Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index

The Child Mandrake
by Manfred Kyber

The Birth of Little Mandrake*

* The mandrake plant has narcotic properties. The forked root is thought to resemble the human form, and it was fabled to shriek when pulled from the ground. (Tr.)

It was a sad, rainy day when little Mandrake was born.

It was not a land rain from which good could be hoped for. A wet cold mist blotted out all colour and effaced all outline. It was in February and carnival time, and masked figures stole through the mist.

Little Mandrake lay on a cushion, whimpering and looking hideous. Three doctors stood by, speaking in what sounded like Latin. They finally agreed that the child was a 'case', and that they could not guarantee its chance to live.

The parents were very grieved. It is not pleasant to have a 'case' as one's child. Children should be nice and normal. Once usually nothing is done to help this come about in real life. Marriages are contracted in accordance with rank and money, and it is all called God's will. Nature is expected to adjust herself thereto. But she does not do so. Therefore Nature is not decent, and is veiled whenever she is concerned in any way. The veiling is called Morality. Out of that which is called Morality and that which is called God's Will, human life is built. It works wonderfully well as long as everything is nice and normal. Only when indecent Nature asserts herself the dam bursts. Wherefore it appears to be necessary that everything should be nice and normal, and that Nature must be excluded as indecent, and everything must be as it is labeled.

So little Mandrake was not normal, and therefore they did not quite know what to christen him. I say "him", for little Mandrake was a boy, providing he remained alive, which the doctors -- in Latin words -- strongly doubted.

The relations also stood around and consoled and sympathized with that familiar deep, strong affection which is to be expected of those bearing the same name. They thought something might still be done about the matter. One could never tell, and there had already been cases where...they related the cases.

It was all very kind of them. Secretly they were glad that the 'case' had not happened to them.

Eventually they composed themselves on all sides, and also gave little Mandrake a name. But it does not concern us. We will call him as he appeared to people, as Little Mandrake.

A little mandrake is a changeling, a little being that has its roots in the earth and become a changeling when its roots are torn out of the earth.

And so sensitive relations drew curtains carefully round the cradle, and Little Mandrake remained alone in the twilight of his first hour of life.

Outside it rained, and the masked faces stole through the rain. Inside it was quiet. The clock ticked quietly, and a large tom-cat purred beside the fire.

After a while the tom-cat got up, crept softly to the cradle, and carefully pushed the curtain to one side. His whiskers bristled testingly in front of him, and he eyed and sniffed at the Something on the cushion most knowingly.

"No, that is no human being," said he knowingly; "It is something like us, but yet not quite. It is very strange. I will see what it will develop into."

Then a baby hand snatched at the cat's paw and held it fast.

This was Little Mandrake's first friendship.

The Nutcracker's Views

"The main thing in life is to snap at everything, and always to make a clean spit of two shells and one kernel," said the nutcracker, looking challengingly at Little Mandrake out of his watery blue eyes.

Little Mandrake was no longer a baby, but a little boy who had the nutcracker given him for Christmas. He had stood in the midst of the Christmas Tree's brilliance, wore a gay uniform, and a pedantic pigtail, and looked exceedingly fierce. His uniform, the long pig-tail, and the ferocity comprised the whole of his little person.

The little child loved him in this way, as he did everything that was entrusted to his keeping. But he did not like the uniform or the pigtail -- an emblem of petty formalism -- and he found his wooden dignity comical. It was just that Little Mandrake was nor normal child. "Still not," as the relations said.

"Yes, of course," said the nutcracker cracking his jawbone decisively, "snap at everything and spit it out. Then one knows where one is. You naturally hold other views," he snapped reproachfully.

"You can't snap at everything," said Little Mandrake pensively.

The nutcracker grabbed at his antiquated pigtail furiously.

"Of course you can," he cried. "I can for one, and so can all those who have a uniform, a pigtail, and a mouth like mine!"

Little Mandrake shook his head. He thought of the nights when he had lain in bed with wide-open eyes, and had seen Things that could not be touched, or snapped at. For he saw the soul of things, and heard mute voices whispering. Oh, the chest of drawers had recently been speaking so beautifully of grandmother's days, and had made such comical gestures with its little ornamental legs, and the tea urn had kept on opening and shutting its big snout and interrupting the conversation until the chest of drawers became piqued and ceased speaking. Later on the Shadows had sat in the room, weak hardly perceptible figures in cobwebby dresses, looking just as the chest of drawers had described them. They pointed to the old grandfather clock and nodded to each other. Oh, Little Mandrake had seen a lot, even if he could not understand it all.

They are sad eyes that see these things. They are mandrake eyes. They are rare, as mandrakes are rare. This is fortunate, for otherwise what would happen to the uniforms and the pigtails, the normal conventions and all that which people call God's Will -- if many were to see behind things with those sad eyes.

"No, everything can't be caught hold of," said the boy, "there is far, far more than just what can be touched. Catching hold of things is only a detail. It's not reality."

"That's nonsense," cried the nutcracker, becoming even redder than usual. "What's not touchable, that can't be bitten and spat at, does not exist. That's the only truth. It's exactitude and reality."

He spat out two nut shells and a kernel at Little Mandrake's feet. It was a sort of spitting demonstration.

Little Mandrake pushed the shells to one side and ate up the kernel.

"What's in the kernel?" he asked.

"How should I know that when you've swallowed it?" the nutcracker bellowed furiously. "You are a stupid child!"

"This was also a demonstration, and a very usual and favourite one. Little Mandrake had often heard it from others in school and at home when he asked about things.

The nutcracker saw that he had gone too far. He got such a lot of nuts from the boy, and every evening was always carefully laid in his little bed in which he could stretch out his wooden legs. This was necessary. For it is much more tiring to stand on wooden legs than flexible ones.

He decided, therefore, to make amends.

"It would be much better for you," said he, "and you wouldn't go knocking against everything and getting bumps, if you were to remain nice and woodenly in one place, instead of gadding about in all directions. Always remain in one spot, then nothing will happen to you. You'll disturb nobody, and won't be disturbed in turn, because everybody will know -- the nutcracker stands on that spot. I won't go there, or I shall get in his way, and he'll shout at me. It's quite simple."

"But supposing I were to get in the way and step on somebody -- not you of course -- but where nutcrackers are, for instance?"

"No sensible person would do that. For whoever is sensible remains in one place and doesn't move."

"But I do," said Little Mandrake, capriciously. "What then?"

"Then all nutcrackers would snap at you."

The boy laughed happily.

"That would be funny!"

"Don't be so impudent," said the nutcracker; "That's being above one's pigtail, you know, its revolutionary."

Little Mandrake did not know what revolution was. He thought it could not be serious, if only an absurdly pedantic pigtail was concerned; he was a child, and did not know how tightly heads hang on to pigtails, and that it costs blood when pigtails are cut off.

"No," said the nutcracker, "you must always remain on the spot you've been placed upon. That's the only real truth."

"I want to go far away into the distant world of beautiful dreams," said Little Mandrake, gazing into the twilight with those sad mandrake eyes.

"What are dreams?" asked the nutcracker disapprovingly. "Can you grab dreams? No, then they don't exist. Only that spot on which you stand with wooden legs exist."

"I can see the dream world," said Little Mandrake. "I can see lots of dream worlds -- I should like to go to them all."

"What is the good of that?" asked the nutcracker. "Can you bite and spit it out?"

"No," said Little Mandrake dejectedly.

For it seemed to him, the dream world was very, very far away. It must be a long way, much further, for instance, than to the town, where the yearly fair was held on St. John's Eve. One could not walk there. At least it was hardly credible. But the dream world lay still further away -- much further...

"You see," said the nutcracker, smugly, "just stay nicely on the same spot. You must wear a uniform and your hair in a pigtail, then you'll look the same as everybody else. That's the only true philosophy."

"But is everybody in the world a nutcracker?" asked the child.

"Of course. What else would they be?" asked the nutcracker, standing most valiantly on his wooden legs. "Of course. At least, the sensible ones are. The others don't enter into the question at all. That's very fortunate, otherwise we would always have to be moving on, or would be pushed out of the way. I thank you! We would have to move off our own spots, and a place gets so nice and warm and comfortable when one is always on it."

He spat out the shells just anyhow around him.

'I won't be a nutcracker, though,' thought Little Mandrake, gazing far away into the World of Beautiful Dreams.


Little Mandrake was sitting in the sun with the tom-cat.

They were very fond of each other and were always together, when the tom-cat was not off on some hunt or was otherwise called away on business.

He also had initiated the boy into all the secrets of the animal world as far as he could, and as far as he considered it right to act as mediator to him with this knowledge. For though Little Mandrake was half-animal, he was also human, and developed with human slowness. So it all had to be done with a prudent paw, and the tom-cat had such a one. He was exceedingly clever, and a philosopher even amongst these philosophical animals. But above all he was fond of the child, and love guides more truly and better than philosophy.

"I feel strange here," said Little Mandrake sadly, scratching the cat behind the ear. The cat blinked in the sun with half-closed eyes.

"You will always be strange," said he, sympathetically. "You see Nature differently to humans. You feel one with her. Humans think they are superior to her. They will have to come back to her. Somewhere all mouse-holes lead into the open, be they ever so ingenious and complex. It's rather sportily expressed, please excuse me. But it describes my meaning."

Little Mandrake looked very sad.

"You must not fret about it," continued the cat, purring soothingly; "you're not a proper human."

"What am I then?" asked Little Mandrake.

"That I don't know," said the cat. "You are probably a little mandrake. I don't know everything; only humans think they know everything."

"I want to go away into the distant dream world," said Little Mandrake. "I'm sure to find the way there. But the nutcracker says it doesn't exist."

"The nutcracker is a lump of wood," said the cat.

"But he speaks and even scolds. He says 'stupid boy'. He snaps at nut shells and spits them out. He's very proud of that. He has a uniform," said Little Mandrake, rambling on.

"Lots of lumps of wood wear a uniform," said the cat.

Little Mandrake gave further details. "He stretches his legs out when I stuff him into bed. They crack then. I've heard them distinctly. I'm quite certain. So he must be alive. Isn't that right?"

"What's called living, yes," said the cat, "but he's just a nutcracker really, nothing more. A lump of wood out of which a figure has been cut."

"But the teacher at school is just the same," said the child; "he also says: 'Stupid boy!' But he isn't a nutcracker. Also he's not made of wood."

The cat put on a supercilious expression, as supercilious as only cats know how to be.

"It's not necessary to be made of wood to be nutcracker."

Little Mandrake thought this over.

His sad eyes were opened wide and longingly. He held the cat's two front paws and looked him straight in the face.

"I've always been fond of you, as long as I can remember," said he. "Have you been away into the land of dreams? If so, tell me how to get there."

The cat' eyes lost their grassy green colour. The little eye slits opened wide, and the pupils became dark and deep, as if genuine mysteries lay behind them. He sat down, large and fat, in front of Little Mandrake, and said in a solemn mewing tone: "I knew you would ask me that. I'll tell you. For you must go away into the world of dreams while your eyes seek it. One can always see it in the eyes -- according to my experience, of course. Up to the present I could not tell you. You weren't ripe for it.

"I'm still only a child even now," said Little Mandrake doubtfully.

"Children often find it easier than grown-ups," said the cat. "One finds it when one asks for it. One is ripe when one asks for it."

A transfiguring smile passed over the boy's face, which had become pale with pensiveness.

"I can't take you into the world of dreams; you'll have to find it for yourself," continued the cat. "We only know the entrance. It's a great secret. Humans have known it. They have forgotten it again. But formerly, you know, in the land of the temples of Isis, when they still regarded us as holy, and looked on all creatures as brothers -- there, where the pyramids stand on the golden sand and the palms in the sun's glow -- it was a holy land -- there they know the secret."

Little Mandrake shuddered.

"Well then, teach me the secret," he begged, looking into the clever animal eyes as if into a temple.

"You must not get so agitated," said the cat, kindly. "It's all quite natural. The mysteries are not in nature, but behind her. We do not know them. It's the human element in you that gets upset. You'll get over it. Humans have grown away from everything that is natural. They have separated themselves from nature, and cling to that which they've thought out for themselves. They don't hear the voice within them any more."

"I know," said Little Mandrake, "but please tell me the secret."

"Don't be impatient. When you do know it you'll require far more patience. You know what Muffy-Muff is."

"Yes," said he, rather disappointed. "When you lie down and lay your paws together in front, so that they look like a muff. Those are cat's habits, I've learnt them from you. But what good is that? It looks very nice. But it is no secret. I see it every day."

"All secrets are of everyday occurrence, only one does not realize it. The secrets lie in Muffy-Muff. The people in the Holy Land call it Meditation. So therefore you must Muffy-Muff."

The cat showed the Muffy-Muff position, although Little Mandrake already knew it.

"The rest comes of itself," he explained.

"But I can't Muffy-Muff properly," said the child, trying in vain.

"It only has to look like that," said the cat, consolingly; "you only need to fold your paws, like you do when you say your prayers at night."

"Yes, I can do that," said Little Mandrake; "then does the rest come of itself? Shall I get away to the world of dreams?"

"Only to the Entrance," explained the cat; "we will both try tonight when you've gone to bed. But you must shut the nutcracker up in the cupboard."

Little Mandrake felt very happy.

"Where shall we go first? To the Holy Land with the Isis temples?"

"No," said the cat, "I can't accept any responsibility. We will go first to the entrance. Habakuk will tell us the way."

"Who is Habakuk?"

"A wood owl with whom I'm friendly, but only as regards Muffy-Muff."

"Well then, we'll go to Habakuk," said the child. "Has he got lantern eyes also, like the owl in the animal picture book?"

"Yes, he has."

"I'm so happy, and I thank you," said Little Mandrake.

"You need not thank me. You have been fond of me. Au revoir until this evening. I've got some business to attend to."

The cat stole into the hedge, where he heard something rustling.

The night was very peaceful in Little Mandrake bedroom. Only the breathing of an animal and a human child, who yet was no proper human child, was to be heard. The breathing of both was weak and quiet. It was as if they only breathed like plants in the night's oppression. Their souls were far away.

The moon's pale face gazed through the window.

She saw, what she had already seen for untold thousands of years; Meditation -- Muffy-Muff.


Little Mandrake did not sleep. But it was very similar, as if he were about to fall asleep. A wheel seemed to be turning inside him, a large wheel with many, many spokes. It turned faster and faster, he felt almost dizzy with it.

Then it stood still.

He felt as if something that was free had detached itself from him, and as if something remained behind that was not free. But that part of him that was free was the real thing.

Little Mandrake walked in green carpeted woods, and distinctly felt soft moss beneath his feet. The ferns rustled. Their strange forms were animated by the wind. It was dark and yet light. It was as if all objects were lighted from within and each had its own light. It was soft and weak but yet one saw everything more distinctly than in the light which falls on things from outside.

The cat was beside him.

They passed by a nest. Little wings lay motionless in sleep beneath the wings of the mother.

"We are nearly at Habakuk's," said the cat, stopping at a hollow tree-trunk.

"Is Habakuk at home?" he inquired of a toad, who was sitting at the bottom of the tree.

"Yes, he is," said the toad, flirting with her eyes. Toads are covered with warts, but they have very beautiful eyes.

"Please announce us," said the cat, haughtily. He did not think much of flabby marsh people.

The toad, who, for her part, did not think much of old tom-cats, flirted with Little Mandrake. Then she croaked something into the hollow tree-trunk. It was a kind of house telephone, for immediately after Habakuk appeared in the hole above.

He looked like a parcel of feathers, into which eyes had been set. The eyes glowed.

"Good evening," said the cat: "allow me to introduce you: Little Mandrake -- Habakuk." He flourished his paw.

The parcel bowed.

"Little Mandrake would like to go into the world of dreams," said the cat. "He wants to ask you how it can best be done. You are so very clever."

The parcel cleared its throat croakingly.

"Yes I want to go into the world of dreams," said the child, "and I would like to go far, if I only knew where I had to go."

Habakuk gazed at him for a long time out of his big eyes.

"I've never been as far as you want to go. You'll hardly be able to get as far as you want to go," said he.

"Pardon me, dear Habakuk," said the cat, "that's an 'owler'. We don't believe that you've ever run very far with those claws of yours, which we know are full of rheumatism. We want something definite. Do you understand -- Miaouw!"

Habakuk threw a green leaf at Little Mandrake.

"What you want is to be read on all leaves, both the green and the withered ones.

"Oh, please read it out to me," begged Little Mandrake.

Habakuk screwed his eyes up.

"It's not really possible to read it out. It says that the way begins with 'Those who sleep!'"

"It begins with 'Those who sleep!'" repeated Little Mandrake. "What does that mean?"

"I don't know," said Habakuk; "then it leads to 'Those who are awake,' and from 'Those who are awake' it leads out into the dream world."

"I don't understand that," said Little Mandrake.

"Do you think I understand it?" cried Habakuk indignantly. "If so it would be no secret. Be glad that you know that much. Why should you want to know more than an owl? You must have belief in such things. You are a stupid boy.

The parcel disappeared, furious.

"You see, he says the same thing that's always said to me," said Little Mandrake feeling depressed.

"He's a rude fellow," said the cat; "he doesn't mean to be. He suffers from rheumatism."

"Now I shall never find the dream world," said the child sadly.

"There's no more help to be got," said the cat; "we'll manage somehow. We must search around for it."

"Yes, we must search," said Little Mandrake. The first dull glow of daylight penetrated the darkness.

The toad had crawled away. Little wings stirred in the bird's nest beneath the mother's wings.

"Seek and you will find," said the boy to himself. He had learnt this at school, but he had not understood it. This, too, was a secret.

It was strange that this suddenly came into his head now. Was this, after all, the secret that led into the world of dreams?

Had he really said it? It seemed to him as if it had not been his voice, but that of some other person.

He looked shyly round him on all sides. Nobody was there.

Only the cat trotted beside him through the morning dew, carefully lifting his paws. He looked very funny, and the child had to laugh at him.

In this manner Little Mandrake slipped back into human life.

He waked up in his bed.

The sun shown into the room.

The cat sat licking his paws.

Little Mandrake's progress to "Those Who Sleep"

The wheel turned again. Then it stood still.

Little Mandrake had got quite small. He was in the middle of the earth. You have to get very small first to do this, otherwise you cannot get in. Although it was within the earth he could see quite well. It was like the night at Habakuk's. Objects shone in their own light, as if they were of bright glass and were alight internally.

He stood on a stone. It was a transparent crystal of a bluish colour.

"It's too deep down for me here," said the cat sniffing. "I would like to get to the surface. There must be field-mice above."

His whiskers bristled.

The child did not hear him. He saw something he had never seen before. The stone was moving. Hardly perceptible at first. Then it moved quicker. The stone grew. It threw off other crystals of bluish colour. One was so like the other, as if they had all grown in one mould that was not visible. He wanted to find this mould, but he could not find it. The new crystals moved again.

They seemed almost to breathe.

Little Mandrake climbed high up on to them. The cat followed. It was quite a time before they reached the top. So small had they become. Yet the entire scene was not larger than a stone in a ring.

Earth lay on the crystals. It was soft and warm. The cat raked about in it with his paws. He found nothing but a corn seed.

"I'm going to the surface now," said he. "The affair with the stone was certainly nice, but I think there are field-mice above. I can hear very quiet drumming sounds up there. What a pity that I'm only here in Meditation!"

The cat disappeared.

The drumming did not come from above. It came from inside. There was plenty of room inside, he had become so small. The little flame took on strange forms. There was a proper design in it.

Fine roots now crept out of it, and clung on to the crystal with little weak arms. They had soon completely enveloped it and held tightly on to it. Little Mandrake enjoyed this. He thought it was very clever.

Suddenly he was pulled upwards. He was sitting in a narrow, reed-like funnel from which ran thousands more little funnels. Work was perpetually going on inside, like at a water-works.

He felt himself getting ever stronger and bigger, and being lifted up ever higher. It was very nice, as if he had breathed deeply, and as if the pressure round him was getting gradually weaker. Only there was such a strange pulling and tugging going on round the joints.

Then he seemed to be swathed in pure fine cloths, which were cool and smelt of roses. He was surprised at it all, but could not form any definite thoughts. He was alive, and yet not alive; also he could not see anything more. He only felt that he was there, and that it was peaceful and refreshing.

Then the cool fine cloths unfolded, the sun shone in, and Little Mandrake rubbed his eyes.

'I've been asleep and dreamt,' thought he.

He lay in a rose which was rocking in the breeze.

Below, at the stem, sat the cat, purring.

"I didn't find any field-mice," said he. "I expected as much, and was prepared. Whatever it was that went about with quiet steps, was not above, but below.

Little Mandrake climbed carefully down to the ground.

"It was all very strange," said he. "We'll go home. It was really only quite a short walk after all."

"It is a very long way," said a voice beside him. "It only seemed short to you, because you can see into the world of dreams."

It was the same voice that spoke when they were coming away from Habakuk in the twilight.

Was it his -- was it another's voice? Little Mandrake did not know.

Then he saw someone going along beside him. It was a silent, serious man with good, sad, far-seeing eyes. He was very plainly dressed. Round his head was a halo of light. The child was not afraid. It seemed quite understandable to him. He knew the silent companion, though he did not know when he had seen him before. Perhaps it was once, when he had seen into the world of dreams.

"That was the path to 'Those Who Sleep'," said his silent companion, kindly. "They are asleep, but they are already beginning to dream."

The boy nodded and looked up at the silent companion. It was very strange. The man's lips did not move when he spoke. And yet he spoke.

It was Speech in Silence. Little Mandrake had never heard that before. Now he knew that it could be.

He could not explain it to himself. But it made him happy.

Little Mandrake's progress to "Those Who Are Awake"

The Wheel turned again. Then it stood still.

"It is the Wheel of Life," said the silent companion.

Little Mandrake saw him standing by his bed, and he was glad.

"It's lovely that you are coming too," said he. "I'll tell the cat that you're coming immediately.

"We will leave the cat in peace this time," said the silent companion, and he stroked the sleeping animal's fur carefully.

"We must go alone this time. It is too far for your cat."

"It must be the way to 'Those Who Are Awake,' that Habakuk was telling me about, before he got cross," said the boy. He was very curious. "It certainly won't be too far for me," he added eagerly, "because I want to go to the dream world."

The silent companion smiled. It was a sad smile.

"The path is too long for you also," said he, "at least today. I shall only lead you to the beginning. Later you will go further on the path alone. It is very toilsome. Step by step. At the end lies the World of Beautiful Dreams. Come."

He took the child by the hand.

"Then I shall see the world of dreams again, after all?" asked Little Mandrake, happily.

The silent companion nodded his head.

There was an aura of light round him.

"You will see it some time," said he.

They went along side by side. All round them was wilderness. There were tracks of blood in the wilderness.

The child was no longer glad that he had come.

A beast of prey ran past them. He could not recognize what it was. It was big and strong, and hungrily licked its nozzle. Its eyes flickered. It ran quietly on its padded feet after prey. Then something screamed out, shrill and full of horror. The beast of prey howled triumphantly from the thicket.

Little Mandrake shuddered, and groped for the hand of the man who accompanied him.

"Must that be?" he asked, fearfully.

The silent companion looked aside.

"It is following the tracks of blood that others before it have left behind. It is a stage. The path we are going on consists of such stages. That is why it is so laborious."

"I think it is too far for me," said Little Mandrake, dejectedly.

The silent companion held the child's hand fast.

"But you must go that way if you wish to get to the world of dreams," said he. "I will not take you any further today, or else you will get tired. One must not get tired when one is on the way."

"I won't get tired either," promised the boy, bravely, "for I want to get to the dream world."

It got lighter in the wilderness. They came to a road. Other roads crossed it. There were very few flowers by the wayside. The ruts in the road were very deep.

In the ruts crawled a loaded wagon. The wheels scrunched in the gravel. Now the load stuck. The driver urged on the tired nags. They gasped and set to anew in the yoke. On the other side a cow was being driven to the slaughter-house. She mooed plaintively for her calf. The calf could not hear her any more. It was far away. The slaughter-house stood out large and grim in the thick misty air.

Little Mandrake was tired and a little tearful.

"I want to go home," said he.

"They always travel in the same rut in which others have travelled before them. The ruts are already too deep. It is a stage."

They went on. An old man sat in a ditch by the wayside. He had a crooked back. One could see it distinctly, because he had taken off the box that he usually dragged round with him on his crooked back. There were just trifles in the box. The old man traded in odds and ends. He counted over the money he had taken. It was very little. But today he could go no further. The box was too heavy. The man bent his back still more, and coughed. As old people cough -- wearyingly and full of anguish.

"There are so few flowers by the wayside where the old man sits," said Little Mandrake.

"There are flowers there," said the silent companion, "only you cannot see them."

"Can't the old man see them either?"

"He will see them soon," said the silent companion.

"The paths all cross each other so much," said the child, "I don't know which to take. It was nicer with 'Those Who Sleep' than it is with 'Those Who Are Awake'."

"They are waking. But they still cannot see. That is why their paths cross each other. They are false ways. They run round in circles in the old ruts. The real paths all lead to a big highway. Few find it."

"It is also so dark," said Little Mandrake.

"One has to walk in the dark to see the stars," said the silent companion.

"I want to find the highway," said Little Mandrake.

The aura round the silent companion became quite clear and bright.

"You will find it," said he, "this is only a beginning."

Little Mandrake felt dizzy.

The Wheel of Life turned wildly and confusedly.

When Little Mandrake woke in the morning he felt tired. More tired than he had ever felt before.

An End which is only a Beginning

Little Mandrake had come to town from the country. He was to attend a higher school. It was where the yearly fair was held on St. John's Eve.

It appeared to him to be always yearly fair in the town, gaudy, loud and alarming. He longed for the cat.

One day they told him that the cat was dead. He was told this carefully and considerately. It was realized that he was no normal child. He went to his room and cried bitterly, for it was the first big hurt of his life, and he was a child.

Little Mandrake did not know that he would always be a child, or else he would have cried even more bitterly

He cried. Life's Yearly Fair sank away from him, and it was quiet round him as before, when he made Muffy-Muffs with the creature he was crying about. It was quiet, only his heart-beats were to be heard.

"I should like to see my cat once more," said Little Mandrake. But he said it silently. It was Speech in Silence. He could manage that now. It means a lot to be able to do that.

Then the silent companion stood beside him and laid his hand over his eyes.

It seemed to him as if he saw the whole earth covered with a network of paths. They were false paths. He recognized them distinctly. One could not help noticing that many people lost their way in the labyrinth.

But right through the middle of it all stretched a broad highway, so clear and distinctly, that one wondered very much that nobody saw it. There were only a few on the highway.

"This is the road of Pity and Compassion," said the silent companion. "Now you see into the Land of Beautiful Dreams, because you have seen through tears."

Little Mandrake now saw the cat going along the big highway. He knew him at once. Only his fur looked brighter and a strange light shone round him.

At the end of the highway stood a bridge. It was the most beautiful one he had ever seen. But one could not tell where it led to.

It disappeared into the Light.

Little Mandrake saw the cat on the bridge. The he saw it no more. The Light had gathered it up.

Then he grasped what -- up to the present he had only surmised -- the divinity of all creatures.

And he knew which road he had to take. He knew also that he would be very, very lonely on this road.

For the road of Pity and Compassion is destitute of people. Little Mandrake hid his head in his hands. Life filled him with horror.

"You will never be quite alone, though," said the silent companion.

There is no end.

There is only a beginning.

It is a small beginning.

But it is a step upwards.

In the remoteness of the path to the beautiful Land of Dreams, stands the Bridge.

© 1999 by MonkeyPants Press, an imprint of Bonobo Books, a division of Consolidated Trout, Ltd.
Last update: 03-July-2015
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