The White Dove
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1856
The little Lina opened her eyes upon this world in the arms of her father, the good Gotleib. He kissed the child with a holy joy, and he felt that a Divine love flowed into this work of the great God — this also thrilled his warm, manly heart with a wondrous love. He felt the inmost of his being vibrating as with an electric touch, to the inmost of the little new-born innocent. But the rapture of the young father was altogether imperfect, until he had sealed his lips in a love-kiss upon those of Anna, who lay there so white and beautiful in the new joy of a young mother. Like an innocent maiden, she twined her arms around Gotleib's neck, and grew strong in the influx of warm life that flowed into her responsive caress of the husband of her heart. Then Gotleib held up the newly-born Lina, and the mother's lips touched the soft cheek of the tiny little one with a living rapture, as if all of Heaven were embraced in this heart-possession.
And Gotleib knelt by the bedside, and thanked God for the beautiful gift of love with a pious awe and holy joy — large tears stood in the eyes of Anna. As he rose from his reverent posture, he kissed off the bright tears even as the sun exhales dew-drops from a pure flower, and said, "Do you weep for joy, sweet one?"
And Anna said, "Once — not long ago — I had a dream — a beautiful dream — that this day has been realized. I dreamed that I was in a quite heavenly place — yet the place was as nothing — for I sat with an infant in my arms — a bright innocent little one — and, you, dearest Gotleib, knelt beside me; and an angel-woman stood near us, in a soft heavenly glory, and said, in low musical, spirit-words — 'Behold the fruit of the union of good and truth.' And then, methought, you did embrace me with a new joy of love, and whispered, 'an angel of God is born of us.' This little one is the dream-child, dear Gotleib."
Thus beautiful was the birth of the little Lina, who grew daily, in a pure innocent loveliness. While she is expanding in the first days of her new, breathing, sensitive life — we will go back to the former life of Gotleib and Anna.
Gotleib Von Arnheim had first seen the light in this same small cottage, on the confines of the Black Forest of Germany. He was born with a large, loving heart. But the father and mother, and the dear God, were the only beings on whom his affections were fixed; for his sensitive nature shrank from the contact of the honest-hearted — but rough peasant neighbors, that made the little world of their simple life. But soon death came, and the good father left the earth for the beautiful Heaven-world. The little Gotleib missed his kind father; but his mother told him of the bright inner life, and how his father yet lived and loved him; and the heart of the boy was comforted. He felt a sense of elevation in having his father, whom he had known so familiarly here upon earth, now the companion of angels, and living in such a bright and beautiful world.
Ah, life had to him such an inner beauty; and, when still dreamy moments of leisure intervened between his work and play, he reveled in such dreams of imagination, as lent light and life and joy to his whole being. But the death of the kind father had not only carried the boy's imagination to the other world; it was also drawing the mother's heart away to the fair spirit-land. Gotleib saw his mother's face growing thin and pale; he knew that she was weak — for oftentimes, in the long winter evenings, as he read to her from the holy Word of God, her hand would drop wearily with the raised spindle, and she, who was never before idle, would fold her hands in a quiet, meek resignation. At such times a tremor would seize the boy's heart. The mother saw it; and, one night, when his fixed tender gaze rested on her, she raised her kind eyes to his, and said, "Dear Gotleib! you will yet have the good God to love."
"Ah, mother! mother!" cried the boy, "will you, too, leave me?"
His head was bowed upon her knees in bitter grief, the desolation of earth was spread like an impenetrable pall over his whole future. Suddenly he looked up, full of a strange, bright hope, and said, "Mother, I too may die."
Then the mother put off her weakness, and long and loving was the talk she held with her dear boy. She told him that from a little one he had ever loved God; that the first word he had ever pronounced was the name of the Holy One. She had taught him to clasp his tiny baby hands and look up and say "God," before any other word had passed his lips. She had named him Gotleib, because he was the love of God to her, and he was to be a lover of God. As she talked, the boy grew strong and calm, and said, "Yet, oh, my mother! God is so great for the heart of a small child. God is so high and lifted up in the far heavens, that I feel myself but as a tiny blade of grass that looks up to the far sun. dear mother! the earth will be too lonely; ah, there is no hope but in death."
"No, my son," said the mother, "there is a beautiful hope for the earth also. I will tell you what will make you love God more truly than ever."
The boy was fixed attention.
"You did not know, dear Gotleib, that when God created you a strong, brave boy, He also created a tender, gentle little maiden, like unto you in all things, except you were a boy and she a maiden. You were strong and able to work, and she gentle and born to love you."
"Where is she?" inquired the excited Gotleib.
"I know not," replied the mother. "But God knows, and He will watch over the two whom He has created, the one for the other; and, on earth the two will meet. Is it not better, then, not to wish to die — but to leave all things to the will of God? For what if your little maiden is left alone upon the earth, and there is no strong, manly heart upon which she may lean, and no vigorous arm to labor for her — how will her spirit droop with a weary, lonely sadness? No, my son, live! and the joy of a most beautiful, loving companionship, may yet be yours. The earth will not be desolate ever to your orphan heart, with this beautiful hope before you."
Thus, in the cold wintry night of a dark sorrow, did the good mother plant a living seed of truth, that afterwards sprang up into a spring flowery Eden, that bloomed in the boy's heart with an eternal beauty.
When the early spring came, Gotleib looked calmly and lovingly on the beloved mother, who was leaving for the spirit world. Death was beautiful to him now; it was simply the new birthtime of a mature, living soul.
The spirit of the mother's love seemed to linger over the home of his childhood, and it was a great sorrow to leave the cherished spot; but, his mother told him he was to seek a brother of hers in the distant town of Heidelberg. As Gotleib turned from the now voiceless home of his parents, a fervent desire arose in his heart that he might again be permitted to dwell beneath this sheltering roof and amidst its living associations.
The boy went forth into the unknown world, with a living trust in his heart in the great God. His was a simple, childish faith, born of his love — to him God was not a mystery. It was a Divine personality he loved. Jesus had walked the earth, and his father and mother also — all were now spirits, none the less to be loved and trusted than when upon earth; but now they were to him in transcendent states of glory. The Lord Jesus, as being infinitely great and glorious — was the lone One to whom he now looked for help — though ever as he knelt to pray to GOD, he felt that his angel-mother bowed with his spirit, and by her prompting beautiful words of humiliation and praise came to him, that he himself could never have thought of; hence the affections of his heart all grew up into the inner spirit-world.
And years passed in the good town of Heidelberg — years that brought blessings to the orphan boy as they flew. The God in whom he trusted had provided for him — had awakened a friendly kindness in many warm hearts. And Gotleib, who was at first designed by his relatives to spend his days over the shoemaker's awl and last, at length found himself, by his own ardent exertions and the helpful kindness of others, a student in the University. This was to him a most pure gratification — not because of a love of learning, not because of ambition, to attain a position before his fellow-men. Oh! it was quite otherwise with the good youth — he had one object in life. The hope that his dying mother had awakened in his heart was the guiding star of all his efforts. That little maiden created for him — and to be supported by him! The image was ever before him. Yes, he was a student for a high and noble use. Science was to be to him the instrument of a life of love and blessedness. To do good to others, and thus to provide for the maiden, was what led him to the arduous study of medicine.
It mattered not that cold and hunger and toil all bound him in an earthly coil. The warm, hopeful heart has a wonderful endurance. The delicate, attenuated form of the young student seemed barely sufficient to hold the bright and glowing spirit that looked out from his soft eyes, when he received his degrees. The desire of his life was growing into a fruition; and when he returned to his poor lodgings, a sense of freedom, of gratitude, and of delight, crowned his yet barren life. To work! to work! seemed now the one call of his being; but, where was he to go? There was the childhood's home, to which his heart instinctively turned; but, alone and desolate, he could not dwell there. Gotleib had not forgotten his mother's lessons; he knelt and prayed to God for guidance. Even as he kneels, and feels his spirit in the sunshine of God's presence, there is a knock at the door, and the good Professor Eberhard enters. He has marked the student in his poverty and toil, and feels that he will now hold out a helping hand to the young beginner. As professor of anatomy, he needs the quick eye and delicate hand of an expert assistant.
Gotleib looked upon the professor as Heaven-sent, and in a few days was installed in all the luxury of a life of active use.
Years passed away, and Gotlieb Von Arnheim sighed with a man's full heart for a woman's sympathy and responsive affection. He had seen bright eyes gleam and soft cheeks flush at his approach, and he had looked wonderingly into many a sweet face. But he had not yet seen the little maiden of whom his mother spoke — who was to be the reflection of himself. All these German maidens were altogether different from — and his heart remained unsatisfied in their presence. He felt no visions of eternity as he looked into their friendly faces.
Sometimes hope almost died out. But his trust in God seemed to forbid the death of this sweet hope. Often he said, "the good God would not have created this intense desire in one so wholly dependent upon Him, were he not intending to satisfy it." So he worked and waited patiently.
The wintry winds were howling, as it were, a wild requiem over the lordly ruins of the crime-stained castle of Heidelberg. Cold, and bitter, and clear was the starry night, when the weary Gotleib issued out of the professor's warm house to answer the late call of a sick woman. Gotleib looked up into those illimitable depths where earths and suns hang suspended, to appeal to the material perceptions of man, that this is not the lone world — the lone existence. The silent bright stars comforted the earth-wearied heart in which the day's toil had dimmed the spirit's perception. Gotleib stepped on bravely through the frosty darkness, and said hopefully to himself, "There is yet another world — another life than this."
And now he stood before the house in which his services were needed. He entered a chamber, whose bare poverty reminded him of his student days. But far sadder was cold poverty here, for a lady lay on a hard couch before the scantily furnished grate, and her hollow cough, and the oozing blood that saturated her white handkerchief, rendered all words unnecessary.
A young girl, with blanched cheek and tearless eye of agony, knelt by the wan sufferer. Gotleib felt himself in the sphere of his life's use; cold and fatigue were alike gone. The sick and almost dying woman seemed to revive under his touch — it was as if strength flowed from the physician into the patient. His very presence diffused an air of hope and comfort through the desolate apartment, and the kind serving-girl, Bettina, who had guided him to the humble lodging, seconded all his active efforts to produce warmth and comfort, and soon returned with one of his prescriptions — an abundance of fuel for the almost exhausted grate. The cheerful blaze threw its strong light upon the young girl, who at first knelt in hopeless grief beside her dying mother.
What was it that thrilled the heart of Gotleib, as he looked upon this young maiden? Was it her beauty? No! he had seen others more beautiful. Was it her sorrow? No! he had seen others quite as sad. But, whatever it was, Gotleib felt he had met his destiny; the fullness of his being was developed to him; and, all unconsciously, the maiden turned to him as the Providence of God to her. She seemed to rest her troubled heart upon his strong understanding. He said her mother would not die immediately, and she grew calm.
It was very late that night when Gotleib retired; and very fervent were the prayers that arose from his heart before he slept. He felt a sense of gratitude for the services he was permitted to perform to his fellow beings, and, in his prayers, he felt that light shone from the Divine sun upon that sorrowing maiden, and it was as if she knelt by his side, and his strong spirit-arms upheld her in the sunshine of God's love.
When the morning came, Gotleib awakened with a delicious sense of enjoyment in life — with a looking forth into the events of the day, that he had never before experienced. He hastened through his morning duties with an elasticity of spirit and hope that was altogether new to him. Though, as yet, his feeling was not defined into a thought, it was a faint perception, a dim consciousness that the affinities of his heart had all awakened. And while he thought, he was in an excessive anxiety to see after his feeble patient, he was borne on rather by the attractions of his heart's love. He paused in a thrilling excitement of hope and doubt before the door of the poor chamber — he dreaded to have the agreeable impressions of the last evening dissipated. But, when he knocked, a light tread was heard; the door was gently opened, and the pale Anna stood before him, with such a gentle grace, and so earnest a look of gratified expectation, that, as she said in subdued tones, "I hoped it was you" — his heart bounded with exultation, to think that the young girl had him in her thoughts. But, as he approached the sick bed, his reason told him what was more natural than her wishing for the arrival of her mother's physician.
A careful glance, by daylight, around the humble apartment, revealed to Gotleib that Anna worked with her delicate, white, lady-looking hands, for the support of her dying mother. A table, placed by the window, was covered with artificial flowers of exquisite workmanship, and, while he yet lingered in the chamber, Bettina, the maid, entered from the street door, with a basket filled with the same flowers — looked at Anna, and shook her head mournfully. The young girl's lips quivered, and she pressed the tears back when she saw no purchaser had been found for her labor.
Gotleib saw and felt with the most intense sympathy, all that was passing. He lingered yet longer — he made encouraging remarks to the sick mother, and, at length, ventured to approach the table, and gazed with admiration on the beautiful flowers, while his brain was busy in devising how he was to make them the medium of conveying aid to the suffering mother and daughter. He turned to the faithful Bettina, who clung to those whom she served in their hard poverty — he told her that if she would follow him he would find a purchaser for the pretty flowers.
Anna cast upon him a look of tearful smiling gratitude, and her simple, "I thank you," as she held out her hand to him, bound him as with a magnetic chain to her being. Bettina thought the Doctor was a most generous man, for he more than doubled the paltry sum she asked for the flowers; though she did not consider it necessary to mention the fact to Anna, she merely stated to her that she had found a purchaser for as many flowers as she chose to make.
But Gotleib! what an Eden those flowers made of his chamber! with what a joy he returned to it after hours of absence; it seemed as if they brought him into contact with the sphere of a beloved existence. He examined them with delight, and could not avoid covering them with kisses. Never was patient visited or watched over more attentively than was Madame Hendrickson; and, as the mother revived — the daughter seemed to feel new life. Light beamed from her soft eyes, and oftentimes Gotleib thought that the roses that bloomed in her delicate face were far more beautiful and bright than those that grew under her light and skillful touch.
For him she seemed to feel an earnest trustful gratitude. She never concealed her glad recognition of his coming; she was too pure, and innocent, and good, to think it necessary to conceal anything. And Gotleib's visits were so pleasant, they grew longer and longer — for he and Madame Hendrickson were of the same Christian faith — and he had a peculiar faculty for consoling her. Gotleib spoke of the other world with such a definite perception of its existences and modes of being, that the dying woman never wearied of listening to him. The high and true faith of the good Gotleib opened to him a world of beauty, which he poured forth in his earnest enthusiasm, more like a gifted poet than a being of mere prose. Oftentimes, as he talked, the light of his words seemed to gleam back from the answering eye of Anna, until his whole being was filled with delight. While she felt that her hitherto dim and indistinct faith was growing into form and fixedness, and her intellect awakened to a sphere of ideas, to a world of perceptions, which endowed her all at once with a charmed existence, and flooded her with the light of a graceful beauty that made her appear to the admiring Gotleib like an angelic spirit.
Thus were the spirit links being woven through the cold bright days of winter. Madame Hendrickson was no longer confined to her bed; and on the Sabbath days Anna could attend the public worship of God, of whom, now, she seemed truly to learn. It was to the Holy Supper she went on that first solemn Sabbath day, after months of confinement and sorrow. Oh! how blessed it was to listen to the Divine Word, through which God seemed to her awakened perception to shine in a veiled beauty! And when she tasted the wine of spiritual truth, flowing from the wisdom of the Divine One, and ate of the bread of the celestial good of His love — Heaven seemed to open to her receptive heart and mind — and, as her heart's prayers went up with those of the shining angels round the throne of God, it was not for herself that she prayed — but for him that had spoken living truth to her virgin heart. Oh, the good child! In that holy moment she rejoiced to reveal her heart's love to the Divine Father; she knew that her love was born of her knowledge of God, and thus she knew that it was blessed from above.
As she passed out of the church, she encountered the earnest glance of surprised and delighted recognition from Gotleib. Very soon he was at her side. In the fullness and stillness of her beautiful thoughts and satisfied affections, they walked on. Oh, how happy the dear mother looked, when she saw the two enter her lonely chamber! The heavenly light and warmth of love seemed to be within and around them; and she saw that two beings so exactly created the one for the other, could not but find an eternal happiness in each other. Gotleib was truly in one of his genial, sunny moods; he seemed to soar into worlds of light; his expanding heart was filling with the glory of Heaven. The teachings of his childhood were all brought forth; he talked of his beloved mother — now an angel of God — told of the beautiful hope she awakened in his heart concerning the little maiden created by God for him, when his heart shrunk in such pain from the isolation her death would leave him in. Then he turned to the blushing Anna, and said he thought the maiden was now found. She lifted her love-lighted eyes to his — he clasped her hand and said softly, "You are mine!"
"I am yours," fell responsive from the maiden's lips; and an infinite blessedness flowed into the loving, satisfied heart of Gotleib.
The next day brought with it a new and beautiful joy — a letter from the beloved one, conveyed into his hand as he tenderly pressed hers, at parting. For this, his thirsty soul had yearned — for some expression of the maiden's heart-love that had as yet gleamed upon him but momentarily from her modest eyes. But alone in his chamber, with the dear letter before him! Ah, now indeed he was to lift the veil that hid his life's treasure. To have revealed to him the heart and mind of the beloved one. And his whole being went forth to her as he read the tender revealings. She wrote:
"Gotleib! my heart would gladly speak to yours. It longs to say gratefully, 'I love you — you heaven-sent one.' And I would tell you of a dream that came to me last night in my heart's beautiful happiness.
"I was reading aloud to my mother in the book you lent me. I read of how the angels ever have their faces turned to the Divine Sun. Of how their shining brows are ever attracted to this central point, in whatever position they may be — even as our feet are attracted to the central point of the earth. I was happy in this beautiful truth, and felt that through my love for you, my thought was lifted upward, and my face, too, was turned to the Lord. And when sleep came, it seemed as if my happy spirit was conscious of a new and beautiful existence. I found myself in a large place, and a company of angelic spirits surrounded me; and we were seated at a table, adorned with an exceeding elegance, and having many varieties of food, of which we partook — but without a consciousness of taste — only there was a amiable delight of mind arising from the mutual love of all those bright ones. An angel-woman spoke to me and said, 'This is the Lord's Supper; appropriate to yourself the goods and truths of His heavenly kingdom.' While she thus spoke, I saw you, dear Gotleib, approach, with such a smiling and beautiful grace, and you said to me, holding my hand — 'Sweet one! how bright you are! Have you learned some new truth! for you are ever bright, when you do perceive a new truth!' Then I answered, 'Ah, yes, indeed! I have learned a beautiful new truth;' and I led you to an east window and pointed upward to the great Sun, that shone in such a Divine effulgence — then I told you how the angels were held by the attraction of love in this center of being — even as the children of the world are held by the attraction of gravitation to the earth — and as we talked, the light shone around you, dear Gotleib! with so heavenly a glory, that my heart was filled with a new love for you. For I saw, truly, that you were a child of God, and in loving you I loved Him who shone in such a radiant glory upon you. Oh! was not this a pleasant dream? Gotleib! what worlds of beauty you have opened to me! Once my thought was so narrow, so bound down to the earth; but you have lifted me above the earth. A woman's heart is so weak — it is like a trailing vine, that cannot lift itself up until its curling tendrils are wound round the lofty tree-tops of a man's ascending thought. Gotleib, thus do you bear me up into the serene, bright heavens, and like some blooming flowery vine, will my love ever seek to adorn your noble thoughts."
Gotleib was charmed with the maiden's thoughts. Oh, yes — her flowers were already flying over his highest branches. She soared above him, and through her, heavenly truths were growing clearer to him. How grateful he was to his Heavenly Father, that from his own bosom, as it were, was born his spirit's companion. But her life was from God — and how holy was her whole being to him! She was enthroned in his inmost heart, to be forever treasured as the highest and best gift of God.
It was evening when he next stood beside her. The mother slept, and Anna and Gotleib stood in the moonlit window. Few, and softly whispered, were his loving words to her. But she smiled in a oneness of thought, when he said, "In Heaven, the sun shone upon us; upon earth the cold moonbeams unite us; but the sunshine will soon come again."
Anna felt that her letter had made Gotleib very happy; and she bent her head lovingly on his manly breast. Oh! to him, the desolate forlorn one, how thrilling was the first caress of the maiden! His lips touched her soft white brows with a delicious new joy. But brow, eyes, cheeks, and lips, were soon covered with rapturous kisses.
Ah! happy youth and maiden, thus bedewed with life's nectar of blessedness! What are earth's sorrows to you? Heaven is in you, and eternity only can satisfy the infinite desires of such hearts.
But as the days passed, the material body of the mother wasted away, and her spirit was growing bright in its coming glory. She wished much to see her beloved Anna in a holy marriage union before she left this world. So a few weeks after the betrothal, Gotleib led his bride to the marriage altar. It was a festive scene of the heart's happiness even beside the bed of death. Madame Hendrickson felt that she, too, was adorning for a beautiful bridal — and earthly care being thus removed from her heart, she was altogether happy.
And the good, true-hearted Anna, in white bridal garments and virgin innocence, looked to the loving mother and happy Gotleib like an angel of God. Even the Professor Eberhard thought thus, and quite certain it is, that the good minister spoke as if a heavenly inspiration flowed into him, as he bound the two into an eternal 'oneness' of being. "Little children!" said he, "love one another! was the teaching of the great God, as he walked upon the earth. Hence love is the holy of the holies. And it flows from God even as heat flows from the material sun — and as the sun is in its own heat and light — so God is in love."
And taking the marriage ring, he placed it on the soft, white, rose-tipped finger of the bride, and said, "How beautiful and expressive is this symbol of union, showing the conjunction of good and truth, which conjunction first exists in the Lord, for His love is the inmost, and His wisdom is like the golden bond of truth encasing and protecting love. And this love of the Lord flowing into man is received, protected, and guarded by woman's truth, until, in her fitness and perfect adaptation to him, she becomes the love of the wisdom of the man's love, and the twain are no longer two — but one."
The fresh spring days were now coming — Madame Hendrickson went to an eternal spring. But the heart of the loving Anna rose above the earthly sorrow of separation, as if upheld by her husband's strong faith; her imagination delighted itself in following the beloved mother into her new and beautiful state of being.
Gotleib felt that now it was good for him to return to the home of his childhood, for it was more delightful to live apart from the strife and toil of men. In the simple country life, much good might be done, and yet there would be less of life's sorrow to look upon. It was weary to live in a crowded haunt, where a perception of vice and misery so mingled itself with the blessedness of his heart's love. Anna was charmed and delighted with the pure country life, and as business increased on the Doctor's hands, it was so great a happiness to her to minister to his comfort. After the long winter rides, how she chafed his cold hands and warmed his frozen feet, and how lovingly she helped him to the warm suppers, no homeless and desolate wanderer of earth can know. But to Gotleib, what an inexpressible blessedness was all this; and how often he left off to eat, that he might clasp Anna to his heart and cover her with kisses! Thus went the blessed married life until another spring brought with it the sweet "dream-child," as Anna called the little one, whom the angel said, was "the fruit of the union of good and truth."
The little Lina thus born into the very sphere of love, seemed ever a living joy. The father's wisdom guided the mother's tender love, and the little one was good and unselfish — and so mirthful in the infantile innocence and grace of her being, that oftentimes the young mother, leaning on the father's bosom, would whisper, "Gotleib, she is indeed an angel of God."
One dark and wintry day, as the child thus sported in the inner glad light and joy of her heart, and Gotleib and Anna as usual were watching the light of her radiance, a beautiful White Dove fluttered against the friendly window. The child grew still in her wondrous joy. But the father quickly opened the window, and the half-frozen bird flew in, and nestled itself in Anna's bosom. It was fed and warmed and loved as a bird never was before. For the little one thought it was the spirit of God come down upon the house, and Gotleib loved it because to him it was a living symbol of the peace and purity of his married life, and Anna received it as a heavenly gift for the loving child. Thus both literally and spiritually, the White Dove of innocence and peace dwelt in their midst.