CHAPTER I. THE MEETING OF MR. WORLD AND MISS CHURCH-MEMBER
1. The dying of a century compared to the waning of a day.
2. The allegory opens with a panoramic view of human life, as seen through the open door of the twentieth century, on the Broad Highway and King's Highway. Blackana is introduced.
3. Mr. World meets Miss Church-Member at a place called Fellowship. From here she journeys with him on the Broad Highway where she witnesses several sad endings of human life.
In the closing hours of a long day I climbed a rugged path to a high eminence whence I overlooked a beautiful valley and watched, with increasing delight, the changing hues of earth and sky.
As the shadows of twilight were deepening each moment grew more strange and mysterious until the waning day seemed to be transformed into the dying of the century. Then I saw, as "through a glass darkly," the whole panorama of human life, with its painful pictures of sadness and sin, and its blessed scenes of peace and righteousness. I also heard the unmistakable wails of a suffering humanity and the turmoils of myriad contentions, all strangely mingling with the songs of glory and the shouts of spiritual triumph.
In deep silence I continued looking upon these endless confusions of the church and the world as they still played their perplexing parts in the fitful drama before me. All of this so preyed upon my mind that I involuntarily cried out, in the anguish of my soul: "When will confusion come to an end, and sweet peace cover the earth as the waters cover the sea?"
"Will you wait for the winds to answer, or shall I?" replied a voice so passing strange that I was startled.
I turned to see in whose presence I was and, to my horror, I beheld a dark creature unlike any mortal being. He was without definite form and not cumbered with any garments. His indescribable face was set with two bright eyes, softened in expression until a slight halo revealed to me a countenance half beautiful and half terrible. "Who are you, and what is your mission?" I finally ventured to ask after speech had found my lips, for I was altogether ignorant of his nature or purpose.
"I am Blackana, from the lower world of spirits, and am commanded here to stay until released."
[Illustration: Looking through the open door of the Twentieth Century.]
"Until released? What power binds you here, and how long will you abide?" I asked in dread suspense. "I must remain, as your companion and interpreter, until the vision is past."
I trembled under these announcements, but I was assured that underneath me were "the everlasting arms" and, moreover, I heard a still, small voice whispering within me: "Stand still, O mortal man! Neither Blackana nor any of his horde shall do thee harm. He hovers before thee at my bidding, and will leave thee only at my command. Ask him what thou wilt, and he must answer thee, even to the limit of his knowledge."
At this juncture, and without a moment's warning, my vision was enlarged and an unusual light flashed upon me....