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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWarlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 22. The Luminous Night
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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 22. The Luminous Night Post by :AdrianMansilla Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1209

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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 22. The Luminous Night

CHAPTER XXII. THE LUMINOUS NIGHT

That night Cosmo could not sleep. It was a warm summer night, though not yet summer--a soft dewy night, full of genial magic and growth--as if some fire-bergs of summer had drifted away out into the spring, and got melted up in it. He dressed himself, and went out. It was cool, deliciously cool, and damp, but with no shiver. The stars were bright-eyed as if they had been weeping, and were so joyously consoled that they forgot to wipe away their tears. They were bright but not clear--large and shimmering, as if reflected from some invisible sea, not immediately present to his eyes. The gulfs in which they floated were black blue with profundity. There was no moon, but the night was yet so far from dark, that it seemed conscious throughout of some distant light that illumined it without shine. And his heart felt like the night, as if it held a deeper life than he could ever know. He wandered on till he came to the field where he had so lately been with his father. He was not thinking; any effort would break the world-mirror in which he moved! For the moment he would be but a human plant, gathering comfort from the soft coolness and the dew, when the sun had ceased his demands. The coolness and the dew sank into him, and made his soul long for the thing that waits the asking. He came to the spot where his father and he had prayed together, and there kneeling lifted up his face to the stars. Oh mighty, only church! whose roof is a vaulted infinitude! whose lights come burning from the heart of the Maker! church of all churches--where the Son of Man prayed! In the narrow temple of Herod he taught the people, and from it drove the dishonest traders; but here, under the starry roof, was his house of prayer! church where not a mark is to be seen of human hand! church that is all church, and nothing but church, built without hands, despised and desecrated through unbelief! church of God's building! thou alone in thy grandeur art fitting type of a yet greater, a yet holier church, whose stars are the burning eyes of unutterable, self-forgetting love, whose worship is a ceaseless ministration of self-forgetting deeds--the one real ideal church, the body of the living Christ, built of the hearts and souls of men and women out of every nation and every creed, through all time and over all the world, redeemed alike from Judaism, paganism, and all the false Christianities that darken and dishonor the true.

Cosmo, I say, knelt, and looked up. Then will awoke, and he lifted up his heart, sending aloft his soul on every holy sail it could spread, on all the wings it could put forth, as if, through the visible, he would force his way to the invisible.

Softly through the blue night came a gentle call:

"Cosmo."

He started, not with fear, looked round, but saw no one.

"Cosmo!" came the call again.

The sky was shining with the stars, and that other light that might be its own; other than the stars and the sky he saw nothing. He looked all round his narrow horizon, the edge of the hollow between him and the sky, where the heaven and the earth met among the stars and the grass, and the stars shimmered like glow-worms among the thin stalks: nothing was there; its edge was unbroken by other shape than grass, daisies, ox-eyes, and stars. A soft dreamy wind came over the edge, and breathed once on his cheek. The voice came again--

"Cosmo!"

It seemed to come from far away, so soft and gentle was it, and yet it seemed near.

"It has called me three times!" said Cosmo, and rose to his feet.

There was the head of Simon Peter, as some called him, rising like a dark sun over the top of the hollow! In the faint light Cosmo knew him at once, gave a cry of pleasure, and ran to meet him.

"You called so softly," said Cosmo, "I did not know your voice."

"And you are disappointed! You thought it was a voice from some region beyond this world! I am sorry. I called softly, because I wanted to let you know I was coming, and was afraid of startling you."

(Illustration: A VAULTED INFINITUDE)

"I confess," replied Cosmo, "a little hope was beginning to flutter, that, perhaps I was called from somewhere in the unseen--like Samuel, you know; but I was too glad to see you to be much disappointed. I do sometimes wonder though, that, if there is such a world beyond as we sometime talk about, there should be so little communication between it and us. When I am out in the still time of this world, and there is nothing to interfere,--when I am not even thinking, so as to close my doors, why should never anything come? Never in my life have I had one whisper from that world."

"You are saying a great deal more than you can possibly know, Cosmo," answered Mr. Simon. "You have had no communication recognized by you as such, I grant. And I, who am so much older than you, must say the same. If there be any special fitness in the night, in its absorbing dimness, and isolating silence, for such communication--and who can well doubt it?--I have put myself in the heart of it a thousand times, when, longing after an open vision, I should have counted but the glimpse of a ghostly garment the mightiest boon, but never therefrom has the shadow of a feather fallen upon me. Yet here I am, hoping no less, and believing no less! The air around me may be full of ghosts--I do not know; I delight to think they may somehow be with us, for all they are so unseen; but so long as I am able to believe and hope in the one great ghost, the Holy Ghost that fills all, it would trouble me little to learn that betwixt me and the visible centre was nothing but what the senses of men may take account of. If there be a God, he is all in all, and filleth all things, and all is well. What matter where the region of the dead may be? Nowhere but here are they called the dead. When, of all paths, that to God is alone always open, and alone can lead the wayfarer to the end of his journey, why should I stop to peer through the fence either side of that path? If he does not care to reveal, is it well I should make haste to know? I shall know one day, why should I be eager to know now?"

"But why might not something show itself once--just for once, if only to give one a start in the right direction?" said Cosmo.

"I will tell you one reason," returned Mr. Simon, "--the same why everything is as it is, and neither this nor that other way--namely, that it is best for us it should be as it is. But I think I can see a little way into it. Suppose you saw something strange--a sign or a wonder--one of two things, it seems tome likely, would follow:--you would either doubt it the moment it had vanished, or it would grow to you as one of the common things of your daily life--which are indeed in themselves equally wonderful. Evidently, if visions would make us sure, God does not care about the kind of sureness they can give, or for our being made sure in that way. A thing that gained in one way, might be of less than no value to us, gained in another, might, as a vital part of the process, be invaluable. God will have us sure of a thing by knowing the heart whence it comes; that is the only worthy assurance. To know, he will have us go in at the great door of obedient faith; and if anybody thinks he has found a backstair, he will find it land him at a doorless wall. It is the assurance that comes of inmost beholding of himself, of seeing what he is, that God cares to produce in us. Nor would he have us think we know him before we do, for thereby thousands walk in a vain show. At the same time I am free to imagine if I imagine holily--that is, as his child. And I imagine space full of life invisible; imagine that the young man needed but the opening of his eyes to see the horses and chariots of fire around his master, an inner circle to the horses and chariots that encompassed the city to take him. As I came now through the fields, I lost myself for a time in the feeling that I was walking in the midst of lovely people I have known, some in person, some by their books. Perhaps they were with me--are with me--are speaking to me now. For if all our thoughts, from whatever source, whether immediately from God, or through ourselves, seem to enter the chamber of our consciousness by the same door, why may it not be so with some that come to us from other beings? Why may not the dead speak to me, and I be unable to distinguish their words from my thoughts? The moment a thought is given me, my own thought rushes to mingle with it, and I can no more part them. Some stray hints from the world beyond may mingle even with the folly and stupidity of my dreams."

"But if you cannot distinguish, where is the good?" Cosmo ventured to ask.

"Nowhere for deductive certainty. Nor, if the things themselves are not worth remembering, or worthy of influencing us, is there any good in enquiring concerning them? Shall I mind a thing that is not worth minding, because it came to me in a dream, or was told me by a ghost? It is the quality of a thing, not how it arrived, that is the point. But true things are often mingled with things grotesque. For aught I know, at one and the same time, a spirit may be taking advantage of the door set ajar by sleep, to whisper a message of love or repentance, and the troubled brain or heart or stomach may be sending forth fumes that cloud the vision, and cause evil echoes to mingle with the hearing. When you look at any bright thing for a time, and then close your eyes, you still see the shape of it, but in different colours. This figure has come to you from the outside world, but the brain has altered it. Even the shape itself is reproduced with but partial accuracy: some imperfection in the recipient sense, or in the receptacle, sends imperfection into the presentation. In a way something similar may our contact with the dwellers beyond fare in our dreams. My unknown mother may be talking to me in my sleep, and up rises some responsive but stupid dream-cloud of my own, and mingles with and ruins the descended grace. But it is well to remind you again that the things around us are just as full of marvel as those into which you are so anxious to look. Our people in the other world, although they have proved these earthly things before, probably now feel them strange, and full of a marvel the things about them have lost."

"All is well. The only thing worth a man's care is the will of God, and that will is the same whether in this world or in the next. That will has made this world ours, not the next; for nothing can be ours until God has given it to us. Curiosity is but the contemptible human shadow of the holy thing wonder. No, my son, let us make the best we can of this life, that we may become able to make the best of the next also."

"And how make the best of this?" asked Cosmo.

"Simply by falling in with God's design in the making of you. That design must be worked out--cannot be worked out without you. You must walk in the front of things with the will of God--not be dragged in the sweep of his garment that makes the storm behind him! To walk with God is to go hand in hand with him, like a boy with his father. Then, as to the other world, or any world, as to the past sorrow, the vanished joy, the coming fear, all is well; for the design of the making, the loving, the pitiful, the beautiful God, is marching on towards divine completion, that is, a never ending one. Yea, if it please my sire that his infinite be awful to me, yet will I face it, for it is his. Let your prayer, my son, be like this:'O Maker of me, go on making me, and let me help thee. Come, O Father! here I am; let us go on. I know that my words are those of a child, but it is thy child who prays to thee. It is thy dark I walk in; it is thy hand I hold.'"

The words of his teacher sank into the heart of Cosmo, for his spirit was already in the lofty condition of capacity for receiving wisdom direct from another.

It is a lofty condition, and they who scorn it but show they have not reached it--nor are likely to reach it soon. Such as will not be taught through eye or ear, must be taught through the skin, and that is generally a long as well as a painful process. All Cosmo's superiority came of his having faith in those who were higher than he. True, he had not yet been tried; but the trials of a pure, honest, teachable youth, must, however severe, be very different from those of one unteachable. The former are for growth, the latter for change.

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