“Good night, Eric,” he said, “I am tired, so tired. I hope we shall meet again; I shall give you my desk and all my books, Eric, except a few for Horace, Owen, Duncan, and Monty. And my watch, that dear watch your mother, my mother, gave me, I shall leave to Rose as a remembrance of us both. Good night, brother.”
A little before ten that night Eric was again summoned with Upton and Montagu to Russell’s bedside. He was sinking fast; and as he had but a short time to live, he expressed a desire to see them, though he could see no others.
They came, and were amazed to see how bright the dying boy looked. They received his last farewells—he would die that night. Sweetly he blessed them, and made them promise to avoid all evil, and read the Bible, and pray to God. But he had only strength to speak at intervals. Mr. Rose, too, was there; it seemed as though he held the boy by the hand, as fearlessly now, yea, joyously, he entered the waters of the dark river.
“Oh, I should so like to stay with you, Monty, Horace, dear, dear Eric, but God calls me. I am going—a long way—to my father and mother—and to the light. I shall not be a cripple there—nor be in pain.” His words grew slow and difficult. “God bless you, dear fellows; God bless you, dear Eric; I am going—to God.”
He sighed very gently; there was a slight sound in his throat, and he was dead. A terrible scene of boyish anguish followed, as they kissed again and again the lifeless brow. But quietly, calmly, Mr. Rose checked them, and they knelt down with streaming eyes while he prayed.
“O far beyond
The fickle feet may roam,
But they find no light so pure and bright
As the one fair star of home;
The star of tender hearts, lady,
That glows in an English home,”
That night when Eric returned to No. 7, full of grief, and weighed down with the sense of desolation and mystery, the other boys were silent from sympathy in his sorrow. Duncan and Llewellyn both knew and loved Russell themselves, and they were awestruck to hear of his death; they asked some of the particulars, but Eric was not calm enough to tell them that evening. The one sense of infinite loss agitated him, and he indulged his paroxysms of emotion unrestrained, yet silently. Reader, if ever the life has been cut short which you most dearly loved, if ever you have been made to feel absolutely lonely in the world, then, and then only, will you appreciate the depth of his affliction.