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The Death on Nelson page 2

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At five and twenty minutes past one, Hardy, who was still pacing the deck with Nelson, at the end of a turn faced about. He saw Nelson stagger and fall. Hardy dashed forward. Nelson was lying on his side, on the very spot where his secretary had been killed. The blood of the secretary stained the admiral's coat.

As Hardy stooped over him Nelson said: "They have done for me at last, Hardy."

"I hope not," the captain replied.

"Yes, my backbone is shot through."

A man in the mizzentop of the Redoubtable had, with a musket, fired a shot destined to go echoing round the world.

As strong but tender arms lifted him from the deck, Nelson took out his handkerchief and covered his face and stars. He did not want his men to know that their admiral had been wounded.

The cockpit to which they carried him was crowded with wounded and dying men. The atmosphere stank of blood and powder.

With difficulty they lifted him over the sprawling bodies and laid him upon a midshipman's pallet. When the surgeon came to him he said, "You can do nothing for me, Beatty; I have but a short time to live." And he insisted that the surgeon should leave him and attend to those to whom he might be useful.

They undressed him and covered his thin body with a sheet. Then they probed for the bullet. It could not be found, however.

Now he was in great pain. "Fan, fan!" he murmured through set teeth. And they fanned him with a newspaper. And then "Drink, drink!" They gave him lemonade and he drank thirstily. Whenever a ship struck, a wild burst of cheering sounded above the roar of the battle.

"What is that?" Nelson asked.

Pasco, who was lying wounded beside his admiral, explained to him.

Through the terrible pain Nelson smiled faintly and he listened eagerly for the re-echoing bursts.

Gradually the agony of suffering became intense. He wanted to see Hardy. "Will no one bring Hardy to me?" he repeatedly cried. "He must be killed! He is surely dead!"

When at last Hardy could leave affairs to go below and see his stricken chief, an hour and ten minutes had elapsed since Nelson had received his wound.

They shook hands in silence. Then: "Well, Hardy," said Nelson, "how goes the day with us?"

"Very well. Ten ships have struck, but five of the van have tacked, and show an intention to bear down upon the Victory. I have called two or three of our fresh ships round, and have no doubt of giving them a drubbing."

"I hope," Nelson whispered, "none of our ships have struck?"

"No, my lord, there is no fear of that!"

A look of relief passed over the admiral's drawn face and then, and not until then, did he speak of himself.

"I am a dead man, Hardy," he said. "I am going fast. It will be all over with me soon. Come nearer to me."

Hardy bent closer to the dying man.

"Let my dear Lady Hamilton have my hair, and all other things belonging to me."

Hardy observed that he hoped Mr. Beatty, the surgeon, could yet hold out some prospect of life.

"Oh, no!" Nelson replied. "It is impossible. My back is shot through. Beatty will tell you so."

Then Hardy had to leave his chief to go and take his place on deck again. Beatty knelt beside Nelson. By this time all feeling below the breast had gone.

"You know I am gone, I know it," Nelson murmured. "I feel something rising in my breast" - placing his hand on his left side - "which tells me so."

Beatty asked if the pain were very great.

"So great that I wish I were dead. And yet" - lowering his voice - "one would like to live a little longer, too."

After a few minutes he spoke again.

"What would become of poor Lady Hamilton if she knew my situation!"

For awhile he lay silent, then a thunder of guns from the Victory caused him to remark, "Oh, Victory, Victory! How you distract my poor brain!" After a pause he added, "How dear life is to men!"

About four o'clock, after an absence of an hour, Hardy returned.

He took the hand of the dying commander and congratulated him on a brilliant victory. Nelson's plan had succeeded. At least fourteen or fifteen of the enemy had been taken.

"That's well," cried Nelson, "but I bargained for twenty."

Then in a stronger voice, emphatically, he said, "Anchor, Hardy, anchor!"

Hardy hinted that Collingwood would take upon himself direction of affairs.

"Not while I live, Hardy," protested Nelson. "Do you anchor." He foresaw that a gale of wind was coming and he knew that the fleet were in the neighbourhood of the treacherous shoals of Trafalgar.

As Hardy turned to go, Nelson called him back.

"Don't throw me overboard," he pleaded. Then, "Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy; take care of poor Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy."

Hardy knelt down and kissed the pale cheek.

Nelson said, "Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty."

For a moment or two Hardy remained in silence by his chief, then he knelt again and kissed the forehead upon which the dews of death were already gathering.

"Who is that?" Nelson whispered.

Upon being told, he replied, "God bless you, Hardy."

And Hardy, tears running down his bronzed cheeks, turned reluctantly on his heel and left him - for ever.

Nelson now asked to be turned on his right side.

"I wish I had not left the deck, for I shall soon be gone," he said. In truth, the end was very near. Then to the chaplain, "Doctor, I have not been a great sinner."

The laboured breaths came painfully between the agony-wracked lips. "Remember that I leave Lady Hamilton and my daughter as a legacy to my country - never forget Horatia."

His breathing became even more difficult.

"Thank God I have done my duty."

He repeated this once or twice. Then Dr. Scott, who was bending over him closely, heard him whisper feebly, "God and my Country!"

And so, three hours and a quarter after he had received his wound, Nelson, the sailor hero of Britain, passed on to immortality.

The victory was gained - but at what a cost!

When the news reached England it was received with mingled triumph and grief. A public funeral was arranged, the body being brought home and buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

And the whole of the nation mourned his tragic passing.

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