A mother sat alone at an open window. Through it came the voices of thechildren as they played under the acacia-trees, and the breath of the hotafternoon air. In and out of the room flew the bees, the wild bees, withtheir legs yellow with pollen, going to and from the acacia-trees, droningall the while. She sat on a low chair before the table and darned. Shetook her work from the great basket that stood before her on the table: some lay on her knee and half covered the book that rested there. Shewatched the needle go in and out; and the dreary hum of the bees and thenoise of the children's voices became a confused murmur in her ears, as sheworked slowly and more slowly. Then the bees, the long-legged wasp-likefellows who make no honey, flew closer and closer to her head, droning. Then she grew more and more drowsy, and she laid her hand, with thestocking over it, on the edge of the table, and leaned her head upon it. And the voices of the children outside grew more and more dreamy, came nowfar, now near; then she did not hear them, but she felt under her heartwhere the ninth child lay. Bent forward and sleeping there, with the beesflying about her head, she had a weird brain-picture; she thought the beeslengthened and lengthened themselves out and became human creatures andmoved round and round her. Then one came to her softly, saying, "Let melay my hand upon thy side where the child sleeps. If I shall touch him heshall be as I."She asked, "Who are you?"And he said, "I am Health. Whom I touch will have always the red blooddancing in his veins; he will not know weariness nor pain; life will be along laugh to him.""No," said another, "let me touch; for I am Wealth. If I touch himmaterial care shall not feed on him. He shall live on the blood and sinewsof his fellow-men, if he will; and what his eye lusts for, his hand willhave. He shall not know 'I want.'" And the child lay still like lead.And another said, "Let me touch him: I am Fame. The man I touch, I leadto a high hill where all men may see him. When he dies he is notforgotten, his name rings down the centuries, each echoes it on to hisfellows. Think--not to be forgotten through the ages!"And the mother lay breathing steadily, but in the brain-picture theypressed closer to her."Let me touch the child," said one, "for I am Love. If I touch him heshall not walk through life alone. In the greatest dark, when he puts outhis hand he shall find another hand by it. When the world is against him,another shall say, 'You and I.'" And the child trembled.But another pressed close and said, "Let me touch; for I am Talent. I cando all things--that have been done before. I touch the soldier, thestatesman, the thinker, and the politician who succeed; and the writer whois never before his time, and never behind it. If I touch the child heshall not weep for failure."About the mother's head the bees were flying, touching her with their longtapering limbs; and, in her brain-picture, out of the shadow of the roomcame one with sallow face, deep-lined, the cheeks drawn into hollows, and amouth smiling quiveringly. He stretched out his hand. And the mother drewback, and cried, "Who are you?" He answered nothing; and she looked upbetween his eyelids. And she said, "What can you give the child--health?" And he said, "The man I touch, there wakes up in his blood a burning fever,that shall lick his blood as fire. The fever that I will give him shall becured when his life is cured.""You give wealth?"He shook his head. "The man whom I touch, when he bends to pick up gold,he sees suddenly a light over his head in the sky; while he looks up to seeit, the gold slips from between his fingers, or sometimes another passingtakes it from them.""Fame?"He answered, "likely not. For the man I touch there is a path traced outin the sand by a finger which no man sees. That he must follow. Sometimesit leads almost to the top, and then turns down suddenly into the valley. He must follow it, though none else sees the tracing.""Love?"He said, "He shall hunger for it--but he shall not find it. When hestretches out his arms to it, and would lay his heart against a thing heloves, then, far off along the horizon he shall see a light play. He mustgo towards it. The thing he loves will not journey with him; he musttravel alone. When he presses somewhat to his burning heart, crying,'Mine, mine, my own!' he shall hear a voice--'Renounce! renounce! this isnot thine!'""He shall succeed?"He said, "He shall fail. When he runs with others they shall reach thegoal before him. For strange voices shall call to him and strange lightsshall beckon him, and he must wait and listen. And this shall be thestrangest: far off across the burning sands where, to other men, there isonly the desert's waste, he shall see a blue sea! On that sea the sunshines always, and the water is blue as burning amethyst, and the foam iswhite on the shore. A great land rises from it, and he shall see upon themountain-tops burning gold."The mother said, "He shall reach it?"And he smiled curiously.She said, "It is real?"And he said, "What IS real?"And she looked up between his half-closed eyelids, and said, "Touch."And he leaned forward and laid his hand upon the sleeper, and whispered toit, smiling; and this only she heard--"This shall be thy reward--that theideal shall be real to thee."And the child trembled; but the mother slept on heavily and her brain-picture vanished. But deep within her the antenatal thing that lay herehad a dream. In those eyes that had never seen the day, in that half-shaped brain was a sensation of light! Light--that it never had seen. Light--that perhaps it never should see. Light--that existed somewhere!And already it had its reward: the Ideal was real to it.London.