Poenamo Book the First - Chapter IV.
Portraying the Depth of a Sister's Love
All the sickening pain of
that parting, and how nobly my poor darling bore it! She had come with our
mother to see the vessel in which I was to sail; and which was to take me
away. To the last moment she clung to my side, and not until the dread "All
for shore" was heard from the tug-steamer did she leave me.
Then one convulsive and
agonising embrace, and we were parted—parted for ever, to see each other
again, ah! never more.
But I cannot allow you, my
darling children, to part with her now and know no more of her. Before
describing the voyage which was to take mc away from her for ever I must
give you some. extracts from my darling's letters. From the moaning wail in
which these were couched you may be able to fathom the depth of her love for
me—a love as deeply implanted in me, and returned. Her letters reached me in
a land we had never dreamt of when we discussed our new home which never was
to be in the Great South Land. Through her young life she had been afflicted
by many serious illnesses, so it was not without great dread and grave
misgivings that I parted from her. During these illnesses it had ever been
my favourite task to watch over her, and cheer her during her convalescence.
Her first letter was dated
the fourth day only after she had parted from me. She could restrain herself
no longer, and thought to ease her oppressed heart by sitting down to talk
to me in a letter:
"Ah! that weary, weary long
night, and then these four days! It has appeared so many weeks. No one, I am
sure, lives more in hope than I do, but the parting is too fresh yet even to
look forward. I find myself often wondering what can be keeping you so long,
and I start when the street-door is opened. But all this is nonsense. I
must, and, with God's assistance, shall, get over this. I am unfitting
myself for my other duties, and sinfully forgetting the many blessings I
enjoy, not the least of which is that as yet you have been spared to us and
been a comfort and blessing to its all. I can hardly think I can ever look
so forward as your coming home a dozen years hence, and I do look forward,
darling, to meeting you before that in your new country. Remember I always
hope to come out to you. I dream of nothing but of ships and the sea, and
all night there are bawling in my ears all the different sea phrases I ever
heard—in short, night and day I am in the Pahnyra full sail, and the men
Ali! what could my poor
darling do but pine and suffer? what stirring occupation had she to occupy
her mind and help to assuage her grief? But to Inc there was the relief of
manifold duties consequent upon my position of medical officer in charge of
the ship; yet (lid I not daily wander back in memory to be by her side? But
what availed that to her poor stricken heart? I knew but too well how
terrible would be her loneliness. Even four months after I had left her it
was thus she wrote:-
"I cannot describe to you, my
darling, my sort of feeling since you left. Somehow I cannot feel settled. I
fancy this is only a temporary home, and find myself constantly looking
forward to the day I am to join you. I do not despair that we may all do so
She then made a tour in the
country, visiting some of my old friends, at whose country houses I had
passed many of my summer vacations when a youth. She laid gone to a
bachelor's ball at L---, in D—shire, and having danced a country dance with
the Duke of -----, thus alludes to the "event", so far important that most
probably I may never have the like to announce again! See then I have
returned to my former state of insignificance. I am visiting about a great
deal, and to use a common phrase, I really think am much run after, as
invitations from every direction in the neighbourhood come in; and when I
again went over to ----- for a day I did not get back for a week. Since
coming out here I am so much—I will not say admired— you need not be afraid
my vanity would carry me quite so far, whatever I might be told—but say,
made of, that it would, perhaps, be more than would be good for me were it
not that I am sure I owe it in a great part to you. Yes, dearest, you have
made many kind friends here, as you generally manage to do wherever you go.
You seem to be a favourite, and every one is anxious to show kindness and
attention to your sister, and surely I may be proud. of this, and I just
hope that the friends that are inclined to be mine for your sake may
continue to be so for my own." Take example, my dear children, from this
modesty, so touching and simple—a darling girl that went straight to the
hearts of all who knew her, and yet would fain hide her own attractions and
say it was for her brother's sake! Surely a sister's love must have made her
blind. During this tour she became wonderfully improved in health, and
returned home believing she had outlived her delicacy. But, alas! it was not
so. She was again smitten by the hand of sickness, and after ten months'
illness and partial recovery she again thus writes:-
"I cannot get over your
absence even yet. I feel it as much as if it were only last week you left
us, but what a weary time it seems since I saw you! How l missed you during
my illness! Many a hearty cry do I still take about you. I get up to the
drawing-room by myself and give vent, and try to console myself by looking
at your picture. I know this is very foolish, but I cannot help it. If I did
not sometimes give way I really think my heart would burst, and I would
suffocate. But I have been worse lately, being very weak from my illness."
Then came a warning letter
from my broken hearted father, telling me the old disease had disappeared
and the last fatal one had set in, and she wrote telling me how weak she
was, and with a bad cough, thus continuing:-
"Do you know I am beginning
to think that I love you too much. I am afraid I have made a kind of idol of
you in my heart. I know it now that you are gone. There is a kind of void
now. I take an interest in nothing because you cannot participate in it. Now
this must be wrong to carry it so far. But I cannot stop this subject; when
I begin I never can end; but oh for the day when we shall meet again!''
Never more to meet again, for
daily she grew weaker and weaker and faded away, and one more letter only
was she able to write to me.
And one more extract only
will I pain you with, my darling children—the last sentence of her last
My paper is done and I am
tired; not my will, but my weak body, so good-bye, dearest darling. I wish
you were here to cheer me now. How I miss yon when ill equally as when
And her spirit passed away
while she tranquilly slept, without suffering and without pain.
Amongst my manuscript relics
I find a sheet containing the following lines, this dated in the writing of
my youngest sister:-
"Written on the 10th
Anniversary of —'s death.
Methinks I see thee as thou
wert of yore
Methinks I see thee when thou wert no more
And still the memory of the vision blest
As of a soul and mind pure and at rest.
Yes, thou wert fair, my sister, brightly fair!
For all the graces of the heart were there.
By early suffering nurtured into life,
Nor ever blighted by the world's rude strife,
But in thy narrow circle shining bright
And drawing others to thy source of light,
Till beaming brighter into perfect day,
In God himself dissolved thy borrowed ray.
Yes! thou wert fair, my sister, sweetly fair,
And graceful fell thy clustering auburn hair,
And slight and fragile was thy gentle form,
Nor meant to buffet out time's pelting storm.
And thou wert versed in every nameless art
That can a charm around a home impart.
Thy busy fingers oft in secret tasked
To fashion gifts, precious—because unasked.
With cheerful industry those hours were graced
Which sickness throws away, nor deems it waste,
While Order, with her well-appointed train,
O'er all thy thoughts and ways held steady reign.
Yes! thou wert fair, my sister, calmly fair,
When ruthless Death stood hovering o'er thee there,
When blanching e'en consumption's hectic glow,
He stayed the current of thy life-blood's flow,
And left thee sleeping on our mother's breast
Like some fair infant at its evening rest.
Thy soul to God committed long before,
Then joyful woke upon th' eternal shore,
Yet parting left on thee a smile of peace,
The seal of life began, no more to cease,
While we awoke with agonising cries
To feel that now thy home was in the skies!"
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.