Wednesday, February 09, 2011

25May1878, A Death at Home

LONDON, May 20th-26th, 1878.
—A great debate this week, on a motion of Hartington's condemning the Indian troops' move on constitutional grounds.

Many weighty speeches on our side. A very fine one from Uncle W. on Tuesday. He had meant to be dry and didactic, but the Attorney-Gen. (Holker) preceded him, and displayed such joints in his armour that Uncle W. changed his attack there and then (as who but he could do?) and made a brilliant cut-and-thrust debating speech. The division on Thurs. was, however, in spite of all reason and argument, the usual overwhelming one in favour of Government. Old Roebuck made a vicious onslaught on the Opposition like the venerable and venomous mosquito that he is, and then hobbled out of the House. When he returned, Mr. Dillwyn, who hitherto has always made room for him on the front bench below the gangway, only edged away a little, and Roebuck, after trying for a minute to balance himself bodkin, was hirpling off again, when one or two Conservatives affably came forward and handed him to their front bench below the gangway, where he was received by his next neighbour with a warm shake of the hand. Loud ironical cheers burst forth from the Liberals. It was particularly funny because Sir H. James had just before quoted from an ancient pamphlet of Roebuck's a most spiteful bit of abuse of the whole Tory party. Cavendish ended the debate with the best speech I ever heard him make, fluent and energetic. We dined Wednesday at the new Northumberland House in Grosvenor Place.

On Friday a terrible and piteous thing happened. Uncle B. is in London for a little, and we thought he would like to meet the Duke of Argyll with whom he made acquaintance last year. Knowing the Duchess' very precarious state, I wrote to him, saying I feared she would not be equal to it, but, if she was, of course we should be glad to see her. We heard since that she quite caught at the notion of dining with us, being always most kind and affectionate to Freddy and me, and anxious to meet Uncle B. Little Mary Campbell [FN: Now Lady Mary Glyn.] wrote to say how much her mother would like to come, and that they would send a chair for her to be carried up to the drawing-room. I felt very uneasy, tho' Edith Percy assured me on Wednesday that she had lately dined at Northumberland House with 20 people, and that society seemed to do her good, if it did not overtire her. We only invited our Duke, the Gladstones, Uncle B., and Nevy, and met in F.'s study to save her the stairs. When I greeted her on the threshold of the room, she looked much as usual, and said, "I'm afraid I shall be troublesome" ; but the next thing she tried to say was very indistinct, and she never spoke really distinctly again. I could see the Duke hoped dinner would do her good, but she tried vainly to eat or drink; and we then saw too plainly that another stroke was upon her. He went to her and with Auntie P.'s and F.'s help supported her back to the study; we got a mattress laid on the floor, and after a short time of very terrible distress, when she seemed struggling in vain to speak and make signs, utter unconsciousness came on from which she never was roused. Auntie P. helped me to cut her clothes off, and Uncle W., with his wonderful strength and skill, lifted her on to the mattress: we propped her with pillows and put mustard to her feet. Nevy fetched a Charing X. Hospital doctor, and Uncle W. went off in a cab and brought back Dr. Clark; later came her own doctor, and Radcliffe and another; and two nurses. Things were tried, and for an hour or two the bleeding on the brain was checked and there was a little rally of the pulse. The poor children were all sent for and came but the Walter Campbells, Frances, Colin, Victoria and little Constance, who were not in London. Other belongings came too, and there was sad bewilderment and confusion; yet all thro' I had the strange solemn comfort of feeling that she was sheltered from all the misery, in some deep sleep of peace. Radcliffe begged us all to go to bed about 1.30, thinking it might last hours or days, and I persuaded the girls to lie down upstairs, and Edith in the drawing-room. But about 3 they were called; the change had come, and soon after 3.30 she died, without pain or consciousness. A terrible sorrow it was to the poor Duke not to have one look, one word, of farewell; but, if she had been roused, it would have been to piteous distress; and her last conscious look was his.
[FN: She writes next day: "The first death in our house. It could not be a more really blessed one: the passing away of a most pure and beautiful soul."]

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