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the key with a hand the size - O horror! - of Spinrobin's breast. The next
moment his vast stooping body filled the entire entrance, blotting out
whole portions of the walls on either side, then was gone from the room.

Leaving the candlestick on the sofa, his heart aflame with a fearful
ecstasy of curiosity, he dashed across the floor in pursuit, but Mr.
Skale, silently and with the swiftness of a river, was already down the
stairs before he had covered half the distance.

Through the framework of the door Spinrobin saw this picture:

Skale, like some awful Cyclops, stood upon the floor of the hall some
twenty feet below, yet rearing terrifically up through the well of the
building till his head and shoulders alone seemed to fill the entire
space beneath the skylight. Though his feet rested unquestionably upon
the ground, his face, huge as a planet in the sky, rose looming and half
lighted above the banisters of this second storey, his tangled locks
sweeping the ceiling, and his beard, like some dark river of hair,
flowing downwards through the night. And this spreading countenance of
cloud it was, hanging in the semi-darkness, that Spinrobin saw turn
slowly towards him across the faint flicker of the candlelight, look
straight down into his face, and smile. The great mouth and eyes
unquestionably smiled. And that smile, for all its vast terror, was
beyond words enchanting - like the spread laughter of a summer landscape.

Among the spaces of the immense visage - reminding him curiously of his
boyhood's conception of the Creator - Spinrobin lost himself and grew
dizzy with a deadly yet delicious faintness. The mighty tenderness, the
compassion, the splendor of that giant smile overpowered him and
swallowed him up.

For one second, in dreadful silence, he gazed. Then, rising to meet the
test with a courage that he felt might somehow involve the alteration if
not the actual destruction of his own little personality, but that also
proved his supreme gameness at the same time, he tried to smile in
return.... The strange and pitiful attempt upon his own face perhaps, in
the semi-obscurity, was not seen. He only remembers that he somehow found
strength to crawl forward and close the door with a bang, though not the
strength to turn the key and lock it, and that two seconds later, having
kicked the candle over and out in his flying leap, he was in the middle
of the bed under a confused pile of sheets and blankets, weeping with
muffled sobs in the darkness as though his heart must burst with the
wonder and terror of all he had witnessed.

For, to the simple in heart, at the end of all possible stress and strain
of emotion, comes mercifully the blinding relief of tears....

And then, although too overcome to be able to prove it even to himself,
it was significant that, lying there smothered among the bedclothes, he
became aware of the presence of something astonishingly sweet and
comforting in his consciousness. It came quite suddenly upon him; the
reaction he experienced, he says, was very wonderful, for with it the
sense of absolute safety and security returned to him. Like a terrified
child in the darkness who suddenly knows that its mother stands by the
bed, all-powerful to soothe, he felt certain that some one had moved into
the room, was close beside him, and was even trying to smooth his pillow
and arrange the twisted bedclothes.

He did not dare uncover his face to see, for he was still dominated by
the memory of Mr. Skale's portentous visage; but his ears were not so
easily denied, and he was positive that he heard a voice that called his
name as though it were the opening phrase of some sweet, childhood
lullaby. There was a touch about him somewhere, it seemed, of delicate
cool hands that brought with them the fragrance as of a scented summer
wind; and the last thing he remembered before he sank away into welcome
unconsciousness was an impression, fugitive and dreamlike, of a gentle
face, unstained and pale as marble, that bent above his pillow, and,
singing, called him away to forgetfulness and peace.


And several hours later, when he woke after a refreshing sleep to find
Mrs. Mawle smiling down upon him over a tray of steaming coffee, he
recalled the events of the night with a sense of vivid reality that if
possible increased his conviction of their truth, but without the
smallest symptom of terror or dismay. For the blessing of the presence
that had soothed him into sleep lay still upon him like a garment to
protect. The test had come and he had not wholly failed.

With something approaching amusement, he watched the housekeeper pick up
a candlestick from the middle of the floor and put his Jaeger slippers
beneath the chair, having found one by the cupboard and the other over by
the fireplace.

"Mr. Skale's compliments and Mr. Spinrobin is not to hurry himself," he
heard her saying, as she put the tray beside the bed and went out of the
room. He looked at his watch and saw that it was after ten o'clock.

Half an hour later he was dressed and on his way downstairs, conscious
only of an overwhelming desire to see Mr. Skale, but to see him in his
normal and fatherly aspect again. For a strain of worship mingled oddly
with his devouring curiosity, and he was thirsty now for the rest of the
adventure, for the complete revelation of the Discovery in all its
bearings. And the moment he saw the clergyman in the hall he ran towards
him, scarcely realizing what it was he meant to say or do. Mr. Skale
stretched out both hands to meet him. His face was alight with pleasure.

But, before they could meet and touch, a door opened and in slipped
Miriam between them; she, too, was radiant, and her hands outstretched.

"Me first, please! Me first!" she cried with happy laughter, and before
Spinrobin realized what was happening, she had flung her arms about his
neck and kissed him. "You were splendid!" she whispered in his ear, "and
I _am_ proud of you - ever so proud!"

The next minute Skale had him by the hands.

"Well done! well done!" his voice boomed, while he gazed down into his
face with enthusiastic and unqualified approval. "It was all magnificent.
My dear little fellow, you've got the heart of a god, and, by Heavens,
you shall become as a god too! For you are worthy!" He shook him
violently by both hands, while Miriam looked eagerly on with admiration
in her wide grey eyes.

"I'm so glad, so awfully glad - " stammered the secretary, remembering
with shame his moments of vivid terror. He hardly knew what he said at
the moment.

"The properties of things," thundered the clergyman, "as you have now
learned, are merely the 'muffled utterances of the Sounds that made
them.' The thing itself is its name."

He spoke rapidly, with intense ardor and with reverence. "You have seen
with your own eyes a scientific proof of my Discovery on its humblest
level - how the physical properties of objects can be manipulated by the
vibratory utterance of their true names - can be extended, reduced,
glorified. Next you shall learn that spiritual qualities - the attributes
of higher states of being - can be similarly dealt with and
harnessed - exalted, intensified, _invoked_ - and that the correct
utterance of mighty Names can seduce their specific qualities into your
own soul to make you mighty and eternal as themselves, and that to call
upon the Great Names is no idle phrase.... When the time comes,
Spinrobin, you shall not shrink, you shall not shrink...." He flung his
arms out with a great gesture of delight.

"No," repeated Spinrobin, yet aware that he felt mentally battered at the
prospect, "I shall not shrink. I think - now - I can manage - anything!"

And then, watching Miriam with lingering glance as she vanished laughing
up the staircase, he followed Mr. Skale into the library, his thoughts
tearing wildly to and fro, swelling with delight and pride, thrilling
with the wonder of what was yet to come. There, with fewest possible
sentences, the clergyman announced that he now accepted him and would,
therefore, carry out the promise with regard to the bequeathal of his
property to him in the event of any untoward circumstances arising later.
He also handed to him in cash the salary for the "trial month," together
with a check for the first quarter in advance. He was beaming with the
satisfaction he felt at having found at last a really qualified helper.
Spinrobin looked into his face as they shook hands over the bargain. He
was thinking of other aspects he had seen of this amazing being but a few
hours before - the minute, the colossal, the changing-between-the-two

"I'm game, Mr. Skale," he said simply, forgetting all his recent doubts
and terrors.

"I know you are," the clergyman replied. "I knew it all along."

Chapter X


The first thing Spinrobin knew when he ran upstairs to lock away the
money in his desk was that his whole being, without his directing it,
asked a question of momentous import. He did not himself ask it
deliberately. He surprised his sub-consciousness asking it:


It was no longer mere curiosity that asked it, but that sense of
responsibility which in all men of principle and character lies at the
root of action and of life. And Spinrobin, for all his little weaknesses,
was a man of character and principle. There came a point when he could no
longer follow blindly where others led, even though the leader were so
grand an individual as Philip Skale. This point is reached at varying
degrees of the moral thermometer, and but for the love that Miriam had
wakened in his heart, it might have taken much longer to send the mercury
of his will so high in so short a time. He now felt responsibility for
two, and in the depths of his queer, confused, little mind stirred the
thought that possibly after all the great adventure he sought was only
the supreme adventure of a very wonderful Love.

He records these two questions at this point, and it is only just to
himself, therefore, to set them down here. To neither was the answer yet

For some days the routine of this singular household followed its normal
course, the only change being that while the secretary practiced his
Hebrew names and studied the relations between sound, color, form and the
rest, he kept himself a little better in hand, for Love is a mighty
humanizer and holds down the nose upon the grindstone of the wholesome
and practical values of existence. He turned, so to speak, and tried to
face the matter squarely; to see the adventure as a whole; to get all
round it and judge. It seems, however, that he was too much in the thick
of it to get that bird's-eye view which reduces details to the right
proportion. Skale's personality was too close, and flooded him too
violently. Spinrobin remained confused and bewildered; but also
unbelievably happy.

"Coming out all right," he wrote shakily in that gilt-edged diary.
"Beginning to understand why I'm in the world. Am just as important as
anybody else - _really_. Impossible explain more." His entries were
very like telegrams, in which a man attempts to express in a lucid
shorthand all manner of things that the actual words hardly compass.
And life itself is not unlike some mighty telegram that seeks vainly
to express, between the extremes of silence and excess, all that the
soul would say....

"Skale is going too far," perhaps best expresses the daily burden of his
accumulating apprehension. "He is leading up to something that makes me
shrink - something not quite legitimate. Playing with an Olympian fire
that may consume us both." And there his telegram stopped; for how in
the world could he put into mere language the pain and distress involved
in the thought that it might at the same time consume Miriam? It all
touched appalling depths of awe in his soul. It made his heart shake. The
girl had become a part of his very self.

Vivid reactions he suffered, alternating with equally vivid enthusiasms.
He realized how visionary the clergyman's poetical talk was, but the next
minute the practical results staggered him again, as it were, back into a
state of conviction. For the poetry obscured his judgment and fired his
imagination so that he could not follow calmly. The feeling that it was
not only illogical but insane troubled him; yet the physical effects
stared him in the face, and to argue with physical results is waste of
time. One must act.

Yet how "act?" The only way that offered he accepted: he fell back upon
the habits of his boyhood, read his Bible, and at night dropped humbly
upon his knees and prayed.

"Keep me straight and pure and simple, and bless ... Miriam. Grant
that I may love and strengthen her ... and that my love may bring her
peace ... and joy ...and guide me through all this terror, I beseech
Thee, into Truth...."

For, in the beauty of his selfless love, he dared not even admit that it
was love; feeling only the highest, he could not quite correlate his
sweet and elevated passion with the common standards of what the World
called love. The humility of a great love is ever amazing.

And then followed in his prayers the more cowardly cry for ordinary
protection from the possible results of Skale's audacity. The Love of God
he could understand, but the Wrath of God was a conception he was still
unemancipated enough to dread; and a dark, portentous terror that Skale
might incur it, and that he might be dragged at its heels into some
hideous catastrophe, chased him through the days and nights. It all
seemed so unlawful, impious, blasphemous....

"... And preserve us from vain presumptions of the heart and brain, I
pray Thee, lest we be consumed.... Please, O God, forgive the insolence
of our wills ... and the ignorant daring of our spirit.... Permit
not the innocent to suffer for the guilty ... and especially
bless ... Miriam...."

Yet through it all ran that exquisite memory of the calling of his true
name in the spaces of his soul. The beauty of far-off unattainable
things hovered like a star above his head, so that he went about the
house with an insatiable yearning in his heart, a perpetual smile of
wonder upon his face, and in his eyes a gleam that was sometimes terror,
sometimes delight.

It was almost as if some great voice called to him from the mountaintops,
and the little chap was forever answering in his heart, "I'm coming! I'm
coming!" and then losing his way purposely, or hiding behind bushes on
the way for fear of meeting the great invisible Caller face to face.


And, meanwhile, the house became for him a kind of Sound-Temple as it
were, protected from desecration by the hills and desolate spaces that
surrounded it. From dawn to darkness its halls and corridors echoed with
the singing violin, Skale's booming voice, Miriam's gentle tones, and his
own plaintive yet excited note, while outside the old grey walls the air
was ever alive with the sighing of the winds and the ceaseless murmur of
falling water. Even at night the place was not silent. He understood at
last what the clergyman had told him - that perfect silence does not
exist. The universe, down to its smallest detail, sings through every
second of time.

The sounds of nature especially haunted him. He never heard the wind now
without thinking of lost whispers from the voice of God that had strayed
down upon the world to sweeten and bewilder the hearts of men - whispers
a-search for listeners simple enough to understand. And when their walks
took them as far as the sea, the dirge of the waves troubled his soul
with a kind of distressing exaltation that afflicted the very deeps of
his being. It was with a new comprehension he understood his employer's
dictum that the keynote of external nature was middle F - this employer
who himself possessed that psychic sense of absolute pitch - and that the
roar of a city, wind in forest trees, the cry of trains, the rushing of
rivers and falling water, Niagara itself, all produced this single
utterance; and he loved to sing it on the moors, Miriam laughing by his
side, and to realize that the world, literally, sang with them.

Behind all sounds he divined for the first time a majesty that appalled;
his imagination, glorified by Skale, instantly fell to constructing the
forms they bodied forth. Out of doors the flutes of Pan cried to him to
dance: indoors the echoes of yet greater music whispered in the
penetralia of his spirit that he should cry. In this extraordinary new
world of Philip Skale's revelation he fairly spun.

It was one thing when the protective presence of the clergyman was about
him, or when he was sustained by the excitement of enthusiasm, but when
he was alone, at his normal level, timid, yet adventurous, the too vivid
sense of these new things made him tremble. The terrifying beauty of
Skale's ideas; the realization in cold blood that all forms in the world
about him were silently a-singing, and might any moment vanish and
release their huge bodies into primal sounds; that the stones in the
road, the peaked hills, the very earth herself might alter in shape
before his eyes: on the other hand, that the viewless forces of life and
death might leap into visibility and form with the calling of their
names; that himself, and Skale, and Mrs. Mawle, and that pale fairy
girl-figure were all enmeshed in the same scheme with plants, insects,
animals and planets; and that God's voice was everywhere too sublimely
close - all this, when he was alone, oppressed him with a sense of things
that were too intimate and too mighty for daily life.

In these moments - so frequent now as to be almost continuous - he
preferred the safety of his ordinary and normal existence, dull though it
might be; the limited personality he had been so anxious to escape from
seemed wondrous sweet and comforting. The Terror of the approaching
Experiment with this mighty name appalled him.

The forces, thus battling within his soul, became more and more
contradictory and confused. The outcome for himself seemed to be the
result of the least little pressure this way or that - possibly at the
very last moment, too. Which way the waiting Climax might draw him was a
question impossible to decide.


And then, suddenly, the whole portentous business moved a sharp stage
nearer that hidden climax, when one afternoon Mr. Skale came up
unexpectedly behind him and laid a great hand upon his shoulder in a way
that made him positively jump.

"Spinrobin," he said, in those masterful, resonant tones that shamed his
timidity and cowardice, "are you ready?"

"For anything and everything," was the immediate reply, given almost
automatically as he felt the clergyman's forces flood into his soul
and lift him.

"The time is at hand, then," continued the other, leading his companion
by the arm to a deep leather sofa, "for you to know certain things that
for your own safety and ours, I was obliged to keep hidden till
now - first among which is the fact that this house is not, as you
supposed, empty."

Prepared as he was for some surprising announcement, Spinrobin
nevertheless started. It was so abrupt.

"Not empty!" he repeated, eager to hear more, yet quaking. He had never
forgotten the nightly sounds and steps in his own passage.

"The rooms beyond your own," said Skale, with a solemnity that amounted
to reverence, "are occupied - "

"By - " gasped the secretary.

"Captured Sounds - gigantic," was the reply, uttered almost below
the breath.

The two men looked steadily at one another for the space of several
seconds, Spinrobin charged to the brim with anxious questions pressing
somehow upon the fringe of life and death, Skale obviously calculating
how much he might reveal or how little.

"Mr. Spinrobin," he said presently, holding him firmly with his eyes,
"you are aware by this time that what I seek is the correct pronunciation
of certain names - of a certain name, let us say, and that so complex is
the nature of this name that no single voice can utter it. I need a
chord, a human chord of four voices."

Spinrobin bowed.

"After years of research and experiment," resumed the clergyman, "I have
found the first three notes, and now, in your own person, has come my
supreme happiness in the discovery of the fourth. What I now wish you to
know, though I cannot expect you to understand it all at first, is that
the name I seek is broken up into four great divisions of sound, and that
to each of these separate divisions the four notes of our chord form
introductory channels. When the time comes to utter it, each one of us
will call the syllable or sound that awakens the mighty response in one
of these immense and terrific divisions, so that the whole name will
vibrate as a single chord sung perfectly in tune."

Mr. Skale paused and drew deep breaths. This approach to his great
experiment, even in speech, seemed to exhaust him so that he was obliged
to call upon reserves of force that lay beneath. His whole manner
betrayed the gravity, the reverence, the mingled respect and excitement
of - death.

And the simple truth is that at the moment Spinrobin could not find in
himself sufficient courage to ask what this fearful and prodigious name
might be. Even to put ordinary questions about the four rooms was a
little beyond him, for his heart beat like a hammer against his ribs, and
he heard its ominous drum sounding through both his temples.

"And in each of the rooms in your corridor, ready to leap forth when
called, lie the sounds or voices I have captured and imprisoned, these
separate chambers being sheeted and prepared - huge wax receptacles, in
fact, akin to the cylinders of the phonograph. Together with the form or
pattern belonging to them, and the color, there they lie at present in
silence and invisibility, just as the universe lay in silence and
invisibility before the word of God called it into objective being.
But - _know them and they are mine_."

"All these weeks - so close to me," whispered Spinrobin, too low for Skale
to notice.

Then the clergyman leaned over towards him. "These captured sounds are
as yet by no means complete," he said through his beard, as though afraid
to admit it; "for all I have of them really is their initial letters, of
their forms the merest faint outlines, and of their colors but a first
suggestion. And we must be careful, we must be absolutely wise. To utter
them correctly will mean to transfer to us the qualities of Gods, whereas
to utter falsely may mean to release upon the surface of the world forces
that - " He shrugged his great shoulders and an ashen pallor spread
downwards over the face to the very lips. The sentence remained
unfinished; and its very incompleteness left Spinrobin with the most
grievous agony of apprehension he had yet experienced.

"So that, if you are ready, our next step shall be to show you the room
in which your own particular sound lies," added Mr. Skale after a long
pause; "the sound in the chord it will be your privilege to utter when
the time comes. For each of us will utter his or her particular letter,
the four together making up the first syllable in the name I seek."

Mr. Skale looked steadily down into the wide blue eyes of his companion,
and for some minutes neither of them spoke.

"The letter I am to utter," repeated the secretary at length; "the letter
in some great name?"

Mr. Skale smiled upon him with the mighty triumph of the Promethean idea
in his eyes.

"The room," he muttered deeply and softly, "in which it lies waiting for
you to claim it at the appointed time ... the room where you shall learn
its color, become attuned to its great vibratory activity, see its form,
and _know_ its power in your own person."

Again they looked long into one another's eyes.

"I'm game," murmured Spinrobin almost inaudibly; "I'm game, Mr. Skale."
But, as he said it, something in his round head turned dizzy, while his
thoughts flew to Miriam and to the clergyman's significant phrase of a
few minutes ago - "we must be careful, we must be absolutely wise."


And the preparation the clergyman insisted upon - detailed, thorough
and scrupulous - certainly did not lessen in Spinrobin's eyes the
gravity of the approaching ordeal. They spent two days and nights in
the very precise and punctilious study, and utterance, of the Hebrew
names of the "angels" - that is, forces - whose qualities were essential
to their safety.

Also, at the same time, they fasted.

But when the time came for the formal visit to those closed rooms, of
which the locked doors were like veils in a temple, Spinrobin declares it

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Online LibraryAlgernon BlackwoodThe Human Chord → online text (page 10 of 14)