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THE BETTER WAY



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o



THE BETTER WAY

By CHARLES WAGNER

Author cf The Simple Life

Trantlated from the French by Mary Lame Hendee



ALDI




McClure, PUlUps ^ Co.

New York

190S



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Gratis



COFTRIOHT, 1908. BT

HoCLUBB, PHILLIPS & CO.

Pabllshed, April. 1903

Second Impression, May, 1908. N
Third Impression, September, 1903.



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DEDICATION



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To

Paris^ February 2Ji^ 188^
Montana'Sur-Sierrey August 20y 1899

MY chUd, I began this book by your
bed of pain and in my lonely walks
on the mountain.

Many a time I interrupted the
writing to go and do for you one of thoee in-
numerable little eervicee at once mo tad and mo
Mweet; and away from you, in the Alpine path-
ways, in the high pastures and solitary midlands,
my aching heart was filled with your image.

To you then I dedicate these pages. May they
he offered you not as sad tokens of what no longer
is, but as an eternal pledge between our insepara-
ble souls, and as an act of homage, that I would
were purer and fuller of consolation, rendered
from the midst of a transitory world to that which
never dies.



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PREFACE



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PREFACE

I HAVE known solitude, hut never abandon-
ment. However remote my way, there has
always come to fare with me an unkngwn
companion, of unfailing goodness. He
has been strong in the stress of life, tender in
pain, paternally severe in the hours of carelessness.
Never have I fought a battle that he was not
by my side. Into all life we have gone together;
we were two who spoke in public, two who took
counsel by the fireside. I have come to know
him as another self, a good genius, a near and
superior spirit who untangles from the perplexi-
ties of life that which is sure and essential.

He has shared my joy in bright days, and in
dark ones he has cheered me. Wandering per-
plexed in the wUdemess of ideas or of passions
I would see him appear suddenly in the very heart
of the labyrinth, and his glance opened the way.
In the hours of youth and expansion, when one



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xii THE BETTER WAY

sings and vibrates like a harp, he sang loudest of
all. When the hours came in which one cannot
speak to grief, silent he wept with me.

Who this mysterious Friend is I do not know,
I claim for him neither prestige nor any privilege
of infallibility. My purpose is simply to let my
fellows profit by what he has brought me.

It is not hard to perceive that he borrows almost
everywhere the light he throws along my path, for
his face radiates universal human sympathy. For
myself, I venerate him as a Knight of God, Cer-
tainly he has seen far distant times, but he is in-
fused with the vigorous current of life that stirs
under the bark of ancient oaks. He has been in
all good fights; his heart bears the scars of all
blows at truth and justice. Along Sinai and
Judea he has listened to the Prophets, and he has
prayed on Calvary; but he also loves the good
Homer, Plato, and all things largely human. He
has a decided bent for scientific research and social
questions; he interests himself passionately in
those who follow unbeaten paths over the vast
stretches of the unknown. But, when they would
deny the Spirit, he laughs in his long beardm
Stifling in confinement, he seeks equilibrium and



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PREFACE xiii

wide horizons. He abhors the sectarian spirit, and
openly declares that if the chiefs should return
hy whom men swear and anathematize, not one of
them would he of his own creed.

What distinguishes him above all else is Faith,
He believes in the profitable flight of days, in
the high destiny which, without knowing how to
name or define it, suffering and militant humanity
pursues across its laborious career. He believes
in the mystery that opens in a flower, shines from
the stars, pierces the conscience, sobs in our tears,
vibrates in our songs, sleeps in the cradle, and
hides in the grave. He believes in the Spirit be-
yond measure, in the ultimate downfall of evil, in
the triumph of love, in expiation for sin; he be-
lieves in heaven, but he believes also in earth; he
believes in man, because he believes ardently in
God, not alone the God of splendid creations, of
transcendant power, of unapproachable light, but
the God who works in human guise, trembles in
our hope, suffers from our griefs; a God who has
chosen like a device this magnificent cry of Ter-
ence's — " I am man, and nothing human is alien
to me.'* Surely the best that the Friend possesses
comes to him from the Son of Man.



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xiv THE BETTER WAY

Alas! I despair of ever characterizing the
spirit that inspires him, but I must needs force
myself, under pain of treachery, to stammer after
him some of the things he has said to me. If
these fragmentary and disconnected pages may
contain here and there hits of true life, crumbs
of the nourishing bread on which the soul feeds;
if someone shall owe it to them that he is less high
for the lowly, less the creature of his own narrow
affirmations and negation's, less self-sufficient and
less faint-hearted, less sad in his mourning, hap-
pier in his work for the future, and more confident
during our blind and painful seed-times, it will be
precious fruit of a labor that already in itself has
brought so much consolation.

La Commcmderis, July S6^ 190S,
Saint Christopher's Day,



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CONTENTS



PAaE
SOUVENIRS 1

SOLITUDES AND RESTING-PLACES . 17

IN TROUBLOUS HOURS . . • . 43



THE GATES OF DEATH
WITH THE YOUNG.
GIRD UP THY LOINS ^
FORERUNNERS .
BY FAITH .



. 71
. 105
. 121
. 171
. dl5



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SOUVENIRS



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SOUVENIRS

I THINK OF THEE

DEAR child, I speak to thee from the
heart of a perishable world; thou dost
listen from a world where there is no
more death. In God we are near each
other. It is three years since we and you were
living alone in the mountains, three years since,
after five months of suffering, you fell asleep one
evening in our arms. Only God knows what your
poor mother has suffered since then.

I wish thought of you to be attached always to
this book, begun during your illness, and dedicated
to you. Perhaps it will carry a bit of brotherly
sympathy and moral support to others whom sor-
row puts to the proof.

my son! the years roll by, and each one
makes you dearer and more real to our hearts.
Your name is ever on our lips, your dear image
mingles in all our life. Your little brother and
your sisters go to sleep at night naming you
3



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4 THE BETTER WAY

in their prayers. Your little room, full of the
things that belonged to you, is always garnished
with flowers. The first violets from the garden
and the last chrysanthemums are offered you, with
an affection as simple and as trustful as though
you were visible to our eyes.

Love is stronger than death.

May our souls remain faithful and confident,
that courage may never forsake them.

May God give us the grace to weep for you
with hope.

MY SON!

1884

AFTER the first emotions aroused by your
birth were stilled, the new fact of having
a son which had slowly found place in
■my mind, began little by little to pervade my whole
inner life and to mingle with all the events stored
up in my memory.

The great event, then, had taken place. To
the farthest recesses of my being — unknown and
-mysterious, like the heart of a wood where no
chance-comer ever strays — a strange light shed



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SOUVENIRS 6

over everything, showed that the news had passed
that waif.

At length we possessed him, this dear expected.
The long months of his mother's patient seclusion,
the sacrifice of movement and liberty, the doubts,
the dejection, the solitude, the fear, were all for-
gotten. In the front rank of thought, in the full
radiance of happiness, the event stood forth with
a triumphant intensity.

I attributed the merit of our happiness to the
entire universe. I sent measureless gratitude up-
ward to God. I took it kindly of the passers-by
that I had a son. And suddenly I loved them all
better than before, young and old, happy and
miserable, whosoever went my way in the street.
Why did they not seem to remark something ex-
traordinary in my heart and face? — Reserve, no
doubt, and friendly discretion.

And, as I strode about this great Paris in all
directions, every man I met seemed a brave fel-
low. More than once, perched on top of some
omnibus, I felt myself carried along by the strong
swing of the horses as though across a dream.

Those who have not travelled this road will
never understand anything about it. Words can



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6 THE BETTER WAY

make those who feel what we feel understand us,
but they cannot create what does not exist. Shall
I regret the intoxication of that time, now that
joy, hope, and the sweet emotions of the heart
have been followed by so much grief f No, I re-
gret nothing. For nothing in the world could I
wish that this past had not been,

WHAT a new outlook is opened upon
the world by this title of father!
A man draws nearer to his ancestors
when he himself has a son, and he takes hold
on humanity by a thousand new and sensitive ten-
drils, capable of revealing to him the secret of
joys and sorrows of which hitherto he has had
no suspicion.

BLESSINGS on the hours of tenderness
that I have consecrated to thee! If I
had charged others to love thee in my
place, a pure treasure would be wanting in my
memory. To carry one's children one's self, even
in the street; to play with them, tell them stories,
give them personal care, watch their development
— from every point of view, it is a good thing.



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SOUVENIRS 7

The nation as well as the family depend upon
this — that fathers be really fathers.

But when we lose them, these dearly beloved
ones, it is a comfort to have enjoyed them well.
Love well while we may, profit from the hours of
grace, when our darlings are with us. The time
may come when they will be far off. Then from
these souvenirs the thirsting heart draws refresh-
ment as the flower does from a dewdrop.



BEYOND THE WALL

WE were in Switzerland, where we had
arrived in the morning. I had charge
of Pierre, who was just entering his
third year. He was trotting about near me, ex-
amining everything and ashing questions. Sud-
denly, without my knowing how, the child disap-
peared.

Near at hand were rocks, precipices, all sorts
of dangers. I ran in search, I accosted every-
body. No one had seen him. A madness of terror
seised me.

Then, going along a high garden-wall, I heard



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8 THE BETTER WAY

from the other side a child's voice in conversation
with the deep voice of a man.

It mas Pierre; they were offering him straw-
berries and ashing about his father and mother.
He, all unconcerned, was eating the fruit, and,
encouraged by his welcome, was prattling away,
quite at home.

NOW the wall between him and us is of
another height. But the scene of child-
hood comes bach to me, when ^I be-
lieved him lost, fallen into some abyss, while in
truth he was happy, welcome, cared for; and I
see in it a symbol of what is passing on the other
side of the wall.

MY SON!

1899

The Friend:

OOK about this secluded mountain re-
cess. It is only a few weeks since the
snow vanished. Now all the flowers
of springtime have burst their buds: — blue gen-
tians, yellow primroses, pink hare-bells nodding



L



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SOUVENIRS 9

in cascades and outspread in carpets; painted
anemones and the dwarf lilies graceful as a
child. As a foundation for all this, see the
greensward iohose grass grows fine and small, as
if to leave the glory to the flowers. All around
hang gray rocks overgrown with old bearded pines,
and overhead the sky seems cut from a single
sapphire. . • .

What! . . . You weep?
— My son!

— The Friend: Poor father!

— Nature is waking to her new birth. His youth
is blighted. Is not his brow pure, his soul white
as the lilies? Candor smiles in his starry eyes;
he is good, he has known no evil; and the enemy
blasts him. Oh! this paleness and then this fever
glow, this young life withering under a breath of
fire, this cough that racks and tears!

I can no longer think of other things. The
songs of the birds, the smiling sun, the sight of
the flowers rend my soul. An invisible hand has
tightened round my heart; I wander over the
mountain like a somnambulist; I look at the for-
est, and do not see it; I listen to the torrent, and
do not hear it. I am not here, but down there



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10 THE BETTER WAY

beside his bed of suffering. my child! my poor
child!

— The Friend: I weep with your tears. He
merits love, and plaint, and regret, the dear boy!
Fifteen years and a half! A companion already,
a friend for his mother, a beautiful hope of the
future. To see him sapped at the root — what tort-
ure for you!

And yet, if you love him well, should you not
master yourself? Have you not need of being
twice a man? Have you thought of the choice
offered you in these grave moments — either to let
your grief make inroads and vanquish you, and so
become for those belonging to you, for your son
himself, a source of suffering, an additional bur-
den; or to be brave and virile, to stand firm, and
become for the others and for this dear little one
who suffers, a sure refuge, a good and calm hid-
ing-place always near?

It is not right to let grief have this mastery,
and set its signs on your brow. What will your
face say to your son? Will he read from it a
story of despair? You owe him something better
than this. Do not you add to his misfortunes, but
protect him against them. Do not look at him



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SOUVENIRS 11

with eyes which say that he ii lost. No one is ever
lost. We are God's; that is unchanging. You must
reinvigorate the spirit of your son by strengthen-
ing your own; let him feel himself protected, sup-
ported, guarded, in perfect security.

Consider this illness, in spite of its evident
gravity, as a circumstance, not as the principal
thing. Treat the child like an ordinary child who
is interested in everything, and who shares in life
like the rest. Do not keep bringing his attention
ba^k to the point of defect. We do not make what
is unstable the centre of all the rest, but we
strive to attach all manifestations of our life,
happy and unhappy, to that which alone remains
firm. Acting otherwise we become enemies and
oppressors of those we love best; we make our-
selves incapable even of caring for them phys-
ically. . . .

Your son loves flowers. If he could but see
this splendor round about us, a smile would light
his face; he would have a moment of pleasure, of
forgetfulness of pain. The spirit that sustains
and saves us in our distresses would speak to him
in the soft breath stirring on these heights.

Since he cannot come here, the flowers must go



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12 THE BETTER WAY

to him. Let us fill our arms with them, and, if
possible, offer them to him with a smile. To those
whom we love we should not give shadow, hut light.
To carry them real comfort and relief in their pain
and weakness, we must love them with faith, with
confidence; love them with a steadfast will to res^
cue them in spite of everything,

PORTRAIT

THY great blue eyes of infinite sweetness
seemed to look upon the beyond oftener
than upon the present, and, even when
a little child, thy questions and ideas showed a sin-
gular openness toward the spiritual world.

Why wert thou never quite reconciled to thy
part of boy? Thy altogether feminine grace ac-
corded ill with rough sports. When alone, thou
didst seek more quiet pleasures. Perhaps thou
hadst unconsciously the presentiment of thy prema-
ture death, and felt thyself set apart for other
destinies.

Thou didst not make thy pact with the earth.
It seemed as if thou hadst known that it was but
an inn by the way, and not thy habitation. Its



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SOUVENIRS 18

dtut and its defilement remained unseen by thee.
At the age when others lose the bloom of their
ingenuousness, and take pleasure in rude actions
and ungentle speech, thou didst become more open
still, with more of conscience.

Ill-sounding words slipped thy memory; noth-
ing impure was fixed there. Thy candor increased
with the years, and, having attained almost the
stature of a man, thou didst preserve without con-
straint or effort the white innocence of a child,
'* Blessed are the pure in heart,, for they shall see
God," Thy youth was like the fragrance of these
words.

To be ill-tempered, angry, domineering — all that
was unknown to thee. Thou didst simply turn
toward the good. Every harsh judgment upon
others, every exchange of heated speech, was hate-
ful to thee. Thou hadst natural justice and in-
nate charity. That each show consideration for
others, and that no injustice be committed or suf-
fered — this was thy heartfelt wish.

And thy unfailing tact and fine taste made thee
a companion full of charm and good counsel, one
who breathed peace and communicated it. With
ihy little sisters and thy brother thou didst enjoy



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14 THE BETTER WAY

undisputed the rights of an elder, founded on the
simple magic of perfect kindness.

For thy mother already thou wert becoming a
companion, a resource, a confidant. Discreet and
docile, like a respectful son, thy opinion was con-
sulted like that of a big brother.

And I, charged with the weight of a formidable
ministry, saw thee growing up clear-sighted, peace-
loving, spiritually-minded, a future companion in
arms, a disciple to dream of.

From this choice soul, open to beauty, sensitive
to grace, vibrating in answer to everything noble
and pure, I saw the eternal Gospel reflected in
new lights; and already, outstripping time with
the cherished hope, the father heard the son pro-
claim the message of love, and spread the good
news welcome to wounded hearts.

Oh, how we loved thee I

UNFORESEEN, as a bolt falls from the
blue sky, the evil was upon thee. In a
few days we had to break the family
circle and set out for the mountains to seek an
ally against the enemy.

We were vanquished. But you never murmured



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SOUVENIRS 16

or made complaint. Where, pray, had you learned
patience, the hard art of suffering, serenity in dis-
tress, and simplicity in the face of death? God
alone knows.

TO feel that thou art in His hancls, as the
living are too, this is our final refuge in
our grief. God guard us in it, increase
our trust for the days to come, and preserve it to
our hist hour!

Dear lad, gone before thy time from our arms
where thou wast and art so beloved, thy empty
place will cause us many tears. But how sweet
thy face was in death, how patiently thou didst
suffer, how thy brave smile and thy caresses lighted
up those dark hours I Thou hast sown with rays
of white light the pathway to the grave, and left
at the gates of death a gleam as of the dawn.
God give us to remember -thee when we must suffer
and pass on!



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SOLITUDES AND RESTING-
PLACES



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16 THE BETTER WAY

I ASK only to he like thee, as simply resigned,
as trustful, as natural. Thou hast not lived
for nothing, my dear little Pierre, Thou
wilt remain living and active among us till the day
when we find one another again in the invisible
world of which all visible form is hut the far-off
symhoL



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SOLITUDES AND RESTING-
PLACES



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Toffi wenn deine Farhen hlasient
Und wenn erloseh cMn hunter Sehem^
Dann kann sieh erH die Seele fatten^
Der Geitt kehrt m eich selber einf
Wenn StUie rinkt auf Waldund Triften^
Und Sehatten rulU auf Stadt und Feld^
Dann hSrt der Meneeh aue dunklen L&fien
Lie Stimmen einer andren Welt.

Oerok {PaUnbldtter).

dayt whenfiret thy colore failf
And when thy garish light growe jkUs^
The eoul knows eslf within the breast.
The spirit is its own true guest/
When stillness sinks on wood and meadow.
And town and field lie dusk in shadow,
Man hears from out the darkling akr
The voices of a world elsewhere*



i

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SOLITUDES AND RESTING-
PLACES

SIT THOU SILENT

THE future seems afar off. We toil
toward it with slow, painful steps;
our task is heavy, our means pitifully
small, and there are hours in our lives
when utter weariness overwhelms us.
— The Friend: At such times you must stop and
take heart. When you have passed the point of
freshness and enthusiasm, even in a cause to which
your life is consecrated, do not go doggedly ahead,
or you will do inefficient work that will discourage
you and hurt the cause. Call a halt and look for
relief.

You should have for retreat some quiet place
you love, where your aims are understood, where


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