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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 15
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    From that day I was frequently allowed to enter the Mother's Room, but,
    as I had feared, these visits failed to bring me into any closer
    relationship with the lady of the house. She had indeed forgotten my
    offense: I was one of her children, sharing equally with the others in
    her impartial affection, and privileged to sit at her feet to relate to
    her the incidents of the day, or describe all I had seen, and sometimes
    to touch her thin white hand with my lips. But the distance separating
    us was not forgotten. At the two first interviews she had taught me,
    once for all, that it was for me to love, honor, and serve her, and that
    anything beyond that--any attempt to win her confidence, to enter into
    her thoughts, or make her understand my feelings and aspirations--was
    regarded as pure presumption on my part. The result was that I was less
    happy than I had been before knowing her: my naturally buoyant and
    hopeful temper became tinged with melancholy, and that vision of
    exquisite bliss in the future, which had floated before me, luring me
    on, now began to look pale, and to seem further and further away.

    After my walk with Yoletta--if it can be called a walk--I began to look
    out for the rainbow lilies, and soon discovered that everywhere under
    the grass they were beginning to sprout from the soil. At first I found
    them in the moist valley of the river, but very soon they were equally
    abundant on the higher lands, and even on barren, stony places, where
    they appeared latest. I felt very curious about these flowers, of which
    Yoletta had spoken so enthusiastically, and watched the slow growth of
    the long, slender buds from day to day with considerable impatience. At
    length, in a moist hollow of the forest, I was delighted to find the
    full-blown flower. In shape it resembled a tulip, but was more open, and
    the color a most vivid orange yellow; it had a slight delicate perfume,
    and was very pretty, with a peculiar waxy gloss on the thick petals,
    still, I was rather disappointed, since the name of "rainbow lily," and
    Yoletta's words, had led me to expect a many-colored flower of
    surpassing beauty.

    I plucked the lily carefully, and was taking it home to present it to
    her, when all at once I remembered that only on one occasion had I seen
    flowers in her hand, and in the hands of the others, and that was when
    they were burying their dead. They never wore a flower, nor had I ever
    seen one in the house, not even in that room where Chastel was kept a
    prisoner by her malady, and where her greatest delight was to have
    nature in all its beauty and fragrance brought to her in the
    conversation of her children. The only flowers in the house were in
    their illuminations, and those wrought in metal and carved in wood, and
    the immortal, stony flowers of many brilliant hues in their mosaics. I
    began to fear that there was some superstition which made it seem wrong
    to them to gather flowers, except for funeral ceremonies, and afraid of
    offending from want of thought, I dropped the lily on the ground, and
    said nothing about it to any one.

    Then, before any more open lilies were found, an unexpected sorrow came
    to me. After changing my dress on returning from the fields one
    afternoon, I was taken to the hall of judgment, and at once jumped to
    the conclusion that I had again unwittingly fallen into disgrace; but on
    arriving at that uncomfortable apartment I perceived that this was not
    the case. Looking round at the assembled company I missed Yoletta, and
    my heart sank in me, and I even wished that my first impression had
    proved correct. On the great stone table, before which the father was
    seated, lay an open folio, the leaf displayed being only illuminated at
    the top and inner margin; the colored part at the top I noticed was
    torn, the rent extending down to about the middle of the page.

    Presently the dear girl appeared, with tearful eyes and flushed face,
    and advancing hurriedly to the father, she stood before him with
    downcast eyes.

    "My daughter, tell me how and why you did this?" he demanded, pointing
    to the open volume.

    "Oh, father, look at this," she returned, half-sobbing, and touching the
    lower end of the colored margin with her finger. "Do you see how badly
    it is colored? And I had spent three days in altering and retouching it,
    and still it displeased me. Then, in sudden anger, I pushed the book
    from me, and seeing it slipping from the stand I caught the leaf to
    prevent it from falling, and it was torn by the weight of the book. Oh,
    dear father, will you forgive me?"

    "Forgive you, my daughter? Do you not know how it grieves my heart to
    punish you; but how can this offense to the house be forgiven, which
    must stand in evidence against us from generation to generation? For we
    cease to be, but the house remains; and the writing we leave on it,
    whether it be good or evil, that too remains for ever. An unkind word is
    an evil thing, an unkind deed a worse, but when these are repented they
    may be forgiven and forgotten. But an injury done to the house cannot be
    forgotten, for it is the flaw in the stone that keeps its place, the
    crude, inharmonious color which cannot be washed out with water.
    Consider, my daughter, in the long life of the house, how many unborn
    men will turn the leaves of this book, and coming to this leaf will be
    offended at so grievous a disfigurement! If we of this generation were
    destined to live for ever, then it might be written on this page for a
    punishment and warning:" Yoletta tore it in her anger. "But we must pass
    away and be nothing to succeeding generations, and it would not be right
    that Yoletta's name should be remembered for the wrong she did to the
    house, and all she did for its good forgotten."

    A painful silence ensued, then, lifting her tear-stained face, she said:
    "Oh father, what must my punishment be?"

    "Dear child, it will be a light one, for we consider your youth and
    impulsive nature, and also that the wrong you did was partly the result
    of accident. For thirty days you must live apart from us, subsisting on
    bread and water, and holding intercourse with one person only, who will
    assist you with your work and provide you with all things necessary."

    This seemed to me a harsh, even a cruel punishment for so trivial an
    offense, or accident, rather; but she was not perhaps of the same mind,
    for she kissed his hand, as if in gratitude for his leniency.

    "Tell me, child," he said, putting his hand on her head, and regarding
    her with misty eyes, "who shall attend you in your seclusion?"

    "Edra," she murmured; and the other, coming forward, took her by the
    hand and led her away.

    I gazed eagerly after her as she retired, hungering for one look from
    her dear eyes before that long separation; but they were filled with
    tears and bent on the floor, and in a moment she was gone from sight.

    The succeeding days were to me dreary beyond description. For the first
    time I became fully conscious of the strength of a passion which had now
    become a consuming fire in my breast, and could only end in utter
    misery--perhaps in destruction--or else in a degree of happiness no
    mortal had ever tasted before. I went about listlessly, like one on whom
    some heavy calamity has fallen: all interest in my work was lost; my
    food seemed tasteless; study and conversation had become a weariness;
    even in those divine concerts, which fitly brought each tranquil day to
    its close, there was no charm now, since Yoletta's voice, which love had
    taught my dull ear to distinguish no longer had any part in it. I was
    not allowed to enter the Mother's Room of an evening now, and the
    exclusion extended also to the others, Edra only excepted; for at this
    hour, when it was customary for the family to gather in the music-room,
    Yoletta was taken from her lonely chamber to be with her mother. This
    was told me, and I also elicited, by means of some roundabout
    questioning, that it was always in the mother's power to have any
    per-son undergoing punishment taken to her, she being, as it were, above
    the law. She could even pardon a delinquent and set him free if she felt
    so minded, although in this case she had not chosen to exercise her
    prerogative, probably because her "sufferings had not clouded her
    understanding." They were treating her very hardly--father and mother
    both--I thought in my bitterness.

    The gradual opening of the rainbow lilies served only to remind me every
    hour and every minute of that bright young spirit thus harshly deprived
    of the pleasure she had so eagerly anticipated. She, above them all,
    rejoiced in the beauty of this visible world, regarding nature in some
    of its moods and aspects with a feeling almost bordering on adoration;
    but, alas! she alone was shut out from this glory which God had spread
    over the earth for the delight of all his children.

    Now I knew why these autumnal flowers were called rainbow lilies, and
    remembered how Yoletta had told me that they gave a beauty to the earth
    which could not be described or imagined. The flowers were all
    undoubtedly of one species, having the same shape and perfume, although
    varying greatly in size, according to the nature of the soil on which
    they grew. But in different situations they varied in color, one color
    blending with, or passing by degrees into another, wherever the soil
    altered its character. Along the valleys, where they first began to
    bloom, and in all moist situations, the hue was yellow, varying,
    according to the amount of moisture in different places, from pale
    primrose to deep orange, this passing again into vivid scarlet and reds
    of many shades. On the plains the reds prevailed, changing into various
    purples on hills and mountain slopes; but high on the mountains the
    color was blue; and this also had many gradations, from the lower deep
    cornflower blue to a delicate azure on the summits, resembling that of
    the forget-me-not and hairbell.

    The weather proved singularly favorable to those who spent their time in
    admiring the lilies, and this now seemed to be almost the only
    occupation of the inmates, excepting, of course, sick Chastel,
    imprisoned Yoletta, and myself--I being too forlorn to admire anything.
    Calm, bright days without a cloud succeeded each other, as if the very
    elements held the lilies sacred and ventured not to cast any shadow over
    their mystic splendor. Each morning one of the men would go out some
    distance from the house and blow on a horn, which could be heard
    distinctly two miles away; and presently a number of horses, in couples
    and troops, would come galloping in, after which they would remain all
    the morning grazing and gamboling about the house. These horses were now
    in constant requisition, all the members of the family, male and female,
    spending several hours every day in careering over the surrounding
    country, seemingly without any particular object. The contagion did not
    affect me, however, for, although I had always been a bold rider (in my
    own country), and excessively fond of horseback exercise, their fashion
    of riding without bridles, and on diminutive straw saddles, seemed to me
    neither safe nor pleasant.

    One morning after breakfasting, I took my ax, and was proceeding slowly,
    immersed in thought, to the forest, when hearing a slight swishing sound
    of hoofs on the grass, I turned and beheld the venerable father, mounted
    on his charger, and rushing away towards the hills at an insanely
    break-neck pace. His long garment was gathered tightly round his spare
    form, his feet drawn up and his head bent far forward, while the wind of
    his speed divided his beard, which flew out in two long streamers
    behind. All at once he caught sight of me, and, touching the animal's
    neck, swept gracefully round in narrowing circles, each circle bringing
    him nearer, until he came to a stand at my side; then his horse began
    rubbing his nose on my hand, its breath feeling like fire on my skin.

    "Smith," said he, with a grave smile, "if you cannot be happy unless you
    are laboring in the forest with your ax you must proceed with your
    wood-cutting; but I confess it surprises me as much to see you going to
    work on a day like this, as it would to see you walking inverted on your
    hands, and dangling your heels in the air."

    "Why?" said I, surprised at this speech.

    "If you do not know I must tell you. At night we sleep; in the morning
    we bathe; we eat when we are hungry, converse when we feel inclined, and
    on most days labor a certain number of hours. But more than these
    things, which have a certain amount of pleasure in them, are the
    precious moments when nature reveals herself to us in all her beauty. We
    give ourselves wholly to her then, and she refreshes us; the splendor
    fades, but the wealth it brings to the soul remains to gladden us. That
    must be a dull spirit that cannot suspend its toil when the sun is
    setting in glory, or the violet rainbow appears on the cloud. Every day
    brings us special moments to gladden us, just as we have in the house
    every day our time of melody and recreation. But this supreme and more
    enduring glory of nature comes only once every year; and while it lasts,
    all labor, except that which is pressing and necessary, is unseemly, and
    an offense to the Father of the world." He paused, but I did not know
    what to say in reply, and presently he resumed: "My son, there are
    horses waiting for you, and unless you are more unlike us in mind than I
    ever imagined, you will now take one and ride to the hills, where, owing
    to the absence of forests, the earth can now be seen at its best."

    I was about to thank him and turn back, but the thought of Yoletta, to
    whom each heavy day now seemed a year, oppressed by heart, and I
    continued standing motionless, with downcast eyes, wishing, yet fearing,
    to speak.

    "Why is your mind troubled, my son?" he said kindly.

    "Father," I answered, that word which I now ventured to use for the
    first time trembling from my lips, "the beauty of the earth is very much
    to me, but I cannot help remembering that to Yoletta it is even more,
    and the thought takes away all my pleasure. The flowers will fade, and
    she will not see them."

    "My son, I am glad to hear these words," he answered, somewhat to my
    surprise, for I had greatly feared that I had adopted too bold a course.
    "For I see now," he continued, "that this seeming indifference, which
    gave me some pain, does not proceed from an incapacity on your part to
    feel as we do, but from a tender love and compassion--that most precious
    of all our emotions, which will serve to draw you closer to us. I have
    also thought much of Yoletta during these beautiful days, grieving for
    her, and this morning I have allowed her to go out into the hills, so
    that during this day, at least, she will be able to share in our
    pleasure."

    Scarcely waiting for another word to be spoken, I flew back to the
    house, anxious enough for a ride now. The little straw saddle seemed now
    as comfortable as a couch, nor was the bridle missed; for, nerved with
    that intense desire to find and speak to my love, I could have ridden
    securely on the slippery back of a giraffe, charging over rough ground
    with a pack of lions at its heels. Away I went at a speed never perhaps
    attained by any winner of the Derby, which made the shining hairs of my
    horse's mane whistle in the still air; down valleys, up hills, flying
    like a bird over roaring burns, rocks, and thorny bushes, never pausing
    until I was far away among those hills where that strange accident had
    befallen me, and from which I had recovered to find the earth so
    changed. I then ascended a great green hill, the top of which must have
    been over a thousand feet above the surrounding country. When I had at
    length reached this elevation, which I did walking and climbing, my
    steed docilely scrambling up after me, the richness and novelty of the
    unimaginable and indescribable scene which opened before me affected me
    in a strange way, smiting my heart with a pain intense and unfamiliar.
    For the first time I experienced within myself that miraculous power the
    mind possesses of reproducing instantaneously, and without perspective,
    the events, feelings, and thoughts of long years--an experience which
    sometimes comes to a person suddenly confronted with death, and in other
    moments of supreme agitation. A thousand memories and a thousand
    thoughts were stirring in me: I was conscious now, as I had not been
    before, of the past and the present, and these two existed in my mind,
    yet separated by a great gulf of time--a blank and a nothingness which
    yet oppressed me with its horrible vastness. How aimless and solitary,
    how awful my position seemed! It was like that of one beneath whose feet
    the world suddenly crumbles into ashes and dust, and is scattered
    throughout the illimitable void, while he survives, blown to some far
    planet whose strange aspect, however beautiful, fills him with an
    undefinable terror. And I knew, and the knowledge only intensified my
    pain, that my agitation, the strugglings of my soul to recover that lost
    life, were like the vain wing-beats of some woodland bird, blown away a
    thousand miles over the sea, into which it must at last sink down and
    perish.

    Such a mental state cannot endure for more than a few moments, and
    passing away, it left me weary and despondent. With dull, joyless eyes I
    continued gazing for upwards of an hour on the prospect beneath me; for
    I had now given up all hopes of seeing Yoletta, not yet having
    encountered a single person since starting for my ride. All about me the
    summit was dotted with small lilies of a delicate blue, but at a little
    distance the sober green of the grass became absorbed, as it were, in
    the brighter flower-tints, and the neighboring summits all appeared of a
    pure cerulean hue. Lower down this passed into the purples of the slopes
    and the reds of the plains, while the valleys, fringed with scarlet,
    were like rivers of crocus-colored fire. Distance, and the light,
    autumnal haze, had a subduing and harmonizing effect on the sea of
    brilliant color, and further away on the immense horizon it all faded
    into the soft universal blue. Over this flowery paradise my eyes
    wandered restlessly, for my heart was restless in me, and had lost the
    power of pleasure. With a slight bitterness I recalled some of the words
    the father had spoken to me that morning. It was all very well, I
    thought, for this venerable graybeard to talk about refreshing the soul
    with the sight of all this beauty; but he seemed to lose sight of the
    important fact that there was a considerable difference in our
    respective ages, that the raging hunger of the heart, which he had
    doubtless experienced at one time of his life, was, like bodily hunger,
    not to be appeased with splendid sunsets, rainbows and rainbow lilies,
    however beautiful they might seem to the eye.

    Presently, on a second and lower summit of the long mountain I had
    ascended, I caught sight of a person on horseback, standing motionless
    as a figure of stone. At that distance the horse looked no bigger than a
    greyhound, yet so marvelously transparent was the mountain air, that I
    distinctly recognized Yoletta in the rider. I started up, and sprang
    joyfully onto my own horse, and waving my hand to attract her attention,
    galloped recklessly down the slope; but when I reached the opposing
    summit she was no longer there, nor anywhere in sight, and it was as if
    the earth had opened and swallowed her.
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    Chapter 15
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