The Grey Man
Victor Endersby

Armand the Companion strolled beside the waters to enjoy the waning autumn sun. There he beheld a man sitting, watching the boats go in and out. This man was not ancient, not young; greying. His eyes gazed down the sunset slope into the shadows of the unknown that attend the close of life for those without knowledge.

Armand sat beside him. Shortly, observing friendship in the eyes of the Companion, the man spoke.

“Is there an answer to the riddle of life?” he asked.

“So I have heard,” said Armand. “What is your thought on the matter?”

“So I also have heard,” replied the man. “It is possible that I had my hands on it once.”

“Yes?”

“They called it ‘The Wisdom.’ I attended its assembly for a time.”

“And were not satisfied therewith?”

“No. I could grasp nothing tangible and of use to a practical man. Ever the talk was of brotherhood and the need of the upright life. Every school child knows those things.”

“And there was no more than this?”

“Oh, yes. Much of the karma of past lives, and of vast origins and destinies of man and his kindred. It may have been true, it may have been fantasy. But what could I do with all that? I had need of that which would benefit my trade and my household life. In time I went no more, and sought elsewhere.”

“And did you find somewhat?”

“I found one who instructed in observing the color of the soul, so that one might know the nature of those with whom he dealt in the market place. He taught much solid detail. A man could put his teeth into such knowledge. It required much gold, but seemed worth it.”

“You then saw the colors of many souls?”

“No, I did not see any. The Preceptor said that my evolution was lacking.”

“And returned your gold?”

“Why should he? He had spent his time and wrought patiently upon me. The effort did not turn out well for me. Upon occasion I used the formula in trying to test my wife’s faithfulness. I discovered nothing, but she, learning of it, was vexed, and a trouble arose between us that did never end. Women are not reasonable... I sought some form of knowledge not requiring so much labor and so much gold.”

“What was the nature of your next essay?”

“It was with one who determined the propitious times for love and business by means of charts of the stars. This, too, took money, but not so much. And it required no great labor on my part. But this also did not do well; tasks undertaken by the stars went badly more often than not. Long afterward I met another of that calling, who explained that his competitor, being ignorant, used a zodiac thirty degrees awry.”

“How did the new Zodiac turn out?”

“I did not try. I had become mistrustful of zodiacs. Also I had no more money.”

“Yet, perhaps,” said the Companion, “there is knowledge of both souls and stars that cannot be had for money, only by selflessness? Perhaps knowledge of great power that is unusable in the market-place?”

“You speak precisely as one of those of the Wisdom. This was my great disappointment in them. Ever they spoke of such powers and knowledge, ever raising a barricade of such sacrifices as would render power useless. What good is knowledge to the self when the self exists no longer? Also it was clear that they themselves had no such Powers, for they were plain people with no great wealth.”

“And your man of the souls - he no doubt exhibited the results of wisdom in his life?”

“Oh, yes indeed. Fine raiment, and a shrine most elegant.”

“And he of the thirty degrees awry - his ignorance was no doubt made manifest by poverty?”

“Oh, no! He also was well housed and well decked out. Why, that was a little strange, was it not? This had not occurred to me before.”

“I would not say that it was strange,” murmured the Companion to himself, “in a world full of such as thou.” Aloud - “What was the nature of your further seeking?”

“This and that - nothing much. I had become mistrustful and naught appealed as worth time and gold, although I looked into many things.”

“You said that perhaps you had placed hands on knowledge in the form of the Wisdom. Did you return to that?”

“No. What could there be in that which was given without price, where costly teachings had failed me? And yet... and yet... as my days add to their number and the remainder grows short, that Wisdom somehow clings to my mind, though I have forgotten most of its teachings.”

“Why not essay it once more?”

“It is too late now. I have no interest in life. My wife is dead. My children have their own lives. I am aging, sad and weary, and large thoughts make my head ache. And I have been disappointed so many times. Why risk it again?”

He fell into a sad brooding, becoming oblivious of Armand, who rose quietly and betook himself to the city. At the end of the quay he looked back at the man, the grey man gazing upon the grey waters, and for a time the day was dim to his vision, out of pity. But he reflected that for all there was a “tomorrow” in which, with the moon of folly setting; the sun of wisdom might rise. Thereupon he shook the thing from his mind in attention to the immediate.

Last Update : January 2009
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