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Mountain Paths
by [?]

And the worst of that road to Calvary which we all of us must follow, whether it be a long or short way, is that it is always, as it were, a lonely journey into the Unknown. It is a mystery–a terrific mystery–and sometimes it frightens us so terribly that men and women have been known to kill themselves rather than take it. But there is always this to be said of sorrow–like happiness, it looms so very much larger when seen from a long way off. As we approach it it becomes smaller. When we reach it, sometimes it does not seem so very terrible after all; either it is small or else Nature or God gives to all of us some added courage which helps us to bear even the greatest affliction. For several years past I have been intimately associated with a tragedy which most people regard as well-nigh unsurmountable even by the bravest heart. I have thought so myself–and there are moments when I think so still, in spite of my long familiarity with it, and the miracles of bravery I have seen displayed in hearts so young and so tender that one would have thought they must of necessity fall helpless beneath the burden laid upon them by Fate. I speak, of course, of the Blinded Soldier–than whom no better example of courage on the road to Calvary could possibly be given. Personally, I feel that I would sooner be dead than blind; but I realise now that I only feel this way because I still, thank Heaven, have remarkably good sight. Were I to lose my eyes, I hope–perhaps I know–that I should still strive to fight cheerfully onward. And this, not because I am naturally brave–I am not–but because I have lived long enough to see that when, metaphorically speaking, the axe falls, some added strength is given to the spirit which, granted bodily health, can fight and go on fighting an apparently overwhelming foe. This is one of the most wonderful miracles of Human Life, and I have myself seen so many instances of it that I know it to be no mere fiction of an optimistic desire, but an acknowledged fact. And this miracle applies to nations as well as to individuals. In Maurice Maeterlinck’s new volume of essays there is one on “The Power of the Dead.” “Our memories are to-day,” he writes, “peopled by a multitude of heroes struck down in the flower of their youth and very different from the pale and languid cohort of the past, composed almost wholly of the sick and the old, who had already ceased to exist before leaving the earth. We must tell ourselves that now, in every one of our homes, both in our cities and in the country-side, both in the palace and in the meanest hovel, there lives and reigns a dead young man in the glory of his strength. He fills the poorest, darkest dwelling with a splendour of which it had never ventured to dream. His constant presence, imperious and inevitable, diffuses and maintains a religion and ideas which it had never known before, hallows everything around it, makes the eyes look higher, prevents the spirit from descending, purifies the air that is breathed and the speech that is held and the thoughts that are mustered there, and, little by little, ennobles and uplifts the whole people on a scale of unexampled vastness.” Surely, in beautiful words such as these, Maeterlinck but echoes the consolation of many a very lonely heart since the tragedy of August, 1914. Without “my boy”–many a desolate heart imagined that it could never face the road of Calvary which is life now that he is gone. And yet, when the blow came, something they thought would have vanished for ever still remained with them. They could not tell if it were a “presence,” felt but unseen, but this they knew–though they could not argue their convictions–that everything which made life happy, which lent it meaning, was not lost, had not faded away before the life-long loneliness which faced them; it still lived on–lived on as an Inspiration and as a Hope that one day the road to Calvary would come to an end, that they would reach their journey’s end–and find their loved one waiting.