Part 3 out of 4
sweeping the ceiling, and his beard, like some dark river of hair,
flowing downwards through the night. And this spreading countenance of
cloud it was, hanging in the semi-darkness, that Spinrobin saw turn
slowly towards him across the faint flicker of the candlelight, look
straight down into his face, and smile. The great mouth and eyes
unquestionably smiled. And that smile, for all its vast terror, was
beyond words enchanting--like the spread laughter of a summer landscape.
Among the spaces of the immense visage--reminding him curiously of his
boyhood's conception of the Creator--Spinrobin lost himself and grew
dizzy with a deadly yet delicious faintness. The mighty tenderness, the
compassion, the splendor of that giant smile overpowered him and
swallowed him up.
For one second, in dreadful silence, he gazed. Then, rising to meet the
test with a courage that he felt might somehow involve the alteration if
not the actual destruction of his own little personality, but that also
proved his supreme gameness at the same time, he tried to smile in
return.... The strange and pitiful attempt upon his own face perhaps, in
the semi-obscurity, was not seen. He only remembers that he somehow found
strength to crawl forward and close the door with a bang, though not the
strength to turn the key and lock it, and that two seconds later, having
kicked the candle over and out in his flying leap, he was in the middle
of the bed under a confused pile of sheets and blankets, weeping with
muffled sobs in the darkness as though his heart must burst with the
wonder and terror of all he had witnessed.
For, to the simple in heart, at the end of all possible stress and strain
of emotion, comes mercifully the blinding relief of tears....
And then, although too overcome to be able to prove it even to himself,
it was significant that, lying there smothered among the bedclothes, he
became aware of the presence of something astonishingly sweet and
comforting in his consciousness. It came quite suddenly upon him; the
reaction he experienced, he says, was very wonderful, for with it the
sense of absolute safety and security returned to him. Like a terrified
child in the darkness who suddenly knows that its mother stands by the
bed, all-powerful to soothe, he felt certain that some one had moved into
the room, was close beside him, and was even trying to smooth his pillow
and arrange the twisted bedclothes.
He did not dare uncover his face to see, for he was still dominated by
the memory of Mr. Skale's portentous visage; but his ears were not so
easily denied, and he was positive that he heard a voice that called his
name as though it were the opening phrase of some sweet, childhood
lullaby. There was a touch about him somewhere, it seemed, of delicate
cool hands that brought with them the fragrance as of a scented summer
wind; and the last thing he remembered before he sank away into welcome
unconsciousness was an impression, fugitive and dreamlike, of a gentle
face, unstained and pale as marble, that bent above his pillow, and,
singing, called him away to forgetfulness and peace.
And several hours later, when he woke after a refreshing sleep to find
Mrs. Mawle smiling down upon him over a tray of steaming coffee, he
recalled the events of the night with a sense of vivid reality that if
possible increased his conviction of their truth, but without the
smallest symptom of terror or dismay. For the blessing of the presence
that had soothed him into sleep lay still upon him like a garment to
protect. The test had come and he had not wholly failed.
With something approaching amusement, he watched the housekeeper pick up
a candlestick from the middle of the floor and put his Jaeger slippers
beneath the chair, having found one by the cupboard and the other over by
"Mr. Skale's compliments and Mr. Spinrobin is not to hurry himself," he
heard her saying, as she put the tray beside the bed and went out of the
room. He looked at his watch and saw that it was after ten o'clock.
Half an hour later he was dressed and on his way downstairs, conscious
only of an overwhelming desire to see Mr. Skale, but to see him in his
normal and fatherly aspect again. For a strain of worship mingled oddly
with his devouring curiosity, and he was thirsty now for the rest of the
adventure, for the complete revelation of the Discovery in all its
bearings. And the moment he saw the clergyman in the hall he ran towards
him, scarcely realizing what it was he meant to say or do. Mr. Skale
stretched out both hands to meet him. His face was alight with pleasure.
But, before they could meet and touch, a door opened and in slipped
Miriam between them; she, too, was radiant, and her hands outstretched.
"Me first, please! Me first!" she cried with happy laughter, and before
Spinrobin realized what was happening, she had flung her arms about his
neck and kissed him. "You were splendid!" she whispered in his ear, "and
I _am_ proud of you--ever so proud!"
The next minute Skale had him by the hands.
"Well done! well done!" his voice boomed, while he gazed down into his
face with enthusiastic and unqualified approval. "It was all magnificent.
My dear little fellow, you've got the heart of a god, and, by Heavens,
you shall become as a god too! For you are worthy!" He shook him
violently by both hands, while Miriam looked eagerly on with admiration
in her wide grey eyes.
"I'm so glad, so awfully glad--" stammered the secretary, remembering
with shame his moments of vivid terror. He hardly knew what he said at
"The properties of things," thundered the clergyman, "as you have now
learned, are merely the 'muffled utterances of the Sounds that made
them.' The thing itself is its name."
He spoke rapidly, with intense ardor and with reverence. "You have seen
with your own eyes a scientific proof of my Discovery on its humblest
level--how the physical properties of objects can be manipulated by the
vibratory utterance of their true names--can be extended, reduced,
glorified. Next you shall learn that spiritual qualities--the attributes
of higher states of being--can be similarly dealt with and
harnessed--exalted, intensified, _invoked_--and that the correct
utterance of mighty Names can seduce their specific qualities into your
own soul to make you mighty and eternal as themselves, and that to call
upon the Great Names is no idle phrase.... When the time comes,
Spinrobin, you shall not shrink, you shall not shrink...." He flung his
arms out with a great gesture of delight.
"No," repeated Spinrobin, yet aware that he felt mentally battered at the
prospect, "I shall not shrink. I think--now--I can manage--anything!"
And then, watching Miriam with lingering glance as she vanished laughing
up the staircase, he followed Mr. Skale into the library, his thoughts
tearing wildly to and fro, swelling with delight and pride, thrilling
with the wonder of what was yet to come. There, with fewest possible
sentences, the clergyman announced that he now accepted him and would,
therefore, carry out the promise with regard to the bequeathal of his
property to him in the event of any untoward circumstances arising later.
He also handed to him in cash the salary for the "trial month," together
with a check for the first quarter in advance. He was beaming with the
satisfaction he felt at having found at last a really qualified helper.
Spinrobin looked into his face as they shook hands over the bargain. He
was thinking of other aspects he had seen of this amazing being but a few
hours before--the minute, the colossal, the changing-between-the-two
"I'm game, Mr. Skale," he said simply, forgetting all his recent doubts
"I know you are," the clergyman replied. "I knew it all along."
The first thing Spinrobin knew when he ran upstairs to lock away the
money in his desk was that his whole being, without his directing it,
asked a question of momentous import. He did not himself ask it
deliberately. He surprised his sub-consciousness asking it:
"WHAT IS THIS NAME THAT PHILIP SKALE FOREVER SEEKS?"
It was no longer mere curiosity that asked it, but that sense of
responsibility which in all men of principle and character lies at the
root of action and of life. And Spinrobin, for all his little weaknesses,
was a man of character and principle. There came a point when he could no
longer follow blindly where others led, even though the leader were so
grand an individual as Philip Skale. This point is reached at varying
degrees of the moral thermometer, and but for the love that Miriam had
wakened in his heart, it might have taken much longer to send the mercury
of his will so high in so short a time. He now felt responsibility for
two, and in the depths of his queer, confused, little mind stirred the
thought that possibly after all the great adventure he sought was only
the supreme adventure of a very wonderful Love.
He records these two questions at this point, and it is only just to
himself, therefore, to set them down here. To neither was the answer yet
For some days the routine of this singular household followed its normal
course, the only change being that while the secretary practiced his
Hebrew names and studied the relations between sound, color, form and the
rest, he kept himself a little better in hand, for Love is a mighty
humanizer and holds down the nose upon the grindstone of the wholesome
and practical values of existence. He turned, so to speak, and tried to
face the matter squarely; to see the adventure as a whole; to get all
round it and judge. It seems, however, that he was too much in the thick
of it to get that bird's-eye view which reduces details to the right
proportion. Skale's personality was too close, and flooded him too
violently. Spinrobin remained confused and bewildered; but also
"Coming out all right," he wrote shakily in that gilt-edged diary.
"Beginning to understand why I'm in the world. Am just as important as
anybody else--_really_. Impossible explain more." His entries were
very like telegrams, in which a man attempts to express in a lucid
shorthand all manner of things that the actual words hardly compass.
And life itself is not unlike some mighty telegram that seeks vainly
to express, between the extremes of silence and excess, all that the
soul would say....
"Skale is going too far," perhaps best expresses the daily burden of his
accumulating apprehension. "He is leading up to something that makes me
shrink--something not quite legitimate. Playing with an Olympian fire
that may consume us both." And there his telegram stopped; for how in
the world could he put into mere language the pain and distress involved
in the thought that it might at the same time consume Miriam? It all
touched appalling depths of awe in his soul. It made his heart shake. The
girl had become a part of his very self.
Vivid reactions he suffered, alternating with equally vivid enthusiasms.
He realized how visionary the clergyman's poetical talk was, but the next
minute the practical results staggered him again, as it were, back into a
state of conviction. For the poetry obscured his judgment and fired his
imagination so that he could not follow calmly. The feeling that it was
not only illogical but insane troubled him; yet the physical effects
stared him in the face, and to argue with physical results is waste of
time. One must act.
Yet how "act?" The only way that offered he accepted: he fell back upon
the habits of his boyhood, read his Bible, and at night dropped humbly
upon his knees and prayed.
"Keep me straight and pure and simple, and bless ... Miriam. Grant
that I may love and strengthen her ... and that my love may bring her
peace ... and joy ...and guide me through all this terror, I beseech
Thee, into Truth...."
For, in the beauty of his selfless love, he dared not even admit that it
was love; feeling only the highest, he could not quite correlate his
sweet and elevated passion with the common standards of what the World
called love. The humility of a great love is ever amazing.
And then followed in his prayers the more cowardly cry for ordinary
protection from the possible results of Skale's audacity. The Love of God
he could understand, but the Wrath of God was a conception he was still
unemancipated enough to dread; and a dark, portentous terror that Skale
might incur it, and that he might be dragged at its heels into some
hideous catastrophe, chased him through the days and nights. It all
seemed so unlawful, impious, blasphemous....
"... And preserve us from vain presumptions of the heart and brain, I
pray Thee, lest we be consumed.... Please, O God, forgive the insolence
of our wills ... and the ignorant daring of our spirit.... Permit
not the innocent to suffer for the guilty ... and especially
bless ... Miriam...."
Yet through it all ran that exquisite memory of the calling of his true
name in the spaces of his soul. The beauty of far-off unattainable
things hovered like a star above his head, so that he went about the
house with an insatiable yearning in his heart, a perpetual smile of
wonder upon his face, and in his eyes a gleam that was sometimes terror,
It was almost as if some great voice called to him from the mountaintops,
and the little chap was forever answering in his heart, "I'm coming! I'm
coming!" and then losing his way purposely, or hiding behind bushes on
the way for fear of meeting the great invisible Caller face to face.
And, meanwhile, the house became for him a kind of Sound-Temple as it
were, protected from desecration by the hills and desolate spaces that
surrounded it. From dawn to darkness its halls and corridors echoed with
the singing violin, Skale's booming voice, Miriam's gentle tones, and his
own plaintive yet excited note, while outside the old grey walls the air
was ever alive with the sighing of the winds and the ceaseless murmur of
falling water. Even at night the place was not silent. He understood at
last what the clergyman had told him--that perfect silence does not
exist. The universe, down to its smallest detail, sings through every
second of time.
The sounds of nature especially haunted him. He never heard the wind now
without thinking of lost whispers from the voice of God that had strayed
down upon the world to sweeten and bewilder the hearts of men--whispers
a-search for listeners simple enough to understand. And when their walks
took them as far as the sea, the dirge of the waves troubled his soul
with a kind of distressing exaltation that afflicted the very deeps of
his being. It was with a new comprehension he understood his employer's
dictum that the keynote of external nature was middle F--this employer
who himself possessed that psychic sense of absolute pitch--and that the
roar of a city, wind in forest trees, the cry of trains, the rushing of
rivers and falling water, Niagara itself, all produced this single
utterance; and he loved to sing it on the moors, Miriam laughing by his
side, and to realize that the world, literally, sang with them.
Behind all sounds he divined for the first time a majesty that appalled;
his imagination, glorified by Skale, instantly fell to constructing the
forms they bodied forth. Out of doors the flutes of Pan cried to him to
dance: indoors the echoes of yet greater music whispered in the
penetralia of his spirit that he should cry. In this extraordinary new
world of Philip Skale's revelation he fairly spun.
It was one thing when the protective presence of the clergyman was about
him, or when he was sustained by the excitement of enthusiasm, but when
he was alone, at his normal level, timid, yet adventurous, the too vivid
sense of these new things made him tremble. The terrifying beauty of
Skale's ideas; the realization in cold blood that all forms in the world
about him were silently a-singing, and might any moment vanish and
release their huge bodies into primal sounds; that the stones in the
road, the peaked hills, the very earth herself might alter in shape
before his eyes: on the other hand, that the viewless forces of life and
death might leap into visibility and form with the calling of their
names; that himself, and Skale, and Mrs. Mawle, and that pale fairy
girl-figure were all enmeshed in the same scheme with plants, insects,
animals and planets; and that God's voice was everywhere too sublimely
close--all this, when he was alone, oppressed him with a sense of things
that were too intimate and too mighty for daily life.
In these moments--so frequent now as to be almost continuous--he
preferred the safety of his ordinary and normal existence, dull though it
might be; the limited personality he had been so anxious to escape from
seemed wondrous sweet and comforting. The Terror of the approaching
Experiment with this mighty name appalled him.
The forces, thus battling within his soul, became more and more
contradictory and confused. The outcome for himself seemed to be the
result of the least little pressure this way or that--possibly at the
very last moment, too. Which way the waiting Climax might draw him was a
question impossible to decide.
And then, suddenly, the whole portentous business moved a sharp stage
nearer that hidden climax, when one afternoon Mr. Skale came up
unexpectedly behind him and laid a great hand upon his shoulder in a way
that made him positively jump.
"Spinrobin," he said, in those masterful, resonant tones that shamed his
timidity and cowardice, "are you ready?"
"For anything and everything," was the immediate reply, given almost
automatically as he felt the clergyman's forces flood into his soul
and lift him.
"The time is at hand, then," continued the other, leading his companion
by the arm to a deep leather sofa, "for you to know certain things that
for your own safety and ours, I was obliged to keep hidden till
now--first among which is the fact that this house is not, as you
Prepared as he was for some surprising announcement, Spinrobin
nevertheless started. It was so abrupt.
"Not empty!" he repeated, eager to hear more, yet quaking. He had never
forgotten the nightly sounds and steps in his own passage.
"The rooms beyond your own," said Skale, with a solemnity that amounted
to reverence, "are occupied--"
"By--" gasped the secretary.
"Captured Sounds--gigantic," was the reply, uttered almost below
The two men looked steadily at one another for the space of several
seconds, Spinrobin charged to the brim with anxious questions pressing
somehow upon the fringe of life and death, Skale obviously calculating
how much he might reveal or how little.
"Mr. Spinrobin," he said presently, holding him firmly with his eyes,
"you are aware by this time that what I seek is the correct pronunciation
of certain names--of a certain name, let us say, and that so complex is
the nature of this name that no single voice can utter it. I need a
chord, a human chord of four voices."
"After years of research and experiment," resumed the clergyman, "I have
found the first three notes, and now, in your own person, has come my
supreme happiness in the discovery of the fourth. What I now wish you to
know, though I cannot expect you to understand it all at first, is that
the name I seek is broken up into four great divisions of sound, and that
to each of these separate divisions the four notes of our chord form
introductory channels. When the time comes to utter it, each one of us
will call the syllable or sound that awakens the mighty response in one
of these immense and terrific divisions, so that the whole name will
vibrate as a single chord sung perfectly in tune."
Mr. Skale paused and drew deep breaths. This approach to his great
experiment, even in speech, seemed to exhaust him so that he was obliged
to call upon reserves of force that lay beneath. His whole manner
betrayed the gravity, the reverence, the mingled respect and excitement
And the simple truth is that at the moment Spinrobin could not find in
himself sufficient courage to ask what this fearful and prodigious name
might be. Even to put ordinary questions about the four rooms was a
little beyond him, for his heart beat like a hammer against his ribs, and
he heard its ominous drum sounding through both his temples.
"And in each of the rooms in your corridor, ready to leap forth when
called, lie the sounds or voices I have captured and imprisoned, these
separate chambers being sheeted and prepared--huge wax receptacles, in
fact, akin to the cylinders of the phonograph. Together with the form or
pattern belonging to them, and the color, there they lie at present in
silence and invisibility, just as the universe lay in silence and
invisibility before the word of God called it into objective being.
But--_know them and they are mine_."
"All these weeks--so close to me," whispered Spinrobin, too low for Skale
Then the clergyman leaned over towards him. "These captured sounds are
as yet by no means complete," he said through his beard, as though afraid
to admit it; "for all I have of them really is their initial letters, of
their forms the merest faint outlines, and of their colors but a first
suggestion. And we must be careful, we must be absolutely wise. To utter
them correctly will mean to transfer to us the qualities of Gods, whereas
to utter falsely may mean to release upon the surface of the world forces
that--" He shrugged his great shoulders and an ashen pallor spread
downwards over the face to the very lips. The sentence remained
unfinished; and its very incompleteness left Spinrobin with the most
grievous agony of apprehension he had yet experienced.
"So that, if you are ready, our next step shall be to show you the room
in which your own particular sound lies," added Mr. Skale after a long
pause; "the sound in the chord it will be your privilege to utter when
the time comes. For each of us will utter his or her particular letter,
the four together making up the first syllable in the name I seek."
Mr. Skale looked steadily down into the wide blue eyes of his companion,
and for some minutes neither of them spoke.
"The letter I am to utter," repeated the secretary at length; "the letter
in some great name?"
Mr. Skale smiled upon him with the mighty triumph of the Promethean idea
in his eyes.
"The room," he muttered deeply and softly, "in which it lies waiting for
you to claim it at the appointed time ... the room where you shall learn
its color, become attuned to its great vibratory activity, see its form,
and _know_ its power in your own person."
Again they looked long into one another's eyes.
"I'm game," murmured Spinrobin almost inaudibly; "I'm game, Mr. Skale."
But, as he said it, something in his round head turned dizzy, while his
thoughts flew to Miriam and to the clergyman's significant phrase of a
few minutes ago--"we must be careful, we must be absolutely wise."
And the preparation the clergyman insisted upon--detailed, thorough
and scrupulous--certainly did not lessen in Spinrobin's eyes the
gravity of the approaching ordeal. They spent two days and nights in
the very precise and punctilious study, and utterance, of the Hebrew
names of the "angels"--that is, forces--whose qualities were essential
to their safety.
Also, at the same time, they fasted.
But when the time came for the formal visit to those closed rooms, of
which the locked doors were like veils in a temple, Spinrobin declares it
made him think of some solemn procession down ancient passageways of
crypt or pyramid to the hidden places where inscrutable secrets lay. It
was certainly thrilling and impressive. Skale went first, moving slowly
with big strides, grave as death, and so profoundly convinced of the
momentous nature of their errand that an air of dignity, and of dark
adventure almost majestic, hung about his figure. The long corridor, that
dreary December morning, stretched into a world of shadows, and about
half-way down it he halted in front of a door next but one to Spinrobin's
room and turned towards his companion.
Spinrobin, in a mood to see anything, yet striving to hide behind one
of those "bushes," as it were, kept his distance a little, but Mr.
Skale took him by the arm and drew him forward to his side. Slowly he
stooped, till the great bearded lips were level with his ear, and
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see--and _hear_ God."
Then he turned the key and led the way inside.
But apparently there were double doors, for they found themselves at
first in a cupboard-like space that formed a tiny vestibule to the room
itself; and here there was light enough to see that the clergyman was
taking from nails on the wall two long garments like surplices, colored,
so far as Spinrobin could make out, a deep red and a deep violet.
"For our protection," whispered Skale, enveloping himself in the red one,
while he handed the other to his companion and helped him into it. "Wear
it closely about your body until we come out." And while the secretary
struggled among the folds of this cassock-like garment, that was several
feet too long for his diminutive stature, the clergyman added, still with
a gravity and earnestness that impressed the imagination beyond all reach
of the ludicrous:
"For sound and color are intimately associated, and there are
combinations of the two that can throw the spiritual body into a
condition of safe receptivity, without which we should be deaf and blind
even in the great Presences themselves."
Trivial details, presenting themselves in really dramatic moments, may
impress the mind with extraordinary aptness. At this very moment
Spinrobin's eyes noticed in the corner of wall and door a tiny spider's
web, with the spider itself hanging in the center of its little
net--shaking. And he has never forgotten it. It expressed pictorially
exactly what he felt himself. He, too, felt that he was shaking in
midair--as in the center of a web whose strands hung suspended from the
And the words, spoken in that slow deep whisper, filled the little space
in which the two men stood, and somehow completed for Spinrobin the sense
of stupendous things adequately approached.
Then Mr. Skale closed the outer door, shutting out the last feeble
glimmer of day, at the same moment turning the handle of the portal
beyond. And as they entered the darkness, Spinrobin, holding up his
violet robe with one hand to prevent tripping, with the other caught hold
of the tail of the flowing garment in front of him. For a second or two
he stopped breathing altogether.
On the very threshold a soft murmur of beauty met them; and, as plainly
as though the darkness had lifted into a blaze of light, the secretary at
once realized that he stood in the presence of something greater than all
he had hitherto known in this world. He had managed to find the
clergyman's big hand, and he held it tightly through a twisted corner of
his voluminous robe. The inner door next closed behind them. Skale, he
was aware, had again stooped in the darkness to the level of his ear.
"I'll give you the sound--the note," he heard him whisper. "Utter it
inwardly--in your thoughts only. Its vibrations correspond to the color,
and will protect us."
"Protect us?" gasped Spinrobin with dry lips.
"From being shattered and destroyed--owing to the intense activity of the
vibrations conveyed to our ultimate physical atoms," was the whispered
reply, as the clergyman proceeded to give him under his breath a
one-syllable sound that was unlike any word he knew, and that for the
life of him he has never been able to reproduce since.
Mr. Skale straightened himself up again and Spinrobin pictured him
standing there twice his natural size, a huge and impressive figure as he
had once before seen him, clothed now with the double dignity of his
strange knowledge. Then, advancing slowly to the center of the room, they
stood still, each uttering silently in his thoughts the syllable that
attuned their inner beings to safety.
Almost immediately, as the seconds passed, the secretary became aware
that the room was beginning to shake with a powerful but regular
movement. All about him had become alive. Vitality, like the vitality
of youth upon mountain tops, pulsed and whirled about them, pouring
into them the currents of a rushing glorious life, undiluted, straight
from the source. In his little person he felt both the keenness of
sharp steel and the vast momentum of a whole ocean. Thus he describes
it. And the more clearly he uttered in his thoughts the sound given to
him by his leader, the greater seemed the influx of strength and glory
into his heart.
The darkness, meanwhile, began to lift. It moved upwards in spirals that,
as they rose, hummed and sang. A soft blaze of violet like the color of
the robe he wore became faintly visible in the air. The chamber, he
perceived, was about the same size as his own bedroom, and empty of all
furniture, while walls, floor, and ceiling were draped in the same shade
of violet that covered his shoulders; and the sound he uttered, _and
thought_, called forth the color and made it swim into visibility. The
walls and ceiling sheeted with wax opened, so to speak, their giant lips.
Mr. Skale made a movement and drew him closer. He raised one arm into the
air, and Spinrobin, following the motion, saw what at first he imagined
to be vast round faces glimmering overhead, outlined darkly against the
violet atmosphere. Mr. Skale, with what seemed a horrible audacity, was
reaching up to touch them, and as he did so there issued a low, soft,
metallic sound, humming and melodious, that dropped sweetly about his
ears. Then the secretary saw that they were discs of metal--immense gongs
swinging in midair, suspended in some way from the ceiling, and each one
as Skale touched it emitted its beautiful note till all combined together
at length into a single chord.
And this chord, though Spinrobin talks whole pages in describing it,
apparently brought in its train the swell and thunder of something
beyond,--the far sweetness of exquisite harmonics, thousands upon
thousands, inwoven with the strands of deeper notes that boomed with
colossal vibrations about them. And, in some fashion that musical people
will understand, its gentler notes caught up the sound that Spinrobin was
uttering in his mind, and took possession of it. They merged. An
extraordinary volume, suggesting a huge aggregation of sound behind
it--in the same way that a murmur of wind may suggest the roar of
tempests--rose and fell through the room, lifted them up, bore them away,
sang majestically over their heads, under their feet, and through their
very minds. The vibrations of their own physical atoms fell into pace
with these other spiritual activities by a kind of sympathetic resonance.
The combination of power and simplicity was what impressed him most, it
seems, for it resembled--resembled only--the great spiritual simplicity
in Beethoven that rouses and at the same time satisfies the profoundest
yearnings of the soul. It swept him into utter bliss, into something for
once complete. And Spinrobin, at the center of his glorified yet quaking
little heart, understood vaguely that the sound he uttered, and the sound
he heard, were directly connected with the presence of some august and
Suddenly Mr. Skale, he was aware, became rigid beside him. Spinrobin
pressed closer, seeking the protective warmth of his body, and realizing
from the gesture that something new was about to happen. And something
did happen, though not precisely in the sense that things happen in the
streets and in the markets of men. In the sphere of his mind, perhaps, it
happened, but was none the less real for that.
For the Presence he had been aware of in the room from the moment of
entrance became then suddenly almost concrete. It came closer--sheeted in
wonder inscrutable. The form and body of the sounds that filled the air
pressed forward into partial visibility. Spinrobin's powers of interior
sight, he dimly realized, increased at the same time. Vast as a mountain,
as a whole range of mountains; beautiful as a star, as a whole heaven of
stars; yet simple as a flower of the field; and singing this little song
of pure glory and joy that he felt was the inmost message of the
chord--this Presence in the room sought to push forward into objective
reality. And behind it, he knew, lay the stupendous urgency and drive of
some power that held the entire universe in its pulses as easily as the
ocean holds a shoal of minnows....
But the limits of realization for him were almost reached. Spinrobin
wanted to close his eyes, yet could not. He was driven along with the
wave of sound thus awakened and forced to see what was to be seen. This
time there was no bush behind which he could screen himself. And there,
dimly sketched out of the rhythmical vibrations of the seething violet
obscurity, rose that looming Outline of wonder and majesty that clothed
itself about them with a garment as of visible sound. The Unknown,
suggesting incredible dimensions, stood at his elbow, tremendously draped
in these dim, voluminous folds of music and color--very fearful, very
seductive, yet so supremely simple at the same time that a little child
could have understood without fear.
But only partially there, only partially revealed. The ineffable glory
was never quite told. Spinrobin, amid all the torrent of words in which
he sought later to describe the experience, could only falter out a
single comprehensible sentence: "I felt like stammering in intoxication
over the first letter of a name I loved--loved to the point of
ecstasy--to the point even of giving up my life for it."
And meanwhile, breathless and shaking, he clung to Skale, still murmuring
in his heart the magic syllable, but swept into some region of glory
where pain and joy both ceased, where terror and delight merged into some
perfectly simple form of love, and where he became in an instant of time
an entirely new and emancipated Spinrobin, driving at full speed towards
the ultimate sound and secret of the universe--God.
* * * * *
He never remembered exactly how he got out of the room, but it always
seemed as though he dropped with a crash from some enormous height. The
sounds ceased; the gongs died into silence; the violet faded; the
quivering wax lay still.... Mr. Skale was moving beside him, and the next
minute they were in the narrow vestibule between the doors, hanging up
ordinary colored surplices upon ordinary iron nails.
Spinrobin stumbled. Skale caught him. They were in the corridor
again--cold, cheerless, full of December murk and shadows--and the
secretary was leaning against the clergyman's shoulder breathless and
trembling as though he had run a mile.
"And the color of _my_ sound is a pale green," he heard behind him in
tones as sweet as a muted violin string, "while the form of my note fits
into yours just like a glove. Dear Spinny, don't tremble so. We shall
always be together, remember, you and I...."
And when, turning, he saw Miriam at his side, radiant with her shining
little smile of welcome, the relief was so great that he took her in his
arms and would not let her go. She drew him tenderly away downstairs, for
the clergyman, it seemed, was still busy with something in the room, and
had left them....
"_I_ know, _I_ know," she said softly, making him sit down beside her on
the sofa, "I know the rush of pain and happiness it brings. It shifts the
whole key of your life, doesn't it? When I first went into my 'room' and
learned the letter I was to utter in the Name, I felt as if I could never
come back to ordinary things again, or--"
"What name?" interrupted Spinrobin, drawing sharply away from her, and
the same second amazed at the recklessness that had prompted the one
question he dreaded.
The inevitable reaction had come. He realized for the first time that
there _was_ an alternative. All the passion of battle was upon him. The
terrific splendors of Skale's possible achievement dazzled the very
windows of his soul, but at the same time the sweet uses of normal human
life called searchingly to him from within. He had been circling about
this fight for days; at last it was unexpectedly upon him. He might climb
to Skale's impossible Heaven, Skale's outrageous Heaven ... on the wings
of this portentous experience, or--he might sink back into the stream of
wholesome and commonplace life, with a delicious little human love to
companion him across the years, the unsoiled love of an embryonic soul
that he could train practically from birth. Miriam was beside him, soft
and yielding, ready, doubtless, to be molded for either path.
"What name?" he repeated, holding his breath once the words were out.
"_The_ name, of course," she answered gently, smiling up into his
eyes. "The name I have lived to know and that you came here to learn,
so that when our voices sing and utter it together in the chord we
shall both become--"
Spinrobin set his mouth against her own to stop her speech. She yielded
to him with her whole little body. Her eyes smiled the great human
welcome as she stared so closely into his.
"Shall become--what we are not now," he cried fiercely, drawing his face
back, but holding her body yet more closely to him. "Lose each other,
don't you see? Don't you realize that?"
"No, no," she said faintly, "find each other--you mean--"
"Yes--if all goes well!" He spoke the words very low. For perhaps thirty
seconds they stared most searchingly into each other's eyes, drawing
slightly apart. Very slowly her face, then, went exceedingly pale.
"_If--all goes well_" she repeated, horrified. Then, after a pause, she
added: "You mean--that he might make a mistake--or--?"
And Spinrobin, drinking in the sweet breath that bore the words
so softly from her lips, answered, measuring his words with ponderous
gravity as though each conveyed a sentence of life or death,
She watched him with something of that utter clinging mother-love in her
eyes that claims any degree of suffering gladly rather than the loss of
her own--passionately welcoming misery in preference to loss. She, too,
had divined the alternative.
Then, kissing his cheeks and eyes and lips, she untied his arms from
about her neck and ran, blushing furiously, from the room. And with her
went doubt, for the first time--doubt as to the success of the great
experiment--doubt as to their Leader's power.
And while Spinrobin still sat there, trembling with the two passions that
tore his soul in twain--the passion to climb forbidden skies with Skale,
and the passion to know sweet human love with Miriam--there came
thundering into the room no less a personage than the giant clergyman,
straight from those haunted rooms. Pallor hung about his face, but there
was a light radiating through it--a high, luminous whiteness--that made
the secretary think of his childhood's pictures of the Hebrew prophet
descending from Mount Sinai, the glory of internal spheres still
reflected upon the skin and eyes. Skale, like a flame and a wind, came
pouring into the room. The thing he had remained upstairs to complete
had clearly proved successful. The experiment had moved another
stage--almost the final one--nearer accomplishment.
The reaction was genuinely terrific. Spinrobin felt himself swept away
beyond all power of redemption. Miriam and the delicious human life faded
into insignificance again. What, in the name of the eternal fires, were a
girl's lips and love compared to the possibilities of Olympian
achievement promised by Skale's golden audacities? Earth faded before the
lights of heaven. The whole tide of human emotion was nothing compared to
a drop of this terrible salt brine from seas in unknown stars.... As
usual Skale's personality caught him up into some seventh heaven of the
"Spinrobin, my glorious companion in adventure," thundered the clergyman,
"your note suits perfectly the chord! I am delighted beyond all words.
You chime with amazing precision and accuracy into the complex
Master-Tone I need for the proper pronunciation of the Name! Your coming
has been an inspiration permitted of Him who owns it." His excitement was
profoundly moving. The man was in earnest if ever man was. "We shall
succeed!" And he caught him in his arms. "For the Name manifests the
essential attributes of the Being it describes, and in uttering it we
shall know mystical union with it.... We shall be as Gods!"
"Splendid! Splendid!" exclaimed Spinrobin, utterly carried away by this
spiritual enthusiasm. "I will follow you to the end--"
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when framed in the doorway,
delicate and seductive as a witch, again stood Miriam, then moved softly
forward into the room. Her face was pale as the grave. Her little,
delicate mouth was set with resolution. Clearly she had overheard, but
clearly also she had used the interval for serious reflection.
"We cannot possibly--_fail_, can we?" she asked, gliding up like a
frightened fawn to the clergyman's side.
He turned upon her, stern, even terrible. So relentless was his swift
appearance, so implacable in purpose, that Spinrobin felt the sudden
impulse to fly to her assistance. But instantly his great visage broke
into a smile like the smile of thunderous clouds when unexpectedly the
sun breaks through, then quickly hides itself again.
"Everywhere," he roared, "true things are great and clean.... Have
faith... have faith...." And he looked upon them both as though his eyes
would sweep from their petty souls all vestige of what was afraid and
immature. "We all are--pure ... we all are true ... each calls his note
in singleness of heart ... we cannot fail!"
And just here Spinrobin, a little beyond himself with excitement
probably, pattered across the room to his giant leader's side and peered
up into his visage. He stood on tiptoe, craning his neck forwards, then
spoke very low:
"I have the right, _we_ have the right--for I have earned it--to be taken
now fully into confidence, and to know everything--_everything_," came
the words; and the reply, simple and immediate, that dropped back upon
him through all that tangle of ragged beard was brief and to the point:
"You have. Listen, then--" And he led them both by the hand like two
children towards the sofa, and then, standing over them, began to speak.
"I seek," he said slowly and gravely, "the correct utterance of a certain
mighty and ineffable name, and in each of those four rooms lies a letter
of its first syllable. For all these years of research"--his voice
dropped suddenly--"have only brought me to that--the first syllable. And
the name itself is composed of four, each more mighty than the last."
A violent trembling ran over both listeners. Spinrobin, holding a cold
little hand in his, dreaded unuttered sentences. For if mere letters
could spell so vast a message, what must be the meaning of a whole
syllable, and what the dire content of the completed name itself!
"Yes," Skale went on with a reverence born of profoundest awe, "the
captured sounds I hold are but the opening vibrations of this tremendous
name, and the task is of such magnitude that absolute courage and
absolute faith are essential. For the sounds are themselves creative
sounds, and the consequences in case of faulty utterance might be too
appalling to contemplate--"
"Creative!" fell from the little man on the sofa, aghast at the
possibility. Yet the one burning question that lay trembling just behind
his lips dared not frame itself in words, for there was something in Mr.
Skale's face and manner that rendered the asking of it not yet possible.
The revelation of the name must wait.
"Even singly, as you saw, their power is terrific," he went on, ignoring
the pathetic interruption, "but united--as we shall unite them while each
of us utters his letter and summons forth the entire syllable by means of
the chord--they will constitute a Word of Power which shall make us as
Gods if uttered correctly; if incorrectly, shall pour from this house to
consume and alter the surface of the entire world with the destructive
tempest due to mispronunciation and a lie."
Miriam nestled closer into her companion's side. There was otherwise no
sign outwardly of the emotions that surged through the two little figures
upon the sofa.
"And now--now that you have this first syllable complete?" faltered a
high and sharing tenor voice.
"We must transfer it to a home where it shall wait in silence and in
safety until we have also captured the other remaining three." Skale came
forward and lowered his mouth to his companions' ears. "We shall transfer
it, as you now understand, by chanting the four letters. Our living chord
will summon forth that first syllable into visible form and shape. Our
four voices, thus trained and purified, each singing a mighty letter,
shall create the astounding pattern of the name's first syllable--"
"But the home," stammered Spinrobin; "this home where it shall await
"My rooms," was the reply, "can contain letters only, for a whole
syllable I need a larger space. In the crypt-like cellars beneath this
house I have the necessary space all ready and prepared to hold this
first syllable while we work upon the second. Come, and you shall see!"
They crossed the hall and went down the long stone passage beyond the
dining room till they reached a swinging baize door, and so came to the
dark stairs that plunged below ground. Skale strode first, Spinrobin
following with beating heart; he held Miriam by the hand; his steps,
though firm enough, made him think of his efforts as a boy when treading
water for solid ground out of his depth.
Cold air met them, yet it was neither dank nor unpleasant as air usually
is that has never tasted sunlight. There was a touch of vitality about it
wholly remarkable. Miriam pressed closer. Every detail, every little
incident that brought them nearer to the climax was now interpreted by
these two loving children as something that might eventually spell for
them separation. Yet neither referred to it directly. The pain of the
ultimate choice possessed them deep within.
"Here," exclaimed the clergyman in a hushed tone that yet woke echoes on
all sides, while he lit a candle and held it aloft, "you see the cellar
vaults all ready for the first great syllable when our chord shall bring
it leaping down from the rooms upstairs. Here will reside the pattern of
the name's opening syllable till we shall have accomplished the
construction of the others."
And like some august master of forbidden ceremonies, looking twice his
natural size as the shadows played tricks with his arms and shoulders,
merging his outline into walls and ceiling, Skale stood and looked
Spaces stretched away on all sides as in the crypt of a cathedral, most
beautifully and harmoniously draped with the separate colors of the four
rooms, red, yellow, violet and green; immense gongs, connected apparently
with some intricate network of shining wires, hung suspended in midair
beneath the arches; rising from the floor were gigantic tuning forks,
erect and silent, immediately behind which gaped artificial air-cavities
placed to increase the intensity of the respective notes when caught; and
in the dim background the clergyman pointed out an elaborate apparatus
for quickly altering the temperature of the air, and another for the
rapid production of carbonic acid gas, since by means of a lens of
carbonic acid gas sound can be refracted like light, and by changing the
temperature of the air that conveys it, sound can be bent, also like a
ray of light, in any desired direction. The whole cellar seemed in some
way to sum up and synthesize the distinctive characteristics of the four
rooms. Over it all, sheeting ceiling and walls, lay the living and
receptive wax. Singularly suggestive, too, was the appearance of those
huge metal discs, like lifeless, dark faces waiting the signal to open
their bronze lips and cry aloud, ready for the advent of the Sound that
should give them birth and force them to proclaim their mighty secret.
Spinrobin stared, silent and fascinated, almost expecting them to begin
there and then their dreadful and appalling music.
Yet the place was undeniably empty; no ghost of a sound stirred the
gorgeous draperies; nothing but a faint metallic whispering seemed to
breathe out from the big discs and forks and wires as Skale's voice,
modulated and hushed though it was, vibrated gently against them. Nothing
moved, nothing uttered, nothing lived--as yet.
"Destitute of all presence, you see it now," whispered the clergyman,
shading the candle with one huge hand; "though before long, when we
transfer our great captured syllable down here, you shall know it alive
and singing with a thousand thunders. The Letters shall not escape me.
The gongs and colors correspond exactly. They will retain both the sounds
and the outlines ... and the wax is sensitive as the heart of a child."
And his big face shone quite dreadfully as the whole pomp and splendor of
his dream come true set fire to his thoughts.
But Spinrobin was glad when at length they turned and moved slowly again
up the stone steps and emerged into the pale December daylight. That
dark cellar, wired, draped, waxed and be-gonged, awaiting its mighty
occupant, filled his mind with too vast a sensation of wonder and
anticipation for peace.
"And for the syllables to follow," Skale resumed when they were once more
in the library, "we shall want spaces larger still. There are great holes
in these hills"--stretching out an arm to indicate the mountains above
the house--"and down yonder in the heart of those cliffs by the sounding
sea there are caverns. They are far, but the distance is of no
consequence. They will serve us well. I know them. I have marked them.
They are ready."
He swept his beard to and fro with one hand. Spinrobin already saw those
holes and caverns in the terms of sound and color.
"And--for the entire name--when completed?" he asked, knowing that the
question was but a feeble substitute for that other one he burned to ask,
yet dared not allow his lips to utter. Skale turned and looked at him. He
raised his hands aloft. His voice boomed again as of old.
"The open sky!" he cried with enthusiasm; "the vault of heaven itself!
For no solid structure exists in the world, not even the ribs of these
old hills, that could withstand the power of that--of that eternal and
Spinrobin leapt to his feet. The question swept from his lips at last
like a flame. Miriam clung to his arm, trying in vain to stop him.
"Then tell me," he cried aloud, "tell me, you great blasphemer, whose is
the Name that you seek to utter under heaven ... and tell me why it is my
soul faints and is so fearfully afraid?"
Mr. Skale looked at him for a moment as a man might look at some trifling
phenomenon of life that puzzled yet interested him. But there was love in
his eyes--love, and the forgiveness of a great soul. Spinrobin, afraid at
his own audacity, met his eyes recklessly, while Miriam peered from one
to the other, perplexed and questioning.
"Spinrobin," said the clergyman at length, in a voice turned soft and
tender with compassion, "the name I seek--this awful name we may all
eventually utter together, completely formed--is one that no living man
has spoken for nigh two thousand years, though all this time the search
has been kept alive by a few men in every age and every country of the
world. Some few, they say--ah, yes, '_they say_'--have found it, then
instantly forgotten it again; for once pronounced it may not be retained,
but goes utterly lost to the memory on the instant. Only once, so far as
we may know"--he lowered his voice to a hushed and reverent whisper that
thrilled about them in the air like the throbbing of a string--"has it
been preserved: the Prophet of Nazareth, purer and simpler than all other
men, recovered the correct utterance of the first two syllables, and
swiftly--very swiftly--phonetically, too, of necessity,--wrote them down
before the wondrous memory had time to fade; then sewed the piece of
parchment into his thigh, and hence 'had Power' all his life.
"It is a name," he continued, his tone rising to something of its old
thunder, "that sounds like the voice of many waters, that piles the ocean
into standing heaps and makes the high hills to skip like little lambs.
It is a name the ancient Hebrews concealed, as Tetragrammaton, beneath a
thousand devices, the name, they said, that 'rusheth through the
universe,' to call upon which--that is, to utter correctly--is to call
upon that name which is far above all others that can be named--"
He paused midway in the growing torrent of his speech and lifted his
companion out of the sofa. He set him upon his feet, holding both his
hands and peering deep into his eyes--those bewildered yet unflinching
blue eyes of the little man who sought terrific adventure as an escape
"--to know which," he added, in a sudden awed whisper, "is to know the
ultimate secrets of life and death, and to read the riddle of the world
and the soul--to become even as itself--Gods."
He stopped abruptly, and again that awful, flaming smile ran over his
face, flushing it from chin to forehead with the power of his burning and
Spinrobin was already weeping inwardly, without sound. He understood at
last, only too well, what was coming. Skale's expression held the whole
wild glory, and the whole impious audacity of what seemed his blasphemous
spiritual discovery. The fires were alight in his eyes. He stooped down
lower and opened wide his capacious arms. The next second, Spinrobin,
Miriam, and Mrs. Mawle, who had unexpectedly come upon them from behind,
were gathered all together against his breast. His voice then dropped
suddenly to a tiny whisper of awful joy that seemed to creep from his
lips like some message too mighty to be fully known, and half lost itself
among the strands of his beard.
"My wonderful redeemed children, notes in my human chord," he whispered
over their heads, "it is the Name that shall make us as God, for it is
none other than the Name that rusheth through the universe"--his breath
failed him most curiously for an instant--"the NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY!"
A certain struggling incoherence is manifest in Spinrobin's report of it
all, as of a man striving to express violent thoughts in a language he
has not yet mastered. It is evident, for instance, as those few familiar
with the "magical" use of sound in ceremonial and the power that resides
in "true naming" will realize, that he never fully understood Skale's
intended use of the chord, or why this complex sound was necessary for
the utterance of the complex "Name."
Moreover, the powers concealed in the mere letters, while they laid hold
upon his imagination, never fully entered his understanding. Few minds,
it seems, can conceive of any deity as other than some anthropomorphic
extension of themselves, for the idea is too greatly blinding to admit
human thought within a measurable distance even of a faintest conception.
The true, stupendous nature of the forces these letters in the opening
syllable clothed, Spinrobin unquestionably never apprehended. Miriam,
with her naked and undefiled intuitions, due to utter ignorance of
worldly things from birth, came nearer to the reality; but then Miriam
was now daily more and more caught up into the vortex of a sweet and
compelling human love, and in proportion as this grew she feared the
great experiment that might--so Spinrobin had suggested--spell Loss.
Gradually dread closed the avenues of her spirit that led so fearfully to
Heaven; and in their place she saw the dear yet thorny paths that lay
with Spinny upon the earth.
They no longer, these two bewildered loving children, spoke of one
another in the far-fetched terminology of sound and music. He no longer
called her his "brilliant little sound," nor did she respond with "you
perfect echo"; they fell back--sign of a gradual concession to more human
things--upon the gentler terminology, if the phrase may be allowed, of
Winky. They shared Winky between them ... though neither one nor other of
them divined yet what Winky actually meant in their just-opening lives.
"Winky is yours," she would say, "because you made him, but he belongs to
me too, because he simply can't live without me!"
"Or I without you, Little Magic," he whispered, laughing tenderly. "So,
you see, we are all three together."
Her face grew slightly troubled.
"He only pays me visits, though. Sometimes I think you hide him, or tell
him not to come." And far down in her deep grey eyes swam the first
moisture of rising tears. "Don't you, my wonderful Spinny?"
"Sometimes I forget him, perhaps," he replied gravely, "but that is only
when I think of what may be coming if--the experiment succeeds--"
"Succeeds?" she exclaimed. "You mean if it fails!" Her voice dropped
instinctively, and they looked over their shoulders to make sure they
He came up very close to her and spoke in her small pink ear. "If it
succeeds," he whispered, "we go to Heaven, I suppose; if it fails we
stay upon the earth." Then he stood off, holding her hands at arm's
length and gazing down upon her. "Do you want to go to Heaven?" he asked
very deliberately, "or to stay here upon the earth with me and Winky--?"
She was in his arms the same second, laughing and crying with the strange
conflict of new and inexplicable emotions.
"I want to be with you here, and forever. Heaven frightens me now.
But--oh, Spinny, dear protecting thing, I want--I also want--" She broke
off abruptly, and Spinrobin, unable to see her face buried against his
shoulder, could not guess whether she was laughing or weeping. He only
divined that something in her heart, profound as life itself, something
she had never been warned to conceal, was clamoring for comprehension and
"Miriam, tell me exactly. I'm sure I shall understand--"
"I want Winky to be with us always--not only sometimes--on little
visits," he heard between the broken breathing.
"I'll tell him--"
"But there's no good telling _him_," she interrupted almost fiercely, "it
is _me_ you must tell...."
Spinrobin's heart sank within him. She was in pain and he could not quite
understand. He pressed her hard against him, keeping silence.
Presently she lifted her face from his coat, and he saw the tears of
mingled pain and happiness in her eyes--the eyes of this girl-woman who
knew not the common ugly standards of life because no woman had ever told
them to her.
"You see, Winky is not really mine unless I have some share in making him
too," she said very softly. "When I have made him too, then he will stay
forever with us, I think."
And Spinrobin, beginning to understand, knowing within him that singular
exultation of triumphant love which comes to a pure man when he meets the
mother-to-be of his firstborn, lowered his own face very reverently to
hers, and kissed her on the cheeks and eyes--saying nothing, and vaguely
wondering whether the awful name that Skale sought with so much thunder
and lightning, did not lie at that very moment, sweetly singing its
divinest message, between the contact of this pair of youthful lips, the
lips of himself and Miriam.
And Philip Skale, meanwhile, splendid and independent of all common
obstacles, thundered along his tempestuous mad way, regardless and
ignorant of all signs of disaffection. The rest of that week--a week of
haunting wonder and beauty--was devoted to the carrying out of the
strange program. It is not possible to tell in detail the experience of
each separate room. Spinrobin does it, yet only succeeds in repeating
himself; and, as has been seen, his powers failed even in that first
chamber of awe. The language does not exist in which adventures so remote
from normal experience can be clothed without straining the mind to the
verge of the unintelligible. It appears, however, that each room
possessed its color, note and form, which later were to issue forth and
combine in the even vaster pattern, chord and outline which should
include them all.
Even the thought of it strained the possibilities of belief and the
resources of the imagination.... His soul fluttered and shrank.
They continued the processes of prayer and fasting Skale had ordained as
the time for the experiment drew near, and the careful vibratory
utterance of the "word" belonging to each room, the vibrations of which
threw their inner selves into a condition of safe--or comparatively
safe--receptivity. But Spinrobin no longer said his prayers, for the
thought that soon he was to call upon the divine and mighty name in
reality prevented his doing so in the old way of childhood--nominally. He
feared there might come an answer.
He literally walked the dizzy edge of precipices that dropped over the
edge of the world. The incoherence of all this traffic with sound and
name had always bewildered him, even to the point of darkness, whereas
now it did more, it appalled him in some sense that was monstrous and
terrifying. Yet, while weak with terror when he tried to face the
possible results, and fevered with the notion of entering some new
condition (even though one of glory) where Miriam might no longer be as
he now knew her, it was the savage curiosity he felt that prevented his
coming to a definite decision and telling Mr. Skale that he withdrew from
the whole affair.
Then the idea grew in his mind that the clergyman was obsessed by some
perverted spiritual force, some "Devil" who deceived him, and that the
name he sought to pronounce was after all not good--not God. His
thoughts, fears, hopes, all became hopelessly entangled, through them one
thing alone holding clear and steady--the passionate desire to keep
Miriam as she was now, and to be with her forever. His mind played tricks
with him too. Day and night the house echoed with new sounds; the very
walls grew resonant; the entire building, buried away among these
desolate hills, trembled as though he were imprisoned within the belly of
some monstrous and gigantic fiddle.
Mr. Skale, too, began to change, it seemed. While physically he
increased, as it were, with the power of his burning enthusiasm, his
beard longer and more ragged, his eyes more luminous, and his voice
shaking through the atmosphere almost like wind, his personality, in some
curious fashion, seemed at the same time to retire and become oddly
tinged with a certain remoteness from reality. Spinrobin once or twice
caught himself wondering if he were not after all some legendary or pagan
figure, some mighty character of dream or story, and that presently he,
Spinrobin, would awake and write down the most wonderful vision the world
had ever known. His imagination, it will be seen, was affected in more
ways than one....
With a tremendous earnestness the clergyman went about the building, down
the long dark corridors and across the halls, his long soft strides took
him swiftly everywhere; his mere presence charged with some potent force
that betrayed itself in the fire of his eyes and the flush of his cheeks.
Spinrobin thought of him as some daring blasphemer, knocking at a door in
the sky. The sound of that knocking ran all about the universe. And when
the door opened, the heavens would roll back like an enormous, flat
"Any moment almost," Skale whispered to him, smiling, "the day may be
upon us. Keep yourself ready--and--in tune."
And Spinrobin, expecting a thunderclap in his sleep, but ever plucky,
answered in his high-pitched voice, "I'm ready, Mr. Philip Skale, I'm
ready! I'm game too!" when, truthfully speaking, perhaps, he was neither
one nor other.
He would start up from sleep in the nighttime at the least sound, and the
roar of the December gales about the house became voices of portent that
conveyed far more than the mere rushing of inarticulate winds....
"When the hour comes--and it is close at hand--we shall not fail to know
it," said Skale, pallid with excitement. "The Letters will be out upon
us. They will live! But with an intense degree of exuberant life far
beyond what we know as life--we, in our puny, sense-limited bodies!" And
the scorn in his voice came from the center of his heart. "For what we
hear as sound is only a section," he cried, "only a section of
sound-vibrations--as they exist."
"The vibrations our ears can take are _very_ small, I know," interpolated
Spinrobin, cold at heart, while Miriam, hiding behind chairs and tables
that offered handy protection, watched with mingled anxiety and
confidence, knowing that in the last resort her adorable and "wonderful
Spinny" would guide her aright. Love filled her heart, ousting that other
And then Skale announced that the time was ready for rehearsals.
"Let us practice the chord," he said, "so that when the moment comes
suddenly upon us, in the twinkling of an eye, in the daytime or in the
night, we shall be prepared, and each shall fly to his appointed place
and utter his appointed note."
The reasons for these definite arrangements he did not pretend to
explain, for they belonged to a part of his discovery that he kept
rigidly to himself; and why Spinrobin and Miriam were to call their notes
from the corridor itself, while Skale boomed his great bass in the
prepared cellar, Mrs. Mawle chanting her alto midway in the hall, acting
as a connecting channel in some way, was apparently never made fully
clear. In Spinrobin's imagination it was very like a practical
illustration of the written chord, the notes rising from the bass clef to
the high soprano--the cellar to the attic, so to speak. But, whatever the
meaning behind it, Skale was exceedingly careful to teach to each of
them his and her appointed place.
"When the Letters move of themselves, and make the first sign," he
repeated, "we shall know it beyond all doubt or question. At any moment
of the day or night it may come. Each of you then hasten to your
appointed place and wait for the sound of my bass in the cellar. There
will be no mistake about it; you will hear it rising through the
building. Then, each in turn, as it reaches you, lift your voices and
call your notes. The chord thus rising through the building will gather
in the flying Letters: it will unite them; it will summon them down to
the fundamental master-tone I utter in the cellar. The moment the Letter
summoned by each particular voice reaches the cellar, that voice must
cease its utterance. Thus, one by one, the four mighty Letters will come
to rest below. The gongs will vibrate in sympathetic resonance; the
colors will tremble and respond; the finely drawn wires will link the
two, and the lens of gas will lead them to the wax, and the record of the
august and terrible syllable will be completely chained. At any desired
moment afterwards I shall be able to reawaken it. Its phonetic utterance,
its correct pronunciation, captured thus in the two media of air and
ether, sound and light, will be in my safe possession, ready for use.
"But"--and he looked down upon his listeners with a dreadful and
impressive gravity that yet only just concealed the bursting exultation
the thought caused him to feel--"remember that once you have uttered your
note, you will have sucked out from the Letter a portion of its own
terrific life and force, which will immediately pass into yourself. You
will instantly absorb this, for you will have called upon a mighty
name--the mightiest--and your prayer will have been answered." He stooped
and whispered as in an act of earnest prayer, "_We shall be as Gods_!"
Something of cold splendor, terribly possessing, came close to them as
he spoke the words; for this was no empty phrase. Behind it lay the great
drive of a relentless reality. And it struck at the very root of the fear
that grew every moment more insistent in the hearts of the two lovers.
They did not want to become as gods. They desired to remain quietly human
and to _love_!
But before either of them could utter speech, even had they dared, the
awful clergyman continued; and nothing brought home to them more vividly
the horrible responsibility of the experiment, and the results of
possible failure, than the few words with which he concluded.
"And to mispronounce, to utter falsely, to call inaccurately, will mean
to summon into life upon the world--and into the heart of the
utterer--that which is incomplete, that which is not God--Devils!--devils
of that subtle Alteration which is destruction--the devils of a Lie."
* * * * *
And so for hours at a time they rehearsed the sounds of the chord, but
very softly, lest the sound should rise and reach the four rooms and
invite the escape of the waiting Letters prematurely.
Mrs. Mawle, holding the bit of paper on which her instructions were
clearly written, was as eager almost as her master, and as the note she
had to utter was practically the only one left in the register of her
voice, her deafness provided little difficulty.
"Though when the letters awake into life and cry aloud," said Skale,
beaming upon her dear old apple-skinned face, "it will be in tones that
even the deaf shall hear. For they will spell a measure of redemption
that shall destroy in a second of time all physical disabilities
It was at this moment Spinrobin asked a question that for days had
been hovering about his lips. He asked it gravely, hesitatingly, even
solemnly, while Miriam hung upon the answer with an anxiety as great
as his own.
"And if any one of us fails," he said, "and pronounces falsely, will the
result affect all of us, or only the utterer?"
"The utterer only," replied the clergyman. "For it is his own spirit that
must absorb the forces and powers invoked by the sound he utters."
He took the question lightly, it seemed. The possibility of failure was
too remote to be practical.
But Spinrobin was hardly prepared for the suddenness of the denouement.
He had looked for a longer period of preparation, with the paraphernalia
of a considerable, even an august ceremony. Instead, the announcement
came with an abrupt simplicity that caught him with a horrid shock of
surprise. He was taken wholly unawares.
"The only thing I fear," Mr. Skale had confided to them, "is that the
vibrations of our chord may have already risen to the rooms and cause a
premature escape. But, even so, we shall have ample warning. For the
deaf, being protected from the coarser sounds of earth, are swift to hear
the lightest whispers from Heaven. Mrs. Mawle will know. Mrs. Mawle will
instantly warn us...."
And this, apparently, was what happened, though not precisely as Mr.
Skale had intended, nor with the margin for preparation he had hoped. It
was all so swift and brief and shattering, that to hear Spinrobin tell it
makes one think of a mass of fireworks that some stray spark has sent
with blazing explosion into the air, to the complete loss of the
calculated effect had they gone off seriatim as intended.
And in the awful stress of excitement there can be no question that
Spinny acted out of that subconscious region of the mind which considers
and weighs deeds before passing them on to the surface mind, translating
them into physical expression and thinking itself responsible for the
whole operation. The course he adopted was thus instinctive, and, since
he had no time to judge, blameless.
Neither he nor Miriam had any idea really that their minds,
subconsciously, were already made up. Yet only that morning he had been
talking with her, skirting round the subject as they always did, ashamed
of his doubts about success, and trying to persuade her, and, therefore,
himself, that the path of duty lay in following their leader blindly to
the very end.
He had seen her on the stairs ahead of him, and had overtaken her
quickly. He drew her down beside him, and they sat like two children
perched on the soft-carpeted steps.
"It's coming, you know," he said abruptly, "the moment's getting
He felt the light shudder that passed through her into himself. She
turned her face to him and he saw the flush of excitement painted in the
center of the usually pale cheeks. He thought of some rare flower,
delicately exotic, that had sprung suddenly into blossom from the heart
of the bleak December day, out of the very boards whereon they sat.
"We shall then be as gods," he added, "filled with the huge power of
those terrific Letters. And that is only the beginning." In himself he
was striving to coax a fading enthusiasm, and to pour it into her. Her
little hand stole into his. "We shall be a sort of angel together, I
suppose. Just think of it...!" His voice was not as thrilling as it ought
to have been, for very human notes vibrated down below in the part he
tried to keep back. He saw the flush fade from her cheeks, and the pallor
spread. "You and I, Miriam--something tremendous together, greater than
any other man and woman in the whole world. Think of it, dear baby; just
think of it...!"
A tiny frown gathered upon her forehead, darkening the grey eyes
"But--lose our Winky!" she said, nestling against his coat, her voice
singularly soft, her fingers scratching gently the palm of his hand
where they lay.
"Hush, hush!" he answered, kissing her into silence. "We must have more
faith. I think everything will be all right. And there is no reason why
we should lose our Winky," he added, very tenderly, smothering the doubt
as best he could, "although we may find his name changed. Like the rest
of us, he will get a 'new name' I suppose."
"Then he won't be _our_ Winky any longer," she objected, with a touch of
obstinacy that was very seductive. "We shall all be different. Perhaps
we shall be too wonderful to need each other any more.... Oh, Spinny,
you precious thing my life needs, think of that! We may be too wonderful
even to care!"
Spinrobin turned and faced her. He tried to speak with authority and
conviction, but he was a bad actor always. He met her soft grey eyes,
already moist and shining with a tenderness of love beyond belief, and
gazed into them with what degree of sternness he could.
"Miriam," he said solemnly, "is it possible that you do not want us to
be as gods?"
Her answer came this time without hesitation. His pretended severity only
made her happy, for nothing could intimidate by a hair's breadth this
exquisite first love of her awakening soul.
"Some day, perhaps, oh, my sweet Master," she whispered with trembling
lips, "but not now. I want to be on earth first with you--and with
To hear that precious little voice call him "sweet Master" was almost
more than he could bear. He made an effort, however, to insist upon this
fancied idea of "duty" to Skale; though everything, of course, betrayed
him--eyes, voice, gestures.
"But we owe it to Mr. Skale to become as gods," he faltered, trying to
make the volume of his voice atone for its lack of conviction.
And it was then she uttered the simple phrase that utterly confounded
him, and showed him the new heaven and new earth wherein he and she and
Winky already lived.
"I am as God _now_," she said simply, the whole passion of a clean,
strong little soul behind the words. "You have made me so! You love me!"
The same moment, before they could speak or act, Skale was upon them from
behind with a roar.
"Practicing your splendid notes together!" he cried, thundering down the
steps past them, three at a time, clothed for the first time in the
flowing scarlet robe he usually wore only in the particular room where
his own "note" lived. "That's capital! Sing it together in your hearts
and in your souls and in your minds; and the more the better!"
He swept by them like a storm, vanishing through the hall below like some
living flame of fire. They both understood that he wore that robe for
protection, and that throughout the house the heralds of the approaching
powers of the imprisoned Letters were therefore already astir. His steps
echoed below them in the depths of the building as he descended to the
cellar, intent upon some detail of the appalling consummation that drew
every minute nearer.
They turned and faced one another, breathless a little. Tenderness and
terror shone plainly in their eyes, but Spinrobin, ever an ineffectual
little man, and with nothing of the "Master" really in his composition
anywhere, found no word to speak. That sudden irruption of the terrific
clergyman into their intimate world had come with an effect of dramatic
and incalculable authority. Like a blast of air that drives the furnace
to new heat and turns the metal white, his mind now suddenly saw clear
and sure. The effect of the incident was too explosive, however, for him
to find expression. Action he found in a measure, but no words. He took
Miriam passionately into his arms as they stood there in the gathering
dusk upon the staircase of that haunted and terrible building, and Miriam
it was who found the words upon which they separated and went quietly
away to the solitude each needed for the soul.
"We'll leave the gods alone," she said with gentle decision, yet
making it seem as though she appealed to his greater strength and
wisdom to decide; "I want nothing but you--you and Winky. And all you
really want is me."
But in his room he heard the vibrations of the clergyman's voice rising
up through the floor and walls as he practiced in the cellar the sounds
with which the ancient Hebrews concealed the Tetragrammaton:
YOD--HE--VAU--HE: JEHOVAH--JAHVE--of which the approaching great
experiment, however, concerned itself only with the opening vibrations of
the first letter--YOD....
And, as he listened, he hesitated again ... wondering after all whether
Miriam was right.
It was towards the end of their short silent dinner that very night--the
silence due to the fact that everybody was intently listening--when
Spinrobin caught the whisper of a singular faint sound that he took first
to be the rising of wind. The wind sometimes came down that way with
curious gulps from the terraces of the surrounding moors. Yet in this
sound was none of that rush and sigh that the hills breed. It did not
drop across the curves of the world; it rose from the center.
He looked up sharply, then at once realized that the sound was not
outside at all, but inside--inside the very room where he sat facing
Skale and Miriam. Then something in his soul recognized it. It was the
first wave in an immense vibration.
Something stretched within him as foam stretches on the elastic side of a
heaped Atlantic roller, retreated, then came on again with a second
gigantic crest. The rhythm of the huge sound had caught him. The life in
him expanded awfully, rose to far summits, dropped to utter depths. A
sense of glowing exaltation swept through him as though wings of power
lifted his heart with enormous ascendancy. The biggest passions of his
soul stirred--the sweetest dreams, yearnings, aspirations he had ever
known were blown to fever heat. Above all, his passion for Miriam waxed
tumultuous and possessed him.
Mr. Skale dropped his fruit knife and uttered a cry, but a cry of so
peculiar a character that Spinrobin thought for a moment he was about to
burst into song. At the same instant he stood up, and his chair fell
backwards with a crash upon the floor. Spinrobin stood up too. He asserts
always that he was lifted up. He recognized no conscious effort of his
own. It was at this point, moreover, that Miriam, pale as linen, yet
uttering no sound and fully mistress of herself, left her side of the
table and ran round swiftly to the protection of her lover.
She came close up. "Spinny," she said, "it's come!"
Thus all three were standing round that dinner table on the verge of some
very vigorous action not yet disclosed, as people, vigilant and alert,
stand up at a cry of fire, when the door from the passage opened noisily
and in rushed Mrs. Mawle, surrounded by an atmosphere of light such as
might come from a furnace door suddenly thrown wide in some dark foundry.
Only the light was not steady; it was whirling.
She ran across the floor as though dancing--the dancing of a
child--propelled, it seemed, by an irresistible drive of force behind;
while with her through the opened door came a roaring volume of sound
that was terrible as Niagara let loose, yet at the same time exquisitely
sweet, as birds or children singing. Upon these two incongruous qualities
Spinrobin always insists.
"The deaf shall hear--!" came sharply from the clergyman's lips, the
sentence uncompleted, for the housekeeper cut him short.
"They're out!" she cried with a loud, half-frightened jubilance; "Mr.
Skale's prisoners are bursting their way about the house. And one of
them," she added with a scream of joy and terror mingled, "is in my
If the odd phrase she made use of stuck vividly in Spinrobin's memory,
the appearance she presented impressed him even more. For her face was
shining and alight, radiant as when Skale had called her true name weeks
before. Flashes of flame-like beauty ran about the eyes and mouth; and
she looked eighteen--eternally eighteen--with a youth that was permanent
and unchanging. Moreover, not only was hearing restored to her, but her
left arm, withered for years, was in the act of pointing to the ceiling,
instinct with vigorous muscular life. Her whole presentment was
"The deaf hear!" repeated Skale in a shout, and was across the room with
the impetus of a released projectile. "The Letters are out and alive! To
your appointed places! The syllable has caught us! Quick, quick! If you
love your soul and truth ... fly!"
Deafening thunders rushed and crashed and blew about the room,
interpenetrated everywhere at the same time by that searching strain of
sweetness Spinrobin had first noticed. The sense of life, running free
and abundant, was very remarkable. The same moment he found his hand
clasped, and felt himself torn along by the side of the rushing clergyman
into the hall. Behind them "danced" Mrs. Mawle, her cap awry, her apron
flying, her elastic-side boots taking the light, dancing step of youth.
With quick, gliding tread Miriam, still silent, was at his heels. He
remembers her delicate, strange perfume reaching him faintly through all
the incredible turmoil of that impetuous exit.
In the hall the roar increased terrifically about his ears. Skale, in his
biggest booming voice, was uttering the names of Hebrew
"angels"--invoking forces, that is, to his help; and behind him Mrs.
Mawle was singing--singing fragments apparently of the "note" she had to
utter, as well as fragments of her own "true name" thus magically
recovered. Her restored arm gyrated furiously, her tripping youth spelt
witchery. Yet the whole madness of the scene came to Spinrobin with a
freezing wind of terror; for about it was a lawless, audacious blasphemy,
that must surely win for itself a quite appalling punishment....
Yet nothing happened at once--nothing destructive, at least. Skale
and the housekeeper, he saw, were hurriedly robing themselves in the
red and yellow surplices that hung from nails in the hall, and the
instinct to laugh at the sight was utterly overwhelmed when he remembered
that these were the colors which were used for safety in their respective
"rooms." ... It was a scene of wild confusion and bewilderment which the
memory refuses to reproduce coherently. In his own throat already began a
passionate rising of sound that he knew was the "note" he had to utter
attempting to escape, summoned forth automatically by these terrible
vibrating Letters in the air. A cataract of sound seemed to fill the
building and made it shake to its very foundations.
But the hall, he saw, was not only alive with "music," it was ablaze with
light--a white and brilliant glory that at first dazzled him to the point
of temporary blindness.
The same second Mr. Skale's voice, storming its way somehow above the
tumult, made itself heard:
"To the rooms upstairs, Spinrobin! To the corridor with Miriam! And when
you hear my voice from the cellar--_utter_! We may yet be in time to
unite the Letters...!"
He released the secretary's hand, flinging it from him, and was off with
a bounding, leaping motion like an escaped animal towards the stone
passage that led to the cellar steps; and Spinrobin, turning about
himself like a top in a perfect frenzy of bewilderment, heard his great
voice as he disappeared round the corner:
"It has come upon me like a thief in the night! Before I am fully
prepared it has called me! May the powers of the Name have mercy upon my
soul...!" And he was gone. For the last time had Spinrobin set his eyes
upon the towering earthly form of the Rev. Philip Skale.
Then, at first, it seems, the old enthusiasm caught him, and with him,
therefore, caught Miriam, too. That savage and dominant curiosity to know
clutched him, overpowering even the assaults of a terror that fairly
battered him. Through all the chaos and welter of his dazed mind he
sought feverishly for the "note" he had to utter, yet found it not, for
he was too horribly confused. Fiddles, sand-patterns, colored robes,
gongs, giant tuning-forks, wax-sheeted walls, aged-faces-turned-young and
caverns-by-the-sea jostled one another in his memory with a jumble of
disproportion quite inextricable.
Next, impelled by that driving sense of duty to Skale, he turned to the
girl at his side: "Can you do it?" he cried.
Unable to make her voice heard above the clamor she nodded quickly in
acquiescence. Spinrobin noticed that her little mouth was set rather
firmly, though there was a radiance about her eyes and features that made
her sweetly beautiful. He remembers that her loveliness and her pluck
uplifted him above all former littlenesses of hesitation; and, seizing
her outstretched hand, they flew up the main staircase and in less than a
minute reached the opening of the long corridor where the rooms were.
Here, however, they stopped with a gasp, for a hurricane of moving air
met them in the face like the draught from some immense furnace. Again
the crest of a wave in the colossal sound-vibration had caught them.
Staggering against the wall, they tried again and again to face the
tempest of sound and light, but the space beyond them was lit with the
same unearthly brilliance as the hall, and out of the whole long throat
of that haunted corridor issued such a passion of music and such a
torrent of gorgeous color, that it seemed impossible for any aggregation
of physical particles--least of all poor human bodies--to remain coherent
for a single instant before the concentrated onslaught.
Yet, game to the inmost core of his little personality, and raised far
above his normal powers by the evidence of Miriam's courage and fidelity,
he struggled with all his might and searched through the chambers of his
being for the note he was ordained to utter in the chord. The ignominy of
failure, now that the great experiment was full upon him--failure in
Miriam's eyes, too--was simply impossible to contemplate. Yet, in spite
of every effort, the memory of that all-important note escaped him
utterly, for the forces of his soul floundered, helpless and disheveled,
before the too mighty splendors that were upon him at such close
quarters. The sounds he actually succeeded in emitting between dry and
quivering lips were pitiful and feeble beyond words.
Down that living corridor, meanwhile, he saw the doors of the four rooms
were gone, consumed like tissue paper; and through the narrow portals
there shouldered forward, bathed in light ineffable, the separate
outlines of the Letters so long imprisoned in inactivity. And with their
appearance the sounds instantly ceased, having overpassed the limits of
what is audible to human ears. A great stillness dropped about them with
an abrupt crash of utter silence. For a "crash" of silence it
And then, from the categories of the incomprehensible and unmanifest,
"something" loomed forth towards them where, limp and shaking, they
leaned against the wall, and they witnessed the indescribable operation
by which the four Letters, whirling and alive, ran together and melted
into a single terrific semblance of a FORM ... the sight of which entered
the heart of Spinrobin and threatened to split it asunder with the joy of
the most sublime terror and adoration a human soul has ever known.
And the whole gigantic glory of Skale's purpose came upon him like a
tempest. The magnificent effrontery by which the man sought to storm his
way to heaven again laid its spell upon him. The reaction was of amazing
swiftness. It almost seemed as though time ceased to operate, so
instantaneously did his mood pass from terror to elation--wild, ecstatic
elation that could dare anything and everything to share in the awful
delight and wonder of Skale's transcendent experiment.
And so, forgetting himself and his little disabilities of terror and
shrinking, he sought once again for the note he was to utter in the
chord. And this time he found it.
Very faintly, yet distinctly audible in the deep stillness, it sounded
far away down in the deeps of his being. And, with a splendid spiritual
exultation tearing and swelling in his heart, he turned at once
triumphantly to Miriam beside him.
"Utter your note too!" he cried. "Utter it with mine, for any moment now
we shall hear the command from the cellar.... Be ready...!"
And the FORM, meanwhile, limned in the wonder of an undecipherable
or at least untranslatable geometry, silently roaring, enthroned in
the undiscoverable colors beyond the spectrum, swept towards them
as he spoke.
At the same instant Miriam answered him, her exquisite little face set
like a rock, her marble pallor painted with the glory of the approaching
splendors. Just when the moment of success was upon them; when the
flying Letters were abroad; when all the difficult weeks of preparation
were face to face with the consummation; and when any moment Skale's
booming bass might rise from the bowels of the building as the signal to
utter the great chord and unite the fragments of the first divine
syllable; when Spinrobin had at last conquered his weakness and recovered
his note--then, at this decisive and supreme moment, Miriam asserted
herself and took the reins of command.
"No," she said, looking with sudden authority straight into his eyes,
"no! I will not utter the note. Nor shall you utter yours!" And she
clapped her little hand tight upon his mouth.
In that instant of unutterable surprise the two great forces of his life
and personality met together with an explosive violence wholly beyond his
power to control. For on the one hand lay the fierce enticement of
Skale's heaven, with all that it portended, and on the other the deep
though temporarily submerged human passion of his love for the girl.
Miriam's sudden action revealed the truth to him better than any
argument. In a flash he realized that her choice was made, and that she
was in entire and final revolt against the whole elaborate experiment and
all that it involved. The risk of losing her Spinny, or finding him
changed in some condition of redemption where he would no longer be the
little human thing she so dearly loved, had helped her to this final,
With her hand tight over his lips, and her face of white decision before
him, he understood. She called him with those big grey eyes to the sweet
and common uses of life, instead of to the heights of some audacious
heaven where they might be as gods with Philip Skale. She clung to
humanity. And Spinrobin, seeing her at last with spiritual eyes fully
opened, knew finally that she was right.
"But oh," he always cries, "in that moment I knew the most terrible
choice I have ever had to make, for it was not a choice between life and
death, but a choice between two lives, each of infinite promised wonder.
And what do you think it was that decided me, and made me choose the
wholesome, humble life with little Miriam in preference to the grandeur
of Skale's vast dream? What _do_ you think?" And his face always turns
pink and then flame-colored as he asks it, hesitating absurdly before
giving the answer. "I'll tell you, because you'd never guess in this
world." And then he lowers his voice and says, "It was the delicious
little sweet perfume of her fingers as she held them over my lips....!"
That delicate, faint smell was the symbol of human happiness, and
through all the whirlwind of sound and color about him, it somehow
managed to convey its poignant, searching message of the girl's utter
love straight into his heart. Thus curiously out of proportion and
insignificant, indeed, are sometimes the decisive details that in
moments of overwhelming experience turn the course of life's river this
way or that....
With a single wild cry in his soul that found no audible expression, he
gave up the unequal struggle. He turned, and with Miriam by his side,
flew down the corridor from the advent of the Immensity that was upon
them--from the approach of the escaping Letters.
How Spinrobin found his way out of that sound-stricken house remains an
unsolved mystery. He never understood it himself; he remembers only that
when they reached the ground floor the vibrations of Skale's opening bass
note had already begun. Its effect, too, was immediately noticeable. For
the roar of the escaping Letters, which upstairs had reached so immense a
volume as to be recognized only in terms of silence, now suddenly grew in
a measure harnessed and restrained. Their vibration became reduced--down
closer to the sixteen-foot wavelength which is the limit of human
audition. They were being leashed in by the summoning master-tone. They
grew once more audible.
On the rising swirl of sound the two humans were swept down passages
and across halls, as two leaves are borne by a tempest, and after
frantic efforts, in which Spinrobin bruised his body against doors and
walls without number, he found himself at last in the open air, and at
a considerable distance from the house of terror. Stars shone overhead.
He saw the outline of hills. Breaths of cool wind fanned his burning
skin and eyes.
But he dared not turn to look or listen. The music of that opening note,
now rising through the building from the cellar, might catch him and win
him back. The chord in which himself and Miriam were to have uttered
their appointed tones, even half-told, was still mighty to overwhelm. Its
effect upon the Letters themselves had been immediate.
The feeling that he had proved faithless to Skale, unworthy of the great
experiment, never properly attuned to this fearful music of the
gods--this was forgotten in the overmastering desire to escape from it
all into the safety of common human things with Miriam. Setting his
course ever up the hills, he ran on and on, till breath failed him
utterly and he was obliged to stop for lack of strength. And it was only
then he realized that the whole time the girl had been in his arms. He
had been carrying her.
Placing her on the ground, he caught a glimpse of her eyes in the
darkness, and saw that they were still charged with the one devouring
passion that had made the sacrifice of Skale and of all her training
since birth inevitable. Soft and glowing with her first knowledge of
love, her grey eyes shone like stars newly risen.
"Come, come!" he whispered hoarsely; "we must get as far as
possible--away from it all. Across the hills we shall find safety. Once
the splendors overtake us we are lost...."
Seizing her by the hand, they pressed on again, the ocean of sound rising
and thundering behind them and below.
Without knowing it, he had taken the path by which the clergyman had
brought him from the station weeks ago on the day of his first arrival.
With a confused memory, as of a dream, he recognized it. The ground was
slippery with dead leaves whose odor penetrated sharply the air of night.
Everywhere about him, as they paused from time to time in the little open
spaces, the trees pressed up thickly; and ever from the valley they had
just left the increasing tide of sound came pouring up after them like
the roar of the sea escaping through doors upon the surface of the world.
And even now the marvelous, enticing wonder of it caught him more than
once and made him hesitate. The sense of what he was giving up sickened
him with a great sudden yearning of regret. The mightiness of that loved
leader, lonely and unafraid, trafficking with the principalities and
powers of sound, and reckoning without misgiving upon the cooperation of
his other "notes"--this plucked fearfully at his heartstrings. But only
in great tearing gusts, so to speak, which passed the instant he realized
the little breathless, grey-eyed girl at his side, charged with her
beautiful love for him and the wholesome ambition for human things.
"Oh! but the heaven we're losing...!" he cried once aloud,
unable to contain himself. "Oh, Miriam ... and I have proved
unworthy ... small...!"
"Small enough to stay with me forever and ever ... here on the earth,"
she replied passionately, seizing his hand and drawing him further up the
hill. Then she stopped suddenly and gathered a handful of dead leaves,
moss, twigs and earth. The exquisite familiar perfume as she held it to
his face pierced through him with a singular power of conviction.
"We should lose _this_," she exclaimed; "there's none of this ... in
heaven! The earth, the earth, the dear, beautiful earth, with you ... and
Winky ... is what I want!"
And when he stopped her outburst with a kiss, fully understanding the
profound truth she so quaintly expressed, he smelt the trees and
mountains in her hair, and her fragrance was mingled there with the
fragrance of that old earth on which they stood.
The rising flood of sound sent them charging ahead the same minute, for
it seemed upon them with a rush; and it was only after much stumbling and
floundering among trees and boulders that they emerged into the open
space of the hills beyond the woods. Actually, perhaps, they had been
running for twenty minutes, but to them it seemed that they had been
running for days. They stood still and looked about them.
"You shall never regret, never, never," Miriam whispered quickly. "I can
make you happier than all this ever could," and she waved her arm towards
the house below. "And you know it, my little Master."
But before he could reply, or do more than place an arm about her waist
to support her, something came to pass that communicated its message to
their souls with an incalculable certainty neither could explain.
Perhaps it was that distance enabled them to distinguish between the
sounds more clearly, or perhaps their beings were still so intimately
connected with Skale that some psychic warning traveled up to them across
the night; but at any rate there then came about this sharp and sudden
change in the quality of the sound-tempest round them that proclaimed the
arrival of an exceedingly dramatic moment. The nature of the rushing,
flying vibrations underwent alteration. And, looking one another in the
eyes, they realized what it meant.
"He's beginning ..." faltered Spinrobin in some skeleton of a voice.
"Skale has begun to _utter_...!" He said it beneath his breath.
Down in the cellar of that awful house the giant clergyman, alone and
undismayed, had begun to call the opening vibration of the living chord
which was to gather in this torrent of escaping Letters and unite them in
temporary safety in the crypts of the prepared vault. For the first time
in eighteen hundred years the initial sound of the "Name that rusheth
through the universe"--the first sound of its opening syllable, that
is--was about to thunder its incalculable message over the earth.
Crouching close against each other they stood there on the edge of the
woods, the night darkly smothering about them, the bare, open hills lying
beyond in the still sky, waiting for the long-apprehended climax--the
utterance of the first great syllable.
"It will make him ... as God," crashed the thought through Spinrobin's
brain as he experienced the pangs of the fiercest remorse he had ever
known. "Even without our two notes the power will be sublime...!"
But, through Miriam's swiftly-beating heart, as she pressed closer and
closer: "I know your true name ... and you are mine. What else in heaven
or earth can ever matter...?"
Skale had indeed begun to utter. And to these two bewildered children
standing there alone with their love upon the mountain, it seemed that
the whole world knew.
Those desolate hills that rolled away like waves beneath the stars; the
whispering woods about them; the distant sea, eternally singing its own
note of sadness; the boulders at their feet; the very stars themselves,
listening in the heart of night--one and all were somehow aware that a
portion of the great Name which first called them into being was about to
issue from the sleep of ages once again into manifestation....Perhaps
to quicken them into vaster life, perhaps to change their forms, perhaps
to merge them all back into the depths of the original "word" of
creation ... with the roar of a dissolving universe....
Through everything, from the heart of the hidden primroses below the soil
to the center of the huge moors above, there ran some swift thrill of
life as the sounds of which they were the visible expression trembled in
sympathetic resonance with the opening vibrations of the great syllable.
Philip Skale had begun to utter. Alone in the cellar of that
tempest-stricken house, already aware probably that the upper notes of
his chord had failed him, he was at last in the act of calling upon the
Name that Rusheth through the Universe ... the syllable whose powers
should pass into his own being and make him as the gods....
And, first of all, to the infinite surprise of these two listening,
shaking lovers, the roaring thunders that had been battling all about
them, grew faint and small, and then dropped away into mere trickles of
sound, retreating swiftly down into the dark valley where the house
stood, as though immense and invisible leashes drew them irresistibly
back. One by one the Letters fled away, leaving only a murmur of
incredibly sweet echoes behind them in the hills, as the master-sound,
spoken by this fearless and audacious man, gathered them into their
appointed places in the cellar.
But if they expected stupendous things to follow they were at first
singularly disappointed. For, instead of woe and terror, instead of the
foundering of the visible universe, there fell about the listening world
a cloak of the most profound silence they had ever known, soft beyond
conception. The Name was not in the whirlwind. Out of the heart of that
deathly stillness it came--a small, sweet voice, that was undeniably the
voice of Philip Skale, its awful thunders all smoothed away. With it,
too, like a faint overtone, came the yet gentler music of another voice.
The bass and alto were uttering their appointed notes in harmony and
Everywhere the sound rose up through the darkness of great distance, yet
at the same time ran most penetratingly sweet, close beside them in their
very ears. So magically intimate indeed was it, yet so potentially huge
for all its soft beginning, that Spinrobin declares that what he heard
was probably not the actual voices, but only some high liberated
harmonics of them.
The sounds, moreover, were not distinguishable as consonants and vowels
in the ordinary sense, and to this day remain for him beyond all reach
of possible reproduction. He did not hear them as "word" or "syllable,"
but as some incalculably splendid Message that was too mighty to be
taken in, yet at the same time was sweeter than all imagined music,
simple as a little melody "sweetly sung in tune," artless as wind
through rustling branches.
And, moreover, as this small, sweet voice ran singing everywhere about
them in the darkness of hills and woods, Spinrobin realized, with a
whole revolution of wonder sweeping through him, that the sound, for all
its gentleness, was at work vehemently upon the surface of the
landscape, altering and shifting the pattern of the solid earth, just as
the sand had wreathed into outlines at the sound of his own voice weeks
ago, and as the form of the clergyman had changed at the vibrations of
the test night.