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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 59. The Message
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 59. The Message Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2318

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 59. The Message

CHAPTER LIX. THE MESSAGE

But the precious little Mark did not get better; and it soon became very clear to the major that, although months might elapse ere he left them, go he must before long. It was the sole cloud that now hung over the family. But the parting drew nigh so softly and with so little increase of suffering, also with such a changeless continuance of sweet, loving ways, and mild but genuine enjoyment of existence, that of those who would most feel the loss of him, he only was thoroughly aware that death was at the door. The rest said the summer would certainly restore him; but the major expected him to die in the first of the warm weather. The child himself believed he was going soon. His patience, resting upon entire satisfaction with what God pleased, was wonderful.

"Isn't it nice, majie," he said more than once, in differing forms, "that I have nothing to do with anything--that there is no preparation, no examination wanted for dying? It's all done for you! You have just to be lifted and taken--and that's so nice! I don't know what it will feel like, but when God is with you, you don't mind anything."

Another time he said,

"I was trying, while you were resting, majie, to tell Saffy a dream I had; and when I had told her she said, 'But it's all nonsense, you know, Mark! It's only a dream!'--What do you think, majie?"

"Was it a dream, Mark?" asked the major.

"Yes, it was a dream, but do you think a dream is nothing at all? I think, if it is a good dream, it must be God's. For you know every good as well as every perfect gift is from the father of lights! He made the thing that dreams and the things that set it dreaming; so he must be the master of the dreams--at least when he pleases--and surely always of those who mind him!--The father of lights!" he repeated; "what a beautiful name! The father of all the bright things in the world! Hester's eyes, and your teeth, majie! and all the shines of the fire on the things in the room! and the sun and the far-away stars that I shall know more about by and by! and all the glad things that come and go in my mind, as I lie here and you are sitting quiet in your chair, majie!--and sometimes at night, oh, so many! when you think I am sleeping! Oh, I will love him, and be afraid of nothing! I know he is in it all, and the dark is only the box he keeps his bright things in!

"Oh, he is such a good father of lights! Do you know, majie, I used to think he came and talked to me in the window-seat when I was a child! What if he really did, and I should be going to be made sure that he did--up there, I mean, you know--I don't know where, but it's where Jesus went when he went back to his papa! Oh, how happy Jesus must have been when he got back to his papa!"

Here he began to cough, and could not talk more; but the major did not blame himself that he had not found the heart to stop him, though he knew it was not what is called _good for him: the child when moved to talk must be happier talking, and what if he died a few minutes sooner for it!--was born again rather! thought the major to himself--and almost added, "I would that my time were come!" For the child's and the soldier's souls had got nearer to each other, than were yet any two souls in that house in absolute love.

A great silent change, not the less a development, had been and was passing in the major. Mark not only was an influence on him altogether new, but had stirred up and brought alive in him a thousand influences besides, not merely of things hitherto dormant in him, but of memories never consciously, operant--words of his mother; a certain Sunday-evening with her; her last blessing on his careless head; the verse of a well-known hymn she repeated as she was dying; old scraps of things she had taught him; dying little Mark gave life to these and many other things. The major had never been properly a child, but now lived his childness over again with Mark in a better fashion.

"I have had such a curious, such a beautiful dream, majie!" he said, waking in the middle of one night. The major was sitting up with him: he was never left alone now.

"What was it, Markie?" asked the major.

"I should like Corney to hear it," returned Mark.

"I will call him, and you can then tell it us together."

"Oh, I don't think it would do to wake Corney up! He would not like that! He must hear it sometime--but it must be at the right time, else he would laugh at it, and I could not bear that. You know Corney always laughs, without thinking first whether the thing was made for laughing at!"

By this time Corney had been to see Mark often. He always spoke kindly to him now, but always as a little goose, and Mark, the least assuming of mortals, being always in earnest, did not like the things he wanted "to go in at Corney's ears to be blown away by Corney's nose!" For Corney had a foolish way of laughing through his nose, and it sounded so scornful, that the poor child would not expose to it what he loved. Hence he was not often ready to speak freely to Corney--or to another when he was within hearing distance.

"But I'll tell you what, majie," he went on "--I'll tell _you the dream, and then, if I should go away without having told him, you must tell it to Corney. He won't laugh then--at least I don't think he will. Do you promise to tell it to him, majie?"

"I will," answered the major, drawing himself up with a mental military salute, and ready to obey to the letter whatever Mark should require of him.

Without another word the child began.

"I was somewhere," he said, "--I don't know where, and it don't matter where, for Jesus was there too. And Jesus gave a little laugh, such a beautiful little laugh, when he saw me! And he said, 'Ah, little one, now you see me! I have been getting your eyes open as fast as I could all the time! We're in our father's house together now! But, Markie, where's your brother Corney?' And I answered and said, 'Jesus, I'm very sorry, but I don't know. I know very well that I'm my brother's keeper, but I can't tell where he is.' Then Jesus smiled again, and said, 'Never mind, then. I didn't ask you because I didn't know myself. But we must have Corney here--only we can't get him till he sets himself to be good! You must tell Corney, only not just yet, that I want him. Tell him that he and I have got one father, and I couldn't bear to have him out in the cold, with all the horrid creatures that won't be good! Tell him I love him so that I will be very sharp with him if he don't make haste and come home. Our father is _so good, and it is dreadful to me that Corney won't mind him! He is _so patient with him, Markie!' 'I know that, Jesus,' I said; 'I know that he could easily take him to pieces again because he don't go well, but he would much rather make him go right'--I suppose I was thinking of mamma's beautiful gold watch, with the wreath of different-coloured gold round the face of it: that wouldn't go right, and papa wanted to change it, but mamma liked the old one best. And I don't know what came next.--Now what am I to do, majie? You see I couldn't bear to have that dream laughed at. Yet I must tell it to Corney because there is a message in it for him!"

Whether the boy plainly believed that the Lord had been with him, and had given him a message to his brother, the major dared not inquire. "Let the boy think what he thinks!" he said to himself. "I dare not look as if I doubted." Therefore he did not speak, but looked at the child with his soul in his eyes.

"I do not think," Mark went on, "that he wanted me to tell Corney the minute I woke: he knows how sore it would make me to have him laugh at what _he said! I think when the time comes he will let me know it is come. But if I found I was dying, you know, I would try and tell him, whether he laughed or not, rather than go without having done it. But if Corney knew I was going, I don't think he would laugh."

"I don't think he would," returned the major. "Corney is a better boy--a little--I do think, than he used to be. You will be able to speak to him by and by, I fancy."

A feeling had grown upon the household as if there were in the house a strange lovely spot whence was direct communication with heaven--a little piece cut out of the new paradise and set glowing in the heart of the old house of Yrndale--the room where Mark lay shining in his bed, a Christ-child, if ever child might bear the name. As often as the door opened loving eyes would seek first the spot where the sweet face, the treasure of the house, lay, reflecting already the light of the sunless kingdom.

That same afternoon, as the major, his custom always of an afternoon, dozed in his chair, the boy suddenly called out in a clear voice,

"Oh, majie, there was one bit of my dream I did not tell you! I've just remembered it now for the first time!--After what I told you,--do you remember?--"

"I do indeed," answered the major.

"--After that, Jesus looked at me for one minute--no, not a minute, for a minute--on mamma's watch at least--is much longer, but say perhaps for three seconds of a minute, and then said just one word,--'Our father, Markie!' and I could not see him any more. But it did not seem to matter the least tiny bit. There was a stone near me, and I sat down upon it, feeling as if I could sit there without moving to all eternity, so happy was I, and it was because Jesus's father was touching me everywhere; my head felt as if he were counting the hairs of it. And he was not only close to me, but far and far and farther away, and all between. Near and far there was the father! I neither saw nor felt nor heard him, and yet I saw and heard and felt him so near that I could neither see nor hear nor feel him. I am talking very like nonsense, majie, but I can't do it better. It was God, God everywhere, and there was no nowhere anywhere, but all was God, God, God; and my heart was nothing, knew nothing but him; and I felt I could sit there for ever, because I was right in the very middle of God's heart. That was what made everything look so all right that I was anxious about nothing and nobody."

Here he paused a little.

"He had a sleeping draught last night!" said the major to himself. "--But the sleeping draught was God's, and who can tell whether God may not have had it given to him just that he might talk with him! Some people may be better to talk to when they are asleep, and others when they are awake!"

"And then, after a while," the boy resumed, "I seemed to see a black speck somewhere in the all-blessed. And I could not understand it, and I did not like it; but always I kept seeing this black speck--only one; and it made me at last, in spite of my happiness, almost miserable, 'Only,' I said to myself, 'whatever the black speck may be, God will rub it white when he is ready!' for, you knew, he couldn't go on for ever with a black speck going about in his heart! And when I said this, all at once I knew the black speck was Corney, and I gave a cry. But with that the black speck began to grow thin, and it grew thin and thin till all at once I could see it no more, and the same instant Corney stood beside me with a smile on his face, and the tears running clown his cheeks. I stretched out my arms to him, and he caught me up in his, and then it was all right; I was Corney's keeper, and Corney was my keeper, and God was all of us's keeper. And it was then I woke, majie, not before."

The days went on. Every new day Mark said, "Now, majie, I do think to-day I shall tell Corney my dream and the message I have for him!" But the day grew old and passed, and the dream was not told. The next and the next and the next passed, and he seemed to the major not likely ever to have the strength to tell Corney. Still even his mother, who was now hardly out of his room during the day, though the major would never yield the active part of the nursing, did not perceive that his time was drawing nigh. Hester, also, was much with him now, and sometimes his father, occasionally Corney and Mrs. Corney, as Mark called her with a merry look--very pathetic on his almost transparent face; but none of them seemed to think his end quite near.

One of the marvellous things about the child was his utter lack of favouritism. He had got so used to the major's strong arms and systematic engineering way of doing things as to prefer his nursing to that of any one else; yet he never objected to the substitution of another when occasion might require. He took everything that came to him as in itself right and acceptable. He seemed in his illness to love everybody more than even while he was well. For every one he kept his or her own place. His mother was the queen; but he was nearly as happy with Hester as with her; and the major was great; but he never showed any discomfort, not to say unhappiness, when left alone for a while with Saffy--who was not always so reasonable as he would have liked her to be. When several were in the room, he would lie looking from one to another like a miser contemplating his riches--and well he might! for such riches neither moth nor rust corrupt, and they are the treasures of heaven also.

One evening most of the family were in the room: a vague sense had diffused itself that the end was not far off, and an unconfessed instinct had gathered them.

A lamp was burning, but the fire-light was stronger.

Mark spoke. In a moment the major was bending over him.

"Majie," he said, "I want Corney. I want to tell him."

The major, on his way to Corney, told the father that the end was nigh. With sorely self-accusing heart, for the vision of the boy on the stone in the middle of the moor haunted him, he repaired to the anteroom of heaven.

Mark kept looking for Corney's coming, his eyes turning every other moment to the door. When his father entered he stretched out his arms to him. The strong man bending over him could not repress a sob. The boy pushed him gently away far enough to see his face, and looked at him as if he could not quite believe his eyes.

"Father," he said--he had never called him _father before--"you must be glad, not sorry. I am going to your father and my father--to our great father."

Then seeing Corney come in, he stretched his arms towards him past his father, crying, "Corney! Corney!" just as he used to call him when he was a mere child. Corney bent over him, but the outstretched arms did not close upon him; they fell.

But he was not yet ascended. With a strength seeming wonderful when they thought of it afterwards, he signed to the major.

"Majie," he whispered, with a look and expression into the meaning of which the major all his life long had never done inquiring, "Majie! Corney! you tell!"

Then he went.

I think it was the grief at the grave of Lazarus that made our Lord weep, not his death. One with eyes opening into both worlds could hardly weep over any law of the Father of Lights! I think it was the impossibility of getting them comforted over this thing death, which looked to him so different from what they thought it, that made the fearless weep, and give them in Lazarus a foretaste of his own resurrection.

The major alone did not weep. He stood with his arms folded, like a sentry relieved, and waiting the next order. Even Corney's eyes filled with tears, and he murmured, "Poor Markie!" It should have been "Poor Corney!" He stooped and kissed the insensate face, then drew back and gazed with the rest on the little pilgrim-cloak the small prophet had dropped as he rose to his immortality.

Saffy, who had been seated gazing into the fire, and had no idea of what had taken place, called out in a strange voice, "Markie! Markie!"

Hester turned to her at the cry, and saw her apparently following something with her eyes along the wall from the bed to the window. At the curtained window she gazed for a moment, and then her eyes fell, and she sat like one in a dream. A moment more and she sprang to her feet and ran to the bed, crying again, "Markie! Markie!" Hester lifted her, and held her to kiss the sweet white face. It seemed to content her; she went back to her stool by the fire; and there sat staring at the curtained window with the look of one gazing into regions unknown.

That same night, ere the solemn impression should pass, the major took Corney to his room, and recalling every individual expression he could of the little prophet-dreamer, executed, not without tears, the commission intrusted to him. And Corney did not laugh. He listened with a grave, even sad face; and when the major ceased, his eyes were full of tears.

"I shall not forget Markie's dream," he said.

Thus came everything in to help the youth who had begun to mend his ways.

And shall we think the boy found God not equal to his dream of him? He made our dreaming: shall it surpass in its making his mighty self? Shall man dream better than God? or God's love be inferior to man's imagination or his own?

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