Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

and down the hall and the great library: “ I have seen much,” he kept saying, “ but nothing like my ain house-give me one turn more!” He was gentle as an infant, and allowed himself to be put to bed again, the moment we told him that we thought he had had enough for one day.

Next morning he was still better. After again enjoying the Bath chair for perhaps a couple of hours out of doors, he desired to be drawn into the library, and placed by the central window, that he might look down upon the Tweed. Here he expressed a wish that I should read to him, and when I asked from what book, he said — “ Need you ask? There is but one.” I chose the 14th chapter of St. John's Gos

he listened with mild devotion, and said when I had done __“ Well, this is a great comfort. I have followed you distinctly, and I feel as if I were yet to be myself again.” In this placid frame he was again put to bed, and had many hours of soft slumber.

On the third day Mr Laidlaw and I again wheeled him about the small piece of lawn and shrubbery in front of the house for some time; and the weather being delightful, and all the richness of summer around him, he seemed to taste fully the balmy influences of nature. The sun getting very strong, we halted the chair in a sbady corner, just within the verge of his verdant arcade around the court-wall; and breathing the coolness of the spot, he said, “Read

pel ;

[merged small][ocr errors]

me some amusing thing — read me a bit of Crabbe.” I brought out the first volume of his old favourite that I could lay hand on, and turned to what I remembered as one of his most favourite passages in it

- the description of the arrival of the Players in the Borough. He listened with great interest, and also, as I soon perceived, with great curiosity. Every now and then he exclaimed, “ Capital -excellent - very good— Crabbe has lost nothing” — and we were too well satisfied that he considered himself as hearing a new production, when, chuckling over one couplet, he said 6 Better and better

but how will poor Terry endure these cuts ?”. I went on with the poet's terrible sarcasms upon the theatrical life, and he listened eagerly, muttering, “ Honest Dan!” — “ Dan won't like this.” At length I reached those lines

“ Sad happy race ! soon raised and soon depressed,
Your days all passed in jeopardy and jest:
Poor without prudence, with afflictions vain,
Not warned by misery, nor enriched by gain.”

“ Shut the book," said Sir Walter — “I can't stand more of this — it will touch Terry to the

very quick.” On the morning of Sunday the 15th, he was again taken out into the little pleasaunce, and got as far as his favourite terrace-walk between the garden and the river, from which he seemed to survey the valley and the hills with much satisfaction. On re-entering

the house, he desired me to read to him from the New Testament, and after that he again called for a little of Crabbe; but whatever I selected from that poet seemed to be listened to as if it made part of some new volume published while he was in Italy. He attended with this sense of novelty even to the tale of Phoebe Dawson, which not many months before he could have repeated every line of, and which I chose for one of these readings, because, as is known to every one, it had formed the last solace of Mr Fox's deathbed. On the contrary, his recollection of whatever I read from the Bible appeared to be lively; and in the afternoon, when we made his grandson, a child of six years, repeat some of Dr Watts' hymns by his chair, he seemed also to remember them perfectly. That evening he heard the Church service, and when I was about to close the book, said

Why do you omit the visitation for the sick ?" - which I added accordingly.

On Monday he remained in bed, and seemed extremely feeble; but after breakfast on Tuesday the 17th he appeared revived somewhat, and was again wheeled about on the turf. Presently he fell asleep in his chair, and after dozing for perhaps half an hour, started awake, and shaking the plaids we had put about him from off his shoulders, said -“ This is sad idleness. I shall forget what I have been thinking of, if I don't set it down now.

Take me

into my own room, and fetch the keys of my desk.” He repeated this so earnestly that we could not refuse; his daughters went into his study, opened his writing-desk, and laid paper and pens in the usual order, and I then moved him through the hall and into the spot where he had always been accustomed to work. When the chair was placed at the desk, and he found himself in the old position, he smiled and thanked us, and said — Now give me my pen, and leave me for a little to myself. Sophia put the pen into his hand, and he endeavoured to close his fingers upon it, but they refused their office — it dropped on the paper. He sank back among his pillows, silent tears rolling down his cheeks; but composing himself by and by, motioned to me to wheel him out of doors again. Laidlaw met us at the porch, and took his turn of the chair. Sir Walter, after a little while, again dropt into slumber. When he was awaking, Laidlaw said to me

“ Sir Walter has had a little repose.” “ No, Willie,” said he — "

for Sir Walter but in the grave.” The tears again rushed from his eyes. “ Friends," said he, “ don't let me expose myself — get me to bed — that's the only place.”*

no repose

As this is the last time I name Mr Laidlaw, I may as well mention, that this most excellent and amiable man is now factor on the estate of Sir Charles Lockhart Ross, Bart. of Balnagowan, in Ross-shire.

With this scene ended our glimpse of daylight. Sir Walter never, I think, left his room afterwards, and hardly his bed, except for an hour or two in the middle of the day; and after another week he was unable even for this. During a few days he was in a state of painful irritation and I saw realized all that he had himself prefigured in his description of the meeting between Crystal Croftangry and his paralytic friend. Dr Ross came out from Edinburgh, bringing with him his wife, one of the dearest nieces of the Clerks' Table. Sir Walter with some difficulty recognised the Doctor - but, on hearing Mrs Ross's voice, exclaimed at once “ Isn't that Kate Hume?These kind friends remained for two or three days with us. Clarkson's lancet was pronounced necessary, and the relief it afforded was, I am happy to say, very effectual.

After this he declined daily, but still there was great strength to be wasted, and the process was long. He seemed, however, to suffer no bodily pain, and his mind, though hopelessly obscured, appeared, when there was any symptom of consciousness, to be dwelling, with rare exceptions, on serious and solemn things; the accent of the voice grave, sometimes awful, but never querulous, and very seldom indica. tive of any angry or resentful thoughts. Now and then he imagined himself to be administering justice as Sheriff; and once or twice he seemed to be order

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »