Saturday, May 29, 2010

Regarding intolerance

An excerpt from one of my favourite books, 'The Land of Far-Beyond' by Enid Blyton. The travellers from the City of Turmoil carry the burdens of their misdeeds along the narrow and difficult path to the City of Happiness, the Land of Far-Beyond, where they have been told they will lose their crushing burdens. The book is based on 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan.

They went on for a good way, and then met a man who called upon them to stop.

"You can't pass by here unless you tell me what is in your luggage!" he said, looking at the burdens on the backs of Mr. Scornful and the children. "Nobody takes luggage to the City of Happiness. So you must be carrying something you shouldn't!"

"It isn't luggage," said Mr. Scornful, not at all liking the look of the man, who had rather wild eyes, and a hard mouth. "It's - well, I hardly know how to describe it - it's just a burden we can't get rid of till we reach the Land of Far-Beyond. So pray let us pass."

"What's in the burdens?" asked the man, his eyes flashing. "You must tell me!"

"Oh, don't be silly," said Mr. Scornful, getting tired of the wild-eyed fellow. "Let us pass - or I'll knock you down. Who are you, any way?"

"I am called Intolerance," said the man. "I live here, not far from the path. I see travellers going by on their way to the City of Happiness. But a lot of them don't deserve to get there, and I try to stop them."

"What right have you to stop anyone!" cried Peter. "You've no right at all! Let us pass."

"Tell me what's in your burdens first," said the man. Then, as nobody answered, he looked with his mad eyes at the loads on the traveller's shoulders. "Ah - I can see what is inside them! I can see!"

"You can't!" said Anna.

"I can see selfishness - and unkindness - and spite - and greed - oh, what terrible burdens! No one carrying those deserves to go to the City of Happiness!"

"I dare say, we don't deserve to go - but we are going all the same!" said Mr. Scornful. "The Stranger told us that we might go there, and he should know because he came from there. You've no right to try to stop us."

"I detest the things you carry in your burdens," said Intolerance. "I hate sinners! I hate people who do not think exactly as I do."

"It is right to hate sin, but it's all wrong to hate the sinner," said Mr. Scornful, impatiently. "You're a sinner too because you hate people who don't think as you do! Now get away or I'll push you over!"

"If you dare to lay a finger on me I will open the gates of my dam over there, and flood the path!" shouted Intolerance, quite beside himself with rage. The others looked and saw that the gurgling stream beside which they had walked for a mile or two, had now swollen into a rapid river that almost overflowed its banks. Near them was a stone dam which kept the river away from the path. In it was a sliding iron gate. Intolerance ran to open the gate of the dam.

"I'll flood you! I'll sweep you away!" he shouted. "You dare to threaten me - well, I'll show you what I can do. This is my River of Hate. I will let is overflow the Banks of Persecution, and sweep you off your feet. Then maybe you will crawl back to me and beg my pardon. You will say I am right, and will think as I do, and believe what I believe!"

"Stop!" yelled Mr. Scornful, as he saw the man turning a handle that lifted up the iron gate from the opening in the dam. "You're mad, fellow! Why try to drown people just because they are not what you think they should be! Stop!"

But Intolerance was half-mad, and he opened the gate in his stone dam. With a rush the water poured out, sickly yellow in colour, and swirled around the feet of the four travellers at once. They yelled, and tried to run from it, going forward on the path as fast as they could. But the water followed them, licking round their knees now, pouring over the banks and down to the path.

"I hope it doesn't get any deeper," cried Anna, trying to keep her balance. "Mr. Scornful, yell to him to shut the dam."

But all the yelling in the world would not make Intolerance do anything he didn't want to! He stood beside the dam, shouting.

"I'll rescue you if you'll say you're sorry, and will agree with me!"

"Silly fellow," said Peter. The boy had found a firm place on the path, and had dug his feet hard into it to withstand the force of the water. "Anna, Patience! Come here to me and hold on to my arms. I'm steady here."

The two girls were almost bowled over now by the water, which had reached up to their waists. With Mr. Scornful's help they reached their brother, and held on to his arms.

"You're as steady as a rock, Peter," gasped Anna. "I was almost in the water just then! And goodness knows where it would have taken me! It is pouring away into the field over there. Oh, how horrid of Intolerance to treat us like this."

The water rose higher still. It reached to the children's shoulders, and up to Mr. Scornful's chest.

"We shall drown soon," said Anna. "Oh, Peter - don't you think we'd better yell to Intolerance to stop the river overflowing - we can easily say we're sorry, and that we agree with everything he says - even if we don't."

"Well, I'm not going to do that!" said Peter, holding his sisters very firmly indeed. "We've a right to think as we like, and to do what we think is best. Why, Intolerance would be a real tyrant, if he had his way - trying to make everyone think as he does! And see how wicked he is really, for all he pretends to hate evil things! He has nearly drowned us in his River of Hate!"

"The water's up to my chin!" groaned poor Patience. "I'm holding on to you, Peter - but the river is very strong."

"Look! There's a raft!" suddenly cried Mr. Scornful, and he nodded over the water, which was now a raging torrent. The children could just see the raft bobbing on the surface. On it was a sturdy youth, who was holding a rope in his hand, ready to throw it to anyone caught in the flood.

"Hie!" yelled Mr. Scornful. "Hie! Can you save us?"

The youth heard his shout and threw the rope at once. Mr. Scornful gave it to the two girls, and the youth pulled them to safety on his raft. Peter swam up to it and Mr. Scornful waded over and pulled himself up.

"Goodness!" said Peter, shivering. "That was a most unpleasant adventure. Does Intolerance do this kind of thing often?"

"Whenever he can," said the youth, paddling the raft over the water. "But as soon as I see the water rushing over the path I get out my raft of Independence. It has saved many a traveller from Intolerance's River of Hate! My name is Charitable, and I'm quite the opposite of Intolerance!"

"I am glad you came when you did," said Anna, trying to squeeze the water from her clothes. "I should have been swept away the very next minute. I simply can't imagine how it was that Peter stood so steady!"

"Oh - your brother's name is Peter, is it?" said Charitable, his grey, wide-set eyes looking directly at the boy. "Well, you know what the name Peter means, don't you? It means a rock. So Peter is like his name, is he - steady as a rock when trouble comes along! That's good."

After some time the youth reached the end of the flooding water. His raft scraped on the ground and he jumped off. He helped the girls to the dry ground, and then waved his hand to where a big bonfire burned nearby.

"I always light that when I see the river flooding over the path," he said. "Then travellers can dry themselves."

The children and Mr. Scornful dried themselves gratefully by Charitable's big fire. It was a curious fire for it seemed to dry them completely in no time. Even their clothes underneath soon became dry. Charitable piled on more twigs when the fire died down.

"Why doesn't somebody punish Intolerance?" asked Peter, holding his steaming coat out to the flames. "He has no right to treat people like that."

"Oh, sooner or later he will be swept away in his own river," said Charitable. "And I don't mind telling you that I will not be out on my raft that day! He is the one person in the world I won't help, for he has persecuted others so often!"

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