"But let us swing from the road. Come, the hedges of Nature are not as impassable as the hedges of man. Through these scrub oaks and wild pears, between this tangle of thickets, over the clematis and blackberry bush,—and here we are under the pines, the lofty and majestic pines. How different are these natural hedges, growing in wild disorder, from the ugly cactus fences with which my neighbours choose to shut in their homes, and even their souls. But my business now is not with them. There are my friends the children again gathering the pine-needles of last summer for lighting the fire of the silk-worm nursery. And down that narrow foot-path, meandering around the boulders and disappearing among the thickets, see what big loads of brushwood are moving towards us. Beneath them my swarthy and hardy peasants are plodding up the hill asweat and athirst. When I first descended to the wadi, one such load of brushwood emerging suddenly from behind a cliff surprised and frightened me. But soon I was reminded of the moving forest in Macbeth. The man bowed beneath the load was hidden from view, and the boy directly behind was sweating under a load as big as that of his father. 'Awafy!' (Allah give you strength), I said, greeting them. 'And increase of health to you,' they replied. I then asked the boy how far down do they have to go for their brushwood, and laying down his load on a stone to rest, he points below, saying, 'Here, near the river.' But this 'Here, near the river' is more than four hours' walk from the village.—Allah preserve you in your strength, my Brothers. And they pass along, plodding slowly under their overshadowing burdens. A hard-hearted Naturalist, who goes so deep into Nature as to be far from the vital core even as the dilettante, might not have any sympathy to throw away on such occasions. But of what good is the love of Nature that consists only in classification and dissection? I carry no note-book with me when I go down the wadi or out into the fields. I am content if I bring back a few impressions of some reassuring instance of faith, a few pictures, and an armful of wild flowers and odoriferous shrubs. Let the learned manual maker concern himself with the facts; he is content with jotting down in his note-book the names and lineage of every insect and every herb.
"But Man? What is he to these scientific Naturalists? If they meet a stranger on the road, they pass him by, their eyes intent on the breviary of Nature, somewhat after the fashion of my priests, who are fond of praying in the open-air at sundown. No, I do not have to prove to my Brothers that my love of Nature is but second to my love of life. I am interested in my fellow men as in my fellow trees and flowers. 'The beauty of Nature,' Emerson again, 'must always seem unreal and mocking until the landscape has human figures, that are as good as itself.' And 'tis well, if they are but half as good. To me, the discovery of a woodman in the wadi were as pleasing as the discovery of a woodchuck or a woodswallow or a woodbine. For in the soul of the woodman is a song, I muse, as sweet as the rhythmic strains of the goldfinch, if it could be evoked. But the soul plodding up the hill under its heavy overshadowing burden, what breath has it left for song? The man bowed beneath the load, the soul bowed beneath the man! Alas, I seem to behold but moving burdens in my country. And yet, my swarthy and shrunken, but firm-fibred people plod along, content, patient, meek; and when they reach the summit of the hill with their crushing burdens, they still have breath enough to troll a favourite ditty or serenade the night.
'I come to thee, O Night, I'm at thy feet; I can not see, O Night, But thy breath is sweet.'
"And so is the breath of the pines. Here, the air is surcharged with perfume. In it floats the aromatic soul of many a flower. But the perfume-soul of the pines seems to tower over all others, just as its material shape lifts its artistic head over the oak, the cercis, and the terabinth. And though tall and stately, my native pines are not forbidding. They are so pruned that the snags serve as a most convenient ladder. Such was my pleasure mounting for the green cones, the salted pinons of which are delicious. But I confess they seem to stick in the stomach as the pitch of the cones sticks on the hands. This, however, though it remains for days, works no evil; but the pinons in the stomach, and the stomach on the nerves,—that is a different question.
"The only pines I have seen in the United States are those in front of Emerson's house in Concord; but compared with my native trees, they are scrubby and mean. These pine parasols under which I lay me, forgiving and forgetting, are fit for the gods. And although closely planted, they grow and flourish without much ado. I have seen spots not exceeding a few hundred square feet holding over thirty trees, and withal stout and lusty and towering. Indeed, the floor of the Tent seems too narrow at times for its crowded guests; but beneath the surface there is room for every root, and over it, the sky is broad enough for all.
"Ah, the bewildering vistas through the variegated pillars, taking in a strip of sea here, a mountain peak there, have an air of enchantment from which no human formula can release a pilgrim-soul. They remind me—no; they can not remind me of anything more imposing. But when I was visiting the great Mosques of Cairo I was reminded of them. Yes, the pine forests are the great mosques of Nature. And for art-lovers, what perennial beauty of an antique art is here. These majestic pillars arched with foliage, propping a light-green ceiling, from which cones hang in pairs and in clusters, and through which curiously shaped clouds can be seen moving in a cerulean sky; and at night, instead of the clouds, the stars—the distant, twinkling, white and blue stars—what to these are the decorations in the ancient mosques? There, the baroques, the arabesques, the colourings gorgeous, are dead, at least inanimate; here, they palpitate with life. The moving, swelling, flaming, flowing life is mystically interwoven in the evergreen ceiling and the stately colonnades. Ay, even the horizon yonder, with its planets and constellations rising and setting ever, is a part of the ceiling decoration.
"Here in this grand Mosque of Nature, I read my own Koran. I, Khalid, a Beduin in the desert of life, a vagabond on the highway of thought, I come to this glorious Mosque, the only place of worship open to me, to heal my broken soul in the perfumed atmosphere of its celestial vistas. The mihrabs here are not in this direction nor in that. But whereso one turns there are niches in which the living spirit of Allah is ever present. Here, then, I prostrate me and read a few Chapters of MY Holy Book. After which I resign myself to my eternal Mother and the soft western breezes lull me asleep. Yea, and even like my poor brother Moslem sleeping on his hair-mat in a dark corner of his airy Mosque, I dream my dream of contentment and resignation and love.
"See the ploughman strutting home, his goad in his hand, his plough on his shoulder, as if he had done his duty. Allah be praised, the flowers in the terrace-walls are secure. That is why, I believe, my American brother Thoreau liked walls with many gaps in them. The sweet wild daughters of Spring can live therein their natural life without being molested by the scythe or the plough. Allah be praised a hundred times and one."
SIGNS OF THE HERMIT
Although we claim some knowledge of the Lebanon mountains, having landed there in our journey earthward, and having since then, our limbs waxing firm and strong, made many a journey through them, we could not, after developing, through many readings, Khalid's spiritual films, identify them with the vicinage which he made his Kaaba. On what hill, in what wadi, under what pines did he ruminate and extravagate, we could not from these idealised pictures ascertain. For a spiritual film is other than a photographic one. A poet's lens is endowed with a seeing eye, an insight, and a faculty to choose and compose. Hence the difficulty in tracing the footsteps of Fancy—in locating its cave, its nest, or its Kaaba. His pine-mosque we could find anywhere, at any altitude; his vineyards, too, and his glades; for our mountain scenery, its beauty alternating between the placid and the rugged—the tame terrace soil and the wild, forbidding majesty—is allwhere almost the same. But where in these rocky and cavernous recesses of the world can we to-day find the ancient Lebanon troglodyte, whom Khalid has seen, and visited in his hut, and even talked with? It is this that forces us to seek his diggings, to trace, if possible, his footsteps.
In the K. L. MS., as we have once remarked and more than once hinted, we find much that is unduly inflated, truly Oriental; much that is platitudinous, ludicrous, which we have suppressed. But never could we question the Author's veracity and sincerity of purpose. Whether he crawled like a zoophyte, soared like an eagle, or fought, like Ali, the giants of the lower world, he is genuine, and oft-times amusingly truthful. But the many questionable pages on this curious subject of the eremite, what are we to do with them? If they are imaginary, there is too much in this Book against quackery to daunt us. And yet, if Khalid has found the troglodyte, whom we thought to be an extinct species, he should have left us a few legends about it.
We have visited the ancient caverns of the Lebanon troglodytes in the cliffs overhanging the river of Wadi Kadeesha, and found nothing there but blind bats, and mosses, and dreary vacuity. No, not a vestage of the fossil is there, not a skull, not a shinbone. We have also inquired in the monasteries near the Cedars, and we were frankly told that no monk to-day fancies such a life. And if he did, he would not give his brother monks the trouble of carrying his daily bread to a cave in those forbidden cliffs. And yet, Simeon Stylites, he of the Pillar, who remained for thirty years perched on the top of it, was a Syrian shepherd. But who of his descendants to-day would as much as pass one night on the top of that pillar? Curious eleemosynary phases of our monkish system, these modern times reveal.
On our way from a journey to the Cedars, while engaged in the present Work, we passed through a pine forest, in which were some tangled bushes of the clematis. The muleteer stops near one of these and stoops to reach something he had seen therein. No treasure-trove, alas, as he supposed; but merely a book for which he lacerated his hands and which he cursed and handed to us, saying, "This must be the breviary of some monk."
No, it was an English book, and of American origin, and of a kind quite rare in America. Indeed, here were a find and surprise as agreeable as Khalid's sweetbrier bush. Henry Thoreau's Week! What a miracle of chance. Whose this mutilated copy of the Week, we thought? Who in these mountains, having been in America, took more interest in the Dreamer of Walden Woods than in peddling and trading? We walk our mule, looking about in vague, restless surprise, as if seeking in the woods a lost companion, and lo, we reach a monarch pine on which is carved the name of—Khalid! This book, then, must be his; the name on the pine tree is surely his own; we know his hand as well as his turn of mind. But who can say if this be his Kaaba, this his pine-mosque? Might he not only have passed through these glades to other parts? Signs, indeed, are here of his feet and hands, if not of his tent-pegs. And what signifies his stay? No matter how long he might have put up here, it is but a passage, deeply considered: like Thoreau's passage through Walden woods, like Mohammad's through the desert.
This leisure hour is the nipple of the soul. And fortunate they who are not artificially suckled, who know this hour no matter how brief, who get their nipple at the right time. If they do not, no pabulum ever after, will their indurated tissues assimilate. Do you wonder why the world is full of crusty souls? and why to them this infant hour, this suckling while, is so repugnant? But we must not intrude more of such remarks about mankind. Whether rightly suckled or not, we manage to live; but whether we do so marmot-like or Maronite-like, is not the question here to be considered. To pray for your bread or to burrow in the earth for it, is it not the same with most people? Given a missionary with a Bible in his hip-pocket or a peasant with a load of brushwood on his back and the same gastric coefficient, and you will have in either case a resulting expansion for six feet of coffin ground and a fraction of Allah's mercy. Our poor missionary, is it worth while to cross the seas for this? Marmot-like or Maronite-like—but soft you know! Here is our peasant with his overshadowing load of brushwood. And there is another, and another. They are carrying fuel to the lime-pit ahead of us yonder. What brow-sweat, what time, what fire, what suffering and patient toil, the lime-washing, or mere liming, of our houses and sepulchres, requires. That cone structure there, that artificial volcano, with its crackling, flaming bowels and its fuliginous, coruscating crater, must our hardy peasants feed continually for twenty days and nights.
But the book and the name on the pine, we would know more of these signs, if possible. And so, we visit the labourers of the kiln. They are yoedling, the while they work, and jesting and laughing. The stokers, with flaming, swollen eyes, their tawny complexion waxing a brilliant bronze, their sweat making golden furrows therein, with their pikes and pitchforks busy, are terribly magnificent to behold. Here be men who would destroy Bastilles for you, if it were nominated in the bond. And there is the monk-foreman—the kiln is of the monastery's estate—reading his breviary while the lime is in making. Indeed, these sodalities of the Lebanons are not what their vows and ascetic theologies would make them. No lean-jowled, hungry-looking devotees, living in exiguity and droning in exinanition their prayers,—not by any means. Their flesh-pots are not a few, and their table is a marvel of ascetism! And why not, if their fat estates—three-quarter of the lands here is held in mortmain by the clergy—can yield anything, from silk cocoons to lime-pits? They will clothe you in silk at least; they will lime-wash your homes and sepulchres, if they cannot lime-wash anything else. Thanks to them so long as they keep some reminiscence of business in their heads to keep the Devil out of it.
The monk-foreman is reading with one eye and watching with the other. "Work," cries he, "every minute wasted is stolen from the abbey. And whoso steals, look in the pit: its fire is nothing compared with Juhannam." And the argument serves its purpose. The labourers hurry hither and thither, bringing brushwood near; the first stoker pitches to the second, the second to the third, and he feeds the flaming, smoking, coruscating volcano. "Yallah!" (Keep it up) exclaims the monk-foreman. "Burn the devil's creed," cries one. "Burn hell," cries another. And thus jesting in earnest, mightily working and enduring, they burn the mountains into lime, they make the very rocks yield somewhat.—Strength and blessings, brothers.
After the usual inquiry of whence and whither, his monkship offers the snuff-box. "No? roll you, then, a cigarette," taking out a plush pouch containing a mixture of the choicest native roots. These, we were told, are grown on the monastery's estate. We speak of the cocoon products of the season.
"Beshrew the mulberries!" exclaims the monk. "We are turning all our estates into fruit orchards and orangeries. The cultivation of the silk-worm is in itself an abomination. And while its income to-day is not as much as it was ten years ago, the expenditure has risen twofold. America is ruining our agriculture; and soon, I suppose, we have to send to China for labourers. Why, those who do not emigrate demand twice as much to-day for half the work they used to do five years ago; and those who return from America strut about like country gentlemen deploring the barrenness of their native soil."
And one subject leading to another, for our monk is a glib talker, we come to the cheese-makers, the goatherds. "Even these honest rustics," says he, "are becoming sophisticated (mafsudin). Their cheese is no longer what it was, nor is their faith. For Civilisation, passing by their huts in some shape or other, whispers in their ears something about cleverness and adulteration. And mistaking the one for the other, they abstract the butter from the milk and leave the verdigris in the utensils. This lust of gain is one of the diseases which come from Europe and America,—it is a plague which even the goatherd cannot escape. Why, do you know, wherever the cheese-monger goes these days ptomaine poison is certain to follow."
"And why does not the Government interfere?" we ask.
"Because the Government," replies our monk in a dry, droll air and gesture, "does not eat cheese."
And the monks, we learned, do not have to buy it. For this, as well as their butter, olive oil, and wine, is made on their own estates, under their own supervision.
"Yes," he resumes, placing his breviary in his pocket and taking out the snuff-box; "not long ago one who lived in these parts—a young man from Baalbek he was, and he had his booth in the pine forest yonder—bought some cheese from one of these muleteer cheese-mongers, and after he had eaten of it fell sick. It chanced that I was passing by on my way to the abbey, when he was groaning and retching beneath that pine tree. It was the first time I saw that young man, and were I not passing by I know not what would have become of him. I helped him to the abbey, where he was ministered to by our physician, and he remained with us three days. He ate of our cheese and drank of our wine, and seemed to like both very much. And ever since, while he was here, he would come to the abbey with a basket or a tray of his own make—he occupied himself in making wicker-baskets and trays—and ask in exchange some of our cheese and olive oil. He was very intelligent, this fellow; his eyes sometimes were like the mouth of this pit, full of fire and smoke. But he was queer. The clock in him was not wound right—he was always ahead or behind time, always complaining that we monks did not reckon time as he did. Nevertheless, I liked him much, and often would I bring him some of our cookery. But he never accepted anything without giving something in exchange."
"And his black turban," continues the monk, "over his long flowing hair made him look like our hermit." (Strange coincidence!) "On your way here have you not stopped to visit the hermit? Not far from the abbey, on your right hand coming here, is the Hermitage."
We remember passing a pretty cottage surrounded by a vineyard in that rocky wilderness; but who would mistake that for a troglodyte's cave? "And this young man from Baalbek," we ask, "how did he live in this forest?"
"Yonder," points the monk, "he cleared and cleaned for himself a little space which he made his workshop. And up in the pines he constructed a platform, which he walled and covered with boughs. And when he was not working or walking, he would be there among the branches, either singing or asleep. I used to envy him that nest in the pines."
"And did he ever go to church?"
"He attended mass twice in our chapel, on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, I think."
"And did he visit the abbey often?"
"Only when he wanted cheese or olive oil." (Shame, O Khalid!) "But he often repaired to the Hermitage. I went with him once to listen to his conversation with the Hermit. They often disagreed, but never quarrelled. I like that young man in spite of his oddities of thought, which savoured at times of infidelity. But he is honest, believe me; never tells a lie; and in a certain sense he is as pious as our Hermit, I think. Roll another cigarette."
"Thank you. And the Hermit, what is your opinion of him?"
"Well, h'm—h'm—go visit him. A good man he is, but very simple. And between us, he likes money too much. H'm, h'm, go visit him. If I were not engaged at present, I would accompany you thither."
We thank our good monk and retrace our steps to the Hermitage, rolling meanwhile in our mind that awful remark about the Hermit's love of money. Blindness and Plague! even the troglodyte loves and worships thee, thou silver Demiurge! We can not believe it. The grudges of monks against each other often reach darker and more fatal depths. Alas, if the faith of the cheese-monger is become adulterated, what shall we say of the faith of our monkhood? If the salt of the earth—but not to the nunnery nor to the monkery, we go. Rather let us to the Hermitage, Reader, and with an honest heart; in earnest, not in sport.
THE VINEYARD IN THE KAABA
This, then, is the cave of our troglodyte! Allah be praised, even the hermits of the Lebanon mountains, like the prophets of America and other electric-age species, are subject to the laws of evolution. A cottage and chapel set in a vineyard, the most beautiful we have yet seen, looms up in this rocky wilderness like an oasis in a desert. For many miles around, the vicinage presents a volcanic aspect, wild, barren, howlingly dreary. At the foot of Mt. Sanneen in the east, beyond many ravines, are villages and verdure; and from the last terrace in the vineyard one overlooks the deep chasm which can boast of a rivulet in winter. But in the summer its nakedness is appalling. The sun turns its pocket inside out, so to speak, exposing its boulders, its little windrows of sands, and its dry ditches full of dead fish spawn. And the cold, rocky horizon, rising so high and near, shuts out the sea and hides from the Hermit the glory of the sundown. But we can behold its effects on Mt. Sanneen, on the clouds above us, on the glass casements in the villages far away. The mountains in the east are mantled with etherial lilac alternating with mauve; the clouds are touched with purple and gold; the casements in the distance are scintillating with mystical carbuncles: the sun is setting in the Mediterranean,—he is waving his farewell to the hills.
We reach the first gate of the Hermitage; and the odour peculiar to monks and monkeries, a mixed smell of mould and incense and burning oil, greets us as we enter into a small open space in the centre of which is a Persian lilac tree. To the right is a barbed-wire fence shutting in the vineyard; directly opposite is the door of the chapel; and near it is a wicket before which stands a withered old woman. Against the wall is a stone bench where another woman is seated. As we enter, we hear her, standing at the wicket, talking to some one behind the scene. "Yes, that is the name of my husband," says she. "Allah have mercy on his soul," sighs an exiguous voice within; "pray for him, pray for him." And the woman, taking to weeping, blubbers out, "Will thirty masses do, think your Reverence?" "Yes, that will cheer his soul," replies the oracle.
The old woman thereupon enters the chapel, pays the priest or serving-monk therein, one hundred piasters for thirty masses, and goes away in tears. The next woman rises to the gate. "I am the mother of—," she says. "Ah, the mother of—," repeats the exiguous voice. "How are you? (She must be an old customer.) How is your husband? How are your children? And those in America, are they well, are they prosperous? Yes, yes, your deceased son. Well, h'm—h'm—you must come again. I can not tell you anything yet. Come again next week." And she, too, visits the chapel, counts out some money to the serving-monk, and leaves the Hermitage, drying her tears.
The Reader, who must have recognised the squeaking, snuffling, exiguous voice, knows not perhaps that the Hermit, in certain moments of inkhitaf (abstraction, levitation) has glimpses into the spirit-world and can tell while in this otherworldliness how the Christian souls are faring, and how many masses those in Purgatory need before they can rejoin the bosom of Father Abraham. And those who seek consolation and guidance through his occult ministrations are mostly women. But the money collected for masses, let it here be said, as well as the income of the vineyard, the Hermit touches not. The monks are the owners of the occult establishment, and they know better than he what to do with the revenue. But how far this ancient religious Medium can go in the spirit-world, and how honest he might be in his otherworldliness, let those say who have experience in spookery and table-rapping.
Now, the women having done and gone, the wicket is open, and the serving-monk ushers us through the dark and stivy corridor to the rear, where a few boxes marked "Made in America"—petroleum boxes, these—are offered us as seats. Before the door of the last cell are a few potsherds in which sweet basil plants are withering from thirst. Presently, the door squeaks, and one, not drooping like the plants, comes out to greet us. This is Father Abd'ul-Messiah (Servitor of the Christ), as the Hermit is called. Here, indeed, is an up-to-date hermit, not an antique troglodyte. Lean and lathy, he is, but not hungry-looking; quick of eye and gesture; quick of step, too. He seems always on the alert, as if surrounded continually with spirits. He is young, withal, or keeps so, at least, through the grace and ministration of Allah and the Virgin. His long unkempt hair and beard are innocent of a single white line. And his health? "Through my five and twenty years of seclusion," said he, "I have not known any disease, except, now and then, in the spring season, when the sap begins to flow, I am visited by Allah with chills and fever.—No; I eat but one meal a day.—Yes; I am happy, Allah be praised, quite happy, very happy."
And he lifts his eyes heavenward, and sighs and rubs his hands in joyful satisfaction. To us, this Servitor of the Christ seemed not to have passed the climacteric. But truly, as he avowed, he was entering the fifth lustrum beyond it. Such are the advantages of the ascetic life, and of such ascetics the Kingdom of Heaven. A man of sixty can carry twenty years in his pocket, and seem all honesty, and youth, and health, and happiness.
We then venture a question about the sack-cloth, a trace of which was seen under his tunic sleeve. And fetching a deep sigh, he gazes on the drooping sweet basils in silence. No, he likes not to speak of these mortifications of the flesh. After some meditation he tells us, however, that the sack-cloth on the first month is annoying, torturing. "But the flesh," he continues naively, "is inured to it, as the pile, in the course of time, is broken and softened down." And with an honest look in his eyes, he smiled and sighs his assurance. For his Reverence always punctuates his speech with these sweet sighs of joy. The serving-monk now comes to whisper a word in his ear, and we are asked to "scent the air" a while in the vineyard.
This lovely patch of terrace-ground the Hermit tills and cultivates alone. And so thoroughly the work is done that hardly a stone can be seen in the soil. And so even and regular are the terrace walls that one would think they were built with line and plummet. The vines are handsomely trimmed and trellised, and here and there, to break the monotony of the rows, a fig, an apricot, an almond, or an olive, spreads its umbrageous boughs. Indeed, it is most cheering in the wilderness, most refreshing to the senses, this lovely vineyard, the loveliest we have seen.
Father Abd'ul-Messiah might be a descendant of Simeon of the Pillar for all we know; but instead of perching on the top of it, he breaks it down and builds with its stones a wall of his vineyard. Here he comes with his serving-monk, and we resume the conversation under the almond tree.
"You should come in the grape season to taste of my fruits," says he.
"And do you like the grape?" we ask.
"Yes, but I prefer to cultivate it."
"Throughout the season," the serving-monk puts in, "and though the grapes be so plentiful, he tastes them not."
The Hermit is silent; for, as we have said, he is reluctant in making such confessions. Virtue, once bragged about, once you pride yourself upon it, ceases to be such.
In his vineyard the Hermit is most thorough, even scientific. One would think that he believed only in work. No; he does not sprinkle the vines with holy water to keep the grubs away. Herein he has sense enough to know that only in kabrit (sulphur) is the phylactery which destroys the phylloxera.
"And what do you do when you are not working in your vineyard or praying?"
"I have always somewhat to do, always. For to be idle is to open the door for Iblis. I might walk up and down this corridor, counting the slabs therein, and consider my time well spent." Saying which he rises and points to the sky. The purple fringes of the clouds are gone to sable; the lilac tints on the mountains are waxing grey; and the sombre twilight with his torch—the evening star had risen—is following in the wake of day; 'tis the hour of prayer.
But before we leave him to his devotion, we ask to be permitted to see his cell. Ah, that is against the monastic rules. We insist. And with a h'm, h'm, and a shake of the head, he rubs his hands caressingly and opens the door. Yes, the Reader shall peep into this eight by six cell, which is littered all around with rubbish, sacred and profane. In the corner is a broken stove with a broken pipe attached,—broken to let some of the smoke into the room, we are told. "For smoke," quoth the Hermit, quoting the Doctor, "destroys the microbes—and keeps the room warm after the fire goes out."
In the corner opposite the stove is a little altar with the conventional icons and gewgaws and a number of prayer books lying pell-mell around. Nearby is an old pair of shoes, in which are stuck a few candles and St. Anthony's Book of Contemplations. In the corner behind the door is a large cage, a pantry, suspended middleway between the floor and ceiling, containing a few earthen pots, an oil lamp, and a jar, covered with a cloth. Between the pantry and the altar, on a hair-mat spread on the floor, sleeps his Reverence. And his bed is not so hard as you might suppose, Reader; for, to serve your curiosity, we have been rude enough to lift up a corner of the cloth, and we found underneath a substantial mattress! On the bed is his book of accounts, which, being opened, when we entered, he hastened to close.
"You keep accounts, too, Reverence?"
"Indeed, so. That is a duty devolved on every one with mortal memory."
Let it not be supposed, however, that he has charge of the crops. In his journal he keeps the accounts of his masses? And here be evil sufficient for the day.
This, then, is the inventory of Abd'ul-Messiah's cell. And we do not think we have omitted much of importance. Yes; in the fourth corner, which we have not mentioned, are three or four petroleum cans containing provisions. From one of these he brings out a handful of dried figs, from another a pinch of incense, which he gives us as a token of his love and blessing. One thing we fain would emphasise, before we conclude our account. The money part of this eremitic business need not be harshly judged; for we must bear in mind that this honest Servitor of Christ is strong enough not to have his will in the matter. And remember, too, that the abbey's bills of expenses run high. If one of the monks, therefore, is blessed with a talent for solitude and seclusion, his brother monks shall profit by it. Indeed, we were told, that the income of the Hermitage, that is, the sum total in gold of the occult and the agricultural endeavours of Abd'ul-Messiah, is enough to defray the yearly expenditures of the monkery. Further, we have nothing to say on the subject. But Khalid has. And of his lengthy lucubration on The Uses of Solitude, we cull the following:
"Every one's life at certain times," writes he, "is either a Temple, a Hermitage, or a Vineyard: every one, in order to flee the momentary afflictions of Destiny, takes refuge either in God, or in Solitude, or in Work. And of a truth, work is the balm of the sore mind of the world. God and Solitude are luxuries which only a few among us nowadays can afford. But he who lives in the three, though his life be that of a silk larva in its cocoon, is he not individually considered a good man? Is he not a mystic, though uncreative, centre of goodness? Surely, his influence, his Me alone considered, is living and benign, and though it is not life-giving. He is a flickering taper under a bushel; and this, billah, were better than the pissasphaltum-souls which bushels of quackery and pretence can not hide. But alas, that a good man by nature should be so weak as to surrender himself entirely to a lot of bad men. For the monks, my brother Hermit, being a silk worm in its cocoon, will asphyxiate the larva after its work is done, and utilise the silk. Ay, after the Larva dies, they pickle and preserve it in their chapel for the benefit of those who sought its oracles in life. Let the beef-packers of America take notice; the monks of my country are in the market with 'canned hermits!'
"And this Larva, be it remembered, is not subject to decay; a saint does not decompose in the flesh like mortal sinners. One of these, I have been told, dead fifty years ago and now canonised, can be seen yet in one of the monasteries of North Lebanon, keeping well his flesh and bones together—divinely embalmed. It has been truly said that the work of a good man never dies; and these leathery hermits continue in death as in life to counsel and console the Faithful.
"In the past, these Larvae, not being cultivated for the market, continued their natural course of development and issued out of their silk prisons full fledged moths. But those who cultivate them to-day are in sore need. They have masses and indulgences to sell; they have big bills to pay. But whether left to grow their wings or not, their solitude is that of a cocoon larva, narrow, stale, unprofitable to the world. While that of a philosopher, a Thoreau, for instance, might be called Nature's filter; and one, issuing therefrom benefited in every sense, morally, physically, spiritually, can be said to have been filtered through Solitude."
"The study of life at a distance is inutile; the study of it at close range is defective. The only method left, therefore, and perhaps the true one, is that of the artist at his canvas. He works at his picture an hour or two, and retires a little to study and criticise it from a distance. It is impossible to withdraw entirely from life and pretend to take an interest in it. Either like my brother Hermit in these parts, a spiritual larva in its cocoon, or like a Thoreau, who during his period of seclusion, peeped every fortnight into the village to keep up at least his practice of human speech. Else what is the use of solitude? A life of fantasy, I muse, is nearer to the heart of Nature and Truth than a life in sack-cloth and ashes....
"And yet, deeply considered, this eremitic business presents another aspect. For does not the eremite through his art of prayer and devotion, seek an ideal? Is he not a transcendentalist, at least in the German sense of the word? Is not his philosophy above all the senses, as the term implies, and common sense included? For through Mother Church, and with closed eyes, he will attain the ideal, of which my German philosopher, through the logic-mill, and with eyes open, hardly gets a glimpse.
"The devout and poetic souls, and though they walk among the crowd, live most of their lives in solitude. Through Mother Sorrow, or Mother Fancy, or Mother Church, they are ever seeking the ideal, which to them is otherwise unattainable. And whether a howler of Turabu or a member of the French Academy, man, in this penumbra of faith and doubt, of superstition and imagination, is much the same. 'The higher powers in us,' says Novalis, 'which one day, as Genii, shall fulfil our will, are for the present, Muses, which refresh us on our toilsome course with sweet remembrances.' And the jinn, the fairies, the angels, the muses, are as young and vivacious to-day as they were in the Arabian and Gaelic Ages of Romance.
"But whether Mother Church or Poetry or Philosophy or Music be the magic-medium, the result is much the same if the motive be not religiously sincere, sincerely religious, piously pure, lofty, and humane. Ay, my Larva-Hermit, with all his bigotry and straitness of soul, stands higher than most of your artists and poets and musicians of the present day. For a life sincerely spent between the Temple and the Vineyard, between devotion and honest labour, producing to one man of all mankind some positive good, is not to be compared with the life which oscillates continuously between egoism and vanity, quackery and cowardice, selfishness and pretence, and which never rises, do what it may, above the larva state....
"Let every one cultivate with pious sincerity some such vineyard as my Hermit's and the world will not further need reform. For through all the vapour and mist of his ascetic theology, through the tortuous chasm of his eremitic logic, through the bigotry and crass superstition of his soul, I can always see the Vineyard on the one side of his cell, and the Church on the other, and say to myself: Here be a man who is never idle; here be one who loves the leisure praised by Socrates, and hates the sluggishness which Iblis decks and titivates. And if he crawls between his Church and his Vineyard, and burrows in both for a solution of life, nay, spins in both the cocoon of his ideal, he ought not to be judged from on high. Come thou near him; descend; descend a little and see: has he not a task, and though it be of the taper-under-the-bushel kind? Has he not a faith and a sincerity which in a Worm of the Earth ought to be reckoned sublime? 'If there were sorrow in heaven,' he once said to me, 'how many there would continuously lament the time they wasted in this world?'
"O my Brothers, build your Temples and have your Vineyards, even though it be in the rocky wilderness."
BOOK THE THIRD
In the religious systems of mankind, I sought thee, O God, in vain; in their machine-made dogmas and theologies, I sought thee in vain; in their churches and temples and mosques, I sought thee long, and long in vain; but in the Sacred Books of the World, what have I found? A letter of thy name, O God, I have deciphered in the Vedas, another in the Zend-Avesta, another in the Bible, another in the Koran. Ay, even in the Book of the Royal Society and in the Records of the Society for Psychical Research, have I found the diacritical signs which the infant races of this Planet Earth have not yet learned to apply to the consonants of thy name. The lisping infant races of this Earth, when will they learn to pronounce thy name entire? Who shall supply the Vowels which shall unite the Gutturals of the Sacred Books? Who shall point out the dashes which compound the opposite loadstars in the various regions of thy Heaven? On the veil of the eternal mystery are palimpsests of which every race has deciphered a consonant. And through the diacritical marks which the seers and paleologists of the future shall furnish, the various dissonances in thy name shall be reduced, for the sake of the infant races of the Earth, to perfect harmony.—KHALID.
 Arabic Symbol.
THE DISENTANGLEMENT OF THE ME
"Why this exaggerated sense of thine importance," Khalid asks himself in the K. L. MS., "when a little ptomaine in thy cheese can poison the source of thy lofty contemplations? Why this inflated conception of thy Me, when an infusion of poppy seeds might lull it to sleep, even to stupefaction? What avails thy logic when a little of the Mandragora can melt the material universe into golden, unfolding infinities of dreams? Why take thyself so seriously when a leaf of henbane, taken by mistake in thy salad, can destroy thee? But the soul is not dependent on health or disease. The soul is the source of both health and disease. And life, therefore, is either a healthy or a diseased state of the soul.
"One day, when I was rolling these questions in my mind, and working on a reed basket to present to my friend the Hermit as a farewell memento, his serving-monk brings me some dried figs in a blue kerchief and says, 'My Master greets thee and prays thee come to him.' I do so the following morning, bringing with me the finished basket, and as I enter the Hermitage court, I find him repairing a stone wall in the vineyard. As he sees me, he hastens to put on his cloak that I might not remark the sack-cloth he wore, and with a pious smile of assurance and thankfulness, welcomes and embraces me, as is his wont. We sit down in the corridor before the chapel door. The odorous vapor of what was still burning in the censer within hung above us. The holy atmosphere mantled the dread silence of the place. And the slow, insinuating smell of incense, like the fumes of gunga, weighed heavy on my eyelids and seemed to brush from my memory the cobwebs of time. A drowsiness possessed me; I felt like one awaking from a dream. I asked for the water jug, which the Hermit hastened to bring. And looking through the door of the chapel, I saw on the altar a burning cresset flickering like the planet Mercury on a December morning. How often did I light such a cresset when a boy, I mused. Yes, I was an acolyte once. I swang the censer and drank deep of the incense fumes as I chanted in Syriac the service. And I remember when I made a mistake one day in reading the Epistle of Paul, the priest, who was of an irascible humour, took me by the ear and made me spell the words I could not pronounce. And the boys in the congregation tittered gleefully. In my mortification was honey for them. Such was my pride, nevertheless, such the joy I felt, when, of all the boys that gathered round the lectern at vespers, I was called upon to read in the sinksar (hagiography) the Life of the Saint of the day.
"I knew then that to steal, for instance, is a sin; and yet, I emptied the box of wafers every morning after mass and shared them with the very boys who laughed at my mistakes. One day, in the purest intention, I offered one of these wafers to my donkey and he would not eat it. I felt insulted, and never after did I pilfer a wafer. Now, as I muse on these sallies of boyish waywardness I am impressed with the idea that the certainty and daring of Ignorance, or might I say Innocence, are great. Indeed, to the pure everything is pure. But strange to relate that as I sat in the corridor of the Hermitage and saw the light flickering on the altar, I hankered for a wafer, and was tempted to go into the chapel and filch one. What prevented me? Alas, knowledge makes sceptics and cowards of us all. And the pursuit of knowledge, according to my Hermit, nay, the noblest pursuit, even the serving of God, ceases to be a virtue the moment we begin to enjoy it.
"'It is necessary to conquer, not only our instincts,' he continued, 'but our intellectual and our spiritual passions as well. To force our will in the obedience of a higher will, to leave behind all our mundane desires in the pursuit of the one great desire, herein lies the essence of true virtue. St. Anthony would snatch his hours of devotion from the Devil. Even prayer to him was a struggle, an effort not to feel the joy of it. Yes, we must always disobey our impulses, and resist the tyranny of our desires. When I have a strong desire to pray, I go out into the vineyard and work. When I begin to enjoy my work in the vineyard, I cease to do it well. Therefore, I take up my breviary. Do that which you must not do, when you are suffering, and you will not want to do it again, when you are happy. The other day, one who visited the Hermitage, spoke to me of you, O Khalid. He said you were what is called an anarchist. And after explaining to me what is meant by this—I never heard of such a religion before—I discovered to my surprise that I, too, am an anarchist. But there is this difference between us: I obey only God and the authority of God, and you obey your instincts and what is called the authority of reason. Yours, O Khalid, is a narrow conception of anarchy. In truth, you should try to be an anarchist like me: subordinate your personality, your will and mind and soul, to a higher will and intelligence, and resist with all your power everything else. Why do you not come to the Hermitage for a few days and make me your confessor?'
"'I do not confess in private, and I can not sleep within doors.'
"'You do not have to do so; the booth under the almond tree is at your disposal. Come for a spiritual exercise of one week only.'
"'I have been going through such an exercise for a year, and soon I shall leave my cloister in the pines.'
"'What say you? You are leaving our neighbourhood? No, no; remain here, O Khalid. Come, live with me in the Hermitage. Come back to Mother Church; return not to the wicked world. O Khalid, we must inherit the Kingdom of Allah, and we can not do so by being anarchist like the prowlers of the forest. Meditate on the insignificance and evanescence of human life.'
"'But it lies within us, O my Brother, to make it significant and eternal.'
"'Yes, truly, in the bosom of Mother Church. Come back to your Mother—come to the Hermitage—let us pass this life together.'
"'And what will you do, if in the end you discover that I am in the right?'
"Here he paused a moment, and, casting on me a benignant glance, makes this reply: 'Then, I will rejoice, rejoice,' he gasped; 'for we shall both be in the right. You will become an anarchist like me and not against the wretched authorities of the world, but against your real enemies, Instinct and Reason.'
"And thus, now and then, he would salt his argument with a pinch of casuistic wit. Once he was hard set, and, to escape the alternatives of the situation, he condescended to tell me the story of his first and only love.
"'In my youth,' said the Hermit, 'I was a shoemaker, and not a little fastidious as a craftsman. In fact, I am, and always have been, an extremist, a purist. I can not tolerate the cobblings of life. Either do your work skilfully, devotedly, earnestly, or do it not. So, as a shoemaker, I succeeded very well. Truth to tell, my work was as good, as neat, as elegant as that of the best craftsman in Beirut. And you know, Beirut is noted for its shoemakers. Yes, I was successful as any of them, and I counted among my customers the bishop of the diocese himself. One day, forgive me, Allah! a young girl, the daughter of a peasant neighbour, comes into the shop to order a pair of shoes. In taking the measure of her foot—but I must not linger on these details. A shoemaker can not fail to notice the shape of his customer's foot. Well, I measured, too, her ankle—ah, forgive me, Allah!
"'In brief, when the shoes were finished—I spent a whole day in the finishing touches—I made her a present of them. And she, in recognition of my favor, made a plush tobacco bag, on which my name was worked in gold threads, and sent it to me, wrapped in a silk handkerchief, with her brother. Now, that is the opening chapter. I will abruptly come to the last, skipping the intermediate parts, for they are too silly, all of them. I will only say that I was as earnest, as sincere, as devoted in this affair of love as I was in my craft. Of a truth, I was mad about both.
"'Now the closing chapter. One day I went to see her—we were engaged—and found she had gone to the spring for water. I follow her there and find her talking to a young man, a shoemaker like myself. No, he was but a cobbler. On the following day, going again to see her, I find this cobbler there. I remonstrate with her, but in vain. And what is worse, she had sent to him the shoes I made, to be repaired. He was patching my own work! I swallowed my ire and went back to my shop. A week later, to be brief, I went there again, and what I beheld made my body shiver. She, the wench. Forgive me, Allah! had her hands around his neck and her lips—yes, her lying lips, on his cheek! No, no; even then I did not utter a word. I could but cry in the depth of my heart. How can woman be so faithless, so treacherous—in my heart I cried.
"'It was a terrible shock; and from it I lay in bed for days with chills and fever. Now, when I recovered, I was determined on pursuing a new course of life. No longer would I measure women's feet. I sold my stock, closed my shop, and entered the monastery. I heard afterwards that she married that young cobbler; emigrated with him to America; deserted him there; returned to her native village; married again, and fled with her second husband to South Africa. Allah be praised! even He appreciates the difference between a shoemaker and a cobbler; and the bad woman He gives to the bad craftsman. That is why I say, Never be a cobbler, whatever you do.
"'But in the monastery—draw near, I will speak freely—in the monastery, too, there are cobblers and shoemakers. There, too, is much ungodliness, much treachery, much cobbling. Ah me, I must not speak thus. Forgive me, Allah! But I promised to tell you the whole story. Therefore, I will speak freely. After passing some years in the monastery, years of probation and grief they were, I fell sick with a virulent fever. The abbot, seeing that there was little chance of my recovery, would not send for the physician. And so, I languished for weeks, suffering from thirst and burning pains and hunger. I raved and chattered in my delirium. I betrayed myself, too, they told me. The monks my brothers, even during my suffering, made a scandal of the love affair I related. They said that I exposed my wounds and my broken heart before the Virgin, that I sinned in thought and word on my death-bed. Allah forgive them. It may be, however; for I know not what I said and what I did. But when I recovered, I was determined not to remain in the monastery, and not to return to the world. The wicked world, I disentangled myself absolutely from its poisoned meshes. I came to the Hermitage, to this place. And never, since I made my second remove until now, have I known disease, or sorrow, nor treachery, which is worse than both. Allah be praised! One's people, one's brothers, one's lovers and friends, are a hindrance and botheration. We are nothing, nothing: God is everything. God is the only reality. And in God alone is my refuge. That is my story in brief. If I did not like you, I would not have told it, and so freely. Meditate upon it, and on the insignificance and evanescence of human life. The world is a snare, and a bad snare, at that. For it can not hold us long enough in it to learn to like it. It is a cobbler's snare. The world is full of cobblers, O Khalid. Come away from it; be an ideal craftsman—be an extremist—be a purist—come live with me. Let us join our souls in devotion, and our hearts in love. Come, let us till and cultivate this vineyard together.'
"And taking me by the hand, he shows me a cell furnished with a hair-mat, a masnad (leaning pillow), and a chair. 'This cell,' says he, 'was occupied by the Bishop when he came here for a spiritual exercise of three weeks. It shall be yours if you come; it's the best cell in the Hermitage. Now, let us visit the chapel.' I go in with him, and as we are coming out, I ask him child-like for a wafer. He brings the box straightway, begs me to take as much as I desire, and placing his hand on my shoulder, encircles me with one of his benignant glances, saying, 'Allah illumine thy heart, O Khalid.' 'Allah hear thy prayer,' I reply. And we part in tears."
Here Khalid bursts in ecstasy about the higher spiritual kingdom, and chops a little logic about the I and the not-I, the Reality and the non-Reality.—"God," says the Hermit. "Thought," says the Idealist, "that is the only Reality." And what is Thought, and what is God, and what is Matter, and what is Spirit? They are the mysterious vessels of Life, which are always being filled by Love and emptied by Logic. "The external world," says the Materialist—"Does not exist," says the Idealist. "'Tis immaterial if it does or not," says the Hermit. And what if the three are wrong? The Universe, knowable and unknowable, will it be affected a whit by it? If the German Professor's Chair of Logic and Philosophy were set up in the Hermitage, would anything be gained or lost? Let the I deny the stars, and they will nevertheless roll in silence above it. Let the not-I crush this I, this "thinking reed," and the higher universal I, rising above the stars and flooding the sidereal heavens with light, will warm, remold, and regenerate the world.
"I can conceive of a power," writes Khalid in that vexing Manuscript, "which can create a beautiful parti-colored sun-flower of the shattered fragments of Idealism, Materialism, and my Hermit's theology. Why not, if in the New World—" And here, of a sudden, to surprise and bewilder us, he drags in Mrs. Eddy and the Prophet Dowie yoked under the yoke of Whitman. He marks the Key to Scripture with blades from Leaves of Grass, and such fuel as he gathers from both, he lights with an ember borrowed from the chariot to Elijah. And thus, for ten whole pages, beating continually, now in the dark of Metaphysics, now in the dusk of Science; losing himself in the tangled bushes of English Materialism, and German Mysticism, and Arabic Sufism; calling now to Berkeley, now to Hackel; meeting with Spencer here, with Al-Gazzaly there; and endeavoring to extricate himself in the end with some such efforts as "the Natural being Negativity, the Spiritual must be the opposite of that, and both united in God form the Absolute," etc., etc. But we shall not give ourselves further pain in laying before the English reader the like heavy and unwieldy lumber. Whoever relishes such stuff, and can digest it, need not apply to Khalid; for, in this case, he is but a poor third-hand caterer. Better go to the Manufacturers direct; they are within reach of every one in this Age of Machinery and Popular Editions. But there are passages here, of which Khalid can say, 'The Mortar at least is mine.' And in this Mortar he mixes and titrates with his Neighbour's Pestle some of his fantasy and insight. Of these we offer a sample:
"I say with psychologists, as the organism, so is the personality. The revelation of the Me is perfect in proportion to the sound state of the Medium. But according to the Arabic proverb, the jar oozes of its contents. If these be of a putridinous mixture, therefore, no matter how sound the jar, the ooze is not going to smell of ambergris and musk. So, it all depends on the contents with which the Potter fills his jugs and pipkins, I assure you. And if the contents are good and the jar is sound, we get such excellence of soul as is rare among mortals. If the contents are excellent and the jar is cracked, the objective influence will then predominate, and putrescence, soon or late, will set in. Now, the Me in the majority of mankind comes to this world in a cracked pipkin, and it oozes out entirely as soon as it liquifies in youth. The pipkin, therefore, goes through life empty and cracked, ever sounding flat and false. While in others the Me is enclosed in a sealed straw-covered flask and can only be awakened by either evaporation or decapitation, in other words, by a spiritual revolution. And in the very few among mortals, it emerges out of the iron calyx of a flower of red-hot steel, or flows from the transparent, odoriferous bosom of a rose of light. In the first we have a Caesar, an Alexander, a Napoleon; in the second, a Buddha, a Socrates, a Christ.
"But consider that Science, in the course of psychological analysis, speaks of Christ, Napoleon, and Shakespeare, as patients. Such exalted states of the soul, such activity of the mind, such exuberance of spiritual strength, are but the results of the transformation of the Me in the subject, we are told, and this transformation has its roots in the organism. But why, I ask, should there be such a gulf between individuals, such a difference in their Mes, when a difference in the organism is a trifle in comparison? How account for the ebb and flow in the souls, or let us say, in the expression of the individualities, of Mohammad the Prophet, for instance, and Mohammad the camel-herd? And why is it in psychological states that are similar, the consciousness of the one is like a mountain peak, so to speak, and that of the other like a cave?
"A soldier is severely wounded in battle and a change takes place in his nervous organism, by reason of which he loses his organic consciousness; or, to speak in the phraseology of the psychologist, he loses the sense of his own body, of his physical personality. The cause of this change is probably the wound received; but the nature of the change can be explained only by hypotheses, which are become matters of choice and taste—and sometimes of personal interest among scientists. Now, when the question is resolved by hypothesis, is not even a layman free to offer one? If I say the Glass is shattered and the Me within is sadly reflected, or in a more tragic instance the light of the Me runs out, would I not be offering thee a solution as dear and tenable as that of the professor of psychology?"
THE VOICE OF THE DAWN
Breathless but scathless, we emerge from the mazes of metaphysics and psychology where man and the soul are ever playing hide-and-seek; and where Khalid was pleased to display a little of his killing skill in fencing. To those mazes, we promise the Reader, we shall not return again. In our present sojourn, however, it is necessary to go through the swamps and Jordans as well as the mountains and plains. Otherwise, we would not have lingered a breathing while in the lowlands of mystery. But now we know how far Khalid went in seeking health, and how deep in seeking the Me, which he would disentangle from the meshes of philosophy and anchoretism, and bring back to life, triumphant, loving, joyous, free. And how far he succeeded in this, we shall soon know.
On the morning of his last day in the pines, meanwhile, we behold him in the chariot of Apollo serenading the stars. He no longer would thrust a poker down his windpipe; for he breathes as freely as the mountain bears and chirps as joyously as the swallows. And his lungs? The lungs of the pines are not as sound. And his eyes? Well, he can gaze at the rising sun without adverting the head or squinting or shedding a tear. Now, as a sign of this healthy state of body and mind, and his healthier resolve to return to the world, to live opposite his friend the Hermit on the other antipode of life, and furthermore, as a relief from the exhausting tortuosities of thought in the last Chapter, we give here a piece of description notably symbolical.
* * * * *
"I slept very early last night; the lights in the chapel of the abbey were still flickering, and the monks were chanting the complines. The mellow music of a drizzle seemed to respond sombrely to the melancholy echo of the choir. About midnight the rain beat heavily on the pine roof of the forest, and the thunder must have struck very near, between me and the monks. But rising very early this morning to commune for the last time with the pensive silence of dawn in the pines, I am greeted, as I peep out of my booth, by a knot of ogling stars. But where is the opaque breath of the storm, where are the clouds? None seem to hang on the horizon, and the sky is as limpid and clear as the dawn of a new life. Glorious, this interval between night and dawn. Delicious, the flavour of the forest after a storm. Intoxicating, the odours of the earth, refreshed and satisfied. Divine, the whispers of the morning air, divine!
"But where is the rain, and where are the thunderbolts of last night? The forest and the atmosphere retain but the sweet and scented memories of their storming passion. Such a December morning in these mountain heights is a marvel of enduring freshness and ardour. All round one gets a vivid illusion of Spring. The soft breezes caressing the pines shake from their boughs the only evidence of last night's storm. And these are more like the dew of Summer than the lees of the copious tears of parting Autumn. A glorious morning, too glorious to be enjoyed by a solitary soul. But near the rivulet yonder stands a fox sniffing the morning air. Welcome, my friend. Welcome to my coffee, too.
"I gather my mulberry sticks, kindle them with a handful of dried pine needles, roast my coffee beans, and grind them while the water boils in the pot. In half an hour I am qualified to go about my business. The cups and coffee utensils I wash and restore to the chest—and what else have I to do to-day? Pack up? Allah be praised, I have little packing to do. I would pack up, if I could, a ton of the pine air and the forest perfume, a strip of this limpid sky, and a cluster of those stars. Never at such an hour and in this season of the year did I enjoy such transporting limpidity in the atmosphere and such reassuring expansiveness on the horizon. Why, even the stars, the constellations, and the planets, are all here to enjoy this with me. Not one of them, I think, is absent.
"The mountains are lost in the heavens. They are seeking, as it were, the sisters of the little flowers sleeping at their feet. The moon, resembling a crushed orange, is sinking in the Mediterranean. The outlines of earth and sky all round are vague, indistinct. Were not the sky so clear and the atmosphere so rare, thus affording the planets and the constellations to shed their modicum of light, the dusk of this hour would have deprived the scene of much of its pensive beauty of colour and shade. But there is Pegasus, Andromeda, Aldebaran, not to mention Venus and Jupiter and Saturn,—these alone can conquer the right wing of darkness. And there is Mercury, like a lighted cresset shaken by the winds, flapping his violet wings above the Northeastern horizon; and Mars, like a piece of gold held out by the trembling hand of a miser, is sinking in the blue of the sea with Neptune; the Pleiades are stepping on the trail of the blushing moon; the Balance lingers behind to weigh the destinies of the heroes who are to contend with the dawn; while Venus, peeping from her tower over Mt. Sanneen, is sending love vibrations to all. I would tell thee more if I knew. But I swear to thee I never read through the hornbook of the heavens. But if I can not name and locate more of the stars, I can tell thee this about them all: they are the embers of certainty eternally glowing in the ashes of doubt.
"The Eastern horizon is yet lost in the dusk; the false dawn is spreading the figments of its illusion; the trees in the distance seem like rain-clouds; and the amorphous shadows of the monasteries on the mountain heights and hilltops all around, have not yet developed into silhouettes. Everything, except the river in the wadi below, is yet asleep. Not even the swallows are astir. Ah, but my neighbour yonder is; the light in the loophole of his hut sends a struggling ray through the mulberries, and the tintinnabulations of his daughter's loom are like so many stones thrown into this sleeping pond of silence. The loom-girl in these parts is never too early at her harness and shuttle. I know a family here whose loom and spinning wheel are never idle: the wife works at the loom in the day and her boy at the wheel; while in the night, her husband and his old mother keep up the game. And this hardly secures for them their flour and lentils the year round. But I concern not myself now with questions of economy.
"There, another of my neighbours is awake; and the hinges of his door, shrieking terribly, fiendishly, startle the swallows from their sleep. And here are the muleteers, yodling, as they pass by, their
'Dhome, Dhome, Dhome, O mother, he is come; Hide me, hide me quickly, And say I am not home.'
"Lo, the horizon is disentangling itself from the meshes of darkness. The dust of haze and dusk on the scalloped edges of the mountains, is blown away by the first breath of dawn. The lighter grey of the horizon is mirrored in the clearer blue of the sea. But the darkness seems to gather on the breast of the sloping hills. Conquered on the heights, it retreats into the wadi. Ay, the darkest hour is nearest the dawn.
"Now the light grey is become a lavender; the outlines of earth and sky are become more distinct; the mountain peaks, the dusky veil being rent, are separating themselves from the heaven's embrace; the trees in the distance no longer seem like rain-clouds; and the silhouettes of the monasteries are casting off the cloak of night. The lavender is melting now into heliotrope, and the heliotrope is bursting here and there in pink; the stars are waning, the constellations are dying out, and the planets are following in their wake. The darkness, too, which has not yet retreated from the wadi, must soon follow; for the front guard of the dawn is near. Behold the shimmer of their steel! And see, in the dust of the retreating darkness, the ochre veins of the lime cliffs are now perceptible. And that huge pillar, which looked like the standard-bearer of Night, is transformed into a belfry; and a monk can be seen peeping through the ogive beneath it. Mt. Sanneen, its black and ochre scales thrown in relief on a coat of grey, is like a huge panther sleeping over the many-throated ravine of Kisrawan. Ah, the pink flower of dawn is bursting in golden glory, thrilling in orange and saffron, flaming with the ardency of love and hope. The dawn! The glow and glamour of the Eastern dawn!...
* * * * *
"The dawn of a new life, of a better, purer, healthier, higher spiritual kingdom. I would have its temples and those of the vast empire of wealth and material well-being, stand side by side. Ay, I would even rear an altar to the Soul in the temple of Materialism, and an altar to Materialism in the temple of the Soul. Each shall have its due, each shall glory in the sacred purity and strength of life; each shall develop and expand, but never at the expense of the other. I will have neither the renunciation which ends in a kind of idiocy dignified with a philosophic or a theologic name, nor the worldliness which ends in bestiality. I am a citizen of two worlds—a citizen of the Universe; I owe allegiance to two kingdoms. In my heart are those stars and that sun, and the LIGHT of those stars and that sun.
"Yes, I am equally devoted both to the material and the spiritual. And when the two in me are opposed to each other, conflicting, inimical, obdurate, my attitude towards them is neither that of my friend the Hermit nor that of my European superman. I sit down, shut my eyes, compose myself, and concentrate my mind on the mobility of things. If the clouds are moving, why, I have but to sit down and let them move away. I let my No-will, in this case, dominate my will, and that serves my purpose well. To be sure, every question tormenting us would resolve itself favourably, or at least indifferently, if we did not always rush in, wildly, madly, and arrogate to ourselves such claims of authority and knowledge as would make Olympus shake with laughter. The resignation and passiveness of the spirit should always alternate equitably with the terrible strivings of the will. For the dervish who whirls himself into a foaming ecstasy of devotion and the strenuous American who works himself up to a sweating ecstasy of gain, are the two poles of the same absurdity, the two ends of one evil. Indeed, to my way of thinking, the man on the Stock Exchange and the demagogue on the stump, for instance, are brothers to the blatant corybant."
THE SELF ECSTATIC
To graft the strenuosity of Europe and America upon the ease of the Orient, the materialism of the West upon the spirituality of the East,—this to us seems to be the principal aim of Khalid. But often in his wanderings and divagations of thought does he give us fresh proof of the truism that no two opposing elements meet and fuse without both losing their original identity. You may place the bit of contentment in the mouth of ambition, so to speak, and jog along in your sterile course between the vast wheat fields groaning under the thousand-toothed plough and the gardens of delight swooning with devotion and sensuality. But cross ambition with contentment and you get the hinny of indifference or the monster of fatalism. We do not say that indifference at certain passes of life, and certain stages, is not healthy, and fatalism not powerful; but both we believe are factors as potent in commerce and trade as pertinacity and calculation. "But is there not room in the garden of delight for a wheat field?" asks Khalid. "Can we not apply the bow to the telegraph wires of the world and make them the vehicle of music as of stock quotations? Can we not simplify life as we are simplifying the machinery of industry? Can we not consecrate its Temple to the Trinity of Devotion, Art, and Work, or Religion, Romance, and Trade?"
This seems to be the gist of Khalid's gospel. This, through the labyrinths of doubt and contradiction, is the pinnacle of faith he would reach. And often in this labyrinthic gloom, where a gleam of light from some recess of thought or fancy reveals here a Hermit in his cloister, there an Artist in his studio, below a Nawab in his orgies, above a Broker on the Stock Exchange, we have paused to ask a question about these glaring contrarieties in his life and thought. And always would he make this reply: "I have frequently moved and removed between extremes; I have often worked and slept in opposing camps. So, do not expect from me anything like the consistency with which the majority of mankind solder and shape their life. Deep thought seems often, if not always, inconsistent at the first blush. The intensity and passiveness of the spirit are as natural in their attraction and repulsion as the elements, whose harmony is only patent on the surface. Consistency is superficial, narrow, one-sided. I am both ambitious, therefore, and contented. My ambition is that of the earth, the ever producing and resuscitating earth, doing the will of God, combatting the rasure of time; and my contentment is that of the majestic pines, faring alike in shade and sunshine, in calm and storm, in winter as in spring. Ambition and Contentment are the night and day of my life-journey. The day makes room for the fruits of solacement which the night brings; and the night gives a cup of the cordial of contentment to make good the promise of day to day.
"Ay, while sweating in the tortuous path, I never cease to cherish the feeling in which I was nourished; the West for me means ambition, the East, contentment: my heart is ever in the one, my soul, in the other. And I care not for the freedom which does not free both; I seek not the welfare of the one without the other. But unlike my Phoenician ancestors, the spiritual with me shall not be limited by the natural; it shall go far above it, beyond or below it, saturating, sustaining, purifying what in external nature is but a symbol of the invisible. Nor is my idea of the spiritual developed in opposition to nature, and in a manner inimical to its laws and claims, as in Judaism and Christianity.
"The spiritual and natural are so united, so inextricably entwined around each other, that I can not conceive of them separately, independently. And both in the abstract sense are purportless and ineffectual without Consciousness. They are blind, dumb forces, beautiful, barbaric pageants, careering without aim or design through the immensities of No-where and No-time, if they are not impregnated and nourished with Thought, that is to say, with Consciousness, vitalised and purified. You may impregnate them with philosophy, nourish them with art; they both emanate from them, and remain as skidding clouds, as shining mirages, as wandering dust, until they find their exponent in Man.
"I tell thee then that Man, that is to say Consciousness, vitalised and purified, in other words Thought—that alone is real and eternal. And Man is supreme, only when he is the proper exponent of Nature, and spirit, and God: the three divine sources from which he issues, in which he is sustained, and to which he must return. Nature and the spiritual, without this embodied intelligence, this somatic being, called man or angel or ape, are as ermine on a wax figure. The human factor, the exponent intelligence, the intellective and sensuous faculties, these, my Brothers, are whole, sublime, holy, only when, in a state of continuous expansion, the harmony among themselves and the affirmative ties between them and Nature, are perfect and pure. No, the spiritual ought not and can not be free from the sensuous, even the sensual. The true life, the full life, the life, pure, robust, sublime, is that in which all the nobler and higher aspirations of the soul AND THE BODY are given free and unlimited scope, with the view of developing the divine strain in Man, and realising to some extent the romantic as well as the material hopes of the race. God, Nature, Spirit, Passion—Passion, Spirit, Nature, God—in some such panorama would I paint the life of a highly developed being. Any of these elements lacking, and the life is wanting, defective, impure.
"I have no faith in men who were conceived in a perfunctory manner, on a pragmatical system, so to speak; the wife receiving her husband in bed as she would a tedious guest at an afternoon tea. Only two flames uniting produce a third; but a flame and a name, or a flame and a spunge, produce a hiff and nothing. Oh, that the children of the race are all born phoenix-like in the fire of noble and sacred passion, in the purgatory, as it were, of Love. What a race, what a race we should have. What men, what women! Yes, that is how the children of the earth should be conceived, not on a pragmatical system, in an I-don't-care-about-the-issue manner. I believe in evoking the spirit, in dreaming a little about the gods of Olympus, and a little, too, about the gods of the abysmal depths, before the bodily communion. And in earnest, O my Brother, let us do this, despite what old Socrates says about the propriety and wisdom of approaching your wife with prudence and gravity...."
And thus, if we did not often halloo, Khalid, like a huntsman pursuing his game, would lose himself in the pathless, lugubrious damp of the forest. If we did not prevent him at times, holding firmly to his coat-tail, he would desperately pursue the ghost of his thoughts even on such precipitous paths to those very depths in which Socrates and Montaigne always felt at home. But he, a feverish, clamorous, obstreperous stripling of a Beduin, what chance has he in extricating his barbaric instincts from such thorny hedges of philosophy? And had he not quoted Socrates in that last paragraph, it would have been expunged. No, we are not utterly lost to the fine sense of propriety of this chaste and demure age. But no matter how etiolated and sickly the thought, it regains its colour and health when it breathes the literary air. Prudery can not but relish the tang of lubricity when flavoured with the classical. Moreover, if Socrates and Montaigne speak freely of these midnight matters, why not Khalid, if he has anything new to say, any good advice to offer. But how good and how new are his views let the Reader judge.
'Tis very well to speak "of evoking the spirit before the bodily communion," but those who can boast of a deeper experience in such matters will find in Socrates' dictum, quoted by Montaigne, the very gist of reason and wisdom. Those wise ones were as far-sighted as they were far gone. And moderation, as it was justly said once, is the respiration of the philosopher. But Khalid, though always invoking the distant luminary of transcendentalism for light, can not arrogate to himself this high title. The expansion of all the faculties, and the reduction of the demands of society and the individual to the lowest term;—this, as we understand it, is the aim of transcendentalism. And Khalid's distance from the orbit of this grand luminary seems to vary with his moods; and these vary with the librations and revolutions of the moon. Hallucinated, moonstruck Khalid, your harmonising and affinitative efforts do not always succeed. That is our opinion of the matter. And the Reader, who is no respecter of editors, might quarrel with it, for all we know.
Only by standing firmly in the centre can one preserve the equilibrium of one's thoughts. But Khalid seldom speaks of equilibrium: he cares not how he fares in falling on either side of the fence, so he knows what lies behind. Howbeit, we can not conceive of how the affinity of the mind and soul with the senses, and the harmony between these and nature, are possible, if not exteriorised in that very superman whom Khalid so much dreads, and on whom he often casts a lingering glance of admiration. So there you are. We must either rise to a higher consciousness on the ruins of a lower one, of no-consciousness, rather, or go on seeming and simulating, aspiring, perspiring, and suffering, until our turn comes. Death denies no one. Meanwhile, Khalid's rhapsodies on his way back to the city, we shall heed and try to echo.
* * * * *
"On the high road of the universal spirit," he sings, "the world, the whole world before me, thrilling and radiating, chanting of freedom, faith, hope, health and power, and joy. Back to the City, O Khalid,—the City where Truth, and Faith, and Honesty, and Wisdom, are ever suffering, ever struggling, ever triumphing. No, it matters not with me if the spirit of intelligence and power, of freedom and culture, which must go the rounds of the earth, is always dominated by the instinct of self-interest. That must be; that is inevitable. But the instinct of self-interest, O my Brother, goes with the flesh; the body-politic dies; nations rise and fall; and the eternal Spirit, the progenitor of all ideals, passes to better or worse hands, still chastening and strengthening itself in the process.
"The Orient and Occident, the male and female of the Spirit, the two great streams in which the body and soul of man are refreshed, invigorated, purified—of both I sing, in both I glory, to both I consecrate my life, for both I shall work and suffer and die. My Brothers, the most highly developed being is neither European nor Oriental; but rather he who partakes of the finer qualities of both the European genius and the Asiatic prophet.
"Give me, ye mighty nations of the West, the material comforts of life; and thou, my East, let me partake of thy spiritual heritage. Give me, America, thy hand; and thou, too, Asia. Thou land of origination, where Light and Spirit first arose, disdain not the gifts which the nations of the West bring thee; and thou land of organisation and power, where Science and Freedom reign supreme, disdain not the bounties of the sunrise.
"If the discoveries and attainments of Science will make the body of man cleaner, healthier, stronger, happier, the inexhaustible Oriental source of romantic and spiritual beauty will never cease to give the soul of man the restfulness and solacement it is ever craving. And remember, Europa, remember, Asia, that foreign culture is as necessary to the spirit of a nation as is foreign commerce to its industries. Elsewise, thy materialism, Europa, or thy spiritualism, Asia, no matter how trenchant and impregnable, no matter how deep the foundation, how broad the superstructure thereof, is vulgar, narrow, mean—is nothing, in a word, but parochialism.
"I swear that neither religious nor industrial slavery shall forever hold the world in political servitude. No; the world shall be free of the authority, absolute, blind, tyrannical, of both the Captains of Industry and the High Priests of the Temple. And who shall help to free it? Science alone can not do it; Science and Faith must do it.
"I say with thee, O Goethe, 'Light, more light!' I say with thee, O Tolstoi, 'Love, more love!' I say with thee, O Ibsen, 'Will, more will!' Light, Love, and Will—the one is as necessary as the other; the one is dangerous without the others. Light, Love, and Will, are the three eternal, vital sources of the higher, truer, purer cosmic life.
"Light, Love, and Will—with corals and pearls from their seas would I crown thee, O my City. In these streams would I baptise thy children, O my City. The mind, and the heart, and the soul of man I would baptise in this mountain lake, this high Jordan of Truth, on the flourishing and odoriferous banks of Science and Religion, under the sacred sidr of Reason and Faith.
"Ay, in the Lakes of Light, Love, and Will, I would baptise all mankind. For in this alone is power and glory, O my European Brothers; in this alone is faith and joy, O my Brothers of Asia.
"The Hudson, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Thames, the Seine, the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates, the Ganges—every one of these great streams shall be such a Jordan in the future. In every one of them shall flow the confluent Rivers of Light, Love, and Will. In every one of them shall sail the barks of the higher aspirations and hopes of mankind.
"I come now to be baptised, O my City. I come to slake my thirst in thy Jordan. I come to launch my little skiff, to do my little work, to pay my little debt.
"In thy public-squares, O my City, I would raise monuments to Nature; in thy theatres to Poesy and Thought; in thy bazaars to Art; in thy homes, to Health; in thy temples of worship, to universal Goodwill; in thy courts, to Power and Mercy; in thy schools, to Simplicity; in thy hospitals, to Faith; and in thy public-halls to Freedom and Culture. And all these, without Light, Love, and Will, are but hollow affairs, high-sounding inanities. Without Light, Love, and Will, even thy Nabobs in the end shall curse thee; and with these, thy hammals under their burdens shall thank the heavens under which thy domes and turrets and minarets arise."
ON THE OPEN HIGHWAY
And Khalid, packing his few worldly belongings in one of his reed baskets, gives the rest to his neighbours, leaves his booth in the pines to the swallows, and bids the monks and his friend the Hermit farewell. The joy of the wayfaring! Now, where is the jubbah, the black jubbah of coarse wool, which we bought from one of the monks? He wraps himself in it, tightens well his shoe-strings, draws his fur cap over his ears, carries his basket on his back, takes up his staff, lights his cigarette, and resolutely sets forth. The joy of the wayfaring! We accompany him on the open highway, through the rocky wilderness, down to the fertile plains, back to the city. For the account he gives us of his journey enables us to fill up the lacuna in Shakib's Histoire Intime, before we can have recourse to it again.
"From the cliffs 'neath which the lily blooms," he muses as he issues out of the forest and reaches the top of the mountain, "to the cliffs round which the eagles flit,—what a glorious promontory! What a contrast at this height, in this immensity, between the arid rocky haunts of the mountain bear and eagle and the spreading, vivifying verdure surrounding the haunts of man. On one side are the sylvan valleys, the thick grown ravines, the meandering rivulets, the fertile plains, the silent villages, and on the distant horizon, the sea, rising like a blue wall, standing like a stage scene; on the other, a howling immensity of boulders and prickly shrubs and plants, an arid wilderness—the haunt of the eagle, the mountain bear, and the goatherd. One step in this direction, and the entire panorama of verdant hills and valleys is lost to view. Its spreading, riant beauty is hidden behind that little cliff. I penetrate through this forest of rocks, where the brigands, I am told, lie in ambush for the caravans traveling between the valley of the Leontes and the villages of the lowland. But the brigands can not harm a dervish; my penury is my amulet—my salvation.
"The horizon, as I proceed, shrinks to a distance of ten minutes' walk across. And thus, from one circle of rocks to another, I pass through ten of them before I hear again the friendly voice of the rill, and behold again the comforting countenance of the sylvan slopes. I reach a little grove of slender poplars, under the brow of a little hill, from which issues a little limpid stream and runs gurgling through the little ferns and bushes down the heath. I swing from the road and follow this gentle rill; I can not find a better companion now. But the wanton lures me to a village far from the road on the other side of the gorge. Now, I must either retrace my steps to get to it by a long detour, or cross the gorge, descending to the deep bottom and ascending in a tangled and tortuous path to reach the main road on the breast of the opposite escarpment. Here is a short-cut which is long and weary. It lures me as the stream; it cheats me with a name. And when I am again on the open road, I look back with a sigh of relief on the dangers I had passed. I can forgive the luring rill, which still smiles to me innocently from afar, but not the deluding, ensnaring ravine. The muleteer who saw me struggling through the tangled bushes up the pathless, hopeless steep, assures me that my mother is a pious woman, else I would have slipped and gone into an hundred pieces among the rocks below. 'Her prayers have saved thee,' quoth he; 'thank thy God.'
"And walking together a pace, he points to the dizzy precipice around which I climbed and adds: 'Thou seest that rock? I hallooed to thee when thou wert creeping around it, but thou didst not hear me. From that same rock a woodman fell last week, and, falling, looked like a potted bird. He must have died before he reached the ground. His bones are scattered among those rocks. Thank thy God and thy mother. Her prayers have saved thee.'
"My dear mother, how long since I saw thee, how long since I thought of thee. My loving mother, even the rough, rude spirit of a muleteer can see in the unseen the beauty and benevolence of such devotion as thine. The words of this dusky son of the road, coming as through the trumpet of revelation to rebuke me, sink deep in my heart and draw tears from mine eyes. For art thou not ever praying for thy grievous son, and for his salvation? How many beads each night dost thou tell, how many hours dost thou prostrate thyself before the Virgin, sobbing, obsecrating, beating thy breast? And all for one, who until now, ever since he left Baalbek, did not think on thee.—Let me kiss thee, O my Brother, for thy mild rebuke. Let me kiss thee for reminding me of my mother.—No, I can not further with thee; I am waygone; I must sit me a spell beneath this pine—and weep. O Khalid, wretched that thou art, can the primitive soul of this muleteer be better than thine? Can there be a sounder intuitiveness, a healthier sense of love, a grander sympathy, beneath that striped aba, than there is within thy cloak? Wilt thou not beat thy cheeks in ignominy and shame, when a stranger thinks of thy mother, and reverently, ere thou dost? No matter how low in the spiritual circles she might be, no matter how high thou risest, her prayer and her love are always with thee. If she can not rise to thee on the ladder of reason, she can soar on the wings of affection. Yea, I prostrate myself beneath this pine, bury my forehead in its dust, thanking Allah for my mother. Oh, I am waygone, but joyous. The muleteer hath illumined thee, O Khalid.—
"There, the snow birds are passing by, flitting to the lowland. The sky is overcast; there is a lull in the wind. Hark, I hear the piping of the shepherd and the tinkling bell of the wether. Yonder is his flock; and there sits he on a rock blowing his doleful reed. I am almost slain with thirst. I go to him, and cheerfully does he milk for me. I do not think Rebekah was kinder and sweeter in Abraham's servant's eyes than was this wight in mine. 'Where dost thou sleep?' I ask, 'Under this rock,' he replies. And he shows me into the cave beneath it, which is furnished with a goat-skin, a masnad, and a little altar for the picture of the Virgin. Before this picture is an oil lamp, ever burning, I am told. 'And this altar,' quoth the shepherd, 'was my mother's. When she died she bequeathed it to me. I carry it with me in the wilderness, and keep the oil burning in her memory.' Saying which he took to weeping. Even the shepherd, O Khalid, is sent to rebuke thee. I thank him, and resume my march.
"At eventide, descending from one hilltop to another, I reach a village of no mean size. It occupies a broad deep steep, in which the walnut and poplar relieve the monotony of the mulberries. I hate the mulberry, which is so suggestive of worms; and I hate worms, and though they be of the silk-making kind. I hate them the more, because the Lebanon peasant seems to live for the silk-worms, which he tends and cultivates better than he does his children.