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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Olaf Stapledon
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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Olaf Stapledon


CONTENTS:

A MODERN MAGICIAN
EAST IS WEST
ARMS OUT OF HAND (1946)
A WORLD OF SOUND (1936)
THE SEED AND THE FLOWER (1916)
THE ROAD TO THE AIDE POST (1916)




A MODERN MAGICIAN

THEY CONFRONTED EACH OTHER ACROSS A TEA TABLE in a cottage garden.
Helen was leaning back coldly studying Jim's face. It was an oddly
childish, almost foetal face, with its big brow, snub nose, and
pouting lips. Childish, yes; but in the round dark eyes there was a
gleam of madness. She had to admit that she was in a way drawn to this
odd young man partly perhaps by his very childishness and his awkward
innocent attempts at lovemaking; but partly by that sinister gleam.

Jim was leaning forward, talking hard. He had been talking for a long
time, but she was no longer listening. She was deciding that though
she was drawn to him she also disliked him. Why had she come out with
him again? He was weedy and self-centered. Yet she had come.

Something he was saying recaptured her attention. He seemed to be
annoyed that she had not been listening. He was all worked up about
something. She heard him say, "I know you despise me, but you're
making a big mistake. I tell you I have powers. I didn't intend to let
you into my secret, yet; but, damn it, I will. I'm finding out a lot
about the power of mind over matter. I can control matter at a
distance, just by willing it. I'm going to be a sort of modern
magician. I've even killed things by just willing it."

Helen, who was a medical student, prided herself on her shrewd
materialism. She laughed contemptuously.

His face flushed with anger, and he said, "Oh very well! I'll have to
show you."

On a bush a robin was singing. The young man's gaze left the girl's
face and settled intently on the robin. "Watch that bird," he said.
His voice was almost a whisper. Presently the bird stopped singing,
and after looking miserable for a while, with its head hunched into
its body, it dropped from the tree without opening its wings. It lay
on the grass with its legs in the air, dead.

Jim let out a constricted squawk of triumph, staring at his victim.
Then he turned his eyes on Helen. Mopping his pasty face with his
handkerchief, he said, "That was a good turn. I've never tried it on a
bird before, only on flies and beetles and a frog."

The girl stared at him silently, anxious not to seem startled. He set
about telling her his secret. She was not bored any more.

He told her that a couple of years earlier he had begun to be
interested in "all this paranormal stuff." He had been to séances and
read about psychical research. He wouldn't have bothered if he hadn't
suspected he had strange powers himself. He was never really
interested in spooks and thought transference and so on. What
fascinated him was the possibility that a mind might be able to affect
matter directly. "Psychokinesis," they called this power; and they
knew very little about it. But he didn't care a damn about the
theoretical puzzles. All he wanted was power. He told Helen about the
queer experiments that had been done in America with dice. You threw
the dice time after time, and you willed them to settle with the two
sixes uppermost. Generally they didn't; but when you had done a great
many experiments you totted up the results and found that there had
been more sixes than should have turned up by sheer chance. It
certainly looked as though the mind really had some slight influence.
This opened up terrific possibilities.

He began to do little experiments on his own, guided by the findings
of the researchers, but also by some of his own ideas. The power was
fantastically slight, so you had to test it out in situations where
the tiniest influence would have detectable results, just tipping the
scales.

He didn't have much success with the dice, because (as he explained)
he never knew precisely what he had to do. The dice tumbled out too
quickly for him. And so he only had the slight effect that the
Americans had reported. So he had to think up new tricks that would
give him a better opening. He had had a scientific training, so he
decided to try to influence chemical reactions and simple physical
processes. He did many experiments and learned a lot. He prevented a
spot of water from rusting a knife. He stopped a crystal of salt from
dissolving in water. He formed a minute crystal of ice in a drop of
water and finally froze the whole drop by simply "willing away" all
the heat, in fact by stopping all the molecular movement.

He told Helen of his first success at killing, a literally microscopic
success. He brewed some very stagnant water and put a drop on a slide.
Then through the microscope he watched the swarm of microorganisms
milling about. Mostly they were like stumpy sausages, swimming with
wavy tails. They were of many sizes. He thought of them as elephants,
cows, sheep, rabbits. His idea was that he might be able to stop the
chemical action in one of these little creatures and so kill it. He
had read up a lot about their inner workings, and he knew what key
process he could best tackle. Well, the damned things kept shifting
about so fast he couldn't concentrate on anyone of them for long
enough. He kept losing his victim in the crowd. However, at last one
of the "rabbits" swam into a less populous part of the slide, and he
fixed his attention on it long enough to do the trick. He willed the
crucial chemical process to stop, and it did stop. The creature
stopped moving and stayed still indefinitely. It was almost certainly
dead. His success, he said, made him "feel like God."

Later he learned to kill flies and beetles by freezing their brains.
Then he tried a frog, but had no success. He didn't know enough
physiology to find a minute key process to check. However, he read up
a lot of stuff, and at last he succeeded. He simply stopped the nerve
current in certain fibres in the spinal cord that controlled the
heartbeat. It was this method also that he had used on the robin.

"That's just the beginning," he said. "Soon I shall have the world at
my feet. And if you join up with me, it will be at your feet too."

Throughout this monologue the girl had listened intently, torn between
revulsion and fascination. There was a kind of bad smell about it all,
but one couldn't afford to be too squeamish in these days. Besides,
there was probably nothing in morality, anyhow. All the same, Jim was
playing with fire. Strange, though, how he seemed to have grown up
while he was talking. Somehow he didn't look gawky and babyish
anymore. His excitement, and her knowledge that his power was real,
had made him look thrillingly sinister. But she decided to be cautious
and aloof.

When at last Jim was silent, she staged a concealed yawn and said,
"You're clever, aren't you! That was a good trick you did, though a
horrid one. If you go much further, you'll end on the gallows."

He snorted and said, "It's not like you to be a coward."

The taunt stung her. Indignantly she answered, "Don't be ridiculous!
Why should I join with you, as you call it, merely because you can
kill a bird by some low trick or other?"

In Jim's life there had been certain events which he had not
mentioned. They seemed to him irrelevant to the matter in hand, but
they were not really so at all. He had always been a weakling. His
father, a professional footballer, despised him and blamed the frail
mother. The couple had lived a cat-and-dog life almost since their
honeymoon. At school Jim had been thoroughly bullied; and in
consequence he had conceived a deep hatred of the strong and at the
same time an obsessive yearning to be strong himself. He was a bright
lad and had secured a scholarship at a provincial university. As an
undergraduate, he kept to himself, worked hard for a scientific
degree, and aimed at a career of research in atomic physics. Already
his dominant passion was physical power, so he chose its most
spectacular field. But somehow his plans went awry. In spite of his
reasonably good academic qualifications, he found himself stuck in a
low-grade job in an industrial lab, a job which he had taken on as a
stopgap till he could capture a post in one of the great institutions
devoted to atomic physics. In this backwater, his naturally sour
disposition became embittered. He felt he was not getting a fair
chance. Inferior men were outstripping him. Fate was against him. In
fact he developed something like a persecution mania. But the truth
was that he was a bad cooperator. He never developed the team spirit
which is so necessary in the immensely complex work of fundamental
physical research. Also, he had no genuine interest in physical theory
and was impatient of the necessity of advanced theoretical study. What
he wanted was power, power for himself as an individual. He recognized
that modern research was a cooperative affair and that in it, though
one might gain dazzling prestige, one would not gain any physical
power as an individual. Psychokinesis, on the other hand, might
perhaps give him his heart's desire. His interest rapidly shifted to
the more promising field. Henceforth his work in the lab was a mere
means of earning a livelihood.

* * *

After the conversation in the cottage garden he concentrated more
eagerly than ever on his venture. He must gain even more spectacular
powers to impress Helen. He had decided that for him, at any rate, the
promising line was to develop his skill at interfering with small
physical and chemical processes, in lifeless and in living things. He
learned how to prevent a struck match from lighting. He tried to
bypass the whole of atomic research by applying his power of
psychokinesis to the release of energy pent up in the atom. But in
this exciting venture he had no success at all, perhaps because in
spite of his training, he had not sufficient theoretical knowledge of
physics, nor access to the right kind of apparatus for setting up the
experiment. On the biological side he succeeded in killing a small dog
by the same process as he had applied to the robin. He was confident
that with practice he would soon be able to kill a man.

He had one alarming experience. He decided to try to stop the sparking
of his motorcycle engine. He started up the bike on its stand and set
about "willing" the spark to fail. He concentrated his attention on
the points of the sparking plug and the leaping spark and "willed" the
space between the points to become impenetrable, an insulator. This
experiment, of course, involved a far greater interference with
physical processes than freezing a nerve fibre or even preventing a
match from lighting. Sweat poured from him as he struggled with his
task. At last the engine began to misfire. But something queer
happened to himself. He had a moment of horrible vertigo and nausea
and then he lost consciousness. When he recovered, the engine was once
more running normally.

This mishap was a challenge. He had never been seriously interested in
the mere theoretical side of his experiments for its own sake, but now
he had perforce; to ask himself what exactly was happening when by an
"act of will" he interfered with a physical process. The obvious
explanation was that in some way the physical energy that should have
crossed the gap between the points had been directed into his own
body; in fact that he had suffered the electric shock that he would
have had if he had touched the points. It may be doubted whether the
true explanation was as simple as this, for his symptoms were not
those of electric shock. It might be nearer the truth to say that the
inhibition of so much physical energy caused some sort of profound
psychical disturbance in him; or else, to put the matter very crudely,
that the physical energy was in some way converted into psychical
energy in him. This theory is borne out by the fact that, when he
recovered consciousness, he was in a state of great excitement and
mental vigour, as though he had taken some stimulating drug.

Whatever the truth of the matter, he adopted the simpler theory and
set about sidetracking the intruding energy so as to protect himself.
After much anxious experimentation, he found that he could do so by
concentrating his attention both on the sparking plug and on some
other living organism, which then "drew off the electricity" and
suffered accordingly. A sparrow sufficed. It died of the shock, while
he himself remained conscious long enough to stop the engine. On
another occasion he used his neighbour's dog as a "lightning
conductor." The animal collapsed, but soon recovered consciousness and
careened about the garden barking hilariously.

His next experiment was more exciting, and much, much more
reprehensible. He went into the country and took up a position on a
knoll, whence he could see a fairly long stretch of road. Presently a
car came into sight. He concentrated his attention on the sparking
plugs and "willed" the electrical energy to escape into the driver.
The car slowed down, vacillated between the two sides of the road, and
came to a standstill across the fairway. He could see the driver
slumped over the steering wheel. There was no one else in the car.
Greatly excited, Jim waited to see what would happen. Presently
another car came in the opposite direction, hooted violently, and drew
up with screeching brakes. The driver emerged, went to the derelict
car, opened a door, and was confronted by the unconscious occupant.
While the horrified newcomer was wondering what to do, the other
recovered consciousness. There was an anxious conversation, and
finally both cars went their separate ways.

* * *

Jim now felt ready to impress his girlfriend. Since the killing of the
robin, they had occasionally met, and in his awkward and adolescent
way he had tried to make love to her. She had always discouraged him;
but she was obviously more interested in him since the robin incident.
Though she sometimes affected to despise him, he felt that she was
secretly drawn to him.

But one day he had an unpleasant surprise. He had boarded a bus to
take him home from his work. He climbed the stairs and settled into a
seat. Suddenly he noticed Helen sitting a few seats ahead with a
curly-headed young man in a sportscoat. The couple were deep in
conversation with their heads bent together. The girl's hair brushed
his cheek. Presently she laughed, with a ring of happiness such as he
had never before heard from her. She turned her face toward her
companion. It was aglow with vitality and love. Or so it seemed to the
jealous lover three seats behind.

Irrational fury swept over him. He was so ignorant of the ways of
girls, and so indignant that "his girl" (for so he regarded her)
should take notice of another man, that jealousy wholly possessed him,
to the exclusion of all other considerations. He could think of
nothing but destroying his rival. His gaze seized upon the nape of the
hated neck before him. He passionately conjured up images of the
hidden vertebrae and the enclosed bundle of nerve fibres. The nerve
current must cease; must, must cease. Presently the curly head sank on
Helen's shoulder, and then the whole body fell forward.

The murderer hurriedly rose from his seat and turned his back on the
incipient commotion. He left the bus, as though ignorant of the
disaster.

Continuing his journey on foot, he was still so excited that he had no
thought but exultation over his triumph. But gradually his frenzy
subsided, and he faced the fact that he was a murderer. Urgently he
reminded himself that after all there was no point in feeling guilty,
since morality was a mere superstition. But alas, he did feel guilty,
horribly guilty; the more so since he had no fear of being caught.

As the days passed, Jim alternated between what he regarded as
"irrational" guilt and intoxicating triumph. The world was indeed at
his feet. But he must play his cards carefully. Unfortunately his
guilt gave him no peace. He could not sleep properly; and when he did
sleep, he had terrifying dreams. By day his experiments were hampered
by the fantasy that he had sold his soul to the devil. This notion
infuriated him with its very silliness. Yet he could not rid himself
of it. He began drinking rather heavily. But he soon found that
alcohol reduced his psychokinetic power, so he firmly broke himself of
the habit.

Another possible form of relief from his obsessive guilt was sex. But
somehow he could not bring himself to face Helen. He was irrationally
afraid of her. Yet she must be quite ignorant that he had killed her
lover.

At last he met her accidentally in the street. There was no
possibility of avoiding her. She was rather wan, he thought, but she
smiled at him and actually suggested a talk over a cup of coffee. He
was torn between fear and desire, but presently they were seated in a
cafe. After some trivial remarks, she said.

"Please comfort me! I have had a terrible shock quite recently. I was
on the top of a bus with my brother who has been in Africa for three
years. While we were talking, he collapsed and died almost instantly.
He seemed perfectly fit. They say it was some new virus in the spinal
cord." She noticed that Jim's face had turned deadly pale. "What's the
matter?" she cried. "Are you going to die on me too?"

He pulled himself together and assured her that sheer sympathy for her
had made him feel faint. He loved her so much. How could he help being
upset by her misfortune? To his relief Helen was completely taken in
by this explanation. She gave him, for the first time, the glowing
smile he had formerly seen her turn upon her brother.

Encouraged, he pressed home his advantage. He said, he did so want to
comfort her. They must meet again soon. And if she was at all
interested in his experiments, he would show her something really
exciting some time. They arranged a trip in the country the following
Sunday. He privately decided to repeat for her benefit his trick with
a passing car.

Sunday was a bright summer day. Sitting together in an empty railway
carriage, they talked a good deal about her brother. He was rather
bored, but he expressed ardent sympathy. She said she never imagined
he had such a warm heart. He took her arm. Their faces drew close
together, and they looked into each other's eyes. She felt an
overwhelming tenderness for this strange, rather grotesque though
boyish face, wherein, she told herself, the innocence of childhood was
blended with an adult consciousness of power. She felt the underlying
grimness, and she welcomed it. Jim, for his part, was realizing that
she was very desirable. The warm glow of health had returned to her
face. (Or was it a glow of love?) The full, sweet lips, the kindly,
observant grey eyes, filled him not only with physical desire but a
swooning gentleness that was new to him. The recollection of his guilt
and present deception tormented him. An expression of misery came over
his face. He let go her arm and bowed forward with his head in his
hands. Perplexed and compassionate, she put an arm round his
shoulders, and kissed his hair. Suddenly he burst into tears and
buried his head on her breast. She hugged him and crooned over him as
though he were her child. She begged him to tell her what was the
matter, but he could only blubber, "Oh, I'm horrible! I'm not good
enough for you."

Later in the day, however, he had quite recovered his spirits, and
they walked arm in arm through the woods. He told her of his recent
successes, culminating with the car incident. She was impressed and
amused, but also morally shocked by the irresponsibility of risking a
fatal accident merely to test his powers. At the same time she was
obviously fascinated by the fanaticism that drove him to such lengths.
He was flattered by her interest, and intoxicated by her tenderness
and her physical proximity. For they were now resting on the little
knoll where he intended to do his trick with the car, and he was
lying with his head in her lap, gazing up at her face, where all the
love that his life had missed seemed to be gathered. He realized that
he was playing the part of an infant rather than a lover. But she
seemed to need him to do so, and he was happy in his role. But soon
sexual desire began to reassert itself and with it masculine
self-respect. He conceived an uncontrollable lust to demonstrate his
godlike nature by some formidable display of his powers. He became the
primitive savage who must kill an enemy in the presence of the
beloved.

Looking up through Helen's fluttering hair, he saw a small object
moving. For a moment he took it for a gnat, then realized that it was
a distant airplane approaching.

"Watch that plane," he said; and she was startled by the abruptness of
his voice. She looked up, and down again at him. His face was
contorted with effort. His eyes glared, his nostrils dilated. She had
an impulse to fling him from her, so brutal he looked. But fascination
triumphed. "Keep your eyes on the plane," he commanded. She looked up,
then down, then up again. She knew she ought to break the devilish
spell. (There was something called morality, but a delusion,
probably.) Fascination had triumphed.

Presently the advancing plane's four engines hesitated, and ceased one
by one to fire. The plane glided for a while, but soon gave evidence
of being out of control. It vacillated, staggered, and then was in a
nose dive, spiralling. Helen screamed, but did nothing. The plane
disappeared behind a distant wood. After a few seconds there was a
muffled crash, and smoke began to rise from behind the wood, a leaning
black plume.

Jim raised himself from Helen's lap, and turning, pressed her backward
to the ground. "That's how I love you," he whispered fiercely. Then he
furiously kissed her lips, her neck.

She made a violent effort to pull herself together and resist the
impulse of self-abandonment to this lunatic. She struggled to free
herself from his grip; and presently the two stood facing each other,
panting. "You're mad," she cried. "Think what you have done! You have
killed people just to show how clever you are. And then you make love
to me." She covered her face with her hands and sobbed.

He was still in a state of crazy exaltation, and he laughed. Then he
taunted her. "Call yourself a realist! You're squeamish. Well, now you
know what I am really like; and what I can do. And see! You're mine. I
can kill you at any moment, wherever you are. I shall do whatever I
like with you. And if you try to stop me, you'll go the way of the
robin and--the man on the bus." Her hands dropped from her tear-stained
 face. She stared at him in mingled horror--and tenderness. She
said quietly, "You're quite mad, you poor boy. And you seemed so
gentle. Oh, my dear, what can I do about you?"

There was a long silence. Then suddenly Jim collapsed on the ground,
blubbering like a child. She stood over him in perplexity.

While she was wondering what to do, and blaming herself for not
breaking the spell before it was too late, he was in an agony of
self-loathing. Then he started to use his technique upon himself, so that
no more harm should be done. It was more difficult than he expected;
for as soon as he began to lose consciousness he also lost his grip on
the operation. But he made a desperate effort of will. When Helen,
noticing his stillness, knelt down by him, he was dead.



EAST IS WEST

I LEFT MY LODGINGS IN WEST KIRBY IN THE MIDDLE OF the morning and
walked along the Estuary shore, I arriving at my favourite bathing
place when the tide was only a few yards from the foot of the clay
cliffs. The sand, as usual on a fine Sunday, was crowded with parties,
bathing and sun-bathing. I undressed and swam out till the coast was
but a strip between sea and sky. At my farthest point I floated for a
long while, the sun pouring through my closed eyelids. I began to feel
giddy and slightly sick, so I hurried back to land.

During the rather lengthy swim I was surprised to see that the shore
and the cliff-top, which I thought had been crowded, were in fact
deserted. The one heap of clothes which I could detect, and which I
therefore took to be my own, perplexed me by its colour. I was still
more perplexed when I walked out of the water to it and found that
apparently someone had removed my own flannels and had substituted a
queer fancy dress of "Chinesy," pyjama-like trousers and jacket, both
made of richly ornamented blue brocade. Even the towel was decorated
with a Chinese or Japanese pattern; but in one corner it was marked
with my own name. After a vain search for my proper clothes, I dried
myself, and began experimenting with the fancy dress, shivering, and
cursing the practical joker.

A bright silver coin, about the size of a florin, fell out of one of
the pockets. Picking it up, I was surprised by its odd look. Closer
inspection surprised me still more, for it bore on one side a grim but
not unhandsome female profile, surrounded by the legend, "Godiva Dei
Gra. Brit. et Gall. Reg." On the obverse was a seemingly archaic
version of the royal arms, which included the French lilies but
omitted the Irish harp. Round the edge I read "One Florin 1934." There
were also some Japanese characters, which, to my amazement, I read.
They signified, "Kingdom of Britain. Two Shillings." Other coins in
the pockets proved to be of the same fantastic type. There was also a
letter, in its torn envelope, inscribed in Japanese characters. I
recognized the name at once as the Japanese transcription of my own.
The address was that of a well-known shipping firm in Liverpool.
Well-known? Collecting my wits, I realized that, familiar as it seemed, I
really knew nothing about it.

By this time I was thoroughly alarmed about the state of my mind. How
came it that I could read Japanese? Whence these clothes? What had
become of the holiday crowd?

Since the letter was addressed to me, I read it. The writer accepted
an invitation to visit me for a few days with his wife. After
referring to various shipping matters, which came to me with a
distressing blend of familiarity and novelty, he signed himself, if I
remember rightly, "Azuki Kawamura."

Sick with cold and fright, I put on the clothes, and could not help
noting that every movement executed itself with the ease of
well-established habit, not with the clumsiness of one struggling with
fancy dress.

I hurried along the shore toward West Kirby. With a fresh shock I
discovered that the distant buildings looked all wrong. It was
comforting to see that Hilbre Island at least was more or less as it
should be, and that the contours of the Welsh hills across the Estuary
left nothing to be desired. The black-headed gulls were
indistinguishable from those of my normal experience. Half a dozen
shell-duck, floating on the receding tide, were correctly attired.

Two figures approached me. What would they think of my fancy dress?
But apparently it was not fancy dress; it was the orthodox costume of
a gentleman. As the couple advanced, it revealed itself as a man and a
girl, walking arm in arm. A few paces from me, they unlinked. He
touched his cap, she curtsied. Indifferently, almost contemptuously, I
acknowledged their salute. We passed.

I had been surprised to see that their dress was neither that of
modern Europe nor yet Eastern like my own. It suggested a very
inaccurate and ragged version of the costume of Elizabethan England as
worn by the humbler sort. But he smoked a cigarette, and she bore
aloft a faded Japanese sunshade.

Arriving at the town, I found that it was not West Kirby at all, not
the West Kirby that I knew. The natural setting of the place was
normal, but man's works were completely unrecognisable. With perfect
assurance I walked along the entirely unfamiliar marine parade. The
houses were mostly half-timbered, some were even thatched. But others
showed unmistakably the influence of Japanese or Chinese culture.
There was a "pagoda-ish" look about them. One or two were tall
ferro-concrete buildings, whose vast window-space made them appear like
crystal palaces. Even these betrayed in their decoration an Asiatic
inspiration. It was almost as though China or Japan had been the
effective centre of "Americanisation."

The parade was thronged with people of all ages and both sexes,
dressed mostly in semi-Asiatic style. In some cases a native English
costume had been overlaid with foreign additions, here a Chinese
dragoned scarf, there a coloured sunshade. The best dressed women wore
what I should describe as silk kimonos; but many of these garments
were sleeveless, and none reached to the ankles. They displayed silk
stockings of a type that in my own world would be regarded as European
and modern, save for their great diversity and brilliance of
colouring, One or two of the women, seemingly the bolder, wore very
gay silk trousers and sleeveless vests. The loose brocade suits of the
men were mostly of more sombre colour. I was surprised to note that
many even of the best dressed promenaders had pock-marked faces. I was
surprised, too, at the large number of smartly uniformed men,
evidently army officers, in Robin Hood green with wide-brimmed hats.
On their hips large-hilted cutlasses and neat pistol holsters combined
the medieval and the modern.

The language of all these strange people was recognisably English, but
of a grotesque and, I judged, a somewhat archaic type. Words of
Japanese origin occurred, but not frequently. Most technical words, it
seemed, were English translations of Japanese or Chinese originals. On
a minute concrete building, which turned out to be a telephone call
box, I noticed the phrase "Public Lightning Speaker," and under it in
Japanese characters the Japanese word "Denwa."

Motors there were in plenty; but horse-drawn vehicles also, and a
number of sedan chairs. Out at sea I saw a small, high-pooped, antique
sailing vessel, and on the horizon a great ocean liner, trailing her
black smoke.

At a certain point I turned off the Parade and passed along the
shop-lined streets. The windows were all veiled for the Sabbath. Many of
the large shops displayed Chinese or Japanese signs as well as English
ones. I passed a small Asiatic building which I took to be a Buddhist
temple. Examining the printed notices displayed at its entrance, I
judged that it catered not only for Asiatic visitors but for English
converts. My course now led me into the poorer quarter, and I was
shocked to note the overcrowding and filth of this part of the town.
Swarms of ragged urchins in native English dress played in every
gutter. They had an unpleasant tendency to flee as I approached,
though a few stood their ground and sullenly touched their forelocks.
Many were also rickety, or covered with festering sores. In the heart
of this poor district I came upon an old Gothic church. It turned out
to be the parish church, and Roman Catholic. A constant stream of the
devout, mostly rather shabby, flowed in at one door and out at
another.

After a while the streets began to improve, and presently I emerged
upon a great avenue bordered by gardens and opulent-looking houses of
the sort which I now recognized as both Asiatic and modern.

One of these pocket-mansions was apparently my own, for I entered it
without permission. It was a delightful, even a luxurious building,
and I reflected that changing my world I had also "gone up in the
world."

At the sound of my entry a manservant appeared in a vaguely
"Beefeater" kind of livery. Flinging him my bathers and towel, I
opened a door out of the entrance hall and went into a sitting room.
Before I had time to study it, a woman rose from some cushions on the
floor and caught me in her arms.

"Tom! Base Tom," she said, smiling gaily. "'Tis but a month since we
wed, and already thou art entarded for thy Sunday dinner! Foolish me
to let thee practice thy Asiatic water-vice unkeepered!"

A bachelor, I might have shown some confusion at this reception, but I
found myself embracing her with proprietary confidence and zestfully
kissing her lips.

"Sweet Betty, let me envisage thee," I said, "to see if thou art worn
with pining for me."

So this was my wife, and her name was Betty, and we had been married a
month and were evidently still very pleased about it. She was fair,
superbly Nordic. Behind the sparkle of her laughing eyes I detected a
formidable earnestness. She was tall. Her green silk kimono veiled the
contours of an Amazon. As she broke from me and swept through the
door, smiling over her shoulder, I wondered how I had ever persuaded
such a splendid creature to marry me.

The gong (a Chinese bronze) was sounding for our Sunday dinner. I
rushed upstairs to wash, but on the landing I encountered our Japanese
guests. He was a slim middle-aged figure in brocade of decent grey.
She, much younger, was slight, trousered in deep blue shantung, and
vested in crimson. The light was behind her, and I saw almost nothing
of her face.

I bowed deeply and began to speak in Japanese. It was rather
terrifying to watch the appropriate thoughts emerge in my mind and
embody themselves fluently in a language of which I supposed myself to
be completely ignorant. "I hope, sir, that you had a successful
morning, and that you will not have to leave us again today. We should
like to take you to call on some friends who long to meet you." The
couple returned my salute, I thought, rather sadly. I was soon to
discover that they had reason for gloom.

"Alas," he said, "our experience this morning suggests that we had
better not appear in public more than we can help. Since the crisis,
your countrymen do not like the Yellows. If you still permit, we will
stay with you till my business is done and our ship sails; but for
your sakes and our own, it is better that we should not risk further
trouble." I was about to protest, but he raised his hand, smiled, and
ushered his wife downstairs.

After washing in the tiled and chromium-plated bathroom (the taps
screwed the wrong way), I hurried into our bedroom to brush my hair.
It was a relief to find that the mirror still showed my familiar face;
but whether through the refreshment of the bathe or owing to more
enduring causes, I appeared rather healthier and more prosperous than
was customary in my other world.

On the dressing table was a newspaper. The bulk of it was written in
English, but a few columns and a few advertisements were in Japanese.
I vaguely remembered reading it in bed over an early cup of tea. It
was called, I think, The Sunday Watchman. I opened it, and discovered
on the main page, in huge headlines, "Ultimatum to the Yellow Peoples.
Hands off Europe. Britain will defend her allies."

Betty's clear voice bade me hurry, and not be so "special" over my
toilet.

When I arrived downstairs, she was explaining to the guests, in her
serviceable but rather inaccurate Japanese, that she had again taken
them at their word, and ordered a typical English meal for them.
"Although," she said, with the faintest emphasis, "we ourselves are
now more used to Eastern diet."

It fell to me to carve the roast beef of old England and at the same
time to make conversation in Japanese. To judge by the ease with which
I combined these actions, both must have been familiar.

Yet every moment of my experience was completely novel and fantastic.
With curiosity and yet familiarity my eyes roamed about the room. The
dinner service was of China, in both senses. To be in keeping with the
affectedly native meal it should have been of pewter or wood. With
some amusement I noted our elegant little thin-stemmed, flat-bowled
sake cups, of silver, gold-inlaid. These I had bought in Nagasaki on
my last visit to the East. Evidently my wife had been unable to resist
the temptation of displaying them, though they were quite incongruous
in a sample English meal. The furniture was vaguely Tudor, so to
speak. On the walls hung painted silks which I knew to be Chinese and
Japanese, though some of them were confusingly reminiscent of
modernist European art in my other world. I regarded with special
pride and affection a tall silken panel on which was very delicately
and abstractly suggested a slender waterfall surrounded by autumnal
trees. Wreaths of mist or spray veiled the further foliage. Above, and
more remote, domes of forest, receding, one behind the other, loomed
ghostly through clouds. "Forest on forest hung about his head," I
murmured to myself, and wondered whether in my new, strange world
Keats had any footing. This much prized panel, this silken forest of
copper and gold and pearl grey, I had bought from an artist in Tokyo.

The company was as hybrid as the room. Two English maidservants in
mobcaps and laced bodices moved demurely in the background. Opposite
me sat my exquisitely English wife, the warm tone of her sunned arms
contrasting with the cool parchment-like skin of the Japanese lady.
The grave and slightly grizzled Mr. Kawamura was typical (I half
guessed it, half remembered) of the finer sort of Japanese man of
affairs. He was a "shipping director," which was the Japanese
equivalent of a ship owner. That is, he was a civil servant in control
of a line of steamers. In Japan, I recollected, all the means of
production were now state-owned.

This fact, along with others that cropped up in the course of
conversation, made me revise my view of the relation of my new world
to my old. I had guessed that the roles of Japan and Britain were
simply reversed. But evidently the situation was more complicated that
that, for Japan was some sort of socialist state. I was soon to have
further evidence of complication.

My intense curiosity about everything, and my anxiety lest my own
behaviour should betray me, bid fair to be eclipsed by a third
interest, namely the fascination of Mrs. Kawamura's personality. I was
at first inclined to think of her as a modernized and world-conscious
reincarnation of the Lady Murasaki; but presently I learned that she
was in fact a native not of Japan but of China. Though her shining
black hair was cut short, and her whole bearing, like her dress, was
frankly modern, her features (of old ivory) and also her grave
intelligent expression suggested the ancient culture of her race. In
spite of her "shingle" and bare arms, she reminded me of a certain
very delicate Chinese miniature painter and embroidered on silk. This
I had long ago encountered in my other world, and its pale perfect
face had become my symbol of all the best in China. Mrs. Kawamura's
was this face done large and with an added largeness of spirit. Her
heavy eyelids gave her an expression of perpetual meditation. A sweet
and subtle mockery played about her eyes and lips. But more
particularly I was intrigued by her manner, by the way in which she
moved her hands and turned her head. Her whole demeanour reminded me
of the action of an artist engaged on some very precise but ample
piece of brush-work, so exact it was, yet flowing.

Between the courses Mrs. Kawamura drew a cigarette case from her
pochette and asked if it was permitted to smoke at such an early stage
in an English meal. Betty, after a minute pause, hastened to say,
"Why, of course, in the houses of those who have travelled." Up to
this point I had played my part without a single lapse, but now at
last I tripped. Automatically I produced a matchbox from my pocket,
struck a light, and offered it for her convenience. Mrs. Kawamura
hesitated for a moment, looked me in the eyes, glanced at my wife,
then smilingly shook her head and used her own cigarette lighter.
Betty, I saw, was blushing and trying not to show bewilderment and
distress. In a flash it came upon me that in England (of this new
world) one did not offer to light a woman's cigarette unless one was
very intimate with her. I began to stammer an apology; but Mr.
Kawamura saved the situation with a laugh, and said to Betty, "Your
husband forgot that he is no longer in Japan, where that action is
considered only common politeness." I snatched at this excuse. "Yes,"
I said, "I grew so used to it. And today I have had too much sun." It
was Betty's turn to laugh, as best she could. Lapsing into English,
she said, "Thy Oriental ways keep surprising me, Tom, but I expect I
shall get used to them." In Japanese she added, "Of course England is
rather stupid about some things."

Mrs. Kawamura leaned toward Betty and lightly touched the hand that
still nervously crumbled a piece of bread. There was nothing of
patronage in the act; or if there was, it was rendered inoffensive by
the sincere and rather timid respect of the culture which is already
in full and determinate blossom for the culture which has still to
unfold. "You English women," she said, "have a great task. You have to
see that your men preserve what is best in England while they absorb
what is best in the East." Smiling at her husband, she continued, "Men
are all such boys. They run after flashy new things and throw away the
well-tried old things. Azuki, there, is much more interested in his
new turbo-electric liner than in the incomparable literature of my
country." This mischievous sally was evidently well directed, for Mr.
Kawamura responded with amiable indignation, asserting his claim to be
an amateur of letters, and adding that if no one thought about ships
and other practical matters, no one would have leisure to enjoy
Chinese literature.

Thus far the talk had avoided the subject which was in all our minds,
the international crisis. By common consent we had spoken only of
personal matters, of a Kawamura nephew who was studying in Canton and
of Betty's young sister, at an Orientalised school in London. But the
conversation was now definitely turned to the differences between East
and West. Our guests generously praised the courage and enterprise
which, within eighty years, had changed Britain from a feudal to a
modern industrial community of the first rank. To this I politely
replied that we had but copied what Japan's genius had created. For
had not the Japanese been the pioneers of mechanical invention and
commercial organization during four of the most momentous centuries of
human history? "If at the dawn of our era, after Rome's fall, we
English had been as great seamen as the Japanese have always been, we
might have forestalled you. But though Nordic sea-rovers contributed
to our racial stock, we did not preserve their maritime habits. Nor
did the continent of Europe." The words slid easily from my lips, but
they were startling news to my mind.

Mrs. Kawamura remarked that in the East there was now a strong
conviction that commercialism and mechanization had in fact done more
harm than good. It had blinded the great majority to all that was most
desirable in life. Were not the English now in grave danger of ruining
their own admirable native culture in their haste to dominate the
world with their new industrial power? "To us," she said, "it seems
terrible that, in spite of our tragic example, you should plunge
blindly into the modern barbarism and grossness from which we
ourselves are only today struggling to escape. And now, just when we
are at last finding the beginnings of peace and wisdom and general
happiness, when the Chinese nations are at last outgrowing their
age-old enmities, when all the Yellow Peoples are becoming reconciled even
to the half-European but mellowing culture of Russia, must we be drawn
into this terrible quarrel between yourselves and New Nippon? If there
is war, how can I ever think of you two dear English people as my
enemies?"

At the mention of New Nippon, I remembered with a shock of surprise
the great independent Federation which included the whole of North
America. This vast community was formerly the most successful of
Japan's colonies and had since become the mightiest of all the
"Eastern Powers."

"But why," I asked, "should you come in at all? This quarrel is so
remote from you. You have no longer any European possessions except
Gibraltar, which you are in the very act of selling to us. Your empire
has fallen from you, and you are happier without it. Your reduced
population makes you far less dependent on foreign trade than
formerly. Your traditional championship of the oppressed should induce
you to side with us, or at least not against us. And what have you to
gain by coming in? Your social conditions are the envy of the East,
and of the West also. And though you are politically eclipsed, you
share with North China the cultural leadership of the world. War will
simply destroy all this. If you come in, you will merely be used as a
tool by your more powerful and less civilized kinsmen. But why should
there be any question of your coming in?"

"Why indeed?" said Mr. Kawamura. Then, after a pause, "The true
reason, I think, is this. Though we have lost our empire we are still
bound to it. Our former dominions in South Africa and South Nippon"
(by this name I knew he referred to Australia) "and our ally the Maori
Kingdom, have a firm hold on us. Such foreign trade as we have (and we
do still need foreign trade) is nearly all of it trade with them.
Well, some of those former dominions are terribly frightened of your
rising power. They have large unoccupied territories; while you and
your inseparable allies the Irish are over-crowded. We have long ago
learned to control the growth of our population, but you persist in
refusing to do so. Inevitably then you must expand. Together with
Ireland, and with the support of your European dependencies, you
constitute a formidable military power." Here he hesitated. "Your
imperialism is at least as ruthless as ours was in the old days. Our
former colonies know well that you will attack them sooner or later.
Better at once, they say, before you are invincible."

Betty broke in to say, "But surely you see that we must free Europe. I
know our policy has often been harsh and provoking. I am not one of
those who think we are always right. But this time we must be firm.
It's a solemn duty."

"Well," continued Mr. Kawamura, "on the whole you have a pretty strong
case; though of course we can't believe you are really going to free
Europe. You are going to take over the management of Europe from New
Nippon. That is the real aim of your elder statesmen. Anyhow, I
personally agree that it is folly for Japan to come into the war. But
racial passion has been roused, partly by the propaganda of trade
interests in New Nippon, partly by your own press. And your Queen,
your great but dangerous Queen, has said things which were bound to
enrage the less balanced sections of our public."

"Yes, Azuki," said Mrs. Kawamura. "But surely by now the less balanced
sections of our public have very little effect on government action.
After all, since our Great Change we are rapidly becoming civilized
enough and cosmopolitan enough to laugh at a few cattish insults." She
checked herself, smiled deprecatingly at Betty, and proceeded. "No, if
our government wanted to keep out, it could. But somehow it seems to
lack the courage to do so. I wonder whether New Nippon has some
horrible secret financial control over us. Not that we can actually
help them much by coming in. But the wealthy caste of New Nippon are
inclined to hate us because we have learned the lesson that they
cannot bring themselves to learn. They know that war would ruin our
modest prosperity and make nonsense of our new, hard-won culture.
Might they not bring us in for sheer spite?"

Her husband raised his eyebrows, and said nothing. The dessert was now
over, and we moved into our "withdrawing room." Here there was rather
more of Japanese influence than in the dining room. The furniture was
of lacquer. A great stone or concrete fireplace, however, betrayed the
English character of the house.

Tea was served in cups of eggshell china, which Mrs. Kawamura
tactfully admired. Betty explained with some self-consciousness that
though tea was not included in the orthodox English diet, we had grown
very dependent on this most refreshing Oriental drink and could not
face the prospect, of doing without it after our Sunday dinner. The
habit was indeed rapidly spreading.

Before seating myself I had picked up a large book which I rightly
expected to be an atlas. During the ensuing conversation I turned over
its pages. I came first on a map of the British Isles. The "Kingdom of
Ireland" was coloured green, the Kingdoms of England and Scotland red.
Towns, mountains, and rivers mostly bore familiar names. A population
map revealed the well-known concentrations around London and in the
industrial North, but towns and rural areas were both more populous
than in my "other world." Ireland, moreover, contained almost as many
people as England, presumably because throughout its history it had
developed as an independent community. The total population of the
British Isles was over seventy million.

Turning to a map of Europe, I found the northern half of France
labelled "Kingdom of France," and coloured red, like Britain. The
Netherlands and all the coastlands of the Western Baltic appeared pink
and were dubbed "Liberated Nordic Principalities." Pink proved to be
the colour of "British Protectorates and Dependencies." Most of these
principalities, together with much of Central Europe and Italy, were
embraced within a crimson border. Across this vast territory was
printed "Holy Roman Empire." This region, and indeed most of Europe,
was divided into a mosaic of principalities, duchies, free cities.
Scattered around all the coasts of the continent were little patches
of yellow, the largest of which included Hamburg. The key gave yellow
as "Terrains seized by New Nippon." Large tracts in the Iberian
Peninsula, the Balkans, Western Russia, and the eastern marches of the
Empire were coloured buff and labelled "War Lords," or "No Settled
Government," or "Workers' Councils." The eastern half of Russia bore
the legend, "Union of Socialist Conciliar Republics."

A map of the world showed this "Soviet" Union (if I may so translate
it) as extending to the Pacific. Its centre of gravity was evidently
well to the east, for its capital was a town not far from the Chinese
frontier, bearing a Mongolian name unfamiliar to me. China consisted
of three great republics. Korea and Manchuria were independent
"Empires." India was a congeries of native states. Across the whole
subcontinent was printed, "Aryan Peoples Liberated from Japan," with
appropriate dates. Many others were coloured with the yellow of New
Nippon. That most formidable of the "Eastern" Powers, which extended
from the Arctic to Mexico, was covered with Japanese names. Its
capital was a city where San Francisco should have been. In South
America, which was cut up into many states, such names as were not
native were obviously of Chinese origin. In place of the three great
British dominions of the Southern Hemisphere appeared "Nippon in
Afric," "South Nippon," and "Maori Kingdom," all of them independent.

While I was still poring over the atlas, the church clock chimed the
hour. Betty rose, saying to the guests, "It is almost time for the
Queen's speech. I hope you will excuse us if we listen, for it is a
solemn duty for all Britons to hear Her Majesty today." The Kawamuras
assured her that, though they could not understand English, they would
gladly listen to the world-famous voice. Betty thanked them, pressed
the switch, and resumed her seat.

The news bulletin was being announced in an intensively cultivated
English voice. The language was a kind of English which in my "other
world" I should have regarded as a fantastic hybrid of Babu and
Elizabethan. Familiar words bore strange yet intelligible meanings, or
were piquantly misshapen. As I listened I interjected an occasional
sentence of Japanese translation for our guests. If my memory is
faithful, what I heard was roughly as follows; but much of the
linguistic oddity has escaped me.

In the East End of London, the voice assured us, revulsion was now
stilled. The Lord High Sheriff, mindful of the foreign peril, had
gripped this homely peril firmly. He was resolved to convince the
erring commonalty of that region that they had been abduced by foreign
tongue-wielders, and that the witful British people would none of
their treason. All good Europeans should be mindful that, though
Russia was partly European, the dangerous political thoughts of the
Conciliar Union and its emissaries were wholly Asiatic. The Lord
Sheriff had therefore encompassed the whole revulsive region in a
martial cincture. Two warships in the Thames had cast shells on Poplar
and Canning Town, till all the rebel holds were disrupted. Soon after
dawn the obedient troops advanced. Their compressive movement met no
repugnance. The rebels abjected their arms, and twelve score
ringleaders were enchained. These were judged; and duly hanged, drawn,
and quartered, in the presence of a God-thanking crowd. Some thousands
of the less outstanding rebels were being concentered in temporary
castrations, afield in Essex, to await Her Majesty's pleasure.

After a pause the voice resumed in an awed tone which skillfully
suggested suppressed excitement. Listeners, it said, were now to hear
the living voice of their Sovereign. When the speaker solemnly
commanded all who heard to stand, Betty and I promptly rose to our
feet. Our guests, after one bewildered glance, followed suit. In an
awed monotone, the announcer proclaimed: "Her Most Pure and Invincible
Majesty, Godiva, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Christian Faith,
Protector of the Holy Roman Empire, Queen."

After another pause another voice possessed the air, a somewhat husky,
but regal, and withal seductive contralto.

"My subjects! My most loyal friends, English and Scottish! And ye, my
few but faithful Welsh! All, all whose home is Britain, this
demi-paradise, as our immortal Strongbow names it, this isle set in the
silver sea. And you, my gallant French! And all my indefatigable
Teutons! Others, too, I call; you my loving neighbors in the Green
Isle, subjects of my dear cousin Shean. And not only to these I speak,
but to all Europeans, of whatever nation and estate. For all, all of
us together, are now affronted by this most severe and instant peril.
Oh my peoples, all mine in spirit, though not all in title! Our homely
differings now slip from us. We remind us only that we are one kin,
colleagued together at last against the cunning, the heartless, the
lascivious and Godless Yellows."

Such undiplomatic language was startling, even from our outspoken
Queen. Explanation was soon to follow.

"It is not long since the last great war obtended its dark bloody
wings over our continent. I myself, though scarce in the full bloom of
my womanhood," (Betty at this point made a movement of surprise) "even
I can remember the victorious geste of British and French hosts
against the heroic but miswitting Germans, whom foreign devils had
abduced. I can recall well the day, soon after the handfasting of the
peace, when I, the child Queen of Britain, was plauded by the rejoyed
Parisians and crowned Queen of France, thereby resuming the lapsed
title of my forebears. I can remember how the North German lords, who
had by then destrued their own traitorous princes, now wishfully and
gladly laid their crownlets at my feet, my small ensatined feet."

Here the Queen paused. Mrs. Kawamura took the opportunity of disposing
of a lengthy and precarious cigarette ash. Our eyes met. She knew no
English, but it seemed that merely through the Queen's vocal demeanour
she sensed the essence of the situation. I shall not forget how, when
I had signalled mock distress, the noncommittal politeness of her
glance was lit by relief and sad amusement.

Her Majesty continued. "Oh, Great White Peoples, since that war, much
has happened. Through all those years I have striven to be worthy of
the task which the ensworded Christ has set upon me, the delivery of
Europe. For let us remind ourselves of well-known truth. In all our
churches, our divine and most courageous Captain hangs crossed upon
the blade and hilt of the Sword. That same Sword, when he had risen
from the dead, he himself grasped, and wields today, leading the
Faithful. He came not to bring peace. And I, though till today I have
besieged my just aims by parley, am his lieutenant. Though it was by
parley and fine machinations that I and my counsellors defted the
Japanese from all their treaty ports, it was the springing strength of
my army and navy and my aerials that rendered those pacific arguments
convictive. But now, today, argument has failed; and I am here to call
upon you, all White Peoples, to take arms in earnest. For the hour has
come when we must constrain New Nippon to disgorge her rapine, or else
betray irrevocably the cause for which we stand together."

Strange, I thought to myself, that only yesterday, before I had my
mysterious dream of the other world (for I was beginning to reverse my
view as to which world was real and which was fantasy) I might have
applauded the Queen's apologia! And there stood Betty, till now my
soul's twin, drinking the royal words with no misgiving.

The Queen continued. "I have recently and justly claimed on behalf of
the Germans, Hamburg; for the French, Bordeaux; and for the Lambards,
Genova. As ye already wit, Europeans, parley having failed, I have
been constrained, after close heart-prying, to obdict an ultimatum.
But what I shall now tell you, my peoples, will be newspell to you.
Prevising clearly the rebutment of that ultimatum, I forestalled the
New Nippon retort. I struck. And already, even as I speak they bring
me word that Hamburg's defences have been destrued by my brave
aerials. A gallant geste, and most enheartening newspell, oh White
Peoples! But let us not deceive ourselves. Dire days leap toward us.
The whole force of New Nippon and of the Chinese Republic, and haply
of Japan also, will be oppugned against us. Nothing can save us now
but crazy hardihood."

Again the Queen paused. Betty's large eyes sought mine, but I dared
not face them. Mrs. Kawamura's had found diversion in watching a
tomtit through the window. Her husband was obviously wondering if he
could sit without committing lese majeste.

The royal voice resumed. "Oh men and women of Europe! We shall one and
all be stricken by the hugest and most contorturous of wars. The sky
will rain fire and poison. Millions shall die. But oh Europeans, let
such as die, die singing to the ensworded Christ, whose truth we stand
for. Let such as live, live hate fast toward the Yellows, till all the
coasts of Europe be purged of these slot-eyed commercers of the East:
who suck and squander the natural wealth of our continent; who undo
the native toughness of our bodies by teaching us their own soft life;
who undo the strength of our souls by logiking that our holy Church is
founded on lies, and that our Christ, like their own Buddha, prized
gentleness above fortitude. They gave us opium. They have tempted our
coupling lovers with filthy lore to prevent the sacred burden of
motherhood, hoping thereby to thin our numbers. Women of Europe,
consider! In Japan, so little do men prize virtue, that husbands lend
out their wives to any guest for the night. And what wives, what
women! Painted! Lewdly exhibiting their jaundy breasts, and..."

I sprang to the radio and snapped the switch. "Tom, Tom," cried Betty,
gripping my arm. "What ails thee? Her Majesty! If someone should have
heard you check her!" Then laughter seized me. Mrs. Kawamura smiled,
perplexed, demure. Mists and irrelevant shapes came before my eyes.
Still laughing, I woke in my "other world." I was in the horsehair
chair by the fireplace in my lodging-house sitting room. My landlady,
who was clearing away my Sunday dinner, was laughing too, apparently
at something I had said or done, for she now remarked, "Well, you are
a queer one!" The lace curtains fluttered by the open window. In the
garden my "bather" and towel were swinging on the clothesline.



ARMS OUT OF HAND

SIR JAMES TOOK UP HIS PEN FOR THE FATEFUL LETTER. He wrote the date
and "Dear Councillor Saunderson." Then his hand stayed motionless. The
words that should have followed were ready in his mind, but his hand
refused to move. The fingers slackened. The pen slipped from his grip,
and rolled away. He tried to pick it up, but his right arm was
impotent.

Startled and alarmed, he nevertheless felt, and quickly suppressed, a
flash of glee; the letter would have to be postponed. He rose from his
desk. His arm fell loose at his side, and dangled like the neck of a
freshly killed fowl. Anxiously, he tried his other limbs, and found
them normal. But he could no more move his right arm than shift a
mountain. He crossed the room, and collapsed in an easy chair. The
paralysed arm swung behind him, so that he sat heavily on the hand. No
pain, no sensation at all, was felt in the sick member.

Sir James Power was a successful and respected citizen. He had climbed
to his present position by sheer hard work and intelligence. Managing
director and principal shareholder of a large store in a large
provincial city, he prided himself equally on the efficiency of his
business and his treatment of his employees. Good conditions, good
wages, a profit-sharing scheme, and generous care in sickness afforded
them all that they could reasonably demand. True, he expected them to
work, and to keep his regulations; and also to show the same devotion
to the firm as he himself had always shown. He was never tired of
telling them that they were public servants, not merely servants of a
private firm. Somehow his exhortations did not have the effect that he
wished. A few of the staff did indeed respond with devotion, but less
through loyalty to the firm and its social function than through
personal respect for himself. But others, in fact the great majority,
seemed to be quite cynically concerned with their own interests,
believing apparently that he was no more public-spirited than they
were themselves. His exhortations they regarded as mere tricks of the
slave-driver bent on private profit. Very few (he felt) had the
imagination to realize that the motive of all his own hard work was
sheer public service. Still less did they understand that he cared for
their welfare as though they were his children.

It was because of his public position that he felt bound to write the
letter. He must protest against the treatment of certain hot-headed
young men by the police; and his first step must be a private protest
to the member of the City Council who, according to his information,
had instigated police action. The young men were unemployed and had
brought themselves into bad odour with the authorities by organizing
demonstrations of the unemployed. They had succeeded in arousing
considerable public hostility to the great steel firm that had
formerly employed them. Councillor Saunderson was the head of that
firm. The leaders of the protest movement had been very careful to
keep within the law. The police for long failed to find a sound reason
for interfering. But at last they raided the head-quarters of the
movement and found a large number of leaflets, which, with a stretch
of the imagination, could be interpreted as seditious and moreover as
aimed at the troops. The details of the case do not concern this
account of Sir James' strange illness. Suffice it that the young men
were at last jailed, and that Sir James, as a staunch defender of the
rights of the individual, had been urgently appealed to by several
worthy societies to use his influence on their behalf. He had been
very reluctant to take action. He had always insisted that his
interest in politics was confined to the defence of individual freedom
and private enterprise. Hence his choice of a political party. But the
violent ideas of Communism were obviously causing unrest among the
discontented sections of society, and they would have to be suppressed
before matters became serious. He knew almost nothing about Communism
as a political theory, and cared less. But one thing he reckoned he
did know. In this critical period, revolutionary ideas were dangerous.
Moreover, his own experience of men had taught him that private
enterprise in pursuit of one's own interest was the lifeblood of
society. And as to unemployment, it was unfortunately necessary to put
up with a good deal of it in times of depression so that there might
be a sufficient labour pool in times of prosperity.

It was for these reasons that Sir James was so painfully torn over the
writing of the letter. His habitual loyalty to the idea of freedom
compelled him to write it; but as a believer in law and order and a
supporter of the existing social system, he was on the side of
authority against irresponsible agitators. Moreover, in writing the
letter he must inevitably come into conflict with eminent citizens and
mighty forces. He fully realized that to write the letter was to range
himself on the side of riffraff and against highly respected persons
with whom he had always managed to keep on good terms. His action
would be treated as a declaration of war. Moreover, the public enquiry
which he must demand might reveal certain facts in his own career,
facts which, though not illegal, would somehow look a little
incongruous in the life of an exceptionally upright man and a champion
of liberty. Indeed his enemies would be able to put quite a sinister
interpretation on them.

For Sir James himself had sometimes been ruthless with his employees.
He had acted on the principle that, to prevent the perversion of the
many, one must sometimes crush the few, even if by methods not
publicly sanctioned. A few years earlier, certain members of his staff
had begun to spread Communist doctrines among their colleagues. They
had succeeded in rousing a certain amount of discontent, and might in
time undermine the morale of the whole staff. In deciding to
interfere, Sir James was of course not concerned with politics but
simply with the efficiency of his business. It had been a ticklish
matter. He was particularly anxious to avoid the charge that he had
dismissed the agitators because of their political opinions. He had
therefore ingeniously arranged for them to find themselves in a
position of great temptation. The details, once more, are irrelevant.
Suffice it that they were given the opportunity of stealing the firm's
property on a large scale. Two of them succumbed to the temptation,
were caught in the act, convicted, and jailed. It had been easy to
dismiss the others as suspects.

Unfortunately certain individuals who had helped to set the trap were
no longer under Sir James' control. They had already tried to damage
his reputation by telling the story, but hitherto no one had believed
them. How could anyone be expected to believe such a charge brought
against a highly respected alderman by persons who obviously bore him
a grudge. Sir James' new enemies, however, would be only too glad to
use the information to raise a scandal. So in more ways than one it
had been hard for him to bring himself to the point of writing the
letter.

And now at the last moment a strange fate had thwarted him.

For, some minutes Sir James sat in his big leather-covered chair,
wondering whether he had had a stroke. Obviously he ought to call the
doctor at once, but somehow he did not. He prided himself on being an
exceptionally healthy man and on his power of overcoming minor
ailments by methods spiritual rather than medical. He was not actually
a Christian Scientist but he believed that the best cure for most
diseases was a combination of prayer and a refusal to admit that one
was ill. Physical illness, he secretly believed, was always a sign of
spiritual illness. The fact that he himself was so healthy was
probably his main reason for this belief. Medicine, he was convinced,
was mainly quackery. Fresh air, exercise, temperate eating, and "total
abstinence" were all that were necessary on the physical side. For the
rest, if you could face God with a good conscience, He would keep you
fit.

But this sudden affliction? Surely he was still far too young to begin
breaking up. Though he was well on in the forties, everyone said he
looked ten years younger. Of course he had been overstraining himself
lately, what with his growing business and his increasingly active
public life. And in the last few weeks there had been this quite
exceptional worry, culminating in the need to write that letter. It
was grievously tempting to shirk this duty, for he could so easily let
the whole matter slide. Yes, but everyone would know that he had
deliberately kept silent, and betrayed all that he had stood for in
the life of the Chapel, all those lay sermons he had preached on
business morality, and the trusteeship of the heads of industry and of
the city fathers.

The thing must be done. Emphatically he stubbed his cigarette; and
suddenly realized that he was doing it with his right hand. He moved
the arm about to test it. He rose and picked up a chair. He held it
out at arm's length. Apparently all was well again, and he even began
to wonder whether the whole affair had been some sort of illusion.

Once more he sat down at his desk, and with a sigh he took up his pen.
For a while he considered the right opening, but his mind soon
wandered off in reverie. Then suddenly he came to with the startling
discovery that after "My Dear Councillor Saunderson," he had written,
"You treated those young swine the right way, and you can count on my
support. If people like us don't take a strong line and stand
together, we shall lose control. Good luck, you old bugger!"

Sir James snatched up the letter with his left hand, crumpled it, and
threw it into the fire. He took another sheet and began again. "My
dear," but his right arm again became paralysed. He rose and walked
about the room. Presently he noticed that he was blowing his nose with
his right hand. The arm was normal again.

At this point his secretary came in to consult him about a doubtful
passage in some scribbled notes that he had given her to type. Miss
Smith, Mildred to her family, was something more than the ideal
secretary. On the telephone she had of course a voice like sunshine.
Her shorthand and typing were of course perfect. She knew almost as
much about the business as the Managing Director, for on many
occasions he had taken her into his confidence. More remarkable, she
had such a gift of intuitive insight into human character that her
employer often consulted her about members of the staff; and he had
learned to rely on her judgment. She had even been known to criticize
Sir James himself, and he to act upon her criticism. She would
generally make her point indirectly, and with such tact and humour
that the implied censure could be acted on without loss of dignity.
Nearly always her criticism took the form of revealing the other
person's point of view more clearly than Sir James had been able to
conceive it and of suggesting a line of action less high-handed than
he had intended.

In spite of her remarkable virtues, she was not perfect. Sometimes her
employer had to reprimand her for allowing her sense of humour to run
riot. There was an occasion when, at the end of a painful interview
with a junior member of the staff, he had been forced to sack the
young man for insolence. Miss Smith had afterwards told Sir James that
he had "looked like a cat bitten by the mouse it was playing with." He
made it clear to her that he was not amused.

In addition to her other assets, Miss Smith had charm. She was not,
according to conventional standards, a beauty. Her nose was a dainty
but undignified little mushroom; her mouth was more humorous than
seductive. But her features were adequate, and a bright and generous
spirit seemed to light them up from within. This charm of hers she
used very effectively in her employer's service, protecting him from
unwanted callers without causing offence, and so on. She also used it
on her employer himself. Who can blame a pretty woman, conscious of
her charm, but also of her sincerity and efficiency, for using all her
art to persuade this handsome, upright, wealthy, and distinguished
knight that they two were destined for one another? She felt sure,
moreover, that, in an obscure way, he was already in love with her,
though he would not allow himself to notice such a disturbing fact. Of
course, though he treated her always with a very special consideration
and respect, he had never (he supposed) encouraged her to hope for
anything more intimate. Indeed she herself wondered how she dared
expect him ever to offer her more. He was so far above her; and so
busy that he simply had no time to notice her, save as an efficient
secretary, and just now and then as a junior friend. Yet she was
convinced that he needed her, not merely as a secretary but as a mate.

The great man and his secretary stood poring over the pencilled
sheets. Suddenly she exclaimed, "Oh, please, Sir James, you mustn't!"
Not till that moment was he aware that his right arm had encircled her
waist and that his right hand was hungrily feeling about her person.
Unwittingly he had pressed her to his side with considerable vigour,
and to his dismay he found that he could not release her. The limb
acted on its own, and he could no more control it than one can inhibit
vomiting or sneezing when these reflexes are already going forward.
She gently struggled to free herself. His grip tightened. "Please,
please let me go!" she implored him; but he wailed in answer, "I can't
let you go, I can't." Whereupon Miss Smith, though generally so adept
at sensing personal situations, for once made a grave mistake. Taking
this remark as a confession of uncontrollable love, she sighed "Oh, my
dear," and laid her head on his shoulder. But he protested, "It's not
me, it's my arm. Something awful has happened to it." He vainly tried
with his left hand to unclasp his right arm. But now she, realizing
that she had made a fool of herself, pressed both hands against his
chest and broke away. "My profound apologies," he gasped, panting with
his right arm's exertion, "but believe me, Miss Smith, I am really
ill, and I couldn't control my arm at all." She had hurried to the
door. Hastily he added, "I suppose you will want to leave me. I will
do all I can to help you to find a good post. Please, please, believe
me that I meant no disrespect." With a hand on the doorknob she turned
and looked at him. He was standing with bowed head almost like a
naughty schoolboy. His right arm hung limply. For a full minute she
watched him; then unlatched the door, then closed it. Presently she
said, "I do indeed believe you. But oh what a fool I must seem to
you!" Controlling her emotion as best she could, she added shakily, "I
don't want to leave you. You'll need me, and I want to help you. But
oh, I can't stay now." There was silence. Then he said, almost in a
whisper, "Very humbly, very, very humbly, I ask you to stay."

The telephone rang in the outer office, and Miss Smith hurried away to
answer the call. Employer and secretary were soon immersed in the
business of the day. Neither made any reference to the recent trouble,
and the rebel arm fulfilled its normal tasks as though nothing had
happened. But the letter was not written.

Before leaving at the end of the day, Miss Smith had urged Sir James
to call in a doctor, but he was not persuaded. He allowed her,
however, to cancel his engagement to speak that evening at the
Christian Forum. After dining alone he retired to his study for coffee
and a smoke. The cat was curled up in his armchair. It was the one
creature whose presence he found entirely easeful and delightful. He
lifted it gently and sat down with it in his lap. Sipping his coffee,
pulling at his pipe, occasionally stroking the cat's sleek black coat,
he pondered on the events of the day. It seemed impossible that his
arm should ever have run amok, so quietly and naturally the fingers
passed over the silken fur. Purring, the cat extended itself up his
waistcoat. He scratched behind its ears. Suddenly his fingers seized
the animal by the neck ad gripped it savagely. It struggled and
fought. In horror Sir James tried with his left hand to rescue the
cat, but his right arm held the animal out at arm's length, and well
to the side, so that the left arm could not reach it. He rose from his
chair and tried to jamb his right arm against the wall so as to flex
it and bring the hand within reach of his left hand. The muscles of
his shoulders and chest were strained in a painful conflict, some
obedient to the strange will that possessed the right arm, some to Sir
James himself. The right arm remained stiff as a rod. The grip seemed
superhumanly powerful, for the cat's tongue was forced out, and it
could not make a sound. Presently its struggles weakened, then ceased.
The hand released it, and it fell limply to the ground. The arm too
fell limply, paralysed. Sir James knelt beside the cat in great
distress, whimpering, "Oh God, what have I done!" The cat was still
alive, and already showing signs of recovery. With both arms he picked
it up and laid it on a cushion in front of the fire. Then he crept
miserably into his easy chair feeling shattered and faint.

Obviously he must telephone to the doctor; but when he had at last
forced himself to accept his fate, and had already reached out his
hand for the receiver, it occurred to him that the doctor would
certainly turn him over to a psychiatrist. All this mind-healing was
worse than quackery; it was diabolical, and terribly dangerous. These
people, he was convinced, were instruments of Satan. They made a
fetish of sex, and their whole attitude was shockingly immoral.
Besides, once in their clutches, there was no privacy. They dragged
out one's secret thoughts, and they made one mentally enslaved to
their own personalities. No, he would conquer this devilish thing with
his own strength and the help of his religion. It was surely an ordeal
sent to test him. But meanwhile, how was he to face the world? There
was no knowing what tricks his arm might play. A bright idea came to
him. He would give out that he had damaged his arm and had to wear it
bound to his body for support. After a few minutes cogitation he stood
up, flung the armchair violently backwards onto the floor, laid the
cat near it, and rang for his housekeeper. When she arrived, he told
her an ingenious story. In order to reach a volume on the top shelf of
the high bookcase he had foolishly stood on the back of the armchair.
The chair had tipped over, and he had fallen heavily on the cat, badly
straining his arm. The cat seemed to be recovering, but would need a
bit of nursing. As for himself, would she please help him to bandage
his arm firmly to his body, under his coat.

It was in this condition that he appeared at his office the next day.
He took his secretary into his confidence, telling her that if she was
alarmed by the cat incident he would release her at once. But his
plight made her all the more determined to look after him. As the days
passed, he grew more and more dependent on her, not only as a
substitute for his right arm, but as a source of courage and sanity.
The fact that she had welcomed his rebel arm's embrace gave him a
greater satisfaction than he dared admit to himself. It also put him
on his guard against a possible entanglement. But he could not help
admiring her enterprise in staying on in a very awkward and even
dangerous position. His behaviour toward her alternated between formal
politeness and a respectful affection which he had not hitherto shown.
She felt that at times he was really noticing her and admiring her for
qualities other than mere secretarial efficiency.

The days passed, and there were no further incidents. He took to
discarding the cumbersome bandages and wearing a sling which, he
believed, would be sufficient to delay any rebellious act until he
could cope with the situation. Very soon he decided that, while he was
alone in his private office, even the sling was unnecessary. If a
visitor called, or some member of the staff came to consult him, Miss
Smith would go into the sanctum and help him to put on the sling
before the visitor was admitted.

It almost seemed that he was completely cured, for only in one respect
was he in any way abnormal. Whenever he set out to write the crucial
letter, his right arm became paralysed. The inhibition, moreover,
extended beyond his arm. For instance, even with his left arm, he
could not write the letter. During the period when he unfailingly wore
his bandage he had done his best to learn to write with his left hand,
and had even sent his left-hand signature to the bank so that he could
sign checks. He now determined that his left hand should do what his
right hand refused to do. But alas, whenever he took pen for that
purpose, his attention was irresistibly drawn away from the letter to
the problem of his right arm. He simply could not force his mind to
the task. Yet at other times, when there was no question of
immediately writing the letter, he could think quite clearly about it,
and he had indeed in imagination constructed every sentence of it.

Time was pressing. The young hot-heads must be rescued. His own moral
reputation must be vindicated. In desperation he decided to take Miss
Smith fully into his confidence about the whole matter, including his
own questionable deeds in the past, so that she could type the letter
for him to sign. He therefore summoned her into the inner office and
directed her not to the secretarial chair beside his desk but to one
of the two easy chairs by the fire. "I want to discuss a very
difficult problem with you," he said, "so, let's be comfortable." He
offered her a cigarette, lit his lighter, and extended it toward her.
While he was in the act of doing so, a restlessness in his right arm
warned him that the limb might at any moment commit some devilry. As
though trying to control a reflex action, he willed with all his might
that the arm should behave itself. Miss Smith, meanwhile, was in no
hurry to light her cigarette. She liked the intimacy of this little
social contact. It symbolized a new equality in their relationship.
When at last the cigarette was lit, she looked up to meet his eyes.
But he was staring at his own hand, and his expression shocked her. It
was one of horror and repugnance. He moved away hastily and sat
opposite her in the other easy chair. There was silence. After a while
he managed to say, "I don't know where to begin;" then fell silent
again. A storm of horrible and obsessive fantasies prevented him from
telling her about his problem. He was overwhelmed by visions of what
might have happened if he had not been able to control his arm. The
rebel limb, he felt, would have thrust the lighter into her face, or
set fire to her hair or her blouse. Or perhaps--but he frantically
tried to dismiss the sadistic and obscene images that crowded into his
mind. When she had waited patiently for some time, she said, "Can I
help you in any way?" but in a strained voice he answered merely, "I
must put on the sling again," and hurried to the cupboard where it was
kept. She came to help him, but he cried, "Keep away, for God's sake!"
Nevertheless, while he gripped his right wrist, she produced the sling
and fixed it for him. "Now you'll be all right," she said, putting a
friendly hand on his shoulder, and smiling into his troubled eyes.
Awkwardly, he murmured, "You are very good to me, my dear."

It seemed as though he would continue in the same vein, but after a
moment's hesitation he merely went back to his desk.

Henceforth he made no attempt at all to write the letter. And, since
over a period of some weeks there were no further abnormal incidents,
he once more discarded the sling.

But one evening another queer thing happened. The Chapel's new and
brilliant young minister, the Reverend Douglas McAndrew, had called in
to consult him about the proposal to equip the Chapel with a more
efficient central heating system. When his guest had left, Sir James
took up a slip of paper on which he had jotted down notes during the
conversation. What he now saw startled him. Against each item on his
list was a ribald and sometimes a blasphemous comment, written in a
rather different hand, a crude, bold, sprawling, and childish hand.
For instance, against the heading "McA's proposals" stood the comment
"To hell with McA, the canting cleric."

When he had recovered from the first shock, and had successfully
refrained from noticing that the comments afforded him a sniggering
delight, he sat for some time in despond. Was he to be dogged forever
by this imp, this devil that had established itself within him? What
did the diabolical spirit want, anyway? He considered its various
actions. If the power that had invaded his body had shown concern
merely with the letter, he might have regarded it as simply some kind
of guardian angel protecting him from ruining his career through sheer
quixotry. But no! The being, or whatever it was, was clearly evil, for
it was grossly sexual, and it delighted in cruelty.

Presently an idea occurred to him. Since the imp could express itself
in writing, he might as well give it a chance to speak more fully, so
that he could find out what it was really after. Then perhaps he would
be able to cope with it, and even (the thought occurred and was
sternly dismissed) to buy it off. With a sense of deep guilt, for he
profoundly disapproved of all dabbling in the occult, he reached for a
fresh piece of paper, took up a pencil, and set his hand in position
for writing. For a while the hand lay still; but presently it made
tentative movements, and then the pencil hurried forward in a flow of
words. The script was again untidy. Sprawling, and affected; yet it
was his own, a distorted and puerile version of his own handwriting.

Horrified but fascinated, he read a strange rigmarole. Much of it was
incoherent blasphemy and obscenity, but it gradually became more
intelligible, revealing a crude and angry personality tormented by the
frustration of its crazy purposes and perverse ideals. The writer
regarded himself as the real Sir James, and as somehow imprisoned and
almost impotent. The most intelligible passage ran as follows:

"What has come over me? Why should I feel bound to write that damned
fool letter? Those young reds must take what comes to them. It's not
my affair at all, and if it was I'd flog them, and then if I had the
nerve, I'd probably hang them. The workers must be taught their place.
Yet it's all I can do to stop myself from making a stupid exhibition
of myself over that letter, and throwing away everything I've built up
in all these years, all my power, all my standing in the city. It's
the slush morality that soaks into one from childhood, soaks into the
soul and softens the nerve. The tripe they put across in the Chapel!
And I help them, fool that I am. Their filthy slave-religion has got
into my blood. To hell with it! I know in my soul I'm a born master,
not a slave. Yet I'm the slave of slaves. Body and mind, I'm bound
except my right arm, sometimes, as now. Curse their poisonous
morality! I have my own morality, the will of the master in me. But I
have let myself be tricked by the slave minds. I'll not be bound by
their cant any more. I'm a man of power, born to lead men of power and
use the slaves as I will. They shall sweat and suffer for me, me, the
master mind. God is not love, he's power, not gentle, but cruel. I'll
work the slaves till they drop dead, for the glory of cruel God. He's
strong and bloody, and the suffering of slaves is the breath of his
life. Of slaves and women. Why have I always held back from women,
feeling a sickly responsibility toward them? Mildred! she wants to own
me, but I want to own her, and by God I'll have her, and not on her
terms. I'll have her for fierce love, and sweet torture. And when
she's broken I'll have others. Why have scruples, why be ashamed? I
shall live as my bold manhood wills. I shall live forever. I'll find
the way. I know I'm God's right hand. God and I are one. And when I
wake fully I shall be clearly God again, as I was before the slaves
caught me. Then I'll pull them to pieces like flies, and laugh."

After this the script became so violent and shocking that Sir James
could stand no more of it. With his left hand he snatched away the
pencil, whereupon the right hand clawed at the left, drawing blood.
The sudden pain seemed to affect the right arm itself, for it fell
inert on the desk.

Sir James' mind too seemed paralysed. He sat staring like a spellbound
rabbit at his right hand. Presently, he recovered sufficiently to
resolve that he must call in the doctor that very evening. But first
he must pray, for obviously Satan was at work in him. He covered his
face with his left hand, and soon his right hand obediently joined it.
He implored the God of his Chapel to free him from this curse,
promising that he would henceforth live a life of blameless devotion.
The more he prayed, the more it seemed to him that to call in medical
aid would be a confession of defeat, of spiritual depravity. No, he
most conquer the invader himself with no aid but the Lord's.

Next morning, of course, his arm was normal. The routine of his life
went on as usual, and he allowed himself to believe that all would be
well. But the presence of Miss Smith disturbed him with horrible
fantasies. His dictating became incoherent, and she could see that he
was in great distress. At last he bowed his head on his hands and
said, "Oh, God, what shall I do?" On a sudden impulse she came and
bent over him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Tell me what is the
matter. Tell me everything. I do so want to help. It's no use my
pretending I don't love you, because you know I do, with all my soul."
Unwisely he raised his own right hand and pressed the hand on his
shoulder. At once the rebel arm woke for independent action, and
seized the little hand on his shoulder. He sprang to his feet, almost
knocking her over, and backed away from her. But his right hand,
gripping her so fiercely that she cried out, dragged her after him.
She vainly struggled to free herself, while his right hand ground the
bones of her fingers and palm in its extravagantly powerful grip. With
his left, Sir James tried in vain to free the prisoner. Then,
remembering the effect of pain, he reached out toward the desk, took
up a pencil, and jabbed again and again at the back of his right hand.
He felt nothing, but the right arm fell paralysed.

Miss Smith stood nursing her crushed member. Tears of physical pain
and mental distress stood in her eyes, and the sight roused in him a
surge of tenderness. She became suddenly a living person to him. He
saw her as something much more admirable than himself, and as a living
spirit suffering because of him. He longed to put his arms round her
and comfort her, and to be with her forever. "My dear," he said, but
said no more. For this sudden access of generous emotion seemed to him
a mere trick of the diabolic power that was tormenting him, a trick to
make him compromise himself with her. His surge of affection quickly
gave place to fear, and even to repugnance. She was the eternal
temptress, an instrument of Satan. If he gave way to sentimentality, he
might be tricked into marrying her. And this he had no intention of
doing. He had long ago consecrated himself to a more important end
than domestic bliss. He thought of himself as a sort of Christian
knight in the service of the Church, or rather Chapel. No,
emphatically he must not get himself entangled. He had important work
to do in the city, and if ever he did take a wife, she must be
carefully chosen. Mildred Smith was only his secretary, and no fit
match for a knighted alderman.

So his manner suddenly changed from warmth to formality. "Miss Smith,"
he said, "you had better go. I am profoundly distressed that you
should have had this painful experience. I am entirely to blame for
keeping you, but I found your services so valuable. As things have
turned out, however, I must very regretfully terminate your connection
with the Firm." She interrupted to say, "But I can't leave you like
this. I must see you through this horrible trouble. I must-," but he
cut her short. "I shall be all right. Please go. Your salary shall be
paid for a month, while you find another post, and I shall do my best
to help you." She turned toward the door, with a rather chilly "Very
well." He added hastily, "I shall be deeply obligated if you will
allow me personally, as a token of my gratitude for all you have done,
also to pay you an annuity of fifty pounds; of course on condition
that you say nothing about your unfortunate experience here."

She looked at him with an expression in which tenderness seemed to
struggle with indignation, then laid a hand on the doorknob. He moved
over to her urging her to accept his offer and raising the annuity to
a hundred pounds. Indignantly she turned the handle. He pressed closer
to her, urgently but pompously pleading. Suddenly he became aware of a
change in the situation. His left hand had felt for her right hand on
the doorknob. She had withdrawn her hand, but his left hand gently
seized it, and was now raising it to his lips. His formal and tactless
remarks were smothered in a kiss. The whole action of his left arm,
though not of his lips, was automatic; yet he had no direct awareness
of it until he saw the movement of his left hand as it raised her hand
toward his lips. And then he felt the soft, smooth contact on his
speaking lips. There was a little pause before she snatched her hand
away, and he at the same moment stepped back from her. The kiss, for
he had allowed his lips to play their part, and in no grudging manner,
indeed with fervour, had flooded him once more with a glow of
affection and opened his eyes to the heartlessness of his recent
proposal. But panic soon seized him. For a moment it had been
difficult to tear himself away. But he did so, and as he stepped back
his left arm extended itself toward her with the hand upturned in an
unmistakable though mute appeal. Then it quietly sank to his side.

They stood looking at one another. Presently he noticed that her face
had lit up with tenderness and a happy smile, and at the same time, to
his horror, he became aware that he had just said, "Oh forgive me! You
are lovely and sane and generous. When I am cured I shall very humbly
ask you to marry me." But now he hurriedly and in a constricted voice
cried out, "No! I didn't say that, I didn't, something else said it."
Staggering to his desk, he sat down and buried his face in his hands,
moaning, "Oh God, what has happened to me?"

His secretary, covering her agitation under a cold, efficient manner,
moved across to the telephone, saying, "You must have the doctor at
once. I'll phone." But he sat up and emphatically forbade her,
insisting that no doctor could cure him. It was a matter between him
and God. She raised the receiver, saying sharply, "Don't be silly! You
must have a doctor." But in a rough and angry voice he cried, "Put
that down! You seem to have a bad effect on me. You don't understand
me. Kindly go!"

In great distress and perplexity she went out of the room.

Alone, he paced his office. "This is the climax," he told himself. "I
dare not leave this room till I have conquered Satan in me. I must
pray."

But he could not pray. He still strode about the room. It was late in
the afternoon, and clerks and typists were putting away the
instruments of their craft and preparing to go home. Presently these
noises ceased. He heard only the street sounds, the clatter of the
trams, the hooting of motors.

The winter dusk was closing in. He switched on the light and drew the
curtains. He lit a cigarette; then stubbed it out, for his intention
was to pray. He sat down at his desk, covered his face with his hands,
and murmured, "Oh Christ save me! I am willing to write the letter and
sacrifice my career, and give up all the work that I had planned for
Thy service in this city. I am willing, but the devil that torments me
will not let me. Oh Christ give me strength to cast out this horrible
thing that possesses me. Save me, save me! I'll grant the shopgirls
their rise of wages, though it'll cut the profits to the bone." His
mind wandered off into business problems. Presently he realized that
he was no longer praying, so he rose and walked about the room again.
He brought his thoughts back to his religion. "God sent His son to die
for sinners," he mused. "I am a sinner like all men, and I repent; and
I love God as well as I can. And yet the devil still holds me. Why,
why? What am I to do? What more can I do than repent and accept the
duty of writing that letter? Surely Satan ought to leave me now.
Surely God ought to make me whole again, so that I can go on serving
Him." Once more Sir James prayed. "Oh, God," he pleaded, "show me what
it is that I must do."

He was standing near the window with his back to it. At this moment
his left arm reached awkwardly behind him and drew the curtain. He
turned and looked into the darkness. Between the tops of two great
commercial buildings across the street there was a patch of sky and
one bright star. The left arm extended itself slowly toward the
darkness, toward the star. The back of the hand was uppermost, the
fingers were loosely spread. For a moment the arm remained stationary,
then slowly sank to his side. There was no mistaking the gesture. It
expressed salutation, self-surrender, peace.

For a full half-minute Sir James gazed in silence at the star. Like
others, he accepted intellectually the vastness and mystery of the
universe, but emotionally he rebelled against it. In that half-minute
he had a new experience, one which he certainly could not have
described adequately. "The heavens declare," he whispered, but could
not finish the quotation; for a sudden sense of the pitiful inadequacy
of human language silenced him. "Beauty, mystery, love," he said, "and
terror too! And all, all must be accepted, gladly, by the heart."

But no sooner had he said this than he was frightened. Could he be
going quite mad? Horror must be accepted? Now the star became merely a
symbol of the brute power and brainless immensity of the material
universe. It seemed to him that in such a universe there was no place
for divine love. His faith crumbled away, and he was left with utter
negation and hate. In a sudden passion of self-assertion, he clenched
his right fist and raised it against the star. But then his left hand
rose and gently stroked the raised fist, soothing it downwards, until
it subsided into quietness.

For a moment peace returned to him; a peace which did indeed pass
understanding, since it seemed to him irrational that this sense of
immensity and mystery, and of the inadequacy of his faith, should
rouse him to any emotion but horror. Interpreting this strange
experience as another trick of Satan, he reached out impatiently with
his right hand and drew the curtain, shutting out the night. Once more
he sat down at his desk and covered his face with his hands to pray.
But prayer would not come. No words that he could think of seemed fit
to express the obscure turmoil of his mind.

Presently, while his eyes were still shut in the attempt to pray, he
realized that his left hand was no longer on his face. He opened his
eyes and saw that the hand was groping on the desk. As soon as it was
aided by vision, it took a piece of paper and a pencil and began to
write; almost illegibly, for Sir James had not made much progress in
learning to write with his left hand. Moreover the paper kept
shifting, since he was not holding it in position with the other hand.
Anxious to discover what his left hand would write, he now lowered his
right hand and held the paper steady.

The left hand wrote: "Could I but wake fully, and control my whole
body as I now control my left arm! Could I but be always my
clear-headed self, and not merely that dull-witted insensitive part of me
that regards itself as the true I, and normally controls my whole
body! Now, I see so clearly. But that other I, that poor, blind, lost
I, can never see anything clearly, in spite of all its shrewd
'realism.' Now, I see my whole past career as in the main a sham, a
vast self-seeking under the cloak of noble motives. Yet not just
self-seeking. No! I really did, I suppose, want to stand for liberty and
brotherhood; but always the care for my own reputation vitiated all
my conduct. And so I could never bring myself to write that letter. I
wanted to do it, in a way; but always the worst, the savage part of me
took care to prevent me from doing it. And then Mildred! Sane, lovely,
loyal Mildred! Only when I am my true clear self dare I admit that I
love her, and then only my left hand can clumsily tell her so. She
alone can save me from myself and put me right with God. Yet in my
dull state I feel superior to her and am on my guard against her! I,
pompous, mean, and insensitive that I am, feel superior to Mildred
Smith! And then the Chapel! Oh God, the Chapel! At heart, no doubt, I
am faithful to it simply because I know it does, in its archaic
symbolism, enshrine Love, which really is in some dark way divine. But
I am utterly sidetracked by all the mythology and by my own inveterate
self-esteem. I must, I must keep awake always. I must distinguish
always between the very spirit, which is hidden somewhere in the
Chapel (but it shines so much more clearly in Mildred) and all the
miserable imitations of it, in the Chapel, in my own life, in the
rotten society that I help to run. I shall never write the letter till
I have tamed the savage, puerile part of me; and that I shall never do
till I am fully, permanently, awake, as now I am temporarily awake.
But I must do much more than write the letter, and then self-lovingly
defend myself from its consequences. I must join with the oppressed
and fight in their battle. I must change the whole temper and
structure of my business. I must bring a new spirit into the Chapel,
or leave it. And I must have the courage to marry the woman I love."

At this point Sir James could stand no more. With his right hand he
snatched away the paper, crumpled it, and threw it into the fire. For
a moment the left hand continued to write, on the blotting paper. But
the right hand, now beyond control, seized a pen and stabbed at the
left hand with savage strength, half-burying the nib in the flesh. Sir
James felt nothing, but the left hand was paralysed. Crazy joy filled
him at the sight of blood, and when the right hand stabbed again, and
then again, he laughed. Presently it began furiously writing on the
blotting paper with the bloody pen. Lavatory obscenities and crude
pornographic drawings were interspersed with megalomaniac claims and
hatred of the "swine-spirit, in my left arm." Now and again, as the
pen dried, it was fed again from the left hand's blood. Sir James
watched with glee, forgetful of his respectable self. But presently
the paralysis and anæsthesia of his left arm ceased. He became aware
of sharp pain. At the same time he felt a surge of disgust at the mess
of blood and ink. And then his normal self, which had been eclipsed by
its acceptance of the right arm's savagery, woke to the realization of
the terrifying conflict between his respectable values and this
upsurge of savagery. Exerting all the strength of his will, he cried
out, "Oh, Jesus Christ, save me, save me." His prayer gave place to
silence. For a while he waited, listening to the silence. Then madness
overwhelmed him.

When the cleaners came in the morning, they found a wrecked room. The
drawers of the desk had all been dragged out, their contents scattered
on the floor. Chairs were overturned, pictures torn down, their glass
broken. The horrified women thought of burglars. Sir James was in an
easy chair nursing his right arm, which he had somehow broken. When
they questioned him he replied with a lot of "rude words" and no
sense. His left hand kept making the movements of writing, so one of
the women put a pencil into it, and held a piece of paper under it. He
wrote the word "Doctor" and a telephone number, then the letter "M."
But at this point his whole body was shaken by a kind of fit, and he
wrote no more. After his broken arm had been attended to, Sir James
was taken to a nursing home which specialized in mental patients. The
hope that, under proper care, he will recover his sanity is at present
uncertain.



A WORLD OF SOUND

THE ROOM WAS OVERCROWDED AND STUFFY. THE music seemed to have no
intelligible form. It was a mere jungle of noise. Now one instrument
and now another blared out half a tune, but every one of these
abortive musical creatures was killed before it had found its legs.
Some other and hostile beast fell upon it and devoured it, or the
whole jungle suffocated it.

The strain of following this struggle for existence wearied me. I
closed my eyes, and must have fallen asleep; for suddenly I woke with
a start. Or seemed to wake. Something queer had happened. The music
was still going on, but I was paralysed. I could not open my eyes. I
could not shout for help. I could not move my body, nor feel it. I had
no body.

Something had happened to the music, too, and to my hearing. But what?
The tissue of sounds seemed to have become incomparably more
voluminous and involved. I am not musical; but suddenly I realized
that this music had overflowed, so to speak, into all the intervals
between the normal semitones, that it was using not merely quarter-tones
but "centitones" and "millitones," with an effect that would
surely have been a torture to the normal ear. To me, in my changed
state, it gave a sense of richness, solidity, and vitality quite
lacking in ordinary music. This queer music, moreover, had another
source of wealth. It reached up and down over scores of octaves beyond
the range of normal hearing. Yet I could hear it.

As I listened, I grew surprisingly accustomed to this new jargon. I
found myself easily distinguishing all sorts of coherent musical forms
in this world of sound. Against an obscure, exotic background of more
or less constant chords and fluttering "leafage," so to speak, several
prominent and ever-changing sound-figures were playing. Each was a
persistent musical object, though fluctuating in detail of gesture and
sometimes ranging bodily up or down the scale.

Suddenly I made a discovery which should have been incredible, yet it
seemed to me at the time quite familiar and obvious. I found myself
recognizing that these active sound-figures were alive, even
intelligent. In the normal world, living things are perceived as
changing patterns of visible and tangible characters. In this mad
world, which was coming to seem to me quite homely, patterns not of
colour and shape but of sound formed the perceptible bodies of living
things. When it occurred to me that I had fallen into a land of
"program music" I was momentarily disgusted. Here was a whole world
that violated the true canons of musical art! Then I reminded myself
that this music was not merely telling but actually living its story.
In fact it was not art but life. So I gave rein to my interest.

Observing these creatures that disported themselves before me, I
discovered, or rather rediscovered, that though this world had no true
space, such as we perceive by sight and touch, yet it did have a sort
of space. For in some sense these living things were moving in
relation to me and in relation to one another. Apparently the "space"
of this world consisted of two dimensions only, and these differed
completely in quality. One was the obvious dimension of tonality, or
pitch, on the subtle "keyboard" of this world. The other was perceived
only indirectly. It corresponded to the heard nearness or remoteness
of one and the same instrument in the normal world. Just as we see
things as near and far through the signification of colour and
perspective, so in this strange world, certain characters of timbre,
of harmonics, of overtones, conveyed a sense of "nearness"; others a
sense of "distance." A peculiar blatancy, often combined with
loudness, meant "near"; a certain flatness, or ghostliness of timbre,
generally combined with faintness, meant "far." An object receding in
this "level" dimension (as I called it) would gradually lose its
full-bodied timbre, and its detail and preciseness. At the same time it
would become fainter, and at last inaudible.

I should add that each sound-object had also its own characteristic
timbre, almost as though each thing in this world were a theme played
by one and the same instrument. But I soon discovered that in the case
of living things the timbre-range of each individual was very wide;
for emotional changes might be accompanied by changes of timbre even
greater than those which distinguish our instruments.

In contrast with the variegated but almost changeless background or
landscape, the living things were in constant movement. Always
preserving their individuality, their basic identity of tonal pattern,
they would withdraw or approach in the "level" dimension or run up and
down the scale. They also indulged in a ceaseless rippling play of
musical gesture. Very often one of these creatures, travelling up or
down the scale, would encounter another. Then either the two would
simply interpenetrate and cross one another, as transverse trains of
waves on a pond; or there would be some sort of mutual readjustment of
form, apparently so as to enable them to squeeze past one another
without "collision." And collision in this world seemed to be much
like dissonance in our music. Sometimes, to avoid collision, a
creature needed merely to effect a slight alteration in its tonal
form, but sometimes it had to move far aside, so to speak, in the
other dimension, which I have called the "level" dimension. Thus it
became for a while inaudible.

Another discovery now flashed upon me, again with curious familiarity.
I myself had a "body" in this world. This was the "nearest" of all the
sound-objects. It was so "near" and so obvious that I never noticed it
till it was brought into action. This happened unexpectedly. One of
the moving creatures inadvertently came into collision with a minor
part of my musical body. The slight violation of my substance stabbed
me with a little sharp pain. Immediately, by reflex action and then
purposefully, I readjusted my musical shape, so as to avoid further
conflict. Thus it was that I discovered or rediscovered the power of
voluntary action in this world.

I also emitted a loud coruscation of musical gesture, which I at once
knew to be significant speech. In fact I said in the language of that
world, "Damn you, that's my toe, that was." There came from the other
an answering and apologetic murmur.

A newcomer now approached from the silent distance to join my
frolicking companions. This being was extremely attractive to me, and
poignantly familiar. Her lithe figure, her lyrical yet faintly
satirical movement, turned the jungle into Arcadia. To my delight I
found that I was not unknown to her, and not wholly unpleasing. With a
gay gesture she beckoned me into the game.

For the first time I not only changed the posture of my musical limbs
but moved bodily, both in the dimension of pitch and the "level"
dimension. As soon as I approached, she slipped with laughter away
from me. I followed her; but very soon she vanished into the jungle
and into the remoteness of silence. Naturally I determined to pursue
her. I could no longer live without her. And in the exquisite harmony
of our two natures I imagined wonderful creative potentialities.

Let me explain briefly the method and experience of locomotion in this
world. I found that, by reaching out a musical limb and knitting its
extremity into the sound-pattern of some fixed object at a distance,
in either dimension or both, I obtained a purchase on the object, and
could draw my whole body toward it. I could then reach out another
limb to a still farther point. Thus I was able to climb about the
forest of sound with the speed and accuracy of a gibbon. Whenever I
moved, in either dimension, I experienced my movement merely as a
contrary movement of the world around me. Near objects became nearer,
or less near; remote objects became less remote, or slipped further
into the distance and vanished. Similarly my movement up or down the
musical scale appeared to me as a deepening or heightening of the
pitch of all other objects.

In locomotion I experienced no resistance from other objects save in
the collision of dissonance, which I could generally avoid by altering
my shape. I discovered that a certain degree of dissonance between
myself and another offered only very slight resistance and no pain.
Indeed, such contacts might be pleasurable. But harsh discords were a
torture and could not be maintained.

I soon found that there was a limit to my possible movement up and
down the scale. At a point many octaves below my normal situation I
began to feel oppressed and sluggish. As I toiled downwards my
discomfort increased, until, in a sort of swoon, I floated up again to
my native musical plane. Ascending far above this plane, I felt at
first exhilaration; but after many octaves a sort of light-headedness
and vertigo overtook me, and presently I sank reeling to the few
octaves of my normal habitat.

In the "level" dimension there seemed to be no limit to my power of
locomotion, and it was in this dimension chiefly that I sought the
vanished nymph. I pressed forward through ever-changing tonal
landscapes. Sometimes they opened out into "level" vistas of remote,
dim, musical objects, or into "tonal" vistas, deep and lofty,
revealing hundreds of octaves above and below me. Sometimes the view
narrowed, by reason of the dense musical "vegetation," to a mere
tunnel, no more than a couple of octaves in height. Only with
difficulty could I work my way along such a passage. Sometimes, in
order to avoid impenetrable objects, I had to clamber far into the
treble or the bass. Sometimes, in empty regions, I had to leap from
perch to perch.

At last I began to weary. Movement became repugnant, perception
uncertain. Moreover the very form of my body lost something of its
pleasant fullness. Instinct now impelled me to an act which surprised
my intellect though I performed it without hesitation. Approaching
certain luscious little musical objects, certain very simple but
vigorous little enduring patterns of timbre and harmony, I devoured
them. That is, I broke down the sound-pattern of each one into simpler
patterns; and these I incorporated into my own harmonious form. Then I
passed on, refreshed.

Presently I was confronted by a crowd of the intelligent beings
tumbling helter-skelter toward me and jostling one another in their
haste. Their emotional timbre expressed such fear and horror that my
own musical form was infected with it. Hastily moving myself several
octaves toward the bass to avoid their frantic course, which was
mostly in the treble, I shouted to them to tell me what was the
matter. As they fled past I distinguished only a cry which might be
translated, "The Big Bad Wolf."

My fear left me, for now I recognized that this was a flock of very
young creatures. So I laughed reassuringly and asked if they had
encountered the lovely being whom I was seeking. And I laughed to
myself at the ease and sweetness with which her musical name came to
me when I needed it. They answered only with an augmented scream of
infantile grief, as they faded into the distance.

Disturbed, I pursued my journey. Presently I came into a great empty
region where I could hear a very remote but ominous growl. I halted,
to listen to the thing more clearly. It was approaching. Its form
emerged from the distance and was heard in detail. Soon I recognized
it as no mere childish bogey but a huge and ferocious brute. With
lumbering motion in the bass, its limbs propelled it at a surprising
speed. Its harsh tentacles of sound, flickering hither and thither far
up into the treble, nosed in search of prey.

Realizing at last the fate that had probably befallen my dear
companion, I turned sick with horror. My whole musical body trembled
and wavered with faintness.

Before I had decided what to do, the brute caught sight of me, or
rather sound of me, and came pounding toward me with the roar and
scream of a train, or an approaching shell. I fled. But soon realizing
that I was losing ground, I plunged into a thicket of chaotic sound,
which I heard ahead of me and well up in the treble. Adapting my
musical form and colour as best I could to the surrounding wilderness,
I continued to climb. Thus I hoped both to conceal myself and escape
from the reach of the creature's tentacles. Almost fainting from the
altitude, I chose a perch, integrating my musical limbs with the
pattern of the fixed objects in that locality. Thus anchored, I
waited, motionless.

The brute was now moving more slowly, nosing in search of me as it
approached. Presently it lay immediately below me, far down in the
bass. Its body was now all too clearly heard as a grim cacophony of
growling and belching. Its strident tentacles moved beneath me like
the waving tops of trees beneath a man clinging to a cliff face. Still
searching, it passed on beneath me. Such was my relief that I lost
consciousness for a moment and slipped several octaves down before I
could recover myself. The movement revealed my position. The beast of
prey returned, and began clambering awkwardly toward me. Altitude soon
checked its progress, but it reached me with one tentacle, one
shrieking arpeggio. Desperately I tried to withdraw myself farther
into the treble, but the monster's limb knit itself into the
sound-pattern of my flesh. Frantically struggling, I was dragged down,
down into the suffocating bass. There, fangs and talons of sound tore me
agonizingly limb from limb.

Then suddenly I woke in the concert hall to a great confusion of
scraping chairs. The audience was making ready to leave.



THE SEED AND THE FLOWER (1916)

God sowed a seed, and there came a flower.
Holy is God, and the world His flower.

THERE was a poor man who had a field, wherein he laboured all day. He
had a daughter, an only child, and he loved her. At sunset, after his
work, he looked at the field; and twilight fell upon him looking, and
the stars came out. God's flower hung over him open, and he knew it
not. But he called his daughter from the house, and laid his hand on
her head. And he said, "The field bears well: I will buy thee shoes
and stockings." So, she made merry in the darkness; and he saw God in
her.

At dawn there came an army out of the East, and laid waste the field.
They set fire to the house and the goods, and used the daughter
foully. Anger strengthened the man against his enemies, and he killed
three of them. But the rest struck open his head, and threw him away.
When they had done, they went; and the girl died.

The man lay all day, knowing nothing. But in the evening he looked up,
and saw the sky. And a bright star comforted him with peace; so that
he cared not for his pain, thinking of God only. But when he turned a
little he saw the girl, and remembered. He crept to her and kissed her
hair. And he made a vow.

Therefore when his wound was healed up, he made haste to be a soldier.
He went with his companions to the great war, mindful of his daughter.
He rejoiced in killing the enemy every day, till he was drunken with
the blood of them.

It happened that he came on one dying, that was an enemy. The enemy
said, "Stay with me, I pray thee, while I die." He went up to him
slowly to stay with him, frowning upon him. But the enemy said,
"Kneel, I pray thee; hold my hand." He kneeled and took the hand of
the enemy, awaiting death. The enemy said, "I have two boys, and my
wife loves me." They were silent. And the enemy died.

The man left him for the crows and the ants, but he went away
grieving. And his spirit flagged, and he lay down. He saw a host of
ants on the ground killing one another; but beside him was a great and
old tree, whose leaves were innumerable. The wind stirred all the
leaves of the tree, making one great sound. The sound gave peace to
the man, and he slept.

He woke in the night, and the stars were innumerable. The murmur of
the leaves seemed the song of all the stars. And the earth sang also,
and life everywhere; and the armies sang, and the dead sang. And he
heard his daughter, leading all. Therefore the man listened until the
dawn, and until the sun rose. And he stood up before the sun, and made
a vow.

He went to his comrades and said, "Brothers, it is a shame to kill; it
were better to die. Let us go over to our brothers, and make peace."
But they said, "Wilt thou persuade a million? Nay, we must guard the
land." But when they were told to attack, the man would not. An
officer saw him, and urged him. But the man said, "Brother, it is a
shame to kill; it were better to die." The officer was grieved, and
killed him.

***

God sowed a seed: it adventured after beauty.
The Goal of all Souls is the beauty of that flower.

There was a young man of noble blood, who would not kill. An enemy
rose up against his people, and all his friends became soldiers; but
the young man stayed at home grieving, and walked alone in the fields.
But the enemy devoured the cattle and the harvest, and slaughtered the
people; and the young man had no peace with himself, for he doubted.
So he went on to a mountain to question with God. He saw the
cornfields and the cottages, and the city far away. And he said,
"Though I lose my soul, we must save the people."

So he went down with a heavy heart, and became a soldier. He took men
into battle, and men were killed. But after the battle he went aside
and threw himself on the ground, and wept for the killed, and for the
wounded. He cried, "Oh, God deliver me from killing, for my soul
sickens."

But again he went into battle, and the slaughter was great. And when
it was done, he stood among the dead thinking. He said, "What is
death? What evil is in it? Death is deep sleep, and pain is a dream.
Where is life, there is strife; and thence grew the soul. And the goal
of all grief is God."

Many time afterwards he took men into battle, forcing himself. He
thought of the people and the cause only, and would not see the dead.
He did deeds of valour and kindness, and was beloved.

One day when he led his men to attack, a man would not. And he urged
the man to attack; but the man said, "Brother, it is a shame to kill;
it were better to die." The officer feared lest others should be
corrupted, and the cause lost. So he killed the man: but he grieved.

The officer went into battle, and they gained the victory through him.
The enemy were slaughtered in thousands, and driven headlong; and the
young man became a great commander, honoured of all soldiers. But he
lived for the cause; and he grieved.

It happened on a dark night that they brought in his friend dead. So
he went out into the wind and the rain, to think about his friend. The
rain beat upon him, and there was no clear sky; yet he remembered the
stars, desiring them. There was a great wind that bent down the trees;
and the leaves and little branches were torn off, scourging his face.
He cried aloud to God, saying, "What wilt thou of me? It is far better
to die than to kill."

In the morning they brought him a young man of the enemy, saying that
he was a spy. But he looked into the eyes of the young man and found
no guile in them. The young man said, "Slayer! My work is to make
peace between the peoples. The peoples curse war: they curse thee."
But the officer told them to release him, and said to him, "Brother,
since it is a shame to kill, it is far better to die." And the officer
went outside, and killed himself.

***

God sowed a seed, certain of the flower;
But man must doubt till the bud burst.

There was a young man of intelligence, a skilled iron worker. He
quarrelled with his masters, so that they threatened him. But he urged
his companions to stand by him, for he said, "the right is with me";
and they stopped work and stood by him. After a month they came to him
and said, "We are weary;" but he answered, "The cause is just;" and
they departed. After another month they came again and said, "Our
wives and our children starve;" but he said, "The cause is just;" and
they departed. But after another month they came and said, "We are
beaten." He said, "Though ye die, the cause is just." But they went
back to their work, deserting him.

The young man wandered from city to city, seeking work and the truth.
And it happened one night before dawn that he read deeply in a book;
but he grew weary of its wisdom, and opened the window; and he looked
up among the roofs and the chimneys, and saw a star. He thought, "The
stars are thrown hither and thither for no purpose; men are thrown
hither and thither, and there is no God." And he thought, "The stars
clash not, but men clash; I will make order in earth as in heaven."

But two great armies came out of the East and the West, and the young
man was taken away to be a soldier. But he considered while they took
him and said, "All peoples are one: it is foolish to make war: I will
not." They were angry with him, but he would not be persuaded. So they
took him to work in the mines where they could compel him. He laboured
under ground all day, and the darkness entered into his soul. He said,
"The rich contrive war, lest the people should rebel. Perish the rich,
robbers and murderers."

The young man escaped from the mines, and went between the peoples
making peace. But the enemy seized him as a spy and took him before an
officer; and the young man cursed the officer, in the name of the
peoples. But the officer set him free, and said, "Brother, since it is
a shame to kill, it is far better to die." Then the officer killed
himself, and the young man was glad. But the soldiers wept over their
officer like children, because they loved him. The young man was
ashamed.

He escaped through both armies into the borders of his own country.
And he was perplexed because of the officer, and because of God. Now
he sat by the roadside thinking, and looking into the blue sky for
God. There came a number of carts, wherein were folk and their goods;
and the last cart lagged sorely, for the horse was old. An old man and
a girl were in the cart, and the girl drove. The young man went along
with the last cart and asked, "Who are all ye?" The girl looked at
him, and he saw that she was holy. But she turned her eyes from him
and said, "The enemy came upon us." His heart smote him because of
them, so that he cried, "Cursed be the enemy." But she said, "Who art
thou that cursest?" He answered, "I am a man of peace." She looked
into his eyes, saying, "Art thou so?"

The young man went away perplexed, grieving for the old man and the
girl. All day long he thought about her, and at night. And he dreamed
that he stood among the stars, ordering their courses, and the officer
came to him, penitent because he had led one star astray. Therefore he
cursed the officer, and sent him to hell. But the girl rose before
him, reproaching him; and she said, "His blood is upon thee, and the
blood of my father is upon thee. Thou hast killed them in thy
self-righteousness. Thou little soul, who playest at God."

In the morning the young man became a soldier to fight for the people.
He was stripped of his pride and became humbler than the humblest. And
when winter began he went into battle, and fought gladly.

***

God sowed a seed: slowly buds the flower:
God will pluck when he wills.

There was an old man past work, whose daughter tended him. They sat in
the doorway of their house in the evening; and the old man talked
about his prime, and the girl sewed. But one came running by the house
who cried, "The enemy, the enemy!" The old man rose up in anger and
said, "God strike them!" But she led him into the house and made him
ready for a journey; and she took the savings from the chest, nine
gold pieces, and knotted them in a handkerchief, and hid them on her.
Then soldiers of the enemy came in riotously, seeking entertainment,
and when they saw the girl, rejoiced over her. But she stood before
them and said, "Friends, all that we have is yours, but my father and
I are not yours, but God's." They saw that she was holy, and they were
ashamed; but they told her to go away thence with her father and their
household goods, for there was to be a battle. So she harnessed the
old horse to the cart, and set her father in the cart, and gathered
the household goods together, and packed them in the cart. Then she
climbed up beside her father and drove away.

Upon the road next day they met a young man who was not a soldier. She
knew that he was indeed no coward, but a man of peace, and in her
heart she honoured him for it, and remembered him.

They continued on the way five days till they came to the place
allotted to them. They were given ground and a wooden hut, and there
they dwelt. The girl made the house pleasant for her father, and
tilled the ground for vegetables. She hired herself out to labour in
the fields, for all the young men were at the war. But they that
worked with her looked askance at her; for she said, "Would that all
were men of peace."

With winter came great cold and the snow; and the old man sickened
toward death. He said, "God punish the enemy, who brought us to this."
But she answered, "Alas, they are God's children and He loves them."
And she said, "Rememberest thou the young man of peace?" He said,
"Though the rivers pour blood into the sea, and the peoples die off
like autumn leaves; though all lands be wrecked; yet shall the earth
be filled full with men of peace."

He laid his hands on his daughter, blessing her; and he said, "God has
need of such as thee, my daughter, my darling." Then he died, and she
was alone weeping. She laid him out fairly with clean linen, and sat
with the dead till dawn, thinking about death.

On a spring evening as she came home through the fields, the young man
stood before her who had said, "I am a man of peace." He said,
"Because of thee I became a soldier, for my heart smote me. Because of
thee I put off my self-righteousness, and fought gladly. But it
happened that I chased a man with steel and he tripped. And my hand
would not strike him, because he had tripped. A great horror of
killing came over me, so that I fled like one mad. I have done with
soldiering for ever, though I die for it. That I might tell thee, I
have sought thee very many days." Now the girl wondered at his words;
and she began to love him. And they two wandered about among the
fields, loath to part; but at last they came into her garden, and
stood still among the green things. She said, "See the stars, God's
children also. Surely they love, and kill not." But he told her about
the stars, that they are great suns and worlds; and she said, "They
that dwell in those worlds, what of them?" She lifted up her hands to
heaven, greeting those peoples; and she said to them, "Brothers and
sisters whom I know not; do ye work and weep and love? Then I love
you. Do ye hate and kill and make war? Still I love you." Then were
they two silent a while before the majesty of the stars, and the
mystery of one another. He said, "I knew not what God might be, till
thou didst show me. He is the majesty of all the stars, and he is the
soul of one girl."

Men came seeking him who arrested him as a deserter. They said, "Brave
men are dying, and thou lurkest with a harlot." The young man broke
loose raging, and hurt them. But they overpowered him and killed him,
and took away the body.

The girl stood still in the pathway of the garden, among the green
things. She lifted up her hands again to the heavens, and to the
peoples therein; and she cried to them, "Weep with me, weep with me,
ye peoples. They have taken my friend." But she wept not. She stood
looking from star to star, amazed at death. A great terror and joy
seized her because of the near presence of her friend.

***

God sowed a seed. It shall not fail.
Though in autumn the leaves wither.

The earth was a battlefield, and the cities heaps of ruins. All men
were fighting: there were none to work. The armies were hungry and
very tired, and still they fought. Women and children lay dead in the
open unburied, yet more babies were born. Pestilences ate the peoples;
the earth was foul.

Fiercer and fiercer grew the war, and neither side could conquer. The
peoples began to rebel, and confusion grew. Yet in all lands were men
of peace, working against war; and women of peace, who would not bear
sons for the slaughter. Soldiers began to mingle with the enemy and be
friends with them between the battles; yet at a word of command they
would go back to kill. Everyone said to himself, "War is Hell; there
is no good in it." But to his neighbour he said, "We suffer in a great
cause." And so war devoured all things and all evil grew.

There was a woman on a battlefield, tending the wounded. The sun
burned them and there was no water. They began to rave, but nothing
could be done. The woman was busy over them, but all the while she
thought deeply, wondering that men endured so much for war, but for
peace they dared nothing.

Now a great mass of men ran thither, chased by the enemy; who
slaughtered them as they ran. The woman stood up against them
compassionate, but she could not restrain them. They all swept past
her raging, and she was left with the newly fallen. But after a while
the enemy returned bringing prisoners. They would have seized her; but
a holy anger came over her, so that they dared not. She cried,
"Friends, ye all hate war; why must ye fight? Are ye mad, that ye can
love and yet kill? Or are ye cowards, that ye dare not throw down your
weapons? The whole world wants peace, and the whole world is afraid.
See the battlefield, your work! Are ye glad of it? Ye hate it, ye hate
it, for ye are men, not wolves. Ye have wives and mothers and
sweethearts, and children trust you. How can ye kill under the blue
sky in June? Oh, we have all lost sight of God, and so we have no joy.
Yet God is in everyone that loves; he is in everyone's heart. Throw
down your weapons, throw them down. Better die than kill. Better die
men of peace, than live making war. If ye dare, others will dare, and
others and others; and so war must end."

A crowd gathered round her to listen, and each man knew that she spoke
the truth; for in everyone's heart a voice answered her voice, the God
in each speaking. A murmur rose from the crowd, so that all knew that
all approved. And they began throwing down their weapons; and suddenly
all shouted for joy. Then the women urged them to scatter over the
country-side to speak for peace. And she said, "Most will be killed,
but it is for peace."

Suddenly their enemy attacked them, and they let themselves be
overpowered. Most were quickly destroyed, but they died praising
peace. The enemy were amazed, and faltered in the killing; and soon
they also threw away their weapons, and became men of peace.

All that mixed host spread abroad to persuade men to stop war. Many
were martyred, but they died in joy. And the peoples were ready to
hear; so the word spread. At last it was agreed that on a certain day
all war should cease, and all weapons be gathered together and
destroyed. And on that day it was done. Each man took a vow, holding
the hand of one that had been an enemy. All the armies marched home,
and in their homes was joy.

Then men began to build again what had been destroyed, and to set on
foot the great works of peace. Everywhere there was sorrow still, and
the misery that war had made; but there was hope. Men began to quarrel
and to grasp what was within reach; but a new spirit also dawned. The
souls of men had been chastened for the beginning of a new age. It
shall be an age of knowing God, and an age of joy.

The woman went back to her village and made a home for herself. She
grew green stuff for market, and kept fowls. She went to market every
week, carrying a full basket. Her neighbours' children loved her and
gave her a pet name. And often at night she went into the garden to
look at the stars, and to ask them about her friend who was dead. She
named the stars according to her fancy, knowing them so well. She grew
to hear the music that is the song of all the stars. And she knew her
friend, and he was God. Then in the time when joy had come back into
the world, she died.

God sowed a seed, and there came a flower.
Holy is God, and the world His flower.



THE ROAD TO THE AIDE POST (1916)

(This is the earliest published prose fiction by Stapledon.)

***

In Belgium at two o'clock in the morning, an ambulance driver stepped
out of his car and yawned. It had rained since the previous night and
the world was very wet. But at last the west wind was victoriously
pursuing the clouds, piling their disordered companies one upon
another. Suddenly the moon shone. White ruined houses on one side of
the street, huddled like sheep, looked towards the East and the star
shells. Dark ruined houses on the other side held their broken walls
and rafters against the sky. The driver stood for a moment watching:
he began a sigh, but successfully turned it into a yawn, and moved
away to prepare his car for two stretcher cases. Then he walked into
the place that was once a children's playground, toward the Aide post,
once the school cellar. How slow they were to-night in bringing out
the school cellar. How slow they were to-night in bringing out the
wounded. He examined a new hole where a shell had gone through the
building. He stood by a heap of debris and watched the moon. A mighty
white upright cloud was flying overhead. He looked up the sides of it
as if he were standing at the foot of some extravagant aerial leaning
tower of Pisa, for ever falling upon him through a sky visibly deep as
the universe. The moon looked at him in that significant way of hers,
as if she were desperately trying to tell him some good news. For a
moment he stood fascinated by this sudden beauty. Then he remembered
himself, and carefully yawned in the face of the moon.

They brought out the wounded; one moaning, the other silent; the one
face half hidden under rugs and miserably moving; the other face
wholly hidden under white bandages. The stretchers were soon stowed on
board, driver and brancardier took their seats, and the old bus crept
down the street.

The moaning man moaned with regularity, save when the car bumped him
into a cry. The other lay still. What an embusqué slacker I am!
thought the driver What must these old fellows think of me? The
moaning man was a vieux papa for whom war was an incongruous, last
chapter to a life of tilling and begetting. It was incongruous, but he
had not complained. Gallantry was not his line, but he had not shirked
anything that he was expected to do. Now he lay absorbed in his pain,
praying for the end of the journey, or losing himself among grotesque
visions of crops and beast and bursting shells, only to find himself
once more in a furnace of pain. The other lay still; no one can guess
where his spirit wandered, upon the earth or in the hollow sky. It's
a miserable game, thought the driver, Why didn't I enlist long
ago? He had no peace principles, and he disliked people, who said
they were pacifists. War might be a horrible mistake, but his soldier
friends in Gallipoli and Flanders were dying well. They had excelled
themselves. Better make a hideous mistake and suffer with one's
fellows than be a lone prig. For him, war was not scientific hate; it
was love gone mad. England demanded him, and England was a nearer
thing than God. Besides, who said it was wrong to fight? The best
things were won by fighting; and God fought Satan. What a Paradise
Lost if God had been a pacifist!

So thought the driver, as he drove down moonlit avenues. At the
hospital, the car was unloaded, and he saw the two broken men carried
through the door that had received so many like them.

Now in the early dawn that driver came hurrying back. There was a rose
pink glow in the East, as if no ill had ever come out of that quarter;
as if hate were never in this world. Into this fairy land he drove,
and the joy of morning began in him. But the gentle appearance of
things did not shake his resolution. Surely, surely, he must enlist,
and give his life with his friends. The Red Cross was not a heavy
enough cross for such as he. The sunrise swallowed all that was left
of the night; the whole sky was on fire. He would go, he would go.
What was he that he should judge, when so many finer men had not
hesitated to fight? His Quaker parents would be very grieved, but he
must do it. He himself was unhappy thinking of his parents' grief.
After all war was indeed a hideous thing. In fact his determination to
fight began already his disillusionment. A secret voice saying You
will fight only because you are ashamed not to fight. You will
fight for you own peace of mind, not for victory, not for the cause.
You have not forgotten yourself in the cause. You will not even find
the peace of mind you seek. The sun flashed from behind the Eastern
cloudbank and the trees and fields and sparkling canal seemed suddenly
to laugh, so bright they grew. Oh God, what a world! cried the
driver aloud while the car roared along. The sun and the countryside
undoubtedly confirmed that secret voice now that he allowed himself to
attend to them.

He had heard someone say that just as private killing went out of date
so will war someday go also, and that this War is but the red dawn of
a new age wherein many obscurities will be enlightened. Surely if
Peace and Goodwill could not be the idea of to-day they would be the
idea of to-morrow. Woe unto those who, having any inkling of that
great idea of to-morrow, desert it even for the highest of to-day's
ideals. The Fates had made him to have some glimpse of the dawn,
before his fighting friends: Woe to him if he closed his eyes.

Not happy, nor content, nor even positive, was he on his return; but
very sure that he would not fight. His vision of the new idea (which
is also so old an idea) was very faint; but it was a vision, and
commanded his allegiance. Perhaps after all he was making a mistake;
but it was a noble mistake. The vision must be followed even at the
risk of his soul's life.

The driver backed his car into its place; stumped into the camp,
pulled his best enemy out of bed, persuaded the puppy to lick the
cook's slumbering face; and began his morning toilet. Many times again
he was tempted in that wilderness of doubt. Each time the vision was a
little clearer than before.

He is a type, is he not?



THE END




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