[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
DURING the years that intervened from the time that Eleanor was eighteen to the time of her marriage, when she was twenty-three, Douglas continued to be favoured with the existence of a degree of spiritual life and enlightenment unequalled perhaps in its history, and propitious to the growth of grace. in many a heart besides that of Eleanor Weatherell. Many in after life had to thank God for this privileged time, during which they had been created anew by the Spirit of God, or had received a fresh impetus to the service of Christ, fostered and strengthened by the unwearying and constant ministrations of faithful pastors. There was, as we have seen, at St. Barnabas the godly and beloved Dr. Carpenter, and at St. George's the less popular, perhaps, but equally saintly Rev. Benjamin Philpot, who was succeeded in 1832 by the earnest, true-hearted Rev. Thomas Howard, afterwards Rector of Ballaugh, in the north-west of the island.
Mr. Howard had been at St. George's before as curate in the year 1809. It was during the time of his curacy at St. George's that the early morning services were held in that church for the benefit of working men. On their way to their daily toil at 6 A.M. they could turn into the house of God and have a quiet time of prayer and brief scriptural exhortation. " Sweet hour of prayer "-sweet under all circumstances and at all times, but surely doubly so when the world was still partially wrapped in slumber, or was just awaking to the work of day.
It was at one of these. services a poor girl-an orphan by name Nelly Brennan, was brought, through the instrumentality of Mr. Howard, to know her Saviour, and to consecrate herself to His service.
She was the sole offspring of a poor young woman, and a sailor-father, drowned at sea a few months before the birth of his child. Whilst Nelly was still very young, she also lost her mother; and having early been thrown on her own resources to make her way in the world, she acquired habits of self-reliance and diligence that enabled her bravely to fight the battle of life. She was the best mangle-woman in the town (for that was for many years her humble calling), and known by all her employers as thoroughly trustworthy.
Having been brought to a knowledge of Divine Truth, and having vowed her life to God, this worthy creature so contrived to work at her employment that she could at the same time administer of her time and substance to those worse off than herself.
In 1832 a dreadful epidemic of cholera visited the island. People. were literally swept away by the hand of death. All day long the dead-cart seemed to be going its rounds from house to house, and the cry heard, "Bring out your dead-bring out your dead! " It was during this time that Charles, Captain Jones' servant, mentioned previously, one day that he had occasion to go from Douglas to Peel, said to his mistress on starting that he had a presentiment that he should die before night. That evening he returned, sickened, and died of cholera.
In Douglas was the greatest mortality; and at night in St. George's churchyard the burial of the dead, as described by eyewitnesses, was a mournful and appalling sight never to be forgotten. There, by dim lanterns held in the hand, or suspended from the trees, the graves were dug, and in many cases the uncoffined bodies heaped in one after the other, and no stone ever to record more than one word-CHOLERA, close to the south-west entrance of St. George's Church, a large memorial stone, railed round, is erected to commemorate the dreadful time. Engraven upon it is a lengthy record of the event, surrounded by a sculptured relieve, illustrating the horrors of pestilence.
This was a period, indeed, to test the philanthropy and devotion of all those who had made profession of love to God and man, and truly many noble instances there were of self-denying(y efforts on behalf of the sufferers; but one name stands out prominently in the annals of the time, that is the name of the poor mangle-woman, Nelly Brennan.
Where none but clergymen and doctors would dare to venture to alleviate anguish of body, and misery and despair of mind, Nelly would make her way. In seeking not her life) she found it; whilst others who sought to save, lost it. Nelly preserved her health, as if by miracle, all through the continuance of the plague.
None recognised more warmly and sincerely the worth of this heroic woman, who had dauntlessly walked into the very jaws of death in the service of Christ, than Mrs. Weatherell and her daughter Eleanor. One of the first things they did to show their appreciation was to collect a sum of money to offer to Nelly as an expression of their regard for her and her noble work. Little did they know that whilst engaged in their kind endeavour, Nelly was ill in bed and without the means to get herself even a cup of tea. So neat was her usual appearance, and so comfortable-looking was her little home, that no one ever suspected that Nelly, of all people, knew positively what it was to want; Mrs. Weatherell did not learn the truth until many years after. Nelly's temporary destitution was owing to the fact that when it came to the knowledge of her employers that she visited the cholera hospital, they discontinued to send their clothes to be mangled, fearing infection; and what money she had saved, she had spent it all on the sufferers,
On the occasion that Mrs. Weatherell visited poor Nelly with the purse of sovereigns, lying helpless on her bed, the invalid was wondering within herself-could it be that she should die of want? Suddenly irnpelled by the thought of the impossibility of such a thing, she exclaimed aloud, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
At that moment a gentle tap came to her door, and Nelly calling out,"Come in," Mrs. Weatherell entered with her timely offering.
Acceptable as the gift was, and touching as a manifestation of the faithful care of God for His child, Nelly would only accept a small portion of the amount for herself, and obtained permission to devote the remainder to charitable purposes.
Nelly, though in such humble circumstances, became a power for God in Douglas; not only amongst her poor townspeople, but amongst the refined and wealthy. Young gentlewomen would walk in miles from the country to have the privilege of reading the Word of God in company with this poor mangle-woman.
On young Eleanor Elliott, Nelly's saintly and devoted life had an undeniably strong influence, and the period of her heroic services just happened to be about the time that Miss Weatherell had received her call to follow Christ. Doubly inspiring then was the example of pious Nelly. The good woman's words and deeds were engraven for life in the heart and in the memory of the young and keenly observant disciple of Christ.
From the time she came in possession of it, and as long as life lasted, Eleanor had the portrait of Nelly Brennan suspended in a conspicuous place over her bedroom mantelpiece, enshrined in love and respect, as a memorial of one deserving of all honour.
Another influence also from the very humblest sphere in life was brought to bear on the character of Miss Weatherell, It was the history, as recorded by her mother, of Willie or Bill the Psalmer. Willie was a poor lone man, who lived in an attic with no other window but a little skylight. Through this he used to gaze up at the moon and stars, and fancy, in his simple way, that they were the eyes of God looking down upon him, and watching over him in his poverty and solitude. Willie was such a joyous soul, and he had such a love for singing sacred songs, that he was called "Bill the Psalmer." Mrs. Weatherell used to tell Eleanor that, when she was a young, girl, she had so much veneration for saintly Willie, that when he walked on the sea-shore she would walk after him and plant her foot in the print of his.
Mrs. Weatherell was without doubt an earnest Christian, and inclined her family to respect worth wherever it was found. The story of poor Willie's happy devoted life appealed to Eleanor's heart exceedingly, and it had its due share in moulding her fine character.
How touching to think that the reflex light of a being so simple, so poor, and so obscure, should have attracted and illumined the path of a young creature like Eleanor Weatherell, Highly gifted in mind, and surrounded with opportunities and privileges for self-cultivation and experience unknown and undreamed of by poor Willie. But so it was. And as long as Mrs. Weatherell and her daughter lived, Bill's memory was not allowed to grow dim.
A stone had been erected to his memory, close to the Weatherell vault at the chief entrance to St. George's churchyard, and every year Mrs. Weatherell, and afterwards her daughter Eleanor, had it freshly painted.
During the visiting season in Douglas, knots of people, going to or returning from Divine service, may be seen standing before Bill's head-stone, reading with interest the quaint inscription:
Here lie the remains
WILLIAM KELLY (known by the name of
Bill the Psalmer), who departed this life
the 27th May 1808,
in the 78th year of his age.
Stop, Traveler, as thou passest by,
As thou art now so once was I;
As I am now so shalt thou be,
Fow addloo dy gholl quail dty yee.*
The Widows' House, the first scene of Eleanor Weatherell's ministrations to the poor, continued for long to be her pet scene of operations.
In 1835 her sister, Miss Jane Weatherell, married Lieutenant, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel, Grier of the 93rd Highlanders; and her brother was removed from King William's College at Castletown, in the south of the island, to a school in Chester, preparatory to Oxford.
Eleanor, deprived of her sister's companionship and of seeing her brother as frequently as hitherto, had probably more than ever an inclination to devote her time to the poor and needy. The love of her work grew upon her, and soon became an all-absorbing passion.
It was whilst visiting at the Widows' House she became acquainted with Mr. Elliott, a young surgeon who had lately come to practise in Douglas, and whose praises she continually heard sung by the poor suffering women whom he attended. By degrees she began to endow the doctor with all the amiable qualities that her warm heart and lively imagination painted. He, on the other hand, willingly believed that the young lady who had come across his path, and who was so pleasing to look upon, was all and much more than her warmest admirers proclaimed her to be. The end of it was the two young people were irresistibly drawn to each other, and in course of time the doctor declared his affection, which was reciprocated.
The engagement, it is to be regretted, did not give unqualified approval to Eleanor's relatives and friends. The characters and tastes of the lovers were so distinctly divergent, that it was foreseen that there could never exist between them the close companionship necessary to a really happy married life. But Eleanor's strong will, not at this time as subdued as it afterwards became, asserted itself ; and she would listen to no objections raised by any one in respect to her lover. He was what her fancy painted him, and he was, we can infer, the husband she believed God had provided for her. They had met when and where both of them were engaged in His work; for though the doctor attended professionally at the Widows' House, yet he ever evinced in Eleanor's eyes, and in the eyes of the poor women, a supererogation of attention and kindness wholly uncalled and unlooked for in a mere professional.
Eleanor's mind being irrevocably fixed, Mrs. Weatherell did not withhold her consent; and in due time her daughter was wedded to Philip Elliott. He made her a truly kind husband, looking up to her with immeasurable esteem; and allowing her perfect freedom to follow her own course of action at home and elsewhere. On the other hand, Eleanor's noble character and spiritual endowments were equally laid under contribution to cheer and influence to higher ends the less exalted disposition and attainments of her obliging husband.
* Manx rendering of, " Be ready to meet thy God."