The Great Plague
The Bubonic Plague reached England in 1348. It would continue to return with all its horror throughout the seventeenth century. Deaths reached as high as 75 percent of the population.
In the autumn of 1665, the Plague, now referred to as the Black Death, revisited the Isles and stayed into 1666. As it had done before, it spread rapidly and left sorrow in its tracks, thus its name—The Great Plague. In the last major outbreak, an estimated 100,000 had perished, before it ceased. Four out of five people died within the first eight days. The survivors, boarded up inside their infected homes, could not leave and thus met their doom. A red cross was painted on the doors of the condemned with the words “Lord have mercy on us.”
Dead bodies were collected in the evenings, piled in carts, and transported outside cities and villages for quick burials in public pits. Fires burned ceaselessly with strong essences such as pepper, hops, and frankincense in an effort to cleanse the air. People were encouraged to smoke in the expectation that it might save them.
Edgar, exhausted and famished, sat on the chair beside his sick wife. His jacket was tossed on the floor; his stained white dress shirt clung to his chest. He had opened the door and window shutters for fresh ventilation, but the air in the stone cottage remained stifling. The humidity from the upcoming storm loomed unbearably in the room, and he prayed for the rain to start soon and usher in fresh breezes.
He held Lydia’s limp, grey hand as she lay on the bed in a pool of sweat. He murmured gently to her while she moaned and coughed in pain, barely alive. Soon his wife would leave him forever.
With his left hand, Edgar cleared off the perspiration from his forehead, nose and chin, and wiped it on his shirt. He released Lydia’s hand to dip a rag in the bowl of meager silt water, wipe her face, shoulders, and arms; and moisten her mouth. He smiled at her, but she didn’t recognize him.
“Soon, my dear, you will see your parents and our twins.”
“My fault. My fault. I caused this,” she murmured.
“You did no wrong. How could you know?”
“Edmond, Emma, forgive me,” she cried out hoarsely.
“Darling, shh. Allowing Edmond and Emma to walk to the printing office while you went to the orphanage did not cause the curse upon our family.”
Lydia grew silent.
Edgar could do nothing while her occasional cries for forgiveness cut through him. He sat by her side as the hours ticked; she lay motionless and quiet.
When Healer Cliona arrived yesterday, she warned him to expect Lydia’s death within the next 24 hours unless they found fresh water. Edgar had wept. Lydia lived beyond her expected time. Whether the tears he shed were for the end of her agony, or sadness over her impending death, he did not know.
He sat next to her, dozing off once in a while. He ached all over and his throat burned. When she groaned, he would awaken, soothe her with soft murmurs, and wet her mouth. The river ran low as a result of the drought, and they were short clean water. What he could find he used for his wife, taking little for himself.
Lydia muttered, “Forgive me—” and became silent.
“Remember this song? Your favourite?” Edgar hummed the tune softly. “How I enjoy your enchanting voice. If only I could hear you sing again.”
He dipped the rag in the basin and, holding her mouth open, he moistened her dry tongue. Then he blotted her hair and face to mop up some of the moisture. She had not been bathed in days. He tried to clean her; however, her cries of pain sliced through him, and he quit, afraid to distress her more. She carried the stench of her affliction and smelled of sweat, dirty clothes, vomit, and the herbs Healer Cliona used. Lydia used to smell of jasmine. Edgar lifted her handkerchief from his jacket pocket and inhaled the sweet fragrant scent.
They had run out of supplies, so Cliona shared her staples. She camped outside their door and kept her healing broth warm over a fire.
No support came from the village. They knew the plague thrived there and dared not come near.
Food no longer mattered anyway. Lydia could not swallow and Edgar refused to eat while he watched his wife suffer on death’s bed.
Edgar looked through the tiny window. On the barren tree, the sparrow hawk called to the night. “Kek-kek caw.”
“Take me to my God!” Lydia screamed, and then she became silent once more.
“Kek-kek caw. Kek-kek caw. Kek-kek caw.”
“Shoo.” He waved his hand at the bird.
He had chased it off when they first arrived, but Lydia, conscious then, begged him to let the hawk stay. He remembered their conversation when she still spoke coherently.
“The bird protects me from evil,” she had asserted. “He says he is my friend and will lead me to God’s Home.”
“You are feverish, my Lydia. Rest. Forget that bird,” Edgar had responded.
“Kek-kek caw,” sang the sparrow hawk.
The cawing grated on Edgar. He feared the sparrow hawk lingered nearby because Lydia’s death did draw near.
God. Where was God while the plague ravaged the Isles? Where was the Creator’s resolution when I begged Him to save Emma and Edmond? Why did Heaven not help Lydia when I prayed to heal my wife? I gave generously of my money when the Church asked. Lydia sacrificed many hours at the orphanage. We attended church every Sunday. God has turned away from the Isles, and God has turned His back on me and my family.
Edgar came to believe that Heaven neglected his family, so he accepted Cliona’s offer. The Church disapproved of these pagan healers. Edgar could be sentenced to prison or death for dealing with her, especially a man of his prominence. If he lost Lydia, what care did he have to live? Heaven paid no attention. The doctor didn’t help. Only the Celtic Healer came by, and her reward? Death at the hands of the soldiers.
“Your call pierces my soul. Shout out then. When I can bear no more pain, I too will die,” he cried to the bird.
“God, why am I not sick? Why take my twins? Why must you steal my Lydia?” he asked.
Edgar rubbed Lydia’s hand but she didn’t respond. He sat in the chair and closed his eyes. “Soon, my sweet, you will see Heaven.”
For days, Lydia screamed Edgar’s name, oblivious that he sat beside her. He wished he didn’t have to watch his wife languish. Why can she not die quickly? Why does God not call her Home? Why should she suffer? Can you hear my pleas, Lord? Then I beg of you, release her from her pain.
Tirelessly, he had responded to her cries. “I am with you, my precious dear. Always.” His words would calm her. He repeated this phrase today with little reaction from her, until he voiced no more than a raspy whisper.
After screaming, she would lay back down, engulfed in silence and restless sleep. Now, she didn’t move. She hovered between her glorious Heaven and her tormented hell.
Think about anything else, he willed his mind while rubbing his brow.
He thought back to the day he met Lydia. Twelve years ago, he argued with his parents. They balked at the idea of a nouveau riche family with no nobility established in their line. Yet Lydia was well educated. And divine. Remarkably divine. Edgar had run into her on a street one day as he walked to meet his friends. She was hurrying along, running errands for the orphanage. Her fragrance halted him. When he looked into her eyes, it seemed he had always known her. He knew then that he loved her and he ached for her with an intense passion from that moment on.
“Dear sir, please permit me to pass,” she said.
Edgar weakened at the sound of her voice. “I will kindly let you by, fair lady, for an invite to dinner tonight.”
“We are not acquainted, sir. It is impolite to approach me like this,” she answered, insulted.
Edgar motioned for the nearest shopkeeper and whispered into the man’s ear.
“May I introduce Mr. Edgar Umbridge, Tax Collector for the King?” the man announced. Edgar waved him back to his store.
“How do you do. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Edgar removed his hat and bowed.
Embarrassed, she had curtseyed, “I am Lydia. The shopkeeper is my father.” She winked at her dad.
Edgar remembered their encounter fondly.
Lydia moved to walk past. He stepped in front of her, blocking her path. She turned to her father for help.
“I need lower taxes, not higher, my daughter. Do as he requests and invite him.”
She sighed and graciously asked, “I request you join us for dinner at our home on the corner of Sterling Street.”
“Tonight? Permit me to check my schedule,” Edgar retorted.
She blushed. “Dear sir,” she spoke softly, “you embarrass me.”
“Seven o’clock tonight?” he remarked loudly. “I am pleased to accept your invitation to meet your parents.” He stood aside and Lydia swept past him and continued down the street. He watched her until he could see her no more.
He knew they would marry. He couldn’t live without her; his desire for her consumed him days and nights. Now, his guilt for her pain etched deep down into his heart. If we had not married, she might be free of this affliction. How I argued with my parents. I would marry Lydia and no one else, with or without their blessing. When they finally agreed, our wedding day seemed like it would never arrive. How exquisite my bride looked. My passion for her engulfed me and I loved her throughout the night and the next day too.
Edgar came back from his thoughts for a moment. “Darling, remember the birth of our twins? When I held them in my arms? A fatherly love overcame me and reached to the depths of my soul. Their tiny hands and their eyes so blue like yours awakened such deep feelings within me. How Edmond relished his days exploring nature, often coming home with stray cats. I never let him keep any of them. Why not? What would have been the harm?” Edgar’s mind filled with remorse.
“Such a smart child mystified with his environment. I took pride in his writing talent. Did I relate to you that Mr. Snyder thanked me every time he spotted me for apprenticing Edmond to him? And what of Emma’s temper? Most stubborn for a young lady. She listened to Edmond though.”
Lydia struggled to draw a breath. Edgar gazed out the window. “When my father died and then my mother after him, I vowed to keep you and the children safe. Instead, I stole your lives from you. God has a wry sense of justice. He is indeed a vengeful Lord.”
“My Father, I want to come Home.” Lydia groaned.
“Save your energy, my dearest. I’m sorry to grieve you.” Edgar mopped her face and arms. I will soon be a man without a family, alone and deserving of it.
After his Lydia died, his last remaining relative would be his older half-brother from his father’s first wife. Lewis and his family lived in Italy a portion of the year, but even when Lewis came to England, he rarely visited Edgar.
Lydia’s moans broke his reverie. Edgar wet her mouth and kissed her forehead. He reminisced of the day when the children came home with a filthy dog they found in the street; hungry and hurt. They and Lydia begged to keep him and Edgar couldn’t refuse. They named him Hunter. Hunter favoured Edgar and Edgar enjoyed walking him in the evenings.
When I learned about the scourge, I only let Hunter out, still the children became ill. If only I found out sooner. Lydia and I comforted them the best we could. When the doctor warned me our dog might be the carrier, I saw only one choice. I needed to save my loved ones.
“Hunter,” Edgar yelled, “forgive me my injustice to you.” A chill passed over him. If we had had a cat instead, I would have left it outside. The dog stayed indoors because I thought it cruel to leave him out.
Why didn’t I suggest I wanted to walk him? Why did I tell them the truth? Why did I choose the backyard to hit him on the head with that rock? I desperately believed they’d feel better. I murdered them as surely as I killed Hunter. I buried the dog. My children received no such honour.
Edgar wiped his wet face. I made many mistakes, which cost me the lives of those I love.
“Dear Lydia, I should apologize, not you. How you and the children cried. I chose wrongly, which caused the death of our children. They suffered in torment throughout the night even though we held them and sang to them. By midmorning they died. I am sorry, Lydia.”
She gave no response.
I am glad I had the foresight to gather the family papers and to write a letter to my brother. I pray they are safe in Europe so the Umbridge line will continue. The letter accounted for everything. Edgar delivered it to a doctor he knew well. The doctor gave him some medicine to ease the children’s pain, and let him know that Lydia’s parents had succumbed. He also informed Edgar that they no longer considered dogs and cats as the carriers.
Edgar sat in the chair, his eyes moist, remembering his children’s screams from their room to save their precious dog and Lydia’s begging for Hunter’s life. He could still hear the loud crack and Hunter’s whimper. Their pet moved no more.
Edgar looked up. “God, I will never own another dog.”
The doctors held no hope for either Edgar or Lydia. Confined to their home, Lydia mourned the children, her parents, and Hunter. At nightfall, the men came. He had no choice except to let them collect his children’s bodies, which were unceremoniously thrown on the pile of dead corpses and carted to a public burial spot. Edgar and Lydia had dressed them in their finest and kissed them one last time. For what? That cold loveless pit?
Edgar had grasped at his last chance to save his wife. He paid the men handsomely to not lock them in, assuring them he and Lydia showed no symptoms, even though he knew Lydia lay in bed, her underarm swollen and the onset of the fever. They accepted the bribe, however he understood they would return the next day to board up the house and paint the red cross.
Lydia’s voice interrupted Edgar’s musings.
“Forgive me, Edgar.” She shivered.
“You need not ask forgiveness, darling. You weren’t the reason the illness spread.” He doubted she could hear him, nonetheless, he insisted she know she had no faults. He soaked the rag and dripped water into her dry mouth. “Rest, sweet one. Sleep.” He blamed himself for the decision to hide out here. He had thought that the fresh air and pristine water would support her health.
“My sweet, do you remember how we got out of the city? How we left out the back of the house with our bedroom door secured on my back? You wouldn’t leave without that Murano bowl Mother had given us as a present. We must have been a sight as we walked down the streets late at night; me stooped over with packages dangling and you carrying your bowl. I must apologize for my packing. I brought such few items and one change of clothes for each of us.”
Lydia lay still, without a sound.
“It seemed a perfect plan,” he said, squeezing her hand slightly, “until your fever worsened. I still waited for dark before I left. I chose infected areas to give us a better chance to escape. The laments and screams from those homes.” Edgar choked on his words and bit his bottom lip.
He inhaled and let it out slowly. “Thick smoke loomed everywhere from the fires. We made it to the river, though. I floated the door and helped you climb on, covered you with your shawl, and surrounded you with packages. I pushed the door along the shoal to here.
“The starry night guided us, Lydia, and I knew our dear children accompanied us, watching over our safety. You slept peacefully. I prayed for your health the entire time, my darling. Somewhere you dropped the bowl.” Edgar swallowed with difficulty. “We didn’t know the river was low. I didn’t think the plague would reach here before us.”
He stared out of the window.
“As you worsened, I promised if you got better, I would buy you every Murano glass item I could find.”
“Where…I…bowl?” she muttered.
“Shh, my love. It is safe. No worries.”
He remembered when they arrived, how he dragged the door out of the water, how the doorknob scraped off when he yanked it over a rock. He carried her inside and laid her on the bed, changed into his clean clothes, kissed her, and proceeded to the village. As morning approached, he could make out the outlines of the large rocks where he and Edmond fished in the summers. He could see the oak trees that lined the entrance to Ockbecking.
Village guards blocked the entrance.
“I need to see the doctor,” Edgar announced.
“Sorry, no in or out,” declared one man.
“Mr. Umbridge, sir?” asked the other.
“It is I. Hello Tom. How is your family?” Tom ran errands for the Umbridge’s when they stayed at Ockbecking.
“I lost them, sir, the five children and my wife too.”
“I am sorry to hear of your losses. Tom, I need to see
“I’ll fetch him, sir.”
Tom returned quickly with the doctor, who refused to go with Edgar.
“The church is full of sick people. I can’t leave them. I’ll give you what medicine I can spare, Mr. Umbridge. I’m sorry.” The doctor turned and walked away.
“Mr. Umbridge, sir,” said Tom, “watch out for the soldiers. They’re everywhere. They kill anyone on the roads. Their job is to constrain them that’s sick from spreading it to others, but they don’t even ask. No, sir, they don’t even ask.”
“I’ll be careful, Tom.”
Edgar walked towards the cottage, discouraged. The Celtic Healer Cliona walked up beside him.
Remembering her, he smiled.
“I smell death and the plague,” she had called.
“Leave, crone. You cannot help.”
“My herbs will ease her distress. I can perform a healing rite.”
“Your methods are superstitious and pagan. The Church forbids them.”
“God has not ordered me to quit helping others. Has he told you I must not give comfort?”
“Leave me alone, I say. Trifle not in my affairs. I deny pagan practices.”
“You think I am crazy and old. You are insane not to let me save your wife.”
Edgar walked with longer strides. When he glanced back she was gone.
Cliona had followed him at a distance and watched him enter his home. She waited each day, knowing he would try to get the doctor’s help in the village and he would be gone at least an hour. Once he left, she would enter and give Lydia a broth of herbs to drink while she performed a cleansing ritual.
One day he returned earlier than usual. When he entered, he spotted whiffs of smoke from the bedroom and he heard chants and giggling. Lydia’s giggles. He ran to the room where Lydia sat up in bed, sipping a broth. Cliona danced and sang, waving a basket of smoking leaves.
“Lydia, I was ecstatic the day you sat up in bed. I knew then that Cliona could cure you. The odor of lemongrass still lingers in our room. Can you smell it? She and I became friends. She came every day and you got better. She gave you a chance to live until the water ran out, and she could no longer make broth.”
He ran his fingers through his hair.
Crazy old woman.
Edgar gazed down at Lydia. It had been hours since she had stirred. Cliona stated he would know when she died. Her end seemed imminent since she could no longer draw enough breaths. He kissed her lips gently.
He wanted desperately to hold her in his arms; to feel her soft lips pressed against his, to hear her say, “I will love you always.”
“Our wedding day ushered in a glorious beginning to our union. Your death will be a tragic ending to it—so undeserved.”
Edgar wiped his face. He desired a few minutes of badly needed sleep, but refused his need in order to be awake when Lydia died. How he yearned to ease her misery and end her suffering, which pained him so deeply.
Edgar leaned the back of his head on the wall behind him. What to ponder about now? Cliona and her last hours. And Tiny.
Edgar Preserves the Celtic Way
Edgar thought back to yesterday and his last conversation with Cliona as she served them the last of the broth.
“Lots of herbs, but without clean water she will die and we will follow soon after,” she stated.
“I’ll demand water from the village,” Edgar responded.
“No. They’re polite to you because you are nobility, yet they won’t share. I will leave tonight and return before the sun comes up,” she said, determinedly.
“Fool of a woman. They will stone you to death.”
Cliona cackled. “Fool of a man. I will not ask for the water. I can get in and out without being seen and have never been caught. So I will go. You? You know the main entrance only. No. I leave late tonight. Then I will cook more broth. Stay here with your sweet wife.”
“Why do you care what happens to Lydia?”
“I heal those who will let me, who have good souls. You and your wife are honourable people. I care for her as I care for my own daughter.”
“You have a daughter?” Edgar asked.
“My Tiny. She showed me the path where berry bushes are overgrown. The shrubs are thick and full of thorns so the entrance isn’t noticeable. When I first met you, did you not wonder where I had been? I watched you from inside the village. Did you see me anywhere? No. The villagers never see me either.”
Edgar and Cliona then waited silently. At midnight, Cliona covered her head with her old and frayed cape.
Edgar gave her Lydia’s shawl, which was wool, indigo colored, and embroidered with green leaves. He inhaled the soft jasmine fragrance from it. “Wear this so you won’t be recognized. Leave yours.”
Cliona handed hers to Edgar and wrapped Lydia’s around her upper torso.
“My gift to her for our first anniversary,” Edgar said sadly.
“Set your worries aside. We can still save her if I’m able to find water, and she will wear her shawl again.” With a bow, she hurried out of the cottage into the night.
He latched the door behind her and returned to Lydia’s bedside. She lay limp, gasping for air, her eyes glazed.
Edgar patted her hand. “Soon you will be well. Our friend has gone for water.”
“Be still, my dearest, and rest. I am here.” He kissed her hand.
Cliona never returned. In the early hours of the morning Edgar slipped outside to search for her. With hurried footsteps, he traced the path to the village, but he didn’t have far to go. Ahead of him, he saw a petite figure slumped over a body.
The demure maiden looked up in fear, clutching a tattered blanket, and wiped her face as he approached. She had on a servant’s dress and apron and wore her hair in a tight bun.
“You be Mr. Umbridge?” she asked.
“Yes.” He glanced down at the limp body of Cliona, which lay in blood. “Who are you?” he asked.
“I be Tiny, sir. I be her daughter.” She stared down at her dead mother.
Since the woman stood no bigger than a slim 10-year-old girl, Edgar understood why she was named Tiny.
“What happened?” he asked.
“King’s soldiers, sir. She ask me for water and I give her. She leave. Later, soldiers wake us up. “We slay the witch,” they shout, over and over. Then they whoop. “We pierce her with swords,” they yell. I leave house to find her. She dead,” Tiny said. “No water here. Soldiers steal, I think.”
Edgar knelt beside Cliona. Her hand held Lydia’s shawl in a ball. He figured that she had heard the soldiers and realized her death was imminent and she probably hid it in her hand to keep it safe. He stood up. “We best leave before anyone spots us out here.”
“I serve Master Packard. I am his daughter. He named me but he not like me. He said I cursed too, so I hated witch. Master Packard, he say she use spell to take baby from him and that he saved me from her.” Tiny seemed confused, but she continued. “I out to pick berries a few years ago and she find me. She say she watch for me every day. She tell me she kind witch and no use spells. I can see she good person. She nice to me. Once a month I meet her. I show her how to sneak into village and I give her food. Why she must die?” Tiny looked up at him, her eyes swollen. “I run away tonight. She not evil, not cause pain. I no understand.”
“Quickly, Tiny, or they’ll find us. We must use your blanket.”
“Is mine. Mine. I take with me.”
“Give it here. We’ll wrap your mother’s body in it, carry her to the cottage, and bury her, but we must hurry.”
Tiny squeezed the blanket tightly before she handed it to him, and Edgar gave Tiny the shawl.
“Take this. Cliona and my wife need it no more.”
Tiny put it around her shoulders.
Edgar wrapped Cliona and carried her to the cottage as Tiny followed behind. He dug a hole and started to remove the blanket.
“No. Give to her. I have shawl. I want her have my blanket.”
Edgar laid Cliona in the grave, covered her with dirt, and set his bedroom door on top. Taking Tiny’s hand, he led her to the river.
“Listen carefully and do exactly as I teach you.”
Tiny watched him intently.
“Your mother talked about her friend Clarissa, who lives in the next village up the river from here. It’s not far. Clarissa practices Celtic rituals in secret. Do you understand?”
Tiny nodded yes.
“Stay here.” Edgar hurried into the cottage and wrote two notes. When he came out he gave them both to Tiny. “Can you read?”
She shook her head no.
“We’ll put this note here on your left and the other on the right.” Edgar showed her each paper while he slipped them into her apron pockets.
“You give the left note to whoever might approach you. The right one, you give to Clarissa. Show me the left.”
Tiny pointed to her left pocket.
“Which is for Clarissa?”
She pointed to the right pocket.
“Correct. I’ll tell you a story that you must remember.”
“I not forget.”
“Good. Should you be questioned by anyone, recite this: ‘I serve Master Umbridge. He requires I go to help his friend, Clarissa.’ Got the story, Tiny?”
“I leave. I free.”
“It is to ensure your freedom.”
She thought for a moment, then nodded, and he knew she understood.
“I need to repay your mother, who has sacrificed plenty for my wife and me, including her life.” From his pocket, Edgar pulled out some money. “For you. Show Clarissa. She’ll help you.” Edgar stuck the roll in the pocket with Clarissa’s note. “Which pocket has money and a note?”
Tiny pointed to her right pocket.
“Correct. Which pocket has the story?”
Tiny pointed to her left pocket.
“Do you remember what to say if questioned?”
“Yes,” she said.
“By this act, I will settle my debt to your mother. I’m sending you to Clarissa for your safety, and she’ll teach you the Celtic methods. Your mother’s beliefs will live through you.”
“I understand. For my mother.”
“Chin up, off with you then, down to the shore and follow it to the next village.”
Tiny stopped at the embankment.
Edgar spoke deliberately. “Look down. See the river’s edge? Walk beside it quietly and quickly. You will see the village soon enough. Do not climb up until you reach the path. Understand?”
Frightened, Tiny asked, “What if guards there?”
“Then hide until night and find another route in somehow. You are smart enough to do this.”
“I not ever told I smart. You good-hearted man, like my mother say.”
Edgar pointed down the bank. He watched her hurry away until he could see her no more, then he headed to the cottage, stopping first at Cliona’s grave.
“Crazy old woman, my friend, what you’ve done for us is more than anyone could ask. I’m sorry the soldiers slaughtered you over water. I sent Tiny to Clarissa where she’ll be safe. Rest in peace. Your practices will survive.”
Edgar entered the cottage and went to Lydia’s side. He picked up the cloth and wiped the sweat from her face and moistened her dry, cracked, bleeding lips, then sat in the wooden chair and held her hand.
The rest of the day, he repeated to her, “I am with you always.” Even though his throat was parched from lack of water and his voice raspy, he continued to whisper these words. No matter how sore, tired, or hungry, he didn’t move, waiting for her end.
A loud crack sounded from above. Edgar jumped and saw out the window that the sky had darkened as the pending storm settled in closer. He knew the rain would start soon.
Lydia lay still, her face pale, her dry mouth slightly opened. He gazed upon her lovingly as he rubbed her hand. She hardly breathed, yet she seemed serene.
The rainstorm broke with a thunderous boom just as he heard the death rattle. He looked at his beloved Lydia, who existed no more; only her empty grey shell remained. Her misery had ended. He now understood what Cliona tried to explain. Lydia died, and he heard it.
Edgar leaned down, kissed his wife, and uttered, “Always.” Cool winds blew through the cottage, but Edgar still felt warm. Too weak to carry her dead body, he dragged her close to the river where the ground was softer. He dug a shallow grave, rolled the corpse in, and covered it as best he could. “Go to your God, my wife.” He kneeled for a long time, drenched by the torrent of rain, and sobbed.
As he stood, everything whirled before him and he vomited. He heard that frightening bark of a cough, and it came from him. He realized to his astonishment that he had caught the plague, shouted out a “hah,” and looked up to the heavens, “Thank you, my Lord.”
In the pitch-black night Edgar, feverish and exhausted, his vision bleary, couldn’t walk without tripping. Tired and aching, famished and sleep deprived, his constant watch over Lydia, and the scourge had taken its toll. Unable to go any further, he fell down into a marshy area close to Lydia and sank. He didn’t struggle, for he desired death. Besides, the mud soothed his hot skin. Circling above, the sparrow hawk screeched loudly—the last sound Edgar heard.
While the cold loam engulfed him, he heard muffled sounds of a dog barking. Though he was sure his eyes were closed, he glimpsed a white light and Lydia, Edmond, and Emma appeared in front of him, their arms held out to him. They appeared happy and alive, yet different somehow. Behind them was Hunter with a being who seemed to know Edgar, and somehow Edgar heard the entity’s thoughts of ‘Welcome Home.’ He also thought he saw angels on each side of this personage, and he feared for his sanity.
He descended deeper into the frigid loam. His nose, mouth, and lungs filled with the moist, biting muck. Edgar surrendered to it. Unwilling to fight and with no desire to live, Edgar Umbridge ceased to exist.