"But oh, forgive me," cried the little Pilgrim, "you had some who were more dear to you than all the world in the old time?"
And the others all looked up again at the question, and looked at her with tender eyes, and said to the man whom she questioned,—"Speak!"
He made a little pause before he spoke, and he looked at one here and there, and called to them,—
"Patience, brother," and "Courage, brother." And then he said, "Those whom we loved best are nearly all with us; but some have not yet come."
"Oh," said the little Pilgrim, "but how then do you bear it, to be parted so long—so long?"
Then one of those to whom the first speaker had called out "Patience" rose, and came to her smiling; and he said,—
"I think every hour that perhaps she will come, and the joy will be so great, that thinking of that makes the waiting short: and nothing here is long, for it never ends; and it will be so wonderful to hear her tell how the Father has guided her, that it will be a delight to us all; and she will be able to explain many things, not only for us, but for all; and we love each other so that this separation is as nothing in comparison with what is to come."
It was beautiful to hear this, but it was not what the little Pilgrim expected, for she thought they would have told her of the homes to which they all returned when their work was over, and a life which was like the life of the old time; but of this they said nothing, only looking at her with smiling eyes, as at the curious questions of a child. And there were many other things she would have asked, but refrained when she looked at them, feeling as if she did not yet understand; when one of them broke forth suddenly in a louder voice, and said,—
"The little sister knows only the little language and the beginning of days. She has not learned the mysteries, and what Love is, and what life is."
And another cried, "It is sweet to hear it again;" and they all gathered round her with tender looks, and began to talk to each other, and tell her, as men will tell of the games of their childhood, of things that happened, which were half-forgotten, in the old time.
After this the little Pilgrim went out again into the beautiful city, feeling in her heart that everything was a mystery, and that the days would never be long enough to learn all that had yet to be learned, but knowing now that this too was the little language, and pleased with the sweet thought of so much that was to come. For one had whispered to her as she went out that the new tongue, and every explanation, as she was ready for it, would come to her through one of those whom she loved best, which is the usage of that country. And when the stranger has no one there that is very dear, then it is an angel who teaches the greater language, and that is what happens often to the children who are brought up in that heavenly place. When she reached the street again, she was so pleased with this thought that it went out of her mind to ask her way to the great library, where she was to read the story of the historian's journey through the land of darkness; indeed she forgot that land altogether, and thought only of what was around her in the great city, which is beyond everything that eye has seen, or that ear has heard, or that it has entered into the imagination to conceive. And now it seemed to her that she was much more familiar with the looks of the people, and could distinguish between those who belonged to the city and those who were visitors like herself; and also could tell which they were who had entered into the mysteries of the kingdom, and which were, like herself, only acquainted with the beginning of days. And it came to her mind, she could not tell how, that it was best not to ask questions, but to wait until the beloved one should come, who would teach her the first words. For in the mean time she did not feel at all impatient or disturbed by her want of knowledge, but laughed a little at herself to suppose that she could find out everything, and went on looking round her, and saying a word to every one she met, and enjoying the holiday looks of all the strangers, and the sense she had in her heart of holiday too. She was walking on in this pleasant way, when she heard a sound that was like silver trumpets, and saw the crowd turn towards an open space in which all the beautiful buildings were shaded with fine trees, and flowers were springing at the very edge of the pavements. The strangers all hastened along to hear what it was, and she with them, and some also of the people of the place. And as the little Pilgrim found herself walking by a woman who was of these last, she asked her what it was.
And the woman told her it was a poet who had come to say to them what had been revealed to him, and that the two with the silver trumpets were angels of the musicians' order, whose office it was to proclaim everything that was new, that the people should know. And many of those who were at work in the palaces came out and joined the crowd, and the painter who had showed the little Pilgrim his picture, and many whose faces she began to be acquainted with. The poet stood up upon a beautiful pedestal all sculptured in stone, and with wreaths of living flowers hung upon it—and when the crowd had gathered in front of him, he began his poem. He told them that it was not about this land, or anything that happened in it, which they knew as he did, but that it was a story of the old time, when men were walking in darkness, and when no one knew the true meaning even of what he himself did, but had to go on as if blindly, stumbling and groping with their hands. And "Oh, brethren," he said, "though all is more beautiful and joyful here where we know, yet to remember the days when we knew not, and the ways when all was uncertain, and the end could not be distinguished from the beginning, is sweet and dear; and that which was done in the dim twilight should be celebrated in the day; and our Father himself loves to hear of those who, having not seen, loved, and who learned without any teacher, and followed the light, though they did not understand."
And then he told them the story of one who had lived in the old time; and in that air, which seemed to be made of sunshine, and amid all those stately palaces, he described to them the little earth which they had left behind—the skies that were covered with clouds, and the ways that were so rough and stony, and the cruelty of the oppressor, and the cries of those that were oppressed. And he showed the sickness and the troubles, and the sorrow and danger; and how Death stalked about, and tore heart from heart; and how sometimes the strongest would fail, and the truest fall under the power of a lie, and the tenderest forget to be kind; and how evil things lurked in every corner to beguile the dwellers there; and how the days were short and the nights dark, and life so little that by the time a man had learned something it was his hour to die. "What can a soul do that is born there?" he cried; "for war is there and fighting, and perplexity and darkness; and no man knows if that which he does will be for good or evil, or can tell which is the best way, or know the end from the beginning; and those he loves the most are a mystery to him, and their thoughts beyond his reach. And clouds are between him and the Father, and he is deceived with false gods and false teachers, who make him to love a lie." The people who were listening held their breath, and a shadow like a cloud fell on them, and they remembered and knew that it was true. But the next moment their hearts rebelled, and one and another would have spoken, and the little Pilgrim herself had almost cried out and made her plea for the dear earth which she loved; when he suddenly threw forth his voice again like a great song. "Oh, dear mother earth," he cried; "oh, little world and great, forgive thy son! for lovely thou art and dear, and the sun of God shines upon thee, and the sweet dews fall; and there were we born, and loved and died, and are come hence to bless the Father and the Son. For in no other world, though they are so vast, is it given to any to know the Lord in the darkness, and follow him groping, and make way through sin and death, and overcome the evil, and conquer in his name." At which there was a great sound of weeping and of triumph, and the little Pilgrim could not contain herself, but cried out too in joy as if for a deliverance. And then the poet told his tale. And as he told them of the man who was poor and sorrowful and alone, and how he loved and was not loved again, and trusted and was betrayed, and was tempted and drawn into the darkness, so that it seemed as if he must perish; but when hope was almost gone, turned again from the edge of despair, and confronted all his enemies, and fought and conquered—the people followed every word with great outcries of love and pity and wonder. For each one as he listened remembered his own career and that of his brethren in the old life, and admired to think that all the evil was past, and wondered that out of such tribulation and through so many dangers all were safe and blessed here. And there were others that were not of them, who listened, some seated at the windows of the palaces and some standing in the great square,—people who were not like the others, whose bearing was more majestic, and who looked upon the crowd all smiling and weeping, with wonder and interest, but had no knowledge of the cause, and listened as it were to a tale that is told. The poet and his audience were as one, and at every period of the story there was a deep breathing and pause, and every one looked at his neighbor, and some grasped each other's hands as they remembered all that was in the past; but the strangers listened and gazed and observed all, as those who listen and are instructed in something beyond their knowledge. The little Pilgrim stood all this time not knowing where she was, so intent was she upon the tale; and as she listened it seemed to her that all her own life was rolling out before her, and she remembered the things that had been, and perceived how all had been shaped and guided, and trembled a little for the brother who was in danger, yet knew that all would be well.
The woman who had been at her side listened too with all her heart, saying to herself, as she stood in the crowd, "He has left nothing out! The little days they were so short, and the skies would change all in a moment and one's heart with them. How he brings it all back!" And she put up her hand to dry away a tear from her eyes, though her face all the time was shining with the recollection. The little Pilgrim was glad to be by the side of a woman after talking with so many men, and she put out her hand and touched the cloak that this lady wore, and which was white and of the most beautiful texture, with gold threads woven in it, or something that looked like gold.
"Do you like," she said, "to think of the old time?"
The woman turned and looked down upon her, for she was tall and stately, and immediately took the hand of the little Pilgrim into hers, and held it without answering, till the poet had ended and come down from the place where he had been standing. He came straight through the crowd to where this lady stood, and said something to her. "You did well to tell me," looking at her with love in his eyes,—not the tender sweetness of all those kind looks around, but the love that is for one. The little Pilgrim looked at them with her heart beating, and was very glad for them, and happy in herself; for she had not seen this love before since she came into the city, and it had troubled her to think that perhaps it did not exist any more. "I am glad," the lady said, and gave him her other hand; "but here is a little sister who asks me something, and I must answer her. I think she has but newly come."
"She has a face full of the morning," the poet said. It did the little Pilgrim good to feel the touch of the warm, soft hand; and she was not afraid, but lifted her eyes and spoke to the lady and to the poet. "It is beautiful what you said to us. Sometimes in the old time we used to look up to the beautiful skies and wonder what there was above the clouds; but we never thought that up here in this great city you would be thinking of what we were doing, and making beautiful poems all about us. We thought that you would sing wonderful psalms, and talk of things high, high above us."
"The little sister does not know what the meaning of the earth is," the poet said. "It is but a little speck, but it is the centre of all. Let her walk with us, and we will go home, and you will tell her, Ama, for I love to hear you talk."
"Will you come with us?" the lady said.
And the little Pilgrim's heart leaped up in her, to think she was now going to see a home in this wonderful city; and they went along, hand in hand, and though they were three together, and many were coming and going, there was no difficulty, for every one made way for them. And there was a little murmur of pleasure as the poet passed, and those who had heard his poem made obeisance to him, and thanked him, and thanked the Father for him that he was able to show them so many beautiful things. And they walked along the street which was shining with color, and saw as they passed how the master painter had come to his work, and was standing upon the balcony where the little Pilgrim had been, and bringing out of the wall, under his hand, faces which were full of life, and which seemed to spring forth as if they had been hidden there. "Let us wait a little and see him working," the poet said; and all round about the people stopped on their way, and there was a soft cry of pleasure and praise all through the beautiful street. And the painter with whom the little Pilgrim had talked before came, and stood behind her as if he had been an old friend, and called out to her at every new touch to mark how this and that was done. She did not understand as he did, but she saw how beautiful it was, and she was glad to have seen the great painter, as she had been glad to hear the great poet. It seemed to the little Pilgrim as if everything happened well for her, and that no one had ever been so blessed before. And to make it all more sweet, this new friend, this great and sweet lady, always held her hand, and pressed it softly when something more lovely appeared; and even the pictured faces on the wall seemed to beam upon her, as they came out one by one like the stars in the sky. Then the three went on again, and passed by many more beautiful palaces, and great streets leading away into the light, till you could see no further; and they met with bands of singers who sang so sweetly that the heart seemed to leap out of the Pilgrim's breast to meet with them, for above all things this was what she had loved most. And out of one of the palaces there came such glorious music that everything she had seen and heard before seemed as nothing in comparison. And amid all these delights they went on and on, but without wearying, till they came out of the streets into lovely walks and alleys, and made their way to the banks of a great river, which seemed to sing, too, a soft melody of its own.
And here there were some fair houses surrounded by gardens and flowers that grew everywhere, and the doors were all open, and within everything was lovely and still, and ready for rest if you were weary. The little Pilgrim was not weary; but the lady placed her upon a couch in the porch, where the pillars and the roof were all formed of interlacing plants and flowers; and there they sat with her, and talked, and explained to her many things. They told her that the earth though so small was the place in all the world to which the thoughts of those above were turned. "And not only of us who have lived there, but of all our brothers in the other worlds; for we are the race which the Father has chosen to be the example. In every age there is one that is the scene of the struggle and the victory, and it is for this reason that the chronicles are made, and that we are all placed here to gather the meaning of what has been done among men. And I am one of those," the lady said, "that go back to the dear earth and gather up the tale of what our little brethren are doing. I have not to succor like some others, but only to see and bring the news; and he makes them into great poems, as you have heard; and sometimes the master painter will take one and make of it a picture; and there is nothing that is so delightful to us as when we can bring back the histories of beautiful things."
"But, oh," said the little Pilgrim, "what can there be on earth so beautiful as the meanest thing that is here?"
Then they both smiled upon her and said, "It is more beautiful than the most beautiful thing here to see how, under the low skies and in the short days, a soul will turn to our Father. And sometimes," said Ama, "when I am watching, one will wander and stray, and be led into the dark till my heart is sick; then come back and make me glad. Sometimes I cry out within myself to the Father, and say, 'O my Father, it is enough!' and it will seem to me that it is not possible to stand by and see his destruction. And then while you are gazing, while you are crying, he will recover and return, and go on again. And to the angels it is more wonderful than to us, for they have never lived there. And all the other worlds are eager to hear what we can tell them. For no one knows except the Father how the battle will turn, or when it will all be accomplished; and there are some who tremble for our little brethren. For to look down and see how little light there is, and how no one knows what may happen to him next, makes them afraid who never were there."
The little Pilgrim listened with an intent face, clasping her hands, and said,—
"But it never could be that our Father should be overcome by evil. Is not that known in all the worlds?"
Then the lady turned and kissed her; and the poet broke forth in singing, and said, "Faith is more heavenly than heaven; it is more beautiful than the angels. It is the only voice that can answer to our Father. We praise him, we glorify him, we love his name; but there is but one response to him through all the worlds, and that is the cry of the little brothers, who see nothing and know nothing, but believe that he will never fail."
At this the little Pilgrim wept, for her heart was touched; but she said,—
"We are not so ignorant; for we have our Lord who is our Brother, and he teaches us all that we require to know."
Upon this the poet rose and lifted up his hands and sang again a great song; it was in the other language which the little Pilgrim still did not understand, but she could make out that it sounded like a great proclamation that He was wise as he was good, and called upon all to see that the Lord had chosen the only way: and the sound of the poet's voice was like a great trumpet sounding bold and sweet, as if to tell this to those who were far away.
"For you must know," said the Lady Ama, who all the time held the Pilgrim's hand, "that it is permitted to all to judge according to the wisdom that has been given them. And there are some who think that our dear Lord might have found another way, and that wait, sometimes with trembling, lest he should fail; but not among us who have lived on earth, for we know. And it is our work to show to all the worlds that his way never fails, and how wonderful it is, and beautiful above all that heart has conceived. And thus we justify the ways of God, who is our Father. But in the other worlds there are many who will continue to fear until the history of the earth is all ended and the chronicles are made complete."
"And will that be long?" the little Pilgrim cried, feeling in her heart that she would like to go to all the worlds and tell them of our Lord, and of his love, and how the thought of him makes you strong; and it troubled her a little to hear her friends speak of the low skies, and the short days, and the dimness of that dear country which she had left behind, in which there were so many still whom she loved.
Upon this Ama shook her head, and said that of that day no one knew, not even our Lord, but only the Father; and then she smiled and answered the little Pilgrim's thought. "When we go back," she said, "it is not as when we lived there; for now we see all the dangers of it and the mysteries which we did not see before. It was by the Father's dear love that we did not see what was around us and about us while we lived there, for then our hearts would have fainted; and that makes us wonder now that any one endures to the end."
"You are a great deal wiser than I am," said the little Pilgrim; "but, though our hearts had fainted, how could we have been overcome? For He was on our side."
At this neither of them made any reply at first, but looked at her; and at length the poet said that she had brought many thoughts back to his mind, and how he had himself been almost worsted when one like her came to him and gave strength to his soul. "For that He was on our side was the only thing she knew," he said, "and all that could be learned or discovered was not worthy of naming beside it. And this I must tell when next I speak to the people, and how our little sister brought it to my mind."
And then they paused from this discourse, and the little Pilgrim looked round upon the beautiful houses and the fair gardens, and she said,—
"You live here? and do you come home at night?—but I do not mean at night, I mean when your work is done. And are they poets like you that dwell all about in these pleasant places, and the—"
She would have said the children, but stopped, not knowing if perhaps it might be unkind to speak of the children when she saw none there.
Upon this the lady smiled once more, and said,—
"The door stands open always, so that no one is shut out, and the children come and go when they will. They are children no longer, and they have their appointed work like him and me."
"And you are always among those you love?" the Pilgrim said; upon which they smiled again and said, "We all love each other;" and the lady held her hand in both of hers, and caressed it, and softly laughed and said, "You know only the little language. When you have been taught the other you will learn many beautiful things."
She rested for some time after this, and talked much with her new friends; and then there came into the heart of the little Pilgrim a longing to go to the place which was appointed for her, and which was her home, and to do the work which had been given her to do. And when the lady saw this she rose and said that she would accompany her a little upon her way. But the poet bid her farewell and remained under the porch, with the green branches shading him, and the flowers twining round the pillars, and the open door of this beautiful house behind him. When she looked back upon him he waved his hand to her as if bidding her God-speed, and the lady by her side looked back too and waved her hand, and the little Pilgrim felt tears of happiness come to her eyes; for she had been wondering with a little disappointment to see that the people in the city, except those who were strangers, were chiefly alone, and not like those in the old world where the husband and wife go together. It consoled her to see again two who were one. The lady pressed her hand in answer to her thought, and bade her pause a moment and look back into the city as they passed the end of the great street out of which they came. And then the Pilgrim was more and more consoled, for she saw many who had before been alone now walking together hand in hand.
"It is not as it was," Ama said. "For all of us have work to do which is needed for the worlds, and it is no longer needful that one should sit at home while the other goes forth; for our work is not for our life as of old, or for ourselves, but for the Father who has given us so great a trust. And, little sister, you must know that though we are not so great as the angels, nor as many that come to visit us from the other worlds, yet we are nearer to him. For we are in his secret, and it is ours to make it clear."
The little Pilgrim's heart was very full to hear this; but she said,—
"I was never clever, nor knew much. It is better for me to go away to my little border-land, and help the strangers who do not know the way."
"Whatever is your work is the best," the lady said; "but though you are so little you are in the Father's secret too, for it is nature to you to know what the others cannot be sure of, that we must have the victory at the last: so that we have this between us, the Father and we. And though all are his children, we are of the kindred of God, because of our Lord who is our Brother." And then the Lady Ama kissed her, and bade her when she returned to the great city, either for rest or for love, or because the Father sent for her, that she should come to the house by the river. "For we are friends for ever," she said, and so threw her white veil over her head, and was gone upon her mission, whither the little Pilgrim did not know.
And now she found herself at a distance from the great city, which shone in the light with its beautiful towers, and roofs, and all its monuments, softly fringed with trees, and set in a heavenly firmament. And the Pilgrim thought of those words that described this lovely place as a bride adorned for her husband, and did not wonder at him who had said that her streets were of gold and her gates of pearl, because gold and pearls and precious jewels were as nothing to the glory and the beauty of her. The little Pilgrim was glad to have seen these wonderful things, and her mind was like a cup running over with almost more than it could contain. It seemed to her that there never could be a time when she should want for wonder and interest and delight, so long as she had this to think of. Yet she was not sorry to turn her back upon the beautiful city, but went on her way singing in unutterable content, and thinking over what the lady had said, that we were in God's secret, more than all the great worlds above and even the angels, because of knowing how it is that in darkness and doubt, and without any open vision, a man may still keep the right way. The path lay along the bank of the river which flowed beside her and made the air full of music, and a soft air blew across the running stream and breathed in her face and refreshed her, and the birds sang in all the trees. And as she passed through the villages the people came out to meet her, and asked of her if she had come from the city, and what she had seen there. And everywhere she found friends, and kind voices that gave her greeting. But some would ask her why she still spoke the little language, though it was sweet to their ears; and others when they heard it hastened to call from the houses and the fields some among them who knew the other tongue but a little, and who came and crowded round the little Pilgrim, and asked her many questions both about the things she had been seeing and about the old time. And she perceived that the village folk were a simple folk, not learned and wise like those she had left; and that though they lived within sight of the great city, and showed every stranger the beautiful view of it, and the glory of its towers, yet few among them had travelled there; for they were so content with their fields, and their river, and the shade of their trees, and the birds singing, and their simple life, that they wanted no change; though it pleased them to receive the little Pilgrim, and they brought her into their villages rejoicing, and called every one to see her. And they told her that they had all been poor and labored hard in the old time, and had never rested; so that now it was the Father's good pleasure that they should enjoy great peace and consolation among the fresh-breathing fields and on the riverside, so that there were many who even now had little occupation except to think of the Father's goodness, and to rest. And they told her how the Lord himself would come among them, and sit down under a tree, and tell them one of his parables, and make them all more happy than words could say; and how sometimes he would send one out of the beautiful city, with a poem or tale to say to them, and bands of lovely music, more lovely than anything beside, except the sound of the Lord's own voice. "And what is more wonderful, the angels themselves come often and listen to us," they said, "when we begin to talk and remind each other of the old time, and how we suffered heat and cold, and were bowed down with labor, and bending over the soil, and how sometimes the harvest would fail us, and sometimes we had not bread, and sometimes would hush the children to sleep because there was nothing to give them; and how we grew old and weary, and still worked on and on." "We are those who were old," a number of them called out to her, with a murmuring sound of laughter, one looking over another's shoulder. And one woman said, "The angels say to us, 'Did you never think the Father had forsaken you and the Lord forgotten you?'" And all the rest answered as in a chorus, "There were moments that we thought this; but all the time we knew that it could not be." "And the angels wonder at us," said another. All this they said, crowding one before another, every one anxious to say something, and sometimes speaking together, but always in accord. And then there was a sound of laughter and pleasure, both at the strange thought that the Lord could have forgotten them, and at the wonder of the angels over their simple tales. And immediately they began to remind each other, and say, "Do you remember?" and they told the little Pilgrim a hundred tales of the hardships and troubles they had known, all smiling and radiant with pleasure; and at every new account the others would applaud and rejoice, feeling the happiness all the more for the evils that were past. And some of them led her into their gardens to show her their flowers, and to tell her how they had begun to study and learn how colors were changed and form perfected, and the secrets of the growth and of the germ, of which they had been ignorant. And others arranged themselves in choirs, and sang to her delightful songs of the fields, and accompanied her out upon her way, singing and answering to each other. The difference between the simple folk and the greatness of the others made the little Pilgrim wonder and admire; and she loved them in her simplicity, and turned back many a time to wave her hand to them, and to listen to the lovely simple singing as it went further and further away. It had an evening tone of rest and quietness, and of protection and peace. "He leadeth me by the green pastures and beside the quiet waters," she said to herself; and her heart swelled with pleasure to think that it was those who had been so old, and so weary and poor, who had this rest to console them for all their sorrows.
And as she went along, not only did she pass through many other villages, but met many on the way who were travelling towards the great city, and would greet her sweetly as they passed, and sometimes stop to say a pleasant word, so that the little Pilgrim was never lonely wherever she went. But most of them began to speak to her in the other language, which was as beautiful and sweet as music, but which she could not understand; and they were surprised to find her ignorant of it, not knowing that she was but a new-comer into these lands. And there were many things that could not be told but in that language, for the earthly tongue had no words to express them. The little Pilgrim was a little sad not to understand what was said to her, but cheered herself with the thought that it should be taught to her by one whom she loved best. The way by the riverside was very cheerful and bright, with many people coming and going, and many villages, some of them with a bridge across the stream, some withdrawn among the fields, but all of them bright and full of life, and with sounds of music, and voices, and footsteps: and the little Pilgrim felt no weariness, and moved along as lightly as a child, taking great pleasure in everything she saw, and answering all the friendly greetings with all her heart, yet glad to think that she was approaching ever nearer to the country where it was ordained that she should dwell for a time and succor the strangers, and receive those who were newly arrived. And she consoled herself with the thought that there was no need of any language but that which she knew. As this went through her mind, making her glad, she suddenly became aware of one who was walking by her side, a lady who was covered with a veil white and shining like that which Ama had worn in the beautiful city. It hung about this stranger's head so that it was not easy to see her face, but the sound of her voice was very sweet in the pilgrim's ear, yet startled her like the sound of something which she knew well, but could not remember. And as there were few who were going that way, she was glad and said, "Let us walk together, if that pleases you." And the stranger said, "It is for that I have come," which was a reply which made the little Pilgrim wonder more and more, though she was very glad and joyful to have this companion upon her way. And then the lady began to ask her many questions, not about the city, or the great things she had seen, but about herself, and what the dear Lord had given her to do.
"I am little and weak, and I cannot do much," the little Pilgrim said. "It is nothing but pleasure. It is to welcome those that are coming, and tell them. Sometimes they are astonished and do not know. I was so myself. I came in my sleep, and understood nothing. But now that I know, it is sweet to tell them that they need not fear."
"I was glad," the lady said, "that you came in your sleep; for sometimes the way is dark and hard, and you are little and tender. When your brother comes you will be the first to see him, and show him the way."
"My brother! is he coming?" the little Pilgrim cried. And then she said with a wistful look, "But we are all brethren, and you mean only one of those who are the children of our Father. You must forgive me that I do not know the higher speech, but only what is natural, for I have not yet been long here."
"He whom I mean is called—" and here the lady said a name which was the true name of a brother born whom the Pilgrim loved above all others. She gave a cry, and then she said, trembling, "I know your voice, but I cannot see your face. And what you say makes me think of many things. No one else has covered her face when she has spoken to me. I know you, and yet I cannot tell who you are."
The woman stood for a little without saying a word, and then very softly, in a voice which only the heart heard, she called the little Pilgrim by her name.
"MOTHER," cried the Pilgrim, with such a cry of joy that it echoed all about in the sweet air, and flung herself upon the veiled lady, and drew the veil from her face, and saw that it was she. And with this sight there came a revelation which flooded her soul with happiness. For the face which had been old and feeble was old no longer, but fair in the maturity of day; and the figure that had been bent and weary was full of a tender majesty, and the arms that clasped her about were warm and soft with love and life. And all that had changed their relations in the other days and made the mother in her weakness seem as a child, and transferred all protection and strength to the daughter, was gone for ever and the little Pilgrim beheld in a rapture one who was her sister and equal, yet ever above her,—more near to her than any, though all were so near,—one of whom she herself was a part, yet another, and who knew all her thoughts and the way of them before they arose in her. And to see her face as in the days of her prime, and her eyes so clear and wise, and to feel once more that which is different from the love of all, that which is still most sweet where all is sweet, the love of one, was like a crown to her in her happiness. The little Pilgrim could not think for joy, nor say a word, but held this dear mother's hands and looked in her face, and her heart soared away to the Father in thanks and joy. They sat down by the roadside under the shade of the trees,—while the river ran softly by, and everything was hushed out of sympathy and kindness,—and questioned each other of all that had been and was to be. And the little Pilgrim told all the little news of home, and of the brothers and sisters and the children that had been born, and of those whose faces were turned towards this better country; and the mother smiled and listened and would have heard all over and over, although many things she already knew. "But why should I tell you, for did not you watch over us and see all we did, and were not you near us always?" the little Pilgrim said.
"How could that be?" said the mother; "for we are not like our Lord, to be everywhere. We come and go where we are sent. But sometimes we knew, and sometimes saw, and always loved. And whenever our hearts were sick for news it was but to go to him, and he told us everything. And now, my little one, you are as we are, and have seen the Lord. And this has been given us, to teach our child once more, and show you the heavenly language, that you may understand all, both the little and the great."
Then the Pilgrim lifted her head from her mother's bosom, and looked in her face with eyes full of longing. "You said 'we,'" she said.
The mother did nothing but smile; then lifted her eyes and looked along the beautiful path of the river to where some one was coming to join them. And the little Pilgrim cried out again, in wonder and joy; and presently found herself seated between them, her father and her mother, the two who had loved her most in the other days. They looked more beautiful than the angels and all the great persons whom she had seen; for still they were hers and she was theirs more than all the angels and all the blessed could be. And thus she learned that though the new may take the place of the old, and many things may blossom out of it like flowers, yet that the old is never done away. And then they sat together, telling of everything that had befallen, and all the little tender things that were of no import, and all the great changes and noble ways, and the wonders of heaven above—and the earth beneath, for all, were open to them, both great and small; and when they had satisfied their souls with these, her father and mother began to teach her the other language, smiling often at her faltering tongue, and telling her the same thing over and over till she learnt it; and her father called her his little foolish one, as he had done in the old days; and at last, when they had kissed her and blessed her, and told her how to come home to them when she was weary, they gave her, as the Father had permitted them, with joy and blessing, her new name.
The little Pilgrim was tired with happiness and all the wonder and pleasure; and as she sat there in the silence; leaning upon those who were so dear to her, the soft air grew sweeter and sweeter about her, and the light faded softly into a dimness of tender indulgence and privilege for her, because she was still little and weak. And whether that heavenly suspense of all her faculties was sleep or not she knew not, but it was such as in all her life she had never known. When she came back to herself, it was by the sound of many voices calling her, and many people hastening past and beckoning to her to join them.
"Come, come," they said, "little sister: there has been great trouble in the other life, and many have arrived suddenly and are afraid. Come, come, and help them,—come and help them!"
And she sprang up from her soft seat, and found that she was no longer by the riverside, or within sight of the great city, or in the arms of those she loved, but stood on one of the flowery paths of her own border-land, and saw her fellows hastening towards the gates where there seemed a great crowd. And she was no longer weary, but full of life and strength; and it seemed to her that she could take them up in her arms, those trembling strangers, and carry them straight to the Father, so strong was she, and light, and full of force. And above all the gladness she had felt, and all her pleasure in what she had seen, and more happy even than the meeting with those she loved most, was her happiness how, as she went along as light as the breeze to receive the strangers. She was so eager that she began to sing a song of welcome as she hastened on. "Oh, welcome, welcome!" she cried; and as she sang she knew it was one of the heavenly melodies which she had heard in the great city; and she hastened on, her feet flying over the flowery ways, thinking how the great worlds were all watching, and the angels looking on, and the whole universe waiting till it should be proved to them that the dear Lord, the Brother of us all, had chosen the perfect way, and that over all evil and the sorrow he was the Conqueror alone.
And the little Pilgrim's voice, though it was so small, echoed away through the great firmament to where the other worlds were watching to see what should come, and cheered the anxious faces of some great lords and princes far more great than she, who were of a nobler race than man; for it was said among the stars that when such a little sound could reach so far, it was a token that the Lord had chosen aright, and that his method must be the best. And it breathed over the earth like some one saying Courage! to those whose hearts were failing; and it dropped down, down, into the great confusions and traffic of the Land of Darkness, and startled many, like the cry of a child calling and calling, and never ceasing, "Come! and come! and come!"