Fohat's Playground
J. Cambell Ver Planck

The Path, January, 1890.

Little Carlo stood alone in the empty nursery. It was twilight of the last day of the year, and stars came leaping one by one into the cold skies. Carlo watched them, a small dark figure outlined by the fading firelight, his black kilts and blouse making him look thin and pale. Over his whole dainty person, as he leaned, slight and lonely, against the window frame, there was that pathetic and indefinable look which every woman knows to be that of a motherless child.* (* See Path for January, 1889.) It overshadowed the little figure, giving it a gravity beyond its years, that smote the heart of "Uncle John," who at that moment entered the nursery. Carlo turned round with a shout of joy.

"Come here to the fire, you small elf, you"; said his Uncle, folding him in what Carlo called "the bear's hug."

"No, no. You come to the window, Uncle, I want to show you something. Say, do you see that there black spot up there? Now you watch, and, I bet you, you'll see a star pop in there, and then move, and more too. All them others did it, just that way. Somebody must be a going round scratching places with a match, and making stars just that-a-way. What fun he must be having. Don't you think so, Uncle John?"

"I do indeed," said his Uncle, promptly.

Carlo gave a squeal of delight. To find an Uncle, a grown-up person, who says you're right and goes on to tell you more about it, - a grown-up who makes all your fun seem real and true instead of saying "Hush," or telling you something so tiresome that you don't want to know, and cant, cant, CANT understand - why; what a New Year's present an Uncle like that is to a boy! Carlo adored his Uncle John; his favorite playfellow, his best friend. He felt that a new and delightful game or story was coming. He jumped on his Uncle, hung round his waist, wrapped his small legs round the Uncle's strong ones, gave a squeeze and a bite of ecstatic affection, squealed again, dropped to the floor, put his small thumbs in his small blouse pockets, set his chubby legs well apart, and then, in this manly attitude, which was as like his Uncle's as he could make it, he tilted his curly head back and asked:

"Well then Siree Bob, who is he?"

His Uncle smiled. A slow smile, just to tease him. Carlo stamped with impatience and butted his Uncle with his head. This was a free mason's sign. It meant that Carlo wanted to be taken up into those broad arms, but was so big now, he was ashamed to say so. Uncle John lifted the little form, cradled the sunny head upon his shoulder, with a suppressed sigh for the sweet young mother and sister whose soft breast would never know the touch of the beloved body of her child. The sigh was too low for Carlo to catch it. He wriggled joyfully, and again asked:

"Who is it lights them stars?"

"It is Fohat," said Uncle John, impressively.

"Fo-hat," repeated Carlo, pleased with the name. "Who's he?"

"Fohat, my boy, is one of the Great Ones."

Carlo already knew some of his Uncle John's "Great Ones," or Great Powers. He called them "those big fellows", himself. They were his giants and his fairies. He chuckled now at the idea of hearing about another. "Is he a very big one?" he asked.

"Fohat," said Uncle John, "is one of the greatest of all the Sons of Light, and the heavens are his playground."

"What does he do in 'em, say?" cried Carlo in excitement. "Tell us about him, quick.""The heavens, you see, Carlo, are full of stars, and the worlds are full of atoms. Atoms are tiny sparks that only the Great Ones can see; they shine and they live. But where do the stars and the atoms get their life? From Fohat. He touches them, just as you said; he touches them with his flashing diamond spear; a spark leaps from it to them, and that sets them on fire, they burn and live. All the little atoms are scattered through the fields of the sky at the world's daybreak; there they are, soft and milky, white and sleeping, all huddled together like little chicks under the wings of the mother hen. The mother hen of the atoms is the Darkness. Then comes great Fohat, winding along like a serpent, hissing as he glides. He comes upon those lazy little atoms, he pours cold light upon them; they jump up and scatter; they run through the sky. He scatters himself and runs after them in many waves of light; he catches up with them; he blows upon them till they are cold and shivering; this hardens them and they shine. When they shine they are glad, they laugh. All at once, from idle little atoms they become stars, they become souls. Fohat has done it for them. When they begin to shine and sparkle, then they begin to understand. They love Fohat: they move along in a starry dance and sing a song that praises him."

"Fohat likes that, I bet you, I bet you", said Carlo in his funny way.

"But, Uncle, what is that thing you said? What is a soul?"

"A soul is the spark you feel burning in your heart. Don't you feel it right there?" and the Uncle laid his hand on the boy's heart.

Carlo thought a minute. Yes, he felt it. It was a warm spot down in the place where be felt things. When he felt good or when he felt bad, that was where he felt it. He had another name for it, a name most children give it. "That's my Thinker, Uncle John," he said gravely.

"I know; and that's your soul. I have one too."

"And has Fohat got one?"

"Fohat has the biggest spark of all," his Uncle answered. "He has to have, for he has so much work to do."

"What's he do?"

"Oh! He has so many games up in his playground. He can change himself into ever so many things. Sometimes he puts on a cap of fire and wings of light, and acts as herald to the sunbeams; he leads their blazing march and sings songs of the sun; his songs shine, they are as radiant as the sun and moon. When clouds meet with a loud thunder-call in heaven and lightnings spring out, it is Fohat who calls and drives them on; they sweat, and rain falls on the dry earth. Then he loves to make things. He takes some star dust and makes a daisy; then he makes a big world, or a sun, all on the same pattern. When he is tired of that he becomes the great Propellor, and merrily, merrily, he pushes the worlds along."

"He must be awful busy. Don't he never get tired?"

"Never. Fohat can't get tired. You know I told you the Great Ones never get tired, because they haven't got any bodies like ours to get tired. You know that little spark in your heart don't get tired, but it beats right along night and day. The Great Ones are great splendid sparks like that, and they can think too. Besides, how could Fohat get tired, when he is Motion itself?"

"What's that? What's Motion?" said Carlo.

"Motion? Well; when birds fly, or when you run through the air, that's motion."

"Oh! I know that. It goes fast, fast, and wind blows on your face."

"Well; motion is not the bird. It is not Carlo. It is not the wind that blows on you. It is that going-fast; it is the fast-fast's own self," said Uncle John, gazing into Carlo's eyes, to see if the little fellow would understand.

"Going-fast its own self", repeated Carlo. "I fink I know what you mean. I fink I don't understand it, Uncle John, but I can feel it. Will that do?"

"That will do," said his Uncle, delighted. I often feel things when I don't understand them. My Thinker feels them. Well, then; when you go fast, fast, fast - "

"Awful fast," interrupted Carlo.

"Then it gets hot, it gets hotter, it bursts into fire, on your face, or like the car axles last summer - "

"Oh! I know, or like when you rubbed them sticks together in camp and the fast-fast rub made warm air (I feeled it), and then smoke, and a fire jumped out."

"Exactly." His Uncle, pleased, gave him a hug. "Great and fast going, as big as the world, then fire and light that fills the skies; all that is Fohat."

"But what's he do Sundays? Does he have to sit still then?"

"He does just what he does on other days, for to him every day is a sun-day, a day of the sun. And so it ought to be with us too. The great eye of the sun sees us every day; don't let it see us doing unkind things. At night the moon and the stars keep watch. Let them see our heart spark burning bright and clear, not cloudy with dark smoke made by unkind acts or thoughts. If we are unkind, our heart sparks can't help to play Fohat's favorite game."

"What's that, Uncle?"

"At dawn, Fohat calls the Sons of Light together. He says that they must bind all the stars and worlds together with diamond threads. Along every thread blow a soft breath of love and a little note of music; that will make those threads strong. Then when the sons of the shadow come along, they cannot break the singing threads and scatter the worlds down into the dark. When this is done, Fohat says; 'Now all the stars and worlds are harnessed together; come let us join all the atoms and all the heart sparks of men and women and children together with the shining threads, and we will drive them all.' Then when everything in the whole world is singing and going together, the Sons of Light are glad, they say it is good."

"But sp'ose something kicks up and rears, Uncle John?"

"If it is a star, they cut it loose, and you see it fall. If it is a man or a child, you see that he does'nt go with all the rest. He is lonely; he is unhappy. His heart spark is lonely, and it thinks sad, unhappy things. He is cut loose from the shining rays of Fohat. But, my little Carlo, when Fohat comes to light the Christ-spark in a man's heart with that diamond spear of his, then that man becomes one of the Great Ones, he is one of the Sons of Light."

"Could Carlo be?", asked the smiling child.

His Uncle whispered: "Yes, he could, if he listens always when Fohat, Son of Light, speaks through the silent speaker in the heart. You do not hear its voice with your ears, but it speaks; it thinks, and you understand."

Sometimes it sings in there," said the boy. "It sings when Carlo loves you."

"May the Sweet Law bless your golden heart, my Darling. For it always sings when we love."

That night when Carlo fell asleep he was smiling. He had fallen asleep listening to the song of Fohat.

Last Update : January 2009
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