Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Human Chord by Algernon Blackwood

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

secretary, who continued making frantic notes.

"That chance discovery, then, made during a moment's inner vision," he
continued with a grave excitement, "gave me the key to a whole world of
new knowledge, and since then I have made incredible developments. Listen
closely, Mr. Spinrobin, while I explain. And take in what you can."

The secretary laid down his pencil and notebook. He sat forward in an
attitude of intense eagerness upon the edge of his chair. He was
trembling. This strange modern confirmation of his early Heaven of wonder
before the senses had thickened and concealed it, laid bare again his
earliest world of far-off pristine glory.

"The ordinary name of a person, understand then, is merely a sound
attached to their physical appearance at birth by the parents--a
meaningless sound. It is not their true name. That, however, exists
behind it in the spiritual world, and is the accurate description of
the soul. It is the sound you express visibly before me. The Word is
the Life."

Spinrobin surreptitiously picked up his pencil; but the clergyman spied
the movement. "Never mind the notes," he said; "listen closely to me."
Spinrobin obeyed meekly.

"Your ordinary outer name, however," continued Mr. Skale, speaking with
profound conviction, "may be made a conductor to your true, inner one.
The connection between the two by a series of subtle interior links forms
gradually with the years. For even the ordinary name, if you reflect a
moment, becomes in time a sound of singular authority--inwoven with the
finest threads of your psychical being, so that in a sense you _become_
it. To hear it suddenly called aloud in the night--in a room full of
people, in the street unexpectedly--is to know a shock, however small, of
increased vitality. It touches the imagination. It calls upon the soul
built up around it."

He paused a moment. His voice boomed musically about the room, even after
he ceased speaking. Bewildered, wondering, delighted, Spinrobin drank in
every word. How well he knew it all.

"Now," resumed the clergyman, lowering his tone unconsciously, "the first
part of my discovery lies in this: that I have learned to pronounce the
ordinary names of things and people in such a way as to lead me to their
true, inner ones--"

"But," interrupted Spinrobin irrepressibly, "how in the name of--?"

"Hush!" cried Skale quickly. "Never again call upon a mighty name--in
vain. It is dangerous. Concentrate your mind upon what I now tell you,
and you shall understand a part, at least, of my discovery. As I was
saying, I have learned how to find the true name by means of the false;
and understand, if you can, that to pronounce a true name correctly means
to participate in its very life, to vibrate with its essential nature, to
learn the ultimate secret of its inmost being. For our true names are the
sounds originally uttered by the 'Word' of God when He created us, or
'called' us into Being out of the void of infinite silence, and to repeat
them correctly means literally--to--speak--with--His--Voice. It is to
speak the truth." The clergyman dropped his tone to an awed whisper.
"Words are the veils of Being; to speak them truly is to lift a corner of
the veil."

"What a glory! What a thing!" exclaimed the other under his breath,
trying to keep his mind steady, but losing control of language in the
attempt. The great sentences seemed to change the little room into a
temple where sacred things were about to reveal themselves. Spinrobin now
understood in a measure why Mr. Skale's utterance of his own name and
that of Miriam had sounded grand. Behind each he had touched the true
name and made it echo.

The clergyman's voice brought his thoughts back from distances in that
inner prairie of his youth where they had lost themselves.

"For all of us," he was repeating with rapt expression in his shining
eyes, "are Sounds in the mighty music the universe sings to God, whose
Voice it was that first produced us, and of whose awful resonance we are
echoes therefore in harmony or disharmony." A look of power passed into
his great visage. Spinrobin's imagination, in spite of the efforts that
he made, fluttered with broken wings behind the swift words. A flash of
the former terror stirred in the depths of him. The man was at the heels
of knowledge it is not safe for humanity to seek....

"Yes," he continued, directing his gaze again upon the other, "that is a
part of my discovery, though only a part, mind. By repeating your outer
name in a certain way until it disappears in the mind, I can arrive at
the real name within. And to utter it is to call upon the secret soul--to
summon it from its lair. 'I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by
name.' You remember the texts? '_I know thee by name_,' said Jehovah to
the great Hebrew magician, '_and thou art mine_.' By certain rhythms and
vibratory modulations of the voice it is possible to produce harmonics of
sound which awaken the inner name into life--and then to spell it out.
Note well, to _spell_ it,--spell--incantation--the magical use of
sound--the meaning of the Word of Power, used with such terrific effect
in the old forgotten Hebrew magic. Utter correctly the names of their
Forces, or Angels, I am teaching you daily now," he went on reverently,
with glowing eyes and intense conviction; "pronounce them with full
vibratory power that awakens all their harmonics, and you awaken also
their counterpart in yourself; you summon their strength or
characteristic quality to your aid; you introduce their powers actively
into your own psychical being. Had Jacob succeeded in discovering the
'Name' of that 'Angel' with whom he wrestled, he would have become one
with its superior power and have thus conquered it. Only, he asked
instead of commanded, and he found it not..."

"Magnificent! Splendid!" cried Spinrobin, starting from his chair,
seizing with his imagination potently stirred, this possibility of
developing character and rousing the forces of the soul.

"We shall yet call upon the Names, and see," replied Skale, placing a
great hand upon his companion's shoulder, "not aloud necessarily, but by
an inner effort of intense will which sets in vibration the finer
harmonics heard only by the poet and magician, those harmonics and
overtones which embody the psychical element in music. For the methods of
poet and magician, I tell you, my dear Spinrobin, are identical, and all
the faiths of the world are at the heels of that thought. Provided you
have faith you can--move mountains! You can call upon the very gods!"

"A most wonderful idea, Mr. Skale," faltered the other breathlessly,
"quite wonderful!" The huge sentences deafened him a little with their
mental thunder.

"And utterly simple," was the reply, "for all truth is simple."

He paced the floor like a great caged animal. He went down and leaned
against the dark bookcase, with his legs wide apart, and hands in his
coat pockets. "To name truly, you see, is to evoke, to create!" he
roared from the end of the room. "To utter as it should be uttered any
one of the Ten Words, or Creative Powers of the Deity in the old Hebrew
system, is to become master of the 'world' to which it corresponds. For
these names are still in living contact with the realities behind. It
means to vibrate with the powers that called the universe into being
and--into form."

A sort of shadowy majesty draped his huge figure, Spinrobin thought, as
he stood in semi-darkness at the end of the room and thundered forth
these extraordinary sentences with a conviction that, for the moment at
least, swept away all doubt in the mind of his listener. Dreadful ideas,
huge-footed and threatening, rushed to and fro in the secretary's mind.
He was torn away from all known anchorage, staggered, dizzy and dismayed;
yet at the same time, owing to his adventure-loving temperament, a prey
to some secret and delightful exaltation of the spirit. He was out of his
depth in great waters....

Then, quite suddenly, Mr. Skale came swiftly over to his side and
whispered in accents that were soothing in comparison:

"And think for a moment how beautiful, the huge Words by which God called
into being the worlds, and sent the perfect, rounded bodies of the
spheres spinning and singing, blazing their eternal trails of glory
through the void! How sweet the whisper that crystallized in flowers! How
tender the note that fashioned the eyes and face, say, of Miriam...."

At the name of Miriam he felt caught up and glorified, in some delightful
and inexplicable way that brought with it--peace. The power of all these
strange and glowing thoughts poured their full tide into his own rather
arid and thirsty world, frightening him with their terrific force. But
the mere utterance of that delightful name--in the way Skale uttered
it--brought confidence and peace.

"... Could we but hear them!" Skale continued, half to himself, half to
his probationer; "for the sad thing is that today the world has ears yet
cannot hear. As light is distorted by passing through a gross atmosphere,
so sound reaches us but indistinctly now, and few true names can bring
their wondrous messages of power correctly. Men, coarsening with the
materialism of the ages, have grown thick and gross with the luxury of
inventions and the diseases of modern life that develop intellect at the
expense of soul. They have lost the old inner hearing of divine sound,
and but one here and there can still catch the faint, far-off and
ineffable music."

He lifted his eyes, and his voice became low and even gentle as the
glowing words fell from his heart of longing.

"None hear now the morning stars when they sing together to the sun; none
know the chanting of the spheres! The ears of the world are stopped with
lust, and the old divine science of true-naming seems lost forever amid
the crash of engines and the noisy thunder of machinery!... Only among
flowers and certain gems are the accurate old true names still to be
found!... But we are on the track, my dear Spinrobin, we are on the
ancient trail to Power."

The clergyman closed his eyes and clasped his hands, lifting his face
upwards with a rapt expression while he murmured under his breath the
description of the Rider on the White Horse from the Book of the
Revelations, as though it held some inner meaning that his heart knew yet
dared not divulge: "And he had a Name written, that no man knew but he
himself. And he was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and his Name is
called The Word of God ... and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a
name written,--'King of Kings and Lord of Lords....'"

And for an instant Spinrobin, listening to the rolling sound but not to
the actual words, fancied that a faintly colored atmosphere of deep
scarlet accompanied the vibrations of his resonant whisper and produced
in the depths of his mind this momentary effect of colored audition.

It was all very strange and puzzling. He tried, however, to keep an open
mind and struggle as best he might with these big swells that rolled
into his little pool of life and threatened to merge it in a vaster tide
than he had yet dreamed of. Knowing how limited is the world which the
senses report, he saw nothing too inconceivable in the idea that
certain persons might possess a peculiar inner structure of the spirit
by which supersensuous things can be perceived. And what more likely
than that a man of Mr. Skale's unusual caliber should belong to them?
Indeed, that the clergyman possessed certain practical powers of an
extraordinary description he was as certain as that the house was not
empty as he had at first supposed. Of neither had he proof as yet; but
proof was not long in forthcoming.

Chapter IV


"Then if there is so much sound about in all objects and forms--if the
whole universe, in fact, is sounding," asked Spinrobin with a naive
impertinence not intended, but due to the reaction of his simple mind
from all this vague splendor, "why don't we hear it more?"

Mr. Skale came upon him like a boomerang from the end of the room. He was
smiling. He approved the question.

"With us the question of hearing is merely the question of wavelengths in
the air," he replied; "the lowest audible sound having a wavelength of
sixteen feet, the highest less than an inch. Some people can't hear the
squeak of a bat, others the rumble of an earthquake. I merely affirm that
in every form sleeps the creative sound that is its life and being. The
ear is a miserable organ at best, and the majority are far too gross to
know clair-audience. What about sounds, for instance, that have a
wavelength of a hundred, a thousand miles on the one hand, or a millionth
part of an inch on the other?"

"A thousand miles! A millionth of an inch?" gasped the other, gazing at
his interlocutor as though he was some great archangel of sound.

"Sound for most of us lies between, say, thirty and many thousand
vibrations per second--the cry of the earthquake and the cricket; it is
our limitation that renders the voice of the dewdrop and the voice of the
planet alike inaudible. We even mistake a measure of noise--like a
continuous millwheel or a river, say--for silence, when in reality there
is no such thing as perfect silence. Other life is all the time singing
and thundering about us," he added, holding up a giant finger as though
to listen. "To the imperfection of our ears you may ascribe the fact that
we do not hear the morning stars shouting together."

"Thank you, yes, I quite see now," said the secretary. "To name truly is
to hear truly." The clergyman's words seemed to hold a lamp to a vast
interior map in his mind that was growing light. A new dawn was breaking
over the great mental prairie where he wandered as a child. "To find the
true name of anything," he added, "you mean, is to hear its sound, its
individual note as it were?" Incredible perspectives swam into his ken,
hitherto undreamed of.

"Not 'as it were,'" boomed the other, "You _do_ hear it. After which the
next step is to utter it, and so absorb its force into your own being by
synchronous vibration--union mystical and actual. Only, you must be sure
you utter it correctly. To pronounce incorrectly is to call it
incompletely into life and form--to distort and injure it, and yourself
with it. To make it untrue--a lie."

They were standing in the dusk by the library window, watching the veil
of night that slowly covered the hills. The flying horizons of the moors
had slipped away into the darkness.

The stars were whispering together their thoughts of flame and speed. At
the back of the room sat Miriam among the shadows, like some melody
hovering in a musician's mind till he should call her forth. It was close
upon the tea hour. Behind them Mrs. Mawle was busying herself with lamps
and fire. Mr. Skale, turning at the sound of the housekeeper, motioned to
the secretary to approach, then stooped down and spoke low in his ear:

"With many names I had great difficulty," he whispered. "With hers, for
instance," indicating the housekeeper behind them. "It took me five
years' continuous research to establish her general voice-outline, and
even then I at first only derived a portion of her name. And in uttering
it I made such errors of omission and pronunciation that her physical
form suffered, and she emerged from the ordeal in disorder. You have, of
course, noticed her disabilities.... But, later, though only in
stammering fashion, I called upon her all complete, and she has since
known a serene blessedness and a sense of her great value in the music of
life that she never knew before." His face lit up as he spoke of it. "For
in that moment she found herself. She heard her true name, God's creative
sound, thunder through her being."

Spinrobin, feeling the clergyman's forces pouring through him like a tide
at such close proximity, bowed his head. His lips were too dry to frame
words. He was thinking of the possible effects upon his own soul and body
when his name too should be "uttered." He remembered the withered arm and
the deafness. He thought, too, of that slender, ghostly figure that
haunted the house with its soft movements and tender singing. Lastly, he
remembered his strange conviction that somewhere in the great building,
possibly in his own corridor, there were other occupants, other life,
Beings of unearthly scale waiting the given moment to appear, summoned by

"And you will understand now why it is I want a man of high courage to
help me," Skale resumed in a louder tone, standing sharply upright; "a
man careless of physical existence, and with a faith wholly beyond the
things of this world!"

"I do indeed," he managed to reply aloud, while in his thoughts he was
saying, "I will, I _must_ see it through. I won't give in!" With all his
might he resisted the invading tide of terror. Even if sad results came
later, it was something to have been sacrificed in so big a conception.

In his excitement he slipped from the edge of the windowsill, where he
was perched, and Mr. Skale, standing close in front of him, caught his
two wrists and set him upon his feet. A shock, like a rush of
electricity, ran through him. He took his courage boldly in both hands
and asked the question ever burning at the back of his mind.

"Then, this great Experiment you--we have in view," he stammered, "is to
do with the correct uttering of the names of some of the great Forces, or
Angels, and--and the assimilating of their powers into ourselves--?"

Skale rose up gigantically beside him. "No, sir," he cried, "it is
greater--infinitely greater than that. Names of mere Angels I can call
alone without the help of any one; but for the name I wish to utter a
whole chord is necessary even to compass the utterance of the opening
syllable; as I have told you already, a chord in which you share the
incalculable privilege of being the tenor note. But for the completed
syllables--the full name--!" He closed his eyes and shrugged his massive
shoulders--"I may need the massed orchestras of half the world, the
chorused voices of the entire nation--or in their place a still small
voice of utter purity crying in the wilderness! In time you shall know
fully--know, see and hear. For the present, hold your soul with what
patience and courage you may."

The words thundered about the room, so that Miriam, too, heard them.
Spinrobin trembled inwardly, as though a cold air passed him. The
suggestion of immense possibilities, vague yet terrible, overwhelmed him
again suddenly. Had not the girl at that moment moved up beside him and
put her exquisite pale face over his shoulder, with her hand upon his
arm, it is probable he would then and there have informed Mr. Skale that
he withdrew from the whole affair.

"Whatever happens," murmured Miriam, gazing into his eyes, "we go on
singing and sounding together, you and I." Then, as Spinrobin bent down
and kissed her hair, Mr. Skale put an arm round each of them and drew
them over to the tea table.

"Come, Mr. Spinrobin," he said, with his winning smile, "you must not be
alarmed, you know. You must not desert me. You are necessary to us all,
and when my Experiment is complete we shall all be as gods together. Do
not falter. There is nothing in life, remember, but to lose oneself; and
I have found a better way of doing so than any one else--by merging
ourselves into the Voice of--"

"Mr. Skale's tea has been standing more than ten minutes," interrupted
the old housekeeper, coming up behind them; "if Mr. Spinrobin will
please to let him come--" as though it was Spinrobin's fault that there
had been delay.

Mr. Skale laughed good-humouredly, as the two men, suddenly in the region
of teacups and buttered toast, looked one another in the face with a
certain confusion. Miriam, sipping her tea, laughed too, curiously.
Spinrobin felt restored to some measure of safety and sanity again. Only
the strange emotion of a few moments before still moved there unseen
among them.

"Listen, and you shall presently hear her name," the clergyman
whispered, glancing up at the other over his teacup, but Spinrobin was
crunching his toast too noisily to notice the meaning of the words fully.


The Stage Manager who stands behind all the scenes of life, both great
and small, had prepared the scene well for what was to follow. The
sentences about the world of inaudible sound had dropped the right kind
of suggestion into the secretary's heart. His mind still whirred with a
litter of half-digested sentences and ideas, however, and he was vividly
haunted by the actuality of truth behind them all. His whole inner being
at that moment cried "Hark!" through a hush of expectant wonder.

There they sat at tea, this singular group of human beings: Mr. Skale,
bigger than ever in his loose housesuit of black, swallowing his liquid
with noisy gulps; Spinrobin, nibbling slippery morsels of hot toast, on
the edge of his chair; Miriam, quiet and mysterious, in her corner; and
Mrs. Mawle, sedate, respectful in cap and apron, presiding over the
teapot, the whole scene cozily lit by lamp and fire--when this remarkable
new thing happened. Spinrobin declares always that it came upon him like
a drowning wave, frightening him not with any idea of injury to himself,
but with a dreadful sense of being lost and shelterless among the
immensities of a transcendent new world. Something passed into the room
that made his soul shake and flutter at the center.

His attention was first roused by a sound that he took, perhaps, to be
the wind coming down from the hills in those draughts and gusts he
sometimes heard, only to his imagination now it was a peopled wind
crying round the walls, behind whose voice he detected the great fluid
form of it--running and colored. But, with the noise, a terror that was
no ordinary terror invaded the recesses of his soul. It was the fear of
the Unknown, dreadfully multiplied.

He glanced up quickly from his teacup, and chancing to meet Miriam's eye,
he saw that she was smiling as she watched him. This sound, then, had
some special significance. At the same instant he perceived that it was
not outside but in the room, close beside him, that Mr. Skale, in fact,
was talking to the deaf housekeeper in a low and carefully modulated
tone--a tone she could not possibly have heard, however. Then he
discovered that the clergyman was not speaking actually, but repeating
her name. He was intoning it. It grew into a kind of singing chant, an

"Sarah Mawle ... Sarah Mawle ... Sarah Mawle ..." ran through the
room like water. And, in Skale's mouth, it sounded as his own name
had sounded--different. It became in some significant way--thus
Spinrobin expresses it always--stately, important, nay, even august.
It became real. The syllables led his ear away from their normal
signification--away from the outer toward the inner. His ordinary mental
picture of the mere letters SARAHMAWLE disappeared and became merged in
something else--into something alive that pulsed and moved with
vibrations of its own. For, with the outer sound there grew up another
interior one, that finally became separate and distinct.

Now Spinrobin was well aware that the continued repetition of one's own
name can induce self-hypnotism; and he also knew that the reiteration of
the name of an object ends by making that object disappear from the mind.
"Mustard," repeated indefinitely, comes to have no meaning at all. The
mind drops behind the mere symbol of the sound into something that is
unintelligible, if not meaningless. But here it was altogether another
matter, and from the torrent of words and similes he uses to describe it,
this--a curious mixture of vividness and confusion--is apparently what he

For, as the clergyman's resonant voice continued quietly to utter the
name, something passed gradually into the appearance of the motherly old
housekeeper that certainly was not there before, not visible, at least,
to the secretary's eyes. Behind the fleshly covering of the body, within
the very skin and bones it seemed, there flowed with steady splendor an
effect of charging new vitality that had an air of radiating from her
face and figure with the glow and rush of increased life. A suggestion of
grandeur, genuine and convincing, began to express itself through the
humble domestic exterior of her everyday self; at first, as though some
greater personage towered shadowy behind her, but presently with a
growing definiteness that showed it to be herself and nothing separate.
The two, if two they were, merged.

Her mien, he saw, first softened astonishingly, then grew firm with an
aspect of dignity that was unbelievably beautiful. An air of peace and
joy her face had always possessed, but this was something beyond either.
It was something imposing, majestic. So perilously adjusted is the
ludicrous to the sublime, that while the secretary wondered dumbly
whether the word "housekeeper" might also in Skale's new world connote
"angel," he could have laughed aloud, had not the nobility of the
spectacle hinted at the same time that he should have wept. For the tears
of a positive worship started to his eyes at the sight.

"Sarahmawle ... Sarahmawle...." The name continued to pour itself about
him in a steady ripple, neither rising nor falling, and certainly not
audible to those deaf old ears that flanked the vigorous and unwrinkled
face. "Youth" is not the word to describe this appearance of ardent
intensity that flamed out of the form and features of the housekeeper,
for it was something utterly apart from either youth or age. Nor was it
any mere idealization of her worn and crumpled self. It was independent
of physical conditions, as it was independent of the limitations of time
and space; superb as sunshine, simple as the glory that had sometimes
touched his soul of boyhood in sleep--the white fires of an utter

It was, in a word, as if the name Skale uttered had summoned to the
front, through all disguising barriers of flesh, her true and naked
spirit, that which neither ages nor dies, that which the eyes, when they
rest upon a human countenance, can never see--the Soul itself!

For the first time in his life Spinrobin, abashed and trembling, gazed
upon something in human guise that was genuinely sublime--perfect with a
stainless purity. The mere sight produced in him an exaltation of the
spirit such as he had never before experienced ... swallowing up his
first terror. In his heart of hearts, he declares, he prayed; for this
was the natural expression for an emotion of the volume and intensity
that surged within him....

How long he sat there gazing seems uncertain; perhaps minutes, perhaps
seconds only. The sense of time's passage was temporarily annihilated. It
might well have been a thousand years, for the sight somehow swept him
into eternity.... In that tearoom of Skale's lonely house among the
mountains, the warmth of an earthly fire upon his back, the light of an
earthly oil-lamp in his eyes, holding buttered toast in exceedingly
earthly fingers, he sat face to face with something that yet was not of
this earth, something majestic, spiritual and eternal ... visible
evidence of transfiguration and of "earth growing heaven...."

* * * * *

It was, of course, stupid and clumsy of Spinrobin to drop his teacup and
let it smash noisily against the leg of the table; yet it was natural
enough, for in his ecstasy and amazement he apparently lost control of
certain muscles in his trembling fingers.... Though the change came
gradually it seemed very quick. The volume of the clergyman's voice grew
less, and as the tide of sound ebbed the countenance of the housekeeper
also slowly altered. The flames that a moment before had burned so
whitely there flickered faintly and were gone; the glory faded; the
splendor withdrew. She even seemed to dwindle in size.... She resumed her
normal appearance. Skale's voice ceased.

The incident apparently had occupied but a few moments, for Mrs. Mawle,
he realized, was gathering the plates together and fitting them into the
spaces of the crowded tea-tray with difficulty--an operation, he
remembered, she had just begun when the clergyman first began to call
upon her name.

She, clearly, had been conscious of nothing unusual. A moment later,
with her customary combination of curtsey and bow, she was gone from the
room, and Spinrobin, acting upon a strange impulse, found himself
standing upright by the table, looking wildly about him, passing his
hand through his scattered hair, and trying in vain to utter words that
should relieve his overcharged soul of the burden of glory and mystery
that oppressed it.

A pain, profoundly searching, pierced his heart. He thought of the
splendors he had just witnessed, and of the joy and peace upon those
features even when the greater wonder withdrew. He thought of the power
in the countenance of Skale, and of the shining loveliness in the face of
Miriam. Then, with a blast of bitterest disappointment, he realized the
insignificance of his own self--the earthiness of his own personality,
the dead, dull ordinariness of his own appearance. Why, oh, why, could
not all faces let the soul shine through? Why could not all identify
themselves with their eternal part, and thus learn happiness and joy? A
sense of the futile agony of life led him with an impassioned eagerness
again to the thought of Skale's tremendous visions, and of the great
Experiment that beckoned beyond. Only, once more the terror of its
possible meaning dropped upon him, and the little black serpents of fear
shot warningly across this brighter background of his hopes.

Then he was aware that Miriam had crossed the room and stood beside him,
for her delicate and natural perfume announced her even before he turned
and saw. Her soft eyes shining conveyed an irresistible appeal, and with
her came the sense of peace she always brought. She was the one thing at
that moment that could comfort and he opened his arms to her and let her
come nestling in against him, both hands finding their way up under the
lapels of his coat, all the exquisite confidence of the innocent child in
her look. Her hair came over his lips and face like flowers, but he did
not kiss her, nor could he find any words to say. To hold her there was
enough, for the touch of her healed and blessed him.

"So now you have seen her as she really is," he heard her voice against
his shoulder; "you have heard her true name, and seen a little of its
form and color!"

"I never guessed that in this world--" he stammered; then, instead of
completing the sentence, held her more tightly to him and let his face
sink deeper into the garden of her hair.

"Oh yes," she answered, and then peered up with unflinching look into his
eyes, "for that is just how I see you too--bright, splendid and eternal."

"Miriam!" It was as unexpected as a ghost and as incredible. "Me ...?"

"Of course! You see I know your true name. I see you as you are within!"

Something came to steady his swimming brain, but it was only after a
distinct effort that he realized it was the voice of Mr. Skale
addressing him. Then, gradually, as he listened, gently releasing the
girl in order to turn towards him, he understood that what he had
witnessed had been in the nature of a "test"--one of those tests he had
been warned would come--and that his attitude to it was regarded by the
clergyman with approval.

"It was a test more subtle than you know, perhaps, Mr. Spinrobin," he was
saying, "and the feelings it has roused in you are an adequate proof that
you have come well through it. As I knew you would, as I knew you would,"
he added, with evident satisfaction. "They do infinite credit both to
yourself and to our judgment in--er--accepting you."

A wave of singular emotion seemed to pass across the room from one to the
other that, catching the breathless secretary in its tide, filled him
with a high pride that he had been weighed and found worthy, then left
him cold with a sudden reaction as he realized after some delay the
import of the words Mr. Skale was next saying to him.

Chapter V

"And now you shall hear your own name called," boomed the clergyman with
enthusiasm, "and realize the beauty and importance of your own note in
the music of life."

And while Spinrobin trembled from head to toe Mr. Skale bore down upon
him and laid a hand upon his shoulder. He looked up into the clergyman's
luminous eyes. His glance next wandered down the ridge of that masterful
nose and lost itself among the flowing strands of the tangled beard. At
that moment it would hardly have surprised him to see the big visage
disappear, and to hear the Sound, of which it was the visible form, slip
into his ears with a roar.

But side by side with the vague terror of the unknown he was conscious
also of a smaller and more personal pang. For a man may envy other forms,
yet keenly resent the possible loss or alteration of his own. And he
remembered the withered arm and the deafness.

"But," he faltered, yet ashamed of his want of courage, "I don't want to
lose my present shape, or--come back--without--"

"Have no fear," exclaimed the other with decision. "Miriam and myself
have not been experimenting in vain these three weeks. We have found your
name. We know it accurately. For we are all one chord, and as I promised
you, there is no risk." He stopped, lowering his voice; and, taking the
secretary by the arm with a fatherly and possessive gesture, "Spinrobin,"
he whispered solemnly, "you shall learn the value and splendor of your
Self in the melody of the Universe--that burst of divine music! You shall
understand how closely linked you are to myself and Mrs. Mawle, but,
closest of all, to Miriam. For Miriam herself shall call your name, and
you shall hear!"

So little Miriam was to prove his executioner, or his redeemer. That was
somehow another matter. The awe with which these experiments of Mr.
Skale's inspired him ebbed considerably as he turned and saw the
appealing, wistful expression of his other examiner. Brave as a lion he
felt, yet timid as a hare; there was no idea of real resistance in him
any longer.

"I'm ready, then," he said faintly, and the girl came up softly to his
side and sought his face with a frank innocence of gaze that made no
attempt to hide her eagerness and joy. She accepted the duty with
delight, proudly conscious of its importance.

"I know thee by name and thou art mine," she murmured, taking his hand.

"It makes me happy, yet afraid," he replied in her ear, returning the
caress; and at that moment the clergyman who had gone to fetch his
violin, returned into the room with a suddenness that made them both
start--for the first time. Very slightly, with the first sign of that
modesty which comes with knowledge he had yet noticed in her, or felt
conscious of in himself, she withdrew, a wonderful flush tinging her pale
skin, then passing instantly away.

"To make you feel absolutely safe from possible disaster," Mr. Skale was
saying with a smile, "you shall have the assistance of the violin. The
pitch and rhythm shall be thus assured. There is nothing to fear."

And Miriam, equally smiling with confidence, led her friend, perplexed
and entangled as he was by the whole dream-like and confusing puzzle--led
him to the armchair she had just vacated, and then seated herself at his
feet upon a high footstool and stared into his eyes with a sweet and
irresistible directness of gaze that at once increased both his sense of
bewilderment and his confidence.

"First, you must speak my name," she said gently, yet with a note of
authority, "so that I may get the note of your voice into myself. Once or
twice will do."

He obeyed. "Miriam ... Miriam ... Miriam," he said, and watched the tiny
reflection of his own face in her eyes, her "night-eyes." The same moment
he began to lose himself. The girl's lips were moving. She had picked up
his voice and merged her own with it, so that when he ceased speaking her
tones took up the note continuously. There was no break. She carried on
the sound that he had started.

And at the same moment, out of the corner of his eye, he perceived that
the violin had left its case and was under the clergyman's beard. The bow
undulated like a silver snake, drawing forth long, low notes that flowed
about the room and set the air into rhythmical vibrations. These
vibrations, too, carried on the same sound. Spinrobin gave a little
uncontrollable jump; he felt as if he had uttered his own death-warrant
and that this instrument proclaimed the sentence. Then the feeling of
dread lessened as he heard Mr. Skale's voice mingling with the violin,
combining exquisitely with the double-stopping he was playing on the two
lower strings; for the music, as the saying is, "went through him" with
thrills of power that plunged into unknown depths of his soul and lifted
him with a delightful sense of inner expansion to a state where fear was
merged in joy.

For some minutes the voice of Miriam, murmuring so close before him that
he could feel her very breath, was caught in the greater volume of the
violin and bass. Then, suddenly, both Skale and violin ceased together,
and he heard her voice emerge alone. With a little rush like that of a
singing flame, it dropped down on to the syllables of his name--his ugly
and ridiculous outer and ordinary name:

"ROBERTSPINROBIN ... ROBERTSPINROBIN ..." he heard; and the sound flowed
and poured about his ears like the murmur of a stream through summer
fields. And, almost immediately, with it there came over him a sense of
profound peace and security. Very soon, too, he lost the sound
itself--did not hear it, as sound, for it grew too vast and enveloping.
The sight of Miriam's face also he lost. He grew too close to her to see
her, as object. Both hearing and sight merged into something more
intimate than either. He and the girl were together--one consciousness,
yet two aspects of that one consciousness.

They were two notes singing together in the same chord, and he had lost
his little personality, only to find it again, increased and redeemed, in
an existence that was larger.

It seemed to Spinrobin--for there is only his limited phraseology to draw
from--that the incantation of her singing tones inserted itself between
the particles of his flesh and separated them, ran with his blood,
covered his skin with velvet, flowed and purred in the very texture of
his mind and thoughts. Something in him swam, melted, fused. His inner
kingdom became most gloriously extended....

His soul loosened, then began to soar, while something at the heart of
him that had hitherto been congealed now turned fluid and alive. He was
light as air, swift as fire. His thoughts, too, underwent a change: rose
and fell with the larger rhythm of new life as the sound played upon
them, somewhat as wind may rouse the leaves of a tree, or call upon the
surface of a deep sea to follow it in waves. Terror was nowhere in his
sensations; but wonder, beauty and delight ran calling to one another
from one wave to the next, as this tide of sound moved potently in the
depths of his awakening higher consciousness. The little reactions of
ordinary life spun away from him into nothingness as he listened to a
volume of sound that was oceanic in power and of an infinite splendor:
the creative sound by which God first called him into form and
being--the true inner name of his soul.

...Yet he no longer consciously listened... no longer, perhaps,
consciously heard. The name of the soul can sound only in the soul, where
no speech is, nor any need for such stammering symbols. Spinrobin for the
first time knew his true name, and that was enough.

It is impossible to translate into precise language this torrent of
exquisite sensation that the girl's voice awakened. In the secret
chambers of his imagination Spinrobin found the _thoughts_, perhaps, that
clothed it with intelligible description for himself, but in speaking of
it to others he becomes simply semi-hysterical, and talks a kind of
hearty nonsense. For the truth probably is that only poetry or music can
convey any portion of a mystical illumination, otherwise hopelessly
incommunicable. The outer name had acted as a conductor to the inner name
beyond. It filled the room, and filled some far vaster space that opened
out above the room, about the house, above the earth, yet at the same
time was deep, deep down within his own self. He passed beyond the
confines of the world into those sweet, haunted gardens where Cherubim
and Seraphim--vast Forces--continually do sing. It floated him off his
feet as a rising tide overtakes the little shore-pools and floats them
into its own greatness, and on the tranquil bosom of these giant swells
he rose into a state that was too calm to be ecstasy, yet too glorious to
be mere exaltation.

And as his own little note of personal aspiration soared with this vaster
music to which it belonged, he felt mounting out of himself into a
condition where at last he was alive, complete and splendidly important.
His sense of insignificance fled. His ordinary petty and unvalued self
dropped away flake by flake, and he realized something of the essential
majesty of his own real Being as part of an eternal and wonderful Whole.
The little painful throb of his own limited personality slipped into the
giant pulse-beat of a universal vibration.

In his normal daily life, of course, he lost sight of this Whole, blinded
by the details seen without perspective, mistaking his little personality
for all there was of him; but now, as he rose, whirling, soaring, singing
in the body of this stupendous music, he understood with a rush of
indescribable glory that he was part and parcel of this great chord--this
particular chord in which Skale, Mrs. Mawle and Miriam also sang their
harmonious existences--that this chord, again, was part of a vaster music
still, and that all, in the last resort, was a single note in the divine
Utterance of God.

That is, the little secretary, for the first time in his existence, saw
life as a whole, and interpreted the vision so wondrous sweet and simple,
with the analogies of sound communicated to his subliminal mind by the
mighty Skale. Whatever the cause, however, the fine thing was that he
saw, heard, knew. He was of value in the scheme. In future he could pipe
his little lay without despair.

Moreover, with a merciless clarity of vision, he perceived an even
deeper side of truth, and understood that the temporary discords were
necessary, just as evil, so-called, is necessary for the greater final
perfection of the Whole. For it came to him with the clear simplicity of
a child's vision that the process of attuning his being to the right note
must inevitably involve suffering and pain: the awful stretching of the
string, the strain of the lifting vibrations, the stress at first of
sounding in harmony with all the others, and the apparent loss of one's
own little note in order to do so...

This point he reached, it seems, and grasped. Afterwards, however, he
entered a state where he heard things no man can utter because no
language can touch transcendental things without confining or destroying
them. In attempting a version of them he merely becomes unintelligible,
as has been said. Yet the mere memory of it brings tears to his blue eyes
when he tries to speak of it, and Miriam, who became, of course, his
chief confidant, invariably took it upon herself to stop his futile
efforts with a kiss.

* * * * *

So at length the tide of sound began to ebb, the volume lessened and grew
distant, and he found himself, regretfully, abruptly, sinking back into
what by comparison was mere noise. First, he became conscious that he
listened--heard--saw; then, that Miriam's voice still uttered his name
softly, but his ordinary, outer name, Robertspinrobin; that he noticed
her big grey eyes gazing into his own, and her lips moving to frame the
syllables, and, finally, that he was sitting in the armchair, trembling.
Joy, peace, wonder still coursed through him like flames, but dying
flames. Mr. Skale's voice next reached him from the end of the room. He
saw the fireplace, his own bright and pointed pumps, the tea table where
they had drunk tea, and then, as the clergyman strode towards him over
the carpet, he looked up, faint with the farewell of the awful
excitement, into his face. The great passion of the experience still
glowed and shone in him like a furnace.

And there, in that masterful bearded visage, he surprised an expression
so tender, so winning, so comprehending, that Spinrobin rose to his feet,
and taking Miriam by the hand, went to meet him. There the three of them
stood upon the mat before the fire. He felt overwhelmingly drawn to the
personality of the man who had revealed to him such splendid things, and
in his mind stirred a keen and poignant regret that such knowledge could
not be permanent and universal, instead of merely a heavenly dream in the
mind of each separate percipient. Gratitude and love, unknown to him
before, rose in his soul. Spinrobin, his heart bursting as with flames,
had cried aloud, "You have called me by my name and I am free!... You
have named me truly and I am redeemed!..." And all manner of speech,
semi-inspirational, was about to follow, when Mr. Skale suddenly moved to
one side and raised his arm. He pointed to the mirror.

Spinrobin was just tall enough to see his own face in the glass, but
the glimpse he caught made him stand instantly on tiptoe to see more.
For his round little countenance, flushed as it was beneath its fringe
of disordered feathery hair, was literally--transfigured. A glory,
similar to the glory he had seen that same evening upon the face of the
housekeeper, still shone and flickered about the eyes and forehead. The
signature of the soul, brilliant in purity, lay there, transforming the
insignificance of the features with the grandeur and nobility of its
own power.

"I am honored,--too gloriously honored!" was the singular cry that
escaped his lips, vainly seeking words to express an emotion of the
unknown, "I am honored as the sun... and as the stars...!"

And so fierce was the tide of emotion that rose within him at the sight,
so strong the sense of gratitude to the man and girl who had shown him
how his true Self might contain so great a glory, that he turned with a
cry like that of a child bewildered by the loss of some incomprehensible
happiness--turned and flung himself first upon the breast of the big
clergyman, and then into the open arms of the radiant Miriam, with sobs
and tears of wonder that absolutely refused to be restrained.

Chapter VI


The situation at this point of his amazing adventure seems to have been
that the fear Spinrobin felt about the nature of the final Experiment was
met and equalized by his passionate curiosity regarding it. Had these
been the only two forces at work, the lightest pressure in either
direction would have brought him to a decision. He would have accepted
the challenge and stayed; or he would have hesitated, shirked, and left.

There was, however, another force at work upon which he had hardly
calculated at the beginning, and that force now came into full
operation and controlled his decision with margin and to spare. He
loved Miriam; and even had he not loved her, it is probable that her
own calm courage would have put him to shame and made him "face the
music." He could no more have deserted her than he could have deserted
himself. The die was cast.

Moreover, if the certainty that Mr. Skale was trafficking in dangerous
and unlawful knowledge was formidable enough to terrify him, for Miriam,
at least, it held nothing alarming. She had no qualms, knew no
uneasiness. She looked forward to the end with calmness, even with joy,
just as ordinary good folk look forward to a heaven beyond death. For she
had never known any other ideal. Mr. Skale to her was father, mother and
God. He had brought her up during all the twenty years of her life in
this solitude among the mountains, choosing her reading, providing her
companionship, training her with the one end in view of carrying out his
immense and fire-stealing purpose.

She had never dreamed of any other end, and had been so drilled with the
idea that this life was but a tedious training-place for a worthier state
to come, that she looked forward, naturally enough, with confidence and
relief to the great Experiment that should bring her release. She knew
vaguely that there was a certain awful danger involved, but it never for
one instant occurred to her that Mr. Skale could fail. And, so far,
Spinrobin had let no breath of his own terror reach her, or attempted
ever to put into her calm mind the least suggestion that the experiment
might fail and call down upon them the implacable and destructive forces
that could ruin them body and soul forever. For this, plainly expressed,
was the form in which his terror attacked him when he thought about it.
Skale was tempting the Olympian powers to crush him.

It was about this time, however, as has been seen from a slight incident
in the last chapter, that a change began to steal, at first
imperceptibly, then obviously, over their relations together. Spinrobin
had been in the house three weeks--far longer, no doubt, than any of the
other candidates. There only remained now the final big tests. The
preliminary ones were successfully passed. Miriam knew that very soon the
moment would come for him to stay--or go. And it was in all probability
this reflection that helped her to make certain discoveries in herself
that at first she did not in the least understand.

Spinrobin, however, understood perfectly. His own heart made him
intuitive enough for that. And the first signs thrilled and moved him
prodigiously. His account of it all is like no love story that has ever
been heard, for in the first place this singular girl hardly breathed
about her the reality of an actual world. She had known nothing beyond
the simple life in this hollow of the hills on the one hand, and on the
other the portentous conceptions that peopled the region of dream
revealed by the clergyman. And in the second place she had no standards
but her own instincts to judge by, for Mrs. Mawle, in spite of her
devotion to the girl, suffered under too great disabilities to fill the
place of a mother, while Mr. Skale was too lost in his vast speculations
to guide her except in a few general matters, and too sure of her at the
same time to reflect that she might ever need detailed guidance. Her
exceedingly natural and wholesome bringing-up on the one hand, and her
own native purity and good sense on the other, however, led her fairly
straight; while the fact that Spinrobin, with his modesty and his fine
aspirations, was a "little gentleman" into the bargain, ensured that no
unlawful temptation should be placed in her way, or undue pressure, based
upon her ignorance, employed.


They were coming down one afternoon from the mountains soon after the
test of calling his name, and they were alone, the clergyman being
engaged upon some mysterious business that had kept him out of sight all
day. They did not talk much, but they were happy in each other's company,
Spinrobin more than happy. Much of the time, when the ground allowed,
they went along hand in hand like children.

"Miriam," he had asked on the top of the moors, "did I ever tell you
about Winky--my little friend Winky?" And she had looked up with a smile
and shaken her head. "But I like the name," she added; "I should like to
hear, please." And he told her how as a boy he had invoked various folk
to tease his sister, of whom Winky was chief, but in telling the story he
somehow or other always referred to the little person by name, and never
once revealed his sex. He told, too, how he sat all night on the lawn
outside his sister's window to intercept the expected visit.

"Winky," she said, speaking rather low, "is a true name, of course.
You really created Winky--called Winky into being." For to her now
this seemed as true and possible as it had seemed to himself at the
age of ten.

"Oh, I really loved Winky," he replied enthusiastically, and was at the
same moment surprised to feel her draw away her hand. "Winky lived for
years in my very heart."

And the next thing he knew, after a brief silence between them, was
that he heard a sob, and no attempt to smother it either. In less than
a second he was beside her and had both her hands in his. He understood
in a flash.

"You precious baby," he cried, "but Winky was a little man. He
wasn't a girl!"

She looked up through her tears--oh, but how wonderful her grey eyes were
through tears!--and made him stand still before her and repeat his
sentence. And she said, "I know it's true, but I like to hear you say it,
and that's why I asked you to repeat it."

"Miriam," he said to her softly, kneeling down on the heather at her
feet, "there's only one name in my heart, I can tell you that. I heard it
sing and sing the moment I came into this house, the very instant I first
saw you in that dark passage. I knew perfectly well, ages and ages ago,
that one day a girl with your name would come singing into my life to
make me complete and happy, but I never believed that she would look as
beautiful as you are." He kissed the two hands he held. "Or that
she--would--would think of me as you do," he stammered in his passion.

And then Miriam, smiling down on him through her tears, bent and kissed
his feathery hair, and immediately after was on her knees in front of him
among the heather.

"I own you," she said quite simply. "I know your name, and you know mine.
Whatever happens--" But Spinrobin was too happy to hear any more, and
putting both arms round her neck, he kissed the rest of her words away
into silence.

And in the very middle of this it was that the girl gently, but very
firmly, pushed him from her, and Spinrobin in the delicacy of his mind
understood that for the first time in her curious, buried life the
primitive instincts had awakened, so that she knew herself a woman, and a
woman, moreover, who loved.

* * * * *

Thus caught in a bewildering network of curiosity, fear, wonder,
and--love, Spinrobin stayed on, and decided further that should the
clergyman approve him he would not leave. Yet his intimate relations now
with Miriam, instead of making it easier for him to learn the facts, made
it on the other hand more difficult. For he could not, of course, make
use of her affection to learn secrets that Mr. Skale did not yet wish him
to know. And, further, he had no desire to be disloyal either to him.
None the less he was sorely tempted to ask her what the final experiment
was, and what the 'empty' rooms contained. And most of all what the great
name was they were finally to utter by means of the human chord.

The emotions playing about him at this time, however, were too
complicated and too violent to enable him to form a proper judgment of
the whole affair. It seems, indeed, that this calmer adjudication never
came to him at all, for even to this day the mere mention of the
clergyman's name brings to his round cheeks a flush of that enthusiasm
and wonder which are the enemies of all sober discrimination. Skale still
remains the great battering force of his life that carried him off his
feet towards the stars, and sent his imagination with wings of fire
tearing through the Unknown to a goal that once attained should make them
all four as gods.

Chapter VII


And thus the affair moved nearer to its close. The theory and practice of
molding form by means of sound was the next bang at his mind--delivered
in the clergyman's most convincing manner, and, in view of the proofs
that soon followed, an experience that seemed to dislocate the very
foundations of his visible world, deemed hitherto secure enough at least
to stand on.

Had it all consisted merely of talk on Mr. Skale's part the secretary
would have known better what to think. It was the interludes of practical
proof that sent his judgment so awry. These definite, sensible results,
sandwiched in between all the visionary explanation, left him utterly at
sea. He could not reconcile them altogether with hypnotism. He could
only, as an ordinary man, already with a bias in the mystical direction,
come to the one conclusion that this overwhelming and hierophantic man
was actually in touch with cisterns of force so terrific as to be
dangerous to what he had hitherto understood to be--life. It was easy
enough for the clergyman, in his optimistic enthusiasm, to talk about
their leading to a larger life. But what if the experiment failed, and
these colossal powers ran amok upon the world--and upon the invokers?

Moreover--chief anxiety of all--what was this name to be experimented
with? What was the nature of this force that Skale hoped to invoke--so
mighty that it should make them "as gods," so terrible that a chord alone
could compass even the first of its stupendous syllables?

And, further, he was still haunted with the feeling that other "beings"
occupied certain portions of the rambling mansion, and more than once
recently he had wakened in the night with an idea, carried over from
dreams possibly, that the corridor outside his bedroom was moving and
alive with footsteps. "From dreams possibly," for when he went and peered
shivering through the narrow crack of the half-opened door, he saw
nothing unusual. And another time--he was awake beyond question at the
moment, for he had been reading till two o'clock and had but just
extinguished the candle--he had heard a sound that he found impossible to
describe, but that sent all the blood with a swift rush from the region
of his heart. It was not wind; it was not the wood cracking with the
frost; it was not snow sliding from the slates outside. It was something
that simultaneously filled the entire building, yet sounded particularly
loud just outside his door; and it came with the abrupt suddenness of a
report. It made him think of all the air in the rooms and halls and
passages being withdrawn by immense suction, as though a gigantic dome
had been dropped over the building in order to produce a vacuum. And just
after it he heard, unmistakably, the long soft stride of Skale going past
his door and down the whole length of the corridor--stealthily, very
quickly, with the hurry of anxiety or alarm in his silence and his speed.

This, moreover, had now happened twice, so that imagination seemed a
far-fetched explanation. And on both occasions the clergyman had remained
invisible on the day following until the evening, and had then
reappeared, quiet and as usual, but with an atmosphere of immense
vibratory force somehow about his person, and a glow in his face and eyes
that at moments seemed positively colored.

No word of explanation, however, had as yet been forthcoming of these
omens, and Spinrobin waited with what patience he could, meanwhile, for
the final test which he knew to be close upon him. And in his diary, the
pages usually left blank now because words failed him, he wrote a
portion of Anone's cry that had caught his memory and expressed a little
of what he felt:

... for fiery thoughts
Do shape themselves within me, more and more,
Whereof I catch the issue, as I hear
Dead sounds at night come from the inmost hills,
_Like footsteps upon wool_....


It was within three days of the expiration of his trial month that he
then had this conversation with the clergyman, which he understood quite
well was offered by way of preparation for the bigger tests about to
come. He has reported what he could of it; it seemed to him at the time
both plausible and absurd; it was of a piece, that is, with the rest of
the whole fabulous adventure.

Mr. Skale, as they walked over the snowy moors in the semi-darkness
between tea and dinner, had been speaking to him about the practical
results obtainable by sound-vibrations (what he already knew for that
matter), and how it is possible by fiddling long enough upon a certain
note to fiddle down a bridge and split it asunder. From that he passed on
to the scientific fact that the ultimate molecules of matter are not only
in constant whirring motion, but that also they do not actually touch one
another. The atoms composing the point of a pin, for instance, shift and
change without ceasing, and--there is space between them.

Then, suddenly taking Spinrobin's arm, he came closer, his booming tone
dropping to a whisper:

"To change the form of anything," he said in his ear, "is merely to
change the arrangement of those dancing molecules, to alter their rate of
vibration." His eyes, even in the obscurity of the dusk, went across the
other's face like flames.

"By means of sound?" asked the other, already beginning to feel eerie.

The clergyman nodded his great head in acquiescence.

"Just as the vibrations of heat-waves," he said after a pause, "can
alter the form of a metal by melting it, so the vibrations of sound can
alter the form of a thing by inserting themselves between those
whirling molecules and changing their speed and arrangement--change the
outline, that is."

The idea seemed fairly to buffet the little secretary in the face, but
Mr. Skale's proximity was too overpowering to permit of very clear
thinking. Feeling that a remark was expected from him, he managed to
ejaculate an obvious objection in his mind.

"But is there any sound that can produce vibrations fine and rapid
enough--to--er--accomplish such a result?"

Mr. Skale appeared almost to leap for pleasure as he heard it. In reality
he merely straightened himself up.

"That," he cried aloud, to the further astonishment and even alarm of his
companion, "is another part of my discovery--an essential particular of
it: the production of sound-vibrations fine and rapid enough to alter
shapes! Listen and I will tell you!" He lowered his voice again. "I have
found out that by uttering the true inner name of anything I can set in
motion harmonics--harmonics, note well, half the wave length and twice
the frequency!--that are delicate and swift enough to insert themselves
between the whirling molecules of any reasonable object--any object, I
mean, not too closely or coherently packed. By then swelling or lowering
my voice I can alter the scale, size or shape of that object almost
indefinitely, its parts nevertheless retaining their normal relative
proportions. I can scatter it to a huge scale by separating its molecules
indefinitely, or bring them so closely together that the size of the
object would be reduced to a practical invisibility!"

"Re-create the world, in fact!" gasped Spinrobin, feeling the earth he
knew slipping away under his feet.

Mr. Skale turned upon him and stood still a moment. The huge moors,
glimmering pale and unreal beneath their snow, ran past them into
the sky--silent forms corresponding to who knows what pedal notes?
The wind sighed--audible expression of who shall say what mighty
shapes?... Something of the passion of sound, with all its mystery and
splendor, entered his heart in that windy sigh. Was anything real? Was
anything permanent?... Were Sound and Form merely interchangeable symbols
of some deeper uncataloged Reality? And was the visible cohesion after
all the illusory thing?

"Re-mold the whole universe, sir!" he roared through the darkness, in a
way that made the other wish for the touch of Miriam's hand to steady
him. "I could make you, my dear Spinrobin, immense, tiny, invisible, or
by a partial utterance of your name, permanently crooked. I could
overwhelm your own vibrations and withdraw their force, as by suction of
a vacuum, absorbing yourself into my own being. By uttering the name of
this old earth, if I knew it, I could alter its face, toss the forests
like green dust into the sea, and lift the pebbles of the seashore to the
magnitude of moons! Or, did I know the true name of the sun, I could
utter it in such a way as to identify myself with its very being, and so
escape the pitiful terrors of a limited personal existence!"

He seized his companion's arm and began to stride down the mountainside
at a terrific pace, almost lifting Spinrobin from his feet as he did so.
About the ears of the panting secretary the wild words tore like bullets,
whistling a new and dreadful music.

"My dear fellow," he shouted through the night, "at the Word of Power of
a true man the nations would rush into war, or sink suddenly into eternal
peace; the mountains be moved into the sea, and the dead arise. To know
the sounds behind the manifestations of Nature, the names of mechanical
as well as of psychical Forces, of Hebrew angels, as of Christian
virtues, is to know Powers that you can call upon at will--and use! Utter
them in the true vibratory way and you waken their counterpart in
yourself and stir thus mighty psychic powers into activity in your Soul."

He rained the words down upon the other's head like a tempest.

"Can you wonder that the walls of Jericho fell flat before a 'Sound,'
or that the raging waves of the sea lay still before a voice that
called their Name? My discovery, Mr. Spinrobin, will run through the
world like a purifying fire. For to utter the true names of
individuals, families, tribes and nations, will be to call them to the
knowledge of their highest Selves, and to lift them into tune with the
music of the Voice of God."

They reached the front door, where the gleam of lamps shone with a homely
welcome through the glass panels. The clergyman released his companion's
arm; then bent down towards him and added in a tone that held in it for
the first time something of the gravity of death:

"Only remember--that to utter falsely, to pronounce incorrectly, to call
a name incompletely, is the beginning of all evil. For it is to lie with
the very soul. It is also to evoke forces without the adequate
corresponding shape that covers and controls them, and to attract upon
yourself the destructive qualities of these Powers--to your own final
disintegration and annihilation."

Spinrobin entered the house, filled with a sense of awe that was cold and
terrible, and greater than all his other sensations combined. The winds
of fear and ruin blew shrill about his naked soul. None the less he was
steadfast. He would remain to bless. Mr. Skale might be violent in mind,
unbalanced, possibly mad; but his madness thundered at the doors of
heaven, and the sound of that thundering completed the conquest of his
admiration. He really believed that when the end came those mighty doors
would actually open. And the thought woke a kind of elemental terror in
him that was not of this world--yet marvelously attractive.


That night the singular rushing sound again disturbed him. It seemed as
before to pass through the entire building, but this time it included a
greater space in its operations, for he fancied he could hear it outside
the house as well, traveling far up into the recesses of the dark
mountains. Like the sweep of immense draughts of air it went down the
passage and rolled on into the sky, making him think of the clergyman's
suggestion that some sounds might require airwaves of a hundred miles
instead of a few inches, too vast to be heard as sound. And shortly after
it followed the great gliding stride of Mr. Skale himself down the
corridor. That, at least, was unmistakable.

During the following day, moreover, Mr. Skale remained invisible.
Spinrobin, of course, had never permitted himself to search the house, or
even to examine the other rooms in his own corridor. The quarters where
Miriam slept were equally unknown to him. But he was quite certain that
these prolonged periods of absence were spent by the clergyman in some
remote part of the rambling building where there existed isolated, if not
actually secret, rooms in which he practiced the rituals of some
dangerous and intrepid worship. And these intimidating and mysterious
sounds at night were, of course, something to do with the forces he

The day was still and windless, the house silent as the grave. He walked
about the hills during the afternoon, practicing his Hebrew "Names" and
"Words" like a schoolboy learning a lesson. And all about him the slopes
of mountain watched him, listening. So did the sheet of snow, shining in
the wintry sunlight. The clergyman seemed to have put all sound in his
pocket and taken it away with him. The absence of anything approaching
noise became almost oppressive. It was a Silence that prepares. Spinrobin
went about on tiptoe, spoke to Miriam in whispers, practiced his Names in
hushed, expectant tones. He almost expected to see the moors and
mountains open their deep sides and let the Sounds of which they were the
visible shape escape awfully about him....

In these hours of solitude, all that Skale had told him, and more still
that he divined himself, haunted him with a sense of disquieting reality.
Inaudible sounds of fearful volume, invisible forms of monstrous
character, combinations of both even, impended everywhere about him. He
became afraid lest he might stumble, as Skale had done, on the very note
that should release them and bring them howling, leaping, crashing about
his ears. Therefore, he tried to make himself as small as possible; he
muffled steps and voice and personality. If he could, he would have
completely disappeared.

He looked forward to Skale's return, but when evening came he was still
alone, and he dined _tete-a-tete_ with Miriam for the first time. And
she, too, he noticed, was unusually quiet. Almost they seemed to have
entered the world of Mrs. Mawle, the silent regions of the deaf. But for
the most part it is probable that these queer impressions were due to the
unusual state of Spinrobin's imagination. He knew that it was his last
night in the place--unless the clergyman accepted him; he knew also that
Mr. Skale had absented himself with a purpose, and that the said purpose
had to do with the test of Alteration of Forms by Sound, which would
surely be upon him before the sun rose. So that, one way and another, it
was natural enough that his nerves should have been somewhat overtaxed.

The presence of Miriam and Mrs. Mawle, however, did much to soothe him.
The latter, indeed, mothered the pair of them quite absurdly, smiling all
the time while she moved about softly with the dishes, and doing her best
to make them eat enough for four. Between courses she sat at the end of
the room, waiting in the shadows till Miriam beckoned to her, and once or
twice going so far as to put her hand upon Spinrobin's shoulder

His own mind, however, all the time was full of charging visions. He kept
thinking of the month just past and of the amazing changes it had brought
into his thoughts. He realized, too, now that Mr. Skale was away,
something of the lonely and splendid courage of the man, following this
terrific, perhaps mad, ideal, day in day out, week in week out, for
twenty years and more, his faith never weakening, his belief undaunted.
Waves of pity, too, invaded him for the first time--pity for this sweet
girl, brought up in ignorance of any other possible world; pity for the
deaf old housekeeper, already partially broken, and both sacrificed to
the dominant idea of this single, heaven-climbing enthusiast; pity last
of all for himself, swept headlong before he had time to reflect, into
the audacious purpose of this violent and headstrong super-man.

All manner of emotions stirred now this last evening in his perplexed
breast; yet out of the general turmoil one stood forth more clearly than
the rest--his proud consciousness that he was taking an important part in
something really big at last. Behind the screen of thought and emotion
which veiled so puzzlingly the truth, he divined for the first time in
his career a golden splendor. If it also terrified him, that was only his
cowardice.... In the same way it might be splendid to jump into Niagara
just above the falls to snatch a passing flower that seemed more
wonderful than any he had seen before, but--!

"Miriam, tomorrow is my last day," he said suddenly, catching her grey
eyes upon him in the middle of his strange reflections. "Tonight may be
my last night in this house with you."

The girl made no reply, merely looking up and smiling at him. But the
singing sensation that usually accompanied her gaze was not present.

"That was very nearly--a discord," she observed presently, referring to
his remark. "It was out of tune!" And he realized with a touch of shame
what she meant. For it was not true that this was his last evening; he
knew really that he would stay on and that Mr. Skale would accept him.
Quick as a flash, with her simple intuition, she felt that he had said
this merely to coax from her some sign of sympathy or love. And the girl
was not to be drawn. She knew quite well that she held him and that their
fate, whatever it might be, lay together.

The gentle rebuke made him silent again. They sat there smiling at one
another across the table, and old Mrs. Mawle, sitting among the shadows
at the far end of the room, her hands crossed in front of her, her white
evening cap shining like a halo above her patient face, watched them,
also smiling. The rest of the strange meal passed without conversation,
for the great silence that all day had wrapped the hills seemed to have
invaded the house as well and laid its spell upon every room. A deep
hush, listening and expectant, dropped more and more about the building
and about themselves.

After dinner they sat for twenty minutes together before the library
fire, their toes upon the fender, for, contrary to her habit, Miriam had
not vanished at once to her own quarters.

"We're not alone here," remarked Spinrobin presently, in a low voice, and
she nodded her head to signify agreement. The presence of Mr. Skale when
he was in the house but invisible, was often more real and tremendous
than when he stood beside them and thundered. Some part of him, some
emanation, some potent psychic messenger from his personality, kept them
closely company, and tonight the secretary felt it very vividly. His
remark was really another effort to keep in close touch with Miriam, even
in thought. He needed her more than ever in this sea of silence that was
gathering everywhere about him. Gulf upon gulf it rose and folded over
him. His anxiety became every moment more acute, and those black serpents
of fear that he dreaded were not very far away. By every fiber in his
being he felt certain that a test which should shake the very foundations
of his psychical life was slowly and remorselessly approaching him.

Yet, though he longed to speak outright and demand of Miriam what she
knew, and especially that she should reveal the place of the clergyman's
concealment and what portent it was that required all this dread and
muted atmosphere for its preparation, he kept a seal upon his lips,
realizing that loyalty forbade, and that the knowledge of her contempt
would be even worse than the knowledge of the truth.

And so in due course she rose to go, and as he opened the door for her
into the hall, she paused a moment and turned towards him. A sudden
inexplicable thrill flashed through him as she turned her eyes upon his
face, for he thought at first she was about to speak. He has never
forgotten the picture as she stood there so close to his side, the
lamplight on her slim figure in its white silk blouse and neat dark
skirt, the gloom of the unlit hall and staircase beyond--stood there an
instant, then put both her arms about his neck, drew him down to her, and
kissed him gently on both cheeks. Twice she kissed him, then was gone
into the darkness, so softly that he scarcely heard her steps, and he
stood between the shadows and the light, her perfume still lingering, and
with it the sweet and magical blessing that she left behind. For that
caress, he understood, was the innocent childlike caress of their first
days, and with all the power of her loving little soul in it she had
given him the message that he craved: "Courage! And keep a brave heart,
dear Spinny, _tonight_!"

Chapter VIII


Spinrobin lingered a while in the library after Miriam was gone, then
feeling slightly ill at ease in the room now that her presence was
withdrawn, put the lights out, saw that the windows were properly barred
and fastened, and went into the hall on his way to bed.

He looked at the front door, tried the chain, and made sure that both
top and bottom bolts were thrown. Why he should have taken these
somewhat unusual precautions was not far to seek, though at the moment
he could not probably have explained. The desire for protection was
awake in his being, and he took these measures of security and defense
because it sought to express itself, as it were, even automatically.
Spinrobin was afraid.

Up the broad staircase he went softly with his lighted candle, leaving
the great hall behind him full to the brim with shadows--shadows that
moved and took shape. His own head and shoulders in monstrous outline
poured over the walls and upper landings, and thence leaped to the
skylight overhead. As he passed the turn in the stairs, the dark
contents of the hall below rushed past in a single mass, like an
immense extended wing, and settled abruptly at his back, following him
thence to the landing.

Once there, he went more quickly, moving on tiptoe, and so reached his
own room halfway down. He passed two doors to get there; another two lay
beyond; all four, as he believed, being always locked. It was these four
rooms that conjured mightily with his imagination always, for these were
the rooms he pictured to himself, though without a vestige of proof, as
being occupied. It was from the further ones--one or other of them--he
believed Mr. Skale came when he had passed down the corridor at two in
the morning, stealthily, hurriedly, on the heels of that rush of sound
that made him shake in his bed as he heard it.

In his own room, however, surrounded by the familiar and personal objects
that reminded him of normal life, he felt more at home. He undressed
quickly, all his candles alight, and then sat before the fire in the
armchair to read a little before getting into bed.

And he read for choice Hebrew--Hebrew poetry, and on this particular
occasion, the books of Job and Ezekiel. For nothing had so soothing and
calming an effect upon him as the mighty yet simple imagery of these
sonorous stanzas; they invariably took him "out of himself," or at any
rate out of the region of small personal alarms. And thus, letting his
fancy roam, it seems, he was delighted to find that gradually the fears
which had dominated him during the day and evening disappeared. He passed
with the poetry into that region of high adventure which his nature in
real life denied him. The verses uplifted him in a way that made his
recent timidity seem the mere mood of a moment, or at least negligible.
His memory, as one thing suggested another, began to give up its dead,
and some of Blake's drawings, seen recently in London with prodigious
effect, began to pass vividly before his mental vision.

The symbolism of what he was reading doubtless suggested the memory. He
felt himself caught in the great invisible nets of wonder that forever
swept the world. The littleness of modern life, compared to that ancient
and profound spirit which sought the permanent things of the soul,
haunted him with curious insistence. He suffered a keen, though somewhat
mixed realization of his actual insignificance, yet of his potential
sublimity could he but identify himself with his ultimate Self in the
region of vision.... His soul was aware of finding itself alternately
ruffled and exalted as he read ... and pondered ... as he visualized to
some degree the giant Splendors, the wonderful Wheels, the spirit Wings
and Faces and all the other symbols of potent imagery evoked by the
imagination of that old Hebrew world....

So that when, an hour later, pacified and sleepy, he rose to go to bed,
this poetry seems to have left a very marked effect upon his
mind--mingled, naturally enough, with the thought of Mr. Skale. For on
his way across the floor, having adjusted the fire-screen, he distinctly
remembered thinking what a splendid "study" the clergyman would have made
for one of Blake's representations of the Deity--the flowing beard, the
great nose, the imposing head and shoulders, the potentialities of the
massive striding figure, surrounded by a pictorial suggestion of all the
sound-forces he was forever talking about....

This thought was his last, and it was without fear of any kind. Merely,
he insists, that his imagination was touched, and in a manner perfectly
accountable, considering the ingredients of its contents at the time.

And so he hopped nimbly into bed. On the little table beside him stood
the candle and the copy of the Hebrew text he had been reading, with its
parallel columns in the two languages. His Jaeger slippers were beneath
the chair, his clothes, carefully folded, on the sofa, his collar, studs
and necktie in a row on the top of the mahogany chest of drawers. On the
mantelpiece stood the glass jar of heather, filled that very day by
Miriam. He saw it just as he blew out the candle, and Miriam,
accordingly, was the last vision that journeyed with him into the country
of dreams and sweet forgetfulness.

The night was perfectly still. Winter, black and hard, lay about the
house like an iron wall. No wind stirred. Snow covered the world of
mountain and moor outside, and Silence, supreme at midnight, poured all
her softest forces upon the ancient building and its occupants.
Spinrobin, curled up in the middle of the big four-poster, slept like a
tired baby.


It was a good deal later when somewhere out of that mass of silence rose
the faint beginnings of a sound that stirred first cautiously about the
very foundations of the house, and then, mounting inch by inch, through
the hall, up the staircase, along the corridor, reached the floor where
the secretary slept so peacefully, and finally entered his room. Its
muffled tide poured most softly over all. At first only this murmur was
audible, as of "footsteps upon wool," of wind or drifting snow, a mere
ghost of sound; but gradually it grew, though still gentle and subdued,
until it filled the space from ceiling unto floor, pressing in like water
dripping into a cistern with ever-deepening note as its volume increased.
The trembling of air in a big belfry where bells have been a-ringing
represents best the effect, only it was a trifle sharper in
quality--keener, more alive.

But, also, there was something more in it--something gong-like and
metallic, yet at the same time oddly and suspiciously human. It held a
temper, too, that somehow woke the "panic sense," as does the hurried
note of a drum--some quick emotional timbre that stirs the sleeping
outposts of apprehension and alarm. On the other hand, it was constant,
neither rising nor falling, and thus ordinarily, it need not have stirred
any emotion at all--least of all the emotion of consternation. Yet, there
was that in it which struck at the root of security and life. It was a
revolutionary sound.

And as it took possession of the room, covering everything with its
garment of vibration, it slipped in also, so to speak, between the
crevices of the sleeping, unprotected Spinrobin, coloring his dreams--his
innocent dreams--with the suggestion of nightmare dread. Of course, he
was too deeply wrapped in slumber to receive the faintest intimation of
this waking analysis. Otherwise he might, perhaps, have recognized the
kind of primitive, ancestral dread his remote forefathers knew when the
inexplicable horror of a tidal wave or an eclipse of the sun overwhelmed
them with the threatened alteration of their entire known universe.

The sleeping figure in that big four-poster moved a little as the tide of
sound played upon it, fidgeting this way and that. The human ball
uncoiled, lengthened, straightened out. The head, half hidden by folds of
sheet and pillowcase, emerged.

Spinrobin unfolded, then opened his eyes and stared about him,
bewildered, in the darkness.

"Who's there? Is that you--anybody?" he asked in a whisper, the confusion
of sleep still about him.

His voice seemed dead and smothered, as though the other sound
overwhelmed it. The same instant, more widely awake, he realized that his
bedroom was _humming_.

"What's that? What's the matter?" he whispered again, wondering uneasily
at the noise.

There was no answer. The vague dread transferred itself adroitly from his
dream-consciousness to his now thoroughly awakened mind. It began to dawn
upon him that something was wrong. He noticed that the fire was out, and
the room dark and heavy. He realized dimly the passage of time--a
considerable interval of time--and that he must have been asleep several
hours. Where was he? _Who_ was he? What, in the name of mystery and
night, had been going on during the interval? He began to shake all
over--feverishly. Whence came this noise that made everything in the
darkness tremble?

As he fumbled hurriedly for the matchbox, his fingers caught in the folds
of pillowcase and sheet, and he struggled violently to get them clear
again. It was while doing this that the impression first reached him that
the room was no longer quite the same. It had changed while he slept.
Even in the darkness he felt this, and shuddering pulled the blankets
over his head and shoulders, for this idea of the changed room plucked at
the center of his heart, where terror lay waiting to leap out upon him.

After what seemed five minutes he found the matchbox and struck a light,
and all the time the torrent of sound poured about his ears with such an
effect of bewilderment that he hardly realized what he was doing. A
strange terror poured into him that _he_ would change with the room. At
length the match flared, and while he lit the candle with shaking
fingers, he looked wildly, quickly about him. At once the sounds rushed
upon him from all directions, burying him, so to speak, beneath vehement
vibrations of the air that rained in upon him.... Yes, the room had
indeed changed, actually changed ... but before he could decide where the
difference lay the candle died down to a mere spark, waiting for the wick
to absorb the grease. It seemed like half an hour before the yellow
tongue grew again, so that he finally saw clearly.

But--saw what? Saw that the room had horribly altered while he slept,
yes! But how altered? What in the name of all the world's deities was the
matter with it? The torrent of sound, now growing louder and louder, so
confused him at first, and the dancing patchwork of light and shadow the
candle threw so increased his bewilderment, that for some minutes he
sought in vain to steady his mind to the point of accurate observation.

"God of my Fathers!" cried Spinrobin at last under his breath, and hardly
knowing what he said, "if it's not moving!"

For this, indeed, was what he saw while the candle flame burned steadily
upon a room that was no longer quite recognizable.

At first, with the natural exaggeration due to shock, he thought the
whole room moved, but as his powers of sight came with time to report
more truly, he perceived that this was only true of certain things in it.
It was not the ceiling that poured down in fluid form to meet a floor
ever gliding and shifting forward into outlandish proportions, but it was
certain objects--one here, another there--midway between the two that,
having assumed new and unaccustomed outlines, lent to the rest of the
chamber a general appearance of movement and an entirely altered
expression. And these objects, he perceived, holding tightly to the
bedclothes with both hands as he stared, were two: the dark,
old-fashioned cupboard on his left, and the plush curtains that draped
the window on his right. He himself, and the bed and the rest of the
furniture were stationary. The room as a whole stood still, while these
two common and familiar articles of household furnishing took on a form
and an expression utterly foreign to what he had always known as a
cupboard and a curtain. This outline, this expression, moreover, if not
actually sinister, was grotesque to the verge of the sinister: monstrous.

The difficulty of making any accurate observation at all was further
increased by the perplexity of having to observe two objects, not even on
the same side of the room. Their outlines, however, Spinrobin claims,
altered very slowly, wavering like the distorted reflections seen in
moving water, and unquestionably obeying in some way the pitch and volume
of the sound that continued to pour its resonant tide about the room. The
sound manipulated the shape; the connection between the two was evident.
That, at least, he grasped. Somebody hidden elsewhere in the house--Mr.
Skale probably, of course, in one of his secret chambers--was
experimenting with the "true names" of these two "common objects,"
altering their normal forms by inserting the vibrations of sound between
their ultimate molecules.

Only, this simple statement that his clearing mind made to itself in no
way accounted for the fascination of horror that accompanied the
manifestation. For he recognized it as the joy of horror and not alone
the torment. His blood ran swiftly to the rhythm of these humming
vibrations that filled the space about him; and his terror, his
bewilderment, his curious sense of elation seemed to him as messengers of
far more terrific sensations that communicated to him dimly the rushing
wonder of some aspect of the Unknown in its ultimate nature essentially

This, however, only dawned upon him later, when the experiment was
complete and he had time to reflect upon it all next day; for, meanwhile,
to see the proportions he had known since childhood alter thus before his
eyes was unbelievably dreadful. To see your friend sufficiently himself
still to be recognizable, yet in essentials, at the same time,
grotesquely altered, would doubtless touch a climax of distress and
horror for you. The changing of these two things, so homely and
well-known in themselves, into something that was not themselves,
involved an idea of destruction that was worse than even death, for it
meant that the idea in the mind no longer corresponded to the visible
object there before the eyes. The correspondence was no longer a true
one. The result was a lie.

To describe the actual forms assumed by these shifting and wavering
bodies is not possible, for when Spinrobin gives the details one simply
fails to recognize either cupboard or curtain. To say that the dark,
lumbering cupboard, standing normally against the wall down there in the
shadows, loomed suddenly forward and upward, bent, twisted, and stretched
out the whole of one side towards him like a misshapen arm, can convey
nothing of the world of new sensations that the little secretary felt
while actually watching it in progress in that haunted chamber of Skale's
mansion among the hills. Nor can one be thrilled with the extraordinary
sense of wonder that thrilled Spinrobin when he saw the faded plush
curtain hang across the window in such a way that it might well have
wrapped the whole of Wales into a single fold, yet without extending its
skirts beyond the actual walls of the room. For what he saw apparently
involved contradictions in words, and the fact is that no description of
what he saw is really possible at all.

"Hark! By thunder!" he exclaimed, creeping out of bed with sheer stress
of excitement, while the sounds poured up through the floor as though
from cellars and tunnels where they lay stored beneath the house. They
sang and trembled about him with the menaces of a really exquisite alarm.
He moved cautiously out into the center of the room, not daring to
approach too close to the affected objects, yet furiously anxious to
discover how it was all done. For he was uncommonly "game" through it
all, and had himself well in hand from beginning to end. He was really
too excited, probably, to feel ordinary fear; it all swept him away too
mightily for that; he did not even notice the sting of the hot
candle-grease as it fell upon his bare feet.

There he stood, plucky little Spinny, steady amid this shifting world,
master of his soul amid dissolution, his hair pointing out like ruffled
feathers, his blue eyes wide open and charged with a speechless wonder,
his face pale as chalk, lips apart, jaw a trifle dropped, one hand in the
pocket of his dressing-gown, and the other holding the candle at an angle
that showered grease upon the carpet of the Rev. Philip Skale as well as
upon his own ankles. There he stood, face to face with the grotesque
horror of familiar outlines gone wrong, the altered panorama of his known
world moving about him in a strange riot of sound and form. It was, he
understood, an amazing exhibition of the transforming power of sound--of
sound playing tricks with the impermanence and the illusion of Form.
Skale was making his words good.

And behind the scenes he divined, with a shudder of genuine admiration,
the figure of the master of the ceremonies, somehow or other grown
colossal, as he had thought of him just before going to sleep--Philip
Skale, hidden in the secret places of the building, directing the
operations of this dreadful aspect of his revolutionary Discovery.... And
yet the thought brought a measure of comfort in its train, for was he not
also himself now included in the mighty scheme?... In his mind he saw
this giant Skale, with his great limbs and shoulders, his flowing, shaggy
beard, his voice of thunder and his portentous speculations, and, so
doing, felt himself merged in a larger world that made his own little
terrors and anxieties of but small account. Once again the sense of his
own insignificance disappeared as he realized that at last he was in the
full flood of an adventure that was providing the kind of escape he had
always longed for.

Inevitably, then, his thought flew to Miriam, and as he remembered her
final word to him a few short hours ago in the hall below, he already
felt ashamed of the fear with which he had met the beginning of the
"test." He instantly felt steeped instead in the wonder and power of the
whole thing. His mind, though still trembling and shaken, came to rest.
He drew, that is, upon the larger powers of the Chord.

And the interesting thing was that the moment this happened he noticed a
change begin to come over the room. With extraordinary swiftness the tide
of vibration lessened and the sound withdrew; the humming seemed to sink
back into the depths of the house; the thrill and delight of his recent
terrors fled with it. The air gradually ceased to shake and tremble; the
furniture, with a curious final shiver as of spinning coins about to
settle, resumed its normal shape. Once more the room, and with it the
world, became commonplace and dull. The test apparently was over. He had
met it with success.

Spinrobin, holding the candle straight for the first time, turned back
towards the bed. He caught a passing glimpse of himself in the mirror as
he went--white and scattered he describes his appearance.... He climbed
again into bed, blew the candle out, put the matchbox under his pillow
within easy reach, and so once more curled himself up into a ball and
composed himself to sleep.

Chapter IX


But he was hardly settled--there had not even been time to warm the
sheets again--when he was aware that the test, instead of being over,
was, indeed, but just beginning; and the detail that conveyed this
unwelcome knowledge to him, though small enough in itself, was yet
fraught with a crowded cargo of new alarms. It was a step upon the
staircase, approaching his room.

He heard it the instant he lay still in bed after the shuffling process
known generally as "cuddling down." And he knew that it was approaching
because of the assistance the hall clock brought to his bewildered ears.
For the hall clock--a big, dignified piece of furniture with a deep
note--happened just then to strike the hour of two in the morning, and
there was a considerable interval between the two notes. He first heard
the step far below in the act of leaving the flagged hall for the
staircase; then the clock drowned it with its first stroke, and perhaps a
dozen seconds later, when the second stroke had died away, he heard the
step again, as it passed from the top of the staircase on to the
polished boards of the landing. The owner of the step, meanwhile, had
passed up the whole length of the staircase in the interval, and was now
coming across the landing in a direct line towards his bedroom door.

"It _is_ a step, I suppose," it seems he muttered to himself, as with
head partially raised above the blankets he listened intently. "It's a
_step_, I mean...?" For the sound was more like a light tapping of a
little hammer than an actual step--some hard substance drumming
automatically upon the floor, while yet moving in advance. He recognized,
however, that there was intelligence behind its movements, because of the
sense of direction it displayed, and by the fact that it had turned the
sharp corner of the stairs; but the idea presented itself in fugitive
fashion to his mind--Heaven alone knows why--that it might be some
mechanical contrivance that was worked from the hall by a hand. For the
sound was too light to be the tread of a person, yet too "conscious" to
be merely a sound of the night operating mechanically. And it was unlike
the noise that the feet of any animal would make, any animal that he
could think of, that is. A four-footed creature suggested itself to his
mind, but without approval.

The puzzling characteristics of the sound, therefore, contradictory as
they were, left him utterly perplexed, so that for some little time he
could not make up his mind whether to be frightened, interested or
merely curious.

This uncertainty, however, lasted but a moment or two at the most, for an
appreciable pause outside his door was next followed by a noise of
scratching upon the panels, as of hands or paws, and then by the
shuffling of some living body that was flattening itself in an attempt to
squeeze through the considerable crack between door and flooring, and so
to enter the room.

And, hearing it, Spinrobin this time was so petrified with an
instantaneous rush of terror, that at first he dared not even move to
find the matches again under his pillow.

The pause was dreadful. He longed for brilliant light that should reveal
all parts of the room equally, or else for a thick darkness that should
conceal him from everything in the world. The uncertain flicker of a
single candle playing miserably between the two was the last thing in the
world to appeal to him.

And then events crowded too thick and fast for him to recognize any one
emotion in particular from all the fire of them passing so swiftly in and
out among his hopelessly disorganized thoughts. Terror flashed, but with
it flashed also wonder and delight--the audacity of unreflecting
courage--and more--even a breathless worship of the powers, knowledge and
forces that lifted for him in that little bedroom the vast Transparency
that hides from men the Unknown.

It is soon told. For a moment there was silence, and then he knew that
the invader had effected an entrance. There was barely time to marvel at
the snake-like thinness of the living creature that could avail itself of
so narrow a space, when to his amazement he heard the quick patter of
feet across the space of boarded flooring next the wall, and then the
silence that muffled them as they reached the carpet proper.

Almost at the same second something leaped upon his bed, and there shot
swiftly across him a living thing with light, firm tread--a creature, so
far as he could form any judgment at all, about the size of a rabbit or a
cat. He felt the feet pushing through sheets and blankets upon his body.
They were little feet; how many, at that stage, he could not guess. Then
he heard the thud as it dropped to the floor upon the other side.

The panic terror that in the dark it would run upon his bare exposed face
thus passed; and in that moment of intense relief Spinrobin gripped his
soul, so to speak, with both hands and made the effort of his life.
Whatever happened now he must have a light, be it only the light of a
single miserable candle. In that moment he felt that he would have
sacrificed all his hopes of the hereafter to have turned on a flood of
searching and brilliant sunshine into every corner of the
room--instantaneously. The thought that the creature might jump again
upon the bed and touch him before he could see, gave him energy to act.

With dashes of terror shooting through him like spears of ice, he grabbed
the matchbox, and after a frenzied entanglement again with sheets and
pillow-case, succeeded in breaking four matches in quick succession. They
cracked, it seemed to him, like pistol shots, till he half expected that
this creature, waiting there in the darkness, must leap out in the
direction of the sound to attack him. The fifth lit, and a moment later
the candle was burning dimly, but with its usual exasperating leisure and
delay. As the flare died down, then gradually rose again, he fairly
swallowed the room with a single look, wishing there were eyes all over
his body. It was a very faint light. At first he saw nothing, heard
nothing--nothing alive, that is.

"I must act! I must do something--at once!" he remembered thinking. For,
to wait meant to leave the choice and moment of attack to this other....

Cautiously, and very slowly, therefore, he wriggled to the edge of the
bed and slid over, searching with his feet for slippers, but finding
none, yet not daring to lower his eyes to look; then stood upright with
a sudden rush, shading the candle from his eyes with one hand and
peering over it.

As a rule, in moments of overwhelming emotion, the eyes search too
eagerly, too furiously, to see properly at all; but this does not seem to
have been the case with Spinrobin. The shadows ran about like water and
the flickering of the candle-flame dazzled, but there, opposite to him,
over by the darkness of the dead fireplace, he saw instantly the small
black object that was the immediate cause of his terror. Its actual shape
was merged too much in the dark background to be clearly ascertainable,
but near the top of it, where presumably the head was, the candle-flame
shone reflected in two brilliant points of light that were directed
straight upon his face, and he knew that he was looking into the eyes of
a living creature that was not the very least on the defensive. It was a
living creature, aggressive and unafraid.

For perhaps a couple of minutes--or was it seconds only?--these two
beings with the breath of life in them faced one another. Then Spinrobin
made a step cautiously in advance; lowering his candle he moved towards
it. This he did, partly to see better, partly to protect his bare legs.
The idea of protection, however, seems to have been merely instinct, for
at once this notion that it might dash forward to attack him was merged
in the unaccountable realization of a far grander emotion, as he
perceived that this "living creature" facing him was, for all its
diminutive size, both dignified and imposing. Something in its
atmosphere, something about its mysterious presentment there upon the
floor in its dark corner, something, perhaps, that flashed from its
brilliant and almost terrible eyes, managed to convey to him that it was
clothed with an importance and a significance not attached normally to
the animal world. It had "an air." It bore itself with power, with value,
almost with pride.

This incongruous impression bereft him of the sensations of ordinary
fear, while it increased the sources of his confusion. Yet it convinced.
He knew himself face to face with some form of life that was considerable
in the true sense--spiritually. It exercised a fascination over him that
was at the moment beyond either explanation or belief.

As he moved, moreover, the little dark object also moved--away from him,
as though resenting closer inspection. With action--again unlike the
action of any animal he could think of, and essentially dignified--both
rapid and nicely calculated, it ran towards the curtains behind. This
appearance of something stately that went with it was indefinable and
beyond everything impressive; for how in the world could such small
proportions and diminutive movements convey grandeur? And again Spinrobin
found it impossible to decide precisely how it moved--whether on four
legs or on two.

Keeping the two points of light always turned upon him, it shot across
the floor, leaped easily upon a chair, passed with a nimble spring from
this to a table by the wall, still too much in obscurity to permit a
proper view; and then, while the amazed secretary approached cautiously
to follow its movements better, it crawled to the edge of the table, and
in so doing passed for the first time full across the pale zone of
flickering candlelight.

Spinrobin, in that quick second, caught a glimpse of flying hair, and saw
that it moved either as a human being or as a bird--on two legs.

The same moment it sprang deftly from the high table to the mantelpiece,
turned, stood erect, and looked at him with the whole glare of the light
upon its face; and Spinrobin, bereft of all power of intelligible
sensation whatever, saw to his unutterable distress that it was--a man.
The dignity of its movements had already stirred vaguely his sense of
awe, but now the realization beyond doubt of its diminutive _human_ shape
added a singularly acute touch of horror; and it was the combination of
the two emotions, possibly, that were responsible also for the two
remarkable impulses of which he was first conscious: first, a mad desire
to strike and kill; secondly, an imperious feeling that he must hide his
eyes in some act or other of worship!

And it was then he realized that the man was--Philip Skale!

Mr. Skale, scarcely a foot high, dressed as usual in black, flowing
beard, hooked nose, lambent, flashing eyes and all, stood there upon the
mantelpiece level with his secretary's face, not three feet separating
them, and--smiled at him. He was small as a Tanagra figure, and in
perfect proportion.

It was unspeakably terrible.


"Of course--I'm dreaming," cried Spinrobin, half aloud, half to the
figure before him. He searched behind him with one hand for solid
support. "You're a dream thing. It's some awful trick--God will
protect me--!"

Mr. Skale's tiny lips moved. "No, no," his voice said, and it sounded as
from a great distance. "I'm no dream thing at all, and you are wide
awake. Look at me well. I am the man you know--Philip Skale. Look
straight into my eyes and be convinced." Again he smiled his kindly,
winning smile. "What you now see is nothing but a result of sounding my
true name in a certain way--very softly--to increase the cohesion of my
physical molecules and reduce my visible expression. Listen, and watch!"

And Spinrobin, half stupefied, obeyed, feeling that his weakening knees
must in another moment give way and precipitate him to the floor. He was
utterly unnerved. The onslaught of terror and amazement was overwhelming.
For something dreadful beyond all words lay in the sight of this man,
whom he was accustomed to reverence in his gigantic everyday shape, here
reduced to the stature of a pygmy, yet compelling as ever, terrific even
when thus dwarfed. And to hear the voice of thunder that he knew so well
come to him disguised within this thin and almost wailing tone, passed
equally beyond the limits of what he could feel as emotion or translate
into any intelligible words or gesture.

While, therefore, the secretary stood in awful wonder, doing as he was
told simply because he could do nothing else, the figure of the clergyman
moved with tiny steps to the edge of the mantelpiece, until it seemed as
though he meant in another moment to leap on to his companion's shoulder,
or into his arms. At the edge, however, he stopped--the brink of a
precipice, to him!--and Spinrobin then became aware that from his moving
lips, doll-like though bearded, his voice was issuing with an
ever-growing volume of sound and power.

Vibrations of swiftly-increasing depth and wave-length were spreading
through the air about him, filling the room from floor to ceiling. What
the syllables actually uttered may have been he was too dazed to realize,
for no degree of concentration was possible to his mind at all; he only
knew that, before his smarting eyes, with this rising of the voice to its
old dominant inflexion, the figure of Mr. Philip Skale grew likewise,
indescribably; swelled, rose, spread upwards and outwards, but with the
parts ever passing slowly in consistent inter-relation, from minute to
minute. He became, always in perfect proportion, magnified and extended.
The growing form, moreover, kept pace exactly, and most beautifully, with
the increasing tide of sonorous vibration that flooded himself, its
utterer and the whole room.

Spinrobin, it seems, had just sufficient self-control left to realize
that this sound was similar in quality to that which had first awakened
him and caused the outlines of the furniture to alter, when the sight of
Mr. Skale's form changing thus terribly before his eyes, and within the
touch of his very hand, became too much for him altogether....

What precisely happened he never knew. The sounds first enveloped him,
then drove him backwards with a sense of immense applied resistance. He
collapsed upon the sofa a few feet behind him, as though irresistibly
pushed. The power that impelled him charged vehemently through the little
room till it seemed the walls must burst asunder to give it scope, while
the sounds rose to such a volume that he figured himself drowned and
overpowered by their mighty vibrations as by the storm swells of the
Atlantic. Before he lost them as sound he seems thus to have been aware
of them as moving waves of air.... The next thing he took in was that
amid the waste of silence that now followed his inability to hear, the
figure of Philip Skale towered aloft towards the ceiling, till it seemed
positively to occupy all the available space in the room about him.

Had he dropped upon the floor instead of upon the sofa it is probable
that at this point Spinrobin would have lost consciousness, at any rate
for a period; but that sofa, which luckily for his bones was so close
behind, galvanized him sharply back into some measure of self-control
again. Being provided with powerful springs, it shot him up into the air,
whence he relapsed with a series of smaller bounds into a normal sitting
posture. Still holding the lighted candle as best he could, the little
secretary bounced upon that sofa like a tennis ball. And the violent
motion shook him into himself, as it were. His tottering universe
struggled back into shape once more. He remembered vaguely that all this
was somehow a test of his courage and fitness. And this thought,
strengthened by a law of his temperament which forced him to welcome the
sweet, mad terror of the whole adventure, helped to call out the reserves
of his failing courage.

He bounced upon his feet again--those bare feet plastered with candle
grease--and, turning his head, saw the clergyman, of incredible stature,
yet still apparently increasing, already over by the door. He was turning
the key with a hand the size--O horror!--of Spinrobin's breast. The next
moment his vast stooping body filled the entire entrance, blotting out
whole portions of the walls on either side, then was gone from the room.

Leaving the candlestick on the sofa, his heart aflame with a fearful
ecstasy of curiosity, he dashed across the floor in pursuit, but Mr.
Skale, silently and with the swiftness of a river, was already down the
stairs before he had covered half the distance.

Through the framework of the door Spinrobin saw this picture:

Skale, like some awful Cyclops, stood upon the floor of the hall some
twenty feet below, yet rearing terrifically up through the well of the
building till his head and shoulders alone seemed to fill the entire
space beneath the skylight. Though his feet rested unquestionably upon
the ground, his face, huge as a planet in the sky, rose looming and half
lighted above the banisters of this second storey, his tangled locks

Book of the day: