T’WAS several years past long, long ago, that an idle man sought for a gainful opportunity. He had had wealth of much variety, although by comparison not of real measure; and was truly excited at the prospects ahead of him.
For in his sleep he would hold many visions close - and yet come the morning, they would slip from him, when sleep herself would depart. And so he sought to know more of the dream hinterland in which he would frequent, and arrive at a more sturdy comprehension of those lengths of time he passed.
Around the town there was much speak about the Basilisk, who would entice the mind of a man with the frenzy of an unanswerable question. And many folk would scold and reprimand such questioning, as was on the part of our dear friend.
"I shall not succumb to madness" he would contend, and then would add "But if I do, it shall not be because I wish to make sense of the world and my thoughts."
However, he had not the mind to go mad or the disposition as was required, but was shunned and disapproved of when making approach into deeper realms of conversation.
We shall call this man Adam.
For many a long night, dear Adam would battle his drowsiness and pretend to sleep, but not sleep. For he bethought that all bridges leading into the forgotten realms could be trekked by conscious passage - that he might obtain glimpses at the very least. More commonly he did sleep however, into the morning and throughout the day, for his vigil was fatiguing, his efforts a half-measure.
Adam's mansion now composed many a block, and quarters and room. In fact, his holdings were vast, and innumerable. Those whom he had gathered to him - in servant, in cousin and cousin removed - boarded within the estate, so many that there were faces there which for him, had no name. There was a curious man, a pretty man, who was often seen roaming the grounds at the most quiet of times - and Adam had wondered at such times when he had seen this stranger, as to how or by whom he had arrived.
He inquired at the kitchen, he inquired at the stables, but none seemed to recognize his description, as he would tell it. More curious it became, for he himself had never caught eye of the stranger long enough to give a full account, for this man would appear and disappear quite rapidly upon approach.
How be it that there were strangers at all you might ask? It had been the wish of his father, that all might remain with their lodgings, as they had done in his lifetime. Adam had been abroad at the time of his father's death and upon return to manage the estate, had come to find folk numbered in the hundreds. Whether - by his suspicion -many had not long resided there, was not his concern, for Adam would abide by his father's stipulation and great heart. What did it matter, if all were content? And so, he had many to whom he was a stranger also.
One day upon the common, Adam was reclining- so tired from his vigil the night before. His mind was all a’wandering, whilst his heavy feet poked into the grass carelessly. The Pretty Man (which was what he had called him to himself) appeared in full view and sat down beside him, staring out at the great house and beyond. This aroused Adam and he made effort at composure.
Adam thought quickly of a mental challenge and spoke, "Do you know of the Lord of this household?"
This man to whom he addressed was tall, elegant and full of grace. When he spoke, his words resounded musically and elegantly also. He replied, "Why yes," he smiled, an enchanting smile and gazed piercingly, "I am he" he suggested.
The reply caught Adam unawares, for he was rather expecting to hear something of himself, and now he had discovered that this fellow was some guiley impostor pretending to be none other than himself!
"How so?" asked Adam forthrightly, with a little indignation.
"How so, by what right do you question me?" the stranger smiled.
"Tell me your name, I need to know this at once!" Adam asked, now uneasy.
"I have many names.” replied the stranger, just before he vanished, exactly from the spot that he had been sitting.
"That's it!" Adam did think to himself, "This man is but an apparition; he has no claim, but has been sent by the Devil himself to upset me. I shall wonder no longer, I shall ignore him in future and attend to him not." And he settled down to a nap, straight away without further worry.
The years did pass and in all of that time Adam would be given to view this most strange fellow at seasonal intervals. Neither would speak, for it was Adam's contention that he must be quite dangerous company indeed, and as persuasive a ghost as he ever thought possible. So if he caught a glance of him turning one corner, Adam would take another passage, and if he were given to frequenting the grounds, Adam would withdraw inside and lock his door.
Forty years in all had gone and Adam had aged accordingly. The Pretty Man however, had not; which only affirmed Adam's opinion of him being but a specter and nothing more.
Many of the original folk who had cloistered within, had departed or deceased and the numbers so reduced were as little as fifty. This is probably why the community of his household were ill prepared the day the thugs came to steal and vandalize the great house and its contents.
There had been particularly bad weather over the last dozen seasons, the crops had not provided as well and the stores that had been were largely contaminated. There had been much criminal activity all over the country, spreading similarly to any disease; save that this one was called poverty. Men were frenzied and given to overrun and plunder any estate that did not resist them- in great parties, organized and conspicuous, unruly and becoming deliberately rude and vain from result of previous conquests. Adam was not immune from such attack, and had thought himself spared until that day.
I shall give no account of the details, but rather of what resulted shortly after their departure, for this is more the interesting note of an otherwise lengthy tale.
Adam was understandably dismayed as he purveyed his empty cellar, and examined the ruin and the breakage. He was not a practical man. He had long forgotten what it was to be practical (somewhere around the time of his inheritance); and being so utterly confused by his situation was inclined to give over to despair. He had not the funds to purchase more goods to feed his community for they had taken the money also. When they had raided, they were thorough. The rogues were not to be chased or caught, for simply put, there were more bandits than there were honest men who had resources then, to even enter into pursuit. All was lost!
Dreamland was becoming once again preferable! Even this was much more the difficult with an empty belly and a weighty upset. He grieved for his former wealth, and he grieved on behalf of his fellows who camped beside him. One by one they came and asked for food (for his fallows had been empty for many a year) and one by one they departed his household in search of employment, and a lodging elsewhere. Within the week's end he was utterly alone.
As he was rummaging around the private rooms now vacant, searching for remnants or tit bits, or parcels or remains, he heard a bell in the distance and some chanting, which by the increasing loudness indicated that there was a group approaching quite near to his grounds. He gathered himself together and made for the outer gate to see who might be visiting his now desolate and empty home.
To Adam's surprise, once there he peered through the openings to find a small group of monks with one large trailer, weighted and covered; and alongside the party one man who appeared an oddity, amongst such a group. The bell ceased clanging, all faces turned towards him, the queer one spoke, "Gentle man, have you rooms to spare, for these weary travelers tonight?"
Adam peered at this group and searched for evidence of food that they may have been carting upon that laden trailer. He hesitated.
"My companions I fear, have been long suffering the cold at night and whilst we are content to camp, I am not happy at their condition this day." the odd man said. One of the monks did cough.
"Dear men," replied the half-hearted Adam, "First I am to maintain strangers to whom my father requested that I unerringly entertain and put up with. Secondly I am to endure bandits who would come to my household and take all that I have to even sustain myself, and now I am asked to welcome yet more strange newcomers who wish to share their grave illness with me, and bring certain death to my doorstep! Can you promise that this will not be so? What plague do you carry? How am I to know that your provisions are not equally contaminated? Is there no end to the impositions in which I must suffer, from all who come here?"
And so saying he turned and walked away from the gate.
Perhaps on another day, he may have made the dutiful decision and bid them entrance. Perhaps, if his heart had not been overwhelmed by that of his own hunger, he might have found charity enough to give what was certainly within his power to give. Perhaps if his faith had been stronger he would have come to know that they carried no threat of illness to his personage, but rather suffered the extremes of the tempests and needed but homage away from the cruel winds. Perhaps too if he had given them shelter and a time to regain themselves, he might have discovered what marvels, verily marvels of life itself that they bore in that mysterious trailer.
Whatever, that was not our story today, as he did surely turn away from the humble party who would not protest his decision. He watched from the tower as they shuffled down the road which led away from the estate, and up into the hills. He watched for many hours, for great was the view from up there on that location - as the party shouldered the trailer's weight and slipped and slid over rock and hillock. Until at last, as black specks in a distant sunset they disappeared from view.
In the half-light Adam ran down to the gate, though he knew not why he felt to do so, and opened it so he could look down that road on which the monks had departed. He was beginning to feel quite alone and with such came melancholy and remorse, which he was now entitled to.
He turned to return inside; when he saw a sack slumped beside the wall. Within the sack, tightly wound at the neck, was a combination of grains: food enough to sustain him for many months! Oh, blessed finding! Then he realized that this must have been left by the monks, for they took pity on him and could not have him go without. As Adam bore the weighty sack inside, he wept like a child who is lost.
Hunger had got the better of him. He had sat and stared hard at that sack, as if to ask it if it were indeed contaminated by plague. It occurred to him that it might be better to be consumed by food-poisoning than consumed by starvation. The latter he was more sure of than the likeliness of the first. So he ate and he ate and repented his hasty rebuke of those monks. He wondered what would become of them and he vowed, that somehow, some way, he would make good for his wrongdoing.
The following morning he awoke and felt as well and as healthy as ever before. In fact the weeks before had made cause for him to trim down to but a slight representation of his former self. There had been no perceivable ill effects from his hearty meal the night before and so he sat down to breakfast before the fire, all the while conjuring great and splendid designs for the day ahead. For it did occur to Adam that he might venture after the group and steer them back to his home, that they might recover themselves. For, he did reason with himself, he should go all the faster than they, for they did have to haul and pull that weighty trailer, whilst he might be far speedier on foot. (The animals too were gone.)
He ground some grain, he packed some water, he donned his clothes, with a few extras. He felt renewed in the hope and expectation of finding them. He was a man with a plan, once again!
Down to the gate he sped, prepared for two day's journey. No sooner had he flung aside the great bars, to his surprise and in shock, he saw an old friend approaching. It was none other than that Pretty Man whom he had shunned, on so many countless occasions in the years before. Behind him were many mules, which obediently pulled a cumbersome trailer! Yes, it was recognized: the trailer that belonged to the monks only the day before!
Adam slammed the gate, but so quickly as to block the entrance of that conspicuous man. The arm that followed in after him did trickle blood from the crush of the iron - and upon seeing that blood Adam realized that this man could not possibly be a specter as thought, for ghosts cannot bleed.
"I have returned Adam, make way for my carriage" and whilst saying this he led the mules through the opening, and up into the road afore the first cottage.
“I know not what or who you truly are" exclaimed Adam, whose day was beginning to sour, "but I am deeply disturbed to see that the rightful owners of the property you bear are now without - and I suspect you to have robbed them! Explain yourself or depart!"
"I am no thief, Master Adam, and you must not be so fearful of this servant who will oblige you. Know me for who I am and do not waste words with accusation. I have returned because I must. The dear Brothers who did carry this burden are now wasted and quite dead - actually, now buried. All of the party awoke to death this last night. The chill and the damp did consume the last of their fire and their spirits are released. Move out of the way for I must secure my convoy. We shall speak further, much later when I am done."
Adam was distressed at this news and did not know what to make of it. Who exactly of the two was the criminal? He did not know. He did not care to know. His mind began to hurt with the proverbial 'prick' of the conscience.
Adam retired to his bed. The plan which he had turned over and over in the hours preceding had disbanded, and there left was an unhappy emptiness - he was forlorn.
How long it was that he had slept he did not know, but there at his bedside in his personal chamber, stood the Pretty Man.
"What do you want of me?" Adam murmured feeling much imposed upon.
"I want you to get up from that bed - you have spent much too much time there already - and prepare for the arrival of your guests, for there shall be many." The man did smile as he did say this, and was kindly in such forthrightness.
He continued, "There are many who are homeless and without, whilst you do frequent a house with countless empty rooms. You are to go to each and make tidy and clean and open the windows, that with sunlight and fresh water, they will become once more habitable. Welcome your guests in the spirit of your father, and make known that this home shall be their home as much as any other."
"And what am I to feed them with?" asked Adam wryly.
"You have fields ripe for cultivation, you have tools and help a' many. These folk shall work, as you must do, and plant the crops and live from the labor."
Adam stared into his eyes - this man was serious, his eyes were very dark indeed and you could sense his seriousness even though you could not reach the depths of it yourself.
He began to take heed of his words, and asked, "And what therefore are we to put to soil?"
The reply to this was: "Why, of course, the grain that the Brothers did leave you - have you forgotten? For this was its greater purpose. And each of those grains shall produce tenfold the ordinary plant! You are most fortunate to have them."
Adam arose and prepared as was instructed. That day he shook the hands of so many men, women and children, as he knew now how he could house them - but there was by the end of the day enough space found for a bed for each one. How it was that they came there, he did not know. He did not ask. But the following day, they did as they were instructed and all were glad.
The harvests were to outlive Adam. The soil remained fertile and produced year after year after year. It came to pass that in Adam's seventy-second year, he did take to bed and wish to remain there for anon. He was disturbed yet again, by his friend, the Pretty Man.
"Adam, the time has come for me to show you something that I have kept secret from you in all of these years. Would you like to follow me?" His voice was gentle but stern.
"I have come to have faith in you, even though you be nameless to me and though our relationship has spanned the years - much of my lifetime - I am now old and decayed, whilst you dear Sir, are as young as the day I first saw you," croaked Adam, he continued, "I have not the strength to follow after you. Perhaps you could bring it here to my bedside?"
"This I cannot do for you my friend," said the Pretty Man, and then, "Have you come to trust in me Adam?"
"Yes, I believe so, even though I know not why", softly replied the weary man.
"Then I shall take you to this vision" he replied. And so saying, he withdrew the bedcovers and gently lifted the frail but heavy form from the bed and carried him out of the room.
Deep beneath the mansion's blocks and stone framework, were passages which led down to chambers of surprising proportions. This was a place in which even Adam, had not been aware of, for he had understood the cellars to be the only space so provided, cut into the earth. But he was to be carried for quite a way and so far in that the noises of those families and courtyard animals: the poultry, the cattle, the dogs, and the donkeys, could no longer be heard, save a slight echo at all.
Finally they did enter a room which was most glorious to behold. In the style of a most ancient antiquity, it glowed with innumerable lamps, with shining stones a many, which too - set in the walls and floor - did glow also. There was something that resembled an altar, or perhaps a bed which was carved in stone. Upon that slab was the image of a figure, a very large figure, so robed and covered that one could not distinguish the features from the entire form.
"I have kept this safe, as was my duty to do" said the Pretty Man, lovingly. It is your time now, to see this blessed statue, and come to know what it was that in your youth you sought so fervently for."
And saying this, he led old Adam to the altar and gently placed his hand upon the upper chest of this giant form. Adam was past the time of surprises, he was also past apprehension for truly it was time.
You know that it can come to a man, that he finds a greater joy which so exceeds that joy he had ever known in his lifetime - that such becomes to him as only a part or a shadow of the experience he later finds. It can be such that we may believe that we are intimate with all of the glorious expressions of life's experiences, when later, not only in culmination and extraction but with the true vision of soul, are rightly illumined to such pure essences which life reflects but a hint of.
So it was for Adam, who had not known joy as he did do on this day, his final day.
The breath of Angels is sweet and the man on the threshold discards all weary garb. When the heart is unveiled and a man comes to meet the Heavens having fulfilled his due tasks, then he is happy. As all that is goodness in a man is exalted and becomes intensely known to his spirit, who has now the eyes to see.
Did I mention to you that Adam had fathered a son? Yes, during that time of greater community, there were many goings on and a family was born. Adam had made it known to his child that there was one stipulation to his inheritance: that he may keep all on who are within the household and make his house to be their home also for as long as they would stay.
For there was surely room enough for so many, so many there that not all their names were known.