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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 23
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 23 Post by :Prd2BHawn Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :2282

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 23

CHAPTER XXIII.

"Well," said Amroth, with a smile, as we went out into the forest, "I am afraid that the last two visits have been rather a strain. We must find something a little less serious; but I am going to fill up all your time. You had got too much taken up with your psychology, and we must not live too much on theory, and spin problems, like the spider, out of our own insides; but we will not spend too much time in trudging over this country, though it is well worth it. Did you ever see anything more beautiful than those pine-trees on the slope there, with the blue distance between their stems? But we must not make a business of landscape-gazing like our friend Charmides! We are men of affairs, you and I. Come, I will show you a thing. Shut your eyes for a minute and give me your hand. Now!"

A sudden breeze fanned my face, sweet and odorous, like the wind out of a wood. "Now," said Amroth, "we have arrived! Where do you think we are?"

The scene had changed in an instant. We were in a wide, level country, in green water-meadows, with a full stream brimming its grassy banks, in willowy loops. Not far away, on a gently rising ground, lay a long, straggling village, of gabled houses, among high trees. It was like the sort of village that you may find in the pleasant Wiltshire countryside, and the sight filled me with a rush of old and joyful memories.

"It is such a relief," I said, "to realise that if man is made in the image of God, heaven is made in the image of England!"

"That is only how you see it, child," said Amroth. "Some of my own happiest days were spent at Tooting: would you be surprised if I said that it reminded me of Tooting?"

"I am surprised at nothing," I said. "I only know that it is all very considerate!"

We entered the village, and found a large number of people, mostly young, going cheerfully about all sorts of simple work. Many of them were gardening, and the gardens were full of old-fashioned flowers, blooming in wonderful profusion. There was an air of settled peace about the place, the peace that on earth one often dreamed of finding, and indeed thought one had found on visiting some secluded place--only to discover, alas! on a nearer acquaintance, that life was as full of anxieties and cares there as elsewhere. There were one or two elderly people going about, giving directions or advice, or lending a helping hand. The workers nodded blithely to us, but did not suspend their work.

"What surprises me," I said to Amroth, "is to find every one so much occupied wherever we go. One heard so much on earth about craving for rest, that one grew to fancy that the other life was all going to be a sort of solemn meditation, with an occasional hymn."

"Yes, indeed," said Amroth, "it was the body that was tired--the soul is always fresh and strong--but rest is not idleness. There is no such thing as unemployment here, and there is hardly time, indeed, for all we have to do. Every one really loves work. The child plays at working, the man of leisure works at his play. The difference here is that work is always amusing--there is no such thing as drudgery here."

We walked all through the village, which stretched far away into the country. The whole place hummed like a beehive on a July morning. Many sang to themselves as they went about their business, and sometimes a couple of girls, meeting in the roadway, would entwine their arms and dance a few steps together, with a kiss at parting. There was a sense of high spirits everywhere. At one place we found a group of children sitting in the shade of some trees, while a woman of middle age told them a story. We stood awhile to listen, the woman giving us a pleasant nod as we approached. It was a story of some pleasant adventure, with nothing moral or sentimental about it, like an old folk-tale. The children were listening with unconcealed delight.

When we had walked a little further, Amroth said to me, "Come, I will give you three guesses. Who do you think, by the light of your psychology, are all these simple people?" I guessed in vain. "Well, I see I must tell you," he said. "Would it surprise you to learn that most of these people whom you see here passed upon earth for wicked and unsatisfactory characters? Yet it is true. Don't you know the kind of boys there were at school, who drifted into bad company and idle ways, mostly out of mere good-nature, went out into the world with a black mark against them, having been bullied in vain by virtuous masters, the despair of their parents, always losing their employments, and often coming what we used to call social croppers--untrustworthy, sensual, feckless, no one's enemy but their own, and yet preserving through it all a kind of simple good-nature, always ready to share things with others, never knowing how to take advantage of any one, trusting the most untrustworthy people; or if they were girls, getting into trouble, losing their good name, perhaps living lives of shame in big cities--yet, for all that, guileless, affectionate, never excusing themselves, believing they had deserved anything that befell them? These were the sort of people to whom Christ was so closely drawn. They have no respectability, no conventions; they act upon instinct, never by reason, often foolishly, but seldom unkindly or selfishly. They give all they have, they never take. They have the faults of children, and the trustful affection of children. They will do anything for any one who is kind to them and fond of them. Of course they are what is called hopeless, and they use their poor bodies very ill. In their last stages on earth they are often very deplorable objects, slinking into public-houses, plodding raggedly and dismally along highroads, suffering cruelly and complaining little, conscious that they are universally reprobated, and not exactly knowing why. They are the victims of society; they do its dirty work, and are cast away as offscourings. They are really youthful and often beautiful spirits, very void of offence, and needing to be treated as children. They live here in great happiness, and are conscious vaguely of the good and great intention of God towards them. They suffer in the world at the hands of cruel, selfish, and stupid people, because they are both humble and disinterested. But in all our realms I do not think there is a place of simpler and sweeter happiness than this, because they do not take their forgiveness as a right, but as a gracious and unexpected boon. And indeed the sights and sounds of this place are the best medicine for crabbed, worldly, conventional souls, who are often brought here when they are drawing near the truth."

"Yes," I said, "this is just what I wanted. Interesting as my work has lately been, it has wanted simplicity. I have grown to consider life too much as a series of cases, and to forget that it is life itself that one must seek, and not pathology. This is the best sight I have seen, for it is so far removed from all sense of judgment. The song of the saints may be sometimes of mercy too."

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CHAPTER XIX.It was at this time, I think, that a great change came over my thoughts, or rather that I realised that a great change had gradually taken place. Till now, I had been dominated and haunted by memories of my latest life upon earth; but at intervals there had visited me a sense of older and purer recollections. I cannot describe exactly how it came about--and, indeed, the memory of what my heavenly progress had hitherto been, as opposed to my earthly experience, was never very clear to me; but I became aware that my life in heaven--I will call
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