Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,
Death of Arthur Huntington:
"My worst fears were realized mortification has
commenced. The doctor has told him there is not hope no words can
describe his anguish. I can write no more.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
The next was still more distressing in the tenor of
its contents. The sufferer was fast approaching dissolution
dragged almost to the verge of that awful chasm he trembled to
contemplate, from which no agony of prayers or tears could save him.
Nothing could comfort him now: Hattersleys rough attempts at
consolation were utterly in vain. The world was nothing to him: life
and all its interests, it petty cares and transient pleasures, were
a cruel mockery. To talk of the past, was to torture him with vain
remorse; to refer to the future, was to increase his anguish; and
yet to be silent, was to leave him a prey to his own regrets and
apprehensions. Often he dwelt with shuddering minuteness on the fate
of his perishing clay the slow, piecemeal dissolution already
invading his frame; the shroud, the coffin, the dark, lonely grave,
and all the horrors of corruption.
"If I try," said his afflicted wife, "to divert him
from these things to raise his thoughts to higher themes, it is no
better: Worse and worse! he groans. If there be life beyond the
tomb, and judgement after death, how can I face it? I cannot do
him any good; he will neither be enlightened, nor roused, nor
comforted by anything I say; and yet he clings to me with
unrelenting pertinacity with a kind of childish desperation, as if
I could save him from the fate he dreads. He keeps me night and day
beside him. He is holding my left hand now, while I write; he has
held it thus for hours: sometimes clutching my arm with violence
the big drops starting from his forehead, at the thoughts of what he
sees, or thinks he sees before him. If I withdraw my hand for a
moment, it distresses him
" Stay with me Helen, he says; let me hold you
so; it seems as if harm could not reach me while you are here. But
death will come it is coming now fast, fast! and Oh, if I
could believe there was nothing after!
" Dont try to believe it, Arthur; there is joy
and glory after, if you will but try to reach it!
" What, for me? he said, with something like a
laugh. Are we not to be judged according to the deeds done in the
body? Wheres the use of a probationary existence, if a man spend it
as he pleases, just contrary to Gods decrees, and then go to heaven
with the best if the vilest sinner may win the reward of the
holiest saint, my merely saying, "I repent?
" But if you sincerely repent .
" I cant repent; I only fear.
" You only regret the past consequences to
" Just so except that Im sorry to have wronged
you, Nell, because youre so good to me.
" Think of the goodness of God, and you cannot be
grieved to have offended Him.
" What is God I cannot see Him or Hear Him? God
is only an idea.
" God is Infinite Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness
and LOVE; but the idea is too vast for your human faculties if
your mind loses itself in its overwhelming infinitude, fix it on Him
who condescended to take our nature upon Him, who was raised to
heaven even in His glorified human body, in whom the fullness of the
" But he only shook his head and sighed. Then in
another paroxysm of shuttering horror, he tightened his grasp on my
hand and arm, and groaning and lamenting, still clung to me with
that wild, desperate earnestness so harrowing to my soul, because I
know I cannot help him.
" Death is so terrible, he cried, I cannot bear
it! You dont know Helen you cant imagine what it is, because you
havent it before you; and when Im buried, youll return to your
old ways and be as happy as ever, and all the world will just go on
just as busy and merry as if I had never been while I .He burst
" You neednt let that distress you, I said; we
shall all follow you soon enough.
" I wish to God I could take you with me now! he
exclaimed, you should plead for me.
" No man can deliver his brother, nor make
agreement unto God for him, I replied: it cost more to redeem
their souls it cost the blood of an incarnate God, perfect and
sinless in Himself, to redeem us from the bondage of the evil one:
let Him plead for you.
" But I seem to speak in vain. He does not now, as
formerly, laugh these blessed truths to scorn: but still he cannot
trust, or will not comprehend them. He cannot linger long. He
suffers dreadfully, and so do those who wait upon him but I will
not harass you with further details: I have said enough, I think, to
convince you that I did well to go to him."
Poor, poor Helen! Dreadful indeed her trials must
have been! And I could do nothing to lessen them nay, it almost
seemed as if I had brought them upon myself, by my own secret
desires; and whether I looked at her husbands sufferings or her
own, it seemed almost like a judgment upon myself for having
cherished such a wish.
The next day but one there came another letter. That
too was put into my hand without a remark, and these are its
- Dec. 5th
"He is gone at last. I sat beside him all night,
with my hand fast locked in his, watching the changes of his
features and listening to his failing breath. He had been silent a
long time, and I thought he would never speak again, when he
murmured faintly but distinctly
" Pray for me Helen!
" I do pray for you every hour and every minute,
Arthur; but you must pray for yourself!
" His lips moved, but emitted no sound; then his
looks became unsettled; and, from the incoherent half-uttered words
that escaped him from time to time, supposing him to be now
unconscious, I gently disengaged my hand from his, intending to
steal away for a breath of air, for I was almost ready to faint; but
a convulsive movement of his fingers, and a faintly whispered,
Dont leave me! immediately recalled me: I took his hand again,
and held it till he was no more and then I fainted: it was not
grief; it was exhaustion, that, until then, I had been enabled
successfully to combat. Oh, Frederick! None can imagine the
miseries, bodily and mental, of that death-bed! How could I endure
to think that that poor trembling soul was hurried away to
everlasting torment? It would drive me mad! But, thank God, I have
hope not only from a vague dependence on the possibility that
penitence and pardon might have reached him at the last, but from
the blessed confidence that, through whatever purging fires the
erring spirit may be doomed to pass whatever fate awaits it,
still, it is not lost, and God, who hateth nothing that He hath
made, will bless it in the end!
" His body will be consigned on Thursday to that
dark grave he so much dreaded; but the coffin must be closed as soon
as possible. If you will attend the funeral come quickly, for I need