close to me that I am almost enveloped in it. Be silent a minute."
He advanced to the edge of the terrace and looked out standing stretched
with arms outspread. Darcy heard him draw a long breath into his lungs,
and after many seconds expel it again. Six or eight times he did this,
then turned back into the lamplight.
"It will sound to you quite mad, I expect," he said, "but if you want to
hear the soberest truth I have ever spoken and shall ever speak, I will
tell you about myself. But come into the garden if it is not too damp
for you. I have never told any one yet, but I shall like to tell you. It
is long, in fact, since I have even tried to classify what I have
They wandered into the fragrant dimness of the pergola, and sat down.
Then Frank began:
"Years ago, do you remember," he said, "we used often to talk about the
decay of joy in the world. Many impulses, we settled, had contributed to
this decay, some of which were good in themselves, others that were
quite completely bad. Among the good things, I put what we may call
certain Christian virtues, renunciation, resignation, sympathy with
suffering, and the desire to relieve sufferers. But out of those things
spring very bad ones, useless renunciations, asceticism for its own
sake, mortification of the flesh with nothing to follow, no
corresponding gain that is, and that awful and terrible disease which
devastated England some centuries ago, and from which by heredity of
spirit we suffer now, Puritanism. That was a dreadful plague, the brutes
held and taught that joy and laughter and merriment were evil: it was a
doctrine the most profane and wicked. Why, what is the commonest crime
one sees? A sullen face. That is the truth of the matter.
"Now all my life I have believed that we are intended to be happy, that
joy is of all gifts the most divine. And when I left London, abandoned
my career, such as it was, I did so because I intended to devote my life
to the cultivation of joy, and, by continuous and unsparing effort, to
be happy. Among people, and in constant intercourse with others, I did
not find it possible; there were too many distractions in towns and
work-rooms, and also too much suffering. So I took one step backwards or
forwards, as you may choose to put it, and went straight to Nature, to
trees, birds, animals, to all those things which quite clearly pursue
one aim only, which blindly follow the great native instinct to be
happy without any care at all for morality, or human law or divine law.
I wanted, you understand, to get all joy first-hand and unadulterated,
and I think it scarcely exists among men; it is obsolete."
Darcy turned in his chair.
"Ah, but what makes birds and animals happy?" he asked. "Food, food and
Frank laughed gently in the stillness.
"Do not think I became a sensualist," he said. "I did not make that
mistake. For the sensualist carries his miseries pick-a-back, and round
his feet is wound the shroud that shall soon enwrap him. I may be mad,
it is true, but I am not so stupid anyhow as to have tried that. No,
what is it that makes puppies play with their own tails, that sends cats
on their prowling ecstatic errands at night?".
He paused a moment.
"So I went to Nature," he said. "I sat down here in this New Forest,
sat down fair and square, and looked. That was my first difficulty, to
sit here quiet without being bored, to wait without being impatient, to
be receptive and very alert, though for a long time nothing particular
happened. The change in fact was slow in those early stages."
"Nothing happened?" asked Darcy rather impatiently, with the sturdy
revolt against any new idea which to the English mind is synonymous with
nonsense. "Why, what in the world _should_ happen?"
Now Frank as he had known him was the most generous but most
quick-tempered of mortal men; in other words his anger would flare to a
prodigious beacon, under almost no provocation, only to be quenched
again under a gust of no less impulsive kindliness. Thus the moment
Darcy had spoken, an apology for his hasty question was half-way up his
tongue. But there was no need for it to have traveled even so far, for
Frank laughed again with kindly, genuine mirth.
"Oh, how I should have resented that a few years ago," he said. "Thank
goodness that resentment is one of the things I have got rid of.
I certainly wish that you should believe my story - in fact, you are
going to - but that you at this moment should imply that you do not,
does not concern me."
"Ah, your solitary sojournings have made you inhuman," said Darcy, still
"No, human," said Frank. "Rather more human, at least rather less of an
"Well, that was my first quest," he continued, after a moment, "the
deliberate and unswerving pursuit of joy, and my method, the eager
contemplation of Nature. As far as motive went, I daresay it was purely
selfish, but as far as effect goes, it seems to me about the best thing
one can do for one's fellow-creatures, for happiness is more infectious
than small-pox. So, as I said, I sat down and waited; I looked at happy
things, zealously avoided the sight of anything unhappy, and by degrees
a little trickle of the happiness of this blissful world began to filter
into me. The trickle grew more abundant, and now, my dear fellow, if I
could for a moment divert from me into you one half of the torrent of
joy that pours through me day and night, you would throw the world, art,
everything aside, and just live, exist. When a man's body dies, it
passes into trees and flowers. Well, that is what I have been trying to
do with my soul before death."
The servant had brought into the pergola a table with syphons and
spirits, and had set a lamp upon it. As Frank spoke he leaned forward
towards the other, and Darcy for all his matter-of-fact commonsense
could have sworn that his companion's face shone, was luminous in
itself. His dark brown eyes glowed from within, the unconscious smile of
a child irradiated and transformed his face. Darcy felt suddenly
"Go on," he said. "Go on. I can feel you are somehow telling me sober
truth. I daresay you are mad; but I don't see that matters."
Frank laughed again.
"Mad?" he said. "Yes, certainly, if you wish. But I prefer to call it
sane. However, nothing matters less than what anybody chooses to call
things. God never labels his gifts; He just puts them into our hands;
just as he put animals in the garden of Eden, for Adam to name if he
"So by the continual observance and study of things that were happy,"
continued he, "I got happiness, I got joy. But seeking it, as I did,
from Nature, I got much more which I did not seek, but stumbled upon
originally by accident. It is difficult to explain, but I will try.
"About three years ago I was sitting one morning in a place I will show
you to-morrow. It is down by the river brink, very green, dappled with
shade and sun, and the river passes there through some little clumps of
reeds. Well, as I sat there, doing nothing, but just looking and
listening, I heard the sound quite distinctly of some flute-like
instrument playing a strange unending melody. I thought at first it was
some musical yokel on the highway and did not pay much attention. But
before long the strangeness and indescribable beauty of the tune struck
me. It never repeated itself, but it never came to an end, phrase after
phrase ran its sweet course, it worked gradually and inevitably up to a
climax, and having attained it, it went on; another climax was reached
and another and another. Then with a sudden gasp of wonder I localized
where it came from. It came from the reeds and from the sky and from the
trees. It was everywhere, it was the sound of life. It was, my dear
Darcy, as the Greeks would have said, it was Pan playing on his pipes,
the voice of Nature. It was the life-melody, the world-melody."
Darcy was far too interested to interrupt, though there was a question
he would have liked to ask, and Frank went on:
"Well, for the moment I was terrified, terrified with the impotent
horror of nightmare, and I stopped my ears and just ran from the place
and got back to the house panting, trembling, literally in a panic.
Unknowingly, for at that time I only pursued joy, I had begun, since I
drew my joy from Nature, to get in touch with Nature. Nature, force,
God, call it what you will, had drawn across my face a little gossamer
web of essential life. I saw that when I emerged from my terror, and I
went very humbly back to where I had heard the Pan-pipes. But it was
nearly six months before I heard them again."
"Why was that?" asked Darcy.
"Surely because I had revolted, rebelled, and worst of all been
frightened. For I believe that just as there is nothing in the world
which so injures one's body as fear, so there is nothing that so much
shuts up the soul. I was afraid, you see, of the one thing in the world
which has real existence. No wonder its manifestation was withdrawn."
"And after six months?"
"After six months one blessed morning I heard the piping again. I wasn't
afraid that time. And since then it has grown louder, it has become more
constant. I now hear it often, and I can put myself into such an
attitude towards Nature that the pipes will almost certainly sound. And
never yet have they played the same tune, it is always something new,
something fuller, richer, more complete than before."
"What do you mean by 'such an attitude towards Nature'?" asked Darcy.
"I can't explain that; but by translating it into a bodily attitude it
Frank sat up for a moment quite straight in his chair, then slowly sunk
back with arms outspread and head drooped.
"That," he said, "an effortless attitude, but open, resting, receptive.
It is just that which you must do with your soul."
Then he sat up again.
"One word more," he said, "and I will bore you no further. Nor unless
you ask me questions shall I talk about it again. You will find me, in
fact, quite sane in my mode of life. Birds and beasts you will see
behaving somewhat intimately to me, like that moor-hen, but that is all.
I will walk with you, ride with you, play golf with you, and talk with
you on any subject you like. But I wanted you on the threshold to know
what has happened to me. And one thing more will happen."
He paused again, and a slight look of fear crossed his eyes.
"There will be a final revelation," he said, "a complete and blinding
stroke which will throw open to me, once and for all, the full
knowledge, the full realization and comprehension that I am one, just as
you are, with life. In reality there is no 'me,' no 'you,' no 'it.'
Everything is part of the one and only thing which is life. I know that
that is so, but the realization of it is not yet mine. But it will be,
and on that day, so I take it, I shall see Pan. It may mean death, the
death of my body, that is, but I don't care. It may mean immortal,
eternal life lived here and now and for ever. Then having gained that,
ah, my dear Darcy, I shall preach such a gospel of joy, showing myself
as the living proof of the truth, that Puritanism, the dismal religion
of sour faces, shall vanish like a breath of smoke, and be dispersed and
disappear in the sunlit air. But first the full knowledge must be mine."
Darcy watched his face narrowly.
"You are afraid of that moment," he said.
Frank smiled at him.
"Quite true; you are quick to have seen that. But when it comes I hope I
shall not be afraid."
For some little time there was silence; then Darcy rose.
"You have bewitched me, you extraordinary boy," he said. "You have been
telling me a fairy-story, and I find myself saying, 'Promise me it is
"I promise you that," said the other.
"And I know I shan't sleep," added Darcy.
Frank looked at him with a sort of mild wonder as if he scarcely
"Well, what does that matter?" he said.
"I assure you it does. I am wretched unless I sleep."
"Of course I can make you sleep if I want," said Frank in a rather bored
"Very good: go to bed. I'll come upstairs in ten minutes."
Frank busied himself for a little after the other had gone, moving the
table back under the awning of the veranda and quenching the lamp. Then
he went with his quick silent tread upstairs and into Darcy's room. The
latter was already in bed, but very wide-eyed and wakeful, and Frank
with an amused smile of indulgence, as for a fretful child, sat down on
the edge of the bed.
"Look at me," he said, and Darcy looked.
"The birds are sleeping in the brake," said Frank softly, "and the winds
are asleep. The sea sleeps, and the tides are but the heaving of its
breast. The stars swing slow, rocked in the great cradle of the Heavens,
and - - "
He stopped suddenly, gently blew out Darcy's candle, and left him
Morning brought to Darcy a flood of hard commonsense, as clear and crisp
as the sunshine that filled his room. Slowly as he woke he gathered
together the broken threads of the memories of the evening which had
ended, so he told himself, in a trick of common hypnotism. That
accounted for it all; the whole strange talk he had had was under a
spell of suggestion from the extraordinary vivid boy who had once been a
man; all his own excitement, his acceptance of the incredible had been
merely the effect of a stronger, more potent will imposed on his own.
How strong that will was, he guessed from his own instantaneous
obedience to Frank's suggestion of sleep. And armed with impenetrable
commonsense he came down to breakfast. Frank had already begun, and was
consuming a large plateful of porridge and milk with the most prosaic
and healthy appetite.
"Slept well?" he asked.
"Yes, of course. Where did you learn hypnotism?"
"By the side of the river."
"You talked an amazing quantity of nonsense last night," remarked Darcy,
in a voice prickly with reason.
"Rather. I felt quite giddy. Look, I remembered to order a dreadful
daily paper for you. You can read about money markets or politics or
Darcy looked at him closely. In the morning light Frank looked even
fresher, younger, more vital than he had done the night before, and the
sight of him somehow dinted Darcy's armor of commonsense.
"You are the most extraordinary fellow I ever saw," he said. "I want to
ask you some more questions."
"Ask away," said Frank.
* * * * *
For the next day or two Darcy plied his friend with many questions,
objections and criticisms on the theory of life and gradually got out of
him a coherent and complete account of his experience. In brief then,
Frank believed that "by lying naked," as he put it, to the force which
controls the passage of the stars, the breaking of a wave, the budding
of a tree, the love of a youth and maiden, he had succeeded in a way
hitherto undreamed of in possessing himself of the essential principle
of life. Day by day, so he thought, he was getting nearer to, and in
closer union with the great power itself which caused all life to be,
the spirit of nature, of force, or the spirit of God. For himself, he
confessed to what others would call paganism; it was sufficient for him
that there existed a principle of life. He did not worship it, he did
not pray to it, he did not praise it. Some of it existed in all human
beings, just as it existed in trees and animals; to realize and make
living to himself the fact that it was all one, was his sole aim and
Here perhaps Darcy would put in a word of warning. "Take care," he said.
"To see Pan meant death, did it not?"
Frank's eyebrows would rise at this.
"What does that matter?" he said. "True, the Greeks were always right,
and they said so, but there is another possibility. For the nearer I get
to it, the more living, the more vital and young I become."
"What then do you expect the final revelation will do for you?"
"I have told you," said he. "It will make me immortal."
But it was not so much from speech and argument that Darcy grew to grasp
his friend's conception, as from the ordinary conduct of his life. They
were passing, for instance, one morning down the village street, when an
old woman, very bent and decrepit, but with an extraordinary
cheerfulness of face, hobbled out from her cottage. Frank instantly
stopped when he saw her.
"You old darling! How goes it all?" he said.
But she did not answer, her dim old eyes were riveted on his face; she
seemed to drink in like a thirsty creature the beautiful radiance which
shone there. Suddenly she put her two withered old hands on his
"You're just the sunshine itself," she said, and he kissed her and
But scarcely a hundred yards further a strange contradiction of such
tenderness occurred. A child running along the path towards them fell on
its face, and set up a dismal cry of fright and pain. A look of horror
came into Frank's eyes, and, putting his fingers in his ears, he fled at
full speed down the street, and did not pause till he was out of
hearing. Darcy, having ascertained that the child was not really hurt,
followed him in bewilderment.
"Are you without pity then?" he asked.
Frank shook his head impatiently.
"Can't you see?" he asked. "Can't you understand that that sort of
thing, pain, anger, anything unlovely throws me back, retards the
coming of the great hour! Perhaps when it comes I shall be able to piece
that side of life on to the other, on to the true religion of joy. At
present I can't."
"But the old woman. Was she not ugly?"
Frank's radiance gradually returned.
"Ah, no. She was like me. She longed for joy, and knew it when she saw
it, the old darling."
Another question suggested itself.
"Then what about Christianity?" asked Darcy.
"I can't accept it. I can't believe in any creed of which the central
doctrine is that God who is Joy should have had to suffer. Perhaps it
was so; in some inscrutable way I believe it may have been so, but I
don't understand how it was possible. So I leave it alone; my affair is
They had come to the weir above the village, and the thunder of riotous
cool water was heavy in the air. Trees dipped into the translucent
stream with slender trailing branches, and the meadow where they stood
was starred with midsummer blossomings. Larks shot up caroling into the
crystal dome of blue, and a thousand voices of June sang round them.
Frank, bare-headed as was his wont, with his coat slung over his arm and
his shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbow, stood there like some
beautiful wild animal with eyes half-shut and mouth half-open, drinking
in the scented warmth of the air. Then suddenly he flung himself face
downwards on the grass at the edge of the stream, burying his face in
the daisies and cowslips, and lay stretched there in wide-armed ecstasy,
with his long fingers pressing and stroking the dewy herbs of the field.
Never before had Darcy seen him thus fully possessed by his idea; his
caressing fingers, his half-buried face pressed close to the grass, even
the clothed lines of his figure were instinct with a vitality that
somehow was different from that of other men. And some faint glow from
it reached Darcy, some thrill, some vibration from that charged
recumbent body passed to him, and for a moment he understood as he had
not understood before, despite his persistent questions and the candid
answers they received, how real, and how realized by Frank, his idea
Then suddenly the muscles in Frank's neck became stiff and alert, and
he half-raised his head, whispering, "The Pan-pipes, the Pan-pipes.
Close, oh, so close."
Very slowly, as if a sudden movement might interrupt the melody, he
raised himself and leaned on the elbow of his bent arm. His eyes opened
wider, the lower lids drooped as if he focused his eyes on something
very far away, and the smile on his face broadened and quivered like
sunlight on still water, till the exultance of its happiness was
scarcely human. So he remained motionless and rapt for some minutes,
then the look of listening died from his face, and he bowed his head
"Ah, that was good," he said. "How is it possible you did not hear? Oh,
you poor fellow! Did you really hear nothing?"
A week of this outdoor and stimulating life did wonders in restoring to
Darcy the vigor and health which his weeks of fever had filched from
him, and as his normal activity and higher pressure of vitality
returned, he seemed to himself to fall even more under the spell which
the miracle of Frank's youth cast over him. Twenty times a day he found
himself saying to himself suddenly at the end of some ten minutes'
silent resistance to the absurdity of Frank's idea: "But it isn't
possible; it can't be possible," and from the fact of his having to
assure himself so frequently of this, he knew that he was struggling and
arguing with a conclusion which already had taken root in his mind. For
in any case a visible living miracle confronted him, since it was
equally impossible that this youth, this boy, trembling on the verge of
manhood, was thirty-five. Yet such was the fact.
July was ushered in by a couple of days of blustering and fretful rain,
and Darcy, unwilling to risk a chill, kept to the house. But to Frank
this weeping change of weather seemed to have no bearing on the behavior
of man, and he spent his days exactly as he did under the suns of June,
lying in his hammock, stretched on the dripping grass, or making huge
rambling excursions into the forest, the birds hopping from tree to tree
after him, to return in the evening, drenched and soaked, but with the
same unquenchable flame of joy burning within him.
"Catch cold?" he would ask, "I've forgotten how to do it, I think.
I suppose it makes one's body more sensible always to sleep out-of-doors.
People who live indoors always remind me of something peeled and
"Do you mean to say you slept out-of-doors last night in that deluge?"
asked Darcy. "And where, may I ask?"
Frank thought a moment.
"I slept in the hammock till nearly dawn," he said. "For I remember the
light blinked in the east when I awoke. Then I went - where did I go? - oh,
yes, to the meadow where the Pan-pipes sounded so close a week ago. You
were with me, do you remember? But I always have a rug if it is wet."
And he went whistling upstairs.
Somehow that little touch, his obvious effort to recall where he had
slept, brought strangely home to Darcy the wonderful romance of which he
was the still half-incredulous beholder. Sleep till close on dawn in a
hammock, then the tramp - or probably scamper - underneath the windy and
weeping heavens to the remote and lonely meadow by the weir! The picture
of other such nights rose before him; Frank sleeping perhaps by the
bathing-place under the filtered twilight of the stars, or the white
blaze of moon-shine, a stir and awakening at some dead hour, perhaps a
space of silent wide-eyed thought, and then a wandering through the
hushed woods to some other dormitory, alone with his happiness, alone
with the joy and the life that suffused and enveloped him, without other
thought or desire or aim except the hourly and never-ceasing communion
with the joy of nature.
They were in the middle of dinner that night, talking on indifferent
subjects, when Darcy suddenly broke off in the middle of a sentence.
"I've got it," he said. "At last I've got it."
"Congratulate you," said Frank. "But what?"
"The radical unsoundness of your idea. It is this: All nature from
highest to lowest is full, crammed full of suffering; every living
organism in nature preys on another, yet in your aim to get close to, to
be one with nature, you leave suffering altogether out; you run away
from it, you refuse to recognize it. And you are waiting, you say, for
the final revelation."
Frank's brow clouded slightly.
"Well?" he asked, rather wearily.
"Cannot you guess then when the final revelation will be? In joy you are
supreme, I grant you that; I did not know a man could be so master of
it. You have learned perhaps practically all that nature can teach. And
if, as you think, the final revelation is coming to you, it will be the
revelation of horror, suffering, death, pain in all its hideous forms.
Suffering does exist: you hate it and fear it."
Frank held up his hand.
"Stop; let me think," he said.
There was silence for a long minute.
"That never struck me," he said at length. "It is possible that what you
suggest is true. Does the sight of Pan mean that, do you think? Is it