The lonely Shadow Builder watches ever in his lonely abode.
The walls are of cloud, and round and through them, changing ever as they come, pass the dim shades of all the things that have been.
This endless, shadowy, wheeling, moving circle is called The PROCESSION OF THE DEAD PAST. In it everything is just as it has been in the great world. There is no change in any part; for each moment, as it passes, sends its shade into this dim Procession. Here there are moving people and events – cares – thoughts – follies – crimes – joys – sorrows – places – scenes – hopes and fears, and all that make the sum of life with all its lights and shadows. Every picture in nature where shadow dwells – and that is every one – has here its dim phantom. Here are all pictures that are most fair and most sad to see – the passing gloom over a sunny cornfield when with the breeze comes the dark sway of the full ears as they bend and rise; the ripple on the glassy surface of a summer sea; the dark expanse that lies beyond and without the broad track of moonlight on the water; the lacework of glare and gloom that flickers over the road as one passes in autumn when the moonlight is falling through the naked branches of overhanging trees; the cool, restful shade under the thick trees in summer time when the sun is flaming down on the haymaker at work; the dark clouds that flit across the moon, hiding her light, which leaps out again hollowly and coldly; the gloom of violet and black that rises on the horizon when rain is near in summer time; the dark recesses and gloomy caverns where the waterfall hurls itself shrieking into the pool below, – all these shadow pictures, and a thousand others that come by night and day, circle in the Procession among the things that have been.
Here, too, every act that any human being does, every thought – good and bad – every wish, every hope – everything that is secret – is pictured, and becomes a lasting record which cannot be blotted out; for at any time the Shadow Builder may summon with his special hand any one – sleeping or waking – to behold what is pictured of the Dead Past, in the dim, mysterious distance which encompasses his lonely abode.
In this ever-moving Procession of the Dead Past there is but one place where the circling phantoms are not, and where the cloudy walls are lost. There is here a great blackness, dense and deep, and full of gloom, and behind which lies the great real world without.
This blackness is called THE GATE OF DREAD.
The Procession afar off takes from it its course, and when passing on its way it circles again towards the darkness, the shadowy phantoms melt again into the mysterious gloom.
Sometimes the Shadow Builder passes through the vapoury walls of his abode and mingles in the ranks of the Procession; and sometimes a figure summoned by the wave of his spectral hand, with silent footfall stalks out of the mist and pauses beside him. Sometimes from a sleeping body the Shadow Builder summons a dreaming soul; then for a time the quick and the dead stand face to face, and men call it a dream of the Past. When this happens, friend meets friend or foe meets foe; and over the soul of the dreamer comes a happy memory long vanished, or the troubled agony of remorse. But no spectre passes through the misty wall, save to the Shadow Builder alone; and no human being – even in a dream – can enter the dimness where the Procession moves along.
So lives the lonely Shadow Builder amid his gloom; and his habitation is peopled by a spectral past.
His only people are of the past; for though he creates shadows they dwell not with him. His children go out at once to their homes in the big world, and he knows them no more till, in the fulness of time, they join the Precession of the Dead Past, and reach, in turn, the misty walls of his home.
For the Shadow Builder there is not night nor day, nor season of the year; but for ever round his lonely dwelling passes the silent Procession of the Dead Past.
Sometimes he sits and muses with eyes fixed and staring, and seeing nothing; and then out at sea there is a cloudless calm or the black gloom of night. Towards the far north or south for long months together he never looks, and then the stillness of the arctic night reigns alone. When the dreamy eyes again become conscious, the hard silence softens into the sounds of life and light.
Sometimes, with set frown on his face and a hard look in the eyes, which flash and gleam dark lightnings, the Shadow Builder sways resolute to his task, and round the world the shadows troop thick and fast. Over the sea sweeps the blackness of the tempest; the dim lights flicker in the cots away upon the lonely moors; and even in the palaces of kings dark shadows pass and fly and glide over all things – yea, through the hearts of the kings themselves – for the Shadow Builder is then dread to look upon.
Now and again, with long whiles between, the Shadow Builder as he completes his task lingers over the work as though he loves it. His heart yearns to the children of his will; and he fain would keep even one shadow to be a companion to him in his loneliness. But the voice of the Great Present is ever ringing in his ears at such times, enjoining him to haste. The giant voice booms out,
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