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There & Back - Chapter 66. Barbara's Dream Post by :Merry_V Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2511

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There & Back - Chapter 66. Barbara's Dream


Mr. Wylder could not well object to sir Richard Lestrange on the ground that his daughter had loved him before she or her father knew his position the same he was coveting for her; and within two months they were married. Lady Ann was invited but did not go to the wedding; Arthur, Theodora, and Victoria did; Percy was not invited.

Neither bride nor bridegroom seeing any sense in setting out on a journey the moment they were free to be at home together, they went straight from the church to Mortgrange.

When they entered the hall which had so moved Richard's admiration the first time he saw it, he stood for a moment lost in thought. When he came to himself, Barbara had left him; but ere he had time to wonder, such a burst of organ music filled the place as might have welcomed one that had overcome the world. He stood entranced for a minute, then hastened to the gallery, where he found Barbara at the instrument.

"What!" he cried in astonishment; "you, Barbara! you play like that!"

"I wanted to be worth something to you, Richard."

"Oh Barbara, you are a queen at giving! I was well named, for you were coming! I _am Richard indeed!--oh, so rich!"

In the evening they went out into the park. The moon was rising. The sunlight was not quite gone. Her light mingled with the light that gave it her. "Do you know that lovely passage in the Book of Baruch?" asked Richard.

"What book is that?" returned Barbara. "It can't be in the Bible, surely?"

"It is in the Apocrypha--which is to me very much in the Bible! I think I can repeat it. I haven't a good memory, but some things stick fast."

But in the process of recalling it, Richard's thoughts wandered, and Baruch was forgotten.

"This dying of Apollo in the arms of Luna," he said, "this melting of the radiant god into his own pale shadow, always reminds me of the poverty-stricken, wasted and sad, yet lovely Elysium of the pagans: so little consolation did they gather from the thought of it, that they longed to lay their bodies, not in the deep, cool, far-off shadow of grove or cave, but by the ringing roadside, where live feet, in two meeting, mingling, parting tides, ever came and went; where chariots rushed past in hot haste, or moved stately by in jubilant procession; where at night lonely forms would steal through the city of the silent, with but the moon to see them go, bent on ghastly conference with witch or enchanter; and--"

"Where _are you going, Richard? Please take me with you. I feel as if I were lost in a wood!"

"What I meant to say," replied Richard, with a little laugh, "was--how different the moonlit shadow-land of those people from the sunny realm of the radiant Christ! Jesus rose again because he was true, and death had no part in him. This world's day is but the moonlight of his world. The shadow-man, who knows neither whence he came nor whither he is going, calls the upper world the house of the dead, being himself a ghost that wanders in its caves, and knows neither the blowing of its wind, the dashing of its waters, the shining of its sun, nor the glad laughter of its inhabitants."

They wandered along, now talking, now silent, their two hearts lying together in a great peace.

The moon kept rising and brightening, slowly victorious over the pallid light of the dead sun; till at last she lifted herself out of the vaporous horizon-sea, ascended over the tree-tops, and went walking through the unobstructed sky, mistress of the air, queen of the heavens, lady of the eyes of men. Yet was she lady only because she beheld her lord. She saw the light of her light, and told what she saw of him.

"When the soul of man sees God, it shines!" said Richard. They reached at length the spot where first they met in the moonlight. With one heart they stopped and turned, and looked each in the other's moonlit eyes. Barbara spoke first.

"Now," she said, "tell me what Baruch says."

"Ah, yes, Baruch! He was the prophet Jeremiah's friend and amanuensis. It was the moon made me think of him. I believe I can give you the passage word for word, as it stands in the English Bible.

"'But he that knoweth all things knoweth her,'--that is, Wisdom--'and hath found her out with his understanding: he that prepared the earth for evermore hath filled it with four-footed beasts: he that sendeth forth light, and it goeth, calleth it again, and it obeyeth him with fear. The stars shined in their watches, and rejoiced: when he calleth them, they say, Here we be; and so with cheerfulness they showed light unto him that made them. This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of him.'"

"That is beautiful!" cried Barbara. "'They said, Here we be! And so--'--What is it?"

"'And so with cheerfulness they showed light unto him that made them.'"

"I will read every word of Baruch!" said Barbara. "Is there much of him?"

"No; very little."

A silence followed. Then again Barbara spoke, and she clung a little closer to her husband.

"I want to tell you something that came to me one night when we were in London," she said. "It was a miserable time that--before I found you up in the orchestra there! and then hell became purgatory, for there was hope in it. I saw so many miserable things! I seemed always to come upon the miserable things. It was as if my eyes were made only to see miserable things--bad things and suffering everywhere. The terrible city was full of them. I longed to help, but had to wait for you to set me free. You had gone from my knowledge, and I was very sad, seeing nothing around me but a waste of dreariness. I kept asking God to give me patience, and not let me fancy myself alone. But the days were dismal, and the balls and dinners frightful. I seemed in a world without air. The girls were so silly, the men so inane, and the things they said so mawkish and colourless! Their compliments sickened me so, that I was just hungry to hide myself. But at last came what I want to tell you.

"One morning, after what seemed a long night's dreamless sleep, I awoke; but it was much too early to rise; so I lay thinking--or more truly, I hope, being thought into, as Mr. Wingfold says. Many of the most beautiful things I had read, scenes of our Lord's life on earth, and thoughts of the Father, came and went. I had no desire to sleep again, or any feeling of drowsiness; but in the midst of fully conscious thought, found myself in some other place, of which I only knew that there was firm ground under my feet, and a soft white radiance of light about me. The remembrance came to me afterwards, of branches of trees spreading high overhead, through which I saw the sky: but at the time I seemed not to take notice of what was around me. I was leaning against a form tall and grand, clothed from the shoulders to the ground in a black robe, full, and soft, and fine. It lay in thickly gathered folds, touched to whiteness in the radiant light, all along the arms encircling, without at first touching me.

"With sweet content my eyes went in and out of those manifold radiant lines, feeling, though they were but parts of his dress, yet they were of himself; for I knew the form to be that of the heavenly Father, but felt no trembling fear, no sense of painful awe--only a deep, deep worshipping, an unutterable love and confidence. 'Oh Father!' I said, not aloud, but low into the folds of his garment. Scarcely had I breathed the words, when 'My child!' came whispered, and I knew his head was bent toward me, and I felt his arms close round my shoulders, and the folds of his garment enwrap me, and with a soft sweep, fall behind me to the ground. Delight held me still for a while, and then I looked up to seek his face; but I could not see past his breast. His shoulders rose far above my upreaching hands. I clasped them together, and face and hands rested near his heart, for my head came not much above his waist.

"And now came the most wonderful part of my dream. As I thus rested against his heart, _I seemed to see into it_; and mine was filled with loving wonder, and an utterly blessed feeling of home, to the very core. I was _at home_--with my Father! I looked, as it seemed, into a space illimitable and fathomless, and yet a warm light as from a hearth-fire shone and played in ruddy glow, as upon confining walls. And I saw, there gathered, all human hearts. I saw them--yet I saw no forms; they _were there--and yet they _would be there. To my waking reason, the words sound like nonsense, and perplex me; but the thing did not perplex me at all. With light beyond that of faith, for it was of absolute certainty, clear as bodily vision, but of a different nature, I saw them. But this part of my dream, the most lovely of all, I can find no words to describe; nor can I even recall to my own mind the half of what I felt. I only know that something was given me then, some spiritual apprehension, to be again withdrawn, but to be given to us all, I believe, some day, out of his infinite love, and withdrawn no more. Every heart that had ever ached, or longed, or wandered, I knew was there, folded warm and soft, safe and glad. And it seemed in my dream that to know this was the crown of all my bliss--yes, even more than to be myself in my Father's arms. Awake, the thought of multitude had always oppressed my mind; it did not then. From the comfort and joy it gave me to see them there, I seemed then first to know how my own heart had ached for them.

"Then tears began to run from my eyes--but easily, with no pain of the world in them. They flowed like a gentle stream--_into the heart of God_, whose depths were open to my gaze. The blessedness of those tears was beyond words. It was all true then! That heart was our home!

"Then I felt that I was being gently, oh, so gently, put away. The folds of his robe which I held in my hands, were being slowly drawn from them; and the gladness of my weeping changed to longing entreaty. 'Oh Father! Father!' I cried; but I saw only his grand gracious form, all blurred and indistinct through the veil of my blinding tears, slowly receding, slowly fading--and I awoke.

"My tears were flowing now with the old earth-pain in them, with keenest disappointment and longing. _To have been there and to have come back_, was the misery. But it did not last long. The glad thought awoke that I _had the dream--a precious thing never to be lost while memory lasted; a thing which nothing but its realization could ever equal in preciousness. I rose glad and strong, to serve with newer love, with quicker hand and readier foot, the hearts around me."

George MacDonald's Novel: There & Back

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