The Romance of Lady Isabel Burton, by Isabel Burton

Chapter III

The Tinkling of the Camel’s Bell

(1891-1896)

Friends of my youth, a last adieu! haply some day we meet again;

Yet ne’er the self-same men shall meet; the years shall make us other men:

The light of morn has grown to noon, has paled with eve, and now farewell!

Go, vanish from my Life as dies the tinkling of the Camel’s bell.

Richard Burton (The Kasidah).

The next few months Lady Burton mainly occupied herself by arranging in her new house the things which she had brought with her from Trieste. When all was finished, her modest quarters in Baker Street were curiously characteristic of the woman. Like many of the houses in her beloved Damascus, the one in Baker Street was unpretentious, not to say unprepossessing, when viewed from without, but within totally different, for Lady Burton had managed to give it an oriental air, and to catch something of the warmth and colouring of the East. This was especially true of her little drawing-room, which had quite an oriental aspect. Eastern curtains veiled the windows, the floor was piled with Persian carpets, and a wide divan heaped with cushions and draped with bright Bedawin rugs ran along one side of the room. There were narghílehs and chibouques, and cups of filigree and porcelain for the dispensing of delectable Arab coffee. Quaint brackets of Morocco work, Eastern pictures, portraits, Persian enamels, and curios of every description covered the walls. The most striking object in the room was a life-size portrait of Sir Richard Burton, dressed in white, with a scarlet cummerbund, flanked on either side by a collection of rare books, most of them his works. Many other relics of him were scattered about the room; and all over the house were to be found his books and pictures, and busts of him. In fact, she made a cult of her husband’s memory, and there were enough relics of him in the house to fill a little museum.

In this house Lady Burton settled down with her sister, Mrs. Fitzgerald, to her daily life in England, which was mostly a record of work — arduous and unceasing work, which began at 10.30 in the morning, and lasted till 6.30 at night. Sometimes, indeed, she would work much later, far on into the night, and generally in the morning she would do a certain amount of work before breakfast, for the old habit of early rising clung to her still, and until her death she never broke herself of the custom of waking at five o’clock in the morning. At the top of her Baker Street house Lady Burton built out a large room, or rather loft. It was here she housed her husband’s manuscripts, which she knew, as she used to say, “as a shepherd knew his sheep.” They lined three sides of the room, and filled many packing-cases on the floor. To this place she was wont to repair daily, ascending a tortuous staircase, and finally getting into the loft by means of a ladder. Later she had to abandon this steep ascent, but so long as it was possible she scaled the ladder daily, and would sit on a packing-case surrounded by her beloved manuscripts for hours together.

Lady Burton was scarcely settled in Baker Street before her sister (the one next to her in age), Mrs. Smyth Pigott, of Brockley Court, Somerset, died. She had to go down to Weston-super-Mare for the funeral. When that was over she came back to Baker Street, where she remained over Christmas. She wrote to a friend of hers about this time:

“I dream always of my books and the pile of work. I am worrying on as well as I can with my miscellaneous writing. Fogs have kept us in black darkness and pea-soup thickness for five days without a lift, and with smarting eyes and compressed head I have double work at heart. I passed Christmas night in the Convent of the Holy Souls. I went in my cab — the streets were one sheet of ice — and two flambeaux on each side. In Regent’s Park the fog was black and thick. We had communion and three masses at midnight. It was too lovely: in the dead silence a little before midnight you heard the shepherd’s pipe, or reed, in the distance, and echo nearer and nearer, and then the soft, clear voices burst into ‘Glory be to God in the Highest,’ and this was the refrain all through the service. I passed the time with our Lord and my darling, who had many masses said for him in London and all over England that night. I am better and have stronger nerves, and am perhaps more peaceful.”76

In January, 1892, Lady Burton went down to her cottage at Mortlake, which she called “Our Cottage.” In taking this house she had followed the plan which her husband when living had always adopted, of having a retreat a little way from their work, where they could go occasionally for rest and change. They had intended to follow this plan when they settled down in London. Another motive drew Lady Burton to Mortlake too: this cottage was close to the mausoleum of her husband, and she could visit it when she chose. It was a tiny cottage, plainly but prettily furnished. Most of her relics and curios were housed at Baker Street, and this place had few associations for her beyond those which connected it with her husband’s grave. The cottage was covered with creepers outside, and trees grew all round it. She had a charming little garden at the back, in which she took a good deal of pride; and when the summer came she had a big tent erected in the garden, and would sit there for many hours together, doing her work and frequently taking her meals out there. She had always lived an outdoor life, and this tent recalled to her the days in the East. Here, too, she received a great many friends who found their way down to Mortlake; she was fond of asking them to come and take tea with her in her tent. From this arose a silly rumour, which I mention only to contradict, that Lady Burton was in the habit of receiving her visitors in her husband’s tomb, which, as we have seen, was also fashioned like an Arab tent, though of stone.

Lady Burton stayed down at Mortlake for a few months, and came back to Baker Street in March, 1892, where she remained for two or three months.

For the first year of her life in England she lived like a recluse, never going out anywhere except on business or to church, never accepting an invitation or paying visits; but about this time she gradually came out of her seclusion, and began to collect around her a small circle of near relatives and friends. Always fond of society, though she had now abjured it in a general sense, she could not live alone, so in addition to the companionship of her favourite sister Mrs. Fitzgerald, who lived with her and shared all her thoughts, she widened her circle a little and received a few friends. She was fond of entertaining, and gave many little informal gatherings, which were memorable from the grace and charm of the hostess. Lady Burton was always a picturesque and fascinating personality, but never more so than in these last years of her life. She possessed a fine and handsome presence, which was rendered even more effective by her plain black dress and widow’s cap, with its long white veil which formed an effective background to her finely cut features. She reminded me of some of the pictures one sees of Mary Stuart. I do not think the resemblance ceased altogether with her personal appearance, for her manners were always queenly and gracious; and when she became interested in anything, her face would light up and her blue eyes would brighten, and one could see something of the courage and spirit which she shared in common with the ill-fated queen. She was a most accomplished woman and a clever linguist. She could write and speak fluently French, Italian, Arabic, and Portuguese. German she knew also, though not so well, and she had more than a smattering of Yiddish. She was well-read in the literature of all these (save Yiddish, of course), yet never was a woman less of a “blue-stocking.” She was a brilliant talker, full of wit and charm in her conversation, and there was nothing she liked better than to relate, in her inimitable way, some of her many adventures in the past. In fact, though singularly well-informed on all the current questions of the hour, one could see that her heart was ever in the past, and her thoughts seldom strayed far from her husband. Thus it came about, after his death as in his life, she devoted herself wholly to glorifying his name, and I do not think it is any disparagement to Sir Richard Burton to say that his personality would never have impressed itself upon the public imagination in the way it did, if it had not been for the efforts of his wife.

In the summer of this year Lady Burton went to Ventnor, and also paid a few visits, and in the autumn she stayed at Ascot with her sister Mrs. Van Zeller, whose husband had just died. In November she went to Mortlake, where she settled down in earnest to write the biography of her husband, a work which occupied her eight months. When once she began, she worked at it morning, noon, and night, from early till late, and except for a flying visit to Baker Street for Christmas, she never ceased her labours until the book was finished at the end of March, 1893. She wrote to a friend at this time:

“I finished the book last night, and have never left Mortlake. It has taken me eight months. I hope it will be out the end of May. I do not know if I can harden my heart against the curs, 77 but I can put out my tongue and point my pen and play pussy cat about their eyes and ears. I am to have six months' rest, but you know what that means.”78

Lady Burton received a substantial sum from the publishers for the book, and it was published in May. The success which it achieved was immediate and unqualified, and, what is more, deserved, for with all its faults it is a great book — the last great work in the life of the woman who never thought of self, and her supreme achievement to raise aloft her husband’s name. Its success was very grateful to Lady Burton’s heart, not on her own account, but her husband’s; in fact, it may be said to have gilded with brightness the last years of her life. She felt now that her work was done and that nothing remained. She wrote to a friend early in the New Year (1894)79:

“I have had my head quite turned by the great success of my book. First came about a hundred half-nasty, or wholly nasty, critiques; then the book made its way. I had three leading articles, over a thousand charming reviews, and have been inundated with the loveliest letters and invitations. . . . With my earnings I am embellishing his mausoleum, and am putting up in honour of his poem, Kasidah, festoons of camel bells from the desert, in the roof of the tent where he lies, so that when I open or shut the door, or at the elevation of the Mass, the ‘tinkling of the camel bell’ will sound just as it does in the desert. On January 22 I am going down to pass the day in it, because it is my thirty-third wedding day, and the bells will ring for the first time. I am also carrying out all his favourite projects, and bringing out by degrees all his works hitherto published or unpublished, as of the former only small quantities were published, and these are mostly extinct. If God gives me two years, I shall be content. I live in my little chaumière near the mausoleum on the banks of the Thames for the six good months of the year, and in my warm dry home in London six bad months, with my sister. You cannot think how the picture of Richard by you was admired at the Grosvenor Gallery, and I put your name over it. I have now got it home again, and I thought he smiled as I brought him back in the cab for joy to get home. . . . There is a great waxwork exhibition in England which is very beautifully done (Tussaud’s). They have now put Richard in the Meccan dress he wore in the desert. They have given him a large space with sand, water, palms, and three camels, and a domed skylight, painted yellow, throws a lurid light on the scene. It is quite life-like. I gave them the real clothes and the real weapons, and dressed him myself. When it was offered to him during his life, his face beamed, and he said, ‘That will bring me in contact with the people.’”

The other works of Sir Richard's which Lady Burton brought out after the Life of her husband included Il Pentamerone and Catullus. She also arranged for a new edition of his Arabian Nights, and she began what she called the “Memorial Library,” which was mainly composed of the republication of half-forgotten books which he had written in the days before he became famous. She also recalled, at great pecuniary sacrifice to herself, another work which she thought was doing harm to his memory, and destroyed the copies.

Upon the publication of the Life of her husband, Lady Burton was overwhelmed with letters from old acquaintances who had half-forgotten her, from tried and trusted friends of her husband and herself, and from people whom she had never known, but who were struck by the magnitude of her self-sacrificing love. All these letters were pleasant. But she also received a number of letters of a very doubtful nature, which included begging letters and applications requesting to see her from quacks and charlatans of different kinds, who by professing great admiration for her husband and veneration for his memory, thought they would find in Lady Burton an easy prey. In this they were mistaken. Although generous and open-hearted as the day, she always found out charlatans in the long run. She used to say she “liked to give them rope enough.” Unfortunately, though, it must be admitted that Lady Burton had the defects of her qualities. Absolutely truthful herself, she was the last in the world to suspect double-dealing in others, and the result was that she sometimes misplaced her confidence, and put her trust in the wrong people. This led her into difficulties which she would otherwise have avoided.

The publication of the Life of her husband seemed also to arouse a number of dormant animosities, and it led, among other things, to a large increase in the number of abusive and insulting letters which she received from anonymous writers, chiefly with regard to her burning of The Scented Garden. They gave her great pain and annoyance. But many approved of her action, and among others who wrote to her a generous letter of sympathy was Lady Guendolen Ramsden, the daughter of her old friends the Duke and Duchess of Somerset. I give Lady Burton’s reply because it shows how much she appreciated the kindness of her friends:

“My Dear Lady Guendolen,

“I cannot tell you what pleasure your very kind letter gave me. I feared that you and all your family had forgotten me long ago. I was, and so was Richard, very much attached to the Duke and Duchess; they always made us welcome, they always made us feel at home. I delighted in the Duke — so clever, so fascinating, and he was my beau idéal of a gentleman of the Old School, whilst the kindness of heart, the high breeding, and the wit of the Duchess attached us both greatly to her. You were such a very young girl that I knew you the least, and yet you are the one to be kind to me now. The ones I knew best were poor Lord St. Maur and Lady Ulrica. Let me now thank you for speaking so truly and handsomely of my dear husband, and your kindness and sympathy with me and my work. It is quite true! If you knew what a small section of people have made me suffer, and the horrible letters that they have written me, you would feel sorry to think that there were such people in the world, and when I reflect that it was that class of people who would have received the manuscript with joy, I know how right I was to burn it. It was not the learned people, as you imagine, who regret this, because there was no learning to be gained in it. My dear husband did it simply to fill our purse again. The people who were angry were the people who loathe good, and seek for nothing but that class of literature. My husband had no vicious motive in writing it; he dissected these things as a doctor would a body. I was calculating what effect it would have on the mass of uneducated people who might read it. I did receive many beautiful letters on the subject, and the papers have more or less never let me drop, but often much blame. I was so astonished to find myself either praised or blamed; it seemed to me the natural thing for a woman to do; but I see now how mistaken I was to have confessed it, and to imagine it was my duty to confess, which I certainly did. I know that he, being dead, would not have wished it published; if so, why did he leave it to me? . . . You are quite right; it has pleased me more than I can say that you should approve and confirm my ideas, and I am so thankful that the Life has succeeded. I got my best reward in a review which said that ‘Richard Burton’s widow might comfort herself, as England now knew the man inside and out, that she had lifted every cloud from his memory, and his fame would shine as a beacon in all future ages.’ I remember so well the party at Lady Margaret Beaumont’s. I can shut my eyes and see the whole dinner-table; we were twenty-five in party. And I remember well also the party at Bulstrode. If I am alive in the summer, I shall be only too glad to pass a few days with you at Bulstrode, if you will let me. I feel that a talk to you would carry me back to my happy days.

“Believe me, with warmest thanks,

“Yours sincerely,

“Isabel Burton.”

After the publication of the Life of her husband Lady Burton spent most of her time at Baker Street, with intervals at Mortlake, and a few visits to friends, including Lady Windsor, Lord Arundell of Wardour, Lady Guendolen Ramsden at Bulstrode, and Canon Waterton at Carlisle. The year which followed (1894) may be said to have been her last active year, and it was the pleasantest year of her life in England. The success which had attended her book had brought her more into contact with the world than she had been at any time since her husband’s death, and she saw that there was a field of usefulness still before her. This was the year in which she saw most friends, entertained most, and went about most. Her health, never good, seemed to rally, and she was far less nervous than usual. She may be said about this time to have taken almost to literature as a profession, for she worked at it eight hours every day, in addition to keeping up a large correspondence, chiefly on literary and business matters. She went frequently to the play, got all the new books, and kept herself well in touch with the current thought of the day. She was not in sympathy with a good deal of it, and her way of expressing her opinions was delightfully frank and original. Despite her abiding sense of her loss, there was nothing morbid about Lady Burton. She was bright and cheerful, full of interest in things, and perfectly happy in the society of her dearly loved sister.

I think that here one might mention a few characteristics of Lady Burton. She was always very generous, but her generosity was not of the kind which would commend itself to the Charity Organization Society. For instance, she had an incurable propensity of giving away to beggars in the street. She never let one go. The result was that she frequently returned home with an empty purse; indeed, so aware was she of her weakness, she took out little money with her as a rule, so that she might not be tempted too far. When people remonstrated with her on this indiscriminate almsgiving, she used to say, “I would rather give to ten rogues than turn one honest man away; I should be amply repaid if there were one fairly good one amongst them.” She was very fond of children — that is, en bloc; but she did not care to be troubled with them at too close quarters. She often took out the poor children of the Roman Catholic schools to treats on Wimbledon Common. She would hire drags, and go up there for the afternoon with them. She never forgot them at Christmas, and she would always set aside a day or two for buying them toys. Her way of doing this was somewhat peculiar. She had been so used to buying things of itinerant vendors in the streets abroad that she could not break herself of the habit in England. So, instead of going to a toy shop, she used to take a four-wheel cab, and drive slowly down Oxford Street and Regent Street; and whenever she came across a pedlar with toys on a tray, she would pull up her cab and make her purchases. These purchases generally took a good deal of time, for Lady Burton had been so much in the habit of dealing at bazars in the East that she was always under the impression that the pedlars in England asked double or treble what they really thought they would get. The result was a good deal of bargaining between her and the vendors. She used to make wholesale purchases; and during her bargaining, which was carried on with much animation, a crowd assembled, and not infrequently the younger members of it came in for a share of the spoils.

To the day of her death she always felt strongly on the subject of the prevention of cruelty to animals, and indeed engaged in a fierce controversy with Father Vaughan on the subject of vivisection. She was never tired of denouncing the “barbarism of bearing-reins," and so forth. When she went out in a cab, she invariably inspected the horse carefully first, to see if it looked well fed and cared for; if not, she discharged the cab and got another one, and she would always impress upon the driver that he must not beat his horse under any consideration when he was driving her. She would then get into the cab, let the window down, and keep a watch. If the driver forgot himself so far as to give a flick with his whip, Lady Burton would lunge at him with her umbrella from behind. Upon the cabby remonstrating at this unlooked-for attack, she would retort, “Yes, and how do you like it?” On one occasion though she was not consistent. She took a cab with her sister from Charing Cross Station, and was in a great hurry to get home. Of course she impressed as usual upon the Jehu that he was not to beat his horse. The horse, which was a wretched old screw, refused, in consequence, to go at more than a walking pace; and as Lady Burton was in a hurry to get back, and was fuming with impatience inside, she at last forgot herself so far as to put her head out of the window and cry to the driver, “Why don’t you beat him? Why don’t you make him go?”

In politics Lady Burton described herself as a progressive Conservative, which, being interpreted, would seem to signify that, though she was intensely conservative with regard to the things which she had at heart, such as religion and the importance of upholding the old régime, she was exceedingly progressive in smaller matters. Her views on social questions especially were remarkably broad, and it may safely be said that there never was a woman who had less narrowness or bigotry in her composition. She was fond of saying, “Let us hear all sides of the question, for that is the only way in which we can hope to arrive at the truth.”

I should like to add a few words as to her spiritual life, because it entered so profoundly into all that she said and did, that no record of her would be complete which ignored it. We have seen how in every crisis of her life, through all her perils, trials, and difficulties, she turned instinctively to that Source where many look for strength and some find it. Lady Burton was one of those who found it: though all else might fail her, this consolation never failed. In her fervent faith is to be found the occult force which enabled her to dare all things, hope all things, endure all things. We may agree with her religious views or not, but we are compelled to admit their power to sustain her through life’s battle. The secret of her strength was this: to her the things spiritual and invisible — which to many of us are unreal, however loudly we may profess our belief in them — were living realities. It is difficult for some of us perhaps, in this material, sceptical world of ours, to realize a nature like hers. Yet there are many such, and they form the strongest proof of the living force of Christianity to-day. “Transcendental,” the world remarks, with a sneer. But who is there among us who would not, an he could, exchange uncertainty and unrest for the possession of a peace which the world cannot give? There are some natures who can believe, who can look forward to a prize so great and wonderful as to hold the pain and trouble of the race of very small account when weighed against the hope of victory. Lady Burton was one of these; she had her feet firm set upon the everlasting Rock. The teaching of her Church was to her divinest truth. The supernatural was real, the spiritual actual. The conflict between the powers of light and the powers of darkness, between good angels and evil angels, between benign influences and malefic forces, was no figure of speech with her, but a reality. In these last years of her life more especially the earthly veil seemed to have fallen from her eyes. She seemed to have grasped something of the vision of the servant of Elisha, for whom the prophet prayed: ”Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Because of all this, because her religion was such an actuality to her, is, I think, due half the misunderstandings which have arisen with regard to Lady Burton’s attitude towards so-called “spiritualism.” She always held that Catholicism was the highest form of spiritualism — using the word in its highest meaning — and from this attitude she never wavered. She had lived much in the East, and had come much into contact with oriental occult influences, but what she saw only served to convince her more of the truths of her religion. Lady Burton was a Christian mystic, not in the vulgar sense of the word, but only in the sense that many devout and religious women have been Christian mystics too. Like Saint Catherine of Sienna, Saint Teresa, and other holy women, she was specially attracted to the spiritual and devotional aspect of the Catholic Faith. Neither did her devotion to the spiritual element unfit her for the practical side of things: quite the contrary. Like Saint Teresa, side by side with her religious life, she was a remarkably shrewd woman of business. It need scarcely be added that between so-called “spiritualism” as practised in England and the Catholicism of Lady Burton there was a great gulf fixed, and one which she proved to be unbridgable. This lower form of spiritualism, to use her own words, “can only act as a decoy to a crowd of sensation-seekers, who yearn to see a ghost as they would go to see a pantomime.” Such things she considered, when not absolutely farcical, worked for evil, and not for good. As she wrote to a friend:

“That faculty you have about the spirits, though you may ignore it, is the cause of your constant misfortunes. I have great experience and knowledge in these matters. As soon as you are happy these demons of envy, spite, and malicious intention attack you for evil ends, and ruin your happiness to get hold of your body and soul. Never practise or interest yourself in these matters, and debar them from your house by prayer and absolute non-hearing or seeing them. . . . Do not treat my words lightly, because I have had experience of it myself, and I had untold misfortune until I did as I advise you. The more God loves you, the more will this spirit hate and pursue you and want you for his own. Drive him forth and resist him. . . . There is a spiritualism (I hate the word!) that comes from God, but it does not come in this guise. This sort is from the spirits of evil.”80

I have dwelt on this side of Lady Burton’s character in order to contradict many foolish rumours. During the last years of her life in England, when her health was failing, she was induced against her better judgment to have some dealings with certain so-called “spiritualists,” who approached her under the plea of “communicating” with her husband, thus appealing to her at the least point of resistance. Lady Burton told her sister that she wanted to see “if there was anything in it,” and to compare it with the occultism of the East. In the course of her inquiries she unfortunately signed certain papers which contained ridiculous “revelations.” On thinking the matter over subsequently, the absurdity of the thing struck her. She came to the conclusion that there was nothing in it at all, and that, as compared with the occultism of the East, this was mere kindergarten. She then wished to recall the papers. She was very ill at the time, and unable to write herself; but she mentioned the matter to her sister at Eastbourne a short time before her death, and said, “The first thing I do when I get back to London will be to recall those silly papers.” She was most anxious to return to London for this purpose; but the day after her return she died. Mrs. Fitzgerald at once communicated Lady Burton’s dying wishes to the person in whose charge the papers were, and requested that they should not be published. But with a disregard alike for the wishes of the dead and the feelings of the living, the person rushed some of these absurd “communications” into print within a few weeks of Lady Burton’s death, and despite all remonstrance was later proceeding to publish others, when stopped by a threat of legal proceedings from the executors.

Early in 1895 Lady Burton was struck down with the prevailing epidemic of influenza; and though she rallied a little after a month or two, she never recovered. She was no longer able to walk up and down stairs without assistance, or even across the room. Her decline set in rapidly after this illness; for the influenza gave a fresh impetus to her internal malady, which she knew must be fatal to her sooner or later. She remained in Baker Street a sad invalid the first six months of the year, and then she recovered sufficiently to be removed to Eastbourne for a change. It was in July that I saw her last, just before she left for Eastbourne. She asked me to come and see her. I went one Sunday afternoon, and I was grieved to see the change which a few months had worked in her. She was lying on a couch in an upper room. Her face was of waxen whiteness, and her voice weak, but the brave, indomitable spirit shone from her eyes still, and she talked cheerfully for a long time about her literary labours and her plans and arrangements for some time ahead.

At Eastbourne she took a cottage, and remained there from September, 1895, to March 21, 1896. It was evident to her sister and all around her that she was fast failing; but whenever she was well enough she did some work. At this time she had begun her autobiography. When she was free from pain, she was always bright and cheerful, and enjoyed a joke as much as ever.

Early in the New Year, 1896, she became rapidly worse, and her one wish was to recover sufficiently to go home. One of the last letters she ever wrote was to her friend Madame de Gutmansthal-Benvenuti:

“I never forget you, and I wish our thoughts were telephones. I am very bad, and my one prayer is to be able to get home to London. The doctor is going to remove me on the first possible day. I work every moment I am free from pain. You will be glad to hear that I have had permission from Rome for Mass and Communion in the house, which is a great blessing to me. I have no strength to dictate more.”81

The second week in March Lady Burton rallied a little, and the doctor thought her sufficiently well to be removed to London. She accordingly travelled on March 21. She was moved on a bed into an invalid carriage, and was accompanied by her sister, who never left her side, and the doctor and a priest. She was very cheerful during the journey; and when she got to Victoria, she said she felt so much better that she would walk along the platform to the cab. Mrs. Fitzgerald got out first; but on turning round to help her sister, she found that she had fainted. The doctor administered restoratives; and when she had recovered a little, she was carried to a cab, and driven to her house in Baker Street.

Towards the evening she seemed better, and was glad to be back in her familiar surroundings again. She kept saying to her sister, “Thank God, I am at home again!” She had a haunting fear latterly at Eastbourne that she would not have the strength to come home. By this time it was of course known that she could not possibly recover, and the end would only be a question of a little time. But that evening no one thought that death was imminent. During the night, however, she grew worse.

The next morning (Passion Sunday, March 22) her sister saw a great change in her. She asked her what she wished, and Lady Burton answered, “It depends on you whether I receive the Last Sacraments.” The priest was summoned at once, and administered Extreme Unction and the Holy Viaticum. She followed all the prayers, and was conscious to the last. When all was over, she bowed her head and whispered, “Thank God.” A smile of peace and trusting came over her face, and with a faint sigh she breathed her last. She had heard the “tinkling of his camel’s bell.”

image
The Room in Which Lady Burton Died

She was buried in the little cemetery at Mortlake one bright spring afternoon, when all Nature seemed waking from its winter sleep. She was laid to rest in the Arab tent by the side of him whom she had loved so dearly, there to sleep with the quiet dead until the great Resurrection Day. She was buried with all the rites of her Church. The coffin was taken down to Mortlake the evening before, and rested before the altar in the little church all night. The next morning High Mass was celebrated in the presence of her relatives and friends; and after the Benediction, the procession, headed by the choir singing In Paradiso, wound its way along the path to the mausoleum, where the final ceremony took place. As the door was opened, the camel bells began to tinkle, and they continued ringing throughout the ceremony. They have never rung since. The door of the tent is now closed, and on the opposite page of the marble book which sets forth the deeds and renown of her husband are written these words only:

Isabel his Wife.

image
The Arab Tent at Mortlake

76 Letter to Miss Bishop, December 27, 1891.

77 Burton's enemies.

78 Letter to Miss Bishop from Mortlake, March 25, 1893.

79 Letter to Madame de Gutmansthal-Benvenuti, January 10, 1894.

80 Letter of Lady Burton written from Trieste to Mrs. Francis Joly, April 17, 1890.

81 Holywell Lodge, Eastbourne, March 12, 1896.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:33