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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 35
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 35 Post by :zsaddique Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :1505

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 35

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 only darkly guessing and hoping, in passionate glimpses, that there might be a permanent life of the soul behind the life of the body. And yet, at first, on entering the heavenly country, I did not remember having entered it before; it was not familiar to me, nor did I at first recall in memory that I had been there before. The earthly life seems to obliterate for a time even the heavenly memory. But the departure of Amroth swept away once and for all the sense of security. One felt of the earthly life, indeed, as a busy man may think of a troublesome visit he has to pay, which breaks across the normal current of his life, while he anticipates with pleasure his return to the usual activities of home across the interval of social distraction, which he does not exactly desire, but yet is glad that it should intervene, if only for the heightened sense of delight with which he will resume his real life. I had been happy in heaven, though with periods of discontent and moments of dismay. But I no longer desired a dreamful ease; I only wished passionately to be employed. And now I saw that I must resign all expectation of that. As so often happens, both on earth and in heaven, I had found something of which I was not in search, while the work which I had estimated so highly, and prepared myself so ardently for, had never been given to me to do at all.

But for the moment I had but one single thought. I was to see Cynthia again, and I might then expect my own summons to return to life. What surprised me, on looking back at my present sojourn, was the extreme apparent fortuitousness of it. It had not been seemingly organised or laid out on any plan; and yet it had shown me this, that my own intentions and desires counted for nothing. I had meant to work, and I had been mostly idle; I had intended to study psychology, and I had found love. How much wiser and deeper it had all been than anything which I had designed!

Even now I was uncertain how to find Cynthia. But recollecting that Amroth had warned me that I had gained new powers which I might exercise, I set myself to use them. I concentrated myself upon the thought of Cynthia; and in a moment, just as the hand of a man in a dark room, feeling for some familiar object, encounters and closes upon the thing he is seeking, I seemed to touch and embrace the thought of Cynthia. I directed myself thither. The breeze fanned my hair, and as I opened my eyes I saw that I was in an unfamiliar place--not the forest where I had left Cynthia, but in a terraced garden, under a great hill, wooded to the peak. Stone steps ran up through the terraces, the topmost of which was crowned by a long irregular building, very quaintly designed. I went up the steps, and, looking about me, caught sight of two figures seated on a wooden seat at a little distance from me, overlooking the valley. One of these was Cynthia. The other was a young and beautiful woman; the two were talking earnestly together. Suddenly Cynthia turned and saw me, and rising quickly, came to me and caught me in her arms.

"I was sure you were somewhere near me, dearest," she said; "I dreamed of you last night, and you have been in my thoughts all day."

My darling was in some way altered. She looked older, wiser, and calmer, but she was in my eyes even more beautiful. The other girl, who had looked at us in surprise for a moment, rose too and came shyly forwards. Cynthia caught her hand, and presented her to me, adding, "And now you must leave us alone for a little, if you will forgive me for asking it, for we have much to ask and to say."

The girl smiled and went off, looking back at us, I thought, half-enviously.

We went and sat down on the seat, and Cynthia said:

"Something has happened to you, dear one, I see, since I saw you last--something great and glorious."

"Yes," I said, "you are right; I have seen the beginning and the end; and I have not yet learned to understand it. But I am the same, Cynthia, and yours utterly. We will speak of this later. Tell me first what has happened to you, and what this place is. I will not waste time in talking; I want to hear you talk and to see you talk. How often have I longed for that!"

Cynthia took my hand in both of her own, and then unfolded to me her story. She had lived long in the forest, alone with the child, and then the day had come when the desire to go farther had arisen in his mind, and he had left her, and she had felt strangely desolate, till she too had been summoned.

"And this place--how can I describe it?" she said. "It is a home for spirits who have desired love on earth, and who yet, from some accident of circumstance, have never found one to love them with any intimacy of passion. How strange it is to think," she went on, "that I, just by the inheritance of beauty, was surrounded with love and the wrong sort of love, so that I never learned to love rightly and truly; while so many, just from some lack of beauty, some homeliness or ungainliness of feature or carriage, missed the one kind of love that would have sustained and fed them--have never been held in a lover's arms, or held a child of their own against their heart. And so," she went on smiling, "many of them lavished their tenderness upon animals or crafty servants or selfish relations; and grew old and fanciful and petulant before their time. It seems a sad waste of life that! Because so many of them are spirits that could have loved finely and devotedly all the time. But here," she said, "they unlearn their caprices, and live a life by strict rule--and they go out hence to have the care of children, or to tend broken lives into tranquillity--and some of them, nay most of them, find heavenly lovers of their own. They are odd, fractious people at first, curiously concerned about health and occupation and one can often do nothing but listen to their complaints. But they find their way out in time, and one can help them a little, as soon as they begin to desire to hear something of other lives but their own. They have to learn to turn love outwards instead of inwards; just as I," she added laughing, "had to turn my own love inwards instead of outwards."

Then I told Cynthia what I could tell of my own experiences, and she heard them with astonishment. Then I said:

"What surprises me about it, is that I seem somehow to have been given more than I can hold. I have a very shallow and trivial nature, like a stream that sparkles pleasantly enough over a pebbly bottom, but in which no boat or man can swim. I have always been absorbed in the observation of details and in the outside of things. I spent so much energy in watching the faces and gestures and utterances and tricks of those about me that I never had the leisure to look into their hearts. And now these great depths have opened before me, and I feel more childish and feeble than ever, like a frail glass which holds a most precious liquor, and gains brightness and glory from the hues of the wine it holds, but is not like the gem, compact of colour and radiance."

Cynthia laughed at me.

"At all events, you have not forgotten how to make metaphors," she said.

"No," said I, "that is part of the mischief, that I see the likenesses of things and not their essences." At which she laughed again more softly, and rested her cheek on my shoulder.

Then I told her of the departure of Amroth.

"That is wonderful," she said.

And then I told her of my own approaching departure, at which she grew sad for a moment. Then she said, "But come, let us not waste time in forebodings. Will you come with me into the house to see the likenesses of things, or shall we have an hour alone together, and try to look into essences?"

I caught her by the hand.

"No," I said, "I care no more about the machinery of these institutions. I am the pilgrim of love, and not the student of organisations. If you may quit your task, and leave your ladies to regretful memories of their lap-dogs, let us go out together for a little, and say what we can--for I am sure that my time is approaching."

Cynthia smiled and left me, and returned running; and then we rambled off together, up the steep paths of the woodland, to the mountain-top, from which we had a wide prospect of the heavenly country, a great blue well-watered plain lying out for leagues before us, with the shapes of mysterious mountains in the distance. But I can give no account of all we said or did, for heart mingled with heart, and there was little need of speech. And even so, in those last sweet hours, I could not help marvelling at how utterly different Cynthia's heart and mind were from my own; even then it was a constant shock of surprise that we should understand each other so perfectly, and yet feel so differently about so much. It seemed to me that, even after all I had seen and suffered, my heart was still bent on taking and Cynthia's on giving. I seemed to see my own heart through Cynthia's, while she appeared to see mine but through her own. We spoke of our experiences, and of our many friends, now hidden from us--and at last we spoke of Lucius. And then Cynthia said:

"It is strange, dearest, that now and then there should yet remain any doubt at all in my mind about your wish or desire; but I must speak; and before I speak, I will say that whatever you desire, I will do. But I think that Lucius has need of me, and I am his, in a way which I cannot describe. He is halting now in his way, and he is unhappy because his life is incomplete. May I help him?"

At this there struck through me a sharp and jealous pang; and a dark cloud seemed to float across my mind for a moment. But I set all aside, and thought for an instant of the vision of God. And then I said:

"Yes, Cynthia! I had wondered too; and it seems perhaps like the last taint of earth, that I would, as it were, condemn you to a sort of widowhood of love when I am gone. But you must follow your own heart, and its pure and sweet advice, and the Will of Love; and you must use your treasure, not hoard it for me in solitude. Dearest, I trust you and worship you utterly and entirely. It is through you and your love that I have found my way to the heart of God; and if indeed you can take another heart thither, you must do it for love's own sake." And after this we were silent for a long space, heart blending wholly with heart.

Then suddenly I became aware that some one was coming up through the wood, to the rocks where we sat: and Cynthia clung close to me, and I knew that she was sorrowful to death. And then I saw Lucius come up out of the wood, and halt for a moment at the sight of us together. Then he came on almost reverently, and I saw that he carried in his hand a sealed paper like that which had been given to Amroth; and I read it and found my summons written.

Then while Lucius stood beside me, with his eyes upon the ground, I said:

"I must go in haste; and I have but one thing to do. We have spoken, Cynthia and I, of the love you have long borne her; and she is yours now, to comfort and lead you as she has led and comforted me. This is the last sacrifice of love, to give up love itself; and this I do very willingly for the sake of Him that loves us: and here," I said, "is a strange thing, that at the very crown and summit of life, for I am sure that this is so, we should be three hearts, so full of love, and yet so sorrowing and suffering as we are. Is pain indeed the end of all?"

"No," said Cynthia, "it is not the end, and yet only by it can we measure the depth and height of love. If we look into our hearts, we know that in spite of all we are more than rewarded, and more than conquerors."

Then I took Cynthia's hand and laid it in the hand of Lucius; and I left them there upon the peak, and turned no more. And no more woeful spirit was in the land of heaven that day than mine as I stumbled wearily down the slope, and found the valley. And then, for I did not know the way to descend, I commended myself to God; and He took me.

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