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THERE was once a Child who lived very much by himself in a tall building with many windows looking skyward.
He did not lack for care, for he had food and drink, shelter and raiment, yet he was always hungry and thirsty and cold, and the young soul of him pined and knew not why.
The days were very dreary and very long, though in a child's life they should flit by like painted butterflies on the wing.
There was a courtyard far, far below, so that out-of-doors was not withheld from the Child, but when he reached the place from which the green wood could be seen, the blue sky was so far away that he felt desolate, and longed for a smaller world of which he could be a part.
And so it was, day after day, till twilight came and hid the bigness of things; and when the cool dark floated into his bedroom
and the friendly moon came to keep him company, he was happy, for then he drifted off into the land of dreams.
The dream led him first into a garden; open to the sun and offering to every sense a rare and subtle charm that could be felt, but not defined.
There was a Balm-of-Gilead tree in one corner, and in another a group of young pines, slender, strong, vigorous trees under which one could hide in the noonday heat. And there were tufts of sweet herbs sending out health-giving odors; and there were perfumed tangles of mignonette and heliotrope and lavender and purple clover, with honeysuckle climbing here and there to make the air fragrant.
The flowers were all dear, familiar, modest ones, such as violets and pansies, clove-pinks and hyacinths; but, loveliest of all, was a clump of Madonna lilies, their tall green stalks crowned with dazzling white blossoms. The Child crept under them and, looking up, marveled at the shining purity of the blooms that made a little white heaven over his head.
There were birds in the trees, and the Child sometimes fancied that they tried to speak to him, although he could never puzzle out the meaning of their language. But one night when the birds slept he heard the
rustle of great wings, a stirring of the air, a soft flutter, and then, in the darkness, a Voice. There was no Presence, but the Voice was clear, and it said:
"Do you find the garden beautiful, my child?"
"The most beautiful thing in the world," answered the Child. "Is it you who are making it?"
"Yes," said the Voice, "I am making the garden, with your help."
"But I have done nothing," said the Child.
"You have loved it," said the Voice, "and Love makes things grow."
"And shall I ever plant anything in the garden myself?" asked the Child.
"Yes; for the garden is now finished save for that which you will plant with your own hands."
And then the Child awoke with the perfume of lilies in his nostrils, and it was the beginning of another long day.
But night came with a difference. The Child had barely slipped into the dream when he felt that he was being swiftly wafted to the garden. And the wings that bore him and guided him were so soft and so strong that he did not wonder when he heard the Voice.
And the Voice said:
"If you were to plant something precious in the garden, my child, what spot would you choose?"
"I would choose the spot under the Madonna lilies," said the Child, "for the blossoms make a little white heaven overhead and near by is a crystal spring whose pebbles are changed into gold and precious stones by the moonbeams."
Like puffs of thistledown they swept over the young pines and floated past the little groves of mignonette and lavender and purple clover, till they alighted near the crystal spring where the Madonna lilies bloomed.
"Stretch out your hand, my child," said the Voice," and what you find in the wet grass, that is for you to plant."
And the Child stretched out his hand and touched something soft and warm hidden in a blanket of leaves.
"Is it a bird?” he whispered, for he felt a throb under his hand.
No, it is not a bird!" said the Voice,— "it is a heart! Make a hollow for it like a nest; do not unwrap it, but lay it gently in the hollow; cover it lightly with soft earth, then step back, for the place on which you stand will be holy ground."
And the Child did as he was bidden.
He made a hollow like a nest; he laid the heart gently in the hollow without removing its blanket of leaves; then he covered it lightly with earth and stepped back and waited in silence.
And straightway (for there is no time in dreams) the heart stirred, and trembled, and swelled, and broke through the soft earth, and lifted itself and grew. And it seemed to summon to its aid all the richest treasures of the garden; the strength of the young pines, the aroma of the sweet herbs, the fragrance of the flowers, the healing balsam that flowed from the Balm-of-Gilead tree, and the purity of the lilies.
And when it came to its moment of full perfection, lo! it was, not a growing and blossoming heart, but-a Mother!
And the Child knew! For knowledge comes swiftly and surely in dreams!
He stretched out his arms, and in the deep peace that followed mutual recognition and need, the Wingèd Presence vanished softly into the darkness, leaving the Mother and Child together in the Garden of Dreams.
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN