HE became, again, vividly aware of the power and presence of “N.H.”
He was not far from his house now on the shoulder of the hill. He turned his eyes upwards, where the three-quarter moon sailed above transparent cirrus clouds that scarcely dimmed her light. Like dappled sands of silver, they sifted her soft shining, moving slowly across the heavens before an upper wind. The sound continued.
For a moment or two, in the pale light of dawn, he watched and listened, then lowered his gaze, caught his breath sharply, and stood stock still. He stared in front of him. Next, turning slowly, he stared right and left. He stared behind as well.
Yes, it was true. The lines and rows of crowding houses trembled, disappeared. The heavy buildings dissolved before his very eyes. The solid walls and roofs were gone, the chimneys, railings, doors and porches vanished. There were no more conservatories. There were no lamp-posts. The streets themselves had melted. He gazed in amazement and delight. The entire hill lay bare and open to the sky.
Across the rising upland swept a keen fresh morning wind. Yet bare they were not, this rising upland and this hill. As far as he could see, the landscape flowed waist-deep in flowers, whose fragrance lay upon the air; dew trembled, shimmering on a million petals of blue and gold, of orange, purple, violet; the very atmosphere seemed painted. Flowering trees, both singly and in groves, waved in the breeze, birds sang in chorus, there was a murmur of streams and falling waters. Yet that other sound rose too, rose from the entire hill and all upon it, a continuous gentle rhythm, as though, he felt, the actual scenery poured forth its being in spontaneous, natural expression of sound as well as of form and colour. It was the simplest, happiest music he had ever heard.
Unable to deal with the rapture of delight that swept upon him, he stood stock still among the blossoms to his waist. Eyes, ears and nostrils were inadequate to report a beauty which, simple though it was, overbore nerves and senses accustomed to a lesser scale. Horizons indeed had lifted, the joy and confidence of fuller life poured in. His own being grew immense, stretched, widened, deepened, till it seemed to include all space. He was everywhere, or rather everything was happening somewhere in him all at once. . . . In place of the heavy suburb lay this garden” of primal beauty, while yet, in a sense, the suburb itself remained as well. Only it had flowered . . . revealing the subconscious soul the bricks and pavements hid. . . . Its potential self had blossomed into loveliness and wonder.
The sound drew nearer. He was aware of movement. Figures were approaching; they were coming in his direction, coming towards him over the crest of the hill, nearer and nearer. Concealed by the forest of tall flowers, he watched them come. Yet as Presences he perceived them, rather than as figures, already borrowing power from them, as sails borrow from a rising wind. His consciousness expanded marvellously to let them in.
Their stature was conveyed to him, chiefly, at first, by the fact that these flowers, though rising to his own waist, did not cover the feet of them, yet that the flowers in the immediate line of their advance still swayed and nodded, as though no weight had lain upon their brilliance. The footsteps were of wind, the figures light as air; they shone; their radiant presences lit the acres. Their own atmosphere, too, came with them, as though the landscape moved and travelled with and in their being, as though the flowers, the natural beauty, emanated from them. The landscape was their atmosphere. They created, brought it with them. It seemed that they “expressed” the landscape and “were” the scenery, with all its multitudinous forms.
They approached with a great and easy speed that was not measurable. Over the crest of the living, sunlit hill they poured, with their bulk, their speed, their majesty, their sweet brimming joy. Fillery stood motionless watching them, his own joy touched with awed confusion, till wonder and worship mastered the final trace of fear.
Though he perceived these figures first as they topped the skyline, he was aware that great space also stretched behind them, and that this immense perspective was in some way appropriate to their appearance. Born of a greater space than his “mind” could understand, they flowed towards him across that windy crest and at the same time from infinitely far beyond it. Above the continuous humming sound, he heard their music too, faint but mighty, filling the air with deep vibrations that seemed the natural expression of their joyful beings. Each figure was a chord, yet all combining in a single harmony that had volume without loudness. It seemed to him that their sound and colour and movement wove a new pattern upon space, a new outline, form or growth, perhaps a flower, a tree, perhaps a planet. . . . They were creative. They expressed themselves naturally in a million forms.
He heard, he saw. He knew no other words to use. But the “hearing” was, rather, some kind of intimate possession so that his whole being filled and overbrimmed; and the “sight” was greater than the customary little irritation of the optic nerve it involved another term of space. He could describe the sight more readily than the hearing. The apparent contradiction of distance and proximity, of vast size yet intimacy, made him tremble in his hiding-place.
His “sight,” at any rate, perceived the approaching figures all round, all over, all at once, as they poured like a wave across the hill from far beyond its visible crest. For into this space below the horizon he saw as well, though, normally speaking, it was out of sight. Nor did he see one side only; he saw the backs of the towering forms as easily as the portion facing him; he saw behind them. It was not as with ordinary objects refracting light, the back and underneath and further edges invisible. All sides were visible at once. The space beyond, moreover, whence the mighty outlines issued, was of such immensity that he could think only of interstellar regions. Not to the little planet, then, did these magnificent shapes belong. They were of the Universe. The symbol of his valley, he knew suddenly, belonged here too.
Silent with wonder, motionless with worship, he watched the singing flood of what he felt to be immense, non-human nature-life pour past him. The procession lasted for hours, yet was over in a minute’s flash. All categories his mind knew hitherto were useless. The faces, in their power, their majesty, the splendour even of their extent, were both appalling, yet infinitely tender. They were filled with stars, blue distance, flowers, spirals of fire, space and air, inter-woven too, with shining geometrical designs whose intricate patterns merged in a central harmony. They brought their own winds with them.
Yet of features precisely, he was not aware. Each face was, rather, an immense expression, but an expression that was permanent and could not change. These were immutable, eternal faces. He borrowed from human terms the only words that offered, while aware that he falsely introduced the personal into that which was essentially impersonal.
There stole over him a strange certainty that what he worshipped was the grandeur of joyful service working through unalterable law the great compassion of some untiring service that was deathless. . . . He stood within the Universe, face to face with its elemental builders, guardians, its constructive artizans, the impersonal angelic powers . . . the region, the state, he now felt convinced, to which “N.H.” belonged, and whence, by some inexplicable chance, he had come to occupy a human body. . . . And the sounds the flash came to him with lightning conviction were those essential rhythms which are the kernels of all visible, manifested forms. . . .
He was not aware that he was moving, that he had left the spot where he had stood so long, yet for a single second only and had now reached the corner of a street again. The flowers were gone, and the trees and groves gone with them; no waters rippled past; there was no shining hill. The moon, the stars, the breaking dawn remained, but he saw windows, walls and villas once again, while his feet echoed on dead stone pavements. . . .
Yet the figures had not wholly gone. Before a house, where he now paused a moment, the towering, flowing outlines were still faintly visible. Their singing still audible, their shapes still gently luminous, they stood grouped about an open window of the second story. In the front garden a big plane tree stirred its leafless branches; the tree and figures interpenetrated. Slowly then, the outlines grew dim and shadowy, indistinguishable almost from the objects in the twilight near them. Chimneys, walls and roofs stole in upon the great shapes with foreign, grosser details that obscured their harmony, confused their proportion, as with two sets of values. The eye refused to focus both at once. A roof, a chimney obtruded, while sight struggled, fluttered, then ended in confusion. The figures faded and melted out. They merged with the tree, the reddening sky, the murky air close to the house which a street lamp made visible. Suddenly they were lost they were no longer there.
But the rhythmical sound, though fainter, still continued and Fillery looked up.
It was a sound, he realized in a flash, evocative and summoning. Type called to type, brother to brother, across the universe. The house before him was his own, and the open window through which the music issued was the bedroom of “N.H.”
He stood transfixed. Both sides of his complex nature operated simultaneously. His mind worked more clearly the entire history of the “case” in that upstairs room passed through it: he was a doctor. But his speculative, emotional aspect, the dreamer in him, so greatly daring, all that poetic, transcendental, half — mystical part which classed him, he well knew, with the unstable; all this, long and dangerously repressed, worked with opposite, if equal pressure. From the subconscious rose violent hands as of wind and fire, lovely, fashioning, divine, tearing away the lid of the reasoning surface-consciousness that confined, confused them.
To disentangle, to define these separate functions, were a difficult problem even for the most competent psychiatrist. Creative imaginative powers, hitherto merely fumbling, half denied as well, now stretched their wings and soared. With them came a blinding clarity of sight that enabled him to focus a vast field of detail with extraordinary rapidity. Horizons had lifted, perspective deepened and lit up. In a few brief seconds, before his front door opened, a hundred details flashed towards a focus and shone concentrated:
The Vision, of course the Figures had now melted into the night had no objective reality. Suppressed passion had created them, forbidden yearnings had passed the Censor and dramatized a dream, set aside yet never explained, that heredity was responsible for. Both were born of his lost radiant valley. His Note Books held a thousand similar cases. . . .
But the speculative dreamer flashed coloured lights against this common white. The prism blazed. From the inter-stellar spaces came these radiant figures, from Sirius, immense and splendid sun, from Aldebaran among the happy Hyades, from awful Betelgeuse, whose volume fills a Martian orbit. Their dazzling, giant grandeur was of stellar origin. Yet, equally, they came from the dreadful back gardens of those sordid houses. Nature was Nature everywhere, in the nebulae as in the stifled plane tree of a city court. That he saw them as “figures” was but his own private, personal interpretation of a prophecy the whole Universe announced. They were not figures necessarily; they were Powers. And “N.H.” was of their kind.
He suddenly remembered the small, troubled earth whereon he lived a neglected corner of the universe that was in distress and cried frantically for help. . . . Alcyone caught it in her golden arms perhaps; Sirius thundered against its little ears. . . .
He found his latchkey and fumblingly inserted it, but, even while he did so, the state of the planet at the moment poured into his mind with swift, concentrated detail; he remembered the wireless excitement of the instant and smiled. Not that way would it come. The new order was of a spiritual kind. It would steal into men’s hearts, not splutter along the waves of ether, as the “dead” are said to splutter to the “living.” The great impulse, the mighty invitation Nature sent out to return to simple, natural life, would come, without “phenomena” from within. . . . He remembered Relativity that space is local, space and time not separate entities. He understood. He had just experienced it. Another, a fourth dimension! Space as a whole was annihilated! He smiled.
His latchkey turned.
The transmutation of metals flashed past him all substance one. His latchkey was upside down. He turned it round and reinserted it, and the results of advanced psychology rushed at him, as though the sun rushed over the horizon of some Eastern clime, covering all with the light of a new, fair dawn.
In a few seconds this accumulation of recent knowledge and discovery flooded his state of singular receptiveness as thinker and as poet. The Age was crumbling, civilization passing like its predecessors. The little planet lay certainly in distress. No true help lay within it; its reservoirs were empty. No adequate constructive men or powers were anywhere in sight. It was exhausted, dying. Unless new help, powers from a new, an inexhaustible source, came quickly . . . a new vehicle for their expression. . . .
And wonder took him by the throat . . . as the key turned in the lock with its familiar grating sound, and the door, without actual pressure on his part, swung open.
Paul Devonham, a look of bright terror in his eyes, stood on the threshold.
The expression, not only of the face but of the whole person, he had seen once only in another human countenance a climber, who had slipped by his very side and dropped backward into empty space. The look of helpless bewilderment as hands and feet lost final touch with solidity, the air of terrible yet childlike amazement with which he began his descent of a thousand feet through a gulf of air the shock marked the face in a single second with what he now saw in his colleague’s eyes. Only, with Devonham Fillery felt sure of his diagnosis the lost hold was mental.
His outward control, however, was admirable. Devonham’s voice, apart from a certain tenseness in it, was quiet enough: “I’ve been telephoning everywhere. . . . There’s been a a crisis —”
But the other shook his head. “It’s all beyond me quite,” he said, with a wry smile. “The first outbreak was nothing nothing compared to this.” The continuous sound of humming which filled the hall, making the air vibrate oddly, grew louder. Devonham seized his friend’s arm.
“Listen!” he whispered. “You hear that?”
“I heard it outside in the street,” Fillery said. ”What is it?”
Devonham glared at him. “God knows,” he said, ‘I don’t. He’s been doing it, on and off, for a couple of hours. It began the moment you left, it seems. They’re all about him these vibrations, I mean. He does it with his whole body somehow. And” he hesitated “there’s meaning in it of some kind. Results, I mean,” he jerked out with an effort.
“Visible?” came the gentle question.
Devonham started. “How did you know?” There was a thrust of intense curiosity in the eyes.
“I’ve had a similar experience myself, Paul. You opened the front door in the middle of it. The figures —”
“You saw figures?” Devonham looked thunderstruck. In his heart was obviously a touch of panic.
As the two men stood gazing into each other’s eyes a moment silently, the sound about them increased again, rising and falling, its great separate rhythmical waves almost distinguishable. In Fillery’s mind rose patterns, outlines, forms of flowers, spirals, circles. . . .
“He knows you’re in the house,” said Devonham in a curious voice, relieved apparently no answer came to his question. “Better come upstairs at once and see him.” But he did not turn to lead the way. “That’s not auditory hallucination, Edward, whatever else it is!” He was still clinging to the rock, but the rock was crumbling beneath his desperate touch. Space yawned below him.
“Visual,” suggested Fillery, as though he held out a feeble hand to the man whose whole weight already hung unsupported before the plunge. His friend spoke no word; but his expression made words unnecessary: “We must face the facts,” it said plainly, “wherever these may lead. No shirking, no prejudice of mine or yours must interfere. There must be no faltering now.”
So plainly was his passion for truth and knowledge legible in the expression of the shocked but honest mind, that Fillery felt compassion overpower the first attitude of privacy he had meant to take. This time he must share. The honesty of the other won his confidence too fully for him to hold back anything. There was no doubt in his mind that he read his colleague’s state aright.
“A moment, Paul,” he said in a low voice, “before we go upstairs,” and he put his hand out, oddly enough meeting
Devonham’s hand already stretched to meet it. He drew him aside into a corner of the hall, while the waves of sound surged round and over them like a sea. “Let me first tell you,” he went on, his voice trembling slightly, “my own experience.” It seemed to him that any moment he must see the birth of a new form, an outline, a “body” dance across before his very eyes.
“Neither auditory nor visual,” murmured Devonham, burning to hear what was coming, yet at the same time shrinking from it by the laws of his personality. “Hallucination of any kind, there is absolutely none. There’s nothing transferred from your mind to his. This thing is real original.”
Fillery tightened his grip a second on the hand he held.
“Paul,” he said gravely, yet unable to hide the joy of recent ecstasy in his eyes, “it is also new!”
The low syllables seemed borne away and lifted beyond their reach by an immense vibration that swept softly past them. And so actual was this invisible wave that behind it lay the trough, the ebb, that awaits, as in the sea, the next advancing crest. Into this ebb, as it were, both men dropped simultaneously the same significant syllables: their lips uttered together:
“N.H.” The wave of sound seemed to take their voices and increase them. It was the older man who added: “Coming into full possession.”
The two stood waiting, listening, their heads turned sideways, their bodies motionless, while the soft rhythmical uproar rose and fell about them. No sign escaped them for some minutes; no.words, it seemed, occurred to either of them.
Through the transom over the front door stole the grey light of the late autumn dawn; the hall furniture was visible, chairs, hat-rack, wooden chests that held the motor rugs. A china bowl filled with visiting cards gleamed white beside it. Soon the milkman, uttering his comic earthly cry, would clatter down the area staircase, and the servants would be up. As yet, however, but for the big soft sound, the house was perfectly still. This part of it, almost a separate wing, was completely cut off from the main building. No one had been disturbed.
Fillery moved his head and looked at his companion. The expression of both face and figure arrested him. He had taken off his dinner jacket, and the old loose golfing coat he wore hung askew; he had one hand in a pocket of it, the other thrust deep into his trousers. His glasses hung down across his crumpled shirt-front, his black tie made an untidy cross. He looked, thought Fillery, whose sense of the ludicrous became always specially alert in his gravest moments, like an unhappy curate who had presided over some strenuous and worrying social gathering in the local town hall. Only one detail denied this picture the expression of something mysterious and awed in the sheet-white face. He was listening with sharp dislike yet eager interest. His repugnance betrayed itself in the tightened lips, the set of the angular shoulders; the panic was written in the” glistening eyes. There were things in his face he could never, never tell. The struggle in him was natural to his type of mind: he had experienced something himself, and a personal experience opens new vistas in sympathy and understanding. But the experience ran contrary to every tenet of theory and practice he had ever known. The moment of new birth was painful. This was his colleague’s diagnosis.
Fillery then suddenly realized that the gulf between them was without a bridge. To tell his own experience became at once utterly impossible. He saw this clearly. He could not speak of it to his assistant. It was, after all, incommunicable. The bridge of terms, language, feeling, did not exist between them. And, again, up flashed for a second his sense of the comic, this time in an odd touch of memory Povey’s favourite sentence: “Never argue with the once-born!” Only to older souls was expression possible.
For the first time then his diagnosis wavered oddly. Why, for instance, did Paul persist in that curious, watchful stare . . .?
Devonham, conscious of his chief’s eyes and mind upon him, looked up. Somewhere in his expression was a glare, but nothing revealed his state of mind better than the fact that he stupidly contradicted himself:
“You’re putting all this into him, Edward,” a touch of anger, perhaps of fear, in the intense whispering voice. “The hysteria of the studio upset him, of course. If you’d left him alone, as you promised, he’d have always stayed LeVallon. He’d be cured by now.” Then, as Fillery made no reply or comment, he added, but this time only the anxiety of the doctor in his tone: “Hadn’t you better go up to him at once? He’s your patient, not mine, remember!”
The other took his arm. “Not yet,” he said quietly. “He’s best alone for the moment.” He smiled, and it was the smile that invariably won him the confidence of even the most obstinate and difficult patient. He was completely master of himself again. “Besides, Paul,” he went on gently. “I want to hear what you have to tell me. Some of it if not all. I want your Report. It is of value. I must have that first, you know.”
They sat on the bottom stair together, while Devonham told briefly what had happened. He was glad to tell it, too. It was a relief to become the mere accurate observer” again.
“I can summarize it for you in two words,” he said: “light and sound. The sound, at first, seemed wind wind rising, wind outside. With the light, was perceptible heat. The two seemed correlated. When the sound increased, the heat increased too. Then the sound became methodical, rhythmical it became almost musical. As it did so the light became coloured. Both” he looked across at the ghostly hat-rack in the hall “were produced by him.”
“Items, please, Paul. I want an itemized account.”
Devonham fumbled in the big pockets of his coat and eventually lit a cigarette, though he did not in the least want to smoke. That watchful, penetrating stare persisted, none the less. Amid the anxiety were items of carelessness that almost seemed assumed.
“Mrs. Soames sent Nurse Robbins to fetch me,” he resumed, his voice harshly, as it seemed, cutting across the waves of pleasant sound that poured down the empty stairs behind them and filled the hall with resonant vibrations. “I went in, turned them both out, and closed the door. The room was filled with a soft, white light, rather pale in tint, that seemed to emanate from nowhere. I could trace it to no source. It was equally diffused, I mean, yet a kind of wave-like vibration ran through it in faint curves and circles. There was a sound, a sound like wind. A wind was in the room, moaning and sighing inside the walls a perfectly natural and ordinary sound, if it had been outside. The light moved and quivered. It lay in sheets. Its movement, I noticed, was in direct relation to the wind: the louder the volume of sound, the greater the movement of the air the brighter became the light, and vice versa. I could not take notes at the actual moment, but my memory” a slight grimace by way of a smile indicated that forgetting was impossible “is accurate, as you know.”
Fillery did not interrupt, either by word or gesture.
“The increase of light was accompanied by colour, and the increase of sound led into a measure not actual bars, and never melody, but a distinct measure that involved rhythm. It was musical, as I said. The colour I’m coming to that then took on a very faint tinge of gold or orange, a little red in it sometimes, flame colour almost. The ait was luminous it was radiant. At one time I half expected to see fire. For there was heat as well. Not an unpleasant heat, but a comforting, stimulating, agreeable heat like I was going to say, like the heat of a bright coal fire on a winter’s day, but I think the better term is sunlight. I had an impression this heat must burst presently into actual flame. It never did so. The sheets of coloured light rose and fell with the volume of the sound. There were curves and waves and rising columns like spirals, but anything approaching a definite outline, form, or shape” he broke off for a second “figures,” he announced abruptly, almost challengingly, staring at the white china bowl in front of him, “I could not swear to.”
He turned suddenly and stared at his chief with an expression half of question, half of challenge; then seemed to change his mind, shrugging his shoulders a very little. But Fillery made no sign. He did not answer. He laid one hand, however, upon the banisters, as though preliminary to getting to his feet. The sound about them had been gradually growing less, the vibrations were smaller, its waves perceptibly decreasing.
Devonham finished his account in a lower voice, speaking rapidly, as though the words burnt his tongue:
“The sound, I had already discovered, issued from himself. He was lying on his back, the eyes wide open, the expression peaceful, even happy. The lips were closed. He was humming, continuously humming. Yet the sound came in some way I cannot describe, and could not examine or ascertain, from his whole body, I detected no vibration of the body. It lay half naked, only a corner of the sheet upon it. It lay quite still. The cause of the light and heat, the cause of the movement of air I have called wind I could not ascertain. They came through him, as it were.” A slight shiver ran across his body, noticed by his companion, but eliciting no comment from him. “I I took his pulse,” concluded Devonham, sinking his voice now to a whisper, though a very clear one; “it was very rapid and extraordinarily strong. He seemed entirely unconscious of my presence. I also” again the faint shiver was perceptible “felt his heart. It was I have never felt such perfect action, such power it was beating like an engine, like an engine. And the sense of vitality, of life in the room everywhere was electrical. I could have sworn it was packed to the walls with with others.” Devonham never ceased to watch his companion keenly while he spoke.
Fillery then put “his first question.
“And the effect upon yourself?” he asked quietly. “I
25G mean any emotional disturbance? Anything, for instance, like what you saw in the Jura forests?” He did not look at his colleague; he stood up; the sound about them had now ceased almost entirely and only faint, dying fragments of it reached them. “Roughly speaking,” he added, making a half movement to go upstairs. He understood the inner struggle going on; he wished to make it easy for him. For the complete account he did not press him.
Devonham rose too; he walked over to the china bowl, took up a card, read it and let it fall again. The sun was over the horizon now, and a pallid light showed objects clearly. It showed the whiteness of the thin, tired face. He turned and walked slowly back across the hall. The first cart went clattering noisily down the street. At the same moment a final sound from the room upstairs came floating down into the chill early air.
“My interest, of course,” began Devonham, his hands in his pockets, his body rigid, as he looked up into his companion’s eyes, “was very concentrated, my mind intensely active.” He paused, then added cautiously: “I may confess, however I must admit, that is, a certain increase of of well, a general sense of well-being, let me call it. The heat, you see. A feeling of peace, if you like it better beyond the fear,” he blurted out finally, changing his hands from his coat to his trouser pockets, as though the new position protected him better from attack. “Also I somehow expected any moment to see outlines, forms, something new!” He stared frankly into the eyes of the man who, from the step above him, returned his gaze with equal frankness. “And you Edward?” he asked with great suddenness.
“Joy? Could you describe it as joy?” His companion ignored the reference to new forms. He also ignored the sudden question. “Any increase of?”
“Vitality, you want to say. The word joy is meaningless, as you know.”
“An intensification of consciousness in any way?”
But Devonham had reached his limit of possible confession. He did not reply for a moment. He took a step forward and stood beside Fillery on the stairs. His manner had abruptly changed. It was as though he had come to a conclusion suddenly. His reply, when it came, was no reply at all:
“Heat and light are favourable, of course, to life,” he remarked. “You remember Joaquin Mueller: ‘the optic nerve, under the action of light, acts as a stimulus to the organs of the imagination and fancy.’”
Fillery smiled as he took his arm and they went quietly upstairs together. The quoting was a sign of returning confidence. He said something to himself about the absence of light, but so low it was under his breath almost, and even if his companion heard it, he made no comment: “There was no moon at all tonight till well past three, and even then her light was of the faintest. . . . ”
No sound was now audible. They entered a room that was filled with silence and with peace. A faint ray of morning sunlight showed the form of the patient sleeping calmly, the body entirely uncovered. There was an expression of quiet happiness upon the face whose perfect health suggested perhaps radiance. But there was a change as well, though indescribable there was power. He did not stir as they approached the bed. The breathing was regular and very deep.
Standing beside him a moment, Fillery sniffed the air, then smiled. There was a perfume of wild flowers. There was, in spite of the cool morning air, a pleasant warmth.
“You notice anything?” he whispered, turning to his colleague.
Devonham likewise sniffed the air. “The window’s wide open,” was the low rejoinder. “There are conservatories at the back of every house all down the row.”
And they left the room on tiptoe, closing the door behind them very softly. Upon Devonham’s face lay a curious expression, half anxiety, half pain.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52