“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof—” And then come words so terrible, that I will not speak them here in this happy place: but what they mean is this:—
That these foolish people are handed over—as you and I shall be if we do wrong wilfully—to Madam How and her terrible school-house, which is called Nature and the Law, to be treated just as the plants and animals are treated, because they did not choose to behave like men and children of God. And there they learn, whether they like or not, what they might have learnt from Lady Why all along. They learn the great law, that as men sow so they will reap; as they make their bed so they will lie on it: and Madam How can teach that as no one else can in earth or heaven: only, unfortunately for her scholars, she is apt to hit so hard with her rod, which is called Experience, that they never get over it; and therefore most of those who will only be taught by Nature and Law are killed, poor creatures, before they have learnt their lesson; as many a savage tribe is destroyed, ay and great and mighty nations too—the old Roman Empire among them.
And the poor Jews, who were carried away captive to Babylon?
Yes; they would not listen to Lady Why, and so they were taken in hand by Madam How, and were seventy years in her terrible school-house, learning a lesson which, to do them justice, they never forgot again. But now we will talk of something pleasanter. We will go back to Lady Why, and listen to her voice. It sounds gentle and cheerful enough just now. Listen.
What? is she speaking to us now?
Hush! open your eyes and ears once more, for you are growing sleepy with my long sermon. Watch the sleepy shining water, and the sleepy green mountains. Listen to the sleepy lapping of the ripple, and the sleepy sighing of the woods, and let Lady Why talk to you through them in “songs without words,” because they are deeper than all words, till you, too, fall asleep with your head upon my knee.
But what does she say?
She says—“Be still. The fulness of joy is peace.” There, you are fast asleep; and perhaps that is the best thing for you; for sleep will (so I am informed, though I never saw it happen, nor any one else) put fresh gray matter into your brain; or save the wear and tear of the old gray matter; or something else—when they have settled what it is to do: and if so, you will wake up with a fresh fiddle-string to your little fiddle of a brain, on which you are playing new tunes all day long. So much the better: but when I believe that your brain is you, pretty boy, then I shall believe also that the fiddler is his fiddle.
CHAPTER XII—HOMEWARD BOUND
Come: I suppose you consider yourself quite a good sailor by now?