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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 yelling."

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 yet."

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 letter :-

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 well!"

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!"


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