THY SON LIVETH
THY SON LIVETH
MESSAGES FROM A SOLDIER
TO HIS MOTHER
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
BT LITTLE, BROWN, AKD COMPAKT.
All rights reserved
Set up and electrotypd by J. S. Cuihing Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
IN issuing anonymously a book of this
character the publishers feel that a few words
of explanation are necessary. 3 The manu-
script was received from an author known to
them, accompanied by the following letter:
"The notes for this manuscript came into
my possession several months ago, but I
have not seen my way clear to submit it for
publication until now, when the poignant
grief of the world moves every heart to offer
all it may of comfort.
"I am convinced that the simply presented
letters of the soldier killed in Flanders con-
tain comfort for all who now mourn or must
mourn in the future. I should like to see
these letters given a wide circulation through
the medium of an inexpensive book."
Convinced of the sincerity of the author,
and realizing that these messages from an
American soldier were no ordinary spirit
communications the publishers asked for
further information. The author replied :
"I ask you to regard the book as truth,
unaccompanied by proofs of any sort, mak-
ing its own explanation and appeal."
This book is published with the hope
that it will fulfill the author's wish give
comfort to those of whom the war has
demanded the bodies of then* loved ones.
Its message, as expressed in one of Bob's
communications to his mother, is "There is
no death. Life goes on without hindrance
or handicap. The one thing that troubles
the men who come here is the fact that the
ones that loved them are in agony."
THY SON LIVETH
EVERY evening when I am at home,
and I am staying at home rather closely
these days, knitting interminable skeins of
gray yarn into socks for the boys in the
trenches, I go up into Bob's room and
browse around among his traps and finger
his tobacco-smelling clothes in the foolish
way of mothers.
A man's room is a queer place when
the man has gone. This one, across the
hall from mine, is the one Bob chose for
himself when he was graduated from the
nursery. It was not his first choice. With
the announcement that he no longer wanted
to be watched over at night, he selected
and preempted the guest chamber in the
farthest part of the house and moved in
with his dog and a guinea pig. He put in
the night there, too, without a whimper.
But in the morning he informed me that he
felt he ought to be near me in case I needed
his help. He moved : and the room is
Thy Son Liveth'
one volume of his history from the day he
was five years old. A record of his progress
from that time until the bugles called him
away. His books in the shelves range from
Mother Goose Tales to Kant and his clan of
thinkers, and up to what Morse planted
and Marconi made to blossom. The last
named are the thumbed books. Bob took
to telegraphy as a spark takes to the air wave.
He was one of the first to raise a wireless
mast from the top of his home and, of course,
I had to study and experiment with him.
He bullied me into learning the code and
being the party of the second part to take
his messages. Looking back upon this now,
I am impressed with the methods that are
used by the Destiny that shapes our ends.
Had it not been for that inkling of the science
of telegraphy which I gained in our play I
should not have heard a message that
but of this I will speak further.
It was something of a bore to me to put
in my time trying to master a complex thing
like the wireless ; and, of course, I never did
become proficient. But when the grind was
over, and we both had acquired some speed
and receptiveness, it was great fun ; and we
had a secret between us that made us pals.
We used to sit up here in this room and pick
Thy Son Liveth
up diplomatic secrets which we could not,
fortunately, decode, and international mes-
sages which we could not, unfortunately,
I believe now, decipher. And when Bob
began to really grapple with the mathematics
which were to make his path straight to his
eagerly adopted profession of electrical engi-
neering, he spent his leisure hours in trying
to simplify Marconi's already simple appa-
We were here together the day Milly,
the maid, brought up the afternoon mail
and gave Bob a long, official-looking envelope
which proved to contain an order from Wash-
ington to immediately dismantle the wire-
less apparatus. We had heard that amateurs
were making nuisances of themselves even
in space; but it came as a shock to find
that we were included in that list. Bob
was literally a young thunder-god when he
stood above his instrument and flashed his
protests to the capital. Every time I glance
toward that corner of the room I recall
how he looked with his "mad on", as little
Myra Kelly used to say. He is a good-look-
ing boy, tall, athletic, strong-featured and
blue-eyed, with his dark hair brushed straight
back in the fashion young New York has
so generally adopted. He had on his work-
4 Thy Son Liveth
ing togs at the time of which I speak : gray
trousers, low collar and soft tie. He was
tense with indignation.
I suggested that there might be something
doing which we did not understand. He said
he ought to be told why he was being bossed
about like that; and he intended to find
out what the deuce the government meant
by it. We did not find out very much.
But the curt message to dismantle without
delay was not long coming. Bob showed
a little fight. I told him that we had never
been obliged to practice obedience to those
in authority, so it came hard ; but as Ameri-
cans, united for the good of all in a common
cause, it seemed the thing to conform to
any requirement and ask why afterwards.
He cQd not yield without a struggle; but
"It's a darn shame," he grumbled, as he
came back through the window with the
multiple antennae in his arms and subdued
the wires to a coil upon the table. "I
believe I was just on the verge of hitting a
plan to do away with a lot of this trumpery."
He sat on the edge of the table and dangled
his long legs restlessly.
"Darn it," he repeated, in vexation, "I'm
going to hire a little etheric wave of my own.
Thy Son Liveth 5
Why, mother, James" (he meant William
James, of Harvard; rather a lion in his
estimation) "James says that all the means
of inter-mind communication are at hand
and available. Then* utilization only awaits
developed human intelligence."
He started to put away the coils and vari-
ous parts that he had brought in; but de-
cided to leave the receiver where it was
until he figured out some plan to make labo-
ratory use of it. I left him fuming, literally,
in a blue haze, and went down for tea.
Our house is one of the old homes on the
Hudson below Tarrytown. I was born,
married and widowed here : and here Bob
first saw the earth-light. The people who
live with us and serve us are, in turn, served
by us. We feel ourselves, truly, a part of
the soil. We live simply, and have had
just the ordinary experiences of the com-
fortable American family in church and
society and home. I want to dwell upon
this sane and altogether unimaginative exist-
ence on account of what I have to tell
Milly had brought in the tea cart, and Bob
came down to join me. He was still irri-
tated; but he ate a whole jar of Damson
jam and demolished the bread plate until
6 Thy Son Liveth
I had to remind him that we were only two
hours from dinner.
"Let's go out somewhere," he jumped
up, laughing. "Tramp or row, which shall
it be? I'll get your wrap and scarf."
I chose the river. I knew the canoe would
keep him occupied, and I felt that his nerves
needed steadying. We went out and down
to where the little boat was bumping its
nose against the pier, and hi a few minutes
Bob was sending it, with his college stroke,
toward the fleet that lay in the river. We
have liked to be together in great moments
the boy and I. This was a great moment.
We paddled in and among the ships and
looked up at them with pride in our hearts.
"They look invincible, don't they?" I
He gave me a quick look.
"Mother, that's what you said the day we
went over the Lusitania."
My heart plunged, sickeningly. The light
seemed wiped from the sky. Bob was still
staring as though he, too, had suddenly
seen an object, long unheeded, before his
"What I want to know," he jerked out,
"is this: Why aren't we at war with Ger-
many, when Germany is at war with us ? "
Thy Son Liveth
He stopped to shout to me not to roek
the boat. I think I nearly sent it to the
bottom of the stream. For, suddenly, I
saw what had stopped our play with the wire-
less. All the events of the past few weeks,
which had appeared of little consequence,
loomed big before me.
"Let's go home," I said weakly. "And
don't talk to me. Our country is at war
and I did not know it until this minute."
He devoted all his attention to getting
free of the ships and avoiding the big swell
made by a small tug. I wondered if it
was the fading light that changed his face
so when he said, at last: "You know what
that means, mother?"
And I answered, untruthfully : " I know
what it means."
He suddenly smiled and threw a paddle
full of spray over me as we landed.
"Oh, you Spartan mother!" he laughed.
"That 'come back with your shield or upon
it' business does not go with such a fat little
rascal-ma as you are. Come, I'll race you
to the house."
But I held back.
"Robert, don't," I whimpered. "I am
an old woman with a boy that is going to
8 Thy Son Liveth
He came back and put his arm around me,
for I was trembling.
"We can't start the thing ourselves,"
he said ; "we've got to wait for Washington.
So cheer up. Who can tell what may happen
to stave it off ? "
But I knew that it was to be. Knew as
well as I did months later when war was
Meanwhile we went about our ordinary
ways, with the exception that I concentrated
on Red Cross and foreign relief work and
withdrew from some of my club activities.
Bob entered Columbia and came out for
the week-ends, at which time I had our usual
house parties which included so many pretty
girls that he could not, for the life of him,
fall in love with any one. People thought
that I wanted to monopolize my son and
keep him from his own love and happiness.
But he knew that my hands were off his life.
I was just an old campaigner showing a good
way but leaving the youngster free to dis-
cover a better one, if he could. I was rather
surprised, however, as the weeks passed
and he was still heart free. I think his mind
was more or less occupied with his electrical
experiments and he still fussed over his
demolished wireless station and spent many
Thy Son Liveth 9
hours, when he should have been skylark-
ing, over the instrument on the table yonder.
** Thunderation, mother," he said. "I
can't get away from the feeling that I ought
to get up to the nth degree in this science !
The Germans are using it in ways that we
do not know. And if I am called to fight,
as of course I shall be, I want a trick up my
sleeve that will beat the enemy at his own
game. Anybody but you would laugh to
hear me say it; but I have a hunch that
I am going to be needed in some particular
capacity before we win this war. And
you mark my words : some day when you
are up here in this old room of mine, you are
going to hear from your little Robbie ! I
am going to put the thing together as well
as I can and keep within the restrictions,
and when I am in France I'll see if I can't
figure out a system of relays or something
or other so that I can get in touch with
I did not think it possible then. But I
remembered what he had said when the
old house was only a lonely, gray pile of
empty rooms, and he had gone, with the
unit, at the first call to arms.
What I felt to see my only son go to war is
just what other mothers have felt and will
10 Thy Son Liveth
feel as more and more young men are given
to their country. But what further I have
to reveal is what every father and mother
should know. And quite simply I am going
to tell it.
Bob was assigned to an Engineers' Corps
and soon won his commission as second lieu-
tenant. He was among the first to cross.
I had a dozen letters from "Somewhere
in France", and it was not hard to catch
something of his spirit and enthusiasm. He
was glorying in his hard work and his pros-
pects for getting a whack at the Hun. He
had qualified for wireless work, much to his
delight, and had been out on a reconnais-
sance. Pershing, himself, had commended
him. He warned me not to worry if I did
not often hear that letters are hard to get
through. And now came one telling me of
fun in camp and the brighter side of soldier-
ing. He added that I had been a brick
to him and made him a man.
I brought this letter up to read in his room
and was laughing and crying over it, as
women will, when the wireless signaled
"attention." I sprang to the key, and in a
moment I had the message that Bob had
promised to find means to send me here.
It is before me now as I made the transla-
Thy Son Liveth 11
tion from the Morse code, adding only the
marks of punctuation :
"Mother, be game. I am alive and lov-
ing you. But my body is with thousands
of other mothers' boys near Lens. Get
this fact to others if you can. It's awful
for us when you grieve, and we can't get
in touch with you to tell you we are all
right. This is a clumsy way. I'll figure
out something easier. I'm confused yet.
So the news that my son had been killed
came to me from his own intelligence by
the methods we had used together in our
experiments here in this very room. And
so I am transcribing it, as he told me to do,
for all to see who can be convinced of its
sincerity. I have no explanations or proofs
other than those that are given here : A man
who was killed in battle and is yet alive, and
able to communicate with the one closest to
him in sympathy, must make his own argu-
ments. I have no knowledge of established
psychic laws or limitations. But I know what
My own emotions, the more or less event-
ful chapters of my life and the lives of those
about me, have nothing to do with this book
of letters from far places. Bob and I want
12 Thy Son Liveth
to ease, so far as may be, the intolerable
anguish of the world. There was nothing
spectacular or notable in his death. A
month later the papers gave his name among
hundreds of others that were mowed down
by German guns. He must have communi-
cated with me very soon after he fell. And
first and last his urgent desire was, and is,
to reassure and comfort the families of
"departed" soldiers. In the messages that
follow in their order, many will find a natural-
ness that must appear absurd. They will
feel that, as in the case of all experiments
beyond the bourne of the material senses,
the spiritual communications are sadly mixed
with earth. In this view I can sympathize.
I have always turned away from books of
alleged spiritual sources because I have felt
that the author-soul was not advanced intel-
lectually beyond the very ordinary human
scale. I wanted the evidence of an imme-
diate angelhood: all-wise, all-seeing, all-
knowing. But I am now convinced that
the processes of education among the worlds
are somewhat the same ; and I am decidedly
comforted to realize that Bob Bennett is
Bob Bennett still. Loving and slangy and
f amiliar but with a tremendously enlarged
sphere of activities and absolute freedom
Thy Son Liveth 13
from physical handicaps and the restricted
period of years.
I have had, up to the time that I began
to arrange for publishing, almost daily
communications from my son. Some of
these are personal letters which I shall not
include in this work, lest in the future some
one may pierce our necessary anonymity.
But all those that seem to me to clear some-
what the mystery, and to simplify the
methods of mental intercourse, are given as
received. As will be noted by an early
letter, the use of the wireless telegraph was
soon abandoned for the better-known auto-
matic writing simply as a matter of conven-
ience. This will, of course, make skeptics
say that these are the writer's subconscious
emanations nothing more or less.
Well, maybe they are. I cannot say that
they are not. For I do not know what
subconsciousness is. What stuff it is made
of. Whence it comes or whither it goes.
Maybe it is the bridge, the link between the
mortal and immortal part of man. Maybe
it is the inherent life which all scientists,
from first to last, have sought without find-
ing; that invisible stumbling block over
which every well-built theory of atoms and
electrons takes its headlong fall. If sub-
14 Thy Son Liveth
consciousness is one of these, it is more than
probable that my boy is using its avenues
of communication. For they must be clear
enough from his end of the road. In fact,
as will be seen in the notes, if we were not
asleep at our switchboards, we might all be
in communication as easy and voluntary as
are the people in the commonplaces who send
telegrams to each other every day.
Bob dwells upon the simplicity of it. He
makes it plain to me that there is
no need of the outside "hocus-pocus" of
mystery-trumpery and cabinets and ignorant
go-betweens, trances and crystal gazings,
and all that sort of thing. He dwells on the
discovery that the mortal really puts on
immortality. He finds it difficult to de-
scribe what the difference is in what we call
the spiritual world : the ways of living, eat-
ing, drinking, and dressing. "As far as
I can see," he says, in one of his very late
letters, "this is a place where one can carry
out his own inclinations : for instance, I am
plugging away at the wireless as I wanted
to do before I came. I live with a lot of
other fellows in camp just now."
In looking over his letters I cannot see
that he has revealed the secrets of his new
surroundings. He does not seem to be
Thy Son Liveth 15
withholding anything purposely; but my
curiosity in regard to who's who in Heaven
and my questions concerning theological
matters do not, as yet, receive attention.
It may be that the Higher Diplomacy with-
holds these things, or it may be that we are
not sufficiently enlightened to understand
even these things with which we are con-
tinually confronted. I do not in the least
understand the simplest phenomena of vis-
ible nature, but if Bob does not tell me how
he gets his clothes, or intimate as to who does
the work in the far places, I think there
must be something apocryphal about his
messages. And because of unbelief I fall
back into the common attitude : a woman
mourning for her son and cannot be com-
Faith has accomplished about every duty
assigned to it, apparently, but the recogni-
tion of the free progress of the liberated soul.
"Proof, proof," we call. But there is no
proof. And so some saturnine man builds
a creed out of his own meager understanding.
And he puts heaven high and hell low, and
a weak and violent God between them. If
I had not the certainty that these communi-
cations I have are authentic, the literal mes-
sages from my son to me, I should still rather
16 Thy Son Liveth
accept a pleasant faith on trust than an
unpleasant one on the same condition.
One thing alone is certain, the inevitable-
ness of that change which most of us call
"death" and poet-seers, like Wordsworth,
call "transition." The words are synonyms.
My boy has brought me to a sense of the
sane and simple naturalness with which our
family life goes on when we have finished
this classroom work and progressed to far
places. I think there are analogies in nature
at every hand : millions of little shelled
creatures, the names of which I do not know,
and as many more minute organisms undergo
successive changes and developments that
are not less marvelous than the emergence
of the soul from the body.
Those who have experienced death have
found it easy : particularly those who have
gone out in the crash of battle or tremendous
and sudden disasters. Bob speaks at first
hand of this. And from now on his letters
must bear the consolation that he so wishes
to extend : Blessed are they that mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Letter Number 2 (by wireless)
Attention : Get this across there is no
horror in death. I was one minute in the
thick of things, with my company, and the
Thy Son Liveth 17
next minute Lieutenant Wells touched my
arm and said : "Our command has crossed :
Let's go." I thought he meant the river,
and followed him under the crossfire barrage
the Tommies made, up to a hillside that I
had not noticed before : a clean spot not
blackened by the guns. Lots of fellows
I knew were there, and strange troops.
But they looked queer: I glanced down at
myself. I was olive drab all right. But
my uniform was not khaki : it seemed to be
a fabric of some more tenuous kind. I had
no gun. I overtook Wells. "What in the
deuce is the matter with me, with us all?"
I asked. He said, "Bob, we're dead."
I didn't believe it at first. I felt all right.
But the men were moving, and I fell in line.
When we marched through the German
barbed-wire barricades and in front of the
howitzers, I realized that the body that could
be hurt had been shed on the red field.
Then I thought of you. Sent that wireless
from an enemy station in the field. The
officer in charge couldn't have seen me. But
he heard, I guess, by the way his eyes popped.
He sent a few shots in my direction, any-
way. I am using an abandoned apparatus
in a trench to-day, depending on relays.
We are assigned to duty here for the present,
18 Thy Son Liveth
according to Wells. I don't know how he
knows. It seems while we have no super-
natural power to divert or stop bullets, we
can comfort and reassure those who are about
to join us. There has been much talk about
the presence of one supposed to be the Savior
among the dying. I should not wonder if
that were true. The capacity for believing
is enlarged by experience. But as yet I
have no more real knowledge than any of
the other fellows. I will let you know as
I gain information. Others, like me, will
pick up and relay the messages.
Number Three (by wireless)
Attention : As I see this war, a curious
understanding of its purpose and ultimate
result is dawning in my mind. The soldiers
are the pick of humanity. The young,
brave, blameless manhood that has been
brought to its majority on the earth so that
it may form an ideal democracy in this
existence which, I am told, is of permanent
character. I am bungling the big idea.
But, you know what I mean, mother. I'll
grow clearer, maybe. Wells is getting to be
a whale of an oracle. Some of the fellows
are in a funk, and others are sullen and un-
happy : homesick, I guess. The young
married men mostly. If they could get in
Thy Son Liveth 19
touch with their folks, it would be all right.
That's why I want to try and simplify some
system of communication. You have never
failed me : and now if you can get it firmly
fixed in your mind that I am I, not what
is vulgarly called a ghost but a being just
as much as I ever was, we can start something
worth while. It's got to begin with some
one as level-headed as you are. I'm called
Letter Number 4 (by wireless)
Attention: We hit upon the key word,
when we agreed to use the word Attention
in our wireless practice. It is the word
that unlocks the inner, or secret, ear to hear
otherwise inaudible voices. Do you get
me ? I mean : when you want to talk with
me, concentrate your mind by calling your
own faculties, the unused ones, mostly, to
"attention." See if they don't respond.
It may require practice, but I am told there
is no reason in the worlds, notice the
plural, why we should not talk with the
greatest ease and without any mechanics.
Come up and try to-morrow. See if I can't
project my thought direct to yours. Bring
pencil and tablet if you want to. But a
fellow here who knows all about automatic
writing says there is no pencil-guiding by
20 Thy Son Liveth
unseen hands about it. The recipient just
takes dictation. Better bring the pencil.
You will want to report this just as it is for
our purpose. I'll find out all I can, but just
now we are engaged here in relief work.
Some of the chaps are very young, and we