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    Chapter VIII


    3.Did this experience give him the sensation of a dream in which he, who was alive, went down among those who had ceased to live, his return to Edinburgh and its well-known scenes had exactly the opposite effect: made HIM feel like a shade permitted to revisit the haunts of men. For here was life in all its pristine vigour, life bubbling hot from the source — and aeons divided him from it. Here he found again his own youth — eager, restless, passionate-though encased now in other forms. Other keen young spirits swept from hospital to theatre, and from theatre to lecture-room, as he once had done; and were filled to the brim, they, too, with high purpose and ambition. Never before had it been made so clear to him of what small worth was the individual: of what little account the human moulds in which this life-energy was cast. Momentous alone was the presence of the great Breath: the eternal motor impulse. Each young soul had its hour, followed a starry trail, dreamed a kingship; then passed — vanishing in the ranks of the mediocre, the disillusioned, the conquered — to make room for the new company of aspirants thronging on behind. Many of these lads would, no doubt, in looking back, find as little in their lives to feel proud of as he found in his: nothing accomplished of all they now so surely anticipated. And one or other of them might also, when his time came, hover as an elderly ghost, eyed with a flagrant curiosity by this insolently young throng — how contemptuously would not he himself in old days have stared at the apparition! — hover round the precincts, the real old middle-aged hack, returned for a glimpse at the scenes of his youth. — Such were his feelings, the experience being one that drove his years home to him with a cruel stab.
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