On that morning, before Dr. Cushing had left the Parsonage to go to the bedside of his dying parishioner, Dolly, always sympathetic in all that absorbed her parents, had listened to the conversation and learned how full of peace and joy were those last days.

When her father was gone, Dolly took her little basket and went out into the adjoining meadow for wild strawberries. The afternoon was calm and lovely; small patches of white cloud were drifting through the intense blue sky, and little flutters of breeze shook the white hats of the daisies as she wandered hither and thither among them looking for the strawberries. Over on the tallest twig of the apple-tree in the corner of the lot a bobolink had seated himself, swinging and fluttering up and down, beating his black and white wings and singing a confused lingo about "sweetmeats and sweetmeats," and "cheer 'em and cheer 'em."

This bobolink was one of Dolly's special acquaintances. She had often seen him perched on this particular twig of the old apple-tree, doubtless because of a nest and family establishment that he had somewhere in that neighborhood, and she had learned to imitate his jargon as she crept about in the tall grass; and so they two sometimes kept up quite a lively conversation.

But this afternoon she was in no mood for chattering with the bobolink, for the strings of a higher nature than his had been set vibrating; she was in a sort of plaintive, dreamy revery—so sorry for poor Nabby, who was going to lose her mother, and so full of awe and wonder at the bright mystery now opening on the soul that was passing away.

Dolly had pondered that verse of her catechism which says that "the souls of believers at their death are made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory," and of what that unknown glory, that celestial splendor, could be she had many thoughts and wonderings.

She had devoured with earnest eyes Bunyan's vivid description of the triumphal ascent to the Celestial City through the River of Death, and sometimes at evening, when the west was piled with glorious clouds which the setting sun changed into battlements and towers of silvered gold, Dolly thought she could fancy it was something like that beautiful land. Now it made her heart thrill to think that one she had known only a little while before—a meek, quiet, patient, good woman—was just going to enter upon such glory and splendor, to wear those wonderful white robes and sing that wonderful song.

She filled her basket and then sat down to think about it. She lay back on the ground and looked up through the white daisies into the deep intense blue of the sky, wondering with a vague yearning, and wishing that she could go there too and see what it was all like. Just then, vibrating through the sunset air, came the plaintive stroke of the old Meeting-house bell. Dolly knew what that sound meant—a soul "made perfect in holiness" had passed into glory; and with a solemn awe she listened as stroke after stroke tolled out the years of that patient earth-life, now forever past.

It was a thrilling mystery to think of where she now was. She knew all now! she had seen! she had heard! she had entered in! Oh, what joy and wonder!

Dolly asked herself should she too ever be so happy—she, poor little Dolly; if she went up to the beautiful gate, would they let her in? Her father and mother would certainly go there; and they would surely want her too: couldn't she go in with them? So thought Dolly, vaguely dreaming, with the daisy-heads nodding over her, and the bobolink singing, and the bell tolling, while the sun was sinking in the west. At last she heard her father calling her at the fence, and made haste to take up her basket and run to him.

The day but one after this Dolly went with her father and mother to the funeral. Funerals in those old days had no soothing accessories. People had not then learned to fill their houses with flowers, and soften by every outward appliance the deadly severity of the hard central fact of utter separation.

The only leaves ever used about the dead in those days were the tansy and rosemary—bitter herbs of affliction. Every pleasant thing in the house was shrouded in white; every picture and looking-glass in its winding-sheet. The coffin was placed open in the best front room, and the mourners, enveloped in clouds of black crape, sat around. The house on this occasion was crowded; wagons came from far and near; the lower rooms were all open and filled, and Dr. Cushing's voice came faintly and plaintively through the hush of silence.

He spoke tenderly of the departed:—"We have seen our sister for many weeks waiting in the land of Beulah by the River of Death. Angels have been coming across to visit her; we have heard the flutter of their wings. We have seen her rejoicing in full assurance of hope, having laid down every earthly care; we have seen her going down the dark valley, leaning on the Beloved; and now that we have met to pay the last tribute to her memory, shall it be with tears alone? If we love our sister, shall we not rejoice because she has gone to the Father? She has gone where there is no more sickness, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more death, and she shall be ever with the Lord. Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks unto God, who hath given her the victory, and let us strive like her, by patient continuance in well-doing, to seek for glory and honor and immortality."

And then arose the solemn warble of the old funeral hymn:

"Why should we mourn departing friends

Or shake at death's alarms?

'Tis but the voice that Jesus sends

To call them to his arms.

"Why should we tremble to convey

Their bodies to the tomb?

There the dear form of Jesus lay,

And scattered all the gloom.

"Thence He arose, ascending high,

And showed our feet the way;

Up to the Lord we, too, shall fly

At the great rising day.

"Then let the last loud trumpet sound,

And bid our kindred rise;

Awake! ye nations under ground;

Ye saints! ascend the skies!"

The old tune of "China," with its weird arrangement of parts, its mournful yet majestic movement, was well fitted to express that mysterious defiance of earth's bitterest sorrow, that solemn assurance of victory over life's deepest anguish, which breathes in those words. It is the major key invested with all the mournful pathos of the minor, yet breathing a grand sustained undertone of triumph—fit voice of that only religion which bids the human heart rejoice in sorrow and glory in tribulation.

Then came the prayer, in which the feelings of the good man, enkindled by sympathy and faith, seemed to bear up sorrowing souls, as on mighty wings, into the regions of eternal peace.

In a general way nothing can be more impressive, more pathetic and beautiful, than the Episcopal Church funeral service, but it had been one of the last requests of the departed that her old pastor should minister at her funeral; and there are occasions when an affectionate and devout man, penetrated with human sympathy, can utter prayers such as no liturgy can equal. There are prayers springing heavenward from devout hearts that are as much superior to all written ones as living, growing flowers out-bloom the dried treasures of the herbarium. Not always, not by every one, come these inspirations; too often what is called extemporary prayer is but a form, differing from the liturgy of the church only in being poorer and colder.

But the prayer of Dr. Cushing melted and consoled; it was an uplift from the darkness of earthly sorrow into the grand certainties of the unseen; it had the undertone that can be given only by a faith to which the invisible is even more real than the things that are seen.

After the prayer one and another of the company passed through the room to take the last look at the dead. Death had touched her gently. As often happens in the case of aged people, there had come back to her face something of the look of youth, something which told of a delicate, lily-like beauty which had long been faded. There was too that mysterious smile, that expression of rapturous repose, which is the seal of heaven set on the earthly clay. It seemed as if the softly-closed eyes must be gazing on some ineffable vision of bliss, as if, indeed, the beauty of the Lord her God was upon her.

Among the mourners at the head of the coffin sat Zeph Higgins, like some rugged gray rock—stony, calm and still. He shed no tear, while his children wept and sobbed aloud; only when the coffin-lid was put on a convulsive movement passed across his face. But it was momentary, and he took his place in the procession to walk to the grave in grim calmness.

The graveyard was in a lovely spot on the Poganuc River. No care in those days had been bestowed to ornament or brighten these last resting-places, but Nature had taken this in hand kindly. The blue glitter of the river sparkled here and there through a belt of pines and hemlocks on one side, and the silent mounds were sheeted with daisies, brightened now and then with golden buttercups, which bowed their fair heads meekly as the funeral train passed over them.

Arrived at the grave, there followed the usual sounds, so terrible to the ear of mourners—the setting down of the coffin, the bustle of preparation, the harsh grating of ropes as the precious burden was lowered to its last resting-place. And then, standing around the open grave, they sang:

"My flesh shall slumber in the ground

Till the last trumpet's joyful sound.

Then burst the chains, with sweet surprise,

And in my Saviour's image rise."

Then rose the last words of prayer, in which the whole finished service and all the survivors were commended to God.

It was customary in those days for the head of a family to return thanks at the grave to the friends and neighbors who had joined in the last tribute of respect to the departed. There was a moment's pause, and every eye turned on Zeph Higgins. He made a movement and stretched out his hands as if to speak; but his voice failed him, and he stopped. His stern features were convulsed with the vain effort to master his feeling.

Dr. Cushing saw his emotion and said, "In behalf of our brother I return thanks to all the friends who have given us their support and sympathy on this occasion. Let us all pray that the peace of God may rest upon this afflicted family." The gathered friends now turned from the grave and dispersed homeward.

With the instinct of a true soul-physician, who divines mental states at a glance, Dr. Cushing forbore to address even a word to Zeph Higgins; he left him to the inward ministration of a higher Power.

But such tact and reticence belong only to more instructed natures. There are never wanting well-meaning souls who, with the very best intentions, take hold on the sensitive nerves of sorrow with a coarse hand.

Deacon Peaslee was inwardly shocked to see that no special attempt had been made to "improve the dispensation" to Zeph's spiritual state, and therefore felt called on to essay his skill.

"Well, my friend," he said, coming up to him, "I trust this affliction may be sanctified to you."

Zeph glared on him with an impatient movement and turned to walk away; the Deacon, however, followed assiduously by his side, going on with his exhortation.

"You know it's no use contendin' with the Lord."

"Well, who's ben a contendin' with the Lord?" exclaimed Zeph, "I haint."

The tone and manner were not hopeful, but the Deacon persevered.

"We must jest let the Lord do what he will with us and ours."

"I hev let him—how was I goin' to help it?"

"We mustn't murmur," continued the Deacon in a feebler voice, as he saw that his exhortation was not hopefully received.

"Who's ben a murmurin? I haint!"

"Then you feel resigned, don't you?"

"I can't help myself. I've got to make the best on't," said Zeph, trying to out-walk him.

"But you know——"

"Let me alone, can't ye?" cried Zeph in a voice of thunder; and the Deacon, scared and subdued, dropped behind, murmuring, "Drefful state o' mind! poor critter, so unreconciled!—really awful!"

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