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   Chapter 3 No.3

Alec Forbes of Howglen By George MacDonald Characters: 5129

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


By this time the funeral was approaching the churchyard at a more rapid pace; for the pedestrians had dropped away one by one, on diverging roads, or had stopped and retraced their steps. But as they drew near the place, the slow trot subsided into a slow walk once more. To an English eye the whole mode would have appeared barbarous. But if the carved and gilded skulls and cross-bones on the hearse were ill-conceived, at least there were no awful nodding plumes to make death hideous with yet more of cloudy darkness; and one of the panels showed, in all the sunshine that golden rays could yield, the Resurrection of the Lord-the victory over the grave. And, again, when they stopped at the gate of the churchyard, they were the hands of friends and neighbours, and not those of cormorant undertakers and obscene mutes, that bore the dead man to his grave. And, once more, if the only rite they observed, when the body had settled into its place of decay, was the silent uncovering of the head, as a last token of respect and farewell, it may be suggested that the Church of England herself, in all her beautiful service, has no prayer for the departed soul, which cannot be beyond the need of prayer, as the longings that follow it into the region of the Unknown, are not beyond its comfort.

Before the grave was quite filled the company had nearly gone. Thomas Crann, the stone-mason, and George Macwha, the wright, alone remained behind, for they had some charge over the arrangements, and were now taking a share in covering the grave. At length the last sod was laid upon the mound, and stamped into its place, where soon the earth's broken surface would heal, as society would flow together again, closing over the place that had known the departed, and would know him no more. Then Thomas and George sat down, opposite to each other, on two neighbouring tombstones, and wiping their brows, gave each a sigh of relief, for the sun was hot and oppressive.

"Hech! it's a weary warl," said George.

"Ye hae no richt to say sae, George," answered Thomas, "for ye hae never met it, an' foughten wi' 't. Ye hae never draan the soord o' the Lord and o' Gideon. Ye hae never broken the pitcher, to lat the lamp shine out, an' I doubt ye hae smo'red it by this time. And sae, whan the bridegroom comes, ye'll be ill-aff for a licht."

"Hoot, man! dinna speak sic awfu' things i' the verra kirkyard."

"Better hear them i' the kirkyard than at the closed door, George!"

"Weel, but," rejoined Macwha, anxious to turn the current of the conversation,

which he found unpleasantly personal, "jist tell me honestly, Thamas Crann, do ye believe, wi' a' yer heart an' sowl, that the deid man-Gude be wi' him!-"

"No prayin' for the deid i' my hearin', George! As the tree falleth, so it shall lie."

"Weel! weel! I didna mean onything."

"That I verily believe. Ye seldom do!"

"But I jist want to speir," resumed George, with some asperity, getting rather nettled at his companion's persistent discourtesy, "gin ye believe that Jeames Anderson here, honest man, aneath our feet, crumblin' awa', as ye ken, and no ae spoke o' his wheel to the fore, or lang, to tell what his cart was like-do ye believe that his honest face will, ae day, pairt the mouls, an' come up again, jist here, i' the face o' the light, the verra same as it vanished whan we pat the lid ower him? Do ye believe that, Thamas Crann?"

"Na, na, George, man. Ye ken little what ye're busiest sayin'. It'll be a glorifeed body that he'll rise wi'. It's sown in dishonour, and raised in glory. Hoot! hoot! ye are ignorant, man!"

Macwha got more nettled still at his tone of superiority.

"Wad it be a glorifeed timmer-leg he rase wi', gin he had been buried wi' a timmer-leg?" asked he.

"His ain leg wad be buried some gait."

"Ow ay! nae doubt. An' it wad come happin' ower the Paceefic, or the Atlantic, to jine its oreeginal stump-wad it no? But supposin' the man had been born wantin' a leg-eh, Thamas?"

"George! George!" said Thomas, with great solemnity, "luik ye efter yer sowl, an' the Lord'ill luik after yer body, legs an' a'! Man, ye're no convertit, an' hoo can ye unnerstan' the things o' the speerit? Aye jeerin', an' jeerin'!"

"Weel! weel! Thamas," rejoined Macwha, mollified in perceiving that he had not had altogether the worst in the tilt of words; "I wad only tak' the leeberty o' thinkin' that, when He was aboot it, the Almighty micht as weel mak' a new body a'thegither, as gang patchin' up the auld ane. Sae I s' twa hame."

"Mind ye yer immortal pairt, George," said Thomas with a final thrust, as he likewise rose to go home with him on the box of the hearse.

"Gin the Lord tak's sic guid care o' the body, Thamas," retorted Macwha, with less of irreverence than appeared in his words, "maybe he winna objec' to gie a look to my puir soul as weel; for they say it's worth a hantle mair. I wish he wad, for he kens better nor me hoo to set aboot the job."

So saying, he strode briskly over the graves and out of the churchyard, leaving Thomas to follow as fast as suited his unwieldy strength.

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