Last of the Great Scouts
The Mother's Last Illness
IT was now the autumn of 1863, and Will was a well-grown young man, tall, strong, and
athletic, though not yet quite eighteen years old. Our oldest sister, Julia, had been
married, the spring preceding, to Mr. J. A. Goodman.
Mother had been growing weaker from day to day; being with her constantly, we had not
remarked the change for the worse; but Will was much shocked by the transformation
which a few months had wrought. Only an indomitable will power had enabled her to
overcome the infirmities of the body, and now it seemed to us as if her flesh had been
refined away, leaving only the sweet and beautiful spirit.
Will reached home none too soon, for only three weeks after his return the doctor told
mother that only a few hours were left to her, and if she had any last messages, it were
best that she communicate them at once. That evening the children were called in, one by
one, to receive her blessing and farewell. Mother was an earnest Christian character, but
at that time I alone of all the children appeared religiously disposed. Young as I was, the
solemnity of the hour when she charged me with the spiritual welfare of the family has
remained with me through all the years that have gone. Calling me to her side, she sought
to impress upon my childish mind, not the sorrow of death, but the glory of the
resurrection. Then, as if she were setting forth upon a pleasant journey, she bade me good
by, and I kissed her for the last time in life. When next I saw her face it was cold and
quiet. The beautiful soul had forsaken its dwelling-place of clay, and passed on through
the Invisible, to wait, a glorified spirit, on the farther shore for the coming of the loved
ones whose life-story was as yet unfinished.
Julia and Will remained with her throughout the night. Just before death there came to her
a brief season of long-lost animation, the last flicker of the torch before darkness. She
talked to them almost continuously until the dawn. Into their hands was given the task of
educating the others of the family, and on their hearts and consciences the charge was
graven. Charlie, who was born during the early Kansas troubles, had ever been a delicate
child, and he lay an especial burden on her mind.
"If," she said, "it be possible for the dead to call the living, I shall call Charlie to me."
Within the space of a year, Charlie, too, was gone; and who shall say that the yearning of
a mother's heart for her child was not stronger than the influences of the material world?
Upon Will mother sought to impress the responsibilities of his destiny. She reminded him
of the prediction of the fortune-teller, that "his name would be known the world over."
"But," said she, "only the names of them that are upright, brave, temperate, and true can
be honorably known. Remember always that `he that overcometh his own soul is greater
than he who taketh a city.' Already you have shown great abilities, but remember that
they carry with them grave responsibilities. You have been a good son to me. In the hour