The Patrician eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about The Patrician.
by chance touched a beetle trying to crawl over the grassless soil.  Some bird had maimed it.  He took the little creature up.  The beetle truly could no longer work, but it was spared the fate lying before himself.  The beetle was not, as he would be, when his power of movement was destroyed, conscious of his own wasted life.  The world would not roll away down there.  He would still see himself cumbering the ground, when his powers were taken, from him.  This thought was torture.  Why had he been suffered to meet her, to love her, and to be loved by her?  What had made him so certain from the first moment, if she were not meant for him?  If he lived to be a hundred, he would never meet another.  Why, because of his love, must he bury the will and force of a man?  If there were no more coherence in God’s scheme than this, let him too be incoherent!  Let him hold authority, and live outside authority!  Why stifle his powers for the sake of a coherence which did not exist!  That would indeed be madness greater than that of a mad world!

There was no answer to his thoughts in the stillness of the grove, unless it were the cooing of a dove, or the faint thudding of the sheep issuing again into sunlight.  But slowly that stillness stole into Miltoun’s spirit.  “Is it like this in the grave?” he thought.  “Are the boughs of those trees the dark earth over me?  And the sound in them the sound the dead hear when flowers are growing, and the wind passing through them?  And is the feel of this earth how it feels to lie looking up for ever at nothing?  Is life anything but a nightmare, a dream; and is not this the reality?  And why my fury, my insignificant flame, blowing here and there, when there is really no wind, only a shroud of still air, and these flowers of sunlight that have been dropped on me!  Why not let my spirit sleep, instead of eating itself away with rage; why not resign myself at once to wait for the substance, of which this is but the shadow!”

And he lay scarcely breathing, looking up at the unmoving branches setting with their darkness the pearls of the sky.

“Is not peace enough?” he thought.  “Is not love enough?  Can I not be reconciled, like a woman?  Is not that salvation, and happiness?  What is all the rest, but ’sound and fury, signifying nothing?”

And as though afraid to lose his hold of that thought, he got up and hurried from the grove.

The whole wide landscape of field and wood, cut by the pale roads, was glimmering under the afternoon sun, Here was no wild, wind-swept land, gleaming red and purple, and guarded by the grey rocks; no home of the winds, and the wild gods.  It was all serene and silver-golden.  In place of the shrill wailing pipe of the hunting buzzard-hawks half lost up in the wind, invisible larks were letting fall hymns to tranquillity; and even the sea—­no adventuring spirit sweeping the shore with its wing—­seemed to lie resting by the side of the land.

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The Patrician from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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