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"Friend," he said, “before you were born into the pleasant earth I had come here. I have gone all the weary round. Listen to one who knows all is harder, harder, as you go on. You are stirred to go on by the restlessness in your heart, and each new place you come to the spirit of that place enters into you. You are better here than you will be further on. You were better where you were at nrst, or even in the mines than here. Come no further. Stay-unless but here his voice gave way. He looked at me with anxiety in his eyes, and said no more.
Then why,' I cried, do you go on? Why do you not stay?"
He shook his head, and his eyes grew more and more soft. "I am going, he said, and his voice shook again. 'I am going to try-the most awful and the most dangerous journeyHis voice died away altogether, and he only looked at me to say the rest.
A journey? Where?"
I can tell no man what his eyes said. I understood, I cannot tell how; and with trembling all my limbs seemed to drop out of joint and my face grow moist with terror. I could not speak any more than he, but with my lips shaped, How? The awful thought made a tremor in the very air around. shook his head slowly as he looked at me-his eyes, all circled with deep lines, looking out of caves of anguish and anxiety; and then I remembered how he had said, and I had scoffed at him, that the way he sought was one he did not know. I had dropped his hands in my fear; and yet to leave him seemed dragging the heart out of my breast, for none but he had spoken to me like a brother had taken my hand and thank ed me. I looked out across the plain, and the roads seemed tranquil and still. There was a coolness in the air. It looked like evening, as if somewhere in those far distances there might be a place where a weary soul might rest. Then I looked behind me, and thought what I had suffered, and remembered the lazar-house and the voices that cried and the hands that beat against the door; and also the horrible quiet of the room in which I lived, and the eyes which looked in at me and turned my gaze upon myself. Then I rushed after
him, for he had turned to go on upon his way; and caught at his clothes, crying-"Behold me, behold me! I will go too!"
He reached me his hand and went on without a word; and I with terror crept after him, treading in his step, following like his shadow. What it was to walk with another, and follow, and be at one, is more than I can tell; but likewise my heart failed me for fear, for dread of what we might encounter, and of hearing that name, or entering that presence, which was more terrible than all torture. I wondered how it could be that one should willingly face that which racked the soul, and how he had learned that it was possible, and where he had heard of the way. And as we went on I said no word-for he began to seem to me a being of another kind, a ħgure full of awe; and I followed as one might follow a ghost. Where would he go? Were we not fixed here forever, where our lot had been cast? and there were still many other great cities where there might be much to see, and something to distract the mind, and where it might be more possible to live than it had proved in the other places. There might be no tyrants there, nor cruelty, nor horrible noises, nor dreadful silence. Toward the right hand, across the plain, there seemed to rise out of the gray distance a cluster of towers and roofs like another habitable place—and who could tell that something better might not be there? Surely everything could not turn to torture and misery. I dragged on behind him, with all these thoughts hurrying through my mind. He was going-I dare to say it now, though I did not dare then-to seek out a way to God; to try, if it was possible, to find the road that led back-that road which had been open once to all. But for me, I trembled at the thought of that road. I feared the name, which was as the plunging of a sword into my inmost parts. All things could be borne but that. I dared not even think upon that name. To feel my hand in another man's hand was much, but to be led into that awful presence, by awful ways, which none knew-how could I bear it? My spirits failed me, and my strength. My hand became loose in his hand he grasped me still, but my hold failed, and
ever with slower and slower steps I followed, while he seemed to acquire strength with every winding of the way. At length he said to me, looking back upon me, I cannot stop: but your heart fails you. Shall I loose my hand and let you go?''
"I am afraid; I am afraid !'' I cried. "And I too am afraid; but it is better to suffer more and to escape than to suffer less and to remain.'
"Has it ever been known that one escaped? No one has ever escaped. This is our place," I said, there is no
I cried out with a great cry of misery and scorn. There is no love!" I said. He stood still for a moment and turned and looked at me. His eyes seemed to melt my soul. A great cloud passed over them, as in the pleasant earth a cloud will sweep across the moon; and then the light came out and looked at me again. For neither did he know. Where he was going all might end in despair and double and double pain. But if it were possible that at the end there should be found that for which he longed, upon which his heart was set! He said with a faltering voice"Among all whom I have questioned and seen there was but one who found But if one has found it, so If you will not come, yet let
the way. may I.
They will tear you limb from limb -they will burn you in the endless fires," I said. But what is it to be torn limb from limb, or burned with fire? There came upon his face a smile, and in my heart even I laughed to scorn what I had said.
"If I were dragged every nerve apart, and every thought turned into a fiery dart-and that is so, he said: "yet will I go, if but, perhaps, I may see Love at the end.'
"There is no love!" I cried again, with a sharp and bitter cry; and the echo seemed to come back and back from every side, No love! no love! till the man who was my friend faltered and stumbled like a drunken man; but afterward he recovered strength and resumed his way.
And thus once more we went on. On the right hand was that city, growing ever clearer, with noble towers rising up to the sky, and battlements and lofty roofs, and behind a yellow clearness, as of a golden sunset. My heart drew me there; it sprang up in my breast and sang in my ears, Come, and Come. Myself invited me to this new place as to a home. The others were wretched, but this will be happy delights and pleasures will be there. And before us the way grew dark with storms, and there grew visible among the mists a black line of mountains, perpendicular cliffs, and awful precipices, which seemed to bar the way. I turned from that line of gloomy heights, and gazed along the path to where the towers stood up against the sky. And presently my hand dropped by my side, that had been held in my companion's hand; and I saw him no more.
I went on to the city of the evening light. Ever and ever, as I proceeded on my way, the sense of haste and restless impatience grew upon me, so that I felt myself incapable of remaining long in a place, and my desire grew stronger to hasten on and on; but when I entered the gates of the city this longing vanished from my mind. There seemed some great festival or public holiday going on there. The streets were full of pleasure-parties, and in every open place (of which there were many) were bands of dancers, and music playing; and the houses about were hung with tapestries and embroideries and garlands of flowers. A load seemed to be taken from my spirit when I saw all this--for a whole population does not rejoice in such a way without some cause. to think that, after all, I had found a place in which I might live and forget the misery and pain which I had known, and all that was behind me, was delightful to my soul. It seemed to me that all the dancers were beautiful and young, their steps went gayly to the music, their faces were bright with
smiles. Here and there was a master of the feast, who arranged the dances and guided the musicians, yet seemed to have a look and smile for new-comers too. One of these came forward to meet me, and received me with a welcome, and showed me a vacant place at
a table, on which were beautiful fruits piled up in baskets, and all the provisions for a meal. You were expected, you perceive, he said. A delightful sense of well-being came into my mind. I sat down in the sweetness of ease after fatigue, of refreshment after weariness, of pleasant sounds and sights after the arid way. I said to myself that my past experiences had been a mistake, that this was where I ought to have come from the first, that life here would be happy, and that all intruding thoughts must soon vanish and die away. After I had rested, I strolled about, and entered fully into the pleasures of the place. Wherever I went, through all the city, there was nothing but brightness and pleasure, music playing, and flags waving, and flowers and dancers and everything that was most gay. I asked several people whom I met what was the cause of the rejoicing; but either they were too much occupied with their own pleasures, or my question was lost in the hum of merriment, the sound of the instruments and of the dancers' feet. When I had seen as much as I desired of the pleasure out of doors, I was taken by some to see the interiors of houses, which were all decorated for this festival, whatever it was-lighted up with curious varieties of lighting, in tints of different colors. The doors and windows were all open, and whosoever would could come in from the dance or from the laden tables, and sit down where they pleased and rest, always with a pleasant view out upon the streets, so that they should lose nothing of the spectacle. And the dresses, both of women and men, were beautiful in form and color, made in the finest fabrics, and affording delightful combinations to the eye. The pleasure which I took in all I saw and heard was enhanced by the surprise of it, and by the aspect of the places from which I had come, where there was no regard to beauty nor anything lovely or bright. Before my arrival here I had come in my thoughts to the conclusion that life had no brightness in these regions, and that whatever occupation or study there might be, pleasure had ended and was over, and everything that had been sweet in the former life. I changed that opinion with a sense of relief, which
was more warm even than the pleasure of the present moment; for having made one such mistake, how could I tell that there were not more discoveries awaiting me, that life might not prove more endurable, might not rise to something grander and more powerful? The old prejudices, the old foregone conclusion of earth that this was a world of punishment, had warped my vision and my thoughts. With so many added faculties of being, incapable of fatigue as we were, incapable of death, recovering from every wound or accident as I had myself done, and with no foolish restraint as to what we should or should not do, why might not we rise in this land to strength unexampled, to the highest powers? 1 rejoiced that I had dropped my companion's hand, that I had not followed him in his mad quest. Some time, I said to myself, I would make a pilgrimage to the foot of those gloomy mountains, and bring him back, all racked and tortured as he was, and show him the pleasant place which he had missed.
In the mean time the music and the dance went on. But it began to surprise me a little that there was no pause, that the festival continued without intermission. I went up to one of those who seemed the masters of ceremony, directing what was going on. He was an old man, with a flowing robe of brocade, and a chain and badge which denoted his office. He stood with a smile upon his lips, beating time with his hand to the music, watching the figure of the dance.
"So long as it pleases you,'' said the old courtier.
How he smiled! His smile did not please me. He saw this, and distracted my attention. Look at this dance,' he said; how beautiful are those round young limbs! Look how the dress conceals yet shows the form and beautiful movements! It was invented in your honor. All that is lovely is for you. Choose where you will, all is yours. We live only for this: all is for you. While he spoke, the dancers came nearer and nearer till they circled us round, and danced and made their pretty obeisances, and sang: "All is yours; all is for you :" then breaking their lines floated away in other circles and processions and endless groups, singing and laughing till it seemed to ring from every side, "Everything is yours; all is for you.
I accepted this flattery I know not why for I soon became aware that I was no more than others, and that the same words were said to every newcomer. Yet my heart was elated, and I threw myself into all that was set before
But there was always in my mind an expectation that presently the music and the dancing would cease, and the tables be withdrawn, and a pause come. At one of the feasts I was placed by the side of a lady very fair and richly dressed, but with a look of great weariness in her eyes. She turned her beautiful face to me, not with any show of pleasure, and there was something like compassion in her look. She said, You are very tired," as she made room for me by her side.
Yes," I said, though with surprise, for I had not yet acknowledged that even to myself. There is so much to enjoy. We have need of a little rest." Of rest," said she, shaking her head, this is not the place for rest." Yet pleasure requires it," I said, as much asI was about to say pain; but why should one speak of pain in a place given up to pleasure? She smiled faintly and shook her head again. All her movements were languid and faint; her eyelids drooped over her eyes.
Yet, when I turned to her, she made an effort to smile. "I think you are also tired," I said.
At this she roused herself a little.
The lady turned her eyes to me with a look which I cannot forget, and life seemed once more to be roused within her. But not the life of pleasure: her eyes were full of loathing, and fatigue, and disgust, and despair. Are you so new to this place," she said, "and have not learned even yet what is the height of all misery and all weariness : what is worse than pain and trouble, more dreadful than the lawless streets and the burning mines, and the torture of the great hall and the misery of the lazar-house
"Oh, lady," I said, "have you been there ?"
She answered me with her eyes alone; there was no need of more. But pleasure is more terrible than all," she said; and I knew in my heart that what she said was true.
There is no record of time in that place. I could not count it by days or nights: but soon after this it happened to me that the dances and the music became no more than a dizzy maze of sound and sight, which made my brain whirl round and round; and I too loathed what was spread on the table, and the soft couches, and the garlands, and the fluttering flags and ornaments. To sit forever at a feast, to see forever the merry-makers turn round and round, to hear in your ears forever the whirl of the music, the laughter, the cries of pleasure! There were some who went on and on, and never seemed to tire ; but to me the endless round came at last to be a torture from which I could not escape. not escape. Finally, I could distinguish nothing-neither what I heard nor what I saw and only a consciousness of something intolerable buzzed and echoed in my brain. I longed for the quiet of the place I had left; I longed for the noise in the streets, and the hubbub and tumult of my first experiences.
Anything, anything rather than this! it was to find myself once more in the I said to myself; and still the dancers great vacant plain which surrounded turned, the music sounded, the bystand- that accursed home of pleasure-a great ers smiled, and everything went on and and desolate waste upon which I could on. My eyes grew weary with seeing, see no track, which my heart fainted to and my ears with hearing. To watch look at, which no longer roused any the new-comers rush in, all pleased and hope in me, as if it might lead to another eager, to see the eyes of the others glaze beginning, or any place in which yet at with weariness, wrought upon my the last it might be possible to live. strained nerves. I could not think, I As I lay in that horrible giddiness and could not rest, I could not endure. faintness, I loathed life and this continuMusic forever and ever-a whirl, a rush ance which brought me through one of music, always going on and on; and misery after another, and forbade me to ever that maze of movement, till the die. Oh that death would come-death eyes were feverish and the mouth which is silent and still, which makes no parched; ever that mist of faces, now movement and hears no sound! that I one gleaming out of the chaos, now might end and be no more! Oh that I another, some like the faces of angels, could go back even to the stillness of some miserable, weary, strained with that chamber which I had not been able smiling, with the monotony, and the end to endure! Oh that I could returnless, aimless, never-changing round. I return to what? to other miseries and heard myself calling to them to be still other pain, which looked less because -to be still! to pause a moment. I they were past. But I knew now that felt myself stumble and turn round in return was impossible until I had circled the giddiness and horror of that move- all the dreadful round; and already I ment without repose. And finally, I felt again the burning of that desire that fell under the feet of the crowd, and felt pricked and drove me on-not back, for the whirl go over and over me, and beat that was impossible. Little by little I upon my brain, until I was pushed and had learned to understand, each step thrust out of the way lest I should stop printed upon my brain as with red-hot the measure. There I lay, sick, satiate, irons: not back, but on, and on. for I know not how long; loathing greater anguish, yes; but on to fuller everything around me, ready to give all despair, to experiences more terrible : I had (but what had I to give?) for one but on, and on, and on. I arose again, moment of silence. But always the for this was my fate. I could not pause music went on, and the dancers danced, even for all the teachings of despair. and the people feasted, and the songs and the voices echoed up to the skies.
How at last I stumbled forth I cannot tell. Desperation must have moved me, and that impatience which, after every hope and disappointment, comes back and back, the one sensation that never fails. I dragged myself at last by intervals, like a sick dog, outside the revels, still hearing them, which was torture to me, even when at last I got beyond the crowd. It was something to lie still upon the ground, though without power to move, and sick beyond all thought, loathing myself and all that I had been and seen. For I had not even the sense that I had been wronged to keep me up, but only a nausea and horror of movevent, a giddiness and whirl of every sense. I lay like a log upon the ground.
When I recovered my faculties a little,
The waste stretched far as eyes could see. It was wild and terrible, with neither vegetation nor sign of life. Here and there were heaps of ruin, which had been villages and cities; but nothing was in them save reptiles and crawling poisonous life, and traps for the unwary wanderer. How often I stumbled and fell among these ashes and dust-heaps of and dust-heaps of the past-through what dread moments I lay, with cold and slimy things leaving their trace upon my flesh-the horrors which seized me, so that I beat my head against a stone, -why should I tell? These were naught; they touched not the soul. They were but accidents of the way.
At length, when body and soul were low and worn out with misery and weariness, I came to another place, where all was so different from the last, that the sight gave me a momentary solace. It