Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
"We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing
the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the
meaning of it all."
--WILLIAM JAMES, _A Pluralistic Universe_
"... A man's vision is the great fact about him. Who cares for Carlyle's
reasons, or Schopenhauer's, or Spencer's? A philosophy is the expression
of a man's intimate character, and all definitions of the Universe are
but the deliberately adopted reactions of human characters upon it."
"There are certain persons who, independently of sex or comeliness,
arouse an instant curiosity concerning themselves. The tribe is small,
but its members unmistakable. They may possess neither fortune, good
looks, nor that adroitness of advance-vision which the stupid name good
luck; yet there is about them this inciting quality which proclaims that
they have overtaken Fate, set a harness about its neck of violence, and
hold bit and bridle in steady hands.
"Most of us, arrested a moment by their presence to snatch the definition
their peculiarity exacts, are aware that on the heels of curiosity
follows--envy. They know the very things that we forever seek in vain.
And this diagnosis, achieved as it were _en passant_, comes near to the
truth, for the hallmark of such persons is that they have found, and
come into, their own. There is a sign upon the face and in the eyes.
Having somehow discovered the 'piece' that makes them free of the whole
amazing puzzle, they know where they belong and, therefore, whither they
are bound: more, they are definitely _en route_. The littlenesses of
existence that plague the majority pass them by.
"For this reason, if for no other," continued O'Malley, "I count my
experience with that man as memorable beyond ordinary. 'If for no other,'
because from the very beginning there was another. Indeed, it was
probably his air of unusual bigness, massiveness rather,--head, face,
eyes, shoulders, especially back and shoulders,--that struck me first
when I caught sight of him lounging there hugely upon my steamer deck at
Marseilles, winning my instant attention before he turned and the
expression on his great face woke more--woke curiosity, interest, envy.
He wore this very look of certainty that knows, yet with a tinge of mild
surprise as though he had only recently known. It was less than
perplexity. A faint astonishment as of a happy child--almost of an
animal--shone in the large brown eyes--"
"You mean that the physical quality caught you first, then the
psychical?" I asked, keeping him to the point, for his Irish imagination
was ever apt to race away at a tangent.
He laughed good-naturedly, acknowledging the check. "I believe that to be
the truth," he replied, his face instantly grave again. "It was the
impression of uncommon bulk that heated my intuition--blessed if I know
how--leading me to the other. The size of his body did not smother, as so
often is the case with big people: rather, it revealed. At the moment I
could conceive no possible connection, of course. Only this overwhelming
attraction of the man's personality caught me and I longed to make
friends. That's the way with me, as you know," he added, tossing the hair
back from his forehead impatiently,"--pretty often. First impressions.
Old man, I tell you, it was like a possession."
"I believe you," I said. For Terence O'Malley all his life had never
understood half measures.
"The friendly and flowing savage, who is he? Is he waiting for
civilization, or is he past it, and mastering it?"
"We find ourselves today in the midst of a somewhat peculiar state of
society, which we call Civilization, but which even to the most
optimistic among us does not seem altogether desirable. Some of us,
indeed, are inclined to think that it is a kind of disease which the
various races of man have to pass through....
"While History tells us of many nations that have been attacked by it, of
many that have succumbed to it, and of some that are still in the throes
of it, we know of no single case in which a nation has fairly recovered
from and passed through it to a more normal and healthy condition. In
other words, the development of human society has never yet (that we know
of) passed beyond a certain definite and apparently final stage in the
process we call Civilization; at that stage it has always succumbed or
--EDWARD CARPENTER, _Civilization: Its Cause and Cure_
O'Malley himself is an individuality that invites consideration from the
ruck of commonplace men. Of mingled Irish, Scotch, and English blood, the
first predominated, and the Celtic element in him was strong. A man of
vigorous health, careless of gain, a wanderer, and by his own choice
something of an outcast, he led to the end the existence of a rolling
stone. He lived from hand to mouth, never quite growing up. It seemed,
indeed, that he never could grow up in the accepted sense of the term,
for his motto was the reverse of _nil admirari_, and he found himself in
a state of perpetual astonishment at the mystery of things. He was
forever deciphering the huge horoscope of Life, yet getting no further
than the House of Wonder, on whose cusp surely he had been born.
Civilization, he loved to say, had blinded the eyes of men, filling them
with dust instead of vision.
An ardent lover of wild outdoor life, he knew at times a high, passionate
searching for things of the spirit, when the outer world fell away like
dross and he seemed to pass into a state resembling ecstasy. Never in
cities or among his fellow men, struggling and herded, did these times
come to him, but when he was abroad with the winds and stars in desolate
places. Then, sometimes, he would be rapt away, caught up to see the
tail-end of the great procession of the gods that had come near. He
surprised Eternity in a running Moment.
For the moods of Nature flamed through him--_in_ him--like presences,
potently evocative as the presences of persons, and with meanings equally
various: the woods with love and tenderness; the sea with reverence and
magic; plains and wide horizons with the melancholy peace and silence as
of wise and old companions; and mountains with a splendid terror due to
some want of comprehension in himself, caused probably by a spiritual
remoteness from their mood.
The Cosmos, in a word, for him was psychical, and Nature's moods were
transcendental cosmic activities that induced in him these singular
states of exaltation and expansion. She pushed wide the gateways of his
deeper life. She entered, took possession, dipped his smaller self into
her own enormous and enveloping personality.
He possessed a full experience, and at times a keen judgment, of modern
life; while underneath, all the time, lay the moving sea of curiously
wild primitive instincts. An insatiable longing for the wilderness was in
his blood, a craving vehement, unappeasable. Yet for something far
greater than the wilderness alone--the wilderness was merely a symbol, a
first step, indication of a way of escape. The hurry and invention of
modern life were to him a fever and a torment. He loathed the million
tricks of civilization. At the same time, being a man of some
discrimination at least, he rarely let himself go completely. Of these
wilder, simpler instincts he was afraid. They might flood all else. If he
yielded entirely, something he dreaded, without being able to define,
would happen; the structure of his being would suffer a nameless
violence, so that he would have to break with the world. These cravings
stood for that loot of the soul which he must deny himself. Complete
surrender would involve somehow a disintegration, a dissociation of
his personality that carried with it the loss of personal identity.
When the feeling of revolt became sometimes so urgent in him that it
threatened to become unmanageable, he would go out into solitude, calling
it to heel; but this attempt to restore order, while easing his nature,
was never radical; the accumulation merely increased on the rebound; the
yearnings grew and multiplied, and the point of saturation was often
dangerously near. "Some day," his friends would say, "there'll be a
bursting of the dam." And, though their meaning might be variously
interpreted, they spoke the truth. O'Malley knew it, too.
A man he was, in a word, of deep and ever-shifting moods, and with more
difficulty than most in recognizing the underlying self of which these
outer aspects were projections masquerading as complete personalities.
The underlying ego that unified these projections was of the type
touched with so sure a hand in the opening pages of an inspired little
book: _The Plea of Pan_. O'Malley was useless as a citizen and knew it.
Sometimes--he was ashamed of it as well.
Occasionally, and at the time of this particular "memorable adventure,"
aged thirty, he acted as foreign correspondent; but even as such he was
the kind of newspaper man that not merely collects news, but discovers,
reveals, creates it. Wise in their generation, the editors who
commissioned him remembered when his copy came in that they were editors.
A roving commission among the tribes of the Caucasus was his assignment
at the moment, and a better man for the purpose would have been hard to
find, since he knew beauty, had a keen eye for human nature, divined what
was vital and picturesque, and had, further, the power to set it down in
brief terms born directly of his vivid emotions.
When first I knew him he lived--nowhere, being always on the move. He
kept, however, a dingy little room near Paddington where his books and
papers accumulated, undusted but safe, and where the manuscripts of his
adventures were found when his death made me the executor of his few
belongings. The key was in his pocket, carefully ticketed with a bone
label. And this, the only evidence of practical forethought I ever
discovered in him, was proof that something in that room was deemed by
him of value--to others. It certainly was not the heterogeneous
collection of second-hand books, nor the hundreds of unlabeled
photographs and sketches. Can it have been the MSS. of stories, notes,
and episodes I found, almost carefully piled and tabulated with titles,
in a dirty kitbag of green Willesden canvas?
Some of these he had told me (with a greater vividness than he could
command by pen); others were new; many unfinished. All were unusual,
to say the least. All, too, had obviously happened to himself at some
period of his roving career, though here and there he had disguised his
own part in them by Hoffmann's device of throwing the action into the
third person. Those told to me by word of mouth I could only feel were
true, true for himself at least. In no sense were they mere inventions,
but arose in moments of vision upon a structure of solid events. Ten
men will describe in as many different ways a snake crossing their path;
but, besides these, there exists an eleventh man who sees more than the
snake, the path, the movement. O'Malley was some such eleventh man. He
saw the thing whole, from some kind of inner bird's-eye view, while the
ten saw only limited aspects of it from various angles. He was accused
of adding details, therefore, because he had divined their presence while
still below the horizon. Before they emerged the others had already left.
By which I mean that he saw in commonplace events the movement of greater
tides than others saw. At one remove of time or distance--a minute or a
mile--he perceived _all_. While the ten chattered volubly about the name
of the snake, he was caught beyond by the beauty of the path, the glory
of the running glide, the nature of the forces that drove, hindered,
The others reasoned where the snake was going, its length in inches and
its speed per second, while he, ignoring such superficial details,
plunged as it were into the very nature of the creature's being. And in
this idiosyncrasy, which he shared with all persons of mystical
temperament, is exemplified a certain curious contempt for Reason that he
had. For him mere intellectuality, by which the modern world sets such
store, was a valley of dry bones. Its worship was a worship of the form.
It missed the essential inner truth because such inner truth could be
known only by being it, feeling it. The intellectual attitude of mind, in
a word, was critical, not creative, and to be unimaginative seemed to
him, therefore, the worst form of unintelligence.
"The arid, sterile minds!" he would cry in a burst of his Celtic
enthusiasm. "Where, I ask ye, did the philosophies and sciences of the
world assist the progress of any single soul a blessed inch?"
Any little Dreamer in his top-floor back, spinning by rushlight his
web of beauty, was greater than the finest critical intelligence that
ever lived. The one, for all his poor technique, was stammering over
something God had whispered to him, the other merely destroying thoughts
invented by the brain of man.
And this attitude of mind, because of its interpretative effect upon
what follows, justifies mention. For to O'Malley, in some way difficult
to explain, Reason and Intellect, as such, had come to be worshipped
by men today out of all proportion to their real value. Consciousness,
focused too exclusively upon them, had exalted them out of due proportion
in the spiritual economy. To make a god of them was to make an empty and
inadequate god. Reason should be the guardian of the soul's advance, but
not the object. Its function was that of a great sandpaper which should
clear the way of excrescences, but its worship was to allow a detail to
assume a disproportionate importance.
Not that he was fool enough to despise Reason in what he called its
proper place, but that he was "wise" enough--not that he was
"intellectual" enough!--to recognize its futility in measuring the things
of the soul. For him there existed a more fundamental understanding than
Reason, and it was, apparently, an inner and natural understanding.
"The greatest Teacher we ever had," I once heard him say, "ignored the
intellect, and who, will ye tell me, can by searching find out God? And
yet what else is worth finding out...? Isn't it only by becoming as a
little child--a child that feels and never reasons things--that any
one shall enter the kingdom...? Where will the giant intellects be before
the Great White Throne when a simple man with the heart of a child will
top the lot of 'em?"
"Nature, I'm convinced," he said another time, though he said it with
puzzled eyes and a mind obviously groping, "is our next step. Reason
has done its best for centuries, and gets no further. It _can_ get no
further, for it can do nothing for the inner life which is the sole
reality. We must return to Nature and a purified intuition, to a greater
reliance upon what is now subconscious, back to that sweet, grave
guidance of the Universe which we've discarded with the primitive
state--a spiritual intelligence, really, divorced from mere
And by Nature he did not mean a return to savagery. There was no idea
of going backwards in his wild words. Rather he looked forwards, in some
way hard to understand, to a state when Man, with the best results of
Reason in his pocket, might return to the instinctive life--to feeling
_with_--to the sinking down of the modern, exaggerated intellectual
personality into its rightful place as guide instead of leader. He called
it a Return to Nature, but what he meant, I always felt, was back to a
sense of kinship with the Universe which men, through worshipping the
intellect alone, had lost. Men today prided themselves upon their
superiority to Nature as beings separate and apart. O'Malley sought, on
the contrary, a development, if not a revival, of some faultless
instinct, due to kinship with her, which--to take extremes--shall direct
alike the animal and the inspired man, guiding the wild bee and the
homing pigeon, and--the soul toward its God.
This clue, as he called it, crystallized so neatly and so conclusively
his own mental struggles, that he had called a halt, as it were, to his
own intellectual development.... The name and family of the snake, hence,
meant to him the least important things about it. He caught, wildly yet
consistently, at the psychic links that bound the snake and Nature and
himself together with all creation. Troops of adventurous thoughts had
all his life "gone west" to colonize this land of speculative dream. True
to his idea, he "thought" with his emotions as much as with his brain,
and in the broken record of the adventure that this book relates, this
strange passion of his temperament remains the vital clue. For it
happened _in_, as well as to, himself. His Being could include the Earth
by feeling with her, whereas his intellect could merely criticize, and so
belittle, the details of such inclusion.
Many a time, while he stretched credulity to a point, I have heard him
apologize in some such way for his method. It was the splendor of his
belief that made the thing so convincing in the telling, for later when
I found the same tale written down it seemed somehow to have failed
of an equal achievement. The truth was that no one language would
convey the extraordinary freight that was carried so easily by his
instinctive choice of gestures, tone, and glance. With him these were
* * * * *
Before the age of thirty he had written and published a volume or two of
curious tales, all dealing with extensions of the personality, a subject
that interested him deeply, and one he understood because he drew the
material largely from himself. Psychology he simply devoured, even in its
most fantastic and speculative forms; and though perhaps his vision was
incalculably greater than his power of technique, these strange books had
a certain value and formed a genuine contribution to the thought on that
particular subject. In England naturally they fell dead, but their
translation into German brought him a wider and more intelligent circle.
The common public unfamiliar with Sally Beauchamp No. 4, with Hélène
Smith, or with Dr. Hanna, found in these studies of divided personality,
and these singular extensions of the human consciousness, only
extravagance and imagination run to wildness. Yet, none the less, the
substratum of truth upon which O'Malley had built them, lay actually
within his own personal experience. The books had brought him here and
there acquaintances of value; and among these latter was a German doctor,
Heinrich Stahl. With Dr. Stahl the Irishman crossed swords through months
of somewhat irregular correspondence, until at length the two had met on
board a steamer where the German held the position of ship's doctor. The
acquaintanceship had grown into something approaching friendship,
although the two men stood apparently at the opposite poles of thought.
From time to time they still met.
In appearance there was nothing unusual about O'Malley, unless it was the
contrast of the light blue eyes with the dark hair. Never, I think, did I
see him in anything but that old grey flannel suit, with the low collar
and shabby glistening tie. He was of medium height, delicately built, his
hands more like a girl's than a man's. In towns he shaved and looked
fairly presentable, but once upon his travels he grew beard and moustache
and would forget for weeks to have his hair cut, so that it fell in a
tangle over forehead and eyes.
His manner changed with the abruptness of his moods. Sometimes active and
alert, at others for days together he would become absent, dreamy,
absorbed, half oblivious of the outer world, his movements and actions
dictated by subconscious instinct rather than regulated by volition.
And one cause of that loneliness of spirit which was undoubtedly a chief
pain in life to him, was the fact that ordinary folk were puzzled how to
take him, or to know which of these many extreme moods was the man
himself. Uncomfortable, unsatisfactory, elusive, not to be counted upon,
they deemed him: and from their point of view they were undoubtedly
right. The sympathy and above all the companionship he needed, genuinely
craved too, were thus denied to him by the faults of his own temperament.
With women his intercourse was of the slightest; in a sense he did not
know the need of them much. For one thing, the feminine element in his
own nature was too strong, and he was not conscious, as most men are, of
the great gap of incompleteness women may so exquisitely fill; and, for
another, its obvious corollary perhaps, when they did come into his life,
they gave him more than he could comfortably deal with. They offered him
more than he needed.
In this way, while he perhaps had never fallen in love, as the saying has
it, he had certainly known that high splendor of devotion which means the
losing of oneself in others, that exalted love which seeks not any reward
of possession because it is itself so utterly possessed. He was pure,
too; in the sense that it never occurred to him to be otherwise.
Chief cause of his loneliness--so far as I could judge his complex
personality at all--seemed that he never found a sympathetic, truly
understanding ear for those deeply primitive longings that fairly ravaged
his heart. And this very isolation made him often afraid; it proved that
the rest of the world, the sane majority at any rate, said No to them. I,
who loved him and listened, yet never quite apprehended his full meaning.
Far more than the common Call of the Wild, it was. He yearned, not so
much for a world savage, uncivilized, as for a perfectly natural one that
had never known, perhaps never needed civilization--a state of freedom in
a life unstained.
He never wholly understood, I think, the reason why he found himself in
such stern protest against the modern state of things, why people
produced in him a state of death so that he turned from men to Nature--to
find life. The things the nations exclusively troubled themselves about
all seemed to him so obviously vain and worthless, and, though he never
even in his highest moments felt the claims of sainthood, it puzzled and
perplexed him deeply that the conquest over Nature in all its
multifarious forms today should seem to them so infinitely more important
than the conquest over self. What the world with common consent called
Reality, seemed ever to him the most crude and obvious, the most
transient, the most blatant un-Reality. His love of Nature was more than
the mere joy of tumultuous pagan instincts. It was, in the kind of simple
life he craved, the first step toward the recovery of noble, dignified,
enfranchised living. In the denial of all this external flummery he
hated, it would leave the soul disengaged and free, able to turn her
activities within for spiritual development. Civilization now suffocated,
smothered, killed the soul. Being in the hopeless minority, he felt he
must be somewhere wrong, at fault, deceived. For all men, from a
statesman to an engine-driver, agreed that the accumulation of external
possessions had value, and that the importance of material gain was
real.... Yet, for himself, he always turned for comfort to the Earth.
The wise and wonderful Earth opened her mind and her deep heart to him
in a way few other men seemed to know. Through Nature he could move
blind-folded along, yet find his way to strength and sympathy. A noble,
gracious life stirred in him then which the pettier human world denied.
He often would compare the thin help or fellowship he gained from
ordinary social intercourse, or from what had seemed at the time quite a
successful gathering of his kind, with the power he gained from a visit
to the woods or mountains. The former, as a rule, evaporated in a single
day; the other stayed, with ever growing power, to bless whole weeks and
And hence it was, whether owing to the truth or ignorance of his
attitude, that a sense of bleak loneliness spread through all his life,
and more and more he turned from men to Nature.
Moreover, foolish as it must sound, I was sometimes aware that deep down
in him hid some nameless, indefinable quality that proclaimed him fitted
to live in conditions that had never known the restraints of modern
conventions--a very different thing to doing without them once known. A
kind of childlike, transcendental innocence he certainly possessed,
_naïf_, most engaging, and--utterly impossible. It showed itself
indirectly, I think, in this distress under modern conditions. The
multifarious apparatus of the spirit of Today oppressed him; its rush and
luxury and artificiality harassed him beyond belief. The terror of cities
ran in his very blood.
When I describe him as something of an outcast, therefore, it will be
seen that he was such both voluntarily and involuntarily.
"What the world has gained by brains is simply nothing to what it has
lost by them--"
"A dream, my dear fellow, a mere dream," I stopped him, yet with
sympathy because I knew he found relief this way. "Your constructive
imagination is too active."
"By Gad," he replied warmly, "but there is a place somewhere, or a state
of mind--the same thing--where it's more than a dream. And, what's more,
bless your stodgy old heart, some day I'll get there."
"Not in England, at any rate," I suggested.
He stared at me a moment, his eyes suddenly charged with dreams. Then,
characteristically, he snorted. He flung his hand out with a gesture that
should push the present further from him.
"I've always liked the Eastern theory--old theory anyhow if not
Eastern--that intense yearnings end by creating a place where they are
"Of course; objectively means incompletely. I mean a Heaven built up by
desire and intense longing all your life. Your own thought makes it.
Living idea, that!"
"Another dream, Terence O'Malley," I laughed, "but beautiful and
To argue bored him. He loved to state his matter, fill it with detail,
blow the heated breath of life into it, and then leave it. Argument
belittled without clarifying; criticism destroyed, sealing up the sources
of life. Any fool could argue; the small, denying minds were always
"A dream, but a damned foine one, let me tell you," he exclaimed,
recovering his brogue in his enthusiasm. He glared at me a second, then
burst out laughing. "Tis better to have dhreamed and waked," he added,
"than never to have dhreamed at all."
And then he poured out O'Shaughnessy's passionate ode to the Dreamers of
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory;
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
For this passion for some simple old-world innocence and beauty lay in
his soul like a lust--self-feeding and voracious.
"Lonely! Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?"
March had passed shouting away, and April was whispering deliciously
among her scented showers when O'Malley went on board the coasting
steamer at Marseilles for the Levant and the Black Sea. The _mistral_
made the land unbearable, but herds of white horses ran galloping
over the bay beneath a sky of childhood's blue. The ship started
punctually--he came on board as usual with a bare minute's margin--and
from his rapid survey of the thronged upper deck, it seems, he singled
out on the instant this man and boy, wondering first vaguely at their
uncommon air of bulk, secondly at the absence of detail which should
confirm it. They appeared so much bigger than they actually were. The
laughter, rising in his heart, however, did not get as far as his lips.
For this appearance of massive bulk, and of shoulders comely yet almost
humped, was not borne out by a direct inspection. It was a mental
impression. The man, though broad and well-proportioned, with heavy
back and neck and uncommonly sturdy torso, was in no sense monstrous.
It was upon the corner of the eye that the bulk and hugeness dawned, a
false report that melted under direct vision. O'Malley took him in with
attention merging in respect, searching in vain for the detail of back
and limbs and neck that suggested so curiously the sense of the
gigantic. The boy beside him, obviously son, possessed the same elusive
attributes--felt yet never positively seen.
Passing down to his cabin, wondering vaguely to what nationality they
might belong, he was immediately behind them, elbowing French and German
tourists, when the father abruptly turned and faced him. Their gaze met.
"Whew...!" ran some silent expression like fire through his brain.
Out of a massive visage, placid for all its ruggedness, shone eyes
large and timid as those of an animal or child bewildered among so many
people. There was an expression in them not so much cowed or dismayed as
"un-refuged"--the eyes of the hunted creature. That, at least, was the
first thing they betrayed; for the same second the quick-blooded Celt
caught another look: the look of a hunted creature that at last knows
shelter and has found it. The first expression had emerged, then
withdrawn again swiftly like an animal into its hole where safety lay.
Before disappearing, it had flashed a wireless message of warning, of
welcome, of explanation--he knew not what term to use--to another of its
own kind, to _himself_.
O'Malley, utterly arrested, stood and stared. He would have spoken, for
the invitation seemed obvious enough, but there came an odd catch in his
breath, and words failed altogether. The boy, peering at him sideways,
clung to his great parent's side. For perhaps ten seconds there was this
interchange of staring, intimate staring, between the three of them ...
and then the Irishman, confused, more than a little agitated, ended the
silent introduction with an imperceptible bow and passed on slowly,
knocking absent-mindedly through the crowd, down to his cabin on the
In his heart, deep down, stirred an indescribable sympathy with something
he divined in these two that was akin to himself, but that as yet he
could not name. On the surface he felt an emotion he knew not whether to
call uneasiness or surprise, but crowding past it, half smothering it,
rose this other more profound emotion. Something enormously winning in
the atmosphere of father and son called to him in the silence: it was
significant, oddly buried; not yet had it emerged enough to be confessed
and labeled. But each had recognized it in the other. Each knew. Each
waited. And it was extraordinarily disturbing.
Before unpacking, he sat for a long time on his berth, thinking....trying
in vain to catch through a thunder of surprising emotions the word that
might bring explanation. That strange impression of giant bulk,
unsupported by actual measurements; that look of startled security
seeking shelter; that other look of being sure, of knowing where to go
and being actually _en route_,--all these, he felt, grew from the same
hidden cause whereof they were symptoms. It was this hidden thing in the
man that had reached out invisibly and fired his own consciousness as
their gaze met in that brief instant. And it had disturbed him so
profoundly because the very same lost thing lay buried in himself. The
man knew, whereas he anticipated merely--as yet. What was it? Why came
there with it both happiness and fear?
The word that kept chasing itself in a circle like a kitten after its own
tail, yet bringing no explanation, was Loneliness--a loneliness that must
be whispered. For it was loneliness on the verge of finding relief. And
if proclaimed too loud, there might come those who would interfere and
prevent relief. The man, and the boy too for that matter, were escaping.
They had found the way back, were ready and eager, moreover, to show it
to other prisoners.
And this was as near as O'Malley could come to explanation. He began to
understand dimly--and with an extraordinary excitement of happiness.
"Well--and the bigness?" I asked, seizing on a practical point after
listening to his dreaming, "what do you make of that? It must have had
some definite cause surely?"
He turned and fixed his light blue eyes on mine as we paced beside the
Serpentine that summer afternoon when I first heard the story told.
He was half grave, half laughing.
"The size, the bulk, the bigness," he replied, "must have been in
reality the expression of some mental quality that reached me
psychically, producing its effect directly on my mind and not upon the
eyes at all." In telling the story he used a simile omitted in the
writing of it, because his sense of humor perceived that no possible turn
of phrase could save it from grotesqueness when actually it was far from
grotesque--extraordinarily pathetic rather: "As though," he said, "the
great back and shoulders carried beneath the loose black cape--humps,
projections at least; but projections not ugly in themselves, comely even
in some perfectly natural way, that lent to his person this idea of giant
size. His body, though large, was normal so far as its proportions were
concerned. In his spirit, though, there hid another shape. An aspect of
that other shape somehow reached my mind."
Then, seeing that I found nothing at the moment to reply, he added:
"As an angry man you may picture to yourself as red, or a jealous
man as green!" He laughed aloud. "D'ye see, now? It was not really a
physical business at all!"
"We think with only a small part of the past, but it is with our
entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire,
will, and act."
The balance of his fellow-passengers were not distinguished. There was a
company of French tourists gong to Naples, and another lot of Germans
bound for Athens, some business folk for Smyrna and Constantinople, and a
sprinkling of Russians going home via Odessa, Batoum, or Novorossisk.
In his own stateroom, occupying the upper berth, was a little
round-bodied, red-faced Canadian drummer, "traveling" in
harvest-machines. The name of the machine, its price, and the terms of
purchase were his universe; he knew them in several languages; beyond
them, nothing. He was good-natured, conceding anything to save trouble.
"D'ye mind the light for a bit while I read in bed?" asked O'Malley.
"Don't mind anything much," was the cheery reply. "I'm not particular;
I'm easy-going and you needn't bother." He turned over to sleep. "Old
traveler," he added, his voice muffled by sheets and blankets, "and take
things as they come." And the only objection O'Malley found in him was
that he took things as they came to the point of not taking baths at all,
and not even taking all his garments off when he went to bed.
The Captain, whom he knew from previous voyages, a genial, rough-voiced
sailor from Sassnitz, chided him for so nearly missing the boat--"as
"You're too late for a seat at my taple," he said with his laughing
growl; "it's a pidy. You should have led me know py telegram, and I then
kepd your place. Now you find room at the doctor's taple howefer
"Steamer's very crowded this time," O'Malley replied, shrugging his
shoulders; "but you'll let me come up sometimes for a smoke with you
on the bridge?"
"Of course, of course."
"Anybody interesting on board?" he asked after a moment's pause.
The jolly Captain laughed. "'Pout the zame as usual, you know. Nothing to
stop ze ship! Ask ze doctor; he knows zooner than me. But, anyway, the
nice ones, they get zeazick always and dizappear. Going Trebizond this
time?" he added.
"Caucasus generally--up in the mountains a bit."
"God blenty veapons then, I hope. They shoot you for two pfennig up
there!" And he was off with his hearty deep laugh and rather ponderous
briskness toward the bridge.
Thus O'Malley found himself placed for meals at the right hand of
Dr. Stahl; opposite him, on the doctor's left, a talkative Moscow
fur-merchant who, having come to definite conclusions of his own about
things n general, was persuaded the rest of the world must share them,
and who delivered verbose commonplaces with a kind of pontifical
utterance sometimes amusing, but usually boring; on his right a
gentle-eyed, brown-bearded Armenian priest from the Venice monastery that
had sheltered Byron, a man who ate everything except soup with his knife,
yet with a daintiness that made one marvel, and with hands so graceful
they might almost have replaced the knife without off offence. Beyond the
priest sat the rotund Canadian drummer. He kept silence, watched the
dishes carefully lest anything should escape him, and--ate. Lower down on
the opposite side, one or two nondescripts between, sat the big, blond,
bearded stranger with his son. Diagonally across from himself and the
doctor, they were in full view.
O'Malley talked to all and sundry whom his voice could reach, being
easily forthcoming to people whom he was not likely to see again. But
he was particularly pleased to find himself next to the ship's doctor,
Dr. Heinrich Stahl, for the man both attracted and antagonized him, and
they had crossed swords pleasantly on more voyages than one. There
was a fundamental contradiction in his character due--O'Malley
divined--to the fact that his experiences did not tally as he wished them
to do with his beliefs, or vice versa. Affecting to believe in nothing,
he occasionally dropped remarks that betrayed a belief in all kinds of
things, unorthodox things. Then, having led the Irishman into confessions
of his own fairy faith, he would abruptly rule the whole subject out of
order with some cynical phrase that closed discussion. In this sarcastic
attitude O'Malley detected a pose assumed for his own protection. "No man
of sense can possibly accept such a thing; it is incredible and foolish."
Yet, the biting way he said the words betrayed him; the very thing his
reason rejected, his soul believed....
These vivid impressions the Irishman had of people, one wonders how
accurate they were! In this case, perhaps, he was not far from the
truth. That a man with Dr. Stahl's knowledge and ability could be
content to hide his light under the bushel of a mere _Schiffsarzt_
required explanation. His own explanation was that he wanted leisure for
thinking and writing. Bald-headed, slovenly, prematurely old, his beard
stained with tobacco and snuff, under-sized, scientific in the
imaginative sense that made him speculative beyond mere formulae, his was
an individuality that inspired a respect one could never quite account
for. He had keen dark eyes that twinkled, sometimes mockingly, sometimes,
if the word may be allowed, bitterly, yet often too with a good-humored
amusement which sympathy with human weaknesses could alone have
caused. A warm heart he certainly had, as more than one forlorn
passenger could testify.
Conversation at their table was slow at first. It began at the lower end
where the French tourists chattered briskly over the soup, then crept
upwards like a slow fire o'erleaping various individuals who would not
catch. For instance, it passed the harvest-machine man; it passed the
nondescripts; it also passed the big light-haired stranger and his son.
At the table behind, there was a steady roar and buzz of voices; the
Captain was easy and genial, prophesying to the ladies on either side
Of him a calm voyage. In the shelter of his big voice even the shy found
it easy to make remarks to their neighbors. Listening to fragments of
the talk O'Malley found that his own eyes kept wandering down the
table--diagonally across--to the two strangers. Once or twice he
intercepted the doctor's glance traveling in the same direction, and on
these occasions it was on the tip of his tongue to make a remark about
them, or to ask a question. Yet the words did not come. Dr. Stahl, he
felt, knew a similar hesitation. Each, wanting to speak, yet kept
silence, waiting for the other to break the ice.
"This _mistral_ is tiresome," observed the doctor, as the tide of talk
flowed up to his end and made a remark necessary. "It tries the nerves
of some." He glanced at O'Malley, but it was the fur-merchant who
replied, spreading a be-ringed hand over his plate to feel the warmth.
"I know it well," he said pompously in a tone of finality; "it lasts
three, six, or nine days. But once across the Golfe de Lyons we shall be
free of it."
"You think so? Ah, I am glad," ventured the priest with a timid smile
while he adroitly balanced meat and bullet-like green peas upon his
knife-blade. Tone, smile, and gesture were so gentle that the use of
steel in any form seemed incongruous.
The voice of the fur-merchant came in domineeringly.
"Of course. I have made this trip so often, I _know_. St. Petersburg to
Paris, a few weeks on the Riviera, then back by Constantinople and the
Crimea. It is nothing. I remember last year--" He pushed a large pearl
pin more deeply into his speckled tie and began a story that proved
chiefly how luxuriously he traveled. His eyes tried to draw the whole
end of the table into his circle, but while the Armenian listened
politely, with smiles and bows, Dr. Stahl turned to the Irishman again.
It Vas the year of Halley's comet and he began talking interestingly
"... Three o'clock in the morning--any morning, yes--is the best time,"
the doctor concluded, "and I'll have you called. You must see it through
my telescope. End of this week, say, after we leave Catania and turn
And at this instant, following a roar of laughter from the Captain's
table, came one of those abrupt pauses that sometimes catch an entire
room at once. All voices hushed. Even the merchant, setting down his
champagne glass, fell silent. One heard only the beating of the steamer's
screw, the rush of water below the port-holes, the soft scuffle of the
stewards' feet. The conclusion of the doctor's inconsiderable sentence
was sharply audible all over the room--
"... crossing the Ionian Sea toward the Isles of Greece."
It rang across the pause, and at the same moment O'Malley caught the eyes
of the big stranger lifted suddenly and fixed upon the speaker's face as
though the words had summoned him.
They shifted the same instant to his own, then dropped again to his
plate. Again the clatter of conversation drowned the room as before; the
merchant resumed his self-description in terms of gold; the doctor
discussed the gases of the comet's tail. But the swift-blooded Irishman
felt himself caught away strangely and suddenly into another world.
Out of the abyss of the subconscious there rose a gesture prophetic and
immense. The trivial phrase and that intercepted look opened a great
door of wonder in his heart. In a second he grew "absent-minded." Or,
rather, something touched a button and the whole machinery of his
personality shifted round noiselessly and instantaneously, presenting an
immediate new facet to the world. His normal, puny self-consciousness
slipped a moment into the majestic calm of some far larger state that
the stranger also knew. The Universe lies in every human heart, and he
plunged into that archetypal world that stands so close behind all
sensible appearances. He could neither explain nor attempt to explain,
but he sailed away into some giant swimming mood of beauty wherein
steamer, passengers, talk, faded utterly, the stranger and his son
remaining alone real and vital. He had seen; he could never forget.
Chance prepared the setting, but immense powers had rushed in and availed
themselves of it. Something deeply buried had flamed from the stranger's
eyes and beckoned to him. The fire ran from the big man to himself and
"The Isles of Greece--" The words were simple enough, yet it seemed to
O'Malley that the look they summoned to the stranger's eyes ensouled
them, transfiguring them with the significance of vital clues. They
touched the fringe of a mystery, magnificent and remote--some
transcendent psychical drama in the 'life of this man whose "bigness"
and whose "loneliness that must be whispered" were also in their way
other vital clues. Moreover, remembering his first sight of these two
upon the upper deck a few hours before, he understood that his own
spirit, by virtue of its peculiar and primitive yearnings, was involved
in the same mystery and included in the same hidden passion.
The little incident illustrates admirably O'Malley's idiosyncrasy of
"seeing whole." In a lightning flash his inner sense had associated the
words and the glance, divining that the one had caused the other. That
pause provided the opportunity.... If Imagination, then it was creative
imagination; if true, it was assuredly spiritual insight of a rare
He became aware that the twinkling eyes of his neighbor were observing
him keenly. For some moments evidently he had been absent-mindedly
staring down the table. He turned quickly and looked at the doctor
with frankness. This time it was impossible to avoid speech of some
"Following those lights that do mislead the morn?" asked Dr. Stahl
slyly. "Your thoughts have been traveling. You've heard none of my last
Under the clamor of the merchant's voice O'Malley replied in a lowered
"I was watching those two half-way down the table opposite. They interest
you as well, I see." It was not a challenge exactly; if the tone was
aggressive, it was merely that he felt the subject was one on which they
would differ, and he scented an approaching discussion. The doctor's
reply, indicating agreement, surprised him a good deal.
"They do; they interest me greatly." There was no trace of fight in the
voice. "That should cause _you_ no surprise."
"Me--they simply fascinate," said O'Malley, always easily drawn. "What is
it? What do you see about them that is unusual? Do you, too, see them
'big'?" The doctor did not answer at once, and O'Malley added, "The
father's a tremendous fellow, but it's not that--"
"Partly, though," said the other, "partly, I think."
"What else, then?" The fur-merchant, still talking, prevented their
being overheard. "What is it marks them off so from the rest?"
"Of all people _you_ should see," smiled the doctor quietly. "If a man
of your imagination sees nothing, what shall a poor exact mind like
myself see?" He eyed him keenly a moment. "You really mean that you
"A certain distinction, yes; a certain aloofness from others. Isolated,
they seem in a way; rather a splendid isolation I should call it--"
And then he stopped abruptly. It was most curious, but he was aware
that unwittingly in this way he had stumbled upon the truth, aware at
the same time that he resented discussing it with his companion--because
it meant at the same time discussing himself or something in himself he
wished to hide. His entire mood shifted again with completeness and
rapidity. He could not help it. It seemed suddenly as though he had been
telling the doctor secrets about himself, secrets moreover he would not
treat sympathetically. The doctor had been "at him," so to speak,
searching the depths of him with a probing acuteness the casual language
"What are they, do you suppose: Finns, Russians, Norwegians, or what?"
the doctor asked. And the other replied briefly that he guessed they
might be Russians perhaps, South Russians. His tone was different. He
wished to avoid further discussion. At the first opportunity he neatly
changed the conversation.
It was curious, the way proof came to him. Something in himself, wild as
the desert, something to do with that love of primitive life he discussed
only with the few who were intimately sympathetic toward it, this
something in his soul was so akin to a similar passion in these
strangers that to talk of it was to betray himself as well as them.
Further, he resented Dr. Stahl's interest in them, because he felt it was
critical and scientific. Not far behind hid the analysis that would lay
them bare, leading to their destruction. A profound instinctive sense of
self-preservation had been stirred within him.
Already, mysteriously guided by secret affinities, he had ranged himself
on the side of the strangers.
"Mythology contains the history of the archetypal world. It comprehends
Past, Present, and Future."
--NOVALIS, _Flower Pollen, Translated by U.C.B.
In this way there came between these two the slight barrier of a
forbidden subject that grew because neither destroyed it. O'Malley had
erected it; Dr. Stahl respected it. Neither referred again for a time to
the big Russian and his son.
In his written account O'Malley, who was certainly no constructive
literary craftsman, left out apparently countless little confirmatory
details. By word of mouth he made me feel at once that this mystery
existed, however; and to weld the two together is a difficult task. There
nevertheless was this something about the Russian and his boy that
excited deep curiosity, accompanied by an aversion on the part of the
other passengers that isolated them; also, there was this competition on
the part of the two friends to solve it, from opposing motives.
Had either of the strangers fallen seasick, the advantage would have
been easily with Dr. Stahl--professionally, but since they remained well,
and the doctor was in constant demand by the other passengers, it was
the Irishman who won the first move and came to close quarters by making
a personal acquaintance. His strong desire helped matters of course; for
he noticed with indignation that these two, quiet and inoffensive as they
were and with no salient cause of offence, were yet rejected by the main
body of passengers. They seemed to possess a quality that somehow
insulated them from approach, sending them effectually "to Coventry," and
in a small steamer where the travelers settle down into a kind of big
family life, this isolation was unpleasantly noticeable.
It stood out in numerous little details that only a keen observer closely
watching could have taken into account. Small advances, travelers'
courtesies, and the like that ordinarily should have led to conversation,
in their case led to nothing. The other passengers invariably moved away
after a few moments, politely excusing themselves, as it were, from
further intercourse. And although at first the sight of this stirred in
him an instinct of revolt that was almost anger, he soon felt that the
couple not merely failed to invite, but even emanated some definite
atmosphere that repelled. And each time he witnessed these little scenes,
there grew more strongly in him the original picture he had formed of
them as beings rejected and alone, hunted by humanity as a whole, seeking
escape from loneliness into a place of refuge that they knew of,
definitely at last _en route_.
Only an imaginative mind, thus concentrated upon them, could have
divined all this; yet to O'Malley it seemed plain as the day. With the
certitude, moreover, came the feeling, ever stronger, that the refuge
they sought would prove to be also the refuge he himself sought, the
difference being that whereas they knew, he still hesitated.
Yet, in spite of this secret sympathy, imagined or discovered, he found
it no easy matter to approach the big man for speech. For a day and a
half he merely watched; attraction so strong excited caution; he paused,
waiting. His attention, however, was so keen that he seemed always to
know where they were and what they were doing. By instinct he was
aware in what part of the ship they would be found--for the most part
leaning over the rail alone in the bows, staring down at the churned
water together by the screws, pacing the after-deck in the dusk or early
morning when no one was about, or hidden away in some corner of the
upper deck, side by side, gazing at sea and sky. Their method of walking,
too, made it easy to single them out from the rest--a free, swaying
movement of the limbs, a swing of the shoulders, a gait that was
lumbering, almost clumsy, half defiant, yet at the same time graceful,
and curiously rapid. The body moved along swiftly for all its air of
blundering--a motion which was a counterpart of that elusive appearance
of great bulk, and equally difficult of exact determination. An air
went with them of being ridiculously confined by the narrow little decks.
Thus it was that Genoa had been made and the ship was already half
way on to Naples before the opportunity for closer acquaintance presented
itself. Rather, O'Malley, unable longer to resist, forced it. It
seemed, too, inevitable as sunrise.
Rain had followed the _mistral_ and the sea was rough. A rich land-taste
came about the ship like the smell of wet oaks when wind sweeps their
leaves after a sousing shower. In the hour before dinner, the decks
slippery with moisture, only one or two wrapped-up passengers in
deck-chairs below the awning, O'Malley, following a sure inner lead,
came out of the stuffy smoking-room into the air. It was already dark
and the drive of mist-like rain somewhat obscured his vision after the
glare. Only for a moment though--for almost the first thing he saw
was the Russian and his boy moving in front of him toward the aft
compasses. Like a single figure, huge and shadowy, they passed into the
darkness beyond with a speed that seemed as usual out of proportion
to their actual stride. They lumbered rapidly away. O'Malley caught that
final swing of the man's great shoulders as they disappeared, and,
leaving the covered deck, he made straight after them. And though neither
gave any sign that they had seen him, he felt that they were aware of his
coming--and even invited him.
As he drew close a roll of the vessel brought them almost into each
other's arms, and the boy, half hidden beneath his parent's flowing
cloak, looked up at once and smiled. The saloon light fell dimly upon
his face. The Irishman saw that friendly smile of welcome, and lurched
forward with the roll of the deck. They brought up against the bulwarks,
and the big man put out an arm to steady him. They all three laughed
together. At close quarters, as usual again, the impression of bulk had
And then, at first, utterly unlike real life, they said--nothing. The
boy moved round and stood close to his side so that he found himself
placed between them, all three leaning forward over the rails watching
the phosphorescence of the foam-streaked Mediterranean.
Dusk lay over the sea; the shores of Italy not near enough to be visible;
the mist, the hour, the loneliness of the deserted decks, and something
else that was nameless, shut them in, these three, in a little world of
their own. A sentence or two rose in O'Malley's mind, but without finding
utterance, for he felt that no spoken words were necessary. He was
accepted without more ado. A deep natural sympathy existed between
them, recognized intuitively from that moment of first mutual inspection
at Marseilles. It was instinctive, almost as with animals. The action
of the boy in coming round to his side, unhindered by the father, was
the symbol of utter confidence and welcome.
There came, then, one of those splendid and significant moments that
occasionally, for some, burst into life, flooding all barriers, breaking
down as with a flaming light the thousand erections of shadow that close
one in. Something imprisoned in himself swept outwards, rising like a
wave, bringing an expansion of life that "explained." It vanished, of
course, instantly again, but not before he had caught a flying remnant
that lit the broken puzzles of his heart and left things clearer. Before
thought, and therefore words, could overtake, it was gone; but there
remained at least this glimpse. The fire had flashed a light down
subterranean passages of his being and made visible for a passing second
some clue to his buried primitive yearnings. He partly understood.
Standing there between these two this thing came over him with a
degree of intelligibility scarcely captured by his words. The man's
qualities--his quietness, peace, slowness, silence--betrayed somehow that
his inner life dwelt in a region vast and simple, shaping even his
exterior presentment with its own huge characteristics, a region wherein
the distress of the modern world's vulgar, futile strife could not
exist--more, could never _have_ existed. The Irishman, who had never
realized exactly why the life of Today to him was dreadful, now
understood it in the presence of this simple being with his atmosphere of
stately power. He was like a child, but a child of some pre-existence
utterly primitive and utterly forgotten; of no particular age, but of
some state that antedates all ages; simple in some noble, concentrated
sense that was prodigious, almost terrific. To stand thus beside him was
to stand beside a mighty silent fire, steadily glowing, a fire that fed
all lesser flames, because itself close to the central source of fire. He
felt warmed, lighted, vivified--made whole. The presence of this stranger
took him at a single gulp, as it were, straight into Nature--a Nature
that was alive. The man was part of her. Never before had he stood so
close and intimate. Cities and civilization fled away like transient
dreams, ashamed. The sun and moon and stars moved up and touched him.
This word of lightning explanation, at least, came to him as he breathed
the other's atmosphere and presence. The region where this man's spirit
fed was at the center, whereas today men were active with a scattered,
superficial cleverness, at the periphery. He even understood that his
giant gait and movements were small outer evidences of this inner fact,
wholly in keeping. That blundering stupidity, half glorious, half
pathetic, with which he moved among his fellows was a physical
expression of this psychic fact that his spirit had never learned the
skilful tricks taught by civilization to lesser men. It was, in a way,
awe-inspiring, for he was now at last driving back full speed for his own
O'Malley knew himself caught, swept off his feet, momentarily driving
The singular deep satisfaction of it, standing there with these two in
the first moment, he describes as an entirely new sensation in his
life--an awareness that he was "complete." The boy touched his side and
he let an arm steal round to shelter him. The huge, bearded parent rose
in his massiveness against his other shoulder, hemming him in. For a
second he knew a swift and curious alarm, passing however almost at
once into the thrill of a rare happiness. In that moment, it was not the
passengers or the temper of Today who rejected them; it was they who
rejected the world: because they knew another and superior one--more,
they were in it.
Then, without turning, the big man spoke, the words in heavy accented
English coming out laboriously and with slow, exceeding difficulty as
though utterance was a supreme effort.
"You ... come ... with ... us?" It was like stammering almost. Still
more was it like essential inarticulateness struggling into an utterance
foreign to it--unsuited. The voice was a deep and windy bass, merging
with the noise of the sea below.
"I'm going to the Caucasus," O'Malley replied; "up into the old, old
mountains, to--see things--to look about--to search--" He really wanted
to say much more, but the words lay dead or beyond reach.
The big man nodded slowly. The boy listened.
"And yourself--?" asked the Irishman, hardly knowing why he faltered and
The other smiled; a beauty that was beyond all language passed with that
smile across the great face in the dusk.
"Some of us ... of ours ..." he spoke very slowly, very brokenly,
quarrying out the words with real labor, "... still survive... out
there.... We ... now go back. So very ... few ... remain.... And
you--come with us ..."
"In the spiritual Nature-Kingdom, man must everywhere seek his peculiar
territory and climate, his best occupation, his particular neighborhood,
in order to cultivate a Paradise in idea; this is the right system....
Paradise is scattered over the whole earth, and that is why it has become
--NOVALIS, Translated by U.C.B.
"Man began in instinct and will end in instinct. Instinct is genius in
Paradise, before the period of self-abstraction (self-knowledge)."
"Look here, old man," he said to me, "I'll just tell you what it was,
because I know you won't laugh."
We were lying under the big trees behind the Round Pond when he reached
this point, and his direct speech was so much more graphic than the
written account that I use it. He was in one of his rare moments of
confidence, excited, hat off, his shabby tie escaping from the shabbier
grey waistcoat. One sock lay untidily over his boot, showing bare leg.
Children's voices floated to us from the waterside as though from very
far away, the nursemaids and perambulators seemed tinged with unreality,
the London towers were clouds, its roar the roar of waves. I saw only the
ship's deck, the grey and misty sea, the uncouth figures of the two who
leaned with him over the bulwarks.
"Go on," I said encouragingly; "out with it!"
"It must seem incredible to most men, but, by Gad, I swear to you, it
lifted me off my feet, and I've never known anything like it. The mind
of that great fellow got hold of me, included me. He made the inanimate
world--sea, stars, wind, woods, and mountains--seem all alive. The entire
blessed universe was conscious--and he came straight out of it to get me.
I understood things about myself I've never understood before--and always
funked rather;--especially that feeling of being out of touch with my
kind, of finding no one in the world today who speaks my language
quite--that, and the utter, God-forsaken loneliness it makes me suffer--"
"You always have been a lonely beggar really," I said, noting the
hesitation that thus on the very threshold checked his enthusiasm,
quenching the fire in those light-blue eyes. "Tell me. I shall understand
right enough--or try to."
"God bless you," he answered, leaping to the sympathy, "I believe you
will. There's always been this primitive, savage thing in me that keeps
others away--puts them off, and so on. I've tried to smother it a bit
"Have you?" I laughed.
"'Tried to,' I said, because I've always been afraid of its getting out
too much and bustin' my life all to pieces:--something lonely and untamed
and sort of outcast from cities and money and all the thick suffocating
civilization of today; and I've only saved myself by getting off into
wildernesses and free places where I could give it a breathin' chance
without running the risk of being locked up as a crazy man." He laughed
as he said it, but his heart was in the words. "You know all that;
haven't I told you often enough? It's not a morbid egoism, or what their
precious academic books so stupidly call 'degenerate,' for in me it's
damned vital and terrific, and moves always to action. It's made me an
"Something far stronger than the Call of the Wild, isn't it?"
He fairly snorted. "Sure as we're both alive here sittin' on this sooty
London grass," he cried. "This Call of the Wild they prate about is
just the call a fellow hears to go on 'the bust' when he's had too much
town and's got bored--a call to a little bit of license and excess to
safety-valve him down. What I feel," his voice turned grave and quiet
again, "is quite a different affair. It's the call of real hunger--the
call of food. They want to let off steam, but I want to take in stuff to
prevent--starvation." He whispered the word, putting his lips close to my
A pause fell between us, which I was the first to break.
"This is not your century! That's what you really mean," I suggested
"Not my century!" he caught me up, flinging handfuls of faded grass in
the air between us and watching it fall; "why, it's not even my world!
And I loathe, loathe the spirit of today with its cheap-jack inventions,
and smother of sham universal culture, its murderous superfluities and
sordid vulgarity, without enough real sense of beauty left to see that a
daisy is nearer heaven than an airship--"
"Especially when the airship falls," I laughed. "Steady, steady, old boy;
don't spoil your righteous case by overstatement."
"Well, well, you know what I mean," he laughed with me, though his face
at once turned earnest again, "and all that, and all that, and all
that.... And so this savagery that has burned in me all these years
unexplained, these Russian strangers made clear. I can't tell you how
because I don't know myself. The father did it--his proximity, his
silence stuffed with sympathy, his great vital personality unclipped by
contact with these little folk who left him alone. His presence alone
made me long for the earth and Nature. He seemed a living part of it
all. He was magnificent and enormous, but the devil take me if I know
"He said nothing--that referred to it directly?"
"Nothing but what I've told you,--blundering awkwardly with those few
modern words. But he had it in him a thousand to my one. He made me feel
I was right and natural, untrue to myself to suppress it and a coward to
fear it. The speech-center in the brain, you know, is anyhow a
comparatively recent thing in evolution. They say that--"
"It wasn't his century either," I checked him again.
"No, and he didn't pretend it was, as I've tried to," he cried, sitting
bolt upright beside me. "The fellow was genuine, never dreamed of
compromise. D'ye see what I mean? Only somehow he'd found out where his
world and century were, and was off to take possession. And that's what
caught me. I felt it by some instinct in me stronger than all else; only
we couldn't talk about it definitely because--because--I hardly know how
to put it--for the same reason," he added suddenly, "that I can't talk
about it to you _now!_ There are no words.... What we both sought was a
state that passed away before words came into use, and is therefore
beyond intelligible description. No one spoke to them on the ship for
the same reason, I felt sure, that no one spoke to them in the whole
world--because no one could manage even the alphabet of their language.
"And this was so strange and beautiful," he went on, "that standing
there beside him, in his splendid atmosphere, the currents of wind and
sea reached _me through him first_, filtered by his spirit so that I
assimilated them and they fed me, because he somehow stood in such close
and direct relation to Nature. I slipped into my own region, made happy
and alive, knowing at last what I wanted, though still unable to phrase
it. This modern world I've so long tried to adjust myself to became a
thing of pale remembrance and a dream...."
"All in your mind and imagination, of course, this," I ventured,
seeing that his poetry was luring him beyond where I could follow.
"Of course," he answered without impatience, grown suddenly thoughtful,
less excited again, "and that's why it was true. No chance of clumsy
senses deceiving one. It was direct vision. What is Reality, in the last
resort," he asked, "but the thing a man's vision brings to him--to
believe? There's no other criterion. The criticism of opposite types
of mind is merely a confession of their own limitations."
Being myself of the "opposite type of mind," I naturally did not argue,
but suffered myself to accept his half-truth for the whole--temporarily.
I checked him from time to time merely lest he should go too fast for me
to follow what seemed a very wonderful tale of faerie.
"So this wild thing in me the world today has beggared and denied," he
went on, swept by his Celtic enthusiasm, "woke in its full strength.
Calling to me like some flying spirit in a storm, it claimed me. The
man's being summoned me back to the earth and Nature, as it were,
automatically. I understood that look on his face, that sign in his eyes.
The 'Isles of Greece' furnished some faint clue, but as yet I knew no
more--only that he and I were in the same region and that I meant to
go with him and that he accepted me with delight that was joy. It drew
me as empty space draws a giddy man to the precipice's edge. Thoughts
from another's mind," he added by way of explanation, turning round,
"come far more completely to me when I stand in a man's atmosphere,
silent and receptive, than when by speech he tries to place them there.
Ah! And that helps me to get at what I mean, perhaps. The man, you
see, hardly thought; he _felt_."
"As an animal, you mean? Instinctively--?"
"In a sense, yes," he replied after a momentary hesitation. "Like some
very early, very primitive form of life."
"With the best will in the world, Terence, I don't quite follow you--"
"I don't quite follow myself," he cried, "because I'm trying to lead
and follow at the same time. You know that idea--I came across it
somewhere--that in ancient peoples the senses were much less specialized
than they are now; that perception came to them in general, massive
sensations rather than divided up neatly into five channels:--that they
felt all over so to speak, and that all the senses, as in an overdose of
hashish, become one single sense? The centralizing of perception in the
brain is a recent thing, and it might equally well have occurred in any
other nervous headquarters of the body, say, the solar plexus; or,
perhaps, never have been localized at all! In hysteria patients have been
known to read with the finger-tips and smell with the heel. Touch is
still all over; it's only the other four that have got fixed in definite
organs. There are systems of thought today that still would make the
solar plexus the main center, and not the brain. The word 'brain,' you
know, never once occurs in the ancient Scriptures of the world. You will
not find it in the Bible--the reins, the heart, and so forth were what
men felt with then. They felt all over--well," he concluded abruptly, "I
think this fellow was like that. D'ye see now?"
I stared at him, greatly wondering. A nursemaid passed close, balancing a
child in a spring-perambulator, saying in a foolish voice, "Wupsey up,
wupsey down! Wupsey there!" O'Malley, in the full stream of his mood,
waited impatiently till she had gone by. Then, rolling over on his side,
he came closer, talking in a lowered tone. I think I never saw him so
deeply stirred, nor understood, perhaps, so little of the extreme
passion working in him. Yet it was incredible that he could have caught
so much from mere interviews with a semi-articulate stranger, unless
what he said was strictly true, and this Russian had positively touched
latent fires in his soul by a kind of sympathetic magic.
"You know," he went on almost under his breath, "every man who thinks for
himself and feels vividly finds he lives in a world of his own, apart,
and believes that one day he'll come across, either in a book or in a
person, the Priest who shall make it clear to him. Well--I'd found mine,
that's all. I can't prove it to you with a pair of scales or a butcher's
meat-axe, but it's true."
"And you mean his mere presence conveyed all this without speech almost?"
"Because there _was_ no speech possible," he replied, dropping his voice
to a whisper and thrusting his face yet closer into mine. "We were
solitary survivors of a world whose language was either uncreated or"--he
italicized the word--"_forgotten_...."
"An elaborate and detailed thought-transference, then?"
"Why not?" he murmured. "It's one of the commonest facts of daily life."
"And you had never fully realized it before, this loneliness and its
possible explanation--that there might exist, I mean, a way of satisfying
it--till you met this stranger?"
He answered with deep earnestness. "Always, old man, always, but suffered
under it atrociously because I'd never understood it. I had been afraid
to face it. This man, a far bigger and less diluted example of it than
myself, made it all clear and right and natural. We belonged to the same
forgotten place and time. Under his lead and guidance I could find my
I whistled a long soft whistle, looking up into the sky. Then, sitting
upright like himself, we stared hard at one another, straight in the eye.
He was too grave, too serious to trifle with. It would have been unfair
too. Besides, I loved to hear him. The way he reared such fabulous
superstructures upon slight incidents, interpreting thus his complex
being to himself, was uncommonly interesting. It was observing the
creative imagination actually at work, and the process in a sense seemed
sacred. Only the truth and actuality with which he clothed it all made
me a little uncomfortable sometimes.
"I'll put it to you quite simply," he cried suddenly.
"Yes, and 'quite simply' it was--?"
"That he knew the awful spiritual loneliness of living in a world whose
tastes and interests were not his own, a world to which he was
essentially foreign, and at whose hands he suffered continual rebuff and
rejection. Advances from either side were mutually and necessarily
repelled because oil and water cannot mix. Rejected, moreover, not
merely by a family, tribe, or nation, but by a race and time--by the
whole World of Today; an outcast and an alien, a desolate survival."
"An appalling picture!"
"I understood it," he went on, holding up both hands by way of emphasis,
"because in miniature I had suffered the same: he was a supreme case of
what lay so deeply in myself. He was a survival of other life the modern
mind has long since agreed to exile and deny. Humanity stared at him over
a barrier, never dreaming of asking him in. Even had it done so he could
not by the law of his being have accepted. Outcast myself in some small
way, I understood his terrible loneliness, a soul without a country,
visible and external country that is. A passion of tenderness and
sympathy for him, and so also for myself, awoke. I saw him as chieftain
of all the lonely, exiled souls of life."
Breathless a moment, he lay on his back staring at the summer
clouds--those thoughts of wind that change and pass before their meanings
can be quite seized. Similarly protean was the thought his phrases tried
to clothe. The terror, pathos, sadness of this big idea he strove to
express touched me deeply, yet never quite with the clarity of his own
"There _are_ such souls, _dépaysées_ and in exile," he said suddenly
again, turning over on the grass. "They _do_ exist. They walk the earth
today here and there in the bodies of ordinary men ... and their
loneliness is a loneliness that must be whispered."
"You formed any idea what kind of--of survival?" I asked gently, for
the notion grew in me that after all these two would prove to be mere
revolutionaries in escape, political refugees, or something quite
O'Malley buried his face in his hands for a moment without replying.
Presently he looked up. I remember that a streak of London black ran
from the corner of his mouth across the cheek. He pushed the hair back
from his forehead, answering in a manner grown abruptly calm and
"Don't ye see what a foolish question that is," he said quietly, "and
how impossible to satisfy, inviting that leap of invention which can be
only an imaginative lie...? I can only tell you," and the breeze brought
to us the voices of children from the Round Pond where they sailed
their ships of equally wonderful adventure, "that my own longing
became this: to go with him, to know what he knew, to live where he
"And the alarm you said you felt?"
"That," he added, "was a kind of mistake. To go involved, I felt, an
inner catastrophe that might be Death--that it would be out of the body,
I mean, or a going backwards. In reality, it was a going forwards and a
way to Life."
And it was just before the steamer made Naples that the jolly Captain
unwittingly helped matters forward a good deal. For it was his ambition
to include in the safe-conduct of his vessel the happy-conduct also of
his passengers. He liked to see them contented and of one accord, a big
family, and he noted--or had word brought to him perhaps--that there were
one or two whom the attitude of the majority left out in the cold.
It may have been--O'Malley wondered without actually asking--that
the man who shared the cabin with the strangers made some appeal for
re-arrangement, but in any case Captain Burgenfelder approached the
Irishman that afternoon on the bridge and asked if he would object
to having them in his stateroom for the balance of the voyage.
"Your present gompanion geds off at Naples," he said. "Berhaps you would
not object. I think--they seem lonely. You are friendly with them. They
go alzo to Batoum?"
This proposal for close quarters gave him pause. He knew a moment or two
of grave hesitation, yet without time to analyze it. Then, driven by a
sudden decision of the heart that knew no revision of reason, he agreed.
"I had better, perhaps, suggest it to see if they are willing," he said
the next minute, hedging.
"I already ask him dat."
"Oh, you have! And he would like it--not object, I mean?" he added, aware
of a subtle sense of half-frightened pleasure.
"Pleased and flattered on the contrary," was the reply, as he handed him
the glasses to look at Ischia rising blue from the sea.
O'Malley felt as though his decision was somehow an act of
self-committal, almost grave. It meant that impulsively he accepted a
friendship which concealed in its immense attraction--danger. He had
taken the plunge.
The rush of it broke over him like a wave, setting free a tumult of very
deep emotion. He raised the glasses automatically to his eyes, but
looking through them he saw not Ischia nor the opening the Captain
explained the ship would make, heading that evening for Sicily. He saw
quite another picture that drew itself up out of himself--was thrown
up, rather, somewhat with violence, as upon a landscape of dream-scenery.
The lens of passionate yearning in himself, ever unsatisfied, focused
it against a background far, far away, in some faint distance that was
neither of space nor time, and might equally have been past as future.
Large figures he saw, shadowy yet splendid, that ran free-moving as
clouds over mighty hills, vital with the abundant strong life of a
younger world.... Yet never quite saw them, never quite overtook them,
for their speed and the manner of their motion bewildered the sight....
Moreover, though they evaded him in terms of physical definition he knew
a sense of curious, half-remembered familiarity. Some portion of his
hidden self, uncaught, unharnessed by anything in modern life, rose with
a passionate rush of joy and made after them--something in him untamed as
wind. His mind stood up, as it were, and shouted "I am coming." For he
saw himself not far behind, as a man, racing with great leaps to join
them ... yet never overtaking, never drawing close enough to see quite
clearly. The roar of their tramping shook the very blood in his ears....
His decision to accept the strangers had set free in his being something
that thus for the first time in his life--escaped.... Symbolically
in his mind this Escape had taken picture form....
The Captain's voice was asking for the glasses; with a wrench that
caused almost actual physical pain he tore himself away, letting this
herd of Flying Thoughts sink back into the shadows and disappear. With
sharp regret he saw them go--a regret for long, long, far-off things....
Turning, he placed the field-glasses carefully in that fat open hand
stretched out to receive them, and noted as he did so the thick, pink
fingers that closed about the strap, the heavy ring of gold, the band of
gilt about the sleeve. That wrought gold, those fleshy fingers, the
genial gutteral voice saying "T'anks" were symbols of an existence tamed
and artificial that caged him in again....
Then he went below and found that the lazy "drummer" who talked
harvest-machines to puzzled peasants had landed, and in his place an
assortment of indiscriminate clothing belonging to the big Russian and
his son lay scattered over the upper berth and upon the sofa-bed beneath
"For my own part I find in some of these abnormal or supernormal facts
the strongest suggestions in favor of a superior consciousness being
possible. I doubt whether we shall ever understand some of them without
using the very letter of Fechner's conception of a great reservoir in
which the memories of earth's inhabitants are pooled and preserved, and
from which, when the threshold lowers or the valve opens, information
ordinarily shut out leaks into the mind of exceptional individuals among
--WILLIAM JAMES, _A Pluralistic Universe_
And it was some hours later, while the ship made for the open sea, that
he told Dr. Stahl casually of the new arrangement and saw the change come
so suddenly across his face. Stahl stood back from the compass-box
whereon they leaned, and putting a hand upon his companion's shoulder,
looked a moment into his eyes. With surprise O'Malley noted that the pose
of cynical disbelief was gone; in its place was sympathy, interest,
kindness. The words he spoke came from his heart.
"Is that true?" he asked, as though the news disturbed him.
"Of course. Why not? Is there anything wrong?" He felt uneasy. The
doctor's manner confirmed the sense that he had done a rash thing.
Instantly the barrier between the two crumbled and he lost the first
feeling of resentment that his friends should be analyzed. The men thus
came together in unhindered sincerity.
"Only," said the doctor thoughtfully, half gravely, "that--I may have
done you a wrong, placed you, that is, in a position of--" he hesitated
an instant,--"of difficulty. It was I who suggested the change."
O'Malley stared at him.
"I don't understand you quite."
"It is this," continued the other, still holding him with his eyes. He
said it deliberately. "I have known you for some time, formed-er--an
opinion of your type of mind and being--a very rare and curious one,
interesting me deeply--"
"I wasn't aware you'd had me under the microscope," O'Malley laughed, but
"Though you felt it and resented it--justly, I may say--to the point of
sometimes avoiding me--"
"As doctor, scientist," put in O'Malley, while the other, ignoring the
interruption, continued in German:--
"I always had the secret hope, as 'doctor and scientist,' let us put it
then, that I might one day see you in circumstances that should bring
out certain latent characteristics I thought I divined in you. I wished
to observe you--your psychical being--under the stress of certain
temptations, favorable to these characteristics. Our brief voyages
together, though they have so kindly ripened our acquaintance into
friendship"--he put his hand again on the other's shoulder smiling,
while O'Malley replied with a little nod of agreement--"have, of course,
never provided the opportunity I refer to--"
"Until now!" the doctor added. "Until now."
Puzzled and interested the Irishman waited for him to go on, but the
man of science, who was now a ship's doctor, hesitated. He found it
difficult, apparently, to say what was in his thoughts.
"You refer, of course, though I hardly follow you quite--to our big
friends?" O'Malley helped him.
The adjective slipped out before he was aware of it. His companion's
expression admitted the accuracy of the remark. "You also see them--big,
then?" he said, quickly taking him up. He was not cross-questioning;
out of keen sympathetic interest he asked it.
"Sometimes, yes," the Irishman answered, more astonished. "Sometimes
"Exactly. Bigger than they really are; as though at times they gave
out--emanated--something that extended their appearance. Is that it?"
O'Malley, his confidence wholly won, more surprised, too, than he quite
understood, seized Stahl by the arm and drew him toward the rails. They
leaned over, watching the sea. A passenger, pacing the decks before
dinner, passed close behind them.
"But, doctor," he said in a hushed tone as soon as the steps had died
away, "you are saying things that I thought were half in my imagination
only, not true in the ordinary sense quite--your sense, I mean?"
For some moments the doctor made no reply. In his eyes a curious
steady gaze replaced the usual twinkle. When at length he spoke it was
evidently following a train of thought of his own, playing round a
subject he seemed half ashamed of and yet desired to state with direct
"A being akin to yourself," he said in low tones, "only developed,
enormously developed; a Master in your own peculiar region, and a man
whose influence acting upon you at close quarters could not fail to
arouse the latent mind-storms"--he chose the word hesitatingly, as
though seeking for a better he could not find on the moment,--"always
brewing in you just below the horizon."
He turned and watched his companion's face keenly. O'Malley was too
impressed to feel annoyance.
"Well--?" he asked, feeling the adventure closing round him with quite a
new sense of reality. "Well?" he repeated louder. "Please go on. I'm not
offended, only uncommonly interested. You leave me in a fog, so far. I
think you owe me more than hints."
"I do," said the other simply. "About that man is a singular quality
too rare for language to have yet coined its precise description:
something that is essentially"--they had lapsed into German now, and he
used the German word--"_unheimlich_."
The Irishman started. He recognized this for truth. At the same time
the old resentment stirred a little in him, creeping into his reply.
"You have studied him closely then--had him, too, under the microscope?
In this short time?"
This time the answer did not surprise him, however.
"My friend," he heard, while the other turned from him and gazed out over
the misty sea, "I have not been a ship's doctor--always. I am one now
only because the leisure and quiet give me the opportunity to finish
certain work, recording work. For years I was in the H----"--he mentioned
the German equivalent for the Salpêtrière--"years of research and
investigation into the astonishing vagaries of the human mind and
spirit--with certain results, followed later privately, that it is now my
work to record. And among many cases that might well seem--er--beyond
either credence or explanation,"--he hesitated again slightly--"I came
across one, one in a million, let us admit, that an entire section of my
work deals with under the generic term of _Urmenschen_."
"Primitive men," O'Malley snapped him up, translating. Through his
growing bewilderment ran also a growing uneasiness shot strangely
with delight. Intuitively he divined what was coming.
"Beings," the doctor corrected him, "not men. The prefix _Ur-_, moreover,
I use in a deeper sense than is usually attached to it as in _Urwald_,
_Urwelt_, and the like. An _Urmensch_ in the world today must suggest a
survival of an almost incredible kind--a kind, too, utterly inadmissible
and inexplicable to the materialist perhaps--"
"Paganistic?" interrupted the other sharply, joy and fright rising over
"Older, older by far," was the rejoinder, given with a curious hush and a
lowering of the voice.
The suggestion rushed into full possession of O'Malley's mind. There rose
in him something that claimed for his companions the sea, the wind, the
stars--tumultuous and terrific. But he said nothing. The conception,
blown into him thus for the first time at full strength, took all his
life into its keeping. No energy was left over for mere words. The
doctor, he was aware, was looking at him, the passion of discovery and
belief in his eyes. His manner kindled. It was the hidden Stahl emerging.
"... a type, let me put it," he went on in a voice whose very steadiness
thrilled his listener afresh, "that in its strongest development would
experience in the world today the loneliness of a complete and absolute
exile. A return to humanity, you see, of some unexpended power of
The shudder passed through him and away almost as soon as it came. Again
the sea grew splendid, the thunder of the waves held voices calling, and
the foam framed shapes and faces, wildly seductive, though fugitive as
dreams. The words he had heard moved him profoundly. He remembered how
the presence of the stranger had turned the world alive.
He knew what was coming, too, and gave the lead direct, while yet
half afraid to ask the question.
"So my friend--this big 'Russian'--?"
"I have known before, yes, and carefully studied."
"Is it not just possible that there is a mode of being as much
transcending Intelligence and Will as these transcend mechanical
--HERBERT SPENCER, _First Principles_
The two men left the rail and walked arm in arm along the deserted deck,
speaking in lowered voices.
"He came first to us, brought by the keeper of an obscure hotel where he
was staying, as a case of lapse of memory--loss of memory, I should say,
for it was complete. He was unable to say who he was, whence he came, or
to whom he belonged. Of his land or people we could learn nothing. His
antecedents were an utter blank. Speech he had practically none of his
own--nothing but the merest smattering of many tongues, a word here, a
word there. Utterance, indeed, of any kind was exceedingly difficult to
him. For years, evidently, he had wandered over the world, companionless
among men, seeking his own, finding no place where to lay his head.
People, it seemed, both men and women, kept him at arm's-length, feeling
afraid; the keeper of the little hotel was clearly terrified. This
quality he had that I mentioned just now, repelled human beings--even in
the Hospital it was noticeable--and placed him in the midst of humanity
thus absolutely alone. It is a quality more rare than"--hesitating,
searching for a word--"purity, one almost extinct today, one that I have
never before or since come across in any other being--hardly ever, that
is to say," he qualified the sentence, glancing significantly at his
"And the boy?" O'Malley asked quickly, anxious to avoid any discussion
"There was no boy then. He has found him since. He may find others
too--possibly!" The Irishman drew his arm out, edging away imperceptibly.
That shiver of joy reached him from the air and sea, perhaps.
"And two years ago," continued Dr. Stahl, as if nothing had happened,
"he was discharged, harmless"--he lingered a moment on the word, "if not
cured. He was to report to us every six months. He has never done so."
"You think he remembers you?"
"No. It is quite clear that he has lapsed back completely again into
the--er--state whence he came to us, that unknown world where he
passed his youth with others of his kind, but of which he has been able
to reveal no single detail to us, nor we to trace the slightest clue."
They stopped beneath the covered portion of the deck, for the mist
had now turned to rain. They leaned against the smoking-room outer
wall. In O'Malley's mind the thoughts and feelings plunged and reared.
Only with difficulty did he control himself.
"And this man, you think," he asked with outward calmness, "is of--of
"'Akin,' I said. I suggest--" But O'Malley cut him short.
"So that you engineered our sharing a cabin with a view to putting
him again--putting us both--under the microscope?"
"My scientific interest was very strong," Dr. Stahl replied carefully.
"But it is not too late to change. I offer you a bed in my own roomy
cabin on the promenade deck. Also, I ask your forgiveness."
The Irishman, large though his imaginative creed was, felt oddly checked,
baffled, stupefied by what he had heard. He knew perfectly well what
Stahl was driving at, and that revelations of another kind were yet
to follow. What bereft him of very definite speech was this new fact
slowly awakening in his consciousness which hypnotized him, as it were,
with its grandeur. It seemed to portend that his own primitive yearnings,
so-called, grew out of far deeper foundations than he had yet dreamed
of even. Stahl, should he choose to listen, meant to give him
explanation, quasi-scientific explanation. This talk about a survival of
"unexpended mythological values" carried him off his feet. He knew it was
true. Veiled behind that carefully chosen phrase was something more--a
truth brilliantly discovered. He knew, too, that it bit at the
platform-boards upon which his personality, his sanity, his very life,
perhaps, rested--his modern life.
"I forgive you, Dr. Stahl," he heard himself saying with a deceptive
calmness of voice as they stood shoulder to shoulder in that dark corner,
"for there is really nothing to forgive. The characteristics of these
_Urmenschen_ you describe attract me very greatly. Your words merely give
my imagination a letter of introduction to my reason. They burrow
among the foundations of my life and being. At least--you have done
me no wrong...." He knew the words were wild, impulsive, yet he could
find no better. Above all things he wished to conceal his rising, grand
"I thank you," Stahl said simply, yet with a certain confusion. "I--felt
I owed you this explanation--er--this confession."
"You wished to warn me?"
"I wished to say 'Be careful' rather. I say it now--Be careful! I give
you this invitation to share my cabin for the remainder of the voyage,
and I urge you to accept it." The offer was from the heart, while the
scientific interest in the man obviously half hoped for a refusal.
"You think harm might come to me?"
"Not physically. The man is gentle and safe in every way."
"But there _is_ danger--in your opinion?" insisted the other.
"There _is_ danger--"
"That his influence may make me as himself--an _Urmensch_?"
"That he may--get you," was the curious answer, given steadily after
a moment's pause.
Again the words thrilled O'Malley to the core of his delighted,
half-frightened soul. "You really mean that?" he asked again; "as 'doctor
and scientist,' you mean it?"
Stahl replied with a solemn anxiety in eyes and voice. "I mean that you
have in yourself that 'quality' which makes the proximity of this 'being'
dangerous: in a word that he may take you--er--with him."
They moved further up the deck together for some minutes in silence, but
the Irishman's feelings, irritated by the man's prolonged evasion,
reached a degree of impatience that was almost anger. "Let us be more
definite," he exclaimed at length a trifle hotly. "You mean that I might
"Not in the ordinary sense," came the answer without a sign of annoyance
or hesitation; "but that something might happen to you--something that
science could not recognize and medical science could not treat--"
Then O'Malley interrupted him with the vital question that rushed
out before he could consider its wisdom or legitimacy.
"Then what really is he--this man, this 'being' whom you call a
'survival,' and who makes you fear for my safety. Tell me _exactly_ what
They found themselves just then by the doctor's cabin, and Stahl,
pushing the door open, led him in. Taking the sofa for himself, he
pointed to an armchair opposite.
"Superstition is outside reason; so is revelation."
And O'Malley understood that he had pressed the doctor to the verge of
confessing some belief that he was ashamed to utter or to hold, something
forced upon him by his out-of-the-way experience of life to which his
scientific training said peremptorily "No." Further, that he watched him
keenly all the time, noting the effect his words produced.
"He is not a human being at all," he continued with a queer thin whisper
that conveyed a gravity of conviction singularly impressive, "in the
sense in which you and I are accustomed to use the term. His inner being
is not shaped, as his outer body, upon quite--human lines. He is a Cosmic
Being--a direct expression of cosmic life. A little bit, a fragment, of
the Soul of the World, and in that sense a survival--a survival of her
The Irishman, as he listened to these utterly unexpected words, felt
something rise within him that threatened to tear him asunder. Whether
it was joy or terror, or compounded strangely of the two, he could not
tell. It seemed as if he stood upon the edge of hearing something--spoken
by a man who was no mere dreamer like himself--that would explain the
world, himself, and all his wildest cravings. He both longed and feared
to hear it. In his hidden and most secret thoughts, those thoughts he
never uttered to another, this deep belief in the Earth as a conscious,
sentient, living Being had persisted in spite of all the forces education
and modern life had turned against it. It seemed in him an undying
instinct, an unmovable conviction, though he hardly dared acknowledge it
even to himself.
He had always "dreamed" the Earth alive, a mothering organism to
humanity; and himself, _via_ his love of Nature, in some sweet close
relation to her that other men had forgotten or ignored. Now, therefore,
to hear Stahl talk of Cosmic Beings, fragments of the Soul of the World,
and "survivals of her early life" was like hearing a great shout of
command to his soul to come forth and share it in complete
He bit his lips, pinched himself, stared. Then he took the black cigar he
was aware was being handed to him, lit it with fingers that trembled
absurdly, and smoked as hard as though his sanity depended on his
finishing it in a prescribed time. Great clouds rose before his face. But
his soul within him came up with a flaming rush of speed, shouting,
There was enough ash to knock off into the bronze tray beside him before
either said a word. He watched the little operation as closely as though
he were aiming a rifle. The ash, he saw, broke firmly. "This must be a
really good cigar," he thought to himself, for as yet he had not been
conscious of tasting it. The ash-tray, he also saw, was a kind of nymph,
her spread drapery forming the receptacle. "I must get one of those," he
thought. "I wonder what they cost." Then he puffed violently again. The
doctor had risen and was pacing the cabin floor slowly over by the red
curtain that concealed the bunk. O'Malley absent-mindedly watched
him, and as he did so the words he had heard kept on roaring at the
back of his mind.
And then, while silence still held the room,--swift, too, as a second
although it takes time to write--flashed through him a memory of Fechner,
the German philosopher who held that the Universe was everywhere
consciously alive, and that the Earth was the body of a living Entity,
and that the World-Soul or Cosmic Consciousness is something more than a
picturesque dream of the ancients....
The doctor came to anchor again on the sofa opposite. To his great relief
he was the first to break the silence, for O'Malley simply did not know
how or where to begin.
"We know today--_you_ certainly know for I've read it accurately
described in your books--that the human personality can extend itself
under certain conditions called abnormal. It can project portions of
itself, show itself even at a distance, operate away from the central
covering body. In exactly similar fashion may the Being of the Earth
have projected portions of herself in the past. Of such great powers or
beings there may be conceivably a survival ... a survival of a hugely
remote period when her Consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in
shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing
humanity ... forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a
flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all
sorts and kinds...."
And then, suddenly, as though he had been deliberately giving his
imagination rein yet now regretted it, his voice altered, his manner
assumed a shade of something colder. He shifted the key, as though to
another aspect of his belief. The man was talking swiftly of his
experiences in the big and private hospitals. He was describing _the_
very belief to which he had first found himself driven--the belief that
had opened the door to so much more. So far as O'Malley could follow it
in his curiously excited condition of mind, it was little more or less
than a belief he himself had often played lovingly with--the theory that
a man has a fluid or etheric counterpart of himself which is obedient to
strong desire and can, under certain conditions, be detached--projected
in a shape dictated by that desire.
He only realized this fully later perhaps, for the doctor used a
phraseology of his own. Stahl was telling calmly how he had been driven
to some such belief by the facts that had come under his notice both
in the asylums and in his private practice.
"...That in the amazingly complex personality of a human being," he went
on, "there does exist some vital constituent, a part of consciousness,
that can leave the body for a short time without involving death; that it
is something occasionally visible to others; something malleable by
thought and desire--especially by intense and prolonged yearning; and
that it can even bring relief to its owner by satisfying in some
subjective fashion the very yearnings that drew it forth."
"Doctor! You mean the 'astral'?"
"There is no name I know of. I can give it none. I mean in other words
that it can create the conditions for such satisfaction--dream-like,
perhaps, yet intense and seemingly very real at the time. Great emotion,
for instance, drives it forth, explaining thus appearances at a distance,
and a hundred other phenomena that my investigations of abnormal
personality have forced me to recognize as true. And nostalgia often is
the means of egress, the channel along which all the inner forces and
desires of the heart stream elsewhere toward their fulfillment in some
person, place, or _dream_."