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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTimothy's Quest - Scene 12
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Timothy's Quest - Scene 12 Post by :Tom_Brownsword Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :2316

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Timothy's Quest - Scene 12

SCENE XII

The Village.

LYDDY PETTIGROVE'S FUNERAL.


Lyddy Pettigrove was dead. Not one person, but a dozen, had called in at the White Farm to announce this fact and look curiously at Samantha Ann Ripley to see how she took the news.

To say the truth, the community did not seem to be overpowered by its bereavement. There seemed to be a general feeling that Mrs. Pettigrove had never been wanted in Pleasant River, coupled with a mild surprise that she should have been wanted anywhere else. Speculation was rife as to who would keep house for Dave Milliken, and whether Samantha Ann would bury the Ripley-Milliken battle-axe and go to the funeral, and whether Mis' Pettigrove had left her property to David, as was right, or to her husband's sister in New Hampshire, which would be a sin and a shame; but jest as likely as not, though she was well off and didn't need it no more 'n a toad would a pocket-book, and couldn't bear the sight o' Lyddy besides,--and whether Mr. Pettigrove's first wife's relations would be asked to the funeral, bein' as how they hadn't spoke for years, 'n' wouldn't set on the same side the meetin'-house, but when you come to that, if only the folks that was on good terms with Lyddy Pettigrove was asked to the funeral, there'd be a slim attendance, and--so on.

Aunt Hitty was the most important person in the village on these occasions. It was she who assisted in the last solemn preparations and took the last solemn stitches; and when all was done, and she hung her little reticule on her arm, and started to walk from the house of bereavement to her own home (where "Si" was anxiously awaiting his nightly draught of gossip), no royal herald could have been looked for with greater interest or greeted with greater cordiality. All the housewives that lived on the direct road were on their doorsteps, so as not to lose a moment, and all that lived off the road had seen her from the upstairs windows, and were at the gate to waylay her as she passed. At such a moment Aunt Hitty's bosom swelled with honest pride, and she humbly thanked her Maker that she had been bred to the use of scissors and needle.

Two days of this intoxicating popularity had just passed; the funeral was over, and she ran in to the White Farm on her way home, to carry a message, and to see with her own eyes how Samantha Ann Ripley was comporting herself.

"You didn't git out to the fun'ral, did ye, Samanthy?" she asked, as she seated herself cosily by the kitchen window.

"No, I didn't. I never could see the propriety o' goin' to see folks dead that you never went to see alive."

"How you talk! That's one way o' puttin' it! Well, everybody was lookin' for you, and you missed a very pleasant fun'ral. David 'n' I arranged everything as neat as wax, and it all went off like clock-work, if I do say so as shouldn't. Mis' Pettigrove made a beautiful remains."

"I'm glad to hear it. It's the first beautiful thing she ever did make, I guess!"

"How you talk! Ain't you a leetle hard on Lyddy, Samanthy? She warn't sech a bad neighbor, and she couldn't help bein' kind o' sour like. She was born with her teeth on aidge, to begin with, and then she'd ben through seas o' trouble with them Pettigroves."

"Like enough; but even if folks has ben through seas o' trouble, they needn't be everlastin'ly spittin' up salt brine. 'Passin' through the valley of sorrow they make it full o' fountings;' that's what the Psalms says 'bout bearin' trouble."

"Lyddy warn't much on fountings," said Aunt Hitty contemplatively; "but, there, we hadn't ought to speak nothin' but good o' the dead. Land sakes! You'd oughter heard Elder Weekses remarks; they was splendid. We ain't hed better remarks to any fun'ral here for years. I shouldn't 'a' suspicioned he was preachin' 'bout Lyddy, though. Our minister's sick abed, you know, 'n' warn't able to conduct the ex'cises. Si thinks he went to bed a-purpose, but I wouldn't hev it repeated; so David got Elder Weeks from Moderation. He warn't much acquainted with the remains, but he done all the better for that. He's got a wond'ful faculty for fun'rals. They say he's sent for for miles around. He'd just come from a fun'ral nine miles the other side o' Moderation, up on the Blueb'ry road; so he was a leetle mite late, 'n' David 'n' I was as nervous as witches, for every room was cram full 'n' the thermometer stood at 87 in the front entry, 'n' the bearers sot out there by the well-curb, with the sun beatin' down on 'em, 'n' two of 'em, Squire Hicks 'n' Deacon Dunn, was fast asleep. Inside, everything was as silent 's the tomb, 'cept the kitchen clock, 'n' that ticked loud enough to wake the dead most. I thought I should go inter conniptions. I set out to git up 'n' throw a shawl over it, it ticked so loud. Then, while we was all settin' there 's solemn 's the last trump, what does old Aunt Beccy Burnham do but git up from the kitchen corner where she sot, take the corn-broom from behind the door, and sweep down a cobweb that was lodged up in one o' the corners over the mantelpiece! We all looked at one 'nother, 'n' I thought for a second somebody 'd laugh, but nobody dassed, 'n' there warn't a sound in the room 's Aunt Beccy sot down agin' without movin' a muscle in her face. Just then the minister drove in the yard with his horse sweatin' like rain; but behind time as he was, he never slighted things a mite. His prayer was twenty-three minutes by the clock. Twenty-three minutes is a leetle mite too long this kind o' weather, but it was an all-embracin' prayer, 'n' no mistake! Si said when he got through the Lord had his instructions on most any p'int that was likely to come up durin' the season. When he got through his remarks there warn't a dry eye in the room. I don't s'pose it made any odds whether he was preachin' 'bout Mis' Pettigrove or the woman on the Blueb'ry road,--it was a movin', elevatin' discourse, 'n' that was what we went there for."

"It wouldn't 'a' ben so elevatin' if he'd told the truth," said Samantha; "but, there, I ain't goin' to spit no more spite out. Lyddy Pettigrove's dead, 'n' I hope she's in heaven, and all I can say is, that she'll be dretful busy up there ondoin' all she done down here. You say there was a good many out?"

"Yes; we ain't hed so many out for years, so Susanna Rideout says, and she'd ought to know, for she ain't missed a fun'ral sence she was nine years old, and she's eighty-one, come Thanksgivin', ef she holds out that long. She says fun'rals is 'bout the only recreation she has, 'n' she doos git a heap o' satisfaction out of 'em, 'n' no mistake. She'll go early, afore any o' the comp'ny assembles. She'll say her clock must 'a' ben fast, 'n' then they'll ask her to set down 'n' make herself to home. Then she'll choose her seat accordin' to the way the house is planned. She won't git too fur from the remains, because she'll want to see how the fam'ly appear when they take their last look, but she'll want to git opposite a door, where she can look into the other rooms 'n' see whether they shed any tears when the minister begins his remarks. She allers takes a little gum camphire in her pocket, so't if anybody faints away durin' the long prayer, she's right on hand. Bein' near the door, she can hear all the minister says, 'n' how the order o' the mourners is called, 'n' ef she ain't too fur from the front winders she can hev a good view of the bearers and the mourners as they get into the kerridges. There's a sight in knowin' how to manage at a fun'ral; it takes faculty, same as anything else."

"How does David bear up?" asked Miss Vilda.

"Oh, he's calm. David was always calm and resigned, you know. He shed tears durin' the remarks, but I s'pose, mebbe, he was wishin' they was more appropriate. He's about the forlornest creeter now you ever see' in your life. There never was any self-assume to David Milliken. I declare it's enough to make you cry jest to look at him. I cooked up victuals enough to last him a week, but that ain't no way for men-folks to live. When he comes in at noon-time he washes up out by the pump, 'n' then he steps int' the butt'ry 'n' pours some cold tea out the teapot 'n' takes a drink of it, 'n' then a bite o' cold punkin pie 'n' then more tea, all the time stan'in' up to the shelf 'stid o' sittin' down like a Christian, and lookin' out the winder as if his mind was in Hard Scrabble 'n' his body in Buttertown, 'n' as if he didn't know whether he was eatin' pie or putty. Land! I can't bear to watch him. I dassay he misses Lyddy's jawin',--it must seem dretful quiet. I declare it seems to me that meek, resigned folks, that's too good to squeal out when they're abused, is allers the ones that gits the hardest knocks; but I don't doubt but what there's goin' to be an everlastin' evenupness somewheres."

Samantha got up suddenly and went to the sink window. "It's 'bout time the men come in for their dinner," she said. But though Jabe was mowing the millstone hill, and though he wore a red flannel shirt, she could not see him because of the tears that blinded her eyes.

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