Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Night and Day
"You are Day the destroyer. I Night, the restorer," persisted Night, evading the argument.
Soon, though, she had her revenge; for when it was summer on one side the globe it was winter on the other; and then it was her turn to boast, as it was in winter that Frosty-mane came out in all his glory. During that season Night kept up a sort of murmuring triumph, "Good, good, very good: this is something like rest at last; now worn-out Nature is recruiting herself to some purpose. Now weary muscles may gather strength instead of giving it out. Now all the secret forces of Nature are at work, and exhaustion is being repaired on every side. Now trees and plants may keep their gases for themselves, and waste and consumption cease, for the wear and tear of life have stopped. Ah, if it could but cease for ever! Then the world would be renewed, indeed, and giant races of man and beast and plant arise!"
And so things went on till a check came, and it came in a very odd way. It is not always very easy to tell the exact causes of change even in one's own mind, much less in other people's, so I do not pretend to trace the whole process out in this case.
But Night and Day did grow wiser as time went on, for there is no squabbling or boasting going on between them now. One may conclude that after the first flush of feeling cooled down, they were better able to look round them and judge dispassionately of each other. And, lo and behold! they discovered at last that there were two portions of the globe, the poles, where each had their own way for six whole months at a time, and that yet the brilliant consequences which they had insisted would occur never took place.
On the contrary, those were the dreariest and most desolate portions of the whole globe,—barren wastes of ice and rock, where both animal and vegetable life were at the lowest possible ebb. In vain did Shiny-mane drive round and round that frozen horizon with a light that was never interrupted: where was the promised Paradise which was to follow?—the foliage, the flowers, the fruits, the precious crops which should have adorned this unchecked reign of Day, where were they? Day, the life-giver, looked down upon a kingdom without life!
And it was the same with Night, when her turn came round. In vain did Frosty-mane distil his dews. They were useful—at least Night thought so—everywhere else; but here, what did they avail? Here was the unbroken rest which was to recruit and refresh all Nature: now her secret powers might work as they pleased: but where were the giant races of man and beast and plant that were to arise in consequence? Night, the restorer, ruled, but over a kingdom where there was nothing to restore!
They had made a terrible mistake, that was clear; and if they did not at first see that there must be other and more important powers at work, besides theirs, or the good old earth would not be what it is in most places, they must be excused. People cannot grow quite wise all at once, and they had made a very good beginning by learning to distrust themselves; that being always the first step towards doing justice to a neighbour.
"I called you Day the destroyer, bright and beautiful friend," murmured Night, in her softest tones; "you who bring light over my shadows, and make my good deeds known to all men. Day, the life-giver, forgive me, and return at the seasons appointed. Touch the earth with your glory from time to time, lest all things perish from its face, and it and I are forgotten together."
"But I mistook your friendly shadow for that of death," answered Day, with his sweetest smile, though tears trembled in his eyes as he thought of the injustice, causing the brightest of rainbows to span the landscape below: "and that was a thousand times worse! You, in whose silence and rest the very fountains of life are renewed. Ah, while earth remains what it is, an everlasting day—a day without night—would be destruction! Dear friend, forgive me, and ever and ever return."
"There is nothing to forgive," whispered Night, as she came round once more. "And death also may restore as I do," added she tenderly; for the harvest moon was shining upon long fields of golden corn, some waving still, some gathered into sheaves; and she felt particularly hopeful about everything.