The morning twilight wavered, and it was as though an incalculable host of grey doves fled upward and spread earthward before a wind with pinions of rose: then the dappled dove-grey vapour faded, and the rose hung like the reflection of crimson fire, and dark isles of ruby and straits of amethyst and pale gold and saffron and April-green came into being: and the new day was come.
We stood silent. There is a beauty too great. We moved slowly round by the low bare hill beyond the wood. No one was there, but on the summit stood three crosses one, midway, so great that it threw a shadow, from the brow of the East to the feet of the West.
The Soul stopped. He seemed as one rapt. We looked upon him with awe for his face shone as though from a light within.
"Listen," he whispered, "I hear the singing of the Sons of Joy. Farewell: I shall come again."
We were alone, we two. Silently we walked onward. The sunrays slid through the grass, birds sang, the young world that is so old smiled: but we had no heed for this. In that new solitude each almost hated the other. At noon a new grief, a new terror, came to us. We were upon a riclge, looking westward. There were no hills anywhere.
Doubtless the Soul had gone that way which led to them. For us . . . they were no longer there.
"Let us turn and go home," said the Body wearily.
The Will stood and thought.
"Let us go home," he said.
With that he turned, and walked hour after hour. It was by a road unknown to us, for, not noting where we went, we had traversed a path that led us wide of that by which we had come. At least we saw nothing of it. Nor, at dusk , would the Will go further, nor agree even to seek for a path that might lead to the garden called Gethsemane.
"We are far from it," he said, "if indeed there be any such place. It was a dream, and I am weary of all dreams. When we are home again, O Body, we will dream no more."
The Body was silent, then abruptly laughed. His comrade looked at him curiously.
"Why do you laugh?"
"Did you not say there would be no more tears? And of that I am glad."
"You did not laugh gladly. But what I said was that there shall be no more dreams for us, that we will dream no more."
"It is the same thing. We have tears because we dream. If we hope no more, we dream no more: if we dream no more, we weep no more. And I laughed because of this: that if we weep no more we can live as we like, without thought of an impossible to-morrow, and with little thought even for to-day."
For a time we walked in brooding thought, but slowly, because of the gathering dark. Neither spoke, until the Body suddenly stood still, throwing up his arms.
"Oh, what a fool I have been! What a fool I have been!"
The Will made no reply. He stared before him into the darlkness.
We had meant to rest in the haven of the great oaks, but a thin rain had begun, and we shivered with the chill. The thought came to us to turn and find our way back to the house of the shepherd, hopeless as the quest might prove, for we were more and more bewildered as to where we were, or even as to the direction in which we moved, being without pilot of moon or star, and having already followed devious ways. But while we were hesitating, we saw a light. The red flame shone steadily through the rainy gloom, so we knew that it was no lantern borne by a fellow-wayfarer. In a brief while we came upon it, and saw that it was from a red lamp burning midway in a forest chapel.
We lifted the latch and entered. There was no one visible. Nor was anyone in the sacristy. We went to the door again, and looked vainly in all directions for light which might reveal a neighbouring village, or hamlet, or even a woodlander's cottage.
Glad as we were of the shelter, and of the glow from the lamp, a thought, a dream, a desire, divided us. We looked at each other sidelong, each both, seeking and avoiding the other's eyes.
"I cannot stay here," said the Body at last; "the place stifles me. I am frightened to stay. The path outside is clear and well trodden; it must lead somewhere, and as this chapel is here, and as the lamp is lit, a village, or at least a house, cannot be far off."
The Will looked at him.
"Do not go," he said earnestly.
"I do not know. But do not let us part. I dare not leave here. I feel as though this were our one safe haven to-night."
The Body moved to the door and opened it.
"I am going. And--and--I am going, too, because I am tired both of you and the Soul. There is only one way for me, I see, and I go that way. Farewell."
The door closed. The Will was alone. For a few moments he stood, smiling scornfully. With a sudden despairing gesture he ran to the door, flung it open, and peered into the darkness.
He could see no one; could hear no steps. His long beseeching cry was downed among these solitudes. Slowly he re-closed the door; slowly walked across the stone flags; and with folded arms stood looking upon the altar, dyed crimson with the glow from the great lamp which hung midway in the nave.
There was a choir-stall to the right. Here he sat, for a time glad merely to be at rest.
Soon all desire of sleep went from him, and he began to dream. At this he smiled: it was so brief a while ago since he had said he would dream no more.
Away now from his two lifelong comrades, and yet subtly connected with them, and living by and through each, he felt a new loneliness. Life could be very terrible. Life . . . the word startled him. What life could there be for him if the Body perished? That was why he had cried out in anguish after his comrade had left, with that ominous word "farewell." True, now he lived, breathed, thought, as before: but this, he knew, was by some inexplicable miracle of personality, by which the three who had been one were each enabled to go forth, fulfilling, and in all ways ruled and abiding by, the natural law. If the Body should die, would he not become as a breath in frost? if the Soul . . . ah! he wondered what then would happen.
"When I was with the Body," he muttered, "I was weary of dreams, or longed only for those dreams which could be fulfilled in action. But now . . . now it is different. I am alone. I must follow my own law. But what . . . how . . . where . . . am I to choose? All the world is a wilderness with a heart of living light. The side we see is Life: the side we do not see we call Hope. All ways-- a thousand myriad ways--lead to it. Which shall I choose? How shall I go?"
Then I began to dream . . . I . . . we . . .then the Will began to dream.
Slowly the Forest Chapel filled with a vast throng, ever growing more dense as it became more multitudinous, till it seemed as though the walls fell away and that the aisles reached interminably into the world of shadow, through the present into the past, and to dim ages.
Behind the altar stood a living Spirit, most wonderful, clothed with Beauty and Terror.
Then the Will saw, understood, that this was not the Christ, nor yet the Holy Spirit, but a Dominion. It was the Spirit of this world, one of the Powers and Dominions whom of old men called the gods. But all in that incalculable throng worshipped this Spirit as the Supreme God. He saw, too, or realised, that, to those who worshipped, this Spirit appeared differently, now as a calm and august dreamer, now as an inspired warrior, now as a man wearing a crown of thorns against the shadow of a gigantic cross: as the Son of God, or the Prophet of God, or in manifold ways the Supreme One, from Jehovah to the savage Fetich.
Turning from that ocean of drowned life, he looked again at the rainbow-plumed and opal-hued Spirit: but now he could see no one, nothing, but a faint smoke that rose as from a torch held by an invisible hand. The altar stood unserved.
Nor was the multitude present. The myriad had become a wavering shadow, and was no more.
A child had entered the church. The little boy came slowly along the nave till he stood beneath the red lamp, so that his white robe was warm with its glow. He sang, and the Will thought it was a strange song to hear in that place, and wondered if the child were not an image of what was in his own heart.
When the day darkens,
When dusk grows light,
When the dew is falling,
When Silence dreams . . .
I hear a wind
By day and by night.
What is the wind
That I hear calling
By day and by night,
The crying of wind?
When the day darkens,
When dusk grows light,
When the dew is failing?
The Will rose and moved towards the child. No one was there, but he saw that a wind-eddy blew about the altar, for a little cloud of rose-leaves swirled above it. As in a dream he heard a voice, faint and sweet:--
Out of the Palace
Of Silence and Dreams
My voice is falling
From height to height:
I am the Wind
By day and by night.
The red flame waned and was no more. Above the altar a white flame, pure as an opal burning in moonfire, rose for a moment, and in a moment was mysteriously gathered into the darkness.
Startled, the Will stood moveless in the obscurity. Were these symbols of the end--the red flame and the white. . . the Body and the Soul?
Then he remembered the ancient wisdom of the Gael, and went out of the Forest Chapel and passed into the woods. He put his lips to the earth, and lifted a green leaf to his brow, and held a branch to his ear: and because he was no longer heavy with the sweet clay of mortality, though yet of the human clan, he heard that which we do not hear, and saw that which we do not see, and knew that which we do not know. All the green life was his. In that new world he saw the lives of trees, now pale green, now of woodsmoke blue, now of amethyst: the grey lives of stone: breaths of the grass and reed: creatures of the air, delicate and wild as fawns, ox swift and fierce and terrible, tigers of that undiscovered wilderness, with birds almost invisible but for their luminous wings, their opalescent crests.
With these and the familiar natural life, with every bird and beast kindred and knowing him kin, he lived till the dawn, and from the dawn till sunrise, and from sunrise till noon. At noon he slept. When he woke he saw that he had wandered far, and was glad when he came to a woodlander's cottage. Here a woman gave him milk and bread, but she was dumb, and he could learn nothing from her. She showed him a way which he followed; and by that high upland path, before sundown, he came again upon the Forest Chapel, and saw that it stood on a spur of blue hills.
Were it not for a great and startling weakness that had suddenly come upon him, he would have gone in search of his lost comrade. While he lay with his back against a tree, vaguely wondering what ill had come upon him, he heard a sound of wheels. Soon after a rough cart was driven rapidly towards the Forest Chapel, but when the countryman saw him he reined in abruptly, as though at once recognising one whom he had set out to seek. "Your friend is dying," he said; "come at once if you want to see him again. He sent me to look for you."
In a moment all lassitude and pain went from the Will, and he sprang into the cart, asking (while his mind throbbed with a dreadful anxiety) many questions. But all he could learn from his taciturn companion was that yester eve his comrade had fallen in with a company of roystering and loose folk, with whom he had drunk heavily overnight and gained and lived evilly; that all this day he had lain as in a stupor, till the afternoon, when he awoke and straightway fell into a quarrel about a woman, and, after fierce words and blows, had been mortally wounded with a knife. He was now lying, almost in the grasp of death, at the Inn of the Crossways.
In the whirl of anxiety, dread, and a new and terrible confusion, the Will could not think clearly as to what he was to say or do, what was to be or could be done for his friend. And while he was still swayed helplessly, this way and that, as a herring in a net drifted to and fro by wind and wave, the Inn was reached.
With stumbling eagerness he mounted the rough stairs, and entered a small room, clean, though almost sordid in its bareness, yet through its western window filled with the solemn light of sunset.
On a white bed lay the Body, and the Will saw at a glance that his comrade had not long to live. The handkerchief the sufferer held on his breast was stained with the bright crimson of the riven lungs; his white face was whiter than the pillow, the more so, as a red splatch lay on each, cheek.
The dying man opened his eyes as the door opened. He smiled gladly when he saw who had come.
"I am glad indeed of this," he whispered. "I feared I was to die alone, and in delirium or unconsciousness, Now I shall not be alone till the end. And then---"
But here the Will sank upon his kness by the bedside. For a few minutes his tears fell upon the hand he clasped. The sobs shook in his throat. He had never fully realised what love he bore his comrade, his second self ; how interwrought with him were all his joys and sorrows, his interests, his hopes and fears.
Suddenly, with supplicating arms, he cried, "Do not die! Oh, do not die! Save me, save me, save me!"
"How can I save you, how can I help you, dear friend?" asked the Body in a broken voice; "my sand is all but run out; my hour is come."
"But do you not know, do you not see, that I cannot live without you!--that I must die---that if you perish so must I also pass with your passing breath!"
"No---no---no!---for, see, we are no longer one, but three. The Soul is far from us now, and soon you too will be gone on your own way. It is only I who can go no more into the beautiful dear world. O Will, if I could, I would give all your knowledge and endless quest of wisdom and all your hopes, and all the dreams and the white faith of the Soul, for one little year of sweet human life--for one month even--ah, what do I say, for a few days even, for a day, for a few hours! It is so terrible thus to be stamped out. Yesterday I saw a dog leaping and barking in delight as it raced about a wagon, and then in a moment a foot caught and it was entangled, and the wagon-wheel crushed it into a lifeless mass. There was no dog; for that poor beast it was the same as though it had never been, as though the world had never been, as though nothing more was to be. He was a breath blown unremembering out of nothing into nothing. That is what death is. That is what death is, O Will!"
"No, no it is too horrible--too cruel--too unjust."
"Yes, for you. But not for me. Your way is not the way of death, but of life. For me, I am as the beasts are, their sorry lord, but akin--oh yes, akin, akin. I follow the natural law in-all things. And I know this now, dear comrade: that without you and the Soul I should have been no other than the brutes that know nothing save their innocent lusts and live and die without thought."
The Will slowly rose.
"It was madness for us to separate and come upon this quest," he said, looking longingly at the Body.
"Not so, dear friend. We should have had to separate soon or late, whatsoever we had done. If I have feared you at times, and turned from you often, I have loved you well, and still more the Soul. I think you have both lied to me overmuch, and you mostly. But I forgive what I know was done in love and hope. And you, O Will, forgive me for all I have brought, what I now bring, upon you; forgive the many thwartings and dull indifference and heavy drag I have so often, oh, so often been to you. For now death is at hand. But I have one thing I wish to ask you."
"Before my life was broken, there was one whom I loved. Every hope, every dream, every joy, every sorrow that I had came from this love. It was her death which broke my life--not only for the piteous loss and all it meant to me, but because death came with tragic heedlessness--for she was young, and strong, and beautiful. And before she died, she said we should meet again. I was never, and now am far the less worthy of her; and yet--and yet--oh, if only that great, beautiful love were all I had to doubt or fear, I should have no doubt or fear! But no--no--we shall never meet. How can we? Before to-morrow I shall be like that crushed dog, and not be: just as if I had never been!"
The blood rose, and sobs and tears made further words inaudible. But after a little the Body spoke again.
"But you, O Will, you and the Soul both resemble me. We are as flowers of the same colour, as clay of the same mould. It may be you shall meet her. Tell her that my last thought was of her; take her all my dreams and hopes--and say--and say--say---"
But here the Body sat up in the bed, ash-white, with parted lips and straining eyes.
"What ? Quick, quick, dear Body say?----"
"Say that I loved best that in her which I loved best in myself---the Soul. Tell her I have never wholly despaired. Ah, if only the Soul were here, I would not even now despair! Tell her I leave all to the Soul---and---and love shall triumph----"
There was a rush of blood, a gurgling cry, and the Body sank back lifeless. In the very moment of death the eyes lightened with a wonderful radiance--it was as though the evening stars suddenly came through the dark.
The Will looked to see whence it came. The Soul stood beside him, white, wonderful, radiant.
"I have come," he said.
"For me?" said the Will, shaking as with an ague, yet in bitter irony.
"Yes, for you, and for the Body too."
"For the Body?---see, he is already clay. What word have you to say to that, to me who likewise am already perishing?"
"This--do you remember what so brief a while ago we three as one wrote--wrote with my spirit, through your mind, and the Body's hand--these words: Love is more great than we concieve,and Death is the keeper of Unknown redemptions?"
"Yes--yes--O Soul! I remember, I remember."
"It was true there: it is true here. Have I not ever told you that Love would save?"
With that the Soul moved over to the bedside, and kissed the Body.
"Farewell, fallen leaf. But the tree lives and beyond the tree is the wind, the breath of the eternal."
"Look," he added, "our comrade is still asleep, though now no mortal skill could nourish the hidden spark"; and with that he stooped and kissed again the silent lips and the still brow and the pulseless heart, and suddenly a breath, an essence, came from the body, in form like itself, a phantom, yet endued with a motion of life.
As the faintest murmur in a shell we heard him whisper, Life! Life! Life! Then, as a blown vapour, he was one with us. A singular change came upon the clay which had once been so near and dear to us: a frozen whiteness that had not been there before, a stillness as of ancient marble.
The Will stood, appalled, with wild eyes. Some dreadful invisible power was upon him.
"Lost!" he cried; and now his voice, too, was faint as a murmur in a shell. But the Soul smiled.
Then the Will grew grey as a willow-leaf aslant in the wind; and as the shadow of reed wavered in the wind; and as a reed's shadow is and is not, so was he suddenly no more.
But, in the miracle of a moment, the Soul appeared in the triple mystery of substance, and mind, and spirit. In full and joyous life the Will stood re-born, and now we three were one again.
I looked for the last time on that which had been our home. The lifeless thing lay, most terribly still and strange; yet with a dignity that came as a benediction, for this dead temple of life had yielded to a divine law, allied not to shadow and decay, but to the recurrent spring, to the eternal ebb and flow, to the infinite processional. It is we of the human clan only who are troubled by the vast waste and refuse of life. There is not any such waste, neither in the myriad spawn nor the myriad seed: a Spirit sows by the law we do not see, and reaps by a law we do not know.
Then I turned and went to the western window. I saw that the Inn stood upon the Hills of Dream, yet, when I looked within, I knew that I was again in my familiar home. Once more, beyond the fuchsia bushes, the sea sighed, as it felt the long shore with a continuous foamless wave. In the little room below, the lamp was lit; for the glow fell warmly upon the gravel path, shell-bordered, and upon the tufted mignonette, sea-pinks, and feathery southernwood. The sound of hushed voices rose.
And now the dawn is come, and I have written this record of what we, who are now indeed one, but far more truly and intimately than before, went out to seek. In another hour I shall go hence, a wayfarer again. I have a long road to travel, but am sustained by joy, and uplifted by a great hope. When, tired, I lay down the pen, and with it the last of mortal uses, it will be to face the glory of a new day. I have no fear. I shall not leave all I have loved, for I have that in me which binds me to this beautiful world, for another life at least, it may be for many lives. And that within me which dreamed and hoped shall now more gladly and wonderfully dream, and hope, and seek, and know, and see ever deeper and further into the mystery of beauty and truth. And that within me, which knew, now knows. In the deepest sense there is no spiritual dream that is not true, no hope that shall for ever go famished, no tears that shall not be gathered into the brooding skies of compassion, to fall again in healing dews.
What the Body could not, nor ever could see, and what to the Will was a darkness, or at best a bewildering mist, is now clear. There are mysteries of which I cannot write; not from any occult secret, but because they are so simple and inevitable, that, like the mystery of day and night, or the change of the seasons, or life and death, they must be learned by each, in his own way, in his own hour. It is not out of their light that I see; it is by these stars that I set forth, where else I should be as a shadow upon a trackless waste.
But Love, I am come to realise, is the supreme deflecting force. Love "unloosens sins," unites failuire, disintegrates the act; not by an inconceivable conflict with the immutable law of consequence, but by deflection. For the divine love follows the life, and turns and meets it at last, and in that meeting deflects: so that that which is mortal, evil, and what is of the mortal law, the act, sinks and on the forehead of the divine law that which is alone inevitable survives and moves onward in the rhythm that is life. When we understand the mystery of Redemption, we shall understand what Love is. The expiatory is an unknown attribute in the Divine. Expiation is but the earthly burnt-offering of that in us that is mortal: Redemption, which is the spiritual absorption of the expiation due to others, and the measureless restitution in love of wrong humbly brought to the soul and consumed there--so that it issues a living force to meet and deflect--is the living witness in that of us which is immortal. Those who wrong us do indeed become our saviours. It is their expiation that we make ours: they must go free of us; and when they come again and discrown us, then in love we shall be at one and equal. So far, words may clothe thought; but, beyond, the soul knows there is no expiation. Except you redeem yourself, there is no God. Forgiveness is the dream of little children: beautiful because thus far we see and know, but no farther.
I see now, what madness it was, as so often happened, to despise the body. But one mystery has become clear to me through this strange quest of ours--though when I say "I" or "our" I know not whether it is the Body or the Will or the Soul that speaks, till I remember that triune marriage at the deathbed, and know that while each is consciously each--the one with memory, the other with knowledge and hope, the third with wisdom and faith--we are yet one, as are the yellow and the white and the violet in the single flame in this candle beside me. And this mystery is, that the body was not built of life-warmed clay merely to be the house of the soul. Were it so, were the soul unwed to its mortal comrades, it would be no more than a moment's uplifted wave on an infinite sea. Without memory, without hope, it would be no more than a breath of the Spirit. But before the Divine Power moulded us into substance, we were shaped by it in form. And form is, in the spiritual law, what the crystal is in the chemic law.
For now I see clearly that the chief end of the body is to enable the soul to come into intimate union with the natural law, so that it may fulfil the divine law of Form, and be at one with all created life and yet be for ever itself and individual. By itself the soul would only vainly aspire; it has to learn to remember, to become at one with the wind and the grass and with all that lives and moves ; to take its life from the root of the body, and its green life from the mind, and its flower and fragrance from what it may of itself obtain, not only from this world, but from its own dews, its own rainbows, dawn stars and evening stars, and vast incalculable fans of time and death. And this I have learned: that there is no absolute Truth, no absolute Beauty, even for the Soul. It may be that in the Divine Forges we shall be so moulded as to have perfect vision. Meanwhile only that Truth is deepest, that Beauty highest which is seen, not by the Soul only, or by the Mind, or by the Body, but all three as one. Let each be perfect in kind and perfect in unity. This is the signal meaning of the mystery. It is so inevitable that it has its blind descent to fetich as well as its divine ascension. But the ignoble use does not annul the noble purport, any more than the blindness of many obscures the dream of one.
There could be no life hereafter for the soul were it not for the body, and what were that life without the mind, the child of both, whom the ancient seers knew and named MnemosynÍ? Without memory life would be a void breath, immortality a vacuum.
Ah, the glory of the lifting light! The new day is come. Farewell.
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