One day, says I -
"About how old might you be, Sandy?"
"I judged so. How long you been in heaven?"
"Twenty-seven years, come Christmas."
"How old was you when you come up?"
"Why, seventy-two, of course."
"You can't mean it!"
"Why can't I mean it?"
"Because, if you was seventy-two then, you are naturally ninety- nine now."
"No, but I ain't. I stay the same age I was when I come."
"Well," says I, "come to think, there's something just here that I want to ask about. Down below, I always had an idea that in heaven we would all be young, and bright, and spry."
"Well, you can be young if you want to. You've only got to wish."
"Well, then, why didn't you wish?"
"I did. They all do. You'll try it, some day, like enough; but you'll get tired of the change pretty soon."
"Well, I'll tell you. Now you've always been a sailor; did you ever try some other business?"
"Yes, I tried keeping grocery, once, up in the mines; but I couldn't stand it; it was too dull - no stir, no storm, no life about it; it was like being part dead and part alive, both at the same time. I wanted to be one thing or t'other. I shut up shop pretty quick and went to sea."
"That's it. Grocery people like it, but you couldn't. You see you wasn't used to it. Well, I wasn't used to being young, and I couldn't seem to take any interest in it. I was strong, and handsome, and had curly hair, - yes, and wings, too! - gay wings like a butterfly. I went to picnics and dances and parties with the fellows, and tried to carry on and talk nonsense with the girls, but it wasn't any use; I couldn't take to it - fact is, it was an awful bore. What I wanted was early to bed and early to rise, and something to DO; and when my work was done, I wanted to sit quiet, and smoke and think - not tear around with a parcel of giddy young kids. You can't think what I suffered whilst I was young."
"How long was you young?"
"Only two weeks. That was plenty for me. Laws, I was so lonesome! You see, I was full of the knowledge and experience of seventy-two years; the deepest subject those young folks could strike was only A-B-C to me. And to hear them argue - oh, my! it would have been funny, if it hadn't been so pitiful. Well, I was so hungry for the ways and the sober talk I was used to, that I tried to ring in with the old people, but they wouldn't have it. They considered me a conceited young upstart, and gave me the cold shoulder. Two weeks was a-plenty for me. I was glad to get back my bald head again, and my pipe, and my old drowsy reflections in the shade of a rock or a tree."
"Well," says I, "do you mean to say you're going to stand still at seventy-two, forever?"
"I don't know, and I ain't particular. But I ain't going to drop back to twenty-five any more - I know that, mighty well. I know a sight more than I did twenty-seven years ago, and I enjoy learning, all the time, but I don't seem to get any older. That is, bodily - my mind gets older, and stronger, and better seasoned, and more satisfactory."
Says I, "If a man comes here at ninety, don't he ever set himself back?"
"Of course he does. He sets himself back to fourteen; tries it a couple of hours, and feels like a fool; sets himself forward to twenty; it ain't much improvement; tries thirty, fifty, eighty, and finally ninety - finds he is more at home and comfortable at the same old figure he is used to than any other way. Or, if his mind begun to fail him on earth at eighty, that's where he finally sticks up here. He sticks at the place where his mind was last at its best, for there's where his enjoyment is best, and his ways most set and established."
"Does a chap of twenty-five stay always twenty-five, and look it?"
"If he is a fool, yes. But if he is bright, and ambitious and industrious, the knowledge he gains and the experiences he has, change his ways and thoughts and likings, and make him find his best pleasure in the company of people above that age; so he allows his body to take on that look of as many added years as he needs to make him comfortable and proper in that sort of society; he lets his body go on taking the look of age, according as he progresses, and by and by he will be bald and wrinkled outside, and wise and deep within."
"Babies the same?"
"Babies the same.