The Bright Messenger, by Algernon Blackwood

Chapter 26

SPRING had come with her sweet torment of delight, her promises, her passion, and London lay washed and perfumed beneath April’s eager sun. An immense, persuasive glamour was in the sky. The whole earth caught up a swifter gear, as the magic of rich creative life poured out of “dead” soil into flower, insect, bird and animal. The prodigious stream omitted no single form; every “body” pulsed and blossomed at full strength. The hidden powers in each seed emerged. And it was from the inanimate body of the earth this flood of increased vitality rose.

Into Edward Fillery, strolling before breakfast over the wet lawn of the enclosed garden, the tide of new life rose likewise. It was very early, the flush of dawn still near enough for the freshness of the new day to be everywhere. The greater part of the huge city was asleep. He was alone with the first birds, the dew, the pearl and gold of the sun’s slanting rays. He saw the slates and chimneys glisten. Spring, like a visible presence, was passing across the town, bringing the amazing message that all obey yet no man understands.

“This is its touch upon the blossomed rose,

The fashion of its hand shaped lotus-leaves;

In dark soil and the silence of the seeds

The robe of spring it weaves.

“It maketh and unmaketh, mending all;

What it hath wrought is better than had been;

Slow grows the splendid pattern that it plans,

Its wistful hands between.”

The lines came to his memory, while upon his mind fell lovely and wonderful impressions. It was as though the subconsciousness of the earth herself emerged with the spring, producing new life, new splendour everywhere. Out of a single patch of soil the various roots drew material they then fashioned into such different and complicated outlines as daisy, lily, rose, and a hundred types of tree. From the same bit of soil emerged these intricate patterns and designs, these different forms. At this very moment, while his feet left dark tracks across the silvery lawn, the process was going steadily forward all over England. Beneath those very feet up rushed the power into all conceivable bodies. Colour, music, form, marvellously organized, making no mistakes, were turning the world into a vast, delicious garden.

Form, colour, sound! From his own hidden region rose again the flaming hope and prophecy. He stooped and picked a daisy, examining with rapt attention its perfect little body. Who, what made this astonishing thing, that was yet among the humbler forms? What intelligence devised its elaborate outline, guarded, cared for, tended it, ensured its growth and welfare? He gazed at its white rays tipped with crimson, its several hundred florets, its composite design. The spring life had been pouring through it until he picked it. Through the huge mass of earth’s body its tiny roots had drawn the life it needed. This power was now cut off. It would die. The process, as with everything else, was “automatic and unintelligent!” It seemed an incredible explanation. The old familiar question troubled him, but he saw it abruptly now from a new angle.

“We built it,” came a voice so close that it seemed behind him, for when at first he turned, startled, and yet not startled, he saw no figure standing; “we who work in darkness, yet who never die, the Hidden Ones who build and weave inside and out of sight. You have destroyed our work of ages. . . . ”

A pang of sudden regret and anguish seized him. He stood still and stared in the direction whence he thought the voice had come, but no form, no outline, no body that could have produced a sound, a voice, was visible. A blackbird flew with its shrill whistle over the — enclosing wall, and the gardener, up unusually early, was now moving slowly past the elms at the far end, some two hundred yards away. The old man, he remembered, had been telling him only the day before that the life in his plants this year had been prodigious and successful beyond his whole experience. It puzzled him. Something of reverence, of superstition almost, had lain in the man’s voice and eyes.

“Who are you?” whispered Fillery, still holding the “dead” broken flower in his hand and staring about him. He was aware that the sound from which the voice had come, detaching itself, as it were, into articulate syllables out of a general continuous volume, had not ceased. It was all about him, softly murmuring. Was it in himself perhaps? An intense inner activity, like the pressure of an enveloping tide, that was also in space, in the soil, the body of the planet, rose in him too. And it seemed to him that his mind was suddenly in process of being shaped and fashioned into a new “body of understanding”; a new instrument of understanding.

“This is its work upon the things ye see:

The unseen things are more; men’s hearts and minds,

The thoughts of peoples and their ways and wills,

These, too, the great Law binds.”

“I know,” he exclaimed, this time with acceptance that omitted the doubt he had first felt. “I know who you are” . . . and even as he said the words, there dropped into him, it seemed, some knowledge, some hint, some wonder that lay, he well knew, outside all human experience. It was as though some cosmic power brushed gently against and through his being, but a power so alien to known human categories that to attempt its expression in human terms language, reason, imagination even were to mutilate it. Yet, even for its partial, broken manifestation, human terms were alone available, since without these it must remain unperceived, he himself unaware of its existence.

He was, however, aware of its presence, its existence. All that was left to him therefore was his own personal interpretation. Herein, evidently, lay the truth for him; this was the meaning of his “acceptance.” It was, in some way, a renewal of that other vision he called the Flower Hill and Flower Music experience.

“I know you,” he repeated, his voice merging curiously in the general underlying murmur of the morning. “You belong to the bodiless, the deathless ones who work and build and weave eternally. Form, sound, colour are your instruments, the elements your tools. You wove this flower,” he fingered the dying daisy, “as you also shaped this body” he tapped his breast “and you built as well this mind —”

He stopped dead. Two things arrested him: the feeling that the ideas were not primarily his own, but derived from a source outside himself; and a sudden intensification of the flaming hope and prophecy that burst up as with new meaning into the words “mind” and “body.”

The broken body of the flower slipped from his fingers and fell upon the body of the earth. He looked down at its now empty form through which no life flowed, and his eye passed then to his own body beating with intense activity, and thence to the bodies of the trees, the darting birds, the gigantic sun now peering magnificently along the heavens. Body! A body was a form through which life expressed itself, a vehicle of expression by means of which life manifested, an instrument it used. But a body of thought was a true phrase too. And with the words, shaped automatically in his brain, a new light flashed and flooded him with its waves.

“A body of thought, a mental body” the phrase went humming and flowing strangely through him. A body of thought! Father Collins, he remembered, had used some such wild language, only it had seemed empty words without intelligible meaning. Whence came the intense new meaning that so suddenly attached itself to the familiar phrase? Whence came the thrilling deep conviction that new, greater knowledge was hovering near, and that for its expression a new body must be devised? And what was this new knowledge, this new power? Whence came the amazing certainty in him that a new way was being shown to him, a means of progress for humanity that must otherwise flounder always to its average level of growth, development, then invariably collapse again?

“We built it,” ran past him through the air again, or rose perhaps from the stirred depths of his own subconscious being, or again, dropped from a hidden rushing star. “The more perfect and adequate the form, the greater the flow of life, of knowledge, of power it can express. No mind, no intellect, can convey a message that transcends human experience. Yet there is a way.”

The new knowledge was there, if only the new vehicle suited to its expression could be devised. . . .

The stream of life pouring through him became more and more intense; some power of perception seemed growing into white heat within him; transcending the limited senses; becoming incandescent. This tide of sound, inaudible to ordinary ears, was the music which is inseparable from the rhythm that underlies all forms, the music of the earth’s manifold activities now pouring in vibrations huge and tiny all round and through him. He turned instinctively.

“You . . .!” exclaimed the doctor in him, as though rebuke, reproval stirred. “You here . . .!”

It seemed to him that the figure of “N.H.,” embodying as it were a ray of sunlight, stood beside him.

“We,” came the answer, with a smile that took the sparkling sunlight through the very face. “We are all about you,” added the voice with a rhythm that swamped all denial, all objection, bringing an exultant exhilaration in their place. “We come from what always seems to you a Valley of sun and flowers, where we work and play behind the appearances you call the world.”

“The world,” repeated Fillery. “The universe as well.”

The voice, the illusion of actual words, both died away, merging in some perplexing fashion into another appearance, perhaps equally an illusion so far as the senses were concerned the phenomenon men call sight. Instead of hearing, that is, he now suddenly saw. Something in the arrangement of light caught his attention, holding it. The deep, central self in him, that which interprets and decodes the reports the senses bring, employed another mode.

The figure of “N.H.” still was definite enough in form indeed, yet at the same time taking the rays into itself as though it were a body of light. There was no transparency, of course, nor was this clear radiance seen by Fillery for the first time, but rather that his natural shining was caught up and intensified by the morning sunshine. A body of light, none the less, seemed a true description of what Fillery now saw. This sunshine filled the air, the space all round him, the entire lawn and garden shone in a sparkling flood of dancing brilliance. It blazed. The figure of “N.H.” was merely a portion of this blazing. As a focus, but one of many, he now thought of it. And about each focus was the toss and fling of lovely, ever — rising spirals.

Across the main stream came then another pulsing movement, hardly discernible at first, and similar to an under-swell that moves the sea against the wave so that the eye perceives it only when not looking for it. This contrary motion, it soon became apparent, went in numerous, almost countless directions, so that, within and below its complicated wave-tracery, he was aware of yet other motions, crossing and interlacing at various speeds, until the space about him seemed to whirl with myriad rhythms, yet without the least confusion. These rhythms were of a hundred different magnitudes, from the very tiny to the gigantic, and while the smallest were of a radiant brilliance that made the sunshine pale, the larger ones seemed distant, their light of an intenser quality, though of a quality he had never seen before. These were strangely diffused, these bigger ones “distant” was the word that occurred to him, although that inner brilliance which occurs in dreams, in imaginative moments, the nameless glow that colours mental vision, described them better. Moreover they wore colours the human eye had never seen, while the smallest rhythms were lit with the familiar colours of the prism.

He stood absorbed, fascinated, drinking in the amazing spectacle, as though the glowing spirals of fire communicated to his inmost being a heat and glory of creative power. He was aware of the creative stream of spring in his own heart, pouring from the body of the earth on which he stood, drenching mind, nerves and even muscles with concentrated life. His subconscious being rose and stretched its wings. All, all was possible. A sensation of divine deathlessness possessed him. The limitations of his ordinary human faculties and powers were overborne, so that he felt he could never again face the mournful prison that caged him in. The jneaning of escape became plain to him. He saw the invisible building Intelligences at work.

He was aware then suddenly of purpose, of intention. The seeming welter of the waves of coloured light, of the immense and tiny rhythms, the intricate streams of vibrating, pulsing, throbbing movements were, he now perceived, marvellously coordinated. There was a focus, a vortex, towards, which all rushed with a power so prodigious that a sense of terror touched him. He suddenly became conscious of a pattern forming before his eyes, hanging in empty space, shining, soft with light and beauty. It became, he saw, a geometric design. An idea of crystals, frost-forms, a spider’s web hung with glistening dewdrops shot across his memory. The spirals whirled and sang about it.

This outline, he next perceived, was the focus to which the light, heat, colour all contributed their particular touch and quality. It glowed now in the centre of the vortex. So overwhelming, however, was the sense of the stupendous power involved that, as he phrased it afterwards, it seemed he watched the formation of some mighty sun. It was the whirling of those billion-miled sheets of incandescent fires that attend the birth of a nebula he watched. The power, at any rate, was gigantic.

He stood trembling before a revelation that left him lost, shelterless, bereft of any help that his little self might summon when, suddenly, with an emotion of strange tenderness, he saw the great rhythms become completely dominated by the very smallest of all. The same instant the pattern grew sharply outlined, perfect in every detail, as though the focus of powerful glasses cleared and the pattern hung a moment exquisitely fashioned in space beneath his eyes before it sank slowly to the ground. It remained in an upright position on the grass at his feet a daisy, growing in the earth, alive, its tiny delicate face taking the sunlight and the morning wind.

With a shock he then realized another thing: it was the very daisy he had broken, uprooted, killed a few minutes before.

He stooped, one hand outstretched as though to finger its wee white petals, but found instead that he was listening listening to a sweet faint music that rose from the surface of the lawn, from grass and flowers, running in waves and circles, like the vibrations of gentle wind across a thousand strings. It was similar, though less in volume, to the sound he had heard in the presence of “N.H.” He rose slowly to an upright position, dazed, bewildered, yet rapt with the wonder of the whole experience.

“N.H.!” he heard his voice exclaim, its sound merging in the growing volume of music all about him. “N.H.!” he cried again. “This is your work, your service . . .!”

But he could not see him; his figure was no longer differentiated from the ever-moving sea of light that filled space wherever he looked. The same play of brilliance shone and glistened everywhere, whirling, ever shifting as in vortices of intricate geometrical designs, dancing, inter-penetrating, and with a magnificence of colour that caught his breath away. There were remarkable flashings, and two of these flashings blazed suddenly together, forming an immense physiognomy, an expression, rather, as of a mighty face. The same instant there were a hundred of these mighty brilliant visages that pierced through the sea of whirling colour and gazed upon him, close, terrific, with a power and beauty that left thought without even a ghost of language to describe them. Their glory lay beyond all earthly terms. He recognized them. These mighty outlines he had seen before.

His mind then made an effort; he tried to think; memory and reason strove with emotion and sensation. The forms, the faces, the powers at once grew fainter. They faded slowly. The whirling vortices withdrew in some extraordinary way, the colour paled, the sound grew thinner, ever more distant, the great weaving designs dissolved. The lovely spirals all were gone. He saw the garden trees again, the flower beds. Space emptied, showing the morning sunshine on roofs and chimney-pots.

“We have rebuilt, remade it,” he heard faintly, but he heard also the roar and boom of the gigantic rhythms as they withdrew, not spatially, so much as from his consciousness that was now contracting once more, till only the fainter sounds of the smaller singing patterns, the Flower Music as he had come to call it, reached his ears. Words and music, like voices known in dreams, seemed interwoven. He remembered the huge faces, with their bright confidence and glory, rising through the sunlight, peering as through a mirror at him, radiant and of imperishable beauty. The words, perhaps, he attached himself, his own interpretations of their ringing motions.

The sounds died away. He reeled. The expansion and subsequent contraction of consciousness had been too rapid, the whole experience too intense. He swayed, unsure of his own identity. He remembered vaguely that tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks, that the destruction of a lovely form had caused him a peculiar anguish, and that its recreation produced an intolerable joy, bringing tears of happiness. An arm caught him as he swayed. The accents of a voice he knew were audible close beside him. But at first he did not understand the words, feeling only a dull pain they caused.

“Their imperishable beauty! Their divine loveliness!” he stammered, recognizing the face and voice. He flung his arms wide, gazing into the now empty air above the London garden. “The great service they eternally fulfil oh, that we all might “ He made a gesture towards the other houses with their sightless, shuttered windows.

“I know, I know,” came in the familiar tones. “But come in now, come in, Edward, with me. I beg you before it is too late.” Paul Devonham’s voice shook so that it was hardly recognizable. The skin of his face was white. He wore a haggard look.

“Too late!” repeated the other; “it is always too late. The world will never see. Their eyes are blinded.” An intolerable emotion swept him. He stared suddenly at his colleague, an immense surprise in him. “But you, Paul!” he exclaimed. “You understand! Even you!”

Devonham led him slowly into the house. There was protection in his manner, in voice and gesture there was deep affection, respect as well, but behind and through these flickered the signs of another unmistakable emotion that Fillery at first could hardly credit of pity, was it? Of something at any rate he dared not contemplate.

“Even I,” came in quick, low tones, “even I, Edward, understand. You forget. I was once alone with him” the voice sank to a rapid whisper “in the mountain valley.” Devonham’s expression was curious. He raised his tone again. “But not now, not now, I beg of you. Not yet, at any rate. You will be cast out, judged insane, your work destroyed, your career ruined, your reputation “ His excitement betrayed itself in his bright eyes and unusual gestures. He was shaken to the core. Fillery turned upon him. They were in the corridor now. He flung his arm free of the restraining hand.

“You know!” he cried, “yet would keep silent!” His voice choked. “You saw what I saw: new sources open, the offer made, the channels accessible at our very door, yet you would refuse —”

“Not one in ten million,” came the hard rejoinder, “would believe.” The voice trembled. “We have no proof. Their laws of manifestation are unknown to us, and such glimpses are but glimpses useless and dangerous.” He whispered suddenly: “Besides what are they? What, after all, are we dealing with?

“We can experiment,” interrupted his companion quickly.

“How? Of what possible value?”

“You felt what I felt? In your own being you experienced the revelation too, and yet you use such words! New forces, new faculties, Beings from another order oT incalculable powers to ennoble, to bless, to inspire! The creation of higher forms through which new, greater life and knowledge, shall manifest!”

He could hardly find the words he sought, so bright was the hope and wonder in his heart still. “Think at a time like this what humanity might gain. Creative powers, Paul, creative! Acting directly on the subconscious selves of everybody, intensifying every individual, whether he understands and believes or not! The gods, Paul and nothing less You saw the daisy —”

Devonham seized both of his companion’s hands, as he heard the torrent of wild, incoherent words: “You’ll have the entire world against you,” he interrupted. “Why seek crucifixion for a dream?” Then, as his hands were again flung off, he turned, a ringer suddenly on his lips. “Hush, hush, Edward!” he whispered. “The house is sleeping still. You’ll wake them all.”

There was a new, strange authority about him. Dr. Fillery controlled himself. They went upstairs on tiptoe.

“Listen!” murmured Devonham, as they reached the first-floor landing. “That’s what woke me first and led me to his room, but only to find it empty. He was already gone. I saw him join you on the lawn. I watched from the open window. Then I lost him. . . . Listen!” He was trembling like a child.

The sound still echoed faintly, distant, rising and falling, sweet and very lovely, and hardly to be distinguished from the musical hum of wind that sighs and whispers across the strings of an aeolian harp. To one man came incredible sensations as they paused a moment. Dim though the landing was, there still seemed a tender luminous glow pervading it.

“They’re everywhere,” murmured Fillery, “everywhere and always about us, though in different space. Through and behind and inside everything that happens, helping, building, constructing ceaselessly. Oh, Paul, how can you doubt and question value? Behind every single form and body, physical or mental, they operate divinely —”

“Mental! Edward, for God’s sake —”

Devonham stepped nearer to him with such abruptness that his companion stopped. The pallor of the assistant’s face so close arrested his words a moment. They held their breath, listening together side by side. The sounds grew fainter, died away in the stillness of the early morning, then ceased altogether. It was not the first time they had listened thus to the strange music, nor was it the first time that Fillery entered the room alone. As once before, his colleague remained outside, watching, waiting, half seduced, it seemed, yet vehemently against a sympathetic attitude. He watched his chief go in, he saw the expression on his face. Upon his own, behind a mild expectancy, lay a look of pain.

“Empty!” He heard the startled exclamation.

And instantly Devonham was at his side, a firm hand upon his arm, his eyes taking in an unused bed, a window opened wide, a glow of light and heat the early sunshine could not possibly explain. The perfume, as of flowers in the air, he noted too, and a sense of lightness, freshness, sweetness about the atmosphere that produced happiness, exhilaration. The room throbbed, as it were, with invisible waves of some communicable power even he could not deny. But of “N.H.,” the recent occupant, there was no sign.

“In the garden still. I lost sight of him somehow. I told you.”

Fillery crossed quickly to the window, his colleague with him, looking out upon a lawn and paths that held no figure anywhere. The gardener was not in sight. Only the birds were visible among the daisies. The quiet sunlight lay as usual upon leaves and flowers waving in the breeze. “He came in,” Fillery went on rapidly under his breath. “He must have slipped back when —”

The sound of steps and voices behind them in the corridor brought both men round with a quick movement, as Nurse Robbins, her arm linked in that of “N.H.,” stood in the open doorway. Her face was radiant, her eyes alight, her breath came unevenly, and one might have thought her caught midway in some ecstatic dance that still left its joy and bliss stamped on her pretty face. Only she looked more than pretty; there was beauty, a fairy loveliness about her that betrayed an intense experience of some inner kind.

At the sight of the two doctors she rapidly composed herself, leading her companion quietly into the room. “He was upstairs, sir,” she said respectfully but breathlessly somewhat, and addressing herself, Fillery noticed, to Devonham and not to himself. “He was going from room to room, talking to the patients er singing to them. It was the singing woke me —”

“Upstairs!” exclaimed Devonham. “He has been up there!”

She broke off as Fillery came forward and took “N.H.” by the hands, dismissing her with a gesture she was quick to understand. Devonham went with her hurriedly, intent upon a personal inspection at once.

“Your service called you,” said Fillery quietly, the moment they were alone. “I understand!” Through the contact of the hands waves of power entered him, it seemed. About the face was light, as though fire glowed behind the very skin and eyes, producing the effect almost of a halo.

“They came for me, and I must go.” The voice was deep and wonderful, with prolonged vibrations. “I have found my own. I must return where my service needs me, for here I can do so little.”

“To your own place where you are ruler of your fate,” the other said slowly. “Here you —”

“Here,” came the quick interruption, while the voice lost its resonance, fading as it were in sadness, “here I die.” Even the radiance of his face, although he smiled, dimmed a little on that final word. “I can help where I belong not here.” The light returned, the music came back into the amazing voice.

“The daisy,” whispered Fillery, joy rising in him strangely.

“Nature,” floated through the air like music, “is my place. With human beings I cannot work. It is too much, and I only should destroy. They are not ready yet, for our great rhythms injure them, and they cannot understand.”

Trembling with emotions he could neither define nor control, Fillery led him to the window.

“Even in this little back-garden of a London house,” he murmured, “among, so to speak, the humble buttercups and daisies of our life! The creative Intelligences at work, building, ever building the best forms they can. You remake a broken daisy” his voice rose, as the great shining face so close lit with its flaming smile “you remake as well our broken minds. In the subconscious hides our creative power that you stimulate. It is with that and that alone you work. It hides in all of us, though the artist alone perceives or can use it. It is with that you work —”

“With you, dear Fillery, I can work, for you help me to remember. You feel the big rhythms that we bring.”

Dr. Fillery started, peered about him, listened hard. Was it the trees, shaking in the morning wind, that rustled? Was it a voice? The dancing leaves reflected the sunshine from a thousand facets. The sound accompanied, rather than interrupted, his own speech. He turned back to “N.H.” with passionate enthusiasm.

“Using beauty the artists the creative powers of the Race,” he went on, “we shall create together a new body, a new vehicle, through which your powers can express themselves. The intellect cannot serve you . . . it is the creative imagination of those who know beauty that you seek. You are inarticulate in this wretched body. We shall make a new one —”

“They have come for me and I must go n

“We will work together. Oh, stay stay with me!”

“I have found the way. I have remembered. I must go back —”

The wind died down, the leaves stopped rustling, the sunshine seemed to pale as though a cloud passed over the sky. The words he had heard resolved themselves into the morning sounds, the singing of the birds. Had they been words at all? Bewilderment, like a pain, rushed over him. He knew himself suddenly imprisoned, caught.

“I have remembered,” he heard in quiet tones, but the voice dead, no resonance, no music in it. And across the room he saw suddenly Paul Devonham just inside the door, returned from his inspection. Beside him stood LeVallon.

An extraordinary reaction instantly took place in him.

A lid was raised, a shutter lifted, a wall fell flat. He hardly knew how to describe it. Was it due to the look of anxiety, of tenderness, of affectionate, of protective care he saw plainly upon his colleague’s face? He could not say. He only knew for certain in that instant that Paul Devonham’s main preoccupation was with himself; that the latter regarded him exactly as he regarded any other yes, that was the only word any other patient; that he looked after him, tended, guarded, cared for him and that this watchful, experienced observation had been going on now for a long, long time.

The authority in his manner became abruptly clear as day. Devonham watched over him; also he watched him. For days, for weeks, this had been his attitude. For the first time, in this instant, as he saw him lead away LeVallon into his own room and close the door, Fillery now perceived this. He experienced a violent revulsion of mind. In a flash a hundred details of the recent past occurred to him, chief among them the fact that, more and more, the control of the Home and its occupants had been taken over, Fillery himself only too willing, by his assistant. A moment of appalling doubt rose like a black cloud. . . .

He heard Paul telling LeVallon to begin his breakfast, just as the door closed, and he noted the authoritative tone of voice. The next minute he and his colleague were alone together.

“Paul,” said the chief quickly, but with a calm assurance that anticipated a favourable answer, “they, at any rate, are all right?”

Devonham nodded his head. “No harm done,” he replied briefly. “In fact, as you know, he rather stimulates them than otherwise.”

“I know.”

He felt, for the first time in their years of close relationship, a breath of suspicion enter him. There was a look upon his colleague’s face he could not quite define. It baffled him.

“Of course, I know — He stopped, for the undecipherable look had strengthened suddenly. He thought of a gaoler.

“Paul,” he said quickly, “what’s the matter? What’s wrong with you?”

He drew back a pace or two and watched him.

“With me nothing, Edward. Nothing at all.” The tone was grave with anxiety, yet had this new authority in it.

A feeling of intolerable insecurity came upon him, a sensation as though he balanced on air, yet its cause, its origin, easily explained: the support of his colleague’s mind was taken from him. Paul’s attitude was clear as day to him. He was a gaoler. . . . He recalled again the recent detail, brightly significant that Nurse Robbins had turned to Paul, rather than to himself.

“With me, then you think?” His voice hardly sounded like his own. He looked about him for support, found an armchair, sat down in it. “You’re strange, Paul, very strange,” he whispered. “What do you mean by ‘there’s something wrong with me’?”

Devonham’s expression cleared slightly and a kindly, sympathetic smile appeared, then vanished. The grave look that Fillery disliked reappeared.

“What d’you mean, Paul Devonham?” came the repetition, in a louder, more challenging voice. “You’re watching me as though I were” he laughed without a trace of mirth “a patient.” He leaned forward. “Paul, you’ve been watching me for a long time. Out with it, now. What is it?”

Devonham, who had kept silent, drew some papers from his pocket, a bundle of rolled sheets.

“Of course,” he said gently, “I always watch you. For that’s how I learn. I learn from you, Edward, more than from anybody I know.”

But Dr. Fillery, his eyes fixed upon the sheaf of papers, had recognized them. His own writing was visible along the uneven edges. They were the description he had set down of his adventure on Flower Hill, of the scenes between “N.H.” and Lady Gleeson, between “N.H.” and Nayan, the autobiographical description with “N.H.” and Nurse Robbins soon after his arrival, when Fillery had so amazingly found his own mind as he believed identified with his patient’s.

Devonham snapped off the elastic band that held the sheaf together. “Edward, I’ve read them. We have no secrets, of course. I’ve read them carefully. Every word my dear fellow.”

“Yes, yes,” replied the other, while something in him wavered horribly. “I’m glad. They were meant for you to read, for of course we have no secrets. I I do not expect you to agree. We have never quite seen eye to eye have we?” His voice shook. “You terrible iconoclast,” he added, betraying thus the nature of the fear that changed his voice, then recognizing with vexation that he had done so. “You believe nothing. You never will believe anything. You cannot understand. With joy you would destroy what I and others believe wouldn’t you, Paul?”

The deep sadness, the gravity on the face in front of him stopped the tirade.

“I would save you, Edward,” came the earnest, gentle words, “from yourself. The powers of auto-suggestion, as we know in our practice don’t we? are limitless. If you call that destroying —”

From the adjoining room the clatter of knives and forks was audible. Dr. Fillery listened a moment with a smile.

“Paul,” he asked, his voice firm and sure again, “is your chief patient in that room,” indicating the door with his head, “or in this?”

“In this,” was the reply. “A wise man is always his own patient and ‘Physician, heal thyself his motto.” He sat down beside his chief. His manner changed; there was affection, deep solicitude, something of passionate entreaty even in voice and eyes and gestures. “There are features here,” he said in lowered tones, “Edward, we have not understood, perhaps even we can never understand; but we have not, I think, sufficiently guarded against one thing auto-suggestion. The role it plays in life is immense, incalculable; it is in everything we do and think, above all in everything we believe. It is peculiarly powerful and active in er unusual things —”

“The sound the sounds you’ve heard them yourself,” broke in his companion.

Devonham shrugged his thin shoulders. “He sings in a peculiar way.” As an aside, he said it, returning to his main sermon instantly. “Let us leave details out,” he cried; “it is the principle that concerns us. Edward, your complex against humanity lies hard and rigid in you still. It has never found that full recognition by yourself which can resolve it. Your work, your noble work, is but a partial expression. The kernel of this old complex in you remains unrelieved, undischarged because still unrecognized. And, further, you are continually adding to the repression which” even Devonham paused a second before using such a word to such a man “is poisoning you, Edward, poisoning you, I repeat.”

“You saw you saw the rebuilding of the daisy” an odd whisper of insecurity ran through the quiet words, a statement rather than a question “you realize, at any rate, that chance has brought us into contact with Powers, creative Powers, of a new order —”

“Let us omit all details just now,” interrupted the other, a troubled, indecipherable look on his face. “The undoubted telepathy between your mind and mine nullifies any such —”

“powers of which we all have some faint counter-part, at any rate, in our subliminal selves.” Fillery had not heard the interruption. “Powers by means of which we may build for the Race new forms, new mental bodies, new vehicles for life, for God, to manifest through more perfect, more receptive —”

Devonham had suddenly seized both his hands and was leaning closer to him. Something compelling, authoritative, peculiarly convincing for a moment had its undeniable effect, again stopping the flow of hurried, passionate, eager words.

“There is one new form, new body,” and the intensity in voice and eyes drove the meaning deep, deep into his listener’s mind and heart. “I wish to see you build. One, and one only physical, mental, spiritual. But you cannot build it, Edward alone!”

“Paul!” The other held up a warning hand; the expression in his eyes was warning too. Their effect upon Devonham, however, was nil. He was talking with a purpose nothing could alter.

“She is still waiting for you,” he went on with determination, “and already you have kept her waiting overlong.” In the tone, in the hard clear eyes as well, lay a suggestion almost of tears.

He opened the door into the breakfast-room, but Fillery caught his arm and stopped him. They could hear Nurse Robbins speaking, as she attended as usual to her patient’s wants. Coffee was being poured out. There was a sound of knives and plates and cups.

“One minute, Paul, one minute before we go in.” He drew him aside. “And what, Doctor Devonham, may I ask, would you prescribe?” There was a curious mixture of gentle sarcasm, of pity, of patient tolerance, yet at the same time of sincere, even anxious, interest in the question. The face and manner betrayed that he waited for the answer with something more than curiosity.

There was no hesitancy in Devonham. He judged the moment ripe, perhaps; he was aware that his words would be listened to, appreciated, understood certainly, and possibly, obeyed.

“Expression,” he said convincingly, but in a lowered voice. “The fullest expression, everywhere and always. Let it all come. Accept the lot, believe the lot, welcome the lot, and thus” he could not conceal the note of passionate entreaty, of deep affection “avoid every atom of repression. In the end in the long run your own best judgment must prevail.”

They smiled into each other’s eyes for a moment in silence, while, instinctively and automatically, their hands joined in a steady clasp.

“Bless you, old fellow,” murmured the chief. “As if I didn’t know! It’s the treatment you’ve been trying on me for weeks and months. As if I hadn’t noticed!”

As they entered the breakfast-room, Nurse Robbins, with flushed face and sparkling eyes, was pouring out the coffee, leaning close over her patient’s shoulder as she did so. Fresh roses were in her cheeks as well as on the table.

“This is its touch upon the blossomed maid,” whispered Fillery, with the quick hint of humour that belongs only to the sane. At the same time the light remark was produced, he well knew, by a part of himself that sought to remain veiled from recognition. Any other triviality would have done as well to cloak the sharp pain that swept him, and to lead his listener astray. For in that instant, as they entered, he saw at the table not “N.H.,” but LeVallon the backward, ignorant, commonplace LeVallon, an empty, untaught personality, yet so receptive that anything anything could be transferred to him by a strong, vivid mind, a mind, for instance, like his own. . . .

The sight, for a swift instant, was intolerable and devastating. He balanced again on air that gave him no support. He wavered, almost swayed. “N.H.,” in that horrible and painful second, did not exist, and never had existed. The unstable mind, he comforted himself, experiences dislocating extremes of attitude . . . for, at the same time as he saw himself shaking and wavering without solid support, he saw the figure of Paul Devonham, big, important, authoritative, dominating the uncertainties of life with calm, steady power.

In a fraction of a second all this came and went. He sat down beside LeVallon, his eyes still twinkling with his trivial little joke.

“‘N.H.,’” he whispered to Devonham quickly, “has escaped at last.”

“LeVallon,” came the whispered reply as quickly, “is cured at last.” And, to conceal an intolerable rush of pain, of loss, of loneliness that threatened tears, he pointed to the dropped eyes and blushing cheeks of the pretty nurse across the table.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/blackwood/algernon/bright-messenger/chapter26.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31