"Forget you, dearest!" and the
pathos of the strong man's voice was like that of a tender mother,
as she hushes the moaning of her sick infant to silence; "forget
you!" "Nay, my father, I know that my place in your
heart is secure, while that heart remains above the sod, so soon
to cover mine. Desolate you will surely be, until we meet again
in the garden of delight. Full well, dear father, I know how our
souls have been joined, and thine will be agonized by our separation.
Yet, I fear the influence of time upon your memory; although I
rejoice that it may assuage your grief. I dread the intervention
of other thoughts. As years roll away, my image will lose its
brightness upon your memory, and when our re union comes, as come
it surely will; and we stand together once more, safe through
the Redeemer's love, you will not recognize me, father, as you
behold me now!" "Be not troubled, oh, my daughter, with
such thoughts. Calm this dangerous agitation. The fever is consuming
you, and you need rest. With this fond kiss, let me commend you
to sleep;" and he pressed his lips to her cheek with a look
of such intense love, that it would have been pain to behold it.
"No more, my father, leave me no more until you turn from
the mound that on to morrow will be heaped above me. It is my
hour, and I bid you stay. I see them waiting and beckoning, and
they cannot be restrained. A moment longer, bright ones, and I
come! Father, rememberest thou the hour when my mother departed
from amongst us, and severed the three fold cords Then you said
you could never forget her. Rememberest thou the gleam that flashed
over her face; the beaming love in her eye! Feelest thou yet the
last pressure of her faded hand! Nay, father, but six years have
gone, and yet her features are faded from your memory! SAe remrembeieth
you, for she is in a world where change has no influence; but
already have her lineaments, beautiful in death, vanished from
your recollection; and she abideth with you only as a formless
spirit, the resident of an unknown land. Father, is it not so?"
The desolate man hid his face upon the bedside, and groaned in exquisite anguish. "And now, dear father, your Helen is called away, overborne by one whom she cannot resist.
Would that the message had embraced us twain! that together we might have walked the valley of the shadow of death! But I must tread the way alone; and, oh! my father, knowing this, and feeling, in my heart of hearts, that we shall meet again, I slumbered not through the silent hours of the past night, considering how best I might impress my image, as you now behold it, upon your memory. Father, weep not; but hear me.
Incline to your beloved once more, and hear me." The father obeyed her wishes, and, bending over her, gazed upon the radiant face which gleamed with feverish animation, and set himself carefully to attend the words which were so evidently to be her last. Helen Brooms grove was the only child of an intellectual, highly educated, but early stricken mother.
Being confined, for several years, to her apartments, by the disease that prematurely snatched her from life, that mother had devoted herself with a most affecting attachment to the education of her daughter, and with marked success. Helen grew up, before the eyes of her fond parents, beautiful in mind as in features and form. Her body, matured amidst the bracing breezes of a hilly region, seemed to defy the insidious monster that so cruelly preyed upon her mother's life. Her tongue, restrained by no artificial usages, caroled, like any glen bird, the rich airs in which the refined taste of her parents instructed her. Light and swift of foot, it was no ordinary vision to see the fair girl brushing away the early dews, herself the sweetest bud of the morning. Her passion for flowers was touching to see. Whether the ordinary forms of pasture and woodland, or the rarer gems of the cliff side, or the obedient train bands of the garden, Helen cherished them with an affection as large as it was pure and fervent. Distant collectors had acknowledged her severe judgment in the arrangement of botanical species; neighboring horticulturists bowed deferentially to her skill in all garden lore; and the getters up of fairs looked for nothing fairer than the bouquets furnished by her kindness and arranged by her taste. As she drew nearer to womanhood, all her love for nature and art seemed to concentrate in this, till botany became her passion, and she might be said to live amidst flowers. Thus passed the years till her nineteenth birthday, when we find her stricken by a lurking fever shaft in her own spring month, and about to surrender her spirit to the guidance of stern death. And now her father drew his ear closely to her face, that he might catch the faintest notes of that expiring music, and thus the dying girl addressed him: "Bid Ella bring me, from my earliest rose plat, three you bud of thee rose brier. These shall be tablets, my father, on which I will stamp my image, and time shall not bedim it.
In the years gone by, in the long, happy winter evenings, when we three lived and loved together, I have often reclined upon your knee, dearest father, and heard you speak of the Mystic Brothers. You said that a Freemason never died, never faded, never was forgotten. You said that his virtues, green as the acacia, were engraved upon the memory of his brethren, and endured as the uncrumbling granite. You spoke of the wonderful facility afforded them by signals and true words to communicate their mutual sorrows or joys.
I know that my sex debars me from your circle, and leaves for me no niche in your sacred temple; but, though I do not expect that my form will be followed to the grave by a band of brothers, yet I feel free to invoke the skill which devised so perfect a system. Father, I determined last night that the three buds of the sweet brier should henceforth be consecrated to the memory of the early dead; that on each petal of these half opened objects you should behold, as though hovering like a shade, the features of your departed Helen; that in the graceful curve made by these stems with the parent stock should be found sight of this degree, and that, so abiding amidst nature's fairest works, I shall never fade from your memory. In this symbol the parent shall behold the child; the heart broken lover, inhaling the fragrance of these wild buds, shall be reminded of the undying virtues of her whom he loved; and the words which I will whisper in your ear words suggestive of heavenly contemplations shall be the passwords of this degree." The parent drew still closer; for now her face grew ghastly pale, and her voice was tremulously low. "I must hasten, dear father; for they grow impatient for my coming! To you I leave it, that my dream shall prove no vain fantasy; for I feel that you comprehend my wishes, and that the charge will be accepted. In those beautiful lessons with which, as a Freemason's daughter, you have entrusted me, I found that woman has a part to bear in aid of your sacred Order, and I would, dear father, that my dying wishes may be fruitful in your hands to produce such results. I am going to the land where hearts shall be read and desires known. Then let my last wishes be fulfilled. Make it your duty I know it will prove a pleasure to impart it to those of my sex who are worthy; and if among your brethren, you find any who would like to be instructed in it, refuse them not the privilege. Let its symbol be three young buds of seet brier; its recipients, worthy wives and daughters of skillful craftsmen; its consecration, the memory of the early dead; its lessons of instruction, memory undimm deed and fait unshaken." Her voice was silent for a moment, but swelled again to a gentle whisper: "Let this be the sign whereby they shall hail each other, to consider the lessons my emblem teacheth, and let these words be the passwords to the degree, till, amid unfading flowers of Eden, they and I shall exchange congratulation is and part no more forever." So passed away the queen of floral lore, and over her grave the traveler may see a marble monument, spotless as her own pure heart, on which no empty words dare mock at human grief. The single name, "Helen," will guide you to it, should you ever walk in that retired church yard of distant England. Beneath her name is sculptured an emblem since well known to fame the three buds of the sweetbrier; and they rest at the foot of a Christian cross. Her father lived but a few years after her departure. His was not a nature to walk life's rugged ways alone. He yearned for a congenial spirit, but found it not anywhere on earth. He listened for voices that were nowhere stirring this lower air, and then, like one early reclining his head upon a welcomed pillow, he gladly sunk to rest; and the clods of the valley were sweet unto him.
The few years allotted him were spent in obeying the dying bequest of his gifted daughter; for he devoted himself, with a touching earnestness, to disseminating a knowledge of the degree she had founded. Wherever a fond heart bled at the vanishing of some loved form; wherever a wail of woe arose from the bedside of the true; wherever a knee was drooping by the grave of the early stricken; there was to be seen that sad mourner, with his tale of one, the loveliest of her sex, early smitten, who went out from her flowers, herself the fairest, and lay down upon a pillow of sickness, and, with voice and understanding snatched for a moment from impatient death, taught the living to read the best lesson ever breathed from a fragrant bud. And sighs were restrained and tears dried at his tale; for all acknowledged that his grief exceeded theirs. But when, to the deserving, he revealed the beautiful system conceived by his daughter, and explained the emblem which she had adopted to characterize the degree, when he taught them the holy lesson, not of this world, which lay at the foundation of the plan, it was as the voice of comfort and hope that they received it, and parents beheld the lineaments of their daughters and lovers of their beloved, dead to all else, in the opening petals of the sweet brier.
Now, by the side of his departed Helen, slumbers the weary father, refreshed long ago in heavenly streams. Above him bends shelteringly the rose tree of his daughter's choice. Season after season it has shaken off the snows of winter, clothed itself in greenness, and adorned its bending boughs with unmatched buds. It meets and entwines with a sister tree, a few years its senior, that springs from near the headstone of Helen's grave. They tell to all visitors the solemn tale which we have related They send their mutual fragrance far and wide, and the birds have no place of resort so lovely as this. They bend beneath the passing breeze; they bow submissively to the gale. The winter drifts may bend them, and the summer rains overweigh them with their profusion; but never do they falsify their trust; for, beneath breeze or gale, summer rain or winter snow, as they overshadow those twin graves, they are ever observed to give the hailing sign of the Order of the Sweet Brier.
Among the female relatives, the sisters, wives, and daughters of Freemasons, are many ingenious systems calculated to interest and instruct the mind. They bind together those who remember the obligations connected with them; and they place the worthy recipients in more intimate relationship to the Mystic Band. But none amongst them all carry with them a fragrance from the dead, nature's most graceful line, and an allusion to the highest truths, like the one we have described. We knew a woman, fair and virtuous as Helen, stricken down, like her, in early prime, who remembered the sweetbrier upon her death bed, and was refreshed by the recollection. As we returned home, after attending the procession that bore her to her long rest, we sketched the following lines, and named them, THE DIRGE OF THE FREEMASON'S DAUGHTER.
The green waving willow mourns over thy
Bewailing the maiden who passed in her bloom;
And soft dews of heaven bathe lightly the bed
Where the fairest and dearest lies low with the dead.
Though fond hearts arc breaking no passion
Through sorrow's wild burden thine, lost one, is free;
But where is the smile that woke riches of light?
It has faded ah! faded and dark is the night!
We miss thee; for nothing is left us so
We miss thee; this earth has no spirit so rare;
We miss thee; we pine for the eye and the tongue
For the eye that was summer, the voice that was song.
The voice of thy parting swells round us
The acacia's bright story adds joy to the strain;
For emblems, though sad, twine with Faith, Hope, and Love;
With the pure in God's favor we'll meet thee above.
As, What Fairy lice Music. Masonic Lycs,
No. 11. By the Author. 251
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