A Little Pilgrim
Margaret O. (Wilson) Oliphant
Produced by Stan Goodman, Mary Meehan
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A LITTLE PILGRIM
By Margaret O. (Wilson) Oliphant
A LITTLE PILGRIM.
IN THE UNSEEN.
She had been talking of dying only the evening before, with a friend, and
had described her own sensations after a long illness when she had been
at the point of death. "I suppose," she said, "that I was as nearly gone
as any one ever was to come back again. There was no pain in it, only a
sense of sinking down, down--through the bed as if nothing could hold me
or give me support enough--but no pain." And then they had spoken of
another friend in the same circumstances, who also had come back from the
very verge, and who described her sensations as those of one floating
upon a summer sea without pain or suffering, in a lovely nook of the
Mediterranean, blue as the sky. These soft and soothing images of the
passage which all men dread had been talked over with low voices, yet
with smiles and a grateful sense that "the warm precincts of the cheerful
day" were once more familiar to both. And very cheerfully she went to
rest that night, talking of what was to be done on the morrow, and fell
asleep sweetly in her little room, with its shaded light and curtained
window, and little pictures on the dim walls. All was quiet in the house:
soft breathing of the sleepers, soft murmuring of the spring wind
outside, a wintry moon very clear and full in the skies, a little town
all hushed and quiet, everything lying defenceless, unconscious, in the
safe keeping of God.
How soon she woke no one can tell. She woke and lay quite still, half
roused, half hushed, in that soft languor that attends a happy waking.
She was happy always, in the peace of a heart that was humble and
faithful and pure, but yet had been used to wake to a consciousness of
little pains and troubles, such as even to her meekness were sometimes
hard to bear. But on this morning there were none of these. She lay in a
kind of hush of happiness and ease, not caring to make any further
movement, lingering over the sweet sensation of that waking. She had no
desire to move nor to break the spell of the silence and peace. It was
still very early, she supposed, and probably it might be hours yet before
any one came to call her. It might even be that she should sleep again.
She had no wish to move, she lay at such luxurious ease and calm. But by
and by, as she came to full possession of her waking senses, it appeared
to her that there was some change in the atmosphere, in the scene. There
began to steal into the air about her, the soft dawn as of a summer
morning, the lovely blueness of the first opening of daylight before the
sun. It could not be the light of the moon, which she had seen before she
went to bed; and all was so still, that it could not be the bustling,
wintry day which comes at that time of the year late, to find the world
awake before it. This was different; it was like the summer dawn, a soft
suffusion of light growing every moment. And by and by it occurred to
her that she was not in the little room where she had lain down. There
were no dim walls or roof, her little pictures were all gone, the
curtains at her window. The discovery gave her no uneasiness in that
delightful calm. She lay still to think of it all, to wonder, yet
undisturbed. It half amused her that these things should be changed, but
did not rouse her yet with any shock of alteration. The light grew fuller
and fuller round, growing into day, clearing her eyes from the sweet mist
of the first waking. Then she raised herself upon her arm. She was not in
her room, she was in no scene she knew. Indeed it was scarcely a scene at
all, nothing but light, so soft and lovely, that it soothed and caressed
her eyes. She thought all at once of a summer morning when she was a
child, when she had woke in the deep night which yet was day, early, so
early that the birds were scarcely astir, and had risen up with a
delicious sense of daring and of being all alone in the mystery of the
sunrise, in the unawakened world which lay at her feet to be explored, as
if she were Eve just entering upon Eden. It was curious how all those
childish sensations, long forgotten, came back to her as she found
herself so unexpectedly out of her sleep in the open air and light. In
the recollection of that lovely hour, with a smile at herself, so
different as she now knew herself to be, she was moved to rise and look a
little more closely about her, and see where she was.
When I call her a little Pilgrim, I do not mean that she was a child; on
the contrary, she was not even young. She was little by nature, with as
little flesh and blood as was consistent with mortal life; and she was
one of those who are always little for love. The tongue found diminutives
for her, the heart kept her in a perpetual youth. She was so modest and
so gentle, that she always came last, so long as there was any one whom
she could put before her. But this little body, and the soul which was
not little, and the heart which was big and great, had known all the
round of sorrows that fill a woman's life, without knowing any of its
warmer blessings. She had nursed the sick, she had entertained the weary,
she had consoled the dying. She had gone about the world, which had no
prize or recompense for her, with a smile. Her little presence had been
always bright. She was not clever; you might have said she had no mind at
all; but so wise and right and tender a heart, that it was as good as
genius. This is to let you know what this little Pilgrim had been.
She rose up, and it was strange how like she felt to the child she
remembered in that still summer morning so many years ago. Her little
body, which had been worn and racked with pain, felt as light and
unconscious of itself as then. She took her first step forward with the
same sense of pleasure, yet of awe, suppressed delight and daring and
wild adventure, yet perfect safety. But then the recollection of the
little room in which she had fallen asleep came quickly, strangely over
her, confusing her mind. "I must be dreaming, I suppose," she said to
herself, regretfully; for it was all so sweet that she wished it to be
true. Her movement called her attention to herself, and she found that
she was dressed, not in her night-dress, as she had lain down, but in a
dress she did not know. She paused for a moment to look at it, and
wonder. She had never seen it before; she did not make out how it was
made, or what stuff it was, but it fell so pleasantly about her, it was
so soft and light, that in her confused state she abandoned that subject
with only an additional sense of pleasure. And now the atmosphere became
more distinct to her. She saw that under her feet was a greenness as of
close velvet turf, both cool and warm, cool and soft to touch, but with
no damp in it, as might have been at that early hour, and with flowers
showing here and there. She stood looking round her, not able to identify
the landscape because she was still confused a little, and then walked
softly on, all the time afraid lest she should awake and lose the
sweetness of it all, and the sense of rest and happiness. She felt so
light, so airy, as if she could skim across the field like any child. It
was bliss enough to breathe and move, with every organ so free. After
more than fifty years of hard service in the world, to feel like this,
even in a dream! She smiled to herself at her own pleasure; and then once
more, yet more potently, there came back upon her the appearance of her
room in which she had fallen asleep. How had she got from there to here?
Had she been carried away in her sleep, or was it only a dream, and would
she by and by find herself between the four dim walls again? Then this
shadow of recollection faded away once more, and she moved forward,
walking in a soft rapture over the delicious turf. Presently she came to
a little mound, upon which she paused to look about her. Every moment she
saw a little farther: blue hills far away, extending in long, sweet
distance, an indefinite landscape, but fair and vast, so that there could
be seen no end to it, not even the line of the horizon,--save at one
side, where there seemed to be a great shadowy gateway, and something dim
beyond. She turned from the brightness to look at this, and when she had
looked for some time, she saw, what pleased her still more, though she
had been so happy before, people coming in. They were too far off for her
to see clearly, but many came each apart, one figure only at a time. To
watch them amused her in the delightful leisure of her mind. Who were
they? she wondered; but no doubt soon some of them would come this way,
and she would see. Then suddenly she seemed to hear, as if in answer to
her question, some one say, "Those who are coming in are the people
who have died on earth." "Died!" she said to herself aloud, with a
wondering sense of the inappropriateness of the word which almost came
the length of laughter. In this sweet air, with such a sense of life
about, to suggest such an idea was almost ludicrous. She was so occupied
with this, that she did not look round to see who the speaker might be.
She thought it over, amused, but with some new confusion of the mind.
Then she said, "Perhaps I have died too," with a laugh to herself at the
absurdity of the thought.
"Yes," said the other voice, echoing that gentle laugh of hers, "you have
She turned round, and saw another standing by her, a woman, younger and
fairer, and more stately than herself, but of so sweet a countenance that
our little Pilgrim felt no shyness, but recognized a friend at once. She
was more occupied looking at this new face, and feeling herself at once
so much happier (though she had been so happy before) in finding a
companion who would tell her what everything was, than in considering
what these words might mean. But just then once more the recollection of
the four walls, with their little pictures hanging, and the window with
its curtains drawn, seemed to come round her for a moment, so that her
whole soul was in a confusion. And as this vision slowly faded away
(though she could not tell which was the vision, the darkened room or
this lovely light), her attention came back to the words at which she
had laughed, and at which the other had laughed as she repeated them.
Died?--was it possible that this could be the meaning of it all? "Died?"
she said, looking with wonder in her companion's face, which smiled back
"But do you mean--You cannot mean--I have never been so well: I am so
strong: I have no trouble--anywhere: I am full of life."
The other nodded her beautiful head with a more beautiful smile, and the
little Pilgrim burst out in a great cry of joy, and said,--"Is this all?
Is it over?--Is it all over? Is it possible that this can be all?"
"Were you afraid of it?" the other said. There was a little agitation for
the moment in her heart. She was so glad, so relieved and thankful, that
it took away her breath. She could not get over the wonder of it.
"To think one should look forward to it so long, and wonder, and be even
unhappy trying to divine what it will be--and this all!"
"Ah, but the angel was very gentle with you," said the young woman; "you
were so tender and worn, that he only smiled and took you sleeping. There
are other ways. But it is always wonderful to think it is over, as you
The little Pilgrim could do nothing but talk of it, as one does after a
very great event. "Are you sure, quite sure, it is so?" she said. "It
would be dreadful to find it only a dream, to go to sleep again, and wake
up--there--" This thought troubled her for a moment. The vision of the
bedchamber came back; but this time she felt it was only a vision. "Were
you afraid too?" she said, in a low voice.
"I never thought of it at all," the beautiful stranger said; "I did not
think it would come to me. But I was very sorry for the others to whom it
came, and grudged that they should lose the beautiful earth, and life,
and all that was so sweet."
"My dear!" cried the Pilgrim, as if she had never died, "oh, but this is
far sweeter! And the heart is so light, and it is, happiness only to
breathe. Is it heaven here? It must be heaven."
"I do not know if it is heaven. We have so many things to learn. They
cannot tell you every thing at once," said the beautiful lady. "I have
seen some of the people I was sorry for, and when I told them, we
laughed--as you and I laughed just now--for pleasure."
"That makes me think" said the little Pilgrim; "if I have died, as you
say--which is so strange, and me so living--if I have died, they will
have found it out. The house will be all dark, and they will be breaking
their hearts. Oh, how could I forget them in my selfishness, and be
happy! I so light-hearted, while they--"
She sat down hastily, and covered her face with her hands and wept. The
other looked at her for a moment, then kissed her for comfort, and cried
too. The two happy creatures sat there weeping together, thinking of
those they had left behind, with an exquisite grief which was not
unhappiness, which was sweet with love and pity. "And oh," said the
little Pilgrim, "what can we do to tell them not to grieve? Cannot
you send? cannot you speak? cannot one go to tell them?"
The heavenly stranger shook her head.
"It is not well, they all say. Sometimes one has been permitted; but they
do not know you," she said, with a pitiful look in her sweet eyes. "My
mother told me that her heart was so sick for me, she was allowed to go;
and she went and stood by me, and spoke to me, and I did not know her.
She came back so sad and sorry, that they took her at once to our
Father; and there, you know, she found that it was all well. All is well
when you are there."
"Ah," said the little Pilgrim, "I have been thinking of other things. Of
how happy I was, and of _them_; but never of the Father,--just as
if I had not died."
The other smiled upon her with a wonderful smile.
"Do you think he will be offended--our Father--as if he were one of us?"
And then the little Pilgrim, in her sudden grief to have forgotten him,
became conscious of a new rapture unexplainable in words. She felt his
understanding to envelop her little spirit with a soft and clear
penetration, and that nothing she did or said could ever be misconceived
more. "Will you take me to him?" she said, trembling yet glad, clasping
her hands. And once again the other shook her head.
"They will take us both when it is time," she said: "we do not go at our
own will. But I have seen our Brother--"
"Oh, take me to him!" the little Pilgrim cried. "Let me see his face! I
have so many things to say to him. I want to ask him--Oh, take me to
where I can see his face!"
And then once again the heavenly lady smiled.
"I have seen him," she said. "He is always about--now here, now there. He
will come and see you, perhaps when you are not thinking. But when he
pleases. We do not think here of what we will--"
The little Pilgrim sat very still, wondering at all this. She had thought
when a soul left the earth that it went at once to God, and thought of
nothing more, except worship and singing of praises. But this was
different from her thoughts. She sat and pondered and wondered. She was
baffled at many points. She was not changed, as she expected, but so much
like herself; still--still perplexed, and feeling herself foolish; not
understanding: toiling after a something which she could not grasp. The
only difference was that it was no trouble to her now. She smiled at
herself and at her dullness, feeling sure that by and by she would
"And don't you wonder too?" she said to her companion, which was a speech
such as she used to make upon the earth, when people thought her little
remarks disjointed, and did not always see the connection of them. But
her friend of heaven knew what she meant.
"I do nothing but wonder," she said, "for it is all so natural, not what
"Is it long since you have been here?" the Pilgrim said.
"I came before you; but how long or how short I cannot tell, for that is
not how we count. We count only by what happens to us. And nothing yet
has happened to me, except that I have seen our Brother. My mother sees
him always. That means she has lived here a long time, and well--"
"Is it possible to live ill--in heaven?" The little Pilgrim's eyes grew
large, as if they were going to have tears in them, and a little shadow
seemed to come over her. But the other laughed softly, and restored all
"I have told you I do not know if it is heaven or not. No one does ill,
but some do little, and some do much, just as it used to be. Do you
remember in Dante there was a lazy spirit that stayed about the gates and
never got farther? But perhaps you never read that."
"I was not clever," said the little Pilgrim, wistfully; "no, I never read
it. I wish I had known more."
Upon which the beautiful lady kissed her again to give her courage, and
"It does not matter at all. It all comes to you, whether you have known
it or not."
"Then your mother came here long ago?" said the Pilgrim. "Ah, then I
shall see my mother too."
"Oh, very soon, as soon as she can come; but there are so many things to
do. Sometimes we can go and meet those who are coming; but it is not
always so. I remember that she had a message. She could not leave her
business, you may be sure, or she would have been here."
"Then you know my mother? Oh, and my dearest father too?"
"We all know each other," the lady said with a smile.
"And you? did you come to meet me--only out of kindness, though I do not
know you?" the little Pilgrim said.
"I am nothing but an idler," said the beautiful lady, "making
acquaintance. I am of little use as yet. I was very hard worked before I
came here, and they think it well that we should sit in the sun and take
a little rest, and find things out."
Then the little Pilgrim sat still and mused, and felt in her heart that
she had found many things out. What she had heard had been wonderful, and
it was more wonderful still to be sitting here all alone, save for this
lady, yet so happy and at ease. She wanted to sing, she was so happy;
but remembered that she was old; and had lost her voice; and then
remembered again that she was no longer old, and perhaps had found it
again. And then it occurred to her to remember how she had learned to
sing, and how beautiful her sister's voice was, and how heavenly to
hear her,--which made her remember that this dear sister would be
weeping, not singing, down where she had come from; and immediately the
tears stood in her eyes.
"Oh," she said, "I never thought we should cry when we came here. I
thought there were no tears in heaven."
"Did you think, then, that we were all turned into stone?" cried the
beautiful lady. "It says God shall wipe away all tears from our faces,
which is not like saying there are to be no tears."
Upon which the little Pilgrim, glad that it was permitted to be sorry,
though she was so happy, allowed herself to think upon the place she had
so lately left. And she seemed to see her little room again, with all the
pictures hanging as she had left them, and the house darkened, and the
dear faces she knew all sad and troubled, and to hear them saying over to
each other all the little careless words she had said as if they were out
of the Scriptures, and crying if any one but mentioned her name, and
putting on crape and black dresses, and lamenting as if that which had
happened was something very terrible. She cried at this, and yet felt
half inclined to laugh, but would not, because it would be disrespectful
to those she loved. One thing did not occur to her, and that was, that
they would be carrying her body, which she had left behind her, away to
the grave. She did not think of this, because she was not aware of the
loss, and felt far too much herself to think that there was another part
of her being buried in the ground. From this she was aroused by her
companion asking her a question.
"Have you left many there?" she said.
"No one," said the little Pilgrim, "to whom I was the first on earth; but
they loved me all the same; and if I could only, only let them know--"
"But I left one to whom I was the first on earth," said the other, with
tears in her beautiful eyes; "and oh, how glad I should be to be less
happy if he might be less sad!"
"And you cannot go? you cannot go to him and tell him? Oh, I wish," cried
the little Pilgrim; but then she paused, for the wish died all away in
her heart into a tender love for this poor, sorrowful man whom she did
not know. This gave her the sweetest pang she had ever felt, for she knew
that all was well, and yet was so sorry, and would have willingly given
up her happiness for his. All this the lady read in her eyes or her
heart, and loved her for it; and they took hands and were silent
together, thinking of those they had left, as we upon earth think of
those who have gone from us, but only with far more understanding and far
greater love. "And have you never been able to do anything for him?" our
Then the beautiful lady's face flushed all over with the most heavenly
warmth and light. Her smile ran over like the bursting out of the sun.
"Oh, I will tell you," she said. "There was a moment when he was very sad
and perplexed, not knowing what to think; there was something he could
not understand. Nor could I understand, nor did I know what it was, until
it was said to me, 'You may go and tell him.' And I went in the early
morning before he was awake, and kissed him, and said it in his ear. He
woke up in a moment, and understood, and everything was clear to him.
Afterward I heard him say, 'It is true that the night brings counsel. I
had been troubled and distressed all day long, but in the morning it was
quite clear to me.' And the other answered, 'Your brain was refreshed,
and that made your judgment clear.' But they never knew it was I! That
was a great delight. The dear souls, they are so foolish," she cried,
with the sweetest laughter, that ran into tears. "One cries because one
is so happy; it is just a silly old habit," she said.
"And you were not grieved--it did not hurt you--that he did not know--"
"Oh, not then, not then! I did not go to him for that. When you have been
here a little longer, you will see the difference. When you go for
yourself, out of impatience, because it still seems to you that you must
know best, and they don't know you, then it strikes to your heart; but
when you go to help them,--ah," she cried, "when he comes, how much I
shall have to tell him! 'You thought it was sleep, when it was I; when
you woke so fresh and clear, it was I that kissed you; you thought it
your duty to me to be sad afterward, and were angry with yourself because
you had wronged me of the first thoughts of your waking--when it was all
me, all through!'"
"I begin to understand," said the little Pilgrim. "But why should they
not see us, and why should not we tell them? It would seem so natural. If
they saw us, it would make them so happy and so sure."
Upon this the lady shook her head.
"The worst of it is not that they are not sure, it is the parting. If
this makes us sorry here, how can they escape the sorrow of it, even if
they saw us?--for we must be parted. We cannot go back to live with them,
or why should we have died? And then we must all live our lives, they in
their way, we in ours. We must not weigh them down, but only help them
when it is seen that there is need for it. All this we shall know better
by and by."
"You make it so clear, and your face is so bright," said our little
Pilgrim gratefully, "you must have known a great deal, and understood
even when you were in the world."
"I was as foolish as I could be," said the other, with her laugh that was
as sweet as music; "yet thought I knew, and they thought I knew. But all
that does not matter now."
"I think it matters, for look how much you have showed me. But tell me
one thing more: how was it said to you that you must go and tell him? Was
it some one who spoke? Was it--"
Her face grew so bright that all the past brightness was as a dull sky to
this. It gave out such a light of happiness, that the little Pilgrim was
"I was wandering about," she said, "to see this new place. My mother had
come back between two errands she had, and had come to see me and tell me
everything; and I was straying about, wondering what I was to do, when
suddenly I saw some one coming along, as it might be now--"
She paused and looked up, and the little Pilgrim looked up too, with her
heart beating, but there was no one. Then she gave a little sigh, and
turned and listened again.
"I had not been looking for him, or thinking. You know my mind is too
light; I am pleased with whatever is before me. And I was so curious, for
my mother had told me many things; when suddenly I caught sight of him
passing by. He was going on, and when I saw this a panic seized me, lest
he should pass and say nothing. I do not know what I did. I flung myself
upon his robe, and got hold of it,--or at least I think so. I was in such
an agony lest he should pass and never notice me. But that was my folly.
He pass! As if that could be!"
"And what did he say to you?" cried the little Pilgrim, her heart almost
aching, it beat so high with sympathy and expectation.
The lady looked at her for a little without saying anything.
"I cannot tell you," she said, "any more than I can tell if this is
heaven. It is a mystery. When you see him you will know. It will be all
you have ever hoped for, and more besides, for he understands everything.
He knows what is in our hearts about those we have left, and why he sent
for us before them. There is no need to tell him anything, he knows. He
will come when it is time; and after you have seen him you will know what
Then the beautiful lady turned her eyes toward the gate, and while the
little Pilgrim was still gazing, disappeared from her, and went to
comfort some other stranger. They were dear friends always, and met
often, but not again in the same way.
When she was thus left alone again, the little Pilgrim sat still upon the
grassy mound, quite tranquil and happy, without wishing to move. There
was such a sense of well-being in her, that she liked to sit there and
look about her, and breathe the delightful air, like the air of a summer
morning, without wishing for anything.
"How idle I am!" she said to herself, in the very words she had often
used before she died; but then she was idle from weakness, and now from
happiness. She wanted for nothing. To be alive was so sweet. There was a
great deal to think about in what she had heard, but she did not even
think about that, only resigned herself to the delight of sitting there
in the sweet air and being happy. Many people were coming and going, and
they all knew her, and smiled upon her, and those who were at a distance
would wave their hands. This did not surprise her at all, for though she
was a stranger, she too felt that she knew them all; but that they should
be so kind was a delight to her which words could not tell. She sat and
mused very sweetly about all that had been told her, and wondered whether
she too might go sometimes, and with a kiss and a whisper clear up
something that was dark in the mind of some one who loved her. "I that
never was clever!" she said to herself, with a smile. And chiefly she
thought of a friend whom she loved, who was often in great perplexity,
and did not know how to guide herself amid the difficulties of the world.
The little Pilgrim half laughed with delight, and then half cried with
longing to go, as the beautiful lady had done, and make something clear
that had been dark before, to this friend. As she was thinking what a
pleasure it would be, some one came up to her, crossing over the flowery
greenness, leaving the path on purpose. This was a being younger than the
lady who had spoken to her before, with flowing hair all crisped with
touches of sunshine, and a dress all white and soft, like the feathers of
a white dove. There was something in her face different from that of the
other, by which the little Pilgrim knew somehow, without knowing how,
that she had come here as a child, and grown up in this celestial place.
She was tall and fair, and came along with so musical a motion, as if her
foot scarcely touched the ground, that she might have had wings: and the
little Pilgrim indeed was not sure as she watched, whether it might not
perhaps be an angel; for she knew that there were angels among the
blessed people who were coming and going about, but had not been able yet
to find one out. She knew that this new-comer was coming to her, and
turned towards her with a smile and a throb at her heart of expectation.
But when the heavenly maiden drew nearer, her face, though it was so
fair, looked to the Pilgrim like another face, which she had known very
well,--indeed, like the homely and troubled face of the friend of whom
she had been thinking. And so she smiled all the more, and held out her
hands and said, "I am sure I know you;" upon which the other kissed her
and said, "We all know each other; but I have seen you often before
you came here," and knelt down by her, among the flowers that were
growing, just in front of some tall lilies that grew over her, and made
a lovely canopy over her head. There was something in her face that was
like a child: her mouth so soft, as if it had never spoken anything but
heavenly words, her eyes brown and golden, as if they were filled with
light. She took the little Pilgrim's hands in hers, and held them and
smoothed them between her own. These hands had been very thin and worn
before, but now, when the Pilgrim looked at them, she saw that they
became softer and whiter every moment with the touch of this immortal
"I knew you were coming," said the maiden; "when my mother has wanted me
I have seen you there. And you were thinking of her now that was how I
"Do you know, then, what one thinks?" said the little Pilgrim, with
"It is in the air; and when it concerns us it comes to us like the
breeze. But we who are the children here, we feel it more quickly than
"Are you a child?" said the little Pilgrim, "or are you an angel?
Sometimes you are like a child; but then your face shines, and you are
like--You must have some name for it here; there is nothing among the
words I know." And then she paused a little, still looking at her, and
cried, "Oh, if she could but see you, little Margaret! That would do her
most good of all."
Then the maiden Margaret shook her lovely head. "What does her most good
is the will of the Father," she said.
At this the little Pilgrim felt once more that thrill of expectation and
awe. "Oh, child, you have seen him?" she cried.
And the other smiled. "Have you forgotten who they are that always behold
his face? We have never had any fear or trembling. We are not angels, and
there is no other name; we are the children. There is something given to
us beyond the others. We have had no other home."
"Oh, tell me, tell me!" the little Pilgrim cried.
Upon this Margaret kissed her, putting her soft cheek against hers, and
said; "It is a mystery; it cannot be put into words; in your time you
"When you touch me you change me, and I grow like you," the Pilgrim said.
"Ah, if she could see us together, you and me! And will you go to her
soon again? And do you see them always, what they are doing? and take
care of them?"
"It is our Father who takes cares of them, and our Lord who is our
Brother. I do his errands when I am able. Sometimes he will let me go,
sometimes another, according as it is best. Who am I that I should take
care of them? I serve them when I may."
"But you do not forget them?" the Pilgrim said, with wistful eyes.
"We love them always," said Margaret. She was more still than the lady
who had first spoken with the Pilgrim. Her countenance was full of a
heavenly calm. It had never known passion nor anguish. Sometimes there
was in it a far-seeing look of vision, sometimes the simplicity of a
child. "But what are we in comparison? For he loves them more than we do.
When he keeps us from them, it is for love. We must each live our own
"But it is hard for them sometimes," said the little Pilgrim, who could
not withdraw her thoughts from those she had left.
"They are never forsaken," said the angel maiden.
"But oh! there are worse things than sorrow," the little Pilgrim said;
"there is wrong, there is evil, Margaret. Will not he send you to step in
before them, to save them from wrong?"
"It is not for us to judge," said the young Margaret, with eyes full of
heavenly wisdom; "our Brother has it all in his hand. We do not read
their hearts, like him. Sometimes you are permitted to see the battle--"
The little Pilgrim covered her eyes with her hands. "I could not--I could
not; unless I knew they were to win the day!"
"They will win the day in the end. But sometimes, when it was being lost,
I have seen in his face a something--I cannot tell--more love than
before. Something that seemed to say, 'My child, my child, would that I
could do it for thee, my child!'"
"Oh! that is what I have always felt," cried the Pilgrim, clasping her
hands; her eyes were dim, her heart for a moment almost forgot its
blessedness. "But he could; oh, little Margaret, he could! You have
forgotten, 'Lord; if thou wilt thou canst--'"
The child of heaven looked at her mutely, with sweet, grave eyes, in
which there was much that confused her who was a stranger here, and once
more softly shook her head.
"Is it that he will not then?" said the other with a low voice of awe.
"Our Lord, who died--he--"
"Listen!" said the other; "I hear his step on the way."
The little Pilgrim rose up from the mound on which she was sitting. Her
soul was confused with wonder and fear. She had thought that an angel
might step between a soul on earth and sin, and that if one but prayed
and prayed, the dear Lord would stand between and deliver the tempted.
She had meant when she saw his face to ask him to save. Was not he born,
did not he live and die, to save? The angel maiden looked at her all the
while with eyes that understood all her perplexity and her doubt, but
spoke not. Thus it was that before the Lord came to her, the sweetness of
her first blessedness was obscured, and she found that here too, even
here, though in a moment she should see him, there was need for faith.
Young Margaret, who had been kneeling by her, rose up too and stood among
the lilies, waiting, her soft countenance shining, her eyes turned
towards him who was coming. Upon her there was no cloud nor doubt. She
was one of the children of that land familiar with his presence. And
in the air there was a sound such as those who hear it alone can
describe,--a sound as of help coming and safety, like the sound of a
deliverer when one is in deadly danger, like the sound of a conqueror,
like the step of the dearest beloved coming home. As it came nearer, the
fear melted away out of the beating heart of the Pilgrim. Who could fear
so near him? Her breath went away from her, her heart out of her bosom to
meet his coming. Oh, never fear could live where he was! Her soul was all
confused, but it was with hope and joy. She held out her hands in that
amaze, and dropped upon her knees, not knowing what she did.
He was going about his Father's business, not lingering, yet neither
making haste; and the calm and peace which the little Pilgrim had seen in
the faces of the blessed were but reflections from the majestic
gentleness of the countenance to which, all quivering with happiness and
wonder, she lifted up her eyes. Many things there had been in her mind to
say to him. She wanted to ask for those she loved some things which
perhaps he had overlooked. She wanted to say, "Send me." It seemed to her
that here was the occasion she had longed for all her life. Oh, how many
times had she wished to be able to go to him, to fall at his feet, to
show him something which had been left undone, something which perhaps
for her asking he would remember to do. But when this dream of her life
was fulfilled, and the little Pilgrim, kneeling, and all shaken and
trembling with devotion and joy, was at his feet, lifting her face to
him, seeing him, hearing him--then she said nothing to him at all. She
no longer wanted to say anything, or wanted anything except what he
chose, or had power to think of anything except that all was well, and
everything--everything as it should be in his hand. It seemed to her that
all that she had ever hoped for was fulfilled when she met the look in
his eyes. At first it seemed too bright for her to meet; but next moment
she knew it was all that was needed to light up the world, and in it
everything was clear. Her trembling ceased, her little frame grew
inspired; though she still knelt, her head rose erect, drawn to him like
the flower to the sun. She could not tell how long it was, nor what was
said, nor if it was in words. All that she knew was that she told him all
that ever she had thought, or wished, or intended in all her life,
although she said nothing at all; and that he opened all things to her,
and showed her that everything was well, and no one forgotten; and that
the things she would have told him of were more near his heart than hers,
and those to whom she wanted to be sent were in his own hand. But whether
this passed with words or without words, she could not tell. Her soul
expanded under his eyes like a flower. It opened out, it comprehended and
felt and knew. She smote her hands together in her wonder that she could
have missed seeing what was so clear, and laughed with a sweet scorn at
her folly, as two people who love each other laugh at the little
misunderstanding that has parted them. She was bold with him, though she
was so timid by nature, and ventured to laugh at herself, not to reproach
herself; for his divine eyes spoke no blame, but smiled upon her folly
too. And then he laid a hand upon her head, which seemed to fill her with
currents of strength and joy running through all her veins. And then she
seemed to come to herself, saying loud out, "And that I will! and that I
will!" and lo, she was kneeling on the warm, soft sod alone, and hearing
the sound of his footsteps as he went about his Father's business,
filling all the air with echoes of blessing. And all the people who were
coming and going smiled upon her, and she knew they were all glad for her
that she had seen him, and got the desire of her heart. Some of them
waved their hands as they passed, and some paused a moment and spoke to
her with tender congratulations. They seemed to have the tears in their
eyes for joy, remembering every one the first time they had themselves
seen him, and the joy of it; so that all about there sounded a concord of
happy thoughts all echoing to each other, "She has seen the Lord!"
Why did she say, "And that I will! and that I will!" with such fervor and
delight? She could not have told, but yet she knew. The first thing was
that she had yet to wait and believe until all things should be
accomplished, neither doubting nor fearing, but knowing that all should
be well; and the second was that she must delay no longer, but rise up
and serve the Father according to what was given her as her reward. When
she had recovered a little of her rapture, she rose from her knees, and
stood still for a little, to be sure which way she was to go. And she was
not aware what guided her, but yet turned her face in the appointed way
without any doubt. For doubt was now gone away forever, and that fear
that once gave her so much trouble lest she might not be doing what was
best. As she moved along she wondered at herself more and more. She felt
no longer, as at first, like the child she remembered to have been,
venturing out in the awful lovely stillness of the morning before any one
was awake; but she felt that to move along was a delight, and that her
foot scarcely touched the grass. And her whole being was instinct with
such lightness of strength and life, that it did not matter to her how
far she went, nor what she carried, nor if the way was easy or hard. The
way she chose was one of those which led to the great gate, and many met
her coming from thence, with looks that were somewhat bewildered, as if
they did not yet know whither they were going or what had happened to
them,--upon whom she smiled as she passed them with soft looks of
tenderness and sympathy, knowing what they were feeling, but did not stop
to explain to them, because she had something else that had been given
her to do. For this is what always follows in that country when you meet
the Lord, that you instantly know what it is that he would have you do.
The little Pilgrim thus went on and on toward the gate, which she had not
seen when she herself came through it, having been lifted in his arms by
the great Death Angel, and set down softly inside, so that she did not
know it, or even the shadow of it. As she drew nearer, the light became
less bright, though very sweet, like a lovely dawn, and she wondered to
herself to think that she had been here but a moment ago, and yet so much
had passed since then. And still she was not aware what was her errand,
but wondered if she was to go back by these same gates, and perhaps
return where she had been. She went up to them very closely, for she was
curious to see the place through which she had come in her sleep,--as a
traveller goes back to see the city gate, with its bridge and portcullis,
through which he has passed by night. The gate was very great, of a
wonderful, curious architecture, having strange, delicate arches and
canopies above. Some parts of them seemed cut very clean and clear; but
the outlines were all softened with a sort of mist and shadow, so that it
looked greater and higher than it was. The lower part was not one great
doorway, as the Pilgrim had supposed, but had innumerable doors, all
separate and very narrow, so that but one could pass at a time, though
the arch inclosed all, and seemed filled with great folding gates, in
which the smaller doors were set, so that if need arose a vast opening
might be made for many to enter. Of the little doors many were shut as
the Pilgrim approached; but from moment to moment one after another would
be pushed softly open from without, and some one would come in. The
little Pilgrim looked at it all with great interest, wondering which of
the doors she herself had come by; but while she stood absorbed by this,
a door was suddenly pushed open close by her, and some one flung forward
into the blessed country, falling upon the ground, and stretched out wild
arms as though to clutch the very soil. This sight gave the Pilgrim a
great surprise; for it was the first time she had heard any sound of
pain, or seen any sight of trouble, since she entered here. In that
moment she knew what it was that the dear Lord had given her to do. She
had no need to pause to think, for her heart told her; and she did not
hesitate, as she might have done in the other life, not knowing what to
say. She went forward and gathered this poor creature into her arms, as
if it had been a child, and drew her quite within the land of peace; for
she had fallen across the threshold, so as to hinder any one entering who
might be coming after her. It was a woman, and she had flung herself upon
her face, so that it was difficult for the little Pilgrim to see what
manner of person it was; for though she felt herself strong enough to
take up this new-comer in her arms and carry her away, yet she forbore,
seeing the will of the stranger was not so. For some time this woman lay
moaning, with now and then a great sob shaking her as she lay. The little
Pilgrim had taken her by both her arms, and drawn her head to rest upon
her own lap, and was still holding the hands, which the poor creature had
thrown out as if to clutch the ground. Thus she lay for a little while,
as the little Pilgrim remembered she herself had lain, not wishing to
move, wondering what had happened to her; then she clutched the hands
which grasped her, and said, muttering,--
"You are some one new. Have you come to save me? Oh, save me! Oh, save
me! Don't let me die!"
This was very strange to the little Pilgrim, and went to her heart. She
soothed the stranger, holding her hands warm and light, and stooping over
"Dear," she said, "you must try and not be afraid."
"You say so," said the woman, "because you are well and strong. You don't
know what it is to be seized in the middle of your life, and told
that you've got to die. Oh, I have been a sinful creature! I am not fit
to die. Can't you give me something that will cure me? What is the good
of doctors and nurses if they cannot save a poor soul that is not fit to
At this the little Pilgrim smiled upon her, always holding her fast, and
"Why are you so afraid to die?"
The woman raised her head to see who it was who put such a strange
question to her.
"You are some one new," she said. "I have never seen you before. Is there
any one that is not afraid to die? Would _you_ like to have to give
your account all in a moment, without any time to prepare?"
"But you have had time to prepare," said the Pilgrim.
"Oh, only a very, very little time. And I never thought it was true. I am
not an old woman, and I am not fit to die; and I'm poor. Oh, if I were
rich, I would bribe you to give me something to keep me alive. Won't you
do it for pity?--won't you do it for pity? When you are as bad as I am,
oh, you will perhaps call for some one to help you, and find nobody, like
"I will help you for love," said the little Pilgrim; "some one who loves
you has sent me."
The woman lifted herself up a little and shook her head. "There is nobody
that loves me." Then she cast her eyes round her and began to tremble
again (for the touch of the little Pilgrim had stilled her). "Oh, where
am I?" she said. "They have taken me away; they have brought me to a
strange place; and you are new. Oh, where have they taken me?--where am
I?--where am I?" she cried. "Have they brought me here to die?"
Then the little Pilgrim bent over her and soothed her. "You must not be
so much afraid of dying; that is all over. You need not fear that any
more," she said softly; "for here where you now are we have all died."
The woman started up out of her arms, and then she gave a great shriek
that made the air ring, and cried out, "Dead! am I dead?" with a shudder
and convulsion, throwing herself again wildly with outstretched hands
upon the ground.
This was a great and terrible work for the little Pilgrim--the first she
had ever had to do--and her heart failed her for a moment; but afterward
she remembered our Brother who sent her, and knew what was best. She drew
closer to the new-comer, and took her hand again.
"Try," she said, in a soft voice, "and think a little. Do you feel now so
ill as you were? Do not be frightened, but think a little. I will hold
your hand. And look at me; you are not afraid of me?"
The poor creature shuddered again, and then she turned her face and
looked doubtfully, with great dark eyes dilated, and the brow and cheek
so curved and puckered round them that they seemed to glow out of deep
caverns. Her face was full of anguish and fear. But as she looked at the
little Pilgrim, her troubled gaze softened. Of her own accord she clasped
her other hand upon the one that held hers, and then she said with a
"I am not afraid of you; that was not true that you said! You are one of
the sisters, and you want to frighten me and make me repent!"
"You do repent," the Pilgrim said.
"Oh," cried the poor woman, "what has the like of you to do with me? Now
I look at you, I never saw any one that was like you before. Don't you
hate me?--don't you loathe me? I do myself. It's so ugly to go wrong. I
think now I would almost rather die and be done with it. You will say
that is because I am going to get better. I feel a great deal better now.
Do you think I am going to get over it? Oh, I am better! I could get up
out of bed and walk about. Yes, but I am not in bed,--where have you
brought me? Never mind, it is a fine air; I shall soon get well here."
The Pilgrim was silent for a little, holding her hands. And then she
"Tell me how you feel now," in her soft voice.
The woman had sat up and was gazing round her. "It is very strange," she
said; "it is all confused. I think upon my mother and the old prayers I
used to say. For a long, long time I always said my prayers; but now I've
got hardened, they say. Oh, I was once as fresh as any one. It all comes
over me now. I feel as if I were young again--just come out of the
country. I am sure that I could walk."
The little Pilgrim raised her up, holding her by her hands; and she stood
and gazed round about her, making one or two doubtful steps. She was very
pale, and the light was dim; her eyes peered into it with a scared yet
eager look. She made another step, then stopped again.
"I am quite well," she said. "I could walk a mile. I could walk any
distance. What was that you said? Oh, I tell you I am better! I am not
going to die."
"You will never, never die," said the little Pilgrim; "are you not glad
it is all over? Oh, I was so glad! And all the more you should be glad if
you were so much afraid."
But this woman was not glad. She shrank away from her companion, then
came close to her again, and gripped her with her hands.
"It is your--fun," she said, "or just to frighten me. Perhaps you think
it will do me no harm as I am getting so well; you want to frighten me to
make me good. But I mean to be good without that--I do!--I do! When one
is so near dying as I have been and yet gets better,--for I am going to
get better! Yes! you know it as well as I."
The little Pilgrim made no reply, but stood by, looking at her charge,
not feeling that anything was given her to say,--and she was so new to
this work, that there was a little trembling in her, lest she should not
do everything as she ought. And the woman looked round with those anxious
eyes gazing all about. The light did not brighten as it had done when the
Pilgrim herself first came to this place. For one thing, they had
remained quite close to the gate, which no doubt threw a shadow. The
woman looked at that, and then turned and looked into the dim morning,
and did not know where she was, and her heart was confused and troubled.
"Where are we?" she said. "I do not know where it is; they must have
brought me here in my sleep,--where are we? How strange to bring a sick
woman away out of her room in her sleep! I suppose it was the new
doctor," she went on, looking very closely in the little Pilgrim's face;
then paused, and drawing a long breath, said softly, "It has done me
good. It is better air--it is--a new kind of cure!"
But though she spoke like this, she did not convince herself; her eyes
were wild with wondering and fear. She gripped the Pilgrim's arm more and
more closely, and trembled, leaning upon her.
"Why don't you speak to me?" she said; "why don't you tell me? Oh, I
don't know how to live in this place! What do you do?--how do you speak?
I am not fit for it. And what are you? I never saw you before, nor any
one like you. What do you want with me? Why are you so kind to me?
And here she went off into a murmur of questions. Why? why? always
holding fast by the little Pilgrim, always gazing round her, groping as
it were in the dimness with her great eyes.
"I have come because our dear Lord who is our Brother sent me to meet
you, and because I love you," the little Pilgrim said.
"Love me!" the woman cried, throwing up her hands. "But no one loves me;
I have not deserved it." Here she grasped her close again with a sudden
clutch, and cried out, "If this is what you say, where is God?"
"Are you afraid of him?" the little Pilgrim said. Upon which the woman
trembled so, that the Pilgrim trembled too with the quivering of her
frame; then loosed her hold, and fell upon her face, and cried,--
"Hide me! hide me! I have been a great sinner. Hide me, that he may not
see me;" and with one hand she tried to draw the Pilgrim's dress as a
veil between her and something she feared.
"How should I hide you from him who is everywhere? and why should I hide
you from your Father?" the little Pilgrim said. This she said almost with
indignation, wondering that any one could put more trust in her, who was
no better than a child, than in the Father of all. But then she said,
"Look into your heart, and you will see you are not so much afraid as you
think. This is how you have been accustomed to frighten yourself. But now
look into your heart. You thought you were very ill at first, but not now
and you think you are afraid; but look into your heart--"
There was a silence; and then the woman raised her head with a wonderful
look, in which there was amazement and doubt, as if she had heard some
joyful thing, but dared not yet believe that it was true. Once more she
hid her face in her hands, and once more raised it again. Her eyes
softened; a long sigh or gasp, like one taking breath after drowning,
shook her breast. Then she said, "I think--that is true. But if I am not
afraid, it is because I am--bad. It is because I am hardened. Oh, should
not I fear him who can send me away into--the lake that burns--into the
pit--" And here she gave a great cry, but held the little Pilgrim all the
while with her eyes, which seemed to plead and ask for better news.
Then there came into the Pilgrim's heart what to say, and she took the
woman's hand again and held it between her own. "That is the change," she
said, "that comes when we come here. We are not afraid any more of our
Father. We are not all happy. Perhaps you will not be happy at first. But
if he says to you, 'Go!'--even to that place you speak of--you will know
that it is well, and you will not be afraid. You are not afraid now,--oh,
I can see it in your eyes. You are not happy, but you are not afraid. You
know it is the Father. Do not say God,--that is far off,--Father!" said
the little Pilgrim, holding up the woman's hand clasped in her own. And
there came into her soul an ecstasy, and tears that were tears of
blessedness fell from her eyes, and all about her there seemed to shine a
light. When she came to herself, the woman who was her charge had come
quite close to her, and had added her other hand to that the Pilgrim
held, and was weeping and saying, "I am not afraid," with now and then a
gasp and sob, like a child who after a passion of tears has been
consoled, yet goes on sobbing and cannot quite forget, and is afraid to
own that all is well again. Then the Pilgrim kissed her, and bade her
rest a little; for even she herself felt shaken, and longed for a little
quiet, and to feel the true sense of the peace that was in her heart. She
sat down beside her upon the ground, and made her lean her head against
her shoulder, and thus they remained very still for a little time, saying
no more. It seemed to the little Pilgrim that her companion had fallen
asleep, and perhaps it was so, after so much agitation. All this time
there had been people passing, entering by the many doors. And most of
them paused a little to see where they were, and looked round them, then
went on; and it seemed to the little Pilgrim that according to the doors
by which they entered each took a different way. While she watched,
another came in by the same door as that at which the woman who was her
charge had come in. And he too stumbled and looked about him with an air
of great wonder and doubt. When he saw her seated on the ground, he came
up to her hesitating, as one in a strange place who does not want to
betray that he is bewildered and has lost his way. He came with a little
pretence of smiling, though his countenance was pale and scared, and
said, drawing his breath quick, "I ought to know where I am, but I have
lost my head, I think. Will you tell me which is--the way?"
"What way?" cried the little Pilgrim; for her strength was gone from her,
and she had no word to say to him. He looked at her with that
bewilderment on his face, and said, "I find myself strange, strange. I
ought to know where I am; but it is scarcely daylight yet. It is perhaps
foolish to come out so early in the morning." This he said in his
confusion, not knowing where he was, nor what he said.
"I think all the ways lead to our Father," said the little Pilgrim
(though she had not known this till now). "And the dear Lord walks about
them all. Here you never go astray."
Upon this the stranger looked at her, and asked in a faltering voice,
"Are you an angel?" still not knowing what he said.
"Oh, no, no; I am only a Pilgrim," she replied.
"May I sit by you a little?" said the man. He sat down, drawing long
breaths, as though he had gone through great fatigue; and looked about
with wondering eyes. "You will wonder, but I do not know where I am," he
said. "I feel as if I must he dreaming. This is not where I expected to
come. I looked for something very different; do you think there can have
"Oh, never that," she said; "there are no mistakes here."
Then he looked at her again, and said,--
"I perceive that you belong to this country, though you say you are a
pilgrim. I should be grateful if you would tell me. Does one live--here?
And is this all? Is there no--no--but I don't know what word to use. All
is so strange, different from what I expected."
"Do you know that you have died?"
"Yes--yes, I am quite acquainted with that," he said, hurriedly; as if it
had been an idea he disliked to dwell upon. "But then I expected--Is
there no one to tell you where to go, or what you are to be? or to take
any notice of you?"
The little Pilgrim was startled by this tone. She did not understand its
meaning, and she had not any word to say to him. She looked at him with
as much bewilderment as he had shown when he approached her, and replied,
"There are a great many people here; but I have never heard if there is
any one to tell you--"
"What does it matter how many people there are if you know none of them?"
"We all know each other," she answered him but then paused and hesitated
a little, because this was what had been said to her, and of herself she
was not assured of it, neither did she know at all how to deal with this
stranger, to whom she had not any commission. It seemed that he had no
one to care for him, and the little Pilgrim had a sense of compassion,
yet of trouble in her heart; for what could she say? And it was very
strange to her to see one who was not content here.
"Ah, but there should be some one to point out the way, and tell us which
is our circle, and where we ought to go," he said. And then he too was
silent for a while, looking about him as all were fain to do on their
first arrival, finding everything so strange. There were people coming in
at every moment, and some were met at the very threshold, and some went
away alone with peaceful faces, and there were many groups about talking
together in soft voices; but no one interrupted the other, and though so
many were there, each voice was as clear as if it had spoken alone, and
there was no tumult of sound as when many people assemble together in the
The little Pilgrim wondered to find herself with the woman resting upon
her on one side, and the man seated silent on the other, neither having,
it appeared, any guide but only herself, who knew so little. How was she
to lead them in the paths which she did not know?--and she was exhausted
by the agitation of her struggle with the woman whom she felt to be her
charge. But in this moment of silence she had time to remember the face
of the Lord, when he gave her this commission, and her heart was
strengthened. The man all this time sat and watched, looking eagerly all
about him, examining the faces of those who went and came: and sometimes
he made a little start as if to go and speak to some one he knew; but
always drew back again and looked at the little Pilgrim, as if he had
said, "This is the one who will serve me best." He spoke to her again
after a while and said, "I suppose you are one of the guides that show
"No," said the little Pilgrim, anxiously. "I know so little! It is not
long since I came here. I came in the early morning--"
"Why, it is morning now. You could not come earlier than it is now. You
"I think," said the Pilgrim, "that yesterday is the other side; there is
no yesterday here."
He looked at her with the keen look he had, to understand her the better;
and then he said,--
"No division of time! I think that must be monotonous. It will be strange
to have no night; but I suppose one gets used to everything. I hope
though there is something to do. I have always lived a very busy life.
Perhaps this is just a little pause before we go--to be--to have--to
get our--appointed place."
He had an uneasy look as he said this, and looked at her with an anxious
curiosity, which the little Pilgrim did not understand.
"I do not know," she said softly, shaking her head. "I have so little
experience. I have not been told of an appointed place."
The man looked at her very strangely.
"I did not think," he said, "that I should have found such ignorance
here. Is it not well known that we must all appear before the
judgment-seat of God?"
There words seemed to cause a trembling on the still air, and the woman
on the other side raised herself suddenly up, clasping her hands and some
of those who had just entered heard the words, and came and crowded about
the little Pilgrim, some standing, some falling down upon their knee, all
with their faces turned towards her. She who had always been so simple
and small, so little used to teach; she was frightened with the sight of
all these strangers crowding, hanging upon her lips, looking to her for
knowledge. She knew not what to do or what to say. The tears came into
"Oh," she said, "I do not know anything about a judgment-seat. I know
that our Father is here, and that when we are in trouble we are taken to
him to be comforted, and that our dear Lord our Brother is among us every
day, and every one may see him. Listen," she said, standing up suddenly
among them, feeling strong as an angel. "I have seen him! though I am
nothing, so little as you see, and often silly, never clever as some of
you are, I have seen him! and so will all of you. There is no more that I
know of," she said softly, clasping her hands. "When you see him it comes
into your heart what you must do."
And then there was a murmur of voices about her, some saying that was
best, and some wondering if that were all, and some crying if he would
but come now--while the little Pilgrim stood among them with her face
shining, and they all looked at her, asking her to tell them more, to
show them how to find him. But this was far above what she could do, for
she too was not much more than a stranger, and had little strength. She
would not go back a step, nor desert those who were so anxious to know,
though her heart fluttered almost as it had used to do before she died,
what with her longing to tell them, and knowing that she had no more to
But in that land it is never permitted that one who stands bravely and
fails not shall be left without succor; for it is no longer needful there
to stand even to death, since all dying is over, and all souls are
tested. When it was seen that the little Pilgrim was thus surrounded by
so many that questioned her, there suddenly came about her many others
from the brightness out of which she had come, who, one going to one
hand, and one to another, safely led them into the ways in which their
course lay: so that the Pilgrim was free to lead forth the woman who had
been given her in charge, and whose path lay in a dim, but pleasant
country, outside of that light and gladness in which the Pilgrim's home
"But," she said, "you are not to fear or be cast down, because he goes
likewise by these ways, and there is not a corner in all this land but he
is to be seen passing by; and he will come and speak to you, and lay his
hand upon you; and afterwards everything will be clear, and you will know
what you are to do."
"Stay with me till he comes,--oh, stay with me," the woman cried,
clinging to her arm.
"Unless another is sent," the little Pilgrim said. And it was nothing to
her that the air was less bright there, for her mind was full of light,
so that, though her heart still fluttered a little with all that had
passed, she had no longing to return, nor to shorten the way, but went by
the lower road sweetly, with the stranger hanging upon her, who was
stronger and taller than she. Thus they went on, and the Pilgrim told her
all she knew, and everything that came into her heart. And so full was
she of the great things she had to say, that it was a surprise to her,
and left her trembling, when suddenly the woman took away her clinging
hand, and flew forward with arms out-spread and a cry of joy. The little
Pilgrim stood still to see, and on the path before them was a child,
coming towards them singing, with a look such as is never seen but upon
the faces of children who have come here early, and who behold the face
of the Father, and have never known fear nor sorrow. The woman flew and
fell at the child's feet, and he put his hand upon her, and raised her
up, and called her "mother." Then he smiled upon the little Pilgrim, and
led her away.
"Now she needs me no longer," said the Pilgrim; and it was a surprise to
her, and for a moment she wondered in herself if it was known that this
child should come so suddenly and her work be over; and also how she was
to return again to the sweet place among the flowers from which she had
come. But when she turned to look if there was any way, she found one
standing by such as she had not yet seen. This was a youth, with a face
just touched with manhood, as at the moment when the boy ends, when all
is still fresh and pure in the heart; but he was taller and greater than
"I am sent," he said, "little sister, to take you to the Father; because
you have been very faithful, and gone beyond your strength."
And he took the little Pilgrim by the hand, and she knew he was an angel;
and immediately the sweet air melted about them into light, and a hush
came upon her of all thought and all sense, attending till she should
receive the blessing, and her new name, and see what is beyond telling,
and hear and understand.
THE LITTLE PILGRIM GOES UP HIGHER.
When the little Pilgrim came out of the presence of the Father, she found
herself in the street of a great city. But what she saw and heard when
she was with Him it is not given to the tongue of mortal to say, for it
is beyond words, and beyond even thought. As the mystery of love is not
to be spoken but to be felt, even in the lower earth, so, but much less,
is that great mystery of the love of the Father to be expressed in sound.
The little Pilgrim was very happy when she went into that sacred place,
but there was a great awe upon her, and it might even be said that she
was afraid; but when she came out again she feared nothing, but looked
with clear eyes upon all she saw, loving them, but no more overawed by
them, having seen that which is above all. When she came forth again to
her common life--for it is not permitted save for those who have attained
the greatest heights to dwell there--she had no longer need of any guide,
but came alone, knowing where to go, and walking where it pleased her,
with reverence and a great delight in seeing and knowing all that was
around, but no fear. It was a great city, but it was not like the great
cities which she had seen. She understood as she passed along how it was
that those who had been dazzled but by a passing glance had described the
walls and the pavement as gold. They were like what gold is, beautiful
and clear, of a lovely color, but softer in tone than metal ever was, and
as cool and fresh to walk upon and to touch as if they had been velvet
grass. The buildings were all beautiful, of every style and form that it
is possible to think of, yet in great harmony, as if every man had
followed his own taste, yet all had been so combined and grouped by the
master architect that each individual feature enhanced the effect of the
rest. Some of the houses were greater and some smaller, but all of them
were rich in carvings and pictures and lovely decorations, and the effect
was as if the richest materials had been employed, marbles and beautiful
sculptured stone, and wood of beautiful tints, though the little Pilgrim
knew that these were not like the marble and stone she had once known,
but heavenly representatives of them, far better than they. There were
people at work upon them, building new houses and making additions, and a
great many painters painting upon them the history of the people who
lived there, or of others who were worthy that commemoration. And the
streets were full of pleasant sound, and of crowds going and coming, and
the commotion of much business, and many things to do. And this movement,
and the brightness of the air, and the wonderful things that were to be
seen on every side, made the Pilgrim gay, so that she could have sung
with pleasure as she went along. And all who met her smiled, and every
group exchanged greetings as they passed along, all knowing each other.
Many of them, as might be seen, had come there, as she did, to see the
wonders of the beautiful city; and all who lived there were ready to tell
them whatever they desired to know, and show them the finest houses and
the greatest pictures. And this gave a feeling of holiday and pleasure
which was delightful beyond description, for all the busy people about
were full of sympathy with the strangers, bidding them welcome, inviting
them into their houses, making the warmest fellowship. And friends were
meeting continually on every side; but the Pilgrim had no sense that she
was forlorn in being alone, for all were friends; and it pleased her to
watch the others, and see how one turned this way and one another, every
one finding something that delighted him above all other things. She
herself took a great pleasure in watching a painter, who was standing
upon a balcony a little way above her, painting upon a great fresco: and
when he saw this he asked her to come up beside him and see his work. She
asked him a great many questions about it, and why it was that he was
working only at the draperies of the figures, and did not touch their
faces, some of which were already finished and seemed to be looking at
her, as living as she was, out of the wall, while some were merely
outlined as yet. He told her that he was not a great painter to do this,
or to design the great work, but that the master would come presently,
who had the chief responsibility. "For we have not all the same genius,"
he said, "and if I were to paint this head it would not have the gift of
life as that one has; but to stand by and see him put it in, you cannot
think what a happiness that is; for one knows every touch, and just what
effect it will have, though one could not do it one's self; and it is a
wonder and a delight perpetual that it should be done."
The little Pilgrim looked up at him and said, "That is very beautiful to
say. And do you never wish to be like him--to make the lovely, living
faces as well as the other parts?"
"Is not this lovely too?" he said; and showed her how he had just put in
a billowy robe, buoyed out with the wind, and sweeping down from the
shoulders of a stately figure in such free and graceful folds that she
would have liked to take it in her hand and feel the silken texture; and
then he told her how absorbing it was to study the mysteries of color and
the differences of light. "There is enough in that to make one happy,"
he said. "It is thought by some that we will all come to the higher point
with work and thought: but that is not my feeling; and whether it is so
or not what does it matter, for our Father makes no difference: and all
of us are necessary to everything that is done: and it is almost more
delight to see the master do it than to do it with one's own hand. For
one thing, your own work may rejoice you in your heart, but always
with a little trembling because it is never so perfect as you would have
it--whereas in your master's work you have full content, because his idea
goes beyond yours, and as he makes every touch you can feel 'That is
right--that is complete--that is just as it ought to be.' Do you
understand what I mean?" he said, turning to her with a smile.
"I understand it perfectly," she cried, clasping her hands together with
the delight of accord. "Don't you think that is one of the things that
are so happy here? you understand at half a word."
"Not everybody," he said, and smiled upon her like a brother; "for we are
not all alike even here."
"Were you a painter?" she said, "in--in the other--"
"In the old times. I was one of those that strove for the mastery, and
sometimes grudged--We remember these things at times," he said gravely,
"to make us more aware of the blessedness of being content."
"It is long since then?" she said with some wistfulness; upon which he
"So long," he said, "that we have worn out most of our links to the world
below. We have all come away, and those who were after us for
generations. But you are a new-comer."
"And are they all with you? are you all--together? do you live--as in the
Upon this the painter smiled, but not so brightly as before.
"Not as in the old time," he said, "nor are they all here. Some are still
upon the way, and of some we have no certainty, only news from time to
time. The angels are very good to us. They never miss an occasion to
bring us news; for they go everywhere, you know."
"Yes," said the little Pilgrim, though indeed she had not known it till
now; but it seemed to her as if it had come to her mind by nature and she
had never needed to be told.
"They are so tender-hearted," the painter said; "and more than that, they
are very curious about men and women. They have known it all from the
beginning, and it is a wonder to them. There is a friend of mine, an
angel, who is more wise in men's hearts than any one I know; and yet he
will say to me sometimes, 'I do not understand you,--you are wonderful.'
They like to find out all we are thinking. It is an endless pleasure to
them, just as it is to some of us to watch the people in the other
"Do you mean--where we have come from?" said the little Pilgrim.
"Not always there. We in this city have been long separated from that
country, for all that we love are out of it."
"But not here?" the little Pilgrim cried again, with a little sorrow--a
pang that she knew was going to be put away--in her heart.
"But coming! coming!" said the painter, cheerfully; "and some were here
before us, and some have arrived since. They are everywhere."
"But some in trouble--some in trouble!" she cried, with the tears in her
"We suppose so," he said, gravely; "for some are in that place which once
was called among us the place of despair."
"You mean--" and though the little Pilgrim had been made free of fear, at
that word which she would not speak, she trembled, and the light grew dim
in her eyes.
"Well!" said her new friend, "and what then? The Father sees through and
through it as he does here; they cannot escape him: so that there is Love
near them always. I have a son," he said, then sighed a little, but
smiled again, "who is there."
The little Pilgrim at this clasped her hands with a piteous cry.
"Nay, nay," he said, "little sister; my friend I was telling you of, the
angel, brought me news of him just now. Indeed there was news of him
through all the city. Did you not hear all the bells ringing? But perhaps
that was before you came. The angels who know me best came one
after another to tell me, and our Lord himself came to wish me joy. My
son had found the way."
The little Pilgrim did not understand this, and almost thought that the
painter must be mistaken or dreaming. She looked at him very anxiously
"I thought that those unhappy--never came out any more."
The painter smiled at her in return, and said,--
"Had you children in the old time?"
She paused a little before she replied.
"I had children in love," she said, "but none that were born mine."
"It is the same," he said, "it is the same; and if one of them had sinned
against you, injured you, done wrong in any way, would you have cast him
off, or what would you have done?"
"Oh!" said the little Pilgrim again, with a vivid light of memory coming
into her face, which showed she had no need to think of this as a thing
that might have happened, but knew. "I brought him home. I nursed him
well again. I prayed for him night and day. Did you say cast him off?
when he had most need of me? then I never could have loved him," she
The painter nodded his head, and his hand with the pencil in it, for he
had turned from his picture to look at her.
"Then you think you love better than our Father?" he said; and turned to
his work, and painted a new fold in the robe, which looked as if a soft
air had suddenly blown into it, and not the touch of a skilful hand.
This made the Pilgrim tremble, as though in her ignorance she had done
something wrong. After that there came a great joy into her heart. "Oh,
how happy you have made me!" she cried. "I am glad with all my heart for
you and your son--" Then she paused a little and added, "But you said he
was still there."
"It is true; for the land of darkness is very confusing, they tell me,
for want of the true light, and our dear friends the angels are not
permitted to help: but if one follows them, that shows the way. You may
be in that land yet on your way hither. It was very hard to understand at
first," said the painter; "there are some sketches I could show you. No
one has ever made a picture of it, though many have tried; but I could
show you some sketches--if you wish to see."
To this the little Pilgrim's look was so plain an answer that the painter
laid down his pallet and his brush, and left his work, to show them to
her as he had promised. They went down from the balcony and along the
street until they came to one of the great palaces, where many were
coming and going. Here they walked through some vast halls, where
students were working at easels, doing every kind of beautiful work: some
painting pictures, some preparing drawings, planning houses and palaces.
The Pilgrim would have liked to pause at every moment to see one lovely
thing or another; but the painter walked on steadily till he came to a
room which was full of sketches, some of them like pictures in little,
with many figures,--some of them only a representation of a flower, or
the wing of a bird. "These are all the master's," he said; "sometimes the
sight of them will be enough to put something great into the mind of
another. In this corner are the sketches I told you of." There were two
of them hanging together upon the wall, and at first it seemed to the
little Pilgrim as if they represented the flames and fire of which she
had read, and this made her shudder for the moment. But then she saw that
it was a red light like a stormy sunset, with masses of clouds in the
sky, and a low sun very fiery and dazzling, which no doubt to a hasty
glance must have looked, with its dark shadows and high lurid lights,
like the fires of the bottomless pit. But when you looked down you saw
the reality what it was. The country that lay beneath was full of
tropical foliage, but with many stretches of sand and dry plains, and in
the foreground was a town, that looked very prosperous and crowded,
though the figures were very minute, the subject being so great; but no
one to see it would have taken it for anything but a busy and wealthy
place, in a thunderous atmosphere, with a storm coming on. In the next
there was a section of a street with a great banqueting hall open to the
view, and many people sitting about the table. You could see that there
was a great deal of laughter and conversation going on, some very noisy
groups, but others that sat more quietly in corners and conversed, and
some who sang, and every kind of entertainment. The little Pilgrim was
very much astonished to see this, and turned to the painter, who answered
her directly, though she had not spoken. "We used to think differently
once. There are some who are there and do not know it. They think only it
is the old life over again, but always worse, and they are led on in the
ways of evil; but they do not feel the punishment until they begin to
find out where they are and to struggle, and wish for other things."
The little Pilgrim felt her heart beat very wildly while she looked at
this, and she thought upon the rich man in the parable, who, though he
was himself in torment, prayed that his brother might be saved, and she
said to herself, "Our dear Lord would never leave him there who could
think of his brother when he was himself in such a strait." And when she
looked at the painter he smiled upon her, and nodded his head. Then he
led her to the other corner of the room where there were other pictures.
One of them was of a party seated round a table and an angel looking
on. The angel had the aspect of a traveller, as if he were passing
quickly by and had but paused a moment to look, and one of the men
glancing up suddenly saw him. The picture was dim, but the startled look
upon this man's face, and the sorrow on the angel's, appeared out of the
misty background with such truth that the tears came into the little
Pilgrim's eyes, and she said in her heart, "Oh that I could go to him and
help him!" The other sketches were dimmer and dimmer. You seemed to see
out of the darkness, gleaming lights, and companies of revellers, out of
which here and there was one trying to escape. And then the wide plains
in the night, and the white vision of the angel in the distance, and here
and there by different paths a fugitive striving to follow. "Oh, sir,"
said the little Pilgrim, "how did you learn to do it? You have never been
"It was the master, not I; and I cannot tell you if he has ever been
there. When the Father has given you that gift, you can go to many
places, without leaving the one where you are. And then he has heard what
the angels say."
"And will they all get safe at the last? and even that great spirit, he
that fell from heaven--"
The painter shook his head and said, "It is not permitted to you and me
to know such great things. Perhaps the wise will tell you if you ask
them: but for me I ask the Father in my heart and listen to what he
"That is best!" the little Pilgrim said; and she asked the Father in her
heart: and there came all over her such a glow of warmth and happiness
that her soul was satisfied. She looked in the painter's face and laughed
for joy. And he put out his hands as if welcoming some one, and his
countenance shone; and he said,--
"My son had a great gift. He was a master born, though it was not given
to me. He shall paint it all for us so that the heart shall rejoice; and
you will come again and see."
After that it happened to the little Pilgrim to enter into another great
palace where there were many people reading, and some sitting at their
desks and writing, and some consulting together, with many great volumes
stretched out open upon the tables. One of these who was seated alone
looked up as she paused wondering at him, and smiled as every one did,
and greeted her with such a friendly tone that the Pilgrim, who always
had a great desire to know, came nearer to him and looked at the book,
then begged his pardon, and said she did not know that books were needed
here. And then he told her that he was one of the historians of the city
where all the records of the world were kept, and that it was his
business to work upon the great history, and to show what was the meaning
of the Father in everything that had happened, and how each event came in
its right place.
"And do you get it out of books?" she asked; for she was not learned, nor
wise, and knew but little, though she always loved to know.
"The books are the records," he said; "and there are many here that were
never known to us in the old days; for the angels love to look into
these things, and they can tell us much, for they saw it; and in the
great books they have kept there is much put down that was never in the
books we wrote, for then we did not know. We found out about the kings
and the state, and tried to understand what great purposes they were
serving; but even these we did not know, for those purposes were too
great for us, not knowing the end from the beginning, and the hearts of
men were too great for us. We comprehended the evil sometimes, but never
fathomed the good. And how could we know the lesser things which were
working out God's way? for some of these even the angels did not know;
and it has happened to me that our Lord himself has come in sometimes to
tell me of one that none of us had discovered."
"Oh," said the little Pilgrim, with tears in her eyes, "I should like to
have been that one!--that was not known even to the angels, but only
The historian smiled. "It was my brother," he said.
The Pilgrim looked at him with great wonder. "Your brother, and you did
not know him!"
And then he turned over the pages and showed her where the story was.
"You know," he said, "that we who live here are not of your time, but
have lived and lived here till the old life is far away and like a dream.
There were great tumults and fightings in our time, and it was settled by
the prince of the place that our town was to be abandoned, and all the
people left to the mercy of an enemy who had no mercy. But every day as
he rode out he saw at one door a child, a little fair boy, who sat on the
steps, and sang his little song like a bird. This child was never afraid
of anything,--when the horses pranced past him, and the troopers pushed
him aside, he looked up into their faces and smiled. And when he had
anything, a piece of bread, or an apple, or a plaything, he shared it
with his playmates; and his little face, and his pretty voice, and all
his pleasant ways, made that corner bright. He was like a flower growing
there; everybody smiled that saw him."
"I have seen such a child," the little Pilgrim said.
"But we made no account of him," said the historian. "The Lord of the
place came past him every day, and always saw him singing in the sun by
his father's door. And it was a wonder then, and it has been a wonder
ever since, why, having resolved upon it, that prince did not abandon the
town, which would have changed all his fortune after. Much had been made
clear to me since I began to study, but not this: till the Lord himself
came to me and told me. The prince looked at the child till he loved him,
and he reflected how many children there were like this that would be
murdered, or starved to death, and he could not give up the little
singing boy to the sword. So he remained; and the town was saved, and he
became a great king. It was so secret that even the angels did not know
it. But without that child the history would not have been complete."
"And is he here?" the little Pilgrim said.
"Ah," said the historian, "that is more strange still; for that which
saved him was also to his harm. He is not here. He is Elsewhere."
The little Pilgrim's face grew sad; but then she remembered what she had
"But you know," she said, "that he is coming?"
"I know that our Father will never forsake him, and that everything that
is being accomplished in him is well."
"Is it well to suffer? Is it well to live in that dark stormy country?
Oh, that they were all here, and happy like you!"
He shook his head a little and said,--
"It was a long time before I got here; and as for suffering that matters
little. You get experience by it. You are more accomplished and fit for
greater work in the end. It is not for nothing that we are permitted to
wander; and sometimes one goes to the edge of despair--"
She looked at him with such wondering eyes that he answered her without a
"Yes," he said, "I have been there."
And then it seemed to her that there was something in his eyes which she
had not remarked before. Not only the great content that was everywhere,
but a deeper light, and the air of a judge who knew both good and evil,
and could see both sides, and understood all, both to love and to hate.
"Little sister," he said, "you have never wandered far; it is not needful
for such as you. Love teaches you, and you need no more; but when we have
to be trained for an office like this, to make the way of the Lord clear
through all the generations, reason is that we should see everything, and
learn all that man is and can be. These things are too deep for us; we
stumble on, and know not till after. But now to me it is all clear."
She looked at him again and again while he spoke, and it seemed to her
that she saw in him such great knowledge and tenderness as made her glad;
and how he could understand the follies that men had done, and fathom
what real meaning was in them, and disentangle all the threads. He smiled
as she gazed at him, and answered as if she had spoken.
"What was evil perishes, and what was good remains; almost everywhere
there is a little good. We could not understand all if we had not seen
all and shared all."
"And the punishment too," she said, wondering more and more.
He smiled so joyfully that it was like laughter.
"Pain is a great angel," he said. "The reason we hated him in the old
days was because he tended to death and decay; but when it is towards
life he leads, we fear him no more. The welcome thing of all in the land
of darkness is when you see him first and know who he is; for by this you
are aware that you have found the way."
The little Pilgrim did nothing but question with her anxious eyes, for
this was such a wonder to her, and she could not understand. But he only
sat musing with a smile over the things he remembered. And at last he
"If this is so interesting to you, you shall read it all in another
place, in the room where we have laid up our own experiences, in order to
serve for the history afterwards. But we are still busy upon the work of
the earth. There is always something new to be discovered. And it is
essential for the whole world that the chronicle should be full. I am in
great joy because it was but just now that our Lord told me about that
child. Everything was imperfect without him, but now it is clear."
"You mean your brother? And you are happy though you are not sure if he
is happy?" the little Pilgrim said.
"It is not to be happy that we live," said he; and then, "We are all
happy so soon as we have found the way."
She would have asked him more, but that he was called to a consultation
with some others of his kind, and had to leave her, waving his hand to
her with a tender kindness which went to her heart. She looked after him
with great respect, scarcely knowing why; but it seemed to her that a man
who had been in the land of darkness, and made his way out of it, must be
more wonderful than any other. She looked round for a little upon the
great library, full of all the books that had ever been written, and
where people were doing their work, examining and reading and making
extracts, every one with looks of so much interest, that she almost
envied them,--though it was a generous delight in seeing people so
happy in their occupation, and a desire to associate herself somehow in
it, rather than any grudging of their satisfaction, that was in her
mind. She went about all the courts of this palace alone, and everywhere
saw the same work going on, and everywhere met the same kind looks. Even
when the greatest of all looked up from his work and saw her, he would
give her a friendly greeting and a smile; and nobody was too wise to lend
an ear to the little visitor, or to answer her questions. And this was
how it was that she began to talk to another, who was seated at a great
table with many more, and who drew her to him by something that was in
his looks, though she could not have told what it was. It was not that he
was kinder than the rest, for they were all kind. She stood by him a
little, and saw how he worked and would take something from one book and
something from another, putting them ready for use. And it did not seem
any trouble to do this work, but only pleasure, and the very pen in his
hand was like a winged thing, as if it loved to write. When he saw her
watching him, he looked up and showed her the beautiful book out of which
he was copying, which was all illuminated with lovely pictures.
"This is one of the volumes of the great history," he said. "There are
some things in it which are needed for another, and it is a pleasure to
work at it. If you will come here you will be able to see the page while
Then the little Pilgrim asked him some questions about the pictures, and
he answered her, describing and explaining them; for they were in the
middle of the history, and she did not understand what it was. When she
said, "I ought not to trouble you, for you are busy," he laughed so
kindly that she laughed too for pleasure. And he said,--
"There is no trouble here. When we are not allowed to work, as sometimes
happens, that makes us not quite so happy, but it is very seldom that it
"Is it for punishment?" she said.
And then he laughed out with a sound which made all the others look up
smiling; and if they had not all looked so tenderly at her, as at a child
who has made such a mistake as it is pretty for the child to make, she
would have feared she had said something wrong; but she only laughed at
herself too, and blushed a little, knowing that she was not wise: and to
put her at her ease again, he turned the leaf and showed her other
pictures, and the story which went with them, from which he was copying
something. And he said,--
"This is for another book, to show how the grace of the Father was
beautiful in some homes and families. It is not the great history, but
connected with it; and there are many who love that better than the story
which is more great."
Then the Pilgrim looked in his face and said,--
"What I want most is, to know about your homes here."
"It is all home here," he said, and smiled; and then, as he met her
wistful looks, he went on to tell her that he and his brothers were not
always there. "We have all our occupations," he said, "and sometimes I am
sent to inquire into facts that have happened, of which the record is not
clear; for we must omit nothing; and sometimes we are told to rest and
take in new strength; and sometimes--"
"But oh, forgive me," cried the little Pilgrim, "you had some who were
more dear to you than all the world in the old time?"
And the others all looked up again at the question, and looked at her
with tender eyes, and said to the man whom she questioned,--"Speak!"
He made a little pause before he spoke, and he looked at one here and
there, and called to them,--
"Patience, brother," and "Courage, brother." And then he said, "Those
whom we loved best are nearly all with us; but some have not yet come."
"Oh," said the little Pilgrim, "but how then do you bear it, to be parted
so long--so long?"
Then one of those to whom the first speaker had called out "Patience"
rose, and came to her smiling; and he said,--
"I think every hour that perhaps she will come, and the joy will be so
great, that thinking of that makes the waiting short: and nothing here is
long, for it never ends; and it will be so wonderful to hear her tell how
the Father has guided her, that it will be a delight to us all; and she
will be able to explain many things, not only for us, but for all; and we
love each other so that this separation is as nothing in comparison with
what is to come."
It was beautiful to hear this, but it was not what the little Pilgrim
expected, for she thought they would have told her of the homes to which
they all returned when their work was over, and a life which was like the
life of the old time; but of this they said nothing, only looking at her
with smiling eyes, as at the curious questions of a child. And there were
many other things she would have asked, but refrained when she looked at
them, feeling as if she did not yet understand; when one of them broke
forth suddenly in a louder voice, and said,--
"The little sister knows only the little language and the beginning of
days. She has not learned the mysteries, and what Love is, and what life
And another cried, "It is sweet to hear it again;" and they all gathered
round her with tender looks, and began to talk to each other, and tell
her, as men will tell of the games of their childhood, of things that
happened, which were half-forgotten, in the old time.
After this the little Pilgrim went out again into the beautiful city,
feeling in her heart that everything was a mystery, and that the days
would never be long enough to learn all that had yet to be learned, but
knowing now that this too was the little language, and pleased with the
sweet thought of so much that was to come. For one had whispered to her
as she went out that the new tongue, and every explanation, as she was
ready for it, would come to her through one of those whom she loved best,
which is the usage of that country. And when the stranger has no one
there that is very dear, then it is an angel who teaches the greater
language, and that is what happens often to the children who are
brought up in that heavenly place. When she reached the street again, she
was so pleased with this thought that it went out of her mind to ask her
way to the great library, where she was to read the story of the
historian's journey through the land of darkness; indeed she forgot that
land altogether, and thought only of what was around her in the great
city, which is beyond everything that eye has seen, or that ear has
heard, or that it has entered into the imagination to conceive. And now
it seemed to her that she was much more familiar with the looks of the
people, and could distinguish between those who belonged to the city and
those who were visitors like herself; and also could tell which they were
who had entered into the mysteries of the kingdom, and which were, like
herself, only acquainted with the beginning of days. And it came to her
mind, she could not tell how, that it was best not to ask questions, but
to wait until the beloved one should come, who would teach her the first
words. For in the mean time she did not feel at all impatient or
disturbed by her want of knowledge, but laughed a little at herself to
suppose that she could find out everything, and went on looking round
her, and saying a word to every one she met, and enjoying the holiday
looks of all the strangers, and the sense she had in her heart of holiday
too. She was walking on in this pleasant way, when she heard a sound that
was like silver trumpets, and saw the crowd turn towards an open space in
which all the beautiful buildings were shaded with fine trees, and
flowers were springing at the very edge of the pavements. The strangers
all hastened along to hear what it was, and she with them, and some also
of the people of the place. And as the little Pilgrim found herself
walking by a woman who was of these last, she asked her what it was.
And the woman told her it was a poet who had come to say to them what had
been revealed to him, and that the two with the silver trumpets were
angels of the musicians' order, whose office it was to proclaim
everything that was new, that the people should know. And many of those
who were at work in the palaces came out and joined the crowd, and the
painter who had showed the little Pilgrim his picture, and many whose
faces she began to be acquainted with. The poet stood up upon a beautiful
pedestal all sculptured in stone, and with wreaths of living flowers hung
upon it--and when the crowd had gathered in front of him, he began his
poem. He told them that it was not about this land, or anything that
happened in it, which they knew as he did, but that it was a story of the
old time, when men were walking in darkness, and when no one knew the
true meaning even of what he himself did, but had to go on as if blindly,
stumbling and groping with their hands. And "Oh, brethren," he said,
"though all is more beautiful and joyful here where we know, yet to
remember the days when we knew not, and the ways when all was uncertain,
and the end could not be distinguished from the beginning, is sweet and
dear; and that which was done in the dim twilight should be celebrated in
the day; and our Father himself loves to hear of those who, having not
seen, loved, and who learned without any teacher, and followed the light,
though they did not understand."
And then he told them the story of one who had lived in the old time; and
in that air, which seemed to be made of sunshine, and amid all those
stately palaces, he described to them the little earth which they had
left behind--the skies that were covered with clouds, and the ways that
were so rough and stony, and the cruelty of the oppressor, and the cries
of those that were oppressed. And he showed the sickness and the
troubles, and the sorrow and danger; and how Death stalked about, and
tore heart from heart; and how sometimes the strongest would fail, and
the truest fall under the power of a lie, and the tenderest forget to be
kind; and how evil things lurked in every corner to beguile the dwellers
there; and how the days were short and the nights dark, and life so
little that by the time a man had learned something it was his hour to
die. "What can a soul do that is born there?" he cried; "for war is there
and fighting, and perplexity and darkness; and no man knows if that
which he does will be for good or evil, or can tell which is the best
way, or know the end from the beginning; and those he loves the most are
a mystery to him, and their thoughts beyond his reach. And clouds are
between him and the Father, and he is deceived with false gods and false
teachers, who make him to love a lie." The people who were listening held
their breath, and a shadow like a cloud fell on them, and they remembered
and knew that it was true. But the next moment their hearts rebelled, and
one and another would have spoken, and the little Pilgrim herself had
almost cried out and made her plea for the dear earth which she loved;
when he suddenly threw forth his voice again like a great song. "Oh, dear
mother earth," he cried; "oh, little world and great, forgive thy son!
for lovely thou art and dear, and the sun of God shines upon thee, and
the sweet dews fall; and there were we born, and loved and died, and are
come hence to bless the Father and the Son. For in no other world, though
they are so vast, is it given to any to know the Lord in the darkness,
and follow him groping, and make way through sin and death, and overcome
the evil, and conquer in his name." At which there was a great sound of
weeping and of triumph, and the little Pilgrim could not contain herself,
but cried out too in joy as if for a deliverance. And then the poet told
his tale. And as he told them of the man who was poor and sorrowful and
alone, and how he loved and was not loved again, and trusted and was
betrayed, and was tempted and drawn into the darkness, so that it seemed
as if he must perish; but when hope was almost gone, turned again from
the edge of despair, and confronted all his enemies, and fought and
conquered--the people followed every word with great outcries of love and
pity and wonder. For each one as he listened remembered his own career
and that of his brethren in the old life, and admired to think that all
the evil was past, and wondered that out of such tribulation and through
so many dangers all were safe and blessed here. And there were others
that were not of them, who listened, some seated at the windows of the
palaces and some standing in the great square,--people who were not like
the others, whose bearing was more majestic, and who looked upon the
crowd all smiling and weeping, with wonder and interest, but had no
knowledge of the cause, and listened as it were to a tale that is told.
The poet and his audience were as one, and at every period of the story
there was a deep breathing and pause, and every one looked at his
neighbor, and some grasped each other's hands as they remembered all that
was in the past; but the strangers listened and gazed and observed all,
as those who listen and are instructed in something beyond their
knowledge. The little Pilgrim stood all this time not knowing where she
was, so intent was she upon the tale; and as she listened it seemed to
her that all her own life was rolling out before her, and she remembered
the things that had been, and perceived how all had been shaped and
guided, and trembled a little for the brother who was in danger, yet knew
that all would be well.
The woman who had been at her side listened too with all her heart,
saying to herself, as she stood in the crowd, "He has left nothing out!
The little days they were so short, and the skies would change all in a
moment and one's heart with them. How he brings it all back!" And she put
up her hand to dry away a tear from her eyes, though her face all the
time was shining with the recollection. The little Pilgrim was glad to be
by the side of a woman after talking with so many men, and she put out
her hand and touched the cloak that this lady wore, and which was white
and of the most beautiful texture, with gold threads woven in it, or
something that looked like gold.
"Do you like," she said, "to think of the old time?"
The woman turned and looked down upon her, for she was tall and stately,
and immediately took the hand of the little Pilgrim into hers, and held
it without answering, till the poet had ended and come down from the
place where he had been standing. He came straight through the crowd to
where this lady stood, and said something to her. "You did well to tell
me," looking at her with love in his eyes,--not the tender sweetness
of all those kind looks around, but the love that is for one. The little
Pilgrim looked at them with her heart beating, and was very glad for
them, and happy in herself; for she had not seen this love before since
she came into the city, and it had troubled her to think that perhaps it
did not exist any more. "I am glad," the lady said, and gave him her
other hand; "but here is a little sister who asks me something, and I
must answer her. I think she has but newly come."
"She has a face full of the morning," the poet said. It did the little
Pilgrim good to feel the touch of the warm, soft hand; and she was not
afraid, but lifted her eyes and spoke to the lady and to the poet. "It is
beautiful what you said to us. Sometimes in the old time we used to look
up to the beautiful skies and wonder what there was above the clouds; but
we never thought that up here in this great city you would be thinking of
what we were doing, and making beautiful poems all about us. We thought
that you would sing wonderful psalms, and talk of things high, high above
"The little sister does not know what the meaning of the earth is," the
poet said. "It is but a little speck, but it is the centre of all. Let
her walk with us, and we will go home, and you will tell her, Ama, for I
love to hear you talk."
"Will you come with us?" the lady said.
And the little Pilgrim's heart leaped up in her, to think she was now
going to see a home in this wonderful city; and they went along, hand in
hand, and though they were three together, and many were coming and
going, there was no difficulty, for every one made way for them. And
there was a little murmur of pleasure as the poet passed, and those who
had heard his poem made obeisance to him, and thanked him, and thanked
the Father for him that he was able to show them so many beautiful
things. And they walked along the street which was shining with color,
and saw as they passed how the master painter had come to his work, and
was standing upon the balcony where the little Pilgrim had been, and
bringing out of the wall, under his hand, faces which were full of life,
and which seemed to spring forth as if they had been hidden there. "Let
us wait a little and see him working," the poet said; and all round about
the people stopped on their way, and there was a soft cry of pleasure and
praise all through the beautiful street. And the painter with whom the
little Pilgrim had talked before came, and stood behind her as if he had
been an old friend, and called out to her at every new touch to mark how
this and that was done. She did not understand as he did, but she saw how
beautiful it was, and she was glad to have seen the great painter, as she
had been glad to hear the great poet. It seemed to the little Pilgrim as
if everything happened well for her, and that no one had ever been so
blessed before. And to make it all more sweet, this new friend, this
great and sweet lady, always held her hand, and pressed it softly when
something more lovely appeared; and even the pictured faces on the wall
seemed to beam upon her, as they came out one by one like the stars in
the sky. Then the three went on again, and passed by many more beautiful
palaces, and great streets leading away into the light, till you could
see no further; and they met with bands of singers who sang so sweetly
that the heart seemed to leap out of the Pilgrim's breast to meet with
them, for above all things this was what she had loved most. And out of
one of the palaces there came such glorious music that everything she had
seen and heard before seemed as nothing in comparison. And amid all these
delights they went on and on, but without wearying, till they came out of
the streets into lovely walks and alleys, and made their way to the banks
of a great river, which seemed to sing, too, a soft melody of its own.
And here there were some fair houses surrounded by gardens and flowers
that grew everywhere, and the doors were all open, and within everything
was lovely and still, and ready for rest if you were weary. The little
Pilgrim was not weary; but the lady placed her upon a couch in the porch,
where the pillars and the roof were all formed of interlacing plants and
flowers; and there they sat with her, and talked, and explained to her
many things. They told her that the earth though so small was the place
in all the world to which the thoughts of those above were turned. "And
not only of us who have lived there, but of all our brothers in the other
worlds; for we are the race which the Father has chosen to be the
example. In every age there is one that is the scene of the struggle and
the victory, and it is for this reason that the chronicles are made, and
that we are all placed here to gather the meaning of what has been done
among men. And I am one of those," the lady said, "that go back to the
dear earth and gather up the tale of what our little brethren are doing.
I have not to succor like some others, but only to see and bring the
news; and he makes them into great poems, as you have heard; and
sometimes the master painter will take one and make of it a picture; and
there is nothing that is so delightful to us as when we can bring back
the histories of beautiful things."
"But, oh," said the little Pilgrim, "what can there be on earth so
beautiful as the meanest thing that is here?"
Then they both smiled upon her and said, "It is more beautiful than the
most beautiful thing here to see how, under the low skies and in the
short days, a soul will turn to our Father. And sometimes," said Ama,
"when I am watching, one will wander and stray, and be led into the
dark till my heart is sick; then come back and make me glad. Sometimes I
cry out within myself to the Father, and say, 'O my Father, it is
enough!' and it will seem to me that it is not possible to stand by and
see his destruction. And then while you are gazing, while you are
crying, he will recover and return, and go on again. And to the angels it
is more wonderful than to us, for they have never lived there. And all
the other worlds are eager to hear what we can tell them. For no one
knows except the Father how the battle will turn, or when it will all be
accomplished; and there are some who tremble for our little brethren. For
to look down and see how little light there is, and how no one knows what
may happen to him next, makes them afraid who never were there."
The little Pilgrim listened with an intent face, clasping her hands, and
"But it never could be that our Father should be overcome by evil. Is not
that known in all the worlds?"
Then the lady turned and kissed her; and the poet broke forth in singing,
and said, "Faith is more heavenly than heaven; it is more beautiful than
the angels. It is the only voice that can answer to our Father. We praise
him, we glorify him, we love his name; but there is but one response to
him through all the worlds, and that is the cry of the little brothers,
who see nothing and know nothing, but believe that he will never fail."
At this the little Pilgrim wept, for her heart was touched; but she
"We are not so ignorant; for we have our Lord who is our Brother, and he
teaches us all that we require to know."
Upon this the poet rose and lifted up his hands and sang again a great
song; it was in the other language which the little Pilgrim still did not
understand, but she could make out that it sounded like a great
proclamation that He was wise as he was good, and called upon all to see
that the Lord had chosen the only way: and the sound of the poet's voice
was like a great trumpet sounding bold and sweet, as if to tell this to
those who were far away.
"For you must know," said the Lady Ama, who all the time held the
Pilgrim's hand, "that it is permitted to all to judge according to the
wisdom that has been given them. And there are some who think that our
dear Lord might have found another way, and that wait, sometimes with
trembling, lest he should fail; but not among us who have lived on earth,
for we know. And it is our work to show to all the worlds that his way
never fails, and how wonderful it is, and beautiful above all that heart
has conceived. And thus we justify the ways of God, who is our Father.
But in the other worlds there are many who will continue to fear until
the history of the earth is all ended and the chronicles are made
"And will that be long?" the little Pilgrim cried, feeling in her heart
that she would like to go to all the worlds and tell them of our Lord,
and of his love, and how the thought of him makes you strong; and it
troubled her a little to hear her friends speak of the low skies, and the
short days, and the dimness of that dear country which she had left
behind, in which there were so many still whom she loved.
Upon this Ama shook her head, and said that of that day no one knew, not
even our Lord, but only the Father; and then she smiled and answered the
little Pilgrim's thought. "When we go back," she said, "it is not as when
we lived there; for now we see all the dangers of it and the mysteries
which we did not see before. It was by the Father's dear love that we did
not see what was around us and about us while we lived there, for then
our hearts would have fainted; and that makes us wonder now that any one
endures to the end."
"You are a great deal wiser than I am," said the little Pilgrim; "but,
though our hearts had fainted, how could we have been overcome? For He
was on our side."
At this neither of them made any reply at first, but looked at her; and
at length the poet said that she had brought many thoughts back to his
mind, and how he had himself been almost worsted when one like her came
to him and gave strength to his soul. "For that He was on our side was
the only thing she knew," he said, "and all that could be learned or
discovered was not worthy of naming beside it. And this I must tell when
next I speak to the people, and how our little sister brought it to my
And then they paused from this discourse, and the little Pilgrim looked
round upon the beautiful houses and the fair gardens, and she said,--
"You live here? and do you come home at night?--but I do not mean at
night, I mean when your work is done. And are they poets like you that
dwell all about in these pleasant places, and the--"
She would have said the children, but stopped, not knowing if perhaps it
might be unkind to speak of the children when she saw none there.
Upon this the lady smiled once more, and said,--
"The door stands open always, so that no one is shut out, and the
children come and go when they will. They are children no longer, and
they have their appointed work like him and me."
"And you are always among those you love?" the Pilgrim said; upon which
they smiled again and said, "We all love each other;" and the lady held
her hand in both of hers, and caressed it, and softly laughed and said,
"You know only the little language. When you have been taught the other
you will learn many beautiful things."
She rested for some time after this, and talked much with her new
friends; and then there came into the heart of the little Pilgrim a
longing to go to the place which was appointed for her, and which was her
home, and to do the work which had been given her to do. And when the
lady saw this she rose and said that she would accompany her a little
upon her way. But the poet bid her farewell and remained under the porch,
with the green branches shading him, and the flowers twining round the
pillars, and the open door of this beautiful house behind him. When
she looked back upon him he waved his hand to her as if bidding her
God-speed, and the lady by her side looked back too and waved her hand,
and the little Pilgrim felt tears of happiness come to her eyes; for she
had been wondering with a little disappointment to see that the people in
the city, except those who were strangers, were chiefly alone, and not
like those in the old world where the husband and wife go together. It
consoled her to see again two who were one. The lady pressed her hand in
answer to her thought, and bade her pause a moment and look back into the
city as they passed the end of the great street out of which they came.
And then the Pilgrim was more and more consoled, for she saw many who
had before been alone now walking together hand in hand.
"It is not as it was," Ama said. "For all of us have work to do which is
needed for the worlds, and it is no longer needful that one should sit at
home while the other goes forth; for our work is not for our life as of
old, or for ourselves, but for the Father who has given us so great a
trust. And, little sister, you must know that though we are not so great
as the angels, nor as many that come to visit us from the other worlds,
yet we are nearer to him. For we are in his secret, and it is ours to
make it clear."
The little Pilgrim's heart was very full to hear this; but she said,--
"I was never clever, nor knew much. It is better for me to go away to my
little border-land, and help the strangers who do not know the way."
"Whatever is your work is the best," the lady said; "but though you are
so little you are in the Father's secret too, for it is nature to you to
know what the others cannot be sure of, that we must have the victory at
the last: so that we have this between us, the Father and we. And though
all are his children, we are of the kindred of God, because of our Lord
who is our Brother." And then the Lady Ama kissed her, and bade her when
she returned to the great city, either for rest or for love, or because
the Father sent for her, that she should come to the house by the river.
"For we are friends for ever," she said, and so threw her white veil over
her head, and was gone upon her mission, whither the little Pilgrim did
And now she found herself at a distance from the great city, which shone
in the light with its beautiful towers, and roofs, and all its monuments,
softly fringed with trees, and set in a heavenly firmament. And the
Pilgrim thought of those words that described this lovely place as a
bride adorned for her husband, and did not wonder at him who had said
that her streets were of gold and her gates of pearl, because gold and
pearls and precious jewels were as nothing to the glory and the beauty of
her. The little Pilgrim was glad to have seen these wonderful things, and
her mind was like a cup running over with almost more than it could
contain. It seemed to her that there never could be a time when she
should want for wonder and interest and delight, so long as she had this
to think of. Yet she was not sorry to turn her back upon the beautiful
city, but went on her way singing in unutterable content, and thinking
over what the lady had said, that we were in God's secret, more than all
the great worlds above and even the angels, because of knowing how it is
that in darkness and doubt, and without any open vision, a man may still
keep the right way. The path lay along the bank of the river which flowed
beside her and made the air full of music, and a soft air blew across the
running stream and breathed in her face and refreshed her, and the birds
sang in all the trees. And as she passed through the villages the people
came out to meet her, and asked of her if she had come from the city, and
what she had seen there. And everywhere she found friends, and kind
voices that gave her greeting. But some would ask her why she still spoke
the little language, though it was sweet to their ears; and others when
they heard it hastened to call from the houses and the fields some among
them who knew the other tongue but a little, and who came and crowded
round the little Pilgrim, and asked her many questions both about the
things she had been seeing and about the old time. And she perceived that
the village folk were a simple folk, not learned and wise like those she
had left; and that though they lived within sight of the great city, and
showed every stranger the beautiful view of it, and the glory of its
towers, yet few among them had travelled there; for they were so content
with their fields, and their river, and the shade of their trees, and the
birds singing, and their simple life, that they wanted no change; though
it pleased them to receive the little Pilgrim, and they brought her into
their villages rejoicing, and called every one to see her. And they told
her that they had all been poor and labored hard in the old time, and had
never rested; so that now it was the Father's good pleasure that they
should enjoy great peace and consolation among the fresh-breathing fields
and on the riverside, so that there were many who even now had little
occupation except to think of the Father's goodness, and to rest. And
they told her how the Lord himself would come among them, and sit down
under a tree, and tell them one of his parables, and make them all more
happy than words could say; and how sometimes he would send one out of
the beautiful city, with a poem or tale to say to them, and bands of
lovely music, more lovely than anything beside, except the sound of the
Lord's own voice. "And what is more wonderful, the angels themselves come
often and listen to us," they said, "when we begin to talk and remind
each other of the old time, and how we suffered heat and cold, and were
bowed down with labor, and bending over the soil, and how sometimes the
harvest would fail us, and sometimes we had not bread, and sometimes
would hush the children to sleep because there was nothing to give them;
and how we grew old and weary, and still worked on and on." "We are
those who were old," a number of them called out to her, with a murmuring
sound of laughter, one looking over another's shoulder. And one woman
said, "The angels say to us, 'Did you never think the Father had forsaken
you and the Lord forgotten you?'" And all the rest answered as in a
chorus, "There were moments that we thought this; but all the time we
knew that it could not be." "And the angels wonder at us," said another.
All this they said, crowding one before another, every one anxious to say
something, and sometimes speaking together, but always in accord. And
then there was a sound of laughter and pleasure, both at the strange
thought that the Lord could have forgotten them, and at the wonder of the
angels over their simple tales. And immediately they began to remind each
other, and say, "Do you remember?" and they told the little Pilgrim a
hundred tales of the hardships and troubles they had known, all smiling
and radiant with pleasure; and at every new account the others would
applaud and rejoice, feeling the happiness all the more for the evils
that were past. And some of them led her into their gardens to show her
their flowers, and to tell her how they had begun to study and learn
how colors were changed and form perfected, and the secrets of the growth
and of the germ, of which they had been ignorant. And others arranged
themselves in choirs, and sang to her delightful songs of the fields, and
accompanied her out upon her way, singing and answering to each other.
The difference between the simple folk and the greatness of the others
made the little Pilgrim wonder and admire; and she loved them in her
simplicity, and turned back many a time to wave her hand to them, and to
listen to the lovely simple singing as it went further and further away.
It had an evening tone of rest and quietness, and of protection and
peace. "He leadeth me by the green pastures and beside the quiet waters,"
she said to herself; and her heart swelled with pleasure to think that it
was those who had been so old, and so weary and poor, who had this rest
to console them for all their sorrows.
And as she went along, not only did she pass through many other villages,
but met many on the way who were travelling towards the great city, and
would greet her sweetly as they passed, and sometimes stop to say a
pleasant word, so that the little Pilgrim was never lonely wherever she
went. But most of them began to speak to her in the other language, which
was as beautiful and sweet as music, but which she could not understand;
and they were surprised to find her ignorant of it, not knowing that she
was but a new-comer into these lands. And there were many things that
could not be told but in that language, for the earthly tongue had no
words to express them. The little Pilgrim was a little sad not to
understand what was said to her, but cheered herself with the thought
that it should be taught to her by one whom she loved best. The way by
the riverside was very cheerful and bright, with many people coming and
going, and many villages, some of them with a bridge across the stream,
some withdrawn among the fields, but all of them bright and full of life,
and with sounds of music, and voices, and footsteps: and the little
Pilgrim felt no weariness, and moved along as lightly as a child, taking
great pleasure in everything she saw, and answering all the friendly
greetings with all her heart, yet glad to think that she was approaching
ever nearer to the country where it was ordained that she should dwell
for a time and succor the strangers, and receive those who were newly
arrived. And she consoled herself with the thought that there was no need
of any language but that which she knew. As this went through her mind,
making her glad, she suddenly became aware of one who was walking by her
side, a lady who was covered with a veil white and shining like that
which Ama had worn in the beautiful city. It hung about this stranger's
head so that it was not easy to see her face, but the sound of her voice
was very sweet in the pilgrim's ear, yet startled her like the sound of
something which she knew well, but could not remember. And as there
were few who were going that way, she was glad and said, "Let us walk
together, if that pleases you." And the stranger said, "It is for that I
have come," which was a reply which made the little Pilgrim wonder more
and more, though she was very glad and joyful to have this companion upon
her way. And then the lady began to ask her many questions, not about the
city, or the great things she had seen, but about herself, and what the
dear Lord had given her to do.
"I am little and weak, and I cannot do much," the little Pilgrim said.
"It is nothing but pleasure. It is to welcome those that are coming, and
tell them. Sometimes they are astonished and do not know. I was so
myself. I came in my sleep, and understood nothing. But now that I know,
it is sweet to tell them that they need not fear."
"I was glad," the lady said, "that you came in your sleep; for sometimes
the way is dark and hard, and you are little and tender. When your
brother comes you will be the first to see him, and show him the way."
"My brother! is he coming?" the little Pilgrim cried. And then she said
with a wistful look, "But we are all brethren, and you mean only one of
those who are the children of our Father. You must forgive me that I do
not know the higher speech, but only what is natural, for I have not yet
been long here."
"He whom I mean is called--" and here the lady said a name which was the
true name of a brother born whom the Pilgrim loved above all others. She
gave a cry, and then she said, trembling, "I know your voice, but I
cannot see your face. And what you say makes me think of many things. No
one else has covered her face when she has spoken to me. I know you, and
yet I cannot tell who you are."
The woman stood for a little without saying a word, and then very softly,
in a voice which only the heart heard, she called the little Pilgrim by
"MOTHER," cried the Pilgrim, with such a cry of joy that it echoed all
about in the sweet air, and flung herself upon the veiled lady, and drew
the veil from her face, and saw that it was she. And with this sight
there came a revelation which flooded her soul with happiness. For the
face which had been old and feeble was old no longer, but fair in the
maturity of day; and the figure that had been bent and weary was full of
a tender majesty, and the arms that clasped her about were warm and soft
with love and life. And all that had changed their relations in the other
days and made the mother in her weakness seem as a child, and transferred
all protection and strength to the daughter, was gone for ever and the
little Pilgrim beheld in a rapture one who was her sister and equal, yet
ever above her,--more near to her than any, though all were so near,--one
of whom she herself was a part, yet another, and who knew all her
thoughts and the way of them before they arose in her. And to see her
face as in the days of her prime, and her eyes so clear and wise, and to
feel once more that which is different from the love of all, that which
is still most sweet where all is sweet, the love of one, was like a crown
to her in her happiness. The little Pilgrim could not think for joy, nor
say a word, but held this dear mother's hands and looked in her face, and
her heart soared away to the Father in thanks and joy. They sat down by
the roadside under the shade of the trees,--while the river ran softly
by, and everything was hushed out of sympathy and kindness,--and
questioned each other of all that had been and was to be. And the little
Pilgrim told all the little news of home, and of the brothers and sisters
and the children that had been born, and of those whose faces were turned
towards this better country; and the mother smiled and listened and would
have heard all over and over, although many things she already knew. "But
why should I tell you, for did not you watch over us and see all we did,
and were not you near us always?" the little Pilgrim said.
"How could that be?" said the mother; "for we are not like our Lord, to
be everywhere. We come and go where we are sent. But sometimes we knew,
and sometimes saw, and always loved. And whenever our hearts were sick
for news it was but to go to him, and he told us everything. And now, my
little one, you are as we are, and have seen the Lord. And this has been
given us, to teach our child once more, and show you the heavenly
language, that you may understand all, both the little and the great."
Then the Pilgrim lifted her head from her mother's bosom, and looked in
her face with eyes full of longing. "You said 'we,'" she said.
The mother did nothing but smile; then lifted her eyes and looked along
the beautiful path of the river to where some one was coming to join
them. And the little Pilgrim cried out again, in wonder and joy; and
presently found herself seated between them, her father and her mother,
the two who had loved her most in the other days. They looked more
beautiful than the angels and all the great persons whom she had seen;
for still they were hers and she was theirs more than all the angels and
all the blessed could be. And thus she learned that though the new may
take the place of the old, and many things may blossom out of it like
flowers, yet that the old is never done away. And then they sat together,
telling of everything that had befallen, and all the little tender things
that were of no import, and all the great changes and noble ways, and the
wonders of heaven above--and the earth beneath, for all, were open to
them, both great and small; and when they had satisfied their souls with
these, her father and mother began to teach her the other language,
smiling often at her faltering tongue, and telling her the same thing
over and over till she learnt it; and her father called her his little
foolish one, as he had done in the old days; and at last, when they had
kissed her and blessed her, and told her how to come home to them when
she was weary, they gave her, as the Father had permitted them, with joy
and blessing, her new name.
The little Pilgrim was tired with happiness and all the wonder and
pleasure; and as she sat there in the silence; leaning upon those who
were so dear to her, the soft air grew sweeter and sweeter about her, and
the light faded softly into a dimness of tender indulgence and privilege
for her, because she was still little and weak. And whether that heavenly
suspense of all her faculties was sleep or not she knew not, but it was
such as in all her life she had never known. When she came back to
herself, it was by the sound of many voices calling her, and many people
hastening past and beckoning to her to join them.
"Come, come," they said, "little sister: there has been great trouble in
the other life, and many have arrived suddenly and are afraid. Come,
come, and help them,--come and help them!"
And she sprang up from her soft seat, and found that she was no longer by
the riverside, or within sight of the great city, or in the arms of those
she loved, but stood on one of the flowery paths of her own border-land,
and saw her fellows hastening towards the gates where there seemed a
great crowd. And she was no longer weary, but full of life and strength;
and it seemed to her that she could take them up in her arms, those
trembling strangers, and carry them straight to the Father, so strong was
she, and light, and full of force. And above all the gladness she had
felt, and all her pleasure in what she had seen, and more happy even than
the meeting with those she loved most, was her happiness how, as she went
along as light as the breeze to receive the strangers. She was so eager
that she began to sing a song of welcome as she hastened on. "Oh,
welcome, welcome!" she cried; and as she sang she knew it was one of the
heavenly melodies which she had heard in the great city; and she hastened
on, her feet flying over the flowery ways, thinking how the great worlds
were all watching, and the angels looking on, and the whole universe
waiting till it should be proved to them that the dear Lord, the Brother
of us all, had chosen the perfect way, and that over all evil and the
sorrow he was the Conqueror alone.
And the little Pilgrim's voice, though it was so small, echoed away
through the great firmament to where the other worlds were watching to
see what should come, and cheered the anxious faces of some great lords
and princes far more great than she, who were of a nobler race than man;
for it was said among the stars that when such a little sound could reach
so far, it was a token that the Lord had chosen aright, and that his
method must be the best. And it breathed over the earth like some one
saying Courage! to those whose hearts were failing; and it dropped down,
down, into the great confusions and traffic of the Land of Darkness, and
startled many, like the cry of a child calling and calling, and never
ceasing, "Come! and come! and come!"
Back to Full Books