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Over The Hills, and Far Away: A Story of New Zealand

Chapter XXXII. A Charge

page 326

Chapter XXXII. A Charge.

“The glory 238 that is brighter than the sun.”

Dacre managed to explain everything to her gradually, and by a few words at a time, and he begged her to forgive Beatrice.

“Poor Beatrice!” he said. “I thought a few hours ago that I never could have done it; but one sees things differently when one is near death.”

So once more Lucy heard and remembered a charge from dying lips.

He would not let her go for help. “I should not last till you got back,” he said. “Don't leave me now!”

page 327

As she knelt beside him in the morning sunlight, supporting his head, he passed one of his hands, which he could still move, over her hair.

“Your beautiful hair!” he said; then, “Open the locket on my watch-guard… Do you see that? How soft and bright it is ! … Do you know when I got that precious little lock? It was the night you fainted… You never knew.”

“Ah, yes,” he went on presently, “I have been all wrong . . all wrong. I forgot who said that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth. I coveted you, You, Lucy, and I thought my life was spoiled because I could not have you. But He has forgiven me … and after that nothing seems hard to bear. If He requires my life—my poor worthless life—shall I grudge it to Him?”

He began to speak with greater difficulty, pausing often, and resuming with a greater effort every time the broken words.

“Do you remember,” he said, “the said, “the hymn 239

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‘Dark, dark hath been the midnight ,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory 241 , glory dwelleth
In Immanuel's land.’

The dark night is over now with me. I have learnt to see the meaning of the words. There is no glory here . . nothing lasts . . nothing satisfies . . we thirst with a thirst which no earthly draught can slake … but I am going where all is real, and the glory is ‘brighter than the sun’ … You won't forget me, Lucy? … and you will come soon?”

A long pause, and then once more he rallied a little, and said brokenly, “Once you sang that on board ship … I remember … your dress was white … the wind lifted your hair … I think I always loved you from that day …”

That was all. He lay for some minutes quite unconscious, and only roused up for a few moments of agony that wrung Lucy's heart. When they were over he could not speak.

But he knew her still, and seemed to comprehend the anguish in her face. If he could he would have page 329 tried to comfort her; but the power was gone. His brown eyes looked at her wistfully, and Lucy understood their meaning.

She made a great effort, and steadied her voice.

“I will come soon,” she said; “and the Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent the one from the other!”

She saw that he was comforted for her.

* * * * *

How long did this last? Was it hours, or only minutes? and was he really gone? She could not leave him; she could only kneel and pray.

At last a shadow came between her eyes and the sun. A horseman, riding down the hill above them—Louis Cunningham—sprang off, and came ot her side. He had followed Dacre with early morning light, but, alas! too late.

Dacre's eyes opened once more. He knew Louis, and made an effort to move one hand. Louis took it in his, and Dacre smiled and said—yes, Louis was sure he caught the words—“My friend!” Then he turned his eyes—not sad now, but radiant page 330 with a light brighter than the morning sunshine—to Lucy, and with a last struggle to speak, he said, quite clearly, “My wife!”

* * * * *

238 May denote the fulfilment of some state of love felt by Lucy. In this context however it does not infer sexual passion.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]

239 Hymn singing was a feature of colonial life. Early rural settlers often would make their own music. All families would sing hymns or Gilbert and Sullivan songs around the piano, while out in the men's quarters concertinas or accordions accompanied a good singalong of shanties and folk songs. See: http://www.teara.govt.New Zealand/en/rural-recreation/1.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]

241 May here imply the Victorian Christian's belief in life after death as an image of spiritual hope and salvation.

[Note added by A. Brown as annotator]