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they knelt down together, in the still, sweet sanctity of their chamber, with the light of Eden on their faces, with its sweetness and purity like an atmosphere about them; and then the man prayed, and the woman said Amen to this prayer.
It was natural also, that, coming together as they did, they should know very little of each other in regard to those details of the life before them, on which so very much must depend in the course of time. There was a story in their sacred books about a fore-elder who had made just such a match as this, and it didn't turn out well at all. They were unrelated souls; and as time went on, it revealed the difference so fatally, that when he was an old man, and blind, she practised on him a gross deception, to gain a blessing for her favorite son, he had meant to bestow on his own. They may have thought of this, and wondered whether their trust in each other would ever come to such an end as that. He had swept suddenly into the circle of her life, a fine, stalwart fellow, filling up the picture she had in her heart of the man she would marry. But she really knew no more about him than he knew about her. Could he hold his own as bread-winner, and she as bread-maker? Could he keep a home over her head, and could she make it bright and trim, as a man loves to see his home when he comes in tired, and wants to rest? Would he turn out selfish or self-forgetful,
or she a frivolous gossip, or a woman he could trust like his own soul? Would the sunshine break out in his face as he entered his own door, and meet the sunshine breaking out on hers? Would she cry, "Husband, here's your slippers: little Anna has been toasting them this half-hour; " and he reply, "Ah, wife! you're the woman to think of a man. Where are the children?" Or would he save all his snarls until he had shut the door, and sat down to supper, and she gave him back his own with usury? There it all lay before them, the vast, unknown possibility, leading to heaven or to hell by the time they got to their silver wedding. There was but one wish resting in their hearts, come what would, — resting there as the lark, in my old home-land, rests among the heather; and then it soared, as the lark soars, singing into heaven; and this was the burden of their spring-time melody," Mercifully ordain that we may grow aged together."
Still we have to see how this cry would be of no more use then than it is now sometimes, if it did not stand through all the time to come, at once as a safeguard and an inspiration, a safeguard against some things that prevent our growing aged together, and an inspiration to some that help us. It was a natural and most beautiful longing just then voicing itself out of their pure hearts' love. They felt sure they had been made for each other; and while they
knew that time must turn the raven to white, furrow the brow, blench the bloom, and touch all their faculties with its wintry frost, if they should live, still they wanted the good God to deal them out an even measure together. This seems to me to be the binding word of the whole story; together then as now, in the autumn as in the spring, in taking as in giving, until they were borne away, not far
apart, into the life to come..
But touching the most outward things of our life, I can see a danger, if they do not take care, that their prayer will not and can not be answered. They may both grow aged, that may be as God ordains; and they may live together while their life lasts, that must be as they ordain: yet this day may be, for all that, the end of their equality in age. For if he were one of those men we have all known, whose life and soul is given over to business, who rise early and sit up late, and work like galley-slaves to make a fortune, and she were one of those women who take life easy, and run no risks, he might be a broken-down old man with a fortune, while she was still young enough to enjoy it. Or if he had a secret vice, such as keeping ice-water on the side-board, and a sample-room in the closet, or any other of those subtle and dangerous devils that are always watching for a chance to drag a man down, while she held her life sweet and pure and true, then, long before their silver wedding, he
may be in his grave, or be fit for very little out of it; an old man in mid-age, with the warning finger of paralysis on his shoulder, or the splints of inflammatory rheumatism in his marrow, - a broken man she has to nurse like a fretful child. Or if she, poor girl, is beginning this wedded life, as so many. of our girls do, without the fine sturdy womanhood of the open air, with a bloom on her blessed face like that you see on the blossoms in a hot-house, while he has in him the strong vitality of the desert and the hills, then, by the time she has borne those six sons we hear of afterward, she will have aged two years to his one. I know, if he has a man's heart in his breast, he will love her and cherish her all the more for her lost beauty and broken health; and some blessing may be found in this altered relation which might never have come to their perfect equality. But this is not the real kernel of the question. This blended being of the man and woman is, first of all, a piece of exquisite mechanism, ordained of heaven for a certain work on this earth; and it is the first condition of it, that all the arms of its power shall be equal to their design. Now, where this power fails by our folly, on either side, the thing in that shape is past praying for: we can only pray then for power and grace to make the best of it; and, thank God, that prayer can always be answered. So I hope, when they cried, "Mercifully ordain that we may grow aged together," this out
ward condition of equality in health and strength was there in their nature; or they might as well pray that the wheels of a watch, one half pewter and the other half steel, might be of equal endurance and worth.
And so to-day, if young men are not honest and wholesome clean through, and if young women will not train themselves to the finest and sturdiest womanhood possible to their nature; if they will not eat brown bread, and work in the garden — if they have one with some more grip than a bird scratching, and quit reading novels in a hot room, and devouring sweetmeats; if they dare not face the sun and wind, and try to out-walk, ay, and outrun their brothers, and let our wise mother Nature buckle their belt, — they had not better say Amen when the stalwart young husband cries, "Mercifully ordain that we may grow aged together."
This, however, is the most outward condition; reaching inward, we find others more delicate and divine. These young people have now to find each other out, and they may spend a lifetime in doing that. Some married folks find each other out, as I have read of mariners finding out the polar world. They leave the shores of their single life in the spring days, with tears and benedictions, sail on a while in sunshine and fair weather, and then find their way little by little into the cold latitudes, where they see the sun sink day by day, and feel the frost