I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.
So far as I have observed persons nearing the end of life, the Roman Catholics understand the business of dying better than Protestants. They have an expert by them, armed with spiritual specifics, in which they both, patient and priestly ministrant, place implicit trust. Confession, the Eucharist, Extreme Unction,--these all inspire a confidence which without this symbolism is too apt to be wanting in over-sensitive natures.
We have settled when old age begins. Like all Nature's processes, it is gentle and gradual in its approaches, strewed with illusions, and all its little griefs are soothed by natural sedatives. But the iron hand is not less irresistible because it wears the velvet glove.
On the 14th of February the windows fill with pictures for the most part odious, and meant for some nondescript class of males and females, their allusions having reference to Saint Valentine's Day, the legendary pairing time of the birds. The festival is a sad mockery, for there are no spring birds here to pair, but it reminds us that there is a good time coming.
Our honest Puritan festival is spreading, not as formerly, as a kind of opposition Christmas, but as a welcome prelude and adjunct, a brief interval of good cheer and social rejoicing, heralding the longer season of feasting and rest from labor in the month that follows.
A man over ninety is a great comfort to all his elderly neighbors: he is a picket-guard at the extreme outpost; and the young folks of sixty and seventy feel that they enemy must get by him before he can come near their camp.
Now the roses are coming into bloom; the azalea, wild honeysuckle, is sweetening the roadsides, the laurels are beginning to blow; the white lilies are getting ready to open; the fireflies are seen now and then, flitting across the darkness; the katydids, the grasshoppers, the crickets make themselves heard; the bullfrogs utter their tremendous voices, and the full chorus of birds make the air vocal with its melody.
The year is getting to feel rich, for his golden fruits are ripening fast, and he has a large balance in the barns, which are his banks. The members of his family have found out that he is well to do in the world. September is dressing herself in show of dahlias and splendid marigolds and starry zinnias. October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.
The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.
When there is nothing left of the winter snow but these ridges behind the stone walls, and a dingy drift here and there in a hollow, or in the woods, Winter has virtually resigned the icicle which is his sceptre.
Here comes Winter, savage as when he met the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Indian all over, his staff a naked splintery hemlock, his robe torn from the backs of bears and bisons, and fringed with wampum of rattling icicles, turning the ground he treads to ringing iron, and, like a mighty sower, casting his snow far and wide, over all hills and valleys and plains.
Some hard smokers are great workers, as we all know; but few who have watched the effect of nicotization on will and character would deny that it handicaps a man, and often pretty heavily, in the race for distinction. It encourages revery,--the contemplation of the possible, which is a charming but unwholesome substitute for the performance of the duty next at hand.
Men "drink" because they like it, much more than for any good they suppose it does them, beyond such pleasure as it may afford; and this is precisely the point that all arguments fail to reach. Pleasure is the bird in the hand which foolish persons will always choose before the two birds in the bush which are to be the rewards of virtue.
Ah, Lucy, life has swiftly sped From April to November; The summer blossoms all are shed That you and I remember; But while the vanished years we share With mingling recollections, How all their shadowy features wear The hue of old affections!
Long illness is the real vampyrism; think of living a year or two after one is dead, by sucking the lifeblood out of a frail young creature at one's bedside! Well, souls grow white, as well as cheeks, in these holy duties; one that goes in a nurse may come out an angel.
The average intellect of five hundred persons, taken as they come, is not very high. It may be sound and safe, so far as it goes, but it is not very rapid or profound. A lecture ought to be something which all can understand, about something which interests everybody.
Billionism, or even millionism, must be a blessed kind of state, with health and clear conscience and youth and good looks,--but most blessed is this, that it takes off all the mean cares which give people the three wrinkles between the eyebrows, and leaves them free to have a good time and make others have a good time.
A breakfast, a lunch, a tea, is a circumstance, an occurrence, in social life, but a dinner is an event. It is the full-blown flower of that cultivated growth of which those lesser products are the buds.