The Centaur

by Algernon Blackwood

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The litter of disordered notebooks filled to the covers with fragments of such beauty that they almost seem to burn with a light of their own, lies at this moment before me on my desk. I still hear the rushing torrent of his language across the spotted table-cloth in that dark restaurant corner. But the incoherence seems only to increase with my best efforts to combine the two.

"Go home and dream it," as he said at last when I ventured a question here and there toward the end of the recital. "You'll see it best that way--in sleep. Get clear away from me, and my surface physical consciousness. Perhaps it will come to you then."

There remains, however, to record the manner of his exit from that great Garden of the Earth's fair youth. And he tells it more simply. Or, perhaps, it is that I understand it better.

For suddenly, in the midst of all the joy and splendor that he tasted, there came unbidden a strengthening of the tie that held him to his "outer," lesser state. A wave of pity and compassion surged in upon him from the depths. He saw the struggling millions in the prisons and cages civilization builds. He felt with them. No happiness, he understood, could be complete that did not also include them all; and--he longed to tell them. The thought and the desire tore across him burningly.

"If only I can get this back to them!" passed through him, like a flame. "I'll save the world by bringing it again to simple things! I've only got to tell it and all will understand at once--and follow!"

And with the birth of the desire there ran a deep convulsive sound like music through the greater Consciousness that held him close. Those Moods that were the gods, thronged gloriously about him, almost pressing forwards into actual sight.... He might have lingered where he was for centuries, or forever; but this thought pulled him back--the desire to share his knowledge with the world, the passion to heal and save and rescue.

And instantly, in the twinkling of an eyelid, the Urwelt closed its gates of horn and ivory behind him. An immense dark shutter dropped noiselessly with a speed of lightning across his mind. He stood without....

He found himself near the tumbled-down stone huts of a hamlet that he recognized. He staggered, rubbed his eyes, and stared. A forest of beech trees shook below him in a violent wind. He saw the branches tossing. A Caucasian saddle-horse beside him nosed a sack that spilt its flour on the ground at his feet, he heard the animal's noisy breathing; he noted the sliding movement of the spilt flour before it finally settled; and some fifty yards beyond him, down the slopes, he saw a human figure--running.

It was his Georgian guide. The man, half stooping, caught the woolen bashlik that had fallen from his head.

O'Malley watched the man complete the gesture. Still running, he replaced the cap upon his head.

And coming up to his ears upon the wind were the words of a broken French sentence that he also recognized. Disjointed by terror, it completed an interrupted phrase:--

"... one of them is close upon us. Hide your eyes! Save yourself!. They come from the mountains. They are old as the stones ... run...!"

No other living being was in sight.

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