Page images
PDF
EPUB

consciousness might return before the end came. These were agonising hours! O, how we longed for one word, one look, one manifestation of recognition from the sweet, pure soul whom earth could so ill spare!

Day dawned, morning came, still no change. It was the afternoon of the 6th; we still watched by the sick bed. The doctor had said that the end was drawing nigh. The last ray of hope had fled from my soul. My heart was sore and hard. I had prayed, hundreds had prayed, that she might live. She was dying—of what use was prayer ? I murmured and rebelled; but the Gracious Father bore with me, as patient mothers bear with their petulant children.

We saw the feeble breath grow feebler still, and prayer kept ascending that before the last breath was drawn an opportunity might be afforded for recognition and converse. These prayers were, thank God, answered. A moment's return of consciousness came. The eyes opened wide. A new brightness came into them. Instinctively the head turned towards where her husband stood. She looked steadily, fixedly on him she loved so truly, 80 deeply, so devotedly-life's last look upon earth's most loved object ! O, what a look that is! Her whole soul was in that gaze: it was the look of as pure, and gentle, and loving a spirit as ever inhabited tenement of clay. The rays of light from the departing soul illumined the countenance. The loved face had the old, old look. Just for the moment it was my dear, dear wife, as she had been in the days of health and strength—in the gone, gone days, the sweet young days of love.

The lips struggled to move; there was an earnest effort to speak; but in vain. The eyes only spoke. I tried to utter suitable words. “I told her who were present, and that we would all, by God's help, meet her on the other side ; and the expression of her countenance intimated her consciousness of what was said, and her acquiescence in it. I then read our favourite Scripture—"Let not your heart be troubled : ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father's house are many mansions : if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also.”

Her steady gaze seemed to say, My husband! My husband! Farewell!” Then the eyes closed for ever in time. There were no last words. There was no conversation of a specific death-bed character. But she fell asleep, in Jesus. Gently, and almost imperceptibly, she ceased to breathe. As quietly and as restfully as ever babe fell asleep on its mother's bosom, she passed hence. As placidly as the sun in a cloudless sky sinks away behind the western hills, so she went to her rest. The calm on her coun. tenance settled ; it deepened every day to the day of her burial, and on that day she seemed to reflect the holy calm and light of Heaven.

O, mystery of life! O, mystery of death! During her illness I never once spoke to her of death, neither did she refer to it herself. I believe we both felt our lips to be sealed on this subject. I occasionally read to her out of the works of favourite poets-Wordsworth, Keble, and George Herbert, and I often read much-loved portions of Scripture, John xiv, and xvii

. She was born January, 1847. She rendered up her spirit to God who gave it on Thursday evening, August 6, 1874. Her corpse was taken to her village home, and on Sunday afternoon, the 9th of August, she was carried into the chapel where, only three years and nine weeks before, she stood a hopeful, happy, blooming bride, plighting her troth to the man whom she loved with a most tender, deep 'affection, and who deemed her the choicest among women.

Thence she was carried to her grave, across the very path she trod on nur wedding morning, that path then strewed with roses, now wet with tears. It was a great mourning. The villagers rejoiced with her in her joy, and they sorrowed deeply when she was buried.

Old Sunday-school teachers and scholars carried her and followed her to the grave. The chapel was almost filled with people who honoured her

by appearing in mourning garb. There the Rev. L. Stoney improved her death, and at Stalybridge the funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Joseph Hughes, who for two years had been my honoured, much-loved colleague. Some extracts from his beautiful and affecting address appear in the following resumé.

CHAPTER V.-RESUMÉ.
“ We grieve to think our eyes no more

That form, those features loved, shall trace:
But sweet it is from memory's store
To call each fondly-cherished grace,

And fold them in the heart's embrace.
No bliss 'mid worldly crowds is bred,

Like musing on the sainted dead." MRS. HAMERTON Was eminently fitted for usefulness—as a sick visitor, as a reader of the Scriptures in the homes of the people, as a tract distributor, as a collector for the Missions.

She found her way to the hearts of men. One who knew her from a child sums up her character in the one word “Sweet." And it was this quality of sweetness, natural to her at first, afterwards hallowed and sancti. fied by her consecration to God, by which it put on spiritual beauty,

which rendered her so winning and so influential.

Her uncle, the Rev. Henry Piggin, in a letter to her father, says, " She had the power of winning the love of all with whom she came in contact.” And why? Because she was gentle, meek, unobtrusive, self-forgetful, tender, kind, moved continually with a desire to help men to a nobler way of living

We honour to-night, not the deeds of chivalry, not the triumphs of the battle-field, not the mighty forces of nature—as the storm, the tempest, the fire, the vapour ; but we honour and remember the higher powers of gentleness, meekness, and love, as exemplified in our dear friend's life, and

which were so patent to us all, even during her brief stay with us, as to cause deep sorrow in all our hearts--sorrow, as though an angel had gone from our midst—now that she has left us, and this place knows her no more; for as a young person has already said of her, “Had she been as long again in Stalybridge she could not have been more loved.” It was in her heart to have been very useful at Stalybridge ; but affliction came to prevent it. Even so late as last Conference, she had made her plans of usefulness in connection with this Church, providing her health was sufficiently restored; but we know that she sank more and more, even to death, and all her hopeful plans remain unfulfilled.

It is surprising what respect and affection Mrs. Hamerton commanded in her native village of Stapleford. There her husband took her to be buried, accompanied by our friend, Mr. R. P. Whitworth, and on Sunday, the following day, they laid her remains in the family vault in the chapel yard. The whole village honoured her memory. With more than usual respectfulness of demeanour they walked the streets, and with hushed voices spoke to each other of the sad event. The Sunday-school teachers and scholars, with other friends, followed the relatives, as on the shoulders of those who loved her she was carried to the grave. Deeply did all feel the heaviness of this Providential dispensation, and very deep was the sympathy felt for the bereaved husband and family, as was somewhat painfully evident during the service in the chapel, which the Revs. L. Stoney and J. Chadwick conducted, for in consequence of deep emotion the singing could not proceed for a time.

Thus she who had gone forth from the village a few years previously a happy bride, the people delighting to strew sweetly-scented flowers in her path, and to express their wishes for her future happiness, who had left a home where peace and concord dwelt, and all were kind and true, returned to the same village and the same home all too soon, her hopes cut off, to

[ocr errors]

orna

be buried there ; the same friends again to be seen around her early grave, weeping in grief. How mysterious are the ways of Providence! What trials the heart has to bear! But the lessons of her life are the lessons of trust in a loving Father, and of preparation for death.

And we here at Stalybridge mourn with sorrow as deep as they felt who mourned there at Stapleford. We too in spirit gathered round her grave, and wept. We saw her walk in and out amongst us—not so much as she herself desired-we saw and learned to prize her serene trustfulness, her precious, priceless qualities of heart. Not that she was exceptionally endowed, or gifted with unusual powers ; she was simply a true woman, who ever did her duty and found pleasure in it—and did it in such a way as to win and move the heart; to open it and enlarge it. She never made any display, either in dress or manner, either abroad or at home. She wore no gaudy colours. “ With earrings her organs of hearing were not disfigured.” Jewellery of any kind, after her marriage, she never wore, except occasionally to please her husband; but she was ever neat and simple, quiet and sweet. Of none could it be more truly said, her“ ment was that of a meek and quiet spirit.”

Her tendency was to self-depreciation, and yet this was ever accompanied by a quiet dignity and grace, which gave a peculiar charm to any society she might enter, and of which everyone felt the influence. Her husband, who knew her perhaps best of all, says that she had the fewest faults of any character who ever came under his notice.

Her power lay in her hold of the spiritual-in her realisation of the spiritual realities—in her conscious and constant enjoyment of the presence of Christ Jesus, She ever lived as if she actually saw her Heavenly Father. And the spiritual world threw around her its own charms, and gave her its own power. Her ambition was to be like Christ, because Christ was the highest manifestation of the spiritual. She did not speak much. Her tongue was never heard in the streets. It was far more silent than her life. The greatest talkers are not always the best speakers. They speak best who say the least and live the most.

Her experience in the class meeting was always peculiarly rich and profitable. Those who have heard her speak there say they will never forget it. She knew her sing forgiven. She always had a deep sense of her own unworthiness, but ever laid hold of the blessed truth that Christ could save to the uttermost. She had confidence that all things would work together for good—a confidence which, I will venture to say, notwithstanding all the sad scenes we have heard of, is amply justified to her now.

She was uniformly cheerful and hopeful in disposition, and always had a deep sense of God's goodness to her. God's ways often seemed to her mysterious, but she had faith in God that He would order all things well, and she was willing to leave herself in His hands. She tried to serve God as far as her strength would permit. And this blessed experience of hers was of a steady, even character. She ever trusted in God, and ever had a sense of His presence with her, and it was her delight to meet with God's people at all the means of grace.

She loved everybody. No one ever heard her utter an unkind word regarding anyone. Even when she saw and heard the worst she hoped the best, and turned the conversation by a quiet observation to the side of kindness and charity. And at home she shone the brightest. The domestic virtues reached perfection in her. We can all bear testimony to the truth of what one said who knew her well, viz., that “ love of home was written upon her face."

Sweet ministrant of charity! thou art gone from this cold 'world, where tender plants of Christian grace are full often nipped in the bud, to a warmer clime, and to serener airs, where all that was good in thee shall strengthen and develop into eternal beauty. The waves of adversity shall roll over thee no more, and the hot blasts of suffering and affliction no

more shall heat thy blood to fever heat; but the cool and fragrant airs of Paradise shall ever fan thee, and thou shall dwell for ever in peace.

Rest thee, sweet soul, in the bosom of thy Saviour, far from strife and tears. Thou shalt dwell in our hearts, and we will honour thee with everlasting remembrance. We will emulate thy sweetness and kindness and charity, and seek the aid of the Saviour loved by thee, that a sweetness and gentleness like to thine may softly distil themselves upon us throughout the coming years, making everything more sweet and gentle to us, more Christlike and heavenly.

“Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours and their works do follow them.”

“Being dead yet speaketh."

The beautiful and impressive discourse of my dear brother Hughes, which was based upon the last quotation, was listened to by a very large and deeply-affected congregation.

A common remark by those who came to sympathise with me in my sorrow was," that she was too good to live.” The medical gentleman who last attended her was very much impressed with her patience. Until within two days of her death she always greeted him with a smile, and almost invariably said that "she was better;" for most remarkable, as a rule, when he came in, perfect consciousness would return, to pass away though, very soon after his departure.

Generosity was a most marked feature in my wife's character. She ever wanted to be buying something for others, doing something for others, or giving something away. She hardly ever spent money on herself. She had indescribable joy in exercising generosity; her heart was never satisfied with what her hand gave. Her desires in this respect were always beyond our ability, and yet she was always just before she was generous. She could not bear to owe a farthing to anyone, neither could she bear to be under obligations to any. If she knew that I owed any bills, she never rested until I paid them. No one ever breathed who had a finer sense of honour than my wife had. She shrank from taking gifts, and she delighted in giving. It was her delight to make a pudding for a sick person, and to give a birthday present to a friend.

Another noble feature in her character was the squaring of her life by the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians. She was the only one whom I have known who has lived up to the standard of charity there declared, and she did live up to it, notwithstanding, I am sorry to say, I often tempted her to transgress it. I exaggerate not in this matter. All who knew her testify to the largeness of her charity. She was in truth the very soul of generosity, charity, and honour. Her influence over me in these respects has been most beneficial.

I must not omit to mention the exquisite candour of my wife's character. This was most conspicuous before our marriage. She hid nothing from me, but was most anxious that I should know everything about her. In one of her letters she told me of every fault of which she was conscious, and that to the full. She dreaded my overrating her, and though it was nearing the time of our marriage, and I knew that she had given me her affections, yet she wished me to consider well, and be quite sure that she was a suitable person to be my wife.

To me it is now an indescribable satisfaction to be able to feel and say, and to do so most truly, that after our marriage I had only her innumerable good qualities of mi and heart to discover.

The testimony of a friend who was a frequent guest with us is that~ "She ever seemed to be forgetful of self, to be thoughtful of others; ever seemed to be willing to forget her own pleasure and comfort and conTenience, if she could thereby promote the pleasure, comfort, and convenience of other people—a rare quality of character, evidencing considerable power of Divine grace !

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

A person in Stalybridge, who moved my heart deeply by reverentially kissing my dear one's cold brow when she lay still in death, said :—“We felt when she came amongst us that she was our superior, but she was quite at home with us, and never made us in the least feel that we were inferior."

The hold which she had upon the affections of the Stalybridge people, though they had only known her two years, positively amazed me.

Не mental powers, which were of a very superior order, were never fully done justice to. Ideality was largely developed. She was never satisfied with herself in anything that she did. She was most ambitious to be a perfect wife and mother. I found her one morning reading the 31st chapter of Proverbs ; she looked up when I approached and said, “ that she desired to be like the wife therein described, but she feared she never would.” My honest, truthful testimony is, that she attained to that likeness.

I almost invariably read her my compositions, and I always found her criticism to be most valuable. She had considerable artistic power, and had her abilities in that way been cultivated she would have attained to some eminence with her pencil.

She loved nature in its wilder forms. The sweet violet discovered itself to her, and passionately she loved that exquisite flower. She delighted to roam in the forest glade, and pluck wild flowers and ferns. Our last walk together was in a little wood near Stalybridge, in the May of last year. Though very weak, she evinced all her girlish enthusiasm for every pretty plant and tiny flower, and we came home ladened with ferns, bluebells, wild hyacinths, &c.

The following is a brief extract from one of her letters, written four months before I lost her :

“ Are we in danger, dearest, of losing the romance and poetry of our lives? I hope not. We must not, or we shall lose a charm." How I used to dream what a life of poetry I would have; but somehow, though, the poetry and the longing after a perfect life is not gone. I have felt that in a great measure my dreams must give place to graver thoughts. The romance of our lives is not a light, airy, unprofitable thing, and I am sure we might cherish more of it than we have done. I do not want to become uninteresting and dull, and I should be very sorry for you to become so, I like to have your company, and I have often wished for more of it. I know that your time is pretty nearly fully occupied, and I would not in apy way hinder your work, all important as it is, by my selfish claims. After all, we are lovers yet, and dearer than we ever were to each other.".

Again, in answer to a letter of mine, in which I had spoken of our help, ing each other in our spiritual life, and asked her to forgive my occasional manifestations of irritability, she says :-"I don't think that I have felt your irritability, dearest, any more than I have felt at times my own lack of patience and forbearance. You have much to bear from me sometimes, from my thoughtlessness and wilfulness, but I will try, dearest, not to ves you at all. I have had reflections similar to your own while I have been here, and I, too, want to be more spiritual. Let us help each other in this matter, for I am afraid we have been too reserved with each other. I pray for you, dearest, every day.”

It would have required a long, long life, and a life of some vicissitude, too, to have developed all the latent, beautiful, noble qualities of my wife

. Her spring only developed, she was like one of her own loved sweet violets. Had she lived, there would have been a rich summer and a ripe autumn.

That such a wife and such a mother should be taken away at the early age of twenty-seven is to me one of the great mysteries of time.

“The hopes we fondly cherish,

Like flowers which blossom but to die,
Seem only born to perish."
" We sail the sea of life—a calm one finds,

And one a tempest; and, the voyage o'er,
Death is the quiet baven of us all."

« PreviousContinue »