( Originally Published 1908 )
DOROTHY WYNDLOW PATTISON was born on January 15th, 1832. She was the youngest daughter, and the youngest child but one, of the Rev. Mark Pattison, who was for many years Rector of Hauxwell, near Richmond, in Yorkshire. She inherited from her father, who was of a Devonshire family, that finely proportioned and graceful figure which she always maintained; and from her mother, who was the daughter of a banker in Richmond, those lovely features which drew forth the admiration of everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her.
Her father was a good and sincere man. He was thoroughly upright and strict.
Dora and her sister, like a thousand other country parsons' daughters, were of the utmost use in their father's Yorkshire parish. A French gentleman who had lived a while in England and in the country, said to me one day:
"Your young ladies astound me. They are angels of mercy. They wear no distinguishing habit; one does not see their wings, yet they fly everywhere, and everywhere bring grace and love and peace - in my country such a thing would be impossible."
These Pattison girls were for ever saving their pocket money to give it away, ani they made it a rule to mend and remake their old frocks, so as not to have to buy new ones out of their allowance for clothes, so as to have more to give. Even their dinners they would reserve for poor people, and content themselves with bread and cheese. " Giving to others instead of spending on themselves seems to have been the rule and delight of their lives."
A pretty story is told of Dorothy at this time. A schoolboy in the village, who was especially attached to her, fell ill of rheumatic fever. The boy's one longing was to see "Miss Dora" again, but she was abroad on the Continent. As he grew worse and worse, he constantly prayed that he might live long enough to see her. On the day on which she was expected, he sat up on his pillows intently listening, and at last, long before any-one else could hear a sound of wheels, he exclaimed : "There she is!" and sank back. She went to him at once, and nursed him till he died.
Her beauty was very great: large brilliant, brown eyes, full red lips, a firm chin and a finely cut profile; her hair dark, and slightly curling, waved all over her head; and the remarkable beauty and delicacy of her colouring and complexion, added to the liveliness of her expression, made her a fascinating creature to behold. Her father always called her "Little Sunshine."
But the most remarkable feature about her was to be found in her inner being. A will, which no earthly power could subdue, enabled her to accomplish an almost superhuman work; yet at times it was to her a faculty that brought her into difficulties. She was twenty 'line before she was able to find real scope for her energies, and then she took a bold step answered an advertisement from a clergyman for a lady to take the village school. Her mother had died in 1861, and she considered herself free from duties that bound her to her home. Her father did not relish the step she took, but acquiesced. She went to Woolston, and remained there three years, during which time she won the hearts, not of the children only, but of their parents as well. She had to live alone in a cottage, and do everything for her self; but the people never for a moment doubted she was a real lady, and always treated her with great respect.
Not thinking a little village school sufficient field for her energies, she resolved to join a nursing sisterhood at Redcar, in Yorkshire. The life was not quite suited to her strong will, but it did her good. She there learned how to make beds and to cook. At first she literally sat down and cried when the beds which she had just put in order were all pulled to pieces by some superior authority, who did not approve of the method in which they were made. But it was a useful lesson for her after life in a hospital. She was there till the early part of 1865, and then was sent to Walsall to help at a small cottage hospital, which had already been established for more than a year.
Walsall, though not in the "Black Country," is in a busy manufacturing district, chiefly of iron. At the time when Sister Dora went there it contained a population of 35,000 inhabitants. It is now connected with Birmingham by almost continuous houses and pits and furnaces.
As fresh coal and iron pits were being opened in the district around Walsall, accidents became more frequent, and it was found impracticable to send those injured to Birmingham, which was seven miles distant; Accordingly, in 1863, the Town Council invited the Redcar Society to start a hospital there. When the Sister who had begun the work fell ill, Sister Dora was sent in her place, and almost directly caught small-pox from the outpatients. She was very ill, and even in her delirium showed the bent of her mind by ripping her sheets into strips to serve as bandages.
When the cottage hospital—which was the second of its kind in England — was opened, the system of voluntary nursing was unknown; the only voluntary nurses heard of then being those who had gone out to the Crimea with Miss Florence Nightingale. Therefore a good deal of misunderstanding was the result; but in the course of time people began to judge the institution by its results. But Sister Dora, by her frank, open manner, disarmed suspicion, while the sublime eloquence of noble deeds silenced tongues, and won for the hospital the confidence of the public, and for herself the admiration and affection of the people.
In 1866 she had a serious illness, brought on by expo-sure to wet and cold. She would come home from dressing wounds in the cottages, wet through and hot with hurrying along the streets, to find a crowd of outpatients awaiting her return at the hospital, and she would attend to them in total disregard of herself, and allow her wet clothes ro dry on her.
This neglect occurred once too often; a chill settled on her, and for three weeks she was dangerously ill. Then it was that the people of Walsall began to realise what she was, and the door of the hospital was besieged by poor people come to inquire how their "Sister Dora" was.
The hospital had moved men of every shade of politics, and every form of religious belief, to the work, and there have been passages in its history not pleasant to remember, but not one of these in the remotest degree involved Sister Dora. On the contrary, her presence and counsel always brought light and peace, and lifted every question into a higher sphere. "Ask Sister Dora," it used to be said. "Had we not better send for Sister Dora" some member would exclaim out of the fog of contention. Thereupon she would appear; and many well remember how calmly self-possessed, and clear sighted she would stand -- never sit down. Indeed, there were those who worked with her fifteen years who never saw her seated; she would stand, usually with her hand on the back of the chair which had been placed for her, every eye directed to her; nor was it ever many moments before she had grasped the whole question, and given her opinion just as clearly and simply and straight to the purpose as any opinion given to the sufferers in the wards. Nor was she ever wrong; nor did she ever fail of her purpose with the committee. No committeemen ever questioned or differed from Sister Dora, yet in her was the charm of unconsciousness of power or superiority and the impression left was of there being no feeling of pleasure in her, other than the triumph of the right.
In 1867 the cottage hospital had to be abandoned, as erysipelas broke out and would not be expelled. The wards were evidently impregnated with malignant germs to such an extent that the committee resolved to build a new hospital in a better situation.
Sister Dora's work became more engrossing when this larger field was opened for it; the men's beds were constantly full, and even the women's ward was hardly ever entirely empty.
Just at this period an epidemic of small-pox broke out in Walsall, and all the energies of Sister Dora were called into play. She visited the cottages where the patients lay, and nursed them or saw to their being supplied with what they needed; whilst at the same time carrying on her usual work at the hospital.
One night she was sent for by a poor man who was dying of what she called "black-pox," a violent form of small-pox.' She went at once, and found him in the last extremity. All his relations had fled, and a neighbour alone was with him. When Sister Dora found that only one small piece of candle was left in the house, she gave the woman some money, begging her to go and buy some means of light whilst she stayed with the man. She sat on by his bed, but the woman, who had probably spent the money at the public house, never returned; and after some little while the dying man raised him-self up in bed with a last effort, saying, "Sister, kiss me before I die." She took him, all covered as he was with the loathsome disease, into her arms and kissed him, the candle going out almost as she did so, leaving them in total darkness. He implored her not to leave him while he lived, although he might have known she would never do that. So she sat through the night, till the early dawn breaking in revealed that the man was dead.
When the bell at the head of her bed rang at night she rose at once, saying to herself, " The Master is come, and calleth for thee!" Indeed, she loved to think that she was ministering to her Lord in the person of His poor and sick.
Here is a letter from a former patient in the hospital, from which only a short extract can be made:
"I had not been there above a week when Sister Dora found me a little bell, as there was not one to my bed, and she said, 'Enoch, you must ring this bell when you want sister.' This little bell did not have much rest, for whenever I heard her step or the tinkle of her keys in the hall I used to ring my bell, and she would call out, 'I 'm coming, Enoch,' which she did, and would say, 'What do you want?' I often used to say, 'I don't know, Sister," not really knowing what I did want. She 'd say, 'Do you want your pillows shaken up, or do you want moving a little?' which she 'd do, whatever it was, and say, 'Do you feel quite cosey now?' ' Yes, Sister.' Then she would start to go into the other ward, but very often before she could get through the door I 'd call her back and say my pillow wasn't quite right, or that my leg wanted moving a little. She would come and do it, whatever it was, and say, 'Will that do ?' 'Yes, Sister.' Then she 'd go about her work, but at the very next sound of her step my bell would ring, and so often as my bell rang Sister would come; and some of the other patients would often remark that I should wear that little bell out or Sister, and she'd say, 'Never mind, for I like to hear it, and it 's never too often.' And it rang so often that I 've heard Sister say that she often dreamt she heard my little bell and started up in a hurry t0 find it was a dream."
Sister Dora said once to a friend, who was engaging a servant for the hospital:
"Tell her this is not an ordinary house, or even a hospital. I want her to understand that all who serve here, in whatever capacity, ought to have one rule, love for God, and then, I need not say, love for their work."
She spoke often and with intense earnestness, on the duty. the necessity, of prayer. It was literally true that she never touched a wound without raising her heart to God and entreating him to bless the means employed As years glided away, she became able almost to fulfil the Apostle's command: "Pray without ceasing." And her prayers were animated by the most intense faith — an absolutely unshaken conviction of their efficacy. It may truly be said that those who pray become increasingly more sure of the value of prayer. They find that, whatever men may say about the reign of law and the order of nature, earnest prayer does bring an answer, often in a marvellous manner. The praying man or woman is never shaken in his or her trust in the efficacy of prayer. She firmly held to the supernatural power, put into the hands of men by means of the weapon of prayer; and the practical faithlessness in this respect of the world at large was an ever-increasing source of surprise and distress to her.
Since her death, in commemoration of her labours at Walsall, a very beautiful statue has been there erected to her, and on the pedestal are bas-reliefs representing incidents in her life there. One of these illustrates a terrible explosion that took place in the Birchett's Iron Works, on Friday, October 15, 1875, whereby eleven men were so severely burnt that only two survived. All the others died after their admission into the hospital. It came about thus: The men were at work when water escaped from the "twyer" and fell upon the molten iron in the furnace and was at once resolved into steam that blew out the front of the furnace, and also the molten iron, which fell upon the men. Some suffered frightful agonies, but the shock to the nervous systems of others had stupefied them. The sight and the smell were terrible. Ladies who volunteered their help could not endure it, and were forced to withdraw, some not getting beyond the door of the ward. But Sister Dora was with the patients incessantly till they died, giving them water, bandaging their wounds, or cutting away the sodden clothes that adhered to the burnt flesh. Some lingered on for ten days, but in all this time she never deserted the fetid atmosphere of the ward, never went to bed.
She had so much to do with burns that she became specially skilful in treating them. Children terribly burnt or scalded were constantly brought to the hospital; often men came scalded from a boiler, or by molten metal. She dressed their wounds herself, but, if possible, always sent the patients to be tended at home, where she would visit them and regularly dress their wounds, rather than have the wards tainted by the effluvium from the burns. Her treatment of burnt children merits quotation.
"If a large surface of the body was burnt, or if the child seemed beside itself with terror, she did not touch the wounds themselves, but only carefully excluded the air from them by means of cotton wool and blankets wrapped around the body. She put hot bottles and flannel to the feet, and, if necessary, ice to the head. Then she gave her attention to soothing and consoling the shocked nerves — a state which she considered to be often a more immediate source of danger to the life of the child than the actual injuries. She fed it with milk and brandy, unless it violently refused food, when she would let it alone until it came round, saying that force, or anything which involved even a slight further shock to the system, was worse than useless. Sometimes, of course, the fatal sleep of exhaustion, from which there was no awakening, would follow; but more often than not food was successfully administered, and after a few hours, Sister Dora, having gained the child's confidence, could dress the wounds without fear of exciting the frantic terror which would have been the result of touching them at first."
Children Sister Dora dearly loved; her heart went out to them with infinite tenderness, and she was even known to sleep with a burnt baby on each arm. What that means only these know who have had experience of the sickening smell arising from burns.
Once a little girl of nine was brought into the hospital so badly burnt that it was obvious she had not many hours to live. Sister Dora sat by her bed talking to her of Jesus Christ and His love for little children, and of the blessed home into which he would receive them. The child died peacefully, and her last words were : "Sister, when you come to heaven, I'll meet you at the gates with a bunch of flowers."
One of the most heroic of her many heroic acts was taking charge of the small-pox hospital when a second* epidemic broke out.
Mr. S. Welsh says: " In the spring of 1875 there was a second visitation of the disease, and fears were entertained that the results would be as bad as during the former visitation. One morning Sister Dora came to me and said, 'Do you know, I have an idea that if some one could be got to go to the epidemic hospital in whom the people have confidence, they would send their friends to be nursed, the patients would be isolated, and the disease stamped out.' " This was because a prejudice was entertained against the new small-pox hospital, and those who had sick concealed the fact rather than send them to it. "I said," continues Mr. Welsh, "'I have long been of the opinion you have just expressed; but where are we to get a lady, in whom the people would have confidence, to undertake the duty?'
"Her prompt reply was, 'I will go.'
"I confess the sudden announcement of her deter mination rather took me by surprise, for I had no expectation of it, and not the least remote idea that she intended to go. 'But,' I said, 'who will take charge of the hospital if you go there?'
" 'Oh,' she replied, ' I can get plenty of ladies to come there, but none will go to the epidemic. And,' she added, by way of reconciling me to her view, 'it will only be for a short time.'
"'But what if you were to take the disease and die?' I inquired.
"'Then,' she added, in her cheery way, 'I shall have died in the path of duty, and, you know, I could not die better.'
"I knew it was no use pointing out at length the risk she ran, for where it was a case of saving others, self with her was no consideration. I tried to dissuade her on other grounds. . . A few days later I was in company with the doctor of the hospital, who was also medical officer of health, and who, as such, had charge of the epidemic hospital, near to which we were at the time. He said, 'Do you know where Sister Dora is?' 'At the hospital I suppose,' was my reply. 'No,' he rejoined, 'she is over there!' pointing to the epidemic hospital.
"The people as soon as they knew Sister Dora was in charge, had no misgiving about sending their relatives to be nursed, and the result was as she had predicted; to be cases were brought in as soon as it was discovered that patients had the disease, and the epidemic was speedily stamped out."
She had, however, a hard time of it there, as she lacked assistants. Two women were sent from the work-house, but they proved of little use. The porter, an old soldier, was attentive and kind in his way, but he always went out "on a spree'' on Saturday nights, and did not return till late on Sunday evening. When the workhouse women failed her she was sometimes alone with her patients, and these occasionally in the delirium of small-pox.
It was not till the middle of August, 1875, that the last small-pox patient departed from the hospital, and she was able to return to her original work.
One of the bas-reliefs on her monument represents Sister Dora consoling the afflicted and the scene depicted refers to a dreadful colliery accident that occurred on March 14, 1872, at Pelsall, a village rather over three miles from Walsall, by which twenty-two men were entombed, and all perished. For several days hopes were entertained that some of the men would be got out alive; and blankets in which to wrap them, and restoratives, were provided, and Sister Dora was sent for to attend the men when brought to "bank." The following extract, from an article by a special correspondent in a newspaper, dated Dec 10, 1872, will give some idea of Sister Dora's connection with the event:
Out of doors the scene is weird and awful, and impresses the mind with a peculiar gloom; for the intensity of the darkness is heightened by the shades created by the artificial lights. Every object, the most minute, stands out in bold relief against the inky darkness which surrounds the landscape. On the crest of the mound or pit-bank, the policemen, like sentinels, are walking their rounds. The wind is howling and whistling through the trees which form a background to the pit-bank, and the rain is coming hissing down in sheets. In a hovel close to the pit shaft sit the bereaved and disconsolate mourners, hoping against hope, and watching for those who will never return. There, too, are the swarthy sons of toil who have just returned from their fruit-less search in the mine for the dear missing ones, and are resting while their saturated clothes are drying.
But another form glides softly from that hovel; and amid the pelting rain, and over the rough pit-bank, and through miry clay—now ankle deep—takes her course to the dwellings of the mourners, for some, spent with watching, have been induced to return to their homes. As she plods her way amid pieces of timber, upturned wagons and fragments of broken machinery, which are scattered about in great confusion, a "wee, wee bairn" creeps gently to her side, and grasping her hand and looking wistfully into her face, which is radiant with kindness and affection, says, "Oh, Sister, do see to my father when they bring him up the pit." Poor child! Never again would he know a father's love, or share a father's care. She smiled, and that smile seemed to lighten the child's load of grief, and her promise to see to his father appeared to impart consolation to his heavy, despairing heart.
On she glides, with a kind word or a sympathetic expression to all. One woman, after listening to her comforting words, burst into tears—the fountains of sorrow so Iong pent up seemed to have found vent. "Let her weep," said a relative of the unfortunate woman; "it is the first tear she has shed since the accident has occurred, and it will do her good to cry." But who is the good Samaritan? She is the sister who for seven years has had the management of the nursing department in the cottage hospital at Walsall.
This is written in too much of the "special correspondent" style to be pleasant; nevertheless it describes what actually took place.
Mr. Samuel Welsh says : "I remember one evening I was in the hospital when a poor man who had been dreadfully crushed in a pit was brought in. One of his legs was so fearfully injured that it was thought it would be necessary to amputate it. After examining the patient, the doctor came to me in the committee-roomone door of which opened into the passage leading to the wards and another into the hall in the domestic portion of the building. After telling me about the patient who had just been brought in, he said, 'Do you know Sister Dora is ver ill? So ill,' he continued, 'that I question if she will pull through this time.' I naturally inquired what she was suffering from, and in reply the doctor said, 'She will not take care of herself, and is suffering from blood-poison.' He left me, and I was just trying to solve the problem — 'What shall be done? or how shall her place be supplied if she be taken from us by death?' when I saw a spectral-like figure gliding gently and almost noiselessly through the room from the domestic entrance to the door leading to the wards. The figure was rather indistinct, for it was nearly dark, and as I gazed at tie receding form, I said, 'Sister, is it you?' 'Whist!' s e said, and glided through the door-way into the ward . In a short time she returned, and I said to her, 'Sister, the doctor has just been telling me how ill you are — how is it you are here?' 'All!' replied, she ' it is t e I am very ill; but I heard the surgeons talking about amputating that poor fellow's limb, and I wanted to s e whether or not there was a possibility of saving it, and I believe there is; and, knowing that, I shall rest better.' So saying, she glided as noiselessly out of the room as when she entered.
"On her recover -which was retarded by her neglecting herself to attend to others — she called me one day to the hall-door of th hospital, and asked me if I thought it was going to rat . I told her I did not think it would rain for some hours. She then told me to go and order a cab to be ready at the hospital in half an hour. I tried to persuade her not to venture out so soon; but it was no use — she went; and many a time I wondered where she went to.
"About six months afterward I happened to be at a railway station, and saw a pointsman who had been in our hospital with an injured foot, but who, as his friends wished to have him at home, had left before his foot was cured. I inquired how his foot was. He replied that had it not been for Sister Dora he would have lost his foot, if not his life. I said, 'How did she save your foot when you were not in the hospital, and she was ill at the time you left the hospital?' 'Well,' he replied, 'you know my foot was far from well when I left the hospital; there was no one at our house who could see to it properly, and it took bad ways, and one evening I was in awful pain. Oh, how I did wish for Sister Dora to come and dress it! I felt sure she could give me relief, but I had been told she was very ill, so I had no hope that my earnest desire would be realised; but while I was thinking and wishing, the bedroom door was gently opened, and a figure just like Sister Dora glided so softly into the room that I could not hear her, but oh! she was so pale that I began to think it must be her spirit but when she folded the bedclothes from off my foot, I knew it was she. She dressed my foot, and from that hour it began to improve.'
"A few days after this interview with the pointsman I was talking to Sister Dora, and said: 'By the bye, Sister, I have found out where you went with the cab that day.' She replied with a merry twinkle in her eye, 'What a long time you have been finding it out!"
Her old patients ever remembered her with gratitude. A man called Chell, an engine-stoker, was twice in the hospital under her care, first with a dislocated ankle, severely cut; the second time with a leg crushed to pieces in a railway accident. It was amputated. Ac-cording to his own account he remembered nothing of the operation, except that Sister Dora was there, and that, "When I come to after the chloroform, she was on her knees by my side with her arm supporting my head, and she was repeating:
" They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
And all through the pain and trouble that I had afterward, I never forgot Sister's voice saying those words," When she was in the small-pox hospital, avoided by most, this man never failed to stump away to it to see her and inquire how she was getting on.
There were, as she herself recognised, faults in the character of Sister Dora; and yet, without these faults, problematical as it may seem, it is doubtful whether she could have achieved all she did.
One who knew her long and intimately writes to me "A majestic character, brimming over with sympathy, but, for lack of self-discipline, this sympathy was impulsive and gushing. Her glorious nature, physical and mental, was marred by undisciplined impulse. Her nature found its congenial outlet in devoted works of mercy and love to her fellow creatures. How far she would have done the same under authority, I fear is a little doubtful."
Miss Twigg, who knew her well, writes me: "She was a lovable woman, so bright and winsome. She used to come into our rather dull and sad home (our mother died when we were quite children) after evening service, She would nurse one of us, big as we were then, and the others would gather round her, while she would tell us stories of her hospital life. . She was a real woman."
There is one point in Sister Dora's life to which sufficient attention has not been paid by her biographers. It is one which the busy workers of the present day think of too little—namely, the writing of bright, helpful letters to any friend who is sick or in trouble. Somehow or other she always found time for that, wrote one who knew her well, and who contributes the following, written to a young girl who was at the time in a spinal hospital, and who was almost a stranger to her:
MY Dear Miss J.—I was so glad to hear from you, though I fear it must be a trouble for you to write. I do hope that you will really have benefited by the treatment and rest. I am so glad that the doctor is good to his "children." Such little attentions when you are sick help to alleviate wonderfully. I wish-I could come and take a peep at you. Did Mrs. N. tell you that she had sent us five pounds for our seaside expedition? Was it not good of her? Oh! we shall have such a jolly time. To see all those poor creatures drink in the sea-breezes! We have had s very busy week of accidents and operations. It has been a rev. lar storm.* My dear, it is in such times as you are now having that the voice of Jesus Christ can be best heard, "Come into a desert place awhile." Know you surely that it is God's visitation. Take home that thought, realise it: God visiting you, Elizabeth was astonished that the Mother of her Lord should visit her. We can have our Emmanuel, I can look back or my sicknesses as the best times of my life. Don't fret about the future. He carrieth our sicknesses and healeth our infirmities. You know infirmity means weakness after sickness. Think of the cheering lines of our hymn: "His touch has still its ancient power." When I arose up from my sick bed they told me I should never be able to enter a hospital or do work again. I was fretting over this when a good friend came to me, and told me only to take a day's burden and not look forward, and it was such a help. I got up every day feeling sure I should have strength and grace for the day's trial. May it be said of you, dear, "They took knowledge of her that she had been with Jesus." May He reveal Himself in all His beauty is the prayer of
Your sincere friend,
It does not truly represent Sister Dora to dwell on her outer life, and not look as well into that which is within, as it was the very mainspring of all her actions, as it, in fact, made her what she was.
The same writer to the Guardian gives some sentences from other letters: "Take your cross day by day, dearie, and with Jesus Christ bearing the other end it will not be too heavy." "If we could find Jesus, it must be on a mountain, not in the plains or smooth places," "He went up into a mountain and taught them, saying," etc. "It is only on a mountain side that we shall see the cross. It was only after Zacchaeus had climbed the tree he could see Jesus. I have been thinking much of this lately. It is not in the smooth places we shall see Jesus, it is in the rough, in the storm, or by the sick couch." "A Christian is one whose object is Christ." "I am rejoiced that you are enjoying Faber's hymns; they always warm me up. Oh, my dear, is it not sad that we prefer . to live in the shade when we might have the glorious sunshine?"
It was during the winter of 1876-77 that Sister Dora felt the first approach of the terrible disease that was to cause her death, and then it was rather by diminution of strength than by actual pain. She consulted a doctor in Birmingham, in whom she placed confidence, and he told her the plain truth, that her days in this world were numbered. She exacted from him a pledge of secrecy, and then went on with her work as hitherto.
"She was suddenly brought, as it were, face to face with death-- distant, perhaps, but inevitable; she, who was full of such exuberant life and spirit that the very word 'death' seemed a contradiction when applied to her. Even her doctor, as he looked at her blooming appearance, and measured with his eye her finely made form, was almost inclined to believe the evidence of his outward senses against his sober judgment. .
She could not endure pity. She, to whom everybody had learnt instinctively to turn for help and consolation, on whom others leant for support, must she now come down to ask of them sympathy and comfort? The pride of life was still surging up in her, that pride which had made her glory in her physical strength for its own sake, as well as for its manifold uses in the service of her Master. True, she had been long living two lives in-separably blended: the outward life of hard, unceasing toil; the inner, a constant communion with the unseen world, the existence of which she realised to an extent which not even those who saw the most of her could appreciate. To all the poor, ignorant beings whose souls she tried to reach by means of their maimed bodies, she was, indeed, the personification of all that they could conceive as lovable, holy and merciful in the Saviour. At the same time she judged her own self with strict impartiality. She knew her own faults, her unbending will — her pride and glory in her work seemed to her even a fault; and, in place of looking on herself as perfect she was bowed down with a sense of her own short-comings. At the same time — with death before her, she hungered for more work for her Master. His words were continually on her lips: 'I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work.'"
At last, in the month of August, 1878, typhoid fever having broken out in the temporary hospital, it was found necessary to close it, and hasten on the work of the construction of another. This gave her an opportunity for a holiday and a complete change. She went to the Isle of Man, to London, and to Paris.
But the disorder was making rapid strides, and was causing her intense suffering, and she craved to be back at Walsall. She got as far as Birmingham, and was then in such a critical state that it was feared she would die. But her earnest entreaty was to be taken to Walsall. "Let me die," she pleaded, "among my own people."
Mr. Welsh says: "On calling at the Queen's Hotel, Birmingham (where she was lying ill), I was told the doctor of the hospital (Dr. Maclachlan) was with her, and thinking they were probably arranging matters connected with the hospital, I did not go to her room, but proceeded to the train. I had scarcely got seated when the doctor called me out, and we entered a compartment where we were alone. He asked me when it was intended to open the hospital. I replied, 'On the 4th of November.' 'Then,' he said, 'that will just be about the same time Sister Dora will die.'
"The announcement was to me a shock of no ordinary kind, for I had not heard of her being ill, and no one could have imagined, from the cheerful tone of a letter I had received from her a week or so before, that there was anything the matter with her. Not being able to fully realise the true state of affairs, I asked him if he were jesting. He replied he was not, and that he thought it best to let me know at once, so that arrangements might be made for getting someone to take her place when the hospital was opened. I said, 'I suppose she is going to Yorkshire?' 'No,' he replied, 'and that is another thing I wish to speak to you about. She wishes to die in Walsall, and she must be removed immediately.
"On Sunday (the day following) I saw the chairman and vice-chairman of the hospital. On Sunday evening I returned with Dr. Maclachlan to the Queen's Hotel, where he found his patient very weak. On Mon-day morning a house was taken, and the furniture she had in her rooms at the hospital removed to it. Her old servant who had gone to The Potteries, was telegraphed for, and arrived in a few hours, and by midday the house was ready for her reception. My daughter, knowing Sister Dora's fondness for flowers, had procured and placed on the table in the parlour a very choice bouquet; and when all was ready Dr. Maclachlan drove over to Birmingham, and brought her to Walsall in his private carriage.
"The disease was now making steady progress, and it was evident that every day she was becoming weaker; but she never lost her cheerfulness, and anyone to have seen her might have thought she was only suffering from some slight ailment, instead of an incurable and painful disease."
"A few hours before her death," writes Mr. S. Welsh "she called me to her bedside and said, 'I want you to promise that you will not, when I am gone, write anything about me; quietly I came among you and, quietly I wish to go away.'" And this desire of hers would have been faithfully complied with had not misrepresentations fired the gentleman to whom the request was made to take up his pen, not in defence of her, but in the correction of statements that affected certain persons who were alive.
In her last sickness when she found her end approaching, she insisted on every one leaving the room — it was her wish to die alone. And as she persisted, so was it, only one nurse standing by the door held ajar, and watching till she knew by the change of attitude, and a certain fixed look in the countenance, that Sister Dora had entered into her test.
"It was Christmas Eve when she passed away, and a dense fog, like a funeral pall, hung over the town and obscured every object a few feet from the ground. Under this strange canopy the market was being held, and people were busy buying and selling, and making preparations for the great Christmas festival on the following day; but when the deep boom of the passing bell announced the melancholy intelligence that Sister Dora had entered into her rest, a thrill of horror ran through the people, who, with blanched cheeks and bated breath, whispered, 'Can it be true?' Although for seven weeks the process of dissolution had been going on before their eyes, they could not realise the fact that she whom they loved and revered was no more."
The funeral took place on Saturday, the 28th of December. "The day was dark and dismal, the streets, covered with slush and sludge caused by the melted snow, were thronged with spectators. There was general mourning in the town, and although it was market day nearly every shop was closed during the time of the funeral, and all the blinds along the route of the procession were drawn. . . . On reaching the cemetery it was found that four other funerals had arrived from the workhouse; and as these coffins had been taken into the chapel there was no room for Sister Dora's, which had, consequently, to be placed in the porch. This was as Sister Dora would have wished, had she had the ordering of the arrangements, for she always gave preference to the poor, to whom she was attached in life, and from whom she would not have desired to be separated in death."
True to her thought of others, in the midst of her last sufferings, she had made arrangements for a Christmas dinner to be given to a number of her old patients, in accordance with a custom of hers in previous years; but on this occasion the festive proceedings were shorn of their gladness. All thought of her who in her pain and on her deathbed had thought of them. Every one tried, but ineffectually, to cheer and comfort the other, but the task was hopeless. One young lady, after the meal, and while the Christmas tree was being lighted commenced singing the pretty little piece, "Far Away," but when she came to the words:
Some are gone from us forever
she burst into tears; and the women present sobbed, and tears were seen stealing down the cheeks of bearded men.
The Walsall writer of "A Review" concludes his paper thus:
She is no idol to us, but we worship her memory as the most saintly thing that was ever given us. Her name is immortalised, both by her own surpassing goodness, and by the love of a whole people for her—a love that will survive through generations, and give a magic and a music to those simple words, "Sister Dora," long after we shall have passed away. There was little we could ever do—there was nothing she would let us do—to relieve the self-imposed rigours of her life; but we love her in all sincerity, and now !in our helplessness we find a serene joy in the knowledge that to her, as surely as to any human soul, will be spoken the divine words: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
In Sister Dora, surely we have the highest type of the Christian life, the inner and hidden life of the soul, the life that is hid in God, combined with that outer life devoted to the doing of good to suffering and needy humanity. In, the cloistered nun we see only the first, and that tends to become self-centred and morbid ; it is redeemed from this vice by an active life of self-sacrifice.
I cannot do better than, in conclusion, quote from the last letter ever penned by Sister Dora:
"It is 2.30 A. M., and I cannot sleep, so I am going to write to you. I was anything but 'forbearing,' dear; I was overbearing, and I am truly sorry for it now. I look back on my life and see `nothing but leaves.' Oh, my darling, let me speak to you from my deathbed, and say, watch in all you do that you have a single aim — God's honour and glory. 'I came not to work my own work, but the works of Him that sent me.' Look upon working as a privilege.. Do not look upon nursing in the way they do so much nowadays, as an art or science, but as work done for Christ. As you touch each patient, think it is Christ Himself, and then virtue will come out of the touch to yourself. I have felt that myself, when I have had a particularly loathsome patient. Be full of the Glad Tidings, and you will tell others. You cannot give what you have not got"