The tom-toms thumped on all night, and the darkness shuddered around
me like a living thing. I could not sleep; I lay awake and
looked; and I saw; and it seemed like this:
I stood in a grassy meadow, but at my feet a precipice broke
sheer down into infinite space. I looked; there was no
bottom, only cloud shapes, black, furiously coiled,
hollow, unfathomable depths. I drew back, dizzy.
Then I looked up, and I saw forms of people moving along the grass,
single file. They were heading for the edge! There was a woman
with a baby in her arms, another small child holding onto
her dress. She was on the verge! Then, I saw that she
was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . it
trod air. She was over, and the children over with
her! Oh, the cry as they went over!
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all directions.
All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the edge.
There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves
falling, and a tossing up of empty arms, clutching
at empty air. But some went over quietly, and
fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was agony, why no one
stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to
the ground, and I could not call. Though I strained
and tried, only an ineffectual whisper would come.
Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries, set at intervals.
But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded
gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell, in their
blindness, their ignorance, quite unwarned; and the green
grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like
the mouth of Hell.
Then I saw, like the picture of peace, a group of people under shady trees,
with their backs turned towards the void. They were making
daisy chains. Beautiful daisy chains. Sometimes, however,
when a particularly piercing shriek cut the quiet air,
it disturbed them. I heard them remark on how
vulgar it sounded. And if one of their
number started up to do something
to help, the others would pull
that one down. "Why should you
get so excited about it? You
must wait for a definite
'call' to go. It would
be really selfish to
leave us to finish
the work alone."
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire
was to get more sentries out, but they found that very few wanted
to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles
at the edge.
Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother
and other relations called and reminded her that her "furlough" was due;
she must not break the rules. Being tired, needing a change, she went
to rest awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over
and over the people fell, like a waterfall of precious souls.
I saw a child catch at a tuft of grass that grew at the brink; it clung
convulsively, and it called out, but nobody was there to hear. Then
the roots gave way, and with a cry the child went over,
two little hands still holding tight to the
useless bunch of grass.
And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard a cry;
she sprang up and wanted to go; her relatives reproved her; "no one
is really necessary anywhere" - the gap would be well taken care
of, they knew. And they sang a hymn.
And through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million
broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a
horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew
what it was - the cry of the blood!
Then the Lord's voice thundered, "Whom shall I send?" Then said I,
"Here am I, send me."
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