The little Doctor turned his head vaguely away. The house was so still that the creaking of the stairs as his weight shifted from one foot to another, sounded horribly loud; he noticed it, and regretted having moved. The idea of Fifi’s dying had of course never occurred to him. Something put into his head the simple thought that he would never help the little girl with her algebra again, and at once he was conscious of an odd and decidedly unpleasant sensation, somewhere far away inside of him. He felt that he ought to say something, to sum up his attitude toward the unexpected event, but for once in his life he experienced a difficulty in formulating his thought in precise language. However, the pause was of the briefest.
“I think,” said Sharlee, “the funeral will be Monday afternoon.... You will go, won’t you?”
Queed turned upon her a clouded brow. The thought of taking personal part in such mummery as a funeral—“barbaric rites,” he called them in the forthcoming Work—was entirely distasteful to him. “No,” he said, hastily. “No, I could hardly do that—”
“Fifi—would like it. It is the last time you will have to do anything for her.”
“Like it? It is hardly as if she would know—!”
“Mightn’t you show your regard for a friend just the same, even if your friend was never to know about it?... Besides—I think of these things another way, and so did Fifi.”
He peered down at her over the banisters, oddly disquieted. The flaring gas lamp beat mercilessly upon her face, and it occurred to him that she looked tired around her eyes.
“I think Fifi will know ... and be glad,” said Sharlee. “She liked and admired you. Only day before yesterday she spoke of you. Now she ... has gone, and this is the one way left for any of us to show that we are sorry.”
Long afterwards, Queed thought that if Charles Weyland’s lashes had not glittered with sudden tears at that moment he would have refused her. But her lashes did so glitter, and he capitulated at once; and turning instantly went heavy-hearted up the stairs.
In a Country Churchyard, and afterwards; of Friends: how they take your Time while they live, and then die, upsetting your Evening’s Work; and what Buck Klinker saw in the Scriptorium at 2 a.m.
Queed was caught, like many another rationalist before him, by the stirring beauty of the burial service of the English church.
Fifi’s funeral was in the country, at a little church set down in a beautiful grove which reminds all visitors of the saying about God’s first temples. Near here Mrs. Paynter was born and spent her girlhood; here Fifi, before her last illness, had come every Sabbath morning to the Sunday-school; here lay the little strip of God’s acre that the now childless widow called her own. You come by the new electric line, one of those high-speed suburban roads which, all over the country, are doing so much to persuade city people back to the land. The cars are steam-road size. Two of them had been provided for the mourners, and there was no room to spare; for the Paynter family connection was large, and it seemed that little Fifi had many friends.