MoboReader> Literature > Aftermath / Part second of A Kentucky Cardinal""

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Aftermath / Part second of A Kentucky Cardinal"" By James Lane Allen Characters: 5420

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It is a year and four months since Georgiana left me, and now everything goes on much as it did before she came. The family have moved back to their home in Henderson, returning like a little company of travellers who have lost their guide. Sylvia has already married; her brother writes me that he is soon to be; the mother visits me and my child, yearningly, but seldom, on account of her delicate health; and thus our lives grow always more apart. None take their places, the house having passed to people with whom, beyond all neighborly civilities, I have naught to do. Nowadays as I stroll around my garden with my little boy in my arms strange faces look down upon us out of Georgiana's window.

And I have long since gone back to nature.

When the harvest has been gathered from our strong, true land, a growth comes on which late in the year causes the earth to regain somewhat of its old greenness. New blades spring up in the stubble of the wheat; the beeless clover runs and blossoms; far and wide over the meadows flows the tufted billows of the grass; and in the woods the oak-tree drops the purple and brown of his leaf and mast upon the verdure of June. Everywhere a second spring puts forth between summer gone and winter nearing. It is the overflow of plenty beyond the filling of the barns. It is a wave of life following quickly upon the one that broke bountifully at our feet. It is nature's refusal to be once reaped and so to end.

The math: then the aftermath.

Upon the Kentucky landscape during these October days there lies this later youth of the year, calm, deep, vigorous. And as I spend much time in it for the fine, fresh work it brings to hand and thought, I feel that in my way I am part of it, that I can match the aftermath of nature with the aftermath of my life. The Harvester passed over my fields, leaving them bare; they are green again up to the winter's edge.

The thought has now come into my mind that I shall lay aside these pages for my son to ponder if he should ever grow old enough to value what he reads. They will give him some account of how his father and mother met in the old time, of their courting days, of their happy life together. And since it becomes more probable that there will be a war, and that I might not be living to speak to him of his mother in ways not written here, I shall set down one thing about her which I pray he may take well to heart. He ought to know and to remember this: that his life was the price of hers; she was extinguished that he might shine, and he owes it to her that the flame of his torch be as white as the altar's from which it was kindled.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing, then, in the character

of his mother-which, please God, he will have, or, getting all things else, he can never be a gentleman-was honor. It shone from her countenance, it ran like melody in her voice, it made her eyes the most beautiful in expression that I have ever seen, it enveloped her person and demeanor with a spiritual grace. Honor in what are called the little things of life, honor not as women commonly understand it, but as the best of men understand it-that his mother had. It was the crystalline, unshakable rock upon which the somewhat fragile and never to be completed structure of her life was reared.

If he be anything of a philosopher, he may reason that this trait must have made his mother too serious and too hard. Let him think again. It was the very core of soundness in her that kept her gay and sweet. I have often likened her mind to the sky in its power of changeableness from radiant joyousness to sober calm; but oftenest it was like the vault of April, whose drops quicken what they fall upon; and she was of a soft-heartedness that ruled her absolutely-but only to the unyielding edge of honor. Yet she did not escape this charge of being both hard and serious upon the part of men and women who were used to the laxness of small misdemeanors, and felt ill at ease before the terrifying truth that she was a lady.

Beyond this single trait of hers-which, if it please God that he inherit it, may he keep though he lose everything else-I set nothing further down for his remembrance, since naught could come of my writing. By words I could no more give him an idea of what his mother was than I could point him to a few measures of wheat and bid him behold a living harvest.

Upon these fields of cool October greenness there risen out of the earth a low, sturdy weed. Upon the top of this weed small white blossoms open as still as stars of frost. Upon these blossoms lies a fragrance so pure and wholesome that the searching sense is never cloyed, never satisfied. Years after the blossoms are dried and yellow and the leaves withered and gone, this wholesome fragrance lasts. The common people, who often put their hopes into their names, call it life-everlasting. Sometimes they make themselves pillows of it for its virtue of bringing a quiet sleep.

This plant is blooming out now, and nightly as I wend homeward I pluck a handful of it, gathering along with its life the tranquil sunshine, the autumnal notes of the cardinal passing to better lands, and all the healthful influences of the fields. I shall make me a tribute of it to the memory of her undying sweetness.

If God wills, when I fall asleep for good I shall lay my head beside hers on the bosom of the Life Everlasting.

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