- CHAPTER XX. PASSING AWAY.
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THINGS settled down into their accustomed quiet in this little nook, while great events were occurring all around, and the fate of nations was being decided. Mrs. Flanoy was growing weaker and weaker, but the flame of life burned more fiercely and high, the nearer it came to its extinction. It seemed to condense itself more and more into her eyes, which were at once fearful and most beautiful to look into. There is a picture at Pompeii which is brought to mind by the remembrance of Chicora's face. It is a mosaic, which has retained all its brilliancy of coloring and freshness of hue for over a thousand years. It represents a head severed from the body, but without any painful accompaniments. The head is placed upright upon a square slab of marble. From beneath this
192 PANOLA.marble there is slowly flowing a stream of crimson blood, in which a black vulture, seated near by, is dipping his savage beak. There is no contortion of muscle in the living decapitated head. The beautiful features are quiet and fixed; the eyes are wide open, and look straight forward, defying fate and death, and time, and Nemesis. Dark and bright they gaze in utter contempt of the vulture feeding to satiety on the life-blood. They do not even see the vulture. They look steadfastly on into a higher and eternal life, seeking to meet its equals among the gods. So Chicora looked.
After a time, Panola had quietly resumed her usual ministrations to the three families so dependent upon her. When she drew near to the well-known study in which Mark was sitting as usual, she felt a sudden faintness come over her. She sat down on a bench on the verandah, outside of the door, and gasped for breath; but it was soon over--that passing spasm. She rose, and, turning the knob of the door quietly, she entered the room. Mark looked up and the color rushed over his face. "Panola," he ejaculated.
"Yes, Mark," said Panola, with a plaintive sadness in her voice, which was quite firm; and she gave him her hand as usual. Mark's fingers closed over it involuntarily; then he recollected himself and let it drop. It had rested in his very tranquilly, as cold as a small snowflake. Panola began to busy herself about the house, just as usual.
193 PASSING AWAY.Mark could scarcely fix his eyes or his mind upon the book he held between his trembling fingers. he found himself straining his cars to catch the sound of her light footsteps as she moved about the cottage "putting things to rights," as women say. Then she brought in a lot of clothing that needed mending.
"I'll take these home and do them, 'Mark," she said. "I can't leave mamma very long."
Panola was very quiet and grave in her manner. Mark saw a great change had come over the young girl: somehow the splendor of the sheen of her beauty had departed; there was no color at all in her cheeks. Her face was all satiny white except her lips; they seemed to be burning with fever-red. The glory, too, had faded, somehow, out of her hair. She looked, again, like the pale white child that Mark remembered so well, and that Victor had laughed at so much. The life seemed gradually dying out of her as the splendid lines of a wounded butterfly do in its prolonged death-agony. But the faculty of endurance, proud and high, was stamped upon her every feature. She would die and make no sign, as so many of her race had done before her in the earlier ages--as her mother was perishing now, day by day, before her eyes. She had no vain cries or lamentations to make against any fate. She was not of the softer mould of the pure white race or of the childish African. She knew how to suffer and to be still.
Mark looked after her as she disappeared through the door with the basket of clothes in her hand, and a deep, prolonged sigh told what he was feeling; but he picked up his book, and again set himself resolutely to his study. He repeated to himself in a low voice a sonnet of Anne C. Lynch, one of her finest:
A mendicant, that with imploring eye
And outstretched hand asks. of the passers-by
The alms his strong necessities may move.
For such poor love, to pity near allied,
Thy generous spirit may not stoop and wait,
A suppliant whose prayer may be denied
Like a spurned beggar's at a palace gate
But thy heart's affluence lavish uncontrolled:
The largess of thy love give full and free
As monarchs in their progress scatter gold;
And be thy heart like the exhaustless sea
That must its wealth of cloud and dew bestow,
Through tributary streams or ebb or flow."
There is much value in the acquired power which all true culture gives of self' control, at least of external self-control. It is a duty that every one owes to humanity to keep out of sight of others mental or physical pain. The intuitive chord of sympathy which binds man to man should be respected and never made to jar or quiver unnecessarily. One has no right to exploiter one's selfish griefs or discomforts. A decent respect for others should forbid this. It is not hypocrisy, but a rightful considera-
195 CHICORA'S DEATH.tion for others which makes the dwellers in the Hall of Eblis in Vathek cover with their right hands the dark hole in their breasts in which their hearts are ever burning. People are so much affected by their surroundings, what right has one to shadow over the horizon of others? The truly magnanimous soul, who loves his fellows, may seek sympathy in joy, but must keep sorrow to itself. Panola nor Mark either asked for sympathy from any one. What was to be endured they bore in silence and with outward calm. They had no pity for weakness in themselves, but great charity for others, and--they were hopeless--they had never had any hope. It is human to submit with patience to the inevitable. One gathers up the fragments into the baskets, grateful for even the crumbs that are left from the feasts of others' lives.
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