PAUL' S HISTORY
"Captain, I hear the cheers. My soul is glad.
My days are numbered, but this glorious day
Like some far beacon on a shadowy cape
That cheers at night the storm-belabored ships
Will light the misty ages from afar.
This field shall be the Mecca. Here shall rise
A holier than the Caaba where men kiss
The sacred stone that flaming fell from heaven.
But O how many sad and aching hearts
Will mourn the loved ones never to return!
Thank God no heart will hope for my return!
Thank God no heart will mourn because I die!
Captain, at life's mid-summer flush and glow,
For him to die who leaves his golden hopes,
His mourning friends and idol-love behind,
It must be hard and seem a cruel thing.
After the victory upon this field For
me to die hath more of peace than pain;
For I shall leave no golden hopes behind,
No idol-love to pine because I die,
No friends to wait my coming or to mourn.
They wait my coming in the world beyond;
And wait not long, for I am almost there.
'Tis but a gasp, and I shall pass the bound
'Twixt life and death through death to life again
Where sorrow cometh never. Pangs and pains
Of flesh or spirit will not pierce me there;
And two will greet me from the jasper walls
God's angels with a song of holy peace,
And haste to meet me at the pearly gate,
And kiss the death-damp from my silent lips,
And lead me through the golden avenues
Singing Hosanna to the Great White Throne."
So there he paused and calmly closed his eyes,
And silently I sat and held his hand.
After a time, when we were left alone,
He spoke again with calmer voice and said:
"Captain, you oft have asked my history,
And I as oft refused. There is no cause
Why I should longer hold it from my friend
Who reads the closing chapter. It may teach
One soul to lean upon the arm of Christ
That hope and happiness find anchorage
Only in heaven. While my lonesome life
Saw death but dimly in the dull distance
My lips were sealed to the unhappy tale;
Under my pride I hid a heavy heart.
"I was ambitious in my boyhood days,
And dreamed of fame and honors misty fogs
That climb at morn the ragged cliffs of life,
Veiling the ragged rocks and gloomy chasms,
And shaping airy castles on the top
With bristling battlements and looming towers;
But melt away into ethereal air
Beneath the blaze of the mid-summer sun,
Till cliffs and chasms and all the ragged rocks
Are bare, and all the castles crumbled away.
"There winds a river 'twixt two chains of hills
Fir-capped and rugged monuments of time;
A level vale of rich alluvial land,
Washed from the slopes through circling centuries,
And sweet with clover and the hum of bees,
Lies broad between the rugged, somber hills.
Beneath a shade of willows and of elms
The river slumbers in this meadowy lap.
Down from the right there winds a babbling branch,
Cleaving a narrower valley through the hills.
A grand bald-headed hill-cone on the right
Looms like a patriarch, and above the branch
There towers another. I have seen the day
When those bald heads were plumed with lofty pines.
Below the branch and near the river bank,
Hidden among the elms and butternuts,
The dear old cottage stands where I was born.
An English ivy clambers to the eaves;
An English willow planted by my hand
Now spreads its golden branches o'er the roof
Not far below the cottage thrives a town,
A busy town of mills and merchandise
Belle Meadows, fairest village of the vale.
Behind it looms the hill-cone, and in front
The peaceful river winds its silent way.
Beyond the river spreads a level plain
Once hid with somber firs a tangled marsh
Now beautiful with fields and cottages,
And sweet in spring-time with the blooming plum,
And white with apple-blossoms blown like snow.
Beyond the plain a lower chain of hills,
In summer gemmed with fields of golden grain
Set in the emerald of the beechen woods.
In other days the village school-house stood
Below our cottage on a grassy mound
That sloped away unto the river's marge;
And on the slope a cluster of tall pines
Crowning a copse of beech and evergreen.
There in my boyhood days I went to school;
A maiden mistress ruled the little realm;
She taught the rudiments to rompish rogues,
And walked a queen with magic wand of birch.
My years were hardly ten when father died.
Sole tenants of our humble cottage home
My sorrowing mother and myself remained;
But she was all economy, and kept
With my poor aid a comfortable house.
I was her idol and she wrought at night
To keep me at my books, and used to boast
That I should rise above our humble lot.
How oft I listened to her hopeful words
Poured from the fountain of a mother's heart
Until I longed to wing the sluggard years
That bore me on to what I hoped to be.
"We had a garden-plat behind the house
Beyond, an orchard and a pasture-lot;
In front a narrow meadow here and there
Shaded with elms and branching butternuts.
In spring and summer in the garden-plat
I wrought my morning and my evening hours
And kept myself at school no idle boy.
"One bright May morning when the robins sang
There came to school a stranger queenly fair,
With eyes that shamed the ethereal blue of heaven,
And golden hair in ringlets cheeks as soft,
As fresh and rosy as the velvet blush
Of summer sunrise on the dew-damp hills.
Hers was the name I muttered in my dreams.
For days my bashful heart held me aloof
Although her senior by a single year;
But we were brought together oft in class,
And when she learned my name she spoke to me,
And then my tongue was loosed and we were friends.
Before the advent of the steeds of steel
Her sire a shrewd and calculating man
Had lately come and purchased timbered-lands
And idle mills, and made the town his home.
And he was well-to-do and growing rich,
And she her father's pet and only child.
In mind and stature for two happy years
We grew together at the village school.
We grew together! aye, our tender hearts
There grew together till they beat as one.
Her tasks were mine, and mine alike were hers;
We often stole away among the pines
That stately cluster on the sloping hill
And conned our lessons from the selfsame book,
And learned to love each other o'er our tasks,
While in the pine-tops piped the oriole,
And from his branch the chattering squirrel chid
Our guileless love and artless innocence.
'Twas childish love perhaps, but day by day
It grew into our souls as we grew up.
Then there was opened in the prospering town
A grammar school, and thither went Pauline.
I missed her and was sad for many a day,
Till mother gave me leave to follow her.
In autumn in vacation she would come
With girlish pretext to our cottage home.
She often brought my mother little gifts,
And cheered her with sweet songs and happy words;
And I would pluck the fairest meadow-flowers
To grace a garland for her golden hair,
And fill her basket from the butternuts
That flourished in our little meadow field.
I found in her all I had dreamed of heaven.
So garlanded with latest-blooming flowers,
Chanting the mellow music of our hopes,
The silver-sandaled Autumn-hours tripped by.
And mother learned to love her; but she feared,
Knowing her heart and mine, that one rude hand
Might break our hopes asunder. Like a thief
I often crept about her father's house,
Under the evening shadows, eager-eyed,
Peering for one dear face, and lingered late
To catch the silver music of one voice
That from her chamber nightly rose to heaven.
Her father's face I feared a silent man,
Cold-faced, imperative, by nature prone
To set his will against the beating world;
Warm-hearted but heart-crusted.
"Two years more
Thus wore away. Pauline grew up a queen.
A shadow fell across my sunny path;
A hectic flush burned on my mother's cheeks;
She daily failed and nearer drew to death.
Pauline would often come with sun-lit face,
Cheating the day of half its languid hours
With cheering chapters from the holy book,
And border tales and wizard minstrelsy:
And mother loved her all the better for it.
With feeble hands upon our sad-bowed heads,
And in a voice all tremulous with tears,
She said to us: 'Dear children, love each other
Bear and forbear, and come to me in heaven;'
And praying for us daily drooped and died.
"After the sad and solemn funeral,
Alone and weeping and disconsolate,
I sat at evening by the cottage door.
I felt as if a dark and bitter fate
Had fallen on me in my tender years.
I seemed an aimless wanderer doomed to grope
In vain among the darkling years and die.
One only star shone through the shadowy mists.
The moon that wandered in the gloomy heavens
Was robed in shrouds; the rugged, looming hills
Looked desolate; the silent river seemed
A somber chasm, while my own pet lamb,
Mourning disconsolate among the trees,
As if he followed some dim phantom-form,
Bleated in vain and would not heed my call.
On weary hands I bent my weary head;
In gloomy sadness fell my silent tears.
"An angel's hand was laid upon my head
There in the moonlight stood my own Pauline
Angel of love and hope and holy faith
She flashed upon me bowed in bitter grief,
As falls the meteor down the night-clad heavens
In silence. Then about my neck she clasped
Her loving arms and on my shoulder drooped
Her golden tresses, while her silent tears
Fell warm upon my cheek like summer rain.
Heart clasped to heart and cheek to cheek we sat;
The moon no longer gloomed her face was cheer;
The rugged hills were old-time friends again;
The peaceful river slept beneath the moon,
And my pet lamb came bounding to our side
And kissed her hand and mine as he was wont.
Then I awoke as from a dream and said:
'Tell me, beloved, why you come to me
In this dark hour so late so desolate?'
And she replied:
"'My darling, can I rest
While you are full of sorrow? In my ear
A spirit seemed to whisper "Arise and go
To comfort him disconsolate." Tell me, Paul,
Why should you mourn your tender life away?
I will be mother to you; nay, dear boy,
I will be more. Come, brush away these tears.'
"My heart was full; I kissed her pleading eyes:
'You are an angel sent by one in heaven,'
I said,'to heal my heart, but I have lost
More than you know. The cruel hand of death
Hath left me orphan, friendless poor indeed,
Saving the precious jewel of your love.
And what to do? I know not what to do,
I feel so broken by a heavy hand.
My mother hoped that I would work my way
To competence and honor at the bar.
But shall I toil in poverty for years
To learn a science that so seldom yields
Or wealth or honor save to silvered heads?
I know that path to fame and fortune leads
Through thorns and brambles over ragged rocks;
But can I follow in the common path
Trod by the millions, never to lift my head
Above the busy hordes that delve and drudge
For bare existence in this bitter world
And be a mite, a midge, a worthless worm,
No more distinguished from the common mass
Than one poor polyp in the coral isle
Is marked amid the myriads teeming there?
Yet 'tis not for myself. For you, Pauline,
Far up the slippery heights of wealth and fame
Would I climb bravely; but if I would climb
By any art or science, I must train
Unto the task my feet for many years,
Else I should slip and fall from rugged ways,
Too badly bruised to ever mount again.'
"'O Paul, if wealth were mine to give!
O if my father could but know my heart!
But fear not, Paul, our Father reigns in heaven.
Follow your bent 'twill lead you out aright;
The highest mountain lessens as we climb;
Persistent courage wins the smile of fate.
Apply yourself to law and master it,
And I will wait. This sad and solemn hour
Is dark with doubt and gloom, but by and by
The clouds will lift and you will see God's face.
For there is one in heaven whose pleading tongue
Will pray for blessings on her only son
Of Him who heeds the little sparrow's fall;
And O if He will listen to my prayers,
The gates of heaven shall echo to my voice
Morning and evening, only keep your heart.'
"'Pauline, your prayers had rolled away
The ponderous stone that closed the tomb of Christ;
And while they rise to heaven for my success
I cannot doubt, or I should doubt my God.
I think I see a pathway through this gloom;
I have a kinsman' and I told her where
'A lawyer; I have heard my mother say
A self-made man with charitable heart;
And I might go and study under him;
I think he would assist me.'
"Then she sighed:
'Paul, can you leave me? You may study here
And here you are among your boyhood friends,
And here I should be near to cheer you on.'
"I promised her that I would think of it
Would see what prospect offered in the town;
And then we walked together half-embraced,
But when we neared her vine-arched garden gate,
She bade me stay and kissed me a good-night
And bounded through the moonlight like a fawn.
I watched her till she flitted from my sight,
Then slowly homeward turned my lingering steps.
I wrote my kinsman on the morrow morn,
And broached my project to a worthy man
Who kept an office and a case of books
An honest lawyer. People called him learn'd,
But wanting tact and ready speech he failed.
The rest were pettifoggers scurrilous rogues
Who plied the village justice with their lies,
And garbled law to suit the case in hand
Mean, querulous, small-brained delvers in the mire
Of men's misfortunes crafty, cunning knaves,
Versed in chicane and trickery that schemed
To keep the evil passions of weak men
In petty wars, and plied their tongues profane
With cunning words to argue honest fools
Into their spider-meshes to be fleeced.
I laid my case before him; took advice
Well-meant advice to leave my native town,
And study with my kinsman whom he knew.
A week rolled round and brought me a reply
A frank and kindly letter giving me
That which I needed most encouragement.
But hard it was to fix my mind to go;
For in my heart an angel whispered 'Stay.'
It might be better for my after years,
And yet perhaps,'twere better to remain.
I balanced betwixt my reason and my heart,
And hesitated. Her I had not seen
Since that sad night, and so I made resolve
That we should meet, and at her father's house.
So whispering courage to my timid heart
I went. With happy greeting at the door
She met me, but her face was wan and pale
So pale and wan I feared that she was ill.
I read the letter to her, and she sighed,
And sat in silence for a little time,
"'God bless you, Paul, may be 'tis best
I sometimes feel it is not for the best,
But I am selfish thinking of myself.
Go like a man, but keep your boyish heart
Your boyish heart is all the world to me.
Remember, Paul, how I shall watch and wait;
So write me often: like the dew of heaven
To withering grass will come your cheering words.
To know that you are well and happy, Paul,
And good and true, will wing the weary months.
And let me beg you as a sister would
Not that I doubt you but because I love
Beware of wine touch not the treacherous cup,
And guard your honor as you guard your life.
The years will glide away like scudding clouds
That fleetly chase each other o'er the hills,
And you will be a man before you know,
And I will be a woman. God will crown
Our dearest hopes if we but trust in Him.'
"We sat in silence for a little time,
And she was weeping, so I raised her face
And kissed away her tears. She softly said:
'Paul, there is something I must say to you
Something I have no time to tell you now;
But we must meet again before you go
Under the pines where we so oft have met.
Be this the sign,' She waved her graceful hand,
'Come when the shadows gather on the pines,
And silent stars stand sentinel in heaven;
Now Paul, forgive me I must say good-bye.'
"I read her fear upon her anxious brow.
Lingering and clasped within her loving arms
I, through her dewy, deep, blue eyes, beheld
Her inmost soul, and knew that love was there.
Ah, then and there her father blustered in,
And caught us blushing in each other's arms!
He stood a moment silent and amazed:
Then kindling wrath distorted all his face,
He showered his anger with a tongue of fire.
O cruel words that stung my boyish pride!
O dagger words that stabbed my very soul!
I strove, but fury mastered up I sprang,
And felt a giant as I stood before him.
My breath was hot with anger; impious boy
Frenzied forgetful of his silvered hairs
Forgetful of her presence, too, I raved,
And poured a madman's curses on his head.
A moan of anguish brought me to myself;
I turned and saw her sad, imploring face,
And tears that quenched the wild fire in my heart.
I pressed her hand and passed into the hall,
While she stood sobbing in a flood of tears,
And he stood choked with anger and amazed.
But as I passed the ivied porch he came
With bated breath and muttered in my ear
'Beggar!' It stung me like a serpent's fang.
Pride-pricked and muttering like a maniac,
I almost flew the street and hurried home
To vent my anger to the silent elms.
'Beggar!' an hundred times that long, mad night
I muttered with hot lips and burning breath;
I paced the walk with hurried tread, and raved;
I threw myself beneath the willow-tree,
And muttered like the muttering of a storm.
My little lamb came bleating mournfully;
Angered I struck him; out among the trees
I wandered mumbling 'beggar' as I went,
And beating in through all my burning soul
The bitter thoughts it conjured, till my brain
Reeled and I sunk upon the dew-damp grass,
And utterly exhausted slept till morn.
"I dreamed a dream all mist and mystery.
I saw a sunlit valley beautiful
With purple vineyards and with garden-plats;
And in the vineyards and the garden-plats
Were happy-hearted youths and merry girls
Toiling and singing. Grandsires too were there,
Sitting contented under their own vines
And fig-trees, while about them merrily played
Their children's children like the sportive lambs
That frolicked on the foot-hills. Low of kine,
Full-uddered, homeward-wending from the meads,
Fell on the ear as soft as Hulder's loor
Tuned on the Norse-land mountains. Like a nest
Hid in a hawthorn-hedge a cottage stood
Embowered with vines beneath broad-branching elms
Sweet-voiced with busy bees.
"On either hand
Rose steep and barren mountains mighty cliffs
Cragged and chasm'd and over-grown with thorns;
And on the topmost peak a golden throne
Blazoned with burning characters that read
'Climb' it is yours.' Not far above the vale
I saw a youth, fair-browed and raven-haired,
Clambering among the thorns and ragged rocks;
And from his brow with torn and bleeding hand
He wiped great drops of sweat. Down through the vale
I saw a rapid river, broad and deep,
Winding in solemn silence to the sea
The sea all mist and fog. Lo as I stood
Viewing the river and the moaning sea,
A sail and then another flitted down
And plunged into the mist. A moment more,
Like shapeless shadows of the by-gone years,
I saw them in the mist and they were gone
Gone! and the sea moaned on and seemed to say
'Gone and forever!' So I gladly turned
To look upon the throne the blazoned throne
That sat upon the everlasting cliff.
The throne had vanished! Lo where it had stood,
A bed of ashes and a gray-haired man
Sitting upon it bowed and broken down.
And so the vision passed.
"The rising sun
Beamed full upon my face and wakened me,
And there beside me lay my pet the lamb
Gazing upon me with his wondering eyes,
And all the fields were bright and beautiful,
And brighter seemed the world. I rose resolved.
I let the cottage and disposed of all;
The lamb went bleating to a neighbor's field;
And oft my heart ached, but I mastered it.
This was the constant burden of my brain
'Beggar!' I'll teach him that I am a man;
I'll speak and he shall listen; I will rise,
And he shall see my course as I go up
Round after round the ladder of success.
Even as the pine upon the mountain-top
Towers o'er the maple on the mountain-side,
I'll tower above him. Then will I look down
And call him Father: He shall call me Son.'
"Thus hushing my sad heart the day drew nigh
Of parting, and the promised sign was given.
The night was dismal darkness not one star
Twinkled in heaven; the sad, low-moaning wind
Played like a mournful harp among the pines.
I groped and listened through the darkling grove,
Peering with eager eyes among the trees,
And calling as I peered with anxious voice
One darling name. No answer but the moan
Of the wind-shaken pines. I sat me down
Under the dusky shadows waiting for her,
And lost myself in gloomy reverie.
Dim in the darksome shadows of the night,
While thus I dreamed, my darling came and crept
Beneath the boughs as softly as a hare,
And whispered 'Paul' and I was at her side.
We sat upon a mound moss-carpeted
No eyes but God's upon us, and no voice
Spake to us save the moaning of the pines.
Few were the words we spoke; her silent tears,
Our clasping, trembling, lingering embrace,
Were more than words. Into one solemn hour,
Were pressed the fears and hopes of coming years.
Two tender hearts that only dared to hope
There swelled and throbbed to the electric touch
Of love as holy as the love of Christ.
She gave her picture and I gave a ring
My mother's almost with her latest breath
She gave it me and breathed my darling's name.
I girt her finger, and she kissed the ring
In solemn pledge, and said:
"'I bring a gift
The priceless gift of God unto his own:
O may it prove a precious gift to you,
As it has proved a precious gift to me;
And promise me to read it day by day
Beginning on the morrow every day
A chapter and I too will read the same.'
"I took the gift a precious gift indeed
And you may see how I have treasured it.
Here, Captain, put your hand upon my breast
An inner pocket you will find it there."
I opened the bloody blouse and thence drew forth
The Book of Christ all stained with Christian blood.
He laid his hand upon the holy book,
And closed his eyes as if in silent prayer.
I held his weary head and bade him rest.
He lay a moment silent and resumed:
"Let me go on if you would hear the tale;
I soon shall sleep the sleep that wakes no more.
O there were promises and vows as solemn
As Christ's own promises; but as we sat
The pattering rain-drops fell among the pines,
And in the branches the foreboding owl
With dismal hooting hailed the coming storm.
So in that dreary hour and desolate
We parted in the silence of our tears.
"And on the morrow morn I bade adieu
To the old cottage home I loved so well
The dear old cottage home where I was born.
Then from my mother's grave I plucked a rose
Bursting in bloom Pauline had planted it
And left my little hill-girt boyhood world.
I journeyed eastward to my journey's end;
At first by rail for many a flying mile,
By mail-coach thence from where the hurrying train
Leaps a swift river that goes tumbling on
Between a village and a mountain-ledge,
Chafing its rocky banks. There seethes and foams
The restless river round the roaring rocks,
And then flows on a little way and pours
Its laughing waters into a bridal lap.
Its flood is fountain-fed among the hills;
Far up the mossy brooks the timid trout
Lie in the shadow of vine-tangled elms.
Out from the village-green the roadway leads
Along the river up between the hills,
Then climbs a wooded mountain to its top,
And gently winds adown the farther side
Unto a valley where the bridal stream
Flows rippling, meadow-flower-and-willow-fringed,
And dancing onward with a merry song,
Hastes to the nuptials. From the mountain-top
A thousand feet above the meadowy vale
She seems a chain of fretted silver wound
With artless art among the emerald hills.
Thence up a winding valley of grand views
Hill-guarded firs and rocks upon the hills,
And here and there a solitary pine
Majestic silent mourns its slaughtered kin,
Like the last warrior of some tawny tribe
Returned from sunset mountains to behold
Once more the spot where his brave fathers sleep.
The farms along the valley stretch away
On either hand upon the rugged hills
Walled into fields. Tall elms and willow-trees
Huge-trunked and ivy-hung stand sentinel
Along the roadway walls storm-wrinkled trees
Planted by men who slumber on the hills.
Amid such scenes all day we rolled along,
And as the shadows of the western hills
Across the valley crept and climbed the slopes,
The sunset blazed their hazy tops and fell
Upon the emerald like a mist of gold.
And at that hour I reached my journey's end.
The village is a gem among the hills
Tall, towering hills that reach into the blue.
One grand old mountain-cone looms on the left
Far up toward heaven, and all around are hills.
The river winds among the leafy hills
Adown the meadowy dale; a shade of elms
And willows fringe it. In this lap of hills
Cluster the happy homes of men content
To let the great world worry as it will.
The court-house park, the broad, bloom-bordered streets,
Are avenues of maples and of elms
Grander than Tadmor's pillared avenue
Fair as the fabled garden of the gods.
Beautiful villas, tidy cottages,
Flower gardens, fountains, offices and shops,
All nestle in a dreamy wealth of woods.
"Kind hearts received me. All that wealth could bring
Refinement, luxury and ease was theirs;
But I was proud and felt my poverty,
And gladly mured myself among the books
To master 'the lawless science of the law.'
I plodded through the ponderous commentaries
Some musty with the mildew of old age;
And these I found the better for their years,
Like olden wine in cobweb-covered flasks.
The blush of sunrise found me at my books;
The midnight cock-crow caught me reading still;
And oft my worthy master censured me:
'A time for work,' he said, 'a time for play;
Unbend the bow or else the bow will break.'
But when I wearied needing sleep and rest
A single word seemed whispered in my ear
'Beggar,' it stung me to redoubled toil.
I trod the ofttimes mazy labyrinths
Of legal logic mined the mountain-mass
Of precedents conflicting found the rule,
Then branched into the exceptions; split the hair
Betwixt this case and that ran parallels
Traced from a 'leading case' through many tomes
Back to the first decision on the 'point,'
And often found a pyramid of law
Built with bad logic on a broken base
Of careless 'dicta;' saw how narrow minds
Spun out the web of technicalities
Till common sense and common equity
Were strangled in its meshes. Here and there
I came upon a broad, unfettered mind
Like Murray's cleaving through the spider-webs
Of shallower brains, and bravely pushing out
Upon the open sea of common sense.
But such were rare. The olden precedents
Oft stepping-stones of tyranny and wrong
Marked easy paths to follow, and they ruled
The course of reason as the iron rails
Rule the swift wheels of the down-thundering train.
"I rose at dawn. First in this holy book
I read my chapter. How the happy thought
That my Pauline would read the self-same morn
The self-same chapter gave the sacred text,
Though I had heard my mother read it oft,
New light and import never seen before.
For I would ponder over every verse,
Because I felt that she was reading it,
And when I came upon dear promises
Of Christ to man, I read them o'er and o'er,
Till in a holy and mysterious way
They seemed the whisperings of Pauline to me.
Later I learned to lay up for myself
'Treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust
Corrupteth, and where thieves do not break through,
Nor steal' and where my treasures all are laid
My heart is, and my spirit longs to go.
O friend, if Jesus was but man of man
And if indeed his wondrous miracles
Were mythic tales of priestly followers
To chain the brute till Reason came from heaven
Yet was his mission unto man divine.
Man's pity wounds, but Jesus' pity heals:
He gave us balm beyond all earthly balm;
He gave us strength beyond all human strength;
He taught us love above the low desires;
He taught us hope beyond all earthly hope;
He taught us charity wherewith to build
From out the broken walls of barbarism,
The holy temple of the perfect man.
"On every Sabbath-eve I wrote Pauline.
Page after page was burdened with my love,
My glowing hopes of golden days to come,
And frequent boast of rapid progress made.
With hungry heart and eager I devoured
Her letters; I re-read them twenty times.
At morning when I laid the Gospel down
I read her latest answer, and again
At midnight by my lamp I read it over,
And murmuring 'God bless her,' fell asleep
To dream that I was with her under the pines.
"Thus fled four years four years of patient toil
Sweetened with love and hope, and I had made
Swift progress in my studies. Master said
Another year would bring me to the bar
No fledgeling but full-feathered for the field.
And then her letters ceased. I wrote and wrote
Again, but still no answer. Day after day
The tardy mail-coach lagged a mortal hour,
While I sat listening for its welcome horn;
And when it came I hastened from my books
With hope and fear contending in my soul.
Day after day no answer back again
I turned my footsteps with a weary sigh.
It wore upon me and I could not rest;
It gnawed me to the marrow of my bones.
The heavy tomes grew dull and wearisome,
And sometimes hateful; then I broke away
As from a prison and rushed wildly out
Among the elms along the river-bank
Baring my burning temples to the breeze
And drank the air of heaven like sparkling wine
Conjuring excuses for her; was she ill?
Perhaps forbidden. Had another heart
Come in between us? No, that could not be;
She was all constancy and promise-bound.
A month, which seemed to me a laggard year,
Thus wore away. At last a letter came.
O with what springing step I hurried back
Back to my private chamber and my desk!
With what delight what eager, trembling hand
The well-known seal that held my hopes I broke!
Thus ran the letter:
"'Paul, the time has come
When we must both forgive while we forget.
Mine was a girlish fancy. We outgrow
Such childish follies in our later years.
Now I have pondered well and made an end.
I cannot wed myself to want, and curse
My life life-long, because a girlish freak
Of folly made a promise. So farewell.'
"My eyes were blind with passion as I read.
I tore the letter into bits and stamped
Upon them, ground my teeth and cursed the day
I met her, to be jilted. All that night
My thoughts ran riot. Round the room I strode
A raving madman savage as a Sioux;
Then flung myself upon my couch in tears,
And wept in silence, and then stormed again.
'Beggar!' it raised the serpent in my breast
Mad pride bat-blind. I seized her pictured face
And ground it under my heel. With impious hand
I caught the book the precious gift she gave,
And would have burned it, but that still small voice
Spake in my heart and bade me spare the book.
"Then with this Gospel clutched in both my hands,
I swore a solemn oath that I would rise,
If God would spare me; she should see me rise,
And learn what she had lost. Yes, I would mount
Merely to be revenged. I would not cringe
Down like a spaniel underneath the lash,
But like a man would teach my proud Pauline
And her hard father to repent the day
They called me 'beggar.' Thus I raved and stormed
That mad night out; forgot at dawn of morn
This holy book, but fell to a huge tome
And read two hundred pages in a day.
I could not keep the thread of argument;
I could not hold my mind upon the book;
I could not break the silent under-tow
That swept all else from out my throbbing brain
But false Pauline. I read from morn till night,
But having closed the book I could not tell
Aught of its contents. Then I cursed myself,
And muttered 'Fool can you not shake it off
This nightmare of your boyhood? Brave, indeed
Crushed like a spaniel by this false Pauline!
Crushed am I? By the gods, I'll make an end,
And she shall never know it nettled me!'
So passed the weary days. My cheeks grew thin;
I needed rest, I said, and quit my books
To range the fields and hills with fowling-piece
And 'mal prepense' toward the feathery flocks.
The pigeons flew from tree-tops o'er my head;
I heard the flap of wings and they were gone;
The pheasant whizzed from bushes at my feet
Unseen until its sudden whir of wings
Startled and broke my wandering reverie;
And then I whistled and relapsed to dreams,
Wandering I cared not whither wheresoe'er
My silent gun still bore its primal charge.
So gameless, but with cheeks and forehead tinged
By breeze and sunshine, I returned to books.
But still a phantom haunted all my dreams
Awake or sleeping, for awake I dreamed
A spectre that I could not chase away
The phantom-form of my own false Pauline.
"Six months wore off six long and weary months;
Then came a letter from a school-boy friend
In answer to the queries I had made
Filled with the gossip of my native town.
Unto her father's friend a bachelor,
Her senior by full twenty years at least
Dame Rumor said Pauline had pledged her hand.
I knew him well a sly and cunning man
A honey-tongued, false-hearted flatterer.
And he my rival carrying off my prize?
But what cared I? 'twas all the same to me
Yea, better for the sweet revenge to come.
So whispered pride, but in my secret heart
I cared, and hoped whatever came to pass
She might be happy all her days on earth,
And find a happy haven at the end.
"My thoughtful master bade me quit my books
A month at least, for I was wearing out.
'Unbend the bow,' he said. His watchful eye
Saw toil and care at work upon my cheeks;
He could not see the canker at my heart,
But he had seen pale students wear away
With overwork the vigor of their lives;
And so he gave me means and bade me go
To romp a month among my native hills.
I went, but not as I had left my home
A bashful boy, uncouth and coarsely clad,
But clothed and mannered like a gentleman.
"My school-boy friend gave me a cordial greeting;
That honest lawyer bade me welcome, too,
And doted on my progress and the advice
He gave me ere I left my native town.
Since first the iron-horse had coursed the vale
Five years had fled five prosperous, magic years,
And well nigh five since I had left my home.
These prosperous years had wrought upon the place
Their wonders till I hardly knew the town.
The broad and stately blocks of brick that shamed
The weather-beaten wooden shops I knew
Seemed the creation of some magic hand.
Adown the river bank the town had stretched,
Sweeping away the quiet grove of pines
Where I had loved to ramble when a boy
And see the squirrels leap from tree to tree
With reckless venture, hazarding a fall
To dodge the ill-aimed arrows from my bow.
The dear old school-house on the hill was gone:
A costly church, tall-spired and built of stone
Stood in its stead a monument to man.
Unholy greed had felled the stately pines,
And all the slope was bare and desolate.
Old faces had grown older; some were gone,
And many unfamiliar ones had come.
Boys in their teens had grown to bearded men,
And girls to womanhood, and all was changed,
Save the old cottage-home where I was born.
The elms and butternuts in the meadow-field
Still wore the features of familiar friends;
The English ivy clambered to the roof,
The English willow spread its branches still,
And as I stood before the cottage-door
My heart-pulse quickened, for methought I heard
My mother's footsteps on the ashen floor.
"The rumor I had heard was verified;
The wedding-day was named and near at hand.
I met my rival: gracious were his smiles:
Glad as a boy that robs the robin's nest
He grasped the hands of half the men he met.
Pauline, I heard, but seldom ventured forth,
Save when her doting father took her out
On Sabbath morns to breathe the balmy air,
And grace with her sweet face his cushioned pew.
The smooth-faced suitor, old dame Gossip said,
Made daily visits to her father's house,
And played the boy at forty years or more,
While she had held him off to draw him on.
"I would not fawn upon the hand that smote;
I would not cringe beneath its cruel blow,
Nor even let her know I cared for it.
I kept aloof as proud as Lucifer.
But when the church-bells chimed on Sabbath morn
To that proud monument of stone I went
Her father's pride, since he had led the list
Of wealthy patrons who had builded it
To hear the sermon for methought Pauline
Would hear it too. Might I not see her face,
And she not know I cared to look upon it?
She came not, and the psalms and sermon fell
Upon me like an autumn-mist of rain.
I met her once by chance upon the street
The day before the appointed wedding-day
Her and her father she upon his arm.
'Paul O Paul!' she said and gave her hand.
I took it with a cold and careless air
Begged pardon had forgotten; 'Ah Pauline?
Yes, I remembered; five long years ago
And I had made so many later friends,
And she had lost so much of maiden bloom!'
Then turning met her father face to face,
Bowed with cold grace and haughtily passed on.
'This is revenge,' I muttered. Even then
My heart ached as I thought of her pale face,
Her pleading eyes, her trembling, clasping hand!
And then and there I would have turned about
To beg her pardon and an interview,
But pride that serpent ever in my heart
Hissed 'beggar,' and I cursed her with the lips
That oft had poured my love into her ears.
'She marries gold to-morrow let her wed!
She will not wed a beggar, but I think
She'll wed a life-long sorrow let her wed!
Aye aye I hope she'll live to curse the day
Whereon she broke her sacred promises.
And I forgive her? yea, but not forget.
I'll take good care that she shall not forget;
I'll prick her memory with a bitter thorn
Through all her future. Let her marry gold!'
Thus ran my muttered words, but in my heart
There ran a counter-current; ere I slept
Its silent under-tow had mastered all
'Forgive and be forgiven.' I resolved
That on the morning of her wedding-day
Would I go kindly and forgive Pauline,
And send her to the altar with my blessing.
That night I read a chapter in this book
The first for many months, and fell asleep
Beseeching God to bless her.
Then I dreamed
That we were kneeling at my mother's bed
Her death-bed, and the feeble, trembling hands
Of her who loved us rested on our heads,
And in a voice all tremulous with tears
My mother said: 'Dear children, love each other;
Bear and forbear, and come to me in heaven.'
"I wakened once at midnight a wild cry
'Paul, O Paul!' rang through my dreams and broke
My slumber. I arose, but all was still,
And then I, slept again and dreamed till morn.
In all my dreams her dear, sweet face appeared
Now radiant as a star, and now all pale
Now glad with smiles and now all wet with tears.
Then came a dream that agonized my soul,
While every limb was bound as if in chains.
Methought I saw her in the silent night
Leaning o'er misty waters dark and deep:
A moan a plash of waters and, O Christ!
Her agonized face upturned imploring hands
Stretched out toward me, and a wailing cry
'Paul, O Paul!' Then face and hands went down,
And o'er her closed the deep and dismal flood
Forever but it could not drown the cry:
'Paul, O Paul!' was ringing in my ears;
'Paul, O Paul!' was throbbing in my heart;
And moaning, sobbing in my shuddering soul
Trembled the wail of anguish 'Paul, O Paul!'
"Then o'er the waters stole the silver dawn,
And lo a fairy boat with silken sail!
And in the boat an angel at the helm,
And at her feet the form of her I loved.
The white mists parted as the boat sped on
In silence, lessening far and far away.
And then the sunrise glimmered on the sail
A moment, and the angel turned her face:
My mother! and I gave a joyful cry,
And stretched my hands, but lo the hovering mists
Closed in around them and the vision passed.
"The morning sun stole through the window-blinds
And fell upon my face and wakened me,
And I lay musing thinking of Pauline.
Yes, she should know the depths of all my heart
The love I bore her all those lonely years;
The hope that held me steadfast to my toil,
And feel the higher and the holier love
Her precious gift had wakened in my soul.
Yea, I would bless her for that precious gift
I had not known its treasures but for her,
And O for that would I forgive her all,
And bless the hand that smote me to the soul.
That would be comfort to me all my days,
And if there came a bitter time to her,
'Twould pain her less to know that I forgave.
"A hasty rapping at my chamber-door;
In came my school-boy friend whose guest I was,
'Come, Paul, the town is all ablaze!
A sad a strange a marvelous suicide!
Pauline, who was to be a bride to-day,
Was missed at dawn and after sunrise found
Traced by her robe and bonnet on the bridge,
Whence she had thrown herself and made an end '
"And he went on, but I could hear no more;
It fell upon me like a flash from heaven.
As one with sudden terror dumb, I turned
And in my pillow buried up my face.
Tears came at last, and then my friend passed out
In silence. O the agony of that hour!
O doubts and fears and half-read mysteries
That tore my heart and tortured all my soul!
"I arose. About the town the wildest tales
And rumors ran; dame Gossip was agog.
Some said she had been ill and lost her mind,
Some whispered hints, and others shook their heads
But none could fathom the marvelous mystery.
Bearing a bitter anguish in my heart,
Half-crazed with dread and doubt and boding fears,
Hour after hour alone, disconsolate,
Among the scenes where we had wandered oft
I wandered, sat where once the stately pines
Domed the fair temple where we learned to love.
O spot of sacred memories how changed!
Yet chiefly wanting one dear, blushing face
That, in those happy days, made every place
Wherever we might wander hill or dale
Garden of love and peace and happiness.
So heavy-hearted I returned. My friend
Had brought for me a letter with his mail.
I knew the hand upon the envelope
With throbbing heart I hastened to my room;
With trembling hands I broke the seal and read.
One sheet inclosed another one was writ
At midnight by my loved and lost Pauline.
Inclosed within, a letter false and forged,
Signed with my name such perfect counterfeit,
At sight I would have sworn it was my own.
And thus her letter ran:
May God forgive you as my heart forgives.
Even as a vine that winds about an oak,
Rot-struck and hollow-hearted, for support,
Clasping the sapless branches as it climbs
With tender tendrils and undoubting faith,
I leaned upon your troth; nay, all my hopes
My love, my life, my very hope of heaven
I staked upon your solemn promises.
I learned to love you better than my God;
My God hath sent me bitter punishment.
O broken pledges! what have I to live
And suffer for? Half mad in my distress,
Yielding at last to father's oft request,
I pledged my hand to one whose very love
Would be a curse upon me all my days.
To-morrow is the promised wedding day;
To morrow! but to-morrow shall not come!
Come gladlier, death, and make an end of all!
How many weary days and patiently
I waited for a letter, and at last
It came a message crueler than death.
O take it back! and if you have a heart
Yet warm to pity her you swore to love,
Read it and think of those dear promises
O sacred as the Savior's promises
You whispered in my ear that solemn night
Beneath the pines, and kissed away my tears.
And know that I forgive, belovèd Paul:
Meet me in heaven. God will not frown upon
The sin that saves me from a greater sin,
And sends my soul to Him. Farewell Farewell.'"
Here he broke down. Unto his pallid lips
I held a flask of wine. He sipped the wine
And closed his eyes in silence for a time,
"You see the wicked plot.
We both were victims of a crafty scheme
To break our hearts asunder. Forgery
Had done its work and pride had aided it.
The spurious letter was a cruel one
Casting her off with utter heartlessness,
And boasting of a later, dearer love,
And begging her to burn the billets-doux
A moon-struck boy had sent her ere he found
That pretty girls were plenty in the world.
"Think you my soul was roiled with anger? No;
God's hand was on my head. A keen remorse
Gnawed at my heart. O false and fatal pride
That blinded me, else I had seen the plot
Ere all was lost else I had saved a life
To me most precious of all lives on earth
Yea, dearer then than any soul in heaven!
False pride the ruin of unnumbered souls
Thou art the serpent ever tempting me;
God, chastening me, has bruised thy serpent head.
O faithful heart in silence suffering
True unto death to one she could but count
A perjured villain, cheated as she was!
Captain, I prayed 'twas all that I could do.
God heard my prayer, and with a solemn heart,
Bearing the letters in my hand, I went
To ask a favor of the man who crushed
And cursed my life to look upon her face
Only to look on her dear face once more.
"I rung the bell a servant bade me in.
I waited long. At last the father came
All pale and suffering. I could see remorse
Was gnawing at his heart; as I arose
He trembled like a culprit on the drop.
'O, sir,' he said, 'whatever be your quest,
I pray you leave me with my dead to-day;
I cannot look on any living face
Till her dead face is gone forevermore.'
"'And who hath done this cruel thing?' I said.
'Explain,' he faltered. 'Pray you, sir, explain!'
I said, and thrust the letters in his hand.
And as he sat in silence reading hers,
I saw the pangs of conscience on his face;
I saw him tremble like a stricken soul;
And then a tear-drop fell upon his hand;
And there we sat in silence. Then he groaned
And fell upon his knees and hid his face,
And stretched his hand toward me wailing out
'I cannot bear this burden on my soul;
O Paul! O God! forgive me or I die.'
"His anguish touched my heart. I took his hand,
And kneeling by him prayed a solemn prayer
'Father, forgive him, for he knew not what
He did who broke the bond that bound us twain.
O may her spirit whisper in his ear
Forever God is love and all is well.
"The iron man all bowed and broken down
Sobbed like a child. He laid his trembling hand
With many a fervent blessing on my head,
And, with the crust all crumbled from his heart,
Arose and led me to her silent couch;
And I looked in upon my darling dead.
Mine O mine in heaven forevermore!
God's angel sweetly smiling in her sleep;
How beautiful how radiant of heaven!
The ring I gave begirt her finger still;
Her golden hair was wreathed with immortelles;
The lips half-parted seemed to move in psalm
Or holy blessing. As I kissed her brow,
It seemed as if her dead cheeks flushed again
As in those happy days beneath the pines;
And as my warm tears fell upon her face,
Methought I heard that dear familiar voice
So full of love and faith and calmest peace,
So near and yet so far and far away,
So mortal, yet so spiritual like an air
Of softest music on the slumbering bay
Wafted on midnight wings to silent shores,
When myriad stars are twinkling in the sea:
"'Paul, O Paul, forgive and be forgiven;
Earth is all trial; there is peace in heaven.'
"Aye, Captain, in that sad and solemn hour
I laid my hand upon the arm of Christ,
And he hath led me all the weary way
To this last battle. I shall win through Him;
And ere you hear the reveille again
Paul and Pauline, amid the psalms of heaven,
Embraced will kneel and at the feet of God
Receive His benediction. Let me sleep.
You know the rest; I'm weary and must sleep.
An angel's bugle-blast will waken me,
But not to pain, for there is peace in heaven."
He slept, but not the silent sleep of death.
I felt his fitful pulse and caught anon
The softly-whispered words "Pauline," and "Peace."
Anon he clutched with eager, nervous hand,
And in hoarse whisper shouted "Steady, men!"
Then sunk again. Thus passed an hour or more
And he woke, half-raised himself and said
With feeble voice and eyes strange luster-lit:
"Captain, my boat is swiftly sailing out
Into the misty and eternal sea
From out whose waste no mortal craft returns.
The fog is closing round me and the mist
Is damp and cold upon my hands and face.
Why should I fear? the loved have gone before:
I seem to hear the plash of coming oars;
The mists are lifting and the boat is near.
'Tis well. To die as I am dying now
A soldier's death amid the gladsome shouts
Of victory for which my puny hands
Did their full share, albeit it was small,
Was all my late ambition. Bring the Flag,
And hold it over my head. Let me die thus
Under the stars I've followed. Dear old Flag "
But here his words became inaudible,
As in the mazes of the Mammoth Cave,
Fainter and fainter on the listening ear,
The low, retreating voices die away.
His eyes were closed; a gentle smile of peace
Sat on his face. I held his nerveless hand,
And bent my ear to catch his latest breath;
And as the spirit fled the pulseless clay,
I heard or thought I heard his wonder-words
"Pauline, how beautiful!"
As I arose
The gray dawn paled the shadows in the east.