The climate of Glasgow never suited Tom’s health and in 1876, on the advice of his doctors, he decided to return to England. For a time he seemed to regain his health, but only for a time. Soon he relapsed, and before another year dawned it became evident, if not to himself, to his friends, that his years on earth were numbered. With what grief I heard the news, which came to me from his parents, I need not say. Bravely for a while he struggled with work, but all in vain; he had to give in, and return to his parents’ home in Lincolnshire. That home he never again left, except once, in the summer of 1877, to visit my wife and me, when he stayed with us for several weeks. Though greatly reduced and very thin, and capable only of short walks he was otherwise unchanged; the lively fancy, the bright humor and the sparkling wit, which made him so delightful a companion, were scarcely diminished. He himself was hopeful; talked of recovery, planned excursions which he and I should take together when his health returned; but his greatest pleasure was in recalling our Derby days, our Maypole visits, our country rambles, our occasional dances and flirtations, and our auld acquaintances generally.
Tom was remarkable for the quickness of his observation, for keen penetration of character, and for happy humorous description of particular traits in those he met. He possessed, too, a wonderfully retentive memory. It is largely due to his lively descriptions of our interesting fellow clerks at Derby that I have been able, after the lapse of half a century, to sketch them with the fidelity I have. His humorous accounts of their peculiarities often enlivened the hours we spent together, and impressed their personalities more forcibly on my mind than they otherwise would have been.
When his visit came to an end, and he returned to his home, I too indulged in the hope that he might regain some measure of health, for he seemed much improved. But it was a temporary improvement only, due in part, perhaps, to change in environment, and in part to the exhilaration arising from our reunion, heart and mind for a time dominating the body and stimulating it to an activity which produced this fair but deceptive semblance of health. His letters to me breathed the spirit of hope till almost the last. We never met again. The intention I had cherished of going to see him was never fulfilled. The illness of my wife and the death of one of our children, and other unfortunate causes, prevented it; and in little more than a year and a half from our farewell grasp of the hand at the railway station in Glasgow my dear and beloved friend breathed his last. Often and often since I have heard again the music of his voice, have seen his face smiling upon me, and have felt
“His being working in mine
The footsteps of his life in mine.”