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Chapter 33 Into the Fulness of Life

  • With the opening of cold weather the seeming betterment in Mrs. Britton'_ealth proved but temporary. As the winter advanced she failed rapidly, until,
  • unable to sit up, she lay on a low couch, wheeled from room to room to affor_ll the rest and change possible. Day by day her pallor grew more and mor_ike the waxen petals of the lily, while the fatal rose flush in her chee_eepened, and her eyes, unnaturally large and lustrous, had in them the loo_f those who dwell in the borderland.
  • She realized her condition as fully as those about her, but there was neithe_ear nor regret in the eyes, which, fixed on the glory invisible to them,
  • caught and reflected the light of the other world, till, in the last days,
  • those watching her saw her face "as it had been the face of an angel."
  • No demonstration of sorrow marred the peace in which her soul dwelt the las_ays of its stay, for the very room seemed hallowed, a place too sacred fo_he intrusion of any personal grief.
  • Turning one day to her husband, who seldom left her side, she said,—
  • "My sorrow made me selfish; I see it now. Look at the good you have done, th_any you have helped; what have I done, what have I to show for all thes_ears?"
  • Just then Darrell passed the window before which she was lying.
  • "There is your work, Patience," Mr. Britton replied, tenderly; "you have tha_o show for those years of loneliness and suffering. Surely, love, you hav_one noble work there; work whose results will last for years—probably fo_enerations—yet to come!"
  • Her face lighted with a rapturous smile. "I had not thought of that," sh_hispered; "I will not go empty-handed after all. Perhaps He will say of me,
  • as of one of old, 'She hath done what she could.'"
  • From that time she sank rapidly, sleeping lightly, waking occasionally with _hild-like smile, then lapsing again into unconsciousness.
  • One evening as the day was fading she awoke from a long sleep and looke_ntently into the faces gathered about her. Her pastor, who had known he_hrough all the years of her sorrow, was beside her. Bending over her an_ooking into the eyes now dimmed by the approaching shadows, he said,—
  • "You have not much longer to wait, my dear sister."
  • With a significant gesture she pointed to the fading light.
  • "'Until the day break,'" she murmured, with difficulty.
  • He was quick to catch her meaning and bowed his head in token that h_nderstood; then, raising his hand above her head, as though in benediction,
  • in broken tones he slowly pronounced the words,—
  • "'Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: fo_he Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shal_e ended.'"
  • Her face brightened; a seraphic smile burst forth, irradiating every featur_ith a light which never faded, for, with a look of loving farewell into th_aces of husband and son, she sank into a sleep from which she did not wake,
  • and when, as the day was breaking over the eastern hill-tops, her soul too_light, the smile still lingered, deepening into such perfect peace as i_eldom seen on mortal faces.
  • As Darrell, a few moments later, stood at the window, watching the star_aling one by one in the light of the coming dawn, a bit of verse with whic_e had been familiar years before, but which he had not recalled until then,
  • recurred to him with peculiar force:
  • > "A soul passed out on its way toward Heaven
  • > As soon as the word of release was given;
  • > And the trail of the meteor swept around
  • > The lovely form of the homeward-bound.
  • > Glimmering, shimmering, there on high,
  • > The stars grew dim as one passed them by;
  • > And the earth was never again so bright,
  • > For a soul had slipped from its place that night."
  • >
  • After Mrs. Britton's death, deprived of her companionship and of th_umberless little ministrations to her comfort in which they had delighted,
  • both Mr. Britton and Darrell found life strangely empty. They also missed th_trenuous western life to which they had been accustomed, with its ceaseles_emands upon both muscle and brain. The life around them seemed narrow an_estricted; the very monotony of the landscape wearied them; they longed fo_he freedom and activity of the West, the breadth and height of the mountains.
  • As both were standing one day beside the resting-place of the wife and mother,
  • which Mr. Britton had himself chosen for her, the latter said,—
  • "John, there are no longer any ties to hold us here. You may have to remai_ere until affairs are settled, but I have no place, and want none, in Hose_ewett's home. I am going back to the West; and I know that sooner or late_ou will return also, for your heart is among the mountains. But before w_eparate I want one promise from you, my son."
  • "Name it," said Darrell; "you know, father, I would fulfil any and every wis_f yours within my power."
  • "It was my wish in the past, when my time should come to die, to be buried o_he mountain-side, near the Hermitage. But life henceforth for me will b_ltogether different from what it has been heretofore; and I want you_romise, John, if you outlive me, that when the end comes, no matter where _ay be, you will bring me back to her, that when our souls are reunited ou_odies may rest together here, within sound of the river's voice and shielde_y the overhanging boughs from winter's storm and summer's heat."
  • Father and son clasped hands above the newly made grave.
  • "I promise you, father," Darrell replied; "but you did not need to ask th_ledge."
  • When John Britton left Ellisburg a few days later a crowd of friends wer_athered at the little depot to extend their sympathy and bid him farewell. _ew were old associates of his own, some were his wife's friends, and som_arrell's. To those who had known him in the past he was greatly changed, an_one of them quite understood his quaint philosophizings, his broad views, o_is seeming isolation from their work-a-day, business world in which he ha_ormerly taken so active a part. They knew naught of his years of solitar_ife or of how lives spent in years of contemplation and reflection, o_etrospection and introspection, become gradually lifted out of the ordinar_hannels of thought and out of touch with the more practical life of th_orld. But they had had abundant evidence of his love and devotion to hi_ife, and of his kindness and liberality towards many of their own number, an_or these they loved him.
  • There was not one, however, who mourned his departure so deeply as Experienc_ewett, though she gave little expression to her sorrow. She had hoped tha_fter her sister's death his home would still be with them. This, not from an_eak sentimentality or any thought that he would ever be aught than as _rother to her, but because his very presence in the home was refreshing,
  • helpful, comforting, and because it was a joy to be near him, to hear hi_alk, and to minister to his comfort. But he was going from them, as she wel_new, never to return, and beneath the brave, smiling face she carried a sor_nd aching heart.
  • Thus John Britton bade the East farewell and turned his face towards the grea_est, mindful only of the grave under the elms, to which the river murmure_ight and day, and with no thought of return until he, too, should come t_hare that peaceful resting place.