The Rebel Angels. The Cornish Trilogy #1 by Robertson Davies

This isn’t what I’d do for the public, said Ozy. Then the faces would be blacked out and also the genitals. But this is among friends.

Indeed it was. I recognized a paunchy University policeman, and a fellow from Physical Plant who pruned trees. And wasn’t that one of the secretaries from the President’s office? And a girl from the Alumni House? Several students I had seen flashed by, and — really, this is hardly the place for me — Professor Agnes Marley, heavier in the hams than her tweeds admitted, and with a decidedly poor bosom. All of these unhappy creatures had been photographed in a hard, cruel light. And in big black figures at the bottom right-hand corner of each picture was their ratio of elements, determined by Sheldon’s scale. Ozy switched on the lights again.

You see how it goes? he said. By the way, I hope you didn’t recognize any of those people. No harm done if you did, but people are sometimes sensitive. Everybody wants to be typed, just as they want to have their fortunes told. Me, now, I’m a 271; not much fat, but enough, as you see, to make some trouble when I’m tied to sedentary work; I’m a seven in frame and muscle — I’d be a Hercules if I had a few more units on either end of my scale. I’m only a one in the cerebrotonic aspect, which doesn’t mean I’m dumb, thank God, but I’ve never been what you’d call nervy or sensitive. That’s why this Brown thing doesn’t bother me too much. — By the way, I suppose you noticed the varying hirsutism of those people? The women are sensitive about it, but it’s extremely revealing to a scientist in my kind of work.

Typing at a glance — I’d never attempt it seriously. But you can tell a lot about typology by the kind of things people say. Christ, now; tradition and all the pictures represent Him as a cerebrotonic ectomorph, and that raises a theological point that should interest you, Simon. If Christ was really the Son of Man, and assumed human flesh, you’d have thought he’d be a 444, wouldn’t you? A man who felt for everybody. But no — a nervy, thin type. Must have been tough, though; great walker, spell­binding orator, which takes strength, put up with a scourging and a lot of rough-house from soldiers; at least a three in the mesomorphic range.

It’s fascinating, isn’t it? There you are, Simon, a professional propagandist and interpreter of a prophet who wasn’t, literally, your type at all. Just off the top of my head, I’d put you down as a 425 — soft, but chunky and possessed of great energy. You write a good deal, don’t you?

I thought of The New Aubrey, and nodded.

Of course. That’s your type, when it’s combined with superior intelligence. Enough muscle to see you through; sensi­tive but not ridden with nerves, and a huge gut. Because that’s what makes your type come out so far in front, you see? Some of your viscerotonics have a gut that is almost double the length of the gut in a real cerebrotonic. They haven’t got a lot of gut, but they’re beggars for sex. The muscular ones aren’t sexy to nearly the same extent and the fatties would just as soon eat. It’s the little, skinny ones who can never let it alone. I could tell you astonishing things. But you’re a gut-man, Simon. And just right for your kind of parson: fond of ceremony and ritual, and of course a big eater. Fart much?

How much is much? I did not take up this lead.

I expect you do, but on the sly, because of that five at your cerebrotonic end. But writers — look at them. Balzac, Dumas, Trollope, Thackeray, Dickens in his later years, Henry James (a lifelong sufferer from constipation, by the way), Hugo, Goethe — at least forty feet of gut in every one of them.

Ozy had quite forgotten about scientific calm and was warm­ing to his great theme.

You’ll want to know, though, what this has to do with faeces. I just got a hunch, remembering Osier, that there might be variations in composition, according to type, and that might be interesting. Because what people forget, or don’t consider, is that the bowel movement is a real creation; everybody produces the stuff in an incidence that ranges with normality from three times a day to about once every ten days, with, say, once every forty-eight hours as a mean. There it is, and it’d be damned funny if there was nothing individual or characteristic about it, and it might just be that it varied according to health. You know the old country saying: Every man’s dung smells sweet in his own nose . But not in anybody else’s nose. It’s a creation, a highly characteristic product. So let’s get to work, I thought.

Setting up an experiment for something like that is a hell of a job. First of all, Sheldon identified seventy-six types that are within the range of the normal; of course there are some wild combinations in people who are born to severe physical trouble. Getting an experimental group together is a lot of work, because you have to interview so many people, and do a lot of explaining, and rule out the ones who could become nuisances. I guess my team and I saw well over five hundred, and managed to keep things fairly quiet to exclude jokers and nuts like Brown. We ended up with a hundred and twenty-five, who would promise to give us all their faeces, properly contained in the special receptacles we provided (and they cost a pretty penny, let me tell you), as fresh as possible, and over considerable lengths of time, because you want serial inspection if you are going to get anywhere. And we wanted as big a range of temperament as we could achieve, and not just highly intelligent young students. As I told you, Simon, we have to pay our test group, because it’s a nuisance to them, and though they understand that it’s im­portant they have to have some recompense. We expect them to have tests whenever my medical assistant calls for it, and they have to mark a daily chart that records a few things — how they felt, for instance, on a one-to-seven scale ranging from Radiant to The Pits. I often wish we could do it with rats but human temperament can’t be examined in any cheap way.

Paracelsus would have liked you, Dr. Froats, said Maria: he re­jected the study of formal anatomy for a consideration of the living body as a whole; he’d have liked what you say about faeces being a creation. Have you read his treatises on colic and bowelworms?

I just know him as a name, really. I thought he was some kind of nut.

That’s what Murray Brown says about you.

Well, Murray Brown is wrong. I can’t tell him so for a while — maybe for a few years — but there’ll be a time.

Does that mean you’ve found what you are looking for? I said. I felt that I had better get Maria away from Paracelsus.

I’m not looking for anything. That’s not how science works; I’m just looking to see what’s there. If you start with a precon­ceived idea of what you are going to find, you are liable to find it, and be dead wrong, and maybe miss something genuine that’s under your nose. Of course we’re not just sitting on our hands here; at least half a dozen good papers from Froats, Redfern, and Oimatsu have appeared in the journals. Some interesting stuff has come up. Want to see some more pictures? Oimatsu prepares these. Wonderful! Nobody like the Japanese for fine work like this.

These were slides showing what I understood to be ex­tremely thin slices of faeces, cut transversely, and examined microscopically and under special light. They were of extra­ordinary beauty, like splendid cuttings of moss-agate, eye-agate, brecciated agate, and my mind turned to that chalcedony which John’s Revelation tells us is part of the foundations of the Holy City. But as Maria had been unsuccessful in persuading Ozy to hear about Paracelsus I thought I would have no greater success with references to the Bible. So I fished around for something which I hoped might be intelligent to say.

I don’t suppose there’d be such a thing as a crystal-lattice in those examples?

No, but that’s a good guess — a shrewd guess. Not a crystal-lattice, of course, for several reasons, but call it a disposition towards a characteristic form which is pretty constant. And if it changes markedly, what do you suppose that means? I don’t know, but if I can find out — Ozy became aware that he was yielding to unscientific enthusiasm — I’ll know something I don’t know now.

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