The Works of Fiona Macleod, Vol. IV, The Divine Adventure, Part VI
All that day we journeyed westward. Sometimes we saw, far off, the pale blue films of the Hills of Dream, those elusive mountains towards which our way was set. Sometimes they were so startlingly near that, from gorse upland or inland valley, we thought we saw the shadow-grass shake in the wind's passage, or smelled the thyme still wet with dew where it lay under the walls of mountain-boulders. But at noon we were no nearer than when, at sunrise, we had left the little sea-town behind us: and when the throng of bracken-shadows filled the green levels between the fern and the pines--like flocks of sheep following fantastic herdsmen the Hills of the West were still as near, and as far, as the bright raiment of the rainbow which the shepherd sees lying upon his lonely pastures.
But long before noon we were glad because of what happened to one of us.
The dawn had flushed into a wilderness of rose as we left the bridge by the stream. Long shafts of light, plumed with pale gold, were flung up out of the east: everywhere was the tremulous awakening of the new day. A score of yards from the highway a cottage stood, sparrows stirring in the thatch, swift fairyspiders running across the rude white-washed walls, a redbreast singing in the dew-drenched fuchsia-bush. The blue peat-smoke which rose above it was so faint as to be invisible beyond the rowan which stood sunways. The westward part of the cottage was a byre: we could hear the lowing of a cow, the clucking of fowls.
In every glen, on each hillside, are crofts such as this. There was nothing unusual in what we saw, save that a collie crouched whimpering beyond a dyke on the farther side of the rowan.
"All is not well here," said the Will.
"No," murmured the Soul, "I see the shadowy footsteps of those who serve the Evil One. Await me here."
With that the Soul walked swiftly towards the cottage, and looked in at the little window. His thought was straightway ours, and we knew that a woman lay within and was about to give birth to a child. We knew, also, that those who had dark, cruel eyes, and wore each the feather of a hawk, had no power within, but were baffled, and roamed restlessly outside the cottage on the side of shadow. The Fuath himself was not there, but when his call came the evil spirits rose like a flock of crows and passed away. Then we saw our comrade stand back, and bow down, and fall upon his knees.
When he rejoined us, we were for a moment as one, and saw seven tall and beautiful spirits, starred and flame-crested, hand-clasped and standing circlewise round the cottage. They were Sons of Joy, who sang because in that mortal hour was born an immortal soul who in the white flame and the red of mortal life was to be a spirit of gladness and beauty. For there is no joy in the domain of the Spirit like that of the birth of a new joy.
A long while we walked in silence. In the eyes of the Soul we saw a divine and beautiful light: in the eyes of the Will we saw rainbow spanned depths: in the eyes of the Body we saw gladness.
"We are one!"
None knew who spoke. For a moment I heard my own voice, saw my own shadow in the grass; then, in the twinkling of an eye, three stood, looking at each other with startled gaze.
"Let us go," said the Soul; "we have a long way yet to travel."
Each dreaming his own dream, we walked onward. Suddenly the Soul turned and looked in the eyes of the of the Body.
"You are thinking of your loneliness," he said gravely.
"Yes," answered the Body.
"And I, too," said the Will.
For a time no word more was said.
"I am indeed alone." This I murmured to myself after a long while, and in a moment the old supreme wisdom sank, and we were not one but three.
"But you, O Soul," said the Will, "how can you be alone when in every hour you have the company of the invisible, and see the passage of powers and influence, of demons and angels, creatures of the triple universe, souls, and the pale flight of the unembodied?"
"I do not know loneliness because of what I see or do not see, but because of what I feel."
"When I walk here with you side by side it is I, as though I walked along a narrow shore between a fathomless sea and fathomless night."
The thought of one was the thought of three. I shivered with that great loneliness. The Body glanced sidelong at the Will, the Will at the Soul.
"It is not good to dwell upon that loneliness," said the last.
"To you, O Body, and to you, O Will, as to me, it is the signal of Him whom we have lost. Listen, and in the deepest hollow of loneliness we can hear the voice of the Shepherd."
"I hear nothing," said the Body.
"I hear an echo," said the Will: "I hear an echo; but so, too, I can hear the authentic voice of the sea in a hollow shell. Authentic! . . . when I know well that the murmur is no eternal voice, no whisper of the wave made one with pearly silence, but only the sound of my flowing blood heard idly in the curves of ear and shell?"
"Ah!". . . cried the Body, "it is a lie, that cruel word of science. The shell must ever murmur of the sea; if not, at least let us dream that it does. Soon, soon we shall have no dream left. How am I to know that all, that everything, is not but an idle noise in my ears? How am I to know that the Hope of the Will, and the Voice of the Soul, and the message of the Word, and the Whisper of the Eternal Spirit, are not one and all but a mocking echo in that shell which for me is the Shell of Life, but, may be only the cold inhabitation of my dreams?"
"Yet were it not for these echoes," the Soul answered, "life would be intolerable for you, as for you too, my friend."
The Will smiled scornfully.
"Dreams are no comfort, no solace, no relief from weariness even, if one knows them to be no more than the spray above the froth of a distempered mind."
Suddenly one of us began in a low voice a melancholy little song:--
I hear the sea-song of the blood in my heart,
I hear the sea-song of the blood in my ears;
And I am far apart,
And lost in the years.
But when I lie and dream of that which was
Before the first man's shadow flitted on the grass
I am stricken dumb
With sense of that to come.
Is then this wildering sea-song but a part
Of the old song of the mystery of the years--
Or only the echo of the tired Heart
And of Tears?
But none answered, and so again we walked onward, silent. The wind had fallen, and in the noon-heat we began to grow weary. It was with relief that we saw the gleam of water between the branches of a little wood of birches, which waded towards it through a tide of bracken. and the birks shimmered a rainbow; a stray cloud had trailed from glen to glen, and suddenly broken among the tree-tops.
"There goes Yesterday!" cried the Body laughingly--alluding to the saying that the morning rainbow is the ghost of the day that passed at dawn. The next moment he broke into a fragment of song:--
Brother and Sister, wanderers they
Out of the Golden Yesterday
Thro' the dusty Now and the dim To-morrow
Hand-in-hand go joy and Sorrow.
"Yes, joy and sorrow, O glad Body," exclaimed the Will--"but it is the joy only that is vain as the rainbow, which has no other message. It should be called the Bow of Sorrow."
"Not so," said the Soul gently, "or, if so, not as you mean, dear friend."
It is not Love that gives the clearest sight:
For out of bitter tears, and tears unshed,
Riseth the Rainbow of Sorrow overhead,
And 'neath the Rainbow is the clearest light.
The Will smiled:--
"I too must have my say, dear poets:--
Where rainbows rise through sunset rains
By shores forlorn of isles forgot,
A solitary Voice complains
'The World is here, the World is not.'
The Voice may be the wind, or sea,
Or spirit of the sundown West:
Or, mayhap, some sweet air set free
From off the Islands of the Blest:
It may be; but I turn my face
To that which still I hold so dear;
And to the voices of the days--
'The World is not, the World is here.'
'Tis the same end whichever way
And either way is soon forgot:
The World is all in all, To-day:
To-morrow all the World is not.'
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