SCENE XII—A Parlor. -- ST. CLARE, -- MISS OPHELIA. -- TOM on a bench near the window, reading.
Augustine, have you ever made any provision for your servants, in case of your death?
Then all your indulgence to them may prove a great cruelty by and by.
Well, I mean to make a provision by and by.
One of these days!
What if you should die first?
Cousin, what 's the matter? Do you think I show symptoms of yellow fever or cholera, that you are making post mortem arrangements with such zeal?
"In the midst of life we are in death!"
St. C. [Laying aside the paper, and rising.]
DEATH! Strange that there should be such a word, and such a thing, and we ever forget it; that one should be living, warm and beautiful, full of hopes, desires, and wants, one day, and the next be gone, utterly gone, and forever! [To TOM.] Want me to read to you, Tom?
If mas'r pleases; mas'r makes it so much plainer.
St. C. [Reads.]
"When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels
with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him
shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." [ST. CLARE reads on, in an animated
voice, till he comes to the last of the verses.] "Then shall
the King say unto them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty,
and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked,
and ye clothed me not: I was sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they answer unto him, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or
athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister
unto thee? Then shall he say unto them, Inasmuch as ye
did it not to one of the least of these my bethren, ye did it not to me." [Pauses. To TOM.] Tom, these folks that get such hard measure seem to have been doing just what I have—living good, easy respect able lives; and not troubling themselves to inquire how many of their brethren were hungry, or athirst, or sick, or in prison. [Goes to the piano and plays and sings.]
"Dies irae dies illa,
What a sublime conception is that of the last judgment! A righting of all the wrongs of ages! A solving of all moral problems by an unanswerable wisdom! It is, indeed, a wonderful image.
It is a fearful one to us.
It ought to be to me, I suppose. Now, that which I was reading to Tom strikes singularly. One should have expected some terrible enormities charged to those who are excluded from heaven, as the reason; but, no,—they are condemned for not doing positive good, as if that included every possible harm.
Perhaps it is impossible for a person who does no good not to do harm.
And what, what shall be said of one whose own heart, whose education, and the wants of society, have called in vain to some noble purpose; who has floated on, a dreamy, neutral spectator of the struggles, agonies, and wrongs of man, when he should be been a worker?
I should say that he ought to repent, and begin now.
Always practical and to the point! You never leave me any time for general reflections, cousin; you always bring me short up against the actual present; you have a kind of eternal now, always in your mind.
Now is all the time I have anything to do with.
Dear little Eva—poor child! she had set her little simple soul on a good work for me. [A pause.] I don't know what makes me think of my mother so much to-night. I have a strange kind of feeling, as if she were near me. I keep thinking of things she used to say. Strange what brings these past things so vividly back to us, sometimes! [Walks.] I believe I 'll go down the street, a few moments, and hear the news to-night. [Exit.]