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"Vanna, you would not harm yourself again?"
"Never. I should not meet him. But you will see. Now I can talk no more. I will be there tomorrow when you go, and I will ride with you to the poplar road."
She passed like a shadow into her little dark cabin, and I was left alone. I will not dwell on that black loneliness of the spirit, for it has passed - it was the darkness of hell, a madness of jealousy, and could have no enduring life in any heart that had known her. But it was death while it lasted. I had moments of horrible belief, of horrible disbelief, but however it might be I knew that she was out of reach for ever. Near me - yes! but only as the silver image of the moon floated in the water by the boat, with the moon herself cold myriads of miles away. I will say no more of that last eclipse of what she had wrought in me.
The bright morning came, sunny as if my joys were beginning instead of ending. Vanna mounted her horse and led the way from the boat. I cast one long look at the little Kedarnath, the home of those perfect weeks, of such joy and sorrow as would have seemed impossible to me in the chrysalis of my former existence. Little Kahdra stood crying bitterly on the bank - the kindly folk who had served us were gathered saddened and quiet. I set my teeth and followed her.
How dear she looked, how kind, how gentle her appealing eyes, as I drew up beside her. She knew what I felt. She knew that the sight of little Kahdra crying as he said good - bye was the last pull at my sore heart. Still she rode steadily on, and still I followed. Once she spoke.
"Stephen, there was a man in Peshawar, kind and true, who loved that Lilavanti who had no heart for him. And when she died, it was in his arms, as a sister might cling to a brother, for the man she loved had left her. It seems that will not be in this life, but do not think I have been so blind that I did not know my friend."
I could not answer - it was the realization of the utmost I could hope and it came like healing to my spirit. Better that bond between us, slight as most men might think it, than the dearest and closest with a woman not Vanna. It was the first thrill of a new joy in my heart - the first, I thank the Infinite, of many and steadily growing joys and hopes that cannot be uttered here.
I bent to take the hand she stretched to me, but even as they touched, I saw, passing behind the trees by the road, the young man I had seen in the garden at Vernag - most beautiful, in the strange miter of his jewelled diadem. His flute was at his lips and the music rang out sudden and crystal clear as though a woodland god were passing to awaken all the joys of the dawn.
The horses heard too. In an instant hers had swerved wildly, and she lay on the ground at my feet. The music had ceased.
Days had gone before I could recall what had happened then. I lifted her in my arms and carried her into the rest-house near at hand, and the doctor came and looked grave, and a nurse was sent from the Mission Hospital. No doubt all was done that was possible, hut I knew from the first what it meant and how it would be. She lay in a white stillness, and the room was quiet as death. I remembered with unspeakable gratitude later that the nurse had been merciful and had not sent me away.
So Vanna lay all day and through the night, and when the dawn came again she stirred and motioned with her hand, although her eyes were closed. I understood, and kneeling, I put my hand under her head, and rested it against my shoulder. Her faint voice murmured at my ear.
"I dreamed - I was in the pine wood at Pahlgam and it was the Night of No Moon, and I was afraid for it was dark, but suddenly all the trees were covered with little lights like stars, and the greater light was beyond. Nothing to be afraid of."
"And I looked beyond Peshawar, further than eyes could see, and in the ruins of the monastery where we stood, you and I - I saw him, and he lay with his head at the feet of the Blessed One. That is well, is it not?"
"And it is well I go? Is it not?"
"It is well."
A long silence. The first sun ray touched the floor. Again the whisper.
"Believe what I have told you. For we shall meet again." I repeated-
"We shall meet again."
In my arms she died.
Later, when all was over I asked myself if I believed this and answered with full assurance - Yes.
If the story thus told sounds incredible it was not incredible to me. I had had a profound experience. What is a miracle? It is simply the vision of the Divine behind nature. It will come in different forms according to the eyes that see, but the soul will know that its perception is authentic.
I could not leave Kashmir, nor was there any need. On the contrary I saw that there was work for me here among the people she had loved, and my first aim was to fit myself for that and for the writing I now felt was to be my career in life. After much thought I bought the little Kedarnath and made it my home, very greatly to the satisfaction of little Kahdra and all the friendly people to whom I owed so much.
Vanna's cabin I made my sleeping room, and it is the simple truth that the first night I slept in the place that was a Temple of Peace in my thoughts, I had a dream of wordless bliss, and starting awake for sheer joy I saw her face in the night, human and dear, looking down upon me with that poignant sweetness which would seem to be the utmost revelation of love and pity. And as I stretched my hands, another face dawned solemnly from the shadow beside her with grave brows bent on mine - one I had known and seen in the ruins at Bijbehara. Outside and very near I could hear the silver weaving of the Flute that in India is the symbol of the call of the Divine. A dream - yes, but it taught me to live. At first, in my days of grief and loss, I did but dream - the days were hard to endure. I will not dwell on that illusion of sorrow, now long dead. I lived only for the night.
"When sleep comes to close each difficult day,
To the heart of her pity. Thus for awhile I lived. Slowly I became conscious of her abiding presence about me, day or night It grew clearer, closer.
Like the austere Hippolytus to his unseen Goddess, I could say;
"Who am more to thee than other mortals are,
That was much, but later, the sunshine was no bar, the bond strengthened and there have been days in the heights of the hills, in the depths of the woods, when I saw her as in life, passing at a distance, but real and lovely. Life? She had never lived as she did now - a spirit, freed and rejoicing. For me the door she had opened would never shut. The Presences were about me, and I entered upon my heritage of joy, knowing that in Kashmir, the holy land of Beauty, they walk very near, and lift up the folds of the Dark that the initiate may see the light behind.
So I began my solitary life of gladness. I wrote, aided by the little book she had left me, full of strangest stories, stranger by far than my own brain could conceive. Some to be revealed - some to be hidden. And thus the world will one day receive the story of the Dancer of Peshawar in her upward lives, that it may know, if it will, that death is nothing - for Life and Love are all.
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The Ninth Vibration and Other Stories -by- L. Adams Beck