[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
IT will have been inferred from what has gone before that Mrs. Elliott had been repeatedly urged by her relatives at Elton to go and pay them a visit ; but over and over again she declined on the ground of her joyless heart, and that formerly when she went there it was in company with her loved son, now no more. Latterly, however, she wrote just after her mother's death, " You and Robert, dear Lydia, are most kind in your pressing invitations to me to visit you at Elton : and who knows what may happen some day ? " Accordingly, in the autumn of 1868, she made up her mind to go to the sweet country retreat where, when Willie was taken from her, she had found calm and repose to her shattered heart. On the present occasion when she thought of going, she determined also to visit Barrowden, see Philip's last home, and some of those who valued his short stay and active work amongst them.
Finally in September she took her departure from Douglas. Dr. Elliott probably accompanied her as far as Elton, and then returned, his professional engagements preventing his remaining any time from home. The bright faces of her brother's young family as she entered the peaceful Rectory brought a feeling of rest and refreshment to her weary heart. She stretched out her arms to the sunny fair young creatures, and, pressing them to her bosom, let fall a tear that did not repel, but drew and bound them to her with additional sympathy and love. And then Robert and Lydia those two dear and kindred souls how comforting it was she could find in their company what would only soothe and cheer. bravely she bore up, and sought to avoid being a check on the merriment of youth, or a damper in her intercourse with r brother and his gentle wife. But, alas ! her efforts of self-control, both before leaving Douglas, and now in company with the dear ones at Elton, proved too much for her nervous system combined above all with the resolve she had made to go on to Barrowden. The latter thought brought back her Philip's death and all its attendant circumstances so vividly that she seemed to live the sad experience over again; and one beautiful Sunday evening, when all was sunshine and joyous calm but her own heart, her bodily strength failed her, and with an almost fruitless effort she struggled to go upstairs to bed. She felt very ill, and a cold shivering came on that warm bed clothing and heating appliances could not drive away sometimes shaking with cold and alternately burning with fever. The doctor was sent for, and he pronounced the attack to be gastric fever. How tenderly and lovingly she was watched over during this period by her relatives, and the children's faithful nurse Hannah, she herself records in more than one of her letters afterwards. But for many weeks she lay so ill, that finally her life was despaired of. Can it be wondered at after the strain of grief she had passed through? The marvel was that with her fine sensitive organisation she had been able to bear up so long without a complete break down. She longed for death during this period, if not at variance with the will of her God; but it was denied her she was to live: He had work for her to do. She must glorify Him with her brave endurance and firm unflinching trust that though He afflicted, it was with a Father's hand in mercy, and not in judgment.
She recovered. The joy manifested by those about her it was in itself a welcome back to life. The children brought her flowers and sang to her; and the very little ones played quietly at her feet. They loved their dearAunt Eleanor, and they must make her smile again! One of that youthful group, now a thoughtful woman, writes of that time as follows: "Grief was written upon her countenance, and impressed itself upon all who saw her; but when she was recovering Mr. Langstaffe used to come over and sing sweetly in English and French pathetic songs which soothed her, though they brought the tears to her eyes, reminding her of days gone by and those she loved and lost. She must have been ten weeks with us . before she returned to her lonely desolate house. When she recovered she was not idle, but must be about her Master's business in visiting the few poor in this place, by whom she was welcomed."
Mr. Langstaffe mentioned above had once been a curate at St. George's, Douglas, and consequently was well known to Mrs. Elliott in former days. He was now Mr. Weatherell's nearest clerical neighbour, being vicar of the next adjoining parish. He was a very accomplished man a linguist and a musician, as well as an able divine.
It was a great solace to our dear friend, when strong enough, to walk quietly from the Rectory to her brother's church close at hand. The calm stillness that pervaded the rural and ancient sanctuary, and the simple orderly service, were in keeping with her feelings, and acted pleasantly upon her tired spirit. It was ever a rest and a joy to listen to her brother reading the prayers, or preaching with his fine voice and thoughtful, earnest tone. Their views on most aspects of Christian teaching and life were in accord, or where one lacked the other supplied what was needed. The elder boys and girls of the Rector's family also sang in the choir, and sweet indeed to their aunt's ears sounded their fresh young voices; and when occasionally Robert, the eldest son, read the lessons, it was a satisfaction to her at the close of the service to encourage the stripling, and urge upon him to follow in his father's steps.
Finally, health being in a measure restored, she left charming Elton, and returned, as her niece expressed it, on her way to her "lonely desolate home," and as she expressed it herself, to that "ruined house, so silent now where young voices used to be."
Her journey was broken midway to Liverpool by spending the night with some relatives, from whom she met with great attention and kindness. They put her on board the Snaefell the following morning; and though in early winter, she had a very calm passage, and was able to remain on deck most of the time. The stewardess seeing her, started visibly, and exclaimed, " Why, Ma'am, I thought thought " "That I was dead, stewardess? "
The stewardess's look was sufficient to notify that that was what she meant.
Later on, Mrs. Elliott heard a young sailor remark to some one she did not see at the moment, " Do you know that your old mistress is dead?" "No, she's not," answered a familiar voice, "she's getting well and there she is!" And hurrying forward came Jane, a former housemaid (now married), the young woman overcome with surprise and gladness.
In a letter which the traveller wrote on her return home, she says, speaking of the passage across: "Most of the time I spent on deck, sometimes watching the sea and the sky and the pathway of light over the waters towards the setting sun. And when it set behind a grey cloud, I thought of how it was setting behind the trees at Elton."
Four months went over and again we have a letter to Mr. Weatherell. This letter breathes a sweet air of restored calm if not of renewed buoyancy and life. Perhaps there was hardly ever any one who had passed through such deep waters of woe as Eleanor Elliott, and yet rose from them as if shaking from her garments the tear-drops of bitter grief, and standing erect a creature of serene beauty and life, with the smile of heavenly rest upon her face, and in her voice the tone of restored hope and joy and interest in all that surrounded her. She could gaze through her tears on the beautiful world of Nature, and could admire and extol the works of the artist that sought to portray the glories of that nature's radiant and varying countenance. She could speak with enthusiasm of the great and the good amongst men, or read with a burning interest the narratives of their noble worth or of their heroic exploits. Life with all its teeming objects of attractiveness was no dead lost thing to her; she rose with her Saviour victorious over the grave, and beheld the world and all it contained as the scene of the Redeemer's future kingdom, when all should bow before Him as King, and be gathered together in Him as one both of things in heaven and on earth. It was His world His beautiful world, and one day to be renewed and made as fair again as Eden before the Fall; and the creatures in it to be restored to the heavenly image lost when Adam fell. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." This was her creed, as this letter will show, and which kept alive the light in her eye, the song in her voice, the life and the hope in her breast, and the great love to God and man and all His creatures in her large heart.
"DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN, " March 16, 1869.
" MY DEAR LYDIA, Your golden letter made me very thankful yesterday, telling me that your cough is nearly well, and that Robert's throat and voice are decidedly better. It seems as though my poor mother's fears and anxieties about Robert, at any unusual delay in his letters, were transferred to me. Of course these troubled thoughts are unreasonable enough, for we ought rather to think of Him whose heart of love and hand of power control all events, and who has said, 'Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith ?'
" What a delightful service for you last Sunday with
Robert and Robbie and Percy * in the pulpit and reading 'desk (not that the boys were in the pulpit, though), and all your family in the choir except baby. You have reason to
r' remember Heman the sweet singer in David's time, with his choral family of fourteen sons and three daughters. At the ` times of restitution perhaps this family will go on singing the songs of Zion which they learned long ago, with the Royal Psalmist Himself as master of the choir.
"In one of John Macgregor's 1' letters which you have seen, describing his canoe voyage to Damascus, he hopes that hereafter he may speak to Paul of Tarsus about that fair city.
" When I was at Jane's + to-day we were speaking about John Macgregor, and my sister, who was well acquainted with the family (for she had stayed in their house near (! Dublin), mentioned some lines written by Hannah More § when he was a baby at Bristol after the loss of the Kent, 4 and the Macgregors were then intimate with Hannah More. A copy of these lines was given to my sister by Elizabeth Macgregor, John's sister, and Alice 11 wrote a copy for me this evening.
" Last night at nearly midnight I read aloud to my husband your letter, and he was quite pleased to hear you liked the fish. A few days ago, when I repeated to Kelly IT Robert's complimentary remarks about the fish-curing and `his varied and versatile talents, &c.,' a sort of grim smile came over Kelly's face. He is a sort of Nestor who
".'Smiles in such a sort As though he scorned to smile.'
" The Rev. R. Weatherell's two eldest sons. "Robbie"(the present
Rev. Robert Weatherell) succeeded his father in 1883 as Rector of
'1 Rob Roy John Macgregor the famous canoe voyager and interesting writer, son of General Sir Duncan Macgregor, K.C.B.
$ Her sister, Mrs. Grier.
§ Author of "Practical Piety," "Caellis in Search of a Wife," &c.
II Miss Alice Grier, Mrs. Elliott's niece.
11 Kelly, Dr. Elliott's faithful and very sedate servant.
" There is now in this room a lovely sunset picture of Loch Awe. It has been sent up to me this evening, as I admired it so much that I could not help ordering it home. And if you see it this summer you will admire it too. You have not yet seen the real Loch Awe, but this picture may suggest some idea of its beauty glowing in the red sunset light. ' It's a far cry to Loch Awe,' as the Campbells say and it's a far journey to reach it, other people may say who must content themselves with pictures of its fine scenery."
The reference in this letter to John Macgregor, the famous "Rob Roy," will be interesting to those who know his history, and have read his canoe voyages and wonderful exploits. Mrs. Elliott was personally acquainted with this noted and excellent man. Her brother-in-law, Colonel Grier, and General Sir Duncan Macgregor, K.C.B., Rob Roy's father, were at one time officers in the same regiment, the 93rd Highlanders; and the intimacy between the families had always been kept up. It was probably at Colonel Grier's house Mrs. Elliott had first met the renowned canoeist. The comparatively recent death of this remarkable man and unique character will without doubt have refreshed the memory of 'most as regards his history, and informed others who may not have known before of what he was in himself, and what he was enabled to do as a public and philanthropic worker, especially among the poor. Mrs. Elliott used to speak with beaming eye and glowing enthusiasm of her admiration for the noble " Rob Roy." Being a most fascinating companion and brilliant talker, he had no doubt enchanted her fancy as well as touched her heart with his recital of personal reminiscences and his numerous travels.
It will be remembered (the references to his life being so numerous on the occasion of his death) that his father was not only a most distinguished officer, but also a noble Christian, and that the son inherited these traits, which developed themselves in a way peculiar to his own character and intellectual endowments. When a baby he was with his father and his regiment on board the Kent, East Indiaman, when it took fire in the Bay of Biscay; and, to preserve his child's life, Sir Duncan wrapped him up in a blanket and threw him out of the burning ship into a boat, in simple faith that the God who had rescued the infant Moses would also rescue the infant John Macgregor.
It was after this incident that the celebrated Hannah More addressed the lines of which Mrs. Elliott writes, and sent them to the interesting child.
"TO MASTER JOHN MACGREGOR, "With a Pair of Shoes of my own %hitting.
" Sweet babe ! twice rescued from the yawning grave, The flames tremendous and the furious wave; May a third better life thy spirit meet,
Fen life eternal at thy Saviour's feet.
" HANNAH MORE.
"BARLEY WOOD, May 25, 1825."
In one of her letters, Mrs. Elliott says: "By to-night's post I have received a letter, from what renowned person do you think ? from Rob Roy that is, Mr. John Macgregor, and a prettily bound copy of the ` Loss of the Sent,' with his autograph at the beginning, in this way
'I From the first saved (page 35). ROB Roy."
The infant's wonderful preservation no doubt in after years affected and influenced the mind and heart of the mature man; and in return, John Macgregor voted the remainder of his days to the service of his Lord and Redeemer.
At the time that Mrs. Elliott knew him he had made his first canoe voyage in Europe, the Levant and Holy Land; a voyage as were all subsequent voyages under-taken not purely as outlets for his adventurous disposition and love of exploit, but also because they would be the means of widening his range of general knowledge, and giving him an additional acquaintance with men and manners, so that he might the better work for their well-being and influence his surroundings wherever he went for the honour of his God and the further extension of the kingdom of Christ. Those who have read his works will have noticed how under a vein of humour he uttered the deepest truths, and with the smile on his lip and light in his eye touched the hearts of his hearers, and won their confidence not only in himself, but in the Lord whom he sought to exalt, and to engage all to know, love, and serve. Wherever he went he carried with him tracts of Divine wisdom and instruction to scatter around; and the distribution of these tracts not only left his personal impress on the receivers, but was as seed sown to spring up for the furtherance of the Master's cause in many lands, amongst divers people.
When in England he instituted notably the Shoeblack Brigade, having noticed how abroad persons had their shoes blacked in the streets by those employed for the purpose; and when the Great Exhibition of 1851 took place, Macgregor conceived it would be a grand idea to have a band of young waifs dressed up in scarlet uniform with their blacking brushes, to march through the Exhibition, and then station themselves at different posts, and offer their services to touch up the boots of those who might be inclined to have them so refreshed. The plan was a 'hit;" and now all know the widespread value of the Shoeblack Brigade how the poor boys employed often turn out useful and respectable members of the community. $e it was, too, who inaugurated the Open-Air Mission; and himself used to hold open air discussions with atheists and atheistic orators, many of whom he silenced, and some of whom, by his arguments, but more perhaps by his philanthropy, he won from error, and brought into the knowledge of the Truth.. Macgregor was also Hon. Secretary of the Protestant Alliance, and many other useful associations. A warm supporter of Lord Shaftesbury, he worked hand in hand with him in many of his lordship's noble endeavours.
To Mrs. Elliott his chief charm was that (in the words of one who has written well and truthfully of him) "his aim seemed ever to be to show that Christianity is meant to encourage and elevate the best feelings of our nature, by setting its stamp on every innocent and healthful recreation, with an ultimate view to our own best good and the glory of God." She was so thoroughly healthy herself in all her deep religious convictions, and in what she usually practised, that it was ever a delight and untold refreshment to her to meet with others, who, as children of God, walked truly as children of the Light devoid of gloom and harshness and illiberality of creed and practice. Not that she was a broad Churchwoman, in the usual acceptation of that term. She was by no means a fellow-thinker and fellow-actor in much with those of the school of Kingsley and Stanley. She, whilst she avoided one extreme, did not fall into the other; her nature was as foreign to latitudinarism as it was to narrow bigotry and assertiveness. In a word, she was, or aspired to be and to human eye succeeded in being a wise, humble, transparent, loving follower of Him who was the Light of light and the Wisdom and the Power of God.