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0105_001E The White People Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter VII

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"I began to sink softly down, with the heavenliest feeling of relaxation and repose, as if there existed only the soul of beautiful rest. I sank so softly--and just as my cheek almost touched the grass the dream was over!"

"Oh!" cried Mrs. MacNairn. "Did you awaken?"

"No. I came back. In my sleep I suddenly found myself creeping into my bed again as if I had been away somewhere. I was wondering why I was there, how I had left the hillside, when I had left it. That part WAS a dream--but the other was not. I was allowed to go somewhere--outside--and come back."

I caught at her hand in the dark.

"The words are all wrong," I said. "It is because we have no words to describe that. But have I made you feel it at all? Oh! Mrs. MacNairn, have I been able to make you know that it was not a dream?"

She lifted my hand and pressed it passionately against her cheek, and her cheek, too, was wet--wet.

"No, it was not a dream," she said. "You came back. Thank God you came back, just to tell us that those who do not come back stand awakened in that ecstasy--in that ecstasy. And The Fear is nothing. It is only The Dream. The awakening is out on the hillside, out on the hillside! Listen!" She started as she said it. "Listen! The nightingale is beginning again."

He sent forth in the dark a fountain--a rising, aspiring fountain--of golden notes which seemed to reach heaven itself. The night was made radiant by them. He flung them upward like a shower of stars into the sky. We sat and listened, almost holding our breath. Oh! the nightingale! the nightingale!

"He knows," Hector MacNairn's low voice said, "that it was not a dream."

When there was silence again I heard him leave his chair very quietly.

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"Good night! good night!" he said, and went away. I felt somehow that he had left us together for a purpose, but, oh, I did not even remotely dream what the purpose was! But soon she told me, almost in a whisper.

"We love you very much, Ysobel," she said. "You know that?"

"I love you both, with all my heart," I answered. "Indeed I love you."

"We two have been more to each other than mere mother and son. We have been sufficient for each other. But he began to love you that first day when he watched you in the railway carriage. He says it was the far look in your eyes which drew him."

"I began to love him, too," I said. And I was not at all ashamed or shy in saying it.

"We three might have spent our lives together," she went on. "It would have been a perfect thing. But--but--" She stood up as if she could not remain seated. Involuntarily I stood up with her. She was trembling, and she caught and held me in her arms. "He cannot stay, Ysobel," she ended.

I could scarcely hear my own voice when I echoed the words.

"He cannot--stay?"

"Oh! the time will come," she said, "when people who love each other will not be separated, when on this very earth there will be no pain, no grief, no age, no death--when all the world has learned the Law at last. But we have not learned it yet. And here we stand! The greatest specialists have told us. There is some fatal flaw in his heart. At any moment, when he is talking to us, when he is at his work, when he is asleep, he may--cease. It will just be ceasing. At any moment. He cannot stay."

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The White People
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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