The Lane that had No Turning/Parables of a Province/The Singing of the Bees
THE SINGING OF THE BEES
"MOTHER, didst thou not say thy prayers last night?"
"Twice, my child."
"Once before the little shrine, and once beside my bed—is it not so?"
"It is so, my Fanchon. What hast thou in thy mind?"
"Thou didst pray that the storm die in the hills, and the flood cease, and that my father come before it was again the hour of prayer. It is now the hour. Canst thou not hear the storm and the wash of the flood? And my father does not come!"
"My Fanchon, God is good."
"When thou wast asleep I rose from my bed, and in the dark I kissed the feet of—Him—on the little Calvary; and I did not speak, but in my heart I called."
"What didst thou call, my child?"
"I called to my father: ‘Come back-come back!’"
"Thou shouldst have called to God, my Fanchon."
"I loved my father, and I called to him."
"Thou shouldst love God."
"I knew my father first. If God loved thee, He would answer thy prayer. Dost thou not hear the cracking of the cedar trees and the cry of the wolves—they are afraid. All day and all night the rain and wind come down, and the birds and wild fowl have no peace. I kissed—His feet, and my throat was full of tears; but I called in my heart. Yet the storm and the dark stay, and my father does not come."
"Let us be patient, my Fanchon."
"He went to guide the priest across the hills. Why does not God guide him back?"
"My Fanchon, let us be patient."
"The priest was young, and my father has grey hair."
"Wilt thou not be patient, my child?"
"He filled the knapsack of the priest with food better than his own, and—thou didst not see it—put money in his hand."
"My own, the storm may pass."
"He told the priest to think upon our home as a little nest God set up here for such as he."
"There are places of shelter in the hills for thy father, my Fanchon."
"And when the priest prayed, ‘That Thou mayst bring us safely to this place where we would go,’ my father said so softly, ‘We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!’"
"My Fanchon, thy father hath gone this trail many times."
"The prayer was for the out-trail, not the in-trail, my mother."
"Nay, I do not understand thee."
"A swarm of bees came singing through the room last night, my mother. It was dark and I could not see, but there was a sweet smell, and I heard the voices."
"My child, thou art tired with watching, and thy mind is full of fancies. Thou must sleep."
"I am tired of watching. Through the singing of the bees as they passed over my bed, I heard my father’s voice. I could not hear the words, they seemed so far away, like the voices of the bees; and I did not cry out, for the tears were in my throat. After a moment the room was so still that it made my heart ache."
"Oh, my Fanchon, my child, thou dost break my heart! Dost thou not know the holy words?—
"‘And their souls do pass like singing bees, where no man may follow. These are they whom God gathereth out of the whirlwind and the desert, and bringeth home in a goodly swarm.’"
Night drew close to the earth, and as suddenly as a sluice-gate drops and holds back a flood the storm ceased. Along the crest of the hills there slowly grew a line of light, and then the serene moon came up and on, persistent to give the earth love where it had had punishment. Divers flocks of clouds, camp-followers of the storm, could not abash her. But once she drew shrinking back behind a slow troop of them; for down at the bottom of a gorge lay a mountaineer, face upward and unmoving, as he had lain since a rock loosened beneath him, and the depths swallowed him. If he had had ears to hear, he would have answered the soft, bitter cries which rose from a but on the Voshti Hills above him:
"Michel, Michel, art thou gone?"
"Come back, oh, my father, come back!"
But perhaps it did avail that there were lighted candles before a little shrine, and that a mother, in her darkness, kissed the feet of One on a Calvary.