On the day succeeding the events described in our last chapter, Mr. Walters called upon Mr. Balch, for the purpose of making the necessary preparations for the interment of Mr. and Mrs. Garie.
“I think,” said Mr. Balch, “we had better bury them in the Ash-grove cemetery; it’s a lovely spot—all my people are buried there.”
“The place is fine enough, I acknowledge,” rejoined Mr. Walters; “but I much doubt if you can procure the necessary ground.”
“Oh, yes, you can!” said Mr. Balch; “there are a number of lots still unappropriated.”
“That may very likely be so; but are you sure we can get one if we apply?”
“Of course we can—what is to prevent?” asked Mr. Balch.
“You forget,” replied Mr. Walters, “that Mrs. Garie was a coloured woman.”
“If it wasn’t such a solemn subject I really should be obliged to laugh at you, Walters,” rejoined Mr. Balch, with a smile—“you talk ridiculously. What can her complexion have to do with her being buried there, I should like to know?”
“It has everything to do with it! Can it be possible you are not aware that they won’t even permit a coloured person to walk through the ground, much less to be buried there!”
“You astonish me, Walters! Are you sure of it?”
“I give you my word of honour it is so! But why should you be astonished at such treatment of the dead, when you see how they conduct themselves towards the living? I have a friend,” continued Mr. Walters, “who purchased a pew for himself and family in a white-church, and the deacons actually removed the floor from under it, to prevent his sitting there. They refuse us permission to kneel by the side of the white communicants at the Lord’s Supper, and give us separate pews in obscure corners of their churches. All this you know—why, then, be surprised that they carry their prejudices into their graveyards?—the conduct is all of a piece.”
“Well, Walters, I know the way things are conducted in our churches is exceedingly reprehensible; but I really did not know they stretched their prejudices to such an extent.”
“I assure you they do, then,” resumed Mr. Walters; “and in this very matter you’ll find I’m correct. Ask Stormley, the undertaker, and hear what he’ll tell you. Oh! a case in point.—About six months ago, one of our wealthiest citizens lost by death an old family servant, a coloured woman, a sort of half-housekeeper—half-friend. She resembled him so much, that it was generally believed she was his sister. Well, he tried to have her laid in their family vault, and it was refused; the directors thought it would be creating a bad precedent—they said, as they would not sell lots to coloured persons, they couldn’t consistently permit them to be buried in those of the whites.”
“Then Ash-grove must be abandoned; and in lieu of that what can you propose?” asked Mr. Balch.
“I should say we can’t do better than lay them in the graveyard of the coloured Episcopal church.”