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Nursery Rhymes . . . for children.

Once upon a time . . . . .  from our fabulous collection of Fairy Tales for children . . .  they lived happily ever after . . .

The Child In The Grave

IT was a very sad day, and every heart in the house felt
the deepest grief; for the youngest child, a boy of four years
old, the joy and hope of his parents, was dead. Two daughters,
the elder of whom was going to be confirmed, still remained:
they were both good, charming girls; but the lost child always
seems the dearest; and when it is youngest, and a son, it
makes the trial still more heavy. The sisters mourned as young
hearts can mourn, and were especially grieved at the sight of
their parents' sorrow. The father's heart was bowed down, but
the mother sunk completely under the deep grief. Day and night
she had attended to the sick child, nursing and carrying it in
her bosom, as a part of herself. She could not realize the
fact that the child was dead, and must be laid in a coffin to
rest in the ground. She thought God could not take her darling
little one from her; and when it did happen notwithstanding
her hopes and her belief, and there could be no more doubt on
the subject, she said in her feverish agony, 'God does not
know it. He has hard-hearted ministering spirits on earth, who
do according to their own will, and heed not a mother's
prayers.' Thus in her great grief she fell away from her faith
in God, and dark thoughts arose in her mind respecting death
and a future state. She tried to believe that man was but
dust, and that with his life all existence ended. But these
doubts were no support to her, nothing on which she could
rest, and she sunk into the fathomless depths of despair. In
her darkest hours she ceased to weep, and thought not of the
young daughters who were still left to her. The tears of her
husband fell on her forehead, but she took no notice of him;
her thoughts were with her dead child; her whole existence
seemed wrapped up in the remembrances of the little one and of
every innocent word it had uttered.

The day of the little child's funeral came. For nights
previously the mother had not slept, but in the morning
twilight of this day she sunk from weariness into a deep
sleep; in the mean time the coffin was carried into a distant
room, and there nailed down, that she might not hear the blows
of the hammer. When she awoke, and wanted to see her child,
the husband, with tears, said, 'We have closed the coffin; it
was necessary to do so.'

'When God is so hard to me, how can I expect men to be
better?' she said with groans and tears.

The coffin was carried to the grave, and the disconsolate
mother sat with her young daughters. She looked at them, but
she saw them not; for her thoughts were far away from the
domestic hearth. She gave herself up to her grief, and it
tossed her to and fro, as the sea tosses a ship without
compass or rudder. So the day of the funeral passed away, and
similar days followed, of dark, wearisome pain. With tearful
eyes and mournful glances, the sorrowing daughters and the
afflicted husband looked upon her who would not hear their
words of comfort; and, indeed, what comforting words could
they speak, when they were themselves so full of grief? It
seemed as if she would never again know sleep, and yet it
would have been her best friend, one who would have
strengthened her body and poured peace into her soul. They at
last persuaded her to lie down, and then she would lie as
still as if she slept.

One night, when her husband listened, as he often did, to
her breathing, he quite believed that she had at length found
rest and relief in sleep. He folded his arms and prayed, and
soon sunk himself into healthful sleep; therefore he did not
notice that his wife arose, threw on her clothes, and glided
silently from the house, to go where her thoughts constantly
lingered- to the grave of her child. She passed through the
garden, to a path across a field that led to the churchyard.
No one saw her as she walked, nor did she see any one; for her
eyes were fixed upon the one object of her wanderings. It was
a lovely starlight night in the beginning of September, and
the air was mild and still. She entered the churchyard, and
stood by the little grave, which looked like a large nosegay
of fragrant flowers. She sat down, and bent her head low over
the grave, as if she could see her child through the earth
that covered him- her little boy, whose smile was so vividly
before her, and the gentle expression of whose eyes, even on
his sick-bed, she could not forget. How full of meaning that
glance had been, as she leaned over him, holding in hers the
pale hand which he had no longer strength to raise! As she had
sat by his little cot, so now she sat by his grave; and here
she could weep freely, and her tears fell upon it.

'Thou wouldst gladly go down and be with thy child,' said
a voice quite close to her,- a voice that sounded so deep and
clear, that it went to her heart.

She looked up, and by her side stood a man wrapped in a
black cloak, with a hood closely drawn over his face; but her
keen glance could distinguish the face under the hood. It was
stern, yet awakened confidence, and the eyes beamed with
youthful radiance.

'Down to my child,' she repeated; and tones of despair and
entreaty sounded in the words.

'Darest thou to follow me?' asked the form. 'I am Death.'

She bowed her head in token of assent. Then suddenly it
appeared as if all the stars were shining with the radiance of
the full moon on the many-colored flowers that decked the
grave. The earth that covered it was drawn back like a
floating drapery. She sunk down, and the spectre covered her
with a black cloak; night closed around her, the night of
death. She sank deeper than the spade of the sexton could
penetrate, till the churchyard became a roof above her. Then
the cloak was removed, and she found herself in a large hall,
of wide-spreading dimensions, in which there was a subdued
light, like twilight, reigning, and in a moment her child
appeared before her, smiling, and more beautiful than ever;
with a silent cry she pressed him to her heart. A glorious
strain of music sounded- now distant, now near. Never had she
listened to such tones as these; they came from beyond a large
dark curtain which separated the regions of death from the
land of eternity.

'My sweet, darling mother,' she heard the child say. It
was the well-known, beloved voice; and kiss followed kiss, in
boundless delight. Then the child pointed to the dark curtain.
'There is nothing so beautiful on earth as it is here. Mother,
do you not see them all? Oh, it is happiness indeed.'

But the mother saw nothing of what the child pointed out,
only the dark curtain. She looked with earthly eyes, and could
not see as the child saw,- he whom God has called to be with
Himself. She could hear the sounds of music, but she heard not
the words, the Word in which she was to trust.

'I can fly now, mother,' said the child; 'I can fly with
other happy children into the presence of the Almighty. I
would fain fly away now; but if you weep for me as you are
weeping now, you may never see me again. And yet I would go so
gladly. May I not fly away? And you will come to me soon, will
you not, dear mother?'

'Oh, stay, stay!' implored the mother; 'only one moment
more; only once more, that I may look upon thee, and kiss
thee, and press thee to my heart.'

Then she kissed and fondled her child. Suddenly her name
was called from above; what could it mean? her name uttered in
a plaintive voice.

'Hearest thou?' said the child. 'It is my father who calls
thee.' And in a few moments deep sighs were heard, as of
children weeping. 'They are my sisters,' said the child.
'Mother, surely you have not forgotten them.'

And then she remembered those she left behind, and a great
terror came over her. She looked around her at the dark night.
Dim forms flitted by. She seemed to recognize some of them, as
they floated through the regions of death towards the dark
curtain, where they vanished. Would her husband and her
daughters flit past? No; their sighs and lamentations still
sounded from above; and she had nearly forgotten them, for the
sake of him who was dead.

'Mother, now the bells of heaven are ringing,' said the
child; 'mother, the sun is going to rise.'

An overpowering light streamed in upon her, the child had
vanished, and she was being borne upwards. All around her
became cold; she lifted her head, and saw that she was lying
in the churchyard, on the grave of her child. The Lord, in a
dream, had been a guide to her feet and a light to her spirit.
She bowed her knees, and prayed for forgiveness. She had
wished to keep back a soul from its immortal flight; she had
forgotten her duties towards the living who were left her. And
when she had offered this prayer, her heart felt lighter. The
sun burst forth, over her head a little bird carolled his
song, and the church-bells sounded for the early service.
Everything around her seemed holy, and her heart was
chastened. She acknowledged the goodness of God, she
acknowledged the duties she had to perform, and eagerly she
returned home. She bent over her husband, who still slept; her
warm, devoted kiss awakened him, and words of heartfelt love
fell from the lips of both. Now she was gentle and strong as a
wife can be; and from her lips came the words of faith:
'Whatever He doeth is right and best.'

Then her husband asked, 'From whence hast thou all at once
derived such strength and comforting faith?'

And as she kissed him and her children, she said, 'It came
from God, through my child in the grave.'

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