HE was not in the vastness. And the Soul, lying on a housetop on the Earth, and looking forth into the uttermost of space, realised the solitude and trembled.
Then came one whose voice spake within the heart, saying very gently, "Come thou away into that quiet place and rest awhile. There it may be that thou shalt speak with Him." And that soul arose, following after, as it were, the Angel of the Presence,--who bore white lilies, and about his feet played flames, and his eyes to look into were like mighty waters--and carne by many ways unto the Lord's own garden, and rested there.
And there was in that garden a place where five trees grew together, beneath which oftentimes had the Master sat and prayed and entered into glory. Thither went the soul, laden with sorrowful queries and needs, and being received into the silence, waited.
On the left flowed the river, and the great barges went past swiftly,
with sails full set. Beneath, the dead leaves stirred in the breeze, or rustled under the footsteps of a mouse. And on the branches above fell the flood of moonlight, dropping through and making spaces on the brickwork, all outlined by quivering leaves and moving stems.
The whispers of river and trees and lone night-creatures were the only sounds that could be heard.
. . . . . .
"Those with whom I was wont to come, O Master, are absent now. In far distant and separate lands think they upon this place. I would make memorial for them at Thy feet to-night!"
And the Lord said--"It is well. My own are ever Mine. I bear their burdens; I guide their footsteps; and at last I bring them to that haven where they would be. There are three here to-night, My child, not one. Be assured."
"Some whom we love, O Lord, are in fetters of suffering. With hearts cramped by fear they look
out upon their world. One longs for death because life is bitter: to others, life comes so hard that we almost ask for death for them. We pray Thee, give these ease, or that light that makes ease of no account."
And the Lord, smiling, listened--
"It cannot be, O Lord, that for the People we can do nothing! In the midst of terrible calamity, shrinking from the gaze of death, or striving against the blow that will rob them of the beloved: sleeping hard in the air of poisonous swamps, ill-fed, ignorant, and oppressed, it cannot be that we, so much more fortunate, can share nothing with them. It cannot be that Thou wilt tell us it is vain to struggle.
"And what would you have?"
"Only the right to share their danger, if nothing can be done. Only to hold their hands and hearten them--to perform some menial service for them--not to feel utterly cut off from fellowship, while they tread the winepress of despair!"
"Is this all?"
"Nay, if it were granted to us to serve truly--that would be blessedness. If we might indeed bring help, then the cup were full. But even without this we pray to be allowed the freedom where men do what they can, without thought o self. Command us not forever to think of the necessities of life. Grant us to give, and leave with Thee, and remember not whether life or death we shall take away."
And there was long silence. And at last the Voice, very gentle and reproachful--
"O foolish Children! Have ye yet to learn that this love that speaks in your hearts is not yours but Mine? Must ye struggle and plead with me for My own? Know ye not that difficulties and discouragements but point out the way in which I would guide you? Strive on and fear not! That way shall be found! Can My love be baffled? . . . Is yours more than its feeblest utterance? Remember
[paragraph continues] --'Thy right is only to action: thy right is never to the fruit thereof.' Maybe this struggle is itself your action. Yours not to ask how it shall end . . . . Your love is not separate from Mine. Know that these two are one . . . ."
And as the words died away, those souls rested for a moment in the sight of a Universe that was all Mother--of a love of which the love of human mothers for their children is but a feeble glimmer--of a life that whether hard or happy-seeming, was all alike the dealing of that Universe-Mother with Her babes.
. . . . . . . . . . .
And the Master put forth His hand in that place and blessed His worshippers.