« FöregåendeFortsätt »
concealed what I felt, which was not grief on account of the dead mother, but a mournful tribute paid by my heart, knowing the irreparable loss a child sustains in such a deprivation, to motherless children and to weeping sisters. It was in the dusk of the evening that we arrived
father's. The candles were lighted, and a stream of neighbours was flowing from and towards the house of mourning: the whole scene displayed vivid contrasts of joy and sorrow.
Here were my sisters weeping and sobbing: there were unconcerned spectators laughing and chatting as cheerfully as though a marriage, instead of a funeral, had been in prospect. In one part of the house were sad-faced relations, whose hearts felt no real sorrow ; in another, lively wake-attenders, whose tongues rattled forth merrily the gaiety of their spirits. My father, we found, had shut himself
up in his library, unable, from the force of his feelings, to look upon the scene of mingled woe and merriment, I expected that he would be absorbed in grief ; but his sorrow was of a manly kind ; he received us with firmness, and I was consoled to see that he knew how to bear the load which could
not be thrown off his own shoulders.
So long as we live, the usual routine of life must go forward. . Grief occupies only a part of thought. My sisters were relieved for a while from thinking intensely on their immediate concerns by attention to us.
Eat. ing and drinking are occupations too important to be neglected. The servants were soon busied in spreading a table, and we were seen refreshing ourselves as heartily, after snuffing the mountain air for several miles, as though no person had lain without feelings of hunger and thirst in the house. After this I visited the room in which the
corpse was laid out, and stood for a considerable time contemplating the placid state of that countenance which so lately had been agitated with all the passions, desires, affections, and cares of busy exist.
The same indescribable character remained in the face that had always excited emotions of apprehension in my breast. But I could now gaze on the bloodless features without a feeling of resentment. Death presents to us a picture so helpless, full of interest, still and mournful, that we look upon it without any terror in its first stage. I shall not attempt any description of the train of thought into which I fell, whilst viewing the pulseless remains of her whom I had justly considered as my greatest enemy : with a deep sigh I turned an invocation to Heaven to forgive her, and me, if in aught I had injured her ; and, with a light conscience, I became an amused spectator of what was passing.
The room in which I stood was a small apartment. On one side was the death-bed; on the other were assembled about twenty old women, seated on forms, one above the other, rising as in a theatre, who, during the whole night, sang Methodist hymns. There were also a few old men among them, whose deep bass voices gave a good roundness to the shrill female pipe. This vocal band was regulated and controlled by the parish-clerk, schoolmaster, and singing-master of the place, who exercised considerable authority, and expressed himself in loud censure, when, as was too frequently the case, discord reigned. He had his book, from which he read two lines at each musical interval : these having been sung, a general pause ensued, till he gave out another stave; and so he continued exercising his lungs, in a fine round big voice, nasally
expelled, like a street ballad-singer, in which it was the glory of every old woman to imitate him. These nightingales were occasionally cheered with pipes and tobacco, and frequent rounds of tea and coffee.
In the next room, which was a large parlour, sat a multitude of neighbouring farmers, their wives, daughters, and sweethearts, eating fruit; drinking tea, telling stories, making love, and talking scandal; occasionally amused with the music in the adjoining apartment, but more frequently with themselves, and the hoarse laughs which coarse wit excited. On leaving this parlour, you enter a hall, connecting the two wings of my father's house; in the centre of which hall, the street door is placed, and out of the hall you go down a passage opposite the street door, to the kitchen, and servants' rooms. The hall and all these apartments were filled with the lower orders, drinking whiskey, of which they were allowed two glasses each during the night, with a supper of fried bacon and eggs. The noise and uproar here were deafening. In a small room off the kitchen passage sat several old women, Roman Catholics, demonstrating their sorrow by singing in loud strains the praises of the deceased, in the Irish language, or well known bowl. The burden of their song was a string of such questions as these “ Oh! darling and jewel, what made you die ? Arrah now, what made you leave us behind ? Had you not, great lady, cows numberless ; sheep, pigs, horses, turkeys, geese, hens, and ducks to cheer you with abundance; yellow wheat, green corn, extensive fields of potatoes, beautiful meadows, fine plantations, and every thing to glad your good heart? Oh! why did you die till your sweet daughter were married; Oh! why leave your kind husband to mourn; and oh! why have you left our hearts bleeding with sorrow? Come back, 0 come! will you not come, and relieve us once more? From your door did a beggar ever go away empty? Did not the bag fill with meal, and the pitcher with milk, from your charitable white band ?