ON LONE MOUNTAIN AGAIN
"THERE is more colour in your face, Laura, you are a different girl from what you were a week ago." From the slope of Lone Mountain a magnificent stretch lay open, and the keen wind of autumn blew with never a touch of faltering or weariness.
"Uncle, you are kinder to me than anyone else," said Laura.
"Dear," said the old man, "I have cause to be. You came and flung your sympathy about me in my lone and struggling solitude—dear, I cannot tell you how it enveloped me and made me whole."
"And was I of some use? You are so dear and good, and I am at peace here. At home they mean to be very kind, but there is a sort of oppression—here I'm like one of your flowers you open the little lids of. It is so restful and peaceful here."
When Laura came to break his solitude this second time, Farmer had received her with a very different welcome to that he gave her the first time, and if he wondered what made her seek him, her paleness gave him excuse enough for believing that it was what she said—the country air and the quiet, so he talked to her, waiting to let her speak to him if she would.
"Yes," he said, "I left all my struggles for this peace. I felt mortified when I found the merest beginners knew more than I did, in what I ought to have shown the way, and could tell me mere than I had ever dreamed. Working together is a wonderful thing, one helping another they soon pass a solitary man. A great repose has come over me, and I see the world go speeding its way into wonders of thought I cannot follow. And when I see my flowers so sweetly blooming, the old antagonism leaves me. You remember how I used to talk?"
"And Harold told me I judged from without, that if I had other people's problems I should do exactly as they did, you remember?"
"Yes," said Laura.
"And yet there was something in what I felt. It is possible, isn't it, to feel the defects in what other people say without having anything to put in its place?"
"Oh yes, but you did put something else."
"No, Laura, only the way to find out something else. I was angry with them because of the way they thought. But really they were trying to do something else than thinking. Let me tell you, there is a cave near here, deep down in the ground—you needn't look for it, for you would never find it—but it is a deep cave, and when I go down into it in the quiet dark, then when my eyes are accustomed to the dark I see a new way out, an entrance into a different scene. I will tell you about it. We all think of things, ourselves, every object and being as existing by itself, and relations going out to other things or people like ropes connecting them. Being, as we think of it, is being in self. But when I look out from my cave, I see a different world, the world of being for other. And that is the real world, Laura! There is no such thing as a self being, all being is being in and for others. When we love, Laura, it is not so much that we do anything, but we find being itself—love is not something which may come or not, it is the taste of existence. How can people show this by thinking? They should not think at all, for the only way they know of thinking is to make up ideas of self being, self things."
"But, Uncle, it would be very difficult to say anything, if we couldn't talk about things themselves."
"What is the need of saying anything? That is why I like that unprincipled lover of yours. Harold doesn't say anything, he does things."
"He isn't unprincipled, Uncle."
"Laura, you know very well that not understanding what I said, not knowing the truth of it, the most he could consistently have done would have been to try and get me a hearing in an ordinary way. And what did he do? The ancients compared love to a madness—some it affects in their outward actions, some it seizes centrally so that there is no outward sign of disturbance. Harold was seized that way, he went about his course without the slightest sign of compunction. How else can you explain it?"
"I can't explain anything about Harold," said Laura, "he always does exactly the contrary to what I expect him to."
"It was because you, Laura, seized him so vitally and centrally, that you stood to him for all that is good—you, child, showed him the world's real need. Was there a single moment after you appealed to him, in which he did not go about in the quickest and most effective manner to accomplish what you told him to do?"
"Was I that to him?"
"Laura, it is not you alone or he alone. You do not know, the world over, what power lies in frail and ignorant hands. Sometimes it seems to me that the little beings that guide and rule our bodily frames must have presentiments and an outlook we know not of, and that a voice out of the secret of things called him by his love for you to labour for the saving of the world. What, Laura, what are you to Forest, the one he would rather win, but only the most desirable one out of so many. Blythe and gay he can talk to you, interest you, amuse you, his nimble mind can keep pace with yours. But is that everything? Look deeper. Imagine you and Harold standing together on a lone hill top with air and sky all around you, where there is nothing but nature and you two. Imagine what he could say to you, how he says, 'Laura, there is something deeper and more solid than all this earth, something that binds us together if all should crumble and pass away, that very being that makes all, that moves all, brings me to you'—surely he would wake a response in your heart."
Laura recalled the moment when she was standing with Harold watching the approaching wave, and for a moment that bliss in the face of nothingness again came over her.
"Uncle," she said, "I wonder you were never married."
"Let me write to him, child," he answered, "tell him you are here?"
"Oh, no," she cried, "no, if you do that I shall go away at once."
"I only asked that question to prepare you, Laura," said the old man sadly. "Harold wrote to me directly he knew you were here, and said he was coming. He will be here in an hour. But I can't see him. Since you have turned away from him I can't bear to see him. Tell him I am ill—I feel ill. Make excuses for me; I don't expect he will want to see me." And so saying, the old man crept back into the house, leaving Laura sitting smiling on the grass.