HOW THE STARS SANG OF HOPE
It took Gard some time to get his fire started, and when it did blaze up, with fine spurts of gas from the tar, and vivid blue and green and red flames from the salted wood, the little stone bee-hive glowed like an oven and presently grew as hot as one. The smoke escaped but slowly through the single hole in the roof, and at last he could stand it no longer, and crept out into the night until his fire should have burned down to a core of red ashes over which he could grill his dinner.
And what a night! He had seen the stars from many parts of the earth and sea, but never, it seemed to him, had he seen such stars as these, so close, so large, so wonderfully clean and bright. And, indeed, glory of the heavens so supreme as that is possible only far away from man, and all the works and habitations of man, and all his feeble efforts at the mitigation of the darkness. Nay, for fullest perception, it may be that it is necessary for a man to be not only alone in the profundity of Nature’s night, but to be lifted somewhat out of himself and his natural darkness by extremity of joy, or still more of need.
The milky way was as white as though a mighty brush dipped in glittering star-dust had been drawn across the velvet dome. The larger stars, many of which were old acquaintances and known to him by name, seemed to swing so clear and close that they took on quite a new aspect of friendliness and cheer. The smaller—I write as he thought—a mighty host, an innumerable company quite beyond his ken, still spoke to him in a language that he had never forgotten.
Long ago, when he was quite a little boy, he had come upon a great globe of the heavens, a much-prized curiosity of his old schoolmaster. Upon it appeared all the principal stars linked up into their constellations, the shadowy linking lines forming the figures of the Imaginary Ones associated with them in the minds of the ancients. There, on the varnished round of the globe, ranged the Great and Little Bears, and the Dogs, and the Archer, and the Flying Horse, the Lion, and the Crab, and the Whale, and the Twins, and Perseus and Andromeda, and Cassiopeia. And up there, on the dark inner side of the mighty dome, he seemed to see them all again, and time swung back with him for a moment, and he was a boy once more.
And, gazing up at them all, their steady shine and many-coloured twinklings led him to wonder as to the how and the why of them. From the stars to their Maker was but a natural step, and so he came, simply and naturally, to thought of the greatness of Him who swung these innumerable worlds in their courses, and, from that, to His goodness and justice.
Memories of his mother came surging back upon him, and of all her goodness and all she had taught him. She had had a mighty, simple trust in the goodness of God, and had passed it on to her boy, though his rough contact with the world had overworn it all to some extent.