We made her study cosy with home comforts, and she called it her "workshop." She arranged her pictures: by the door was her motto "For Jesus' sake only," and her Temperance pledge card; besides, were her father's portrait, and below it "Sunset on the Lake of Geneva," "The martyrs in prison," "Astley Church and Rectory," also "The Snow Peaks of the Dent du Midi," and the "Alpine Geum," (choice gifts from her friend Helga v. Cramm,) with many home portraits and busts.
Her small but choice library showed the variety of her taste, classical, foreign, poetical, with many works on science, geology, etc.; Humboldt's and Professor Ritchie's works (his last gift) she much enjoyed, when the scant leisure came. (The last books she had in reading were: "The Earth's Formation on Dynamical Principles," by A. T. Ritchie; Goodwin's Works; "The Life and Letters of the Rev. W. Pennefather," of which she said, " I find such food in that book "; and "The Upward Gaze," by her friend Agnes Giberne, with which she was delighted.)
May I sketch her at her study table, in her favourite chair from Astley Rectory, older than herself? Her American type-writer was close by, so that she could turn to it from her desk; it was a great relief to her eyes, but its rapid working often told me she was busy when she should have rested. Her desk and table drawers were all methodically arranged for letters from editors, friends, relatives, strangers, matters of business, multitudinous requests, Irish Society work, manuscripts; paper and string "in their allotted corners, no litter ever allowed. It was at her study table that she read her Bible by seven o'clock in the summer and eight o'clock in winter; her Hebrew Bible, Greek Testament, and lexicons being at hand. Sometimes, on bitterly cold mornings, I begged that she would read with her feet comfortably to the fire, and received the reply: "But then, Marie, I can't rule my lines neatly; just see what a find I've got! If one only searches, there are such extraordinary things in the Bible!"
Her harp-piano was placed on a stand she contrived by dexterous carpentering. It was at this instrument she composed her last sacred song, "Loving all Along," and many other melodies to her hymns in "Loyal Responses." Often I heard flashes of melody thereon, that came unbidden amid severer work.
In the south window, its sea view stretching over to Ilfracombe, stood her little table, flowers, and easy chair. Her sofa faced the west window, with the view of Caswell Bay and its rocks, and there the sunsets came, which we so often watched together.
It may be useful to younger readers to mention how resolutely she refrained from late hours, and frittering talks at night, instead of Bible searching and holy communings. Early rising and early studying were her rule through life, while punctuality, and bright, quick, cheeriness characterized all she did. She writes: "'In order' (i Cor. xiv. 40) is something more than being tidy! something analogous to 'keeping rank.'"
To a friend, Frances wrote at this time:
I don't think I ever felt more thankful and glad for anything than on reaching this quiet little nest. God has so graciously and perfectly met our special need. I must pass on to you the last text I have been enjoying, Exodus xv. 13; what can we want more! and it is Thy mercy and strength all along. And then the "holy habitation" of the present, and the future one, from which we shall "go no more out."
But the "lull in life" never came, even in Wales.
"Rests'" There is none for me apparently. Every post brings more letters from strangers alone than I and my sister can answer It is nine months since I have had a chance of doing a stroke of new work! But letters were a trouble to Nehemiah as well as to me (Neh. vi. 4), and I must try to make it always work for my King.
It may seem strange that she should have had so to wear her strength away; and the following requests, which came by one post, will show what labour was required in answering them all.
Request for contribution to Irish Church Advocate, Hymns for special New Year services wanted. To write cards suitable for mourners. For set of six more "Marching Orders." Request for poems to illustrate six pictures. For prayer, sympathy and counsel (two sheets crossed). Two sheets from a septuagenarian, requiring thought. Request to write a book suitable for Unitarians. Sundry inquiries and apologies from one who had been printing her verses with another author's name. Request to reprint an article, with four explanatory enclosures. Also to revise a proof and add my opinion. To revise many sheets of musical manuscripts: Three requests to supply cards for bazaars. Advice wanted how to get articles inserted in magazines. To recommend pupils. To promote a new magazine. To give opinion on an oratorio. Some long poems in manuscript to revise and advise thereon. Besides packets of leaflets and cards wanted.
In addition to all this, musical proofs reached her almost daily, which often required many hours of careful revision and thought; and those accustomed to the sight of the Fireside Almanack will remember how "the sayings of the Lord Jesus" had there been arranged by her for the year which was her last. All this absorbed an amount of time which can scarcely now be realized; and yet she always wrote pleasantly and cheerily, and many a word of refreshment came from that wearied hand. Unasked, she undertook to chapterize the manuscript of "Never Say Die," and to add the required headings. Writing to S. G. P., she says:
Time spent on it is overpaid; it brings to me all the sweetness and freshness of the old, old story. I keep reading it for myself. My sister agrees with me that the book is exceptional, and in fact unique; and I do trust that you may have, or rather that the Master may have, a very harvest of souls from its circulation.
To its author, when working among the mourners at the Nant-y-glo colliery, she writes:
I enclose you a wee bit more, it has been quite a weight on my mind that I could not do more to help such terrible need. I was pledged to other collections, and my own purse is not unfathomable. So I was driven to do at last what I had much better have done at first, viz. pray that the Lord would show me some way of sending a little, and of course two or three ways flashed into my mind. May the good Lord give you many souls for your hire, for this service.
. . . . I have often found that the greater the difficulties, the greater the "very present help"; and of course Jesus will be "the same" to you, dear Ceci. . . . If ever one had gracious guidance in one's life it is now; the place is so precisely what we wanted, a regular case of Philippians iv. 19. I was terribly tired and used up when I got here, but am ever so much better already, though the "rest" has at present been only as to no "interviews." . . . Must hand on to you and Edith the text which more than any other has struck me in our readings lately; I have lived on it.
"Sweet is Thy mercy," and "great is Thy mercy toward me," On Sunday look at Exodus xxxii. 29, and connect with John vi. 53-55. Think of "those things" and "eat" them: living on, and satisfied with, Christ's precious body and blood. "Eat, O friends!"
Written and compiled by Maria Havergal, Memorials of F.R.H., (London: Nisbet & Co., 1880), pp 258 - 263.