[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
IN keeping with her versatility of reading was also her versatility of writing. Her delightful letters to her young relatives furnish a sample of this. To the weak became she as weak, that she might gain the weak all things to all for the Gospel's sake; that she might by all means woo and win love and devotion, not for herself, but for Jesus her Lord. Her mission was to extend the kingdom of Christ in every possible way and wherever possible.
The following from a letter to little Alice Weatherell is a specimen of her attractive power of unbending to the level of the understanding and attainment of her correspondent:
" You do not remember my face, because when I was at Elton last you were a very little child, not much more than a baby, going about on the grass after your mamma, like a little lamb. I remember the look of your fair hair in that pretty garden in the summer time. Now you are so much grown up that you can read and write, and nurse the baby Maude, the sweet little sister who was sent to you last year. You can learn from the New Testament how the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves His little lambs. And as He is so very kind and gentle, you should say to Him, I Lord Jesus, teach me to love Thee.' The more you love Him the happier you will be now and always. And though you do not see His lovely face now, yet He sees you and takes care of you every minute. And He has given you a happy home with your kind papa and mamma and brothers and sisters." A picture of grave beauty introduced into a letter of like adaptability to the age and appreciation of her nieces when older is this:
" Yesterday I was not out all day, but your uncle went a long way on a journey of kindness. He went to Kentraugh, beyond Castletown, to Mr. Gawne's, in quest of ice to lay on the head of the young hospital doctor, dangerously ill with typhus fever. No ice could be had in Douglas, and there was none at Kentraugh,though they have ice-houses there. To-night it is not required, for the young head is cold enough, and the warm young heart ceased to beat this morning. On Saturday night he seemed better, and better yesterday. In October this young Englishman * came to Douglas, and bravely and kindly he has done his work in the hospital, and from house to house visiting the poor of this town over much work for in one day it is said that he visited ninety persons or houses. He caught a violent fever from an outdoor patient; and to-day, when your uncle Elliott was in the room with him and his mother and brother, the kind young man breathed his last, and the broken-hearted mother sank fainting on the floor.
" May the blessed Saviour who has passed through death speak peace to her heart, and may His Spirit sustain and comfort her! This sad event has been very grievous to me to-day, though I was but slightly acquainted with the young man, having only spoken to him twice; but I heard so much of his kindness. And such brave warm human hearts are not very common in this selfish world."
* Fothergill was the name of the young doctor.
Of another stamp altogether we have the correspondent's acknowledgment of Christmas gifts from her nieces a sprightly little bit of descriptive painting of the same order as that so usual in her conversation:
" Many thanks for the beautiful and comfortable presents which you have so kindly made and sent to me. When the postman's knock was heard at the door on Saturday it was answered by Eleanor Grier, who came back into the room with her hands well filled with letters from her Elton cousins, and also with the large parcel, which was opened and its handsome contents unfolded before the admiring gaze of the company in this room, namely, Eleanor, her mamma,* Mrs. Louis Howard, and your old aunt Eleanor, who thanks you heartily for your warm and seasonable benefactions. Some hours elapsed before the letters from Eleanor and Alice were read. And then your uncle had the pleasure of hearing that the soft and pretty grey muffatees were for him. He is greatly obliged to Alice and he will put them on for her sake, and he hopes to write to her soon. But at present it is almost as impossible for him to do such a thing as it would be for a bird on the wing to write a letter.
" So Marian and Alice will understand that though he does not write it is not because he does not think of them.
" It is said that ' fine feathers make fine birds,' therefore I ought to be a very fine old bird with all the finery that is upon me at this moment the rich purple shawl on my shoulders, and the bright scarlet slippers on my feet. But with all this grandeur I must try not to be quite as proud as a peacock though my shawl and slippers are so extremely pretty and so very well made.
" With love to your papa and mamma and to Alice, Herbert, and darling little Maud, and to the shawhaaker and shoemaker, believe me, my dear girls, your affectionate aunt, ELEANOR ELLIOTT."
* Sister of George William Dumbell, Esq. of Belmont.
And here follows a picture of truly exquisite feeling and touching beauty an incentive to solemnise and instruct the hearts of her young friends:
"Last week," she writes, "I sent a Herald to your papa in which was a poem containing ever so many Manx names, and narrating an old battle of the days of long ago, when the fierce old sea-kings from Norway and Denmark used to ravage the Manx coast and other coasts. They were very bad old times, and we may be thankful that our Lord Christ has spoken peace to the heathen, and that a day will come when there shall be an end of war and strife and sin. For the kingdom of the Lamb will surely come.
" A very dear and gentle child * who belongs to that kingdom died on Friday evening, peacefully and happily. His face was lovely, beaming with sweetness and intelligence, and in his heart was the love of Jesus. He endured great pain with patience, saying, 'What is it to the pain of Jesus ?' But now the pain is all over; it came to an end on Friday evening, when it seemed that a heavenly light came to light him home. He lay on a couch in the kitchen, for he was too ill to be carried upstairs, and his mother and aunt were with him. There was no gas-light or candle-light in the kitchen, and the fire was low and dim. ' Mother,' said he, what light is that? ' ' Willie,' said she, ' it is night.' ' I know that, mother,' he said, ' I see a light you cannot see,' and he laid down his head and died.
* A child of humble parentage whom Mrs. Elliott used to visit.
" He was eleven years of age, this dear child of light-of such is the kingdom of heaven-and very lovely it is to see such fruits of the Spirit, such patience, meekness, and love."
A friend writes, " Mrs. Elliott was a believer in dreams." And we may say with truth that exceptional dreams under exceptional circumstances were frequently considered by her of prophetic import and divinely sent. We have seen what comfort she herself derived from a dream that presented to her the re-union with herself of her three sons. And on one occasion, after dreaming about seeing her mother, she wrote to her brother: "It seems to me a great comfort to be allowed to see our friends in visions of the night; to meet them in dreamland, as in a spiritual world, which for the time is as real as this waking world. How thankful I should be to spend every night with William, Henry, and Philip. But they will come again from the land of the evening, because of the birth and death and resurrection of the Prince of Life. We look for the resurrection and the life."
And no doubt dreams of warning as well as of assurance were often weighed by our friend in her own case, as in that of others, with grave interest and significant inquiry.
The correspondent whose remark we quoted writes: "One bright day in spring, the spring of 1864, I remember meeting Mrs. Elliott. I was with my sister Maggie. She stopped us and said to Maggie (who was then in perfect health), 'Oh, Maggie, I dreamt of you last night you were dressed all in white;' and I said, ` Maggie, you are going to be a spirit in heaven!' Strange to say, a few months later my sister was a spirit in heaven, having died in August. When I mentioned the circumstance afterwards to Mrs. Elliott, and told her how her dream affected me when Maggie began to be ill, she said, 'Oh yes, I knew when I heard of her illness she would not recover that dream warned me not to expect it."'
Though we mention the subject of Mrs. Elliott's belief in dreams, it is with reserve, as she herself, perhaps, would have done. Nothing she feared more than by any ideas or sentiments of her own, not essentially matter of divine and necessary credence, to mystify or mislead the faith of any one.
With the same reserve we would allude to her habit of fasting at special seasons and under special circumstances. She never spoke of her practice to any one herself ; and it was only those who were in close intimacy with her perceived how in every point she sought to follow in the steps of the Master. He fasted and prayed; she did so too. He suffered hunger and cold, and spent nights in heavenly communion and prayer; she humbly and falteringly followed where He led, identifying herself with His holy sufferings that she might the closer enter into His great heart of love and spirit of divine self-sacrifice. Her life was one of absolute communion with her Saviour and unceasing prayer. Prayer was the habitual breath of her soul rising on behalf of all with whom she came in contact. Did she meet with any one in every respect companionable and pleasant, yet an alien from the kingdom of grace, she never took them to task, and thrust the pearl of salvation by faith into their unwilling acceptance. No, she prayed, prayed continuously, that the Spirit Himself would deal with the poor erring heedless soul, ready to perish for the lack of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. And praying, she watched, watched for that precious soul; and we believe in most cases it was permitted to her to lead the benighted wanderer into the fold of the true Shepherd. The Rev. Wm. Hawley, who knew her so well, and fathomed the secret and power of her holy devoted life, writes: "Two traits were very conspicuous in her. First, while so spiritually minded and holy, she was so perfectly free from all shibboleth, twaddle, or cant; which is so offensive to persons of taste, especially if not decidedly godly. Again, she was so full of sympathy, she always entered really into your feelings if you had anything to tell; she listened not merely for the sake of being polite, but she made the matter personal to herself, because she loved her neighbour as herself. Most self-denying as regarded self-indulgence of any kind, she was ' firm as an oak' when she had made up her mind."
Truly, her beautiful tact and fulness of sympathy, as noted by Mr. Hawley, enhanced the power of every word that fell from her lips, and rendered even her silence eloquent. May we like her cry, " Lord, deliver us from ourselves humble self keep me low at Thy cross, that Thou mayest be all in me; and I myself but a voice a movement a sign for Thee ! "