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Julius LeVallon

An Episode


Algernon Blackwood

Author of'' The Centaur,'' "■John Silence^'
*' 77!^ Human Chord" etc.

Cassell and Company, Ltd
London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne

First published 19 16

lif I


M. S-R.






Schooldays 3

Edinburgh '77

The Chalet in the Jura Mountains . .149


The Attempted Restitution . . . ,267

Book I

** Dream faces bloom around your face
Like flowers upon one stem ;
The heart of many a vanished race
Sighs as I look on them."

A. E.

Julius LeVallon


" Surely death acquires a new and deeper significance when we regard
it no longer as a single and unexplained break in an unending life,
but as pari of the continually recurring rhythm of progress — as inevit-
able, as natural, and as benevolent as sleep." — " Some Dogmas of
Religion " (Prof. J. M'Taggart).

IT was one autumn in the late 'nineties that I found
myself at Bale, awaiting letters. I was returning
leisurely from the Dolomites, where a climbing
holiday had combined pleasantly with an examination
of the geologically interesting Monzoni Valley. When
the claims of the latter were exhausted, however, and I
turned my eyes towards the peaks, it happened that bad
weather held permanent possession of the great grey
cliffs and towering pinnacles, and climbing was out of
the question altogether. A world of savage desolation
gloomed down upon me through impenetrable mists ;
the scouts of winter's advance had established them-
selves upon all possible points of attack ; and the whole
tossed wilderness of precipice and scree lay safe, from
my assaults at least, behind a frontier of furious autumn

Having ample time before my winter's work in
London, I turned my back upon the unconquered
Marmolata and Gimon della Pala, and made my way
slowly, via Bozen and Innsbruck, to Bale ; and it was
in the latter place, where my English correspondence
was kind enough to overtake me, that I found one letter
in particular that interested me more than all the others
put together. It bore a Swiss stamp ; and the hand-

4 Julius LeVallon

writing caused rne a iliiill uf anticipatory excitement
even before I had consciously recalled the name of the
writer. It was addressed before and behind till there
was scarcely room left for a postmark, and it had
journeyed from my chambers to my club, from my club
to the university, and thence, by way of various poste-
restantcs, from one hotel to another till, with good luck
little short of marvellous, it discovered me in my room
of the Trois Rois Hotel overlooking the Rhine.

The signature, to which I turned at once before
reading the body of the message, was Julius LeVallon ;
and as my eye noted the firm and very individual
writing, once of familiar and potent significance in my
life, I was conscious that emotions of twenty years ago
woke vigorously into being, releasing sensations and
memories I had thought buried beyond all effective
resurrection. I knew myself swept back to those hopes
and fears that, all these years before, had been — me.
The letter was brief ; it ran as follows :

Friend of a million years, — Should you remember
your promise, given to me at Edinburgh twenty years ago, I
write to tell you that I am ready. Yours, especially in
separation, j^^^^^ LeVallon.

And then followed two lines of instructions how to
reach him in the isolated little valley of the Jura
Mountains, on the frontier between France and Switzer-
land, whence he wrote.

The wording startled me ; but this surprise, not un-
mingled with amusement, gave place immediately to
emotions of a deeper and much more complex order, as
I drew an armchair to the window and resigned myself,
half pleasurably, half uneasily, to the flood of memories
that rose from the depths and besieged me with their
atmosphere of half-forgotten boyhood and of early
youth. Pleasurably, because my curiosity was aroused
abruptly to a point my dull tutorial existence now rarely,
if ever, knew ; uneasily, because these early associa-
tions grouped themselves about the somewhat unearthly
figure of a man with whom once I had been closely

Julius LeVallon 5

intimate, but who had since disappeared behind a veil
of mystery to follow pursuits where danger to body,
mind and soul — it seemed to me — must be his constant

For Julius LeVallon, or Julius, as he was known to
me in our school and university days, had been once a
name to conjure with ; a personality who evoked for
me a world more vast and splendid, horizons wider,
vistas of possibilities more dazzling, than any I have
since known — which have contracted, in fact, with my
study of an exact science to a dwindled universe of
pettier scale and measurement ; — and wherein, formerly,
with all the terror and delight of vividly imagined
adventure, we moved side by side among strange ex-
periences and fascinating speculations.

The name brings back the face and figure of as
singular an individual as I have ever known who, but
for my saving streak of common sense and inability to
imagine beyond a certain point, might well have swept
me permanently into his own region of research and
curious experiment. As it was, up to the time when I
felt obliged to steer my course away from him, he found
my natux-e of great assistance in helping him to recon-
struct his detailed mental pictures O'f the past ; we were
both ''in the same boat together," as he constantly
assured me — this boat that travelled down the river of
innumerable consecutive lives ; and there can be no
doubt that my cautious questionings — lack of perspective,
he termed it — besides checking certain aspects of his
conception, saved us at the same time from results
that must have proved damaging to our reputations, if
not injurious actually to our persons, physically and
mentally. Yet that he captured me so completely at the
time was due to an innate sympathy I felt towards
his theories, a sympathy that at times amounted to
complete acceptance. I freely admit this sympathy.
He used another word for it, however: he called it

As a boy, Julius LeVallon was beyond question one
of the strangest beings that ever wore a mortar-board,

6 Julius LeVallon

or lent his soul and body to the conventionalities of an
English private school.

I recall, as of yesterday, my first sight of him, and
the vivid impression, startling as of shock, he then
produced : the sensitive, fine face, pallid as marble, the
thatch of tumbling dark hair, and the eyes of changing
greeny blue that shone unlike any English eyes I have
ever looked upon before or since. "Giglamps" the other
boys called them, of course ; but when you caught them
through the black hair that straggled over the high white
forehead, they somehow conveyed the impression of
twin lanterns, now veiled, now clear, seen through the
tangled shadows of a twilight wood. Unlike the eyes of
most dreamers, they looked keenly within, rather than
vaguely beyond ; and I recall to this day the sharp, half
disquieting effect produced upon my mind as a new boy
the first instant I saw them — that here was an individual
who somehow stood aloof from the mob of noisy,
mischief-loving youngsters all about him, and had little
in common with the world in which this school was a
bustling, practical centre of educational energy.

Nor is it that I recall that first sight with the added
judgment of later years. I insist that this moment of
his entrance into my life was accompanied by an
authentic thrill of wonder that announced his presence
to my nerves, or even deeper, to my very soul. My
sympathetic nervous system was instinctively aware of
him. He came upon me with a kind of rush for which
the proper word is startling ; there was nothing gradual
about it ; its nature was electrifying ; and in some sense
he certainly captivated me, for, immediately upon know-
ing him, this opening wonder merged in a deep affection
of a kind so intimate, so fearless, so familiar, that it
seemed to me that I must, somewhere, somehow, have
known him always. For years to come it bound me to
his side. To the end, moreover, I never quite lost some-
thing of that curious first impression, that he moved,
namely, in an outer world that did not claim him ; that
those luminous, inward-peering eyes saw but dimly the
objects we call real ; that he saw them as counters in

Julius LeVallon 7

some trivial game he deemed it not worth while to play ;
that while, perforce, he used them like the rest of us,
their face-value was as naught compared tO' what they
symbolised ; that, in a word, he stood apart from the
vulgar bustle of ordinary ambitious life, and above it,
in a region by himself where he was forever questing
issues of infinitely greater value.

For a boy of fifteen, as I then was, this seems much
to have discerned. At the time I certainly phrased it all
less pompously in my own small mind. But that first
sense of shock remains : I yearned to know him, to stand
where he stood, to be exactly like him. And our speedy
acquaintance did not overwhelm me as it ought to have
done— for a singular reason ; I felt oddly that somehow
or other I had the right to know him instantly.

Imagination, no doubt, was stronger in me at that
time than it is to-day ; my mind more speculative, my
soul, perhaps, more sensitively receptive. At any rate
the insignificant and very ordinary personality I own
at present has since largely recovered itself. If Julius
LeVallon was one in a million, I know that I can never
expect to be more than one of a million. And it is
something in middle age to discover that one can appre-
ciate the exceptional in others without repining at its
absence in oneself.

Julius was two forms above me, and for a day or
two after my arrival at mid-term, it appears he was in
the sick-room with one of those strange nervous illnesses
that came upon him through life at intervals, puzzling
the doctors and alarming those responsible for his well-
being ; accompanied, too, by symptoms that to-day
would be recognised, I imagine, as evidence of a
secondary personality. But on the third or fourth day,
just as afternoon "Preparation" was beginning and we
were all shuffling down upon our wooden desks with
a clatter of books and pens, the door beside the great
blackboard opened, and a figure stole into the room,
tall, slender, and unsubstantial as a shadow, yet
intensely real.

-" Hullo ! Giglamps back again ! " whispered the boy

8 Julius LeVallon

on my left, and another behind me sniggered audibly
"Jujubes" — thus Julius was sometimes paraphrased —
"tired of shamming at last!" Then Hurrish, the
master in charge, whose head had been hidden a moment
behind his desk, closed the lid and turned. He greeted
the boy with a few kind words of w^elcome which, of
course, I have forgotten ; yet, so strange are the freaks
of memory, and so instantaneous and prophetic the first
intuitions of sympathy or aversion, that I distinctly recall
that I liked Hurrish for his words, and was grateful to
him for his kindly attitude towards a boy whose very
existence had hitherto been unknown to me. Already,
before I knew his name, Julius LeVallon meant, at any
rate, this to me.

But from that instant the shadow became most
potently real substance. The boy moved forward to his
desk, looked about him as though to miss no face, and
almost immediately across that big room full of heads
and shoulders saw — myself.

That something of psychical import passed swiftly
between us is indubitable, for while Julius visibly
started, pausing a moment in his walk and staring as
though he would swallow me with his eyes, there
flashed upon my own mind a thought so vivid, so precise,
that it took actual sentence form, and before I could
possibly have imagined or invented an idea so uncorre-
lated with a previous experience of any kind at all, I
heard myself murmuring: "He's found me. . . ! "

It seemed audible, at least. I hid my face a second,
thinking I had spoken it aloud. No one looked at me,
however; Hurrish made no comment. My name did
not sound terribly across the class-room. The sentence,
after all, had remained a thought. But that it leaped into
my mind at all seems to me now, as it did at the time,

His eyes rested for the fraction of a second on my
face as he crossed the floor, and I felt — but how describe
it intelligibly? — as though a wind had risen and caught
me up into another place where there was great light
and an impression of vast distances. Hypnotic we should

Julius LeVallon 9

call it to-day ; hypnotic let it be. I can only affirm how,
with that single glance from a boy but slightly older than
myself, seen then for the first time, and with no word
yet spoken, there came back to me a larger sense of life,
and of the meaning of life. I became aware of an
extended world, of wonder, movement, adventure on a
scale immensely grander than anything I found about
me among known external things. But I became aware
— "again." In earlier childhood I had known this bigger
world. It suddenly flashed over me that time stretched
behind me as well as before — and that I stretched back
with it. Something scared me, I remember, with a faint
stirring as of old pains and pleasures suffered long ago.
The face and eyes that called into being these fancies, so
oddly touched with alarm, were like those seen some-
times in dreams that never venture into daily life —
things of composite memory, no doubt, that bring with
them an atmosphere, and a range of query, nothing in
normal waking life can even suggest.

He passed to his place in front of Hurrish's desk
among the upper forms, and a sea of tousled heads
intervened to hide him from my sight ; but as he went
the afternoon sunshine fell through the unfrosted half
of the window, and in later years — now, in fact, as I
hold his letter in my hand and re-collect these vanished
memories — I still see him coming into my life with
the golden sunlight about his head and his face wrapped
in its halo. I see it reflected in the lamping eyes, glisten-
ing on the mop of dark hair, shining on the pallid face
with its high expression of other-worldliness and yearn-
ing remote from the chaos of modern life. ... It was a
long time before I managed to bring myself down again
to parse the verbs in that passage of Hecuba, for, if
anything, I have understated rather than exaggerated
the effect that this first sight of Julius LeVallon produced
upon my feelings and imagination. Some one, lost
through ages but ever seeking me, rose suddenly and
spoke : " So here you are, at last ! I've found you.
We've found each other again ! "

To say more could only be to elaborate the memory

10 Julius LeVallon

with knowledge that came later, and thus to distort the
first simple and profound impression. I merely wish to
present, as it occurred, the picture of this wizard face
appearing suddenly above the horizon of my small school-
boy world, staring with that deep suggestion of having
travelled down upon me from immense distances behind,
bringing fugitive and ghostly sensations of things known
long ago, and hinting very faintly, as I have tried to
describe, of vanished pains and alarms — yet of sufferings
so ancient that to touch them even with the tenderest of
words is to make them crumble into dust and disappear.


"'Body,' observes Ploiinus, ' is the true river of Lethe.' The memory
of definite events in former lives can hardly come easily to a conscious-
ness allied with brain. . . . Bearing in mind also that even our ordinary
definite memories slowly become indefinite, and that most drop altogether
out of notice, we shall attach no importance to the naive question, ' Why
does not Smith remember who he was before ? ' It would be an ex-
ceedingly strange fact if he did, a new Smith being now in evidence
along with a new brain and nerves. Still, it is conceivable that such
remembrances occasionally arise. Cerebral process, conscious or sub-
conscious, is psychical." — " Individual and Reality " (E. D. Fawcett).

Looking back upon this entrance, not from the present
long interval of twenty years, but from a point much
nearer to it, and consequently more sympathetically in
touch with my own youth, I must confess that his
presence — his arrival, as it seemed — threw a momentary
clear light of electric sharpness upon certain " inner
scenery" that even at this period of my boyhood was
already beginning to fade away into dimness and " mere
imagining." Which brings me to a reluctant confession
I feel bound to make. I say "reluctant," because at the
present time I feel intellectually indisposed to regard
that scenery as real. Its origin I know not ; its reality
at the time I alone can vouch for. Many children have
similar experiences, I believe ; with myself it was
exceptionally vivid.

Ever since I could remember, my childhood days
were charged with it — haunting and stimulating recollec-
tions that were certainly derived from nothing in this
life, nor owed their bright reality to anything seen or
read or heard. They influenced all my early games, my
secret make-believe, my magical free hours after lessons.
I dreamed them, played them, lived them, and nothing
delighted me so much as to be alone on half-holidays in
summer out of doors, or on winter evenings in the


12 Julius LeVallon

empty schoolroom, so that I might reconstruct for myself
the gorgeous detail of their remote, elusive splendour.
For the presence of others, even of my favourite play-
mates, ruined their reality with criticising questions, and
a doubt as to their genuineness was an intrusion upon
their sacredness my youthful heart desired to prevent by
— killing it at once. Their nature it would be wearisome
to detail, but I may mention that their grandeur was of
somewhat mixed authority, and that if sometimes I was
a general like Gideon, against whom Amalekites and
such like were the merest insects, at others I was a High
Priest in some huge, dim-sculptured Temple whose
magnificence threw Moses and the Bible tabernacles into

Yet it was upon these glories, and upon this sacred
inner scenery, that the arrival of Julius LeVallon threw
a new daylight of stark intensity. He made them live
again. His coming made them awfully real. They had
been fading. Going to school was, it seemed, a finishing
touch of desolating destruction. I felt obliged to give
them up and be a man. Thus ignored, disowned, for-
gotten of set deliberation, they sank out of sight and
were prepared to disappear, when suddenly his arrival
drew the entire panorama delightfully into the great
light of day again. His presence re-touched, re-coloured
the entire series. He made them true.

It would take too long, besides inviting the risk of
unconscious invention, were I to attempt in detail the
description of our growing intimacy. Moreover, I be-
lieve it is true that the intimacy did not grow at all, but
suddenly, incomprehensibly was. At any rate, I re-
member with distinctness our first conversation. The
hour's "prep." was over, and I was in the yard, lonely
and disconsolate as a new boy, watching the others
playing tip-and-run against the high enclosing wall,
when Julius LeVallon came up suddenly behind me, and
I turned expectantly at the sound of his almost stealthy
step. He came softly. He was smiling. In the falling
dusk he looked more shadow-like than ever. He wore
the school cap at the back of his head, where it clung

Julius LeVallon 13

to his tumbling hair like some absurd disguise circum-
stances forced him to adopt for the moment.

And my heart gave a bound of excitement at the sound
of his voice. In some strange way the whole thing seemed
familiar. I had expected this. It had happened before.
And, very swiftly, a fragment of that inner scenei*y, laid
like a theatre-inset against the playground of to-day,
flashed through the depths of me, then vanished.

"What is your name?" he asked me, very gently.

"Mason," I told him, conscious that I flushed and
almost stammered. "John Mason. I'm a new boy."
Then, although my brother, formerly Head of the school,
had already gone on to Winchester, I added "Mason
secundus." My outer self felt shy, but another, deeper
self realised a sense of satisfaction that was pleasure. I
was aware of a desire to seize his hand and utter some-
thing of this bigger, happier sensation. The strength of
school convention, however, prevented anything of the
sort. I was at first embarrassed by the attention of a
bigger boy, and showed it.

^ He looked closely into my face a moment, as though
searching for something, but so penetratingly that I
felt his eyes actually inside me. The information I had
given did not seem to interest him particularly. At the
same time I was conscious that his near presence
affected me in a curious way, for I lost the feeling that
this attention to a new boy was flattering and unusual,
and became aware that there was something of great
importance he wished to say to me. It was all right and
natural. There was something he desired to find out
and know : it was not my name. A vague yet profound
emotion troubled me.

He spoke then, slowly, earnestly ; the voice gentle and
restrained, but the expression in the eyes and face so
grave, almost so solemn, that it seemed an old and ex-
perienced man who addressed me, instead of a boy
barely sixteen years of age.

"Have you then . . . quite . . . forgotten . . .
everything? " he asked, making dramatic pauses thus
between the words.

14 Julius LeVallon

And, singular in its abruptness though the question
was, there flashed upon me even while he uttered it, a
sensation, a mood, a memory— I hardly know what to
call it— that made the words intelligible. It dawned
upon me that I had " forgotten . . . everything . . .
quite " : crowded, glorious, ancient things, that somehow
or other I ought to have remembered. A faint sense of
guiltiness accompanied the experience. I felt discon-
certed, half ashamed.

"Tm afraid ... I have," came my faltering reply.
Though bewildered, I raised my eyes to his. I looked
straight at him. " Fm- Mason secundus . . . now. . . ."

His eyes, I saw, came up, as it were, from their deep
searching. They rested quietly upon my own, with a
reassuring smile that made them kindly and understand-
ing as those of my own father. He put his hand on my
shoulder in a protective fashion that gave me an intense
desire to remember all the things he wished me to remem-
ber, and thus to prove myself worthy of his interest and
attention. The desire in me was ardent, serious. Its
fervency, moreover, seemed to produce an effect, for
immediately there again rose before my inner vision
that flashing scenery I had " imagined " as a child.

Possibly something in my face betrayed the change.
His expression, at any rate, altered instantly as though
he recognised what was happening.

" You're Mason secundus now," he said more quickly.
"I know that. But — can you remember nothing of the
Other Places? Have you quite forgotten when — we were

He stopped abruptly, repeating the last three words
almost beneath his breath. His eyes rested on mine with
such pleasure and expectancy in them that for the
moment the world I stood in melted out, the playground
faded, the shouts of cricket ceased, and I seemed to forget
entirely who or where I was. It was as though other
times, other feelings, other scenery battled against the
actual present, claiming me, sweeping me away, extend-
ing the sense of personal identity towards a previous
series. Seductive the sensation was beyond belief, yet at

Julius LeVallon 15

the same time disturbing. I wholly ignored the flattery
of this kindness from an older boy. A series of vivid
pictures, more familiar than the nursery, more distant
than a dream of years ago, swam up from some inner
region of my being like memories of places, people,
adventures I had actually lived and seen. The near
presence of Julius LeVallon drew them upwards in a
stream above the horizon of some temporarily veiled

". . . in the Other Places," his voice continued with a
droning sound that was like the sea a long way off, or
like wind among the branches of a tree.

And something in me leaped automatically to acknow-
ledge the truth I suddenly realised.

"Yes, yes ! " I cried, no shyness in me any more, and

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