“I am an eater of sin. We still have a few such in Wales. They put a piece of bread and cheese on the breast of a dead man and when the sin-eater eats it, the sins of the dead are passed into the bread and cheese and the soul of the dead is shrived of them. Ay, ay, but it’s a grave duty, my friend, to take upon your own soul the crime of another. If you are free from sin yourself, you may walk through life a brave creature; but ... I took his sins, sins, the sins of the wickedest composer of our century, God rest his soul. And for the wicked things he put into his symphonies I must march through life playing on this terrible collection of instruments the Tune of Time—” His daughter faced him.
“Father, we must go; you are only keeping the gentleman.” Again she signalled Ferval, but he disregarded her warning. He would not stir. The story and the man who told it, a prophet shorn of his heaven-storming powers, fascinated him.
“I took his sins to myself and they were awful. Once every night I play the Tune of Time in which the wickedness of the dead man is spread out like dry rot in a green field. This man kept his genius so long stagnant that it decayed on his hands, and then into his pestilential music he poured his poison, and would have made the world sick. Oh, for delivery from the crushing transgressions of another! His name? Ah, but that is my secret! I ate his sin, and truth, my son, is stranger than theology! Listen!”
Before his daughter could check him he had hastily donned his armament of instruments and, tramping slowly the broad, smooth path, began playing. Ferval, much disappointed, was about to disappear, for he remembered the racking noises of the previous day. But this music, this Tune of Time!...
It was like the flare of lightning which illuminates strange regions beyond the borders of the soul. Ferval no longer heard, he felt; he felt no more, he saw. The white veil was torn asunder, and it showed him a melodious thunder-pool wherein tapering tiny bodies swam, whose eyes were the eyes of Debora. They split and coalesced into other creatures, and to the drummings of spheric harmonies resolved themselves scaly and monstrous. Never did they cease changing. As the music buzzed he saw the great ladder of life, the lowermost rungs resting in lakes of melted amber, the top threatening the remotest rims of the universe. And still the Tune of Time whirred on, as facet after facet of the Infinite wheeled toward creation. Numberless legions of crumpled nightmare shapes modulated into new, familiar forms. Ferval saw plasmic dew become anthropoidal apes, fiercely roaming primeval forests in search of prey. The music mounted ever upward, for the Tune of Time is the Tune of Love—love and its inseparable shadow, hate, fashion the firmament. The solid, circular earth shivered like a mighty harp under this lyric burden of love. The very stars sported in their orbits; and from the fulgurating ovens of the Milky Way there shot forth streams of audible light that touched the heart-strings of the hairy, erect primates and set them chanting; thus were the souls born which crowned them men. This space-bridging music ranged from sun to sun, and its supernatural symphony had no beginning and never shall end.