Theosophical Path, November-December, 1917.
In a cold northern land, on a wild March morning, a little child was born.
Although so late in the season the most terrible storm of the winter was raging. All night the snow had fallen heavily and great drifts were piled high against the trees, rocks, and obstructions of every kind. Bitter winds swept over the earth, whirling the snow in blinding eddies, shrieking wildly about the dwelling, and wailing despairingly among the leafless branches of the trees.
The house where the child was born was a poor log hut standing within the borders of a great forest far from any other human habitation. The parents were unlearned and poor, and there were many other children to play about the door and crowd around the narrow hearth.
No warm welcome or tender greeting awaited the little stranger. Instead of smiling proudly the father shook his head and sat, gloomily silent, in the chimney corner; while the poor mother turned her face to the wall and wept.
Nor were the troop of brothers and sisters better pleased. The smaller ones eyed it with disfavor, fearing it might claim more attention than themselves. The older ones said: "Ah, here is now another troublesome baby for us to tend and lug about with us wherever we go."
It was a troublesome baby. It almost seemed as though the little one must be conscious of the unkindly state of feeling which existed toward it, for from the moment it first opened its great, pathetic, dark eyes on the dreary, snow-covered world it had wept and moaned almost incessantly. The poor child must have been suffering in some way but no one ever seemed to think of that.
The mother, always tired and sadly overworked, felt the care of it to be another heavy burden, and often losing all patience with it, became as cross and fretful as the wailing child. Then she spoke harshly, declaring she wished it had never been born; that it cost her more time and trouble than all the others had done. The father also complained that he never came near the house without hearing its crying.
Children are ever quick at imitating their elders and adopting their opinions and expressions. Consequently the newcomer was disliked, neglected, and ill-treated on all sides. Then there was another cause for dissatisfaction. This baby did not in the least resemble any of the others. All these children had in babyhood been fair, flaxen-haired, blue-eyed, chubby things. But this baby was a puny, brown little creature whose thin little face was mostly taken up by a pair of great, dark eyes. It was declared by the entire family that it was not in the
least like any of its race, and therefore had no right to its looks, ill as they were, as it certainly had not inherited them from any of its ancestors.
Then, too, not one of the others had ever been born with the slightest blemish or birthmark of any kind; and this one had a mark - an undeniable mark - of a dark, red color - just a small blotch in the center of the forehead.
Poor little babe! One might think all these misfortunes were enough to be fastened upon one weak, puny creature at its very entrance into a cold, inhospitable world, and that they would be pretty certain to insure for it a life of pain and continuous unhappiness. But more was to follow; for when the old grandam, who was a woman of sharp and bitter nature, albeit considered a wise woman in her way, came to visit them, she poured the last drop into the already overflowing cup.
When the child was placed on her knees it gazed fixedly at her for a few moments, as though with its deep, solemn eyes it would read her very soul. Then suddenly it broke into a more shrill and piercing scream than it had ever uttered before. The old woman sprang up more nimbly than she had moved for years and flung the babe into its wooden cradle; nor would she ever touch it again. She vehemently declared that it had none of her blood in it and could not be her daughter's child; that it was some wicked changeling that had been put upon her. The ugly mark upon it she affirmed was sufficient proof that it belonged to the Evil One. For her part she would none of it. Being self-willed and impatient of contradiction she would never retract her foolish speech.
The children, who always accepted the words of the grandmother as absolute truth, never forgot these unkind and hasty words. The mother ought to have known better; but being a weak, ignorant creature, full of superstition and prejudice, she never contradicted her mother.
When the child was a few months old a wise and holy man who was returning from a pilgrimage, came one evening to the lonely cabin and craved shelter for the night. He was an aged man of most peaceful and venerable aspect, clad in a loose, grey garment, and he carried the long staff of the wandering pilgrim. His flowing hair and beard were snowy white; and the glance of his blue eyes, though kindly, was keen.
A couch was prepared for the stranger and he was invited to partake of the evening meal. It was observed that he took particular notice of the infant in its cradle. It also looked steadily at him, and (a thing they all wondered at) it was perfectly quiet during the time he remained.
In the morning as he was preparing to depart he asked the mother if her babe had been christened. She replied that it had not, adding that it might be months before the pastor came that way; and also they would not be able to carry it to any church as all were leagues away.
Upon this the old pilgrim replied that he would willingly baptize it. Accordingly a basin of water was brought and the family called together. No one had even thought of a name for the child. The children had constantly called it "one with a mark" or "the dark one," not only on account of its complexion, but because of the grandam's words. After the holy man had taken the child in his arms he bent his head reverently and looked fixedly upon the mark on its forehead. Then sprinkling it lightly with water he gave to it the name of Trywith, without even inquiring of the parents what they would have it called.
During the whole time of the ceremony the child had remained quiet, only regarding the old pilgrim attentively, as though he comprehended perfectly all that was happening. Then, after the servant of the Master had kissed him exactly on the mark, and placed a piece of silver in his tiny hand for a christening present, he laid the infant gently in his cradle and went on his way.
The family were impressed with this ceremony; and the children looked with much wonder and admiration at the bright, beautiful silver piece. They felt envious, too, for none of them had ever possessed more than a copper penny. For some days they remembered how tenderly the reverend old man had held the little one and none of them called it 'the dark one' for nearly a week. But the babe again grew ill and fretful and they soon fell back into the old ways.
While the parents and older children were at work the others were obliged to take care of the baby; and meager enough was the care the poor little creature often received. They teased and worried it and mocked at its crying. They called it "Blacky," and the child of "the dark woman," and said it was an ugly, brown thing, with the mark of the Evil One on its forehead. They often cried out that it was not one of them, but a wicked little changeling who would always be a trouble and burden to everyone and would come to no good. Often the child was slapped and pinched, dragged about by one arm and left lying on the cold ground while they were all at play. Sometimes he was tumbled out of his cradle and trampled over while they were fighting, and not infrequently his cup of porridge, or of black bread and milk, was eaten by some one else. Yet in spite of all these disadvantages the child lived and grew, and by the time he could walk another baby lay in the wooden cradle; and in a year or two more still another and then another had come. The peasant was no richer - if anything poorer - than when Trywith was born. Yet somehow no one seemed to think them so much in the way nor begrudge them a share of the coarse food and scanty clothing. But then neither of them was an ugly, dark, little thing with a red birthmark, and thought by the wise old grandam to be a changeling. No indeed; for they were just like all the others - fair, chubby, round-eyed things - and anyone could tell at a glance that they belonged to the family and had a perfect right to be there.
As the years went by, times grew harder and harder in the log cabin in the border of the great forest. Although the peasant and his wife toiled early and late and the children that were old enough did all they could to help them, it was often almost more than their combined efforts could do, to keep the wolf from the door.
The small piece of cleared land was wet and poor and it was indeed difficult to make it produce sufficient during the short summer to provide for the long cold winter, the little flock of sheep and goats did not always thrive, nor could they always be protected from wolves and other wild beasts. Then one of the two cows died, which was indeed a serious loss to such a family.
Strange as it may seem that the lad should be connected with any calamity that befell, it had grown into a custom to do so; for the entire family, led on by the grandam, had fallen into the habit of reckoning the time when misfortunes began to fall so heavily upon them from the year of Trywith's birth. It was ever remembered that during that terrible storm two pigs were frozen to death in the snow, and several fowls died.
The mother, in her moments of anger and ill temper, which were not infrequent, declared that a curse had come with him and that since his birth no peace nor prosperity had been known; and if the unlucky little fellow chanced to be in her way at the time, she usually bestowed upon him a slap or rude push. The others followed her example, and few days passed in which he was not shoved about, cuffed, or beaten by some one. Nor did a day pass when his heart was not sorely wounded by scornful looks and harsh words and by the bitter taunts concerning his dark skin, his big eyes, and the ugly red birthmark. By this means, life was made a burden terrible for a child to bear. Though the boy usually bore these things in silence, there were times when he turned upon his tormenters in a tempest of feeling, before which they shrank, for the moment awed and even terrified. But they soon rallied, for they were many and he was but one. The sudden outbreaks of temper confirmed them all in the belief of the entire evil of his nature. Thus in the midst of a large family the boy grew up solitary and apart. If he ventured timidly to join in any sport, some rude joke or taunt would send him away to brood alone in the deep recesses of the forest. At the table it was the same, until at last it became his custom to take his basin of porridge, or cup of milk and barley bread, and retire into the farthest comer where he might eat alone and in peace.
But with all this the child had one joy unknown to all the others; nor could they have comprehended it. Poor, forlorn, and unloved, he was the possessor of one treasure. This was the silver piece given to him by the holy man who had named him. He knew all about it, for though always kept as it were outside the family circle and familiar family talk, he could not be hindered from hearing their conversation. Thus he had often heard the story repeated and almost invariably coupled with regrets that it had not been one of the others to whom the silver had been given. Nevertheless he rejoiced greatly in the knowledge that it was indeed his own. That any one could deprive him of this gift was an idea that had never occurred to him.
The coin was kept in the till of the large family chest, which was never locked, the key having been lost. It was easy for him when alone in the house to raise the lid and look in at his treasure. But soon this was not enough; so when the family were all in the garden or fields he would steal in, and taking the piece of silver, carry it out into the forest where he could gaze upon it to his heart's content. He never imagined there could be any wrong in this; for was it not his own - his very own? Nevertheless he feared that it would not be permitted if the grandam knew it; and also it might be hidden away from him altogether.
After securing his beloved silver piece it was his wont to steal away to a hidden retreat of his own, deep in the forest. This was a large stone under a great oak tree that stood on the bank of a little stream that murmured softly over its pebbly bed, as it wound among mossy stones and drooping ferns. In this lovely spot he feared no intrusion. Here he had wept many and bitter tears; and here the most peaceful and pleasant hours of his life had been spent. Here he often sat gazing upon his one earthly treasure until the sorrows and unkindness which had robbed him of all childish interests and joys were obliterated from his mind. The intrinsic value of the silver was something of which he had never thought; but the beauty of the coined metal made him rejoice over its purity and brightness. Fresh from the mint when it came to him it had not become in the least worn or tarnished. To his unaccustomed eyes, familiar only with objects coarse and unlovely, this simple coin appeared to be of the most exquisite and beautiful workmanship. The child was never weary of gazing upon it. The evenly milled edges, the figures and emblems which it bore, were a source of never-failing delight and wonder. But after a time there came to be another thing about it which was more wonderful than all the rest, and which soon came to occupy his attention almost exclusively. On one side had been left in the center a smooth, open space; and as he was looking at it one day he suddenly became aware of a tiny point of clear, white light. While he gazed, in breathless awe and wonder, it slowly expanded, dim and wavering at first, until it finally grew into the likeness of a faintly shining, tremulous star.
The boy could scarcely credit the evidence of his senses. He closed his eyes and rubbed them vigorously. He shifted the coin from one hand to the other and turned it over several times. But when he looked at it again the same wonder was repeated. After this the star appeared constantly to him, though to no one else was it ever visible.
Another thing he soon observed that when his mind was in a peaceful frame, when he was free from all bitter and vengeful thoughts, the silver star was at its brightest. But when his heart was full of discord and discontent, or burning with anger, it grew fainter and dimmer, until he could scarcely distinguish the most indistinct outline nor any ray.
Still it seemed to strengthen and comfort him even to hold the coin tightly clasped in his hand, and his tears were less burning and bitter as, with his dark little face pressed to the cold hard rock, he sobbed out his loneliness, his grief, and passion.
Then, by and by, another change came and he noticed that when the star was at its brightest, and he sat quietly gazing at it, strange, beautiful pictures began to form on it and even faces, which though fleeting and indistinct, he thought must be like those of angels.
These things filled the mind of the lonely child with many new and wonderful thoughts; and it seemed sometimes as though a voice was whispering in his ears. And yet it was not that - but more like something which spoke silently to his heart and soul; for no tones were audible to the outward senses. But for this secret companionship lonely and wretched indeed would have been the life of the unloved child. These things sank deeply into the heart of the boy and as time went by his manner and conduct became more gentle and forbearing and the fierce gusts of temper ceased. But even this change only incited his tormentors.
"Aha!" they said, "he now stands in fear of us, and we will see that he is kept humble."
"Did I not tell you so!" said the grandam who now lived with her daughter. "See how severity has improved his wicked temper. You were too easy with him; such as he must be crushed and kept under. Ah yes! I know how to deal with him."
And so he was taunted, abused, and neglected in every way; but often he scarcely heeded these things, being so deeply absorbed in his own thoughts. It required less and less effort to be patient and submissive when he remembered that which was hidden from all but himself - his beautiful silver star and its silent message of consolation.
IN course of time another change came to the family; for the peasant died, leaving them still more forlorn and helpless. With his help they had fared hardly enough; and they now faced the future with many fears and heavy forebodings.
The following winter was unusually long and severe. The two elder boys had gone out to seek work, and they sent to their mother the little they could from their scanty earnings. Yet the winter was, as it had been of late years, a season of great suffering and privation. Still they went through it in some fashion. The poor can endure so much misery; and because they do endure it those who have plenty are apt to forget all about them, or conclude that it is not so very hard after all.
But a day came in the early spring, before anything in the garden had grown, when the last handful of oatmeal was gone. To be sure they had the milk of two goats, and some of the rye which made their bread was still left. But they all missed the warm porridge. Then one day the grandam said:
"Why should we go hungry when there is silver in the house?"
"But there is none," replied her daughter.
"Nay, but there is a broad piece in the till of the chest."
"Ah yes; but that we may not spend."
"May not;" cried the old woman shrilly, "And why, pray, when we are all hungry and have no meal?"
"Why mother, you know that was given to Trywith by the holy man, the pilgrim. We ought to keep it for him."
"Given to Trywith!" angrily retorted the grandam. "Given to him indeed; and what of that? was a silver piece given to any of the other children? What is this brat that he should have silver laid by for him? I warrant he scarcely remembers having it. Take it; and he will never know it's gone."
"But I would not like to do it," still objected his mother.
"Well, well!" said the old woman, beginning to weep. "Keep the silver laid by for that dark, ugly thing who bears the mark of the Evil One. You know yourself, as you have often said, that he brought a curse with him, and ever since we have had only trouble and misfortune. I am near four-score years and able to work no longer, so what does it matter if I perish? Better I were lying in my grave since even my own child no longer cares in any way for my comfort."
The daughter, too, wept; but she had always been weak and easily led, so opening the chest she took out the silver piece and giving it to the eldest boy then at home she bade him go to the miller's and buy meal.
While this was taking place Trywith was out near the edge of the forest watching the flock where he remained all day, taking a piece of rye bread with him for his dinner. Thus his brother went and returned and he knew nothing of it. He observed indeed that they had porridge for supper; but he asked no questions as he seldom received a kind answer.
A few days after when all the family were out the boy stole softly in to secure his cherished treasure. He lifted the lid quickly and confidently, his hand already outstretched to grasp it. But alas! it was not there. The beautiful silver piece had disappeared. Astonishment kept him silent, as he stood in the same attitude, staring wildly into the empty till. He did not even hear the approaching footsteps until the voice of the old woman fell harshly on his ear.
"Look at that Evil One's brat! Look! how dare he lift the lid of the chest?"
Turning then he saw that both of the women had entered the cabin and stood regarding him. Stunned by the greatness of the calamity which had overtaken him - rendered fearless by the very magnitude of his loss - he ran straight to his mother and seizing her gown cried in a hoarse, broken voice:
"Where is it, mother? where is my silver piece? O mother, mother! give it back to me: it is my own - my very own. Give it to me!"
But she made him no answer. When she saw the grief-stricken look on his pale face and in his great dark eyes she was sorry for what she had done. So she looked at the old woman and was silent.
Trywith turned, too, and gazed reproachfully at her. Then her anger was aroused against both.
"How dare you look at me like that?" she cried out fiercely. "You wicked black one! You changeling! You ungrateful little wretch! You ought to have been thrust out into the snow to perish when you were born. What right have you to keep a broad piece of silver when the rest of us are starving? It has gone to the miller to buy meal. Now you know you will never see it again; so take your wizened face, with its staring black eyes and ugly red mark out of our sight. Go! Begone, I say!" But for once he did not obey.
"O, mother! mother! is it true? " he gasped piteously, looking wildly into her averted face and unconsciously wrenching at her gown.
"Yes, yes," she answered hurriedly; "your silver is gone; so let us hear no more about it. See, you are tearing my gown. Let go of it."
The boy's hands fell helplessly at his sides. He stood for a moment like one stricken unto death. Then with a low, bitter cry he stumbled from the hut and went blindly into the forest. He never could recall afterward where, nor how far, he went. The others had been long in bed that night when he crept silently into the cabin, worn out with his unavailing grief and trembling with cold.
His mother was waiting for him more anxious and troubled than she was willing to own. If she could have done so she would have got back the piece of silver for him. But alas! how impossible it is to recall an act, a word, or even a thought when once it has gone from us. She had kept a bowl of porridge for him and spoke with more kindness than he had ever received from her before; she even offered an awkward caress or two.
At any other time his poor little bruised and burdened heart would have leaped for joy at such unwonted tokens of affection; for he was by nature a loving little fellow, and no one ever dreamed how he hungered and thirsted for human love and would have poured out his own without stint or measure. But no one had ever given him any love and his own had been rudely repelled. But now he could make no response. He was too utterly overwhelmed by the grief and despair occasioned by his irreparable loss. So his mother desisted, thinking him sullen and unfeeling and that any kindness would be thrown away if offered to him. There was nothing in the poor woman through which she might fathom or comprehend the sorrow of the child.
For some time the lad went about his wonted tasks silent and despairing, his mind filled with bitter and revengeful thoughts and his heart more deeply stirred by anger than it had ever been before, toward every one, and more especially his grandmother. But gradually these feelings began to subside and the more kindly and gentle moods returned. Then to his boundless delight the faces and pictures which he had seen in the silver star began to appear in his dreams. Then when he sat alone in the forest the voices began again to come to him. To his infinite joy he now found that all he had so deeply prized was not lost to him forever.
The other children had at first been somewhat sorry for his loss.
But as the old woman kept continually repeating: "Why should he - the ugly dark one - have silver any more than the others?" they speedily adopted, her views and began to taunt and torment him in the usual manner. But Trywith, being comforted and sustained by his dreams, and thinking constantly of the Voice and the many new and strange things which it suggested to him, was enabled to endure with more patience than he had shown in former times. So again the grandam boasted of her wisdom in having the silver piece taken from him.
And now another strange thing happened to him; for the dark, red spot upon his forehead began to grow lighter; and at times when his heart was filled with gratitude and love, it assumed, in dim wavering outline, the form of the star and shone with a faint, soft radiance. But he himself was unconscious of this change. It was brightest when he listened to the Voice or was wrapt in his beautiful dreams. But as the former came only when he was alone and the latter when he slept, it was long before it was discovered by his companions.
One night an elder brother chanced to awake in the loft where they all slept on pallets of straw. His attention was arrested by what he at first thought a moonbeam; but soon recollecting that there was at this time no moon he sat up in bed to examine more closely. To his astonishment he now perceived that the light proceeded from the corner where Trywith lay apart and that it seemed to hover directly over his head. For some time he gazed at it in doubt and wonder. He would have gone nearer but awe held him back. The speeches of the grandam had made the entire family believe firmly that there could be nothing good connected with the lad; so now he dreaded some strange and unheard of danger or evil. Nevertheless he resolved to watch Trywith narrowly and try to discover the meaning of this strange thing.
Now it happened that some days after that the boy was watching the sheep as usual. As he sat alone, under a great tree on the edge of the pasture, suddenly the three younger children came upon him. Catching a glimpse of the light on his forehead one cried: "O, see! see! Trywith has another piece of silver." Then they instantly surrounded him, demanding that he should show them the silver and tell where he had found it.
The lad was bewildered by their words and knew not to what they referred. But they continued their clamor until one of the elder boys came upon the scene, when they called him to come to their aid, explaining that the ugly "black one" had a beautiful piece of silver and would not allow them even to look at it.
"What are you hiding, you ugly changeling," cried Olaf, seizing him by the arm and shaking him roughly. "Show it to me at once, I say."
"But I have nothing to show," replied the boy, "I do not know what they mean, I have nothing at all."
"O, he has, he has!" cried the children. "He must have hidden it in his cap, for he was holding it up to his forehead when we first saw it. It is a silver piece just like the other. Make him give it up, Olaf! take it from him!"
Olaf believed them. It was he who saw the light in the loft and now concluded that it must have been a piece of silver, wondering he had not thought of it before. He was now determined to have it and was bitterly angry with the poor helpless lad for not instantly obeying him.
"Give me the silver!" he shouted furiously, advancing with clenched fists upon the boy who stood pale and silent before him, making no effort to escape. Rushing upon him Olaf tore the ragged cap violently from his head, but no silver was there. Then, dealing blow after blow, he threw him to the ground, searching his pockets and clothing for the hidden treasure. But of course his search was unavailing.
Trywith arose and stood in silence before them, turning his dark eyes from face to face. There was something in that look that made them shrink back, abashed and ashamed, they knew not why. His clothing was soiled and torn, his body wounded and bruised; and the blood was trickling from his temple where it had come in contact with a sharp stone. Young children often see more clearly than their elders. Suddenly little Hilda, the youngest, cried out:
Why only look, Olaf! See, it is only his forehead that shines! But the others, staring sullenly at him, saw only the dull red mark.
Trywith then turned and walked slowly into the forest. His heart was swelling with the bitter sense of injustice and wrong. He went to the rock by the brook and lying upon his face he wept long and hopelessly. But at length his tears were spent and he sat up, faint and dizzy; then he bethought him of Hilda's words. But it could not be possible that any light could be on his brow - much less one like that which had once shone on his lost silver star. Nevertheless he went with a beating heart to the edge of the stream and leaning over looked timidly at his reflexion in the water below. But he could discern nothing unusual in his appearance. After bathing his face in the cool, refreshing stream, he still sat there musing on the glorious things of which he had dreamed, and the lessons of truth and love breathed into his soul.
Then he reflected that those who had wronged and injured him knew nothing of these glorious things; and his anger gave place to pity for them and an intense longing to share with them the goodness and power which had surrounded and sustained him. So filled was his mind with these thoughts that all else was forgotten and time passed unheeded until the sun was at its setting. Then he chanced to look once more into the stream murmuring at his side. There he again beheld his own mirrored face, but could it indeed be his own? He had always regarded himself as dark and unlovely, with a blemish on his brow that would have spoiled the beauty of a fairer face.
Yet he knew this was his own countenance, now made beautiful and glorious by the light from within, the light of love and truth. The great dark eyes were clear and luminous - the forehead expanded into proportions grand and beautiful; while in the very center, the spot where the birthmark should have been, trembled the silver star from which emanated a pure effulgence, surrounding the bead as with a halo and transfiguring the face into a thing of beauty and of glory.
While he thus gazed, in awe and wonder, upon himself thus transfigured, again came the inner Voice to whose teaching he had listened.
"This is the soul you now see illumined by the light of Divine Truth and Love," it said.
Then the soul of the boy, that which he knew to be the true inner self, was freed from all trammels and filled with a sacred joy which lifted him above all earthly things. Where now were the sorrows, the tears, and the anguish, that had ever been his portion? They were all swept from his mind. No sense of the wrongs and injuries which had been heaped upon him now remained. There was no longer any want or longing unsatisfied. He was no more alone - nor could he ever be again, for he was indissolubly united with the universe and all it contained - for all were one family - all Sons of God.
The great All-Father's heart was ever open to all, and his own had gone forth, trustingly, joyously, to meet it, to mingle with all beings, all things, and to be baptized in the eternal fount of Divine Love. Time went by unheeded; the sun went down and darkness covered the earth and Trywith awoke once more to outward things.
Then he arose and took his way toward the cabin. So deeply impressed was his mind by his late experience, that the preceding events of the day were scarcely remembered. He found the entire family awaiting his return. The supper hour had long past; but this time nothing had been put aside for him.
The door had scarcely closed behind him when he found himself surrounded by them all.
"Now where is the silver?" cried the grandam fiercely. "You hid it slyly enough from the children; but you will find me a match for your cunning. You will give it to me, I warrant you, you evil one."
"Nay, grandmother," answered Trywith mildly. "I have no silver for you. But if you will listen I can tell you of things more precious than silver or gold."
As he spoke these words, standing up before them with calm and quiet dignity, they all stared at him in amazement. He seemed suddenly to have become older and like a stranger to them. There was something in his bearing and aspect which they had never seen before. So they all fell back a little and left him standing alone.
"I will tell you first about the silver piece," he said, and why I was so deeply grieved at its loss.
And then he told them of the star and the wonderful pictures he had seen: of the dreams that came later, and of the silent, inner voice, which had taught him lessons of love and patience; and he told them how this wisdom, priceless and above all earthly things, might be attained by all who truly desired it.
At first they listened in wonder. Then they grew troubled and afraid; and at length, his words seeming like an accusation against them, they grew angry.
"What talk is this!" shrilled the old woman, trembling with passion. How dare you say such things to me, telling us of your stars and voices, and dreams and lights. Liar! liar! do you think to impose upon me? Am not I above fourscore? and never yet have I seen - no, nor heard tell of such things. Who are you, ugly black one, to try to teach me?"
"Yes, yes! grandam is right," cried the others. "She can find out his deceit and lies. He thinks to set himself above us all. Let him be careful or we will again take hold of him. Then he will see if his stars and lights will help him."
"But there is a light now on his forehead," whispered little Hilda trembling.
"And what if there was?" cried the old woman in a voice of rage. "The changeling brat! Cannot the Evil One light his own lamp whenever he pleases? It is his ugly red mark that burns."
At this the clamor increased; and though Trywith would have spoken again his voice was drowned by their threats and imprecations. At length Olaf and the other boys, urged on by the old woman, rushed at him and beating, pushing, and buffeting, finally thrust him from the room and bolted the door behind him.
Breathless and bruised Trywith sat for a few minutes on the doorstep trying to realize what had befallen him. Then he understood that he had been cast out forever. He rose slowly, wondering what he could do - where find shelter for the night.
Even as he thought came the answer. A footstep sounded on the narrow path and in the clear starlight he saw beside him the tall, upright figure of an old man. He was clad in the loose gray garment and carried the long staff of the pilgrim.
"Whither goest thou, Trywith?" he inquired.
"That I know not, father," was the reply.
"Await me here," he said. Then he approached the door and knocked loudly with his staff. After some hesitation the door was opened and he stepped over the threshold.
They all looked at the old man in awed and guilty silence. Turning to the mother he asked: "Where is the child that I named?"
The woman turned pale and trembled. But his keen blue eyes were fixed upon her with a look not to be disobeyed. Looking appealingly toward her mother she faltered:
"He is gone; he was a wicked and unnatural child and fled from us."
"And had he no cause?" asked the holy man sternly.
"Nay," said the grandam. "My daughter speaks but truth."
"Truth!" said the old man. "Woman, what knowest thou of truth? You have had it with you these many years; but you knew it not because you hardened your hearts against it. I gave to this child the name which signifies truth. He saw it in the silver star of which you robbed him. He listened to its voice in his heart and grew pure and wise through its teachings. Its lessons sank deep into his soul.
"But when, forgetting past unkindness and cruelty, he would have brought it to you, you met him with scorn and contumely. Both him and it have ye reviled, rejected, and cast out. Even for bearing its mark have ye hated and tormented him."
"But Truth in him has striven and conquered. He shall go forth bearing the standard of the most High. He shall open the prison doors of ignorance, error, and prejudice to myriads of earth's blind and sin-sick children. He shall throw down the gateways of Darkness that Light may enter in. He shall battle with falsehood and dethrone it.
"He shall visit the huts of the lowly and walk in the palaces of Kings. The mightiest of earthly monarchs shall bow before the symbol in his right hand. For Truth is mighty and shall prevail. It shall be inscribed forever upon the sacred banners of true Progress and Wisdom; for those twain are one."
With this the Messenger turned and left them. Taking the youth with him he departed as he had come and they saw his face no more.
But the word of the Pilgrim was fulfilled; for Trywith became a mighty worker in the harvest fields of the world, speaking ever the words of Divine Wisdom and Compassion that awakened the hearts of men. Patiently and humbly he toiled, seeking not wealth, honor, or renown. He endured without murmuring, labor, hardships, and suffering. He entered the abodes of the lowly and stood in the palaces of kings.
When he spake to the multitudes who gathered about him, many heard him with gladness of heart. To those who accepted Truth with willing minds it appeared as though a halo of Light encircled his brow, and his face and form were of an aspect lofty and sublime.
But to those who loved falsehood rather than Truth; who sought Darkness rather than Light, he appeared only as a plain, dark man with an ugly, red mark upon his forehead. For having eyes, they saw not.
Last Update : January