In the beginning of 1889 Mr Darling began to show
unmistakable signs of failing health. He was easily fatigued, and
less able for his wonted tale of service. The landmark and limit of
threescore years and ten now stood within sight. The change became
more perceptible in November, on the occasion of the death of his
brother-in-law, Mr James Bunyan, a man of kindred spirit, who had
long been his fellow-worker in all his labours of love. There was
now a settled languor which it seemed impossible to throw off.
Spring came, with its song-birds and early flowers, and benefit was
sought in a change of air and scene, first in Rothesay, in the month
of March, where he underwent a course of baths, and then in a short
visit to Aberdeen and Inverness, in the midst of relatives and
friends; and in the end of April he returned to Edinburgh, with
strength increased and appetite improved, and the old looks
beginning to return. But before midsummer was far advanced, he again
became conscious of decaying strength, his altered looks were
ominous, and his family and friends became seriously alarmed.
Hitherto the symptoms had only been those of gastric catarrh, but it
began to be suspected that something much worse was seriously at
work. A consultation of skilled physicians and surgeons was held,
when it was feared that the malady was much more deeply seated, and
was perhaps irradicable. A long-cherished intention to visit a
beloved married daughter, Mrs Murray, and her family, at Queensland,
was now finally abandoned. Still a faint hope of recovery continued
to be cherished.
Accordingly, towards the end of June, accompanied
by Mrs Darling, our patient travelled northward to Inverness, to be
present at the marriage of Dr Darling, their only son. In the
Highland capital he remained for four weeks, making pleasant
excursions to Strathpeffer, Beauly, Glen Urquhart, Nairn, and other
scenes of beauty and health resorts. Probably there was no visit
which he enjoyed more than one which he made to a large gathering of
Band of Hope children at Culloden. Here, under the presidency of
Duncan Forbes, Esq. of Culloden, he gave what proved to be his last
public address. It was a fit manner of closing his public life.
Friends who were present on the occasion, remarked that even his
zeal in the cause of temperance was far exceeded by the earnestness
with which he expressed his desire that his young hearers would
accept Christ as their Saviour, and their Guide and Guardian through
the perils of life. Almost all his illustrations were taken from his
own experience, and, though very homely, they never "missed fire."
Some of his sentences sounded as if they were prophetic of what was
coming, and the shadow of death had already fallen upon his spirit.
The month of August was spent by him at Kirkcaldy
with his eldest daughter, Mrs Deas, her husband, and family; and the
greater part of September at Aboyne, on Deeside, with his eldest and
only surviving brother Thomas, who loved him as even few brothers