Sunday, 31 May 2015

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Aquila and Brother Ninnias walked on in silence until they came in sight of the place where a bridle-path branched from the main track, running upward through the gently rolling woods. They had fallen some way behind the rest, so that when they came in sight of the path, the foremost of the cattle were already past it and going on down the main track. Aqulia realised that when they came to the branch he would go one way and Ninnias the other, and their meeting would be over.

"My way lies up yonder," he said suddenly. "I have my summer camp below the village up there. Come my way and preach Christ's Word to us in the war hosts of Britain."

Brother Ninnias shook his head. "Nay, I shall be of more use to the poor homeless folk than I should be in a war camp."

"How much farther do you mean to go? Is there any place in your mind?"

"I do not know how much farther; there is no place in my mind," Ninnias said. "It may be that I shall stop when Cunefa and his people stop; it may be that I shall stop before or go farther. God will tell me when I come to the right place."

"But I shall not know where that place is," Aquila said, suddenly saddened by the quickness with which things passed. Things and people.

"Does that matter so much?"

"Yes," Aquila said simply.

They had reached the parting of the ways now, and checked. The cuckoo was still calling in a distance that was blue as wood-smoke, and in the marshy ground beside the track the dense mat of iris leaves still showed a few yellow flowers, proudly upheld like lamps among the cool green sword blades of the leaves. Brother Ninnias stopped and touched one of the flowers without picking it. 

"Three petals has the iris, see - a wise flower that carries the number of the Trinity in its head. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; man, woman, and child; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Three is the number of perfection and the perfected pattern. Do you know, my friend, I have the strongest feeling that for us two the pattern waits for a third meeting, to attain perfection. But how and when it comes about must lie in God's hands." He hitched up his bundle. "Until then - God keep you, Aquila." He turned and trudged away in the wake of the others, hurrying now to catch up with the cart that had his bee skep in it.

Aquila stood looking after him, where the two ways branched, his arm through Ingraniad's bridle, until the bend of the track hid him from view. Then he mounted, and set off at a canter up the path through the woods. But after a time he slackened rein and walked the mare, to give young Artos time to have finished seeing the horses picketed before he came.

Rosemary Sutcliff, The Lantern Bearers (1959)


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