[From Manx Recollections, 1894]
A MOST intense love had our friend for the season of Easter. How she delighted, when the great feast came round to lift not only her whole spiritual being in joyous adoration and thanksgiving of praise for the crowning triumph of the Christian faith commemorated that day, but in her outward garb she manifested her gladness, wearing as much white as she could appropriately do to relieve her usual black attire, deeming its symbol of purity consistent with the spotless glory of renewed, sanctified, and risen life vouchsafed to sinful man through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus!
On Easter Day of 1880 was she specially absorbed in wondering and elevating thought, as she contemplated the mystery of the resurrection, and the triumph of Life for ever more over Death and the Grave; for dear Marian Weatherell's recent death gave an additional impetus to her flood and flow of thought.
"At this feast of the resurrection," she says in a letter to her nieces, " one remembers some lines of a Moravian hymn
' He riseth who mankind hath bought
With pain and grief extreme,
'Twas great to call a world from nought, '
Twas greater to redeem'
because the work of redemption involved in it the depth of humiliation and self-sacrifice, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Redeemer, King, Creator, by whom and for whom all things were made. The `pain and grief,' `the love and sorrow,' give the moral glory to the crown of thorns
' Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?' a crown that fadeth not away.
" What happy Easter holy-days dear Marian is spending now in the calm upper regions above the storm!
Tell Tell me of that celestial calm Each face in glory weareth'
though the fulness of glory awaits the resurrection morning, when the Saviour and His saints shall appear in the glory of their transfigured bodies."
Alas, this year there is apparent in our dear one's hand-writing a rapid and marked change. At times the letters are only partly formed, and the words occasionally only partly written. Her sight, it was evident, by this and other proofs, was quickly failing her altogether; and it is pitiful to read the following reflections wrung from the shrinking heart incidental to its sense of weakness and helplessness:
" You must know, my dear Eleanor," she wrote to her brother's eldest daughter, " that for some days I have been in a disturbed and saddened state of mind, in a turmoil of inward vexation, owing to my unruly and morbid habit of self-reproach, spending so much time and thought in vain regret for what I have said or left unsaid, for what I have done or left undone. Your uncle has had notes and cards from London inviting him to vote for Lord George Hamilton, the Conservative candidate member for Middlesex; and at last, on Thursday evening, a railway-pass was sent for his journey to and fro. He suggested at first that I should accompany him, but this I refused at once with hot-headed impatience, because the state of my eyes seemed to make it almost impossible. And my own idea was terror at the thought of his danger in a London crowd, as he is neither quick to see nor to hear. Yet it might all have been easily managed by first driving up in a cab to Guildhall, where the polling was to take place. But this thought did not occur until it was too late. So with my usual rashness I persuaded him to give it up. And after nine o'clock on Friday morning, when the packet was sailing, the keen regret began, which went stinging hour after hour throughout Saturday and Sunday, as I went on saying to myself, ' Only for me, he might have had the satisfaction of voting once for his own city. Only for me, he might have gone on to Elton, and that would have been a refreshment to him who has no refreshment, and we should have been surrounded by the fair young faces. And then on Sunday it was so painful to feel that only for me we might have been at Elton Church, where your father and brother would both be officiating an opportunity that might never occur again. And then on our return one of you might be induced to come with us. To all these vexatious thoughts I was trying to answer, that if it had been so ordered for our good we should have been compelled to go. But then as no direction had been sought from above, I could only blame myself for stupid obstinacy. However, it is just barely possible that before the end of this month we may (D.V.) perhaps consult two oculists in London, Dr. Meurer, when he arrives from Germany, and Dr. Baden, another German. Dr. Baden is ophthalmic lecturer at Guy's Hospital."
Notwithstanding what the correspondent secretly dwelt upon with fear and anguish of mind, it is marvellous to see from her letters, and it was marvellous to witness at the time, how she contrived by the Spirit of all power working in her to rise above her fears, above her anguish, and above herself. For instance, in 1880 Governor and Lady Loch opened the first Insular Exhibition of Pictures a choice collection, as before noted, of some of the foremost works of the day ; and Mrs. Elliott, roused to the occasion, was infinitely more interested and enthusiastic over the event than were several of its professedly most ardent supporters and admirers.
This Exhibition was the forerunner of the School of Art, instituted this same year by Sir Henry and Lady Loch, and placed on a sure foundation by the unremitting zeal and concern displayed in its maintenance and usefulness by her Ladyship, seconded by the then talented and enthusiastic Head Master, Mr. W. J. Merritt.
Touchingly, too, is it evident how, amid all loss and involuntary depression, supreme in our dear friend's soul was the love and thirst for the beauties of Nature. How she could enjoy them still, feeling them if she could not see them, and drinking their sweetness into her impassioned being with a yearning responsive enjoyment, only felt and conceived by the soul akin to its God, or the heart aglow with poetic fire and artistic perception!
" Karine walked with me to Pulrose stream," she said in one of her letters, " where we sat beside the quiet waters and listened to their soothing song."
Ah, happy recollection for the younger friend recalling how that day, when beside her heavenly-inspired companion, she sat on the bank of the Pulrose stream. It was like a foretaste of the joys known to those who have crossed the river, and entered the paradise of the blest, meeting one with another, and basking in the ineffable light of that city which hath "no need of the sun, neither of the moon" to enhance its beauty; and listening to the voice which "is as the sound of many waters" proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb.
Sweet, passing sweet, were the words uttered and glowing thoughts expressed by one of the friends by the shining stream under the clear blue sky, and within sight of the Nunnery grove in its vesture of tender "leafy June" foliage !
And happy, passing happy (though clouded by transient misgivings) was the attitude of the other, listening, quietly learning, and wondering at what she heard!
On another occasion we have a picture of a visit to Kirk Marown, to the farm of Balla Garey, where Karine had taken rooms in July of this year for the sake of her health
" Yesterday," describes the word painter, " I spent some refreshing hours with Karine at Balla Garey. We walked in the green grassy glen, beautiful with green trees, and enlivened with the soft music of a running brook, singing ' a quiet tune,' very different from the noisy bawls and box organs of the town. This calm country retreat seems to breathe balm and health into the very soul of poor Karine.
" After our walk in the glen we had tea in the garden, with such delicious butter and cream as might have been tasted in Arcadia, though the Arcadians could never have dreamed of such scones as were made yesterday by the Scotch landlady, the mistress of the farm, Mrs. Templeton ! "
Praise was the natural voice of our friend's soul. In the autumn of 1880 she, as her custom was, was present at the Harvest Thanksgiving service at St. George's, and writing of it she says:
"The special Psalms were the 103rd and loath. The first lesson was the 2nd chapter of Ruth a lovely pastoral scene, always bright with the light of early days, while Boaz and the reapers greet each other with words full of prophetic and typical meaning. The lord of the harvest-field comes forth from Bethlehem, saying to the reapers, `The Lord be with you,' suggesting the great Emmanuel, who in after days came forth from Bethlehem to be always present with His people, `God with us."'
In another letter about this date, she refers to a quotation from Dr. Paysan, to which she alludes in these interesting terms :
" I send you, dear Alice, a reprint of a letter of Dr. Paysan's, which is well worth reading, though you may have read it often, as it is often quoted. Such heavenly thoughts and feelings as are expressed in those beautiful words are well condensed into two lines of Keble's Evening Hymn
' Till in the ocean of Thy love,
We lose ourselves in heaven above."'
And now comes the year 1881, and we have the last letter apparently that Eleanor Elliott wrote to her relations . at Elton. In it she makes a remarkable reference to the end of this dispensation. As she wrote, it is evident her own soul held out both its arms, as it were, eager to catch the first gleam of the new day, when the saints of God should be safe and glorified for evermore ; the glorious blessed day, when the children that God had given her should return again from the land of the evening, and sunlight, and eternal life and joy should be her and their portion for evermore !
"This 1881," she wrote, "has been expected as the probable end of the present dispensation. If so, it will be a glad new year to the redeemed who are waiting for the Redeemer, more than they who watch for the morning.
" But the very expectation makes it somewhat unlikely that so it will be, and at such a time, because the Lord Himself has said to His disciples, 'At such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.' But still it is well to be waiting and watching, and to be so renewed by the Spirit of holiness as to be ready for the time of regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory."