The Bright Messenger, by Algernon Blackwood

Chapter 6

EDWARD FILLERY was glad that Paul Devonham, good friend and skillful colleague, was his assistant; for Devonham, competent as himself in knowledge and experience, found explanations for all things, and had in his natural temperament a quality of sane judgment which corrected extravagances.

Devonham was agnostic, because reason ruled his life. Devoid of imagination, he had no temptations. Speculative, within limits, he might be, but he belonged not to the unstable. Not that he thought he knew everything, but that he refused to base action on what he regarded as unknown. A clue into the unknown he would follow up as keenly, carefully, as Fillery himself, but he went step by step, with caution, declining to move further until the last step was of hardened concrete. To the powers of the subconscious self he set drastic limits, admitting their existence of course, but attaching small value to their use or development. His own deeper being had never stirred or wakened. Of this under-sea, this vast background in himself, he remained placidly uninformed. A comprehensive view of a problem the flash of vision he never knew thus was perhaps denied him, but so far as he went he was very safe and sure. And his chief was the first to appreciate his value. He appreciated it particularly now, as the two men sat smoking after their late dinner, discussing details of the new inmate of the Home.

Fillery, aware of the strong pull upon his own mixed blood, aware of a half-wild instinctive sympathy towards “N.H.,” almost of a natural desire now, having seen him, to believe him “unique” in several ways, and, therefore, conscious of a readiness to accept more than any evidence yet justified feeling these symptoms clearly, and remembering vividly his experiences in the railway station, he was glad, for truth’s sake, that Devonham was there to clip extravagance before it injured judgment. A weak man, aware of his own frailties, excels a stronger one who thinks he has none at all. The two colleagues were a powerful combination.

“In your view, it’s merely a case of a secondary anyhow of a divided personality?” he asked, as soon as the other had recovered a little from his journey, and was digesting his meal comfortably over a pipe. “You have seen more of him than I have. Of insanity, at any rate, there is no sign at all, I take it? His relations with his environment are sound?”

“None whatever.” Devonham answered both questions at once. “Exactly.”

He took off his pince-nez, cleaned them with his handkerchief, and then replaced them carefully. This gave him time to reflect, as though he was not quite sure where to begin his story.

“There are certainly indications,” he went on slowly, “of a divided personality, though of an unusual kind. The margin between the two between the normal and the secondary self is so very slight. It is not clearly defined, I mean. They sometimes merge and interpenetrate. The frontier is almost indistinguishable.”

Fillery raised his eyebrows.

“You feel uncertain which is the main self, and which the split-off secondary personality?” he inquired, with surprise.

Devonham nodded. “I’m extremely puzzled,” he admitted. “LeVallon’s most marked self, the best defined, the richest, the most fully developed, seems to me what we should call his Secondary Self this ‘Nature-being’ that worships wind and fire, is terrified by a large body of water, is ignorant of human ways, probably also quite un-moral, yet alive with a kind of instinctive wisdom we credit usually to the animal kingdom though far beyond anything animals can claim —”

“Briefly, what we mean by the term ‘N.H.,’” suggested Fillery, not anxious for too many details at the moment.

“Exactly. And I propose we always refer to that aspect of him as ‘N.H.’, the other, the normal ordinary man, being LeVallon, his right name.” He smiled faintly.

“Agreed,” replied his chief. “We shall always know then exactly which one we’re talking of at a given moment. Now,” he went on, “to come to the chief point, and before you give me details of what happened abroad, let me hear your own main conclusion. What is LeVallon? What is ‘N.H.’?”

Devonham hesitated for some time. It was evident his respect for his chief made him cautious. There was an eternal battle between these two, keen though always good-natured, even humorous, the victory not invariably perhaps with the assistant. Later evidence had often proved Fillery’s swifter imagination correct after all, or, alternately, shown him to be wrong. They kept an accurate score of the points won and lost by either.

“You can always revise your conclusions later,” Fillery reminded him slyly. “Call it a preliminary conclusion for the moment. You’ve not had time yet for a careful study, I know.”

But Devonham this time did not smile at the rally, and his chief noticed it with secret approval. Here was something new, big, serious, it seemed. Devonham, apparently, was already too interested to care who scored or did not score. His Notes of 1914 indeed betrayed his genuine zeal sufficiently.

“LeVallon,” he said at length “to begin with him! I think LeVallon without any flavour of ‘N. H’ is a fine specimen of a normal human being. His physique is magnificent, as you have seen, his health and strength exceptional. The brain, so far as I have been able to judge, functions quite normally. The intelligence, also normal, is much above the average in quickness, receptivity of ideas, and judgment based on these. The emotional development, however, puzzles me; the emotions are not entirely normal. But” he paused again, a grave expression on his face “to answer your question as well as my limited observation of him, of LeVallon, allows I repeat that I consider him a normal young man, though with peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of his own, as with most other normal young fellows who are individuals, that is,” he added quickly, “and not turned out in bundles cut to measure.”

“So much for LeVallon. Now what about ‘N.H.’?”

He repeated the question, fixing the assistant with his steady gaze. He had noticed the confusion in the reply.

“My dear Edward “ began Devonham, after a considerable pause. Then he stuck fast, sighed, settled his glasses carefully upon his aquiline, sharp nose, and relapsed into silence. His forehead became wrinkled, his mouth much pursed.

“Out with it, Paul! This isn’t a Court of Law. I shan’t behead you if you’re wrong.” Yet Fillery, too, spoke gravely.

The other kept his eyes down; his face still wore a puzzled look. Fillery detected a new expression on the keen, thoughtful features, and he was pleased to see it.

“To give you the truth,” resumed his assistant, “and all question of who is right or who is wrong aside, I tell you frankly I am not sure. I confess myself up against it.

It er gives me the creeps a little “ He laughed awkwardly. That swift watchful look, as of a man who plays a part, flashed and vanished.

“Your feeling, anyhow?” insisted his friend. “Your general feeling?”

“A general judgment based on general feeling,” said the other in a quiet tone, “has little value. It is based, necessarily, as you know, upon intuition, which I temperamentally dislike. It has no facts to go upon. I distrust generalizations.” He took a deep breath, inhaled a lot of smoke, exhaled it with relief, and made an effort. It went against the grain in him to be caught without an explanation.

“‘N.H.’ in my opinion, and so far as my limited observation of him —”

Fillery allowed himself a laugh of amused impatience. “Leave out the personal extras for once, and burn your bridges. Tell me finally what you think about ‘N.H.’ We’re not scoring points now.”

Thus faced with an alternative, Devonham found his sense of humour again and forgot himself. It cost him an effort, but he obeyed the bigger and less personal mind.

“I really don’t know exactly what he is,” he confessed again. “He puzzles me completely. It may be” he shrugged his shoulders, compelled by his temperament to hedge “that he represents, as I first thought, the content of his parents’ minds, the subsequent addition of Mason’s mind included.”

“That’s possible, usual and comprehensible enough,” put in the doctor, watching him with amused concentration, but with an inner excitement scarcely concealed.

“Or” resumed Devonham, “it may be that through these —”

“Through his mental inheritance from his parents and from Mason, yes —”

“he taps the most primitive stores and layers of racial memory we know. The world-memory, if I dare put it so, full proof being lacking, is open to him —”

“Through his subconscious powers, of course?”

“That is your usual theory, isn’t it? We have there, at any rate, a working hypothesis, with a great mass of evidence generally speaking behind it.”

“Don’t be cynical, Paul. Is this ‘N.H.’ merely a Secondary Personality, or is it the real central self? That’s the whole point.”

“You jump ahead, as usual,” replied Devonham, really smiling for the first lime, though his face instantly grew serious again. “Edward,” he went on, “I do not know, I cannot say, I dare not <lare not guess. ‘N.H.’ is something entirely new to me, and I admit it” He seemed to find his stride, to forget himself. “I feel far from cynical. ‘N.H.’, in my opinion, is exceptional. My notes suggested it long ago. He has, for instance at least, so it seems to me peculiar powers.”

“Ah!”

“Of suggestion, let us put it.”

“Of suggestion, yes. Get on with it, there’s a good fellow. I felt myself an extraordinary vitality about him. I noticed it at once at Charing Cross.”

“I saw you did” Devonham looked hard at him. “You were humming to yourself, you know.”

“I didn’t know,” was the surprised reply, “but I can well believe it. I felt a curious pleasure and exhilaration.”

Devonham, shrugging his shoulders slightly, resumed: “During the ‘LeVallon’ periods he is ordinary, though unusually observant, critical and intelligent; during the ‘X. H.’ periods he becomes er super-normal. If you felt this felt anything in the station, it was because something in you called up the ‘N.H.’ aspect”

“It’s quick of you to guess that,” said Fillery, with quick appreciation. “You noticed a change in me, well but the other? He divined my ‘foreign’ blood, you think?”

“It is enough that you responded and felt kinship. Put it that way. ‘N.H.’ seems to me” he took a deeper breath and gave a sort of gasp “in some ways a unique being as I said before.”

“Tell me, if you can,” said Fillery, lighting his own pipe and settling back into his chair, “tell me a little about your first meeting with him in the Jura Mountains, what happened and so forth. I remember, of course, your Notes. After your telegram, I read ’em carefully.” He glanced round at his companion. “They were very honest, Paul, I thought. Eh?” He was unable to refuse himself the pleasure of the little dig. “Honest you always are,” he added. “We couldn’t work together otherwise, could we?”

Devonham, deep in his own thoughts, did not accept the challenge. He turned in his chair, puffing at his pipe,

“I can give you briefly what happened and how things went,” he said. “The place, then, first: an ordinary peasant chalet in a remote Jura valley, difficult of access, situated among what they call the upper pastures. I reached it by diligence and mule late in the afternoon. A peasant in a lower valley directed me, adding that ‘le monsieur anglais’ was dead and buried two days before —”

“Mason, that is?”

The other nodded. “And adding that ‘le fou’”

“LeVallon, of course?”

“would eat me alive at sight. He spoke with respect, however, even awe. He hoped I had come to take him away. The countryside was afraid of him.

“The valley struck me as intolerably lonely, but of unusual beauty. Big forests, great rocks, and tumbling streams among cliffs and pastures made it exceptional. The chalet was simple, clean and comfortable. It was really an ideal spot for a thinker or a student. The first thing I noticed was a fire burning on a pile of rock in front of the building. The sun was setting, and its last rays lit the entire little glen a mere gully between precipices and forest slopes but especially lit up the pile of rocks where the fire burned, so that I saw the smoke, blue, red and yellow, and the figure kneeling before it. This figure was a man, half naked, and of magnificent proportions. When I shouted —”

“You would shout, of course,” Yet he did not say it critically.

“the figure rose and turned and came to meet me.

It was LeVallon.”

Devonham paused a moment. Fillery’s eyes were fixed upon him.

“I admit,” Devonham went on, conscious of the other’s inquiring and intent expression, “I was surprised a bit.” He smiled his faint, unwilling smile. “The figure made me start. I was aware of an emotion I am not subject to what I called just now the creeps. I thought, at last, I had really seen a a vision. He looked so huge, so wonderful, so radiant. It was, of course, the effect of coloured smoke and magnifying sunset, added to his semi-nakedness. To the waist he was stripped. But, at first, his size, his splendour, a kind of radiance borrowed from the sunlight and the fire, seemed to enlarge him beyond human. He seemed to dominate, even to fill the little valley.

“I stood still, uncertain of my feelings. There was, I think, a trace of fear in me. I waited for him to come up to me. He did so. He stretched out a hand. I took it. And what do you think he said?”

Fillery, the inner excitement and delight increasing in him as he listened, stared in silence. There was no lightness in him now.

“‘Are you Fillery?’ That’s what he said, and the first words he uttered. ‘Are you Fillery?’ But spoken in a way I find difficult to reproduce. He made the name sound like a rush of wind. ‘F,’ of course, involves a draught of breath between the teeth, I know. But he made the name sound exactly like a gush of wind through branches that’s the nearest I can get to it,”

“Well and then?”

“Don’t be impatient, Edward. I try to be accurate. But really what happened next is a bit beyond any experience that we I have yet come across. And, as to what I felt well, I was tired, hungry, thirsty. I wanted, normally, rest and food and drink. Yet all these were utterly forgotten. For a moment or two I admit it I felt as if I had come face to face with something not of this earth quite.” He grinned. “A touch of gooseflesh came to me for the first time in my life. The fellow’s size and radiance in the sunlight, the fact that he stood there worshipping fire always, to me, the most wonderful of natural phenomena his grandeur and nakedness the way he pronounced your name even all this er upset my judgment for the moment.” He paused again. He hesitated. “A visual hallucination, due to fatigue, can be, of course, very detailed sometimes,” he added, a note of challenge in his tone.

Fillery watched his friend narrowly, as he stumbled among the details of what he evidently found a difficult, almost an impossible description.

“Natural enough,” he put in. “You’d hardly be human yourself if you felt nothing at such a sight.”

“The loneliness, too, increased the effect,” went on the other, “for there was no one nearer than the peasants who had directed me a thousand feet below, nor was there another building of any sort in sight. Anyhow, it seemed, I managed my strange emotions all right, for the young man took to me at once. He left the fire, if reluctantly, singing to himself a sort of low chanting melody, with perhaps five or six notes at most in it, and far from unmusical —”

“He explained the fire? Was he actually worshipping, I mean?”

“It was certainly worship, judging by the expression of his face and his gestures of reverence and happiness. But I asked no questions. I thought it best just to accept, or appear to accept, the whole thing as natural. He said something about the Equinox, but I did not catch it properly and did not ask. This had evidently been taught him. It was, however, the 22nd of September, oddly enough, though the gales had not yet come.”

“So you got into the chalet next?” asked the other, noticing the gaps, the incoherence.

“He put his coat on, sat down with me to a meal of bread and milk and cheese meat there seemed none in the building anywhere. This meal was, if you understand me, obeying a mere habit automatically. He did just what it had been his habit to do with Mason all these years. He got the stuff himself quickly, effectively, no fumbling anywhere and, from that moment, hardly spoke again until we left two days later. I mean that literally. All he said, when I tried to make him talk, was, ‘You are not Fillery,’ or ‘Take me to Fillery. I need him.’

“I almost felt that I was living with some marvellously trained animal, of extraordinary intelligence, gentle, docile, friendly, but unhappy because it had lost its accustomed master. But on the other hand I admit it I was conscious of a certain power in his personality beyond me to explain. That, really, is the best description I can give you.”

“You mentioned the name of Mason?” asked Fillery, avoiding a dozen more obvious and natural questions.

“Several times. But his only reply was a smile, while he repeated the name himself, adding your own after it: ‘Mason Fillery, Mason Fillery,’ he would say, smiling with quiet happiness. ‘I like Fillery!’”

“The nights?”

“Briefly I was glad to see the dawn. We had separate rooms, my own being the one probably where Mason had died a few days before. But it was not that I minded in the least. It was the feeling the knowledge in fact that my companion was up and about all night in the building or out of doors. I heard him moving, singing quietly to himself, the wooden veranda creaked beneath his tread. He was active all through the darkness and cannot have slept at all. When I came down soon after dawn he was running over the slopes a mile away, running towards the chalet, too, with the speed and lightness of a deer. He had been to some height, I think, to see the sun rise and probably to worship it —”

“And your journey? You got him away easily?”

“He was only too ready to leave, for it meant coming to you. I arranged with the peasants below to have the chalet closed up, took my charge to Neuchatel, and thence to Berne, where I bought him an outfit, and arrived in due course, as you know, at Charing Cross.”

“His first sight of cities, people, trains, steamers and the rest, I take it. Any reactions?”

“The troubles I anticipated did not materialize. He came like a lamb, the most helpless and pathetic lamb I ever saw. He stared but asked no questions. I think he was half dazed, even stupefied with it all.”

“Stupefied?”

“An odd word to use, I know. I should have said perhaps ‘automatic’ rather. He was so open to my suggestions, doing what my mind expected him to do, but nothing more ah! with one exception.”

Fillery meant to hear an account of that exception, though the other would willingly have foregone its telling evidently. It was related, Fillery felt sure, to the unusual powers Devonham had mentioned.

“Oh, you shall hear it,” said the latter quickly, “for what it’s worth. There’s no need to exaggerate, of course.” He told it rapidly, accurately, no doubt, because his mind was honest, yet without comment or expression in his voice and face. He supplied no atmosphere.

“I had got him like a lamb, as I told you, to Paris, and it was during the Customs examination the er little thing occurred. The man, searching through his trunk, pulled out a packet of flat papers and opened it. He looked them over with puzzled interest, turning them upside down to examine them from every possible angle. Then he asked a trifle unpleasantly what they were. I hadn’t the smallest idea myself, I had never seen them before; they were very carefully wrapped up. LeVallon, whose sudden excitement increased the official’s interest, told him that they were star-and-weather maps. It doubtless was the truth; he had made them with Mason; but they were queer-looking papers to have at such a time, hidden away, too, at the bottom of the trunk; and LeVallon’s manner and expression did not help to disarm the man’s evident suspicion. He asked a number of pointed questions in a very disagreeable way who made them, for what purpose, how they were used, and whether they were connected with aviation. I translated, of course. I explained their innocence —”

“LeVallon’s excitement?” asked Fillery. “What form did it take? Rudeness, anger, violence of any sort?” He was aware his friend would have liked to shirk these details.

“Nothing of the kind.” He hesitated briefly, then went on. “He behaved, rather, as though well, as a devout Catholic might have behaved if his crucifix or some holy relic were being mauled. The maps were sacred. Symbols possibly. Heaven knows what! He tried to take them back. The official, as a natural result, became still more suspicious and, of course, offensive too. My explanations and expostulations were quite useless, for he didn’t even listen to them.”

Devonham was now approaching the part of the story he least wished to describe. He played for time. He gave details of the ensuing altercation.

“What happened in the end?” Fillery at length interrupted. “What did LeVallon do? There were no arrests, I take it?” he added with a smile.

Paul coughed and fidgeted. He told the literal truth, however.

“LeVallon, after listening for a long time to the conversation he could not understand, suddenly took his fingers off the papers. The man’s dirty hand still held them tightly on the grimy counter. LeVallon began or he suddenly began to breathe well heavily rather.”

“Rhythmically?”

“Heavily,” insisted the other. “In a curious way, anyhow,” he added, determined to keep strictly to the truth, “not unlike Heathcote when he put himself automatically into trance and then told us what was going on at the other end of England. You remember the case.” He paused a moment again, as if to recall exactly what had occurred. “It’s not easy to describe, Edward,” he continued, looking up. “You remember that huge draughty hall where they examine luggage at the Lyons Station. I can’t explain it. But that breathing somehow caught the draughts, used them possibly, in any case increased them. A wind came through the great hall. I can’t explain it,” he repeated, “I can only tell you what happened. That wind most certainly came pouring steadily through, for I felt it myself, and saw it blow upon the fluttering papers. The heat in the salle at the same moment seemed to grow intense. Not an oppressive heat, though. Radiant heat, rather. It felt, I mean, like a fierce sunlight. I looked up, almost expecting to see a great light from which it came. It was then at this very moment the Frenchman turned as if someone touched him.”

“You felt anything, Paul?”

“Yes,” admitted the other slowly.

Fillery waited.

“A what I must call a thrill.” His voice was lower now.

“Of?” his Chief persisted.

Devonham waited a full ten seconds before reply. He again shrugged his shoulders a little. Apparently he sought his words with honest care that included also intense reluctance and disapproval:

“Loveliness, romance, enchantment; but, above all, I think power.” He ground out the confession slowly. “By power I mean a sort of confidence and happiness.”

“Increase of vitality, call it. Intensification of your consciousness.”

“Possibly. A bigger perspective suddenly, a bigger scale of life; something er a bit wild, but certainly er uncommonly stimulating. The best word, I think, is liberty, perhaps. An immense and careless sense of liberty.” And Fillery, knowing the value of superlatives in Devonham’s cautious mind, felt satisfied. He asked quietly what the official did next.

“Stood stock still at first. Then his face changed; he smiled; he looked up understandingly, sympathetically, at LeVallon. He spoke: ‘My father, too,’ he said with admiration, ‘had a big telescope. Monsieur is an astronomer.’

“‘One of the greatest,’ I added quickly; ‘these charts are of infinite value to France.’ No sense of comedy touched me anywhere, the ludicrous was absent. The man bowed, as carefully, respect in every gesture, he replaced the maps, marked the trunk with his piece of chalk, and let us go, helping in every way he could.”

Devonham drew a long breath, glad that he had relieved himself of his unwelcome duty. He had told the literal truth.

“Of course, of course,” Fillery said, half to himself perhaps, “A breath of bigger consciousness, his imagination touched, the subconscious wakened, and intelligence the natural result.” He turned to his colleague. “Interesting, Paul, very,” he added in a louder tone, “and not easy to explain, I grant. The official we do not know, but you, at any rate, are not a good subject for hypnotic suggestion!”

For some time Devonham said nothing. Presently he spoke:

“Fillery, I tell you really I love the fellow. He’s the most lovable thing in human shape I ever saw. He gets into your heart so strangely. We must heal him.”

The other sighed, quickly smothering it, yet not before Devonham had noticed it. They did not look at one another for some seconds, and there was a certain tenseness, a sense of deep emotion in the air that each, possibly, sought to hide from the other.

Devonham was the first to break the silence that had fallen between them.

“To be quite frank it’s LeVallon that appeals most to me,” he said, as if to himself, “whereas you, Edward, I believe, are more more interested in the other aspect of him. It’s ‘N.H.’ that interests you.”

No challenge was intended, yet the glove was flung.

Fillery said nothing for a minute or two. Then he looked up, and their eyes met across the smoke-laden atmosphere. It was close on midnight. The world lay very still and hushed about the house.

“It is,” he said quietly, “a pathetic and inspiring case. He is deserving of” he chose his words slowly and with care “our very best,” he concluded shortly.

“And now,” he added quickly, “you’re tired out, and I ought to have let you have a night’s sleep before taxing you like this.” He poured out two glasses of whisky. “Let us drink anyhow to success and healing of body, mind and soul.”

“Body, mind and nerves,” said Devonham slowly, as he drank the toast.

“The reason I had none of the trouble I anticipated,” remarked Devonham, as he sipped the reviving liquor, “is simple enough.”

“There are two periods, of course, I guessed that.”

“Exactly. There is the LeVallon period, when he is quiescent, normal, very charming into the bargain, more like a good child or trained animal or happy peasant, if you like it better, than a grown man. And there is the ‘N.H.’ period, when he is otherwise.”

“Ah!”

“I arrived just at the transition moment, so to speak. It was during the change I reached the chalet.”

“Precisely.” Fillery looked up, smiled and nodded.

“That’s about the truth,” repeated Devonham, putting his glass down. He thought for a moment, then added slowly, “I think that fire of his, the worship, singing at the autumnal equinox marked the change. ‘N. H,’ at once after that, slipped back into the unconscious state. Le–Vallon emerged. It was with LeVallon only or chiefly, I had to deal. He became so very quiet, dazed a little, half there, as we call it, and almost entirely silent. He retained little, if any, memory of the ‘N.H.’ period, although it lies, I think, just beneath the surface only. The LeVallon personality, you see, is not very positive, is it? It seems a quiet, negative state, a condition almost of rest, in fact.”

Fillery listening attentively, made no rejoinder.

“We may expect,” continued Devonham, “these alternating states, I think. The frontier between them is, as I said, a narrow one. Indeed, often they merge or interpenetrate In my judgment, the main, important part of his consciousness, that parent Self, is LeVallon not ‘N.H.’” The voice was slightly strident.

“Ah!”

It so happened that, in the act of exchanging these last words, they both looked up toward the ceiling, where a moth buzzed round and round, banging itself occasionally against the electric light. Whether it was this that drew their sight upwards simultaneously, or whether it was that some other sound in the stillness of the night had caught their strained attention, is uncertain. The same thought, at any rate, was in both minds at that instant, the same freight of meaning trailing behind it invisibly across the air. Their hearts burned within them; the two faces upward turned, the lips a little parted as when listening is intense, the heads thrown back. For in the room above that ceiling, asleep at this moment, lay the subject of their long discussion; only a few inches of lath and plaster separated them from the strange being who, dropping out of space, as it were, had come to make his home with them. A being, lonely utterly in the world, unique in kind perhaps, his nature as yet undecipherable, lay trustingly unconscious in that upper chamber. The two men felt the gravity, the responsibility of their charge. The same thought had vividly touched them both at the same instant.

A few minutes later they were still standing, facing one another. They were of a height, but compared to Fillery ‘s big frame and rugged head, his friend’s appearance was almost slight. Devonham, for all his qualifications, looked painfully like a shopwalker. They exchanged this steady gaze for a few seconds without speaking. Then the older man said quietly:

“Paul, I understand, and I respect your reticence. I think I can agree with it.”

He placed a hand upon the other’s shoulder, smiling gently, even tenderly.

“You have told me much, but you have not told me all! The chief part you have intentionally omitted.”

“For the present, at any rate,” was the reply, given without flinching.

“Your reasons are sound, your judgment perhaps right. I ask no questions. What happened, what you saw, at the chalet ; the ‘peculiar powers’ you mentioned; all, in fact, that you think it wise to keep to yourself for the moment, I leave there willingly.”

He spoke gravely, sincere emotion in the eyes and tone. It was in a lower voice he added:

“The responsibility, of course, is yours.”

Devonham returned the steady gaze, pondering his reply a moment.

“I can and do accept it,” he answered. “You have read my thoughts correctly as usual, Edward. I think you know quite enough already what with my Notes and Mason’s letter even too much. Besides, why complicate it with an account of what were doubtless mere mental pictures hallucinations on my part? This is a matter,” he went on slowly, “a case, we dare not trifle with; there may be strange and terrible afflictions in it later; we must remain unbiased.” The anxiety deepened on his face.

“True, true,” murmured the other. “God bless the boy! May his own gods bless him!”

“In other words, it will need your clearest, soundest judgment, your finest skill, your very best, as you said yourself just now.” He used a firmer, yet also a softer tone suddenly: “Edward, you know your own mind, its contents, its suppressions, its origin; your refusal of the love of women, your deep powerful dreams that you have suppressed and put away. Promise me” the voice and manner were very earnest “that you will not communicate these to him in any way, and that you will keep your judgment absolutely unbiased and untainted.” He looked at his old friend and paused. “Only your purest judgment of what is to come can help. You promise.”

Fillery sighed a scarcely noticeable sigh. “I promise you, Paul. You are wise and you are right,” he said. “On the other hand, let me say one thing to you in my turn. This theory of heredity and of mental telepathic transference the idea that all his mind’s content is derived from his parents and from Mason we cannot, remember, force this transference and interchange too far. I ask only this: be fair and open yourself with all that follows.”

Devonham raised his voice: “Nor can we, apparently, sets limits to it, Edward. But to be fair and open-minded I give my promise too.”

Thus, in the little downstairs room of a Private Home for Incurable Mental Cases, not a Lunatic Asylum, though sometimes perhaps next door to it, these two men, deeply intrigued by a new “Case” that passed their understanding, as it exceeded their knowledge, practice and experience, swore to each other to observe carefully, to report faithfully, and to experiment, if experiment proved necessary, with honest and affectionate uprightness.

Their views were, obviously, not the same. Devonham, temperamentally opposed to radical innovations, believed it was a case of divided personality hundreds of such cases had passed through their hands. Forced to accept extended telepathy that all minds can on occasion share one another’s content, and that even a racial and a world-memory can be tapped he feared that his Chief might influence LeVallon, and twist, thus, the phenomena to a special end. He knew Edward Fillery’s story. He feared, for the sake of truth, the mental transference. He had, perhaps, other fears as well.

Fillery, on the other hand, believing as much, and knowing more than his colleague, saw in “N.H.” a unique possibility. He was thrilled and startled with a half-impossible hope. He felt as if someone ran beside his life, bearing impossible glad tidings, an unexpected, half-incredible figure, the tidings marvellously bright. He hoped, he already wished to think, that “N.H.” might shadow forth a promise of some magical advance for the ultimate benefit of the Race. . . .

The thinkers were crying on the housetops that progress was a myth, that each wave of civilization at its height reached the same average level without ever passing further. The menace to the present civilization, already crumbling, was in full swing everywhere; knowledge, culture, learning threatened in due course with the chaos of destruction that has so far been the invariable rule. The one hope of saving the world, cried religion, lay in substituting spiritual for material values a Utopian dream at best. The one chance, said science, on the other hand, was that civilization today is continuous and not isolated.

The best hope, believed Fillery, the only hope, lay in raising the individual by the drawing up into full consciousness of the limitless powers now hidden and inactive in his deeper self the so-called subliminal faculties. With these greater powers must come also greater moral development.

Already, with his uncanny insight, derived from knowledge of himself, he had piercingly divined in “N.H.” a being, whatever he might be, whose nature acted automatically and directly upon the subconscious self in everybody.

That bright messenger, running past his life, had looked, as with fire and tempest, straight into his eyes.

It was long after one o’clock when the two men said goodnight, and went to their rooms. Devonham was soon in bed, though not soon asleep. Exhausted physically though he was, his mind burned actively. His recent memories were vivid. All he had purposely held back from Fillery returned with power. . . .

The uncertainty whether he had experienced hallucination, or had actually, as by telepathic transfer from Le–Vallon, touched another state of consciousness, kept sleep far away. . . .

His brain was far too charged for easy slumber. He feared for his dear, faithful friend, his colleague, the skilful, experienced, yet sorely tempted mind tempted by Nature and by natural weaknesses of birth and origin who now shared with him the care and healing of a Case that troubled his being too deeply for slumber to come quickly.

Yet he had done well to keep these memories from Edward Fillery. If Fillery once knew what he knew, his judgment and his scientific diagnosis must be drawn hopelessly away from what he considered the best treatment: the suppression of “N.H.” and the making permanent of “LeVallon.” . . .

He fell asleep eventually, towards dawn, dreaming impossible, radiant dreams of a world he might have hoped for, yet could not, within the limits of his little cautious, accurate mind, believe in. Dreams that inspire, yet sadden, haunted his release from normal consciousness. Someone had walked upon his life, leaving a growth of everlasting flowers in their magical tread, though his mind his stolid, cautious mind had no courage for the plucking. . . .

And while he slept, as the hours slipped from west to east, his chief and colleague, lying also sleepless, rose suddenly before the late autumn dawn, and walked quietly along the corridor towards the Private Suite where the new patient rested. His mind was quiet, yet his inner mind alert. His thoughts, his hopes, his dreams, these lay, perhaps, beyond human computation. He was calmer far than his assistant, though more strangely tempted.

It was just growing light, the corridor was cold. A cool, damp air came through the open windows and the linoleum felt like ice against the feet. The house lay dead and silent. Pausing a moment by a window, he listened to the chattering of early sparrows. He felt chill and hungry, unrested too, though far from sleepy. He was aware of London bleak, heavy, stolid London town. The troubles of modern life, of Labour, Politics, Taxes, cost of living, all the common, daily things came in with the cheerless morning air.

He reached the door he sought, and very softly opened it.

The radiance met him in the face, so that he almost gasped. The scent of flowers, the sting of sharp, keen forest winds, the exhilaration of some distant mountain-top. There was, actually, a tang of dawn, known only to those who have tasted the heights at sunrise with the heart. And into his heart, singing with happy confidence, rose a sense of supreme joy and confidence that mastered all little earthly woes and pains, and walked among the stars.

The occupant of the bed lay very still. His shining hair was spread upon the pillow. The splendid limbs were motionless. The chest and arms were bare, the single covering sheet tossed off. The strange, wild face wore happiness and peace upon its skin, the features very calm, the mouth relaxed. It almost seemed a god lay sleeping there upon a little human bed.

How long he stood and stared he did not know, but suddenly, the light increased. The curtains stirred about the bed.

With a marvellous touch the separate details merged and quickened into life. The room was changed. The occupant of the bed moved very swiftly, as through the open window came the first touch of exhilarating light. Gold stole across the lintel, breaking over the roofs of slates beyond. The leafless elm trees shimmered faintly. The telegraph wires shone. There was a running sparkle. It was dawn.

The figure leaped, danced no other word describes it to the open window where the light and air gushed in, spread wide its arms, lowered its radiant head, began to sing in low, melodious rhythmic chant and Fillery, as silently as he had come, withdrew and closed the door unseen. His heart moved strangely, but his promise held him..

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/blackwood/algernon/bright-messenger/chapter6.html

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