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Old Time Customs
Memories and Traditions and Other Essays
A Vision


THE SANDS had run low, counting out the Old Year. It was the eventide in December thirty-first, shade darkling to deeper shadow of the gloaming—fit time for musing and meditation. I was alone, lonely, impressionable, before me a briskly burning open fire. I sat watching the flickering flames while they fed on the alluring and ever varying forms of the coals as they fell on the hearth--my eye now and then caught away by the ghostly shadows that danced on the wall. Now I gazed on the scene before me, and then I glanced at the flitting shadows. The weird environment, acting through the outer senses, moved the inner mind to abnormal issues. I lapsed into complete unconsciousness—or it may have been disregard of appeal from the outer objects. No longer did I observe the scenes pictured on the falling embers or on the shadows on the wall. I no longer heard the ticking of the clock on the mantel, or the purring of the cat at my feet. But, although my perceptions were not of the objects in the room, or through the organs of physical sense brought within the realm of consciousness, I still saw and heard. The inner self was stirred to a state of ecstasy that cannot be described nor explained. In some respects my condition may be compared to that of one under the influence of hasheesh or of an opiate. In his wonderful poem "Abt Vogler" Browning seems to be in similar difficulty, from which he emerges by endowing the subject of rapture with privilege above those that fall to the common lot of humanity. The musician, speaking for a select few who do not need to solve their problems by process of thought, says:

"God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason and welcome, 'tis we musicians know."

All wisdom, he would have us believe, is treasured up in the Infinite who dispenses to His favorites as He may please.

Thus, whether in dream, vision or trance, I know not, I seemed to be borne far away from things of the present time. Backwards—ever backwards through the countless ages of time I was carried, or rather I winged my way, for I seemed to be self-propelling, until I came to the dawning time of man's history on this nether planet.

I cannot pause to describe the panoramic picture of great world events which were presented to me as I glided through them—the varied civilizations, the empires, the wars, the revolutions and other innumerable changes. Reversed as to order, they were—the fall of empires before their origin, the closing scenes of events before the middle stages of their history, and these again before their beginning.

Indeed, it would be impossible to describe the scenes which appeared to glide rapidly past one as do the fields, the houses, the trees and other objects seem to one looking from the window of a railway car running fifty or sixty miles an hour. The image retained on the scroll of memory is that of a confused jumble whirring in broken circles through the air—the various objects so inextricably tangled that no one thing is seen in its individual completeness or in its relations.

May I not, however, pause here for a moment to suggest to one who may chance to read my story the advantage that might accrue from taking some great event of the present day as an effect, and following it to its immediate cause. Then, again, taking this cause as an effect and tracing it to remoter cause, and so on through the ages. The present great European War, for example, would seem to lend itself easily to a practicable excursion back to Attila the Hun, "the scourge of God," fit type of Kaiser Wilhelm, the man with "iron fist" and the murderer of women and children.

And now I staid my course and stood before the great first man Father Adam. Instantly I recognized him, though he saw me not—at least he gave no sign that he was aware of my presence. The uniqueness of his position excluded minor things from his attention, and modesty prevented me from obtruding myself on his notice. "Monarch he was of all he surveyed."

He was seated on a moss-covered mound on the summit of a hill, in all the dignity of an autocratic sovereign, rejoicing in the richness of his vast domain. His manner, however, was restless and had an air of temporary expectancy, showing also a sense of responsibility. The hill on which he sat was a large amphitheatre, sloping easterly to a broad plain on the hither side, and beyond was a parklike forest, through which ran a river in a south-westerly direction. The background on the north was a tableland, elevated about six hundred feet above the general level of the plain, and adorned with trees, shrubs and flowers.

In front of Adam's seat was a plateau which sank abruptly by terraces to the level of the eastern plain, and then sloped gradually to a lake of moderate size which was partially hidden from view by trees and shrubbery along its banks.

On the west of the plateau, was projected a tongue of land rising to the height of about a thousand feet, clothed with a dense forest of many kinds of trees. This highland fell off abruptly on the south by terraces continuous with those on the south of Adam's seat, and over them came a large brook leaping from terrace to terrace and forming beautiful cascades which filling the air with fine mist gave to the scenery the added beauty of the rainbow.

As I stood admiring the richness of this scenery, suddenly the brook with its added charms disappeared, leaving bare rocks and a dry channel, except here and there where there disconnected pools of water. For a little I failed to understand the cause of this change. What had become of the brook? But on reflection I concluded that the flow was intermittent, due to causes similar to those of the geysers in Iceland and Yellowstone Park. This was confirmed later on when, on the following day, the brook resumed its flow and I discovered its origin in an intermittent spring on the highlands.

Notwithstanding the beauty and charm which I have so inadequately described, the most wonderful and delightful part of the environment remains to be spoken of —that lying still farther down below the terraces. It comprised almost every variety of scenic feature that has ever been seen by eye of man or pictured by imagination. So many things there were that I can only name a few of them—garden plots, flowers, fruits, vegetables and shrubbery; brooks, ponds, hills and dales, broken rocks and grottoes, deep and extended caves with walls of pictured rocks and roofs hung with stalactites of wondrous beauty. Then, still farther on, this charming spot was bordered on the east side by the shores of the lake which had been already spoken of and will be referred to again.

I have perhaps wandered too far afield, led away by the handicraft of wonder and of beauty fresh from the hand of The Great Architect of nature, meanwhile neglecting the crowning piece of His work made in His own image. Let me return. Looking again to Adam, I saw that he sat erect, gazing intently and with growing interest on some remote object in the eastern horizon. Turning my eyes in the same direction, presently I saw a long line of moving objects which on nearer approach proved to be a long line of animals of every kind—beasts great and small, birds and creeping things—moving across the plain. As we watched them—Father Adam and I—the procession came winding up the hill. In pairs, each with his mate, they came forward, passed before him and did him homage as their liege lord. As they made obeisance, the revered autocrat saluted each pair and assigned to it its distinguishing name—elephant, lion, tiger, giraffe, deer, ox, horse, fox, dog, cat, eagle, goose, swan, snake, and so on down to the end of the line. Having received their names, the animals moved back in orderly line and took their places in the rear.

As they moved along I noticed a strange expression on the face of each. Half surprise it was, and half more like condolence or compassion. Now and then there was exclamation—sotto voce—of import similar to their facial expression—for these animals in this primitive stage, seemed to have the gift of articulate speech; either that or I had the power of unconscious interpretation of brute tongue. What I understood was of this sort,—How? What? Why? Alone? marking each word with an inflection of double meaning that I fail to indicate by punctuation or to imitate by vocal expression.

This formal reception ended, Adam arose, stood erect in the full pride of his god-like form, facing the mixed throng of his dependents, gave them his benediction and with a wave of his hand dismissed them from his presence.

The sun had sunk below the western horizon, and "twilight gray" had now clothed all nature in "her sober livery." Adam was again alone. He was changed. This was plainly manifest both in his face and in his bodily movements. He seemed greatly agitated—not at all master of himself. By turns he walked back and forth, stood still, sat down, then walked again, paused, placed his hand on his forehead, and exclaimed—"Alone! alone,! ah me!"

Meanwhile the moon which had risen behind a cloud unveiled her face and looked down calmly and sweetly on her elder sister orb. Then suddenly from a neighboring tree there came through the silence a new voice:—Whooh! Whooh! Who-o-o! "What's the trouble, my lord Adam?" Adam, recognizing the solemn face of the bird of wisdom, replied in plaintive and appealing tones—"O thou knowing bird, this loneliness! I have no companion to share my joys and dispel my sorrows. What avails all this wealth of nature which lies around me who have no companion to share in its enjoyment? You lower creatures, my happy vassals, have your mates, your helpmeets. My best thoughts and feelings perish in the early blossom, barren of fruitage through lack of fellowship for their enrichment and development. 0, thou bird of wisdom, tell me, shall I ask the Great Father to give me also a helpmeet?" Whereupon the solemn bird of night, winking his eyes and looking wondrously knowing, turned on Adam for a moment his keen eye, and then with oracular ambiguity replied—"You will then be like the rest of us."

Adam strolled among the trees. Eagerly he plucked the luscious fruit from the drooping branches that overhung his pathway and ate as if hoping thus to satisfy the longing of his soul. Finally, wearied by his roaming, he turned to a leafy bower beneath a spreading banyan tree, under whose shelter he sought repose. Although I knew that my presence was unperceived, my sense of propriety revolted from even a semblance of curiosity or intrusion on the privacy of his retreat. I walked away a few rods and seated myself on a huge boulder that overhung the margin of the lake that bounded the garden.

Its sinuous shores were fringed with leafy shrubbery and small trees bedecked with fragrant flowers of every hue and tint and laden with fruit in every stage of development. The air was clear as transparent crystal. The full orbed moon, with all her attendant starry host studding the vault of heaven with matchless splendor, shed her soft mellow light upon the smooth sheeny waters of the lake. Like a burnished mirror the water reflected things near and far—trees, shrubs, flowers and fruit; sky, moon and stars forming a picture in the water, whose brilliancy and glory rivalled the original earth and sky. Thus with the dome of heaven above and the answering concave at my feet, I seemed to be in the center of a hollow sphere.

When I came to the lake all was silent —not the faintest sound was audible to the waiting ear. It seemed as if every object in nature was hushed in the full enjoyment of restfulness and peace. Never before had I realized the meaning of Milton's words—"Silence was pleased." Anon, as if to greet my coming with joyous welcome, there followed such a burst of song as surely ear never before has heard beyond the borders of heavenly Paradise. At first methought,—This is the fabled music of the spheres! Or is it in reality the voice of the heavenly host, the Sons of God—shouting in joyful acclamation of His finished work? But no. It is right here around me, a part of this nether world. Nightingales, bobolinks and every kind of songsters of the air, apparently from every tree and bush, sending forth their warbling notes and filling the air with their thrilling songs. Vastly more it was than meaningless though attractive bird song. Either this, or I was so wrought upon that the spiritual ear became its own interpreter.

The volume and variation of the music was like that of a full orchestra, having all the contrast and interrelation of movement and the thrill of undertone coming up from the depths in a symphony of Haydn or Mozart.—only far more marvellously enchanting. To my quickened apprehension there came distinctly this like expression:-

"The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;

While all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole."

Then the song changed, assuming a more dependent and trustful air:

"All things living He doth feed,
His full hand supplies their need;
For His mercies aye endure
Ever faithful, ever sure."

The fervid delight with which I was thrilled throughout the livelong night baffles all description, save in the language of the spirit world. Heaven and earth seemed here to meet, dwelling in closest contact with sweetest harmony. I was made to feel that I myself was an integral part of all I saw and felt of the joyous world around me—in intimate fellowship with its joy.

But now the night had sped on her course beyond the western horizon and . rosy-fingered morn had in the orient flung ajar her golden gate. Suddenly, as if it were in obedience to an authoritative signal, all was hushed in a moment. It was a silence that could be felt. Neither beast, nor bird, nor living creature of any kind could be heard. Even the retreat of the nightingale was no longer resonant with love song. The moment was one of wistful waiting. Then, as I lay on my mossy couch, there came a gladsome sound from the neighboring bower in which Adam had passed the night. I turned quickly with unconscious movement towards the quarter from which the voice came. A clump of shrubbery with dense foliage partially obstructed my view, but through a narrow opening in the branches I saw the most beautiful face that I ever looked upon. Its beauty was wonderfully heightened by its setting in a wealth of golden tresses which, enriched by the rays of the morning sun that came shimmering through the foliage, flowed loosely down over the shoulders of the fair one, and covered her like a mantle. Truly, thought I, it is she, the help-mate whom Adam so earnestly desired.

Evidently Eve had just appeared on the scene, for Adam, taken by surprise, had not yet found himself; but with ready insight he had no need to be told that his prayer was answered. And so, in audible words, he exclaimed,—"This is she, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone! My other self, joy of my soul! Mother of the great human family that shall in years to come people the world!" Thereupon, after sweet embrace, the pledge of love and unity.

"Hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love's embraces met;
Adam, the goodliest man of men since born
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;
He for God only, she for God and him."

They walked away and were soon hidden from view in the winding paths of Eden's bowers.

Without special purpose or thought where I was going, I walked along the margin of the lake, musing on the strange scenes I had witnessed.

At first I was vain enough to suppose that the bird concert with which I had been thrilled was intended as a greeting to myself. On more sober thought I now felt assured that the happy warblers in this way, in part, showed their thankfulness for the beautiful home provided for them, and, in part, bidding welcome to the great mother of the human family.

I seemed now to be holding converse, or rather arguing, with some invisible being, whose voice I heard, but whose form I saw not. Sometimes, indeed, this opponent—for such was his attitude—appeared to be another self, giving me a double personality, each arrayed against the other. "Woman," I said, "fair, graceful and beautiful! In mental character of strangeness all compact. Ready and resourceful in device, quick and deft in action; but, like the lower animals, she can not reason,—nevertheless, guided fairly well by instinct." "Guided by instinct! "Cannot reason!" retorted the alter ego, half with interrogation and half with contempt. "Cannot reason!" was repeated with added emphasis. "Not after your fashion. And why? She does not need to. Do the birds need ladders to get to the tree tops? In the Olympian games did the runners go on crutches? Instinct you may call it, if you have no better term. But mark you this! Where man slowly and laboriously feels his way through a long series of premises and conclusions—and is really not sure after all that he is right—with woman all lies open and plain as primary truth. Moreover, when she knows, she knows that she knows. In the bud she sees the full blown rose; in the tiny acorn, the majestic oak. Ask for her reasons, and she fails, perhaps, to give any —says it is so because—because it is so. You smile and say to yourself—"There's your woman for you!" "Very well," replies my friend, clad in the cloak of darkness; "What are your reasons for believing that the whole is greater than its part; or that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other? These great truths that you reason out by lengthy argument are to her axiomatic. If she is clever, you say, why has she not asserted herself, acted her part in great world affairs? Why is she absent from the great world's assemblies, councils and parliaments.

"It is conceded," says my opponent, "that there is too much truth in what you say. Throughout the history of the world woman has been deprived of her just claims —enthralled, trampled on, enslaved by herself-constituted lord. By brute force, wherein she was weak, this has been done. But she is coming to her own. Woman shall not only be free, but she shall hold no second place in the ruling of the world You have seen nothing to warrant such conclusion! Such is the blindness, the fatuity of your sex. Nor did the Stuart Kings of England see the pit of destruction into which their madness was driving them. And do you belong to the twentieth century and have you not marked the trend of events, the inevitable result of the forces now in operation? Already in her own quiet way, by self-sacrifice and by the Christ spirit, following His example is she uplifting the world to a higher plane of civilization and righteousness.

The law of creation has been from the lower to the higher. You have just witnessed the final act. Think you that the principle which governed the earlier stages has been violated in the crowning work? Man has tried to run things without the counsel of his help-meet. By his unwisdom, his neglect of opportunity, he has shown his incapacity. The immutable decree must have its fulfillment—the survival of the fittest; "one near event to which the whole creation moves,"

"Just a moment," said I, "You do well as a protagonist of the suflragists." "Ah yes," replied he, "I was expecting you would say that. But let me tell you the worm sometimes turns when trodden upon. Woman is patient, Iong-suffering; but she is nervous, high-strung, and when driven beyond the limitations of her physical strength, hysterical. She may then do things she is sorry for. For this she is not responsible. It is fitting that she who, in the ruling of Providence led the way in bringing sin into the world should become the happy instrument of the world's redemption. Her methods of working out the world's betterment are the ways of influence—not of barbarity. Go thou back to thy place and be wise."

I returned to my environment. The coals on the hearth were still aglow; the cat lay purring at my feet; the clock on the mantel which was striking the hour of eight when I took my flight showed that I had been absent just five minutes.

The "vision as described on the preceding pages came in the dusky twilight and under the influence of the weird forms of the burning coals. The forecast? Was-it prophecy of the future when woman shall come to her own, or but the shadowy phantasm of a visionary.

What of the morning? The day breaks and the shadows flee away. Now we know and we know that we know. Our lawmakers have awakened and they speak with no uncertain voice. Woman is called to the council-board and to the legislative halls at Halifax, Ottawa, London and Washington.

In man's most dark extremity
Oft success dawns from Heaven.
—Sir Walter Scott.

I trust in Nature, for the stable laws
Of beauty and utility, Spring shall plant
And Autumn garner to the end of time.
I trust in God,—the right shall be the right
And other than the wrong,while He endures.
I trust in my own soul that can perceive
The outward and the inward,—nature's good
And God's." —Browning.


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