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Title: The Child of the Dawn
Author: Benson, Arthur Christopher, 1862-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         THE CHILD OF THE DAWN

                     By ARTHUR CHRISTOPHER BENSON

                 FELLOW OF MAGDALENE COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE

      [Greek: êdu ti tharsaleais ton makron teiein bion elpisin]

Author of THE UPTON LETTERS, FROM A COLLEGE WINDOW, BESIDE STILL WATERS,
THE ALTAR FIRE, THE SCHOOLMASTER, AT LARGE, THE GATE OF DEATH, THE
SILENT ISLE, JOHN RUSKIN, LEAVES OF THE TREE, CHILD OF THE DAWN, PAUL
THE MINSTREL

                                 1912



To MY BEST AND DEAREST FRIEND
HERBERT FRANCIS WILLIAM TATHAM
IN LOVE AND HOPE



INTRODUCTION


I think that a book like the following, which deals with a subject so
great and so mysterious as our hope of immortality, by means of an
allegory or fantasy, needs a few words of preface, in order to clear
away at the outset any misunderstandings which may possibly arise in a
reader's mind. Nothing is further from my wish than to attempt any
philosophical or ontological exposition of what is hidden behind the
veil of death. But one may be permitted to deal with the subject
imaginatively or poetically, to translate hopes into visions, as I have
tried to do.

The fact that underlies the book is this: that in the course of a very
sad and strange experience--an illness which lasted for some two years,
involving me in a dark cloud of dejection--I came to believe
practically, instead of merely theoretically, in the personal
immortality of the human soul. I was conscious, during the whole time,
that though the physical machinery of the nerves was out of gear, the
soul and the mind remained, not only intact, but practically unaffected
by the disease, imprisoned, like a bird in a cage, but perfectly free in
themselves, and uninjured by the bodily weakness which enveloped them.
This was not all. I was led to perceive that I had been living life
with an entirely distorted standard of values; I had been ambitious,
covetous, eager for comfort and respect, absorbed in trivial dreams and
childish fancies. I saw, in the course of my illness, that what really
mattered to the soul was the relation in which it stood to other souls;
that affection was the native air of the spirit; and that anything which
distracted the heart from the duty of love was a kind of bodily
delusion, and simply hindered the spirit in its pilgrimage.

It is easy to learn this, to attain to a sense of certainty about it,
and yet to be unable to put it into practice as simply and frankly as
one desires to do! The body grows strong again and reasserts itself; but
the blessed consciousness of a great possibility apprehended and grasped
remains.

There came to me, too, a sense that one of the saddest effects of
what is practically a widespread disbelief in immortality, which
affects many people who would nominally disclaim it, is that we think
of the soul after death as a thing so altered as to be practically
unrecognisable--as a meek and pious emanation, without qualities or aims
or passions or traits--as a sort of amiable and weak-kneed sacristan in
the temple of God; and this is the unhappy result of our so often making
religion a pursuit apart from life--an occupation, not an atmosphere; so
that it seems impious to think of the departed spirit as interested in
anything but a vague species of liturgical exercise.

I read the other day the account of the death-bed of a great statesman,
which was written from what I may call a somewhat clerical point of
view. It was recorded with much gusto that the dying politician took no
interest in his schemes of government and cares of State, but found
perpetual solace in the repetition of childish hymns. This fact had, or
might have had, a certain beauty of its own, if it had been expressly
stated that it was a proof that the tired and broken mind fell back upon
old, simple, and dear recollections of bygone love. But there was
manifest in the record a kind of sanctimonious triumph in the extinction
of all the great man's insight and wisdom. It seemed to me that the
right treatment of the episode was rather to insist that those great
qualities, won by brave experience and unselfish effort, were only
temporarily obscured, and belonged actually and essentially to the
spirit of the man; and that if heaven is indeed, as we may thankfully
believe, a place of work and progress, those qualities would be actively
and energetically employed as soon as the soul was freed from the
trammels of the failing body.

Another point may also be mentioned. The idea of transmigration and
reincarnation is here used as a possible solution for the extreme
difficulties which beset the question of the apparently fortuitous
brevity of some human lives. I do not, of course, propound it as
literally and precisely as it is here set down--it is not a forecast of
the future, so much as a symbolising of the forces of life--but _the
renewal of conscious experience_, in some form or other, seems to be the
only way out of the difficulty, and it is that which is here indicated.
If life is a probation for those who have to face experience and
temptation, how can it be a probation for infants and children, who die
before the faculty of moral choice is developed? Again, I find it very
hard to believe in any multiplication of human souls. It is even more
difficult for me to believe in the creation of new souls than in the
creation of new matter. Science has shown us that there is no actual
addition made to the sum of matter, and that the apparent creation of
new forms of plants or animals is nothing more than a rearrangement of
existing particles--that if a new form appears in one place, it merely
means that so much matter is transferred thither from another place. I
find it, I say, hard to believe that the sum total of life is actually
increased. To put it very simply for the sake of clearness, and
accepting the assumption that human life had some time a beginning on
this planet, it seems impossible to think that when, let us say, the two
first progenitors of the race died, there were but two souls in heaven;
that when the next generation died there were, let us say, ten souls in
heaven; and that this number has been added to by thousands and
millions, until the unseen world is peopled, as it must be now, if no
reincarnation is possible, by myriads of human identities, who, after
a single brief taste of incarnate life, join some vast community of
spirits in which they eternally reside. I do not say that this latter
belief may not be true; I only say that in default of evidence, it seems
to me a difficult faith to hold; while a reincarnation of spirits, if
one could believe it, would seem to me both to equalise the inequalities
of human experience, and give one a lively belief in the virtue and
worth of human endeavour. But all this is set down, as I say, in a
tentative and not in a philosophical form.

And I have also in these pages kept advisedly clear of Christian
doctrines and beliefs; not because I do not believe wholeheartedly in
the divine origin and unexhausted vitality of the Christian revelation,
but because I do not intend to lay rash and profane hands upon the
highest and holiest of mysteries.

I will add one word about the genesis of the book. Some time ago I
wrote a number of short tales of an allegorical type. It was a curious
experience. I seemed to have come upon them in my mind, as one comes
upon a covey of birds in a field. One by one they took wings and flew;
and when I had finished, though I was anxious to write more tales, I
could not discover any more, though I beat the covert patiently to
dislodge them.

This particular tale rose unbidden in my mind. I was never conscious
of creating any of its incidents. It seemed to be all there from the
beginning; and I felt throughout like a man making his way along a road,
and describing what he sees as he goes. The road stretched ahead of me;
I could not see beyond the next turn at any moment; it just unrolled
itself inevitably and, I will add, very swiftly to my view, and was thus
a strange and momentous experience.

I will only add that the book is all based upon an intense belief in
God, and a no less intense conviction of personal immortality and
personal responsibility. It aims at bringing out the fact that our life
is a very real pilgrimage to high and far-off things from mean and
sordid beginnings, and that the key of the mystery lies in the frank
facing of experience, as a blessed process by which the secret purpose
of God is made known to us; and, even more, in a passionate belief in
Love, the love of friend and neighbour, and the love of God; and in the
absolute faith that we are all of us, from the lowest and most degraded
human soul to the loftiest and wisest, knit together with chains of
infinite nearness and dearness, under God, and in Him, and through Him,
now and hereafter and for evermore.

A.C.B.

THE OLD LODGE, MAGDALENE COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, _January_, 1912.



The Child of the Dawn



I


Certainly the last few moments of my former material, worn-out life, as
I must still call it, were made horrible enough for me. I came to, after
the operation, in a deadly sickness and ghastly confusion of thought. I
was just dimly conscious of the trim, bare room, the white bed, a figure
or two, but everything else was swallowed up in the pain, which filled
all my senses at once. Yet surely, I thought, it is all something
outside me? ... my brain began to wander, and the pain became a thing.
It was a tower of stone, high and blank, with a little sinister window
high up, from which something was every now and then waved above the
house-roofs.... The tower was gone in a moment, and there was a heap
piled up on the floor of a great room with open beams--a granary,
perhaps. The heap was of curved sharp steel things like sickles:
something moved and muttered underneath it, and blood ran out on the
floor. Then I was instantly myself, and the pain was with me again; and
then there fell on me a sense of faintness, so that the cold sweat-drops
ran suddenly out on my brow. There came a smell of drugs, sharp and
pungent, on the air. I heard a door open softly, and a voice said, "He
is sinking fast--they must be sent for at once." Then there were more
people in the room, people whom I thought I had known once, long ago;
but I was buried and crushed under the pain, like the thing beneath the
heap of sickles. There swept over me a dreadful fear; and I could see
that the fear was reflected in the faces above me; but now they were
strangely distorted and elongated, so that I could have laughed, if only
I had had the time; but I had to move the weight off me, which was
crushing me. Then a roaring sound began to come and go upon the air,
louder and louder, faster and faster; the strange pungent scent came
again; and then I was thrust down under the weight, monstrous,
insupportable; further and further down; and there came a sharp bright
streak, like a blade severing the strands of a rope drawn taut and
tense; another and another; one was left, and the blade drew near....

I fell suddenly out of the sound and scent and pain into the most
incredible and blessed peace and silence. It would have been like a
sleep, but I was still perfectly conscious, with a sense of unutterable
and blissful fatigue; a picture passed before me, of a calm sea, of vast
depth and clearness. There were cliffs at a little distance, great
headlands and rocky spires. I seemed to myself to have left them, to
have come down through them, to have embarked. There was a pale light
everywhere, flushed with rose-colour, like the light of a summer dawn;
and I felt as I had once felt as a child, awakened early in the little
old house among the orchards, on a spring morning; I had risen from my
bed, and leaning out of my window, filled with a delightful wonder,
I had seen the cool morning quicken into light among the dewy
apple-blossoms. That was what I felt like, as I lay upon the moving
tide, glad to rest, not wondering or hoping, not fearing or expecting
anything--just there, and at peace.

There seemed to be no time in that other blessed morning, no need to
do anything. The cliffs, I did not know how, faded from me, and the
boundless sea was about me on every side; but I cannot describe the
timelessness of it. There are no human words for it all, yet I must
speak of it in terms of time and space, because both time and space
were there, though I was not bound by them.

And here first I will say a few words about the manner of speech I shall
use. It is very hard to make clear, but I think I can explain it in an
image. I once walked alone, on a perfect summer day, on the South Downs.
The great smooth shoulders of the hills lay left and right, and, in
front of me, the rich tufted grass ran suddenly down to the plain, which
stretched out before me like a map. I saw the fields and woods, the
minute tiled hamlet-roofs, the white roads, on which crawled tiny carts.
A shepherd, far below, drove his flock along a little deep-cut lane
among high hedges. The sounds of earth came faintly and sweetly up,
obscure sounds of which I could not tell the origin; but the tinkling of
sheep-bells was the clearest, and the barking of the shepherd-dog. My
own dog sat beside me, watching my face, impatient to be gone. But at
the barking he pricked up his ears, put his head on one side, and
wondered, I saw, where that companionable sound came from. What he made
of the scene I do not know; the sight of the fruitful earth, the homes
of men, the fields and waters, filled me with an inexpressible emotion,
a wide-flung hope, a sense of the immensity and intricacy of life. But
to my dog it meant nothing at all, though he saw just what I did. To him
it was nothing but a great excavation in the earth, patched and streaked
with green. It was not then the scene itself that I loved; that was only
a symbol of emotions and ideas within me. It touched the spring of a
host of beautiful thoughts; but the beauty and the sweetness were the
contribution of my own heart and mind.

Now in the new world in which I found myself, I approached the thoughts
of beauty and loveliness direct, without any intervening symbols at all.
The emotions which beautiful things had aroused in me upon earth were
all there, in the new life, but not confused or blurred, as they had
been in the old life, by the intruding symbols of ugly, painful, evil
things. That was all gone like a mist. I could not think an evil or an
ugly thought.

For a period it was so with me. For a long time--I will use the words
of earth henceforth without any explanation--I abode in the same calm,
untroubled peace, partly in memory of the old days, partly in the new
visions. My senses seemed all blended in one sense; it was not sight or
hearing or touch--it was but an instant apprehension of the essence of
things. All that time I was absolutely alone, though I had a sense of
being watched and tended in a sort of helpless and happy infancy. It was
always the quiet sea, and the dawning light. I lived over the scenes of
the old life in a vague, blissful memory. For the joy of the new life
was that all that had befallen me had a strange and perfect
significance. I had lived like other men. I had rejoiced, toiled,
schemed, suffered, sinned. But it was all one now. I saw that each
influence had somehow been shaping and moulding me. The evil I had done,
was it indeed evil? It had been the flowering of a root of bitterness,
the impact of material forces and influences. Had I ever desired it?
Not in my spirit, I now felt. Sin had brought me shame and sorrow, and
they had done their work. Repentance, contrition--ugly words! I laughed
softly at the thought of how different it all was from what I had
dreamed. I was as the lost sheep found, as the wayward son taken home;
and should I spoil my joy with recalling what was past and done with for
ever? Forgiveness was not a process, then, a thing to be sued for and to
be withheld; it was all involved in the glad return to the breast of God.

What was the mystery, then? The things that I had wrought, ignoble,
cruel, base, mean, selfish--had I ever willed to do them? It seemed
impossible, incredible. Were those grievous things still growing,
seeding, flowering in other lives left behind? Had they invaded,
corrupted, hurt other poor wills and lives? I could think of them no
longer, any more than I could think of the wrongs done to myself. Those
had not hurt me either. Perhaps I had still to suffer, but I could not
think of that. I was too much overwhelmed with joy. The whole thing
seemed so infinitely little and far away. So for a time I floated on the
moving crystal of the translucent sea, over the glimmering deeps, the
dawn above me, the scenes of the old life growing and shaping themselves
and fading without any will of my own, nothing within or without me but
ineffable peace and perfect joy.



II


I knew quite well what had happened to me; that I had passed through
what mortals call Death: and two thoughts came to me; one was this.
There had been times on earth when one had felt sure with a sort of deep
instinct that one could not really ever die; yet there had been hours of
weariness and despair when one had wondered whether death would not mean
a silent blankness. That thought had troubled me most, when I had
followed to the grave some friend or some beloved. The mouldering form,
shut into the narrow box, was thrust with a sense of shame and disgrace
into the clay, and no word or sign returned to show that the spirit
lived on, or that one would ever find that dear proximity again. How
foolish it seemed now ever to have doubted, ever to have been troubled!
Of course it was all eternal and everlasting. And then, too, came a
second thought. One had learned in life, alas, so often to separate what
was holy and sacred from daily life; there were prayers, liturgies,
religious exercises, solemnities, Sabbaths--an oppressive strain, too
often, and a banishing of active life. Brought up as one had been, there
had been a mournful overshadowing of thought, that after death, and with
God, it would be all grave and constrained and serious, a perpetual
liturgy, an unending Sabbath. But now all was deliciously merged
together. All of beautiful and gracious that there had been in religion,
all of joyful and animated and eager that there had been in secular
life, everything that amused, interested, excited, all fine pictures,
great poems, lovely scenes, intrepid thoughts, exercise, work, jests,
laughter, perceptions, fancies--they were all one now; only sorrow and
weariness and dulness and ugliness and greediness were gone. The
thought was fresh, pure, delicate, full of a great and mirthful content.

There were no divisions of time in my great peace; past, present, and
future were alike all merged. How can I explain that? It seems so
impossible, having once seen it, that it should be otherwise. The day
did not broaden to the noon, nor fade to evening. There was no night
there. More than that. In the other life, the dark low-hung days, one
seemed to have lived so little, and always to have been making
arrangements to live; so much time spent in plans and schemes, in
alterations and regrets. There was this to be done and that to be
completed; one thing to be begun, another to be cleared away; always in
search of the peace which one never found; and if one did achieve it,
then it was surrounded, like some cast carrion, by a cloud of poisonous
thoughts, like buzzing blue-flies. Now at last one lived indeed; but
there grew up in the soul, very gradually and sweetly, the sense that
one was resting, growing accustomed to something, learning the ways of
the new place. I became more and more aware that I was not alone; it was
not that I met, or encountered, or was definitely conscious of any
thought that was not my own; but there were motions as of great winds in
the untroubled calm in which I lay, of vast deeps drawing past me. There
were hoverings and poisings of unseen creatures, which gave me neither
awe nor surprise, because they were not in the range of my thought as
yet; but it was enough to show me that I was not alone, that there was
life about me, purposes going forward, high activities.

The first time I experienced anything more definite was when suddenly I
became aware of a great crystalline globe that rose like a bubble out of
the sea. It was of an incredible vastness; but I was conscious that I
did not perceive it as I had perceived things upon the earth, but that
I apprehended it all together, within and without. It rose softly and
swiftly out of the expanse. The surface of it was all alive. It had
seas and continents, hills and valleys, woods and fields, like our own
earth. There were cities and houses thronged with living beings; it was
a world like our own, and yet there was hardly a form upon it that
resembled any earthly form, though all were articulate and definite,
ranging from growths which I knew to be vegetable, with a dumb and
sightless life of their own, up to beings of intelligence and purpose.
It was a world, in fact, on which a history like that of our own world
was working itself out; but the whole was of a crystalline texture, if
texture it can be called; there was no colour or solidity, nothing but
form and silence, and I realised that I saw, if not materially yet in
thought, and recognised then, that all the qualities of matter, the
sounds, the colours, the scents--all that depends upon material
vibration--were abstracted from it; while form, of which the idea exists
in the mind apart from all concrete manifestations, was still present.
For some time after that, a series of these crystalline globes passed
through the atmosphere where I dwelt, some near, some far; and I saw in
an instant, in each case, the life and history of each. Some were still
all aflame, mere currents of molten heat and flying vapour. Some had the
first signs of rudimentary life--some, again, had a full and organised
life, such as ours on earth, with a clash of nations, a stream of
commerce, a perfecting of knowledge. Others were growing cold, and the
life upon them was artificial and strange, only achieved by a highly
intellectual and noble race, with an extraordinary command of natural
forces, fighting in wonderfully constructed and guarded dwellings
against the growing deathliness of a frozen world, and with a tortured
despair in their minds at the extinction which threatened them. There
were others, again, which were frozen and dead, where the drifting snow
piled itself up over the gigantic and pathetic contrivances of a race
living underground, with huge vents and chimneys, burrowing further
into the earth in search of shelter, and nurturing life by amazing
processes which I cannot here describe. They were marvellously wise,
those pale and shadowy creatures, with a vitality infinitely ahead of
our own, a vitality out of which all weakly or diseased elements had
long been eliminated. And again there were globes upon which all seemed
dead and frozen to the core, slipping onwards in some infinite progress.
But though I saw life under a myriad of new conditions, and with an
endless variety of forms, the nature of it was the same as ours. There
was the same ignorance of the future, the same doubts and uncertainties,
the same pathetic leaning of heart to heart, the same wistful desire
after permanence and happiness, which could not be there or so attained.

Then, too, I saw wild eddies of matter taking shape, of a subtlety that
is as far beyond any known earthly conditions of matter as steam is
above frozen stone. Great tornadoes whirled and poised; globes of
spinning fire flew off on distant errands of their own, as when the
heavens were made; and I saw, too, the crash of world with world, when
satellites that had lost their impetus drooped inwards upon some central
sun, and merged themselves at last with a titanic leap. All this enacted
itself before me, while life itself flew like a pulse from system to
system, never diminished, never increased, withdrawn from one to settle
on another. All this I saw and knew.



III


I thought I could never be satiated by this infinite procession of
wonders. But at last there rose in my mind, like a rising star, the need
to be alone no longer. I was passing through a kind of heavenly infancy;
and just as a day comes when a child puts out a hand with a conscious
intention, not merely a blind groping, but with a need to clasp and
caress, or answers a smile by a smile, a word by a purposeful cry, so in
a moment I was aware of some one with me and near me, with a heart and a
nature that leaned to mine and had need of me, as I of him. I knew him
to be one who had lived as I had lived, on the earth that was
ours,--lived many lives, indeed; and it was then first that I became
aware that I had myself lived many lives too. My human life, which I had
last left, was the fullest and clearest of all my existences; but they
had been many and various, though always progressive. I must not now
tell of the strange life histories that had enfolded me--they had risen
in dignity and worth from a life far back, unimaginably elementary and
instinctive; but I felt in a moment that my new friend's life had been
far richer and more perfect than my own, though I saw that there were
still experiences ahead of both of us; but not yet. I may describe his
presence in human similitudes, a presence perfectly defined, though
apprehended with no human sight. He bore a name which described
something clear, strong, full of force, and yet gentle of access, like
water. It was just that; a thing perfectly pure and pervading, which
could be stained and troubled, and yet could retain no defilement or
agitation; which a child could scatter and divide, and yet was
absolutely powerful and insuperable. I will call him Amroth. Him, I say,
because though there was no thought of sex left in my consciousness,
his was a courageous, inventive, masterful spirit, which gave rather
than received, and was withal of a perfect kindness and directness, love
undefiled and strong. The moment I became aware of his presence, I felt
him to be like one of those wonderful, pure youths of an Italian
picture, whose whole mind is set on manful things, untroubled by the
love of woman, and yet finding all the world intensely gracious and
beautiful, full of eager frankness, even impatience, with long, slim,
straight limbs and close-curled hair. I knew him to be the sort of being
that painters and poets had been feeling after when they represented or
spoke of angels. And I could not help laughing outright at the thought
of the meek, mild, statuesque draped figures, with absurd wings and
depressing smiles, that encumbered pictures and churches, with whom no
human communication would be possible, and whose grave and discomfiting
glance would be fatal to all ease or merriment. I recognised in Amroth
a mirthful soul, full of humour and laughter, who could not be shocked
by any truth, or hold anything uncomfortably sacred--though indeed he
held all things sacred with a kind of eagerness that charmed me. Instead
of meeting him in dolorous pietistic mood, I met him, I remember, as at
school or college one suddenly met a frank, smiling, high-spirited youth
or boy, who was ready at once to take comradeship for granted, and
walked away with one from a gathering, with an outrush of talk and plans
for further meetings. It was all so utterly unlike the subdued and
cautious and sensitive atmosphere of devotion that it stirred us both,
I was aware, to a delicious kind of laughter. And then came a swift
interchange of thought, which I must try to represent by speech, though
speech was none.

"I am glad to find you, Amroth," I said. "I was just beginning to wonder
if I was not going to be lonely."

"Ah," he said, "one has what one desires here; you had too much to see
and learn at first to want my company. And yet I have been with you,
pointing out a thousand things, ever since you came here."

"Was it you," I said, "that have been showing me all this? I thought I
was alone."

At which Amroth laughed again, a laugh full of content. "Yes," he said,
"the crags and the sunset--do you not remember? I came down with you,
carrying you like a child in my arms, while you slept; and then I saw
you awake. You had to rest a long time at first; you had had much to
bear--uncertainty--that is what tires one, even more than pain. And I
have been telling you things ever since, when you could listen."

"Oh," I said, "I have a hundred things to ask you; how strange it is to
see so much and understand so little!"

"Ask away," said Amroth, putting an arm through mine.

"I was afraid," I said, "that it would all be so different--like a
catechism 'Dost thou believe--is this thy desire?' But instead it seems
so entirely natural and simple!"

"Ah," he said, "that is how we bewilder ourselves on earth. Why, it is
hard to say! But all the real things remain. It is all just as
surprising and interesting and amusing and curious as it ever was: the
only things that are gone--for a time, that is--are the things that are
ugly and sad. But they are useful too in their way, though you have no
need to think of them now. Those are just the discipline, the training."

"But," I said, "what makes people so different from each other down
there--so many people who are sordid, grubby, quarrelsome, cruel,
selfish, spiteful? Only a few who are bold and kind--like you, for
instance?"

"No," he said, answering the thought that rose in my mind, "of course I
don't mind--I like compliments as well as ever, if they come naturally!
But don't you see that all the little poky, sensual, mean, disgusting
lives are simply those of spirits struggling to be free; we begin by
being enchained by matter at first, and then the stream runs clearer.
The divine things are imagination and sympathy. That is the secret."



IV


Once I said:

"Which kind of people do you find it hardest to help along?"

"The young people," said Amroth, with a smile.

"Youth!" I said. "Why, down below, we think of youth as being so
generous and ardent and imitative! We speak of youth as the time to
learn, and form fine habits; if a man is wilful and selfish in
after-life, we say that it was because he was too much indulged in
childhood--and we attach great importance to the impressions of youth."

"That is quite right," said Amroth, "because the impressions of youth
are swift and keen; but of course, here, age is not a question of years
or failing powers. The old, here, are the wise and gracious and patient
and gentle; the youth of the spirit is stupidity and unimaginativeness.
On the one hand are the stolid and placid, and on the other are the
brutal and cruel and selfish and unrestrained."

"You confuse me greatly," I said; "surely you do not mean that spiritual
life and progress are a matter of intellectual energy?"

"No, not at all," said he; "the so-called intellectual people are often
the most stupid and youngest of all. The intellect counts for nothing:
that is only a kind of dexterity, a pretty game. The imagination is what
matters."

"Worse and worse!" I said. "Does salvation belong to poets and
novelists?"

"No, no," said Amroth, "that is a game too! The imagination I speak of
is the power of entering into other people's minds and hearts, of
putting yourself in their place--of loving them, in fact. The more you
know of people, the better chance there is of loving them; and you can
only find your way into their minds by imaginative sympathy. I will
tell you a story which will show you what I mean. There was once a
famous writer on earth, of whose wisdom people spoke with bated breath.
Men went to see him with fear and reverence, and came away, saying, 'How
wonderful!' And this man, in his age, was waited upon by a little maid,
an ugly, tired, tiny creature. People used to say that they wondered he
had not a better servant. But she knew all that he liked and wanted,
where his books and papers were, what was good for him to do. She did
not understand a word of what he said, but she knew both when he had
talked too much, and when he had not talked enough, so that his mind was
pent up in itself, and he became cross and fractious. Now, in reality,
the little maid was one of the oldest and most beautiful of spirits. She
had lived many lives, each apparently humbler than the last. She never
grumbled about her work, or wanted to amuse herself. She loved the silly
flies that darted about her kitchen, or brushed their black heads on
the ceiling; she loved the ivy tendrils that tapped on her window in the
breeze. She did not go to church, she had no time for that; or if she
had gone, she would not have understood what was said, though she would
have loved all the people there, and noticed how they looked and sang.
But the wise man himself was one of the youngest and stupidest of
spirits, so young and stupid that he had to have a very old and wise
spirit to look after him. He was eaten up with ideas and vanity, so that
he had no time to look at any one or think of anybody, unless they
praised him. He has a very long pilgrimage before him, though he wrote
pretty songs enough, and his mortal body, or one of them, lies in the
Poets' Corner of the Abbey, and people come and put wreaths there with
tears in their eyes."

"It is very bewildering," I said, "but I see a little more than I did.
It is all a matter of feeling, then? But it seems hard on people that
they should be so dull and stupid about it all,--that the truth should
lie so close to their hand and yet be so carefully concealed."

"Oh, they grow out of dulness!" he said, with a movement of his hand;
"that is what experience does for us--it is always going on; we get
widened and deepened. Why," he added, "I have seen a great man, as they
called him, clever and alert, who held a high position in the State. He
was laid aside by a long and painful illness, so that all his work was
put away. He was brave about it, too, I remember; but he used to think
to himself how sad and wasteful it was, that when he was most energetic
and capable he should be put on the shelf--all the fine work he might
have done interrupted; all the great speeches he would have made
unuttered. But as a matter of fact, he was then for the first time
growing fast, because he had to look into the minds and hearts of all
sorrowful and disappointed people, and to learn that what we do matters
so little, and that what we are matters so much. When he did at last
get back to the world, people said, 'What a sad pity to see so fine a
career spoilt!' But out of all the years of all his lives, those years
had been his very best and richest, when he sat half the day feeble in
the sun, and could not even look at the papers which lay beside him, or
when he woke in the grey mornings, with the thought of another miserable
day of idleness and pain before him."

I said, "Then is it a bad thing to be busy in the world, because it
takes off your mind from the things which matter?"

"No," said Amroth, "not a bad thing at all: because two things are going
on. Partly the framework of society and life is being made, so that men
are not ground down into that sordid struggle, when little experience is
possible because of the drudgery which clouds all the mind. Though even
that has its opportunities! And all depends, for the individual, upon
how he is doing his work. If he has other people in mind all the time,
and does his work for them, and not to be praised for it, then all is
well. But if he is thinking of his credit and his position, then he does
not grow at all; that is pomposity--a very youthful thing indeed; but
the worst case of all is if a man sees that the world must be helped and
made, and that one can win credit thus, and so engages in work of that
kind, and deals in all the jargon of it, about using influence and
living for others, when he is really thinking of himself all the time,
and trying to keep the eyes of the world upon him. But it is all growth
really, though sometimes, as on the beach when the tide is coming in,
the waves seem to draw backward from the land, and poise themselves in a
crest of troubled water."

"But is a great position in the world," I said, "whether inherited or
attained, a dangerous thing?"

"Nothing is _dangerous_, child," he said. "You must put all that out of
your mind. But men in high posts and stations are often not progressing
evenly, only in great jogs and starts. They learn very often, with a
sudden surprise, which is not always painful, and sometimes is very
beautiful and sweet, that all the ceremony and pomp, the great house,
the bows and the smiles, mean nothing at all--absolutely nothing, except
the chance, the opportunity of not being taken in by them. That is the
use of all pleasures and all satisfactions--the frame of mind which made
the old king say, 'Is not this great Babylon, which I have
builded?'--they are nothing but the work of another class in the great
school of life. A great many people are put to school with
self-satisfaction, that they may know the fine joy of humiliation, the
delight of learning that it is not effectiveness and applause that
matters, but love and peacefulness. And the great thing is that we
should feel that we are growing, not in hardness or indifference, nor
necessarily even in courage or patience, but in our power to feel and
our power to suffer. As love multiplies, suffering must multiply too.
The very Heart of God is full of infinite, joyful, hopeful suffering;
the whole thing is so vast, so slow, so quiet, that the end of suffering
is yet far off. But when we suffer, we climb fast; the spirit grows old
and wise in faith and love; and suffering is the one thing we cannot
dispense with, because it is the condition of our fullest and purest
life."



V


I said suddenly, "The joy of this place is not the security of it, but
the fact that one has not to think about security. I am not afraid of
anything that may happen, and there is no weariness of thought. One does
not think till one is tired, but till one has finished thinking."

"Yes," said Amroth, "that was the misery of the poor body!"

"And yet I used to think," I said, "in the old days that I was grateful
to the body for many pleasant things it gave me--breathing the air,
feeling the sun, eating and drinking, games and exercise, and the
strange thing one called love."

"Yes," said Amroth, "all those things have to be made pleasant, or to
appear so; otherwise no one could submit to the discipline at all; but
of course the pleasure only got in the way of the thought and of the
happiness; it was not what one saw, tasted, smelt, felt, that one
desired, but the real thing behind it; even the purest thing of all, the
sight and contact of one whom one loved, let us say, with no sensual
passion at all, but with a perfectly pure love; what a torment that
was--desiring something which one could not get, the real fusion of
feeling and thought! But the poor body was always in the way then,
saying, 'Here am I--please me, amuse me.'"

"But then," I said, "what is the use of all that? Why should the pure,
clear, joyful, sleepless life I now feel be tainted and hampered and
drugged by the body? I don't feel that I am losing anything by losing
the body."

"No, not losing," said Amroth, "but, happy though you are, you are not
gaining things as fast now--it is your time of rest and refreshment--but
we shall go back, both of us, to the other life again, when the time
comes: and the point is this, that we have got to win the best things
through trouble and struggle."

"But even so," I said, "there are many things I do not understand--the
child that opens its eyes upon the world and closes them again; the
young child that suffers and dies, just when it is the darling of the
home; and at the other end of the scale, the helpless, fractious
invalid, or the old man who lives in weariness, wakeful and tortured,
and who is glad just to sit in the sun, indifferent to every one and
everything, past feeling and hoping and thinking--or, worst of all, the
people with diseased minds, whose pain makes them suspicious and
malignant. What is the meaning of all this pain, which seems to do
people nothing but harm, and makes them a burden to themselves and
others too?"

"Oh," said he, "it is difficult enough; but you must remember that we
are all bound up with the hearts and lives of others; the child that
dies in its helplessness has a meaning for its parents; the child that
lives long enough to be the light of its home, that has a significance
deep enough; and all those who have to tend and care for the sick, to
lighten the burden and the sorrow for them, that has a meaning surely
for all concerned? The reason why we feel as we do about broken lives,
why they seem so utterly purposeless, is because we have the proportion
so wrong. We do not really, in fact, believe in immortality, when we are
bound in the body--some few of us do, and many of us say that we do. But
we do not realise that the little life is but one in a great chain of
lives, that each spirit lives many times, over and over. There is no
such thing as waste or sacrifice of life. The life is meant to do just
what it does, no more and no less; bound in the body, it all seems so
long or so short, so complete or so incomplete; but now and here we can
see that the whole thing is so endless, so immense, that we think no
more of entering life, say, for a few days, or entering it for ninety
years, than we should think of counting one or ninety water-drops in the
river that pours in a cataract over the lip of the rocks. Where we do
lose, in life, is in not taking the particular experience, be it small
or great, to heart. We try to forget things, to put them out of our
minds, to banish them. Of course it is very hard to do otherwise, in a
body so finite, tossed and whirled in a stream so infinite; and thus we
are happiest if we can live very simply and quietly, not straining to
multiply our uneasy activities, but just getting the most and the best
out of the elements of life as they come to us. As we get older in
spirit, we do that naturally; the things that men call ambitions and
schemes are the signs of immaturity; and when we grow older, those slip
off us and concern us no more; while the real vitality of feeling and
emotion runs ever more clear and strong."

"But," I said, "can one revive the old lives at will? Can one look back
into the long range of previous lives? Is that permitted?"

"Yes, of course it is permitted," said Amroth, smiling; "there are no
rules here; but one does not care to do it overmuch. One is just glad it
is all done, and that one has learnt the lesson. Look back if you
like--there are all the lives behind you."

I had a curious sensation--I saw myself suddenly a stalwart savage,
strangely attired for war, near a hut in a forest clearing. I was going
away somewhere; there were other huts at hand; there was a fire, in the
side of a mound, where some women seemed to be cooking something and
wrangling over it; the smoke went up into the still air. A child came
out of the hut, and ran to me. I bent down and kissed it, and it clung
to me. I was sorry, in a dim way, to be going out--for I saw other
figures armed too, standing about the clearing. There was to be fighting
that day, and though I wished to fight, I thought I might not return.
But the mind of myself, as I discerned it, was full of hurtful, cruel,
rapacious thoughts, and I was sad to think that this could ever have
been I.

"It is not very nice," said Amroth with a smile; "one does not care to
revive that! You were young then, and had much before you."

Another picture flashed into the mind. Was it true? I was a woman, it
seemed, looking out of a window on the street in a town with high, dark
houses, strongly built of stone: there was a towered gate at a little
distance, with some figures drawing up sacks with a pulley to a door in
the gate. A man came up behind me, pulled me roughly back, and spoke
angrily; I answered him fiercely and shrilly. The room I was in seemed
to be a shop or store; there were barrels of wine, and bags of corn. I
felt that I was busy and anxious--it was not a pleasant retrospect.

"Yet you were better then," said Amroth "you thought little of your
drudgery, and much of your children."

Yes, I had had children, I saw. Their names and appearance floated
before me. I had loved them tenderly. Had they passed out of my life? I
felt bewildered.

Amroth laid a hand on my arm and smiled again. "No, you came near to
some of them again. Do you not remember another life in which you loved
a friend with a strange love, that surprised you by its nearness? He had
been your child long before; and one never quite loses that."

I saw in a flash the other life he spoke of. I was a student, it seemed,
at some university, where there was a boy of my own age, a curious,
wilful, perverse, tactless creature, always saying and doing the wrong
thing, for whom I had felt a curious and unreasonable responsibility. I
had always tried to explain him to other people, to justify him; and he
had turned to me fop help and companionship in a singular way. I saw
myself walking with him in the country, expostulating, gesticulating;
and I saw him angry and perplexed.... The vision vanished.

"But what becomes of all those whom we have loved?" I said; "it cannot
be as if we had never loved them."

"No, indeed," said Amroth, "they are all there or here; but there lies
one of the great mysteries which we cannot yet attain to. We shall be
all brought together some time, closely and perfectly; but even now, in
the world of matter, the spirit half remembers; and when one is
strangely and lovingly drawn to another soul, when that love is not of
the body, and has nothing of passion in it, then it is some close
ancient tie reasserting itself. Do you not know how old and remote some
of our friendships seemed--so much older and larger than could be
accounted for by the brief days of companionship? That strange hunger
for the past of one we love is nothing but the faint memory of what has
been. Indeed, when you have rested happily a little longer, you will
move farther afield, and you will come near to spirits you have loved.
You cannot bear it yet, though they are all about you; but one regains
the spiritual sense slowly after a life like yours."

"Can I revisit," I said, "the scene of my last life--see and know what
those I loved are doing and feeling?"

"Not yet," said Amroth; "that would not profit either you or them. The
sorrow of earth would not be sorrow, it would have no cleansing power,
if the parted spirit could return at once. You do not guess, either, how
much of time has passed already since you came here--it seems to you
like yesterday, no doubt, since you last suffered death. To meet loss
and sorrow upon earth, without either comfort or hope, is one of the
finest of lessons. When we are there, we must live blindly, and if we
here could make our presence known at once to the friends we leave
behind, it would be all too easy. It is in the silence of death that its
virtue lies."

"Yes," I said, "I do not desire to return. This is all too wonderful. It
is the freshness and sweetness of it all that comes home to me. I do
not desire to think of the body, and, strange to say, if I do think of
it, the times that I remember gratefully are those when the body was
faint and weary. The old joys and triumphs, when one laughed and loved
and exulted, seem to me to have something ugly about them, because one
was content, and wished things to remain for ever as they were. It was
the longing for something different that helped me; the acquiescence was
the shame."



VI


One day I said to Amroth, "What a comfort it is to find that there is no
religion here!"

"I know what you mean," he said. "I think it is one of the things that
one wonders at most, to remember into how very small and narrow a thing
religion was made, and how much that was religious was never supposed to
be so."

"Yes," I said, "as I think of it now, it seems to have been a game
played by a few players, a game with a great many rules."

"Yes," he said, "it was a game often enough; but of course the mischief
of it was, that when it was most a game it most pretended to be
something else--to contain the secret of life and all knowledge."

"I used to think," I said, "that religion was like a noble and generous
boy with the lyrical heart of a poet, made by some sad chance into a
king, surrounded by obsequious respect and pomp and etiquette, bound by
a hundred ceremonious rules, forbidden to do this and that, taught to
think that his one duty was to be magnificently attired, to acquire
graceful arts of posture and courtesy, subtly and gently prevented from
obeying natural and simple impulses, made powerless--a crowned slave; so
that, instead of being the freest and sincerest thing in the world, it
became the prisoner of respectability and convention, just a part of the
social machine."

"That was only one side of it," said Amroth. "It was often where it was
least supposed to be."

"Yes," I said, "as far as I resent anything now, I resent the conversion
of so much religion from an inspiring force into a repressive force. One
learnt as a child to think of it, not as a great moving flood of energy
and joy, but as an awful power apart from life, rejoicing in petty
restrictions, and mainly concerned with creating an unreal atmosphere of
narrow piety, hostile to natural talk and laughter and freedom. God's
aid was invoked, in childhood, mostly when one was naughty and
disobedient, so that one grew to think of Him as grim, severe,
irritable, anxious to interfere. What wonder that one lost all wish to
meet God and all natural desire to know Him! One thought of Him as
impossible to please except by behaving in a way in which it was not
natural to behave; and one thought of religion as a stern and dreadful
process going on somewhere, like a law-court or a prison, which one had
to keep clear of if one could. Yet I hardly see how, in the interests of
discipline, it could have been avoided. If only one could have begun at
the other end!"

"Yes," said Amroth, "but that is because religion has fallen so much
into the hands of the wrong people, and is grievously misrepresented.
It has too often come to be identified, as you say, with human law, as a
power which leaves one severely alone, if one behaves oneself, and which
punishes harshly and mechanically if one outsteps the limit. It comes
into the world as a great joyful motive; and then it becomes identified
with respectability, and it is sad to think that it is simply from the
fact that it has won the confidence of the world that it gains its awful
power of silencing and oppressing. It becomes hostile to frankness and
independence, and puts a premium on caution and submissiveness; but that
is the misuse of it and the degradation of it; and religion is still the
most pure and beautiful thing in the world for all that; the doctrine
itself is fine and true in a way, if one can view it without impatience;
it upholds the right things; it all makes for peace and order, and even
for humility and just kindliness; it insists, or tries to insist, on the
fact that property and position and material things do not matter, and
that quality and method do matter. Of course it is terribly distorted,
and gets into the hands of the wrong people--the people who want to keep
things as they are. Now the Gospel, as it first came, was a perfectly
beautiful thing--the idea that one must act by tender impulse, that one
must always forgive, and forget, and love; that one must take a natural
joy in the simplest things, find every one and everything interesting
and delightful ... the perfectly natural, just, good-humoured,
uncalculating life--that was the idea of it; and that one was not to be
superior to the hard facts of the world, not to try to put sorrow or
pain out of sight, but to live eagerly and hopefully in them and through
them; not to try to school oneself into hardness or indifference, but to
love lovable things, and not to condemn or despise the unlovable. That
was indeed a message out of the very heart of God. But of course all the
acrid divisions and subdivisions of it come, not from itself, but from
the material part of the world, that determines to traffic with the
beautiful secret, and make it serve its turn. But there are plenty of
true souls within it all, true teachers, faithful learners--and the
world cannot do without it yet, though it is strangely fettered and
bound. Indeed, men can never do without it, because the spiritual force
is there; it is full of poetry and mystery, that ageless brotherhood of
saints and true-hearted disciples; but one has to learn that many that
claim its powers have them not, while many who are outside all
organisations have the secret."

"Yes," I said, "all that is true and good; it is the exclusive claim and
not the inclusive which one regrets. It is the voice which says, 'Accept
my exact faith, or you have no part in the inheritance,' which is wrong.
The real voice of religion is that which says, 'You are my brother and
my sister, though you know it not.' And if one says, 'We are all at
fault, we are all far from the truth, but we live as best we can,
looking for the larger hope and for the dawn of love,' that is the
secret. The sacrament of God is offered and eaten at many a social meal,
and the Spirit of Love finds utterance in quiet words from smiling lips.
One cannot teach by harsh precept, only by desirable example; and the
worst of the correct profession of religion is that it is often little
more than taking out a licence to disapprove."

"Yes," said Amroth, "you are very near a great truth. The mistake we
make is like the mistake so often made on earth in matters of human
government--the opposing of the individual to the State, as if the State
were something above and different to the individual--like the old
thought of the Spirit moving on the face of the waters. The individual
is the State; and it is the same with the soul and God. God is not above
the soul, seeing and judging, apart in isolation. The Spirit of God is
the spirit of humanity, the spirit of admiration, the spirit of love. It
matters little what the soul admires and loves, whether it be a flower
or a mountain, a face or a cause, a gem or a doctrine. It is that
wonderful power that the current of the soul has of setting towards
something that is beautiful: the need to admire, to worship, to love. A
regiment of soldiers in the street, a procession of priests to a
sanctuary, a march of disordered women clamouring for their rights--if
the idea thrills you, if it uplifts you, it matters nothing whether
other people dislike or despise or deride it--it is the voice of God for
you. We must advance from what is merely brilliant to what is true; and
though in the single life many a man seems to halt at a certain point,
to have tied up his little packet of admirations once and for all, there
are other lives where he will pass on to further loves, his passion
growing more intense and pure. We are not limited by our circle, by our
generation, by our age; and the things which youthful spirits are
divining and proclaiming as great and wonderful discoveries, are often
being practised and done by silent and humble souls. It is not the
concise or impressive statement of a truth that matters, it is the
intensity of the inner impulse towards what is high and true which
differentiates. The more we live by that, the less are we inclined to
argue and dispute about it. The base, the impure desire is only the
imperfect desire; if it is gratified, it reveals its imperfections, and
the soul knows that not there can it stay; but it must have faced and
tested everything. If the soul, out of timidity and conventionality,
says 'No' to its eager impulses, it halts upon its pilgrimage. Some of
the most grievous and shameful lives on earth have been fruitful enough
in reality. The reason why we mourn and despond over them is, again,
that we limit our hope to the single life. There is time for everything;
we must not be impatient. We must despair of nothing and of no one; the
true life consists not in what a man's reason approves or disapproves,
not in what he does or says, but in what he sees. It is useless to
explain things to souls; they must experience them to apprehend them.
The one treachery is to speak of mistakes as irreparable, and of sins as
unforgivable. The sin against the Spirit is to doubt the Spirit, and the
sin against life is not to use it generously and freely; we are happiest
if we love others well enough to give our life to them; but it is better
to use life for ourselves than not to use it at all."



VII


One day I said to Amroth, "Are there no rules of life here? It seems
almost too good to be true, not to be found fault with and censured and
advised and blamed."

"Oh," said Amroth, laughing, "there are plenty of _rules_, as you call
them; but one feels them, one is not told them; it is like breathing and
seeing."

"Yes," I replied, "yet it was like that, too, in the old days; the
misery was when one suddenly discovered that when one was acting in what
seemed the most natural way possible, it gave pain and concern to some
one whom one respected and even loved. One knew that one's action was
not wrong, and yet one desired to please and satisfy one's friends; and
so one fell back into conventional ways, not because one liked them but
because other people did, and it was not worth while making a fuss--it
was a sort of cowardice, I suppose?"

"Not quite," said Amroth; "you were more on the right lines than the
people who interfered with you, no doubt; but of course the truth is
that our principles ought to be used, like a stick, to support
ourselves, not like a rod to beat other people with. The most difficult
people to teach, as you will see hereafter, are the self-righteous
people, whose lives are really pure and good, but who allow their
preferences about amusements, occupations, ways of life, to become
matters of principle. The worst temptation in the world is the habit of
influence and authority, the desire to direct other lives and to conform
them to one's own standard. The only way in which we can help other
people is by loving them; by frightening another out of something which
he is apt to do and of which one does not approve, one effects
absolutely nothing: sin cannot be scared away; the spirit must learn to
desire to cast it away, because it sees that goodness is beautiful and
fine; and this can only be done by example, never by precept."

"But it is the entire absence of both that puzzles me here," I said.
"Nothing to do and a friend to talk to; it's a lazy business, I think."

Amroth looked at me with amusement. "It's a sign," he said, "if you feel
that, that you are getting rested, and ready to move on; but you will be
very much surprised when you know a little more about the life here. You
are like a baby in a cradle at present; when you come to enter one of
our communities here, you will find it as complicated a business as you
could wish. Part of the difficulty is that there are no rules, to use
your own phrase. It is real democracy, but it is not complicated by any
questions of property, which is the thing that clogs all political
progress in the world below. There is nothing to scheme for, no
ambitions to gratify, nothing to gain at the expense of others; the only
thing that matters is one's personal relation to others; and this is
what makes it at once so simple and so complex. But I do not think it is
of any use to tell you all this; you will see it in a flash, when the
time comes. But it may be as well for you to remember that there will be
no one to command you or compel you or advise you. Your own heart and
spirit will be your only guides. There is no such thing as compulsion or
force in heaven. Nothing can be done to you that you do not choose or
allow to be done."

"Yes," I said, "it is the blessed and beautiful sense of freedom from
all ties and influences and fears that is so utterly blissful."

"But this is not all," said Amroth, shaking his head with a smile.
"This is a time of rest for you, but things are very different elsewhere.
When you come to enter heaven itself, you will be constantly surprised.
There are labour and fear and sorrow to be faced; and you must not
think it is a place for drifting pleasantly along. The moral struggle
is the same--indeed it is fiercer and stronger than ever, because there
is no bodily languor or fatigue to distract. There are choices to be
made, duties to perform, evil to be faced. The bodily temptations
are absent, but there is still that which lay behind the bodily
frailties--curiosity, love of sensation, excitement, desire; the strong
duality of nature--the knowledge of duty on the one hand and the
indolent shrinking from performance--that is all there; there is the
same sense of isolation, and the same need for patient endeavour as upon
earth. All that one gets is a certain freedom of movement; one is not
bound to places and employments by the material ties of earth; but you
must not think that it is all to be easy and straightforward. We can
each of us by using our wills shorten our probation, by not resisting
influences, by putting our hearts and minds in unison with the will of
God for us; and that is easier in heaven than upon earth, because there
is less to distract us. But on the other hand, there is more temptation
to drift, because there are no material consequences to stimulate us.
There are many people on earth who exercise a sort of practical virtue
simply to avoid material inconveniences, while there is no such motive
in heaven; I say all this not to disturb your present tranquillity,
which it is your duty now to enjoy, but just to prepare you. You must be
prepared for effort and for endeavour, and even for strife. You must use
right judgment, and, above all, common sense; one does not get out of
the reach of that in heaven!"



VIII


These are only some of the many talks I had with Amroth. They ranged
over a great many subjects and thoughts. What I cannot indicate,
however, is the lightness and freshness of them; and above all, their
entire frankness and amusingness. There were times when we talked like
two children, revived old simple adventures of life--he had lived far
more largely and fully than I had done--and I never tired of hearing the
tales of his old lives, so much more varied and wonderful than my own.
Sometimes we merely told each other stories out of our imaginations and
hearts. We even played games, which I cannot describe, but they were
like the games of earth. We seemed at times to walk and wander together;
but I had a sense all this time that I was, so to speak, in hospital,
being tended and cared for, and not allowed to do anything wearisome or
demanding effort. But I became more and more aware of other spirits
about me, like birds that chirp and twitter in the ivy of a tower, or in
the thick bushes of a shrubbery. Amroth told me one day that I must
prepare for a great change soon, and I found myself wondering what it
would be like, half excited about it, and half afraid, unwilling as I
was to lose the sweet rest, and the dear companionship of a friend who
seemed like the crown and sum of all hopes of friendship. Amroth became
utterly dear to me, and it was a joy beyond all joys to feel his happy
and smiling nature bent upon me, hour by hour, in sympathy and
understanding and love. He said to me laughingly once that I had much of
earth about me yet, and that I must soon learn not to bend my thoughts
so exclusively one way and on one friend.

"Yes," I said, "I am not fit for heaven yet! I believe I am jealous; I
cannot bear to think that you will leave me, or that any other soul
deserves your attention."

"Oh," he said lightly, "this is my business and delight now--but you
will soon have to do for others what I am doing for you. You like this
easy life at present, but you can hardly imagine how interesting it is
to have some one given you for your own, as you were given to me. It is
the delight of motherhood and fatherhood in one; and when I was allowed
to take you away out of the room where you lay--I admit it was not a
pleasant scene--I felt just like a child who is given a kitten for its
very own."

"Well," I said, "I have been a very satisfactory pet--I have done little
else but purr." I felt his eyes upon me in a wonderful nearness of love;
and then I looked up and I saw that we were not alone.

It was then that I first perceived that there could be grief in heaven.
I say "first perceived," but I had known it all along. But by Amroth's
gentle power that had been for a time kept away from me, that I might
rest and rejoice.

The form before me was that of a very young and beautiful woman--so
beautiful that for a moment all my thought seemed to be concentrated
upon her. But I saw, too, that all was not well with her. She was not at
peace with herself, or her surroundings. In her great wide eyes there
was a look of pain, and of rebellious pain. She was attired in a robe
that was a blaze of colour; and when I wondered at this, for it was
unlike the clear hues, pearly grey and gold, and soft roseate light that
had hitherto encompassed me, the voice of Amroth answered my unuttered
question, and said, "It is the image of her thought." Her slim white
hands moved aimlessly over the robe, and seemed to finger the jewels
which adorned it. Her lips were parted, and anything more beautiful than
the pure curves of her chin and neck I had seldom seen, though she
seemed never to be still, as Amroth was still, but to move restlessly
and wearily about. I knew by a sort of intuition that she was unaware
of Amroth and only aware of myself. She seemed startled and surprised at
the sight of me, and I wondered in what form I appeared to her; in a
moment she spoke, and her voice was low and thrilling.

"I am so glad," she said in a half-courteous, half-distracted way, "to
find some one in the place to whom I can speak. I seem to be always
moving in a crowd, and yet to see no one--they are afraid of me, I
think; and it is not what I expected, not what I am used to. I am in
need of help, I feel, and yet I do not know what sort of help it is that
I want. May I stay with you a little?"

"Why, yes," I said; "there is no question of 'may' here."

She came up to me with a sort of proud confidence, and looked at me
fixedly. "Yes," she said, "I see that I can trust you; and I am tired of
being deceived!" Then she added with a sort of pettishness, "I have
nowhere to go, nothing to do--it is all dull and cold. On earth it was
just the opposite. I had only too much attention and love.... Oh, yes,"
she added with a strange glance, "it was what you would probably call
sinful. The only man I ever loved did not care for me, and I was loved
by many for whom I did not care. Well, I had my pleasures, and I suppose
I must pay for them. I do not complain of that. But I am determined not
to give way: it is unjust and cruel. I never had a chance. I was always
brought up to be admired from the first. We were rich at my home, and in
society--you understand? I made what was called a good match, and I
never cared for my husband, but amused myself with other people; and it
was splendid while it lasted: then all kinds of horrible things
happened--scenes, explanations, a lawsuit--it makes me shudder to
remember it all; and then I was ill, I suppose, and suddenly it was all
over, and I was alone, with a feeling that I must try to take up with
all kinds of tiresome things--all the things that bored me most. But now
it may be going to be better; you can tell me where I can find people,
perhaps? I am not quite unpresentable, even here? No, I can see that in
your face. Well, take me somewhere, show me something, find something
for me to do in this deadly place. I seem to have got into a perpetual
sunset, and I am so sick of it all."

I felt very helpless before this beautiful creature who seemed so
troubled and discontented. "No," said the voice of Amroth beside me, "it
is of no use to talk; let her talk to you; let her make friends with you
if she can."

"That's better," she said, looking at me. "I was afraid you were going
to be grave and serious. I felt for a minute as if I was going to be
confirmed."

"No," I said, "you need not be disturbed; nothing will be done to you
against your wish. One has but to wish here, or to be willing, and the
right thing happens."

She came close to me as I said this, and said, "Well, I think I shall
like you, if only you can promise not to be serious." Then she turned,
and stood for a moment disconsolate, looking away from me.

All this while the atmosphere around me had been becoming lighter and
clearer, as though a mist were rising. Suddenly Amroth said, "You will
have to go with her for a time, and do what you can. I must leave you
for a little, but I shall not be far off; and if you need me, I shall be
at hand. But do not call for me unless you are quite sure you need me."
He gave me a hand-clasp and a smile, and was gone.

Then, looking about me, I saw at last that I was in a place. Lonely and
bare though it was, it seemed to me very beautiful. It was like a grassy
upland, with rocky heights to left and right. They were most delicate in
outline, those crags, like the crags in an old picture, with sharp,
smooth curves, like a fractured crystal. They seemed to be of a creamy
stone, and the shadows fell blue and distinct. Down below was a great
plain full of trees and waters, all very dim. A path, worn lightly in
the grass, lay at my feet, and I knew that we must descend it. The girl
with me--I will call her Cynthia--was gazing at it with delight. "Ah,"
she said, "I can see clearly now. This is something like a real place,
instead of mist and light. We can find people down here, no doubt; it
looks inhabited out there." She pointed with her hand, and it seemed to
me that I could see spires and towers and roofs, of a fine and airy
architecture, at the end of a long horn of water which lay very blue
among the woods of the plain. It puzzled me, because I had the sense
that it was all unreal, and, indeed, I soon perceived that it was the
girl's own thought that in some way affected mine. "Quick, let us go,"
she said; "what are we waiting for?"

The descent was easy and gradual. We came down, following the path, over
the hill-shoulders. A stream of clear water dripped among stones; it
all brought back to me with an intense delight the recollection of long
days spent among such hills in holiday times on earth, but all without
regret; I only wished that an old and dear friend of mine, with whom I
had often gone, might be with me. He had quitted life before me, and I
knew somehow or hoped that I should before long see him; but I did not
wish things to be otherwise; and, indeed, I had a strange interest in
the fretful, silly, lovely girl with me, and in what lay before us. She
prattled on, and seemed to be recovering her spirits and her confidence
at the sights around us. If I could but find anything that would draw
her out of her restless mood into the peace of the morning! She had a
charm for me, though her impatience and desire for amusement seemed
uninteresting enough; and I found myself talking to her as an elder
brother might, with terms of familiar endearment, which she seemed to be
grateful for. It was strange in a way, and yet it all appeared natural.
The more we drew away from the hills, the happier she became. "Ah," she
said once, "we have got out of that hateful place, and now perhaps we
may be more comfortable,"--and when we came down beside the stream to a
grove of trees, and saw something which seemed like a road beneath us,
she was delighted. "That's more like it," she said, "and now we may find
some real people perhaps,"--she turned to me with a smile--"though you
are real enough too, and very kind to me; but I still have an idea that
you are a clergyman, and are only waiting your time to draw a moral."



IX


Now before I go on to tell the tale of what happened to us in the valley
there were two very curious things that I observed or began to observe.

The first was that I could not really see into the girl's thought. I
became aware that though I could see into the thought of Amroth as
easily and directly as one can look into a clear sea-pool, with all its
rounded pebbles and its swaying fringes of seaweed, there was in the
girl's mind a centre of thought to which I was not admitted, a fortress
of personality into which I could not force my way. More than that. When
she mistrusted or suspected me, there came a kind of cloud out from the
central thought, as if a turbid stream were poured into the sea-pool,
which obscured her thoughts from me, though when she came to know me
and to trust me, as she did later, the cloud was gradually withdrawn;
and I perceived that there must be a perfect sacrifice of will, an
intention that the mind should lie open and unashamed before the thought
of one's friend and companion, before the vision can be complete. With
Amroth I desired to conceal nothing, and he had no concealment from me.
But with the girl it was different. There was something in her heart
that she hid from me, and by no effort could I penetrate it; and I saw
then that there is something at the centre of the soul which is our very
own, and into which God Himself cannot even look, unless we desire that
He should look; and even if we desire that He should look into our
souls, if there is any timidity or shame or shrinking about us, we
cannot open our souls to Him. I must speak about this later, when the
great and wonderful day came to me, when I beheld God and was beheld by
Him. But now, though when the girl trusted me I could see much of her
thought, the inmost cell of it was still hidden from me.

And then, too, I perceived another strange thing; that the landscape in
which we walked was very plain to me, but that she did not see the same
things that I saw. With me, the landscape was such as I had loved most
in my last experience of life; it was a land to me like the English
hill-country which I loved the best; little fields of pasture mostly,
with hedgerow ashes and sycamores, and here and there a clear stream of
water running by the wood-ends. There were buildings, too, low
white-walled farms, roughly slated, much-weathered, with evidences of
homely life, byre and barn and granary, all about them. These sloping
fields ran up into high moorlands and little grey crags, with the trees
and thickets growing in the rock fronts. I could not think that people
lived in these houses and practised agriculture, though I saw with
surprise and pleasure that there were animals about, horses and sheep
grazing, and dogs that frisked in and out. I had always believed and
hoped that animals had their share in the inheritance of light, and now
I thought that this was a proof that it was indeed so, though I could
not be sure of it, because I realised that it might be but the thoughts
of my mind taking shape, for, as I say, I was gradually aware that the
girl did not see what I saw. To her it was a different scene, of some
southern country, because she seemed to see vineyards, and high-walled
lanes, hill-crests crowded with houses and crowned with churches, such
as one sees at a distance in the Campagna, where the plain breaks into
chestnut-clad hills. But this difference of sight did not make me feel
that the scene was in any degree unreal; it was the idea of the
landscape which we loved, its pretty associations and familiar features,
and the mind did the rest, translating it all into a vision of scenes
which had given us joy on earth, just as we do in dreams when we are in
the body, when the sleeping mind creates sights which give us pleasure,
and yet we have no knowledge that we are ourselves creating them. So we
walked together, until I perceived that we were drawing near to the town
which we had discerned.

And now we became aware of people going to and fro. Sometimes they
stopped and looked upon us with smiles, and even greetings; and
sometimes they went past absorbed in thought.

Houses appeared, both small wayside abodes and larger mansions with
sheltered gardens. What it all meant I hardly knew; but just as we have
perfectly decided tastes on earth as to what sort of a house we like and
why we like it, whether we prefer high, bright rooms, or rooms low and
with subdued light, so in that other country the mind creates what it
desires.

Presently the houses grew thicker, and soon we were in a street--the
town to my eyes was like the little towns one sees in the Cotswold
country, of a beautiful golden stone, with deep plinths and cornices,
with older and simpler buildings interspersed. My companion became
strangely excited, glancing this way and that. And presently, as if we
were certainly expected, there came up to us a kindly and grave person,
who welcomed us formally to the place, and said a few courteous words
about his pleasure that we should have chosen to visit it.

I do not know how it was, but I did not wholly trust our host. His mind
was hidden from me; and indeed I began to have a sense, not of evil,
indeed, or of oppression, but a feeling that it was not the place
appointed for me, but only where my business was to lie for a season. A
group of people came up to us and welcomed my companion with great
cheerfulness, and she was soon absorbed in talk.



X


Now before I come to tell this next part of my story, there are several
things which seem in want of explanation. I speak of people as looking
old and young, and of there being relations between them such as
fatherly and motherly, son-like and lover-like. It bewildered me at
first, but I came to guess at the truth. It would seem that in the
further world spirits do preserve for a long time the characteristics of
the age at which they last left the earth; but I saw no very young
children anywhere at first, though I came afterwards to know what befell
them. It seemed to me that, in the first place I visited, the only
spirits I saw were of those who had been able to make a deliberate
choice of how they would live in the world and which kind of desires
they would serve; it is very hard to say when this choice takes place
in the world below, but I came to believe that, early or late, there
does come a time when there is an opening out of two paths before each
human soul, and when it realises that a choice must be made. Sometimes
this is made early in life; but sometimes a soul drifts on, guileless in
a sense, though its life may be evil and purposeless, not looking
backwards or forwards, but simply acting as its nature bids it act. What
it is that decides the awakening of the will I hardly know; it is all a
secret growth, I think; but the older that the spirit is, in the sense
of spiritual experience, the earlier in mortal life that choice is made;
and this is only another proof of one of the things which Amroth showed
me, that it is, after all, imagination which really makes the difference
between souls, and not intellect or shrewdness or energy; all the real
things of life--sympathy, the power of entering into fine relations,
however simple they may be, with others, loyalty, patience, devotion,
goodness--seem to grow out of this power of imagination; and the reason
why the souls of whom I am going to speak were so content to dwell where
they were, was simply that they had no imagination beyond, but dwelt
happily among the delights which upon earth are represented by sound and
colour and scent and comeliness and comfort. This was a perpetual
surprise to me, because I saw in these fine creatures such a faculty of
delicate perception, that I could not help believing again and again
that their emotions were as deep and varied too; but I found little by
little, that they were all bent, not on loving, and therefore on giving
themselves away to what they loved, but in gathering in perceptions and
sensations, and finding their delight in them; and I realised that what
lies at the root of the artistic nature is its deep and vital
indifference to anything except what can directly give it delight, and
that these souls, for all their amazing subtlety and discrimination, had
very little hold on life at all, except on its outer details and
superficial harmonies; and that they were all very young in experience,
and like shallow waters, easily troubled and easily appeased; and that
therefore they were being dealt with like children, and allowed full
scope for all their little sensitive fancies, until the time should come
for them to go further yet. Of course they were one degree older than
the people who in the world had been really immersed in what may be
called solid interests and serious pursuits--science, politics,
organisation, warfare, commerce--all these spirits were very youthful
indeed, and they were, I suppose, in some very childish nursery of God.
But what first bewildered me was the finding of the earthly proportions
of things so strangely reversed, the serious matters of life so utterly
set aside, and so much made of the things which many people take no sort
of trouble about, as companionships and affections, which are so often
turned into a matter of mere propinquity and circumstance. But of this
I shall have to speak later in its place.

Now it is difficult to describe the time I spent in the land of delight,
because it was all so unlike the life of the world, and yet was so
strangely like it. There was work going on there, I found, but the
nature of it I could not discern, because that was kept hidden from me.
Men and women excused themselves from our company, saying they must
return to their work; but most of the time was spent in leisurely
converse about things which I confess from the first did not interest
me. There was much wit and laughter, and there were constant games and
assemblies and amusements. There were feasts of delicious things, music,
dramas. There were books read and discussed; it was just like a very
cultivated and civilised society. But what struck me about the people
there was that it was all very restless and highly-strung, a perpetual
tasting of pleasures, which somehow never pleased. There were two people
there who interested me most. One was a very handsome and courteous
man, who seemed to desire my company, and spoke more freely than the
rest; the other a young man, who was very much occupied with the girl,
my companion, and made a great friendship with her. The elder of the
two, for I must give them names, shall be called Charmides, which seems
to correspond with his stately charm, and the younger may be known as
Lucius.

I sat one day with Charmides, listening to a great concert of stringed
and wind instruments, in a portico which gave on a large sheltered
garden. He was much absorbed in the music, which was now of a brisk and
measured beauty, and now of a sweet seriousness which had a very
luxurious effect upon my mind. "It is wonderful to me," said Charmides,
as the last movement drew to a close of liquid melody, "that these
sounds should pass into the heart like wine, heightening and uplifting
the thought--there is nothing so beautiful as the discrimination of
mood with which it affects one, weighing one delicate phrase against
another, and finding all so perfect."

"Yes," I said, "I can understand that; but I must confess that there
seems to me something wanting in the melodies of this place. The music
which I loved in the old days was the music which spoke to the soul of
something further yet and unattainable; but here the music seems to have
attained its end, and to have fulfilled its own desire."

"Yes," said Charmides, "I know that you feel that; your mind is very
clear to me, up to a certain point; and I have sometimes wondered why
you spend your time here, because you are not one of us, as your friend
Cynthia is."

I glanced, as he spoke, to where Cynthia sat on a great carved settle
among cushions, side by side with Lucius, whispering to him with a
smile.

"No," I said, "I do not think I have found my place yet, but I am here,
I think, for a purpose, and I do not know what that purpose is."

"Well," he said, "I have sometimes wondered myself. I feel that you may
have something to tell me, some message for me. I thought that when I
first saw you; but I cannot quite perceive what is in your mind, and I
see that you do not wholly know what is in mine. I have been here for a
long time, and I have a sense that I do not get on, do not move; and yet
I have lived in extreme joy and contentment, except that I dread to
return to life, as I know I must return. I have lived often, and always
in joy--but in life there are constantly things to endure, little things
which just ruffle the serenity of soul which I desire, and which I may
fairly say I here enjoy. I have loved beauty, and not intemperately; and
there have been other people--men and women--whom I have loved, in a
sense; but the love of them has always seemed a sort of interruption to
the life I desired, something disordered and strained, which hurt me,
and kept me away from the peace I desired--from the fine weighing of
sounds and colours, and the pleasure of beautiful forms and lines; and I
dread to return to life, because one cannot avoid love and sorrow, and
mean troubles, which waste the spirit in vain."

"Yes," I said, "I can understand what you feel very well, because I too
have known what it is to desire to live in peace and beauty, not to be
disturbed or fretted; but the reason, I think, why it is dangerous, is
not because life becomes too _easy_. That is not the danger at all--life
is never easy, whatever it is! But the danger is that it grows too
solemn! One is apt to become like a priest, always celebrating holy
mysteries, always in a vision, with no time for laughter, and disputing,
and quarrelling, and being silly and playing. It is the poor body again
that is amiss. It is like the camel, poor thing; it groans and weeps,
but it goes on. One cannot live wholly in a vision; and life does not
become more simple so, but more complicated, for one's time and energy
are spent in avoiding the sordid and the tiresome things which one
cannot and must not avoid. I remember, in an illness which I had, when I
was depressed and fanciful, a homely old doctor said to me, 'Don't be
too careful of yourself: don't think you can't bear this and that--go
out to dinner--eat and drink rather too much!' It seemed to be coarse
advice, but it was wise."

"Yes," said Charmides, "it was wise; but it is difficult to feel it so
at the time. I wonder! I think perhaps I have made the mistake of being
too fastidious. But it seemed so fine a goal that one had in sight, to
chasten and temper all one's thoughts to what was beautiful--to judge
and distinguish, to choose the right tones and harmonies, to be always
rejecting and refining. It had its sorrows, of course. How often in the
old days one came in contact with some gracious and beautiful
personality, and flung oneself into close relations; and then one began
to see this and that flaw. There were lapses in tact, petulances,
littlenesses; one's friend did not rightly use his beautiful mind; he
was jealous, suspicious, trivial, petty; it ended in disillusionment.
Instead of taking him as a passenger on one's vessel, and determining to
live at peace, to overlook, to accommodate, one began to watch for an
opportunity of putting him down courteously at some stopping-place; and
instead of being grateful for his friendship, one was vexed with him for
disappointing one. We must speak more of these things. I seem to feel
the want of something commoner and broader in my thoughts; but in this
place it is hard to change."

"Will you forgive me then," I said, "if I ask you plainly what this
place is? It seems very strange to me, and yet I think I have been here
before."

Charmides looked at me with a smile. "It has been called," he said, "by
many ugly names, and men have been unreasonably afraid of it. It is the
place of satisfied desire, and, as you see, it is a comfortable place
enough. The theologians in their coarse way call it Hell, though that is
a word which is forbidden here; it is indeed a sort of treason to use
the word, because of its unfortunate association--and you can see with
your own eyes that I have done wrong even to speak of it."

I looked round, and saw indeed that a visible tremor had fallen on the
groups about us; it was as though a cold cloud, full of hail and
darkness, had floated over a sunny sky. People were hurrying out of the
garden, and some were regarding us askance and with frowns of
disapproval. In a moment or two we were left alone.

"I have been indiscreet," said Charmides, "but I feel somehow in a
rebellious mood; and indeed it has long seemed absurd to me that you
should be unaware of the fact, and so obviously guileless! But I will
speak no more of this to-day. People come and go here very strangely,
and I have sometimes wondered if it would not soon be time for me to go;
but it would be idle to pretend that I have not been happy here."



XI


What Charmides had told me filled me with great astonishment; it seemed
to me strange that I had not perceived the truth before. It made me feel
that I had somehow been wasting time. I was tempted to call Amroth to my
side, but I remembered what he had said, and I determined to resist the
impulse. I half expected to find that our strange talk, and the very
obvious disapproval of our words, had made some difference to me. But it
was not the case. I found myself treated with the same smiling welcome
as before, and indeed with an added kind of gentleness, such as older
people give to a child who has been confronted with some hard fact of
life, such as a sorrow or an illness. This in a way disconcerted me; for
in the moment when I had perceived the truth, there had come over me the
feeling that I ought in some way to bestir myself to preach, to warn,
to advise. But the idea of finding any sort of fault with these
contented, leisurely, interested people, seemed to me absurd, and so I
continued as before, half enjoying the life about me, and half bored by
it. It seemed so ludicrous in any way to pity the inhabitants of the
place, and yet I dimly saw that none of them could possibly continue
there. But I soon saw that there was no question of advice, because I
had nothing to advise. To ask them to be discontented, to suffer, to
inquire, seemed as absurd as to ask a man riding comfortably in a
carriage to get out and walk; and yet I felt that it was just that which
they needed. But one effect the incident had; it somehow seemed to draw
me more to Cynthia. There followed a time of very close companionship
with her. She sought me out, she began to confide in me, chattering
about her happiness and her delight in her surroundings, as a child
might chatter, and half chiding me, in a tender and pretty way, for not
being more at ease in the place. "You always seem to me," she said, "as
if you were only staying here, while I feel as if I could live here for
ever. Of course you are very kind and patient about it all, but you are
not at home--and I don't care a bit about your disapproval now." She
talked to me much about Lucius, who seemed to have a great attraction
for her. "He is all right," she said. "There is no nonsense about
him,--we understand each other; I don't get tired of him, and we like
the same things. I seem to know exactly what he feels about everything;
and that is one of the comforts of this place, that no one asks
questions or makes mischief; one can do just as one likes all the time.
I did not think, when I was alive, that there could be anything so
delightful as all this ahead of me."

"Do you never think--?" I began, but she put her hand to my lips, like a
child, to stop me, and said, "No, I never think, and I never mean to
think, of all the old hateful things. I never wilfully did any harm; I
only liked the people who liked me, and gave them all they asked--and
now I know that I did right, though in old days serious people used to
try to frighten me. God is very good to me," she went on, smiling, "to
allow me to be happy in my own way."

While we talked thus, sitting on a seat that overlooked the great
city--I had never seen it look so stately and beautiful, so full of all
that the heart could desire--Lucius himself drew near to us, smiling,
and seated himself the other side of Cynthia. "Now is not this
heavenly?" she said; "to be with the two people I like best--for you are
a faithful old thing, you know--and not to be afraid of anything
disagreeable or tiresome happening--not to have to explain or make
excuses, what could be better?"

"Yes," said Lucius, "it is happy enough," and he smiled at me in a
friendly way. "The pleasantest point is that one can _wait_ in this
charming place. In the old days, one was afraid of a hundred
things--money, weather, illness, criticism. One had to make love in a
hurry, because one missed the beautiful hour; and then there was the
horror of growing old. But now if Cynthia chooses to amuse herself with
other people, what do I care? She comes back as delightful as ever, and
it is only so much more to be amused about. One is not even afraid of
being lazy, and as for those ugly twinges of what one called
conscience--which were only a sort of rheumatism after all--that is all
gone too; and the delight of finding that one was right after all, and
that there were really no such things as consequences!"

I became aware, as Lucius spoke thus, in all his careless beauty, of a
vague trouble of soul. I seemed to foresee a kind of conflict between
myself and him. He felt it too, I was aware; for he drew Cynthia to him,
and said something to her; and presently they went off laughing, like a
pair of children, waving a farewell to me. I experienced a sense of
desolation, knowing in my mind that all was not well, and yet feeling so
powerless to contend with happiness so strong and wide.



XII


Presently I wandered off alone, and went out of the city with a sudden
impulse. I thought I would go in the opposite direction to that by which
I had entered it. I could see the great hills down which Cynthia and I
had made our way in the dawn; but I had never gone in the further
direction, where there stretched what seemed to be a great forest. The
whole place lay bathed in a calm light, all unutterably beautiful. I
wandered long by streams and wood-ends, every corner that I turned
revealing new prospects of delight. I came at last to the edge of the
forest, the mouths of little open glades running up into it, with fern
and thorn-thickets. There were deer here browsing about the dingles,
which let me come close to them and touch them, raising their heads from
the grass, and regarding me with gentle and fearless eyes. Birds sang
softly among the boughs, and even fluttered to my shoulder, as if
pleased to be noticed. So this was what was called on earth the place of
torment, a place into which it seemed as if nothing of sorrow or pain
could ever intrude!

Just on the edge of the wood stood a little cottage, surrounded by a
quiet garden, bees humming about the flowers, the scents of which came
with a homely sweetness on the air. But here I saw something which I did
not at first understand. This was a group of three people, a man and a
woman and a boy of about seventeen, beside the cottage porch. They had a
rustic air about them, and the same sort of leisurely look that all the
people of the land wore. They were all three beautiful, with a simple
and appropriate kind of beauty, such as comes of a contented sojourn in
the open air. But I became in a moment aware that there was a disturbing
element among them. The two elders seemed to be trying to persuade the
boy, who listened smilingly enough, but half turned away from them, as
though he were going away on some errand of which they did not approve.
They greeted me, as I drew near, with the same cordiality as one
received everywhere, and the man said, "Perhaps you can help us, sir,
for we are in a trouble?" The woman joined with a murmur in the request,
and I said I would gladly do what I could; while I spoke, the boy
watched me earnestly, and something drew me to him, because I saw a look
that seemed to tell me that he was, like myself, a stranger in the
place. Then the man said, "We have lived here together very happily a
long time, we three--I do not know how we came together, but so it was;
and we have been more at ease than words can tell, after hard lives in
the other world; and now this lad here, who has been our delight, says
that he must go elsewhere and cannot stay with us; and we would persuade
him if we could; and perhaps you, sir, who no doubt know what lies
beyond the fields and woods that we see, can satisfy him that it is
better to remain."

While he spoke, the other two had drawn near to me, and the eyes of the
woman dwelt upon the boy with a look of intent love, while the boy
looked in my face anxiously and inquiringly. I could see, I found, very
deep into his heart, and I saw in him a need for further experience, and
a desire to go further on; and I knew at once that this could only be
satisfied in one way, and that something would grow out of it both for
himself and for his companions. So I said, as smilingly as I could, "I
do not indeed know much of the ways of this place, but this I know, that
we must go where we are sent, that no harm can befall us, and that we
are never far away from those whom we love. I myself have lately been
sent to visit this strange land; it seems only yesterday since I left
the mountains yonder, and yet I have seen an abundance of strange and
beautiful things; we must remember that here there is no sickness or
misfortune or growing old; and there is no reason, as there often seemed
to be on earth, why we should fight against separation and departure. No
one can, I think, be hindered here from going where he is bound. So I
believe that you will let the boy go joyfully and willingly, for I am
sure of this, that his journey holds not only great things for himself,
but even greater things for both of you in the future. So be content and
let him depart."

At this the woman said, "Yes, that is right, the stranger is right, and
we must hinder the child no longer. No harm can come of it, but only
good; perhaps he will return, or we may follow him, when the day comes
for that."

I saw that the old man was not wholly satisfied with this. He shook his
head and looked sadly on the boy; and then for a time we sat and talked
of many things. One thing that the old man said surprised me very
greatly. He seemed to have lived many lives, and always lives of labour;
he had grown, I gathered from his simple talk, to have a great love of
the earth, the lives of flocks and herds, and of all the plants that
grew out of the earth or flourished in it. I had thought before, in a
foolish way, that all this might be put away from the spirit, in the
land where there was no need of such things; but I saw now that there
was a claim for labour, and a love of common things, which did not
belong only to the body, but was a real desire of the spirit. He spoke
of the pleasures of tending cattle, of cutting fagots in the forest
woodland among the copses, of ploughing and sowing, with the breath of
the earth about one; till I saw that the toil of the world, which I had
dimly thought of as a thing which no one would do if they were not
obliged, was a real instinct of the spirit, and had its counterpart
beyond the body. I had supposed indeed that in a region where all
troublous accidents of matter were over and done with, and where there
was no need of bodily sustenance, there could be nothing which
resembled the old weary toil of the body; but now I saw gladly that this
was not so, and that the primal needs of the spirit outlast the visible
world. Though my own life had been spent mostly among books and things
of the mind, I knew well the joys of the countryside, the blossoming of
the orchard-close, the high-piled granary, the brightly-painted waggon
loaded with hay, the creaking of the cider-press, the lowing of cattle
in the stall, the stamping of horses in the stable, the mud-stained
implements hanging in the high-roofed, cobwebbed barn. I had never known
why I loved these things so well, and had invented many fancies to
explain it; but now I saw that it was the natural delight in work and
increase; and that the love which surrounded all these things was the
sign that they were real indeed, and that in no part of life could they
be put away. And then there came on me a sort of gentle laughter at the
thought of how much of the religion of the world spent itself on bidding
the heart turn away from vanities, and lose itself in dreams of wonders
and doctrines, and what were called higher and holier things than barns
and byres and sheep-pens. Yet the truth had been staring me in the face
all the time, if only I could have seen it; that the sense of constraint
and unreality that fell upon one in religious matters, when some curious
and intricate matter was confusedly expounded, was perfectly natural and
wholesome; and that the real life of man lay in the things to which one
returned, on work-a-day mornings, with such relief--the acts of life,
the work of homestead, library, barrack, office, and class-room, the
sight and sound of humanity, the smiles and glances and unconsidered
words.

When we had sat together for a time, the boy made haste to depart. We
three went with him to the edge of the wood, where a road passed up
among the oaks. The three embraced and kissed and said many loving
words; and then to ease the anxieties of the two, I said that I would
myself set the boy forward on his way, and see him well bestowed. They
thanked me, and we went together into the wood, the two lovingly waving
and beckoning, and the boy stepping blithely by my side.

I asked him whether he was not sorry to go and leave the quiet place and
the pair that loved him. He smiled and said that he knew he was not
leaving them at all, and that he was sure that they would soon follow;
and that for himself the time had come to know more of the place. I
learned from him that his last life had been an unhappy one, in a
crowded street and a slovenly home, with much evil of talk and act about
him; he had hated it all, he said, but for a little sister that he had
loved, who had kissed and clasped him, weeping, when he lay dying of a
miserable disease. He said that he thought he should find her, which
made part of his joy of going; that for a long while there had come to
him a sense of her remembrance and love; and that he had once sent his
thought back to earth to find her, and she was in much grief and care;
and that then all these messages had at once ceased, and he knew that
she had left the body. He was a merry boy, full of delight and laughter,
and we went very cheerfully together through the sunlit wood, with its
green glades and open spaces, which seemed all full of life and
happiness, creatures living together in goodwill and comfort. I saw in
this journey that all things that ever lived a conscious life in one of
the innumerable worlds had a place and life of their own, and a time of
refreshment like myself. What I could not discern was whether there was
any interchange of lives, whether the soul of the tree could become an
animal, or the animal progress to be a man. It seemed to me that it was
not so, but that each had a separate life of its own. But I saw how
foolish was the fancy that I had pursued in old days, that there was a
central reservoir of life, into which at death all little lives were
merged; I was yet to learn how strangely all life was knit together,
but now I saw that individuality was a real and separate thing, which
could not be broken or lost, and that all things that had ever enjoyed a
consciousness of the privilege of separate life had a true dignity and
worth of existence; and that it was only the body that had made
hostility necessary; that though the body could prey upon the bodies of
animal and plant, yet that no soul could devour or incorporate any other
soul. But as yet the merging of soul in soul through love was unseen and
indeed unsuspected by me.

Now as we went in the wood, the boy and I, it came into my mind in a
flash that I had seen a great secret. I had seen, I knew, very little of
the great land yet--and indeed I had been but in the lowest place of
all: and I thought how base and dull our ideas had been upon earth of
God and His care of men. We had thought of Him dimly as sweeping into
His place of torment and despair all poisoned and diseased lives, all
lives that had clung to the body and to the pleasures of the body, all
who had sinned idly, or wilfully, or proudly; and I saw now that He used
men far more wisely and lovingly than thus. Into this lowest place
indeed passed all sad, and diseased, and unhappy spirits: and instead of
being tormented or accursed, all was made delightful and beautiful for
them there, because they needed not harsh and rough handling, but care
and soft tendance. They were not to be frightened hence, or to live in
fear and anguish, but to live deliciously according to their wish, and
to be drawn to perceive in some quiet manner that all was not well with
them; they were to have their heart's desire, and learn that it could
not satisfy them; but the only thing that could draw them thence was the
love of some other soul whom they must pursue and find, if they could.
It was all so high and reasonable and just that I could not admire it
enough. I saw that the boy was drawn thence by the love of his little
sister, who was elsewhere; and that the love and loss of the boy would
presently draw the older pair to follow him and to leave the place of
heart's delight. And then I began to see that Cynthia and Charmides and
Lucius were being made ready, each at his own time, to leave their
little pleasures and ordered lives of happiness, and to follow
heavenwards in due course. Because it was made plain to me that it was
the love and worship of some other soul that was the constraining force;
but what the end would be I could not discern.

And now as we went through the wood, I began to feel a strange elation
and joy of spirit, severe and bracing, very different from my languid
and half-contented acquiescence in the place of beauty; and now the
woods began to change their kind; there were fewer forest trees now, but
bare heaths with patches of grey sand and scattered pines; and there
began to drift across the light a grey vapour which hid the delicate
hues and colours of the sunlight, and made everything appear pale and
spare. Very soon we came out on the brow of a low hill, and saw, all
spread out before us, a place which, for all its dulness and darkness,
had a solemn beauty of its own. There were great stone buildings very
solidly made, with high chimneys which seemed to stream with smoke; we
could see men, as small as ants, moving in and out of the buildings; it
seemed like a place of manufacture, with a busy life of its own. But
here I suddenly felt that I could go no further, but must return. I
hoped that I should see the grim place again, and I desired with all my
soul to go down into it, and see what eager life it was that was being
lived there. And the boy, I saw, felt this too, and was impatient to
proceed. So we said farewell with much tenderness, and the boy went down
swiftly across the moorland, till he met some one who was coming out of
the city, and conferred a little with him; and then he turned and waved
his hand to me, and I waved my hand from the brow of the hill, envying
him in my heart, and went back in sorrow into the sunshine of the wood.

And as I did so I had a great joy, because I saw Amroth come suddenly
running to me out of the wood, who put his arm through mine, and walked
with me. Then I told him of all I had seen and thought, while he smiled
and nodded and told me it was much as I imagined. "Yes," he said, "it is
even so. The souls you have seen in this fine country here are just as
children who are given their fill of pleasant things. Many of them have
come into the state in which you see them from no fault of their own,
because their souls are young and ignorant. They have shrunk from all
pain and effort and tedium, like a child that does not like his lessons.
There is no thought of punishment, of course. No one learns anything of
punishment except a cowardly fear. We never advance until we have the
will to advance, and there is nothing in mere suffering, unless we learn
to bear it gently for the sake of love. On earth it is not God but man
who is cruel. There is indeed a place of sorrow, which you will see when
you can bear the sight, where the self-righteous and the harsh go for a
time, and all those who have made others suffer because they believed in
their own justice and insight. You will find there all tyrants and
conquerors, and many rich men, who used their wealth heedlessly; and
even so you will be surprised when you see it. But those spirits are the
hardest of all to help, because they have loved nothing but their own
virtue or their own ambition; yet you will see how they too are drawn
thence; and now that you have had a sight of the better country, tell me
how you liked it."

"Why," I said, "it is plain and austere enough; but I felt a great
quickening of spirit, and a desire to join in the labours of the place."

Amroth smiled, and said, "You will have little share in that. You will
find your task, no doubt, when you are strong enough; and now you must
go back and make unwilling holiday with your pleasant friends, you have
not much longer to stay there; and surely"--he laughed as he spoke--"you
can endure a little more of those pretty concerts and charming talk of
art and its values and pulsations!"

"I can endure it," I said, laughing, "for it does me good to see you and
to hear you; but tell me, Amroth, what have you been about all this
time? Have you had a thought of me?"

"Yes, indeed," said Amroth, laughing. "I don't forget you, and I love
your company; but I am a busy man myself, and have something pleasanter
to do than to attend these elegant receptions of yours--at which,
indeed, I have sometimes thought you out of place."

As we thus talked we came to the forest lodge. The old pair came running
out to greet me, and I told them that the boy was well bestowed. I could
see in the woman's face that she would soon follow him, and even the
old man had a look that I had not seen in him before; and here Amroth
left me, and I returned to the city, where all was as peaceable as
before.



XIII


But when I saw Cynthia, as I presently did, she too was in a different
mood. She had positively missed me, and told me so with many
endearments. I was not to remain away so long. I was useful to her.
Charmides had become tiresome and lost in thought, but Lucius was as
sweet as ever. Some new-comers had arrived, all pleasant enough. She
asked me where I had been, and I told her all the story. "Yes, that is
beautiful enough," she said, "but I hate all this breaking up and going
on. I am sure I do not wish for any change." She made a grimace of
disgust at the idea of the ugly town I had seen, and then she said that
she would go with me some time to look at it, because it would make her
happier to return to her peace; and then she went off to tell Lucius.

I soon found Charmides, and I told him my adventures. "That is a
curious story," he said. "I like to think of people caring for each
other so; that is picturesque! These simple emotions are interesting.
And one likes to think that people who have none of the finer tastes
should have something to fall back upon--something hot and strong, as we
used to say."

"But," I said, "tell me this, Charmides, was there never any one in the
old days whom you cared for like that?"

"I thought so often enough," said he, a little peevishly, "but you do
not know how much a man like myself is at the mercy of little things! An
ugly hand, a broken tooth, a fallen cheek ... it seems little enough,
but one has a sort of standard. I had a microscopic eye, you know, and a
little blemish was a serious thing to me. I was always in search of
something that I could not find; then there were awkward strains in the
characters of people--they were mean or greedy or selfish, and all my
pleasure was suddenly dashed. I am speaking," he went on, "with a
strange candour! I don't defend it or excuse it, but there it was. I did
once, as a child, I believe, care for one person--an old nurse of
mine--in the right way. Dear, how good she was to me! I remember once
how she came all the way, after she had left us, to see me on my way
through town. She just met me at a railway station, and she had bought a
little book which she thought might amuse me, and a bag of oranges--she
remembered that I used to like oranges. I recollect at the time thinking
it was all very touching and devoted; but I was with a friend of mine,
and had not time to say much. I can see her old face, smiling, with
tears in her eyes, as we went off. I gave the book and the oranges away,
I remember, to a child at the next station. It is curious how it all
comes back to me now; I never saw her again, and I wish I had behaved
better. I should like to see her again, and to tell her that I really
cared! I wonder if that is possible? But there is really so much to do
here and to enjoy; and there is no one to tell me where to go, so that I
am puzzled. What is one to do?"

"I think that if one desires a thing enough here, Charmides," I said,
"one is in a fair way to obtain it. Never mind! a door will be opened.
But one has got to care, I suppose; it is not enough to look upon it as
a pretty effect, which one would just like to put in its place with
other effects--'Open, sesame'--do you remember? There is a charm at
which all doors fly open, even here!"

"I will talk to you more about this," said Charmides, "when I have had
time to arrange my thoughts a little. Who would have supposed that an
old recollection like that would have disturbed me so much? It would
make a good subject for a picture or a song."



XIV


It was on one of these days that Amroth came suddenly upon me, with a
very mirthful look on his face, his eyes sparkling like a man struggling
with hidden laughter. "Come with me," he said; "you have been so dutiful
lately that I am alarmed for your health." Then we went out of the
garden where I was sitting, and we were suddenly in a street. I saw in a
moment that it was a real street, in the suburb of an English town;
there were electric trams running, and rows of small trees, and an open
space planted with shrubs, with asphalt paths and ugly seats. On the
other side of the road was a row of big villas, tasteless, dreary,
comfortable houses, with meaningless turrets and balconies. I could not
help feeling that it was very dismal that men and women should live in
such places, think them neat and well-appointed, and even grow to love
them. We went into one of these houses; it was early in the morning, and
a little drizzle was falling, which made the whole place seem very
cheerless. In a room with a bow-window looking on the road there were
three persons. An old man was reading a paper in an arm-chair by the
fire, with his back to the light. He looked a nice old man, with his
clear skin and white hair; opposite him was an old lady in another
chair, reading a letter. With his back to the fire stood a man of about
thirty-five, sturdy-looking, but pale, and with an appearance of being
somewhat overworked. He had a good face, but seemed a little
uninteresting, as if he did not feed his mind. The table had been spread
for breakfast, and the meal was finished and partly cleared away. The
room was ugly and the furniture was a little shabby; there was a glazed
bookcase, full of dull-looking books, a sideboard, a table with writing
materials in the window, and some engravings of royal groups and
celebrated men.

The younger man, after a moment, said, "Well, I must be off." He nodded
to his father, and bent down to kiss his mother, saying, "Take care of
yourself--I shall be back in good time for tea." I had a sense that he
was using these phrases in a mechanical way, and that they were
customary with him. Then he went out, planting his feet solidly on the
carpet, and presently the front door shut. I could not understand why we
had come to this very unemphatic party, and examined the whole room
carefully to see what was the object of our visit. A maid came in and
removed the rest of the breakfast things, leaving the cloth still on the
table, and some of the spoons and knives, with the salt-cellars, in
their places. When she had finished and gone out, there was a silence,
only broken by the crackling of the paper as the old man folded it.
Presently the old lady said: "I wish Charles could get his holiday a
little sooner; he looks so tired, and he does not eat well. He does
stick so hard to his business."

"Yes, dear, he does," said the old man, "but it is just the busiest
time, and he tells me that they have had some large orders lately. They
are doing very well, I understand."

There was another silence, and then the old lady put down her letter,
and looked for a moment at a picture, representing a boy, a large
photograph a good deal faded, which hung close to her--underneath it was
a small vase of flowers on a bracket. She gave a little sigh as she did
this, and the old man looked at her over the top of his paper. "Just
think, father," she said, "that Harry would have been thirty-eight this
very week!"

The old man made a comforting sort of little noise, half sympathetic and
half deprecatory. "Yes, I know," said the old lady, "but I can't help
thinking about him a great deal at this time of the year. I don't
understand why he was taken away from us. He was always such a good
boy--he would have been just like Charles, only handsomer--he was always
handsomer and brighter; he had so much of your spirit! Not but what
Charles has been the best of sons to us--I don't mean that--no one could
be better or more easy to please! But Harry had a different way with
him." Her eyes filled with tears, which she brushed away. "No," she
added, "I won't fret about him. I daresay he is happier where he is--I
am sure he is--and thinking of his mother too, my bonny boy, perhaps."

The old man got up, put his paper down, went across to the old lady, and
gave her a kiss on the brow. "There, there," he said soothingly, "we may
be sure it's all for the best;" and he stood looking down fondly at her.
Amroth crossed the room and stood beside the pair, with a hand on the
shoulder of each. I saw in an instant that there was an unmistakable
likeness between the three; but the contrast of the marvellous
brilliance and beauty of Amroth with the old, world-wearied,
simple-minded couple was the most extraordinary thing to behold. "Yes, I
feel better already," said the old lady, smiling; "it always does me
good to say out what I am feeling, father; and then you are sure to
understand."

The mist closed suddenly in upon the scene, and we were back in a moment
in the garden with its porticoes, in the radiant, untroubled air. Amroth
looked at me with a smile that was full, half of gaiety and half of
tenderness. "There," he said, "what do you think of that? If all had
gone well with me, as they say on earth, that is where I should be now,
going down to the city with Charles. That is the prospect which to the
dear old people seems so satisfactory compared with this! In that house
I lay ill for some weeks, and from there my body was carried out. And
they would have kept me there if they could--and I myself did not want
to go. I was afraid. Oh, how I envied Charles going down to the city
and coming back for tea, to read the magazines aloud or play backgammon.
I am afraid I was not as nice as I should have been about all that--the
evenings were certainly dull!"

"But what do you feel about it now?" I said. "Don't you feel sorry for
the muddle and ignorance and pathos of it all? Can't something be done
to show everybody what a ghastly mistake it is, to get so tied down to
the earth and the things of earth?"

"A mistake?" said Amroth. "There is no such thing as a mistake. One
cannot sorrow for their grief, any more than one can sorrow for the
child who cries out in the tunnel and clasps his mother's hand. Don't
you see that their grief and loss is the one beautiful thing in those
lives, and all that it is doing for them, drawing them hither? Why, that
is where we grow and become strong, in the hopeless suffering of love. I
am glad and content that my own stay was made so brief. I wish it could
be shortened for the three--and yet I do not, because they will gain so
wonderfully by it. They are mounting fast; it is their very ignorance
that teaches them. Not to know, not to perceive, but to be forced to
believe in love, that is the point."

"Yes," I said, "I see that; but what about the lives that are broken and
poisoned by grief, in a stupor of pain--or the souls that do not feel it
at all, except as a passing shadow--what about them?"

"Oh," said Amroth lightly, "the sadder the dream the more blessed the
awakening; and as for those who cannot feel--well, it will all come to
them, as they grow older."

"Yes," I said, "it has done me good to see all this--it makes many
things plain; but can you bear to leave them thus?"

"Leave them!" said Amroth. "Who knows but that I shall be sent to help
them away, and carry them, as I carried you, to the crystal sea of
peace? The darling mother, I shall be there at her awakening. They are
old spirits, those two, old and wise; and there is a high place
prepared for them."

"But what about Charles?" I said.

Amroth smiled. "Old Charles?" he said. "I must admit that he is not a
very stirring figure at present. He is much immersed in his game of
finance, and talks a great deal in his lighter moments about the
commercial prospects of the Empire and the need of retaliatory tariffs.
But he will outgrow all that! He is a very loyal soul, but not very
adventurous just now. He would be sadly discomposed by an affection
which came in between him and his figures. He would think he wanted a
change--and he will have a thorough one, the good old fellow, one of
these days. But he has a long journey before him."

"Well," I said, "there are some surprises here! I am afraid I am very
youthful yet."

"Yes, dear child, you are very ingenuous," said Amroth, "and that is a
great part of your charm. But we will find something for you to do
before long! But here comes Charmides, to talk about the need of
exquisite pulsations, and their symbolism--though I see a change in him
too. And now I must go back to business. Take care of yourself, and I
will be back to tea." And Amroth flashed away in a very cheerful mood.



XV


There were many things at that time that were full of mystery, things
which I never came to understand. There was in particular a certain sort
of people, whom one met occasionally, for whom I could never wholly
account. They were unlike others in this fact, that they never appeared
to belong to any particular place or community. They were both men and
women, who seemed--I can express it in no other way--to be in the
possession of a secret so great that it made everything else trivial and
indifferent to them. Not that they were impatient or contemptuous--it
was quite the other way; but to use a similitude, they were like
good-natured, active, kindly elders at a children's party. They did not
shun conversation, but if one talked with them, they used a kind of
tender and gentle irony, which had something admiring and complimentary
about it, which took away any sense of vexation or of baffled curiosity.
It was simply as though their concern lay elsewhere; they joined in
anything with a frank delight, not with any touch of condescension. They
were even more kindly and affectionate than others, because they did not
seem to have any small problems of their own, and could give their whole
attention and thought to the person they were with. These inscrutable
people puzzled me very much. I asked Amroth about them once.

"Who are these people," I said, "whom one sometimes meets, who are so
far removed from all of us? What are they doing here?"

Amroth smiled. "So you have detected them!" he said. "You are quite
right, and it does your observation credit. But you must find it out for
yourself. I cannot explain, and if I could, you would not understand me
yet."

"Then I am not mistaken," I said, "but I wish you would give me a
hint--they seem to know something more worth knowing than all beside."

"Exactly," said Amroth. "You are very near the truth; it is staring you
in the face; but it would spoil all if I told you. There is plenty about
them in the old books you used to read--they have the secret of joy."
And that is all that he would say.

It was on a solitary ramble one day, outside of the place of delight,
that I came nearer to one of these people than I ever did at any other
time. I had wandered off into a pleasant place of grassy glades with
little thorn-thickets everywhere. I went up a small eminence, which
commanded a view of the beautiful plain with its blue distance and the
enamelled green foreground of close-grown coverts. There I sat for a
long time lost in pleasant thought and wonder, when I saw a man drawing
near, walking slowly and looking about him with a serene and delighted
air. He passed not far from me, and observing me, waved a hand of
welcome, came up the slope, and greeting me in a friendly and open
manner, asked if he might sit with me for a little.

"This is a pleasant place," he said, "and you seem very agreeably
occupied."

"Yes," I said, looking into his smiling face, "one has no engagements
here, and no need of business to fill the time--but indeed I am not sure
that I am busy enough." As I spoke I was regarding him with some
curiosity. He was a man of mature age, with a strong, firm-featured
face, healthy and sunburnt of aspect, and he was dressed, not as I was
for ease and repose, but with the garments of a traveller. His hat,
which was large and of some soft grey cloth, was pushed to his back, and
hung there by a cord round his neck. His hair was a little grizzled, and
lay close-curled to his head; in his strong and muscular hand he carried
a stick. He smiled again at my words, and said:

"Oh, one need not trouble about being busy until the time comes; that
is a feeling one inherits from the life of earth, and I am sure you have
not left it long. You have a very fresh air about you, as if you had
rested, and rested well."

"Yes, I have rested," I said; "but though I am content enough, there is
something unquiet in me, I am afraid!"

"Ah!" he said, "there is that in all of us, and it would not be well
with us if there were not. Will you tell me a little about yourself?
That is one of the pleasures of this life here, that we have no need to
be cautious, or to fear that we shall give ourselves away."

I told him my adventures, and he listened with serious attention.

"Ah, that is all very good," he said at last, "but you must not be in
any hurry; it is a great thing that ideas should dawn upon us
gradually--one gets the full truth of them so. It was the hurry of life
which was so bewildering--the shocks, the surprises, the ugly
reflections of one's conduct that one saw in other lives--the corners
one had to turn. Things, indeed, come suddenly even here, but one is led
up to them gently enough; allowed to enter the sea for oneself, not
soused and ducked in it. You will need all the strength you can store up
for what is before you, and I can see in your face that you are storing
up strength--but the weariness is not quite gone out of your mind."

He was silent for a little, musing, till I said, "Will you not tell me
some of your own adventures? I am sure from your look that you have
them; and you are a pilgrim, it seems. Where are you bound?"

"Oh," he said lightly, "I am not one of the people who have
adventures--just the journey and the talk beside the way."

"But," I said, "I have seen some others like you, and I am puzzled about
it. You seem, if I may say so--I do not mean anything disrespectful or
impertinent--to be like the gipsies whom one meets in quiet country
places, with a secret knowledge of their own, a pride too great to be
worth expressing, not anxious about life, not weary or dissatisfied,
caring not for localities or possessions, but with a sort of eager
pleasure in freedom and movement."

He laughed. "Yes," he said, "you are right! I am no doubt a sort of
nomad, as you say, detached from life perhaps. I don't know that it is
desirable; there is a great deal to be said for living in the same place
and loving the same things. Most people are happier so, and learn what
they have to learn in that manner."

"Yes," I said, "that is true and beautiful--the same old house, the same
trees and pastures, the stream and the water-plants that hide it, the
blue hills beyond the nearer wood--the dear familiar things; but even so
the road which passes through the fields, over the bridge, up the
covert-side ... it leads somewhere, and the heart on sunny days leaps up
to follow it! Talking with you here, I feel a hunger for something wider
and more free; your voice has the sound of the wind, with the secret
knowledge of strange hill-tops and solitary seas! Sometimes the heart
settles down upon what it knows and loves, but sometimes it reaches out
to all the love and beauty hidden in the world, and in the waters beyond
the world, and would embrace it all if it could. The faces one sees as
one passes through unfamiliar cities or villages, how one longs to talk,
to question, to ask what gave them the look they wear.... And you, if I
may say it, seem to have passed beyond the need of wanting or desiring
anything ... but I must not talk thus to a stranger; you must forgive
me."

"Forgive you?" said the stranger; "that is only an earthly phrase--the
old terror of indiscretion and caution. What are we here for but to get
acquainted with one another--to let our inmost thoughts talk together?
In the world we are bounded by time and space, and we have the terror of
each other's glances and exteriors to contend with. We make friends on
earth in spite of our limitations; but in heaven we get to know each
other's hearts; and that blessing goes back with us to the dim fields
and narrow houses of the earth. I see plainly enough that you are not
perfectly happy; but one can only win content through discontent. Where
you are now, you are not in accord with the souls about you. Never mind
that! There are beautiful spirits within reach of your hand and heart; a
little clouded by mistaking the quality of joy, no doubt, but great and
everlasting for all that. You must try to draw near to them, and find
spirits to love. Do you not remember in the days of earth how one felt
sometimes in an unfamiliar place--among a gathering of strangers--at
church perhaps, or at some school which one visited, where one saw the
young faces, which showed so clearly, before the world had stamped
itself in frowns and heaviness upon them, the quality of the soul
within? Don't you remember the feeling at such times of how many there
were in the world whom one might love, if one had leisure and
opportunity and energy? Well, there is no need to resist that, or to
deplore it here; one may go where one's will inclines one, and speak as
one's heart tells one to speak. I think you are perhaps too conscious of
waiting for something. Your task lies ahead of you, but the work of love
can begin at once and anywhere."

"Yes," I said, "I feel that now and here. Will you not tell me something
of yourself in return? I cannot read your mind clearly--it is occupied
with something I cannot grasp--what is your work in heaven?"

"Oh," he said lightly, "that is easy enough, and yet you would not
understand it. I have been led through the shadow of fear, and I have
passed out on the other side. And my duty is to release others from
fear, as far as I can. It is the darkest shadow of all, because it
dwells in the unknown. Pain, without it, is no suffering at all; indeed
pain is almost a pleasure, when one knows what it is doing for one. But
fear is the doubt whether pain or suffering are really helping us; and
just as memory never has any touch of fear about it, so hope may
likewise have done with fear."

"But how did you learn this?" I said.

"Only by fearing to the uttermost," he replied. "The power--it is not
courage, because that only defies fear--cannot be given one; it must be
painfully won. You remember the blessing of the pure in heart, that they
shall see God? There would be little hope in that promise for the soul
that knew itself to be impure, if it were not for the other side of
it--that the vision of God, which is the most terrible of all things,
can give purity to the most sin-stained soul. In that vision, all desire
and all fear have an end, because there is nothing left either to desire
or to dread. That vision we may delay or hasten. We may delay it, if we
allow our prudence, or our shame, or our comfort, to get in the way: we
may hasten it, if we cast ourselves at every moment of our pilgrimage
upon the mercy and the love of God. His one desire is that we should be
satisfied; and if He seems to put obstacles in our way, to keep us
waiting, to permit us to be miserable, that is only that we may learn to
cast ourselves into love and service--which is the one way to His heart.
But now I must be going, for I have said all that you can bear. Will you
remember this--not to reserve yourself, not to think others unworthy or
hostile, but to cast your love and trust freely and lavishly, everywhere
and anywhere? We must gather nothing, hold on to nothing, just give
ourselves away at every moment, flowing like the stream into every
channel that is open, withholding nothing, retaining nothing. I see," he
added, "very great and beautiful things ahead of you, and very sad and
painful things as well. But you are close to the light, and it is
breaking all about you with a splendour which you cannot guess."

He rose up, he took my hand in his own and laid the other on my brow,
and I felt his heart go out to mine and gather me to him, as a child is
gathered to a father's arms. And then he went silently and lightly upon
his way.



XVI


The time moved on quietly enough in the land of delight. I made
acquaintance with quite a number of the soft-voiced contented folk.
Sometimes it interested me to see the change coming upon one or another,
a wonder or a desire that made them sit withdrawn and abstracted, and
breaking with a sort of effort out of the dreamful mood. Then they would
leave us, sometimes quite suddenly, sometimes with courteous adieus.
New-comers, too, kept arriving, to be made pleasantly at home. I found
myself seeing more of Cynthia. She was much with Lucius, and they seemed
as gay as ever, but I saw that she was sometimes puzzled. She said to me
one day as we sat together, "I wish you would tell me what this is all
about? I do not want to change it, and I am very happy, but isn't it all
rather pointless? I believe you have some secret you are keeping from
me." She was sitting close beside me, like a child, resting her head on
my arm, and she took my hand in both of hers.

"No," I said, "I am keeping nothing from you, pretty child! I could not
explain to you what is in my mind, and it would spoil your pleasure if I
could. It is all right, and you will see in good time."

"I hate to be put off like that," she said. "You are not really
interested in me; and you do not trust me; you do not care about the
things I care about, and if you are so superior, you ought to explain to
me why."

"Well," I said, "I will try to explain. Do you ever remember having been
very happy in a place, and having been obliged to leave it, always
hoping to return; and then when you did return, finding that, though
nothing was changed, you were yourself changed, and could not, even if
you would, have taken up the old life again?"

"Yes," said Cynthia, musing, "I remember that sort of thing happening
once, about a house where I stayed as a child. It seemed so stupid and
dull when I went back that I wondered how I could ever have really liked
it."

"Well," I said, "it is the same sort of thing here. I am only here for a
time, and though I do not know where I am going or when, I think I shall
not be here much longer."

At this Cynthia did what she had never done before--she kissed me. Then
she said, "Don't speak of such disagreeable things. I could not get on
without you. You are so convenient, like a comfortable old arm-chair."

"What a compliment!" I said. "But you see that you don't like my
explanation. Why trouble about it? You have plenty of time. Is Lucius
like an arm-chair, too?"

"No," she said, "he is exciting, like a new necklace--and Charmides, he
is exciting too, in a way, but rather too fine for me, like a
ball-dress!"

"Yes," I said, "I noticed that your own taste in dress is different of
late. This is a much simpler thing than what you came in."

"Oh, yes," she said, "it doesn't seem worth while to dress up now. I
have made my friends, and I suppose I am getting lazy."

We said little more, but she did not seem inclined to leave me, and was
more with me for a time. I actually heard her tell Lucius once that she
was tired, at which he laughed, not very pleasantly, and went away.

But my own summons came to me so unexpectedly that I had but little time
to make my farewell.

I was sitting once in a garden-close watching a curious act proceeding,
which I did not quite understand. It looked like a religious ceremony; a
man in embroidered robes was being conducted by some boys in white
dresses through the long cloister, carrying something carefully wrapped
up in his arms, and I heard what sounded like an antique hymn of a fine
stiff melody, rapidly sung.

There had been nothing quite like this before, and I suddenly became
aware that Amroth was beside me, and that he had a look of anger in his
face. "You had better not look at this," he said to me; "it might not be
very helpful, as they say."

"Am I to come with you?" I said. "That is well--but I should like to say
a word to one or two of my friends here."

"No, not a word!" said Amroth quickly. He looked at me with a curious
look, in which he seemed to be measuring my strength and courage. "Yes,
that will do!" he added. "Come at once--don't be surprised--it will be
different from what you expect."

He took me by the arm, and we hurried from the place; one or two of the
people who stood by looked at us in lazy wonder. We walked in silence
down a long alley, to a great gate that I had often passed in my
strolls. It was a barred iron gate, of a very stately air, with high
stone gateposts. I had never been able to find my outward way to this,
and there was a view from it of enchanting beauty, blue distant woods
and rolling slopes. Amroth came quickly to the gate, seemed to unlock
it, and held it open for me to pass. "One word," he said with his most
beautiful smile, his eyes flashing and kindling with some secret
emotion, "whatever happens, do not be _afraid_! There is nothing
whatever to fear, only be prepared and wait." He motioned me through,
and I heard him close the gate behind me.



XVII


I was alone in an instant, and in terrible pain--pain not in any part of
me, but all around and within me. A cold wind of a piercing bitterness
seemed to blow upon me; but with it came a sense of immense energy and
strength, so that the pain became suddenly delightful, like the
stretching of a stiffened limb. I cannot put the pain into exact words.
It was not attended by any horror; it seemed a sense of infinite grief
and loss and loneliness, a deep yearning to be delivered and made free.
I felt suddenly as though everything I loved had gone from me,
irretrievably gone and lost. I looked round me, and I could discern
through a mist the bases of some black and sinister rocks, that towered
up intolerably above me; in between them were channels full of stones
and drifted snow. Anything more stupendous than those black-ribbed
crags, those toppling precipices, I had never seen. The wind howled
among them, and sometimes there was a noise of rocks cast down. I knew
in some obscure way that my path lay there, and my heart absolutely
failed me. Instead of going straight to the rocks, I began to creep
along the base to see whether I could find some easier track. Suddenly
the voice of Amroth said, rather sharply, in my ear, "Don't be silly!"
This homely direction, so peremptorily made, had an instantaneous
effect. If he had said, "Be not faithless," or anything in the copybook
manner, I should have sat down and resigned myself to solemn despair.
But now I felt a fool and a coward as well.

So I addressed myself, like a dog who hears the crack of a whip, to the
rocks.

It would be tedious to relate how I clambered and stumbled and agonised.
There did not seem to me the slightest use in making the attempt, or the
smallest hope of reaching the top, or the least expectation of finding
anything worth finding. I hated everything I had ever seen or known;
recollections of old lives and of the quiet garden I had left came upon
me with a sort of mental nausea. This was very different from the
amiable and easy-going treatment I had expected. Yet I did struggle on,
with a hideous faintness and weariness--but would it never stop? It
seemed like years to me, my hands frozen and wetted by snow and dripping
water, my feet bruised and wounded by sharp stones, my garments
strangely torn and rent, with stains of blood showing through in places.
Still the hideous business continued, but progress was never quite
impossible. At one place I found the rocks wholly impassable, and
choosing the broader of two ledges which ran left and right, I worked
out along the cliff, only to find that the ledge ran into the
precipices, and I had to retrace my steps, if the shuffling motions I
made could be so called. Then I took the harder of the two, which
zigzagged backwards and forwards across the rocks. At one place I saw a
thing which moved me very strangely. This was a heap of bones, green,
slimy, and ill-smelling, with some tattered rags of cloth about them,
which lay in a heap beneath a precipice. The thought that a man could
fall and be killed in such a place moved me with a fresh misery. What
that meant I could not tell. Were we not away from such things as
mouldering flesh and broken bones? It seemed not; and I climbed madly
away from them. Quite suddenly I came to the top, a bleak platform of
rock, where I fell prostrate on my face and groaned.

"Yes, that was an ugly business," said the voice of Amroth beside me,
"but you got through it fairly well. How do you feel?"

"I call it a perfect outrage," I said. "What is the meaning of this
hateful business?"

"The meaning?" said Amroth; "never mind about the meaning. The point is
that you are here!"

"Oh," I said, "I have had a horrible time. All my sense of security is
gone from me. Is one indeed liable to this kind of interruption,
Amroth?"

"Of course," said Amroth, "there must be some tests; but you will be
better very soon. It is all over for the present, I may tell you, and
you will soon be able to enjoy it. There is no terror in past
suffering--it is the purest joy."

"Yes, I used to say so and think so," I said, closing my eyes. "But this
was different--it was horrible! And the time it lasted, and the despair
of it! It seems to have soaked into my whole life and poisoned it."

Amroth said nothing for a minute, but watched me closely.

Presently I went on. "And tell me one thing. There was a ghastly thing I
saw, some mouldering bones on a ledge. Can people indeed fall and die
there?"

"Perhaps it was only a phantom," said Amroth, "put there like the
sights in the _Pilgrim's Progress_, the fire that was fed secretly with
oil, and the robin with his mouth full of spiders, as an encouragement
for wayfarers!"

"But that," I said, "would be too horrible for anything--to turn the
terrors of death into a sort of conjuring trick--a dramatic
entertainment, to make one's flesh creep! Why, that was the misery of
some of the religion taught us in old days, that it seemed often only
dramatic--a scene without cause or motive, just displayed to show us the
anger or the mercy of God, so that one had the miserable sense that much
of it was a spectacular affair, that He Himself did not really suffer or
feel indignation, but thought it well to feign emotions, like a
schoolmaster to impress his pupils.--and that people too were not
punished for their own sakes, to help them, but just to startle or
convince others."

"Yes," said Amroth, "I was only jesting, and I see that my jests were
out of place. Of course what you saw was real--there are no pretences
here. Men and women do indeed suffer a kind of death--the second
death--in these places, and have to begin again; but that is only for a
certain sort of self-confident and sin-soaked person, whose will needs
to be roughly broken. There are certain perverse sins of the spirit
which need a spiritual death, as the sins of the body need a bodily
death. Only thus can one be born again."

"Well," I said, "I am amazed--but now what am I to do? I am fit for
nothing, and I shall be fit for nothing hereafter."

"If you talk like this," said Amroth, "you will only drive me away.
There are certain things that it is better not to confess to one's
dearest friend, not even to God. One must just be silent about them, try
to forget them, hope they can never happen again. I tell you, you will
soon be all right; and if you are not you will have to see a physician.
But you had better not do that unless you are obliged."

This made me feel ashamed of myself, and the shame took off my thoughts
from what I had endured; but I could do nothing but lie aching and
panting on the rocks for a long time, while Amroth sat beside me in
silence.

"Are you vexed?" I said after a long pause.

"No, no, not vexed," said Amroth, "but I am not sure whether I have not
made a mistake. It was I who urged that you might go forward, and I
confess I am disappointed at the result. You are softer than I thought."

"Indeed I am not," I said. "I will go down the rocks and come up again,
if that will satisfy you."

"Come, that is a little better," said Amroth, "and I will tell you now
that you did well--better indeed at the time than I expected. You did
the thing in very good time, as we used to say."

By this time I felt very drowsy, and suddenly dropped off into a
sleep--such a deep and dreamless sleep, to descend into which was like
flinging oneself into a river-pool by a bubbling weir on a hot and dusty
day of summer.

I awoke suddenly with a pressure on my arm, and, waking up with a sense
of renewed freshness, I saw Amroth looking at me anxiously. "Do not
say anything," he said. "Can you manage to hobble a few steps? If you
cannot, I will get some help, and we shall be all right--but there may
be an unpleasant encounter, and it is best avoided." I scrambled to my
feet, and Amroth helped me a little higher up the rocks, looking
carefully into the mist as he did so. Close behind us was a steep rock
with ledges. Amroth flung himself upon them, with an agile scramble or
two. Then he held his hand down, lying on the top; I took it, and,
stiffened as I was, I contrived to get up beside him. "That is right,"
he said in a whisper. "Now lie here quietly, don't speak a word, and
just watch."

I lay, with a sense of something evil about. Presently I heard the sound
of voices in the mist to the left of us; and in an instant there loomed
out of the mist the form of a man, who was immediately followed by three
others. They were different from all the other spirits I had yet
seen--tall, lean, dark men, very spare and strong. They looked carefully
about them, mostly glancing down the cliff, and sometimes conferred
together. They were dressed in close-fitting dark clothes, which seemed
as if made out of some kind of skin or untanned leather, and their whole
air was sinister and terrifying. They passed quite close beneath us, so
that I saw the bald head of one of them, who carried a sort of hook in
his hands.

When they got to the place where my climb had ended, they stopped and
examined the stones carefully: one of them clambered a few feet down the
cliff. Then he came back and seemed to make a brief report, after which
they appeared undecided what to do; they even looked up at the rock
where we lay; but while they did this, another man, very similar, came
hurriedly out of the mist, said something to the group, and they all
disappeared very quickly into the darkness the same way they had come.
Then there was a silence. I should have spoken, but Amroth put a finger
on his lips. Presently there came a sound of falling stones, and after
that there broke out among the rocks below a horrible crying, as of a
man in sore straits and instant fear. Amroth jumped quickly to his feet.
"This will not do," he said. "Stay here for me." And then leaping down
the rock, he disappeared, shouting words of help--"Hold on--I am
coming."

He came back some little time afterwards, and I saw that he was not
alone. He had with him an old stumbling man, evidently in the last
extremity of terror and pain, with beads of sweat on his brow and blood
running down from his hands. He seemed dazed and bewildered. And Amroth
too looked ruffled and almost weary, as I had never seen him look. I
came down the rock to meet them. But Amroth said, "Wait here for me; it
has been a troublesome business, and I must go and bestow this poor
creature in a place of safety--I will return." He led the old man away
among the rocks, and I waited a long time, wondering very heavily what
it was that I had seen.

When Amroth came back to the rock he was fresh and smiling again: he
swung himself up, and sat by me, with his hands clasped round his knees.
Then he looked at me, and said, "I daresay you are surprised? You did
not expect to see such terrors and dangers here? And it is a great
mystery."

"You must be kind," I said, "and explain to me what has happened."

"Well," said Amroth, "there is a large gang of men who infest this
place, who have got up here by their agility, and can go no further,
who make it their business to prevent all they can from coming up. I
confess that it is the hardest thing of all to understand why it is
allowed; but if you expect all to be plain sailing up here, you are
mistaken. One needs to be wary and strong. They do much harm here, and
will continue to do it."

"What would have happened if they had found us here?" I said.

"Nothing very much," said Amroth; "a good deal of talk no doubt, and
some blows perhaps. But it was well I was with you, because I could have
summoned help. They are not as strong as they look either--it is mostly
fear that aids them."

"Well, but _who_ are they?" I said.

"They are the most troublesome crew of all," said Amroth, "and come
nearest to the old idea of fiends--they are indeed the origin of that
notion. To speak plainly, they are men who have lived virtuous lives,
and have done cruel things from good motives. There are some kings and
statesmen among them, but they are mostly priests and schoolmasters,
I imagine--people with high ideals, of course! But they are not
replenished so fast as they used to be, I think. Their difficulty is
that they can never see that they are wrong. Their notion is that this
is a bad place to come to, and that people are better left in ignorance
and bliss, obedient and submissive. A good many of them have given up
the old rough methods, and hang about the base of the cliff, dissuading
souls from climbing: they do the most harm of all, because if one does
turn back here, it is long before one may make a new attempt. But enough
of this," he added; "it makes me sick to think of them--the old fellow
you saw with me had an awful fright--he was nearly done as it was! But I
see you are feeling stronger, and I think we had better be going. One
does not stay here by choice, though the place has a beauty of its own.
And now you will have an easier time for awhile."

We descended from our rock, and Amroth led the way, through a long
cleft, with rocks, very rough and black, on either side, and fallen
fragments under foot. It was steep at first; but soon the rocks grew
lower; and we came out presently on to a great desolate plain, with
stones lying thickly about, among a coarse kind of grass. At each step I
seemed to grow stronger, and walked more lightly, and in the thin fine
air my horrors left me, though I still had a dumb sense of suffering
which, strange to say, I found it almost pleasant to resist. And so we
walked for a time in friendly silence, Amroth occasionally indicating
the way. The hill began to slope downwards very slowly, and the wind to
subside. The mist drew off little by little, till at last I saw ahead of
us a great bare-looking fortress with high walls and little windows, and
a great blank tower over all.



XVIII


We were received at the guarded door of the fortress by a porter, who
seemed to be well acquainted with Amroth. Within, it was a big, bare
place, with, stone-arched cloisters and corridors, more like a monastery
than a castle. Amroth led me briskly along the passages, and took me
into a large room very sparely furnished, where an elderly man sat
writing at a table with his back to the light. He rose when we entered,
and I had a sudden sense that I was coming to school again, as indeed I
was. Amroth greeted him with a mixture of freedom and respect, as a
well-loved pupil might treat an old schoolmaster. The man himself was
tall and upright, and serious-looking, but for a twinkle of humour that
lurked in his eye; yet I felt he was one who expected to be obeyed. He
took Amroth into the embrasure of a window, and talked with him in low
tones. Then he came back to me and asked me a few questions of which I
did not then understand the drift--but it seemed a kind of very informal
examination. Then he made us a little bow of dismissal, and sat down at
once to his writing without giving us another look. Amroth took me out,
and led me up many stone stairs, along whitewashed passages, with narrow
windows looking out on the plain, to a small cell or room near the top
of the castle. It was very austerely furnished, but it had a little door
which took us out on the leads, and I then saw what a very large place
the fortress was, consisting of several courts with a great central
tower.

"Where on earth have we got to now?" I said.

"Nowhere '_on earth_,'" said Amroth. "You are at school again, and you
will find it very interesting, I hope and expect, but it will be hard
work. I will tell you plainly that you are lucky to be here, because if
you do well, you will have the best sort of work to do."

"But what am I to do, and where am I to go?" I said. "I feel like a new
boy, with all sorts of dreadful rules in the background."

"That will all be explained to you," said Amroth. "And now good-bye for
the present. Let me hear a good report of you," he added, with a
parental air, "when I come again. What would not we older fellows give
to be back here!" he added with a half-mocking smile. "Let me tell you,
my boy, you have got the happiest time of your life ahead of you. Well,
be a credit to your friends!"

He gave me a nod and was gone. I stood for a little looking out rather
desolately into the plain. There came a brisk tap at my door, and a man
entered. He greeted me pleasantly, gave me a few directions, and I
gathered that he was one of the instructors. "You will find it hard
work," he said; "we do not waste time here. But I gather that you have
had rather a troublesome ascent, so you can rest a little. When you are
required, you will be summoned."

When he left me, I still felt very weary, and lay down on a little couch
in the room, falling presently asleep. I was roused by the entry of a
young man, who said he had been sent to fetch me: we went down along the
passages, while he talked pleasantly in low tones about the arrangements
of the place. As we went along the passages, the doors of the cells kept
opening, and we were joined by young men and women, who spoke to me or
to each other, but all in the same subdued voices, till at last we
entered a big, bare, arched room, lit by high windows, with rows of
seats, and a great desk or pulpit at the end. I looked round me in great
curiosity. There must have been several hundred people present, sitting
in rows. There was a murmur of talk over the hall, till a bell suddenly
sounded somewhere in the castle, a door opened, a man stepped quickly
into the pulpit, and began to speak in a very clear and distinct tone.

The discourse--and all the other discourses to which I listened in the
place--was of a psychological kind, dealing entirely with the relations
of human beings with each other, and the effect and interplay of
emotions. It was extremely scientific, but couched in the simplest
phraseology, and made many things clear to me which had formerly been
obscure. There is nothing in the world so bewildering as the selective
instinct of humanity, the reasons which draw people to each other, the
attractive power of similarity and dissimilarity, the effects of class
and caste, the abrupt approaches of passion, the influence of the body
on the soul and of the soul on the body. It came upon me with a shock of
surprise that while these things are the most serious realities in the
world, and undoubtedly more important than any other thing, little
attempt is made by humanity to unravel or classify them. I cannot here
enter into the details of these instructions, which indeed would be
unintelligible, but they showed me at first what I had not at all
apprehended, namely the proportionate importance and unimportance of all
the passions and emotions which regulate our relations with other souls.
These discourses were given at regular intervals, and much of our time
was spent in discussing together or working out in solitude the details
of psychological problems, which we did with the exactness of chemical
analysis.

What I soon came to understand was that the whole of psychology is ruled
by the most exact and immutable laws, in which there is nothing
fortuitous or abnormal, and that the exact course of an emotion can be
predicted with perfect certainty if only all the data are known.

One of the most striking parts of these discourses was the fact that
they were accompanied by illustrations. I will describe the first of
these which I saw. The lecturer stopped for an instant and held up his
hand. In the middle of one of the side-walls of the room was a great
shallow arched recess. In this recess there suddenly appeared a scene,
not as though it were cast by a lantern on the wall, but as if the wall
were broken down, and showed a room beyond.

In the room, a comfortably furnished apartment, there sat two people, a
husband and wife, middle-aged people, who were engaged in a miserable
dispute about some very trivial matter. The wife was shrill and
provocative, the husband curt and contemptuous. They were obviously not
really concerned about the subject they were discussing--it only formed
a ground for disagreeable personalities. Presently the man went out,
saying harshly that it was very pleasant to come back from his work, day
after day, to these scenes; to which the woman fiercely retorted that it
was all his own fault; and when he was gone, she sat for a time
mechanically knitting, with the tears trickling down her cheeks, and
every now and then glancing at the door. After which, with great
secrecy, she helped herself to some spirits which she took from a
cupboard.

The scene was one of the most vulgar and debasing that can be described
or imagined; and it was curious to watch the expressions on the faces of
my companions. They wore the air of trained doctors or nurses, watching
some disagreeable symptoms, with a sort of trained and serene
compassion, neither shocked nor grieved. Then the situation was
discussed and analysed, and various suggestions were made which were
dealt with by the lecturer, in a way which showed me that there was much
for us to master and to understand.

There were many other such illustrations given. They were, I discovered,
by no means imaginary cases, projected into our minds by a kind of
mental suggestion, but actual things happening upon earth. We saw many
strange scenes of tragedy, we had a glimpse of lunatic asylums and
hospitals, of murder even, and of evil passions of anger and lust. We
saw scenes of grief and terror; and, stranger still, we saw many things
that were being enacted not on the earth, but upon other planets, where
the forms and appearances of the creatures concerned were fantastic and
strange enough, but where the motive and the emotion were all perfectly
clear. At times, too, we saw scenes that were beautiful and touching,
high and heroic beyond words. These seemed to come rather by contrast
and for encouragement; for the work was distinctly pathological, and
dealt with the disasters and complications of emotions, as a rule,
rather than with their glories and radiances. But it was all incredibly
absorbing and interesting, though what it was to lead up to I did not
quite discern. What struck me was the concentration of effort upon human
emotion, and still more the fact that other hopes and passions, such as
ambition and acquisitiveness, as well as all material and economic
problems, were treated as infinitely insignificant, as just the
framework of human life, only interesting in so far as the baser and
meaner elements of circumstance can just influence, refining or
coarsening, the highest traits of character and emotion.

We were given special cases, too, to study and consider, and here I had
the first inkling of how far it is possible for disembodied spirits to
be in touch with those who are still in the body.

As far as I can see, no direct intellectual contact is possible, except
under certain circumstances. There is, of course, a great deal of
thought-vibration taking place in the world, to which the best analogy
is wireless telegraphy. There exists an all-pervading emotional medium,
into which every thought that is tinged with emotion sends a ripple.
Thoughts which are concerned with personal emotion send the firmest
ripple into this medium, and all other thoughts and passions affect it,
not in proportion to the intensity of the thought, but to the nature of
the thought. The scale is perfectly determined and quite unalterable;
thus a thought, however strong and intense, which is concerned with
wealth or with personal ambition sends a very little ripple into the
medium, while a thought of affection is very noticeable indeed, and more
noticeable in proportion as it is purer and less concerned with any kind
of bodily passion. Thus, strange to say, the thought of a father for a
child is a stronger thought than that of a lover for his beloved. I do
not know the exact scale of force, which is as exact as that of chemical
values--and of course such emotions are apt to be complex and intricate;
but the purer and simpler the thought is, the greater is its force.
Perhaps the prayers that one prays for those whom one loves send the
strongest ripple of all. If it happens that two of these ripples of
personal emotion are closely similar, a reflex action takes place; and
thus is explained the phenomenon which often takes place, the sudden
sense of a friend's personality, if that friend, in absence, writes one
a letter, or bends his mind intently upon one. It also explains the way
in which some national or cosmic emotion suddenly gains simultaneous
force, and vibrates in thousands of minds at the same time.

The body, by its joys and sufferings alike, offers a great obstruction
to these emotional waves. In the land of spirits, as I have indicated,
an intention of congenial wills gives an instantaneous perception; but
this seems impossible between an embodied spirit and a disembodied
spirit. The only communication which seems possible is that of a vague
emotion; and it seems quite impossible for any sort of intellectual idea
to be directly communicated by a disembodied spirit to an embodied
spirit.

On the other hand, the intellectual processes of an embodied spirit are
to a certain extent perceptible by a disembodied spirit; but there is a
condition to this, and that is that some emotional sympathy must have
existed between the two on earth. If there is no such sympathy, then the
body is an absolute bar.

I could look into the mind of Amroth and see his thought take shape, as
I could look into a stream, and see a fish dart from a covert of weed.
But with those still in the body it is different. And I will therefore
proceed to describe a single experience which will illustrate my point.

I was ordered to study the case of a former friend of my own who was
still living upon earth. Nothing was told me about him, but, sitting in
my cell, I put myself into communication with him upon earth. He had
been a contemporary of mine at the university, and we had many interests
in common. He was a lawyer; we did not very often meet, but when we did
meet it was always with great cordiality and sympathy. I now found him
ill and suffering from overwork, in a very melancholy state. When I
first visited him, he was sitting alone, in the garden of a little
house in the country. I could see that he was ill and sad; he was making
pretence to read, but the book was wholly disregarded.

When I attempted to put my mind into communication with his, it was very
difficult to see the drift of his thoughts. I was like a man walking in
a dense fog, who can just discern at intervals recognisable objects as
they come within his view; but there was no general prospect and no
distance. His mind seemed a confused current of distressing memories;
but there came a time when his thought dwelt for a moment upon myself;
he wished that I could be with him, that he might speak of some of his
perplexities. In that instant, the whole grew clearer, and little by
little I was enabled to trace the drift of his thoughts. I became aware
that though he was indeed suffering from overwork, yet that his enforced
rest only removed the mental distraction of his work, and left his mind
free to revive a whole troop of painful thoughts. He had been a man of
strong personal ambitions, and had for twenty years been endeavouring to
realise them. Now a sense of the comparative worthlessness of his aims
had come upon him. He had despised and slighted other emotions; and his
mind had in consequence drifted away like a boat into a bitter and
barren sea. He was a lonely man, and he was feeling that he had done ill
in not multiplying human emotions and relations. He reflected much upon
the way in which he had neglected and despised his home affections,
while he had formed no ties of his own. Now, too, his career seemed to
him at an end, and he had nothing to look forward to but a maimed and
invalided life of solitude and failure. Many of his thoughts I could not
discern at all--the mist, so to speak, involved them--while many were
obscure to me. When he thought about scenes and people whom I had never
known, the thought loomed shapeless and dark; but when he thought, as he
often did, about his school and university days, and about his home
circle, all of which scenes were familiar to me, I could read his mind
with perfect clearness. At the bottom of all lay a sense of deep
disappointment and resentment. He doubted the justice of God, and blamed
himself but little for his miseries. It was a sad experience at first,
because he was falling day by day into more hopeless dejection; while he
refused the pathetic overtures of sympathy which the relations in whose
house he was--a married sister with her husband and children--offered
him. He bore himself with courtesy and consideration, but he was so much
worn with fatigue and despondency that he could not take any initiative.
But I became aware very gradually that he was learning the true worth
and proportion of things--and the months which passed so heavily for him
brought him perceptions of the value of which he was hardly aware. Let
me say that it was now that the incredible swiftness of time in the
spiritual region made itself felt for me. A month of his sufferings
passed to me, contemplating them, like an hour.

I found to my surprise that his thoughts of myself were becoming more
frequent; and one day when he was turning over some old letters and
reading a number of mine, it seemed to me that his spirit almost
recognised my presence in the words which came to his lips, "It seems
like yesterday!" I then became blessedly aware that I was actually
helping him, and that the very intentness of my own thought was
quickening his own.

I discussed the whole case very closely and carefully with one of our
instructors, who set me right on several points and made the whole state
of things clear to me.

I said to him, "One thing bewilders me; it would almost seem that a
man's work upon earth constituted an interruption and a distraction from
spiritual influences. It cannot surely be that people in the body should
avoid employment, and give themselves to secluded meditation? If the
soul grows fast in sadness and despondency, it would seem that one
should almost have courted sorrow on earth; and yet I cannot believe
that to be the case."

"No," he said, "it is not the case; the body has here to be considered.
No amount of active exertion clouds the eye of the soul, if only the
motive of it is pure and lofty, and if the soul is only set patiently
and faithfully upon the true end of life. The body indeed requires due
labour and exercise, and the soul can gain health and clearness thereby.
But what does cloud the spirit is if it gives itself wholly up to narrow
personal aims and ambitions, and uses friendship and love as mere
recreations and amusements. Sickness and sorrow are not, as we used to
think, fortuitous things; they are given to those who need them, as high
and rich opportunities; and they come as truly blessed gifts, when they
break a man's thought off from material things, and make him fall back
upon the loving affections and relations of life. When one re-enters
the world, a woman's life is sometimes granted to a spirit, because a
woman by circumstance and temperament is less tempted to decline upon
meaner ambitions and interests than a man; but work and activity are no
hindrances to spiritual growth, so long as the soul waits upon God, and
desires to learn the lessons of life, rather than to enforce its own
conclusions upon others."

"Yes," I said, "I see that. What, then, is the great hindrance in the
life of men?"

"Authority," he said, "whether given or taken. That is by far the
greatest difficulty that a soul has to contend with. The knowledge of
the true conditions of life is so minute and yet so imperfect, when one
is in the body, that the man or woman who thinks it a duty to
disapprove, to correct, to censure, is in the gravest danger. In the
first place it is so impossible to disentangle the true conditions of
any human life; to know how far those failures which are lightly called
sins are inherited instincts of the body, or the manifestation of
immaturity of spirit. Complacency, hard righteousness, spiritual
security, severe judgments, are the real foes of spiritual growth; and
if a man is in a position to enforce his influence and his will upon
others, he can fall very low indeed, and suspend his own growth for a
very long and sad period. It is not the criticism or the analysis of
others which hurts the soul, so long as it remains modest and sincere
and conscious of its own weaknesses. It is when we indulge in secure or
compassionate comparisons of our own superior worth that we go
backwards."

This was but one of the many cases which I had to investigate. I do not
say that this is the work of all spirits in the other world--it is not
so; there are many kinds of work and occupation. This was the one now
allotted to me; but I did become aware of the intense and loving
interest which is bent upon the souls of the living by those who are
departed. There is not a soul alive who is not being thus watched and
tended, and helped, as far as help is possible; for no one is ever
forced or compelled or frightened into truth, only drawn and wooed by
love and care.

I must say a word, too, of the great and noble friendships which I
formed at this period of my existence. We were not free to make many of
these at a time. Love seems to be the one thing that demands an entire
concentration, and though in the world of spirits I became aware that
one could be conscious of many of the thoughts of those about me
simultaneously, yet the emotion of love, in the earlier stages, is
single and exclusive.

I will speak of two only. There were a young man and a young woman who
were much associated with me at that time, whom I will call Philip and
Anna. Philip was one of the most beautiful of all the spirits I ever
came near. His last life upon earth had been a long one, and he had been
a teacher. I used to tell him that I wished I had been under him as a
pupil, to which he replied, laughing, that I should have found him very
uninteresting. He said to me once that the way in which he had always
distinguished the two kinds of teachers on earth had been by whether
they were always anxious to teach new books and new subjects, or went on
contentedly with the old. "The pleasure," he said, "was in the teaching,
in making the thought clear, in tempting the boys to find out what they
knew all the time; and the oftener I taught a subject the better I liked
it; it was like a big cog-wheel, with a number of little cog-wheels
turning with it. But the men who were always wanting to change their
subjects were the men who thought of their own intellectual interest
first, and very little of the small interests revolving upon it." The
charm of Philip was the charm of extreme ingenuousness combined with
daring insight. He never seemed to be shocked or distressed by anything.
He said one day, "It was not the sensual or the timid or the
ill-tempered boys who used to make me anxious. Those were definite
faults and brought definite punishment; it was the hard-hearted,
virtuous, ambitious, sensible boys, who were good-humoured and
respectable and selfish, who bothered me; one wanted to shake them as a
terrier shakes a rat--but there was nothing to get hold of. They were a
credit to themselves and to their parents and to the school; and yet
they went downhill with every success."

Anna was a woman of singularly unselfish and courageous temperament. She
had been, in the course of her last life upon earth, a hospital nurse;
and she used to speak gratefully of the long periods when she was
nursing some anxious case, when she had interchanged day and night,
sleeping when the world was awake, and sitting with a book or needlework
by the sick-bed, through the long darkness. "People used to say to me
that it must be so depressing; but those were my happiest hours, as the
dark brightened into dawn, when many of the strange mysteries of life
and pain and death gave up their secrets to me. But of course," she
added with a smile, "it was all very dim to me. I felt the truth rather
than saw it; and it is a great joy to me to perceive now what was
happening, and how the sad, bewildered hours of pain and misery leave
their blessed marks upon the soul, like the tools of the graver on the
gem. If only we could learn to plan a little less and to believe a
little more, how much simpler it would all be!"

These two became very dear to me, and I learnt much heavenly wisdom from
them in long, quiet conferences, where we spoke frankly of all we had
felt and known.



XIX


It was at this time, I think, that a great change came over my thoughts,
or rather that I realised that a great change had gradually taken place.
Till now, I had been dominated and haunted by memories of my latest life
upon earth; but at intervals there had visited me a sense of older and
purer recollections. I cannot describe exactly how it came about--and,
indeed, the memory of what my heavenly progress had hitherto been, as
opposed to my earthly experience, was never very clear to me; but I
became aware that my life in heaven--I will call it heaven for want of a
better name--was my real continuous life, my home-life, so to speak,
while my earthly lives had been, to pursue the metaphor, like terms
which a boy spends at school, in which he is aware that he not only
learns definite and tangible things, but that his character is hardened
and consolidated by coming into contact with the rougher facts of
life--duty, responsibility, friendships, angers, treacheries,
temptations, routine. The boy returns with gladness to the serener and
sweeter atmosphere of home; and just in the same way I felt I had
returned to the larger and purer life of heaven. But, as I say, the
recollection of my earlier life in heaven, my occupations and
experience, was never clear to me, but rather as a luminous and haunting
mist. I questioned Amroth about this once, and he said that this was the
universal experience, and that the earthly lives one lived were like
deep trenches cut across a path, and seemed to interrupt the heavenly
sequence; but that as the spirit grew more pure and wise, the
consciousness of the heavenly life became more distinct and secure. But
he added, what I did not quite understand, that there was little need of
memory in the life of heaven, and that it was to a great extent the
inheritance of the body. Memory, he said, was to a great extent an
interruption to life; the thought of past failures and mistakes, and
especially of unkindnesses and misunderstandings, tended to obscure and
complicate one's relations with other souls; but that in heaven, where
activity and energy were untiring and unceasing, one lived far more in
the emotion and work of the moment, and less in retrospect and prospect.
What mattered was actual experience and the effect of experience; memory
itself was but an artistic method of dealing with the past, and
corresponded to fanciful and delightful anticipations of the future.
"The truth is," he said, "that the indulgence of memory is to a great
extent a mere sentimental weakness; to live much in recollection is a
sign of exhausted and depleted vitality. The further you are removed
from your last earthly life, the less tempted you will be to recall it.
The highest spirits of all here," he said, "have no temptation ever to
revert to retrospect, because the pure energies of the moment are
all-sustaining and all-sufficing."

The only trace I ever noticed of any memory of my past life in heaven
was that things sometimes seemed surprisingly familiar to me, and that I
had the sense of a serene permanence, which possessed and encompassed
me. Indeed I came to believe that the strange feeling of permanence
which haunts one upon earth, when one is happy and content, even though
one knows that everything is changing and shifting around one, and that
all is precarious and uncertain, is in itself a memory of the serene and
untroubled continuance of heaven, and a desire to taste it and realise
it.

Be this as it may, from the time of my finding my settled task and
ordered place in the heavenly community the memories of my old life upon
earth began to fade from my thoughts. I could, indeed, always recall
them by an effort, but there seemed less and less inclination to do so
the more I became absorbed in my heavenly activities.

One thing I noticed in these days; it surprised me very greatly, till I
reflected that my surprise was but the consequence of the strange and
mournful blindness with regard to spiritual things in which we live
under the dark skies of earth. We have there a false idea that somehow
or other death takes all the individuality out of a man, obliterating
all the whims, prejudices, the thorny and unreasonable dislikes and
fancies, oddities, tempers, roughnesses, and subtlenesses from a
temperament. Of course there are a good many of these things which
disappear together with the body, such as the glooms, suspicions, and
cloudy irritabilities, which are caused by fatigue and malaise, and by
ill-health generally. But a man's whims and fancies and dislikes do not
by any means disappear on earth when he is in good health; on the
contrary, they are often apt to be accentuated and emphasised when he is
free from pain and care and anxiety, and riding blithely over the waves
of life. Indeed there are men whom I have known who are never kind or
sympathetic till they are in some wearing trouble of their own; when
they are prosperous and cheerful, they are frankly intolerable, because
their mirth turns to derision and insolence.

But one of the reasons why the heavenly life is apt to appear in
prospect so wearisome a thing is, because we are brought up to feel that
the whole character is flattened out and charged with a serene kind of
priggishness, which takes all the salt out of life. The word "saintly,"
so terribly misapplied on earth, grows to mean, to many of us, an
irritating sort of kindness, which treats the interests and animated
elements of life with a painful condescension, and a sympathy of which
the basis is duty rather than love. The true sanctification, which I
came to perceive something of later, is the result of a process of
endless patience and infinite delay, and the attainment of it implies a
humility, seven times refined in the fires of self-contempt, in which
there remains no smallest touch of superiority or aloofness. How utterly
depressing is the feigned interest of the imperfect human saint in
matters of mundane concern! How it takes at once both the joy out of
holiness and the spirit out of human effort! It is as dreary as the
professional sympathy of the secluded student for the news of athletic
contests, as the tolerance of the shrewd man of science for the feminine
logic of religious sentiment!

But I found to my great content that whatever change had passed over the
spirits of my companions, they had at least lost no fibre of their
individuality. The change that had passed over them was like the change
that passes over a young man, who has lived at the University among
dilettante literary designs and mild sociological theorising, when he
finds himself plunged into the urgent practical activities of the world.
Our happiness was the happiness which comes of intense toil, with no
fatigue to dog it, and from a consciousness of the vital issues which
we were pursuing. But my companions had still intellectual faults and
preferences, self-confidence, critical intolerance, boisterousness,
wilfulness. Stranger still, I found coldness, anger, jealousy, still at
work. Of course in the latter case reconciliation was easier, both in
the light of common enthusiasm and, still more, because mental
communication was so much swifter and easier than it had been on earth.
There was no need of those protracted talks, those tiresome explanations
which clever people, who really love and esteem each other, fall into on
earth--the statements which affirm nothing, the explanations which
elucidate nothing, because of the intricacies of human speech and the
fact that people use the same words with such different implications and
meanings. All those became unnecessary, because one could pierce
instantaneously into the very essence of the soul, and manifest, without
the need of expression, the regard and affection which lay beneath the
cross-currents of emotion. But love and affection waxed and waned in
heaven as on earth; it was weakened and it was transferred. Few souls
are so serene on earth as to see with perfect equanimity a friend, whom
one loves and trusts, becoming absorbed in some new and exciting
emotion, which may not perhaps obliterate the original regard, but which
must withdraw from it for a time the energy which fed the flame of the
intermitted relation.

It was very strange to me to realise the fact that friendships and
intimacies were formed as on earth, and that they lost their freshness,
either from some lack of real congeniality or from some divergence of
development. Sometimes, I may add, our teachers were consulted by the
aggrieved, sometimes they even intervened unasked.

I will freely confess that this all immensely heightened the interests
to me of our common life. One could see two spirits drawn together by
some secret tie of emotion, and one could see some further influence
strike across and suspend it. One case of this I will mention, which is
typical of many. There came among us an extremely lively and rather
whimsical spirit, more like a boy than a man. I wondered at first why he
was chosen for this work, because he seemed both fitful and even
capricious; but I gradually realised in him an extraordinary fineness of
perception, and a swiftness of intuition almost unrivalled. He had a
power of weighing almost by instinct the constituent elements of
character, which seemed to me something like the power of tonality in a
musician, the gift of recognising, by pure faculty, what any notes may
be, however confusedly jangled on an instrument. It was wonderful to me
how often his instantaneous judgments proved more sagacious than our
carefully formed conclusions.

This boy became extraordinarily attractive to an older woman who was one
of our number, who was solitary and abstracted, and of an intense
seriousness of devotion to her work. It was evident both that she felt
his charm intensely and that her disposition was wholly alien to the
disposition of the boy himself. In fact, she simply bored him. He took
all that he did lightly, and achieved by an intense momentary
concentration what she could only achieve by slow reflection. This
devotion had in it something that was strangely pathetic, because it
took the form in her of making her wish to conciliate the boy's
admiration, by treating thoughts and ideas with a lightness and a humour
to which she could by no means attain, and which made things worse
rather than better, because she could read so easily, in the thoughts of
others, the impression that she was attempting a handling of topics
which she could not in the least accomplish. But advice was useless.
There it was, the old, fierce, constraining attraction of love, as it
had been of old, making havoc of comfortable arrangements, attempting
the impossible; and yet one knew that she would gain by the process,
that she was opening a door in her heart that had hitherto been closed,
and learning a largeness of view and sympathy in the process. Her fault
had ever been, no doubt, to estimate slow and accurate methods too
highly, and to believe that all was insecure and untrustworthy that was
not painfully accumulated. Now she saw that genius could accomplish
without effort or trouble what no amount of homely energy could effect,
and a new horizon was unveiled to her. But on the boy it did not seem to
have the right result. He might have learned to extend his sympathy to a
nature so dumb and plodding; and this coldness of his called down a
rebuke of what seemed almost undue sternness from one of our teachers.
It was not given in my presence, but the boy, bewildered by the severity
which he did not anticipate, coupled indeed with a hint that he must be
prepared, if he could not exhibit a more elastic sympathy, to have his
course suspended in favour of some more simple discipline, told me the
whole matter. "What am I to do?" he said. "I cannot care for Barbara;
her whole nature upsets me and revolts me. I know she is very good and
all that, but I simply am not myself when she is by; it is like taking a
run with a tortoise!"

"Well," I said, "no one expects you to give up all your time to taking
tortoises for runs; but I suppose that tortoises have their rights, and
must not be jerked along on their backs, like a sledge."

"Oh," said he, "you are all against me, I know; and I am not sure that
this place is not rather too solemn for me. What is the good of being
wiser than the aged, if one has more commandments to keep?"

Things, however, settled down in time. Barbara, I think, must have been
taken to task as well, because she gave up her attempts at wit; and the
end of it was that a quiet friendship sprang up between the incongruous
pair, like that between a wayward young brother and a plain, kindly,
and elderly sister, of a very fine and chivalrous kind.

It must not be thought that we spent our time wholly in these emotional
relations. It was a place of hard and urgent work; but I came to realise
that, just as on earth, institutions like schools and colleges, where a
great variety of natures are gathered in close and daily contact, are
shot through and through with strange currents of emotion, which some
people pay no attention to, and others dismiss as mere sentimentality,
so it was also bound to be beyond, with this difference, that whereas on
earth we are shy and awkward with our friendships, and all sorts of
physical complications intervene, in the other world they assume their
frank importance. I saw that much of what is called the serious business
of life is simply and solely necessitated by bodily needs, and is really
entirely temporary and trivial, while the real life of the soul, which
underlies it all, stifled and subdued, pent-up uneasily and cramped
unkindly like a bright spring of water under the superincumbent earth,
finds its way at last to the light. On earth we awkwardly divide this
impulse; we speak of the relation of the soul to others and of the
relation of the soul to God as two separate things. We pass over the
words of Christ in the Gospel, which directly contradict this, and which
make the one absolutely dependent on, and conditional on, the other. We
speak of human affection as a thing which may come in between the soul
and God, while it is in reality the swiftest access thither. We speak as
though ambition were itself made more noble, if it sternly abjures all
multiplication of human tenderness. We speak of a life which sacrifices
material success to emotion as a failure and an irresponsible affair.
The truth is the precise opposite. All the ambitions which have their
end in personal prestige are wholly barren; the ambitions which aim at
social amelioration have a certain nobility about them, though they
substitute a tortuous by-path for a direct highway. And the plain truth
is that all social amelioration would grow up as naturally and as
fragrantly as a flower, if we could but refine and strengthen and awaken
our slumbering emotions, and let them grow out freely to gladden the
little circle of earth in which we live and move.



XX


It was at this time that I had a memorable interview with the Master of
the College. He appeared very little among us, though, he occasionally
gave us a short instruction, in which he summed up the teaching on a
certain point. He was a man of extraordinary impressiveness, mainly, I
think, because he gave the sense of being occupied in much larger and
wider interests. I often pondered over the question why the short,
clear, rather dry discourses which fell from his lips appeared to be so
far more weighty and momentous than anything else that was ever said to
us. He used no arts of exhortation, showed no emotion, seemed hardly
conscious of our presence; and if one caught his eye as he spoke, one
became aware of a curious tremor of awe. He never made any appeal to our
hearts or feelings; but it always seemed as if he had condescended for
a moment to put aside far bigger and loftier designs in order to drop a
fruit of ripened wisdom in our way. He came among us, indeed, like a
statesman rather than like a teacher. The brief interviews we had with
him were regarded with a sort of terror, but produced, in me at least,
an almost fanatical respect and admiration. And yet I had no reason to
suppose that he was not, like all of us, subject to the law of life and
pilgrimage, though one could not conceive of him as having to enter the
arena of life again as a helpless child!

On this occasion I was summoned suddenly to his presence. I found him,
as usual, bent over his work, which he did not intermit, but merely
motioned me to be seated. Presently he put away his papers from him, and
turned round upon me. One of the disconcerting things about him was the
fact that his thought had a peculiarly compelling tendency, and that
while he read one's mind in a flash, his own thoughts remained very
nearly impenetrable. On this occasion he commended me for my work and my
relations with my fellow-students, adding that I had made rapid
progress. He then said, "I have two questions to ask you. Have you any
special relations, either with any one whom you have left behind you on
earth, or with any one with whom you have made acquaintance since you
quitted it, which you desire to pursue?"

I told him, which was the truth, that since my stay in the College I had
become so much absorbed in the studies of the place that I seemed to
have became strangely oblivious of my external friends, but that it was
more a suspension than a destruction of would-be relations.

"Yes," he said, "I perceive that that is your temperament. It has its
effectiveness, no doubt, but it also has its dangers; and, whatever
happens, one ought never to be able to accuse oneself justly of any
disloyalty."

He seemed to wait for me to speak, whereupon I mentioned a very dear
friend of my days of earth; but I added that most of those whom I had
loved best had predeceased me, and that I had looked forward to a
renewal of our intercourse. I also mentioned the names of Charmides and
Cynthia, the latter of whom was in memory strangely near to my heart.

He seemed satisfied with this. Then he said, "It is true that we have to
multiply relationships with others, both in the world and out of it; but
we must also practise economy. We must not abandon ourselves to passing
fancies, or be subservient to charm, while if we have made an emotional
mistake, and have been disappointed with one whom we have taken the
trouble to win, we must guard such conquests with a close and peculiar
tenderness. But enough of that, for I have to ask you if there is any
special work for which you feel yourself disposed. There is a great
choice of employment here. You may choose, if you will, just to live
the spiritual life and discharge whatever duties of citizenship you may
be called upon to perform. That is what most spirits do. I need not
perhaps tell you"--here he smiled--"that freedom from the body does not
confer upon any one, as our poor brothers and sisters upon earth seem to
think, a heavenly vocation. Neither of course is the earthly fallacy
about a mere absorption in worship a true one--only to a very few is
that conceded. Still less is this a life of leisure. To be leisurely
here is permitted only to the wearied, and to those childish creatures
with whom you have spent some time in their barren security. I do not
think you are suited for the work of recording the great scheme of life,
nor do I think you are made for a teacher. You are not sufficiently
impartial! For mere labour you are not suited; and yet I hardly think
you would be fit to adopt the most honourable task which your friend
Amroth so finely fulfils--a guide and messenger. What do you think?"

I said at once that I did not wish to have to make a decision, but that
I preferred to leave it to him. I added that though I was conscious of
my deficiencies, I did not feel conscious of any particular capacities,
except that I found character a very fascinating study, especially in
connection with the circumstances of life upon earth.

"Very well," he said, "I think that you may perhaps be best suited to
the work of deciding what sort of life will best befit the souls who are
prepared to take up their life upon earth again. That is a task of deep
and infinite concern; it may surprise you," he added, "to learn that
this is left to the decision of other souls. But it is, of course, the
goal at which all earthly social systems are aiming, the right
apportionment of circumstances to temperament, and you must not be
surprised to find that here we have gone much further in that direction,
though even here the system is not perfected; and you cannot begin to
apprehend that fact too soon. It is unfortunate that on earth it is
commonly believed, owing to the deadening influence of material causes,
that beyond the grave everything is done with a Divine unanimity. But of
course, if that were so, further growth and development would be
impossible, and in view of infinite perfectibility there is yet very
much that is faulty and incomplete. But I am not sure what lies before
you; there is something in your temperament which a little baffles me,
and our plans may have to be changed. Your very absorption in your work,
your quick power of forgetting and throwing off impressions has its
dangers. But I will bear in mind what you have said, and you may for the
present resume your studies, and I will once more commend you; you have
done well hitherto, and I will say frankly that I regard you as capable
of useful and honourable work." He bowed in token of dismissal, and I
went back to my work with unbounded gratitude and enthusiasm.



XXI


Some time after this I was surprised one morning at the sudden entrance
of Amroth into my cell. He came in with a very bright and holiday
aspect, and, assuming a paternal air, said that he had heard a very
creditable account of my work and conduct, and that he had obtained
leave for me to have an exeat. I suppose that I showed signs of
impatience at the interruption, for he broke into a laugh, and said,
"Well, I am going to insist. I believe you are working too hard, and we
must not overstrain our faculties. It was bad enough, in the old days,
but then it was generally the poor body which suffered first. But indeed
it is quite possible to overwork here, and you have the dim air of the
pale student. Come," he said, "whatever happens, do not become priggish.
Not to want a holiday is a sign of spiritual pride. Besides, I have
some curious things to show you."

I got up and said that I was ready, and Amroth led the way like a boy
out for a holiday. He was brimming over with talk, and told me some
stories about my friends in the land of delight, interspersing them with
imitation of their manner and gesture, which made me giggle--Amroth was
an admirable mimic. "I had hopes of Charmides," he said; "your stay
there aroused his curiosity. But he has gone back to his absurd tones
and half-tones, and is nearly insupportable. Cynthia is much more
sensible, but Lucius is a nuisance, and Charmides, by the way, has
become absurdly jealous of him. They really are very silly; but I have a
pleasant plot, which I will unfold to you."

As we went down the interminable stairs, I said to Amroth, "There is a
question I want to ask you. Why do we have to go and come, up and down,
backwards and forwards, in this absurd way, as if we were still in the
body? Why not just slip off the leads, and fly down over the crags like
a pair of pigeons? It all seems to me so terribly material."

Amroth looked at me with a smile. "I don't advise you to try," he said.
"Why, little brother, of course we are just as limited here in these
ways. The material laws of earth are only a type of the laws here. They
all have a meaning which remains true."

"But," I said, "we can visit the earth with incredible rapidity?"

"How can I explain?" said Amroth. "Of course we can do that, because the
material universe is so extremely small in comparison. All the stars in
the world are here but as a heap of sand, like the motes which dance in
a sunbeam. There is no question of size, of course! But there is such a
thing as spiritual nearness and spiritual distance for all that. The
souls who do not return to earth are very far off, as you will sometime
see. But we messengers have our short cuts, and I shall take advantage
of them to-day."

We went out of the great door of the fortress, and I felt a sense of
relief. It was good to put it all behind one. For a long time I talked
to Amroth about all my doings. "Come," he said at last, "this will never
do! You are becoming something of a bore! Do you know that your talk is
very provincial? You seem to have forgotten about every one and
everything except your Philips and Annas--very worthy creatures, no
doubt--and the Master, who is a very able man, but not the little
demigod you believe. You are hypnotised! It is indeed time for you to
have a holiday. Why, I believe you have half forgotten about me, and yet
you made a great fuss when I quitted you."

I smiled, frowned, blushed. It was indeed true. Now that he was with me
I loved him as well, indeed better than ever; but I had not been
thinking very much about him.

We went over the moorlands in the keen air, Amroth striding cleanly and
lightly over the heather. Then we began to descend into the valley,
through a fine forest country, somewhat like the chestnut-woods of the
Apennines. The view was of incomparable beauty and width. I could see a
great city far out in the plain, with a river entering it and leaving
it, like a ribbon of silver. There were rolling ridges beyond. On the
left rose huge, shadowy, snow-clad hills, rising to one tremendous dome
of snow.

"Where are you going to take me?" I said to Amroth.

"Never mind," said he; "it's my day and my plan for once. You shall see
what you shall see, and it will amuse me to hear your ingenuous
conjectures."

We were soon on the outskirts of the city we had seen, which seemed a
different kind of place from any I had yet visited. It was built, I
perceived, upon an exactly conceived plan, of a stately, classical kind
of architecture, with great gateways and colonnades. There were people
about, rather silent and serious-looking, soberly clad, who saluted us
as we passed, but made no attempt to talk to us. "This is rather a
tiresome place, I always think," said Amroth; "but you ought to see it."

We went along the great street and reached a square. I was surprised at
the elderly air of all we met. We found ourselves opposite a great
building with a dome, like a church. People were going in under the
portico, and we went in with them. They treated us as strangers, and
made courteous way for us to pass.

Inside, the footfalls fell dumbly upon a great carpeted floor. It was
very like a great church, except that there was no altar or sign of
worship. At the far end, under an alcove, was a statue of white marble
gleaming white, with head and hand uplifted. The whole place had a
solemn and noble air. Out of the central nave there opened a series of
great vaulted chapels; and I could now see that in each chapel there
was a dark figure, in a sort of pulpit, addressing a standing audience.
There were names on scrolls over the doors of the light iron-work
screens which separated the chapels from the nave, but they were in a
language I did not understand.

Amroth stopped at the third of the chapels, and said, "Here, this will
do." We came in, and as before there was a courteous notice taken of us.
A man in black came forward, and led us to a high seat, like a pew, near
the preacher, from which we could survey the crowd. I was struck with
their look of weariness combined with intentness.

The lecturer, a young man, had made a pause, but upon our taking our
places, he resumed his speech. It was a discourse, as far as I could
make out, on the development of poetry; he was speaking of lyrical
poetry. I will not here reproduce it. I will only say that anything more
acute, delicate, and discriminating, and, I must add, more entirely
valueless and pedantic, I do not think I ever heard. It must have
required immense and complicated knowledge. He was tracing the
development of a certain kind of dramatic lyric, and what surprised me
was that he supplied the subtle intellectual connection, the missing
links, so to speak, of which there is no earthly record. Let me give a
single instance. He was accounting for a rather sudden change of thought
in a well-known poet, and he showed that it had been brought about by
his making the acquaintance of a certain friend who had introduced him
to a new range of subjects, and by his study of certain books. These
facts are unrecorded in his published biography, but the analysis of the
lecturer, done in a few pointed sentences, not only carried conviction
to the mind, but just, so to speak, laid the truth bare. And yet it was
all to me incredibly sterile and arid. Not the slightest interest was
taken in the emotional or psychological side; it was all purely and
exactly scientific. We waited until the end of the address, which was
greeted with decorous applause, and the hall was emptied in a moment.

We visited other chapels where the same sort of thing was going on in
other subjects. It all produced in me a sort of stupefaction, both at
the amazing knowledge involved, and in the essential futility of it all.

Before we left the building we went up to the statue, which represented
a female figure, looking upwards, with a pure and delicate beauty of
form and gesture that was inexpressibly and coldly lovely.

We went out in silence, which seemed to be the rule of the place.

When we came away from the building we were accosted by a very grave and
courteous person, who said that he perceived that we were strangers, and
asked if he could be of any service to us, and whether we proposed to
make a stay of any duration. Amroth thanked him, and said smilingly that
we were only passing through. The gentleman said that it was a pity,
because there was much of interest to hear. "In this place," he said
with a deprecating gesture, "we grudge every hour that is not devoted to
thought." He went on to inquire if we were following any particular line
of study, and as our answers were unsatisfactory, he said that we could
not do better than begin by attending the school of literature. "I
observed," he said, "that you were listening to our Professor, Sylvanus,
with attention. He is devoting himself to the development of poetical
form. It is a rich subject. It has generally been believed that poets
work by a sort of native inspiration, and that the poetic gift is a sort
of heightening of temperament. But Sylvanus has proved--I think I may go
so far as to say this--that this is all pure fancy, and what is worse,
unsound fancy. It is all merely a matter of heredity, and the apparent
accidents on which poetical expression depends can be analysed exactly
and precisely into the most commonplace and simple elements. It is only
a question of proportion. Now we who value clearness of mind above
everything, find this a very refreshing thought. The real crown and sum
of human achievement, in the intellectual domain, is to see things
clearly and exactly, and upon that clearness all progress depends. We
have disposed by this time of most illusions; and the same scientific
method is being strenuously applied to all other processes of human
endeavour. It is even hinted that Sylvanus has practically proved that
the imaginative element in literature is purely a taint of barbarism,
though he has not yet announced the fact. But many of his class are
looking forward to his final lecture on the subject as to a profoundly
sensational event, which is likely to set a deep mark upon all our
conceptions of literary endeavour. So that," he said with a tolerant
smile, gently rubbing his hands together, "our life here is not by any
means destitute of the elements of excitement, though we most of us, of
course, aim at the acquisition of a serene and philosophic temper. But
I must not delay you," he added; "there is much to see and to hear, and
you will be welcomed everywhere: and indeed I am myself somewhat closely
engaged, though in a subject which is not fraught with such polite
emollience. I attend the school of metaphysics, from which we have at
last, I hope, eliminated the last traces of that debasing element of
psychology, which has so long vitiated the exact study of the subject."

He took himself off with a bow, and I gazed blankly at Amroth. "The
conversation of that very polite person," I said, "is like a bad dream!
What is this extraordinarily depressing place? Shall I have to undergo a
course here?"

"No, my dear boy," said Amroth. "This is rather out of your depth. But I
am somewhat disappointed at your view of the situation. Surely these are
all very important matters? Your disposition is, I am afraid, incurably
frivolous! How could people be more worthily employed than in getting
rid of the last traces of intellectual error, and in referring
everything to its actual origin? Did not your heart burn within you at
his luminous exposition? I had always thought you a boy of intellectual
promise."

"Amroth," I said, "I will not be made fun of. This is the most dreadful
place I have ever seen or conceived of! It frightens me. The dryness of
pure science is terrifying enough, but after all that has a kind of
strange beauty, because it deals either with transcendental ideas of
mathematical relation, or with the deducing of principle from
accumulated facts. But here the object appears to be to eliminate the
human element from humanity. I insist upon knowing where you have
brought me, and what is going on here."

"Well, then," said Amroth, "I will conceal it from you no longer. This
is the paradise of thought, where meagre and spurious philosophers, and
all who have submerged life in intellect, have their reward. It _is_,
as you say, a very dreary place for children of nature like you and me.
But I do not suppose that there is a happier or a busier place in all
our dominions. The worst of it is that it is so terribly hard to get out
of. It is a blind alley and leads nowhere. Every step has to be
retraced. These people have to get a very severe dose of homely life to
do them any good; and the worst of it is that they are so entirely
virtuous. They have never had the time or the inclination to be anything
else. And they are among the most troublesome and undisciplined of all
our people. But I see you have had enough; and unless you wish to wait
for Professor Sylvanus's sensational pronouncement, we will go
elsewhere, and have some other sort of fun. But you must not be so much
upset by these things."

"It would kill me," I said, "to hear any more of these lectures, and if
I had to listen to much of our polite friend's conversation, I should go
out of my mind. I would rather fall into the hands of the cragmen! I
would rather have a stand-up fight than be slowly stifled with
interesting information. But where do these unhappy people come from?"

"A few come from universities," said Amroth, "but they are not as a rule
really learned men. They are more the sort of people who subscribe to
libraries, and belong to local literary societies, and go into a good
many subjects on their own account. But really learned men are almost
always more aware of their ignorance than of their knowledge, and
recognise the vitality of life, even if they do not always exhibit it.
But come, we are losing time, and we must go further afield."



XXII


We went some considerable distance, after leaving our intellectual
friends, through very beautiful wooded country, and as we went we talked
with much animation about the intellectual life and its dangers. It had
always, I confess, appeared to me a harmless life enough; not very
effective, perhaps, and possibly liable to encourage a man in a trivial
sort of self-conceit; but I had always looked upon that as an
instinctive kind of self-respect, which kept an intellectual person from
dwelling too sorely upon the sense of ineffectiveness; as an addiction
not more serious in its effects upon character than the practice of
playing golf, a thing in which a leisurely person might immerse himself,
and cultivate a decent sense of self-importance. But Amroth showed me
that the danger of it lay in the tendency to consider the intellect to
be the basis of all life and progress. "The intellectual man," he said,
"is inclined to confuse his own acute perception of the movement of
thought with the originating impulse of that movement. But of course
thought is a thing which ebbs and flows, like public opinion, according
to its own laws, and is not originated but only perceived by men of
intellectual ability. The danger of it is a particularly arid sort of
self-conceit. It is as if the Lady of Shalott were to suppose that she
created life by observing and rendering it in her magic web, whereas her
devotion to her task simply isolates her from the contact with other
minds and hearts, which is the one thing worth having. That is, of
course, the danger of the artist as well as of the philosopher. They
both stand aside from the throng, and are so much absorbed in the aspect
of thought and emotion that they do not realise that they are separated
from it. They are consequently spared, when they come here, the
punishment which falls upon those who have mixed greedily, selfishly,
and cruelly with life, of which you will have a sight before long. But
that place of punishment is not nearly so sad or depressing a place as
the paradise of delight, and the paradise of intellect, because the
sufferers have no desire to stay there, can repent and feel ashamed, and
therefore can suffer, which is always hopeful. But the artistic and
intellectual have really starved their capacity for suffering, the one
by treating all emotion as spectacular, and the other by treating it as
a puerile interruption to serious things. It takes people a long time to
work their way out of self-satisfaction! But there is another curious
place I wish you to visit. It is a dreadful place in a way, but by no
means consciously unhappy," and Amroth pointed to a great building which
stood on a slope of the hill above the forest, with a wide and beautiful
view from it. Before very long we came to a high stone wall with a gate
carefully guarded. Here Amroth said a few words to a porter, and we went
up through a beautiful terraced park. In the park we saw little knots of
people walking aimlessly about, and a few more solitary figures. But in
each case they were accompanied by people whom I saw to be warders. We
passed indeed close to an elderly man, rather fantastically dressed, who
looked possessed with a kind of flighty cheerfulness. He was talking to
himself with odd, emphatic gestures, as if he were ticking off the
points of a speech. He came up to us and made us an effusive greeting,
praising the situation and convenience of the place, and wishing us a
pleasant sojourn. He then was silent for a moment, and added, "Now there
is a matter of some importance on which I should like your opinion." At
this the warder who was with him, a strong, stolid-looking man, with an
expression at once slightly contemptuous and obviously kind, held up his
hand and said, "You will, no doubt, sir, remember that you have
undertaken--" "Not a word, not a word," said our friend; "of course you
are right! I have really nothing to say to these gentlemen."

We went up to the building, which now became visible, with its long and
stately front of stone. Here again we were admitted with some
precaution, and after a few minutes there came a tall and
benevolent-looking man, to whom Amroth spoke at some length. The man
then came up to me, said that he was very glad to welcome me, and that
he would be delighted to show us the place.

We went through fine and airy corridors, into which many doors, as of
cells, opened. Occasionally a man or a woman, attended by a male or a
female warder, passed us. The inmates had all the same kind of air--a
sort of amused dignity, which was very marked. Presently our companion
opened a door with his key and we went in. It was a small,
pleasantly-furnished room. Some books, apparently of devotion, lay on
the table. There was a little kneeling-desk near the window, and the
room had a half-monastic air about it. When we entered, an elderly man,
with a very serene face, was looking earnestly into the door of a
cupboard in the wall, which he was holding open; there was, so far as I
could see, nothing in the cupboard; but the inmate seemed to be
struggling with an access of rather overpowering mirth. He bowed to us.
Our conductor greeted him respectfully, and then said, "There is a
stranger here who would like a little conversation with you, if you can
spare the time."

"By all means," said the inmate, with a very ingratiating smile. "It is
very kind of him to call upon me, and my time is entirely at his
disposal."

Our conductor said to me that he and Amroth had some brief business to
transact, and that they would call for me again in a moment. The inmate
bowed, and seemed almost impatient for them to depart. He motioned me to
a chair, and the moment they left us he began to talk with great
animation. He asked me if I was a new inmate, and when I said no, only a
visitor, he looked at me compassionately, saying that he hoped I might
some day attain to the privilege. "This," he said, "is the abode of
final and lasting peace. No one is admitted here unless his convictions
are of the firmest and most ardent character; it is a reward for
faithful service. But as our time is short, I must tell you," he said,
"of a very curious experience I have had this very morning--a spiritual
experience of the most reassuring character. You must know that I held a
high official position in the religious world--I will mention no
details--and I found at an early age, I am glad to say, the imperative
necessity of forming absolutely impregnable convictions. I went to work
in the most business-like way. I devoted some years to hard reading and
solid thought, and I found that the sect to which I belonged was lacking
in certain definite notes of divine truth, while the weight of evidence
pointed in the clearest possible manner to the fact that one particular
section of the Church had preserved absolutely intact the primitive
faith of the Saints, and was without any shadow of doubt the perfectly
logical development of the principles of the Gospel. Mine is not a
nature that can admit of compromise; and at considerable sacrifice of
worldly prospects I transferred my allegiance, and was instantly
rewarded by a perfect serenity of conviction which has never faltered.

"I had a friend with whom I had often discussed the matter, who was much
of my way of thinking. But though I showed him the illogical nature of
his position, he hung back--whether from material motives or from mere
emotional associations I will not now stop to inquire. But I could not
palter with the truth. I expostulated with him, and pointed out to him
in the sternest terms the eternal distinctions involved. I broke off all
relations with him ultimately. And after a life spent in the most
solemn and candid denunciation of the fluidity of religious belief,
which is the curse of our age, though it involved me in many of the
heart-rending suspensions of human intercourse with my nearest and
dearest so plainly indicated in the Gospel, I passed at length, in
complete tranquillity, to my final rest. The first duty of the sincere
believer is inflexible intolerance. If a man will not recognise the
truth when it is plainly presented to him, he must accept the eternal
consequences of his act--separation from God, and absorption in guilty
and awestruck regret, which admits of no repentance.

"One of the privileges of our sojourn here is that we have a strange and
beautiful device--a window, I will call it--which admits one to a sight
of the spiritual world. I was to-day contemplating, not without pain,
but with absolute confidence in its justice, the sufferings of some of
these lost souls, and I observed, I cannot say with satisfaction, but
with complete submission, the form of my friend, whom my testimony might
have saved, in eternal misery. I have the tenderest heart of any man
alive. It has cost me a sore struggle to subdue it--it is more unruly
even than the will--but you may imagine that it is a matter of deep and
comforting assurance to reflect that on earth the door, the one door, to
salvation is clearly and plainly indicated--though few there be that
find it--and that this signal mercy has been vouchsafed to me. I have
then the peace of knowing, not only that my choice was right, but that
all those to whom the truth is revealed have the power to choose it. I
am a firm believer in the uncovenanted mercies vouchsafed to those who
have not had the advantages of clear presentment, but for the
deliberately unfaithful, for all sinners against light, the sentence is
inflexible."

He closed his eyes, and a smile played over his features.

I found it very difficult to say anything in answer to this monologue;
but I asked my companion whether he did not think that some clearer
revelation might be made, after the bodily death, to those who for some
human frailty were unable to receive it.

"An intelligent question," said my companion, "but I am obliged to
answer in the negative. Of course the case is different for those who
have accepted the truth loyally, even if their record is stained by the
foulest and most detestable of crimes. It is the moral and intellectual
adhesion that matters; that once secured, conduct is comparatively
unimportant, if the soul duly recurs to the medicine of penitence and
contrition so mercifully provided. I have the utmost indulgence for
every form of human frailty. I may say that I never shrank from contact
with the grossest and vilest forms of continuous wrong-doing, so long as
I was assured that the true doctrines were unhesitatingly and
submissively accepted. A soul which admits the supremacy of authority
can go astray like a sheep that is lost, but as long as it recognises
its fold and the authority of the divine law, it can be sought and
found.

"The little window of which I spoke has given me indubitable testimony
of this. There was a man I knew in the flesh, who was regarded as a
monster of cruelty and selfishness. He ill-treated his wife and misused
his children; his life was spent in gross debauchery, and his conduct on
several occasions outstepped the sanctions of legality. He was a forger
and an embezzler. I do not attempt to palliate his faults, and there
will be a heavy reckoning to pay. But he made his submission at the
last, after a long and prostrating illness; and I have ocular
demonstration of the fact that, after a mercifully brief period of
suffering, he is numbered among the blest. That is a sustaining
thought."

He then with much courtesy invited me to partake of some refreshment,
which I gratefully declined. Once or twice he rose, and opening the
little cupboard door, which revealed nothing but a white wall, he drank
in encouragement from some hidden sight. He then invited me to kneel
with him, and prayed fervently and with some emotion that light might be
vouchsafed to souls on earth who were in darkness. Just as he concluded,
Amroth appeared with our conductor. The latter made a courteous inquiry
after my host's health and comfort. "I am perfectly happy here," he
said, "perfectly happy. The attentions I receive are indeed more than I
deserve; and I am specially grateful to my kind visitor, whose
indulgence I must beg for my somewhat prolonged statement--but when one
has a cause much at heart," he added with a smile, "some prolixity is
easily excused."

As we re-entered the corridor, our conductor asked me if I would care to
pay any more visits. "The case you have seen," he said, "is an extremely
typical and interesting one."

"Have you any hope," said Amroth, "of recovery?"

"Of course, of course," said our conductor with a smile. "Nothing is
hopeless here; our cures are complete and even rapid; but this is a
particularly obstinate one!"

"Well," said Amroth, "would you like to see more?"

"No," I said, "I have seen enough. I cannot now bear any more."

Our conductor smiled indulgently.

"Yes," he said, "it is bewildering at first; but one sees wonderful
things here! This is our library," he added, leading us to a great airy
room, full of books and reading-desks, where a large number of inmates
were sitting reading and writing. They glanced up at us with friendly
and contented smiles. A little further on we came to another cell,
before which our conductor stopped, and looked at me. "I should like,"
he said, "if you are not too tired, just to take you in here; there is
a patient, who is very near recovery indeed, in here, and it would do
him good to have a little talk with a stranger."

I bowed, and we went in. A man was sitting in a chair with his head in
his hands. An attendant was sitting near the window reading a book. The
patient, at our entry, removed his hands from his face and looked up,
half impatiently, with an air of great suffering, and then slowly rose.

"How are you feeling, dear sir?" said our conductor quietly.

"Oh," said the man, looking at us, "I am better, much better. The light
is breaking in, but it is a sore business, when I was so strong in my
pride."

"Ah," said our guide, "it is indeed a slow process; but happiness and
health must be purchased; and every day I see clearly that you are
drawing nearer to the end of your troubles--you will soon be leaving us!
But now I want you kindly to bestir yourself, and talk a little to this
friend of ours, who has not been long with us, and finds the place
somewhat, bewildering. You will be able to tell him something of what is
passing in your mind; it will do you good to put it into words, and it
will be a help to him."

"Very well," said the man gravely, "I will do my best." And the others
withdrew, leaving me with the man. When they had gone, the man asked me
to be seated, and leaning his head upon his hand he said, "I do not know
how much you know and how little, so I will tell you that I left the
world very confident in a particular form of faith, and very much
disposed to despise and even to dislike those who did not agree with me.
I had lived, I may say, uprightly and purely, and I will confess that I
even welcomed all signs of laxity and sinfulness in my opponents,
because it proved what I believed, that wrong conduct sprang naturally
from wrong belief. I came here in great content, and thought that this
place was the reward of faithful living. But I had a great shock. I was
very tenderly attached to one whom I left on earth, and the severest
grief of my life was that she did not think as I did, but used to plead
with me for a wider outlook and a larger faith in the designs of God.
She used to say to me that she felt that God had different ways of
saving different people, and that people were saved by love and not by
doctrine. And this I combated with all my might. I used to say,
'Doctrine first, and love afterwards,' to which she often said, 'No,
love is first!'

"Well, some time ago I had a sight of her; she had died, and entered
this world of ours. She was in a very different place from this, but she
thought of me without ceasing, and her desire prevailed. I saw her,
though I was hidden from her, and looked into her heart, and discerned
that the one thing which spoiled her joy was that I was parted from her.

"And after that I had no more delight in my security. I began to suffer
and to yearn. And then, little by little, I began to see that it is
love after all which binds us together, and which draws us to God; but
my difficulty is this, that I still believe that my faith is true; and
if that is true, then other faiths cannot be true also, and then I fall
into sad bewilderment and despair." He stopped and looked at me fixedly.

"But," I said, "if I may carry the thought further, might not all be
true? Two men may be very unlike each other in form and face and
thought--yet both are very man. It would be foolish arguing, if a man
were to say, 'I am indeed a man, and because my friend is unlike
me--taller, lighter-complexioned, swifter of thought--therefore he
cannot be a man.' Or, again, two men may travel by the same road, and
see many different things, yet it is the same road they have both
travelled; and one need not say to the other, 'You cannot have travelled
by the same road, because you did not see the violets on the bank under
the wood, or the spire that peeped through the trees at the folding of
the valleys--and therefore you are a liar and a deceiver!' If one
believes firmly in one's own faith, one need not therefore say that all
who do not hold it are perverse and wilful. There is no excuse, indeed,
for not holding to what we believe to be true, but there is no excuse
either for interfering with the sincere belief of another, unless one
can persuade him he is wrong. Is not the mistake to think that one holds
the truth in its entirety, and that one has no more to learn and to
perceive? I myself should welcome differences of faith, because it shows
me that faith is a larger thing even than I know. What another sees may
be but a thought that is hidden from me, because the truth may be seen
from a different angle. To complain that we cannot see it all is as
foolish as when the child is vexed because it cannot see the back of the
moon. And it seems to me that our duty is not to quarrel with others who
see things that we do not see, but to rejoice with them, if they will
allow us, and meanwhile to discern what is shown to us as faithfully as
we can."

The man heard me with a strange smile. "Yes," he said, "you are
certainly right, and I bless the goodness that sent you hither; but when
you are gone, I doubt that I shall fall back into my old perplexities,
and say to myself that though men may see different parts of the same
thing, they cannot see the same thing differently."

"I think," I said, "that even that is possible, because on earth things
are often mere symbols, and clothe themselves in material forms; and it
is the form which deludes us. I do not myself doubt that grace flows
into us by very different channels. We may not deny the claim of any one
to derive grace from any source or symbol that he can. The only thing we
may and must dare to dispute is the claim that only by one channel may
grace flow. But I think that the words of the one whom you loved, of
whom you spoke, are indeed true, and that the love of each other and of
God is the force which draws us, by whatever rite or symbol or doctrine
it may be interpreted. That, as I read it, is the message of Christ, who
gave up all things for utter love."

As I said this, our guide and Amroth entered the cell. The man rose up
quickly, and drawing me apart, thanked me very heartily and with tears
in his eyes; and so we said farewell. When we were outside, I said to
the guide, "May I ask you one question? Would it be of use if I remained
here for a time to talk with that poor man? It seemed a relief to him to
open his heart, and I would gladly be with him and try to comfort him."

The guide shook his head kindly. "No," he said, "I think not. I
recognise your kindness very fully--but a soul like this must find the
way alone; and there is one who is helping him faster than any of us can
avail to do; and besides," he added, "he is very near indeed to his
release."

So we went to the door, and said farewell; and Amroth and I went
forward. Then I said to him as we went down through the terraced garden,
and saw the inmates wandering about, lost in dreams, "This must be a sad
place to live in, Amroth!"

"No, indeed," said he, "I do not think that there are any happier than
those who have the charge here. When the patients are in the grip of
this disease, they are themselves only too well content; and it is a
blessed thing to see the approach of doubt and suffering, which means
that health draws near. There is no place in all our realm where one
sees so clearly and beautifully the instant and perfect mercy of God,
and the joy of pain." And so we passed together out of the guarded gate.



XXIII


"Well," said Amroth, with a smile, as we went out into the forest, "I am
afraid that the last two visits have been rather a strain. We must find
something a little less serious; but I am going to fill up all your
time. You had got too much taken up with your psychology, and we must
not live too much on theory, and spin problems, like the spider, out of
our own insides; but we will not spend too much time in trudging over
this country, though it is well worth it. Did you ever see anything more
beautiful than those pine-trees on the slope there, with the blue
distance between their stems? But we must not make a business of
landscape-gazing like our friend Charmides! We are men of affairs, you
and I. Come, I will show you a thing. Shut your eyes for a minute and
give me your hand. Now!"

A sudden breeze fanned my face, sweet and odorous, like the wind out of
a wood. "Now," said Amroth, "we have arrived! Where do you think we
are?"

The scene had changed in an instant. We were in a wide, level country,
in green water-meadows, with a full stream brimming its grassy banks, in
willowy loops. Not far away, on a gently rising ground, lay a long,
straggling village, of gabled houses, among high trees. It was like the
sort of village that you may find in the pleasant Wiltshire countryside,
and the sight filled me with a rush of old and joyful memories.

"It is such a relief," I said, "to realise that if man is made in the
image of God, heaven is made in the image of England!"

"That is only how you see it, child," said Amroth. "Some of my own
happiest days were spent at Tooting: would you be surprised if I said
that it reminded me of Tooting?"

"I am surprised at nothing," I said. "I only know that it is all very
considerate!"

We entered the village, and found a large number of people, mostly
young, going cheerfully about all sorts of simple work. Many of them
were gardening, and the gardens were full of old-fashioned flowers,
blooming in wonderful profusion. There was an air of settled peace about
the place, the peace that on earth one often dreamed of finding, and
indeed thought one had found on visiting some secluded place--only to
discover, alas! on a nearer acquaintance, that life was as full of
anxieties and cares there as elsewhere. There were one or two elderly
people going about, giving directions or advice, or lending a helping
hand. The workers nodded blithely to us, but did not suspend their work.

"What surprises me," I said to Amroth, "is to find every one so much
occupied wherever we go. One heard so much on earth about craving for
rest, that one grew to fancy that the other life was all going to be a
sort of solemn meditation, with an occasional hymn."

"Yes, indeed," said Amroth, "it was the body that was tired--the soul is
always fresh and strong--but rest is not idleness. There is no such
thing as unemployment here, and there is hardly time, indeed, for all we
have to do. Every one really loves work. The child plays at working, the
man of leisure works at his play. The difference here is that work is
always amusing--there is no such thing as drudgery here."

We walked all through the village, which stretched far away into the
country. The whole place hummed like a beehive on a July morning. Many
sang to themselves as they went about their business, and sometimes a
couple of girls, meeting in the roadway, would entwine their arms and
dance a few steps together, with a kiss at parting. There was a sense of
high spirits everywhere. At one place we found a group of children
sitting in the shade of some trees, while a woman of middle age told
them a story. We stood awhile to listen, the woman giving us a pleasant
nod as we approached. It was a story of some pleasant adventure, with
nothing moral or sentimental about it, like an old folk-tale. The
children were listening with unconcealed delight.

When we had walked a little further, Amroth said to me, "Come, I will
give you three guesses. Who do you think, by the light of your
psychology, are all these simple people?" I guessed in vain. "Well, I
see I must tell you," he said. "Would it surprise you to learn that most
of these people whom you see here passed upon earth for wicked and
unsatisfactory characters? Yet it is true. Don't you know the kind of
boys there were at school, who drifted into bad company and idle ways,
mostly out of mere good-nature, went out into the world with a black
mark against them, having been bullied in vain by virtuous masters, the
despair of their parents, always losing their employments, and often
coming what we used to call social croppers--untrustworthy, sensual,
feckless, no one's enemy but their own, and yet preserving through it
all a kind of simple good-nature, always ready to share things with
others, never knowing how to take advantage of any one, trusting the
most untrustworthy people; or if they were girls, getting into trouble,
losing their good name, perhaps living lives of shame in big
cities--yet, for all that, guileless, affectionate, never excusing
themselves, believing they had deserved anything that befell them? These
were the sort of people to whom Christ was so closely drawn. They have
no respectability, no conventions; they act upon instinct, never by
reason, often foolishly, but seldom unkindly or selfishly. They give all
they have, they never take. They have the faults of children, and the
trustful affection of children. They will do anything for any one who is
kind to them and fond of them. Of course they are what is called
hopeless, and they use their poor bodies very ill. In their last stages
on earth they are often very deplorable objects, slinking into
public-houses, plodding raggedly and dismally along highroads, suffering
cruelly and complaining little, conscious that they are universally
reprobated, and not exactly knowing why. They are the victims of
society; they do its dirty work, and are cast away as offscourings. They
are really youthful and often beautiful spirits, very void of offence,
and needing to be treated as children. They live here in great
happiness, and are conscious vaguely of the good and great intention of
God towards them. They suffer in the world at the hands of cruel,
selfish, and stupid people, because they are both humble and
disinterested. But in all our realms I do not think there is a place of
simpler and sweeter happiness than this, because they do not take their
forgiveness as a right, but as a gracious and unexpected boon. And
indeed the sights and sounds of this place are the best medicine for
crabbed, worldly, conventional souls, who are often brought here when
they are drawing near the truth."

"Yes," I said, "this is just what I wanted. Interesting as my work has
lately been, it has wanted simplicity. I have grown to consider life too
much as a series of cases, and to forget that it is life itself that one
must seek, and not pathology. This is the best sight I have seen, for it
is so far removed from all sense of judgment. The song of the saints may
be sometimes of mercy too."



XXIV


"And now," said Amroth, "that we have been refreshed by the sight of
this guileless place, and as our time is running short, I am going to
show you something very serious indeed. In fact, before I show it you I
must remind you carefully of one thing which I shall beg you to keep in
mind. There is nothing either cruel or hopeless here; all is implacably
just and entirely merciful. Whatever a soul needs, that it receives; and
it receives nothing that is vindictive or harsh. The ideas of punishment
on earth are hopelessly confused; we do not know whether we are
revenging ourselves for wrongs done to us, or safeguarding society, or
deterring would-be offenders, or trying to amend and uplift the
criminal. We end, as a rule, by making every one concerned, whether
punisher or punished, worse. We encourage each other in vindictiveness
and hypocrisy, we cow and brutalise the transgressor. We rescue no one,
we amend nothing. And yet we cannot read the clear signs of all this.
The milder our methods of punishment become, the less crime is there to
punish. But instead of being at once kind and severe, which is perfectly
possible, we are both cruel and sentimental. Now, there is no such thing
as sentiment here, just as there is no cruelty. There is emotion in full
measure, and severity in full measure; no one is either pettishly
frightened or mildly forgiven; and the joy that awaits us is all the
more worth having, because it cannot be rashly enjoyed or reached by any
short cuts; but do not forget, in what you now see, that the end is
joy."

He spoke so solemnly that I was conscious of overmastering curiosity,
not unmixed with awe. Again the way was abbreviated. Amroth took me by
the hand and bade me close my eyes. The breeze beat upon my face for a
moment. When I opened my eyes, we were on a bare hillside, full of
stones, in a kind of grey and chilly haze which filled the air. Just
ahead of us were some rough enclosures of stone, overlooked by a sort of
tower. They were like the big sheepfolds which I have seen on northern
wolds, into which the sheep of a whole hillside can be driven for
shelter. We went round the wall, which was high and strong, and came to
the entrance of the tower, the door of which stood open. There seemed to
be no one about, no sign of life; the only sound a curious wailing note,
which came at intervals from one of the enclosures, like the crying of a
prisoned beast. We went up into the tower; the staircase ended in a bare
room, with four apertures, one in each wall, each leading into a kind of
balcony. Amroth led the way into one of the balconies, and pointed
downwards. We were looking down into one of the enclosures which lay
just at our feet, not very far below. The place was perfectly bare, and
roughly flagged with stones. In the corner was a rough thatched shelter,
in which was some straw. But what at once riveted my attention was the
figure of a man, who half lay, half crouched upon the stones, his head
in his hands, in an attitude of utter abandonment. He was dressed in a
rough, weather-worn sort of cloak, and his whole appearance suggested
the basest neglect; his hands were muscular and knotted; his ragged grey
hair streamed over the collar of his cloak. While we looked at him, he
drew himself up into a sitting posture, and turned his face blankly upon
the sky. It was, or had been, a noble face enough, deeply lined, and
with a look of command upon it; but anything like the hopeless and utter
misery of the drawn cheeks and staring eyes I had never conceived. I
involuntarily drew back, feeling that it was almost wrong to look at
anything so fallen and so wretched. But Amroth detained me.

"He is not aware of us," he said, "and I desire you to look at him."

Presently the man rose wearily to his feet, and began to pace up and
down round the walls, with the mechanical movements of a caged animal,
avoiding the posts of the shelter without seeming to see them, and then
cast himself down again upon the stones in a paroxysm of melancholy. He
seemed to have no desire to escape, no energy, except to suffer. There
was no hope about it all, no suggestion of prayer, nothing but blank and
unadulterated suffering.

Amroth drew me back into the tower, and motioned me to the next
balcony. Again I went out. The sight that I saw was almost more terrible
than the first, because the prisoner here, penned in a similar
enclosure, was more restless, and seemed to suffer more acutely. This
was a younger man, who walked swiftly and vaguely about, casting glances
up at the wall which enclosed him. Sometimes he stopped, and seemed to
be pursuing some dreadful train of solitary thought; he gesticulated,
and even broke out into mutterings and cries--the cries that I had heard
from without. I could not bear to look at this sight, and coming back,
besought Amroth to lead me away. Amroth, who was himself, I perceived,
deeply moved, and stood with lips compressed, nodded in token of assent.
We went quickly down the stairway, and took our way up the hill among
the stones, in silence. The shapes of similar enclosures were to be seen
everywhere, and the indescribable blankness and grimness of the scene
struck a chill to my heart.

From the top of the ridge we could see the same bare valleys stretching
in all directions, as far as the eye could see. The only other building
in sight was a great circular tower of stone, far down in the valley,
from which beat the pulse of some heavy machinery, which gave the sense,
I do not know how, of a ghastly and watchful life at the centre of all.

"That is the Tower of Pain," said Amroth, "and I will spare you the
inner sight of that. Only our very bravest and strongest can enter there
and preserve any hope. But it is well for you to know it is there, and
that souls have to enter it. It is thence that all the pain of countless
worlds emanates and vibrates, and the governor of the place is the most
tried and bravest of all the servants of God. Thither we must go, for
you shall have sight of him, though you shall not enter."

We went down the hill with all the speed we might, and, I will confess
it, with the darkest dismay I have ever experienced tugging at my heart.
We were soon at the foot of the enormous structure. Amroth knocked at
the gate, a low door, adorned with some vague and ghastly sculptures,
things like worms and huddled forms drearily intertwined. The door
opened, and revealed a fiery and smouldering light within. High up in
the tower a great wheel whizzed and shivered, and moving shadows
crossed and recrossed the firelit walls.

But the figure that came out to us--how shall I describe him? It was the
most beautiful and gracious sight of all that I saw in my pilgrimage. He
was a man of tall stature, with snow-white, silvery hair and beard,
dressed in a dark cloak with a gleaming clasp of gold. But for all his
age he had a look of immortal youth. His clear and piercing eye had a
glance of infinite tenderness, such as I had never conceived. There were
many lines upon his brow and round his eyes, but his complexion was as
fresh as that of a child, and he stepped as briskly as a youth. We bowed
low to him, and he reached out his hands, taking Amroth's hand and mine
in each of his. His touch had a curious thrill, the hand that held mine
being firm and smooth and wonderfully warm.

"Well, my children," he said in a clear, youthful voice, "I am glad to
see you, because there are few who come hither willingly; and the old
and weary are cheered by the sight of those that are young and strong.
Amroth I know. But who are you, my child? You have not been among us
long. Have you found your work and place here yet?" I told him my story
in a few words, and he smiled indulgently. "There is nothing like being
at work," he said. "Even my business here, which seems sad enough to
most people, must be done; and I do it very willingly. Do not be
frightened, my child," he said to me suddenly, drawing me nearer to him,
and folding my arm beneath his own. "It is only on earth that we are
frightened of pain; it spoils our poor plans, it makes us fretful and
miserable, it brings us into the shadow of death. But for all that, as
Amroth knows, it is the best and most fruitful of all the works that the
Father does for man, and the thing dearest to His heart. We cannot
prosper till we suffer, and suffering leads us very swiftly into joy and
peace. Indeed this Tower of Pain, as it is called, is in fact nothing
but the Tower of Love. Not until love is touched with pain does it
become beautiful, and the joy that comes through pain is the only real
thing in the world. Of course, when my great engine here sends a thrill
into a careless life, it comes as a dark surprise; but then follow
courage and patience and wonder, and all the dear tendance of Love. I
have borne it all myself a hundred times, and I shall bear it again if
the Father wills it. But when you leave me here, do not think of me as
of one who works, grim and indifferent, wrecking lives and destroying
homes. It is but the burning of the weeds of life; and it is as needful
as the sunshine and the rain. Pain does not wander aimlessly, smiting
down by mischance and by accident; it comes as the close and dear
intention of the Father's heart, and is to a man as a trumpet-call from
the land of life, not as a knell from the land of death. And now, dear
children, you must leave me, for I have much to do. And I will give
you," he added, turning to me, "a gift which shall be your comfort, and
a token that you have been here, and seen the worst and the best that
there is to see."

He drew from under his cloak a ring, a circlet of gold holding a red
stone with a flaming heart, and put it on my finger. There pierced
through me a pang intenser than any I had ever experienced, in which all
the love and sorrow I had ever known seemed to be suddenly mingled, and
which left behind it a perfect and intense sense of joy.

"There, that is my gift," he said, "and you shall have an old man's
loving blessing too, for it is that, after all, that I live for." He
drew me to him and kissed me on the brow, and in a moment he was gone.

We walked away in silence, and for my part with an elation of spirit
which I could hardly control, a desire to love and suffer, and do and be
all that the mind of man could conceive. But my heart was too full to
speak.

"Come," said Amroth presently, "you are not as grateful as I had
hoped--you are outgrowing me! Come down to my poor level for an instant,
and beware of spiritual pride!" Then altering his tone he said, "Ah,
yes, dear friend, I understand. There is nothing in the world like it,
and you were most graciously and tenderly received--but the end is not
yet."

"Amroth," I said, "I am like one intoxicated with joy. I feel that I
could endure anything and never make question of anything again. How
infinitely good he was to me--like a dear father!"

"Yes," said Amroth, "he is very like the Father "--and he smiled at me a
mysterious smile.

"Amroth," I said, bewildered, "you cannot mean--?"

"No, I mean nothing," said Amroth, "but you have to-day looked very far
into the truth, farther than is given to many so soon; but you are a
child of fortune, and seem to please every one. I declare that a little
more would make me jealous."

Presently, catching sight of one of the enclosures hard by, I said to
Amroth, "But there are some questions I must ask. What has just
happened had put it mostly out of my head. Those poor suffering souls
that we saw just now--it is well, with them, I am sure, so near the
Master of the Tower--he does not forget them, I am sure--but who are
they, and what have they done to suffer so?"

"I will tell you," said Amroth, "for it is a dark business. Those two
that you have seen--well, you will know one of them by name and fame,
and of the other you may have heard. The first, that old shaggy-haired
man, who lay upon the stones, that was ----"

He mentioned a name that was notorious in Europe at the time of my life
on earth, though he was then long dead; a ruthless and ambitious
conqueror, who poured a cataract of life away, in wars, for his own
aggrandisement. Then he mentioned another name, a statesman who pursued
a policy of terrorism and oppression, enriched himself by barbarous
cruelty exercised in colonial possessions, and was famous for the
calculated libertinism of his private life.

"They were great sinners," said Amroth, "and the sorrows they made and
flung so carelessly about them, beat back upon them now in a surge of
pain. These men were strangely affected, each of them, by the smallest
sight or sound of suffering--a tortured animal, a crying child; and yet
they were utterly ruthless of the pain that they did not see. It was a
lack, no doubt, of the imagination of which I spoke, and which makes all
the difference. And now they have to contemplate the pain which they
could not imagine; and they have to learn submission and humility. It is
a terrible business in a way--the loneliness of it! There used to be an
old saying that the strongest man was the man that was most alone. But
it was just because these men practised loneliness on earth that they
have to suffer so. They used others as counters in a game, they had
neither friend nor beloved, except for their own pleasure. They depended
upon no one, needed no one, desired no one. But there are many others
here who did the same on a small scale--selfish fathers and mothers who
made homes miserable; boys who were bullies at school and tyrants in the
world, in offices, and places of authority. This is the place of
discipline for all base selfishness and vile authority, for all who have
oppressed and victimised mankind."

"But," I said, "here is my difficulty. I understand the case of the
oppressors well enough; but about the oppressed, what is the justice of
that? Is there not a fortuitous element there, an interruption of the
Divine plan? Take the case of the thousands of lives wasted by some
brutal conqueror. Are souls sent into the world for that, to be driven
in gangs, made to fight, let us say, for some abominable cause, and
then recklessly dismissed from life?"

"Ah," said Amroth, "you make too much of the dignity of life! You do not
know how small a thing a single life is, not as regards the life of
mankind, but in the life of one individual. Of course if a man had but
one single life on earth, it would be an intolerable injustice; and that
is the factor which sets all straight, the factor which most of us, in
our time of bodily self-importance, overlook. These oppressors have no
power over other lives except what God allows, and bewildered humanity
concedes. Not only is the great plan whole in the mind of God, but every
single minutest life is considered as well. In the very case you spoke
of, the little conscript, torn from his home to fight a tyrant's
battles, hectored and ill-treated, and then shot down upon some crowded
battle-field, that is precisely the discipline which at that point of
time his soul needs, and the blessedness of which he afterwards
perceives; sometimes discipline is swift and urgent, sometimes it is
slow and lingering: but all experience is exactly apportioned to the
quality of which each soul is in need. The only reason why there seems
to be an element of chance in it, is that the whole thing is so
inconceivably vast and prolonged; and our happiness and our progress
alike depend upon our realising at every moment that the smallest joy
and the most trifling pleasure, as well as the tiniest ailment or the
most subtle sorrow, are just the pieces of experience which we are meant
at that moment to use and make our own. No one, not even God, can force
us to understand this; we have to perceive it for ourselves, and to live
in the knowledge of it."

"Yes," I said, "it is true, all that. My heart tells me so; but it is
very wonderful and mysterious, all the same. But, Amroth, I have seen
and heard enough. My spirit desires with all its might to be at its own
work, hastening on the mighty end. Now, I can hold no more of wonders.
Let me return."

"Yes," said Amroth, "you are right! These wonders are so familiar to me
that I forget, perhaps, the shock with which they come to minds unused
to them. Yet there are other things which you must assuredly see, when
the time comes; but I must not let you bite off a larger piece than you
can swallow."

He took me by the hand; the breeze passed through my hair; and in an
instant we were back at the fortress-gate, and I entered the beloved
shelter, with a grateful sense that I was returning home.



XXV


I returned, as I said, with a sense of serene pleasure and security to
my work; but that serenity did not last long. What I had seen with
Amroth, on that day of wandering, filled me with a strange restlessness,
and a yearning for I knew not what. I plunged into my studies with
determination rather than ardour, and I set myself to study what is the
most difficult problem of all--the exact limits of individual
responsibility. I had many conversations on the point with one of my
teachers, a young man of very wide experience, who combined in an
unusual way a close scientific knowledge of the subject with a peculiar
emotional sympathy. He told me once that it was the best outfit for the
scientific study of these problems, when the heart anticipated the
slower judgment of the mind, and set the mind a goal, so to speak, to
work up to; though he warned me that the danger was that the mind was
often reluctant to abandon the more indulgent claims of the heart; and
he advised me to mistrust alike scientific conclusions and emotional
inferences.

I had a very memorable conversation with him on the particular question
of responsibility, which I will here give.

"The mistake," I said to him, "of human moralists seems to me to be,
that they treat all men as more or less equal in the matter of moral
responsibility. How often," I added, "have I heard a school preacher
tell boys that they could not all be athletic or clever or popular, but
that high principle and moral courage were things within the reach of
all. Whereas the more that I studied human nature, the more did the
power of surveying and judging one's own moral progress, and the power
of enforcing and executing the dictates of the conscience, seem to me
faculties, like other faculties. Indeed, it appears to me," I said,
"that on the one hand there are people who have a power of moral
discrimination, when dealing with the retrospect of their actions, but
no power of obeying the claims of principle, when confronted with a
situation involving moral strain; while on the other hand there seem to
me to be some few men with a great and resolute power of will, capable
of swift decision and firm action, but without any instinct for morality
at all."

"Yes," he said, "you are quite right. The moral sense is in reality a
high artistic sense. It is a power of discerning and being attracted by
the beauty of moral action, just as the artist is attracted by form and
colour, and the musician by delicate combinations of harmonies and the
exquisite balance of sound. You know," he said, "what a suspension is in
music--it is a chord which in itself is a discord, but which depends for
its beauty on some impending resolution. It is just so with moral
choice. The imagination plays a great part in it. The man whose
morality is high and profound sees instinctively the approaching
contingency, and his act of self-denial or self-forgetfulness depends
for its force upon the way in which it will ultimately combine with
other issues involved, even though at the moment that act may seem to be
unnecessary and even perverse."

"But," I said, "there are a good many people who attain to a sensible,
well-balanced kind of temperance, after perhaps a few failures, from a
purely prudential motive. What is the worth of that?"

"Very small indeed," said my teacher. "In fact, the prudential morality,
based on motives of health and reputation and success, is a thing that
has often to be deliberately unlearnt at a later stage. The strange
catastrophes which one sees so often in human life, where a man by one
act of rashness, or moral folly, upsets the tranquil tenor of his
life--a desperate love-affair, a passion of unreasonable anger, a piece
of quixotic generosity--are often a symptom of a great effort of the
soul to free itself from prudential considerations. A good thing done
for a low motive has often a singularly degrading and deforming
influence on the soul. One has to remember how terribly the heavenly
values are obscured upon earth by the body, its needs and its desires;
and current morality of a cautious and sensible kind is often worse than
worthless, because it produces a kind of self-satisfaction, which is the
hardest thing to overcome."

"But," I said, "in the lives of some of the greatest moralists, one so
often sees, or at all events hears it said, that their morality is
useless because it is unpractical, too much out of the reach of the
ordinary man, too contemptuous of simple human faculties. What is one to
make of that?"

"It is a difficult matter," he replied; "one does indeed, in the lives
of great moralists, see sometimes that their work is vitiated by
perverse and fantastic preferences, which they exalt out of all
proportion to their real value. But for all that, it is better to be on
the side of the saints; for they are gifted with the sort of instinctive
appreciation of the beauty of high morality of which I spoke.
Unselfishness, purity, peacefulness seem to them so beautiful and
desirable that they are constrained to practise them. While controversy,
bitterness, cruelty, meanness, vice, seem so utterly ugly and repulsive
that they cannot for an instant entertain even so much as a thought of
them."

"But if a man sees that he is wanting in this kind of perception," I
said, "what can he do? How is he to learn to love what he does not
admire and to abhor what he does not hate? It all seems so fatalistic,
so irresistible."

"If he discerns his lack," said my teacher with a smile, "he is probably
not so very far from the truth. The germ of the sense of moral beauty is
there, and it only wants patience and endeavour to make it grow. But it
cannot be all done in any single life, of course; that is where the
human faith fails, in its limitations of a man's possibilities to a
single life."

"But what is the reason," I said, "why the morality, the high austerity
of some persons, who are indubitably high-minded and pure-hearted, is so
utterly discouraging and even repellent?"

"Ah," he said, "there you touch on a great truth. The reason of that is
that these have but a sterile sort of connoisseur-ship in virtue. Virtue
cannot be attained in solitude, nor can it be made a matter of private
enjoyment. The point is, of course, that it is not enough for a man to
be himself; he must also give himself; and if a man is moral because of
the delicate pleasure it brings him--and the artistic pleasure of
asceticism is a very high one--he is apt to find himself here in very
strange and distasteful company. In this, as in everything, the only
safe motive is the motive of love. The man who takes pleasure in using
influence, or setting a lofty example, is just as arid a dilettante as
the musician who plays, or the artist who paints, for the sake of the
applause and the admiration he wins; he is only regarding others as so
many instruments for registering his own level of complacency. Every
one, even the least complicated of mankind, must know the exquisite
pleasure that comes from doing the simplest and humblest service to one
whom he loves; how such love converts the most menial office into a
luxurious joy; and the higher that a man goes, the more does he discern
in every single human being with whom he is brought into contact a soul
whom he can love and serve. Of course it is but an elementary pleasure
to enjoy pleasing those whom we regard with some passion of affection,
wife or child or friend, because, after all, one gains something oneself
by that. But the purest morality of all discerns the infinitely lovable
quality which is in the depth of every human soul, and lavishes its
tenderness and its grace upon it, with a compassion that grows and
increases, the more unthankful and clumsy and brutish is the soul which
it sets out to serve."

"But," I said, "beautiful as that thought is--and I see and recognise
its beauty--it does limit the individual responsibility very greatly.
Surely a prudential morality, the morality which is just because it
fears reprisal, and is kind because it anticipates kindness, is better
than none at all? The morality of which you speak can only belong to the
noblest human creatures."

"Only to the noblest," he said; "and I must repeat what I said before,
that the prudential morality is useless, because it begins at the wrong
end, and is set upon self throughout. I must say deliberately that the
soul which loves unreasonably and unwisely, which even yields itself to
the passion of others for the pleasure it gives rather than for the
pleasure it receives--the thriftless, lavish, good-natured,
affectionate people, who are said to make such a mess of their
lives--are far higher in the scale of hope than the cautiously
respectable, the prudently kind, the selfishly pure. There must be no
mistake about this. One must somehow or other give one's heart away, and
it is better to do it in error and disaster than to treasure it for
oneself. Of course there are many lives on earth--and an increasing
number as the world develops--which are generous and noble and
unselfish, without any sacrifice of purity or self-respect. But the
essence of morality is giving, and not receiving, or even practising;
the point is free choice, and not compulsion; and if one cannot give
_because_ one loves, one must give _until_ one loves."



XXVI


But all my speculations were cut short by a strange event which happened
about this time. One day, without any warning, the thought of Cynthia
darted urgently and irresistibly into my mind. Her image came between me
and all my tasks; I saw her in innumerable positions and guises, but
always with her eyes bent on me in a pitiful entreaty. After
endeavouring to resist the thought for a little as some kind of fantasy,
I became suddenly convinced that she was in need of me, and in urgent
need. I asked for an interview with our Master, and told him the story;
he heard me gravely, and then said that I might go in search of her; but
I was not sure that he was wholly pleased, and he bent his eyes upon me
with a very inquiring look. I hesitated whether or not to call Amroth to
my aid, but decided that I had better not do so at first. The question
was how to find her; the great crags lay between me and the land of
delight; and when I hurried out of the college, the thought of the
descent and its dangers fairly unmanned me. I knew, however, of no other
way. But what was my surprise when, on arriving at the top, not far from
the point where Amroth had greeted me after the ascent, I saw a little
steep path, which wound itself down into the gulleys and chimneys of the
black rocks. I took it without hesitation, and though again and again it
seemed to come to an end in front of me, I found that it could be traced
and followed without serious difficulty. The descent was accomplished
with a singular rapidity, and I marvelled to find myself at the
crag-base in so brief a time, considering the intolerable tedium of the
ascent. I rapidly crossed the intervening valley, and was very soon at
the gate of the careless land. To my intense joy, and not at all to my
surprise, I found Cynthia at the gate itself, waiting for me with a
look of expectancy. She came forwards, and threw herself passionately
into my arms, murmuring words of delight and welcome, like a child.

"I knew you would come," she said. "I am frightened--all sorts of
dreadful things have happened. I have found out where I am--and I seem
to have lost all my friends. Charmides is gone, and Lucius is cruel to
me--he tells me that I have lost my spirits and my good looks, and am
tiresome company."

I looked at her--she was paler and frailer-looking than when I left her;
and she was habited very differently, in simpler and graver dress. But
she was to my eyes infinitely more beautiful and dearer, and I told her
so. She smiled at that, but half tearfully; and we seated ourselves on a
bench hard by, looking over the garden, which was strangely and
luxuriantly beautiful.

"You must take me away with you at once," she said. "I cannot live here
without you. I thought at first, when you went, that it was rather a
relief not to have your grave face at my shoulder,"--here she took my
face in her hands--"always reminding me of something I did not want, and
ought to have wanted--but oh, how I began to miss you! and then I got so
tired of this silly, lazy place, and all the music and jokes and
compliments. But I am a worthless creature, and not good for anything. I
cannot work, and I hate being idle. Take me anywhere, _make_ me do
something, beat me if you like, only force me to be different from what
I am."

"Very well," I said. "I will give you a good beating presently, of
course, but just let me consider what will hurt you most, silly child!"

"That is it," she said. "I want to be hurt and bruised, and shaken as my
nurse used to shake me, when I was a naughty child. Oh dear, oh dear,
how wretched I am!" and poor Cynthia laid her head on my shoulder and
burst into tears.

"Come, come," I said, "you must not do that--I want my wits about me;
but if you cry, you will simply make a fool of me--and this is no time
for love-making."

"Then you do really _care_", said Cynthia in a quieter tone. "That is
all I want to know! I want to be with you, and see you every hour and
every minute. I can't help saying it, though it is really very
undignified for me to be making love to you. I did many silly things on
earth, but never anything quite so feeble as that!"

I felt myself fairly bewildered by the situation. My psychology did not
seem to help me; and here at least was something to love and rescue. I
will say frankly that, in my stupidity and superiority, I did not really
think of loving Cynthia in the way in which she needed to be loved. She
was to me, with all my grave concerns and problems, as a charming and
intelligent child, with whom I could not even speak of half the thoughts
which absorbed me. So I just held her in my arms, and comforted her as
best I could; but what to do and where to bestow her I could not tell.
I saw that her time to leave the place of desire had come, but what she
could turn to I could not conceive.

Suddenly I looked up, and saw Lucius approaching, evidently in a very
angry mood.

"So this is the end of all our amusement?" he said, as he came near.
"You bring Cynthia here in your tiresome, condescending way, you live
among us like an almighty prig, smiling gravely at our fun, and then you
go off when it is convenient to yourself; and then, when you want a
little recreation, you come and sit here in a corner and hug your
darling, when you have never given her a thought of late. You _know_
that is true," he added menacingly.

"Yes," I said, "it is true! I went of my own will, and I have come back
of my own will; and you have all been out of my thoughts, because I have
had much work to do. But what of that? Cynthia wants me and I have come
back to her, and I will do whatever she desires. It is no good
threatening me, Lucius--there is nothing you can do or say that will
have the smallest effect on me."

"We will see about that," said Lucius. "None of your airs here! We are
peaceful enough when we are respectfully and fairly treated, but we have
our own laws, and no one shall break them with impunity. We will have no
half-hearted fools here. If you come among us with your damned
missionary airs, you shall have what I expect you call the crown of
martyrdom."

He whistled loud and shrill. Half-a-dozen men sprang from the bushes and
flung themselves upon me. I struggled, but was overpowered, and dragged
away. The last sight I had was of Lucius standing with a disdainful
smile, with Cynthia clinging to his arm; and to my horror and disgust
she was smiling too.



XXVII


I had somehow never expected to be used with positive violence in the
world of spirits, and least of all in that lazy and good-natured place.
Considering, too, the errand on which I had come, not for my own
convenience but for the sake of another, my treatment seemed to me very
hard. What was still more humiliating was the fact that my spirit seemed
just as powerless in the hands of these ruffians as my body would have
been on earth. I was pushed, hustled, insulted, hurt. I could have
summoned Amroth to my aid, but I felt too proud for that; yet the
thought of the cragmen, and the possibility of the second death, did
visit my mind with dismal iteration. I did not at all desire a further
death; I felt very much alive, and full of interest and energy. Worst
of all was my sense that Cynthia had gone over to the enemy. I had been
so loftily kind with her, that I much resented having appeared in her
sight as feeble and ridiculous. It is difficult to preserve any dignity
of demeanour or thought, with a man's hand at one's neck and his knee in
one's back: and I felt that Lucius had displayed a really Satanical
malignity in using this particular means of degrading me in Cynthia's
sight, and of regaining his own lost influence.

I was thrust and driven before my captors along an alley in the garden,
and what added to my discomfiture was that a good many people ran
together to see us pass, and watched me with decided amusement. I was
taken finally to a little pavilion of stone, with heavily barred
windows, and a flagged marble floor. The room was absolutely bare, and
contained neither seat nor table. Into this I was thrust, with some
obscene jesting, and the door was locked upon me.

The time passed very heavily. At intervals I heard music burst out
among the alleys, and a good many people came to peep in upon me
with an amused curiosity. I was entirely bewildered by my position,
and did not see what I could have done to have incurred my punishment.
But in the solitary hours that followed I began to have a suspicion
of my fault. I had found myself hitherto the object of so much attention
and praise, that I had developed a strong sense of complacency and
self-satisfaction. I had an uncomfortable suspicion that there was even
more behind, but I could not, by interrogating my mind and searching out
my spirits, make out clearly what it was; yet I felt I was having a
sharp lesson; and this made me resolve that I would ask for no kind of
assistance from Amroth or any other power, but that I would try to meet
whatever fell upon me with patience, and extract the full savour of my
experience.

I do not know how long I spent in the dismal cell. I was in some
discomfort from the handling I had received, and in still greater
dejection of mind. Suddenly I heard footsteps approaching. Three of my
captors appeared, and told me roughly to go with them. So, a pitiable
figure, I limped along between two of them, the third following behind,
and was conducted through the central piazza of the place, between two
lines of people who gave way to the most undisguised merriment, and even
shouted opprobrious remarks at me, calling me spy and traitor and other
unpleasant names. I could not have believed that these kind-mannered and
courteous persons could have exhibited, all of a sudden, such frank
brutality, and I saw many of my own acquaintance among them, who
regarded me with obvious derision.

I was taken into a big hall, in which I had often sat to hear a concert
of music. On the dais at the upper end were seated a number of dignified
persons, in a semicircle, with a very handsome and stately old man in
the centre on a chair of state, whose face was new to me. Before this
Court I was formally arraigned; I had to stand alone in the middle of
the floor, in an open space. Two of my captors stood on each side of me;
while the rest of the court was densely packed with people, who greeted
me with obvious hostility.

When silence was procured, the President said to me, with a show of
great courtesy, that he could not disguise from himself that the charge
against me was a serious one; but that justice would be done to me,
fully and carefully. I should have ample opportunity to excuse myself.
He then called upon one of those who sat with him to state the case
briefly, and call witnesses and after that he promised I might speak for
myself.

A man rose from one of the seats, and, pleading somewhat rhetorically,
said that the object of the great community, to which so many were proud
to belong, was to secure to all the utmost amount of innocent
enjoyment, and the most entire peace of mind; that no pressure was put
upon any one who decided to stay there, and to observe the quiet customs
of the place; but that it was always considered a heinous and
ill-disposed thing to attempt to unsettle any one's convictions, or to
attempt, by using undue influence, to bring about the migration of any
citizen to conditions of which little was known, but which there was
reason to believe were distinctly undesirable.

"We are, above all," he said, "a religious community; our rites and our
ceremonies are privileges open to all; we compel no one to attend them;
all that we insist is that no one, by restless innovation or cynical
contempt, should attempt to disturb the emotions of serene
contemplation, distinguished courtesy, and artistic feeling, for which
our society has been so long and justly celebrated."

This was received with loud applause, indulgently checked by the
President. Some witnesses were then called, who testified to the
indifference and restlessness which I had on many occasions manifested.
It was brought up against me that I had provoked a much-respected member
of the community, Charmides, to utter some very treasonous and
unpleasant language, and that it was believed that the rash and unhappy
step, which he had lately taken, of leaving the place, had been entirely
or mainly the result of my discontented and ill-advised suggestion.

Then Lucius himself, wearing an air of extreme gravity and even
despondency, was called, and a murmur of sympathy ran through the
audience. Lucius, apparently struggling with deep emotion, said that he
bore me no actual ill-will; that on my first arrival he had done his
best to welcome me and make me feel at home; that it was probably known
to all that I had been accompanied by an accomplished and justly popular
lady, whom I had openly treated with scanty civility and undisguised
contempt. That he had himself, under the laws of the place, contracted
a close alliance with my unhappy protégée, and that their union had been
duly accredited; but that I had lost no opportunity of attempting to
undermine his happiness, and to maintain an unwholesome influence over
her. That I had at last left the place myself, with a most uncivil
abruptness; during the interval of absence my occupations were believed
to have been of the most dubious character: it was more than suspected,
indeed, that I had penetrated to places, the very name of which could
hardly be mentioned without shame and consternation. That my associates
had been persons of the vilest character and the most brutal
antecedents; and at last, feeling in need of distraction, I had again
returned with the deliberate intention of seducing his unhappy partner
into accompanying me to one or other of the abandoned places I had
visited. He added that Cynthia had been so much overcome by her emotion,
and her natural compassion for an old acquaintance, that he had
persuaded her not to subject herself to the painful strain of an
appearance in public; but that for this action he threw himself upon the
mercy of the Court, who would know that it was only dictated by
chivalrous motives.

At this there was subdued applause, and Lucius, after adding a few
broken words to the effect that he lived only for the maintenance of
order, peace, and happiness, and that he was devoted heart and soul to
the best interests of the community, completely broke down, and was
assisted from his place by friends.

The whole thing was so malignant and ingenious a travesty of what had
happened, that I was entirely at a loss to know what to say. The
President, however, courteously intimated that though the case appeared
to present a good many very unsatisfactory features, yet I was entirely
at liberty to justify myself if I could, and, if not, to make
submission; and added that I should be dealt with as leniently as
possible.

I summoned up my courage as well as I might. I began by saying that I
claimed no more than the liberty of thought and action which I knew the
Court desired to concede. I said that my arrival at the place was
mysterious even to myself, and that I had simply acted under orders in
accompanying Cynthia, and in seeing that she was securely bestowed. I
said that I had never incited any rebellion, or any disobedience to laws
of the scope of which I had never been informed. That I had indeed
frankly discussed matters of general interest with any citizen who
seemed to desire it; that I had been always treated with marked
consideration and courtesy; and that, as far as I was aware, I had
always followed the same policy myself. I said that I was sincerely
attached to Cynthia, but added that, with all due respect, I could no
longer consider myself a member of the community. I had transferred
myself elsewhere under direct orders, with my own entire concurrence,
and that I had since acted in accordance with the customs and
regulations of the community to which I had been allotted. I went on to
say that I had returned under the impression that my presence was
desired by Cynthia, and that I must protest with all my power against
the treatment I had received. I had been arrested and imprisoned with
much violence and contumely, without having had any opportunity of
hearing what my offence was supposed to have been, or having had any
semblance of a trial, and that I could not consider that my usage had
been consistent with the theory of courtesy, order, or justice so
eloquently described by the President.

This onslaught of mine produced an obvious revulsion in my favour. The
President conferred hastily with his colleagues, and then said that my
arrest had indeed been made upon the information of Lucius, and with the
cognisance of the Court; but that he sincerely regretted that I had any
complaint of unhandsome usage to make, and that the matter would be
certainly inquired into. He then added that he understood from my words
that I desired to make a complete submission, and that in that case I
should be acquitted of any evil intentions. My fault appeared to be that
I had yielded too easily to the promptings of an ill-balanced and
speculative disposition, and that if I would undertake to disturb no
longer the peace of the place, and to desist from all further tampering
with the domestic happiness of a much-respected pair, I should be
discharged with a caution, and indeed be admitted again to the
privileges of orderly residence.

"And I will undertake to say," he added, "that the kindness and courtesy
of our community will overlook your fault, and make no further reference
to a course of conduct which appears to have been misguided rather than
deliberately malevolent. We have every desire not to disturb in any way
the tranquillity which it is, above all things, our desire to maintain.
May I conclude, then, that this is your intention?"

"No, sir," I said, "certainly not! With all due respect to the Court,
I cannot submit to the jurisdiction. The only privilege I claim is the
privilege of an alien and a stranger, who in a perfectly peaceful
manner, and with no seditious intent, has re-entered this land, and has
thereupon been treated with gross and unjust violence. I do not for a
moment contest the right of this community to make its own laws and
regulations, but I do contest its right to fetter the thought and the
liberty of speech of all who enter it. I make no submission. The Lady
Cynthia came here under my protection, and if any undue influence has
been used, it has been used by Lucius, whom I treated with a confidence
he has abused. And I here appeal to a higher power and a higher court,
which may indeed permit this unhappy community to make its own
regulations, but will not permit any gross violation of elementary
justice."

I was carried away by great indignation in the course of my words, which
had a very startling effect. A large number of the audience left the
hall in haste. The judge grew white to the lips, whether with anger or
fear I did not know, said a few words to his neighbour, and then with a
great effort to control himself, said to me:

"You put us, sir, by your words, in a very painful position. You do not
know the conditions under which we live--that is evident--and
intemperate language like yours has before now provoked an invasion of
our peace of a most undesirable kind. I entreat you to calm yourself, to
accept the apologies of the Court for the incidental and indeed
unjustifiable violence with which you were treated. If you will only
return to your own community, the nature of which I will not now stay to
inquire, you may be assured that you will be conducted to our gates with
the utmost honour. Will you pledge yourself as a gentleman, and, as I
believe I am right in saying, as a Christian, to do this?"

"Yes," I said, "upon one condition: that I may have an interview with
the Lady Cynthia, and that she may be free to accompany me, if she
wishes."

The President was about to reply, when a sudden and unlooked-for
interruption occurred. A man in a pearly-grey dress, with a cloak
clasped with gold, came in at the end of the hall, and advanced with
rapid steps and a curiously unconcerned air up the hall. The judges rose
in their places with a hurried and disconcerted look. The stranger came
up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and bade me presently follow him.
Then he turned to the President, and said in a clear, peremptory voice:

"Dissolve the Court! Your powers have been grossly and insolently
exceeded. See that nothing of this sort occurs again!" and then,
ascending the dais, he struck the President with his open hand hard upon
the cheek.

The President gave a stifled cry and staggered in his place, and then,
covering his face with his hands, went out at a door on the platform,
followed by the rest of the Council in haste. Then the man came down
again, and motioned me to follow him. I was not prepared for what
happened. Outside in the square was a great, pale, silent crowd, in the
most obvious and dreadful excitement and consternation. We went rapidly,
in absolute stillness, through two lines of people, who watched us with
an emotion I could not quite interpret, but it was something very like
hatred.

"Follow me quickly," said my guide; "do not look round!" and, as we
went, I heard the crowd closing up in a menacing way behind us. But we
walked straight forward, neither slowly nor hurriedly but at a
deliberate pace, to the gateway which opened on the cliffs. At this
point I saw a confusion in the crowd, as though some one were being kept
back, and in the forefront of the throng, gesticulating and arguing,
was Lucius himself, with his back to us. Just as we reached the gate I
heard a cry; and from the crowd there ran Cynthia, with her hair
unbound, in terror and faintness. Our guide opened the gate, and
motioned us swiftly through, turning round to face the crowd, which now
ran in upon us. I saw him wave his arm; and then he came quickly through
the gate and closed it. He looked at us with a smile. "Don't be afraid,"
he said; "that was a dangerous business. But they cannot touch us here."
As he said the word, there burst from the gardens behind us a storm of
the most hideous and horrible cries I had ever heard, like the howling
of wild beasts. Cynthia clung to me in terror, and nearly swooned in my
arms. "Never mind," said the guide; "they are disappointed, and no
wonder. It was a near thing; but, poor creatures, they have no
initiative; their life is not a fortifying one; and besides, they will
have forgotten all about it to-morrow. Rut we had better not stop here.
There is no use in facing disagreeable things, unless one is obliged."
And he led the way down the valley.

When we had got a little farther off, our guide told us to sit down and
rest. Cynthia was still very much frightened, speechless with excitement
and agitation, and, like all impulsive people, regretting her decision.
I saw that it was useless to say anything to her at present. She sat
wearily enough, her eyes closed, and her hands clasped. Our guide looked
at me with a half-smile, and said:

"That was rather an unpleasant business! It is astonishing how excited
those placid and polite people can get if they think their privileges
are being threatened. But really that Court was rather too much. They
have tried it before with some success, and it is a clever trick. But
they have had a lesson to-day, and it will not need to be repeated for a
while."

"You arrived just at the right moment," I said, "and I really cannot
express how grateful I am to you for your help."

"Oh," he said, "you were quite safe. It was just that touch of temper
that saved you; but I was hard by all the time, to see that things did
not go too far."

"May I ask," I said, "exactly what they could have done to me, and what
their real power is?"

"They have none at all," he said. "They could not really have done
anything to you, except imprison you. What helps them is not their own
power, which is nothing, but the terror of their victims. If you had not
been frightened when you were first attacked, they could not have
overpowered you. It is all a kind of playacting, which they perform with
remarkable skill. The Court was really an admirable piece of drama--they
have a great gift for representation."

"Do you mean to say," I said, "that they were actually aware that they
had no sort of power to inflict any injury upon me?"

"They could have made it very disagreeable for you," he said, "if they
had frightened you, and kept you frightened. As long as that lasted,
you would have been extremely uncomfortable. But as you saw, the moment
you defied them they were helpless. The part played by Lucius was really
unpardonable. I am afraid he is a great rascal."

Cynthia faintly demurred to this. "Never mind," said the guide
soothingly, "he has only shown you his good side, of course; and I don't
deny that he is a very clever and attractive fellow. But he makes no
progress, and I am really afraid that he will have to be transferred
elsewhere; though there is indeed one hope for him."

"Tell me what that is," said Cynthia faintly.

"I don't think I need do that," said our friend, "you know better than
I; and some day, I think, when you are stronger, you will find the way
to release him."

"Ah, you don't know him as I do," said Cynthia, and relapsed into
silence; but did not withdraw her hand from mine.

"Well," said our guide after a moment's pause, "I think I have done all
I can for the time being, and I am wanted elsewhere."

"But will you not advise me what to do next?" I said. "I do not see my
way clear."

"No," said the guide rather drily, "I am afraid I cannot do that. That
lies outside my province. These delicate questions are not in my line. I
will tell you plainly what I am. I am just a messenger, perhaps more
like a policeman," he added, smiling, "than anything else. I just go and
appear when I am wanted, if there is a row or a chance of one. Don't
misunderstand me!" he said more kindly. "It is not from any lack of
interest in you or our friend here. I should very much like to know what
step you will take, but it is simply not my business: our duties here
are very clearly defined, and I can just do my job, and nothing more."

He made a courteous salute, and walked off without looking back, leaving
on me the impression of a young military officer, perfectly courteous
and reliable, not inclined to cultivate his emotions or to waste words,
but absolutely effective, courageous, and dutiful.

"Well," I said to Cynthia with a show of cheerfulness, "what shall we do
next? Are you feeling strong enough to go on?"

"I am sure I don't know," said Cynthia wearily. "Don't ask me. I have
had a great fright, and I begin to wish I had stayed behind. How
uncomfortable everything is! Why can one never have a moment's peace?
There," she said to me, "don't be vexed, I am not blaming you; but I
hated you for not showing more fight when those men set on you, and I
hated Lucius for having done it; you must forgive me! I am sure you only
did what was kind and right--but I have had a very trying time, and I
don't like these bothers. Let me alone for a little, and I daresay I
shall be more sensible."

I sat by her in much perplexity, feeling singularly helpless and
ineffective; and in a moment of weakness, not knowing what to do, I
wished that Amroth were near me, to advise me; and to my relief saw him
approaching, but also realised in a flash that I had acted wrongly, and
that he was angry, as I had never seen him before.

He came up to us, and bending down to Cynthia with great tenderness,
took her hand, and said, "Will you stay here quietly a little, Cynthia,
and rest? You are perfectly safe now, and no one will come near you. We
two shall be close at hand; but we must have a talk together, and see
what can be done."

Cynthia smiled and released me. Amroth beckoned me to withdraw with him.
When we had got out of earshot, he turned upon me very fiercely, and
said, "You have made a great mess of this business."

"I know it," I said feebly, "but I cannot for the life of me see where I
was wrong."

"You were wrong from beginning to end," he said. "Cannot you see that,
whatever this place is, it is not a sentimental place? It is all this
wretched sentiment that has done the mischief. Come," he added, "I have
an unpleasant task before me, to unmask you to yourself. I don't like
it, but I must do it. Don't make it harder for me."

"Very good," I said, rather angrily too. "But allow me to say this
first. This is a place of muddle. One is worked too hard, and shown too
many things, till one is hopelessly confused. But I had rather have your
criticism first, and then I will make mine."

"Very well!" said Amroth facing me, looking at me fixedly with his blue
eyes, and his nostrils a little distended. "The mischief lies in your
temperament. You are precocious, and you are volatile. You have had
special opportunities, and in a way you have used them well, but your
head has been somewhat turned by your successes. You came to that place
yonder, with Cynthia, with a sense of superiority. You thought yourself
too good for it, and instead of just trying to see into the minds and
hearts of the people you met, you despised them; instead of learning,
you tried to teach. You took a feeble interest in Cynthia, made a pet of
her; then, when I took you away, you forgot all about her. Even the
great things I was allowed to show you did not make you humble. You took
them as a compliment to your powers. And so when you had your chance to
go back to help Cynthia, you thought out no plan, you asked no advice.
You went down in a very self-sufficient mood, expecting that everything
would be easy."

"That is not true," I said. "I was very much perplexed."

"It is only too true," said Amroth; "you enjoyed your perplexity; I
daresay you called it faith to yourself! It was that which made you
weak. You lost your temper with Lucius, you made a miserable fight of
it--and even in prison you could not recognise that you were in fault.
You did better at the trial--I fully admit that you behaved well
there--but the fault is in this, that this girl gave you her heart and
her confidence, and you despised them. Your mind was taken up with other
things; a very little more, and you would be fit for the intellectual
paradise. There," he said, "I have nearly done! You may be angry if you
will, but that is the truth. You have a wrong idea of this place. It is
not plain sailing here. Life here is a very serious, very intricate,
very difficult business. The only complications which are removed are
the complications of the body; but one has anxious and trying
responsibilities all the same, and you have trifled with them. You must
not delude yourself. You have many good qualities. You have some
courage, much ingenuity, keen interests, and a good deal of
conscientiousness; but you have the makings of a dilettante, the
readiness to delude yourself that the particular little work you are
engaged in is excessively and peculiarly important. You have got the
proportion all wrong."

I had a feeling of intense anger and bitterness at all this; but as he
spoke, the scales seemed to fall from my eyes, and I saw that Amroth was
right. I wrestled with myself in silence.

Presently I said, "Amroth, I believe you are right, though I think at
this moment that you have stated all this rather harshly. But I do see
that it can be no pleasure to you to state it, though I fear I shall
never regain my pleasure in your company."

"There," said Amroth, "that is sentiment again!"

This put me into a great passion.

"Very well," I said, "I will say no more. Perhaps you will just be good
enough to tell me what I am to do with Cynthia, and where I am to go,
and then I will trouble you no longer."

"Oh," said Amroth with a sneer, "I have no doubt you can find some very
nice semidetached villas hereabouts. Why not settle down, and make the
poor girl a little mote worthy of yourself?"

At this I turned from him in great anger, and left him standing where he
was. If ever I hated any one, I hated Amroth at that moment. I went back
to Cynthia.

"I have come back to you, dear," I said. "Can you trust me and go with
me? No one here seems inclined to help us, and we must just help each
other."

At which Cynthia rose and flung herself into my arms.

"That was what I wanted all along," she said, "to feel that I could be
of use too. You will see how brave I can be. I can go anywhere with you
and do anything, because I think I have loved you all the time."

"And you must forgive me, Cynthia," I said, "as well. For I did not know
till this moment that I loved you, but I know it now; and I shall love
you to the end."

As I said these words I turned, and saw Amroth smiling from afar; then
with a wave of the hand to us, he turned and passed out of our sight.



XXVIII


Left to ourselves, Cynthia and I sat awhile in silence, hand in hand,
like children, she looking anxiously at me. Our talk had broken down all
possible reserve between us; but what was strange to me was that I felt,
not like a lover with any need to woo, but as though we two had long
since been wedded, and had just come to a knowledge of each other's
hearts. At last we rose; and strange and bewildering as it all was, I
think I was perhaps happier at this time than at any other time in the
land of light, before or after.

And let me here say a word about these strange unions of soul that take
place in that other land. There is there a whole range of affections,
from courteous tolerance to intense passion. But there is a peculiar
bond which springs up between pairs of people, not always of different
sex, in that country. My relation with Amroth had nothing of that
emotion about it. That was simply like a transcendental essence of
perfect friendship; but there was a peculiar relation, between pairs of
souls, which seems to imply some curious duality of nature, of which
earthly passion is but a symbol. It is accompanied by an absolute
clearness of vision into the inmost soul and being of the other.
Cynthia's mind was as clear to me in those days as a crystal globe might
be which one could hold in one's hand, and my mind was as clear to her.
There is a sense accompanying it almost of identity, as if the other
nature was the exact and perfect complement of one's own; I can explain
this best by an image. Think of a sphere, let us say, of alabaster,
broken into two pieces by a blow, and one piece put away or mislaid. The
first piece, let us suppose, stands in its accustomed place, and the
owner often thinks in a trivial way of having it restored. One day,
turning over some lumber, he finds the other piece, and wonders if it
is not the lost fragment. He takes it with him, and sees on applying it
that the fractures correspond exactly, and that joined together the
pieces complete the sphere.

Even so did Cynthia's soul fit into mine. But I grew to understand later
the words of the Gospel--"they neither marry nor are given in marriage."
These unions are not permanent, any more than they are really permanent
on earth. On earth, owing to material considerations such as children
and property, a marriage is looked upon as indissoluble. But this takes
no account of the development of souls; and indeed many of the unions of
earth, the passion once over, do grow into a very noble and beautiful
friendship. But sometimes, even on earth, it is the other way; and
passion once extinct, two natures often realise their dissimilarities
rather than their similarities; and this is the cause of much
unhappiness. But in the other land, two souls may develop in quite
different ways and at a different pace. And then this relation may also
come quietly and simply to an end, without the least resentment or
regret, and is succeeded invariably by a very tender and true
friendship, each being sweetly and serenely content with all that has
been given or received; and this friendship is not shaken or fretted,
even if both of the lovers form new ties of close intimacy. Some natures
form many of these ties, some few, some none at all. I believe that, as
a matter of fact, each nature has its counterpart at all times, but does
not always succeed in finding it. But the union, when it comes, seems to
take precedence of all other emotions and all other work. I did not know
this at the time; but I had a sense that my work was for a time over,
because it seemed quite plain to me that as yet Cynthia was not in the
least degree suited to the sort of work which I had been doing.

We walked on together for some time, in a happy silence, though quiet
communications of a blessed sort passed perpetually between us without
any interchange of word. Our feet moved along the hillside, away from
the crags, because I felt that Cynthia had no strength to climb them;
and I wondered what our life would be.

Presently a valley opened before us, folding quietly in among the hills,
full of a golden haze; and it seemed to me that our further way lay down
it. It fell softly and securely into a further plain, the country being
quite unlike anything I had as yet seen--a land of high and craggy
mountains, the lower parts of them much overgrown with woods; the valley
itself widened out, and passed gently among the hills, with here and
there a lake. Dotted all about the mountain-bases, at the edges of the
woods, were little white houses, stone-walled and stone-tiled, with
small gardens; and then the place seemed to become strangely familiar
and homelike; and I became aware that I was coming home: the same
thought occurred to Cynthia; and at last, when we turned a corner of
the road, and saw lying a little back from the road a small house, with
a garden in front of it, shaded by a group of sycamores, we darted
forwards with a cry of delight to the home that was indeed our own. The
door stood open as though we were certainly expected. It was the
simplest little place, just a pair of rooms very roughly and plainly
furnished. And there we embraced with tears of joy.



XXIX


The time that I spent in the valley home with Cynthia is the most
difficult to describe of all my wanderings; because, indeed, there is
nothing to describe. We were always together. Sometimes we wandered high
up among the woods, and came out on the bleak mountain-heads. Sometimes
we sat within and talked; and by a curious provision there were
phenomena there that were more like changes of weather, and interchange
of day and night, than at any other place in the heavenly country.
Sometimes the whole valley would be shrouded with mists, sometimes it
would be grey and overcast, sometimes the light was clear and radiant,
but through it all there beat a pulse of light and darkness; and I do
not know which was the more desirable--the hours when we walked in the
forests, with the wind moving softly in the leaves overhead like a
falling sea, or those calm and silent nights when we seemed to sleep and
dream, or when, if I waked, I could hear Cynthia's breath coming and
going evenly as the breath of a tired child. It seemed like the essence
of human passion, the end that lovers desire, and discern faintly behind
and beyond the accidents of sense and contact, like the sounding of a
sweet chord, without satiety or fever of the sense.

I learnt many strange and beautiful secrets of the human heart in those
days: what the dreams of womanhood are--how wholly different from the
dreams of man, in which there is always a combative element. The soul of
Cynthia was like a silent cleft among the hills, which waits, in its own
still content, until the horn of the shepherd winds the notes of a chord
in the valley below; and then the cleft makes answer and returns an airy
echo, blending the notes into a harmony of dulcet utterance. And she
too, I doubt not, learnt something from my soul, which was eager and
inventive enough, but restless and fugitive of purpose. And then there
came a further joy to us. That which is fatherly and motherly in the
world below is not a thing that is lost in heaven; and just as the love
of man and woman can draw down and imprison a soul in a body of flesh,
so in heaven the dear intention of one soul to another brings about a
yearning, which grows day by day in intensity, for some further outlet
of love and care.

It was one quiet misty morning that, as we sat together in tranquil
talk, we heard faltering steps within our garden. We had seen, let me
say, very little of the other inhabitants of our valley. We had
sometimes seen a pair of figures wandering at a distance, and we had
even met neighbours and exchanged a greeting. But the valley had no
social life of its own, and no one ever seemed, so far as we knew, to
enter any other dwelling, though they met in quiet friendliness. Cynthia
went to the door and opened it; then she darted out, and, just when I
was about to follow, she returned, leading by the hand a tiny child, who
looked at us with an air of perfect contentment and simplicity.

"Where on earth has this enchanting baby sprung from?" said Cynthia,
seating the child upon her lap, and beginning to talk to it in a
strangely unintelligible language, which the child appeared to
understand perfectly.

I laughed. "Out of our two hearts, perhaps," I said. At which Cynthia
blushed, and said that I did not understand or care for children. She
added that men's only idea about children was to think how much they
could teach them.

"Yes," I said, "we will begin lessons to-morrow, and go on to the Latin
Grammar very shortly."

At which Cynthia folded the child in her arms, to defend it, and
reassured it in a sentence which is far too silly to set down here.

I think that sometimes on earth the arrival of a first child is a very
trying time for a wedded pair. The husband is apt to find his wife's
love almost withdrawn from him, and to see her nourishing all kinds of
jealousies and vague ambitions for her child. Paternity is apt to be a
very bewildered and often rather dramatic emotion. But it was not so
with us. The child seemed the very thing we had been needing without
knowing it. It was a constant source of interest and delight; and in
spite of Cynthia's attempts to keep it ignorant and even fatuous, it did
develop a very charming intelligence, or rather, as I soon saw, began to
perceive what it already knew. It soon overwhelmed us with questions,
and used to patter about the garden with me, airing all sorts of
delicious and absurd fancies. But, for all that, it did seem to make an
end of the first utter closeness of our love. Cynthia after this seldom
went far afield, and I ranged the hills and woods alone; but it was all
absurdly and continuously happy, though I began to wonder how long it
could last, and whether my faculties and energies, such as they were,
could continue thus unused. And I had, too, in my mind that other scene
which I had beheld, of how the boy was withdrawn from the two old people
in the other valley. Was it always thus, I wondered? Was it so, that
souls were drawn upwards in ceaseless pilgrimage, loving and passing on,
and leaving in the hearts of those who stayed behind a longing
unassuaged, which was presently to draw them onwards from the peace
which they loved perhaps too well?



XXX


The serene life came all to an end very suddenly, and with no warning.
One day I had been sitting with Cynthia, and the child was playing on
the floor with some little things--stones, bits of sticks, nuts--which
it had collected. It was a mysterious game too, accompanied with much
impressive talk and gesticulations, much emphatic lecturing of
recalcitrant pebbles, with interludes of unaccountable laughter. We had
been watching the child, when Cynthia leaned across to me and said:

"There is something in your mind, dear, which I cannot quite see into.
It has been there for a long time, and I have not liked to ask you about
it. Won't you tell me what it is?"

"Yes, of course," I said; "I will tell you anything I can."

"It has nothing to do with me," said Cynthia, "nor with the child; it
is about yourself, I think; and it is not altogether a happy thought."

"It is not unhappy," I said, "because I am very happy and very
well-content. It is just this, I think. You know, don't you, how I was
being employed, before I came back, God be praised, to find you? I was
being trained, very carefully and elaborately trained, I won't say to
help people, but to be of use in a way. Well, I have been wondering why
all that was suspended and cut short, just when I seemed to be finishing
my training. I have been much happier here than I ever was before, of
course. Indeed I have been so happy that I have sometimes thought it
almost wrong that any one should have so much to enjoy. But I am
puzzled, because the other work seems thrown away. If you wonder whether
I want to leave our life here and go back to the other, of course I do
not; but I have felt idle, and like a boy turned down from a high class
at school to a low one."

"That is not very complimentary to me!" said Cynthia, laughing. "Suppose
we say a boy who has been working too hard for his health, and has been
given a long holiday?"

"Yes," I said, "that is better. It is as if a clerk was told that he
need not attend his office, but stay at home; and though it is pleasant
enough, he feels as if he ought to be at his work, that he appreciates
his home all the more when he can't sit reading the paper all the
morning, and that he does not love his home less, but rather more,
because he is away all the day."

"Yes," said Cynthia, "that is sensible enough; and I am amazed sometimes
that you can be so good and patient about it all--so content to be so
much with me and baby here; but I don't think it is quite--what shall I
say?--quite healthy either!"

"Well," I said, "I have no wish to change; and here, I am glad to think,
there is never any doubt about what one is meant to do."

And so the subject dropped.

How little I thought then that this was to be the end of the old scene,
and that the curtain was to draw up so suddenly upon a new one.

But the following morning I had been wandering contentedly enough in the
wood, watching the shafts of light strike in among the trees, upon the
glittering fronds of the ferns, and thinking idly of all my strange
experiences. I came home, and to my surprise, as I came to the door,
I heard talk going on inside. I went hastily in, and saw that Cynthia
was not alone. She was sitting, looking very grave and serious, and
wonderfully beautiful--her beauty had grown and increased in a
marvellous way of late. And there were two men, one sitting in a chair
near her and regarding her with a look of love; it was Lucius; and I saw
at a glance that he was strangely changed. He had the same spirited and
mirthful look as of old, but there was something there which I had
never seen before--the look of a man who had work of his own, and had
learned something of the perplexity and suffering of responsibility. The
other was Amroth, who was looking at the two with an air of
irrepressible amusement. When I entered, Lucius rose, and Amroth said to
me:

"Here I am again, you see, and wondering whether you can regain the
pleasure you once were kind enough to take in my company?"

"What nonsense!" I said rather shamefacedly. "How often have I blushed
in secret to think of that awful remark. But I was rather harried, you
must admit."

Amroth came across to me and put his arm through mine.

"I forgive you," he said, "and I will admit that I was very provoking;
but things were in a mess, and, besides, it was very inconvenient for me
to be called away at that moment from my job!"

But Lucius came up to me and said:

"I have come to apologise to you. My behaviour was hideous and horrible.
I won't make any excuses, and I don't suppose you can ever forget what I
did. I was utterly and entirely in the wrong."

"Thank you, Lucius," I said. "But please say no more about it. My own
behaviour on that occasion was infamous too. And really we need not go
back on all that. The whole affair has become quite an agreeable
reminiscence. It is a pleasure, when it is all over, to have been
thoroughly and wholesomely shown up, and to discover that one has been a
pompous and priggish ass. And you and Amroth between you did me that
blessed turn. I am not quite sure which of you I hated most. But I may
say one thing, and that is that I am heartily glad to see you have left
the land of delight."

"It was a tedious place really," said Lucius, "but one felt bound in
honour to make the best of it. But indeed after that day it was
horrible. And I wearied for a sight of Cynthia! But you seem to have
done very well for yourselves here. May I venture to say frankly how
well she is looking, and you too? But I am not going to interrupt you.
I have got my billet, I am thankful to say. It is not a very exalted one,
but it is better than I deserve; and I shall try to make up for wasted
time."

"Hear, hear!" said Amroth; "a very creditable sentiment, to be sure!"

Lucius smiled and blushed. Then he said:

"I never was much of a hand at expressing myself correctly; but you know
what I mean. Don't take the wind out of my sails!"

And then Amroth turned to me, and said suddenly:

"And now I have something else to tell you, and not wholly good news; so
I will just say it at once, without beating about the bush. You are to
come with us too."

Cynthia looked up suddenly with a glance of pale inquiry. Amroth took
her hand.

"No, dear child," he said, "you are not to accompany him. You must stay
here awhile, until the child is grown. But don't look like that! There
is no such thing as separation here, or anywhere. Don't make it harder
for us all. It is unpleasant of course; but, good heavens, what would
become of us all if it were not for that! How dull we should be without
suffering!"

"Yes, yes," said Cynthia, "I know--and I will say nothing against it.
But--" and she burst into tears.

"Come, come," said Amroth cheerfully, "we must not go back to the old
days, and behave as if there were partings and funerals. I will give you
five minutes alone to say good-bye. Lucius, we must start," and, turning
to me, he said, "Meet us in five minutes by the oak-tree in the road."

They went out, Lucius kissing Cynthia's hand in silence.

Cynthia came up to me and put her arms round my neck and her cheek to
mine. We sobbed, I fear, like two children.

"Don't forget me, dearest," she said.

"My darling, what a word!" I said.

"Oh, how happy we have been together!" she said.

"Yes, and shall be happier still," I said.

And then with more words and signs of love, too sacred even to be
written down, we parted. It was over. I looked back once, and saw my
darling gather the child to her heart, and look up once more at me. Then
I closed the door; something seemed to surge up in my heart and
overwhelm me; and then the ring on my finger sent a sharp pang through
my whole frame, which recalled me to myself. And I say it with all the
strength of my spirit, I saw how joyful a thing it was to suffer and
grieve. I came down to the oak. The two were waiting in silence, and
Lucius seemed to be in tears. Amroth put his arm through mine.

"Come, brother," he said, "that was a bad business; I won't pretend
otherwise; but these things had better come swiftly."

"Yes," said Lucius, "but it is a cruel affair, and I can't say
otherwise. Why cannot God leave us alone?"

"Lucius," said Amroth very gravely, "here you may say and think as you
will--and the thoughts of the heart are best uttered. But one must not
blaspheme."

"No, no," said Lucius, "I was wrong. I ought not to have spoken so. And
indeed I know in my heart that somehow, far off, it is well. But I was
thinking," he said, turning to me, and grasping my hand in both of his
own, "not of you, but of Cynthia. I am glad with all my heart that you
took her from me, and have made her happy. But what miserable creatures
we all are; and how much more miserable we should be if we were not
miserable!"

And then we started. It was a dreary hour that, full of deep and gnawing
pain. I pictured to myself Cynthia at every moment, what she was doing
and thinking; how swiftly the good days had flown; how perfectly happy
I had been; and so my wretched silent reverie went on.

"I must say," said Amroth at length, breaking a dismal silence, "that
this is very tedious. Can't you take some interest? I have very
disagreeable things to do, but that is no reason why I should be bored
as well!" And he then set himself to talk with much zest of all my old
friends and companions, telling me how each was faring. Charmides, it
seemed, had become a very accomplished architect and designer; Philip
was a teacher at the College. And he went on until, in spite of my
heaviness, I felt the whole of life beginning to widen and vibrate all
about me, and a sense almost of shame creeping into my mind that I had
become so oblivious of all the other friendships and relations I had
formed. I forced myself to talk and to ask questions, and found myself
walking more briskly. It was not very long before we parted with Lucius.
He was left at the doors of a great barrack-like like building, and
Amroth told me he was to be employed as an officer, very much in the
same way as the young man who was sent to conduct me away from the
trial; and I felt what a good officer Lucius would make--smart, prompt,
polite, and not in the least sentimental.

So we went on together rather gloomily; and then Amroth let me look for
a little deep into his heart; and I saw that it was filled with a kind
of noble pity for me in my suffering; but behind the pity lay that
blissful certainty which made Amroth so light-hearted, that it was just
so, through suffering, that one became wise; and he could no more think
of it as irksome or sad than a jolly undergraduate thinks of the
training for a race or the rowing in the race as painful, but takes it
all with a kind of high-hearted zest, and finds even the nervousness an
exciting thing, life lived at high pressure in a crowded hour.



XXXI


And thus we came ourselves to a new place, though I took but little note
of all we passed, for my mind was bent inward upon itself and upon
Cynthia. The place was a great solid stone building, in many courts,
with fine tree-shaded fields all about; a school, it seemed to me, with
boys and girls going in and out, playing games together. Amroth told me
that children were bestowed here who had been of naturally fine and
frank dispositions, but who had lived their life on earth under foul and
cramped conditions, by which they had been fretted rather than tainted.
It seemed a very happy and busy place. Amroth took me into a great room
that seemed a sort of library or common-room. There was no one there,
and I was glad to sit and rest; when suddenly the door opened, and a man
came in with outstretched hands and a smile of welcome. I looked up,
and it was none but the oldest and dearest friend of my last life, who
had died before me. He had been a teacher, a man of the simplest and
most guileless life, whose whole energy and delight was given to
teaching and loving the young. The surprising thing about him had always
been that he could meet one, after a long silence or a suspension of
intercourse, as simply and easily as if one had but left him the day
before; and it was just the same here. There was no effusiveness of
greeting--we just fell at once into the old familiar talk.

"You are just the same," I said to him, looking at the burly figure, the
big, almost clumsy, head, and the irradiating smile. His great charm had
always been an entire unworldliness and absence of ambition.

He smiled at this and said:

"Yes, I am afraid I am too easy-going." He had never cared to talk about
himself, and now he said, "Well, yes, I go along in my old prosy way.
It is just like the old schooldays, with half the difficulties gone. Of
course the children are not always good, but that makes it the more
amusing; and one can see much more easily what they are thinking of and
dreaming about."

I found myself telling him my adventures, which he heard with the same
quiet attention and I was sure that he would never forget a single
point--he never forgot anything in the old days.

"Yes," he said at the end, "that's a wonderful story. You always had the
trouble of the adventures, and I had the fun of hearing them."

He asked me what I was now going to do, and I said that I had not the
least idea.

"Oh, that will be all right," he said.

It was all so comfortable and simple, so obvious indeed, that I laughed
to think of the bitter and miserable reveries I had indulged in when he
was taken from me, and when the stay of my life seemed gone. The whole
incident seemed to give me back a touch of the serenity which I had
lost, and I saw how beautifully this joy of meeting had been planned for
me, when I wanted it most. Presently he said that he must go off for a
lesson, and asked me to come with him and see the children. We went into
a big class-room, where some boys and girls were assembling. Here he was
exactly the same as ever; no sentiment, but just a kind of bluff
paternal kindness. The lesson was most informal--a good deal of
questioning and answering; it was a biographical lecture, but devoted,
I saw, in a simple way, to tracing the development of the hero's
character. "What made him do that?" was a constant question. The answers
were most ingenious and extraordinarily lively; but the order was
perfect. At the end he called up two or three children who had shown
some impatience or jealousy in the lesson, and said a few half-humorous
words to them, with an air of affectionate interest.

"They are jolly little creatures," he said when they had all gone out.

"Yes," I said, with a sigh, "I do indeed envy you. I wish I could be set
to something of the kind."

"Oh, no, you don't," he said; "this is too simple for you! You want
something more artistic and more psychological. This would bore you to
extinction."

We walked all round the place, saw the games going on, and were
presently joined by Amroth, who seemed to be on terms of old
acquaintanceship with my friend. I was surprised at this, and he said:

"Why, yes, Amroth had the pleasure of bringing me here too. Things are
done here in groups, you know; and Amroth knows all about our lot. It is
very well organised, much better than one perceives at first. You
remember how you and I drifted to school together, and the set of boys
we found ourselves with--my word, what young ruffians some of us were!
Well, of course all that had been planned, though we did not know it."

"What!" said I; "the evil as well as the good?"

The two looked at each other and smiled.

"That is not a very real distinction," said Amroth. "Of course the poor
bodies got in the way, as always; there was some fizzing and some
precipitation, as they say in chemistry. But you each of you gave and
received just what you were meant to give and receive; though these are
complicated matters, like the higher mathematics; and we must not talk
of them to-day. If one can escape the being shocked at things and yet be
untainted by them, and, on the other hand, if one can avoid pomposity
and yet learn self-respect, that is enough. But you are tired to-day,
and I want you just to rest and be refreshed."

Presently Amroth asked me if I should like to stay there awhile, and I
most willingly consented.

"You want something to do," he said, "and you shall have some light
employment."

That same day, before Amroth left me, I had a curious talk with him.

I said to him: "Let me ask you one question. I had always had a sort of
hope that when I came to the land of spirits, I should have a chance of
seeing and hearing something of some of the great souls of earth. I had
dimly imagined a sort of reception, where one could wander about and
listen to the talk of the men one had admired and longed to see--Plato,
let me say, and Shakespeare, Walter Scott, and Shelley--some of the
immortals. But I don't seem to have seen anything of them--only just
ordinary and simple people."

Amroth laughed.

"You do say the most extraordinarily ingenuous things," he said. "In the
first place, of course, we have quite a different scale of values here.
People do not take rank by their accomplishments, but by their power of
loving. Many of the great men of earth--and this is particularly the
case with writers and artists--are absolutely nothing here. They had, it
is true, a fine and delicate brain, on which they played with great
skill; but half the artists of the world are great as artists, simply
because they do not care. They perceive and they express; but they would
not have the heart to do it at all, if they really cared. Some of them,
no doubt, were men of great hearts, and they have their place and work.
But to claim to see all the highest spirits together is as absurd as if
you called on a doctor in London at eleven o'clock and expected to meet
all the great physicians at his house, intent on general conversation.
Some of the great people, indeed, you have met, and they were very
simple persons on earth. The greatest person you have hitherto seen was
a butler on earth--the master of your College. And if it does not shock
your aristocratic susceptibilities too much, the President of this place
kept a small shop in a country village. But one of the teachers here
was actually a marquis in the world! Does that uplift you? He teaches
the little girls how to play cricket, and he is a very good dancer.
Perhaps you would like to be introduced to him?"

"Don't treat me as a child," I said, rather pettishly.

"No, no," said Amroth, "it isn't that. But you are one of those
impressible people; and they always find it harder to disentangle
themselves from the old ideas."

I spent a long and happy time in the school. I was given a little
teaching to do, and found it perfectly enchanting. Imagine children with
everything greedy and sensual gone, with none of the crossness or
spitefulness that comes of fatigue or pressure, but with all the
interesting passions of humanity, admiration, keenness, curiosity, and
even jealousy, emulation, and anger, all alive and active in them. They
were not angelic children at all, neither meek nor mild. But they were
generous and affectionate, and it was easy to evoke these feelings. The
one thing absent from the whole place was any touch of sentimentality,
which arises from natural affections suppressed into a giggling kind of
secrecy. They expressed affection loudly and frankly, just as they
expressed indignation and annoyance. All the while I kept Cynthia in my
heart; she was ever before me in a thousand sweet postures and with
innumerable glances. But I saw much of my sturdy and wholesome-minded
old friend; and the sore pain of parting faded away out of my heart, and
left me with nothing but the purest and deepest love, which helped me in
all I did or said, and made me patient and tender-hearted. And thus the
period sped not unhappily away, though I had my times of agony and
despair.



XXXII


I became aware at this time, very gradually and even solemnly, that some
crisis of my life was approaching. How the monition came to me I hardly
know; I felt like a man wandering in the dark, with eyes strained and
hands outstretched, who is dimly aware of some great object, tree or
haystack or house, looming up ahead of him, which he cannot directly
see, but of which he is yet conscious by the vibration of some sixth
sense. The wonder came by degrees to overshadow my thoughts with a sense
of expectant awe, and to permeate all the urgent concerns of my life
with its shadowy presence. Even the thought of Cynthia, who indeed was
always in my mind, became obscured with the dimness of this obscure
anticipation.

One day Amroth stood beside me as I worked; he was very grave and
serious, but with a joyful kind of courage about him. I pushed my books
and papers away, and rose to greet him, saying half-unconsciously, and
just putting my thought into words:

"So it has come!"

"Yes," said Amroth, "it has come! I have known it for some little time,
and my thought has mingled with yours. I tell you frankly that I did
not quite expect it; but one never knows here. You must come with me at
once. You are to see the last mystery; and though I am glad for your
sake that it is come, yet I tremble for you, because it is unlike any
other experience; and one can never be the same again."

I felt myself oppressed by a sudden terror of darkness, but, half to
reassure myself, I answered lightly:

"But it does not seem to have affected you, Amroth! You are always
light-hearted and cheerful, and not overshadowed by any dark or gloomy
thoughts."

"Yes, yes," said Amroth hurriedly. "It is easy enough, when it is once
over. Nothing that is behind one matters; but this is a thing that one
cannot jest about. Of course there is nothing to fear; but to be brought
face to face with the greatest thing in the world is not a light matter.
Let me say this. I am to be with you all through; and my only word to
you is that you must do exactly what I tell you, and at once, without
any doubting or flinching. Then all will be well! But we must not delay.
Come at once, and keep your mind perfectly quiet."

We went out together; and there seemed to have fallen a sense of gravity
over all whom we met. My companions did not speak to me as we walked
out, but stood aside to see me pass, and even looked at me, I thought,
with an air half of reverence, half of a sort of natural compassion, as
one might watch a dear friend go to be tried for his life.

We came out of the door, and found, it seemed to me, an unusual
stillness everywhere. The wind, which often blew high on the bare moor,
had dropped. We took a path, which I had never seen, which struck off
over the hills. We walked for a long time, almost in silence. But I
could not bear the strange curiosity which was straining at my heart,
and I said presently to Amroth:

"Give me some idea what I am to see or to endure. Is it some judgment
which I am to face, or am I to suffer pain? I would rather know the best
and the worst of it."

"It is everything," said Amroth; "you are to see God. All is comprised
in that."

His words fell with a shocking distinctness in the calm air, and I felt
my heart and limbs fail me, and a dizziness came over my mind. Hardly
knowing what I did or said, I came to a stop.

"But I did not know that it was possible," I said. "I thought that God
was everywhere--within us, about us, beyond us? How can that be?"

"Yes," said Amroth, "God is indeed everywhere, and no place contains
Him; neither can any of us see or comprehend Him. I cannot explain
it; but there is a centre, so to speak, near to which the unclean
and the evil cannot come, where the fire of His thought burns the
hottest.... Oh," he said, "neither word nor thought is of any use here;
you will see what you will see!"

Perhaps the hardest thing I had to bear in all my wanderings was the
sight of Amroth's own fear. It was unmistakable. His spirit seemed
prepared for it, perfectly courageous and sincere as it was; but there
was a shuddering awe upon him, for all that, which infected me with an
extremity of terror. Was it that he thought me unequal to the
experience? I could not tell. But we walked as men dragging themselves
into some fiery and dreadful martyrdom.

Again I could not bear it, and I cried out suddenly:

"But, Amroth, He is Love; and we can enter without fear into the
presence of Love!"

"Have you not yet guessed," said Amroth sternly, "how terrible Love can
be? It is the most terrible thing in the world, because it is the
strongest. If Death is dreadful, what must that be which is stronger
than Death? Come, let us be silent, for we are near the place, and this
is no time for words;" and then he added with a look of the deepest
compassion and tenderness, "I wish I could speak differently, brother,
at this hour; but I am myself afraid."

And at that we gave up all speech, and only our thoughts sprang together
and intertwined, like two children that clasp each other close in a
burning house, when the smoke comes volleying from the door.

We were coming now to what looked like a ridge of rocks ahead of us; and
I saw here a wonderful thing, a great light of incredible pureness and
whiteness, which struck upwards from the farther side. This began to
light up our own pale faces, and to throw our backs into a dark shadow,
even though the radiance of the heavenly day was all about us. And at
last we came to the place.

It was the edge of a precipice so vast, so stupendous, that no word can
even dimly describe its depth; it was all illuminated with incredible
clearness by the light which struck upwards from below. It was
absolutely sheer, great pale cliffs of white stone running downwards
into the depth. To left and right the precipice ran, with an irregular
outline, so that one could see the cliff-fronts gleam how many millions
of leagues below! There seemed no end to it. But at a certain point far
down in the abyss the light seemed stronger and purer. I was at first so
amazed by the sight that I gazed in silence. Then a dreadful dizziness
came over me, and I felt Amroth's hand put round me to sustain me. Then
in a faint whisper, that was almost inaudible, Amroth, pointing with his
finger downwards, said:

"Watch that place where the light seems clearest."

I did so. Suddenly there came, as from the face of the cliff, a thing
like a cloudy jet of golden steam. It passed out into the clear air,
shaping itself in strange and intricate curves; then it grew darker in
colour, hung for an instant like a cloud of smoke, and then faded into
the sky.

"What is that?" I said, surprised out of my terror.

"I may tell you that," said Amroth, "that you may know what you see.
There is no time here; and you have seen a universe made, and live its
life, and die. You have seen the worlds created. That cloud of whirling
suns, each with its planets, has taken shape before your eyes; life has
arisen there, has developed; men like ourselves have lived, have
wrestled with evil, have formed states, have died and vanished. That is
all but a single thought of God."

Another came, and then another of the golden jets, each fading into
darkness and dispersing.

"And now," said Amroth, "the moment has come. You are to make the last
sacrifice of the soul. Do not shrink back, fear nothing. Leap into the
abyss!"

The thought fell upon me with an infinity and an incredulity of horror
that I cannot express in words. I covered my eyes with my hands.

"Oh, I cannot, I cannot," I said; "anything but this! God be merciful;
let me go rather to some infinite place of torment where at least I may
feel myself alive. Do not ask this of me!"

Amroth made no answer, and I saw that he was regarding me fixedly,
himself pale to the lips; but with a touch of anger and even of
contempt, mixed with a world of compassion and love. There was something
in this look which seemed to entreat me mutely for my own sake and his
own to act. I do not know what the impulse was that came to
me--self-contempt, trust, curiosity, the yearning of love. I closed my
eyes, I took a faltering step, and stumbled, huddling and aghast, over
the edge. The air flew up past me with a sort of shriek; I opened my
eyes once, and saw the white cliffs speeding past. Then an
unconsciousness came over me and I knew no more.



XXXIII


I came to myself very gradually and dimly, with no recollection at first
of what had happened. I was lying on my back on some soft grassy place,
with the air blowing cool over me. I thought I saw Amroth bending over
me with a look of extraordinary happiness, and felt his arm about me;
but again I became unconscious, yet all the time with a blissfulness of
repose and joy, far beyond what I had experienced at my first waking on
the sunlit sea. Again life dawned upon me. I was there, I was myself.
What had happened to me? I could not tell. So I lay for a long time half
dreaming and half swooning; till at last life seemed to come back
suddenly to me, and I sat up. Amroth was holding me in his arms close to
the spot from which I had sprung.

"Have I been dreaming?" I said. "Was it here? and when? I cannot
remember. It seems impossible, but was I told to jump down? What has
happened to me? I am confused."

"You will know presently," said Amroth, in a tone from which all the
fear seemed to have vanished. "It is all over, and I am thankful. Do not
try to recollect; it will come back to you presently. Just rest now; you
have been through strange things."

Suddenly a thought began to shape itself in my mind, a thought of
perfect and irresistible joy.

"Yes," I said, "I remember now. We were afraid, both of us, and you told
me to leap down. But what was it that I saw, and what was it that was
told me? I cannot recall it. Oh," I said at last, "I know now; it comes
back to me. I fell, in hideous cowardice and misery. The wind blew
shrill. I saw the cliffs stream past; then I was unconscious, I think.
I seem to have died; but part of me was not dead. My flight was stayed,
and I floated out somewhere. I was joined to something that was like
both fire and water in one. I was seen and known and understood and
loved, perfectly and unutterably and for ever. But there was pain,
somewhere, Amroth! How was that? I am sure there was pain."

"Of course, dear child," said Amroth, "there was pain, because there was
everything."

"But," I said, "I cannot understand yet; why was that terrible leap
demanded of me? And why did I confront it with such abject cowardice and
dismay? Surely one need not go stumbling and cowed into the presence of
God?"

"There is no other way," said Amroth; "you do not understand how
terrible perfect love is. It is because it is perfect that it is
terrible. Our own imperfect love has some weakness in it. It is mixed
with pleasure, and then it is not a sacrifice; one gives as much of
oneself as one chooses; one is known just so far as one wishes to be
known. But here with God there must be no concealment--though even there
a man can withhold his heart from God--God never uses compulsion; and
the will can prevail even against Him. But the reason of the leap that
must be taken is this: it is the last surrender, and it cannot be made
on our terms and conditions; it must be absolute. And what I feared for
you was not anything that would happen if you did commit yourself to
God, but what would happen if you did not; for, of course, you could
have resisted, and then you would have had to begin again."

I was silent for a little, and then I said: "I remember now more
clearly, but did I really see Him? It seems so absolutely simple.
Nothing happened. I just became one with the heart and life of the
world; I came home at last. Yet how am I here? How is it I was not
merged in light and life?"

"Ah," said Amroth, "it is the new birth. You can never be the same
again. But you are not yet lost in Him. The time for that is not yet.
It is a mystery; but as yet God works outward, radiates energy and force
and love; the time will come when all will draw inward again, and be
merged in Him. But the world is as yet in its dawning. The rising sun
scatters light and heat, and the hot and silent noon is yet to come;
then the shadows move eastward, and after that comes the waning sunset
and the evening light, and last of all the huge and starlit peace of the
night."

"But," I said, "if this is really so, if I have been gathered close to
God's heart, why is it that instead of feeling stronger, I only feel
weak and unstrung? I have indeed an inner sense of peace and happiness,
but I have no will or purpose of my own that I can discern."

"That," said Amroth, "is because you have given up all. The sense of
strength is part of our weakness. Our plans, our schemes, our ambitions,
all the things that make us enjoy and hope and arrange, are but signs
of our incompleteness. Your will is still as molten metal, it has borne
the fierce heat of inner love; and this has taken all that is hard and
stubborn and complacent out of you--for a time. But when you return to
the life of the body, as you will return, there will be this great
difference in you. You will have to toil and suffer, and even sin. But
there will be one thing that you will not do: you will never be
complacent or self-righteous, you will not judge others hardly. You will
be able to forgive and to make allowances; you will concern yourself
with loving others, not with trying to improve them up to your own
standard. You will wish them to be different, but you will not condemn
them for being different; and hereafter the lives you live on earth will
be of the humblest. You will have none of the temptations of authority,
or influence, or ambition again--all that will be far behind you. You
will live among the poor, you will do the most menial and commonplace
drudgery, you will have none of the delights of life. You will be
despised and contemned for being ugly and humble and serviceable and
meek. You will be one of those who will be thought to have no spirit to
rise, no power of making men serve your turn. You will miss what are
called your chances, you will be a failure; but you will be trusted and
loved by children and simple people; they will depend upon you, and you
will make the atmosphere in which you live one of peace and joy. You
will have selfish employers, tyrannical masters, thankless children
perhaps, for whom you will slave lovingly. They will slight you and even
despise you, but their hearts will turn to you again and again, and
yours will be the face that they will remember when they come to die, as
that of the one person who loved them truly and unquestioningly. That
will be your destiny; one of utter obscurity and nothingness upon earth.
Yet each time, when you return hither, your work will be higher and
holier, and nearer to the heart of God. And now I have said enough; for
you have seen God, as I too saw Him long ago; and our hope is
henceforward the same."

"Yes," I said to Amroth, "I am content. I had thought that I should be
exalted and elated by my privileges; but I have no thought or dream of
that. I only desire to go where I am sent, to do what is desired of me.
I have laid my burden down."



XXXIV


Presently Amroth rose, and said that we must be going onward.

"And now," he said, "I have a further thing to tell you, and that is
that I have very soon to leave you. To bring you hither was the last of
my appointed tasks, and my work is now done. It is strange to remember
how I bore you in my arms out of life, like a little sleeping child, and
how much we have been together."

"Do not leave me now," I said to Amroth. "There seems so much that I
have to ask you. And if your work with me is done, where are you now
going?"

"Where am I going, brother?" said Amroth. "Back to life again, and
immediately. And there is one thing more that is permitted, and that is
that you should be with me to the last. Strange that I should have
attended you here, to the very crown and sum of life, and that you
should now attend me where I am going! But so it is."

"And what do you feel about it?" I said.

"Oh," said Amroth, "I do not like it, of course. To be so free and
active here, and to be bound again in the body, in the close, suffering,
ill-savoured house of life! But I have much to gain by it. I have a
sharpness of temper and a peremptoriness--of which indeed," he said,
smiling, "you have had experience. I am fond of doing things in my own
way, inconsiderate of others, and impatient if they do not go right. I
am hard, and perhaps even vulgar. But now I am going like a board to the
carpenter, to have some of my roughness planed out of me, and I hope to
do better."

"Well," I said, "I am too full of wonder and hope just now to be alarmed
for you. I could even wish I were myself departing. But I have a desire
to see Cynthia again."

"Yes," said Amroth, "and you will see her; but you will not be long
after me, brother; comfort yourself with that!"

We walked a little farther across the moorland, talking softly at
intervals, till suddenly I discerned a solitary figure which was
approaching us swiftly.

"Ah," said Amroth, "my time has indeed come. I am summoned."

He waved his hand to the man, who came up quickly and even breathlessly,
and handed Amroth a sealed paper. Amroth tore it open, read it
smilingly, gave a nod to the officer, saying "Many thanks." The officer
saluted him; he was a brisk young man, with a fresh air; and he then,
without a word, turned from us and went over the moorland.

"Come," said Amroth, "let us descend. You can do this for yourself now;
you do not need my help." He took my hand, and a mist enveloped us.
Suddenly the mist broke up and streamed away. I looked round me in
curiosity.

We were standing in a very mean street of brick-built houses, with
slated roofs; over the roofs we could see a spire, and the chimneys of
mills, spouting smoke. The houses had tiny smoke-dried gardens in front
of them. At the end of the street was an ugly, ill-tended field, on
which much rubbish lay. There were some dirty children playing about,
and a few women, with shawls over their heads, were standing together
watching a house opposite. The window of an upper room was open, and out
of it came cries and moans.

"It's going very badly with her," said one of the women, "poor soul; but
the doctor will be here soon. She was about this morning too. I had a
word with her, and she was feeling very bad. I said she ought to be in
bed, but she said she had her work to do first."

The women glanced at the window with a hushed sort of sympathy. A young
woman, evidently soon to become a mother, looked pale and apprehensive.

"Will she get through?" she said timidly.

"Oh, don't you fear, Sarah," said one of the women, kindly enough. "She
will be all right. Bless you, I've been through it five times myself,
and I am none the worse. And when it's over she'll be as comfortable as
never was. It seems worth it then."

A man suddenly turned the corner of the street; he was dressed in a
shabby overcoat with a bowler hat, and he carried a bag in his hand. He
came past us. He looked a busy, overtried man, but he had a
good-humoured air. He nodded pleasantly to the women. One said:

"You are wanted badly in there, doctor."

"Yes," he said cheerfully, "I am making all the haste I can. Where's
John?"

"Oh, he's at work," said the woman. "He didn't expect it to-day. But
he's better out of the way: he 'd be no good; he'd only be interfering
and grumbling; but I'll come across with you, and when it's over, I'll
just run down and tell him."

"That's right," said the doctor, "come along--the nurse will be round
in a minute; and I can make things easy meantime."

Strange to say, it had hardly dawned upon me what was happening. I
turned to Amroth, who stood there smiling, but a little pale, his arm in
mine; fresh and upright, with his slim and graceful limbs, his bright
curled hair, a strange contrast to the slatternly women and the
heavily-built doctor.

"So this," he said, "is where I am to spend a few years; my new father
is a hardworking man, I believe, perhaps a little given to drink but
kind enough; and I daresay some of these children are my brothers and
sisters. A score of years or more to spend here, no doubt! Well, it
might be worse. You will think of me while you can, and if you have the
time, you may pay me a visit, though I don't suppose I shall recognise
you."

"It seems rather dreadful to me," said I, "I must confess! Who would
have thought that I should have forgotten my visions so soon? Amroth,
dear, I can't bear this--that you should suffer such a change."

"Sentiment again, brother," said Amroth. "To me it is curious and
interesting, even exciting. Well, good-bye; my time is just up, I
think."

The doctor had gone into the house, and the cries died away. A moment
after a woman in the dress of a nurse came quickly along the street,
knocked, opened the door, and went in. I could see into the room, a
poorly furnished one. A girl sat nursing a baby by the fire, and looked
very much frightened. A little boy played in the corner. A woman was
bustling about, making some preparations for a meal.

"Let me do you the honours of my new establishment," said Amroth with a
smile. "No, dear man, don't go with me any farther. We will part here,
and when we meet again we shall have some new stories to tell. Bless
you." He took his hand from my arm, caught up my hand, kissed it, said,
"There, that is for you," and disappeared smiling into the house.

A moment later there came the cry of a new-born child from the window
above. The doctor came out and went down the street; one of the women
joined him and walked with him. A few minutes later she returned with a
young and sturdy workman, looking rather anxious.

"It's all right," I heard her say, "it's a fine boy, and Annie is doing
well--she'll be about again soon enough."

They disappeared into the house, and I turned away.



XXXV


It is difficult to describe the strange emotions with which the
departure of Amroth filled me. I think that, when I first entered the
heavenly country, the strongest feeling I experienced was the sense of
security--the thought that the earthly life was over and done with, and
that there remained the rest and tranquillity of heaven. What I cannot
even now understand is this. I am dimly aware that I have lived a great
series of lives, in each of which I have had to exist blindly, not
knowing that my life was not bounded and terminated by death, and only
darkly guessing and hoping, in passionate glimpses, that there might be
a permanent life of the soul behind the life of the body. And yet, at
first, on entering the heavenly country, I did not remember having
entered it before; it was not familiar to me, nor did I at first recall
in memory that I had been there before. The earthly life seems to
obliterate for a time even the heavenly memory. But the departure of
Amroth swept away once and for all the sense of security. One felt of
the earthly life, indeed, as a busy man may think of a troublesome visit
he has to pay, which breaks across the normal current of his life, while
he anticipates with pleasure his return to the usual activities of home
across the interval of social distraction, which he does not exactly
desire, but yet is glad that it should intervene, if only for the
heightened sense of delight with which he will resume his real life. I
had been happy in heaven, though with periods of discontent and moments
of dismay. But I no longer desired a dreamful ease; I only wished
passionately to be employed. And now I saw that I must resign all
expectation of that. As so often happens, both on earth and in heaven, I
had found something of which I was not in search, while the work which I
had estimated so highly, and prepared myself so ardently for, had never
been given to me to do at all.

But for the moment I had but one single thought. I was to see Cynthia
again, and I might then expect my own summons to return to life. What
surprised me, on looking back at my present sojourn, was the extreme
apparent fortuitousness of it. It had not been seemingly organised or
laid out on any plan; and yet it had shown me this, that my own
intentions and desires counted for nothing. I had meant to work, and I
had been mostly idle; I had intended to study psychology, and I had
found love. How much wiser and deeper it had all been than anything
which I had designed!

Even now I was uncertain how to find Cynthia. But recollecting that
Amroth had warned me that I had gained new powers which I might
exercise, I set myself to use them. I concentrated myself upon the
thought of Cynthia; and in a moment, just as the hand of a man in a
dark room, feeling for some familiar object, encounters and closes upon
the thing he is seeking, I seemed to touch and embrace the thought of
Cynthia. I directed myself thither. The breeze fanned my hair, and as I
opened my eyes I saw that I was in an unfamiliar place--not the forest
where I had left Cynthia, but in a terraced garden, under a great hill,
wooded to the peak. Stone steps ran up through the terraces, the topmost
of which was crowned by a long irregular building, very quaintly
designed. I went up the steps, and, looking about me, caught sight of
two figures seated on a wooden seat at a little distance from me,
overlooking the valley. One of these was Cynthia. The other was a young
and beautiful woman; the two were talking earnestly together. Suddenly
Cynthia turned and saw me, and rising quickly, came to me and caught me
in her arms.

"I was sure you were somewhere near me, dearest," she said; "I dreamed
of you last night, and you have been in my thoughts all day."

My darling was in some way altered. She looked older, wiser, and calmer,
but she was in my eyes even more beautiful. The other girl, who had
looked at us in surprise for a moment, rose too and came shyly forwards.
Cynthia caught her hand, and presented her to me, adding, "And now you
must leave us alone for a little, if you will forgive me for asking it,
for we have much to ask and to say."

The girl smiled and went off, looking back at us, I thought,
half-enviously.

We went and sat down on the seat, and Cynthia said:

"Something has happened to you, dear one, I see, since I saw you
last--something great and glorious."

"Yes," I said, "you are right; I have seen the beginning and the end;
and I have not yet learned to understand it. But I am the same, Cynthia,
and yours utterly. We will speak of this later. Tell me first what has
happened to you, and what this place is. I will not waste time in
talking; I want to hear you talk and to see you talk. How often have I
longed for that!"

Cynthia took my hand in both of her own, and then unfolded to me her
story. She had lived long in the forest, alone with the child, and then
the day had come when the desire to go farther had arisen in his mind,
and he had left her, and she had felt strangely desolate, till she too
had been summoned.

"And this place--how can I describe it?" she said. "It is a home for
spirits who have desired love on earth, and who yet, from some accident
of circumstance, have never found one to love them with any intimacy of
passion. How strange it is to think," she went on, "that I, just by the
inheritance of beauty, was surrounded with love and the wrong sort of
love, so that I never learned to love rightly and truly; while so many,
just from some lack of beauty, some homeliness or ungainliness of
feature or carriage, missed the one kind of love that would have
sustained and fed them--have never been held in a lover's arms, or held
a child of their own against their heart. And so," she went on smiling,
"many of them lavished their tenderness upon animals or crafty servants
or selfish relations; and grew old and fanciful and petulant before
their time. It seems a sad waste of life that! Because so many of them
are spirits that could have loved finely and devotedly all the time. But
here," she said, "they unlearn their caprices, and live a life by
strict rule--and they go out hence to have the care of children, or to
tend broken lives into tranquillity--and some of them, nay most of them,
find heavenly lovers of their own. They are odd, fractious people at
first, curiously concerned about health and occupation and one can often
do nothing but listen to their complaints. But they find their way out
in time, and one can help them a little, as soon as they begin to
desire to hear something of other lives but their own. They have to
learn to turn love outwards instead of inwards; just as I," she added
laughing, "had to turn my own love inwards instead of outwards."

Then I told Cynthia what I could tell of my own experiences, and she
heard them with astonishment. Then I said:

"What surprises me about it, is that I seem somehow to have been given
more than I can hold. I have a very shallow and trivial nature, like a
stream that sparkles pleasantly enough over a pebbly bottom, but in
which no boat or man can swim. I have always been absorbed in the
observation of details and in the outside of things. I spent so much
energy in watching the faces and gestures and utterances and tricks of
those about me that I never had the leisure to look into their hearts.
And now these great depths have opened before me, and I feel more
childish and feeble than ever, like a frail glass which holds a most
precious liquor, and gains brightness and glory from the hues of the
wine it holds, but is not like the gem, compact of colour and radiance."

Cynthia laughed at me.

"At all events, you have not forgotten how to make metaphors," she said.

"No," said I, "that is part of the mischief, that I see the likenesses
of things and not their essences." At which she laughed again more
softly, and rested her cheek on my shoulder.

Then I told her of the departure of Amroth.

"That is wonderful," she said.

And then I told her of my own approaching departure, at which she grew
sad for a moment. Then she said, "But come, let us not waste time in
forebodings. Will you come with me into the house to see the likenesses
of things, or shall we have an hour alone together, and try to look into
essences?"

I caught her by the hand.

"No," I said, "I care no more about the machinery of these
institutions. I am the pilgrim of love, and not the student of
organisations. If you may quit your task, and leave your ladies to
regretful memories of their lap-dogs, let us go out together for a
little, and say what we can--for I am sure that my time is approaching."

Cynthia smiled and left me, and returned running; and then we rambled
off together, up the steep paths of the woodland, to the mountain-top,
from which we had a wide prospect of the heavenly country, a great blue
well-watered plain lying out for leagues before us, with the shapes of
mysterious mountains in the distance. But I can give no account of all
we said or did, for heart mingled with heart, and there was little need
of speech. And even so, in those last sweet hours, I could not help
marvelling at how utterly different Cynthia's heart and mind were from
my own; even then it was a constant shock of surprise that we should
understand each other so perfectly, and yet feel so differently about
so much. It seemed to me that, even after all I had seen and suffered,
my heart was still bent on taking and Cynthia's on giving. I seemed to
see my own heart through Cynthia's, while she appeared to see mine but
through her own. We spoke of our experiences, and of our many friends,
now hidden from us--and at last we spoke of Lucius. And then Cynthia
said:

"It is strange, dearest, that now and then there should yet remain any
doubt at all in my mind about your wish or desire; but I must speak; and
before I speak, I will say that whatever you desire, I will do. But I
think that Lucius has need of me, and I am his, in a way which I cannot
describe. He is halting now in his way, and he is unhappy because his
life is incomplete. May I help him?"

At this there struck through me a sharp and jealous pang; and a dark
cloud seemed to float across my mind for a moment. But I set all aside,
and thought for an instant of the vision of God. And then I said:

"Yes, Cynthia! I had wondered too; and it seems perhaps like the last
taint of earth, that I would, as it were, condemn you to a sort of
widowhood of love when I am gone. But you must follow your own heart,
and its pure and sweet advice, and the Will of Love; and you must use
your treasure, not hoard it for me in solitude. Dearest, I trust you and
worship you utterly and entirely. It is through you and your love that I
have found my way to the heart of God; and if indeed you can take
another heart thither, you must do it for love's own sake." And after
this we were silent for a long space, heart blending wholly with heart.

Then suddenly I became aware that some one was coming up through the
wood, to the rocks where we sat: and Cynthia clung close to me, and I
knew that she was sorrowful to death. And then I saw Lucius come up out
of the wood, and halt for a moment at the sight of us together. Then he
came on almost reverently, and I saw that he carried in his hand a
sealed paper like that which had been given to Amroth; and I read it and
found my summons written.

Then while Lucius stood beside me, with his eyes upon the ground, I
said:

"I must go in haste; and I have but one thing to do. We have spoken,
Cynthia and I, of the love you have long borne her; and she is yours
now, to comfort and lead you as she has led and comforted me. This is
the last sacrifice of love, to give up love itself; and this I do very
willingly for the sake of Him that loves us: and here," I said, "is a
strange thing, that at the very crown and summit of life, for I am sure
that this is so, we should be three hearts, so full of love, and yet so
sorrowing and suffering as we are. Is pain indeed the end of all?"

"No," said Cynthia, "it is not the end, and yet only by it can we
measure the depth and height of love. If we look into our hearts, we
know that in spite of all we are more than rewarded, and more than
conquerors."

Then I took Cynthia's hand and laid it in the hand of Lucius; and I left
them there upon the peak, and turned no more. And no more woeful spirit
was in the land of heaven that day than mine as I stumbled wearily down
the slope, and found the valley. And then, for I did not know the way to
descend, I commended myself to God; and He took me.



XXXVI


I saw that I was standing in a narrow muddy road, with deep ruts, which
led up from the bank of a wide river--a tidal river, as I could see,
from the great mudflats fringed with seaweed. The sun blazed down upon
the whole scene. Just below was a sort of landing-place, where lay a
number of long, low boats, shaded with mats curved like the hood of a
waggon; a little farther out was a big quaint ship, with a high stern
and yellow sails. Beyond the river rose great hills, thickly clothed
with vegetation. In front of me, along the roadside, stood a number of
mud-walled huts, thatched with some sort of reeds; beyond these, on the
left, was the entrance of a larger house, surrounded with high walls,
the tops of trees, with a strange red foliage, appearing over the
enclosure, and the tiled roofs of buildings. Farther still were the
walls of a great town, huge earthworks crowned with plastered
fortifications, and a gate, with a curious roof to it, running out at
each end into horns carved of wood. At some distance, out of a grove to
the right, rose a round tapering tower of mouldering brickwork. The rest
of the nearer country seemed laid out in low plantations of some
green-leaved shrub, with rice-fields interspersed in the more level
ground.

There were only a few people in sight. Some men with arms and legs
bare, and big hats made of reeds, were carrying up goods from the
landing-place, and a number of children, pale and small-eyed, dirty and
half-naked, were playing about by the roadside. I went a few paces up
the road, and stopped beside a house, a little larger than the rest,
with a rough verandah by the door. Here a middle-aged man was seated,
plaiting something out of reeds, but evidently listening for sounds
within the house, with an air half-tranquil, half-anxious; by him on a
slab stood something that looked like a drum, and a spray of azalea
flowers. While I watched, a man of a rather superior rank, with a dark
flowered jacket and a curious hat, looked out of a door which opened on
the verandah and beckoned him in; a sound of low subdued wailing came
out from the house, and I knew that my time was hard at hand. It was
strange and terrible to me at the moment to realise that my life was to
be bound up, I knew not for how long, with this remote place; but I was
conscious too of a deep excitement, as of a man about to start upon a
race on which much depends. There came a groan from the interior of the
house, and through the half-open door I could see two or three dim
figures standing round a bed in a dark and ill-furnished room. One of
the figures bent down, and I could see the face of a woman, very pale,
the eyes closed, and the lips open, her arms drawn up over her head as
in an agony of pain. Then a sudden dimness came over me, and a deadly
faintness. I stumbled through the verandah to the open door. The
darkness closed in upon me, and I knew no more.

THE END





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