H ULLO! hi! wake up. Jump out of bed, and come to the window, and see where you are.
What a wonderful place!
So it is: though it is only poor old Ireland. Don't you recollect that when we started I told you we were going to Ireland, and through it to the World's End; and here we are now safe at the end of the old world, and beyond us the great Atlantic, and beyond that again, thousands of miles away, the new world, which will be rich and prosperous, civilized and noble, thousands of years hence, when this old world, it may be, will be dead, and little children there will be reading in their history books of Ancient England and of Ancient France, as you now read of Greece and Rome.
But what a wonderful place it is! What are those great green things standing up in the sky, all over purple ribs and bars, with their tops hid in the clouds?
Those are mountains; the bones of some old world, whose poor bare sides Madam How is trying to cover with rich green grass.
And how far off are they? How I should like to walk up to the top of that one which looks quite close.
You would find it a long walk up there; three miles, I dare say,
over black bogs and banks of rock, and up corries and cliffs which
you could not climb. There are plenty of cows on that mountain:
and yet they look so small, you could not see them, nor I either,
without a glass. That long white streak, zigzagging down the
mountain side, is a roaring cataract of foam five hundred feet
high, full now with last night's rain: but by this afternoon it
will have dwindled to a little thread; and
But what a beautiful place it is! Flowers and woods and a lawn; and what is that great smooth patch in the lawn just under the window? Is it an empty flower-bed?
Ah, thereby hangs a strange tale. We will go and look at it after breakfast, and then you shall see with your own eyes one of the wonders which I have been telling you of.
And what is that shining between the trees?
Is it a lake?
Not a lake, though there are plenty round here; that is salt water, not fresh. Look away to the right, and you see it through the opening of the woods again and again: and now look above the woods. You see a faint blue line, and grey and purple lumps like clouds, which rest upon it far away. That, child, is the great Atlantic Ocean, and those are islands in the far west. The water which washes the bottom of the lawn was but a few months ago pouring out of the Gulf of Mexico, between the Bahamas and Florida, and swept away here as the great ocean river of warm water which we call the Gulf Stream, bringing with it out of the open ocean the shoals of mackerel, and the porpoises and whales which feed upon them. Some fine afternoon we will run down the bay and catch strange fishes, such as you never saw before, and very likely see a living whale.
What? such a whale as they get whalebone from, and which eats sea-moths?
No, they live far north, in the Arctic circle; these are grampuses, and bottle-noses, which feed on fish; not so big as the right whales, but quite big enough to astonish you, if one comes up and blows close to the boat. Get yourself dressed and come down, and then we will go out; we shall have plenty to see and talk of at every step.
Now, you have finished your breakfast at last, so come along, and we shall see what we shall see. First run out across the gravel, and scramble up that bank of lawn, and you will see what you fancied was an empty flower-bed.
Why, it is all hard rock.
Ah, you are come into the land of rocks now; out of the land of sand and gravel; out of a soft young corner of the world into a very hard, old, weather-beaten corner; and you will see rocks enough, and too many for the poor farmers, before you go home again.
But how beautifully smooth and flat the rock is: and yet it is all rounded.
What is it like?
Like—like the half of a shell.
Not badly said, but think again.
Like—like—I know what it is like. Like the back of some great monster peeping up through the turf.
You have got it. Such rocks as these are called in Switzerland "rochers moutonneés," because they are, people fancy, like sheep's backs. Now look at the cracks and layers in it. They run across the stone; they have nothing to do with the shape of it. You see that?
Yes: but here are cracks running across them, all along the stone, till the turf hides them.
Look at them again; they are no cracks; they do not go into the stone.
I see. They are scratched; something like those on the elder-stem at home, where the cats sharpen their claws. But it would take a big cat to make them.
Do you recollect what I told you of Madam How's hand, more flexible than any hand of man, and yet strong enough to grind the mountains into paste?
I know. Ice! ice! ice! But are these really ice-marks?
Child, on the place where we now stand, over rich lawns, and warm woods, and shining lochs, lay once on a time hundreds, it may be thousands, of feet of solid ice, crawling off yonder mountain-tops into the ocean there outside; and this is one of its tracks. See how the scratches all point straight down the valley, and straight out to sea. Those mountains are 2,000 feet high: but they were much higher once; for the ice has planed the tops off them. Then, it seems to me, the ice sank, and left the mountains standing out of it about half their height, and at that level it stayed, till it had planed down all those lower moors of smooth bare rock between us and the Western ocean; and then it sank again, and dwindled back, leaving moraines (that is, heaps of dirt and stones) all up these valleys here and there, till at the last it melted all away, and poor old Ireland became fit to live in again. We will go down the bay some day and look at those moraines, some of them quite hills of earth, and then you will see for yourself how mighty a chisel the ice-chisel was, and what vast heaps of chips it has left behind. Now then, down over the lawn towards the bridge. Listen to the river, louder and louder every step we take.
What a roar! Is there a waterfall there?
No. It is only the flood. And underneath the roar of that flood, do you not hear a deeper note—a dull rumbling, as if from underground?
Yes. What is it?
The rolling of great stones under water, which are being polished against each other, as they hurry toward the sea. Now, up on the parapet of the bridge. I will hold you tight. Look and see Madam How's rain-spade at work. Look at the terrible yellow torrent below us, almost filling up the arches of the bridge, and leaping high in waves and crests of foam.
Oh, the bridge is falling into the water!
Not a bit. You are not accustomed to see water running below you at ten miles an hour. Never mind that feeling. It will go off in a few seconds. Look; the water is full six feet up the trunks of the trees; over the grass and the king fern, and the tall purple loose-strife—
Oh! Here comes a tree dancing down!
And there are some turfs which have been cut on the mountain. And there is a really sad sight. Look what comes now.
Why, they are sheep.
Yes. And a sad loss they will be to some poor fellow in the glen above.
And oh! Look at the pig turning round and round solemnly in the corner under the rock. Poor piggy! He ought to have been at home safe in his stye, and not wandering about the hills. And what are these coming now?
Butter firkins, I think. Yes. This is a great flood. It is well if there are no lives lost.
But is it not cruel of Madam How to make such floods?
Well—let us ask one of these men who are looking over the bridge.
Why, what does he say? I cannot understand one word. Is he talking Irish?
Irish-English at least: but what he said was, that it was a mighty fine flood entirely, praised be God; and would help on the potatoes and oats after the drought, and set the grass growing again on the mountains.
And what is he saying now?
That the river will be full of salmon and white trout after this.
What does he mean?
That under our feet now, if we could see through the muddy water, dozens of salmon and sea-trout are running up from the sea.
What! up this furious stream?
Yes. What would be death to you is pleasure and play to them. Up they are going, to spawn in the little brooks among the mountains; and all of them are the best of food, fattened on the herrings and sprats in the sea outside, Madam How's free gift, which does not cost man a farthing, save the expense of nets and rods to catch them.
How can that be?
I will give you a bit of political economy. Suppose a pound of salmon is worth a shilling; and a pound of beef is worth a shilling likewise. Before we can eat the beef, it has cost perhaps tenpence to make that pound of beef out of turnips and grass and oil-cake; and so the country is only twopence a pound richer for it. But Mr. Salmon has made himself out of what he eats in the sea, and so has cost nothing; and the shilling a pound is all clear gain. There—you don't quite understand that piece of political economy. Indeed, it is only in the last two or three years that older heads than yours have got to understand it, and have passed the wise new salmon laws, by which the rivers will be once more as rich with food as the land is, just as they were hundreds of years ago. But now, look again at the river. What do you think makes it so yellow and muddy?
Dirt, of course.
And where does that come from?
Off the mountains?
Yes. Tons on tons of white mud are being carried down past us now; and where will they go?
Into the sea?
Yes, and sink there in the still water, to make new strata at the bottom; and perhaps in them, ages hence, some one will find the bones of those sheep, and of poor Mr. Pig too, fossil—
And the butter firkins too. What fun to find a fossil butter firkin!
But now lift up your eyes to the jagged mountain crests, and their dark sides all laced with silver streams. Out of every crack and cranny there aloft, the rain is bringing down dirt, and stones too, which have been split off by the winter's frosts, deepening every little hollow, and sharpening every peak, and making the hills more jagged and steep year by year.
When the ice went away, the hills were all scraped smooth and round by the glaciers, like the flat rock upon the lawn; and ugly enough they must have looked, most like great brown buns. But ever since then, Madam How has been scooping them out again by her water-chisel into deep glens, mighty cliffs, sharp peaks, such as you see aloft, and making the old hills beautiful once more. Why, even the Alps in Switzerland have been carved out by frost and rain, out of some great flat. The very peak of the Matterhorn, of which you have so often seen a picture, is but one single point left of some enormous bun of rock. All the rest has been carved away by rain and frost; and some day the Matterhorn itself will be carved away, and its last stone topple into the glacier at its foot. See, as we have been talking, we have got into the woods.
Oh, what beautiful woods, just like our own!
Not quite. There are some things growing here which do not grow at home, as you will soon see. And there are no rocks at home, either, as there are here.
How strange, to see trees growing out of rocks! How do their roots get into the stone?
There is plenty of rich mould in the cracks for them to feed on—
"Health to the oak of the mountains; he trusts to the might of the rock-clefts.
Deeply he mines, and in peace feeds on the wealth of the stone."
How many sorts of trees there are—oak, and birch and nuts, and mountain-ash, and holly and furze, and heather.
And if you went to some of the islands in the lake up in the glen, you would find wild arbutus—strawberry-tree, as you call it. We will go and get some one day or other.
How long and green the grass is, even on the rocks; and the ferns, and the moss, too. Everything seems richer here than at home.
Of course it is. You are here in the land of perpetual spring, where frost and snow seldom or never comes.
Oh, look at the ferns under this rock! I must pick some.
Pick away. I will warrant you do not pick all the sorts.
Yes. I have got them all now.
Not so hasty, child; there is plenty of a beautiful fern growing among that moss, which you have passed over. Look here.
What! that little thing a fern?
Hold it up to the light, and see.
What a lovely little thing, like a transparent seaweed, hung on black wire. What is it?
Film fern, Hymenophyllum. But what are you staring at now, with all your eyes?
Oh! that rock covered with green stars and a cloud of little white and pink flowers growing out of them.
Aha! my good little dog! I thought you would stand to that game when you found it.
What is it, though?
You must answer that yourself. You have seen it a hundred times before.
Why, it is London Pride, that grows in the garden at home.
Of course it is: but the Irish call it St. Patrick's cabbage; though it got here a long time before St. Patrick; and St. Patrick must have been very short of garden-stuff if he ever ate it.
But how did it get here from London?
No, no. How did it get to London from hence? For from this country it came. I suppose the English brought it home in Queen Bess's or James the First's time.
But if it is wild here, and will grow so well in England, why do we not find it wild in England too?
For the same reason that there are no toads or snakes in Ireland. They had not got as far as Ireland before Ireland was parted off from England. And St. Patrick's cabbage, and a good many other plants, had not got as far as England.
Why, I don't know. But this I know: that when Madam How makes a new sort of plant or animal, she starts it in one single place, and leaves it to take care of itself and earn its own living—as she does you and me and every one—and spread from that place all round as far as it can go. So St. Patrick's cabbage got into this south-west of Ireland, long, long ago; and was such a brave sturdy little plant, that it clambered up to the top of the highest mountains, and over all the rocks. But when it got to the rich lowlands to the eastward, in county Cork, it found all the ground taken up already with other plants; and as they had enough to do to live themselves, they would not let St. Patrick's cabbage settle among them; and it had to be content with living here in the far west—and, what was very sad, had no means of sending word to its brothers and sisters in the Pyrenees how it was getting on.
What do you mean? Are you making fun of me?
Not the least. I am only telling you a very strange story, which is literally true. Come and sit down on this bench. You can't catch that great butterfly, he is too strong on the wing for you.
But oh, what a beautiful one!
Yes, orange and black, silver and green, a glorious creature. But you may see him at home sometimes: that plant close to you, you cannot see at home.
Why, it is only great spurge, such as grows in the woods at home.
No. It is Irish spurge which grows here, and sometimes in Devonshire, and then again in the west of Europe, down to the Pyrenees. Don't touch it. Our wood spurge is poisonous enough, but this is worse still; if you get a drop of its milk on your lip or eye, you will be in agonies for half a day. That is the evil plant with which the poachers kill the salmon.
How do they do that?
When the salmon are spawning up in the little brooks, and the water is low, they take that spurge, and grind it between two stones under water, and let the milk run down into the pool; and at that all the poor salmon turn up dead. Then comes the water-bailiff, and catches the poachers. Then comes the policeman, with his sword at his side and his truncheon under his arm: and then comes a "cheap journey" to Tralee Gaol, in which those foolish poachers sit and reconsider themselves, and determine not to break the salmon laws—at least till next time.
But why is it that this spurge, and St. Patrick's cabbage, grow only here in the west? If they got here of themselves, where did they come from? All outside there is sea; and they could not float over that.
Come, I say, and sit down on this bench, and I will tell you a tale,—the story of the Old Atlantis, the sunken land in the far West. Old Plato, the Greek, told legends of it, which you will read some day; and now it seems as if those old legends had some truth in them, after all. We are standing now on one of the last remaining scraps of the old Atlantic land. Look down the bay. Do you see far away, under the mountains, little islands, long and low?
Some of these are old slate, like the mountains; others are limestone; bits of the old coral-reef to the west of Ireland which became dry land.
I know. You told me about it.
Then that land, which is all eaten up by the waves now, once joined Ireland to Cornwall, and to Spain, and to the Azores, and I suspect to the Cape of Good Hope, and what is stranger, to Labrador, on the coast of North America.
Oh! How can you know that?
Listen, and I will give you your first lesson in what I call Bio-geology.
What a long word!
If you can find a shorter one I shall be very much obliged to you, for I hate long words. But what it means is,—Telling how the land has changed in shape, by the plants and animals upon it. And if you ever read (as you will) Mr. Wallace's new book on the Indian Archipelago, you will see what wonderful discoveries men may make about such questions if they will but use their common sense. You know the common pink heather, ling, as we call it?
Then that ling grows, not only here and in the north and west of Europe, but in the Azores too; and, what is more strange, in Labrador. Now, as ling can neither swim nor fly, does not common sense tell you that all those countries were probably joined together in old times?
Well: but it seems so strange.
So it is, my child; and so is everything. But, as the fool says in Shakespeare—
"A long time ago the world began,
With heigh ho, the wind and the rain."
And the wind and the rain have made strange work with the poor old world ever since. And that is about all that we, who are not very much wiser than Shakespeare's fool, can say about the matter. But again—the London Pride grows here, and so does another saxifrage very like it, which we call Saxifraga Geum. Now, when I saw those two plants growing in the Western Pyrenees, between France and Spain, and with them the beautiful blue butterwort, which grows in these Kerry bogs—we will go and find some—what could I say but that Spain and Ireland must have been joined once?
I suppose it must be so.
Again. There is a little pink butterwort here in the bogs, which grows, too, in dear old Devonshire and Cornwall; and also in the south-west of Scotland. Now, when I found that too, in the bogs near Biarritz, close to the Pyrenees, and knew that it stretched away along the Spanish coast, and into Portugal, what could my common sense lead me to say but that Scotland, and Ireland, and Cornwall, and Spain were all joined once? Those are only a few examples. I could give you a dozen more. For instance, on an island away there to the west, and only in one spot, there grows a little sort of lily, which is found I believe in Brittany, and on the Spanish and Portuguese heaths, and even in North-west Africa. And that Africa and Spain were joined not so very long ago at the Straits of Gibraltar there is no doubt at all.
But where did the Mediterranean Sea run out then?
Perhaps it did not run out at all; but was a salt-water lake, like the Caspian, or the Dead Sea. Perhaps it ran out over what is now the Sahara, the great desert of sand, for, that was a sea-bottom not long ago.
But then, how was this land of Atlantis joined to the Cape of Good Hope?
I cannot say how, or when either. But this is plain: the place in the world where the most beautiful heaths grow is the Cape of Good Hope. You know I showed you Cape heaths once at the nursery gardener's at home.
Oh yes, pink, and yellow, and white; so much larger than ours.
Then it seems (I only say it seems) as if there must have been some land once to the westward, from which the different sorts of heath spread south-eastward to the Cape, and north-eastward into Europe. And that they came north-eastward into Europe seems certain; for there are no heaths in America or Asia.
But how north-eastward?
Think. Stand with your face to the south and think. If a thing comes from the south-west—from there, it must go to the north-east—towards there. Must it not?
Oh yes, I see.
Now then——The farther you go south-west, towards Spain, the more kinds of heath there are, and the handsomer; as if their original home, from which they started, was somewhere down there.
More sorts! What sorts?
How many sorts of heath have we at home?
Three, of course: ling, and purple heath, and bottle heath.
And there are no more in all England, or Wales, or Scotland, except— Now, listen. In the very farthest end of Cornwall there are two more sorts, the Cornish heath and the Orange-bell; and they say (though I never saw it) that the Orange-bell grows near Bournemouth.
Well. That is south and west too.
So it is: but that makes five heaths. Now in the south and west of Ireland all these five heaths grow, and two more: the great Irish heath, with purple bells, and the Mediterranean heath, which flowers in spring.
Oh, I know them. They grow in the Rhododendron beds at home.
Of course. Now again. If you went down to Spain, you would find all those seven heaths, and other sorts with them, and those which are rare in England and Ireland are common there. About Biarritz, on the Spanish frontier, all the moors are covered with Cornish heath, and the bogs with Orange-bell, and lovely they are to see; and growing among them is a tall heath six feet high, which they call there bruyère, or Broom-heath, because they make brooms of it: and out of its roots the "briar-root" pipes are made. There are other heaths about that country, too, whose names I do not know; so that when you are there, you fancy yourself in the very home of the heaths: but you are not. They must have come from some land near where the Azores are now; or how could heaths have got past Africa, and the tropics, to the Cape of Good Hope?
It seems very wonderful, to be able to find out that there was a great land once in the ocean all by a few little heaths.
Not by them only, child. There are many other plants, and animals too, which make one think that so it must have been. And now I will tell you something stranger still. There may have been a time—some people say that there must—when Africa and South America were joined by land.
Africa and South America! Was that before the heaths came here, or after?
I cannot tell: but I think, probably after. But this is certain, that there must have been a time when figs, and bamboos, and palms, and sarsaparillas, and many other sorts of plants could get from Africa to America, or the other way, and indeed almost round the world. About the south of France and Italy you will see one beautiful sarsaparilla, with hooked prickles, zigzagging and twining about over rocks and ruins, trunks and stems: and when you do, if you have understanding, it will seem as strange to you as it did to me to remember that the home of the sarsaparillas is not in Europe, but in the forests of Brazil, and the River Plate.
Oh, I have heard about their growing there, and staining the rivers brown, and making them good medicine to drink: but I never thought there were any in Europe.
There are only one or two, and how they got there is a marvel indeed. But now——If there was not dry land between Africa and South America, how did the cats get into America? For they cannot swim.
Cats? People might have brought them over.
Jaguars and Pumas, which you read of in Captain Mayne Reid's books, are cats, and so are the Ocelots or tiger cats.
Oh, I saw them at the Zoological Gardens.
But no one would bring them over, I should think, except to put them in the Zoo.
Not unless they were very foolish.
And much stronger and cleverer than the savages of South America. No, those jaguars and pumas have been in America for ages: and there are those who will tell you—and I think they have some reason on their side—that the jaguar, with his round patches of spots, was once very much the same as the African and Indian leopard, who can climb trees well. So when he got into the tropic forests of America, he took to the trees, and lived among the branches, feeding on sloths and monkeys, and never coming to the ground for weeks, till he grew fatter and stronger and far more terrible than his forefathers. And they will tell you, too, that the puma was, perhaps—I only say perhaps—something like the lion, who (you know) has no spots. But when he got into the forests, he found very little food under the trees, only a very few deer; and so he was starved, and dwindled down to the poor little sheep-stealing rogue he is now, of whom nobody is afraid.
Oh, yes! I remember now A. said he and his men killed six in one day. But do you think it is all true about the pumas and jaguars?
My child, I don't say that it is true: but only that it is likely to be true. In science we must be cautious and modest, and ready to alter our minds whenever we learn fresh facts; only keeping sure of one thing, that the truth, when we find it out, will be far more wonderful than any notions of ours. See! As we have been talking we have got nearly home: and luncheon must be ready.
Why are you opening your eyes at me, like the dog when he wants to go out walking?
Because I want to go out. But I don't want to go out walking. I want to go in the yacht.
In the yacht? It does not belong to me.
Oh, that is only fun. I know everybody is going out in it to see such a beautiful island full of ferns, and have a picnic on the rocks; and I know you are going.
Then you know more than I do myself.
But I heard them say you were going.
Then they know more than I do myself.
But would you not like to go?
I might like to go very much indeed; but as I have been knocked about at sea a good deal, and perhaps more than I intend to be again, it is no novelty to me, and there might be other things which I like still better: for instance, spending the afternoon with you.
Then am I not to go?
I think not. Don't pull such a long face: but be a man, and make up your mind to it, as the geese do to going barefoot.
But why may I not go?
Because I am not Madam How, but your Daddy.
What can that have to do with it?
If you asked Madam How, do you know what she would answer in a moment, as civilly and kindly as could be? She would say—Oh yes, go by all means, and please yourself, my pretty little man. My world is the Paradise which the Irishman talked of, in which "a man might do what was right in the sight of his own eyes, and what was wrong too, as he liked it."
Then Madam How would let me go in the yacht?
Of course she would, or jump overboard when you were in it; or put your finger in the fire, and your head afterwards; or eat Irish spurge, and die like the salmon; or anything else you liked. Nobody is so indulgent as Madam How: and she would be the dearest old lady in the world, but for one ugly trick that she has. She never tells anyone what is coming, but leaves them to find it out for themselves. She lets them put their fingers in the fire, and never tells them that they will get burnt.
But that is very cruel and treacherous of her.
My boy, our business is not to call hard names, but to take things as we find them, as the Highlandman said when he ate the braxy mutton. Now shall I, because I am your Daddy, tell you what Madam How would not have told you? When you get on board the yacht, you will think it all very pleasant for an hour, as long as you are in the bay. But presently you will get a little bored, and run about the deck, and disturb people, and want to sit here, there, and everywhere, which I should not like. And when you get beyond that headland, you will find the great rollers coming in from the Atlantic, and the cutter tossing and heaving as you never felt before, under a burning sun. And then my merry little young gentleman will begin to feel a little sick; and then very sick, and more miserable than he ever felt in his life; and wish a thousand times over that he was safe at home, even doing sums in long division; and he will give a great deal of trouble to various kind ladies—which no one has a right to do, if he can help it.
Of course I do not wish to be sick: only it looks such beautiful weather.
And so it is: but don't fancy that last night's rain and wind can have passed without sending in such a swell as will frighten you, when you see the cutter climbing up one side of a wave, and running down the other; Madam How tells me that, though she will not tell you yet.
Then why do they go out?
Because they are accustomed to it. They have come hither all
round from Cowes, past the Land's End, and past Cape Clear, and
they are not afraid or sick either. But shall I tell you how you
would end this evening?—at least so I suspect. Lying miserable
in a stuffy cabin on a sofa, and not quite sure whether you were
dead or alive, till you were bundled into a boat about twelve
o'clock at night, when you ought to be safe asleep, and come home
cold, and wet, and stupid, and ill, and lie in bed all
But will they be wet and cold?
I cannot be sure; but from the look of the sky there to westward,
I think some of them will be. So do you make up your mind to stay
with me. But if it is fine and smooth
But why is it that Madam How will not tell people beforehand what will happen to them, as you have told me?
Now I will tell you a great secret, which, alas! everyone has not found out yet. Madam How will teach you, but only by experience. Lady Why will teach you, but by something very different—by something which has been called—and I know no better names for it—grace and inspiration; by putting into your heart feelings which no man, not even your father and mother, can put there; by making you quick to love what is right, and hate what is wrong, simply because they are right and wrong, though you don't know why they are right and wrong; by making you teachable, modest, reverent, ready to believe those who are older and wiser than you when they tell you what you could never find out for yourself: and so you will be prudent, that is provident, foreseeing, and know what will happen if you do so-and-so; and therefore what is really best and wisest for you.
But why will she be kind enough to do that for me?
For the very same reason that I do it. For God's sake. Because God is your Father in heaven, as I am your father on earth, and He does not wish His little child to be left to the hard teaching of Nature and Law, but to be helped on by many, many unsought and undeserved favours, such as are rightly called "Means of Grace;" and above all by the Gospel and good news that you are God's child, and that God loves you, and has helped and taught you, and will help you and teach you, in a thousand ways of which you are not aware, if only you will be a wise child, and listen to Lady Why, when she cries from her Palace of Wisdom, and the feast which she has prepared, "Whoso is simple let him turn in hither;" and says to him who wants understanding—"Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled."
"Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness."
Yes, I will try and listen to Lady Why: but what will happen if I do not?
That will happen to you, my child—but God forbid it ever should happen—which happens to wicked kings and rulers, and all men, even the greatest and cleverest, if they do not choose to reign by Lady Why's laws, and decree justice according to her eternal ideas of what is just, but only do what seems pleasant and profitable to themselves. On them Lady Why turns round, and says—for she, too, can be awful, ay dreadful, when she needs—
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof——" And then come words so terrible, that I will not speak them here in this happy place: but what they mean is this:—
That these foolish people are handed over—as you and I shall be if we do wrong wilfully—to Madam How and her terrible school-house, which is called Nature and the Law, to be treated just as the plants and animals are treated, because they did not choose to behave like men and children of God. And there they learn, whether they like or not, what they might have learnt from Lady Why all along. They learn the great law, that as men sow so they will reap; as they make their bed so they will lie on it: and Madam How can teach that as no one else can in earth or heaven: only, unfortunately for her scholars, she is apt to hit so hard with her rod, which is called Experience, that they never get over it; and therefore most of those who will only be taught by Nature and Law are killed, poor creatures, before they have learnt their lesson; as many a savage tribe is destroyed, ay and great and mighty nations too—the old Roman Empire among them.
And the poor Jews, who were carried away captive to Babylon?
Yes; they would not listen to Lady Why, and so they were taken in hand by Madam How, and were seventy years in her terrible school-house, learning a lesson which, to do them justice, they never forgot again. But now we will talk of something pleasanter. We will go back to Lady Why, and listen to her voice. It sounds gentle and cheerful enough just now. Listen.
What? is she speaking to us now?
Hush! open your eyes and ears once more, for you are growing sleepy with my long sermon. Watch the sleepy shining water, and the sleepy green mountains. Listen to the sleepy lapping of the ripple, and the sleepy sighing of the woods, and let Lady Why talk to you through them in "songs without words," because they are deeper than all words, till you, too, fall asleep with your head upon my knee.
But what does she say?
She says—"Be still. The fulness of joy is peace." There, you are fast asleep; and perhaps that is the best thing for you; for sleep will (so I am informed, though I never saw it happen, nor anyone else) put fresh grey matter into your brain; or save the wear and tear of the old grey matter; or something else—when they have settled what it is to do: and if so, you will wake up with a fresh fiddle-string to your little fiddle of a brain, on which you are playing new tunes all day long. So much the better: but when I believe that your brain is you, pretty boy, then I shall believe also that the fiddler is his fiddle.