Letter to Ellen, 16 August 1865

Letter to Ellen, 16 August 1865

[Laudrilge?] 16th Augt 1855
My beloved sister,
The effort to write home is so exquisitely painful that if I merely consulted my feelings I would not write at all. I have written to Margaret and to Hugh in what bitterness of soul God only knows, but now when I sit down to address you it seems as if words would not come; only tears. I am very sad tonight Oh my God how many sad nights and weary days are before me: The hand of the Lord is heavy upon me and sometimes the cup seems full even to overflowing till I remember how many additional drops of bitterness might have mingled that have been graciously withheld, & then the hand is the Lord’s, Blessed be His name.

Sunday evening 19th two weeks ago yesterday I buried my dead out of my sight; yesterday I went again to visit his grave & I have just now finished writing the inscription for his tombstone. Can it be possible that I am writing these words of William?

The two last weeks have appeared like months and months of sorrow & weariness yet at times I can scarcely realise my loss, but feel as if I must awake from some fearful & oppressive dream. Alas there is no awakening. Yet all this is mere selfish sorrow & depression [sought] rather and sometimes I do indeed rejoice with a joy unspeakable &full of glory because the Lord so fully answered my prayers & brought my Husband so humbly and so trustfully to the foot of the Cross. This is more than Consolation it is triumphant Victory. We could both say from our hearts, for which God be praised, oh death where is [thy sting] oh Grace where is thy Victory. He was not quite reconciled at the first I know, there were many painful anxieties & many lingering backwards looks, he would fain have stayed a little longer, & then the bitter pain of parting; but all was well with him at last & all will be well with me I know in God’s good time, tho’ at present it is hard to bear.

The children & I talk of him, but not gloomily I do not wish that they should feel sorrowful & frightened when they think of him & Death. Charlie this morning said something about Papa – I said Charlie you shouldn’t say poor Papa. No he said I shouldn’t. I should have said poor us, but says to the little fellow immediately of his own accord, we’re not poor either we’ve two fathers now, our own father that’s dead & God for a father & he’ll never die. The day my dearest William died he sent for all the children in the forenoon & bade them each separately farewell & gave them his blessing & then he begged me to read to them in his hearing the 14th chapter of St John & to let them sing one of their hymns; when I had finished reading they began to sing, low at first for tears but presently their young voices rose loud & clear in the death chamber as they sang “oh [that] will be joyful when we meet to part no more.” When they had done he asked them sing “Oh what has Jesus done for me” & then he kissed them again & sent them away – and then we parted, but not forever. He was too weak to speak much after that, but I heard him praying for me & for the children & occasionally for his own speedy release, as evening drew on he sank into a kind of slumber, I took advantage of it to go & nurse Baby, leaving Mrs Alexander with him, you may believe I did not stay long & when I returned he was still quiet. I sent her away to get her [?] sat down by him to [?] & wait for Death. I had not long to wait but Death was so like sleep & sleep so like Death that for a few moments I stood over him uncertain if the Destroyer were indeed there. It was a great relief to me to be alone; of course I was not long so but I had the first few moments to myself. I think I omitted to mention that he did not die here, his disease was accompanied latterly by extreme restlessness & desire of change, so much so that I determined at all hazards to move him up to Emerald Hill which was done accordingly a week before he died although the Dr did not think he could stand the moving. I am very thankful we accomplished it. I took part of a house in a high airy situation with a large cheerful room for him pleasanter both to live & die in there, than the little dungeon here. It was but ten minutes walk from here. I left all the children here with Bessie & the servant, except Baby, she & I never part & good kind Eunice Eaton accompanied me also to the Hill, she has been a true friend, she was very much with me during my confinement & tho she left Sandridge after that & went to the Bush, yet when I wrote to say [I’d] given up all hope of my husband’s recovery she came to me immediately & stayed till two days ago. Mrs Alexander too my good friend. Motherly [Scotch] nurse has been an unspeakable comfort. Her presence always afforded extreme satisfaction to [William] & then she is such a true Christian. On Wednesday the 1st Aug my husband died at ¼ past seven. On Saturday he was buried, Bessie was laid with cold & unable to go but I & my sons followed him to the grave as I always intended to do, [told] if he had not made it his last request; the cemetery is a beautiful place, full of flowers & trees. It was one of those quiet days full of light & shadow, grey but not gloomy that harmonized exactly with my frame of mine. Sorrowful & affected but not despairing. Yes my sister there are worse things than death, ungodly life & sins unexpected of. I think upon his gain [whatever] to me it cost & yet in spite of all my past experience of God’s goodness & trustfulness for what is yet to come, there are moments when I look forward wonderingly & fearfully to the future, so many [McKechnie] wills to contend with, so much to consider, so much responsibility to hear alone, & then there come thoughts of all that has been, & is, & what will never be again – but God be thanked agonies are of short duration. I never knew till now how much our thoughts and feelings are in our own control. When I first become aware that this sorrow must come I dared not indulge my grief, for Husband & child were both completely dependent when upon my strength & care. I will not now when the welfare of my whole family demands as much calmness & fulfilment as possible. Altho perfectly conscious & [sensible] throughout the course of his illness my dearest husband was too much exhausted from the first to be able to consider & determine definitely what it would be best for me to do & I was only anxious to keep his thoughts from dwelling on temporal matters. I felt then & do now that in whatever circumstances we might be placed God’s protection would not be wanting to me & the children; he realised it too, at last, & made me read to him repeatedly the morning of the day he died that beautiful paraphrase “Oh God of Bethel” Oh Ellen, dear Ellen, life seems doubly a pilgrimage here, & sometimes I feel how gladly I could end it, til a thought of the children brings me back to a sense of my selfishness & cowardice; & after all the race is not always to the swift on the battle for the strong - 20th I have thought & thought & do still think & think what it is best for me to do & every time I am obliged to admit that judgement says, in spite of inclination, that I ought to remain in this country. It is not one of my [least] trials that as far as I see [William’s] death shuts the door of my return home, if he had lived I certainly think we would have come back, his heart yearned so earnestly for home latterly, but what would have been prudent & feasible enough had he lived to employ his capital would be mere cowardly folly on my part. I have thought of it in every point of view & I cannot see how with my means I could bring my children up independently in Scotland, or make any provision to set them out in life, while here I think I see my way before me. Archie does not wish to return home, feeling, which indeed is the case, that there is no [mode] of employment open to him by which he could make his living, he is now totally unfitted for an office life & has besides great disinclination to it, & his father begged me on no account to force him into it, which here his Colonial experience is every day becoming valuable. Then again I can do, as I am doing at present many things not to be thought of were I amongst my own people, where there is no career open for me expect keeping boarders or keeping school. I mentioned these things to [William] one day when he was a little stronger & in spite of his desire that I should be at home, he couldn’t help seeing that it couldn’t be wisest for me to stay here & so I think it must be. I absolutely dread receiving my letters in answer to this, especially from Margaret, she is so [bent] upon our return. Do not you, my dearest sister endeavor to shake the resolution that it has cost me so much pain & so many hard struggles to [?]. It is a [soiree] of great distress to me that in this matter the advice & judgement of my friends at home must be useless & I must judge for myself, no one unacquainted with the Colony & the possibilities of Colonial life can give any opinion on the subject. It may however be some consolation to you to know (in case you should think me too bold in taking so much upon myself) that though all my friends here (the list is not great) without exception took it for granted that I would go home at once, they none of them but acknowledge, when I put the matter in it’s true light, that it seems best for me to stay and now for my place [?] in my letter to Hugh I shall take in positive steps one way or another till [January] when the lease of the place is up. The profits have fallen off dreadfully during the last two months but it still pays its expenses & mine & unless all probable calculations are wrong, should have me at the end of the term between £300 and £400. This is the capital which I mean to [employ] & if possible, leave [Mr Kennedy’s] legacy untouched. With the money it is my intention to secure a small homestead of 10 or 12 acres in the neighborhood of some of the more populous [?] probably Ballarat & to buy a dozen cows & sell the produce. From all I can learn & observe it is a very profitable business. Milk is sold [low] here at ¼ a quart & of course dearer at the [?] & as I shall not embarrass myself with the mysteries of butter or cheese, I think it will be within the scope of my capacity. A man, besides Archie will probably be sufficient hired help, & with a garden pigs & poultry I hope to be able, after the first year, to keep my family without much outlay. Of course I am not [a fool] as to expect all this to come quite easily or smoothly, I know there will be a good deal of hard work & I expect a great deal of trouble, but in the end I hope it will pay if all goes well & the children are in good health. I shall leave then for a month or six weeks under Mrs Alexander’s care, buy a good strong horse (I have a good spring cart & lent already) & with Archie & the baby, visit the different stations & make my own observations. Do not allow this plan to cause you any anxiety. I believe the roads are perfectly safe & Archie has been up the country once already & is a great strong fellow, somewhat rough I must admit in appearance & manners. But with sense & management beyond his years. I think also that I shall ask Old Grant to go with me & it is more than probable he will agree, as I know he wishes to go up the Country, perhaps you don’t know who old Grant is. He is the Tollman and has been in William’s employment one way or another for more than a year, & we have known him ever since we came to the Colony. He is between 40 and 50. An old sailor, not every bright, having a great opinion of his own [?] yet being continuously imposed upon & [?] honest. I could trust him with untold gold, although I could not rely much upon his judgement, he is besides (a rare thing in this country) perfectly sober & steady, altogether I think Baby & I will manage our exploration expedition very well. Ballarat is 76 miles from here. [?] 112. I should like to visit them both & the different townships on the roads unfortunately they lie in different directions. There are plenty of public conveyances to each now, which take one up very speedily but having the Baby I shall be better to go in my own conveyance as I can then travel to suit my own convenience & go where I please besides, as I shall have a good tilt put over it, it will serve as a sleeping place & save hotel expenses on the road. Archie & Bessie are both great helps & comforts to me. I have indeed many mercies to be thankful for. As for the Baby, God forgive me I think I am too much wrapped up in her, if so the sin will carry it’s own punishment with it. Oh how I love her & how she loves me, my dear little child, it is wonderful how little she has suffered thro all this trying time indeed she is much stronger than [?] tho’ she easily takes cold, she is my greatest comfort & consolation & is always with me. She has only had food once since she was born and is as plump as possible but I am beginning to feel it now & must try to feed her once a day. How fond her father was of her, I think he set more store by her than any of his other children, nothing was too good for the Baby.

28th Yesterday I [received your] letter of 2nd June & one from Margaret to my dear Husband how sad it is for me to read [your] letters now & so it must be for many months. I am glad to have [your home] letters but pain is so mixed with pleasure that I do not know which predominates & how strange it seems to read what you say with regard to William & my Violet, how mournfully & how tenderly he used to look at the little thing ah my God my sun has indeed gone down while it was yet day & it wearies me to look forward at the long night – but may not perhaps be so very long after all. I wish to leave [Mr K’s] legacy untouched if possible that if anything happened to me there might be something for the younger children to go home with.

So you think Mr [Bremner] would have any objections if I appointed him one of their guardians along with Hugh? I hope not. Do not take any alarm at my writing this. I am only providing for possibilities. I do not think there is anything the matter with me beyond a degree of nervous reactions which I always expected. I mean to live as long as ever I can dear Ellen were it for nobody’s sake but the Baby’s. Two or three days ago Mr Nicolson called [?] parcel unfortunately I was out with Baby & so missed seeing him. Thanks for the book & also [E’s] letter. Oh that she was here.

Sept 8th I stupidly missed the last mail, I wrote hurriedly to Mr [Bremner]. I hope the next mail will bring me his 2nd of exchange for that Bill as I cannot get the money without losing the interest 5 percent from the bank if lodged for 12 months. I must finish this tonight & also write to Margaret if I can but my head aches so. I gave my darling her breakfast of [?] for the first time at least [?] did, for she is so cunning she will take no food from me.

This is Saturday always a trying day for the boys are all home from school & I think always possessed with the Spirit of noise & discord. They are getting on very well I think. Willie I have allowed to begin Latin, at his own earnest desire, I wish I could afford to give him a liberal education, for he certainly is a clever boy. Bessie I have also a very good account of, she goes to a very good Ladies School on Emerald Hill every day from 10 till 5. We have no piano, but she practices there - all are well. How are you. I am very anxious to hear. Ever yours Jane Bogle.

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