Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

know—that poor Thompson died last week? The other three boys are getting quite round, like you."

66 Oh, yes, I heard of it.”

Then Tom, who was quite full of it, told Arthur of the burial service in the chapel, and how it had impressed him, and, he believed, all the other boys. 66 And though the Doctor never said a word about it,” said he, “ and it was a half-holiday and match day, there wasn't a game played in the close all the afternoon, and the boys all went about as if it were Sunday.”

66 I'm very glad of it,” said Arthur. 6 But, Tom, I've had such strange thoughts about death lately. I've never told a soul of them, not even my mother. Sometimes I think they're wrong, but, do you know, |./ I don't think in my heart I could be sorry at the death of any of my friends."

Tom was taken quite aback. 6 What in the world is the young 'un after now,” thought he; 6 I've swallowed a good many of his crotchets, but this altogether beats me. He can't be quite right in his head.” He didn't want to say a word, and shisted about uneasily in the dark; however, Arthur seemed to be waiting for an answer, so at last he said, “I don't think I quite see what you mean, Geordie. One's told so often to think about death, that I've tried it on sometimes, especially this last week. But we won't talk of it now. I'd better go —you're getting tired, and I shall do you harm.”

“ No, no, indeed I ain't, Tom; you must stop till nine, there's only twenty minutes. I've settled you

[ocr errors][merged small]

shall stop till nine. And oh! do let me talk to you -I must talk to you. I see it's just as I feared. You think I'm half mad-don't you now?.

“ Well, I did think it odd what you said, Geordie, as you ask me.”

Arthur paused a moment, and then said quickly, 6 I'll tell you how it all happened. At first, when I was sent to the sick-room and found I had really got the fever, I was terribly frightened. I thought I should die, and I could not face it for a moment. I don't think it was sheer cowardice at first, but I thought how hard it was to be taken away from my mother and sisters and you all, just as I was beginning to see my way to many things, and to feel that I might be a man and do a man's work. To die without having fought, and worked, and given one's life away, was too hard to bear. I got terribly impatient, and accused God of injustice, and strove to justify myself; and the harder I strove the deeper I sank. Then the image of my dear father often came across me, but I turned from it. Whenever it came, a heavy numbing throb seemed to take hold of my heart, and say, dead-dead-dead. And I cried out, . The living, the living shall praise Thee, O God; the dead cannot praise Thee. There is no work in the grave; in the night no man can work. But I can work. I can do great things. I will do great things. Why wilt Thou slay me?' And so I struggled and plunged, deeper and deeper, and went down into a living black tomb. I was alone there, with no power to stir or think; alone with

[blocks in formation]

myself; beyond the reach of all human fellowship; beyond Christ's reach, I thought, in my nightmare. You, who are brave and bright and strong, can have no idea of that agony. Pray to God you never may. Pray as for your life.”

Arthur stopped—from exhaustion, Tom thought; but what between his fear lest Arthur should hurt himself, his awe, and longing for him to go on, he couldn't ask or stir to help him.

Presently he went on, but quite calm and slow. 5 I don't know how long I was in that state. For more than a day I know, for I was quite conscious, and lived my outer life all the time, and took my medicines, and spoke to my mother, and heard what they said. But I didn't take much note of time, I thought time was over for me, and that that tomb was what was beyond. Well, on last Sunday morning, as I seemed to lie in that tomb, alone, as I thought, for ever and ever, the black dead wall was cleft in two, and I was caught up and borne through into the light by some great power, some living mighty spirit. Tom, do you remember the living creatures and the wheels in Ezekiel ? It was just like that; 6 when they went I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host; when they stood they let down their wings'

and they went every one straight forward ; whither the spirit was to go they went, and they turned not when they went. And we rushed through the bright air, which was full of myriads of living crea

[ocr errors][merged small]

tures, and paused on the brink of a great river. And the power held me up, and I knew that that great river was the grave, and death dwelt there; but not the death I had met in the black tomb, that I felt i was gone forever. For on the other bank of the great river I saw men and women and children rising up pure and bright, and the tears were wiped from their eyes, and they put on glory and strength, and all weariness and pain fell away. And beyond were a multitude which no man could number, and they worked at some great work; and they who rose from the river went on and joined in the work. They all worked, and each worked in a different way, but all at the same work. And I saw there my father, and the men in the old town whom I knew when I was a child; many a hard stern man, who never came to church, and whom they called atheist and infidel. There they were, side by side with my father, whom I had seen toil and die for them, and women and little children, and the seal was on the foreheads of all. And I longed to see what the work was, and could not; so I tried to plunge in the river, for I thought I would join them, but I could not. Then I looked about to see how they got into the river. And this I could not see, but I saw myriads on this side, and they too worked, and I knew that it was the same work ; and the same seal was on their foreheads. And though I saw that there was toil and anguish in the work of these, and that most that were working were blind and feeble, yet I longed no more to

[blocks in formation]

plunge into the river, but more and more to know what the work was. And as I looked I saw my mother and my sisters, and I saw the Doctor, and you, Tom, and hundreds more whom I knew; and at last I saw myself too, and I was toiling and doing ever so little a piece of the great work. Then it all melted away, and the power left me, and as it left me I thought I heard a voice say, “The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry wait for it, for in the end it shall speak and not lie, it shall surely come, it shall not tarry. It was early morning I know then, it was so quiet and cool, and my mother was fast asleep in the chair by my bedside ; but it wasn't only a dream of mine. I know it wasn't a dream. Then I fell into a deep sleep, and only woke after afternoon chapel ; and the Doctor came and gave me the Sacrament, as I told you. I told him and my mother I should get well—I knew I should ; but I couldn't tell them why.

Tom,” said Arthur, gently, after another minute, “ do you see why I could not grieve now to see my dearest friend die? It can't be—it isn't all fever or illness. God would never have let me see it so clear if it wasn't true. I don't understand it all yet—it will take me my life and longer to do that, to find out what the work is.”

When Arthur stopped there was a long pause. Tom could not speak, he was almost afraid to breathe, lest he should break the train of Arthur's thoughts. He longed to hear more, and to ask questions. In another minute nine o'clock struck,

« VorigeDoorgaan »