there of death or disease; it was something thinner than of yore, somewhat grayer, and the deep lines of age more marked; but, as far as he could judge, life might yet hang there for weeks to come. Sir Lamda Mewnew and Sir Omicron Pie had thrice been wrong, and might yet be wrong thrice again. The old bishop slept during twenty of the twenty–four hours, but during the short periods of his waking moments, he knew both his son and his dear friend Mr Harding, the archdeacon’s father–in–law, and would thank them tenderly for their care and love. Now he lay sleeping like a baby, resting easily on his back, his mouth just open, and his few gray hairs straggling from beneath his cap; his breath was perfectly noiseless, and his thin, wan hand, which lay above the coverlid, never moved. Nothing could be easier than the old man’s passage from this world to the next.

But by no means easy were the emotions of him who sat there watching. He knew it must be now or never. He was already over fifty, and there was little chance that his friends who were now leaving office would soon return to it. No probable British prime minister but he who was now in, he who was so soon to be out, would think of making a bishop of Dr Grantly. Thus he thought long and sadly, in deep silence, and then gazed at that still living face, and then at last dared to ask himself whether he really longed for his father’s death.

The effort was a salutary one, and the question was answered in a moment. The proud, wishful, worldly man, sank on his knees by the bedside, and taking the bishop’s hand within his own, prayed eagerly that his sins might be forgiven him.

His face was still buried in the clothes when the door of the bed–room opened noiselessly, and Mr Harding entered with a velvet step. Mr Harding’s attendance at that bedside had been nearly as constant as that of the archdeacon, and his ingress and egress was as much a matter of course as that of his son–in–law. He was standing close beside the archdeacon before he was perceived, and would have also knelt in prayer had he not feared that his doing so might have caused some sudden start, and have disturbed the dying man. Dr Grantly, however, instantly perceived him, and rose from his knees. As he did so Mr Harding took both his hands, and pressed them warmly. There was more fellowship between them at that moment than there had ever been before, and it so happened that after circumstances greatly preserved the feeling. As they stood there pressing each other’s hands, the tears rolled freely down their cheeks.

‘God bless you, my dears,’—said the bishop with feeble voice as he woke—’God bless you—may God bless you both, my dear children:’ and so he died.

There was no loud rattle in the throat, no dreadful struggle, no palpable sign of death; but the lower jaw fell a little from its place, and the eyes, which had been so constantly closed in sleep, now remained fixed and open. Neither Mr Harding nor Dr Grantly knew that life was gone, though both suspected it.

‘I believe it’s all over,’ said Mr Harding, still pressing the other’s hands. ‘I think—nay, I hope it is.’

‘I will ring the bell,’ said the other, speaking all but in a whisper. ‘Mrs Phillips should be here.’

Mrs Phillips, the nurse, was soon in the room, and immediately, with practised hand, closed those staring eyes.

‘It’s all over, Mrs Phillips?’ asked Mr Harding.

‘My lord’s no more,’ said Mrs Phillips, turning round and curtseying with a solemn face; ‘His lordship’s gone more like a sleeping baby than any that I ever saw.’

‘It’s a great relief, archdeacon,’ said Mr Harding, ‘A great relief—dear good, excellent old man. Oh that our last moments may be as innocent and peaceful as his!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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