The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33
I sat by the head of my Friend.
His mutterings were low, but the subjects were terrible. It seemed as if fiends had seized his soul within the body, and were tormenting it. I laid my hand upon his head: it was throbbing and fiery. My hand soothed him: he heaved a slight sigh, and his mutterings became milder. I removed my hand: then his torments grew more intense than before. I replaced my hand : his anguish subsided again. My hand grew hot: his groans increased. I removed it, to cool it—the simple removal effected this. I replaced it: he was quieted once more. My hand was shortly in a fresh glow. I repeated the action. Accidentally I laid hold of one of his hands : it was like burning coal, and I would have relinquished it had I not noticed that, whilst I held his hand (my other hand resting on his head) the respite from his pain was more marked than before. An electrical and rather unpleasant feeling ran up my arms whilst in this position; but it brought such apparent relief to the sufferer, that I sat fixed in the chair, steadfastly holding his hand in mine, and removing and reapplying my other hand to his head.
Now, it was a pallet bedstead; and as I, to cool my hand, removed it from my Friend's head, from time page 14 to time, it went towards the corner of the room in which the bedstead was placed. I was so much absorbed in contemplating his condition, whilst the operation ameliorated his madness, that the motion of my hand, in removing and returning it to his head, became regular and mechanical.
Slowly, slowly,—down, and down, and down,—like ebbing waters on a flat beach, declined the delirium, till my Friend's respiration was soft, low, and un-troubled. Still did I continue the operation. His breathings became lighter and more prolonged. I was engaged perhaps half an hour, when a little sigh arose from him, which pierced me like an arrow of lightning, and the transformation of his face caused me to start in agony.
He was dead. Dead! I knew by the evidence of my senses. Dead! by the conviction of my heart,—though I had never seen the metamorphosis of life into death before.
I sat awe-stricken and paralyzed.
A sigh, from the corner whither I had directed my hand in its motions, aroused me. The sigh was as the echo of the last I had heard from my Friend. Was it from him? I looked steadfastly at his face. No! A new power was enthroned there, changing with swift potency the empire of intelligence that lately was supreme on every lineament, though shaken by the invasion of madness.
It now occurred to me,—less from memory than from intuition,—that, on every passage of my hand, an Influence seemed to have been gathering in that corner, which gave to my fingers on approaching an acute and page 15 indescribable sensation. I reached out my hand into the corner. The sensation seized on my fingers, and thrilled up to my shoulder. My attention was concentrated on this phenomenon; and on withdrawing my hand, the Influence came with it.
There was a footstep on the stairs. I turned round just as the good man came in at the door. He gave one glance at the dead body, clasped his hands, looked up to heaven, and murmured a prayer. "What shall we do?" said I, when he had finished. "Leave the last mournful rites to me," he replied. "I may see you again." By the tone of his voice he bade me be gone, as one who might desecrate the death-bed.
I left the house and made towards my lodgings. The good man's words, or rather the inference therefrom, had shaken my soul, and I was half way on my road before I was aware that the sensation in my hand continued. I was then conscious of the presence of the Influence. My hand tingled strangely and somewhat painfully. From its natural position, the Influence appeared compressed between the palm of my hand and my body, so that I walked awkwardly. I twisted my hand, that the palm might be from me. I then walked with ease, but the Influence still accompanied me, as I knew by the tingling feeling, living unweakened, and thrilling to my very brain.