Withered Leaves from Memory's Garland
By Abigail Stanley Hanna.
"There comes a voice that awakes my soul; It is the voice of years that are gone,— They roll before me with all their deeds."
These pages were not written for public inspection; but to beguile the weary hours of indisposition, and present a record of thoughts and sentiments to the eyes of my children, after my lips are sealed in death.
By the recommendation of friends, I have decided to submit them to the public.
From a criticising public I should shrink; but to a sympathizing public I would appeal, trusting the holy mantle of charity will be flung over my errors, and my motives appreciated.
I would take this opportunity to tender my hearty and sincere thanks to my patrons, who have aided me in this enterprise, not only by their subscriptions, but by their words of sympathy and encouragement, which have fallen like sunshine upon my gloomy pathway, warming my desolate heart, and leaving a sweet fragrance upon the memory, which shall live on and on, through the long ages of eternity; for beautifully and emphatically has Mrs. Childs said,
"Goodness and beauty live forever,"
Perhaps I should apologise for the pensive strain in which I have written, but it has been in shady places, when the body was suffering from disease, and I felt almost too weak to breathe. Dear reader, did you ever feel that you were dying? that there was but a step between you and death? How natural, at such a time, and in such a place, to contemplate the circumstances connected with the deaths of dear, departed friends.
Hoping this may lead some thoughtless one to reflection, I submit it to the investigation of a generous public.
But if I fail in this, shall I have written in vain? O, no; it is but a fulfilment in part of the great mission, "do with all thy might what thy hand findeth to do." If we have but one small talent we are commanded to put it upon usury, "that the Lord may receive his own when he cometh."
Some pieces were contributions from the pen of a loved sister, whose sentiments and principles are in unison with my own, and so they flow on together, in one common channel. Those designated by a star (*) in the Index, are from her pen.
On page 141, near the bottom, the paragraph which now reads, "You did not expect me to be found alone now, did you?" should read, "You did not expect to find me alive now," &c.
On page 272, in the 11th line from the top, in the word "rugg'd," the letter e should be substituted for the apostrophe.
These errors escaped attention in reading the proof, before it went to press.
When autumn winds are round us sighing,— When pale flowers are 'round us dying, It pain and pleasure to us gives, To gather up the wither'd leaves.
The year so tasteful flung her flow'rs In garlands gay, o'er sylvan bow'rs; But where they hung:—so brief— Now only hangs the wither'd leaf.
Dear reader, thus to thee I come, With tresses blossom'd for the tomb; And offer what the season gives,— My faded flow'rs—my WITHERED LEAVES.
A. S. H.
Shadows of the Past
Reminiscences; The Old Homestead The Old House The Old School House The Grave Yard
Midnight Scenes, or, Pictures of Human Life Picture No. 2 Picture No. 3 Picture No. 4
The History of a Household
Lines written during convalescence from Brain Fever
The Angel Cousin
Lines written at the close of the year 1842
Lines written on the New Year 1843
The Unhappy Marriage
On the year 1852
To Mrs. A.B.
An Evening in our Village
Contemplations in a Grave Yard
A Scene on the Kennebec River
To Miss H. B——
Lines written in an Album
A Long Night in the Eighteenth Century
On Hearing a Bird Sing, Dec. 19, 1826
On the Death of Ellen A. B——
The Order of Nature
Dedication of an Album
To Mrs. S. on the Death of her infant
To Mrs. S. on the Death of her Son
The first and last Voyage of the Atlantic
The Fatal Feast
To the Maiden
To Mrs. B. on the Death of her Son
O Come Back, my Brother
On the Frailty of Earthly Things
To a Friend
The Mother and her Child
A Mother's Prayer
Lines in an Album
On the Death of a Mother
The Music of Earth
On the Death of Mrs. C.P. Baldwin
Lines written in a Sick Room, April 15th, 1855
Lines written in a Sick Room, July 20th, 1855
To a Friend
The Mother's Watch
Why should I Smile *
The Youth's Return *
To A—— *
The Beauties of Nature *
On the Death of Willie T. White *
The Human Heart *
On the Death of a Friend *
To a Friend *
A Picture of Human Life
The Old Castle *
The Myrtle *
The Home of Childhood *
The Happy Land *
To a Friend *
Lines written upon the Death of Two Sisters
Lines for a Friend upon the 20th Anniversary of her Birthday
Lines written upon the Departure of a Brother
Lines on the Death of a Friend
The Power of Custom
We all do Perish like the Leaf
Life Compared to the Seasons
Lines written in Answer to the Question "Where is our Poet?"
My Husband's Grave
Lines written upon the Young who have recently died in our Village
Lines written in an Album
Lines from the pen of my Husband, who is Deceased
Visit to Mount Auburn
Lines from Mary to her Father in California, with her Daguerreotype
Letter of Resignation from Mrs. Hanna to the Maternal Association
Improvement of Time
Lines written on the Death of Frank
The Pleasures of Memory
The Song of the Weary One
Lines inscribed to a Brother
Lines to Mrs. S—— on the Death of an Infant
The Spirits of the Dead
To Mrs. J.C. Bucklin, by her Father
The Widow's Home
To the Reader
Shadows of the Past
Sister, the solemn midnight hour Is meet, to weave the web of thought, To trace the shadowy imagery, From fancy's secret chambers brought.
To enter Memory's hidden cell, And bid the sentinel appear; Her strange, mysterious tales to tell, And wipe the dust from by-gone years.
To wander back down time's dark stream, And from its margin pluck the flowers, To twine them with the moon's pale beams, Then fling them over Memory's bow'rs.
To gather all the fragments up, The phantoms chase of other years; Their blighted joys, their withered hopes, Their clouds, their sunshine, and their tears.
We'll wander forth while others sleep, Fanned gently by the night wind's sigh And thus our midnight vigils keep, While night's fair lamps burn bright on high.
We'll wander in the realms of thought, That boundless space, who may define? From which more dazzling gems are brought Than sparkle in Golconda's mine.
Then, sister, let us linger not, The conscious moon her lamp holds high, And with her smiling, placid face, Beams from the chambers of the sky.
Touched by fancy's magic spell, We'll conjure up the things of yore; From their cold chambers bring the dead, And friends of former years restore.
But oh, the shadows will not stay,— The dreamy shadows of the past; Before the sun they'll fade away— Their mystic visions cannot last.
Then let us leave the world of dreams Where shapes and shadows melt away; Bathe in salvation's cooling streams, And soar to realms of endless day.
The Old Homestead.
Come gentle reader, let us entwine arms with Memory, and wander back through the avenues of life to childhood's sunny dell, and as we return more leisurely pluck the wild flowers that grow beside the pathway, and entwine them for Memory's garland, and inhale the fragrance of by-gone years. O, there are rich treasures garnered up in Memory's secret chambers, enclosed in the recesses of the soul, to spring into life at the touch of her magic wand. Here let us sit on this mossy stone, beneath this wide spread elm, and as its waving branches fan our feverish cheeks, fold back the dim, misty curtains of the past, the silent past, and hold communings with the years that are gone. Listen to the murmur of yonder rippling stream, that breaks like far off music upon the ear, and although half a century of years have passed since I first stood upon its margin, and listened to its dirge-like hum, no trace of age is left upon it. The silent years that have swept over its surface, bearing away the generations of men, have left this stream sporting and dancing on in all the freshness of youth and beauty.
Here is the grassy knoll where we have stood tiptoe and reached our tiny hands a little higher to catch the gorgeous butterfly that floated through summer air on silken wings, and then clapped them with joyous glee at our own disappointment, as it sailed higher up into the blue air.
Then came the song of the warbling bird, the hum of the mountain bee, and the rustling of the leaves as they were stirred by the gentle summer breeze,—all making sweet melody in Nature's many voiced harmonies.
Here we have sat for hours, wrapt in dreamy reverie, wondering why the long, fleecy clouds that chased each other over the sun, should cast such deep, broad shadows over so fair a landscape; little heeding that they were emblematical of the shadows that coming years would cast upon our pathway as we passed on in the journey of human life; but oh, how often has the sun of hope been dimmed by the shadows of disappointment.
But let us leave this sequestered spot and wander over other scenes familiar to childhood's years.
Beneath yon large reservoir of water that flashes in the sun beams as the summer winds heave its troubled bosom, formerly stretched out an extensive meadow, where we used to stroll for amusement; or to gather the rich, ripe strawberries that lay concealed beneath the thick, tall grass that sighed before the breeze like the bosom of the ocean, fanned by the winds of heaven. Here, too, we gathered sweet blue violets, yellow buttercups, Ladies' traces and London pride, with all the beautiful variety of simple meadow flowers, and entwined them into pretty wreaths, or fragrant boquets. But the touch of time has rested upon this spot, and his finger has left a deep impress upon it. The sloping hills that surround it remain the same. The trees bear some traces of decay, but here stand the thorn bushes that used to scatter their showers of white blossoms around us like descending snow-flakes, still filled with green leaves and small red apples, surrounded by the prickly thorns that to all appearances are the same that we grasped fifty years ago.
The sand-hills where the juvenile part of the neighborhood used to congregate to celebrate the happy twilight hour in merry sports, have literally passed away; having been shovelled up and transported to the various places for many miles around, where the multiplicity of chimnies mark the increasing population of the village, that passing years have added to it.
As we pass the antiquated moss-covered bars that admit us into the dear old orchard, and cross the little brook that bubbles on forever in the same monotonous sound, requiring but one smooth round stepping stone for a bridge, we sigh and feel that the change of years is upon us, for here almost every thing speaks of decay. True the hills, the ponds, the rocks (and I had almost said the speckled tortoise that has crawled up to sun itself on their summit), remain the same.
Sit down on this dilapidated trunk, for the burden of years is upon us; and as I glance upon this frame, I can scarcely realize it is the same form that used to impress this spot with childish footprints. This trunk was then a beautiful, stately tree, bearing its leafy honors thick upon it, and laden with delicious golden fruit. But the glory of the orchard has departed, and why should we linger any longer in its confines, as it only awakens sad memories, and says in an audible voice,
"Chance and change are busy ever."
The carriage road that passes through it, almost blinding us with dust, was formerly a well beaten foot-path for the accommodation of the neighborhood as they walked from one part of it to the other. Let us follow the road up this steep aclivity, and enter the large capacious door-yard which contained several rods of land, and was surrounded by an old fashioned stone wall, which has been beaten by at least seventy-five winters' storms; and the thick covering of green moss upon it bespeaks its age.
The west end was crossed by a fence containing a small strip of land for the purpose of raising early summer vegetables. Here now is erected the splendid dwelling house of one of the wealthiest citizens of the village, and the garden is converted into front yard, building spot and back yard, containing all the usual necessary appendages to a dwelling place, so that here all traces of former days have passed from the spot, and only live inscribed upon the retentive tablet of Memory. On the east end was another small enclosure where we used to spend our leisure hours in the cultivation of flowers and medicinal plants. Here the tall lilac waved its graceful head beneath our bed-room window, and the morning sun, as he parted the rosy curtains of the eastern sky and came forth rejoicing to run his glad race, and pour a flood of golden light upon the earth, shot his first crimson rays upon the thick curtains of morning glories that hung clustering over our window, fragrant with their verdant leaves, and rich purple blossoms, and causing the dew-drops to glisten like sparkling diamonds, while the sweet odors of many scented flowers were borne upon every passing breeze. But could we now recognize this spot? oh no! the destroyer has been there, and there remains no trace of herb or flower; an ell has been built on to that end of the house, and the barn has been moved, so that our beautiful garden has been transformed into a door yard, and all traces of beauty are obliterated. Crossing the garden you next entered upon a large level lot covered with the richest grass that annually used to fall before the sythe of the mower, and descended by sloping hills to the above mentioned luxuriant meadow; through which ran a quiet winding stream that used to afford us an abundance of speckled trout and shining pickerel, to say nothing about the many play hours spent upon its margin; but now the stream is lost beneath the vast reservoir, and has washed away all traces of flowers, strawberries and verdant grass that used to mark its serpentine wanderings, by assuming a deeper green.
The west end of this enclosure was intersected by what used to be called Virginia fence, then crossed into two separate places dividing one into a sheep-pasture, the other into a large garden for the cultivation of winter vegetables. In the pasture used to graze a large flock of sheep, and the snowy lambs sported over the rocks and ran down the hillside; does this remain the same?
The rocks have been removed out of their places, and in their stead dwelling houses have been erected, and the busy hum of active life there resounds, and the prattling of children is heard instead of the bleating of lambs.
Crossing the stream upon the remains of an old dam, and passing the extent of meadow, we entered upon a rich clover field, adjoining which was the corn field, that in autumn used to be laden with yellow corn and golden pumpkins. Contiguous to this was a delightful grove composed of thrifty walnut trees, carefully cleared from under brush and covered with verdant grass, and ornamented here and there with a grassy hillock, that rendered it a pleasant retreat from the scorching rays of the summer sun. The air was filled with the notes of the feathered songsters that built their nests and warbled in their branches, mingling their music with the rustling leaves and the murmur of the distant spring that rippled near, for a gradual descent brought us down to the spring lot, which, with the grove and the swamp that lay below, was used for pasturage. But let us pause and take a survey of its present appearances. The beautiful trees have all fallen before the woodman's axe, not one remaining as a link with their past history; the old fence has been removed that divided it from the cornfield, and surrounded by a new and beautiful one, it now forms a part of a commodious Cemetery, is laid out into tasteful lots as the last resting place of the dead.
Sweet spot; methinks it is meet for the weary children of earth to slumber in this quiet place.
At its foot gurgles the quiet winding stream, and far away comes the din and hum of active life, thronged with the busy crowd whose restless feet are bearing them swiftly on to the end of life's journey, where they must resign the cumbrous load and "join the pale caravan in the realms of shade."
Descending from the grove on the western side, was a low, swampy piece of ground, that had never yielded to cultivation, where we sometimes used to jump from one hillock to another in search of swamp pinks and cheeses which were to be found there in great abundance.
It was ever covered with low brush, of natural growth, and apparently no change had passed over it from its creation, save the natural springing up and decaying of its productions. And so, almost fifty years ago, we left it, but how does it meet us upon our return? Art has touched it with her handy work. It has been drained; the brush cut from its surface, rich loam carted upon it, and now it presents the appearance of a well cultivated garden, is covered with luxuriant grass, and staked out into yards for the accommodation of families who wish to lie down side by side, in the sleep of death. Many, already, are beautified with flowers and shrubbery; and in some, already arises the marble slab, pointing to the place where some weary pilgrim reposes, free from all the earth calls good or great; for this, too, is enclosed in the Cemetery.
But passing the entrance into the Cemetery, we will pass back by a circuitous route, to the dear old home. The road, the hills, the rocks, the trees, and many of the buildings are the same; but, oh, how many and varied are the changes that strike the eye, and awaken in the breast ten thousand bewildering remembrances. Truly has the human heart been compared to a many stringed instrument, giving diversity of sound as it is swept by different winds.
One of the most conspicuous changes, is the withdrawal of a large pond of water that had been pent up by a high dam, over which the water fell, over the bridge we are now crossing, roaring, casting up spray, and then foaming and dancing off, into the meadow below.
Many of the buildings have changed their old fashioned coats of red for the more modern one of white, which is the case with our own old homestead. Opposite the house, or across the way, as we used to call it (for the road was between), stood, what was ever called, the woods. Here, in their season, we gathered the largest whortleberries, the best walnuts, and the nicest black birch that were to be found all the country round. And when we had wearied our limbs, and filled our baskets, how often have we pulled over the tops of the smaller trees, and seating ourselves upon some slender branch, enjoyed a real juvenile ride upon horseback, each one having a particular tree designated by the name of a horse.
Immediately opposite the house, stood a high hill, composed of jagged rocks, behind which the sun ever sank to his cosy bed in the west, and where I have watched the forked lightning play as the blackened cloud gathered together, ominous of a portending storm, while the distant thunder murmured behind their eternal summit. This stands the same, and as you glance down the other side, you see the broad, black river, still rolling at its base. But the woods—the bright green woods—where are they? Echo answers, "where?" Supplanting the place is a young thrifty orchard, and at the base of the hill is a finely cultivated piece of land, and there is nothing but the everlasting hills to tell us of the dear spot where we wandered in the halcyon days of childhood; we cannot even exclaim with Cowper—
"I sat on the trees under which I had played."
Dear old trees! methinks, even now, I can hear your music, when fanned by the summer breeze, or see you toss your surging branches, when rocked by the autumnal gale. Well do I remember your cooling shade as I walked beneath it to the district school house, which was situated in one corner of the dear old orchard. There, too, has been a change; the rocks upon which we used to play have been blown to atoms, and the habitations of men occupy their places. Truly, all things are passing away!
The Old House.
We have crossed the threshold and entered the dear old house. Back, back, these tumultuous throbbings of the heart, and these tears which vainly rising to the eyelids, fall back upon the heart as wanting power to flow. Who, after an absence of many years, on entering the house where they first inhaled the breath of life, but has been overpowered by conflicting emotions, as the tide of Memory rolled in, like a flood, bearing so much upon its bosom, and where so many associations crowd upon the mind, it is difficult to lend expression to the ideas.
The interior of the house has not been materially changed, except the additional ell, which contains a kitchen, pantry, and such like conveniences for progressing household labor; the kitchen being transformed into a sitting room, with no change, excepting a new coat of paint, large windows instead of small, paper instead of bare walls, and a place for a stove pipe instead of the ample fire place, that used to shed its cheering light and warmth over the whole room. And we might almost fancy ourselves at home, were it not that the eyes of strangers are upon us, and we miss the dear familiar faces that first taught the infant heart to love.
Here, have we clustered around the knees of a mother and drank rich instruction from her pious lips, and offered up the morning and the evening prayer, and lisped our hymn of praise, while she ever strove to impress the golden rule upon the young and tender minds committed to her care; and her example was ever that of a consistent Christian.
How vividly comes up before the eye of Memory, the forms of the aged members of the family; for there were an uncle and two aunts of my father who were never married, that took him at the early age of two years, educated him and gave him the homestead for his patrimony; and at the time of my birth the snow of many winters rested upon their heads, and the infirmities of age were upon them.
It was their delight to watch our childish sports, listen to our innocent prattle, and strive to direct our young footsteps in the paths of virtue. They have passed away like the shadows of a passing cloud. Almost my first recollections of death are associated with that of the aged man. He had been sick about four days when we were called to stand by his bedside and witness his departure. He smiled upon the dear little brother, mother held in her arms, shook him by the hand, gave us all a parting glance; the film of death then gathered upon his eyes, a convulsive shudder ran over his frame, and a deathly paleness rested upon his countenance, filling our young hearts with wonder and dismay. As we felt the marble coldness of his stiffened limbs, and saw him borne away to the silent grave, we learned the first lesson from the pale messenger, and felt the awful void that his presence creates in the family circle, and which we have since been called so often to experience. He died in the very room where we first opened our eyes upon the light.
It is a large gloomy looking room. The two windows looking out upon the north, and a door opening out upon the level field, covered with its carpet of green, intersected by neither shrub nor trees. The coating of paint is changed, and the walls neatly papered, which is the only change it has undergone.
Adjacent to this is the east bedroom, one window looking out upon the north, and one upon the little garden at the east end of the house. This room, for many years, was our lodging room, where we sought—
"Tired nature's sweet restorer balmy sleep,"
and lost ourselves in the world of dreams. Many, very many, were the waking dreams that filled the imagination as the map of life lay spread out before fancy's witching gaze, and hope illuminated it with her brilliant rainbow dyes. No waves of passion or disappointment moved its surface. But, oh, how different has been the reality!
Crossing the small entry opposite the kitchen is a large room, formerly occupied by the old people. The same change is visible in this as in the other rooms. Here, day after day, sat our aged aunt, reading the word of God or her favorite hymns, and seeking preparation for death (for she was fourscore and ten years old), and had been a member of the church of Christ from her nineteenth year, spending a long life to his honor and glory. It was the winter of the year, but a mild day, when on returning from school we were summoned to her bedside. The feeble lamp of life was flickering in the socket, and the pulses of the aged woman stood still. Her spirit passed quietly from earth, to enter into the presence of God who gave it. She fell like a shock of corn fully ripe, at the age of ninety-four years. There was no struggle; wearied nature resigned her burden without resistance, and the countenance was pleasant in death. She was borne to the graveyard and laid by the side of her dear brother, and thus they were again united in the place of graves; and again there were vacant places in our family circle, for many had been the attentions we were obliged to bestow upon our aged relative, for she had been unable to walk for several years.
In this apartment two windows opened to the south, and one at the west end of the house, looking out upon the woods; on the north side three doors opened, one into a bedroom with one west window, one into a pantry or dairy room, where stood long rows of pans of milk covered with golden cream, and tempting cheeses arrayed, the shelves. Here there is slight alteration, excepting the shelves and ceiling have changed their snowy whiteness for a coating of blue paint, and instead of a dairy room, it is converted into a common pantry. The other door led into the winter cellar, where we used to go for the nice apples, which formed the usual accompaniment of a winter evening. Oh, those pleasant evenings! what heeded we that the wintry storm raged without? Our evening meal was always dispatched, and the household duties all performed before the evening shadows fell around us. The fire burned brightly upon the clean swept hearth, shedding a cheerful glow over the room, while warming by its blaze stood a large dish of red and golden apples, temptingly arranged. Before the fire stood a small round table, round which the younger members of the family were seated, braiding straw, while some one read aloud from some useful or entertaining book; or we pursued our favorite studies, and prepared the school lesson for the coming day (for we could braid and study at the same time).
How profitable and how pleasant were those evenings! As I look back upon them, through the long lapse of years that have passed away, and recall each familiar' face and tone, I feel that those hours were among the happiest of my life. Many of those dear forms have passed away from earth forever. The dear mother, who presided over us with so much affection, mingling in our pleasures and soothing our pains, has finished her course upon earth and gone to her reward; but may the good seed sown in the hearts of her children spring up and bear fruit to eternal life. Although her lips are now silent in death, she still speaks to us, she still lives embalmed in the hearts of her children. Two dear brothers that enlivened those cheerful evenings, by acting their part in the drama of life, have passed away, to
"That bourne from which no traveller e'er returns,"
and their voices are heard no more upon earth.
But, usually, ere the family clock that ticked in the corner of the room struck nine, all had retired to rest and all was silent, save the ticking of the clock or the howling of the wintry storm.
Deaths in our neighborhood were not of very common occurrence, and used to fill our young hearts with dismay; and for many long weeks I used to count the number of nights the new occupant of a grave had slept in it, and shudder as I thought of all the gloom, the darkness and the silence of the narrow house; and felt sad when I reflected that all men must die. Faith then had not lifted her trusting eye beyond the portals of the tomb, or illuminated its confines by the glorious light of the gospel. And when in the winter of 1816 a fatal fever raged, and the angel of death flapped his broad wings over our little village, and one after another was cut suddenly down by his stealthy darts, we could hardly realize that it was directed by the hand of a merciful God, and, collected together in a little group, wondered, in our childish innocence, "who would go next?"
Here, upon this door-step, have we sat for hours, in all suitable seasons of the year, looking out upon the prospect, and contemplating the changing seasons, or the alternate sun and shade that rested upon the face of nature. Often have we wandered forth, while the dew was yet upon the grass, to gather a basket of the large red cheeked peaches that had fallen from the trees during the night. Near by stood a noble pear tree, laden with rich orange pears, covering the ground beneath with its golden treasures, while a contiguous apple tree mingled its store of bright red apples in rich profusion. O, it was a delicious blending of autumn's garnered store, showered upon the lap of Mother Nature, spread out temptingly to the eyes of her weary children. But the trees have departed with the "dark brown years," that have flung their dim shadows over them—nor root, nor branch remains.
A few years passed, and by one of the unforeseen changes that occur in the lives of business men, we were obliged to relinquish our childhood home, and go forth to try the rougher usage of the world in a land of strangers. Sad were the feelings that filled our young hearts, as we went forth from the dear place, with which was associated all the earliest recollections of life, and the endearing ideas of home. The evening before our departure, we ascended the top of the highest hill that over-looked our little villa, accompanied by our young schoolmates, to watch the declining rays of the setting sun, and promised eternal friendship to each other. It was Sabbath day—a calm, delightful Sabbath day—that was now closing upon us; and as the sun finished his journey across the horizon, and sank behind the far-off western hills, methinks the sacred tranquility that reigned around seemed to be whispering to the troubled spirit, "Peace, be still." But could we, with our youthful hearts weighed down by this great grief, could we heed the gentle whispers? surely not; and we felt that like our first parents, we were about to be driven from Paradise. We sat conversing upon the past, and forming plans for the future,
"Till twilight grey had in her sober livery all things clad."
Descending the hill we sought our homes, and early the following morning found us pursuing our way to a land of strangers, leaving behind us home, friends, and the burying place of our fathers, which we had ever looked upon as our last resting place.
While the waves of time have borne year after year away, each one replete with change, we have been tossing upon the stream till we again stand in the same place from which we then departed, and while the grief of that hour is fresh in the memory, we will again turn sadly away from the spot teeming with so many remembrances, and where were instilled the first principles of virtue and religion. O, may these remain and grow "brighter and brighter unto the perfect day," while all mutable things decay. Dear old house, farewell; these eyes may never again behold you; these feet never again cross your threshold; but while reason remains, the memory of these haunts will be tenderly cherished. And so we pass again from the spot with an aching heart, and leave it to the possession of strangers.
The Old School House.
But while we yet linger on this sacred spot, will enter into the school house where our young footsteps first attempted to climb the hill of Science. The outward appearance is the same. A pretty one story and a half building, painted yellow with white trimmings, and a chocolate colored door, which is reached by two stone steps.
You are then admitted into a large hall, accommodated with shelves for the convenience of the scholars, and as we pass through this and enter the school-room, we feel almost a child again. But we see at a glance that our dear old teacher does not occupy the desk, and it is a stranger's voice that strikes upon the ear. As we glance at the well-filled seats, we readily perceive there is not one of all the group, no, not one, that occupied those seats when we were scholars there. But we will sit calmly down upon the teacher's desk and recall the dim shadowy forms of the past, the by-gone past. The breeze that passes through the open window and fans the brow, might be mistaken for the same playful zephyr that sported with our own silken locks in childhood, as we stood before this same open window. The monotonous hum of the school-room seems the same and the drowsy buzz of the summer fly as it floats on azure wings brings to the ear a well remembered sound, and we press our hand tightly upon our eyes and try to think we are living over again years that are passed. It will not do, there is a change—we must acknowledge that change. The teacher who so long presided in this place, was a stern man, of commanding figure, with a high, broad forehead and piercing black eyes, coal black hair and beard, with rather a handsome countenance, although nothing could ever provoke a smile upon it in school hours, and he governed his pupils more by fear than love. But the lesson must be perfectly committed and correctly recited, or the offending culprit must fall under his severe displeasure, and this was a situation that few in the school were willing to be placed in. I have heard of this man's death, but in what manner or where I know not; but many are the lessons I have heard fall from his lips which still live in my heart—have had their impress upon the life, and will continue to exist through the boundless ages of eternity. And now that the thoughtlessness of youth has passed away, here, upon this spot, would I offer a grateful tribute to his memory. Many others, too, occupied this place, of whose destiny I am entirely ignorant, but yet remember them with much affection.
One female teacher in particular, under whose instruction I sat six summers in succession. Then she was young and healthful, and happy in the bosom of her family; but now all have passed away save this one surviving branch. She alone remains of her family, in feeble health, and with that depression of spirits incident upon her situation.
On the low seat next to the desk, used to sit rather a fragile child, with bright red hair and deep blue eyes that had a depth of meaning in their earnest gaze. Her seat was vacant, and we heard, that Elizabeth Ann was sick with typhus fever. We visited her in her chamber. She lay tossing from side to side, upon her bed, even gnawing her fingers for very pain. I gazed upon her with pity, and they told me she must die. I had seen the aged pass away, but never the young. And musing long and sadly upon this event, I sought my home, and spent a restless night, repeating often the childish hymn, commencing,
"I in the burying place may see Graves shorter there than I."
But the long night passed away with its sad presages, and the rising sun peeped between the thick clustering leaves and flowers of the morning glories that shaded the window, and diffused light and radiance upon the joyous landscape. The birds awoke to new melody, and in the gladness that surrounded me I almost forgot the impressions of the previous evening. I arose, though slightly refreshed, repeating as I did so,
"So like the sun may I fulfil The duties of the day."
Almost the first intelligence that greeted my ear was the death of Elizabeth Ann Prince. While the shadows of that night still lingered, her pure spirit had passed away, and for the first time I realized more fully than I had ever done before, that youth is no protection from death. I saw her in her small coffin, and felt the marble coldness of her pale brow, and as I saw the coffin descend into the narrow grave, I turned sadly away with a grief-stricken, and perchance a better heart. But for many months I could tell the exact number of nights she had lain buried in the silent grave.
The next morning as I took my seat with a favorite companion, in the one behind that formerly occupied by her, I almost started as I fancied that her face was upturned to mine, and those blue orbs rested upon me.
The dear friend that sat with me, has too, passed away, "and the places that knew her once upon earth, now know her no more forever." Rosa was an orphan, having lost both parents; she was the youngest of four sisters, had an amiable disposition, and was an affectionate friend. She was married to a wealthy man, and became the mother of several children; but the destroyer came and bore her from her dear family to the silent church-yard, and placed her beneath a grassy mound beside her father and her mother. Sweet is thy memory, friend of my early days, and very pleasant were the hours we spent together: but they have passed away with the things that were, and like the rose leaves that falling fill the air with their perfume, so the fragrance of those hours still lives.
Next to Rosa Whittier sat Julia Balcolm, with saddened expression of countenance and large deep blue eyes that gazed upon you with a deeper expression of melancholly in their glances than is usual to the merry age of childhood, and elicited your sympathy ere you knew her history. Julia was a cripple. She was drawn to school by an older sister with rosy cheeks, bright flashing black eyes, and a sprightly animated countenance, and carried into the school-room in the arms of her teacher, or some of the older scholars. And so she came, year after year, mingling with the merry group. But where is she now? yon little mound of heaped up earth covers her remains, and a narrow marble slab tells the place of her repose, and we can but hope she who was denied the privilege of walking on earth may now soar on angel's wings.
As we contemplate the deprivations of one situated as she was, we can but realize the blessing of having "the common use of our own limbs." This dear child was obliged to crawl from place to place after her more favored companions, dragging her useless perished limbs behind her. But he who careth for us knew what was best for her, and we cannot doubt his infinite wisdom.
It were vain to endeavor to trace the destinies of all who used to sit with us, in this favorite, place. Many have gone down to death—many still live on the same premises where they first inhaled the breath of life, and some have gone forth into the world to fulfil a darker destiny on the broad ocean of human life, that is ever tossing its tumultuous waves before the tempestuous winds of fortune, and have been ship-wrecked upon the quick-sands of vice and dissipation. The shady side of the picture has been presented; but those were bright and joyous days, and our school-yard resounded with the merry laugh and frolicsome mirth of childhood; yet they leave not that abiding impression upon the mind that characterizes incidents of a more sombre hue. But we will leave the dear old school house with all its treasured memories that link it with the past, and pursue our way in some other direction. It is hard to stop where so many images crowd upon the mind, and come stealing upon us in the shape of old familiar friends with whom we have walked side by side, day after day; but dear familiar scenes, adieu.
The Grave Yard.
Let us wander by this winding road to the place of graves, the great charnel house where so many, who were formerly actors on life's busy stage, have laid them down in the sleep of death. Many are the changes that meet the eye as we pass along, but there are many traces left that awaken memories of past friends and past years. Here are the dear old trees under which we have played; the rocks upon which we have sat, and the stream on which we have sailed; but which now is greatly augmented in size, as it is now an outlet to the large reservoir of water, into which the meadow above has been converted.
Crossing the bridge and ascending the hill, let us enter the grave yard, and contemplate the change that rolling years have made in this spot;
"Our fathers, where are they?"
Methinks the stones at our feet cry out—"All flesh is grass."
This is an ancient burial place; and as we look upon the dates of the headstones, how forcibly do we feel "one generation passeth away and another generation cometh." Many of the monuments have ceased to be a memorial; having crumbled away, and the inscriptions become entirely obliterated by the thick covering of green moss that has gathered upon them. Is not this a lesson that is calculated to humble the pride of man? But we will pause by the graves of the dear uncle and aunt, whose remains we saw deposited here many years ago, when our young footsteps bounded with all the elasticity of childhood. But though sweeping years have borne away the halcyon days of childhood, the golden days of youth, and the sobered and subdued period of middle life, and our sun has passed its meridian and is verging rapidly towards its setting, still this grief comes back again with all its first freshness. Here for the first time these eyes looked into an untenanted grave; for the first time saw the coffin let down into the "dark and narrow house," and heard the hollow sound as the earth fell upon it—and deep was the impression that was made upon the childish memory, and so faithful is she to her trust that at this moment, when standing upon this spot, she brings it back again, untarnished by the long years that have passed away. The little heaped up mound that covered their remains has sunk to a level with its kindred dust, and the inscriptions upon the headstones, though legible, are much defaced. Can it be that here are the dear forms whose voices I heard, upon whose knees I sat, and who led me by the hand, day after day? Even so. Were it not for revelation, "that light and immortality are brought to light" by the gospel, how dark would be the grave; who could fathom its mysterious confines, or penetrate its darkness? But the Saviour has shed a radiance around it, and assured us "the graves shall give up their dead; that we shall all come forth and be judged according to the deeds done in the body." Happy they, who learn this most important lesson, and live up to the great principles it inculcates.
Methinks the murmur of the summer breeze, as it sighs through the waving branches of the weeping willow, as it stands drooping over an adjoining grave, seems the gentle whisper of departed spirits, wooing us to the skies. As we glance far off in the distance from this elevated spot, we see the toil and turmoil of life—its struggles, cares and disappointments, and then contemplating the scene around us, we feel that, this must be the end of all who live. Here lie those for whom we sought in vain in the places where we formerly knew them. Here repose the remains of our family physician, who, for many years, was called in all cases of sickness, and was like a brother in the family. By his side sleeps his amiable wife; as we look upon their graves for the first time, we remember them as they were in life, and heave a sigh to their memory.
Here lies a school companion who died at a very early age; we had won prizes and received our little books from the hands of our dear teacher, and that is my only recollection of him. His seat was vacant, and they told me he was dead; but then I knew nothing of death.
Here, too, are the graves of Elizabeth Ann Prince, Julia Balcolm, the poor cripple, and many others, who have sat with me in the dear old school house. One in particular strikes the mind with peculiar solemnity. It is the grave of Edward Davis; he was a young man of superior talents, uncommon beauty and prepossessing manners. He was rich in this world's goods, and married an amiable young lady, in all respects his equal; they lived happily together several years, and had several children, but sickness came like a blight upon him, and he was soon conveyed to the silent tomb, leaving his wife and children to mourn his loss.
Here, side by side, are the graves of an entire household, consisting of the maternal grandmother, two sisters of the father, the father and mother, and seven children, with the wife of one of the sons. Not twelve rods from their own door they sleep side by side—that many voiced household, in the silence of death. No voice breaks the stillness; no words of love are interchanged; but their dust shall mingle together till the morning of the resurrection, teaching an impressive lesson to those that stand by their graves and read the inscriptions upon their tombstones.
Here is buried the dear old deacon and his wife, by whose bedside we stood when his forehead was wet with the damp dews of death, and his eye lighted up by faith, seemed to scan the glories of the upper world, and he felt it was "far better to depart and be with Christ." And even then came, "let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." His devoted, pious wife soon followed him, and we feel, as we look upon their graves, there is rest in Heaven. At their feet lie children, grand-children and great-grand-children.
Clara Everett was a promising young girl, cut down at the early age of nineteen. She was left an orphan at the age of nine months, her father dying suddenly, and her mother a few weeks after, with consumption. She was tenderly cared for by her maternal grand-parents and a maiden aunt, well educated and had commenced teaching, when she was seized suddenly with an alarming fever, which in a few short days, was terminated by death. They bore her to the resting place with many tears, and placed her beside those dear parents from whom she was so early separated. Many here, that lived a life of dissipation, have gone down to fill a drunkard's grave;
"But we'll tread lightly on the ashes of the dead."
Why should we uncover the frailties of poor mortality, unless to hold them up as beacon lights to the rising generation? and for this purpose we would take the living example.
Here is buried an aged woman, who lived in poverty. She had the shaking palsy, and it was with great difficulty she could perform any labor; she was assisted by the town and the charities of the neighborhood. She had one daughter, who was an invalid many years, and dependant upon the care of the feeble mother. The children of the village were the willing bearers of many comforts to these poor people; and even now seems to come the well remembered "tell your mother I am much obliged to her," from the pale lips that lie buried beneath the sod. The daughter is buried by her side, and methinks they sleep as sweetly as the more wealthy citizen, beneath a more splendid monument. All here meet upon a common level—the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the bond and free, for death is no respecter of persons.
Here, too, rests a young physician, who supplied the place of the old one. His career was like the meteor flash, emitting its brilliant rays for a season, and then was shrouded in death's dark night.
As we stand upon this spot and contemplate it as it was when we last stood upon it, we feel that here has been the greatest change of any place yet visited. Here we meet many a name familiar to the ear, and a form familiar to the eye starts into life, and treads again its mazy scenes. Many monuments are erected to entire strangers, and this is our first meeting with them. Here the infant of a few days lies buried, just tasting the cup of life, he turned sickening away, and yielding it up, soared away with the angel band to the realms of bliss.
But ere we leave the yard, let us visit the resting place of the beautiful Clarinda Robinson, who died at the early age of nineteen. She had ever enjoyed undiminished health. But soon, oh, how soon, the rose of health faded upon her cheek; her sparkling eye lost its lustre, and the animated form, stiffened in death, was laid away in its silent chamber. At her feet lie two beautiful nieces, called, too, in the morning of their days to go and make their beds with her. Sadly did the bereaved mother mourn their loss; but the pale messenger came for her too, in a few weary years, and she joined them in the pale realms of shade.
Here, too, sleeps the young wife, called soon away from the husband of her youth. Consumption, like a worm in the bud, preyed upon the damask of her cheek, dried up the fountain of her life, and bore her triumphantly, another victim of his power. The old sexton, too, who from time immemorial, had been
"The maker of the dead man's bed,"
has laid down his mattock and his spade, and filled a grave prepared by other hands. At his feet lies a lovely daughter, snatched suddenly away, ere the bloom of youth had passed, and almost without a moment's warning, leaving a husband and a dear little child, too young to feel its loss.
But while we have yet lingered, the sun has finished his journey, and hid his bright beams behind the curtain of the west, and already have the shadows of coming twilight gathered around us, and the white marble slabs, dimly seen in its shadows, assume strange, mysterious shapes, and seem almost like moving things of life, while the darker slate are lost to view.
We will sit a moment on the grave of our dear old aunt. This was the spot designated for our family burying place; but it is now filled with strangers. We will now leave this spot, to toss again upon the waves of time; but may the lesson here learned go with us, and prepare us for the day when the heart and flesh shall fail, and we must change this for another life, ever remembering,
"That life is long that answers life's great end."
Or, Pictures of Human Life.
Picture No. I.
The midnight moon shone drear and cold, Upon a stately tow'r; Whose ramparts high and turrets bold Bespoke a lordly pow'r.
The dancing waters flash'd and gleam'd Beneath her silver ray; And gently fell her placid beam, On tower and turret gray.
And softly came the silent dew, And fell with gentle pow'r, Sparkling like gems, or diamonds fair, On trembling leaf and flow'r.
Fair night hung out her golden lamps, In her blue chambers high; And earth, all gemmed, in their pure light, Lay lovely to the eye.
But look within those costly halls, Where waxen tapers gleam, And crimson curtains' silken folds Exclude the moon's bright beams.
A queenly matron mournful sits, In all her jewelled pride; The costly diamond on her breast, Its anguish cannot hide.
The angel of the raven wing His sable plume waves there, And writhing on his silken couch, Lies stretch'd the only heir.
She feels how vain a thing is wealth, To ease that lab'ring breath,— Or bribe, in his resistless course, The tyrant monster, death.
The hours of night passed slow away, When brightly rose the sun; The boy in quiet beauty lay— The fearful work was done.
The angel had performed his part, And back to heav'n had flown; The mother with a bursting heart, Sat weeping now, alone.
She rising, smoothed his golden hair, One ringlet gently shred; And then, within a costly shroud, She wrapped her silent dead.
And folded light the snowy screen, That hid from every eye Those features, beautiful in death, And marble forehead high.
But hark! she hears a prancing hoof, And sees a horseman come; Soon the proud charger reached her side, Cover'd with dust and foam.
Her husband from the saddle springs, And clasps her to his breast; And on her icy lip and brow The kiss of love was pressed.
"How is our son?" the father cried; In his, her hand she placed, And through their gorgeous, darkened halls, Their silent way they traced.
Nor stopped, until they reached his side, Who yesterday, in health,— The mother's joy, the father's pride,— Was heir to all their wealth.
The mother folded back the screen, And said, "There lays our child;" Then overcome with bursting grief, They wept in accents wild.
They laid him in a marble tomb, With all that wealth could show; But deeply in their castled home Dark rolled the tide of woe.
Picture No. II.
The midnight moon, with pallid beams, From eastern sky again Look'd forth, and shed her fitful gleams On mountain, hill and plain.
And far upon the moaning sea, She threw her mellow light; And tossing waves, and heaving spray, Were gemm'd with diamonds bright.
But oft a fitful shadow came, And rested like a shroud; For, o'er her bright and tranquil face; Stole many a passing cloud.
The night winds moan'd, and plaintive sigh'd, O'er mountain, sea and vale, And whistled round a lowly cot, Where sat a mother, pale.
Her raven hair was parted smooth Upon her forehead high; And though her face was pale with care, Yet mildly beamed her eye.
And beauty left a ling'ring trace, Upon each feature there; Which, with sweet dignity and grace, Blended with ev'ry air.
A feeble taper dimly burn'd, As swift her task she plied, And oft her anxious gaze was turn'd Where, nestled by her side,—
On a low pallet, sleeping lay A darling, cherub boy, With curling hair and azure eyes, His mother's only joy.
Calm was his sleep; but starting once, Half springing from his bed, He spake, in accents faint and low, "O, mother, give me bread."
And then her task she quicker plied,— The starting tear repressed, And, "Oh, my God!" she meekly cried, "Protect the fatherless."
And so she toil'd, till morning spread Her earliest tints of gray Across the distant, eastern sky, Then kneeling down to pray
Beside the little, lowly cot, Her soul in trust was giv'n, Unto that kindly Father's care, Who look'd and heard from Heaven.
And angels came, with silent dew, Her throbbing brow to lave; And gentle sleep her spirits steep'd, Within the Lethean wave.
But with the sun's first golden beams, She left her lowly bed; And with her gentle boy, went forth To seek their daily bread.
Small was the pittance that was giv'n, By cringing, sordid wealth; But, with firm confidence in Heav'n, And thankful for her health,
She took again her weary task, Through all the lonely day, Nor sought again her lowly bed, Till morning dawn'd with gray.
So years pass'd by, the boy grew on In beauty, day by day; The mother felt her faithful son Would all her care repay.
And manhood came, with daring high, And brought a sweet relief; Plenty for want, and ease for toil, And joy for all her grief.
Picture No. III.
Again it was the Noon of Night, The full orb'd moon her car rolled high, And fringed with gems of silver light The azure curtains of the sky.
And all the glittering host of stars, Stood marshall'd in their bright array, While, far across the concave blue, Lay stretched the spangled milky way.
And earth all beautiful and fair, Lay tranquil as a sleeping child Beneath a watchful parent's care; While guardian Heav'n looked down and smiled.
The trees all bathed in tears of Night, Seemed deck'd with gems of Ophir's gold, And lilies, in pure vestal white Their spotless fragrant leaves unfold.
In gentlest breath the night-winds sigh, While fleecy clouds like Angel's wings, Light sailing o'er the azure sky, Their shadows cast o'er earthly things.
O who could deem that aught so fair, So filled with beauty and perfume: Was but a mighty sepulchre, A vast, capacious mould'ring tomb?
Or who could deem that mis'ry dwelt Within a paradise so fair, That want and pain and woe and guilt Mingled as sad companions there?
But see where yonder moonbeams creep In that lone crevice, low and small, And throws a struggling, sickly beam Upon the cold, damp dungeon's wall.
See by that feeble, glimm'ring ray, Low seated on the damp chill ground A mother sits, whose tearful eye Is cast in gloomy sadness round.
Beside her lies her only son: Her lap the pillow for his head. That son must meet the convict's doom, When the brief hours of night have fled.
The mother speaks: "Oh see, my son, Light breaks upon your dungeon wall! It is a messenger to thee; Methinks it is thy Saviour's call.
"Dost thou not feel it on thy soul? And wilt thou not His call obey? His blood alone can cleanse from sin, And wash thy guilty stains away."
"Oh, Mother, yes, I feel His power, E'en as I see yon gentle ray; His blessed voice now says 'Thoul't be In Paradise with me this day.'"
Joy filled this waiting mother's heart; "Let us to God the glory give." They knelt in humble, grateful prayer, For Jesus bade that sinner live.
And Angels hov'ring o'er the scene, Clapped their glad wings and flew to Heav'n To strike anew their golden harps, For peace on earth and sin forgiv'n.
And the rapt seraphs round the throne, Loud anthems to the Saviour raise; While cherubims with transport burn, And Heav'ns high dome resounds with praise.
And when the hangman's task was done, Joy filled the stricken mother's breast. She felt her dear misguided son, Through Jesus' blood, had sunk to rest.
And while she linger'd on the earth, Glory to God was hourly given, For that mysterious spirit's birth, That makes the soul an heir of Heav'n.
Picture No. IV.
In agony a mother knelt Beside her wasted pulseless child; "Give, oh, give him back to me," She cried, in accents stern and wild.
That prayer was heard, the answer came: The feeble pulse revived again; And quick the crimson tide of life Flowed warmly back through every vein.
Yet, though the mother saw the change, No praise unto her God was given; No grateful incense from that heart Ascended up to pitying heaven.
'Twas midnight's deep and silent hour, When nature folds her hands to sleep, And Angels come to bathe the flowers, With dewy tears they only weep.
She heeded not the pulse of time That throbb'd the moments of the night, Nor yet the early morning's dawn, That ting'd the east with rosy light.
But with a mother's earnest eye, Watch'd o'er her infant's peaceful rest: Until his gentle slumber passed, Then clasp'd him fondly to her breast.
Childhood's brief years in sin were spent; The stubborn knee ne'er bent in prayer; Those lips ne'er spake a Saviour's name, "Our Father" never lingered there.
Youth's golden season, too, was passed In wanton sports and misspent time; And soon he stood on manhood's verge, A hardened wretch, prepared for crime.
Though so forbidding in his mein, He woo'd and won a gentle bride, Who but the closer to him clung, As darker rolled life's heaving tide.
But though an Angel shar'd the place, There were for him no joys at home; He left his mother and his wife, Reckless o'er earth or sea to roar.
He stood upon a sanded deck, With blood-red pennon floating free, And with a daring bloody band, Rode madly o'er the foaming sea.
The waves that lashed the coal-black hull Were parted oft their dead to hide; For ocean's surging, billowy foam, Drank deeply of life's crimson tide.
He tossed a pointed dagger high, And wore a sabre by his side; And many a gen'rous noble one, Beneath his powerful arm had died.
For bloody deeds of daring high, He had won a deathless fame; And o'er that reckless, bloody crew, Had gained a pirate-captain's name.
And though their coffers teem'd with gold, Their sordid souls still sighed for more: And to procure the paltry trash They scour'd the seas from shore to shore.
But Retribution's hour must come; Vengeance cannot always sleep; Justice, with her glittering sword, Pursues them swiftly o'er the deep.
At midnight, in a dungeon lone, An aged female knelt in prayer; But oh, her low, sepulchral tone Seemed fraught with anguish and despair.
"My son," she cried, "to morrow's sun Must witness your disgraceful death; O, seek a dying Saviour's love, E'en with your expiring breath.
The sun of Righteousness has risen, And o'er my path shed golden light, And shone upon the narrow way, That ever followed leads aright.
And I have followed to the cross, On which a dying Saviour hung, Bemoaned my sins with weeping eyes, Besought his grace with suppliant tongue.
He witness'd all my sorrowing tears, And heard my suppliant prayer in Heaven; Then sweetly spake with cheering voice, "Daughter, thy sins are all forgiven."
Prostrate in dust before His throne, My heart's pure worship then I gave; Sweetly my ransomed spirit sang, Jesus Christ has power to save."
Then spake the son:—"Talk not to me, I heeded not weak woman's tears; But when I sail'd upon the sea, I quickly silenc'd all their fears.
Free was my trade, my arm was free, And human blood I freely spilt; And many an aged breast like thine, Has sheath'd my dagger to its hilt.
Our blood-red pennon floated free, Our blood-stained deck its witness gave; Blood, human blood, was on our hands, And mingled oft with ocean's wave."
Shudd'ring, the mother cried: "My son, Though you are steeped in human gore, There is a fountain filled with blood, That can your purity restore.
Your Angel wife bath'd in that flood, And proved a Saviour's promise true, And when she gently pass'd from earth She left her dying love for you;
And bade you seek a Saviour's face, And by His mercy be forgiven, And by that new and living way, Seek an inheritance in Heaven."
"Then she is dead," he mournful cried, "'Tis better thus, for see the sun With rosy light now streaks the east: And ere it sets my race is run.
Firm would I stand upon the drop, Meet firmly my approaching doom; But death is not an endless sleep, And justice lives beyond the tomb.
Yet this conviction comes too late; My soul is lost,—I cannot pray; Forget your son—forget my fate, And walk in wisdom's pleasant way."
In agony the mother pressed To her sad heart her guilty son; But yet, like incense from that heart, Sweetly arose, "thy will be done."
No hands were folded on his breast. They laid him not within the tomb; The surgeon took him from the drop, To meet a more disgraceful doom.
And such is life, whose ebb and flow Heaves the deep sea of human mind; True happiness they only know, Whose every wish's to Heaven resigned.
The History of a Household.
Early in the winter of 18—, there was a heavy rain, accompanied by high winds, which swelled the waters of the Sandy river to an amazing height, and every moving thing upon its surface was borne away with the rapidity of lightning. Standing upon its margin was Frank Somers, his eyes fixed with intense interest upon a frail raft that was plunging and heaving among the boiling waves. Upon it stood a man about the middle of life, with an athletic form and a determined expression of countenance, his eyes fixed fiercely upon a brace of logs that had been left reposing on the quiet bosom of the waters, waiting their turn to be sawed into boards. It was a valuable lot, and would bring considerable of an income to the owner, therefore he pursued it over the rapid current, hoping to arrest its course ere it reached the falls. Beside him stood a young boy on the raft, his cheeks blanched to marble whiteness, and his dark eyes fixed imploringly upon his father as they danced along over the furious wave, every bound conveying them so much nearer the falls that thundered on like a mighty cataract, heaving up a cloud of spray, then foaming and dashing off to join the mad waters below. O, it was a fearful sight. On, on went the logs, and on, on went the raft, the reckless man exerting himself to his utmost to stop their progress by endeavoring to reach them with a long pole he held in his hand.
Willie Somers raised his pleading eyes to his face (and many long years after did their expression haunt him), "O Mr. Lambert, please don't go any farther, we shall be over the falls."
"Pshaw, child," answered Mr. Lambert, rather sternly, "I must save my logs at any risk."
The frantic father screamed from the shore,—"Mr. Lambert, save yourselves and let the logs go.
"You are lost, you are lost!" cried many voices, as a log bounded upon a giant wave, leaping over the cataract hurrying on through the waters below. The strong man made a desperate effort and reached the land, but the poor boy upon the raft was precipitated over the falls into the gulf below. As the agonized father stood gazing with breathless horror upon the sight, the form of his dear son arose once more, standing erect upon the bounding billows, with his arms widely extended, and his eyes glaring from their sockets. But in, a moment he was hid from view, beneath the heaving mass of waters. All effort to find him proved unavailing.
The next spring his body was found thirty miles distant down the river, having laid in the water over three months. He was sent to his friends. The father was almost beside himself, although a man slow to anger; but he turned when his son sank from his sight groaning in spirit, and shut himself up in his chamber, not daring to see Mr. Lambert till his wrath was in some degree abated. He secluded himself in his room four days, suffering intensely, and then went forth among men an altered man, for the fearful death of his son had made an impression upon his mind never to be obliterated by time.
He was a man of sorrow, having separated from his family on account of domestic troubles, and this, his only son, was his greatest comfort.
His eldest daughter Matilda, was married to a man in the same neighborhood, and had been a witness of her brother's sudden death. She was young in years, but insidious consumption was sapping the secret springs of life, and that awful sight gave her a shock from which she never recovered. The wretched father soon left that part of the country and journeyed to a far distant southern city, and far, far away in a land of strangers, they made his grave. No dear child was near to wipe the dew of death from his noble brow, or to minister to his necessities, or to close his weary eyes as they cast their sad glances upon a world that had been to him a world of trial.
Matilda gradually failed. She had given her heart with her hand in early youth, to a young man of moderate circumstances, but prudent and industrious; and by these means they procured a comfortable living, and with this they were contented. She united her industry with that of her husband, and her good management gave a neat and almost an elegant appearance to their little cottage home, which peeped out like a bird's nest from the trees that surrounded it. Charles Abbot was a happy man, happy in the consciousness of well doing, happy in the love of his wife, and in the caresses of two little boys, the pledges of their united love.
They had been married six years when the death of the dear brother cast so deep a shadow over their hitherto happy home. Matilda's failing health scarce attracted attention, it was so gradual.
A slight cough, a deeper rose upon the cheek, and a brighter fire in the eye, were almost its only indications. It was a calm evening in the early part of June, as Charles and Matilda sauntered forth to inhale the sweet fragrance of the evening breeze that fanned the leaves of the trees, and wafted the odors of many flowers upon its downy pinions, and rippling the now quiet waters of the Sandy river that lay in peaceful repose, its glassy surface reflecting the mild radiance of the setting sun.
Before them ran their little children in all their sportive gaiety, clapping their hands with joyous glee, as they watched the progress of a little boat that was plying its way across the river, and listening to the boatman's whistle, and the splashing of the oar as it dipped the silver waves. The towering mountains rose high above their heads, and "Father Abraham" looked as though it were about to fall and crush them as they seated themselves at its base, to gaze upon the prospect before them. Charles adjusted Matilda's shawl as she seated herself by his side, with a sharp cough.
He glanced anxiously toward her, but became reassured as the deep crimson upon her cheek and the bright sparkle of her eye met his gaze.
She sat looking pensively towards the river for some time, with her cheek resting upon her husband's shoulder, and occasionally watching the many gambols of her children as they sported at their feet. At length she said: "Charles, how deceitful to me looks the placid bosom of yonder rippling stream, as it reposes in quiet beauty, reminding me of the stream of time, on the ocean of human life when unmoved by the tumultuous storms of passion that so often agitate the human breast, and cause the waves to rise and the billows to swell before the surging storm. Scarce six months have passed since that stream swept by in giant fury, and poor Willie was buried in its angry bosom. O, Charles, do you know I cannot look upon that river without hearing again his last agonizing shriek, and seeing again his pale fearful gaze as he looked death in the face, for well must the dear boy have known that his doom was sealed; and oh, what agony must have filled his breast as he cast his last gaze upon us, imploring our assistance, and yet feeling it would be vain."
"We will leave this place, as it awakens unpleasant memories."
"It is best so," continued she; "Even now the spirit of my dear brother seems hovering over me, whispering of the spirit land. But Charles, I have something to say to you of importance."
The husband looked earnestly and tenderly into the face of his wife, and she continued,
"Perhaps, my dear husband, you are not aware of my failing health, but I feel the necessity of having assistance in my household duties, and have thought perhaps it would be better to send for sister Ellen to come and stay with me a while."
"Certainly, my dear, certainly; I will go after her to-morrow; forgive me, Matilda, that I have not thought of this before, but I think if you are relieved of part of your labor for a while, your health will improve."
The poor wife smiled sadly, and pulling down a stalk laden with buds from an adjacent rose bush that stood waving on a flowery bank beside them, and pointing to a crimson bud enclosed in its casing of green, she said, "Charles, is not that a beautiful bud?"
He looked at it and answered in the affirmative.
"Do you think it will ever bloom?"
"I see no reason why it should not, it looks as promising as any one upon the stem."
"But look a little closer, do you see that little worm gnawing at the very heart and sapping the secret springs of its life?"
Her husband gazed tearfully upon her, and she felt she was understood; and then pressed her to his heart in a passionate, fond embrace, and spoke words of comfort, and of hope and of life.
The wife smiled faintly upon him, and replied:
"Even now there is such a weariness in my limbs that I do not feel as though I scarcely can reach our little cottage home, where we have spent so many happy hours together."
They called their little Frank, who bore his grandfather's name, and Willie, for the youngest was named for her dear brother, and pursued their way silently to the house, each wrapped in their own meditations.
That night, when Mr. Abbot closed his family Bible, and they all knelt together to implore God's mercy, fervent was the supplication that arose from the lips of the husband and father, as he besought grace for every time of need. The heart of the husband was full as he prayed our Father to stay the disease of his dear wife, and earnestly repeated, "if it be possible let this cup pass from me;" but after wrestling long, that peace came that passeth understanding—that peace that the God that heareth prayer bestows upon his children when they bow themselves before Him, and cast their burden upon Him who careth for us, and ere he arose from his knees he was made to say, "Thy will, not mine be done;" and they retired to rest beneath the shadow of the Almighty, and felt that his watchful eye was upon them during the silent hours of the night.
Early the following morning Mr. Abbot started, to go down the river (as was the usual phrase) to Matilda's grandfather's, where Annie and Ellen, the two younger sisters resided, having both left the residence of their mother some time previous. Annie, then eighteen, had the sole management of the family, as her grandmother was very feeble, and unable to assist her at all. She was rather surprised at Mr. Abbot's arrival, and quite alarmed when she heard the import of it. It was immediately settled that Ellen should go with him, and preparation was accordingly made for their departure early the following morning, every thing being attended to by the careful Annie, who supplied the place of mother to the younger sister, who was now about sixteen.
Suffice it to say, the assistance was not productive of the anticipated good; Matilda's health declined rapidly, and it became evident to all who looked upon her, that she was passing away to the spirit land. The struggle in her husband's mind was over, and he felt a pious resignation to the will of God.
Frequently did they converse together upon the joys of the heavenly world, and select such passages of Scripture as are calculated to prepare the soul for its upward flight.
"O Charles," said Matilda, one beautiful autumn day, as the yellow sun shed his mild radiance over the decaying face of nature, "support me by your strong arm while we pass through the garden to the river by the nearest way. I feel quite refreshed to-day, and would look once more upon that restless stream that is ever hurrying on 'to meet old Ocean.'"
He placed his arm lovingly round her waist, and almost bore her to the spot, scarcely feeling her weight, so fragile had she become. Frank and Willie accompanied them with their happy countenances and glad voices, and plucking a bunch of fading flowers, presented them to their mother.
She watched them with a tranquil smile, and rewarded them with a kiss as she took the proffered boquet from the uplifted hands of her dear children. Frank was a noble boy, with dark brown hair and coal black eyes, inheriting his mother's beauty. Willie was a feeble child, with hair of lighter brown and eyes of azure blue, that betrayed a noble soul in their very depths.
The mother called him to her, and taking his little hand in hers, pressed them lightly to her forehead and then to her lips: looked earnestly into his eyes as though she would penetrate their very depths, then tenderly said:
"Willie, we are very near to heaven here; it is the music of angels that whispers through the waving trees, and it is the motion of their wings that sways their branches so gently. O Willie, will you meet me in heaven?"
"Frank, come and kiss me; we are very near heaven; will you too meet your mother there? Charles, it does not make me sad now to see the place where dear brother Willie passed over the falls. It looks pleasant now, so near heaven, and his gentle spirit says, 'sweet sister, come;' surely the things of earth are passing away. Charles, the dear boys will comfort you when I am gone, and perchance my spirit may meet with yours in sweet communings, and soon we shall meet in heaven to spend an eternity together. Charles, pray in this beautiful place. O, those towering mountains apeak the majesty of their Creator."
"Ellen, dear, 'remember your Creator in the days of your youth;' and oh Charles, pray that we all may meet in heaven."
He knelt and offered up the prayer of faith, but while he concluded, there was a pressure of the hand he held in his, the white lips parted, the head fell heavily upon his shoulder; there was a faint whisper "Jesus, receive my spirit," and the mother was an Angel.
The boys were overcome with grief. Charles and Ellen too, were awestruck.
He bore his lovely burden back to the house and wrapped her in the habiliments of the grave.
It was a mournful day in autumn, when a sad procession bore her to her last resting place, and laid her down by the side of her much lamented brother. The appropriate text, "He that believeth on me shall never die," comforted the grief-stricken mourners. She passed away early in life, ere the sun of twenty-four summers had shone upon her pathway.
Charles mourned his loss, but not as one without hope. And as he turned from the grave to his home and crushed the blighted leaves of autumn beneath his feet, he felt that he too, was passing over withered hopes back to the battle field of human life.
He cast one long, lingering glance upon Matilda's grave, then looked fervently to heaven, and pressed on to "life and to duty with undismayed heart."
Ellen soon returned to her grand-parents, and a sister of Mr. Abbot, losing her husband about the same time his wife died, came to reside with him, and thus the husband and children were provided for; and although the shadow of a great grief rested upon them, and there was a vacancy in their household, they learned to be happy in the present good, and by living so as to join the dear departed ones in a happier world.
It was again June—mild, lovely June. The air was filled with the sweet music of the birds that carolled their evening lay, and seemed pouring forth a sweet song of gratitude to Heaven, for that delightful day. Gentle breezes sighed through the leafy trees soft as the first whispering of young love, giving them a trembling motion, like a bashful maiden as she blushingly listens to it. Beautiful looked the little village of W——, as the setting sun cast his slanting rays upon it, tinging the leaves with deeper green, and burnishing the little stream with gems of sparkling gold. The tall lilac bushes were filled with large red and white blossoms, and as they slightly nodded their graceful heads before the passing zephyr, might have been fancied to be giving a cold greeting to some humbler flower that grew by their side.
In a large, square, old fashioned house, encircled by a neat white fence, which separated it from the street, might be seen a young girl, occupied in what New England housewives would call setting the house in order, and very carefully are all things arranged, the crockery being nicely washed and wiped to a shining brightness, stands neatly arranged in their proper places, on shelves scoured to a snowy whiteness. The floor is nicely swept, every chair carefully dusted, and set back in its proper place, and the broom and the brush hung back upon their accustomed nail. The young mistress stood looking round the apartment with the air of one who feels they have accomplished well the designated task, when she started upon hearing her own name called, and in a moment Edward Merton stood by her side.
"Annie, come, Annie, just don your sun-bonnet, and walk with us to the Island."
Suiting the action to the word, he placed her bonnet upon her head, and drew her willing arm in his, and they soon joined the group of gay companions that stood chatting and laughing at the door. Well did the sable dress that Annie wore become her fine complexion, for the rose blended with the lily upon her cheek, and beauty sat triumphant upon her ruby lips and sparkled in her dark flashing eyes. But recent events had cast an expression of melancholy over her countenance, which for a moment had a sobering influence over her young companions when she joined them.
Edward and Annie lingered a little behind the rest, talking of their future prospects, and of the coming separation, as Edward was soon to leave for Boston, where a more desirable situation was offered him than could be obtained in the village.
"My increased income, my dear Annie, will enable me the sooner to claim you for my bride; true, the separation will be painful, but I am determined never to marry till I can commence house-keeping genteelly."
She looked earnestly in his face and said, "Edward, it is home where the heart is, and it seems to me we should not spurn a present for a future good. This life is short and uncertain, and I feel a gloomy foreboding when I think of your departure, I have been so accustomed to seeing you every day, to leaning on your arm in every walk, and going so constantly with you everywhere, that I shall miss you sadly when you are away; but," she continued, smiling through her tears, "I suppose I must turn nun" and live in seclusion during your absence?"
"O, do not do that," he replied, smiling; "It will be but for a short time, and it is said, 'absence lends enchantment to the view.'"
"O, dear," cried Melinda, a blue eyed beauty, leaning confidently upon the arm of Theodore Stanley, "I should think Ed and Ann were saying their parting adieus, they look so sad."
Upon this the eyes of the whole group were turned upon them, and affecting a gaiety they did not feel, they soon hastened forward and joined in the general conversation till they came to the place of their destination.
What was called the Island, was a point of land in the edge of a large pond, or lake it might be called, as it was six miles long and three or four wide. It was separated from the main land in low water, by a small stream that was crossed by a large stone placed in the centre, for a stepping stone; but in high water it could be reached only with boats.
The little party crossed this stream, and seated themselves upon the grassy knolls, beneath the giant oaks that spread their huge branches around them, for they were the growth of centuries. Loud came the chorus of the feathered tribe, as they sang their evening hymns before retiring to their nests, which were very abundant in that shady retreat, which afforded them protection from the truant school boys.
Annie reclined against the trunk of one of the largest trees, seated by Edward's side, when suddenly looking up, she said,
"O, Edward, let me have your knife."
He reached it to her, and she immediately commenced carving his name in the tough bark of the tree, against which she was leaning.
Many followed her example, and many fairy fingers were busy carving the names of their favorite friend upon the trunks of the aged trees that surrounded them.
"I shall cut it deep," said Annie, "so that it will live forever; and I hope there will be neither mould nor moss upon it, to hide it from view, as I shall love to come and look upon when you are far away."
"Ann," said one, "we will come here in the long summer days, and weave chaplets of the bright leaves of the old oak, and twine them round our lord's name."
This occupied their time till the shadows of evening fell around them, and it was dark when they reached their homes.
It was midnight—dark, dreary midnight. Black clouds hung in huge, portentous masses over, the vault of heaven. The forky lightning flashed, and the deep toned thunder reverberated peal on peal, while the shrieking winds rocked the tree tops, and poured their wild melody upon the ear. It was nature arrayed in awful sublimity, displaying the majesty of God.
Seated on a low chair, in the simple little parlor of Annie, sat Edward, with a pillow upon his breast, supporting the head of the poor girl, whose breathing was laborious, and her cheeks flushed with an unusual glow, as she leaned against him for support. This was the only situation in which she could breathe, as there was an abscess forming in her throat. Her physician said she must sit bending forward, as there was great danger of its producing strangulation, should it break when she was in any other position, which he thought probably it might do before morning. Edward, therefore, could not think of leaving her; but kept his patient watch by her side during the night, alleviating her sufferings by every means in his power, speaking tender words of constancy and love, and picturing long years of connubial felicity after he had won a fortune in the distant city.
Suddenly there came a brighter flash, a deeper crash, and it seemed for the moment that the house was immersed in a lurid glare of light. Annie, screaming, started to her feet, then fell back, fainting, and black in the face with suffocation.
Edward thought, as he caught her falling form, that all was over; but after a short struggle she recovered, and the crisis of her disease had past, and she could now breathe easier than she done for several days.
She had taken cold during their stay on the Island, and had been sick from that time. The storm had spent its fury, and the clouds had passed away, leaving the blue canopy of heaven studded with golden stars, and all nature was refreshed by the rain that had fallen during the shower.
Annie dropped into a sweet slumber, the first that had visited her eyes for several nights; and Edward revolved many things in his mind, as he held her to his heart. Would she remain constant during his absence, and meet him with the same affectionate greeting? What would be the changes that would take place in that time? for he felt there must be changes. And, last of all, would his feelings be the same towards her? truly, of this there was no doubt—was she not his own sweet Annie, who for three years had been his affianced bride, and, surely, there could be no change in him. But Edward Merton had not then explored all the secret chambers of his own heart, and realized not that it was an unwarranted ambition that, even then, was urging him to leave the object of his affection, postpone his projected marriage, and leave the friends of his youth where competence rewarded his toil, for the purpose of acquiring wealth in a land of strangers. The golden sun gemmed the drops of the previous night with the diamond's lustre, and the voice of active life awoke in the village, ere Annie awoke from her slumber, exclaiming,
"Why, Edward, is it possible I have slept so late? but wearied nature was quite exhausted."
"You look finely refreshed," said he, giving her the parting kiss; "but I must away to my shop."
Annie recovered rapidly, and soon the time came for Edward's departure.
He could only speak of the future, seeming to think little of the past or present.
"I shall write to you often, Annie, and you are mine till death do us part, just as much as though Parson Bates had told us so."