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The Human Chord by Algernon Blackwood

Part 4 out of 4

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The first letters of the opening syllable of this divine and magical
name were passing over the world ... shifting the myriad molecules that
composed it by the stress and stir of its vast harmonics ... changing
the pattern.

But this time the change was not dreadful; the new outline, even before
he actually perceived it, was beautiful above all known forms of beauty.
The outer semblance of the old earth appeared to melt away and reveal
that heart of clean and dazzling wonder which burns ever at its inmost
core--the naked spirit divined by poets and mystics since the beginning
of time. It was a new heaven and a new earth that pulsed below them in
response to the majesty of this small sweet voice. All nature knew, from
the birds that started out of sleep into passionate singing, to the fish
that stirred in the depths of the sea, and the wild deer that sprang
alert in their wintry coverts, scenting an eternal spring. For the earth
rolled up as a scroll, shaking the outworn skin of centuries from her
face, and suffering all her rocky structure to drop away and disclose the
soft and glowing loveliness of an actual being--a being most tenderly and
exquisitely alive. It was the beginning of spiritual vision in their own
hearts. The name had set them free. The blind saw--a part of God....


And then, in Spinrobin's heart, the realization of failure--that he was
not in his appointed place, following his great leader to the stars,
clashed together with the splendor of his deep and simple love for this
trembling slip of a girl beside him.

The thought that God, as it were, had called him and he had been afraid
to run and answer to his name overpowered his timid, aching soul with
such a flood of emotion that he found himself struggling with a glorious
temptation to tear down the mountainside again to the house and play his
appointed part--utter his note in the chord even thus late. For the
essential bitterness and pain that lies at the heart of all transitory
earthly things--the gnawing sense of incompleteness and vanity that
touches the section of transitory existence men call "life," met face to
face with this passing glimpse of reality, timeless and unconditioned,
which the sound of the splendid name flashed so terrifically before his
awakened soul-vision,--and threatened to overwhelm him.

In another instant he would have yielded and gone; forgotten even
Miriam, and all the promised sweetness of life with her half-planned,
when something came to pass abruptly that threw his will and all his
little calculations into a dark chaos of amazement where, by a kind
of electrically swift reaction, he realized that the one true,
possible and right thing for him was this very love he was about to cast
aside. His highest destiny was upon the unchanged old earth ... with
Miriam ... and Winky....

She turned and flung her arms round his neck in a passion of tears as
though she had divined his unspoken temptation ... and at the same time
this awful new thing was upon them both. It caught them like a tempest.
For a disharmony--a discord--a lying sound was loose upon the air from
those two voices far below.

"Call me by my true name," she cried quickly, in an anguish of
terror; "for my soul is afraid.... Oh, love me most utterly, utterly,
utterly ... and save me!"

Unnerved and shaking like a leaf, Spinrobin pressed her against
his heart.

"I know you by name and you are mine," he tried to say, but the words
never left his lips. It was the love surging up in his tortured heart
that alone held him to sanity and prevented--as it seemed to him in that
appalling moment--the dissolution of his very being and hers.

For Philip Skale had somewhere _uttered falsely_.

A darting zigzag crack, as of lightning, ran over the giant fabric of
vibrations that covered the altering world as with a flood ... and sounds
that no man may hear and not die leaped awfully into being. The
suddenness and immensity of the catastrophe blinded these two listening
children-souls. Awe and terror usurped all other feelings ... but one.
Their love, being born of the spirit, held supreme, insulating them, so
to speak, from all invading disasters.

Philip Skale had made a mistake in the pronunciation of the Name.

The results were dreadful and immediate, and from all the surface of the
wakening world rose anguished voices. Spinrobin started up, lifting
Miriam into his arms. He spun dizzily for a moment between boulders and
trees, giving out a great wailing cry, unearthly enough had there been
any to hear it. Then he began to run wildly through the thick darkness.
In his ear--for her head lay close--he heard her dear voice, between the
sobs of collapse, calling his inner name most sweetly; and the sound
summoned to the front all in him that was best and manly.

"My sweet Master, my sweet Master!"

But he did not run far. About him on every side the night lifted as
though it were suddenly day. He saw the summits of the bleak mountains
agleam with the reflection of some great light that rushed upon them from
the valley. All the desolate landscape, hesitating like some hovering
ocean between the old pattern and the new, seemed to hang suspended amid
the desolation of the winter skies. Everything roared. It seemed the
ground shook. The very bones of the woods went shuddering together; the
hills toppled; and overhead, in some incredible depths of space, boomed
sounds as though the heavens split off into fragments and hurled the
constellations about the vault to swell these shattering thunders of a
collapsing world.

The Letters of that terrible and august Name were passing over the face
of the universe--distorted because mispronounced--creative sounds,
disheveled and monstrous, because incompletely and incorrectly uttered.

"Put me down," he heard Miriam cry where she lay smothered in his arms,
"and we can face everything together, and be safe. Our love is bigger
than it all and will protect us...."

"Because it is complete," he cried incoherently in reply, seizing the
truth of her thought, and setting her upon the ground; "it includes even
this. It is a part of ... the Name ... correctly uttered ... for it is
true and pure."

He heard her calling his inner name, and he began forthwith to call her
own as they stood there clinging to one another, mingling arms and hair
and lips in such a tumult of passion that it seemed as though all this
outer convulsion of the world was a small matter compared to the
commotion in their own hearts, revolutionized by the influx of a divine
love that sought to melt them into a single being.

And as they looked down into the valley at their feet, too bewildered to
resist these mighty forces that stole the breath from their throats and
the strength from their muscles, they saw with a clearness as of day that
the House of Awe in which their love had wakened and matured was passing
away and being utterly consumed.

In a flame of white fire, tongued and sheeted, streaked with gulfs of
black, and most terribly roaring, it rose with a prodigious crackling of
walls and roof towards the sky. Volumes of colored smoke, like hills
moving, went with it; and with it, too, went the forms--the substance of
their forms, at least, of their "sounds" released--of Philip Skale, Mrs.
Mawle, and all the paraphernalia of gongs, drapery, wires, sheeted walls,
sand-patterns, and the preparations of a quarter of a century of labor
and audacious research. For nothing could possibly survive in such a
furnace. The heat of it struck their faces where they stood even here
high upon the hills, and the currents of rising wind blew the girl's
tresses across his eyes and moved his own feathery hair upon his head.
The notes of those leaping flames were like thunder.

"Watch now!" cried Miriam, though he divined the meaning from the gesture
of her free hand rather than actually heard the words.

And, leaning their trembling bodies against a great boulder behind
them, they then saw in the midst of the conflagration, or hovering
dimly above it rather, the vast outlines of the captured sounds--the
Letters--escaping back again into the womb of eternal silence from which
they had been with such appalling courage evoked. In forms of dazzling
blackness they passed upwards in their chariots of flame, yet at the same
time passed _inwards_ in some amazing kind of spiral motion upon their
own axes, vanishing away with incredible swiftness and beauty deep down
into themselves ... and were gone.

Realizing in some long-forgotten fashion of childhood the fearful majesty
of the wrath of Jehovah, yet secretly undismayed because each felt so
gloriously lost in their wonderful love, the bodies of Miriam and
Spinrobin dropped instinctively upon their knees, and, still tightly
clasped in one another's arms, bowed their foreheads to the ground,
touching the earth and leaves.

But how long they rested thus upon the heart of the old earth, or
whether they slept, or whether, possibly, the inevitable reaction to all
the overstrain of the past hours led them through a period of
unconsciousness, neither of them quite knew. Nor was it possible for
them to have known, perhaps, that the lonely valley sheltering the House
of Awe, running tongue-like into these desolate hills, had the
unenviable reputation of trembling a little in sympathy with any
considerable shock of earthquake that came to move that portion of the
round globe from her sleep. Of this they knew as little, no doubt, as
they did of the ill-defined line of demarcation between experiences that
are objective, capable of being weighed and measured, and those that are
subjective, taking place--though with convincing authority--only in the
sphere of the mind....

All they do know, and Spinrobin tells it with an expression of supreme
happiness upon his shining round face, is that at length they stirred
as they lay, opened their eyes, turned and looked at one another, then
stood up. On Miriam's hair and lashes lay the message of the dew, and
in her clear eyes all the soft beauty of the stars that had watched
over them.

But the stars themselves had gone. Over the hills ran the colored feet of
the dawn, swift and rosy, touching the spread of heathery miles with the
tints of approaching sunrise. The tops of the leafless trees stirred
gently with a whisper of wind that stole up from the distant sea. The
birds were singing. Over the surface of the old earth flew the magical
thrill of life. It caught these two children-lovers, sweeping them into
each other's arms as with wings.

Out of all the amazing tempest of their recent experiences emerged this
ever-growing splendor of their deep and simple love. The kindly earth
they had chosen beckoned them down into the valley; the awful heaven they
had rejected smiled upon them approvingly, as the old sun topped the
hills and peeped upon them with his glorious eye.

"Come, Miriam," breathed Spinrobin softly into her little ear;
"we'll go down into another valley ... and live happily together
forever and ever...."

"Yes," she murmured, blushing with the rosiness of that exquisite
winter's dawn; "... you and I ... and ... and ..."

But Spinrobin kissed the unborn name from her lips. "Hush!" he
whispered, "hush!"

For the little "word" between these two was not yet made flesh. But the
dawn-wind caught up that "hush" and carried it to the trees and
undergrowth about them, and then ran thousand-footed before them to
whisper it to the valley where they were going.

And Miriam, knowing the worship and protection in his delicate caress,
looked up into his face and smiled--and the smile in her grey eyes was
that ancient mother-smile which is coeval with life. For the word of
creation flamed in these two hearts, waiting only to be uttered.

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