Julius LeVallon, by Algernon Blackwood

Chapter xxvii

“There remains love. The gain which the memory of the past gives us here is that the memory of past love for any person can strengthen our present love of him. And this is what must he preserved if the value of past love is not to be lost. But love has no end but itself. If it has gone, it helps us little that we keep anything it has brought us. . . .

“What more do we want? The past is not preserved separately in memory, but it exists, concentrated and united in the present. . . . If we still think that the past is lost, let us ask ourselves whether we regard, as lost all those incidents in a friendship which, even before death, are forgotten.” — Ibid.

Here, then, as well as the mind in me can set it down, was the background against which the various incidents of this final day occurred. This was my “attitude” towards them; these thoughts and feelings, though unexpressed in words, were the “mood” which accepted and understood each slightest incident of those extraordinary hours.

The length of the day amazed me; it seemed endless. Time went another gait. The sequence of little happenings that marked its passage remains blurred in the memory, and I look back to these with the curious feeling that they happened all at once. Yet the strongest impression, perhaps, is that time, the sense of duration, was arrested or at least moved otherwise. There was a pause in Nature, the pause before the approaching Equinox. A river halted a moment at the bend. And hence came, of course, the sensation of pressure accumulating everywhere in the valley. Acceleration would come afterwards, but first this wondrous pause.

And this pressure that brimmed the valley forced common details into an uncommon view. The rising tide drove objects on the banks above high-water mark. There was exhilaration without alarm, as when an exceptional tide throws a full ocean into unaccustomed inlets. The thrill was marvellous. The forest made response, offering its secret things without a touch of fear . . . as when the deer came out and grazed upon the meadow before the chalet windows, not singly but in groups, and invariably, I noticed, groups of three and three. We passed close in and out among them; I stroked the thick rough hair upon their flanks; I remember Mrs. LeVallon’s arm about their necks, and once in particular, when she was lying down, that a fawn, no hint of fear in its beautiful, gracious eyes, pushed her hair aside with its shining muzzle to nibble the grass against her neck. The mood of an ancient and divining prophecy lay in the sight, linking Nature with human-nature in natural harmony when the lion and the lamb might play together, and a little child might lead them. For — significant, arresting item — the very air came sweetly down among us too, and the friendly intimacy of the birds brought this exquisite touch of love into the entire day. There was communion everywhere between our Selves and Nature. The birds were in my room when I went upstairs, one hopping across the pillow on my bed, its bright eyes shining as it perched an instant on my shoulder, two others twittering and dancing along the narrow window-sill. There was no fear in them; they fluttered here and there at will, and my quickest movements caused them no alarm. From the table they peeped up into my face; they were downstairs flitting in and out among the chairs and sofas; they did not fly away when we came in. And in threes I saw them, always in threes together. It was like reading natural omens; I understood the significance that lay in omens; and in this delightful sense, but in no other, these natural signs were — ominous.

Over the face of Nature, and in our hearts as well, lay everywhere this attitude of divine carelessness. Everything felt-with everything else, and all were neighbours. The ascension of the soul through all the natural kingdoms seemed written clear upon the trees and rocks and flowers, upon birds and animals, upon the huge, quiet elements themselves.

For the pause and stillness, these were ominous, too. This hush of Nature upon the banks of Time, this beautiful though solemn pause upon the heart of things, was but the presage of an accelerated rushing forward that would follow it. The world halted and took breath. It was the moment just before the leap.

With midnight the climax would be reached — the timeless instant of definite arrest, too brief, too swift for mechanism to record, the instant when Julius would enforce his ancient claim. Then the impetuous advance would be resumed, but resumed with the increased momentum, moreover, of natural forces whose outward manifestation men call the equinoctial gales. Those elemental disturbances, that din and riot in the palaces of heat and air, of wind and fire — how little the sailors, the men upon the heights, the dwellers in the streets of crowded cities might guess the free divinity loose upon the earth behind the hurricanes! The forgotten majesty of it broke in upon me as I realised it. For realise it I most assuredly did. The channels here, indeed, were open.

There seemed a halo laid upon the day; sanctity and peace in all its corners; the valley was a temple, the splendour of true old-world worship ushering in the Equinox: Earth’s act of adoration to the sun, the breathless moment when she sank upon her knees before her source of life, her progeny aware, participating.

For the joy and power that vibrated with every message of light and sound about us came to me in the terms of love, as though a love which broke all barriers down flowed in from Nature. It woke in me an unmanageable, an infinite yearning; I burned to sweep all modern life into this lonely mountain valley, to share its happiness with the entire world; the tired ones, the sick and weary, the poor, those who deem themselves outcast and useless in the scheme of things, the lonely, the destitute in spirit, the failures, the wicked, and, above all, the damned. For here all broken and shattered lives, it seemed to me, must find that sense of wholeness which is confidence and that peace due to the certainty of being cared for by the universe — divinely mothered. The natural sacrament of elemental powers, in its simplicity, could heal the nations. I yearned to bring humanity into the power of Nature and the joy of Nature–Worship.

So complete, moreover, was my inclusion in this sacramental attitude towards Nature, that I saw the particular purpose for which we three were here — as Julius saw it. I experienced a growing joy, an ever lessening alarm. Three human souls met here upon this island of a moment’s restitution, important certainly, yet after all an episode merely, set between a series of lives long past and of countless lives to follow after. The elements, and the Earth to which they were consciously related, the Universe of which, with ourselves, she formed an integral constituent — all were relatively and in their just proportions involved in this act of restitution. Hence, in a dim way, it was out of time and space. Our very acts and feelings were those of Nature and of that vaster Whole, wherein Nature, herself but a little item, lies secure. The Universe felt and acted with us. The gentian in the field would be aware, but Sirius, too.

Three human specks would act out certain things, but the wind in the forest would cooperate and feel glad, and the fire in Orion’s nebula would be aware.

An older form of consciousness was operative. We were not separate. Instead of thinking as separate items apart from the rest of the cosmos, we felt as integral bits of it — and here, perhaps, lay the essence of what I call another kind of consciousness than the one known today.

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