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Full Online Book HomeEssays"there's One Comes After"
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'there's One Comes After' Post by :shorzecharia Category :Essays Author :William Cowper Brann Date :July 2011 Read :2418

Click below to download : "there's One Comes After" (Format : PDF)

"there's One Comes After"

A SKETCH.

None so poor but they may build fairy castles in the air; none so wretched but they may fondly gaze upon the fickle star of Hope, flaming ever in that Heaven we see by Faith.

A man, worn with suffering and sorrow and sin, was toiling homeward in the night from a far hunter's camp, whither he had been banished by a doctor's edict, "Rest from labor lest ye die." "That indeed is a misfortune," he had said, and redoubled his vigils at the desk. Then they brought his little son, the last gem in the sacred circle of the home whose breaking up broke his heart, and placed the child upon his knee. He looked at its fair face and said, "I will go." A man for whom the shadows should still be falling toward the west, but old before his time, deep scarred by angry storms, battered and bruised like some presumptuous mortal who had seized his puny spear and plunged into such wars as the Titans were wont to wage upon the Grecian Gods. The jaded steed stumbled along the dark and dangerous way, while its rider dreamed with wide open eyes and sometimes muttered to himself in that dreary solitude.

"There's one comes after--in dying I do not die, in losing I simply pass the sword from sire to son. I may but fill a ditch for a better to mount upon and win the mural crown. What, then, if that other be----"

The owl hooted as he passed, and from the thicket came the angry snarl of wolves. "How human!" he bitterly exclaimed. "Hoots and hungry howls, all along life's path-- a weird pilgrimage in the dark."

He nodded, his head bowing almost to the saddle-bow, then awoke humming, he knew not why,


"As long as the heart knows passion.
As long as life, as long."


His dog, a powerful mastiff, bristled and uttered an angry growl as a great gray wolf slunk along in the dry grass but a few yards distant. "The brutes follow the wounded," he muttered, "and I am stricken deep." He unslung his heavy fowling-piece and fired. The eyes of the brute glowed like green globes of phosphorescence in the light of the gun, then sank down with a howl that drew its comrades about it, not to succor and to save, but to tear and rend. He watched them a moment, muttering again, "How human!" and turning to an aged oak that spread its branches wide, built a fire of brush and bivouacked. But he could not sleep--the blue devils were playing at hide-and-seek within his heart, and phantoms that once were flesh came trooping from out the gloom and hovered round him. He put out his hands to them, he cried to them to speak to him, but they receded into the darkness from whence they came--the grave had given up its dead only to mock him, to emphasize his utter desolation. He embraced the sturdy oak as though he would draw strength from its stubborn heart which had defied the storms of a thousand years, then sank prostrate at its base and, with only dumb animals to note his weakness, wept as only strong men weep when shivered by the bolts of Destiny.

"One left--but one of those I loved; my strength is broken, my labors are in vain--I can but die; yet must I live, lest the one in whom is centered all my hopes, doth fall in evil ways and also come to naught."

He dreamed of the days that were dead, and of those rushing upon him from the mystic future, "each bearing its burden of sorrow." He trod again life's thorny path, from the cradle to manhood's somber noon, a path strewn with wreck and wraith and wet with blood and tears. Again the well-known forms came from beyond the firelight and, winding their shadowy arms about his neck, wept for his loneliness. He tried to embrace them, to gather them to his heart as in the old days when they welcomed his homecoming with glad acclaim, but clutched only air--his kisses fell on vacancy. As they receded into the gloom he followed crying, "Stay! Stay!" and wandered here and there through bogs and briers and over the rough rocks, calling them each by name with many an endearing term, until he fell exhausted, and, putting forth his hand to break his fall, encircled the neck of his faithful dog and lay there bruised and bleeding. Then other phantoms came, two women, one old, one young, bearing a ghastly burden, around which little children wailed. They laid it down at his feet, a horrid thing with wide-scaring eyes and gaping wounds all wet with gore. And the elder bowed herself upon it and kissed the rigid hands, the lips and hair and moaned that she was left childless in her age, but the younger stood erect, imperious, the frightened children clinging to her skirts and, calling him by a name that froze his blood, bade him look upon her widowhood.

"It was self-defense," he doggedly replied, as he met the glance of her scornful eyes.

"O egotist!" she cried; "must a man die that a dog may live? Must a mother's gray hairs be brought in sorrow to the grave; must the heart of a wife be crushed within a bloody hand and children never know a father's loving care, that such a thing as thou may'st yet encumber this fair earth? Precious indeed must be that life, purchased at such a price!"

But again the forms that had fled returned, and one, a frail, sweet-faced woman with a world of pity in her eyes, stood between him and his accuser. She took the scornful woman's hand and gently said: "Sister, 'twas thee or me, 'twas thine or mine;" and in the music of her voice the ghastly object vanished.

The hoot of the owl and the howl of the wolf grew faint and far away; he fell into an uneasy slumber and saw himself, aged and gray, trying to keep pace with a fair youth, who mounted with free and graceful step a mountain whose summit was crowned with the light of everlasting day. Steeper and steeper grew the path, yet he strove with failing strength. The youth reached out a strong hand to him and said, "Lean on me;" but he put it back, crying fiercely: "No! no! climb thou alone farther I cannot go. On! On to the summit, where breaks the great white light, and there is no death!"

The youth struggled with the steeps and overcame them one by one, and mounted higher and ever higher, until he stood where never man had stood, the glory of the gods upon his face, the immortelles upon his brow. And people wondered and said to him, "Who is it that stands upon the mountain top where only tread the gods?" And he answered, "It is I--it is my other self." And they said, "The poor old man is mad; let be, let be."

The dog crept closer to its master and laid its head upon his breast. The vision changed, and he sat by a seacoal fire in chambers that once had echoed the glad voices of those whose graves were 'mid the soughing pines. He held his one treasure to his heart and sang to it the old ditties that its mother was wont to sing when soothing her babe to slumber, until the golden head drooped low upon his breast. He wove about it fond dreams of what should be in the years to come, when, grown to manhood, it entered the arena of the world. A bony hand stole over his shoulder and seized the child, and looking up he beheld Death standing by his chair. He clasped his treasure close and struggled with the grisly specter, but it only mocked him, and tearing the child from him, fled into the outer void. He struggled to his feet and from his parched lips there burst a cry that echoed and reechoed through the dark woods and was hurled back from the distant hills.

At dawn the rustics found him, lying cold as his rocky bed, the beaded dew upon his grizzled beard, his horse with head low hanging over him, his dog keeping watch and ward.


(The end)
William Cowper Brann's essay: "There's One Comes After"

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