Julius LeVallon, by Algernon Blackwood

Chapter xxi

“Why is she set so far, so far above me.

And yet not altogether raised above?

I would give all the world that she should love me.

My soul that she should never learn to love.”

— Mary Coleridge.

“The channels here are open.”

As the days went by the words remained with me. I recognised their truth. Nature was pouring through me in a way I had never known before. I had gone for a walk that afternoon after the sudden storm, and tried to think things out. It was all useless. I could only feel. The stream of this strange new point of view had swept me from known moorings; I was in deep water now; there was exhilaration in the rush of an unaccustomed tide. One part of me, hourly fading, weighed, criticised and judged; another part accepted and was glad. It was like the behaviour of a divided personality.

“Your brain of Today asks questions, while your soul of long ago remembers and is sure.”

I was constantly in the presence of Mrs. LeVallon. My “brain” was active with a thousand questions. The answers pointed all one way. This woman, so humbly placed in life today, rose clearer and clearer before me as the soul that Julius claimed to be of ancient lineage. Respect increased in me with every word, with every act, with every gesture. Her mental training, obviously, was small, and of facts that men call knowledge she had but few; but in place of these recent and artificial acquirements she possessed a natural and spontaneous intelligence that was swiftly understanding. She seized ideas though ignorant of the words that phrased them; she grasped conceptions that have to be hammered into minds the world regards as well equipped — seized them naively, yet with exquisite comprehension. Something in her discriminated easily between what was transitory and what was real, and the glory of this world made evidently small appeal to her. No ordinary ambition of vulgar aims was hers. Fame and position were no bait at all; she cared nothing about being “somebody.” There was a touch of unrest and impatience about her when she spoke of material things that most folk value more than honour, some even more than character. Something higher, yet apparently forgotten, drew her after it. The pursuit of pleasure and sensation scarcely whispered to her at all, and though her self-esteem was strong, personal vanity in the little sense was quite a negligible quantity.

This young wife had greatness in her. Domestic servant though she certainly had been, she was distinguished in her very bones. A clear ray of mental guidance and intuition ran like a gleam behind all her little blunders of speech and action. To her, it was right and natural, for instance, that her husband’s money should mostly be sent away to help those who were without it. “We’re much better this way,” she remarked lightly, remembering, perhaps, the life of detailed and elaborate selfishness she once had served, “and anyhow I can’t wear two dresses at the same time, can I? Or live in two houses — what’s the good of all that? But for those who like it,” she added, “I expect it’s right enough. They need it — to learn, or something. I’ve been in families of the best that didn’t want for anything — but really they had nothing at all.” It was in the little things I caught the attitude. Although conditions here made it impossible to test it, I had more and more the impression, too, that she possessed insight into the causes of human frailty, and understood temptations she could not possibly have experienced personally in this present life.

An infallible sign of younger souls was their pursuit hotfoot of pleasure and sensation, of power, fame, ambition. The old souls leave all that aside; they have known its emptiness too often. Their hallmark lies in spiritual discernment, the power to choose between the permanent and the transitory. Brains and intellect were no criterion of development at all. And I reflected with a smile how the “educated” and “social” world would close its doors to such a woman — the common world of younger, cruder souls, insipid and undistinguished, many of them but just beyond the animal stage — the “upper classes”! The Kingdom of Heaven lies within, I remembered, and the meek and lowly shall inherit the “earth.”

And the “Dog–Man” also rose before me in another light — this slow-minded, instinctive being whom elsewhere I should doubtless have dismissed as “stupid.” His approximation to the instinctive animal life became so clear. In his character and essential personality lay the curious suggestion. Out of his frank gaze peered the mute and searching appeal of the soul awakening into self-consciousness — a look of direct and simple sincerity, often questioning, often poignant. The interval between Mrs. LeVallon and himself was an interval of countless lives. How welcome to him would be the support of a thought-out religious creed, to her how useless! The different stages individuals occupy, how far apart, how near, how various! I felt it all as true, and the effect of this calm valley upon me was not sympathy with Nature only, but a certain new sympathy with all the world. It was very wonderful.

I watched the “man” with a new interest and insight — the proud and self-conscious expression on his face as he moved constantly about us, his menial services earnest and important. The safety of the entire establishment lay upon his shoulders. He made the beds as he served the coffee, cleaned the boots or lit the lamps at dusk, with a fine dignity that betrayed his sense of our dependence on him — he would never fail. He was ever on the watch. I could believe that he slept at night with one eye open, muscles ready for a spring in case of danger. In myself, at any rate, his signal devotion to our interest woke a kind of affectionate wonder that touched respect. He was so eager and ready to learn, moreover. The pathos in his face when found fault with was quite appealing — the curious dumb attitude, the air of mortification that he wore: “I’m rather puzzled, but I shall know another time. I shall do better. Only — I haven’t got as far as you have!”

In myself, meanwhile, the change worked forward steadily. I was much alone, for Julius, preoccupied and intense, was now more and more engaged upon purposes that kept him out of sight. Much of the time he kept to his room upstairs, but he spent hours, too, in the open, among the woods and on the further ridges, especially at night. Not always did he appear at meals even, and what intercourse I had was with Mrs. LeVallon, so that our intimacy grew quickly, ripening with this sense of sudden and delightful familiarity as though we had been long acquainted. There was at once a happy absence of formality between us, although a dignity and sweet reserve tempered our strange relationship in a manner the ordinary world — I feel certain — could hardly credit. Out of all common zones of danger our intercourse was marvellously lifted, yet in a way it is difficult to describe without leaving the impression that we were hardly human in the accepted vulgar meaning of the words.

But the truth was simple enough, the explanation big with glory. It was that Nature included us, mothering all we said or did or thought, above all, felt. Our intercourse was not a separate thing, apart, shut off, two little humans merely aware of the sympathetic draw of temperament and flesh. It was part of Nature, natural in the biggest sense, a small, true incident in the processes of the entire cosmos whose life we shared. The physical thing called passion, of course, was present, yet a passion that the sun and wind took care of, spreading it everywhere about us through the hourly happenings of “common” things — in the wind that embraced the trees and then passed on, in the rushing stream that caught the flowers on its bank, then let them go again, in the fiery sunshine that kissed the earth while leaving the cooling shadows beside every object that it glorified.

All this seemed in some new fashion clear to me — that passion degrades because it is set exclusive and apart, magnified, idolatrised into a false importance due to Nature’s being neglected and left outside. For not alone the wind and sun and water shared our intercourse, knowing it was well, but in some further sacramental way the whole big Earth, the movements of the Sun, the Seasons, aye, and the armies of the other stars in all their millions, took part in it, justifying its necessity and truth. Without a trace of false exaltation in me I saw far, far beyond even the poet’s horizon of love’s philosophy:

“Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine In one another’s being mingle —

Why not I with thine?” and so came again with a crash of fuller comprehension upon the words of Julius that here we lived and acted out a Ceremony that conveyed great teaching from a cosmic point of view. My relations with Mrs. LeVallon, as our relations all three together, seen from this grander angle, were not only possible and true: they were necessary. We were a unit formed of three, a group-soul affirming truths beyond the brain’s acceptance, proving universal, cosmic teaching in the only feasible way — by acting it out.

The scale of experience grew vast about me. This error of the past we would set right was but an episode along the stupendous journey of our climbing souls. The entire Present, the stage at which humanity found itself today, was but a moment, and values worshipped now, and by the majority rightly worshipped, would pass away, and be replaced by something that would seem entirely new, yet would be in reality not discovery but recovery.


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