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Cometh Up as a Flower: an Autobiography, Vol. 2. Broughton, Rhoda, 1840–1920.
page: 170


I MAY put away all the bright colours out of my paint box, for they have gone out of my life; so I need no longer lake, or carmime, or ultra‐marine. My few more pictures are dark as Rembrandt's; without his forges, and fires, and patches of crimson light to set them off. I made but one stipulation with my husband; and that was that immediately after the ceremony, he should return to Wentworth, en garçon, and leave me in peace, to tend and nurse my father, until—I did not express in words, until what; hardly to myself did I dare give shape and substance to my woe—until the end. I had sacrificed myself, in order to prolong my old man's life, and on the day but one after my wedding, he died.

page: 171

Thus it is with our little feeble plans and designs, in this troublesome world. The sacrifice had been offered in vain. I have told you how strenuously my father opposed all endeavours to make an invalid of him. Well, on that last day he had to succumb: the stout spirit had to give in to the failing flesh; One, mightier than he, overcame him.

So he lay in bed, very quietly, very patiently, waiting,—waiting, and panting sorely. During all those dragging, weary hours, I sat by him, holding his hand; as if that could keep him back from the gulf he was nearing. The snow floated down noiselessly on the window sill, and rested there, soft and flaky: the clock ticked monotonous, and the short wintry day sloped westward towards the night.

“It's all up with me, Nell,” said my father, faintly; “I'm getting a very broken‐winded old horse, aren't I?”

By‐and‐by I got mother's old Bible, with her dim faded pencil‐marks; the shabby little Bible he always used; and read him bits out of it; comfortable, ten‐ tender page: 172 der promises suited to the weakness of approaching dissolution; and he said,

“Thank you, little lass, it's very nice;” but he could not attend to me long. It is hard work dying; a bitter weary tussle; but ah! surely it is harder seeing another die. I sat and listened to the gasping breath, that grew ever quicker, harder, shorter; it made me out of breath myself to hear him labouring, panting so. O God! how I longed to be able to “Give him half my powers, To eke his being out.”

Then day died, and the snow lay thicker, and the darkness fell. Presently Mrs. Smith came in with ostentatious tiptoe tread, and came creaking over, with a cup of tea for me, and turned away with big tears on her old cheeks; (there were none on mine). And then the doctor came in, with long face, and lowered voice, and told me he was sinking fast—God! as if I did not know that—and poured out some brandy into a glass for me to give him. But I said I would not, page: 173 rudely, angrily; pushed it away from me; told them he should die in peace, and that they should not torment him—I hated to see that careless indifferent stranger come to gape and croak over him , in his mortal weakness.

So they left me and my old man alone together, we had always loved to be together, hadn't we? The wind rose a little at nightfall, and came sighing, sobbing, keening, about the old eaves and gables, and the snow turned to sleet, and beat and pattered against the panes. It seemed so hard to die on such a night; so hard for a poor bare soul to go shuddering out into the great dark void. I could have let him go from me better, I thought, on some bright warm summer nooning, when you could almost see heaven's gates a long way up in the azure depths.

Gradually he sank into a stupor; He who does all things well, took away from him all knowledge of past, present, and to come; all consciousness of his pains and aches; of his debts and his sorrows, and even of his little pet daughter, kneel‐ kneeling page: 174 ing by his bedside, with her head in the counterpane, choking and shaking in her sobs.

The night deepened, waned; the candles flared tall and yellow, and the wind sank: still I knelt on, holding the hand that was ever growing colder, colder, with my eyes riveted on that sunken face, that looked so old, so gray, and so very peaceful: I was learning off every pathetic line and hollow in it; printing it on my icy desolate heart, against the time when I should have but memory left of him.

The breathing had grown fainter, fainter; sometimes it paused quite, for a second or two, then laboured on for a space, intermittent, feeble; the pauses grew longer—longer; the gasps lower—weaker—weaker—then stopped! And about the fourth watch of the night came One into that upper chamber—One that had not been there before. A great quiet awe stole over me: I rose from my knees very gently, reverently, and bent over him.

“He is gone!” I said to myself—when page: 175 suddenly the old kind eves opened once again wide, with an infinite glad surprise in them, as if they saw some pleasant jocund sight—My old man! God grant that it was so!—and then the eyelids closed again very softly, and he was not.

So the family vault of the Lestranges was opened, and the good gray head went down into the dust, whither all heads go at last. I hope they'll bury me with him when I die. I should like that last grand trumpet blare to find us together. And they carried him away—him, that dead coffined weight—ah! not him, not him, really—away from his pretty old house, and his books, and his wretchedest, wretchedest “little lass.” As they bore him slowly under the great elms, beneath whose shade he and I had so often walked, holding sweet converse, the snow fell heavy and thick, whitened the black pall, and sent its feathery, icy flakes against my face, as I walked behind.

I ought to have cried, I suppose, that day; Dolly did; even Mrs. Smith and the other servants did; and I looked at them page: 176 with a certain stolid surprise. I did not cry; I was not the least inclined; I felt no particular pain or grief, only an infinite, numb apathy. So they bore him through the lych gate, and into the church, and we said the solemn good‐bye words to him—he lying there deaf, unheeding of our farewells; and then they laid him in the yawning grave (we standing round), and the snow flakes fell on the coffin‐plate, that told how Sir Adrian Lestrange departed this life on the 30th day of December, 186—. And then we turned away and left him, and I was sorry as one that had no hope.