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Chapter 1

 

WHEN the children reached home they told the Philosopher-the result of their visit. He questioned them minutely as to the appearance of Pan, how he had received them, and what he had said in defence of his iniquities; but when he found that Pan had not returned any answer to his message he became very angry. He tried to persuade his wife to undertake another embassy setting forth his abhorrence and defiance of the god, but the Thin Woman replied sourly that she was a respectable married woman, that having been already bereaved of her wisdom she had no desire to be further curtailed of her virtue, that a husband would go any length to asperse his wife's reputation, and that although she was married to a fool her self-respect had survived even that calamity. The Philosopher pointed out that her age, her appearance, and her tongue were sufficient guarantees of immunity against the machinations of either Pan or slander, and that he had no personal feelings in the matter beyond a scientific and benevolent interest in the troubles of Meehawl MacMurrachu; but this was discounted by his wife as the malignant and subtle tactics customary to all husbands.

Matters appeared to be thus at a deadlock so far as they were immediately concerned, and the Philosopher decided that he would lay the case before Angus Og and implore his protection and assistance on behalf of the Clann MacMurrachu. He therefore directed the Thin Woman to bake him two cakes of bread, and set about preparations for a journey.

The Thin Woman baked the cakes, and put them in a bag, and early on the following morning the Philosopher swung this bag over his shoulder, and went forth on his quest.

When he came to the edge of the pine wood he halted for a few moments, not being quite certain of his bearings, and then went forward again in the direction of Gort na Cloca Mora. It came into his mind as he crossed the Gort that he ought to call on the Leprecauns and have a talk with them, but a remembrance of Meehawl MacMurrachu and the troubles under which he laboured (all directly to be traced to the Leprecauns) hardened his heart against his neighbours, so that he passed by the yew tree without any stay. In a short time he came to the rough, heather-clumped field wherein the children had found Pan, and as he was proceeding up the hill, he saw Caitilin Ni Murrachu walking a little way in front with a small vessel in her hand. The she-goat which she had just milked was bending again to the herbage, and as Caitilin trod lightly in front of him the Philosopher closed his eyes in virtuous anger and opened them again in a not unnatural curiosity, for the girl had no clothes on. He watched her going behind the brush and disappearing in the cleft of the rock, and his anger, both with her and Pan, mastering him he forsook the path of prudence which soared to the mountain top, and followed that leading to the cave. The sound of his feet brought Caitilin out hastily, but he pushed her by with a harsh word. "Hussy," said he, and he went into the cave where Pan was.

As he went in he already repented of his harshness and said-

"The human body is an aggregation of flesh and sinew, around a central bony structure. The use of clothing is primarily to protect this organism from rain and cold, and it may not be regarded as the banner of morality without danger to this fundamental premise. If a person does not desire to be so protected who will quarrel with an honourable liberty? Decency is not clothing but Mind. Morality is behaviour. Virtue is thought-

"I have often fancied," he continued to Pan, whom he was now confronting, "that the effect of clothing on mind must be very considerable, and that it must have a modifying rather than an expanding effect, or, even, an intensifying as against an exuberant effect. With clothing the whole environment is immediately affected. The air, which is our proper medium, is only filtered to our bodies in an abated and niggardly fashion which can scarcely be as beneficial as the generous and unintermitted elemental play. The question naturally arises whether clothing is as unknown to nature as we have fancied? Viewed as a protective measure against atmospheric rigour we find that many creatures grow, by their own central impulse, some kind of exterior panoply which may be regarded as their proper clothing. Bears, cats, dogs, mice, sheep and beavers are wrapped in fur, hair, fell, fleece or pelt, so these creatures cannot by any means be regarded as being naked. Crabs, cockroaches, snails and cockles have ordered around them a crusty habiliment, wherein their original nakedness is only to be discovered by force, and other creatures have similarly provided themselves with some species of covering. Clothing, therefore, is not an art, but an instinct, and the fact that man is born naked and does not grow his clothing upon himself from within but collects it from various distant and haphazard sources is not any reason to call this necessity an instinct for decency. These, you will admit, are weighty reHections and worthy of consideration before we proceed to the wide and thorny subject of moral and immoral action. Now, what is virtue?"-

Pan, who had listened with great courtesy to these Remarks, here broke in on the Philosopher.

"Virtue," said he, "is the performance of pleasant actions."

The Philosopher held the statement far a moment on his forefinger.

"And what, then, is vice?" said he.

"It is vicious," said Pan, "to neglect the performance of pleasant actions."

"If this be so," the other commented, "philosophy has up to the present been on the wrong track."

"That is so," said Pan. "Philosophy is an immoral practice because it suggests a standard of practice impossible of being followed, and which, if it could be followed, would lead to the great sin of sterility."

"The idea of virtue," said the Philosopher, with some indignation, "has animated the noblest intellects of the world."

"It has not animated them," replied Pan; "it has hypnotised them so that they have conceived virtue as repression and self-sacrifice as an honourable thing instead of the suicide which it is."

"Indeed," said the Philosopher; "this is very interesting, and if it is true the whole conduct of life will have to be very much simplified."

"Life is already very simple," said Pan; "it is to be born and to die, and in the interval to eat and drink, to dance and sing, to marry and beget children."

"But it is simply materialism," cried the Philosopher.

"Why do you say 'but'?" replied Pan.

"It is sheer, unredeemed animalism," continued his visitor.

"It is any name you please to call it," replied Pan.

"You have proved nothing," the Philosopher shouted.

"What can be sensed requires no proof."

"You leave out the new thing," said the Philosopher. "You leave out brains. I believe in mind above matter. Thought above emotion. Spirit above flesh."

"Of course you do," said Pan, and he reached for his oaten pipe.

The Philosopher ran to the opening of the passage and thrust Caitilin aside. "Hussy," said he fiercely to her, and he darted out.

As he went up the rugged path he could hear the pipes of Pan, calling and sobbing and making high merriment on the air.