Monday, January 10, 2011

Unless that touch is withheld

But really it did not matter if as a child I had practiced magic, or not. I might be deluded into thinking that I had raised a paper from the ground and held it in mid-air by supernatural means. But I was not wrong when I remembered that Richard Quin had turned from me and wept when I made him watch me at this trick, whatever it was, and had grown sick and nearly died. For he had been a saint. For he had been a saint whose repulsion from evil had been absolute; and at that time I had been evil. I had used that other trick, thought-reading, to confuse poor Queenie. I had shown her that for me life was not so rigid as was supposed; and she, crazed by her hunger, had drawn the conclusion that it was in all ways more flexible. She had seen me knock down the wall between one child's brain and another's, she had believed that I could knock down the wall between the present and the future, and she had rightly divined that all walls would tumble down at a touch. She had not perceived that unless that touch is withheld, unless the walls are left standing, the universe collapses, we are back in chaos again. So she knocked down the huge wall running across eternity and infinity which is the existence of a human being. She killed Harry Phillips, and would not have killed him had I not imparted to her my false belief that if one can break down walls one should break them down, that if one can alter the universe one should use that power of alteration to its uttermost. I had not then learned that one must move delicately, since creation is plainly a last and desperate resort, a danger improvised to avert another of a more final kind.

--Rebecca West, Cousin Rosamund


  1. How often have I heard a student say, "I want to make a difference"? The moral here is surely yes, but it all depends on what the difference is!