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Robert Ingersoll
by [?]

And the baby in the crib knew quite as much about it as the toddler in the linsey-woolsey dress, and the toddler knew as much about death as we do today. This wee youngster kept thinking how good it was that Mamma could have such a nice rest–the first rest she had ever known–and just lie there in the beautiful room and hold her flowers!

* * * * *

Fifty years pass. These children, grown to manhood, are again together. One, his work done, is at rest. Standing by his bier, the other voices these deathless words:

“Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We call aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death, hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.

“He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, ‘I am better now.’ Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.”

* * * * *

The mother of Ingersoll was a Livingston–a Livingston of right-royal lineage, tracing to that famous family of Revolutionary fame. To a great degree she gave up family and social position to become the wife of the Reverend John Ingersoll, of Vermont, a theolog from the Academy at Bennington.

He was young and full of zeal–he was called “a powerful preacher.” That he was a man of much strength of intellect, there is ample proof. He did his duty, said his say, called sinners to repentance, and told what would be their fate if they did not accept salvation. His desire was to do good, and therefore he warned men against the wrath to come. He was an educated man, and all of his beliefs and most of his ideas were gathered and gleaned from his college professors and Jonathan Edwards.

He loved his beautiful wife and she loved him. She loved him just as all good women love, with a complete abandon–with heart, mind and strength. He at first had periods of such abandon, too, but his conscience soon made him recoil from an affection of which God might be jealous. He believed that a man should forsake father, mother, wife and child in order to follow duty–and duty to him was the thing we didn’t want to do. That which was pleasant was not wholly good. And so he strove to thrust from him all earthly affections, and to love God alone. Not only this, but he strove to make others love God. He warned his family against the pride and pomp of the world, and the family income being something under four hundred dollars, they observed his edict.

Life was a warfare–the devil constantly lay in wait–we must resist. This man hated evil–he hated evil more than he loved the good. His wife loved the good more than she hated evil, and he chided her–in love. She sought to explain her position. He was amazed at her temerity. What right had a woman to think!–what right had any one to think!

He prayed for her.

And soon she grew to keep her thoughts to herself. Sometimes she would write them out, and then destroy them before any eyes but her own could read. Once she went to a neighbor’s and saw Paine’s “Age of Reason.” She peeped into its pages by stealth, and then put it quickly away. The next day she went back and read some more, and among other things she read was this, “To live a life of love and usefulness–to benefit others–must bring its due reward, regardless of belief.”