledging the seduction of his dream, and even half
yielding to it sometimes, ran ever this hidden thread of lurking
dread and darkness that, for the life of me, I could never entirely
get rid of. It was lodged too deeply in me for memory to discover, or
for argument to eject. Ridicule could not reach it, denial made no
difference. To ignore it was equally ineffective. Even during the long
interval of our separation it was never quite forgotten. Like something
on the conscience it smouldered out of sight, but when the time was
ripe it would burst into a blaze.

At school I merely “funked” it; I would not hear about it. Now,
however, my attitude had changed a little. The sense of responsibility
that comes with growing older was involved--rather to my annoyance
and dismay. Here was something I must put right, or miss an important
object of my being. It was inevitable; the sooner it was faced and done
with, the better.

Yet the time, apparently, was not quite yet.



CHAPTER X

  “_Instead of conceiving the elements as controlled merely by
  blindly operative forces, they may be imagined as animated
  spiritual beings, who strive after certain states, and offer
  resistance to certain other states._”--Lotze.


In connection with LeVallon’s settled conviction that the Universe was
everywhere alive and one, and that only the thinnest barriers divided
animate from so-called inanimate Nature, I recall one experience
in particular. The world men ordinarily know is limited to a few
vibrations the organs of sense respond to. Though science, with her
delicate new instruments, was beginning to justify the instinctive
knowledge of an older time, and wireless marvels and radio-activity
were still unknown (at the time of which I write), Julius spoke of
them as the groundwork of still greater marvels by which thought would
be transmissible. The thought-current was merely a little higher than
the accepted wave lengths; moreover, powers and qualities were equally
transmissible. Unscientifically, he was aware of all these things,
and into this beyond-world he penetrated, apparently, though with the
effort of a long-forgotten practice. He linked the human with the
non-human. He knew Saturn or the Sun in the same way that he knew a
pebble or a wild flower--by feeling-with them.

“It’s coming back into the world,” he said. “Before we leave this
section it will all be known again. The ‘best minds,’” he laughed,
“will publish it in little primers, and will label it ‘extension of
consciousness,’ or some such laboured thing. And they will think
themselves very wonderful to have discovered what they really only
re-collect.”

He looked up at me and smiled significantly, as we sat side by side
in the Dissecting Room, busily tracing the nerves and muscles in a
physical “instrument” some soul had recently cast aside. I use his
own curious phraseology, of course. He laid his pointed weapon down a
moment upon the tangle of the solar plexus that resembled the central
switch-board of a great London telegraph office.

“There’s the main office,” he pointed, “not _that_,” indicating the
sawn-off skull where the brain was visible. “Feeling is the clue, not
thinking.”

And, then and there, he described how this greatest nerve-centre of the
human system could receive and transmit messages and powers between its
owner and the entire universe. His quiet yet impassioned language I
cannot pretend at this interval to give; I only remember the conviction
that his words conveyed. It was more wonderful than any fairy-tale, for
it made the fairy-tale come true. For this “beyond-world” of Julius
LeVallon contained whole hierarchies of living beings, whose actuality
is veiled to-day in legend, folk-lore, and superstition generally--some
small and gentle as the fairies, some swift and radiant as the biblical
angels, others, again, dark, powerful and immense as the deities of
savage and “primitive” races. But all knowable, all obedient to the
laws of their own being, and, furthermore, all accessible to the
trained will of the human who understood them. Their great powers
could be borrowed, used, adapted. Herein lay for him a means to deeper
wisdom, richer life, the recovery of true worship, powers that must
eventually help Man to that knowledge of the universe which is, more
simply put, the knowledge of one God. At present Man was separate, cut
off from all this bigger life, matter “inanimate” and Nature “dead.”

And I remember that in this remarkable outburst he touched very nearly
upon the origin of my inner dread. Again I felt sure that it was in
connection with practices of this nature that he and I and _she_
had involved ourselves in something that, as it were, disturbed the
equilibrium of those forces whose balance constitutes the normal
world, but something that could only be put right again by the three of
us acting in concert and facing an ordeal that was somehow terrible.

One afternoon in October I always associate particularly with this talk
about elemental Nature Powers being accessible to human beings, for it
was the first occasion that I actually witnessed anything in the nature
of definite results. And I recall it in detail; the memory of such an
experience could never fade.

We had been walking for a couple of hours, much of the time in silence.
My own mind was busy with no train of thought in particular; rather I
was in a negative, receptive state, idly reviewing mental pictures,
and my companion’s presence obtruded so little that I sometimes almost
forgot he was beside me. On the Pentlands we followed the sheep tracks
carelessly where they led, and presently lay down among the heather
of the higher slopes to rest. Julius flung himself down first, and,
pleasantly tired, I imitated him at once. In the distance lay the
mosaic of Edinburgh town, her spires rising out of haze and mist.
Across the uninspiring strip of modern houses called the Morningside,
the Castle Rock stood on its blunt pedestal, carved out by the drive of
ancient glaciers. At the end of the small green valley where immense
ice-chisels once had ploughed their way, we saw the Calton Hill; beyond
it, again, the line of Princes Street with its stream of busy humanity;
and further still, the lovely dip over the crest of the hill where the
Northern ocean lay towards the Bass Rock and the sea-birds.

The autumn air drew cool and scented along the heathery ridges, and
while Julius lay gazing at the cirrus clouds, I propped myself upon one
elbow and enjoyed the scene below. It was my pleasure always to know a
thing by name and recognise it--the different churches, the prison, the
University buildings, the particular house where my own lodgings were;
and I was searching for Frederick Street, trying to pick out the actual
corner where George Street cut through it, when I became aware that,
across the great dip of intervening valley, something equally saw me.
This was my first impression--that something watched me.

I placed it, naturally enough, where my thought was fixed, across
the dip; but the same instant I realised my mistake. It was much
nearer--close beside me. Something was watching us intently. We were
no longer quite alone. And, with the discovery, there grew gradually
about me a sense of indescribable loveliness, a soft and tender beauty
impossible to define precisely. It came like one of those enveloping
moods of childhood, when everything is alive and anything may happen.
My heart, it seemed, expanded. It turned wild.

I looked round at Julius. He still lay on his back as before, with the
difference that his hands now were folded across his eyes and that his
body was motionless and rigid as a log. He hardly breathed. He seemed
part and parcel of the earth, merged in the hill-side as naturally as
the heather.

Yet something had happened, or was in the act of happening, to him. The
forgotten schoolday atmosphere of Other Places stole over me as I gazed.

I made no sound; I did not speak; my eyes passed quickly from the
panorama of town and sea to a flock of mountain sheep that nibbled
the patches of coarse grass not far away. The feeling that something
invisible yet conscious approached us from the empty spaces of the
afternoon became a certainty. My spirit lifted. There was a new and
vital relationship between my inner nature, so to speak, and my
material environment. My nerves were quivering, the sense of beauty
remained, but my questioning wonder changed to awe. Somewhere about me
on that bare hill-side Nature had become aggressively alive.

Yet no one of my senses in particular conveyed the great impression;
it seemed wrought of them all in combination--a large, synthetic,
universal report sent forth by the natural things about me. Some
flooding energy, like a tide of unknown power, rose through my body.
But my brain was clear. One by one I ticked off the different senses;
it was neither sight, smell, touch, nor hearing that was individually
affected. There was vague uneasiness, it seems, as well, for I sought
instinctively what was of commonplace import in the landscape. I stared
at the group of nibbling sheep. My sight wandered to the larches on
my right, some thirty yards away. Next, seeking things more humanly
comforting still, I fixed my gaze upon my nailed and muddy boots.

At the same moment Julius became suddenly alert. He sat erect.

The change in his attitude startled me; he seemed intent upon something
in the nearer landscape that escaped me. He, like myself, was aware
that other life approached; he shared my strange emotion of delight
and power; but in him was no uneasiness, for whereas I questioned
nervously, he _knew_ with joy. Yet he was doing nothing definite, so
far as I could see. The change of attitude resulted in no act. His
face, however, was so intense, so animated, that I understood it was
the touch of his mind that had reached my own so stimulatingly, and
that what was coming--came through him. His eyes were fixed, I saw,
upon the little grove of larches.

I made no movement, but watched the larches and his face alternately.
And what I can only call the childhood mood of make-believe enormously
increased. It extended, however, far beyond the child’s domain; it
seemed all-potent, irresistibly imperative. By the mere effort of my
will I could--create. Some power in me hidden, lost, unused, seemed
trying to assert itself. I merely had to say “Let there be a ball
before me in the air,” and by the simple fiat of this power it must
appear. I had only to will the heather at my feet to move, and it must
move--as though, in the act of willing, some intense, intermolecular
energy were set free. There was almost the sense that I had this power
in me now--that I had certainly once known how to use it.

I can hardly describe intelligently what followed. It is so easy to
persuade myself that I was dreaming or deceived, yet so difficult
to prove that I was neither one nor other, but keenly observant and
wholly master of my mind. For by this time it was clear to me that the
sensation of being watched, of knowing another living presence close,
as also of sharing this tender beauty, issued primarily from the grove
of larches. My being and their own enjoyed some inter-relationship,
exquisite yet natural. There was exchange between us. And the wind,
blowing stiffly up the heather slopes, then lifted the lower branches
of the trees, so that I saw deep within the little grove, yet at
the same time behind and beyond them. Something that their veil of
greenness draped went softly stirring. The same minute it came out
towards me with a motion best described as rushing. The heart of the
grove became instinct with life, life that I could appreciate and
understand, each individual tree contributing its thread to form the
composite whole, Julius and myself contributing as well. This Presence
swam out through the afternoon atmosphere towards us, whirring, almost
dancing, as it came. There was an impression of volume--of gigantic
energy. The air in our immediate neighbourhood became visible.

Yet to say that I saw something seems as untrue as to say that I
saw nothing. Form was indistinguishable from movement. The air, the
larches and ourselves were marvellously entangled with the sunshine
and the landscape. I was aware of an intelligence different from my
own, immensely powerful, but somehow not a human intelligence. Superb,
unearthly beauty touched the very air.

“Hush!” I heard LeVallon whisper. “Feel-with it, but do not think.”

The advice was unnecessary. I felt; but I had no time to think, no
inclination either. A long-forgotten “I” was active. My familiar, daily
self shrank out of sight. Vibrant, sensitive, amazingly extended, my
being responded in an _immediate_ fashion to things about me. Any
“thoughts” I had came afterwards.

For the greenness whirled and flashed like sunlight upon water or on
fluttering silk. With an intricate and complex movement it appeared
to spin and revolve within itself; and I cannot dare to say from what
detail came the absolute persuasion that it was alive in the same
sense that I myself and Julius were alive, while of another order of
intelligence.

Julius rose suddenly to his feet, and a fear came over me that he was
going to touch it; for he moved forwards with an inviting gesture that
caused me an exhilarating distress as when a friend steps too near the
edge of a precipice. But the next moment I saw that he was directing it
rather, with the immediate result that it swerved sharply to one side,
passed with swiftness up the steep hill-side, and--disappeared. It
raced by me with a soft and roaring noise, leaving a marked disturbance
of the air that was like a wind within a wind. I seemed pushed aside
by the fringe of a small but violent whirlwind. The booming already
sounded some distance up the slope.

“I’ve lost it!” I remember shouting with a pang of disappointment. For
it seemed that the power and delight in me both ebbed and that energy
went with them.

“Because you thought a moment instead of felt!” cried Julius. He
turned, holding up one hand by way of warning. His voice was more than
ordinarily resonant, his whole body charged with force. “Now--watch the
sheep,” he added in a lower tone. And, although the words surprised me
in one way, in another I anticipated them. There passed across his face
a momentary expression of intense effort, but even before the sentence
was finished I heard the rushing of the frightened animals, and
understood something of what was happening. There was panic in them.
The entire flock ran headlong down the steep slope of heather. The
thunder of their feet is in my ears to-day. I see their heaving backs
of dirty wool climbing in tumbling fashion one upon another as they
pressed tightly in a wedge-shaped outline. They plunged frantically
together down the steep place to some level turf below. But, even then,
I think they would not have stopped, had not a sound, half cry, half
word of command, from my companion brought them to a sudden halt again.
They paused in their wild descent. Like a single animal the entire
company of them--twenty or thirty, perhaps, all told--were arrested.
They looked stupidly about them, turned their heads in the opposite
direction, and with one accord began once more peacefully--eating grass.

The incident had occupied, perhaps, three minutes.

“The larches!” I heard, and the same instant that softly-roaring thing,
not wind, yet carried inside the wind, again raced past me, going this
time in the direction of the grove. There was just time to turn, when
I heard a clap--not unlike the sound of an open hand that strikes a
pillow, though on a far vaster scale--and it seemed to me that the
bodies of the trees trembled for a moment where they melted into one
another amid the general greenness of stems and branches.

For the fraction of a second they shone and pulsed and quivered.
Something opened; something closed again. The enthralling sense of
beauty left my heart, the power sank away, the huge energy retired.
And, in a flash, all was normal once again; it was a cool October
afternoon upon the Pentland Hills, and a wind was blowing freshly from
the distant sea.

I was lying on the grass again exactly as before; Julius, watching me
keenly beneath the lids of his narrowed eyes, had just flung himself
down to keep me company....

“The barriers, you see, are thin,” he said quietly. “There really are
no barriers at all.”

This was the first sentence I heard, though his voice, it seemed, had
been speaking for some considerable time. I had closed my eyes--to
shut out a rising tide of wonderful and familiar pictures whose beauty
somehow I sought vigorously to deny. Yet there was this flare of vivid
memory: a penetrating odour of acrid herbs that burned in the clearing
of a sombre forest; a low stone altar, the droning of men’s voices
chanting monotonously as they drew near in robes of white and yellow
... and I seemed aware of some forgotten but exquisite ceremonial by
means of which natural forces were drawn upon to benefit the beings of
the worshippers....

“All is transmissible,” rose LeVallon’s voice out of the picture, “all
can be shared. That was the aim and meaning of our worship....”

I opened my eyes and looked at him. The expansion of my consciousness
had been a genuine thing; the power and joy both real; the worship
authentic. Now they had left me and the shrinkage caused me pain; there
was a poignant sense of loss. I felt afraid again.

“But it’s all gone,” I answered in a hushed tone, “and everything has
left me.” Reason began to argue and deny. I could scarcely retain the
memory of those big sensations which had offered a channel into an
extended world.

Julius searched my face with his patient, inward-gazing eyes.

“Your attitude prevented,” he replied after a moment’s hesitation; “it
became unsafe.”

“You brought it?” I faltered.

He nodded. “A human will,” he replied, “and a physical body--as
channel. Your resistance broke the rhythm and brought danger in.” And
after a pause he added significantly: “For the return--the animals
served well.” He smiled. “Ran down a steep place into the sea--almost.”

And, abruptly then, the modern world came back, as though what I
had just experienced had been but some pictured memory, thrust up,
withdrawn. I was aware that my fellow student at Edinburgh University,
LeVallon by name, lay beside me in the heather, his face charged with
peace and happiness ... that the dusk was falling, and that the air was
turning chilly.

Without further speech we rose and made our way down from the windy
ridge, and the chief change I noticed in myself seemed to be a marked
increase of vitality that was singularly exhilarating, yet included
the touch of awe already mentioned. The feeling was in me that life of
some non-human kind had approached us both. I looked about me, first at
Julius, then at the landscape, growing dim. The wind blew strongly from
the sea. Far in the distance rose the outline of the Forth Bridge,
then a-building, its skeleton, red in the sunset, rearing across the
water like a huge sea-serpent with ribs of gleaming steel. I could
almost hear the hammering of the iron.... And, at our feet, the first
lights of the Old Town presently twinkled through the veil of dusk and
smoke that wove itself comfortingly about the habitations of men and
women.

My thoughts were busy, but for a long time no speech passed.
Occasionally I stole glances at my companion as we plodded downwards
through the growing dusk, and there seemed a curious glow about his
face that made him more clearly visible than the other objects about
us. The way he looked back from time to time across his shoulder
increased my impression--by no means a pleasant one just then--that
something followed us from those heathery hill-tops, kept close behind
us through the muddy lanes, and watched our movements across the fields
and hedges.

I have never forgotten that walk home in the autumn twilight, nor
the sense of haunting possibilities that hung about it like an
atmosphere--the feeling that other life loomed close upon our steps.
Before Roslin Chapel was passed, and the welcome lights of the town
were near, this consciousness of a ghostly following suite became
a certainty, and I felt that every copse and field sent out some
messenger to swell the throng. We had established touch with another
region of life, of power, and the link was not yet fully broken.

And the sentences Julius let fall from time to time, half to himself
and half to me, increased my nervousness instead of soothing it.

“The gods, you see, are not dead,” he said, waving his hand towards
the hills, “but only distant. They are still accessible to all who can
feel-with their powers. In your self-consciousness a door stands open;
they can be approached--through Nature. Ages ago, when the sun was
younger, and you and I were nearer to the primitive beauty ...”

A cat, darting silently across the road like a shadow from a cottage
door, gave me such a start that I lost the remainder of the sentence.
His arm was linked in mine as he added softly:

“... Only, what is borrowed in this way must always be returned, for
otherwise the equilibrium is destroyed, and the borrower suffers
until he puts it right again. So utterly exact is the balance of the
universe....”

I deliberately turned my head away, aware that something in me _would_
not listen. The conviction grew that he had a motive in the entire
business. That inner secret dread revived. Yet, in spite of it, there
was a curiosity that refused to let me escape altogether. It was bound
to satisfy itself. The question seemed to force itself out of my lips:

“They are unconscious, though, these Powers?” And, having asked it,
I would willingly have blotted out the words. I heard his low voice
answer so far away it seemed an echo from the hills behind us.

“Of a different order,” he replied, “until they are part of you; and
then they share _your_ consciousness....”

“Hostile or friendly?” I believed I thought this question only, but
apparently I spoke it out aloud. Julius paused a moment. Then he said
briefly:

“Neither one nor other, of themselves. Merely that they resent an order
being placed upon them. It involves mastery or destruction.”

The words sank into me with something like a shudder. It seemed that
everything I asked and everything he answered were as familiar as
though we spoke of some lecture of the day before. What I had witnessed
shared this familiarity, too, though more faintly. All belonged to this
incalculable past he for ever searched to bring to light. Yet of what
dim act of mine, of his, or of another working with us, this mysterious
shudder was born, I still remained in ignorance, though an ignorance
that seemed now slowly about to lift.

Then, suddenly, the final question was out before I could prevent it.
It came irresistibly:

“And if, instead of animals, it had been men...?”

The effect was instantaneous, and very curious. I could have sworn he
had been waiting for that question. For he turned upon me with passion
that shone a moment in his pale and eager face, then died away as
swiftly as it came. His hand tightened upon my arm; he drew me closer.
He bent down. I saw his eyes gleam in the darkness as he whispered:

“Such men would know themselves cut off from their own kind, a gulf
between humanity--and themselves. For the elemental powers may be
borrowed, but not kept. There would burn in them fires no human hands
could quench, because no human hands had lit them. Yet their vast
energies might lift our little self-seeking race into that grander
universal life where----”

He stopped dead in the darkened road and fixed me with his eyes. He
said the next words with a vehement conviction that struck cold into my
very entrails:

“He who retains within himself the elemental powers which are the
deities in Nature, is both above and below his kind.”

A moment he hid his face in his hands; then, opening his arms wide
and throwing his head back to the sky, he raised his voice; he almost
cried aloud: “A man who has worshipped the Powers of Wind and the
Powers of Fire, and has retained them in himself, keeping them out of
their appointed places, is born of them. He is become their child. He
is a son of Wind and Fire. And though he break and flame with energies
that could regenerate the world, he must remain alien and outcast
from humanity, untouched by love or sorrow, stranger to joy, aloof,
impersonal, until by full and complete restitution, he restore the
balance in the surrender of his stolen powers.”

It seemed to me he towered; that his stature grew; that the darkness
round his very head turned bright; and that a wind from nowhere went
driving down the sky behind him with a wailing violence. The amazing
outburst took me off my feet by its suddenness. An emotion from the
depths rose up and shook me. What happened next I hardly realised, only
that he caught my arm and hurried along the road at a reckless, half
stumbling speed, and that the lonely hills behind us followed in the
darkness....

A few moments afterwards we found ourselves among the busy lights and
traffic of the streets. His calm had returned as suddenly as it had
deserted him. Such moments with him were so rare, he seemed almost
unnatural, superhuman. And presently we separated at the corner of the
North Bridge, going home to our respective rooms. He made no single
reference to the storm that had come upon him in this extraordinary
manner; I likewise spoke no word. We said good night. He turned one
way, I another. But, as I went, his burning sentences still haunted
me; I saw his face like moonlight through the tangle of a wood; and I
_knew_ that all we had seen and heard and spoken that afternoon had
reference to a past that we had shared, yet also to a future, which he
and I awaited together for the coming of a--third.



CHAPTER XI

  “_Strange as it may appear to the modern mind, whose one
  ambition is to harden and formalise itself ... the ancient mind
  conceived of knowledge in a totally different fashion. It did not
  crystallise itself into a hardened point, but, remaining fluid,
  knew that the mode of knowledge suitable to its nature was by
  intercourse and blending. Its experience was ... that it could
  blend with intelligence greater than itself, that it could have
  intercourse with the gods._”--“Some Mystical Adventures” (G. R.
  S. Mead).


An inevitable result of this experience was that, for me, a reaction
followed. I had no stomach for such adventures. Though carried away at
the moment by the enthralling character of the feelings roused that
afternoon, my normal self, my upper self as I had come to call it,
protested--with the result that I avoided Julius. I changed my seat in
the class-rooms, giving as excuse that I could not hear the lecturer;
I gave up attending post-mortems and operations where I knew that he
would be; and if I saw him in the street I would turn aside or dive
into some shop until the danger of our meeting passed. Ashamed of my
feebleness, I yet could not bring myself to face him and thrash the
matter out.

Other influences also were at work, for my father, it so happened, and
the girl I was engaged to marry, her family too, were all of them in
Edinburgh just about that time, and some instinct warned me that they
and LeVallon must not meet. In the latter case particularly I obeyed
this warning instinct, for in the influence of Julius there hid some
strain of opposition towards these natural affections. I was aware of
it unconsciously, perhaps. It seemed he made me question the reality of
my love; made me doubt and hesitate; sometimes almost made me challenge
the value of these ties that meant so much to me. From his point of
view, I knew, these emotions belonged to transient relationships
of one brief section, and to become centred in them involved the
obliteration of the larger view. His attitude was more impersonal: Love
everyone, but do not lose perspective by focusing your entire self in
one or two. It was _au fond_ a selfish pleasure merely; it delayed the
development of the permanent personality; it destroyed--more important
still--the sense of kinship with the universe which was the basic
principle with him. It need not: but it generally did.

For some weeks, therefore, our talks and walks were interrupted; I
devoted myself to work, to intercourse with those I loved, and led
generally the normal existence of a university student who was reading
for examinations that were of importance to his future career in life.

Yet, though we rarely met, and certainly held no converse for some
time, interruption actually there was none at all. To pretend it were a
farce. The inner relationship continued as before. Physical separation
meant absolutely nothing in those ties that so strangely and so
intimately knit our deeper lives together. There was no more question
of break between us than there is question of a break in time when
light is extinguished and the clock becomes invisible. His presence
always stood beside me; the beauty of his pale, un-English face kept
ever in my thoughts; I heard his whisper in my dreams at night, and the
ideas his curious language watered continued growing with a strength I
could not question.

There were two selves in me then as in our schooldays: one that
resisted, and one that yearned. When together, it was the former that
asserted its rights, but when apart, oddly enough, it was the latter.
There is little question, however, that the latter was the stronger of
the two. Thus, the moment I found myself alone again, my father and my
fiancée both gone, we rushed together like two ends of an elastic that
had been stretched too long apart.

And almost immediately, as though the opportunity must not be lost, he
spoke to me of an experiment he had in view.

By what network of persuasiveness he induced me to witness, if not
actually to co-operate in, this experiment, I cannot pretend at this
distance to remember. I think it is true that he used no persuasion
at all, but that at the first mention of it my deeper being met the
proposal with curious sympathy. At the horror and audacity my upper
self shrank back aghast; the thing seemed wholly impermissible and
dreadful; something unholy, as of blasphemy, lay in it too. But, as
usual, when this mysterious question of “Other Places” was involved,
in the end I followed blindly where he led. My older being held the
casting vote. And the reason--I admit it frankly--was that somewhere
behind the amazing glamour of it all lay--truth. While reason scoffed,
my heart remembered and believed.

Moreover, in this particular instance, a biting curiosity had its
influence too. I was wholly sceptical of results. The thing was mad,
incredible, even wicked. It could never happen. Yet, while I said these
words, and more besides, there ran a haunting terror in me underground
that, after all ... that possibly ... I cannot even set down in words
the nature of my doubt. I can merely affirm that something in me was
not absolutely sure.

“The essential thing,” he told me, “is to find an empty ‘instrument’
that is in perfect order--young, vigorous, the tissues unwasted by
decay or illness. There must have been no serious deterioration of the
organs, muscles, and so forth.”

I knew then that this new experiment was akin to that other I had
already witnessed. The experience on the Pentlands had also been
deliberately brought about. The only difference was that this second
one he announced beforehand. Further, it was of a higher grade. The
channel of evocation, instead of being in the vegetable kingdom, was in
the human.

I understood his meaning, and suggested that someone in deep trance
might meet the conditions, for in trance he held that the occupant, or
soul, was gone elsewhere, the tenement of flesh deserted.

But he shook his head. That was not, he said, legitimate. The owner
would return. He watched me with a curious smile as he said this. I
knew then that he referred to the final emptiness of a vacated body.

“Sudden death,” I said, while his eyes flashed back the answer. “And
the Elemental Powers?” I asked quickly.

“Wind and fire,” he replied. And in order to carry his plan into
execution he proposed to avail himself of his free access to the
students’ Dissecting Room.

During the longish interval between the conception and carrying out
of this preposterous experiment I shifted like a weathercock between
acceptance and refusal. My doubts were torturing. There were times
when I treated it as the proposal of a lunatic that at worst could
work no injury to anyone concerned. But there were also times when a
certain familiar reality clothed it with a portentous actuality. I was
reminded faintly of something similar I had been connected with before.
Dim figures of this lost familiarity stalked occasionally across the
field of inner sight. Julius and I had done this thing together long,
long ago, “when the sun was younger,” and when we were “nearer to the
primitive beauty,” as he phrased it. In reverie, in dreams, in moments
when thinking was in abeyance, this odd conviction asserted itself.
It had to do with a Memory of some worship that once was mighty and
effective; when august Presences walked the earth in stupendous images
of power; and traffic with them had been useful, possible. The barrier
between the human and the non-human, between Man and Nature, was not
built. Wind and fire! It was always wind and fire that he spoke of. And
I remember one vivid and terrific dream in particular in which I heard
again a voice pronounce that curious name of “Concerighé,” and, though
the details were blurred on waking, I clearly grasped that certain
elemental powers had been evoked by us for purposes of our own and had
not been suffered to return to their appointed places; further, that
concerned with us in the awful and solemn traffic was--another. We had
been three.

This dream, of course, I easily explained as due directly to my
talks with Julius, but my dread was not so easily dismissed, and
that I overcame it finally and consented to attend was due partly to
the extraordinary curiosity I felt, and partly to this inexplicable
attraction in my deeper self which urged me to see the matter through.
Something inevitable about it forced me. Yet, but for the settled
conviction that behind the abhorrent proposal lay some earnest purpose
of LeVallon’s, not ignoble in itself, I should certainly have refused.
For, though saying little, and not taking me fully into his confidence,
he did manage to convey the assurance that this thing was not to
be carried out as an end, but as a means to an end, in itself both
legitimate and necessary. It was, I gathered, a kind of preliminary
trial--an attempt that _might_ possibly succeed, even without the
presence of the third.

“Sooner or later,” he said, aware that I hesitated, “it must be faced.
Here is an opportunity for us, at least. If we succeed, there is no
need to wait for--another. It is a question. We can but try.”

And try accordingly we did.

The occasion I shall never forget--a still, cold winter’s night towards
the middle of December, most of the students already gone down for
Christmas, and small chance of the room being occupied. For even in
the busiest time before examinations there were few men who cared to
avail themselves of the gruesome privilege of night-work, for which
special permission, too, was necessary. Julius, in any case, made his
preparations well, and the janitor of the grey-stone building on the
hill, whose top floor was consecrated to this grisly study of life in
death, had surrendered the keys even before we separated earlier in the
evening for supper at the door of the post-mortem theatre.

“Upstairs at eleven o’clock,” he whispered, “and if I’m late--the
preparations may detain me--go inside and wait. Your presence is
necessary to success.” He laid his hand on my shoulder; he looked at
me searchingly a moment, almost beseechingly, as though he detected
the strain of opposition in me. “And be as sympathetic as you can,” he
begged. “At least, do not actively oppose.” Then, as he turned away,
“I’ll try to be punctual,” he added, smiling, “but--well, you know as
well as I do----!” He shrugged his shoulders and was gone.

_You know!_ Somehow or other it was true: I did know. The interval of
several hours he would spend in his inner chamber concentrated upon
the process of feeling-with--evoking. He would have no food, no rest,
no moment’s pause. At the appointed hour he would arrive, charged with
the essential qualities of these two elemental powers which in dim past
ages, summoned by another audacious “experiment” from their rightful
homes, he now sought to “restore.” He would seek to return what had
been “borrowed.” He would attempt to banish them again. For they could
only be thus banished, as they had been summoned--through the channel
of a human organism. They were of a loftier order, then, than the
Powers for whose return the animal organisms of the sheep had served.

I went my way down Frederick Street with a heart, I swear, already
palpitating.

Of the many thrilling experiences that grew out of my acquaintance
with this extraordinary being, I think that night remains
supreme--certainly, until our paths met again in the Jura Mountains.
But, strangest of all, is the fact that throughout the ghastly horror
of what occurred was--beauty! To convey this beauty is beyond any
power that I possess, yet it was there, a superb and awful beauty that
informed the meanest detail of what I witnessed. The experiment failed
of course; in the accomplishment of LeVallon’s ultimate purpose, that
is, it failed; but the failure was due, apparently, to one cause alone:
that the woman was not present.

It is most difficult to describe, and my pen, indeed, shrinks from
setting down so revolting a performance. Yet this curious high beauty
redeems it in my memory as I now recall the adventure through the
haze of years, and I believe the beauty was due to a deeper fact
impossible to convey in words. Behind the little “modern” experiment,
and parallel to it, ran another, older Memory that was fraught with
some significance of eternity. This parent memory penetrated and
overshadowed the smaller copy of it; it exalted what was ugly, uplifted
what seemed abominable, sublimated the distressing failure into an
image of what might have been magnificent. I mean, in a word, that
this experiment was a poor attempt to reconstruct an older ritual of
spiritual significance whereby those natural forces, once worshipped as
the gods, might combine with qualities similar to their own in human
beings. The memory of a more august and effective ceremony moved all
the time behind the little reconstruction. The beauty was derived from
my dim recollection of some transcendent but now forgotten worship.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the appointed hour I made my way across the Bridge and towards the
Old Town where the University buildings stood. It was, as I said, a
bitter night. The Castle Rock and Cathedral swam in a flood of silvery
moonlight; frost sparkled on the roofs; the spires of Edinburgh shone
in the crystal wintry atmosphere. The air, so keen, was windless.
Few people were about at this late hour, and I had the feeling that
the occasional pedestrians, hurrying homewards in tightly-buttoned
overcoats, eyed me askance. No one of them was going in the same
direction as myself. They questioned my purpose, looked sharply over
their shoulders, then quickened their pace away from me towards the
houses where the fires burned in cosy human sitting-rooms.

At the door of the great square building itself I hesitated a moment,
hiding in the shadow of the overhanging roof. It was easy to pretend
that moral disapproval warned me to turn back, but the simpler truth is
that I was afraid. At the best of times the Dissecting Room, with its
silent cargo of dreadful forms and faces, was a chamber of horrors I
could never become hardened to as the majority of students did; but on
this occasion, when a theory concerning life alien to humanity was to
be put to so strange a test, I confess that the prospect set my nerves
a-quivering and made the muscles of my legs turn weak. A cold sensation
ran down my spine, and it was not the wintry night alone that caused it.

Opening the heavy door with an effort, I went in and waited a moment
till the clanging echo had subsided through the deserted building. My
imagination figured the footsteps of a crowd hurrying away behind the
sound down the long stone corridors. In the silence that followed I
slowly began climbing the steps of granite, hoping devoutly that Julius
would be waiting for me at the top. I was a little late; he might
possibly have arrived before me. Up the four flights of stairs I went
stealthily, trying to muffle my footsteps, putting my weight heavily
upon the balustrade, and doing all I could to make no sound at all. For
it seemed to me that my movements were both watched and heard, and that
those motionless, silent forms above were listening for my approach,
and knew that I was coming.

On the landings at each turn lay a broad sweet patch of moonlight that
fell through the lofty windows, and but for these the darkness would
have been complete. No light, it seemed to me, had ever looked more
clean and pure and welcome. I thought of the lone Pentland ridges,
and of the sea, lying calm and still outside beneath the same sheet
of silver, the air of night all keen and fragrant. The heather slopes
came back to me, the larches and the flock of nibbling sheep. I thought
of these in detail, of my fire-lit rooms in Frederick Street, of the
vicarage garden at home in Kent where my boyhood had been spent; I
thought of a good many things, truth to tell, all of them as remote as
possible from my present surroundings; but when I eventually reached
the topmost landing and found LeVallon was not there, I thought of one
thing only--that I was alone. Just beyond me, through that door of
frosted glass, lay in its most loathsome form the remnant of humanity
left behind by death.

In the daytime, when noisy students, callous and unimaginative,
thronged the room, the horror of it retreated, modified by the vigorous
vitality of these doctors of the future; but now at night, amid the
ominous silence, with darkness over the town and the cold of outer
space dropping down upon the world, as though linking forces with that
other final cold within the solemn chamber, it seemed quite otherwise.
I stood shivering and afraid upon the landing, angry that I could have
lent myself to so preposterous and abominable a scheme, yet determined,
so long as my will held firm, to go through with it to the end.

He had asked me to wait for him--inside.

Knowing that every minute of hesitation must weaken my powers of
resolve, I moved at once towards the door, then paused again. The
comforting roar of the traffic floated to my ears; I heard the distant
tinkle of a tramcar bell, the boom of Edinburgh, a confused noise
of feet and wheels and voices, far away, it is true, but distinctly
reassuring.

Outside, the life of humanity rolled upon its accustomed way, recking
little of the trembling figure that stood on the top floor of this
silent building, one hand on the door upon whose further side so many
must one day come to final rest. For one hand already touched the
freezing knob, and I was in the act of turning it when another sound,
that was certainly not the murmur of the town, struck sharply through
the stillness and brought all movement in me to a sudden halt.

It came from within, I thought at first; and it was like a wave of
sighs that rose and fell, sweeping against the glass door a moment,
then passing away as abruptly as it came. Yet it was more like wind
than sighs through human lips, and immediately, then, I understood that
it _was_ wind. I caught my breath again with keen relief. Wind was
rising from the hills, and this was its first messenger running down
among the roofs and chimney-pots. I heard its wailing echoes long after
it had died away.

But a moment later it returned, louder and stronger than before,
and this time, hearing it so close, I know not what secret embassies
of wonder touched me from the night outside, deposited their
undecipherable messages, and were gone again. I can only say that the
key of my emotions changed, changed, moreover, with a swelling rush
as when the heavier stops are pulled out upon an organ-board. For, on
entering the building, the sky had been serenely calm, and keen frost
locked the currents of the air; whereas now that wind went wailing
round the walls as though it sought an entrance, almost as though its
crying voice veiled purpose. There seemed a note of menace, eager and
peremptory, in its sudden rush and drop. It knocked upon the stones
and upon the roof above my head with curious and repeated buffets of
sound that resembled the “clap” I had heard that October afternoon
among the larches, only a hundred times repeated and a hundred-fold
increased. The change in myself, moreover, was similar to the change
then experienced--the flow and drive of bigger consciousness that
helped to banish fear. I seemed to know about that wind, to feel its
life and being, indeed, to share it. No longer was I merely John Mason,
a student in Edinburgh, separate and distinct from all about me, but
was--I realised it amazingly--a bit of life in the universe, not
isolated even from the wind.

The beauty of the sensation did not last; it passed through me,
linked to that insistent roar; but the fact that I had felt it gave
me courage. The stops were instantly pushed in again ... and the same
minute the swing-door closed behind me with a sullen thud.

I stood within the chamber; Julius, I saw in a moment, was not there.
I moved through the long, narrow room, keeping close beside the wall,
taking up my position finally about halfway down, where I could command
the six tall windows and the door. The moon was already too high to
send her rays directly through the panes, but from the extensive
sky-lights she shed a diffused, pale glow upon the scene, and my eyes,
soon accustomed to the semi-darkness, saw everything quite as clearly
as I cared about.

In front of me stretched the silent, crowded room, patchy in the
moonshine, but with shadows deeply gathered in the corners; and, row
after row upon the white marble slabs, lay the tenantless forms in
the grotesque, unnatural positions as the students had left them a
few hours before. The picture does not invite detailed description,
but I at once experienced the peculiar illusion that attacks new
students even in the daytime. It seemed that the sightless eyes turned
slowly round to stare at me, that the shrunken lips half opened as
in soundless speech, and that the heads with one accord shifted to
an angle whence they could observe and watch me better. There went a
rustling through that valley of dry bones as though life returned for a
moment to drive the broken machinery afresh.

This sensible illusion was, of course, one I could easily dismiss.
More difficult, however, was the subtler attack that came upon me from
behind the sensory impressions. For, while I stood with my back against
the wall, listening intently for LeVallon’s step upon the stairs, I
could not keep from my mind the terror of those huddled sheep upon the
Pentland ridges; the whole weird force of his theories about “life” in
Nature came beating against my mind, aided, moreover, by some sympathy
in myself that could never wholly ridicule their possible truth.

I gazed round me at the motionless, discarded forms, used for one
brief “section,” then cast aside, and as I did so my mind naturally
focused itself upon a point of dreadful and absorbing interest--which
one was to be the subject of the experiment? So short a time ago had
each been a nest of keenest activity and emotion, enabling its occupant
to reap its harvest of past actions while sowing that which it must
reap later again in its new body, already perhaps now a-forming. And
of these discarded vehicles, one was to be the channel through which
two elemental Powers, evoked in vanished ages, might return to their
appointed place. I heard that clamouring wind against the outer walls;
I felt within me the warmth of a strange enthusiasm rise and glow;
and it seemed to me just then that the whole proposal was as true and
simple and in the natural order of things as birth or death, or any
normal phenomenon to the terror and glory of which mankind has grown
accustomed through prolonged familiarity. To this point, apparently,
had the change in my feelings brought me. The dreadful novelty had
largely gone. Something would happen, nor would it be entirely
unfamiliar.

Then, on a marble slab beside the door, the body of a boy, fresh,
white and sweet, and obviously brought in that very day, since it was
as yet untouched by knife or scalpel, “drew” my attention of its own
accord--and I knew at once that I had found it.

Oddly enough, the discovery brought no increase of fearful thrill; it
was as natural as though I had helped to place it there myself. And,
again, for some reason, that delightful sense of power swept me; my
diminutive modern self slipped off to hide; I remembered that a million
suns surrounded me; that the earth was but an insignificant member of
one of the lesser systems; that man’s vaunted Reason was as naught
compared to the oceans of what might be known and possible; and that
this body I wore and used, like that white, empty one upon the slab,
was but a transient vehicle through which _I_, as a living part of the
stupendous cosmos, acted out my little piece of development in the
course of an eternal journey. This wind, this fire, that Julius spoke
of, were equally the vehicles of other energies, alive as myself, only
less tamed and cabined, yet similarly obedient, again, to the laws
of their own beings. The extraordinary mood poured through me like a
flood--and once more passed away. And the wind fled singing round the
building with a shout.

I looked steadily at the beautiful but vacated framework that the soul
had used--used well or ill I knew not--lying there so quietly, so
calmly, the smooth skin as yet untouched by knife, unmarred by needle,
surrounded on all sides by the ugly and misshapen crew of older death;
and as I looked, I thought of some fair shell the tide had left among
the seaweed wrack, a flower of beauty shining ’mid decay. In the
moonlight I could plainly see the thin and wasted ribs, the fixed blue
eyes still staring as in life, the lank and tangled hair, the listless
fingers that a few hours before must have been active in the flush of
health, and passionately loved by more than one assuredly. For, though
I knew not the manner of the soul’s out-passing, this boy must have
suddenly met death that very day. And I found it odd that he should now
be lying here, since usually the students’ work is concerned to study
the processes of illness and decay. It confirmed my certainty that here
was the channel LeVallon meant to use.

Time for longer reflection, however, there was none, for just then
another gust of this newly-risen wind fell against the building with a
breaking roar, and at the same moment the swing door opened and Julius
LeVallon stood within the room.

Whether windows had burst, or the great skylights overhead been left
unfastened, I had no time, nor inclination either, to discover, but
I remember that the wind tore past him down the entire length of the
high-ceilinged chamber, tossing the hair uncannily upon a dozen heads
in front of me and even stirring the dust about my feet. It was almost
as though we stood upon an open plain and met the unobstructed tempest
in our teeth.

Yet the rush and vehemence with which he entered startled me, for I
found myself glad of the support which a high student’s stool afforded.
I leaned against it heavily, while Julius, after standing by the door a
moment, turned immediately then to the left. He knew exactly where to
look. Simultaneously, he saw me too.

Our eyes, in that atmosphere of shadow and soft moonlight, met also
across centuries. He spoke my name; but it was no name I answered to
To-day.

“Come, Silvatela,” he said, “lend me your will and sympathy. Feel now
with Wind and Fire. For both are here, and the time is favourable. At
last, I shall perhaps return what has been borrowed.” He beckoned me
with a gesture of strange dignity. “It is not that time of balanced
forces we most desire--the Equinox--but it is the winter solstice,” he
went on, “when the sun is nearest. That, too, is favourable. We _may_
transcend the appointed boundaries. Across the desert comes the leaping
wind. Both heat and air are with us. Come!”

And, having vaguely looked for some kind of elaborate preparation
or parade, this sudden summons took me by surprise a little, though
the language somehow did not startle me. I sprang up; the stool fell
sideways, then clattered noisily upon the concrete floor. I made my
way quickly between the peering faces. It seemed no longer strange,
this abrupt disturbance of two familiar elements, nor did I remark
with unusual curiosity that the wind went rushing and crying about the
room, while the heat grew steadily within me so that my actual skin was
drenched with perspiration. All came about, indeed, quickly, naturally,
and without any pomp of dreadful ceremonial as I had expected. Julius
had come with power in his hands; and preparation, if any, had already
taken place elsewhere. He spoke no further word as I approached, but
bent low over the thin, white form, his face pale, stern and beautiful
as I had never seen it before. I thought of a star that entered the
roof of those Temple Memories, falling beneficently upon the great
concave mirrors where the incense rose in a column of blue smoke.
His entire personality, when at length I stood beside him, radiated
an atmosphere of force as though charged with some kind of elemental
activity that was intense and inexhaustible. The wonder and beauty
of it swept me from head to foot. The air grew marvellously heated.
It rose in beating waves that accompanied the rushing wind, like a
furnace driven by some powerful, artificial draught; in his immediate
neighbourhood it whirled and roared. It drew me closer. I, too, found
myself bending down above the motionless, stretched form, oblivious of
the other crowded slabs about us.

So familiar it all seemed suddenly. Some such scene I had witnessed
surely many a time elsewhere. I knew it all before. Upon success hung
issues of paramount importance to his soul, to mine, to the soul of
another who, for some reason unexplained, was not present with us, and,
somehow, also, to the entire universe of which we formed, with these
two elements, a living, integral portion. A weight of solemn drama lay
behind our little show. It seemed to me the universe looked on and
waited. The issue was of cosmic meaning.

Then, as I entered the sphere of LeVallon’s personality, a touch of
dizziness caught me for an instant, as though this running wind, this
accumulating heat, emanated directly from his very being; and, before
I quite recovered myself, the moonlight was extinguished like a lamp
blown out. Across the sky, apparently, rushed clouds that changed the
spreading skylights into thick curtains, while into the room of death
came a blast of storm that I thought must tear the windows from their
very sockets in the stone. And with the wind came also a yet further
increase of heat that was like a touch of naked fire on some inner
membrane.

I dare not assert that I was wholly master of myself throughout the
swift, dramatic scene that followed in darkness and in tumult, nor can
I claim that what I witnessed in the gloom, shot with occasional gleams
of moonlight here and there, was more than the intense visualisation
of an over-wrought imagination. It well may be that what I expected to
happen dramatised itself as though it actually did occur. I can merely
state that, at the moment, it seemed real and natural, and that what I
saw was the opening scene in a ceremony as familiar to me as the Litany
in my father’s church.

For, with the pouring through the room of these twin energies of
wind and fire, I saw, sketched in the dim obscurity, one definite
movement--as the body of the boy rose up into a sitting posture close
before our faces. It instantly then sank back again, recumbent as
before upon the marble slab. The upright movement was repeated the same
second, and once more there came the sinking back. There were several
successive efforts before the upright position was maintained; and
each time it rose slowly, gradually, all of one piece and rigidly,
until finally these tentative movements achieved their object--and the
boy sat up as though about to stand. Erect before us, the head slightly
hanging on one side, the shoulders squared, the chest expanded as with
lung-drawn air, he rose steadily above his motionless companions all
around.

And Julius drew back a pace. He made certain gestures with his arms
and hands that in some incalculable manner laid control upon the
movements. I saw his face an instant as the moon fell on it, pale,
glorious and stately, wearing a glow that was _not_ moonlight, the lips
compressed with effort, the eyes ablaze. He looked to me unearthly and
magnificent. His stature seemed increased. There was an air of power,
of majesty about him that made his presence beautiful beyond words; and
yet, most strange of all, it was familiar to me, even this. I had seen
it all before. I knew well what was about to happen.

His gesture changed. No word was spoken. It was a Ceremony in which
gesture was more significant than speech. There was evidence of
intense internal struggle that yet did not include the ugliness of
strain. He put forth all his power merely--and the body rose by jerks.
Spasmodically, this time, as though pulled by wires, yet with a kind
of terrible violence, it floated from that marble slab into the air.
With a series of quick, curious movements, half plunge, half jerk,
it touched the floor. It stood stiffly upright on its feet. It rose
again, it turned, it twisted, moving arms and legs and head, passing me
unsupported through the atmosphere some four feet from the ground. The
wind rushed round it with a roar; the fire, though invisible, scorched
my eyes. This way and that, now up, now down, the body of this boy
danced to and fro before me, silent always, the blue eyes fixed, the
lips half parted, more with the semblance of some awful marionette than
with human movement, yet charged with a colossal potency that drove
it hither and thither. Like some fair Ariel, laughing at death, it
flitted above the yellow Calibans of horror that lay strewn below.

Yet, from the very nature of these incompleted movements, I was
aware that the experiment was unsuccessful, and that the power was
insufficient. Instead of spasmodic, the movements should have been
rhythmical and easy; there should have been purpose and intention in
the performance of that driven body; there should have been commanding
gestures, significant direction; there should have been spontaneous
breathing and--a voice--the voice of Life.

And instead--I witnessed an unmeaning pantomime, and heard the wailing
of the dying wind....

A voice, indeed, there was, but it was the voice of Julius LeVallon
that eventually came to me across the length of the room. I saw him
slowly approaching through the patches of unequal moonlight, carrying
over his shoulder the frail, white burden that had collapsed against
the further wall. And his words were very few, spoken more to himself
apparently than to me. I heard them; they struck chill and ominous upon
my heart:

“The conditions were imperfect, the power insufficient. Alone we cannot
do it. We must wait for _her_.... And the channel must be another’s--as
before.”

The strain of high excitement passed. I knew once again that small
and pitiful sensation of returning to my normal consciousness. The
exhilaration all was gone. There came a dwindling of the heart. I
was “myself” again, John Mason, student at Edinburgh University. It
produced a kind of shock, the abruptness of the alteration took my
strength away. I experienced a climax of sensation, disappointment,
distress, fear and revolt as well, that proved too much for me. I ran.
I reeled. I heard the sound of my own falling.

No recollection of what immediately followed remains with me ...
for when I opened my eyes much later, I found myself prone upon the
landing several floors below, with Julius bending solicitously over
me, helping me to rise. The moonlight fell in a flood through a
window on the stairs. My recovery was speedy, though not complete. I
accompanied him down the remaining flight, leaning upon his arm; and in
the street my senses, though still dazed, took in that the night was
calm and cloudless, that the moonlight veiled the stars by its serene
brightness, and that the clock above the University buildings pointed
to the hour of two in the morning.

The cold was bitter. There was no wind!

Julius came with me to my door in Frederick Street, but the entire
distance of a mile neither of us spoke a word.

At the door of my lodging-house, however, he turned. I drew back
instinctively, hesitating, for my desire was to get upstairs into my
own room with the door locked safely behind me. But he caught my hand.

“We failed to-night,” he whispered, “but when the real time comes we
shall succeed. _You_ will not--fail me then?”

In the stillness of very early morning, the moon sinking towards the
long dip of the Queensferry Road, and the shadows lying deep upon the
deserted streets, I heard his voice once more come travelling down the
centuries to where I stood. The atmosphere of those other days and
other places came back with incredible appeal upon me.

He drew me within the chilly hall-way, the sound of our feet echoing
up the spiral staircase of stone. Night lay silently over everything,
sunrise still many hours away.

I turned and looked into his eager, passionate face, into his eyes
that still shone with the radiance of the two great powers, at the
mouth and lips which now betrayed the exhaustion that had followed
the huge effort. And something appealing and personal in his entire
expression made it impossible to refuse. I shook my head, I shrank
away, but a voice I scarcely recognised as my own gave the required
answer. My upper and my under selves conflicted; yet the latter gave
the inevitable pledge: “Julius ... I promise you.”

He gazed into my eyes. An inexpressible tenderness stole into his
manner. He took my hand and held it. The die was cast.

“She is now upon the earth with us,” he said. “I soon shall find her.
We three shall inevitably be drawn together, for we are linked by
indestructible ties. There is this debt we must repay--we three who
first together incurred it.”

There was a pause. Far away I heard a cart rumbling over the cobbles
of George Street. In another world it seemed, for the gods were still
about us where we stood. Julius moved from me. Once more I saw his eyes
fixed pleadingly, almost yearningly upon my own. Then the street door
closed upon him and he was gone.



CHAPTER XII

  “_Love and pity are pleading with me this hour.
     What is this voice that stays me forbidding to yield,
   Offering beauty, love, and immortal power,
     Aeons away in some far-off heavenly field?_”--A. E.


The actual beginnings of a separation are often so slight that they
are scarcely noticed. Between two friends, whose acquaintance is of
several years’ standing, sure that their tie will stand the ordinary
tests of life, some unexpected and trivial incident first points to the
parting of the ways; each discovers suddenly that, after all, the other
is not necessary to him. An emotion unshared is sufficient to reveal
some fundamental lack of sympathy hitherto concealed, and they go their
different ways, neither claim debited with the least regret. Like the
scarce perceptible mist of evening that divides dusk from night, the
invisible chill has risen between them; each sees the other through a
cloud that first veils, then distorts, and finally obliterates.

For some weeks after the “experiment” I saw LeVallon through some
such risen mist, now thin, now thick, but always there and invariably
repelling. I remember distinctly, however, that our going apart was to
me not without a sense of regret both keen and poignant. I owed him
something impossible to describe; a yearning sense of beauty touched
common things about me at the sight of him, even at the mention of his
name in the University class-rooms; he had given me an awareness of
other possibilities, an exhilarating view of life that held immense
perspectives; a feeling that justice determined even the harshest
details; above all, a sense of kinship with Nature that combined to
form a tie of a most uncommon order.

Yet I went willingly from his side; for his prospectus of existence led
me towards heights where I could not comfortably breathe. His entire
scheme I never properly grasped, perhaps; the little parts we shared
I saw, possibly, in wrong proportion, uncorrelated to the huge map
his mind contained so easily. My own personality was insignificant,
my powers mediocre; above all I had not always his strange conviction
of positive memory to support me. I lagged behind. I left him. The
seductive world that touched him not made decided claims upon my
heart--love, passion, ambition and adventure called me strongly. I
would not give up all and follow where he led. Yet I left him with
the haunting consciousness that I surrendered a system of belief that
was logical, complete and adequate, its scale of possible achievement
wonderful, and its unselfish ideal, if immensely difficult, at least
noble and inspiring. For all his mysticism, Julius, it seems to me, was
practical and scientific.

Yet, the plausibility of his audacious theories would sometimes return
questioningly upon me. Man was an integral part of Nature, not alien to
it. What was there, after all, so impossible in what he claimed? And
what amongst it might not the science of to-morrow, with its X rays, N
rays, its wireless messages, its radium, its inter-molecular energy,
and its slowly-formulating laws of telepathy and the dynamic character
of Thought, not come eventually to confirm under new-fangled names?

So far as I reflected concerning these things at all, I kept an open
mind; my point was simply that I preferred the ordinary pursuits of
ordinary men. He was evidently aware of the change in me, while yet he
made no effort to prevent my going. Nor did he make, so far as I can
recall, any direct reference to the matter. Once only, in a lecture
room, with a hand upon my shoulder while we jostled out together in the
stream of other students, he bent his face towards me and said with the
tender, comprehending smile that never failed to touch me deeply: “Our
lives are far too deeply knit for any final separation. Out of the Past
we come, and that Past is not exhausted yet.” The crowd had carried us
apart before I could reply, but through me like a flash of lightning
rose the certainty that this was literally true, and that while my
upper, modern Self went off, my older, hidden Self was with him to the
end. We merely took two curves that presently must join again.

But, though we saw little of one another all these weeks, I can never
forget the scene of our actual leave-taking, nor the extraordinary
incidents that led up to it. Now that I set it down on paper such
phrases as “imaginative glamour” and the like may tempt me, but at the
time it was as real and actual as the weekly battles with my landlady,
or the sheaves of laborious notes I made at lecture-time. In some
region of my consciousness, abnormal or otherwise, this scene most
certainly took place.

It was one late evening towards the close of the session--March or
April, therefore--that I had occasion to visit LeVallon’s house for
some reason in itself of no importance; one of those keen and blustery
nights that turn Edinburgh into a scene of unspeakable desolation,
Princes Street, a vista of sheeted rain where shop-windows glistened
upon black pavements; the Castle smothered in mist; Scott’s Monument
semi-invisible with a monstrous air about it in the gloom; and the
entire deserted town swept by a wind that howled across the Forth with
gusts of quite thunderous energy. Even the cable-cars blundered along
like weary creatures blindly seeking shelter.

I hurried through the confusion of the tempest, fighting my way at
every step, and on turning the corner past the North British Railway
Station, the storm carried me with a rush into the porch of the
house, whipping the soaked macintosh with a blow across my face. The
rain struck the dripping walls down their entire height, then poured
splashing along the pavement in a stream. Night seemed to toss me into
the building like some piece of wreckage from the crest of a great wave.

Panting and momentarily flustered, I paused in the little hall to
recover breath, while the hurricane, having flung me into shelter,
went roaring and howling down the sloping street. I wiped the rain
from my face and put straight my disordered clothes. My mind just then
was occupied with nothing but these very practical considerations. The
impression that followed the next instant came entirely unbidden:

For I became aware of a sudden and enveloping sense of peace, beyond
all telling calm and beautiful--an interior peace--a calm upon the
spirit itself. It was a spiritual emotion. There drifted over me
and round me, like the stillness of some perfect dawn, the hush of
something serene and quiet as the stars. All stress and turmoil of
the outer world passed into an exquisite tranquillity that in some
nameless way was solemn as the spaces of the sky. I felt almost as if
some temple atmosphere, some inner Sanctuary of olden time, where the
tumult of external life dared not intrude, had descended on me. And the
change arrested every active impulse in my being; my hurrying thoughts
lay down and slept; all that was scattered in me gathered itself softly
into an inner fold; unsatisfied desires closed their eyes. It seemed
as if all the questing energies of my busy personality found suddenly
repose. Life’s restlessness was gone. I even forgot momentarily the
purpose for which I came.

So abrupt a change of key was difficult to realise; I can only say that
the note of spiritual peace seemed far more true and actual than the
physical relief due to the escape from wind and rain. Moreover, as I
climbed the spiral staircase to the second floor where Julius lived, it
deepened perceptibly--as though it emanated from his dwelling quarters,
pervading the entire building. It brought back the atmosphere of what
at school we called our “Temple Days.”

I went on tiptoe, fearful of disturbing what seemed solemn even to
the point of being sacred, for the mood was so strong that I felt no
desire to resist or criticise. Whatever its cause, this subjective
state of mind was soothing to the point of actual happiness. A hint of
bliss was in it. And it did not lessen either, when I discovered the
landlady, Mrs. Garnier, white of face in the little hall-way, showing
signs of nervousness that she made no attempt whatever to conceal.

She was all eagerness to speak. Before I could ask if Julius was at
home, she relieved her burdened mind:

“Oh, it’ll be you, Mr. Mason! And I’m that glad ye’ve come!”

Her round, puffy visage plainly expressed relief, as she came towards
me with a shambling gait, looking over her shoulder across the dim-lit
hall. “Mr. LeVallion,” she whispered, “has been in there without a
sound since mornin’, and I’m thinkin’, maybe, something would ha’
happened to him.” And she stared into my face as though I could
instantly explain what troubled her. Where I felt spiritual peace, she
felt, obviously, spiritual alarm.

“He is engaged?” I inquired. Then--though hardly aware why I put the
question--I added: “There is someone with him?”

She peered about her.

“He’ll be no engaged to you, sir,” she replied. Plainly, it was not her
lodger’s instructions that prompted the words; by the way she hung back
I discerned that she dreaded to announce me; she hoped I would go in
and explore alone.

“I’ll wait in the sitting-room till he comes out,” I said, after a
moment’s hesitation. And I moved towards the door.

Mrs. Garnier, however, at once made an involuntary gesture to
prevent me. I can still hear her slippered tread shuffling across
the oil-cloth. The gesture became a sort of leap when she saw that I
persisted. It reminded me of a frightened animal.

“There’ll be twa gentlemen already waiting,” she mumbled thickly, her
face turning a shade paler.

And, hearing this, I paused. The old woman, I saw, was trembling. I was
annoyed at the interruption, for it destroyed the sense of delightful
peace I had enjoyed.

“Anyone I know?”

I was close to the door as I asked it, the terrified old woman close
beside me. She thrust her grey face up to mine; her eyes shone in the
gleam of the low-turned gas jet above our heads; and her excitement
communicated itself suddenly to my own blood. A distinct shiver ran
down my back.

“I dinna ken them,” she whispered behind a hand she held to her mouth,
“for, ye see, I dinna let them in.”

I stared at her, wondering what was coming next. The slight trepidation
I had felt for a moment vanished, but I kept my voice at a whisper for
fear of disturbing Julius in his inner chamber on the other side of the
wall.

“What do you mean? Tell me plainly what’s the matter.” I said it with
some sharpness.

She replied at once, only too glad to share her anxiety with another.

“They came in by themselves,” she whispered with a touch of
superstitious awe; “wonderfu’ big men, the twa of them, and
dark-skinned as the de’il,” and she drew back a pace to watch the
effect of her words upon me.

“How long ago?” I asked impatiently. I remembered suddenly that Julius
had friends among the Hindu students. It was more than possible that he
had given them his key.

Mrs. Garnier shook her head suggestively. “I went in an hour ago,” she
told me in a low tone, “thinkin’ maybe he would be eatin’ something,
and, O Lord mercy, I ran straight against the pair of them, settin’
there in the darkness wi’oot a word.”

“Well?” I said, seeing that she was likely to invent, “and what of it?”

“Neither of them moved a finger at me,” she continued breathlessly,
“but they looked all over me, and they had eyes like a flame o’ fire,
and I all but let the lamp fall and came out in a faintin’ condeetion,
and have been prayin’ ever since that someone would come in.”

She shuffled into the middle of the hall-way, drawing me after her by
my sleeve. She pointed towards a corner of the ceiling. A small square
window was let into the wall of the little interior room where Julius
sought his solitude, and where at this moment he was busy with his
mysterious occupations.

“And what’ll be that awfu’ licht, then?” she inquired, plucking me by
the arm.

A gleam of bright white light, indeed, was visible through the
small dusty pane above us, and again a curious memory ran like
sheet-lightning across my mind that I had seen this kind of light
before and that it was familiar to me. It vanished instantly before I
could seize the fleeting picture. The light certainly was of peculiar
brightness, coming from neither gas nor candle, nor from any ordinary
light that I could have named off-hand.

“It’ll be precisely that kind of licht that’s in their eyes,” I heard
her whisper, as she jerked her whole body rather than her head alone
towards the sitting-room I was about to enter. She wiped her clammy
hands upon the striped apron that hung crooked from her angular hips.

“Mrs. Garnier,” I said with authority, “there’s nothing to be afraid
of. Mr. LeVallon makes experiments sometimes, that’s all. He wouldn’t
hurt a hair of your head----”

“Nae doot,” she interrupted me, backing away from the door, “for his
bonny face is a face to get well on, but the twa others in there, the
darkies--aye, and that’ll be another matter, and not one for me to be
meddlin’ with----”

I cut her short. “If you feel frightened,” I said, smiling, “go to your
room and pray. You needn’t announce me. I’ll go in and wait until he’s
ready to come out and see me.”

Her face went white as linen, showing up an old scar on the cheek in
an ugly reddish pattern, while I pushed past her and turned the handle
of the door. I heard the breath catch in her throat. The next minute,
lamp in hand, I was in the room, slamming the door literally in her
face lest she might follow and do some foolish thing. I set the lamp
down upon the table in the centre. I looked quickly about me. No living
person but myself was there--certainly no Hindu gentlemen with eyes
of flame. Mrs. Garnier’s Celtic imagination had run away with her
altogether. I sat down and waited. A line of that same bright, silvery
light shone also beneath the crack of the door from the inner chamber.
The wind and rain trumpeted angrily at the windows. But the room was
undeniably empty.

Yet it is utterly beyond me to describe the sense of exaltation that at
once rose over me like some influence of perfect music; “exaltation”
_is_ the right word, I think, and “music” conveys best the uplifting
and soothing effect that was produced. For here, at closer quarters,
the sensation of exquisite peace was doubly renewed. The nervous
alarm inspired by the woman fled. This peace flooded me; it stirred
the bliss of some happy spiritual life long since enjoyed and long
since forgotten. I passed instantly, as it were, under the sway of
some august authority that banished the fret and restlessness of the
extraneous world; and compared to which the strife and ambition of my
modern life seemed, indeed, well lost.

Behind it, however, and behind the solemnity that awed, was at the same
time the faint presage of something vaguely disquieting. The memory
of some afflicting incompleteness gripped me; the anguish of ideals
too lofty for attainment; the sweet pain and passion of some exquisite
long suffering; the secret yearning of a soul that had dared sublime
accomplishment, then plunged itself and others in the despair of
failure--all this lay in the apprehension that stood close behind the
bliss.

But, above all else, was the certainty that I remembered definite
details of those Temple Days, and that I was upon the verge of still
further and more detailed recollection.... That faintness stealing
over me was the faintness of immeasurable distance, the ache of dizzy
time, the weariness that has no end and no beginning. I felt what
Julius LeVallon felt--the deep sickness of eternity that knows no
final rest, either of blessed annihilation or of non-existence, until
the journey of the soul comes to its climax in the Deity. And, feeling
this--realising it--for the first time, I understood, also for the
first time, LeVallon’s words at Motfield Close two years ago--“If the
soul remembered all, it would lose the courage to attempt. Only the
vital things are worth recalling, because they guide.”

This flashed across me now, as I sat in that Edinburgh lodging-house,
waiting for him to come. I knew myself, beyond all doubt or question,
caught away in that web of wonderful, far-off things; there revived
in me the yearnings of memories exceedingly remote; poignant still
with life, because they were unexhausted still, and terrible with
that incompleteness which sooner or later _must_ find satisfaction.
And it was this sense of things left undone that brought the feeling
of presentiment. Julius, in that inner chamber, was communing as of
old. But also--he was searching. He was hard upon the trail of ancient
clues. He was seeking _her_. I knew it in my bones.

For I felt some subtle communication with that other mind beyond the
obstructing door--not, however, as it was to-day, but as it was in the
recoverable centuries when the three of us had committed the audacious
act which still awaited its final readjustment at our hands. Julius,
searching by some method of his own among the layers of our ancient
lives, reconstructed the particular scenes he needed. Involuntarily,
unwittingly, I shared them too. I had stepped into his ancient mood....

My mind grew crowded. The pictures rose and passed, and rose again....

But it was always one in particular that returned, staying longer than
the others. He concentrated upon one, then. In his efforts to find
_her_ soul in its body of to-day, he went back to the source of our
original relationship, the immensely remote experience when he and I
and she had sown the harvest we had now come back to reap together.
Thence, holding the clue, he could trace the thread of her existences
down to this very moment. He could find her where she stood upon the
earth--to-day.

This seemed very clear to me, though how I realised it is difficult to
say. I remember a curious thought--which proves how real the conviction
was in me. I asked myself: “Does _she_ feel anything now, as she goes
about her business on this earth, perhaps in England, perhaps not far
removed from us, as distance goes? And is she, too, wherever she stands
and waits, aware perhaps of some queer presentiment that haunts her
waking or her sleeping mind--the presentiment of something coming,
something about to happen--that someone waits for her?”

The one persistent picture rose and captured me again....

In blazing sunlight stood the building of whitened stone against
the turquoise sky; and, a little to the left, the yellow cliffs,
precipitous and crumbling. At their base were mounds of sand the wind
and sun had chiselled and piled up against their feet. The soft air
trembled with the heat; fierce light bathed everything--from the small
white figures moving up and down the rock-hewn steps, to the Temple
hollowed out between the stone paws of an immense outline half animal,
half human. To the right, and towards the east, stretched the abundant
desert, shimmering grey and blue and green beneath the torrid sun. I
smelt the empty leagues of sand, the delicate perfume that gathers
among the smooth, baked hollows of a million dunes; I felt the breeze,
sharp and exhilarating, that knew no interruption of broken surfaces to
break its journey of days and nights; and behind me I heard the faint,
sharp rustle of trees whose shadows flickered on the burning ground.
This heat and air grew stealthily upon me; fire and wind were here the
dominating influences, the natural methods which furnished vehicles for
the manifestation of particular Powers. Here was the home of our early
worship of the Sun and space, of Fire and Wind. Yet, somehow, it seemed
not of this present planet we call Earth, but of some point nearer to
the centre.

Beside those enormous paws, where the air danced and shimmered in
the brilliant glare, I saw the narrow flight of steps leading to
the crypts below--the retreats for solitude. And then, suddenly,
with a shock of poignant recognition, I saw a figure that I knew
instantly to be myself, the Sower of my harvest of To-day. It slowly
moved down the steps behind another figure that I recognised with
equal conviction--some inner flash of lightning certainty--as Julius
LeVallon, the soul I knew to-day in Edinburgh, the soul that, in
another body, now stood near me in a nineteenth century lodging-house.
The bodies, too, were lighter, less dense and material than those we
used to-day, the spirit occupier less hampered and restricted. That too
was clear to me.

I was aware of both times, both places simultaneously. That is, I was
not dreaming. The peace, moreover, that stole round me in this modern
building was but a faint reflection of the peace once familiar to me
in those far-off Temple Days. And somehow it was the older memory that
dominated consciousness.

About me the room held still as death, the battle of that earthly
storm against the walls and windows half unreal, or so remote as to
be not realised. Time paused a moment. I looked back. I lived as I
had been then--in another type of consciousness, it seemed. It was
marvellous, yet natural as in a dream. Only, as in a dream, subsequent
language fails to retain the searching, vivid reality. The living
_fact_ is not recaptured. I felt. I understood. Certain tendencies
and characteristics that were “me” to-day I saw explained--those that
derived from this particular period. What must be conquered, and why,
flashed sharply; also individuals whom to avoid would be vain shirking,
since having sown together we must reap together--or miss the object of
our being.

I heard strange names--Concerighé, Silvatela, Ziaz ... and a surge of
passionate memories caught at my heart. Yet it was not Egypt, it was
not India or the East, it was not Assyria or old Chaldea even; this
belonged to a civilisation older than them all, some dim ancient
kingdom that antedated all records open to possible research to-day....

I was in contact with the searching mind within that inner chamber.
His effort included me, making the deeps in me give up their dead.
I saw. He sought through many “sections.”... I followed.... There
was confusion--the pictures of recent days breaking in upon others
infinitely remote. I could not disentangle....

Very sharply, then, and with a sensation of uneasiness that was almost
pain, another figure rose. I saw a woman. With the same clear certainty
of recognition the face presented itself. Hair, lips, and eyes I saw
distinctly, yet somehow through a haze that veiled the expression.
About the graceful neck hung a soft cloth of gold; dark lashes screened
a gaze still starry and undimmed; there was a smile of shining teeth
... the eyes met mine....

With a diving rush the entire picture shifted, passing on to another
scene, and I saw two figures, her own and his, bending down over
something that lay stretched and motionless upon an altar of raised
stones. We were in shadow now; the air was cool; the perfume of the
open desert had altered to the fragrance that was incense.... The
picture faded, flashed quickly back, faded again, and once again was
there. I could not hold it for long. Larger, darker figures swam
between to confuse and blur its detail, figures of some swarthier
race, as though layers of other memories, perhaps more recent, mingled
bewilderingly with it. The two passed in and out of one another,
sometimes interpenetrating, as when two slides appear upon the
magic-lantern sheet together; yet, peering at me through the phantasmal
kaleidoscope, shone ever this woman-face, seductively lovely, haunting
as a vision of stars, mask of a soul even then already “old,” although
the picture was of ages before the wisdom of Buddha or the love of
Christ had stolen on the world....

Then came a moment of clearer sight suddenly, and I saw that the
objects lying stretched and motionless in the obscurity, and over
one of which they bent in concentrated effort, were the bodies of
men not dead, but temporarily vacated. And I knew that we stood in
the Hall of the Vacated Bodies, an atmosphere of awe and solemnity
about us. For these were the advanced disciples who in the final
initiation lay three days and nights entranced, while their souls
acquired “elsewhere and otherwise” the knowledge no brain could attain
to in the flesh. During the interval there were those who watched the
empty tenements--Guardians of the Vacated Bodies--and two of these I
now saw bending low--the woman and a man. The body itself I saw but
dimly, but an overmastering curiosity woke in me to see it clearly--to
recognise----!

The intensity of my effort caused a blur, it seemed. Across my inner
sight the haze thickened for a moment, and I lost the scene. But this
time I understood. The dread of something they were about to consummate
blackened the memory with the pain of treachery. Guardians of the
Vacated Bodies, they had been faithless to their trust: they had used
their position for some personal end. Awe and terror clutched my soul.
Who was the leader, who the led, I failed utterly to recover, nor what
the motive of the broken trust had been. A sublime audacity lay in it,
that I knew. There was the desire for knowledge not yet properly within
their reach; there was the ambition to evoke the elemental powers;
and there was an “experiment,” using the instrument at hand as the
channel for an achievement that might have made them--one of them, at
any rate--as the gods. But there was about it all an entanglement of
personalities and motives I was helpless to unravel. The whole deep
significance I could not recover. My own part, the part he played, and
the part the woman played, seemed woven in an involved and inextricable
knot. It belonged, I felt, to an order of consciousness which is not
the order of to-day. I, therefore, failed to understand completely.
Only that we three were together, closely linked, emerged absolutely
clear.

For one moment the scene returned again. I remember that something
drove forcibly against me in that ancient place, that it flung itself
roaring like a tempest in my face, that a great burning sensation
passed through me, while sheets of what I can only describe as black
fire tore through the air about us. There was fire and there was wind
... that much I realised.

I rocked--that is my present body rocked. I reeled upon my chair. The
entire memory plunged down into darkness with a speed of lightning. I
seemed to rise--to emerge from the depths of some sea within me where I
had lain sunk for ages. In one sense--I awoke. But, before the glamour
passed entirely, and while the reality of the scene hung about me
still, I remember that a cry for help escaped my lips, and that it was
the name of our leader that I called upon:

“Concerighé...!”

With that cry still sounding in the air, I turned, and saw him whom I
had called upon beside me. With a kind of splendid, dazzling light he
came. He rested one hand upon my shoulder; he gazed down into my eyes;
and I looked into a face that was magnificent with power, radiant,
glorious. The atmosphere momentarily seemed turned to flame. I felt a
wind of strength strike through me. The old temptation and the sin--the
failure--all were clear at last.

I remembered....



CHAPTER XIII


The brilliance of the figure dimmed and melted, as though the shadows
ate it from the edges inwards; there came a rattling at the handle of
that inner chamber door; it opened suddenly; and Julius LeVallon, this
time in his body of To-day, stood framed against the square of light
that swirled behind him like clouds of dazzlingly white steam. The door
swung to and closed. He moved forward quickly into the room.

By this time I was more in possession of my normal senses again. Here
was no question of memory, vision, or imagination’s glamour. Beyond
any doubt or ambiguity, there stood beside me in this sitting-room of
the Edinburgh lodging-house two figures of Julius LeVallon. I saw them
simultaneously. There was the normal Julius walking across the carpet
towards me, and there was his double that stood near me in a body of
light--now fading, yet unquestionably wearing the likeness of that
Concerighé whom I had seen bending with the woman above the vacated
body.

They moved together swiftly. Almost the same moment they met; they
intermingled, much as two outlines of an object slip one into the other
when the finger’s pressure on the eyeball is removed. They became one
person. Julius was there before me in the lamp-lit room, just come
from his inner chamber that blazed with brilliance. This light now
disappeared. No line showed beneath the crack of the door. I heard the
wind and rain shout drearily past the windows with the dying storm.

I caught my breath. I stood up to face him, taking a quick step
backwards. And I heard Julius laugh a little. He told me afterwards I
had assumed an attitude of defence.

He was speaking--in his ordinary voice, no sign of excitement in him,
nor about his presence anything unusual.

“You called me,” he said quietly; “you called for help. But I could not
come at once; I could not get back; it was such a long way off.” He
looked at me and smiled. “I was searching,” he added, as though he had
been merely turning the pages of a book.

“Our old Memory Game. I know. I felt it--even out here.”

He nodded gravely.

“You could hardly help it,” he replied, “being so close,” and indicated
that inner room with a gesture of his head. “Besides, you were in it
all the time. And she was in it too. Oh,” he said with a touch of swift
enthusiasm, “I have recovered nearly all. I know exactly now what
happened. I was the leader, I the instigator; you both merely helped
me; you with your faithful friendship, even while you warned; she with
her passionate love that asked no questions, but obeyed.”

“She loved you so?” I asked faintly, but with an uncontrollable
trembling of the voice. An amazing prescience seized me.

“You,” he said calmly. “It was you she loved.”

What thrill of romance, deathless and enthralling, stirred in me as
I heard these words! What starry glory stepped down upon the world!
A memory of bliss poured into me; the knowledge of an undying love
constant as the sun itself. Then, hard upon its heels, flashed back
the Present with a small and insignificant picture--of my approaching
union--with another. An extraordinary revulsion caught me. I remember
steadying myself against the chair in front of me.

“For it was your love,” Julius went on quietly, “that made you so
necessary. You two were a single force together. I had the knowledge,
but you together had the greatest power in the world. We were three--a
trinity--the strongest union possible. And the temptation was too much
for me----”

He turned away a moment so that I could not see his face. He broke off
suddenly. There was a new and curious quality in his voice, as though
it dwindled in volume and grew smaller, yet was not audibly lowered.

What caused the old sense of dread to quicken in me? What brought this
sudden sinking of the heart as he turned again from the cabinet where
he stood, and our eyes met steadily through the lamp-lit room?

“I borrowed love, but knew not how to use it,” he went on slowly,
solemnly. “I had evoked the Powers successfully; through the channel
of that vacated body I had drawn them into my own being. Then came the
failure----”

“I--we failed you!” I faltered.

“The failure,” he replied, still fixing me with his glowing eyes, “was
mine, and mine alone. The power lent me I did not understand. It was
not my own, and without great love these things cannot be accomplished.
I must first know love. What I had summoned I was too weak to banish.
The owner of the vacated body returned.” Then, after a pause, he added
half below his breath: “The Powers, exiled from their appointed place,
are about me to this very day. But it is the owner of that body whose
forgiveness I need most. And only with your help--with the presence,
the sympathetic presence of yourself and her--can this be effected.”

Past, present, and future seemed strangely intermingled as I heard, for
my thoughts went groping forward, and at the same time diving backwards
among desert sands and temples. The passion of an immense love-story
caught me; I was aware of intense yearning to resume my place in it
all with him, with her, with all the reconstructed conditions of
relationships so ancient and so true. It swept over me like a storm
unchained. That scene in the cool and sunless crypt flamed forth again,
reality in each smallest detail. The meaning of his words I did not
wholly grasp, however; there was something lacking in my mind of
To-day that withheld the final clue. My present consciousness was not
as then. From brain and reason all this seemed so utterly divorced, and
I had forgotten how to understand by _feeling_ in the way that Julius
did. Those last words, however, brought a sudden question to my lips.
Almost unconsciously I gave it utterance:

“Through the channel of a body?” I asked, and my voice was lower than
his own.

“Through the channel of a human system,” was his answer, “an organism
that uses consciously both heat and air, and that, therefore, knows the
nature of them both. For the Powers can be summoned only by those who
understand them; and understanding, being worship, depends ultimately
upon _sharing_ their natures, though it be in little.”

There came a welcome break, then, in the strain of this extraordinary
conversation, as Julius, using no bridge to transpose our emotions
from one key to the other, walked quietly over to the cupboard. It was
characteristically significant of his attitude to life in general,
that the solemn things we had been speaking of were yet no more sacred
than the prosaic detail of to-day that now concerned him--a student’s
supper. All was “one” to him in this rare but absolutely genuine way.
He was unconscious of any break in the emotional level of what had
been--for him there was, indeed, no break--and, watching him, it almost
seemed that I still saw that other figure of long ago striding across
the granite, sun-drenched slabs.

The voice rose unbidden within me, choked by the stress of some
inexplicable emotion:

“Concerighé...!” I cried aloud involuntarily; “Concerighé ... Ziaz....
We are all together still ... my help is yours ... my unfailing
help....”

Julius, loaf and marmalade jar in hand, turned from the cupboard as
though he had been struck. For a moment he stood and stared. The
customary expression melted from his face, and in its place a look of
tenderest compassion shone through the strength.

“You do remember, then!” he said very softly; “even the names!”

“And Silvatela,” I murmured, moisture rising unaccountably to my eyes.
I saw the room in mist.

Julius stood before me like a figure carved in stone. For a long
time he spoke no word. Gradually the curious disturbance in my own
breast sank and passed. The mist lifted and disappeared. I felt myself
slipping back into To-day on the ebb of some shattering experience,
already half forgotten.

“You remember,” he repeated presently, his voice impassioned but firmly
quiet, “the temptation--and--the failure...?”

I nodded, almost involuntarily again.

“And still hold to you--both,” I murmured.

He held me with his eyes for quite a minute. Though he used no word or
gesture, I felt his deep delight.

“Because we must,” he answered presently; “because we must.”

He had moved so close to me that I felt his breath upon my face. I
could have sworn for a second that I gazed into the shining eyes of
that other and audacious figure, for it was the voice of Concerighé,
yet the face of Julius. Past and present seemed to join hands, mingling
confusedly in my mind. Cause and effect whispered across the centuries,
linking us together. And the voice continued deeply, as if echoing down
hollow aisles of stone.

I heard the words in the shadowy spaces of that old-world crypt, rather
than among the plush furniture of these Edinburgh lodgings.

“We three are at last together again, and must bring the Balance to a
final close. As the stars are but dust upon the pathway of the gods, so
our mistakes are but dust upon the pathway of our lives. What we let
fall together, we must together remove.”

Then, with an abruptness that pertained sometimes to these curious
irruptions from the past, the values shifted. He became more and more
the Julius LeVallon whom I knew to-day. Speech changed to a modern
and more usual key. And the effect upon myself was of vague relief,
for while the impression of great drama did not wholly pass, the
uneasiness lightened in me, and I found my tongue again. I told my
own experience--all that I had seen and felt and thought. Brewing the
cocoa, and setting out the bread and marmalade upon the table, Julius
listened to every word without interruption. Our intimacy was complete
again as though no separation, either of lives or days, had been
between us.

“Inside me, of course,” I concluded the recital; “in some kind of
interior sight I saw it all----”

“The only true sight,” he declared, “though what you saw was but the
reflection at second-hand of memories I evoked in there.” He pointed to
the inner room. “In there,” he went on significantly, “where nothing
connected with the Present enters, no thought, no presence, nothing
that can disturb or interrupt,--in there you would see and remember
as vividly as I myself. The room is prepared.... The channels all are
open. As it was, my pictures flashed into you and set the great chain
moving. For no life is isolated; all is shared; and every detail,
animate or so-called inanimate, belongs inevitably to every other.”

“Yet what I saw was so much clearer than our schoolday memories,” I
said. “Those pictures, for instance, of the pastoral people where we
came together first.”

An expression of yearning passed into his eyes as he answered.

“Because in our Temple Days you led the life of the soul instead of the
body merely. The soul alone remembers. There lies the permanent record.
Only what has touched the soul, therefore, is recoverable--the great
joys, great sorrows, great adventures that have reached it. You _feel_
them. The rest are but fugitive pictures of scenery that accompanied
the spiritual disturbances. Each body you occupy has a different brain
that stores its own particular series. But true memory is in, and of,
the Soul. Few have any true soul-life at all; few, therefore, have
anything to remember!”

His low voice ran on and on, charged with deep earnestness; his very
atmosphere seemed to vibrate with the conviction of his words; about
his face occasionally were flashes of that radiance in which his body
of light--his inmost being--dwelt for ever. I remember moving the
marmalade pot from its precarious position on the table edge, lest his
gestures should send it flying! But I remember also that the haunting
reality of “other days and other places” lay about us while we talked,
so that the howling of the storm outside seemed far away and quite
unable to affect us. We knew perfect communion in that dingy room. We
_felt_ together.

“But it is difficult, often painful, to draw the memories up again,”
he went on, still speaking of recovery, “for they lie so deeply coiled
about the very roots of joy and grief. Things of the moment smother the
older pictures. The way of recovery is arduous, and not many would deem
the sacrifice involved worth while. It means plunging into yourself as
you must plunge below the earth if you would see the starlight while
the sun is in the sky. To-day’s sunlight hides the stars of yesterday.
Yet all is accessible--the entire series of the soul’s experiences, and
real forgetting is not possible.”

A movement as of wind seemed to pass between us over the faded carpet,
bearing me upwards while he spoke, sweeping me with his own conviction
of our eternal ancestry and of our unending future.

“We have made ourselves exactly what we are. We are making our future
at this very minute--_now!_” I exclaimed. The justice of the dream
inspired me. Great courage, a greater hope awoke.

He smiled, opening his arms with a gesture that took in the world.

“Your aspirations, hopes and fears, all that has ever burned
vitally at your centre, every spiritual passion that uplifted or
enticed, each deep endeavour that seeded your present tendencies
and talents--everything, in fact, strong enough to have touched
your Soul--sends up its whirling picture of beauty or dismay at the
appointed time. The disentangling may be difficult, but all are
there, for you yourself are their actual, living Record. Feeling,
not thinking, best unravels them--the primitive vision as of
children--the awareness of kinship with everything about you. The
sense of separateness and isolation vanishes, and the soul recovers
the consciousness of sharing all the universe. There is no loneliness;
there is no more fear.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, how we talked that night of tempest through! What thoughts and
dreams and possibilities Julius sent thundering against my mind as
with the power of the loosed wind and rain outside. The scale of life
became immense, each tiniest detail of act and thought important with
the sacredness of some cosmic ceremonial that it symbolised. Yet to his
words alone this power was not due, but rather to some force of driving
certitude in himself that brought into me too a similar conviction. The
memory of it hardened in the sands of my imagination, as it were, so
that the result has remained, although the language by which he made it
seem so reasonable has gone.

I smoked my pipe; and, as the smoke curled upwards, I watched his face
of pallid marble and the mop of ebony hair that set off so well the
brilliance of the eyes. He looked, I thought to myself, like no human
being I had ever seen before.

“And sometimes,” I remember hearing, “the memories from a later section
may suddenly swarm across an earlier one--confusing the sight, perhaps,
just when it is getting clear. A few hours ago, for instance, my
search was interrupted by an inrush of two more recent layers--Eastern
ones--which came to obliterate with their vividness the older, dimmer
ones I sought.”

I mentioned what the frightened woman imagined she had seen.

“She caught a reflected fragment too,” he said. “So strong a picture
was bound to spread.”

“Then was Mrs. Garnier with us too before?” I asked, as we burst out
laughing.

“Not in that sense, no. It was the glamour that touched her
only--second-sight, as she might call it. She is sensitive to
impressions, nothing more.”

He came over and sat closer to me. The web of his language folded
closer too. The momentum of his sincerity threw itself against all my
prejudices, so that I, too, saw the serpentine vista of these previous
lives stretching like a river across the ages. To this day I see his
tall, slim figure, his face with the clear pale skin, the burning eyes;
now he leaned across the table, now stood up to emphasise some phrase,
now paced the floor of that lamp-lit students’ lodging-house, while he
spoke of the long battling of our souls together, sowing thoughts and
actions whose consequences must one day be reaped without evasion. The
scale of his Dream was vast indeed, its prospect austere and merciless,
yet the fundamental idea of justice made it beautiful, as its inclusion
of all Nature made it grand.

To Julius LeVallon the soul was indeed unconquerable, and man master
of his fate. Death lost its ugliness and terror; the sense of broken,
separated life was replaced by the security of a continuous existence,
whole, unhurried, eternal, affording ample time for all development,
accepting joy and suffering as the justice of results, but never as of
reward or punishment. There was no caprice; there was no such thing as
chance.

Then, as the night wore slowly on, and the wind died down, and the
wonderful old town lay sleeping peacefully, we talked at last of that
one thing towards which all our conversation tended subconsciously: our
future together and the experiment that it held in store for us--with
her.

I cannot hope to set down here the words by which this singular
being led me, half accepting, to the edge of understanding that his
conception might be right. To that edge, however, I somehow felt my
mind was coaxed. I looked over that edge. I saw for a moment something
of his magnificent panorama. I realised a hint of possibility in
his shining scheme. But it is beyond me to report the persuasive
reasonableness of all I heard, for the truth is that Julius spoke
another language--a language incomprehensible to my mind to-day. His
words, indeed, were those of modern schools and books, but the spirit
that ensouled them belonged to a forgotten time. Only by means of some
strange inner sympathy did I comprehend him. Another, an older type of
consciousness, perhaps, woke in me. As with the pictures, this also
seemed curiously familiar as I listened. Something in me old as the
stars and wiser than the brain both heard and understood.

For the elemental forces he held to be Intelligences that share the
life of the cosmos in a degree enormously more significant than
anything human life can claim. Mother Earth, for him, was no mere
poetic phrase. There was spiritual life in Nature as there was
spiritual life in men and women. The insignificance of the latter was
due to their being cut off from the great sources of supply--to their
separation from Nature. Under certain conditions, and with certain
consequences, it was possible to obtain these powers which, properly
directed, might help the entire world. This experiment we had once
made--and failed.

The method I already understood in a certain measure; but the rest
escaped my comprehension. Memory failed to reconstruct it for me;
vision darkened; his words conveyed no meaning. It was beyond me.
Somewhere, somehow, personal love had entered to destroy the effective
balance that ensured complete success. Yet, equally, the power of love
which is quintessential sympathy, _was_ necessary.

What, however, I did easily understand was that the object of that
adventure was noble, nothing meanly personal in it anywhere; and,
further, that to restore the damaged equilibrium by returning these
particular powers to their rightful places, there must be an exact
reproduction of the conditions of evocation--that is, the three
original participants must be together again--a human system must serve
again as channel.

And the essential fact of all that passed between us on this occasion
was that I gave again my promise. When the necessary conditions were
present--I would not fail him. This is the memory I have carried with
me through the twenty years of our subsequent separation. I gave my
pledge.

       *       *       *       *       *

The storm blew itself to rest behind the hills; the rain no longer set
the windows rattling; the hush of early morning stole down upon the
sleeping city. We had talked the night away. He seemed aware--I know
not how--that we stood upon the brink of going apart for years. There
was great tenderness in his manner, his voice, his gestures. Turning
to me a moment as the grey light crept past the curtains, he peered
into my face as though he would revive lost centuries with the passion
of his eyes. He took my hand and held it, while a look of peace and
trust passed over his features as though the matter of the future were
already then accomplished.

He led me silently across the room towards the door. I turned
instinctively; words rose up in me, but words that found no utterance.
A deep emotion held me dumb. Then, as I opened the door, I found the
old, familiar name again:

“Concerighé ... Friend of a million years...!”

But no sentence followed it. He touched my arm. A cold wind seemed to
pass between us. I firmly believe that somehow he foresaw the long
interval of separation that was coming. Something about him seemed to
fade; I saw him less distinctly; my sight, perhaps, was blurred with
the strain of these long hours--hours the like of which I was not to
know again for many years. That magical name has many a time echoed
since in my heart away from him, as it echoed then across the darkened
little hall-way of those Edinburgh lodgings: “Concerighé! Friend of a
million years!”

Side by side we went down the granite steps of the spiral staircase to
the street. Julius opened the big front door. I heard the rattling of
the iron chain. A breeze from the sea blew salt against our faces,
then ran gustily along the streets. Behind the Calton Hill showed a
crimson streak of dawn. A line of clouds, half rosy and half gold,
ran down the sky. No living being was astir. I heard only the noisy
whirling of the iron chimney-pots against the morning wind.

And then his voice:

“Good-bye---- Until we meet again....”

He pressed my hands. I looked into his eyes. He stepped back into the
shadow of the porch. The door closed softly.



CHAPTER XIV

  “_Forgive? O yes! How lightly, lightly said!
     Forget? No, never, while the ages roll,
   Till God slay o’er again the undying dead,
     And quite unmake my soul!_”--Mary Coleridge.


I stepped down, it seemed, into a lilliputian world where the grander
issues no longer drew the souls of men. The deep and simple things were
fled, the old Nature gods withdrawn. The scale of life had oddly shrunk.

I saw the names above the shuttered shops with artificial articles for
sale--“11¾d. a yard”--on printed paper labels. The cheapness of a
lesser day flashed everywhere.

I passed the closed doors of a building where people flocked to mumble
that no good was in them, while a man proclaimed in a loud voice things
he hardly could believe. A few streets behind me Julius LeVallon stood
in the shadows of another porch, solitary and apart, yet communing with
stars and hills and seas, survival from a vital, vanished age when life
was realised everywhere and the elemental Nature Powers walked hand in
hand with men.

Through the deserted streets I made my way across the town to my own
little student’s flat on the Morningside where I then lived. Gradually
the crimson dawn slipped into a stormy sunrise. I watched the Pentlands
take the gold, and the Castle rock turn ruddy; a gentle mist lay over
Leith below; a pool of deep blue shadow marked the slumbering Old Town.

But about my heart at this magic hour stirred the dawn-winds of a
thousand ancient sunrises, and I felt the haunting atmosphere of
other days and other places steal up through the mists of immemorial
existences. I thought of the whole great series, each life rising and
setting like a little day, each with its dawn and noon and sunset,
each with its harvest of failure and success, of joy and sorrow,
of friendships formed and enemies forgiven, of ideals realised or
abandoned--pouring out of the womb of time and slowly bringing the
soul through the discipline of all possible experience towards that
perfection which proclaims it one with the entire universe--the Deity.

And a profound weariness fell about my spirit as I went. I became
aware of my own meagre enthusiasm. I welcomed the conception of some
saviour who should do it all for me. I knew myself unequal to the
gigantic task. In that moment the heroic figure of Julius seemed remote
from reality, a towering outline in the sky, an austere embodiment
of legendary myth. The former passionate certainty that he was right
dwindled amid wavering doubts. The perplexities of life came back upon
me with tormenting power. I lost the coherent vision of consistent and
logical beauty that he inspired. It was all too vast for me.

This reaction was natural enough, though for a long time mood chased
mood across my troubled mind, each battling for supremacy. The
materialism of the day, proudly strutting with its boundless assurance
and its cock-sure knowledge, regained possession of my thoughts.
The emptiness of scholastic theology no longer seemed so hideously
apparent. It was pain to let the other go, but go it did--though never,
perhaps, so completely as I then believed.

By insignificant details the change revealed itself. I recalled that
I was due that very afternoon at a luncheon where “intellectual” folk
would explain away the soul with a single scientific formula, and
where learned heads would wag condescendingly as they murmured “But
there’s no evidence to prove _that_, you know ...” ... and Julius rose
before me in another light at once--Pagan, dreamer, monster of exploded
superstitions, those very hills where he evoked the sylvan deities, a
momentary hallucination....

Then again, quite suddenly, it was the chatterers at the luncheon party
who seemed unreal, and all their clever patter about the “movements”
of the day mere shallow verbiage. The hoardings of the town were blue
and yellow with gaudy election posters, but the sky was aflame with
the grand old message of the Sun God, written in eternal hieroglyphs
of gold and red upon the clouds that brushed the hills. The elemental
deities stormed thundering by. And, instead of scholars laying down the
letter of their little law, I heard the tones of Concerighé calling
across the centuries the names of great belief, of greater beauty.

And the older pageantry stole back across the world.

Almost it was in me to turn and seek ... with him ... that
soul-knowledge which ran through all the “sections.”... Yet the younger
fear oppressed me. The endless journey, the renunciation and suffering
involved, the incessant, tireless striving, with none to help but one’s
own unconquerable will--this, and a host of other feelings that lay
beyond expression, bore down upon me with their cold, glacier power.
I thought of Julius with something of reverence akin to terror.... I
despised myself. I also understood why the majority need priests and
creeds and formulæ to help them.... The will, divorced from Nature, was
so small a thing!

When I entered my rooms the sunlight lay upon the carpet, and never
before had it seemed so welcome or so comforting. I could then and
there have worshipped the great body that sent it forth. But, instead,
in a state of exhaustion and weariness, I flung myself upon the bed.
Yet, while I slept, it seemed I left that little modern room and
entered the region of great, golden days “when the sun was younger.”
In very different attire, I took my place in the blue-robed circle,
a portion of some ancient, gorgeous ceremonial that was nearer to
the primitive beauty, when the “circles swallowed the sun,” and the
elemental Powers were accessible to every heart.

It was not surprising that I slept till dusk, missing my lectures
and the luncheon party as well; but it was distinctly surprising to
find myself wakened by a knocking at the door for a telegram that
summoned me south forthwith. And only in the train, anxiously counting
the minutes in the hope that I might find my father still alive, did
the possible significance of LeVallon’s final words come back upon my
troubled mind: “Until we meet again.”

For little did I guess that my father’s death was to prevent my
returning to the University, that my career would be changed and
hastened owing to an unexpected lack of means, that my occasional
letters to Julius were to be returned “unknown,” or that my next word
of him would be received twenty years later in a room overlooking the
Rhine at Bâle, where I have attempted to set down these difficult notes
of reminiscence....



Book III

THE CHÂLET IN THE JURA MOUNTAINS



  “_He (man) first clothes the gods in the image of his own
  innermost nature; he personifies them as modes of his own greater
  consciousness. All this was native to him when he still felt
  himself kin with Nature; when he felt rather than thought, when
  he followed instinct rather than ratiocination. But for long
  centuries this feeling of kinship with Nature has been gradually
  weakened by the powerful play of that form of mind peculiar to
  man; until he has at last reached a stage when he finds himself
  largely divorced from Nature, to such an extent indeed that he
  treats her as something foreign and apart from himself...._

  “_He seems at present, at any rate in the persons of most of
  the accredited thinkers of the West, to be absolutely convinced
  that no other mode of mind can exist except his own mode....
  To say that Nature thinks, he regards as an entire misuse of
  language.... That Nature has feelings even, he will not allow; to
  speak of love and hate among the elements is for him a puerile
  fancy the cultured mind has long outgrown._

  “_The sole joy of such a mind would almost seem to be the delight
  of expelling the life from all forms and dissecting their dead
  bodies._”--“Some Mystical Adventures” (G. R. S. Mead).



CHAPTER XV


For a long time that letter lay on my table like a challenge--neither
accepted nor refused. Something that had slumbered in me for twenty
years awoke. The enchantment of my youthful days, long since evaporated
as I believed, rose stealthily upon me at the sight of this once
familiar handwriting. LeVallon, of course, had found the woman. And my
word was pledged.

To say that I hesitated, however, would be no more true than to say
that I debated or considered. The first effect upon me was a full-blown
amazement that I could ever have come under the spell of so singular a
kind or have promised co-operation in anything so wildly preposterous
as Julius had proposed. The second effect, however--and, as it turned
out, the deeper one--was different. I experienced a longing, a thrill
of anticipation, a sense even of joy--I know not what to call it;
while in its train came a hint, though the merest hint, of that vague
uneasiness I had known in my school and university days.

Yet by some obscure mental process difficult to explain, I found
myself half caught already in consent. I answered the letter, asking
instructions how to reach him in his distant valley of the Jura
Mountains. Some love of adventure--so I flattered myself--long denied
by my circumscribed conditions of life, prompted the decision in part.
For in the heart of me I obviously wished to go; and, briefly, it was
the heart of me that finally went.

I passed some days waiting for a reply, LeVallon’s abode being
apparently inaccessible to the ordinary service of the post--“poste
restante” in a village marked only upon the larger maps where, I
judged, he had to fetch his letters. And those days worked their due
effect upon me; they were filled with questions to which imagination
sought the answers. How would the intervening years have dealt with
him? What changes would have come upon him with maturity? And this
woman--what melancholy splendours brought from “old, forgotten, far-off
things” would she bring with her down into the prosaic conditions
of this materialistic century? What signs and evidences would there
be that she, like himself, was an adept at life, seeking eternal
things, discerning what was important, an “old soul” taught of the
gods and charged with the ideals of another day? I saw her already in
imagination--a woman of striking appearance and unusual qualities. And,
how had he found her? A hundred similar questions asked themselves,
but, chief among them, two: Would she--should I, _remember?_

The time passed slowly; my excitement grew; sometimes I hesitated,
half repented, almost laughed, but never once was tempted really to
change my mind. For in the deeper part of me, now so long ignored,
something of these ancient passions blew to flame again; symptoms of
that original dread increased; there rose once more the whisper “we
are eternally together; the thing is true!” And on the seventh day,
when the porter handed me the letter, it almost seemed that Julius
stood beside me, beckoning. I felt his presence; the old magic of
his personality tightened up a thousand loosened threads; belief was
unwillingly renewed.

The instructions were very brief, no expression of personal feeling
accompanying them. Julius counted on my fidelity. It had never occurred
to him that I could fail. I left my heavy luggage in the care of the
hotel and packed the few things necessary for the journey. The notes of
our school and university days I have just jotted down I sent by post
to my London chambers. A spirit of recklessness seemed in me. I was off
into fairyland, mystery and wonder about me, possibly romance. Nothing
mattered; work could wait; I possessed a small competency of my own;
the routine of my life was dull and uninspiring. Also I was alone in
the world, for my early attachment had not resulted in marriage, and I
knew no other home than that of chambers, restaurants, and the mountain
inns where my holidays were usually spent. I welcomed the change with
its promise of adventure--and I went. This feeling of welcome owned
perhaps a deeper origin than I realised.

Travelling via Bienne and Neuchâtel to a point beyond the latter
town, I took thence, according to instructions, a little mountain
railway that left the lake behind and plunged straight into the purple
valleys of the Jura range. Deep pine woods spread away on all sides
as we climbed a winding ravine among the folds of these soft blue
mountains that are far older than the Alps. Scarred cliffs and ridges
of limestone gleamed white against the velvet forests, now turning red
and yellow in the sunset, but no peaks were visible and no bare summits
pricked the sky. Thick and soft, the trees clothed all. Their feathery
presence filled the air. The clatter of the train seemed muffled, and
the gathering shadows below the eastern escarpments took on that rich
black hue that ancient forests lend to the very atmosphere above them.
We passed into a world where branches, moss and flowers muted every
sound with a sense of undisturbable peace. The softness of great age
reigned with delicious silence. The very engine puffed uphill on wheels
of plush.

Occasional hamlets contributed a few wood-cutters by way of passengers;
strips of half-cleared valley revealed here and there a farm-house with
dark brown walls and spreading roof; little _sentiers_ slipped through
the pine trees to yet further recesses of unfrequented woods; but
nowhere did I see a modern building, a country house, nor any dwelling
that might be occupied by other than simple peasant folk. Suggestion of
tourists there was absolutely none; no trees striped blue and yellow by
Improvement Committees; no inns with central-heating and tin banners
stating that touring clubs endorsed them; no advertisements at all;
only this air of remote and kindly peace, the smoke of peat fires, and
the odour of living woods stealing upon the dusk.

The feeling grew that I crossed a threshold into a region that lay
outside the common happenings of the world; life here must be very
gentle, wonderful, distinguished, and things might come to pass that
would be true yet hard to explain by the standards of the busy cities.
Those cities, indeed, seemed very far away, unreal, and certainly
unimportant. For the leisurely train itself was almost make-believe,
and the station officials mere uniformed automata. The normal world, in
a word, began to fade a little. I was aware once more of that bigger
region in which Julius LeVallon lived--the cosmic point of view. The
spell of our early days revived, worked on my nerves and thought,
altering my outlook sensibly even at this early stage of my return.

The autumn afternoon was already on the wane when at length I
reached C----, an untidy little watch-making town, and according to
instructions left the train. I searched the empty platform in vain for
any sign of Julius. Instead of the tall, familiar figure, a little
dark-faced man stood abruptly before me, stared into my face with the
questioning eyes of a child or animal, and exclaimed bluntly enough
“_Monsieur le professeur?_” We were alone on the deserted platform, the
train already swallowed by the forest, no porter, of course, visible,
and signs of civilisation generally somewhat scanty.

This man, sent by Julius, made a curious impression on me as I gave
him my bag and prepared to follow him to the cart I saw standing
outside the station. His mode of addressing me seemed incongruous. Of
peasant type, with black moustaches far too big for his features, and
bushy eyebrows reminding me of tree-lichen, there was something in his
simplicity of gesture and address that suggested a faithful animal. His
voice was not unlike a growl; he was delighted to have found me, but
did not accept me yet; he showed his pleasure in his honest smile and
in certain quick, jerky movements of the body that made me think how
a clever caricaturist could see the dog in him. Yet in his keen and
steady eyes there was another look that did not encourage levity; one
would not lightly trifle with him. There was something about the alert
little fellow that insisted on respect, and a touch of the barbaric
counteracted the comedy of the aggressive eyebrows and moustache. In
the eyes, unflinching yet respectful, I fancied to detect another
thing as well: a nameless expression seen sometimes in the eyes of men
who have known uncommon things--habitual amazement grown slowly to
unwilling belief. He was a man, certainly, who would serve his master
to the death and ask no questions.

But also he would not answer questions; I could get nothing out of him,
as the springless cart drove slowly up the steep mountain road behind
the pair of sturdy horses. _Oui_ and _non_ and _peut-être_ summed
up his conversational powers, till I gave up trying and lapsed into
silence. Perhaps he had not “passed” me yet, not quite approved me. He
was just the sort of faithful, self-contained servant Julius required,
no doubt, and, as a conductor into mysterious adventure, a by no means
inadequate figure. Name, apparently, he had also none, for Julius, as
I learned later, referred to him as simply “he.” But my imagination
instantly christened him “The Dog-Man,” and as such the inscrutable
fellow lives in my memory to this day. He seemed just one degree above
the animal stage.

But while thought was busy with a dozen speculations, the dusk had
fallen steadily, and the character of the country, I saw, had changed.
It was more rugged and inhospitable, the valleys narrower, the forests
very deep, with taller and more solemn trees, and no signs anywhere of
the axe. An hour ago we had left the main road and turned up a rough,
deep-rutted track that only the feet of oxen seemed to have used. We
moved in comparative gloom, though far overhead the heights shone still
with the gold of sunset. For a long time we had seen no peasant huts,
no sign of habitation, nor passed a single human being. Wood-cutters
and charcoal-burners apparently had not penetrated here, and the
track, I gathered, was used in summer only and led to some lonely farm
among the upper pastures. It was very silent; no wind stirred the sea
of branches; no animal life showed itself; and the only moving things
beside ourselves were the jays that now and again flew across the path
or announced their invisible presence in the woods by raucous screaming.

Although the ceaseless jolting of the cart was severe, the long
journey most fatiguing, I was sensible of the deep calm that brooded
everywhere. After the bluster of the aggressive Alps, this peaceful
Jura stole on the spirit with a subtle charm. Something whispered that
I was not alone, but that a friendly touch of welcome pervaded the cool
recesses of these wooded hills. The sense of hostile isolation inspired
by the snowy peaks, that faint dismay one knows sometimes at the foot
of towering summits, was wholly absent here. I felt myself, not alien
to these rolling mountains, but akin. I was known and hospitably
admitted, not merely ignored, nor let in at my own grave risk. The
spirit of the mountains here was kind.

Yet that I was aware of this at all made me realise the presence of
another thing as well: It was in myself, not in these velvet valleys.
For, while the charm of the scenery acted as a sedative, I realised
that something alert in me noted the calming influence and welcomed
it. _That_ did not go to sleep--it resolutely kept awake. A faint
instinct of alarm had been stimulated, if ever so slightly, from the
moment I left the train and touched the atmosphere of my silent guide,
the “Dog-Man.” It was, of course, that he brought his master nearer.
Julius and I should presently meet again, shake hands, look into each
other’s eyes--I should hear his voice and share again the glamour of
his personality. Also there would be--a third.

It was an element, obviously, in a process of readjustment of my
being which had begun the moment I received his letter; it had
increased while I sat in the Bâle hotel and jotted down those early
recollections--an ingredient in the new grouping of emotions and
sensations constituting myself which received the attack, so to speak,
of what came later. My consciousness was slowly changing.

Yet this, I think, was all I felt at the moment: a perfectly natural
anticipatory excitement, a stirring wonder, and behind them both a
hint of shrinking that was faint uneasiness. It was the thought of the
woman that caused the last, the old premonition that something grave
involving the three of us would happen. The potent influences of my
youth were already at work again.

My entrance into the secluded spot Julius had chosen came unexpectedly;
we were suddenly upon it; the effect was almost dramatic. The last
farm-house had been left behind an hour or more, and we had been
winding painfully up a steep ascent that led through a tunnel of dark,
solemn trees, when the forest abruptly stopped, and a little, cup-like
valley lay before me, bounded on three sides by jagged limestone
ridges. Open to the sky like some lonely flower, it lay hidden and
remote upon this topmost plateau, difficult of access to the world.
I saw cleared meadows of emerald green beneath the peeping stars; a
stream ran gurgling past my feet; the surface of a little lake held the
shadows of the encircling cliffs; and at the further end, beneath the
broken outline of the ridges, lights twinkled in a peasant’s châlet.

The effect was certainly of Fairyland. The stillness and cool air,
after the closeness of the heavy forest, seemed to bring the stars
much nearer. There was a clean, fresh perfume; the atmosphere crystal
clear, the calm profound. I felt a little private world about me,
self-contained, and impressive with a quiet dignity of its own.
Unknown, unspoilt, serene and exquisite, it lay hidden here for some
purpose that vulgar intrusion might not discover. If ever an enchanted
valley existed, it was here before my eyes.

“So this is the chosen place--this isolated spot of beauty!” My heart
leaped to think that Julius stood already within reach of my voice,
possibly of my sight as well. No meeting-place, surely, could have
been more suitable.

The cart moved slowly, and the horses, steam rising from their heated
bodies against the purple trees, stepped softly upon the meadow-land.
The sound of hoofs and wheels was left behind, we silently moved up the
gentle slope towards the lights. Night stepped with us from the hills;
the forest paused and waited at a distance; only the faint creaking
of the wheels upon damp grass and the singing of the little stream
were audible. The air grew sharp with upland perfumes. We passed the
diminutive lake that mirrored the first stars. And a curious feeling
reached me from the sky and from the lonely ridges; a nameless emotion
caught my heart a moment; some thrill of high, unearthly loveliness,
familiar as a dream yet gone again before it could be seized, mirrored
itself in the depths of me like those buried stars within the
water--when, suddenly, a figure detached itself from the background
of trees and cliffs, and towards me over the dew-drenched grass
moved--Julius LeVallon.

He came like a figure from the sky, the forest, the distant ridges.
The spirit of this marvellous spot came with him. He seemed its
incarnation. Whether he first drew me from the cart, or whether I
sprang down to meet him, is impossible to say, for in that big moment
the thousand threads that bound us together with their separate
tensions slipped into a single cable of overwhelming strength. We stood
upon the wet meadow, close to one another, hands firmly clasped, eyes
gazing into eyes.

“Julius--it’s really you--at last!” I found to say--then his reply in
the old, unchanging voice that made me tremble a little as I heard
it: “I knew you would come--friend of a million years!” He laughed a
little; I laughed too.

“I promised.” It seemed incredible to me that I had ever hesitated.

“Ages ago,” I heard his answer. It was like the singing of the stream
that murmured past our feet. “Ages ago.”

I was aware that he let go my hand. We were moving through the dripping
grass, crossing and recrossing the little stream. The mountains rose
dark and strong about us. I heard the cart lumbering away with creaking
wheels towards the barn. Across the heavens the stars trailed their
golden pattern more and more thickly. I saw them gleaming in the
unruffled lake. I smelt the odour of wood-smoke that came from the
châlet chimney.

We walked in silence. Those stars, those changeless hills, deep woods
and singing rivulet--primitive and eternal things--accompanied us. They
were the right witnesses of our meeting. And a night-wind, driving the
dusk towards the west, woke in the forest and came out to touch our
faces. Splendour and loneliness closed about us, heralding Powers of
Nature that were here not yet explained away.



CHAPTER XVI

  “_We cannot limit the types, superhuman or subhuman, that may
  obtain. We can ‘set no bounds to the existence or powers of
  sentient beings’--a consideration of the highest importance_,
  as well, perhaps, practical as theoretical.... _The discovery
  of Superhumans of an exalted kind may be only a question of
  time, and the attainment of knowledge on this head one of the
  most important achievements in the history of races that are to
  come._”--“The Individual and Reality” (Fawcett).


Something certainly tightened in my throat as we went across that
soaking grass towards the building that was half châlet, half
farm-house, with steep, heavy roof and wide veranda. The lights
beckoned to us through the little windows. I saw a shadow slip across
the casement window on the upper floor. And my question was out of its
own accord before I could prevent it. My mind held in that moment no
other thought at all; my pulses quickened.

“So, Julius, you have--found her?”

And he answered as though no interval of years had been; as
though still we stood in the dawn upon the steps of the Edinburgh
lodging-house. The tone was matter of fact and without emotion:

“She is with me here--my wife--eager to see you at last.”

The words dropped down between us like lightning into the earth, and
a sense of chill, so faint I hardly recognised it, passed over me.
Emotion followed instantly, yet emotion, again, so vague, so odd, so
distant in some curious way, that I found no name for it. A shadow as,
perhaps, of disappointment fell on my thoughts. Yet, assuredly, I had
expected no different statement. He had said the right and natural
thing. He had found the woman of his dream and married her. What
lurked, I wondered nervously, behind my lame congratulations? Why was
I baffled and ashamed? What made my speech come forth with a slight
confusion between the thought and its utterance? For--almost--I had
been about to say another thing, and had stopped myself just in time.

“And she--remembers?” I asked quickly--point-blank, and bluntly
enough--and felt mortified the same instant by my premature curiosity.
Before I could modify my words, or alter them into something less
aggressively inquisitive, he turned and faced me, holding my arm to
make me look at him. His skin wore the familiar marble pallor as of
old; I saw it shine against the dark building where the light from the
window caught it.

“Me?” he asked quietly, “or--you?”

“Anything,” I stammered, “anything at all of--of the past, I meant.
Forgive me for asking so abruptly; I----”

The words froze on my lips at the expression that came into his face.
He merely looked at me and smiled. No more than that, so far as
accurate description goes, and yet enough to make my heart stop dead as
a stone, then start thumping against my ribs as though a paddle-wheel
were loose in me. For it was not Julius in that instant who looked at
me. His white skin masked another; behind and through his eyes this
other stared straight into my own; and this other was familiar to me,
yet unknown. The look disappeared again as instantaneously as it came.

“You shall judge for yourself,” I heard, as he drew me on towards the
house.

His tone made further pointed questioning impossible, rousing my
curiosity higher than ever before. Again I saw the woman in my
imagination; I pictured her as a figure half remembered. As the shadow
had slid past the casement of the upper floor, so her outline slipped
now across a rising screen of memory not entirely obliterated.

The presentment was even vivid: she would be superb. I saw her of the
Greek goddess type, with calm, inscrutable eyes, majestic mien, the
suggestion of strange knowledge in her quiet language and uncommon
gestures. She would be genuinely distinguished, remarkable in mind
as well as in appearance. Already, as we crossed the veranda, the
thrill of anticipation caught me. She would be standing in the hall
to greet us, or, seated before an open fire of logs, would rise out
of the shadows to meet the friend of whom she had doubtless “heard so
much,” and with whom such strange things were now to be accomplished.
The words Julius next actually uttered, accordingly, reached me with
a sense of disappointment that was sharp, and the entire picture
collapsed like a house of cards. The reaction touched my sense of
comedy almost.

“I think she is still preparing your room,” he said. “I had just taken
the water up when I heard your cart. We have little help, or need for
help. A girl from the farm in the lower valley brings butter sometimes.
We do practically everything ourselves.” I murmured something, courtesy
keeping a smile in check; and then he added, “We chose this solitude on
purpose, of course--she chose it, rather--and you are the first visitor
since we came here months ago. We were only just ready for you; it was
good that you were close--that it was so easy for you to get here.”

“I am looking forward immensely to seeing Mrs. LeVallon,” I replied,
but such a queer confusion of times and places had fallen on my mind
that my tongue almost said “to seeing her again.”

He smiled. “She will be with us in the morning,” he added quietly, “if
not to-night.”

This simple exchange of commonplaces let down the tension of my
emotions pleasantly. He turned towards me as he spoke, and for the
first time, beneath the hanging oil lamp, I noted the signature of the
intervening years. There was a look of power in eyes and mouth that had
not been there previously. I was aware of a new distance between us,
and a new respect came with it. Julius had “travelled.” He seemed to
look down upon me from a height. But, at the same time, the picture his
brief words conveyed had the effect of restoring me to my normal world
again. For nothing more banal could have been imagined, and side by
side with the chagrin to my sense of the theatrical ran also a distinct
relief. It came as a corrective to the loneliness and grandeur of the
setting, and checked the suggestion lying behind the hint that they
were “only just ready” for my coming.

My emotions sank comfortably to a less inflated level. I murmured
something politely as we passed into the so-called “sitting-room”
together, and for a moment the atmosphere of my own practical world
came in strongly with me. The sense of the incongruous inevitably was
touched. The immense fabric of my friend’s beliefs seemed in that
instant to tremble a little. That the woman he--_we_--had been waiting
for through centuries, this “old soul” taught of the ancient wisdom and
aware of august, forgotten worship, should be “making a bed upstairs”
woke in me a sense of healthy amusement. Julius took up the water! She
was engaged in menial acts! A girl brought butter from a distant farm!
And I could have laughed--but for one other thing that lay behind and
within the comedy. For that other thing was--pathos. There was a kind
of yearning pain at the heart of it: a pain whose origins were too
remote to be discoverable by the normal part of me.

It touched the poetry in me, too. For after the first disturbing
effect--that it was not adequate--I felt slowly another thing: that
this commonplace meeting was far more likely to be _true_ than the
dramatic sort I had anticipated. It was natural, it was simple; all big
adventures of the soul begin in a quiet way. Obviously, as yet, the two
selves in me were not yet comfortably readjusted.

I became aware, too, that Julius was what I can only call somewhere
less human than before--more impersonal. He talked, he acted, he even
looked as a figure might outside our world. I had no longer insight
into his being as before. His life lay elsewhere, expresses it best
perhaps. I can hardly present him as a man of flesh and blood. Emotion
broke through so rarely.

And our talk that evening together--for Mrs. LeVallon put in no
appearance--was ordinary, too. Julius, of course, as ever, used phrases
that belonged to the world peculiarly his own, but he said nothing
startling in the sense I had expected. No dramatic announcement came.
He took things for granted in the way he always did, assuming my
beliefs and theories were his own, and that my scepticism was merely
due to the “mind” in me to-day. We had some supper together, a bowl of
bread and milk the man brought in, and we talked of the intervening
years as naturally as might be--but for this phraseology he favoured.
When the man said “good night,” Julius smiled kindly at him, and the
fellow made a gesture of delight as though the attention meant far more
to him than money. He reminded me again irresistibly, yet in no sense
comically, of a faithful and devoted animal. Julius had patted him! It
was delightful. An inarticulateness, as of the animal world, belonged
to him. His rare words came out with effort, almost with difficulty.
He looked his master straight in the eye, listened to orders with a
personal interest mere servants never have, and, without a trace of
servility in face or manner, hurried off gladly to fulfil them. The
distress in the eyes alone still puzzled me.

“You have a treasure there,” I said. “He seems devoted to you.”

“A young soul,” he said, “in a human body for the first time, still
with the innocence and simplicity of the recent animal stage about his
awakening self-consciousness. It is unmistakable....”

“What sleeps in the vegetable, dreams in the animal, wakes in the man,”
I said, remembering Leibnitz. “I’m glad we’ve left the earlier stages
behind us.” His explanation interested me. “But that expression in his
eyes,” I asked, “that look of searching, almost of anxiety?”

Julius replied thoughtfully. “My atmosphere acts upon him as a kind
of forcing-house, perhaps. He is dimly aware of knowledge that lies,
at present, too far beyond him--and yet he reaches out for it.
Instinctive, but not yet intuitional. The privilege brings terror.
Opportunities of growth so swift and concentrated involve bewilderment,
even pain.”

“Pain?” I queried, interested as of old.

“Development is nothing but a series of little deaths. The soul passes
so quickly to new stages.” He looked up searchingly into my face. “We
knew that privilege once,” he added significantly; “we, too, knew
special teaching.”

And, though at the moment I purposely ignored this reference to our
“Temple Days,” I understood that this man’s neighbourhood might,
indeed, have an unusual and stimulating effect upon a simple, ignorant
type of mind. Even in my own case his presence gave me furiously to
think. The “Dog-Man,” the more I observed him, was little more than a
faithful creature standing on his hind legs with considerable surprise
and enjoyment that he was able to do so--that “little more” being quite
possibly _self_-consciousness. He showed his teeth when I met him
at the station, whereas, now that I was accepted by his master, his
approval was unlimited. He gave willing service in the form of love.

While Julius continued speaking, as though nothing else existed at
the moment, I observed him carefully. My eyes assessed the changes in
the outward “expression” of himself. He was thinner, slighter than
before; there was an increased balance and assurance in his manner; a
poise not present in our earlier days; but to say that he looked older
seemed almost a misuse of language. Though the eyes were stronger,
steadier, the lines in the skin more deeply cut, the outline of the
features chiselled with more decision, these, even in combination,
added no signature of age to the general expression of high beauty that
was his. The years had not coarsened, but etherealised the face. Two
other things, moreover, impressed me: the texture of skin and flesh had
refined away, so that the inner light of his enthusiasm shone through;
and--there was a marked increase in what I must term the “feel” of his
immediate atmosphere or presence. Always electric and alive, it now
seemed doubly charged. Against that dark inner screen where the mind
visualises pictorially, he rose in terms of radiant strength. Immense
potency lay suppressed in him; Powers--spiritual or Nature Powers--were
in attendance. He had acquired a momentum that was in some sense both
natural and super-human. It was not unlike the sense of power that
great natural scenes evoke in those who are receptive--mountains,
landscapes, forests. It was elemental. I felt him immense, at the head
of an invisible procession, as it were, a procession from the sky, the
heights, the woods, the stars.

And a touch of eeriness stole over me. I was aware of strange vitality
in this lonely valley; and I was aware of it--through him. I stood, as
yet, upon the outer fringe. Its remoteness from the modern world was
not a remoteness of space alone, but of--condition.

There was, however, another thing impossible to ignore--that somewhere
in this building there moved a figure already for me mysterious
and half legendary. Upstairs, not many feet away from us, her step
occasionally audible by the creaking of the boards, she moved,
breathing, thinking, listening, hearing our voices, almost within
touching distance of our hands. There was a hint of the fabulous in it
somewhere.

And, realising her near presence, I felt a curious emotion rising
through me as from a secret spring. Its character, veiled by interest
and natural anticipation, remained without a name. I could not describe
it to myself even. Each time the thought of meeting her, that she was
close, each time the sound of her soft footfall overhead was audible,
this emotion rose in me pleasurably, yet with dread behind it somewhere
lurking. I caught it stirring; the stream of it went out to this
woman I had never seen with the certain aim of intuitive direction; I
surprised it in the act. But always something blocked it, hiding its
name away. It escaped analysis. And, never more than instantaneous,
passing the very moment it was born, it seemed to me that the opposing
force that blocked it thus had to do with the man who was my host
and my companion. It emanated from him--this objecting force. Julius
checked it; though not with deliberate consciousness--he prevented my
discovery of its nature. There was uncommon and mysterious sweetness in
it, a sweetness as of long mislaid romance that lifted the heart. Yet
it returned each time upon me, blank and unrewarded.

It was noticeable, moreover, that our talk avoided the main object
of my presence here. LeVallon talked freely of other things, of the
“Dog-Man,” of myself--I gave him a quick sketch of my life in the long
interval--of anything and everything but the purpose of my coming.
There was, doubtless, awkwardness on my side, since my instinct was
not to take my visit heavily, but to regard the fulfilment of my
old-time pledge as an adventure, even a fantasy, rather than the
serious acceptance of a grave “experiment.” His reluctance, yet, was
noticeable. He told me little or nothing of himself by way of exchange.

“To-morrow, when you are thoroughly rested from your journey,” he met
my least approach to the matter that occupied our deepest thoughts;
or--“later, when you’ve had a little time to get acclimatised. You must
let this place soak into you. Rest and sleep and take things easy;
there is no hurry--here.” Until I realised that he wished to establish
a natural sympathy between my being and the enchanted valley, to avoid
anything in the nature of surprise or shock which might disturb a
desired harmony, and that, in fact, the absence of his wife and his
silence about himself were both probably intentional. Conditions were
to flow in upon me of their own accord and naturally, thus reducing
possible hostility to a minimum. Before we rose to go to bed an hour
later this had become a conviction in me. It was all thought out
beforehand.

We stood a moment on the veranda to taste the keen, sweet air and see
the dark mountains blocked against the stars. The sound of running
water was all we heard. No lights, of course, showed anywhere. The
meadows, beneath thin, frosty mist, lay very still. But the valley
somehow rushed at me; it seemed so charged to the brim with stimulating
activity and life. Something felt on the move in it. I stood in the
presence of a crowd, waiting to combine with energies latent in it. I
was aware of the idea of co-operation almost.

“One of the rare places,” he said significantly when I remarked upon it
cautiously, “where all is clean and open still. Humanity has been here,
but humanity of the helpful kind. We went to infinite trouble to find
it.”

It was the first time he had come so near to the actual subject. I was
aware he watched me, although his eyes were turned towards the darkness
of the encircling forest.

“And--your wife likes it too?” For though I remembered that she had
“chosen it,” its loneliness must surely have dismayed an ordinary woman.

Still with his eyes turned out across the valley, he replied, “She
chose it. Yes”--he hesitated slightly--“she likes it, though not
always----” He broke off abruptly, still without looking at me, then
added, as he came a little nearer, “But we both agree--we _know_ it is
the right place for us.” That “us,” I felt certain, included myself as
well.

I did not press for explanation at the moment. I touched upon another
thing.

“Humanity, you say, has been here! I should have thought some virgin
corner of the earth would have suited your--purpose--better?” Then, as
he did not answer for a moment, I added: “This is surely an ordinary
peasant’s house that you’ve made comfortable?”

He looked at me. A breath of wind went past us. I had the ghostly
feeling someone had been listening; and a faint shiver ran across my
nerves.

“A peasant’s, yes, but not”--and he smiled--“an ordinary peasant. We
found here an old man with his sons; they, or their forbears, had lived
in isolation for generations in this valley; they were ‘superstitious’
in the sense of knowing Nature and understanding her. They _believed_,
though in an imperfect and degraded form, what was once a living truth.
They sold out to me quite willingly and are now established in the
plains below. In this loneliness, away from modern ‘knowledge,’ they
loved what surrounded them, and in that sense their love was worship.
They felt-with the forests, with streams and mountains, with clouds and
sky, with dawn and sunset, with the darkness too.” He looked about him
as he said it, and my eyes followed the direction of his own across the
night. Again the valley stirred and moved throughout its whole expanse.
“They also,” Julius continued in a lower tone, his face closer than
before, “felt-with the lightning and the wind.”

I could have sworn some subtle change went through the surrounding
darkness as he said the words. Fire and wind sprang at me, so vivid was
their entrance into my thought. Again that slight shudder ran tingling
up my spine.

“The place,” he continued, “is therefore already prepared to some
extent, for the channels that we need are partly open. The veil is here
unthickened. We can work with less resistance.”

“There is certainly peace,” I agreed, “and an uplifting sense of
beauty.”

“You feel it?” he asked quickly.

“I feel extraordinarily and delightfully alive,” I admitted truthfully.

Whereupon he turned to me with a still more significant rejoinder:

“Because that which worship and consecration-ceremonies ought to
accomplish for churches--are meant to accomplish, rather--has never
been here _undone_. All places were holy ground until men closed the
channels with their unbelief and thus defiled them by cutting them off
from the life about them.”

I heard a window softly closing above us; we turned and went indoors.
Julius put the lamps out one by one, taking a candle to show me up the
stairs. We went along the wooden passage. We passed several doors,
beneath one of which I saw a line of light. My own room was at the
further end, simply, almost barely, furnished, with just the actual
necessaries. He paused at the threshold, shook my hand, said a short
“good night,” and left me, closing the door behind him carefully. I
heard his step go softly down the passage. A door in the distance also
opened and closed. Then complete silence hushed the entire house about
me, yet a silence that was listening and alive. No ancient, turreted
castle, with ivied walls and dungeons, with forsaken banqueting-hall
or ghostly corridors, could possibly have felt more haunted than this
peasant’s châlet in the Jura fastnesses.

For a considerable time I sat at my open window, thinking; and yet not
thinking so much, perhaps, as--relaxing. I was aware that my mind had
been at high tension the entire day, almost on guard--as though seeking
unconsciously to protect itself. Ever since the morning I had been on
the alert against quasi-attack, and only now did I throw down my arms
and abandon myself without reserve. Something I had been afraid of had
shown itself friendly after all. A feeling of security stole over me;
I was safe; gigantic powers were round me, oddly close, yet friendly,
provided I, too, was friendly. It was a singular feeling of being
helpless, yet cared for. The valley took hold of me and all my little
human forces. To set myself against it would be somehow dangerous,
but to go with it, adopting its overmastering stride, was safety.
This became suddenly clear to me--that I must be sympathetic and that
hostility on my part might involve disaster.

Here, apparently, was the first symptom of that power which Julius
declared was derived from “feeling-with.” I began to understand another
thing as well; I recalled his choice of words--that the veil hereabouts
was “unthickened” and the channels “open.” He did not say the veil was
thin, the channels cleared. It was in its native, primitive condition.

I sat by the window, letting the valley pour through and over me. It
flooded my being with its calm and beauty. The stars were very bright
above the ridges; small clouds passed westwards; the water sang and
tinkled; the cup-like hollow had its secrets, but it told them. I had
never known night so wonderfully articulate. Power brooded here. I felt
my blood quicken with the sense of kinship.

And the little room with its unvarnished pine-boards that held a
certain forest perfume, was comforting too; the odour of peat fires
still clung to the darkened rafters overhead; the candle, in its
saucer-like receptacle of wood, gave just the simple, old-fashioned
light that was appropriate. Bodily fatigue made bed exceedingly
welcome, though it was long before I fell asleep. Figures, at first,
stole softly in across the night and peered at me--Julius, pale and
rapt, remote from the modern world; the silent “Dog-Man,” with those
eyes of questioning wonder and half-disguised distress. And another
ghostly figure stole in too, though without a face I could decipher;
a woman whom the long, faultless balance of the ages delivered, with
the rest of us, into the keeping of this lonely spot for some deep
purpose of our climbing souls. Their outlines hovered, mingled with the
shadows, and withdrew.

And a certain change in myself, though perhaps not definitely noted at
the time, was apparent too--I found in my heart a singular readiness
to believe. While sleep crept nearer, and reason dropped a lid,
there assuredly was in me, as part of something accepted naturally,
the likelihood that LeVallon’s attitude was an aspect of forgotten
truth. Veiled in Nature’s operations, perchance directing them, and
particularly in spots of loneliness such as this, dwelt those mighty
elemental Potencies he held were accessible to humanity. A phrase
from some earlier reading floated back to me, as though deliberately
supplied--not that Nature “works towards what are called ‘ends,’ but
that it was possible or rather probable, that ‘ends’ which implied
conscious superhuman activities, are being realised.” The sentence, for
some reason, had remained in my memory. When life was simpler, closer
to Nature, some such doctrine may have been objectively verifiable, and
worship, in the sense that Julius used the word, might well promise to
restore the grandeur of forgotten beliefs which should make men as the
gods....

With the delightful feeling that in this untainted valley, the woods,
the mountains, the very winds and stormy lightnings, were yet but
the physical vehicle of powers that expressed intelligence and true
_being_, I passed from dozing into sleep, the cool outside air touching
my eyelids with the beauty of the starry Jura night. An older, earlier
type of consciousness--though I did not phrase it to myself thus--was
asserting itself and taking charge of me. The spell was on my heart.

Yet the human touch came last of all, following me into the complicated
paths of slumber, and haunting me as with half-recovered memories
of far-off, enchanted days. Uncommon visions met my descending or
ascending consciousness, so that while brain and body slept, some
deeper part of me went travelling swiftly backwards. I knew the old
familiar feeling that the whole of me did not sleep ... and, though
remembering nothing definite, my first thought on awakening was the
same as my final thought on falling into slumber: What manner of
marvellous woman would _she_ prove to be?



CHAPTER XVII

  “_Thy voice is like to music heard ere birth,
   Some spirit lute touched on a spirit sea;
   Thy face remembered is from other worlds.
   It has been died for, though I know not when,
   It has been sung of, though I know not where.
   It has the strangeness of the luring West,
   And of sad sea-horizons; beside thee
    I am aware of other times and lands,
   Of birth far back, of lives in many stars._”
                                  --“Marpessa” (Stephen Phillips).


During sleep, however, the heavier emotions had sunk to the bottom,
the lighter had risen to the top. I woke with a feeling of vigour, and
with the sense called “common” distinctly in the ascendant. Through the
open window came sunshine in a flood, the crisp air sparkled. I could
taste it from my bed. Youth ran in my veins and ten years seemed to
drop from my back as I sprang up and thrust my face into the radiant
morning. Drawing a deep draught into my lungs, I must at the same time
have unconsciously exclaimed, for the peasant girl gathering vegetables
below--the garden, such as it was, merged into the pastures--looked
up startled. She had been singing to herself. I withdrew my pyjamaed
figure hurriedly, while she, as hurriedly, let drop the skirts the dew
had made her lift so high; and when I peeped a moment later, she had
gone. I, too, felt inclined to sing with happiness, so invigorating was
the clear brilliance of the opening day. A joyful irresponsibility, as
of boyhood, coursed in my tingling blood. Everything in this enchanted
valley seemed young and vigorous; the stream ran gaily past the shining
trees; the meadows glistened; the very mountains wore a lustre as of
life that ran within their solid frames.

It was impossible to harbour the slightest thought of dread before
such peace and beauty; all ominous forebodings fled away; this joy and
strength of Nature brought in life. Even the “Dog-Man” smiled with eyes
unclouded when, a little later, he brought a small pail of boiling
water, and informed me that there was a pool in the forest close at
hand where I could bathe. He nosed about the room--only thus can I
describe his friendly curiosity for my welfare--fussed awkwardly with
my boots and clothes, looked frankly into my eyes with an expression
that said plainly “How are _you_ this morning? I’m splendid!” grunted,
sniffed, almost wagged his tail for pleasure--and trotted out. And he
went, I declare, as though he had heard a rabbit and must be after it.
The laughter in me was only just suppressed, for I could have sworn
that he expected me to pat him, with the remark “Good fellow! Sik ’em,
then!” or words to that effect.

The secluded valley, walled-in from the blustering world like some
wild, primitive garden, was drenched in sunshine by the time I went
downstairs; the limestone cliffs a mile away of quite dazzling
brilliance; and the pine woods across the meadow-land scented the whole
interior of the little châlet. But for stray wisps of autumn mist
that still clung along the borders of the stream, it might have been
a day in June the mountains still held prisoner. My heart leaped with
the beauty. This lonely region of woods and mountain tops suggested
the presence of some Nature Deity that presided over it, and as I
stood a moment on the veranda, I turned at a sound of footsteps to
see the figure of my imagination face to face. “If _she_ is of equal
splendour!” flashed instantly through my mind. For Julius wore the
glory of the morning in his eyes, the neck was bare and the shirt a
little open; standing there erect in his mountain clothes, he was
as like the proverbial Greek god as any painter could have possibly
desired.

“Whether I slept well?” I answered his inquiry. “Why, Julius, I feel
positively like a boy again. This place has worked magic on me while I
slept. There’s the idea in me that one must live for ever.”

And, even while I said it, my eyes glanced over his shoulder into the
hall for a sight of someone who any moment might appear. Excitement was
high in me.

Julius quietly held my hand in his own firm grasp a second.

“Life came to you in sleep,” he said. “I told you--I warned you,
the channels here were open and easily accessible. All power--all
powers--everywhere are natural. Our object is to hold them, isn’t it?”

“You mean control them?” I said, still watching the door behind him.

“They visit the least among us; they touch us, and are gone. The
essential is to harness them--in this case before they harness
us--again.”

I made no reply. The other excitement was too urgent in me.

Linking his arm in mine, he led me towards a corner of the main room,
half hall, half kitchen, where a white tablecloth promised breakfast.
The “man” was already busying himself to and fro with plates and a
gleaming metal pot that steamed. I smelt coffee and the fragrance
of baked bread. But I listened half-heartedly to my host’s curious
words because every minute I expected the door to open. There was a
nervousness in me what I should find to say to such a woman when she
came.

Was there, as well, among my bolder feelings, a faint suspicion of
something else--something so slight and vague it hardly left a trace,
while yet I was aware that it had been there? I could not honestly say.
I only knew that, again, there stirred about my heart unconsciously
a delicate spider-web of resentment, envy, disapproval--call it what
one may, since it was too slight to own a definite name--that seemed
to wake some ghost of injustice, of a grievance almost, in the hidden
depths of me. It passed, unexplained, untraceable. Perhaps I smothered
it, perhaps I left it unacknowledged. I know not. So elusive an emotion
I could not retain a second, far less label. “Julius has found her; she
is his,” was the clear thought that followed it. No more than that. And
yet--like the shadow of a leaf, it floated down upon me, darkening,
though almost imperceptibly, some unknown corner of my heart.

And, remembering my manners, I asked after her indisposition, while he
laughed and insisted upon our beginning breakfast; she would presently
join us; I should see her for myself. He looked so happy that I yielded
to the momentary temptation.

“Julius,” I said, by way of compliment and somewhat late
congratulation, “she must be wonderful. I’m so--so very pleased--for
you.”

“Yes,” he said, as he poured coffee and boiling milk into my wooden
bowl, “and we have waited long. But the opportunity has come at last,
and this time we shall not let it slip.”

The simple words were not at all the answer I expected. There was a
mingling of relief and anxiety in his voice; I remembered that she “did
not always like it here,” and I wondered again what my “understanding”
was to be that he had promised would “come later.” What determined her
change of mood? Why did she sometimes like it, and sometimes not like
it? Was it loneliness, or was it due to things that--happened? Any
moment now she would be in the room, holding my hand, looking into my
eyes, expecting from me words of greeting, speaking to me. I should
hear her voice. Twice I turned quickly at the sound of an opening
door, only to find myself face to face with the “man”; but at length
came a sound that was indisputably the rustle of skirts, and, with
a quickening of the heart, I pushed my plate away, and rose from my
chair, turning half way to greet her.

Disappointment met me again, however, for this time it was merely
the peasant girl I had seen from my window; and once more I sat down
abruptly, covering my confusion with a laugh and feeling like a
schoolboy surprised in a foolish mistake. And then a movement from
Julius opposite startled me. He had risen from his seat. There was a
new expression on his face, an extraordinary expression--observation
the most alert imaginable, anxiety, question, the tension of various
deep emotions oddly mingled. He watched me keenly. He watched us both.

“My wife,” he said quietly, as the figure advanced towards us. Then,
turning to her: “And this is my friend, Professor Mason.” He indicated
myself.

I rose abruptly, startled and dismayed, nearly upsetting the chair
behind me in my clumsiness. The “Professor Mason” sounded ludicrous,
almost as ludicrous as the “Mrs. LeVallon” he had not uttered. I
stared. She stared. There was a moment of blank silence. Disappointment
petrified me. There was no distinction, there was no beauty. She was
tall and slim, and the face, of a commonplace order, was slightly
pockmarked. I forgot all manners.

She was the first to recover. We both laughed. But if there was
nervousness of confused emotion in my laugh, there was in hers a happy
pleasure, frankly and naturally expressed.

“How do you do, sir--Professor?” she instantly corrected herself,
shaking me vigorously, yet almost timidly, by the hand. It was a
provincial and untutored voice.

“I’m--delighted to see you,” my lips stammered, stopping dead before
the modern title. The control of my breath was not quite easy for a
moment.

We sat down. In her words--or was it in her manner, rather?--there
was a hint of undue familiarity that tinged my disappointment with
a flash of disapproval too, yet caught up immediately by a kind of
natural dignity that denied offence, or at any rate, corrected it.
Another impression then stole over me. I was aware of charm. The
voice, however, unquestionably betrayed accent. Of the “lady,” in the
restricted, ordinary meaning of the word, there was no pretence. A
singular revulsion made me tremble. For a moment she had held my hand
with deliberate pressure, while her eyes remained fixed upon my face
with a direct, a searching intentness. She too, like her husband,
watched me. If she formed a swift, intuitive judgment regarding myself,
nothing at first betrayed it. I was aware, however, at once, that,
behind the decision of her natural frankness, something elusive
hovered. The effect was highly contradictory, even captivating,
certainly provocative of curiosity. Accompanying her laughter was a
delicate, swift flush, and the laugh, though loud in some other sense
than of sound alone, was not unmusical. A breath of glamour, seductive
as it was fleeting, caught me as I heard.

For a moment or two my senses certainly reeled. It seemed that swift
shutters rose and fell before my eyes. One screen rolled up, another
dropped, vistas opened, vanishing before their depths showed anything.
The châlet, with our immediate surroundings, faded; I was aware of
ourselves only, chiefly, however, of her. This first sight of her had
the effect that years before Julius had produced: the peculiar sense of
“other places.” And this in spite of myself, without any decided belief
of my own as yet to help it....

The confusion of my senses passed then, and consciousness focused
clearly once more on my surroundings. The disturbed emotions,
however, refused wholly to quiet down. Her face, I noted, beneath the
disfiguring marks, was rosy, and the grey-green eyes were very bright.
They were luminous, changing eyes, their hue altering of its own accord
apart from mere play or angle of the light. Sometimes their grey merged
wholly into green, but a very wonderful deep green that made them like
the sea; later, again, they were distinctly blue. They lit the entire
face, its expression changing when they changed. The frank and open
innocence of the child in them was countered, though not injuriously,
by an unfathomed depth that had its effect upon the whole physiognomy.
An arresting power shone in them as if imperiously. There were two
faces there.

And the singular and fascinating effect of these dominating eyes left
further judgment at first disabled. I noticed, however, that her mouth
had that generous width that makes for strength rather than for beauty;
that the teeth were fine and regular; and that the brown hair, tinged
with bronze, was untidy about the neck and ears. A narrow band of
black velvet encircled the throat; she wore a blouse, short skirt,
and high brown boots with nails that clattered on the stone flooring
when she moved. Since gathering vegetables in the dawn she had changed
her costume, evidently. A certain lightness, I saw now, had nothing of
irresponsibility in it, but was merely youth, vitality, and physical
vigour. She was fifteen years younger than Julius, if a day, and I
judged her age no more than twenty-five perhaps.

“It’s a pore house to have your friends to,” she said in her breezy,
uncultivated voice, “but I hope you managed all right with your
room--Professor?” It was the foundation of the voice that had the
uncultivated sound; on the top of it, like a layer of something
imitated or acquired, there was refinement. I got the impression that,
unconsciously, she aped the better manner of speech, yet was not aware
she did so.

Burning questions rose within me as I listened to this opening
conversation: How much she knew, and believed, of her husband’s vast
conceptions; what explanation of my visit he had offered her, what
explanation of myself; chief of all, how much--if anything--she
remembered? For our coming together in this hidden Jura valley under
conditions that seemed one minute ludicrous, and the next sublime, was
the alleged meeting of three Souls who had not recognised each other
through bodily, human eyes for countless centuries. And our purpose,
if not madness, held a solemnity that might well belong to a forgotten
method of approaching deity.

“He’s told me such a lot about you, Julius has,” she continued half
shyly, jerking her thumb in the direction of her husband, “that I
wanted to see what you were like.” It was said naturally, as by a
child; yet the freedom might equally have been assumed to conceal
an admitted ignorance of manners. “You’re such--very old friends,
aren’t you?” She seemed to look me up and down. I thought I detected
disappointment in her too.

“We were together at school and university, you see,” I made reply,
shirking the title again, “but it’s a good many years now since we met.
We’ve been out of touch for a long time. I hadn’t even heard of his
marriage. My congratulations are late, but most sincere.”

I bowed. Strange! Both in word and gesture some faintest hint of
sarcasm or resentment forced itself against my conscious will. The
blood rose--I hoped unnoticed--to my cheeks. My eyes dropped quickly
from her face.

“That’s reely nice of you,” she said simply, and without a touch of
embarrassment anywhere. She cut a lump of bread from the enormous loaf
in front of us and broke it in little pieces into her bowl of milk. Her
spoon remained standing in her coffee cup. It seemed impossible for
me to be unaware of any detail that concerned her, either of gesture
or pronunciation. I noticed every tiniest detail whether I would or
no. Her charm, I decided, increased. It was wholly independent of her
looks. It took me now and again by surprise, as it were.

“Maybe--I suppose he didn’t know where you were,” she added, as Julius
volunteered no word. “But he was shore you’d come if you got the
letter.”

“It was a promise,” her husband put in quietly. Evidently he wished us
to make acquaintance in our own way. He left us alone with purpose,
content to watch and show his satisfaction. The relationship between
them seemed natural and happy, utterly devoid of the least sign of
friction. She certainly--had I perhaps, anticipated otherwise?--showed
no fear of him.

The “man” came in with a plate of butter, clattering out noisily again
in his heavy boots. He gave us each a look in turn, of anxiety first,
and then of pleasure. All was well with us, he felt. His eyes, however,
lingered longest on his mistress, as though she needed his protective
care more than we did. It was the attitude and expression of a faithful
dog who knows he has the responsibility of a child upon his shoulders,
and is both proud and puzzled by the weight of honour.

A pause followed, during which I made more successful efforts to subdue
the agitation that was in me. I broke the silence by a commonplace,
expressing a hope that my late arrival the night before had not
disturbed her.

“Lord, no!” she exclaimed, laughing gaily, while she glanced from me to
Julius. “Only I thought you and he’d like to be alone for a bit after
such a long time apart.... Besides, I didn’t fancy my food somehow--I
get that way up here sometimes,” she added, “don’t I, Julius?”

“You’ve been here some time already?” I asked sympathetically, before
he could reply.

“Ever since the wedding,” she answered frankly. “Seven--getting on for
eight--months ago, it is now--we came up straight from the Registry
Office. At times it’s a bit funny, an’ no mistake--lonely, I mean,”
she quickly corrected herself. And she looked at her husband again
with a kind of childish mischief in her expression that I thought most
becoming.

“It’s not for ever, is it?” he laughed with her.

“And I understand you chose it, didn’t you?” I fell in with her mood.
“It must be lonely, of course, sometimes,” I added.

“Yes, we chose it,” she replied. “We choose everything together.” And
they looked proudly at each other like two children. For a moment
it flashed across me to challenge him playfully, yet not altogether
playfully, for burying a young wife in such a deserted place. I did not
yield to the temptation, however, and Mrs. LeVallon continued breezily
in her off-hand manner:

“Julius wanted you badly, I know. You must stay here now we’ve got
you. There’s reelly lots to do, once you get used to it; only it
seems strange at first after city life--like what I’ve had, and
sometimes”--she hesitated a second--“well, of an evening, or when it
gets stormy--the thunder-storms are something awful--you feel wild
and want to do things, to rush about and take your clothes off.” She
stopped; and the deep green of the sea came up into her eyes. Again,
for an instant, I caught two faces in her. “It turns you wild here when
the wind gets to blowing,” she added, laughing, “and the lightning’s
like loose, flying fire.” The way she said it made me forget the
physical disabilities. There was even a hint of fascination somewhere
in the voice.

“It takes you back to the natural, primitive state,” I said. “I can
well believe it.” And no amount of restraint could keep the admiration
out of my eyes. “Civilisation is easily forgotten in a place like this.”

“Oh, is that it?” she said shortly, while we laughed, all three
together. “Civilisation--eh?”

I got the impression that she felt left out of something, something she
knew was going on, but that didn’t include her quite. Her intuition, I
judged, was very keen. Beneath this ordinary conversation she was aware
of many things. She was fully conscious of a certain subdued excitement
in the three of us, and that between her husband and her guest there
was a constant interplay of half-discovered meaning, half-revealed
emotion. She was reading me too. Yet all without deliberation; it was
intuitive, the mind took no conscious part in it. And, when she spoke
of the effect of the valley upon her, I saw her suddenly a little
different, too--wild and free, untamed in a sense, and close to the
elemental side of life. Her enthusiasm for big weather betrayed it.
During the whole of breakfast, indeed, we all were “finding” one
another, Julius in particular making notes. For him, of course, there
was absorbing interest in this meeting of three souls whom Fate had
kept so long apart--the signs of recognition he detected or imagined,
the sympathy, the intimacy betrayed by the way things were _taken for
granted_ between us. He said no word, however. He was very quiet.

My own feelings, meanwhile, seemed tossed together in too great
and violent confusion for immediate disentanglement. My sense of
the dramatic fitness of things was worse than unsatisfied--it was
shattered. Julius unquestionably had married a superior domestic
servant.

“Is the bread to your liking, Professor?”

“I think it’s quite delicious, Mrs. LeVallon. It tempts me even to
excess,” I added, facetious in my nervousness. I had used her name at
last, but with an effort.

“I made it,” she said proudly. “Mother taught me that before I was
fifteen.”

“And the butter, too?” I asked.

“No,” she laughed, with a touch of playful disappointment. “We get that
from a farm five miles down the valley. It’s in special honour of your
arrival, this.”

“Our nearest contact with the outside world,” added Julius, “and
over a thousand feet below us. We’re on a little plateau here all by
ourselves----”

“Put away like,” she interrupted gaily, “as though we’d been naughty,”
and then she added, “or for something special and very mysterious.”
She looked into his face half archly, half inquisitively, as if aware
of something she divined yet could not understand. Her honesty and
sincerity made every little thing she said seem dignified. I was again
aware of pathos.

“The peace and quiet,” I put in quickly, conscious of something within
me that watched and listened intently, “must be delightful--after the
cities--and with the great storms you mention to break the possible
monotony.”

She looked at me a full moment steadily, and in her eyes, no longer
green but sky-blue, I read the approach of that strange expression I
called another “face,” that in the end, however, did not fully come.
But the characteristic struck me, for Julius had it too.

“Oh, you find out all about yourself in a place like this,” she said
slowly, “a whole lot of things you didn’t know before. You’ll like it;
but it’s not for everybody. It’s very élite.” She turned to Julius.
“The Professor’ll love it, won’t he? And we must keep him,” she
repeated, “now we’ve got him.”

Something moved between the three of us as she said it. There was no
inclination in me to smile, even at the absurd choice of a word. An
upheaving sense of challenge came across the air at me, including
not only ourselves at the breakfast table, but the entire valley as
well. Against some subterranean door in me rose sudden pressure, and
the woman’s commonplace words had in them something incalculable that
caused the door to yield. Out rushed a pouring, bursting flood. A wild
delight of beauty ran suddenly in my civilised veins; I felt uplifted,
stimulated, carried off my feet.

It was but the flash and touch of a passing mood, of course, yet it
marked a change in me, another change. _She_ was aware of elemental
powers even as her husband was. First through him, but now through her,
I, too, was becoming similarly--aware.

I glanced at Julius, calmly devouring bread and milk beyond all reach
of comedy--Julius who recognised an “old soul” in a servant girl with
the same conviction that he invoked the deific Powers of a conscious
Nature; to whom nothing was trivial, nothing final, the future
magnificent as the past, and behind whose chair stood the Immensities
whispering messages of his tireless evolutionary scheme. And I saw him
“unclassable”--merely an eternal, travelling soul, working out with
myself and with this other “soul” some detail long neglected by the
three of us. Marriage, class, social status, education, culture--what
were they but temporary external details, whose sole value lay in their
providing conditions for acquiring certain definite experiences? Life’s
outer incidents were but episodic, after all.

And this flash of insight into his point of view came upon me thus
suddenly through _her_. The mutual sympathy and understanding between
the three of us that he so keenly watched for had advanced rapidly.
Another stage was reached. The foundations seemed already established
here among us.

Thus, while surprise, resentment and distress fought their battle
within me against something that lay midway between disbelief and
acceptance, my mind was aware of a disharmony that made judgment
extremely difficult. Almost I knew the curious feeling that one of us
had been fooled. It was all so incongruous and disproportioned, on the
edge of the inconceivable. And yet, at the same time, some sense of
keen delight awoke in me that satisfied. Joy glowed in some depth I
could not reach or modify.

Had the “woman” proved wonderful in some ordinary earthly way, I
could have continued to share in a kind of dramatic make-believe
LeVallon’s imagination of an “old soul” returned. The sense of fitness
would have felt requited. Yet what so disconcerted me was that this
commonplace disclosure of the actual facts did not destroy belief, but
even increased it! This unexpected and banal _dénouement_, denying,
apparently, all the requirements of his creed, fell upon me with a
crash of reality that was arresting in an entirely unexpected way. It
made the conception so much more likely--possible--true!

Out of some depth in me I could not summon to the bar of judgment
or analysis rose the whisper that in reality the union of these two
was not so incongruous and outrageous as it seemed. To a penetrating
vision such as his, what difference could that varnish of the mind
called “education” pretend to make? Or how could he be deceived by the
surface tricks of “refinement,” in accent, speech, and manner, that so
often cloak essential crudeness and vulgarity? These were to him but
the external equipment of a passing To-day, whereas he looked for the
innate acquirements due to real experience--age in the soul itself.
Her social status, education and so forth had nothing to do with--her
actual Self. In some ultimate region that superficial human judgment
barely acknowledges the union of these two seemed right, appropriate
and inevitably true.

This breakfast scene remains graven in my mind. LeVallon talked little,
even as he ate little, while his wife and I satisfied our voracious
appetites with the simple food provided. She chattered _sans gêne_,
eating not ungracefully so much as in a manner untaught. Her smallest
habits drew my notice and attention of their own accord. I watched the
velvet band rising and falling as she swallowed--noisily, talking and
drinking with her mouth full, and holding her knife after the manner of
the servants’ hall. Her pronunciation at times was more than marked.
For instance, though she did not say “gime,” she most assuredly did
not say “game,” and her voice, what men call “common,” was undeniably
of the upper servant class. While guilty now and again of absurd
solecisms, she chose words sometimes that had an air of refinement
above the ordinary colloquial usage--the kind affected by a lady’s-maid
who has known service in the “upper suckles” of the world--“close”
the door in place of simply “shut” it, “commence” in preference to
the ordinary “begin,” “costume” rather than merely “clothes,” and a
hundred others of similar kind. Sofa, again, was “couch.” She missed a
sentence, and asked for it with “What say?” while her “if you please”
and “pardon” held a suspicion of that unction which, it seemed, only
just remembered in time not to add “sir,” or even “my lady.” She halted
instinctively before a door, as though to let her husband or myself
pass out in front, and even showed surprise at being helped at the
table before ourselves. These and a thousand other revealing touches
I noticed acutely, because I had expected something so absolutely
different. I was profoundly puzzled.

Yet, while I noted closely these social and mental disabilities, I
was aware also of their flat and striking contradiction; and her
beautifully-shaped hands, her small, exquisite feet and ankles, her
natural dignity of carriage, gesture, bearing, were the least of these.
Setting her beside maid or servitor, my imagination recoiled as from
something utterly ill-placed. I could have sworn she owned some secret
pedigree that no merely menial position could affect, most certainly
not degrade. In spite of less favourable indications, so thick about
her, I caught unmistakable tokens of a superiority she herself ignored,
which yet proclaimed that her soul stood erect and four-square to the
winds of life, independent wholly of the “social position” her body
with its untutored brain now chanced to occupy.

Exactly the nature of these elusive signs of innate nobility I find
it more than difficult to describe. They rose subtly out of her, yet
evaded separate subtraction from either the gestures or conversation
that revealed them. They explained the subtle and increasing charm.
They were of the soul.

For, even thus early in our acquaintance, there began to emerge
these other qualities in this simple girl that at first the shock of
disappointment and surprise had hidden from me. The apparent emptiness
of her face was but a mask that cloaked an essential, native dignity.
From time to time, out of those strange, arresting eyes that at first
had seemed all youth and surface, peered forth that other look,
standing a moment to query and to judge, then, like moods of sky which
reveal and hide a depth of sea, plunged out of sight again. It betrayed
an inner, piercing sight of a far deeper kind. Out of this deeper part
of her I felt she watched me steadily--to wonder, ask, and weigh. It
was hence, no doubt, I had the curious impression of two faces, two
beings, in her, and the moments when I surprised her peering thus
were, in a manner, electrifying beyond words. For then, into tone
and gesture, conquering even accent and expression, crept flash-like
this “something” that would not be denied, hinting at the distinction
of true spiritual independence superior to all local, temporary, or
worldly divisions implied in mere “class” or “station.”

This girl, behind her ignorance of life’s snobbish values, possessed
that indefinable spiritual judgment best called “taste.” And taste,
I remember Julius held, was the infallible evidence of a soul’s
maturity--of age. The phrase “old soul” acquired more meaning for me as
I watched her. I recalled that strange hint of his long years before,
that greatness and position, as the world accepts them, are actually
but the kindergarten stages for the youngest, crudest souls of all. The
older souls are not “distinguished” in the “world.” They are beyond it.

Moreover, during the course of this singular first meal together, while
she used the phraseology of the servant class and betrayed the manners
of what men call “common folk,” it was borne in upon me that she, too,
unknowingly, touched the same vast sources of extended life that her
husband claimed to realise, and that her being unknowingly swept that
region of elemental Powers with which he now sought conscious union.
In her infectious vitality beat the pulse of vaster tides than she yet
knew.

Already, in our conversation, this had come to me; it increased
from minute to minute as our atmospheres combined and mingled.
The suggestion of what I must call great exterior Activities that
always accompanied the presence of Julius made themselves felt also
through the being of this simple and uneducated girl. Winds, cool and
refreshing, from some elemental region blew soundlessly about her. I
was aware of their invigorating currents. And this came to me with my
first emotions, and was not due to subsequent reflection. For, in my
own case, too, while resenting the admission, I felt something more
generously scaled than my normal self, scientifically moulded, trying
to urge up as with great arms and hands that thrust into my mind. What
hitherto had seemed my complete Self opened, as though it were but a
surface tract, revealing depths of consciousness unguessed before.

And this, I think, was the disquieting sensation that perplexed
me chiefly with a sense of unstable equilibrium. The idea of
pre-existence, with its huge weight of memory lost and actions
undischarged, pressed upon a portion of my soul that was trying to
awake. The foundations of my known personality appeared suddenly
insecure, and what the brain denied, this other part accepted, even
half remembered. The change of consciousness in me was growing. While
observing Mrs. LeVallon, listening to the spontaneous laughter that ran
between her sentences, meeting her quick eyes that took in everything
about them, these varied and contradictory judgments of my own worked
their inevitable effect upon me. The quasi-memory, with its elusive
fragrance of far-off, forgotten things; the promised reconstruction of
passionate emotions that had burned the tissues of our earlier bodies
before even the foundations of these “eternal” hills were laid; the
sense of being again among ancient friends, netted by deathless forces
of spiritual adventure and desire--Julius, his wife, myself, mutually
involved in the intricate pattern of our souls’ development:--all this,
while I strove to regard it as mere telepathic reflection from his own
beliefs, yet made something in me, deeper than any ratiocination, stand
up and laugh in my face with the authoritative command that it was
absolutely--true.

Our very intimacy, so readily established as of its own
accord--established, moreover, among such unlikely and half
antagonistic elements--seemed to hint at a relationship resumed,
instead of now first beginning. The fact that the three of us took so
much for granted almost suggested memory. For the near presence of this
woman--I call her woman, though she was but girl--disturbed me more
than uncommonly; and this curious, soft delight I felt raging in the
depths of me--whence did it come? Whence, too, the depth and power of
other feelings that she roused in me, their reckless quality, their
certainty, the haunting pang and charm that her face, not even pretty
apart from its disfigurement, stirred in my inmost being? There was
mischief and disaster in her sea-green eyes, though neither mischief
nor disaster quite of this material world.

I confessed--the first time for many years--to something moving beyond
ordinary. More and more I longed to learn of her first meeting with the
man she had married, and by what method he claimed to have recognised
in this servant girl the particular ancient soul he waited for, and
by what unerring instinct he had picked her out and set her upon so
curious a throne.

I watched the velvet band about the well-shaped neck....

  “_I have been here before,
     But when or how I cannot tell:
   I know the grass beyond the door,
     The sweet keen smell,
   The sighing sound, the lights around the shore._

  “_You have been mine before,
     How long ago I may not know:
   But just when at that swallow’s soar
     Your neck turned so ...
   Some veil did fall--I knew it all of yore._”

“And now,” she exclaimed, springing up and turning to her husband, “I’m
going to leave you and the Professor together to talk out all your old
things without me intervening! Besides I’ve got the bread to make,” she
added with a swift, gay smile in my direction, “that bread you called
delicious. I generally do it of a morning.”

With a swinging motion of her lithe young body she was gone; the room
seemed strangely empty; the disfiguring marks upon her girlish face
were already forgotten; and a sense of companionship within me turned
somehow lonely and bereft.



CHAPTER XVIII

  TO MEMORY

  “_Yet, when I would command thee hence,
   Thou mockest at the vain pretence,
   Murmuring in mine ear a song
   Once loved, alas! forgotten long;
   And on my brow I feel a kiss
   That I would rather die than miss._”--Mary Coleridge.


“Well?” Julius asked me, as we strolled across the pastures that
skirted the main forest, “and does it seem anywhere familiar to
you--the three of us together again? You recall--how much?” A rather
wistful smile passed over his face, but the eyes were grave. He was in
earnest if ever man was. “She doesn’t seem wholly a stranger to you?”

My mind searched carefully for words. To refer to any of my recent
impressions was difficult, even painful, and frank discussion of my
friend’s wife impossible--though, probably, there was nothing Julius
would not have understood and even welcomed.

“I--cannot deny,” I began, “that somewhere--in my imagination, perhaps,
there seems----”

He interrupted me at once. “Don’t suppress the imaginative
pictures--they’re memory. To deny them is only to forget again. Let
them come freely in you.”

“Julius----!” I exclaimed, conscious that I flushed a little, “but she
is wonderful; superior, too, in some magnificent way to--any----”

“Lady,” he came abruptly to my assistance, no vestige of annoyance
visible.

“To anyone of our own class,” I completed the sentence more to my
liking. “I admit I feel drawn to her--in a kind of understanding
sympathy--though how can I pretend that I--that this sense of
familiarity is really memory?” It was impossible to treat him lightly;
his belief was his life, commanding a respect due to all great
convictions of the soul. “You have found someone you can love,” I went
on, aware that it gave me no pleasure to say it, “and someone who loves
you. I--am delighted.”

He turned to me, standing hatless, the sunlight in his face, his eyes
fixed steadily upon my own.

“We had to meet--all three,” he said slowly; “sooner or later. It’s
an old, old debt we’ve got to settle up together, and the opportunity
has come at last. I only ask your sympathy--and hers.” He shrugged his
shoulders slightly. “To you it may seem a small thing, and, if you have
no memory, a wild, impossible thing as well, even with delusion in it.
But nothing is really small.” He paused. “I only ask that you shall not
resist.” And then he added gravely: “The risk is mine.”

I felt uneasiness; the old schooldays’ basis of complete sincerity was
not in me quite. I had lived too long in the world of ordinary men and
women. His marriage seemed prompted by an impersonal sense of justice
to the universe rather than by any desire for the companionship and
sweetness that a woman’s love could give him. For a moment I knew
not what to say. Could such a view be hers as well? Had she yielded
herself to him upon a similar understanding? And if not--the thought
afflicted me--might not this debt he spoke of have been discharged
without claiming the whole life of another in a union that involved
also physical ties?

Yet, while I could not find it in me to utter all I thought, there was
a burning desire to hear details of the singular courtship. Almost I
felt the right to know, yet shrank from asking it.

“Then nothing more definite stirs in you?” he asked quietly, his eyes
still holding mine, “no memory you can recognise? No wave of feeling;
no picture, even of that time when we--we three----”

“Julius, old friend,” I exclaimed with sudden impulsiveness, and hardly
knowing why I said it, “it only seems to me that these pine woods
behind you are out of the picture rather. They should be palms, with
spaces of sand shimmering in a hot sun. And the châlet”--pointing
over his shoulder--“seems still less to belong to you when I recall
the temples we talked about before the plain where the worship of the
rising sun took place----”

I broke off abruptly with a little shamefaced laughter: my invention,
or imagination, seemed so thin. But Julius turned eagerly, his face
alight.

“Laugh as you please,” he said, “but what makes you feel me out of the
picture, as you call it, is memory--memory of where we three were last
together. That sense of incongruity is memory. Don’t resist. Let the
pictures rise and grow as they will. And don’t deny any instinctive
feelings that come to you--they’re memory too.”

A moment of revolt swept over me, yet with it an emotion both sweet and
painful. Dread and delight both troubled me. Unless I resisted, his
great conviction would carry me away again as of old. And what if she
should come to aid him? What if she should bring the persuasion of her
personality to the attack, and with those eyes of mischief and disaster
ask me questions out of a similar conviction and belief? If she should
hold me face to face: “Do you remember me--_as I remember you?_”

“Julius,” I cried, “let me speak plainly at once and so prevent
your disappointment later.” I forced the words out against my
will, it seemed. “For the truth, my dear fellow, is simply--that I
remember--nothing! Definitely--I remember nothing.”

Yet there was pain and sadness in me suddenly. I had prevaricated.
Almost I had told a lie. Some vague fear of involving myself in
undesirable consequences had forced me against my innate knowledge.
Almost I had denied--her.

From the forest stole forth a breath too soft and perfumed for an
autumn wind. It stirred the hair upon his forehead, left its touch of
dream upon my cheeks, then passed on to lift a wreath of mist in the
fields below. And, as though a spirit older than the wind moved among
my thoughts, this modern world seemed less real when it had gone. I
heard the voice of Julius answering me. His words came very slowly,
fastening upon my own. The resentment, the disappointment I had looked
for were not there, nor the comparison of myself--in her favour--I had
half anticipated.

The answer utterly nonplussed me:

“Neither does she remember--anything.”

I started. A curious pang shot through me--something of regret, even of
melancholy in it. That she had forgotten “everything” was pain. She had
forgotten me.

“But we--you, I mean--can make her?”

The words were out impulsively before I could prevent them. He did not
look at me. I did not look at him.

“I should have put it differently, perhaps,” he answered. “She is not
_aware_ that she remembers.”

He drew me further along the dewy meadow towards the upper valley, and
drew me deeper, as it seemed, into his own strange region whence came
these perplexing statements.

“But, Julius,” I stammered, seeing that he kept silence, “if she
remembers nothing--how could you know--how could you feel sure, when
you met her----?”

My sentences stopped dead. Even in these unusual circumstances it was
not possible to question a friend about the woman he had married.
Had she proved some marvel of physical beauty or of intellectual
attainment, curiosity might have been taken as a compliment. But as it
was----!

Yet all the time I _knew_ that her insignificant worldly value was a
clean stroke of proof that he had not suffered himself to be deceived
in this recovery and recognition of the spiritual maturity he meant by
the term “old soul.” His voice reached me, calm and normal as though
he talked about the weather. “I’ll tell you,” he said, “for it’s
interesting, and, besides, you have the right to know.”

And the words fell among my tangled thoughts like deft fingers that
put confusion straight. The incredible story he told me as a child
might relate a fairy-tale it knows is true, yet thinks may not be quite
believed. Without the slightest emphasis, and certainly without the
least embarrassment or sense that it was unusual. Even of comedy I was
not properly once aware. All through the strange recital rang in my
mind, “She is not aware that she remembers.”

“‘The Dardanelles,’” he began, smiling a little as though at the
recollection, “was where I met her, thus recovered. Not on the way from
Smyrna to Constantinople; oh, no! It was not romantic in that little
sense. ‘The Dardanelles’ was a small and ugly red-brick villa in Upper
Norwood, with a drive ten yards long, ragged laurel bushes, and a green
five-barred gate, gold-lettered. Maennlich lives there--the Semitic
language man and Egyptologist; you know. She was his parlour-maid at
the time, and before that had been lady’s-maid to the daughter of some
undistinguished duchess. In this way,” he laughed softly, “may old
souls wait upon the young ones sometimes! Her father,” he continued,
“was a market-gardener and fruiterer in a largish way at East Croydon,
and she herself had been brought up upon the farm whence his supplies
came. ‘Chance,’ as they call it, led her into these positions I have
mentioned, and so, inevitably--to me.”

He looked up at me a moment. “And so to you as well.”

His manner was composed and serious. He spoke with the simple
conviction of some Christian who traces the Hand of God in the smallest
details of his daily life, and seeks His guidance in his very train
journeys. There was something rather superb about it all.

“A fruiterer in East Croydon! A maid in service! And--you knew--you
recognised her?”

“At once. The very first day she let me in at the front door and asked
if I wished to see her master, what name she might announce, and so
forth.”

“It was all--er--unexpected and sudden like that?” came the question
from a hundred others that crowded together in me. “To find a lost
friend of years only--in such a way--the shock, I mean, to you----!” I
simply could not find my words. He told it all so calmly, naturally.
“You were wholly unprepared, weren’t you? Nothing had led you to
expect?” I ended with a dash.

“Not wholly unprepared,” was his rejoinder; “nor was the meeting
altogether unexpected--on my side, that is. Intimations, as I told
you at Motfield Close twenty years ago--when she was born--had come
to me. No soul draws breath for the first time, without a quiver of
response running through all that lives. Souls intimately connected
with each other may feel the summons. There are ways----! I knew that
she was once more in the world, that, like ourselves, her soul had
reincarnated; and ever since I have been searching----”

“Searching----!”

“There are clues that offer themselves--that come, perhaps in sleep,
perhaps by direct experiment, and, regardless of space, give hints----”

“Psychometry?” I asked, remembering a word just coined.

He shrugged his shoulders. “All objects radiate,” he said, “no
matter how old they are. Their radiation never ceases till they
are disintegrated; and if you are sensitive you can receive their
messages. If you have certain powers, due to relation and affinity,
you may interpret them. There is an instantaneous linking-up--in
picture-form--impossible to mistake.”

“You knew, then, she was somewhere on the earth--waiting for you?” I
repeated, wondering what was coming next. That night in the Edinburgh
lodgings, when he had been “searching,” came back to me.

“For _us_,” he corrected me. “It was something from a Private
Collection that gave me the clue by which I finally traced
her--something from the older sands.”

“The sands! Egyptian?”

Julius nodded. “Egypt, for all of us, was a comparatively recent
section--nearer to To-day, I mean. Many a time has each of us been
back there--Thebes, Memphis, even as lately ago as Alexandria at its
zenith, learning, developing, reaping what ages before we sowed--for
in Egypt the knowledge that was _our_ knowledge survived longer than
anywhere else. Yet never, unfortunately, returning together, and thus
never finding the opportunity to achieve the great purpose of our
meeting.”

“But the clue?” I asked breathlessly.

He smiled again at the eagerness that again betrayed me.

“This old world,” he resumed quietly, “is strewn, of course, with the
remnants of what once has been our bodies--‘suits of clothes’ we have
inhabited, used, and cast aside. Here and there, from one chance or
another, some of these may have been actually preserved. The Egyptians,
for instance, went to considerable trouble to ensure that they should
survive as long as possible, thus assisting memory later.”

“Embalming, you mean?”

“As you wander through the corridors of a modern museum,” he continued
imperturbably, “you may even look through a glass covering at the very
tenement your soul has occupied at an earlier stage! Probably, of
course, without the faintest whisper of recognition, yet, possibly,
with just that acute and fascinated interest which _is_ the result
of stirring memory. For the ‘old clothes’ still radiate vibrations
that belong to _you;_ the dried blood and nerves once thrilled with
emotions, spiritual or otherwise, that were you--the link may be
recoverable. You think it is wild nonsense! I tell you it is in the
best sense scientific. And, similarly,” he added, “you may chance upon
some such remnant of another--the body of ancient friend or enemy.”
He paused abruptly in his extraordinary recital. “I had that good
fortune,” he added, “if you like to call it so.”

“You found _hers?_” I asked in a low voice. “Her, I mean?”

“Maennlich,” he replied with a smile, “has the best preserved mummies
in the world. He never allowed them even to be unwrapped. The object I
speak of--a body she had occupied in a recent Egyptian section--though
not when _we_ were there, unfortunately--lay in one of his glass cases,
while the soul who once had used it answered his bell and walked across
his carpets--two of her bodies in the house at once. Curious, wasn’t
it? A discarded instrument and the one in present use! The rest was
comparatively easy. I traced her whereabouts at once, for the clue
furnished the plainest possible directions. I went straight to her.”

“And you knew instantly--when you saw her? You had no doubt?”

“Instantly--when the door swung open and our eyes met on the threshold.”

“Love at first sight, Julius, you mean? It was love you felt?” I asked
it beneath my breath, for my heart was beating strangely.

He raised his eyebrows. “Love?” he repeated, questioningly. “Deep joy,
intuitive sympathy, content and satisfaction, rather. I knew her. I
knew _who_ she was. In a few minutes we were more intimate in mind and
feeling than souls who meet for the first time can become after years
of living together. You understand?”

I lowered my eyes, not knowing what to say. The standards of modern
conduct, so strong about me, prevented the comments or questions that I
longed to utter.

There flashed upon me in that instant’s pause a singular
conviction--that these two had mated for a reason of their own.
They had not known the clutch of elemental power by which Nature
ensures the continuance of the race. They had not shuddered, wept,
and known the awful ecstasy, but had slipped between her fingers and
escaped. They had not loved. While he knew this consciously, she was
aware of it unconsciously. They mated for another reason, yet one
as holy, as noble, as pure--if not more so, indeed--as those that
consecrate marriage in the accepted sense. And the thought, strange
as it was, brought a sweet pleasure to me, though shot with a pain
that was equally undeniable and equally perplexing. While my thoughts
floundered between curiosity, dismay and something elusive that yet
was more clamorous than either, Julius continued without a vestige of
embarrassment, though obviously omitting much detail that I burned to
hear.

“And that very week--the next day, I think, it was--I asked Maennlich
to allow me an hour’s talk with her alone----”

“She--er----?”

“She liked me--from the very first, yes. She felt me.”

“And showed it?” I asked bluntly.

“And showed it,” he repeated, “although she said it puzzled her and she
couldn’t understand.”

“On her side, then, it was love--love at first sight?”

“Strong attraction,” he put it, “but an attraction she thought it her
duty to resist at first. Her present conditions made any relationship
between us seem incongruous, and when I offered marriage--as I did at
once--it overwhelmed her. She made sensible objections, but it was
her brain of To-day that made them. You can imagine how it went. She
urged that to marry a man in another class of life, a ‘gentleman,’ a
‘wealthy’ gentleman and an educated, ‘scholar gentleman,’ as she called
me, could only end in unhappiness--because I should tire of her. Yet,
all the time--she told me this afterwards--she had the feeling that we
were meant for one another, and that it must surely be. She was shy
about it as a child.”

“And you convinced her in the end!” I said to myself rather than aloud
to him. There were feelings in me I could not disentangle.

“Convinced her that we needed one another and could never go apart,” he
said. “We had something to fulfil together. The forces that drove us
together, though unintelligible to her, were yet acknowledged by her
too, you see.”

“I see,” my voice murmured faintly, as he seemed to expect some word in
reply. “I see.” Then, after a longer pause than usual, I asked: “And
you told her of your--your theories and beliefs--the purpose you had to
do together?”

“No single word. She could not possibly have understood. It would have
frightened her.” I heard it with relief, yet with resentment too.

“Was that quite fair, do you think?”

His answer I could not gainsay. “Cause and effect,” he said, “work out,
whether memory is there or not. To attempt to block fulfilment by fear
or shrinking is but to delay the very thing you need. I told her we
were necessary to each other, but that she must come willingly, or not
at all. I used no undue persuasion, and I used no force. I realised
plainly that her upper, modern, uncultured and uneducated self was
merely what she had acquired in the few years of her present life. It
was this upper self that hesitated and felt shy. The older self below
was not awake, yet urged her to acceptance blindly--as by irresistible
instinctive choice. She knew subconsciously; but, once I could succeed
in arousing her knowledge consciously, I knew her doubts would vanish.
I suggested living away from city life, away from any conditions
that might cause her annoyance or discomfort due to what she called
our respective ‘stations’ in life; I suggested the mountains, some
beautiful valley perhaps, where in solitude for a time we could get to
know each other better, untroubled by the outer world--until she became
accustomed----”

“And she approved?” I interrupted with impatience.

“Her words were ‘That’s the very thing; I’ve always had a dream like
that.’ She agreed with enthusiasm, and the opposition melted away. She
knew the kind of place we needed,” he added significantly.

We had reached the head of the valley by this time, and I sat down upon
a boulder with the sweep of Jura forests below us like a purple carpet.
The sun and shadow splashed it everywhere with softest colouring. The
morning wind was fresh; birds were singing; this green vale among the
mountains seemed some undiscovered paradise.

“And you have never since felt a moment’s doubt--uncertainty--that she
really is this ‘soul’ you knew before?”

He lay back, his head upon his folded hands, and his eyes fixed upon
the blue dome of sky.

“A hundred proofs come to me all the time,” he said, stretching himself
at full length upon the grass. “And in her atmosphere, in her presence,
the memories still revive in detail from day to day--just as at school
they revived in you--those pictures you sought to stifle and deny. From
the first she never doubted me. She was aware of a great tie and bond
between us. ‘You’re the only man,’ she said to me afterwards, ‘that
could have done it like that. I belonged to you--oh! I can’t make it
out--but just as if there wasn’t any getting out of it possible. I felt
stunned when I saw you. I had always felt something like this coming,
but thought it was a dream.’ Only she often said there was something
else to come as well, and that we were not quite complete. She knew,
you see; she knew.” He broke off suddenly and turned to look at me. He
added in a lower tone, as he watched my face: “And you see how pleased
and happy she is to have _you_ here!”

I made no reply. I reached out for a stone and flung it headlong down
the steep slope towards the stream five hundred feet below.

“And so it was settled then and there?” I asked, after a pause that
Julius seemed inclined to prolong.

“Then and there,” he said, watching the rolling stone with dreamy
eyes. “In the hall-way of that Norwood villa, under the very eyes of
Maennlich who paid her wages and probably often scolded her, she came
up into my arms at the end of our final talk, and kissed me like a
happy child. She cried a good deal at the time, but I have never once
seen her cry since!”

“And it’s all gone well--these months?” I murmured.

“There was a temporary reaction at first--at the very first, that is,”
he said, “and I had to call in Maennlich to convince her that I was
in earnest. At her bidding I did that. Some instinct told her that
Maennlich ought to see it--perhaps, because it would save her awkward
and difficult explanations afterwards. There’s the woman in her, you
see, the normal, wholesome woman, sweet and timid.”

“A fascinating personality,” I murmured quickly, lest I might say other
things--before their time.

“No looks, no worldly beauty,” he nodded, “but the unconscious charm of
the old soul. It’s unmistakable.”

Worlds and worlds I would have given to have been present at that
interview; Julius LeVallon, so unusual and distinguished; the shy
and puzzled serving-maid, happy and incredulous; the grey-bearded
archæologist and scholar; the strange embarrassment of this amazing
proposal of marriage!

“And Maennlich?” I asked, anxious for more detail.

Julius burst out laughing. “Maennlich lives in his own world with his
specimens and theories and memories of travel--more recent memories of
travel than our own! It hardly interested him for more than a passing
moment. He regarded it, I think, as an unnecessary interruption--and a
bothering one--some joke he couldn’t quite appreciate or understand.
He pulled his dirty beard, patted me on the back as though I were
a boy running after some theatre girl, and remarked with a bored
facetiousness that he could give her a year’s character with a clear
conscience and great pleasure. Something like that it was; I forget
exactly. Then he went back to his library, shouting through the door
some appointment about a Geographical Society meeting for the following
week. For how could he know”--his voice grew softer as he said it and
his laughter ceased--“how could he divine, that old literal-minded
savant, that he stood before a sign-post along the route to the eternal
things _we_ seek, or that my marrying his servant was a step towards
something we three owe together to the universe itself?”

It was some time before either of us spoke, and when at length I broke
the silence it was to express surprise that a woman, so long ripened
by the pursuit of spiritual, or at least exalted aims, should have
returned to earth among the lowly. By rights, it seemed, she should
have reincarnated among the great ones of the world. I knew I could
say this now without offence.

“The humble,” Julius answered simply, “_are_ the great ones.”

His fingers played with the fronds of a piece of staghorn moss as
he said it, and to this day I cannot see this kind of moss without
remembering his strange words.

“It’s among what men call the lower ranks that the old souls return,”
he went on; “among peasants and simple folk, unambitious and heedless
of material power, you always find the highest ones. They are there to
learn the final lessons of service or denial, neglected in their busier
and earlier--kindergarten sections. The last stages are invariably
in humble service--they are by far the most difficult; no young,
‘ambitious’ soul could manage it. But the old souls, having already
mastered all the more obvious lessons, are content.”

“Then the oldest souls are not the great minds and great characters of
history?” I exclaimed.

“Not necessarily,” he answered; “probably never. The most advanced are
unadvertised, in the least assuming positions. The Kingdom of Heaven
belongs to them, hard of attainment by those the world applauds. The
successful, so called, are the younger, cruder souls, passionately
acquiring still the external prizes men hold so dear. Maturer souls
have long since discarded these as worthless. The qualities the world
crowns are great, perhaps, at that particular stage, but they never
are the highest. Intellect, remember, is not of the soul, and all that
reason teaches must be unlearned again. Theories change, knowledge
shifts, facts are forgotten or proved false; only what the soul itself
acquires remains eternally the same. The old are the intuitional; and
the oldest of all--ah! how wonderful!--He who came back from loftier
heights than most of us can yet even conceive of, was the--son of a
carpenter.”

I left my seat upon the boulder and lay beside him, listening for a
long time while he talked, and if there was much that seemed visionary,
there was also much that thrilled me with emotions beyond ordinary.
Nothing, certainly, was foolish--because of the man who said it.
And, while he took it for granted that all Nature was alive and a
manifestation of spiritual powers, the elements themselves but forces
to be mastered and acquired, it grew upon me that I had indeed entered
an enchanted valley where, with my strange companions, I might witness
new, incredible things. Finding little to reply, I was content to
listen, wondering what was coming next. And in due course the talk came
round again to ourselves, and so to the woman who was now his wife.

“Then she has no idea,” I said at length, “that we three--you and I and
she--have been together before, or that there is any particular purpose
in my being here at this moment?”

“In her normal condition--none,” he answered. “For she has no memory.”

“There is a state, however, when she does remember?” I asked. “You have
helped her to remember? Is that it, Julius?”

“Yes,” he replied; “I have reached down and touched her soul, so that
she remembers for herself.”

“The deep trance state?”

“Where all the memories of the past lie accumulated,” he answered,
“the subconscious state. Her Self of To-day--with new body and recent
brain--she has forgotten; in trance--the subconscious Self where the
soul dwells with all its past--she remembers.”



CHAPTER XIX

  “_Proof of the reality of a personal sovereign of the universe
  will not be obtained. But proof of the reality of a power or
  powers, not unworthy of the title of gods_, in respect of our
  corner of the cosmos, _may be feasible_.”--“The Individual and
  Reality” (E. D. Fawcett).


I shrank. Certain memories of our Edinburgh days revived unpleasantly.
They seemed to have happened yesterday instead of years ago. A shadowy
hand from those distant skies he spoke of, from those dim avenues of
thickly written Time, reached down and touched my heart, leaving the
chill of an indescribable uneasiness. The change in me since my arrival
only a few hours before was too rapid not to bring reaction. Yet on the
whole the older, deeper consciousness gained power.

Possibilities my imagination had unwisely played with now seemed
stealing slowly toward probabilities. I felt as a man might feel who,
having never known fire, and disbelieved in its existence, becomes
aware of the warmth of its approach--a strange and revolutionary
discomfort. For Julius was winning me back into his world again, and
not with mere imaginative, half-playful acceptance, but with practical
action and belief. Yet the change in me was somehow welcome. No feeling
of resentment kept it in check, and certainly neither scorn nor
ridicule. Incredulity glanced invitingly at faith. They would presently
shake hands.

I made, perhaps, an effort to hold back, to define the position, _my_
position, at any rate.

“Julius,” I said gravely, yet with a sympathy I could not quite
conceal, “as boys together, and even later at the University, we talked
of various curious things, remarkable, even amazing things. You even
showed me certain extraordinary things which, at the time, convinced
me possibly. I ought to tell you now--and before we go any further,
since you take it for granted that my feelings and--er--beliefs are
still the same as yours--that I can no longer subscribe to all the
articles of your wild conviction. I have been living in the world,
you see, these many years, and--well, my imagination has collapsed
or dried up or whatever you like to call it. I don’t really see, or
remember--anything--quite in the way _you_ mean----”

“The ‘world’ has smothered it--temporarily,” he put in gently.

“And what is more,” I continued, ignoring his interruption, “I must
confess that I have no stomach now for any ‘great experiment’ such as
you think our coming together in this valley must involve. Your idea
of reincarnation may be true--why not? It’s a most logical conception.
And we three may have been together before--granted! I admit I rather
like the notion. It may even be conceivable that the elemental powers
of Nature are intelligent, that men and women could use them to their
advantage, and that worship and feeling-with is the means to acquire
them--it’s just as likely as that some day we shall send telegrams
without wires, thoughts and pictures too!”

I drew breath a moment, while he waited patiently, linking his arm in
mine and listening silently.

“It may even be possible, too,” I went on, finding some boyish relief
in all these words, “that we three together in earlier days _did_--in
some kind of primitive Nature Worship--make wrong use of an unconscious
human body to evoke those particular Powers you say exist behind
Wind and Fire, and that, having thus upset the balance of material
forces, we must readjust that balance or suffer accordingly--_you_ in
particular, since you were the prime mover----”

“How well you state it,” he murmured. “How excellent your memory is
after all.”

“But even so,” I continued, nettled by his calm interpretation of my
long and plodding objection, “and even if all you claim is true--I--I
mean bluntly--that the transitory acceptance you woke in me years
ago no longer holds. I am with you now merely to keep a promise, a
boy’s promise, but my heart is no longer in the matter--except out of
curiosity--curiosity pure and simple.”

I stopped, or rather it was his face and the expression in his eyes
that stopped me. I felt convicted of somewhat pompous foolishness, my
sense of humour and proportion gone awry. Fear, with its ludicrous
inhibitions, made me strut in this portentous fashion. His face,
wearing the child’s expression of belief and confidence, arrested me by
its sheer simplicity. But the directness of his rejoinder, however--of
his words, at least, for it was not a reply--struck me dumb.

“You are afraid for _her_,” he said without a trace of embarrassment or
emotion, “because you love her still, even as she loves you--beneath.”

If unconsciously or consciously I avoided his eye, he made no attempt
to avoid my own. He looked calmly at me like some uncannily clairvoyant
lawyer who has pierced the elaborate evasions of his cross-examined
witness--yet a witness who believed in his own excuses, quite honestly
self-deceived.

At first the shock of his words deprived me of any power to think. I
was not offended, I was simply speechless. He forgot who I was and
what my life had been, forgot my relation with himself, forgot also
the brevity of my acquaintance with his wife. He forgot, too, that
I had accepted her, an inferior woman, accepted her without a hint
of regret--nay, let me use the word I mean--of contempt that he, my
friend, had linked his life with such a being--married her. And,
further, he forgot all that was due to himself, to me, to _her!_ It was
too distressing. What could he possibly think of me, of himself, of
her, that so outrageous a statement, and without a shred of evidence,
could pass his lips? I, a middle-aged professor of geology, with an
established position in the world! And she, a parlour-maid he had been
wild enough to marry for the sake of some imagined dream, a woman,
moreover, I had seen for the first time a short hour before, and with
whom I had exchanged a few sentences in bare politeness, remembering
that this uneducated creature was the wife of my old friend, and----!

Thought galloped on in indignant disorder and agitation. The pretence
was so apparent even to myself. But I remained speechless. For while
he spoke, looking me calmly in the eye, without a sign of _arrière
pensée_, I realised in a flash--that it all was true. Like the witness
who still believes in his indignant answers until the lawyer puts
questions that confound him by unexpected self-revelation--I suddenly
saw--myself. My own heart opened in a blaze of fire. It was the truth.

And all this came upon me, not in a flash, but in a series of flashes.
I had not known it. I now discovered myself, but for the first time.
Layer after layer dropped away. The naked fact shone clearly.

“It is exactly what I hoped,” he went on quietly. “It proves memory
beyond all further doubt. A love like yours and hers can never die.
Even another thirty thousand years could make no difference--the
instant you met you would be bound to take it up again--exactly where
you left it off--no matter how long the interval of separation. The
first sign would be this divine and natural intimacy.”

“Of course.”

How I said it passes my understanding. I swear my lips moved without
my mind’s consent. The words slipped out. I couldn’t help myself. The
same instant some words he had used in our Edinburgh days came back to
me: that human love was somehow necessary to him, since love was the
greatest power in the world, the supreme example of “feeling-with.”
Without its aid--that majestic confidence it brings--his great
experiment must be impossible and fail. That union which is love was
necessary.

I felt an extraordinary exultation, an extraordinary tumult of delight,
and--a degrading flush of shame. I felt myself blushing under his
quiet gaze while the blood rushed over neck and cheeks and forehead.
Both guilty and innocent I felt. The very sun and trees, it seemed,
witnessed my nakedness. I stumbled as I moved beside my friend, and it
was my friend who caught my arm and steadied me.

“Good God, Julius,” I remember stammering, “but what in the name of
heaven are you saying?”

“The truth,” he answered, smiling. “And do not for a moment think of
me as unnatural or a monster. For this is all inevitable and right and
good. It means our opportunity has come at last. It also means that you
have not failed me.”

I was glad he went on talking. I am a fool, I know it. I am
weak, susceptible and easily influenced. I have no claim to any
strength of character, nor ever had. But, without priggishness or
self-righteousness, I can affirm that hitherto I have never done
another man deliberate, conscious injury, or wronged a personal
friend--never in all my days. I can say that, and for the satisfaction
of my conscience I did say it, and kept on saying it in my thought
while listening to the next words that Julius uttered there beside me.

“And so, quite naturally, from your point of view,” he pursued, “you
are afraid for _her_. I am delighted; for it proves again the strength
of the ineradicable, ancient tie. My union, remember, is not, properly
speaking, love; it is the call of sympathy, of friendship, of something
that we have to do together, of a claim that has the drive of all the
universe behind it. And if I have felt it wise and right and necessary
to”--he must have felt the shudder down the arm he held, for he said
it softly, even tenderly--“give to her a child, it is because her
entire nature needs it, and maternity is the woman’s first and ultimate
demand of her present stage in life. Without it she is never quite
complete....”

“A child!”

“A child,” he repeated firmly but with a kind of reverent gravity, “for
otherwise her deepest functions are not exercised and----”

“And?” I asked, noticing the slight pause he made.

“The soul--her complete and highest self--never takes full possession
of her body. It hovers outside. She misses the full, entire object of
her reincarnation. The child, you see, was necessary--for her sake as
well as for my own--for ours.”

Thought, speech and action--all three stood still in me. I stopped in
my walk, half paralysed. I remember we sat down.

“And she,” I said at length, “knows nothing--of all this?”

“She,” he replied, “knows everything, and is content. Her mind and
brain of To-day may remain unaware; but _she_--the soul now fully in
her--knows all, and is content, as you shall see. She has her debt to
pay as well as myself--and you.”

For a long time we sat there silent in that sweet September sunshine.
The birds sang round us, the rivulet went murmuring, the branches
sighed and rustled just behind us, as though no problems vexed their
safe, unconscious lives. Yet to me just then they all seemed somehow to
participate in this complex plot of human emotion. Nature herself in
some deep fashion was involved.

No man, I realised, knows himself, nor understands the acts of which
he is potentially capable, until certain conditions bring them out. We
imagine we know exactly how we should act in given circumstances--until
those circumstances actually arrive and dislocate all our preconceived
decisions. For the “given circumstances” produce emotions before whose
stress--not realised when the decisions were so lightly made--we act
quite otherwise. I could have sworn, for instance, that in a case like
this--incredible though its ever happening must have seemed--I should
then and there have taken my departure. I should have left. I would
have gone without a moment’s hesitation, and let him follow his own
devices without my further assistance at any rate. I would have been
furious with anyone who dared to state the contrary.

Yet it was exactly the opposite I did. The first instinct to clear out
of this outrageous situation--proved impossible. It was not for her
I remained; it was equally not for him; and it was assuredly not for
myself in any meaning of the words. But yet I stayed. I could no more
have gone away than I could have--made love to her before his eyes,
or even not before his eyes. I argued, reasoned, moralised--but I
stayed. It was over very soon--what there was of doubt and hesitation.
While we sat there side by side upon that sunny mountain slope, I
came to the clear decision that I could not go. But why, or how, I
stayed is something beyond my powers to explain. Perhaps, _au fond_,
it was because I believed in Julius LeVallon--believed, that is, in
his innate uprightness and rectitude and nobility of soul. It was all
beyond me. I could not understand. But--I had this strange belief in
him. My relationship with her was, and would remain on both sides, a
subconscious one--a memory. There would be no betrayal anywhere. I
resolved to see it through.

“I ask nothing but your presence,” I heard him saying presently; “if
not actively sympathetic, at least not actively hostile. It is the sum
of forces you bring with you that I need. They are in your atmosphere,
whether expressed or merely latent. You are _you_.” He watched me as
he said this. “I failed once before, you remember,” he added, “because
_she_ was absent. Your desertion now would render success again
impossible.”

He took my hand in his. A tender, even beseeching note crept into his
deep voice. “Help me,” he concluded, “if you will. You bring your
entire past with you, though you know it not. It is that Past that our
reconstruction needs.”

A wind from the south, I remember, blew the firs behind us into low,
faint sighing, and with the exquisite sound there stole a mingled joy
and yearning on my soul. Perhaps some flower of memory in that moment
yielded up its once familiar perfume, dim, ancient, yet not entirely
forgotten. The sighing of the forest wafted it from other times and
other places. Wonder and beauty touched me; I knew longing, but a
longing so acutely poignant that it seemed not of this little earth
at all. A fragrance and power of other stars, I could have sworn,
lay in it. The pang of some long, long sweetness made me tremble. An
immense ideal rose and beckoned with that whispering wind among the
Jura pine woods, and a grandeur, remote but of ineffable sweetness,
stirred through the undergrowths of a half-claimed, half-recognised
consciousness within me.

I was aware of this incalculable emotion. Ancient yearnings seemed on
the verge of coaxing loved memories into the light of day. I burned,
I trembled, I suffered atrociously, yet with a rush of blind delight
never before realised by me on earth. Then, suddenly, and wholly
without warning, the desire for tears came over me in a flood....
Control _was_ possible, but left no margin over. Somehow I managed
it, so that no visible sign of this acute and extraordinary collapse
should appear. It seemed, for a moment, that the frame of my modern
personality was breaking down under the stress of new powers unleashed
by my meeting with these two in this enchanted valley. Almost, another
order of consciousness supervened ... then passed without being quite
accomplished.... I heard the singing of the trees in the low south wind
again. I saw the clouds sailing across the blue foreign sky. I saw
_his_ eyes upon me like twin flames. With the greatest difficulty I
found speech possible in that moment.

“I can promise, at least, that I will not be hostile. I can promise
that,” I said in a low and faltering tone.

He made no direct reply; least of all did it occur to him to thank
me. The storm that had shaken me had apparently not touched him. His
tone was quiet and normal as he continued speaking, though its depth
and power, with that steady drive of absolute conviction behind, could
never leave it quite an ordinary voice.

“She, as I told you, knows nothing in her surface mind,” I heard.
“Beyond occasional uprushes of memory that have come to her lately
in dreams--she tells them naïvely, confusedly in the morning
sometimes--she is aware of no more than a feeling of deep content, and
that our union is right in the sense of being inevitable. Her pleasure
that you have come is obvious. And more,” he added, “I do not wish the
older memories to break through yet, for that might wake pain or terror
in her and, therefore, unconscious opposition.”

He touched my arm a moment, looking at me with a significant
expression. It was a suggestive thing he said: “For human
consciousness is different at different periods, remember, and ages
remotely separated cannot understand each other. Their points of
view, their modes of consciousness, are too different. In _her_
deeper state--separated by so huge an interval from the nineteenth
century--with its origin long before we came to live upon this little
earth--she would not, could not understand. There would be no sympathy;
there might be terror; there must certainly be failure.”

I murmured something or other, heaven alone knows what it was.

“What we think fine and wonderful may then have seemed the crudest
folly, superstition, wickedness--and vice versa. Look at the few
thousand years of history we have--and you’ll see the truth of this. We
cannot grasp how certain periods could possibly have done the things
they did.” He paused, then added in a lower tone, more to himself
than to me: “So with what we have to do now--though exceptional,
utterly exceptional--it is a remnant that we owe to Nature--to the
universe--and we must see it through....” His voice died away.

“I understand,” my voice dropped into the open pause he left.

“Though you neither believe nor welcome,” he replied.

“My promise,” I said quietly, “holds good. Also”--I blushed and
half-stammered over the conventional words--“I will do nothing that can
cause possible offence--to anyone.”

The hand that rested on my arm tightened its grasp a little. He made no
other sign. It was remarkable how the topic that must have separated
two other men--any two other men in the world, I suppose--had been
subtracted from our relationship, laid aside as dealt with and
admitted, calling for no further mention even. It all seemed, in some
strange way, impersonal almost--another attitude to life--a faint sign,
it may well have been, of that older mode of consciousness he spoke
about.

I hardly recognised myself, so complete was the change in me, and so
swiftly going forward. This dragnet from the Past drew ever closer.
If the mind in me resisted still, it seemed rather from some natural
momentum acquired by habit, than from any spontaneous activity due to
the present. The modern, upper self surrendered.

“How soon?” was the question that seemed to come of its own accord; it
was certainly not my confused and shaken mind that asked it. “When do
you propose to----”

He answered without a sign of hesitation. “The Autumnal Equinox. You’ve
forgotten _that_,” he added as though he justified my lack of memory
here, “for all the world has forgotten it too--the science of Times and
Seasons--the oldest known to man. It was true cosmic knowledge, but so
long ago that it has left our modern consciousness as though it never
had existed even.”

He stopped abruptly. I think he desired me to discover for myself,
unguided, unhampered by explanation. And, at the words, something
remote and beautiful did stir, indeed, within me. A curtain drew
aside....



CHAPTER XX


Some remnant of ghostly knowledge quickened. Behind the mind and brain,
in that region, perhaps, where thought ceases and intuition offers
her amazing pageant, there stirred--reality. Times and seasons, I
seemed to realise, have spiritual importance; there is a meaning in
months and hours; if noon is different from six o’clock, what happens
at noon varies in import from what happens at six o’clock, although
the happening itself at both moments be identical. An event holds its
minimum or its maximum of meaning according to the moment when it
happens. Its effectiveness varies with the context.

Power is poured out, or power is kept back. To ask a man for energetic
action when he is falling asleep is to court refusal; to expect life of
him when he is overflowing with vitality and joy is probably to obtain
it. The hand is stretched out to give, or the hand is withheld.

With the natural forces of the earth--it now dawned upon me--the method
was precisely similar. Nature and human-nature reacted differently
at different moments. At the moment of equilibrium called “equinox,”
there was a state of balance so perfect that this balance could be most
easily, most naturally--transcended.

And objects in the outer world around me changed. Their meaning,
ordinarily superficial, appeared of incalculable significance. The
innate activities of Nature, the elements, I realised indeed as
modes of life; the communication Julius foreshadowed, a possible and
_natural_ thing.

Someone, I believe, was speaking of these and similar things--words
came floating on the wind, it seemed--yet with meanings so remote
from all that my mind of To-day deemed possible, that I scarcely knew
whether it was the voice of my companion speaking, or a voice of
another kind, whispering in my very blood.

In Bâle a week ago, or in London six weeks ago, such theories would
have left me cold. Now, at this particular juncture, they came with a
solemn beauty I can only account for by the fact that I had changed
into almost another being. My mind seemed ready for anything and
everything. No modern creeds and dogmas could confine my imagination....

I had entered a different cycle of operation. I felt these ideas
all-over-me. The brain might repeat insistently “this is false,
this is superstition”; but something bigger than reason steadily
overrode the criticism. My point of view had changed. In some new way,
strangely exciting, I saw everything at once. My entire Self became the
percipient, rather than my five separate senses. In Nature all around
me another language uttered. It was the cosmic sense that stirred and
woke. It was another mode of consciousness.

We three, it came upon me, were acting out some omitted detail of a
great world-purpose. The fact that _she_ forgot, that I was ignorant,
that Julius LeVallon seemed guilty of unmoral things--these were but
ripples upon the deep tide that bore us forward. We were uttering a
great sentence we had left unfinished. I knew not exactly what was
coming, only that we had begun its utterance ages before the present,
and probably upon a planet nearer to the sun than our younger earth.
The verb had not yet made its appearance in this sentence, but it would
presently appear and explain the series of acts, and, meanwhile, I
must go on acting and wondering what it all could mean. I thought of
a language that first utters the nouns and adjectives, then adds the
verb at the end, explaining the whole series of unmeaning sounds. Our
“experiment” was the verb.

Then came the voice of Julius suddenly:

“Fate is the true complement of yourself; it completes your nature. By
doing it, you become one with your surroundings. Note attitude and
gesture--of yourself and of everything. They are signs. Our attitudes
must coincide with that of the earth to the heavens--possible only
at the Equinox. We must feel with her. We then act with her. Do not
resist. Let this valley say to you what it will. Regard it, and regard
our life here at the moment, as a symbol, clothed in a whole story of
information, the story varying with every hour of the day and with the
slightest change of the earth in relation to the universe.”

It seemed I watched the track of some unknown animal upon the ground,
and tried to reconstruct the entire creature. Such imprint is but a
trace of the invisible being that has made it. All about this valley
there were tracks offering a hint of Beings that had left them--that
any moment might reveal themselves. Julius talked on in his calm and
unimpassioned way. I both understood and could not understand. I
realised that there is a language for the mind, but no language for the
spirit. There are no words in which to express big cosmic meanings.
Action--a three-dimensional language--alone could be their vehicle.
The knowledge must be performed--acted out in ceremony. Comprehension
filtered into me, though how I cannot say.

“Symbols are merely the clues,” he went on. “It is a question of
stimulating your own imagination. Into the images created by your own
activities the meaning flows. You must play with them and let them play
with you. They depend for their meaning on history and happenings,
and vary according to their setting--the time of day or night, the
season of the year, the year itself, the exact relation of your Self
to every other Self, human _or otherwise_, in the universe. Let your
life and activities now arrange themselves in such a way that they
shall demonstrate the workings of the elemental powers you feel about
you. Every automatic activity of your body, every physiological process
in you, links you on to this great elemental side of things. Be open
now to the language of action. Think of the motion of all objects
here as connected with the language of symbols, a living, ever-moving
language, and do not allow your mind to mutilate the moods that come
upon you. Let your nerves, if they will, come into contact with the
Nature Powers, and so realise that the three kingdoms are alive. Watch
your own automatic activities--I mean what you do unconsciously without
deliberate thinking. For what you do consciously you are learning,
but what you do unconsciously you have learned before. We have to
_become_ the performance by acting it--instantaneous understanding.
All such attitudes are language, and the power to read it comes from a
synthetical, intuitive feeling of the entire being. The heart may get
one letter only, but that letter is a clue, an omen. A moth flies into
the room and everything immediately looks different; it remains the
same, yet means something different. It’s like the vowel in the ancient
languages--put in later, according to the meaning. You have, I know,
forgotten”--he paused a moment and put his hand on my shoulder--“but
every wind that blows across our valley here, and every change in
temperature that lowers or raises the heat and fire of your own
particular system”--he looked at me with a power in bearing and gesture
impossible to describe--“is a sign and hint of whether----”

He stopped, glancing suddenly down the steep grass slopes. A breeze
stirred the hair upon his forehead. It brushed my eyes and cheeks as
well. I felt as though a hand had touched me as it passed invisibly.
A momentary sensation of energy, of greater life swept over me, then
disappeared as though the wind had borne it off.

“Of whether your experiment will be successful?” I broke in.

Turning his eyes from the sunny valley to my face again, he said slowly:

“These Powers can only respond to the language they understand. My
deliverance must be experienced, acted out.”

“A ceremony?” I asked, wondering uneasily what “acts of language” he
might demand of me and of another.

“To restore them finally--where they rightfully belong,” he answered,
“I must become them. There is no other way.”

How little intelligible result issued from this conversation must
be apparent from the confused report here given, yet that something
deep and true was in _his_ mind lay beyond all question. At the back
of my own, whence no satisfactory sentences could draw it out into
clean description, floated this idea that the three of us were already
acting out some vast, strange ceremonial in which Nature, indeed the
very earth and heavens themselves, were acting with us. There was this
co-operation, this deep alliance. The “experiment” we approached would
reveal itself in natural happenings and circumstances. Action was to
take the place of words, conveying meaning as speech or handwriting
conveys a message. The attitude of ourselves, the very grouping of
inanimate objects, of trees and hills, the effects of light and shade,
the moods of day and night, above all, the time and season of the year
which is nothing but the attitude of the earth towards the rest of the
universe--all these, as modes of intelligent expression, would belong
to the strange performance. They were the conscious gestures of the
universe. If I could _feel-with_ them, interpretation would be mine.

And, that I understood even this proved memory. “You will gradually
become conscious,” he said, “of various signs about you. Analyse these
signs. But analyse them with a view to creating language. For language
does not create ideas; Ideas become language. Put the vowels in. When
communication begins to be established, the inanimate world here will
talk to you as in the fairy tales--seem alive. Play with it, as you
play with symbols in algebra before you rise to the higher mathematics.
So, notice and think about anything that”--he emphasised the verb
significantly--“_draws_ your attention. Do not point out at the moment;
that’s compulsion and rouses opposition; just be aware and accept by
noticing. And do not concentrate too much; what flows in must also
be able to flow out; otherwise there comes congestion, and so--fear.
In this valley the channels all are open, and wonder everywhere. The
more you wonder, the more your memory will come back and consciousness
extend. Great language has no words. The only way to grow in
consciousness is to be for ever changing your ideas and point of view.
Accept Nature here. Feel like a tree and then like a star. Be violent
with wind, and burn with fire. These things are forgotten To-day
because Wonder has left the world--and with it worship. So do not be
ashamed to wonder at anything you notice. It all lies in you--I know
that--and here it will rise to the surface.” He laughed. “If a woman,”
he went on, “wears embroidered lilies on her dress, all London seems
full of flower-sellers. They were there before, but she had nothing in
herself to make her conscious of them. Notice all the little things,
for you are a portion of the universe as much as Sirius or Vega, and
in living relation with every other atom. You can share Nature, and
here in our secret valley you may welcome her without alarm. The cosmic
organism, denied by civilisation, survives in you as it survives also
in myself and in--my wife. Through that, and through that alone, is the
experiment possible to us.”

And it flashed into me that my visit to this enchanted valley would
witness no concentrated, miniature “ceremonial,” reduced in form for
worship as in a church or temple, but that all we did and experienced
in the course of normal, every-day life would mark the outlines of this
vast performance. Understanding would come that way.

And then the mention of his “wife” brought me sharply back to emotions
of--another kind. My thought leaped back again--by what steps I cannot
say, it seemed so disconnected with what had just occupied my mind--to
his statement of ten minutes before.

“By becoming them,” I asked, “you mean that you must feel-with wind and
fire to the point of being them?”

“You think this might be done alone, without your help or hers?” he
asked, picking the thought straight out of my mind. “But only a group
could have done what we did--a group, moreover, in perfect sympathy.
For as love between the three of us was essential to success then, so
is love between us essential now. A group, combined by love into a
unit, exerts a power impossible to an individual. The secret of our
power lies in that--ideal love and perfect sympathy.”

I listened, sure of one thing only--that I would keep an open mind.
To deny, object, criticise, above all to ridicule would rob me of an
experience. I believe honestly this was my attitude: to miss no value
that might be in it by assuming it was nonsense merely because it
was so strange. Apart from the curious fact that something in me was
sympathetic to a whole world of deep ideas behind his language, I felt
the determined desire to see the matter through. There was no creed or
religious dogma in me to offend. I made myself receptive. For, out of
this singular exposition the conviction grew that I was entering almost
a new order of existence, and that an earlier mode of consciousness
revived.

In this lonely valley, untouched by the currents of modern thought
and feeling, companioned by Julius LeVallon and that old, recovered
soul, his wife, the conditions of our previous existence together
perhaps re-formed themselves. Behind his talk came ideas that wore an
aspect of familiarity, although my present brain, try as it might,
failed to mould them into any acceptable form. The increasing change
in myself was certainly significant. The crumbling of old shibboleths
continued. A relationship between my inner nature and the valley seemed
established in some way that was new, yet not entirely forgotten. The
very sunlight and the wind assisted. Closer to the natural things I
felt, the earth not alien to me....

We had neared the châlet again. I saw the peat smoke rising against
the background of the ridges. The “man” was whistling at his work in
the yard behind the building. The column of smoke, I remember, was
agitated by the wind towards the top; it turned, blew downwards. No
other sign of movement was anywhere visible, for in the bottom of the
hollow where we now stood, the wind did not even stir the isolated
larches or tall yellow gentians. Sunshine flooded everything. Out
of this peace and stillness then came a sudden cry and the sight of
something moving rapidly--both from the châlet.

“Julius!” called a shrill voice, as the figure of Mrs. LeVallon, with
flying hair and skirts, came running over the meadow towards us.
“Julius!--Professor! Quick!”

The voice and figure startled me; both came, it seemed, out of some
other place; a picture from my youth rose up--a larch grove in October
upon the Pentland Hills. I experienced a sense of deep and thrilling
beauty similar to what I had felt then. But as I watched the slim,
hurrying figure I was aware of another thing that left me breathless:
For with her, as she passed through chequered sun and shadow along
the fringe of forest, there moved something else enormously larger
than herself. It was in the air about her. Like that strange Pentland
memory, it whirled. It was formless, and owing to its huge proportions
gave the impression of moving slowly, yet its very formlessness was
singularly impressive and alive, so that the word “body” sprang
instantly into my mind. Actually it moved at a tremendous speed.

In my first confusion and bewilderment I remember saying aloud in sheer
amazement: “a fragment of the day has broken off; it’s clothed in wind
and sunlight!”

A phrase quite meaningless, of course, yet somehow accurately
descriptive, for it appealed to me as a fragment of conditionless,
universal activity that had seized upon available common elements to
furnish itself a visible appearance. I got the astounding suggestion
that it was heat and air moving under intelligent and conscious
direction. Combined with its airy lightness there was power, for in
its brief, indeed its instantaneous, appearance I felt persuaded of an
irresistible strength that no barrier of solid matter could possibly
withstand. At the same time it was transparent, for I saw the trees
upon its further side. It passed ahead of the human figure, so close it
seemed to touch her dress, rose with a kind of swift, driving plunge
into the air, slipped meltingly into the clean blue colour of the
atmosphere--and disappeared.

And so swift was the entire presentment of the thing, that even while
I tried to focus my sight upon it to make sure I was not deceived, it
had both come and gone. The same second Julius caught my arm. I heard
him utter a quick, low cry, stifled instantly. He gasped. He quivered.
I heard him whispering:

“Already! Your presence here--the additional forces that _you_
bring--are known and recognised! See, how complete we are--a unit--you,
she and I--a trinity!”

A coldness not of this world touched me as I heard. But that first
sense of joy and beauty followed. I felt it true--the three of us were
somehow one.

“You saw it too?” I asked, exhilaration still about me.

“They are everywhere and close,” he whispered quickly, as the running
figure came on toward us, “breaking out into visible manifestation
even. Hold yourself strong and steady. Remember, your attitude of mind
and feeling are important. Each detail of behaviour is significant.”

His anxiety, I realised, was for us, not for himself. Already, it
seemed, our souls were playing vital rôles in some great dramatic
ceremonial just beginning. What we did and felt and thought was
but a partial expression of something going forward with pregnant
completeness behind the visible appearances all round. Mrs. LeVallon
stood breathless in front of us. She was hatless, her hair becomingly
dishevelled; her arms bare to the elbow and white with flour. She
stopped, placed her hands upon her hips, and panted for a full minute
before she could get breath enough to speak. Her eyes, a deep, luminous
sea-green, looked into ours. Her face was pale, yet the emotion was
excitement rather than alarm. I was aware of a superb, nymph-like
grace and charm about her. I caught my breath. Julius made no movement,
spoke no word. I wondered. I made a step forward to catch her. But she
did not fall; she merely sank down upon the ground at our feet.

“Julius,” she panted, “that thing I’ve dreamed about so of_t_en----”

She stopped short, glancing up at me, the eyes, charged with a sweet
agitation, full upon my own. I turned to Julius with a gesture of
uncontrollable impatience.

He spoke calmly, sitting down on the slope beside her. “You felt it
again--the effect of your vivid dreaming? Or did you this time--see
anything?”

The swiftness and surprise of the little scene had been bewildering,
but the moment he spoke confusion and suspense both vanished. The sound
of his quiet voice restored the threatened balance. Peace came back
into the sunlight and the air. There was composure again.

“You certainly were not frightened!” he added, as she made no reply.
“You look too happy and exhilarated for that.” He put his hand on hers.

I sat down then beside her, and she turned and looked at me with a
pathetic mingling of laughter and agitation still in her wide-opened
eyes. The three of us were close together. He kept his hand on hers.
Her shoulder touched me. I was aware of something very wonderful there
between us. We comforted her, but it was more, far more, than that.
There was sheer, overflowing happiness in it.

“It came into the house,” she said, her breath recovered now, and her
voice gentle. “It follered me--out here. I ran.” She looked swiftly
round at me. The radiance in her face was quite astonishing, turning
her almost beautiful. Her eyelids quivered a moment and the corners of
her lips seemed trying to smile--or not to smile. She was happy there,
sitting between us two. Yet there was nothing light or foolish in her.
Something of worship rose in me as I watched her.

“Well,” urged Julius, “and then--what?” I saw him watching me as well
as her. “You remembered your dream, you felt something, and--you ran
out here to us. What else?”

She hesitated deliciously. But it was not that she wanted coaxing. She
evidently knew not how to tell the thing she had to say. She looked
hard into my face, her eyes keenly searching.

“It has something to do with _him_, you mean?” asked Julius, noting the
direction of her questioning gaze.

“Oh, I’m glad he’s here,” she answered quickly. “It’s the best thing
that could happen.” And she looked round again at Julius, moving her
hand upon his own.

“We need him,” said Julius simply with a smile. Then, suddenly, she
took my hand too, and held it tightly. “He’s a protection, I think, as
well,” she added quite gravely; “that’s how I feel him.” Her hand lay
warm and fast on mine.

There was a pause. I felt her fingers strongly clasp my own. The three
of us were curiously linked together somehow by those two hands of
hers. A great harmony united us. The day was glorious, the power of the
sun divine, there was power in the wind that touched our faces.

“Yes,” she continued slowly, “I think it had to do with him--with
_you_, Professor,” she repeated emphatically, fixing her bright gaze
upon me. “I think you brought it--brought my dream back--brought that
thing I dreamed about into--the house itself.” And in her excitement
she said distinctly “’ouse.”

I found no word to say at the moment. She kept her hand firmly upon
mine.

“I was making bread there, by the back winder as usual,” she went
on, “when suddenly I started thinking of that splendid dream I’ve
had so of_t_en--of you,” looking at her husband, “and me and another
man--that’s _you_ I’m sure,” she gazed at me--“all three of us doing
some awful thing together in a place underground somewhere, but dressed
quite different to what we are now, and standing round a lot of people
sleeping in a row--when something we expected, yet were frightened at,
used to come in--and give me such a start that I always woke up before
knowing what was really going to happen.”

She paused a second. She was confused. Her sentences ran into each
other.

“Well, I was making the bread there when the wind came in with a bang
and sent the flour in a cloud all over everything--look! You can see
it over my dress still--and with it, sort of behind it, so to speak,
something followed with a rush--oh, an enormous rush and scurry it
was--and I thought I was rising in the air, or going to burn to pieces
by the heat that came in with it. I felt big like--as the sea when
you get out of your depth and feel yourself being carried away. I
screamed--and the three of us were all together in a moment, just as in
the dream, you know--and we were glad, tremendously glad, because we’d
got something we wanted that made us feel as if we could do anything,
oh, anything in the world--a sort of ’eavenly power I think it was--and
then, just as we were going to use our power and do all kinds of things
with it, someone--I don’t know who it was, for I never can see the
face--a man, though--one of those sleeping figures--rose up and came at
us all in a fury, and--well, I don’t know exactly, but it all turned
out a failure somehow--It got terrible then----” She looked like a
flash of lightning into my face, then dropped her eyes again.

“You acted out your dream, as it were?” interrupted Julius a moment.

She looked at him with a touch of wonder. “I suppose so,” she said,
and let go both our hands. “Only this time someone really did come in
and caught me just as I seemed going out of myself--it may have been
fainting, but I don’t think so, for I’m never one to faint--more like
being carried off in a storm, a storm with wind and fire in it----”

“It was the ‘man’ caught you?” I asked quickly.

“The man, yes,” she continued. “I didn’t fall. He caught me just in
time; but my wind was gone--gone clean out of me as though someone had
knocked me down.”

“He said nothing?” Julius asked.

She looked sharply at him. “Nothing,” she answered, “not a single word.
I ran away. He frightened me. For a moment--I was that confused with
remembering my dream, I suppose; so I just pushed him off and ran out
here to find you both. I’d been watching you for a long time while I
was mixing the dough.”

“I’m glad he was close enough to help you,” put in Julius.

“Well,” she explained, “I’ve a sort of idea he was watching me and saw
the thing coming, for he’d been in and out of the kitchen for half an
hour before, asking me silly questions about whether I wanted this or
that, and fussing about”--she laughed at her own description--“just
like an old faithful dog or something.”

We all laughed together then.

“I’m glad I found you so quickly,” she concluded, “because while I was
running up here I felt that something was running with me--something
that was burning and rushing--like a bit of what was in the house.”

She stopped, and a shadow passed across her eyes, changing their colour
to that nondescript grey tint they sometimes wore. The wonderful
deep green went out of them. And for a moment there was silence that
seemed to fill the entire valley. Julius watched her steadily, strong
and comforting in his calmness. The valley, I felt, watched us too,
something protective in its perfect stillness. All signs of agitation
were gone; the wind sank down; the trees stood by in solemn rows; the
very clouds moved more slowly down the calm blue sky. I watched the
bosom of Mrs. LeVallon rise and fall as she recovered breath again.
She put her hands up to gather in the hair at the back of her head,
deftly tidying its disordered masses, and as she did so I felt her
gaze draw my own with a force I could not resist. We looked into each
other’s eyes for a full two minutes, no one speaking, no signs anywhere
exchanged, Julius watchfully observant close beside us; and though I
know not how to tell it quite, it is a fact that something passed from
those clear, discerning eyes into my heart, convincing me more than any
words of Julius ever could, that all he claimed about her and myself
was true. She was imperial somewhere.... She had once been mine....

The cloud passed slowly from her face. To my intense relief--for I
had the dread that the silent gaze would any moment express itself in
fateful words as well. The muscles of her firm, wide mouth relaxed. She
broke into happy laughter suddenly.

“It’s very silly of me to think and feel such things, or be troubled
by a dream,” she exclaimed, still holding my eyes, and her laughter
running over me like some message of forgiveness. “We shall frighten
him away,” she went on, turning now to Julius, “before he’s had time
to taste the new bread I’m making--for him.” Her manner was quiet
and composed again, natural, prettily gracious. I searched in vain
for something to say; the turmoil of emotion within offered too many
possible rejoinders; I could not choose. Julius, however, relieved me
of the necessity by taking her soothingly in both his arms and kissing
her. The next second, before I could move or speak, she leaned over
against my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek as well.

Yet nothing happened; there was no sign anywhere that an unusual thing
had occurred; I felt that the sun and wind had touched me. It was as
natural as shaking hands. Ah! but the sun and wind were magical with
life!

“There!” she laughed happily, “we’re all three together and
understanding, and nothing can go wrong. Isn’t it so, Julius?” And,
if there was archness in her voice and manner, there was certainly no
trace of that mischief which can give offence. “And you understand,
Professor, don’t you?”

I saw him take her hand and stroke it. He showed no more resentment
than if she had handed me a flower. And I tried to understand. I
struggled. I at least succeeded in keeping my attitude of thought and
feeling above destructive levels. We three were one; love made us so. A
devouring joy was in me, but with it the strange power of a new point
of view.

“We couldn’t be together like this,” she laughed naïvely, “in a city.
It’s only here. It’s this valley and the sun and wind what does it.”
She looked round her. “All this sun and air, and the flowers, and the
forest and the clear cold little stream. Why, _I_ believe, if we stay
here we shall never die at all. We’d turn into gods or something.”

She murmured on half to herself, the voice sinking towards a
whisper--leaning over upon her husband’s breast, she stretched out
her hand and quietly took my own again. “It’s got much stronger,” I
heard, “since _he’s_ come; it makes me feel closer to you too, Julius.
Only--he’s with us as well, just like--just as if we were all meant for
each other somehow.”

There was pressure, yet no suggestive pressure, in the hand that held
my own. It just took me firmly, with a slight gesture of drawing me
closer to herself and to Julius too. It united us all three. And,
strange as it all was, I, for my part, was aware of no uneasiness,
no discomfort, no awkwardness certainly. I only felt that what she
said was true: we were linked together by some deep sympathy of
feeling-with; we were at one; we were marvellously fused by some tie of
universal life that this enchanted valley made apparent. Nature fused
with human nature, raising us all to a diviner level.

There was a period of silence in which no one moved or spoke; and then,
to my relief, words came from Julius--natural and unforced, yet with a
meaning that I saw was meant for me:

“The presence of so distinguished a man,” he said lightly, looking down
into her face with almost a boyish smile, “is bound to make itself felt
anywhere.” He glanced across at me significantly. “Even the forces of
Nature in this peaceful valley, you see, are aware of his arrival, and
have sent out messengers to greet him. Only,” he added, “they need not
be in such a hurry about it, need they--or so violent?”

We all laughed together. It was the only reference he made in her
presence to what had happened. Nor did she ask a single question. We
lay a little longer, basking in the sunlight and breathing the fragrant
mountain air, and then Mrs. LeVallon sprang to her feet alertly, saying
that she must go and finish her bread. Julius went with her. I was left
alone--with the eerie feeling that more than these two had just been
with me....

Less than an hour later the horizon darkened suddenly. Out of a
harmless sky appeared masses of ominous cloud. Wild gusts of hot,
terrific wind rushed sideways over the swaying forest. The trees shook
to their roots, groaning; they shouted; loosened stones fell rattling
down the nearer gullies; and, following a minute of deep silence,
there blazed forth then a wild glory of lightning such as I have never
witnessed. It was a dancing sea of white and violet. It came from every
quarter of the sky at once with a dazzling fury as though the entire
atmosphere were set on fire. The wind and thunder shook the mountains.
From a cupful of still, sweet sunshine, our little valley changed into
a scene of violent pandemonium. The precipices tossed the echoing
thunder back and forth, the clear stream beside the châlet became a
torrent of foaming, muddy water, and the wind was of such convulsive
turbulence that it seemed to break with explosive detonations that
menaced the upheaval of all solid things. There was a magnificence in
it all as though the universe, and not a small section of the sky,
produced it.

It passed away again as swiftly as it came. At lunch time the sun
blazed down upon a drenched and laughing scene, washed as by magic,
brilliant and calm as though made over all afresh. The air was limpid;
the forest poured out perfume; the meadows shone and twinkled.

During the assault I saw neither Julius nor the Man, but in the
occasional deep pauses I heard the voice of Mrs. LeVallon singing gaily
while she kneaded bread at the kitchen “winder” just beneath my own.
She, at any rate, was not afraid. But, while it was in progress, I went
alone to my room and watched it, caught by a strange sensation of power
and delight its grandeur woke in me, and also by a sense of wonder that
was on the increase.



CHAPTER XXI

  “_Why is she set so far, so far above me,
     And yet not altogether raised above?
   I would give all the world that she should love me,
     My soul that she should never learn to love._”--Mary Coleridge.


“The channels here are open.”

As the days went by the words remained with me. I recognised their
truth. Nature was pouring through me in a way I had never known before.
I had gone for a walk that afternoon after the sudden storm, and tried
to think things out. It was all useless. I could only feel. The stream
of this strange new point of view had swept me from known moorings;
I was in deep water now; there was exhilaration in the rush of an
unaccustomed tide. One part of me, hourly fading, weighed, criticised
and judged; another part accepted and was glad. It was like the
behaviour of a divided personality.

“Your brain of To-day asks questions, while your soul of long ago
remembers and is sure.”

I was constantly in the presence of Mrs. LeVallon. My “brain” was
active with a thousand questions. The answers pointed all one way. This
woman, so humbly placed in life to-day, rose clearer and clearer before
me as the soul that Julius claimed to be of ancient lineage. Respect
increased in me with every word, with every act, with every gesture.
Her mental training, obviously, was small, and of facts that men call
knowledge she had but few; but in place of these recent and artificial
acquirements she possessed a natural and spontaneous intelligence
that was swiftly understanding. She seized ideas though ignorant of
the words that phrased them; she grasped conceptions that have to
be hammered into minds the world regards as well equipped--seized
them naïvely, yet with exquisite comprehension. Something in her
discriminated easily between what was transitory and what was real, and
the glory of this world made evidently small appeal to her. No ordinary
ambition of vulgar aims was hers. Fame and position were no bait at
all; she cared nothing about being “somebody.” There was a touch of
unrest and impatience about her when she spoke of material things
that most folk value more than honour, some even more than character.
Something higher, yet apparently forgotten, drew her after it. The
pursuit of pleasure and sensation scarcely whispered to her at all, and
though her self-esteem was strong, personal vanity in the little sense
was quite a negligible quantity.

This young wife had greatness in her. Domestic servant though she
certainly had been, she was distinguished in her very bones. A clear
ray of mental guidance and intuition ran like a gleam behind all
her little blunders of speech and action. To her, it was right and
natural, for instance, that her husband’s money should mostly be sent
away to help those who were without it. “We’re much better this way,”
she remarked lightly, remembering, perhaps, the life of detailed and
elaborate selfishness she once had served, “and anyhow I can’t wear
two dresses at the same time, can I? Or live in two houses--what’s the
good of all that? But for those who like it,” she added, “I expect
it’s right enough. They need it--to learn, or something. I’ve been in
families of the best that didn’t want for anything--but really they had
nothing at all.” It was in the little things I caught the attitude.
Although conditions here made it impossible to test it, I had more and
more the impression, too, that she possessed insight into the causes of
human frailty, and understood temptations she could not possibly have
experienced personally in this present life.

An infallible sign of younger souls was their pursuit hot-foot of
pleasure and sensation, of power, fame, ambition. The old souls
leave all that aside; they have known its emptiness too often.
Their hall-mark lies in spiritual discernment, the power to choose
between the permanent and the transitory. Brains and intellect were
no criterion of development at all. And I reflected with a smile
how the “educated” and “social” world would close its doors to such
a woman--the common world of younger, cruder souls, insipid and
undistinguished, many of them but just beyond the animal stage--the
“upper classes”! The Kingdom of Heaven lies within, I remembered, and
the meek and lowly shall inherit the “earth.”

And the “Dog-Man” also rose before me in another light--this
slow-minded, instinctive being whom elsewhere I should doubtless have
dismissed as “stupid.” His approximation to the instinctive animal life
became so clear. In his character and essential personality lay the
curious suggestion. Out of his frank gaze peered the mute and searching
appeal of the soul awakening into self-consciousness--a look of direct
and simple sincerity, often questioning, often poignant. The interval
between Mrs. LeVallon and himself was an interval of countless lives.
How welcome to him would be the support of a thought-out religious
creed, to her how useless! The different stages individuals occupy, how
far apart, how near, how various! I felt it all as true, and the effect
of this calm valley upon me was not sympathy with Nature only, but a
certain new sympathy with all the world. It was very wonderful.

I watched the “man” with a new interest and insight--the proud and
self-conscious expression on his face as he moved constantly about us,
his menial services earnest and important. The safety of the entire
establishment lay upon his shoulders. He made the beds as he served the
coffee, cleaned the boots or lit the lamps at dusk, with a fine dignity
that betrayed his sense of our dependence on him--he would never fail.
He was ever on the watch. I could believe that he slept at night
with one eye open, muscles ready for a spring in case of danger. In
myself, at any rate, his signal devotion to our interest woke a kind of
affectionate wonder that touched respect. He was so eager and ready to
learn, moreover. The pathos in his face when found fault with was quite
appealing--the curious dumb attitude, the air of mortification that he
wore: “I’m rather puzzled, but I shall know another time. I shall do
better. Only--I haven’t got as far as you have!”

In myself, meanwhile, the change worked forward steadily. I was much
alone, for Julius, preoccupied and intense, was now more and more
engaged upon purposes that kept him out of sight. Much of the time
he kept to his room upstairs, but he spent hours, too, in the open,
among the woods and on the further ridges, especially at night. Not
always did he appear at meals even, and what intercourse I had was with
Mrs. LeVallon, so that our intimacy grew quickly, ripening with this
sense of sudden and delightful familiarity as though we had been long
acquainted. There was at once a happy absence of formality between us,
although a dignity and sweet reserve tempered our strange relationship
in a manner the ordinary world--I feel certain--could hardly credit.
Out of all common zones of danger our intercourse was marvellously
lifted, yet in a way it is difficult to describe without leaving the
impression that we were hardly human in the accepted vulgar meaning of
the words.

But the truth was simple enough, the explanation big with glory. It
was that Nature included us, mothering all we said or did or thought,
above all, _felt_. Our intercourse was not a separate thing, apart,
shut off, two little humans merely aware of the sympathetic draw of
temperament and flesh. It was part of Nature, natural in the biggest
sense, a small, true incident in the processes of the entire cosmos
whose life we shared. The physical thing called passion, of course, was
present, yet a passion that the sun and wind took care of, spreading
it everywhere about us through the hourly happenings of “common”
things--in the wind that embraced the trees and then passed on, in the
rushing stream that caught the flowers on its bank, then let them go
again, in the fiery sunshine that kissed the earth while leaving the
cooling shadows beside every object that it glorified.

All this seemed in some new fashion clear to me--that passion degrades
because it is set exclusive and apart, magnified, idolatrised into a
false importance due to Nature’s being neglected and left outside. For
not alone the wind and sun and water shared our intercourse, knowing
it was well, but in some further sacramental way the whole big Earth,
the movements of the Sun, the Seasons, aye, and the armies of the other
stars in all their millions, took part in it, justifying its necessity
and truth. Without a trace of false exaltation in me I saw far, far
beyond even the poet’s horizon of love’s philosophy:

  “_Nothing in the world is single;
     All things by a law divine
   In one another’s being mingle--
     Why not I with thine?_”

and so came again with a crash of fuller comprehension upon the words
of Julius that here we lived and acted out a Ceremony that conveyed
great teaching from a cosmic point of view. My relations with Mrs.
LeVallon, as our relations all three together, seen from this grander
angle, were not only possible and true: they were necessary. We were a
unit formed of three, a group-soul affirming truths beyond the brain’s
acceptance, proving universal, cosmic teaching in the only feasible
way--by acting it out.

The scale of experience grew vast about me. This error of the past we
would set right was but an episode along the stupendous journey of our
climbing souls. The entire Present, the stage at which humanity found
itself to-day, was but a moment, and values worshipped now, and by
the majority rightly worshipped, would pass away, and be replaced by
something that would seem entirely new, yet would be in reality not
discovery but recovery.



CHAPTER XXII

  “_This mighty sea of Love, with wondrous tides,
     Is sternly just to sun and grain;
   ’Tis laving at this moment Saturn’s sides,
     ’Tis in my blood and brain._”--Alexander Smith.


One evening, as the shadows began to lengthen across the valley, I
came in from my walk, and saw Mrs. LeVallon on the veranda, looking
out towards the ridges now tipped with the sunset gold. Her back was
to me. One hand shaded her eyes; her tall figure was like a girl’s;
her attitude conveyed expectancy. I got the impression she had been
watching for me.

She turned at the sound of my footstep on the boards. “Ah, I hoped
you’d get back before the dark,” she said, with a smile of welcome that
betrayed a touch of relief. “It’s so easy to get lost in those big
woods.” She led the way indoors, where a shaded lamp stood on the table
laid for tea. She talked on easily and simply. She had been washing
“hankercheefs,” and as the dusk came on had felt she “oughter” be
seeing where I’d got to. I thanked her laughingly, saying that she must
never regard me as a guest who had to be looked after, and she replied,
her big eyes penetratingly on my own--“Oh, I didn’t mean _that_,
Professor. I knew by instinc’ you were not one to need entertaining. I
saw it reely the moment you arrived. I was just wondering where you’d
got to and--whether you’d find your way back all right.” And then, as
I made no reply, she went on to talk about the housework, what fun it
was, how it amused her, and how different it was from working for other
people. “I could work all day and night, you see, when the results are
there, in sight. It’s working for others when you never see the result,
or what it leads to, and jest get paid so much a week or month, that
makes you tired. Seeing the result seems to take away fatigue. The
other’s simply toil. Now, come to tea. I do relish my cup of tea.”

It was very still and peaceful in the house; the logs burned brightly
on the open hearth; Julius was upstairs in his room. The winds had gone
to sleep, and the hush of dusk crept slowly on the outside world.

I followed my hostess into the corner by the fire where two deep
arm-chairs beside the table beckoned us. Rather severe she looked now
in a dark stuff dress, dignified, something half stately, half remote
about her attitude. The poise in her physical expression came directly
from the mind. She moved with grace, sure of herself, seductive too,
yet with a seduction that led the thoughts far beyond mere physical
attraction. It was the charm of a natural simplicity I felt.

“I’ve taken up Julius his,” I heard her saying in her uncultivated
voice, as she began to pour out tea. “And I’ve made these--these sort
of flat unleavened cakes for us.” The adjective startled me. She
pointed to thin, round scone-like things that lay steaming in a plate.
But her eyes were fixed on mine as though they questioned.

“You used to like ’em....”

Or, whether she said “I hope you’ll like ’em,” I am not certain--for
a sudden sense of intimacy flashed between us and disconcerted me.
Perhaps it was the tone and gesture rather than the actual words. A
sweetness as of some deep, remembered joy rose in me.

I started. There had been disclosure, a kind of revelation. A door
had opened. They were familiar to me--those small “unleavened cakes.”
Something of happiness that had seemed lost slipped back of its own
accord into my heart. My head swam a second. Some part of me was drawn
backwards. For, as I took the offered cake, there stole to my nostrils
a faint perfume that made me tremble. Elusive, ghostly sensations
dropped their hair-like tracery on the brain, then vanished utterly. It
was all dim, yet haunting as a dream. The perfume faded instantly.

“Thank you,” I murmured. “You make them deliciously ...” aware at the
same moment I had been about to say another thing in place of the empty
words, but had deliberately kept it back.

The bewilderment came and went. Mrs. LeVallon dropped her eyes from
mine, although the question in their penetrating gaze still lingered.
I realised this new sense of intimacy that seemed uncannily perfect,
it was so natural. No suggestion lay in it of anything that should not
be, but rather the close-knit comfortable atmosphere of two minds that
were familiar and at home in silence. It deepened with every minute. It
seemed the deep companionship that many, many years had forged.

Yet the moment of wonder had mysteriously come and gone. Even the aroma
of the little steaming cake was lost as well--I could not recapture
the faint odour. And it was my surface consciousness, surely, that
asked then about the recipe, and joined in the soft, familiar laughter
with which she answered that she “reely couldn’t say quite,” because
“it seemed to have come of its own accord while I was doing nothing in
particular with odds and ends about the cooking-stove.”

“A very simple way,” I suggested, trying to keep my thoughts upon the
present, “a very easy way of finding new recipes,” whereupon, her
manner graver somewhat, she replied: “But, of course, I could make them
better if I stopped to think a bit first ... and had the proper things.
It’s jest my laziness. I know how--only”--she looked peeringly at me
again as with an air of searching for something I might supply--“I’ve
sort of mislaid something--forgot it, rather ... and I can’t, for the
life of me, remember where I learned it first.”

There stirred between us into that corner of the lamp-lit room an
emotion that made me feel we used light words together as men use masks
upon their faces for disguise, fully aware that while the skin is
hidden the eyes are clear. My happiness seemed long-established. There
was a little pause in which the key sank deeper. Before I could find
anything to say, Mrs. LeVallon went on again:

“There’s several things come to me like that these last few days----”

“Since I came?” I could not prevent the question, nor could I hide the
pleasure in my voice.

“That’s it,” she agreed instantly; “it’s as though you brought
them--back--simply by being here. It’s got to do with you.” Her elbows
were on the table, the chin resting on her folded hands as she stared
at me, both concentration and absent-mindedness in her expression
at the same time. Her thoughts were travelling, searching, beating
backwards into time. She leaned a little nearer to me suddenly, so that
I could almost feel her breath upon my face.

“Like memories of childhood revived,” I said. My heart beat quickly.
There was great sweetness in me.

“That’s it,” she repeated, but in a lowered tone. “That’s it, I think;
as if we’d been children together, only so far back I can’t hardly
remember.”

She gazed again into my eyes, searching for words her untutored brain
could not supply. There was a moment of extraordinary tenseness. I felt
unsure of myself; uneasiness was in it, but a strange, lifting joy as
well. I knew an instant’s terror that either she or I might say an
undesirable thing.

And to my relief just then the Man came clattering in with a cup
containing--cream! Her eyes left mine as with an effort. Drawing
herself free, yet not easily, from some inner entanglement that had
captured both of us, she turned and took the little cup. “There is no
proper cream jug,” she observed with a smile, dropping back into the
undisguised accent of the East Croydon fruiterer’s daughter, “but the
cream’s thick and good jest the same, and we’ll take it like this,
won’t we?” She stirred it with a spoon into my teacup.

The “Man” stood watching us a moment with a questioning, puzzled look,
and then went out again. At the door he turned once more to assure
himself that all was as it should be, decided that it was so, and
vanished with a little run. Slowly, then, upon her face stole back
that graver aspect of the eyes and mouth; and into my own mind stole
equally a sense of deep confusion as I watched her--very delightful,
strangely sweet, but my first uneasiness oddly underlying it.
Instinctively I caught myself shrinking as from vague pain or danger.
I made a struggle to get free, but it was a feeble and half-hearted
effort. Mrs. LeVallon was saying exactly what I had known she was going
to say.

“I’m all upset to-day,” she said with blunt simplicity, “and you must
excuse my manners. I feel sort of lost and queer. I can’t make it
out, but I keep forgettin’ who I am, and sometimes even where I am.
You”--raising her eyes from the plate to mine--“oughter be able to help
me. D’you know what I mean? Professor, sometimes, especially nights,”
her voice sinking as she said it, “I feel afraid of something----” She
paused, correcting herself suddenly. “Oh, no, it isn’t fear exactly,
you see, but a great happiness that seems too big to get hold of quite.
It’s jest out of reach always, and something’ll go wrong before it
reely comes.” She looked very hard at me. The strange sea-green eyes
became luminous. I felt power in her, a power she was not aware of
herself. “As if,” she continued earnestly, “there was some price to
pay for it--first. And somehow it’s for _you_--it’s what you’ve come
for----” She broke off suddenly.

A touch of rapture caught me. It was only with strong effort that I
made a commonplace reply:

“This valley, Mrs. LeVallon”--I purposely used the name and title--“is
exceedingly lonely; you are shut off from the world you are accustomed
to.” I tried to put firmness and authority into my words and manner.
“You have no companionship--of your own sex----”

She brushed my explanation aside impatiently. “Oh, but it ain’t nothing
of that sort,” she exclaimed, seeing through my conventional words, and
knowing I realised that she did so; “it’s not loneliness, nor anything
ordin’ry like that. Julius is everything to me in _that_ way. It’s
something bigger and quite different--that’s got worse, got stronger I
mean, since you came. But I like your being here,” she added quickly,
“because I feel it’s jest the thing for Julius and for--for all of us.
Only, since you’ve been here it seems--well, it’s sort of coming to a
head.”

I remained speechless. A kind of helplessness came over me. I could not
prevent it.

“And mixed up with it,” she continued, not waveringly, but wholly
mistress of herself, “is the feeling that you’ve been here before
too--been with me. We’ve been together, and you know we have.” Her
cheek turned a shade paler; she was very earnest; there was deep
emotion in her. “That’s what I keep feelin’ for one thing. Everything
is that familiar--as if all three of us had been together before and
had come back again.” Her breath came faster.

“You understand me, don’t you? When Julius told me you were coming,
it seemed quite natural, and I didn’t feel nothing of any kind except
that it was so natural; but the day you arrived I felt--afraid, though
always with this tremendous happiness behind it. And _that’s_ why I
didn’t come down to meet you!” The words came pouring out, yet without
a sign of talking wildly. Her eyes shone; the velvet band on her throat
rose and fell; I was aware of happiness and amazement, but never once
of true surprise. I had expected this, and more besides. “The moment I
saw you--up there at the winder in the early mornin’--it came bursting
over me, Professor, as sure as anything in this world, that we’ve come
together again like old, old friends.”

And it was still my conventional sense of decent conduct that held me
to make a commonplace rejoinder. Yet how the phrases came, and why the
thin barrier between us did not fall with a crash is more than I can
tell.

“Julius had spoken about me, and no doubt your imagination--here in
this deserted place----”

She shook her head almost contemptuously. “Julius said nothing,” she
put in quickly, “nothing in particular, I mean; only that you were old
friends and he was positive sure you’d come because you’d promised.
It’s since you’ve come here that I’ve felt all this so strong. You
come as familiar and natural to me as my own mother,” she continued,
a faint flush rising on the former pallor; “and what’s more, your
coming has brought a whole lot of other things nearer, too,” adding in
a whisper suddenly, “things that make me afraid and happy at the same
time.”

She paused a moment, peering round the room and out of the blindless
windows into the darkening valley. “Now, _he_”--pointing with her
thumb in the direction of the kitchen--“is all new to me, and I have
no feeling about him at all. But you! Why, I always know where you
are, and what you’ll be doing next, and saying, and even what you’re
thinking and feeling half the time--jest as I do with Julius--almost.”

The next minute came the direct question that I dreaded. It was like a
pistol shot:

“And you feel the same, Professor? You feel it, too? You know all about
me--and this great wonderful thing that’s creepin’ up nearer all the
time. Don’t you, now?”

I looked straight at her over the big lamp-shade, feeling that some
part of me went lost in the depths of those strange, peering eyes.
There was a touch of authority in her face--about lips and mouth--that
I had seen once before. For an instant it hovered there while she
waited for my reply. It lifted the surface plainness of her expression
into a kind of solemn beauty. Her charm poured over me envelopingly.

“There is,” I stammered, “a curious sense of intimacy between us--all,
and it is very delightful. It comes to me rather like childhood
memories revived. The loneliness of this valley,” I added, sinking my
voice lest its trembling should be noticeable, “may account for a good
many strange feelings, but it’s the peace and loveliness that should
make the chief appeal.”

The searching swiftness of the look she flashed upon me, faintly
touched with scorn, I have seen sometimes in the eyes of a child who
knows an elder says vain things for its protection in the dark. Such
weak attempts but bring the reality nearer.

“Oh, I feel that too--the loveliness--right enough,” she said at once,
her eyes still fixed on mine, “but I mean these other things as well.”
Her tone, her phrase, assumed that I also was aware of them. “Where
do they come from? What are they exactly? I often fancy there’s lots
of other people up here besides ourselves, only they’re hidden away
always--watchin’, waitin’ for something to happen--something that’s
being got ready like. Oh, but it’s a splendid feeling, too, and makes
me feel alive all over.” She sat up and clapped her hands softly like
a child, but there was awe as well as joy in her. “And it comes from
the woods and sky somehow--like wind and lightning. God showed Himself
once, didn’t He, in a burnin’ bush and in a mighty rushin’ wind?”

“Nature seems very real in a place like this,” I said hurriedly. “We
see no other human beings. Imagination grows active and constructs----”

The instant way she swept aside the evasive reply I was so proud of
made me feel foolish.

“Imagination,” she said firmly, yet with a bewitching smile, “is not
making up. It’s finding out. You know that!”

We stared at one another for a moment without speech. It seemed as if
the forest, the meadows, the little rivulet of cool, clear water, the
entire valley itself became articulate--through her. Her personality
rushed over me like a gush of wind. In her enthusiasm and belief rose
the glow of fire.

“You feel the same,” she went on, with conviction in her voice,
“or you wouldn’t try to pretend you don’t. You wouldn’t try to
hide it.” And the authority grew visibly upon her face. There was
a touch of something imperious as well. “You see, I can’t speak to
_him_ about it, I can’t ask him”--jerking her head towards the room
upstairs--“because”--she faltered oddly for a second--“because it’s
about himself. I mean he knows it _all_. And if I asked him--my God,
he’d tell me!”

“You prefer not to know?”

She smiled and shrugged her shoulders with a curious gesture
impossible to interpret. “I long to know,” she replied, “but I’m half
afraid”--she shivered slightly--“to hear everything. I feel as if it
would change me--into--someone else.” The last words were spoken almost
below her breath.

But the joy broke loose in me as I heard. It was another state of
consciousness she dreaded yet desired. This new consciousness was
creeping over her as well. She shared it with me; our innate sympathy
was so deep and perfect. More, it was a type of consciousness we had
shared together before. An older day rose hauntingly about us both. We
felt-with one another.

“For yourself?” I asked, dropping pretence as useless any longer. “You
feel afraid for yourself?”

She moved the lamp aside with a gesture so abrupt it seemed almost
violent; no object intervened between our gaze; and she leaned forward,
folding her hands upon the white tablecloth. I sat rigidly still
and watched her. Her face was very near to mine. I could see myself
reflected in her glowing eyes.

“Not for myself, Professor, nor for you,” she said in a low voice.
Then, dropping the tone to a whisper, “but for him. I’ve felt it on
and off ever since we came up here last spring. But since you’ve come,
I’ve known it positive--that something’ll happen to Julius--before we
leave--and before you leave....”

“But, Mrs. LeVallon----”

“And it’s something we can’t prevent,” she went on whispering, “neither
of us--nor oughter prevent either--because it’s something we’ve got to
do all three together.”

The intense conviction in her manner blocked utterance in me.

“Something I want to do, what’s more,” she continued, “because
it’s sort of magnificent--if it comes off proper and as it
should--magnificent for all of us, and like a great vision or
something. _You_ know what I mean. We are together in it, but this
old valley and the whole world is somehow in it, too. I can’t quite
understand. It’s very wonderful. Julius will suffer, too, only he’ll
call it jest development.” Her voice sank lower still. “D’you know,
Professor, I sometimes feel there’s something in Julius that seems to
me like--God.”

She stood up as she said it, tall, erect, her figure towering above me;
and as she rose her face passed out of the zone of yellow lamplight
into comparative shadow, the eyes fixed always penetratingly upon my
own. And I could have sworn that not alone their expression altered,
growing as with fiery power, but that the very outline of her head
and shoulders shifted into something else, something dark, remote and
solemn as a tree at midnight, drawn almost visibly into larger scale.

She bent lower again a little over the table, leaning her hands upon
the back of the chair she had just occupied. I knew exactly what she
was going to say. The sentences dropped one by one from her lips just
as I expected.

“I’ve always had a dread in me, ever since I can remember,” I heard
this familiar thing close in my ear, “a sinking like--of some man that
I was bound to meet--that there was an injury I’d got to put right, and
that I’d have to suffer a lot in doing it. When I met Julius first I
thought it might be him. Then I knew it wasn’t him, but that I’d meet
the other--the right man--through him sooner or later.” She stopped and
watched me for a second. Her eyes looked through and through me. “It’s
you, Professor,” she concluded; “it’s you.”

She straightened up again and passed behind my chair. I heard her
retreating steps. A thousand words rose up in me, but I kept silence.
What should I say? How should I confess that I, too, had known a
similar dread of meeting--her? A net encompassed me, a web was flung
that tightened as it fell--a web of justice, marvellously woven, old as
the stars and certain as the pull of distant planets, closing us all
together into a pattern of actions necessary and inexorable.

I turned. I saw her against the window where she stood looking out into
the valley, now thick with darkness about the little house. And for one
passing instant it seemed to me that the entire trough of that dark
valley brimmed with the forces of wind and fire that were waiting to
come in upon us.

And Mrs. LeVallon turned and looked at me across the room. There was a
smile upon her lips.

“But we’ll play it out,” her whisper reached me, “and face it all
without fear or shirking ... when it ... comes....” And as she
whispered it I hid my face in my hands so as not to meet her gaze. For
my own dread of years ago returned in force upon me, and I knew beyond
all doubt or question, though without a shred of evidence, that what
she said was true.

And when I lifted my eyes a moment later Mrs. LeVallon had gone from
the room, and the Man, I saw, was clearing away the tea things,
glancing at me from time to time for a word or smile, as though to show
that whatever happened he was always faithful, ready to fight for all
of us to the death if necessary, and to be depended upon absolutely.



CHAPTER XXIII

  “_A thousand ages onward led
     Their joys and sorrows to that hour;
   No wisdom weighed, no word was said,
     For only what we were had power._”--A. E.


Meanwhile my intercourse with Nature now began to betray itself in
curious little ways, and none more revealing of this mingled joy and
nervousness than my growing excitement on being abroad after dark alone.

In the far more desolate Monzoni Valley a few weeks before I had passed
whole nights in the open without the least suspicion of uneasiness,
yet here, amid these friendly woods, covered by this homely, peaceful
valley, it was suddenly made clear to me that I had nerves. And the
reason, briefly put, was that there I knew myself alone, whereas here I
knew myself never alone.

This sense of a populated Nature grew. After dusk it fairly mastered
me, but even in broad daylight, when the September sunshine flooded
the whole trough of valley with warmth and brightness, there clung to
me the certainty that my moods and feelings, as my very footsteps,
too, were noted--and understood. This sense of moving Presences, as
in childhood, was stirred by every wind that blew. The feeling of
co-operation increased. It was conscious, intelligent co-operation.

“Over that limestone ridge against the sky,” I caught myself feeling,
rather than definitely thinking; “from just beyond the crests of those
tall pines, will presently come----” What? I knew not, even as the
child knows not. Only, it would come--appearing suddenly from the
woods, or clouds, or from behind the big boulders that strewed the open
spaces.

In the fields about the châlet this was manifest too, but especially
on the naked ridges above the forests and in the troughs that held the
sunlight. Where the wind had unobstructed motion, and where the heat
of the sun accumulated in the hollows, this sense of preparation, of
co-operation, chiefly touched me. There was behind it pressure--as of
purpose and direction, the idea that intelligence stirred within these
natural phenomena. Some type of elemental life, enormous yet generally
diffused through formlessness, moved and had its being behind natural
appearances.

More and more, too, I realised that “inanimate” Nature was a script
that it was possible to read; that certain objects, certain appearances
drew my attention because they had a definite meaning to convey,
whereas others remained unnoticed, as though not necessary to the
sentence of some message or communication. The Language of Happenings
that Julius talked about--the occurrences of daily life as words in
some deep cosmical teaching--connected itself somewhere with this
meaning that hid in common objects.

That my awareness of these things was known to others of the household
besides myself was equally clear, for I never left the immediate
neighbourhood of the châlet after dark without the Man following my
movements with a kind of anxiety, sometimes coming on my very tracks
for a considerable distance, or hanging about until I returned to light
and safety. In sleep, too, as I passed slowly into unconsciousness, it
seemed that the certainty of these Presences grew startlingly distinct,
and more than once I woke in the night without apparent cause, yet with
the conviction that they brooded close upon the châlet and its inmates,
pressing like a rising flood against the very walls and windows. And on
these occasions I usually heard Julius moving in his room just across
the narrow passage, or the Man astir in the lower regions of the house.
Outside, the moonlight, cold and gleaming, silvered the quiet woods and
limestone heights. Yet not all the peace and beauty of the scene, nor
the assurance of the steady stars themselves, could quite dispel this
conviction that something was in active progress all about me, and
that the elements themselves urged forward towards the deliverance of
some purpose that had relation to ourselves.

Julius, I knew, was at the root of it.

One night--a week or so after my arrival--I woke from a dreamless sleep
with the impression that a voice had called me. I paused and listened,
but the sound was not repeated. I lay quietly for some minutes, trying
to discover whose voice it was, for I seemed bereft of some tender
companionship quite recently enjoyed. Someone who had been near me had
gone again. I was aware of loneliness.

It was between one and two in the morning and I had slept for several
hours, yet this mood was not the one in which I had gone to bed.
Sleep, even ten minutes’ sleep, brings changes on the heart; I woke to
this sense of something desirable just abandoned. Someone, it seemed,
had called my name. There was a tingling of the nerves, a poignant
anticipation that included high delight. I craved to hear that voice
again. Then, suddenly, I knew.

I rose and crossed the room. The warmth of the house oppressed me,
although the wood-fire in the hearth downstairs was long since out,
and by the open window I drank in the refreshing air. The valley lay
in a lake of silver. There was mist upon the meadows, transparent,
motionless, the tinkling of the rivulet just audible beneath its gauzy
covering. The cliffs rose in the distance, gaunt and watchful; the
forest was a pool of black. I saw the lake, a round blot upon the
fields. Over the shingled roof occasional puffs of wind made a faint
rushing sound under the heavy eaves. The moonlight was too bright for
stars, and the ridges seemed to top the building with the illusion of
nearness that such atmosphere engenders. The hush of a perfect autumn
night lay over all.

I stood by that open window spellbound. For the clear loveliness seemed
to take my hand and lead me forth into a vale of beauty that, behind
the stillness, was brimming with activity. Vast energy paused beneath
the immobility. The moonlight, so soft and innocent, yet gleamed with
a steely brightness as of hidden fire; the puffs of wind were but the
trickling draughts escaping from reservoirs that stored incalculable
reserves. A terrific quality belied the appearance of this false
repose. I was aware of elemental powers, pressed down and eager to
run over. It came to me they also had been--called. Their activity,
moreover, was in some very definite relation to myself. The voice that
summoned me had warned as well.

I stood listening, trembling with an anticipation of things called
unearthly. Nature, dressed in the Night, stepped in and took my hand.
There seemed an enormous gesture; and it was a gesture, I felt, of
adoration. Somewhere behind the calm picture there lay worship.

And I realised, then, that I stood before a page of writing. Out
of this inanimate map that was composed of earth, air, fire and
water, a deep sentence of elemental significance thrust up into my
consciousness. Objects, forced into syllables of this new language,
spoke to me. The cosmic language which is the language of the gods
stood written on the moonlit world. “We lie here ready for your use,” I
read. “Worship is the link. We may be known on human terms. You can use
us. We can work with you.”

The message was so big, it seemed to thunder. Close to this window-sill
on which I leaned the rising energy swayed like a sea. It was obedient
to human will, and human will could harness it for practical purposes.
I was _feeling-with_ it. Immense, far-spreading, pouring down in
viewless flood from the encircling heights, the surge of it came round
the lonely châlet. The valley brimmed. The blindly-heaving lift of
it--thus it presented itself to my imagination--could alter the solid
rocks until they flowed like water, could float the trees as though
they were but straws. For this also came to me with a conviction no
less significant than the rest--that the particular elemental powers at
hand were the familiar ones of heat and air. With those twin powers,
which in their ultimate physical manifestation men know as wind and
fire, my mind had established contact. But it was with the spiritual
prototypes of these two elements my own small personal breath and heat
linked on. There was co-operation. I had been called by name; yet my
summoning was but a detail in some vaster evocation. There was no
barrier between the not-me, as I must call it, and the me. Others had
been called as well.

So strong was the sense that some unusual manifestation of these two
“elements” approached, that I instinctively drew back; and in that same
instant there flashed into me a vision, as it were, of sheeted flame
and of gigantic wind. In my heart the picture rushed, for outwardly
still reigned the calm and silence of the autumn night. Yet any moment,
it seemed, the barrier into visible, sensible appearance would be
leaped. And it was then, while I stood hesitating half-way between the
window and the bed, that the sound rose again with sharp distinctness,
and my name was called a second time.

I heard the voice; I recognised it; but the name was not the one I
answer to to-day. It was another--first uttered at Edinburgh many years
ago--Silvatela. And strong emotion laid a spell upon my senses, masking
the present with a veil of other times and other places. I stood
entranced.... I heard Julius moving softly on the bare boards of the
passage as he came towards my room; the door opened quietly; he held a
lighted candle; I saw him framed against the darkness on the threshold.

For a fraction of a second then, before either of us spoke, it was as
though he stood before me in another setting. For the meagre wood on
either side of him gave place somehow to pylons of grey stone, hewn
massively; the ceiling lifted into vaulted space where stars hung
brightly; cool air breathed against my skin; and through an immense
crepuscular distance I was aware of moving figures, clothed like his
own in flowing white with napkined heads, their visages swarthier than
those I knew to-day. He took a step forward into the room, and the
shifting shadows from the moving candle dispelled the entire scene as
though the light and darkness had constructed it. He spoke at once:

“_She_ calls you,” he said quietly.

He set the candle down upon the table by my bed and gently closed the
door. The draught, as he did so, shook the flame, sending a flutter of
shadows dancing through the air. Yet it was no play of light and shadow
that this time laid the strange construction on his face and gestures.
So stately were his movements, so radiant his pale, passionless
features, so touched with high, unearthly glory his whole appearance,
that I watched him for a minute in silence, conscious of respect that
bordered upon awe. He had been, I knew, in direct communication with
the very sources of his strange faith, and a remnant of the power still
clung to the outer body of his flesh. Into that small, cramped chamber
Julius brought the touch of other life, of other consciousness that yet
was not wholly unfamiliar to me. I remained close beside him. I drank
in power from him. And, again, across my thoughts swept that sheet of
fire and that lift of violent wind.

“_She_ calls you,” he repeated calmly; and by the emphasis on the
pronoun I knew he meant her Self of older times.

“She----” I whispered. “Your wife!”

He bowed his head. “She knows, now for the first time, that _you_ are
here.”

“She remembers?” I asked falteringly, knowing the “you” he meant was
also of an older day.

“She lies in trance,” he answered, “and the buried Self is in command.
She felt your presence, and she called for you--by name.”

“In trance?” I had the feeling of distress that he had forced her. But
he caught my thought and set it instantly at rest.

“From deep sleep she passed of her own accord,” he said, “into the
lucid state. Her older Self, which retains the memories of all the
sections, is now consciously awake.”

“And she knows you too? Knows you as you were--remembers?” I asked
breathlessly, thinking of my first sight of him in the doorway.

“She is aware at this very moment of both you and me,” he answered,
“but as she knew us in that particular past. For the old conditions are
gathering to-night about the house, and the Equinox is nearer.”

“Gathered, then, by you,” I challenged, conscious that an emotion of
protection rose strong in me--protection of the woman.

“Gathered, rather,” he at once rejoined, “by our collective presence,
by our collective feeling, thought and worship, but also by necessity
and justice which bring the opportunity.”

He spoke with solemnity. I stared for several minutes in silence,
facing him and holding his brilliant eyes with an answering passion in
my own. Through the open window came a sighing draught of wind; a sense
of increasing warmth came with it; it seemed to me that the pictured
fire and wind were close upon me, as though the essential life of these
two common elements were rising upon me from within; and I turned,
trembling slightly, aware of the valley behind me in the moonlight. The
châlet, it seemed, already was surrounded. The Presences stood close.

“They also know,” he whispered; “they wait for the moment when we shall
require them--the three of us together. She, too, desires them. The
necessity is upon us all.”

With the words there rose a certainty in me that knew no vain denial.
The sense of reality and truth came over me again. He was in conscious
league with powers of Nature that held their share of universal
intelligence; we three had returned at last together. The approach
of semi-spiritual intelligences that operate through phenomenal
effects--in this case wind and fire--was no imaginative illusion. The
channels here were open.

“No sparrow falls, no feather is misplaced,” he whispered, “but it is
known and the furthest star responds. From our life in another star we
brought our knowledge first. But we used it here--on the earth. It
was you--your body--that we used as channel. It was your return that
prevented our completion. Your dread of to-day is memory----”

There broke in upon his unfinished sentence an interrupting voice that
turned me into stone. Ringing with marvellous authority, half sweet,
half terrible, it came along the wooden walls of that narrow corridor,
entered the very room about our ears, then died away in the open valley
at our backs. The awakened Self of “Mrs. LeVallon” called us:

“Concerighé ... Silvatela...!” sounded through the quiet night.

The voice, with its clear accents, plunged into me with an incredible
appeal of some forgotten woe and joy combined. It was a voice I
recognised, yet one unheard by me for ages. Power and deep delight rose
in me, but with them a flash of stupid, earthly terror. It sounded
again, breaking the silence of the early morning, but this time nearer
than before. It was close outside the door. I felt Julius catch me
quickly by the arm. My terror vanished at his touch.

The tread of bare feet upon the boards was audible; the same second
the door pushed open and _she_ stood upon the threshold, a tall, white
figure with fixed and luminous eyes, and hair that fell in a dark cloud
to the waist. Into the zone of pallid candle-light that the moon made
paler still, she passed against the darkness of the outer passage,
white and splendid, like some fair cloud that swims into the open sky.
And as wind stirs the fringes of a cloud, the breeze from the window
stirred the edges of her drapery where the falling hair seemed to
gather it in below the waist.

It was the wife of Julius, but the wife of Julius changed. Like some
vision of ethereal beauty she stood before us, yet a vision that
was alive. For she moved, she breathed, she spoke. It was both the
woman as I knew her actually To-day, and the woman as I had known
her--Yesterday. The partial aspect that used this modern body was
somehow supplemented--fulfilled by the presentment of her entire Self.
The whole series of past sections came up to reinforce the little
present, and I gazed upon the complete soul of her, rather than upon
the fragment that made bread now in the kitchen and had known domestic
service. The bearing was otherwise, the attitude another, the very
fashion of her features changed. Her walk, her gestures, her mien had
undergone enthralling alteration.

The stream of time went backwards as I gazed, or, rather, it stopped
flowing altogether and held steady in a sea that had no motion. I
sought the familiar points in her, plunging below the surface with each
separate one to find what I--remembered. The eyes, wide open in the
somnambulistic lucidity, were no longer of a nondescript mild grey, but
shone with the splendour I had already half surprised in them before;
the poise of the neck, the set of the shoulders beneath the white linen
of her simple night-dress, had subtly, marvellously changed. She stood
in challenge to a different world. It seemed to me that I saw the Soul
of her, attended by the retinue of memories, experience, knowledge of
all its past, summed up sublimely in a single moment. She was superb.

The outward physical change was, possibly, of the slightest, yet wore
just that touch of significant alteration which conveyed authority.
The tall, lithe figure moved with an imperial air; she raised her arm
towards the open window; she spoke. The voice was very quiet, but it
held new depth, sonority and accent. She had not seen me yet where I
stood in the shadows by the wall, for Julius screened me somewhat, but
I experienced that familiar clutch of dread upon the heart that once
before--ages and ages ago--had overwhelmed me. Memory poured back upon
my own soul too.

“Concerighé,” she uttered, looking full at Julius while her hand
pointed towards the moonlit valley. “They stand ready. The air is
breaking and the fire burns. Then where is _he?_ I called him.”

And Julius, looking from her face to mine, answered softly: “He
is beside you--close. He is ready with us too. But the appointed
time--the Equinox--is not quite yet.”

The pointing hand sank slowly to her side. She turned her face towards
me and she--saw. The gaze fell full upon my own, the stately head
inclined a little. We both advanced; she took my outstretched hand, and
at the touch a shock as of wind and fire seemed to drive against me
with almost physical violence. I heard her voice.

“Silvatela--we meet--again!” Her eyes ran over in a smile of
recognition as the old familiar name came floating to me through the
little room. But for the firm clasp of her hand I should have dropped,
for there was a sudden weakness in my knees, and my senses reeled a
moment. “We meet again,” she repeated, while her splendid gaze held
mine, “yet to you it is a dream. Memory in you lies unawakened still.
And the fault is ours.”

She turned to Julius; she took his hand too; we stood linked together
thus; and she smiled into her husband’s eyes. “His memory,” she said,
“is dim. He has forgotten that we wronged him. Yet forgiveness is in
his soul that only half remembers.” And the man who was her husband of
To-day said low in answer: “He forgives and he will help us now. His
love forgives. The delay we caused his soul he may forget, but to the
Law there is no forgetting possible. We must--we shall--repay.”

The clasp of our hands strengthened; we stood there linked together by
the chain of love both past and present that knows neither injustice
nor forgetting.

Then, with the words, as also with the clasping hands that joined us
into one, some pent up barrier broke down within my soul, and a flood
of light burst over me within that made all things for a moment clear.
There came a singular commotion of the moonlit air outside the window,
as if the tide that brimmed the valley overflowed and poured about us
in the room. I stood transfixed and speechless before the certainty
that Nature, in the guise of two great elements, flooded in and shared
our passionate moment of recognition. A blinding confusion of times and
places struggled for possession of me. For a tempest of memories surged
past, driven tumultuously by sheeted flame and rushing wind. The inner
hurricane lasted but a second. It rose, it fell, it passed away. I was
aware that I saw down into deep, prodigious depths as into a pool of
water, crystal clear; veil lifted after veil; memory revived.

I shuddered; for it seemed my present self slipped out of sight while
this more ancient consciousness usurped its place. My little modern
confidence collapsed; the mind that doubts and criticises, but never
knows, fell back into its smaller rôle. The sum-total that was Me
remembered and took command. And realising myself part of a living
universe, I answered her:

“With love and sympathy,” I uttered in no uncertain tones, “and with
complete forgiveness too.”

In that little bedroom of a mountain châlet, lit by the moon and
candle-light, we stood together, our bodies joined by the clasp of
hands, and our ancient souls united in a single purpose.

I looked into the eyes of this great woman, imperially altered in her
outward aspect, magnificent in the towering soul of her; I looked at
Julius, stately as some hierophantic figure who mastered Nature by
comprehending her; I felt their hands, his own firm and steady, hers
clasping softly, tenderly, yet with an equal strength; and I realised
that I stood thus between them, not merely in this isolated mountain
valley, but in the full tide of life whose source rose in the fountains
of an immemorial past, Nature and human-nature linked together in a
relationship that was a practical reality. Our three comrade-souls
were re-united in an act of restitution; sharing, or about to share, a
ceremony that had cosmic meaning.

And the beauty of the woman stole upon my heart, bringing the
loveliness of the universe, while Julius brought its strength.

“This time,” I said aloud, “you shall not fail. I am with you both in
sympathy, forgiveness,--love.”

Their hands increased the pressure on my own.

Her eyes held mine as she replied: “This duty that we owe to Nature and
to you--so long--so long ago.”

“To me----?” I faltered.

With shining eyes, and a smile divinely tender, she answered: “Love
shall repay. We have delayed you by our deep mistake.”

“We shall undo the wrong we worked upon you,” I heard Julius say. “We
stole the channel of your body. And we failed.”

“My love and sympathy are yours,” I repeated, as we drew closer still
together. “I bear you no ill-will....”

And then she continued gravely, but ever with that solemn beauty
lighting up her face:

“Oh, Silvatela, it seems so small a thing in the long, long journey of
our souls. We were too ambitious only. The elemental Powers we tried to
summon through your vacated body are still unhoused. The fault was not
yours; it was our ambition and our faithlessness. I loved you to your
undoing--you sacrificed yourself so willingly, loving me, alas, too
well. The failure came. Instead of becoming as the gods, we bear this
burden of a mighty debt. We owe it both to you and to the universe.
Fear took us at the final moment--and you returned too soon--robbed
of the high teaching that was yours by right, your progress delayed
thereby, your memory clouded _now_....”

“My development took another turning,” I said, hardly knowing whence
the knowledge came to me, “no more than that. It was for love of
you that I returned too soon--the fault was mine. It was for the
best--there has been no real delay.” But there mingled in me a memory
both clouded and unclouded. There was a confusion beyond me to unravel.
I only knew our love was marvellous, although the fuller motives
remained entangled. “It is all forgiven,” I murmured.

“Your forgiveness,” she answered softly, “is of perfect love. We loved
each other then--nor have we quite forgotten now. This time, at
least, we shall ensure success. The Powers stand ready, waiting; we
are united; we shall act as one. At the Equinox we shall restore the
balance; and memory and knowledge shall be yours a hundredfold at last.”

The voice of Julius interrupted, though so low it was scarcely audible:

“I offer myself. It is just and right, not otherwise. The risk must
be all mine. Once accomplished”--he turned to me with power in his
face--“we shall provide you with the privilege you lost through us. Our
error will then be fully expiated and the equilibrium restored. It is
an expiation and a sacrifice. Nature in this valley works with us now,
and behind it is the universe--all, all aware....”

It seemed to me she leaped at him across the space between us. Our
hands released. Perhaps, with the breaking of our physical contact,
some measure of receptiveness went out of me, or it may have been the
suddenness of the unexpected action that confused me. I no longer fully
understood. Some bright clear flame of comprehension wavered, dimmed,
went out in me. Even the words that passed between them then I did
not properly catch. I saw that she clasped him round the neck while
she uttered vehement words that he resisted, turning aside as with
passionate refusal. It was--this, at least, I grasped before the return
of reason in me broke our amazing union and left confusion in the
place of harmony--that each one sought to take the risk upon himself,
herself. The channel of evocation--a human system--I dimly saw, was the
offering each one burned to make. The risk, in some uncomprehended way,
was grave. And I stepped forward, though but half understanding what
it was I did. I offered, to the best of my memory and belief--offered
myself as a channel, even as I had offered or permitted long ago in
love for her.

For I had discerned the truth, and knew deep suffering, nor cared what
happened to me. It was the older Self in her that gave me love, while
her self of To-day--the upper self--loved Julius. Mine was the old
subconscious love unrecognised by her normal self; the love of the
daily, normal self was his.

       *       *       *       *       *

The look upon their faces stopped me. They moved up closer, taking
my hands again. The moonlight fell in a silver pool upon the wooden
flooring just between us; it clothed her white-clad figure with its
radiance; it shone reflected in the eyes of Julius. I heard the
tinkling of the little stream outside, beginning its long journey to
an earthly sea. The nearer pine trees rustled. And _her_ voice came
with this moonlight, wind and water, as though the quiet night became
articulate.

“So great is your forgiveness, so deep our ancient love,” she murmured.
And while she said it, both he and she together made the mightiest
gesture I have ever seen upon small human outlines--a gesture of
resignation and refusal that yet conveyed power as though a forest
swayed or some great sea rolled back its flood. There was this sublime
suggestion in the wordless utterance by which they made me know my
offering was impossible. For Nature behind both of them said also No....

Then, with a quiet motion that seemed gliding rather than the taking
of actual steps, her figure withdrew slowly towards the door. Her
face turned from me as when the moon slips down behind a cloud. Erect
and stately, as though a marble statue passed from my sight by some
interior motion of its own, her figure entered the zone of shadow just
beyond the door. The sound of her feet upon the boards was scarcely
audible. The narrow passage took her. She was gone.



CHAPTER XXIV


I stood alone with Julius, Nature alive and stirring strangely, as with
aggressive power, just beyond the narrow window-sill on which he leaned.

“You understand,” he murmured, “and you remember too--at last.”

I made no reply. There are moments when extraordinary emotions,
beyond expression either of tears or laughter, move the heart as
with the glory of another world. And one of these was certainly
upon me now. I knew things that I did not understand. A pageant of
incomparable knowledge went past me, yet, as it were, just out of
reach. The memories that offered themselves were too enormous--and too
different--to be grasped intelligently by the mind.

And yet one thing I realised clearly: that the elemental powers of
Nature already existing in every man and woman in small degree, could
know an increase, an intensification, which, directed rightly, might
exalt humanity. The consciousness of those olden days knew direct
access to Nature. And the method, for which no terms exist To-day
in any spoken language, was that _feeling-with_ which is adoration,
and that desiring sympathy which is worship. The script of Nature
wrote it clear. To read it was to act it out. The audacity of their
fire-stealing ambition in the past I understood, and so forgave. My
memory, further than this, refused to clear....

I remember that we talked together for a space; and it was longer than
I realised at the time, for before we separated the moon was down
behind the ridges and the valley lay in a single blue-black shadow.
There was confusion on my heart and mind. The self in me that asked
and answered seemed half of To-day and half of Yesterday.

“She remembered,” Julius said below his breath yet with deep delight;
“she recognised us both. In the morning she will have again forgotten,
for she knows not how to bring the experiences of deep sleep over into
her upper consciousness.”

“She said ‘they waited.’ There are--others--in this valley?” It was
more a statement to myself than a question, but he answered it:

“Everywhere and always there are others. But just now in this valley
they are near to us and active. I have sent out the call.”

“You have sent out the call,” I repeated without surprise and yet
with darkened meaning. “Yes, I knew--I was aware of it.” My older
consciousness was sinking down again.

“By worship,” he interrupted, “the worship of many weeks. We have
worshipped and felt-with, intensifying the link already established
by those who lived before us here. Your attitude is also worship.
Together we shall command an effective summons that cannot fail.
Already they are aware of us, and at the Equinox their powers will come
close--closer than love or hunger.”

“In ourselves,” I muttered. “Aware of their activities in ourselves!”

And my mouth went suddenly dry as I heard his quiet answer:

“We shall feel their immense activities in ourselves as they return to
their appointed places whence we first evoked them. Through one of our
three bodies they must pass--the bodiless ones.” A silence fell between
us. The blood beat audibly in my ears like drums.

“They need a body--again?” I whispered.

He bowed his head. “The channel, as before,” he whispered with deep
intensity, “of a human organism--a brain, a mind, a body.” And, seeing
perhaps that I stared with a bewilderment half fear and half refusal,
he added quietly, “In the raw, they are too vast for human use, their
naked, glassy essence impossible to hold. They must mingle first
with our own smaller powers that are akin to them, and thus take on
that restraint which enables the human will to harness their colossal
strength. Alone I could not accomplish this, but with the three of us,
merged by our love into a single unit----”

“But the risk--you both spoke of----?” I asked it impatiently, yet it
was only a thick whisper that I heard.

There was a little pause before he answered me.

“There are two risks,” he said with utmost gravity in his voice and
face. “The descent of such powers _may_ cause a shattering of the
one on whom they first arrive--he is the sacrifice. My death--any
consequent delay--might thus be the expiation I offer in the act of
their release. That is the first, the lesser risk.”

He paused, then added: “But I shall not fail.”

“And--should you----!” My voice had dwindled horribly.

“The Powers, once summoned, would--automatically--seek another channel:
the channel for their return--in case I failed. That is the second and
the greater risk.”

“Your wife?” The words came out with such difficulty that they were
scarcely audible. But Julius heard them.

He shook his head. “For herself there is no danger,” he answered. “My
love of to-day, and yours of yesterday protect her. Nor has it anything
to do with you,” he added, seeing the touch of fear that flashed
from my eyes beyond my power to conceal it. “The Powers, deprived
of my control in the case of my collapse beneath the strain, would
follow the law of their own beings automatically. They would seek the
easiest channel they could find. They would follow the line of least
resistance.”

And, realising that it was the other human occupant of the house he
meant, I experienced a curious sensation of pity and relief; and with
a hint of grandeur in my thought, I knew with what fine pathetic
willingness, with what whole-hearted simplicity of devotion, this
faithful “younger soul” would offer himself to help in so big a
purpose--if he understood.

It was with an appalling shock that I realised my mistake. Julius,
watching me closely, divined my instant thought. He made a gesture of
dissent. To my complete amazement, I saw him shake his head.

“An empty and deserted organism, as yours was at the time we used
it for our evocation,” he said slowly; “an organism unable to offer
resistance owing to its being unoccupied--that is the channel, if it
were available, which they would take. When the soul is out--or _not
yet--in_.”

We gazed fixedly at one another for a time I could not measure. I knew
his awful meaning. For to me, in that first moment of comprehension, it
seemed too terrible, too incredible for belief. I staggered over to the
open window. Julius came after me and laid his hand upon my shoulder.

“The body is but the instrument,” I heard him murmur; “the vehicle of
the soul that uses it. Only at the moment of birth does a soul move in
to take possession. The parents provide it, helpless and ignorant as to
who eventually shall take command. And if this thing happened--though
the risk is small----”

I turned and faced him as he stopped.

“A monster!”

“An elemental being, a child of the elements----”

“Non-human?” I gasped.

“Nature and human-nature linked,” he replied with curious reverence. “A
cosmic being born in a human body. Only---- I shall not fail.”

And before I could find another word to utter, or even acknowledge
the quick pressure of his hand upon my own, I heard his step upon the
passage boards, and found myself alone again. I stood by the open
window, gazing into the deep, star-lit sky above this mountain valley
on our little, friendly Earth, prey to emotions that derived from
another, but forgotten planet--emotions, therefore, that no “earthly”
words can attempt to fathom or describe....



Book IV

THE ATTEMPTED RESTITUTION



CHAPTER XXV

  “_Let us consider_ wisdom _first_.

  “_Can we be wiser by reason of something which we have forgotten?
  Unquestionably we can.... A man who dies after acquiring
  knowledge--and all men acquire some--might enter his new life,
  deprived indeed of his knowledge, but not deprived of the
  increased strength and delicacy of mind which he had gained in
  acquiring the knowledge. And if so, he will be wiser in the
  second life because of what has happened in the first._

  “_Of course he loses something in losing the actual knowledge....
  But ... is not even this loss really a gain? For the mere
  accumulation of knowledge, if memory never ceased, would soon
  become overwhelming, and worse than useless. What better fate
  would we wish for than to leave such accumulations behind us,
  preserving their greatest value in the_ mental faculties _which
  have been strengthened by their acquisition_.”--J. M’Taggart.


As I sit here in the little library of my Streatham house, trying to
record faithfully events of so many years ago, I find myself at a point
now where the difficulty well-nigh overwhelms me. For what happened in
that valley rises before me now as though it had been some strange and
prolonged enchantment; it comes back to me almost in the terms of dream
or vision.

If it be possible for a man to enjoy two states of consciousness
simultaneously, then that possibility was mine. I know not. I can
merely state that at the time my normal consciousness seemed replaced
by another mode, another order, that usurped it, and that this usurping
consciousness was incalculably older than anything known to men to-day;
further, also, that the three of us had revived it from some immemorial
pre-existence. It was memory.

Thus it seemed to me at the time; thus, therefore, I must record it.
And so completely was the change effected in me that belief came with
it. In no one of us, indeed, lay the slightest hint of doubt. What
happened must otherwise have been the tawdriest superstition, whereas
actually there was solemnity in it, even grandeur. The performance
our sacramental attitude of mind made holy, was true with the reality
of an older time when Nature-Worship was effective in some spiritual
sense far beyond what we term animism in our retrospective summary of
the past. We did, each one of us, and in more or less degree, share
the life of Nature by the inner process of feeling-with that life.
Her natural forces augmented us indubitably--there was intelligent
co-operation.

To-day, of course, the forces in humanity drive in quite another
direction; Nature is inanimate and Pan is dead; another attitude
obtains--thinking, not feeling, is our ideal; men’s souls are scattered
beyond the hope of unity and the sword of formal creeds sharply
separates them everywhere. We regard ourselves proudly as separate
from Nature. Yet, even now, as I struggle to complete this record in
the suburban refuge my old age has provided for me, I seem aware of
changes stealing over the face of the world once more. Like another
vast dream beginning, I feel, perhaps, that man’s consciousness is
slowly spreading outwards once again; it is re-entering Nature, too,
in various movements; the wireless note is marvellously sounding; on
all sides singular phenomena that _seem_ new suggest that there is no
limit--to extension of consciousness--to interior human activity. Some
voice from the long ago is divinely trumpeting across our little globe.

This, possibly, is an old man’s dream. Yet it helps me vaguely to
understand how, in that enchanted valley, the three of us may actually
have realised another, older point of view which amounted even to a
different type of consciousness. The slight analogy presents itself;
I venture to record it. Only on some such supposition could I, a
normal, commonplace product of the day, have consented to remain
in the valley without repugnance and distress, much less to have
participated willingly as I did in all that happened. For I was almost
whole-heartedly in and of it. My moments of criticism emerged, but
passed. I saw existence from some cosmic point of view that presented
a human life as an insignificant moment in an eternal journey that was
related both to the armies of the stars and to the blades of grass
along the small, cool rivulet. At the same time this vast perspective
lifted each tiny detail into a whole that inspired these details with
sacramental value whose meaning affected everything. To live _with_
the universe made life the performance of a majestic ceremony; to live
against it was to creep aside into a _cul de sac_. And so this small
item of balance we three, as a group, desired to restore was both an
insignificant and a mighty act of worship.

Yet, whereas to myself the happenings were so intense as to seem
terrific even, to one who had not _felt_ them--as I did--they must seem
hardly events or happenings at all. I say “felt,” because my perception
of what occurred was “feeling” more than anything else. I enjoyed this
other mode of existence known to the human spirit in an earlier day,
and brought, apparently, to earth from our experience upon another
planet.

The happenings, to me, seemed momentous--yet they consisted largely of
interior changes. They were inner facts. And such inner facts “To-day”
regards as less real than outer events, dismissing them as subjective.
The collapse of a roof is real, the perception of an eternal verity is
a mood! And if my attempt to describe halts between what is alternately
bald and overstrained, it is because modern words can only stammer in
dealing with experiences that have so entirely left the racial memory.

For myself the test of their actuality lies in the death that
resulted--an indubitable fact at any rate!--and in the birth that
followed it a little later--another unquestionable “fact.”

I may advantageously summarise the essential gist of the entire matter.
I would do so for this reason: that physical memory grows dim on
looking back so many years and that the events in the châlet grow more
and more elusive, so that I find a sharp general outline helpful to
guide me in this subsequent record. Further, the portion I am now about
to describe depends wholly upon a yet older memory, the memory--as it
seemed to me--of thousands of years ago. This more ancient memory came
partially to me only. I saw much I could not understand or realise,
and so can merely report baldly. There was fluctuation. Perhaps, after
all, my earlier consciousness was never restored with sufficient
completeness to reconstitute the entire comprehension that had belonged
to it when it was my _natural_ means of perceiving, knowing, being.
Words, therefore, obviously fail.

Let me say then, as Julius himself might have said, that in some far
off earlier existence the three of us had offended a cosmic law, and
that for the inevitable readjustment of this error, its expiation, the
three of us must first of all find ourselves reincarnated once again
together. This, after numerous intervening centuries, had come to pass.

The nature of the offence seemed crudely this: that, in the days
when elemental Nature-Powers were accessible to men, we used two of
these--those operating behind wind and fire--for selfish instead of
for racial purposes. Apparently they had been evoked by means of a
human body which furnished their channel of approach. It was available
because untenanted, as already described. I state merely the belief and
practice of an earlier day. Special guardians protected the vacated
bodies from undesirable invasion, and while Julius and the woman
performed this duty, they had been tempted to unlawful use for purposes
of their own. The particular body was my own: I was the channel of
evocation. That I had, however, been persuaded to permit such usage was
as certain as that it was the love between the woman and myself that
was the reason of such permission. How and why I cannot state, because,
simply, I could not--remember. But that the failure of their experiment
resulted in my sudden recall into the body, and the loss, therefore,
of teaching and knowledge I should have otherwise enjoyed--this had
delayed my soul’s advance and explained also why, To-day, memory
failed in me and my soul had lagged behind in its advance. Somewhat in
this way LeVallon stated it.

Where this ancient experiment took place, in what country and age, I
cannot pretend to affirm. The knowledge made use of, however, seems to
have been, in its turn, a yet earlier memory still, and of an existence
upon a planet nearer to the sun, since Fire and Wind were there
recognised as a means by which deific Powers became accessible--through
worship. That the human spirit was then clothed in bodies of lighter
mould, and that Wind and Fire were viewed as manifestations of deity,
turns my imagination, if not my definite memory, to a planet like
Mercury, where gigantic Heat and therefore mighty Winds would be
imposing vehicles of conveying energy from their source--the Sun.

For the expiation of the error, a re-enactment of the actual scene of
its committal was necessary. It must be acted out to be effective--a
ceremony. The channel, again, of a human system was essential as
before. The struggles that eventually ensued, complicated by the stress
of personal emotion--the individual attempts each participator made
to become the channel and so the possible sacrifice--this caused,
apparently, the awful failure. Emotion destroyed the unity of the
group. For Julius was unable to direct the Powers evoked. They were
compelled to seek a channel elsewhere, and they automatically availed
themselves of that which offered the least resistance. The birth
that subsequently followed, accordingly, was a human body informed
literally by these two elemental Powers; and it is in the hope that of
those who chance to read these notes, someone may perhaps be aware of
the existence in the world of this unique being--it is in this hope
primarily, I say, that the record I have attempted is made, that it may
survive my death which cannot now be very long delayed.

One word more, however, I am compelled to add:

I am aware that my so easy surrender to the spell of LeVallon’s
personality and ideas must seem difficult to justify. Even those of my
intimates, who may read this record after I am gone, may feel that my
capitulation was due to what men now term hypnotic influence; whereas,
that some part of me accepted with joy and welcome is the actual
truth--it was some lesser part that objected and disapproved.

To myself, as to those few who may find these notes, I owe this
somewhat tardy confession of personal bias. That I have concealed it
in this Record hitherto seems because my “educated” self must ever
struggle to deny it.

For there have always been two men in me--more than in the usual sense
of good and evil. One, up to date and commonplace, enjoys the game of
nineteenth century life, interests itself in motors, telephones, and
mechanical progress generally, finds Socialism intriguing and even
politics absorbing; while the other, holding all that activity of which
such things are symbols, in curious contempt, belongs to the gods alone
know what. It remains essentially inscrutable, incalculable, its face
masked by an indecipherable smile. It worships the sun, believes in
Magic, accepts the influences of the stars, and acknowledges with sweet
reverence extended hierarchies of Beings, both lower and higher than
the stage at which humanity now finds itself.

In youth, of course, this other self was stronger than in later years;
yet, though submerged, it has never been destroyed. It seemed an
older aspect of my divided being that declined to die. For periods of
varying duration, the modern part would deny it as the superstition of
primitive animistic ignorance; but, biding its time, it would rise to
the surface and take the reins again. The modern supremacy passed, the
older attitude held authoritative sway. The Universe then belonged to
it, alive in every detail; there was communion with trees and winds
and streams; the thrill of night became articulate; it was concerned
with distant stars; the sun changed the earth once more into a vast
temple-floor. I was not apart from any item, large or small, on earth
or in the heavens, while myth and legend, poetry and folk-lore were
but the broken remnants of a once extended faith, a mighty worship that
was both of God and knew the gods.

At such times the drift of modern life seemed in another--a
minor--direction altogether. The two selves in me could not mingle,
could not even compromise. The recent one seemed trivial, but the older
one pure gold. It dwelt, this latter, in loneliness, sweetly-prized,
perhaps, but isolated from all minds of to-day worth knowing,
because its mode of being was not theirs. A loneliness, however, not
intolerable, since it was aware of lifting joy, of power no mere
contrivance could conceive, and of a majestic beauty nothing of
to-day could even simulate.... Societies, moreover, called secret,
fraternities labelled magical and hierophantic, were all too trumpery
to feed its ancient longings, too charlatan to offer it companionship,
too compromising to obtain results. Among modern conditions I found no
mode of life that answered to its imperious call in me. It seemed an
echo and a memory.

As I grew older, both science and religion told me it must be denied.
Respectful of the former, I sought some reasonable basis for these
strange burning beliefs that flamed up with this older self--in
vain. Unjustifiable, according to all knowledge at my disposal, they
remained. History went back step by step to that darkness whence
ignorance emerged; evolution traced a gradual rise from animal
conditions; to no dim, former state of exalted civilisation, either
remembered or imagined, could this deeper part of me track its home
and origin. Yet that home, that origin, I felt, existed, and were
accessible. I could no more resign their actuality than I could cease
to love, to hate, to live. The mere thought of them woke emotions
independent of my will, contemptuous of my intellect--emotions that
were of indubitable reality. They remained convictions.

Had I, then, known some state antedating history altogether, some
unfabled land of which storied Atlantis, itself a fragment, lingered
as a remnant of some immenser life? Had I experienced a mode of being
less cabined than the one I now experienced in a body of blood and
flesh--another order of consciousness, yet identity retained--upon
another star? ... The centuries geology counts backwards were but
moments, the life of a planet only a little instant in the universal
calendar. Was there, a million years ago, a civilisation of another
kind, too ethereal to leave its signatures in sand and rocks, yet in
its _natural_ simplicity nearer, perhaps, to deity? Was here the origin
of my unrewarded yearnings? Could reincarnation, casting back across
the æons to lovelier or braver planets, give the clue? And did this
older self trail literally clouds of glory from a golden age of light
and heat and splendour that lay nearer to the shining centre of our
corner of the heavens...?

At intervals I flung my queries like leaves upon the wind; and the
leaves came back to me upon the wind. I found no answer. Speculation
became gradually less insistent, though the yearnings never died.
Deeper than doubt or question, they seemed ingrained--that my
pre-existence has been endless, that I continue always.... And it
was this strange, buried self in me, already beginning to fade a
little when I went to Motfield Close to train my modern mind in
modern knowledge--it was this curious older self that Julius LeVallon
vitalised anew. Back came the flood of mighty questions:--Whence have
we come? From what dim corner of the unmeasured cosmos are we derived,
descended, making our little way on to the earth? Where have these
hints of an immenser life their sweet, terrific origin, and--why this
unbridged hiatus in our memory...?

       *       *       *       *       *

The subsequent events lie somewhat confused in me until the night that
heralded the Equinox. Whether two days or three intervened between the
night-scene of Mrs. LeVallon’s Older Self already described, and the
actual climax, I cannot remember clearly. The sequence of hours went
so queerly sliding; incidents of external kind were so few that the
interval remained unmarked; little happened in the sense of outward
happenings on which the mind can fasten by way of measurement. We
lived, it seems, so close to Nature that those time-divisions we call
hours and days flowed _with_ us in a smooth undifferentiated stream. I
think we were too much in Nature to observe the size or length of any
particular parcels. We just flowed forward with the tide itself. Yet to
explain this, now that for years I am grown normal and ordinary again,
is hardly possible. I only remember that larger scale; I can no longer
realise it.

I recall, however, the night of that conversation when Julius left
me to my hurricane of thoughts and feelings, and think I am right in
saying it immediately preceded the September day that ushered in the
particular “attitude” of our earth towards the rest of the Universe we
call the Autumnal Equinox.

Sleep and resistance were equally impossible; I swam with an enormous
current upon a rising tide. And this tide bore stars and worlds within
its irresistible momentum. It bore also little flowers; moisture felt,
before it is seen, as dew or rain; heat that is latent before the
actual flame is visible; and air that lies everywhere until the rush of
wind insists on recognition. I was aware of a prophecy that included
almost menace. An uneasy sense that preparations of immense, portentous
character were incessantly in progress, not in the house and in
ourselves alone, but in the entire sweep of forest, vale and mountain,
pressed upon me from all sides. Nature conspired, I felt, through her
most usual channels to drive into a corner where she would drip over,
so to speak, into amazing manifestation. And that corner, waiting and
inviting, was ourselves....

Towards morning I fell asleep, and when I woke a cloudless day lay
clear and fresh upon the world, the meadows shone with dew, cobwebs
shimmered past my open window, and a keen breeze from the heights
stung my nostrils with the scent from miles of forest. A sparkling
vitality poured almost visibly with the air and sunshine into my
human blood. I bathed and dressed. Frost had laid silvery fingers
upon the valley during the night, and the shadows beneath the woods
still shone in white irregular patches of a pristine loveliness. The
feeling that Nature brimmed over was even stronger than before, and
I went downstairs half conscious that the “corner” we prepared would
show itself somehow fuller, _different_. The little arena waiting for
it--that arena occupied by our human selves--would proclaim the risen
tide. I almost expected to find Julius and his wife expressing in
their physical persons the advent of this power, their very bodies,
gestures, voices increased and grown upon a larger scale. And when I
met them at the breakfast table, two normal, ordinary persons, merely
full of the exhilarating autumn morning, I knew a moment of surprise
that at the same time included relief, though possibly, too, a touch of
disappointment. They were both so simple and so natural.

It brought me up short, as though before a promised hope not justified,
a balked anticipation. But the next moment my mistake was clear. The
sense of something dwindled gave place to its very opposite--a fuller
realisation. The three of us were so intimate--I might say so divinely
intimate--that my failure to see them “grander” arose from my attempt
to see them “separate”--from myself. For actually we floated, all
three, upon the risen tide together. It was the “mind” in me that
sounded the old false note. Having increased like themselves, I was of
equal stature with them; to see them “different” was impossible.

And this amazing quality was characteristic of all that followed.
Ever since my arrival I had been slowly rising with the tide that
brimmed the valley now to the very lips of the surrounding mountains.
It brimmed our hearts as well. My companions were quiet because they,
like myself, were part of it. There was no sense of disproportion or
exaggeration, much less of dislocation; we shared Nature’s powers
without effort, without struggle, as naturally as sunshine, wind or
rain. We stood within; the day contained all three. The Ceremony,
which was living-with Nature, tuned to the universal life, had been
in progress from the instant Julius had welcomed me a week ago. Our
attitude and the earth’s were one. The Equinox was in us too.

In that moment when we met at breakfast, the flash of clearer sight
left all this beyond dispute. Memory shot back in a lightning glance
over recent sensations and events. I realised my gradual growth into
the larger scale, I grasped the significance of the various moods and
tenses my changing consciousness had known as in a kind of initiation.
Premonitions of another mode of mind had stolen upon me out of ordinary
things. The habitual had revealed its marvellous hidden beauty.
There had been transmutation. The ensouling life behind broke loose
everywhere, even through the elements themselves: but particularly
through the two of them that are so closely levelled to the little
division we call human life: air-things and fire-things had become
alert and eager. There was commotion in the palaces of Wind and Fire.

And so the bigger truth explained itself to me. What happened later
seems only incredible on looking back at it from my present dwindled
consciousness. At the time it was natural and quiet. A tourist, passing
through our lonely valley, need not have been aware either of tumult
or of wonder. He would have been too remote from us, too centred in
the consciousness of To-day that accepts only what is expected, or
explicable--too different, in a word, to have noticed anything beyond
the presence of three strangely quiet people in a lonely châlet of the
mountains.

But for us, the gamut of experience had stretched; there was in our
altered state both a microscope and telescope; but a casual intruder,
unprovided with either, must have gone his way, I think, unaware,
unstimulated, and uninformed.



CHAPTER XXVI

  “_With virtue the point is perhaps clearer.... I have forgotten
  the greater number of the good and evil acts which I have done
  in my present life. And yet each must have left a trace on my
  character. And so a man may carry over into his next life the
  dispositions and tendencies which he has gained by the moral
  contests of this life, and the value of those experiences will
  not have been destroyed by the death which has destroyed the
  memory of them._”--Ibid.


The day that followed lives with me still as an experience of paradise
beyond intelligible belief. Yet I unquestionably experienced it. The
touch of dread was but the warning of the little mind, which shrank
from a joy too vast for it to comprehend. Of Mrs. LeVallon this
was similarly true. Julius alone, sure and steadfast in the state
from which since early boyhood he had never lapsed, combined Reason
and Intuition in that perfect achievement towards which humanity
perhaps slowly seems moving now. He remained an image of strength
and power; he lived in full consciousness what she and I lived half
unconsciously. Yet to record the acts and words which proved it I find
now stammeringly difficult; they were so ordinary. The point of view
which revealed their “otherness” I have so wholly lost.

“The Equinox comes to-night--the pause in Nature,” he said at
breakfast, joy in his voice and eyes. “We shall have greater life. The
moment is ours, because we know how to use it.” Yet what pregnant truth
came with the quiet words, what realisation of simple, overflowing
beauty, what incalculable power, no language known to me can possibly
express.

And his wife, equally, was aglow with happiness and splendour as of a
forgotten age. In myself, too, remained no vestige of denial or alarm.
The day seemed a long, sweet period without divisions, a big, simple
sacrament of unconditioned bliss. Memory came back upon me in a flood,
yet a memory of states, and never once of scenes or places. I re-lived
a time, a state, when men knew greater purposes than they realised,
dimly and instinctively perhaps, not blindly altogether, yet taught of
Nature and the Nature Powers close upon their daily lives. They knew
these Powers direct, experiencing them, existing side by side with them
in definite mutual relationship. They neither reasoned nor, possibly,
even thought. They knew.

For my nature was no longer in opposition to the rest of things, nor
set over against the universe, as apart from it. I felt my acts related
in a vital manner to the planet, as to the entire cosmos, and the
elemental side of Nature moved alongside of my most trivial motions.
The drift of happenings, in things “external” to me, were related to
that drift of inner sensation that I called myself. Thoughts, desires,
emotions found themselves completed in trees and grass, in rocks and
flowers, in the flowing rivulet, in the whir of wind, the drip of
water, the fire of the sunshine. They told me things about myself;
they revealed a pregnant story of information by their attitudes and
aspects; they were related to my very fate and character. The sublime
simplicity of it lies beyond description. For this sacramental tone
changed ordinary daily life into something splendid as eternity. I
shared the elemental power of “inanimate” things. They affected me
and I affected them. The Universe itself, but especially the known
and friendly Earth, was hand in hand and arm in arm with me. It was
feeling-with; it was the cosmic point of view.

And thus, I suppose, it was that I realised humanity as but a little
portion of the whole--important, of course, as the animalculæ in a drop
of water are important, yet living towards extinction only if they
live apart from the surrounding ocean which divinely mothers them.
To this divinity seemed due the presumption with which man To-day
imagines himself the centre of this colossal ocean, and lays down the
law so insolently for the entire Universe. The birth of a soul--its
few years of gaining experience in a material form called body--was
vital certainly for itself, yet whether that body should be informed
by a “human” soul, or by another type of life of elemental kind--this,
seen in proportion to the gigantic scale of universal life, left me
unshocked and undismayed. To provide a body for any life was a joy, a
proud delight, a duty to the whole, but whether Mrs. LeVallon bore a
girl or a boy, or furnished a vehicle for some swift marvellous progeny
of another kind, seemed in no sense to offer an afflicting alternative.
My _present_ point of view may be imagined--the ghastliness and terror,
even the horror of it--but at the time I faced it otherwise, regarding
the possibility with a kind of reverent wonder only. It was not
terrible, but grand.

The certainty of all this I realised at the time. I see it now less
vividly. The intensity has left me. So overwhelming was its perfection,
however, that, as I have said, the contingency to which Mrs. LeVallon,
as mother, was exposed, held no dire or unmoral suggestion for me, as
it now must hold. Nor did the correlative conditions appear otherwise
than true and possible. And that these two, Julius and his wife,
staked an entire lifetime to correct an error of the past, meant no
more--viewed in this vaster proportion--than if I ran upstairs to
close a door I had foolishly left open. An open door is a little
thing, yet may cause currents of air that can disarrange the harmony
of the objects in its path, upsetting the purpose and balance of the
entire household. It must be closed before the occupants of the house
can do their work effectively. They owe it to the house as well as to
themselves. There was this door left open. It must be closed.

But it could not be closed by one. We three, a group, alone could
compass this small act. We who had opened it alone could close it. The
potential strength of three in one was the oldest formula of effective
power known to life. Such a group was capable of a claim on Nature
impossible to an individual--the method of evocation we had used
together in the long ago.



CHAPTER XXVII

  “_There remains love. The gain which the memory of the past
  gives us here is that the memory of past love for any person can
  strengthen our present love of him. And this is what must be
  preserved if the value of past love is not to be lost. But love
  has no end but itself. If it has gone, it helps us little that we
  keep anything it has brought us...._

  “_What more do we want? The past is not preserved separately in
  memory, but it exists, concentrated and united in the present....
  If we still think that the past is lost, let us ask ourselves
  whether we regard as lost all those incidents in a friendship
  which, even before death, are forgotten._”--Ibid.


Here, then, as well as the mind in me can set it down, was the
background against which the various incidents of this final day
occurred. This was my “attitude” towards them; these thoughts and
feelings, though unexpressed in words, were the “mood” which accepted
and understood each slightest incident of those extraordinary hours.

The length of the day amazed me; it seemed endless. Time went another
gait. The sequence of little happenings that marked its passage remains
blurred in the memory, and I look back to these with the curious
feeling that they happened all at once. Yet the strongest impression,
perhaps, is that time, the sense of duration, was arrested or at least
moved otherwise. There was a pause in Nature, the pause before the
approaching Equinox. A river halted a moment at the bend. And hence
came, of course, the sensation of pressure accumulating everywhere in
the valley. Acceleration would come afterwards, but first this wondrous
pause.

And this pressure that brimmed the valley forced common details into
an uncommon view. The rising tide drove objects on the banks above
high-water mark. There was exhilaration without alarm, as when an
exceptional tide throws a full ocean into unaccustomed inlets. The
thrill was marvellous. The forest made response, offering its secret
things without a touch of fear ... as when the deer came out and grazed
upon the meadow before the châlet windows, not singly but in groups,
and invariably, I noticed, groups of three and three. We passed close
in and out among them; I stroked the thick rough hair upon their
flanks; I remember Mrs. LeVallon’s arm about their necks, and once in
particular, when she was lying down, that a fawn, no hint of fear in
its beautiful, gracious eyes, pushed her hair aside with its shining
muzzle to nibble the grass against her neck. The mood of an ancient and
divining prophecy lay in the sight, linking Nature with human-nature
in natural harmony when the lion and the lamb might play together, and
a little child might lead them. For--significant, arresting item--the
very air came sweetly down among us too, and the friendly intimacy of
the birds brought this exquisite touch of love into the entire day.
There was communion everywhere between our Selves and Nature. The
birds were in my room when I went upstairs, one hopping across the
pillow on my bed, its bright eyes shining as it perched an instant
on my shoulder, two others twittering and dancing along the narrow
window-sill. There was no fear in them; they fluttered here and there
at will, and my quickest movements caused them no alarm. From the
table they peeped up into my face; they were downstairs flitting in
and out among the chairs and sofas; they did not fly away when we came
in. And in threes I saw them, always in threes together. It was like
reading natural omens; I understood the significance that lay in omens;
and in this delightful sense, but in no other, these natural signs
were--ominous.

Over the face of Nature, and in our hearts as well, lay everywhere
this attitude of divine carelessness. Everything felt-with everything
else, and all were neighbours. The ascension of the soul through all
the natural kingdoms seemed written clear upon the trees and rocks
and flowers, upon birds and animals, upon the huge, quiet elements
themselves.

For the pause and stillness, these were ominous, too. This hush of
Nature upon the banks of Time, this beautiful though solemn pause upon
the heart of things, was but the presage of an accelerated rushing
forward that would follow it. The world halted and took breath. It was
the moment just before the leap.

With midnight the climax would be reached--the timeless instant of
definite arrest, too brief, too swift for mechanism to record, the
instant when Julius would enforce his ancient claim. Then the impetuous
advance would be resumed, but resumed with the increased momentum,
moreover, of natural forces whose outward manifestation men call the
equinoctial gales. Those elemental disturbances, that din and riot in
the palaces of heat and air, of wind and fire--how little the sailors,
the men upon the heights, the dwellers in the streets of crowded
cities might guess the free divinity loose upon the earth behind the
hurricanes! The forgotten majesty of it broke in upon me as I realised
it. For realise it I most assuredly did. The channels here, indeed,
were open.

There seemed a halo laid upon the day; sanctity and peace in all its
corners; the valley was a temple, the splendour of true old-world
worship ushering in the Equinox: Earth’s act of adoration to the sun,
the breathless moment when she sank upon her knees before her source of
life, her progeny aware, participating.

For the joy and power that vibrated with every message of light and
sound about us came to me in the terms of love, as though a love
which broke all barriers down flowed in from Nature. It woke in me
an unmanageable, an infinite yearning; I burned to sweep all modern
life into this lonely mountain valley, to share its happiness with
the entire world; the tired ones, the sick and weary, the poor, those
who deem themselves outcast and useless in the scheme of things,
the lonely, the destitute in spirit, the failures, the wicked, and,
above all, the damned. For here all broken and shattered lives, it
seemed to me, must find that sense of wholeness which is confidence
and that peace due to the certainty of being cared for by the
universe--divinely mothered. The natural sacrament of elemental powers,
in its simplicity, could heal the nations. I yearned to bring humanity
into the power of Nature and the joy of Nature-Worship.

So complete, moreover, was my inclusion in this sacramental attitude
towards Nature, that I saw the particular purpose for which we three
were here--as Julius saw it. I experienced a growing joy, an ever
lessening alarm. Three human souls met here upon this island of a
moment’s restitution, important certainly, yet after all an episode
merely, set between a series of lives long past and of countless
lives to follow after. The elements, and the Earth to which they
were consciously related, the Universe of which, with ourselves, she
formed an integral constituent--all were relatively and in their just
proportions involved in this act of restitution. Hence, in a dim way,
it was out of time and space. Our very acts and feelings were those of
Nature and of that vaster Whole, wherein Nature, herself but a little
item, lies secure. The Universe felt and acted with us. The gentian in
the field would be aware, but Sirius, too.

Three human specks would act out certain things, but the wind in the
forest would co-operate and feel glad, and the fire in Orion’s nebula
would be aware.

An older form of consciousness was operative. We were not separate.
Instead of _thinking_ as separate items apart from the rest of the
cosmos, we _felt_ as integral bits of it--and here, perhaps, lay the
essence of what I call another kind of consciousness than the one known
to-day.



CHAPTER XXVIII


My mind retains with photographic accuracy the detail of that
sinister yet gorgeous night. One thing alone vitiates the value of my
report--while I remember what happened, I cannot remember _why_ it
happened.

At the actual time, I understood the meaning of every word and
action because the power to do so was in me. I was in another state
of consciousness. That state has passed, and with it the ability to
interpret. I am in the position of a man who remembers clearly the
detail of some dream to which, on waking, he has lost the key. While
dreaming it, the meaning was daylight clear. The return to normal
consciousness has left him with a photograph he no longer can explain.

The first tentative approach, however, of those Intelligences men call
Fire and Wind--their first contact with this other awakened Self in me,
I remember perfectly. Wind came first, then Fire; yet at first it was
merely that they made their presence known. I became aware of them. And
the natural, simple way in which this came about I may describe to some
extent perhaps.

The ruins of a flaming sunset lay above the distant ridges when Julius
left my room, and, after locking away the private papers entrusted to
my charge, I stood for some time watching the coloured storm-clouds
hurrying across the sky. For, though the trees about the châlet were
motionless, a violent wind ran high overhead, and on the summits it
would have been impossible to stand. Round the building, however,
sunken in its protected valley, and within the walls especially,
reigned a still, delightful peace. The wind kept to the summits. But
of some Spirit of Wind I was aware long before the faintest movement
touched a single branch.

Upon me then, gathering with steady power, stole the advance-guard of
these two invasions--air and warmth, yet an inner air, an inner warmth.
For, while I watched, the silence of those encircling forests conveyed
the sound and movement of approaching life. There grew upon me, first
as by dim and curious suggestion, a sense of ordered preparation
slowly accumulating behind the mass of shadowy trees. The picture
then sharpened into more definite outline. The forest was busy with
the stirrings of a million thread-like airs that built up together
the body of a rising wind, yet not of wind as commonly experienced,
but rather of some subtler, more acute activity of which wind is but
the outer vehicle. The inner activity, of which it is the sensible
manifestation--the body--was beginning to move. The soul of air itself
was stirring. These million ghost-like airs were lifting wings from
their invisible, secret lairs, all running as by a word of command
towards a determined centre whence, obeying a spiritual summons, they
would presently fall upon the valley in that sensible manifestation
called the equinoctial gales. Behind the material effect, the spiritual
Cause was active.

This imaginative picture grew upon me, as though in some way I was
let into the inner being of that life which prompts all natural
movements and hides, securely veiled, in every stock and stone. A new
interpretative centre was awake in me. In the movement of wind I was
aware of--life. Then, while this subtle perception that an intelligent,
directing power lay behind the very air I breathed, a similar report
reached me from another, equally elemental, quarter, though it is less
easy to describe.

From the sun? Originally, yes--since primarily from the sun emerges
all the heat the earth contains. It first stirred definite sensation
in me when my eye caught the final gleam upon the turreted walls of
vapour where still the sunset stood emblazoned. From that coloured sea
of light, and therefore of heat, something flashed in power through
me; a vision of running fire broke floodingly above the threshold of
my mind, ran into every corner of my being, left its inspiring trail,
became part of my very nerves and blood. Consciousness was deepened and
intensified.

Yet it was neither common heat I felt nor common flame I pictured,
but rather a touch of that primordial and ethereal fire which dwells
at the heart of all manifested life--latent heat. For it was neither
yellow, red, nor white with any aspect of common flame, but what I can
only dare to describe as a fierce, dark splendour, black and shining,
yet of intense, incandescent brilliance. The contradictory adjectives
catch a ghost of it. Moreover, I was aware of no discomfort, for while
it threatened to overwhelm me, the chief effect was to leave a glow, a
radiance, an enthusiasm of strengthened will and confidence, combined
with a sense of lightning’s power. It was spiritual heat, of which fire
is but a physical vehicle. The central fire of the universe burned in
my heart.

I realised, in a word, that both elements were vehicles of intelligent
and living Agencies. Of their own accord they became active, and
natural laws were but their method of activity. They were alert; the
valley was alive, combining, co-operating with myself--and taking
action.

This was their first exquisite approach. But presently, when I moved
away from the window, the sunset clouds grown dark and colourless
again, I realised lesser manifestations of this new emotion which may
seem more intelligible when I set them down in words. The candle flame,
for instance, and the flaring match with which I lit my cigarette
seemed not so much to produce fire by a chemical device, as to puncture
holes through a curtain into that sea of latent fire that lies in all
material things. The breath of air, moreover, that extinguished the
flame did not annihilate it, but merged it into the essential being of
its own self. The two acted in sympathy together. Both Wind and Fire
drew attention to themselves of set intention, insisting upon notice,
as if inviting co-operation.

And something leviathan leaped up in me to welcome them. The standing
miracle of fire lit up the darkened valley. Pure flame revealed itself
suddenly as the soul in me, the eternal part that remembered and grew
wise, the deathless part that survived all successive bodies.

And I realised with a shock of comprehension the danger that Julius ran
in the evocation that his “experiment” involved: Fire, once kindled,
and aided naturally by air, must seek to destroy the prison that
confines it....

I remained for some time in my room. My will, my power of choice,
seemed taken from me. My life moved with these vaster influences. I
argued vehemently with some part of me that still offered a vague
resistance. It was the merest child’s play. I figured myself in my
London lecture room, explaining to my students the course and growth of
the delusion that had captured me. The result was futile; I convinced
neither my students nor myself. It was the thinking mind in me that
opposed, but it was another thing in me that _knew_, and this other
thing was enormously stronger than the reasoning mind, and overwhelmed
it. No amount of arguing could stand against the power of knowledge
that had become established in me by feeling-with. I felt-with Nature,
especially with her twin elemental powers of wind and fire. And this
wisdom of feeling-with dominated my entire being. Denial and argument
were merely false.

All that evening this sense of the companionship of Wind and Fire
remained vividly assertive. Everywhere they moved about me. They
acted in concert, each assisting the other. I was for ever aware of
them; their physical manifestations were as great dumb gestures of
two living and intelligent Immensities in Nature. Yet it was only in
part, perhaps, I knew them. Their full, amazing power never came to
me completely. The absolute realisation that came to Julius in full
consciousness was not mine. I shared at most, it seems, a reflected
knowledge, seeing what happened as through some lens of half-recovered
memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Moreover, supper, when I came downstairs to find Julius and his wife
already waiting for me, was the most ordinary and commonplace meal
imaginable. We talked of the weather! Mrs. LeVallon was light-hearted,
almost gay, though I felt it was repressed excitement that drove
outwards this trivial aspect of her. But for the fact that all she
did now seemed individual and distinguished, her talk and gestures
might have scraped acquaintance with mere foolishness. Indeed, our
light talk and her irresponsibility added to the sense of reality I
have mentioned. It was a mask, and the mask dropped occasionally with
incongruous abruptness that was startling.

Such insignificant details revealed the immediate range of the Powers
that watched and waited close beside our chairs. That sudden, fixed
expression in her eyes, for instance, when the Man brought in certain
private papers, handed them to Julius who, after reading them,
endorsed them with a modern fountain pen, then passed them on to me!
That fountain pen and her accompanying remark--how incongruous and
insignificant they were! Both seemed symbolical items in some dwindled,
trivial scale of being!

“It isn’t everybody that’s got a professor for a secretary, Julius, is
it?”

She said it with her mouth full, her elbows on the table, and only
that other look in the watchful eyes seemed to contradict the
awkward, untaught body. There was a flash of tenderness and passion
in them, a pathetic questioning and wonder, as though she saw in her
husband’s act an acknowledgment of dim forebodings in her own deep
heart. She appealed, it seemed, to me. Was it that she divined he
was already slipping from her, farewells all unsaid, yet that she
was--inarticulate? ... The entire little scene, the words, the laughter
and the look, were but evidence of an attempt to lift the mask. Her
choice of words, their accent and pronunciation, that fountain pen, the
endorsement, the stupid remark about myself--were all these lifted by
those yearning eyes into the tragedy of a fateful good-bye message? ...

More significant still, though even less direct, was another
moment--when the Man stretched his arm across the table to turn the
lamp up. For in this unnecessary act she saw--the intuition came
sharply to me--an effect of the approaching Powers upon his untutored
soul. The wick was already high enough when, with an abrupt, impulsive
movement, he stooped to turn it higher; and instantly Mrs. LeVallon
was on her feet, her face first pale, then hotly flushed. She rose
as though to strike him, then changed the gesture as if to ward a
blow--almost to protect. It was an impetuous, revealing act.

Out of some similar impulse, too, only half understood, I sprang to her
assistance.

“There’s light enough,” I exclaimed.

“And heat,” she added quickly. “Good Lord! the room’s that hot, it’s
like a furnace!”

She flashed a look of gratitude at me. What exactly was in her mind
I cannot know, but in my own was the strange feeling that the less
_visible_ fire in the air the better. An expression of perplexed alarm
showed itself in the face of the faithful but inarticulate serving man.
Unwittingly he had blundered. His distress was acute. I almost thought
he would drop to his knees and lick his mistress’s hand for forgiveness.

Whether Julius perceived all this is hard to say. He looked up
calmly, watching us; but the glance he gave, and the fact that he
spoke no word, made me think he realised what the energy of her tone
and gesture veiled. The desire to assist the increase of heat, of
fire--co-operation--had acted upon the physical medium least able to
resist--the most primitive system present. The approach of the two
Activities affected us, one and all.

There were other incidents of a similar kind before the meal was over,
quite ordinary in themselves, yet equally revealing; my interpretation
of them due to this enhanced condition of acute perception that
pertained to awakening memory. Air and fire accumulated, flake by
flake. A kind of radiant heat informed all common objects. It was in
our hearts as well. And wind was waiting to blow it into flame.



CHAPTER XXIX

  “_Not yet are fixed the prison bars;
      The hidden light the spirit owns
   If blown to flame would dim the stars
      And they who rule them from their thrones:
   And the proud sceptred spirits thence
   Would bow to pay us reverence._”--A. E.


It was out of this accumulation of unusual emotion that a slight
but significant act of Julius recalled me to the outer world. I was
lighting my pipe--from the chimney of the lamp rather than by striking
a match--when I overheard him telling the Man that, instead of sitting
up as usual, he might go to bed at once. He went off obediently, but
with some latent objection, half resentment, half opposition, in his
manner. There was a sulkiness as of disappointment in his face. He
knew that something unusual was on foot, and he felt that he should by
rights be in it--he might be of use, he might be needed. There was this
dumb emotion in him, as in a faithful dog who, scenting danger, is not
called upon to fight, and so retires growling to his kennel.

He went slowly, casting backward glances, and at the door he turned and
caught my eye. I had only to beckon, to raise my hand a moment, to say
a word--he would have come running back with a bound into the room. But
the gaze of his master was upon him, and he went; and though he may
have lain down in his room beyond the kitchen, I felt perfectly sure he
did not sleep. His body lay down, but not his excited instincts.

For this dismissal of the Man was, of course, a signal. The three of
us were then in that dim-lit peasant’s room--alone; and for a long
time in a silence broken only by the sparks escaping from the burning
logs upon the hearth, and by the low wind that now went occasionally
sighing past the open window. We sat there waiting, not looking at each
other, yet each aware of the slightest physical or mental movement.
It was an intense and active silence in which deep things were being
accomplished; for, if Mrs. LeVallon and myself were negative, I was
alert to immense and very positive actions that were going forward in
the being of our companion. Julius, sitting quietly with folded hands,
his face just beyond the lamp’s first circle of light, was preparing,
and with a stress of extreme internal effort that made the silence
seem a field of crashing battle. The entire strength of this strange
being’s soul, co-operating with Nature, and by methods of very ancient
acquirement known fully to himself alone, sought an achievement that
should make us act as one. Through two natural elemental powers, fire
and wind--both vitally part of us since the body’s birth--we could
claim the incalculable support of the entire universe. It was a cosmic
act. Ourselves were but the channel. Later this channel would define
itself still more.

Beneath those smoke-stained rafters, as surely as beneath the vaulted
roof of some great temple, stepped worship and solemnity. The change
came gradually. From the sky above the star-lit valley this grave,
tremendous attitude swung down into our hearts. Not alone the isolated
châlet, but the world itself contained us, a temple wherein we,
insignificant worshippers, knelt before the Universe. For the powers we
invoked were not merely earthly powers, but those cosmic energies that
drove and regulated even the flocks of stars.

Mrs. LeVallon and I both knew it dimly, as we waited with beating
hearts in that great silence. She scarcely moved. Somehow divining the
part she had to play, she sat there motionless as a figure in stone,
offering no resistance. Her reawakened memory must presently guide
us; she knew the importance of her rôle, and the composure with which
she accepted it touched grandeur. Yet each one of us was necessary.
If Julius took the leader’s part, her contribution, as my own, were
equally essential to success. If the greater risk was his, our own risk
was yet not negligible. The elemental Powers would take what channel
seemed best available. It was not a personal consideration for us. We
were most strangely _one_.

My own measure of interpretation I have already attempted to describe.
Hers I guess intuitively. For we shared each other’s feelings as only
love and sympathy know how to share. These feelings now grew steadily
in power; and, obeying them, our bodies moved to new positions. We
changed our _attitudes_.

For I remember that while Julius rose and stood beside the table, his
wife went quietly from my side and seated herself before the open
window, her face turned towards the valley and the night. Instinctively
we formed a living triangle, Mrs. LeVallon at the apex. And, though
at the time I understood the precise significance of these changes,
reading clearly the language they acted out in motion, that discernment
is now no longer in me, so that I cannot give the perfect expression
of meaning they revealed. Upon Julius, however, some appearance,
definite as a robe upon the head and shoulders, proclaimed him a figure
of command and somehow, too, of tragedy. It set him in the centre.
Close beside me, within the circle of the lamplight, I watched him--so
still, so grave, the face of marble pallor, the dark hair tumbling as
of old about the temples whereon the effort of intensest concentration
made the pulsing veins stand out as thick as cords. Calm as an image
he stood there for a period of time I cannot state. Beyond him, in
the shadows by the window, his wife’s figure was just visible as she
leaned, half reclining, across the wooden sill into the night. There
was no sound from the outer valley, there was no sound in the room.
Then, suddenly of itself, a change approached. The silence broke.

“Julius...!” came faintly from the window, as Mrs. LeVallon with a
sudden gesture drew the curtain to shut out the darkness. She turned
towards us. “Julius!” And her voice, using the tone I had heard before
when she fled past me up that meadow slope, sounded as from some space
beyond the walls. I looked up, my nerves on the alert, for it came to
me that she was at the limit of endurance and that something now must
break in her.

Julius moved over to her side, while she put her hands out first to
welcome him, then half to keep him off. He spoke no word. He took her
outstretched hands in both of his, leading her back a little nearer
towards the centre of the room.

“Julius,” she whispered, “what frightens me to-night? I’m all a-shiver.
There’s something coming?--but what is it? And why do I seem to know,
yet not to know?”

He answered her quietly, the voice deep with tenderness:

“We three are here together”--I saw the shining smile I knew of
old--“and there is no cause to feel afraid. You are tired with your
long, long waiting.” And he meant, I knew, the long fatigue of ages
that she apprehended, but did not grasp fully yet. She was Mrs.
LeVallon still.

“I’m both hot and cold together, and all oppressed,” she went on;
“like a fever it is--icy and yet on fire. I can’t get at myself, to
keep it still. Julius ... what is it?” The whisper held somehow for
me the potentiality of scream. Then, taking his two hands closer,
she raised her voice with startling suddenness. “Julius,” she cried,
“I know what frightens me--it’s _you!_ What are you to-night?” She
looked searchingly a moment into his face. “And what is this thing
that’s going to happen to you? I hear it coming nearer--outside”--she
moved further from the curtained window with small, rushing steps,
looking back across her shoulder--“all down the valley from the
mountains, those awful mountains. Oh, Julius, it’s coming--for you--my
husband----! And for him,” she added, laying her eyes upon me like a
flame.

I thought the tears must come, but she held them back, looking
appealingly at me, and clutching Julius as though he would slip from
her. Then, with a quick movement and a little gust of curious laughter,
she clapped her hand upon her mouth to stop the words. Something she
meant to say to me was left unspoken, she was ashamed of the momentary
weakness. “Mrs. LeVallon” was still uppermost.

“Julius,” she added more softly, “there’s something about to-night I
haven’t known since childhood. There’s such heat and--oh, hark!”--she
stopped a moment, holding up her finger--“there’s a sound--like riggin’
in the wind. But it ain’t wind. What is it, Julius? And why is that
wonderful?”

Yet no sound issued from the quiet valley; it was as still as death.
Even the sighing of the breeze had ceased about the walls.

“If only I understood,” she went on, looking from his face to mine, “if
only I knew exactly. It was something,” she added almost to herself,
“that used to come to me when I was little--on the farm--and I put it
away because it made me”--she whispered the last two words below her
breath--“feel crazy----”

“Crazy?” repeated Julius, smiling down at her.

“Like a queen,” she finished proudly, yet still timid. “I couldn’t feel
that way and do my work.” And her long lashes lifted, so that the eyes
flashed at me across the table. “It made everything seem too easy.”

I cannot say what quality was in his voice, when, leading her gently
towards a wicker chair beside the fire, he spoke those strange words of
comfort. There seemed a resonant power in it that brought strength and
comfort in. She smiled as she listened, though it was not her brain his
language soothed. That other look began to steal upon her face as he
proceeded.

“_You!_” he said gently, “so wonderful a woman, and so poised with the
discipline these little nerves forget--you cannot yield to the fear
that loneliness and darkness bring to children.” She settled down into
the chair, gazing into his face as he settled the cushions for her
back. Her hands lay in her lap. She listened to every syllable, while
the expression of perplexity grew less marked. And the change upon her
features deepened as he continued: “There are moments when the soul
sees her own shadow, and is afraid. The Past comes up so close. But the
shadow and the fear will pass. We three are here. Beyond all chance
disaster, we stand together ... and to our real inner selves nothing
that is sad or terrible can ever happen.”

Again her eyes flashed their curious lightning at me as I watched; but
the sudden vague alarm was passing as mysteriously as it came. She
said no more about the wind and fire. The magic of his personality,
rather than the words which to her could only have seemed singular and
obscure, had touched the sources of her strength. Her face was pale,
her eyes still bright with an unwonted brilliance, but she was herself
again--I think she was no longer the “upper” self I knew as “Mrs.
LeVallon.” The marvellous change was slowly stealing over her.

“You’re cold and tired,” he said, bending above her. “Come closer to
the fire--with us all.”

I saw her shrink, for all the brave control she exercised. The word
“fire” came on her like a blow. “It’s not my body,” she answered;
“that’s neither cold nor tired. It’s another thing--behind it.” She
turned toward the window, where the curtain at that moment rose
and fell before a draught of air. “I keep getting the feeling that
something’s coming to-night for--one of us.” She said it half to
herself, and Julius made no answer. I saw her look back then at the
glowing fire of wood and peat. At the same moment she threw out both
hands first as if to keep the heat away, then as though to hold her
husband closer.

“Julius! If you went from me! If I lost you----!”

I heard his low reply:

“Never, through all eternity, can _we_ go--away from one
another--except for moments.”

She partly understood, I think, for a great sigh, but half suppressed,
escaped her.

“Moments,” she murmured, “that are very long ... and lonely.”

It was then, as she said the words, that I noticed the change which so
long had been rising, establish itself definitely in the luminous eyes.
That other colour fastened on them--the deep sea-green. “Mrs. LeVallon”
before my sight sank slowly down, and a completer, far more ancient
self usurped her. Small wonder that my description halts in confusion
before so beautiful a change, for it was the beginning of an actual
transfiguration of her present person. It was bewildering to watch
the gradual, enveloping approach of that underlying Self, shrine of a
million memories, deathless, and ripe with long-forgotten knowledge.
The air of majesty that she wore in the sleep-walking incident gathered
by imperceptible degrees about the uninspired modern presentment that
I knew. Slowly her face turned calm with beauty. The features composed
themselves in some new mould of grandeur. The perplexity, at first so
painfully apparent, but marked the singular passage of the less into
the greater. I saw it slowly disappear. As she lay back in that rough
chair of a peasant’s châlet, there was some calm about her as of the
steadfast hills, some radiance as of stars, a suggestion of power that
told me--as though some voice whispered it in my soul--she knew the
link with Nature re-established finally within her being. Her head
turned slightly towards me. I stood up.

Instinctively I moved across the room and drew the curtain back. I
saw the stars; I saw the dark line of mountains; the odours of forest
and meadow came in with sweetness; I heard the tinkling of the little
stream--yet all contained somehow in the message of her turning head
and shoulders.

There was no sound, there was no spoken word, but the language was
one and unmistakable. And as I came slowly again towards the fire
Julius stood over her, uttering in silence the same stupendous thing.
The sense of my own inclusion in it was amazing. He smiled down into
her lifted face. These two, myself a vital link between them, smiled
across the centuries at one another. We formed--I noticed then--with
the fire and the open window into space--a circle.

To say that I grasped some spiritual import in these movements of our
bodies, realising that they acted out an inevitable meaning, is as true
as my convinced belief can make it. It is also true that in this, my
later report of the event, that meaning is no longer clear to me. I
cannot recover the point of view that discerned in our very positions
a message of some older day. The significance of attitude and gesture
then were clear to me; the translation of this three-dimensional
language I have lost again. A man upon his knees, two arms outstretched
to clasp, a head bowed down, a pointing finger--these are interpretable
gestures and attitudes that need no spoken words. Similarly, following
some forgotten wisdom, our related movements held a ceremonial import
that, by way of acceptance or refusal, helped or hindered the advance
of the elemental powers then invoked. In some marvellous fashion one
consciousness was shared amongst us all. We worked with a living
Nature, and a living Nature worked actively with us, and it was
attitude, movement, gestures, rather than words, that assisted the
alliance.

Then Julius took the hand that lay nearest to him, while the other she
lifted to place within my own. And a light breeze came through the open
window at that moment, touched the embers of the glowing logs, and blew
them into flame. I felt our hands tighten as that slight increase of
heat and air passed into us. For in that passing breeze was the eternal
wind which is the breath of God, and in that flame upon the hearth was
the fire which burns in suns and lights the heart in men and women....

There came with unexpected suddenness, then, a moment of very poignant
human significance--because of the great perspective against which it
rose. She sat erect; she gazed into his face and mine; in her eyes
burned an expression of beseeching love and sacrifice, but a love and
sacrifice far older than this present world on which her body lay. Her
arms stretched out and opened, she raised her lips, and, while I looked
aside, she kissed him softly. I turned away from that embrace, aware in
my heart that it was a half-divined farewell ... and when I looked back
again the little scene was over.

He bent slightly down, releasing the hand he held, and signifying by a
gesture that I should do the same. Her body relaxed a little; she sank
deeper into the chair; she sighed. I realised that he was assisting
her into that artificial slumber which would lead to the full release
of the subconscious self whose slow approach she already half divined.
Stooping above her, he gently touched the hypnogenic points above the
eyes and behind the ears. It was the oldest memories he sought. She
offered them quite willingly.

“Sleep!” he said soothingly, command and tenderness mingled in the
voice. “Sleep ... and remember!” With the right hand he made slow,
longitudinal passes before her face. “Sleep, and recover what you ...
knew! We need your guidance.”

Her body swayed a little before it settled; her feet stretched nearer
to the fire; her respiration rapidly diminished, becoming deep and
regular; with the movement of her bosom the band of black velvet
rose and fell about the neck, her hands lay folded in her lap. And,
as I watched, my own personal sensations of quite nameless joy and
anguish passed into a curious abandonment of self that merged me too
completely in the solemnity of worship to leave room for pain. Hand in
hand with the earthly darkness came in to us that Night of Time which
neither sleeps nor dies, and like a remembered dream up stole our
inextinguishable Past.

“Sleep!” he repeated, lower than before.

Cold, indeed, touched my heart, but with it came a promise of some
deep spiritual sweetness, rich with the comfort of that life which is
both abundant and universal. The valley and the sky, stars, mountains,
forests, running water, all that lay outside of ourselves in Nature
everywhere, came with incredible appeal into my soul. Confining
barriers crumbled, melted into air; the imprisoned human forces leaped
forth to meet the powers that “inanimate” Nature holds. I knew the
drive of tireless wind, the rush of irresistible fire. It seemed a
state in which we all joined hands, a state of glory that justified the
bravest hopes, annihilating doubt and disbelief.

She slept. And in myself something supremely sure, supremely calm,
looked on and watched.

“It helps,” Julius murmured in my ear, referring to the sleep; “it
makes it easier for her. She will remember now ... and guide.”

He moved to her right side, I to her left. Between the fire and the
open window we formed then--a line.

Along a line there is neither tension nor resistance. It was the
primitive, ultimate figure.



CHAPTER XXX


A rush of air ran softly round the walls and roof, then dropped away
into silence. There was this increased activity outside. A roar next
sounded in the chimney, high up rather; a block of peat fell with a
sudden crash into the grate, sending a shower of sparks to find the
outer air. Behind us the pine boards cracked with miniature, sharp
reports.

Julius continued the longitudinal passes, and “Mrs. LeVallon” passed
with every minute into deeper and more complete somnambulism. It was a
natural, willing process. He merely made it easier for her. She sank
slowly into the deep subconscious region where all the memories of the
soul lie stored for use.

It seemed that everything was in abeyance in myself, except the central
fact that this experience was true. The rest of existence fell away,
clipped off as by a pair of mighty shears. Both fire and wind seemed
actively about me; yet not unnaturally. There was this heat and lift,
but there was nothing frantic. The native forces in me were raised to
their ultimate capacity, though never for a moment beyond the limit
that high emotion might achieve. Nature accomplished the abnormal,
possibly, but still according to law and what was--or had been
once--comprehensible.

The passes grew slower, with longer intervals between; Mrs. LeVallon
lay motionless, the lips slightly parted, the skin preternaturally
pale, the eyelids tightly closed.

“Hush!” whispered Julius, as I made an involuntary movement, “it is
still the normal sleep, and she may easily awake. Let no sound disturb
her. It must go gradually.” He spoke without once removing his gaze
from her face. “Be ready to write what you hear,” he added, “and help
by ‘thinking’ fire and wind--in my direction.”

A long-drawn sigh was audible, accompanied by the slightest possible
convulsive movement of the reclining body.

“She sinks deeper,” he whispered, ceasing the passes for a moment. “The
consciousness is already below the deep-dream stage. Soon she will
wake into the interior lucidity when her Self of To-day will touch the
parent source behind. _They_ are already with her: they light--and
lift--her soul. She will remember all her past, and will direct us.”

I made no answer; I asked no questions; I stood and watched, willingly
sympathetic, yet incapable of action. The curious scene held something
of tragedy and grandeur. There was triumph in it. The sense of Nature
working with us increased, yet we ourselves comparatively unimportant.
The earth, the sky, the universe took part and were involved in our
act of restitution. It was beyond all experience. It was also--at
times--intolerable.

The body settled deeper into the chair; the crackling of the wicker
making sharp reports in the stillness. The pallor of the face
increased; the cheeks sank in, the framework of the eyes stood out;
imperceptibly the features began to re-arrange themselves upon another,
greater scale, most visible, perhaps, in the strong, delicate contours
of the mouth and jaw. Upon Julius, too, as he stood beside her, came
down some indefinable change that set him elsewhere and otherwise. His
dignity, his deep solicitous tenderness, and at the same time a hint of
power that emanated more and more from his whole person, rendered him
in some intangible fashion remote and inaccessible. I watched him with
growing wonder.

For over the room as well a change came stealing. In the shadows beyond
the fringe of lamplight, perspective altered. The room ran off in
distances that yet just escaped the eye: I _felt_ the change, though
it was so real that the breath caught in me each time I sought to
focus it. Space spread and opened on all sides, above, below, while
so naturally that it was never actually unaccountable. Wood seemed
replaced by stone, as though the solidity of our material surroundings
deepened. I was aware of granite columns, corridors of massive build,
gigantic pylons towering to the sky. The atmosphere of an ancient
temple grew about my heart, and long-forgotten things came with a
crowding of half-familiar detail that insisted upon recognition. It was
an early memory, I knew, yet not the earliest....

“Be ready.” I heard the low voice of Julius. “She is about to
wake--within,” and he moved a little closer to her, while I took up
my position by the table by the lamp. The paper lay before me. With
fingers that trembled I lifted the pencil, waiting. The hands of the
sleeping woman raised themselves feebly, then fell back upon the arms
of the chair. It seemed she tried to make signs but could not quite
complete them. The expression on the face betrayed great internal
effort.

“Where are you?” Julius asked in a steady but very gentle tone.

The answer came at once, with slight intervals between the words:

“In a building ... among mountains....”

“Are you alone?”

“No ... not alone,” spoken with a faint smile, the eyes still tightly
closed.

“Who, then, is with you?”

“You ... and he,” after a momentary hesitation.

“And who am I?”

The face showed slight confusion; there was a gesture as though she
felt about her in the air to find him.

“I do not know ... quite,” came the halting answer. “But you--both--are
mine ... and very near to me. Or else you own me. All three are so
close I cannot see ourselves apart ... quite.”

“She is confused between two memories,” Julius whispered to me. “The
true regression of memory has not yet begun. The present still
obscures her consciousness.”

“It is coming,” she said instantly, aware of his lightest whisper.

“All in due time,” he soothed her in a tender tone; “there is no hurry.
Nor is there anything to fear----”

“I am not afraid. I am ... happy. I feel safe.” She paused a moment,
then added: “But I must go deeper ... further down. I am too near the
surface still.”

He made a few slow passes at some distance from her face, and I saw
the eyelids flutter as though about to lift. She sighed deeply. She
composed herself as into yet deeper sleep.

“Ah! I see better now,” she murmured. “I am sinking ... sinking ...”

He waited for several minutes and then resumed the questioning.

“Now tell me who _you_ are,” he enjoined.

She faintly shook her head. Her lips trembled, as though she tried to
utter several names and then abandoned all. The effort seemed beyond
her. The perplexed expression on the face with the shut eyes was
movingly pathetic, so that I longed to help her, though I knew not how.

“Thank you,” she murmured instantly, with a gentle smile in my
direction. Our thoughts, then, already found each other!

“Tell me who you are,” Julius repeated firmly. “It is not the name I
ask.”

She answered distinctly, with a smile:

“A mother. I am soon to be a mother and give birth.”

He glanced at me significantly. There was both joy and sadness in his
eyes. But it was not this disclosure that he sought. She was still
entangled in the personality of To-day. It was far older layers of
memory and experience that he wished to read. “Once she gets free from
this,” he whispered, “it will go with leaps and bounds, whole centuries
at a time.” And again I knew by the smile hovering round the lips that
she had heard and understood.

“Pass deeper; pass beyond,” he continued, with more authority in the
tone. “Drive through--sink down into what lies so far behind.”

A considerable interval passed before she spoke again, ten minutes at
the lowest reckoning, and possibly much longer. I watched her intently,
but with an afflicting anxiety at my heart. The body lay so still and
calm, it was like the immobility of death, except that once or twice
the forehead puckered in a little frown and the compression of the
lips told of the prolonged internal effort. The grander aspect of her
features came for moments flittingly, but did not as yet establish
itself to stay. She was still confused with the mind and knowledge
of To-day. At length a little movement showed itself; she changed
the angle of her head in an effort to look up and speak; a scarcely
perceptible shudder ran down the length of her stretched limbs. “I
cannot,” she murmured, as though glancing at her husband with closed
eyelids. “Something blocks the way. I cannot see. It’s too thickly
crowded ... crowded.”

“Describe it, and pass on,” urged Julius patiently. There was
unalterable decision in his quiet voice. And in her tone a change was
also noticeable. I was profoundly moved; only with a great effort I
controlled myself.

“They crowd so eagerly about me,”--the choice of words seemed no longer
quite “Mrs. LeVallon’s”--“with little arms outstretched and pleading
eyes. They seek to enter, they implore ...”

“Who are they?”

“The Returning Souls.” The love and passion in her voice brought near,
as in a picture, the host of reincarnating souls eager to find a body
for their development in the world. They besieged her, clamouring for
birth--for a body.

“Your thoughts invite them,” replied Julius, “but you have the power to
decide.” And then he asked more sternly: “Has any entered yet?”

It was unspeakably moving--this mother willing to serve with anguish
the purpose of advancing souls. Yet this was all of To-day. It was
not the thing he sought. The general purpose must stand aside for the
particular. There was an error to be set right first. She had to seek
its origin among the ages infinitely far away. The guidance Julius
sought lay in the long ago. But the safety of the little unborn body
troubled him, it seemed.

“As yet,” she murmured, “none. The little body of the boy is empty ...
though besieged.”

“By whom besieged?” he asked more loudly. “Who hinders?”

The little body of the boy! And it was then a further change came
suddenly, both in her face and voice, and in the voice of Julius too.

That larger expression of some forgotten grandeur passed into her
features, and she half sat up in the chair; there was a stiffening of
the frame; resistance, power, an attitude of authority, replaced the
former limpness. The moment was, for me, electrifying. Ice and fire
moved upon my skin.

She opened her lips to speak, but no words were audible.

“Look close--and tell me,” came from Julius gravely.

She made an effort, then shrank back a little, this time raising one
arm as though to protect herself from something coming, then sharply
dropping it again over the heart and body.

“I cannot see,” she murmured, slightly frowning; “they stand so close
and ... are ... so splendid. They are too great ... to see.”

“Who--what--are they?” he insisted. He took her hand in his. I saw her
smile.

The simple words were marvellously impressive. Depths of untold memory
stirred within me as I heard.

“Powers ... we knew ... so long ago.”

Some ancient thing in me opened an eye and saw. The Powers we evoked
came seeking an entrance, brought nearer by our invitation. They came
from the silent valley; they were close about the building. But only
through a human channel could they emerge from the spheres where they
belonged.

“Describe them, and pass on,” I heard Julius say, and there came a
pause then that I thought would never end. The look of power rolled
back upon her face. She spoke with joy, with a kind of happiness as
though she welcomed them.

“They rush and shine.... They flood the distance like a sea, and yet
stand close against my heart and blood. They are clothed in wind and
fire. I see the diadems of flame ascending and descending. Their breath
is all the winds. There is such roaring. I see mountains of wind and
fire ... advancing ... nearer ... nearer.... We used them--we invited
... long, long ago.... And so they ... come again about us....”

His following command appalled me:

“Keep them back. You must protect the vacant body from invasion.”

And then he added in tones that seemed to make the very air vibrate,
although the voice but whispered, “You must direct them--towards _me_.”

He moved to a new position, so that we formed a triangle again. Dimly
at the time I understood. The circle signified the union which, having
received, enclosed the mighty forces. Only it enclosed too much; the
danger of misdirection had appeared. The triangle, her body forming
the apex towards the open night, aimed at controlling the immense
arrival by lessening the entry. Another thing stood out, too, with
crystal clearness--at the time: the elemental Powers sought the easiest
channel, the channel of least resistance, the body still unoccupied:
whereas Julius offered--himself. The risk must be his and his alone.
There was--in those few steps he took across the dim-lit room--a
sense of tremendous, if sinister, drama that swept my heart with both
tenderness and terror. The significance of his changed position was
staggering.

I watched the sleeper closely. The lips grew more compressed, and the
fingers of both hands clenched themselves upon the dark dress on her
lap. I saw the muscles of the altering face contract with effort; the
whole framework of the body became more rigid. Then, after several
minutes, followed a gradual relaxation, as she sank back again into her
original position.

“They retire ...” she murmured with a sigh. “They retire ... into
darkness a little. But they still ... wait and hover. I hear the rush
of their great passing.... I see the distant shine of fire ... still.”

“And the souls?” he asked gently, “do they now return?”

She lowered her head as with a gesture of relief.

“They are crowding, crowding. I see them as an endless flight of
birds....” She held out her arms, then shrank back sharply. An
expression I could not interpret flashed across the face. Behind a
veil, it seemed. And the stern voice of Julius broke in upon the
arrested action:

“Invite them by your will. Draw to you by desire and love one eager
soul. The little vacant body must be occupied, so that the Mighty Ones,
returning, shall find it thus impossible of entry.”

It was a command; it was also a precaution; for if the body of the
child were left open it would inevitably attract the invading Powers
from--himself. I watched her very closely then. I saw her again stretch
out her arms and hands, then once again--draw sharply back. But this
time I understood the expression on the quivering face. The veil had
lifted.

By what means this was clear to me, yet hidden from Julius, I cannot
say. Perhaps the ineradicable love that she and I bore for one another
in that long-forgotten time supplied the clue. But of this I am
certain--that she disobeyed him. She left the little waiting body as
it was, empty, untenanted. Life--a soul returning to re-birth--was not
conceived and did not enter in. The reason, moreover, was also clear
to me in that amazing moment of her choice: she divined his risk of
failure, she wished to save him, she left open the channel of least
resistance of set purpose--the unborn body. For a love known here and
now, she sacrificed a love as yet unborn. If Julius failed, at least he
would not now be destroyed; there would be another channel ready.

That thus she thought, intended, I felt convinced. If her mistake
was fraught with more danger than she knew, my lips were yet somehow
sealed. Our deeper, ancient bond gave me the clue that to Julius
was not offered, but no words came from me to enlighten him. It
seemed beyond my power; I should have broken faith with her, a faith
unbelievably precious to me.

For a long time, then, there was silence in the little room, while
LeVallon continued to make slow passes as before. The anguish left
her face, drowned wholly in the grander expression that she wore. She
breathed deeply, regularly, without effort, the head sunk forward a
little on the breast. The rustle of his coat as his arm went to and
fro, and the creaking of the wicker chair were all I heard. Then,
presently, Julius turned to me with a low whisper I can hear to this
very day. “I, and I alone,” he said, “am the rightful channel. I have
waited long.” He added more that I have forgotten; I caught something
about “all the aspects being favourable,” and that he felt confidence,
sure that he would not fail.

“You will not,” I interrupted passionately, “you dare not fail....” And
then speech suddenly broke down in me, and some dark shadow seemed to
fall upon my senses so that I neither heard nor saw nor felt anything
for a period I cannot state.

An interval there certainly was, and of some considerable length
probably, for when I came to myself again there was change
accomplished, though a change I could not properly estimate. His
voice filled the room, addressing the sleeper as before, yet in a way
that told me there had been progress accomplished while I had been
unconscious.

“Deeper yet,” I heard, “pass down deeper yet, pass back across a
hundred intervening lives to that far-off time and place when
first--_first_--we called Them forth. Sink down into your inmost being
and remember!”

And in her immediate answer there was a curious faintness as of
distance: “It is ... so ... far away ... so far beyond ...”

“Beyond what?” he asked, the expression of “Other Places” deepening
upon his face.

Her forehead wrinkled in a passing frown. “Beyond this earth,” she
murmured, as though her closed eyes saw within. “Oh, oh, it hurts. The
heat is awful ... the light ... the tremendous winds ... they blind,
they tear me...!” And she stopped abruptly.

“Forget the pain,” he said; “it is already gone.” And instantly the
tension of her face relaxed. She drew a sigh of deep relief. Before I
could prevent it, my own voice sounded: “When we were nearer to the
sun!”

She made no reply. He took my hand across the table and laid it on her
own. “She cannot hear your voice,” he said, “unless you touch us. She
is too far away. She does not even know that you are here beside me.
You of To-day she has forgotten, and the you of that long ago she has
not yet found.”

“You speak with someone--but with whom?” she asked at once, turning her
head a little in my direction. Not waiting for his reply she at once
went on: “Upon another planet, yes ... but oh, so long ago....” And
again she paused.

“The one immediately before this present one?” asked Julius.

She shook her head gently. “Still further back than that ... the one
before the last, when first we knew delight of life ... without these
heavy, closing bodies. When the sun was nearer ... and we knew deity in
the fiery heat and mighty winds ... and Nature was ... ourselves....”
The voice wavered oddly, broke, and ceased upon a sigh. A thousand
questions burned in me to ask. An amazing certainty of recognition and
remembrance burst through my heart. But Julius spoke before my tongue
found words.

“Search more closely,” he said with intense gravity. “The time and
place we summoned Them is what we need--not where we first learned it,
but where we practised it and failed. Confine your will to that. Forget
the earlier planet. To help you, I set a barrier you cannot pass....”

“The scene of our actual evocation is what we must discover,” he
whispered to me. “When that is found we shall be in touch with the
actual Powers our worship used.”

“It was not there, in that other planet,” she murmured. “It was only
there we first gained the Nature-wisdom. Thence--we brought it with us
... to another time and place ... later ... much nearer to To-day--to
Earth.”

“Remember, then, and see----” he began, when suddenly her unutterably
wonderful expression proclaimed that she at last had found it.

It was curiously abrupt. He moved aside. We waited. I took up my
pencil between fingers that were icy cold. My gaze remained fixed upon
the motionless body. Those fast-closed eyes seemed cut in stone, as
if they never in this world could open. The forehead gleamed pale as
ivory in the lamplight. The soft gulping of the lamp oil beside me,
the crumbling of the firewood in the grate deepened the silence that
I feared to break. The pallid oval of the sleeper’s countenance shone
at me out of a room turned wholly dark. I forgot the place wherein we
sat, our names, our meanings in the present. For there grew vividly
upon that disc-like countenance the face of another person--and of one
I knew.

And with this shock of recognition--there came over me both horror and
undying sweetness--a horror that the face would smile into my own with
a similar recognition, that from those lips a voice must come I should
remember; that those arms would lift, those hands stretch out; an
ecstasy that I should be remembered.

“Open!” I heard, as from far away, the voice of Julius.

And then I realised that the eyes _were_ open. The lids were raised,
the eyeballs faced the lamp. Some tension drew the skin sideways. They
were other eyes. The eternal Self looked out of them bringing the
message of a vast antiquity. They gazed steadily and clearly into mine.



CHAPTER XXXI


To-day retired. I remembered Yesterday, but a Yesterday more remote,
perhaps, than the fire-mist out of which our little earth was born....

I half rose in my chair. The first instinct--strong in me still as I
write this here in modern Streatham--was to fall upon my knees as in
the stress of some immense, remembered love. That glory caught me,
that power of an everlasting passion that was holy. Bathed in a sea of
perfect recollection, my eyes met hers, lost themselves, lived back
into a Past that had been joy. A flood of shame broke fiercely over
me that such a union could ever have seemed “forgotten.” That To-day
could smother Yesterday so easily seemed sacrilege. For this memory,
uprising from the mists of hoary pre-existence, brought in its train
other great emotions of recovered grandeur, all stirred into life by
this ancient ceremony we three acted out. Our purpose then had been,
I knew, no ordinary, selfish love, no lust of possession or ownership
behind it. Its aim and end were not mere personal contentment, mere
selfish happiness that excluded others, but, rather, a part of some
vast, co-ordinated process that involved all Nature with her powers and
workings, and fulfilled with beauty a purpose of the entire Universe.
It was holy in the biggest sense; it was divine. The significance
of our attitudes To-day was all explained--Julius, herself and I,
exquisitely linked to Nature, a group-soul formed by the loves of
Yesterday and Now.

We gazed at one another in silence, smiling at our recovered wonder.
We spoke no word, we made no gesture; there was perfect comprehension;
we were, all three, as we had been--long ago. An earlier state of
consciousness took this supreme command.... And presently--how long the
interval I cannot say--_her_ eyelids dropped, she drew a deep sigh of
happiness, and lay quiescent as before.

It was then, I think, that the sense of worship in me became so
imperative that denial seemed impossible. Some inner act of adoration
certainly accomplished itself although no physical act resulted,
for I remember dropping back again into my chair, not knowing what
exactly I meant to do. The old desire for the long, sweet things of
the soul burst suddenly into flame, the inner yearning to know the
deathless Nature Powers which were the gods, and to taste divinity
by feeling-with their mighty beings. That early state of simpler
consciousness, it seems, lay too remote from modern things to be
translatable in clear language. Yet at the time I knew it, felt it,
realised it, because I lived it once again. The flood of aspiration
that bore me on its crest left thinking and reason utterly out of
account. No link survives To-day with the state we then recovered....

And both she and Julius changed before my eyes. The châlet changed as
well, slipping into the shadowy spaces of some vast, pillared temple.
The soul in me realised its power and _knew_ its origin divine. Bathed
in a sea of long-forgotten glory, it rose into a condition of sublimest
bliss and confidence. It recognised its destiny and claimed all Heaven.
And this raging fire of early spiritual ambition passed over me as upon
a mighty wind; desire and will became augmented as though wind blew
them into flame.

“Watch ... and listen,” I heard, “and feel no fear!”

The change visibly increased; it seemed that curtains lifted in
succession.... The sunken head was raised; the lips quivered with
approaching speech; the pale cheeks deepened with a sudden flush that
set the cheekbones in a quick, high light; the neck bent slightly
forward, foreshortening, as it were, the presentment of the head and
shoulders; while some indescribable touch of power painted the marble
brows cold and almost stern. The entire countenance breathed the
august passion of a remoter age dropped close.... And to see the little
face I knew as Mrs. LeVallon, domestic servant in the world To-day,
unscreen itself thus before me, while its actual structure yet remained
unchanged, broke down the last resistance in me, and rendered my
subjugation absolute. Transfiguration was visibly accomplished....

Once more she turned her head and looked at me. I met the eyes that
saw me and remembered. And, though I would have screened myself from
their tremendous gaze, there was no remnant of power in me that could
do so.... She smiled, then slowly withdrew her eyes.... I passed, with
these two beside me, back into the womb of pre-existence. We were upon
the Earth--at the very time and place where we had used the knowledge
brought from a still earlier globe.

       *       *       *       *       *

“What do you see?” came in those quiet tones that rolled up time and
distance like a scroll. “Tell me now!” It was the scene of the lost
experiment he sought. We were close upon it.

She spread her arms; her hands waved slowly through the air to indicate
these immense enclosing walls of stone about us. The voice reverberated
as in great hollow space.

“Darkness ... and the Vacated Bodies,” was the reply. I knew that we
stood in the Hall of Silence where the bodies lay entranced while their
spirits went forth upon the three days’ quest. And one of these, I
knew, was mine.

“What besides?”

“The Guardians--who protect.”

“Who are they? Who are these Guardians?”

An expression of shrinking passed across her face, and disappeared
again. The eyes stared fixedly before her into space.

“Myself,” she answered slowly, “you--Concerighé ... and ...”

“There was another?” he asked. “Another who was with us?”

She hesitated. At first no answer came. She seemed to search the
darkness to discover it.

“He is not near enough to see,” she murmured presently. “Somewhere
beyond ... he stands ... he lies ... I cannot see him clearly.”

Julius touched my hand, and with the contact the expression on her face
grew clear. She smiled.

“You see him now,” he said with decision.

She turned her face towards me with a tender, stately movement. The
sterner aspect deepened into softness on the features. Great joy for an
instant passed into the strange sea-green eyes.

“Silvatela,” she whispered, slightly lowering the head. “He offered
himself--for me. He lies now--empty at our feet.” And the utterance
of the name passed through me with a thrill of nameless sweetness. An
infinite desire woke, yet desire not for myself alone.

“The time...?” asked Julius in that calm, reverent tone.

She rose with a suddenness that made me start, though, somehow, I had
expected it. At her full height she stood between us. Then, spreading
her hands from both the temples outwards, she bowed her head to
the level of the breast. Julius, I saw, did likewise, and before I
realised it, the same deep, instinctive awe had brought me to my feet
in a similar obeisance. A breath of air from the night outside passed
sensibly between us, enough to stir the hair upon my head and increase
the fire on the hearth behind. It ceased, and a wave of comforting heat
moved in, paused a moment, settled like a great invisible presence, and
held the atmosphere.

“It is the Pause in Nature,” I heard the answer, and saw that she was
seated in the chair once more. “The Third Day nears its end.... The
Questing Souls ... draw near again to enter. We have kept their vacated
bodies safe for them. Our task is almost over....”

She drew a deep, convulsive sigh. Then Julius, taking her right hand,
guided my left to hold the other one. I touched her fingers and felt
them instantly clasp about my own; she sighed again, the frown went
from her forehead, and turning her gaze upon us both she murmured:

“I see clearly, I see everything.”

The past surged over me in a drowning flood.

“This is the moment, this the very place,” came the voice of Julius.
“It was at this moment we were faithless to our trust. We used your
body as the channel....” He turned slightly in my direction.

“The moment and the place,” she interrupted. “There is just time.
Before the Souls return.... You have called upon the Powers.... Yet
both cannot enter! ... he ... and they....”

There was a mighty, echoing cry.

She stopped abruptly. Her face darkened as with some great internal
effort. I darkened too. My vision broke.... There was a sense of
interval....

“And the channel----?” he asked below his breath.

She shook her head slowly to and fro. “It lies waiting still in the
Iron Slumber.... You used it ... it is shattered.... The soul returning
finds it not.... His soul ... whom I loved ...”

The voices ceased. A sudden darkness dropped. I had the sensation that
I was rushing, flying, whirling. The hand I clasped seemed melted into
air. I lost the final remnant of present things about me. The circle
of my own sensations, my identity, the identity of my two companions
vanished. A remarkable feeling of triumph came upon me, of joyful
power that lifted me high above all injury and death, while something
utterly gigantic asserted itself in the place of what had just been
“me”--something that could never be maimed, subdued, held prisoner. The
darkness then lifted, giving way before a hurricane of light that swept
me, as it were, upon a pinnacle. Secure and strong I felt beyond all
possible disaster, yet breathless amid things too long unfamiliar....
And then, abruptly, I knew searing pain, the pain of something broken
in me, of spiritual incompleteness, disappointment.... I was called
back to lesser life--before my time--before some high fulfilment due to
me....

Julius and Mrs. LeVallon were no longer there beside me, but in their
place I saw two solemn figures standing motionless and grave above a
prostrate body. It lay upon a marble slab, and sunlight fell over the
face and folded hands. The two moved forward. They knelt ... there
was a sound of voices as in prayer, a powerful, drawn-out sound that
produced intense vibrations, vibrations so immense that the motion in
the air was felt as wind. I saw gestures ... the body half rose up upon
its marble slab ... and then the blaze of some incredible effulgence
descended before my eyes, so fiercely brilliant, and accompanied by
such an intolerable, radiant heat ... that the entire scene went lost
behind great shafts of light that splintered and destroyed it ...
and an awful darkness followed, a darkness that again had pain and
incompleteness at the heart of it....

One thing alone I understood--that body on the shining slab was mine.
My absent soul, deprived of high glory elsewhere that was mine by
right, returned into it unexpectedly, aware of danger. It had been used
for the purposes of evocation. I had met the two Powers evoked by means
of it midway: Fire and Wind....

The vision vanished. I was standing in the châlet room again, he and
the woman by my side. There was a sense of enormous interval.

       *       *       *       *       *

We were back among the present things again. I had merely re-lived
in a moment’s space a vision of that Past where these two had sinned
against me. The memory was gone again. We now resumed our present
reconstruction, by means of which the balance should be finally
restored. The same two elemental Powers were with us still. Summoned
once again--but this time that they might be dismissed.

“The Messengers of Wind and Fire approach,” Julius was saying softly.
“Be ready for the Powers that follow after.”

“But--there poured through me but a moment ago----” I began, when his
face stopped my speech sharply.

“That ‘moment’ was sixty centuries ago! Keep hold now upon your will,”
he interrupted, yet without a trace of the vast excitement that _I_
felt, “lest they invade your heart instead of mine. The glory that you
knew was but the shadow of their coming--as long ago you returned _and
met them_--when we failed. Keep close watch upon your will. It is the
Equinox.... The pause now comes with midnight.”

Even before he had done speaking the majesties of Wind and Fire were
upon us. And Nature came in with them. A dislocating change, swift
as the shaking of some immense thick shutter that hides life behind
material things, passed in a flash about us. We stood in a circle,
hands firmly clasped. There was a first effect as if those very hands
were fused and ran into a single molten chain. There was no outer
sound. The silence in the air was deathlike. But the sensation in my
soul was--life. The momentary confusion was stupendous, then passed
away. I stood in that room, but I stood in the valley too. I was in
Nature everywhere. I heard the deer go past me, I heard them on the
soft, sweet grass, I heard their breathing and the beating of their
hearts. Birds fluttered round my face and shoulders, I heard their
singing in my blood and ears, I knew their wild desires and freedom,
their darting to and fro, their swaying on the boughs. My feet were
running water, while yet the solid mass of earth and cliff stood up in
me. I also knew the growing of the flowers by the forests, tasted their
fragrance in my breath, their tender, delicate essence all unwasted.
It passed understanding, yet was natural as sight, for my hands went
far away, while still quite close, dipping among the stars that grew
and piled like heaps of gathered sand. It all was simple, easy, mine
by right. Nature gave me her myriad sensations without stint. I had
forgotten. I remembered. The universe stood open. “I” had entered with
these other two beside me.

_She_ raised her arms aloft, taking our hands up with her own, and
cried with a voice like wind against great branches:

“They come! The Doors of Fire are wide, and the Gates of Wind stand
open! They enter the channel that is offered.”

And his voice, like a roar of flame, came answering hers:

“The salutations of the Fire and Wind are made! The channel is
prepared! There is no resistance!”

They stood erect and rigid, their outlines merged with some strange
extension into space. They were superb, tremendous. There was no
shrinking there. The deities of wind and fire came up, seeking their
channel of return.

And so “They” came. Yet not outwardly; nor was the terrific impact of
their advent known completely to any but himself alone who sought to
harbour them now within his little human organism. Into _my_ heart
and soul poured but a fragment of their radiant, rushing presences.
About us all some intelligent power as of a living wind brought in
its mighty arms that ethereal fire which is not merely living, but
is life itself. Material objects wavered, then disappeared, thin as
transparent glass that increases light and heat. Walls, ceiling, floor
were burned away, yet not consumed; the atoms composing all physical
things glowed with a radiant energy they no longer could conceal. The
latent heat of inanimate Nature emerged, not rebellious but triumphant.
It was a deific manifestation of those natural powers which are the
first essentials of human existence--heat and air. We were not alien to
Nature, nor was Nature set apart from us; we shared her inexhaustible
life, and the glory of the Universe in which she is a fragment.

“The Doors of the Creative Fire stand wide,” rang out her triumphant
voice again. “The golden splendour of the invisible Fire loosens and
flows free. The Breath of Life is everywhere ... our own.... But what,
oh what of--_him!_” The scene of their past audacious error swept again
before me. And, partially, I caught it.

Into a gulf of silence her words fell, recaptured from a mode of
invocation effective in forgotten ages. Quivering lightnings, like a
host of running stars, flashed marvellously about us, with bars of fire
that seemed to map all space, while there was a sense of prodigious
lifting in the heart as though some power like rushing wind drove will
and yearning to the summit of all possible achievement. I realised
simply this--that Nature’s powers and purposes became mine too.

How long this lasted is impossible to state; duration disappeared. The
Universe, it seemed, had caught me up, joyful and unafraid, into her
bosom. It was too immense for little terrors.... And it was only after
what seemed an interminable interval that I became aware of something
that marred; of effort somewhere to confine and limit; of conflict,
in a word, as though some smaller force strove to impose an order
upon Powers that resented it. And I understood the meaning of this
too. Julius battled in his soul. He wrestled with the Energies he had
invoked, exerting to the utmost a trained, spiritual will to influence
their direction into himself, as expiatory channel. Julius, after the
lapse of centuries, fought to restore the balance he had long ago
disturbed.

_Her_ voice, too, occasionally reached me with a sound as of wind that
rushed, but very far away. The words went past me with a heat like
flame. I caught fragments only ... “The King of Breath ... The Master
of the Diadems of Fire ... they seek to enter ... the channel of safe
return.... Oh, beware ... beware ...”

And it was then I saw this wonderful thing happen, poignant with common
human drama, intensifying the reality of the whole amazing experience.
For she turned suddenly to him, her face alight and radiant. She would
not let him accept the awful risk. Her arms went out to hold him to
her. He drove her back.

“I open wide the channel of my life and soul!” he cried, with a gesture
of the entire body that made it relaxed and unresisting. He stepped
backwards a little from her touch. “It must be through _me!_”

And there was anguish in her tone that seemed to press all possible
human passion into the single sentence:

“I, too, throw myself open! I cannot let you go from me!”

He moved still further from her. It seemed to me he went at prodigious
speed, yet grew no smaller to the eye. The withdrawal belonged to some
part of his being that I was aware of inwardly. Streams of fire and
wind went with him. They followed. And I heard her voice in agonised
pursuit. She raised her hands as in supplication, but to whom or what I
knew not. She fought to prevent. She fought to offer herself instead.

But also she offered the body as yet unclaimed--untenanted.

“He who is in the Fire and in the Sun ... I call upon His power. I
offer myself!” I heard her cry.

His answering voice seemed terrible:

“The Law forbids. You hold Them back from me.” And then as from a
greater distance, the voice continued more faintly: “You prevent. It
has to be! Help me before it is too late; help me ... or ... I ...
fail!”

Fail! I heard the awful word like thunder in the heavens.

The conflict of their wills, the distress of it was terrible. At
this last moment she realised that the strain was more than he could
withstand--he would go from her in that separation which is the body’s
death. She saw it all; there was division in her will and energies.
Opposing herself to the justice he had invoked, she influenced the
invasion of the elemental Powers, offering herself as channel in the
hope of saving him. Her human desire weighed the balance--turning it
just against him. Her insight clouded with emotion. She increased the
risk for him, and at the same time left open to the great invading
Powers another channel--the line of least resistance, the empty vehicle
all prepared within herself.

To me it was mercilessly clear. I tried to speak, but found no words to
utter; my tongue refused to frame a single sound; nor could I move my
limbs. I heard Julius only, his voice calling like a distant storm.

“I call upon the Fire and Wind to enter me, and pass to their eternal
home ... whence you and I ... and he ...”

His voice fell curiously away into a gulf; there was weakness in it. I
saw her frail body shake from head to foot. She swayed as though about
to fall. And then her voice, strong as a bugle-call, rang out:

“I claim it by--my _love_....!”

There was a burst of wind, a rush of sheeted fire. Then darkness fell.
But in that instant before the fire passed, I saw his form stand close
before my eyes. The face, alight with compassion and resignation, was
turned towards her own. I saw the eyes; I saw the hands outstretched to
take her; the lips were parted in a final attempt at utterance which
never knew completion. And I knew--the certainty stopped the beating
of my heart--that he had failed. There was no actual sound. Like a
gleaming sword drawn swiftly from its scabbard, he rose past me through
the air, borne from his body, as it were, on wings of ascending flame.
There was a second of intolerable radiance, a rush of driving wind--and
he was gone.

And far away, at the end of some stone corridor in the sunshine, yet
at the same time close beside me upon the floor of the little mountain
châlet, I heard the falling body as it dropped with a thud before my
feet--untenanted....



CHAPTER XXXII


I remember what followed very much as one remembers the confusion after
an anæsthetic--fragments of extraordinary dream and of sensational
experience jostling one another on the threshold of awakening. Then,
very swiftly, like a train of gorgeous colour disappearing into a
tunnel of darkness, the memory slipped down within me and was gone. The
Past with a rush of lightning swept back into its sheath.

The glory and sense of exaltation, that is, were gone, but not the
memory that they had been. I knew what had happened, what I had felt,
seen, yearned for; but it was the cold facts alone remained, the
feelings that had accompanied them vanished. Into a dull, chilled world
I dropped back, wondering and terrified. A long interval had passed.

And the first thing I realised was that Mrs. LeVallon still lay
sleeping in that chair of wicker--profoundly sleeping--that the lamp
had burned low, and that the châlet felt like ice. Her face, even in
the twilight, I saw was normal, the older expression gone. I turned the
wick up higher, noting as I did so that the paper strewn about me was
thick with writing, and it was then my half-dazed senses took in first
that Julius was not standing near us, and that a shadow, oddly shaped
and huddled, lay on the floor where the lamplight met the darkness.

The moving portion seemed at once to disentangle itself from the rest,
and a face turned up to stare at me. It was the serving-man upon his
knees. The expression in his eyes did more to bring me to my normal
senses than anything else. That scared and anguished look made me
understand the truth--that, and the moaning that from time to time
escaped his lips.

Of speech from him I hardly got a word; he was inarticulate to the last
as ever, and all that I could learn was that he had felt his master’s
danger and had come....

We carried the body upstairs and laid it on the bed. I strove to regard
it merely as the “instrument” _he_ had used awhile, strove to find
still his real undying Presence close to me--but that comfort failed me
too. The face was very white. Upon the pale marble features lay still
that signature of “Other Places” which haunted his life and soul. We
closed the staring eyes and covered him with a sheet. And there the
servant crouched upon the floor for the remaining five hours until the
dawn, when I came up from watching that other figure of sleep in the
room below, and found him in the same position. All that day as well
he watched indeed, until at last I made him realise that the sooner he
got the farmer’s horse below and summoned a doctor, the better for all
concerned.

But that was many hours later in the day, and meanwhile he just
crouched there, difficult of approach, eyeing me savagely almost when
I came, his eyes aflame with a kind of ugly, sullen resentment, but
faithful to the last. What the silent, devoted being had heard or seen
during our long hours of sinister struggle and experiment, I never
knew, nor ever shall know.

My memory hardly lingers upon that; nor upon the unprofitable detail of
the doctor’s tardy arrival in the evening, his ill-concealed suspicion
and eventual granting of a death certificate according to Swiss law;
nor, again, upon his obvious verdict of a violent heart-stroke, or the
course of procedure that he bade us follow.

Even the distressing details of the burial have somewhat faded, and I
recall chiefly the fact that the Man established himself in the village
where the churchyard was and began his watch that kept him near the
grave, I believe, till death relieved him. My memory lingers rather
upon the hours that I watched beside the sleeping woman, and upon the
dreadful scene of her awakening and discovery of the truth.

For hours we had the darkness and the silence to ourselves, a silence
broken only by the steady breathing of her slumber. I dared not wake
her; knowing that the trance condition in time exhausts itself and
the subject returns to normal waking consciousness without effort or
distress, I let her slumber on, dreading the moment when the eyes would
open and she must question me. The cold increased with the early hours
of the morning, and I spread a rug about her stretched-out form. Slowly
with the failing of the oil, the little lamp flame flickered and died,
then finally went out, leaving us in the chill gloom together. All heat
had long since left the fire of peat.

It was a vigil never to be forgotten. My thoughts revolved the whole
time in one and the same circle, seeking in vain support from common
things. Slowly and by degrees my mind found steadiness, though with
returning balance my pain grew keener and more searching. The poignant
minutes stretched to days and years. For ever I fell to reconstructing
those vanished scenes of memory, while striving to believe that the
whole thing had been but a detailed vivid dream, and that presently
I, too, should awake to find our life in the châlet as before, Julius
still alive and close....

The moaning from the room overhead, where the Man watched over that
other, final sleep, then brought bitterly again the sad reality, and
set my thoughts whirling afresh with anguish. I was distraught and
trembling.... London and my lectures, the recent climbing in the
Dolomites, cities and trains and the business of daily modern life,
these were the dreams.... The reality, truth, lay in that world of
vision just departed ... Concerighé, Silvatela, the woman of that
ancient, splendid past, the re-capture of the Temple Days when we three
trod together that strange path of questing; the broken fragment of
it all; the Chamber of the Vacated Bodies, and the sin of long ago;
then, chief of all, the attempt to banish the Powers, evoked in those
distant ages, back to their eternal home--_his_ effort to offer himself
as channel--_her_ fear to lose him and her offering of herself--the
failure ... and that appalling result upstairs.

For, ever and again, my thoughts returned to that: the spirit of the
chief transgressor hovering now without a body, waiting for the River
of the Lives to bring in some dim future another opportunity for
atonement.

The failure...! In the glimmer of that pale, cold dawn I watched the
outline of her slumbering form. I remembered her cry of sacrificing
love that drew the great rushing Powers down into herself, and thus
into the unresisting little body gathered now in growth against her
heart. That human love the world deems great, seeking to save him
to her own distress, had only blocked the progress of his soul she
yearned to protect, so little understanding.... I heard her deep-drawn
breathing in the darkness and wondered ... for the child that she would
bear ... come to our modern strife and worldly things with this freight
of elemental forces linked about his human heart and mind--fierce child
of Wind and Fire...! A “natural,” perhaps a “super-natural” being....

This sense of woe and passion, haunting my long, silent vigil from
night to dawn, and after it when the sunshine of the September morning
lit the room and turned her face to silver--this it is that, after so
many years, clings to the memory as though of yesterday.

And then, without a sign or movement to prepare me, I saw that the eyes
had opened and were fixed upon my face.

The whispered words came instantly:

“Where is he? Has he gone away?”

Stupid with distress and pain, my heart was choked. I stared blankly in
return, the channels of speech too blocked to find a single syllable.

I raised my hands, though hardly knowing what I meant to do. She sat
up in the chair and looked a moment swiftly about the room. Her lips
parted for another question, but it did not come. I think in my face,
or in my gesture perhaps, she read the message of despair. She hid her
face behind her hands, leaned back with a dreadful drooping of the
entire frame, and let a sigh escape her that held the substance of all
unutterable words of grief.

I yearned to help, but it was my silence, of course, that brought the
truth so swiftly home to her returning consciousness. The awakening
was complete and rapid, not as out of common sleep. I longed to touch
and comfort her, yet my muscles refused to yield in any action I could
manage, and my tongue clung dry against the roof of my mouth.

Then, presently, between her fingers came the words below a whisper:

“I knew that this would happen ... I knew that once I slept, he’d go
from me ... and I should lose him. I tried ... that hard ... to keep
awake.... But sleep _would_ take me. An’ now ... it’s took him ... too.
He’s gone for--for very long ... again!” She did not say “for ever.”

It was the voice, the accent and the words again of Mrs. LeVallon.

“Not for ever,” I whispered, “but for a little time.”

She rose up like a figure of white death, taking my hand. She did not
tremble, and her step was firm. And more than this I never heard her
say, for the entire contents of the interval since she first fell
asleep beneath her husband’s passes had gone beyond recall.

“Take me to him,” she said gently. “I want to say good-bye.”

I led her up those creaking wooden stairs and left her with her dead.

Her strength was wonderful. I can never forget the quiet self-control
she showed through all the wretched details that the situation then
entailed. She asked no questions, shed no tears, moving brave and calm
through all the ghastly duties. Something in her that lay deeper than
death understood, and with the resignation of a truly great heart,
accepted. Far stronger than myself she was; and, indeed, it seemed
that my pain for her--at the time anyhow--absorbed the suffering
that made my own heart ache with a sense of loss that has ever since
left me empty and bereaved. Only in her eyes was there betrayal of
sorrow that was itself, perhaps, another half revival of yet dimmer
memories ... “eyes in which desire of some strange thing unutterably
burned, unquenchable....” For the first time I understood the truth of
another’s words--so like a statue was her appearance, so set in stone,
her words so sparing and her voice so dead:

  “_I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
   That only men incredulous of despair,
   Half taught in anguish, through the midnight air
   Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access
   Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness
   In souls as countries lieth silent-bare...._”

Her soul lay silent-bare; her grief was hopeless.... To my shame it
must be confessed that I longed to escape from all the strain and
nightmare of what had passed. The few days had been charged with
material for a lifetime. I knew the sharp desire to find myself in
touch once more with common, wholesome things--with London noise and
bustle, trains, telephones and daily newspapers, with stupid students
who could not even remember what they had learned the previous
week, and with all the great majority who never even dreamed of a
consciousness less restricted than their own. I saw the matter through,
however, to the bitter end, and did not lose sight of Mrs. LeVallon
until I left her safely in Lausanne, and helped her find a woman who
should be both maid and companion, at least for the immediate future.
It cannot be of interest or value to relate here. She did not cross my
path again; while, on the other hand, it has never been possible for
me to forget her. To this day I hear her voice and accent, I feel the
touch of that hand that drew me softly into such depths of inexplicable
vision; above all, I see her luminous, strange eyes and her movements
of strange grace across the châlet floor.... And sometimes, even now, I
half ... remember.

Yet never, till after this long interval of years, could I bring myself
to set down any record of what had happened. Perhaps--most probably, I
think--I feared that dwelling upon the haunting details that writing
would involve might revive too obsessingly the memory of an experience
so curiously overwhelming.

Now time has brought the necessity, as it were, of this confession;
and I have done my best with material that really resists the mould of
language, at least as I can use it. Later reading--for I devoured the
best authorities and ransacked even the most extravagant records in
my quest--has come to throw a little curious light upon some parts of
it; and the results of this subsequent study no doubt appear in this
report. At the time, however, I was ignorant of all such things, and
the effect upon me of what I witnessed thus for the first time may be
judged accordingly. It was dislocating.

Two facts alone remain to mention. And the first seems to me perhaps
the most singular of the entire experience. For the pages I had covered
with writing showed suddenly an abrupt and extraordinary change of
script. Although the earlier sheets were in my own handwriting, roughly
jotting down question and reply as they fell from the lips of Julius
or his wife, there came midway in them this inexplicable change that
altered them into the illegible scribble of a language that I could not
read, yet recognised. It changed into that curious kind of ideograph
that Julius used at school, that he showed me many a time in the sand
at the end of the football field where we used to lie and talk, and
that he claimed then was the ancient sacerdotal cipher we had used
together in our remotest “Temple Days.” I cannot read a word of it, nor
can any to whom I have shown it decipher a single outline. The change
began, it seems, at the point where “Mrs. LeVallon” went “deeper” at
his word of command, and entered the layer of memories that dealt with
that most ancient “section.” This accounts, too, for the confusion
and incompleteness of my record as written. A page of this script is
framed upon my walls to-day; my eye rests on it as I write these words
upon a modern typewriter--in Streatham.

The other fact I have to mention might well be the starting point for
study and observation of an interesting kind. Yet, though it sorely
tempted me, I resisted the temptation, and now, after twenty years,
it is too late, and I, too old. This record, if published, may fall
beneath the eye of someone to whom the chance and the desire may
possibly combine to bring the opportunity.

For some weeks after the events that have been here described, Mrs.
LeVallon gave birth to a boy, surviving him, alas! by but a single day.

This I heard long afterwards by the merest chance. But my strenuous
efforts to trace the child proved unavailing, and I only learned that
he was adopted by a French family whose name even was not given to me.
If alive he would be now about twenty years of age.



PRINTED BY CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, LONDON, E.C.



Transcriber’s Note:

Variations in hyphenations have been retained as they appear
in the original publication. Changes have been made as follows:

  Page 26
    euclid, mathematics, and the dead languages _changed to_
    Euclid, mathematics, and the dead languages

  Page 36
    the coming of a--third _changed to_
    the coming of a--third.

  Page 178
    by surprise, as it were.” _changed to_
    by surprise, as it were.

  Page 271
    Le Vallon’s personality and _changed to_
    LeVallon’s personality and





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