Mary: A Fiction

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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Chapter XXIX

She found Henry very ill. The physician had some weeks before declared he never knew a person with a similar pulse recover. Henry was certain he could not live long; all the rest he could obtain, was procured by opiates. Mary now enjoyed the melancholy pleasure of nursing him, and softened by her tenderness the pains she could not remove. Every sigh did she stifle, every tear restrain, when he could see or hear them. She would boast of her resignation--yet catch eagerly at the least ray of hope. While he slept she would support his pillow, and rest her head where she could feel his breath. She loved him better than herself--she could not pray for his recovery; she could only say, The will of Heaven be done.

While she was in this state, she labored to acquire fortitude; but one tender look destroyed it all--she rather labored, indeed, to make him believe he was resigned, than really to be so.

She wished to receive the sacrament with him, as a bond of union which was to extend beyond the grave. She did so, and received comfort from it; she rose above her misery.

His end was now approaching. Mary sat on the side of the bed. His eyes appeared fixed--no longer agitated by passion, he only felt that it was a fearful thing to die. The soul retired to the citadel; but it was not now solely filled by the image of her who in silent despair watched for his last breath. Collected, a frightful calmness stilled every turbulent emotion.

The mother's grief was more audible. Henry had for some time only attended to Mary--Mary pitied the parent, whose stings of conscience increased her sorrow; she whispered him, "Thy mother weeps, disregarded by thee; oh! comfort her!--My mother, thy son blesses thee.--" The oppressed parent left the room. And Mary waited to see him die.

She pressed with trembling eagerness his parched lips--he opened his eyes again; the spreading film retired, and love returned them--he gave a look--it was never forgotten. My Mary, will you be comforted?

Yes, yes, she exclaimed in a firm voice; you go to be happy--I am not a complete wretch! The words almost choked her.

He was a long time silent; the opiate produced a kind of stupor. At last, in an agony, he cried, It is dark; I cannot see thee; raise me up. Where is Mary? did she not say she delighted to support me? let me die in her arms.

Her arms were opened to receive him; they trembled not. Again he was obliged to lie down, resting on her: as the agonies increased he leaned towards her: the soul seemed flying to her, as it escaped out of its prison. The breathing was interrupted; she heard distinctly the last sigh--and lifting up to Heaven her eyes, Father, receive his spirit, she calmly cried.

The attendants gathered round; she moved not, nor heard the clamor; the hand seemed yet to press hers; it still was warm. A ray of light from an opened window discovered the pale face.

She left the room, and retired to one very near it; and sitting down on the floor, fixed her eyes on the door of the apartment which contained the body. Every event of her life rushed across her mind with wonderful rapidity--yet all was still--fate had given the finishing stroke. She sat till midnight.--Then rose in a phrensy, went into the apartment, and desired those who watched the body to retire.

She knelt by the bed side;--an enthusiastic devotion overcame the dictates of despair.--She prayed most ardently to be supported, and dedicated herself to the service of that Being into whose hands, she had committed the spirit she almost adored--again--and again,--she prayed wildly--and fervently--but attempting to touch the lifeless hand--her head swum--she sunk--

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