death comes to lord rayleigh

Before his death, Lord Rayleigh decided that, though he was older than he had once been, he was presently in the very flower of his youth and he began to take an unctuous pleasure in every sensation: every touch and smell a revivifying assurance of his vitality. Hunger was a delight which spread across his broad lean abdomen and entranced his mind in exquisite fantasies about the food he might take to resolve it: food which he would eat slowly and in moderation — following certain principles of exclusion and inclusion as if they were written in Leviticus — with the precision of an English actor who believes that Shakespeare must be performed in a certain way (and this delusion of the actor is of the same kind as Lord Rayleigh’s deluded posture towards his appetite). When, after eating, it came time for the diarrhoea, what happiness he felt! The wetness was experienced in tandem with the dry warmth of the wool around his shoulders. The controlled urgency of the motions seemed to be essential evidence of his ongoing life: in the same way that one reassures oneself that one’s city is fine by checking that the trains are running, even though the city may have been invaded by foreign powers in the night and is now under occupation. As Lord Rayleigh sat in the damp aftermath, enjoying the air on his forehead after wiping away the sweat with a white towelette, he revelled in the hollow feeling below his diaphragm and swayed from side to side as small boats do when they come to a sudden stop and get caught up in their own wake. It was in this lightheaded state that he saw his reflection in the mirror and reached out with his eyes to caress his fuzzy black-white-pink complexion, feeling that he was looking on at a peach bursting with youth and about ready to be plucked from the tree. And it was thus in recollections of his father’s peach tree that Lord Rayleigh’s wake overtook him, crested his bow, and caused the fatal sinking that was reported the following morning as “a great loss.”