Lavengro, by George Borrow

Chapter 28

My brother’s arrival — The interview — Night — A dying father — Christ.

At last my brother arrived; he looked pale and unwell; I met him at the door. ‘You have been long absent,’ said I.

‘Yes,’ said he, ‘perhaps too long; but how is my father?’

‘Very poorly,’ said I, ‘he has had a fresh attack; but where have you been of late?’

‘Far and wide,’ said my brother; ‘but I can’t tell you anything now, I must go to my father. It was only by chance that I heard of his illness.’

‘Stay a moment,’ said I. ‘Is the world such a fine place as you supposed it to be before you went away?’

‘Not quite,’ said my brother, ‘not quite; indeed I wish — but ask me no questions now, I must hasten to my father.’ There was another question on my tongue, but I forbore; for the eyes of the young man were full of tears. I pointed with my finger, and the young man hastened past me to the arms of his father.

I forbore to ask my brother whether he had been to old Rome.

What passed between my father and brother I do not know; the interview, no doubt, was tender enough, for they tenderly loved each other; but my brother’s arrival did not produce the beneficial effect upon my father which I at first hoped it would; it did not even appear to have raised his spirits. He was composed enough, however: ‘I ought to be grateful,’ said he; ‘I wished to see my son, and God has granted me my wish; what more have I to do now than to bless my little family and go?’

My father’s end was evidently at hand.

And did I shed no tears? did I breathe no sighs? did I never wring my hands at this period? the reader will perhaps be asking. Whatever I did and thought is best known to God and myself; but it will be as well to observe, that it is possible to feel deeply, and yet make no outward sign.

And now for the closing scene.

At the dead hour of night, it might be about two, I was awakened from sleep by a cry which sounded from the room immediately below that in which I slept. I knew the cry, it was the cry of my mother; and I also knew its import, yet I made no effort to rise, for I was for the moment paralysed. Again the cry sounded, yet still I lay motionless — the stupidity of horror was upon me. A third time, and it was then that, by a violent effort, bursting the spell which appeared to bind me, I sprang from the bed and rushed downstairs. My mother was running wildly about the room; she had awoke, and found my father senseless in the bed by her side. I essayed to raise him, and after a few efforts supported him in the bed in a sitting posture. My brother now rushed in, and, snatching up a light that was burning, he held it to my father’s face. ‘The surgeon, the surgeon!’ he cried; then, dropping the light, he ran out of the room followed by my mother; I remained alone, supporting the senseless form of my father; the light had been extinguished by the fall, and an almost total darkness reigned in the room. The form pressed heavily against my bosom — at last methought it moved. Yes, I was right, there was a heaving of the breast, and then a gasping. Were those words which I heard? Yes, they were words, low and indistinct at first, and then audible. The mind of the dying man was reverting to former scenes. I heard him mention names which I had often heard him mention before. It was an awful moment; I felt stupefied, but I still contrived to support my dying father. There was a pause, again my father spoke: I heard him speak of Minden, and of Meredith, the old Minden sergeant, and then he uttered another name, which at one period of his life was much in his lips, the name of . . . but this is a solemn moment! There was a deep gasp: I shook, and thought all was over; but I was mistaken — my father moved, and revived for a moment; he supported himself in bed without my assistance. I make no doubt that for a moment he was perfectly sensible, and it was then that, clasping his hands, he uttered another name clearly, distinctly — it was the name of Christ. With that name upon his lips, the brave old soldier sank back upon my bosom, and, with his hands still clasped, yielded up his soul.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32