CHAPTER IX. The Banks of the Jordan

1844, 1845.

The Melodean too late – Birth of her son – Adventure with a boa constrictor – Death of Miss Pierce – Mrs. Bradley’s last letter to her mother – Perseverance in labor – Counsels to Children, natives, etc. – Peaceful departure – The memory of the righteous blessed

“Oh, even when I met thy look, I knew that this would be;
I knew too well that length of days was not a gift for thee:
I saw it in thy kindling cheek, and in they bearing high,
A voice came whispering to my soul, and told me thou must die.”

When Mrs. Bradley left America, she bade an adieu, which we supposed was final, to instrumental music; but as she now perceived the need of its cheering and refining influence upon her family in that land of darkness, she had procured a melodeon from Boston, and in August, 1843, she requested that her large folio of music might be sent from her home in Clinton. This was accordingly done; but owing to unavoidable delays, it was not shipped until the eye which would have greeted it with delight, had been to some months closed in death.

November 18, 1843, God gave her a son, who was named Cornelius Beach, and who is now, 1856, living in the city where he was born.

We regret that we know so little of our friend’s history during the year 1844, especially as it was the last year of her life. The voice of her Journal which has heretofore reached our ear so distinctly is now silent. Her correspondence with American friends was not interrupted, and from it we learn some interesting events. We gather the idea that her missionary labors were less abundant, and her physical sufferings less severe. In the letters which follow, there is no indication that flesh and heart were failing. It would seem that her domestic duties, together with teaching a few native children, were all she had strength to bear.

“Bangkok, July, 23, 1844

“Two or three months since, Sophia had a creeper hen, with a brood of chickens, which was placed in a basket at night close by our bedroom door. One night Dr. Bradley heard her flutter, and taking a light, went out and uncovered the basket. To his great surprise he saw a boa constrictor coiled around her, having already crushed her to death, with one of her chickens. He called for a weapon, and I sprang for my yardstick, which proved itself a stout one. I cannot tell you how his snakeship bore the beating and stabbing, but I can assure you the doctor laid about his head most manfully. He was left with the natives a moment, and escaped and came rolling into my room. I dare not flee, but called Dr. Bradley back to the field of combat, who soon waited upon him out again, where he was secured and hung up for the night, but it was not dead in the morning. It was about six feet long. No doubt you will like to know how your protege behaved under the excitement of such a scene. Now you know that I am not good at fainting, and scream I can not for my throat will not yet bear it and as to any thing else, I had no time, for I had as much as I could do to furnish lamps and weapons for the combat.”

Miss Mary Pierce, a missionary teacher, was an inmate Mrs. Bradley’s family from the commencement of the year 1840, and was affectionately cared for and advised as a younger and less experienced sister. Mrs. Bradley watched over her through a long period of decline till her death, September 22, 1844, with tender and unceasing care. The remains of these two Christian sisters now repose side by side under a small mango-tree, in that land of cross darkness and moral desolation.

A letter Mrs. Bradley to her mother shows that Miss Pierce’s sickness, death, and the attendant circumstances engrossed much of her time and strength til the end of the year.

“Bangkok, September 17, 1844.

“My dear Mother—-It is ten o’clock, and having made all my arrangements for my family, I am about to spend the night in watching with Miss Pierce. She is very low, and will soon leave us, to join, I doubt not, the glorious assembly who stand in the presence of God and the Lamb. She has bennlosing flesh very rapidly during the last six months, and is now a mere skeleton. We have rather expected, till within this month, that ashe would recover, and had commenced making preparations for her return to her native land. This expedient for her restoration would have been suggested to her much sooner, had she not so often expressed her decided wish never to return. When the doctor spoke of it, she was not willing to try it, and when he afterwards told her that she would soon leave us, not for America, but for a better land, she said that the latter was preferable. She has failed very rapidly within a few days. Her sufferings are not severe.

“She has been making rapid advances in the divine life for two or three years. All her arrangements for death have been made with perfect calmness. Today, a box from her native village has arrived, and she has looked at the articles, and had them laid aside, read a few of the letters it contained, and is waiting to read the others tomorrow, if able. How important to be ready for death; to have an abundant ‘entrance into the kingdom of our Redeemer; to live with our lamps trimmed and burning, waiting for the coming of our Lord! I often think of my father’s house, and inquire, Shall we all meet in that better world, where sin and sorrow and parting shall be no more? Is my title to a heavenly inheritance sure? Are all of us who profess to know him so living that we do not in works deny him? And what shall be said for those who do not even profess to love our adorable Saviour?

“Now I must tell you something of my employments, or rather, what they usually are, for my plans are of course deranged by Miss Pierce’s sickness. I rise early, and spend my time till half past nine in any work about house; then I ring the bell, and my great school assembles, now consisting of three and sometimes four scholars! There is a native girl of about fourteen who classes well with Jane, and who studies with her to the decided benefit of both, for they are totally unlike in the turn of their minds. Mr. Hemenway continues his singing-school with his usual perseverance, at half-past eleven o’clock. This half hour is the only one during the day, that I am free from the care of the children. At twelve they return, and are bathed, sleep, etc., till two, when we dine. The famine which now prevails is a tax upon our time, as we can not give to all who are suffering, and we try in various ways to find who of all the beggers are most deserving of relief. Crops are favorable, and we hope for better times. Rice is five times its usual price.

“Well, I undertook to tell a story of my doings, but when I cast about for them, I see they cannot be put upon paper. But I am busy from morning till night, and actively employed. I grow strong and fleshy upon it. My cough hangs on yet; but I can read and sing, and that distressing irritability of the throat is gone. My neighbors talk to me about being worn out, and needing rest; but I preach and practise exercise. ‘How can it be good to force myself to study while I am so weak?’ is argument enough for any one suffering under the lassitude of this zone. Love to my dear father and brothers. I value the letters of my parents most highly, and hope you will both write as often as possible. Do not wait one for another.

“Dec. 6. We are well. I have been unable to resume teaching the children, as the burden of examining and disposing of Miss Pierce’s affairs came upon me; also much extra writing.

“Your daughter,
“Emelie.

“P.S. Being weighed proved that my boast of flesh was rather empty, as I weigh but eighty-five pounds; while my great boy, of a year old, weighs twenty-two pounds.”

Early in the year 1845, it was manifested that a sharp neuralgia, great loss of appetite, with an unyielding pulmonary affection, were slowly taking down her earthly tabernacle. Still an uncomplaining, cheerful sufferer, she attended to the wants of her household. While her outer nature was crumbling to dust, the inner was waxing stronger day by day. The casket was decaying, but the jewel was receiving a higher polish for the Master’s diadem. Although she could perform no active service abroad, she was not an unprofitable member of the missionary family while she could devise plans to advance the interests of the mission, guide and ably instruct her children, and continue to be, as she always was, the affectionate wife and counsellor in whom her husband ever confided. In February and March, 1845, her decline became more visible and rapid. In June of this year, she wrote to her mother the last letter written by her own hand:

“My dearest other—-I suppose that I might with propriety date this letter from the ‘banks of Jordan,’ for there my self and others have considered me to be for my weeks. My symptoms are now more favorable for life; but when I look at my emaciated frame, and consider my feebleness, and remember the delusive nature of pulmonary diseases, I do not indulge very sanguine hopes. Oh, my mother, this is a solemn place to live in, the eternal world in full view, and a life of sin behind. Now I have felt the blessedness of having a Saviour, and almighty Saviour to flee to. O what a time it would have been had I now first sought him when flesh and heart were failing! No, far as I had lived from him, he did not hide himself from me when I saw all earthly props torn away. I now see that it is as great a thing to be prepared to live as to die; and at that solemn hour I prayed that the Lord would not permit me to return to life, unless he would also grant me grace to live to his glory. Formerly I had felt that I must live for the sake of my children; now I saw how unfaithful I had been as a mother, and I knew my children might be better or without me than with me. Why is it that we make it necessary for the Lord to bring us into such straits, before we will give him our whole hearts? Do you find, as age advances, that there is an increasing preparedness to leave this world? These are plain questions for a daughter, perhaps too plain, but I stand in a solemn place, and must not trifle with the souls I love best.”

Weakened by disease as was Mrs. Bradley she did not entirely relinquish her domestic cares and employments until the last two weeks of her life. During that period she dictated messages, faithful and appro- priate for each of her near relatives on the night previous to her decease, while two of the missionary sisters were watching by her bed- side, she fell into a state of unconsciousness. Dr. Bradley was called, and flew to her bedside, agonized with the thought that probably he had failed to catch the last look of her eye, and the last word from her lips. But after a season she rallied, opened her eyes and spoke. She talked of the love of Christ, and the glory of those mansions which he had gone to prepare for his followers. The natives about her were called, and to them she addressed a solemn, earnest, and affectionate exhortation. Then her daughters: to them she talked of that heaven she was soon to enjoy, and bade them prepare to join her there, adding some remarks strikingly impressive to their young minds. She then stretched out her trembling arms to give a parting embrace to her dearest friends–and her earthly work was done. Still, however, breath and consciousness until the hour of eleven A.M., when her spirit peacefully departed, August 2. 1845.

The bereaved husband soon after wrote: “The funeral took place on Sabbath-day, the third instant, in the afternoon. Brother Peet being our pastor, officiated. There was a very unusual sympathy manifested by all the English residents, sea-captains, and Siamese. Several of the high dignitaries of Siam were at the funeral, and others called to express their sympathetic sorrows. Emelie was very generally known by the officers of government, as well as by the common people, from being brought among them by the peculiarities of my business; and I can with much propriety say, that she was respected by all. Every one praised her for her admirable qualities, brilliancy of mind, and her power to speak the language. On Sabbath, the tenth instant, brother Peet preached her funeral-sermon before the missionaries, and I believe all the Englishmen in port. He spoke in high commendation of the deceased, in the several relations of neighbor, mother, wife, Christian, and missionary. Her mortal remains are deposited in a Chinese garden owned by our Baptist brethren, a little way behind their compound. I am now taking measures to erect a plain and neat monument over her grave, and that of Mary E. Pierce. I shall have them fenced in, and shall no doubt love to go often alone, and go also with the dear motherless children, to reflect on the loveliness of the wife and the mother, and to bedew her grave with our tears.”

Reproduced from: A Sketch of The Life and Character of Mrs. Emelie Royce Bradley, Ten Years a Missionary in Siam by Nancy Royce c.1865. Please notify of any transcription inaccuracies to DigitalBangkokRecorder