Julius LeVallon, by Algernon Blackwood

Chapter xxx

A RUSH of air ran softly round the walls and roof, then dropped away into silence. There was this increased activity outside. A roar next sounded in the chimney, high up rather; a block of peat fell with a sudden crash into the grate, sending a shower of sparks to find the outer air. Behind us the pine boards cracked with miniature, sharp reports.

Julius continued the longitudinal passes, and “Mrs. LeVallon” passed with every minute into deeper and more complete somnambulism. It was a natural, willing process. He merely made it easier for her. She sank slowly into the deep subconscious region where all the memories of the soul He stored for use.

It seemed that everything was in abeyance in myself, except the central fact that this experience was true. The rest of existence fell away, clipped off as by a pair of mighty shears. Both fire and wind seemed actively about me; yet not unnaturally. There was this heat and lift, but there was nothing frantic. The native forces in me were raised to their ultimate capacity, though never for a moment beyond the limit that high emotion might achieve. Nature accomplished the abnormal, possibly, but still according to law and what was — or had been once — comprehensible.

The passes grew slower, with longer intervals between; Mrs. LeVallon lay motionless, the lips slightly parted, the skin preternaturally pale, the eyelids tightly closed,

“Hush!” whispered Julius, as I made an involuntary movement, “it is still the normal sleep, and she may easily awake. Let no sound disturb her. It must go gradually.” He spoke without once removing his gaze from her face. “Be ready to write what you hear,” he added, “and help by ‘thinking’ fire and wind — in my direction.”

A long-drawn sigh was audible, accompanied by the slightest possible convulsive movement of the reclining body.

“She sinks deeper,” he whispered, ceasing the passes for a moment. “The consciousness is already below the deep-dream stage. Soon she will wake into the interior lucidity when her Self of Today will touch the parent source behind. They are already with her: they light — and lift — her soul. She will remember all her past, and will direct us.”

I made no answer; I asked no questions; I stood and watched, willingly sympathetic, yet incapable of action. The curious scene held something of tragedy and grandeur. There was triumph in it. The sense of Nature working with us increased, yet we ourselves comparatively unimportant. The earth, the sky, the universe took part and were involved in our act of restitution. It was beyond all experience. It was also — at times — intolerable.

The body settled deeper into the chair; the crackling of the wicker making sharp reports in the stillness. The pallor of the face increased; the cheeks sank in, the framework of the eyes stood out; imperceptibly the features began to rearrange themselves upon another, greater scale, most visible, perhaps, in the strong, delicate contours of the mouth and jaw. Upon Julius, too, as he stood beside her, came down some indefinable change that set him elsewhere and otherwise. His dignity, his deep solicitous tenderness, and at the same time a hint of power that emanated more and more from his whole person, rendered him in some intangible fashion remote and inaccessible. I watched him with growing wonder.

For over the room as well a change came stealing. In the shadows beyond the fringe of lamplight, perspective altered. The room ran off in distances that yet just escaped the eye: I felt the change, though it was so real that the breath caught in me each time I sought to focus it. Space spread and opened on all sides, above, below, while so naturally that it was never actually unaccountable. Wood seemed replaced by stone, as though the solidity of our material surroundings deepened. I was aware of granite columns, corridors of massive build, gigantic pylons towering to the sky. The atmosphere of an ancient temple grew about my heart, and long-forgotten things came with a crowding of half-familiar detail that insisted upon recognition. It was an early memory, I knew, yet not the earliest. . . .

“Be ready.” I heard the low voice of Julius. “She is about to wake — within,” and he moved a little closer to her, while I took up my position by the table by the lamp. The paper lay before me. With fingers that trembled I lifted the pencil, waiting. The hands of the sleeping woman raised themselves feebly, then fell back upon the arms of the chair. It seemed she tried to make signs but could not quite complete them. The expression on the face betrayed great internal effort.

“Where are you?” Julius asked in a steady but very gentle tone.

The answer came at once, with slight intervals between the words:

“In a building . . . among mountains. . . . ”

“Are you alone?”

“No . . . not alone,” spoken with a faint smile, the eyes still tightly closed.

“Who, then, is with you?”

“You . . . and he,” after a momentary hesitation.

“And who am I?”

The face showed slight confusion; there was a gesture as though she felt about her in the air to find him.

“I do not know . . . quite,” came the halting answer. “But you — both — are mine . . . and very near to me. Or else you own me. All three are so close I cannot see ourselves apart . . . quite.”

“She is confused between two memories,” Julius whispered to me. “The true regression of memory has not yet begun. The present still obscures her consciousness.”

“It is coming,” she said instantly, aware of his lightest whisper.

“All in due time,” he soothed her in a tender tone; “there is no hurry. Nor is there anything to fear ”

“I am not afraid. I am . . . happy. I feel safe.” She paused a moment, then added: “But I must go deeper . . . further down. I am too near the surface still.”

He made a few slow passes at some distance from her face, and I saw the eyelids flutter as though about to lift. She sighed deeply. She composed herself as into yet deeper sleep.

“Ah! I see better now,” she murmured. “I am sinking . . . sinking . . . ”

He waited for several minutes and then resumed the questioning.

“Now tell me who you are,” he enjoined.

She faintly shook her head. Her lips trembled, as though she tried to utter several names and then abandoned all. The effort seemed beyond her. The perplexed expression on the face with the shut eyes was movingly pathetic, so that I longed to help her, though I knew not how.

“Thank you,” she murmured instantly, with a gentle smile in my direction. Our thoughts, then, already found each other!

“Tell me who you are,” Julius repeated firmly. “It is not the name I ask.”

She answered distinctly, with a smile:

“A mother. I am soon to be a mother and give birth.”

He glanced at me significantly. There was both joy and sadness in his eyes. But it was not this disclosure that he sought. She was still entangled in the personality of Today. It was far older layers of memory and experience that he wished to read. “Once she gets free from this,” he whispered, “it will go with leaps and bounds, whole centuries at a time.” And again I knew by the smile hovering round the lips that she had heard and understood.

“Pass deeper; pass beyond,” he continued, with more authority in the tone. “Drive through — sink down into what lies so far behind.”

A considerable interval passed before she spoke again, ten minutes at the lowest reckoning, and possibly much longer. I watched her intently, but with an afflicting anxiety at my heart. The body lay so still and calm, it was like the immobility of death, except that once or twice the forehead puckered in a little frown and the compression of the lips told of the prolonged internal effort. The grander aspect of her features came for moments flittingly, but did not as yet establish itself to stay. She was still confused with the mind and knowledge of Today. At length a little movement showed itself; she changed the angle of her head in an effort to look up and speak; a scarcely perceptible shudder ran down the length of her stretched limbs. “I cannot,” she murmured, as though glancing at her husband with closed eyelids. “Something blocks the way. I cannot see. It’s too thickly crowded . . . crowded.”

“Describe it, and pass on,” urged Julius patiently. There was unalterable decision in his quiet voice. And in her tone a change was also noticeable. I was profoundly moved; only with a great eiffort I controlled myself.

“They crowd so eagerly about me,” — the choice of words seemed no longer quite “Mrs. LeVallon’s” — “with little arms outstretched and pleading eyes. They seek to enter, they implore . . . ”

“Who are they?”

“The Returning Souls.” The love and passion in her voice brought near, as in a picture, the host of reincarnating souls eager to find a body for their development in the world. They besieged her, clamouring for birth — for a body.

“Your thoughts invite them,” replied Julius, “but you have the power to decide.” And then he asked more sternly: “Has any entered yet?”

It was unspeakably moving — this mother willing to serve with anguish the purpose of advancing souls. Yet this was all of Today. It was not the thing he sought. The general purpose must stand aside for the particular. There was an error to be set right first. She had to seek its origin among the ages infinitely far away. The guidance Julius sought lay in the long ago. But the safety of the little unborn body troubled him, it seemed.

“As yet,” she murmured, “none. The little body of the boy is empty . . . though besieged.”

“By whom besieged?” he asked more loudly. “Who hinders?”

The little body of the boy! And it was then a further change came suddenly, both in her face and voice, and in the voice of Julius too.

That larger expression of some forgotten grandeur passed into her features, and she half sat up in the chair; there was a stiffening of the frame; resistance, power, an attitude of authority, replaced the former limpness. The moment was, for me, electrifying. Ice and fire moved upon my skin.

She opened her lips to speak, but no words were audible.

“Look close — and tell me,” came from Julius gravely.

She made an effort, then shrank back a little, this time raising one arm as though to protect herself from something coming, then sharply dropping it again over the heart and body.

“I cannot see,” she murmured, slightly frowning; “they stand so close and . . . are . . . so splendid. They are too great . . . to see.”

“Who — what — are they?” he insisted. He took her hand in his. I saw her smile.

The simple words were marvellously impressive. Depths of untold memory stirred within me as I heard.

“Powers . . . we knew . . . so long ago.”

Some ancient thing in me opened an eye and saw. The Powers we evoked came seeking an entrance, brought nearer by our invitation. They came from the silent valley; they were close about the building. But only through a human channel could they emerge from the spheres where they belonged.

“Describe them, and pass on,” I heard Julius say, and there came a pause then that I thought would never end. The look of power rolled back upon her face. She spoke with joy, with a kind of happiness as though she welcomed them.

“They rush and shine. . . . They flood the distance like a sea, and yet stand close against my heart and blood. They are clothed in wind and fire. I see the diadems of flame ascending and descending. Their breath is all the winds. There is such roaring. I see mountains of wind and fire . . . advancing . . . nearer . . . nearer. . . . We used them — we invited . . . long, long ago. . . . And so they . . . come again about us. . . . ”

His following command appalled me:

“Keep them back. You must protect the vacant body from invasion.”

And then he added in tones that seemed to make the very air vibrate, although the voice but whispered, “You must direct them — towards me.”

He moved to a new position, so that we formed a triangle again. Dimly at the time I understood. The circle signified the union which, having received, enclosed the mighty forces. Only it enclosed too much; the danger of misdirection had appeared. The triangle, her body forming the apex towards the open night, aimed at controlling the immense arrival by lessening the entry. Another thing stood out, too, with crystal clearness — at the time: the elemental Powers sought the easiest channel, the channel of least resistance, the body still unoccupied: whereas Julius offered — himself. The risk must be his and his alone. There was — in those few steps he took across the dim-lit room — a sense of tremendous, if sinister, drama that swept my heart with both tenderness and terror. The significance of his changed position was staggering.

I watched the sleeper closely. The lips grew more compressed, and the fingers of both hands clenched themselves upon the dark dress on her lap. I saw the muscles of the altering face contract with effort; the whole framework of the body became more rigid. Then, after several minutes, followed a gradual relaxation, as she sank back again into her original position.

“They retire . . . ” she murmured with a sigh. “They retire . . . into darkness a little. But they still . . . wait and hover. I hear the rush of their great passing. . . . I see the distant shine of fire . . . still.”

“And the souls?” he asked gently, “do they now return?”

She lowered her head as with a gesture of relief.

“They are crowding, crowding. I see them as an endless flight of birds. . . . ” She held out her arms, then shrank back sharply. An expression I could not interpret flashed across the face. Behind a veil, it seemed. And the stern voice of Julius broke in upon the arrested action:

“Invite them by your will. Draw to you by desire and love one eager soul. The little vacant body must be occupied, so that the Mighty Ones, returning, shall find it thus impossible of entry.”

It was a command; it was also a precaution; for if the body of the child were left open it would inevitably attract the invading Powers from — himself. I watched her very closely then. I saw her again stretch out her arms and hands, then once again — draw sharply back. But this time I understood the expression on the quivering face. The veil had lifted.

By what means this was clear to me, yet hidden from Julius, I cannot say. Perhaps the ineradicable love that she and I bore for one another in that long-forgotten time supplied the clue. But of this I am certain — that she disobeyed him. She left the little waiting body as it was, empty, untenanted. Life — a soul returning to rebirth — was not conceived and did not enter in. The reason, moreover, was also clear to me in that amazing moment of her choice: she divined his risk of failure, she wished to save him, she left open the channel of least resistance of set purpose — the unborn body. For a love known here and now, she sacrificed a love as yet unborn. If Julius failed, at least he would not now be destroyed; there would be another channel ready.

That thus she thought, intended, I felt convinced. If her mistake was fraught with more danger than she knew, my lips were yet somehow sealed. Our deeper, ancient bond gave me the clue that to Julius was not offered, but no words came from me to enlighten him. It seemed beyond my power; I should have broken faith with her, a faith unbelievably precious to me.

For a long time, then, there was silence in the little room, while LeVallon continued to make slow passes as before. The anguish left her face, drowned wholly in the grander expression that she wore. She breathed deeply, regularly, without effort, the head sunk forward a little on the breast. The rustle of his coat as his arm went to and fro, and the creaking of the wicker chair were all I heard. Then, presently, Julius turned to me with a low whisper I can hear to this very day. “I, and I alone,” he said, “am the rightful channel. I have waited long.” He added more that I have forgotten; I caught something about “all the aspects being favourable,” and that he felt confidence, sure that he would not fail.

“You will not,” I interrupted passionately, “you dare not fail. . . . ” And then speech suddenly broke down in me, and some dark shadow seemed to fall upon my senses so that I neither heard nor saw nor felt anything for a period I cannot state.

An interval there certainly was, and of some considerable length probably, for when I came to myself again there was change accomplished, though a change I could not properly estimate. His voice filled the room, addressing the sleeper as before, yet in a way that told me there had been progress accomplished while I had been unconscious.

“Deeper yet,” I heard, “pass down deeper yet, pass back across a hundred intervening lives to that far-off time and place when first — first — we called Them forth. Sink down into your inmost being and remember!”

And in her immediate answer there was a curious faintness as of distance: “It is . . . so . . . far away . . . so far beyond . . . ”

“Beyond what?” he asked, the expression of “Other Places” deepening upon his face.

Her forehead wrinkled in a passing frown. “Beyond this earth,” she murmured, as though her closed eyes saw within. “Oh, oh, it hurts. The heat is awful . . . the light . . . the tremendous winds . . . they blind, they tear me . . . I” And she stopped abruptly.

“Forget the pain,” he said; “it is already gone.” And instantly the tension of her face relaxed. She drew a sigh of deep relief. Before I could prevent it, my own voice sounded: “When we were nearer to the sun!”

She made no reply. He took my hand across the table and laid it on her own. “She cannot hear your voice,” he said, “unless you touch us. She is too far away. She does not even know that you are here beside me. You ‘ of Today she has forgotten, and the you of that long ago she has not yet found.”

“You speak with someone — but with whom?” she asked at once, turning her head a little in my direction. Not waiting for his reply she at once went on: “Upon another planet, yes . . . but oh, so long ago. . . . ” And again she paused.

“The one immediately before this present one?” asked Julius.

She shook her head gently. “Still further back than that . . . the one before the last, when first we knew delight of life . . . without these heavy, closing bodies. When the sun was nearer . . . and we knew deity in the fiery heat and mighty winds . . . and Nature was . . . ourselves. . . . ” The voice wavered oddly, broke, and ceased upon a sigh. A thousand questions burned in me to ask. An amazing certainty of recognition and remembrance burst through my heart. But Julius spoke before my tongue found words.

“Search more closely,” he said with intense gravity. “The time and place we summoned Them is what we need — not where we first learned it, but where we practised it and failed. Confine your will to that. Forget the earlier planet. To help you, I set a barrier you cannot pass. . . . ”

“The scene of our actual evocation is what we must discover,” he whispered to me. “When that is found we shall be in touch with the actual Powers our worship used.”

“It was not there, in that other planet,” she murmured. “It was only there we first gained the Nature-wisdom. Thence — we brought it with us . . . to another time and place . . . later . . . much nearer to Today — to Earth.”

“Remember, then, and see —” he began, when suddenly her unutterably wonderful expression proclaimed that she at last had found it.

It was curiously abrupt. He moved aside. We waited. I took up my pencil between fingers that were icy cold. My gaze remained fixed upon the motionless body. Those fast-closed eyes seemed cut in stone, as if they never in this world could open. The forehead gleamed pale as ivory in the lamplight. The soft gulping of the lamp oil beside me, the crumbling of the fire-wood in the grate deepened the silence that I feared to break. The pallid oval of the sleeper’s countenance shone at me out of a room turned wholly dark. I forgot the place wherein we sat, our names, our meanings in the present. For there grew vividly upon that disc-like countenance the face of another person — and of one I knew.

And with this shock of recognition — there came over me both horror and undying sweetness — a horror that the face would smile into my own with a similar recognition, that from those lips a voice must come I should remember; that those arms would lift, those hands stretch out; an ecstasy that I should be remembered.

“Open!” I heard, as from far away, the voice of Julius.

And then I realised that the eyes were open. The lids were raised, the eyeballs faced the lamp. Some tension drew the skin sideways. They were other eyes. The eternal Self looked out of them bringing the message of a vast antiquity. They gazed steadily and clearly into mine.

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