Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

attention. As he returned to farm labors, he seemed to fancy himself a boy again, and able to engage in its pursuits as actively as ever. His spirit was as eager and vigorous and resolute, but the frame of fifty had

ither the elasticity nor endurance of the age of fifteen. Neither he nor his family appeared to realize this. His energy prompted him to inspirit the men he employed by his own example, and they sought for the triumph of the physical over the intellectual by outdoing him and putting his strength to the test. We remember him, in the violent heat of summer, loading grain, with the perspiration flowing over his brow, while the hired man was endeavoring to pitch on the load faster than it could be arranged on the cart. After such efforts he was compelled to lie down on his bed from exhaustion, yet no one thought of evil consequences.

Among other farm improvements, he paid particular attention to draining low lands, and bringing to fertility the mines of agricultural wealth borne thither and deposited by the water. Vegetable matter while saturated decays slowly, but when the water is let off and the warm sunbeams admitted, decomposition is rapid. Arthur's father, in the summer and early autumn of 1835, had caused some low lands to be thus drained and opened to the action of the sun. It was afterwards thought (with how much justice we do not undertake to decide) that malaria was exhaled from this drained land, and led to the severe family sickness of that season. Certain it is, that Margaret at this time was brought near the gates of death with typhus fever. Soon after her recovery, her father was

seized with Asiatic cholera, and the same autumn the two boys, Arthur and Richard, were ill with fever. The fatal sickness, however, of the father, at least, may have had other causes. Perhaps his constitution, naturally so delicate, had worn out. Not long before his death, while as yet having no symptoms of sickness, he expressed to Arthur a presentiment that his departure from earth was near at hand. He spoke of it seriously, but with cheerfulness. Perhaps he may have been admonished by a declension of strength incident to the wearing out of the body, as it draws towards the close of its term. Or the proximity of the spiritual world may have touched some delicate chords in his nature, and made itself apprehended by a new and spiritual experience.

On the morning of the thirtieth day of September, 1835, Arthur's father had appeared in usual health ; and for dinner had partaken of rice and milk, his favorite repast. In the afternoon of the day, while in the house, he was seized with sudden illness, vomiting and sinking helpless to the floor. He was immediately taken up, borne to his chamber, and laid upon his bed. As soon as he was carried there, he declared calmly that he felt his sickness would be mortal ; and was able to say little else, such was the agony of his sickness. The family physician, who was speedily summoned, pronounced the malady to be Asiatic cholera, although there was at that time no other known case of this fell scourge in New England, and though, from habits of strict temperance, and simple, abstemious diet, he was an improbable subject for the disease. Yet the symptoms were indubitable; and the doctor's

opinion was afterwards confirmed by a post-mortem examination conducted by several physicians.

The conflict between the defensive forces of nature and the assault of disease was short but terrible. For twenty hours, alternate spasms and chills, attended with a cold perspiration beading the marble brow, evidenced the progressive parallels with which the besieging foe advanced to storm the citadel of life. But no groan, no murmur of complaint did the sufferer permit to escape him. At last there was a lull, preparatory to the final onset, which was to break upon his life and liberate the tried spirit, to know no more pain, no more sorrow, no more death. He now, in a faint whisper, being too much reduced to speak aloud, expressed his desire to bid farewell to his family; and, as they gathered about his bedside, he smiled faintly, but with undimmed love, upon the dear weeping circle. The parting kiss he strove to return with his cold lips, while his eye irradiated undying love, and the light of the familiar smile flickered transiently upon his pallid features. The seal of that kiss could never be forgotten or effaced. It attested a love stronger than death; and it pathetically reiterated the lessons of fatherly admonition, counsel, and affection which those lips could no longer utter. The speechless symbol was more expressive than fluent language. It served as the solemn authenticating seal set to the children's life commission by the dying father, and mutely expressed what he could no longer speak. His undying affection in the dying hour crowned the uniform kindness and tenderness of his life. Finis coronat opus. And the perfect re

pose of his trust in God in that time of utmost need ennobled him in his children's view, and threw a glory over his virtues.

Soon after this farewell scene, he was released from his sufferings. It was evening when he breathed his last. The children slept, and were first awakened to know themselves orphans by the solemn tones of the minister's prayer, proceeding from the chamber of death. Sad indeed it is, when the young child first says to himself, “I have no father!" The mother's love lacks the father's power to protect, provide, and open the path of life. Yet in this case the gloom of the occasion was soothed by the repose of the father's face, as he lay low in death. All trace of suffering had passed away, and the features had not been emaciated in the short season of sickness. The expression of his countenance was pleasant and almost smiling, seeming bound by the lightest spell of slumber; and, except that the eyes were closed, looking as the children had seen him when engaged with his papers, humming to himself some gentle strain. His age at his death was fifty-seven years.

He was temporarily interred in Cambridge ; and, finally, in the family lot at Mount Auburn.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

“The individual man, — how does he, on his birthdays, reflect upon the period of life already gone ! behold, as it were in vision, the solemn pageant of scenes long passed away : look on paintings, hung in Memory's gallery, of deeds performed in bygone years, and over which the veil is generally drawn as too sacred for common and uncaring eyes. . How does he rejoice in the thought of early struggles as requisite for the development of his character, and early hardships suited to task and strengthen his powers of endurance." — Bi-Centennial Address, delivered at Groton, Massachusetts, Oct. 31st, 1855, by REV. ARTHUR B. FULLER.

Y the death of the father, the main pillar

of the family edifice was stricken away. Not merely was affection lacerated by the

loss, and the aching void of afflicted love felt in the place which the honored parent had filled, but there was also a sense of helplessness as well as loneliness; and forebodings of the future mingled their shadows with the gloom of bereavement. This was not exclusively from lack of property inheritance, but still more from an entire inexperience in business, and a strong distaste for it, in those on whom the management of affairs now devolved. The mother was as naturally inapt for finances as one of her flowers, cherished by her as she herself had been by her husband's fostering care. She was characterized by qụick perception, devoted affection, and constant delight in all the forms of beauty; but she had never

« AnteriorContinuar »