A Child's Book of Saints
With illustrations by
T. H. Robinson
This is fairy gold, boy; And I will prove it so. —Shakespeare
Every man I will go with thee, be thy guide in thy most need to go by thy side.
Published by J. M. Dent & Co.
and in New York by
E. P. Dutton & Co.
First Edition, March 1906.
Reprinted May 1906.
"A Child's Book of Saints" was first published in 1898, when Mr. Canton had already found his audience. The book is a near successor indeed to his "W. V.: Her Book," and to "The Invisible Playmate"; and W. V. again acts as guardian elf and guide to this new region of the child's earthly paradise. The Saints are here treated with a simplicity that is almost or altogether childlike, and with an unforced imagination which is only to be learnt by becoming as a child. And this is perhaps why, although comparatively a new book, it has the air of something pleasantly old, and written long ago; and thus wins its way into the children's library of old favourite authors.
Mr. Canton's published works, up to January 1906, comprise:—"A Lost Epic, and other Poems," 1887. "The Invisible Playmate: a Story of the Unseen," 1894, 1897. "W. V., Her Book and Various Verses," 1896. "A Child's Book of Saints," 1898, 1902. "Children's Sayings, Edited, with a Digression on the Small People," 1900. "The True Annals of Fairyland" (The Reign of King Herla), 1900, &c. "In Memory of W. V." (Winifred Vida Canton), 1901. "The Comrades: Poems, Old and New," 1902. "What is the Bible Society?" 1903. "The Story of the Bible Society," 1904. "A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society," 1904. "Little Hands and God's Book: a Sketch of the Bible Society," 1804-1904, 1905.
IN THE FOREST OF STONE THE SONG OF THE MINSTER THE PILGRIM OF A NIGHT THE ANCIENT GODS PURSUING THE DREAM OF THE WHITE LARK THE HERMIT OF THE PILLAR KENACH'S LITTLE WOMAN GOLDEN APPLES AND ROSES RED THE SEVEN YEARS OF SEEKING THE GUARDIANS OF THE DOOR ON THE SHORES OF LONGING THE CHILDREN OF SPINALUNGA THE SIN OF THE PRINCE BISHOP THE LITTLE BEDESMAN OF CHRIST THE BURNING OF ABBOT SPIRIDION THE COUNTESS ITHA THE STORY OF THE LOST BROTHER THE KING ORGULOUS THE JOURNEY OF RHEINFRID LIGHTING THE LAMPS
List of Illustrations
Women lived the life of prayer and praise and austerity and miracle
"These are the fields in which the Shepherds watched"
Hilary wondered and mused
A gaunt, dark figure, far up in the blue Asian sky
"Come not any nearer, turn thy face to the forest, and go down"
"I am not mad, most noble Sapricius"
They won their long sea-way home
"And four good Angels watch my bed, two at the foot and two the head"
And again in the keen November
The eight hundred horsemen turned in dismay
"Surely in all the world God has no more beautiful house than this"
St. Francis of Assisi
Itha rode away with her lord
A saint, whose very name I have forgotten, had a vision, in which he saw Satan standing before the throne of God; and, listening, he heard the evil spirit say, "Why hast Thou condemned me, who have offended Thee but once, whilst Thou savest thousands of men who have offended Thee many times?" God answered him, "Hast thou once asked pardon of me?"
Behold the Christian mythology! It is the dramatic truth, which has its worth and effect independently of the literal truth, and which even gains nothing by being fact. What matter whether the saint had or had not heard the sublime words which I have just quoted! The great point is to know that pardon is refused only to him who does not ask it.
COUNT DE MAISTRE.
A Child's Book of Saints
In the Forest of Stone
Looking down the vista of trees and houses from the slope of our garden, W. V. saw the roof and spire of the church of the Oak-men showing well above the green huddle of the Forest.
"It is a pretty big church, isn't it, father?" she asked, as she pointed it out to me.
It was a most picturesque old-fashioned church, though in my thoughtlessness I had mistaken it for a beech and a tall poplar growing apparently side by side; but the moment she spoke I perceived my illusion.
"I expect, if we were anywhere about on a Sunday morning," she surmised, with a laugh, "we should see hundreds and hundreds of Oak-girls and Oak-boys going in schools to service."
"Dressed in green silk, with bronze boots and pink feathers—the colours of the new oak-leaves, eh?"
"Oh, father, it would be lovely!" in a burst of ecstasy. "Oughtn't we to go and find the way to their church?"
We might do something much less amusing. Accordingly we took the bearings of the green spire with the skill of veteran explorers. It lay due north, so that if we travelled by the way of the North Star we should be certain to find it. Wheeling the Man before us, we made a North Star track for ourselves through the underwood and over last year's rustling beech-leaves, till Guy ceased babbling and crooning, and dropped into a slumber, as he soon does in the fresh of the morning. Then we had to go slowly for fear he should be wakened by the noise of the dead wood underfoot, for, as we passed over it with wheels and boots, it snapped and crackled like a freshly-kindled fire. It was a relief to get at last to the soft matting of brown needles and cones under the Needle-trees, for there we could go pretty quickly without either jolting him or making a racket.
We went as far as we were able that day, and we searched in glade and lawn, in coppice and dingle, but never a trace could we find of the sylvan minster where the Oak-people worship. As we wandered through the Forest we came upon a number of notice boards nailed high up on the trunks of various trees, but when W. V. discovered that these only repeated the same stern legend: "Caution. Persons breaking, climbing upon, or otherwise damaging," she indignantly resented this incessant intrusion on the innocent enjoyment of free foresters. How much nicer it would have been if there had been a hand on one of these repressive boards, with the inscription: "This way to the North Star Church;" or, if a caution was really necessary for some of the people who entered the Forest, to say: "The public are requested not to disturb the Elves, Birch-ladies, and Oak-men;" but of course the most delightful thing would be to have a different fairy-tale written up in clear letters on each of the boards, and a seat close by where one could rest and read it comfortably.
I told her there were several forests I had explored, in which something like that was really done; only the stories were not fairy-tales, but legends of holy men and women; and among the branches of the trees were fixed most beautifully coloured glass pictures of those holy people, who had all lived and died, and some of whom had been buried, in those forests, hundreds of years ago. Most of the forests were very ancient—older than the thrones of many kingdoms; and men lived and delighted in them long before Columbus sailed into unknown seas to discover America. Many, indeed, had been blown down and destroyed by a terrible storm which swept over the world when Henry VIII. ruled in England, and only wrecks of them now remained for any one to see, but others, which had survived the wild weather of those days, were as wonderful and as lovely as a dream. The tall trees in them sent out curving branches which interlaced high overhead, shutting out the blue sky and making a sweet and solemn dimness, and nearly all the light that streamed in between the fair round trunks and the arching boughs was like that of a splendid sunset, only it was there all day long and never faded out till night fell. And in some of the forests there were great magical roses, of a hundred brilliant colours crowded together, and as big as the biggest cart-wheel, or bigger.
These woods were places of happy quietude and comfort and gladness of heart; but, instead of Oak-men, there were many Angels.
Here and there, too, in the silent avenues, mighty warriors and saintly abbots, and statesmen bishops, and it might be even a king or a queen, had been buried; and over their graves there were sometimes images of them lying carved in marble or alabaster, and sometimes there had been built the loveliest little chapels all sculptured over with tracery of flowers and foliage.
"True as true, dear. Some day I shall take you to see for yourself."
We know a dip in a dingle where the woodcutters have left a log among the hazels, and here, having wheeled Guy into a dappling of sunny discs and leaf-shadows in a grassy bay, we sat down on the log, and talked in an undertone. Our failure to find the Oak-men's church reminded me of the old legends of lost and invisible churches, the bells of which are heard ringing under the snow, or in the depths of the woods, or far away in burning deserts, or fathom-deep beneath the blue sea; but the pilgrim or the chance wayfarer who has heard the music of the bells has never succeeded in discovering the way that leads to the lost church. It is on the clear night of St. John's Day, the longest day of the year, or on the last hour of Christmas Eve, that these bells are heard pealing most sweet and clear.
It was in this way that we came to tell Christian legends and to talk of saints and hermits, of old abbeys and minsters, of visions and miracles and the ministry of Angels. Guy, W. V. thought, might be able, if only he could speak, to tell us much about heaven and the Angels; it was so short a time since he left them. She herself had quite forgotten, but, then—deprecatingly—it was so long and long and long ago; "eight years, a long time for me."
The faith and the strange vivid daydreams of the Middle Ages were a new world into which she was being led along enchanted footpaths; quite different from the worldly world of the "Old Romans," and of English history; more real it seemed and more credible, for all its wonders, than the world of elves and water-maidens. Delightful as it was, it was scarce believable that fairies ever carried a little girl up above the tree-tops and swung her in the air from one to another; but when St. Catherine of Siena was a little child, and went to be a hermit in the woods, and got terribly frightened, and lost her way, and sat down to cry, the Angels, you know, did really and truly waft her up on their wings and carried her to the valley of Fontebranda, which was very near home. And when she was quite a little thing and used to say her prayers going up to bed, the Angels would come to her and just "whip" her right up the stairs in an instant!
Occasionally these legends brought us to the awful brink of religious controversies and insoluble mysteries, but, like those gentle savages who honour the water-spirits by hanging garlands from tree to tree across the river, W. V. could always fling a bridge of flowers over our abysses. "Our sense," she would declare, "is nothing to God's; and though big people have more sense than children, the sense of all the big people in the world put together would be no sense to His." "We are only little babies to Him; we do not understand Him at all." Nothing seemed clearer to her than the reasonableness of one legend which taught that though God always answers our prayers, He does not always answer in the way we would like, but in some better way than we know. "Yes," she observed, "He is just a dear old Father." Anything about our Lord engrossed her imagination; and it was a frequent wish of hers that He would come again. "Then,"—poor perplexed little mortal! whose difficulties one could not even guess at—"we should be quite sure of things. Miss Catherine tells us from books: He would tell us from His memory. People would not be so cruel to Him now. Queen Victoria would not allow any one to crucify Him."
I don't think that W. V., in spite of her confidence in my good faith, was quite convinced of the existence of those old forests of which I had told her, until I explained that they were forests of stone, which, if men did not mar them, would blossom for centuries unchanged, though the hands that planted them had long been blown in dust about the world. She understood all that I meant when we visited York and Westminster, and walked through the long avenues of stone palms and pines, with their overarching boughs, and gazed at the marvellous rose-windows in which all the jewels of the world seemed to have been set, and saw the colours streaming through the gorgeous lancets and high many-lighted casements. After that it was delightful to turn over engravings and photographs of ruined abbeys and famous old churches at home and abroad, and to anticipate the good time when we should visit them together, and perhaps not only descend into the crypts but go through the curious galleries which extend over the pillars of the nave, and even climb up to the leaded roof of the tower, or dare the long windy staircases and ladders which mount into the spire, and so look down on the quaint map of streets, and houses, and gardens, and squares, hundreds of feet below.
She liked to hear how some of those miracles of stone had been fashioned and completed—how monks in the days of old had travelled over the land with the relics of saints, collecting treasure of all sorts for the expense of the work; how sometimes the people came in hundreds dragging great oaks and loads of quarried stone, and bringing fat hogs, beans, corn, and beer for the builders and their workmen; how even queens carried block or beam to the masons, so that with their own hands they might help in the glorious labour; and poor old women gave assistance by cooking food and washing and spinning and weaving and making and mending; how when the foundations were blessed kings and princes and powerful barons laid each a stone, and when the choir sang the antiphon, "And the foundations of the wall were garnished with all manner of precious stones," they threw costly rings and jewels and chains of gold into the trench; and how years and generations passed away, and abbots and bishops and architects and masons and sculptors and labourers died, but new men took their places, and still the vast work went on, and the beautiful pile rose higher and higher into the everlasting heavens.
Then, too, we looked back at the vanished times when the world was all so different from our world of to-day; and in green and fruitful spots among the hills and on warm river-lawns and in olden cities of narrow streets and overhanging roofs, there were countless abbeys and priories and convents; and thousands of men and women lived the life of prayer and praise and austerity and miracle and vision which is described in the legends of the Saints. We lingered in the pillared cloisters where the black-letter chronicles were written in Latin, and music was scored and hymns were composed, and many a rare manuscript was illuminated in crimson and blue and emerald and gold; and we looked through the fair arches into the cloister-garth where in the green sward a grave lay ever ready to receive the remains of the next brother who should pass away from this little earth to the glory of Paradise. What struck W. V. perhaps most of all was, that in some leafy places these holy houses were so ancient that even the blackbirds and throstles had learned to repeat some of the cadences of the church music, and in those places the birds still continue to pipe them, though nothing now remains of church or monastery except the name of some field or street or well, which people continue to use out of old habit and custom.
It was with the thought of helping the busy little brain to realise something of that bygone existence, with its strange modes of thought, its unquestioning faith in the unseen and eternal, its vivid consciousness of the veiled but constant presence of the holy and omnipotent God, its stern self-repression and its tender charity, its lovely ideals and haunting legends, that I told W. V. the stories in this little book. It mattered little to her or to me that that existence had its dark shadows contrasting with its celestial light: it was the light that concerned us, not the shadows.
Some of the stories were told on the log, while Guy slept in his mail-cart in the dappled shelter of the dingle; others by a winter fire when the days were short, and the cry of the wind in the dark made it easy for one to believe in wolves; others in the Surrey hills, a year ago, in a sandy hollow crowned with bloom of the ling, and famous for a little pool where the martins alight to drink and star the mud with a maze of claw-tracks; and yet again, others, this year, under the dry roof of the pines of Anstiebury, when the fosse of the old Briton settlement was dripping with wet, and the woods were dim with the smoke of rain, and the paths were red with the fallen bloom of the red chestnuts and white with the flourish of May and brown with the catkins of the oak, and the cuckoo, calling in Mosses Wood, was answered from Redlands and the Warren, and the pines where we sat (snug and dry) looked so solemn and dark that, with a little fancy, it was easy to change the living greenwood into the forest of stone.
As they were told, under the pressure of an insatiable listener, so have they been written, save for such a phrase, here and there, as slips more readily from the pen than from the tongue.
Of the stories which were told, but which have not been written for this book, if W. V. should question me, I shall answer in the wise words of the Greybeard of Broce-Liande: "However hot thy thirst, and however pleasant to assuage it, leave clear water in the well."
 The year of the happy hills, 1898.
The Song of the Minster
When John of Fulda became Prior of Hethholme, says the old chronicle, he brought with him to the Abbey many rare and costly books—beautiful illuminated missals and psalters and portions of the Old and New Testament. And he presented rich vestments to the Minster; albs of fine linen, and copes embroidered with flowers of gold. In the west front he built two great arched windows filled with marvellous storied glass. The shrine of St. Egwin he repaired at vast outlay, adorning it with garlands in gold and silver, but the colour of the flowers was in coloured gems, and in like fashion the little birds in the nooks of the foliage. Stalls and benches of carved oak he placed in the choir; and many other noble works he had wrought in his zeal for the glory of God's house.
In all the western land was there no more fair or stately Minster than this of the Black Monks, with the peaceful township on one side, and on the other the sweet meadows and the acres of wheat and barley sloping down to the slow river, and beyond the river the clearings in the ancient forest.
But Thomas the Sub-prior was grieved and troubled in his mind by the richness and the beauty of all he saw about him, and by the Prior's eagerness to be ever adding some new work in stone, or oak, or metal, or jewels.
"Surely," he said to himself, "these things are unprofitable—less to the honour of God than to the pleasure of the eye and the pride of life and the luxury of our house! Had so much treasure not been wasted on these vanities of bright colour and carved stone, our dole to the poor of Christ might have been fourfold, and they filled with good things. But now let our almoner do what best he may, I doubt not many a leper sleeps cold, and many a poor man goes lean with hunger."
This the Sub-prior said, not because his heart was quick with fellowship for the poor, but because he was of a narrow and gloomy and grudging nature, and he could conceive of no true service of God which was not one of fasting and praying, of fear and trembling, of joylessness and mortification.
Now you must know that the greatest of the monks and the hermits and the holy men were not of this kind. In their love of God they were blithe of heart, and filled with a rare sweetness and tranquillity of soul, and they looked on the goodly earth with deep joy, and they had a tender care for the wild creatures of wood and water. But Thomas had yet much to learn of the beauty of holiness.
Often in the bleak dark hours of the night he would leave his cell and steal into the Minster, to fling himself on the cold stones before the high altar; and there he would remain, shivering and praying, till his strength failed him.
It happened one winter night, when the thoughts I have spoken of had grown very bitter in his mind, Thomas guided his steps by the glimmer of the sanctuary lamp to his accustomed place in the choir. Falling on his knees, he laid himself on his face with the palms of his outstretched hands flat on the icy pavement. And as he lay there, taking a cruel joy in the freezing cold and the torture of his body, he became gradually aware of a sound of far-away yet most heavenly music.
He raised himself to his knees to listen, and to his amazement he perceived that the whole Minster was pervaded by a faint mysterious light, which was every instant growing brighter and clearer. And as the light increased the music grew louder and sweeter, and he knew that it was within the sacred walls. But it was no mortal minstrelsy.
The strains he heard were the minglings of angelic instruments, and the cadences of voices of unearthly loveliness. They seemed to proceed from the choir about him, and from the nave and transept and aisles; from the pictured windows and from the clerestory and from the vaulted roofs. Under his knees he felt that the crypt was throbbing and droning like a huge organ.
Sometimes the song came from one part of the Minster, and then all the rest of the vast building was silent; then the music was taken up, as it were in response, in another part; and yet again voices and instruments would blend in one indescribable volume of harmony, which made the huge pile thrill and vibrate from roof to pavement.
As Thomas listened, his eyes became accustomed to the celestial light which encompassed him, and he saw—he could scarce credit his senses that he saw—the little carved angels of the oak stalls in the choir clashing their cymbals and playing their psalteries.
He rose to his feet, bewildered and half terrified. At that moment the mighty roll of unison ceased, and from many parts of the church there came a concord of clear high voices, like a warbling of silver trumpets, and Thomas heard the words they sang. And the words were these—
Tibi omnes Angeli. To Thee all Angels cry aloud.
So close to him were two of these voices that Thomas looked up to the spandrels in the choir, and he saw that it was the carved angels leaning out of the spandrels that were singing. And as they sang the breath came from their stone lips white and vaporous into the frosty air.
He trembled with awe and astonishment, but the wonder of what was happening drew him towards the altar. The beautiful tabernacle work of the altar screen contained a double range of niches filled with the statues of saints and kings; and these, he saw, were singing. He passed slowly onward with his arms outstretched, like a blind man who does not know the way he is treading.
The figures on the painted glass of the lancets were singing.
The winged heads of the baby angels over the marble memorial slabs were singing.
The lions and griffons and mythical beasts of the finials were singing.
The effigies of dead abbots and priors were singing on their tombs in bay and chantry.
The figures in the frescoes on the walls were singing.
On the painted ceiling westward of the tower the verses of the Te Deum, inscribed in letters of gold above the shields of kings and princes and barons, were visible in the divine light, and the very words of these verses were singing, like living things.
And the breath of all these as they sang turned to a smoke as of incense in the wintry air, and floated about the high pillars of the Minster.
Suddenly the music ceased, all save the deep organ-drone.
Then Thomas heard the marvellous antiphon repeated in the bitter darkness outside; and that music, he knew, must be the response of the galleries of stone kings and queens, of abbots and virgin martyrs, over the western portals, and of the monstrous gargoyles along the eaves.
When the music ceased in the outer darkness, it was taken up again in the interior of the Minster.
At last there came one stupendous united cry of all the singers, and in that cry even the organ-drone of the crypt, and the clamour of the brute stones of pavement and pillar, of wall and roof, broke into words articulate. And the words were these:
Per singulos dies, benedicimus Te. Day by day: we magnify Thee, And we worship Thy name: ever world without end.
As the wind of the summer changes into the sorrowful wail of the yellowing woods, so the strains of joyous worship changed into a wail of supplication; and as he caught the words, Thomas too raised his voice in wild entreaty:
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. O Lord, have mercy upon us: have mercy upon us.
And then his senses failed him, and he sank to the ground in a long swoon.
When he came to himself all was still, and all was dark save for the little yellow flower of light in the sanctuary lamp.
As he crept back to his cell he saw with unsealed eyes how churlishly he had grudged God the glory of man's genius and the service of His dumb creatures, the metal of the hills, and the stone of the quarry, and the timber of the forest; for now he knew that at all seasons, and whether men heard the music or not, the ear of God was filled by day and by night with an everlasting song from each stone of the vast Minster:
We magnify Thee, And we worship Thy name: ever world without end.
The Pilgrim of a Night
In the ancient days of faith the doors of the churches used to be opened with the first glimmer of the dawn in summer, and long before the moon had set in winter; and many a ditcher and woodcutter and ploughman on his way to work used to enter and say a short prayer before beginning the labour of the long day.
Now it happened that in Spain there was a farm-labourer named Isidore, who went daily to his early prayer, whatever the weather might be. His fellow-workmen were slothful and careless, and they gibed and jeered at his piety, but when they found that their mockery had no effect upon him, they spoke spitefully of him in the hearing of the master, and accused him of wasting in prayer the time which he should have given to his work.
When the farmer heard of this he was displeased, and he spoke to Isidore and bade him remember that true and faithful service was better than any prayer that could be uttered in words.
"Master," replied Isidore, "what you say is true, but it is also true that no time is ever lost in prayer. Those who pray have God to work with them, and the ploughshare which He guides draws as goodly and fruitful a furrow as another."
This the master could not deny, but he resolved to keep a watch on Isidore's comings and goings, and early on the morrow he went to the fields.
In the sharp air of the autumn morning he saw this one and that one of his men sullenly following the plough behind the oxen, and taking little joy in the work. Then, as he passed on to the rising ground, he heard a lark carolling gaily in the grey sky, and in the hundred-acre where Isidore was engaged he saw to his amazement not one plough but three turning the hoary stubble into ruddy furrows. And one plough was drawn by oxen and guided by Isidore, but the two others were drawn and guided by Angels of heaven.
When next the master spoke to Isidore it was not to reproach him, but to beg that he might be remembered in his prayers.
Now the one great longing of Isidore's life was to visit that hallowed and happy country beyond the sea in which our Lord lived and died for us. He longed to gaze on the fields in which the Shepherds heard the song of the Angels, and to know each spot named in the Gospels. All that he could save from his earnings Isidore hoarded up, so that one day, before he was old, he might set out on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It took many years to swell the leather bag in which he kept his treasure; and each coin told of some pleasure, or comfort, or necessary which he had denied himself.
Now, when at length the bag was grown heavy, and it began to appear not impossible that he might yet have his heart's desire, there came to his door an aged pilgrim with staff and scallop-shell, who craved food and shelter for the night. Isidore bade him welcome, and gave him such homely fare as he might—bread and apples and cheese and thin wine, and satisfied his hunger and thirst.
Long they talked together of the holy places and of the joy of treading the sacred dust that had borne the marks of the feet of Christ. Then the pilgrim spoke of the long and weary journey he had yet to go, begging his way from village to village (for his scrip was empty) till he could prevail on some good mariner to give him ship-room and carry him to the green isle of home, far away on the edge of sunset. Thinking of those whom he had left and who might be dead before he could return, the pilgrim wept, and his tears so moved the heart of Isidore that he brought forth his treasure and said:
"This have I saved in the great hope that one day I might set eyes on what thou hast beheld, and sit on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, and gaze on the hill of Calvary. But thy need is very great. Take it, and hasten home (ere they be dead) to those who love thee and look for thy coming; and if thou findest them alive bid them pray for me."
And when they had prayed together Isidore and the pilgrim lay down to sleep.
In the first sweet hours of the restful night Isidore became aware that he was walking among strange fields on a hillside, and on the top of a hill some distance away there were the white walls and low flat-roofed houses of a little town; and some one was speaking to him and saying, "These are the fields in which the Shepherds watched, and that rocky pathway leads up the slope to Bethlehem."
At the sound of the voice Isidore hastily looked round, and behind him was the pilgrim, and yet he knew that it was not truly the pilgrim, but an Angel disguised in pilgrim's weeds. And when he would have fallen at the Angel's feet, the Angel stopped him and said, "Be not afraid; I have been sent to show thee all the holy places that thy heart has longed to see."
On valley and hill and field and stream there now shone so clear and wonderful a light that even a long way off the very flowers by the roadside were distinctly visible. Without effort and without weariness Isidore glided from place to place as though it were a dream. And I cannot tell the half of what he saw, for the Angel took him to the village where Jesus was a little child, which is called Nazareth, "the flower-village;" and he showed him the River Jordan flowing through dark green woods, and Hermon the high mountain, glittering with snow (and the snow of that mountain is exceeding old), and the blue Lake of Gennesareth, with its fishing-craft, and the busy town of Capernaum on the great road to Damascus, and Nain where Jesus watched the little children playing at funerals and marriages in the market-place, and the wilderness where He was with the wild beasts, and Bethany where Lazarus lived and died and was brought to life again (and in the fields of Bethany Isidore gathered a bunch of wild flowers), and Jerusalem the holy city, and Gethsemane with its aged silver-grey olive-trees, and the hill of Calvary, where in the darkness a great cry went up to heaven: "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" and the new tomb in the white rock among the myrtles and rose-trees in the garden.
There was no place that Isidore had desired to see that was denied to him. And in all these places he saw the children's children of the children of those who had looked on the face of the Saviour—men and women and little ones—going to and fro in strangely coloured clothing, in the manner of those who had sat down on the green grass and been fed with bread and fishes. And at the thought of this Isidore wept.
"Why dost thou weep?" the Angel asked.
"I weep that I was not alive to look on the face of the Lord."
Then suddenly, as though it were a dream, they were on the sea-shore, and it was morning. And Isidore saw on the sparkling sea a fisher-ship drifting a little way from the shore, but there was no one in it; and on the shore a boat was aground; and half on the sand and half in the wash of the sea there were swathes of brown nets filled with a hundred great fish which flounced and glittered in the sun; and on the sand there was a coal fire with fish broiling on it, and on one side of the fire seven men—one of them kneeling and shivering in his drenched fisher's coat—and on the other side of the fire a benign and majestic figure, on whom the men were gazing in great joy and awe. And Isidore, knowing that this was the Lord, gazed too at Christ standing there in the sun.
And this was what he beheld: a man of lofty stature and most grave and beautiful countenance. His eyes were blue and very brilliant, his cheeks were slightly tinged with red, and his hair was of the ruddy golden colour of wine. From the top of his head to his ears it was straight and without radiance; but from his ears to his shoulders and down his back it fell in shining curls and clusters.
Again all was suddenly changed, and Isidore and the Angel were alone.
"Thou hast seen," said the Angel; "give me thy hand so that thou shalt not forget."
Isidore stretched out his hand, and the Angel opened it, and turning the palm upward, struck it. Isidore groaned with the sharp pain of the stroke, and sank into unconsciousness.
When he awoke in the morning the sun was high in the heavens, and the pilgrim had departed on his way. But the hut was filled with a heavenly fragrance, and on his bed Isidore perceived the wild flowers that he had plucked in the fields of Bethany—red anemones and blue lupins and yellow marigolds, with many others more sweet and lovely than the flowers that grew in the fields or Spain.
"Then surely," he cried, "it was not merely a dream."
And looking at his hand, he saw that the palm bore blue tracings such as one sees on the arms of wanderers and seafaring men. These marks, Isidore learned afterwards, were the Hebrew letters that spelt the name "JERUSALEM."
As long as he lived those letters recalled to his mind all the marvels that had been shown him. And they did more than this, for whenever his eyes fell on them he said, "Blessed be the promise of the Lord the Redeemer of Israel, who hath us in His care for evermore!"
Now these are the words of that promise:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms of my hands."
The Ancient Gods Pursuing
I will now tell of Hilary and his companions, who came over the snowy passes of the Alps, and carried the lamp of faith into the north; and this was in the days of the ancient gods. Many of their shrines had Hilary overturned, and broken their images, and cut down their sacred trees, and denied their wells of healing. Wherefore terrible phantoms pursued him in his dreams, and in the darkness, and in the haunted ways of the woods and mountains. At one time it was the brute-god Pan, who sought to madden him with the terror of his piping in desolate places; at another it was the sun-god Apollo, who threatened him with fiery arrows in the parching heat of noon; or it was Pallas Athene, who appeared to him in visions, and shook in his face the Gorgon's head, which turns to stone all living creatures who look on it. But the holy Bishop made the sign of the cross of the Lord, and the right arm of their power was broken, and their malice could not harm him.
The holy men traversed the mountains by that Roman road which climbed up the icy rocks and among the snowy peaks of the Mountain of Jove, and at sundown they came to that high temple of Jove which had crowned the pass for many centuries. The statue of the great father-god of Rome had been hurled down the ravine into the snow-drift, and his altar had been flung into the little wintry mere which shivers in the pass, and his last priest had died of old age a lifetime ago; and the temple was now but a cold harbour for merchants and soldiers and wandering men.
Here in the freezing air the apostles rested from their journey, but in the dead of the night Hilary was awakened by a clamour of forlorn voices, and opening his eyes he saw the mighty father-god of Olympus looking down upon him with angry brows, and brandishing in his hand red flashes of lightning. In no way daunted, the Bishop sprang to his feet, and cried in a loud voice, "In the name of Him who was crucified, depart to your torments!" And at the sound of that cry the colossal figure of the god wavered and broke like a mountain cloud when it crumbles in the wind, and glimmering shapes of goddesses and nymphs flitted past, sighing and lamenting; and the Bishop saw no longer anything but the sharp cold stars, and the white peaks and the ridges of the mountains.
When they had descended and reached the green valleys, they came at length to a great lake, blue and beautiful to look upon, and here they sojourned for a while. It was a fair and pleasant land, but the people were rude and barbarous, and drove them away with stones when they would enter their hamlets. So, as they needed food, Hilary bade his companions gather berries and wild herbs, and he himself set snares for birds, and wove a net to cast into the lake, and made himself a raft of pine-trees, from which he might cast it the more easily.
One night as he floated on this raft in the starlight, he heard the voice of the Spirit of the Peak calling to the Spirit of the Mere. And the Spirit of the Mere answered, "Speak, I am listening." Then the Mountain Spirit cried, "Arise, then, and come to my aid; alone I cannot chase away these men who are driving out all the ancient gods from their shrines in the land." The Water Spirit answered, "Of what avail is our strength against theirs? Here on the starry waters is one whose nets I cannot break, and whose boat I cannot overturn. Without ceasing he prays, and never are his eyes closed in slumber." Then Hilary arose on his raft, and raising his hand to heaven cried against the Spirit of the Peak and the Spirit of the Mere: "In the name of Him crucified, be silent for evermore, and leave these hills and waters to the servants of God." And these creatures of evil were stricken dumb, and they fled in dismay, making a great moaning and sobbing, and the dolorous sound was as that of the wind in the pines and the water on the rocks.
Then Hilary and his companions fared away into the north, through the Grey Waste, which is a wild and deserted country where in the olden time vast armies had passed with fire and sword; and now the field had turned into wildwood and morass, and the rich townsteads were barrows of ruins and ashes overgrown with brambles, and had been given for a lodging to the savage beasts. The name of this waste was more terrible than the place, for the season was sweet and gracious, and of birds and fish and herbs and wild honey there was no dearth. They were now no longer harassed by the phantoms of the ancient gods, or by the evil spirits of the unblessed earth. Thus for many long leagues was their journey made easy for them.
Now it chanced, when they had reached the further edge of this region, that as they went one night belated along a green riding, which in the old time had been a spacious paved causeway between rich cities, they heard the music of a harp, more marvellously sweet and solacing than any mortal minstrel may make; and sweet dream-voices sighed to them "Follow, follow!" and they felt their feet drawn as by enchantment; and as they yielded to the magical power, a soft shining filled the dusky air, and they saw that the ground was covered with soft deep grass and brilliant flowers, and the trees were of the colour of gold and silver. So in strange gladness, and feeling neither hunger nor fatigue, they went forward through the hours of the night till the dawn, wondering what angelic ministry was thus beguiling them of hardship and pain. But with the first gleam of the dawn the music ceased amid mocking laughter, the vision of lovely woodland vanished away, and in the grey light they found themselves on the quaking green edges of a deep and dangerous marsh. Hilary, when he saw this, groaned in spirit and said: "O dear sons, we have deserved this befooling and misguidance, for have we not forgotten the behest of our Master, 'Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation'?"
Now when after much toilsomeness they had won clear of that foul tract of morass and quagmire, they came upon vast herds of swine grubbing beneath the oaks, and with them savage-looking swineherds scantily clad in skins. Still further north they caught sight of the squalid hovels and wood piles of charcoal burners; and still they pursued their way till they cleared the dense forest and beheld before them a long range of hills blue in the distant air. Towards sundown they came on a stony moorland, rough with heather and bracken and tufts of bent; and when there was but one long band of red light parting the distant land from the low sky, they descried a range of thick posts standing high and black against the red in the heavens. As they drew near, these, they discovered, were the huge granite pillars of a great ring of stone and of an avenue which led up to it; and in the midst of the ring was a mighty flat stone borne up on three stout pillars, so that it looked like a wondrous stone house of some strong folk of the beginning of days.
"This, too, companions," said Hilary, "is a temple of false gods. Very ancient gods of a world gone by are these, and it may be they have been long dead like their worshippers, and their names are no more spoken in the world. Further we may not go this night; but on these stones we shall put the sign of the blessed tree of our redemption, and in its shelter shall we sleep."
As they slept that night in the lee of the stones Hilary saw in a dream the place wherein they lay; and the great stones, he was aware, were not true stones of the rock, but petrified trees, and in his spirit he knew that these trees of stone were growths of that Forbidden Tree with the fruit of which the Serpent tempted our first mother in Paradise. On the morrow when they rose, he strove to overthrow the huge pillars, but to this labour their strength was not equal.
This same day was the day of St. John, the longest in all the year, and they travelled far, till at last in the long afternoon they arrived in sight of a cluster of little homesteads, clay huts thatched with bracken and fenced about with bushes of poison-thorn, and of tilled crofts sloping down the hillside to a clear river wending through the valley.
As Hilary and his companions approached they saw that it was a day of rejoicing and merry-making among the people, for they were all abroad, feasting and drinking from great mead horns in the open air, and shouting barbarous songs to the noise of rude instruments. When it grew to such duskiness as there may be in a midsummer night countless fires were lit, near at hand and far away, on the hills around; and on the ridges above the river children ran about with blazing brands of pine-wood, and young men and maidens gathered at the flaming beacon. Wheels, too, wrapped round tire and spoke with straw and flax smeared with pine-tree gum, were set alight and sent rolling down the hill to the river, amid wild cries and clapping of hands. Some of the wheels went awry and were stayed among the boulders; on some the flames died out; but there were those which reached the river and plunged into the water and were extinguished; and the owners of these last deemed themselves fortunate in their omens, for these fiery wheels were images of the sun in heaven, and their course to the river was the forecasting of his prosperous journey through the year to come.
Thus these outland people held their festival, and Hilary marvelled to see the many fires, for he had not known that the land held so many folk. But now when it was time for the wayfarers to cast about in their minds how and where they should pass the night, there came to them a stranger, a grave and seemly man clad in the manner of the Romans, and he bowed low to them, and said: "O saintly men, the Lady Pelagia hath heard of your coming into this land, and she knows that you have come to teach men the new faith, for she is a great lady, mistress of vast demesnes, and many messengers bring her tidings of all that happens. She bids me greet you humbly and prevail on you to come and abide this night in her house, which is but a little way from here."
"Is your lady of Rome?" asked Hilary.
"From Rome she came hither," said the messenger, "but aforetime she was of Greece, and she hath great friendship for all wise and holy men."
The wayfarers were surprised to hear of this lady, but they were rejoiced that, after such long wandering, there was some one to welcome them where least they had expected word of welcome, and they followed the messenger.
Horn lantern in hand he led them through the warm June darkness, and on the way answered many questions as to the folk of these parts, and their strange worship of sun and moon and wandering light of heaven; "but in a brief while," he said, "all these heathen matters will be put by, when you have taught them the new faith."
Up a gloomily wooded rise he guided them, till they passed into the radiance of a house lit with many lamps and cressets, and the house, they saw, was of fair marble such as are the houses of the patricians of Rome; and many beautiful slaves, lightly clad and garlanded with roses, brought them water in silver bowls and white linen wherewith they might cleanse themselves from the dust of their travel.
In a little the Lady Pelagia received them and bade them welcome, and prayed them to make her poor house their dwelling-place while they sojourned in that waste of heathendom. Then she led them to a repast which had been made ready for them.
Of all the gracious and lovely women in the round of the kingdoms of the earth none is, or hath been, or will be, more marvellous in beauty or in sweetness of approach than this lady; and she made Hilary sit beside her, and questioned him of the Saints in the Queen City of the world, and of his labours and his long wanderings, and the perils through which he and his companions had come. All the while she spoke her starry eyes shed soft light on his face, and she leaned towards him her lovely head and fragrant bosom, drinking in his words with a look of longing. The companions whispered among themselves that assuredly this was rather an Angel of Paradise than a mortal creature of the dust of the earth, which to-day is as a flower in its desirableness and to-morrow is blown about all the ways of men's feet. Even the good Bishop felt his heart moved towards her with a strange tenderness, so sweet was the thought of her youth and her beauty and her goodness and humility.
Sitting in this fashion at table and conversing, and the talk now veering to this and now to that, the Lady Pelagia said: "This longest of the days has been to me the most happy, holy fathers, for it has brought you to the roof of a sinful woman, and you have not disdained the service she has offered you in all lowliness of heart. A long and, it may be, a dangerous labour lies before you, for the folk of this land are fierce and quick to violence; but here you may ever refresh yourselves from toil and take your rest, free from danger. No loving offices or lowly observance, no, nor ought you desire is there that you may not have for the asking—or without the asking, if it be given me to know your wish unspoken."
Hilary and the brethren bowed low at these gracious words, and thought within themselves: Of a truth this may be a woman, but she is no less an Angel for our strength and solacement.
"In the days to come," said the lady, "there will be many things to ask and learn from you, but now ere this summer night draws to end let me have knowledge of divine things from thee, most holy father, for thou art wise and canst answer all my questionings."
And Hilary smiled gravely, not ill pleased at her words of praise, and said: "Ask, daughter."
"First tell me," she said, "which of all the small things God has made in the world is the most excellent?"
Hilary wondered and mused, but could find no answer; and when he would have said so, the voice which came from his lips spoke other words than those he intended to speak, so that instead of saying "This is a question I cannot answer," his voice said: "Of all small things made by God, most excellent is the face of man and woman; for among all the faces of the children of Adam not any one hath ever been wholly like any other; and there in smallest space God has placed all the senses of the body; and it is in the face that we see, as in a glass, darkly, all that can be seen of the invisible soul within."
The companions listened marvelling, but Hilary marvelled no less than they.
"It is well answered," said the lady, "and yet it seemed to me there was one thing more excellent. But let me ask again: What earth is nearest to heaven?"
Again Hilary mused and was silent. Then, once more, the voice which was his voice and yet spoke words which he did not think to speak, gave the answer: "The body of Him who died on the tree to save us, for He was of our flesh, and our flesh is earth of the earth."
"That too is well answered," said the lady, who had grown pale and gazed on the Bishop with great gloomy eyes; "and yet I had thought of another answer. Once more let me question you: What is the distance between heaven and earth?"
Then for the third time was Hilary unable to reply, but the voice answered for him, in stern and menaceful tones: "Who can tell us that more certainly than Lucifer who fell from heaven?"
With a bitter cry the Lady Pelagia rose from her seat, and raised her beautiful white arms above her head; but the voice continued: "Breathe on her, Hilary—breathe the breath of the name of Christ!"
And the Bishop, rising, breathed on the white lovely face the breath of the holy name; and in an instant the starry eyes were darkened, and the spirit and flower of life perished in her sweet body; and the companions saw no longer the Lady Pelagia, but in her stead a statue of white marble. At a glance Hilary knew it for a statue of the goddess whom men in Rome called Venus and in Greece Aphrodite, and with a shudder he remembered that another of her names was Pelagia, the Lady of the Sea. But, swifter even than that thought, it seemed to them as though the statue were smitten by an invisible hand, for it reeled and fell, shattered to fragments; and the lights were extinguished, and the air of the summer night blew upon their faces, and in the east, whence cometh our hope, there was a glimmer of dawn.
Praying fervently, and bewailing the brief joy they had taken in the beauty of that dreadful goddess, they waited for light to guide them from that evil place.
When the day broadened they perceived that they were in the midst of the ruins of an ancient Roman city, overgrown with bush and tree. Around them lay, amid beds of nettles and great dock leaves, and darnel and tangles of briars, and tall foxgloves and deadly nightshade, the broken pillars of a marble temple. This had been the fair house, lit with lamps, wherein they had sat at feast. Close beside them were scattered the white fragments of the image of the beautiful Temptress.
As they turned to depart three grey wolves snarled at them from the ruins, but an unseen hand held these in leash, and Hilary and his companions went on their way unharmed.
The Dream of the White Lark
This was a thing that happened long and long ago, in the glimmering morning of the Christian time in Erinn. And it may have happened to the holy Maedog of Ferns, or to Enan the Angelic, or it may have been Molasius of Devenish—I cannot say. But over the windy sea in his small curragh of bull's hide the Saint sailed far away to the southern land; and for many a month he travelled afoot through the dark forests, and the sunny corn-lands, and over the snowy mountain horns, and along the low shores between the olive-grey hills and the blue sea, till at last he came in sight of a great and beautiful city glittering on the slopes and ridges of seven hills.
"What golden city may this be?" he asked of the dark-eyed market folk whom he met on the long straight road which led across the open country.
"It is the city of Rome," they answered him, wondering at his ignorance. But the Saint, when he heard those words, fell on his knees and kissed the ground.
"Hail to thee, most holy city!" he cried; "hail, thou queen of the world, red with the roses of the martyrs and white with the lilies of the virgins; hail, blessed goal of my long wandering!"
And as he entered the city his eyes were bright with joy, and his heart seemed to lift his weary feet on wings of gladness.
There he sojourned through the autumn and the winter, visiting all the great churches and the burial-places of the early Christians in the Catacombs, and communing with the good and wise men in many houses of religion. Once he conversed with the great Pope whose name was Gregory, and told him of his brethren in the beloved isle in the western waters.
When once more the leaf of the fig-tree opened its five fingers, and the silvery bud of the vine began to unfurl, the Saint prepared to return home. And once more he went to the mighty Pope, to take his leave and to ask a blessing for himself and his brethren, and to beg that he might bear away with him to the brotherhood some precious relic of those who had shed their blood for the Cross.
As he made that request in the green shadowy garden on the Hill Caelian, the Pope smiled, and, taking a clod of common earth from the soil, gave it to the Saint, saying, "Then take this with thee," and when the Saint expressed his surprise at so strange a relic, the Servant of the Servants of God took back the earth and crushed it in his hand, and with amazement the Saint saw that blood began to trickle from it between the fingers of the Pope.
Marvelling greatly, the Saint kissed the holy pontiff's hand, and bade him farewell; and going to and fro among those he knew, he collected money, and, hiring a ship, he filled it with the earth of Rome, and sailed westward through the Midland Sea, and bent his course towards the steadfast star in the north, and so at last reached the beloved green island of his home.
In the little graveyard about the fair church of his brotherhood he spread the earth which had drunk the blood of the martyrs, so that the bodies of those who died in the Lord might await His coming in a blessed peace.
Now it happened that but a few days after his return the friend of his boyhood, a holy brother who had long shared with him the companionship of the cloister, migrated from this light, and when the last requiem had been sung and the sacred earth had covered in the dead, the Saint wept bitterly for the sake of the lost love and the unforgotten years.
And at night he fell asleep, still weeping for sorrow. And in his sleep he saw, as in a dream, the grey stone church with its round tower and the graveyard sheltered by the woody hills; but behold! in the graveyard tall trees sprang in lofty spires from the earth of Rome, and reached into the highest heavens; and these trees were like trees of green and golden and ruddy fire, for they were red with the blossoms of life, and every green leaf quivered with bliss, like a green flame; and among the trees, on a grassy sod at their feet, sat a white lark, singing clear and loud, and he knew that the lark was the soul of the friend of his boyhood.
As he listened to its song, he understood its unearthly music; and these were the words of its singing: "Do not weep any more for me; it is pity for thy sorrow which keeps me here on the grass. If thou wert not so unhappy I should fly."
And when the Saint awoke his grief had fallen from him, and he wept no more for the dead man whom he loved.
The Hermit of the Pillar
On one of the hills near the city of Ancyra Basil the hermit stood day and night on a pillar of stone forty feet high, praying and weeping for his own sins and for the sins of the world.
A gaunt, dark figure, far up in the blue Asian sky, he stood there for a sign and a warning to all men that our earthly life is short, whether for wickedness or repentance; that the gladness and the splendour of the world are but a fleeting pageant; that in but a little while the nations should tremble before the coming of the Lord in His power and majesty. Little heed did the rich and dissolute people of that city give to his cry of doom; and of the vast crowds who came about the foot of his pillar, the greater number thought but to gaze on the wonder of a day, though some few did pitch their tents hard by, and spent the time of their sojourn in prayer and the lamentation of hearts humbled and contrite.
Now, in the third year of his testimony, as Basil was rapt in devotion, with hands and face uplifted to the great silent stars, an Angel, clothed in silver and the blue-green of the night, stood in front of him in the air, and said: "Descend from thy pillar, and get thee away far westward; and there thou shalt learn what is for thy good."
Without delay or doubt Basil descended, and stole away alone in the hush before the new day, and took the winding ways of the hills, and thereafter went down into the low country of the plain to seaward.
After long journeying among places and people unknown, he crossed the running seas which part the eastern world from the world of the west, and reached the City of the Golden Horn, Byzantium; and there for four months he lived on a pillar overlooking the city and the narrow seas, and cried his cry of doom and torment. At the end of the fourth month the Angel once more came to him and bade him descend and go further.
So with patience and constancy of soul he departed between night and light, and pursued his way for many months till he had got to the ancient city of Treves. There, among the ruins of a temple of the heathen goddess Diana, he found a vast pillar of marble still erect, and the top of this he thought to make his home and holy watch-tower. Wherefore he sought out the Bishop of the city and asked his leave and blessing, and the Bishop, marvelling greatly at his zeal and austerity, gave his consent.
The people of Treves were amazed at what they considered his madness; but they gave him no hindrance, nor did they molest him in any way. Indeed, in no long time the fame of his penance was noised abroad, and multitudes came, as they had come at Ancyra, to see with their own eyes what there was of truth in the strange story they had heard. Afterwards, too, many came out of sorrow for sin and an ardent desire of holiness; and others brought their sick and maimed and afflicted, in the hope that the Hermit might be able to cure their ailments, or give them assuagement of their sufferings. Many of these, in truth, Basil sent away cleansed and made whole by the virtue of his touch or of the blessing he bestowed upon them.
Now, though there were many pillar-hermits in the far eastern land, this was the first that had ever been seen in the west, and after him there were but few others.
A strange and well-nigh incredible thing it seemed, to look upon this man on the height of his pillar, preaching and praying constantly, and enduring night and day the inclemency of the seasons and the weariness and discomfort of his narrow standing place. For the pillar, massive as it was, was so narrow where the marble curved over in big acanthus leaves at the four corners that he had not room to lie down at length to sleep; and indeed he slept but little, considering slumber a waste of the time of prayer, and the dreams of sleep so many temptations to beguile the soul into false and fugitive pleasures. No shelter was there from the wind, but he was bare as a stone in the field to the driving rain and the blaze of the sun at noon; and in winter the frost was bitter to flesh and blood, and the snow fell like flakes or white fire. His only clothing was a coat of sheepskin; about his neck hung a heavy chain of iron, in token that he was a thrall and bondsman of the Lord Christ, and each Friday he wore an iron crown of thorns, in painful memory of Christ's passion and His sorrowful death upon the tree. Once a day he ate a little rye bread, and once he drank a little water.
No man could say whether he was young or aged; and the mother who had borne him a little babe at her bosom, and had watched him grow to boyhood, could not have recognised him, for he had been burnt black by the sun and the frost, and the weather had bleached his hair and beard till they looked like lichens on an ancient forest-tree, and the crown of thorns had scarred his brow, and the links of the chain had galled his neck and shoulders.
For three summers and three winters he endured this stricken life with cheerful fortitude, counting his sufferings as great gain if through them he might secure the crown of celestial glory which God has woven for His elect. Remembering all his prayers and supplications, and the long martyrdom of his body, it was hard for him, at times, to resist the assurance that he must have won a golden seat among the blessed.
"For who, O Lord Christ!" he cried, with trembling hands outstretched, and dim eyes weeping, "who hath taken up Thy cross as I have done, and the anguish of the thorns and the nails, and the parched sorrow of Thy thirst, and the wounding of Thy blessed body, and borne them for years twenty and three, and shown them as I have shown them to the sun and stars and the four winds, high up between heaven and earth, that men might be drawn to Thee, and carried them across the world from the outmost East to the outmost West? Surely, Lord God! Thou hast written my name in Thy Book of Life, and hast set for me a happy place in the heavens. Surely, all I have and am I have given Thee; and all that a worm of the earth may do have I done! If in anything I have failed, show me, Lord, I beseech Thee, wherein I have come short. If any man there be more worthy in Thine eyes, let me, too, set eyes upon him, that I may learn of him how I may the better please Thee. Teach me, Lord, that which I know not, for Thou alone knowest and art wise!"
As Basil was praying thus in the hour before dawn, once more the Angel, clothed in silver and blue-green, as though it had been a semblance of the starry night, came to him, and said: "Give me thy hand;" and Basil touched the hand celestial, and the Angel drew him from his pillar, and placed him on the ground, and said: "This is that land of the west in which thou art to learn what is for thy good. Take for staff this piece of tree, and follow this road till thou reachest the third milestone; and there, in the early light, thou shalt meet him who can instruct thee. For a sign, thou shalt know the man by the little maid of seven years who helpeth him to drive the geese. But the man, though young, may teach one who is older than he, and he is one who is greatly pleasing in God's eyes."
The clear light was glittering on the dewy grass and the wet bushes when Basil reached the third milestone. He heard the distant sound as of a shepherd piping, and he saw that the road in front of him was crowded for near upon a quarter of a mile with a great gathering of geese—fully two thousand they numbered—feeding in the grass and rushes, and cackling, and hustling each other aside, and clacking their big orange-coloured bills, as they waddled slowly onward towards the city.
Among them walked a nut-brown little maiden of seven, clad in a green woollen tunic, with bright flaxen hair and innocent blue eyes, and bare brown legs, and feet shod in shoes of hide. In her hand she carried a long hazel wand, with which she kept in rule the large grey and white geese.
As the flock came up to the Hermit, she gazed at him with her sweet wondering eyes, for never had she seen so strange and awful a man as this, with his sheepskin dress and iron chain and crown of thorns, and skin burnt black, and bleached hair and dark brows stained with blood. For a moment she stood still in awe and fear, but the Hermit raised his hand, and blessed her, and smiled upon her; and even in that worn and disfigured face the light in the Hermit's eyes as he smiled was tender and beautiful; and the child ceased to fear, and passed slowly along, still gazing at him and smiling in return.
In the rear of the great multitude of geese came a churl, tall and young, and comely enough for all his embrowning in the sun and wind, and his unkempt hair and rude dress. It was he who made the music, playing on pan's-pipes to lighten the way, and quickening with his staff the loiterers of his flock.
When he perceived the Hermit he stayed his playing, for he bethought him, Is not this the saintly man of whose strange penance and miracles of healing the folk talk in rustic huts and hamlets far scattered? But when they drew nigh to each other, the Hermit bowed low to the Gooseherd, and addressed him: "Give me leave to speak a little with thee, good brother; for an Angel of heaven hath told me of thee, and fain would I converse with thee. Twenty years and three have I served the King of Glory in supplication and fasting and tribulation of spirit, and yet I lack that which thou canst teach me. Now tell me, I beseech thee, what works, what austerities, what prayers have made thee so acceptable to God."
A dark flush rose on the Goose-herd's cheeks as he listened, but when he answered it was in a grave and quiet voice: "It ill becomes an aged man to mock and jeer at the young, nor is it more seemly that the holy should gibe at the poor."
"Dear son in Christ," said the Hermit, "I do not gibe or mock at thee. By the truth of the blessed tree, I was told of thee by an Angel in the very night which is now over and gone, and was bidden to question thee. Wherefore be not wrathful, but answer me truly, I beg of thy charity."
The Goose-herd shook his head. "This is a matter beyond me," he replied. "All my work, since thou askest of my work, hath been the tending and rearing of geese and driving them to market. From the good marsh lands at the foot of the hills out west I drive them, and the distance is not small, for, sleeping and resting by boulder and tree, for five days are we on the way. Slow of foot goeth your goose when he goeth not by water, and it profits neither master nor herd to stint them of their green food. And all my prayer hath been that I might get them safe to market, none missing or fallen dead by the way, and that I might sell them speedily and at good price, and so back to the fens again. What more is there to say?"
"In thy humility thou hidest something from me," said the Hermit, and he fixed his eyes thoughtfully on the young man's face.
"Nay, I have told thee all that is worth the telling."
"Then hast thou always lived this life?" the Hermit asked.
"Ever since I was a small lad—such a one as the little maid in front, and she will be in her seventh year, or it may be a little older. Before me was my father goose-herd; and he taught me the windings of the journey to the city, and the best resting-places, and the ways of geese, and the meaning of their cries, and what pleaseth them and serveth flesh and feather, and how they should be driven. And now, in turn, I teach the child, for there be goose-girls as well as men."
"Is she then thy young sister, or may it be that she is thy daughter?"
"Neither young sister nor daughter is she," replied the Herd, "and yet in truth she is both sister and daughter."
"Wilt thou tell me how that may be?" asked the Hermit.
"It is shortly told," said the Herd. "Robbers broke into their poor and lonely house by the roadside and slew father and mother and left them dead, but the babe at the breast they had not slain, and this was she."
"Didst thou find her?" asked the Hermit.
"Ay, on a happy day I found her; a feeble little thing bleating like a lambkin forlorn beside its dead dam."
"And thy wife, belike, or thy mother, reared her?"
"Nay," said the Herd, "for my mother was dead, and no wife have I. I reared her myself—my little white gooseling; and she throve and waxed strong of heart and limb, and merry and brown of favour, as thou hast seen."
"Thou must have been thyself scantly a man in those days," said the Hermit.
"Younger than to-day," replied the Herd; "but I was ever big of limb and plentiful of my inches."
"And hath she not been often since a burthen to thee, and a weariness in the years?"
"She hath been a care in the cold winter, and a sorrow in her sickness with her teeth—for no man, I wot, can help a small child when the teeth come through the gum, and she can but cry ah! ah! and hath no words to tell what she aileth."
"Why didst thou do all this?" asked the Hermit. "What hath been thy reward? Or for what reward dost thou look?"
The Goose-herd looked at him blankly for a moment; then his face brightened. "Surely," he said, "to see her as she goes on her way, a bright, brown little living thing, with her clear hair and glad eyes, is a goodly reward. And a goodly reward is it to think of her growth, and to mind me of the days when she could not walk and I bore her whithersoever I went; and of the days when she could but take faltering steps and was soon fain to climb into my arms and sit upon my neck; and of the days when we first fared together with the geese to market and I cut her her first hazel stick; and in truth of all the days that she hath been with me since I found her."
As the Goose-herd spoke the tears rose in the Hermit's eyes and rolled slowly down his cheeks; and when the young man ceased, he said: "O son, now I know why thou art so pleasing in the eyes of God. Early hast thou learned the love which gives all and asks nothing, which suffereth long and is ever kind, and this I have not learned. A small thing and too common it seemed to me, but now I see that it is holier than austerities, and availeth more than fasting, and is the prayer of prayers. Late have I sought thee, thou ancient truth, late have I found thee, thou ancient beauty; yet even in the gloaming of my days may there still be light enough to win my way home. Farewell, good brother; and be God tender and pitiful to thee as thou hast been tender and pitiful to the little child."
"Farewell, holy man!" replied the Herd, regarding him with a perplexed look, for the life and austerities of the Hermit were a mystery he could not understand.
Then going on his way, he laid the pan's-pipes to his lips and whistled a pleasant music as he strode after his geese.
Kenach's Little Woman
As the holy season of Lent drew nigh, the Abbot Kenach felt a longing such as a bird of passage feels in the south when the first little silvery buds on the willow begin here to break their ruddy sheaths, and the bird thinks to-morrow it will be time to fly over-seas to the land where it builds its nest in pleasant croft or under the shelter of homely eaves. And Kenach said, "Levabo oculos—I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help;" for every year it was his custom to leave his abbey and fare through the woods to the hermitage on the mountain-side, so that he might spend the forty days of fasting and prayer in the heart of solitude.
Now on the day which is called the Wednesday or Ashes he set out, but first he heard the mass of remembrance and led his monks to the altar steps, and knelt there in great humility to let the priest sign his forehead with a cross of ashes. And on the forehead of each of the monks the ashes were smeared in the form of a cross, and each time the priest made the sign he repeated the words, "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."
So with the ashes still on his brow and with the remembrance of the end of earthly days in his soul, he bent his steps towards the hermitage; and as he was now an aged man and nowise strong, Diarmait, one of the younger brethren, accompanied him in case any mischance should befall.
They passed through the cold forest, where green there was none, unless it were the patches of moss and the lichens on the rugged tree-trunks and tufts of last year's grass, but here and there the white blossoms of the snowdrops peered out. The dead grey leaves and dry twigs crackled and snapped under their feet with such a noise as a wood fire makes when it is newly lighted; and that was all the warmth they had on their wayfaring.
The short February day was closing in as they climbed among the boulders and withered bracken on the mountainside, and at last reached the entrance of a cavern hollowed in the rock and fringed with ivy. This was the hermitage. The Abbot hung his bell on a thick ivy-bough in the mouth of the cave; and they knelt and recited vespers and compline; and thrice the Abbot struck the bell to scare away the evil spirits of the night; and they entered and lay down to rest.
Hard was the way of their sleeping; for they lay not on wool or on down, neither on heather or bracken, nor yet on dry leaves, but their sides came against the cold stone, and under the head of each there was a stone for pillow. But being weary with the long journey they slept sound, and felt nothing of the icy mouth of the wind blowing down the mountain-side.
Within an hour of daybreak, when the moon was setting, they were awakened by the wonderful singing of a bird, and they rose for matins and strove not to listen, but so strangely sweet was the sound in the keen moonlight morning that they could not forbear. The moon set, and still in the dark sang the bird, and the grey light came, and the bird ceased; and when it was white day they saw that all the ground and every stalk of bracken was hoary with frost, and every ivy-leaf was crusted white round the edge, but within the edge it was all glossy green.
"What bird is this that sings so sweet before day in the bitter cold?" said the Abbot. "Surely no bird at all, but an Angel from heaven waking us from the death of sleep."
"It is the blackbird, Domine Abbas," said the young monk; "often they sing thus in February, however cold it may be."
"O soul, O Diarmait, is it not wonderful that the senseless small creatures should praise God so sweetly in the dark, and in the light before the dark, while we are fain to lie warm and forget His praise?" And afterwards he said, "Gladly could I have listened to that singing, even till to-morrow was a day; and yet it was but the singing of a little earth wrapped in a handful of feathers. O soul, tell me what it must be to listen to the singing of an Angel, a portion of heaven wrapped in the glory of God's love!"
Of the forty days thirty went by, and oftentimes now, when no wind blew, it was bright and delightsome among the rocks, for the sun was gaining strength, and the days were growing longer, and the brown trees were being speckled with numberless tiny buds of white and pale green, and wild flowers were springing between the boulders and through the mountain turf.
Hard by the cave there was a low wall of rock covered with ivy, and as Diarmait chanced to walk near it, a brown bird darted out from among the leaves. The young monk looked at the place from which it had flown, and behold! among the leaves and the hairy sinews of the ivy there was a nest lined with grass, and in the nest there were three eggs—pale-green with reddish spots. And Diarmait knew the bird and knew the eggs, and he told the Abbot, who came noiselessly, and looked with a great love at the open house and the three eggs of the mother blackbird.
"Let us not walk too near, my son," he said, "lest we scare the mother from her brood, and so silence beforehand some of the music of the cold hours before the day." And he lifted his hand and blessed the nest and the bird, saying, "And He shall bless thy bread and thy water." After that it was very seldom they went near the ivy.
Now after days of clear and benign weather a shrill wind broke out from beneath the North Star, and brought with it snow and sleet and piercing cold. And the woods howled for distress of the storm, and the grey stones of the mountain chattered with discomfort. Harsh cold and sleeplessness were their lot in the cave, and as he shivered, the Abbot bethought him of the blackbird in her nest, and of the wet flakes driving in between the leaves of the ivy and stinging her brown wings and patient bosom. And lifting his head from his pillow of stone he prayed the Lord of the elements to have the bird in His gentle care, saying, "How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings."
Then after a little while he said, "Look out into the night, O son, and tell me if yet the storm be abated."
And Diarmait, shuddering, went to the mouth of the cavern, and stood there gazing and calling in a low voice, "Domine Abbas! My Lord Abbot! My Lord Abbot!"
Kenach rose quickly and went to him, and as they looked out the sleet beat on their faces, but in the midst of the storm there was a space of light, as though it were moonshine, and the light streamed from an Angel, who stood near the wall of rock with outspread wings, and sheltered the blackbird's nest from the wintry blast.
And the monks gazed at the shining loveliness of the Angel, till the wind fell and the snow ceased and the light faded away and the sharp stars came out and the night was still.
Now at sundown of the day that followed, when the Abbot was in the cave, the young monk, standing among the rocks, saw approaching a woman who carried a child in her arms; and crossing himself he cried aloud to her, "Come not any nearer; turn thy face to the forest, and go down."
"Nay," replied the woman, "for we seek shelter for the night, and food and the solace of fire for the little one."
"Go down, go down," cried Diarmait; "no woman may come to this hermitage."
"How canst thou say that, O monk?" said the woman. "Was the Lord Christ any worse than thou? Christ came to redeem woman no less than to redeem man. Not less did He suffer for the sake of woman than for the sake of man. Women gave service and tendance to Him and His Apostles. A woman it was who bore Him, else had men been left forlorn. It was a man who betrayed Him with a kiss; a woman it was who washed His feet with tears. It was a man who smote Him with a reed, but a woman who broke the alabaster box of precious ointment. It was a man who thrice denied Him; a woman stood by His cross. It was a woman to whom He first spoke on Easter morn, but a man thrust his hand into His side and put his finger in the prints of the nails before he would believe. And not less than men do women enter the heavenly kingdom. Why then shouldst thou drive my little child and me from thy hermitage?"
Then Kenach, who had heard all that was said, came forth from the cave, and blessed the woman. "Well hast thou spoken, O daughter; come, and bring the small child with thee." And, turning to the young monk, he said, "O soul, O son, O Diarmait, did not God send His Angel out of high heaven to shelter the mother bird? And was not that, too, a little woman in feathers? But now hasten, and gather wood and leaves, and strike fire from the flint, and make a hearth before the cave, that the woman may rest and the boy have the comfort of the bright flame."
This was soon done, and by the fire sat the woman eating a little barley bread; but the child, who had no will to eat came round to the old man, and held out two soft hands to him. And the Abbot caught him up from the ground to his breast, and kissed his golden head, saying, "God bless thee sweet little son, and give thee a good life and a happy, and strength of thy small body, and, if it be His holy will, length of glad days; and ever mayest thou be a gladness and deep joy to thy mother."
Then, seeing that the woman was strangely clad in an outland garb of red and blue, and that she was tall, with a golden-hued skin and olive eyes, arched eyebrows very black, aquiline nose, and a rosy mouth, he said, "Surely, O daughter, thou art not of this land of Erinn in the sea, but art come out of the great world beyond?"
"Indeed, then, we have travelled far," replied the woman; "as thou sayest, out of the great world beyond. And now the twilight deepens upon us."
"Thou shalt sleep safe in the cave, O daughter, but we will rest here by the embers. My cloak of goats' hair shalt thou have, and such dry bracken and soft bushes as may be found."
"There is no need," said the woman, "mere shelter is enough;" and she added in a low voice, "Often has my little son had no bed wherein he might lie."
Then she stretched out her arms to the boy, and once more the little one kissed the Abbot, and as he passed by Diarmait he put the palms of his hands against the face of the young monk, and said laughingly, "I do not think thou hadst any ill-will to us, though thou wert rough and didst threaten to drive us away into the woods."
And the woman lifted the boy on her arm, and rose and went towards the cavern; and when she was in the shadow of the rocks she turned towards the monks beside the fire, and said, "My son bids me thank you."
They looked up, and what was their astonishment to see a heavenly glory shining about the woman and her child in the gloom of the cave. And in his left hand the child carried a little golden image of the world, and round his head was a starry radiance, and his right hand was raised in blessing.
For such a while as it takes the shadow of a cloud to run across a rippling field of corn, for so long the vision remained; and then it melted into the darkness, even as a rainbow melts away into the rain.
On his face fell the Abbot, weeping for joy beyond words; but Diarmait was seized with fear and trembling till he remembered the way in which the child had pressed warm palms against his face and forgiven him.
The story of these things was whispered abroad, and ever since, in that part of Erinn in the sea, the mother blackbird is called Kenach's Little Woman.
And as for the stone on which the fire was lighted in front of the cave, rain rises quickly from it in mist and leaves it dry, and snow may not lie upon it, and even in the dead of winter it is warm to touch. And to this day it is called the Stone of Holy Companionship.
Golden Apples and Roses Red
In the cruel days of old, when Diocletian was the Master of the World, and the believers in the Cross were maimed, and tortured with fire, and torn with iron hooks, and cast to the lions, and beheaded with the sword, Dorothea, a beautiful maiden of Caesarea, was brought before Sapricius, the Governor of Cappadocia, and commanded to forsake the Lord Christ and offer incense to the images of the false gods.
Though she was so young and so fair and tender, she stood unmoved by threats and entreaties, and when, with little pity on her youth and loveliness, Sapricius menaced her with the torment of the iron bed over a slow fire, she replied: "Do with me as you will. No pain shall I fear, so firm is my trust in Him for whom I am ready to die."
"Who, then, is this that has won thy love?" asked the Governor.
"It is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Slay me, and I shall but the sooner be with Him in His Paradise, where there is no more pain, neither sorrow, but the tears are wiped from all eyes, and the roses are in bloom alway, and for ever the fruit of joy is on the trees."
"Thy words are but the babbling of madness," said the Governor angrily.
"I am not mad, most noble Sapricius."
"Here, then, is the incense, sacrifice, and save thy life."
"I will not sacrifice," replied Dorothea.
"Then shalt thou die," said Sapricius; and he bade the doomsman take her to the place of execution and strike off her head.
Now as she was being led away from the judgment-seat, a gay young advocate named Theophilus said to her jestingly: "Farewell, sweet Dorothea: when thou hast joined thy lover, wilt thou not send me some of the fruit and roses of his Paradise?"
Looking gravely and gently at him, Dorothea answered: "I will send some."
Whereupon Theophilus laughed merrily, and went his way homeward.
At the place of execution, Dorothea begged the doomsman to tarry a little, and kneeling by the block, she raised her hands to heaven and prayed earnestly. At that moment a fair child stood beside her, holding in his hand a basket containing three golden apples and three red roses.
"Take these to Theophilus, I pray thee," she said to the child, "and tell him Dorothea awaits him in the Paradise whence they came."
Then she bowed her head, and the sword of the doomsman fell.
Mark now what follows.
Theophilus, who had reached home, was still telling of what had happened and merrily repeating his jest about the fruit and flowers of Paradise, when suddenly, while he was speaking, the child appeared before him with the apples and the roses. "Dorothea," he said, "has sent me to thee with these, and she awaits thee in the garden." And straightway the child vanished.
The fragrance of those heavenly roses filled Theophilus with a strange pity and gladness; and, eating of the fruit of the Angels, he felt his heart made new within him, so that he, also, became a servant of the Lord Jesus, and suffered death for His name, and thus attained to the celestial garden.
Centuries after her martyrdom, the body of Dorothea was laid in a bronze shrine richly inlaid with gold and jewels in the church built in her honour beyond Tiber, in the seven-hilled city of Rome.
There it lay in the days when Waldo was a brother at the Priory of Three Fountains, among the wooded folds of the Taunus Hills; and every seven years the shrine was opened that the faithful might gaze on the maiden martyr of Caesarea.
An exceeding great love and devotion did Waldo bear this holy virgin, whom he had chosen for his patroness, and one of his most ardent wishes was that he might some day visit the church beyond Tiber, and kneel by the shrine which contained her precious relics. In summer the red roses, in autumn the bright apples on the tree, reminded him of her; in the spring he thought of her youth and beauty joyously surrendered to Christ, and the snow in winter spoke to him of her spotless innocence. Thus through the round of the year the remembrance of her was present about him in fair suggestions; and indeed had there been any lack of these every gift of God would have recalled her to his mind, for was not that—"the gift of God"—her name?
Notwithstanding his youth, Waldo was ripe in learning, well skilled in Latin and Greek, and so gifted beyond measure in poetry and music that people said he had heard the singing of Angels and had brought the echo of it to the earth. His hymns and sacred songs were known and loved all through the German land, and far beyond. The children sang them in the processions on the high feast days, the peasants sang them at their work in house or field, travellers sang them as they journeyed over the long heaths and through the mountain-forests, fishers and raftsmen sang them on the rivers. He composed the Song of the Sickle which cuts at a stroke the corn in its ripeness and the wild flower in its bloom, and the Song of the Mill-wheel, with its long creak and quick clap, and the melodious rush of water from the buckets of the wheel, and many another which it would take long to tell of; but that which to himself was sweetest and dearest was Golden Apples and Roses Red, the song in which he told the legend of St. Dorothea his patroness.
Now when Waldo was in the six-and-thirtieth year of his age he was smitten with leprosy; and when it was found that neither the relics of the saints, nor the prayers of holy men, nor the skill of the physician availed to cure him, but that it was God's will he should endure to the end, the Prior entreated him to surrender himself to that blessed will, and to go forth courageously to the new life of isolation which awaited him. For in those days it was not lawful that a leper should abide in the companionship of men, and he was set apart lest his malady should bring others to a misery like his own.
Deep was the grief of the brethren of Three Fountains when they were summoned to attend the sacred office of demission which was to shut out Waldo for ever from intercourse with his fellows. And well might any good heart sorrow, for this was the order of that office.
The altar was draped in black, and Mass for the Dead was sung; and all the things that Waldo would need in the house of his exile, from the flint and iron which gave fire to the harp which should give solace, were solemnly blessed and delivered to him. Next he was warned not to approach the dwellings of men, or to wash in running streams, or to handle the ropes of draw-wells, or to drink from the cups of wayside springs. He was forbidden the highways, and when he went abroad a clapper must give token of his coming and going. Nothing that might be used by others should he touch except with covered hands.
When after these warnings he had been exhorted to patience and trust in God's mercy and love, the brethren formed a procession, with the cross going before, and led him away to his hermitage among the wooded hills. On a little wood-lawn, beyond a brook crossed by stepping-stones, a hut of boughs had been prepared for him, and the Prior bade him mark the grey boulder on the further side of the brook, for there he would find left for him, week by week, such provisions as he needed.
Last rite of all, the Prior entering the hut strewed over his bed of bracken a handful of mould from the churchyard saying, "Sis mortuus mundo—Dead be thou to the world, but living anew to God," and turfs from the churchyard were laid on the roof of the hut. Thus in his grey gown and hood was Waldo committed alive to his grave, and the brethren, chanting a requiem, returned to the Priory.
The tidings of Waldo's grievous lot travelled far and wide through the German land, and thenceforth when his songs were sung many a true man's heart was heavy and many a good woman's eyes were filled with tears as they bethought them of the poor singer in his hut among the hills. Kindly souls brought alms and provisions and laid them on his boulder by the brook, and oftentimes as they came and went they sang some hymn or song he had composed, for they said, "So best can we let him know that we remember him and love him." Indeed, to his gentle heart the sound of their human voices in that solitude was as the warm clasp of a beloved hand.
When Waldo had lived there alone among the hills for the space of two years and more, and his malady had grown exceeding hard to bear, he was seized with a woeful longing—such a longing as comes upon a little child for its mother when it has been left all alone in the house, and has gone seeking her in all the chambers, and finds she is not there. And as on a day he went slowly down to the boulder by the stream in the failing light, thinking of her who had cherished his childhood—how he had clung to her gown, how with his little hand in hers he had run by her side, how she had taken him on her lap and made his hurts all well with kisses, his heart failed him, and crying aloud "Mother, O mother!" he knelt by the boulder, and laid his head on his arms, weeping.
Then from among the trees on the further side of the brook came a maiden running, but she paused at the stepping-stones when she saw Waldo, and said, "Was it thy voice I heard calling 'Mother'?"
The monk did not answer or move.
"Art thou Brother Waldo?" she asked.
Raising his head, he looked at her and replied, "I am Brother Waldo."
"Poor brother, I pity thee," said the maiden; "there is no man or maid but pities thee. If thou wilt tell me of thy mother, I will find her, even were I to travel far, and bid her come to thee. Well I wot she will come to thee if she may."
For all his manhood and learning and holiness, Waldo could not still the crying of the little child within him, and he told the maiden of his mother, and blessed her, and asked her name. When she answered that it was Dorothy, "Truly," said he, "it is a fair name and gracious, and in thy coming thou hast been a gift of God to me."
Thereupon the maiden left him, and Waldo returned to his hut, comforted and full of hope.
After a month had gone Dorothy returned. Crossing the stepping-stones in the clear light of the early morning, she found Waldo meditating by the door of his hut.
"I have done thy bidding, brother," she said in a gentle voice, "but alas! thy mother cannot come to thee. Grieve not too much at this, for she is with God. She must have died about the time thou didst call for her; and well may I believe that it was she who sent me to thee in her stead."
"The will of God be done," said Waldo, and he bowed his head, and spoke no more for a long while; but the maiden stood patiently awaiting till he had mastered his grief.
At length he raised his head and saw her. "Art thou not gone?" he asked. "I thought thou hadst gone. Thou art good and gentle, and I thank thee. Go now, for here thou mayst not stay."
"Nay, brother," replied Dorothy, "thou hast no mother to come to thee now, no companion or friend to minister to thee. This is my place. Do not fear that I shall annoy or weary thee. I shall but serve and obey thee, coming and going at thy bidding. Truly thou art too weak and afflicted to be left any more alone."
"It may not be, dear child. Thy father and mother or others of thy kinsfolk need thee at home."
"All these have been long dead," said Dorothy, "and I am alone. Here in the wood I will find me a hollow tree, and thou shalt but call to have me by thee, and but lift a finger to see me no more."
"Why wouldst thou do this for me?" asked Waldo, wondering at her persistency.
"Ah, brother, I know thy suffering and I love thy songs."
"And dost thou not shudder at this horror that is upon me, and dread lest the like befall thee too?"