List Of Contents | Contents of The Garden of Survival, by Algernon Blackwood
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through my heart like fire, and a sense of haunting things whereof no
conscious memory remained came over me. The scene about me wavered
before my eyes as if it would disappear.

"Yet you came to me when I lay dying at the last," I caught her thin
clear whisper.  "You said, 'Turn to God!'"

The whisper died away. The darkness flowed back upon my mind and
thought. A silence followed. I heard the wind in the poplar overhead.
The doctor moved impatiently, coming a few steps nearer, then turning
away again. I heard the sounds of tinkering with metal that the
driver made ten yards behind us. I turned angrily to make a
sign--when Marion's low voice, again more like the murmur of the wind
than a living voice, rose into the still evening air:

"I have failed. And I shall try again."

She gazed up at me with that patient, generous love that seemed
inexhaustible, and hardly knowing what to answer, nor how to comfort
her in that afflicting moment, I bent lower--or, rather, she drew my
ear closer to her lips. I think her great desire just then was to
utter her own thought more fully before she passed. Certainly it was
no avowal or consolation from myself she sought.

"Your forgiveness," I heard distinctly, "I need your full

It was for me a terrible and poignant moment. The emptiness of my pity
betrayed itself too mercilessly for me to bear; yet, before my
bewilderment enabled me to frame an answer, she went on hurriedly,
though with a faultless certainty: the meaning to her was clear as

"Born of love . . . the only true forgiveness. . ."

A film formed slowly. Her eyes began to close, her breath died off
into a sigh; she smiled, but her head sank lower with her fading
strength. And her final words went by me in that sigh:

"Yet love in you lies unawakened still. . . and I must try again. . . ."

There was one more effort, painful with unexpressed fulfilment. A
flicker of awful yearning took her paling eyes. Life seemed to
stammer, pause, then flush as with this last deep impulse to yield a
secret she discerned for the first time fully, in the very act of
passing out. The face, with its soft loveliness, turned grey in death.
Upon the edge of a great disclosure--she was gone.

I remember that for a space of time there was silence all about us.
The doctor still kept his back to us, the driver had ceased his
wretched hammering, I heard the wind in the poplar and the hum of
insects. A bird sang loudly on a branch above; it seemed miles away,
across an empty world. . . . Then, of a sudden, I became aware that the
weight of the head and shoulders had dreadfully increased. I dared not
turn my face lest I should look upon her whom I had deeply
wronged--the forsaken tenement of this woman whose matchless love now
begged with her dying breath for my forgiveness!

A cowardly desire to lose consciousness ran through me, to forget
myself, to hide my shame with her in death; yet, even while this was
so, I sought most desperately through the depths of my anguished pity
to find some hint, if only the tiniest seed, of love--and found it
not. . . . The rest belonged to things unrealized. . . .

I remember a hand being laid upon me. I lifted my head which had
fallen close against her cheek. The doctor stood beside me, his grave
and kindly face bent low.  He spoke some gentle words. I saw him
replacing the needle in its little leathern case, unused.

Marion was dead, her deep secret undisclosed. That which she yearned
to tell me was something which, in her brief period of devotion, she
had lived, had faithfully acted out, yet herself only dimly aware of
why it had to be. The solution of this problem of unrequited love lay
at last within her grasp; of a love that only asked to give of its
unquenched and unquenchable store, undismayed by the total absence of

She passed from the world of speech and action with this intense
desire unsatisfied, and at the very moment--as with a drowning man
who sees his past--when the solution lay ready to her hand. She saw
clearly, she understood, she burned to tell me. Upon the edge of full
disclosure, she was gone, leaving me alone with my aching pity and
with my shame of unawakened love.

"I have failed, but I shall try again. . . ."


THAT, as you know, took place a dozen years ago and more, when I was
thirty-two, and time, in the interval, has wrought unexpected ends
out of the material of my life.  My trade as a soldier has led me to
an administrative post in a distant land where, apparently, I have
deserved well of my King and Country, as they say in the obituaries.
At any rate, the cryptic letters following my name, bear witness to
some kind of notoriety attained.

You were the first to welcome my success, and your congratulations
were the first I looked for, as surely as they were more satisfying
than those our mother sent. You knew me better, it seems, than she
did. For you expressed the surprise that I, too, felt, whereas mother
assured me she had "always known you would do well, my boy, and you
have only got your deserts in this tardy recognition." To her, of
course, even at forty-five, I was still her "little boy." You,
however, guessed shrewdly that Luck had played strong cards in
bringing me this distinction, and I will admit at once that it was,
indeed, due to little born in me, but, rather, to some adventitious
aid that, curiously, seemed never lacking at the opportune moment.
And this adventitious aid was new.

This is the unvarnished truth. A mysterious power dealt the cards for
me with unfailing instinct; a fortunate combination of events placing
in my hands, precisely at the moment of their greatest value, clear
opportunities that none but a hopeless blunderer could have
disregarded. What men call Chance operated in my favour as though
with superb calculation, lifting me to this miniature pinnacle I could
never have reached by my own skill and judgment.

So, at least, you and I, knowing my limited abilities, consent to
attribute my success to luck, to chance, to fate, or to any other
name for the destiny that has placed me on a height my talent never
could have reached alone. You, and I, too, for that matter, are as
happy over the result as our mother is; only you and I are surprised,
because we judge it, with some humour, out of greater knowledge.
More--you, like myself, are a little puzzled, I think. We ask
together, if truth were told: Whose was the unerring, guiding hand?

Amid this uncertainty I give you now another curious item, about which
you have, of course, been uninformed. For none could have detected it
but myself: namely, that apart from these opportunities chance set
upon my path, an impulse outside myself--and an impulse that was
new--drove me to make use of them. Sometimes even against my personal
inclination, a power urged me into decided, and it so happened,
always into faultless action. Amazed at myself, I yet invariably

How to describe so elusive a situation I hardly know, unless by
telling you the simple truth: I felt that somebody would be pleased.

And, with the years, I learned to recognize this instinct that never
failed when a choice, and therefore an element of doubt, presented
itself. Invariably I was pushed towards the right direction. More
singular still, there rose in me unbidden at these various junctures,
a kind of inner attention which bade me wait and listen for the
guiding touch. I am not fanciful, I heard no voice, I was aware of
nothing personal by way of guidance or assistance; and yet the
guidance, the assistance, never failed, though often I was not
conscious that they had been present until long afterwards. I felt,
as I said above, that somebody would be pleased.

For it was a consistent, an intelligent guidance; operating, as it
were, out of some completer survey of the facts at a given moment
than my own abilities could possibly have compassed; my mediocre
faculties seemed gathered together and perfected--with the result, in
time, that my "intuition," as others called it, came to be regarded
with a respect that in some cases amounted to half reverence. The
adjective "uncanny" was applied to me. The natives, certainly, were
aware of awe.

I made no private use of this unearned distinction; there is nothing
in me of the charlatan that claimed mysterious power; but my
subordinates, ever in growing numbers as my promotions followed, held
me in greater respect, apparently, on that very account. The natives,
especially, as I mentioned, attributed semi-deific properties to my
poor personality. Certainly my prestige increased out of all
proportion to anything my talents deserved with any show of justice.

I have said that, so far as I was concerned, there lay nothing
personal in this growth of divining intuition. I must now qualify
that a little. Nothing persuaded me that this guidance, so
infallible, so constant, owed its origin to what men call a being; I
certainly found no name for it; exactness, I think, might place its
truest description in some such term as energy, inner force or
inspiration; yet I must admit that, with its steady repetition, there
awoke in me an attitude towards it that eluded somewhere also an
emotion. And in this emotion, in its quality and character, hid
remotely a personal suggestion: each time it offered itself, that is,
I was aware of a sharp quiver of sensitive life within me, and of
that sensation, extraordinarily sweet and wonderful, which
constitutes a genuine thrill.

I came to look for this "thrill," to lie in wait with anticipatory
wonder for its advent; and in a sense this pause in me, that was both
of expectancy and hope, grew slowly into what I may almost call a
habit. There was an emptiness in my heart before it came, a sense of
peace and comfort when it was accomplished. The emptiness and then
the satisfaction, as first and last conditions, never failed, and
that they took place in my heart rather than in my mind I can affirm
with equal certainty.

The habit, thus, confirmed itself. I admitted the power. Let me be
frank--I sought it, even longing for it when there was no decision
to be made, no guidance therefore needed: I longed for it because of
the great sweetness that it left within my heart. It was when I
needed it, however, that its effect was most enduring. The method
became quite easy to me. When a moment of choice between two courses
of action presented itself, I first emptied my heart of all personal
inclination, then, pausing upon direction, I knew--or rather
felt--which course to take. My heart was filled and satisfied with an
intention that never wavered. Some energy that made the choice for me
had been poured in. I decided upon this or that line of action. The
Thrill, always of an instantaneous nature, came and went--and
somebody was pleased.

Moreover--and this will interest you more particularly--the emotion
produced in me was, so far as positive recognition went, a new
emotion; it was, at any rate, one that had lain so feebly in me
hitherto that its announcement brought the savour of an emotion
before unrealized. I had known it but once, and that long
years before, but the man's mind in me increased and added to it. For
it seemed a development of that new perception which first dawned
upon me during my brief period of married life, and had since lain
hidden in me, potential possibly, but inactive beyond all question,
if not wholly dead. I will now name it for you, and for myself, as
best I may. It was the Thrill of Beauty.

I became, in these moments, aware of Beauty, and to a degree, while it
lasted, approaching revelation. Chords, first faintly struck long
years before when my sense of Marion's forgiveness and generosity
stirred worship in me, but chords that since then had lain,
apparently, unresponsive, were swept into resonance again. Possibly
they had been vibrating all these intervening years, unknown to me,
unrecognized. I cannot say. I only know that here was the origin of
the strange energy that now moved me to the depths. Some new worship
of Beauty that had love in it, of which, indeed, love was the
determining quality, awoke in the profoundest part of me, and even
when the "thrill" had gone its way, left me hungry and yearning for
its repetition.  Here, then, is the "personal" qualification that I
mentioned. The yearning and the hunger were related to my deepest
needs. I had been empty, but I would be filled.  For a passionate
love, holding hands with a faith and confidence as passionate as
itself, poured flooding into me and made this new sense of beauty seem
a paramount necessity of my life.

Will you be patient now, if I give you a crude instance of what I
mean? It is one among many others, but I choose it because its very
crudeness makes my meaning clear.

In this fevered and stricken African coast, you may know, there is
luxuriance in every natural detail, an exuberance that is lavish to
excess. Yet beauty lies somewhat coyly hid--as though suffocated by
over-abundance of crowding wonder. I detect, indeed, almost a touch
of the monstrous in it all, a super-expression, as it were, that
bewilders, and occasionally even may alarm. Delicacy, subtlety,
suggestion in any form, have no part in it. During the five years of
my exile amid this tropical extravagance I can recall no single
instance of beauty "hinting" anywhere. Nature seems, rather,
audaciously abandoned; she is without restraint. She shows her all,
tells everything--she shouts, she never whispers. You will understand
me when I tell you that this wholesale lack of reticence and modesty
involves all absence in the beholder of--surprise. A sudden
ravishment of the senses is impossible. One never can experience that
sweet and troubling agitation to which a breathless amazement
properly belongs. You may be stunned; you are hardly ever "thrilled."

Now, this new sensitiveness to Beauty I have mentioned has opened me
to that receptiveness which is aware of subtlety and owns to sharp
surprise. The thrill is of its very essence. It is unexpected. Out of
the welter of prolific detail Nature here glories in, a delicate hint
of wonder and surprise comes stealing. The change, of course, is in
myself, not otherwise. And on the particular "crude" occasion I will
briefly mention, it reached me from the most obvious and banal of
conditions--the night sky and the moon.

Here, then, is how it happened: There had arisen a situation of grave
difficulty among the natives of my Province, and the need for taking
a strong, authoritative line was paramount. The reports of my
subordinates from various parts of the country pointed to very
vigorous action of a repressing, even of a punitive, description. It
was not, in itself, a complicated situation, and no Governor, who was
soldier too, need have hesitated for an instant. The various
Stations, indeed, anticipating the usual course of action indicated
by precedent, had automatically gone to their posts, prepared for the
"official instructions" it was known that I should send, wondering
impatiently (as I learned afterwards) at the slight delay. For delay

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