Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 20, 1909.djvu/187

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157
Howitt and Fison.

of those charming letters which down to the last he wrote to the sister who shared the dear memories of the happy youthful days at Barningham in Suffolk. In the same letter in which he tells his sister of the commendation bestowed by Mr. Chamberlain upon his treatise on the Fijian land system,[1] Mr. Fison writes thus: "There is no particular news; and even if there were, I have no time to tell it. I never was so hard wrought in my life as I have been of late. Sluicing on the diggings was hard enough, for you had to keep the sluice boxes full while the water was running; but it was over for the day when sundown came. My present work has no sundown." When Mr. Fison wrote thus he had nearly completed his seventy-first year. Not long afterwards his health, which under the pressure of hard work and domestic anxieties had been failing for some time, broke down completely. An affection of the heart necessitated absolute repose, and for the few remaining years of his life Mr. Fison was in body, though never in mind or spirit, a shattered invalid. Happily the country whom he had served so well and so loyally did not forget him in his poverty and old age. In the spring of 1905, at Mr. Balfour's recommendation, His Majesty the King was graciously pleased to recognise Mr. Fison's services to his country and to science by granting him a pension of £150 a year. So there was light at the evening-tide of a long and strenuous day.[2]

Though he could no longer work at the things he loved most, his interest in them never flagged to the end, and I still received from time to time letters written in his now tremulous hand, which proved that the keen intelligence

  1. See above, p. 150.
  2. Perhaps without a breach of confidence I may be allowed to quote a fragment of one of Mr. Fison's letters which has been placed in my hands by his sister: "… looking than she was in her youth. She has been a good wife to me, and I thank God for her every day of my life. If we only had a small competence, we should toddle down the rest of the decline hand in hand with gladsome hearts." The beginning of the first sentence is lost.