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[512]

Chapter XXVI
the close of life

the year 1903 found Stanley very busy making further improvements, building, and planting. The house at Furze Hill, in 1900, had practically been rebuilt by him; every year he added something, and all was done in his own way, perfectly and thoroughly; even the builders learnt from him. After Stanley's death, the builder asked to see me. “I came that I might tell you how much I owe to Sir Henry; even in my own line he taught me, he made me more thorough, more conscientious. Would you have any objection to my calling my house after his African name?”

In November, 1902, Stanley began drawing plans for enlarging the hall, drawing-room, and other rooms. He made careful measured drawings, to scale. The hall was enlarged for a billiard table and upraised seats. We could neither of us play, but he said, “I want those who come to stay here, to enjoy themselves.”

The nursery was to have a terraced balcony, built over the hall, and all this was done through the winter months, Stanley constantly there to superintend. When the building was finished, he alone saw to the decorating and furnishing, as it was all to be a surprise for me.

In March, 1903, Stanley first complained of momentary attacks of giddiness; it made me rather uneasy, so I accompanied him everywhere.

Just before Easter, we were walking near the Athenaeum Club, when he swayed and caught my arm. My anxiety, though still vague, oppressed me, and I was very unwilling to let him go alone to Furze Hill; but he insisted, as he said there were yet a few “finishing touches to put,” before we came down for Easter.

Great was my relief when we were summoned to Furze Hill; everything was ready at last!

And there he stood at the entrance to welcome us! He looked so noble and radiant! He took me round, and showed me the new rooms, the fresh decorations and furnishings, all chosen by himself; but — beautiful as everything seemed — it was just Stanley, he who had conceived and carried out all this for my enjoyment, it was Stanley himself I was all the time admiring.

He had thought of everything, even “fancy trifles,” as he called the delicate vases, and enamelled jars on the mantelpieces and brackets. [513]

There was a new marble mantelpiece in the drawing-room, decorated with sculptured cupids, “because we both love babies,” he said. Stanley had even replenished the store-room, fitted it up as for an expedition, or to stand a siege. There were great canisters of rice, tapioca, flour enough for a garrison, soap, cheese, groceries of all kinds, everything we could possibly require, and each jar and tin was neatly ticketed in his handwriting, besides careful lists, written in a store-book, so that I might know, at a glance, the goodly contents of the room.

Those fifteen days were wonderfully happy, and the light shining in Stanley's eyes gave me deep inward peace; but it was short-lived, for, on April the 15th, the giddiness returned; and in the night of the 17th, the blow fell, and the joy that had been, could never come again.

Stanley awakened me by a cry, and I found he was without speech, his face drawn, and his body paralysed on the left side.

No sooner had the doctors withdrawn, that first terrible morning, than he made me understand that he wished to be propped up in bed. Now, absolute quiet had been strictly enjoined, as Stanley was only partially conscious, but he always expected to be obeyed, and to have thwarted him at such a time would, I feared, only have agitated him. I therefore raised and supported him, and then he made me understand that he must shave! I fetched his razors, brush, soap, and water; I prepared the lather, which he applied himself with trembling hand, the only hand he could use; and then with eyes blood-shot, his noble face drawn, his mind dazed, but his will still indomitable, Stanley commenced shaving. I held his cheek and chin for him; he tried to see himself in the mirror I held, but his eyes could not focus, nevertheless he succeeded in shaving clean!

Some days after, when he had recovered complete consciousness and speech, I found he had no recollection of having shaved. I give this account as a typical instance of Stanley's self-control and resolution. He had often told me that, on his various expeditions, he had made it a rule, always to shave carefully. In the Great Forest, in “Starvation camp,” on the mornings of battle, he had never neglected this custom, however great the difficulty; he told me he had often shaved with cold water, or with blunt razors: but “I always presented as decent an appearance as possible, both for self-discipline and for self-respect, and it was also necessary as chief to do so.”

Months passed; spring, summer, autumn, Stanley lay there, steadfast, calm, uncomplaining; never, by word or sigh, did he express grief or regret. He submitted grandly, and never seemed to me greater, or more courageous, than throughout that last year of utter helplessness and deprivation.

Stanley, the very embodiment of proud independence, was as weak and helpless as a little child!

But I had him still. I felt that nothing in the whole world signified since I had him still; and as I looked at his grand head lying [514] on the pillows, I felt I could be happy in a new and more supreme way, if only I need not give him up.

Soon, I learnt to lift him, with someone just to support his feet; but it was I, and I alone, who held him; at times, I had a sort of illusion that I was holding him back from Death! Coleridge wrote to his friend T. Poole, “I have a sort of sensation, as if, while I was present, none could die whom I intensely loved.”

And so, although the careless confidence of joy was gone, I had the holy, deep exaltation arising from the feeling that he was there, with me.

He got somewhat better as time passed, and spent the greater part of the day on the lawn, in an invalid-chair. His friend, Henry Wellcome, came every week to sit with him, thus breaking the monotony of the unchanging days. By September, Stanley commenced to stand, and to walk a few steps, supported; speech had returned, but close attention quickly wearied him, and fatigue followed any attempt at physical or mental effort.

He would say, that as the stroke had fallen so suddenly, he hoped it might as suddenly be lifted: “I shall get the message, it may come in the night, in the twinkling of an eye, and then lo! I shall walk.”

The message came. It came in the final liberation, in the freeing from this mechanism of earth; and Stanley waited, grandly calm, never assuming a cheerfulness he could not feel, his deeply-ingrained truthfulness made that impossible; but he kept a lofty attitude of submission, he was ever a commander, a leader of men, Bula Matari, the Rock-Breaker, who had every courage, even to this last.

In the late autumn of 1903, we returned to London, and there had some months of not unhappy reprieve. I read aloud to him, and we sat together in great peace. We did not talk of the life to come, nor of religion; Stanley had lived his religion, and disliked conjectural talk of the future life; he believed in a life everlasting, but if ever I spoke of it, he dismissed the subject, saying, “Ah! Now you go beyond me.”

At Easter in 1904, Stanley wished to return to Furze Hill, so we went there towards the end of March. The change did him good, he was hopeful, believing himself better; but on the 17th of April, the very anniversary of his first attack, he was smitten again, this time by pleurisy, and suffered very much. He now became most anxious to return to London, and, on the 27th, was taken by ambulance-carriage to town.

As the pleurisy subsided, he revived; and one day he said to me, “I shall soon walk now, it is all passing from me.” I think he really meant he might recover, I do not think he was speaking of his approaching death; but, after a pause, he said, “Where will you put me?” Then, seeing that I did not understand, he added, “When I am — gone?”

I said, “Stanley, I want to be near you; but they will put your body in Westminster Abbey.” [515]

He smiled lovingly at me, and replied, “Yes, where we were married; they will put me beside Livingstone” ; then, after a pause, he added, “because it is right to do so!”

A few days later, he put out his hand to me and said, “Good-bye, dear, I am going very soon, I have — done!”

On May the 3d, Stanley became lethargic; but he roused himself at times. Our little boy came in and gently kissed Stanley's hand; this wakened him, and, as he stroked Denzil's cheek, the child said, “Father, are you happy?” --“Always, when I see you, dear,” he replied.

Mr. Wellcome came daily; once Stanley roused himself to talk to him of his dear officer, Mounteney Jephson, who was very ill at the time.

The struggle of life and death commenced on the 5th of May, and lasted long, so great was Stanley's energy and vitality. Day followed night, night followed day, and he lay still,--sometimes quite conscious, but most of the time in a deep dream.

On the last night, the night of Monday, the 9th of May, his mind wandered. He said, “I have done — all — my work — I have — circumnavigated” --Then, later, with passionate longing, he cried, “Oh! I want to be free!--I want to go — into the woods — to be free!”

Towards dawn, he turned his noble head to me, and, looking up at me, said, “I want — I want — to go home.”

At three A. M., he moved his hand on to mine, looking at me quite consciously, and gave me his last message: “Good-night, dear; go to bed, darling.”

As four o'clock sounded from Big Ben, Stanley opened his eyes and said, “What is that?” I told him it was four o'clock striking. “Four o'clock?” he repeated slowly; “how strange! So that is Time! Strange!” A little later, seeing that he was sinking, I brought stimulant to his lips, but he put up his hand gently, and repelled the cup, saying, “Enough.”

Then, as six o'clock rang out, Stanley left me, and was admitted into the nearer Presence of God.

On Tuesday, May 17th, Stanley's body was carried to Westminster Abbey. The coffin lay before the altar where we were married, and the Funeral Service was read, after which Henry Morton Stanley, that man of men, was buried in the village churchyard of Pirbright, Surrey.

But history will remember that it was the Rev. Joseph Armitage Robinson, Dean of Westminster, who refused to allow Stanley to be buried in Westminster Abbey!

Now, however, I am able to quote Sir George Grey's words, and say:--

“I am inclined to think it is best that the matter should stand thus. Yet one thing was wanting to render the great drama complete; would the man who had done all this, and supported such various [516] trials, be subjected to cold neglect for what he had accomplished? And I sit here, not lamenting, but with a feeling that all has taken place for the best, and that this absence of national recognition will only add an interest to Stanley's history in future years.”

He is gone who seem'd so great.--
Gone; but nothing can bereave him
Of the force he made his own
Being here, and we believe him
Something far advanced in State,
And that he wears a truer crown
Than any wreath that man can weave him.

I wished to find some great monolith, to mark Stanley's grave; a block of granite, fashioned by the ages, and coloured by time.

Dartmoor was searched for me, by Mr. Edwards of the Art Memorial Company; he visited Moreton, Chagford Gidleigh, Wallabrook, Teigncombe, Castor, Hemstone, Thornworthy, etc., etc.; and, amid thousands of stones, none fulfilled all my requirements. The river stones were too round, those on the moor were too irregular, or too massive.

Owners of moorland farms, and tenants, took the keenest interest in the search; and, at last, a great granite monolith was discovered on Frenchbeer farm; its length was twelve feet, the width four feet.

The owner and tenant gave their consent to its removal, only stipulating that a brass-plate should be fixed to a smaller stone, stating that from that spot was removed the stone which now stands at the head of Stanley's grave. The smaller stones which form the boundary of the enclosure were found quite near.

The following short account of this great headstone to Stanley's grave was printed at the time:--

“These moorland stones are for the great part recumbent. The few which stand to-day were raised as memorials to chieftains; others form circles, huts, and avenues, and remain to us the silent witnesses of a race, of whose history we know so little. Whatever their past history may be, it seems fitting that one should be raised in our time to this great African leader. It has now a definite work to do, and for ages yet to come, will bear the name of that great son to whom the wilds of Dartmoor were as nothing, compared with that vast continent which he opened up, and whose name will live, not by this memorial, but as one of the great Pioneers of Christianity, Civilization, and Hope to that dark land of Africa.”

After much labour, the great stone, weighing six tons, was transported to Pirbright churchyard, where it now stands, imperishable as the name, cut deep into its face.

I desired to record simply his name, “Henry Morton Stanley,” and beneath it, his great African name, “Bula Matari,” For epitaph, the single word “Africa,” and above all, the Emblem and Assurance of Life Everlasting, the Cross of Christ.

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