My simple story is of those times ere the magic power of steam
First whirled the traveller o'er the plains with the swiftness of a dream,
Reducing to a few days' time the journey of many a week,
That fell of old to the miner's lot ere he "sighted" tall Pikes Peak.
'Neath liquid sunshine filling the air, 'mid masses of wild flowers gay,
A prairie waggon followed the track that led o'er the plains away;
And most of those 'neath its canvas roof were of lawless type and rude -
Miners, broad-chested and strongly built, a reckless, gold-seeking brood.
Yet two of the number surely seemed most strangely out of place,
A girl with fragile, graceful form, shy look, and beauteous face,
One who had wrought out the old, old tale, left her home and friends for aye,
Braved family frowns and strangers' smiles, love's promptings to obey.
And the lover husband at her side no miner rough was he,
If we may believe the shapely hands as a woman's fair to see;
But his tall, lithe form, so strongly knit, firm mouth and look of pride,
Told of iron will, resolved to win a home for his darling bride.
Tender he was, but the plains were vast, toilsome and tedious the way,
Developing soon the fever germs that within her latent lay,
And daily the velvet azure eyes with a brighter lustre burned,
And the hectic flush of the waxen cheek to a deeper carmine turned.
Oh! dread was the time 'neath that canvas close when she bravely fought for breath,
Fire in her veins, while panting came each laboring painful breath!
At length one eve she clasped his neck, with a wild and wailing cry:
"O, darling, lay me on God's green earth, 'neath his sun bright clouds to die!"
Mutely the bridegroom caught her up after that touching appeal;
Why refuse her prayer when on her brow was already set death's seal?
To proffered help and rough words of hope, to protests whispered low,
He murmured, "Leave us, go on your way! Comrades it must be so."
Then, in the eyes of those reckless men bright tears were glistening seen,
For in their rugged, though willing, way most kindly had they been;
No selfish fears of sickness dire had they shown by look or word,
For whate'er of good dwelt within each heart that helpless girl had stirred.
They raised a tent, and from their stores they brought the very best,
Whisp'ring of speedy help to come as each clammy hand they pressed.
"Nay, friends," he said with a short, sharp laugh, more painful than sob to hear,
"No help send back, for myself and wife must perforce both settle here."
Then he sat him down, and placed her head on his aching, throbbing breast,
While the sweeping rush of the prairie winds seemed to bring relief and rest,
And her dim eye watched, without a shade of regret or passing pain,
The receding waggon, soon a speck on the wide and boundless plain.
"O Will! on your true and tender heart, happy and calm I die,
For I know our lives, though severed here, will be joined again on high:
One kiss, my husband, loving and loved, one clasp of thy strong kind hand,
One farewell look in thy mournful eyes ere I pass to the Spirit Land!
"But, God! what is this?" she wildly asks with hurried, panting gasp;
Her fingers have touched a weapon of death in her husband's hand close clasped:
"O, surely, you would not - dare not - go uncalled to your Maker's sight?"
"Wife, when passes your spirit away, mine, too, shall take its flight."
It boots not to tell of the loving prayers that welled from that true wife's heart,
She sued with an angels holy power, a woman's winning art,
Till that desp'rate man, with quick low sob, his weapon tossed away,
And promised, till came his Maker's call, on this cheerless earth to stay.
Then sunshine lit up her wan white face and brightened her failing eyes,
Enkindling upon her marble cheek the glow of the sunset skies;
Closer she nestled unto his breast with a smile of childlike bliss;
"Already a foretaste of yon bright Heaven is given me, Will, in this!"
A little while and the lashes drooped, unstirred by life's faint breath,
Whilst the sweet smile on the perfect lips was sealed, for aye, by Death.
With the second sunset he laid her in her lonely prairie grave,
Then joined a passing miner's band that a friendly welcome gave.
But as time sped on, all, wond'ring, marked his silent, lonely ways,
And the brooding nature, recking naught for blame, nor mirth, nor praise.
At rudest tasks of the miner's toil with fevered zeal he wrought,
But to its tempting golden spoils he gave nor word nor thought.
Soon want and toil and autumn rains brought fever in their train,
And Red Rock Camp resounded with delirious moans of pain;
And the healthy shrank from the fevered ones, with hard, unpitying eye,
And, heeding but their selfish fears left the sick, unnursed, to die.
Then unto the stranger in their midst, new hope and vigor came,
Enkindled swift in that nature grand by charity's ardent flame;
He nursed the sick and buried the dead, by the dying watched, until
The grateful miners blessed the chance that had brought them "Parson Will."
'Twas thus they named him. Health returned to the stricken camp again.
One victim more the fever claimed - 'twas he; nor grief nor pain
Could be discerned in those patient eyes, but they shone with a radiant light
As he whispered: "Joy and gladness come close after the cold dark night;
A few short hours, and from life's dull chain will my weary heart be free,
Then, Angel Wife, my promise kept, I go to God and thee!"