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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Colonel Newcome’s Death
By William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863)
 
From ‘The Newcomes’

CLIVE, and the boy sometimes with him, used to go daily to Grey Friars, where the colonel still lay ill. After some days the fever which had attacked him left him; but left him so weak and enfeebled that he could only go from his bed to the chair by his fireside. The season was exceedingly bitter; the chamber which he inhabited was warm and spacious: it was considered unadvisable to move him until he had attained greater strength and till warmer weather. The medical men of the House hoped he might rally in spring. My friend Dr. Goodenough came to him; he hoped too, but not with a hopeful face. A chamber, luckily vacant, hard by the colonel’s, was assigned to his friends, where we sat when we were too many for him. Besides his customary attendant, he had two dear and watchful nurses, who were almost always with him,—Ethel, and Madame de Florac who had passed many a faithful year by an old man’s bedside; who would have come, as to a work of religion, to any sick couch,—much more to this one, where he lay for whose life she would once gladly have given her own.  1
  But our colonel, we all were obliged to acknowledge, was no more our friend of old days. He knew us again, and was good to every one round him, as his wont was; especially, when Boy came his old eyes lighted up with simple happiness, and with eager trembling hands he would seek under his bedclothes, or the pockets of his dressing-gown, for toys or cakes, which he had caused to be purchased for his grandson. There was a little laughing, red-cheeked, white-headed gown-boy of the school, to whom the old man had taken a great fancy. One of the symptoms of his returning consciousness and recovery, as we hoped, was his calling for this child, who pleased our friend by his archness and merry ways; and who, to the old gentleman’s unfailing delight, used to call him “Codd Colonel.” “Tell little F—— that Codd Colonel wants to see him;” and the little gown-boy was brought to him: and the colonel would listen to him for hours, and hear all about his lessons and his play; and prattle, almost as childishly, about Dr. Raine and his own early school-days. The boys of the school, it must be said, had heard the noble old gentleman’s touching history, and had all got to know and love him. They came every day to hear news of him; sent him in books and papers to amuse him; and some benevolent young souls—God’s blessing on all honest boys, say I—painted theatrical characters and sent them in to Codd Colonel’s grandson. The little fellow was made free of gown-boys, and once came thence to his grandfather in a little gown, which delighted the old man hugely. Boy said he would like to be a little gown-boy; and I make no doubt, when he is old enough, his father will get him that post, and put him under the tuition of my friend Dr. Senior.  2
  So weeks passed away, during which our dear old friend still remained with us. His mind was gone at intervals, but would rally feebly; and with his consciousness returned his love, his simplicity, his sweetness. He would talk French with Madame de Florac; at which time his memory appeared to awaken with surprising vividness, his cheek flushed, and he was a youth again,—a youth all love and hope,—a stricken old man, with a beard as white as snow covering the noble careworn face. At such times he called her by her Christian name of Léonore; he addressed courtly old words of regard and kindness to the aged lady; anon he wandered in his talk, and spoke to her as if they still were young. Now, as in those early days, his heart was pure; no anger remained in it; no guile tainted it: only peace and good-will dwelt in it.  3
  Rosey’s death had seemed to shock him for a while when the unconscious little boy spoke of it. Before that circumstance, Clive had even forborne to wear mourning, lest the news should agitate his father. The colonel remained silent and was verv much disturbed all that day, but he never appeared to comprehend the fact quite; and once or twice afterward asked why she did not come to see him? She was prevented, he supposed—she was prevented, he said, with a look of terror;—he never once otherwise alluded to that unlucky tyrant of his household who had made his last years so unhappy.  4
  The circumstance of Clive’s legacy he never understood; but more than once spoke of Barnes to Ethel, and sent his compliments to him, and said he should like to shake him by the hand. Barnes Newcome never once offered to touch that honored hand, though his sister bore her uncle’s message to him. They came often from Bryanstone Square; Mrs. Hobson even offered to sit with the colonel, and read to him, and brought him books for his improvement. But her presence disturbed him; he cared not for her books: the two nurses whom he loved faithfully watched him; and my wife and I were admitted to him sometimes, both of whom he honored with regard and recognition. As for F. B., in order to be near his colonel, did not that good fellow take up his lodgings in Cistercian Lane, at the Red Cow? He is one whose errors, let us hope, shall be pardoned, quia multum amavit. I am sure he felt ten times more joy at hearing of Clive’s legacy than if thousands had been bequeathed to himself. May good health and good fortune speed him!  5
  The days went on; and our hopes, raised sometimes, began to flicker and fall. One evening the colonel left his chair for his bed in pretty good spirits; but passed a disturbed night, and the next morning was too weak to rise. Then he remained in his bed, and his friends visited him there. One afternoon he asked for his little gown-boy, and the child was brought to him, and sat by the bed with a very awe-stricken face; and then gathered courage, and tried to amuse him by telling him how it was a half-holiday, and they were having a cricket match with the St. Peter’s boys in the green, and Grey Friars was in and winning. The colonel quite understood about it: he would like to see the game; he had played many a game on that green when he was a boy. He grew excited: Clive dismissed his father’s little friend, and put a sovereign into his hand; and away he ran to say that Codd Colonel had come into a fortune, and to buy tarts, and to see the match out. I, curre, little white-haired gown-boy! Heaven speed you, little friend.  6
  After the child had gone, Thomas Newcome began to wander more and more. He talked louder; he gave the word of command, spoke Hindustanee as if to his men. Then he spoke words in French rapidly, seizing a hand that was near him, and crying, “Toujours, toujours!” But it was Ethel’s hand which he took. Ethel and Clive and the nurse were in the room with him; the nurse came to us, who were sitting in the adjoining apartment; Madame de Florac was there with my wife and Bayham.  7
  At the look in the woman’s countenance Madame de Florac started up. “He is very bad; he wanders a great deal,” the nurse whispered. The French lady fell instantly on her knees, and remained rigid in prayer.  8
  Some time afterward Ethel came in with a scared face to our pale group. “He is calling for you again, dear lady,” she said, going up to Madame de Florac, who was still kneeling; “and just now he said he wanted Pendennis to take care of his boy. He will not know you.” She hid her tears as she spoke.  9
  She went into the room where Clive was at the bed’s foot: the old man within it talked on rapidly for a while; then again he would sigh and be still; once more I heard him say hurriedly, “Take care of him when I’m in India;” and then with a heart-rending voice he called out, “Léonore, Léonore!” She was kneeling by his side now. The patient voice sank into faint murmurs; only a moan now and then announced that he was not asleep.  10
  At the usual evening hour the chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome’s hands outside the bed feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, “Adsum!” and fell back. It was the word we used at school when names were called; and lo, he, whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of The Master.  11
 
 
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