Under a Dark Star,
by Fiona Macleod
| CHILDREN OF THE DARK STAR
It is God that builds the nest of the blind bird. I know not
when or where I heard that said, if ever I heard it, but it has been near me as a
breast-feather to a bird's heart since I was a child.Mānus himself and his terrible end, when
Gloom his brother played death upon him, in the deep sea, where the seals were, and he
hearing nothing, nothing in all the world, but the terror and horror of the Dān-nan-Rōn.
And we spoke of Gloom himself, of whom none had heard since the day he fled from the
west---not after the death of Mānus, about which few knew, but after the murder of the
swimmer in the loch, whom he took to be his own brother Seumas and the lover of his
desire, Katreen Macarthur. I thought---perhaps it was rather I preferred to think---that
Gloom was no longer among the evil forces loose in the world; but I heard from Alasdair
that he was alive, and would some day come again; for the men who are without compassion,
and sin because it is their life, cannot for too long remain from the place of their
When I ponder it, I say to myself that it is God also who guides sunrise and moonrise into
obscure hearts, to build, with those winged spirits of light, a nest for the blind soul.
Often and often I have thought of this saying of late, because of him who was known to me
years ago as Alasdair Achanna, and of whom I have written elsewhere as "The Anointed
Man": though now from the Torridons of Ross to the Rhinns of Islay he is known by one
name only, "Alan Dall."
No one knows the end of those who are born under the Dark Star. It is said they are
born to some strange, and certainly obscure, destiny. Some are fëy from their youth, or a
melancholy of madness comes upon them later, so that they go forth from their kind, and
wander outcast, haunting most the lonely and desolate regions where the voice of the
hill-wind is the sole voice. Some, born to evil, become, in strange ways, ministers of
light. Some, born of beauty, are plumed spirits of decay. But of one and all this is sure:
that, in the end, none knows the when or how of their going.
Of these Children of the Dark Star my friend Alasdair Achanna, "Alan Dall," was
" Alan Dall "---blind, as the Gaelic word means: it was difficult for me to
believe that darkness could be fallen, without break, upon the eyes of Alasdair Achanna.
He had so loved the beauty of the world that he had forfeited all else. Yet, blind
wayfarer along the levens of life as he was, I envied him---for, truly, this beautiful
soul had entered into the kingdom of dreams.
When accidentally I met him once again, it was with deep surprise on both sides. He
thought I had gone to a foreign land, either the English southlands or "away
beyond." I, for my part, had believed him to be no longer of the living, and had more
than once wondered if he had been lured away, as the saying is.
We spoke much of desolate Eilanmore, and wondered if the rains and winds still made the
same gloom upon the isle as when we lived there. We spoke of his kinswoman, and my dear
friend, Anne Gillespie, she who went away with Mānus MacCodrum, and died so young; and of
Since then I have had reason to know how true was Alasdair's spiritual knowledge though
this is not the time for me to relate either what I then heard from " Alan
Dall," or what terrible and strange revealing of Gloom Achanna there was some three
years ago, when his brother, whom he was of old so wont to mock, was no longer among those
who dwell visibly on earth.
But naturally that which the more held me in interest was the telling by Alasdair of how
he whom I had thought dead was alive, and known by another name than his own. It is a
story I will tell again, that of " Alan Dall ": of how his blindness came to
him, and of how he quickened with the vision that is from within, and of divers strange
things; but here I speak only of that which brought him to Love and Death and the Gate of
For many weeks and months after he left Eilanmore, he told me, he wandered aimlessly
abroad among the Western Isles. The melancholy of his youth had become a madness, but this
was only the air that blew continually upon the loneliness of his spirit. There was a star
upon his forehead, I know, for I have seen it: I saw it long ago when he revealed to me
that beauty was a haunting spirit everywhere: when I looked upon him, and knew him as one
anointed. In the light of that star he walked ever in a divine surety. It was the star of
He fared to and fro as one in a dream, a dream behind, a dream his quest, himself a dream.
Wherever he went, the light that was his spirit shone for healing, for peace, for troubled
joy. He had ever lived so solitary, so few save his own kin and a scattered folk among the
inner isles knew him even by sight, that in all the long reach of the Hebrides from the
Butt of the Lews to Barra Head he passed as a stranger---Gael and an islesman, it is true,
because of his tongue and accent, but still a stranger. So great was the likeness he bore
to one who was known throughout the Hebrides, and in particular to every man and woman in
the South Isles, so striking in everything save height was he to the priest, Father Alan
M'Ian, known everywhere simply as Father Alan, that he in turn came to be called Alan
He was in Benbecula, the isle of a thousand waters, when he met his brother Gloom, and
this on the day or the next day but one following the wild end of Mānus MacCodrum. His
brother, dark, slim, furtive as an otter, was moving swiftly through a place of
heather-clumps and brown tangled fern. Alasdair was on the ground, and saw him as he came.
There was a smile on his face that he knew was evil, for Gloom so smiled when his spirit
rose within him.
He stopped abruptly, a brief way off. He had not descried any other, but a yellowhammer
had swung sidelong from a spire of furze, uttering a single note. Somewhere, he thought,
death was on the trail of life.
There was motionless stillness for a brief while. The yellowhammer hopped to the topmost
spray of the bramblebush where he had alit, and his light song flirted through the air.
Then Gloom spoke. He looked sidelong, smiling furtively; yet his eyes had not rested on
"Well, now, Alasdair, soon there will not be an Achanna on Eilanmore."
Alasdair---tall, gaunt, with his blue dreaming eyes underneath his grizzled tangled hair
---rose, and put out his right hand in greeting; but Gloom looked beyond it. Alasdair
broke the silence which ensued.
"So you are here in Benbecula, brother? I, and others too, thought you had gone
across the seas when you left Eilanmore."
"The nest was fouled, I am thinking, brother, or you, and Mānus too, and then I
myself, would not be here and be there."
"Are you come out of the south, or going there?"
"Well, and for why that?
"I thought you might be having news for me of Mānus. You know that Anne, who was
dear to us, is under the grass now?
"Ay, she is dead. I know that."
"And Mānus? Is he still at Balnahunnur-sa-mona? Is he the man he was?"
"No, I am not for thinking, brother, that Mānus is the man he was."
"He will be at the fishing now? I heard that more than a mile o' the sea foamed
yesterday off Craiginnish Heads, with the big school of mackerel there was."
"Ay, he was ever fond o' the sea, Mānus MacCodrum: fëy o' the sea, for the matter
o' that, Alasdair Achanna."
"I am on my way now to see Mānus."
"I would not be going, brother," answered Gloom, in a slow, indifferent voice.
"And for why that?"
Gloom advanced idly, and slid to the ground, lying there and looking up into the sky.
"It's a fair, sweet world, Alasdair."
Alasdair looked at him, but said nothing.
"It's a fair, sweet world. I have heard that saying on your mouth a score of times,
and a score upon a score."
"Well? But is it not a fair, sweet world?"
"Ay, it is fair and sweet."
"Lie still, brother, and I will tell you about Mānus, who married Anne whom I loved.
And I will be beginning if you please, with the night when she told us that he was to be
her man, and when I played on my feadan the air of the Dān-nan-Rōn. Will you be
Then, with that, Gloom, always lying idly on his back, and smiling often as he stared into
the blue sky, told all that happened to Anne and Mānus, till death came to Anne; and then
how Mānus heard the seal-voice that was in his blood calling to him; and how he went to
his sea-folk, made mad by the secret fatal song of the feadan, the song that is
called the Dān-nan-Rōn; and how the pools in the rocky skerries out yonder in the sea
were red still with the blood that the seals had not lapped, or that the tide had not yet
lifted and spilled greying into the grey wave.
There was a silence when he had told that thing. Alasdair did not look at him. Gloom,
stared into the sky, still lying on his back, smiling furtively. Alasdair was white as
foam at night. At last he spoke.
"The death of Mānus is knocking at your heart, Gloom Achanna."
"I am not a seal, brother. Ask the seals."
"They know. He was of their People: not of us."
"It is a lie. He was a man, as we are. He was our friend, and the husband of
"His death is knocking at your heart, Gloom Achanna."
"Are you for knowing if our brother Seumas is still on Eilanmore?"
"Alasdair looked long at him, anxious, puzzled by the abrupt change."
"And for why should he not still be on Eilanmore? "
"Have you not had hearing of anything about Seumas--and--and--about Katreena nic
"About Katreen, daughter of Art Macarthur, in the Sleat of Skye?"
"Ay---about Seumas, and Katreen Macarthur?"
"What about them?"
"Nothing. Ah, no, for sure, nothing. But did you never hear Seumas speak of this
"He has the deep love for her, Gloom; the deep, true love."
With that Gloom smiled again, as he stared idly into the sky from where he lay on his back
amid the heather and bracken. With a swift, furtive gesture he slipped his feadan from his
breast, and put his breath upon it. A cool, high spiral of sound, like delicate blue
Then, suddenly, he began to play the Dannhsa-na-Mairbh---the Dance of Death.
Alasdair shivered but said nothing. He had his eyes on the ground. When the wild,
fantastic, terrifying air filled the very spires of the heather with its dark music---its
music out of the grave----he looked at his brother.
"Will you be telling me now, Gloom, what is in your heart against Seumas?"
"Is not Seumas wishful to be leaving Eilanmore?"
"Like enough. I know nothing of Eilanmore now. It is long since I have seen the white
o' the waves in Catacol haven."
"I am thinking that that air I was playing will help him to be leaving soon, but not
to be going where Katreen Macarthur is."
"And why not?"
"Well, because I am thinking Katreen, the daughter of Art Macarthur, is to have
another man to master her than our brother Seumas."
"I will tell you his name, Alasdair: it is Gloom Achanna."
"It is a cruel wrong that is in your mind. You would do to Seumas what you have done
to Mānus, husband of Anne, our friend and kinswoman. There is death in your heart, Gloom:
the blue mould is on the corn that is your heart."
Gloom played softly. It was a little eddy of evil bitter music, swift and biting and
poisonous as an adder's tongue.
Alasdair's lips tightened, and a red splash came into the whiteness of his face, as though
a snared bird were bleeding beneath a patch of snow.
"You have no love for the girl. By your own word to me on Eilanmore, you had the
hunger on you for Anne Gillespie. Was that just because you saw that she loved Mānus? And is it so now---that you have a hawk's eye for the
poor birdeen yonder in the Sleat, and that just because you know, or have heard, that
Seumas loves her, and loves her true, and because she loves him?"
"I have heard no such lie, Alasdair Achanna."
"Then what is it that you have heard?"
"Oh, the east wind whispers in the grass; an' a bird swims up from the grass an'
sings it in the blue fields up yonder; an' then it falls down again in a thin, thin rain;
an' a drop trickles into my ear. An' that is how I am knowing, that what I know, Alasdair
"And Anne---did you love Anne?"
"Anne is dead."
"It's the herring-love that is yours, Gloom."
"To-day it is a shadow here: to-morrow it is a shadow yonder. There is no tide for
you: there is no haven for the likes o' you."
"There is one woman I want. It is Katreen Macarthur."
"If it be a true thing that I have heard, Gloom Achanna, you have brought shame and
sorrow to one woman already."
For the first time Gloom stirred. He shot a swift glance at Alasdair, and a tremor was in
his white, sensitive hands. He looked as a startled fox does, when, intent, its muscles
quiver before flight.
"And what will you have heard?" he asked in a low voice.
"That you took away from her home a girl who did not love you, but on whom you put a
spell; and that she followed you to her sorrow, and was held by you to her shame; and that
she was lost, or drowned herself at last, because of these things.
"And did you hear who she was?"
"No. The man who told me was Aulay MacAulay, of Carndbu in Sutherland. He said he did
not know who she was, but I am thinking he did know, poor man, because his eyes wavered,
and he put a fluttering band to his beard and began to say swift, stammering words about
the herrin' that had been seen off the headland that morning."
Gloom smiled, a faint fugitive smile; then, half turning where he lay, he took a letter
from his pocket.
"Ay, for sure, Aulay MacAulay was an old friend of yours; to be sure, yes. I am
remembering he used sometimes to come to Eilanmore in his smack. But before I speak again
of what you said to me just now, I will read you my letter that I have written to our
brother Seumas; he is not knowing if I am living still, or am dead."
With that he opened the letter, and, smiling momently at times, he read it in a slow,
deliberate voice, and as though it were the letter of another man:
Well, Seumas, my brother, it is wondering if I am
dead you will be. Maybe ay, and maybe no. But I send you this writing to let you see that
I know all you do and think of. So you are going to leave Eilanmore without an Achanna
upon it? And you will be going to Sleat in Skye? Well, let me be telling you this thing: Do
not go. I see blood there. And there is this, too: neither you nor any man shall take
Katreen away from me. You know that; and Ian Macarthur knows it; and Katreen knows
it: and that holds whether I am alive or dead. I say to you: Do not go. It will be better
for you and for all. Ian Macarthur is away on the north-sea with the whaler-captain who
came to us at Eilanmore, and will not be back for three months yet. It will be better for
him not to come back. But if he comes back he will have to reckon with the man who says
that Katreen Macarthur is his. I would rather not have two men to speak to, and one my
brother. It does not matter to you where I am. I want no money just now. But put aside my
portion for me. Have it ready for me against the day I call for it. I will not be patient
that day: so have it ready for me. In the place that I am, I am content. You will be saying:
Why is my brother away in a remote place (I will say this to you: That it is not further
north than St. Kilda nor further south than the Mull of Cantyre!), and for what reason?
That is between me and silence. But perhaps you think of Anne sometimes. Do you know that
she lies under the green grass? And of Mānus MacCodrum?
They say that he swam out into the sea and was drowned; and they whisper of the
seal-blood, though the minister is angered with them for that. He calls it a madness.
Well, I was there at that madness, and I played to it on my feadan. And now, Seumas, can
you be thinking of what the tune was that I played?
Your brother, who waits his own day.
"Do not be forgetting this thing: I would rather not be
playing the Dān-nan-Rōn; it was the song of his soul, that; and yours is the
When he had read the last words, Gloom looked at Alasdair. His eyes quailed instinctively
at the steadfast gaze of his brother.
"I am thinking," he said lightly, though unneasily as he himself knew,
"that Seumas will not now be putting his marriage-thoughts upon Katreen."
For a minute or more Alasdair was silent. Then he spoke.
"Do you remember, when you were a child, what old Morag said?"
"She said that your soul was born black, and that you were no child for all your
young years; and that for all your pleasant ways, for all your smooth way and smoother
tongue, you would do cruel evil to man and woman as long as you lived. She said you were
born under the Dark Star."
"Ay, and you too, Alasdair. Don't be forgetting that. You too, she saw, were born so.
She said we---you and I---that we two were the Children of the Dark Star."
"But she said no evil of me, Gloom, and you are knowing that well."
"Well, and what then? "
"Do not send that letter to Seumas. He has deep love for Katreen. Let the lass be.
You do not love her, Gloom. It will be to her sorrow and shame if you seek her. But if you
are still for sending it, I will sail to-morrow for Eilanmore. I will tell Seumas, and I
will go with him to the Sleat of Skye. And I will be there to guard the girl Katreen
against you, Gloom."
"No: you will do none of these things. And for why? Because to-morrow you will be
hurrying far north to Stornoway. And when you are at Stornoway you may still be Alan Mōr
to every one, as you are here, but to one person you will be Alasdair Achannd no other,
and now and for evermore."
Alasdair stared, amazed.
"What wild-goose folly is this that you would be setting me on, you whom it is my
sorrow to call brother?"
"I have a letter here for you to read. I wrote it many days ago, but it is a good
letter will now for all that. If I give it to you now, you pass me the word that you will
not read it till I am gone away from here---till you cannot have a sight of me, or of the
shadow of my shadow?"
"Then here it is: an' good day to you, Alasdair Achanna. An' if ever we meet again,
you be keeping to your way, as I will keep to my way: and in that doing there shall be no
blood between brothers. But if you want to seek me you will find me across the seas, and
mayhap Katreen---ah, well, yes, Katreen or some one else---by my side."
And with that, and giving no hand, or no glance of the eyes, Gloom rose, and turned upon
his heel, and walked slowly but lightly across the tangled bent.
Alasdair watched him till he was a long way off. Gloom never once looked back. When he was
gone a hundred yards or more, he put his feadan to his mouth and began to play. Two airs
he played, the one ever running into the other: wild, fantastic, and, in Alasdair's ears,
horrible to listen to. the one he heard the moaning of Anne, the screams of Mānus among the seals: in
the other, a terror moving stealthily against his brother Seumas, and against Katreen,
and---he --knew not whom.
When the last faint wild spiral of sound, that seemed to be neither of the Dān-nan-Rōn
nor of the Dannhsa-na-Mairbh, but of the soul of evil that inhabited both---when this last
perishing echo was no more, and only the clean cold hill---wind came down across the moors
with a sighing sweetness, Alasdair rose. The letter could wait now, he muttered, till he
was before the peats.
When he returned to the place where he was lodging, the crofter's wife put a bowl of
porridge and some coarse rye-bread before him.
"And when you've eaten, Alan Mōr," she said, as she put her plaid over her head
and shoulders, and stood in the doorway, "will you be having the goodness to smoor
the peats before you lie down for the sleep that I'm thinking is heavy upon you?"
"Ay, for sure," Alasdair answered gently.
"But are you not to be here to-night?"
"No. The sister of my man Ranald is down with the fever, and her man away with mine
at the fishing, and I am going to be with her this night; but I will be here before you
wake for all that. And so good-night again, Alan Mōr."
"God's blessing, and a quiet night, good woman."
Then, after he had supped, and dreamed a while as he sat opposite the fire of glowing
peats, he opened the letter that Gloom had given him. He read it slowly.
It was some minutes later that he took it up again, from where it had fallen on the red
sandstone of the hearth. And now he read it once more, aloud, and in a low, strained voice
that had a bitter, frozen grief in it-a frozen grief that knew no thaw in tears, in a
You will remember well, Alasdair my brother, that you loved
Marsail nic Ailpean, who lived in Eilan-Rona. You'll be remembering, too, that when Ailpean MacAilpean said he
would never let Marsail put her hand in yours, you went away and said no more. That was
because you were a fool, Alasdair my brother. And Marsail---she, too, thought you were a
fool. I know you did that doing because you thought it was Marsail's wish: that is,
because she did not love you. What had that to do with it? I am asking you, what had that
to do with it, if you wanted Marsail? Women are for men, not men for women. And, brother,
because you are a Poet, let me tell you this, which is old ancient wisdom, and not mine
alone, that no woman likely to be loved by a poet can be true to a poet. For women are all
at heart cowards, and it takes a finer woman than any you or I have known to love a poet.
For that means to take the steep brae instead of the easy lily leven. I am thinking,
Alasdair, you will not find easily the woman that in her heart of hearts will leave the
lily leen for the steep brae. No, not easily.
Ah yes, for sure, I am hearing you say---women bear pain
better, are braver, too, than men. I have heard you say that. I have heard the
whistle-fish at the coming of the tide---but a little later the tide came nearer. And are
they brave, these women you who are poets speak of, but whom we who are men never meet! I
will tell you this little thing, brother: they are always crying for love, but love is the
one thing they fear. And in their hearts they hate poets, Alasdair, because poets say, Be
true: but that cannot be, because women can be true to their lovers, but they cannot
be true to love---for love wishes sunrise and full noon everywhere, so that there be no
lie anywhere, and that is why women fear love.
And I am thinking of these things, because of Marsail whom you loved, and because of the
song you made once about the bravery of woman. I have forgotten the song, but I remember
that the last line of that song was 'foam o' the sea.'
And what is all this about? you will be saying when you read this. Well, for that, it is
my way. If you want a woman---not that a man like you, all visions and bloodless as a
skate, could ever have that want---you would go to her and say so. But my way is to play
my feadan at the towers of that woman's pride and self-will, and see them crumbling,
crumbling, till I walk in when I will, and play my feadan again, and go laughing out once
more, and she with me.
But again you will say, Why all this? Brother, will you be remembering this: That our
brother Marcus also loved Marsail. Marcus is under the wave, you will say. Yes, Marcus is
under the wave. But I, Gloom Achanna, am not: and I too loved Marsail. Well, when you went
away, you wrote a letter to her to say that you would never love any other woman. She did
not get that letter. It is under the old black stone with the carvings on it, that is in
the brown water of the bog that lies between Eilanmore farmhouse and the Grey Loch. And
once, long afterward, you wrote again, and you sent that letter to Marcus, to take to her
and to give to her in person. I found it on the day of his death in the pocket of a frieze
coat he had worn the day before. I do not know where it is now. The gulls know. Or perhaps
the crabs at the bottom of the sea do. You with your writing, brother: I with my
Well, I went to Eilan-Rona. I played my feadan there, outside the white walls of
Marsail nic Ailpean. And when the walls were crumbling I entered, and I said Come, and she
No, no, Alasdair my brother, I do not think you would have been happy. She was ever
letting tears come in the twilight, and in the darkness of the sleeping hours. I have
heard her sob in full noon, brother. She was fair to see, a comely lass; but she never
took to a vagrant life. She thought we were going to Coleraine to sail to America. America
is a long way ---it is a longer way than love for a woman who has too many tears. She said
I had put a spell upon her. Tut, tut. I played my feadan to pretty Marsail. No harm in
that, for sure, Alasdair aghrāy?
For six months or more we wandered here and there. She had no English---so, to quiet her
with silence, I went round by the cold bleak burghs and grey stony towns northward and
eastward of Inverness, as far and further than Peterhead and Fraserburgh. A cold land, a
thin, bloodless folk. I would not be recommending it to you, Alasdair. And yet, for why
not? It would be a good place for the 'Anointed Man.' you could be practising there there
nicely, brother, against cold winds and cold hearths nicely and bitter cold ways.
This is a long, long letter, the longest I have ever written. It has been for pleasure to
me to write this letter, though I have written slowly, and now here, and now there. And I
must be ending. But I will say this first: That I am weary of Marsail now, and that, too,
for weeks past. She will be having a child soon. She is in Stornoway, at the house of Bean
Marsanta MacIlleathain ('Widow M'Lean,' as they have it in that half-English place), in
the street that runs behind the big street where the Courthouse is. She will be there till
her time is over. it is a poor place, ill-smelling, too. But she will do well there: Bean
Catreena is a good woman, if she is paid for it. And I paid good money, Aladair. It will
do for a time. Not for very long, I am thinking, but till then. Marsail has no longer her
fair-to-see way with her. it is a pity that---for Marsail.
nd now, brother, will you be remembering your last word to me on Eilanmore? You said, 'You
shall yet eat dust, Gloom Achanna, whose way is the way of death.' And will you be
remembering what I said? I said, 'Wait, for I may come later than you to that bitter
And now I am thinking that it is you, and not I who have eaten dust.---Your brother,
And so---his dream was over. The vision of a happiness to be,
of a possible happiness ---and, for long, it had not been with Alasdair a vision of reward
to him, but one of a rarer happiness, which considered only the weal of Marsail, and that
whether ultimately he or some other won her---this, which was, now was not: this was
become as the dew on last year's grass. Not once had he wavered in his dream. By day and
by night the wild-rose of his love had given him beauty and fragrance. He had come to hope
little: indeed, to believe that Marsail might already be wed happily, and perhaps with a
child's little hands against her breast. I am thinking he did not love as most men love.
When the truth flamed into his heart from the burning ashes of Gloom's letter, he sat a
while, staring vaguely into the glow of the peats. There had been a bitter foolishness in
his making, he muttered to himself: a bitter foolishness. Had he been more as other men
and less a dreamer, had he shown less desire of the soul and more desire of the body, then
surely Marsail would not have been so hard to win. For she had lingered with him in the
valley, if she had not trod the higher slopes: that he remembered with mingled joy and
grief. Surely she had loved him. And, of a truth, his wrought imaginings were not
rainbow-birds. Their wings had caught the spray, of those bitter waters which we call
experience, the wisdom of the flesh. Great love claims the eternal stars behind the
perishing stars of the beloved's eyes, and would tread "the vast of dreams"
beneath a little human heart. But there are few who love thus. It was not likely that
Marsail was of those strong enough to mate with the great love. The many love too well the
All night long Alasdair sat brooding by the fire. Before dawn, he rose and went to the
door. The hollow infinitude of the sky was filled with the incense of a myriad smoke of
stars. His gaze wandered, till held where Hesperus and the planets called The Hounds
leaped, tremulously incessant, forever welling to the brim, yet never spilling their
radiant liquid fires. An appalling stillness prevailed in these depths.
Beyond the heather-slope in the moor he could hear the sea grinding the shingle as the
long, slow wave rose and fell. Once, for a few moments, he listened intent: invisibly
overhead a tail of wild geese travelled wedgewise towards polar seas, and their forlorn
honk slipped bell-like through the darkness, and as from ledge to ledge of silent air.
As though it were the dew of that silence, peace descended upon him. There was, in truth,
a love deeper than that of the body. Marsail---ah, poor broken heart, poor wounded life!
Was love not great enough to heal that wound; was there not balm to put a whiteness and a
quietness over that troubled heart, deep calm and moonrise over drowning waters?
Mayhap she did not love him now, could never love him as he loved her, with the love that
is blind to life and deaf to death: well, her he loved. It was enough. Her sorrow and her
shame, at least, might be his too. Her will would be his will: and if she were too weary
to will, her weariness would be his to guide into a haven of rest: and if she had no
thought of rest, no dream of rest, no wish for rest, but only a blind, baffled crying for
the love which had brought her to the dust, well, that too he would take as his own, and
comfort her with a sweet, impossible dream, and crown her shame with honour, and put his
love like cool green grass beneath her feet.
"And she will not lose all," he said, smiling gently: adding, below his breath,
as he turned to make ready for his departure against the dawn, because, for sure, it is
God that builds the nest of the blind bird."