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Elsie Inglis
Chapter XIII - "The New Work" and Memories


"Never knew I a braver going
Never read I of one....

"You faced the shadow with all tenderest words of love for all of us, but with not one selfish syllable on your lips."

Dr. Inglis was brought on shore on Sunday evening, and a room was taken for her in the Station Hotel at Newcastle.

"The victory over Death has begun when the fear of death is destroyed."

She had been dying by inches for months. She had fought Death in Russia; she had fought him through all the long voyage. It was a strange warfare. For he was not to be stayed. Irresistible, majestic, wonderful, he took his toll—and yet she remained untouched by him! With unclouded vision, undimmed faith, and undaunted courage, serene and triumphant, in the last, she passed him by.

There was no fear in that room on the evening that Elsie Inglis "went forth."

Dr. Ethel Williams writes of her in November, 1919: "The demonstration of serenity of spirit and courage during Dr. Inglis's last illness was so wonderful that it has dwelt with me ever since. At first one felt that she did not in the least grasp the seriousness of her condition, but very soon one realized that she was just meeting fresh events with the same fearlessness and serenity of spirit as she had met the uncertainties and difficulties of life."

One of her nieces was with her the whole of that last day. After Dr. Ethel Williams's visit, when for the first time Elsie Inglis realized that the last circle of her work on earth was complete, she said to her niece, "It is grand to think of beginning a new work over there!"

By the evening her sisters were with her. To the very last her mind was clear, her spirit dominant. Her confident "I know," in response to every thought and word of comfort offered to her, was the outward expression of her inward State of Faith.

What made her passing so mighty and full of triumph? Surely it was the "Power of an Endless Life," that idea to which she had committed herself years ago as she had stood at the open grave where the first seemingly hopeless good-bye had been said. The Power of that Endless Life, the Life of Christ, carried her forward on its mighty current into the New Region shut out from our view, but where the Life is still the same.

We have watched through these pages the widening circles of Elsie Inglis's life. Her medical profession, The Hospice, the Women's Movement, the Scottish Women's Hospitals, Serbia, her achievements in Russia—these we know of; the work which has been given to her now is beyond our knowledge; but "we look after her with love and admiration, and know that somewhere, just out of sight, she is still working in her own keen way," circle after circle of service widening out in endless joyousness.

On Thursday, November 29, St. Giles's Cathedral in Edinburgh was filled with a great congregation, assembled to do honour to the memory of Elsie Inglis. She was buried with military honours. At the end of the service the Hallelujah Chorus was played, and after the Last Post the buglers of the Royal Scots rang out the Réveillé. From the door of the Cathedral to the Dean Cemetery the streets were lined with people waiting to see her pass. "Dr. Inglis was buried with marks of respect and recognition which make that passing stand alone in the history of the last rites of any of her fellow-citizens." It was not a funeral, but a triumph. "What a triumphal home-coming she had!" said one friend. And another wrote: "How glorious the service was yesterday! I don't know if you intended it, but one impression was uppermost in my mind, which became more distinct after I left, until by evening it stood out clear and strong. The note of Victory. I had a curious impression that her spirit was there, just before it passed on to larger spheres, and that it was glad. I felt I must tell you. I wonder if you felt it too. The note of Victory was bigger than the war. The Soul triumphant passing on. The Réveillé expressed it."


THE HIGH STREET, EDINBURGH, LOOKING TOWARDS ST. GILES

In the two Memorial Services held to commemorate Dr. Inglis, one in St. Giles's Cathedral and the other in St. Margaret's, Westminster, a week later, the whole nation and all the interests of her life were represented.

Royalty was represented, the Foreign Office, the War Office, the Admiralty, different bodies of women workers, the Suffrage cause, the Medical world, the Serbians, and—the children.

Scores of "her children" were in St. Giles's, scattered through the congregation; in the crowds who lined the streets, they were seen hanging on to their mothers' skirts; and they were round the open grave in the Dean Cemetery. These were the children of the wynds and closes of the High Street, some of them bearing her name, "Elsie Maud," to whom she had never been too tired or too busy to respond when they needed her medical help or when "they waved to her across the street."

"The estimate of a life of such throbbing energy, the summing up of achievement and influence in due proportion—these belong to a future day. But we are wholly justified in doing honour to the memory of a woman whose personality won the heart of an entire brave nation, and of whom one of the gallant Serbian officers who bore her body to the grave said, with simple earnestness: 'We would almost rather have lost a battle than lost her!'"

"Alongside the wider public loss, the full and noble public recognition, there stands in the shadow the unspoken sorrow of her Unit. The price has been paid, and paid as Dr. Inglis herself would have wished it, on the high completion of a chapter in her work, but we stand bowed before the knowledge of how profound and how selfless was that surrender. Month after month her courage and her endurance never flagged. Daily and hourly, in the very agony of suffering and death, she gave her life by inches. Sad and more difficult though the road must seem to us now, our privilege has been a proud one: to have served and worked with her, to have known the unfailing support of her strength and sympathy, and, best of all, to be permitted to preserve through life the memory and the stimulus of a supreme ideal."

"So passes the soul of a very gallant woman. Living, she spent herself lavishly for humanity. Dying, she joins the great unseen army of Happy Warriors, who as they pass on fling to the ranks behind a torch which, pray God, may never become a cold and lifeless thing."


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