Monday, December 29, 2008

And Then?

A young man, whom he had known as a boy, came to an aged Professor of a distinguished continental University, with a face beaming with delight, and informed him that the long and fondly-cherished desire of his heart was at length fulfilled- his parents having given their consent to his studying the profession of the law. As the University presided over by his friend was a distinguished one, he had repaired to its law school, and was resolved to spare no labor or expense in getting through his studies as quickly and ably as possible.

In this strain he continued for some time; and when he paused, the old man, who had been listening to him with great patience and kindness, gently said, "Well! and when you have finished your career of study, what do you mean to do then?" "Then I shall take my degree," answered the young man. "And then?" asked his venerable friend. "And then," continued the youth, "I shall have a number of difficult and knotty cases to manage: shall attract notice by my eloquence, and wit, and acuteness, and win a great reputation." "And then?" repeated the holy man.

"And then!" replied the youth, "why then there cannot be a question- I shall be promoted to some high office in the state, and I shall become rich." "And then?" "And then," pursued the young lawyer, "then I shall live comfortably and honorably in wealth and respect, and look forward to a quiet and happy old age." "And then?" repeated the old man.

"And then," said the youth, "and then- and then- and then I shall die." Here his venerable listener lifted up his voice, and again asked, with solemnity and emphasis– "And then?" Whereupon the aspiring student made no answer, but cast down his head, and in silence and thoughtfulness retired. This last "And then?"

A sobering illustration from
Octavius Winslow

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