There was once a radiant being, full of life and happiness, enjoying its power and freedom in the Land of Light. But a time came when it heard a deep and imperative voice, — so deep that it seemed to come from the very center of its being — saying: "Destiny leads thee to the Land of Shadows. Work for thee is there."
This creature of light recoiled not, but stirred with a noble resolve, presented itself at the entrance to the Land of Shadows. Near the gate stood a majestic form, with a countenance expressing power and compassion so profound that even this creature of the air bowed low in reverence. In rich and penetrating tones again that same voice sounded, playing, as it seemed, upon the strings of an instrument within the form of the beautiful being who stood at the gate. All the air took up the sound, so that none could tell from whence it came, and the sound became light, and played through all the scale of colors, and the light took the form of a shining heart, which enveloped this free and fearless spirit. The air was filled with music, and the sound seemed to say, "There is work for thee in the Land of Shadows. Enter it in this form."
And presently there was a great stillness, and the shining heart had vanished. Into a narrow chamber it vanished, as the gate opened and closed. On it moved, through a dark and winding passage, and came to a dimly-lighted chamber where sat three sisters weaving a garment, dark and opaque. To the shining heart they looked and said, "Thy coming has been heralded. This is now prepared for thee." And they clothed the shining heart, saying, "In the land thou art entering, thou shalt be called woman." As the garment enveloped and concealed the radiant being, a strange lethargy and forgetfulness stole over her. The remembrance of the past faded as she left the winding passage, and, bewildered, moved by a force she now understood not, she emerged slowly into the half-light of the Land of Shadows.
Again the majestic form was beside her, but now she could not see, and the voice seemed muffled and distant. It said, "Child, thou art now in the Land of Shadows, and thy work will be to lift them. Here, too, are thy sisters and brothers, whom thou lovest, and who love thee, and yet whom thou canst not know, for their garments conceal them, as thine conceals thee. But, remember, they are about thee, and meeting thee at every turn. Many have lost their way, many are covered with mud, many will appear as foes, for the poisonous vapors of this land delude them, but beneath all this they are brothers and sisters. These blinding vapors lie heaviest in the valleys. Linger not there, or they will o'erpower thee and thou canst not work. Learn to climb the mountains, and fill thy being each day with the pure fresh air which envelops them. So only canst thou work in this land. For the shadows scarcely touch those heights. There thy garments will grow thin, and the light from thy shining heart can mingle with the air around. Begin now, even while thy feet are tender, to learn to climb. It will be easy for thee now, and the Path thou markest now will ease thy feet in later years, when thou art weary in thy work. Everywhere wilt thou see companions, in the valleys, on the heights, and in the midlands. But seek to recognize them on the heights alone. For there is magic in thy touch with them. In whatsoever region thou dost join, thou dost multiply whatsoever dwells therein. In the valleys, even if thou touch them closely, thou wilt not recognize thy friends, and the shadows will grow thicker and thicker about thee, and the land itself become darkened, and thou and thy brother will grope about in anguish and despair. But if on the heights thou dost mingle, the light of that region will grow lighter, a glory will surround thee, and the air itself will tremble with happiness. Thy shining heart will expand, and its light reach even to the valleys, and dissolve the shadows as they form. And the companions thou there dost meet, thou wilt not lose. Once thou hast seen their faces there, like a vision of content, it will rest within thee, wheresoe'er thou goest. Seek to remember ever the purpose of thy coming, and find thy rest in fulfilling it."
The voice ceased, and a stillness as of the night rested over all. The child stood immovable, poised between two worlds, neither seeing nor hearing. A gentle breeze stirred the air, and the holy quiet of the dawn was broken by the gentle notes of birds. A wonderful light slowly grew, transforming the formless into form, and a golden haze clothed all Nature in loveliness and mystery. The child stirred not, but slowly the memory of the resonant voice died away, and her gaze rested upon the vision of beauty before her. She started forward entranced, and the freshness of the morning was over all.
Three times seven years she wandered, and the sights once strange were now familiar. The memory of the voice was lost, but its influence was with her still. She had learned to climb the mountains, but the power to hold their sweetness in the valleys was not yet with her. She entered these by compunction, forgetful of her motive. No companions had she found as yet; often had she thought she saw their faces, and the picture was snatched away by an unseen hand. Loneliness possessed her.
One day the roads were hot and dusty. The valleys which lay before her seemed easier to tread, and in weariness of spirit she entered. Unheeding and indifferent, she descended deeper and deeper, inhaling the poisonous vapors without caution. Then she mingled with others, forgetful of her destiny and theirs, and the shadows grew, and the clouds thickened, until pain and suffering stirred her heart to action, and suddenly old memories returned. In horror she retraced her steps. Heavy were her feet, and tired her limbs, but the old power lo climb returned, and her strength and firmness grew.
She was alone now, but she cared not. Slowly, she toiled up the steep and winding path. Once she passed just over the valley she had left, and looking down, beheld forms groping about in the shadows she had made. A terrible pity entered her heart. An anguish of suffering yet unknown took hold of her, and a mighty resolve was formed within her. ''These shadows I will dissolve," she uttered, "yet more, I will throw a light over the path that those forms may follow," and a love for them mingled with her pity, and she buried her pain and turned her face forward.
On she climbed for years. Pitfalls there were, but she escaped them. Obstacles there were, but she surmounted them. And though the mountains rose higher and higher, the air grew purer and sweeter as she mounted. And suddenly she come to a place where she saw her companions, and she knew them, and they reached out their hands to her in welcome. A great light radiated from them joined together on these heights, and as she touched their hands the light grew brighter and she saw it reached even to the valleys.
In gratitude she raised her eyes, and in the air about them voices seemed to chant, "Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name."
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