The sky was serene and bright, the air clear, perfumed with the fresh scent of newly-fallen leaves, and grateful to every sense. The neighbouring stream sparkled, and rolled onward with a tuneful sound; the dew glistened on the green mounds, like tears shed by Good Spirits over the dead.
Some young children sported among the tombs, and hid from each other, with laughing faces. They had all infant with them, and had laid it down asleep upon a childs grave, in a little bed of leaves. It was a new grave the resting-place, perhaps, of some little creature, who, meek and patient in its illness, had often sat and watched them, and now seemed, to their minds, scarcely changed.
She drew near and asked one of them whose grave it was. The child answered that that was not its name; it was a garden his brothers. It was greener, he said, than all the other gardens, and the birds loved it better because he had been used to feed them. When he had done speaking, he looked at her with a smile, and kneeling down and nestling for a moment with his cheek against the turf, bounded merrily away.
She passed the church, gazing upward at its old tower, went through the wicket gate, and so into the village. The old sexton, leaning on a crutch, was taking the air at his cottage door, and gave her good- morrow.
You are better? said the child, stopping to speak with him.
Ay surely, returned the old man. Im thankful to say, much better.
You will be quite well soon.
With Heavens leave, and a little patience. But come in, come in.
The old man limped on before, and warning her of the downward step, which he achieved himself with no small difficulty, led the way into his little cottage.
It is but one room you see. There is another up above, but the stair has got harder to climb o late years, and I never use it. Im thinking of taking to it again, next summer, though.
The child wondered how a grey-headed man like him one of his trade too could talk of time so easily. He saw her eyes wandering to the tools that hung upon the wall, and smiled.
I warrant now, he said, that you think all those are used in making graves.
Indeed, I wondered that you wanted so many.
And well you might. I am a gardener. I dig the ground, and plant things that are to live and grow. My works dont all moulder away and rot in the earth. You see that spade in the centre?
The very old one so notched and worn? Yes.
Thats the sextons spade, and its a well-used one, as you see. Were healthy people here, but it has done a power of work. If it could speak now, that spade, it would tell you of many an unexpected job that it and I have done together; but I forget em, for my memorys a poor one. Thats nothing new, he added hastily. It always was.
There are flowers and shrubs to speak to your other work, said the child.
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