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"Do you never regret it?" I asked.
"Never, dear Mr. Ormond. I am a worshipper of hard facts and however hideous they may be I prefer them to the prismatic colours of romance."
Brynhild, smiling, quoted;
"Their science roamed from star to star
"There is nothing greater than science," said Mrs. Ingmar with soft reverence. "The mind of man is the foot-rule of the universe."
She meditated for a moment and then added that my kind interests in their plans decided her to tell me that she would be returning to Europe and then to Canada in a few months with a favourite niece as her companion while Brynhild would remain in India with friends in Mooltan for a time. I looked eagerly at her but she was lost in her own thoughts and it was evidently not the time to say more.
If I had hoped for a vision before I left the neighbourhood of that strange House of Beauty where a spirit imprisoned appeared to await the day of enlightenment I was disappointed. These things do not happen as one expects or would choose. The wind bloweth where it listeth until the laws which govern the inner life are understood, and then we would not choose if we could for we know that all is better than well. In this world, either in the blinded sight of daily life or in the clarity of the true sight I have not since seen it, but that has mattered little, for having heard an authentic word within its walls I have passed on my way elsewhere.
Next day a letter from Olesen reached me.
"Dear Ormond, I hope you have had a good time at the House in the Woods. I saw Rup Singh a few days ago and he wrote the odd message I enclose. You know what these natives are, even the most sensible of them, and you will humour the old fellow for he ages very fast and I think is breaking up. But this was not what I wanted to say. I had a letter from a man I had not seen for years - a fellow called Stephen Clifden, who lives in Kashmir. As a matter of fact I had forgotten his existence but evidently he has not repaid the compliment for he writes as follows - No, I had better send you the note and you can do as you please. I am rushed off my legs with work and the heat is hell with the lid off. And-"
But the rest was of no interest except to a friend of years' standing. I read Rup Singh's message first. It was written in his own tongue.
"To the Honoured One who has attained to the favour of the Favourable.
"You have with open eyes seen what this humble one has dreamed but has not known. If the thing be possible, write me this word that I may depart in peace. 'With that one who in a former birth you loved all is well. Fear nothing for him. The way is long but at the end the lamps of love are lit and the Unstruck music is sounded. He lies at the feet of Mercy and there awaits his hour.' And if it be not possible to write these words, write nothing, 0 Honoured, for though it be in the hells my soul shall find my King, and again I shall serve him as once I served."
I understood, and wrote those words as he had written them. Strange mystery of life - that I who had not known should see, and that this man whose fidelity had not deserted his broken King in his utter downfall should have sought with passion for one sight of the beloved face across the waters of death and sought in vain. I thought of those Buddhist words of Seneca - "The soul may be and is in the mass of men drugged and silenced by the seductions of sense and the deceptions of the world. But if, in some moment of detachment and elation, when its captors and jailors relax their guard, it can escape their clutches, it will seek at once the region of its birth and its true home."
Well - the shell must break before the bird can fly, and the time drew near for the faithful servant to seek his lord. My message reached him in time and gladdened him.
I turned then to Clifden's letter.
"Dear Olesen, you will have forgotten me, and feeling sure of this I should scarcely have intruded a letter into your busy life were it not that I remember your good-nature as a thing unforgettable though so many years have gone by. I hear of you sometimes when Sleigh comes up the Sind valley, for I often camp at Sonamarg and above the Zoji La and farther. I want you to give a message to a man you know who should be expecting to hear from me. Tell him I shall be at the Tashigong Monastery when he reaches Gyumur beyond the Shipki. Tell him I have the information he wants and I will willingly go on with him to Yarkhand and his destination. He need not arrange for men beyond Gyumur. All is fixed. So sorry to bother you, old man, but I don't know Ormond's address, except that he was with you and has gone up Simla way. And of course he will be keen to hear the thing is settled."
Amazing. I remembered the message I had heard and this man's words rang true and kindly, but what could it mean? I really did not question farther than this for now I could not doubt that I was guided. Stronger hands than mine had me in charge, and it only remained for me to set forth in confidence and joy to an end that as yet I could not discern. I turned my face gladly to the wonder of the mountains.
Gladly - but with a reservation. I was leaving a friend and one whom I dimly felt might one day be more than a friend - Brynhild Ingmar. That problem must be met before I could take my way. I thought much of what might be said at parting. True, she had the deepest attraction for me, but true also that I now beheld a quest stretching out into the unknown which I must accept in the spirit of the knight errant. Dare I then bind my heart to any allegiance which would pledge me to a future inconsistent with what lay before me? How could I tell what she might think of the things which to me were now real and external - the revelation of the only reality that underlies all the seeming. Life can never be the same for the man who has penetrated to this, and though it may seem a hard saying there can be but a maimed understanding between him and those who still walk amid the phantoms of death and decay.
Her sympathy with nature was deep and wonderful but might it not be that though the earth was eloquent to her the skies were silent? I was but a beginner myself - I knew little indeed. Dare I risk that little in a sweet companionship which would sink me into the contentment of the life lived by the happily deluded between the cradle and the grave and perhaps close to me for ever that still sphere where my highest hope abides? I had much to ponder, for how could I lose her out of my life - though I knew not at all whether she who had so much to make her happiness would give me a single thought when I was gone.
If all this seem the very uttermost of selfish vanity, forgive a man who grasped in his hand a treasure so new, so wonderful that he walked in fear and doubt lest it should slip away and leave him in a world darkened for ever by the torment of the knowledge that it might have been his and he had bartered it for the mess of pottage that has bought so many birthrights since Jacob bargained with his weary brother in the tents of Lahai-roi. I thought I would come back later with my prize gained and throwing it at her feet ask her wisdom in return, for whatever I might not know I knew well she was wiser than I except in that one shining of the light from Eleusis. I walked alone in the woods thinking of these things and no answer satisfied me.
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck