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Narratives, Anecdotes, &c.
ARE YOU READY ? It was a gloomy day in the month of November, when the writer had occasion to pass through a noble park in the county of
A deep autumnal stillness everywhere prevailed, broken only by the chirp of the robin, or the sound of the falling leaf. At such a season we can hardly feel other than sad, and seeing around us the lively emblems of mortality, easily resign ourselves to pensive meditation on the future. Unhappily, however, these sentimental musings were, in the writer's case, not the real motive for disquietude and grief. The hand of death was busy in the town as well as in the wood, the fading influence of his icy touch passed alike over the fair and beautiful among flowers and among men.
A fatal epidemic had broken out in the cottages of the poor, and reft the lowly circle of its dearest joys; and now it visited the mansion of the great, there to inflict with impartial justice the same bitter chastisement of offended God.
The object of this unusually cheerless walk was to call at the house of weeping, and accompany the mourners to the tomb. bound rapper told the solemn story of the dead, while the inutes stood indifferently on either side in all the costly pageantry of woe.
The individual about to be committed to the dust was the eldest son of the wealthy proprietor, an amiable and gifted youth of eighteen. Snatched away in the morning of his days, a thought of dissolution never entered his mind, till realized in the overwhelming anguish of a dread surprize. Alas, that we must add, he died in the darkest despair! No hope to light futurity shone through the vista of the opening grave. No voice of mercy swept along the dismal valley, to whisper consolation and allay his fears. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment, was the single, sad foreboding of his abandoned soul.
Every member of the bereaved family followed to the vault, save perhaps the deepest sufferer in this tearful group. Esther, an affectionate sister of the departed, was too much prostrated by the agony of the stroke to be able to attend. A year younger than her brother, she had been his constant companion from infancy to death. Sharing in equal measure his pleasures and his pains, she beheld with ardent sympathy and joy, each early aspiration, effort, and success. How beit the struggle was for earth, not for heaven; their pursuit, keen, quick, untiring to the last, received its noblest triumph in the praise of men.
But Esther had listened to a brother's dying admonition as he found out his fatal mistake. The sepulchral warning still sounded in her ears, in the strong impassioned earnestness of fraternal love. Painfully though she felt the separation, she dared not ask reunion in the skies; for the párting sign, the token around which memory clings and imagination revolves, spoke, more than lips could utter, an eternity unblessed.
The shades of evening were already stretching across the earth, when this solitary mourner wandered half-unconsciously into the chamber just forsaken by the dead. The faint oppressive breath of fever smote upon her senses; for the dreadful typhus had been there. Nevertheless she staggered to the window, and, throwing it open, cast her eyes over the melancholy prospect, a wilderness of barren stubble and naked trees. Everything, once so beautiful, was now desolate and sere, while, skirting the border of the park, otherwise hidden by foliage, could be seen at intervals the procession to the grave. “And you too must die,” seemed to be the language alike of the passing knell and of the expiring year,-the solemni watch-word of providence without, and the faithful echo of an answering pang within.
As the weeping relatives were about leaving the place of tombs, Esther ranged the deserted halls wildly seeking a comforter or friend. At length, with a gleam of pleasure, she lighted upon an old woman in one of the back offices, who, surprised at her unexpected presence, was still more so at her altered mien. On any other occasion the giddy girl would have scorned to notice this aged servant; but now feeling her need of sympathy in all the helplessness of grief, she was glad to unburden her mind to the meanest who could pity or relieve. The venerable nurse took courage from the softening influence of events, to speak with a mother's freeness on a subject always nearest her heart-real personal religion. The young lady listened with a strange mixture of wonder and delight. Under such tender exhortations she felt, as she had never done before, involuntarily subdued. Her tears were for a moment dried, but again they freely flowed ; former distress, painful and unprofitable as it was, became changed for new sorrows, new anxieties, and new hopes.
Esther retired to her room, not to weep but to pray. Ere she sank to rest she had sought and realized her heavenly Father's smile. Happy in the consciousness of his forgiving love, she was able to répose her weary spirit on the bošom of her Lord. The prayer which then rose from the stricken soul, was the contrite sinner's cry, and not to heaven's mercy-seat shall it ever ascend in vain !
But the time of separation drew near. On the morrow it was thought prudent to send her away from the infected house to the residence of a distant friend. Before leaving she contrived to spend a few minutes with her spiritual counsellor and guide.
The old creature embraced her with tears of joy, for she saw in her whole deportment evidence of a renewed heart. After a brief interval of the dearest earthly fellowship, Esther put into her friend's hand a
parting gift, not without a strong presentiment it would be the last. So, indeed, it was. Already were her cheeks lighted up with a deceptive fire, diseasé had fastened on its victim, death had secured": its prey. Yet short as was life's eventful journey, and shorter still her pilgrimage to heaven, each was crowned with the noblést issue, and brought her to a desired end. Longer she might have tarried, or further she might have strayed, and not have borne a brighter testimony to Jesus, or received more abundant entrance into the kingdom of her God.
Dear reader, how often are we reminded of our own mortality, of our nature's doom. The tolling bèll, alike in the noontide bustle, the evening's solitude, and the silent night, falls upon our ears with the unwelcome tidings of ever busy death. Thousands are daily dropping by our side, of whom we care not to ask the character, or enquire the fate. As many more languish on beds of suffering, wait. ing their passport to the gloomy grave.
Doubtless in some who glance over these pages, the seeds of dissolution are already sown. Consumptive symptoms mày escape the eye, or lurking fever course along the veins, yet not surer do they baffle observation than defy our skill. We cannot tell how closely we have wandered to the fatal snare, or stooped into the awful tomb.
Sounding anon in the thoughtless bosom or the agitated heart, let us hear the solemn warning of the Son of Man. Listen ! 'tis the voice of reason ; 'tis the voice of God; “Be you also ready," ready for death, ready for heaven !
A DYING WIFE'S LETTER TO HER HUSBAND.
The following most touching fragment of a Letter from a dying Wife to her Husband, was found by him some months after her death, between the leaves of a religious volume which she was very fond of perusing. The letter, which was literally dim with tear marks, was written long before the husband was aware that the grasp of a fatal disease had fastened upon the lovely form of his wife, who died at the early age of nineteen :
“When this shall reach your eye, dear G- some day when you are turning over the relics of the past, I shall have passed away for ever; and the cold, white stone will be keeping its lonely watch over the lips you have so often pressed, and the sod will be growing green, that shall hide for ever from your sight the dust of one who has so oftén nestled close to your warm heart. For many long and sleepless nights, when all beside my thoughts were at rest, I have wrestled with the consciousness of approaching death, until at last it has forced itself upon my mind; and altkough to you and to others it might now
seem but the nervous imaginings of a girl, yet, dear G-, it is so ! Many weary hours have I passed in the endeavour to reconcile myself to leaving you, whom I love so well, and this bright world of sunshine and beauty; and hard indeed it is to struggle on silently and alone with the sure conviction that I am about to leave all for ever, and go down alone into the dark valley! ‘But I know in whom I have trusted,' and, leaning upon His arm, 'I fear no evil.' Don't blame me for keeping even all this from you. How could I subject you, of all others, to such sorrow as I feel at parting, when time will so soon make it apparent to you? I could have wished to live, if only to be at your side when your time shall come, and, pillowing your head apon my breast, wipe the death-damps from your brow, and usher your departing spirit into his Maker's presence, embalmed in woman's holiest prayer. But it is not to be so, and I submit. Yours is the privilege of watching, through long and dreary nights, for the spirit's final flight, and of transferring my sinking head from your breast to my Saviour's bosom. And you shall share my last thought; the last faint pressure of the hand, and the last feeble kiss, shall be yours; and even when flesh and heart shall have failed me, my eye shall rest on yours until glazed by death; and our spirits shall hold one last communion, until gently fading from my view the last of earth---you shall mingle with the first bright glimpses of the unfading glories of that better world where partings are unknown. Well do I know the spot, dear G-, where you will lay me. Often have we stood by the place, and as we watched the mellow sunset as it danced in quivering flashes through the leaves, and burnished the grassy mounds around us with stripes of burnished gold, each perhaps has thought that some day one of us would come alone, and which ever it might be, your name would be on the stone. But we loved the spot; and I know you'll love it none the less when you see the same quiet sun-light linger and play among the grass that grows over your Mary's grave. I know you'll go often alone there, when I am laid there, and my spirit shall be with you then, and whisper among the waving branches, 'I am not lost, but gone before !'”
THE DELAYING NURSE.
In visiting the Young Women's ward of the City Workhouse, to read the Scriptures to its inmates, and endeavour to direct them to Jesus, of whom they testify, the nurse, who was generally present, was addressed with the rest; but one day I spoke to her individually, and, after having spoken of the only way of obtaining life eternal, enquired, “Suppose death should come to you now, are you prepared to meet it?” She replied, “No, I am sure I am not; but it is to be hoped, that when I come to a sick-bed I shall have time enough to repent.” I do not remember the words I used; but I urged her not
to delay a matter of such vital importance, in accordance with the warning words noted in the Scriptures of truth : “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found ; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” “Now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation.”
Soon after, I left home, and was absent many weeks. Upon my return, going again to the same ward, I missed the nurse; but did not understand, when, in answer to my enquiries, they told me she
gone,” that they meant to say she was dead, until, upon another occasion, going to the sick ward to visit a young woman who was sinking beneath the effects of slow, wasting consumption, as I addressed her, the nurse, to enforce what I said, referred to the case of Mrs. Best (the nurse before alluded to), hoping she would not be like her; this led me to make more particular enquiries, and then I learned that she was dead, and heard the awful circumstances that attended her last moments.
She had been indisposed for some time, but was not thought seri. ously, till one morning a person came from the room in which she was to the nurse who was then speaking to me, and told her that Mrs. Best was very ill; she immediately went to her, and perceiving at once that it was so, she told her that she would go and ask the Mistress to give her a little wine and water; instead of being thank. ful for this kind attention, she replied angrily, “I am not ill enough for wine and water.” The nurse, thinking from her appearance that she was not far from death, addressed her seriously, telling her that she was indeed, and advising her to pray while she could.
Pray !” she exclaimed; “what should I pray for? I'm not going die.” Very shortly after, she lost the power of speech, and died before night. A young woman present said, “She never spoke again, but she looked so wicked.” Who would
say, “Let me die her death, and let my latter end be like hers”? but if the same paths be pursued, must not the same end be expected ? This poor woinan did not say, “I need no repentance;" she did not say, “I will not seek it;" but she resolved it should not be now; she put it off to “a more convenient season,” as she thought "a sick-bed" would be. But as the iron, after having been softened in the fire, becomes harder by successive strokes on the anvil, so does the conscience, by every effort that is made to silence its suggestions and resist the truth to which it testifies, after having been partially awakened by its influence, till at last even the approach of death produces no impression. In that awful world, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched,” it will regain its power, but there repentance never comes. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." Christ is exalted' a Prince and a Saviour to