“Yes, a dream,” he added presently, “and yet—” In that “and yet” there was a world of invincible faith that made it impossible not to share his dream, even see it building before one’s eyes—such is the magnetic power of a passionate personal conviction.
“Of course,” he went on again, “we all know that ’nature is one with rapine, a harm no preacher can heal.’ But because the fox runs off with the goose, or the hawk swoops down on the chicken, and ’yon whole little wood is a world of plunder and prey’—is that any reason why we should be content to plunder and prey too? And after all, the cruelty of Nature is only one-sided. There is lots of pity in Nature too. These strange little wild lives around us are not entirely bent on killing and eating each other. They know the tenderness of motherhood, the sweetness of building a home together, and I believe there is far more comradeship and mutual help amongst them than we know of. Yes, even in wild Nature there is a principle of love working no less than a principle of hate. Nature is not all-devouring and destroying. She is loving and building too. Nature is more constructive than destructive, and she is ever at work evolving and evolving a higher dream. Surely it is not for man, to whom, so far as we know, Nature has entrusted the working out of her finest impulses, and whom she has endowed with all the fairy apparatus of the soul; it is not for him, whose eyes—of all her children—Nature has opened, the one child she has taken into her confidence and to whom she has whispered her secret hopes and purposes; surely it is not for man voluntarily to deny his higher lot, and, because the wolf and he have come from the same great mother, say: ’I am no better than the wolf. Why should I not live the life of a wolf—and kill and devour like my brother?’ Surely it is not for the cruel things in Nature to teach man cruelty—rather, if it were possible,” and the saint smiled at his fancy, “would it be the mission of man to teach them kindness: rather should he preach pity to the hawk and peace between the panther and the bear. It is not the bad lessons of Nature, but the good, that are meant for man—though, as you must have noticed, man seldom appeals to the precedents of Nature except to excuse that in him which is Nature at her worst. When we say, ‘it is only natural,’ we almost invariably refer to that in Nature of which Nature herself has entrusted the refinement or the elimination to man. It is Nature’s bad we copy, not Nature’s good; and always we forget that we ourselves are a part of Nature—Nature’s vicegerent, so to say, upon the earth—”
As we talked, we had been approaching a house built high among the heather, with windows looking over all the surrounding country. Presently, the saint stopped in front of it.
“This is my house,” he said. “Won’t you come in and see me some time?—and, by the way, I am going to talk to some of the village children about the wild things, bird’s nesting, and so forth, up at the schoolhouse on Thursday. I wish you’d come and help me. One’s only hope is with the children. The grown-up are too far gone. Mind you come.”