dezembro 06, 2012

Northern Lights and other psychic stories by E. D'Espérance 9

Northern Lights and other psychic stories
by E. D'Espérance.

Author of Shadowland

London
George Redway
1899



Together

He lay on the straw mattress of his bed, with dulled eyes turned longingly to the tiny window. through which he watched the sinking sun gilding the stems of the pine trees, turning them to red gold, and sending shafts of glorious light between the trunks on to the soft moss that covered the ground beneath them.

Away in the distance, the same radiance lay over the fields, where the rye stood in sheaves like an army; over the meadowlands, over the purple moors where the wild birds had built their nests, over the rugged hills in the distance, clothing their nakedness in the royal garments of purple, and crimson, and gold.

The buzz of myriad insects was in the air, and occasionally the chirp of a bird, or the chatter of a flighty squirrel, reached his ear, as he lay drinking in the beauty of the evening hour.

Then, from the branches of a birch tree that swept the roof of the hut, came a rich burst of melody, as a nightingale sang its hymn of love and longing. The sound caught the ear of the dying man, and he raised himself painfully from his hard pillow to listen. Low and clear rose the rich notes on the balmy air, quivering in sweet, soft cadence, then burst triumphantly into a very ecstasy of jubilant song, scattering gems of sweet sounds over the sun-bathed earth, which sent back its thanks in a thousand soft perfumes, that rose like incense to the singer. Then the music grew soft and low, the notes fuller and longer, trembling with sweet, sad melancholy, that rose and fell like waves of the sea, and floated away, away over the glowing fields and waving meadows, and the thoughts of the man followed where they led him. Away, away over the hills, into the golden haze, to the Land of Long-ago; where the trees grew taller, the hills higher, where the skies were brighter, the sunshine more golden, the days longer, the nights darker and more fearsome - a land more full of mystery and wonder than any other.

There he saw two children at play, the one strong and sturdy, bearing himself with a valiant air, proud of his strength and courage to protect the other, who walked by his side and clung to his hand. Now chasing the butterflies, now wandering in the scented woods, gathering the ripe luscious berries; or, in the winter, flying a-down the hillside on a rough-hewn sledge, he steering the course of the flying steed, and she cofiding in this strength and skill.

Still together, hand in hand, going to and fro to school, learning from the same torn and well-thumbed primer, painfully helping each other to spell the long words, whose meanings were so hard to understand. Singing the same songs, playing the same merry games, listening to the rush of waters, when the melting snows filled the streams to overflowing, and went rushing, dancing, and swirling over their feet when they would cross to the other side on the stepping-stones.

"Wait for me!" she called, as he with bared feet stepped into the chilly water.

"I will go first, and try if it is safe - be patient till I come to fetch you."

So he went first, setting his feet cautiously on the slippery stones, trying each one. Then he came back to fetch her - she half-laughing, half-weeping, in her fear to be swept away, but he, brave and sturdy, lifting her in his strong young arms and bearing he safely over, setting her down on the other side.

He followed them on and on - to the sunlit woods, where the white stems of the birches showed like fair ladies, in delicate fluttering draperies of tender green, amid the stately pine that rose, straight and sombre, to the blue heavens. He heard the murmur of the evening breeze among their branches, and the pit-a-patter, pit-a-patter of the birch leaves, as they whispered to each other of a secret they knew.

Then a stronger breeze in a mischievous frolic lifted the sweeping draperies that hid a moss-grown stone, and revealed a youth and maiden, whose wandering steps had brought them to that enchanted wood, where only they and love exist.

Then, still hand in hand, they arose, and with happy hearts followed the dancing, gleaming light, that Hope held out before them. They pressed on joyfully, leaving the Land and Long-ago with its golden glory of sunshine, its rosy mists, that veiled it in sweet soft delicate beauty, and entered the Land of To-day, with its grey clouds and shadows, its toil, its privations, its suffering and pains.

The rising sun called them to labour, the setting sun to rest. Oft-times they were weary, with aching limbs. Oft-times there was not bread for all. Sickness came and times of trial - but still they bore them together - still and in hand.

Childhood had been left in the Land of Long-ago. The man and woman lived in the Land of To-day; but the light from the Land of Long-ago sometimes helped to brighten the clouds, and, together, they could bear the burden of toil and poverty, cheered by the gleam and the dancing, elusive lamps, that Hope, sweet Hope, still held out before their weary, halting feet.

Always together - always together; and now - the man's feet had brought him to the shores of the river that divides the Land of To-day, from the Land that Is-to-be. And he stood alone. And she-

His restless fingers plucked the coverlet, and rested at last on the bowed head of the weeping woman who knelt by his side, and twined themselves lovingly in the soft tangled hair.

The song of the bird had died away and was silent, the last rays of the setting sun were fading; but they shed a last glow over the poor couch of the dying man, and over the bowed head of the sobbing woman, half revealing, half hiding the squalor and the poverty that surrounded them. No luxuries, no comforts, not even the necessaries of life were brought to light by fading gleams; only hard, bitter poverty, ugliness, and utter bareness. Yet, over the bed, the light shone soft and radiant, and a strain of distant music rose on the air. Was it the last beams of the setting sun? Was it the refrain of the birds' song?

The restless fingers paused, and the dying eyes brightened. 'Twas the light from the shore of the Land that Is-to-be, and the man turned his face toward it longingly.

"Wait for me!" - "Wait for me!"

The wailing cry echoed through the sweet sounds of the music, and he hestitated. But the charmed melody drew him on, and the light shone about him, making plain the way.

"Wait for me!" Was it the voice of the child in the Land of Long-ago from the edge of the swollen stream? Or the voice of the woman in the Land of To-day? Whose hand dre him back from this other stream he fain would cross, to reach the light and msic that lay beyond.

"Wait for me!" The light grew brighter, the music more near.

"I will go first, and see if it is safe; then I will come and fetch you. Do not fear. Let me go. I will come back for you."

With a smile he turned his back on the Land of To-day, and went forward to the Land that Is-to-be; to the light and the sweet sounds of music. And she was left alone.

The sun sank, and rose, and sank again. The winter came, and covered the mourning earth with its soft white garments. King Frost held the rivers and streams in his iron grasp, and Nature slept. Then came the spring and awakened her, and she rose from her white bed, and dressed herself in garments of tender flower-decked green, to the music of rushing streamlets.

Then followed the summer in golden glory, bringing the promise of plenty in her train, hailed by the music of young birds, and the teaming life of river and field and forest.

Still she waited - patiently waited - till he should come. The day's toil wearing her, for she must toil alone. The night brought little rest, for the hut was lonely and dark, and she was afraid. But she waited, and listened for the sound of his step on the threshold.

He came not! Had he forgotten? Was he content in that land without her?

She smiled even as she asked, for she knew it was not so. He would not forget. He would come to fetch her; but she grew weary with waiting and watching, and longing for his coming.

She tended the grave where they had laid him, in the corner where the dead paupers lay - a resting-place as poor, as bare, as squalid, as their lives had been. But God's rain and sunshine fell on them, and the grass grew soft and green, and flourished above them as bravely as over the rich, where they lay under their marble monuments.

When the toil of the day was done, and sleep fled from her eyes, she would sith there and wait, if perchance he should come there to fetch her.

Eve after eve, the sinking sun left her there. Still he came not.

Then summer passed, and autumn followed in its gorgeously-tinted robes, and purple draperies of shimmering mist.

He had been gone a year. Her feet had grown weary, her eyes dim with watching, her heart faint with longing. And bowing her head on the soft turf, she cried, "Come! Oh come quickly! I cannot bear it longer."

Above her in the chestnut boughs there sounded a soft sweet twitter; then a prelude to the nightingale's song; then a burst of jubilant ecstatic melody, that swelled and throbbed on the air.

A shaft of light fell on the bowed head and spread till it covered her as in a mantle, and covered the grave where she lay. And out of the light he came and took her by the hand; and she rose with a smile of  joy ineffable, and followed him out of the darkness, leaving the pain, the sorrow, the toil, and the weariness of the Land of To-day, and hand in hand together they passed on into the glory and light of the Land that Is-to-be.

When the sun rose again, the wondering neighbours found only the worn, toil-wearied body of a woman, who had breathed out her life on the grave of her husband, who had lain down and died a year agone. With pitiful hands they dug a grave, and laid her also to rest beside him, and then went their way, leaving them alone together.




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