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NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES



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THE TALE OF
CHRISTOPHEi



THE

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

PRESENTED BY

Purdy _ PjubL isii Ing^ ^ C ompany



VwO \ T ov^



The "'



Tale of Christopher

A Fantasia



BY

ABIGAIL COLTON



Horatio. O day and night, but this is wondrous strange !

Hamlet. And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare. Hamlet. Act I. Scene V,



>^.."D«.L,



I Tf;'^ ; :^7 YORK

ASTOR LENOX AND
TILDEN FOUNDATIONS

R I.9J8 L

gDtfi-.-«fll^



Copyright, September, 1917

By

PURDY PUBLISHING COMPANY, CHICAGO



TO

SARA-LOUISE

THE COMPANION OF HER SUMMER, MANY
YEARS AGO, ON THE CANADIAN SHORES OF THE
NIAGARA RIVER WHERE THE SOUNDLESS
MUSIC OF THIS FANTASIA FIRST RE-
VERBERATED AND TOOK FORM IN THE
OUTER AIR, THE TALE OF CHRIS-
TOPHER IS AFFECTIONATELY
DEDICATED, BY THE
AUTHOR,



FOREWORD

This little book does not presume to represent any
particular cult, although probably many may indorse
certain truths contained therein.

The writer's fancy, guided by intuition, wanders
along lines of interest to all seeming mortals who still
have faith in their own immortality.



PRELUDE

It is sweet, thee to greet, everywhere.
In the light, in the night, Thou art there.
Thou art Love, me to prove, lest I fall.
Thou art mine, I am Thine, God is all.



The Tale of Christopher

A FANTASIA



I was on the bed where I had been lying con-
tinuously for several years, except during the
last twelvemonth, when for a little while daily
they carried me to the reclining chair by the
window to gaze without for recreation. An un-
usual mood seemed to have taken possession of
me. It was difficult to give my customary smile
to the nurse as she asked me how I found myself
that morning.

"Not so well as yesterday?" she inquired as
I looked soberly at her. I was unable to answer,
for all I could think to say was, ''How could I
be worse?" and such a question would have
seemed too full of complaint even for my de-
jected state.

When the doctor arrived soon after and felt
my pulse, his brow grew wrinkled and an anx-
ious expression came into his kind face. I no-
ticed this with unconcern. Generally I tried to
seem hopeful for the sake of this friend, for I
pitied him, going from one sick person to an-
other, and wished, especially on his account,
that he might succeed in curing me. If he
should, I thought, he would then achieve a repu-
tation (for mine was a difficult case) which
would bring him so many patients, that he



The Tale of Christopher

would become rich and be enabled to take the
rest needed by him. One surgeon after an-
other had given me up and pronounced me in-
curable. At last, the family physician alone
was retained to attend to me in a general way.
The lower part of my body was completely
paralyzed. I had the use of my arms and hands
and could turn my head freely, but I could not
even sit up unless propped by pillows, and had
never stood upon my feet nor taken a step, since
that long ago time when I went moss hunting
with Uncle Jack. O, how I used to love him !
The very day which brought to me my misfor-
tune was the last he spent on earth. Shall I
ever forget the bright sunshine, the fresh, crisp
air and the sound of the dashing water as it
beat against the rocky cliff, along the edge
of which we were merrily climbing? Often I
lie and think about them. Whenever I shut my
eyes and desire to, I can feel again all the pleas-
ures of that happy day. It was my tenth birth-
day, and for a treat my mother had allowed me
to go on this expedition with Uncle Jack.

Uncle Jack was a naturalist and was then
studying the mountain mosses, lichens and flow-
ers, intending soon to write a book about them.
He said that if I would find a name for the
pretty, curious lichen we together discovered
that day, he would put it under a picture of the
plant in his new work. It was growing on the
top of the highest hill on our coast in a little
cranny of a rock, and we marked the location

[2]



The Tale of Christopher

so as to gather it on our return. But alas ! we
never went back that way.

Bruno and Major, Uncle's pet dogs, were
with us. Sometimes they ran way in advance,
and then again tarried behind, smelling out lit-
tle gophers' holes or chasing the birds which
ventured upon the ground. This they did only
in play, for they had been taught to refrain from
hurting a single creature. We were in fine
spirits, we four, Uncle Jack, Bruno, Major and
I. Uncle Jack whistled, I sang, and the dogs
yelped and frisked their tails in ecstatic delight.
We were to get our lunch at the "Tip-Top"
House, where those who came up the trail
stopped for refreshment. Just before we
reached this place we climbed out on the cliff
to enjoy the fine view and to examine some moss
growing on the edge of a big rock which rested,
slanting, on the brow of the height. This im-
mense boulder hung over the edge very far and
looked as if it might fall, but Uncle Jack said
it probably never would, for it had rested there
many, many years, and would doubtless ever
continue to do so. Experts had examined it and
testified to its security, and it had been a point
of great attraction to tourists, especially to such
as ventured to climb out upon it. I had been on
it once before, and this time, while with Uncle
Jack, did not hesitate to stand at the very brink
and look down upon the mass of rock below,
over which the sea waves were playing tumult-
uously.

[3]



The Tale of Christopher

I do not recollect anything more of that
happy time. My first remembrance thereafter
is of when I found myself in bed, at home; I
seemed to have just awakened from a long sleep,
but was weary and confused. Then at the bed-
side appeared a strange face — a kind one,
enclosed in a little white cap, such as I had seen
the nurses at the hospitals wear — and next
minute, a gray-haired, gray-bearded man, with
eyes peering through spectacles, looked at me
attentively and exclaimed :

"Well done, my little man. So youVe con-
cluded to wake up at last?"

The voice was strange and the new faces
perplexed me. I could not think how it could
be that these should greet me instead of my dear
mother, as usual. I had a strong inclination to
cry, but just then I remembered that I was now
ten years old and I was reminded of the holiday
tramp and of Uncle Jack, and the dogs, and the
moss — ^where were they all?

I threw up my hands and tried to spring out
of bed, but for some inexplicable reason could
not get up, and immediately, vexed at such un-
reasonableness, called out sharply :

"What have you done to me ? Where is my
Uncle Jack? Where is my mother?" and then
I fainted.

They told me about this afterward, also about
dear Uncle Jack and Mother (they were
brother and sister and very fond of each other),

[4.]



The Tale of Christopher

but I shall relate at once what was given me in
fragments as I was able to bear them.

It was Major and Brmio who saved my life.
The old boulder in which we had trusted, failed
us. Without any warning, it fell from its posi-
tion and hurled Uncle Jack and me out to death.
The people at the Tip-Top Inn heard a rum-
bling, crashing sound, very much like distant
thunder, and soon after noticed a dog running
toward the house at a furious rate. He howled
and whined, and when he had gained their
attention started back in the direction from
which he had come. When they did not at once
follow him he returned to them beseechingly.
Several of them then suspected disaster to
somebody and hastened after Bruno — for it was
he — who led them quickly to the cliff. As soon
as they saw that the great rock was gone, they
knew that a dreadful catastrophe must have
taken place. At first as they peered down, noth-
ing could be distinguished upon the rocks be-
low, but as Bruno climbed down the precipi-
tous, zig-zag path which led to the water and
they slowly and carefully followed, they gradu-
ally discerned a second dog crouching shelter-
ingly over a dark object. Can you not surmise
what it was? But my Uncle Jack they never
found.

When they brought me home, which they
were enabled to locate by means of the engraved
plates upon Bruno's and Major's collars, my
dear mother v/as so prostrated by grief at the

[5]



The Tale of Christopher

loss of her brother and the crippHng of her only
child, that she fell into a low fever and never
recovered. When I first came back to conscious-
ness, after the accident, and asked for her and
Uncle Jack, she was lying at death's door. As
I have said, they did not tell me this then ; they
only said that she was ill but receiving the best
of care. As they found that my memory was
clear up to the moment of the accident, they
added that I had had a bad fall, and that Uncle
Jack was also hurt but that everything possible
was being done for all and we must hope for the
best. The sweet-faced nurse said that she knew
that I could be brave and patient, and the doctor
declared that he would have me out of bed in a
month and then what a time of rejoicing there
would be!

"Just dwell on that, young man, and keep up
your courage.'*

It is wonderful how used we become to
circumstances, and how we can suffer and still
live on; but I, in my affliction, began to have
much to comfort me. The kind people who
watched about my bedside and pitied my con-
dition, did not know this for I was forbidden to
tell them. They would not have believed if I
had told them then, but now, that I am given
permission, I shall write down from time to
time, upon this Mystic Scroll, an account of
some of the happy incidents in my otherwise
sad lot.

There are two sides to all our lives, but we

[6]



The Tale of Christopher

are not often mindful of both ; an inner and an
outer phase, of which we remember only the
outer as a usual thing; but when this is disap-
pointing and marred we are led to look more to
our inner experiences. As we dwell therein
we become able to bring to the outer or earthly
life a precious remembrance now and then.
This had become my happy condition. While
monotonous hours were passed by my body in
this upper chamber, my soul traversed won-
drous regions of joy and bliss. I had a beauti-
ful angel guide, a youth seemingly of my age,
but far wiser. Why did I need to care because
I could not run about and romp with the other
children when I could enjoy the companionship
of this dear friend?

He taught me to call him ''Merry'' and he
named me 'Triskie" and many joyous times we
spent together over hills and in groves where
no dangers lurked. The first time I remember
Merry's coming to me, was the night when I
fell asleep crying because they would not tell
me where Mother and Uncle Jack were. I
began to see through all their evasive answers
to my questions. Since I was obliged to lie so
still and was able to do nothing but think, the
belief forced itself upon me that the worst had
happened; that maybe Uncle Jack had been
killed by the same kind of a fall that had crip-
pled me, and that my mother had died from her
illness. When I said to the nurse in a hopeless
way, "Are my mother and Uncle Jack both

[7]



The Tale of Christopher

dead?" she looked frightened and answered "O
dearie, what put such an idea into your head?"
bhe might just as well have said, "Yes, thev
are dead" as long as she could not say "No
they are not dead." And I turned my face
away and sobbed myself to sleep.



* *



I felt a gentk touch as of someone wiping
the tears from off my cheeks with the softest of
hne scented handkerchiefs, while a musical
voice said, "Little boy, do n^t weep. SeThere
IS your Uncle Jack, well and happy "

Opening my eyes, I saw Uncle Jack, just as
in life, smihng and holding out his hands to
me. I sprang toward him and he caught me in
his strong arms, and welcomed me to the happy
country, where he said, grew far more wondTr^
ful moss and lichens than any we ever found in
the dear earthland. "Christie," he said, "do
not grieve for me, for I am very happy. You
are to be sustained and comforted while you
tarry below, by many joyous visits to this place •
but you must not tell the friends on earth what
IS shown to you here. They are not yet ready
for such experiences, but you are fast growing
to an understanding of many things, because of
the purity and patience developing in you
through your suffering." ^

"But, Uncle Jack," I cried, "Where is my
dear mother? The nurse and the doctor will

[8]



The Tale of Christopher

not tell me. I think she is dead. I have never
even seen her since my tenth birthday.''

^'Christie dear/' he replied, "your mother
is grieving for you and me. She lies
in her bed at home now, but very soon she
is going to join us here. Surely, you will not
grieve at this ? Because you shall come often to
see her, while now she cannot get up stairs to
see you, nor you down stairs to visit with her.
Very soon they will tell you that she is dead, but
since you have learned that death is nothing,
you will not be alarmed."

Then Uncle Jack embraced me, and the
youth who had brought me to him gently
clasped my hand and led me back into uncon-
sciousness.



[9]



II



The next morning when I opened my eyes
once more upon earth Hfe, I heard whisperings
in my room.

"No, no, not yet,'' — it was the doctor's
voice — ''do not tell him yet. Wait until he
is stronger. Poor, little man !"

"You do not need to tell me," I exclaimed. "I
know it all. Uncle Jack was killed by his fall,
and now my dear mother dies with grief for
him and for me."

Doctor and nurse came quickly to my bed-
side, consternation plainly showing in their
faces.

"Surely, Christie," the nurse said, "you
must have been dreaming."

"Maybe," I answered, serenely content.
"But you need not try to keep the truth from
me any longer, for I have a way of finding it
out, myself."

I think I must have smiled for the doctor
asked with much less perturbation, "Wouldn't
you grieve, little fellow, if your dream came
true?" And the next moment he added, "If
Uncle Jack and your mother were both gone?"

Remembering the happy meeting with
Uncle Jack and the warm clasp of his arms
about my neck, and all the sweetness of my
vision, I murmured :

[10]



The Tale of Christopher

''I need not grieve for I shall see them both,
often and often."

The doctor exclaimed at this, declaring that
such trust and patience in one so young were
marvelous; then he gently told me the facts;
Mother had just passed away and Uncle Jack
had never lived after that dreadful accident.
To his great surprise, I never shed a tear —
but why need I ?

My mother's funeral took place the third
day after this. I could tell from the hushed
sounds which worked up from below, all about
it. Indeed as I lay with my eyes closed, I could
see everything as it occurred. I saw the sweet
face in the coffin, noticed the beautiful flowers
and longed to comfort my dear father in his
loneliness. As I listened to the plaintive music,
I could hardly refrain from shouting :

'This you call death and grieve so at seeing,
Is only a passing from Dreaming to Being."

And now, as I write this, I am glad that I
have since learned that even death is not neces-
sary to bring about the transition.



It is very strange for me to measure time by
days and months and years, for long I have
made no habit of doing so ; but to give some idea
of events during my crippled life I will mention
that two years after my mother's funeral, my
father married a second time and brought to the

[11]



The Tale of Christopher

home a new mother for me. Then in another
year, a Httle babe was born into the family; a
dear little girl whom they called Janet.

Six years had passed away, when the day
came in which I found myself in that pensive
mood which I mentioned at the beginning of
this tale. ''Why was I so dejected?" you
doubtless ask.

Because Merry had not come for me for a
whole month and I missed the joy and strength
my flights away with him always gave me. "If
he should never come for me again'' I, thought,
'T certainly could not endure to live.''

When they wished to carry me from the
bed to the chair, I refused to be moved and in-
sisted upon staying in bed all day. At night T
fell asleep earlier than usual, and there was a
great lump in my throat because of the grief in
my heart which was denied expression; but,
joyful to relate, Merry came for me at last. I
cannot tell how long I had been asleep when T
heard him calling me and then immediately saw
him coming toward me. I ran joyfully to meet
him.

"Dear Merry, I have missed you so very
much. Why have you stayed so long away from
me?" I asked.

"Little Friskie, I have been very, very
busy."

"You ever busy. Merry?" I said in amaze-
ment, "I thought that you and everyone who

[12]



The Tale of Christopher

lived in your beautiful country needed never to
do anything you did not wish to do."

''Well, that is the case," he said as he
stopped a moment to caress a pretty butterfly,
which, not in the least afraid, had poised itself
enjoyingly on a spray of feathery bloom by the
path. ''We like to do everthing we find which
needs our doing, and for the past — well, as you
would express it, one month, there has been so
much for me to attend to, that I have only had
time to think of you, and no leisure to visit you.
One reason, Friskie, that you are not always
happy, in your earth life now, is because you
have so little with which to occupy yourself.
But you have had a lesson to learn, and you
have learned it well, we think."

'1 ?" I said. ''What lesson have I learned
and learned well? Tell me, dear Merry."

By this time we had come to a charming
little brook whose water, shallow, but very
swift, ran over the prettiest of colored pebbles
which glistened in the light. Merry picked me
up in his arms and waded through the stream,
and when he set me down on the other side of
the rivulet, I noticed to my great surprise, that
his flowing, white robe and his pretty sandals
of silk, with velvety rosettes, were not wet in
the least.

"Wait a moment," he said. "I must gather
some of these stones."

He selected several of bright colors. It is
difficult to describe these, for the pink ones

[13]



The Tale of Christopher

were prettier than pink, the blue were sweeter
than blue and the white would have made our
idea of purity seem soiled and faded; one
shone like a diamond but was, compared to it,
what a diamond to us seems when placed by a
glass imitation.

"Rest here, my sweet," Merry said to one
of these stones, as he put it on his girdle, where
to my astonishment it stayed, "and here, my
beauty," as he laid another on his shoulder, and
a third and fourth on his breast, and thus
adorned, seemed lovelier than ever.

"Why, Merry," I asked, "what keeps the
stones fastened?"

"We love each other," he answered, "and
they are glad to stay with me. I might have
called them, and they would have come to me,
but I like to gather them."

Amazed, I wondered if they would love me
one little bit, and as I wondered, admiring them
extremely, a warm feeling in my heart caused
me to reach out toward one when, lo ! it jumped
up out of the water, and nestled on my bosom.
As I gazed down upon it I heard a sweet, soft
tone of joy. "Your question is answered, you
see, Friskie ; that is, the question you wondered
to yourself. The one you asked aloud, a while
ago, I haven't replied to yet. Do you wish the
answer?"

Then I recollected what he had said about
my having learned a lesson and replied that I

[14]



The Tale of Christopher

did wish he would tell me what it was. 'Then,
dear, know that you have mastered the grand
task of patience. You have suffered and been
obliged to lie long and tiresomely in your bed
and reclining chair, and yet you have remained
sweet in your temper and have not complained
in your heart. O Friskie, you are many times
stronger than you formerly were before what
they called your accident came to you."

I was very much surprised at this speech of
Merry's but it made me very blissful. All at
once I became conscious of musical tones sound-
ing in many delicious harmonies all about us;
the water, the tree branches swaying in the
breezes, the birds and butterflies, together
breathed a sweet symphony; but the sounds
were not distracting and did not interrupt our
conversation.

''But, Merry,'' I rejoined, "I never could
have remained happy and patient if you had
not often come for me. I spend the days think-
ing of the lovely times I have had with you
the nights before. Only yesterday I was sul-
len and grieving because you had not lately
visited me, and I would not let them take me
from the bed to place me in my chair by the
window."

"That is not strange," Merry answered,
"Little Friskie must be given something to do
day-times. How would you like to write an ac-
count of the different pleasures you enjoy in this

[15]



The Tale of Christopher

happy country, and when it is long enough
have it made into a book for the earth people
to read?"

'That would be fine," I replied, "if you
are sure I may tell what I see here. Uncle Jack
cautioned me, the first time you took me to him,
not to breathe a word of what I learned to the
friends below."

*'Did he ?" Merry asked ; "then we must find
him and inquire just what he meant. Come,
Friskie, we'll go to see him."

Do you laugh that I, a poor cripple, was
called "Friskie"? Then let me assure you that
I was not such in the happy country. Although,
according to the earth way of reckoning time
I was then sixteen years of age, I was not older
in my feelings than on my tenth birthday, and
Merry was equally frolicsome. It was a delight
to us both to run about in the balmy air, which,
though soft, was still as invigorating as if it
had been crisp and cool. There was no ef-
fort in our motion. Up hill or down, we went
with the same ease. Sometimes we glided along
very swiftly without stopping, and again, we
were pleased to tarry here and there for flower
gathering or bird petting. We never grew tired
nor hungry nor thirsty. The most delicious
fragrance filled the atmosphere but it was with
this as with the music, we noticed it or not, as
we chose, or as some emotion within our souls
wished to use it as a sympathetic mode of ex-

[16]



The Tale of Christopher

pression. We took no note of time; there was
always enough and yet never any which hung
idly upon our hands.

"It seems strange to me, Merry," I said,
''that we do not get tired from this long jour-
ney which we are making. Here we have been
running and climbing and playing about, for
such a long time, and still we are not in the
least weary.''

"No, Friskie," he answered, "and after a
while you will forget even to notice this except-
ing when someone else reminds you."

"But the people here will not remind me,
will they? for of course, they never become
tired."

"O yes, they do," was the answer. "They
come here in all stages of development, and
some, who have not learned to be patient and
persevering, grow tired just as the earth peo-
ple do. Also others who have advanced farther
do not forget that there is such a thing as fa-
tigue for some. It is better so, for now we can
help and cheer them, these weary ones, with a
promise of their surely, finally, attaining
strength, if they persevere ; but if we should for-
get their thoughts altogether, we could not un-
derstand and comfort them."

"I should not think you could keep so merry.
Merry," — here we laughed merrily — "when
you see tired, discouraged people about you," I
ventured to remark.

[17]



The Tale of Christopher

"O yes, Friskie. You see it is very much
with us as it is on the earth with the grown
people and the children. Parents always sym-
pathize with the little ones in their childish
griefs, but they are never rendered unhappy by
them. Of course, when what they call a great
affliction comes to a child, like your fall to you,
that is another matter. Some day, that event,
so sad to you and your family, will be made so
clear in its meaning, that all the pain of it will
disappear. I think your Uncle Jack under-
stands it now.''

"People never grow old here, do they?" I
asked, for among those I had seen about in this
country, there were only young and active per-
sons.

''O yes, but they do," Merry remonstrated.
'They get sick and recover, grow old and die


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