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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 25. Afterwards
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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 25. Afterwards Post by :Des_Walsh Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1432

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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 25. Afterwards

CHAPTER XXV. AFTERWARDS

The funeral was over, and there were two fresh graves--the only ones in the bit of prairie set apart for a graveyard. I have written enough in this melancholy strain. Why should I pause to describe in detail the solemn services held in the grove by the lake? It is enough that the land-shark forgot his illegal traffic in claims; the money-lender ceased for one day to talk of mortgages and per cent and foreclosure; the fat gentleman left his corner-lots. Plausaby's bland face was wet with tears of sincere grief, and Mr. Minorkey pressed his hand to his chest and coughed more despairingly than ever. The grove in which the meeting was held commanded a view of the lake at the very place where the accident occurred. The nine survivors sat upon the front seat of all; the friends of the deceased were all there, and, most pathetic sight of all, the two mute white faces of the drowned were exposed to view. The people wept before the tremulous voice of the minister had begun the service, and there was so much weeping that the preacher could say but little. Poor Mrs. Plausaby was nearly heart-broken. Nothing could have been more pathetic than her absurd mingling for two days of the sincerest grief and an anxious questioning about her mourning-dress. She would ask Isa's opinion concerning her veil, and then sit down and cry piteously the next minute. And now she was hopeless and utterly disconsolate at the loss of her little Katy, but wondering all the time whether Isa could not have fixed her bonnet so that it would not have looked quite so plain.

The old minister preached on "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." I am afraid he said some things which the liberalism of to-day would think unfit--we all have heresies nowadays; it is quite the style. But at least the old man reminded them that there were better investments than corner-lots, and that even mortgages with waivers in them will be brought into judgment. His solemn words could not have failed entirely of doing good.

But the solemn funeral services were over; the speculator in claims dried his eyes, and that very afternoon assigned a claim, to which he had no right, to a simple-minded immigrant for a hundred dollars. Minorkey was devoutly thankful that his own daughter had escaped, and that he could go on getting mortgages with waivers in them, and Plausaby turned his attention to contrivances for extricating himself from the embarrassments of his situation.

The funeral was over. That is the hardest time of all. You can bear up somehow, so long as the arrangements and cares and melancholy tributes of the obsequies last. But if one has occupied a large share of your thoughts, solicitudes, and affections, and there comes a time when the very last you can ever do for them, living or dead, is done, then for the first time you begin to take the full measure of your loss. Albert felt now that he was picking up the broken threads of another man's life. Between the past, which had been full of anxieties and plans for little Kate, and the future, into which no little Kate could ever come, there was a great chasm. There is nothing that love parts from so regretfully as its burdens.

Mrs. Ferret came to see Charlton, and smiled her old sudden puckered smile, and talked in her jerky complacent voice about the uses of sanctified affliction, and her trust that the sudden death of his sister in all the thoughtless vanity of youth would prove a solemn and impressive warning to him to repent in health before it should be with him everlastingly too late. Albert was very far from having that childlike spirit which enters the kingdom of heaven easily. Some natures, are softened by affliction, but they are not such as his. Charlton in his aggressiveness demanded to know the reason for everything. And in his sorrow his nature sent a defiant _why back to the Power that had made Katy's fate so sad, and Mrs. Ferret's rasping way of talking about Katy's death as a divine judgment on him filled him with curses bitterer than Job's.

Miss Isa Marlay was an old-school Calvinist. She had been trained on the Assembly's Catechism, interpreted in good sound West Windsor fashion. In theory she never deviated one iota from the solid ground of the creed of her childhood. But while she held inflexibly to her creed in all its generalizations, she made all those sweet illogical exceptions which women of her kind are given to making. In general, she firmly believed that everybody who failed to have a saving faith in the vicarious atonement of Christ would be lost. In particular, she excepted many individual cases among her own acquaintance. And the inconsistency between her creed and her applications of it never troubled her. She spoke with so much confidence of the salvation of little Kate, that she comforted Albert somewhat, notwithstanding his entire antagonism to Isa's system of theology. If Albert had died, Miss Marlay would have fixed up a short and easy road to bliss for him also. So much, more generous is faith than logic! But it was not so much Isa's belief in the salvation of Katy that did Albert good, as it was her tender and delicate sympathy, expressed as much when she was silent as when she spoke, and when she spoke expressed more by the tones of her voice than by her words.

There was indeed one part of Isabel's theology that Charlton would have much liked to possess. He had accepted the idea of an Absolute God. A personal, sympathizing, benevolent Providence was in his opinion one of the illusions of the theologic stage of human development. Things happened by inexorable law, he said. And in the drowning of Katy he saw only the overloading of a boat and the inevitable action of water upon the vital organs of the human system. It seemed to him now an awful thing that such great and terrible forces should act irresistibly and blindly. He wished he could find some ground upon which to base a different opinion. He would like to have had Isabel's faith in the Paternity of God and in the immortality of the soul. But he was too honest with himself to suffer feeling to exert any influence on his opinions. He was in the logical stage of his development, and built up his system after the manner of the One-Hoss Shay. Logically he could not see sufficient ground to change, and he scorned the weakness that would change an opinion because of feeling. His soul might cry out in its depths for a Father in the universe. But what does Logic care for a Soul or its cry? After a while a wider experience brings in something better than Logic. This is Philosophy. And Philosophy knows what Logic can not learn, that reason is not the only faculty by which truth is apprehended--that the hungers and intuitions of the Soul are worth more than syllogisms.

Do what he would, Charlton could not conceal from himself that in sympathy Miss Minorkey was greatly deficient. She essayed to show feeling, but she had little to show. It was not her fault. Do you blame the dahlia for not having the fragrance of a tuberose? It is the most dangerous quality of enthusiastic young men and women that they are able to deceive themselves. Nine tenths of all conjugal disappointments come from the ability of people in love to see more in those they love than ever existed there. That love is blind is a fable. He has an affection of the eyes, but it is not blindness. Nobody else ever sees so much as he does. For here was Albert Charlton, bound by his vows to Helen Minorkey, with whom he had nothing in common, except in intellect, and already his sorrow was disclosing to him the shallowness of her nature, and the depth of his own; even now he found that she had no voice with which to answer his hungry cry for sympathy. Already his betrothal was becoming a fetter, and his great mistake was disclosing itself to him. The rude suspicion had knocked at his door before, but he had been able to bar it out. Now it stared at him in the night, and he could not rid himself of it. But he was still far enough from accepting the fact that the intellectual Helen Minorkey was destitute of all unselfish feeling. For Charlton was still in love with her. When one has fixed heart and hope and thought on a single person, love does not die with the first consciousness of disappointment. Love can subsist a long time on old associations. Besides, Miss Minorkey was not aggressively or obtrusively selfish--she never interfered with anybody else. But there is a cool-blooded indifference that can be moved by no consideration outside the Universal Ego. That was Helen.

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