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"MY DARLING :
"I am ill : threatened with a fever. No one but Lorrete is with me. I am longing for you, and I am alarmed about you. You never remained so long away from me before, without sending me some message. The thought that you may be ill, and that I am not near you to minister to your needs, is maddening. Write to me, dear, and if you can, come to your sick and lonely
He was by her side within an hour. She reached out
her arms, and pillowed her flushed face on his breast, weeping softly.
"Oh, Love!" she murmured. "I have felt so lonely, so deserted these last days. I think I have realized just what life would be without you : it would be an agony of desolation. I could not live."
Percy's heart writhed within him, as he stroked the beautiful head and soothed her with kind words. How could he ever stab that loving heart by telling her the change that had come over him--a change as thorough as it was sudden; a change that was the dawn of a possible new life for
"I cannot. It is too late; it would be more cruel than murder," he said to himself, and he drew Dolores into his arms, and comforted her as he would have comforted a sick child. She asked no explanation of his absence, and he made none.
Within a week he had carried her away to a quiet country resort, where she soon regained her health. But during her illness, there came to her, through the clairvoyant power of a loving heart, the knowledge that some mysterious change had taken place in Percy. He was kind, oh, very kind; so careful of her bodily comfort, so solicitous for her welfare.
And yet--what was it?
"Is any thing troubling you?" she asked him one day. "You do not seem like yourself."
"There are some business matters which annoy me," he said, evading her eyes. "My South American ventures are a failure--that is all, my dear, save a miserable lassitude and sideache, which Dr. Sydney says is due to a touch of malaria."
But she knew better.
They returned to New York, and then Percy was guilty of an act of rash folly, for a man who desired to escape a complication of troubles.
He sent Dolores a message, saying he was called out of town suddenly. Then he took the train for Centerville. It was Saturday afternoon, and he told himself that he would merely attend divine service in the morning, listen to Helena's voice once more, and come away without being seen by any one.
But in his heart, he knew that this impossible. And when Mrs. Griffith approached him after service, and urged him to accompany them home, and dine with them, he went, without offering one objection.
Helena greeted him with simple cordiality, and entertained him with the easy grace so natural to her. He was at peace with himself, in her presence, for the first time since he last saw her.
"How strange it is!" he mused, "I have seen the most beautiful women in the world, I have listened to the most famous singers; and yet, I am moved by the presence and voice of a simple village maiden as I have never been moved in my life before."
A sudden impulse came over him to tell her his story, to ask her advice, as they sat alone in the afternoon. Then he hesitated : what if she turned from him, shocked, angry, horrified?--so he only said :
"I wish you would call some of your wise spirits, Miss Helena, and ask them to read me my future. I am in trouble--a trouble out of which I can see no pathway. I wish good angels would tell me how it is to end."
"But that is not the province of spirits," Helena answered. "People often make the great mistake of supposing that the departed know all that is to happen to us while we remain upon earth. The fact is, they know very little about it, and are too busily employed to give their time to finding out the future for us."
"But if their lives are so exalted and their vision so broad, I see no reason why they should not know."
"You will see when you come to think of it sensibly," Helena continued, with smile. "Their lives are, compared to our own. just as much broader, more useful and more important, as the lives of great thinkers and philosophers and reformers, are greater than the lives of little children. Shakespeare, Carlyle, Lincoln, George Eliot, all were wonderful people who grasped almost the whole of the universe with their minds. Yet not one of them, were they all alive to-day, could foretell the future life of Mrs. Griffith's little child, yonder. Not one could say what was to occur to him in the next ten years. They could help him by their example, and strengthen him by their philosophy, but no more, great as they were. Well, now, the spirits of the dead regard us as children at school. They are far beyond us, in knowledge and usefulness; they are ever ready to strengthen and encourage us, but they cannot predict events for us. There are some, no doubt, who were gifted with clairvoyance here, who keep the power there. But such spirits are often too busy to come at our call. And they know, too, that it is better for us to depend upon ourselves in a great measure. It is through self-dependence that we develope our individuality, and become fitted for the labors of this world and the next."
"Then you think the future life is one of labor?" Percy asked.
"It is one of usefulness and progression, certainly, or it is not worth living," she answered. "Who would want to live at all, if we never advanced in any way? And the beauty of that new life is, that every particle of progress we have made here, even if it has brought us no reward, will enable us to take an advanced place there. So soon as we are out of the body, we shall realize this in all its satisfying truth. Every hard struggle on earth, every conquered temptation, every sorrow, every trial endured, every labor well performed, we shall see has its splendid reward in fitting us for the most exalted position in that new life. Every particle of love and affection we have bestowed on objects which seemed to make a poor return or no return here, will be given to us in ten-fold strength and sweetness there. The more we love humanity--the more we shall he loved and the wider will be our capabilities of wonderful labors in the spirit world. The two most God-like emotions given to mortals to experience, are love and sympathy. If we give our love with prodigality, and sympathize with every human being who crosses our pathway in life, it really matters very little whether we are loved in return, or whether the world thanks us for our sympathy, or not. It is the act of loving and sympathizing which shapes the soul. And when the body falls away, the spirit that has given its affections and sympathies freely on earth will stand forth, a mighty and beautiful Power in the New Life, no matter what its creed or belief in the earth life has been."
Percy drew a long deep breath. Again the delicate curtain was drawn over her dark eyes, softening and half concealing their sombre splendor. Again he felt that subtle warmth and fragrance emanating from her person, and was thrilled and magnetized by it.
"It is no earthly odor," he said. "It is the perfume of her soul.''
"How clear and beautiful you make it all seem!" he said, aloud. "To listen to your words makes one long for death. And yet, if our lives have been selfish, immoral, unworthy, if we have wasted our time in mere earthly or sensual pleasures, how terrible must be the consciousness of it to the freed spirit."
"Yes, terrible, indeed. There comes the real hell of the suffering conscience. The soul will see its fearful mistake, and see how long and dreary is the pathway before it. Yet, it will realize, that God has left that lonely path open for it, and that it may by hard toil climb up to the position it might have occupied at the hour of its entering on the new life. I think the capability of a soul to suffer at that time, must be beyond our comprehension. It is terrible on earth to realize our lost opportunities. It will be far more intense there. But even the most depraved will be given a chance to rise, through centuries of striving. There is no eternal damnation, any more than there is instantaneous salvation."
Percy rose to go, stirred to the very depths of his better nature by her words. As he made his adieus, he said :
"Miss Maxon, will you write to me? I am in great trouble, as I told you; a trouble that seems to shut out every particle of light from the universe. Your words afford me the only comfort I have had for weeks. Will you write to me and cheer me a little through the gloomy days that lie before me?"
Helena's heart welled full of sympathy toward all the suffering world. Her creed of life was, to give all the comfort, and help, and cheer, possible to every troubled mortal on life's highway. She was never afraid to reach out her hand to a weak fallen creature, for fear of soiling it.
It is the woman, who feels herself the strongest and most secure in her virtue and her social position, who is most fearless in her efforts to uplift the unfortunate; and a very benevolent heart, is seldom, coupled with a cautious brain.
There was such real suffering in Percy's face and voice, that Helena's heart was moved with pity. She held out her hand and looked him full in the eyes, her own full of sweetest sympathy.
"Yes, I will write to you," she said. "I am very sorry for you, if you are in such trouble. But you must remember, that in this life, to grow means to suffer. I found actual happiness in pain, when I fully realized the truth of that."
"But you have never suffered, and made another suffer, by your own selfish folly," Percy said, as he turned away. "Good by, and God bless you for your promise to write to me."
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