After that how I watched when he came to the reading. And one great Sunday, he chose a chapter from Ecclesiastes, the one that begins sonorously:
“Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth.”
Surely that gaunt preacher had the true fire in his gray soul. How his voice dwelt and quivered and softened upon the words!
“While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain——” Thus he brought in the universe to that small church and filled the heart of a boy.
“In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened.”
“And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.”
Do not think that I understood the meaning of those passages: I am not vain enough to think I know even now—but the sound of them, the roll of them, the beautiful words, and above all, the pictures!
Those Daughters of Music, how I lived for days imagining them! They were of the trees and the hills, and they were very beautiful but elusive; one saw them as he heard singing afar off, sweet strains fading often into silences. Daughters of Music! Daughters of Music! And why should they be brought low?
Doors shut in the street—how I saw them—a long, long street, silent, full of sunshine, and the doors shut, and no sound anywhere but the low sound of the grinding: and the mill with the wheels drowsily turning and no one there at all save one boy with fluttering heart, tiptoeing in the sunlit doorway.
And the voice of the bird. Not the song but the voice. Yes, a bird had a voice. I had known it always, and yet somehow I had not dared to say it. I felt that they would look at me with that questioning, incredulous look which I dreaded beyond belief. They might laugh! But here it was in the Book—the voice of a bird. How my appreciation of that Book increased and what a new confidence it gave me in my own images! I went about for days, listening, listening, listening—and interpreting.
So the words of the preacher and the fire in them:
“And when they shall be afraid of that which is high and fears shall be in the way——”
I knew the fear of that which is high: I had dreamed of it commonly. And I knew also the Fear that stood in the way: him I had seen in a myriad of forms, looming black by darkness in every lane I trod; and yet with what defiance I met and slew him!
And then, more thrilling than all else, the words of the preacher:
“Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.”