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A Romance of an Hour

By John Bowles

ONE lovely Sabbath morning in June the hero of this romance strolled through a park of native forest which skirts the capital city of a great nation, lie was in time for the morning rehearsal of nature's everlasting symphony; bird and bee humming in wondrous harmony with rustling leaf, bud and blossom. He paused at the base of a pyramid of wild-rose brambles and, gazing at the only open blossom on the topmost branch, he said: " Yes, it is always so; the most tempting things are just beyond our reach; but, in spite of your apparent security I must capture you, my royal beauty." And springing up lightly he grasped the thorny stem and the prize was his.

What cared he for the wound on his finger? Had he not secured the rose, this rare and latest masterpiece of nature's craft?

He sat down at the base of a majestic oak and mused, intently gazing the while at the flower and then at the crimson drop which was its price.

He was what the world calls a dreamer. His Greek profile, light-brown beard and mustache, deep blue eyes and high forehead told of the mingled temperaments of poet, philosopher and artist, each striving for the mastery. One might suspect a lack of the sterner practical qualities, perhaps; -qgt the nature of this man was, after all, too practical to soar far away from the physical facts of his environment.

But this morning he must soar. He was under a strange spell of enchantment. East night there appeared to him in his dreams a vision which had frequently come of late and which left always for days a strange path of light upon this commonplace life. It was a vision of a beautiful girl. With strange vividness he saw her last night. The touch of her hand seemed to lift him above earthly experiences. The smouldering embers of divine aspiration kindled under the light of her glance. If he could always feel thus! What would matter the defeats and disappointments of life! So it was that this morning he felt an impatient longing to pierce beyond this material veil to the eternal verities which are just behind it.

As he drank the perfume of the rose he asked himself: "What is it? What is this fragrance? With enlarged vision could we see it? Do particles of sublimated matter assume shapes fantastic? or, as is more likely, do they appear in the form of the parent, as semi-spiritual roses?

" And thou too, oh, ruby drop, tell me of yourself and the shapes divine which make up your royal coloring. Is it possible that you too are composed of atoms fashioned after the Divine Prototype ? Do you bear the image of man in some semispiritual resemblance ? "

As he mused thus he became gradually conscious, without any surprise, that he was in the presence of a vast multitude of people, beings like himself, but who were swaying to and fro in the wild tumult of despair which follows a great calamity. So might Lisbon have looked the moment after the earth yawned, or Atlantis when in the throes of cataclysmic disaster. There were wild prayers, entreaties, to him to save them. Why were they addressed to him ?

Gradually the truth was borne in upon his consciousness that these beings were a part of himself. His organism was their universe, and beyond its limits they had no power to conceiveofexistence. The prick of the thorn was to them a cataclysm—a wild upheaval which threw them open to an environment to which they were not adapted and in which they must inevitably perish. He heard them petitioning him with self-accusing prayers to save them from his just wrath, which no doubt their sins had provoked. How could he reach them; how make them understand that this misfortune was not retributive at all but had its origin in complications far beyond their little universe ?

Suddenly there appeared two beings, evidently of a different type, bright, radiant, ineffable—a man with the face of a sage leading by the hand a fair creature, seemingly his daughter. It needed but one glance to see that she was the same, the lovely visitant of his dreams.

With an air of calm authority the man spoke, and his words brought instant peace to the distracted and disordered multitude.

"My children," he said, "be not dismayed, be patient and wait. You are in the hands of law and of love; not at the mercy of caprice and of anger. I know whereof I speak, and I tell ytia we may trust the everlasting and eternal Power to heal every' wound. You arc in divine keeping and all is well. Each of you has a duty to perform in the work of repai...

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