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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWilfrid Cumbermede - Chapter 20. A Dream
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Wilfrid Cumbermede - Chapter 20. A Dream Post by :otto_jurscha Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1535

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Wilfrid Cumbermede - Chapter 20. A Dream


The best immediate result of my illness was that I learned to love Charley Osborne dearly. We renewed an affection resembling from afar that of Shakspere for his nameless friend; we anticipated that informing _In Memoriam_. Lest I be accused of infinite arrogance, let me remind my reader that the sun is reflected in a dewdrop as in the ocean.

One night I had a strange dream, which is perhaps worth telling for the involution of its consciousness.

I thought I was awake in my bed, and Charley asleep in his. I lay looking into the room. It began to waver and change. The night-light enlarged and receded; and the walls trembled and waved. The light had got behind them, and shone through them.

'Charley! Charley!' I cried; for I was frightened.

'I heard him move: but before he reached me, I was lying on a lawn, surrounded by trees, with the moon shining through them from behind. The next moment Charley was by my side.

'Isn't it prime?' he said. 'It's all over.'

'What do you mean, Charley?' I asked.

'I mean that we're both dead now. It's not so very bad--is it?'

'Nonsense, Charley!' I returned; '_I_'m not dead. I'm as wide alive as ever I was. Look here.'

So saying, I sprung to my feet, and drew myself up before him.

'Where's your worst pain?' said Charley, with a curious expression in his tone.

'Here,' I answered. 'No; it's not; it's in my back. No, it isn't. It's nowhere. I haven't got any pain.'

Charley laughed a low laugh, which sounded as sweet as strange. It was to the laughter of the world 'as moonlight is to sunlight,' but not 'as water is to wine,' for what it had lost in sound it had gained in smile.

'Tell me now you're not dead!' he exclaimed triumphantly.

'But,' I insisted, 'don't you see I'm alive? _You may be dead for anything I know--but I _am not_--I know that.'

'You're just as dead as I am,' he said. 'Look here.'

A little way off, in an open plot by itself, stood a little white rose tree, half mingled with the moonlight. Charley went up to it, stepped on the topmost twig, and stood: the bush did not even bend under him.

'Very well,' I answered. 'You are dead, I confess. But now, look you here.'

I went to a red rose-bush which stood at some distance, blanched in the moon, set my foot on the top of it, and made as if I would ascend, expecting to crush it, roses and all, to the ground. But behold! I was standing on my red rose opposite Charley on his white.

'I told you so,' he cried, across the moonlight, and his voice sounded as if it came from the moon far away.

'Oh Charley!' I cried, 'I'm so frightened!'

'What are you frightened at?'

'At you. You're dead, you know.'

'It is a good thing, Wilfrid,' he rejoined, in a tone of some reproach, 'that I am not frightened at you for the same reason; for what would happen then?'

'I don't know. I suppose you would go away and leave me alone in this ghostly light.'

'If I were frightened at you as you are at me, we should not be able to see each other at all. If you take courage the light will grow.'

'Don't leave me, Charley,' I cried, and flung myself from my tree towards his. I found myself floating, half reclined on the air. We met midway each in the other's arms.

'I don't know where I am, Charley.'

'That is my father's rectory.'

He pointed to the house, which I had not yet observed. It lay quite dark in the moonlight, for not a window shone from within.

'Don't leave me, Charley.'

'Leave you! I should think not, Wilfrid. I have been long enough without you already.'

'Have you been long dead, then, Charley?'

'Not very long. Yes, a long time. But, indeed, I don't know. We don't count time as we used to count it.--I want to go and see my father. It is long since I saw _him_, anyhow. Will you come?'

'If you think I might--if you wish it,' I said, for I had no great desire to see Mr Osborne. 'Perhaps he won't care to see me.'

'Perhaps not,' said Charley, with another low silvery laugh. 'Come along.'

We glided over the grass. A window stood a little open on the second floor. We floated up, entered, and stood by the bedside of Charley's father. He lay in a sound sleep.

'Father! father!' said Charley, whispering in his ear as he lay--'it's all right. You need not be troubled about me any more.'

Mr Osborne turned on his pillow.

'He's dreaming about us now,' said Charley. 'He sees us both standing by his bed.'

But the next moment Mr Osborne sat up, stretched out his arms towards us with the open palms outwards, as if pushing us away from him, and cried,

'Depart from me, all evil-doers. O Lord! do I not hate them that hate thee?'

He followed with other yet more awful words which I never could recall. I only remember the feeling of horror and amazement they left behind. I turned to Charley. He had disappeared, and I found myself lying in the bed beside Mr Osborne. I gave a great cry of dismay--when there was Charley again beside me, saying,

'What's the matter, Wilfrid? Wake up. My father's not here.'

I did wake, but until I had felt in the bed I could not satisfy myself that Mr Osborne was indeed not there.

'You've been talking in your sleep. I could hardly get you waked,' said Charley, who stood there in his shirt.

'Oh Charley!' I cried, 'I've had such a dream!'

'What was it, Wilfrid?'

'Oh! I can't talk about it yet,' I answered.

I never did tell him that dream; for even then I was often uneasy about him--he was so sensitive. The affections of my friend were as hoops of steel; his feelings a breath would ripple. Oh, my Charley! if ever we meet in that land so vaguely shadowed in my dream, will you not know that I loved you heartily well? Shall I not hasten' to lay bare my heart before you--the priest of its confessional? Oh, Charley! when the truth is known, the false will fly asunder as the Autumn leaves in the wind; but the true, whatever their faults, will only draw together the more tenderly that they have sinned against each other.

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