But, as may be readily imagined, it became all the more odious and intolerable to me when the “angel in the house” had been taken from me.
Assuredly it seemed to me that all was over; and the future a dead blank. And for a time I was as a man stunned.
But in truth it was very far otherwise! I was fifty-five; but I was in good health, young for my years, strong and vigorous in constitution, and before a year had passed it began to seem to me that a future, and life and its prospects, might open to me afresh; that the curtain might be dropped on the drama that was passed, and a new phase of life begun.
I had had, and vividly enjoyed an entire life, according to the measure that is meted out to many, perhaps I may say to most men. But I felt myself ready for another! And—thanks this time also to a woman—I have had another, in no wise less happy, in some respects, as less chequered by sorrows—more happy than the first! I am in better health too, having outgrown apparently several of the maladies which young people are subject to!
Of this second life I am not now going to tell my readers anything. “What I remember” of my first life may be, and I hope has been, told frankly without giving offence or annoyance to any human being. I don’t know that the telling of the story of my second life would necessarily lead me to say anything which could hurt anybody. But mixed up as its incidents and interests and associations have been with a great multitude of men and women still living and moving and talking and writing round about me, I should not feel myself so comfortably at liberty to write whatever offered itself to my memory.
Ten years hence, perhaps ("Please God, the public lives!” as a speculative showman said), I may tell the reader, if he cares to hear it, the story of my second life. For the present we will break off here.
But not without some words of parting kindness—and shall we say, wisdom!—from an old man to readers, most of whom probably might be his sons, and many doubtless his grandsons.
Especially, my young friends, don’t pay overmuch attention to what the Psalmist says about “the years of man.” I knew dans le temps a fine old octo-and-nearly-nonogenarian, one Graberg de Hemsoe, a Swede (a man with a singular history, who passed ten years of his early life in the British navy, and was, when I knew him, librarian at the Pitti Palace in Florence), who used to complain of the Florentine doctors that “Dey doosen’t know what de nordern constitooshions is!” and I take it the same may be said of the Psalmist. The years beyond three score and ten need not be all sorrow and trouble. Depend upon it kindly nature—prudens, as that jolly fellow, fine gentleman, and true philosopher, Horace, says in a similar connection—kindly nature knows how to make the closing decade of life