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The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel

Part 3 out of 6

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Here the cliffs are, I should say, seventy feet high, broken by frequent
slips in the upper stratum of clay, and, as I proceeded, climbing
always, I encountered some rather formidable gullies in the chalk, down
and then up which I had to scramble, till I came to a great mound or
barrier, stretching right across the great promontory, and backed by a
natural ravine, this, no doubt, having been raised as a rampart by some
of those old invading pirate-peoples, who had their hot life-scuffle,
and are done now, like the rest. Going on, I came to a bay in the cliff,
with a great number of boats lodged on the slopes, some quite high,
though the declivities are steep; toward the inner slopes is a lime-kiln
which I explored, but found no one there. When I came out on the other
side, I saw the village, with an old tower at one end, on a bare stretch
of land; and thence, after an hour's rest in the kitchen of a little
inn, went out to the coast-guard station, and the lighthouse.

Looking across the sea eastward, the light-keepers here must have seen
that thick cloud of convolving browns and purples, perhaps mixed with
small tongues of fire, slowly walking the water, its roof in the clouds,
upon them: for this headland is in precisely the same longitude as
London; and, reckoning from the hour when, as recorded in the _Times_,
the cloud was seen from Dover over Calais, London and Flambro' must have
been overtaken soon after three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon, the
25th July. At sight in open daylight of a doom so gloomy--prophesied,
but perhaps hoped against to the last, and now come--the light-keepers
must have fled howling, supposing them to have so long remained faithful
to duty: for here was no one, and in the village very few. In this
lighthouse, which is a circular white tower, eighty feet high, on the
edge of the cliff, is a book for visitors to sign their names: and I
will write something down here in black and white: for the secret is
between God only, and me: After reading a few of the names, I took my
pencil, and I wrote my name there.

* * * * *

The reef before the Head stretches out a quarter of a mile, looking bold
in the dead low-water that then was, and showing to what extent the sea
has pushed back this coast, three wrecks impaled on them, and a big
steamer quite near, waiting for the first movements of the already
strewn sea to perish. All along the cliff-wall to the bluff crowned by
Scarborough Castle northward, and to the low vanishing coast of
Holderness southward, appeared those cracks and caves which had brought
me here, though there seemed no attempts at barricades; however, I got
down a rough slope on the south side to a rude wild beach, strewn with
wave-worn masses of chalk: and never did I feel so paltry and short a
thing as there, with far-outstretched bays of crags about me, their
bluffs encrusted at the base with stale old leprosies of shells and
barnacles, and crass algae-beards, and, higher up, the white cliff all
stained and weather-spoiled, the rock in some parts looking quite
chalky, and elsewhere gleaming hard and dull like dirty marbles, while
in the huge withdrawals of the coast yawn darksome gullies and caverns.
Here, in that morning's walk, I saw three little hermit-crabs, a limpet,
and two ninnycocks in a pool of weeds under a bearded rock. What
astonished me here, and, indeed, above, and everywhere, in London even,
and other towns, was the incredible number of birds that strewed the
ground, at some points resembling a real rain, birds of nearly every
sort, including tropic specimens: so that I had to conclude that they,
too, had fled before the cloud from country to country, till conquered
by weariness and grief, and then by death.

By climbing over rocks thick with periwinkles, and splashing through
great sloppy stretches of crinkled sea-weed, which give a raw stench of
brine, I entered the first of the gullies: a narrow, long, winding one,
with sides polished by the sea-wash, and the floor rising inwards. In
the dark interior I struck matches, able still to hear from outside the
ponderous spasmodic rush and jostle of the sea between the crags of the
reef, but now quite faintly. Here, I knew, I could meet only dead men,
but urged by some curiosity, I searched to the end, wading in the middle
through a three-feet depth of sea-weed twine: but there was no one; and
only belemnites and fossils in the chalk. I searched several to the
south of the headland, and then went northward past it toward another
opening and place of perched boats, called in the map North Landing:
where, even now, a distinct smell of fish, left by the old crabbers and
herring-fishers, was perceptible. A number of coves and bays opened as I
proceeded; a faded green turf comes down in curves at some parts on the
cliff-brows, like wings of a young soldier's hair, parted in the middle,
and plastered on his brow; isolated chalk-masses are numerous, obelisks,
top-heavy columns, bastions; at one point no less than eight headlands
stretched to the end of the world before me, each pierced by its arch,
Norman or Gothic, in whole or in half; and here again caves, in one of
which I found a carpet-bag stuffed with a wet pulp like bread, and,
stuck to the rock, a Turkish tarboosh; also, under a limestone quarry,
five dead asses: but no man. The east coast had evidently been shunned.
Finally, in the afternoon I reached Filey, very tired, and there slept.

* * * * *

I went onward by train-engine all along the coast to a region of
iron-ore, alum, and jet-excavations round Whitby and Middlesborough. By
by-ways near the small place of Goldsborough I got down to the shore at
Kettleness, and reached the middle of a bay in which is a cave called
the Hob-Hole, with excavations all around, none of great depth, made by
jet-diggers and quarrymen. In the cave lay a small herd of cattle,
though for what purpose put there I cannot guess; and in the
jet-excavations I found nothing. A little further south is the chief
alum-region, as at Sandsend, but as soon as I saw a works, and the great
gap in the ground like a crater, where the lias is quarried, containing
only heaps of alum-shale, brushwood-stacks, and piles of cement-nodules
extracted from the lias, I concluded that here could have been found no
hiding; nor did I purposely visit the others, though I saw two later.
From round Whitby, and those rough moors, I went on to Darlington, not
far now from my home: but I would not continue that way, and after two
days' indecisive lounging, started for Richmond and the lead mines
about Arkengarth Dale, near Reeth. Here begins a region of mountain,
various with glens, fells, screes, scars, swards, becks, passes,
villages, river-heads, and dales. Some of the faces which I saw in it
almost seemed to speak to me in a broad dialect which I knew. But they
were not numerous in proportion: for all this country-side must have had
its population multiplied by at least some hundreds; and the villages
had rather the air of Danube, Levant, or Spanish villages. In one, named
Marrick, I saw that the street had become the scene either of a great
battle or a great massacre; and soon I was everywhere coming upon men
and women, English and foreign, dead from violence: cracked heads,
wounds, unhung jaws, broken limbs, and so on. Instead of going direct to
the mines from Reeth, that waywardness which now rules my mind, as
squalls an abandoned boat, took me somewhat further south-west to the
village of Thwaite, which I actually could not enter, so occupied with
dead was every spot on which the eye rested a hundred yards about it.
Not far from here I turned up, on foot now, a very steep, stony road to
the right, which leads over the Buttertubs Pass into Wensleydale, the
day being very warm and bright, with large clouds that looked like
lakes of molten silver giving off grey fumes in their centre, casting
moody shadows over the swardy dale, which below Thwaite expands, showing
Muker two miles off, the largest village of Upper Swaledale. Soon,
climbing, I could look down upon miles of Swaledale and the hills
beyond, a rustic panorama of glens and grass, river and cloudshadow, and
there was something of lightness in my step that fair day, for I had
left all my maps and things, except one, at Reeth, to which I meant to
return, and the earth, which is very good, was--mine. The ascent was
rough, and also long: but if I paused and looked behind--I saw, I saw.
Man's notion of a Heaven, a Paradise, reserved for the spirits of the
good, clearly arose from impressions which the earth made upon his mind:
for no Paradise can be fairer than this; just as his notion of a Hell
arose from the squalid mess into which his own foolish habits of thought
and action turned this Paradise. At least, so it struck me then: and,
thinking it, there was a hiss in my breath, as I went up into what more
and more acquired the character of a mountain pass, with points of
almost Alpine savagery: for after I had skirted the edge of a deep glen
on the left, the slopes changed in character, heather was on the
mountain-sides, a fretting beck sent up its noise, then screes, and
scars, and a considerable waterfall, and a landscape of crags; and
lastly a broad and rather desolate summit, palpably nearer the clouds.

* * * * *

Two days later I was at the mines: and here I first saw that wide-spread
scene of horror with which I have since become familiar. The story of
six out of ten of them all is the same, and short: selfish 'owners,' an
ousted world, an easy bombardment, and the destruction of all concerned,
before the arrival of the cloud in many cases. About some of the Durham
pit-mouths I have been given the impression that the human race lay
collected there; and that the notion of hiding himself in a mine must
have occurred to every man alive, and sent him thither.

In these lead mines, as in most vein-mining, there are more shafts than
in collieries, and hardly any attempt at artificial ventilation, except
at rises, winzes and cul-de-sacs. I found accordingly that, though their
depth does not exceed three hundred feet, suffocation must often have
anticipated the other dreaded death. In nearly every shaft, both up-take
and down-take, was a ladder, either of the mine, or of the fugitives,
and I was able to descend without difficulty, having dressed myself in a
house at the village in a check flannel shirt, a pair of two-buttoned
trousers with circles of leather at the knees, thick boots, and a
miner's hat, having a leather socket attached to it, into which fitted a
straight handle from a cylindrical candlestick; with this light, and
also a Davy-lamp, which I carried about with me for a good many months,
I lived for the most part in the deeps of the earth, searching for the
treasure of a life, to find everywhere, in English duckies and guggs,
Pomeranian women in gaudy stiff cloaks, the Walachian, the Mameluk, the
Khirgiz, the Bonze, the Imaum, and almost every type of man.

* * * * *

One most brilliant Autumn day I walked by the village market-cross at
Barnard, come at last, but with a tenderness in my heart, and a
reluctance, to where I was born; for I said I would go and see my sister
Ada, and--the other old one. I leaned and loitered a long time on the
bridge, gazing up to the craggy height, which is heavy with waving wood,
and crowned by the Castle-tower, the Tees sweeping round the
mountain-base, smooth here and sunlit, but a mile down, where I wished
to go, but would not, brawling bedraggled and lacerated, like a sweet
strumpet, all shallow among rocks under reaches of shadow--the shadow of
Rokeby Woods. I climbed very leisurely up the hill-side, having in my
hand a bag with a meal, and up the stair in the wall to the top I went,
where there is no parapet, but a massiveness of wall that precludes
danger; and here in my miner's attire I sat three hours, brooding
sleepily upon the scene of lush umbrageous old wood that marks the long
way the river takes, from Marwood Chase up above, and where the rapid
Balder bickers in, down to bowery Rokeby, touched now with autumn; the
thickness of trees lessening away toward the uplands, where there are
far etherealized stretches of fields within hedgerows, and in the sunny
mirage of the farthest azure remoteness hints of lonesome moorland. It
was not till near three that I went down along the river, then, near
Rokeby, traversing the old meadow, and ascending the old hill: and
there, as of old, was the little black square with yellow letters on the


No part, no house, I believe, of this country-side was empty of strange
corpses: and they were in Hunt Hill, too. I saw three in the weedy plot
to the right of the garden-path, where once the hawthorn and lilac tree
had grown from well-rollered grass, and in the little bush-wilderness to
the left, which was always a wilderness, one more: and in the
breakfast-room, to the right of the hall, three; and in the new wooden
clinker-built attachment opening upon the breakfast-room, two, half
under the billiard-table; and in her room overlooking the porch on the
first floor, the long thin form of my mother on her bed, with crushed-in
left temple, and at the foot of the bed, face-downward on the floor,
black-haired Ada in a night-dress.

Of all the men and women who died, they two alone had burying. For I
digged a hole with the stable-spade under the front lilac; and I wound
them in the sheets, foot and form and head; and, not without throes and
qualms, I bore and buried them there.

* * * * *

Some time passed after this before the long, multitudinous, and
perplexing task of visiting the mine-regions again claimed me. I found
myself at a place called Ingleborough, which is a big table-mountain,
with a top of fifteen to twenty acres, from which the sea is visible
across Lancashire to the west; and in the sides of this strange hill are
a number of caves which I searched during three days, sleeping in a
garden-shed at a very rural and flower-embowered village, for every room
in it was thronged, a place marked Clapham in the chart, in Clapdale,
which latter is a dale penetrating the slopes of the mountain: and there
I found by far the greatest of the caves which I saw, having ascended a
path from the village to a hollow between two grass slopes, where there
is a beck, and so entering an arch to the left, screened by trees, into
the limestone cliff. The passage narrows pretty rapidly inwards, and I
had not proceeded two yards before I saw the clear traces of a great
battle here. All this region had, in fact, been invaded, for the cave
must have been famous, though I did not remember it myself, and for some
miles round the dead were pretty frequent, making the immediate approach
to the cave a matter for care, if the foot was to be saved from
pollution. It is clear that there had been an iron gate across the
entrance, that within this a wall had been built across, shutting in I
do not know how many, perhaps one or two, perhaps hundreds: and both
gate and wall had been stormed and broken down, for there still were the
sledges and rocks which, without doubt, had done it. I had a lamp, and
at my forehead the lighted candle, and I went on quickly, seeing it
useless now to choose my steps where there was no choice, through a
passage incrusted, roof and sides, with a scabrous petrified lichen, the
roof low for some ninety yards, covered with down-looking cones, like
an inverted forest of children's toy-trees. I then came to a round hole,
apparently artificial, opening through a curtain of stalagmitic
formation into a great cavern beyond, which was quite animated and
festal with flashes, sparkles, and diamond-lustres, hung in their
myriads upon a movement of the eye, these being produced by large
numbers of snowy wet stalagmites, very large and high, down the centre
of which ran a continuous long lane of clothes and hats and faces; with
hasty reluctant feet I somehow passed over them, the cave all the time
widening, thousands of stalactites appearing on the roof of every size,
from virgin's breast to giant's club, and now everywhere the wet drip,
drip, as it were a populous busy bazaar of perspiring brows and hurrying
feet, in which the only business is to drip. Where stalactite meets
stalagmite there are pillars: where stalactite meets stalactite in
fissures long or short there are elegances, flimsy draperies, delicate
fantasies; there were also pools of water in which hung heads and feet,
and there were vacant spots at outlying spaces, where the arched roof,
which continually heightened itself, was reflected in the chill gleam of
the floor. Suddenly, the roof came down, the floor went up, and they
seemed to meet before me; but looking, I found a low opening, through
which, drawing myself on the belly over slime for some yards in
repulsive proximity to dead personalities, I came out upon a floor of
sand and pebbles under a long dry tunnel, arched and narrow, grim and
dull, without stalactites, suggestive of monks, and catacomb-vaults, and
the route to the grave; and here the dead were much fewer, proving
either that the general mob had not had time to penetrate so far inward,
or else that those within, if they were numerous, had gone out to
defend, or to harken to, the storm of their citadel. This passage led me
into an open space, the grandest of all, loftily vaulted, full of genie
riches and buried treasures of light, the million-fold _ensemble_ of
lustres dancing schottishe with the eye, as it moved or was still: this
place, I should guess, being quite half a mile from the entrance. My
prying lantern showed me here only nineteen dead, men of various
nations, and at the far end two holes in the floor, large enough to
admit the body, through which from below came up a sound of falling
water. Both of these holes, I could see, had been filled with cement
concrete--wisely, I fancy, for a current of air from somewhere seemed to
be now passing through them: and this would have resulted in the death
of the hiders. Both, however, of the fillings had been broken through,
one partially, the other wholly, by the ignorant, I presume, who
thought to hide in a secret place yet beyond, where they may have
believed, on seeing the artificial work, that others were. I had my ear
a long time at one of these openings, listening to that mysterious chant
down below in a darkness most murky and dismal; and afterwards, spurred
by the stubborn will which I had to be thorough, I went back, took a
number of outer robes from the bodies, tied them well together, then one
end round the nearest pillar, and having put my mouth to the hole,
calling: _'Anyone? Anyone?'_ let myself down by the rope of garments,
the candle at my head: I had not, however, descended far into those
mournful shades, when my right foot plunged into water: and instantly
the feeling of terror pierced me that all the evil things in the
universe were at my leg to drag me down to Hell: and I was up quicker
than I went down: nor did my flight cease till, with a sigh of
deliverance, I found myself in open air.

* * * * *

After this, seeing that the autumn warmth was passing away, I set myself
with more system to my task, and within the next six months worked with
steadfast will, and strenuous assiduity, seeking, not indeed for a man
in a mine, but for some evidence of the possibility that a man might be
alive, visiting in that time Northumberland and Durham, Fife and
Kinross, South Wales and Monmouthshire, Cornwall and the Midlands, the
lead mines of Derbyshire, of Allandale and other parts of
Northumberland, of Alston Moor and other parts of Cumberland, of
Arkendale and other parts of Yorkshire, of the western part of Durham,
of Salop, of Cornwall, of the Mendip Hills of Somersetshire, of Flint,
Cardigan, and Montgomery, of Lanark and Argyll, of the Isle of Man, of
Waterford and Down; I have gone down the 360-ft. Grand Pipe iron ladder
of the abandoned graphite-mine at Barrowdale in Cumberland, half-way up
a mountain 2,000 feet high; and visited where cobalt and manganese ore
is mined in pockets at the Foel Hiraeddog mine near Rhyl in Flintshire,
and the lead and copper Newton Stewart workings in Galloway; the Bristol
coal-fields, and mines of South Staffordshire, where, as in Somerset,
Gloucester, and Shropshire, the veins are thin, and the mining-system is
the 'long-wall,' whereas in the North, and Wales, the system is the
'pillar-and stall'; I have visited the open workings for iron ores of
Northamptonshire, and the underground stone-quarries, and the
underground slate-quarries, with their alternate pillars and chambers,
in the Festiniog district of North Wales; also the rock-salt workings;
the tin, copper and cobalt workings of Cornwall; and where the minerals
were brought to the surface on the backs of men, and where they were
brought by adit-levels provided with rail-roads, and where, as in old
Cornish mines, there are two ladders in the shaft, moved up and down
alternately, see-saw, and by skipping from one to the other at right
moments you ascended or descended, and where the drawing-up is by a gin
or horse-whinn, with vertical drum; the Tisbury and Chilmark quarries in
Wiltshire, the Spinkwell and Cliffwood quarries in Yorkshire; and every
tunnel, and every recorded hole: for something urged within me, saying:
'You must be sure first, or you can never be--yourself.'

* * * * *

At the Farnbrook Coal-field, in the Red Colt Pit, my inexperience nearly
ended my life: for though I had a minute theoretical knowledge of all
British workings, I was, in my practical relation to them, like a man
who has learnt seamanship on shore. At this place the dead were
accumulated, I think beyond precedent, the dark plain around for at
least three miles being as strewn as a reaped field with stacks, and,
near the bank, much more strewn than stack-fields, filling the only
house within sight of the pit-mouth--the small place provided for the
company's officials--and even lying over the great mountain-heap of
wark, composed of the shale and _debris_ of the working. Here I arrived
on the morning of the 15th December, to find that, unlike the others,
there was here no rope-ladder or other contrivance fixed by the
fugitives in the ventilating-shaft, which, usually, is not very deep,
being also the pumping-shaft, containing a plug-rod at one end of the
beam-engine which works the pumps; but looking down the shaft, I
discerned a vague mass of clothes, and afterwards a thing that could
only be a rope-ladder, which a batch of the fugitives, by hanging to it
their united weight, must have dragged down upon themselves, to prevent
the descent of yet others. My only way of going down, therefore, was by
the pit-mouth, and as this was an important place, after some hesitation
I decided, very rashly. First I provided for my coming up again by
getting a great coil of half-inch rope, which I found in the bailiff's
office, probably 130 fathoms long, rope at most mines being so
plentiful, that it almost seemed as if each fugitive had provided
himself in that way. This length of rope I threw over the beam of the
beam-engine in the bite where it sustains the rod, and paid one end
down the shaft, till both were at the bottom: in this way I could come
up, by tying one rope-end to the rope-ladder, hoisting it, fastening the
other end below, and climbing the ladder; and I then set to work to
light the pit-mouth engine-fire to effect my descent. This done, I
started the engine, and brought up the cage from the bottom, the 300
yards of wire-rope winding with a quaint deliberateness round the drum,
reminding me of a camel's nonchalant leisurely obedience. When I saw the
four meeting chains of the cage-roof emerge, the pointed roof, and
two-sided frame, I stopped the ascent, and next attached to the
knock-off gear a long piece of twine which I had provided; carried the
other end to the cage, in which I had five companions; lit my
hat-candle, which was my test for choke-damp, and the Davy; and without
the least reflection, pulled the string. That hole was 900 feet deep.
First the cage gave a little up-leap, and then began to descend--quite
normally, I thought, though the candle at once went out--nor had I the
least fear; a strong current of air, indeed, blew up the shaft: but that
happens in shafts. _This_ current, however, soon became too vehemently
boisterous for anything: I saw the lamp-light struggle, the dead cheeks
quiver, I heard the cage-shoes go singing down the wire-rope guides,
and quicker we went, and quicker, that facile descent of Avernus,
slipping lightly, then raging, with sparks at the shoes and guides, and
a hurricane in my ears and eyes and mouth. When we bumped upon the
'dogs' at the bottom, I was tossed a foot upwards with the stern-faced
others, and then lay among them in the eight-foot space without

It was only when I sat, an hour later, disgustedly reflecting on this
incident, that I remembered that there was always some 'hand-working' of
the engine during the cage-descents, an engineman reversing the action
by a handle at every stroke of the piston, to prevent bumping. However,
the only permanent injury was to the lamp: and I found many others

I got out into the coal-hole, a large black hall 70 feet square by 15
high, the floor paved with iron sheets; there were some little holes
round the wall, dug for some purpose which I never could discover, some
waggons full of coal and shale standing about, and all among the
waggons, and on them, and under them, bodies, clothes. I got a new lamp,
pouring in my own oil, and went down a long steep ducky-road, very
rough, with numerous rollers, over which ran a rope to the pit-mouth
for drawing up the waggons; and in the sides here, at regular intervals,
man-holes, within which to rescue one's self from down-tearing waggons;
and within these man-holes, here and there, a dead, and in others every
sort of food, and at one place on the right a high dead heap, and the
air here hot at 64 or 65 degrees, and getting hotter with the descent.

The ducky led me down into a standing--a space with a turn-table--of
unusual size, which I made my base of operations for exploring. Here was
a very considerable number of punt-shaped putts on carriages, and also
waggons, such as took the new-mined coal from putt to pit-mouth; and
raying out from this open standing, several avenues, some ascending as
guggs, some descending as dipples, and the dead here all arranged in
groups, the heads of this group pointing up this gugg, of that group
toward that twin-way, of that other down that dipple, and the central
space, where weighing was done, almost empty: and the darksome silence
of this deep place, with all these multitudes, I found extremely
gravitating and hypnotic, drawing me, too, into their great Passion of
Silence in which they lay, all, all, so fixed and veteran; and at one
time I fell a-staring, nearer perhaps to death and the empty Gulf than
I knew; but I said I would be strong, and not sink into their habit of
stillness, but let them keep to their own way, and follow their own
fashion, and I would keep to my own way, and follow my own fashion, nor
yield to them, though I was but one against many; and I roused myself
with a shudder; and setting to work, caught hold of the drum-chain of a
long gugg, and planting my feet in the chogg-holes in which rested the
wheels of the putt-carriages that used to come roaring down the gugg, I
got up, stooping under a roof only three feet high, till I came, near
the end of the ascent, upon the scene of another battle: for in this
gugg about fifteen of the mine-hands had clubbed to wall themselves in,
and had done it, and I saw them lie there all by themselves through the
broken cement, with their bare feet, trousers, naked bodies all black,
visage all fierce and wild, the grime still streaked with sweat-furrows,
the candle in their rimless hats, and, outside, their own 'getting'
mattocks and boring-irons to besiege them. From the bottom of this gugg
I went along a very undulating twin-way, into which, every thirty yards
or so, opened one of those steep putt-ways which they called topples,
the twin-ways having plates of about 2-1/2 ft. gauge for the putts from
the headings, or workings, above to come down upon, full of coal and
shale: and all about here, in twin-way and topples, were ends and
corners, and not one had been left without its walling-in, and only one
was then intact, some, I fancied, having been broken open by their own
builders at the spur of suffocation, or hunger; and the one intact I
broke into with a mattock--it was only a thin cake of plaster, but
air-tight--and in a space not seven feet long behind it I found the very
ill-smelling corpse of a carting-boy, with guss and tugger at his feet,
and the pad which protected his head in pushing the putts, and a great
heap of loaves, sardines, and bottled beer against the walls, and five
or six mice that suddenly pitched screaming through the opening which I
made, greatly startling me, there being of dead mice an extraordinary
number in all this mine-region. I went back to the standing, and at one
point in the ground, where there was a windlass and chain, lowered
myself down a 'cut'--a small pit sunk perpendicularly to a lower
coal-stratum, and here, almost thinking I could hear the perpetual
rat-tat of notice once exchanged between the putt-boys below and the
windlass-boys above, I proceeded down a dipple to another place like a
standing, for in this mine there were six, or perhaps seven, veins: and
there immediately I came upon the acme of the horrible drama of this
Tartarus, for all here was not merely crowded, but, at some points, a
packed congestion of flesh, giving out a strong smell of the peach,
curiously mixed with the stale coal-odour of the pit, for here
ventilation must have been very limited; and a large number of these
masses had been shot down by only three hands, as I found: for through
three hermetical holes in a plaster-wall, built across a large gugg,
projected a little the muzzles of three rifles, which must have glutted
themselves with slaughter; and when, after a horror of disgust, having
swum as it were through a dead sea, I got to the wall, I peeped from a
small clear space before it through a hole, and made out a man, two
youths in their teens, two women, three girls, and piles of cartridges
and provisions; the hole had no doubt been broken from within at the
spur of suffocation, when the poison must have entered; and I
conjectured that here must be the mine-owner, director, manager, or
something of that sort, with his family. In another dipple-region, when
I had re-ascended to a higher level, I nearly fainted before I could
retire from the commencement of a region of after-damp, where there had
been an explosion, the bodies lying all hairless, devastated, and
grotesque. But I did not desist from searching every other quarter, no
momentary work, for not till near six did I go up by the pumping-shaft

* * * * *

One day, standing in that wild region of bare rock and sea, called
Cornwall Point, whence one can see the crags and postillion wild rocks
where Land's End dashes out into the sea, and all the wild blue sea
between, and not a house in sight, save the chimney of some little
mill-like place peeping between the rocks inland--on that day I finished
what I may call my official search.

In going away from that place, walking northward, I came upon a lonely
house by the sea, a very beautiful house, made, it was clear, by an
artist, of the bungalow type, with an exquisitely sea-side expression. I
went to it, and found its special feature a spacious loggia or verandah,
sheltered by the overhanging upper story. Up to the first floor, the
exterior is of stone in rough-hewn blocks with a distinct batter, while
extra protection from weather is afforded by green slating above. The
roofs, of low pitch, are also covered with green slates, and a feeling
of strength and repose is heightened by the very long horizontal lines.
At one end of the loggia is a hexagonal turret, opening upon the loggia,
containing a study or nook. In front, the garden slopes down to the
sea, surrounded by an architectural sea-wall; and in this place I lived
three weeks. It was the house of the poet Machen, whose name, when I saw
it, I remembered very well, and he had married a very beautiful young
girl of eighteen, obviously Spanish, who lay on the bed in the large
bright bedroom to the right of the loggia, on her left exposed breast
being a baby with an india-rubber comforter in its mouth, both mother
and child wonderfully preserved, she still quite lovely, white brow
under low curves of black hair. The poet, strange to say, had not died
with them, but sat in the sitting-room behind the bedroom in a long
loose silky-grey jacket, at his desk--actually writing a poem! writing,
I could see, furiously fast, the place all littered with the written
leaves--at three o'clock in the morning, when, as I knew, the cloud
overtook this end of Cornwall, and stopped him, and put his head to rest
on the desk; and the poor little wife must have got sleepy, waiting for
it to come, perhaps sleepless for many long nights before, and gone to
bed, he perhaps promising to follow in a minute to die with her, but
bent upon finishing that poem, and writing feverishly on, running a race
with the cloud, thinking, no doubt, 'just two couplets more,' till the
thing came, and put his head to rest on the desk, poor carle: and I do
not know that I ever encountered aught so complimentary to my race as
this dead poet Machen, and his race with the cloud: for it is clear now
that the better kind of those poet men did not write to please the vague
inferior tribes who might read them, but to deliver themselves of the
divine warmth that thronged in their bosom; and if all the readers were
dead, still they would have written; and for God to read they wrote. At
any rate, I was so pleased with these poor people, that I stayed with
them three weeks, sleeping under blankets on a couch in the
drawing-room, a place full of lovely pictures and faded flowers, like
all the house: for I would not touch the young mother to remove her. And
finding on Machen's desk a big note-book with soft covers, dappled red
and yellow, not yet written in, I took it, and a pencil, and in the
little turret-nook wrote day after day for hours this account of what
has happened, nearly as far as it has now gone. And I think that I may
continue to write it, for I find in it a strange consolation, and

* * * * *

In the Severn Valley, somewhere in the plain between Gloucester and
Cheltenham, in a rather lonely spot, I at that time travelling on a
tricycle-motor, I spied a curious erection, and went to it. I found it
of considerable size, perhaps fifty feet square, and thirty high, made
of pressed bricks, the perfectly flat roof, too, of brick, and not one
window, and only one door: this door, which I found open, was rimmed all
round its slanting rims with india-rubber, and when closed must have
been perfectly air-tight. Just inside I came upon fifteen English people
of the dressed class, except two, who were evidently bricklayers: six
ladies, and nine men: and at the further end, two more, men, who had
their throats cut; along one wall, from end to end were provisions; and
I saw a chest full of mixed potassic chlorate and black oxide of
manganese, with an apparatus for heating it, and producing oxygen--a
foolish thing, for additional oxygen could not alter the quantity of
breathed carbonic anhydride, which is a direct narcotic poison. Whether
the two with cut throats had sacrificed themselves for the others when
breathing difficulties commenced, or been killed by the others, was not
clear. When they could bear it no longer, they must have finally opened
the door, hoping that by then, after the passage of many days perhaps,
the outer air would be harmless, and so met their death. I believe that
this erection must have been run up by their own hands under the
direction of the two bricklayers, for they could not, I suppose, have
got workmen, except on the condition of the workmen's admission: on
which condition they would naturally employ as few as possible.

In general, I remarked that the rich must have been more urgent and
earnest in seeking escape than the others: for the poor realised only
the near and visible, lived in to-day, and cherished the always-false
notion that to-morrow would be just like to-day. In an out-patients'
waiting-room, for instance, in the Gloucester infirmary, I chanced to
see an astonishing thing: five bodies of poor old women in shawls, come
to have their ailments seen-to on the day of doom; and these, I
concluded, had been unable to realise that anything would really happen
to the daily old earth which they knew, and had walked with assurance
on: for if everybody was to die, they must have thought, who would
preach in the Cathedral on Sunday evenings?--so they could not have
believed. In an adjoining room sat an old doctor at a table, the
stethoscope-tips still clinging in his ears: a woman with bared chest
before him; and I thought to myself: 'Well, this old man, too, died
doing his work....'

In this same infirmary there was one surgical ward--for in a listless
mood I went over it--where the patients had died, not of the poison, nor
of suffocation, but of hunger: for the doctors, or someone, had made the
long room air-tight, double-boarding the windows, felting the doors, and
then locking them outside; they themselves may have perished before
their precautions for the imprisoned patients were complete: for I found
a heap of maimed shapes, mere skeletons, crowded round the door within.
I knew very well that they had not died of the cloud-poison, for the
pestilence of the ward was unmixed with that odour of peach which did
not fail to have more or less embalming effects upon the bodies which it
saturated. I rushed stifling from that place; and thinking it a pity,
and a danger, that such a horror should be, I at once set to work to
gather combustibles to burn the building to the ground.

It was while I sat in an arm-chair in the street the next afternoon,
smoking, and watching the flames of this structure, that something was
suddenly born in me, something from the lowest Hell: and I smiled a
smile that never yet man smiled. And I said: 'I will burn, I will burn:
I will return to London....'

* * * * *

While I was on this Eastward journey, stopping for the night at the
town of Swindon, I had a dream: for I dreamed that a little brown bald
old man, with a bent back, whose beard ran in one thin streamlet of
silver from his chin to trail along the ground, said to me: 'You think
that you are alone on the earth, its sole Despot: well, have your fling:
but as sure as God lives, as God lives, as God lives'--he repeated it
six times--'sooner or later, later or sooner, you will meet another....'

And I started from that frightful sleep with the brow of a corpse, wet
with sweat....

* * * * *

I returned to London on the 29th of March, arriving within a hundred
yards of the Northern Station one windy dark evening about eight, where
I alighted, and walked to Euston Road, then eastward along it, till I
came to a shop which I knew to be a jeweller's, though it was too dark
to see any painted words. The door, to my annoyance, was locked, like
nearly all the shop-doors in London: I therefore went looking near the
ground, and into a cart, for something heavy, very soon saw a labourer's
ponderous boots, cut one from the shrivelled foot, and set to beat at
the glass till it came raining; then knocked away the bottom splinters,
and entered.

No horrors now at that clatter of broken glass; no sick qualms; my
pulse steady; my head high; my step royal; my eye cold and calm.

* * * * *

Eight months previously, I had left London a poor burdened, cowering
wight. I could scream with laughter now at that folly! But it did not
last long. I returned to it--the Sultan.

* * * * *

No private palace being near, I was going to that great hotel in
Bloomsbury: but though I knew that numbers of candle-sticks would be
there, I was not sure that I should find sufficient: for I had acquired
the habit within the past few months of sleeping with at least sixty
lighted about me, and their form, pattern, style, age, and material was
of no small importance I selected ten from the broken shop, eight gold
and silver, and two of old ecclesiastical brass, and having made a
bundle, went out, found a bicycle at the Metropolitan Station, pumped
it, tied my bundle to the handle-bar, and set off riding. But since I
was too lazy to walk, I should certainly have procured some other means
of travelling, for I had not gone ten jolted and creaking yards, when
something went snap--it was a front fork--and I found myself half on
the ground, and half across the bare knees of a Highland soldier. I flew
with a shower of kicks upon the foolish thing: but that booted nothing;
and this was my last attempt in that way in London, the streets being in
an unsuitable condition.

All that dismal night it blew great guns: and during nearly three weeks,
till London was no more, there was a storm, with hardly a lull, that
seemed to behowl her destruction.

* * * * *

I slept in a room on the second-floor of a Bloomsbury hotel that night;
and waking the next day at ten, ate with accursed shiverings in the cold
banqueting-room; went out then, and under drear low skies walked a long
way to the West district, accompanied all the time by a sound of
flapping flags--fluttering robes and rags--and grotesquely grim glimpses
of decay. It was pretty cold, and though I was warmly clad, the base
_bizarrerie_ of the European clothes which I wore had become a perpetual
offence and mockery in my eyes: at the first moment, therefore, I set
out whither I knew that I should find such clothes as a man might wear:
to the Turkish Embassy in Bryanston Square.

I found it open, and all the house, like most other houses, almost
carpeted with dead forms. I had been acquainted with Redouza Pasha, and
cast an eye about for him amid that invasion of veiled hanums,
fierce-looking Caucasians in skins of beasts, a Sheik-ul-Islam in green
cloak, a khalifa, three emirs in cashmere turbans, two tziganes, their
gaudy brown mortality more glaringly abominable than even the Western's.
I could recognise no Redouza here: but the stair was fairly clear, and I
soon came to one of those boudoirs which sweetly recall the deep-buried
inner seclusion and dim sanctity of the Eastern home: a door encrusted
with mother-of-pearl, sculptured ceiling, candles clustered in tulips
and roses of opal, a brazen brasero, and, all in disarray, the silken
chemise, the long winter-cafetan doubled with furs, costly cabinets,
sachets of aromas, babooshes, stuffs of silk. When, after two hours, I
went from the house, I was bathed, anointed, combed, scented, and robed.

* * * * *

I have said to myself: 'I will ravage and riot in my Kingdoms. I will
rage like the Caesars, and be a withering blight where I pass like
Sennacherib, and wallow in soft delights like Sardanapalus. I will build
me a palace, vast as a city, in which to strut and parade my Monarchy
before the Heavens, with stones of pure molten gold, and rough
frontispiece of diamond, and cupola of amethyst, and pillars of pearl.
For there were many men to the eye: but there was One only, really: and
I was he. And always I knew it:--some faintest secret whisper which
whispered me: "_You_ are the Arch-one, the _motif_ of the world, Adam,
and the rest of men not much." And they are gone--all! all!--as no doubt
they deserved: and I, as was meet, remain. And there are wines, and
opiums, and haschish; and there are oils, and spices, fruits and
bivalves, and soft-breathing Cyclades, and scarlet luxurious Orients. I
will be restless and turbulent in my territories: and again, I will be
languishing and fond. I will say to my soul: "Be Full."'

* * * * *

I watch my mind, as in the old days I would watch a new precipitate in a
test-tube, to see into what sediment it would settle.

I am very averse to trouble of any sort, so that the necessity for the
simplest manual operations will rouse me to indignation: but if a thing
will contribute largely to my ever-growing voluptuousness, I will
undergo a considerable amount of labour to accomplish it, though
without steady effort, being liable to side-winds and whims, and
purposeless relaxations.

In the country I became very irritable at the need which confronted me
of occasionally cooking some green vegetable--the only item of food
which it was necessary to take some trouble over: for all meats, and
many fish, some quite delicious, I find already prepared in forms which
will remain good probably a century after my death, should I ever die.
In Gloucester, however, I found peas, asparagus, olives, and other
greens, already prepared to be eaten without base cares: and these, I
now see, exist everywhere in stores so vast comparatively to the needs
of a single man, that they may be called infinite. Everything, in fact,
is infinite compared with my needs. I take my meals, therefore, without
more trouble than a man who had to carve his joint, or chicken: though
even that little I sometimes find most irksome. There remains the
detestable degradation of lighting fires for warmth, which I have
occasionally to do: for the fire at the hotel invariably goes out while
I sleep. But that is an inconvenience of this vile northern island only,
to which I shall soon bid eternal glad farewells.

During the afternoon of my second day in London, I sought out a strong
petrol motor in Holborn, overhauled and oiled it a little, and set off
over Blackfriars Bridge, making for Woolwich through that other more
putrid London on the south river-side. One after the other, I connected,
as I came upon them, two drays, a cab, and a private carriage, to my
motor in line behind, having cut away the withered horses, and using the
reins, chain-harness, &c., as impromptu couplings. And with this novel
train, I rumbled eastward.

Half-way I happened to look at my old silver chronometer of
_Boreal_-days, which I have kept carefully wound--and how I can be still
thrown into these sudden frantic agitations by a nothing, a nothing, my
good God! I do not know. This time it was only the simple fact that the
hands chanced to point to 3.10 P.M., the precise moment at which all the
clocks of London had stopped--for each town has its thousand weird
fore-fingers, pointing, pointing still, to the moment of doom. In London
it was 3.10 on a Sunday afternoon. I first noticed it going up the river
on the face of the 'Big Ben' of the Parliament-house, and I now find
that they all, all, have this 3.10 mania, time-keepers still, but
keepers of the end of Time, fixedly noting for ever and ever that one
moment. The cloud-mass of fine penetrating _scoriae_ must have instantly
stopped their works, and they had fallen silent with man. But in their
insistence upon this particular minute I had found something so
hideously solemn, yet mock-solemn, personal, and as it were addressed to
_me_, that when my own watch dared to point to the same moment, I was
thrown into one of those sudden, paroxysmal, panting turmoils of mind,
half rage, half horror, which have hardly once visited me since I left
the _Boreal_. On the morrow, alas, another awaited me; and again on the
second morrow after.

* * * * *

My train was execrably slow, and not until after five did I arrive at
the entrance-gates of the Woolwich Royal Arsenal; and seeing that it was
too late to work, I uncoupled the motor, and leaving the others there,
turned back; but overtaken by lassitude, I procured candles, stopped at
the Greenwich Observatory, and in that old dark pile, remained for the
night, listening to a furious storm. But, a-stir by eight the next
morning, I got back by ten to the Arsenal, and proceeded to analyse that
vast and multiple entity. Many parts of it seemed to have been abandoned
in undisciplined haste, and in the Cap Factory, which I first entered, I
found tools by which to effect entry into any desired part. My first
search was for time-fuses of good type, of which I needed two or three
thousand, and after a wearily long time found a great number
symmetrically arranged in rows in a range of buildings called the
Ordnance Store Department. I then descended, walked back to the wharf,
brought up my train, and began to lower the fuses in bag-fulls by ropes
through a shoot, letting go each rope as the fuses reached the cart.
However, on winding one fuse, I found that the mechanism would not go,
choked with scoriae; and I had to resign myself to the task of opening
and dusting every one: a wretched labour in which I spent that day, like
a workman. But about four I threw them to the devil, having done two
hundred odd, and then hummed back in the motor to London.

* * * * *

That same evening at six I paid, for the first time, a visit to my old
self in Harley Street. It was getting dark, and a bleak storm that
hooted like whooping-cough swept the world. At once I saw that even _I_
had been invaded: for my door swung open, banging, a lowered catch
preventing it from slamming; in the passage the car-lamp shewed me a
young man who seemed a Jew, sitting as if in sleep with dropped head, a
back-tilted silk-hat pressed down upon his head to the ears; and lying
on face, or back, or side, six more, one a girl with Arlesienne
head-dress, one a negress, one a Deal lifeboat's-man, and three of
uncertain race; the first room--the waiting-room--is much more
numerously occupied, though there still, on the table, lies the volume
of _Punch_, the _Gentlewoman_, and the book of London views in
heliograph. Behind this, descending two steps, is the study and
consulting-room, and there, as ever, the revolving-cover oak
writing-desk: but on my little shabby-red sofa, a large lady much too
big for it, in shimmering brown silk, round her left wrist a _trousseau_
of massive gold trinkets, her head dropped right back, almost severed by
an infernal gash from the throat. Here were two old silver
candle-sticks, which I lit, and went upstairs: in the drawing-room sat
my old house-keeper, placidly dead in a rocking-chair, her left hand
pressing down a batch of the open piano-keys, among many strangers. But
she was very good: she had locked my bedroom against intrusion; and as
the door stands across a corner behind a green-baize curtain, it had not
been seen, or, at least, not forced. I did not know where the key might
be, but a few thumps with my back drove it open: and there lay my bed
intact, and everything tidy. This was a strange coming-back to it, Adam.

But what intensely interested me in that room was a big thing standing
at the maroon-and-gold wall between wardrobe and dressing-table--that
gilt frame--and that man painted within it there. It was myself in oils,
done by--I forget his name now: a towering celebrity he was, and rather
a close friend of mine at one time. In a studio in St. John's Wood, I
remember, he did it; and many people said that it was quite a great work
of art. I suppose I was standing before it quite thirty minutes that
night, holding up the bits of candle, lost in wonder, in amused contempt
at that thing there. It is I, certainly: that I must admit. There is the
high-curving brow--really a King's brow, after all, it strikes me
now--and that vacillating look about the eyes and mouth which used to
make my sister Ada say: 'Adam is weak and luxurious.' Yes, that is
wonderfully done, the eyes, that dear, vacillating look of mine; for
although it is rather a staring look, yet one can almost see the dark
pupils stir from side to side: very well done. And there is the longish
face; and the rather thin, stuck-out moustache, shewing both lips which
pout a bit; and there is the nearly black hair; and there is the rather
visible paunch; and there is, oh good Heaven, the neat pink cravat--ah,
it must have been _that--the cravat_--that made me burst out into
laughter so loud, mocking, and uncontrollable the moment my eye rested
there! 'Adam Jeffson,' I muttered reproachfully when it was over, 'could
that poor thing in the frame have been you?'

I cannot quite state why the tendency toward Orientalism--Oriental
dress--all the manner of an Oriental monarch--has taken full possession
of me: but so it is: for surely I am hardly any longer a Western,
'modern' mind, but a primitive and Eastern one. Certainly, that cravat
in the frame has receded a million, million leagues, ten thousand
forgotten aeons, from me! Whether this is a result due to my own
personality, of old acquainted with Eastern notions, or whether,
perhaps, it is the natural accident to any mind wholly freed from
trammels, I do not know. But I seem to have gone right back to the very
beginnings, and resemblance with man in his first, simple, gaudy
conditions. My hair, as I sit here writing, already hangs a black, oiled
string down my back; my scented beard sweeps in two opening whisks to my
ribs; I have on the _izar_, a pair of drawers of yomani cloth like
cotton, but with yellow stripes; over this a soft shirt, or quamis, of
white silk, reaching to my calves; over this a short vest of
gold-embroidered crimson, the _sudeyree_; over this a khaftan of
green-striped silk, reaching to the ankles, with wide, long sleeves
divided at the wrist, and bound at the waist with a voluminous gaudy
shawl of Cashmere for girdle; over this a warm wide-flowing torrent of
white drapery, lined with ermine. On my head is the skull-cap, covered
by a high crimson cap with deep-blue tassel; and on my feet is a pair of
thin yellow-morocco shoes, covered over with thick red-morocco
babooshes. My ankles--my ten fingers--my wrists--are heavy with gold and
silver ornaments; and in my ears, which, with considerable pain, I bored
three days since, are two needle-splinters, to prepare the holes for

* * * * *

O Liberty! I am free....

* * * * *

While I was going to visit my old home in Harley Street that night, at
the very moment when I turned from Oxford Street into Cavendish Square,
this thought, fiercely hissed into my ears, was all of a sudden seething
in me: 'If now I should lift my eyes, and see a man walking yonder--just
yonder--_at the corner there_--turning from Harewood Place into Oxford
Street--what, my good God, should I do?--I without even a knife to run
and plunge into his heart?'

And I turned my eyes--ogling, suspicious eyes of furtive
horror--reluctantly, lingeringly turned--and I peered deeply with
lowered brows across the murky winds at that same spot: but no man was

Hideously frequent is this nonsense now become with me--in streets of
towns--in deep nooks of the country: the invincible assurance that, if I
but turn the head, and glance _there_--at a certain fixed spot--I shall
surely see--I _must_ see--a man. And glance I must, glance I must,
though I perish: and when I glance, though my hairs creep and stiffen
like stirring amobse, yet in my eyes, I know, is monarch indignation
against the intruder, and my neck stands stiff as sovereignty itself,
and on my brow sits more than all the lordship of Persepolis and Iraz.

To what point of wantonness this arrogance of royalty may lead me, I do
not know: I will watch, and see. It is written: 'It is not good for man
to be alone!' But good or no, the arrangement of One planet, One
inhabitant, already seems to me, not merely a natural and proper, but
the _only_ natural and proper, condition; so much so, that any other
arrangement has now, to my mind, a certain improbable, wild, and
far-fetched unreality, like the Utopian schemes of dreamers and
faddists. That the whole world should have been made for _me_
alone--that London should have been built only in order that _I_ might
enjoy the vast heroic spectacle of its burning--that all history, and
all civilisation should have existed only in order to accumulate for
_my_ pleasures its inventions and facilities, its stores of purple and
wine, of spices and gold--no more extraordinary does it all seem to me
than to some little unreflecting Duke of my former days seemed the
possessing of lands which his remote forefathers seized, and slew the
occupiers: nor, in reality, is it even so extraordinary, I being alone.
But what sometimes strikes me with some surprise is, not that the
present condition of the world, with one sole master, should seem the
common-place and natural condition, but that it should have come to seem
_so_ common-place and natural--in nine months. The mind of Adam Jeffson
is adaptable.

* * * * *

I sat a long time thinking such things by my bed that night, till
finally I was disposed to sleep there. But I had no considerable number
of candle-sticks, nor was even sure of candles. I remembered, however,
that Peter Peters, three doors away on the other side of the street,
had had four handsome silver candelabra in his drawing-room, each
containing six stems; and I said to myself: 'I will search for candles
in the kitchen, and if I find any, I will go and get Peter Peters'
candelabra, and sleep here.'

I took then the two lights which I had, my good God; went down to the
passage; then down to the basement; and there had no difficulty in
finding three packets of large candles, the fact being, I suppose, that
the cessation of gas-lighting had compelled everyone to provide
themselves in this way, for there were a great many wherever I looked.
With these I re-ascended, went into a little alcove on the second-floor
where I had kept some drugs, got a bottle of carbolic oil, and for ten
minutes went dashing all the corpses in the house. I then left the two
lighted bits of candle on the waiting-room table, and, with the
car-lamp, passed along the passage to the front-door, which was very
violently banging. I stepped out to find that the storm had increased to
a mighty turbulence (though it was dry), which at once caught my
clothes, and whirled them into a flapping cloud about and above me;
also, I had not crossed the street when my lamp was out. I persisted,
however, half blinded, to Peters door. It was locked: but immediately
near the pavement was a window, the lower sash up, into which, with
little trouble, I lifted myself and passed. My foot, as I lowered it,
stood on a body: and this made me angry and restless. I hissed a curse,
and passed on, scraping the carpet with my soles, that I might hurt no
one: for I did not wish to hurt any one. Even in the almost darkness of
the room I recognised Peters' furniture, as I expected: for the house
was his on a long lease, and I knew that his mother had had the
intention to occupy it after his death. But as I passed into the
passage, all was mere blank darkness, and I, depending upon the lamp,
had left the matches in the other house. I groped my way to the stairs,
and had my foot on the first step, when I was stopped by a vicious
shaking of the front-door, which someone seemed to be at with hustlings
and the most urgent poundings: I stood with peering stern brows two or
three minutes, for I knew that if I once yielded to the flinching at my
heart, no mercy would be shown me in this house of tragedy, and
thrilling shrieks would of themselves arise and ring through its haunted
chambers. The rattling continued an inordinate time, and so instant and
imperative, that it seemed as if it could not fail to force the door.
But, though horrified, I whispered to my heart that it could only be the
storm which was struggling at it like the grasp of a man, and after a
time went on, feeling my way by the broad rail, in my brain somehow the
thought of a dream which I had had in the _Boreal_ of the woman Clodagh,
how she let drop a fluid like pomegranate-seeds into water, and tendered
it to Peter Peters: and it was a mortal purging draught; but I would not
stop, but step by step went up, though I suffered very much, my brows
peering at the utter darkness, and my heart shocked at its own rashness.
I got to the first landing, and as I turned to ascend the second part of
the stair, my left hand touched something icily cold: I made some quick
instinctive movement of terror, and, doing so, my foot struck against
something, and I stumbled, half falling over what seemed a small table
there. Immediately a horrible row followed, for something fell to the
ground: and at that instant, ah, I heard something--a voice--a human
voice, which uttered words close to my ear--the voice of Clodagh, for I
knew it: yet not the voice of Clodagh in the flesh, but her voice
clogged with clay and worms, and full of effort, and thick-tongued: and
in that ghastly speech of the grave I distinctly heard the words:

'_Things being as they are in the matter of the death of Peter ..._'

And there it stopped dead, leaving me so sick, my God, so sick, that I
could hardly snatch my robes about me to fly, fly, fly, soft-footed,
murmuring in pain, down the steps, down like a sneaking thief, but
quick, snatching myself away, then wrestling with the cruel catch of the
door which she would not let me open, feeling her all the time behind
me, watching me. And when I did get out, I was away up the length of the
street, trailing my long _jubbah_, glancing backward, panting, for I
thought that she might dare to follow, with her daring evil will. And
all that night I lay on a common bench in the wind-tossed and dismal

* * * * *

The first thing which I did when the sun was up was to return to that
place: and I returned with hard and masterful brow.

Approaching Peters' house I saw now, what the darkness had hidden from
me, that on his balcony was someone--quite alone there. The balcony is a
slight open-work wrought-iron structure, connected to a small roof by
three slender voluted pillars, two at the ends, one in the middle: and
at the middle one I saw someone, a woman--kneeling--her arms clasped
tight about the pillar, and her face rather upward-looking. Never did I
see aught more horrid: there were the gracious curves of the woman's
bust and hips still well preserved in a clinging dress of red cloth,
very faded now; and her reddish hair floated loose in a large flimsy
cloud about her; but her face, in that exposed position, had been quite
eaten away by the winds to a noseless skeleton, which grinned from ear
to ear, with slightly-dropped under-jaw--most horrid in contrast with
the body, and frame of hair. I meditated upon her a long time that
morning from the opposite pavement. An oval locket at her throat
contained, I knew, my likeness: for eight years previously I had given
it her. It was Clodagh, the poisoner.

I thought that I would go into that house, and walk through it from top
to bottom, and sit in it, and spit in it, and stamp in it, in spite of
any one: for the sun was now high. I accordingly went in again, and up
the stairs to the spot where I had been frightened, and had heard the
words. And here a great rage took me, for I at once saw that I had been
made the dupe of the malign wills that beset me, and the laughing-stock
of Those for whom I care not a fig. From a little mahogany table there I
had knocked sideways to the ground, in my stumble, a small phonograph
with a great 25-inch japanned-tin horn, which, the moment that I now
noticed it, I took and flung with a great racket down the stairs: for
that this it was which had addressed me I did not doubt; it being indeed
evident that its clock-work mechanism had been stopped by the volcanic
scoriae in the midst of the delivery of a record, but had been started
into a few fresh oscillations by the shock of the fall, making it utter
those thirteen words, and stop. I was sufficiently indignant at the
moment, but have since been glad, for I was thereby put upon the notion
of collecting a number of cylinders with records, and have been touched
with indescribable sensations, sometimes thrilled, at hearing the
silence of this Eternity broken by those singing and speaking voices, so
life-like, yet most ghostly, of the old dead.

* * * * *

Well, the most of that same day I spent in a high chamber at Woolwich,
dusting out, and sometimes oiling, time-fuses: a work in which I
acquired such facility in some hours, that each finally occupied me no
more than ninety to a hundred seconds, so that by evening I had, with
the previous day's work, close on 600. The construction of these little
things is very simple, and, I believe, effective, so that I should have
no difficulty in making them myself in large numbers, if it were
necessary. Most contain a tiny dry battery, which sends a current along
a bell or copper wire at the running-down moment, the clocks being
contrived to be set for so many days, hours, and minutes, while others
ignite by striking. I arranged in rows in the covered van those which I
had prepared, and passed the night in an inn near the Barracks. I had
brought candle-sticks from London in the morning, and arranged the
furniture--a settee, chest-of-drawers, basin-stand, table, and a number
of chairs--in three-quarter-circle round the bed, so getting a
triple-row altar of lights, mixed with vases of the house containing
small palms and evergreens; with this I mingled a smell of ambergris
from the scattered contents of some Turkish sachets which I had; in the
bed a bottle of sweet Chypre-wine, with _bonbons_, nuts, and Havannas.
As I lay me down, I could not but reflect, with a smile which I knew to
be evil, upon that steady, strong, smouldering lust within me which was
urging me through all those pains at the Arsenal, I who shirked every
labour as unkingly. So, however, it was: and the next morning I was at
it again after an early breakfast, my fingers at first quite stiff with
cold, for it blew a keen and January gale. By nine I had 820 fuses; and
judging those sufficient to commence with, got into the motor, and took
it round to a place called the East Laboratory, a series of detached
buildings, where I knew that I should find whatever I wanted: and I
prepared my mind for a day's labour. In this place I found incredible
stores: mountains of percussion-caps, more chambers of fuses, small-arm
cartridges, shells, and all those murderous explosive mixtures, a-making
and made, with which modern savagery occupied its leisure in
exterminating itself: or, at least, savagery civilised in its top-story
only: for civilisation was apparently from the head downwards, and never
once grew below the neck in all those centuries, those people being
certainly much more mental than cordial, though I doubt if they were
genuinely mental either--reminding one rather of that composite image of
Nebuchadnezzar, head of gold, breast brazen, feet of clay--head
man-like, heart cannibal, feet bestial--like aegipeds, and mermaids, and
puzzling undeveloped births. However, it is of no importance: and
perhaps I am not much better than the rest, for I, too, after all, am of
them. At any rate, their lyddites, melanites, cordites, dynamites,
powders, jellies, oils, marls, and civilised barbarisms and obiahs, came
in very well for their own destruction: for by two o'clock I had so
worked, that I had on the first cart the phalanx of fuses; on the
second a goodly number of kegs, cartridge-cases and cartridge-boxes,
full of powder, explosive cottons and gelatines, and liquid
nitro-glycerine, and earthy dynamite, with some bombs, two reels of
cordite, two pieces of tarred cloth, a small iron ladle, a shovel, and a
crow-bar; the cab came next, containing a considerable quantity of loose
coal; and lastly, in the private carriage lay four big cans of common
oil. And first, in the Laboratory, I connected a fuse-conductor with a
huge tun of blasting-gelatine, and I set the fuse on the ground, timed
for the midnight of the twelfth day thence; and after that I visited the
Main Factory, the Carriage Department, the Ordnance Store Department,
the Royal Artillery Barracks, and the Powder Magazines in the Marshes,
traversing, as it seemed to me, miles of building; and in some I laid
heaps of oil-saturated coal with an explosive in suitable spots on the
ground-floor near wood-work, and in some an explosive alone: and all I
timed for ignition at midnight of the twelfth day. Hot now, and black as
ink, I proceeded through the town, stopping with perfect system at every
hundredth door: and I laid the faggots of a great burning: and timed
them all for ignition at midnight of the twelfth day.

* * * * *

Whatever door I found closed against me I drove at it with a maniac

* * * * *

Shall I commit the whole dark fact to paper?--that deep, deep secret of
the human organism?

As I wrought, I waxed wicked as a demon! And with lowered neck, and
forward curve of the lower spine, and the blasphemous strut of tragic
play-actors, I went. For here was no harmless burning which I did--but
the crime of arson; and a most fiendish, though vague, malevolence, and
the rage to burn and raven and riot, was upon me like a dog-madness, and
all the mood of Nero, and Nebuchadnezzar: and from my mouth proceeded
all the obscenities of the slum and of the gutter, and I sent up such
hisses and giggles of challenge to Heaven that day as never yet has man
let out. But this way lies a spinning frenzy....

* * * * *

I have taken a dead girl with wild huggings to my bosom; and I have
touched the corrupted lip, and spat upon her face, and tossed her down,
and crushed her teeth with my heel, and jumped and jumped upon her
breast, like the snake-stamping zebra, mad, mad...!

* * * * *

I was desolated, however, that first day of the faggot-laying, even in
the midst of my sense of omnipotence, by one thing, which made me give
some kicks to the motor: for it was only crawling, so that a good part
of the way I was stalking by its side; and when I came to that hill near
the Old Dover Road, the whole thing stopped, and refused to move, the
weight of the train being too great for my horse-power traction. I did
not know what to do, and stood there in angry impotence a full
half-hour, for the notion of setting up an electric station, with or
without automatic stoking-gear, presented so hideous a picture of labour
to me, that I would not entertain it. After a time, however, I thought
that I remembered that there was a comparatively new power station in
St. Paneras driven by turbines: and at once, I uncoupled the motor,
covered the drays with the tarpaulins, and went driving at singing
speed, choosing the emptier by-streets, and not caring whom I crushed.
After some trouble I found, in fact, the station in an obscure by-street
made of two long walls, and went in by a window, a rage upon me to have
my will quickly accomplished. I ran up some stairs, across two rooms,
into a gallery containing a switch-board, and in the room below saw the
works, all very neat-looking, but, as I soon found, very dusty. I went
down, and fixed upon a generating set--there were three--that would give
a decent load, and then saw that the switch-gear belonging to this
particular generator was in order. I then got some cloths and thoroughly
cleaned the dust off the commutators; ran next--for I was in a strange
fierce haste--and turned the water into the turbines, and away went the
engine; I hurried to set the lubricators running on the bearings, and in
a couple of minutes had adjusted the speed, and the brushes of the
generators, and switched the current on to the line. By this time,
however, I saw that it was getting dark, and feared that little could be
done that day; still, I hurried out, the station still running, got into
the car, and was off to look for a good electric one, of which there are
hosts in the streets, in order at least to clean up and adjust the motor
that night. I drove down three by-streets, till I turned into Euston
Road: but I had no sooner reached it than I pulled up--with sudden
jerk--with a shout of astonishment.

That cursed street was all lighted up and gay! and three shimmering
electric globes, not far apart, illuminated every feature of a ghastly
battle-field of dead.

And there was a thing there, the grinning impression of which I shall
carry to my grave: a thing which spelled and spelled at me, and ceased,
and began again, and ceased, and spelled at me. For, above a shop which
faced me was a flag, a red flag with white letters, fluttering on the
gale the words: 'Metcalfe's Stores'; and beneath the flag, stretched
right across the house, was the thing which spelled, letter by letter,
in letters of light: and it spelled two words, deliberately, coming to
the end, and going back to recommence:


And that was the last word of civilised Man to me, Adam Jeffson--its
final counsel--its ultimate gospel and message--to _me_, my good God!
_Drink Roboral!_

I was put into such a passion of rage by this blatant ribaldry, which
affected me like the laughter of a skeleton, that I rushed from the car,
with the intention, I believe, of seeking stones to stone it: but no
stones were there: and I had to stand impotently enduring that rape of
my eyes, its victoriously-dogged iteration, its taunting leer, its
Drink Roboral--D, R, I, N, K R, O, B, O, R, A, L.

It was one of those electrical spelling-advertisements, worked by a
small motor commutator driven by a works-motor, and I had now set it
going: for on some night before that Sabbath of doom the chemist must
have set it to work, but finding the works abandoned, had not troubled
to shut it down again. At any rate, this thing stopped my work for that
day, for when I went to shut down the works it was night; and I drove to
the place which I had made my home in sullen and weary mood: for I knew
that Roboral would not cure the least of all my sores.

* * * * *

The next morning I awoke in quite another frame of mind, disposed to
idle, and let things go. After rising, dressing, washing in cold diluted
rose-water, and descending to the _salle-a-manger_, where I had laid my
morning-meal the previous evening, I promenaded an hour the only one of
these long sombrous tufted corridors in which there were not more than
two dead, though behind the doors on either hand, all of which I had
locked, I knew that they lay in plenty. When I was warmed, I again went
down, looked into my motor, got three cylinders from one of a number of
motors standing near, lit up, and drove away--to Woolwich, as I thought
at first: but instead of crossing the river by Blackfriars, I went more
eastward; and having passed from Holborn into Cheapside, which was
impassable, unless I crawled, was about to turn, when I noticed a
phonograph-shop: into this I got by a side-door, suddenly seized by
quite a curiosity to hear what I might hear. I took a good one with
microphone diaphragm, and a number of record-cylinders in a
brass-handled box, and I put them into the car, for there was still a
very strong peach-odour in this closed shop, which displeased me. I then
proceeded southward and westward through by-streets, seeking some
probable house into which to go from the rough cold winds, when I saw
the Parliament-house, and thither, turning river-ward by Westminster
Hall to Palace Yard, I went, and with my two parcels, one weighting each
arm, walked into this old place along a line of purple-dusted busts; I
deposited my boxes on a table beside a massive brass thing lying there,
which, I suppose, must be what they called the Mace; and I sat to hear.

Unfortunately, the phonograph was a clock-work one, and when I wound it,
it would not go: so that I got very angry at my absurdity in not
bringing an electric mechanism, as I could with much less trouble have
put in a chemical than cleaned the clock-work; and this thing put me
into such a rage, that I nearly tore it to pieces, and was half for
kicking it: but there was a man sitting in an old straight-backed chair
quite near me, which they called the Speaker's Chair, who was in such a
pose, that he had, every time I glanced suddenly at him, precisely the
air of bending forward with interest to watch what I was doing, a
Mohrgrabim kind of man, almost black, with Jewish nose, crinkled hair,
keffie, and flowing robe, probably, I should say, an Abyssinian Galla;
with him were only five or six people about the benches, mostly leaning
forward with rested head, so that this place had quite a void
sequestered mood. At all events, this Galla, or Bedouin, with his
grotesque interest in my doings, restrained my hands: and, finally, by
dint of peering, poking, dusting, and adjusting, in an hour's time I got
the phonograph to go very well.

And all that morning, and far into late afternoon, forgetful of food,
and of the cold which gradually possessed me, I sat there listening,
musing--cylinder after cylinder: frivolous songs, orchestras, voices of
famous men whom I had spoken with, and shaken their solid hands,
speaking again to me, but thick-tongued, with hoarse effort and
gurgles, from out the vague void beyond the grave: most strange, most
strange. And the third cylinder that I put on, ah, I knew, with a
fearful start, that voice of thunder, I knew it well: it was the
preacher, Mackay's; and many, many times over I heard those words of his
that day, originally spoken, it seems, when the cloud had just passed
the longitude of Vienna; and in all that torrent of speech not one
single word of 'I told you so': but he cries:

'...praise Him, O Earth, for He is He: and if He slay me, I will laugh
raillery at His Sword, and banter Him to His face: for His Sword is
sharp Mercy, and His poisons kill my death. Fear not, therefore, little
flock of Man! but take my comfort to your heart to-night, and my sweets
to your tongue: for though ye have sinned, and hardened yourselves as
brass, and gone far, far astray in these latter wildernesses, yet He is
infinitely greater than your sin, and will lead you back. Break not,
break not, poor broken heart of Earth: for from Him I run herald to thee
this night with the sweet and secret message, that of old He chose thee,
and once mixed conjugally with thee in an ancient sleep, O Afflicted:
and He is thou, and thou art He, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His
bone; and if thou perish utterly, it is that He has perished utterly,
too: for thou art He. Hope, therefore, most, and cheeriest smile, at
the very apsis and black nadir of Despair: for He is nimble as a weasel,
and He twists like Proteus, and His solstices and equinoxes, His tropics
and turning-points and recurrences are innate in Being, and when He
falls He falls like harlequin and shuttlecocks, shivering plumb to His
feet, and each third day, lo, He is risen again, and His defeats are but
the stepping-stones and rough scaffolding from which He builds His
Parthenons, and from the densest basalt gush His rills, and the last end
of this Earth shall be no poison-cloud, I say to you, but Carnival and
Harvest-home ... though ye have sinned, poor hearts ...'

* * * * *

So Mackay, with thick-tongued metallic effort. I found this brown room
of the Commons-house, with its green benches, and grilled galleries, so
agreeable to my mood, that I went again the next morning, and listened
to more records, till they tired me: for what I had was a prurient itch
to hear secret scandals, and revelations of the festering heart, but
these cylinders, gathered from a shop, divulged nothing. I then went out
to make for Woolwich, but in the car saw the poet's note-book in which I
had written: and I took it, went back, and was writing an hour, till I
was tired of that, too; and judging it too late for Woolwich that day,
wandered about the dusty committee-rooms and recesses of this
considerable place. In one room another foolishness suddenly seized upon
me, shewing how my slightest whim has become more imperious within me
than all the Jaws of the Medes and Persians: for in that room, Committee
Room No. 15, I found an apparently young policeman lying flat on his
back, who pleased me: his helmet tilted under his head, and near one
white-gloved hand a blue official envelope; the air of that stagnant
quiet room was still perceptibly peach-scented, and he gave not the
slightest odour that I could detect, though he had been corporal and
stalwart, his face now the colour of dark ashes, in each hollow cheek a
ragged hole about the size of a sixpence, the flimsy vaulted eye-lids
well embedded in their caverns, from under whose fringe of eye-lash
seemed whispered the word: '_Eternity._' His hair seemed very long for a
policeman, or perhaps it had grown since death; but what interested me
about him, was the envelope at his hand: for 'what,' I asked myself,
'was this fellow doing here with an envelope at three o'clock on a
Sunday afternoon?' This made me look closer, and then I saw by a mark at
the left temple that he had been shot, or felled; whereupon I was
thrown into quite a great rage, for I thought that this poor man was
killed in the execution of his duty, when many of his kind perhaps, and
many higher than he, had fled their post to pray or riot. So, after
looking at him a long time, I said to him: 'Well, D. 47, you sleep very
well: and you did well, dying so: I am pleased with you, and to mark my
favour, I decree that you shall neither rot in the common air, nor burn
in the common flames: for by my own hand shall you be distinguished with
burial.' And this wind so possessed me, that I at once went out: with
the crow-bar from the car I broke the window of a near iron-monger's in
Parliament Street, got a spade, and went into Westminster Abbey. I soon
prised up a grave-slab of some famous man in the north transept, and
commenced to shovel: but, I do not know how, by the time I had digged a
foot the whole impulse passed from me: I left off the work, promising to
resume it: but nothing was ever done, for the next day I was at
Woolwich, and busy enough about other matters.

* * * * *

During the next nine days I worked with a fever on me, and a map of
London before me.

There were places in that city!--secrets, vastnesses, horrors! In the
wine-vaults at London Docks was a vat which must certainly have
contained between twenty and thirty thousand gallons: and with dancing
heart I laid a train there; the tobacco-warehouse must have covered
eighty acres: and there I laid a fuse. In a house near Regent's Park,
standing in a garden, and shut from the street by a high wall, I saw a
thing...! and what shapes a great city hid I now first know.

* * * * *

I left no quarter unremembered, taking a train, no longer of four, but
of eight, vehicles, drawn by an electric motor which I re-charged every
morning, mostly from the turbine station in St. Pancras, once from a
steam-station with very small engine and dynamo, found in the Palace
Theatre, which gave little trouble, and once from a similar little
station in a Strand hotel. With these I visited West Ham and Kew,
Finchley and Clapham, Dalston and Marylebone; I exhausted London; I
deposited piles in the Guildhall, in Holloway Gaol, in the new pillared
Justice-hall of Newgate, in the Tower, in the Parliament-house, in St.
Giles' Workhouse, in the Crypt and under the organ of St. Paul's, in the
South Kensington Museum, in the Royal Agricultural Society, in
Whiteley's place, in the Trinity House, in Liverpool Street, in the
Office of Works, in the secret recesses of the British Museum; in a
hundred inflammable warehouses, in five hundred shops, in a thousand
private dwellings. And I timed them all for ignition at midnight of the
23rd April.

By five in the afternoon of the 22nd, when I left my train in Maida
Vale, and drove alone to the solitary house on high ground near
Hampstead Heath which I had chosen, the work was well finished.

* * * * *

The great morning dawned, and I was early a-stir: for I had much to do
that day.

I intended to make for the sea-shore the next morning, and had therefore
to choose a good petrol motor, store it, and have it in a place of
safety; I had also to drag another vehicle after me, stored with trunks
of time-fuses, books, clothes, and other little things.

My first journey was to Woolwich, whence I took all that I might ever
require in the way of mechanism; thence to the National Gallery, where I
cut from their frames the 'Vision of St. Helena,' Murillo's 'Boy
Drinking,' and 'Christ at the Column'; and thence to the Embassy to
bathe, anoint myself, and dress.

As I had anticipated, and hoped, a blustering spring gale was blowing
from the north.

Even as I set out from Hampstead, about 9 A.M., I had been able to guess
that some of my fuses had somehow anticipated the appointed hour: for I
saw three red hazes at various points in the air, and heard the far
vague booming of an occasional explosion; and by 11 A.M. I felt sure
that a large region of north-eastern London must be in flames. With the
solemn feelings of bridegrooms and marriage-mornings--with a flinching,
a flinching heart, God knows, yet a heart up-buoyed on thrilling joys--I
went about making preparations for the Gargantuan orgy of the night.

* * * * *

The house at Hampstead, which no doubt still stands, is of rather
pleasing design in quite a stone and rural style, with good breadths of
wall-surface, two plain coped gables, mullioned windows, and oversailing
slate verge roofs, but, rather spoiling it, a high square three-storied
tower at the south-east angle, on the topmost floor of which I had slept
the previous night. There I had provided myself with a jar of pale
tobacco mixed with rose-leaves and opium, found in a foreign house in
Seymour Street, also a genuine Saloniki hookah, together with the best
wines, nuts, and so on, and a gold harp of the musician Krasinski,
stamped with his name, taken from his house in Portland Street.

But so much did I find to do that day, and so many odd things turned up
which I thought that I would take with me, that it was not till near six
that I drove finally northward through Camden Town. And now an ineffable
awe possessed my soul at the solemn noise which everywhere encompassed
me, an ineffable awe, a blissful terror. Never, never could I have
dreamed of aught so great and potent. All above my head there rushed
southward with wide-spread wing of haste a sparkling smoke; and mixed
with the immense roaring I heard mysterious hubbubs of tumblings and
rumblings, which I could not at all comprehend, like the moving-about of
furniture in the houses of Titans; while pervading all the air was a
most weird and tearful sound, as it were threnody, and a wild wail of
pain, and dying swan-songs, and all lamentations and tribulations of the
world. Yet I was aware that, at an hour so early, the flames must be far
from general; in fact, they had not well commenced.

* * * * *

As I had left a good semicircular region of houses, with a radius of
four hundred yards, without combustibles to the south of the isolated
house which I was to occupy, and as the wind was so strongly from the
north, I simply left my two vehicles at the door of the house, without
fear of any injury: nor did any occur. I then went up to the top of the
tower, lit the candles, and ate voraciously of the dinner which I had
left ready, for since the morning I had taken nothing; and then, with
hands and heart that quivered, I arranged the clothes of the low
spring-bed upon which to throw my frame in the morning hours. Opposite
the wall, where lay the bed, was a Gothic window, pretty large, with low
sill, hung with poppy-figured muslin, and looking directly south, so
that I could recline at ease in the red-velvet easy-chair, and see. It
had evidently been a young lady's room: for on the toilette were
cut-glass bottles, a plait of brown hair, powders, _rouge-aux-levres,_
one little bronze slipper, and knick-knacks, and I loved her and hated
her, though I did not see her anywhere. About half-past eight I sat at
the window to watch, all being arranged and ready at my right hand, the
candles extinguished in the red room: for the theatre was opened, was
opened: and the atmosphere of this earth seemed turned into Hell, and
Hell was in my soul.

* * * * *

Soon after midnight there was a sudden and very visible increase in the
conflagration. On all hands I began to see blazing structures soar, with
grand hurrahs, on high. In fives and tens, in twenties and thirties, all
between me and the remote limit of my vision, they leapt, they lingered
long, they fell. My spirit more and more felt, and danced--deeper
mysteries of sensation, sweeter thrills. I sipped exquisitely, I drew
out enjoyment leisurely. Anon, when some more expansive angel of flame
would arise from the Pit with steady aspiration, and linger with
outspread arms, and burst, I would lift a little from the chair, leaning
forward to clap, as at some famous acting; or I would call to them in
shouts of cheer, giving them the names of Woman. For now I seemed to see
nothing but some bellowing pandemonic universe through crimson glasses,
and the air was wildly hot, and my eye-balls like theirs that walk
staring in the inner midst of burning fiery furnaces, and my skin itched
with a fierce and prickly itch. Anon I touched the chords of the harp to
the air of Wagner's 'Walkueren-ritt.'

Near three in the morning, I reached the climax of my guilty sweets. My
drunken eye-lids closed in a luxury of pleasure, and my lips lay
stretched in a smile that dribbled; a sensation of dear peace, of
almighty power, consoled me: for now the whole area which through
streaming tears I surveyed, mustering its ten thousand thunders, and
brawling beyond the stars the voice of its southward-rushing torment,
billowed to the horizon one grand Atlantic of smokeless and flushing
flame; and in it sported and washed themselves all the fiends of Hell,
with laughter, shouts, wild flights, and holiday; and I--first of my
race--had flashed a signal to the nearer planets....

* * * * *

* * * * *

Those words: 'signal to the nearer planets' I wrote nearly fourteen
months ago, some days after the destruction of London, I being then on
board the old _Boreal_, making for the coast of France: for the night
was dark, though calm, and I was afraid of running into some ship, yet
not sleepy, so I wrote to occupy my fingers, the ship lying still. The
book in which I wrote has been near me: but no impulse to write anything
has visited me, till now I continue; not, however, that I have very much
to put down.

I had no intention of wearing out my life in lighting fires every
morning to warm myself in the inhospitable island of Britain, and set
out to France with the view of seeking some palace in the Riviera,
Spain, or perhaps Algiers, there, for the present at least, to make my

I started from Calais toward the end of April, taking my things along,
the first two days by train, and then determining that I was in no
hurry, and a petrol motor easier, took one, and maintained a generally
southern and somewhat eastern direction, ever-anew astonished at the
wildness of the forest vegetation which, within so short a space since
the disappearance of man, chokes this pleasant land, even before the
definite advent of summer.

After three weeks of very slow travelling--for though I know several
countries very well, France with her pavered villages, hilly character,
vines, forests, and primeval country-manner, is always new and charming
to me--after three weeks I came unexpectedly to a valley which had never
entered my head; and the moment that I saw it, I said: 'Here I will
live,' though I had no idea what it was, for the monastery which I saw
did not look at all like a monastery, according to my ideas: but when I
searched the map, I discovered that it must be La Chartreuse de
Vauclaire in Perigord.

It is my belief that this word 'Vauclaire' is nothing else than a
corruption of the Latin _Vallis Clara,_ or Bright Valley, for _l'_s and
_u'_s did interchange about in this way, I remember: _cheval_ becoming
_chevau(x)_ in the plural, like 'fool' and 'fou,' and the rest: which
proves the dear laziness of French people, for the 'l' was too much
trouble for them to sing, and when they came to _two_ 'l's' they quite
succumbed, shying that vault, or vo_u_te, and calling it some _y_. But
at any rate, this Vauclaire, or Valclear, was well named: for here, if
anywhere, is Paradise, and if anyone knew how and where to build and
brew liqueurs, it was those good old monks, who followed their Master
with _entrain_ in that Cana miracle, and in many other things, I fancy,
but aesthetically shirked to say to any mountain: 'Be thou removed.'

* * * * *

The general hue of the vale is a deep cerulean, resembling that blue of
the robes of Albertinelli's Madonnas; so, at least, it strikes the eye
on a clear forenoon of spring or summer. The monastery consists of an
oblong space, or garth, around three sides of which stand sixteen small
houses, with regular intervals between, all identical, the cells of the
fathers; between the oblong space and the cells come the cloisters, with
only one opening to the exterior; in the western part of the oblong is
a little square of earth under a large cypress-shade, within which, as
in a home of peace, it sleeps: and there, straight and slanting, stand
little plain black crosses over graves....

To the west of the quadrangle is the church, with the hostelry, and an
asphalted court with some trees and a fountain; and beyond, the

All this stands on a hill of gentle slope, green as grass; and it is
backed close against a steep mountain-side, of which the tree-trunks are
conjectural, for I never saw any, the trees resembling rather one
continuous leafy tree-top, run out high and far over the extent of the

* * * * *

I was there four months, till something drove me away. I do not know
what had become of the fathers and brothers, for I only found five, four
of whom I took in two journeys in the motor beyond the church of Saint
Martial d'Artenset, and left them there; and the fifth remained three
weeks with me, for I would not disturb him in his prayer. He was a
bearded brother of forty years or thereabouts, who knelt in his cell
robed and hooded in all his phantom white: for in no way different from
whatever is most phantom, visionary and eerie must a procession of these
people have seemed by gloaming, or dark night This particular brother
knelt, I say, in his small chaste room, glaring upward at his Christ,
who hung long-armed in a little recess between the side of three narrow
bookshelves and a projection of the wall; and under the Christ a gilt
and blue Madonna; the books on the three shelves few, leaning different
ways. His right elbow rested on a square plain table, at which was a
wooden chair; behind him, in a corner, the bed: a bed all enclosed in
dark boards, a broad perpendicular board along the foot, reaching the
ceiling, a horizontal board at the side over which he got into bed,
another narrower one like it at the ceiling for fringe and curtain, and
another perpendicular one hiding the pillow, making the clean bed within
a very shady and cosy little den, on the wall of this den being another
smaller Christ and a little picture. On the perpendicular board at the
foot hung two white garments, and over a second chair at the bed-side
another: all very neat and holy. He was a large stern man, blond as
corn, but with some red, too, in his hairy beard; and appalling was the
significance of those eyes that prayed, and the long-drawn cavity of
those saffron cheeks. I cannot explain to myself my deep reverence for
this man; but I had it, certainly. Many of the others, it is clear, had
fled: but not he: and to the near-marching cloud he opposed the Cross,
holding one real as the other--he alone among many. For Christianity was
an _elite_ religion, in which all were called, but few chosen, differing
from Mohammedanism and Buddhism, which grasped and conquered all within
their reach: the effect of Christ rather resembling Plato's and Dante's,
it would seem: but Mahomet's more like Homer's and Shakespeare's.

It was my way to plant at the portal the big, carved chair from the
chancel on the hot days, and rest my soul, refusing to think of
anything, drowsing and smoking for hours. All down there in the plain
waved gardens of delicious fruit about the prolonged silver thread of
the river Isle, whose course winds loitering quite near the foot of the
monastery-slope. This slope dominates a tract of distance that is not
only vast, but looks immense, although the horizon is bounded by a
semicircle of low hills, rather too stiff and uniform for perfect
beauty; the interval of plain being occupied by yellow ploughed lands
which were never sown, weedy now, and crossed and recrossed by
vividly-green ribbons of vine, with stretches of pale-green lucerne,
orchards, and the white village of Monpont near the railway, all
embowered, the Isle drawing its mercurial streams through the
village-meadow, which is dark with shades of oaks: and to have played
there a boy, and used it familiarly from birth as one's own hand or
foot, must have been very sweet and homely; after this, the river
divides, and takes the shape of a heart; and very far away are visible
the grey banks of the Gironde. On the semicircle of hills, when there
was little distance-mist, I saw the ruins of some seigneurial chateau,
for the seigneurs, too, knew where to build; and to my left, between a
clump of oaks and an avenue of poplars, the bell-tower of the
village--church of Saint Martial d'Artenset--a very ancient type of
tower, I believe, and common in France, rather ponderous, consisting of
a square mass with a smaller square mass stuck on, the latter having
large Gothic windows; and behind me the west face of the
monastery-church, over the door being the statue of Saint Bruno.

Well, one morning after four months, I opened my eyes in my cell to the
piercing consciousness that I had burned Monpont over-night: and so
overcome was I with regret for this poor inoffensive little place, that
for two days, hardly eating, I paced between the oak and walnut pews of
the nave, massive stalls they are, separated by grooved Corinthian
pilasters, wondering what was to become of me, and if I was not already
mad; and there are some little angels with extraordinarily human
Greuze-like faces, supporting the nerves of the apse, which, after a
time, every time I passed them, seemed conscious of me and my existence
there; and the wood-work which ornaments the length of the nave, and of
the choir also, elaborate with carved marguerites and roses, here and
there took in my eyes significant forms from certain points of view; and
there is a partition--for the nave is divided into two chapels, one for
the brothers and one for the fathers, I conclude--and in this partition
a massive door, which yet looks quite light and graceful, carved with
oak and acanthus leaves, and every time I passed through I had the
impression that the door was a sentient thing, subconscious of me; and
the delicate Italian-Renaissance brick vault which springs from the vast
nave seemed to look upon me with a gloomy knowledge of me, and of the
heart within me; and at about four in the afternoon of the second day,
after pacing the church for hours, I fell down at one of the two altars
near that carved door of the screen, praying God to have mercy upon my
soul; and in the very midst of my praying, I was up and away, the devil
in me, and I got into the motor, and did not come back to Vauclaire for
another month, and came leaving great tracts of burned desolation behind
me, towns and forests, Bordeaux burned, Lebourne burned, Bergerac

* * * * *

I returned to Vauclaire, for it seemed now my home; and there I
experienced a true, a deep repentance; and I humbled myself before my
Maker. And while in this state, sitting one bright day in front of the
monastery-gate, something said to me: 'You will never be a good man, nor
permanently escape Hell and Frenzy, unless you have an aim in life,
devoting yourself heart and soul to some great work, which will exact
all your science, your thought, your ingenuity, your knowledge of modern
things, your strength of body and will, your skill of head and hand:
otherwise you are bound to succumb. Do this, therefore, beginning, not
to-morrow nor this afternoon, but now: for though no man will see your
work, there is still the Almighty God, who is also something, in His
way: and He will see how you strive, and try, and groan: and perhaps,
seeing, He may have mercy upon you.'

* * * * *

In this way arose the idea of the Palace--an idea, indeed, which had
entered my brain before, but merely as a bombastic and visionary outcome
of my raving moods: now, however, in a very different way, soberly, and
soon concerning itself with details, difficulties, means, limitations,
and every kind of practical matter-of-fact; and every obstruction which,
one by one, I foresaw was, one by one, as the days passed, over-borne by
the vigour with which that thought, rapidly becoming a mania, possessed
me. After a week of incessant meditation, I decided Yes: and I said: I
will build a palace, which shall be both a palace and a temple: the
first human temple worthy the King of Heaven, and the only human palace
worthy the King of Earth.

* * * * *

After this decision I remained at Vauclaire another week, a very
different man to the lounger it had seen, strenuous, converted, humble,
making plans of this and of that, of the detail, and of the whole,
drawing, multiplying, dividing, adding, conic sections and the
rule-of-three, totting up the period of building, which came out at a
little over twelve years, estimating the quantities of material, weight
and bulk, my nights full of nightmare as to the _sort_, deciding as to
the size and structure of the crane, forge, and work-shop, and the
necessarily-limited weights of their component parts, making a list of
over 2,400 objects, and finally, up to the third week after my departure
from Vauclaire, skimming through the topography of nearly the whole
earth, before fixing upon the island of Imbros for my site.

* * * * *

I returned to England, and, once more, to the hollow windows and strewn
streets of black, burned-out and desolate London: for its bank-vaults,
etc., contained the necessary complement of the gold brought from Paris,
and then lying in the _Speranza_ at Dover; nor had I sufficient
familiarity with French industries and methods to find, even with the
aid of _Bottins_, one half of the 4,000 odd objects which I had now
catalogued. My ship was the _Speranza_, which brought me from Havre, for
at Calais, to which I first went, I could find nothing suitable for all
purposes, the _Speranza_ being an American yacht, very palatially
fitted, three-masted, air-driven, with a carrying capacity of 2,000
tons, Tobin-bronzed, in good condition, containing sixteen interacting
tanks, with a five-block pulley-arrangement amid-ships that enables me
to lift very considerable weights without the aid of the hoisting
air-engine, high in the water, sharp, handsome, containing a few tons
only of sand-ballast, and needing when I found her only three days' work
at the water-line and engines to make her decent and fit. I threw out
her dead, backed her from the Outer to the Inner Basin to my train on
the quai, took in the twenty-three hundred-weight bags of gold, and the
half-ton of amber, and with this alone went to Dover, thence to
Canterbury by motor, and thence in a long train, with a store of
dynamite from the Castle for blasting possible obstructions, to London:
meaning to make Dover my _depot_, and the London rails my thoroughfare
from all parts of the country.

Instead of three months, as I had calculated, it took me nine: a
harrowing slavery. I had to blast no less than forty-three trains from
the path of my loaded wagons, several times blasting away the metals as
well, and then having to travel hundreds of yards without metals: for
the labour of kindling the obstructing engines, to shunt them down
sidings perhaps distant, was a thing which I would not undertake.
However, all's well that ends well, though if I had it to go through
again, certainly I should not. The _Speranza_ is now lying seven miles
off Cape Roca, a heavy mist on the still water, this being the 19th of
June at 10 in the night: no wind, no moon: cabin full of mist: and I
pretty listless and disappointed, wondering in my heart why I was such
a fool as to take all that trouble, nine long servile months, my good
God, and now seriously thinking of throwing the whole vile thing to the
devil; she pretty deep in the water, pregnant with the palace. When the
thirty-three ...

* * * * *

* * * * *

* * * * *

* * * * *

* * * * *

Those words: 'when the thirty-three' were written by me over seventeen
years since--long years--seventeen in number, nor have I now any idea to
what they refer. The book in which I wrote I had lost in the cabin of
the _Speranza_, and yesterday, returning to Imbros from an hour's
aimless cruise, discovered it there behind a chest.

I find now considerable difficulty in guiding the pencil, and these few
lines now written have quite an odd look, like the handwriting of a man
not very proficient in the art: it is seventeen years, seventeen,
seventeen ... ah! And the expression of my ideas is not fluent either: I
have to think for the word a minute, and I should not be surprised if
the spelling of some of them is queer. My brain has been thinking
inarticulately perhaps, all these years: and the English words and
letters, as they now stand written, have rather an improbable and
foreign air to me, as a Greek or Russian book might look to a man who
has not so long been learning those languages as to forget the
impossibly foreign impression received from them on the first day of
tackling them. Or perhaps it is only my fancy: for that I have fancies I

But what to write? The history of those seventeen years could not be put
down, my good God: at least, it would take me seventeen more to do it.
If I were to detail the building of the palace alone, and how it killed
me nearly, and how I twice fled from it, and had to return, and became
its bounden slave, and dreamed of it, and grovelled before it, and
prayed, and raved, and rolled; and how I forgot to make provision on the
west side for the contraction and expansion of the gold in the colder
weather and the heats of summer, and had to break down nine months'
work, and how I cursed Thee, how I cursed Thee; and how the lake of wine
evaporated faster than the conduits replenished it, and the three
journeys which I had to take to Constantinople for shiploads of wine,
and my frothing despairs, till I had the thought of placing the
reservoir in the platform; and how I had then to break down the south
side of the platform to the very bottom, and of the month-long nightmare
of terror that I had lest the south side of the palace would undergo
subsidence; and how the petrol failed, and of the three-weeks' search
for petrol along the coast; and how, after list-rubbing all the jet, I
found that I had forgotten the necessary rouge for polishing; and how,
in the third year, I found the fluate, which I had for water-proofing
the pores of the platform-stone, nearly all leaked away in the
_Speranza's_ hold, and I had to get silicate of soda at Gallipoli; and
how, after two years' observation, I had to come to the conclusion that
the lake was leaking, and discovered that this Imbros sand was not
suitable for mixing with the skin of Portland cement which covered the
cement concrete, and had to substitute sheet-bitumen in three places;
and how I did all, all for the sake of God, thinking: 'I will work, and
be a good man, and cast Hell from me: and when I see it stand finished,
it will be an Altar and a Testimony to me, and I shall find peace, and
be well': and how I have been cheated--seventeen years, long years of my
life--for there is no God; and how my plasterers'-hair failed me, and I
had to use flock, hessian, scrym, wadding, wood-street paving-blocks,
and whatever I could find, for filling the interspaces between the
platform cross-walls; and of the espagnolette bolts, how a number of
them mysteriously disappeared, as if snatched to Hell by harpies, and I
had to make them; and how the crane-chain would not reach two of the
silver-panel castings when they were finished, and they were too heavy
for me to lift, and the wringing of the hands of my despair, and my
biting of the earth, and the transport of my fury; and how, for a whole
wild week, I searched in vain for the text-book which describes the
ambering process; and how, when all was nearly over, in the blasting
away of the forge and crane with dynamite, a long crack appeared down
the gold of the east platform-steps, and how I would not be consoled,
but mourned and mourned; and how, in spite of all my tribulations, it
was sweetly interesting to watch my power slowly grow from the first
feeble beginnings of the landing of materials and unloading them from
the motor, a hundred-weight at a time, till I could swing four tons--see
the solid metals flow--enjoy the gliding sounds of the handle,
crank-shaft, and system of levers, forcing inwards the mould-end, and
the upper and lower plungers, for pressing the material--build at ease
in a travelling-cage--and watch from my hut-door through sleepless
hours, under the electric moonlight of this land, the three piles of
gold stones, the silver panels, the two-foot squares of jet, and be
comforted; and how the putty-wash--but it is past, it is past: and not
to live over again that vulgar nightmare of means and ends have I taken
to this writing again--but to put down something else, if I dare.

Seventeen years, my good God, of that delusion! I could write down no
sort of explanation for all those groans and griefs, at which a
reasoning being would not shriek with laughter. I should have lived at
ease in some palace of the Middle-Orient, and burned my cities: but no,
I must be 'a good man'--vain thought. The words of a wild madman, that
preaching man in England who prophesied what happened, were with me,
where he says: 'the defeat of Man is _His_ defeat'; and I said to
myself: 'Well, the last man shall not be quite a fiend, just to spite
That Other.' And I worked and groaned, saying: 'I will be a good man,
and burn nothing, nor utter aught unseemly, nor debauch myself, but
choke back the blasphemies that Those Others shriek through my throat,
and build and build, with moils and groans.' And it was Vanity: though I
do love the house, too, I love it well, for it is my home on the waste

I had calculated to finish it in twelve years, and I should undoubtedly
have finished it in fourteen, instead of in sixteen and seven months,
but one day, when the south, north, and east platform-steps were already
finished--it was in the July of the third year, and near sunset--as I
left off work, instead of going to the tent where my dinner lay ready, I
walked down to the ship--most strangely--in a daft, mechanical sort of
way, without saying a word to myself, an evil-meaning smile of malice on
my lips; and at midnight I was lying off Mitylene, thirty miles to the
south, having bid, as I thought, a last farewell to all those toils. I
was going to burn Athens.

I did not, however: but kept on my way westward round Cape Matapan,
intending to destroy the forests and towns of Sicily, if I found there a
suitable motor for travelling, for I had not been at the pains to take
the motor on board at Imbros; otherwise I would ravage parts of southern
Italy. But when I came thereabouts, I was confronted with an awful
horror: for no southern Italy was there, and no Sicily was there, unless
a small new island, probably not five miles long, was Sicily; and
nothing else I saw, save the still-smoking crater of Stromboli. I
cruised northward, searching for land, and for a long time would not
believe the evidence of the instruments, thinking that they wilfully
misled me, or I stark mad. But no: no Italy was there, till I came to
the latitude of Naples, it, too, having disappeared, engulfed, engulfed,
all that stretch. From this monstrous thing I received so solemn a shock
and mood of awe, that the evil mind in me was quite chilled and quelled:
for it was, and is, my belief that a wide-spread re-arrangement of the
earth's surface is being purposed, and in all that drama, O my God, how
shall _I_ be found?

However, I went on my way, but more leisurely, not daring for a long
time to do anything, lest I might offend anyone; and, in this foolish
cowering mind, coasted all the western coast of Spain and France during
five weeks, in that prolonged intensity of calm weather which now
alternates with storms that transcend all thought, till I came again to
Calais: and there, for the first time, landed.

Here I would no longer contain myself, but burned; and that magnificent
stretch of forest that lay between Agincourt and Abbeville, covering
five square miles, I burned; and Abbeville I burned; and Amiens I
burned; and three forests between Amiens and Paris I burned; and Paris I
burned; burning and burning during four months, leaving behind me
smoking districts, a long tract of ravage, like some being of the Pit
that blights where pass his flaming wings.

* * * * *

This of city-burning has now become a habit with me more enchaining--and
infinitely more debased--than ever was opium to the smoker, or alcohol
to the drunkard. I count it among the prime necessaries of my life: it
is my brandy, my bacchanal, my secret sin. I have burned Calcutta,
Pekin, and San Francisco. In spite of the restraining influence of this
palace, I have burned and burned. I have burned two hundred cities and
countrysides. Like Leviathan disporting himself in the sea, so I have
rioted in this earth.

* * * * *

After an absence of six months, I returned to Imbros: for I was for
looking again upon the work which I had done, that I might mock myself
for all that unkingly grovelling: and when I saw it, standing there as I
had left it, frustrate and forlorn, and waiting its maker's hand, some
pity and instinct to build took me--for something of God was in Man--and
I fell upon my knees, and spread my arms to God, and was converted,
promising to finish the palace, with prayers that as I built so He
would build my soul, and save the last man from the enemy. And I set to
work that day to list-rub the last few dalles of the jet.

* * * * *

I did not leave Imbros after that during four years, except for
occasional brief trips to the coast--to Kilid-Bahr, Gallipoli, Lapsaki,
Gamos, Rodosto, Erdek, Erekli, or even once to Constantinople and
Scutari--if I happened to want anything, or if I was tired of work: but
without once doing the least harm to anything, but containing my
humours, and fearing my Maker. And full of peaceful charm were those
little cruises through this Levantic world, which, truly, is rather like
a light sketch in water-colours done by an angel than like the dun real
earth; and full of self-satisfaction and pious contentment would I
return to Imbros, approved of my conscience, for that I had surmounted
temptation, and lived tame and stainless.

I had set up the southern of the two closed-lotus pillars, and the
platform-top was already looking as lovely as heaven, with its alternate
two-foot squares of pellucid gold and pellucid jet, when I noticed one
morning that the _Speranza's_ bottom was really now too foul, and the
whim took me then and there to leave all, and clean her as far as I
could. I at once went on board, descended to the hold, took off my
sudeyrie, and began to shift the ballast over to starboard, so as to
tilt up her port bottom to the scraper. This was wearying labour, and
about noon I was sitting on a bag, resting in the almost darkness, when
something seemed to whisper to me these words: '_You dreamed last night
that there is an old Chinaman alive in Pekin._' Horridly I started: I
_had_ dreamed something of the sort, but, from the moment of waking,
till then, had forgotten it: and I leapt livid to my feet.

I cleaned no _Speranza_ that day, nor for four days did I anything, but
sat on the cabin-house and mused, my supporting palm among the hairy
draperies of my chin: for the thought of such a thing, if it could by
any possibility be true, was detestable as death to me, changing the
colour of the sun, and the whole aspect of the world: and anon, at the
outrage of that thing, my brow would flush with wrath, and my eyes
blaze: till, on the fourth afternoon, I said to myself: 'That old
Chinaman in Pekin is likely to get burned to death, I think, or blown to
the clouds!'

So, a second time, on the 4th March, the poor palace was left to build
itself. For, after a short trip to Gallipoli, where I got some young
lime-twigs in boxes of earth, and some preserved limes and ginger, I set
out for a long voyage to the East, passing through the Suez Canal, and
visiting Bombay, where I was three weeks, and then destroyed it.

* * * * *

I had the thought of going across Hindustan by engine, but did not like
to leave my ship, to which I was very attached, not sure of finding
anything so suitable and good at Calcutta; and, moreover, I was afraid
to abandon my petrol motor, which I had taken on board with the
air-windlass, since I was going to uncivilised land. I therefore coasted
down western Hindustan.

All that northern shore of the Arabian Sea has at the present time an
odour which it wafts far over the water, resembling odours of happy
vague dream-lands, sweet to smell in the early mornings as if the earth
were nothing but a perfume, and life an inhalation.

On that voyage, however, I had, from beginning to end, twenty-seven
fearful storms, or, if I count that one near the Carolines, then
twenty-eight. But I do not wish to write of these rages: they were too
inhuman: and how I came alive through them against all my wildest hope,
Someone, or Something, only knows.

I will write down here a thing: it is this, my God--something which I
have observed: a definite obstreperousness in the mood of the elements
now, when once roused, which grows, which grows continually. Tempests
have become very very far more wrathful, the sea more truculent and
unbounded in its insolence; when it thunders, it thunders with a venom
new to me, cracking as though it would split the firmament, and bawling
through the heaven of heavens, as if roaring to devour all things; in
Bombay once, and in China thrice, I was shaken by earthquakes, the
second and third marked by a certain extravagance of agitation, that
might turn a man grey. Why should this be, my God? I remember reading
very long ago that on the American prairies, which from time immemorial
had been swept by great storms, the storms gradually subsided when man
went to reside permanently there. If this be true, it would seem that
the mere presence of man had a certain subduing or mesmerising effect
upon the native turbulence of Nature, and his absence now may have
removed the curb. It is my belief that within fifty years from now the
huge forces of the earth will be let fully loose to tumble as they will;
and this planet will become one of the undisputed playgrounds of Hell,
and the theatre of commotions stupendous as those witnessed on the face
of Saturn.

* * * * *

The Earth is all on my brain, on my brain, O dark-minded Mother, with
thy passionate cravings after the Infinite, thy regrets, and mighty
griefs, and comatose sleeps, and sinister coming doom, O Earth: and I,
poor man, though a king, sole witness of thy bleak tremendous woes. Upon
her I brood, and do not cease, but brood and brood--the habit, if I
remember right, first becoming fixed and fated during that long voyage
eastward: for what is in store for her God only knows, and I have seen
in my broodings long visions of her future, which, if a man should see
with the eye of flesh, he would spread the arms, and wheel and wheel
through the mazes of a hiccuping giggling frenzy, for the vision only is
the very verge of madness. If I might cease but for one hour that
perpetual brooding upon her! But I am her child, and my mind grows and
grows to her like the off-shoots of the banyan-tree, that take root
downward, and she sucks and draws it, as she draws my feet by
gravitation, and I cannot take wing from her: for she is greater than I,
and there is no escaping her; and at the last, I know, my soul will
dash itself to ruin, like erring sea-fowl upon pharos-lights, against
her wild and mighty bosom. Often a whole night through I lie open-eyed
in the dark, with bursting brain, thinking of that hollow Gulf of
Mexico, how identical in shape and size with the protuberance of Africa
just opposite, and how the protuberance of the Venezuelan and Brazilian

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