The Human Chord Part 19

How Spinrobin found his way out of that sound-stricken house remains an unsolved mystery. He never understood it himself; he remembers only that when they reached the ground floor the vibrations of Skale's opening ba.s.s note had already begun. Its effect, too, was immediately noticeable. For the roar of the escaping Letters, which upstairs had reached so immense a volume as to be recognized only in terms of silence, now suddenly grew in a measure harnessed and restrained. Their vibration became reduced--down closer to the sixteen-foot wavelength which is the limit of human audition. They were being leashed in by the summoning master-tone. They grew once more audible.

On the rising swirl of sound the two humans were swept down pa.s.sages and across halls, as two leaves are borne by a tempest, and after frantic efforts, in which Spinrobin bruised his body against doors and walls without number, he found himself at last in the open air, and at a considerable distance from the house of terror. Stars shone overhead.

He saw the outline of hills. Breaths of cool wind fanned his burning skin and eyes.

But he dared not turn to look or listen. The music of that opening note, now rising through the building from the cellar, might catch him and win him back. The chord in which himself and Miriam were to have uttered their appointed tones, even half-told, was still mighty to overwhelm. Its effect upon the Letters themselves had been immediate.

The feeling that he had proved faithless to Skale, unworthy of the great experiment, never properly attuned to this fearful music of the G.o.ds--this was forgotten in the overmastering desire to escape from it all into the safety of common human things with Miriam. Setting his course ever up the hills, he ran on and on, till breath failed him utterly and he was obliged to stop for lack of strength. And it was only then he realized that the whole time the girl had been in his arms. He had been carrying her.

Placing her on the ground, he caught a glimpse of her eyes in the darkness, and saw that they were still charged with the one devouring pa.s.sion that had made the sacrifice of Skale and of all her training since birth inevitable. Soft and glowing with her first knowledge of love, her grey eyes shone like stars newly risen.

"Come, come!" he whispered hoa.r.s.ely; "we must get as far as possible--away from it all. Across the hills we shall find safety. Once the splendors overtake us we are lost...."

Seizing her by the hand, they pressed on again, the ocean of sound rising and thundering behind them and below.

Without knowing it, he had taken the path by which the clergyman had brought him from the station weeks ago on the day of his first arrival.

With a confused memory, as of a dream, he recognized it. The ground was slippery with dead leaves whose odor penetrated sharply the air of night.

Everywhere about him, as they paused from time to time in the little open s.p.a.ces, the trees pressed up thickly; and ever from the valley they had just left the increasing tide of sound came pouring up after them like the roar of the sea escaping through doors upon the surface of the world.

And even now the marvelous, enticing wonder of it caught him more than once and made him hesitate. The sense of what he was giving up sickened him with a great sudden yearning of regret. The mightiness of that loved leader, lonely and unafraid, trafficking with the princ.i.p.alities and powers of sound, and reckoning without misgiving upon the cooperation of his other "notes"--this plucked fearfully at his heartstrings. But only in great tearing gusts, so to speak, which pa.s.sed the instant he realized the little breathless, grey-eyed girl at his side, charged with her beautiful love for him and the wholesome ambition for human things.

"Oh! but the heaven we're losing...!" he cried once aloud, unable to contain himself. "Oh, Miriam ... and I have proved unworthy ... small...!"

"Small enough to stay with me forever and ever ... here on the earth,"

she replied pa.s.sionately, seizing his hand and drawing him further up the hill. Then she stopped suddenly and gathered a handful of dead leaves, moss, twigs and earth. The exquisite familiar perfume as she held it to his face pierced through him with a singular power of conviction.

"We should lose _this_," she exclaimed; "there's none of this ... in heaven! The earth, the earth, the dear, beautiful earth, with you ... and Winky ... is what I want!"

And when he stopped her outburst with a kiss, fully understanding the profound truth she so quaintly expressed, he smelt the trees and mountains in her hair, and her fragrance was mingled there with the fragrance of that old earth on which they stood.

VII

The rising flood of sound sent them charging ahead the same minute, for it seemed upon them with a rush; and it was only after much stumbling and floundering among trees and boulders that they emerged into the open s.p.a.ce of the hills beyond the woods. Actually, perhaps, they had been running for twenty minutes, but to them it seemed that they had been running for days. They stood still and looked about them.

"You shall never regret, never, never," Miriam whispered quickly. "I can make you happier than all this ever could," and she waved her arm towards the house below. "And you know it, my little Master."

But before he could reply, or do more than place an arm about her waist to support her, something came to pa.s.s that communicated its message to their souls with an incalculable certainty neither could explain.

Perhaps it was that distance enabled them to distinguish between the sounds more clearly, or perhaps their beings were still so intimately connected with Skale that some psychic warning traveled up to them across the night; but at any rate there then came about this sharp and sudden change in the quality of the sound-tempest round them that proclaimed the arrival of an exceedingly dramatic moment. The nature of the rushing, flying vibrations underwent alteration. And, looking one another in the eyes, they realized what it meant.

"He's beginning ..." faltered Spinrobin in some skeleton of a voice.

"Skale has begun to _utter_...!" He said it beneath his breath.

Down in the cellar of that awful house the giant clergyman, alone and undismayed, had begun to call the opening vibration of the living chord which was to gather in this torrent of escaping Letters and unite them in temporary safety in the crypts of the prepared vault. For the first time in eighteen hundred years the initial sound of the "Name that rusheth through the universe"--the first sound of its opening syllable, that is--was about to thunder its incalculable message over the earth.

Crouching close against each other they stood there on the edge of the woods, the night darkly smothering about them, the bare, open hills lying beyond in the still sky, waiting for the long-apprehended climax--the utterance of the first great syllable.

"It will make him ... as G.o.d," crashed the thought through Spinrobin's brain as he experienced the pangs of the fiercest remorse he had ever known. "Even without our two notes the power will be sublime...!"

But, through Miriam's swiftly-beating heart, as she pressed closer and closer: "I know your true name ... and you are mine. What else in heaven or earth can ever matter...?"

Chapter XIV

I

Skale had indeed begun to utter. And to these two bewildered children standing there alone with their love upon the mountain, it seemed that the whole world knew.

Those desolate hills that rolled away like waves beneath the stars; the whispering woods about them; the distant sea, eternally singing its own note of sadness; the boulders at their feet; the very stars themselves, listening in the heart of night--one and all were somehow aware that a portion of the great Name which first called them into being was about to issue from the sleep of ages once again into manifestation....Perhaps to quicken them into vaster life, perhaps to change their forms, perhaps to merge them all back into the depths of the original "word" of creation ... with the roar of a dissolving universe....

Through everything, from the heart of the hidden primroses below the soil to the center of the huge moors above, there ran some swift thrill of life as the sounds of which they were the visible expression trembled in sympathetic resonance with the opening vibrations of the great syllable.

Philip Skale had begun to utter. Alone in the cellar of that tempest-stricken house, already aware probably that the upper notes of his chord had failed him, he was at last in the act of calling upon the Name that Rusheth through the Universe ... the syllable whose powers should pa.s.s into his own being and make him as the G.o.ds....

And, first of all, to the infinite surprise of these two listening, shaking lovers, the roaring thunders that had been battling all about them, grew faint and small, and then dropped away into mere trickles of sound, retreating swiftly down into the dark valley where the house stood, as though immense and invisible leashes drew them irresistibly back. One by one the Letters fled away, leaving only a murmur of incredibly sweet echoes behind them in the hills, as the master-sound, spoken by this fearless and audacious man, gathered them into their appointed places in the cellar.

But if they expected stupendous things to follow they were at first singularly disappointed. For, instead of woe and terror, instead of the foundering of the visible universe, there fell about the listening world a cloak of the most profound silence they had ever known, soft beyond conception. The Name was not in the whirlwind. Out of the heart of that deathly stillness it came--a small, sweet voice, that was undeniably the voice of Philip Skale, its awful thunders all smoothed away. With it, too, like a faint overtone, came the yet gentler music of another voice.

The ba.s.s and alto were uttering their appointed notes in harmony and without dismay.

Everywhere the sound rose up through the darkness of great distance, yet at the same time ran most penetratingly sweet, close beside them in their very ears. So magically intimate indeed was it, yet so potentially huge for all its soft beginning, that Spinrobin declares that what he heard was probably not the actual voices, but only some high liberated harmonics of them.

The sounds, moreover, were not distinguishable as consonants and vowels in the ordinary sense, and to this day remain for him beyond all reach of possible reproduction. He did not hear them as "word" or "syllable,"

but as some incalculably splendid Message that was too mighty to be taken in, yet at the same time was sweeter than all imagined music, simple as a little melody "sweetly sung in tune," artless as wind through rustling branches.

And, moreover, as this small, sweet voice ran singing everywhere about them in the darkness of hills and woods, Spinrobin realized, with a whole revolution of wonder sweeping through him, that the sound, for all its gentleness, was at work vehemently upon the surface of the landscape, altering and shifting the pattern of the solid earth, just as the sand had wreathed into outlines at the sound of his own voice weeks ago, and as the form of the clergyman had changed at the vibrations of the test night.

The first letters of the opening syllable of this divine and magical name were pa.s.sing over the world ... shifting the myriad molecules that composed it by the stress and stir of its vast harmonics ... changing the pattern.

But this time the change was not dreadful; the new outline, even before he actually perceived it, was beautiful above all known forms of beauty.

The outer semblance of the old earth appeared to melt away and reveal that heart of clean and dazzling wonder which burns ever at its inmost core--the naked spirit divined by poets and mystics since the beginning of time. It was a new heaven and a new earth that pulsed below them in response to the majesty of this small sweet voice. All nature knew, from the birds that started out of sleep into pa.s.sionate singing, to the fish that stirred in the depths of the sea, and the wild deer that sprang alert in their wintry coverts, scenting an eternal spring. For the earth rolled up as a scroll, shaking the outworn skin of centuries from her face, and suffering all her rocky structure to drop away and disclose the soft and glowing loveliness of an actual being--a being most tenderly and exquisitely alive. It was the beginning of spiritual vision in their own hearts. The name had set them free. The blind saw--a part of G.o.d....

II

And then, in Spinrobin's heart, the realization of failure--that he was not in his appointed place, following his great leader to the stars, clashed together with the splendor of his deep and simple love for this trembling slip of a girl beside him.

The thought that G.o.d, as it were, had called him and he had been afraid to run and answer to his name overpowered his timid, aching soul with such a flood of emotion that he found himself struggling with a glorious temptation to tear down the mountainside again to the house and play his appointed part--utter his note in the chord even thus late. For the essential bitterness and pain that lies at the heart of all transitory earthly things--the gnawing sense of incompleteness and vanity that touches the section of transitory existence men call "life," met face to face with this pa.s.sing glimpse of reality, timeless and unconditioned, which the sound of the splendid name flashed so terrifically before his awakened soul-vision,--and threatened to overwhelm him.

In another instant he would have yielded and gone; forgotten even Miriam, and all the promised sweetness of life with her half-planned, when something came to pa.s.s abruptly that threw his will and all his little calculations into a dark chaos of amazement where, by a kind of electrically swift reaction, he realized that the one true, possible and right thing for him was this very love he was about to cast aside. His highest destiny was upon the unchanged old earth ... with Miriam ... and Winky....

She turned and flung her arms round his neck in a pa.s.sion of tears as though she had divined his unspoken temptation ... and at the same time this awful new thing was upon them both. It caught them like a tempest.

For a disharmony--a discord--a lying sound was loose upon the air from those two voices far below.

"Call me by my true name," she cried quickly, in an anguish of terror; "for my soul is afraid.... Oh, love me most utterly, utterly, utterly ... and save me!"

Unnerved and shaking like a leaf, Spinrobin pressed her against his heart.

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