The moon was looking in at the lowest, horizontal, crypt-like windows of the death-chamber, her long light slanting, I thought, across the fallen, but still ripening sheaves of the harvest of the great husbandman.—But no; that harvest was gone! Gathered in, or swept away by chaotic storm, not a sacred sheaf was there! My dead were gone! I was alone!—In desolation dread lay depths yet deeper than I had hitherto known!—Had there never been any ripening dead? Had I but dreamed them and their loveliness? Why then these walls? why the empty couches? No; they were all up! they were all abroad in the new eternal day, and had forgotten me! They had left me behind, and alone! Tenfold more terrible was the tomb its inhabitants away! The quiet ones had made me quiet with their presence—had pervaded my mind with their blissful peace; now I had no friend, and my lovers were far from me! A moment I sat and stared horror-stricken. I had been alone with the moon on a mountain top in the sky; now I was alone with her in a huge cenotaph: she too was staring about, seeking her dead with ghastly gaze! I sprang to my feet, and staggered from the fearful place.
The cottage was empty. I ran out into the night.
No moon was there! Even as I left the chamber, a cloudy rampart had risen and covered her. But a broad shimmer came from far over the heath, mingled with a ghostly murmuring music, as if the moon were raining a light that plashed as it fell. I ran stumbling across the moor, and found a lovely lake, margined with reeds and rushes: the moon behind the cloud was gazing upon the monsters' den, full of clearest, brightest water, and very still.—But the musical murmur went on, filling the quiet air, and drawing me after it.
I walked round the border of the little mere, and climbed the range of hills. What a sight rose to my eyes! The whole expanse where, with hot, aching feet, I had crossed and recrossed the deep-scored channels and ravines of the dry river-bed, was alive with streams, with torrents, with still pools—"a river deep and wide"! How the moon flashed on the water! how the water answered the moon with flashes of its own—white flashes breaking everywhere from its rock-encountered flow! And a great jubilant song arose from its bosom, the song of new-born liberty. I stood a moment gazing, and my heart also began to exult: my life was not all a failure! I had helped to set this river free!—My dead were not lost! I had but to go after and find them! I would follow and follow until I came whither they had gone! Our meeting might be thousands of years away, but at last—AT LAST I should hold them! Wherefore else did the floods clap their hands?
I hurried down the hill: my pilgrimage was begun! In what direction to turn my steps I knew not, but I must go and go till I found my living dead! A torrent ran swift and wide at the foot of the range: I rushed in, it laid no hold upon me; I waded through it. The next I sprang across; the third I swam; the next I waded again.
I stopped to gaze on the wondrous loveliness of the ceaseless flash and flow, and to hearken to the multitudinous broken music. Every now and then some incipient air would seem about to draw itself clear of the dulcet confusion, only to merge again in the consorted roar. At moments the world of waters would invade as if to overwhelm me—not with the force of its seaward rush, or the shouting of its liberated throng, but with the greatness of the silence wandering into sound.
As I stood lost in delight, a hand was laid on my shoulder. I turned, and saw a man in the prime of strength, beautiful as if fresh from the heart of the glad creator, young like him who cannot grow old. I looked: it was Adam. He stood large and grand, clothed in a white robe, with the moon in his hair.
"Father," I cried, "where is she? Where are the dead? Is the great resurrection come and gone? The terror of my loneliness was upon me; I could not sleep without my dead; I ran from the desolate chamber.—Whither shall I go to find them?"
"You mistake, my son," he answered, in a voice whose very breath was consolation. "You are still in the chamber of death, still upon your couch, asleep and dreaming, with the dead around you."
"Alas! when I but dream how am I to know it? The dream best dreamed is the likest to the waking truth!"
"When you are quite dead, you will dream no false dream. The soul that is true can generate nothing that is not true, neither can the false enter it."
"But, sir," I faltered, "how am I to distinguish betwixt the true and the false where both alike seem real?"
"Do you not understand?" he returned, with a smile that might have slain all the sorrows of all his children. "You CANNOT perfectly distinguish between the true and the false while you are not yet quite dead; neither indeed will you when you are quite dead—that is, quite alive, for then the false will never present itself. At this moment, believe me, you are on your bed in the house of death."
"I am trying hard to believe you, father. I do indeed believe you, although I can neither see nor feel the truth of what you say."
"You are not to blame that you cannot. And because even in a dream you believe me, I will help you.—Put forth your left hand open, and close it gently: it will clasp the hand of your Lona, who lies asleep where you lie dreaming you are awake."
I put forth my hand: it closed on the hand of Lona, firm and soft and deathless.
"But, father," I cried, "she is warm!"
"Your hand is as warm to hers. Cold is a thing unknown in our country. Neither she nor you are yet in the fields of home, but each to each is alive and warm and healthful."
Then my heart was glad. But immediately supervened a sharp-stinging doubt.
"Father," I said, "forgive me, but how am I to know surely that this also is not a part of the lovely dream in which I am now walking with thyself?"
"Thou doubtest because thou lovest the truth. Some would willingly believe life but a phantasm, if only it might for ever afford them a world of pleasant dreams: thou art not of such! Be content for a while not to know surely. The hour will come, and that ere long, when, being true, thou shalt behold the very truth, and doubt will be for ever dead. Scarce, then, wilt thou be able to recall the features of the phantom. Thou wilt then know that which thou canst not now dream. Thou hast not yet looked the Truth in the face, hast as yet at best but seen him through a cloud. That which thou seest not, and never didst see save in a glass darkly—that which, indeed, never can be known save by its innate splendour shining straight into pure eyes—that thou canst not but doubt, and art blameless in doubting until thou seest it face to face, when thou wilt no longer be able to doubt it. But to him who has once seen even a shadow only of the truth, and, even but hoping he has seen it when it is present no longer, tries to obey it—to him the real vision, the Truth himself, will come, and depart no more, but abide with him for ever."
"I think I see, father," I said; "I think I understand."
"Then remember, and recall. Trials yet await thee, heavy, of a nature thou knowest not now. Remember the things thou hast seen. Truly thou knowest not those things, but thou knowest what they have seemed, what they have meant to thee! Remember also the things thou shalt yet see. Truth is all in all; and the truth of things lies, at once hid and revealed, in their seeming."
"How can that be, father?" I said, and raised my eyes with the question; for I had been listening with downbent head, aware of nothing but the voice of Adam.
He was gone; in my ears was nought but the sounding silence of the swift-flowing waters. I stretched forth my hands to find him, but no answering touch met their seeking. I was alone—alone in the land of dreams! To myself I seemed wide awake, but I believed I was in a dream, because he had told me so.
Even in a dream, however, the dreamer must do something! he cannot sit down and refuse to stir until the dream grow weary of him and depart: I took up my wandering, and went on.
Many channels I crossed, and came to a wider space of rock; there, dreaming I was weary, I laid myself down, and longed to be awake.
I was about to rise and resume my journey, when I discovered that I lay beside a pit in the rock, whose mouth was like that of a grave. It was deep and dark; I could see no bottom.
Now in the dreams of my childhood I had found that a fall invariably woke me, and would, therefore, when desiring to discontinue a dream, seek some eminence whence to cast myself down that I might wake: with one glance at the peaceful heavens, and one at the rushing waters, I rolled myself over the edge of the pit.
For a moment consciousness left me. When it returned, I stood in the garret of my own house, in the little wooden chamber of the cowl and the mirror.
Unspeakable despair, hopelessness blank and dreary, invaded me with the knowledge: between me and my Lona lay an abyss impassable! stretched a distance no chain could measure! Space and Time and Mode of Being, as with walls of adamant unscalable, impenetrable, shut me in from that gulf! True, it might yet be in my power to pass again through the door of light, and journey back to the chamber of the dead; and if so, I was parted from that chamber only by a wide heath, and by the pale, starry night betwixt me and the sun, which alone could open for me the mirror-door, and was now far away on the other side of the world! but an immeasurably wider gulf sank between us in this—that she was asleep and I was awake! that I was no longer worthy to share with her that sleep, and could no longer hope to awake from it with her! For truly I was much to blame: I had fled from my dream! The dream was not of my making, any more than was my life: I ought to have seen it to the end! and in fleeing from it, I had left the holy sleep itself behind me!—I would go back to Adam, tell him the truth, and bow to his decree!
I crept to my chamber, threw myself on my bed, and passed a dreamless night.
I rose, and listlessly sought the library. On the way I met no one; the house seemed dead. I sat down with a book to await the noontide: not a sentence could I understand! The mutilated manuscript offered itself from the masked door: the sight of it sickened me; what to me was the princess with her devilry!
I rose and looked out of a window. It was a brilliant morning. With a great rush the fountain shot high, and fell roaring back. The sun sat in its feathery top. Not a bird sang, not a creature was to be seen. Raven nor librarian came near me. The world was dead about me. I took another book, sat down again, and went on waiting.
Noon was near. I went up the stairs to the dumb, shadowy roof. I closed behind me the door into the wooden chamber, and turned to open the door out of a dreary world.
I left the chamber with a heart of stone. Do what I might, all was fruitless. I pulled the chains; adjusted and re-adjusted the hood; arranged and re-arranged the mirrors; no result followed. I waited and waited to give the vision time; it would not come; the mirror stood blank; nothing lay in its dim old depth but the mirror opposite and my haggard face.
I went back to the library. There the books were hateful to me—for I had once loved them.
That night I lay awake from down-lying to uprising, and the next day renewed my endeavours with the mystic door. But all was yet in vain. How the hours went I cannot think. No one came nigh me; not a sound from the house below entered my ears. Not once did I feel weary—only desolate, drearily desolate.
I passed a second sleepless night. In the morning I went for the last time to the chamber in the roof, and for the last time sought an open door: there was none. My heart died within me. I had lost my Lona!
Was she anywhere? had she ever been, save in the mouldering cells of my brain? "I must die one day," I thought, "and then, straight from my death-bed, I will set out to find her! If she is not, I will go to the Father and say—'Even thou canst not help me: let me cease, I pray thee!'"
CHAPTER XLIV. THE WAKING
The fourth night I seemed to fall asleep, and that night woke indeed. I opened my eyes and knew, although all was dark around me, that I lay in the house of death, and that every moment since there I fell asleep I had been dreaming, and now first was awake. "At last!" I said to my heart, and it leaped for joy. I turned my eyes; Lona stood by my couch, waiting for me! I had never lost her!—only for a little time lost the sight of her! Truly I needed not have lamented her so sorely!
It was dark, as I say, but I saw her: SHE was not dark! Her eyes shone with the radiance of the Mother's, and the same light issued from her face—nor from her face only, for her death-dress, filled with the light of her body now tenfold awake in the power of its resurrection, was white as snow and glistering. She fell asleep a girl; she awoke a woman, ripe with the loveliness of the life essential. I folded her in my arms, and knew that I lived indeed.
"I woke first!" she said, with a wondering smile.
"You did, my love, and woke me!"
"I only looked at you and waited," she answered.
The candle came floating toward us through the dark, and in a few moments Adam and Eve and Mara were with us. They greeted us with a quiet good-morning and a smile: they were used to such wakings!
"I hope you have had a pleasant darkness!" said the Mother.
"Not very," I answered, "but the waking from it is heavenly."
"It is but begun," she rejoined; "you are hardly yet awake!"
"He is at least clothed-upon with Death, which is the radiant garment of Life," said Adam.
He embraced Lona his child, put an arm around me, looked a moment or two inquiringly at the princess, and patted the head of the leopardess.
"I think we shall meet you two again before long," he said, looking first at Lona, then at me.
"Have we to die again?" I asked.
"No," he answered, with a smile like the Mother's; "you have died into life, and will die no more; you have only to keep dead. Once dying as we die here, all the dying is over. Now you have only to live, and that you must, with all your blessed might. The more you live, the stronger you become to live."
"But shall I not grow weary with living so strong?" I said. "What if I cease to live with all my might?"
"It needs but the will, and the strength is there!" said the Mother. "Pure life has no weakness to grow weary withal. THE Life keeps generating ours.—Those who will not die, die many times, die constantly, keep dying deeper, never have done dying; here all is upwardness and love and gladness."
She ceased with a smile and a look that seemed to say, "We are mother and son; we understand each other! Between us no farewell is possible."
Mara kissed me on the forehead, and said, gayly,
"I told you, brother, all would be well!—When next you would comfort, say, 'What will be well, is even now well.'"
She gave a little sigh, and I thought it meant, "But they will not believe you!"
"—You know me now!" she ended, with a smile like her mother's.
"I know you!" I answered: "you are the voice that cried in the wilderness before ever the Baptist came! you are the shepherd whose wolves hunt the wandering sheep home ere the shadow rise and the night grow dark!"
"My work will one day be over," she said, "and then I shall be glad with the gladness of the great shepherd who sent me."
"All the night long the morning is at hand," said Adam.
"What is that flapping of wings I hear?" I asked.
"The Shadow is hovering," replied Adam: "there is one here whom he counts his own! But ours once, never more can she be his!"
I turned to look on the faces of my father and mother, and kiss them ere we went: their couches were empty save of the Little Ones who had with love's boldness appropriated their hospitality! For an instant that awful dream of desolation overshadowed me, and I turned aside.
"What is it, my heart?" said Lona.
"Their empty places frightened me," I answered.
"They are up and away long ago," said Adam. "They kissed you ere they went, and whispered, 'Come soon.'"
"And I neither to feel nor hear them!" I murmured.
"How could you—far away in your dreary old house! You thought the dreadful place had you once more! Now go and find them.—Your parents, my child," he added, turning to Lona, "must come and find you!"
The hour of our departure was at hand. Lona went to the couch of the mother who had slain her, and kissed her tenderly—then laid herself in her father's arms.
"That kiss will draw her homeward, my Lona!" said Adam.
"Who were her parents?" asked Lona.
"My father," answered Adam, "is her father also."
She turned and laid her hand in mine.
I kneeled and humbly thanked the three for helping me to die. Lona knelt beside me, and they all breathed upon us.
"Hark! I hear the sun," said Adam.
I listened: he was coming with the rush as of a thousand times ten thousand far-off wings, with the roar of a molten and flaming world millions upon millions of miles away. His approach was a crescendo chord of a hundred harmonies.
The three looked at each other and smiled, and that smile went floating heavenward a three-petaled flower, the family's morning thanksgiving. From their mouths and their faces it spread over their bodies and shone through their garments. Ere I could say, "Lo, they change!" Adam and Eve stood before me the angels of the resurrection, and Mara was the Magdalene with them at the sepulchre. The countenance of Adam was like lightning, and Eve held a napkin that flung flakes of splendour about the place.
A wind began to moan in pulsing gusts.
"You hear his wings now!" said Adam; and I knew he did not mean the wings of the morning.
"It is the great Shadow stirring to depart," he went on. "Wretched creature, he has himself within him, and cannot rest!"
"But is there not in him something deeper yet?" I asked.
"Without a substance," he answered, "a shadow cannot be—yea, or without a light behind the substance!"
He listened for a moment, then called out, with a glad smile, "Hark to the golden cock! Silent and motionless for millions of years has he stood on the clock of the universe; now at last he is flapping his wings! now will he begin to crow! and at intervals will men hear him until the dawn of the day eternal."
I listened. Far away—as in the heart of an aeonian silence, I heard the clear jubilant outcry of the golden throat. It hurled defiance at death and the dark; sang infinite hope, and coming calm. It was the "expectation of the creature" finding at last a voice; the cry of a chaos that would be a kingdom!
Then I heard a great flapping.
"The black bat is flown!" said Mara.
"Amen, golden cock, bird of God!" cried Adam, and the words rang through the house of silence, and went up into the airy regions.
At his AMEN—like doves arising on wings of silver from among the potsherds, up sprang the Little Ones to their knees on their beds, calling aloud,
"Crow! crow again, golden cock!"—as if they had both seen and heard him in their dreams.
Then each turned and looked at the sleeping bedfellow, gazed a moment with loving eyes, kissed the silent companion of the night, and sprang from the couch. The Little Ones who had lain down beside my father and mother gazed blank and sad for a moment at their empty places, then slid slowly to the floor. There they fell each into the other's arms, as if then first, each by the other's eyes, assured they were alive and awake. Suddenly spying Lona, they came running, radiant with bliss, to embrace her. Odu, catching sight of the leopardess on the feet of the princess, bounded to her next, and throwing an arm over the great sleeping head, fondled and kissed it.
"Wake up, wake up, darling!" he cried; "it is time to wake!"
The leopardess did not move.
"She has slept herself cold!" he said to Mara, with an upcast look of appealing consternation.
"She is waiting for the princess to wake, my child," said Mara.
Odu looked at the princess, and saw beside her, still asleep, two of his companions. He flew at them.
"Wake up! wake up!" he cried, and pushed and pulled, now this one, now that.
But soon he began to look troubled, and turned to me with misty eyes.
"They will not wake!" he said. "And why are they so cold?"
"They too are waiting for the princess," I answered.
He stretched across, and laid his hand on her face.
"She is cold too! What is it?" he cried—and looked round in wondering dismay.
Adam went to him.
"Her wake is not ripe yet," he said: "she is busy forgetting. When she has forgotten enough to remember enough, then she will soon be ripe, and wake."
"Yes—but not too much at once though."
"But the golden cock has crown!" argued the child, and fell again upon his companions.
"Peter! Peter! Crispy!" he cried. "Wake up, Peter! wake up, Crispy! We are all awake but you two! The gold cock has crown SO loud! The sun is awake and coming! Oh, why WON'T you wake?"
But Peter would not wake, neither would Crispy, and Odu wept outright at last.
"Let them sleep, darling!" said Adam. "You would not like the princess to wake and find nobody? They are quite happy. So is the leopardess."
He was comforted, and wiped his eyes as if he had been all his life used to weeping and wiping, though now first he had tears wherewith to weep—soon to be wiped altogether away.
We followed Eve to the cottage. There she offered us neither bread nor wine, but stood radiantly desiring our departure. So, with never a word of farewell, we went out. The horse and the elephants were at the door, waiting for us. We were too happy to mount them, and they followed us.
CHAPTER XLV. THE JOURNEY HOME
It had ceased to be dark; we walked in a dim twilight, breathing through the dimness the breath of the spring. A wondrous change had passed upon the world—or was it not rather that a change more marvellous had taken place in us? Without light enough in the sky or the air to reveal anything, every heather-bush, every small shrub, every blade of grass was perfectly visible—either by light that went out from it, as fire from the bush Moses saw in the desert, or by light that went out of our eyes. Nothing cast a shadow; all things interchanged a little light. Every growing thing showed me, by its shape and colour, its indwelling idea—the informing thought, that is, which was its being, and sent it out. My bare feet seemed to love every plant they trod upon. The world and my being, its life and mine, were one. The microcosm and macrocosm were at length atoned, at length in harmony! I lived in everything; everything entered and lived in me. To be aware of a thing, was to know its life at once and mine, to know whence we came, and where we were at home—was to know that we are all what we are, because Another is what he is! Sense after sense, hitherto asleep, awoke in me—sense after sense indescribable, because no correspondent words, no likenesses or imaginations exist, wherewithal to describe them. Full indeed—yet ever expanding, ever making room to receive—was the conscious being where things kept entering by so many open doors! When a little breeze brushing a bush of heather set its purple bells a ringing, I was myself in the joy of the bells, myself in the joy of the breeze to which responded their sweet TIN-TINNING**, myself in the joy of the sense, and of the soul that received all the joys together. To everything glad I lent the hall of my being wherein to revel. I was a peaceful ocean upon which the ground-swell of a living joy was continually lifting new waves; yet was the joy ever the same joy, the eternal joy, with tens of thousands of changing forms. Life was a cosmic holiday.
Now I knew that life and truth were one; that life mere and pure is in itself bliss; that where being is not bliss, it is not life, but life-in-death. Every inspiration of the dark wind that blew where it listed, went out a sigh of thanksgiving. At last I was! I lived, and nothing could touch my life! My darling walked beside me, and we were on our way home to the Father!
So much was ours ere ever the first sun rose upon our freedom: what must not the eternal day bring with it!
We came to the fearful hollow where once had wallowed the monsters of the earth: it was indeed, as I had beheld it in my dream, a lovely lake. I gazed into its pellucid depths. A whirlpool had swept out the soil in which the abortions burrowed, and at the bottom lay visible the whole horrid brood: a dim greenish light pervaded the crystalline water, and revealed every hideous form beneath it. Coiled in spires, folded in layers, knotted on themselves, or "extended long and large," they weltered in motionless heaps—shapes more fantastic in ghoulish, blasting dismay, than ever wine-sodden brain of exhausted poet fevered into misbeing. He who dived in the swirling Maelstrom saw none to compare with them in horror: tentacular convolutions, tumid bulges, glaring orbs of sepian deformity, would have looked to him innocence beside such incarnations of hatefulness—every head the wicked flower that, bursting from an abominable stalk, perfected its evil significance.
Not one of them moved as we passed. But they were not dead. So long as exist men and women of unwholesome mind, that lake will still be peopled with loathsomenesses.
But hark the herald of the sun, the auroral wind, softly trumpeting his approach! The master-minister of the human tabernacle is at hand! Heaping before his prow a huge ripple-fretted wave of crimson and gold, he rushes aloft, as if new launched from the urging hand of his maker into the upper sea—pauses, and looks down on the world. White-raving storm of molten metals, he is but a coal from the altar of the Father's never-ending sacrifice to his children. See every little flower straighten its stalk, lift up its neck, and with outstretched head stand expectant: something more than the sun, greater than the light, is coming, is coming—none the less surely coming that it is long upon the road! What matters to-day, or to-morrow, or ten thousand years to Life himself, to Love himself! He is coming, is coming, and the necks of all humanity are stretched out to see him come! Every morning will they thus outstretch themselves, every evening will they droop and wait—until he comes.—Is this but an air-drawn vision? When he comes, will he indeed find them watching thus?
It was a glorious resurrection-morning. The night had been spent in preparing it!
The children went gamboling before, and the beasts came after us. Fluttering butterflies, darting dragon-flies hovered or shot hither and thither about our heads, a cloud of colours and flashes, now descending upon us like a snow-storm of rainbow flakes, now rising into the humid air like a rolling vapour of embodied odours. It was a summer-day more like itself, that is, more ideal, than ever man that had not died found summer-day in any world. I walked on the new earth, under the new heaven, and found them the same as the old, save that now they opened their minds to me, and I saw into them. Now, the soul of everything I met came out to greet me and make friends with me, telling me we came from the same, and meant the same. I was going to him, they said, with whom they always were, and whom they always meant; they were, they said, lightnings that took shape as they flashed from him to his. The dark rocks drank like sponges the rays that showered upon them; the great world soaked up the light, and sent out the living. Two joy-fires were Lona and I. Earth breathed heavenward her sweet-savoured smoke; we breathed homeward our longing desires. For thanksgiving, our very consciousness was that.
We came to the channels, once so dry and wearyful: they ran and flashed and foamed with living water that shouted in its gladness! Far as the eye could see, all was a rushing, roaring, dashing river of water made vocal by its rocks.
We did not cross it, but "walked in glory and in joy" up its right bank, until we reached the great cataract at the foot of the sandy desert, where, roaring and swirling and dropping sheer, the river divided into its two branches. There we climbed the height—and found no desert: through grassy plains, between grassy banks, flowed the deep, wide, silent river full to the brim. Then first to the Little Ones was revealed the glory of God in the limpid flow of water. Instinctively they plunged and swam, and the beasts followed them.
The desert rejoiced and blossomed as the rose. Wide forests had sprung up, their whole undergrowth flowering shrubs peopled with song-birds. Every thicket gave birth to a rivulet, and every rivulet to its water-song.
The place of the buried hand gave no sign. Beyond and still beyond, the river came in full volume from afar. Up and up we went, now along grassy margin, and now through forest of gracious trees. The grass grew sweeter and its flowers more lovely and various as we went; the trees grew larger, and the wind fuller of messages.
We came at length to a forest whose trees were greater, grander, and more beautiful than any we had yet seen. Their live pillars upheaved a thick embowed roof, betwixt whose leaves and blossoms hardly a sunbeam filtered. Into the rafters of this aerial vault the children climbed, and through them went scrambling and leaping in a land of bloom, shouting to the unseen elephants below, and hearing them trumpet their replies. The conversations between them Lona understood while I but guessed at them blunderingly. The Little Ones chased the squirrels, and the squirrels, frolicking, drew them on—always at length allowing themselves to be caught and petted. Often would some bird, lovely in plumage and form, light upon one of them, sing a song of what was coming, and fly away. Not one monkey of any sort could they see.
CHAPTER XLVI. THE CITY
Lona and I, who walked below, heard at last a great shout overhead, and in a moment or two the Little Ones began to come dropping down from the foliage with the news that, climbing to the top of a tree yet taller than the rest, they had descried, far across the plain, a curious something on the side of a solitary mountain—which mountain, they said, rose and rose, until the sky gathered thick to keep it down, and knocked its top off.
"It may be a city," they said, "but it is not at all like Bulika."
I went up to look, and saw a great city, ascending into blue clouds, where I could not distinguish mountain from sky and cloud, or rocks from dwellings. Cloud and mountain and sky, palace and precipice mingled in a seeming chaos of broken shadow and shine.
I descended, the Little Ones came with me, and together we sped on faster. They grew yet merrier as they went, leading the way, and never looking behind them. The river grew lovelier and lovelier, until I knew that never before had I seen real water. Nothing in this world is more than LIKE it.
By and by we could from the plain see the city among the blue clouds. But other clouds were gathering around a lofty tower—or was it a rock?—that stood above the city, nearer the crest of the mountain. Gray, and dark gray, and purple, they writhed in confused, contrariant motions, and tossed up a vaporous foam, while spots in them gyrated like whirlpools. At length issued a dazzling flash, which seemed for a moment to play about the Little Ones in front of us. Blinding darkness followed, but through it we heard their voices, low with delight.
"Did you see?"
"What did you see?"
"The beautifullest man."
"I heard him speak!"
"I didn't: what did he say?"
Here answered the smallest and most childish of the voices—that of Luva:—
"He said, ''Ou's all mine's, 'ickle ones: come along!'"
I had seen the lightning, but heard no words; Lona saw and heard with the children. A second flash came, and my eyes, though not my ears, were opened. The great quivering light was compact of angel-faces. They lamped themselves visible, and vanished.
A third flash came; its substance and radiance were human.
"I see my mother!" I cried.
"I see lots o' mothers!" said Luva.
Once more the cloud flashed—all kinds of creatures—horses and elephants, lions and dogs—oh, such beasts! And such birds!—great birds whose wings gleamed singly every colour gathered in sunset or rainbow! little birds whose feathers sparkled as with all the precious stones of the hoarding earth!—silvery cranes; red flamingoes; opal pigeons; peacocks gorgeous in gold and green and blue; jewelly humming birds!—great-winged butterflies; lithe-volumed creeping things—all in one heavenly flash!
"I see that serpents grow birds here, as caterpillars used to grow butterflies!" remarked Lona.
"I saw my white pony, that died when I was a child.—I needn't have been so sorry; I should just have waited!" I said.
Thunder, clap or roll, there had been none. And now came a sweet rain, filling the atmosphere with a caressing coolness. We breathed deep, and stepped out with stronger strides. The falling drops flashed the colours of all the waked up gems of the earth, and a mighty rainbow spanned the city.
The blue clouds gathered thicker; the rain fell in torrents; the children exulted and ran; it was all we could do to keep them in sight.
With silent, radiant roll, the river swept onward, filling to the margin its smooth, soft, yielding channel. For, instead of rock or shingle or sand, it flowed over grass in which grew primroses and daisies, crocuses and narcissi, pimpernels and anemones, a starry multitude, large and bright through the brilliant water. The river had gathered no turbid cloudiness from the rain, not even a tinge of yellow or brown; the delicate mass shone with the pale berylline gleam that ascended from its deep, dainty bed.
Drawing nearer to the mountain, we saw that the river came from its very peak, and rushed in full volume through the main street of the city. It descended to the gate by a stair of deep and wide steps, mingled of porphyry and serpentine, which continued to the foot of the mountain. There arriving we found shallower steps on both banks, leading up to the gate, and along the ascending street. Without the briefest halt, the Little Ones ran straight up the stair to the gate, which stood open.
Outside, on the landing, sat the portress, a woman-angel of dark visage, leaning her shadowed brow on her idle hand. The children rushed upon her, covering her with caresses, and ere she understood, they had taken heaven by surprise, and were already in the city, still mounting the stair by the side of the descending torrent. A great angel, attended by a company of shining ones, came down to meet and receive them, but merrily evading them all, up still they ran. In merry dance, however, a group of woman-angels descended upon them, and in a moment they were fettered in heavenly arms. The radiants carried them away, and I saw them no more.
"Ah!" said the mighty angel, continuing his descent to meet us who were now almost at the gate and within hearing of his words, "this is well! these are soldiers to take heaven itself by storm!—I hear of a horde of black bats on the frontiers: these will make short work with such!"
Seeing the horse and the elephants clambering up behind us—
"Take those animals to the royal stables," he added; "there tend them; then turn them into the king's forest."
"Welcome home!" he said to us, bending low with the sweetest smile.
Immediately he turned and led the way higher. The scales of his armour flashed like flakes of lightning.
Thought cannot form itself to tell what I felt, thus received by the officers of heaven***. All I wanted and knew not, must be on its way to me!
We stood for a moment at the gate whence issued roaring the radiant river. I know not whence came the stones that fashioned it, but among them I saw the prototypes of all the gems I had loved on earth—far more beautiful than they, for these were living stones—such in which I saw, not the intent alone, but the intender too; not the idea alone, but the imbodier present, the operant outsender: nothing in this kingdom was dead; nothing was mere; nothing only a thing.
We went up through the city and passed out. There was no wall on the upper side, but a huge pile of broken rocks, upsloping like the moraine of an eternal glacier; and through the openings between the rocks, the river came billowing out. On their top I could dimly discern what seemed three or four great steps of a stair, disappearing in a cloud white as snow; and above the steps I saw, but with my mind's eye only, as it were a grand old chair, the throne of the Ancient of Days. Over and under and between those steps issued, plenteously, unceasingly new-born, the river of the water of life.
The great angel could guide us no farther: those rocks we must ascend alone!
My heart beating with hope and desire, I held faster the hand of my Lona, and we began to climb; but soon we let each other go, to use hands as well as feet in the toilsome ascent of the huge stones. At length we drew near the cloud, which hung down the steps like the borders of a garment, passed through the fringe, and entered the deep folds. A hand, warm and strong, laid hold of mine, and drew me to a little door with a golden lock. The door opened; the hand let mine go, and pushed me gently through. I turned quickly, and saw the board of a large book in the act of closing behind me. I stood alone in my library.
CHAPTER XLVII. THE "ENDLESS ENDING"
As yet I have not found Lona, but Mara is much with me. She has taught me many things, and is teaching me more.
Can it be that that last waking also was in the dream? that I am still in the chamber of death, asleep and dreaming, not yet ripe enough to wake? Or can it be that I did not go to sleep outright and heartily, and so have come awake too soon? If that waking was itself but a dream, surely it was a dream of a better waking yet to come, and I have not been the sport of a false vision! Such a dream must have yet lovelier truth at the heart of its dreaming!
In moments of doubt I cry,
"Could God Himself create such lovely things as I dreamed?"
"Whence then came thy dream?" answers Hope.
"Out of my dark self, into the light of my consciousness."
"But whence first into thy dark self?" rejoins Hope.
"My brain was its mother, and the fever in my blood its father."
"Say rather," suggests Hope, "thy brain was the violin whence it issued, and the fever in thy blood the bow that drew it forth.—But who made the violin? and who guided the bow across its strings? Say rather, again—who set the song birds each on its bough in the tree of life, and startled each in its order from its perch? Whence came the fantasia? and whence the life that danced thereto? Didst THOU say, in the dark of thy own unconscious self, 'Let beauty be; let truth seem!' and straightway beauty was, and truth but seemed?"
Man dreams and desires; God broods and wills and quickens.
When a man dreams his own dream, he is the sport of his dream; when Another gives it him, that Other is able to fulfil it.
I have never again sought the mirror. The hand sent me back: I will not go out again by that door! "All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come."
Now and then, when I look round on my books, they seem to waver as if a wind rippled their solid mass, and another world were about to break through. Sometimes when I am abroad, a like thing takes place; the heavens and the earth, the trees and the grass appear for a moment to shake as if about to pass away; then, lo, they have settled again into the old familiar face! At times I seem to hear whisperings around me, as if some that loved me were talking of me; but when I would distinguish the words, they cease, and all is very still. I know not whether these things rise in my brain, or enter it from without. I do not seek them; they come, and I let them go.
Strange dim memories, which will not abide identification, often, through misty windows of the past, look out upon me in the broad daylight, but I never dream now. It may be, notwithstanding, that, when most awake, I am only dreaming the more! But when I wake at last into that life which, as a mother her child, carries this life in its bosom, I shall know that I wake, and shall doubt no more.
I wait; asleep or awake, I wait.
Novalis says, "Our life is no dream, but it should and will perhaps become one."
*Chapter 42: William Law.
**Chapter 45: Tin tin sonando con si dolce nota Che 'l ben disposto spirito d' amor turge. DEL PARADISO, x. 142.
***Chapter 46: Oma' vedrai di si fatti uficiali. Del Purgatorio, ii. 30.