Second Period: The Discovery of Truth (1848-1849) - Seventh Narrative
In a Letter from MR. CANDY
Frizinghall, Wednesday, September 26th, 1849.—Dear Mr. Franklin Blake, you will anticipate the sad news I have to tell you, on finding your letter to Ezra Jennings returned to you, unopened, in this enclosure. He died in my arms, at sunrise, on Wednesday last.
I am not to blame for having failed to warn you that his end was at hand. He expressly forbade me to write to you. “I am indebted to Mr. Franklin Blake,” he said, “for having seen some happy days. Don’t distress him, Mr. Candy—don’t distress him.”
His sufferings, up to the last six hours of his life, were terrible to see. In the intervals of remission, when his mind was clear, I entreated him to tell me of any relatives of his to whom I might write. He asked to be forgiven for refusing anything to me. And then he said—not bitterly—that he would die as he had lived, forgotten and unknown. He maintained that resolution to the last. There is no hope now of making any discoveries concerning him. His story is a blank.
The day before he died, he told me where to find all his papers. I brought them to him on his bed. There was a little bundle of old letters which he put aside. There was his unfinished book. There was his Diary—in many locked volumes. He opened the volume for this year, and tore out, one by one, the pages relating to the time when you and he were together. “Give those,” he said, “to Mr. Franklin Blake. In years to come, he may feel an interest in looking back at what is written there.” Then he clasped his hands, and prayed God fervently to bless you, and those dear to you. He said he should like to see you again. But the next moment he altered his mind. “No,” he answered when I offered to write. “I won’t distress him! I won’t distress him!”
At his request I next collected the other papers—that is to say, the bundle of letters, the unfinished book and the volumes of the Diary—and enclosed them all in one wrapper, sealed with my own seal. “Promise,” he said, “that you will put this into my coffin with your own hand; and that you will see that no other hand touches it afterwards.”
I gave him my promise. And the promise has been performed.
He asked me to do one other thing for him—which it cost me a hard struggle to comply with. He said, “Let my grave be forgotten. Give me your word of honour that you will allow no monument of any sort—not even the commonest tombstone—to mark the place of my burial. Let me sleep, nameless. Let me rest, unknown.” When I tried to plead with him to alter his resolution, he became for the first, and only time, violently agitated. I could not bear to see it; and I gave way. Nothing but a little grass mound marks the place of his rest. In time, the tombstones will rise round it. And the people who come after us will look and wonder at the nameless grave.
As I have told you, for six hours before his death his sufferings ceased. He dozed a little. I think he dreamed. Once or twice he smiled. A woman’s name, as I suppose—the name of “Ella”—was often on his lips at this time. A few minutes before the end he asked me to lift him on his pillow, to see the sun rise through the window. He was very weak. His head fell on my shoulder. He whispered, “It’s coming!” Then he said, “Kiss me!” I kissed his forehead. On a sudden he lifted his head. The sunlight touched his face. A beautiful expression, an angelic expression, came over it. He cried out three times, “Peace! peace! peace!” His head sank back again on my shoulder, and the long trouble of his life was at an end.
So he has gone from us. This was, as I think, a great man—though the world never knew him. He had the sweetest temper I have ever met with. The loss of him makes me feel very lonely. Perhaps I have never been quite myself since my illness. Sometimes, I think of giving up my practice, and going away, and trying what some of the foreign baths and waters will do for me.
It is reported here, that you and Miss Verinder are to be married next month. Please to accept my best congratulations.
The pages of my poor friend’s Journal are waiting for you at my house—sealed up, with your name on the wrapper. I was afraid to trust them to the post.
My best respects and good wishes attend Miss Verinder. I remain, dear Mr. Franklin Blake, truly yours,