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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 14
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 14 Post by :Prd2BHawn Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :3303

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV.

It was on one of these days that Amroth came suddenly upon me, with a very mirthful look on his face, his eyes sparkling like a man struggling with hidden laughter. "Come with me," he said; "you have been so dutiful lately that I am alarmed for your health." Then we went out of the garden where I was sitting, and we were suddenly in a street. I saw in a moment that it was a real street, in the suburb of an English town; there were electric trams running, and rows of small trees, and an open space planted with shrubs, with asphalt paths and ugly seats. On the other side of the road was a row of big villas, tasteless, dreary, comfortable houses, with meaningless turrets and balconies. I could not help feeling that it was very dismal that men and women should live in such places, think them neat and well-appointed, and even grow to love them. We went into one of these houses; it was early in the morning, and a little drizzle was falling, which made the whole place seem very cheerless. In a room with a bow-window looking on the road there were three persons. An old man was reading a paper in an arm-chair by the fire, with his back to the light. He looked a nice old man, with his clear skin and white hair; opposite him was an old lady in another chair, reading a letter. With his back to the fire stood a man of about thirty-five, sturdy-looking, but pale, and with an appearance of being somewhat overworked. He had a good face, but seemed a little uninteresting, as if he did not feed his mind. The table had been spread for breakfast, and the meal was finished and partly cleared away. The room was ugly and the furniture was a little shabby; there was a glazed bookcase, full of dull-looking books, a sideboard, a table with writing materials in the window, and some engravings of royal groups and celebrated men.

The younger man, after a moment, said, "Well, I must be off." He nodded to his father, and bent down to kiss his mother, saying, "Take care of yourself--I shall be back in good time for tea." I had a sense that he was using these phrases in a mechanical way, and that they were customary with him. Then he went out, planting his feet solidly on the carpet, and presently the front door shut. I could not understand why we had come to this very unemphatic party, and examined the whole room carefully to see what was the object of our visit. A maid came in and removed the rest of the breakfast things, leaving the cloth still on the table, and some of the spoons and knives, with the salt-cellars, in their places. When she had finished and gone out, there was a silence, only broken by the crackling of the paper as the old man folded it. Presently the old lady said: "I wish Charles could get his holiday a little sooner; he looks so tired, and he does not eat well. He does stick so hard to his business."

"Yes, dear, he does," said the old man, "but it is just the busiest time, and he tells me that they have had some large orders lately. They are doing very well, I understand."

There was another silence, and then the old lady put down her letter, and looked for a moment at a picture, representing a boy, a large photograph a good deal faded, which hung close to her--underneath it was a small vase of flowers on a bracket. She gave a little sigh as she did this, and the old man looked at her over the top of his paper. "Just think, father," she said, "that Harry would have been thirty-eight this very week!"

The old man made a comforting sort of little noise, half sympathetic and half deprecatory. "Yes, I know," said the old lady, "but I can't help thinking about him a great deal at this time of the year. I don't understand why he was taken away from us. He was always such a good boy--he would have been just like Charles, only handsomer--he was always handsomer and brighter; he had so much of your spirit! Not but what Charles has been the best of sons to us--I don't mean that--no one could be better or more easy to please! But Harry had a different way with him." Her eyes filled with tears, which she brushed away. "No," she added, "I won't fret about him. I daresay he is happier where he is--I am sure he is--and thinking of his mother too, my bonny boy, perhaps."

The old man got up, put his paper down, went across to the old lady, and gave her a kiss on the brow. "There, there," he said soothingly, "we may be sure it's all for the best;" and he stood looking down fondly at her. Amroth crossed the room and stood beside the pair, with a hand on the shoulder of each. I saw in an instant that there was an unmistakable likeness between the three; but the contrast of the marvellous brilliance and beauty of Amroth with the old, world-wearied, simple-minded couple was the most extraordinary thing to behold. "Yes, I feel better already," said the old lady, smiling; "it always does me good to say out what I am feeling, father; and then you are sure to understand."

The mist closed suddenly in upon the scene, and we were back in a moment in the garden with its porticoes, in the radiant, untroubled air. Amroth looked at me with a smile that was full, half of gaiety and half of tenderness. "There," he said, "what do you think of that? If all had gone well with me, as they say on earth, that is where I should be now, going down to the city with Charles. That is the prospect which to the dear old people seems so satisfactory compared with this! In that house I lay ill for some weeks, and from there my body was carried out. And they would have kept me there if they could--and I myself did not want to go. I was afraid. Oh, how I envied Charles going down to the city and coming back for tea, to read the magazines aloud or play backgammon. I am afraid I was not as nice as I should have been about all that--the evenings were certainly dull!"

"But what do you feel about it now?" I said. "Don't you feel sorry for the muddle and ignorance and pathos of it all? Can't something be done to show everybody what a ghastly mistake it is, to get so tied down to the earth and the things of earth?"

"A mistake?" said Amroth. "There is no such thing as a mistake. One cannot sorrow for their grief, any more than one can sorrow for the child who cries out in the tunnel and clasps his mother's hand. Don't you see that their grief and loss is the one beautiful thing in those lives, and all that it is doing for them, drawing them hither? Why, that is where we grow and become strong, in the hopeless suffering of love. I am glad and content that my own stay was made so brief. I wish it could be shortened for the three--and yet I do not, because they will gain so wonderfully by it. They are mounting fast; it is their very ignorance that teaches them. Not to know, not to perceive, but to be forced to believe in love, that is the point."

"Yes," I said, "I see that; but what about the lives that are broken and poisoned by grief, in a stupor of pain--or the souls that do not feel it at all, except as a passing shadow--what about them?"

"Oh," said Amroth lightly, "the sadder the dream the more blessed the awakening; and as for those who cannot feel--well, it will all come to them, as they grow older."

"Yes," I said, "it has done me good to see all this--it makes many things plain; but can you bear to leave them thus?"

"Leave them!" said Amroth. "Who knows but that I shall be sent to help them away, and carry them, as I carried you, to the crystal sea of peace? The darling mother, I shall be there at her awakening. They are old spirits, those two, old and wise; and there is a high place prepared for them."

"But what about Charles?" I said.

Amroth smiled. "Old Charles?" he said. "I must admit that he is not a very stirring figure at present. He is much immersed in his game of finance, and talks a great deal in his lighter moments about the commercial prospects of the Empire and the need of retaliatory tariffs. But he will outgrow all that! He is a very loyal soul, but not very adventurous just now. He would be sadly discomposed by an affection which came in between him and his figures. He would think he wanted a change--and he will have a thorough one, the good old fellow, one of these days. But he has a long journey before him."

"Well," I said, "there are some surprises here! I am afraid I am very youthful yet."

"Yes, dear child, you are very ingenuous," said Amroth, "and that is a great part of your charm. But we will find something for you to do before long! But here comes Charmides, to talk about the need of exquisite pulsations, and their symbolism--though I see a change in him too. And now I must go back to business. Take care of yourself, and I will be back to tea." And Amroth flashed away in a very cheerful mood.

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