The Moon Endureth HTML version

IV. Space
"Est impossibile? Certum est."
Leithen told me this story one evening in early September as we sat beside the pony track
which gropes its way from Glenvalin up the Correi na Sidhe. I had arrived that afternoon
from the south, while he had been taking an off-day from a week's stalking, so we had
walked up the glen together after tea to get the news of the forest. A rifle was out on the
Correi na Sidhe beat, and a thin spire of smoke had risen from the top of Sgurr Dearg to
show that a stag had been killed at the burnhead. The lumpish hill pony with its deer-
saddle had gone up the Correi in a gillie's charge while we followed at leisure, picking
our way among the loose granite rocks and the patches of wet bogland. The track climbed
high on one of the ridges of Sgurr Dearg, till it hung over a caldron of green glen with the
Alt-na-Sidhe churning in its linn a thousand feet below. It was a breathless evening, I
remember, with a pale-blue sky just clearing from the haze of the day. West-wind
weather may make the North, even in September, no bad imitation of the Tropics, and I
sincerely pitied the man who all these stifling hours had been toiling on the screes of
Sgurr Dearg. By-and-by we sat down on a bank of heather, and idly watched the trough
swimming at our feet. The clatter of the pony's hoofs grew fainter, the drone of bees had
gone, even the midges seemed to have forgotten their calling. No place on earth can be so
deathly still as a deer-forest early in the season before the stags have begun roaring, for
there are no sheep with their homely noises, and only the rare croak of a raven breaks the
silence. The hillside was far from sheer-one could have walked down with a little care-
but something in the shape of the hollow and the remote gleam of white water gave it an
extraordinary depth and space. There was a shimmer left from the day's heat, which
invested bracken and rock and scree with a curious airy unreality. One could almost have
believed that the eye had tricked the mind, that all was mirage, that five yards from the
path the solid earth fell away into nothingness. I have a bad head, and instinctively I drew
farther back into the heather. Leithen's eyes were looking vacantly before him.
"Did you ever know Hollond?" he asked.
Then he laughed shortly. "I don't know why I asked that, but somehow this place
reminded me of Hollond. That glimmering hollow looks as if it were the beginning of
eternity. It must be eerie to live with the feeling always on one."
Leithen seemed disinclined for further exercise. He lit a pipe and smoked quietly for a
little. "Odd that you didn't know Hollond. You must have heard his name. I thought you
amused yourself with metaphysics."
Then I remembered. There had been an erratic genius who had written some articles in
Mind on that dreary subject, the mathematical conception of infinity. Men had praised
them to me, but I confess I never quite understood their argument. "Wasn't he some sort
of mathematical professor?" I asked.