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The Procession of Egos.

ON each side of him, for many a mile, extended a pebbled beach shut in by hazy headlands. The quiet sea chafed gently at his feet on a myriad little stones—once hugest boulders, now worn by unwearied Time into minute and most diverse shapes.

He stooped and separated one stone from its fellows—it was so very circular. It was somewhat flat; about the size of a small coin.

Chance has formed this little pebble so, he thought. Then .. what Chance?

The Philosopher put the little stone disc in his pocket and walked home, considering deeply. He went at once to his laboratory and measured the granite fragment with his most delicate instruments. To their mechanism, capable of discriminating to a thousandth part of an inch, the circle of the thing was round, try it which way he would—round absolutely. The Philosopher was disturbed.

He leaned his head upon his hands, with his eyes fixed upon the insignificant pebble placed on the table before him.

“It seems to me,” he mused, “it is no mere speculation. It is a certainty—it must be. Yet I will place the argument on paper so that no error may creep in.”

He was trembling as he took a pen and wrote:

“The conception of Space necessarily insists upon an infinity of Space. If Space be not infinite, it must have a boundary. But if that boundary be not infinite, itself must have a boundary and so on—to infinity.

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“And for similar reasons, the conception of Time implies an infinity of Time.

“Therefore the material Universe—what we call Matter—occurs in an infinity of Space and Time.

“But if Space and Time be infinite, why not Matter? The infinite repetition of Matter is at least as likely as its sudden cessation. So far as human knowledge extends, Matter is infinitely repeated.

“And, so far as human knowledge extends, Matter is identical in essence. There is at least as much likelihood that its primal elements will remain the same as there is that they will change to something inconceivably different.

“This Matter must be held or governed by a condition of its own existence—since Space and Time are abstractions.

“And as Matter is identical, the Law which governs it must also be identical.

“This pebble in all its remarkable rotundity was formed by what we call Chance, which in its last analysis is only an expression of Law, and is certain and entirely inflexible.

“Given Sea, and Stone, and Time long enough, a shape such as this must have been formed.

“And if this shape, in the chances which Time never-ending must bring, then every and any other shape.

“But Time is not operating in its chances on this World alone, but on all other Worlds which it has formed, extending in Space illimitably.

“Therefore other discs the very counterpart of this must exist in other Worlds.

“And, the Worlds being unlimited in number, the perfect discs must be unlimited.

“But Chance must repeat the shape and characteristics of this World as it repeats the discs.

“And, as the Worlds are unlimited, and Time has never begun nor yet can end, some World must be so like that the similarity will extend to every islet, to every rock, to every

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pebble, and to that pebble's exact position on the sea-beach as I found this.

“Chance, then, in its infinite variety, must at this moment hold sway over a World which is in everything the precise replica of this World—with like human beings, like laws, customs, languages, and religions—like to the tiniest grain of sand, and to the most transient thought flickering through a brain—a perfect identity.

“There must be therefore a Man like me—of my name—of my past—a Man who is now writing—who is now thinking what I am now thinking—who picked up lately, as I did, a remarkable pebble.

“But, as there is a limitless series of Worlds subject to Chance, there must be a limitless series of Worlds such as this.

“And as Time ever was and ever will be, there now as necessarily must be, must ever have been, and ever will be, an infinite series of …”

He broke off here—the room seemed so small and its confines so insupportable. He went out into the night wind, which enveloped him with its grateful chill.

A swart cloud hung sullen under the face of the moon. Before him crouched in the darkness an undefined mass. It was a rugged hill, strewn with rocks and smoothed boulders. He gained the summit, and bared his head to the stronger breeze. The cloud had moved and no longer prevented the moon's light.

And the Philosopher now for the first time became aware of a rhythmic murmur—not loud and thundering, but enormous in its pervasiveness. Tramp!—it sounded … tramp!tramp!

He looked at the landscape below and saw at first dimly, then quite distinctly, an expanse of people. It was the noise of their walking he had heard as they marched past the hill with measured and unhurried step. They entirely filled the view, save on the side on which he stood, and they rolled on as a sea that rolls to meet a sea.

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Looking still more intently, the Philosopher perceived with a terror, the like of which he had never imagined before, that every man of the crowd was a likeness of himself dreadful in its exactness.

Yet they paid no sort of attention to him, but continued their sombre way.

Impelled by a strange curiosity, he shouted to them:

“Where do I come from?”

He had intended to say—“Where do you come from?” but in some inexplicable way, and in spite of himself, he was compelled to say “I” instead of “you.”

Then all who marched below, to the most remote of them, turned their heads backwards and peered at him with contracted brows, and peered most curiously, and said together in one great voice, enquiringly, yet somewhat sadly withal:

“Where do I come from?”

Then he asked again, being again impelled to say “I” instead of “you”:

“How far do I extend?”

And all the men who marched below suddenly raised themselves a-tip-toe to look over one another's head, and answered blankly:

“How far do I extend?”

And once more, notwithstanding his fear, he asked a further question, not this time essaying to speak the word “you,” for it was impossible:

“Where am I going?”

And at this question all the landscape of faces with the moon-light on them turned towards him, and looked at him with frightful mockery, and answered:

“Where am I going?”

But the sound of their voice was so loud and pervading that the hill on which he stood quivered to its rooted depths. Its cliffs rose from the earth and flung themselves headlong down sheer steeps. Massy stones, lying squat, starred and split to their bellied

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bases. The rounded granite pebbles crumbled into dust. The moon herself, serenest of spheres, darkened her ray and trembled in her silver chains; and the stars sparkled fitfully and sought vainly to forsake their customed paths. Nor was the sound unfelt by the nether and piled universes for ever.

He hastened down the quaking hillside and joined the infinite throng.