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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsHugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 17. Burial
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Hugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 17. Burial Post by :67834 Category :Nonfictions Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :2619

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Hugh: Memoirs Of A Brother - Chapter 17. Burial

CHAPTER XVII. BURIAL

We had thought that he should be buried at Manchester; but a paper of directions was found saying that he wished to be buried at Hare Street, in his own orchard, at the foot of his Calvary. My mother arrived on the Monday evening, and in the course of Tuesday we saw his body for the last time, in biretta and cassock, with a rosary in his hands. He looked strangely young, like a statue carved in alabaster, with no trace of pain or weariness about him, simply asleep.

His coffin was taken to the midnight train by the clergy of the Salford Cathedral and from Buntingford station by my brother Fred to his own little chapel, where it rested all the Thursday. On the Friday the Cardinal came down, with Canons from Westminster and the choir. A solemn Requiem was sung. The Cardinal consecrated a grave, and he was laid there, in the sight of a large concourse of mourners. It was very wonderful to see them. There were many friends and neighbours, but there were also many others, unknown to me and even to each other, whom Hugh had helped and comforted in different ways, and whose deep and visible grief testified to the sorrow of their loss and to the loyalty of their affection.

I spent some strange solitary days at Hare Street in the week which followed, going over from Cambridge and returning, working through papers and letters. There were all Hugh's manuscripts and notes, his books of sermons, all the written evidences of his ceaseless energy. It was an astonishing record of diligence and patient effort. It seemed impossible to believe that in a life of perpetual travelling and endless engagements he yet had been able to accomplish all this mass of work. His correspondence too--though he had evidently destroyed all private spiritual confidences--was of wide and varied range, and it was difficult to grasp that it yet represented the work of so comparatively few years. The accumulation also of little, unknown, unnamed gifts was very great, while the letters of grief and sympathy which I received from friends of his, whose very names were unknown to me, showed how intricate and wide his personal relations had been. And yet he had carried all this burden very lightly and easily. I realised how wonderful his power must have been of storing away in his mind the secrets of many hearts, always ready to serve them, and yet able to concentrate himself upon any work of his own.

In his directions he spoke of his great desire to keep his house and chapel as much as possible in their present state. "I have spent an immense amount of time and care on these things," he said. It seemed that he had nearly realised his wish, by careful economy, to live at Hare Street quietly and without anxiety, even if his powers had failed him; and it was strange to walk as I did, one day when I had nearly finished my task, round about the whole garden, which had been so tangled and weed-choked a wilderness, and the house at first so ruinous and bare, and to realise that it was all complete and perfect, a setting of order and peace. How insecure and frail the beautiful hopes of permanence and quiet enjoyment all seemed! I passed over the smooth lawn, under the leafless limes, through the yew-tree walk to the orchard, where the grave lay, with the fading wreaths, and little paths trodden in the grass; by the hazel hedge and the rose-garden, and the ranked vegetable rows with their dying flower-borders; into the chapel with its fantasy of ornament, where the lamp burned before the shrine; through the house, with its silent panelled rooms all so finely ordered, all prepared for daily use and tranquil delight. It seemed impossible that he should not be returning soon in joyful haste, as he used to return, pleased to show his new designs and additions. But I could not think of him as having any shadow of regret about it all, or as coming back, a pathetic _revenant_, to the scene of his eager inventiveness. That was never his way, to brood over what had been done. It was always the new, the untouched, the untried, that he was in search of. Hugh never wished that he had done otherwise, nor did he indulge in the passion of the past, or in the half-sad, half-luxurious retrospect of the days that are no more. "Ah," I could fancy him saying, "that was all delightful while it lasted--it was the greatest fun in the world! But now!"--and I knew as well in my heart and mind as if he had come behind me and spoken to me, that he was moving rapturously in some new experience of life and beauty. He loved indeed to speak of old days, to recall them vividly and ecstatically, as though they were actually present to him; and I could think of him as even delighting to go over with me those last hours of his life that we spent together, not with any shadow of dread or shrinking, but just as it pleased Odysseus to tell the tale of how he sped down the whirlpool, with death beneath and death above, facing it all, taking it all in, not cherishing any delusion of hope, and yet enjoying it as an adventure of real experience which it was good to have tasted even so.

And when I came to look at some of his letters, and saw the sweet and generous things which he had said of myself in the old days, his gratitude for trifling kindnesses and gifts which I had myself forgotten, I felt a touch of sorrow for a moment that I had not been even nearer to him than I was, and more in his enlivening company; and I remembered how, when he arrived to see me, he would come lightly in, say a word of greeting, and plunge into talk of all that we were doing; and then I felt that I must not think of him unworthily, as having any grievance or shadow of concern about my many negligences and coldnesses: but that we were bound by ties of lasting love and trust, and shared a treasure of dear memories and kindnesses; and that I might leave his spirit in its newly found activities, take up my own task in the light of his vivid example, and look forward to a day when we might be again together, sharing recollection and purpose alike, as cheerfully and gladly as we had done in the good days that were gone, with all the added joy of the new dawn, and with the old understanding made more perfect.

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