[From Manx Recollections, 1893]
IT was in 1851 Mrs. Elliot's brother, the Rev. Robert Weatherell, was appointed to the living of Elton, near Nottingham. This same year he was married to Miss Lydia Thorpe, whom he had met at Coddington, near Newark, where he had his first curacy.
During the first year of her brother's married life, Mrs. Elliott went to pay him and his bride a visit. She was delighted with her new sister-in-law; and from this time they became life-long friends. Their correspondence is almost voluminous, and many of the letters edifying in the extreme. Everything almost seems to have been discussed amongst them but gossipgossip has no place on these glowing pages; they breathe an atmosphere of pure and holy friendship and heart-satisfying peace and trust, and sweet heavenly joy illumined at times with sallies of mirth, and an imagination on Eleanor's part as of a flower spontaneously open to the brilliant and warm sunshine, and its petals reflecting the radiance above. The sight of Elton, when she first viewed it as the home and sphere of labour of her brother, charmed her poetical fancy. The fair Rectory looked to her as a nest of domestic comfort, and prophetic of a thousand innocent family joys; the garden as a paradise of quiet beauty, and the ancient ivy-clad church as a picture of interest retro spective and prospective. The old country churchyard, where the "forefathers of the hamlet sleep," provided a theme of contemplation ready to hand for the thoughtful spectator. Then the surroundingsthey had their beauties and their interests that quite filled, Eleanor's heart to over flowing; above all her eye dwelt with admiration on Belvoir Castle, the not far distant beautiful and ancient seat of the Dukes of Rutland. On the evening when she was first driven to see this picturesque pile, it looked like a stately structure in a dreamrising, as it seemed, out of a cloud of deep blue vapour; and the far extending umbrageous foliage that sur rounded it, steeped in the prevailing ethereal hue.
This visit to Elton was most refreshing and enjoyable, and when Mrs. Elliott returned to Douglas she had a picture to sketch for her boy Willie his eyes were never tired of be holding. Willie was all eagerness and delight, too, to hear about his kind uncle and new pretty aunt.
And now the scene must change. We have reached 1852 a year in our friend's life which records a chapter that blotted out for the time the glory of the material heavens, and the radiance of a nature upon which her eyes had only so recently feasted in joyous appreciation, and with a fancy free from any cloud of foreboding gloom.
There are events and scenes in the lives of those the biographer records that he would fain screen from view the curtain is drawn and he fears to lift ittrembling by some untoward touch to mar the harmony of his narrative, or by a profane hand to intrude on the sacred and hallowed precincts of private feeling, and ruthlessly lay bare what God alone and the nearest and dearest should look upon. But alas I these revelations must be made, even though the attempt to limn them is difficult and well-nigh impossible, except in mere outline or in dun shadowa vague sug gestion which the sympathetic and initiated must supply with form and colouring and subtle interpretation. A crisis had come in the life of Eleanor Elliotta crisis which revolutionised her whole being; her former life with its joys and its aspirations and its calm radiant hopes was swept away, and a great blank of darkness and blackness indescribable left in its place.
It was May 1852 when in a room of 31 Athol Street a boy lay dying -Willie, the beloved son of his mother. Oh! what agony was therehanging over the prostrate pining form, over the dim, once beautiful eye, fading, fading from the light of day. Oh! who can enter into that mother's anguish? Another mother, perhaps, who has lost her darling, her first born. But this was a woman and a mother of feelings so intense, of yearnings so infinite in relation to that child, one who, yesterday, almost, had with her fine keen perceptions and heart's devotion, seen the laurel of triumph on his brow, the beauty of matured holiness expressed in his every feature, and the power of his manhood influencing all near and far away to a disposition and character kindred with his own; and now, all this dream, these foreshadowed and sacred desires, dashed away, vanished, and darkness and despair usurping their place.
Willie had taken scarlet fever; and in a short time it developed into a malignant form, beyond the power of earthly physician to check. His poor father, a skilful man in his profession, along with other leading doctors, had con sulted together over the case, and used every known and available means to stay the progress of the disease. All in vainrecovery was pronounced impossible, and the mother received the sentence as one bereft of sensation and power of reasoning. She literally hung over her darling night and day, watching the young life ebbing faster and faster, each breath becoming more laboured, more faint, until at last all was quenched in the silence and gloom of death.
We feel we cannot dwell on this picture. The solemnity of it is overwhelming. The poor mother was turned to stone; and in her own words, "the light of her eyes fled." Her darling was gonegone! In her hands was his collecting- card for the South American Mission, almost the last thing he had asked for. And to her own dying day, thirty years after, this card was a precious relic that bound her with a twofold claim to the interests of the South American Missionary Society, and with a fidelity and devotion known only to those who along with her were identified in the work.
In regard to this awful sorrow and its consequences, we can only quote what Miss Alice Weatherell, a niece of Mrs. Elliott's, penned when sending a packet of her aunt's letters:
"These letters," she said, "will give you a great insight into the intense depth of her nature and feelings, though there is one thing to be said, which is, that to few people is given the power of expressing their feelings as it was to her. It has always been a mystery to me how her reason was pre served, for, I have been told, when Willie, her first-born and especial darling, was taken from her, her grief was so fearful that sleep departed from her eyes."
The sorrow of other near and dear relativesand then the funeralmust be passed over; the only memento available of the close of that young life, whose "leaf had perished in the green," is the following sonnet written by Lieut. Wood, and inserted by him in the Manx Sun, a leading weekly newspaper.
ON THE LAMENTED DEATH OF A YOUTHFUL FRIEND,
By nature gifted, and hy grace refined
A youth of virtue, pure and undefiled;
In mind a man, in innocence a child,
In whom were wisdom, goodness, truth, combined
With inborn genius, and with might of mind.
What though he sleeps in death's sepulchral gloom,
Soon shall he rise, arrayed in beauty's bloom,
In glory's bright immortal form enshrined:
Still we may mourn and shed a sacred tear
Tears for the dead, what heart can e'er reprove? '
Tis nature's tribute paid to buried love.
The loved in life in death are doubly dear. '
Tis meet to mourn, for o'er that friend who slept
Ev'en but a while in death, we read that "Jesus wept."
G. H. WOOD.
Mr. Wood's sorrow for the noble youth, and his sympathy for the mother, were genuine; a true kind friend did he prove himself in this dark hour of human grief. Ah, universal was the sorrow felt and sympathy shown for that bereaved mother and dear friend; but nothing was of any avail to arouse her for long from her insensibility. And as in the words of Tennyson, it was said of her, "She must weep or she will die." Happily relief came, and the tears flowed; oh, what tears! And here again we must quote the words of the same niece: "After Willie's death she came to Elton, but the intense sadness of her countenance was such that every one remarked upon it; every morning in her bedroom there was a row of handkerchiefs completely drenched with her tears, just as if they had been rung out of water. A mother's heart, as she said herself, always dies at a child's death. Willie was her second self, highly poetic, imaginative, and deeply religious, so that of course they both were in perfect sympathy with each other. It seems mysterious her idol should, at the early age of fourteen, have been taken from her. Of course I do not remember the sad event, as I was not born; but I know that the day of Willie's death was as present to his mother thirty years after as if it had only just happened. The anniversaries of her children's births and deaths were spent mostly in prayer. I used to rather dread those days coming round, knowing what she suffered; though no one could really enter into her feelings, her mind being so far above that of ordinary people; as says Adolph Saphir in a dear little book called 'Weep Not': 'The loneliness of great minds is inevitable, they live in a lofty region, and therefore in solitude. As they are high above the generality of mankind, they must needs be alone; they are separated from their fellow-men by the comprehensive range of their thoughts and views, and by the elevated tone of their aspirations and feelings."
Elton, where the sorrowing mother went when finally she was sufficiently restored to feeling and activity, her brother's beautiful Rectory, was in truth a peaceful spot: away from the turmoil of life, and surrounded by much that was exquisitely lovely in nature.
The boy died in May; and it was in the warm summer time his mother went to this fair country retreat, and amongst those who deeply sympathised with her in her overwhelming sorrow. Her brother was still her beloved companion as of yore: together they took sweet counsel, and she called him "Great-heart," because he entered so into her feelings and into those of others. Elton, during, this visit, she found to be what she afterwards named in Manx phraseology, Port-a-cheea haven of peace. Gradu ally the soft influence of the milk of human kindness and thoughtfulness, and the balmy and sweet country sights and sounds, along with the returning calm of the peace of God, restored somewhat to a more even balance and power of endurance that sorely tried heart. Willie she knew was before the Throne, encircled with the reward of the diadem of a rich young life dedicated to the service of the King. If she wept now, it was for herself, that she was bereft of the treasure of her son's dear companionship, and wealth of bright promises
"The fame is quench'd that I foresaw,
The head hath miss'd an earthly wreath."
But she must bow; it was the sovereign Will, and "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
Archdeacon Philpot had probably first instilled into his friend's mind the great interest in the second coming of Christ; but after Willie's death this interest became an absorbing reality. She truly waited and longed for the coming of Christ and the restitution of all things to the sway of the Redeemer King, with a daily, hourly yearning. Her whole life shaped itself afresh, and took a new colour; it was not now so much a heartfelt sympathy for and striving after all that was good and beautiful, and that tended to the coming of Christ, but it was a veritable identification with and incorporation into all that pertained to that glorious certainty. Every thought, every word, every deed had respect to the hastening of the Redeemer's kingdom. Her power from this time over the minds and lives of others re sulted in a great and undefinably constraining and thrusting into importance the things of God. Her force in regard to initiation into spiritual realities was simply irresistible; the young, the old, the gay, the sad, all felt it; wherever she was, whatever she did, the outcome of her influence was, Live for God; it is the one thing needful: "Heaven and earth must pass, but My words shall not pass away." It was an indescribable power this that emanated from that matured saint of God, and yet it had not reached its climax. The Captain of our salvation was perfected through suffering, and those who follow in His steps have to undergo a like developmenta like perfecting. And here we shall again quote from her niece's remarks: "The second advent of the Lord was a tremendous reality to her; no subject was more present to her mind, or had a greater interest for her, than the sudden return of the Master she loved so well and served so faithfully. She would say, 'Blessed and holy is he which shall have part in the first resurrectiOn. on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.' 'Death,' she went on to say, 'is not the Christian's goal; no! not death, but life, when a perpetual youth shall be the portion of Christ's people. Death itself (though death to the believer is the beginning of life) is a horror, and the sting can never be taken out of the act of dying. The fulfilment of the verse in i Cor. xv., "O death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?" will not be realised until that day. Then when the trumpet shall sound shall the saying be fulfilled, "O death, where is thy sting?" but not until then.'"
That daythe day of the lord Jesus Christ's coming is mentioned in every chapter in the Epistles to the Thessa.. lonians, two epistles of which she was particularly fond, and always read with fresh interest. She had a great dislike to the hymn beginning
"That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
What power shall be the sinner's stay?
How shall he meet that dreadful day ?"
It was in contradistinction to that hymn that she wrote the following
"That day of life, that day of light,
When Christ shall come again,
As cometh morning after night,
As sunshine after rain.
Then shall the silver trumpet ring
A pure reviving breath,
Awake, beloved, arise and sing,
From Hades and from Death!
The morning breathes o'er land and sea
A pure reviving breath,
Awake, beloved, arise and flee
From Hades and from Death.
The flowers appear upon the earth,
Fresh with baptismal dew,
The dew of nature's second birth
He maketh all things new."
Are not these lines beautiful, and do they not read like a clear note from the silver trump of a life victorious over self and the worldreaching forward with blest anticipation to that time when the restitution shall be, and the increase of His kingdom shall have no endno end? "Wonderful thought!" as she herself would say, "the government of Christ shall go on for ever and ever increasing,· and this world of ours shall be once more as before the Fall, the abode of perfect peace."