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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 8
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 8 Post by :Prd2BHawn Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :828

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 8


These are only some of the many talks I had with Amroth. They ranged over a great many subjects and thoughts. What I cannot indicate, however, is the lightness and freshness of them; and above all, their entire frankness and amusingness. There were times when we talked like two children, revived old simple adventures of life--he had lived far more largely and fully than I had done--and I never tired of hearing the tales of his old lives, so much more varied and wonderful than my own. Sometimes we merely told each other stories out of our imaginations and hearts. We even played games, which I cannot describe, but they were like the games of earth. We seemed at times to walk and wander together; but I had a sense all this time that I was, so to speak, in hospital, being tended and cared for, and not allowed to do anything wearisome or demanding effort. But I became more and more aware of other spirits about me, like birds that chirp and twitter in the ivy of a tower, or in the thick bushes of a shrubbery. Amroth told me one day that I must prepare for a great change soon, and I found myself wondering what it would be like, half excited about it, and half afraid, unwilling as I was to lose the sweet rest, and the dear companionship of a friend who seemed like the crown and sum of all hopes of friendship. Amroth became utterly dear to me, and it was a joy beyond all joys to feel his happy and smiling nature bent upon me, hour by hour, in sympathy and understanding and love. He said to me laughingly once that I had much of earth about me yet, and that I must soon learn not to bend my thoughts so exclusively one way and on one friend.

"Yes," I said, "I am not fit for heaven yet! I believe I am jealous; I cannot bear to think that you will leave me, or that any other soul deserves your attention."

"Oh," he said lightly, "this is my business and delight now--but you will soon have to do for others what I am doing for you. You like this easy life at present, but you can hardly imagine how interesting it is to have some one given you for your own, as you were given to me. It is the delight of motherhood and fatherhood in one; and when I was allowed to take you away out of the room where you lay--I admit it was not a pleasant scene--I felt just like a child who is given a kitten for its very own."

"Well," I said, "I have been a very satisfactory pet--I have done little else but purr." I felt his eyes upon me in a wonderful nearness of love; and then I looked up and I saw that we were not alone.

It was then that I first perceived that there could be grief in heaven. I say "first perceived," but I had known it all along. But by Amroth's gentle power that had been for a time kept away from me, that I might rest and rejoice.

The form before me was that of a very young and beautiful woman--so beautiful that for a moment all my thought seemed to be concentrated upon her. But I saw, too, that all was not well with her. She was not at peace with herself, or her surroundings. In her great wide eyes there was a look of pain, and of rebellious pain. She was attired in a robe that was a blaze of colour; and when I wondered at this, for it was unlike the clear hues, pearly grey and gold, and soft roseate light that had hitherto encompassed me, the voice of Amroth answered my unuttered question, and said, "It is the image of her thought." Her slim white hands moved aimlessly over the robe, and seemed to finger the jewels which adorned it. Her lips were parted, and anything more beautiful than the pure curves of her chin and neck I had seldom seen, though she seemed never to be still, as Amroth was still, but to move restlessly and wearily about. I knew by a sort of intuition that she was unaware of Amroth and only aware of myself. She seemed startled and surprised at the sight of me, and I wondered in what form I appeared to her; in a moment she spoke, and her voice was low and thrilling.

"I am so glad," she said in a half-courteous, half-distracted way, "to find some one in the place to whom I can speak. I seem to be always moving in a crowd, and yet to see no one--they are afraid of me, I think; and it is not what I expected, not what I am used to. I am in need of help, I feel, and yet I do not know what sort of help it is that I want. May I stay with you a little?"

"Why, yes," I said; "there is no question of 'may' here."

She came up to me with a sort of proud confidence, and looked at me fixedly. "Yes," she said, "I see that I can trust you; and I am tired of being deceived!" Then she added with a sort of pettishness, "I have nowhere to go, nothing to do--it is all dull and cold. On earth it was just the opposite. I had only too much attention and love.... Oh, yes," she added with a strange glance, "it was what you would probably call sinful. The only man I ever loved did not care for me, and I was loved by many for whom I did not care. Well, I had my pleasures, and I suppose I must pay for them. I do not complain of that. But I am determined not to give way: it is unjust and cruel. I never had a chance. I was always brought up to be admired from the first. We were rich at my home, and in society--you understand? I made what was called a good match, and I never cared for my husband, but amused myself with other people; and it was splendid while it lasted: then all kinds of horrible things happened--scenes, explanations, a lawsuit--it makes me shudder to remember it all; and then I was ill, I suppose, and suddenly it was all over, and I was alone, with a feeling that I must try to take up with all kinds of tiresome things--all the things that bored me most. But now it may be going to be better; you can tell me where I can find people, perhaps? I am not quite unpresentable, even here? No, I can see that in your face. Well, take me somewhere, show me something, find something for me to do in this deadly place. I seem to have got into a perpetual sunset, and I am so sick of it all."

I felt very helpless before this beautiful creature who seemed so troubled and discontented. "No," said the voice of Amroth beside me, "it is of no use to talk; let her talk to you; let her make friends with you if she can."

"That's better," she said, looking at me. "I was afraid you were going to be grave and serious. I felt for a minute as if I was going to be confirmed."

"No," I said, "you need not be disturbed; nothing will be done to you against your wish. One has but to wish here, or to be willing, and the right thing happens."

She came close to me as I said this, and said, "Well, I think I shall like you, if only you can promise not to be serious." Then she turned, and stood for a moment disconsolate, looking away from me.

All this while the atmosphere around me had been becoming lighter and clearer, as though a mist were rising. Suddenly Amroth said, "You will have to go with her for a time, and do what you can. I must leave you for a little, but I shall not be far off; and if you need me, I shall be at hand. But do not call for me unless you are quite sure you need me." He gave me a hand-clasp and a smile, and was gone.

Then, looking about me, I saw at last that I was in a place. Lonely and bare though it was, it seemed to me very beautiful. It was like a grassy upland, with rocky heights to left and right. They were most delicate in outline, those crags, like the crags in an old picture, with sharp, smooth curves, like a fractured crystal. They seemed to be of a creamy stone, and the shadows fell blue and distinct. Down below was a great plain full of trees and waters, all very dim. A path, worn lightly in the grass, lay at my feet, and I knew that we must descend it. The girl with me--I will call her Cynthia--was gazing at it with delight. "Ah," she said, "I can see clearly now. This is something like a real place, instead of mist and light. We can find people down here, no doubt; it looks inhabited out there." She pointed with her hand, and it seemed to me that I could see spires and towers and roofs, of a fine and airy architecture, at the end of a long horn of water which lay very blue among the woods of the plain. It puzzled me, because I had the sense that it was all unreal, and, indeed, I soon perceived that it was the girl's own thought that in some way affected mine. "Quick, let us go," she said; "what are we waiting for?"

The descent was easy and gradual. We came down, following the path, over the hill-shoulders. A stream of clear water dripped among stones; it all brought back to me with an intense delight the recollection of long days spent among such hills in holiday times on earth, but all without regret; I only wished that an old and dear friend of mine, with whom I had often gone, might be with me. He had quitted life before me, and I knew somehow or hoped that I should before long see him; but I did not wish things to be otherwise; and, indeed, I had a strange interest in the fretful, silly, lovely girl with me, and in what lay before us. She prattled on, and seemed to be recovering her spirits and her confidence at the sights around us. If I could but find anything that would draw her out of her restless mood into the peace of the morning! She had a charm for me, though her impatience and desire for amusement seemed uninteresting enough; and I found myself talking to her as an elder brother might, with terms of familiar endearment, which she seemed to be grateful for. It was strange in a way, and yet it all appeared natural. The more we drew away from the hills, the happier she became. "Ah," she said once, "we have got out of that hateful place, and now perhaps we may be more comfortable,"--and when we came down beside the stream to a grove of trees, and saw something which seemed like a road beneath us, she was delighted. "That's more like it," she said, "and now we may find some real people perhaps,"--she turned to me with a smile--"though you are real enough too, and very kind to me; but I still have an idea that you are a clergyman, and are only waiting your time to draw a moral."

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CHAPTER IX.Now before I go on to tell the tale of what happened to us in the valley there were two very curious things that I observed or began to observe. The first was that I could not really see into the girl's thought. I became aware that though I could see into the thought of Amroth as easily and directly as one can look into a clear sea-pool, with all its rounded pebbles and its swaying fringes of seaweed, there was in the girl's mind a centre of thought to which I was not admitted, a fortress of personality into

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CHAPTER VII.One day I said to Amroth, "Are there no rules of life here? It seems almost too good to be true, not to be found fault with and censured and advised and blamed." "Oh," said Amroth, laughing, "there are plenty of _rules_, as you call them; but one feels them, one is not told them; it is like breathing and seeing." "Yes," I replied, "yet it was like that, too, in the old days; the misery was when one suddenly discovered that when one was acting in what seemed the most natural way possible, it gave pain and concern to