Enter these enchanted woods You who dare.
I SAT on the edge of the pine wood which stretched in a gradual slope up the hill. I was completing a sketch of a clump of pine-needles, etching them in with ink, and putting an aura of peacock-blue about them, — an experiment which, while recalling the drawings of Japanese artists, conveyed the sense of vague mystery peculiar to our western landscape. I was well satisfied with the work I had done in Surrey: the woods themselves seemed shaped in happiest circumstance, and pictures encountered me at every step, while the atmosphere at that time of year — it was late summer — possessed some special quality of revelation, so that as a rule I was able to pierce without effort to the very spirit of the scene. What was most delightful to me, however, was the feeling that I was on the verge of an æsthetic discovery, on the threshold of an artistic experience; that the pine woods held a secret which perhaps it would be mine to surprise and interpret. Once, in a sun-burst of radiance that turned the ground metallic with copper and bronze, I thought I had caught it; and once again, in a terrible twilight alive with strange noise; but the senses were not quick enough to respond, to focus the impression, and the moment passed.
That day, as I sat half-mechanically etching in the pine-needles, it seemed to me that the mystery was again not far away. It was a gray day, a little cold and breathless, with that pause and strain in the air which suggests the concentration of vast forces. The gloom between the trees became a tangible shadow, and the needle-strewn ground turned stone-color. It was only four o’clock in the afternoon, and I wondered if a storm threatened. I began putting my things together when my eye was caught by a dark flapping movement coming down the hill between the trees: then I realized that it must be that chap Connell, in the long, odd-looking cape he always affected. He was a tall young fellow, strongly and loosely built, but thin; with black hair, rather absurdly long, and extraordinary dark eyes set in a pale, handsome face. He would have been striking in any costume, but I confess the slight eccentricity in his dress — his green ties and soft hats — rather prejudiced me against him; and though we had been lodging in the same village during the summer, we were no more than casual acquaintances. An insignificant fellow like myself can wear almost anything without attracting notice; but I thought it rather bad form in Connell to force attention to his already remarkable appearance. He was coming down toward me quickly, with a scared face, and when he reached me he merely nodded, threw himself on the ground quite close, and buried his face in his hands. I went on putting up my materials, indifferent to his presence, and after a while he twisted himself round and sat staring at me intently. It was an interesting face, — I had never before realized how interesting; the brows had the architecture and shadow of thought and imagination, and the eyes unusual depth and strangeness.
“ I’ve found a good subject for you to sketch, a little way up the hill,” he said in a rather strained voice. ” Can you come and look at it now? I don’t want you to miss it.”
“ All right,” I said. “ I can leave my paraphernalia under a bush. It’s getting too dark to do much more to-day.”
He chafed a little as I leisurely finished my packing. There was a curious eagerness about him.
We began climbing the hill. We were seven or eight miles from the village where we both lodged, and I had never been up this hill before. Under the trees it was much clearer than I had expected; the light was like a medium of liquid gray that mellowed and enriched the sombre coloring of bole and foliage, and emphasized detail to its finest edge. The days that give at the same time full tones with minute intricacies are rare, and I was beginning to regret that I had not brought my paint-box, when my attention was caught by a building we were approaching right among the trees. It was some way off yet and its outline confused by the pine-stems, but a long façade of stone was distinguishable, with stone embrasures and a stone-pillared entrance arch.
“ What a curious situation for a house! ” I exclaimed. “ No road to it, no carriage drive, no path even, — and the pines growing almost against the windows! ”
“ You see it too, then,” said Connell in a low voice. “ Come a little farther, where you can get a better view.”
He advanced a step or two, and then paused. If this was Connell’s picture, it was certainly one of extreme beauty. For composition, for color, he had chosen a unique spot, an inspired moment. There was an enchanting delicacy in the intersection of lines made by the pine-stems growing up the bank and barring faintly the stone of the house; the detail of the building, the battlements, the stone device above the porch, the carvings of the stone embrasures, had the intricacy and definition that distance gives when there is a clear light between. I took out my notebook which I always carried in my pocket, and began sketching in the scene with pencil. But color was wanted to do justice to the picture; and I tried rapidly to memorize the veiled radiance of the stone, that threw into sombre dusk of a new depth and quality the smoky blue of the pine foliage and the rusty yellows of the foreground. The house shone with pale light in a circle of dim rich gloom, and I foresaw the difficulty of making this light convincing on canvas; the luminous lichens on the pillars of the porch, the weather-worn surface of the stone, which gave opportunity to impalpable reflections and contrasts, — these accounted only partly for the vaguely diffused glow, which held the eye by its strangeness.
While I was sketching, Connell remained silent, looking at the house.
“ Do you know Henri Le Sidaner’s pictures ? ” I asked, “ those moonlit blanks of wall that suggest so convincingly the life inside — a life that by reason of its simplicity is allied to the mysteries? I would like to give this house in my picture the same quality of suggestion, but it suggests something different, something more complex,— wonder, — terror, — ”
“ The unknown,” said Connell slowly. “ Le Sidaner reaches the spirit, the essence of exquisite familiar things; but this house holds — do you not feel ? — some transcending secret.”
“ I would like to convey that impression,” I answered. “ I would like to paint it as it appears to me now, — a thing of romance, of dream, extraordinarily real, and yet not exactly material. I’ve been looking for this all the summer,” I added. “ I knew it was in the woods somewhere.”
“ You knew,” Connell repeated, “ you knew, — and I fancied that I alone — ” He startled me, he was so serious.
“ Have you been up to the house? ” I asked. “ I won’t go any nearer, — I want to keep this impression intact.”
“ I have been — up to the house,” he replied.
“ What is it? Some open-air-cure place ? The shell of an Elizabethan manor ? ”
“ It won’t hurt your conception if you come a little bit nearer,” said Connell; “ it will be better, — I want you to — ”
“Oh, very well,” I answered, thinking his manner strange; “ but mind, you’ll be responsible if I lose the inspiration.”
We got a less clear view as we went on, owing to the conformation of the ground and the sudden crowding of the pinestems, but a step or two farther brought the building full in sight. I went a few paces nearer, — then stopped abruptly. There was nothing in front of me but the pine-stems growing up a slope, and the stone-colored ground; façade, windows, battlements, pillars, archway, — all had vanished.
I could hardly believe my senses, — so vivid, so actual had been the illusion. I turned to Connell in amazement. “ Yes, I’ve lost it too,” he said.
“ Look here, Connell, — you’re playing a joke on me. You’ve manœuvred a flank movement, or something of that sort. I thought we were making straight for the house, but you’ve turned us off somewhere. However, it’s getting late, and if we ’re to explore the place at all, we must hurry up.”
“ There’s no house, there’s no place,” said Connell in a low voice, speaking rapidly ; “ we saw what you said, — a thing of faery, of romance, of dream, — a little bit of one of the great kingdoms that interpenetrate the material world suddenly, inexplicably made visible, — ”
I hardly listened to what he said. I was bitterly disappointed. I had been fooled, — fooled by a mere optical illusion. Nature does sometimes play these cruel tricks upon us. How could I paint my picture when I knew my subject to be a phantom, dependent on a fortuitous arrangement of light and shadow, — a deception induced by the slope of the hill and the pine-stems ? And yet, what a stupendous deception it had been, convincing alike in its details and in its completeness !
“ So much for the truth of our senseimpressions! ” I exclaimed. ” My picture’s ruined, of course. We’d better go home. It’s getting colder.”
“ Let me see your sketch,” said Connell.
I handed him the book.
“ You drew exactly what you saw? You added nothing from imagination ? ”
“ Nothing,” I answered.
” And yet you maintain that this palace, definite in every minutest particular, proportioned, finished, perfect, was a mere illusion ? ”
I’m forced to suppose so. I confess I can’t explain in the least how the effect was produced. True, the ground is not unlike the color of stone, and the crooked pine-stems might in the distance take the shape of carved windows, — but
Connell interrupted me. “ I know what you will say, — but this barely touches the fringe of the problem. This only asserts that the light, the atmosphere, the color, were sympathetic. This only means that we were attuned to vibrations that in ordinary circumstances would have failed to reach us, that we were made partners in a mystery that would otherwise have passed us by.”
“ I don’t understand you,” I remarked abruptly.
“ And yet you said that you knew that this palace was somewhere in the woods, — you said you had been looking for it. Like me, you have been expecting to surprise the hidden secret, — to glimpse the vision, the revelation — ”
“ Are you trying to make out that the ‘palace ’ as you call it, was a thing of actual existence ? ”
” Yes, of actual existence. Not of material existence, as we understand matter, though doubtless it was built of some subtler form of matter, or it would have eluded us altogether. It’s not unusual for a moment to overstep the sense-limitations, and the interpenetration of various planes of being is common knowledge. As a rule, we crash unconsciously through all the crystal loveliness of our surrounding worlds, and trample upon their divine blooms. But sometimes our eyes are opened — ”
“ This is merely fanciful,” I began.
“ The poets have seen!” cried Connell with passion, “ and experience has been the scaffolding for their dream structures. Do you suppose Mrs. Browning’s ‘ Lost Bower ' was a mere imagination ? It transcended the loveliness of the world she knew; but for a time it was definitely about her.
Had upsnatched me to the Timeless, then
returned me to the Hour.
Can you deny that our palace produced an impression deeper, stronger, more mysterious than the ordinary sights that meet our eyes ? Your sketch is inspired, every line of it alive with magic, with what is to us incalculable, unaccountable; because you have seen through the veil, have captured the beyond — ”
I shook my head. “ You’re not an artist, Connell. My sketch is nothing but a clever impression. What you say is interesting, and I’ve heard something of the theory that thoughts are things, if that’s what you’re driving at. But why seek so far-fetched an explanation ? We happened to be in an impressionable mood, and our active imaginations, working upon this mirage arranged by nature, produced the illusion that deceived us both.”
“ I’m very sorry you think that way,” said Connell. “ I wanted your help — badly.”
“ You can have that in any case,” I answered.
“ You mean it ? ” said Connell. ” After all, you saw the thing, you drew it, your real self is convinced, though reason may hang out its paltry denials. Anyhow you are interested enough to explore further.”
“ What is there to explore? ”
“The palace,” said Connell; “the inside.”
I stared at him in amazement. “ Pineneedles and pine-roots,” I murmured.
“ For years,” he said earnestly, “ I have been seeking this experience, this opportunity. I have read, I have studied, I have meditated, — and now you and I stand on the threshold of actual knowledge. I must go on, — by myself if necessary, — go through the archway of the palace into the courtyard beyond, into a realm untrodden, unknown, — ”
“ But you forget, — our palace has vanished into air, into thin air.”
“ It can be materialized, — sufficiently materialized at least for us to enter it. I must pierce to the heart of the mystery. I must obtain certainty, absolute certainty, — I must grasp the essence of beauty that burns in poets’ dreams.”
I did not think him mad. In this age the regions of the possible have been so indefinitely extended that no one may venture to proclaim their confines. We have learned to receive at least with courtesy the most incredible ideas. The time has gone by for educated people to approach the mystical and the occult with cheap sneers. Personally, though I could not explain the emotion and unrest induced in me by the phantom palace, I held it an effect of imagination working on circumstance; but I was willing to allow that something might possibly be said for Connell’s contention. As a matter of fact, he said a great deal for it as we walked home together through the pine woods. He talked well, in a low voice, with large and ample gesture, pausing sometimes in the twilight to emphasize his points: a strange figure, his head uncovered, his eyes shining. Much of his talk was above and beyond me, but it was alive, and full of suggestion, — indeed the very landscape seemed mobile under its influence. When he spoke of Eastern symbolisms, the pine trees clumped into the forms of faintly gleaming Buddhas, their myriad arms of power stretching beneath clouds of heavy smoke; we were walking among the shrines of forces, magnetic, terrible. When he touched upon the unending flux of matter, a wave of motion seemed suddenly to overwhelm the wood, and the pines began marching and countermarching in interminable procession, multiplying down far vistas. When he spoke of the fairylands created out of the core of weariness and disillusion, I almost apprehended threads of opalescence floating in the gloom. And when he spoke of the Supreme, the blue of night grew with a solemnity that was tragic to a soul suddenly unprepared to meet it.
Connell certainly had the poetic gift in a high degree, the gift of evoking images, of awakening emotions, and during our walk he quite carried me off my feet. We took up again a more normal relationship when he came with me to my cottage for a meal of bread and cheese. He looked rather haggard under the lamp, and his rapid walk and gesticulation had disheveled his appearance a little: his hair was tossed and his green tie astray. His excitement struck me as somewhat feverish, and I determined to keep watch over his movements, for there might be danger in the absorbing fascination of the subjects that attracted him. The phantom in the wood, the vision, whatever it was, had set his emotional nature aflame, and no longer under the spell of his eloquence I observed with some misgiving the passion of his gestures and the unnatural brightness of his eyes.
He ate hardly anything; he refused to smoke. After supper, while I was lighting my pipe, he remarked, “ I’m afraid I’ve wandered a good deal from the subject of this afternoon’s adventure. But my point is this: if I find a way of making the palace material, — will you come inside with me ? ”
“ How will you find a way ? ” I asked.
“ It is a question of vibration,” he answered ; “ as this universe is built upon vibrations, so are all the universes beyond. Light, heat, sound, electricity, depend upon waves and rhythms; look at wireless telegraphy — the whole gamut of life upon this planet is but the beating pulse of the Word. Even mechanical vibrations set up a living current, as the Thibetans understand when they make their prayer-wheels. And it is well-known that music builds form.”
“ How does this bear upon the subject ? ”
“ I’m horribly discursive, — incoherent as well, I fear. Has it never occurred to you to consider the vibrations of a pine wood? Millions and millions of needles, quivering year in, year out, to the faintest breath of wind, — strings struck by the storm into infinitudes of harmony, — an instrument delicate and multitudinous beyond all conceiving? If vibrations, if music create form, imagine the structures of splendor that must inhabit a pine wood! ”
“ You imply that the palace we saw — like the vision of Abt Vogler — was built out of sound vibrations? ”
“ No. Our palace was too largely infused with some intense emotional quality to have been built by mechanical means.”
“ What do you propose to do ? ”
“ I suppose you have n’t studied the magical tradition at all ? ” asked Connell. I shook my head. “ Then you don’t know much about the power of incantation — vibration again — a succession of sounds and rhythms framed to penetrate to planes beyond ours ? It’s a dangerous study, for you may chance upon some word of might that may bring down upon you forces that will shrivel you to dust. But I have learned to walk warily in this path. And as by incantation one can call up spirits from the vasty deep, so by incantation I intend to call up once again, and to enter, the palace in the wood.”
“ I don’t approve of this meddling with things we know nothing about,” I said bluntly. “ I daresay there’s a good deal in occultism and magic, — I’m inclined to think there is, — but most of us have n’t reached a stage when it’s safe to make risky experiments. If that palace in the woods was the effect of magic, well, it came to us unsought, and was indeed the most exquisite piece of beauty I have ever seen; but it is a very different matter to go out and try to evoke a vision by means of forces of which we know absolutely nothing.”
“ Our ignorance is not so profound as all that,” said Connell. “ When you think of it, incantation is a common enough thing in daily life, though not always recognized, and all poetry that is real poetry is incantation, magic, — the awakening of raptures and ecstasies by inspired rhythms and sounds. There are, however, other ways; for vibrations attract to themselves subtle forms of matter, which they ensoul. But I need n’t enter into this, since you don’t sympathize.”
Indeed I thought it better to turn the conversation to saner subjects, and soon after this Connell took his leave. We made an appointment to meet next day in the pine wood, I to demonstrate that our palace was a mere coincidence of soil and root, and he to prove if possible that it was a dream made solid. But in vain we sought to recover the spot whence the illusion had been obtained; sought in vain to trace anything resembling the outlines of a house among the confused pinestems. The wood which yesterday had seemed athrob with vitality and tense with meaning, was to-day empty, languid, commonplace. We who yesterday had believed ourselves thrilled by the breath of genuine inspiration were today a couple of tricked idiots wasting our time in trying to recapture a transitory effect of light.
Connell had taken my sketch-book, and having apparently obtained his bearings, he began tracing on a flat piece of ground among the pine-needles, with a pine-branch he had sharpened, certain geometrical diagrams covering some ten feet in circumference. He stripped and sharpened other pine-branches which he set up within the circle.
I watched him idly. “ What are you doing? ” I asked.
“ To-night it will be full moon,” he answered. “ To-night I am going to make my experiment.”
“It involves the use of these bits of stick ? ”
I suppose my tone offended him. “ I don’t care to explain,” he said.
I could make some guess at his object. He was anxious, evidently, to mark a particular spot with exactitude, and little as I knew of the subject, I had no doubt that within the circle he was drawing an intricacy of magical figures. This mysterymongering was distasteful to me; nevertheless, as he drew I could not help feeling that these traceries were affecting me with a kind of mesmeric influence. Connell’s long stooping figure and flapping cloak, which should have appeared merely grotesque, seemed somehow tragic, and I laid a hand on his arm.
“ Come away, my dear fellow, and leave all this. It is n’t healthy. You’ve been living too long by yourself, — brooding too much. You’ve been dabbling in forbidden lore. You ought to leave the country altogether, and mix awhile in a crowd. I ’ll go with you if you like. Let’s take the next train up to London. We’ll get a snack at a restaurant somewhere and look in at the Empire — ”
He disengaged himself gently. “ And yesterday,” he said, “ you saw the vision.”
It was ridiculous, but he made me feel ashamed of myself, —as if I had intruded with some unpardonable triviality into a sacred place. Indeed, I had made the proposal partly in self-defense, because I could not shake myself free of the impression that some unguessed meaning underlay the illusion that had tricked us. I half expected and half feared I he recurrence of the phantom, and my glances kept seeking the place where I supposed it had stood; but the slopes continued empty of all suggestion. Under such circumstances the imagination is unnaturally stimulated and is apt to create deceiving shapes; and I felt that if I stayed much longer in the wood, I should see things, without being able to distinguish if they were of my own fancy, or had individual existence.
“ Come along, Connell, there’s a good fellow,”I urged. “ Anyhow, suppose we go back to my diggings for a quiet smoke and chat — ”
“ Please leave me,” said Connell. “ I’m sorry to have bothered you at all with my talk and theories, — and I’m better alone. To be frank, I think you’re rather a disturbing influence here. Do you mind leaving me? ”
His tone was too gentle for me to take offense; besides, I had got to have a liking for the man. His strangeness, which Struck the outsider as an affectation, was in reality of the very fibre of his character; there was indeed a ring of absolute sincerity in all he said and did, together with some quality of sweetness that made strong appeal to friendship. But what most attracted was the sense he conveyed of that indescribable thing we call genius. His talk was more than clever talk, it had inspiration, — he could fire the mind and sway the emotions, and suggest in flashing juxtaposition new facets of beauty and of truth. I liked him, I liked him very much. So I took no offense at his words, but hung about a while, expecting him to join me. At last it struck me as undignified to be waiting so long on his good pleasure, and I turned my steps homeward. I walked slowly, thinking he would catch me up; for nearly an hour I sat on an open hill watching the sunset; then, determining to delay no longer, I plunged once more into the pine woods, and made for home.
But once inside my cottage, I was seized with an extraordinary unrest. I tried to concentrate my attention on the evening paper, — in vain; I engaged my garrulous landlady in conversation, — in vain: I saw nothing but Connell’s cloaked figure flapping among the pinestems which seemed to be shifting ceaselessly in intricate diagrams. After supper I became so uneasy that I went round to Connell’s lodgings to assure myself of his safety. He had not come back. Surely he was not waiting till moon-rise to carry out any mad-brained scheme ? Instinctively, without reflection, I turned my steps away from the village. It was ten o’clock, and dark; still, it might be possible to trace the path through the woods. I did not stop to consider the absurdity of such an expedition, the possibility of my missing Connell, the uselessness of my joining him. I was possessed of an unreasoning anxiety on his account, and my only thought was to find him. This desire so took hold of me that I rushed along blindly, almost unaware of obstacles and difficulties; but soon such headlong progress became impracticable. Where the foliage overhead was thick, I had to grope my way, and though I am courageous by nature the darkness, the loneliness, the unnatural stillness inspired me with terror. This night was not as other nights. There were unknown forces lurking round, — whether umleficent or beneficent I had no means of guessing; and my whole will was bent on stifling perception, lest I should surprise some sight transcending experience in beauty or horror. This wild effort of shutting out from consciousness something that pressed nearer and nearer, with sounds almost audible and shape almost visible, made my walk a nightmare; but I stumbled on, covering the ground somehow, till a deathly paleness struck dimly through the woods. Then, with a sense of overwhelming relief, I realized that the moon would not be long in rising.
As I crossed the valley, the wooded hill that had contained the phantom palace took filmy definition. The landscape beyond the valley’s length expanded into distances so remote that I felt as if my power of vision had been miraculously augmented. My sight went over soft intricacies of misty silver to horizons beyond horizons, and all the vagueness spoke with a tender meaning, so that there was no point too far to be beyond my reading of its implications. So alien an experience cut me away suddenly from common humanity, isolated me in a white silence, and the horror of loneliness possessed me. My nature called out for companionship, for Connell, — I seemed to be dissipating in the vastness, and struggled in vain to recover my accustomed limitations.
Then from those spheres beyond the reach of our senses, there struck a chord of notes, penetrating in sweetness, a pillar of sound attaining heights and depths unapprehended by normal hearing, embracing subtleties of interval too delicate to be discriminated by our ordinary coarse perceptions. It seemed as if every tone in the whole stretch of creation had been touched: and the harmony was so complete, the range so vast, that the body quivered as if caught in the wind of some stupendous revolution.
I could not bear the burden of such amplitude; so exquisite a perfection hurt past enduring; and instinctively I sought cover beneath the trees, to cage me from these crushing expansions.
Then, floating down the hill, came a voice, Connell’s voice, in a chant, rising and falling with rhythmic monotony, now low, now loud, entreating and commanding, curiously human amid all its strangeness. The sense of his presence helped me to recover my balance a little, and I hastened my climbing, led by the sound of his voice. Then when I had nearly reached him in the centre of his circle, I stopped, gasping.
There stood the palace on the slope, a thing shining and radiant beyond thought or dream. The moon herself seemed to be burning in the structure, and the barring pine-stems were melted to transparence by the intense light. The weatherworn stone of window and battlement and archway, caressed by faint shadows, spiritualized to attenuation, was instinct with life; a tracery of rose-stems clipped the fissures, and a few pink roses blossomed in the glow. Impossible to doubt the actuality of this building, impossible to deny the power of unknown forces that lurked behind its walls, impossible to resist the call of its beauty and its terror. If the thing remained standing, if Connell succeeded in making his way to the entrance, if he dared the dreadful step of crossing the threshold into the unknown, I determined that I would not be behind; we might be shattered to dust or blasted to ashes, but the experience must be braved, the adventure culminated.
Again came that infinite chord of notes upon the air, but this time quite near, striking with deafening vibrations upon the senses, till the nerves almost snapped under the strain, and consciousness itself was nearly overwhelmed. Then a flight of shadows began chasing over the surface of the palace as if the moon were being obscured by driving clouds.
In a passing gleam I caught the wildness of Connell’s face, and stepped into the circle.
“Connell!” I cried, “Connell!”
He gripped my hand. “ Come! ” he whispered.
We had hardly proceeded more than a few steps when the whole wood rattled with all the winds of heaven suddenly let loose. We were plunged in a chaos of noise, — of roaring and hisses and shrieks, of shouting and wild laughter, — voices that were not of the storm, that were not of the earth. The ground itself became unstable, and seethed with a whirling mass of atoms, while branches from a tossing ocean above came crashing through the air amid flying forms. Still we struggled on, the darkness increasing, the house now lost and now visible amid the confusion. But it endured. At last only a strip of slightly rising ground divided us from our goal. Lashed and blinded by the storm, bewildered by its fury, scarce able to stand against its force, the palace yet loomed vaguely before us in all its vastness, and it seemed as if lights flashed now and again across the windows and through the shadows of the arch.
And now, so close to this manifestation of the unknown, unreasoning terror came upon me again with irresistible force. Something awful in iLs appearance subdued me with, a groveling sense of weakness, something sinister in its aspect struck a tremor through my frame. The wind had decreased a little in violence, and I tried to make myself heard of Connell. “ Enough of this madness!” I uttered hoarsely. He turned upon me a rapt face. “ You shall not go! ” I cried, gripping his arm. He moved forward, dragging me with him. At every step, the terror increased upon me; I felt that I was approaching forces so tremendous that imagination quailed before them. They drew me as by a magnet, and I knew that in another moment we must both be swept into the vortex. Exerting all my strength, I tried to draw Connell back, but he was taller and stronger than I, in a state of exaltation; and he shook me off easily. I swung from him, stumbled, caught my foot in some undergrowth and fell, a great flash of lightning almost blinding me, followed by the swirl of a cloudburst and a roar of thunder breaking in my very ears.
I must have lain there a long time; consciousness came with a sense of aching limbs. At first I could not remember why I was lying out on a brier-patch in the pine woods, wet to the skin; then slowly memory returned. With sore pain I struggled to my feet, — the sun was up, revealing a scene of devastation. Along the rim of the pine wood, where last night the palace had been, whole series of pine trees were torn up by their roots; the ground where I had lain was strewn by pinebranches and heaped with eddies and whirls of pine-needles. But where was Connell ?
That question has never been answered. In high fever as I was, I searched the woods for hours, and when my strength failed me I gave the alarm, and the whole country was scoured. But he was never found. I had expected that he would not be. For I knew that Connell had dared the experiment, had culminated the adventure, had passed through the archway into the unknown beyond.