Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/47

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with spirit. And in that struggle between Her who had given me physical birth and Her who nurtured the soul of me, I went down.

"I turned back to where my Mother shade waited, turned again to the sweet Shade on the Arch. My faltering feet fumbled. The fear of the flesh caught me, and I fell, not into the white flame that would have wafted me to those Shades of Valhalla, but into the lesser Light which cleanses flesh of vulnerability but does not transmute it to Spirit. And the Shade that was my Mother drew me to the rim of the Bowl, wrapped me in her arms, carried me over the ice-fields and left me lying on a sun-warmed valley far down the coast.

"Waking from sleep, I found friends in the Eskimos; and the Bowl and Bridge, the Shades of Mother and Mate, were like a dream. But in the southland to which I came in time, I learned the truth of that baptism of Light. I could not die. Years passed. One gift they had given me, for when I wakened my hand clutched a great lump of some substance that held strange gleams and power to revitalize flesh after exhaustion. I carried it with me as a symbol of that dream of mine. It never left my side, and when I had reached the three-score mark and it seemed as if death could not be far removed, I journeyed to my Mother's home in Norway. Life was kind to me. Prosperity smiled always, and yet I was lonely, and had come home. I who had never known a home save the little ship on the ocean waves, had sought my Mother's home to die.

"I was able to buy the old house and land. And there in a valley protected from the bitter winds by tall cliffs, I placed the stone I had brought from the Bowl of Light, as a monument for her I had lost, and for myself, when my time should come.

"But death had no gift for me, no power to free me from flesh. My hair, white from that hour near Valhalla, was the only sign of age. I reached a hundred years, the loneliest man on earth. Men I knew were dead. Their sons were old men, and still I lived, trying to fill the days, cursed with a Midas gift, for everything to which my hand turned brought gold.

"It was then I sought death, wooed it as I had never wooed the Maid, and found that I could not die. There, in my log, you will find the newspaper clippings of times when death killed better men and passed me by.

"Meanwhile, seeking it, I went to the valley in bitter winter cold stripped to an undergarment, and lay with my head on the snow that covered the fragment of the Bowl. Instead of the frozen corpse that morning should have found, I was like a youth, and I had dreamed of my Mother and Her. Their voices told me to carry the stone far away and with it enrich man—a strange message and one I was many years interpreting. But I did buy a ship and set sail, and followed the path of the setting sun. Gales that wrecked that ship and drowned my crew, tossed me to land, and always I wakened to start forth again with that dream of dear Shades urging me to make use of the fragment of the Bowl.

"But the night of the North goes on and I must make this story end. You

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