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A short story by Harriet S. Caswell

The New Year

Title:     The New Year
Author: Harriet S. Caswell [More Titles by Caswell]

Another year has just glided away, and it seems but as yesterday that we stood at its threshold, and looked forward over its then seemingly lengthened way, and fancy was busy with many plans and projects for future happiness and delight. We looked forward through the whole border of its months, weeks, days and hours, and life grew bright with pleased anticipations. The year has now passed away, and how few, very few, of all our bright hopes have been realized. With how many of us have unexpected and unwished for events taken the place of those to which we looked forward with so much delight.

As the hours and moments of the past year have slowly glided into the ocean of the past, they have borne with them the treasures of many a fond heart. The sun shines as brightly as ever, the moon and stars still look placidly down upon the sleeping earth, and life is the same as it has ever been; but for these their work is over, and they have done with time. As I sat watching the fast gathering shadows over the last night of the old year, I fell into a sort of waking dream, and I seemed to hear the slow measured tread of one wearily approaching. Turning my eyes in the direction of the approaching footsteps, I beheld the form of a very aged man; his countenance appeared somewhat familiar, yet it was furrowed by many wrinkles, and on his once high and beautiful forehead were the deep lines of corroding care and anxiety. His step was slow, and he leaned for support on his now well-nigh failing staff. He bore the marks of extreme feebleness, and gazed forward with a manner of timidity and uncertainty, and on his changeful countenance was expressed all the multitudinous emotions of the human breast. His garments had once been white and shining, but they were now stained and darkened by travel, and portions of them trailed in the dust. As he drew nigh I observed that he carried in his hand a closely written scroll, on which was recorded the events of the past year. As I gazed upon the record, I read of life begun, and of death in every circumstance and condition of mortal being, of happiness and misery, of love and hate, of good and evil,--all mingling their different results in that graphic record; and I trembled as my own name met my view, with the long list of opportunities for good unimproved, together with the many sins, both of omission and commission, of which I had been guilty during the past year; but there was nothing left out,--the events in the life of every individual member of the human family were there, all recorded in legible characters. As the midnight hour struck the aged man, who typified the old year, faded from my view, and, almost before I was aware of the change, youth and beauty stood smiling before me. The old year gone, the new year had begun. His robes were white and glistening, his voice was mirthful, and his step buoyant; health and vigor braced his limbs. He, too, bore in his hand a scroll, but white as the unsullied snow; not a line was yet traced upon its pure surface, except the title, Record of 1872. I gazed on its fresh and gladsome visage with mingled emotions of sorrow and joy, and I breathed my prayer for forgiveness, for the follies and sins of the departed year.

[The end]
Harriet S. Caswell's short story: New Year