The Man Who Went Too Far
by E.F. Benson
page 6 of 10 | page 1
Darcy was far too interested to interrupt, though there was a question he would have liked to ask, and Frank went on:
"Well, for the moment I was terrified, terrified with the impotent horror of nightmare, and I stopped my ears and just ran from the place and got back to the house panting, trembling, literally in a panic. Unknowingly, for at that time I only pursued joy, I had begun, since I drew my joy from Nature, to get in touch with Nature. Nature, force, God, call it what you will, had drawn across my face a little gossamer web of essential life. I saw that when I emerged from my terror, and I went very humbly back to where I had heard the Pan-pipes. But it was nearly six months before I heard them again."
"Why was that?" asked Darcy.
"Surely because I had revolted, rebelled, and worst of all been frightened. For I believe that just as there is nothing in the world which so injures one's body as fear, so there is nothing that so much shuts up the soul. I was afraid, you see, of the one thing in the world which has real existence. No wonder its manifestation was withdrawn."
"And after six months?"
"After six months one blessed morning I heard the piping again. I wasn't afraid that time. And since then it has grown louder, it has become more constant. I now hear it often, and I can put myself into such an attitude towards Nature that the pipes will almost certainly sound. And never yet have they played the same tune, it is always something new, something fuller, richer, more complete than before."
"What do you mean by 'such an attitude towards Nature'?" asked Darcy.
"I can't explain that; but by translating it into a bodily attitude it is this."
Frank sat up for a moment quite straight in his chair, then slowly sunk back with arms outspread and head drooped.
"That," he said, "an effortless attitude, but open, resting, receptive. It is just that which you must do with your soul."
Then he sat up again.
"One word more," he said, "and I will bore you no further. Nor unless you ask me questions shall I talk about it again. You will find me, in fact, quite sane in my mode of life. Birds and beasts you will see behaving somewhat intimately to me, like that moor-hen, but that is all. I will walk with you, ride with you, play golf with you, and talk with you on any subject you like. But I wanted you on the threshold to know what has happened to me. And one thing more will happen."
He paused again, and a slight look of fear crossed his eyes.
"There will be a final revelation," he said, "a complete and blinding stroke which will throw open to me, once and for all, the full knowledge, the full realization and comprehension that I am one, just as you are, with life. In reality there is no 'me,' no 'you,' no 'it.' Everything is part of the one and only thing which is life. I know that that is so, but the realization of it is not yet mine. But it will be, and on that day, so I take it, I shall see Pan. It may mean death, the death of my body, that is, but I don't care. It may mean immortal, eternal life lived here and now and for ever. Then having gained that, ah, my dear Darcy, I shall preach such a gospel of joy, showing myself as the living proof of the truth, that Puritanism, the dismal religion of sour faces, shall vanish like a breath of smoke, and be dispersed and disappear in the sunlit air. But first the full knowledge must be mine."
Darcy watched his face narrowly.
"You are afraid of that moment," he said.
Frank smiled at him.
"Quite true; you are quick to have seen that. But when it comes I hope I shall not be afraid."
For some little time there was silence; then Darcy rose.
"You have bewitched me, you extraordinary boy," he said. "You have been telling me a fairy-story, and I find myself saying, 'Promise me it is true.'"
"I promise you that," said the other.
"And I know I shan't sleep," added Darcy.
Frank looked at him with a sort of mild wonder as if he scarcely understood.
"Well, what does that matter?" he said.
"I assure you it does. I am wretched unless I sleep."
"Of course I can make you sleep if I want," said Frank in a rather bored voice.