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The fourth night I seemed to fall asleep, and that night woke indeed. I opened my eyes and knew, although all was dark around me, that I lay in the house of death, and that every moment since there I fell asleep I had been dreaming, and now first was awake. “At last!” I said to my heart, and it leaped for joy. I turned my eyes; Lona stood by my couch, waiting for me! I had never lost her!—only for a little time lost the sight of her! Truly I needed not have lamented her so sorely!
It was dark, as I say, but I saw her: she was not dark! Her eyes shone with the radiance of the Mother’s, and the same light issued from her face—nor from her face only, for her death-dress, filled with the light of her body now tenfold awake in the power of its resurrection, was white as snow and glistering. She fell asleep a girl; she awoke a woman, ripe with the loveliness of the life essential. I folded her in my arms, and knew that I lived indeed.
“I woke first!” she said, with a wondering smile.
“You did, my love, and woke me!”
“I only looked at you and waited,” she answered.
The candle came floating toward us through the dark, and in a few moments Adam and Eve and Mara were with us. They greeted us with a quiet good-morning and a smile: they were used to such wakings!
“I hope you have had a pleasant darkness!” said the Mother.
“Not very,” I answered, “but the waking from it is heavenly.”
“It is but begun,” she rejoined; “you are hardly yet awake!”
“He is at least clothed-upon with Death, which is the radiant garment of Life,” said Adam.
He embraced Lona his child, put an arm around me, looked a moment or two inquiringly at the princess, and patted the head of the leopardess.
“I think we shall meet you two again before long,” he said, looking first at Lona, then at me.
“Have we to die again?” I asked.
“No,” he answered, with a smile like the Mother’s; “you have died into life, and will die no more; you have only to keep dead. Once dying as we die here, all the dying is over. Now you have only to live, and that you must, with all your blessed might. The more you live, the stronger you become to live.”
“But shall I not grow weary with living so strong?” I said. “What if I cease to live with all my might?”
“It needs but the will, and the strength is there!” said the Mother. “Pure life has no weakness to grow weary withal. The Life keeps generating ours.—Those who will not die, die many times, die constantly, keep dying deeper, never have done dying; here all is upwardness and love and gladness.”
She ceased with a smile and a look that seemed to say, “We are mother and son; we understand each other! Between us no farewell is possible.”
Mara kissed me on the forehead, and said, gayly, “I told you, brother, all would be well!—When next you would comfort, say, ‘What will be well, is even now well.’ ”
She gave a little sigh, and I thought it meant, “But they will not believe you!”
“—You know me now!” she ended, with a smile like her mother’s.
“I know you!” I answered: “you are the voice that cried in the wilderness before ever the Baptist came! you are the shepherd whose wolves hunt the wandering sheep home ere the shadow rise and the night grow dark!”
“My work will one day be over,” she said, “and then I shall be glad with the gladness of the great shepherd who sent me.”
“All the night long the morning is at hand,” said Adam.
“What is that flapping of wings I hear?” I asked.
“The Shadow is hovering,” replied Adam: “there is one here whom he counts his own! But ours once, never more can she be his!”
I turned to look on the faces of my father and mother, and kiss them ere we went: their couches were empty save of the Little Ones who had with love’s boldness appropriated their hospitality! For an instant that awful dream of desolation overshadowed me, and I turned aside.
“What is it, my heart?” said Lona.
“Their empty places frightened me,” I answered.
“They are up and away long ago,” said Adam. “They kissed you ere they went, and whispered, ‘Come soon.’ ”
“And I neither to feel nor hear them!” I murmured.
“How could you—far away in your dreary old house! You thought the dreadful place had you once more! Now go and find them.—Your parents, my child,” he added, turning to Lona, “must come and find you!”
The hour of our departure was at hand. Lona went to the couch of the mother who had slain her, and kissed her tenderly—then laid herself in her father’s arms.
“That kiss will draw her homeward, my Lona!” said Adam.
“Who were her parents?” asked Lona.
“My father,” answered Adam, “is her father also.”
She turned and laid her hand in mine.
I kneeled and humbly thanked the three for helping me to die. Lona knelt beside me, and they all breathed upon us.
“Hark! I hear the sun,” said Adam.
I listened: he was coming with the rush as of a thousand times ten thousand far-off wings, with the roar of a molten and flaming world millions upon millions of miles away. His approach was a crescendo chord of a hundred harmonies.
The three looked at each other and smiled, and that smile went floating heavenward a three-petaled flower, the family’s morning thanksgiving. From their mouths and their faces it spread over their bodies and shone through their garments. Ere I could say, “Lo, they change!” Adam and Eve stood before me the angels of the resurrection, and Mara was the Magdalene with them at the sepulchre. The countenance of Adam was like lightning, and Eve held a napkin that flung flakes of splendour about the place.
A wind began to moan in pulsing gusts.
“You hear his wings now!” said Adam; and I knew he did not mean the wings of the morning.
“It is the great Shadow stirring to depart,” he went on. “Wretched creature, he has himself within him, and cannot rest!”
“But is there not in him something deeper yet?” I asked.
“Without a substance,” he answered, “a shadow cannot be—yea, or without a light behind the substance!”
He listened for a moment, then called out, with a glad smile, “Hark to the golden cock! Silent and motionless for millions of years has he stood on the clock of the universe; now at last he is flapping his wings! now will he begin to crow! and at intervals will men hear him until the dawn of the day eternal.”
I listened. Far away—as in the heart of an æonian silence, I heard the clear jubilant outcry of the golden throat. It hurled defiance at death and the dark; sang infinite hope, and coming calm. It was the “expectation of the creature” finding at last a voice; the cry of a chaos that would be a kingdom!
Then I heard a great flapping.
“The black bat is flown!” said Mara.
“Amen, golden cock, bird of God!” cried Adam, and the words rang through the house of silence, and went up into the airy regions.
At his Amen—like doves arising on wings of silver from among the potsherds, up sprang the Little Ones to their knees on their beds, calling aloud, “Crow! crow again, golden cock!”—as if they had both seen and heard him in their dreams.
Then each turned and looked at the sleeping bedfellow, gazed a moment with loving eyes, kissed the silent companion of the night, and sprang from the couch. The Little Ones who had lain down beside my father and mother gazed blank and sad for a moment at their empty places, then slid slowly to the floor. There they fell each into the other’s arms, as if then first, each by the other’s eyes, assured they were alive and awake. Suddenly spying Lona, they came running, radiant with bliss, to embrace her. Odu, catching sight of the leopardess on the feet of the princess, bounded to her next, and throwing an arm over the great sleeping head, fondled and kissed it.
“Wake up, wake up, darling!” he cried; “it is time to wake!”
The leopardess did not move.
“She has slept herself cold!” he said to Mara, with an upcast look of appealing consternation.
“She is waiting for the princess to wake, my child,” said Mara.
Odu looked at the princess, and saw beside her, still asleep, two of his companions. He flew at them.
“Wake up! wake up!” he cried, and pushed and pulled, now this one, now that.
But soon he began to look troubled, and turned to me with misty eyes.
“They will not wake!” he said. “And why are they so cold?”
“They too are waiting for the princess,” I answered.
He stretched across, and laid his hand on her face.
“She is cold too! What is it?” he cried—and looked round in wondering dismay.
Adam went to him.
“Her wake is not ripe yet,” he said: “she is busy forgetting. When she has forgotten enough to remember enough, then she will soon be ripe, and wake.”
“Yes—not too much at once though.”
“But the golden cock has crown!” argued the child, and fell again upon his companions.
“Peter! Peter! Crispy!” he cried. “Wake up, Peter! wake up, Crispy! We are all awake but you two! The gold cock has crown so loud! The Sun is awake and coming! Oh, why won’t you wake?”
But Peter would not wake, neither would Crispy, and Odu wept outright at last.
“Let them sleep, darling!” said Adam. “You would not like the princess to wake and find nobody? They are quite happy. So is the leopardess.”
He was comforted, and wiped his eyes as if he had been all his life used to weeping and wiping, though now first he had tears wherewith to weep—soon to be wiped altogether away.
We followed Eve to the cottage. There she offered us neither bread nor wine, but stood radiantly desiring our departure. So, with never a word of farewell, we went out. The horse and the elephants were at the door, waiting for us. We were too happy to mount them, and they followed us.