ARTHUR BERNALD could never afterward recall just when the first
conjecture flashed on him: oddly enough, there was no record of it
in the agitated jottings of his diary. But, as it seemed to him in
retrospect, he had always felt that the queer man at the Wades' must
be John Pellerin, if only for the negative reason that he couldn't
imaginably be any one else. It was impossible, in the confused
pattern of the century's intellectual life, to fit the stranger in
anywhere, save in the big gap which, some five and twenty years
earlier, had been left by Pellerin's unaccountable disappearance;
and conversely, such a man as the Wades' visitor couldn't have lived
for sixty years without filling, somewhere in space, a nearly
At all events, it was certainly not to Doctor Wade or to his mother
that Bernald owed the hint: the good unconscious Wades, one of whose
chief charms in the young man's eyes was that they remained so
robustly untainted by Pellerinism, in spite of the fact that Doctor
Wade's younger brother, Howland, was among its most impudently
The incident had begun by Bernald's running across Doctor Robert
Wade one hot summer night at the University Club, and by Wade's
saying, in the tone of unprofessional laxity which the shadowy
stillness of the place invited: "I got hold of a queer fish at St.
Martin's the other day--case of heat-prostration picked up in
Central Park. When we'd patched him up I found he had nowhere to go,
and not a dollar in his pocket, and I sent him down to our place at
Portchester to re-build."
The opening roused his hearer's attention. Bob Wade had an odd
unformulated sense of values that Bernald had learned to trust.
"What sort of chap? Young or old?"
"Oh, every age--full of years, and yet with a lot left. He called
himself sixty on the books."
"Sixty's a good age for some kinds of living. And age is of course
purely subjective. How has he used his sixty years?"
"Well--part of them in educating himself, apparently. He's a
scholar--humanities, languages, and so forth."
"Oh--decayed gentleman," Bernald murmured, disappointed.
"Decayed? Not much!" cried the doctor with his accustomed
literalness. "I only mentioned that side of Winterman--his name's
Winterman--because it was the side my mother noticed first. I
suppose women generally do. But it's only a part--a small part. The
man's the big thing."
"Well--there again. ... When I took him down to the country,
looking rather like a tramp from a 'Shelter,' with an untrimmed
beard, and a suit of reach-me-downs he'd slept round the Park in for
a week, I felt sure my mother'd carry the silver up to her room, and
send for the gardener's dog to sleep in the hall the first night.
But she didn't."
"I see. 'Women and children love him.' Oh, Wade!" Bernald groaned.
"Not a bit of it! You're out again. We don't love him, either of us.
But we _feel_ him--the air's charged with him. You'll see."
And Bernald agreed that he _would_ see, the following Sunday. Wade's
inarticulate attempts to characterize the stranger had struck his
friend. The human revelation had for Bernald a poignant and
ever-renewed interest, which his trade, as the dramatic critic of a
daily paper, had hitherto failed to discourage. And he knew that Bob
Wade, simple and undefiled by literature--Bernald's specific
affliction--had a free and personal way of judging men, and the
diviner's knack of reaching their hidden springs. During the days
that followed, the young doctor gave Bernald farther details about
John Winterman: details not of fact--for in that respect his
visitor's reticence was baffling--but of impression. It appeared
that Winterman, while lying insensible in the Park, had been robbed
of the few dollars he possessed; and on leaving the hospital, still
weak and half-blind, he had quite simply and unprotestingly accepted
the Wades' offer to give him shelter till such time as he should be
strong enough to go to work.
"But what's his work?" Bernald interjected. "Hasn't he at least told
"Well, writing. Some kind of writing." Doctor Bob always became
vague and clumsy when he approached the confines of literature. "He
means to take it up again as soon as his eyes get right."
Bernald groaned. "Oh, Lord--that finishes him; and _me!_ He's
looking for a publisher, of course--he wants a 'favourable notice.'
I won't come!"
"He hasn't written a line for twenty years."
"A line of _what?_ What kind of literature can one keep corked up
for twenty years?"
Wade surprised him. "The real kind, I should say. But I don't know
Winterman's line," the doctor added. "He speaks of the things he
used to write merely as 'stuff that wouldn't sell.' He has a
wonderfully confidential way of _not_ telling one things. But he
says he'll have to do something for his living as soon as his eyes
are patched up, and that writing is the only trade he knows. The
queer thing is that he seems pretty sure of selling _now_. He even
talked of buying the bungalow of us, with an acre or two about it."
"The bungalow? What's that?"
"The studio down by the shore that we built for Howland when he
thought he meant to paint." (Howland Wade, as Bernald knew, had
experienced various "calls.") "Since he's taken to writing nobody's
been near it. I offered it to Winterman, and he camps there--cooks
his meals, does his own house-keeping, and never comes up to the
house except in the evenings, when he joins us on the verandah, in
the dark, and smokes while my mother knits."
"A discreet visitor, eh?"
"More than he need be. My mother actually wanted him to stay on in
the house--in her pink chintz room. Think of it! But he says houses
smother him. I take it he's lived for years in the open."
"In the open where?"
"I can't make out, except that it was somewhere in the East. 'East
of everything--beyond the day-spring. In places not on the map.'
That's the way he put it; and when I said: 'You've been an explorer,
then?' he smiled in his beard, and answered: 'Yes; that's it--an
explorer.' Yet he doesn't strike me as a man of action: hasn't the
hands or the eyes."
"What sort of hands and eyes has he?"
Wade reflected. His range of observation was not large, but within
its limits it was exact and could give an account of itself.
"He's worked a lot with his hands, but that's not what they were
made for. I should say they were extraordinarily delicate conductors
of sensation. And his eye--his eye too. He hasn't used it to
dominate people: he didn't care to. He simply looks through 'em all
like windows. Makes me feel like the fellows who think they're made
of glass. The mitigating circumstance is that he seems to see such a
glorious landscape through me." Wade grinned at the thought of
serving such a purpose.
"I see. I'll come on Sunday and be looked through!" Bernald cried.
BERNALD came on two successive Sundays; and the second time he
lingered till the Tuesday.
"Here he comes!" Wade had said, the first evening, as the two young
men, with Wade's mother sat in the sultry dusk, with the Virginian
creeper drawing, between the verandah arches, its black arabesques
against a moon-lined sky.
In the darkness Bernald heard a step on the gravel, and saw the red
flit of a cigar through the shrubs. Then a loosely-moving figure
obscured the patch of sky between the creepers, and the red spark
became the centre of a dim bearded face, in which Bernald discerned
only a broad white gleam of forehead.
It was the young man's subsequent impression that Winterman had not
spoken much that first evening; at any rate, Bernald himself
remembered chiefly what the Wades had said. And this was the more
curious because he had come for the purpose of studying their
visitor, and because there was nothing to divert him from that
purpose in Wade's halting communications or his mother's artless
comments. He reflected afterward that there must have been a
mysteriously fertilizing quality in the stranger's silence: it had
brooded over their talk like a large moist cloud above a dry
Mrs. Wade, apparently apprehensive lest her son should have given
Bernald an exaggerated notion of their visitor's importance, had
hastened to qualify it before the latter appeared.
"He's not what you or Howland would call intellectual--"(Bernald
writhed at the coupling of the names)--"not in the least _literary;_
though he told Bob he used to write. I don't think, though, it could
have been what Howland would call writing." Mrs. Wade always
mentioned her younger son with a reverential drop of the voice. She
viewed literature much as she did Providence, as an inscrutably
mystery; and she spoke of Howland as a dedicated being, set apart to
perform secret rites within the veil of the sanctuary.
"I shouldn't say he had a quick mind," she continued, reverting
apologetically to Winterman. "Sometimes he hardly seems to follow
what we're saying. But he's got such sound ideas--when he does speak
he's never silly. And clever people sometimes _are_, don't you think
so?" Bernald groaned an unqualified assent. "And he's so capable.
The other day something went wrong with the kitchen range, just as I
was expecting some friends of Bob's for dinner; and do you know,
when Mr. Winterman heard we were in trouble, he came and took a
look, and knew at once what to do? I told him it was a dreadful pity
he wasn't married!"
Close on midnight, when the session on the verandah ended, and the
two young men were strolling down to the bungalow at Winterman's
side, Bernald's mind reverted to the image of the fertilizing cloud.
There was something brooding, pregnant, in the silent presence
beside him: he had, in place of any circumscribing impression of the
individual, a large hovering sense of manifold latent meanings. And
he felt a distinct thrill of relief when, half-way down the lawn,
Doctor Bob was checked by a voice that called him back to the
"Now I'll be with him alone!" thought Bernald, with a throb like a
In the low-ceilinged bungalow Winterman had to grope for the lamp on
his desk, and as its light struck up into his face Bernald's sense
of the rareness of his opportunity increased. He couldn't have said
why, for the face, with its ridged brows, its shabby greyish beard
and blunt Socratic nose, made no direct appeal to the eye. It seemed
rather like a stage on which remarkable things might be enacted,
like some shaggy moorland landscape dependent for form and
expression on the clouds rolling over it, and the bursts of light
between; and one of these flashed out in the smile with which
Winterman, as if in answer to his companion's thought, said simply,
as he turned to fill his pipe: "Now we'll talk."
So he'd known all along that they hadn't yet--and had guessed that,
with Bernald, one might!
The young man's glow of pleasure was so intense that it left him for
a moment unable to meet the challenge; and in that moment he felt
the brush of something winged and summoning. His spirit rose to it
with a rush; but just as he felt himself poised between the
ascending pinions, the door opened and Bob Wade plunged in.
"Too bad! I'm so sorry! It was from Howland, to say he can't come
to-morrow after all." The doctor panted out his news with honest
"I tried my best to pull it off for you; and my brother _wants_ to
come--he's keen to talk to you and see what he can do. But you see
he's so tremendously in demand. He'll try for another Sunday later
Winterman nodded with a whimsical gesture. "Oh, he'll find me here.
I shall work my time out slowly." He pointed to the scattered sheets
on the kitchen table which formed his writing desk.
"Not slowly enough to suit us," Wade answered hospitably. "Only, if
Howland could have come he might have given you a tip or two--put
you on the right track--shown you how to get in touch with the
Winterman, his hands in his sagging pockets, lounged against the
bare pine walls, twisting his pipe under his beard. "Does your
brother enjoy the privilege of that contact?" he questioned gravely.
Wade stared a little. "Oh, of course Howland's not what you'd call a
_popular_ writer; he despises that kind of thing. But whatever he
says goes with--well, with the chaps that count; and every one tells
me he's written _the_ book on Pellerin. You must read it when you
get back your eyes." He paused, as if to let the name sink in, but
Winterman drew at his pipe with a blank face. "You must have heard
of Pellerin, I suppose?" the doctor continued. "I've never read a
word of him myself: he's too big a proposition for _me_. But one
can't escape the talk about him. I have him crammed down my throat
even in hospital. The internes read him at the clinics. He tumbles
out of the nurses' pockets. The patients keep him under their
pillows. Oh, with most of them, of course, it's just a craze, like
the last new game or puzzle: they don't understand him in the least.
Howland says that even now, twenty-five years after his death, and
with his books in everybody's hands, there are not twenty people who
really understand Pellerin; and Howland ought to know, if anybody
does. He's--what's their great word?--_interpreted_ him. You must
get Howland to put you through a course of Pellerin."
And as the young men, having taken leave of Winterman, retraced
their way across the lawn, Wade continued to develop the theme of
his brother's accomplishments.
"I wish I _could_ get Howland to take an interest in Winterman: this
is the third Sunday he's chucked us. Of course he does get bored
with people consulting him about their writings--but I believe if he
could only talk to Winterman he'd see something in him, as we do.
And it would be such a god-send to the poor man to have some one to
advise him about his work. I'm going to make a desperate effort to
get Howland here next Sunday."
It was then that Bernald vowed to himself that he would return the
next Sunday at all costs. He hardly knew whether he was prompted by
the impulse to shield Winterman from Howland Wade's ineptitude, or
by the desire to see the latter abandon himself to the full
shamelessness of its display; but of one fact he was blissfully
assured--and that was of the existence in Winterman of some quality
which would provoke Howland to the amplest exercise of his fatuity.
"How he'll draw him--how he'll draw him!" Bernald chuckled, with a
security the more unaccountable that his one glimpse of Winterman
had shown the latter only as a passive subject for experimentation;
and he felt himself avenged in advance for the injury of Howland
THAT this hope was to be frustrated Bernald learned from Howland
Wade's own lips, the day before the two young men were to meet at
"I can't really, my dear fellow," the Interpreter lisped, passing a
polished hand over the faded smoothness of his face. "Oh, an
authentic engagement, I assure you: otherwise, to oblige old Bob I'd
submit cheerfully to looking over his foundling's literature. But
I'm pledged this week to the Pellerin Society of Kenosha: I had a
hand in founding it, and for two years now they've been patiently
waiting for a word from me--the _Fiat Lux_, so to speak. You see
it's a ministry, Bernald--I assure you, I look upon my calling quite
As Bernald listened, his disappointment gradually changed to relief.
Howland, on trial, always turned out to be too insufferable, and the
pleasure of watching his antics was invariably lost in the impulse
to put a sanguinary end to them.
"If he'd only keep his beastly pink hands off Pellerin," Bernald
groaned, thinking of the thick manuscript condemned to perpetual
incarceration in his own desk by the publication of Howland's
"definitive" work on the great man. One couldn't, _after _Howland
Wade, expose one's self to the derision of writing about Pellerin:
the eagerness with which Wade's book had been devoured proved, not
that the public had enough appetite for another, but simply that,
for a stomach so undiscriminating, anything better than Wade had
given it would be too good. And Bernald, in the confidence that his
own work was open to this objection, had stoically locked it up. Yet
if he had resigned his exasperated intelligence to the fact that
Wade's book existed, and was already passing into the immortality of
perpetual republication, he could not, after repeated trials, adjust
himself to the author's talk about Pellerin. When Wade wrote of the
great dead he was egregious, but in conversation he was familiar and
fond. It might have been supposed that one of the beauties of
Pellerin's hidden life and mysterious taking off would have been to
guard him from the fingering of anecdote; but biographers like
Howland Wade were born to rise above such obstacles. He might be
vague or inaccurate in dealing with the few recorded events of his
subject's life; but when he left fact for conjecture no one had a
firmer footing. Whole chapters in his volume were constructed in the
conditional mood and packed with hypothetical detail; and in talk,
by the very law of the process, hypothesis became affirmation, and
he was ready to tell you confidentially the exact circumstances of
Pellerin's death, and of the "distressing incident" leading up to
it. Bernald himself not only questioned the form under which this
incident was shaping itself before posterity, but the mere radical
fact of its occurrence: he had never been able to discover any break
in the dense cloud enveloping Pellerin's later life and its
mysterious termination. He had gone away--that was all that any of
them knew: he who had so little, at any time, been with them or of
them; and his going had so slightly stirred the public consciousness
that even the subsequent news of his death, laconically imparted
from afar, had dropped unheeded into the universal scrap-basket, to
be long afterward fished out, with all its details missing, when
some enquiring spirit first became aware, by chance encounter with a
two-penny volume in a London book-stall, not only that such a man as
John Pellerin had died, but that he had ever lived, or written.
It need hardly be noted that Howland Wade had not been the pioneer
in question: his had been the wiser part of swelling the chorus when
it rose, and gradually drowning the other voices by his own
insistent note. He had pitched the note so screamingly, and held it
so long, that he was now the accepted authority on Pellerin, not
only in the land which had given birth to his genius but in the
Europe which had first acclaimed it; and it was the central point of
pain in Bernald's sense of the situation that a man who had so
yearned for silence as Pellerin should have his grave piped over by
such a voice as Wade's.
Bernald's talk with the Interpreter had revived this ache to the
momentary exclusion of other sensations; and he was still sore with
it when, the next afternoon, he arrived at Portchester for his
second Sunday with the Wades.
At the station he had the surprise of seeing Winterman's face on the
platform, and of hearing from him that Doctor Bob had been called
away to assist at an operation in a distant town.
"Mrs. Wade wanted to put you off, but I believe the message came too
late; so she sent me down to break the news to you," said Winterman,
holding out his hand.
Perhaps because they were the first conventional words that Bernald
had heard him speak, the young man was struck by the relief his
intonation gave them.
"She wanted to send a carriage," Winterman added, "but I told her
we'd walk back through the woods." He looked at Bernald with a
sudden kindness that flushed the young man with pleasure.
"Are you strong enough? It's not too far?"
"Oh, no. I'm pulling myself together. Getting back to work is the
slowest part of the business: not on account of my eyes--I can use
them now, though not for reading; but some of the links between
things are missing. It's a kind of broken spectrum ... here, that
boy will look after your bag."
The walk through the woods remained in Bernald's memory as an
enchanted hour. He used the word literally, as descriptive of the
way in which Winterman's contact changed the face of things, or
perhaps restored them to their primitive meanings. And the scene
they traversed--one of those little untended woods that still, in
America, fringe the tawdry skirts of civilization--acquired, as a
background to Winterman, the hush of a spot aware of transcendent
visitings. Did he talk, or did he make Bernald talk? The young man
never knew. He recalled only a sense of lightness and liberation, as
if the hard walls of individuality had melted, and he were merged in
the poet's deeper interfusion, yet without losing the least sharp
edge of self. This general impression resolved itself afterward into
the sense of Winterman's wide elemental range. His thought encircled
things like the horizon at sea. He didn't, as it happened, touch on
lofty themes--Bernald was gleefully aware that, to Howland Wade,
their talk would hardly have been Talk at all--but Winterman's mind,
applied to lowly topics, was like a powerful lens that brought out
microscopic delicacies and differences.
The lack of Sunday trains kept Doctor Bob for two days on the scene
of his surgical duties, and during those two days Bernald seized
every moment of communion with his friend's guest. Winterman, as
Wade had said, was reticent as to his personal affairs, or rather as
to the practical and material conditions to which the term is
generally applied. But it was evident that, in Winterman's case, the
usual classification must be reversed, and that the discussion of
ideas carried one much farther into his intimacy than any specific
acquaintance with the incidents of his life.
"That's exactly what Howland Wade and his tribe have never
understood about Pellerin: that it's much less important to know
how, or even why, he disapp--"
Bernald pulled himself up with a jerk, and turned to look full at
his companion. It was late on the Monday evening, and the two men,
after an hour's chat on the verandah to the tune of Mrs. Wade's
knitting-needles, had bidden their hostess good-night and strolled
back to the bungalow together.
"Come and have a pipe before you turn in," Winterman had said; and
they had sat on together till midnight, with the door of the
bungalow open on a heaving moonlit bay, and summer insects bumping
against the chimney of the lamp. Winterman had just bent down to
re-fill his pipe from the jar on the table, and Bernald, jerking
about to catch him in the yellow circle of lamplight, sat
speechless, staring at a fact that seemed suddenly to have
substituted itself for Winterman's face, or rather to have taken on
"No, they never saw that Pellerin's ideas _were_ Pellerin. ..." He
continued to stare at Winterman. "Just as this man's ideas are--why,
The thought uttered itself in a kind of inner shout, and Bernald
started upright with the violent impact of his conclusion. Again and
again in the last forty-eight hours he had exclaimed to himself:
"This is as good as Pellerin." Why hadn't he said till now: "This
_is_ Pellerin"? ... Surprising as the answer was, he had no choice
but to take it. He hadn't said so simply because Winterman was
_better than Pellerin_--that there was so much more of him, so to
speak. Yes; but--it came to Bernald in a flash--wouldn't there by
this time have been any amount more of Pellerin? ... The young man
felt actually dizzy with the thought. That was it--there was the
solution of the haunting problem! This man was Pellerin, and more
than Pellerin! It was so fantastic and yet so unanswerable that he
burst into a sudden startled laugh.
Winterman, at the same moment, brought his palm down with a sudden
crash on the pile of manuscript covering the desk.
"What's the matter?" Bernald gasped.
"My match wasn't out. In another minute the destruction of the
library of Alexandria would have been a trifle compared to what
you'd have seen." Winterman, with his large deep laugh, shook out
the smouldering sheets. "And I should have been a pensioner on
Doctor Bob the Lord knows how much longer!"
Bernald pulled himself together. "You've really got going again? The
thing's actually getting into shape?"
"This particular thing _is_ in shape. I drove at it hard all last
week, thinking our friend's brother would be down on Sunday, and
might look it over."
Bernald had to repress the tendency to another wild laugh.
"Howland--you meant to show _Howland_ what you've done?"
Winterman, looming against the moonlight, slowly turned a dusky
shaggy head toward him.
"Isn't it a good thing to do?"
Bernald wavered, torn between loyalty to his friends and the
grotesqueness of answering in the affirmative. After all, it was
none of his business to furnish Winterman with an estimate of
"Well, you see, you've never told me what your line _is_," he
"No, because nobody's ever told _me_. It's exactly what I want to
find out," said the other genially.
"And you expect Wade--?"
"Why, I gathered from our good Doctor that it's his trade. Doesn't
"In his own domain--which is Pellerinism."
Winterman gazed out musingly upon the moon-touched dusk of waters.
"And what _is_ Pellerinism?" he asked.
Bernald sprang to his feet with a cry. "Ah, I don't know--but you're
They stood for a minute facing each other, among the uncertain
swaying shadows of the room, with the sea breathing through it as
something immense and inarticulate breathed through young Bernald's
thoughts; then Winterman threw up his arms with a humorous gesture.
"Don't shoot!" he said.
DAWN found them there, and the risen sun laid its beams on the rough
floor of the bungalow, before either of the men was conscious of the
passage of time. Bernald, vaguely trying to define his own state in
retrospect, could only phrase it: "I floated ... floated. ..."
The gist of fact at the core of the extraordinary experience was
simply that John Pellerin, twenty-five years earlier, had
voluntarily disappeared, causing the rumour of his death to be
reported to an inattentive world; and that now he had come back to
see what that world had made of him.
"You'll hardly believe it of me; I hardly believe it of myself; but
I went away in a rage of disappointment, of wounded pride--no,
vanity! I don't know which cut deepest--the sneers or the
silence--but between them, there wasn't an inch of me that wasn't
raw. I had just the one thing in me: the message, the cry, the
revelation. But nobody saw and nobody listened. Nobody wanted what I
had to give. I was like a poor devil of a tramp looking for shelter
on a bitter night, in a town with every door bolted and all the
windows dark. And suddenly I felt that the easiest thing would be to
lie down and go to sleep in the snow. Perhaps I'd a vague notion
that if they found me there at daylight, frozen stiff, the pathetic
spectacle might produce a reaction, a feeling of remorse. ... So I
took care to be found! Well, a good many thousand people die every
day on the face of the globe; and I soon discovered that I was
simply one of the thousands; and when I made that discovery I really
died--and stayed dead a year or two. ... When I came to life again
I was off on the under side of the world, in regions unaware of what
we know as 'the public.' Have you any notion how it shifts the point
of view to wake under new constellations? I advise any who's been in
love with a woman under Cassiopeia to go and think about her under
the Southern Cross. ... It's the only way to tell the pivotal
truths from the others. ... I didn't believe in my theory any
less--there was my triumph and my vindication! It held out,
resisted, measured itself with the stars. But I didn't care a snap
of my finger whether anybody else believed in it, or even knew it
had been formulated. It escaped out of my books--my poor still-born
books--like Psyche from the chrysalis and soared away into the blue,
and lived there. I knew then how it frees an idea to be ignored; how
apprehension circumscribes and deforms it. ... Once I'd learned
that, it was easy enough to turn to and shift for myself. I was sure
now that my idea would live: the good ones are self-supporting. I
had to learn to be so; and I tried my hand at a number of things ...
adventurous, menial, commercial. ... It's not a bad thing for a
man to have to live his life--and we nearly all manage to dodge it.
Our first round with the Sphinx may strike something out of us--a
book or a picture or a symphony; and we're amazed at our feat, and
go on letting that first work breed others, as some animal forms
reproduce each other without renewed fertilization. So there we are,
committed to our first guess at the riddle; and our works look as
like as successive impressions of the same plate, each with the
lines a little fainter; whereas they ought to be--if we touch earth
between times--as different from each other as those other
creatures--jellyfish, aren't they, of a kind?--where successive
generations produce new forms, and it takes a zoologist to see the
hidden likeness. ...
"Well, I proved my first guess, off there in the wilds, and it
lived, and grew, and took care of itself. And I said 'Some day it
will make itself heard; but by that time my atoms will have waltzed
into a new pattern.' Then, in Cashmere one day, I met a fellow in a
caravan, with a dog-eared book in his pocket. He said he never
stirred without it--wanted to know where I'd been, never to have
heard of it. It was _my guess_--in its twentieth edition! ... The
globe spun round at that, and all of a sudden I was under the old
stars. That's the way it happens when the ballast of vanity shifts!
I'd lived a third of a life out there, unconscious of human
opinion--because I supposed it was unconscious of _me_. But
now--now! Oh, it was different. I wanted to know what they said. ...
Not exactly that, either: I wanted to know _what I'd made them
say_. There's a difference. ... And here I am," said John
Pellerin, with a pull at his pipe.
So much Bernald retained of his companion's actual narrative; the
rest was swept away under the tide of wonder that rose and submerged
him as Pellerin--at some indefinitely later stage of their
talk--picked up his manuscript and began to read. Bernald sat
opposite, his elbows propped on the table, his eyes fixed on the
swaying waters outside, from which the moon gradually faded, leaving
them to make a denser blackness in the night. As Pellerin read, this
density of blackness--which never for a moment seemed inert or
unalive--was attenuated by imperceptible degrees, till a greyish
pallour replaced it; then the pallour breathed and brightened, and
suddenly dawn was on the sea.
Something of the same nature went on in the young man's mind while
he watched and listened. He was conscious of a gradually withdrawing
light, of an interval of obscurity full of the stir of invisible
forces, and then of the victorious flush of day. And as the light
rose, he saw how far he had travelled and what wonders the night had
prepared. Pellerin had been right in saying that his first idea had
survived, had borne the test of time; but he had given his hearer no
hint of the extent to which it had been enlarged and modified, of
the fresh implications it now unfolded. In a brief flash of
retrospection Bernald saw the earlier books dwindle and fall into
their place as mere precursors of this fuller revelation; then, with
a leap of helpless rage, he pictured Howland Wade's pink hands on
the new treasure, and his prophetic feet upon the lecture platform.
"IT won't do--oh, he let him down as gently as possible; but it
appears it simply won't do."
Doctor Bob imparted the ineluctable fact to Bernald while the two
men, accidentally meeting at their club a few nights later, sat
together over the dinner they had immediately agreed to consume in
Bernald had left Portchester the morning after his strange
discovery, and he and Bob Wade had not seen each other since. And
now Bernald, moved by an irresistible instinct of postponement, had
waited for his companion to bring up Winterman's name, and had even
executed several conversational diversions in the hope of delaying
its mention. For how could one talk of Winterman with the thought of
Pellerin swelling one's breast?
"Yes; the very day Howland got back from Kenosha I brought the
manuscript to town, and got him to read it. And yesterday evening I
nailed him, and dragged an answer out of him."
"Then Howland hasn't seen Winterman yet?"
"No. He said: 'Before you let him loose on me I'll go over the
stuff, and see if it's at all worth while.'"
Bernald drew a freer breath. "And he found it wasn't?"
"Between ourselves, he found it was of no account at all. Queer,
isn't it, when the _man_ ... but of course literature's another
proposition. Howland says it's one of the cases where an idea might
seem original and striking if one didn't happen to be able to trace
its descent. And this is straight out of bosh--by Pellerin. ...
Yes: Pellerin. It seems that everything in the article that isn't
pure nonsense is just Pellerinism. Howland thinks poor Winterman
must have been tremendously struck by Pellerin's writings, and have
lived too much out of the world to know that they've become the
text-books of modern thought. Otherwise, of course, he'd have taken
more trouble to disguise his plagiarisms."
"I see," Bernald mused. "Yet you say there _is_ an original
"Yes; but unluckily it's no good."
"It's not--conceivably--in any sense a development of Pellerin's
idea: a logical step farther?"
"_Logical?_ Howland says it's twaddle at white heat."
Bernald sat silent, divided between the fierce satisfaction of
seeing the Interpreter rush upon his fate, and the despair of
knowing that the state of mind he represented was indestructible.
Then both emotions were swept away on a wave of pure joy, as he
reflected that now, at last, Howland Wade had given him back John
The possession was one he did not mean to part with lightly; and the
dread of its being torn from him constrained him to extraordinary
"You've told Winterman, I suppose? How did he take it?"
"Why, unexpectedly, as he does most things. You can never tell which
way he'll jump. I thought he'd take a high tone, or else laugh it
off; but he did neither. He seemed awfully cast down. I wished
myself well out of the job when I saw how cut up he was." Bernald
thrilled at the words. Pellerin had shared his pang, then--the "old
woe of the world" at the perpetuity of human dulness!
"But what did he say to the charge of plagiarism--if you made it?"
"Oh, I told him straight out what Howland said. I thought it fairer.
And his answer to that was the rummest part of all."
"What was it?" Bernald questioned, with a tremor.
"He said: 'That's queer, for I've never read Pellerin.'"
Bernald drew a deep breath of ecstasy. "Well--and I suppose you
"I believed him, because I know him. But the public won't--the
critics won't. And if it's a pure coincidence it's just as bad for
him as if it were a straight steal--isn't it?"
Bernald sighed his acquiescence.
"It bothers me awfully," Wade continued, knitting his kindly brows,
"because I could see what a blow it was to him. He's got to earn his
living, and I don't suppose he knows how to do anything else. At his
age it's hard to start fresh. I put that to Howland--asked him if
there wasn't a chance he might do better if he only had a little
encouragement. I can't help feeling he's got the essential thing in
him. But of course I'm no judge when it comes to books. And Howland
says it would be cruel to give him any hope." Wade paused, turned
his wineglass about under a meditative stare, and then leaned across
the table toward Bernald. "Look here--do you know what I've proposed
to Winterman? That he should come to town with me to-morrow and go
in the evening to hear Howland lecture to the Uplift Club. They're
to meet at Mrs. Beecher Bain's, and Howland is to repeat the lecture
that he gave the other day before the Pellerin Society at Kenosha.
It will give Winterman a chance to get some notion of what Pellerin
_was:_ he'll get it much straighter from Howland than if he tried to
plough through Pellerin's books. And then afterward--as if
accidentally--I thought I might bring him and Howland together. If
Howland could only see him and hear him talk, there's no knowing
what might come of it. He couldn't help feeling the man's force, as
we do; and he might give him a pointer--tell him what line to take.
Anyhow, it would please Winterman, and take the edge off his
disappointment. I saw that as soon as I proposed it."
"Some one who's never heard of Pellerin?"
Mrs. Beecher Bain, large, smiling, diffuse, reached out
parenthetically from the incoming throng on her threshold to waylay
Bernald with the question as he was about to move past her in the
wake of his companion.
"Oh, keep straight on, Mr. Winterman!" she interrupted herself to
call after the latter. "Into the back drawing-room, please! And
remember, you're to sit next to me--in the corner on the left, close
under the platform."
She renewed her interrogative clutch on Bernald's sleeve. "Most
curious! Doctor Wade has been telling me all about him--how
remarkable you all think him. And it's actually true that he's never
heard of Pellerin? Of course as soon as Doctor Wade told me _that_,
I said 'Bring him!' It will be so extraordinarily interesting to
watch the first impression.--Yes, do follow him, dear Mr. Bernald,
and be sure that you and he secure the seats next to me. Of course
Alice Fosdick insists on being with us. She was wild with excitement
when I told her she was to meet some one who'd never heard of
On the indulgent lips of Mrs. Beecher Bain conjecture speedily
passed into affirmation; and as Bernald's companion, broad and
shaggy in his visibly new evening clothes, moved down the length of
the crowded rooms, he was already, to the ladies drawing aside their
skirts to let him pass, the interesting Huron of the fable.
How far he was aware of the character ascribed to him it was
impossible for Bernald to discover. He was as unconscious as a tree
or a cloud, and his observer had never known any one so alive to
human contacts and yet so secure from them. But the scene was
playing such a lively tune on Bernald's own sensibilities that for
the moment he could not adjust himself to the probable effect it
produced on his companion. The young man, of late, had made but rare
appearances in the group of which Mrs. Beecher Bain was one of the
most indefatigable hostesses, and the Uplift Club the chief medium
of expression. To a critic, obliged by his trade to cultivate
convictions, it was the essence of luxury to leave them at home in
his hours of ease; and Bernald gave his preference to circles in
which less finality of judgment prevailed, and it was consequently
less embarrassing to be caught without an opinion.
But in his fresher days he had known the spell of the Uplift Club
and the thrill of moving among the Emancipated; and he felt an odd
sense of rejuvenation as he looked at the rows of faces packed about
the embowered platform from which Howland Wade was presently to hand
down the eternal verities. Many of these countenances belonged to
the old days, when the gospel of Pellerin was unknown, and it
required considerable intellectual courage to avow one's acceptance
of the very doctrines he had since demolished. The latter moral
revolution seemed to have been accepted as submissively as a change
in hair-dressing; and it even struck Bernald that, in the case of
many of the assembled ladies, their convictions were rather newer
than their clothes.
One of the most interesting examples of this facility of adaptation
was actually, in the person of Miss Alice Fosdick, brushing his
elbow with exotic amulets, and enveloping him in Arabian odours, as
she leaned forward to murmur her sympathetic sense of the situation.
Miss Fosdick, who was one of the most advanced exponents of
Pellerinism, had large eyes and a plaintive mouth, and Bernald had
always fancied that she might have been pretty if she had not been
perpetually explaining things.
"Yes, I know--Isabella Bain told me all about him. (He can't hear
us, can he?) And I wonder if you realize how remarkably interesting
it is that we should have such an opportunity _now_--I mean the
opportunity to see the impression of Pellerinism on a perfectly
fresh mind. (You must introduce him as soon as the lecture's over.)
I explained that to Isabella as soon as she showed me Doctor Wade's
note. Of course you see why, don't you?" Bernald made a faint motion
of acquiescence, which she instantly swept aside. "At least I think
I can _make you see why_. (If you're sure he can't hear?) Why, it's
just this--Pellerinism is in danger of becoming a truism. Oh, it's
an awful thing to say! But then I'm not afraid of saying awful
things! I rather believe it's my mission. What I mean is, that we're
getting into the way of taking Pellerin for granted--as we do the
air we breathe. We don't sufficiently lead our _conscious life_ in
him--we're gradually letting him become subliminal." She swayed
closer to the young man, and he saw that she was making a graceful
attempt to throw her explanatory net over his companion, who,
evading Mrs. Bain's hospitable signal, had cautiously wedged himself
into a seat between Bernald and the wall.
"_Did_ you hear what I was saying, Mr. Winterman? (Yes, I know who
you are, of course!) Oh, well, I don't really mind if you did. I was
talking about you--about you and Pellerin. I was explaining to Mr.
Bernald that what we need at this very minute is a Pellerin revival;
and we need some one like you--to whom his message comes as a
wonderful new interpretation of life--to lead the revival, and rouse
us out of our apathy. ...
"You see," she went on winningly, "it's not only the big public that
needs it (of course _their_ Pellerin isn't ours!) It's we, his
disciples, his interpreters, who discovered him and gave him to the
world--we, the Chosen People, the Custodians of the Sacred Books, as
Howland Wade calls us--it's _we_, who are in perpetual danger of
sinking back into the old stagnant ideals, and practising the Seven
Deadly Virtues; it's _we_ who need to count our mercies, and realize
anew what he's done for us, and what we ought to do for him! And
it's for that reason that I urged Mr. Wade to speak here, in the
very inner sanctuary of Pellerinism, exactly as he would speak to
the uninitiated--to repeat, simply, his Kenosha lecture, 'What
Pellerinism means'; and we ought all, I think, to listen to him with
the hearts of little children--just as _you_ will, Mr. Winterman--as
if he were telling us new things, and we--"
"Alice, _dear_--" Mrs. Bain murmured with a deprecating gesture; and
Howland Wade, emerging between the palms, took the centre of the
A pang of commiseration shot through Bernald as he saw him there, so
innocent and so exposed. His plump pulpy body, which made his
evening dress fall into intimate and wrapper-like folds, was like a
wide surface spread to the shafts of irony; and the mild ripples of
his voice seemed to enlarge the vulnerable area as he leaned
forward, poised on confidential finger-tips, to say persuasively:
"Let me try to tell you what Pellerinism means."
Bernald moved restlessly in his seat. He had the obscure sense of
being a party to something not wholly honourable. He ought not to
have come; he ought not to have let his companion come. Yet how
could he have done otherwise? John Pellerin's secret was his own. As
long as he chose to remain John Winterman it was no one's business
to gainsay him; and Bernald's scruples were really justifiable only
in respect of his own presence on the scene. But even in this
connection he ceased to feel them as soon as Howland Wade began to
IT had been arranged that Pellerin, after the meeting of the Uplift
Club, should join Bernald at his rooms and spend the night there,
instead of returning to Portchester. The plan had been eagerly
elaborated by the young man, but he had been unprepared for the
alacrity with which his wonderful friend accepted it. He was
beginning to see that it was a part of Pellerin's wonderfulness to
fall in, quite simply and naturally, with any arrangements made for
his convenience, or tending to promote the convenience of others.
Bernald felt that his extreme docility in such matters was
proportioned to the force of resistance which, for nearly half a
life-time, had kept him, with his back to the wall, fighting alone
against the powers of darkness. In such a scale of values how little
the small daily alternatives must weigh!
At the close of Howland Wade's discourse, Bernald, charged with his
prodigious secret, had felt the need to escape for an instant from
the liberated rush of talk. The interest of watching Pellerin was so
perilously great that the watcher felt it might, at any moment,
betray him. He lingered in the crowded drawing-room long enough to
see his friend enclosed in a mounting tide, above which Mrs. Beecher
Bain and Miss Fosdick actively waved their conversational tridents;
then he took refuge, at the back of the house, in a small dim
library where, in his younger days, he had discussed personal
immortality and the problem of consciousness with beautiful girls
whose names he could not remember.
In this retreat he surprised Mr. Beecher Bain, a quiet man with a
mild brow, who was smoking a surreptitious cigar over the last
number of the _Strand_. Mr. Bain, at Bernald's approach, dissembled
the _Strand_ under a copy of the _Hibbert Journal_, but tendered his
cigar-case with the remark that stocks were heavy again; and Bernald
blissfully abandoned himself to this unexpected contact with
On his return to the drawing-room he found that the tide had set
toward the supper-table, and when it finally carried him thither it
was to land him in the welcoming arms of Bob Wade.
"Hullo, old man! Where have you been all this time?--Winterman? Oh,
_he's_ talking to Howland: yes, I managed it finally. I believe Mrs.
Bain has steered them into the library, so that they shan't be
disturbed. I gave her an idea of the situation, and she was awfully
kind. We'd better leave them alone, don't you think? I'm trying to
get a croquette for Miss Fosdick."
Bernald's secret leapt in his bosom, and he devoted himself to the
task of distributing sandwiches and champagne while his pulses
danced to the tune of the cosmic laughter. The vision of Pellerin
and his Interpreter, face to face at last, had a Cyclopean grandeur
that dwarfed all other comedy. "And I shall hear of it presently; in
an hour or two he'll be telling me about it. And that hour will be
all mine--mine and his!" The dizziness of the thought made it
difficult for Bernald to preserve the balance of the supper-plates
he was distributing. Life had for him at that moment the
completeness which seems to defy disintegration.
The throng in the dining-room was thickening, and Bernald's efforts
as purveyor were interrupted by frequent appeals, from ladies who
had reached repleteness, that he should sit down a moment and tell
them all about his interesting friend. Winterman's fame, trumpeted
abroad by Miss Fosdick, had reached the four corners of the Uplift
Club, and Bernald found himself fabricating _de toutes pieces_ a
Winterman legend which should in some degree respond to the Club's
demand for the human document. When at length he had acquitted
himself of this obligation, and was free to work his way back
through the lessening groups into the drawing-room, he was at last
rewarded by a glimpse of his friend, who, still densely encompassed,
towered in the centre of the room in all his sovran ugliness.
Their eyes met across the crowd; but Bernald gathered only
perplexity from the encounter. What were Pellerin's eyes saying to
him? What orders, what confidences, what indefinable apprehension
did their long look impart? The young man was still trying to
decipher their complex message when he felt a tap on the arm, and
turned to encounter the rueful gaze of Bob Wade, whose meaning lay
clearly enough on the surface of his good blue stare.
"Well, it won't work--it won't work," the doctor groaned.
"I mean with Howland. Winterman won't. Howland doesn't take to him.
Says he's crude--frightfully crude. And you know how Howland hates
"Oh, I know," Bernald exulted. It was the word he had waited for--he
saw it now! Once more he was lost in wonder at Howland's miraculous
faculty for always, as the naturalists said, being true to type.
"So I'm afraid it's all up with his chance of writing. At least _I_
can do no more," said Wade, discouraged.
Bernald pressed him for farther details. "Does Winterman seem to
mind much? Did you hear his version?"
"I mean what he said to Howland."
"Why no. What the deuce was there for him to say?"
"What indeed? I think I'll take him home," said Bernald gaily.
He turned away to join the circle from which, a few minutes before,
Pellerin's eyes had vainly and enigmatically signalled to him; but
the circle had dispersed, and Pellerin himself was not in sight.
Bernald, looking about him, saw that during his brief aside with
Wade the party had passed into the final phase of dissolution.
People still delayed, in diminishing groups, but the current had set
toward the doors, and every moment or two it bore away a few more
lingerers. Bernald, from his post, commanded the clearing
perspective of the two drawing-rooms, and a rapid survey of their
length sufficed to assure him that Pellerin was not in either.
Taking leave of Wade, the young man made his way back to the
drawing-room, where only a few hardened feasters remained, and then
passed on to the library which had been the scene of the late
momentous colloquy. But the library too was empty, and drifting back
uncertainly to the inner drawing-room Bernald found Mrs. Beecher
Bain domestically putting out the wax candles on the mantel-piece.
"Dear Mr. Bernald! Do sit down and have a little chat. What a
wonderful privilege it has been! I don't know when I've had such an
She made way for him, hospitably, in a corner of the sofa to which
she had sunk; and he echoed her vaguely: "You _were_ impressed,
"I can't express to you how it affected me! As Alice said, it was a
resurrection--it was as if John Pellerin were actually here in the
room with us!"
Bernald turned on her with a half-audible gasp. "You felt that, dear
"We all felt it--every one of us! I don't wonder the Greeks--it
_was_ the Greeks?--regarded eloquence as a supernatural power. As
Alice says, when one looked at Howland Wade one understood what they
meant by the Afflatus."
Bernald rose and held out his hand. "Oh, I see--it was Howland who
made you feel as if Pellerin were in the room? And he made Miss
Fosdick feel so too?"
"Why, of course. But why are you rushing off?"
"Because I must hunt up my friend, who's not used to such late
"Your friend?" Mrs. Bain had to collect her thoughts. "Oh, Mr.
Winterman, you mean? But he's gone already."
"Gone?" Bernald exclaimed, with an odd twinge of foreboding.
Remembering Pellerin's signal across the crowd, he reproached
himself for not having answered it more promptly. Yet it was
certainly strange that his friend should have left the house without
"Are you quite sure?" he asked, with a startled glance at the clock.
"Oh, perfectly. He went half an hour ago. But you needn't hurry home
on his account, for Alice Fosdick carried him off with her. I saw
them leave together."
"Carried him off? She took him home with her, you mean?"
"Yes. You know what strange hours she keeps. She told me she was
going to give him a Welsh rabbit, and explain Pellerinism to him."
"Oh, _if_ she's going to explain--" Bernald murmured. But his
amazement at the news struggled with a confused impatience to reach
his rooms in time to be there for his friend's arrival. There could
be no stranger spectacle beneath the stars than that of John
Pellerin carried off by Miss Fosdick, and listening, in the small
hours, to her elucidation of his doctrines; but Bernald knew enough
of his sex to be aware that such an experiment may present a less
humorous side to its subject than to an impartial observer. Even the
Uplift Club and its connotations might benefit by the attraction of
the unknown; and it was conceivable that to a traveller from
Mesopotamia Miss Fosdick might present elements of interest which
she had lost for the frequenters of Fifth Avenue. There was, at any
rate, no denying that the affair had become unexpectedly complex,
and that its farther development promised to be rich in comedy.
In the charmed contemplation of these possibilities Bernald sat over
his fire, listening for Pellerin's ring. He had arranged his modest
quarters with the reverent care of a celebrant awaiting the descent
of his deity. He guessed Pellerin to be unconscious of visual
detail, but sensitive to the happy blending of sensuous impressions:
to the intimate spell of lamplight on books, and of a deep chair
placed where one could watch the fire. The chair was there, and
Bernald, facing it across the hearth, already saw it filled by
Pellerin's lounging figure. The autumn dawn came late, and even now
they had before them the promise of some untroubled hours. Bernald,
sitting there alone in the warm stillness of his room, and in the
profounder hush of his expectancy, was conscious of gathering up all
his sensibilities and perceptions into one exquisitely-adjusted
instrument of notation. Until now he had tasted Pellerin's society
only in unpremeditated snatches, and had always left him with a
sense, on his own part, of waste and shortcoming. Now, in the lull
of this dedicated hour, he felt that he should miss nothing, and
forget nothing, of the initiation that awaited him. And catching
sight of Pellerin's pipe, he rose and laid it carefully on a table
by the arm-chair.
"No. I've never had any news of him," Bernald heard himself
repeating. He spoke in a low tone, and with the automatic utterance
that alone made it possible to say the words.
They were addressed to Miss Fosdick, into whose neighbourhood chance
had thrown him at a dinner, a year or so later than their encounter
at the Uplift Club. Hitherto he had successfully, and intentionally,
avoided Miss Fosdick, not from any animosity toward that unconscious
instrument of fate, but from an intense reluctance to pronounce the
words which he knew he should have to speak if they met.
Now, as it turned out, his chief surprise was that she should wait
so long to make him speak them. All through the dinner she had swept
him along on a rapid current of talk which showed no tendency to
linger or turn back upon the past. At first he ascribed her reserve
to a sense of delicacy with which he reproached himself for not
having previously credited her; then he saw that she had been
carried so far beyond the point at which they had last faced each
other, that it was by the merest hazard of associated ideas that she
was now finally borne back to it. For it appeared that the very next
evening, at Mrs. Beecher Bain's, a Hindu Mahatma was to lecture to
the Uplift Club on the Limits of the Subliminal; and it was owing to
no less a person than Howland Wade that this exceptional privilege
had been obtained.
"Of course Howland's known all over the world as the interpreter of
Pellerinism, and the Aga Gautch, who had absolutely declined to
speak anywhere in public, wrote to Isabella that he could not refuse
anything that Mr. Wade asked. Did you know that Howland's lecture,
'What Pellerinism Means,' has been translated into twenty-two
languages, and gone into a fifth edition in Icelandic? Why, that
reminds me," Miss Fosdick broke off--"I've never heard what became
of your queer friend--what was his name?--whom you and Bob Wade
accused me of spiriting away after that very lecture. And I've never
seen _you_ since you rushed into the house the next morning, and
dragged me out of bed to know what I'd done with him!"
With a sharp effort Bernald gathered himself together to have it
out. "Well, what _did_ you do with him?" he retorted.
She laughed her appreciation of his humour. "Just what I told you,
of course. I said good-bye to him on Isabella's door-step."
Bernald looked at her. "It's really true, then, that he didn't go
home with you?"
She bantered back: "Have you suspected me, all this time, of hiding
his remains in the cellar?" And with a droop of her fine lids she
added: "I wish he _had_ come home with me, for he was rather
interesting, and there were things I think I could have explained to
Bernald helped himself to a nectarine, and Miss Fosdick continued on
a note of amused curiosity: "So you've really never had any news of
him since that night?"
"No--I've never had any news of him."
"Not the least little message?"
"Not the least little message."
"Or a rumour or report of any kind?"
"Or a rumour or report of any kind."
Miss Fosdick's interest seemed to be revived by the strangeness of
the case. "It's rather creepy, isn't it? What _could_ have happened?
You don't suppose he could have been waylaid and murdered?" she
asked with brightening eyes.
Bernald shook his head serenely. "No. I'm sure he's safe--quite
"But if you're sure, you must know something."
"No. I know nothing," he repeated.
She scanned him incredulously. "But what's your theory--for you must
have a theory? What in the world can have become of him?"
Bernald returned her look and hesitated. "Do you happen to remember
the last thing he said to you--the very last, on the door-step, when
he left you?"
"The last thing?" She poised her fork above the peach on her plate.
"I don't think he said anything. Oh, yes--when I reminded him that
he'd solemnly promised to come back with me and have a little talk
he said he couldn't because he was going home."
"Well, then, I suppose," said Bernald, "he went home."
She glanced at him as if suspecting a trap. "Dear me, how flat! I
always inclined to a mysterious murder. But of course you know more
of him than you say."
She began to cut her peach, but paused above a lifted bit to ask,
with a renewal of animation in her expressive eyes: "By the way, had
you heard that Howland Wade has been gradually getting farther and
farther away from Pellerinism? It seems he's begun to feel that
there's a Positivist element in it which is narrowing to any one who
has gone at all deeply into the Wisdom of the East. He was intensely
interesting about it the other day, and of course I _do_ see what he
feels. ... Oh, it's too long to tell you now; but if you could
manage to come in to tea some afternoon soon--any day but
Wednesday--I should so like to explain--"