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The sea-wind sweeps over the spot at times in gusts like the frenzy of hopeless grief, and at times in sighs as gentle as those heaved by aged sorrow in sight of eternal rest. The voices of the great city come faintly over the sand-hills, with subdued murmur like a lullaby to the pale sleepers that are here lying low. When the winds are quiet, which is not often, the moan of the mighty Pacific can be heard day or night, as if it voiced in muffled tones the unceasing woe of a world under the reign of death. Westward, on the summit of a higher hill, a huge cross stretches its arms as if embracing the living and the dead-the first object that catches the eye of the weary voyager as he nears the Golden Gate, the last that meets his lingering gaze as he goes forth upon the great waters. O sacred emblem of the faith with which we launch upon life's stormy main - of the hope that assures that we shall reach the port when the night and the tempest are past! When the winds are high, the booming of the breakers on the cliff sounds as if nature were impatient of the long, long delay, and had anticipated the last thunders that wake the sleeping dead. On a clear day, the blue Pacific, stretching away beyond the snowy surf-line, symbolizes the shoreless sea that rolls through eternity. The Cliff House road that runs hard by is the chief drive of the pleasure-seekers of San Francisco. Gayety, and laughter, and heart-break, and tears, meet on the drive; the wail of agony and the laugh of gladness mingle as the gay crowds dash by the slow-moving procession on its way to the grave. How often have I made that slow, sad journey to Lone Mountain - a Via Doloroso to many who have never been the same after they had gone thither, and coming back found the light quenched and the music bushed in their homes! Thither the dead Senator was borne, followed by the tramping thousands, rank on rank, amid the booming of minute-guns, the tolling of bells, the measured tread of plumed soldiers, and the roll of drums. Thither was carried, in his rude coffin, the "unknown man" found dead in the streets, to be buried in potter's-field. Thither was borne the hard and grasping idolater of riches, who clung to his coin, and clutched for more, until he was dragged away by the one hand that was colder and stronger than his own. Here was brought the little child, out of whose narrow grave there blossomed the beginnings of a new life to the father and mother, who in the better life to come will be found among the blessed company of those whose only path to paradise lay through the valley of tears. Here were brought the many wanderers, whose last earthly wish was to go back home, on the other side of the mountains, to die, but were denied by the stern messenger who never waits nor spares. And here was brought the mortal part of the aged disciple of Jesus, in whose dying-chamber the two worlds met, and whose death-throes were demonstrably the birth of a child of God into the life of glory.
The first time I ever visited the place was to attend the funeral of a suicide. The dead man I had known in Virginia, when I was a boy. He was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, and when I first knew him he was the captain of a famous volunteer company. He was as handsome as a picture - the admiration of the girls, and the envy of the young men of his native town. He was among the first who rushed to California on the discovery of gold, and of all the heroic men who gave early California its best bias none was knightlier than this handsome Virginian; none won stronger friends, or had brighter hopes. He was the first State Senator from San Francisco. He had the magnetism that won and the nobility that retained the love of men. Some men push themselves forward by force of intellect or of will - this man was pushed upward by his friends because he had their hearts. He married a beautiful woman, whom he loved literally unto death. I shall not recite the whole story. God only knows it fully, and he will judge righteously. There was trouble, rage, and tears, passionate partings and penitent reunions - the old story of love dying a lingering yet violent death. On the fatal morning I met him on Washington street. I noticed his manner was hurried and his look peculiar, as I gave him the usual salutation and a hearty grasp of the hand. As be moved away, I looked after him with mingled admiration and pity, until his faultless figure turned the corner and disappeared.
Ten minutes afterward he lay on the floor of his room dead, with a bullet through his brain, his hair dabbled in blood. At the funeral-service, in the little church on Pine street, strong men bowed their heads and sobbed. His wife sat on a front seat, pale as marble and as motionless, her lips compressed as with inward pain; but I saw no tears on the beautiful face. At the grave the body had been lowered to its resting-place, and all being ready, the attendants standing with uncovered heads, I was just about to begin the reading of the solemn words of the burial service, when a tall, blue-eyed man with gray side-whiskers pushed his way to the head of the grave, and in a voice choked with passion, exclaimed:
"There lies as noble a gentleman as ever breathed, and he owes his death to that fiend!" pointing his finger at the wife, who stood pale and silent looking down into the grave.
She gave him a look that I shall never forget, and the large steely-blue eyes flashed fire, but she spoke no word. I spoke:
"Whatever maybe your feelings, or whatever the occasion for them, you degrade yourself by such an exhibition of them here."
"That is so, sir; excuse me, my feelings overcame me," he said, and retiring a few steps, he leaned upon a branch of a scrub-oak and sobbed like a child.
The farce and the tragedy of real life were here exhibited on another occasion. Among my acquaintances in the city were a man and his wife who were singularly mismatched. He was a plain, unlettered, devout man, who in a prayer-meeting or class-meeting talked with a simple-hearted earnestness that always produced a happy effect.
She was a cultured woman, ambitious and worldly, and so fine-looking that in her youth she must have been a beauty and a belle. They lived in different worlds, and grew wider apart as time passed by - he giving himself to religion, she giving herself to the world. In the gay city circles in which she moved she was a little ashamed of the quiet, humble old man, and he did not feel at home among them. There was no formal separation, but it was known to the friends of the family that for months at a time they never lived together. The fashionable daughters went with their mother. The good old man, after a short sickness, died in great peace. I was sent for to officiate at the funeral-service. There was a large gathering of people, and a brave parade of all the externals of grief, but it was mostly dry-eyed grief, so far as I could see. At the grave, just as the sun that was sinking in the ocean threw his last rays upon the spot, and the first shovelful of earth fell upon the coffin that had been gently lowered to its resting-place, there was a piercing shriek from one of the carriages, followed by the exclamation:
"What shall I do? How can I live? I have lost my all! O! O! O!"
It was the dead man's wife. Significant glances and smiles were interchanged by the bystanders. Approaching the carriage in which the woman was sitting, I laid my hand upon her arm, looked her in the face, and said:
She understood me, and not another sound did she utter. Poor woman! She was not perhaps as heartless as they thought she was. There was at least a little remorse in those forced exclamations, when she thought of the dead man in the coffin; but her eyes were dry, and she stopped very short.
Another incident recurs to me that points in a different direction. One day the most noted gambler in San Francisco called on me with the request that I should attend the funeral of one of his friends, who had died the night before. A splendid-looking fellow was this knight of the faro-table. More than six feet in height, with deep chest and perfectly rounded limbs, jet black hair, brilliant black eyes, clear olive complexion, and easy manners, he might have been taken for an Italian nobleman or a Spanish Don. He had a tinge of Cherokee blood in his veins. I have noticed that this cross of the white and Cherokee blood often results in producing this magnificent physical development. I have known a number of women of this lineage, who were very queens in their beauty and carriage. But this noted gambler was illiterate. The only book of which he knew or cared much was one that had fifty-two pages, with twelve pictures. If he had been educated, he might have handled the reins of government, instead of presiding over a nocturnal banking institution.
"Parson, can you come to number - , on Kearney street, tomorrow at ten o'clock, and give us a few words and a prayer over a friend of mine, who died last night?"
I promised to be there, and he left.
His friend, like himself, had been a gambler. He was from New York. He was well educated, gentle in his manners, and a general favorite with the rough and desperate fellows with whom he associated, but with whom he seemed out of place. The passion for gambling had put its terrible spell on him, and be was helpless in its grasp. But though he mixed with the crowds that thronged the gambling-hells, he was one of them only in the absorbing passion for play. There was a certain respect shown him by all that venturesome fraternity. He went to Frazer River during the gold excitement. In consequence of exposure and privation in that wild chase after gold, which proved fatal to so many eager adventurers, he contracted pulmonary disease, and came back to San Francisco to die. He had not a dollar. His gambler friend took charge of him, placed him in a good boarding-place, hired a nurse for him, and for nearly a year provided for all his wants.