Story type: Essay
As you cross the Atlantic by the Southern route the “sighting of the Azores” is one incident of your voyage. Just before daybreak the ship is shaking and the passengers roused by the deep tones of the big steam whistle.
One by one shivering forms straggle up from below, like reluctant spirits answering a premature last call. Bare feet in slippers, and shivering forms with overcoats over nightgowns, gradually line the rails.
On the left there appears, apparently, a heavy, dark bank of clouds:
“The Azores!” shouts down from the bridge your yellow-whiskered captain, looking as cheerful and warm as though it were noon.
You watch, shiver and blink as the light grows stronger behind the pinkish clouds in the east. The dark cloud settles into solid land. You see it clearly. Sharply outlined against the sky stands, forty miles long, a mammoth saw with huge teeth, irregular, sharp. The power of old-time volcanoes made all of that land, and those sharp saw-teeth, pointing toward the sky, are the destroyers of long ago, cold and dead now, but telling ominously of the power that lies hidden below.
Between you and the brightening sunrise, suspended in the “crow’s nest,” half way up the mast, stands the sailor who watches the sea for you through the night. He calls out, and ahead to the left you see a small boat filled with human beings that seem scarcely as big as your finger. Your ship could plough through miles of such small boats– but out there in the ocean, just as well as inside the biggest court-house, LAW rules, and the big ship must turn out for the small fishing boat.
You realize the power and beauty of law, as our governor and sustainer. You see that laws of little men reach out two thousand miles into the sea. You think of the laws of the universe that stretch across the immeasurable distances of time and space, protecting ALL, and insuring ultimate fulfilment of the destinies of all the worlds.
As those fishermen of the Azores work safely, under full protection, in their little lost corner of the great ocean, so we, in our little world, our little insignificant corner of space, work out our tiny problems safely under the splendid protection of Divine Law and wisdom sent to us from some far- off point of which we know nothing.
The light of the rising sun brings out from shore many other small boats, each with its load of men who wave their arms to the steamship and cheer against the sound of the waves and wind. To them that ship is like the fast express that passes the country railroad station, or the comet that whirls round our sun and off again.
Those fishermen feel that THEY are the REAL world; the steamship and outside creation are only half imagined, interesting phenomena. You look down from the deck and the fishermen seem unreal little ornaments of your European excursion. And so the two sets of human beings go their ways–to each nothing is important, save that which each is doing.
There are great planets and suns that roll past us across this cosmic ocean of ether. Our pathetic little round earth looks to them as that fishing-boat of the Azores looks to you. And WE think of those great interstellar travellers as the fisherman in his little boat thinks of the ocean liner–the great star to us is merely an interesting feature of OUR sky. And we actually wonder whether there is any thought on that big, distant sun; any intelligence on the vast ship that ploughs the ocean of limitless space. —-
The high ridge of volcanic peaks and the others near it are made fertile and green by soil gradually developed through the centuries by seeds brought across the ocean by winds and birds.
The tops of the mountains are black lava. Lakes of black water fill some of the quiet craters. Only, here and there, the rising sulphur smoke from rocky fissures tells of heat and power smouldering.
The last great eruption of the volcanoes occurred a little more than two hundred years ago–so the inhabitants laugh if you speak of danger. They forget that two hundred years in the earth’s life is as two minutes in the life of a man–and that what a man did two minutes since he may do again.
Fences are built across the fields of thin soil that cover the lava. Each inch of that land thrown up by fire “belongs” to some man. White houses stand at the edges of deep lava canyons running from the mountain tops to the sea’s edge canyons made by pouring lava or by the splitting of the mountains under fearful pressure.
Children play about the blocks of lava–and all their lives, no matter where they may go, those children will think of that far-off island as the only real home, and of black lava blocks as the only REAL kind of stone.
From your passing boat you cannot see these children. Their little lives, lost in the far-off sea, seem as unimportant as the lives of the fish that swim below you.
But some child playing there to-day may be like that other island child, Napoleon, and live to make the rest of the world talk about the island that bred him. Or, better still, some one of those children, with a brain made powerful by solitude and noble thought, may have the idea that shall help us all, teach us more and more to think kindly of each other and help each other, instead of passing each other coldly and indifferently as the big ship passes the little, far-off island.
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