Part 3 out of 5
first becomes aware of his specific freedom, and that it seems to him as
though he awaked out of a deep sleep as though he were only now at home
in the world, and as if the light of day were breaking now over his
interior life for the first time.... The substance of these impressions
which affect us we call Nature, and thus Nature stands in an immediate
relationship to those functions of our bodies which we call senses.
Unknown and mysterious relations of our body allow us to surmise unknown
and mysterious correlations with Nature, and therefore Nature is that
wondrous fellowship into which our bodies introduce us, and which we
learn to know through the mode of its constitutions and abilities."
--NOVALIS, _Disciples at Sa´s_. Translated by U.C.B.
And so, at last, the darkness came, a starry darkness of soft blue
shadows and phosphorescent sea out of which the hills of the Cyclades
rose faint as pictures of floating smoke a wind might waft away like
flowers to the sky.
The plains of Marathon lay far astern, blushing faintly with their
scarlet tamarisk blossoms. The strange purple glow of sunset upon
Hymettus had long since faded. A hush grew over the sea, now a
marvelous cobalt blue. The earth, gently sleeping, manifested dreamily.
Into the subconscious state passed one half of her huge, gentle life.
The Irishman, responding to the eternal spell of her dream-state,
experienced in quite a new way the magic of her Night-Mood. He found
it more difficult than ever to realize as separate entities the little
things that moved about through the upper surface of her darkness.
Wings of silver, powerfully whirring, swept his soul onwards to another
And the two worlds intermingled oddly. These little separate "outer
things" going to and fro so busily became as symbols more or less vital,
more or less transparent. They varied according to their simplicity. Some
of them were channels that led directly where he was going; others,
again, had lost all connection with their vital source and center of
existence. To the former belonged the sailors, children, the tired birds
that rested on the ship as they journeyed northwards, swallows, doves,
and little travelers with breasts of spotted yellow that nested in the
rigging; even, in a measure, the gentle, brown-eyed priest; but to the
latter, the noisy, vulgar, beer-drinking tourists, and, especially,
the fur-merchant.... Stahl, interpreter and intermediary, hovered
Escaping from everybody, at length, he made his way into the bows; there,
covered by the stars, he waited. And the thing he waited for--he felt it
coming over him with a kind of massive sensation as little local as heat
or cold--was that disentanglement of a part of his personality from the
rest against which Stahl had warned him. That portion of his complex
personality in which resided desire and longing, matured during these
many years of poignant nostalgia, was now slowly and deliberately
loosening out from the parent center. It was the vehicle of his _Urwelt_
yearnings; and the _Urwelt_ was about to draw it forth. The Call
was on its way.
Hereabouts, then, near the Isles of Greece, lay a channel to the Earth's
far youth, a channel for some reason still unclosed. His companions
knew it; he, too, had half divined it. The increased psychic activity of
all three as they approached Greece seemed explained. The sign--would
it be through hearing, sight, or touch?--would shortly come that should
That very afternoon Stahl had said--"Greece will betray them," and
he had asked: "Their true form and type?" And for answer the old man
did an expressive thing, far more convincing than words: he bent
forwards and downwards. He made as though to move a moment on all fours.
O'Malley remembered the brief and vital scene now. The word, however,
persistently refused to come into his mind. Because the word was really
inadequate, describing but partially a form and outline symbolical of far
more,--a measure of Nature and Deity alike.
And so, as a man dreading the entrance to a great adventure that he
yet desires, the Irishman waited there alone beneath the cloud of
night.... Soft threads of star-gold, trailing the sea, wove with the
darkness a veil that hid from his eyes the world of crude effects. All
memory of the casual realities of modern life that so distressed his
soul, fled far away. The archetypal world, soul of the Earth, swam close
about him, enormous and utterly simple. He seemed alone in some hollow of
the night which Time had overlooked, and where the powers of sea and
air held him in the stretch of their gigantic, changeless hands. In this
hollow lay the entrance to the channel down which he presently might
flash back to that primal Garden of the Earth's first beauty--her Golden
Age... down which, at any rate, the authoritative Call he awaited was
to come.... "Oh! what a power has white simplicity!"
Wings from the past, serene and tranquil, bore him toward this ancient
peace where echoes of life's brazen clash today could never enter.
Ages before Greece, of course, it had flourished, yet Greece had caught
some flying remnant ere it left the world of men, and for a period had
striven to renew its life, though by poetry but half believed. Over the
vales and hills of Hellas this mood had lingered bravely for a while,
then passed away forever ... and those who dreamed of its remembrance
remain homeless and lonely, seeking it ever again in vain, lost citizens,
rejected by the cycles of vainer life and action that succeeded.
The Spirit of the Earth, yes, whispered in his ears as he waited covered
by the night and stars. She called him, as though across all the forests
on her breast the long sweet winds went whispering his name. Lying
there upon the coils of thick and tarry rope, the _Urwelt_ caught him
back with her splendid passion. Currents of Earth life, quasi-deific,
gentle as the hands of little children, tugged softly at this loosening
portion of his Self, urging his very lips, as it were, once more to the
mighty Mother's breasts. Again he saw those cloud-like shapes careering
over long, bare hills ... and almost knew himself among them as they
raced with streaming winds ... free, ancient comrades among whom he was
no longer alien and outcast, including his two companions of the steamer.
The early memory of the Earth became his own; as a part of her, he
shared it too.
The _Urwelt_ closed magnificently about him. Vast shapes of power and
beauty, other than human, once his comrades thus, but since withdrawn
because denied by a pettier age, moved up, huge and dim, across the
sham barriers of time and space, singing the great Earth-Song of welcome
in his ears. The whisper grew awfully.... The Spirit of the Earth
flew close and called upon him with a shout...!
Then, out of this amazing reverie, he woke abruptly to the consciousness
that some one was approaching him stealthily, yet with speed, through the
darkness. With a start he sat up, peering about him. There was dew on his
clothes and hair. The stars, he saw, had shifted their positions.
He heard the surge of the water from the vessel's bows below. The
line of the shore lay close on either side. Overhead he saw the black
threads of rigging, quivering with the movement of the ship; the swaying
mast-head light; the dim, round funnels; the confused shadows where
the boats swung--and nearer, moving between the ropes and windlasses,
this hurrying figure whose approach had disturbed him in his gorgeous
And O'Malley divined at once that, though in one sense a portion of his
dream, it belonged outwardly to the same world as this long dark steamer
that trailed after him across the sea. A piece of his vision, as it
were, had broken off and remained in the cruder world wherein his body
lay upon these tarry ropes. The boy came up and stood a moment by
his side in silence, then, stooping to the level of his head, he spoke:--
"Come," he said in low tones of joy; "come! We wait long for you
The words, like music, floated over the sea, as O'Malley took the
outstretched hand and suffered himself to be led quickly toward the
lower deck. He walked at first as in a dream continued after waking;
more than once it seemed as though they stepped together from the
boards and moved through space toward the line of peaked hills that
fringed the steamer's course so close. For through the salt night air ran
a perfume that suggested flowers, earth, and woods, and there seemed
no break in the platforms of darkness that knit sea and shore to the very
substance of the vessel.
The lights in the saloon were out, the smoking-room empty, the
passengers in bed. The ship seemed entirely deserted. Only, on the
bridge, the shadow of the first officer paced quietly to and fro. Then,
suddenly, as they approached the stern, O'Malley discerned anther
figure, huge and motionless, against the background of phosphorescent
foam; and at the first glance it was exactly as though he had detached
from the background of his mind one of those Flying Outlines upon
the hills--and caught it there, arrested visibly at last.
He moved along, fairly sure of himself, yet with a tumult of confused
sensations, as if consciousness were transferring itself now more rapidly
to that portion of him which sought to escape.
Leaning forward, in a stooping posture over the bulwarks, wrapped in the
flowing cape he sometimes wore, the man's back and shoulders married so
intimately with the night that it was hard to determine the dividing line
between the two. So much more of the deck behind him, and of the sky
immediately beyond his neck, was obliterated than by any possible human
outline. Whether owing to obliquity of disturbed vision, tricks of
shadow, or movement of the vessel between the stars and foam, the
Irishman saw these singular emanations spread about him into space. He
saw them this time directly. And more than ever before they seemed in
some way right and comely--true. They were in no sense monstrous; they
reported beauty, though a beauty cloaked in power.
And, watching him, O'Malley felt that this loosening portion of himself,
as once before in the little cabin, likewise began to grow and spread.
Within some ancient fold of the Earth's dream-consciousness they both lay
caught. In some mighty Dream of her planetary Spirit, dim, immense,
slow-moving, they played their parts of wonder. Already they lay close
enough to share the currents of her subconscious activities. And the
dream, as she turned in her vast, spatial sleep, was a dream of a time
Here, amid the loneliness of deserted deck and night, this illusion of
bulk was more than ever before outwardly impressive, and as he yielded
to the persuasion of the boy's hand, he was conscious of a sudden wild
inclination to use his own arms and legs in a way he had never before
known or dreamed of, yet that seemed curiously familiar. The balance
and adjustment of his physical frame sought to shift and alter; neck and
shoulders, as it were, urged forward; there came a singular pricking in
the loins, a rising of the back, a thrusting up and outwards of the
chest. He felt that something grew behind him with a power that sought to
impel or drive him in advance and out across the world at a terrific
gait; and the hearing of his ears became of a sudden intensely acute.
While his body moved ordinarily, he knew that a part of him that was not
body moved--otherwise, that he neither walked, ran, nor stepped upon
two feet, but--galloped. The motion proclaimed him kin with the flying
shapes upon the hills. At the heart of this portion which sought to
detach itself from his central personality--which, indeed, seemed
already half escaped--he cantered.
The experience lasted but a second--this swift, free motion of the
escaping Double--then passed away like those flashes of memory that rise
and vanish again before they can be seized for examination. He shook
himself free of the unaccountable obsession, and with the effort of
returning to the actual present, the passing-outwards was temporarily
checked. And it was then, just as he held himself in hand again, that
glancing sideways, he became aware that the boy beside him had, like
his parent, also changed--grown large and shadowy with a similar
suggestion of another splendid outline. The extension already half
accomplished in himself and fully accomplished in the father, was in
process of accomplishment in the smaller figure of the son. Clothed in
the emerged true shape of their inner being they slowly revealed
themselves. It was as bewildering as watching death, and as stern and
For the boy, still holding his hand, loped along beside him as though
the projection that emanated from him, grown almost physical, were
somehow difficult to manage.
In the moment of nearer, smaller consciousness that yet remained to
him, O'Malley recalled the significant pantomime of Dr. Stahl two days
before in the cabin. It came with a rush of fire. The warning operated;
his caution instantly worked. He dropped the hand, let the clinging
fingers slip from his own, overcome by something that appalled. For
this, surely, was the inner catastrophe that he dreaded, the radical
internal dislocation of his personality that involved--death. The thing
that had happened, or was happening to these other two, was on the
edge of fulfillment in himself--before he was either ready or had
decided to accept it.
At any rate he hesitated; and the hesitation, shifting his center of
consciousness back into his brain, checked and saved him. A confused
sense of forces settling back within himself followed; a kind of rush and
scuttle of moods and powers: and he remained temporarily master of
his being, recovering balance and command. Twice already--in that
cabin-scene, as also on the deck when Stahl had seized him--the
moment had come close. Now, again, had he kept hold of the boy's
grasp, that inner transformation, which should later become externalized,
must have completed itself.
"No, no!" he tried to cry aloud, "for I'm not yet ready!" But his voice
rose scarcely above a whisper. The decision of his will, however, had
produced the desired result. The "illusion," so strangely born, had
passed, at any rate for the time. He knew once more the glory of the
steadfast stars, realized that he walked normally upon a steamer's deck,
heard with welcome the surge of the sea below, and felt the peace of this
calm southern night as they coasted with two hundred sleeping tourists
between the islands and the Grecian mainland.... He remembered the
fur-merchant, the Armenian priest, the Canadian drummer....
It seemed his feet half tripped, or at least that he put out a hand to
steady himself against the ship's long roll, for the pair of them moved
up to the big man's side with a curious, rushing motion that brought
them all together with a mild collision. And the boy laughed merrily,
his laughter like singing half completed. O'Malley remembers the little
detail, because it serves to show that he was yet still in a state of
intensified consciousness, far above the normal level. It was still "like
walking in my sleep or acting out some splendid dream," as he put it
in his written version. "Half out of my body, if you like, though in no
sense of the words at all half out of my mind!"
What followed he relates with passion, half confused. Without speaking
the big Russian turned his head by way of welcome, and O'Malley saw that
the proportions of it were magnificent like a fragment of the night and
sky. Though too dark to read the actual expression in the eyes, he
detected their gleam of joy and splendor. The whole presentment of the
man was impressive beyond any words that he could find. Massive, yet
charged with swift and alert vitality, he reared there through the night,
his inner self now toweringly manifested. At any other time, and without
the preparation already undergone, the sight might almost have terrified;
now it only uplifted. For in similar fashion, though lesser in degree,
because the mold was smaller, and hesitation checked it, this very
transformation had been going forward within himself.
The three of them leaned there upon the rails, rails oddly dwindled
now to the size of a toy steamer, while thus the spirit of the dreaming
Earth swam round and through them, awful in power, yet at the same
time gentle, winning, seductive as wild flowers in the spring. And it was
this delicate, hair-like touch of delight, magical with a supreme and
utterly simple innocence, that made the grandeur of the whole experience
still easily manageable, and terror in it all unknown.
The Irishman stood on the outside, toward the vessel's stern, next
him the father, beyond, the boy. They touched. A current like a river in
flood swept through all three.
He, too, was caught within those visible extensions of their
personalities; all again, caught within the consciousness of the Earth.
Across the sea they gazed together in silence--waiting.
It was the Oro passage, where the mainland hills on the west and the Isle
of Tenos on the east draw close together, and the steamer passes for
several miles so near to Greece that the boom of surf upon the shore is
audible. That night, however, the sea lay too still for surf; it
whispered softly in its sleep; and in its sleep, too, listened. They
heard its multitudinous rush of voices as the surge below raced by--a
giant frieze in which the phosphorescence painted dancing forms and
palely luminous faces. Unsubstantial shapes of foam held hands in
continuous array below the waves, lit by soft-sea-lanterns strung
together along the steamer's sides.
Yet it was not these glimmering shapes the three of them watched, thus
intently silent. The lens of yearning focused not in sight. Down the
great channel at whose opening they stood, leading straight to the
Earth's old central heart, the message of communion would not be a
visual one. The sensitive fringe of their stretched personalities,
contacting thus actually the consciousness of the planet-soul, would
quiver to a reaction of another kind. This point of union, already
affected, would presently report itself, unmistakably, yet not to the
eyes. The increased acuteness of the Irishman's hearing--a kind of
interior hearing--quickly supplied the key. It was that all
Some primitive sound of Earth would presently vibrate through their
extended beings with an authoritative sweet thunder not to be denied.
By a Voice, a Call, the Earth would tell them that she heard; that
lovingly she was aware of their presence in her heart. She would call
them, with the voice of _one of their own kind_.
How strange it all was! Enormous in conception, enormous in distance,
scope, stretch! Yet so tiny, intimate, sweet! And this vast splendor was
to report itself by one of the insignificant little channels by which
men, locked in cramped physical bodies, interpret the giant universe--a
trivial sense-impression! That so terrible a communication could reach
the soul via the quivering of a wee material nerve was on a par with that
other grave splendor--that God can exist in the heart of a child.
Thus, dimly, yet with an authority that shakes the soul, may little
human hearts divine the Immensities that travel with a thunder of great
glory close about their daily life. Through regions of their subliminal
consciousness, which transcends the restricted physical expression of it
called personality as the moisture of the world transcends a drop of
water, deific presences pass grandly to and fro.
For here, to this wild-hearted Irishman with the forbidden strain of
the _Urmensch_ in his blood, came the sharp and instant revelation that
the Consciousness is not contained skin-tight around the body. It spread
enormously about him, remote, extended; and in some distant tract of
it this strange occurrence took place. The idea of distance and
extension, of course, were merely intellectual concepts, like that of
Time. For what happened, happened near and close, beside, _within_ his
actual physical person. That physical person, with its brain, however, he
realized, was but a fragment of his total Self. A broken piece of the
occurrence filtered through from beyond and fell upon the deck at his
feet. The rest he divined, seeing it whole. Only the little bit, however,
has he found the language to describe.
And that for which all three listened was already on the way. Forever
it had been "happening," yet only reached them now because they were
ready and open to it. Events upon the physical plane, he grasped,
represented the last feeble expression of things that had happened
interiorly with a vaster power long ago--and are ever happening still.
This Sound they listened for, coming from the Spirit of the Earth, lay
ever close to men's ears, divinely sweet and splendid. It seemed born
somewhere in the heart of the blue gloom that draped the hills of Greece.
Thence, across the peaked mountains, stretched the immense pipe of
starry darkness that carried it toward them as along a channel. Made
possible of approach by the ancient passion of beauty that Greece once
knew, it ran down upon the world into their hearts, direct from the
Being of the Earth.
With a sudden rush, it grew nearer, swelling with a draught of sound
that sucked whole spaces of sky and sea and stars with it. It emerged.
They heard, all three.
Above the pulse and tremble of the steamer's engines, above the
surge and gurgle of the sea, a cry swept toward them from the shore.
Long-drawn, sweetly-penetrating, yet with some strident accent of power
and command, this voice of Earth rushed upon them over the quiet
water--then died away again among the mountains and the night. Its
passage through the sky was torrential. The whole pouring flood of it
dipped back with abrupt swiftness into silence. The Irishman understood
that but an echo of its main volume had come through.
A deep, convulsive movement ran over the great body at his side, and
at once communicated itself to the boy beyond. Father and son
straightened up abruptly as though the same force lifted both; then
stretched down and forwards over the bulwarks. They seemed to shake
themselves free of something. Neither spoke. Something utterly
overwhelming lay in that moment. For the cry was at once of enchanting
sweetness, yet with a deep and dreadful authority that overpowered. It
invited the very soul.
A moment of silence followed, and the cry was then repeated, thinner,
fainter, already further away. It seemed withdrawn, sunk more deeply
into the night, higher up, too, floating away northwards into remoter
vales and glens that lay beyond the shore-line. Though still a single
cry, there were distinct breaks of utterance in it this time, as of
words. It was, of a kind--speech: a Message, a Summons, a Command that
somehow held entreaty at its heart.
And this time the appeal in it was irresistible. Father and son started
forwards as though deliberately pulled; while from himself shot outwards
that loosening portion of his being that all the evening had sought
release. The vehicle of his yearnings, passionately summoned, leaped to
the ancient call of the Earth's eternally young life. This vital essence
of his personality, volatile as air and fierce as lightning, flashed
outwards from its hidden prison where it lay choked and smothered by the
weights and measures of modern life. For the beauty and splendor of that
far voice wrung his very heart and set it free. He knew a quasi-physical
wrench of detachment. A wild and tameless glory fused the fastenings
Only the motionless solidity of the great figure beside him prevented
somehow the complete escape, and made him understand that the Call
just then was not for all three of them, especially not for himself. The
parent rose beside him, massive and stable, secure as the hills which
were his true home, and the boy broke suddenly into happy speech which
was wild and singing.
He looked up swiftly into his parent's steady visage.
"Father!" he cried in tones that merged half with the wind, half with
the sea, "it is his voice! Chiron calls--!" His eyes shone like stars,
his young face was alight with joy and passion.--"Go, father, _you_,
He stopped an instant, catching the Irishman's eyes upon his own
across the form between them.
"--or you!" he added with a laughter of delight; "_you_ go!"
The big figure straightened up, standing back a pace from the rails.
A low sound rolled from him that was like an echo of thunder among
hills. With slow, laborious distinctness it broke off into fragments that
were words, with great difficulty uttered, but with a final authority
that rendered them command.
"No," O'Malley heard, "you--first. And--carry word--that we--are--on
the way." Staring out across the sea and sky he boomed it deeply.
"You--first. We--follow--!" And the speech seemed to flow from the entire
surface of his body rather than from the lips alone. The sea and air
mothered the syllables. Thus might the Night herself have spoken.
_Chiron_! The word, with its clue of explanation, flamed about him
with a roar. Was this, then, the type of cosmic life to which his
companions, and himself with them, inwardly approximated...?
The same instant, before O'Malley could move a muscle to prevent
it, the boy climbed the rails with an easy, vaulting motion that was
swift yet oddly spread, and dropped straight down into the sea. He fell;
and as he fell it was as if the passage through the air drew out a part
of him again like smoke. Whether it was due to the flying cloak, or to
some dim wizardry of the shadows, there grew over him an instantaneous
transformation of outline that was far more marked than anything before.
For as the steamer drew onwards, and the body thus passed in its downward
flight close beneath O'Malley's eyes, he saw that the boy was making the
first preparatory motions of swimming,--movements, however, that were not
the horizontal sweep of a pair of human arms, but rather the vertical
strokes of a swimming animal. He pawed the air.
The surprise of the whole unexpected thing came upon him with a crash
that brought him back effectually again into himself. That part of him,
already half emerged in similar escape, now flashed back sheath-like
within him. The inner catastrophe he dreaded while desiring it, had
not yet completed itself.
He heard no splash, for the ship was high out of the water, and the
place where the body met the sea already lay far astern; but when the
momentary arrest of his faculties had passed and he found his voice to
cry for help, the father turned upon him like a lion and clapped a great,
encompassing hand upon his mouth.
"Quiet!" his deep voice boomed. "It is well--and he--is--safe."
And across the huge and simple visage ran an expression of such supreme
happiness, while in his act and gesture lay such convincing power, that
the Irishman felt himself overborne and forced to acknowledge another
standard of authority that somehow made the whole thing right. To cry
"man overboard," to stop the ship, throw life-buoys and the rest, was not
only unnecessary, but foolish. The boy was safe; it was well with him; he
was not "lost"...
"See," said the parent's deep voice, breaking in upon his thoughts as
he drew him to one side with a certain vehemence, "See!"
He pointed downwards. And there, between them, half in the scuppers,
against their very feet, lay the huddled body upon the deck, the
arms outstretched, the face turned upwards to the stars.
* * * * *
The bewilderment that followed was like the confusion which exists
between two states of consciousness when the mind passes from sleep
to waking, or _vice versa_. O'Malley lost that power of attention which
enables a man to concentrate on details sufficiently to recall their
exact sequence afterwards with certainty.
Two things, however, stood out and he tells them briefly enough: first,
that the joy upon the father's face rendered an offer of sympathy
ludicrous; secondly, that Dr. Stahl was again upon the scene with a
promptness which proved him to have been close at hand all the time.
It was between two and three in the morning, the rest of the passengers
asleep still, but Captain Burgenfelder and the first officer appeared
soon after and an orderly record of the affair was drawn up formally. The
depositions of the father and of himself were duly taken down in
writing, witnessed, and all the rest.
The scene in the doctor's cabin remains vividly in his mind: the huge
Russian standing by the door--for he refused a seat--incongruously
smiling in contrast to the general gravity, his mind obviously brought
by an effort of concentration to each question; the others seated round
the desk some distance away, leaving him in a space by himself; the
scratching of the doctor's pointed pen; the still, young outline
underneath the canvas all through the long pantomime, lying upon a couch
at the back where the shadows gathered thickly. And then the gust of
fresh wind that came in with a little song as they opened the door at
the end, and saw the crimson dawn reflected in the dewy, shining boards
of the deck. The father, throwing the Irishman a significant and curious
glance, was out to join it on the instant.
Syncope, produced by excitement, cause unknown, was the scientific
verdict, and an immediate burial at sea the parent's wish. As the sun
rose over the highlands of Asia Minor it was carried into effect.
But the father's eyes followed not the drop. They gazed with rapt,
intent expression in another direction where the shafts of sunrise sped
across the sea toward the glens and dales of distant Pelion. At the sound
of the plunge he did not even turn his eyes. He pointed, gathering
O'Malley somehow into the gesture, across the Ăgean Sea to where the
shores of north-western Arcadia lay below the horizon, raised his arms
with a huge sweep of welcome to the brightening sky, then turned and
went below without a single word.
For a few minutes, puzzled and perhaps a little awed, the group of
sailors and ship's officers remained standing with bared heads, then
disappeared silently in their turn, leaving the decks to the sunrise and
But O'Malley did not immediately return to his own cabin; he yielded to
Dr. Stahl's persuasion and dropped into the armchair he had already
occupied more than once, watching his companion's preparations with the
lamp and coffeepot.
With his eyes, that is, he watched, staring, as men say, absent-mindedly;
for the fact was, only a little bit of him hovered there about his
weary physical frame. The rest of him was off somewhere else across the
threshold--subliminal: below, with the Russian, beyond with the
traveling spirit of the boy; but the major portion, out deep in space,
reclaimed by the Earth.
So, at least, it felt; for the circulation of blood in his brain ran low
and physical sensation there was almost none. The driving impulse upon
the outlying tracts of consciousness usually submerged had been
"That time," he heard Stahl saying in an oddly distant voice from
across the cabin, "you were nearly--out--"
"You heard? You saw it all?" he murmured as in half-sleep. For it was
an effort to focus his mind even upon simple words.
The reply he hardly caught, though he felt the significant stare of the
man's eye upon him and divined the shaking of his head. His life still
pulsed and throbbed far away outside his normal self. Complete return
was difficult. He felt all over: with the wind and hills and sea, all his
little personal sensations tucked away and absorbed into Nature. In the
Earth he lay, pervading her whole surface, still sharing her vaster life.
With her he moved, as with a greater, higher, and more harmonious
creation than himself. In large measure the cosmic instincts still swept
these quickened fringes of his deep subconscious personality.
"You know them now for what they are," he heard the doctor saying at the
end of much else he had entirely missed. "The father will be the next to
go, and then--yourself. I warn you before it is too late. Beware!
His thoughts, and with them those subtle energies of the soul that are
the vehicles of thought, followed where the boy had gone. Deep streams of
longing swept him. The journey of that spirit, so singularly released,
drew half his forces after it. Thither the bereaved parent and himself
were also bound; and the lonely incompleteness of his life lay wholly now
explained. That cry within the dawn, though actually it had been calling
always, had at last reached him; hitherto he had caught only
misinterpreted echoes of it. From the narrow body it had called him
forth. Another moment and he would have known complete emancipation; and
never could he forget that glorious sensation as the vital essence tasted
half release. Next time the process should complete itself, and he
"Drink this," he heard abruptly in Stahl's grating voice, and saw him
cross the cabin with a cup of steaming coffee. "Concentrate your mind
now upon the things about you here. Return to the present. And tell me,
too, if you can bring yourself to do so," he added, stooping over
him with the cup, "a little of what you experienced. The return, I know,
is pain. But try--try--"
"Like a little bit of death, yes," murmured the Irishman. "I feel caught
again and caged--small." He could have wept. This ugly little life!
"Because you've tasted a moment of genuine cosmic consciousness and now
you feel the limitations of normal personality," Stahl added, more
soothingly. He sat down beside him and sipped his own coffee.
"Dispersed about the whole earth I felt, deliciously extended and
alive," O'Malley whispered with a faint shiver as he glanced about the
little cabin, noticing the small windows and shut door. "Upholstery"
oppressed him. "Now I'm back in prison again."
There was silence for a moment. Then presently the doctor spoke, as
though he thought aloud, expecting no reply.
"All great emotions," he said in lowered tones, "tap the extensions of
the personality we now call subconscious, and a man in anger, in love, in
ecstasy of any kind is greater than he knows. But to you has come,
perhaps, the greatest form of all--a definite and instant merging with
the being of the Earth herself. You reached the point where you _felt_
the spirit of the planet's life. You almost crossed the threshold--your
extension edged into her own. She bruised you, and you knew--"
"'Bruised'?" he asked, startled at the singular expression into closer
"We are not 'aware' of our interior," he answered, smiling a little,
"until something goes wrong and the attention is focused. A keen
sensation--pain--and you become aware. Subconscious processes then
become consciously recognized. I bruise your lung for instance; you
become conscious of that lung for the first time, and feel it. You gather
it up from the general subconscious background into acute personal
consciousness. Similarly, a word or mood may sting and stimulate some
phase of your consciousness usually too remote to be recognized. Last
night--regions of your extended Self, too distant for most men to realize
their existence at all, contacted the consciousness of the Earth herself.
She bruised you, and _via_ that bruise caught you up into her greater
Self. You experienced a genuine cosmic reaction."
O'Malley listened, though hardly to the actual words. Behind the
speech, which was in difficult German for one thing, his mind heard
the rushing past of this man's ideas. They moved together along the
same stream of thought, and the Irishman knew that what he thus heard
was true, at any rate, for himself. And at the same time he recognized
with admiration the skill with which this scientific mystic of a
_Schiffsarzt_ sought to lead him back into the safer regions of his
normal state. Stahl did not now oppose or deny. Catching the wave of the
Celt's experience, he let his thought run sympathetically with it,
alongside, as it were, guiding gently and insinuatingly down to earth
And the result justified this cunning wisdom; O'Malley returned to
the common world by degrees. For it was enchanting to find his amazing
adventure explained even in this partial, speculative way. Who else
among his acquaintances would have listened at all, much less admitted
"But, why in particular _me_?" he asked. "Can't everybody know these
cosmic reactions you speak of?" It was his intellect that asked the
foolish question. His whole Self knew the answer beforehand.
"Because," replied the doctor, tapping his saucer to emphasize each
word, "in some way you have retained an almost unbelievable simplicity
of heart--an innocence singularly undefiled--a sort of primal,
spontaneous innocence that has kept you clean and open. I venture even to
suggest that shame, as most men know it, has never come to you at all."
The words sank down into him. Passing the intellect that would have
criticized, they nested deep within where the intuition knew them true.
Behind the clumsy language that is, he caught the thought.
"As if I were a saint!" he laughed faintly.
Stahl shook his head. "Rather, because you live detached," he replied,
"and have never identified your Self with the rubbish of life. The
channels in you are still open to these tides of larger existence. I wish
I had your courage."
The German hesitated a moment. "Most men," he said, choosing his words
with evident care, "are too grossly organized to be aware that these
reactions of a wider consciousness can be possible at all. Their minute
normal Self they mistake for the whole, hence denying even the
experiences of others. 'Our actual personality may be something
considerably unlike that conception of it which is based on our present
terrestrial consciousness--a form of consciousness suited to, and
developed by, our temporary existence here, _but not necessarily more
than a fraction of our total self_. It is quite credible that our entire
personality is never terrestrially manifest.'" Obviously he quoted. The
Irishman had read the words somewhere. He came back more and more into
the world--correlated, that is, the subconscious with the conscious.
"Yet consciousness apart from the brain is inconceivable," he interposed,
more to hear the reply than to express a conviction.
Whether Stahl divined his intention or not, he gave no sign.
"'We cannot say with any security that the stuff called brain is the
only conceivable machinery which mind and consciousness are able to
utilize: though it is true that we know no other.'" The last phrase he
repeated: "'though it is true that we know no other.'"
O'Malley sank deeper into his chair, making no reply. His mind clutched
at the words "too grossly organized," and his thoughts ran back for a
moment to his daily life in London. He pictured his friends and
acquaintances there; the men at his club, at dinner parties, in the
parks, at theatres; he heard their talk--shooting--destruction of
exquisite life; horses, politics, women, and the rest; yet good, honest,
lovable fellows all. But how did they breathe in so small a world at all?
Practical-minded specimens of the greatest civilization ever known! He
recalled the heavy, dazed expression on the faces of one or two to whom
he had sometimes dared to speak of those wider realms that were so
familiar to himself....
"'Though it is true that we know no other,'" he heard Stahl repeating
slowly as he looked down into his cup and stirred the dregs.
Then, suddenly, the doctor rose and came over to his side. His eyes
twinkled, and he rubbed his hands vigorously together as he spoke. He
"For instance, I have no longer now the consciousness of that coffee
I have just swallowed," he exclaimed, "yet, if it disagreed with me, my
consciousness of it would return."
"The abnormal states you mean are a symptom of disorder then?" the
Irishman asked, following the analogy.
"At present, yes," was the reply, "and will remain so until their
correlation with the smaller conscious Self is better understood. These
belligerent Powers of the larger Consciousness are apt to overwhelm as
yet. That time, perhaps, is coming. Already a few here and there have
guessed that the states we call hysteria and insanity, conditions of
trance, hypnotism, and the like, are not too satisfactorily explained."
He peered down at his companion. "If I could study your Self at close
quarters for a few years," he added significantly, "and under various
conditions, I might teach the world!"
"Thank you!" cried the Irishman, now wholly returned into his ordinary
self. He could think of nothing else to say, yet he meant the words and
gave them vital meaning. He moved across to another chair. Lighting a
cigarette, he puffed out clouds of smoke. He did not desire to be caught
again beneath this man's microscope. And in his mind he had a sudden
picture of the speculative and experimenting doctor being "requested to
sever his connection" with the great Hospital for the sake of the
latter's reputation. But Stahl, in no way offended, was following his own
thoughts aloud, half speaking to himself.
"... For a being organized as you are, more active in the outlying
tracts of consciousness than in the centers lying nearer home,--a being
like yourself, I say, might become aware of Other Life and other
personalities even more advanced and highly organized than that of the
A strange excitement came upon him, making his eyes shine. He walked to
and fro, O'Malley watching him, a touch of alarm mingled with his
"And to think of the great majority that denies because they are--dead!"
he cried. "Smothered! Undivining! Living in that uninspired fragment
which they deem the whole! Ah, my friend,"--and he came abruptly
nearer--"the pathos, the comedy, the pert self-sufficiency of their dull
pride, the crass stupidity and littleness of their denials, in the eyes
of those like ourselves who have actually known the passion of the larger
experience--! For all this modern talk about a Subliminal Self is woven
round a profoundly significant truth, a truth newly discovered and only
just beginning to be understood. We are much greater than we know, and
there is a vast subconscious part of us. But, what is more important
still, there is a super-consciousness as well. The former represents
what the race has discarded; it is past; but the latter stands for what
it reaches out to in the future. The perfect man you dream of perhaps is
he who shall eventually combine the two, for there is, I think, a vast
amount the race has discarded unwisely and prematurely. It is of value
and will have to be recovered. In the subconsciousness it lies secure and
waiting. But it is the super-consciousness that you should aim for, not
the other, for there lie those greater powers which so mysteriously wait
upon the call of genius, inspiration, hypnotism, and the rest."
"One leads, though, to the other," interrupted O'Malley quickly. "It
is merely a question of the swing of the pendulum?"
"Possibly," was the laconic reply.
"They join hands, I mean, behind my back, as it were."
"This stranger, then, may really lead me forward and not back?"
"Possibly," again was all the answer that he got.
For Stahl had stopped short, as though suddenly aware that he had
said too much, betraying himself in the sudden rush of interest and
excitement. The face for a moment had seemed quite young, but now
the flush faded, and the light died out from his eyes. O'Malley never
understood how the change came about so quickly, for in a moment,
it seemed, the doctor was calm again, quietly lighting one of his black
cigars over by the desk, peering at him half quizzingly, half mockingly
through the smoke.
"So I urge you again," he was saying, as though the rest had been some
interlude that the Irishman had half imagined, "to proceed with the
caution of this sane majority, the caution that makes for safety. Your
friend, as I have already suggested to you, is a direct expression of the
cosmic life of the earth. Perhaps, you have guessed by now, the
particular type and form. Do not submit your inner life too completely to
his guidance. Contain your Self--and resist--while it is yet possible."
And while he sat on there, sipping hot coffee, half listening to the
words that warned of danger while at the same time they cunningly
urged him forwards, it seemed that the dreams of childhood revived in
him with a power that obliterated this present day--the childhood,
however, not of his mere body, but of his spirit, when the world herself
was young.... He, too, had dwelt in Arcady, known the free life of
splendor and simplicity in some Saturnian Reign; for now this dream,
but half remembered, half believed, though eternally yearned for--dream
of a Golden Age untouched by Time, still there, still accessible,
still inhabited, was actually coming true.
It surely was that old Garden of innocence and joy where the soul,
while all unvexed by a sham and superficial civilization of the mind,
might yet know growth--a realm half divined by saints and poets, but
to the gross majority forgotten or denied.
The Simple Life! This new interpretation of it at first overwhelmed.
The eyes of his soul turned wild with glory; the passion that o'er-runs
the world in desolate places was his; his, too, the strength of rushing
rivers that coursed their parent's being. He shared the terror of the
mountains and the singing of the sweet Spring rains. The spread wonder
of the woods of the world lay imprisoned and explained in the daily
hurry of his very blood. He understood, because he felt, the power of
the ocean tides; and, flitting to and fro through the tenderer regions of
his extended Self, danced the fragrance of all the wild flowers that ever
blew. That strange allegory of man, the microcosm, and earth, the
macrocosm, became a sudden blazing reality. The feverish distress,
unrest, and vanity of modern life was due to the distance men had
traveled from the soul of the world, away from large simplicity into the
pettier state they deemed so proudly progress.
Out of the transliminal depths of this newly awakened Consciousness
rose the pelt and thunder of these magical and enormous cosmic
sensations--the pulse and throb of the planetary life where his little
Self had fringed her own. Those untamed profundities in himself that
walked alone, companionless among modern men, suffering an eternal
nostalgia, at last knew the approach to satisfaction. For when the "inner
catastrophe" completed itself and escape should come--that transfer
of the conscious center across the threshold into this vaster region
stimulated by the Earth--all his longings would be housed at last like
homing birds, nested in the gentle places his yearnings all these years
had lovingly built for them--in a living Nature! The fever of modern
life, the torture and unrest of a false, external civilization that
trained the brain while it still left wars and baseness in the heart,
would drop from him like the symptoms of some fierce disease. The god of
speed and mechanism that ruled the world today, urging men at ninety
miles an hour to enter a Heaven where material gain was only a little
sublimated and not utterly denied, would pass for the nightmare that it
really was. In its place the cosmic life of undifferentiated simplicity,
clean and sweet and big, would hold his soul in the truly everlasting
And that little German doctor, sitting yonder, enlightened yet afraid,
seeking an impossible compromise--Stahl could no more stop his going
than a fly could stop the rising of the Atlantic tides.
Out of all this tumult of confused thought and feeling there rose then
the silver face of some forgotten and passionate loveliness. Apparently
it reached his lips, for he heard his own voice murmuring outside him
somewhere across the cabin:--
"The gods of Greece--and of the world--"
Yet the instant words clothed it, the flashing glory went. The idea
plunged back out of sight--untranslatable in language. Thrilled and
sad, he lay back in his chair, watching the doctor and trying to focus
his mind upon what he was saying. But the lost idea still dived and
reared within him like a shining form, yet never showing more than
this radiant point above the surface. The passion and beauty of it...!
He tried no more to tie a label of modern words about its neck. He let
it swim and dive and leap within him uncaught. Only he understood
better why, close to Greece, his friends had betrayed their inner selves,
and why for the lesser of the two, whose bodily cage was not yet fully
clamped and barred by physical maturity, escape, or return rather, had
been possible, nay, had been inevitable.
Stahl, he remembers, had been talking for a long time. The general sense
of what he said reached him, perhaps, but certainly not many of the
words. The doctor, it was clear, wished to coax from him the most
intimate description possible of his experience. He put things crudely
in order to challenge criticism, and thus to make his companion's reason
sit in judgment on his heart. If this visionary Celt would let his
intellect pass soberly and dissectingly upon these flaming states of
wider consciousness he had touched, the doctor would have data of real
value for his own purposes.
But this discriminating analysis was precisely what the Irishman found
impossible. His soul was too "dispersed" to concentrate upon modern terms
and phrases. These in any case dealt only with the fragments of Self that
manifested through brain and body. The rest could be felt only, never
truly described. Since the beginning of the world such transcendental
experiences had never been translatable in the language of "common"
sense; and today, even, when a few daring minds sought a laborious
classification, straining the resources of psychology, the results were
little better than a rather enticing and suggestive confusion.
In his written account, indeed, he gives no proper report of what Stahl
tried to say. A gaping hiatus appears in the manuscript, with only
asterisks and numbers that referred to pages of his tumbled notebooks.
Following these indications I came across the skeletons of ideas which
perhaps were the raw material, so to say, of these crude and speculative
statements that the German poured out at him across that cabin--blocks
of exaggeration he flung at him, in the hope of winning some critical
and intelligible response. Like the structure of some giant fairy-tale
they read--some toppling scaffolding that needed reduction in scale
before it could be focused for normal human sight.
"Nature" was really alive for those who believed--and worshipped; for
worship was that state of consciousness which opens the sense and
provides the channel for this singular interior realization. In very
desolate and lonely places, unsmothered and unstained by men as they
exist today, such expressions of the Earth's stupendous, central vitality
were still possible.... The "Russian" himself was some such fragment,
some such cosmic being, strayed down among men in a form outwardly
human, and the Irishman had in his own wild, untamed heart those
same very tender and primitive possibilities which enabled him to know
and feel it.
In the body, however, he was fenced off--without. Only by the
disentanglement of his primitive self from the modern development
which caged it, could he recover this strange lost Eden and taste in its
fullness the mother-life of the planetary consciousness which called him
back. This dissociation might be experienced temporarily as a subliminal
adventure; or permanently--in death.
Here, it seemed, was a version of the profound mystical idea that a
man must lose his life to find it, and that the personal self must be
merged in a larger one to know peace--the incessant, burning nostalgia
that dwells in the heart of every religion known to men: escape from
the endless pain of futile personal ambitions and desires for external
things that are unquenchable because never possible of satisfaction. It
had never occurred to him before in so literal and simple a form. It
explained his sense of kinship with the earth and nature rather than
There followed, then, another note which the Irishman had also
omitted from his complete story as I found it--in this MS. that lay
among the dust and dinginess of the Paddington back-room like some
flaming gem in a refuse heap. It was brief but pregnant--the block of
another idea, Fechner's apparently, hurled at him by the little doctor.
That, just as the body takes up the fact of the bruised lung into its
own general consciousness, lifting it thereby from the submerged,
unrealized state; and just as our human consciousness can be caught up
again as a part of the earth's; so, in turn, the Planet's own vast
personality is included in the collective consciousness of the entire
Universe--all steps and stages of advance to that final and august
Consciousnss of which they are fragments, projections, manifestations in
And the immense conception, at any rate, gave him a curious,
flashing clue to that passionate inclusion which a higher form of
consciousness may feel for the countless lesser manifestations below it;
and so to that love for humanity as a whole that saviors feel....
Yet, out of all this deep flood of ideas and suggestions that somehow
poured about him from the mind of this self-contradictory German,
alternately scientist and mystic, O'Malley emerged with his own smaller
and vivid personal delight that he would presently himself--escape:
escape under the guidance of the big Russian into some remote corner
of his own extended Being, where he would enjoy a quasi-merging with
the Earth-life, and know subjectively at least the fruition of all his
The doctor had phrased it once that a part of him fluid, etheric or
astral, malleable by desire, would escape and attain to this result. But,
after all, the separation of one portion of himself from the main
personality could only mean being conscious it: another part of it--in
a division usually submerged.
As Stahl so crudely put it, the Earth had bruised him. He would know
in some little measure the tides of her own huge life, his longings,
loneliness, and nostalgia explained and satisfied. He would find that
fair old Garden. He might even know the lesser gods.
* * * * *
That afternoon at Smyrna the matter was officially reported, and so
officially done with. It caused little enough comment on the steamer.
The majority of the passengers had hardly noticed the boy at all, much
less his disappearance; and while many of them landed there for Ephesus,
still more left the ship next day at Constantinople.
The big Russian, though he kept mostly to his own cabin, was closely
watched by the ship's officers, and O'Malley, too, realized that he was
under observation. But nothing happened; the emptied steamer pursued
her quiet way, and the Earth, unrealized by her teeming freight so busy
with their tiny personal aims, rushed forwards upon her glorious journey
O'Malley alone realized her presence, aware that he rushed with her
amid a living universe. But he kept his new sensations to himself. The
remainder of the voyage, indeed, across the Black Sea _via_ Samsoun and
Trebizond, is hazy in his mind so far as practical details are concerned,
for he found himself in a dreamy state of deep peace and would sometimes
sit for hours in reverie, only reminded of the present by certain pricks
of annoyance from the outer world. He had returned, of course, to his own
stateroom, yet felt in such close sympathy with his companion that no
outward expression by way of confidence or explanation was necessary. In
their Subconsciousness they were together and at one.
The pricks of annoyance came, as may be expected, chiefly from Dr.
Stahl, and took the form of variations of "I told you so." The man was
in a state of almost anger, caused half by disappointment, half by
unsatisfied curiosity. His cargo of oil and water would not mix, yet he
knew not which to throw overboard; here was another instance where
facts refused to tally with the beliefs dictated by sane reason; where
the dazzling speculations he played with threatened to win the day and
destroy the compromise his soul loved.
The Irishman, however, did not resent his curiosity, though he made
no attempt to satisfy it. He allowed him to become authoritative and
professional, to treat him somewhat as a patient. What could it matter
to him, who in a few hours would land at Batoum and go off with his
guide and comrade to some place where--? The thought he could never
see completed in words, for he only knew that the fulfillment of the
adventure would take place--somewhere, somehow, somewhen--in that space
within the soul of which external space is but an image and a figure.
What takes place in the mind and heart are alone the true events; their
outward expression in the shifting and impermanent shapes of matter is
the least real thing in all the world. For him the experience would be
true, real, authoritative--fact in the deepest sense of the word.
Already he saw it "whole."
Faith asks no travelers' questions--exact height of mountains, length
of rivers, distance from the sea, precise spelling of names, and so
forth. He felt--the quaint and striking simile is in the written
account--like a man hunting for a pillar-box in a strange city--absurdly
difficult to find, as though purposely concealed by the authorities amid
details of street and houses to which the eye is unaccustomed, yet really
close at hand all the time....
But at Trebizond, a few hours before Batoum, Dr. Stahl in his zealous
attentions went too far; for that evening he gave his "patient" a
sleeping-draught in his coffee that caused him to lie for twelve hours on
the cabin sofa, and when at length he woke toward noon, the Customs
officers had been aboard since nine o'clock, and most of the passengers
had already landed.
Among them, leaving no message, the big Russian had also gone
ashore. And, though Stahl may have been actuated by the wisest and
kindest motives, he was not quite prepared for the novel experience with
which it provided him--namely, of hearing an angry Irishman saying
rapidly what he thought of him in a stream of eloquent language that
lasted nearly a quarter of an hour without a break!
Although Batoum is a small place, and the trains that leave it during
the day are few enough, O'Malley knew that to search for his friend by
the methods of the ordinary detective was useless. It would have been
also wrong. The man had gone deliberately, without attempting to say
good-bye--because, having come together in the real and inner sense,
real separation was not possible. The vital portion of their beings,
thought, feeling, and desire, were close and always would be. Their
bodies, busy at different points of the map among the casual realities
of external life, could make no change in that. And at the right moment
they would assuredly meet again to begin the promised journey.
Thus, at least, in some fashion peculiarly his own, was the way the
Irishman felt; and this was why, after the first anger with his German
friend, he resigned himself patiently to the practical business he had in
The little incident was characteristically revealing, and shows how
firmly rooted in his imaginative temperament was the belief, the
unalterable conviction rather, that his life operated upon an outer and
an inner plane simultaneously, the one ever reacting upon the other. It
was as if he were aware of two separate sets of faculties, subtly linked,
one carrying on the affairs of the physical man in the "practical" world,
the other dealing with the spiritual economy in the subconscious. To
attend to the latter alone was to be a useless dreamer among men,
unpractical, unbalanced; to neglect it wholly for the former was to be
crassly limited, but half alive; to combine the two in effective
co-operation was to achieve that high level of a successful personality,
which some perhaps term genius, some prophet, and others, saint. It
meant, at any rate, to have sources of inspiration within oneself.
Thus he spent the day completing what was necessary for his simple
outfit, and put up for the night at one of the little hotels that spread
their tables invitingly upon the pavement, so that dinner may be enjoyed
in full view of one of the most picturesque streams of traffic it is
possible to see.
The sultry, enervating heat of the day had passed and a cool breeze
came shorewards over the Black Sea. With a box of thin Russian
cigarettes before him he lingered over the golden Kakhetian wine and
watched the crowded street. Knowing enough of the language to bargain
smartly for his room, his pillows, sheets, and samovar, he yet could
scarcely compass conversation with the strangers about him. Of Russian
proper, besides, he heard little; there was a Babel of many tongues,
Armenian, Turkish, Georgian, explosive phrases of Swanetian, soft
gliding Persian words, and the sharp or guttural exclamations of the
big-voiced, giant fellows, all heavily armed, who belonged to the
bewildering tribes that dwelt among the mountains beyond. Occasionally
came a broken bit of French or German; but they strayed in, lost and
bizarre, as fragments from some distant or forgotten world.
Down the pavement, jostling his elbows, strode the constant, gorgeous
procession of curious, wild, barbaric faces, bearded, with hooked
noses, flashing eyes, burkas flowing; cartridge-belts of silver and ivory
gleaming across chests in the glare of the electric light; bashliks of
white, black, and yellow wool upon the head, increasing the stature;
evil-looking Black Sea knives stuck in most belts, rifles swung across
great supple shoulders, long swords trailing; Turkish gypsies, dark and
furtive-eyed, walking softly in leather slippers--of endless and
fascinating variety, many colored and splendid, it all was. From time to
time a droschky with two horses, or a private carriage with three,
rattled noisily over the cobbles at a reckless pace, stopping with the
abruptness of a practiced skater; and officers with narrow belted waists
like those of women, their full-skirted cloaks reaching half-way down
high boots of shining leather, sprang out to pay the driver and take a
vacant table at his side; and once or twice a body of soldiers, several
hundred strong, singing the national songs with a full-throated vigor,
hoarse, wild, somehow half terrible, passed at a swinging gait away into
the darkness at the end of the street, the roar of their barbaric singing
dying away in the distance by the sea where the boom of waves just caught
And O'Malley loved it all, and "thrilled" as he watched and listened.
From his hidden self within something passed out and joined it. He felt
the wild pulse of energetic life that drove along with the tumult of it.
The savage, untamed soul in him leaped as he saw; the blood ran faster.
Sitting thus upon the bank of the hurrying stream, he knew himself
akin to the main body of the invisible current further out; it drew him
with it, and he experienced a quickening of all his impulses toward some
wild freedom that was mighty--clean--simple.
Civilian dress was rare, and noticeable when it came. The shipping agents
wore black alpaca coats, white trousers, and modern hats of straw. A few
ship's officers in blue, with official caps gold-braided, passed in and
out like men without a wedding garment, as distressingly out of the
picture as tourists in check knickerbockers and nailed boots moving
through some dim cathedral aisle. O'Malley recognized one or two from
his own steamer, and turned his head the other way. It hurt. He caught
himself thinking, as he saw them, of Stock Exchanges, two-penny-tubes,
Belgravia dinner parties, private views, "small and earlies," musical
comedy, and all the rest of the dismal and meager program. These
harmless little modern uniforms were worse than ludicrous, for they
formed links with the glare and noise of the civilization he had left
behind, the smeared vulgarity of the big cities where men and women
live in their possessions, wasting life in that worship of external
detail they call "progress"...
A well-known German voice crashed through his dream.
"Already at the wine! These Caucasian vintages are good; they really
taste of grapes and earth and flowers. Yes, thanks, I'll join you for a
moment if I may. We only lie three days in port and are glad to get
O'Malley called for a second glass, and passed the cigarettes.
"I prefer my black cigars, thank you," was the reply, lighting one.
"You push on tomorrow, I suppose? Kars, Tiflis, Erzerum, or somewhere
a little wilder in the mountains, eh?"
"Toward the mountains, yes," the Irishman said. Dr. Stahl was the only
person he could possibly have allowed to sit next him at such a time. He
had quite forgiven him now, and though at first he felt no positive
welcome, the strange link between the two men quickly asserted itself and
welded them together in that odd harmony they knew in spite of all
differences. They could be silent together, too, without distress or
awkwardness, sure test that at least some portion of their personalities
And for a long time they remained silent, watching the surge and
movement of the old, old types about them. They sipped the yellow
wine and smoked. The stars came out; the carriages grew less; from far
away floated a deep sonorous echo now and then of the soldiers singing
by their barracks. Sometimes a steamer hooted. Cossacks swung by.
Often some wild cry rang out from a side street. There were heavy,
unfamiliar perfumes in the air. Presently Stahl began talking about the
Revolution of a few years before and the scenes of violence he had
witnessed in these little streets, the shooting, barricades, bombs thrown
into passing carriages, Cossacks charging down the pavements with
swords drawn, shouting and howling. O'Malley listened with a part of
his mind at any rate. The rest of him was much further away.... He
was up among the mountain fastnesses. Already, it seemed, he knew the
secret places of the mist, the lair of every running wind....
Two tall mountain tribesmen swaggered past close to their table; the
thick grey burkas almost swept their glasses. They walked magnificently
with easy, flowing stride, straight from the hips.
"The earth here," said O'Malley, taking advantage of a pause in the
other's chatter, "produces some splendid types. Look at those two; they
make one think of trees walking--blown along bodily before a wind."
He watched them with admiration as they swung off and disappeared
among the crowd.
Dr. Stahl, glancing keenly at him, laughed a little.
"Yes," he said; "brave, generous fellows too as a rule, who will shoot
you for a pistol that excites their envy, yet give their life to save one
of their savage dogs. They're still--natural," he added after a
moment's hesitation; "still unspoiled. They live close to Nature with a
vengeance. Up among the Ossetians on the high saddles you'll find true
Pagans who worship trees, sacrifice blood, and offer bread and salt to
"Still?" asked O'Malley, sipping his wine.
"Still," replied Stahl, following his example.
Over the glasses' rims their eyes met. Both smiled, though neither
quite knew why. The Irishman, perhaps, was thinking of the little city
clerks he knew at home, pigeon-breasted, pale-faced, under-sized. One
of these big men, so full of rushing, vigorous life, would eat a dozen at
"There's something here the rest of the world has lost," he murmured
to himself. But the doctor heard him.
"You feel it?" he asked quickly, his eyes brightening. "The awful,
"I feel--something, certainly," was the cautious answer. He could
not possibly have said more just then; yet it seemed as though he heard
far echoes of that voice that had been first borne to his ears across the
blue Ăgean. In the gorges of these terrible mountains it surely sounded
still. These men must know it too.
"The spell of this strange land will never leave you once you've felt
it," pursued the other quietly, his voice deepening. "Even in the towns
here--Tiflis, Kutais--I have felt it. Hereabouts is the cradle of the
human race, they say, and the people have not changed for thousands
of years. Some of them you'll find"--he hunted for a word, then said
with a curious, shrugging gesture, "terrific."
"Ah--" said the Irishman, lighting a fresh cigarette from the dying
stump so clumsily that the trembling of the hand was noticeable.
"And akin most likely," said Stahl, thrusting his face across the table
with a whispering tone, "to that--man--who--tempted you."
O'Malley did not answer. He drank the liquid golden sunshine in his
glass; his eyes lifted to the stars that watched above the sea; between
the surge of human figures came a little wind from the grim, mysterious
Caucasus beyond. He turned all tender as a child, receiving as with a
shock of sudden strength and sweetness a thousand intimate messages from
the splendid mood of old Mother-Earth who here expressed herself in such
a potent breed of men and mountains.
He heard the doctor's voice still speaking, as from a distance though:--
"For here they all grow with her. They do not fight her and resist. She
pours freely through them; there is no opposition. The channels still lie
open; ... and they share her life and power."
"That beauty which the modern world has lost," repeated the other
to himself, lingering over the words, and wondering why they expressed
so little of what he really meant.
"But which will never--_can_ never come again," Stahl completed the
sentence. There was a wistful, genuine sadness in his voice and eyes, and
the sympathy touched the inflammable Celt with fire. It was ever thus
with him. The little man opposite, with the ragged beard, and the bald,
domed head gleaming in the electric light, had laid a card upon the
table, showing a bit of his burning heart. The generous Irishman
responded like a child, laying himself bare. So hungry was he for
"Men have everywhere else clothed her fair body with their smothering,
ugly clothing and their herded cities," he burst out, so loud that
the Armenian waiter sidled up, thinking he called for wine. "But here
she lies naked and unashamed, sweet in divinity made simple. By Jove!
I tell you, doctor, it burns and sweeps me with a kind of splendid
passion that drowns my little shame-faced personality of the twentieth
century. I could run out and worship--fall down and kiss the grass and
soil and sea--!"
He drew back suddenly like a wounded animal; his face turned scarlet,
as though he knew himself convicted of an hysterical outburst. Stahl's
eyes had changed even as he spoke the flaming words that struggled so
awkwardly to seize his mood of rapture--a thought the Earth poured
through him for a moment. The bitter, half-mocking smile lay in them,
and on the lips the cold and critical expression of the other Stahl,
skeptic and science-man. A revulsion of feeling caught them both. But to
O'Malley came the thought that once again he had been drawn--was
being coaxed for examination beneath the microscope.
"The material here," Stahl said presently, with the calm tones of a
dispassionate diagnosis, "is magnificent as you say, uncivilized without
being merely savage, untamed, yet far from crude barbarism. When the
progress of the age gets into this land the transformation will be grand.
When Russia lets in culture, when modern improvements have developed
her resources and trained the wild human forces into useful channels...."
He went on calmly by the yard, till it was all the Irishman could do
not to dash the wine-glass in his face.
"Remember my words when you are up in the lonely mountains," he
concluded at length, smiling his queer sardonic smile, "and keep yourself
in hand. Put on the brakes when possible. Your experience will thus
have far more value."
"And you," replied O'Malley bluntly, so bluntly it was almost rudeness,
"go back to Fechner, and try to save your compromising soul before
it is too late--"
"Still following those lights that do mislead the morn," Stahl added
gently, breaking into English for a phrase he apparently loved. They
laughed and raised their glasses.
A long pause came which neither cared to break. The streets were
growing empty, the personality of the mysterious little Black Sea port
folding away into the darkness. The wilder element had withdrawn
behind the shuttered windows. There came a murmur of the waves, but
the soldiers no longer sang. The droschkys ceased to rattle past. The
night flowed down more thickly from the mountains, and the air, moist
with that malarial miasma which makes the climate of this reclaimed
marsh whereon Batoum is built so unhealthy, closed unpleasantly about
them. The stars died in it.
"Another glass?" suggested Stahl. "A drink to the gods of the Future,
and till we meet again, on your return journey, eh?"
"I'll walk with you to the steamer," was the reply. "I never care for
much wine. And the gods of the Future will prefer my usual offering, I
The doctor did not ask him to explain. They walked down the middle
of the narrow streets. No one was about, nor were there lights in many
windows. Once or twice from an upper story came the faint twanging
of a balalaika against the drone of voices, and occasionally they passed
a little garden where figures outlined themselves among the trees, with
the clink of glasses, laughter of men and girls, and the glowing tips of
They turned down toward the harbor where the spars and funnels of
the big steamers were just visible against the sky, and opposite the
unshuttered window of a shop--one of those modern shops that oddly
mar the town with assorted German tinware, Paris hats, and oleographs
indiscriminately mingled--Stahl stopped a moment and pointed. They
moved up idly and looked in. From the shadows of the other side, well
hidden, an armed patrol eyed them suspiciously, though they were not
aware of it.
"It was before a window like this," remarked Stahl, apparently casually,
"that I once in Tiflis overheard two mountain Georgians talking
together as they examined a reproduction of a modern picture--B÷cklin's
'Centaur.' They spoke in half whispers, but I caught the trend of
what they said. You know the picture, perhaps?"
"I've seen it somewhere, yes," was the short reply. "But what were they
saying?" He strove to keep his voice commonplace and casual like his
"Oh, just discussing it together, but with a curious stretched interest,"
Stahl went on. "One asked, 'What does it say?' and pointed to the
inscription underneath. They could not read. For a long time they stared
in silence, their faces grave and half afraid. 'What is it?' repeated the
first one, and the other, a much older man, heavily bearded and of giant
build, replied low, 'It's what I told you about'; there was awe in his
tone and manner; 'they still live in the big valley of the rhododendrons
beyond--' mentioning some lonely uninhabited region toward Daghestan;
'they come in the spring, and are very swift and roaring....You must
always hide. To see them is to die. But they cannot die; they are of the
mountains. They are older, older than the stones. And the dogs will warn
you, or the horses, or sometimes a great sudden wind, though you must
never shoot.' They stood gazing in solemn wonder for minutes...till at
last, realizing that their silence was final, I moved away. There were
manifestations of life in the mountains, you see, that they had seen and
knew about--old forms akin to that picture apparently."
The patrol came out of his shadows, and Stahl quickly drew his
companion along the pavement.
"You have your passport with you?" he asked, noticing the man behind
"It went to the police this afternoon. I haven't got it back yet."
O'Malley spoke thickly, in a voice he hardly recognized as his own. How
much he welcomed that casual interruption of the practical world he
could never explain or tell. For the moment he had felt like wax in the
other's hands. He had dreaded searching questions, and felt unspeakably
relieved. A minute more and he would have burst into confession.
"You should never be without it," the doctor added. "The police here
are perfect fiends, and can cause you endless inconvenience."
O'Malley knew it all, but gladly seized the talk and spun it out, asking
innocent questions while scarcely listening to the answers. They
distanced the patrol and neared the quays and shipping. In the darkness
of the sky a great line showed where the spurs of the Lesser Caucasus
gloomed huge and solemn to the East and West. At the gangway of the
steamer they said good-bye. Stahl held the Irishman's hand a moment
in his own.
"Remember, when you know temptation strong," he said gravely, though a
smile was in the eyes, "the passwords that I now give you: Humanity and
They shook hands warmly enough.
"Come home by this steamer if you can," he called down from the deck.
"And keep to the middle of the road on your way back to the hotel. It's
safer in a town like this." O'Malley divined the twinkle in his
eyes as he said it. "Forgive my many sins," he heard finally, "and when
we meet again, tell me your own...." The darkness took the sentence.
But the word the Irishman took home with him to the little hotel was
the single one--Civilization: and this, owing to the peculiar
significance of intonation and accent with which this bewildering and
self-contradictory being had uttered it.
He walked along the middle of the street as Stahl had advised. He
would have done so in any case, unconsciously, for he knew these towns
quite as well as the German did. Yet he did not walk alone. The entire
Earth walked with him, and personal danger was an impossibility. A
dozen ruffians might attack him, but none could "take" his life.
How simple it all seemed, yet how utterly beyond the reach of
intelligible description to those who have never felt it--this sudden
surge upwards, downwards, all around and about of the vaster
consciousness amid which the sense of normal individuality seemed but a
tiny focused point. That loss of personality he first dreaded as an
"inner catastrophe" appeared to him now for what it actually was--merely
an extinction of some phantasmal illusion of self into the only true
life. Here, upon the fringe of this wonder-region of the Caucasus, the
spirit of the Earth still manifested as of old, reached out lovingly to
those of her children who were simple enough to respond, ready to fold
them in and heal them of the modern, racking fevers which must otherwise
destroy them.... The entire sky of soft darkness became a hand that
covered him, and stroked him into peace; the perfume that wafted down
that narrow street beside him was the single, enveloping fragrance of
the whole wide Earth herself; he caught the very murmur of her splendid
journey through the stars. The certitude of some state of boundless being
flamed, roaring and immense, about his soul....
And when he reached his room, a little cell that shut out light and
air, he met that sinister denial of the simple life which, for him at
least, was the true Dweller on the Threshold. Crashing in to it he
choked, as it were, and could have cried aloud. It gripped and caught him
by the throat--the word that Stahl--Stahl who understood even while he
warned and mocked and hesitated himself--had flung so tauntingly
upon him from the decks--Civilization.
Upon his table lay by chance--the Armenian hotel-keeper had
evidently unearthed it for his benefit--a copy of a London halfpenny
paper, a paper that feeds the public with the ugliest details of all the
least important facts of life by the yard, inventing others when the
supply is poor. He read it over vaguely, with a sense of cold distress
that was half pain, half nausea. Somehow it stirred his sense of humor;
he returned slowly to his normal, littler state. But it was not the
contrast which made him smile; rather was it the chance juxtaposition of
certain of the contents; for on the page facing the accounts of railway
accidents, of people burned alive, explosions, giant strikes, crumpled
air-men and other countless horrors which modern inventions offered upon
the altar of feverish Progress, he read a complacently boastful leader
that extolled the conquest of Nature men had learned _by speed_. The
ability to pass from one point to another across the skin of the globe in
the least possible time was sign of the development of the human soul.
The pompous flatulence of the language touched bathos. He thought
of the thousands who had read both columns and preened themselves
upon that leader. He thought how they would pride themselves upon
the latest contrivance for speeding their inert bodies from one point to
another "annihilating distance"; upon being able to get from suburbia
to the huge shops that created artificial wants, then filled them; from
the pokey villas with their wee sham gardens to the dingy offices; from
dark airless East End rooms to countless factories that pour out
semifraudulent, unnecessary wares upon the world, explosives and weapons
to destroy another nation, or cheapjack goods to poison their own--all
in a few minutes less than they could do it the week before.
And then he thought of the leisure of the country folk and of those
who knew how to be content without external possessions, to watch the
sunset and the dawn with hearts that sought realities; sharing the
noble slowness of the seasons, the gradual growth of flowers, trees,
and crops, the unhurried dignity of Nature's grand procession, the
repose-in-progress of the Mother-Earth.
The calmness of the unhastening Earth once more possessed his soul
in peace. He hid the paper, watching the quiet way the night beyond
his window buried it from sight...
And through that open window came the perfume and the mighty hand of
darkness slowly. It seemed to this imaginative Irishman that he caught a
sound of awful laughter from the mountains and the sea, a laughter that
brought, too, a wave of sighing--of deep and old-world sighing.
And before he went to sleep he took an antidote in the form of a
page from that book that accompanied all his travels, a book which was
written wholly in the open air because its message refused to come to
the heart of the inspired writer within doors, try as he would, the "sky
especially containing for me the key, the inspiration--"
And the fragment that he read expressed a little bit of his own thought
and feeling. The seer who wrote it looked ahead, naming it "After
Civilization," whereas he looked back. But they saw the same vision;
the confusion of time was nothing:--
In the first soft winds of spring, while snow yet lay on the ground--
Forth from the city into the great woods wandering,
Into the great silent white woods where they waited in their beauty and
For man their companion to come:
There, in vision, out of the wreck of cities and civilizations,
Slowly out of the ruins of the past
Out of the litter and muck of a decaying world,
Lo! even so
I saw a new life arise.
O sound of waters, jubilant, pouring, pouring--O hidden song in the
Secret of the Earth, swelling, sobbing to divulge itself!
Slowly, building, lifting itself up atom by atom,
Gathering itself round a new center--or rather round the worldŚold
center once more revealed--
I saw a new life, a new society, arise.
Man I saw arising once more to dwell with Nature;
(The old old story--the prodigal son returning, so loved,
The long estrangement, the long entanglement in vain things)--
The child returning to its home--companion of the winter woods once
Companion of the stars and waters--hearing their words at first-hand
(more than all science ever taught)--
The near contact, the dear dear mother so close--the twilight sky
and the young tree-tops against it;
The few needs, the exhilarated radiant life--the food and population
question giving no more trouble;
No hurry more, no striving one to over-ride the other:
... man the companion of Nature.
Civilization behind him now--the wonderful stretch of the past;
Continents, empires, religions, wars, migrations--all gathered up in him;
The immense knowledge, the vast winged powers--to use or not to use--...
And as he fell asleep at length it seemed there came a sound of hushed
huge trampling underneath his window, and that when he rose to listen,
his big friend from the steamer led him forth into the darkness, that
those shapes of Cloud and Wind he now so often saw, companioned them
across the heights of the night toward some place in the distant
mountains where light and flowers were, and all his dream of years most
He slept. And through his sleep there dropped the words of that old
tribesman from the wilderness: "They come in the spring... and are
very swift and roaring. They are older, older than the stones. They
cannot die... they are of the mountains, and you must hide."
But the dream-consciousness knows no hiding; and though memory
failed to report with detail in the morning, O'Malley woke refreshed
and blessed, knowing that companionship awaited him, and that once
he found the courage to escape completely, the Simple Life of Earth
would claim him in full consciousness.
Stahl with his little modern "Intellect" was no longer there to hinder
"Far, very far, steer by my star,
Leaving the loud world's hurry and clamor,
In the mid-sea waits you, maybe,
The Isles of Glamour, where Beauty reigns.
From coasts of commerce and myriad-marted
Towns of traffic by wide seas parted,
Past shoals unmapped and by reefs uncharted,
The single-hearted my isle attains.
"Each soul may find faith to her mind,
Seek you the peace of the groves Elysian,
Or the ivy twine and the wands of vine,
The Dionysian, Orphic rite?
To share the joy of the Maenad's leaping
In frenzied train thro' the dusk glen sweeping,
The dew-drench'd dance and the star-watch'd sleeping,
Or temple keeping in vestal white?
"Ye who regret suns that have set,
Lo, each god of the ages golden,
Here is enshrined, ageless and kind,
Unbeholden the dark years through.
Their faithful oracles yet bestowing,
By laurels whisper and clear streams flowing,
Or the leafy stir of the Gods' own going,
In oak trees blowing, may answer you!"
--From PEREGRINA'S SONG
For the next month Terence O'Malley possessed his soul in patience;
he worked, and the work saved him. That is to say it enabled him to
keep what men call "balanced." Stahl had--whether intentionally or
not he was never quite certain--raised a tempest in him. More accurately,
perhaps, he had called it to the top, for it had been raging deep
down ever since he could remember, or had begun to think.
That the earth might be a living, sentient organism, though too vast
to be envisaged as such by normal human consciousness, had always been a
tenet of his imagination's creed. Now he knew it true, as a dinner-gong
is true. That deep yearnings, impossible of satisfaction in the external
conditions of ordinary life, could know subjective fulfillment in the
mind, had always been for him poetically true, as for any other poet: now
he realized that it was literally true for some outlying tract of
consciousness usually inactive, termed by some transliminal. Spiritual
nostalgia provided the channel, and the transfer of consciousness
to this outlying tract, involving, of course, a trance condition of
the usual self, indicated the way--that was all.
Again, his mystical temperament had always seen objects as forces
which from some invisible center push outwards into visible shape--as
bodies: bodies of trees, stones, flowers, men, women, animals; and
others but partially pushed outwards, still invisible to limited physical
sight at least, either too huge, too small, or too attenuated for vision.
Whereas now, as a result of Stahl and Fechner combined, it flamed into
him that this was positively true; more--that there was a point in his
transliminal consciousness where he might "contact" these forces before
they reached their cruder external expression as bodies. Nature, in this
sense, had always been for him alive, though he had allowed himself
the term by a long stretch of poetic sympathy; but now he knew that it
was actually true, because objects, landscapes, humans, and the rest,
were verily aspects of the collective consciousness of the Earth, moods
of her spirit, phases of her being, expressions of her deep, pure,
passionate "heart"--projections of herself.
He pondered lingeringly over this. Common words revealed their open faces
to him. He saw the ideas behind language, saw them naked. Repetition had
robbed them of so much that now became vital, like Bible phrases that too
great familiarity in childhood kills for all subsequent life as
meaningless. His eyes were opened perhaps. He took a flower into his mind
and thought about it; really thought; meditated lovingly. A flower was
literally projected by the earth so far as its form was concerned. Its
roots gathered soil and earth-matter, changing them into leaves and
blossoms; its leaves again, took of the atmosphere, also a part of the
earth. It was projected by the earth, born of her, fed by her, and at
"death" returned into her. But this was its outward and visible form
only. The flower, for his imaginative mind, was a force made visible
as literally as a house was a force the mind of the architect made
visible. In the mind, or consciousness of the Earth this flower first lay
latent as a dream. Perhaps, in her consciousness, it nested as that which
in us corresponds to a little thought.... And from this he leaped, as the
way ever was with him, to bigger "projections"--trees, atmosphere,
clouds, winds, some visible, some invisible, and so to a deeper yet
simpler comprehension of Fechner's thundering conception of human beings
as projections. Was he, then, literally, a child of the Earth, mothered
by the whole magnificent planet...? All the world akin--that seeking for
an eternal home in every human heart explained...? And were there--had
there been rather--these other, vaster projections Stahl had adumbrated
with his sudden borrowed stretch of vision--forces, thoughts, moods of
her hidden life invisible to sight, yet able to be felt and known
That "the gods" were definitely knowable Powers, accessible to any
genuine worshipper, had ever haunted his mind, thinly separated only
from definite belief: now he understood that this also had been true,
though only partially divined before. For now he saw them as the rare
expressions of the Earth's in the morning of her life. That he might ever
come to know them close made him tremble with a fearful joy, the idea
flaming across his being with a dazzling brilliance that brought him
close to that state of consciousness termed ecstasy. And that in certain
unique beings, outwardly human like his friend, there might still survive
some primitive expression of the Earth-Soul, lesser than the gods, and
intermediate as it were, became for him now a fact--wondrous,
awe-inspiring, even holy, but still a fact that he could grasp.
He had found one such; and Stahl, by warnings that fought with urging
invitation at the same time, had confirmed it.
It was singular, he reflected, how worship had ever turned for him a
landscape or a scene enchantingly alive. Worship, he now understood,
of course invited "the gods," and was the channel through which their
manifestation became possible to the soul. All the gods, then, were
accessible in this interior way, but Pan especially--in desolate places
and secret corners of a wood.... He remembered dimly the Greek idea
of worship in the Mysteries: that the worshipper knew actual temporary
union with his deity in ecstasy, and at death went permanently into his
sphere of being. He understood that worship was au fond a desire for
loss of personal life--hence its subtle joy; and a fear lest it be
actually accomplished--whence its awe and wonder.
Some glorious, winged thing moved now beside him; it held him by
the hand. The Earth possessed him; and the whole adventure, so far as
he can make it plain, was an authoritative summons to the natural,
For the next month, therefore, O'Malley, unhurrying, blessed with a
deeper sense of happiness than he had ever known before, dismissed
the "tempest" from his surface consciousness, and set to work to gather
the picturesque impressions of strange places and strange peoples that
the public liked to read about in occasional letters of travel. And by
the time May had passed into June he had moved up and down the Caucasus,
observing, learning, expanding, and gathering in the process through
every sense--through the very pores of his skin almost--draughts of a new
and abundant life that is to be had there merely for the asking.
That modification of the personality which comes even in cities to all
but the utterly hidebound--so that a man in Rome finds himself not quite
the same as he was in London or in Paris a few days before--went forward
in him on a profounder scale than anything he had known hitherto. Nature
fed, stimulated and called him with a passionate intimacy that destroyed
all sense of loneliness, and with a vehement directness of attack that
simply charged him to the brim with a new joy of living. His vitality,
powers, even his physical health, stood at their best and highest. The
country laid its spell upon him, in a word; and if he expresses it thus
with some intensity it was because life came to him so. His record is the
measure of his vision. Those who find exaggeration in it merely confess
thereby their own smaller capacity of living.
Here, as he wandered to and fro among these proud, immense, secluded
valleys, through remote and untamed forests, and by the banks of wild
rivers that shook their flying foam across untrodden banks, he wandered
at the same time deeper and ever deeper into himself, toward a point
where he lost touch with all that constituted him "modern," or held him
captive in the spirit of today. Nearer and ever nearer he moved into some
tremendous freedom, some state of innocence and simplicity that, while
gloriously unrestrained, yet knew no touch of license. Dreams had
whispered of it; childhood had fringed its frontiers; longings had even
mapped it faintly to his mind. But now he breathed its very air and knew
it face to face. The Earth surged wonderfully about him.
With his sleeping-bag upon a small Caucasian horse, a sack to hold
his cooking things, a pistol in his belt, he wandered thus for days,
sleeping beneath the stars, seeing the sunset and the dawn, drenched in
new strength and wonder all the time. Here he touched deeper reaches
of the Earth that spoke of old, old things, that yet were still young
because they knew not change. He walked in the morning of the world,
through her primal fire and dew, when all was a first and giant garden.
The advertised splendors of other lands, even of India, Egypt, and
the East, seemed almost vulgar beside this country that had somehow
held itself aloof, unstained and clean. The civilization of its little
towns seemed but a coated varnish that an hour's sun would melt away; the
railway, crawling along the flanks of the great range, but a ribbon of
old iron pinned on that, with the first shiver of those giant sides,
would split and vanish.
Here, where the Argonauts once landed, the Golden Fleece still shone o'
nights in the depths of the rustling beech woods; along the shores of
that old Phasis their figures might still be seen, tall Jason in the
lead, erect and silvery, passing o'er the shining, flowered fields upon
their quest of ancient beauty. Further north from this sunny Colchian
strand rose the peak of Kasbek, gaunt and desolate pyramid of iron,
"sloping through five great zones of climate," whence the ghost of
Prometheus still gazed down from his "vast frozen precipice" upon a world
his courage would redeem. For somewhere here was the cradle of the human
race, fair garden of some Edened life before the "Fall," when the Earth
sang for joy in her first, golden youth, and her soul expressed itself in
mighty forms that remain for lesser days but a faded hierarchy of
A living Earth went with him everywhere, with love that never breathed
alarm. It seemed he felt her very thoughts within himself--thoughts,
however, that now no longer married with a visible expression as shapes.
Among these old-world tribes and peoples with their babble of difficult
tongues, wonder and beauty, terror and worship, still lay too deeply
buried to have as yet externalized themselves in mental forms as legend,
myth, and story. In the blood ran all their richness undiluted. Life was
simple, full charged with an immense delight. At home little cocksure
writers in little cocksure journals, pertly modern and enlightened, might
dictate how far imaginative vision and belief could go before they
overstepped the limits of an artificial schedule; but here "everything
possible to be believed was still an image of truth," and the stream of
life flowed deeper than all mere intellectual denials.
A little out of sight, but thinly veiled, the powers that in this haunted
corner of the earth, too strangely neglected, pushed outwards into men
and trees, into mountains, flowers, and the rest, were unenslaved and
intensely vital. In his blood O'Malley knew the primal pulses of the
It was irresistibly seductive. Whether he slept with the Aryan
Ossetians upon the high ridges of the central range, or shared the stone
huts of the mountain Jews, unchanged since Bible days, beyond the
Suram heights, there came to all his senses the message of that Golden
Age his longings ever sought--the rush and murmur of the _Urwelt_
And so it was, about the first week in June that lean, bronzed, and
in perfect physical condition, this wandering Irishman found himself
in a little Swanetian hamlet beyond Alighir, preparing with a Georgian
peasant-guide to penetrate yet deeper into the mountain recesses and
feed his heart with what he found of loneliness and beauty.
This region of Imerethia, bordering on Mingrelia, is smothered
beneath an exuberance of vegetation almost tropical, blue and golden
with enormous flowers, tangled with wild vines, rich with towering soft
beech woods, and finally, in the upper sections, ablaze with leagues of
huge rhododendron trees in blossom that give whole mountain-sides
the aspect of a giant garden, flowering amid peaks that even dwarf the
Alps. For here the original garden of the world survives, run wild with
pristine loveliness. The prodigality of Nature is bewildering, almost
troubling. There are valleys, rarely entered by the foot of man, where
monstrous lilies, topping a man on foot and even reaching to his
shoulder on horseback, have suggested to botanists in their lavish
luxuriance a survival of the original flora of the world. A thousand
flowers he found whose names he had never heard of, their hues and
forms as strangely lovely as those of another planet. The grasses alone
in scale and mass were magnificent. While, in and out of all this
splendor, less dense and voluminous only than the rhododendron
forests, ran scattered lines of blazing yellow--the crowding clusters of
azalea bushes that scented the winds beyond belief.
Beyond this region of extravagance in size and color, there ran
immense bare open slopes of smooth turf that led to the foot of the
eternal snowfields, with, far below, valleys of prodigious scale and
steepness that touched somehow with disdain all memory of other
mountain ranges he had ever known.
And here it was this warm June evening--June 15th it was--while packing
his sack with cheese and maize-flour in the dirty yard of a so-called
"post-house," more hindered than helped by his Georgian guide, that he
realized the approach of a familiar, bearded figure. The figure emerged.
There was a sudden clutch and lift of the heart ... then a rush of wild
delight. There stood his Russian steamer-friend, part of the scale and
splendor, as though grown out of the very soil. He occupied in a flash
the middle of the picture. He gave it meaning. He was part of it, exactly
as a tree or big grey boulder were part of it.
"Seasons and times; Life and Fate--all are remarkably rhythmic, metric,
regular throughout. In all crafts and arts, in all machines, in organic
bodies, in our daily occupations everywhere there is rhythm, meter,
accent, melody. All that we do with a certain skill unnoticed, we do
rhythmically. There is rhythm everywhere; it insinuates itself
everywhere. All mechanism is metric, rhythmic. There must be more in it
than this. Is it merely the influence of inertia?"
--NOVALIS, Translated by U.C.B.
Notwithstanding the extent and loneliness of this wild country,
coincidence seemed in no way stretched by the abrupt appearance; for
in a sense it was not wholly unexpected. There had been certain
indications that the meeting again of these two was imminent. The
Irishman had never doubted they would meet. But something more than mere
hints or warnings, it seemed, had prepared him.
The nature of these warnings, however, O'Malley never fully disclosed.
Two of them he told to me by word of mouth, but there were others he
could not bring himself to speak about at all. Even the two he mentioned
do not appear in his written account. His hesitation is not easy to
explain, unless it be that language collapsed in the attempt to describe
occurrences so remote from common experience. This may be so, although he
grappled not unsuccessfully with the rest of the amazing adventure. At
any rate I could never coax from him more than the confession that there
_were_ other things that had brought him hints. Then came a laugh, a
shrug of the shoulders, an expression of confused bewilderment in eyes
and manner and--silence.
The two he spoke of I report as best I can. On the roof of that London
apartment-house where so many of our talks took place beneath the
stars and to the tune of bustling modern traffic, he told them to me.
Both were consistent with his theory that he was becoming daily more
active in some outlying portion of his personality--knowing experiences
in a region of extended consciousness stimulated so powerfully
by his strange new friend.
Both, moreover, brought him one and the same conviction that he
was no longer--alone. For some days past he had realized this. More
than his peasant guide accompanied him. He was both companioned
"A dozen times," he said, "I thought I saw him, and a dozen times I
was mistaken. But my mind looked for him. I knew that he was
somewhere close." He compared the feeling to that common experience
of the streets when a friend, not known to be near, or even expected,
comes abruptly into the thoughts, so that numberless individuals may
trick the sight with his appearance before he himself comes suddenly
down the pavement. His approach has reached the mind before his mere
body turns the corner. "Something in me was aware of his approach,"
he added, "as though his being were sending out feelers in advance to
find me. They reached me first, I think"--he hesitated briefly, hunting
for a more accurate term he could not find--"in dream."
"You dreamed that he was coming, then?"
"It came first in dream," he answered; "only when I woke the dream
did not fade; it passed over into waking consciousness, so that I could
hardly tell where the threshold lay between the two. And, meanwhile, I
was always expecting to see him at every turn of the trail almost; a
little higher up the mountain, behind a rock, or standing beside a tree,
just as in the end I actually did see him. Long before he emerged in this
way, he had been close about me, guiding, waiting, watching."
He told it as a true thing he did not quite expect me to believe. Yet,
in a sense, _his_ sense, I could and did believe it. It was so wholly
consistent with the tenor of his adventure and the condition of abnormal
receptivity of mind. For his stretched consciousness was in a state of
white sensitiveness whereon the tenderest mental force of another's
thought might well record its signature. Acutely impressionable he was
all over. Physical distance was of as little, or even of less, account to
such forces as it is to electricity.
"But it was more than the Russian who was close," he added quietly
with one of those sentences that startled me into keen attention. "He
was there--with others--of his kind."
And then, hardly pausing to take breath, he plunged, as his manner
was, full tilt into the details of this first experience that thrilled my
hedging soul with an astonishing power of conviction. As always when
his heart was in the words, the scenery about us faded and I lived the
adventure with him. The cowled and hooded chimneys turned to trees,
the stretch of dim star-lit London Park became a deep Caucasian vale,
the thunder of the traffic was the roaring of the snow-fed torrents. The
very perfume of strange flowers floated in the air.
They had been in their blankets, he and his peasant guide, for hours,
and a moon approaching the full still concealed all signs of dawn, when
he woke out of deep sleep with the odd sensation that it was only a part
of him that woke. One portion of him was in the body, while another
portion was elsewhere, manifesting with ease and freedom in some state
or region whither he had traveled in his sleep--where, moreover, he
had not been alone.
And close about him in the trees was--movement. Yes! Through and
between the scattered trunks he saw it still.
With eyes a little dazed, the active portion of his brain perceived this
processing movement passing to and fro across the glades of moonlight
beneath the steady trees. For there was no wind. The shadows of the
branches did not stir. He saw swift running shapes, vigorous yet silent,
hurrying across the network of splashed silver and pools of black in
some kind of organized movement that was circular and seemed not due to
chance. Arranged it seemed and ordered; like the regulated revolutions
of a set and whirling measure.
Perhaps twenty feet from where he lay was the outer fringe of what
he discerned to be this fragment of some grand gamboling dance or
frolic; yet discerned but dimly, for the darkness combined with his
uncertain vision to obscure it.
And the shapes, as they sped across the silvery patchwork of the moon,
seemed curiously familiar. Beyond question he recognized and knew them.
For they were akin to those shadowy emanations seen weeks ago upon the
steamer's after-deck, to that "messenger" who climbed from out the sea
and sky, and to that form the spirit of the boy assumed, set free in
death. They were the flying outlines of Wind and Cloud he had so often
glimpsed in vision, racing over the long, bare, open hills--at last come
In the moment of first waking, when he saw them clearest, he declares
with emphasis that he _knew_ the father and the boy were among them.
Not so much that he saw them actually for recognition, but rather that
he felt their rushing presences; for the first sensation on opening his
eyes was the conviction that both had passed him close, had almost
touched and called him. Afterwards he searched in vain among the
flying forms that swept in the swift succession of their leaping dance
across the silvery pathways. While varying in size all were so similar.
His description of them is confused a little, for he admits that he
could never properly focus them in steady sight. They slipped with a
melting swiftness under the eye; the moment one seemed caught in vision
it passed on further and the next was in its place. It was like
following a running wave-form on the sea. He says, moreover, that while
erect and splendid, their backs and shoulders seemed prolonged in
hugeness as though they often crouched to spring; they seemed to paw
the air; and that a faint delicious sound to which they kept obedient
time and rhythm, held that same sweetness which had issued from the
hills of Greece, blown down now among the trees from very far away.
And when he says "blown down among the trees," he qualifies this
phrase as well, because at the same time it came to him that the sound
also rose up from underneath the earth, as if the very surface of the
ground ran shaking with a soft vibration of its own. Some marvelous
dream it might have been in which the forms, the movement, and the
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