The Mourning Veil

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Then in lifes goblet freely press
The leaves that give it bitterness,
Nor prize the colored waters less,
For in thy darkness and distress
              New light and strength they give

And he who hae not learned to know
How false its sparkling bnbbles flow,
How bitter are the drops of woe
With which its brim may overflow,
              He has not learned to live.

—Longfellow

It was sunset. The day had been twenty-four hours had melted it like the one of the sultriest of August. It would pearl in the golden cup of Cleopatra, and seem as if the fierce alembic of the last it lay in the West a fused mass of transparent brightness. The reflection from the edges of a hundred clouds wandered hither and thither, over rock and tree and flower, giving a strange, unearthly brilliancy to the most familiar things.

A group of children had gathered about their mother in the summer-house of a garden which faced the sunset sky. The house was one of those square, stately, wooden structures, white, with green blinds, in which of old times the better classes of New England delighted, and which remain to us as memorials of a respectable past. It stood under the arches of two gigantic elms, and was flanked on either side with gardens and grounds which seemed designed on purpose for hospitality and family freedom.

The evening light colored huge bosquets of petunias, which stood with their white or crimson faces looking westward, as if they were thinking creatures. It illumined flame-colored verbenas, and tall columns of pink and snowy phioxes, and hedges of August roses, making them radiant as the flowers of a dream.

The group in the summer-house requires more particular attention. The father and mother, whom we shall call Albert and Olivia, were of the wealthiest class of the neighbouring city, and had been induced by the facility of railroad travelling, and a sensible way of viewing things, to fix their permanent residence in the quiet little village of Q—. Albert had nothing in him different from multitudes of hearty, joyous, healthily constituted men, who subsist epon daily newspapers, and find the world a most comfortable place to live in. As to Olivia, she was in the warm noon of life, and a picture of vitality and enjoyment. A plump, firm cheek, a dark eye, a motherly fulness of form, spoke the being made to receive and enjoy the things of earth, the warm-hearted wife, the indulgent mother, the hospitable mistress of the mansion. It is true that the smile on the lip had something of earthly pride blended with womanly sweetness,the pride of one who has as yet known only prosperity and success, to whom no mischance has yet shown the frail basis on which human hopes are built. Her foot had as yet trod only the high places of life, but she walked there with a natural grace and nobleness that made every one feel that she was made for them and they for her.

Around the parents were gathered at this moment a charming group of children, who with much merriment were proceeding to undo a bundle the father had just brought from the city.

“Here, Rose,” said little Amy, a blue eyed, flaxen-haired pet, who seemed to be a privileged character, “let me come dont be all night with your orderly ways; let me cut that string.” A sharp flash of the scissors, a quick report of the bursting string, and the package lay opened to the little marauder. Rose drew back, smiled, and gave an indulgent look at her eager younger sister and the two little ones who immediately gathered around. She was one of those calm, thoughtful, womanly young girls, that seem born for pattern elder sisters, and for the stay and support of mothers hearts. She watched with a gentle, quiet curiosity the quick and eager fingers that soon were busy in exposing the mysteries of the parcel.

“There's a dress for Rose,” said Amy, triumphantly drawing out a delicate muslin; “I can always tell whats for her.”

“How?” put in the father, who stood regarding the proceeding with that air of amused superiority with which the wearers of broadcloth look down on the mysteries of muslin and bar~ge.

“How?” said Amy, why, “because they look just like her. If I were to see that lilac muslin in China, I should say it was meant for Rose. Now this is mine, I know,this bright pink; isnt it, mamma? No half shades about me!”

“No, indeed,” said her mother; “that is your greatest fault, Amy.”

” Oh, well, mamma, Rose has enough for both; you must rub us together, as they do light red and Prussian blue, to make a neutral tint. But oh, what a ribboa! oh, mother, what a love of a ribbon!”

“Rose! Rose! look at this ribbon! And oh, those buttons! Fred, I do believe they are for your new coat! Oh, and those studs, father, where did you get them? Whats in that box? a bracelet for Rose, I know! oh, how beautiful! perfectly exquisite! And here—oh!”

Here something happened to check the volubility of the little speaker; for as she hastily, and with the license of a petted child, pulled the articles from the parcel, she was startled to find lying among the numerous colored things a black crape veil. Sombre, dark, and illomened enough it looked there, with pink, and lilac, and blue, and glittering b~jouterie around it!

Amy dropped it with instinctive repugnance, and there was a general exclamation, “Mamma, whats this? how came it here? what did you get this for?”

“Strange!” said Olivia; “it is a mourning veil. Of course I did not order it. How it came in here nobody knows; it must have been a mistake of the clerk.”

“Certainly it is a mistake,” said Amy; “we have nothing to do with mourning, have we?”

“No, to be sure; what should we mourn for?” chimed in little Fred and Mary.

“What a dark, ugly thing it is!” said Amy, unfolding and throwing it over her head; “how dismal it must be to see the world through such a veil as this!”

“And yet till one has seen the world through a veil like that, one has never truly lived,” said another voice, joining in the conversation.

“Ah, Father Payson, are you there?” said two or three voices at once.

Father Payson was the minister of the village, and their nearest neighbor; and not only their nearest neighbor, but their nearest friend. In the afternoon of his years, lifes day with him now stood at that hour when, though the shadows fall eastward, yet the colors are warmer, and the songs of the birds sweeter, than even in its jubilant morning.

God sometimes gives to good men a guileless and holy second childhood, in which the soul becomes childlike, not childish, and the faculties in full fruit and ripeness are mellow without sign of decay. This is that songful land of Beulah, where they who have travelled manfully the Christian way abide awhile to show the world a perfected manhood. Life, with its battles and its sorrows, lies far behind them; the soul has thrown off its armor, and sits in an evening undress of calm and holy leisure. Thrice blessed the family or neighborhood that numbers among it one of these not yet ascended saints! Gentle are they and tolerant, apt to play with little children, easy to be pleased with simple pleasures, and with a pitying wisdom guiding those who err. New England has been blessed in numbering many such among her country pastors; and a spontaneous, instinctive deference honors them with the title of Father.

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