A KNOLLING BELL
It seems to Esther Lockwin that her night of sorrow grows heavier. The books open to her a new world of emotions. Ere her bridal veil was dyed black she had read of life and creation as inexpressibly joyous. The lesson was always that she should look upon the glories of nature and give thanks.
Now the title of each chapter is “Sorrow.” The omniscient Shakespeare preaches of sorrow. The tender and beautiful Richter teaches of the nightingale. Tennyson, Longfellow, Carlyle, Beecher, Bovee, the great ancient stoics, the Bible itself, becomes a discourse on that tragic phenomenon of the soul, where peace goes out, where longing takes the place of action, where the will sets itself against the universe.
“Sorrow,” she reads, “like a heavy hanging bell, once set on ringing, with his own weight goes.”
“How true! How true!” she weeps. She turns to “Hamlet.” She reads that drama of sorrow. She accepts that eulogium of the dead as something worthy of her lost husband.
She gloomily reviews the mistakes of her earlier life. She had been restricted in nature to the attentions of a few men. She had found her lord and master. The sublime selfishness of human pride had driven her on the rocks of destruction. This she can now charge to herself. Had she sufficiently valued David Lockwin; had she counseled him to live for himself, to study those inclinations which she secretly understood and never encouraged—had she begged him to turn student rather than to court politics and popularity—then she might yet have had him with her.
The heavy bell of sorrow clangs loudly upon this article of her pride, ambition and lack of address to the true interests of her dead lord.
“Davy would not have died if politics had not been in the way. And then that dreadful fever! That month of vigil! How strangely he spoke in his delirium! How lonesome he was! How he begged for a companion to share his grief! Oh, David! David! David! Come back! Come back! Let me lay my head on your true heart and tell you how I love you. Let me tell you how I honor you above all men! You who had so much love for a foundling—oh, God bless you! Keep you in heaven for me! Forgive the hard heart of a foolish woman whose love was so slow! Come, holy spirit, heavenly dove, with all thy quickening power! Our Father, which art in heaven, which art in heaven!”
The knolling of the heavy bell grows softer. The paroxysm passes. Religion, the early refuge of the sex—the early refuge, too, of the higher types of the masculine sex—this solace has lit the taper of hope, the taper of hope that emits the brighter ray.
Esther Lockwin will meet her lord again. She will dwell with him where the clouds of pride and ambition do not obscure the path of duty.