Page images


plice, snatched, if he could, a morsel of breakfast, and in a few moments was following his guide. Clothed in the cassock, which was kept on all the day, girded tight with a cincture, in which were stuck a bottle of liniment for rubbing, another perhaps of spirits of camphor, and some powerful doses of calomel, he hurried forwards to the house indicated, or to the first, if there were several. Ruminating sadly as he went of the little that was possible for him to do and, alas ! the few instruments put into his hand, and the scant instruction under so great a necessity, even to do that little, he enters the house with the oft-repeated blessing. The closet ransacked for basins and cups, the relics of mustard mixed hastily, perhaps the half-laid breakfast—a child sitting in uneasy and silent wonder, meet his glance as the hat is deposited below. Eager feet and dismayed faces are the sights and sounds of the upper room--sounds that have become familiar, and chilling from that familiarity. A sister or a daughter hurries from one kindlymeant office to another, and between terror and dismay, does none effectually ; rubbing the distorted muscles of the calf, or the feet of the sufferer. The toes are drawn with unnatural tension-one back towards the instep, another down, from the violence of the strain; the calf is in knots,—the veins and lesser arteries distended and defined. Or she would quit her hold as the patient turns from side to side seeking relief, to fetch the drink, so eagerly shouted for amidst his cries.

For awhile perhaps the priest can do nothing. Having ascertained that the doctor has not yet been, he calls for a spoon and water, and puts on the tongue of the sufferer a strong dose of calomel, which is swallowed with the aid of minute quantities of water, contriving as he does so to feel the tongue itself; the cold tongue, though not invariably a fatal sign, leaves him no doubt as to its being Asiatic cholera. Countenance from any one at such a time is a welcome boon to the perplexed and sorrowful assistants; they lean on him, and obey directions with affectionate readiness.

Put all your blankets over him, or send your boy for another; rub the limbs with some of this. All assist in this, and the mixture (acetic acid and oil of turpentine, one to two,) affords a temporary relief. Five grains more of calomel are administered, and the patient obtains a few moments of calm. Now the priest's work begins—he has watched eagerly for this, and knowing, from an experience of facts, how little time is to be lost, he hurries the attendants from the room, and standing or kneeling by his patient's head, commences the probing and dressing of wounds deeper, perhaps, and more diseased even than the strained and exhausted body. An awful work is before him; a hundred thousand thousand years are as nothing to


[ocr errors]

eternity; and here are wounds, which if unhealed, will end in a living death for all eternity. There is the Faith, it might have been said but too often,) to be taught from its seed; a life of 30 to 35 years, (the average age of the cases,) to be retraced and looked into, period by period, year by year; contrition to be excited, love sought for, sacraments administered, hope encouraged; the time for this life-long work is now twenty minutes or half-an-hour; it may here and there extend to three-quarters of an hour; or the utmost space may be only a quarter of an hour. One quarter of an hour, fifteen minutes of recollection, and a soul to be prepared for eternity! Oh, who are they who deem a personal consciousness of vocation, or personal holiness, warrants and powers equivalent to the inheritance of Apostles, gifts equal to the guiding and accomplishment of the work of saving a soul? Oh, awful inheritance! Oh, fearful trust! laid on shoulders unequal to the burden, energies too often sapped and decayed from the consciousness of a miserable past; spiritual powers too often trusted to hands soiled by contact with all that is vile in this world. Oh, greatness of requirement, hardly to be known by long contemplation of it, now to be fulfilled, as best he may fulfil them, by the priest in the few moments granted to him! Well for him that those divine things he is to handle are in themselves equal to all that can be required of them--that of his own he is to give nothing. But the time hurries forwards fearfully. He has done what he could-turned the keys on the past, and comforted the penitent so far as in him lies.

One want is in these cases realized to the full, and its greatness cannot be told. The rule of our Church practically cuts off such sufferers as these from receiving the Communion. Halfan-hour at the very shortest would be required for each individual administration of the Communion, by the English rubrics, when, all things are in his favour, the priest has but half-an-hour, or three quarters, for doing all he has to do; and this is necessarily taken up in the previous work of examining, confessing, and absolving his penitent, whose conscience (this is stated from sad experience,) is then for the first time examined. Thus, in diseases which do not physically incapacitate from reception of this sacrament, the poor penitent dies 'unhouseled.' We suggest, with great respect, whether it would not be possible for our Bishops to make some order on this all-important subject in their Dioceses, after the example, if they want one, of their Scotch brethren. We would not wantonly offend prejudices, or shock those who may view open questions differently from ourselves, but this subject is one upon which we do not feel required to maintain silence. Our Offices contain a rubric


directed to prevent the prevalence of a certain form of old devotion which had been abused; but all antiquity, and the practice of every part of the Catholic Church, testify to the custom of preserving the sacrament for one purpose, that of the Communion of the Dying and the Sick. This is a great and practical grievance to devout minds among us; and we feel justified in calling attention to it. Experience, that sad source of conviction, has taught us that in a period of sudden and rapid deaths, crowding upon a charge of over-worked Clergy, and accompanied by such distractions as accompany a violent epidemic, the administration of the Communion of the Sick is practically impossible; gives us the right; and therefore we ask respectfully whether there could not be some interpretation of the rubric in question, which would relieve the harassed and burdened servant of the Church from the wretched addition of continued scruples, or the grave alternative, too often taken, of debarring those who most need it, of that sacrament pronounced necessary for salvation.

But to return. That which it is in the priest's power to impart and the dying patient's power to receive, is given as best it may. The attendants are recalled. The Visitation of the Sick is said in the name of all present—to most of them, perhaps, it is read for the first time. It comes over them that they owe their spiritual life to a mother, whom they have never known; or known but to mock at. In this extremity her voice is pleading in their name. For the first time they light upon a language new to them, yet sounding as a mother's, and being a mother's, in unison with their weakness; while yet non hominum sonat, it rises to their needs and pleads their cause amongst a company beyond their reach. The office (the portions which were private, omitted) is soon said, yet broken off more than once to ease the bodily pains of the sufferer, and so piecemeal brought to an end. In the middle of such a scene, or at its solemn finish, hurried steps would announce the doctor. It is the young apprentice; he goes straight to the patient, nods a recognition, perhaps uncovers, in consideration of the presence and office of the priest; while the latter has to state what he has done. The apprentice feels the pulse and forehead of the patient, touches the tongue, flings the clothes over him again with the usual direction—' he must be kept warm. A bundle of blank forms is drawn forth, a pencil rapidly fills up the four or five necessary words. Cholera. - Mr.

- -'s patient.-30 years of age-calomel-chalk_brandy. The paper is soon ready, an attendant sent with it to the Dispensary. The brief query of the Clergyman as to the report of the morning, as briefly answered— Full of work'-'not a chance for him'

above 100 cases to-day'--'great number fatal,' and he is on his

way to the next case three doors lower down, leaving the company to digest in all its bitterness an announcement not unfeeling in intention, but dropped as a matter of course, and over true, as he well knows.

On the other hand, to his clerical locum tenens the office of leech was a hazardous matter. The medicines to be used were powerful to kill as well as to cure. Probably it was a craft altogether new to him, and taken upon the spur of the moment without learning. What deep and anxious interest followed the administering of these medicines, calculated and given with secret aspirations for a blessing on the dose! The most minute quantities were given at a time, that retching might not be provoked; the poor relatives fastened their hopes on those of the priest, and all watched with trembling anxiety for the result. Everything was done to keep the body from moving. Once kept on the stomach the medicine was powerful. For awhile it would seem to go well. The dark face, the hollow sunken eyes, the balls turned upward, with the look of congestion, the sharpened nose, blueness round the mouth, eyes, and forehead, were desperate signs; yet still there would be a hope. These symptoms had been safely passed through sometimes; why not now? Oh! that the sinful servant of God had been such an one as he to whom were given the lives of his fellow-voyagers on the sea; but no-it might not be. A few minutes, at the longest some fifteen, would decide the question. All is vomited again; and so the case continues for the few hours of suffering left. Again time pressed; the priest could not become physician for good, though compelled to bear double burdens for the time. To each one of the Clergy twelve such cases, some days many more, needed anxious watching, besides less alarming cases of sickness. In all these he must watch for his opportunities. They were the few and rare intervals of cessation of pain during the violence of the disease; for at its commencement he was seldom present. A patient was ordinarily attacked at one of three periods-one, A.M.; noon; five, P.M., or thereabouts. We cannot offer any reason to account for it; but thus it was. Diarrhæa was the symptom.

But, alas, after all, medicine, when cholera was at its height, was powerless; the most powerful are poured down the throats of men in their full strength an hour since. It is as drops of water on the fire. There is no stomach to hold them. There were many cases which, from first to last, mocked at


efforts within the compass of men. A man, in the prime of his life at thirty years, would go to his bed, after a day's work, in perfect

[ocr errors]

was over.


bodily health ; at one or two in the morning came a summons to the vicarage door. Such a one 'got the complaint;' by the time the summons could be answered, his cause was evidently hopeless; a power had hold of the constitution, against which the struggle could last but minutes. By day-light all

Heavy-laboured breathing, and sometimes full consciousness, proved that life existed—no more: speech and sight gone; the body as if it had no entrails, and the gasping of the lungs imperceptibly lessening till life had melted into death, so gently that none could say which was the precise moment. We quote from the notes :

August 27. — With two last night in different houses, not knowing which would go first. One, Mary Anne W- I baptized yesterday. She died at this morning. Last night begged they would

for me. Went as soon as I woke. She was fast going ; said the “ Commendation of the Soul.” Before I had finished she expired easily, as if, poor sufferer, she had thus gone through her chastening, and was waiting for her release. Her mother was dead already; her sister, sister's husband, and the husband's mother were dead a few days after. The other died at 11. 15 last night, after about fifteen hours' illness. He had been insensible since 3. One, who was with me in the room with him, as late as 10, died this morning after a few hours' illness. He had been a companion of the dying man. Several relatives stood around, mostly smoking tobacco. One said to him “ Look at this; you ought to live a very different life after this !” He turned deadly pale, went home, and sickened immediately. Edmund L- died at 6; with him the last hour; several times yesterday, and in the night, the Eve of S. Bartholomew. One small room only, and few bedclothes. The wife with child, distracted with grief, trying to cheer up the husband, who was at times almost furious from pain, and appeared to make efforts to repel attentions. He could not speak; pointed to me the parts of the legs I was to rub, raised his body in the bed, and turned his eyes on me for some purpose, but fell back again, rolled and tossed among the bedclothes and clouts. The eyes were sunk, with congested appearance. In great agony all the last eighteen hours. It lasted in all twenty-two. Half an hour before death, the tongue warm-cold yesterday. Blueness worse at an earlier stage. The approach of death seemed to stop pain. The man suddenly opened his eyes, and looked me full in the face, then gave three or four gasps, and expired. A shoemaker, S—, his son recovering from cholera—the father taken-sleeps in the same room. Dropped into the house accidentally and found this, which had just commenced. The spasmodic sickness very violent. At the same time cramp in the diaphragm. The sight and sound dreadful. The medical man gave this account of it. Vomiting strained, and cramp as unnaturally contracted the diaphragm at the same moment. This was 7 or 8; he died about 11. Spinkes, a widow with two sons, one married. The unmarried son taken with cholera. No doctor could be got. Mrs. S. found me, and we went to him, physicked him, and left him doing well. A medical man, not the one appointed, looked in, and confirmed the treatment; at a later hour the right one came, much annoyed at the interference, and when he left, said there was no chance for him.

• After a time the married son's wife sickened and died. Found this on my return from other places accidentally. Ellen, the daughter, 11 years old, was laid on a bed upon a table in the room below; she was dying, and scarce time to say the office over her; we took her up stairs after it was NO. LXVII.-N.S.



« PreviousContinue »