« VorigeDoorgaan »
as I have expected this, that I am actually passing away. I look with a sort of farewell curiosity at everything in this vanishing world. It seems as if I had never observed them before, as if the beautiful sunshine were new to me, and all your faces that I am to behold no more.” He paused for several minutes, but the doctor having administered a cordial, the Bishop's strength became wonderfully revived, and his whole heart seemed in his eyes when he again looked at Sir Allan, saying in a tone of overwhelming solemnity, “I have prayed, —oh, how fervently that my own beloved pupil may be preserved from the snares around his path. Allan, dear Allan, receive this my own Bible, and may it light you, as it has lighted me, along the only safe and sure path through this dark valley, into an unfathomable eternity. Farewell, Allan | My latest earthly care is for you! My voice fails, my sight fails, but not my faith. I have a steady fearless reliance on the written word of God, and on that only.” The Bishop's breathing became so impeded that for several minutes it was impossible to articulate, but he closed his eyes, and in a voice reduced to the lowest whisper, earnestly repeated several prayers from the Service for the Sick; and when his voice at length ceased, he had fallen into an insensibility from which he recovered no more. His was now the long, deep, unbroken sleep of death. All was over; or rather, to the emancipated soul passed into eternal felicity, all was now begun. The shock was overwhelming to those who loved that best of men, the Bishop of Inverness ; and deep was the respectful sorrow with which together next day his afflicted friends deplored their incalculable loss.
“For when the morning came serene,
There were no frantic bursts of grief, but the assembled circle each mourned in silence awe-struck, though not fear-struck, at this sudden blow. All expressed a fervent hope that they might live as their good Bishop had lived—a Bible-Christian on the best model, and die as he had died, in a simple undoubting faith in one only Saviour and Mediator.
“Truly,” observed Lady Edith next day, in a deeply meditative tone, while she gazed out of her window at the clouded mournful sun battling through the heavy fog, “our own Bishop has long been, as it were, an out-door servant of his great Master, exposed to the clouds and storms of an earthly career, but now he is called home into a Father's house, there to find shelter from every blast ! No man valued life more than he did, or felt a more solemn awe in laying it down, and his composure was not from fearlessness of death, but from a Protestant belief in the immediate happiness awaiting his redeemed soul at once in a far better world.”
“Certainly,” observed Lady Anne, “if he had depended on the intercessions of men and women, born in sin like ourselves, he must inevitably have been tortured by the fearful apprehension of a longenduring purgatory, perhaps to last for centuries.” “Life is a terrible, but a glorious gift, and I have always felt overawed by its importance,” said Lady Edith, meditatively, while Sir Allan’s flushed cheek and contracted lip betrayed how deep was the affliction he tried to subdue; “yet how affecting and how consolatory is the sorrow of those we leave behind ; how sad it would be to fall like an autumn leaf unnoticed and unlamented ' To the old, like myself, and to the dear revered Bishop, all that human friendship can do for us is to shed a tear over our last remains. Allan' when we are both laid at rest in the grave, remember your two old friends, and all we endeavoured to teach you; the generation to which you belonged will then stand forth, in the front rank, where I stand now, awaiting the reaper's hand. May you then be found ready and willing to depart with the same "placid intrepidity as our lamented friend and bishop !
“My soul, that fluttering hastens to be free,
“How is this,
IN families and neighbourhoods, after a long interregnum of health and prosperity, who does not remember a time when it seems as if a sudden outbreak of sickness and death were about to empty the world of all those they have loved or known, and as if nobody would be left on the earth 7 So it appeared to the older inhabitants of Clanmarina, when, after following their revered Bishop to his last home, they heard that Lord Eaglescairn was not expected to survive the night. In a lofty and spacious room hung with tapestry" and pictures, and on a bed hung with curtains of the richest velvet, which were thrown widely back for air, lay the dying man, in a state of bodily and mental suffering that his worst enemy, if he had one, might have pitied. No language can describe the ghastly anxiety expressed in his wasted features, as he gazed at Father Eustace, who sat beside him alone, sprinkling his face occasionally with holy water from St. Victore's well, and holding up a blessed chaplet in articulo mortis. The
religion of human coinage was here exhibited in all its feebleness and deformity. No mourning relatives were permitted to approach the expiring sufferer, no sympathising friends; but he had received the last offices of his Church, and nothing was left for him now to do but to die. His pale lips quivered, his mouth was open, his looks wandered from place to place, as if in search of consolation, till at length he turned his face to the wall in speechless anguish, and shunned the eye of Father Eustace, which had been sternly fixed upon him, while he muttered inaudibly Latin prayers for the agonizing, which might as well have been in Chinese or Hindoo, for any appeal they made to the heart or conscience. At length, unable any longer to control his emotions, Lord Eaglescairn with sudden strength sat up in bed, gazed anxiously around, as if in search of some one, and then said, in accents of piercing agony, “I cannot die in peace with my secret untold ! From the day of that shipwreck, when you persuaded me, for the interests of the Church, to defraud that girl of her inheritance, never has my miserable mind known one moment's peace. You tell me, like the Duke of Burgundy's confessor, that you will take upon yourself the punishment due to my crime. That promise seemed very sufficient when I was well; but now !—” Lord Eaglescairn covered his face with his hands, and groaned aloud with agony and apprehension.
“There is no future pang