The Works of Fiona Macleod, Vol. IV, The Divine Adventure, Part III
We were silent. It is not easy for three, so closely knit, so intimate, as we had been for so many years, suddenly to enter upon a new comradeship, wherein three that had been as one were now several. A new reticence had come to each of us. We walked in silence--conscious of the beauty of the day, in sea and sky and already purpling moors; of the white gulls flecking the azure, and the yellowhammers and stonechats flitting among the gorse and fragrant bog-myrtle--we knew that none was inclined to speak. Each had his own thoughts.
The three dreamers--for so we were in that lovely hour of dream--walked steadfastly onward. It was not more than an hour after noon that we came to an inlet of the sea, so narrow that it looked like a stream, only that a salt air arose between the irises which thickly bordered it, and that the sunken rock-ledges were fragrant with seapink and the stone-convolvulus. The moving tidal water was grass-green, save where dusked with long, mauve shadows.
"Let us rest here," said the Body. "It is so sweet in the sunlight, here by this cool water."
The Will smiled as he threw himself down upon a mossy slope that reached from an oak's base to the pebbly margins.
"It is ever so with you," he said, still smiling. "You love rest, as the wandering clouds love the waving hand of the sun."
"What made you think of that?" asked the Soul abruptly, who till that moment had been rapt in silent commune with his inmost thoughts.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I, too, was thinking that just as the waving band of the sun beckons the white wandering clouds, as a shepherd calls to his scattered sheep, so there is a hand waving to us to press forward. Far away, yonder, a rainbow is being woven of sun and mist. Perhaps, there, we may come upon that which we have come out to see."
"But the Body wishes to rest. And, truly, it is sweet here in the sunflood, and by this moving green water, which whispers in the reeds and flags, and sings its own sea-song the while."
"Let us rest, then."
And, as we lay there, a great peace came upon us. There were hushed tears in the eyes of the Soul, and a dreaming smile upon the face of the Will, and, in the serene gaze of the Body, a content that was exceeding sweet. It was so welcome to lie there and dream. We knew a rare happiness in that exquisite quietude.
After a time, the Body rose, and moved to the water-edge.
"It is so lovely," he said, "I must bathe"--and with that he threw aside his clothes, and stood naked among the reeds and yellow flags which bordered the inlet.
The sun shone upon his white body, the colour of pale ivory. A delicate shadow lightly touched him, now here, now there, from the sunlit green sheaths and stems among which he stood. He laughed out of sheer joy and raised his arms, and made a splashing with his trampling feet.
Looking backward with a blithe glance, he cried:
"After all, it is good to be alive: neither to think nor to dream, but just content to be."
Receiving no answer, he laughed merrily, and, plunging forward, swam seaward against the sun-dazzle.
His two companions watched him with shining eyes.
"Truly, he is very fair to look upon," said the Soul.
"Yes, added the Will, "and perhaps he has chosen the better part elsewhere as here."
"Can it be the better part to prefer the things of the moment of those of Eternity?"
"What is Eternity?
For a few seconds the Soul was silent. It was not easy for him, to understand that what was a near horizon to him was a vague vista, possibly a mirage, to another. He was ever, in himself, moving just the hither side of the narrow mortal horizon which Eternity swims in upon from behind and beyond. The Will looked at him questioningly, then spoke again:
"You speak of the things of Eternity. What is Eternity?"
"Eternity is the Breath of God."
"That tells me nothing."
"It is Time, freed from his Mortality."
"Again, that tells me little. Or, rather, I am no wiser. What is Eternity to us?
"It is our perpetuity."
"Then is it only a warrant against Death?
"No, it is more, Time is our sphere: Eternity is our home."
"There is no other lesson for you in the worm, and in the dust?"
"What do you mean, brother?"
"Does dissolution mean nothing to you?"
It was now the Will who stared with wondering eyes. To him that question was as disquieting as that which he had asked the Soul. It was a minute before he spoke again.
"You ask me what is dissolution? Do you not understand what death means to me?"
"Why to you more than to me, or to the Body?"
"What is it to you?"
"A change from a dream of Beauty, to Beauty."
"And at the worst?
"Freedom: escape from narrow walls--often dark and foul."
"In any case nothing but a change, a swift and absolute change, from what was to what is?"
And you have no fear?"
"None. Why should I?"
"Why should you not?"
Again there was a sudden silence between the two. At last the Soul spoke:
"Why should I not? I cannot tell you. But I have no fear. I am a Son of God."
"Ah, yes, dear brother: you, too, and the Body."
" But we perish!"
"There is the resurrection of the Body."
"As it is written. In God's hour."
"Is the worm also the Son of God?
The soul stared downward into the green water, but did not answer. A look of strange trouble was in his eyes.
"Is not the Grave on the hither side of Eternity?"
Still no answer.
"Does God whisper beneath the Tomb?"
At this the Soul rose, and moved restlessly to and fro.
"Tell me," resumed the Will, "what is Dissolution?"
"It is the returning into dust of that which was dust."
"And what is dust?"
"The formless: the inchoate: the mass out of which the Potter makes new vessels, or moulds new shapes."
"But you do not go into dust?
"I came from afar: afar I go again."
"But we--we shall be formless: inchoate?"
"You shall be upbuilded."
The Soul turned, and again sat by his comrade.
"I know not," he said simply.
"But if the Body go back to the dust, and the life that is in him be blown out like a wavering flame; and if you who came from afar, again return afar; what, then, for me, who am neither an immortal spirit nor yet of this frail human clan?"
"God has need of you."
"How can I tell what I cannot even surmise?"
"Tell me, tell me this: if I am so wedded to the Body that, if he perish, I perish also, what resurrection can there be for me?"
"I do not know."
"Is it a resurrection for the Body if, after weeks, or years, or scores of years, his decaying dust is absorbed into the earth, and passes in a chemic change into the living world?"
"No: that is not a resurrection: that is transmutation."
"Yet that is all. There is nothing else possible. Dust unto dust. As with the Body, so with the mind, the spirit of life, that which I am, the Will. In the Grave there is no fretfulness anymore: neither any sorrow, or joy, or any thought, or dream, or fear or hope whatsoever. Hath not God Himself said it, through the mouth of His prophet?"
"I do not understand," murmured the Soul, troubled.
"Because the Grave is not your portion."
"But I, too, must know Death!"
"Yes, truly--a change what was it?--a change from a dream of Beauty, to Beauty!"
"God knows I would that we could go together--you, and he yonder, and I; or, if that cannot be, he being wholly mortal, then--at the least you and I."
"But we cannot. At least, so it seems to us. But I--I too am alive, I too have dreams and visions, I too have joys and hopes, I too have despairs. And for me--nothing. I am, at the end, as a blown flame."
"It may not be so. Something has whispered to me at times that you and I are to be made one."
"Tell me: can the immortal wed the mortal?"
"Then how can we two wed, for I am mortal. My very life depends on the Body. A falling branch, a whelming wave, a sudden ill, and in a moment that which was is not. He, the Body, is suddenly become inert, motionless, cold, the perquisite of the Grave, the sport of the maggot and the worm: and I--I am a subsided wave, a vanished spiral of .smoke, a little fugitive wind-eddy abruptly ended."
"You know not what is the end any more than I do. In a moment we are translated."
"Ah, is it so with you? O Soul, I thought that you had a profound surety!"
"I know nothing: I believe."
"Then it may be with you as with us?"
"I know little: I believe."
"When I am well I believe in new, full, rich, wonderful life--in life in the spiritual as well as the mortal sphere. And the Body, when he is ill, he, too, thinks of that which is your heritage. But if you are not sure--if you know nothing--may it not be that you, too, have fed upon dreams, and have dallied with Will-o'-the-wisp, and are an idle-blown flame even as I am, and have only a vaster spiritual outlook? May it not be that you, O Soul, are but a spiritual nerve in the dark, confused, brooding mind of Humanity? May it not be that you and I and the Body go down unto one end?"
"Not so. There is the word of God."
"We read it differently."
"Yet the Word remains."
"You believe in the immortal life? You believe in Eternity?
"Then what is Eternity ?
"Already you have asked me that!"
"You believe in Eternity. What is Eternity?
"And what are the things of Eternity?"
"Then what need for us who are mortal to occupy ourselves with what must be for ever beyond us?"
Thereat, with a harsh laugh, the Will arose, and throwing his garments from him, plunged into the sunlit green water, with sudden cries of joy calling to the Body, who was still rejoicefully swimming in the sun-dazzle as he breasted the tide.
An hour later we rose, and, silent again, once more resumed our way.
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