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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 34
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 34 Post by :zsaddique Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :1946

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 34

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Presently Amroth rose, and said that we must be going onward.

"And now," he said, "I have a further thing to tell you, and that is that I have very soon to leave you. To bring you hither was the last of my appointed tasks, and my work is now done. It is strange to remember how I bore you in my arms out of life, like a little sleeping child, and how much we have been together."

"Do not leave me now," I said to Amroth. "There seems so much that I have to ask you. And if your work with me is done, where are you now going?"

"Where am I going, brother?" said Amroth. "Back to life again, and immediately. And there is one thing more that is permitted, and that is that you should be with me to the last. Strange that I should have attended you here, to the very crown and sum of life, and that you should now attend me where I am going! But so it is."

"And what do you feel about it?" I said.

"Oh," said Amroth, "I do not like it, of course. To be so free and active here, and to be bound again in the body, in the close, suffering, ill-savoured house of life! But I have much to gain by it. I have a sharpness of temper and a peremptoriness--of which indeed," he said, smiling, "you have had experience. I am fond of doing things in my own way, inconsiderate of others, and impatient if they do not go right. I am hard, and perhaps even vulgar. But now I am going like a board to the carpenter, to have some of my roughness planed out of me, and I hope to do better."

"Well," I said, "I am too full of wonder and hope just now to be alarmed for you. I could even wish I were myself departing. But I have a desire to see Cynthia again."

"Yes," said Amroth, "and you will see her; but you will not be long after me, brother; comfort yourself with that!"

We walked a little farther across the moorland, talking softly at intervals, till suddenly I discerned a solitary figure which was approaching us swiftly.

"Ah," said Amroth, "my time has indeed come. I am summoned."

He waved his hand to the man, who came up quickly and even breathlessly, and handed Amroth a sealed paper. Amroth tore it open, read it smilingly, gave a nod to the officer, saying "Many thanks." The officer saluted him; he was a brisk young man, with a fresh air; and he then, without a word, turned from us and went over the moorland.

"Come," said Amroth, "let us descend. You can do this for yourself now; you do not need my help." He took my hand, and a mist enveloped us. Suddenly the mist broke up and streamed away. I looked round me in curiosity.

We were standing in a very mean street of brick-built houses, with slated roofs; over the roofs we could see a spire, and the chimneys of mills, spouting smoke. The houses had tiny smoke-dried gardens in front of them. At the end of the street was an ugly, ill-tended field, on which much rubbish lay. There were some dirty children playing about, and a few women, with shawls over their heads, were standing together watching a house opposite. The window of an upper room was open, and out of it came cries and moans.

"It's going very badly with her," said one of the women, "poor soul; but the doctor will be here soon. She was about this morning too. I had a word with her, and she was feeling very bad. I said she ought to be in bed, but she said she had her work to do first."

The women glanced at the window with a hushed sort of sympathy. A young woman, evidently soon to become a mother, looked pale and apprehensive.

"Will she get through?" she said timidly.

"Oh, don't you fear, Sarah," said one of the women, kindly enough. "She will be all right. Bless you, I've been through it five times myself, and I am none the worse. And when it's over she'll be as comfortable as never was. It seems worth it then."

A man suddenly turned the corner of the street; he was dressed in a shabby overcoat with a bowler hat, and he carried a bag in his hand. He came past us. He looked a busy, overtried man, but he had a good-humoured air. He nodded pleasantly to the women. One said:

"You are wanted badly in there, doctor."

"Yes," he said cheerfully, "I am making all the haste I can. Where's John?"

"Oh, he's at work," said the woman. "He didn't expect it to-day. But he's better out of the way: he 'd be no good; he'd only be interfering and grumbling; but I'll come across with you, and when it's over, I'll just run down and tell him."

"That's right," said the doctor, "come along--the nurse will be round in a minute; and I can make things easy meantime."

Strange to say, it had hardly dawned upon me what was happening. I turned to Amroth, who stood there smiling, but a little pale, his arm in mine; fresh and upright, with his slim and graceful limbs, his bright curled hair, a strange contrast to the slatternly women and the heavily-built doctor.

"So this," he said, "is where I am to spend a few years; my new father is a hardworking man, I believe, perhaps a little given to drink but kind enough; and I daresay some of these children are my brothers and sisters. A score of years or more to spend here, no doubt! Well, it might be worse. You will think of me while you can, and if you have the time, you may pay me a visit, though I don't suppose I shall recognise you."

"It seems rather dreadful to me," said I, "I must confess! Who would have thought that I should have forgotten my visions so soon? Amroth, dear, I can't bear this--that you should suffer such a change."

"Sentiment again, brother," said Amroth. "To me it is curious and interesting, even exciting. Well, good-bye; my time is just up, I think."

The doctor had gone into the house, and the cries died away. A moment after a woman in the dress of a nurse came quickly along the street, knocked, opened the door, and went in. I could see into the room, a poorly furnished one. A girl sat nursing a baby by the fire, and looked very much frightened. A little boy played in the corner. A woman was bustling about, making some preparations for a meal.

"Let me do you the honours of my new establishment," said Amroth with a smile. "No, dear man, don't go with me any farther. We will part here, and when we meet again we shall have some new stories to tell. Bless you." He took his hand from my arm, caught up my hand, kissed it, said, "There, that is for you," and disappeared smiling into the house.

A moment later there came the cry of a new-born child from the window above. The doctor came out and went down the street; one of the women joined him and walked with him. A few minutes later she returned with a young and sturdy workman, looking rather anxious.

"It's all right," I heard her say, "it's a fine boy, and Annie is doing well--she'll be about again soon enough."

They disappeared into the house, and I turned away.

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CHAPTER XXXV.It is difficult to describe the strange emotions with which the departure of Amroth filled me. I think that, when I first entered the heavenly country, the strongest feeling I experienced was the sense of security--the thought that the earthly life was over and done with, and that there remained the rest and tranquillity of heaven. What I cannot even now understand is this. I am dimly aware that I have lived a great series of lives, in each of which I have had to exist blindly, not knowing that my life was not bounded and terminated by death, and
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CHAPTER XXXIII.I came to myself very gradually and dimly, with no recollection at first of what had happened. I was lying on my back on some soft grassy place, with the air blowing cool over me. I thought I saw Amroth bending over me with a look of extraordinary happiness, and felt his arm about me; but again I became unconscious, yet all the time with a blissfulness of repose and joy, far beyond what I had experienced at my first waking on the sunlit sea. Again life dawned upon me. I was there, I was myself. What had happened to
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