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Little Things

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord;
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love’s pathway of humility to take:
Meekly I fit my stature to your need.
—Evelyn Underhill. "Immanence"

All the day and for several days these lines of Evelyn Underhill’s have been singing themselves in my ear, as if they had some special message for me. As I sit alone in the early June evening, the birds are singing their vesper hymn of praise and the sun hastens towards his setting. This morning there fell a gentle rain, all the day the grey mists and clouds have veiled the full glory of the sunshine but now over the sky there steals a smile, like that shining through tears on the face of one who begins to guess that a blessing may be hidden in sorrow. Still the words sing to my unquiet heart and mind:

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord;
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love's pathway of humility to take.

I hear them in the notes of the thrush that pours out his joy in a gurgling, laughing stream of song. I heard them as l gathered the first rose of the year, the rose that breathes out from its crimson heart all the wonder and the mystery the passion and glory of eternal summer.

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord.

The Lord who comes is the Lord of Beauty, of joy and Love, the bird’s song and the crimson rose and the ineffable loveliness of this "Splendor of ended day" are His tokens, in them you shall find the sure promise of His "ever becoming." I knew it as l felt, when my lips were pressed against the petals of the rose and its perfume steeped my senses and reached some other sense that awakens to perfume like this (I think it is of the soul for surely it transcends the physical) that ecstasy of joy that is the point where sorrow and joy may meet and whisper of their meaning and the Unity which is their source.

But even in the stillness and the quiet of this evening;

This holy time as quiet as a nun.
Breathless with adoration.

my thoughts will not be still and in memory I am back again, living once more through an incident of a few days ago. I was one of the occupants of a third class railway carriage. It was hot in spite of the air that came blowing fresh from the sea and over fields golden with buttercups and hedgerows laden with hawthorn bloom; but the hot all was sweet—not only because of this, but from the perfume of a huge bunch of flowers that a country woman was carrying; they had evidently been plucked from her cottage garden to be taken to some friend in the sea-side town, which the train was approaching. The flowers were massed together with rough carelessness in the mingling of their colors, that seemed cruel to one who loved them, so marred was their separate loveliness of purple and scarlet, rose-pink and royal blue and yellow, by a confused and ill assorted association, which was as regardless of their arrangement to harmonious beauty as a crowd is of communion.

As the train drew up at the station of the sea-side town, the other occupants of the carriage left it, together with the woman who carried the flowers, leaving me alone. As she went, I saw that there had fallen from the bunch one single flower. As the train moved on again. I picked it up from the dusty floor.

It was a white columbine or aquilegia, the flower that is sometimes known as the flower of the Holy Ghost, it may be because it usually blossoms at Whitsuntide, or it may be because its petals on the underside, are precisely like five doves nestling together with half spread wings and meek heads bent as if in prayer.

At first when I picked up the flower, I had no thought but to save it from being trampled upon by careless feet—for a flower is a living thing and I can never be sure that it does not feel. But as I held it in my hand and looked upon its exquisite beauty, its delicate grace of form, its purity of color, white and tenderest green and gold, there crept over me a sense of something like awe and worship. I think for a fleeting moment, I felt the quivering of those "starry wings" of Him who "comes in the little things." Those "starry wings He does forsake: Love's pathway of humility to take." And there swept over me a momentary consciousness of the Reality of which the flower was a symbol. There is no expression of beauty which is not the symbol of a deeper spiritual beauty, no flower that has not root and real, eternal being in the thought of the Infinite. Sorrow me that a thing so lovely should have been torn from the sweet freshness of the country garden where it grew, to die in stifling heat and be crushed under foot but for my accidental intervention. Then it was that the incident occurred which changed my sorrow to a curious surety of the significance of a happening even so trivial as the falling of that flower on a dusty, railway carriage floor, and belief that no loveliness is ever wasted no happening however tiny is accidental.

I laid the flower on the seat beside me as again the train stopped at a village station and a number of passengers came crowding into the carriage. Among them was a woman, whose glance fell immediately upon the little flower and she took it from the seat where I had laid it.

She was a working woman, with rough, red hands whose nails were worn into shapelessness and engrained with dirt, yet her touch of the flower was as gentle as love has the power to make that of the roughest. With her was a rosy cheeked girl and on the platform stood a young soldier. Externally there was nothing attractive either in the woman or the boy, who evidently was her son. Both had coarse, discordant voices, the woman talked loudly and laughed too frequently, keeping up a continuous stream of chaff. At first I thought it was merely a casual parting, for the boy’s face showed no trace of emotion, unless it might be in the sheepish glances he cast occasionally at the young girl, who plainly was not his sister, until a note of anxiety in the woman's voice caught my ear, as she said.

"You'll be sure to let me know as soon as you get there?" and the boy replied, with a laugh.

"Na then! You said you wouldn't worry!"

The woman's laugh was loud as his, but my heart thrilled with sudden sympathy asl heard the forced sound of it.

"Who is worrying! What should I worry for? You’ll be back soon! I know you'll be back soon! And we’ve had a pleasant week, haven't we, a real good week?" There was anxiety that she did not try to hide in her desire to be assured of this.

"Yes, a real pleasant week," said the boy, but his gaze was fixed on the face of the girl who was so obviously not his sister. He did not meet his mother's eyes or see how bright they were with the tears she would not allow to fall. With rough pleasantry she pushed the girl to the door.

"Say good-bye to her, l shan’t look if you kiss her," she said, with the loud laugh that no longer jarred on me unpleasantly.

Sheepishly her son obeyed her, then he turned and threw his arms round his mother with a clumsy embrace.

"Now then!" he said again "you said you wouldn’t worry." These were his last words to her.

While hers to him were.

"Go on! who’s going to worry. You’ll come back! I know you’ll come back," and again I heard her loud, cheerful laugh.

She was still holding the little flower in her hand, and as the train began to move out of the station I saw her offer it to the boy, but he did not see it at all and, he did not take it. She stood waving her hand to him and smiling, until the train carried her out of her son’s sight, then I saw her bow her head on her hands, while she still stood at the window, and I heard a stifled sob.

It was only then, that I realized the full meaning of the little scene, and the immense self control and the bravery that had kept her laughing that he might not guess how she "worried."

It was only for a moment that she stood at the window hiding her face and her grief from her fellow-passengers.

Then she sat down and began to talk to me.

"You wouldn’t believe what a lot of jam they have in the little shop in the village, and for months we haven't been able to buy any in the place where l come from," she remarked somewhat inconsequently; but I saw how her lips were quivering and I was very glad to talk to her about the scarcity of jam and its unequal distribution. Still she held the white flower in her red, toil-hardened hands, and still her touch had the gentleness of love. For a second or two she gazed at its beauty, then she opened a little bag she carried with her and carefully, reverently put it in.

I do not know whether she saw that I had observed her action, or whether consciousness—of my sympathy and my reverence for her splendid courage and devotion had reached her in the silence in some look of mine, but suddenly as if a knowledge of my sympathy had broken down the reserve for which I so honored her, and justified her confidence, she turned to me and told me,

"He is my only son, all the bairn I ever had and he’s going to the Front again tomorrow; he’s been out once and been badly wounded, he has the bullet in his back yet, it doesn’t seem right, does it, that he has to go again? I couldn't stick it if there wasn’t the work-plenty o’ work. But," and she smiled the brave smile that transfigured her homely face. "We’ve had six days together, and he said it’s been a pleasant time, a real good time, I didn’t let him know I worried.

I scarcely know why this little incident should haunt my memory with such persistence—similar ones might be multiplied almost infinitely in these days of brave women and sad partings. But I think I shall never see a white columbine with its clustering, dove-like petals, again without a thought of one poor mother’s courage and unselfish love. It does not seem unfitting that I treasure the memory with my crimson rose and the thrushes' love song and the glory of this sweet June sunset hour, while my thought of it mingles with my thoughts of them and all are set to the lovely rhythm of the words that still sing themselves in my heart,

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love's pathway of humility to take:
Meekly I fit my stature to your need.

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Caroline Eccles

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