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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/426

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422
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

the earthy hue and texture, crumbling into fine dust. A few enduring bits of handiwork—quartz pebbles which had been laboriously bored through for a bead string, a brass finger-ring, a curious piece of shell—were scattered about in the clay; simple things that seemed to mock the less enduring framework of life.

The one haunting thought, after the emotional and scientific elements of the mind had satisfied themselves, was that this man, this aborigine, whosoever he may have been in the flesh, had resolved into nature. There was no victory about this sepulture. The earth had simply taken this man again to herself, and as she had molded him from her clay and built him up out of her breast milk and her maize and beans and the flesh of her fish and fowl, so now she was gently and leisurely scattering the molecules that her magic hand had once so artfully put together. Here then, methinks, is the plain tale of all men.

The sun sank behind the Brandywine hills; the light of the western sky faded and with it the outline and color of the landscape. The first few stars twinkled dimly overhead. The filling crescent of the moon hung low in the darkling west and passed out of sight. The Dipper turned slowly across the northern arc. The dawn light of a new day came into the east. It was the never-ending change of the eternal background. Countless generations of men had passed, their very existence forgotten—blotted out in the lapse of time—and still the everlasting shift from day to night, from night to day, went ceaselessly on. Of what account was this man or all the millions of men that had lived only to be forgotten—lost in the soil of the earth?

As the thread of inheritance is seemingly indestructible so far as the race of men is concerned, there appears still another manifestation of immortality, of a purely individual character, which appeals to every man as an element of his being that must outlast the things of time. Just what this is has never been vouchsafed to any man to know. It is the eternal riddle of life, the hopeless tangle of all mythology and philosophy throughout the ages. Mankind has ever found itself in a world of material facts and elemental forces the manifestations of which have revealed a vast environment of the unknown. What a man calls his soul is the recognition of this unknown which lies beyond the reach of his senses. The mind has explored a half-way region—a region of principles and forces—and has analyzed these with some degree of surety. Beyond this, on the boundless ocean of infinity, the chart and compass of the mind are of no avail. Men have framed theories of this outer realm far more crude and improbable than any notion entertained of the outer geography of the Odyssey and they have peopled it with beings quite as improbable as those encountered by the adventurous Ithacan. More than this, mankind in every age and