These ironies Kennaston witnessed among many others, as he read in this or that chance-opened page from the past. Everywhere, it seemed to him, men labored blindly, at flat odds with rationality, and had achieved everything of note by accident. Everywhe re he saw reason to echo the cry of Maugis d'Aigremont--"It is very strange how affairs fall out in this world of ours, so that a man may discern no plan or purpose anywhere."

Here was the astounding fact: the race did go forward; the race did achieve; and in every way the race grew better. Progress through irational and astounding blunders, whose outrageousness bedwarfed the wildest cliches of ramance, was what Kennaston fou nd everywhere. All this, then, also was foreplanned, just as all happenings at Storisende had been, in his puny romance; and the puppets, here to, moved as they thought of their own volition, but really in order to serve a denouement in which many of the m had not any personal part or interest....

And always the puppets moved toward greater efficiency and comeliness. The puppet-shifter appeared to seek at once uttility and artistic self-expression. So the protoplasm--that first imperceptible pinhead of living matter--had become a fish; the fish h ad become a batrachian, the batrachian a reptile, the reptile a mammal; thus had the puppets continuously been reshaped, into more elaborate forms more captivating to the eye, until amiable and shatter-pated man stood erect in the world. And man, in turn , had climbed a long way from gorillaship, however far he was as yet from godhead--blindly moving always, like fish and reptile, toward unapprehended loftier goals.

But, just as men's lives came to seem to Kennaston like many infinitesimal threads woven into the pattern of human destiny, so Kennaston grew to suspect that the existence of mankind upon earth was but an incident in the unending struggle of life to find a home in the universe. Human inhabitancy was not even a very important phase in the world's history, perhaps; a scant score or so of centuries ago there had been no life on earth, and by and by the planet would be a silent naked frozen clod. Would this sphere then have served its real purpose of being, by having afforded foothold to life for a few aeons?

He could not tell. But Kennaston contemplated sidereal space full of such frozen worlds, where life seemed to have flourished for a while and to have been disposessed--and full, too, of glowing suns, with their huge satellites, all slowly cooling and con gealing into fitness for life's occupansy. Life would tarry there also, he reflected; and thence also life would be evicted. For life was not a part of the universe, not a product of the universe at all perhaps, but rather, an intruder into the cosmic m achinery, which moved without any consideratioin of life's needs. Like a bird striving to nest in a limitless engine, insanely building among moving wheels and cogs and pistons and pulley-bands, whose moving toward their proper and intended purposes inev itably swept away each nest before completion--so it might be that life passed from moving world to world, found transitory foothold, began to build, and was driven out.

What was it that life sought to rear?--what was the purpose of this endless endeavor, of which the hatching of an ant or the begetting of an emperor was equally a by-product? and of which the existence of Felix Kennaston was a manifestation past conceivi ng in its umimportance? Toward what did life aspire?--that force which moved in Felix Kennaston, and thus made Felix Kennaston also an intruder, a temporary visitor, in the big moving soulless mechanism of earth and water and planets and suns and interlo cking solar systems?

"To answer that question must be my modest attempt," he decided. "In fine--why is a Kennaston? The query has a humorous ring undoubtedly, in so far as it is no little suggestive of the spinning mouse that is the higher the fewer--but, after all, it voic es the sole question in which I personally am interested...."

"Why is a Kennaston?" he asked himself--thus whimisically voicing a real desire to know if human beings were intended for any especial purpose. Most of us find it more comfortable, upon the whole, to stave off such queries--with a jest, a shrug, or a Sc riptural quotation, as best suits personal taste; but Kennaston was "queer" enough to face the situation quite gravely. Here was he, the individual, very possibly placed on--at all events, infesting--a particular planet for a considerable number of years ; the planet was so elaborately constructed, so richly clothed with trees and valleys and uplands and running waters and multitudinary grass-blades, and the body that housed Felix Kennaston was so intricately wrought with tiny bones and veins and sinews, with sockets and valves and levers, and little hairs which grew upon the body like grass-blades about the earth, that it seemed unreasonable to suppose this much cunning mechanism had been set agoing aimlessly: and so, he often wondered if he was not pe rhaps expected to devote these years of human living to some intelligible purpose?

Religion, of course, assured him that the answer to his query was, in various books, explicitly written, in very dissimilar forms. But Kennaston could find little to attract him in any theory of the universe based upon direct revelations from heaven. Co nceding that divinity had actually stated so-and-so, from Sinai or Delphi or Mecca, and had been reported without miscomprehension or error, there was no particular reason for presuming that divinity had spoken veraciously: and, indeed all a available an alogues went to show that nothing in nature dealt with its inferiors candidly. To liken the relationship to the intercourse of a father with his children, as did all revealed religions with queer uniformity, was at best a two-edged simile, in that it sug gested a possible amiability of intention combined with inevitable duplicity. The range of an earthly father's habitual deceptions. embracing the sourse of life and Christmas presents on one side and his own fallibility on the other was wide enough to ma ke the comperison suspicious. When fathers were at their worst they punished; and when in their kindliest and most expansive moods, why, then it was--precisely--that they told their children fairy-stories. It seemed to Kennaston, for a while, that all r eligions ended in this blind-alley.

To exercise for an allotted period divinely-recommended qualities known as virtues, and to be rewarded therefor, by an immortal score-keeper, appeared a rather childish performance all around. Yet every religion agreed in asserting that such was the cour se of human life at its noblest; and to believe matters were thus arranged indisputably satisfied an innate craving of men's natures, as Kennaston was, perhaps uniquely, privileged to see for himself.

Under all theocracies the run of men proved much the same: as has been said, it was for the most part with quite ordinary people that Horvendile dealt in dreams. The Roman citizenry, for instance, he found did not devote existence, either under the Repu blic or the Empire, to shouting in unanimous response to metrical declamations, and worrying over their own bare legs, or in other ways conform to the best traditions of literature and the stage; nor did the Athenians corroborate their dramatists by talk ing perpetually of the might of Zeus or Aphrodite, any more than motormen and stockbrokers conversed continually of the Holy Ghost. Substantial people everywhere worshiped at their accustomed temple at accustomed intervals, and then put the matter out of mind, in precisely the fashion of any reputable twentieth-century church-goer. Meanwhile they had their business-affairs, their sober chats on weather probabilities, their staid diversions (which everywhere bored them frightfully), their family jokes, t heir best and second-best clothes, their flirtations, their petty snobbishnesses, and their perfectly irrational faith in Omnipotence and in the general kindliness of Omnipotence--all these they had, and made play with, to round out living. Ritualistic w orship everywhere seemed to be of the nature of a conscious outing, of a conscious departure from everyday life; it was generally felt that well-balanced people would not permit such jaunts to interfere with their business-matters or home-ties; but there was no doubt men did not like to live without religion and religion's promise of a less trivial and more ordered and symmetrical existence--to-morrow.

Meanwhile, men were to worry, somehow, through to-day--doing as infrequent evil as they conveniently could, exercising as much bravery and honesty and benevolence as they happened to possess, through a life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits. Men felt the routine to be niggardly: but to-morrow--as their priests and bonzes, their flamens and imauns, their medicine men and popes and rectors, were unanimous--would be quite different.

To-day alone was real. Never was man brought into contact with reality save through the evanescent emotions and sensations of that single moment, that infinitesimal fraction of a second, which was passing now--and it was in the insignificance of this mome nt, precisely, that religious persons must believe. So ran the teachings of all dead and lingering faiths alike. Here was, perhaps, only another instance of mankind's abhorrence of actualities; and man's quaint dislike of facing reality was here disguis ed as a high moral principle. That was why all art, which strove to make the sensations of a moment soul-satisfying, was dimly felt to be irreligious. For art performed what religion only promised.

Chapter Twenty-Seven