Page images

your right angles. Weathering. Get it The archæologist had stopped. straight, and go back to America.' 'Oh, I say,' he countered, disgrun

The archæologist was moving off. tled, 'there's no need of raving on that

'Go to the British Museum,' he said way. I'm willing to agree that Thomas in a miserable voice. "Tell 'em you à Becket was slain in the crypt under want to write about the tors of Dart- Canterbury Cathedral, and that the moor. They'll let you in; and they'll stain is genuine. I'll even grant you find you

the books. Then you take one that Sir Walter got his ducking, for the of their quill-pens and draw a picture truth is he ordered mass to be said at of a donkey.'

Sherborne Abbas, after the fellow's My grip upon the thong-bound flint death; and then he was taken to the tightened.

tower, and it's on the books in the Ab'We know you now,' said Porthos, bey that twenty shillings is still owing transfigured with rage. “There's not a for the service. It's when you come to solitary thing that you or anybody else Dartmoor can say in your defense. You've read 'We'll not begin on that,' said PorSchopenhauer. You hate yourself. thos loftily. 'I think we may say that You're the sort of chap that would go we have made Dartmoor our peculiar paddling around Plymouth Bay in a field. I think we may say that.' canoe, making soundings to prove that The archæologist turned and began our forefathers could n't have stepped to stumble blindly down the hill, ashore on Plymouth Rock. You're the among the ruins of hut-circles. fellow who smashed that charming 'At least,' said Porthos, 'you might myth of the Charter Oak of Connecti- tell us where your highly important cut. You were a member of the city scientific investigations are going on.' council that refused to spray arsenic 'I'm going to Dorchester,' said the on the Washington Elm. And let me archæologist sulkily. tell you something. In this world every- ‘Going to dig up another gladiator,' thing's conjectural; and of two conjec- bellowed my companion. tures the prettiest is the truest, and the The archæologist, in his shining coat, truest stands. If I say a servant threw was almost out of hearing. a bucket of water over Sir Walter “They were right enough,' he said. Raleigh's head when he was smoking, ‘All but the bicuspids. And if you where's the use in your saying that he want to know it, I'm going to have a was too poor to keep a servant? Which try at the bicuspids. They can't be is the statement that will stand? If you far.' say the wind spun this hole here in the Nothing showed of him now but his rock, and I say a maiden was chained sparkling hat, bobbing about among here, and her tears fell one by one until shark-like menhirs, and overturned they fashioned it, which one of us will cistvaens. We crowded back into our the Lord Mayor of London have out to stone angle. And suddenly, opposed lunch? Which of us will appear un- to the stern and tearing fact of these der the heading “Interesting Personali- bicuspids, our quest of palæoliths sank,

“ ties,” with a picture of the basin un- dwindled like a flame in a dry lamp, derneath? Answer me that.'

and was become as nothing.



ONE summer day, while I was walk- of time when the upholding and downing along the country road on the farm pulling forces are just balanced; then where I was born, a section of the stone the yielding of one grain more gives the wall opposite me, and not more than victory to gravity. The slow minute three or four yards distant, suddenly changes in the tree, and in the stone fell down. Amid the general stillness wall, that precede their downfall, we and immobility about me, the effect do not see or hear; the sudden culminawas quite startling. The question at tion and collapse alone arrest our attenonce arose in my mind as to just what tion. An earthquake is doubtless the happened to that bit of stone wall at result of the sudden release of forces that particular moment to cause it to that have been in stress and strain for fall. Maybe the slight vibration im- years or ages; some point at last gives parted to the ground by my tread way, and the earth trembles or the caused the minute shifting of forces mountains fall. that brought it down. But the time was It is the slow insensible changes in ripe; a long, slow, silent process of the equipoise of the elements about us decay and disintegration, or a shifting which, in the course of long periods of of the points of bearing amid the frag- time, put a new face upon the aspect ments of stone by the action of the of the earth. Rapid and noisy changes weather, culminated at that instant, over large areas, which may have ocand the wall fell. It was the sudden curred during the geologic ages, we do summing-up of half a century or more not now see except in the case of an of atomic changes in the material of the earthquake. It is the ceaseless activwall. A grain or two of sand yielded to ity, both chemical and physical, in the the pressure of long years, and gravity bodies about us, of which we take no did the rest. It was as when the key- note, that transforms the world. Atom stone of an arch crumbles or weakens by atom the face of the immobile rocks to the last particle, and the arch sud- changes. The terrible demonstrative denly collapses.

forces, such as electric discharges durThe same thing happened in the case ing a storm, which seem competent to of the large spruce tree that fell as our level mountains or blot out landscapes, steamer passed near the shore in Alas- usually make but slight impression on kan waters, or when the campers in the the fields and hills. forest heard a tree fall in the stillness of In the ordinary course of nature the the night. In both cases the tree's hour great beneficent changes come slowly had come; the balance of forces was and silently. The noisy changes, for suddenly broken by the yielding of the most part, mean violence and dissome small particle in the woody tis- ruption. The roar of storms and tornasues of the tree, and down it came. In does, the explosions of volcanoes, the all such cases there must be a moment crash of the thunder, are the result of a


sudden break in the equipoise of the gospel of hate and reprisal, of broken elements; from a condition of compara- treaties and burned cities, of murdered tive repose and silence they become women and children, and devastated fearfully swift and audible. The still homes. small voice is the voice of life and What a noise politics makes in the growth and perpetuity. In the stillness world, our politics especially; but some of a bright summer day what work is silent thinker in his study, or some inbeing accomplished — what processes ventor in his laboratory, is starting curare being consummated! When the rents that will make or unmake politornado comes, how quickly much of tics for generations to come. How may be brought to naught! In the his- noiseless is the light, yet what power tory of a nation it is the same. The ter- dwells in the sunbeams mechanical rible war that is now devastating Eu- power at one end of the spectrum, in rope is the tornado that comes in the the red and infra-red rays, and chemipeace and fruitful repose of a summer's

of a summer's cal power at the other or violet and ulday. As living nature in time recovers tra-violet end! It is the mechanical from the destructive effects of the mad forces — the winds, the rains, the movewarring of the inorganic elements, so ments of ponderable bodies — that fill the nations will eventually recover the world with noise; the chemical from the blight and waste of this war. changes that disintegrate the rocks and But the gains and the benefits can set the currents of life going are silent. never offset the losses and the agony. The great loom in which are woven The discipline and agony of war only all the living textures that clothe the fit a people for more war. If war is to world with verdure and people it with be the business of mankind, then the animated forms makes no sound. more of it we have the better - if there Think of the still small voice of radiois no true growth or expansion for a activity — so still and small that only people, save through blood and fire, molecular science is aware of it, yet then let the blood and fire come to all physicists believe it to be the mainof us, the more the better. The Ger- spring of the universe. man gospel of war, so assiduously The vast ice-engine that we call a preached and so heroically practiced in glacier is almost as silent as the slumour day, is based upon the conviction bering rocks, and, to all but the eye of that there is no true growth for a nation science, nearly as immobile, save where except by the sword, that the still small it discharges into the sea. It is noisy in voice of love and good-will must give its dying, but in the height of its power place to the brazen trumpet that sounds it is as still as the falling snow of which the onset of hostile and destroying it is made. Yet give it time enough, legions.

and it scoops out the valleys and grinds Is the gospel of love and altruism of down the mountains and turns the the New Testament outworn, and must courses of rivers, or makes new ones. we go back to the vindictive and blood- We split the rocks and level the hills thirsty spirit of the Old Testament? with our powder and dynamite, and Are the arts of peace seductive, and do fill the world with noise; but behold they hasten the mortal ripening of a the vast cleavage of the rocks which people's character? Must the plough- the slow, noiseless forces of sun and shares now be forged into swords and frost bring about! In the Shawamthe swords used to spill our neighbors' gunk mountains one may see enormous blood? The current gospel of war is the masses of conglomerate that have been


split down from the main range, show with the still small voice. How much ing as clean a cleavage over vast sur- more potent the voice that speaks out faces as the quarryman can produce on of a great solitude and reverence than small blocks with his drills and wedges. the noisy, acrimonious, and disputaOne has to pause and speculate on the tious voice! Strong conviction and character of the forces that achieved firm resolution are usually chary of such results and left no mark of sud- words. Depth of feeling and parsiden violence behind. The forces that mony of expression go well together. cleft them asunder were the noiseless The mills of the gods upon the earth's sunbeams. The unequal stress and surface grind exceeding slow, and exstrain imparted by varying tempera- ceeding still. They are grinding up the tures clove the mountains from top to rocks everywhere - pulverizing the bottom as with the stroke of the earth- granite, the limestone, the sandstone, quake's hammer. In and around Yose- the basalt, between the upper and mite Valley one sees granite blocks the nether millstones of air and water, to size of houses and churches split in two make the soil, but we hear no sound where they lie in their beds, as if it had and mark no change; only in geologic been done in their sleep and without time are the results recorded. In still awaking them. This silent quarrying waters we get the rich deposits that and reducing of the rocks never ceases

add to the fat of the land, and in peaceto surprise one. Amid the petrified for- ful, untroubled times is humanity enests of Arizona one marvels to see the riched, and the foundations laid upon stone trunks of the huge trees lying which the permanent institutions of a about in yard-lengths, as squarely and nation are built. cleanly severed as if done with a saw. We all know what can be said in Assault them with sledge and bar and favor of turmoil, agitation, war; we all you may reduce them to irregular frag- know, as Goethe said, that a man comes ments, but you cannot divide the blocks to know himself, not in thought, but in neatly and regularly as time has done action; and the same is true of a nation. it.

Equally do we know the value of reThe unknown, the inaudible forces pose, and the slow, silent activities that make for good in every state and both in the soul of man and in the community, — the gentle word, the processes of nature. The most potent kind act, the forgiving look, the quiet and beneficent forces are stillest. The demeanor, the silent thinkers and strength of a sentence lies not in its workers, the cheerful and unwearied adjectives, but in its verbs and nouns, toilers, the scholar in his study, the and the strength of men and of nations scientist in his laboratory, - how much lies in their calm, sane, meditative more we owe to these forces than to moments. In a time of noise and the clamorous and discordant voices of hurry and materialism like ours, the the world of politics and the newspaper! gospel of the still small voice is always Art, literature, philosophy, all speak seasonable. ,





ably true that some months before I I

had set out from America, and that this It was about twelve o'clock one hot departure marked the lawful beginning tropical night when I took a blanket of the expedition. However, when from my stateroom and went up on the viewed from the deck of the Lady Mcdeck of the Lady McCallum to sleep. Callum, that distant episode appeared The Lady McCallum, a small, compact, somewhat fictitious. I was convinced untidy coast steamer, was bound for that now, for the first time, I had come Hambantotta, Ceylon. She was true to the threshold of the real beginning. to her type and appeared to take no It might have been that the light pride in her work, moving along at a breeze brought with it some subtle evinegligible rate amid a generous creak- dence of land close ahead, some fam

, ing that arose from some mysterious iliar Eastern fragrance which heralded depths amidships. Her engine must the presence of a native village, with have been a devastated and haphazard its palm trees rising dark and splendid affair, with no remnant of self-respect; above a row of thatched huts, and its while her berths, her superior berths fishing canoes drawn up like a black provided for first-class passengers, were battalion along the water's edge. For, intolerably, inhumanly hot, despite in the early morning a blue mist that the noisy electric fan directly overhead. lay close to the horizon took form and

Not that there was anything extraor- contour, becoming a white shore be dinary about these facts. The only re- hind which distant trees showed in an markable fact was that, as I walked out opaque emerald border against the sky. upon her narrow, forsaken deck, and This had the quality and unreality of saw above me a cluster of low stars ap- a mirage, and the appearance of each pearing and disappearing behind her successive detail seemed only to bring rolling funnel, I became suddenly aware new elements of fiction into the illusion. that at last, at this particular moment, Even when the Lady McCallum I had come to the real beginning of my stood in slowly toward the coast, and trip after pheasants. There was some- straight before her nose the native thing incomprehensible about this sud- boats, made very small by distance, den conviction, and also something a rode on the bright surface of the water little absurd, since I had already cov- like a colored toy fleet, the illusion perered some thousands of miles of my sisted. Then, a young Cinghalese apjourney. But these appeared prelimi- peared from some fastness below deck nary when I knew that just ahead, and put his modest baggage well forsomewhere in that promising expanse ward by the rail. The spell was broken. of black water, was the little harbor of There was no longer an opalescent mirHambantotta, — the eastern gateway age against the skyline, but land ahead. . to the jungle beyond. It was undeni- One by one the miniature boats as


« PreviousContinue »