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" I saw the drooping pall and plumes,
HE sighing wind sang a mournful re
quiem enough, as it slowly and sadly swayed the boughs of the tall.fir-trees
to and fro, which overshadow the road skirting Tor churchyard. It was a bleak, keen, garish day, towards the end of February, and though the morning sun shone down with a force that told of winter's soon giving way to spring, as yet no green leaves or budding grass gave softness to the rays, which played as pitilessly on the black draperies of a group yet gathered round an open grave, as did the rough, northern blast which mocked its fictitious warmth.
The last prayer had been said, the final blessing had been pronounced, the officiating priest and attendant clerk had lingered a few minutes longer than usual out of sympathy for the youthful mourners, whose grief was so undisguised; but they, too, had withdrawn now, and the old sexton was meditating whether it were not better to cut short a painful scene by commencing duties, ordinary enough to him, when he was attracted by a slight stir among those few solitary individuals. It was a young girl, who moved slowly round till she stood where the name and date inscribed on the dark lid of the coffin was plainly visible.
Born July 1st, 1803,
She did not sigh or sob, but there was something so dolorous and pitiful in the tear-stained cheeks and heavy swollen eyelids, that now for the first time were raised to view, that the old man was touched, and interested despite of his vocation, and when a few moments after she lifted her eyes to the face of the tall, handsome brother, who drew her hand beneath his arm, he muttered to himself, “ Certain she do favour my poor Nelly uncommon, an she ain't quite so pretty," while as he spoke he turned his blear eyes towards a far-off corner of that crowded churchyard, where in her narrow bed-environed now and hemmed in by many another grave and crowding marble monumenthis dark-haired daughter had slept these thirty years and more.
He was accustomed to the sight of these closelyset mounds of earth, whose numbers each year, still more each spring, so sadly multiply and increase; but as Maud Bingley turned at the wicketgate, for one last look at the place where they had just laid the dead, her tears flowed afresh at the pang of thus leaving desolate, and among a crowd, the mortal remains of the mother, whom in life she had loved so fondly, for whose poor worn body she had hardly in death learned to cease her cares.
Even in careless, happy, bygone days, which now seemed very far off, Maud had been wont to dwell with a sympathizing pity, almost prophetic of a sorrow she had never suffered herself to realize, on the records and names of the many here sepulchred, far from home and friends or kindred dust. It was the same sad story told over and over again, even though its phases varied. All had alike come here to die, the young and happy, as well as those on whom the weightier cares of advancing life had pressed so heavily, that the frail body sank beneath the burden long ere the calm, quiet days of old age had been attained.
Each gravestone told its tale of sorrow. From many a distant county and inland region they had been brought, whose last earthly bed is caverned in the old churchyard on the shore. The young head of many a cherished child lies coldly pillowed here, far from the warm hearth their death has left so desolate: the fair daughter for whom her mother's heart yet yearns; the son of brightest promise, cut off in the heyday of his youth and strength, alike sleep beneath the grassy sod; a thousand tender joys and fond hopes, never to be reawakened, slumbering with them. The best and brightest, the brave and fond, alike take their places here; the father, whose face and cares the boy will grow up to forget; the mother, for whose living love her children may vainly long-severed from all human ties, they yet may rest in hope of that great day when the earth shall give up her dead, and the Lord shall gather His elect from the four winds of Heaven.
It was a grief common enough, it is true, but none the less had it come home to those four lonely