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The Little Pilgrim: Further Experiences. by Margaret O. (Wilson) Oliphant

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Further Experiences

By Margaret O. (Wilson) Oliphant



The little Pilgrim, whose story has been told in another place, and who
had arrived but lately on the other side, among those who know trouble
and sorrow no more, was one whose heart was always full of pity for the
suffering. And after the first rapture of her arrival, and of the blessed
work which had been given to her to do, and all the wonderful things she
had learned of the new life, there returned to her in the midst of her
happiness so many questions and longing thoughts that They were touched
by them who have the care of the younger brethren, the simple ones of
heaven. These questions did not disturb her peace or joy, for she knew
that which is so often veiled on earth,--that all is accomplished by the
will of the Father, and that nothing can happen but according to His
appointment and under His care. And she was also aware that the end
is as the beginning to Him who knows all, and that nothing is lost that
is in His hand. But though she would herself have willingly borne the
sufferings of earth ten times over for the sake of all that was now hers,
yet it pierced her soul to think of those who were struggling in
darkness, and whose hearts were stifled within them by all the bitterness
of the mortal life. Sometimes she would be ready to cry out with wonder
that the Lord did not hasten His steps and go down again upon the earth
to make all plain; or how the Father himself could restrain His power,
and did not send down ten legions of angels to make all that was wrong
right, and turn all that was mournful into joy.

'It is but for a little time,' said her companions. 'When we have reached
this place we remember no more the anguish.' 'But to them in their
trouble it does not seem a little time,' the Pilgrim said. And in her
heart there rose a great longing. Oh that He would send me! that I might
tell my brethren,--not like the poor man in the land of darkness, of the
gloom and misery of that distant place, but a happier message, of the
light and brightness of this, and how soon all pain would be over. She
would not put this into a prayer, for she knew that to refuse a prayer
is pain to the Father, if in His great glory any pain can be. And then
she reasoned with herself and said, 'What can I tell them, except that
all will soon be well? and this they know, for our Lord has said it; but
I am like them, and I do not understand.'

One fair morning while she turned over these thoughts in her mind there
suddenly came towards her one whom she knew as a sage, of the number of
those who know many mysteries and search into the deep things of the
Father. For a moment she wondered if perhaps he came to reprove her for
too many questionings, and rose up and advanced a little towards him with
folded hands and a thankful heart, to receive the reproof if it should be
so,--for whether it were praise or whether it were blame, it was from the
Father, and a great honor and happiness to receive. But as he came
towards her he smiled and bade her not to fear. 'I am come,' he said, 'to
tell you some things you long to know, and to show you some things that
are hidden to most. Little sister, you are not to be charged with any

'Oh, no,' she said, 'oh, no. I was not so presuming--'

'It is not presuming to wish to carry comfort to any soul; but it is
permitted to me to open up to you, so far as I may, some of the secrets.
The secrets of the Father are all beautiful, but there is sorrow in them
as well as joy; and Pain, you know, is one of the great angels at the

'Is his name Pain? and I took him for Consolation!' the little Pilgrim

'He is not Consolation; he is the schoolmaster whose face is often stern.
But I did not come to tell you of him whom you know; I am going to take
you--back,' the wise man said.

'Back!' She knew what this meant, and a great pleasure, yet mingled with
fear, came into her mind. She hesitated, and looked at him, and did not
know how to accept, though she longed to do so, for at the same time she
was afraid. He smiled when he saw the alarm in her face.

'Do you think,' he said, 'that you are to go this journey on your own
charges? Had you insisted, as some do, to go at all hazards, you might
indeed have feared. And even now I cannot promise that you will not feel
the thorns of the earth as you pass; but you will be cared for, so that
no harm can come.'

'Ah,' she said wistfully, 'it is not for harm--' and could say nothing

He laid his hand upon her arm, and he said, 'Do not fear; though they see
you not, it is yet sweet for a moment to be there, and as you pass, it
brings thoughts of you to their minds.'

For these two understood each other, and knew that to see and yet not be
seen is only a pleasure for those who are most like the Father, and can
love without thought of love in return.

When he touched her, it seemed to the little Pilgrim suddenly that
everything changed round her, and that she was no longer in her own
place, but walking along a weary length of road. It was narrow and rough,
and the skies were dim; and as she went on by the side of her guide she
saw houses and gardens which were to her like the houses that children
build, and the little gardens in which they sow seeds and plant flowers,
and take them up again to see if they are growing. She turned to the
Sage, saying, 'What are--?' and then stopped and gazed again, and burst
out into something that was between laughing and tears. 'For it is home,'
she cried, 'and I did not know it! dear home!' Her heart was remorseful,
as if she had wounded the little diminished place.

'This is what happens with those who have been living in the king's
palaces,' he said with a smile.

'But I love it dearly, I love it dearly!' the little Pilgrim said,
stretching out her hands as if for pardon. He smiled at her, consoling
her; and then his face changed and grew very grave.

'Little sister,' he said, 'you have come not to see happiness but pain.
We want no explanation of the joy, for that flows freely from the heart
of the Father, and all is clear between us and Him; but that which you
desire to know is why trouble should be. Therefore you must think of Him
and be strong, for here is what will rend your heart.'

The little Pilgrim was seized once more with mortal fear. 'O friend,' she
cried, 'I have done with pain. Must I go and see others suffering and do
nothing for them?'

'If anything comes into your heart to do or say, it will be well for
them,' the Sage replied: and he took her by the hand and led her into a
house she knew. She began to know them all now, as her vision became
accustomed to the atmosphere of the earth. She perceived that the sun was
shining, though it had appeared so dim, and that it was a clear summer
morning, very early, with still the colors of the dawn in the east. When
she went indoors, at first she saw nothing, for the room was darkened,
the windows all closed, and a miserable watch-light only burning. In the
bed there lay a child whom she knew. She knew them all,--the mother at
the bedside, the father near the door, even the nurse who was flitting
about disturbing the silence. Her heart gave a great throb when she
recognized them all; and though she had been glad for the first moment to
think that she had come just in time to give welcome to a little brother
stepping out of earth into the better country, a shadow of trouble and
pain enveloped her when she saw the others and remembered and knew. For
he was their beloved child; on all the earth there was nothing they held
so dear. They would have given up their home and all they possessed, and
become poor and homeless and wanderers with joy, if God, as they said,
would have but spared their child. She saw into their hearts and read all
this there; and knowing them, she knew it without even that insight.
Everything they would have given up and rejoiced, if but they might have
kept him. And there he lay, and was about to die. The little Pilgrim
forgot all but the pity of it, and their hearts that were breaking, and
the vacant place that was soon to be. She cried out aloud upon the Father
with a great cry. She forgot that it was a grief to Him in His great
glory to refuse.

There came no reply; but the room grew light as with a reflection out of
heaven, and the child in the bed, who had been moving restlessly in the
weariness of ending life, turned his head towards her, and his eyes
opened wide, and he saw her where she stood. He cried out, 'Look! mother,
mother!' The mother, who was on her knees by the bedside, lifted her head
and cried, 'What is it, what is it, O my darling?' and the father, who
had turned away his face not to see the child die, came nearer to the
bed, hoping they knew not what. Their faces were paler than the face of
the dying, upon which there was light; but no light came to them out of
the hidden heaven. 'Look! she has come for me,' he said; but his voice
was so weak they could not hear him, nor take any comfort. At this the
little Pilgrim put out her arms to him, forgetting in her joy the poor
people who were mourning, and cried out, 'Oh, but I must go with him! I
must take him home!' For this was her own work, and she thought of her
wonderings and her questions no more.

Some one touched her on the shoulder, and she looked round; and behind
her was a great company of the dear children from the better country,
whom the Father had sent, and not her,--lest he should grieve for those
he had left behind,--to come for the child and show him the way. She
paused for a moment, scarcely willing to give him up; but then her
companion touched her and pointed to the other side. Ah, that was
different! The mother lay by the side of the bed, her face turned only to
the little white body which her child had dropped from him as he came out
of his sickness,--her eyes wild with misery, without tears; her feverish
mouth open, but no cry in it. The sword of the angel had gone through and
through her. She did not even writhe upon it, but lay motionless, cut
down, dumb with anguish. The father had turned round again and leaned his
head upon the wall. All was over,--all over! The love and the hope of a
dozen lovely years, the little sweet companion, the daily joy, the future
trust--all--over--as if a child had never been born. Then there rose in
the stillness a great and exceeding bitter cry, 'God!' that was all,
pealing up to heaven, to the Father, whom they could not see in their
anguish, accusing Him, reproaching Him who had done it. Was He their
enemy that He had done it? No man was ever so wicked, ever so cruel but
he would have spared them their boy,--taken everything and spared them
their boy; but God, God! The little Pilgrim stood by and wept. She could
do nothing but weep, weep, her heart aching with the pity and the
anguish. How were they to be told that it was not God, but the Father;
that God was only His common name, His name in law, and that He was the
Father. This was all she could think of; she had not a word to say. And
the boy had shaken his little bright soul out of the sickness and the
weakness with such a look of delight! He knew in a moment! But they--oh,
when, when would they know?

Presently she sat outside in the soft breathing airs and little morning
breezes, and dried her aching eyes. And the Sage who was her companion
soothed her with kind words. 'I said you would feel the thorns as you
passed,' he said. 'We cannot be free of them, we who are of mankind.'

'But oh,' she cried amid her tears, 'why,--why? The air of the earth is
in my eyes, I cannot see. Oh, what pain it is, what misery! Was it
because they loved him too much, and that he drew their hearts away?'

The Sage only shook his head at her, smiling. 'Can one love too much?' he

'O brother, it is very hard to live and to see another--I am confused in
my mind,' said the little Pilgrim, putting her hand to her eyes. 'The
tears of those that weep have got into my soul. To live and see another
die,--that was what I was saying; but the child lives like you and me.
Tell me, for I am confused in my mind.'

'Listen!' said the Sage; and when she listened she heard the sound of the
children going back with a great murmur and ringing of pleasant voices
like silver bells in the air, and among them the voice of the child
asking a thousand questions, calling them by their names. The two
pilgrims listened and laughed to each other for love at the sound of the
children. 'Is it for the little brother that you are troubled?' the Sage
said in her ear.

Then she was ashamed, and turned from the joyful sounds that were
ascending ever higher and higher to the little house that stood below,
with all its windows closed upon the light. It was wrapped in darkness
though the sun was shining, the windows closed as if they never would
open more, and the people within turning their faces to the wall,
covering their eyes that they might not see the light of day. 'O
miserable day!' they were saying; 'O dark hour! O life that will never
smile again!' She sat between earth and heaven, her eyes smiling, but her
mouth beginning to quiver once more. 'Is it to raise their thoughts and
their hearts?' she said.

'Little sister,' said he, 'when the Father speaks to you, it is not for
me nor for another that He speaks. And what He says to you is--' 'Ah,'
said the little Pilgrim, with joy, 'it is for myself, myself alone! As if
I were a great angel, as if I were a saint. It drops into my heart like
the dew. It is what I need, not for you, though I love you, but for me
only. It is my secret between me and Him.'

Her companion bowed his head. 'It is so. And thus has He spoken to the
little child. But what He said or why He said it, is not for you or me to
know. It is His secret; it is between the little one and his Father. Who
can interfere between these two? Many and many are there born on earth
whose work and whose life are ordained elsewhere,--for there is no way of
entrance into the race of man which is the nature of the Lord, but by the
gates of birth; and the work which the Father has to do is so great and
manifold that there are multitudes who do but pass through those gates to
ascend to their work elsewhere. But the Father alone knows whom he has
chosen. It is between the child and Him. It is their secret; it is as you
have said.'

The little Pilgrim was silent for a moment, but then turned her head from
the bright shining of the skies and the voices of the children which
floated farther and farther off, and looked at the house in which there
was sorrow and despair. She pointed towards it, and looked at him who was
her instructor, and had come to show her how these things were.

'They are to blame,' he said; 'but none will blame them. The little life
is hard. The Father, though He is very near, seems far off; and sometimes
even His word is as a dream. It is to them as if they had lost their
child. Can you not remember?--that was what we said. We have lost--'

Then the little Pilgrim, musing, began to smile, but wept again as she
thought of the father and the mother. 'If we were to go,' she said, 'hand
in hand, you and I, and tell them that the Father had need of him, that
it was not for the little life but for the great and beautiful world
above that the child was born; and that he had got great promotion and
was gone with the princes and the angels according as was ordained?
And why should they mourn? Let us go and tell them--'

He shook his head. 'They could not see us; they would not know us. We
should be to them as dreams. If they do not take comfort from our Lord,
how could they take comfort from you and me? We could not bring them back
their child. They want their child, not only to know that all is well
with him,--for they know that all is well with him,--but what they want
is their child. They are to blame; but who shall blame them? Not any one
that is born of woman. How can we tell them what is the Father's secret
and the child's?'

'And yet we could tell them why it must be so?' said the little Pilgrim.
'For they prayed and besought the Lord. O brother, I have no
understanding. For the Lord said, "Ask, and it shall be given you;" and
they asked, yet they are refused.'

'Little sister, the Father must judge between His children; and he must
first be heard who is most concerned. While they were praying, the Father
and the child talked together and said what we know not; but this we
know, that his heart was satisfied with that which was said to him. Must
not the Father do what is best for the child He loves, whatever the other
children may say? Nay, did not our own fathers do this on earth, and we
submitted to them; how much more He who sees all?'

The little Pilgrim stole softly from his side when he had done speaking,
and went back into the darkened house, and saw the mother where she sat
weeping and refusing to be comforted, in her sorrow perceiving not heaven
nor any consolation, nor understanding that her child had gone joyfully
to his Father and her Father, as his soul had required, and as the Lord
had willed. Yet though she had not joy but only anguish in her faith, and
though her eyes were darkened that she could not see, yet the woman
ceased not to call upon God, God, and to hold by Him who had smitten her.
And the father of the child had gone into his chamber and shut the door,
and sat dumb, opening not his mouth, thinking upon his delightsome boy,
and how they had walked together and talked together, and should do so
again nevermore. And in their hearts they reproached their God, the giver
of all, and accused the Lord to His face, as if He had deceived them, yet
clung to Him still, weeping and upbraiding, and would not let Him go. The
little Pilgrim wept too, and said many things to them which they could
not hear. But when she saw that though they were in darkness and misery,
God was in all their thoughts, she bethought herself suddenly of what the
poet had said in the celestial city, and of the songs he sang, which were
a wonder to the Angels and Powers, of the little life and the sorrowful
earth, where men endured all things, yet overcame by the name of the
Lord. When this came into her mind, she rose up again softly with a
sacred awe, and wept not, but did them reverence; for without any light
or guidance in their anguish they yet wavered not, died not, but endured,
and in the end would overcome. It seemed to her that she saw the great
beautiful angels looking on, the great souls that are called to love and
to serve, but not to suffer like the little brethren of the earth; and
that among the princes of heaven there was reverence and awe, and even
envy of those who thus had their garments bathed in blood, and suffered
loss and pain and misery, yet never abandoned their life and the work
that had been given them to do.

As she came forth again comforted, she found the Sage standing with his
face lifted to heaven, smiling still at the sound, though faint and
distant, of the children all calling to each other and shouting together
as they reached the gate. 'Oh, hush!' she said; 'let not the mother hear
them! for it will make her heart more bitter to think she can never hear
again her child's voice.'

'But it is her child's voice,' he said; then very gently, 'they are to
blame; but no one will be found to blame them either in earth or heaven.'

The earth pilgrims went far after this, yet more softly than when they
first left their beautiful country,--for then the little Pilgrim had been
glad, believing that as all had been made clear to her in her own life,
so that all that concerned the life of man should be made clear; but this
was more hard and encompassed with pain and darkness, as that which is in
the doing is always more hard to understand than that which is
accomplished. And she learned now what she had not understood, though her
companion warned her, how sharp are those thorns of earth that pierce the
wayfarer's foot, and that those who come back cannot help but suffer
because of love and fellow-feeling. And she learned that though she could
smile and give thanks to the Father in the recollection of her own griefs
that were past, yet those that are present are too poignant, and to look
upon others in their hour of darkness makes His ways more hard to
comprehend than even when the sorrow is your own.

While she mused thus, there was suddenly revealed to her another sight.
They had gone far before they came to this new scene. Night had crept
over the skies all gray and dark; and the sea came in with a whisper
which sounded to some like the hush of peace, and to some like the voice
of sorrow and moaning, and to some was but the monotony of endless
recurrence, in which was no soul. The skies were dark overhead, but
opened with a clear shining of light which had no color, towards the
west,--for the sun had long gone down, and it was night. The two
travellers perceived a woman who came out of a house all lit with lamps
and firelight, and took the lonely path towards the sea. And the little
Pilgrim knew her, as she had known the father and mother in the darkened
house, and would have joined her with a cry of pleasure; but she
remembered that the friend could not see her or hear her, being wrapped
still in the mortal body, and in a close enveloping mantle of thoughts
and cares. The Sage made her a sign to follow, and these two tender
companions accompanied her who saw them not, walking darkling by the
silent way. The heart of the woman was heavy in her breast. It was so
sore by reason of trouble, and for all the bitter wounds of the past, and
all the fears that beset her life to come, that she walked, not weeping
because of being beyond tears, but as it were bleeding, her thoughts
being in her little way like those of His upon whose brow there once
stood drops as it were of blood; and out of her heart there came a
moaning which was without words. If words had been possible, they would
have been as His also, who said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do.' For those who had wounded her were those whom in all the
world she loved most dear; and the quivering of anguish was in her as she
walked, seeking the darkness and the silence, and to hide herself, if
that might be, from her own thoughts. She went along the lonely path with
the stinging of her wounds so keen and sharp that all her body and soul
were as one pain. Greater grief hath no man than this, to be slain and
tortured by those whom he loves. When her soul could speak, this was what
it said 'Father, forgive them! Father, save them!' She had no strength
for more.

This the heavenly pilgrims saw,--for they stood by her as in their own
country, where every thought is clear, and saw her heart. But as they
followed her and looked into her soul--with their hearts, which were
human too, wrung at the sight of hers in its anguish--there suddenly
became visible before them a strange sight such as they had never seen
before. It was like the rising of the sun; but it was not the sun.
Suddenly into the heart upon which they looked there came a great silence
and calm. There was nothing said that even they could hear, nor done that
they could see; but for a moment the throbbing was stilled, and the
anguish calmed, and there came a great peace. The woman in whom this
wonder was wrought was astonished, as they were. She gave a low cry in
the darkness for wonder that the pain had gone from her in an instant, in
the twinkling of an eye. There was no promise made to her that her prayer
would be granted, and no new light given to guide her for the time to
come; but her pain was taken away. She stood hushed, and lifted her eyes;
and the gray of the sea, and the low cloud that was like a canopy above,
and the lightening of colorless light towards the west, entered with
their great quiet into her heart. 'Is this the peace that passeth all
understanding?' she said to herself, confused with the sudden calm. In
all her life it had never so happened to her before,--to be healed of her
grievous wounds, yet without cause; and while no change was wrought, yet
to be put to rest.

'It is our Brother,' said the little Pilgrim, shedding tears of joy. 'It
is the secret of the Lord,' said the Sage; but not even they had seen Him
passing by.

They walked with her softly in the silence, in the sound of the sea, till
the wonder in her was hushed like the pain, and talked with her, though
she knew it not. For very soon questions arose in her heart. 'And oh,'
she said, 'is this the Lord's reply?' with thankfulness and awe; but
because she was human, and knew so little, and was full of impatience,
'Oh, and is this _all_?' was what she next said. 'I asked for _them_, and
Thou hast given to _me_--' then the voice of her heart grew louder, and
she cried, with the sound of the pain coming back, 'I ask one thing, and
Thou givest another. I asked no blessing for me. I asked for them, my
Lord, my God. Give it to them--to them!' with disappointment rising in
her heart. The little Pilgrim laid her hand upon the woman's arm,--for
she was afraid lest our Lord might be displeased, forgetting (for she was
still imperfect) that He sees all that is in the soul, and understands
and takes no offence,--and said quickly, 'Oh, be not afraid; He will save
them too. The blessing will come for them too.'

'At His own time,' said the Sage, 'and in His own way.'

These thoughts rose in the woman's soul. She did not know that they were
said to her, nor who said them, but accepted them as if they had come
from her own thoughts. For she said to herself, 'This is what is meant by
the answer of prayer. It is not what we ask; yet what I ask is according
to Thy will, my Lord. It is not riches, nor honors, nor beauty, nor
health, nor long life, nor anything of this world. If I have been
impatient, this is my punishment,--that the Lord has thought, not of
them, but of me. But I can bear all, O my Lord! that and a thousand times
more, if Thou wilt but think of them and not of me!'

Nevertheless she returned to her home stilled and comforted; for though
her trouble returned to her and was not changed, yet for a moment it
had been lifted from her, and the peace which passeth all understanding
had entered her heart.

'But why, then,' said the little Pilgrim to her companion, when the
friend was gone, 'why will not the Father give to her what she asks? for
I know what it is. It is that those whom she loves should love Him and
serve Him; and that is His will too, for He would have all love Him, He
who loves all.'

'Little sister,' said her companion, 'you asked me why He did not let the
child remain upon the earth.'

'Ah, but that is different,' she cried; 'oh, it is different! When you
said that the secret was between the child and the Father I knew that
it was so; for it is just that the Father should consider us first one
by one, and do for us what is best. But it is always best to serve Him.
It is best to love him; it is best to give up all the world and cleave
to Him, and follow wherever He goes. No man can say otherwise than
this,--that to follow the Lord and serve Him, that is well for all, and
always the best!'

She spoke so hotly and hastily that her companion could find no room for
reply. But he was in no haste; he waited till she had said what was in
her heart. Then he replied, 'If it were even so, if the Father heard all
prayers, and put forth His hand and forced those who were far off to come

The little Pilgrim looked up with horror in her face, as if he had
blasphemed, and said, 'Forced! not so; not so!'

'Yet it must be so,' he said, 'if it is against their desire and will.'

'Oh, not so; not so!' she cried, 'but that He should change their

'Yet that too against their will,' he said.

The little Pilgrim paused upon the way; and her heart rose against her
companion, who spoke things so hard to be received, and that seemed to
dishonor the work of the Lord. But she remembered that it could not be
so, and paused before she spoke, and looked up at him with eyes that were
full of wonder and almost of fear. 'Then must they perish?' she said,
'and must her heart break?' and her voice sank low for pity and sorrow.
Though she was herself among the blessed, yet the thorns and briers of
the earth caught at her garments and pierced her tender feet.

'Little sister,' said the Sage, 'to us who are born of the earth it is
hard to remember that the child belongs not first to the parents, nor the
husband to the wife, nor the wife to the husband, but that all are the
children of the Father. And He is just; He will not neglect the little
one because of those prayers which the father and the mother pour forth
to Him, although they cry with anguish and with tears. Nor will He break
His great law and violate the nature He has made, and compel His own
child to what it wills not and loves not. The woman is comforted in the
breaking of her heart; but those whom she loves, are not they also the
children of the Father, who loves them more than she does? And each is to
Him as if there were not another in the world. Nor is there any other in
the world,--for none can come between the Father and the child.'

A smile came upon the little Pilgrim's face, yet she trembled. 'It is dim
before me,' she said, 'and I cannot see clearly. Oh, if the time would
but hasten, that our Lord might come, and all struggles be ended, and the
darkness vanish away!'

'He will come when all things are ready,' said the Sage; and as they went
upon their way be showed her other sights, and the mysteries of the heart
of man, and the great patience of our Lord.

It happened to them suddenly to perceive in their way a man returning
home. These are words that are sweet to all who have lived upon the earth
and known its ways; but far, far were they from that meaning which is
sweet. The dark hours had passed, and men had slept; and the night was
over. The sun was rising in the sky, which was keen and clear with the
pleasure of the morning. The air was fresh with the dew, and the birds
awaking in the trees, and the breeze so sweet that it seemed to blow from
heaven; and to the two travellers it seemed almost in the joy of the new
day as if the Lord had already come. But here was one who proved that it
was not so. He had not slept all the night, nor had night been silent to
him nor dark, but full of glaring light and noise and riot; his eyes were
red with fever and weariness, and his soul was sick within him, and the
morning looked him in the face and upbraided him as a sister might have
upbraided him, who loved him. And he said in his heart, as one had said
of old, that all was vanity; that it was vain to live, and evil to have
been born; that the day of death was better than the day of birth, and
all was delusion, and love but a word, and life a lie. His footsteps on
the road seemed to sound all through the sleeping world; and when he
looked the morning in the face he was ashamed, and cursed the light. The
two went after him into a silent house, where everybody slept. The light
that had burned for him all night was sick like a guilty thing in the eye
of day, and all that had been prepared for his repose was ghastly to him
in the hour of awaking, as if prepared not for sleep but for death. His
heart was sick like the watch-light, and life flickered within him with
disgust and disappointment. For why had he been born, if this were
all?--for all was vanity. The night and the day had been passed in
pleasure, and it was vanity; and now his soul loathed his pleasures, yet
he knew that was vanity too, and that next day he would resume them as
before. All was vain,--the morning and the evening, and the spirit of man
and the ways of human life. He looked himself in the face and loathed
this dream of existence, and knew that it was naught. So much as it had
cost to be born, to be fed, and guarded and taught and cared for, and all
for this! He said to himself that it was better to die than to live, and
never to have been than to be.

As these spectators stood by with much pity and tenderness looking into
the weariness and sickness of this soul, there began to be enacted before
them a scene such as no man could have seen, which no one was aware of
save he who was concerned, and which even to him was not clear in its
meanings, but rather like a phantasmagoria, a thing of the mists; yet
which was great and solemn as is the council of a king in which great
things are debated for the welfare of the nations. The air seemed in a
moment to be full of the sound of footsteps, and of something more
subtle, which the Sage and the Pilgrim knew to be wings; and as they
looked, there grew before them the semblance of a court of justice, with
accusers and defenders; but the judge and the criminal were one. Then was
put forth that indictment which he had been making up in his soul against
life and against the world; and again another indictment which was
against himself. And then the advocates began their pleadings. Voices
were there great and eloquent, such as are familiar in the courts above,
which sounded forth in the spectators' ears earnest as those who plead
for life and death. And these speakers declared that sin only is vanity,
that life is noble and love sweet, and every man made in the image of
God, to serve both God and man; and they set forth their reasons before
the judge and showed him mysteries of life and death; and they took up
the counter-indictment and proved to him how in all the world he had
sought but himself, his own pleasure and profit, his own will, not the
will of God, nor even the good desire of humble nature, but only that
which pleased his sick fancies and his self-loving heart. And they
besought him with a thousand arguments to return and choose again the
better way. 'Arise,' they cried, 'thou, miserable, and become great;
arise, thou vain soul, and become noble. Take thy birthright, O son, and
behold the face of the Father.' And then there came a whispering of lower
voices, very penetrating and sweet, like the voices of women and
children, who murmured and cried, 'O father! O brother! O love! O my
child!' The man who was the accused, yet who was the judge, listened; and
his heart burned, and a longing arose within him for the face of the
Father and the better way. But then there came a clang and clamor of
sound on the other side; and voices called out to him as comrade, as
lover, as friend, and reminded him of the delights which once had been so
sweet to him, and of the freedom he loved; and boasted the right of man
to seek what was pleasant and what was sweet, and flouted him as a coward
whose aim was to save himself, and scorned him as a believer in old
wives' tales and superstitions that men had outgrown. And their voices
were so vehement and full of passion that by times they mastered the
others, so that it was as if a tempest raged round the soul which sat in
the midst, and who was the offender and yet the judge of all.

The two spectators watched the conflict, as those who watch the trial
upon which hangs a man's life. It seemed to the little Pilgrim that she
could not keep silent, and that there were things which she could tell
him which no one knew but she. She put her hand upon the arm of the Sage
and called to him, 'Speak you, speak you! he will hear you; and I too
will speak, and he will not resist what we say.' But even as she said
this, eager and straining against her companion's control, the strangest
thing ensued. The man who was set there to judge himself and his life; he
who was the criminal, yet august upon his seat, to weigh all and give the
decision; he before whom all those great advocates were pleading,--a haze
stole over his eyes. He was but a man, and he was weary, and subject to
the sway of the little over the great, the moment over the life, which is
the condition of man. While yet the judgment was not given or the issue
decided, while still the pleadings were in his ears, in a moment his head
dropped back upon his pillow, and he fell asleep. He slept like a child,
as if there was no evil, nor conflict, nor danger, nor questions, more
than how best to rest when you are weary, in all the world. And
straightway all was silent in the place. Those who had been conducting
this great cause departed to other courts and tribunals, having done all
that was permitted them to do. And the man slept, and when it was noon
woke and remembered no more.

The Sage led the little Pilgrim forth in a great confusion, so that she
could not speak for wonder. But he said, 'This sleep also was from the
Father; for the mind of the man was weary, and not able to form a
judgment. It is adjourned until a better day.'

The little Pilgrim hung her head and cried, 'I do not understand. Will
not the Lord interfere? Will not the Father make it clear to him? Is he
the judge between good and evil? Is it all in his own hand?'

The Sage spoke softly, as if with awe. He said, 'This is the burden of
our nature, which is not like the angels. There is none in heaven or on
earth that can take from him what is his right and great honor among the
creatures of God. The Father respects that which He has made. He will
force no child of His. And there is no haste with Him; nor has it ever
been fathomed among us how long He will wait, or if there is any end. The
air is full of the coming and going of those who plead before the sons of
men; and sometimes in great misery and trouble there will be a cause won
and a judgment recorded which makes the universe rejoice. And in
everything at the end it is proved that our Lord's way is the best, and
that all can be accomplished in His name.'

The little Pilgrim went on her way in silence, knowing that the longing
in her heart which was to compel them to come in, like that king who
sent to gather his guests from the highways and the hedges, could not
be right, since it was not the Father's way, yet confused in her soul,
and full of an eager desire to go back and wake that man and tell him
all that had been in her heart while she watched him sitting on his
judgment-seat. But there came recollections wafted across her mind as by
breezes of the past, of scenes in her earthly life when she had spoken
without avail, when she had said all that was in her heart and failed,
and done harm when she had meant to do good. And slowly it came upon her
that her companion spoke the truth, and that no man can save his brother;
but each must sit and hear the pleadings and pronounce that judgment
which is for life or death. 'But oh,' she cried, 'how long and how bitter
it is for those who love them, and must stand by and can give no aid!'

Then her companion unfolded to her the patience of the Lord, and how He
is not discouraged, nor ever weary, but opens His great assizes year by
year and day by day; and how the cause was argued again, as she had seen
it, before the souls of men, sometimes again and again and over and over,
till the pleadings of the advocates carried conviction, and the judge
perceived the truth and consented to it. He showed her that this was the
great thing in human life, and that though it was not enough to make a
man perfect, yet that he who sinned against his will was different from
the man who sinned with his will; and how in all things the choice of the
man for good or evil was all in all. And he led her about the world so
that she could see how everywhere the heavenly advocates were travelling,
entering into the secret places of the souls, and pleading with each man
to his face. And the little Pilgrim looked on with pitying and tender
eyes, and it seemed to her that the heart of the judge, before whom that
great question was debated, leaned mostly to the right, and acknowledged
that the way of the Lord was the best way; but either that sleep
overpowered him and weariness, or the other voices deafened his ears, or
something betrayed him that he forgot the reasons of the wise and the
judgment of his own soul. At first it comforted her to see how something
nobler in every man would answer to the pleadings; and then her heart
failed her, to perceive that notwithstanding this the judge would leave
his seat without a decision, and all would end in vanity. 'And oh,
friend,' she cried, 'what shall be done to those who see and yet
refuse?'--her heart being wrung by the disappointment and the failure.
But her companion smiled still, and he said, 'They are the children of
the Father. Can a woman forget her child that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb? She may forget; yet will not He
forget.' And thus they went on and on.

But time would not suffice to tell what these two pilgrims saw as they
wandered among the ways of men. They saw poverty and misery and pain,
which came of the evil which man had done upon the earth, and were his
punishment, and could be cured by nothing but by the return of each to
his Father, and the giving up of all self-worship and self-seeking and
sin. But amid all the confusion and among those who had fallen the lowest
they found not one who was forsaken, whose name the Father had forgotten,
or who was not made to pause in his appointed moment, and to sit upon his
throne and hear the pleadings before him of the great advocates of God,
reasoning of temperance and righteousness and judgment to come.

But once before they returned to their home, a great thing befell them;
and they beheld that court sit, and the pleadings made, for the last time
upon earth, which was a sight more solemn and terrible than anything they
had yet seen. They found themselves in a chamber where sat a man who had
lived long and known both good and evil, and fulfilled many great
offices, so that he was famed and honored among men. He was a man who was
wise in all the learning of the earth, standing but a little way below
those who have begun the higher learning in the world beyond, and lifting
up his head as if he would reach the stars. The travellers stood by him
in his beautiful house, which was as the palace of wisdom, and saw him in
the midst of all his honors. The lamps were lit within, and the night was
sweet without, breathing of rest and happy ease, and riches and
knowledge, as if they would endure forever. And the man looked round on
all he had, and all he had achieved, and everything which he possessed,
to enjoy it. For of wisdom and of glory he had his fill, and his soul was
yet strong to take pleasure in what was his, and he looked around him
like God, and said that everything was good; so that the little Pilgrim
gazed, and wondered whether this could indeed be one of the brethren of
the earth, or if he was one who had wandered hither from another sphere.

But as the thought arose, she heard, and lo! the steps of the pleaders
and the sound of their entry. They came slowly like a solemn procession,
more grave and awful in their looks than any she had seen, for they were
great and the greatest of all, such as come forth but rarely when the
last word is to be said. The words they said were few; but they stood
round him reminding him of all that had been, and of what must be, and of
many things which were known but to God and him alone, and calling upon
him yet once more before time should come to an end and life be lost. But
the sound of their voices in his ear was but as some great strain of
music which he had heard many times and knew and heeded not. He turned to
the goods which he had laid up for many years, and all the knowledge he
had stored, and said to himself, 'Soul, take thine ease.' And to the
heavenly advocates he smiled and replied that life was strong and wisdom
the master of all. Then there came a chill and a shiver over all, as if
the earth had been stopped in her career or the sun fallen from the sky;
and the little Pilgrim, looking on, could see the heavenly pleaders come
forth with bowed heads and the door of hope shut to, and a whisper which
crept about from sea to sea and said, 'In vain! in vain!' And as they
went forth from the gates an icy breath swept in, and the voice of the
Death-Angel saying, 'Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of
thee!' The sound went through her heart as if it had been pierced by a
sword, and she gave a cry of anguish, for she could not bear that a
brother should be lost. But when she looked up at the face of her
companion, though it was pale with the pity and the terror of that which
had been thus accomplished, there was still upon it a smile; and he said,
'Not yet; not yet. The Father loves not less, but more than ever.' 'O
friend,' she cried, 'will there ever come a moment when the Father will
forget? IS there any place where He cannot go?'

Then he who was wise turned towards her, and a great light came upon his
face; and he said, 'We have searched the records, and heard all witnesses
from the beginnings of time; but we have never found the boundary of His
mercy, and there is no country known to man that is without his presence.
And never has it been known that He has shut His ear to those who called
upon Him, or forgotten one who is His. The heavenly pleaders may be
silenced, but never our Lord, who pleads for all; and heaven and earth
may forget, yet will He never forget who is the Father of all. And every
child of His is to Him as if there was none other in the world.'

Then the little Pilgrim lifted her face and beheld that radiance which is
over all, which is the love that lights the world, both angels and the
great spheres above and the little brethren who stumble and struggle and
weep; and in that light there was no darkness at all, but everything
shone as in the morning, sweet yet terrible, but ever clear and fair. And
immediately, ere she was aware, the rough roads of the earth were left
far behind, and she had returned to her place, and to her peaceful state,
and to the work which had been given her,--to receive the wanderers and
to bid them a happy welcome as the doors opened and they entered into
their inheritance. And thus her soul was satisfied, though she knew now
nothing more than she had known always,--that the eye of the Father is
over all, and that He can neither forget nor forsake.



When the little Pilgrim had been thus permitted to see the secret
workings of God in earthly places, and among the brethren who are still
in the land of hope,--these being things which the angels desire to look
into, and which are the subject of story and of song not only in the
little world below, but in the great realms above,--her heart for a long
time reposed and was satisfied, and asked no further question. For she
had seen what the dealings of the Father were in the hearts of men, and
how till the end came He did not cease to send His messengers to plead in
every heart, and to hold a court of justice that no man might be
deceived, but each know whither his steps were tending, and what was the
way of wisdom. After this it was permitted to her to read in the archives
of the heavenly country the story of one, who, neglecting all that the
advocates of God could say, had found himself, when the little life was
completed, not upon the threshold of a better country, but in the midst
of the Land of Darkness,--that region in which the souls of men are left
by God to their own devices, and the Father stands aloof, and hides His
face and calls them not, neither persuades them more. Over this story the
little Pilgrim had shed many tears; for she knew well, being enlightened
in her great simplicity by the heavenly wisdom, that it was pain and
grief to the Father to turn away His face; and that no one who has but
the little heart of a man can imagine to himself what that sorrow is in
the being of the great God. And a great awe came over her mind at the
thought, which seemed well-nigh a blasphemy, that He could grieve; yet in
her heart, being His child, she knew that it was true. And her own little
spirit throbbed through and through with longing and with desire to help
those who were thus utterly lost. 'And oh!' she said, 'if I could but go!
There is nothing which could make a child afraid, save to see them
suffer. What are darkness and terror when the Father is with you? I am
not afraid--if I might but go!' And by reason of her often pleading, and
of the thought that was ever in her mind, it was at last said that one of
those who knew might instruct her, and show her by what way alone the
travellers who come from that miserable land could approach and be
admitted on high.

'I know,' she said, 'that between us and them there is a gulf fixed, and
that they who would come from thence cannot come, neither can any one--'

But here she stopped in great dismay, for it seemed that she had thus
answered her own longing and prayer.

The guide who had come for her smiled upon her and said, 'But that was
before the Lord had ended His work. And now all the paths are free
wherever there is a mountain-pass or a river-ford; the roads are all
blessed, and they are all open, and no barriers for those who will.'

'Oh,' she cried, 'dear friend, is that true for all?'

He looked away from her into the depths of the lovely air, and he
replied: 'Little sister, our faith is without bounds, but not our
knowledge. I who speak to you am no more than a man. The princes and
powers that are in high places know more than I; but if there be any
place where a heart can stir and cry out to the Father and He take no
heed,--if it be only in a groan, if it be only with a sigh,--I know not
that place, yet many depths I know.' He put out his hand and took hers
after a pause; and then he said, 'There are some who are stumbling upon
the dark mountains. Come and see.'

As they passed along, there were many who paused to look at them, for
he had the mien of a great prince, a lord among men; and his face still
bore the trace of sorrow and toil, and there was about him an awe and
wonder which was more than could be put in words. So that those who saw
him understood as he went by, not who he was, nor what he had been, but
that he had come out of great tribulation, of sorrow beyond the sorrows
of men. The sweetness of the heavenly country had soothed away his
care, and taken the cloud from his face; but he was as yet unaccustomed
to smile,--though when he remembered and looked round him and saw that
all was well, his countenance lightened like the morning sky, and his
eyes woke up in splendor like the sun rising. The little Pilgrim did
not know who her brother was, but yet gave thanks to God for him, she
knew not why.

How far they went cannot be estimated in words, for distance matters
little in that place; but at the end they came to a path which sloped a
little downwards to the edge of a delightful moorland country, all
brilliant with the hues of the mountain flowers. It was like a flowery
plateau high among the hills, in a region where are no frosts to check
the glow of the flowers, or scorch the grass. It spread far around in
hollows and ravines and softly swelling hills, with the rush over them of
a cheerful breeze full of mountain scents and sounds; and high above them
rose the mountain heights of the celestial world, veiled in those blue
breadths of distance which are heaven itself when man's fancy ascends to
them from the low world at their feet. All the little earth can do in
color and mists, and travelling shadows fleet as the breath, and the
sweet steadfast shining of the sun, was there, but with a ten-fold
splendor. They rose up into the sky, every peak and jagged rock all
touched with the light and the smile of God, and every little blossom on
the turf rejoicing in the warmth and freedom and peace. The heart of the
little Pilgrim swelled, and she cried out, 'There is nothing so glorious
as the everlasting hills. Though the valleys and the plains are sweet,
they are not like them. They say to us, lift up your heart!'

Her guide smiled, but he did not speak. His smile was full of joy, but
grave, like that of a man whose thoughts are bent on other things; and he
pointed where the road wound downwards by the feet of these triumphant
hills. She kept her eyes upon them as she moved along. Those heights rose
into the very sky, but bore upon them neither snow nor storm. Here and
there a whiteness like a film of air rounded out over a peak; and she
recognized that it was one of those angels who travel far and wide with
God's commissions, going to the other worlds that are in the firmament as
in a sea. The softness of these films of white was like the summer clouds
that she used to watch in the blue of the summer sky in the little world
which none of its children can cease to love; and she wondered now
whether it might not sometimes have been the same dear angels whose
flight she had watched unknowing, higher than thought could soar or
knowledge penetrate. Watching those floating heavenly messengers, and the
heights of the great miraculous mountains rising up into the sky, the
little Pilgrim ceased to think whither she was going, although she knew
from the feeling of the ground under her feet that she was descending,
still softly, but more quickly than at first, until she was brought to
herself by the sensation of a great wind coming in her face, cold as from
a sudden vacancy. She turned her head quickly from gazing above to what
was before her, and started with a cry of wonder. For below lay a great
gulf of darkness, out of which rose at first some shadowy peaks and
shoulders of rock, all falling away into a gloom which eyes accustomed to
the sunshine could not penetrate. Where she stood was the edge of the
light,--before her feet lay a line of shadow slowly darkening out of
daylight into twilight, and beyond into that measureless blackness of
night; and the wind in her face was like that which comes from a great
depth below of either sea or land,--the sweep of the current which moves
a vast atmosphere in which there is nothing to break its force. The
little Pilgrim was so startled by these unexpected sensations that she
caught the arm of her guide in her sudden alarm, and clung to him, lest
she should fall into the terrible darkness and the deep abyss below.

'There is nothing to fear,' he said; 'there is a way. To us who are
above there is no danger at all; and it is the way of life to those who
are below.'

'I see nothing,' she cried, 'save a few points of rock, and the
precipice,--the pit which is below. Oh, tell me what is it? Is it where
the fires are, and despair dwells? I did not think that was true. Let me
go and hide myself and not see it, for I never thought that was true.'

'Look again,' said the guide.

The little Pilgrim shrank into a crevice of the rock, and uncovering her
eyes, gazed into the darkness; and because her nature was soft and timid
there came into her mind a momentary fear. Her heart flew to the Father's
footstool, and cried out to Him, not any question or prayer, but only
'Father, Father!' and this made her stand erect, and strengthened her
eyes, so that the gloom even of hell could no more make her afraid. Her
guide stood beside with a steadfast countenance, which was grave, yet
full of a solemn light. And then all at once he lifted up his voice,
which was sonorous and sweet like the sound of an organ, and uttered a
shout so great and resounding that it seemed to come back in echoes from
every hollow and hill. What he said the little Pilgrim could not
understand; but when the echoes had died away and silence followed,
something came up through the gloom,--a sound that was far, far away, and
faint in the long distance; a voice that sounded no more than an echo.
When he who had called out heard it, he turned to the little Pilgrim with
eyes that were liquid with love and pity; 'Listen,' he said, 'there is
some one on the way.'

'Can we help them?' cried the little Pilgrim; her heart bounded forward
like a bird. She had no fear. The darkness and the horrible way seemed as
nothing to her. She stretched out her arms as if she would have seized
the traveller and dragged him up into the light.

He who was by her side shook his head, but with a smile. 'We can but
wait,' he said. 'It is forbidden that any one should help; for this is
too terrible and strange to be touched even by the hands of angels. It is
like nothing that you know.'

'I have been taught many things,' said the little Pilgrim, humbly. 'I
have been taken back to the dear earth, where I saw the judgment-seat,
and the pleaders who spoke, and the man who was the judge, and how each
is judge for himself.'

'You have seen the place of hope,' said her guide, 'where the Father is
and the Son, and where no man is left to his own ways. But there is
another country, where there is no voice either from God or from good
spirits, and where those who have refused are left to do as seems good in
their own eyes.'

'I have read,' said the little Pilgrim, with a sob, 'of one who went from
city to city and found no rest.'

Her guide bowed his head very gravely in assent. 'They go from place to
place,' he said, 'if haply they might find one in which it is possible to
live. Whether it is order or whether it is license, it is according to
their own will. They try all things, ever looking for something which the
soul may endure. And new cities are founded from time to time, and a new
endeavor ever and ever to live, only to live. For even when happiness
fails and content, and work is vanity and effort is naught, it is
something if a man can but endure to live.'

The little Pilgrim looked at him with wistful eyes, for what he said was
beyond her understanding. 'For us,' she said, 'life is nothing but joy.
Oh, brother, is there then condemnation?'

'It is no condemnation; it is what they have chosen,--it is to follow
their own way. There is no longer any one to interfere. The pleaders are
all silent; there is no voice in the heart. The Father hinders them not,
nor helps them, but leaves them.' He shivered as if with cold; and the
little Pilgrim felt that there breathed from the depths of darkness at
their feet an icy wind which touched her hands and feet and chilled her
heart. She shivered too, and drew close to the rock for shelter, and
gazed at the awful cliffs rising out of the gloom, and the paths that
disappeared at her feet, leading down, down into that abyss; and her
heart failed within her to think that below there were souls that
suffered, and that the Father and the Son were not there. He, the
All-loving, the All-present,--how could it be that He was not there?

'It is a mystery,' said the man who was her guide, and who answered to
her thought. 'When I set my foot upon this blessed land I knew that
there, even there, He is. But in that country His face is hidden, and
even to name His name is anguish,--for then only do men understand what
has befallen them, who can say that name no more.'

'That is death indeed,' she cried; and the wind came up silent with a
wild breath that was more awful than the shriek of a storm; for it was
like the stifled utterances of all those miserable ones who have no voice
to call upon God, and know not where He is nor how to pronounce His name.

'Ah,' said he, 'if we could have known what death was! We had believed in
death in the time of all great illusions, in the time of the gentle life,
in the day of hope. But in the land of darkness there are no illusions;
and every man knows that though he should fling himself into the furnace
of the gold, or be cut to pieces by the knives, or trampled under the
dancers' feet, yet that it will be but a little more pain, and that death
is not, nor any escape that way.'

'Oh, brother!' she cried, 'you have been there!'

He turned and looked upon her; and she read as in a book things which
tongue of man cannot say,--the anguish and the rapture, the
unforgotten pang of the lost, the joy of one who has been delivered
after hope was gone.

'I have been there; and now I stand in the light, and have seen the face
of the Lord, and can speak His blessed name.' And with that he burst
forth into a great melodious cry, which was not like that which he had
sent into the dark depths below, but mounted up like the sounding of
silver trumpets and all joyful music, giving a voice to the sweet air and
the fresh winds which blew about the hills of God. But the words he said
were not comprehensible to his companion, for they were in the sweet
tongue which is between the Father and His child, and known to none but
to them alone. Yet only to hear the sound was enough to transport all who
listened, and to make them know what joy is and peace. The little
Pilgrim wept for happiness to hear her brother's voice; but in the midst
of it her ear was caught by another sound,--a faint cry which tingled up
from the darkness like a note of a muffled bell,--and she turned from the
joy and the light, and flung out her arms and her little voice towards
him who was stumbling upon the dark mountains. And 'Come,' she cried,
'come, come!' forgetting all things save that one was there in the
darkness, while here was light and peace.

'It is nearer,' said her guide, hearing, even in the midst of his triumph
song, that faint and distant cry; and he took her hand and drew her back,
for she was upon the edge of the precipice, gazing into the black depths,
which revealed nothing save the needles of the awful rocks and sheer
descents below. 'The moment will come,' he said, 'when we can help; but
it is not yet.'

Her heart was in the depths with him who was coming, whom she knew not
save that he was coming, toiling upwards towards the light; and it seemed
to her that she could not contain herself, nor wait till he should
appear, nor draw back from the edge, where she might hold out her hands
to him and save him some single step, if no more. But presently her heart
returned to her brother who stood by her side, and who was delivered,
and with whom it was meet that all should rejoice, since he had fought
and conquered, and reached the land of light. 'Oh,' she said, 'it is long
to wait while he is still upon these dark mountains. Tell me how it came
to you to find the way.'

He turned to her with a smile, though his ear too was intent, and his
heart fixed upon the traveller in the darkness, and began to tell her his
tale to beguile the time of waiting, and to hold within bounds the pity
that filled her heart. He told her that he was one of many who came from
the pleasant earth together, out of many countries and tongues; and how
they had gone here and there each man to a different city; and how they
had crossed each other's paths coming and going, yet never found rest for
their feet; and how there was a little relief in every change, and one
sought that which another left; and how they wandered round and round
over all the vast and endless plain, until at length in revolt from every
other way, they had chosen a spot upon the slope of a hill, and built
there a new city, if perhaps something better might be found there; and
how it had been built with towers and high walls, and great gates to shut
it in, so that no stranger should find entrance; and how every house was
a palace, with statues of marble, and pillars so precious with beautiful
work, and arches so lofty and so fair that they were better than had they
been made of gold,--yet gold was not wanting, nor diamond stones that
shone like stars, and everything more beautiful and stately than heart
could conceive.

'And while we built and labored,' he said, 'our hearts were a little
appeased. And it was called the city of Art, and all was perfect in it,
so that nothing had ever been seen to compare with it for beauty; and we
walked upon the battlements and looked over the plain and viewed the
dwellers there, who were not as we. And we went on to fill every room and
every hall with carved work in stone and beaten gold, and pictures and
woven tissues that were like the sun-gleams and the rainbows of the
pleasant earth. And crowds came around envying us and seeking to enter;
but we closed our gates and drove them away. And it was said among us
that life would now become as of old, and everything would go well with
us as in the happy days.'

The little Pilgrim looked up into his face, and for pity of his pain
(though it was past) almost wished that _that_ could have come true.

'But when the work was done,' he said, and for a moment no more.

'Oh, brother! when the work was done?' 'You do not know what it is,' he
said, 'to be ten times more powerful and strong, to want no rest, to have
fire in your veins, to have the craving in your heart above everything
that is known to man. When the work was done, we glared upon each other
with hungry eyes, and each man wished to thrust forth his neighbor and
possess all to himself. And then we ceased to take pleasure in it,
notwithstanding that it was beautiful; and there were some who would have
beaten down the walls and built them anew; and some would have torn up
the silver and gold, and tossed out the fair statues and the adornments
in scorn and rage to the meaner multitudes below. And we who were the
workers began to contend one against another to satisfy the gnawings of
the rage that was in our hearts. For we had deceived ourselves, thinking
once more that all would be well; while all the time nothing was changed,
and we were but as the miserable ones that rushed from place to place.'

Though all this wretchedness was over and past, it was so terrible to
think of that he paused and was silent awhile. And the little Pilgrim
put her hand upon his arm in her great pity, to soothe him, and almost
forgot that there was another traveller not yet delivered upon the way.
But suddenly at that moment there came up through the depths the sound of
a fall, as if the rocks had crashed from a hundred peaks, yet all muffled
by the great distance, and echoing all around in faint echoes, and
rumblings as in the bosom of the earth; and mingled with them were
far-off cries, so faint and distant that human ears could not have heard
them, like the cries of lost children, or creatures wavering and straying
in the midst of the boundless night. This time she who was watching upon
the edge of the gloom would have flung herself forward altogether into
it, had not her companion again restrained her. 'One has stumbled upon
the mountains; but listen, listen, little sister, for the voices are
many,' he said. 'It is not one who comes, but many; and though he falls
he will rise again.' And once more he shouted aloud, bending down against
the rocks, so that they caught his voice; and the sweet air from the
skies came behind him in a great gust like a summer storm, and carried it
into all the echoing hollows of the hills. And the little Pilgrim knew
that he shouted to all who came to take courage and not to fear. And
this time there rose upwards many faint and wavering sounds that did not
stir the air, but made it tingle with a vibration of the great distance
and the unknown depths; and then again all was still. They stood for a
time intent upon the great silence and darkness which swept up all sight
and sound, and then the little Pilgrim once more turned her eyes towards
her companion, and he began again his wonderful tale.

'He who had been the first to found the city, and who was the most wise
of any, though the rage was in him like all the rest, and the
disappointment and the anguish, yet would not yield. And he called upon
us for another trial, to make a picture which should be the greatest that
ever was painted; and each one of us, small or great, who had been of
that art in the dear life, took share in the rivalry and the emulation,
so that on every side there was a fury and a rush, each man with his band
of supporters about him struggling and swearing that his was the best.
Not that they loved the work or the beauty of the work, but to keep down
the gnawing in their hearts, and to have something for which they could
still fight and storm, and for a little forget.'

'I was one who had been among the highest.' He spoke not with pride, but
in a low and deep voice which went to the heart of the listener, and
brought the tears to her eyes. It was not like that of the painter in the
heavenly city, who rejoiced and was glad in his work, though he was but
as a humble workman, serving those who were more great. But this man had
the sorrow of greatness in him, and the wonder of those who can do much,
to find how little they can do. 'My veins,' he said, 'were filled with
fire, and my heart with the rage of a great desire to be first, as I had
been first in the days of the gentle life. And I made my plan to be
greater than all the rest, to paint a vast picture like the world, filled
with all the glories of life. In a moment I had conceived what I should
do, for my strength was as that of a hundred men; and none of us could
rest or breathe till it was accomplished, but flung ourselves upon this
new thing as upon water in the desert. Oh, my little sister, how can I
tell you; what words can show forth this wonderful thing? I stood before
my great canvas with all those who were of my faction pressing upon me,
noting every touch I made, shouting, and saying, "He will win! he will
win!" when lo! there came a mystery and a wonder into that place. I had
arranged men and women before me according to all the devices of art, to
serve as my models, that nature might be in my picture, and life; but
when I looked I saw them not, for between them and me had come a Face.'

The eyes of the little Pilgrim dropped with tears. She held out her hands
towards him with a sympathy which no words could say.

'Often had I painted that Face in the other life, sometimes with awe and
love, sometimes with scorn,--for hire and for bread, and for pride and
for fame. It is pale with suffering, yet smiles; the eyes have tears in
them, yet light below, and all that is there is full of tenderness and of
love. There is a crown upon the brow, but it is made of thorns. It came
before me suddenly, while I stood there, with the men shouting close to
my ear urging me on, and fierce fury in my heart, and the rage to be
first, and to forget. Where my models were, there it came. I could not
see them, nor my groups that I had planned, nor anything but that Face. I
called out to my men. "Who has done this?" but they heard me not, nor
understood me, for to them there was nothing there save the figures I had
set,--a living picture all ready for the painter's hand.

'I could not bear it, the sight of that Face. I flung my tools away; I
covered my eyes with my hands. But those who were about me pressed on me
and threatened; they pulled my hands from my eyes. "Coward!" they cried,
and "Traitor, to leave us in the lurch! Now will the other side win and
we be shamed. Rather tear him limb from limb, fling him from the walls!"
The crowd came round me like an angry sea; they forced my pencils back
into my hands. "Work," they cried, "or we will tear you limb from limb."
For though they were upon my side, it was for rivalry, and not out of any
love for me.' He paused for a moment, for his heart was yet full of the
remembrance, and of joy that it was past.

'I looked again,' he said, 'and still it was there. O Face divine,--the
eyes all wet with pity, the lips all quivering with love! And neither
pity nor love belonged to that place, nor any succor, nor the touch of a
brother, nor the voice of a friend. "Paint," they cried, "or we will tear
you limb from limb!" and fire came into my heart. I pushed them from me
on every side with the strength of a giant. And then I flung it on the
canvas, crying I know not what,--not to them, but to Him. Shrink not from
me, little sister, for I blasphemed. I called Him Impostor, Deceiver,
Galilean; and still with all my might, with all the fury of my soul, I
set Him there for every man to see, not knowing what I did. Everything
faded from me but that Face; I saw it alone. The crowd came round me with
shouts and threats to drag me away but I took no heed. They were
silenced, and fled and left me alone, but I knew nothing; nor when they
came back with others and seized me, and flung me forth from the gates,
was I aware what I had done. They cast me out and left me upon the wild
without a shelter, without a companion, storming and raving at them as
they did at me. They dashed the great gates behind me with a clang, and
shut me out. And I turned and defied them, and cursed them as they cursed
me, not knowing what I had done.'

'Oh, brother!' murmured the little Pilgrim, kneeling, as if she had
accompanied him all the way with her prayers, but could not now say more.

'Then I saw again,' he went on, not hearing her in the great force of
that passion and wonder which was still in his mind, 'that vision in the
air. Wherever I turned, it was there,--His eyes wet with pity, His
countenance shining with love. Whence came He? What did He in that place,
where love is not, where pity comes not?'

'Friend,' she cried, 'to seek you there!'

Her companion bowed his head in deep humbleness and joy. And again he
lifted his great voice and intoned his song of praise. The little Pilgrim
understood it, but by fragments,--a line that was more simple that came
here and there. And it praised the Lord that where the face of the Father
was hidden; and where love was not, nor compassion, nor brother had pity
on brother, nor friend knew the face of friend; and all succor was
stayed, and every help forbidden,--yet still in the depths of the
darkness and in the heart of the silence, He who could not forget nor
forsake was there. The voice of the singer was like that of one of the
great angels, and many of the inhabitants of the blessed country began to
appear, gathering in crowds to hear this great music, as the little
sister thought; and she herself listened with all her heart, wondering
and seeing on the faces of those dear friends whom she did not know an
expectation and a hope which were strange to her, though she could always
understand their love and their joy.

But in the middle of this great song there came again another sound to
her ear,--a sound which pierced through the music like lightning through
the sky, though it was but the cry of one distraught and fainting; a cry
out of the depths not even seeking help, a cry of distress too terrible
to be borne. Though it was scarcely louder than a sigh, she heard it
through all the music, and turned and flew to the edge of the precipice
whence it came. And immediately the darkness seemed to move as with a
pulse in a great throb, and something came through the wind with a rush,
as if part of the mountain had fallen--and lo! at her feet lay one who
had flung himself forward, his arms stretched out, his face to the
ground, as if he had seized and grasped in an agony the very soil. He lay
there, half in the light and half in the shadow, gripping the rocks with
his hands, burrowing into the cool herbage above and the mountain
flowers; clinging, catching hold, despairing, yet seizing everything he
could grasp,--the tender grass, the rolling stones. The little Pilgrim
flung herself down upon her knees by his side, and grasped his arm to
help, and cried aloud for aid; and the song of the singer ceased, and
there was silence for a moment, so that the breath of the fugitive could
be heard panting, and his strong struggle to drag himself altogether out
of that abyss of darkness below. She thought of nothing, nor heard nor
saw anything but the strain of that last effort which seemed to shake
the very mountains; until suddenly there seemed to rise all around the
hum and murmur as of a great multitude, and looking up, she saw every
little hill and hollow, and the glorious plain beyond as far as eye could
see, crowded with countless throngs; and on the high peaks above, in the
full shining of the sun, came bands of angels, and of those great beings
who are more mighty than men. And the eyes of all were fixed upon the man
who lay as one dead upon the ground, and from the lips of all came a low
murmur of rapture and delight, that spread like the hum of the bees, like
the cooing of the doves, like the voice of a mother over her child; and
the same sound came to her own lips unawares, and she murmured 'welcome'
and 'brother' and 'friend,' not knowing what she said; and looking to the
others, whispered, 'Hush! for he is weak'--and all of them answered with
tears, with 'hush' and 'welcome' and 'friend' and 'brother' and
'beloved,' and stood smiling and weeping for joy. And presently there
came softly into the blessed air the ringing of the great silver bells,
which sound only for victory and great happiness and gain. And there was
joy in heaven; and every world was stirred. And throughout the firmament,
and among all the lords and princes of life, it was known that the
impossible had become true, and the name of the Lord had proved
enough, and love had conquered even despair.

'Hush!' she said, 'for he is weak.' And because it was her blessed
service to receive those who had newly arrived in that heavenly country,
and to soothe and help them so that like newborn children they should be
able to endure and understand the joy, she knelt by him on the ground
and tried to rouse him, though with trembling, for never before had she
stood by one who was newly come out of the land of despair. 'Let the sun
come upon him,' she said; 'let him feel the brightness of the
light,'--and with her soft hands she drew him out of the shade of the
twilight to where the brightness of the day fell like a smile upon the
flowers. And then at last he stirred, and turned round and opened his
eyes, for the genial warmth had reached him. But his eyes were heavy and
dazzled with the light; and he looked round him as if confused from
beneath his heavy eyelids. 'And where am I?' he said; 'and who are you?'
'Oh, brother!' said the little Pilgrim, and told him in his ear the name
of that heavenly place, and many comforting and joyful things. But he
understood her not, and still gazed about him with dazzled eyes, for his
face was still towards the darkness, and fear was upon him lest this
place should prove no more than a delusion, and the darkness return, and
the anguish and pain.

Then he who had been her guide, and told her his tale, came forward and
stood by the side of the newly come. And 'Brother,' he said, 'look upon
me, for you know me, and know from whence I come.'

The stranger looked dimly with his heavy eyes. And he replied, 'It is as
a dream that I know you, and know from whence you came. And the dream is
sweet to lie here, and think that I am at peace. Deceive me not, oh!
deceive me not with dreams that are sweet; but let me go upon my way and
find the end, if there is any end, or if any good can be.'

'What shall we do,' cried the little Pilgrim, 'to persuade him that he
has arrived and is safe, and dreams no more?'

And they stood round him wondering, and troubled to find how little they
could do for him, and that the light entered so slowly into his soul. And
he lay on the bank like one left for death, so weary and so worn with
all the horrors of the way that his heart was faint within him, and peace
itself seemed to him but an illusion. He lay silent while they watched
and waited, then turned himself upon the grass, which was as soft to the
weary wayfarer as angels' wings; and then the sunshine caught his eye, as
if he had been a newborn babe awakened to the light. He put out his hand
to it, and touched the ground that was golden with those heavenly rays,
and gathered himself up till he felt it upon his face, and opened wide
his dazzled eyes, then shaded them with trembling hands, and said to
himself, 'It is the sun; it is the sun!' But still he did not dare to
believe that the danger and the toil were over, nor could he listen, nor
understand what the brethren said. While they all stood around and
watched and waited, wondering each how the new-comer should be satisfied,
there suddenly arose a sound with which they were all acquainted,--the
sound of One approaching. The faces of the blessed were all around like
the stars in the sky,--multitudes whom none could count or reckon; but He
who came was seen of none, save him to whom He came. The weary man rose
up with a great cry, then fell again upon his knees, and flung his arms
wide in the wonder and the joy. And 'Lord,' he cried, 'was it Thou?
Lord, it was Thou! Thine was the face. And Thou hast brought me here!'

The watchers knew not what the other voice said, for what is said to each
new-comer is the secret of the Lord. But when they looked again, the man
stood upright upon his feet, and his face was full of light; and though
he trembled with weakness and with weariness, and with exceeding joy, yet
the confusion and the fear were gone from him. And he had no longer any
suspicion of them, as if they might betray him, but held out his
trembling hands and cried, 'Friends,--you are friends? and you spoke to
me and called me brother? And am I here? And am I here?' For to name the
name of that blessed country was not needful any longer, now that he had
seen the Lord.

Then a great band and guard of honor, of angels and principalities and
powers, surrounded him, and led him away to the holy city, and to the
presence of the Father, who had permitted and had not forbidden what the
Lord had done. And all the companies of the blessed followed after with
wonder and gladness and triumph, because the great love of the Lord had
drawn out of the darkness even those who were beyond hope.

The little Pilgrim saw them depart from her with love and joy, and sat
down upon the rocky edge and sang her own song of peace; for her fear was
gone, and she was ready to do her service there upon the verge of the
precipice as among the flowers and the sunshine, where her own place was.
'From the depths,' she said, 'they come, they come!--from the land of
darkness, where no love is. For Thy love, O Lord, is more than the
darkness and the depths. And where hope is not, there Thy pity goes.' She
sat and sang to herself like a happy child, for her heart had fathomed
the awful gloom which baffles angels and men; and she had learned that
though hope comes to an end and light fails, and the feet of the
ambassadors are stayed on the mountains, and the voice of the pleaders is
silenced, and darkness swallows up the world, yet Love never fails. As
she sang, the pity in her heart grew so strong, and her desire to help
the lost, that she rose up and stepped forth into the awful gloom, and
had it been permitted, in her gentleness and weakness would have gone
forth to the deeps and had no fear.

The ground gave way under her feet, so dreadful was the precipice; but
though her heart beat with the horror of it, and the whirl of the descent
and the darkness which blinded her eyes, yet had she no hurt. And when
her foot touched the rock, and that sinking sense of emptiness and
vacancy ceased, she looked around and saw the path by which that
traveller had come. For when the eyes are used to the darkness, the
horror of the gloom was no longer like a solid thing, but moved into
shades of darker and less dark, so that she saw where the rocks stood,
and how they sank with edges that cut like swords down and ever down into
the abysses; and how here a deep ravine was rent between them, and there
were breaks and scars as though some one had caught the jagged points
with wounded hand or foot, struggling up the perpendicular surface
towards the little ray of light, like a tiny star which shone as on
immeasurable heights to show where life was. As she travelled deeper and
deeper, it was a wonder to see how far that little ray penetrated down
and down through gulfs of darkness, blue and cold like the shimmer of a
diamond, and even when it could be seen no more, sent yet a shadowy
refraction, a line of something less black than the darkness, a
lightening amid the gloom, a something indefinable which was hope. The
rocks were more cruel than imagination could conceive,--sometimes pointed
and sharp like knives, sometimes smooth and upright as a wall with no
hold for the climber, sometimes moving under the touch, with stones that
rolled and crushed the bleeding feet; and though the solid masses were
distinguishable from the lighter darkness of the air, yet it could only
be in groping that the travellers by that way could find where any
foothold was. The traveller who came from above, and who had the
privilege of her happiness, sank down as if borne on wings, yet needed
all her courage not to be afraid of the awful rocks that rose all above
and around her, perpendicular in the gloom. And the great blast of an icy
wind swept upwards like something flying upon great wings, so tremendous
was the force of it, whirling from the depths below, sucked upwards by
the very warmth of the life above; so that the little Pilgrim herself
caught at the rocks that she might not be swept again towards the top, or
dashed against the stony pinnacles that stood up on every side. She was
glad when she found a little platform under her feet for a moment where
she could rest, and also because she had come, not from curiosity to see
that gulf, but with the hope and desire to meet some one to whom she
could be of a little comfort or help in the terrors of the way.

While she stood for a moment to get her breath, she became sensible that
some living thing was near; and putting out her hand she felt that there
was round her something that was like a bastion upon a fortified wall,
and immediately a hand touched hers, and a soft voice said, 'Sister, fear
not! for this is the watch-tower, and I am one of those who keep the
way.' She had started and trembled indeed, not that she feared, but
because the delicate fabric of her being was such that every movement of
the wind, and even those that were instinctive and belonged to the habits
of another life, betrayed themselves in her. And 'Oh,' she said, 'I knew
not that there were any watch-towers, or any one to help, but came
because my heart called me, if perhaps I might hold out my hand in the
darkness, and be of use where there was no light.'

'Come and stand by me,' said the watcher; and the little Pilgrim saw that
there was a whiteness near to her, out of which slowly shaped the face of
a fair and tender woman, whom she knew not, but loved. And though they
could scarcely see each other, yet they knew each other for sisters, and
kissed and took comfort together, holding each other's hands in the midst
of the awful gloom. And the little Pilgrim questioned in low and hushed
tones, 'Is it to help that you are here?'

'To help when that may be; but rather to watch, and to send the news and
make it known that one is coming, that the bells of joy may be sounded,
and all the blessed may rejoice.'

'Oh,' said the little Pilgrim, 'tell me your name, that I may do you
honor,--for to gain such high promotion can be given only to the great
who are made perfect, and to those who love most.'

'I am not great,' said the watcher; 'but the Lord, who considers all, has
placed me here, that I may be the first to see when one comes who is in
the dark places below. And also because there are some who say that love
is idolatry, and that the Father will not have us long for our own,
therefore am I permitted to wait and watch and think the time not long
for the love I bear him. For he is mine; and when he comes I will ascend
with him to the dear country of the light, and some other who loves
enough will be promoted in my place.'

'I am not worthy,' said the little Pilgrim. 'It is a great promotion;
but oh, that we might be permitted to help, to put out a hand, or to
clear the way!'

'Nay, my little sister,' said the watcher, 'but patience must have its
perfect work; and for those who are coming help is secret. They must not
see it nor know it, for the land of darkness is beyond hope. The Father
will not force the will of any creature He has made, for He respects us
in our nature, which is His image. And when a man will not, and will not
till the day is over, what can be done for him? He is left to his will,
and is permitted to do it as it seems good in his eyes. A man's will is
great, for it is the gift of God. But the Lord, who cannot rest while one
is miserable, still goes secretly to them, for His heart yearns after
them. And by times they will see His face, or some thought of old will
seize upon them. And some will say, "To perish upon the dark mountains is
better than to live here." And I have seen,' said the watcher, 'that the
Lord will go with them all the way--but secretly, so that they cannot see
Him. And though it grieves His heart not to help, yet will He not,--for
they have become the creatures of their own will, and by that must they
attain.' She put out her hand to the new-comer and drew her to the side
of the rocky wall, so that they felt the sweep of the wind in their
faces; but were not driven before it. 'And come,' she said, 'for two of
us together will be like a great light to those who are in the darkness.
They will see us like a lamp, and it will cheer them, though they know
not why we are here. Listen!' she cried. And the little Pilgrim, holding
fast the hand of the watcher, listened and looked down upon the awful
way; and underneath the sweep of the icy wind was a small sharp sound as
of a stone rolling or a needle of rock that broke and fell, like the
sounds that are in a wood when some creature moves, though too far off
for footstep to sound. 'Listen!' said the watcher; and her face so shone
with joy that the little Pilgrim saw it clearly, like the shining of the
morning in the midst of the darkness. 'He comes!'

'Oh, sister!' she cried, 'is it he whom you love above all the rest?
Is it he?'

The watcher smiled and said, 'If it is not he, yet is it a brother; if
it is not he now, yet his time will come. And in every one who passes, I
hope to see his face; and the more that come, the more certain it is
that he will come. And the time seems not long for the love I bear him.
And it is for this that the Lord has so considered me. Listen! for some
one comes.'

And there came to these watchers the strangest sight; for there flew past
them while they gazed a man who seemed to be carried upon the sweep of
the wind. In the midst of the darkness they could see the faint white in
his face, with eyes of flame and lips set firm, whirled forward upon the
wind, which would have dashed him against the rocks; but as he whirled
past, he caught with his hand the needles of the opposite peaks, and was
swung high over a great chasm, and landed upon a higher height, high over
their heads. And for a moment they could hear, like a pulsation through
the depths, the hard panting of his breath; then, with scarcely a moment
for rest, they heard the sound of his progress onward, as if he did
battle with the mountain, and his own swiftness carried him like another
wind. It had taken less than a moment to sweep him past, quicker than the
flight of a bird, as sudden as a lightning flash. The little Pilgrim
followed him with her eager ears, wondering if he would leap thus into
the country of light and take heaven by storm, or whether he would fall
upon the heavenly hills, and lie prostrate in weariness and exhaustion,
like him to whom she had ministered. She followed him with her ears, for
the sound of his progress was with crashing of rocks and a swift movement
in the air; but she was called back by the pressure of the hand of the
watcher, who did not, like the little Pilgrim, follow him who thus rushed
through space as far as there was sound or sight of him, but had turned
again to the lower side, and was gazing once more, and listening for the
little noises in the gulf below. The little Pilgrim remembered her
friend's hope, and said softly, 'It was not he?' And the watcher clasped
her hand again, and answered, 'It was a dear brother. I have sounded the
silver bells for him; and soon we shall hear them answering from the
heights above. And another time it will be he.' And they kissed each
other because they understood each the other in her heart.

And then they talked together of the old life when all things began; and
of the wonderful things they had learned concerning the love of the
Father and the Son; and how all the world was held by them and
penetrated through and through by threads of love, so that it could
never fail. And the darkness seemed light round them; and they forgot
for a little that the wind was not as a summer breeze. Then once more
the hand of the watcher pressed that of her companion, and bade her hush
and listen; and they sat together holding their breath, straining their
ears. Then heard they faint sounds which were very different from those
made by him who had been driven past them like an arrow from a
bow,--first as of something falling, but very far away, and a faint
sound as of a foot which slipped. The listeners did not say a word to
each other; they sat still and listened, scarcely drawing their breath.
The darkness had no voice; it could not be but that some traveller was
there, though hidden deep, deep in the gloom, only betrayed by the
sound. There was a long pause, and the watcher held fast the little
Pilgrim's hand, and betrayed to her the longing in her heart; for though
she was already blessed beyond all blessedness known on earth, yet had
she not forgotten the love that had begun on earth, but was forevermore.
She murmured to herself and said, 'If it is not he, it is a brother; and
the more that come, the more sure it is that he will come. Little
sister, is there one for whom you watch?'

'There is no one,' the Pilgrim said,--'but all.'

'And so care I for all,' cried the watcher; and she drew her companion
with her to the edge of the abyss, and they sat down upon it low among
the rocks to escape the rushing of the wind. And they sang together a
soft song; 'For if he should hear us,' she said, 'it may give him
courage.' And there they sat and sang; and the white of their garments
and of their heavenly faces showed like a light in the deep gloom, so
that he who was toiling upwards might see that speck above him, and be
encouraged to continue upon his way.

Sometimes he fell, and they could hear the moan he made,--for every sound
came upwards, however small and faint it might be,--and sometimes dragged
himself along, so that they heard his movement up some shelf of rock. And
as the Pilgrim looked, she saw other and other dim whitenesses along the
ravines of the dark mountains, and knew that she was not the only one,
but that many had come to watch and look for the coming of those who had
been lost.

Time was as nothing to these heavenly watchers; but they knew how long
and terrible were the moments to those upon the way. Sometimes there
would be silence like the silence of long years; and fear came upon them
that the wayfarer had turned back, or that he had fallen, and lay
suffering at the bottom of some gulf, or had been swept by the wind upon
some icy peak and dashed against the rocks. Then anon, while they
listened and held their breath, a little sound would strike again into
the silence; bringing back hope; and again and again all would be still.
The little Pilgrim held her companion's hand; and the thought went
through her mind that were she watching for one whom she loved above the
rest, her heart would fail. But the watcher answered her as if she had
spoken, and said, 'Oh, no, oh, no; for if it is not he, it is a brother;
and the Lord give them joy!' But they sang no more, their hearts being
faint with suspense and with eagerness to hear every sound.

Then in the great chill of the silence, suddenly, and not far off, came
the sound of one who spoke. He murmured to himself and said, 'Who can
continue on this terrible way? The night is black like hell, and there
comes no morning. It was better in the land of darkness, for still we
could see the face of man, though not God.' The muffled voice shook at
that word, and then was still suddenly, as though it had been a flame and
the wind had blown it out. And for a moment there was silence; until
suddenly it broke forth once more,--

'What is this that has come to me that I can say the name of God? It
tortures no longer, it is as balm. But He is far off and hears nothing.
He called us and we answered not. Now it is we who call, and He will not
hear. I will lie down and die. It cannot be that a man must live and live
forever in pain and anguish. Here will I lie, and it will end. O Thou
whose face I have seen in the night, make it possible for a man to die!'

The watcher loosed herself from her companion's clasp, and stood upright
upon the edge of the cliff, clasping her hands together and saying low,
as to herself, 'Father, Father!' as one who cannot refrain from that
appeal, but who knows the Father loves best, and that to intercede is
vain; and longing was in her face and joy. For it was he, and she knew
that he could not now fail, but would reach to the celestial country and
to the shining of the sun; yet that it was not hers to help him, nor any
man's, nor angel's. But the little Pilgrim was ignorant, not having been
taught; and she committed herself to those depths, though she feared
them, and though she knew not what she could do. And once more the dense
air closed over her, and the vacancy swallowed her up, and when she
reached the rocks below, there lay something at her feet which she felt
to be a man; but she could not see him nor touch him, and when she tried
to speak, her voice died away in her throat and made no sound. Whether it
was the wind that caught it and swept it quite away, or that the well of
that depth profound sucked every note upwards, or whether because it was
not permitted that either man or angel should come out of their sphere,
or help be given which was forbidden, the little Pilgrim knew not,--for
never had it been said to her that she should stand aside where need was.
And surprise which was stronger than the icy wind, and for a moment a
great dismay, took hold upon her,--for she understood not how it was that
the bond of silence should bind her, and that she should be unable to put
forth her hand to help him whom she heard moaning and murmuring, but
could not see. And scarcely could her feet keep hold of the awful rock,
or her form resist the upward sweep of the wind; but though he saw her
not nor she him, yet could not she leave him in his weakness and misery,
saying to herself that even if she could do nothing, it must be well that
a little love should be near.

Then she heard him speak again, crouching under the rock at her feet;
and he said faintly to himself, 'That was no dream. In the land of
darkness there are no dreams nor voices that speak within us. On the
earth they were never silent struggling and crying; but there--all blank
and still. Therefore it was no dream. It was One who came and looked me
in the face; and love was in His eyes. I have not seen love, oh, for so
long! But it was no dream. If God is a dream I know not, but love I know.
And He said to me, "Arise and go." But to whom must I go? The words are
words that once I knew, and the face I knew. But to whom, to whom?'

The little Pilgrim cried aloud, so that she thought the rocks must be
rent by the vehemence of her cry, calling like the other, 'Father,
Father, Father!' as if her heart would burst; and it was like despair to
think that she made no sound, and that the brother could not hear her who
lay thus fainting at her feet. Yet she could not stop, but went on crying
like a child that has lost its way; for to whom could a child call but to
her father, and all the more when she cannot understand? And she called
out and said that God was not His name save to strangers, if there are
any strangers, but that His name was Father, and it was to Him that all
must go. And all her being thrilled like a bird with its song, so that
the very air stirred; yet no voice came. And she lifted up her face to
the watcher above, and beheld where she stood holding up her hands a
little whiteness in the great dark. But though these two were calling and
calling, the silence was dumb. And neither of them could take him by the
hand nor lift him up, nor show him, far, far above, the little diamond of
the light, but were constrained to stand still and watch, seeing that he
was one of those who are beyond hope.

After she had waited a long time, he stirred again in the dark and
murmured to himself once more, saying low, 'I have slept and am
strong. And while I was sleeping He has come again; He has looked at
me again. And somewhere I will find Him. I will arise and go; I will
arise and go--'

And she heard him move at her feet and grope over the rock with his
hands; but it was smooth as snow with no holding, and slippery as ice.
And the watcher stood above and the Pilgrim below, but could not help
him. He groped and groped, and murmured to himself, ever saying, 'I
will arise and go.' And their hearts were wrung that they could not
speak to him nor touch him nor help him. But at last in the dark there
burst forth a great cry, 'Who said it?' and then a sound of weeping,
and amid the weeping, words. 'As when I was a child, as when hope
was--I will arise and I will go--to my Father, to my Father! for now I
remember, and I know.'

The little Pilgrim sank down into a crevice of the rocks in the weakness
of her great joy. And something passed her mounting up and up; and it
seemed to her that he had touched her shoulder or her hand unawares, and
that the dumb cry in her heart had reached him, and that it had been good
for him that a little love stood by, though only to watch and to weep.
And she listened and heard him go on and on; and she herself ascended
higher to the watch-tower. And the watcher was gone who had waited there
for her beloved, for she had gone with him, as the Lord had promised her,
to be the one who should lead him to the holy city and to see the
Father's face. And it was given to the little Pilgrim to sound the silver
bells and to warn all the bands of the blessed, and the great angels and
lords of the whole world, that from out the land of darkness and from the
regions beyond hope another had come.

She remained not there long, because there were many who sought that
place that they might be the first to see if one beloved was among the
travellers by that terrible way, and to welcome the brother or sister who
was the most dear to them of all the children of the Father. But it was
thus that she learned the last lesson of all that is in heaven and that
is in earth, and in the heights above and in the depths below, which the
great angels desire to look into, and all the princes and powers. And it
is this: that there is that which is beyond hope yet not beyond love; and
that hope may fail and be no longer possible, but love cannot fail,--for
hope is of men, but love is the Lord; and there is but one thing which to
Him is not possible, which is to forget; and that even when the Father
has hidden His face and help is forbidden, yet there goes He secretly and
cannot forbear.

But if there were any deep more profound, and to which access was not,
either from the dark mountains or by any other way, the Pilgrim was not
taught, nor ever found any knowledge, either among the angels who know
all things, or among her brothers who were the children of men.



I found myself standing on my feet, with the tingling sensation of having
come down rapidly upon the ground from a height. There was a similar
feeling in my head, as of the whirling and sickening sensation of passing
downwards through the air, like the description Dante gives of his
descent upon Geryon. My mind, curiously enough, was sufficiently
disengaged to think of that, or at least to allow swift passage for the
recollection through my thoughts. All the aching of wonder, doubt, and
fear which I had been conscious of a little while before was gone. There
was no distinct interval between the one condition and the other, nor in
my fall (as I supposed it must have been) had I any consciousness of
change. There was the whirling of the air, resisting my passage, yet
giving way under me in giddy circles, and then the sharp shock of once
more feeling under my feet something solid, which struck, yet sustained.
After a little while the giddiness above and the tingling below passed
away, and I felt able to look about me and discern where I was. But not
all at once; the things immediately about me impressed me first, then the
general aspect of the new place.

First of all the light, which was lurid, as if a thunder-storm were
coming on. I looked up involuntarily to see if it had begun to rain; but
there was nothing of the kind, though what I saw above me was a lowering
canopy of cloud, dark, threatening, with a faint reddish tint diffused
upon the vaporous darkness. It was, however, quite sufficiently clear to
see everything, and there was a good deal to see. I was in a street of
what seemed a great and very populous place. There were shops on either
side, full apparently of all sorts of costly wares. There was a continual
current of passengers up and down on both sides of the way, and in the
middle of the street carriages of every description, humble and splendid.
The noise was great and ceaseless; the traffic continual. Some of the
shops were most brilliantly lighted, attracting one's eyes in the sombre
light outside, which, however, had just enough of day in it to make these
spots of illumination look sickly. Most of the places thus distinguished
were apparently bright with the electric or some other scientific light;
and delicate machines of every description, brought to the greatest
perfection, were in some windows, as were also many fine productions of
art, but mingled with the gaudiest and coarsest in a way which struck me
with astonishment. I was also much surprised by the fact that the
traffic, which was never stilled for a moment, seemed to have no sort of
regulation. Some carriages dashed along, upsetting the smaller vehicles
in their way, without the least restraint or order, either, as it seemed,
from their own good sense or from the laws and customs of the place. When
an accident happened, there was a great shouting, and sometimes a furious
encounter; but nobody seemed to interfere. This was the first impression
made upon me. The passengers on the pavement were equally regardless. I
was myself pushed out of the way, first to one side, then to another,
hustled when I paused for a moment, trodden upon and driven about. I
retreated soon to the doorway of a shop, from whence with a little more
safety I could see what was going on. The noise made my head ring. It
seemed to me that I could not hear myself think. If this were to go on
forever, I said to myself, I should soon go mad.

'Oh, no,' said some one behind me, 'not at all. You will get used to it;
you will be glad of it. One does not want to hear one's thoughts; most of
them are not worth hearing.'

I turned round and saw it was the master of the shop, who had come to the
door on seeing me. He had the usual smile of a man who hoped to sell his
wares; but to my horror and astonishment, by some process which I could
not understand, I saw that he was saying to himself, 'What a d----d fool!
here's another of those cursed wretches, d---- him!' all with the same
smile. I started back, and answered him as hotly, 'What do you mean by
calling me a d----d fool? fool yourself, and all the rest of it. Is this
the way you receive strangers here?'

'Yes,' he said with the same smile, 'this is the way; and I only describe
you as you are, as you will soon see. Will you walk in and look over my
shop? Perhaps you will find something to suit you if you are just setting
up, as I suppose.'

I looked at him closely, but this time I could not see that he was
saying anything beyond what was expressed by his lips: and I followed
him into the shop, principally because it was quieter than the street,
and without any intention of buying,--for what should I buy in a strange
place where I had no settled habitation, and which probably I was only
passing through?

'I will look at your things,' I said, in a way which I believe I had, of
perhaps undue pretension. I had never been over-rich, or of very elevated
station; but I was believed by my friends (or enemies) to have an
inclination to make myself out something more important than I was. 'I
will look at your things, and possibly I may find something that may suit
me; but with all the _ateliers_ of Paris and London to draw from, it is
scarcely to be expected that in a place like this--'

Here I stopped to draw my breath, with a good deal of confusion; for I
was unwilling to let him see that I did not know where I was.

'A place like this,' said the shop-keeper, with a little laugh which
seemed to me full of mockery, 'will supply you better, you will find,
than--any other place. At least you will find it the only place
practicable,' he added. 'I perceive you are a stranger here.'

'Well, I may allow myself to be so, more or less. I have not had time to
form much acquaintance with--the place; what--do you call the place?--its
formal name, I mean,' I said with a great desire to keep up the air of
superior information. Except for the first moment, I had not experienced
that strange power of looking into the man below the surface which had
frightened me. Now there occurred another gleam of insight, which gave me
once more a sensation of alarm. I seemed to see a light of hatred and
contempt below his smile; and I felt that he was not in the least taken
in by the air which I assumed.

'The name of the place,' he said, 'is not a pretty one. I hear the
gentlemen who come to my shop say that it is not to be named to ears
polite; and I am sure your ears are very polite.' He said this with the
most offensive laugh, and I turned upon him and answered him, without
mincing matters, with a plainness of speech which startled myself, but
did not seem to move him, for he only laughed again. 'Are you not
afraid,' I said, 'that I will leave your shop and never enter it more?'

'Oh, it helps to pass the time,' he said; and without any further comment
began to show me very elaborate and fine articles of furniture. I had
always been attracted to this sort of thing, and had longed to buy such
articles for my house when I had one, but never had it in my power. Now I
had no house, nor any means of paying so far as I knew, but I felt quite
at my ease about buying, and inquired into the prices with the greatest

'They are just the sort of thing I want. I will take these, I think; but
you must set them aside for me, for I do not at the present moment
exactly know--'

'You mean you have got no rooms to put them in,' said the master of the
shop. 'You must get a house directly, that's all. If you're only up to
it, it is easy enough. Look about until you find something you like, and
then--take possession.'

'Take possession'--I was so much surprised that I stared at him
with mingled indignation and surprise--'of what belongs to another
man?' I said.

I was not conscious of anything ridiculous in my look. I was indignant,
which is not a state of mind in which there is any absurdity; but the
shop-keeper suddenly burst into a storm of laughter. He laughed till he
seemed almost to fall into convulsions, with a harsh mirth which reminded
me of the old image of the crackling of thorns, and had neither amusement
nor warmth in it; and presently this was echoed all around, and looking
up, I saw grinning faces full of derision bent upon me from every side,
from the stairs which led to the upper part of the house and from the
depths of the shop behind,--faces with pens behind their ears, faces in
workmen's caps, all distended from ear to ear, with a sneer and a mock
and a rage of laughter which nearly sent me mad. I hurled I don't know
what imprecations at them as I rushed out, stopping my ears in a paroxysm
of fury and mortification. My mind was so distracted by this occurrence
that I rushed without knowing it upon some one who was passing, and threw
him down with the violence of my exit; upon which I was set on by a party
of half a dozen ruffians, apparently his companions, who would, I
thought, kill me, but who only flung me, wounded, bleeding, and feeling
as if every bone in my body had been broken, down on the pavement, when
they went away, laughing too.

I picked myself up from the edge of the causeway, aching and sore from
head to foot, scarcely able to move, yet conscious that if I did not get
myself out of the way, one or other of the vehicles which were dashing
along would run over me. It would be impossible to describe the miserable
sensations, both of body and mind, with which I dragged myself across the
crowded pavement, not without curses and even kicks from the passers-by,
and avoiding the shop from which I still heard those shrieks of devilish
laughter, gathered myself up in the shelter of a little projection of a
wall, where I was for the moment safe. The pain which I felt was as
nothing to the sense of humiliation, the mortification, the rage with
which I was possessed. There is nothing in existence more dreadful than
rage which is impotent, which cannot punish or avenge, which has to
restrain itself and put up with insults showered upon it. I had never
known before what that helpless, hideous exasperation was; and I was
humiliated beyond description, brought down--I, whose inclination it was
to make more of myself than was justifiable--to the aspect of a miserable
ruffian beaten in a brawl, soiled, covered with mud and dust, my clothes
torn, my face bruised and disfigured,--all this within half an hour or
there about of my arrival in a strange place where nobody knew me or
could do me justice! I kept looking out feverishly for some one with an
air of authority to whom I could appeal. Sooner or later somebody must go
by, who, seeing me in such a plight, must inquire how it came about, must
help me and vindicate me. I sat there for I cannot tell how long,
expecting every moment that were it but a policeman, somebody would
notice and help me; but no one came. Crowds seemed to sweep by without a
pause,--all hurrying, restless; some with anxious faces, as if any delay
would be mortal; some in noisy groups intercepting the passage of the
others. Sometimes one would pause to point me out to his comrades with a
shout of derision at my miserable plight, or if by a change of posture I
got outside the protection of my wall, would kick me back with a coarse
injunction to keep out of the way. No one was sorry for me; not a look of
compassion, not a word of inquiry was wasted upon me; no representative
of authority appeared. I saw a dozen quarrels while I lay there, cries of
the weak, and triumphant shouts of the strong; but that was all.

I was drawn after a while from the fierce and burning sense of my own
grievances by a querulous voice quite close to me. 'This is my corner,'
it said. 'I've sat here for years, and I have a right to it. And here you
come, you big ruffian, because you know I haven't got the strength to
push you away.'

'Who are you?' I said, turning round horror-stricken; for close beside me
was a miserable man, apparently in the last stage of disease. He was pale
as death, yet eaten up with sores. His body was agitated by a nervous
trembling. He seemed to shuffle along on hands and feet, as though the
ordinary mode of locomotion was impossible to him, and yet was in
possession of all his limbs. Pain was written in his face. I drew away to
leave him room, with mingled pity and horror that this poor wretch should
be the partner of the only shelter I could find within so short a time of
my arrival. I who--It was horrible, shameful, humiliating; and yet the
suffering in his wretched face was so evident that I could not but feel a
pang of pity too. 'I have nowhere to go,' I said. 'I am--a stranger. I
have been badly used, and nobody seems to care.'

'No,' he said, 'nobody cares; don't you look for that. Why should they?
Why, you look as if you were sorry for _me!_ What a joke!' he murmured
to himself,--'what a joke! Sorry for some one else! What a fool the
fellow must be!'

'You look,' I said, 'as if you were suffering horribly; and you say you
have come here for years.'

'Suffering! I should think I was,' said the sick man; 'but what is that
to you? Yes; I've been here for years,--oh, years! that means
nothing,--for longer than can be counted. Suffering is not the word. It's
torture; it's agony! But who cares? Take your leg out of my way.'

I drew myself out of his way from a sort of habit, though against my
will, and asked, from habit too, 'Are you never any better than now?'

He looked at me more closely, and an air of astonishment came over his
face. 'What d'ye want here,' he said, 'pitying a man? That's something
new here. No; I'm not always so bad, if you want to know. I get better,
and then I go and do what makes me bad again, and that's how it will go
on; and I choose it to be so, and you needn't bring any of your d----d
pity here.'

'I may ask, at least, why aren't you looked after? Why don't you get into
some hospital?' I said.

'Hospital!' cried the sick man, and then he too burst out into that
furious laugh, the most awful sound I ever had heard. Some of the
passers-by stopped to hear what the joke was, and surrounded me with once
more a circle of mockers.

'Hospitals! perhaps you would like a whole Red Cross Society, with
ambulances and all arranged?' cried one. 'Or the _Misericordia_!' shouted
another. I sprang up to my feet, crying, 'Why not?' with an impulse of
rage which gave me strength. Was I never to meet with anything but this
fiendish laughter? 'There's some authority, I suppose,' I cried in my
fury. 'It is not the rabble that is the only master here, I hope.' But
nobody took the least trouble to hear what I had to say for myself. The
last speaker struck me on the mouth, and called me an accursed fool for
talking of what I did not understand; and finally they all swept on and
passed away.

I had been, as I thought, severely injured when I dragged myself into
that corner to save myself from the crowd; but I sprang up now as if
nothing had happened to me. My wounds had disappeared; my bruises were
gone. I was as I had been when I dropped, giddy and amazed, upon the
same pavement, how long--an hour?--before? It might have been an hour,
it might have been a year, I cannot tell. The light was the same as
ever, the thunderous atmosphere unchanged. Day, if it was day, had
made no progress; night, if it was evening, had come no nearer,--all
was the same.

As I went on again presently, with a vexed and angry spirit, regarding on
every side around me the endless surging of the crowd, and feeling a
loneliness, a sense of total abandonment and solitude, which I cannot
describe, there came up to me a man of remarkable appearance. That he was
a person of importance, of great knowledge and information, could not be
doubted. He was very pale, and of a worn but commanding aspect. The lines
of his face were deeply drawn; his eyes were sunk under high arched
brows, from which they looked out as from caves, full of a fiery
impatient light. His thin lips were never quite without a smile; but it
was not a smile in which any pleasure was. He walked slowly, not
hurrying, like most of the passengers. He had a reflective look, as if
pondering many things. He came up to me suddenly, without introduction or
preliminary, and took me by the arm. 'What object had you in talking of
these antiquated institutions?' he said. And I saw in his mind the gleam
of the thought, which seemed to be the first with all, that I was a fool,
and that it was the natural thing to wish me harm, just as in the earth
above it was the natural thing, professed at least, to wish well,--to
say, Good-morning, good-day, by habit and without thought. In this
strange country the stranger was received with a curse, and it woke an
answer not unlike the hasty 'Curse you, then, also!' which seemed to come
without any will of mine through my mind. But this provoked only a smile
from my new friend. He took no notice. He was disposed to examine me, to
find some amusement perhaps--how could I tell?--in what I might say.

'What antiquated things?'

'Are you still so slow of understanding? What were they--hospitals? The
pretences of a world that can still deceive itself. Did you expect to
find them here?'

'I expected to find--how should I know?' I said, bewildered--'some
shelter for a poor wretch where he could be cared for, not to be left
there to die in the street. Expected! I never thought. I took it for

'To die in the street!' he cried with a smile and a shrug of his
shoulders. 'You'll learn better by and by. And if he did die in the
street, what then? What is that to you?'

'To me!' I turned and looked at him, amazed; but he had somehow shut his
soul, so that I could see nothing but the deep eyes in their caves, and
the smile upon the close-shut mouth. 'No more to me than to any one. I

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