Part 5 out of 5
And coming up to his ears upon the wind were the words of a broken French
sentence that he also recognized. Disjointed by terror, it completed an
"... one of them is close upon us. Hide your eyes! Save yourself!.
They come from the mountains. They are old as the stones ... run...!"
No other living being was in sight.
The extraordinary abruptness of the transition produced no bewilderment,
it seems. Realizing that without Rostom he would be in a position of
helplessness that might be serious, the Irishman put his hands to his
lips and called out with authority to the running figure of his
frightened guide. He shouted to him to stop.
"There is nothing to fear. Come back! Are you afraid of a gust of wind?"
And in his face and voice, perhaps too in his manner, was something
he had brought back from the vision, for the man stopped at once in
his headlong course, paused a moment to stare and question, and then,
though still looking over his shoulder and making occasional signs of
his religion, came slowly back to his employer's side again.
"It has passed," said O'Malley in a voice that seemed to crumble in
his mouth. "It is gone again into the mountains whence it came. We are
safe. With me," he added, not without a secret sense of humor stirring
in him, "you will always be safe. I can protect us both." He felt as
normal as a British officer giving orders to his soldiers. And the
Georgian slowly recovered his composure, yet for a long time keeping
close to the other's side.
The transition, thus, had been as sudden and complete as anything well
could be. O'Malley described it as the instantaneous dropping of a
shutter across his mind. The entire vision had lasted but a fraction of
a second, and in a fraction of a second, too, he had returned to his
state of everyday lesser consciousness. That blending with the Earth's
great Consciousness was but a flashing glimpse after all. The extension
of personality had been momentary.
So absolute, moreover, was the return that at first, remembering
nothing, he took up life again exactly where he had left it. The guide
completed the gesture and the sentence which the vision had interrupted,
and O'Malley, similarly, resumed his own thread of thought and action.
Only a hint remained. That, and a curious sense of interval, alone
were left to witness this flash of an immense vision,--of cosmic
consciousness--that apparently had filled so many days and nights.
"It was like waking suddenly in the night out of deep sleep," he said;
"not of one's own accord, or gradually, but as when someone shakes
you out of slumber and you are wide awake at once. You have been
dreaming vigorously--thick, lively, crowded dreams, and they all vanish
on the instant. You catch the tail-end of the procession just as it's
diving out of sight. In less than a second all is gone."
For this was the hint that remained. He caught the flying tail-end of
the vision. He knew he _had_ seen something. But, for the moment, that
Then, by degrees and afterwards, the details re-emerged. In the days
that followed, while with Rostom he completed the journey already
planned, the deeper consciousness gave back its memory piece by piece;
and piece by piece he set it down in notebooks as best he could. The
memory was on deposit deep within him, and at intervals he tapped it.
Hence, of course, is due the confused and fragmentary character of those
bewildering entries; hence, at the same time, too, their truth and value.
For here was no imaginative dream concocted in a mood of high invention.
The parts were disjointed, incomplete, just as they came. The lesser
consciousness, it seems, could not contain the thing complete; nor to the
last, I judge, did he ever know complete recapture.
* * * * *
They wandered for two weeks and more about the mountains, meeting
various adventure by the way, reported duly in his letters of travel.
But these concerned the outer man and have no proper place in this
strange record ... and by the middle of July he found himself once more
in--civilization. At Michaelevo he said good-bye to Rostom and
took the train.
And it was with the return to the conditions of modern life that the
reaction set in and stirred the deeper layers of consciousness to
reproduce their store of magic. For this return to what seemed the paltry
activities of an age of machinery, physical luxury, and superficial
contrivances brought him a sense of pain that was acute and trenchant,
more--a deep and poignant sense of loss. The yearnings, no longer
satisfied, began again to reassert themselves. It was not the actual
things the world seemed so busy about that pained him, but rather the
point of view from which the world approached them--those that it deemed
with one consent "important," and those, with rare exceptions, it
obviously deemed worth no consideration at all, and ignored. For himself
these values stood exactly reversed.
The Vision then came back to him, rose from the depths, blinded his eyes
with maddening beauty, sang in his ears, possessed his heart and mind. He
burned to tell it. The world of tired, restless men, he felt, must
equally burn to hear it. Some vision of a simple life lived close to
Nature came before his inner eye as the remedy for the vast disease of
restless self-seeking of the age, the medicine that should cure the
entire world. A return to Nature was the first step toward the great
Deliverance men sought. And, most of all, he yearned to tell it first to
To hear him talk about it, as he talked perhaps to me alone, was
genuinely pathetic, for here, in Terence O'Malley, I thought to see the
essential futility of all dreamers nakedly revealed. His vision was so
fine, sincere, and noble; his difficulty in imparting it so painful; and
its marriage with practical action so ludicrously impracticable. At any
rate that combination of vision and action, called sometimes genius,
which can shake the world, assuredly was not his. For his was no
constructive mind; he was not "intellectual"; he _saw_, but with the
heart; he could not build. To plan a new Utopia was as impossible to him
as to shape even in words the splendor he had known and lived. Bricks and
straw could only smother him before he laid what most would deem
At first, too, in those days while waiting for the steamer in Batoum,
he kept strangely silent. Even in his own thoughts was silence. He could
not speak of what he knew. Even paper refused it. But all the time this
glorious winged thing, that yet was simple as the sunlight or the rain,
went by his side, while his soul knew the relief of some divine, proud
utterance that, he felt, could never know complete confession in speech
or writing. Later he stammered over it--to his notebooks and to me,
and partially also to Dr. Stahl. But at first it dwelt alone and hidden,
contained in this deep silence.
The days of waiting he filled with walks about the streets, watching
the world with new eyes. He took the Russian steamer to Poti, and
tramped with a knapsack up the Tchourokh gorge beyond Bourtchka,
regardless of the Turkish gypsies and encampments of wild peoples on
the banks. The sense of personal danger was impossible; he felt the whole
world kin. That sense protected him. Pistol and cartridges lay in his
bag, forgotten at the hotel.
Delight and pain lay oddly mingled in him. The pain he recognized of
old, but this great radiant happiness was new. The nightmare of modern
cheap-jack life was all explained; unjustified, of course, as he had
always dimly felt, symptom of deep disorder; all due, this feverish,
external business, to an odd misunderstanding with the Earth. Humanity
had somehow quarreled with her, claiming an independence that could not
really last. For her the centuries of this estrangement were but a little
thing perhaps--a moment or two in that huge life which counted a million
years to lay a narrow bed of chalk. They would come back in time.
Meanwhile she ever called. A few, perhaps, already dreamed of return.
Movements, he had heard, were afoot--a tentative endeavor here and there.
They heard, these few, the splendid whisper that, sweetly calling, ever
passed about the world.
For her voice in the last resort was more potent than all others--an
enchantment that never wholly faded; men had but temporarily left her
mighty sides and gone astray, eating of trees of knowledge that brought
them deceptive illusions of a mad self-intoxication; fallen away into the
pains of separateness and death. Loss of direction and central control
was the result; the Babel of many tongues so clumsily invented, by which
all turned one against another. Insubordinate, artificial centers had
assumed disastrous command. Each struggled for himself against his
neighbors. Even religions fought to the blood. A single sect could damn
the rest of humanity, yet in the same breath sing complaisantly of its
Meanwhile She smiled in love and patience, letting them learn their
lesson; meanwhile She watched and waited while, like foolish children,
they toiled and sweated after futile transient things that brought no
single letter of content. She let them coin their millions from her
fairest thoughts, the gold and silver in her veins; and let them turn it
into engines of destruction, knowing that each "life lost," returned into
her arms and heart, crying with the pain of its wayward foolishness, the
lesson learned; She watched their tears and struggling just outside the
open nursery door, knowing they must at length return for food; and
while thus waiting, watching, She heard all prayers that reached her; She
answered them with love and forgiveness ever ready; and to the few who
realized their folly--naughtiness, perhaps, at worst it was--this side of
"death," She brought full measure of peace and joy and beauty.
Not permanently could they hurt themselves, for evil was but distance
from her side, the ignorance of those who had wandered furthest into
the little dark labyrinth of a separated self. The "intellect" they were
so proud of had misled them.
And sometimes, here and there across the ages, with a glory that refused
utterly to be denied, She thundered forth her old sweet message of
deliverance. Through poet, priest, or child she called her children
home. The summons rang like magic across the wastes of this dreary
separated existence. Some heard and listened, some turned back, some
wondered and were strangely thrilled; some, thinking it too simple to
be true, were puzzled by the yearning and the tears and went back to
seek for a more difficult way; while most, denying the secret glory in
their hearts, sought to persuade themselves they loved the strife and
hurrying fever best.
At other times, again, she chose quite different ways, and sent the
amazing message in a flower, a breath of evening air, a shell upon the
shore; though oftenest, perhaps, it hid in a strain of music, a patch of
color on the sea or hills, a rustle of branches in a little twilight
wind, a whisper in the dusk or in the dawn. He remembered his own first
visions of it....
Only never could the summons come to her children through the intellect,
for this it was that led them first away. Her message enters ever by the
The simple life! He smiled as he thought of the bald Utopias here and
there devised by men, for he had seen a truth whose brilliance smote
his eyes too dazzlingly to permit of the smallest corner of darkness.
Remote, no doubt, in time that day when the lion shall lie down with
the lamb and men shall live together in peace and gentleness; when the
inner life shall be admitted as the Reality, strife, gain, and loss
unknown because possessions undesired, and petty selfhood merged in the
larger life--remote, of course, yet surely not impossible. He had seen
the Face of Nature, heard her Call, tasted her joy and peace; and the
rest of the tired world might do the same. It only waited to be shown the
way. The truth he now saw so dazzling was that all who heard the call
might know it for themselves at once, cuirassed with shining love that
makes the whole world kin, the Earth a mother literally divine. Each soul
might thus provide a channel along which the summons home should pass
across the world. To live with Nature and share her greater
consciousness, _en route_ for states yet greater, nearer to the eternal
home--this was the beginning of the truth, the life, the way.
He saw "religion" all explained: and those hard sayings that make men
turn away:--the imagined dread of losing life to find it; the counsel
of perfection that the neighbor shall be loved as self; the fancied
injury and outrage that made it hard for rich men to enter the kingdom.
Of these, as of a hundred other sayings, he saw the necessary truth. It
all seemed easy now. The world would see it with him; it must; it could
not help itself. Simplicity as of a little child, and selflessness as of
the mystic--these were the splendid clues.
Death and the grave, indeed, had lost their victory. For in the stages
of wider consciousness beyond this transient physical phase he saw all
loved ones joined and safe, as separate words upgathered each to each
in the parent sentence that explains them, the sentence in the paragraph,
the paragraph in the whole grand story all achieved--and so at length
into the eternal library of God that consummates the whole.
He saw the glorious series, timeless and serene, advancing to the climax,
and somehow understood that individuality at each stage was never lost
but rather extended and magnified. Love of the Earth, life close to
Nature, and denial of so-called civilization was the first step upwards.
In the Simple Life, in this return to Nature, lay the opening of the
little path that climbed to the stars and heaven.
At the end of the week the little steamer dropped her anchor in the
harbor and the Irishman booked his passage home. He was standing on the
wharf to watch the unloading when a hand tapped him on the shoulder and
he heard a well-known voice. His heart leaped with pleasure. There were
no preliminaries between these two.
"I am glad to see you safe. You did not find your friend, then?"
O'Malley looked at the bronzed face beside him, noted the ragged
tobacco-stained beard, and saw the look of genuine welcome in the
twinkling brown eyes. He watched him lift his cap and mop that familiar
dome of bald head.
"I'm safe," was all he answered, "because I found him."
For a moment Dr. Stahl looked puzzled. He dropped the hand he held so
tightly and led him down the wharf.
"We'll get out of this devilish sun," he said, leading the way among
the tangle of merchandise and bales, "it's enough to boil our brains."
They passed through the crowd of swarthy, dripping Turks, Georgians,
Persians, and Armenians who labored half naked in the heat, and moved
toward the town. A Russian gunboat lay in the Bay, side by side with
freight and passenger vessels. An oil-tank steamer took on cargo. The
scene was drenched in sunshine. The Black Sea gleamed like molten
metal. Beyond, the wooded spurs of the Caucasus climbed through haze
into cloudless blue.
"It's beautiful," remarked the German, pointing to the distant coastline,
"but hardly with the beauty of those Grecian Isles we passed together.
Eh?" He watched him closely. "You're coming back on our steamer?" he
asked in the same breath.
"It's beautiful," O'Malley answered ignoring the question, "because
it lives. But there is dust upon its outer loveliness, dust that has
gathered through long ages of neglect, dust that I would sweep away--I've
learnt how to do it. He taught me."
Stahl did not even look at him, though the words were wild enough. He
walked at his side in silence. Perhaps he partly understood. For this
first link with the outer world of appearances was difficult for him to
pick up. The person of Stahl, thick-coated with the civilization whence
he came, had brought it, and out of the ocean of glorious vision in his
soul, O'Malley took at random the first phrases he could find.
"Yes, I've booked a passage on your steamer," he added presently,
remembering the question. It did not seem strange to him that his
companion ignored both clues he offered. He knew the man too well
for that. It was only that he waited for more before he spoke.
They went to the little table outside the hotel pavement where several
weeks ago they had drunk Kakhetian wine together and talked of deeper
things. The German called for a bottle, mineral water, ice, and
cigarettes. And while they sipped the cooling golden liquid, hats off and
coats on the backs of their chairs, Stahl gave him the news of the world
of men and events that had transpired meanwhile. O'Malley listened
vaguely as he smoked. It seemed remote, unreal, almost fantastic, this
long string of ugly, frantic happenings, all symptoms of some disordered
state that was like illness. The scream of politics, the roar and rattle
of flying-machines, financial crashes, furious labor upheavals, rumors of
war, the death of kings and magnates, awful accidents and strange turmoil
in enormous cities. Details of some sad prison life, it almost seemed,
pain and distress and strife the note that bound them all together. Men
were mastered by these things instead of mastering them. These
unimportant things they thought would make them free only imprisoned
They lunched there at the little table in the shade, and in turn the
Irishman gave an outline of his travels. Stahl had asked for it and
listened attentively. The pictures interested him.
"You've done your letters for the papers," he questioned him, "and now,
perhaps, you'll write a book as well?"
"Something may force its way out--come blundering, thundering out in
"You mean you'd rather not--?"
"I mean it's all too big and overwhelming. He showed me such blinding
splendors. I might tell it, but as to writing--!" He shrugged his
And this time Dr. Stahl ignored no longer. He took him up. But not with
any expected words or questions. He merely said, "My friend, there's
something that I have to tell you--or, rather, I should say, to show
you." He looked most keenly at him, and in the old familiar way he placed
a hand upon his shoulder. His voice grew soft. "It may upset you; it may
unsettle--prove a shock perhaps. But if you are prepared, we'll go--"
"What kind of shock?" O'Malley asked, startled a moment by the gravity of
"The shock of death," was the answer, gently spoken.
The Irishman only knew a swift rush of joy and wonder as he heard it.
"But there is no such thing!" he cried, almost with laughter. "He
taught me that above all else. There is no death!"
"There is 'going away,' though," came the rejoinder, spoken low;
"there is earth to earth and dust to dust--"
"That's of the body--!"
"That's of the body, yes," the older man repeated darkly.
"There is only 'going home,' escape and freedom. I tell you there's
only that. It's nothing but joy and splendor when you really understand."
But Dr. Stahl made no immediate answer, nor any comment. He paid
the bill and led him down the street. They took the shady side. Passing
beyond the skirts of the town they walked in silence. The barracks where
the soldiers sang, the railway line to Tiflis and Baku, the dome and
minarets of the church, were left behind in turn, and presently they
reached the hot, straight dusty road that fringed the sea. They heard the
crashing of the little waves and saw the foam creamily white against the
dark grey pebbles of the beach.
And when they reached a small enclosure where thin trees were
planted among sparse grass all brown and withered by the sun, they
paused, and Stahl pointed to a mound, marked at either end by rough
stone boulder. A date was on it, but no name. O'Malley calculated the
difference between the Russian Calendar and the one he was accustomed
to. Stahl checked him.
"The fifteenth of June," the German said.
"The fifteenth of June, yes," said O'Malley very slowly, but with
wonder and excitement in his heart. "That was the day that Rostom
tried to run away--the day I saw him come to me from the trees--the
day we started off together ... to the Garden...."
He turned to his companion questioningly. For a moment the rush
of memory was quite bewildering.
"He never left Batoum at all, you see," Stahl continued, without
looking up. "He went straight to the hospital the day we came into port.
I was summoned to him in the night--that last night while you slept
so deeply. His old strange fever was upon him then, and I took him
ashore before the other passengers were astir. I brought him to the
hospital myself. And he never left his bed." He pointed down to the
little nameless grave at their feet where a wandering wind from the sea
just stirred the grasses. "That was the date on which he died."
"He went away in the early morning," he added in a low voice that
held both sadness and sympathy.
"He went home," said the Irishman, a tide of joy rising tumultuously
through his heart as he remembered. The secret of that complete and
absolute Leadership was out. He understood it all. It had been a
spiritual adventure to the last.
Then followed a pause.
In silence they stood there for some minutes. There grew no flowers on
that grave, but O'Malley stooped down and picked a strand of the withered
grass. He put it carefully between the pages of his notebook; and then,
lying flat against the ground where the sunshine fell in a patch of white
and burning glory, he pressed his lips to the crumbling soil. He kissed
the Earth. Oblivious of Stahl's presence, or at least ignoring it, he
And while he did so he heard that little sound he loved so well--which
more than any words or music brought peace and joy, because it told his
Passion all complete. With his ears close to the earth he heard it, yet
at the same time heard it everywhere. For it came with the falling of the
waves upon the shore, through the murmur of the rustling branches
overhead, and even across the whispering of the withered grass about him.
Deep down in the center of the mothering Earth he heard it too in faintly
rising pulse. It was the exquisite little piping on a reed--the ancient
fluting of the everlasting Pan....
And when he rose he found that Stahl had turned away and was gazing at
the sea, as though he had not noticed.
"Doctor," he cried, yet so softly it was a whisper rather than a call, "I
heard it then again; it's everywhere! Oh, tell me that you hear it too!"
Stahl turned and looked at him in silence. There was a moisture in his
eyes, and on his face a look of softness that a woman might have worn.
"I've brought it back, you see, I've brought it back. For that's the
message--that's the sound and music I must give to all the world. No
words, no book can tell it." His hat was off, his eyes were shining, his
voice broke with the passion of joy he yearned to share yet knew so
little how to impart. "If I can pipe upon the flutes of Pan the millions
all will listen, will understand, and--follow. Tell me, oh, tell me, that
_you_ heard it too!"
"My friend, my dear young friend," the German murmured in a voice of real
tenderness, "you heard it truly--but you heard it in your heart. Few hear
the Pipes of Pan as you do. Few care to listen. Today the world is full
of other sounds that drown it. And even of those who hear," he shrugged
his shoulders as he led him away toward the sea,--"how few will care to
follow--how fewer still will _dare._"
And while they lay upon the beach and watched the line of foam against
their feet and saw the seagulls curving idly in the blue and shining air,
he added underneath his breath--O'Malley hardly caught the murmur of his
words so low he murmured them:--
"The simple life is lost forever. It lies asleep in the Golden Age, and
only those who sleep and dream can ever find it. If you would keep your
joy, dream on, my friend! Dream on, but dream alone!"
Summer blazed everywhere and the sea lay like a blue pool of melted sky
and sunshine. The summits of the Caucasus soon faded to the east and
north, and to the south the wooded hills of the Black Sea coast
accompanied the ship in a line of wavy blue that joined the water and
the sky indistinguishably.
The first-class passengers were few; O'Malley hardly noticed their
existence even. An American engineer, building a railway in Turkey,
came on board at Trebizond; there were one or two light women on their
way home from Baku, and the attaché of a foreign embassy from Teheran.
But the Irishman felt more in touch with the hundred peasant-folk
who joined the ship at Ineboli from the interior of Asia Minor
and were bound as third-class emigrants for Marseilles and far America.
Dark-skinned, wild-eyed, ragged, very dirty, they had never seen the sea
before, and the sight of a porpoise held them spellbound. They lived
on the after-deck, mostly cooking their own food, the women and children
sleeping beneath a large tarpaulin that the sailors stretched for
them across the width of deck. At night they played their pipes and
danced, singing, shouting, and waving their arms--always the same
tune over and over again.
O'Malley watched them for hours together. He also watched the engineer,
the over-dressed women, the attaché. He understood the difference
between them as he had never understood it before. He understood the
difficulty of his task as well. How in the world could he ever explain a
single syllable of his message to these latter, or waken in them the
faintest echo of desire to know and listen. The peasants, though all
unconscious of the blinding glory at their elbows, stood far nearer to
"Been further east, I suppose?" the engineer observed, one afternoon
as the steamer lay off Broussa, taking on a little extra cargo of walnut
logs. He looked admiringly at the Irishman's bronzed skin. "Take a
better sun than this to put that on!"
He laughed in his breezy, vigorous way, and the other laughed with
him. Previous conversations had already paved the way to a traveler's
friendship, and the American had taken to him.
"Up in the mountains," he replied, "camping out and sleeping in the
sun did it."
"The Caucasus! Ah, I'd like to get up there myself a bit. I'm told
they're a wonderful thing in the mountain line."
Scenery for him was evidently a commercial commodity, or it was nothing.
It was the most up-to-date nation in the world that spoke--in the van of
civilization--representing the last word in progress due to triumph over
O'Malley said he had never seen anything like them. He described the
trees, the flowers, the tribes, the scenery in general; he dwelt upon
the vast uncultivated spaces, the amazing fruitfulness of the soil, the
gorgeous beauty above all. "I'd like to get the overcrowded cities of
England and Europe spread all over it," he said with enthusiasm. "There
is room for thousands there to lead a simple life close to Nature, in
health and peace and happiness. Even your tired millionaires could
escape their restless, feverish worries, lay down their weary burden of
possessions, and enjoy the earth at last. The poor would cease to be with
us; life become true and beautiful again--" He let it pour out of him,
building the scaffolding of his dream before him in the air and filling
it in with beauty.
The American listened in patience, watching the walnut logs being
towed through the water to the side of the ship. From time to time he
spat on them, or into the sea. He let the beauty go completely past him.
"Great idea, that!" he interrupted at length. "You're interested, I see,
in socialism and communistic schemes. There's money in them somewhere
right enough, if a man only could hit the right note at the first
go off. Take a bit of doing, though!"
One of the women from Baku came up and leaned upon the rails a little
beyond them. The sickly odor of artificial scent wafted down. The
attaché strolled along the deck and ogled her.
"Get a few of that sort to draw the millionaires in, eh?" he added
"Even those would come, yes," said the Irishman softly, realizing for
the first time within his memory that his gorge did not rise, "for they
too would change, grow clean and sweet and beautiful."
The engineer looked sharply into his face, uncertain whether he had
not missed a clever witticism of his own kind. But O'Malley did not
meet his glance. His eyes were far away upon the snowy summit of
Olympus where a flock of fleecy clouds hung hovering like the hair of
the eternal gods.
"They say there's timber going to waste that you could get to the coast
merely for the cost of drawing it--Caucasian walnut, too, to burn," the
other continued, getting on to safer ground, "and labor's dirt cheap.
There's every sort of mineral too God ever made. You could build light
railways and run the show by electricity. And water-power for the asking.
You'd have to get a Concession from Russia first though," he added,
spitting down upon a huge floating log in the clear sea underneath,
"and Russia's got palms that want a lot of greasing. I guess the natives,
too, would take a bit of managing."
The woman beyond had shifted several feet nearer, and after a pause
the Irishman found no words to fill, his companion turned to address
a remark to her. O'Malley took the opening and moved away.
"Here's my card, anyway," the American added, handing him an
over-printed bit of large pasteboard from a fat pocket-book that bore
his name and address in silver on the outside. "If you develop the scheme
and want a bit of money, count me in."
He went to the other side of the vessel and watched the peasants on
the lower deck. Their dirt seemed nothing by comparison. It was only
on their clothes and bodies. The odor of this unwashed humanity was
almost sweet and wholesome. It cleansed the sickly taint of that other
scent from his palate; it washed his mind of thoughts as well.
He stood there long in dreaming silence, while the sunlight on Olympus
turned from gold to rose, and the sea took on the colors of the fading
sky. He watched a dark Kurd baby sliding down the tarpaulin. A kitten was
playing with a loose end of rope too heavy for it to move. Further off a
huge fellow with bared chest and the hands of a colossus sat on a pile of
canvas playing softly on his wooden pipes. The dark hair fell across his
eyes, and a group of women listened idly while they busied themselves
with the cooking of the evening meal. Immediately beneath him a
splendid-eyed young woman crammed a baby to her naked breast. The kitten
left the rope and played with the tassel of her scarlet shawl.
And as he heard those pipes and watched the grave, untamed, strong faces
of those wild peasant men and women, he understood that, low though they
might be in scale of evolution, there was yet absent from them the touch
of that deteriorating _something_ which civilization painted into those
other countenances. But whether the word he sought was degradation or
whether it was shame, he could not tell. In all they did, the way they
moved, their dignity and independence, there was this something, he felt,
that bordered on being impressive. Their wants were few, their worldly
possessions in a bundle, yet they had this thing that set them in a place
apart, if not above, these others:--beyond that simpering attaché for all
his worldly diplomacy, that engineer with brains and skill, those painted
women with their clever playing upon the feelings and desires of their
kind. There _was_ this difference that set the ragged dirty crew in a
proud and quiet atmosphere that made them seem almost distinguished by
comparison, and certainly more desirable. Rough and untutored though they
doubtless were, they still possessed unspoiled that deeper and more
elemental nature that bound them closer to the Earth. It needed training,
guidance, purifying; yes; but, in the last resort, was it not of greater
spiritual significance and value than the mode of comparatively
recently-developed reason by which Civilization had produced these other
He watched them long. The sun sank out of sight, the sea turned
dark, ten thousand stars shone softly in the sky, and while the steamer
swung about and made for peaked Andros and the coast of Greece, he
still stood on in reverie and wonder. The wings of his great Dream
stirred mightily ... and he saw pale millions of men and women trooping
through the gates of horn and ivory into that Garden where they should
find peace and happiness in clean simplicity close to the Earth....
There followed four days then of sea, Greece left behind, Messina and the
Lipari Islands past; and the blue outline of Sardinia and Corsica began
to keep pace with them as they neared the narrow straits of Bonifacio
between them. The passengers came up to watch the rocky desolate shores
slip by so close, and Captain Burgenfelder was on the bridge.
Grey-headed rocks rose everywhere close about the ship; overhead the
seagulls cried and circled; no vegetation was visible on either shore, no
houses, no abode of man--nothing but the lighthouses, then miles of
deserted rock dressed in those splendors of the sun's good-night. The
dinner-gong had sounded but the sight was too magnificent to leave,
for the setting sun floated on an emblazoned sea and stared straight
against them in level glory down the narrow passage. Unimaginable
colors painted sky and wave. The ruddy cliffs of bleak loneliness rose
from a bed of flame. Soft airs fanned the cheeks with welcome coolness
after the fierce heat of the day. There was a scent of wild honey in the
air borne from the purple uplands far, far away.
"I wonder, oh, I wonder, if they realized that a god is passing
close...!" the Irishman murmured with a rising of the heart, "and that
here is a great mood of the Earth-Consciousness inviting them to peace!
Or do they merely see a yellow sun that dips beneath a violet sea...?"
The washing of the water past the steamer's sides caught away the rest
of the half-whispered words. He remembered that host of many thousand
heads that bowed in silence while a god swept by.... It was almost
a shock to hear a voice replying close beside him:--
"Come to my cabin when you're ready. My windows open to the west.
We can be alone together. We can have there what food we need. You
would prefer it perhaps?"
He felt the touch of that sympathetic hand upon his shoulder, and
bent his head to signify agreement.
For a moment, face to face with that superb sunset, he had known a deep
and utter peace in the vast bosom of this greater soul about him. Her
consciousness again had bruised and fringed his own. Across that
delicately divided threshold the beauty and the power of the gods had
poured in a flood into his being. And only there was peace, only there
was joy, only there was the death of those ancient yearnings that
tortured his little personal and separate existence. The return to the
world was aching pain again. The old loneliness that seemed more than he
could bear swept icily through him, contracting life and freezing every
spring of joy. For in that single instant of return he felt pass into him
a loneliness of the whole travailing world, the loneliness of countless
centuries, the loneliness of all the races of the Earth who were exiled
and had lost the way.
Too deep it lay for words or tears or sighs. The doctor's invitation
came most opportunely. And presently in silence he turned his back
upon that opal sky of dream from which the sun had gone, and walked
slowly down the deck toward Stahl's cabin.
"If only I can share it with them," he thought as he went; "if only
men will listen, if only they will come. To keep it all to myself, to
dream alone, will kill me."
And as he stood before the door it seemed he heard wild rushing
through the sky, the tramping of a thousand hoofs, a roaring of the
wind, the joy of that free, torrential passage with the Earth. He turned
the handle and entered the cozy room where weeks before they held the
inquest on the little empty tenement of flesh, remembering how that
other figure had once stood where he now stood--part of the sunrise,
part of the sea, part of the morning winds.
* * * * *
They had their meal almost in silence, while the glow of sunset filled
the cabin through the western row of port-holes, and when it was over
Stahl made the coffee as of old and lit the familiar black cigar.
Slowly O'Malley's pain and restlessness gave way before the other's
soothing quiet. He had never known him before so calm and gentle, so
sympathetic, almost tender. The usual sarcasm seemed veiled in sadness;
there was no irony in the voice, nor mockery in the eyes.
Then to the Irishman it came suddenly that all these days while he
had been lost in dreaming the doctor had kept him as of old under close
observation. The completeness of his reverie had concealed from him this
steady scrutiny. He had been oblivious to the fact that Stahl had all the
time been watching, investigating, keenly examining. Abruptly he now
And then Stahl spoke. His tone was winning, his manner frank and
inviting. But it was the sadness about him that won O'Malley's confidence
"I can guess," he said, "something of the dream you've brought with
you from those mountains. I can understand--more, perhaps, than you
imagine, and I can sympathize--more than you think possible. Tell me
about it fully--if you can. I see your heart is very full, and in the
telling you will find relief. I am not hostile, as you sometimes feel.
Tell me, my dear, young clear-eyed friend. Tell me your vision and your
hope. Perhaps I might even help ... for there may be things that I could
also tell to you in return."
Something in the choice of words, none of which offended; in the
atmosphere and setting, no detail of which jarred; and in the degree of
balance between utterance and silence his world of inner forces just then
knew, combined to make the invitation irresistible. Moreover, he had
wanted to tell it all these days. Stahl was already half convinced. Stahl
would surely understand and help him. It was the psychological moment
for confession. The two men rose in the same moment, Stahl to
lock the cabin doors against interruption, O'Malley to set their chairs
more closely side by side so that talking should be easiest.
And then without demur or hesitation he opened his heart to this
other and let the floodgates of his soul swing wide. He told the vision
and he told the dream; he told his hope as well. And the story of his
passion, filled in with pages from those notebooks he ever carried in
his pocket, still lasted when the western glow had faded from the sky
and the thick-sown stars shone down upon the gliding steamer. The
hush of night lay soft upon the world before he finished.
He told the thing complete, much, I imagine, as he told it all to me upon
the roof of that apartment building and in the dingy Soho restaurant. He
told it without reservations--his life-long yearnings: the explanation
brought by the presence of the silent stranger upon the outward voyage:
the journey to the Garden: the vision that all life--from gods to
flowers, from men to mountains--lay contained in the conscious Being of
the Earth, that Beauty was but glimpses of her essential nakedness; and
that salvation of the world's disease of modern life was to be found in a
general return to the simplicity of Nature close against her mothering
heart. He told it all--in words that his passionate joy chose
And Heinrich Stahl in silence listened. He asked no single question.
He made no movement in his chair. His black cigar went out before
the half of it was smoked. The darkness hid his face impenetrably.
And no one came to interrupt. The murmur of the speeding steamer,
and occasional footsteps on the deck as passengers passed to and fro in
the cool of the night, were the only sounds that broke the music of that
incurable idealist's impassioned story.
And then at length there came a change of voice across the cabin. The
Irishman had finished. He sank back in the deep leather chair, exhausted
physically, but with the exultation of his mighty hope still pouring at
full strength through his heart. For he had ventured further than ever
before and had spoken of a possible crusade--a crusade that should preach
peace and happiness to every living creature.
And Dr. Stahl, in a voice that showed how deeply he was moved, asked
"By leading the nations back to Nature you think they shall advance
to Truth at last?"
"With time," was the reply. "The first step lies there:--in changing
the direction of the world's activities, changing it from the transient
Outer to the eternal Inner. In the simple life, external possessions
unnecessary and recognized as vain, the soul would turn within and
seek Reality. Only a tiny section of humanity has time to do it now.
There is no leisure. Civilization means acquirement for the body: it
ought to mean development for the soul. Once sweep aside the trash
and rubbish men seek outside themselves today, and the wings of their
smothered souls would stir again. Consciousness would expand. Nature
would draw them first. They would come to feel the Earth as I did. Self
would disappear, and with it this false sense of separateness. The
greater consciousness would waken in them. The peace and joy and
blessedness of inner growth would fill their lives. But, first, this
childish battling to the death for external things must cease, and
Civilization stand revealed for the bleak and empty desolate thing it
really is. It leads away from God and from the things that are eternal."
The German made no answer; O'Malley ceased to speak; a long silence
fell between them. Then, presently, Stahl relighted his cigar, and
lapsing into his native tongue--always a sign with him of deepest
seriousness--he began to talk.
"You've honored me," he said, "with a great confidence; and I am deeply,
deeply grateful. You have told your inmost dream--the thing men find it
hardest of all to speak about." He felt in the darkness for his
companion's hand and held it tightly for a moment. He made no other
comment upon what he had heard. "And in return--in some small way of
return," he continued, "I may ask you to listen to something of my own,
something of possible interest. No one has ever known it from my lips.
Only, in our earlier conversations on the outward voyage, I hinted at it
once or twice. I sometimes warned you--"
"I remember. You said he'd 'get' me, 'win' me over--'appropriation' was
the word you used."
"I suggested caution, yes; urged you not to let yourself go too
completely; told you he represented danger to yourself, and to humanity
as it is organized today--"
"And all the rest," put in O'Malley a shade impatiently. "I remember
"Because I knew what I was talking about." The doctor's voice came across
the darkness somewhat ominously. And then he added in a louder tone,
evidently sitting forward as he said it: "For the thing that has happened
to yourself as I foresaw it would, had already _almost_ happened to me
"To you, doctor, too?" exclaimed the Irishman in the moment's pause
"I saved myself just in time--by getting rid of the cause."
"You discharged him from the hospital, because you were afraid!" He said
it sharply as though are instant of the old resentment had flashed up.
By way of answer Stahl rose from his chair and abruptly turned up the
electric lamp upon the desk that faced them across the cabin. Evidently
he preferred the light. O'Malley saw that his face was white and very
grave. He grasped for the first time that the man was speaking
professionally. The truth came driving next behind it--that Stahl
regarded him as a patient.
* * * * *
"Please go on, doctor," he said, keenly on the watch. "I'm deeply
interested." The wings of his great dream still bore him too far aloft
for him to feel more than the merest passing annoyance at his discovery.
Resentment had gone too. Sadness and disappointment for an instant
touched him perhaps, but momentarily. In the end he felt sure that
Stahl would stand at his side, completely won over and convinced.
"You had a similar experience to my own, you say," he urged him. "I
am all eagerness and sympathy to hear."
"We'll talk in the open air," the doctor answered, and ringing the bell
for the steward to clear away, he drew his companion out to the deserted
decks. They moved toward the bows, past the sleeping peasants. The stars
were mirrored in a glassy sea and toward the north the hills of Corsica
stood faintly outlined in the sky. It was already long after midnight.
"Yes, a similar thing nearly happened to me," he resumed as they settled
themselves against a coil of rope where only the murmur of the washing
sea could reach them, "and might have happened to others too. Inmates of
that big _Krankenhaus_ were variously affected. My action, tardy I must
admit, saved myself and them."
And the German then told his story as a man might tell of his escape from
some grave disaster. In the emphatic sentences of his native language he
told it, congratulating himself all through. The Russian had almost won
him over, gained possession of his heart and mind, persuaded him, but in
the end had failed--because the other ran away. It was like hearing a man
describe an attempt to draw him into Heaven, then boast of his escape.
His caution and his judgment, as he put it, saved him, but to the
listening Celt it rather seemed that his compromise it was that damned
him. The Kingdom of Heaven is hard to enter, for Stahl had possessions
not of the wood and metal order, but possessions of the brain and reason
he was too proud to forego completely. They kept him out.
With increasing sadness, too, he heard it; for here he realized was the
mental attitude of an educated, highly civilized man today--a
representative type regarded by the world as highest. It was this he had
to face. Moreover Stahl was more than merely educated, he was
understandingly sympathetic, meeting the great dream halfway; seeing in
it possibilities; admitting its high beauty, and even sometimes speaking
of it with hope and a touch of enthusiasm. Its originator none the less
he regarded as a reactionary dreamer, an unsettling and disordered
influence, a patient, if not even something worse!
Stahl's voice and manner were singular while he told it all, revealing
one moment the critical mind that analyzed and judged, and the next
an enthusiasm almost of the mystic. Alternately, like the man and
woman of those quaint old weather-glasses, each peered out and showed
a face, the reins of compromise yet ever seeking to hold them well in
leash and drive them together.
Hardly, it seems, had the strange Russian been under his care a week
before he passed beneath the sway of his curious personality and
experienced the attack of singular emotions upon his heart and mind.
He described at first the man's arrival, telling it with the calm and
balanced phrases a doctor uses when speaking merely of a patient who
had stirred his interest. He first detailed the method of suggestion he
had used to revive the lapsed memory--and its utter failure. Then he
passed on to speak of him more generally: but briefly and condensed.
"The man," he said, "was so engaging, so docile, his personality
altogether so attractive and mysterious, that I took the case myself
instead of delegating it to my assistants. All efforts to trace his past
collapsed. It was as if he had drifted into that little hotel out of the
night of time. Of madness there was no evidence whatever. The association
of ideas in his mind, though limited, was logical and rigid. His health
was perfect, barring strange, sudden fever; his vitality tremendous;
yet he ate most sparingly and the only food he touched was fruit and
milk and vegetables. Meat made him sick, the huge frame shuddered
when he saw it. And from all the human beings in the place with whom
he came in contact he shrank with a kind of puzzled dismay. With animals,
most oddly it seemed, he sought companionship; he would run to the window
if a dog barked, or to hear a horse's hoofs; a Persian cat belonging to
one of the nurses never left his side, and I have seen the trees in the
yard outside his window thick with birds, and even found them in the room
and on the sill, flitting about his very person, unafraid and singing.
"With me, as with the attendants, his speech was almost nil--laconic
words in various languages, clipped phrases that sometimes combined
Russian, French, or German, other tongues as well.
"But, strangest of all, with animal life he seemed to hold this kind
of communication that was Intelligible both to himself and them. Animals
certainly were 'aware' of him. It was not speech. It ran in a deep,
continuous murmur like a droning, humming sound of wind. I took the hint
thus faintly offered. I gave him his freedom in the yards and gardens.
The open air and intercourse with natural life was what he craved. The
sadness and the air of puzzled fretting then left his face, his eyes grew
bright, his whole presentment happier; he ran and laughed and even sang.
The fever that had troubled him all vanished. Often myself I took the
place of nurse or orderly to watch him, for the man's presence more than
interested me: it gave me a renewed sense of life that was exhilarating,
invigorating, delightful. And in his appearance, meanwhile, something
that was not size or physical measurement, turned--tremendous.
"A part of me that was not mind--a sort of forgotten instinct blindly
groping--came of its own accord to regard him as some loose fragment
of a natural, cosmic life that had somehow blundered down into a
human organism it sought to use....
"And then it was for the first time I recognized the spell he had cast
upon me; for, when the Committee decided there was no reason to keep
him longer, I urged that he should stay. Making a special plea, I took
him as a private patient of my own. I kept him under closer personal
observation than ever before. I needed him. Something deep within me,
something undivined hitherto, called out into life by his presence, could
not do without him. This new craving, breakingly wild and sweet, awoke
in my blood and cried for him. His presence nourished it in me. Most
insidiously it attacked me. It stirred deep down among the roots of my
being. It 'threatened my personality' seems the best way I can put it;
for, turning a critical analysis upon it, I discovered that it was an
undermining and revolutionary change going steadily forward in my
character. Its growth had hitherto been secret. When I first recognized
its presence, the thing was already strong. For a long time, it had been
"And the change in a word--you will grasp my meaning from the shortest
description of essentials--was this: that ambition left me, ordinary
desire crumbled, the outer world men value so began to fade."
"And in their place?" cried O'Malley breathlessly, interrupting for
the first time.
"Came a rushing, passionate desire to escape from cities and live for
beauty and simplicity 'in the wilderness'; to taste the life _he_
seemed to know; to go out blindly with him into woods and desolate
places, and be mixed and blended with the loveliness of Earth and Nature.
This was the first thing I knew. It was like an expansion of my normal
world--almost an extension of consciousness. It somehow threatened my
sense of personal identity. And--it made me hesitate."
O'Malley caught the tremor in his voice. Even in the telling of it the
passion plucked at him, for here, as ever, he stood on the border-line of
compromise, his heart tempting him toward salvation, his brain and
reason tugging at the brakes.
"The sham and emptiness or modern life, its drab vulgarity, the
unworthiness of its very ideals stood appallingly revealed before some
inner eye just opening. I felt shaken to the core of what had seemed
hitherto my very solid and estimable self. How the man thus so powerfully
affected me lies beyond all intelligible explanation. To use the obvious
catchword 'hypnotism' is to use a toy and stop a leak with paper. For his
influence was _unconsciously_ exerted. He cast no net of clever,
persuasive words about my thought. Out of that deep, strange silence of
the man it somehow came. His actions and his simple happiness of face and
manner--both in some sense the raw material of speech perhaps--may have
operated as potently suggestive agents; but no adequate causes to justify
the result, apart from the fantastic theories I have mentioned, have ever
yet come within the range of my understanding. I can only give you the
"Your sense of extended consciousness," asked his listener, "was this
continuous, once it had begun?"
"It came in patches," Stahl continued. "My normal, everyday self was
thus able to check it. While it derided, commiserated this everyday self,
the latter stood in dread of it and even awe. My training, you see,
regarded it as symptom of disorder, a beginning of unbalance that might
end in insanity, the thin wedge of a dissociation of the personality
Morton Prince and others have described."
His speech grew more and more jerky, even incoherent; evidently the
material had not even now been fully reduced to order in his mind.
"Among other curious symptoms I soon established that this subtle
spreading of my consciousness grew upon me especially during sleep.
The business of the day distracted, scattered it. On waking in the
morning, as with the physical fatigue that comes toward the closing of
the day, it was strongest.
"And so, in order to examine it closely when in fullest manifestation,
I came to spend the nights with him. I would creep in while he slept
and stay till morning, alternately sleeping and waking myself. I watched
the two of us together. I also watched the 'two' in me. And thus it was
I made the further strange discovery that the influence _he_ exerted on
me was strongest while he slept. It is best described by saying that in
his sleep I was conscious that he sought to draw me with him--away
somewhere into his own wonderful world--the state or region, that is,
where he manifested completely instead of partially as I knew him here.
His personality was a channel somewhere out into a living, conscious
"Only," interrupted O'Malley, "you felt that to yield and go involved
some nameless inner catastrophe, and so resisted?" He chose his phrase
"Because I discovered," was the pregnant answer, given steadily while
he watched his listener closely through the darkness, "that this desire
for escape the man had wakened in me was nothing more or less than the
desire to leave the world, to leave the conditions that prevented--in
fact to leave the body. My discontent with modern life had gone as far
as that. It was the birth of the suicidal mania."
* * * * *
The pause that followed the words, on the part of Dr. Stahl at any
rate, was intentional. O'Malley held his peace. The men shifted their
places oil the coil of rope, for both were cramped and stiff with the
lengthy session. For a minute or two they leaned over the bulwarks and
watched the phosphorescent foam in silence. The blue mountainous shores
slipped past in shadowy line against the stars. But when they sat down
again their relative positions were not what they had been before. Dr.
Stahl had placed himself between his listener and the sea. And O'Malley
did not let the manoeuvre escape him. Smiling to himself he noticed it.
Just as surely he noticed, too, that the whole recital was being told him
with a purpose.
"You really need not be afraid," he could not resist saying. "The idea
of escape _that_ way has never even come to me at all. And, anyhow, I've
far too much on hand first in telling the world my message." He laughed
in the silence that took his words, for Stahl said nothing and made as
though he had not heard. But the Irishman understood that it was in
the spirit of feeble compromise that danger lay--if danger there was at
all, and he himself was far beyond such weakness. His eye was single
and his body full of light, and the faith that plays with mountains had
made him whole. Return to Nature for him involved no denial of human
life, nor depreciation of human interests, but only a revolutionary
shifting of values.
"And it was one night while he slept and I watched him in the little
room," resumed the German as though there had been no interruption,
"I noticed first so decisively this growing of a singular size about him
I have already mentioned, and grasped its meaning. For the bulk of the
man while growing--emerging, rather, I should say--assumed another
shape than his own. It was not my eyes that saw it. I saw him as _he felt
himself to be_. The creature's personality, his essential inner being,
was acting directly upon my own. His influence was at me from another
point or angle. First the emotions, then the senses you see. It was a
finely organized attack.
"I definitely understood at last that my mind was affected--and proved it
too, for the instant effort I made at recovery resulted in my seeing him
normal again. The size and shape retreated the moment I denied them."
O'Malley noticed how the speaker's voice lingered over the phrase.
Again he knew the intention of the pause that followed. He held his
peace, however, and waited.
"Nor was sight the only sense affected," Stahl continued, "for smell
and hearing also brought their testimony. Through all but touch,
indeed, the hallucination attacked me. For sometimes at night while I
sat up watching in the little room, there rose outside the open window
in the yards and gardens a sound of tramping, a distant roaring as of
voices in a rising wind, a rushing, hollow murmur, confused and deep
like that of forests, or the swift passage of a host of big birds across
the sky. I heard it, both in the air and on the ground--this tramping on
the lawns, this curious shaking of the atmosphere. And with it at the
same time a sharp and mingled perfume that made me think of earth
and leaves, of flowers after rain, of plains and open spaces, most
singular of all--of animals and horses.
"Before the firm denial of my mind, they vanished, just as the change
of form had vanished. But both left me weaker than they found me,
more tender to attack. Moreover, I understood most plainly, that they
emanated all from him. These 'emanations' came, too, chiefly, as I
mentioned, whilst he slept. In sleep, it seemed, he set them free. The
slumber of the body disengaged them. And then the instinct came to
warn me--presenting itself with the authority of an unanswerable
intuition--the realization, namely, that if, for a single moment in his
presence, I slept, the changes would leap forward in my own being, and
I should join him."
"Escape! Know freedom in a larger consciousness!" cried the other.
"And for a man of my point of view and training to have permitted
such a conviction at all," he went on, the interruption utterly ignored
again, "proves how far along the road I had already traveled without
knowing it. Only at the time I was not aware of this. It was the shock
of full discovery later that brought me to my senses, when, seeking to
withdraw,--I found I could not."
"And so you ran away." It came out bluntly enough, with a touch of
scorn but ill concealed.
"We discharged him. But before that came there was more I have to
tell you--if you still care to hear it."
"I'm not tired, if that's what you mean. I could listen all night, as far
as that goes."
He rose to stretch his legs a moment, and Stahl rose too--instantly.
Together they leaned over the bulwarks. The German's hat was off and
the air made by the steamer's passage drew his beard out. The warm soft
wind brought odors of sea and shore. It caressed their faces, then passed
on across those sleeping peasants on the lower deck. The masts and
rigging swung steadily against the host of stars.
"Before I thus knew myself half caught," continued the doctor, standing
now close enough beside him for actual contact, "and found it difficult
to get away, other things had happened, things that confirmed the change
so singularly begun in me. They happened everywhere; confirmation came
from many quarters; though slight enough, they filled in all the gaps and
crevices, strengthened the joints, and built the huge illusion round me
all complete until it held me like a prison.
"And they are difficult to tell. Only, indeed, to yourself who underwent
a similar experience up there in the mountains, could they bring much
meaning. You had the same temptation and you--weathered the same storm."
He caught O'Malley's arm a moment and held it. "You escaped this madness
just as I did, and you will realize what I mean when I say that the
sensation of losing my sense of personal identity became so dangerously,
so seductively strong. The feeling of extended consciousness became
delicious--too delicious to resist. A kind of pagan joy and exultation
known to some in early youth, but put away with the things of youth,
possessed me. In the presence of this other's soul, so strangely powerful
in its silence and simplicity, I felt as though I touched new sources of
life. I tapped them. They poured down and flooded me--with dreams--dreams
that could really haunt--with unsettling thoughts of glory and delight
_beyond the body_. I got clean away into Nature. I felt as though some
portion of me just awakening reached out across him into rain and
sunshine, far up into the sweet and starry sky--as a tree growing out of
a thicket that chokes its lower part finds light and freedom at the top."
"It caught you badly, doctor," O'Malley murmured. "The gods came close!"
"So badly that I loathed the prisoned darkness that held me so thickly
in the body. I longed to know my being all dispersed through Nature,
scattered with dew and wind, shining with the star-light and the sun.
And the manner of escape I hinted to you a little while ago came to
seem right and necessary. Lawful it seemed, and obvious. The mania
literally obsessed me, though still I tried to hide it even from myself
... and struggled in resistance."
"You spoke just now of other things that came to confirm it," the
Irishman said while the other paused to take breath. All this he knew.
He grew weary of Stahl's clever laboring the point that it was madness.
A little knowledge is ever dangerous, and he saw so clearly why the
hesitation of the merely intellectual man had led him into error. "Did
you mean that others acknowledged this influence as well as yourself?"
"You shall read that for yourself tomorrow," came the answer, "in the
detailed report I drew up afterwards; it is far too long to tell you now.
But, I may mention something of it. That breaking out of patients was
a curious thing, their trying to escape, their dreams and singing, their
efforts sometimes to approach his room, their longing for the open and
the gardens; the deep, prolonged entrancing of a few; the sounds of
rushing, tramping that they, too, heard, the violence of some, the silent
ecstasy of others. The thing may find its parallel, perhaps, in the
collective mania that sometimes afflicts religious communities, in
monasteries or convents. Only here there was no preacher and eloquent
leader to induce hysteria--nothing but that silent dynamo of power,
gentle and winning as a little child, a being who could not put a phrase
together, exerting his potent spell unconsciously, and chiefly while he
"For the phenomena almost without exception came in the night, and often
at their fullest strength, as afterwards reported to me, while I dozed in
his room and watched beside his motionless and slumbering form. Oh, and
there was more as well, much more, as you shall read. The stories my
assistants brought me, the tales of frightened nurse and warder, the
amazing yarns the porter stammered out, of strangers who had rung the
bell at dawn, trying to push past him through the door, saying they were
messengers and had been summoned, sent for, had to come,--large, curious,
windy figures, or, as he sometimes called them with unconscious humor,
'like creatures out of fairy books or circuses' that always vanished as
suddenly as they came. Making every allowance for excitement and
exaggeration, the tales were strange enough, I can assure you, and the
way many of the patients knew their visions intensified, their illusions
doubly strengthened, their efforts even to destroy themselves in many
cases almost more than the staff could deal with--all this brought the
matter to a climax and made my duty very plain at last."
"And the effect upon yourself--at its worst?" asked his listener quietly.
Stahl sighed wearily a little as he answered with a new-found sadness
in his tone.
"I've told you briefly that," he said; "repetition cannot strengthen it.
The worthlessness of the majority of human aims today expresses it
Best--what you have called yourself the 'horror of civilization.' The
vanity of all life's modern, so-called up-to-date tendencies for outer,
mechanical developments. A wild, mad beauty streaming from that man's
personality overran the whole place and caught the lot of us, myself
especially, with a lust for simple, natural things, and with a passion
for spiritual beauty to accompany them. Fame, wealth, position seemed the
shadows then, and something else it's hard to name announced itself as
the substance.... I wanted to clear out and live with Nature, to know
simplicity, unselfish purposes, a golden state of childlike existence
close to dawns and dew and running water, cared for by woods and blessed
by all the winds...." He paused again for breath, then added:--
"And that's just where the mania caught at me so cunningly--till I
saw it and called a halt."
"For the thing I sought, the thing _he_ knew, and perhaps remembered,
was not possible _in the body_. It was a spiritual state--"
"Or to be known subjectively!" O'Malley checked him.
"I am no lotus-eater by nature," he went on with energy, "and so I
fought and conquered it. But first, I tell you, it came upon me like a
tempest--a hurricane of wonder and delight. I've always held, like
yourself perhaps, that civilization brings its own army of diseases, and
that the few illnesses known to ruder savage races can be cured by simple
means the earth herself supplies. And along this line of thought the
thing swept into me--the line of my own head-learning. This was natural
enough; natural enough, too, that it thus at first deceived me.
"For the quack cures of history come to this--herb simples and the
rest; only we know them now as sun-cure, water-cure, open-air cure, old
Kneipp, sea-water, and a hundred others. Doctors have never swarmed
before as they do now, and these artificial diseases civilization brings
in such quantity seemed all at once to mean the abeyance of some central
life or power men ought to share with--Nature.... You shall read it
all in my written report. I merely wish to show you now how the
insidious thing got at me along the line of my special knowledge. I saw
the truth that priests and doctors are the only possible and necessary
'professions' in the world, and--that they should be really but a single
He drew suddenly back with a kind of jerk. It was as though he realized
abruptly that he had said too much--had overdone it. He took his
companion by the arm and led him down the decks.
As they passed the bridge the Captain called out a word of welcome
to them; and his jolly, boisterous laugh ran down the wind. The
American engineer came from behind a dark corner, almost running
into them; his face was flushed. "It's like a furnace below," he said in
his nasal familiar manner; "too hot to sleep. I've run up for a gulp of
air." He made as though he would join them.
"The wind's behind us, yes," replied the doctor in a different tone,
"and there's no draught." With a gesture, half bow, half dismissal, he
made even this thick-skinned member of "the greatest civilization on
earth" understand he was not wanted. And they turned at the cabin door,
O'Malley a moment wondering at the admirable dignity with which the
"little" man had managed the polite dismissal.
Himself, perhaps, he would not have minded the diversion. He was a little
weary of the German's long recital. The confession had not been complete,
he felt. Much had been held back. It was not altogether straightforward.
The dishonesty which hides in compromise peeped through it everywhere.
And the incoherence of the latter part had almost bored him. For it
was, he easily divined, a studied incoherence. It was meant to touch a
similar weakness in himself--if there. But it was _not_ there. He saw
through the whole manoeuvre. Stahl wished to warn and save him by
showing that the experience they had partly shared was nothing but a
strange mental disorder. He wished to force in this subtle way his own
interpretation of it upon his friend. Yet at the same time the intuitive
Irishman discerned that other tendency in the man which would so
gladly perhaps have welcomed a different explanation, and even in some
fashion did actually accept it.
O'Malley smiled inwardly as he watched him prepare the coffee as of
old. And patiently he waited for the rest that was to come. In a certain
sense it all was useful. It would be helpful later. This was an attitude
he would often have to face when he returned to civilized life and tried
to tell his Message to the thinking, educated men of today--the men he
must win over somehow to his dream--the men, without whose backing, no
Movement could hope to meet with even a measure of success.
"So, like myself," said Stahl, as he carefully tended the flame of the
spirit-lamp between them, "you have escaped by the skin of your teeth,
as it were. And I congratulate you--heartily."
"I thank you," said the other dryly.
"You write your version now, and I'll write mine--indeed it is already
almost finished--then we'll compare notes. Perhaps we might even
publish them together."
He poured out the fragrant coffee. They faced each other across the
little table. But O'Malley did not take the bait. He wished to hear the
balance his companion still might tell.
And presently he asked for it.
"With the discharge of your patient the trouble ceased at once, then?"
"Comparatively soon. It gradually subsided, yes."
"And as regards yourself?"
"I came back to my senses. I recovered my control. The insubordinate
impulses I had known retired." He smiled as he sipped his coffee. "You
see me now," he added, looking his companion steadily in the eyes, "a
sane and commonplace ship's doctor."
"I congratulate you--"
"_Vielen Dank._" He bowed.
"On what you missed, yet almost accomplished," the other finished.
"You might have known, like me, the cosmic consciousness! You might
have met the gods!"
"In a strait-waistcoat," the doctor added with a snap.
They laughed at one another across their coffee cups as once before
they had laughed across their glasses of Kakhetian wine--two eternally
antagonistic types that will exist as long as life itself.
But, contrary to his expectations, the German had little more to tell.
He mentioned how the experience had led his mind into strange and
novel reading in his desire to know what other minds might have to
offer by way of explanation, even the most fanciful and far-fetched. He
told, though very briefly, how he had picked up Fechner among others,
and carefully studied his "poetic theories," and read besides the best
accounts of "spiritistic" phenomena, as also of the rarer states of
hysteria, double-consciousness, multiple personality, and even those
looser theories which suggest that a portion of the human constitution
called "astral" or "etheric" may escape from the parent center and,
carrying with it the subtler forces of desire and yearning, construct a
vivid subjective state of mind which is practically its Heaven of hope
and longing all fulfilled.
He did not, however, betray the results upon himself of all this curious
reading and study, nor mention what he found of truth or probability in
it all. He merely quoted books and authors, in at least three languages,
that stretched in a singular and catholic array from Plato and the
Neo-Platonists across the ages to Myers, Du Prel, Flournoy, Lodge, and
Out of the lot, perhaps,--O'Malley gathered it by inference rather
than from actual statement, from fragments of their talks upon the
outward voyage more than from anything let fall just then--Fechner
had proved the most persuasive to this man's contradictory and original
mind. It certainly seemed, at least, as if he knew some secret
sympathetic leaning toward the idea that consciousness and matter were
inseparable, and that a Cosmic Consciousness "of sorts" might pertain to
the Earth as, equally, to all the other stars and planets. The _Urwelt_
idea he so often referred to had seized a part of his imagination--that,
at least, was clear.
The Irishman drank it all in, but he was too exhausted now to argue,
and too full besides to ask questions. His natural volubility forsook
him. He let the doctor have his say without interruptions. He took the
warnings with the rest of it. Nothing the other said had changed him.
It was not the first sunrise they had watched together, and as they
took the morning air on deck once more, Corsica rising like a dream
the night had left behind her on the sea, he listened with fainter
interest to the German's concluding sentences.
"At any rate you now understand why on that other voyage I was so
eager to watch you with your friend, so keen to separate you, to prevent
your sleeping with him, and at the same time so desirous to see his
influence upon you at close quarters; and also--why I always understood
so well what was going on both outwardly and within."
O'Malley quietly reiterated the belief he still held in the power of his
"I shall go home and give my message to the world," was what he said
quietly. "I think it's true."
"It's better to keep silent," was the answer, "for, even if true, the
world is not ready yet to listen. It will evaporate, you'll find, in the
telling. You'll find there's nothing to tell. Besides, a dream like yours
must dawn on all at once, and not on merely one. No one will understand
"I can but try."
"You will reach no men of action; and few of intellect. You will merely
stuff the dreamers who are already stuffed enough. What is the use, I
ask you? What is the use?"
"It will set the world on fire for simplicity," the other murmured,
knowing the great sweet passion flame within him as he watched the
sun come slowly out of the rosy sea. "All the use in the world."
"None," was the laconic answer.
"They might know the gods!" cried O'Malley, using the phrase that
symbolized for him the entire Vision.
Stahl looked at him for some time before he spoke. Again that
expression of wistful, almost longing admiration shone in the brown
"My friend," he answered gravely, "men do not want to know the gods. They
prefer their delights less subtle. They crave the cruder physical
sensations that bang them toward excitement--"
"Of disease, of pain, of separateness," put in the other.
The German shrugged his shoulders. "It's the stage they're at," he
said. "You, if you have success, will merely make a few uncomfortable.
The majority will hardly turn their heads. To one in a million you may
bring peace and happiness."
"It's worth it," cried the Irishman, "even for that one!"
Stahl answered very gently, smiling with his new expression of tenderness
and sympathy. "Dream your great dream if you will, but dream it, my
friend, alone--in peace and silence. That 'one' I speak of is yourself."
The doctor pressed his hand and turned toward his cabin. O'Malley
stood a little longer to share the sunrise. Neither spoke another word.
He heard the door shut softly behind him. The unspoken answer in his
mind was in two words--two common little adjectives: "Coward and
But Stahl, once in the privacy of his cabin, judging by the glance
visible on his face ere he closed the door, may probably have known a
very different thought. And possibly he uttered it below his breath. A
sigh most certainly escaped his lips, a sigh half sadness, half relief.
For O'Malley remembered it afterwards.
"Beautiful, foolish dreamer among men! But, thank God, harmless--to
And soon afterwards O'Malley also went to his cabin. Before sleep took
him he lay deep in a mood of sadness--almost as though he had heard his
friend's unspoken thought. He realized the insuperable difficulties
that lay before him. The world would think him "mad but harmless."
Then, with full sleep, he slipped across that sunrise and found the
old-world Garden. He held the eternal password.
"I can but try...!"
And here the crowded, muddled notebooks come to an end. The rest was
action--and inevitable disaster.
The brief history of O'Malley's mad campaign may be imagined. To a writer
who found interest in the study of forlorn hopes and their leaders, a
detailed record of this particular one might seem worth while. For me
personally it is too sad and too pathetic. I cannot bring myself to tell,
much less to analyze the story of a broken heart, when that heart and
story are those of a close and deeply admired intimate, a man who gave me
genuine love and held my own.
Besides, although a curious chapter in uncommon human nature, it
is not by any means a new one. It is the true story of many a poet and
dreamer since the world began, though perhaps not often told nor even
guessed. And only the poets themselves, especially the little poets who
cannot utter half the fire that consumes them, may know the searing
pain and passion and the true inwardness of it all.
Most of those months it chanced I was away, and only fragments of
the foolish enterprise could reach me. But nothing, I think, could have
stopped him, nor any worldly selfish wisdom made him even pause.
The thing possessed him utterly; it had to flame its way out as best it
could. To high and low, he preached by every means in his power the
Simple Life; he preached the mystical life as well--that the true
knowledge and the true progress are within, that they both pertain to
the inner being and have no chief concern with external things. He
preached it wildly, lopsidedly, in or out of season, knowing no half
measures. His enthusiasm obscured his sense of proportion and the
extravagance hid the germ of truth that undeniably lay in his message.
To put the movement on its feet at first he realized every possession
that he had. It left him penniless, if he was not almost so already, and
in the end it left him smothered beneath the glory of his blinding and
unutterable Dream. He never understood that suggestion is more effective
than a sledge-hammer. His faith was no mere little seed of mustard,
but a full-fledged forest singing its message in a wind of thunder. He
shouted it aloud to the world.
I think the acid disappointment that lies beneath that trite old phrase
"a broken heart" was never really his; for indeed it seemed that his
cruel, ludicrous failure merely served to strengthen hope and purpose by
making him seek for a better method of imparting what he had to say.
In the end he learned the bitter lesson to the full. But faith never
trailed a single feather. Those jeering audiences in the Park; those
empty benches in many a public hall, those brief, ignoring paragraphs in
the few newspapers that filled a vacant corner by labeling him crank and
long-haired prophet; even the silence that greeted his pamphlets, his
letters to the Press, and all the rest, hurt him for others rather than
for himself. His pain was altruistic, never personal. His dream and
motive, his huge, unwieldy compassion, his genuine love for humanity, all
were big enough for that.
And so, I think, he missed the personal mortification that disappointment
so deep might bring to dreamers with an aim less unadulteratedly
pure. His eye was single to the end. He attributed only the highest
motives to all who offered help. The very quacks and fools who flocked
to his banner, eager to exploit their smaller fads by joining them to his
own, he welcomed, only regretting that, as Stahl had warned him, he
could not attract a better class of mind. He did not even see through
the manoeuvres of the occasional women of wealth and title who sought
to conceal their own mediocrity by advertising in their drawing-rooms
the eccentricities of men like himself. And to the end he had the courage
of his glorious convictions.
The change of method that he learned at last, moreover, was
characteristic of this faith and courage.
"I've begun at the wrong end," he said; "I shall never reach men through
their intellects. Their brains today are occupied by the machine-made
gods of civilization. I cannot change the direction of their thoughts and
lusts from outside; the momentum is too great to stop that way. I must
get at them from within. To reach their hearts, the new ideas must rise
up _from within_. I see the truer way. I must do it _from the other
side_. It must come to them--in Beauty."
For he was to the last convinced that death would merge him in the
being of the Earth's Collective Consciousness, and that, lost in her deep
eternal beauty, he thus might reach the hearts of men in some stray
glimpse of nature's loveliness, and register his flaming message. He
loved to quote from Adonais:
"He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where'er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own.
He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear
His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress
Sweeps through the dull dense world..."
And this thought, phrased in a dozen different ways, was always on his
lips. To dream was right and useful, even to dream alone, because the
beauty of the dream must add to the beauty of the Whole of which it is a
part and an interpretation. It was not really lost or vain. All must come
back in time to feed the world. He had known gracious thoughts of Earth
too big to utter, almost too big to hold. Such thoughts could not ever be
really told; they were incommunicable. For the mystical revelation is
incommunicable. It has authority only for him who feels it. A corporate
revelation is impossible. Only those among men could know, in whose
hearts it rose intuitively and made its presence felt as innate ideas.
Inspiration brings it, and beauty is the vehicle. Their hearts must
change before their minds could be reached.
"I can work it better from the other side--from that old, old Garden
which is the Mother's heart. In this way I can help at any rate...!"
It was at the close of a wet and foggy autumn that we met again, winter
in the air, all London desolate; and his wasted, forlorn appearance told
me the truth at once. Only the passionate eagerness of voice and manner
were there to prove that the spirit had not weakened. There glowed within
a fire that showed itself in the translucent shining of the eyes and
"I've made one great discovery, old man," he exclaimed with old,
familiar, high enthusiasm, "one great discovery at least."
"You've made so many," I answered cheerfully, while my real thoughts were
busy with his bodily state of health. For his appearance shocked me. He
stood among a litter of papers, books, neckties, nailed boots, knapsacks,
maps and what-not, that rolled upon the floor from the mouth of the
Willesden canvas sack. His old grey flannel suit hung literally upon a
bag of bones; all the life there was seemed concentrated in his face and
eyes--those far-seeing, light blue eyes. They were darker than usual now,
eyes like the sea, I thought. His hair, long and disordered,
tumbled over his forehead. He was pale, and at the same time flushed. It
was almost a disembodied spirit that I saw.
"You've made so many. I love to hear them. Is this one finer than the
He looked a moment at me through and through, almost uncannily. He looked
in reality beyond me. It was something else he saw, and in the dusk I
"Simpler," he said quickly, "much simpler."
He moved up close beside me, whispering. Was it all imagination that a
breath of flowers came with him? There was certainly a curious fragrance
in the air, wild and sweet like orchards in the spring.
"And it is--?"
"That the Garden's _everywhere!_ You needn't go to the distant Caucasus
to find it. It's all about this old London town, and in these foggy
streets and dingy pavements. It's even in this cramped, undusted room.
Now at this moment, while that lamp flickers and the thousands go to
sleep. The gates of horn and ivory are here," he tapped his breast. "And
here the flowers, the long, clean open hills, the giant herd, the nymphs,
the sunshine and the gods!"
So attached was he now to that little room in Paddington where his books
and papers lay, that when the curious illness that had caught him grew so
much worse, and the attacks of the nameless fever that afflicted him
turned serious, I hired a bedroom for him in the same house. And it was
in that poky, cage-like den he breathed his last.
His illness I called curious, his fever nameless, because they really
were so and puzzled every one. He simply faded out of life, it seemed;
there was no pain, no sleeplessness, no suffering of any physical kind.
He uttered no complaint, nor were there symptoms of any known
"Your friend is sound organically," the doctor told me when I pressed him
for the truth there on the stairs, "sound as a bell. He wants the open
air and plenty of wholesome food, that's all. His body is ill-nourished.
His trouble is mental--some deep and heavy disappointment doubtless. If
you can change the current of his thoughts, awaken interest in common
things, and give him change of scene, perhaps--" He shrugged his
shoulders and looked very grave.
"You think he's dying?"
"I think, yes, he is dying."
"From lack of living pure and simple," was the answer. "He has lost
all hold on life."
"He has abundant vitality still."
"Full of it. But it all goes--elsewhere. The physical organism gets
none of it."
"Yet mentally," I asked, "there's nothing actually wrong?"
"Not in the ordinary sense. The mind is clear and active. So far as I
can test it, the process of thought is healthy and undamaged. It seems
He hesitated a moment on the doorstep while the driver wound the
motor handle. I waited with a sinking heart for the rest of the sentence.
"...like certain cases of nostalgia I have known--very rare and very
difficult to deal with. Acute and vehement nostalgia, yes, sometimes
called a broken heart," he added, pausing another instant at the carriage
door, "in which the entire stream of a man's inner life flows to some
distant place, or person, or--or to some imagined yearning that he
craves to satisfy."
"To a dream?"
"It _might_ be even that," he answered slowly, stepping in. "It might be
spiritual. The religious and poetic temperament are most open to it,
_and_ the most difficult to deal with when afflicted." He emphasized the
little word as though the doubt he felt was far less strong than the
conviction he only half concealed. "If you would save him, try to change
the direction of his thoughts. There is nothing--in all honesty I must
say it--nothing that I can do to help."
And then, pulling at the grey tuft on his chin and looking keenly at me a
moment over his glasses,--"Those flowers," he said hesitatingly, "you
might move those flowers from the room, perhaps. Their perfume is a
trifle strong ... It might be better." Again he looked sharply at me.
There was an odd expression in his eyes. And in my heart there was an
odd sensation too, so odd that I found myself bereft a moment of any
speech at all, and when my tongue became untied, the carriage was
already disappearing down the street. For in that dingy sick-room there
were no flowers at all, yet the perfume of woods and fields and open
spaces had reached the doctor too, and obviously perplexed him.
"Change the direction of his thoughts!" I went indoors, wondering
how any honest and even half-unselfish friend, knowing what I knew,
could follow such advice. With what but the lowest motive, of keeping
him alive for my own happiness, could I seek to change his thoughts
of some imagined joy and peace to the pain and sordid facts of an
earthly existence that he loathed?
But when I turned I saw the tousled yellow-headed landlady standing
in the breach. Mrs. Heath stopped me in the hall to inquire whether I
could say "anythink abart the rent per'aps?" Her manner was defiant. I
found three months were owing.
"It's no good arsking 'im," she said, though not unkindly on the
whole. "I'm sick an' tired of always being put off. He talks about the
gawds and a Mr. Pan, or some such gentleman who he says will look
after it all. But I never sees 'im--not this Mr. Pan. And his stuff up
there," jerking her head toward the little room, "ain't worth a
Sankey-moody 'ymn-book, take the lot of it at cost!"
I reassured her. It was impossible to help smiling. For some minds,
I reflected, a Sankey hymn-book might hold dreams that were every bit
as potent as his own, and far less troublesome. But that "Mr. Pan, or
some such gentleman" should serve as a "reference" between lodger and
landlady was an unwitting comment on the modern point of view that
made me want to cry rather than to laugh. O'Malley and Mrs. Heath
between them had made a profounder criticism than they knew.
* * * * *
And so by slow degrees he went, leaving the outer fury for the inner
peace. The center of consciousness gradually shifted from the transient
form which is the true ghost, to the deeper, permanent state which is
the eternal reality. For this was how he phrased it to me in one of our
last, strange talks. He watched his own withdrawal.
In bed he would lie for hours with fixed and happy eyes, staring
apparently at nothing, the expression on his face quite radiant. The
pulse sank often dangerously low; he scarcely seemed to breathe; yet it
was never complete unconsciousness or trance. My voice, when I found the
heart to try and coax his own for speech, would win him back. The eyes
would then grow dimmer, losing their happier light, as he turned to the
outer world to look at me.
"The pull is so tremendous now," he whispered; "I was far, so far
away, in the deep life of Earth. Why do you bring me back to all these
little pains? I can do nothing here; _there_ I am of use..."
He spoke so low I had to bend my head to catch the words. It was
very late at night and for hours I had been watching by his side. Outside
an ugly yellow fog oppressed the town, but about him like an atmosphere
I caught again that fragrance as of trees and flowers. It was too
faint for any name--that fugitive, mild perfume one meets upon bare
hills and round the skirts of forests. It was somehow, I fancied, in the
"Each time the effort to return is greater. In there I am complete and
full of power. I can work and send my message back so splendidly. Here,"
he glanced down at his wasted body with a curious smile, "I am only
on the fringe--it's pain and failure. All so ineffective."
That other look came back into the eyes, more swiftly than before.
"I thought you might like to speak, to tell me--something," I said,
keeping the tears with difficulty from my voice. "Is there no one you
would like to see?"
He shook his head slowly, and gave the peculiar answer:
"They're all in there."
"But Stahl, perhaps--if I could get him here?"
An expression of gentle disapproval crossed his face, then melted
softly into a wistful tenderness as of a child.
"He's not there--yet," he whispered, "but he will come too in the
end. In sleep, I think, he goes there even now."
"Where are you _really_ then?" I ventured, "And where is it you go to?"
The answer came unhesitatingly; there was no doubt or searching.
"Into myself, my real and deeper self, and so beyond it into her--the
Earth. Where all the others are--all, all, all."
And then he frightened me by sitting up in bed abruptly. His eyes
stared past me--out beyond the close confining walls. The movement
was so startling with its suddenness and vigor that I shrank back a
moment. The head was sideways. He was intently listening.
"Hark!" he whispered. "They are calling me! Do you hear...?"
The look of joy that broke over the face like sunshine made me hold
my breath. Something in his low voice thrilled me beyond all I have
ever known. I listened too. Only the rumble of the traffic down the
distant main street broke the silence, the rattle of a nearer cart, and
the footsteps of a few pedestrians. No other noises came across the
night. There was no wind. Thick yellow fog muffled everything.
"I hear nothing," I answered softly. "What is it that _you_ hear?"
And, making no reply, he presently lay down again among the pillows, that
look of joy and glory still upon his face. It lay there to the end like
The fog came in so thickly through the window that I rose to close
it. He never closed that window, and I hoped he would not notice. For
a sound of wretched street-music was coming nearer--some beggar playing
dismally upon a penny whistle--and I feared it would disturb him. But in
a flash he was up again.
"No, no!" he cried, raising his voice for the first time that night. "Do
not shut it. I shan't be able to hear then. Let all the air come in. Open
it wider... wider! I love that sound!"
"There is no fog. It's only sun and flowers and music. Let them in.
Don't you hear it now?" he added. And, more to bring him peace than
anything else, I bowed my head to signify agreement. For the last
confusion of the mind, I saw, was upon him, and he made the outer
world confirm some imagined detail of his inner dream. I drew the sash
down lower, covering his body closely with the blankets. He flung them
off impatiently at once. The damp and freezing night rushed in upon
us like a presence. It made me shudder, but O'Malley only raised himself
upon one elbow to taste it better, and--to listen.
Then, waiting patiently for the return of the quiet, trance-like state
when I might cover him again, I moved toward the window and looked
out. The street was empty, save for that beggar playing vilely on his
penny whistle. The wretch came to a standstill immediately before the
house. The lamplight fell from the room upon his tattered, broken
figure. I could not see his face. He groped and felt his way.
Outside that homeless wanderer played his penny pipe in the night
of cold and darkness.
Inside the Dreamer listened, dreaming of his gods and garden, his
great Earth Mother, his visioned life of peace and simple things with a
And I felt somehow that player watched us. I made an angry sign to
him to go. But it was the sudden touch upon my arm that made me
turn round with such a sudden start that I almost cried aloud. O'Malley
in his night-clothes stood close against me on the floor, slight as a
spirit, eyes a-shine, lips moving faintly into speech through the most
wonderful smile a human face has ever shown me.
"Do not send him away," he whispered, joy breaking from him like
a light, "but tell him that I love it. Go out and thank him. Tell him I
hear and understand, and say that I am coming. Will you...?"
Something within me whirled. It seemed that I was lifted from my
feet a moment. Some tide of power rushed from his person to my own.
The room was filled with blinding light. But in my heart there rose a
great emotion that combined tears and joy and laughter all at once.
"The moment you are back in bed," I heard my voice like one speaking from
a distance, "I'll go--"
The momentary, wild confusion passed as suddenly as it came. I
remember he obeyed at once. As I bent down to tuck the clothes about
him, that fragrance as of flowers and open spaces rose about my bending
face like incense--bewilderingly sweet.
And the next second I was standing in the street. The man who played
upon the pipe, I saw, was blind. His hand and fingers were curiously
I was already close, ready to press all that my pockets held into his
hand--ay, and far more than merely pockets held because O'Malley
said he loved the music--when something made me turn my head away.
I cannot say precisely what it was, for first it seemed a tapping at the
window of his room behind me, and then a little noise within the room
itself, and next--more curious than either,--a feeling that something
came out rushing past me through the air. It whirled and shouted as it
I only remember clearly that in the very act of turning, and while my
look still held that beggar's face within the field of vision, I saw the
sightless eyes turn bright a moment as though he opened them and saw.
He did most certainly smile; to that I swear.
But when I turned again the street immediately about me was empty.
The beggar-man was gone.
And down the pavement, moving swiftly through the curtain of fog,
I saw his vanishing figure. It was large and spreading. In the fringe of
light the lamp-post gave, its upper edges seemed far above the ground.
Someone else was with him. There were two figures.
I heard that sound of piping far away. It sounded faint and almost
flute-like in the air. And in the mud at my feet the money lay--spurned
utterly. I heard the last coins ring upon the pavement as they settled.
But in the room, when I got back, the body of Terence O'Malley had
ceased to breathe.