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Title: The Gates Ajar
Author: Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            THE GATES AJAR.

                                  BY

                       ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS.

      “Splendor! Immensity! Eternity! Grand words! Great things!
     A little definite happiness would be more to the purpose.”
                                    MADAME DE GASPARIN

                                BOSTON:
                     JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY,
           LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.
                                 1873.

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by

                        FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.,

In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

               UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO.,
                              CAMBRIDGE.



  To my father, whose life, like a perfume from beyond the Gates,
  penetrates every life which approaches it, the readers of this little
  book will owe whatever pleasant thing they may find within its pages.

E. S. P.

ANDOVER, October 22, 1868.



                            THE GATES AJAR.



I.


One week; only one week to-day, this twenty-first of February.

I have been sitting here in the dark and thinking about it, till it
seems so horribly long and so horribly short; it has been such a week to
live through, and it is such a small part of the weeks that must be
lived through, that I could think no longer, but lighted my lamp and
opened my desk to find something to do.

I was tossing my paper about,--only my own: the packages in the yellow
envelopes I have not been quite brave enough to open yet,--when I came
across this poor little book in which I used to keep memoranda of the
weather, and my lovers, when I was a school-girl. I turned the leaves,
smiling to see how many blank pages were left, and took up my pen, and
now I am not smiling any more.

If it had not come exactly as it did, it seems to me as if I could bear
it better. They tell me that it should not have been such a shock.
“Your brother had been in the army so long that you should have been
prepared for anything. Everybody knows by what a hair a soldier’s life
is always hanging,” and a great deal more that I am afraid I have not
listened to. I suppose it is all true; but that never makes it any
easier.

The house feels like a prison. I walk up and down and wonder that I ever
called it home. Something is the matter with the sunsets; they come and
go, and I do not notice them. Something ails the voices of the children,
snowballing down the street; all the music has gone out of them, and
they hurt me like knives. The harmless, happy children!--and Roy loved
the little children.

Why, it seems to me as if the world were spinning around in the light
and wind and laughter, and God just stretched down His hand one morning
and put it out.

It was such a dear, pleasant world to be put out!

It was never dearer or more pleasant than it was on that morning. I had
not been as happy for weeks. I came up from the Post-Office singing to
myself. His letter was so bright and full of mischief! I had not had
one like it all the winter. I have laid it away by itself, filled with
his jokes and pet names, “Mamie” or “Queen Mamie” every other line, and
signed

                     “Until next time, your happy

                                             ROY.”

I wonder if all brothers and sisters keep up the baby-names as we did. I
wonder if I shall ever become used to living without them.

I read the letter over a great many times, and stopped to tell Mrs.
Bland the news in it, and wondered what had kept it so long on the way,
and wondered if it could be true that he would have a furlough in May.
It seemed too good to be true. If I had been fourteen instead of
twenty-four, I should have jumped up and down and clapped my hands there
in the street. The sky was so bright that I could scarcely turn up my
eyes to look at it. The sunshine was shivered into little lances all
over the glaring white crust. There was a snow-bird chirping and pecking
on the maple-tree as I came in.

I went up and opened my window; sat down by it and drew a long breath,
and began to count the days till May. I must have sat there as much as
half an hour. I was so happy counting the days that I did not hear the
front gate, and when I looked down a man stood there,--a great, rough
man,--who shouted up that he was in a hurry, and wanted seventy-five
cents for a telegram that he had brought over from East Homer. I believe
I went down and paid him, sent him away, came up here and locked the
door before I read it.

Phœbe found me here at dinner-time.

If I could have gone to him, could have busied myself with packing and
journeying, could have been forced to think and plan, could have had the
shadow of a hope of one more look, one word, I suppose I should have
taken it differently. Those two words--“Shot dead”--shut me up and
walled me in, as I think people must feel shut up and walled in, in
Hell. I write the words most solemnly, for I know that there has been
Hell in my heart.

It is all over now. He came back, and they brought him up the steps, and
I listened to their feet,--so many feet; he used to come bounding in.
They let me see him for a minute, and there was a funeral, and Mrs.
Bland came over, and she and Phœbe attended to everything, I suppose.
I did not notice nor think till we had left him out there in the cold
and had come back. The windows of his room were opened, and the bitter
wind swept in. The house was still and damp. Nobody was there to welcome
me. Nobody would ever be * * * *

Poor old Phœbe! I had forgotten her. She was waiting at the kitchen
window in her black bonnet; she took off my things and made me a cup of
tea, and kept at work near me for a little while, wiping her eyes. She
came in just now, when I had left my unfinished sentence to dry, sitting
here with my face in my hands.

“Laws now, Miss Mary, my dear! This won’t never do,--a rebellin’ agin
Providence, and singein’ your hair on the lamp chimney this way! The
dining-room fire’s goin’ beautiful, and the salmon is toasted to a
brown. Put away them papers and come right along!”



II.


February 23d.

Who originated that most exquisite of inquisitions, the condolence
system?

A solid blow has in itself the elements of its rebound; it arouses the
antagonism of the life on which it falls; its relief is the relief of a
combat.

But a hundred little needles pricking at us,--what is to be done with
them? The hands hang down, the knees are feeble. We cannot so much as
gasp, because they _are_ little needles.

I know that there are those who like these calls; but why, in the name
of all sweet pity, must we endure them without respect of persons, as we
would endure a wedding reception or make a party-call?

Perhaps I write excitedly and hardly. I feel excited and hard.

I am sure I do not mean to be ungrateful for real sorrowful sympathy,
however imperfectly it may be shown, or that near friends (if one has
them), cannot give, in such a time as this, actual strength, even if
they fail of comfort, by look and tone and love. But it is not near
friends who are apt to wound, nor real sympathy which sharpens the worst
of the needles. It is the fact that all your chance acquaintances feel
called upon to bring their curious eyes and jarring words right into the
silence of your first astonishment; taking you in a round of morning
calls with kid gloves and parasol, and the liberty to turn your heart
about and cut into it at pleasure. You may quiver at every touch, but
there is no escape, because it is “the thing.”

For instance: Meta Tripp came in this afternoon,--I have refused myself
to everybody but Mrs. Bland, before, but Meta caught me in the parlor,
and there was no escape. She had come, it was plain enough, because she
must, and she had come early, because, she too having lost a brother in
the war, she was expected to be very sorry for me. Very likely she was,
and very likely she did the best she knew how, but she was--not as
uncomfortable as I, but as uncomfortable as she could be, and was
evidently glad when it was over. She observed, as she went out, that I
shouldn’t feel so sad by and by. She felt very sad at first when Jack
died, but everybody got over that after a time. The girls were going to
sew for the Fair next week at Mr. Quirk’s, and she hoped I would exert
myself and come.

Ah, well:--

    “First learn to love one living man,
     Then mayst thou think upon the dead.”

It is not that the child is to be blamed for not knowing enough to stay
away; but her coming here has made me wonder whether I am different from
other women; why Roy was so much more to me than many brothers are to
many sisters. I think it must be that there never _was_ another like
Roy. Then we have lived together so long, we two alone, since father
died, that he had grown to me, heart of my heart, and life of my life.
It did not seem as if he _could_ be taken, and I be left.

Besides, I suppose most young women of my age have their dreams, and a
future probable or possible, which makes the very incompleteness of life
sweet, because of the symmetry which is waiting somewhere. But that was
settled so long ago for me that it makes it very different. Roy was all
there was.


February 26th.

Death and Heaven could not seem very different to a Pagan from what they
seem to me.

I say this deliberately. It has been deliberately forced upon me. That
of which I had a faint consciousness in the first shock takes shape now.
I do not see how one with such thoughts in her heart as I have had can
possibly be “regenerate,” or stand any chance of ever becoming “one of
the redeemed.” And here I am, what I have been for six years, a member
of an Evangelical church, in good and regular standing!

The bare, blank sense of physical repulsion from death, which was all
the idea I had of anything when they first brought him home, has not
gone yet. It is horrible. It was cruel. Roy, all I had in the wide
world,--Roy, with the flash in his eyes, with his smile that lighted the
house all up; with his pretty, soft hair that I used to curl and kiss
about my finger, his bounding step, his strong arms that folded me in
and cared for me,--Roy snatched away in an instant by a dreadful God,
and laid out there in the wet and snow,--in the hideous wet and
snow,--never to kiss him, never to see him any more! * * * *

He was a good boy. Roy was a good boy. He must have gone to Heaven. But
I know nothing about Heaven. It is very far off. In my best and happiest
days, I never liked to think of it. If I were to go there, it could do
me no good, for I should not see Roy. Or if by chance I should see him
standing up among the grand, white angels, he would not be the old dear
Roy. I should grow so tired of singing! Should long and fret for one
little talk,--for I never said good by, and--

I will stop this.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scrap from the German of Bürger, which I came across to-day, shall be
copied here.

    “Be calm, my child, forget thy woe,
     And think of God and Heaven;
     Christ thy Redeemer hath to thee
     Himself for comfort given.

    “O mother, mother, what is Heaven?
     O mother, what is Hell?
     To be with Wilhelm,--that’s my Heaven;
     Without him,--that’s my Hell.”


February 27th.

Miss Meta Tripp, in the ignorance of her little silly heart, has done me
a great mischief.

Phœbe prepared me for it, by observing, when she came up yesterday
to dust my room, that “folks was all sayin’ that Mary Cabot”--(Homer is
not an aristocratic town, and Phœbe doffs and dons my title at her
own sweet will)--“that Mary Cabot was dreadful low sence Royal died, and
hadn’t ought to stay shut up by herself, day in and day out. It was
behaving con-trary to the will of Providence, and very bad for her
health, too.” Moreover, Mrs. Bland, who called this morning with her
three babies,--she never is able to stir out of the house without those
children, poor thing!--lingered awkwardly on the door-steps as she went
away, and hoped that Mary my dear wouldn’t take it unkindly, but she did
wish that I would exert myself more to see my friends and receive
comfort in my affliction. She didn’t want to interfere, or bother me,
or--but--people would talk, and--

My good little minister’s wife broke down all in a blush, at this point
in her “porochial duties” (I more than suspect that her husband had a
hand in the matter), so I took pity on her embarrassment, and said
smiling that I would think about it.

I see just how the leaven has spread. Miss Meta, a little overwhelmed
and a good deal mystified by her call here, pronounces “poor Mary Cabot
_so_ sad; she wouldn’t talk about Royal; and you couldn’t persuade her
to come to the Fair; and she was so _sober!_--why, it was dreadful!”

Therefore, Homer has made up its mind that I shall become resigned in an
arithmetical manner, and comforted according to the Rule of Three.

I wish I could go away! I wish I could go away and creep into the ground
and die! If nobody need ever speak any more words to me! If anybody only
knew _what_ to say!

Little Mrs. Bland has been very kind, and I thank her with all my heart.
But she does not know. She does not understand. Her happy heart is bound
up in her little live children. She never laid anybody away under the
snow without a chance to say good by.

As for the minister, he came, of course, as it was proper that he
should, before the funeral, and once after. He is a very good man, but I
am afraid of him, and I am glad that he has not come again.


Night.

I can only repeat and re-echo what I wrote this noon. If anybody knew
_what_ to say!

Just after supper I heard the door-bell, and, looking out of the window,
I caught a glimpse of Deacon Quirk’s old drab felt hat, on the upper
step. My heart sank, but there was no help for me. I waited for Phœbe
to bring up his name, desperately listening to her heavy steps, and
letting her knock three times before I answered. I confess to having
taken my hair down twice, washed my hands to a most unnecessary extent,
and been a long time brushing my dress; also to forgetting my
handkerchief, and having to go back for it after I was down stairs.
Deacon Quirk looked tired of waiting. I hope he was.

O, what an ill-natured thing to say! What is coming over me? What would
Roy think? What could he?

“Good evening, Mary,” said the Deacon, severely, when I went in.
Probably he did not mean to speak severely, but the truth is, I think he
was a little vexed that I had kept him waiting. I said good evening, and
apologized for my delay, and sat down as far from him as I conveniently
could. There was an awful silence.

“I came in this evening,” said the Deacon, breaking it with a cough, “I
came--hem!--to confer with you--”

I looked up. “I thought somebody had ought to come,” continued the
Deacon, “to confer with you as a Christian brother on your spiritooal
condition.”

I opened my eyes.

“To confer with you on your spiritooal condition,” repeated my visitor.
“I understand that you have had some unfortoonate exercises of mind
under your affliction, and I observed that you absented yourself from
the Communion Table last Sunday.”

“I did.”

“Intentionally?”

“Intentionally.”

He seemed to expect me to say something more; and, seeing that there was
no help for it, I answered.

“I did not feel fit to go. I should not have dared to go. God does not
seem to me just now what He used to. He has dealt very bitterly with me.
But, however wicked I may be, I will not mock Him. I think, Deacon
Quirk, that I did right to stay away.”

“Well,” said the Deacon, twirling his hat with a puzzled look, “perhaps
you did. But I don’t see the excuse for any such feelings as would make
it necessary. I think it my duty to tell you, Mary, that I am sorry to
see you in such a rebellious state of mind.”

I made no reply.

“Afflictions come from God,” he observed, looking at me as impressively
as if he supposed that I had never heard the statement before.
“Afflictions come from God, and, however afflictin’ or however crushin’
they may be, it is our duty to submit to them. Glory in triboolation,
St. Paul says; glory in triboolation.”

I continued silent.

“I sympathize with you in this sad dispensation,” he proceeded. “Of
course you was very fond of Royal; it’s natural you should be, quite
natural--” He stopped, perplexed, I suppose, by something in my face.
“Yes, it’s very natural; poor human nature sets a great deal by earthly
props and affections. But it’s your duty, as a Christian and a
church-member, to be resigned.”

I tapped the floor with my foot. I began to think that I could not bear
much more.

“To be resigned, my dear young friend. To say ‘Abba, Father.’ and pray
that the will of the Lord be done.”

“Deacon Quirk!” said I. “I am _not_ resigned. I pray the dear Lord with
all my heart to make me so, but I will not say that I am, until I
am,--if ever that time comes. As for those words about the Lord’s will,
I would no more take them on my lips than I would blasphemy, unless I
could speak them honestly,--and that I cannot do. We had better talk of
something else now, had we not?”

Deacon Quirk looked at me. It struck me that he would look very much so
at a Mormon or a Hottentot, and I wondered whether he were going to
excommunicate me on the spot.

As soon as he began to speak, however, I saw that he was only
bewildered,--honestly bewildered, and honestly shocked: I do not doubt
that I had said bewildering and shocking things.

“My friend,” he said solemnly, “I shall pray for you and leave you in
the hands of God. Your brother, whom He has removed from this earthly
life for His own wise--”

“We will not talk any more about Roy, if you please,” I interrupted;
“_he_ is happy and safe.”

“Hem!--I hope so,” he replied, moving uneasily in his chair; “I believe
he never made a profession of religion, but there is no limit to the
mercy of God. It is very unsafe for the young to think that they can
rely on a death-bed repentance, but our God is a covenant-keeping God,
and Royal’s mother was a pious woman. If you cannot say with certainty
that he is numbered among the redeemed, you are justified, perhaps, in
hoping so.”

I turned sharply on him, but words died on my lips. How could I tell the
man of that short, dear letter that came to me in December,--that Roy’s
was no death-bed repentance, but the quiet, natural growth of a life
that had always been the life of the pure in heart; of his manly beliefs
and unselfish motives; of that dawning sense of friendship with Christ
of which he used to speak so modestly, dreading lest he should not be
honest with himself? “Perhaps I ought not to call myself a Christian,”
he wrote,--I learned the words by heart.--“and I shall make no
profession to be such, till I am sure of it, but my life has not seemed
to me for a long time to be my own. ‘Bought with a price’ just expresses
it. I can point to no time at which I was conscious by any revolution of
feeling of ‘experiencing a change of heart,’ but it seems to me that a
man’s heart might be changed for all that. I do not know that it is
necessary for us to be able to watch every footprint of God. The _way_
is all that concerns us,--to see that we follow it and Him. This I am
sure of; and knocking about in this army life only convinces me of what
I felt in a certain way before,--that it is the only way, and He the
only guide _to_ follow.”

But how could I say anything of this to Deacon Quirk?--this my sealed
and sacred treasure, of all that Roy left me the dearest. At any rate I
did not. It seemed both obstinate and cruel in him to come there and say
what he had been saying. He might have known that I would not say that
Roy had gone to Heaven, if--why, if there had been the breath of a
doubt. It is a possibility of which I cannot rationally conceive, but I
suppose that his name would never have passed my lips.

So I turned away from Deacon Quirk, and shut my mouth, and waited for
him to finish. Whether the idea began to struggle into his mind that he
_might_ not have been making a very comforting remark, I cannot say; but
he started very soon to go.

“Supposing you are right, and Royal was saved at the eleventh hour,” he
said at parting, with one of his stolid efforts to be consolatory, that
are worse than his rebukes, “if he is singing the song of Moses and the
Lamb (he pointed with his big, dingy thumb at the ceiling), _he_ doesn’t
rebel against the doings of Providence. All _his_ affections are subdued
to God,--merged, as you might say,--merged in worshipping before the
great White Throne. He doesn’t think this miser’ble earthly spere of any
importance, compared with that eternal and exceeding weight of glory. In
the appropriate words of the poet,--

    ‘O, not to one created thing
       Shall our embrace be given,
     But all our joy shall be in God,
       For only God is Heaven.’

Those are very spiritooal and scripteral lines, and it’s very proper to
reflect how true they are.”

I saw him go out, and came up here and locked myself in, and have been
walking round and round the room. I must have walked a good while, for I
feel as weak as a baby.

Can the man in any state of existence be made to comprehend that he has
been holding me on the rack this whole evening?

Yet he came under a strict sense of duty, and in the kindness of all the
heart he has! I know, or I ought to know, that he is a good man,--far
better in the sight of God to-night, I do not doubt, than I am.

But it hurts,--it cuts,--that thing which he said as he went out;
because I suppose it must be true; because it seems to me greater than I
can bear to have it true.

Roy, away in that dreadful Heaven, can have no thought of me, cannot
remember how I loved him, how he left me all alone. The singing and the
worshipping must take up all his time. God wants it all. He is a
“Jealous God.” I am nothing any more to Roy.


March 2.

And once I was much,--very much to him!

His Mamie, his poor Queen Mamie,--dearer, he used to say, than all the
world to him,--I don’t see how he can like it so well up there as to
forget her. Though Roy was a very good boy. But this poor, wicked little
Mamie,--why, I fall to pitying her as if she were some one else, and
wish that some one would cry over her a little. I can’t cry.

Roy used to say a thing,--I have not the words, but it was like
this,--that one must be either very young or very ungenerous, if one
could find time to pity one’s self.

I have lain for two nights, with my eyes open all night long. I thought
that perhaps I might see him. I have been praying for a touch, a sign,
only for something to break the silence into which he has gone. But
there is no answer, none. The light burns blue, and I see at last that
it is morning, and go down stairs alone, and so the day begins.

Something of Mrs. Browning’s has been keeping a dull mechanical time in
my brain all day.

                          “God keeps a niche
    In Heaven to hold our idols: ... albeit
    He brake them to our faces, and denied
    That our close kisses should impair their white.”

But why must He take them? And why should He keep them there? Shall we
ever see them framed in their glorious gloom? Will He let us touch them
_then_? Or must we stand like a poor worshipper at a Cathedral, looking
up at his pictured saint afar off upon the other side?

Has everything stopped just here? Our talks together in the twilight,
our planning and hoping and dreaming together; our walks and rides and
laughing; our reading and singing and loving,--these then are all gone
out forever?

God forgive the words! but Heaven will never be Heaven to me without
them.


March 4.

Perhaps I had better not write any more here after this.

On looking over the leaves, I see that the little green book has become
an outlet for the shallower part of pain.

Meta Tripp and Deacon Quirk, gossip and sympathy that have buzzed into
my trouble and annoyed me like wasps (we are apt to make more fuss over
a wasp-sting than a sabre-cut), just that proportion of suffering which
alone can ever be put into words,--the surface.

I begin to understand what I never understood till now,--what people
mean by the luxury of grief. No, I am sure that I never understood it,
because my pride suffered as much as any part of me in that other time.
I would no more have spent two consecutive hours drifting at the mercy
of my thoughts, than I would have put my hand into the furnace fire.
The right to mourn makes everything different. Then, as to mother, I was
very young when she died, and father, though I loved him, was never to
me what Roy has been.

This luxury of grief, like all luxuries, is pleasurable. Though, as I
was saying, it is only the shallow part of one’s heart--I imagine that
the deepest hearts have their shallows--which can be filled by it, still
it brings a shallow relief.

Let it be confessed to this honest book, that, driven to it by
desperation, I found in it a wretched sort of content.

Being a little stronger now physically, I shall try to be a little
braver; it will do no harm to try. So I seem to see that it was the
content of poison,--salt-water poured between shipwrecked lips.

At any rate, I mean to put the book away and lock it up. Roy used to say
that he did not believe in journals. I begin to see why.



III


March 7.

I have taken out my book, and am going to write again. But there is an
excellent reason. I have something else than myself to write about.

This morning Phœbe persuaded me to walk down to the office, “To keep
up my spirits and get some salt pork.”

She brought my things and put them on me while I was hesitating; tied my
victorine and buttoned my gloves; warmed my boots, and fussed about me
as if I had been a baby. It did me good to be taken care of, and I
thanked her softly; a little more softly than I am apt to speak to
Phœbe.

“Bless your soul, my dear!” she said, winking briskly, “I don’t want no
thanks. It’s thanks enough jest to see one of your old looks comin’ over
you for a spell, sence--”

She knocked over a chair with her broom, and left her sentence
unfinished. Phœbe has always had a queer, clinging, superior sort of
love for us both. She dandled us on her knees, and made all our
rag-dolls, and carried us through measles and mumps and the rest. Then
mother’s early death threw all the care upon her. I believe that in her
secret heart she considers me more her child than her mistress. It cost
a great many battles to become established as “Miss Mary.”

“I should like to know,” she would say, throwing back her great, square
shoulders and towering up in front of me,--“I should like to know if you
s’pose I’m a goin’ to ‘Miss’ anybody that I’ve trotted to Bamberry Cross
as many times as I have you, Mary Cabot! Catch me!”

I remember how she would insist on calling me “her baby” after I was in
long dresses, and that it mortified me cruelly once when Meta Tripp was
here to tea with some Boston cousins. Poor, good Phœbe! Her rough
love seems worth more to me, now that it is all I have left me in the
world. It occurs to me that I may not have taken notice enough of her
lately. She has done her honest best to comfort me, and she loved Roy,
too.

But about the letter. I wrapped my face up closely in the _crêpe_, so
that, if I met Deacon Quirk, he should not recognize me, and, thinking
that the air was pleasant as I walked, came home with the pork for
Phœbe and a letter for myself. I did not open it; in fact, I forgot
all about it, till I had been at home for half an hour. I cannot bear to
open a letter since that morning when the lances of light fell on the
snow. They have written to me from everywhere,--uncles and cousins and
old school-friends; well-meaning people; saying each the same thing in
the same way,--no, not that exactly, and very likely I should feel hurt
and lonely if they did not write; but sometimes I wish it did not all
have to be read.

So I did not notice much about my letter this morning, till presently it
occurred to me that what must be done had better be done quickly; so I
drew up my chair to the desk, prepared to read and answer on the spot.
Something about the writing and the signature rather pleased me: it was
dated from Kansas, and was signed with the name of my mother’s youngest
sister, Winifred Forceythe. I will lay the letter in between these two
leaves, for it seems to suit the pleasant, spring-like day; besides, I
took out the green book again on account of it.

LAWRENCE, KANSAS, February 21.

     MY DEAR CHILD,--I have been thinking how happy you will be by and
     by because Roy is happy.

     And yet I know--I understand--

     You have been in all my thoughts, and they have been such pitiful,
     tender thoughts, that I cannot help letting you know that somebody
     is sorry for you. For the rest, the heart knoweth its own, and I
     am, after all, too much of a stranger to my sister’s child to
     intermeddle.

     So my letter dies upon my pen. You cannot bear words yet. How
     should I dare to fret you with them? I can only reach you by my
     silence, and leave you with the Heart that bled and broke for you
     and Roy.

Your Aunt,

WINIFRED FORCEYTHE.

POSTSCRIPT, February 23.

     I open my letter to add, that I am thinking of coming to New
     England with Faith,--you know Faith and I have nobody but each
     other now. Indeed, I may be on my way by the time this reaches
     you. It is just possible that I may not come back to the West. I
     shall be for a time at your uncle Calvin’s, and then my husband’s
     friends think that they must have me. I should like to see you for
     a day or two, but if you do not care to see me, say so. If you let
     me come because you think you must, I shall find it out from your
     face in an hour. I should like to be something to you, or do
     something for you; but if I cannot, I would rather not come.

I like that letter.

I have written to her to come, and in such a way that I think she will
understand me to mean what I say. I have not seen her since I was a
child. I know that she was very much younger than my mother; that she
spent her young ladyhood teaching at the South;--grandfather had enough
with which to support her, but I have heard it said that she preferred
to take care of herself;--that she finally married a poor minister,
whose sermons people liked, but whose coat was shockingly shabby; that
she left the comforts and elegances and friends of New England to go to
the West and bury herself in an unheard-of little place with him (I
think she must have loved him); that he afterwards settled in Lawrence;
that there, after they had been married some childless years, this
little Faith was born; and that there Uncle Forceythe died about three
years ago; that is about all I know of her. I suppose her share of
Grandfather Burleigh’s little property supports her respectably. I
understand that she has been living a sort of missionary life among her
husband’s people since his death, and that they think they shall never
see her like again. It is they who keep her from coming home again,
Uncle Calvin’s wife told me once; they and one other thing,--her
husband’s grave.

I hope she will come to see me. I notice one strange thing about her
letter. She does not use the ugly words “death” and “dying.” I don’t
know exactly what she put in their places, but something that had a
pleasant sound.

“To be happy because Roy is happy.” I wonder if she really thinks it is
possible.

I wonder what makes the words chase me about.



IV.


May 5.

I am afraid that my brave resolutions are all breaking down.

The stillness of the May days is creeping into everything; the days in
which the furlough was to come; in which the bitter Peace has come
instead, and in which he would have been at home, never to go away from
me any more.

The lazy winds are choking me. Their faint sweetness makes me sick. The
moist, rich loam is ploughed in the garden; the grass, more golden than
green, springs in the warm hollow by the front gate; the great maple,
just reaching up to tap at the window, blazes and bows under its weight
of scarlet blossoms. I cannot bear their perfume; it comes up in great
breaths, when the window is opened. I wish that little cricket, just
waked from his winter’s nap, would not sit there on the sill and chirp
at me. I hate the bluebirds flashing in and out of the carmine cloud
that the maple makes, and singing, singing, everywhere.

It is easy to understand how Bianca heard “The nightingales sing through
her head,” how she could call them “Owl-like birds,” who sang “for
spite,” who sang “for hate,” who sang “for doom.”

Most of all I hate the maple. I wish winter were back again to fold it
away in white, with its bare, black fingers only to come tapping at the
window. “Roy’s maple” we used to call it. How much fun he had out of
that old tree!

As far back as I can remember, we never considered spring to be
officially introduced till we had had a fight with the red blossoms. Roy
used to pelt me well; but with that pretty chivalry of his, which was
rare in such a little fellow, which developed afterwards into that rarer
treatment of women, of which every one speaks who speaks of him, he
would stop the play the instant it threatened roughness. I used to be
glad, though, that I had strength and courage enough to make it some fun
to him.

The maple is full of pictures of Roy. Roy not yet over the dignity of
his first boots, aiming for the cross-barred branch, coming to the
ground with a terrible wrench on his ankle, straight up again before
anybody could stop him, and sitting there on the ugly, swaying bough as
white as a sheet, to wave his cap,--“There, I meant to do it, and I
have!” Roy, chopping off the twigs for kindling-wood in his mud oven,
and sending his hatchet right through the parlor window. Roy cutting
leaves for me, and then pulling all my wreaths down over my nose every
time I put them on! Roy making me jump half-way across the room with a
sudden thump on my window, and, looking out, I would see him with his
hat off and hair blown from his forehead, framed in by the scented
blossoms, or the quivering green, or the flame of blood-red leaves. But
there is no end to them if I begin.

I had planned, if he came this week, to strip the richest branches, and
fill his room.


May 6.

The May-day stillness, the lazy winds, the sweetness in the air, are all
gone. A miserable northeasterly storm has set in. The garden loam is a
mass of mud; the golden grass is drenched; the poor little cricket is
drowned in a mud-puddle; the bluebirds are huddled among the leaves,
with their heads under their drabbled wings, and the maple blossoms,
dull and shrunken, drip against the glass.

It begins to be evident that it will never do for me to live alone. Yet
who is there in the wide world that I could bear to bring here--into
Roy’s place?

A little old-fashioned book, bound in green and gold, attracted my
attention this morning while I was dusting the library. It proved to be
my mother’s copy of “Elia,”--one that father had given her, I saw by the
fly-leaf, in their early engagement days. It is some time since I have
read Charles Lamb; indeed, since the middle of February I have read
nothing of any sort. Phœbe dries the Journal for me every night, and
sometimes I glance at the Telegraphic Summary, and sometimes I don’t.

“You used to be fond enough of books,” Mrs. Bland says, looking
puzzled,--“regular blue-stocking, Mr. Bland called you (no personal
objection to you, of course, my dear, but he _doesn’t_ like literary
women, which is a great comfort to me). Why don’t you read and divert
yourself now?”

But my brain, like the rest of me, seems to be crushed. I could not
follow three pages of history with attention. Shakespeare, Wordsworth,
Whittier, Mrs. Browning, are filled with Roy’s marks,--and so down the
shelf. Besides, poetry strikes as nothing else does, deep into the roots
of things. One finds everywhere some strain at the fibres of one’s
heart. A mind must be healthily reconciled to actual life, before a
poet--at least most poets--can help it. We must learn to bear and to
work, before we can spare strength to dream.

To hymns and hymn-like poems, exception should be made. Some of them are
like soft hands stealing into ours in the dark, and holding us fast
without a spoken word. I do not know how many times Whittier’s “Psalm,”
and that old cry of Cowper’s, “God moves in a mysterious way,” have
quieted me,--just the sound of the words; when I was too wild to take in
their meaning, and too wicked to believe them if I had.

As to novels, (by the way, Meta Tripp sent me over four yesterday
afternoon, among which notice “Aurora Floyd” and “Uncle Silas,”) the
author of “Rutledge” expresses my feeling about them precisely. I do not
remember her exact words, but they are not unlike these. “She had far
outlived the passion of ordinary novels; and the few which struck the
depths of her experience gave her more pain than pleasure.”

However, I took up poor “Elia” this morning, and stumbled upon “Dream
Children,” to which, for pathos and symmetry, I have read few things
superior in the language. Years ago, I almost knew it by heart, but it
has slipped out of memory with many other things of late. Any book, if
it be one of those which Lamb calls “books which _are_ books,” put
before us at different periods of life, will unfold to us new
meanings,--wheels within wheels, delicate springs of purpose to which,
at the last reading, we were stone-blind; gems which perhaps the author
ignorantly cut and polished.

A sentence in this “Dream Children,” which at eighteen I passed by with
a compassionate sort of wonder, only thinking that it gave me “the
blues” to read it, and that I was glad Roy was alive, I have seized upon
and learned all over again now. I write it down to the dull music of the
rain.

“And how, when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed
as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt
life and death; and how I bore his death, as I thought, pretty well at
first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not
cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if
I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how
much I had loved him. I missed his kindness and I missed his crossness,
and wished him to be alive again to be quarrelling with him (for we
quarrelled sometimes), rather than not have him again.”

How still the house is! I can hear the coach rumbling away at the
half-mile corner, coming up from the evening train. A little arrow of
light has just cut the gray gloom of the West.


Ten o’clock.

The coach to which I sat listening rumbled up to the gate and stopped.
Puzzled for the moment, and feeling as inhospitable as I knew how, I
went down to the door. The driver was already on the steps, with a
bundle in his arms that proved to be a rather minute child; and a lady,
veiled, was just stepping from the carriage into the rain. Of course I
came to my senses at that, and, calling to Phœbe that Mrs. Forceythe
had come, sent her out an umbrella.

She surprised me by running lightly up the steps. I had imagined a
somewhat advanced age and a sedate amount of infirmities, to be
necessary concomitants of aunthood. She came in all sparkling with
rain-drops, and, gently pushing aside the hand with which I was trying
to pay her driver, said, laughing:--

“Here we are, bag and baggage, you see, ‘big trunk, little trunk,’ &c.,
&c. You did not expect me? Ah, my letter missed then. It is too bad to
take you by storm in this way. Come, Faith! No, don’t trouble about the
trunks just now. Shall I go right in here?”

Her voice had a sparkle in it, like the drops on her veil, but it was
low and very sweet. I took her in by the dining-room fire, and was
turning to take off the little girl’s things, when a soft hand stayed
me, and I saw that she had drawn off the wet veil. A face somewhat pale
looked down at me,--she is taller than I,--with large, compassionate
eyes.

“I am too wet to kiss you, but I must have a look,” she said, smiling.
“That will do. You are like your mother, very like.”

I don’t know what possessed me, whether it was the sudden, sweet feeling
of kinship with something alive, or whether it was her face or her
voice, or all together, but I said:--

“I don’t think you are too wet to be kissed,” and threw my arms about
her neck,--I am not of the kissing kind, either, and I had on my new
bombazine, and she _was_ very wet.

I thought she looked pleased.

Phœbe was sent to open the register in the blue room, and as soon as
it was warm I went up with them, leading Faith by the hand. I am unused
to children, and she kept stepping on my dress, and spinning around and
tipping over, in the most astonishing manner. It strikingly reminded me
of a top at the last gasp. Her mother observed that she was tired and
sleepy. Phœbe was waiting around awkwardly up stairs, with fresh
towels on her arm. Aunt Winifred turned and held out her hand.

“Well, Phœbe, I am glad to see you. This is Phœbe, I am sure? You
have altered with everything else since I was here before. You keep
bright and well, I hope, and take good care of Miss Mary?”

It was a simple enough thing, to be sure, her taking the trouble to
notice the old servant with whom she had scarcely ever exchanged a
half-dozen words; but I liked it. I liked the way, too, in which it was
done. It reminded me of Roy’s fine, well-bred manner towards his
inferiors,--always cordial, yet always appropriate; I have heard that
our mother had much the same.

I tried to make things look as pleasant as I could down stairs, while
they were making ready for tea. The grate was raked up a little, a
bright supper-cloth laid on the table, and the curtains drawn. Phœbe
mixed a hasty cake of some sort, and brought out the heavier pieces of
silver,--tea-pot, &c., which I do not use when I am alone, because it is
so much trouble to take care of them, and because I like the little
Wedgwood set that Roy had for his chocolate.

“How pleasant!” said Aunt Winifred, as she sat down with Faith in a high
chair beside her. Phœbe had a great hunt up garret for that chair; it
has been stowed away there since it and I parted company. “How pleasant
everything is here! I believe in bright dining-rooms. There is an
indescribable dinginess to most that I have seen, which tends to
anything but thankfulness. Homesick, Faith? No; that’s right. I don’t
think we shall be homesick at Cousin Mary’s.”

If she had not said that, the probabilities are that they would have
been, for I have fallen quite out of the way of active housekeeping,
and have almost forgotten how to entertain a friend. But I do not want
her good opinion wasted, and mean they shall have a good time if I can
make it for them.

It was a little hard at first to see her opposite me at the table; it
was Roy’s place.

While she was sitting there in the light, with the dust and weariness of
travel brushed away a little, I was able to make up my mind what this
aunt of mine looks like.

She is young, then, to begin with, and I find it necessary to reiterate
the fact, in order to get it into my stupid brain. The cape and
spectacles, the little old woman’s shawl and invalid’s walk, for which I
had prepared myself, persist in hovering before my bewildered eyes,
ready to drop down on her at a moment’s notice. Just thirty-five she is
by her own showing; older than I, to be sure; but as we passed in front
of the mirror together, once to-night, I could not see half that
difference between us. The peace of her face and the pain of mine
contrast sharply, and give me an old, worn look, beside her. After all,
though, to one who had seen much of life, hers would be the true
maturity perhaps,--the maturity of repose. A look in her eyes once or
twice gave me the impression that she thinks me rather young, though she
is far too wise and delicate to show it. I don’t like to be treated like
a girl. I mean to find out what she does think.

My eyes have been on her face the whole evening, and I believe it is the
sweetest face--woman’s face--that I have ever seen. Yet she is far from
being a beautiful woman. It is difficult to say what makes the
impression; scarcely any feature is accurate, yet the _tout ensemble_
seems to have no fault. Her hair, which must have been bright bronze
once, has grown gray--quite gray--before its time. I really do not know
of what color her eyes are; blue, perhaps, most frequently, but they
change with every word that she speaks; when quiet, they have a curious,
far-away look, and a steady, lambent light shines through them. Her
mouth is well cut and delicate, yet you do not so much notice that as
its expression. It looks as if it held a happy secret, with which,
however near one may come to her, one can never intermeddle. Yet there
are lines about it and on her forehead, which are proof plain enough
that she has not always floated on summer seas. She yet wears her
widow’s black, but relieves it pleasantly by white at the throat and
wrists. Take her altogether, I like to look at her.

Faith is a round, rolling, rollicking little piece of mischief, with
three years and a half of experience in this very happy world. She has
black eyes and a pretty chin, funny little pink hands all covered with
dimples, and a dimple in one cheek besides. She has tipped over two
tumblers of water, scratched herself all over playing with the cat, and
set her apron on fire already since she has been here. I stand in some
awe of her; but, after I have become initiated, I think that we shall be
very good friends.

“Of all names in the catalogue,” I said to her mother, when she came
down into the parlor after putting her to bed, “Faith seems to be about
the _most_ inappropriate for this solid-bodied, twinkling little bairn
of yours, with her pretty red cheeks, and such an appetite for supper!”

“Yes,” she said, laughing, “there is nothing _spirituelle_ about Faith.
But she means just that to me. I could not call her anything else. Her
father gave her the name.” Her face changed, but did not sadden; a
quietness crept into it and into her voice, but that was all.

“I will tell you about it sometime,--perhaps,” she added, rising and
standing by the fire. “Faith looks like him.” Her eyes assumed their
distant look, “like the eyes of those who see the dead,” and gazed
away,--so far away, into the fire, that I felt that she would not be
listening to anything that I might say, and therefore said nothing.

We spent the evening chatting cosily. After the fire had died down in
the grate (I had Phœbe light a pine-knot there, because I noticed
that Aunt Winifred fancied the blaze in the dining-room), we drew up our
chairs into the corner by the register, and roasted away to our hearts’
content. A very bad habit, to sit over the register, and Aunt Winifred
says she shall undertake to break me of it. We talked about everything
under the sun,--uncles, aunts, cousins, Kansas and Connecticut, the
surrenders and the assassination, books, pictures, music, and Faith,--O,
and Phœbe and the cat. Aunt Winifred talks well, and does not gossip
nor exhaust her resources; one feels always that she has material in
reserve on any subject that is worth talking about.

For one thing I thank her with all my heart: she never spoke of Roy.

Upon reflection, I find that I have really passed a pleasant evening.

       *       *       *       *       *

She knocked at my door just now, after I had written the last sentence,
and had put away the book for the night. Thinking that it was Phœbe,
I called, “Come in,” and did not turn. She had come to the bureau where
I stood unbraiding my hair, and touched my arm, before I saw who it was.
She had on a crimson dressing-gown of warm flannel, and her hair hung
down on her shoulders. Although so gray, her hair is massive yet, and
coils finely when she is dressed.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, “but I thought you would not be in bed,
and I came in to say,--let me sit somewhere else at the breakfast-table,
if you like. I saw that I had taken ‘the vacant place.’ Good night, my
dear.”

It was such a little thing! I wonder how many people would have noticed
it or taken the trouble to speak of it. The quick perception, the
unusual delicacy,--these too are like Roy.

I almost wish that she had stayed a little longer. I almost think that I
could bear to have her speak to me about him.

Faith, in the next room, seems to have wakened from a frightened dream,
and I can hear their voices through the wall. Her mother is soothing and
singing to her in the broken words of some old lullaby with which
Phœbe used to sing Roy and me to sleep, years and years ago. The
unfamiliar, home-like sound is pleasant in the silent house. Phœbe,
on her way to bed, is stopping on the garret-stairs to listen to it.
Even the cat comes mewing up to the door, and purring as I have not
heard the creature purr since the old Sunday-night singing, hushed so
long ago.



V.


May 7.

I was awakened and nearly smothered this morning by a pillow thrown
directly at my head.

Somewhat unaccustomed, in the respectable, old maid’s life that I lead,
to such a pleasant little method of salutation, I jerked myself upright,
and stared. There stood Faith in her night-dress, laughing as if she
would suffocate, and her mother in search of her was just knocking at
the open door.

“She insisted on going to wake Cousin Mary, and wouldn’t be washed till
I let her; but I stipulated that she should kiss you softly on both your
eyes.”

“I did,” said Faith, stoutly; “I kissed her eyes, both two of ’em, and
her nose, and her mouth and her neck; then I pulled her hair, and then I
spinched her; but I thought she’d have to be banged a little. _Wasn’t_
it a bang, though!”

It really did me good to begin the day with a hearty laugh. The days
usually look so long and blank at the beginning, that I can hardly make
up my mind to step out into them. Faith’s pillow was the famous pebble
in the pond, to which authors of original imagination invariably resort;
I felt its little circles widening out all through the day. I wonder if
Aunt Winifred thought of that. She thinks of many things.

For instance, afraid apparently that I should think I was afflicted with
one of those professional visitors who hold that a chance relationship
justifies them in imposing on one from the beginning to the end of the
chapter, she managed to make me understand, this morning, that she was
expecting to go back to Uncle Forceythe’s brother on Saturday. I was
surprised at myself to find that this proposition struck me with dismay.
I insisted with all my heart on keeping her for a week at the least, and
sent forth a fiat that her trunks should be unpacked.

We have had a quiet, homelike day. Faith found her way to the orchard,
and installed herself there for the day, overhauling the muddy grass
with her bare hands to find dandelions. She came in at dinner-time as
brown as a little nut, with her hat hanging down her neck, her apron
torn, and just about as dirty as I should suppose it possible for a
clean child to succeed in making herself. Her mother, however, seemed to
be quite used to it, and the expedition with which she made her
presentable I regard as a stroke of genius.

While Faith was disposed of, and the house still, auntie and I took our
knitting and spent a regular old woman’s morning at the south window in
the dining-room. In the afternoon Mrs. Bland came over, babies and all,
and sent up her card to Mrs. Forceythe.

Supper-time came, and still there had not been a word of Roy. I began to
wonder at, while I respected, this unusual silence.

While her mother was putting Faith to bed, I went into my room alone,
for a few moments’ quiet. An early dark had fallen, for it had clouded
up just before sunset. The dull, gray sky and narrow horizon shut down
and crowded in everything. A soldier from the village, who has just come
home, was walking down the street with his wife and sister. The crickets
were chirping in the meadows. The faint breath of the maple came up.

I sat down by the window, and hid my face in both my hands. I must have
sat there some time, for I had quite forgotten that I had company to
entertain, when the door softly opened and shut, and some one came and
sat down on the couch beside me. I did not speak, for I could not, and,
the first I knew, a gentle arm crept about me, and she had gathered me
into her lap and laid my head on her shoulder, as she might have
gathered Faith.

“There,” she said, in her low, lulling voice, “now tell Auntie all about
it.”

I don’t know what it was, whether the voice, or touch, or words, but it
came so suddenly,--and nobody had held me for so long,--that everything
seemed to break up and unlock in a minute, and I threw up my hands and
cried. I don’t know how long I cried.

She passed her hand softly to and fro across my hair, brushing it away
from my temples, while they throbbed and burned; but she did not speak.
By and by I sobbed out:--

“Auntie, Auntie, Auntie!” as Faith sobs out in the dark. It seemed to me
that I must have help or die.

“Yes, dear. I understand. I know how hard it is. And you have been
bearing it alone so long! I am going to help you, and you must tell me
all you can.”

The strong, decided words, “I am going to help you,” gave me the first
faint hope I have had, that I _could_ be helped, and I could tell
her--it was not sacrilege--the pent-up story of these weeks. All the
time her hand went softly to and fro across my hair.

Presently, when I was weak and faint with the new comfort of my tears,
“Aunt Winifred,” I said, “I don’t know what it means to be resigned; I
don’t know what it _means_!”

Still her hand passed softly to and fro across my hair.

“To have everything stop all at once! without giving me any time to
learn to bear it. Why, you do not know,--it is just as if a great black
gate had swung to and barred out the future, and barred out him, and
left me all alone in any world that I can ever live in, forever and
forever.”

“My child,” she said, with emphasis solemn and low upon the words,--“my
child, I _do_ know. I think you forget--my husband.”

I had forgotten. How could I? We are most selfishly blinded by our own
griefs. No other form than ours ever seems to walk with us in the
furnace. Her few words made me feel, as I could not have felt if she had
said more, that this woman who was going to help me had suffered too;
had suffered perhaps more than I,--that, if I sat as a little child at
her feet, she could teach me through the kinship of her pain.

“O my dear,” she said, and held me close, “I have trodden every step of
it before you,--every single step.”

“But you never were so wicked about it! You never felt--why, I have been
_afraid_ I should hate God! You never were so wicked as that.”

Low under her breath she answered “Yes,”--this sweet, saintly woman who
had come to me in the dark as an angel might.

Then, turning suddenly, her voice trembled and broke:--

“Mary, Mary, do you think He _could_ have lived those thirty-three
years, and be cruel to you now? Think that over and over; only that. It
may be the only thought you dare to have,--it was all I dared to have
once,--but cling to it; _cling with both hands_, Mary, and keep it.”

I only put both hands about her neck and clung there; but I hope--it
seems, as if I clung a little to the thought besides; it was as new and
sweet to me as if I had never heard of it in all my life; and it has not
left me yet.

“And then, my dear,” she said, when she had let me cry a little longer,
“when you have once found out that Roy’s God loves you more than Roy
does, the rest comes more easily. It will not be as long to wait as it
seems now. It isn’t as if you never were going to see him again.”

I looked up bewildered.

“What’s the matter, dear?”

“Why, do you think I shall see him,--really see him?”

“Mary Cabot,” she said abruptly, turning to look at me, “who has been
talking to you about this thing?”

“Deacon Quirk,” I answered faintly,--“Deacon Quirk and Dr. Bland.”

She put her other arm around me with a quick movement, as if she would
shield me from Deacon Quirk and Dr. Bland.

“Do I think you will see him again? You might as well ask me if I
thought God made you and made Roy, and gave you to each other. See him!
Why, of course you will see him as you saw him here.”

“As I saw him here! Why, here I looked into his eyes, I saw him smile, I
touched him. Why, Aunt Winifred, Roy is an angel!”

She patted my hand with a little, soft, comforting laugh.

“But he is not any the less Roy for that,--not any the less your own
real Roy, who will love you and wait for you and be very glad to see
you, as he used to love and wait and be glad when you came home from a
journey on a cold winter night.”

“And he met me at the door, and led me in where it was light and warm!”
I sobbed.

“So he will meet you at the door in this other home, and lead you into
the light and the warmth. And cannot that make the cold and dark a
little shorter? Think a minute!”

“But there is God,--I thought we went to Heaven to worship Him, and--”

“Shall you worship more heartily or less, for having Roy again? Did Mary
love the Master more or less, after Lazarus came back? Why, my child,
where did you get your ideas of God? Don’t you suppose He _knows_ how
you love Roy?”

I drank in the blessed words without doubt or argument. I was too
thirsty to doubt or argue. Some other time I may ask her how she knows
this beautiful thing, but not now. All I can do now is to take it into
my heart and hold it there.

Roy my own again,--not only to look at standing up among the
singers,--but close to me; somehow or other to be as near as--to be
nearer than--he was here, _really_ mine again! I shall never let this
go.

After we had talked awhile, and when it came time to say good night, I
told her a little about my conversation with Deacon Quirk, and what I
said to him about the Lord’s will. I did not know but that she would
blame me.

“Some time,” she said, turning her great, compassionate eyes on me,--I
could feel them in the dark,--and smiling, “you will find out all at
once, in a happy moment, that you can say those words with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength; it will come,
even in this world, if you will only let it. But, until it does, you do
right, quite right, not to scorch your altar with a false
burnt-offering. God is not a God to be mocked. He would rather have only
the old cry: ‘I believe; help mine unbelief,’ and wait till you can say
the rest.

“It has often grated on my ears,” she added, “to hear people speak those
words unworthily. They seem to me the most solemn words that the Bible
contains, or that Christian experience can utter. As far as my
observation goes, the good people--for they are good people--who use
them when they ought to know better are of two sorts. They are people in
actual agony, bewildered, racked with rebellious doubts, unaccustomed to
own even to themselves the secret seethings of sin; really persuaded
that because it is a Christian duty to have no will but the Lord’s, they
are under obligations to affirm that they have no will but the Lord’s.
Or else they are people who know no more about this pain of bereavement
than a child. An affliction has passed over them, put them into
mourning, made them feel uncomfortable till the funeral was over, or
even caused them a shallow sort of grief, of which each week evaporates
a little, till it is gone. These mourners air their trouble the longest,
prate loudest about resignation, and have the most to say to you or me
about our ‘rebellious state of mind.’ Poor things! One can hardly be
vexed at them for pity. Think of being made so!”

“There is still another class of the cheerfully resigned,” I suggested,
“who are even more ready than these to tell you of your desperate
wickedness--”

“People who have never had even the semblance of a trouble in all their
lives,” she interrupted. “Yes. I was going to speak of them. Of all
miserable comforters, they are the most arrogant.”

“As to real instant submission,” she said presently, “there _is_ some of
it in the world. There are sweet, rare lives capable of great loves and
great pains, which yet are kept so attuned to the life of Christ, that
the cry in the Garden comes scarcely less honestly from their lips, than
from his. Such, like the St. John, are but one among the Twelve. Such,
it will do you and me good, dear, at least to remember.”

“Such,” I thought when I was left alone, “you new dear friend of mine,
who have come with such a blessed coming into my lonely days,--such you
must be now, whatever you were once.”

If I should tell her that, how she would open her soft eyes!



VI.


May 9.

As I was looking over the green book last night, Aunt Winifred came up
behind me and softly laid a bunch of violets down between the leaves.

By an odd contrast, the contented, passionless things fell against those
two verses that were copied from the German, and completely covered them
from sight. I lifted the flowers, and held up the page for her to see.

As she read, her face altered strangely; her eyes dilated, her lip
quivered, a flush shot over her checks and dyed her forehead up to the
waves of her hair. I turned away quickly, feeling that I had committed a
rudeness in watching her, and detecting in her, however involuntarily,
some far, inner sympathy, or shadow of a long-past sympathy, with the
desperate words.

“Mary,” she said, laying down the book, “I believe Satan wrote that.”

She laughed a little then, nervously, and paled back into her quiet,
peaceful self.

“I mean that he inspired it. They are wicked words. You must not read
them over. You will outgrow them sometime with a beautiful growth of
trust and love. Let them alone till that time comes. See, I will blot
them out of sight for you with colors as blue as heaven,--the _real_
heaven, where God _will_ be loved the most.”

She shook apart the thick, sweet nosegay, and, taking a half-dozen of
the little blossoms, pinned them, dripping with fragrant dew, upon the
lines. There I shall let them stay, and, since she wishes it, I shall
not lift them to see the reckless words till I can do it safely.

This afternoon Aunt Winifred has been telling me about herself. Somewhat
more, or of a different kind, I should imagine, from what she has told
most people. She seems to love me a little, not in a proper kind of way,
because I happen to be her niece, but for my own sake. It surprises me
to find how pleased I am that she should.

That Kansas life must have been very hard to her, in contrast as it was
with the smooth elegance of her girlhood; she was very young, too, when
she undertook it. I said something of the sort to her.

“They have been the hardest and the easiest, the saddest and the
happiest, years of all my life,” she answered.

I pondered the words in my heart, while I listened to her story. She
gave me vivid pictures of the long, bright bridal journey, overshadowed
with a very mundane weariness of jolting coaches and railway accidents
before its close; of the little neglected hamlet which waited for them,
twenty miles from a post-office and thirty from a school-house; of the
parsonage, a log-hut among log-huts, distinguished and adorned by a
little lath and plastering, glass windows, and a doorstep;--they drew in
sight of it at the close of a tired day, with a red sunset lying low on
the flats.

Uncle Forceythe wanted mission-work, and mission-work he found here
with--I should say with a vengeance, if the expression were exactly
suited to an elegantly constructed and reflective journal.

“My heart sank for a moment, I confess,” she said, “but it never would
do, you know, to let him suspect that, so I smiled away as well as I
knew how, shook hands with one or two women in red calico who had been
‘slicking up inside,’ they said; went in by the fire,--it was really a
pleasant fire,--and, as soon as they had left us alone, I climbed into
John’s lap, and, with both arms around his neck, told him that I knew we
should be very happy. And I said--”

“Said what?”

She blushed a little, like a girl.

“I believe I said I should be happy in Patagonia,--with him. I made him
laugh at last, and say that my face and words were like a beautiful
prophecy. And, Mary, if they were, it was beautifully fulfilled. In the
roughest times,--times of ragged clothes and empty flour-barrels, of
weakness and sickness and quack doctors, of cold and discouragement, of
prairie fires and guerillas,--from trouble to trouble, from year’s end
to year’s end, we were happy together, we two. As long as we could have
each other, and as long as we could be about our Master’s business, we
felt as if we did not dare to ask for anything more, lest it should seem
that we were ungrateful for such wealth of mercy.”

It would take too long to write out here the half that she told me,
though I wish I could, for it interested me more than any story that I
have ever read.

After years of Christ-like toiling to help those rough old farmers and
wicked bushwhackers to Heaven, the call to Lawrence came, and it seemed
to Uncle Forceythe that he had better go. It was a pleasant, influential
parish, and there, though not less hard at work, they found fewer rubs
and more comforts; there Faith came, and there were their pleasant days,
till the war.--I held my breath to hear her tell about Quantrell’s raid.
There, too, Uncle wasted through that death-in-life, consumption; there
he “fell on sleep,” she said, and there she buried him.

She gave me no further description of his death than those words, and
she spoke them with her far-away, tearless eyes looking off through the
window, and after she had spoken she was still for a time.

The heart knoweth its own bitterness; that grew distinct to me, as I
sat, shut out by her silence. Yet there was nothing bitter about her
face.

“Faith was six months old when he went,” she said presently. “We had
never named her: Baby was name enough at first for such a wee thing;
then she was the only one, and had come so late, that it seemed to mean
more to us than to most to have a baby all to ourselves, and we liked
the sound of the word. When it became quite certain that John must go,
we used to talk it over, and he said that he would like to name her, but
what, he did not tell me.

“At last, one night, after he had lain for a while thinking with closed
eyes, he bade me bring the child to him. The sun was setting, I
remember, and the moon was rising. He had had a hard day; the life was
all scorched out of the air. I moved the bed up by the window, that he
might have the breath of the rising wind. Baby was wide awake, cooing
softly to herself in the cradle, her bits of damp curls clinging to her
head, and her pink feet in her hands. I took her up and brought her just
as she was, and knelt down by the bed. The street was still. We could
hear the frogs chanting a mile away. He lifted her little hands upon his
own, and said--no matter about the words--but he told me that as he left
the child, so he left the name, in my sacred charge,--that he had chosen
it for me,--that, when he was out of sight, it might help me to have it
often on my lips.

“So there in the sunset and the moonrise, we two alone together, he
baptized her, and we gave our little girl to God.”

When she had said this, she rose and went over to the window, and stood
with her face from me. By and by, “It was the fourteenth,” she said, as
if musing to herself,--“the fourteenth of June.”

I remember now that Uncle Forceythe died on the fourteenth of June. It
may have been that the words of that baptismal blessing were the last
that they heard, either child or mother.


May 10.

It has been a pleasant day; the air shines like transparent gold; the
wind sweeps like somebody’s strong arms over the flowers, and gathers up
a crowd of perfumes that wander up and down about one. The church bells
have rung out like silver all day. Those bells--especially the Second
Advent at the further end of the village--are positively ghastly when it
rains.

Aunt Winifred was dressed bright and early for church. I, in morning
dress and slippers, sighed and demurred.

“Auntie, _do_ you expect to hear anything new?”

“Judging from your diagnosis of Dr. Bland,--no.”

“To be edified, refreshed, strengthened, or instructed?”

“Perhaps not.”

“Bored, then?”

“Not exactly.”

“What do you expect?”

“There are the prayers and singing. Generally one can, if one tries,
wring a little devotion from the worst of them. As to a minister, if he
is good and commonplace, young and earnest and ignorant, and I, whom he
cannot help one step on the way to Heaven, consequently stay at home,
Deacon Quirk, whom he might carry a mile or two, by and by stays at home
also. If there is to be a ‘building fitly joined together,’ each stone
must do its part of the upholding. I feel better to go half a day
always. I never compel Faith to go, but I never have a chance, for she
teases not to be left at home.”

“I think it’s splendid to go to church most the time,” put in Faith, who
was squatted on the carpet, counting sugared caraway seeds,--“all but
the sermon. That isn’t splendid. I don’t like the gre-at big prayers ’n’
things, I like caramary seeds, though; mother always gives ’em to me in
meeting ’cause I’m a good girl. Don’t you wish _you_ were a good girl,
Cousin Mary, so’s you could have some? Besides, I’ve got on my best hat
and my button-boots. Besides, there used to be a real funny little boy
up in meeting at home, and he gave me a little tin dorg once over the
top the pew. Only mother made me give it back. O, you ought to seen the
man that preached down at Uncle Calvin’s! I tell you he was a bully old
minister,--_he banged the Bible like everything_!”

“There’s a devotional spirit for you!” I said to her mother.

“Well,” she answered, laughing, “it is better than that she should be
left to play dolls and eat preserves, and be punished for disobedience.
Sunday would invariably become a guilty sort of holiday at that rate.
Now, caraways or ‘bully old ministers’ notwithstanding, she carries to
bed with her a dim notion that this has been holy time and pleasant
time. Besides, the associations of a church-going childhood, if I can
manage them genially, will be a help to her when she is older. Come,
Faith! go and pull off Cousin Mary’s slippers, and bring down her
boots, and then she’ll have to go to church. No, I _didn’t_ say that you
might tickle her feet!”

Feeling the least bit sorry that I had set the example of a stay-at-home
Christian before the child, I went directly up stairs to make ready, and
we started after all in good season.

Dr. Bland was in the pulpit. I observed that he looked--as indeed did
the congregation bodily--with some curiosity into our slip, where it has
been a rare occurrence of late to find me, and where the light, falling
through the little stained glass oriel, touched Aunt Winifred’s
thoughtful smile. I wondered whether Dr. Bland thought it was wicked for
people to smile in church. No, of course he has too much sense. I wonder
what it is about Dr. Bland that always suggests such questions.

It has been very warm all day,--that aggravating, unseasonable heat,
which is apt to come in spasms in the early part of May, and which, in
thick spring alpaca and heavy sack, one finds intolerable. The
thermometer stood at 75° on the church porch; every window was shut, and
everybody’s fan was fluttering Now, with this sight before him, what
should our observant minister do, but give out as his first hymn: “Thine
earthly Sabbaths.” “Thine earthly Sabbaths” would be a beautiful hymn,
if it were not for those lines about the weather:--

    “No midnight shade, _no clouded sun_,
     _But sacred, high, eternal noon_”!

There was a great hot sunbeam striking directly on my black bonnet. My
fan was broken. I gasped for air. The choir went over and over and
_over_ the words, spinning them into one of those indescribable tunes,
in which everybody seems to be trying to get through first. I don’t know
what they called them,--they always remind me of a game of “Tag.”

I looked at Aunt Winifred. She took it more coolly than I, but an amused
little smile played over her face. She told me after church that she had
repeatedly heard that hymn given out at noon of an intense July day. Her
husband, she said, used to save it for the winter, or for cloudy
afternoons. “Using means of grace,” he called that.

However, Dr. Bland did better the second time, Aunt Winifred joined in
the singing, and I enjoyed it, so I will not blame the poor man. I
suppose he was so far lifted above this earth, that he would not have
known whether he was preaching in Greenland’s icy mountains, or on
India’s coral strand.

When he announced his text, “For our conversation is in Heaven,” Aunt
Winifred and I exchanged glances of content. We had been talking about
heaven on the way to church; at least, till Faith, not finding herself
entertained, interrupted us by some severe speculations as to whether
Maltese kitties were mulattoes, and “why the bell-ringer didn’t jump off
the steeple some night, and see if he couldn’t fly right up, the way
Elijah did.”

I listened to Dr. Bland as I have not listened for a long time. The
subject was of all subjects nearest my heart. He is a scholarly man, in
his way. He ought to know, I thought, more about it than Aunt Winifred.
Perhaps he could help me.

His sermon, as nearly as I can recall it, was substantially this.

“The future life presented a vast theme to our speculation. Theories
‘too numerous to mention,’ had been held concerning it. Pagans had
believed in a coming state of rewards and punishments. What natural
theology had dimly foreshadowed, Revelation had brought in, like a
full-orbed day, with healing on its wings.” I am not positive about the
metaphors.

“As it was fitting that we should at times turn our thoughts upon the
threatenings of Scripture, it was eminently suitable also that we should
consider its promises.

“He proposed in this discourse to consider the promise of heaven, the
reward offered by Christ to his good and faithful servants.

“In the first place: What is heaven?”

I am not quite clear in my mind what it was, though I tried my best to
find out. As nearly as I can recollect, however,--

“Heaven is an eternal state.

“Heaven is a state of holiness.

“Heaven is a state of happiness.”

Having heard these observations before, I will not enlarge as he did
upon them, but leave that for the “vivid imagination” of the green book.

“In the second place: What will be the employments of heaven?

“We shall study the character of God.

“An infinite mind must of necessity be eternally an object of study to
a finite mind. The finite mind must of necessity find in such study
supreme delight. All lesser joys and interests will pale. He felt at
moments, in reflecting on this theme, that that good brother who, on
being asked if he expected to see the dead wife of his youth in heaven,
replied, ‘I expect to be so overwhelmed by the glory of the presence of
God, that it may be thousands of years before I shall think of my
wife,’--he felt that perhaps this brother was near the truth.”

Poor Mrs. Bland looked exceedingly uncomfortable.

“We shall also glorify God.”

He enlarged upon this division, but I have forgotten exactly how. There
was something about adoration, and the harpers harping with their harps,
and the sea of glass, and crying, Worthy the Lamb! and a great deal more
that bewildered and disheartened me so that I could scarcely listen to
it. I do not doubt that we shall glorify God primarily and happily, but
can we not do it in some other way than by harping and praying?

“We shall moreover love each other with a universal and unselfish
love.”

“That we shall recognize our friends in heaven, he was inclined to
think, after mature deliberation, was probable. But there would be no
special selfish affections there. In this world we have enmities and
favoritisms. In the world of bliss our hearts would glow with holy love
alike to all other holy hearts.”

I wonder if he really thought _that_ would make “a world of bliss.” Aunt
Winifred slipped her hand into mine under her cloak. Ah, Dr. Bland, if
you had known how that little soft touch was preaching against you!

“In the words of an eminent divine, who has long since entered into the
joys of which he spoke: ‘Thus, whenever the mind roves through the
immense region of heaven, it will find, among all its innumerable
millions, not an enemy, not a stranger, not an indifferent heart, not a
reserved bosom. Disguise here, and even concealment, will be unknown.
The soul will have no interests to conceal, _no thoughts to disguise_. A
window will be opened in every breast, and show to every eye the rich
and beautiful furniture within!’

“Thirdly: How shall we fit for heaven?”

He mentioned several ways, among which,--

“We should subdue our earthly affections to God.

“We must not love the creature as the Creator. My son, give _me_ thy
heart. When he removes our friends from the scenes of time (with a
glance in my direction), we should resign ourselves to his will,
remembering that the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away in mercy;
that He is all in all; that He will never leave us nor forsake us; that
_He_ can never change or die.”

As if that made any difference with the fact, that his best treasures
change or die!

“In conclusion,--

“We infer from our text that our hearts should not be set upon earthly
happiness. (Enlarged.)

“That the subject of heaven should be often in our thoughts and on our
lips.” (Enlarged.)

Of course I have not done justice to the filling up of the sermon; to
the illustrations, metaphors, proof-texts, learning, and
eloquence,--for, though Dr. Bland cannot seem to think outside of the
old grooves, a little eloquence really flashes through the tameness of
his style sometimes, and when he was talking about the harpers, etc.,
some of his words were well chosen. “To be drowned in light,” I have
somewhere read, “may be very beautiful; it is still to be drowned.” But
I have given the skeleton of the discourse, and I have given the sum of
the impressions that it left on me, an attentive hearer. It is fortunate
that I did not hear it while I was alone; it would have made me
desperate. Going hungry, hopeless, blinded, I came back empty,
uncomforted, groping. I wanted something actual, something pleasant,
about this place into which Roy has gone. He gave me glittering
generalities, cold commonplace, vagueness, unreality, a God and a future
at which I sat and shivered.

Dr. Bland is a good man. He had, I know, written that sermon with
prayer. I only wish that he could be made to _see_ how it glides over
and sails splendidly away from wants like mine.

But thanks be to God who has provided a voice to answer me out of the
deeps.

Auntie and I walked home without any remarks (we overheard Deacon Quirk
observe to a neighbor: “That’s what I call a good gospel sermon, now!”),
sent Faith away to Phœbe, sat down in the parlor, and looked at each
other.

“Well?” said I.

“I know it,” said she.

Upon which we both began to laugh.

“But did he say the dreadful truth?”

“Not as I find it in my Bible.”

“That it is probable, only _probable_ that we shall recognize--”

“My child, do not be troubled about that. It is not probable, it is
sure. If I could find no proof for it, I should none the less believe
it, as long as I believe in God. He gave you Roy, and the capacity to
love him. He has taught you to sanctify that love through love to Him.
Would it be _like_ Him to create such beautiful and unselfish
loves,--most like the love of heaven of any type we know,--just for our
threescore years and ten of earth? Would it be like Him to suffer two
souls to grow together here, so that the separation of a day is pain,
and then wrench them apart for all eternity? It would be what Madame de
Gasparin calls, ‘fearful irony on the part of God.’”

“But there are lost loves. There are lost souls.”

“‘How often would I have gathered you, and ye would not!’ That is not
his work. He would have saved both soul and love. They had their own
way. We were speaking of His redeemed. The object of having this world
at all, you know, is to fit us for another. Of what use will it have
been, if on passing out of it we must throw by forever its gifts, its
lessons, its memories? God links things together better than that. Be
sure, as you are sure of Him, that we shall be _ourselves_ in heaven.
Would you be yourself not to recognize Roy?--consequently, not to love
Roy, for to love and to be separated is misery, and heaven is joy.”

“I understand. But you said you had other proof.”

“So I have; plenty of it. If ‘many shall come from the East and from the
West, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob,’ will they not be likely to know that they are with Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob? or will they think it is Shadrach, Meshech, and
Abednego?

“What is meant by such expressions as ‘risen _together_,’ ‘sitting
_together_ at the right hand of God,’ ‘sitting _together_ in heavenly
places’? If they mean anything, they mean recognitions, friendships,
enjoyments.

“Did not Peter and the others know Moses when they saw him?--know Elias
when they saw him? Yet these men were dead hundreds of years before the
favored fishermen were born.

“How was it with those ‘saints which slept and arose’ when Christ hung
dead there in the dark? Were they not seen of many?”

“But that was a miracle.”

“They were risen dead, such as you and I shall be some day. The miracle
consisted in their rising then and there. Moreover, did not the beggar
recognize Abraham? and--Well, one might go through the Bible finding it
full of this promise in hints or assertions, in parables or visions. We
are ‘heirs of God,’ ‘joint heirs with Christ’; having suffered with Him,
we shall be ‘glorified _together_.’ Christ himself has said many sure
things: ‘I will come and receive you, that where I am, there ye may be.’
‘I will that they be with me where I am.’ Using, too, the very type of
Godhead to signify the eternal nearness and eternal love of just such as
you and Roy as John and me, he prays: ‘Holy Father, keep them whom Thou
hast given me, that _they may be one as we are_.’

“There is one place, though, where I find what I like better than all
the rest; you remember that old cry wrung from the lips of the stricken
king,--‘I shall go to him; but he will not return to me.’”

“I never thought before how simple and direct it is; and that, too, in
those old blinded days.”

“The more I study the Bible,” she said, “and I study not entirely in
ignorance of the commentators and the mysteries, the more perplexed I am
to imagine where the current ideas of our future come from. They
certainly are not in this book of gracious promises. That heaven which
we heard about to-day was Dr. Bland’s, not God’s. ‘It’s aye a wonderfu’
thing to me,’ as poor Lauderdale said, ‘the way some preachers take it
upon themselves to explain matters to the Almighty!’”

“But the harps and choirs, the throne, the white robes, are all in
Revelation. Deacon Quirk would put his great brown finger on the verses,
and hold you there triumphantly.”

“Can’t people tell picture from substance, a metaphor from its meaning?
That book of Revelation is precisely what it professes to be,--a vision;
a symbol. A symbol of something, to be sure, and rich with pleasant
hopes, but still a symbol. Now, I really believe that a large
proportion of Christian church-members, who have studied their Bible,
attended Sabbath schools, listened to sermons all their lives, if you
could fairly come at their most definite idea of the place where they
expect to spend eternity, would own it to be the golden city, with pearl
gates, and jewels in the wall. It never occurs to them, that, if one
picture is literal, another must be. If we are to walk golden streets,
how can we stand on a sea of glass? How can we ‘sit on thrones’? How can
untold millions of us ‘lie in Abraham’s bosom’?

“But why have given us empty symbols? Why not a little fact?”

“They are not _empty_ symbols. And why God did not give us actual
descriptions of actual heavenly life, I don’t trouble myself to wonder.
He certainly had his reasons, and that is enough for me. I find from
these symbols, and from his voice in my own heart, many beautiful
things,--I will tell you some more of them at another time,--and, for
the rest, I am content to wait. He loves me, and he loves mine. As long
as we love Him, He will never separate Himself from us, or us from each
other. That, at least, is _sure_.”

“If that is sure, the rest is of less importance;--yes. But Dr. Bland
said an awful thing!”

“The quotation from a dead divine?”

“Yes. That there will be no separate interests, no thoughts to conceal.”

“Poor good man! He has found out by this time that he should not have
laid down nonsense like that, without qualification or demur, before a
Bible-reading hearer. It was simply _his_ opinion, not David’s, or
Paul’s, or John’s, or Isaiah’s. He had a perfect right to put it in the
form of a conjecture. Nobody would forbid his conjecturing that the
inhabitants of heaven are all deaf and dumb, or wear green glasses, or
shave their heads, if he chose, provided he stated that it was
conjecture, not revelation.”

“But where does the Bible say that we shall have power to conceal our
thoughts?--and I would rather be annihilated than to spend eternity with
heart laid bare,--the inner temple thrown open to be trampled on by
every passing stranger!”

“The Bible specifies very little about the minor arrangements of
eternity in any way. But I doubt if, under any circumstances, it would
have occurred to inspired men to inform us that our thoughts shall
continue to be our own. The fact is patent on the face of things. The
dead minister’s supposition would destroy individuality at one fell
swoop. We should be like a man walking down a room lined with mirrors,
who sees himself reflected in all sizes, colors, shades, at all angles
and in all proportions, according to the capacity of the mirror, till he
seems no longer to belong to himself, but to be cut up into ellipses and
octagons and prisms. How soon would he grow frantic in such
companionship, and beg for a corner where he might hide and hush himself
in the dark?

“That we shall in a higher life be able to do what we cannot in
this,--judge fairly of each other’s _moral_ worth,--is undoubtedly true.
Whatever the Judgment Day may mean, that is the substance of it. But
this promiscuous theory of refraction;--never!

“Besides, wherever the Bible touches the subject, it premises our
individuality as a matter of course. What would be the use of talking,
if everybody knew the thoughts of everybody else?”

“You don’t suppose that people talk in heaven?”

“I don’t suppose anything else. Are we to spend ages of joy, a company
of mutes together? Why not talk?”

“I supposed we should sing,--but--”

“Why not talk as well as sing? Does not song involve the faculty of
speech?--unless you would like to make canaries of us.”

“Ye-es. Why, yes.”

“There are the visitors at the beautiful Mount of Transfiguration again.
Did not they _talk_ with each other and with Christ? Did not John _talk_
with the angel who ‘shewed him those things’?”

“And you mean to say--”

“I mean to say that if there is such a thing as common sense, you will
talk with Roy as you talked with him here,--only not as you talked with
him here, because there will be no troubles nor sins, no anxieties nor
cares, to talk about; no ugly shades of cross words or little quarrels
to be made up; no fearful looking-for of separation.”

I laid my head upon her shoulder, and could hardly speak for the comfort
that she gave me.

“Yes, I believe we shall talk and laugh and joke and play--”

“Laugh and joke in heaven?”

“Why not?”

“But it seems so--so--why, so wicked and irreverent and all that, you
know.”

Just then Faith, who, mounted out on the kitchen table, was preaching at
Phœbe in comical mimicry of Dr. Bland’s choicest intonations, laughed
out like the splash of a little wave.

The sound came in at the open door, and we stopped to listen till it had
rippled away.

“There!” said her mother, “put that child, this very minute, with all
her little sins forgiven, into one of our dear Lord’s many mansions, and
do you suppose that she would be any the less holy or less reverent for
a laugh like that? Is he going to check all the sparkle and blossom of
life when he takes us to himself? I don’t believe any such thing. There
were both sense and Christianity in what somebody wrote on the death of
a humorous poet:--

    ‘Does nobody laugh there, where he has gone,--
      This man of the smile and the jest?’

--provided there was any hope that the poor fellow _had_ gone to heaven;
if not, it was bad philosophy and worse religion. Did not David dance
before the Lord with all his might? A Bible which is full of happy
battle-cries: ‘Rejoice in the Lord! make a joyful noise unto him! Give
thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy endureth!’--a Bible which exhausts
its splendid wealth of rhetoric to make us understand that the coming
life is a life of _joy_, no more threatens to make nuns than mutes of
us. I expect that you will hear some of Roy’s very old jokes, see the
sparkle in his eye, listen to his laughing voice, lighten up the happy
days as gleefully as you may choose; and that--”

Faith appeared upon the scene just then, with the interesting
information that she had bitten her tongue; so we talked no more.

How pleasant--how pleasant this is! I never supposed before that God
would let any one laugh in heaven.

I wonder if Roy has seen the President. Aunt Winifred says she does not
doubt it. She thinks that all the soldiers must have crowded up to meet
him, and “O,” she says, “what a sight to see!”



VII.


May 12th.

Aunt Winifred has said something about going, but I cannot yet bear to
hear of such a thing. She is to stay a while longer.


16th.

We have been over to-night to the grave.

She proposed to go by herself, thinking, I saw, with the delicacy with
which she always thinks, that I would rather not be there with another.
Nor should I, nor could I, with any other than this woman. It is
strange. I wished to go there with her. I had a vague, unreasoning
feeling that she would take away some of the bitterness of it, as she
has taken the bitterness of much else.

It is looking very pleasant there now. The turf has grown fine and
smooth. The low arbor-vitæ hedge and knots of Norway spruce, that father
planted long ago for mother, drop cool, green shadows that stir with the
wind. My English ivy has crept about and about the cross. Roy used to
say that he should fancy a cross to mark the spot where he might lie; I
think he would like this pure, unveined marble. May-flowers cover the
grave now, and steal out among the clover-leaves with a flush like
sunrise. By and by there will be roses, and, in August, August’s own
white lilies.

We went silently over, and sat silently down on the grass, the
field-path stretching away to the little church behind us, and beyond,
in front, the slope, the flats, the river, the hills cut in purple
distance melting far into the east. The air was thick with perfume.
Golden bees hung giddily over the blush in the grass. In the low
branches that swept the grave a little bird had built her nest.

Aunt Winifred did not speak to me for a time, nor watch my face.
Presently she laid her hand upon my lap, and I put mine into it.

“It is very pleasant here,” she said then, in her very pleasant voice.

“I meant that it should be,” I answered, trying not to let her see my
lips quiver. “At least it must not look neglected. I don’t suppose it
makes any difference to _him_.”

“I do not feel sure of that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I do not feel sure that anything he has left makes no ‘difference’ to
him.”

“But I don’t understand. He is in heaven. He would be too happy to care
for anything that is going on in this woful world.”

“Perhaps that is so,” she said, smiling a sweet contradiction to her
words, “but I don’t believe it.”

“What do you believe?”

“Many things that I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

“I have sometimes wondered, for I cannot help it,” I said, “whether he
is shut off from all knowledge of me for all these years till I can go
to him. It will be a great while. It seems hard. Roy would want to know
something, if it were only a little, about me.”

“I believe that he wants to know, and that he knows, Mary; though, since
the belief must rest on analogy and conjecture, you need not accept it
as demonstrated mathematics,” she answered, with another smile.

“Roy never forgot me here!” I said, not meaning to sob.

“That is just it. He was not constituted so that he, remaining himself,
Roy, could forget you. If he goes out into this other life forgetting,
he becomes another than himself. That is a far more unnatural way of
creeping out of the difficulty than to assume that he loves and
remembers. Why not assume that? In fact, why assume anything else?
Neither reason, nor the Bible, nor common sense, forbids it. Instead of
starting with it as an hypothesis to be proved if we can, I lay it down
as one of those probabilities for which Butler would say, ‘the
presumption amounts nearly to certainty’; and if any one can disprove
it, I will hear what he has to say. There!” she broke off, laughing
softly, “that is a sufficient dose of metaphysics for such a simple
thing. It seems to me to lie just here: Roy loved you. Our Father, for
some tender, hidden reason, took him out of your sight for a while.
Though changed much, he can have forgotten nothing. Being _only out of
sight_, you remember, not lost, nor asleep, nor annihilated, he goes on
loving. To love must mean to think of, to care for, to hope for, to pray
for, not less out of a body than in it.”

“But that must mean--why, that must mean--”

“That he is near you. I do not doubt it.”

The sunshine quivered in among the ivy-leaves, and I turned to watch it,
thinking.

“I do not doubt,” she went on, speaking low,--“I cannot doubt that our
absent dead are very present with us. He said, ‘I am with you alway,’
knowing the need we have of him, even to the end of the world. He must
understand the need we have of them. I cannot doubt it.”

I watched her as she sat with her absent eyes turned eastward, and her
peculiar look--I have never seen it on another face--as of one who holds
a happy secret; and while I watched I wondered.

“There is a reason for it,” she said, rousing as if from a pleasant
dream,--“a good sensible reason, too, it strikes me, independent of
Scriptural or other proof.”

“What is that?”

“That God keeps us briskly at work in this world.”

I did not understand.

“Altogether too briskly, considering that it is a preparative world, to
intend to put us from it into an idle one. What more natural than that
we shall spend our best energies as we spent them here,--in comforting,
teaching, helping, saving people whose very souls we love better than
our own? In fact, it would be very _un_natural if we did not.”

“But I thought that God took care of us, and angels, like Gabriel and
the rest, if I ever thought anything about it, which I am inclined to
doubt.”

“‘God works by the use of means,’ as the preachers say. Why not use Roy
as well as Gabriel? What archangel could understand and reach the
peculiarities of your nature as he could? or, even if understanding,
could so love and bear with you? What is to be done? Will they send Roy
to the planet Jupiter to take care of somebody else’s sister?”

I laughed in spite of myself; nor did the laugh seem to jar upon the
sacred stillness of the place. Her words were drawing away the
bitterness, as the sun was blotting the dull, dead greens of the ivy
into its glow of golden color.

“But the Bible, Aunt Winifred.”

“The Bible does _not_ say a great deal on this point,” she said, “but it
does not contradict me. In fact, it helps me; and, moreover, it would
uphold me in black and white if it weren’t for one little obstacle.”

“And that?”

“That frowning ‘original Greek,’ which Gail Hamilton denounces with her
righteous indignation. No sooner do I find a pretty verse that is
exactly what I want, than up hops a commentator, and says, this isn’t
according to text, and means something entirely different; and Barnes
says this, and Stuart believes that, and Olshausen has demonstrated the
other, and very ignorant it is in you, too, not to know it! Here the
other day I ferreted out a sentence in Revelation that seemed to prove
beyond question that angels and redeemed men were the same; where the
angel says to John, you know, ‘Am I not of thy brethren the prophets?’ I
thought that I had discovered a delightful thing which all the Fathers
of the church had overlooked, and went in great glee to your Uncle
Calvin, to be told that something was the matter,--a noun left out, or
some other unanswerable and unreasonable horror, I don’t know what; and
that it didn’t mean that he was of thy brethren the prophets at all!

“You see, if it could be proved that the Christian dead become angels,
we could have all that we need, direct from God, about--to use the
beautiful old phrase--the communion of saints. From Genesis to
Revelation the Bible is filled with angels who are at work on earth.
They hold sweet converse with Abraham in his tent. They are intrusted to
save the soul of Lot. An angel hears the wail of Hagar. The beautiful
feet of an angel bring the good tidings to maiden Mary. An angel’s
noiseless step guides Peter through the barred and bolted gate. Angels
rolled the stone from the buried Christ, and angels sat there in the
solemn morning,--O Mary! if we could have seen them!

“Then there is that one question, direct, comprehensive,--we should not
need anything else,--‘Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth
to minister to the heirs of salvation?’

“But you see it never seems to have entered those commentators’ heads
that all these beautiful things refer to any but a superior race of
beings, like those from whose ranks Lucifer fell.”

“How stupid in them!”

“I take comfort in thinking so; but, to be serious, even admitting that
these passages refer to a superior race, must there not be some
similarity in the laws which govern existence in the heavenly world?
Since these gracious deeds are performed by what we are accustomed to
call ‘spiritual beings,’ why may they not as well be done by people
from this world as from anywhere else? Besides, there is another point,
and a reasonable one, to be made. The word angel in the original[A]
means, strictly, _a messenger_. It applies to any servant of God,
animate or inanimate. An east wind is as much an angel as Michael.
Again, the generic terms, ‘spirits,’ ‘gods,’ ‘sons of God,’ are used
interchangeably for saints and for angels. So, you see, I fancy that I
find a way for you and Roy and me and all of us, straight into the
shining ministry. Mary, Mary, wouldn’t you like to go this very
afternoon?”

 [A] ἄγγελος.

She lay back in the grass, with her face up-turned to the sky, and drew
a long breath, wearily. I do not think she meant me to hear it. I did
not answer her, for it came over me with such a hopeless thrill, how
good it would be to be taken to Roy, there by his beautiful grave, with
the ivy and the May-flowers and the sunlight and the clover-leaves round
about; and that it could not be, and how long it was to wait,--it came
over me so that I could not speak.

“There!” she said, suddenly rousing, “what a thoughtless, wicked thing
it was to say! And I meant to give you only the good cheer of a cheery
friend. No, I do not care to go this afternoon, nor any afternoon, till
my Father is ready for me. Wherever he has most for me to do, there I
wish,--yes, I think I _wish_ to stay. He knows best.”

After a pause, I asked again, “Why did He not tell us more about this
thing,--about their presence with us? You see if I could _know_ it!”

“The mystery of the Bible lies not so much in what it says, as in what
it does not say,” she replied. “But I suppose that we have been told all
that we can comprehend in this world. Knowledge on one point might
involve knowledge on another, like the links of a chain, till it
stretched far beyond our capacity. At any rate, it is not for me to
break the silence. That is God’s affair. I can only accept the fact.
Nevertheless, as Dr. Chalmers says: ‘It were well for us all could we
carefully draw the line between the secret things which belong to God
and the things which are revealed and belong to us and to our children.’
Some one else,--Whately, I think,--I remember to have noticed as
speaking about these very subjects to this effect,--that precisely
because we know so little of them, it is the more important that we
‘should endeavor so to dwell on them as to make the most of what little
knowledge we have.’”

“Aunt Winifred, you are such a comfort!”

“It needs our best faith,” she said, “to bear this reticence of God. I
cannot help thinking sometimes of a thing Lauderdale said,--I am always
quoting him,--from ‘Son of the Soil,’ you remember: ‘It’s an awfu’
marvel, beyond my reach, when a word of communication would make a’ the
difference, why it’s no permitted, if it were but to keep a heart from
breaking now and then.’ Think of poor Eugénie de Guèrin, trying to
continue her little journal ‘To Maurice in Heaven,’ till the awful,
answerless stillness shut up the book and laid aside the pen.

“But then,” she continued, “there is this to remember,--I may have
borrowed the idea, or it may be my own,--that if we could speak to them,
or they to us, there would be no death, for there would be no
separation. The last, the surest, in some cases the only test of loyalty
to God, would thus be taken away. Roman Catholic nature is human nature,
when it comes upon its knees before a saint. Many lives--all such lives
as yours and mine--would become--”

“Would become what?”

“One long defiance to the First Commandment.”

I cannot become used to such words from such quiet lips. Yet they give
me a curious sense of the trustworthiness of her peace. “Founded upon a
rock,” it seems to be. She has done what it takes a lifetime for some of
us to do; what some of us go into eternity, leaving undone; what I am
afraid I shall never do,--sounded her own nature. She knows the worst of
herself, and faces it as fairly, I believe, as anybody can do in this
world. As for the best of herself, she trusts that to Christ, and he
knows it, and we. I hope she, in her sweet humbleness, will know it some
day.

“I suppose, nevertheless,” she said, “that Roy knows what you are doing
and feeling as well as, perhaps better than, he knew it three months
ago. So he can help you without harming you.”

I asked her, turning suddenly, how that could be, and yet heaven be
heaven,--how he could see me suffer what I had suffered, could see me
sometimes when I supposed none but God had seen me,--and sing on and be
happy.

“You are not the first, Mary, and you will not be the last, to ask that
question. I cannot answer it, and I never heard of any who could. I feel
sure only of this,--that he would suffer far less to see you than to
know nothing about you; and that God’s power of inventing happiness is
not to be blocked by an obstacle like this. Perhaps Roy sees the end
from the beginning, and can bear the sight of pain for the peace that he
watches coming to meet you. I do not know,--that does not perplex me
now; it only makes me anxious for one thing.”

“What is that?”

“That you and I shall not do anything to make them sorry.”

“To make them sorry?”

“Roy would care. Roy would be disappointed to see you make life a
hopeless thing for his sake, or to see you doubt his Saviour.”

“Do you think _that_?”

“Some sort of mourning over sin enters that happy life. God himself ‘was
grieved’ forty years long over his wandering people. Among the angels
there has been ‘silence,’ whatever that mysterious pause may mean, just
as there is joy over one sinner that repenteth; another of my
proof-texts that, to show that they are allowed to keep us in sight.”

“Then you think, you really think, that Roy remembers and loves and
takes care of me; that he has been listening, perhaps, and is--why, you
don’t think he may be _here_?”

“Yes, I do. Here, close beside you all this time, trying to speak to you
through the blessed sunshine and the flowers, trying to help you, and
sure to love you,--right here, dear. I do not believe God means to send
him away from you, either.”

My heart was too full to answer her. Seeing how it was, she slipped
away, and, strolling out of sight with her face to the eastern hills,
left me alone.

And yet I did not seem alone. The low branches swept with a little soft
sigh across the grave; the May-flowers wrapped me in with fragrance
thick as incense; the tiny sparrow turned her soft eyes at me over the
edge of the nest, and chirped contentedly; the “blessed sunshine” talked
with me as it touched the edges of the ivy-leaves to fire.

I cannot write it even here, how these things stole into my heart and
hushed me. If I had seen him standing by the stainless cross, it would
not have frightened or surprised me. There--not dead or gone, but
_there_--it helps me, and makes me strong!

“Mamie! little Mamie!”

O Roy, I will try to bear it all, if you will only stay!



VIII.


May 20.

The nearer the time has come for Aunt Winifred to go, the more it has
seemed impossible to part with her. I have run away from the thought
like a craven, till she made me face it this morning, by saying
decidedly that she should go on the first of the week.

I dropped my sewing; the work-basket tipped over, and all my spools
rolled away under the chairs. I had a little time to think while I was
picking them up.

“There is the rest of my visit at Norwich to be made, you know,” she
said, “and while I am there I shall form some definite plans for the
summer; I have hardly decided what, yet. I had better leave here by the
seven o’clock train, if such an early start will not incommode you.”

I wound up the last spool, and turned away to the window. There was a
confused, dreary sky of scurrying clouds, and a cold wind was bruising
the apple-buds. I hate a cold wind in May. It made me choke a little,
thinking how I should sit and listen to it after she was gone,--of the
old, blank, comfortless days that must come and go,--of what she had
brought, and what she would take away. I was a bit faint, I think, for a
minute. I had not really thought the prospect through, before.

“Mary,” she said, “what’s the matter? Come here.”

I went over, and she drew me into her lap, and I put my arms about her
neck.

“I can _not_ bear it,” said I, “and that is the matter.”

She smiled, but her smile faded when she looked at me.

And then I told her, sobbing, how it was; that I could not go into my
future alone,--I could not do it! that she did not know how weak I
was,--and reckless,--and wicked; that she did not know what she had been
to me. I begged her not to leave me. I begged her to stay and help me
bear my life.

“My dear! you are as bad as Faith when I put her to bed alone.”

“But,” I said, “when Faith cries, you go to her, you know.”

“Are you quite in earnest, Mary?” she asked, after a pause. “You don’t
know very much about me, after all, and there is the child. It is always
an experiment, bringing two families into lifelong relations under one
roof. If I could think it best, you might repent your bargain.”

“_I_ am not ‘a family,’” I said, feebly trying to laugh. “Aunt Winifred,
if you and Faith only _will_ make this your home, I can never thank you,
never. I shall be entertaining my good angels, and that is the whole of
it.”

“I have had some thought of not going back,” she said at last, in a low,
constrained voice, as if she were touching something that gave her great
pain, “for Faith’s sake. I should like to educate her in New England,
if--I had intended if we stayed to rent or buy a little home of our own
somewhere, but I had been putting off a decision. We are most weak and
most selfish sometimes when we think ourselves strongest and noblest,
Mary. I love my husband’s people. I think they love me. I was almost
happy with them. It seemed as if I were carrying on his work for him.
That was so pleasant!”

She put me down out of her arms and walked across the room.

“I will think the matter over,” she said, by and by, in her natural
tones, “and let you know to-night.”

She went away up stairs then, and I did not see her again until
to-night. I sent Faith up with her dinner and tea, judging that she
would rather see the child than me. I observed, when the dishes came
down, that she had touched nothing but a cup of coffee.

I began to understand, as I sat alone in the parlor through the
afternoon, how much I had asked of her. In my selfish distress at losing
her, I had not thought of that. Faces that her husband loved, meadows
and hills and sunsets that he has watched, the home where his last step
sounded and his last word was spoken, the grave where she has laid
him,--this last more than all,--call after her, and cling to her with
yearning closeness. To leave them, is to leave the last faint shadow of
her beautiful past. It hurts, but she is too brave to cry out.

Tea was over, and Faith in bed, but still she did not come down. I was
sitting by the window, watching a little crescent moon climb over the
hills, and wondering whether I had better go up, when she came in and
stood behind me, and said, attempting to laugh:--

“Very impolite in me to run off so, wasn’t it? Cowardly, too, I think.
Well, Mary?”

“Well, Auntie?”

“Have you not repented your proposition yet?”

“You would excel as an inquisitor, Mrs. Forceythe!”

“Then it shall be as you say; as long as you want us you shall have
us,--Faith and me.”

I turned to thank her, but could not when I saw her face. It was very
pale; there was something inexpressibly sad about her mouth, and her
eyelids drooped heavily, like one weary from a great struggle.

Feeling for the moment guilty and ashamed before her, as if I had done
her wrong, “It is going to be very hard for you,” I said.

“Never mind about that,” she answered, quickly. “We will not talk about
that. I knew, though I did not _wish_ to know, that it was best for
Faith. Your hands about my neck have settled it. Where the work is,
there the laborer must be. It is quite plain now. I have been talking it
over with them all the afternoon; it seems to be what they want.”

“With _them_”? I started at the words; who had been in her lonely
chamber? Ah, it is simply real to her. Who, indeed, but her Saviour and
her husband?

She did not seem inclined to talk, and stole away from me presently, and
out of doors; she was wrapped in her blanket shawl, and had thrown a
shimmering white hood over her gray hair. I wondered where she could be
going, and sat still at the window watching her. She opened and shut the
gate softly; and, turning her face towards the churchyard, walked up the
street and out of my sight.

She feels nearer to him in the resting-place of the dead. Her heart
cries after the grave by which she will never sit and weep again; on
which she will never plant the roses any more.

As I sat watching and thinking this, the faint light struck her slight
figure and little shimmering hood again, and she walked down the street
and in with steady step.

When she came up and stood beside me, smiling, with the light knitted
thing thrown back on her shoulders, her face seemed to rise from it as
from a snowy cloud; and for her look,--I wish Raphael could have had it
for one of his rapt Madonnas.

“Now, Mary,” she said, with the sparkle back again in her voice, “I am
ready to be entertaining, and promise not to play the hermit again very
soon. Shall I sit here on the sofa with you? Yes, my dear, I am happy,
quite happy.”

So then we took this new promise of home that has come to make my life,
if not joyful, something less than desolate, and analyzed it in its
practical bearings. What a pity that all pretty dreams have to be
analyzed! I had some notion about throwing our little incomes into a
joint family fund, but she put a veto to that; I suppose because mine is
the larger. She prefers to take board for herself and Faith; but, if I
know myself, she shall never be suffered to have the feeling of a
boarder, and I will make her so much at home in my house that she shall
not remember that it is not her own.

Her visit to Norwich she has decided to put off until the autumn, so
that I shall have her to myself undisturbed all summer.

I have been looking at Roy’s picture a long time, and wondering how he
would like the new plan. I said something of the sort to her.

“Why put any ‘would’ in that sentence?” she said, smiling. “It belongs
in the present tense.”

“Then I am sure he likes it,” I answered,--“he likes it,” and I said the
words over till I was ready to cry for rest in their sweet sound.


22d.

It is Roy’s birthday. But I have not spoken of it. We used to make a
great deal of these little festivals,--but it is of no use to write
about that.

I am afraid I have been bearing it very badly all day. She noticed my
face, but said nothing till to-night. Mrs. Bland was down stairs, and I
had come away alone up here in the dark. I heard her asking for me, but
would not go down. By and by Aunt Winifred knocked, and I let her in.

“Mrs. Bland cannot understand why you don’t see her, Mary,” she said,
gently. “You know you have not thanked her for those English violets
that she sent the other day. I only thought I would remind you; she
might feel a little pained.”

“I can’t to-night,--not to-night, Aunt Winifred. You must excuse me to
her somehow. I don’t want to go down.”

“Is it that you don’t ‘want to,’ or _is_ it that you can’t?” she said,
in that gentle, motherly way of hers, at which I can never take offence.
“Mary, I wonder if Roy would not a little rather that you would go
down?”

It might have been Roy himself who spoke.

I went down.



IX.


June 1.

Aunt Winifred went to the office this morning, and met Dr. Bland, who
walked home with her. He always likes to talk with her.

A woman who knows something about fate, free-will, and foreknowledge
absolute, who is not ignorant of politics, and talks intelligently of
Agassiz’s latest fossil, who can understand a German quotation, and has
heard of Strauss and Neander, who can dash her sprightliness ably
against his old dry bones of metaphysics and theology, yet never speak
an accent above that essentially womanly voice of hers, is, I imagine, a
phenomenon in his social experience.

I was sitting at the window when they came up and stopped at the gate.
Dr. Bland lifted his hat to me in his grave way, talking the while;
somewhat eagerly, too, I could see. Aunt Winifred answered him with a
peculiar smile and a few low words that I could not hear.

“But, my dear madam,” he said, “the glory of God, you see, the glory of
God is the primary consideration.”

“But the glory of God _involves_ these lesser glories, as a sidereal
system, though a splendid whole, exists by the multiplied differing of
one star from another star. Ah, Dr. Bland, you make a grand abstraction
out of it, but it makes me cold,”--she shivered, half playfully, half
involuntarily,--“it makes me cold. I am very much alive and human; and
Christ was human God.”

She came in smiling a little sadly, and stood by me, watching the
minister walk over the hill.

“How much does that man love his wife and children?” she asked abruptly.

“A good deal. Why?”

“I am afraid that he will lose one of them then, before many more years
of his life are past.”

“What! he hasn’t been telling you that they are consumptive or anything
of the sort?”

“O dear me, no,” with a merry laugh which died quickly away: “I was only
thinking,--there is trouble in store for him; some intense pain,--if he
is capable of intense pain,--which shall shake his cold, smooth
theorizing to the foundation. He speaks a foreign tongue when he talks
of bereavement, of death, of the future life. No argument could convince
him of that, though, which is the worst of it.”

“He must think you shockingly heterodox.”

“I don’t doubt it. We had a little talk this morning, and he regarded me
with an expression of mingled consternation and perplexity that was
curious. He is a very good man. He is not a stupid man. I only wish that
he would stop preaching and teaching things that he knows nothing about.

“He is only drifting with the tide, though,” she added, “in his views of
this matter. In our recoil from the materialism of the Romish Church, we
have, it seems to me, nearly stranded ourselves on the opposite shore.
Just as, in a rebound from the spirit which would put our Saviour on a
level with Buddha or Mahomet, we have been in danger of forgetting ‘to
begin as the Bible begins,’ with his humanity. It is the grandeur of
inspiration, that it knows how to _balance_ truth.”

It had been in my mind for several days to ask Aunt Winifred something,
and, feeling in the mood, I made her take off her things and devote
herself to me. My question concerned what we call the “intermediate
state.”

“I have been expecting that,” she said; “what about it?”

“What _is_ it?”

“Life and activity.”

“We do not go to sleep, of course.”

“I believe that notion is about exploded, though clear thinkers like
Whately have appeared to advocate it. Where it originated, I do not
know, unless from the frequent comparisons in the Scriptures of death
with sleep, which refer solely, I am convinced, to the condition of
body, and which are voted down by an overwhelming majority of decided
statements relative to the consciousness, happiness, and tangibility of
the life into which we immediately pass.”

“It is intermediate, in some sense, I suppose.”

“It waits between two other conditions,--yes; I think the drift of what
we are taught about it leads to that conclusion. I expect to become at
once sinless, but to have a broader Christian character many years
hence; to be happy at once, but to be happier by and by; to find in
myself wonderful new tastes and capacities, which are to be immeasurably
ennobled and enlarged after the Resurrection, whatever that may mean.”

“What does it mean?”

“I know no more than you, but you shall hear what I think, presently. I
was going to say that this seems to be plain enough in the Bible. The
angels took Lazarus at once to Abraham. Dives seems to have found no
interval between death and consciousness of suffering.”

“They always tell you that that is only a parable.”

“But it must mean _something_. No story in the Bible has been pulled to
pieces and twisted about as that has been. We are in danger of pulling
and twisting all sense out of it. Then Judas, having hanged his wretched
self, went to his own place. Besides, there was Christ’s promise to the
thief.”

I told her that I had heard Dr. Bland say that we could not place much
dependence on that passage, because “Paradise” did not necessarily mean
heaven.

“But it meant living, thinking, enjoying; for ‘To-day thou shalt _be
with me_.’ Paul’s beautiful perplexed revery, however, would be enough
if it stood alone; for he did not know whether he would rather stay in
this world, or depart and be with Christ, which is far better. _With
Christ_, you see; and His three mysterious days, which typify our
intermediate state, were over then, and he had ascended to his Father.
Would it be ‘far better’ either to leave this actual tangible life
throbbing with hopes and passions, to leave its busy, Christ-like
working, its quiet joys, its very sorrows which are near and human, for
a nap of several ages, or even for a vague, lazy, half-alive,
disembodied existence?”

“Disembodied? I supposed, of course, that it was disembodied.”

“I do not think so. And that brings us to the Resurrection. All the
_tendency_ of Revelation is to show that an embodied state is superior
to a disembodied one. Yet certainly we who love God are promised that
death will lead us into a condition which shall have the advantage of
this: for the good apostle to die ‘was gain.’ I don’t believe, for
instance, that Adam and Eve have been wandering about in a misty
condition all these thousands of years. I suspect that we have some sort
of body immediately after passing out of this, but that there is to
come a mysterious change, equivalent, perhaps, to a re-embodiment, when
our capacities for action will be greatly improved, and that in some
manner this new form will be connected with this ‘garment by the soul
laid by.’”

“Deacon Quirk expects to rise in his own entire, original body, after it
has lain in the First Church cemetery a proper number of years, under a
black slate headstone, adorned by a willow, and such a ‘cherubim’ as
that poor boy shot,--by the way, if I’ve laughed at that story once, I
have fifty times.”

“Perhaps Deacon Quirk would admire a work of art that I found stowed
away on the top of your Uncle Calvin’s bookcases. It was an old
woodcut--nobody knows how old--of an interesting skeleton rising from
his grave, and, in a sprightly and modest manner, drawing on his skin,
while Gabriel, with apoplectic cheeks, feet uppermost in the air, was
blowing a good-sized tin trumpet in his ear!

“No; some of the popular notions of resurrection are simple
physiological impossibilities, from causes ‘too tedious to specify.’
Imagine, for instance, the resurrection of two Hottentots, one of whom
has happened to make a dinner of the other some fine day. A little
complication there! Or picture the touching scene, when that devoted
husband, King Mausolas, whose widow had him burned and ate the ashes,
should feel moved to institute a search for his body! It is no wonder
that the infidel argument has the best of it, when we attempt to enforce
a natural impossibility. It is worth while to remember that Paul
expressly stated that we shall _not_ rise in our entire earthly bodies.
The simile which he used is the seed sown, dying in, and mingling with,
the ground. How many of its original particles are found in the
full-grown corn?”

“Yet you believe that _something_ belonging to this body is preserved
for the completion of another?”

“Certainly. I accept God’s statement about it, which is as plain as
words can make a statement. I do not know, and I do not care to know,
how it is to be effected. God will not be at a loss for a way, any more
than he is at a loss for a way to make his fields blossom every spring.
For aught we know, some invisible compound of an annihilated body may
hover, by a divine decree, around the site of death till it is
wanted,--sufficient to preserve identity as strictly as a body can ever
be said to preserve it; and stranger things have happened. You remember
the old Mohammedan belief in the one little bone which is imperishable.
Prof. Bush’s idea of our triune existence is suggestive, for a notion.
He believed, you know, that it takes a material body, a spiritual body,
and a soul, to make a man. The spiritual body is enclosed within the
material, the soul within the spiritual. Death is simply the slipping
off of the outer body, as a husk slips off from its kernel. The
deathless frame stands ready then for the soul’s untrammelled
occupation. But it is a waste of time to speculate over such useless
fancies, while so many remain that will vitally affect our happiness.”

It is singular; but I never gave a serious thought--and I have done some
thinking about other matters--to my heavenly body, till that moment,
while I sat listening to her. In fact, till Roy went, the Future was a
miserable, mysterious blank, to be drawn on and on in eternal and
joyless monotony, and to which, at times, annihilation seemed
preferable. I remember, when I was a child, asking father once, if I
were so good that I _had_ to go to heaven, whether, after a hundred
years, God would not let me “die out.” More or less of the disposition
of that same desperate little sinner I suspect has always clung to me.
So I asked Aunt Winifred, in some perplexity, what she supposed our
bodies would be like.

“It must be nearly all ‘suppose,’” she said, “for we are nowhere
definitely told. But this is certain. They will be as real as these.”

“But these you can see, you can touch.”

“What would be the use of having a body that you can’t see and touch? A
body is a _body_, not a spirit. Why should you not, having seen Roy’s
old smile and heard his own voice, clasp his hand again, and feel his
kiss on your happy lips?

“It is really amusing,” she continued, “to sum up the notions that good
people--excellent people--even thinking people--have of the heavenly
body. Vague visions of floating about in the clouds, of balancing--with
a white robe on, perhaps--in stiff rows about a throne, like the angels
in the old pictures, converging to an apex, or ranged in semi-circles
like so many marbles. Murillo has one charming exception. I always take
a secret delight in that little cherub of his, kicking the clouds, in
the right-hand upper corner of the Immaculate Conception; he seems to
be having a good time of it, in genuine baby-fashion. The truth is, that
the ordinary idea, if sifted accurately, reduces our eternal personality
to--_gas_.

“Isaac Taylor holds, that, as far as the abstract idea of spirit is
concerned, it may just as reasonably be granite as ether.

“Mrs. Charles says a pretty thing about this. She thinks these
‘super-spiritualized angels’ very ‘unsatisfactory’ beings, and that ‘the
heart returns with loving obstinacy to the young men in long white
garments’ who sat waiting in the sepulchre.

“Here again I cling to my conjecture about the word ‘angel’; for then we
should learn emphatically something about our future selves.

“‘As the angels in heaven,’ or ‘equal unto the angels,’ we are told in
another place,--that may mean simply what it says. At least, if we are
to resemble them in the particular respect of which the words were
spoken,--and that one of the most important which could well be
selected,--it is not unreasonable to infer that we shall resemble them
in others. ‘In the Resurrection,’ by the way, means, in that connection
and in many others, simply future state of existence, without any
reference to the time at which the great bodily change is to come.

“‘But this is a digression,’ as the novelists say. I was going to say,
that it bewilders me to conjecture where students of the Bible have
discovered the usual foggy nonsense about the corporeity of heaven.

“If there is anything laid down in plain statement, devoid of metaphor
or parable, simple and unequivocal, it is the definite contradiction of
all that. Paul, in his preface to that sublime apostrophe to death,
repeats and reiterates it, lest we should make a mistake in his meaning.

“‘There are celestial _bodies_.’ ‘It is raised a spiritual _body_.’
‘There is a spiritual _body_.’ ‘It _is_ raised in incorruption.’ ‘It
_is_ raised in glory.’ ‘It _is_ raised in power.’ Moses, too, when he
came to the transfigured mount in glory, had as real a _body_ as when he
went into the lonely mount to die.”

“But they will be different from these?”

“The glory of the terrestrial is one, the glory of the celestial
another. Take away sin and sickness and misery, and that of itself would
make difference enough.”

“You do not suppose that we shall look as we look now?”

“I certainly do. At least, I think it more than possible that the ‘human
form divine,’ or something like it, is to be retained. Not only from the
fact that risen Elijah bore it; and Moses, who, if he had not passed
through his resurrection, does not seem to have looked different from
the other,--I have to use those two poor prophets on all occasions, but,
as we are told of them neither by parable nor picture, they are
important,--and that angels never appeared in any other, but because, in
sinless Eden, God chose it for Adam and Eve. What came in unmarred
beauty direct from His hand cannot be unworthy of His other Paradise
‘beyond the stars.’ It would chime in pleasantly, too, with the idea of
Redemption, that our very bodies, free from all the distortion of guilt,
shall return to something akin to the pure ideal in which He moulded
them. Then there is another reason, and stronger.”

“What is that?”

“The human form has been borne and dignified forever by Christ. And,
further than that, He ascended to His Father in it, and lives there in
it as human God to-day.”

I had never thought of that, and said so.

“Yes, with the very feet which trod the dusty road to Emmaus; the very
wounded hands which Thomas touched, believing; the very lips which ate
of the broiled fish and honeycomb; the very voice which murmured ‘Mary!’
in the garden, and which told her that He ascended unto His Father and
her Father, to His God and her God, He ‘was parted from them,’ and was
‘received up into heaven.’ His death and resurrection stand forever the
great prototype of ours. Otherwise, what is the meaning of such
statements as these: ‘When He shall appear, we shall be _like Him_’;
‘The first man (Adam) is of the earth; the second man is the Lord. As we
have borne the image of the earthy, _we shall also bear the image of the
heavenly_’? And what of this, when we are told that our ‘vile bodies,’
being changed, shall be fashioned ‘_like unto His glorious body_’?”

I asked her if she inferred from that, that we should have just such
bodies as the freedom from pain and sin would make of these.

“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom,” she said. “There is no
escaping that, even if I had the smallest desire to escape it, which I
have not. Whatever is essentially earthly and temporary in the
arrangements of this world will be out of place and unnecessary there.
Earthly and temporary, flesh and blood certainly are.”

“Christ said, ‘A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.’”

“A _spirit_ hath not; and who ever said that it did? His body had
something that appeared like them, certainly. That passage, by the way,
has led some ingenious writer on the Chemistry of Heaven to infer that
our bodies there will be like these, minus _blood_! I don’t propose to
spend my time over such investigations. Summing up the meaning of the
story of those last days before the Ascension, and granting the shade of
mystery which hangs over them, I gather this,--that the spiritual body
is real, is tangible, is visible, is human, but that ‘we shall be
changed.’ Some indefinable but thorough change had come over Him. He
could withdraw Himself from the recognition of Mary, and from the
disciples, whose ‘eyes were holden,’ as it pleased Him. He came and went
through barred and bolted doors. He appeared suddenly in a certain
place, without sound of footstep or flutter of garment to announce His
approach. He vanished, and was not, like a cloud. New and wonderful
powers had been given to Him, of which, probably, His little bewildered
group of friends saw but a few illustrations.”

“And He was yet _man_?”

“He was Jesus of Nazareth until the sorrowful drama of human life that
He had taken upon Himself was thoroughly finished, from manger to
sepulchre, and from sepulchre to the right hand of His Father.”

“I like to wonder,” she said, presently, “what we are going to look like
and be like. _Ourselves_, in the first place. ‘It is I Myself,’ Christ
said. Then to be perfectly well, never a sense of pain or
weakness,--imagine how much solid comfort, if one had no other, in being
forever rid of all the ills that flesh is heir to! Beautiful, too, I
suppose we shall be, every one. Have you never had that come over you,
with a thrill of compassionate thankfulness, when you have seen a poor
girl shrinking, as only girls can shrink, under the life-long affliction
of a marred face or form? The loss or presence of beauty is not as
slight a deprivation or blessing as the moralists would make it out.
Your grandmother, who was the most beautiful woman I ever saw, the
belle of the county all her young days, and the model for artists’ fancy
sketching even in her old ones, as modest as a violet and as honest as
the sunshine, used to have the prettiest little way when we girls were
in our teens, and she thought that we must be lectured a bit on youthful
vanity, of adding, in her quiet voice, smoothing down her black silk
apron as she spoke, ‘But still it is a thing to be thankful for, my
dear, to have a _comely countenance_.’

“But to return to the track and our future bodies. We shall find them
vastly convenient, undoubtedly, with powers of which there is no
dreaming. Perhaps they will be so one with the soul that to will will be
to do,--hindrance out of the question. I, for instance, sitting here by
you, and thinking that I should like to be in Kansas, would be there.
There is an interesting bit of a hint in Daniel about Gabriel, who,
‘being caused to fly swiftly, touched him about the time of the evening
oblation.’”

“But do you not make a very material kind of heaven out of such
suppositions?”

“It depends upon what you mean by ‘material.’ The term does not, to my
thinking, imply degradation, except so far as it is associated with
sin. Dr. Chalmers has the right of it, when he talks about ‘_spiritual
materialism_.’ He says in his sermon on the New Heavens and
Earth,--which, by the way, you should read, and from which I wish a few
more of our preachers would learn something,--that we ‘forget that on
the birth of materialism, when it stood out in the freshness of those
glories which the great Architect of Nature had impressed upon it, that
then the “morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted
for joy.”’ I do not believe in a _gross_ heaven, but I believe in a
_reasonable_ one.”


4th.

We have been devoting ourselves to feminine vanities all day out in the
orchard. Aunt Winifred has been making her summer bonnet, and I some
linen collars. I saw, though she said nothing, that she thought the
_crêpe_ a little gloomy, and I am going to wear these in the mornings to
please her.

She has an accumulation of work on hand, and in the afternoon I offered
to tuck a little dress for Faith,--the prettiest pink _barège_ affair
pale as a blush rose, and about as delicate. Faith, who had been making
mud-pies in the swamp, and was spattered with black peat from curls to
stockings, looked on approvingly, and wanted it to wear on a flag-root
expedition to-morrow. It seemed to do me good to do something for
somebody after all this lonely and--I suspect--selfish idleness.


6th.

I read a little of Dr. Chalmers to-day, and went laughing to Aunt
Winifred with the first sentence.

“There is a limit to the revelations of the Bible about futurity, and it
were a mental or spiritual trespass to go beyond it.”

“Ah! but,” she said, “look a little farther down.”

And I read, “But while we attempt not to be ‘wise above that which is
written,’ we should attempt, and that most studiously, to be wise _up_
to that which is written.”


8th.

It occurred to me to-day, that it was a noticeable fact, that, among all
the visits of angels to this world of which we are told, no one seems to
have discovered in any the presence of a dead friend. If redeemed men
are subject to the same laws as they, why did such a thing never happen?
I asked Aunt Winifred, and she said that the question reminded her of
St. Augustine’s lonely cry thirty years after the death of Monica: “Ah,
the dead do not come back; for, had it been possible, there has not been
a night when I should not have seen my mother!” There seemed to be two
reasons, she said, why there should be no exceptions to the law of
silence imposed between us and those who have left us; one of which was,
that we should be overpowered with familiar curiosity about them, which
nobody seems to have dared to express in the presence of angels, and the
secrets of their life God has decreed that it is unlawful to utter.

“But Lazarus, and Jairus’s little daughter, and the dead raised at the
Crucifixion,--what of them?” I asked.

“I cannot help conjecturing that they were suffered to forget their
glimpse of spiritual life,” she said. “Since their resurrection was a
miracle, there might be a miracle throughout. At least, their lips must
have been sealed, for not a word of their testimony has been saved. When
Lazarus dined with Simon, after he had come back to life,--and of that
feast we have a minute account in, I believe, every Gospel,--nobody
seems to have asked, or he to have answered, any questions about it.

“The other reason is a sorrowfully sufficient one. It is that _every_
lost darling has not gone to heaven. Of all the mercies that our Father
has given, this blessed uncertainty, this long unbroken silence, may be
the dearest. Bitterly hard for you and me, but what are thousands like
you and me weighed against one who stands beside a hopeless grave? Think
a minute what mourners there have been, and _whom_ they have mourned!
Ponder one such solitary instance as that of Vittoria Colonna,
wondering, through her widowed years, if she could ever be ‘good enough’
to join wicked Pescara in another world! This poor earth holds--God only
knows how many, God make them very few!--Vittorias. Ah, Mary, what right
have we to complain?”


9th.

To-night Aunt Winifred had callers,--Mrs. Quirk and (O Homer
aristocracy!) the butcher’s wife,--and it fell to my lot to put Faith to
bed.

The little maiden seriously demurred. Cousin Mary was very good,--O yes,
she was good enough,--but her mamma was a great deal gooder; and why
couldn’t little peoples sit up till nine o’clock as well as big peoples,
she should like to know!

Finally, she came to the gracious conclusion that perhaps I’d _do_, made
me carry her all the way up stairs, and dropped, like a little lump of
lead, half asleep, on my shoulder, before two buttons were unfastened.

Feeling under some sort of theological obligation to hear her say her
prayers, I pulled her curls a little till she awoke, and went through
with “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pway ve Lord,” triumphantly. I
supposed that was the end, but it seems that she has been also taught
the Lord’s Prayer, which she gave me promptly to understand.

“O, see here! That isn’t all. I can say Our Father, and you’ve got to
help me a lot!”

This very soon became a self-evident proposition; but by our united
efforts we managed, after tribulations manifold, to arrive successfully
at “For ever ’n’ ever ’n’ ever ’n’ _A_-men.”

“Dear me,” she said, jumping up with a yawn, “I think that’s a
_dreadful long-tailed prayer_,--don’t you, Cousin Mary?”

“Now I must kiss mamma good night,” she announced, when she was tucked
up at last.

“But mamma kissed you good night before you came up.”

“O, so she did. Yes, I ’member. Well, it’s papa I’ve got to kiss. I knew
there was somebody.”

I looked at her in perplexity.

“Why, there!” she said, “in the upper drawer,--my pretty little papa in
a purple frame. Don’t you know?”

I went to the bureau-drawer, and found in a case of velvet a small ivory
painting of her father. This I brought, wondering, and the child took it
reverently and kissed the pictured lips.

“Faith,” I said, as I laid it softly back, “do you always do this?”

“Do what? Kiss papa good night? O yes, I’ve done that ever since I was a
little girl, you know. I guess I’ve always kissed him pretty much. When
I’m a naughty girl he feels _real_ sorry. He’s gone to heaven. I like
him. O yes, and then, when I’m through kissing, mamma kisses him too.”



X.


June 11.

I was in her room this afternoon while she was dressing. I like to watch
her brush her beautiful gray hair; it quite alters her face to have it
down; it seems to shrine her in like a cloud, and the outlines of her
cheeks round out, and she grows young.

“I used to be proud of my hair when I was a girl,” she said with a
slight blush, as she saw me looking at her; “it was all I had to be vain
of, and I made the most of it. Ah well! I was dark-haired three years
ago.

“O you regular old woman!” she added, smiling at herself in the mirror,
as she twisted the silver coils flashing through her fingers. “Well,
when I am in heaven, I shall have my pretty brown hair again.”

It seemed odd enough to hear that; then the next minute it did not seem
odd at all, but the most natural thing in the world.


June 14.

She said nothing to me about the anniversary, and, though it has been in
my thoughts all the time, I said nothing to her. I thought that she
would shut herself up for the day, and was rather surprised that she was
about as usual, busily at work, chatting with me, and playing with
Faith. Just after tea, she went away alone for a time, and came back a
little quiet, but that was all. I was for some reason impressed with the
feeling that she kept the day in memory, not so much as the day of her
mourning, as of his release.

Longing to do something for her, yet not knowing what to do, I went into
the garden while she was away, and, finding some carnations, that shone
like stars in the dying light, I gathered them all, and took them to her
room, and, filling my tiny porphyry vase, left them on the bracket,
under the photograph of Uncle Forceythe that hangs by the window.

When she found them, she called me, and kissed me.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, “and thank God too, Mary, for me. That he
should have been happy,--happy and out of pain, for three long beautiful
years! O, think of that!”

When I was in her room with the flowers, I passed the table on which her
little Bible lay open. A mark of rich ribbon--a black ribbon--fell
across the pages; it bore in silver text these words:--

    “_Thou shalt have no other gods before me._”


20th.

“I thank thee, my God, the river of Lethe may indeed flow through the
Elysian Fields,--it does not water the Christian’s Paradise.”

Aunt Winifred was saying that over to herself in a dreamy undertone this
morning, and I happened to hear her.

“Just a quotation, dear,” she said, smiling, in answer to my look of
inquiry, “I couldn’t originate so pretty a thing. _Isn’t_ it pretty?”

“Very; but I am not sure that I understand it.”

“You thought that forgetfulness would be necessary to happiness?”

“Why,--yes; as far as I had ever thought about it; that is, after our
last ties with this world are broken. It does not seem to me that I
could be happy to remember all that I have suffered and all that I have
sinned here.”

“But the last of all the sins will be as if it had never been. Christ
takes care of that. No shadow of a sense of guilt can dog you, or affect
your relations to Him or your other friends. The last pain borne, the
last tear, the last sigh, the last lonely hour, the last unsatisfied
dream, forever gone by; why should not the dead past bury its dead?”

“Then why remember it?”

“‘Save but to swell the sense of being blest.’ Besides, forgetfulness of
the disagreeable things of this life implies forgetfulness of the
pleasant ones. They are all tangled together.”

“To be sure. I don’t know that I should like that.”

“Of course you wouldn’t. Imagine yourself in a state of being where you
and Roy had lost your past; all that you had borne and enjoyed, and
hoped and feared, together; the pretty little memories of your babyhood,
and first ‘half-days’ at school, when he used to trudge along beside
you,--little fellow! how many times I have watched him!--holding you
tight by the apron-sleeve or hat-string, or bits of fat fingers, lest
you should run away or fall. Then the old Academy pranks, out of which
you used to help each other; his little chivalry and elder-brotherly
advice; the mischief in his eyes; some of the ‘Sunday-night talks’; the
first novel that you read and dreamed over together; the college
stories; the chats over the corn-popper by firelight; the earliest,
earnest looking-on into life together, its temptations conquered, its
lessons learned, its disappointments faced together,--always you
two,--would you like to, are you _likely_ to, forget all this?

“Roy might as well be not Roy, but a strange angel, if you should.
Heaven will be not less heaven, but more, for this pleasant remembering.
So many other and greater and happier memories will fill up the time
then, that after years these things may--probably will--seem smaller
than it seems to us now they can ever be; but they will, I think, be
always dear; just as we look back to our baby-selves with a pitying sort
of fondness, and, though the little creatures are of small enough use to
us now, yet we like to keep good friends with them for old times’ sake.

“I have no doubt that you and I shall sit down some summer afternoon in
heaven and talk over what we have been saying to-day, and laugh perhaps
at all the poor little dreams we have been dreaming of what has not
entered into the heart of man. You see it is certain to be so much
_better_ than anything that I can think of; which is the comfort of it.
And Roy--”

“Yes; some more about Roy, please.”

“Supposing he were to come right into the room now,--and I slipped
out,--and you had him all to yourself again--Now, dear, don’t cry, but
wait a minute!” Her caressing hand fell on my hair. “I did not mean to
hurt you, but to say that your first talk with him, after you stand face
to face, may be like that.

“Remembering this life is going to help us amazingly, I fancy, to
appreciate the next,” she added, by way of period. “Christ seems to have
thought so, when he called to the minds of those happy people what, in
that unconscious ministering of lowly faith which may never reap its
sheaf in the field where the seed was sown, they had not had the comfort
of finding out before,--‘I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me.’
And to come again to Abraham in the parable, did he not say, ‘Son,
_remember_ that thou in thy lifetime hadst good things and Lazarus
evil’?”

“I wonder what it is going to look like,” I said, as soon as I could put
poor Dives out of my mind.

“Heaven? Eye hath not seen, but I have my fancies. I think I want some
mountains, and very many trees.”

“Mountains and trees!”

“Yes; mountains as we see them at sunset and sunrise, or when the maples
are on fire and there are clouds enough to make great purple shadows
chase each other into lakes of light, over the tops and down the
sides,--the _ideal_ of mountains which we catch in rare glimpses, as we
catch the ideal of everything. Trees as they look when the wind cooes
through them on a June afternoon; elms or lindens or pines as cool as
frost, and yellow sunshine trickling through on moss. Trees in a forest
so thick that it shuts out the world, and you walk like one in a
sanctuary. Trees pierced by stars, and trees in a bath of summer moons
to which the thrill of ‘Love’s young dream’ shall cling forever--But
there is no end to one’s fancies. Some water, too, I would like.”

“There shall be no more sea.”

“Perhaps not; though, as the sea is the great type of separation and of
destruction, that may be only figurative. But I’m not particular about
the sea, if I can have rivers and little brooks, and fountains of just
the right sort; the fountains of this world don’t please me generally. I
want a little brook to sit and sing to Faith by. O, I forgot! she will
be a large girl probably, won’t she?”

“Never too large to like to hear your mother sing, will you, Faith?”

“O no,” said Faith, who bobbed in and out again like a canary, just
then,--“not unless I’m _dreadful_ big, with long dresses and a
waterfall, you know. I s’pose, maybe, I’d have to have little girls
myself to sing to, then. I hope they’ll behave better’n Mary Ann does.
She’s lost her other arm, and all her sawdust is just running out.
Besides, Kitty thought she was a mouse, and ran down cellar with her,
and she’s all shooken up, somehow. She don’t look very pretty.”

“Flowers, too,” her mother went on, after the interruption. “_Not_ all
amaranth and asphodel, but of variety and color and beauty unimagined;
glorified lilies of the valley, heavenly tea-rose buds, and spiritual
harebells among them. O, how your poor mother used to say,--you know
flowers were her poetry,--coming in weak and worn from her garden in the
early part of her sickness, hands and lap and basket full: ‘Winifred,
if I only supposed I _could_ have some flowers in heaven I shouldn’t be
half so afraid to go!’ I had not thought as much about these things then
as I have now, or I should have known better how to answer her. I should
like, if I had my choice, to have day-lilies and carnations fresh under
my windows all the time.”

“Under your windows?”

“Yes. I hope to have a home of my own.”

“Not a house?”

“Something not unlike it. In the Father’s house are many mansions.
Sometimes I fancy that those words have a literal meaning which the
simple men who heard them may have understood better than we, and that
Christ is truly ‘preparing’ my home for me. He must be there, too, you
see,--I mean John.”

I believe that gave me some thoughts that I ought not to have, and so I
made no reply.

“If we have trees and mountains and flowers and books,” she went on,
smiling, “I don’t see why not have houses as well. Indeed, they seem to
me as supposable as anything can be which is guess-work at the best; for
what a homeless, desolate sort of sensation it gives one to think of
people wandering over the ‘sweet fields beyond the flood’ without a
local habitation and a name. What could be done with the millions who,
from the time of Adam, have been gathering there, unless they lived
under the conditions of organized society? Organized society involves
homes, not unlike the homes of this world.

“What other arrangement could be as pleasant, or could be pleasant at
all? Robertson’s definition of a church exactly fits. ‘More united in
each other, because more united in God.’ A happy home is the happiest
thing in the world. I do not see why it should not be in any world. I do
not believe that all the little tendernesses of family ties are thrown
by and lost with this life. In fact, Mary, I cannot think that anything
which has in it the elements of permanency is to be lost, but sin.
Eternity cannot be--it cannot be the great blank ocean which most of us
have somehow or other been brought up to feel that it is, which shall
swallow up, in a pitiless, glorified way, all the little brooks of our
delight. So I expect to have my beautiful home, and my husband, and
Faith, as I had them here; with many differences and great ones, but
_mine_ just the same. Unless Faith goes into a home of her own,--the
little creature! I suppose she can’t always be a baby.

“Do you remember what a pretty little wistful way Charles Lamb has of
wondering about all this?

“‘Shall I enjoy friendships there, wanting the smiling indications which
point me to them here,--the “sweet assurance of a look”? Sun, and sky,
and breeze, and solitary walks, and summer holidays, and the greenness
of fields, and the delicious juices of meats and fish, and society, ...
and candle-light and fireside conversations, and innocent vanities, and
jests, and _irony itself_,--do these things go out with life?’”

“Now, Aunt Winifred!” I said, sitting up straight, “what am I to do with
these beautiful heresies? If Deacon Quirk _should_ hear!”

“I do not see where the heresy lies. As I hold fast by the Bible, I
cannot be in much danger.”

“But you don’t glean your conjectures from the Bible.”

“I conjecture nothing that the Bible contradicts. I do not believe as
truth indisputable anything that the Bible does not give me. But I
reason from analogy about this, as we all do about other matters. Why
should we not have pretty things in heaven? If this ‘bright and
beautiful economy’ of skies and rivers, of grass and sunshine, of hills
and valleys, is not too good for such a place as this world, will there
be any less variety of the bright and beautiful in the next? There is no
reason for supposing that the voice of God will speak to us in
thunder-claps, or that it will not take to itself the thousand gentle,
suggestive tongues of a nature built on the ruins of this, an unmarred
system of beneficence.

“There is a pretty argument in the fact that just such sunrises, such
opening of buds, such fragrant dropping of fruit, such bells in the
brooks, such dreams at twilight, and such hush of stars, were fit for
Adam and Eve, made holy man and woman. How do we know that the abstract
idea of a heaven needs imply anything very much unlike Eden? There is
some reason as well as poetry in the conception of a ‘Paradise
Regained.’ A ‘new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.’”

“But how far is it safe to trust to this kind of argument?”

“Bishop Butler will answer you better than I. Let me see,--Isaac Taylor
says something about that.”

She went to the bookcase for his “Physical Theory of Another Life,” and,
finding her place, showed me this passage:--

“If this often repeated argument from analogy is to be termed, as to the
conclusions it involves, a conjecture merely, we ought then to abandon
altogether every kind of abstract reasoning; nor will it be easy
afterwards to make good any principle of natural theology. In truth, the
very basis of reasoning is shaken by a scepticism so sweeping as this.”

And in another place:--

“None need fear the consequences of such endeavors who have well learned
the prime principle of sound philosophy, namely, not to allow the most
plausible and pleasing conjectures to unsettle our convictions of truth
... resting upon positive evidence. If there be any who frown upon all
such attempts, ... they would do well to consider, that although
individually, and from the constitution of their minds, they may find it
very easy to abstain from every path of excursive meditation, it is not
so with others who almost irresistibly are borne forward to the vast
field of universal contemplation,--a field from which the human mind is
not to be barred, and which is better taken possession of by those who
reverently bow to the authority of Christianity, than left open to
impiety.”

“Very good,” I said, laying down the book. “But about those trees and
houses, and the rest of your ‘pretty things’? Are they to be like
these?”

“I don’t suppose that the houses will be made of oak and pine and nailed
together, for instance. But I hope for heavenly types of nature and of
art. _Something that will be to us then what these are now._ That is the
amount of it. They may be as ‘spiritual’ as you please; they will answer
all the purpose to us. As we are not spiritual beings yet, however, I am
under the necessity of calling them by their earthly names. You remember
Plato’s old theory, that the ideal of everything exists eternally in the
mind of God. If that is so,--and I do not see how it can be
otherwise,--then whatever of God is expressed to us in this world by
flower, or blade of grass, or human face, why should not that be
expressed forever in heaven by something corresponding to flower, or
grass, or human face? I do not mean that the heavenly creation will be
less real than these, but more so. Their ‘spirituality is of such a
sort that our gardens and forests and homes are but shadows of them.

“You don’t know how I amuse myself at night thinking this all over
before I go to sleep; wondering what one thing will be like, and another
thing; planning what I should like; thinking that John has seen it all,
and wondering if he is laughing at me because I know so little about it!
I tell you, Mary, there’s a ‘deal o’ comfort in ’t’ as Phœbe says
about her cup of tea.”


July 5.

Aunt Winifred has been hunting up a Sunday school class for herself and
one for me; which is a venture that I never was persuaded into
undertaking before. She herself is fast becoming acquainted with the
poorer people of the town.

I find that she is a thoroughly busy Christian, with a certain “week-day
holiness” that is strong and refreshing, like a west wind. Church-going,
and conversations on heaven, by no means exhaust her vitality.

She told me a pretty thing about her class; it happened the first
Sabbath that she took it. Her scholars are young girls of from fourteen
to eighteen years of age, children of church-members, most of them. She
seemed to have taken their hearts by storm. _She_ says, “They treated me
very prettily, and made me love them at once.”

Clo Bentley is in the class; Clo is a pretty, soft-eyed little creature,
with a shrinking mouth, and an absorbing passion for music, which she
has always been too poor to gratify. I suspect that her teacher will
make a pet of her. She says that in the course of her lesson, or, in her
words,--

“While we were all talking together, somebody pulled my sleeve, and
there was Clo in the corner, with her great brown eyes fixed on me. ‘See
here!’ she said in a whisper, ‘I can’t be good! I would be good if I
could _only_ just have a piano!’ ‘Well, Clo,’ I said, ‘if you will be a
good girl, and go to heaven, I think you will have a piano there, and
play just as much as you care to.’

“You ought to have seen the look the child gave me! Delight and fear and
incredulous bewilderment tumbled over each other, as if I had proposed
taking her into a forbidden fairy-land.

“‘Why, Mrs. Forceythe! Why, they won’t let anybody have a piano up
there! not in _heaven_?’

“I laid down the question-book, and asked what kind of place she
supposed that heaven was going to be.

“‘O,’ she said, with a dreary sigh, ‘I never think about it when I can
help it. I suppose we _shall all just stand there_!’

“And you?” I asked of the next, a bright girl with snapping eyes.

“‘Do you want me to talk good, or tell the truth?’ she answered me.
Having been given to understand that she was not expected to ‘talk good’
in my class, she said, with an approving, decided nod: ‘Well, then! I
don’t think it’s going to be _anything nice_ anyway. No, I don’t! I told
my last teacher so, and she looked just as shocked, and said I never
should go there as long as I felt so. That made me mad, and I told her I
didn’t see but I should be as well off in one place as another, except
for the fire.’

“A silent girl in the corner began at this point to look interested. ‘I
always supposed,’ said she, ‘that you just floated round in heaven--you
know--all together--something like ju-jube paste!’

“Whereupon I shut the question-book entirely, and took the talking to
myself for a while.

“‘But I _never_ thought it was anything like that,’ interrupted little
Clo, presently, her cheeks flushed with excitement. ‘Why, I should like
to go, if it is like that! I never supposed people talked, unless it was
about converting people, and saying your prayers, and all that.’

“Now, weren’t those ideas[B] alluring and comforting for young girls in
the blossom of warm human life? They were trying with all their little
hearts to ‘be good,’ too, some of them, and had all of them been to
church and Sunday school all their lives. Never, never, if Jesus Christ
had been Teacher and Preacher to them, would He have pictured their
blessed endless years with Him in such bleak colors. They are not the
hues of His Bible.”

 [B] Facts.



XI.


July 16.

We took a trip to-day to East Homer for butter. Neither angels nor
principalities could convince Phœbe that any butter but “Stephen
David’s” might, could, would, or should be used in this family. So to
Mr. Stephen David’s, a journey of four miles, I meekly betake myself at
stated periods in the domestic year, burdened with directions about
firkins and half-firkins, pounds and half-pounds, salt and no salt,
churning and “working-over”; some of which I remember and some of which
I forget, and to all of which Phœbe considers me sublimely incapable
of attending.

The afternoon was perfect, and we took things leisurely, letting the
reins swing from the hook,--an arrangement to which Mr. Tripp’s old gray
was entirely agreeable,--and, leaning back against the buggy-cushions,
wound along among the strong, sweet pine-smells, lazily talking or
lazily silent, as the spirit moved, and as only two people who
thoroughly understand and like each other can talk or be silent.

We rode home by Deacon Quirk’s, and, as we jogged by, there broke upon
our view a blooming vision of the Deacon himself, at work in his
potato-field with his son and heir, who, by the way, has the reputation
of being the most awkward fellow in the township.

The amiable church-officer, having caught sight of us, left his work,
and coming up to the fence “in rustic modesty unscared,” guiltless of
coat or vest, his calico shirt-sleeves rolled up to his huge brown
elbows, and his dusty straw hat flapping in the wind, rapped on the
rails with his hoe-handle as a sign for us to stop.

“Are we in a hurry?” I asked, under my breath.

“O no,” said Aunt Winifred. “He has somewhat to say unto me, I see by
his eyes. I have been expecting it. Let us hear him out. Good afternoon,
Deacon Quirk.”

“Good afternoon, ma’am. Pleasant day?”

She assented to the statement, novel as it was.

“A very pleasant day,” repeated the Deacon, looking for the first time
in his life, to my knowledge, a little undecided as to what he should
say next. “Remarkable fine day for riding. In a hurry?”

“Well, not especially. Did you want anything of me?”

“You’re a church-member, aren’t you, ma’am?” asked the Deacon, abruptly.

“I am.”

“Orthodox?”

“O yes,” with a smile. “You had a reason for asking?”

“Yes, ma’am; I had, as you might say, a reason for asking.”

The Deacon laid his hoe on the top of the fence, and his arms across it,
and pushed his hat on the back of his head in a becoming and
argumentative manner.

“I hope you don’t consider that I’m taking liberties if I have a little
religious conversation with you, Mrs. Forceythe.”

“It is no offence to me if you are,” replied Mrs. Forceythe, with a
twinkle in her eye; but both twinkle and words glanced off from the
Deacon.

“My wife was telling me last night,” he began, with an ominous cough,
“that her niece, Clotildy Bentley--Moses Bentley’s daughter, you know,
and one of your sentimental girls that reads poetry, and is easy enough
led away by vain delusions and false doctrine--was under your charge at
Sunday-school. Now Clotildy is intimate with my wife,--who is her aunt
on her mother’s side, and always tries to do her duty by her,--and she
told Mrs. Quirk what you’d been a saying to those young minds on the
Sabbath.”

He stopped, and observed her impressively, as if he expected to see the
guilty blushes of arraigned heresy covering her amused, attentive face.

“I hope you will pardon me, ma’am, for repeating it, but Clotildy said
that you told her she should have a pianna in heaven. A _pianna_,
ma’am!”

“I certainly did,” she said quietly.

“You did? Well, now, I didn’t believe it, nor I wouldn’t believe it,
till I’d asked you! I thought it warn’t more than fair that I should ask
you, before repeating it, you know. It’s none of my business, Mrs.
Forceythe, any more than that I take a general interest in the
spiritooal welfare of the youth of our Sabbath school; but I am very
much surprised! I am _very_ much surprised!”

“I am surprised that you should be, Deacon Quirk. Do you believe that
God would take a poor little disappointed girl like Clo, who has been
all her life here forbidden the enjoyment of a perfectly innocent taste,
and keep her in His happy heaven eternal years, without finding means to
gratify it? I don’t.”

“I tell Clotildy I don’t see what she wants of a pianna-forte,” observed
“Clotildy’s” uncle, sententiously. “She can go to singin’ school, and
she’s been in the choir ever since I have, which is six years come
Christmas. Besides, I don’t think it’s our place to speckylate on the
mysteries of the heavenly spere. My wife told her that she mustn’t
believe any such things as that, which were very irreverent, and
contrary to the Scriptures, and Clo went home crying. She said: ‘It was
so pretty to think about.’ It is very easy to impress these delusions of
fancy on the young.”

“Pray, Deacon Quirk,” said Aunt Winifred, leaning earnestly forward in
the carriage, “will you tell me what there is ‘irreverent’ or
‘unscriptural’ in the idea that there will be instrumental music in
heaven?”

“Well,” replied the Deacon after some consideration, “come to think of
it, there will be harps, I suppose. Harpers harping with their harps on
the sea of glass. But I don’t believe there will be any piannas. It’s a
dreadfully material way to talk about that glorious world, to my
thinking.”

“If you could show me wherein a harp is less ‘material’ than a piano,
perhaps I should agree with you.”

Deacon Quirk looked rather nonplussed for a minute.

“What _do_ you suppose people will do in heaven?” she asked again.

“Glorify God,” said the Deacon, promptly recovering himself,--“glorify
God, and sing Worthy the Lamb! We shall be clothed in white robes with
palms in our hands, and bow before the Great White Throne. We shall be
engaged in such employments as befit sinless creatures in a spiritooal
state of existence.”

“Now, Deacon Quirk,” replied Aunt Winifred, looking him over from head
to foot,--old straw hat, calico shirt, blue overalls, and cow-hide
boots, coarse, work-worn hands, and “narrow forehead braided
tight,”--“just imagine yourself, will you? taken out of this life this
minute, as you stand here in your potato-field (the Deacon changed his
position with evident uneasiness), and put into another life,--not
anybody else, but yourself, just as you left this spot,--and do you
honestly think that you should be happy to go and put on a white dress
and stand still in a choir with a green branch in one hand and a
singing-book in the other, and sing and pray and never do anything but
sing and pray, this year, next year, and every year forever?”

“We-ell,” he replied, surprised into a momentary flash of carnal candor,
“I can’t say that I shouldn’t wonder for a minute, maybe, _how Abinadab
would ever get those potatoes hoed without me_.--Abinadab! go back to
your work!”

The graceful Abinadab had sauntered up during the conversation, and was
listening, hoe in hand and mouth open. He slunk away when his father
spoke, but came up again presently on tiptoe when Aunt Winifred was
talking. There was an interested, intelligent look about his square and
pitifully embarrassed face, which attracted my notice.

“But then,” proceeded the Deacon, re-enforced by the sudden recollection
of his duties as a father and a church-member, “that couldn’t be a
permanent state of feeling, you know. I expect to be transformed by the
renewing of my mind to appreciate the glories of the New Jerusalem,
descending out of heaven from God. That’s what I expect, marm. Now I
heerd that you told Mrs. Bland, or that Mary told her, or that she heerd
it someway, that you said you supposed there were trees and flowers and
houses and such in heaven. I told my wife I thought your deceased
husband was a Congregational minister, and I didn’t believe you ever
said it; but that’s the rumor.”

Without deeming it necessary to refer to her “deceased husband,” Aunt
Winifred replied that “rumor” was quite right.

“Well!” said the Deacon, with severe significance, “_I_ believe in a
spiritooal heaven.”

I looked him over again,--hat, hoe, shirt, and all; scanned his
obstinate old face with its stupid, good eyes and animal mouth. Then I
glanced at Aunt Winifred as she leaned forward in the afternoon light;
the white, finely cut woman, with her serene smile and rapt, saintly
eyes,--every inch of her, body and soul, refined not only by birth and
training, but by the long nearness of her heart to Christ.

“Of the earth, earthy. Of the heavens, heavenly.” The two faces
sharpened themselves into two types. Which, indeed, was the better able
to comprehend a “spiritooal heaven”?

“It is distinctly stated in the Bible, by which I suppose we shall both
agree,” said Aunt Winifred, gently, “that there shall be a _new earth_,
as well as new heavens. It is noticeable, also, that the descriptions of
heaven, although a series of metaphors, are yet singularly earthlike and
tangible ones. Are flowers and skies and trees less ‘spiritual’ than
white dresses and little palm-branches? In fact, where are you going to
get your little branches without trees? What could well be more
suggestive of material modes of living, and material industry, than a
city marked into streets and alleys, paved solidly with gold, walled in
and barred with gates whose jewels are named and counted, and whose very
length and breadth are measured with a celestial surveyor’s chain?”

“But I think we’d ought to stick to what the Bible says,” answered the
Deacon, stolidly. “If it says golden cities and doesn’t say flowers, it
means cities and doesn’t mean flowers. I dare say you’re a good woman,
Mrs. Forceythe, if you do hold such oncommon doctrine, and I don’t doubt
you mean well enough, but I don’t think that we ought to trouble
ourselves about these mysteries of a future state. _I_’m willing to
trust them to God!”

The evasion of a fair argument by this self-sufficient spasm of piety
was more than I could calmly stand, and I indulged in a subdued
explosion.--Auntie says it sounded like Fourth of July crackers touched
off under a wet barrel.

“Deacon Quirk! do you mean to imply that Mrs. Forceythe does not trust
it to God? The truth is, that the existence of such a world as heaven is
a fact from which you shrink. You know you do! She has twenty thoughts
about it where you have one; yet you set up a claim to superior
spirituality!”

“Mary, Mary, you are a little excited; I fear. God is a spirit, and they
that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth!”

The relevancy of this last, I confess myself incapable of perceiving,
but the good man seemed to be convinced that he had made a point, and we
rode off leaving him under that blissful delusion.

“If he _weren’t_ a good man!” I sighed. “But he is, and I must respect
him for it.”

“Of course you must; nor is he to blame that he is narrow and rough. I
should scarcely have argued as seriously as I did with him, but that, as
I fancy him to be a representative of a class, I wanted to try an
experiment. Isn’t he amusing, though? He is precisely one of Mr.
Stopford Brooke’s men ‘who can understand nothing which is original.’”

“Are there, or are there not, more of such men in our church than in
others?”

“Not more proportionately to numbers. But I would not have them thinned
out. The better we do Christ’s work, the more of uneducated, neglected,
or debased mind will be drawn to try and serve Him with us. He sought
out the lame, the halt, the blind, the stupid, the crotchety, the rough,
as well as the equable, the intelligent, the refined. Untrained
Christians in any sect will always have their eccentricities and their
littlenesses, at which the silken judgment of high places, where the
Carpenter’s Son would be a strange guest, will sneer. That never
troubles me. It only raises the question in my mind whether cultivated
Christians generally are sufficiently _cultivators_, scattering their
golden gifts on wayside ground.”

“Now take Deacon Quirk,” I suggested, when we had ridden along a little
way under the low, green arches of the elms, “and put him into heaven as
you proposed, just as he is, and what _is_ he going to do with himself?
He can dig potatoes and sell them without cheating, and give generously
of their proceeds to foreign missions; but take away his potatoes, and
what would become of him? I don’t know a human being more incapacitated
to live in such a heaven as he believes in.”

“Very true, and a good, common-sense argument against such a heaven. I
don’t profess to surmise what will be found for him to do, beyond
this,--that it will be some very palpable work that he can understand.
How do we know that he would not be appointed guardian of his poor son
here, to whom I suspect he has not been all that father might be in this
life, and that he would not have his body as well as his soul to look
after, his farm as well as his prayers? to him might be committed the
charge of the dews and the rains and the hundred unseen influences that
are at work on this very potato-field.”

“But when his son has gone in his turn, and we have all gone, and there
are no more potato-fields? An Eternity remains.”

“You don’t know that there wouldn’t be any potato-fields; there may be
some kind of agricultural employments even then. To whomsoever a talent
is given, it will be given him wherewith to use it. Besides, by that
time the good Deacon will be immensely changed. I suppose that the
simple transition of death, which rids him of sin and of grossness, will
not only wonderfully refine him, but will have its effect upon his
intellect.”

“If a talent is given, use will be found for it? Tell me some more about
that.”

“I fancy many things about it; but of course can feel sure of only the
foundation principle. This life is a great school-house. The wise
Teacher trains in us such gifts as, if we graduate honorably, will be of
most service in the perfect manhood and womanhood that come after. He
sees, as we do not, that a power is sometimes best trained by
repression. ‘We do not always lose an advantage when we dispense with
it,’ Goethe says. But the suffocated lives, like little Clo’s there,
make my heart ache sometimes. I take comfort in thinking how they will
bud and blossom up in the air, by and by. There are a great many of
them. We tread them underfoot in our careless stepping now and then, and
do not see that they have not the elasticity to rise from our touch.
‘Heaven may be a place for those who failed on earth,’ the Country
Parson says.”

“Then there will be air enough for all?”

“For all; for those who have had a little bloom in this world, as well.
I suppose the artist will paint his pictures, the poet sing his happy
songs, the orator and author will not find their talents hidden in the
eternal darkness of a grave; the sculptor will use his beautiful gift in
the moulding of some heavenly Carrara; ‘as well the singer as the player
on instruments shall be there.’ Christ said a thing that has grown on me
with new meanings lately:--‘He that _loseth his life for my sake shall
find it_.’ _It_, you see,--not another man’s life, not a strange
compound of powers and pleasures, but his own familiar aspirations. So
we shall best ‘glorify God,’ not less there than here, by doing it in
the peculiar way that He himself marked out for us. But--ah, Mary, you
see it is only the life ‘lost’ for His sake that shall be so
beautifully found. A great man never goes to heaven because he is great.
He must go, as the meanest of his fellow-sinners go, with face towards
Calvary, and every golden treasure used for love of Him who showed him
how.”

“What would the old Pagans--and modern ones, too, for that matter--say
to that? Wasn’t it Tacitus who announced it as his belief, that
immortality was granted as a special gift to a few superior minds? For
the people who persisted in making up the rest of the world, poor
things! as it could be of little consequence what became of them, they
might die as the brute dieth.”

“It seems an unbearable thing to me sometimes,” she went on, “the wreck
of a gifted soul. A man who can be, if he chooses, as much better and
happier than the rest of us as the ocean reflects more sky than a
mill-pond, must also be, if he chooses, more wicked and more miserable.
It takes longer to reach sea-shells than river-pebbles. I am compelled
to think, also, that intellectual rank must in heaven bear some
proportion to goodness. There are last and there are first that shall
have changed places. As the tree falleth, there shall it lie, and with
that amount of holiness of which a man leaves this life the possessor,
he must start in another. I have seen great thinkers, ‘foremost men’ in
science, in theology, in the arts, who, I solemnly believe, will turn
aside in heaven,--and will turn humbly and heartily,--to let certain
day-laborers and paupers whom I have known go up before them as kings
and priests unto God.”

“I believe that. But I was going to ask,--for poor creatures like your
respected niece, who hasn’t a talent, nor even a single absorbing taste,
for one thing above another thing,--what shall she do?”

“Whatever she liketh best; something very useful, my dear, don’t be
afraid, and very pleasant. Something, too, for which this life has
fitted you; though you may not understand how that can be, better than
did poor Heine on his ‘matrazzen-gruft,’ reading all the books that
treated of his disease. ‘But what good this reading is to do me I don’t
know,’ he said, ‘except that it will qualify me to give lectures in
heaven on the ignorance of doctors on earth about diseases of the spinal
marrow.’”

“I don’t know how many times I have thought of--I believe it was the
poet Gray, who said that his idea of heaven was to lie on the sofa and
read novels. That touches the lazy part of us, though.”

“Yes, they will be the active, outgoing, generous elements of our nature
that will be brought into use then, rather than the self-centred and
dreamy ones. Though I suppose that we shall read in heaven,--being
influenced to be better and nobler by good and noble teachers of the
pen, not less there than here.”

“O think of it! To have books, and music,--and pictures?”

“All that Art, ‘the handmaid of the Lord,’ can do for us, I have no
doubt will be done. Eternity will never become monotonous. Variety
without end, charms unnumbered within charms, will be devised by
Infinite ingenuity to minister to our delight. Perhaps,--this is just my
fancying,--perhaps there will be whole planets turned into galleries of
art, over which we may wander at will; or into orchestral halls where
the highest possibilities of music will be realized to singer and to
hearer. Do you know, I have sometimes had a flitting notion that music
would be the language of heaven? It certainly differs in some
indescribable manner from the other arts. We have most of us felt it in
our different ways. It always seems to me like the cry of a great, sad
life dragged to use in this world against its will. Pictures and statues
and poems fit themselves to their work more contentedly. Symphony and
song struggle in fetters. That sense of conflict is not good for me. It
is quite as likely to harm as to help. Then perhaps the mysteries of
sidereal systems will be spread out like a child’s map before us.
Perhaps we shall take journeys to Jupiter and to Saturn and to the
glittering haze of nebulæ, and to the site of ruined worlds whose
‘extinct light is yet travelling through space.’ Occupation for
explorers there, you see!”

“You make me say with little Clo, ‘O, why, I want to go!’ every time I
hear you talk. But there is one thing,--you spoke of families living
together.”

“Yes.”

“And you spoke of--your husband. But the Bible--”

“Says there shall be no marrying nor giving in marriage. I know that.
Nor will there be such marrying or giving in marriage as there is in a
world like this. Christ expressly goes on to state, that we shall be
_as_ the angels in heaven. How do we know what heavenly unions of heart
with heart exist among the angels? It leaves me margin enough to live
and be happy with John forever, and it holds many possibilities for the
settlement of all perplexing questions brought about by the relations of
this world. It is of no use to talk much about them. But it is on that
very verse that I found my unshaken belief that they will be smoothed
out in some natural and happy way, with which each one shall be
content.”

“But O, there is a great gulf fixed; and on one side one, and on the
other another, and they loved each other.”

Her face paled,--it always pales, I notice, at the mention of this
mystery,--but her eyes never lost by a shade their steadfast trust.

“Mary, don’t question me about _that_. That belongs to the unutterable
things. God will take care of it. I _think_ I could leave it to him even
if he brought it for me myself to face. I feel sure that he will make it
all come out right. Perhaps He will be so dear to us, that we could not
love any one who hated him. In some way the void _must_ be filled, for
he shall wipe away tears. But it seems to me that the only thought in
which there can be any _rest_, and in that there _can_, is this: that
Christ, who loves us even as his Father loves him, can be happy in spite
of the existence of a hell. If it is possible to him, surely he can make
it possible to us.”

“Two things that He has taught us,” she said after a silence, “give me
beautiful assurance that none of these dreams with which I help myself
can be beyond his intention to fulfil. One is, that eye hath not seen
it, nor ear heard it, nor the heart conceived it,--this lavishness of
reward which he is keeping for us. Another is, that ‘I shall be
_satisfied_ when I awake.’”

“With his likeness.”

“With his likeness. And about that I have other things to say.”

But Old Gray stopped at the gate and Phœbe was watching for her
butter, and it was no time to say them then.



XII.


July 22.

Aunt Winifred has connected herself with our church. I think it was
rather hard for her, breaking the last tie that bound her to her
husband’s people; but she had a feeling, that, if her work is to be done
and her days ended here, she had better take up all such little threads
of influence to make herself one with us.


25th.

To-day what should Deacon Quirk do but make a solemn call on Mrs.
Forceythe, for the purpose of asking--and this with a hint that he
wished he had asked before she became a member of the Homer First
Congregational Church--whether there were truth in the rumors, now rife
about town, that she was a Swedenborgian!

Aunt Winifred broke out laughing, and laughed merrily. The Deacon
frowned.

“I used to fancy that I believed in Swedenborg,” she said, as soon as
she could sober down a little.

The Deacon pricked up his ears, with visions of excommunications and
councils reflected on every feature.

“Until I read his books,” she finished.

“Oh!” said the Deacon. He waited for more, but she seemed to consider
the conversation at an end.

“So then you--if I understand--are _not_ a Swedenborgian, ma’am?”

“If I were, I certainly should have had no inducement to join myself to
your church,” she replied, with gentle dignity. “I believe, with all my
heart, in the same Bible and the same creed that you believe in, Deacon
Quirk.”

“And you _live_ your creed, which all such genial Christians do not find
it necessary to do,” I thought, as the Deacon in some perplexity took
his departure, and she returned with a smile to her sewing.

I suppose the call came about in this way. We had the sewing-circle here
last week, and just before the lamps were lighted, and when people had
dropped their work to group and talk in the corners, Meta Tripp came up
with one or two other girls to Aunt Winifred, and begged “to hear some
of those queer things people said she believed about heaven.” Auntie is
never obtrusive with her views on this or any other matter, but, being
thus urged, she answered a few questions that they put to her, to the
extreme scandal of one or two old ladies, and the secret delight of the
rest.

“Well,” said little Mrs. Bland, squeezing and kissing her youngest, who
was at that moment vigorously employed in sticking very long
darning-needles into his mother’s waterfall, “I hope there’ll be a great
many babies there. I should be perfectly happy if I always could have
babies to play with!”

The look that Aunt Winifred shot over at me was worth seeing.

She merely replied, however, that she supposed all our “highest
aspirations,”--with an indescribable accent to which Mrs. Bland was
safely deaf,--if good ones, would be realized; and added, laughing, that
Swedenborg said that the babies in heaven--who outnumber the grown
people--will be given into the charge of those women especially fond of
them.

“Swedenborg is suggestive, even if you can’t accept what seem to the
uninitiated to be his natural impossibilities,” she said, after we had
discussed Deacon Quirk awhile. “He says a pretty thing, too,
occasionally. Did I ever read you about the houses?”

She had not, and I wished to hear, so she found the book on Heaven and
Hell, and read:--

“As often as I have spoken with the angels mouth to mouth, so often I
have been with them in their habitations: their habitations are
altogether like the habitations on earth which are called houses, but
more beautiful; in them are parlors, rooms, and chambers in great
numbers; there are also courts, and round about are gardens,
shrubberies, and fields. Palaces of heaven have been seen, which were so
magnificent that they could not be described; above, they glittered as
if they were of pure gold, and below, as if they were of precious
stones; one palace was more splendid than another; within, it was the
same the rooms were ornamented with such decorations as neither words
nor sciences are sufficient to describe. On the side which looked to the
south there were paradises, where all things in like manner glittered,
and in some places the leaves were as of silver, and the fruits as of
gold; and the flowers on their beds presented by colors as it were
rainbows; at the boundaries again were palaces, in which the view
terminated.”

Aunt Winifred says that our hymns, taken all together, contain the worst
and the best pictures of heaven that we have in any branch of
literature.

“It seems to me incredible,” she says, “that the Christian Church should
have allowed that beautiful ‘Jerusalem’ in its hymnology so long, with
the ghastly couplet,--

    ‘Where congregations ne’er break up,
       And Sabbaths have no end.’

The dullest preachers are sure to give it out, and that when there are
the greatest number of restless children wondering when it will be time
to go home. It is only within ten years that modern hymn books have
altered it, returning in part to the original.

“I do not think we have chosen the best parts of that hymn for our
‘service of song.’ You never read the whole of it? You don’t know how
pretty it is! It is a relief from the customary palms and choirs. One’s
whole heart is glad of the outlet of its sweet refrain,--

    ‘Would God that I were there!’

before one has half read it. You are quite ready to believe that

    ‘There is no hunger, heat, nor cold,
      But _pleasure every way_.’

Listen to this:--

    ‘Thy houses are of ivory,
      Thy windows crystal clear,
    Thy tiles are made of beaten gold;
      O God, that I were there!

    ‘We that are here in banishment
      Continually do moan.

    *       *       *       *       *

    ‘Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,
      Our pleasure is but pain,
    Our joys scarce last the looking on,
      Our sorrows still remain.

    ‘But there they live in such delight,
      _Such pleasure and such play_,
    As that to them a thousand years
      Doth seem as yesterday.’

And this:--

    ‘Thy gardens and thy gallant walks
       Continually are green;
     There grow such sweet and pleasant flowers
       As nowhere else are seen.

    ‘There cinnamon, there sugar grows,
       There nard and balm abound,
     What tongue can tell, or heart conceive
       The joys that there are found?

    ‘Quite through the streets, with silver sound,
       The flood of life doth flow,
     Upon whose banks, on every side,
       The wood of life doth grow.’

I tell you we may learn something from that grand old Catholic singer.
He is far nearer to the Bible than the innovators on his MSS. Do you not
notice how like his images are to the inspired ones, and yet how
pleasant and natural is the effect of the entire poem?

“There is nobody like Bonar, though, to sing about heaven. There is one
of his, ‘We shall meet and rest,’--do you know it?”

I shook my head, and knelt down beside her and watched her face,--it was
quite unconscious of me, the musing face,--while she repeated
dreamily:--

    “Where the faded flower shall freshen,--
       Freshen nevermore to fade;
     Where the shaded sky shall brighten,--
       Brighten nevermore to shade;
     Where the sun-blaze never scorches;
       Where the star-beams cease to chill;
     Where no tempest stirs the echoes
       Of the wood, or wave, or hill;....
     Where no shadow shall bewilder;
       Where life’s vain parade is o’er;
     Where the sleep of sin is broken,
       And the dreamer dreams no more;
     Where the bond is never severed,--
       Partings, claspings, sob and moan,
     Midnight waking, twilight weeping,
       Heavy noontide,--all are done;
     Where the child has found its mother;
       Where the mother finds the child;
     Where dear families are gathered,
       That were scattered on the wild;....
     Where the hidden wound is healed;
       Where the blighted life reblooms;
     Where the smitten heart the freshness
       Of its buoyant youth resumes;....
     Where we find the joy of loving,
       As we never loved before,--
     Loving on, unchilled, unhindered,
       Loving once, forevermore.” ...


30th.

Aunt Winifred was weeding her day-lilies this morning, when the gate
creaked timidly, and then swung noisily, and in walked Abinadab Quirk,
with a bouquet of China pinks in the button-hole of his green-gray linen
coat. He had taken evident pains to smarten himself up a little, for his
hair was combed into two horizontal _dabs_ over his ears, and the
green-gray coat and blue-checked shirt-sleeves were quite clean; but he
certainly is the most uncouth specimen of six feet five that it has ever
been my privilege to behold. I feel sorry for him, though. I heard Meta
Tripp laughing at him in Sunday school the other day,--“Quadrangular
Quirk,” she called him, a little too loud, and the poor fellow heard
her. He half turned, blushing fiercely; then slunk down in his corner
with as pitiable a look as is often seen upon a man’s face.

He came up to Auntie awkwardly,--a part of the scene I saw from the
window, and the rest she told me,--head hanging, and the tiny bouquet
held out.

“Clo sent these to you,” he stammered out,--“my cousin Clo. I was coming
’long, and she thought, you know,--she’d get me, you see, to--to--that
is, to--bring them. She sent her--that is--let me see. She sent her
respect--ful--respectful--no, her love; that was it. She sent her love
’long with ’em.”

Mrs. Forceythe dropped her weeds, and held out her white, shapely hands,
wet with the heavy dew, to take the flowers.

“O, thank you! Clo knows my fancy for pinks. How kind in you to bring
them! Won’t you sit down a few moments? I was just going to rest a
little. Do you like flowers?”

Abinadab eyed the white hands, as his huge fingers just touched them,
with a sort of awe; and, sighing, sat down on the very edge of the
garden bench beside her. After a singular variety of efforts to take the
most uncomfortable position of which he was capable, he succeeded to his
satisfaction, and, growing then somewhat more at his ease, answered her
question.

“Flowers are sech _gassy_ things. They just blow out and that’s the end
of ’em. _I_ like machine-shops best.”

“Ah! well, that is a very useful liking. Do you ever invent machinery
yourself?”

“Sometimes,” said Abinadab, with a bashful smile. “There’s a little
improvement of mine for carpet-sweepers up before the patent-office now.
Don’t know whether they’ll run it through. Some of the chaps I saw in
Boston told me they thought they would do’t in time; it takes an awful
sight of time. I’m alwers fussing over something of the kind; alwers
did, sence I was a baby; had my little windmills and carts and things;
used to sell ’em to the other young uns. Father don’t like it. He wants
me to stick to the farm. I don’t like farming. I feel like a fish out of
water.--Mrs. Forceythe, marm!”

He turned on her with an abrupt change of tone, so funny that she could
with difficulty retain her gravity.

“I heard you saying a sight of queer things the other day about heaven.
Clo, she’s been telling me a sight more. Now, _I_ never believed in
heaven!”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t believe,” said the poor fellow, with sullen decision,
“that a benevolent God ever would ha’ made sech a derned awkward chap as
I am!”

Aunt Winifred replied by stepping into the house, and bringing out a
fine photograph of one of the best of the St. Georges,--a rapt, yet very
manly face, in which the saint and the hero are wonderfully blended.

“I suppose,” she said, putting it into his hands, “that if you should go
to heaven, you would be as much fairer than that picture as that picture
is fairer than you are now.”

“No! Why, would I, though? Jim-miny! Why, it would be worth going for,
wouldn’t it?”

The words were no less reverently spoken than the vague rhapsodies of
his father; for the sullenness left his face, and his eyes--which are
pleasant, and not unmanly, when one fairly sees them--sparkled softly,
like a child’s.

“Make it all up there, maybe?” musing,--“the girls laughing at you all
your life, and all? That would be the bigger heft of the two then,
wouldn’t it? for they say there ain’t any end to things up there. Why,
so it might be fair in Him after all; more’n fair, perhaps. See here,
Mrs. Forceythe, I’m not a church-member, you know, and father, he’s
dreadful troubled about me; prays over me like a span of ministers, the
old gentleman does, every Sunday night. Now, I don’t want to go to the
other place any more than the next man, and I’ve had my times, too, of
thinking I’d keep steady and say my prayers reg’lar,--it makes a chap
feel on a sight better terms with himself,--but I don’t see how _I_’m
going to wear white frocks and stand up in a choir,--never could sing no
more’n a frog with a cold in his head,--it tires me more now, honest, to
think of it, than it does to do a week’s mowing. Look at me! Do you
s’pose I’m fit for it? Father, he’s always talking about the thrones,
and the wings, and the praises, and the palms, and having new names in
your foreheads, (shouldn’t object to that, though, by any means), till
he drives me into the tool-house, or off on a spree. I tell him if God
hain’t got a place where chaps like me can do something He’s fitted ’em
to do in this world, there’s no use thinking about it anyhow.”

So Auntie took the honest fellow into her most earnest thought for half
an hour, and argued, and suggested, and reproved, and helped him, as
only she could do; and at the end of it seemed to have worked into his
mind some distinct and not unwelcome ideas of what a Christ-like life
must mean to him, and of the coming heaven which is so much more real to
her than any life outside of it.

“And then,” she told him, “I imagine that your fancy for machinery will
be employed in some way. Perhaps you will do a great deal more
successful inventing there than you ever will here.”

“You don’t say so!” said radiant Abinadab.

“God will give you something to do, certainly, and something that you
will like.”

“I might turn it to some religious purpose, you know!” said Abinadab,
looking bright. “Perhaps I could help ’em build a church, or hist some
of their pearl gates, or something like!”

Upon that he said that it was time to be at home and see to the oxen,
and shambled awkwardly away.

Clo told us this afternoon that he begged the errand and the flowers
from her. She says: “‘Bin thinks there never was anybody like you, Mrs.
Forceythe, and ’Bin isn’t the only one, either.” At which Mrs. Forceythe
smiles absently, thinking--I wonder of what.


Monday night.

I saw as funny and as pretty a bit of a drama this afternoon as I have
seen for a long time.

Faith had been rolling out in the hot hay ever since three o’clock, with
one of the little Blands, and when the shadows grew long they came in
with flushed cheeks and tumbled hair, to rest and cool upon the
door-steps. I was sitting in the parlor, sewing energetically on some
sun-bonnets for some of Aunt Winifred’s people down town,--I found the
heat to be more bearable if I kept busy,--and could see, unseen, all the
little _tableaux_ into which the two children grouped themselves; a new
one every instant; in the shadow now,--now in a quiver of golden glow;
the wind tossing their hair about, and their chatter chiming down the
hall like bells.

“O what a funny little sunset there’s going to be behind the
maple-tree,” said the blond-haired Bland, in a pause.

“Funny enough,” observed Faith, with her superior smile, “but it’s going
to be a great deal funnier up in heaven, I tell you, Molly Bland.”

“Funny in heaven? Why, Faith!” Molly drew herself up with a religious
air, and looked the image of her father.

“Yes, to be sure. I’m going to have some little pink blocks made out of
it when I go; pink and yellow and green and purple and--O, so many
blocks! I’m going to have a little red cloud to sail round in, like that
one up over the house, too, I shouldn’t wonder.”

Molly opened her eyes.

“O, I don’t believe it!”

“_You_ don’t know much!” said Miss Faith, superbly. “I shouldn’t s’pose
you would believe it. P’r’aps I’ll have some strawberries too, and some
ginger-snaps,--I’m not going to have any old bread and butter up
there,--O, and some little gold apples, and a lot of playthings; nicer
playthings--why, nicer than they have in the shops in Boston, Molly
Bland! God’s keeping ’em up there a purpose.”

“Dear me!” said incredulous Molly, “I should just like to know who told
you that much. My mother never told it at me. Did your mother tell it at
you?”

“O, she told me some of it, and the rest I thinked out myself.”

“Let’s go and play One Old Cat,” said Molly, with an uncomfortable jump;
“I wish I hadn’t got to go to heaven!”

“Why, Molly Bland! why, I think heaven’s splendid! I’ve got my papa up
there, you know. ‘Here’s my little girl!’ That’s what he’s going to say.
Mamma, she’ll be there, too, and we’re all going to live in the
prettiest house. I have dreadful hurries to go this afternoon sometimes
when Phœbe’s cross and won’t give me sugar. They don’t let you in,
though, ’nless you’re a good girl.”

“Who gets it all up?” asked puzzled Molly.

“Jesus Christ will give me all these beautiful fings,” said Faith,
evidently repeating her mother’s words,--the only catechism that she has
been taught.

“And what will he do when he sees you?” asked her mother, coming down
the stairs and stepping up behind her.

“Take me up in His arms and kiss me.”

“And what will Faith say?”

“_Fank--you!_” said the child, softly.

In another minute she was absorbed, body and soul, in the mysteries of
One Old Cat.

“But I don’t think she will feel much like being naughty for half an
hour to come,” her mother said; “hear how pleasantly her words drop!
Such a talk quiets her, like a hand laid on her head. Mary, sometimes I
think it is His very hand, as much as when He touched those other little
children. I wish Faith to feel at home with Him and His home. Little
thing! I really do not think that she is conscious of any fear of dying;
I do not think it means anything to her but Christ, and her father, and
pink blocks, and a nice time, and never disobeying me, or being cross.
Many a time she wakes me up in the morning talking away to herself, and
when I turn and look at her, she says: ‘O mamma, won’t we go to heaven
to-day, you fink? _When_ will we go, mamma?’”

“If there had been any pink blocks and ginger-snaps for me when I was at
her age, I should not have prayed every night to ‘die out.’ I think the
horrors of death that children live through, unguessed and unrelieved,
are awful. Faith may thank you all her life that she has escaped them.”

“I should feel answerable to God for the child’s soul, if I had not
prevented that. I always wanted to know what sort of mother that poor
little thing had, who asked, if she were _very_ good up in heaven,
whether they wouldn’t let her go down to hell Saturday afternoons, and
play a little while!”

“I know. But think of it,--blocks and ginger-snaps!”

“I treat Faith just as the Bible treats us, by dealing in _pictures_ of
truth that she can understand. I can make Clo and Abinadab Quirk
comprehend that their pianos and machinery may not be made of literal
rosewood and steel, but will be some synonyme of the thing, which will
answer just such wants of their changed natures as rosewood and steel
must answer now. There will be machinery and pianos in the same sense in
which there will be pearl gates and harps. Whatever enjoyment any or all
of them represent now, something will represent then.

“But Faith, if I told her that her heavenly ginger-snaps would not be
made of molasses and flour, would have a cry, for fear that she was not
going to have any ginger-snaps at all; so, until she is older, I give
her unqualified ginger-snaps. The principal joy of a child’s life
consists in eating. Faith begins, as soon as the light wanes, to dream
of that gum-drop which she is to have at bedtime. I don’t suppose she
can outgrow that at once by passing out of her little round body. She
must begin where she left off,--nothing but a baby, though it will be as
holy and happy a baby as Christ can make it. When she says: “Mamma, I
shall be hungery and want my dinner, up there,” I never hesitate to tell
her that she shall have her dinner. She would never, in her secret
heart, though she might not have the honesty to say so, expect to be
otherwise than miserable in a dinnerless eternity.”

“You are not afraid of misleading the child’s fancy?”

“Not so long as I can keep the two ideas--that Christ is her best
friend, and that heaven is not meant for naughty girls--pre-eminent in
her mind. And I sincerely believe that He would give her the very pink
blocks which she anticipates, no less than He would give back a poet his
lost dreams, or you your brother. He has been a child; perhaps,
incidentally to the unsolved mysteries of atonement, for this very
reason,--that He may know how to ‘prepare their places’ for them, whose
angels do always behold His Father. Ah, you may be sure that, if of such
is the happy Kingdom, He will not scorn to stoop and fit it to their
little needs.

“There was that poor little fellow whose guinea-pig died,--do you
remember?”

“Only half; what was it?”

“‘O mamma,’ he sobbed out, behind his handkerchief, ‘don’t great big
elephants have souls?’

“‘No, my son.’

“‘Nor camels, mamma?’

“‘No.’

“‘Nor bears, nor alligators, nor chickens?’

“‘O no, dear.’

“‘O mamma, mamma! Don’t little CLEAN--_white_--_guinea-pigs_ have
souls?’

“I never should have had the heart to say no to that; especially as we
have no positive proof to the contrary.

“Then that scrap of a boy who lost his little red balloon the morning he
bought it, and, broken-hearted, wanted to know whether it had gone to
heaven. Don’t I suppose if he had been taken there himself that very
minute, that he would have found a little balloon in waiting for him?
How can I help it?”

“It has a pretty sound. If people would not think it so material and
shocking--”

“Let people read Martin Luther’s letter to his little boy. There is the
testimony of a pillar in good and regular standing! I don’t think you
need be afraid of my balloon, after that.”

I remembered that there was a letter of his on heaven, but, not
recalling it distinctly, I hunted for it to-night, and read it over. I
shall copy it, the better to retain it in mind.

“Grace and peace in Christ, my dear little son. I see with pleasure that
thou learnest well, and prayed diligently. Do so, my son, and continue.
When I come home I will bring thee a pretty fairing.

“I know a pretty, merry garden wherein are many children. They have
little golden coats, and they gather beautiful apples under the trees,
and pears, cherries, plums, and wheat-plums;--they sing, and jump, and
are merry. They have beautiful little horses, too, with gold bits and
silver saddles. And I asked the man to whom the garden belongs, whose
children they were. And he said: ‘They are the children that love to
pray and to learn, and are good.’ Then said I: ‘Dear man, I have a son,
too; his name is Johnny Luther. May he not also come into this garden
and eat these beautiful apples and pears, and ride these fine horses?’
Then the man said: ‘If he loves to pray and to learn, and is good, he
shall come into this garden, and Lippus and Jost too; and when they all
come together, they shall have fifes and trumpets, lutes and all sorts
of music, and they shall dance, and shoot with little cross-bows.’

“And he showed me a fine meadow there in the garden, made for dancing.
There hung nothing but golden fifes, trumpets, and fine silver
cross-bows. But it was early, and the children had not yet eaten;
therefore I could not wait the dance, and I said to the man: ‘Ah, dear
sir! I will immediately go and write all this to my little son Johnny,
and tell him to pray diligently, and to learn well, and to be good, so
that he also may come to this garden. But he has an Aunt Lehne, he must
bring her with him.’ Then the man said: ‘It shall be so; go, and write
him so.’

“Therefore, my dear little son Johnny, learn and pray away! and tell
Lippus and Jost, too that they must learn and pray. And then you shall
come to the garden together. Herewith I commend thee to Almighty God.
And greet Aunt Lehne, and give her a kiss for my sake.

                           “Thy dear Father,

                                   “MARTINUS LUTHER.

“ANNO 1530.”



XIII.


August 3.

The summer is sliding quietly away,--my desolate summer which I dreaded;
with the dreams gone from its wild flowers, the crown from its sunsets,
the thrill from its winds and its singing.

But I have found out a thing. One can live without dreams and crowns and
thrills.

I have not lost them. They lie under the ivied cross with Roy for a
little while. They will come back to me with him. “Nothing is lost,” she
teaches me. And until they come back, I see--for she shows me--fields
groaning under their white harvest, with laborers very few. Ruth
followed the sturdy reapers, gleaning a little. I, perhaps, can do as
much. The ways in which I must work seem so small and insignificant, so
pitifully trivial sometimes, that I do not even like to write them down
here. In fact, they are so small that, six months ago, I did not see
them at all. Only to be pleasant to old Phœbe, and charitable to
Meta Tripp, and faithful to my _not_ very interesting little scholars,
and a bit watchful of worn-out Mrs. Bland, and--But dear me, I won’t!
They _are_ so little!

But one’s self becomes of less importance, which seems to be the point.

It seems very strange to me sometimes, looking back to those desperate
winter days, what a change has come over my thoughts of Roy. Not that he
is any less--O, never any less to me. But it is almost as if she had
raised him from the grave. Why seek ye the living among the dead? Her
soft, compassionate eyes shine with the question every hour. And every
hour he is helping me,--ah, Roy, we understand one another now.

How he must love Aunt Winifred! How pleasant the days will be when we
can talk her over, and thank her together!

“To be happy because Roy is happy.” I remember how those first words of
hers struck me. It does not seem to me impossible, now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aunt Winifred and I laugh at each other for talking so much about
heaven. I see that the green book is filled with my questions and her
answers. The fact is, not that we do not talk as much about mundane
affairs as other people, but that this one thing interests us more.

If, instead, it had been flounces, or babies, or German philosophy, the
green book would have filled itself just as unconsciously with flounces,
or babies, or German philosophy. This interest in heaven is of course no
sign of especial piety in me, nor could people with young, warm,
uncrushed hopes throbbing through their days be expected to feel the
same. It is only the old principle of, where the treasure is--the heart.

“How spiritual-minded Mary has grown!” Mrs. Bland observes, regarding me
respectfully. I try in vain to laugh her out of the conviction. If Roy
had not gone before, I should think no more, probably, about the coming
life, than does the minister’s wife herself.

But now--I cannot help it--that is the reality, this the dream; that the
substance, this the shadow.

The other day Aunt Winifred and I had a talk which has been of more
value to me than all the rest.

Faith was in bed; it was a cold, rainy evening; we were secure from
callers; we lighted a few kindlers in the parlor grate; she rolled up
the easy-chair, and I took my cricket at her feet.

“Paul at the feet of Gamaliel! This is what I call comfort. Now, Auntie,
let us go to heaven awhile.”

“Very well. What do you want there now?”

I paused a moment, sobered by a thought that has been growing steadily
upon me of late.

“Something more, Aunt Winifred. All these other things are beautiful and
dear; but I believe I want--God.

“You have not said much about Him. The Bible says a great deal about
Him. You have given me the filling-up of heaven in all its pleasant
promise, but--I don’t know--there seems to be an outline wanting.”

She drew my hand up into hers, smiling.

“I have not done my painting by artistic methods, I know; but it was not
exactly accidental.

“Tell me, honestly,--is God more to you or less, a more distinct Being
or a more vague one, than He was six months ago? Is He, or is He not,
dearer to you now than then?”

I thought about it a minute, and then turned my face up to her.

“Mary, what a light in your eyes! How is it?”

It came over me slowly, but it came with such a passion of gratitude and
unworthiness, that I scarcely knew how to tell her--that He never has
been to me, in all my life, what he is now at the end of these six
months. He was once an abstract Grandeur which I struggled more in fear
than love to please. He has become a living Presence, dear and real.

    “No dead fact stranded on the shore
       Of the oblivious years;
     But warm, sweet, tender, even yet
       A present help.” ...

He was an inexorable Mystery who took Roy from me to lose him in the
glare of a more inexorable heaven. He is a Father who knew better than
we that we should be parted for a while; but He only means it to be a
little while. He is keeping him for me to find in the flush of some
summer morning, on which I shall open my eyes no less naturally than I
open them on June sunrises now. I always have that fancy of going in the
morning.

She understood what I could not tell her, and said, “I thought it would
be so.”

“You, His interpreter, have done it,” I answered her. “His heaven shows
what He is,--don’t you see?--like a friend’s letter. I could no more go
back to my old groping relations to Him, than I could make of you the
dim and somewhat apocryphal Western Auntie that you were before I saw
you.”

“Which was precisely why I have dealt with this subject as I have,” she
said. “You had all your life been directed to an indefinite heaven,
where the glory of God was to crowd out all individuality and all human
joy from His most individual and human creatures, till the “Glory of
God” had become nothing but a name and a dread to you. So I let those
three words slide by, and tried to bring you to them, as Christ brought
the Twelve to believe in him, ‘for the works’ sake.’

“Yes, my child; clinging human loves, stifled longings, cries for rest,
forgotten hopes, shall have their answer. Whatever the bewilderment of
beauties folded away for us in heavenly nature and art, they shall
strive with each other to make us glad. These things have their pleasant
place. But, through eternity, there will be always something beyond and
dearer than the dearest of them. God himself will be first,--naturally
and of necessity, without strain or struggle, _first_.”

When I sat here last winter with my dead in my house, those words would
have roused in me an agony of wild questionings. I should have beaten
about them and beaten against them, and cried in my honest heart that
they were false. I _knew_ that I loved Roy more than I loved such a
Being as God seemed to me then to be. Now, they strike me as simply and
pleasantly true. The more I love Roy, the more I love Him. He loves us
both.

“You see it could not be otherwise,” she went on, speaking low. “Where
would you be, or I, or they who seem to us so much dearer and better
than ourselves, if it were not for Jesus Christ? What can heaven be to
us, but a song of the love that is the same to us yesterday, to-day, and
forever,--that, in the mystery of an intensity which we shall perhaps
never understand, could choose death and be glad in the choosing, and,
what is more than that, could live _life_ for us for three-and-thirty
years?

“I cannot strain my faith--or rather my common sense--to the rhapsodies
with which many people fill heaven. But it seems to me like this: A
friend goes away from us, and it may be seas or worlds that lie between
us, and we love him. He leaves behind him his little keepsakes; a lock
of hair to curl about our fingers; a picture that has caught the trick
of his eyes or smile; a book, a flower, a letter. What we do with the
curling hair, what we say to the picture, what we dream over the flower
and the letter, nobody knows but ourselves. People have risked life for
such mementoes. Yet who loves the senseless gift more than the
giver,--the curl more than the young forehead on which it fell,--the
letter more than the hand which traced it?

“So it seems to me that we shall learn to see in God the centre of all
possibilities of joy. The greatest of these lesser delights is but the
greater measure of His friendship. They will not mean less of pleasure,
but more of Him. They will not “pale,” as Dr. Bland would say. Human
dearness will wax, not wane, in heaven; but human friends will be loved
for love of Him.”

“I see; that helps me; like a torch in a dark room. But there will be
shadows in the corners. Do you suppose that we shall ever _fully_ feel
it in the body?”

“In the body, probably not. We see through a glass so darkly that the
temptation to idolatry is always our greatest. Golden images did not die
with Paganism. At times I fancy that, somewhere between this world and
another, a revelation will come upon us like a flash, of what _sin_
really is,--such a revelation, lighting up the lurid background of our
past in such colors, that the consciousness of what Christ has done for
us will be for a time as much as heart can bear. After that, the mystery
will be, not how to love Him most, but that we ever _could_ have loved
any creature or thing as much.”

“We serve God quite as much by active work as by special prayer, here,”
I said after some thought; “how will it be there?”

“We must be busily at work certainly; but I think there must naturally
be more communion with Him then. Now, this phrase “communion with God”
has been worn, and not always well worn.

“Prayer means to us, in this life, more often penitent confession than
happy interchange of thought with Him. It is associated, too, with
aching limbs and sleepy eyes, and nights when the lamp goes out.
Obstacles, moral and physical, stand in the way of our knowing exactly
what it may mean in the ideal of it.

“My best conception of it lies in the _friendship_ of the man Christ
Jesus. I suppose he will bear with him, eternally, the humanity which he
took up with him from the Judean hills. I imagine that we shall see him
in visible form like ourselves, among us, yet not of us; that he,
himself, is “Gott mit ihnen”; that we shall talk with him as a man
talketh with his friend. Perhaps, bowed and hushed at his dear feet, we
shall hear from his own lips the story of Nazareth, of Bethany, of
Golgotha, of the chilly mountains where he used to pray all night long
for us; of the desert places where he hungered; of his cry for
help--think, Mary--_His!_--when there was not one in all the world to
hear it, and there was silence in heaven, while angels strengthened him
and man forsook him. Perhaps his voice--the very voice which has sounded
whispering through our troubled life--“Could ye not watch one
hour?”--shall unfold its perplexed meanings; shall make its rough places
plain; shall show us step by step the merciful way by which he led us
to the hour; shall point out to us, joy by joy, the surprises that he
has been planning for us, just as the old father in the story planned to
surprise his wayward boy come home.

“And such a ‘communion,’--which is not too much, nor yet enough, to dare
to expect of a God who was the ‘friend’ of Abraham, who ‘walked’ with
Enoch, who did not call fishermen his servants,--_such_ will be that
‘presence of God,’ that ‘adoration,’ on which we have looked from afar
off with despairing eyes that wept, they were so dazzled, and turned
themselves away as from the thing they greatly feared.”

I think we neither of us cared to talk for a while after this. Something
made me forget even that I was going to see Roy in heaven.
“Three-and-thirty years. Three-and-thirty years.” The words rang
themselves over.

“It is on the humanity of Christ,” she said after some musing, “that all
my other reasons for hoping for such a heaven as I hope for, rest for
foundation. He knows exactly what we are, for he has been one of us;
exactly what we hope and fear and crave, for he has hoped and feared and
craved, not the less humanly, but only more intensely.

“‘_If it were not so_,’--do you take in the thoughtful tenderness of
that? A mother, stilling her frightened child in the dark, might speak
just so,--‘_if it were not so, I would have told you_.’ That brooding
love makes room for all that we can want. He has sounded every deep of a
troubled and tempted life. Who so sure as he to understand how to
prepare a place where troubled and tempted lives may grow serene?
Further than this; since he stands as our great Type, no less in death
and after than before it, he answers for us many of these lesser
questions on the event of which so much of our happiness depends.

“Shall we lose our personality in a vague ocean of ether,--you one puff
of gas, I another?--

“He, with his own wounded body, rose and ate and walked and talked.

“Is all memory of this life to be swept away?--

“He, arisen, has forgotten nothing. He waits to meet his disciples at
the old, familiar places; as naturally as if he had never been parted
from them, he falls in with the current of their thoughts.

“Has any one troubled us with fears that in the glorified crowds of
heaven we may miss a face dearer than all the world to us?--

“He made himself known to his friends; Mary, and the two at Emmaus, and
the bewildered group praying and perplexed in their bolted room.

“Do we weary ourselves with speculations whether human loves can outlive
the shock of death?--

“Mary knew how He loved her, when, turning, she heard him call her by
her name. They knew, whose hearts ‘burned within them while he talked
with them by the way, and when he tarried with them, the day being far
spent.’”

“And for the rest?”

“For the rest, about which He was silent, we can trust him, and if,
trusting, we please ourselves with fancies, he would be the last to
think it blame to us. There is one promise which grows upon me the more
I study it, ‘He that spared not his own Son, how shall he not also _with
him freely give us all things_?’ Sometimes I wonder if that does not
infold a beautiful _double entendre_, a hint of much that you and I have
conjectured,--as one throws down a hint of a surprise to a child.

“Then there is that pledge to those who seek first His kingdom: ‘_All
these things shall be added unto you_.’ ‘These things,’ were food and
clothing, were varieties of material delight, and the words were spoken
to men who lived hungry, beggared, and died the death of outcasts. If
this passage could be taken literally, it would be very significant in
its bearing on the future life; for Christ must keep his promise to the
letter, in one world or another. It may be wrenching the verse, not as a
verse, but from the grain of the argument, to insist on the literal
interpretation,--though I am not sure.”



XIV.


August 15.

I asked the other day, wondering whether all ministers were like Dr.
Bland, what Uncle Forceythe used to believe about heaven.

“Very much what I do,” she said. “These questions were brought home to
him, early in life, by the death of a very dear sister; he had thought
much about them. I think one of the things that so much attached his
people to him was the way he had of weaving their future life in with
this, till it grew naturally and pleasantly into their frequent thought.
O yes, your uncle supplied me with half of my proof-texts.”

Aunt Winifred has not looked quite well of late, I fancy; though it may
be only fancy. She has not spoken of it, except one day when I told her
that she looked pale. It was the heat, she said.


20th.

Little Clo came over to-night. I believe she thinks Aunt Winifred the
best friend she has in the world. Auntie has become much attached to
all her scholars, and has a rare power of winning her way into
their confidence. They come to her with all their little
interests,--everything, from saving their souls to trimming a bonnet.
Clo, however, is the favorite, as I predicted.

She looked a bit blue to-night, as girls will look; in fact, her face
always has a tinge of sadness about it. Aunt Winifred, understanding at
a glance that the child was not in a mood to talk before a third, led
her away into the garden, and they were gone a long time. When it grew
dark, I saw them coming up the path, Clo’s hand locked in her teacher’s,
and her face, which was wet, upturned like a child’s. They strolled to
the gate, lingered a little to talk, and then Clo said good night
without coming in.

Auntie sat for a while after she had gone, thinking her over, I could
see.

“Poor thing!” she said at last, half to herself, half to me,--“poor
little foolish thing! This is where the dreadful individuality of a
human soul irks me. There comes a point, beyond which you _can’t_ help
people.”

“What has happened to Clo?”

“Nothing, lately. It has been happening for two years. Two miserable
years are an eternity, at Clo’s age. It is the old story,--a summer
boarder; a little flirting; a little dreaming; a little pain; then
autumn, and the nuts dropping on the leaves, and he was gone,--and knew
not what he did,--and the child waked up. There was the future; to bake
and sweep, to go to sewing-circles, and sing in the choir, and bear the
moonlight nights,--and she loved him. She has lived through two years of
it, and she loves him now. Reason will not reach such a passion in a
girl like Clo. I did not tell her that she would put it away with other
girlish things, and laugh at it herself some happy day, as women have
laughed at their young fancies before her; partly because that would be
a certain way of repelling her confidence,--she does not believe it, and
my believing could not make her; partly because I am not quite sure
about it myself. Clo has a good deal of the woman about her; her
introspective life is intense. She may cherish this sweet misery as she
does her musical tastes, till it has struck deep root. There is nothing
in the excellent Mrs. Bentley’s household, nor in Homer anywhere, to
draw the girl out from herself in time to prevent the dream from
becoming a reality.”

“Poor little thing! What did you say to her?”

“You ought to have heard what she said to me! I wish I were at liberty
to tell you the whole story. What troubles her most is that it is not
going to help the matter any to die. ‘O Mrs. Forceythe,’ she says, in a
tone that is enough to give the heart-ache, even to such an old woman as
Mrs. Forceythe, ‘O Mrs. Forceythe, what is going to become of me up
there? He never loved me, you see, and he never, never will, and he will
have some beautiful, good wife of his own, and I won’t have _any_body!
For I can’t love anybody else,--I’ve tried; I tried just as hard as I
could to love my cousin ’Bin; he’s real good, and--I’m--afraid ’Bin
likes me, though I guess he likes his carpet-sweepers better. O,
sometimes I think, and think, till it seems as if I could not bear it! I
don’t see how God can _make_ me happy. I wish I could be buried up and
go to sleep, and never have any heaven!’”

“And you told her--?”

“That she should have him there. That is, if not himself,
something,--somebody who would so much more than fill his place, that
she would never have a lonely or unloved minute. Her eyes brightened,
and shaded, and pondered, doubting. She ‘didn’t see how it could ever
be.’ I told her not to try and see how, but to leave it to Christ. He
knew all about this little trouble of hers, and he would make it right.

“‘Will he?’ she questioned, sighing; ‘but there are so many of us!
There’s ’Bin, and a plenty more, and I don’t see how it’s going to be
smoothed out. Everything is in a jumble, Mrs. Forceythe, don’t you see?
for some people _can’t_ like and keep liking so many times.’ Something
came into my mind about the rough places that shall be made plain, and
the crooked things straight. I tried to explain to her, and at last I
kissed away her tears, and sent her home, if not exactly comforted, a
little less miserable, I think, than when she came. Ah, well,--I wonder
myself sometimes about these ‘crooked things’; but, though I wonder, I
never doubt.”

She finished her sentence somewhat hurriedly, and half started from her
chair, raising both hands with a quick, involuntary motion that
attracted my notice. The lights came in just then, and, unless I am
much mistaken, her face showed paler than usual; but when I asked her if
she felt faint, she said, “O no, I believe I am a little tired, and will
go to bed.”


September 1.

I am glad that the summer is over. This heat has certainly worn on Aunt
Winifred, with that kind of wear which slides people into confirmed
invalidism. I suppose she would bear it in her saintly way, as she bears
everything, but it would be a bitter cup for her. I know she was always
pale, but this is a paleness which--


Night.

A dreadful thing has happened!

I was in the middle of my sentence, when I heard a commotion in the
street, and a child’s voice shouting incoherently something about the
doctor, and “_mother’s killed! O, mother’s killed! mother’s burnt to
death!_” I was at the window in time to see a blond-haired girl running
wildly past the house, and to see that it was Molly Bland.

At the same moment I saw Aunt Winifred snatching her hat from its nail
in the entry. She beckoned to me to follow, and we were half-way over
to the parsonage before I had a distinct thought of what I was about.

We came upon a horrible scene. Dr. Bland was trying to do everything
alone; there was not a woman in the house to help him, for they have
never been able to keep a servant, and none of the neighbors had had
time to be there before us. The poor husband was growing faint, I think.
Aunt Winifred saw by a look that he could not bear much more, sent him
after Molly for the doctor, and took everything meantime into her own
charge.

I shall not write down a word of it. It was a sight that, once seen,
will never leave me as long as I live. My nerves are thoroughly shaken
by it, and it must be put out of thought as far as possible.

It seems that the little boy--the baby--crept into the kitchen by
himself, and began to throw the contents of the match-box on the stove,
“to make a bonfire,” the poor little fellow said. In five minutes his
apron was ablaze. His mother was on the spot at his first cry, and
smothered the little apron, and saved the child, but her dress was
muslin, and everybody was too far off to hear her at first,--and by the
time her husband came in from the garden it was too late.

She is living yet. Her husband, pacing the room back and forth, and
crouching on his knees by the hour, is praying God to let her die before
the morning.


Morning.

There is no chance of life, the doctor says. But he has been able to
find something that has lessened her sufferings. She lies partially
unconscious.


Wednesday night.

Aunt Winifred and I were over at the parsonage to-night, when she roused
a little from her stupor and recognized us. She spoke to her husband,
and kissed me good by, and asked for the children. They were playing
softly in the next room; we sent for them, and they came in,--the four
unconscious, motherless little things,--with the sunlight in their hair.

The bitterness of death came into her marred face at sight of them, and
she raised her hands to Auntie--to the only other mother there--with a
sudden helpless cry: “I could bear it, I could bear it, if it weren’t
for _them_. Without any mother all their lives,--such little
things,--and to go away where I can’t do a single _thing_ for them!”

Aunt Winifred stooped down and spoke low, but decidedly.

“You _will_ do for them. God knows all about it. He will not send you
away from them. You shall be just as much their mother, every day of
their lives, as you have been here. Perhaps there is something to do for
them which you never could have done here. He sees. He loves them. He
loves you.”

If I could paint, I might paint the look that struck through and through
that woman’s dying face; but words cannot touch it. If I were Aunt
Winifred, I should bless God on my knees to-night for having shown me
how to give such ease to a soul in death.


Thursday morning.

God is merciful. Mrs. Bland died at five o’clock.


10th.

How such a voice from the heavens shocks one out of the repose of calm
sorrows and of calm joys. This has come and gone so suddenly that I
cannot adjust it to any quiet and trustful thinking yet.

The whole parish mourns excitedly; for, though they worked their
minister’s wife hard, they loved her well. I cannot talk it over with
the rest. It jars. Horror should never be dissected. Besides, my heart
is too full of those four little children with the sunlight in their
hair and the unconsciousness in their eyes.


15th.

Mrs. Quirk came over to-day in great perplexity. She had just come from
the minister’s.

“I don’t know what we’re a goin’ to do with him!” she exclaimed in a
gush of impatient, uncomprehending sympathy; “you can’t let a man take
on that way much longer. He’ll worry himself sick, and then we shall
either lose him or have to pay his bills to Europe! Why, he jest stops
in the house, and walks his study up and down, day and night; or else he
jest sets and sets and don’t notice nobody but the children. Now I’ve
jest ben over makin’ him some chicken-pie,--he used to set a sight by my
chicken-pie,--and he made believe to eat it, ’cause I’d ben at the
trouble, I suppose, but how much do you suppose he swallowed? Jest three
mouthfuls! Thinks says I, I won’t spend my time over chicken-pie for the
afflicted agin, and on ironing-day, too! When I knocked at the study
door, he said, ‘Come in, and stopped his walkin’ and turned as quick.

“‘O,’ says he, ‘good morning. I thought it was Mrs. Forceythe.’

“I told him no, I wasn’t Mrs. Forceythe, but I’d come to comfort him in
his sorrer all the same. But that’s the only thing I have agin our
minister. He won’t _be_ comforted. Mary Ann Jacobs, who’s ben there kind
of looking after the children and things for him, you know, sence the
funeral--she says he’s asked three or four times for you, Mrs.
Forceythe. There’s ben plenty of his people in to see him, but you
haven’t ben nigh him, Mary Ann says.”

“I stayed away because I thought the presence of friends at this time
would be an intrusion,” Auntie said; “but if he would like to see me,
that alters the case. I will go, certainly.”

“I don’t know,” suggested Mrs. Quirk, looking over the tops of her
spectacles,--“I s’pose it’s proper enough, but you bein’ a widow, you
know, and his wife--”

Aunt Winifred’s eyes shot fire. She stood up and turned upon Mrs. Quirk
with a look the like of which I presume that worthy lady had never seen
before, and is not likely to see soon again (it gave the beautiful
scorn of a Zenobia to her fair, slight face), moved her lips slightly,
but said nothing, put on her bonnet, and went straight to Dr. Bland’s.

The minister, they told her, was in his study. She knocked lightly at
the door, and was bidden in a lifeless voice to enter.

Shades and blinds were drawn, and the glare of the sun quite shut out.
Dr. Bland sat by his study-table, with his face upon his hands. A Bible
lay open before him. It had been lately used; the leaves were wet.

He raised his head dejectedly, but smiled when he saw who it was. He had
been thinking about her, he said, and was glad that she had come.

I do not know all that passed between them, but I gather, from such
hints as Auntie in her unconsciousness throws out, that she had things
to say which touched some comfortless places in the man’s heart. No
Greek and Hebrew “original,” no polished dogma, no link in his
stereotyped logic, not one of his eloquent sermons on the future state,
came to his relief.

These were meant for happy days. They rang cold as steel upon the warm
needs of an afflicted man. Brought face to face, and sharply, with the
blank heaven of his belief, he stood up from before his dead, and groped
about it, and cried out against it in the bitterness of his soul.

“I had no chance to prepare myself to bow to the will of God,” he said,
his reserved ministerial manner in curious contrast with the caged way
in which he was pacing the room,--“I had no chance. I am taken by
surprise, as by a thief in the night. I had a great deal to say to her,
and there was no time. She could tell me what to do with my poor little
children. I wanted to tell her other things. I wanted to tell
her--Perhaps we all of us have our regrets when the Lord removes our
friends; we may have done or left undone many things; we might have made
them happier. My mind does not rest with assurance in its conceptions of
the heavenly state. If I never can tell her--”

He stopped abruptly, and paced into the darkest shadows of the shadowed
room, his face turned away.

“You said once some pleasant things about heaven?” he said at last, half
appealingly, stopping in front of her, hesitating; like a man and like a
minister, hardly ready to come with all the learning of his schools and
commentators and sit at the feet of a woman.

She talked with him for a time in her unobtrusive way, deferring, when
she honestly could, to his clerical judgment, and careful not to wound
him by any word; but frankly and clearly, as she always talks.

When she rose to go he thanked her quietly.

“This is a somewhat novel train of thought to me,” he said; “I hope it
may not prove an unscriptural one. I have been reading the book of
Revelation to-day with these questions especially in mind. We are never
too old to learn. Some passages may be capable of other interpretations
than I have formerly given them. No matter what I _wish_, you see, I
must be guided by the Word of my God.”

Auntie says that she never respected the man so much as she did when,
hearing those words, she looked up into his haggard face, convulsed with
its human pain and longing.

“I hope you do not think that _I_ am not guided by the Word of God,” she
answered. “I mean to be.”

“I know you mean to be,” he said cordially. “I do not say that you are
not. I may come to see that you are, and that you are right. It will be
a peaceful day for me if I can ever quite agree with your methods of
reasoning. But I must think these things over. I thank you once more for
coming. Your sympathy is grateful to me.”

Just as she closed the door he called her back.

“See,” he said, with a saddened smile. “At least I shall never preach
_this_ again. It seems to me that life is always undoing for us
something that we have just laboriously done.”

He held up before her a mass of old blue manuscript, and threw it, as he
spoke, upon the embers left in his grate. It smoked and blazed up and
burned out.

It was that sermon on heaven of which there is an abstract in this
journal.


20th.

Aunt Winifred hired Mr. Tripp’s gray this afternoon, and drove to East
Homer on some unexplained errand. She did not invite me to go with her,
and Faith, though she teased impressively, was left at home. Her mother
was gone till late,--so late that I had begun to be anxious about her,
and heard through the dark the first sound of the buggy wheels, with
great relief. She looked very tired when I met her at the gate. She had
not been able, she said, to accomplish her errand at East Homer, and
from there had gone to Worcester by railroad, leaving Old Gray at the
East Homer Eagle till her return. She told me nothing more, and I asked
no questions.



XV.


Sunday.

Faith has behaved like a witch all day. She knocked down three crickets
and six hymn-books in church this morning, and this afternoon horrified
the assembled and devout congregation by turning round in the middle of
the long prayer, and, in a loud and distinct voice, asking Mrs. Quirk
for “‘nother those pepp’mints such as you gave me one Sunday a good many
years ago, you ’member.” After church, her mother tried a few Bible
questions to keep her still.

“Faith, who was Christ’s father?”

“Jerusalem!” said Faith, promptly.

“Where did his parents take Jesus when they fled from Herod?”

“O, to Europe. Of course I knew that! Everybody goes to Europe.”

To-night, when her mother had put her to bed, she came down laughing.

“Faith does seem to have a hard time with the Lord’s Prayer. To-night,
being very sleepy and in a hurry to finish, she proceeded with great
solemnity:--‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; six
days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, and--Oh!’

“I was just thinking how amused her father must be.”

Auntie says many such things. I cannot explain how pleasantly they
strike me, nor how they help me.


29th.

Dr. Bland gave us a good sermon yesterday. There is an indescribable
change in all his sermons. There is a change, too, in the man, and that
something more than the haggardness of grief. I not only respect him and
am sorry for him, but I feel more ready to be taught by him than ever
before. A certain indefinable _humanness_ softens his eyes and tones,
and seems to be creeping into everything that he says. Yet, on the other
hand, his people say that they have never heard him speak such pleasant,
helpful things concerning his and their relations to God. I met him the
other night, coming away from his wife’s grave, and was struck by the
expression of his face. I wondered if he were not slowly finding the
“peaceful day,” of which he told Aunt Winifred.

She, by the way, has taken another of her mysterious trips to Worcester.


30th.

We were wondering to-day where it will be,--I mean heaven.

“It is impossible to do more than wonder,” Auntie said, “though we are
explicitly told that there will be new heavens _and_ a new earth, which
seems, if anything can be taken literally in the Bible, to point to this
world as the future home of at least some of us.”

“Not for all of us, of course?”

“I don’t feel sure. I know that somebody spent his valuable time in
estimating that all the people who have lived and died upon the earth
would cover it, alive or buried, twice over; but I know that somebody
else claims with equal solemnity to have discovered that they could all
be buried in the State of Pennsylvania! But it would be of little
consequence if we could not all find room here, since there must be
other provision for us.”

“Why?”

“Certainly there is ‘a place’ in which we are promised that we shall be
‘with Christ,’ this world being yet the great theatre of human life and
battle-ground of Satan; no place, certainly, in which to confine a happy
soul without prospect of release. The Spiritualistic notion of ‘circles’
of dead friends revolving over us is to me intolerable. I want my
husband with me when I need him, but I hope he has a place to be happy
in, which is out of this woful world.

“The old astronomical idea, stars around a sun, and systems around a
centre, and that centre the Throne of God, is not an unreasonable one.
Isaac Taylor, among his various conjectures, inclines, I fancy, to
suppose that the sun of each system is the heaven of that system. Though
the glory of God may be more directly and impressively exhibited in one
place than in another, we may live in different planets, and some of us,
after its destruction and renovation, on this same dear old, happy and
miserable, loved and maltreated earth. I hope I shall be one of them. I
should like to come back and build me a beautiful home in Kansas,--I
mean in what was Kansas,--among the happy people and the familiar,
transfigured spots where John and I worked for God so long together.
That--with my dear Lord to see and speak with every day--would be
‘Heaven our Home.’”

“There will be no _days_, then?”

“There will be succession of time. There may not be alternations of
twenty-four hours dark or light, but ‘I use with thee an earthly
language,’ as the wife said in that beautiful little ‘Awakening,’ of
Therrmin’s. Do you remember it? Do read it over, if you haven’t read it
lately.

“As to our coming back here, there is an echo to Peter’s assertion, in
the idea of a world under a curse, destroyed and regenerated,--the
atonement of Christ reaching, with something more than poetic force, the
very sands of the earth which he trod with bleeding feet to make himself
its Saviour. That makes me feel--don’t you see?--what a taint there is
in sin. If dumb dust is to have such awful cleansing, what must be
needed for you and me?

“How many pleasant talks we have had about these things, Mary! Well, it
cannot be long, at the longest, before we know, even as we are known.”

I looked at her smiling white face,--it is always very white now,--and
something struck slowly through me, like a chill.


October 16, midnight.

There is no such thing as sleep at present. Writing is better than
thinking.

Aunt Winifred went again to Worcester to-day. She said that she had to
buy trimming for Faith’s sack.

She went alone, as usual, and Faith and I kept each other company
through the afternoon,--she on the floor with Mary Ann, I in the
easy-chair with Macaulay. As the light began to fall level on the floor,
I threw the book aside,--being at the end of a volume,--and, Mary Ann
having exhausted her attractions, I surrendered unconditionally to the
little maiden.

She took me up garret, and down cellar, on lop of the wood-pile, and
into the apple-trees; I fathomed the mysteries of Old Man’s Castle and
Still Palm; I was her grandmother, I was her baby, I was a rabbit, I was
a chestnut horse, I was a watch-dog, I was a mild-tempered giant, I was
a bear “warranted not to eat little girls,” I was a roaring hippopotamus
and a canary bird, I was Jeff Davis and I was Moses in the bulrushes,
and of what I was, the time faileth me to tell.

It comes over me with a curious, mingled sense of the ludicrous and the
horrible, that I should have spent the afternoon like a baby and almost
as happily, laughing out with the child, past and future forgotten, the
tremendous risks of “I spy” absorbing all my present; while what was
happening was happening, and what was to come was coming. Not an echo in
the air, not a prophecy in the sunshine, not a note of warning in the
song of the robins that watched me from the apple-boughs!

As the long, golden afternoon slid away, we came out by the front gate
to watch for the child’s mother. I was tired, and, lying back on the
grass, gave Faith some pink and purple larkspurs, that she might amuse
herself in making a chain of them. The picture that she made sitting
there on the short, dying grass--the light which broke all about her and
over her at the first, creeping slowly down and away to the west, her
little fingers linking the rich, bright flowers tube into tube, the
dimple on her cheek and the love in her eyes--has photographed itself
into my thinking.

How her voice rang out, when the wheels sounded at last, and the
carriage, somewhat slowly driven, stopped!

“Mamma, mamma! see what I’ve got for you, mamma!”

Auntie tried to step from the carriage, and called me: “Mary, can you
help me a little? I am--tired.”

I went to her, and she leaned heavily on my arm, and we came up the
path.

“Such a pretty little chain, all for you, mamma,” began Faith, and
stopped, struck by her mother’s look.

“It has been a long ride, and I am in pain. I believe I will lie right
down on the parlor sofa. Mary, would you be kind enough to give Faith
her supper and put her to bed?”

Faith’s lip grieved.

“Cousin Mary isn’t _you_, mamma. I want to be kissed. You haven’t kissed
me.”

Her mother hesitated for a moment; then kissed her once, twice; put both
arms about her neck; and turned her face to the wall without a word.

“Mamma is tired, dear,” I said; “come away.”

She was lying quite still when I had done what was to be done for the
child, and had come back. The room was nearly dark. I sat down on my
cricket by her sofa.

“Shall Phœbe light the lamp?”

“Not just yet.”

“Can’t you drink a cup of tea if I bring it?”

“Not just yet.”

“Did you find the sack-trimming?” I ventured, after a pause.

“I believe so,--yes.”

She drew a little package from her pocket, held it a moment, then let it
roll to the floor forgotten. When I picked it up, the soft, tissue-paper
wrapper was wet and hot with tears.

“Mary?”

“Yes.”

“I never thought of the little trimming till the last minute. I had
another errand.”

I waited.

“I thought at first I would not tell you just yet. But I suppose the
time has come; it will be no more easy to put it off. I have been to
Worcester all these times to see a doctor.”

I bent my head in the dark, and listened for the rest.

“He has his reputation; they said he could help me if anybody could. He
thought at first he could. But to-day--Mary, see here.”

She walked feebly towards the window, where a faint, gray light
struggled in, and opened the bosom of her dress....

There was silence between us for a long while after that; she went back
to the sofa, and I took her hand and bowed my face over it, and so we
sat.

The leaves rustled out of doors. Faith, up stairs, was singing herself
to sleep with a droning sound.

“He talked of risking an operation,” she said, at length, “but decided
to-day that it was quite useless. I suppose I must give up and be sick
now; I am feeling the reaction from having kept up so long. He thinks I
shall not suffer a very great deal. He thinks he can relieve me, and
that it may be soon over.”

“There is no chance?”

“No chance.”

I took both of her hands, and cried out, I believe, as I did that first
night when she spoke to me of Roy,--“Auntie, Auntie, Auntie!” and tried
to think what I was doing, but only cried out the more.

“Why, Mary!” she said,--“why, Mary!” and again, as before, she passed
her soft hand to and fro across my hair, till by and by I began to
think, as I had thought before, that I could bear anything which God
who loved us all--who _surely_ loved us all--should send.

So then, after I had grown still, she began to tell me about it in her
quiet voice, and the leaves rustled, and Faith had sung herself to
sleep, and I listened wondering. For there was no pain in the quiet
voice,--no pain, nor tone of fear. Indeed, it seemed to me that I
detected, through its subdued sadness, a secret, suppressed buoyancy of
satisfaction, with which something struggled.

“And you?” I asked, turning quickly upon her.

“I should thank God with all my heart, Mary, if it were not for Faith
and you. But it _is_ for Faith and you. That’s all.”

When I had locked the front door, and was creeping up here to my room,
my foot crushed something, and a faint, wounded perfume came up. It was
the little pink and purple chain.



XVI.


October 17.

“The Lord God a’mighty help us! but His ways are past finding out. What
with one thing and another thing, that child without a mother, and you
with the crape not yet rusty for Mr. Roy’l, it doos seem to me as if His
manner of treating folks beats all! But I tell you this, Miss Mary, my
dear; you jest say your prayers reg’lar and _stick to Him_, and He’ll
pull you through, sure!”

This was what Phœbe said when I told her.


November 8.

To-night, for the first time, Auntie fairly gave up trying to put Faith
to bed. She had insisted on it until now, crawling up by the banisters
like a wounded thing. This time she tottered and sank upon the second
step. She cried out, feebly; “I am afraid I must give it up to Cousin
Mary. Faith!”--the child clung with both hands to her,--“Faith, Faith!
Mother’s little girl!”

It was the last dear care of motherhood yielded; the last link snapped.
It seemed to be the very bitterness of parting.

I turned away, that they might bear it together, they two alone.


19th.

Yet I think that took away the sting.

The days are slipping away now very quietly, and--to her I am sure, and
to me for her sake--very happily.

She suffers less than I had feared, and she lies upon the bed and
smiles, and Faith comes in and plays about, and the cheery morning
sunshine falls on everything, and when her strong hours come, we have
long talks together, hand clasped in hand.

Such pleasant talks! We are quite brave to speak of anything, since we
know that what is to be is best just so, and since we fear no parting. I
tell her that Faith and I will soon learn to shut our eyes and think we
see her, and try to make it _almost_ the same, for she will never be
very far away, will she? And then she shakes her head smiling, for it
pleases her, and she kisses me softly. Then we dream of how it will all
be, and how we shall love and try to please each other quite as much as
now.

“It will be like going around a corner, don’t you see?” she says. “You
will know that I am there all the while, though hidden, and that if you
call me I shall hear.” Then we talk of Faith, and of how I shall comfort
her; that I shall teach her this, and guard her from that, and how I
shall talk with her about heaven and her mother. Sometimes Faith comes
up and wants to know what we are saying, and lays poor Mary Ann, sawdust
and all, upon the pillow, and wants “her toof-ache kissed away.” So
Auntie kisses away the dolly’s “toof-ache”; and kisses the dolly’s
little mother, sometimes with a quiver on her lips, but more often with
a smile in her eyes, and Faith runs back to play, and her laugh ripples
out, and her mother listens--listens--

Sometimes, too, we talk of some of the people for whom she cares; of her
husband’s friends; of her scholars, or Dr. Bland, or Clo, or poor ’Bin
Quirk, or of somebody down town whom she was planning to help this
winter. Little Clo comes in as often as she is strong enough to see her,
and sends over untold jellies and blanc-manges, which Faith and I have
to eat. “But don’t let the child know that,” Auntie says.

But more often we talk of the life which she is so soon to begin; of her
husband and Roy; of what she will try to say to Christ; how much dearer
He has grown to her since she has lain here in pain at His bidding, and
how He helps her, at morning and at eventide and in the night-watches.

We talk of the trees and the mountains and the lilies in the garden, on
which the glory of the light that is not the light of the sun may shine;
of the “little brooks” by which she longs to sit and sing to Faith; of
the treasures of art which she may fancy to have about her; of the home
in which her husband may be making ready for her coming, and wonder what
he has there, and if he knows how near the time is now.

But I notice lately that she more often and more quickly wearies of
these things; that she comes back, and comes back again to some loving
thought--as loving as a child’s--of Jesus Christ. He seems to be--as she
once said she tried that He should be to Faith--her “_best_ friend.”

Sometimes, too, we wonder what it means to pass out of the body, and
what one will be first conscious of.

“I used to have a very human, and by no means slight, dread of the
physical pain of death,” she said to-day; “but, for some reason or
other, that is slowly leaving me. I imagine that the suffering of any
fatal sickness is worse than the immediate process of dissolution. Then
there is so much beyond it to occupy one’s thoughts. One thing I have
thought much about; it is that, whatever may be our first experience
after leaving the body, it is not likely to be a _revolutionary_ one. It
is more in analogy with God’s dealings that a quiet process, a gentle
accustoming, should open our eyes on the light that would blind if it
came in a flash. Perhaps we shall not see Him,--perhaps we could not
bear it to see Him at once. It may be that the faces of familiar human
friends will be the first to greet us; it may be that the touch of the
human hand dearer than any but His own shall lead us, as we are able,
behind the veil, till we are a little used to the glory and the wonder,
and lead us so to Him.

“Be that as it may, and be heaven where it may, I am not afraid. With
all my guessing and my studying and my dreaming over these things, I am
only a child in the dark. ‘Nevertheless, I am not afraid of the dark.’
God bless Mr. Robertson for saying that! I’m going to bless him when I
see him. How pleasant it will be to see him, and some other friends
whose faces I never saw in this world. David, for instance, or Paul, or
Cowper, or President Lincoln, or Mrs. Browning. The only trouble is that
_I_ am nobody to them! However, I fancy that they will let me shake
hands with them.

“No, I am quite willing to trust all these things to God.

    ‘And what if much be still unknown?
       Thy Lord shall teach thee that,
     When thou shalt stand before His throne,
       Or sit as Mary sat.’

I may find them very different from what I have supposed. I know that I
shall find them infinitely _more_ satisfying than I have supposed. As
Schiller said of his philosophy, ‘Perhaps I may be ashamed of my raw
design, at sight of the true original. This may happen; I expect it; but
then, if reality bears no resemblance to my dreams, it will be a more
majestic, a more delightful surprise.’

“I believe nothing that God denies. I cannot overrate the beauty of his
promise. So it surely can have done no harm for me to take the comfort
of my fancying till I am there; and what a comfort it has been to me,
God only knows. I could scarcely have borne some things without it.”

“You are never afraid that anything proving a little different from what
you expect might--”

“Might disappoint me? No; I have settled that in my heart with God. I do
not _think_ I shall be disappointed. The truth is, he has obviously not
_opened_ the gates which bar heaven from our sight, but he has as
obviously not _shut_ them; they stand ajar, with the Bible and reason in
the way, to keep them from closing; surely we should look in as far as
we can, and surely, if we look with reverence, our eyes will be holden,
that we may not cheat ourselves with mirages. And, as the little Swedish
girl said, the first time she saw the stars: ‘O father, if the _wrong
side_ of heaven is so beautiful, what must the _right side_ be?’”


January.

I write little now, for I am living too much. The days are stealing away
and lessening one by one, and still Faith plays about the room, though
very softly now, and still the cheery sunshine shimmers in, and still we
talk with clasping hands, less often and more pleasantly. Morning and
noon and evening come and go; the snow drifts down and the rain falls
softly; clouds form and break and hurry past the windows; shadows melt
and lights are shattered, and little rainbows are prisoned by the
icicles that hang from the eaves.

I sit and watch them, and watch the sick-lamp flicker in the night, and
watch the blue morning crawl over the hills; and the old words are
stealing down my thought: _That is the substance, this the shadow; that
the reality, this the dream_.

I watch her face upon the pillow; the happy secret on its lips; the
smile within its eyes. It is nearly a year now since God sent the face
to me. What it has done for me He knows; what the next year and all the
years are to be without it, He knows, too.

It is slipping away,--slipping. And I--must--lose it.

Perhaps I should not have said what I said to-night; but being weak from
watching, and seeing how glad she was to go, seeing how all the peace
was for her, all the pain for us, I cried, “O Auntie, Auntie, why can’t
we go too? Why _can’t_ Faith and I go with you?”

But she answered me only, “Mary, He knows.”

We will be brave again to-morrow. A little more sunshine in the room! A
little more of Faith and the dolly!


The Sabbath.

She asked for the child at bedtime to-night, and I laid her down in her
night-dress on her mother’s arm. She kissed her, and said her prayers,
and talked a bit about Mary Ann, and to-morrow, and her snow man. I sat
over by the window in the dusk, and watched a little creamy cloud that
was folding in the moon. Presently their voices grew low, and at last
Faith’s stopped altogether. Then I heard in fragments this:--

“Sleepy, dear? But you won’t have many more talks with mamma. Keep awake
just a minute, Faith, and hear--can you hear? Mamma will never, _never_
forget her little girl; she won’t go away very far; she will always love
you. Will you remember as long as you live? She will always see you,
though you can’t see her, perhaps. Hush, my darling, _don’t_ cry! Isn’t
God naughty? No, God is good; God is always good. He won’t take mamma a
great way off. One more kiss? There! now you may go to sleep. One more!
Come, Cousin Mary.”


June 6.

It is a long time since I have written here. I did not want to open the
book till I was sure that I could open it quietly, and could speak as
she would like to have me speak, of what remains to be written.

But a very few words will tell it all.

It happened so naturally and so happily, she was so glad when the time
came, and she made me so glad for her sake, that I cannot grieve. I say
it from my honest heart, I cannot grieve. In the place out of which she
has gone, she has left me peace. I think of something that Miss Procter
said about the opening of that golden gate,

            “round which the kneeling spirits wait.
    The halo seems to linger round those kneeling closest to the door:
    The joy that lightened from that place shines still upon
       the watcher’s face.”

I think more often of some things that she herself said in the very last
of those pleasant talks, when, turning a leaf in her little Bible, she
pointed out to me the words:--

“It is expedient for you that I go away; for, if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come.”

It was one spring-like night,--the twenty-ninth of March.

She had been in less pain, and had chatted and laughed more with us than
for many a day. She begged that Faith might stay till dark, and might
bring her Noah’s ark and play down upon the foot of the bed where she
could see her. I sat in the rocking-chair with my face to the window. We
did not light the lamps.

The night came on slowly. Showery clouds flitted by, but there was a
blaze of golden color behind them. It broke through and scattered them;
it burned them, and melted them; it shot great pink and purple jets up
to the zenith; it fell and lay in amber mist upon the hills. A soft wind
swept by, and darted now and then into the glow, and shifted it about,
color away from color, and back again.

“See, Faith!” she said softly; “put down the little camel a minute, and
look!” and added after, but neither to the child nor to me, it seemed:
“At eventide there shall be light.” Phœbe knocked presently, and I
went out to see what was wanted, and planned a little for Auntie’s
breakfast, and came back.

Faith, with her little ark, was still playing quietly upon the bed. I
sat down again in my rocking-chair with my face to the window. Now and
then the child’s voice broke the silence, asking Where should she put
the elephant, and was there room there for the yellow bird? and now and
then her mother answered her, and so presently the skies had faded, and
so the night came on.

I was thinking that it was Faith’s bedtime, and that I had better light
the lamp, when a few distinct, hurried words from the bed attracted my
attention.

“Faith, I think you had better kiss mamma now, and get down.”

There was a change in the voice. I was there in a moment, and lifted the
child from the pillow, where she had crept. But she said, “Wait a
minute, Mary; wait a minute,”--for Faith clung to her, with one hand
upon her cheek, softly patting it.

I went over and stood by the window.

It was her mother herself who gently put the little fingers away at
last.

“Mother’s own little girl! Good night, my darling, my darling.”

So I took the child away to Phœbe, and came back, and shut the door.

“I thought you might have some message for Roy,” she said.

“Now?”

“Now, I think.”

We had often talked of this, and she had promised to remember it,
whatever it might be. So I told her--But I will not write what I told
her.

I saw that she was playing weakly with her wedding-ring, which hung very
loosely below its little worn guard.

“Take the little guard,” she said, “and keep it for Faith; but bury the
other with me: he put it on; nobody else must take it--”

The sentence dropped, unfinished.

I crept up on the bed beside her, for she seemed to wish it. I asked if
I should light the lamp, but she shook her head. The room seemed light,
she said, quite light. She wondered then if Faith were asleep, and if
she would waken early in the morning.

After that I kissed her, and then we said nothing more, only presently
she asked me to hold her hand.

It was quite dark when she turned her face at last towards the window.

“John!” she said,--“why, John!”

       *       *       *       *       *

They came in, with heads uncovered and voices hushed, to see her, in the
days while she was lying down stairs among the flowers.

Once when I thought that she was alone, I went in,--it was at
twilight,--and turned, startled by a figure that was crouched sobbing on
the floor.

“O, I want to go too, _I want_ to go too!” it cried.

“She’s ben there all day long,” said Phœbe, wiping her eyes, “and she
won’t go home for a mouthful of victuals, poor creetur! but she jest
sets there and cries and cries, an’ there’s no stoppin’ of her!”

It was little Clo.

At another time, I was there with fresh flowers, when the door opened,
creaking a little, and ’Bin Quirk came in on tiptoe, trying in vain to
still the noise of his new boots. His eyes were red and wet, and he held
out to me timidly a single white carnation.

“Could you put it somewhere, where it wouldn’t do any harm? I walked way
over to Worcester and back to get it. If you could jest hide it under
the others out of sight, seems to me it would do me a sight of good to
feel it was there, you know.”

I motioned to him to lay it himself between her fingers.

“O, I darsn’t. I’m not fit, _I_’m not. She’d rether have you.”

But I told him that I knew she would be as pleased that he should give
it to her himself as she was when he gave her the China pinks on that
distant summer day. So the great awkward fellow bent down, as simply as
a child, as tenderly as a woman, and left the flower in its place.

“_She_ liked ’em,” he faltered; “maybe, if what she used to say is all
so, she’ll like ’em now. She liked ’em better than she did machines.
I’ve just got my carpet-sweeper through; I was thinking how pleased
she’d be; I wanted to tell her. If I should go to the good place,--if
ever I do go, it will be just her doin’s,--I’ll tell her then, maybe,
I--”

He forgot that anybody was there, and, sobbing, hid his face in his
great hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

So we are waiting for the morning when the gates shall open,--Faith and
I. I, from my stiller watches, am not saddened by the music of her life.
I feel sure that her mother wishes it to be a cheery life. I feel sure
that she is showing me, who will have no motherhood by which to show
myself, how to help her little girl.

And Roy,--ah, well, and Roy,--he knows. Our hour is not yet come. If the
Master will that we should be about His Father’s business, what is that
to us?

                               THE END.





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