Sunrise Magazine Online

[image]The Battle in the Garden

By Hazel Minot

Within the borders of the mind are fought
some of the fiercest battles for the Soul's freedom.

It was a garden of enchantment. The seasons were on holiday so that roses bloomed while crocuses and lilies-of-the-valley carpeted the ground, and pansies nodded to snow-drops near by. Here and there a flowering tree added to the colorful pattern and lent a dappled shadow to banks spread with moss. Deeper shade came from far-spreading oaks, and towering pines made the soft air more fragrant. The heart of all this beauty was a pool, blue as the sky. It caught the reflection of the sun at mid-day, and gleamed with starry jewels by night.

But beauty, color, the charm of changing lights, the warm fragrance of a thousand blooms, were but one aspect of this enchanted spot. Out beyond the farthest pine were dark, dank tangles of thickets. Somber yews cast a perpetual gloom; birds of the night filled the air with their haunting cries and skimmed the boggy pools like souls tormented — fearful of being caught and dragged beneath the slimy surface, yet held in fascination by the horror all around them.

Through the maze of these strangely contrasted worlds a youth wandered aimlessly. He could not remember how or when he had come there. At rare moments the dark curtain of forgetfulness seemed to lift but before he could tear it aside all would be obscured again, nor could he force an opening for the light of memory. There was that within him that claimed kinship with the dark corners of the garden, and almost unconsciously his feet followed a path leading to its tangled depths; but stronger still was something that pulled him back, and at times he would wake as from an evil dream to find himself under one of the great pines and breathing hungrily of the pure air around him. Many of the flowers in the garden brought this same sense of healing; but there were others whose heady perfume acted like a drug and, lulled by it into a state of contentment, his urge to remember would once more be stilled. The place he loved most was the flower-girt pool, for here the dark curtain was the thinnest. Sometimes, gazing at the reflected sunlight, he thought perhaps the spell would pass. At night, too, the stars seemed to drop down to earth and whisper the secret of his deliverance, but his ears never quite caught their message.

There was something arresting in his presence — a suggestion of sleeping power that once awakened might lead him on to great achievements. But coupled with this was a certain petulance of expression that marred what otherwise was pleasing in his face. It gave a key to variable moods and left no doubt but that the power sleeping in him now would better not awaken until his whole nature should become more stable.

Standing by the quiet pool, he became drowsy watching the dragon-flies that darted about. Turning away, he sought the shade of a nearby tree and closed his eyes. The sound of footsteps brought him suddenly to a sitting position, and he saw before him an old man.

"Do you remember me?" the old man asked.

The youth looked up hopefully for a moment, then a shadow crossed his face and almost insolently he replied: "And if I do, what right have you to bother me? No, I don't remember you."

"Don't be hasty." The old man put out his hand against interruption. "I have been sent with a message," he continued, "and I have with me something that will enlist your interest."

"A message? From whom?" Curiosity was mingled with disbelief in the questioner.

"You have indeed forgotten if you can ask that! Are you really so ignorant of your past?"

"My past! What of that? Who sent you here to pester me, and what do you bring that will be of interest to me?"

The old man stood as if lost in thought, then slowly let his eyes rest on those of the young man. It was only for a moment, but the spell cast by the garden was greatly weakened, and the youth sprang to his feet. Then, just as quickly, the veil dropped again and he stood bewildered.

"What happened?" he asked, his tone changed to one of supplication. "I thought I recognized you and remembered the one who sent you here!" Becoming irritable, he added, "You could make me remember, if you would. Why don't you help me?"

The old man sighed. "Be patient," he admonished. "If the garden has done such a thorough job you will have to master it before you can remember; and you must will to know yourself if you are to do this. I can tell you a little of your past, but I cannot tell you who you are. I have here something that will help you, but first you should hear the little I am permitted to tell."

"Your father was a king who ruled over a fair land. There were those who were his enemies — and yours — who schemed to take his kingdom from him, and their first move against him was to cause you to forget. You do not even remember how long you have been here? Ah! It has been too long, and now your father is dead. When he knew that he must go he called me and gave four precious jewels into my keeping. 'My son will come back one day and rule this land,' he said, 'but he must be freed from his enemies first. Take these jewels for him — if used wisely they will free him from the spell of the garden.'"

Then the old man brought forth a leather pouch. From this he took out a package wrapped in velvet and spread it open before the amazed eyes of his companion. There were four perfect gems of unusual size. One was a ruby, and glowed with a heart of fire; another was an emerald, cool and with a depth of color that made him think of forest glades; the third was a sapphire, of a blue that is sometimes seen in the night sky; the fourth was a diamond, and blazed with the hues of all the others.

He gazed on them as though he feared they would disappear, and as he watched, their flashing lights seemed to coalesce, and dimly memory took form. Yet, even as he looked, the picture faded and the jewels themselves were no longer visible. Terrified, he turned to the old man, but the latter smiled reassuringly. Then the long-time habit of petulance started to reassert itself, but for once he strove to conquer it and the old man pressed his arm encouragingly.

"What happened?" the young man begged.

"The jewels are not lost. They will be yours when you have freed yourself, but you will not see them again until you have earned the right. That brief glimpse was given you in the hope that they would stir your memory and arouse your will to procure them. For when you have won those jewels, you will have won back your memory also and your kingdom will be recovered."

"What must I do?"

"There is little I can tell you. Much depends upon your own will power, but you have already made a beginning by seeking to curb your temper.

"Remember this: the Ruby holds in its heart charity, dignity, divine powers. But it can likewise represent for you unruly passions — hot anger, impatience, the irritability that has been your curse since childhood. The Emerald is Nature's own color, a symbol of Immortality. Incorruptible, it conquers sin and trials. But green is also the color of jealousy. See to it that this foul temptress has no power over you. The Sapphire is associated with constancy, truth, virtue. Beware lest in the pursuit of these treasures you win instead false pride and smug complacency. The Diamond is the crowning glory: a symbol of purity, and likewise possessing the power to preserve peace and prevent storms. Its pure white flame holds within its heart sparks from all the other jewels, and when you shall have made the Ruby, the Emerald and the Sapphire yours, the Diamond will come to you by right of conquest.

"May courage and high purpose attend you always, my son; and when the way grows dark, as it most surely will, seek earnestly to remember the Diamond as you beheld it this day, and in time it will be a light to guide you." With these words the old man turned and left.

It seemed to the young man that a dizziness more confusing than any he had ever known descended upon him, and he felt terribly alone. He glanced upward and saw that the sun was directly overhead. This was the hour that he most loved by the pool and now he went there as to an old friend. Watching the calm surface, the dizziness passed; he thought of the jewels, and the memory of things forgotten came closer and closer, touching his mind with gentle fingers but never resting long enough for him to clasp those fingers and hold them. The experience brought him encouragement, though, and he sensed that the clear waters of the pool and the golden sunlight held at least some portion of the answer to his problem.

But, as he looked at the garden, his security was suddenly dissipated and a wave of fear swept over him: it was as if he had never seen the place before, or else he was caught in the toils of a frightening dream. Never before had he seen things as he saw them now. Even when he had been in the dark and loathsome part of the garden he had not experienced such disillusionment. There he had known things for what they were, and always some inner source of strength had saved him from slipping into the slimy bog; but here, where all the lovely flowers bloomed he had taken it for granted that the beauty around him was akin to sunlight. Now he remembered the insidious lure of a giant lily and the heavy perfume of many another blossom: behind them there had surely been something evil. As he stood by the pool a veil had been torn from his eyes and he saw that the garden was thronging with a multitude of terrifying forms, inimical to him and clamoring for his destruction. No longer did he wonder where to begin. The battle was on and he was in the midst of it.

He felt strangely calm. There was no thought of surrender, only a determination to meet these vile creatures and vanquish them. Wave after wave came against him, and when night fell the battle still raged. How he survived he could not tell, but with the coming of dawn he knew that there were those who supported him. Figures, shadowy but luminous, went forward with him in the early light. All the garden had not been evil, and his heart warmed with memory of that which he had loved.

Night followed day and dawn succeeded sunset. The struggle took him to the farthest reaches of the garden, and in the gloom and dankness he met face to face beings of whose existence he had only guessed. That he should overcome them finally he never doubted, but the tide of battle swept back and forth, and there were moments when despair had almost conquered him. But up or down, he continued fighting every step of the way. At last he found himself on higher ground and filled his lungs with purer air. There was no longer any sign of the creatures of the bog — he had vanquished them. He knew this beyond all doubt for in his hand was the Ruby, and it glowed with a fire that gave him renewed strength and courage.

Then other struggles followed of equal fierceness nor did he always come off victor. Once he had thought to win the Emerald and had even glimpsed its cool green depth. Then, stupidly jealous of his place among those who fought beside him, he had given way to anger and the jewel disappeared again. All that he had gained that day was lost — all but the memory of the old man's parting words, and with these in his heart he went forward again. In time he came to understand his kinship with those who battled on his side, and to long for victory for their sakes as well as for his own. It was then, when fatigue seemed greatest and his goal most distant, that he found the Emerald gleaming in his hand.

This brought an even greater trial: flushed with pride of what he had already achieved, he renewed the struggle only half prepared to meet the strength against him. Again and again he sought to down the enemy, but self-esteem and spiritual pride foredoomed him.

The battle had swept back around the pool he loved. In his heart he vowed that this should never be taken from him. Memories of the past flashed before him in the fierceness of the struggle; at last he recognized his old-time enemies and knew by name the faithful friends who stood beside him. In one swift vision he saw it all: friend and foe, strength and weakness; the pitiable meanness and calculated cunning of those who sought to destroy him; the selfless devotion and sacrifice of these others beside him who battled that he might come into his own. Shame of his foolish pride filled his being so that he stood there humbly grateful that he had yet a chance to fight and win, to serve those who had so generously served him.

Once more he was in the thick of battle, and this time there could be but one result.

When all was over he stood in silence by the sun-flecked pool, and in his hand was the cherished Sapphire. He felt a great weariness, but was sustained by a deep and inexpressible joy: the spell that had worked evil to his father's kingdom, that had bound him to this garden of enchantment, was broken. He had come into his inheritance.

He looked up and saw the old man beside him. Turning to clasp his hand, he found within his own the crowning jewel, the Diamond.

The old man said reverently, "You have won a great victory. But remember: Eternal Vigilance is the only safeguard for the future."


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