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- What's Mine's Mine V2 - 20/30 -
"You gentlemen," said Mercy, "seem to have a place to think in that I don't know how to get into! Could you not open your church-door a little wider to let me in? There must be room for more than two!"
She was looking up at Alister, not so much afraid of him; Ian was to her hardly of this world. In her eyes Alister saw something that seemed to reflect the starlight; but it might have been a luminous haze about the waking stars of her soul!
"My brother has always been janitor to me," replied Alister; "I do not know how to open any door. But here no door needs to be opened; you have just to step straight into the temple of nature, among all the good people worshipping."
"There! that is what I was afraid of!" cried Mercy: "you are pantheists!"
"Bless my soul, Mercy!" exclaimed Christina; "what do you mean?"
"Yes," answered Ian. "If to believe that not a lily can grow, not a sparrow fall to the ground without our Father, be pantheism, Alister and I are pantheists. If by pantheism you mean anything that would not fit with that, we are not pantheists."
"Why should we trouble about religion more than is required of us!" interposed Christina.
"Why indeed?" returned Ian. "But then how much is required?"
"You require far more than my father, and he is good enough for me!"
"The Master says we are to love God with all our hearts and souls and strength and mind."
"That was in the old law, Ian," said Alister.
"You are right. Jesus only justified it--and did it."
"How then can you worship in the temple of Nature?" said Mercy.
"Just as he did. It is Nature's temple, mind, for the worship of God, not of herself!"
"But how am I to get into it? That is what I want to know."
"The innermost places of the temple are open only to such as already worship in a greater temple; but it has courts into which any honest soul may enter."
"You wouldn't set me to study Wordsworth?"
"By no means."
"I am glad of that--though there must be more in him than I see, or you couldn't care for him so much!"
"Some of Nature's lessons you must learn before you can understand them."
"Can you call it learning a lesson if you do not understand it?"
"Yes--to a certain extent. Did you learn at school to work the rule of three?"
"Yes; and I was rather fond of it."
"Did you understand it?"
"I could work sums in it."
"Did you see how it was that setting the terms down so, and working out the rule, must give you a true answer. Did you perceive that it was safe to buy or sell, to build a house, or lay out a garden, by the rule of three?"
"I did not. I do not yet."
"Then one may so far learn a lesson without understanding it! All do, more or less, in Dame Nature's school. Not a few lessons must be so learned in order to be better learned. Without being so learned first, it is not possible to understand them; the scholar has not facts enough about the things to understand them. Keats's youthful delight in Nature was more intense even than Wordsworth's, but he was only beginning to understand her when he died. Shelley was much nearer understanding her than Keats, but he was drowned before he did understand her. Wordsworth was far before either of them. At the same time, presumptuous as it may appear, I believe there are regions to be traversed, beyond any point to which Wordsworth leads us."
"But how am I to begin? Do tell me. Nothing you say helps me in the least."
"I have all the time been leading you toward the door at which you want to go in. It is not likely, however, that it will open to you at once. I doubt if it will open to you at all except through sorrow."
"You are a most encouraging master!" said Christina, with a light laugh.
"It was Wordsworth's bitter disappointment in the outcome of the French revolution," continued Ian, "that opened the door to him. Yet he had gone through the outer courts of the temple with more understanding than any who immediately preceded him.--Will you let me ask you a question?"
"You frighten me!" said Mercy.
"I am sorry for that. We will talk of something else."
"I am not afraid of what you may ask me; I am frightened at what you tell me. I fear to go on if I must meet Sorrow on the way!"
"You make one think of some terrible secret society!" said Christina.
"Tell me then, Miss Mercy, is there anything you love very much? I don't say any PERSON, but any THING."
"I love some animals."
"An animal is not a thing. It is possible to love animals and not the nature of which we are speaking. You might love a dog dearly, and never care to see the sun rise!--Tell me, did any flower ever make you cry?
"No," answered Mercy, with a puzzled laugh; "how could it?"
"Did any flower ever make you a moment later in going to bed, or a moment earlier in getting out of it?"
"In that direction, then, I am foiled!"
"You would not really have me cry over a flower, Mr. Ian? Did ever a flower make you cry yourself? Of course not! it is only silly women that cry for nothing!"
"I would rather not bring myself in at present," answered Ian smiling. "Do you know how Chaucer felt about flowers?"
"I never read a word of Chaucer."
"Shall I give you an instance?"
"Chaucer was a man of the world, a courtier, more or less a man of affairs, employed by Edward III. in foreign business of state: you cannot mistake him for an effeminate or sentimental man! He does not anywhere, so far as I remember, say that ever he cried over a flower, but he shows a delight in some flowers so delicate and deep that it must have a source profounder than that of most people's tears. When we go back I will read you what he says about the daisy; but one more general passage I think I could repeat. There are animals in it too!"
"Pray let us hear it," said Christina.
He spoke the following stanzas--not quite correctly, but supplying for the moment's need where he could not recall:--
A gardein saw I, full of blosomed bowis, Upon a river, in a grene mede, There as sweetnesse evermore inough is, With floures white, blewe, yelowe, and rede, And cold welle streames, nothing dede, That swommen full of smale fishes light, With finnes rede, and scales silver bright.
On every bough the birdes heard I sing, With voice of angell, in hir armonie, That busied hem, hir birdes forth to bring, The little pretty conies to hir play gan hie, And further all about I gan espie, The dredeful roe, the buck, the hart, and hind, Squirrels, and beastes small, of gentle kind.
Of instruments of stringes in accorde, Heard I so play, a ravishing swetnesse, That God, that maker is of all and Lorde, Ne heard never better, as I gesse, Therewith a wind, unneth it might be lesse, Made in the leaves grene a noise soft, Accordant to the foules song on loft.
The aire of the place so attempre was, That never was ther grevance of hot ne cold, There was eke every noisome spice and gras, Ne no man may there waxe sicke ne old, Yet was there more joy o thousand fold, Than I can tell or ever could or might, There is ever clere day, and never night.
He modernized them also a little in repeating them, so that his hearers missed nothing through failing to understand the words: how much they gained, it were hard to say.
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