When they had all passed by, Beggar Lina also began to weep.
“Those people are going to Heaven to meet Jesus,” she told the children. “All those people are going to Heaven but we are left standing by the wayside.”
When the procession of carts and wagons had driven halfway through the parish, it came to the long floating bridge that lies rocking on the river.
This is a difficult bridge to cross. The first part of it is a steep incline all the way down to the edge of the stream; then come two rather abrupt elevations, under which boats and timber rafts can pass; and at the other end the up grade is so heavy that both man and beast dread to climb it.
That bridge has always been a source of annoyance. The planks keep rotting, and have to be replaced continually. In the spring, when the ice breaks, it has to be watched day and night to prevent its being knocked to pieces by drifting ice floes; and when the spring rains cause a rise in the river, large portions of the bridge are washed away.
But the people of the parish are proud of their bridge, and glad to have it, rickety as it is. But for that blessed bridge they would have to use a rowboat or a ferry every time they wanted to cross from one side of the parish to the other.
The bridge groaned and swayed as the Jerusalem-farers passed over it, and the water came up through the cracks in the planks and splashed the horses’ legs.
They felt sad at having to leave their dear old bridge, for they knew it was something which belonged to all of them. Houses and farms, groves and meadows, were owned by different persons, but the bridge was their common property.
But was there nothing else that they had in common? Had they not the church in among the birches on the other side of the bridge? Had they not the pretty white schoolhouse, and the parsonage?
And they had something more in common. Theirs was the beauty which they saw from the bridge: the lovely view of the broad and mighty river flowing peacefully on between its tree-clad banks, and all a-sparkle in the summer light; the wide view across the valley clear over to the blue hills. All this was theirs! It was as if burned into their eyes. And now they would never see it again.
When the Hellgumists came to the middle of the bridge, they began to sing one of Sankey’s hymns. “We shall meet once again,” they sang, “we shall meet in that Eden above.”
There was no one on the bridge to hear them. They were singing to the blue hills of their homeland, to the silvery waters of the river, to the waving trees. And from throats tightened by sobs and tears came the song of farewell:
“O beautiful homeland, with thy peaceful farms with their red and white tree-sheltered houses; with thy fertile fields and green meadows; thy groves and orchards; thy long valley, divided by the shining river, hear us! Pray God that we may meet again, that we may see thee again in Paradise!”