THE PILGRIM AND HIS PILGRIMAGE
[Illustration: The Pilgrim and His Pilgrimage (see king002.png)]
For many, many, weary months the Pilgrim journeyed in the wide and pathless Desert of Facts. So many indeed were the months that the wayworn Pilgrim, himself, came at last to forget their number.
And always, for the Pilgrim, the sky by day was a sky of brass, softened not by so much as a wreath of cloud mist. Always, for him, the hot air was stirred not by so much as the lift of a wild bird’s wing. Never, for him, was the awful stillness of the night broken by voice of his kind, by foot-fall of beast, or by rustle of creeping thing. For the toiling Pilgrim in the vast and pathless Desert of Facts there was no kindly face, no friendly fire. Only the stars were many—many and very near.
Day after day, as the Pilgrim labored onward, through the torturing heat, under the sky of brass, he saw on either hand lakes of living waters and groves of many palms. And the waters called him to their healing coolness: the palms beckoned him to their restful shade and shelter. Night after night, in the dreadful solitude, frightful Shapes came on silent feet out of the silent darkness to stare at him with doubtful, questioning, threatening eyes; drawing back at last, if he stood still, as silently as they had come, or, if he advanced, vanishing quickly, only to reappear as silently in another place.
But the Pilgrim knew that the enchanting scenes that lured him by day were but pictures in the heated air. He knew that the fearful Shapes that haunted him by night were but creatures of his own overwrought fancy. And so he journeyed on and ever on, in the staggering heat, under the sky of brass, in the awful stillness of the night: on and ever on, through the wide and pathless waste, until he came at last to the Outer-Edge-Of-Things—came to the place that is between the Desert of Facts and the Beautiful Sea, even as it is written in the Law of the Pilgrimage.
The tired feet of the Traveler left now the rough, hot floor of the desert for a soft, cool carpet of velvet grass all inwrought with blossoms that filled the air with fragrance. Over his head, tall trees gently shook their glistening, shadowy leaves, while sweet voiced birds of rare and wondrous plumage flitted from bough to bough. Across a sky of deepest blue, fleets of fairy cloud ships, light as feathery down, floated—floated—drifting lazily, as though, piloted only by the wind, their pilot slept. All about him, as he walked, multitudes of sunlight and shadow fairies danced gaily hand in hand. And over the shimmering surface of the Sea a thousand thousand fairy waves ran joyously, one after the other, from the sky line to the pebbly beach, making liquid music clearer and softer than the softest of clear toned bells.
And there it was, in that wondrously beautiful place, the Outer-Edge-Of-Things, that the Pilgrim found, fashioned of sheerest white, with lofty dome, towering spires, and piercing minarets lifting out of the living green, the Temple of Truth.