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THE SHIPS THAT WENT SAILING
OVER THE SEA.
(Concluded from p. 108.) ANE of the men I had spoken to a little time before stood in the centre of the knot. He was building his house then, and he had told me there would be plenty of time to get his ship ready when the house was done.
But the King had sent word that he was to start at once, so he had to come away before he had finished his building; and when he had got to his ship, lo! it was almost empty. He looked very fearful and sad when he stepped into the empty little ship, and his friends who had come down with him were very sorry to see him go away, and stood weeping on the shore. But even then they seemed to think little about his ship being so empty, and began to comfort each other as he sailed farther and farther away by saying that he would soon be in the blessed land, and that they must not grudge his going to such a happy country, though they were left alone.
Because they do not like to think anything else, for it would make the parting so very terrible; and so they will not see the truth, but comfort themselves with a lie.' 'How dreadful!'
And then I saw that ships were always sailing from the shore, and that when one went away with a cargo of lead or iron, or clay or stones, the people who saw it go comforted themselves in just the same manner. They seemed to think that all the ships would sail in safety across the
deep wide sea, no matter what cargo they had on board.
Presently the old man, and the child who had stood near me, moved to the shore. 'We are going now,' they said. 'Goodbye.'
'Good-bye,' I replied; but I followed them down to the water's edge, for I wanted to see what was in their vessels.
There was a shining store of gold in each. They sailed away just like the others, only the child and the old man had not looked sad at the prospect of going, for they knew that they would certainly see the King in His own most beautiful country when their journey was over. Now I wondered so much about all these ships which I had seen go away laden with their various cargoes, and yet all so hopeful about reaching the happy country, notwithstanding the King's law, that I wished most earnestly that I might see how they reached the end of their voyage, and accordingly my dream changed.
Dreams do change, you know, in a very wonderful manner. And instead of standing on the shore of that country which was so like England-yet of course was not England, but only a dream-country-I found myself in a land of such beauty and brightness, that I cannot tell you what it was like. Now that I am awake and no longer dreaming these strange dreams, the memory of that fair country has grown confused and indistinct, like a picture that is halfremembered, half-forgotten; but I think that if God takes me to Heaven when I die, I shall find that fair land beyond the grave, and dwell therein for ever!
As I stood in my dream upon the shore, I saw the little ships come sailing in across the great wide sea, and I looked for the face of the man who had been so busy about his house, but he was not there; and
then I sought to find those who had gone away with cargoes of lead, iron, clay, or stones in their ships, but I could not find them. There were so many, many ships missing. Such numbers that had gone away from the country that was like England, never came to the beautiful land at all. I waited a long, long time, hoping they might come; for I thought,
Perhaps they sail slowly, perhaps they will come by-and-by.'
But they did not. I saw the old man's ship, and the little child's ship, and as they both got out of their vessels and went up the shore to the lovely country beyond they smiled at me, and their eyes shone like the stars. As they went on they were lost to my sight; but I heard a voice saying some words I remembered to have heard before, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!'
And then I awoke, but my heart was very sad for all those missing ships; and I thought,
more truly express the habits of the animal. It can reach the top of a rock fifteen feet in height at three bounds, and when it is between two rocks near to each other, and wishes to ascend to the highest point, it leaps first from the side of one rock to that of the other, and so on from each alternately, until it has gained the summit.
The fore-legs are shorter than the hind ones, which makes it easier for the ibex to ascend than to descend the mountains. Very few, even of the inhabitants of those regions, dare to hunt the wild goat. needs not only a steady foot, and great climbing power, but also much endurance of fatigue, cold, and hunger.
The Ibex is not only beautiful and agile, but very gentle; and the female is remarkable for fondness for her young, whom she defends against birds and beasts of prey.
David seems to have been well acquainted with this and other animals, and their habits. It may be that the arm which slew Goliath had practised and perfected its aim among the mountains; and that he had himself seen that the high hills are a refuge for the wild goats.'
Fleetness of foot and agility were much. thought of then as now; and there is hardly a more graphic word-picture in Holy Scripture than that of Asahel, who, light of foot as a wild roe,' pursued after Abner, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and met his death by Abner's hand.
We can well imagine Joab would be proud as an elder brother of Asahel's swiftness, and would be cut to the heart by his death. Little they-any of them-thought as they watched the young man, and compared him to the wild roe for swiftness, that his story would be so tragic; not ending with his own death, but followed by the murder of Abner by the unforgiving Joab.
F. E. H.