Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/385

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
379
UNSUSPECTED WAYS OF EARNING A LIVELIHOOD.

minutes, she fell back on her pillow and died.

Instances like these, might, I believe, be almost indefinitely multiplied were attention directed to them, and the experience of survivors more generally communicated and recorded. Reviewing them, the question seems to press upon us, Why should we not thus catch a glimpse of the spiritual world through that half-open portal wherein our dying brother is passing? If the soul of man exists at all after the extinction of the life of the body, what is more probable than that it should begin, at the very instant when the veil of the flesh is dropping off, to exercise those spiritual powers of perception, which we must suppose it to possess (else were its whole after life a blank), and to become conscious of other things than those of which our dim senses can take cognizance? If it be not destined to an eternity of solitude (an absurd hypothesis), its future companions may well be recognized at once, even as it goes forth to meet them. It seems indeed almost a thing to be expected, that some of them should be ready waiting to welcome it on the threshold. Is there not, then, a little margin for hope — if not for any confident belief — that our fondest anticipations will be verified, nay, that the actual experience of not a few has verified them? May it not be that when that hour comes for each of us which we have been wont to dread as one of parting and sorrow —

The last long farewell on the shore
Of this rude world,

ere we "put off into the unknown dark," we may find that we only leave, for a little time, the friends of earth, to go straight to the embrace of those who have long been waiting for us to make perfect for them the nobler life beyond the grave? May it not be that our very first dawning sense of that enfranchised existence will be the rapture of reunion with the beloved ones, whom we have mourned as lost, but who have been standing near, waiting longingly for our recognition, as a mother may watch beside the bed of a fever-stricken child till reason reillumines its eyes and with outstretched arms it cries, "Mother"?

There are some, alas! to whom it must be very dreadful to think of thus meeting on the threshold of eternity, the wronged, the deceived, the forsaken. But for most of us, God be thanked, no dream of celestial glory has half the ecstasy of the thought that in dying we may meet, — and meet at once, before we have had a moment to feel the awful loneliness of death, — the parent, wife, husband, child, friend of our life, soul of our soul, whom we consigned long ago with breaking hearts to the grave. Their "beautiful" forms (as that dying lady beheld her brother and sister) entering our chamber, standing beside our bed of death, and come to rejoin us forever — what words can tell the happiness of such a vision? It may be awaiting us all. There is even, perhaps, a certain probability that it is actually the natural destiny of the human soul, and that the affections, which alone of earthly things can survive dissolution will, like magnets, draw the beloved and loving spirits of the dead around the dying. I can see no reason why we should not indulge so ineffably blessed a hope. But, even if it be a dream, the faith remains, built on no such evanescent and shadowy foundation, that there is One Friend, — and he the best — in whose arms we shall surely fall asleep, and to whose love we may trust for the re-union sooner or later, of the severed links of sacred human affection.




From Chambers' Journal.

UNSUSPECTED WAYS OF EARNING A LIVELIHOOD.

"Why, sir, we never should wake of our own accord, specially these dark mornings, if we hadn't somebody to knock us up."

The speaker was a worthy artisan whom I often used to meet at a certain steamboat pier on the Thames; his after-breakfast labours appearing to begin about the time I usually was in waiting for the boat, "You see, sir," he continued in answer to a question I had put to him — "you see, sir, there's about sixty of us hereabouts down by the water-side; and there's so much that depends upon the tide, that we have to be called at all hours — sometimes two o'clock in the morning, or three or four, just as the case may be."

"But who is it calls you?" I asked. "A policeman, I suppose?"

"No; not a policeman," my companion answered; "it would take up a deal too much of his time; besides, fresh policemen are always coming on to the beat, and we could not be bothered with constantly having to shew and tell a new man the way."