« 前へ次へ »
stairs into a canal, the banks of which are studded with statuary. The water of the canal slowly finds its way into the bay, where lying at anchor is an imperial yacht glistening in white and gold. Peterhof is unquestionably one of the finest marine palaces in Europe. In driving and walking through these imperial pleasure grounds we found cossacks, sentries, and police moving about, still there was no restriction, no official interference, no flunkeyism whatever. Everywhere and always we found the Russians to be a most kindly, courteous, and delightful people, ever willing to show us everything and afford us all information, and most anxious that we should form the most favourable impression of their interesting country.
W. MASON INGLIS.
WHEN TO DIE.
ERE is a hard problem to solve-one we can never settle to
our satisfaction. It does not seem the right thing when a little new-born child draws a breath or two and passes away. It escapes much, but it carries with it the dear hopes and passionate parental joys which heralded its coming. In its tiny coffin, laid with the anguish of father and mother, are entombed a thousand fond ideas of what it might have been-what it might have developed into. And even if, in later years, other children are born to these parents, there is always the empty place-unforgettable !
Then, suppose the little creature to live to the charming age of some two or three years, to have learned to lisp a few words, to hold out dimpled arms and rosebud lips, to begin to give back a fraction of the great love bestowed on it; suppose its small footstep to be the music of the house, and its golden curls and rounded limbs to be a source of pride beyond all other pride--if at this stage the tender life is smitten, and nothing is left but some broken toys, some dainty garments, and a photograph or so, can that be the consummation of a life? Or say it lives to the troublesome ages, learns to be a heart-break, to tell lies, to shirk school, to answer disrespectfully, to spend too much pocket-money, to try every temper in the house-and that one day the child comes home, lays down its wilful head on its mother's bosom, and after quick disease passes away unconscious or agonised. What mourning is then over the cold lips and brow! The child had faults, "Oh! but he would have outgrown them ;" he was selfish and idle, “Oh! but he was improving so much in every way!” There is nothing to be said. The sweet innocent early ways of that child are all that the bereaved parents can remember, and their hearts bleed at their loss.
Then suppose the child goes on to young manhood or young womanhood. It does not seem then to have any bearing on the question we are dealing with-whether this adolescence is promising or not. If the former, the parents feel that death has taken their angel from them ; if the latter, they cling desperately to the belief that the lost one was misunderstood, mismanaged, had inherited tendencies which were quite unconquerable; and they themselves feel life a wreck
in that they did not better draw the dear one to what was good. All their fault-all ! and they feel the profound depth of bitterness of him who cried, “O that I had died for thee, Absolom, my son!” So the children can never be spared—it never seems the proper time for them to die.
Changing the view of the question somewhat, when is the proper time for adults to die? It never seems to come. One man, with a beloved wife and two charming children, left off his business as a merchant because two large fortunes came to him. It was absurd that he should work any more. He could hardly spend the income he had. He meant to be happy-only happy! Yet in a few months he became strange in manner, and one day was missing from his beautiful house. Days passed before the police found him, face downward, in shallow water, killed by his own hand. Another man, a diligent worker and honourable gentleman, with a wife and family, lost the savings of a lifetime, and was too heartbroken to embark on any new enterprise. He could have taken a new position, but the desire of life failed him. He lay down tranquilly, with his family watching him in anguish, and gently passed away. He could not begin again—not here !
Yet that quiet, uncomplaining death was very ghastly and terrible to others. It did not seem the proper time for the breadwinner, the beloved husband and father, to be taken-before a gray hair was on his head.
There was a young lad who ran away, whilst at Sandhurst, with the organist's daughter, a woman ten or twelve years older than himself. His father, a wealthy vicar, infuriated at this lapse in the morals of his only son, caught up the pair of runaways and solemnly married them, banishing them from this country, where his dignity could not abide the scandal of the whole thing, and sending them out to New Zealand. This unhappy couple reaped the reward of the hasty action. The wife's gross misconduct made a divorce most easy to obtain, and the lad came home, filed his terrible evidence, and was received with tenderness by his saddened parents ; but on the morning when the case was to be called, he could not brook the pain and shame of it all, and was found shot through the head, cold and dead, in his father's house, in that very room where he had spent so many years of a careless, merry boyhood. That did not seem a beautiful ending!
When is the time, then? There was a wealthy couple with an only son ; they built for him a magnificent house, and stayed in it till he should come of age. He was a wild youth of twenty, and was
abroad, tasting of all the evils of life, when he happened to be touched with malaria, and, all unfit to combat with the disease, died at an hotel in Homburg. There was no time to go to him, no time for him to say he was sorry, no time for him ever to try to mend his ways; and all that young man's parents had left to console them was a great empty barrack of a house, servants in livery, and a canarybird which the boy had loved and left in their charge. Again, it did not soinehow seem right.
There was a young lady, the daughter of rich parents, and she went to her first ball with her young brother. At the moment when the musicians played the first bars of “ The Lancers,” the tall stately girl, instead of making the ordinary bow to her partner, fell heavily forward on her face. In a large company of some hundred and fifty guests there were four or five medical men who rushed to the rescue, and she was carried into the adjoining conservatory, all lit with electric light and fragrant with blossoms. Laid there, every attention was paid that medical skill could suggest. Those in the ballroom felt no alarm, for the girl was not delicate, she had been skating all the season ; the brilliant roon, the excitement of her first ball, had no doubt caused a faintness. But in the conservatory, to the sound of dancing feet and the merriest of music, life quickly passed away. The child, to whom the world was just opening, had left that world. The white dress of the débutante was quickly exchanged for the shroud, the bouquet for the wreath and cross of snowy blossoms. An inquest showed sudden failure of the heart's action, or effusion on the brain-it mattered not now! “And the sweet white brow was all of her.” This did not seem a suitable ending for a tender, blossoming young life.
Then take the lingering deaths, the saddest of all, when the sufferers cannot rid themselves of the long disease of living; when they go on half despairing ; when good and clever doctors feel it their bounden duty to keep life in the tortured frame, hoping, perhaps, to restore the patient; when that patient remembers that "the Almighty has fixed His canon 'gainst self-slaughter," and yet, in the strain of mortal suffering, often mutely prays for death! That is a sad class. Take those who die in dishonour, sickened with life, having worn out the patience and the love and the respect of all who might have made the sick bed soft to them—those who feel they deserve nothing, and who get nothing, and grimly die piecemeal ! Again, it does not seem beautiful or in order. Then, when the justlyhonoured white head is laid down with floods of tears, with “honour love, obedience, troops of friends," it is still hard. It does not seem
the right time. There was that chill on the railway, that over-long walk on the moor ; we fancy we ought to have prevented it all, and kept that beloved one for years with us. As Browning says,
The last song, When the dead man is praised on his journey-Bear, bear him along With his few faults shut up like dead flowerets! Are balm-seeds not here To console us? The land has none left such as he on the bier. Oh, would we might keep thee, my brother! And Horace, in one of his most tuneful odes, says:
Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
Tam cari capitis ? It is plain, then, that the question has two sides—one affecting the human being who leaves this life, the other solely concerning those who are left behind—and we must try to discriminate and analyse. For the one who goes, it must be the right and proper time, come when it may. Granted, it must be so, however unlike it the moment may seem to all the rest of the world. Either this dear one could do no better here, or he had done so well that “The Lord desired to have him near His throne.” In any case, it must be well with the departed ; and for those left to mourn, possibly the only true knowledge, the only true love they could have for the one taken, arises from the loss of that one.
Again, as Browning says, speaking of the loved and lost, “All at once they leave you, and you know them.” But it is a heavy penalty to learn in that way, left stranded, and to utter from the depths of a stricken heart such words as Carlyle's: “O, for five minutes more of thee!”
Humanly speaking, if we had the power which is totally denied us, we might fix what would be the properest time to die : it would be when the work is done, namely, when the fight has been manfully fought-successfully or unsuccessfully in the eyes of the world matters not at all; when we can no longer inspire that love which alone makes life tolerable, nor any more stretch forth the hand to lift the burden from some suffering friend's shoulders ; when we ourselves are a burden, and can only fall exhausted by the wayside ; then, if the life and the heart have been set aright, we may have a sweet “Nunc Dimittis," and, like a child on its mother's arm, “lie in the arm of a mild mystery," and enter the unknowable with a calm sense that at least we have striven, and need not trouble any more.
A. E. IRELAND.