“I wish to see Roderick Darrel,—–he is my friend,’ said Trove, as he gave the warden a letter.
“Come with me,” said the official, presently. “He is talking to the men.”
They passed through gloomy corridors to the chapel door. Trove halted to compose himself, for now he could hear the voice of Darrel.
“Let me stand here a while—I cannot go in now,” he whispered.
The words of the old man were vibrant with colour and dramatic force.
“Night!” he was saying, “the guard passes; the lights are out; ye lie thinking. Hark! a bell! ‘Tis in the golden city o’ remembrance. Ye hear it calling. Haste away, men, haste away. Ah, look!—flowers by the roadside! an’ sunlight, an’, just ahead, spires o’ the city, an’ beneath them—oh! what is there beneath them ye go so many times to see?
“Who is this?
“Here is a man beside ye.
“‘Halt!’ he says, an cuts ye with a sword.
“Now the bell is tolling—the sky overcast. The spires fall, the flowers wither. Ye turn to look at the man. He is a giant. See the face of him now. It makes ye tremble. He is the White Guard an’ he brings ye back. Ah, then, mayhap ye rise in the dark, as I have heard ye, an’ shake the iron doors. But ye cannot escape him though ye could fly on the wind. Know ye the White Guard? Dear man! his name is thy name; he is thyself; day an’ night he sits in the watch tower o’ thy soul; he has all charge o’ thee. Make a friend o’ him, men, make a friend o’ him. Any evening send for me, an’ mayhap they’ll let me come an’ tell thee how.”
He paused. Trove could hear the tread of guards in the chapel. They seemed to enter the magnetic field of the speaker and quickly halted.
“Mind the White Guard! Save him ye have none to fear.
“Once, at night, I saw a man smiling in his sleep. ’Twas over there in the hospital. The day long he had been sick with remorse, an’ I had given him, betimes, a word o’ comfort as well as the medicine. Now when I looked the frown had left his brow. Oh, ‘twas a goodly sight to see! He smiled an’ murmured o’ the days gone. The man o’ guilt lay dead—the child of innocence was living. An’ he woke, an’ again the shadow fell upon him, an’ he wept.
“‘I have been wandering in the land o’ love,’ he said.
“‘Get thee back, man, get thee back,’ said I to him.
“‘Alas! how can I?’ said he; ’for ’tis only Sleep that opens the door.’
“‘Nay, Sleep doth lift the garment o’ thy bitterness, but only for an hour,’ said I. ‘Love, Love shall lift it from thee forever.’ An’ now, I thank the good God, the smile o’ that brief hour is ever on his face. Ye know him well, men. Were I to bid him stand before ye, there’s many here would wish to kiss his hand. Even here in the frowning shadow o’ these walls he has come into a land o’ love, an’ when he returns to his people ye shall weep, men, ye shall weep, an’ they shall rejoice. O the land o’ love! it hath a strong gate. An’ the White Guard, he hath the key.