BY THE EASTERN CHELA
The sun had sunk down behind the tall pines, the giant sentries guarding the little cottage that so snugly nestled on the bosom of the Himalayas; but the evening glow, the farewell blessing of the departing luminary, still lingered on the treetops. The little shepherd boy, who so faithfully preserves the secrecy of the lonely habitation from the cruel ears of he hunters whose midnight halloos frighten the yearling fawns and whose murderous weapons ever and again render them motherless, had just brought in tidings that a company of English officials were encamped at no great distance and might be expected next morning, to outrage once more the peaceful hillside with their unhallowed sport. As the slight figure of the adventurous youth, descending the perilous crag with the sure step of the Himalayan goat, the companion of his infancy, was hidden from view by the deepening shadows of night, and the last note of his rude pipe died away in the stillness of the scene, a weariness came over the meditative mystic student, the solitary dweller of that lonely cottage.
He was not born to mysticism, but was drawn into it. His eyes first beheld the light among the bustle and stir of a populous city; his youthful steps had threaded crowded thoroughfares and his mind was instructed in many an old seat of learning. Time had left on him footprints which had burnt deep into his soul. But inquire not into the origin of the students of The Holy Lore, and let not the curious hand rake up the cold ashes from the funeral pyre of the past. It is enough to say that the slow dissolution of selfishness had pushed the mystic back, step by step, from the busy walks of daily life, the ever-expanding circle of duty had caused the early bonds to burst and the narrow heart to break and scatter its fragments far and wide. Sustained by the traditions of his race and cheered by the sad benevolent smile of one, not to be profaned by mention here, the mystic student treads the uphill path of duty to his country and his kind, though not without occasional checks from despondency and sorrow, produced by spectacles of sin and pain. The increasing serenity of his life deepened the pity in his soul for others whose course diverged from his. O that man should be unhappy though his spirit is the very essence of bliss! But the Eternal Necessity works on its never-ending woof of progress through discord and imperfection.
Roll on darks cycles of descent; our hands, though armed with the energy of self-sacrifice, clutch at the spokes of thy wheel in vain! To the last turn will that wheel revolve. We have only the privilege of pursuing our work in silent expectation of the day when thy resistless course will backward wind, but even now we have the glory of an unselfish death. O death, thou deep-veiled virgin, how few have seen the charms in thy face! How few are the worshippers on whom thy dark eyes have smiled!
Ah, sweet is life, but sweeter still is death!
How few comprehend death! None among that light-hearted and light-minded band of Englishmen whose campfires gleam in the darkness of the valley, like the lurid eyes of some cruel monster, knows the solemn majesty of death, whom they would as laughingly receive themselves as force upon others.
The mystery of death is the greatest mystery of all.
The past-searching eyes of yon Brahman, emerging from the Ganges' sacred waters, turn in mute appeal to the Gods of his fathers, at the sight of those ruined temples, raised by the pious hands of antiquity, and unbidden tears trickle down his cheeks as he mourns his country dead. Timid short-sighted man! Is India dead because she suckles children not her own? If thou couldst place thyself on the crest of that proud mountain-wave thou wouldst see across the tracts of time the break of a dawn brighter and purer than these hills have yet beheld. Man! man is thy brother! Give to thy brother what he has not, and supply thy own deficiencies from what he offers thee. The right hand must aid the left, the East must unite with the West; the young must join hands with the old; and the beauty of harmony will smile on the face of the Earth. . . . .
Hark! what discordant scream disturbs the calm repose of the restful landscape? Sailing like a mass of darkness in the serene sea of moonlight, the Himalayan eagle startles the tremulous shades of night and wakens echoes from every glen and crag. But more piercing by far is the cry of despair borne by the western breeze from the unfortunate victims, naked and famishing among the crumbling ruins of Creed and Thought. The streams of sound swept by confused and indistinct; but the cries of the soul always wing their way to other souls, whose doors are not barred nor their casements closed. Loud above the rest was heard the clear voice of great hearts that knocks at the gates of self-crowned princes of thought, in vain attempt to raise an echo, and are thrown back upon the black rock of despair to wait for the ravenous jaws of the dragon of spiritual death.
Amidst the psychic war of elements and the devouring earthquake of the mind, like a streak of silver light there flashed in the student's mind the voice of his master: —
"Go, be true to thy pledge to manhood; westward lies thy path. Take this mutilated scroll, an unknown, though kindred spirit will bring the missing fragments, and then will be revealed to thee things which thou hast till now sought in vain. Take no thought for the morrow nor tarry here in a single day; thy path of duty leads to the West." . . . .
Far, far away in the New World, in the city of the rising sun there waited a solitary soul which seemed to have dropped from some other sphere and lost its way in a strange land. Its cry of help was heard and the words wrung form it by doubt and bewilderment were sped across long stretches of sea and land.
The vision was drowned in the tide of returning sense, but the ear caught the fading words, "Thy path of duty leads to the West."
Obedient steps were bent westward and the faithful pupil found himself among the ill-fated splendour of Paris — Ah! Paris, Paris! thou must die that France may live! — France alone among her many enemies, and the worst of them thou!
Ghostlike the ascetic haunted the homes of wealth and pleasure, everywhere regarded more as the mysterious hand that recorded the doom of the Assyrian monarch than a human being willing to work and bear.
One evening among the gaieties of a Parisian salon, with all to charm the sense and sicken the soul, an airy tongue syllabled his name: —
"Come, come to my help!"
The far-away voice downed the music and obscured the dancing shapes. The bright sallies of wit remained unheard, the gay companions unheeded. The two strangers met and were strangers no more, the fragments united together, the torn scroll became whole.
The mystic scroll was all in quaint characters and in an unknown tongue. Many an anxious day and many a watchful night has it cost the fellow-students, united in a strange land, to decipher its meaning. The following pages represent the result.