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The last day of the year. This day my heart must dwell with itself. How solemnly, at each returning midnight of the expiring year, sounds to our souls the warning words—the end of all things is at hand! But the bells in England that toll out the old, ring in the new; the voice that says—the king is dead !—cries joyfully—long live the king! To-night there is solemnity, tomorrow there will be gratulations and joy.
In a few hours will—I was going to say dawn, but at least will commence, the first new year's day I ever spent in a foreign land alone. It was there my sister sent me, by post, the thoughts I copy here.
Once! is a magic word
Once! tells us we were blest,
But turns that bliss to pain,
The hopes we nursed in vain.
Once! tells us time has flown,
And much with it has fled.
The absent, changed, and dead!
Once! bids us to be wise,
And earthly dreams renounce,
Has charmed, and cheated—Once!
The lines are simple; but so true. And the magic of the word "Once" would carry me I know not whither—out of Sweden at all events.
Why is it that the past, and not the future, the mighty future, occupies our thoughts and hearts when this finishing epoch of our shortening course comes round with all its memories of other times and other scenes, to fill them with human sadness?
And at this moment how much more importunate is the memory of the past than the thought of the future! When we spend the last night of the finishing year alone, at a distance from all we have loved, from the very places we have known, the heart is oppressed almost to anguish by the recollection that what has been, can be, for us, no more.
At such a moment some sentiment once heard, some anecdote little thought of at the instant, often recurs to the mind and brings it relief. Such is now my case. I recollect a lady I lately met at the house of Professor Eetzius.
She had lost all her relatives; she was alone; suffering in mind, body, and estate. Her health failed with her spirits, and she went to consult a doctor. What do you think was the doctor's prescription? Oh! that in England, in London, with its vast and heavy mass of sin, want, and misery, we had a few such prescriptions given and followed! The doctor advised his patient to go out among the poor, the afflicted, the sick, and to labour for the good of her fellow sufferers. She followed the prescription. Her countenance is now calm, her manner cheerful: she has used no other prescription, she consults no earthly doctor now; but the Good Physician is with her always, and the brightness of heaven is shed over the paleness of her earthly course. » Ladies in Stockholm, who are more inspired byreligious feeling, now band themselves together, much as they latterly have sought to do in England under the title of Sisters; but they take no peculiar title here, and wear no distinctive dress. They have formed houses of reception for the sick and indigent, and act as nursing sisters, I believe, themselves.
I cannot here relieve my own sadness and solitude by sharing those of others; but how delightful is the thought that there is no solitude where the communion of saints may not be possessed; no sadness which "the shadow of the Cross" cannot render lighter!
That December night passed away, and 1851 mingled with the years that were.
At sis o'clock on the first morning of 1852, I looked out of my window; and then, having thought of the friends I had living in the only way that might do them good; and having thought of the friends who should never more wish me a happy year on earth, in prayer that I might so follow their good example as finally with them to be a partaker of life everlasting; I prepared to go out to the church, the lights of which were gleaming in a long line at the bottom of Carl Tretons Torg.
It is now half-past six o'clock on New Year's morning. My cloak, and bonnet, and long boots are put on, and—tell it not in the streets of Stockholm—I steal out alone, quite unattended, even by a lantern or a servant! In three hours' time the sun, if we have any to-day, may be expected to appear, and daylight to expel the present gloom; but Stockholm is economical in oil, and the street lamps are not lighted when the moon is expected to shine. When her large beautiful orb hangs suspended in the clear atmosphere, I admire exceedingly the economical principle; but when the queen of night is unable to fulfil the engagements made for her by the almanac, it is rather awkward to find her deputies also absent from their posts. It was now dark, at least darker than northern nights usually are, for the sky was laden with snow clouds; the cold was the most intense I had yet felt; the keen