Crossing the stretch of hill on the crest of which lay the Rehoboth burial-ground, Moses made his way to the stone wall fencing in that God’s acre, and paused to lean his arms on its rude and irregular coping. There stood the old chapel, square and gaunt, its dark outline clearly cut against the moonlit sky, each window coldly gleaming in the pale light, while the scattered headstones, sheeted in mist, stood out like groups of mourners mute in their sorrow over the dead. Below lay the village—that little tragic centre of life and death—half its inhabitants in sleep, hushed for a few brief hours in their humble moorland nests. The fall of waters from the weir at the Bridge Factory came up from the valley in dreamy cadences; a light dimly burned in old Joseph’s window; and a meteor swept with a mighty arc the western sky. The soul of Moses Fletcher was at peace.
He sprang with a light step over the low wall of boundary, and crossed the wave-like mounds that heaved as a grassy sea, and beneath which lay the unlettered dead, the long grasses writhing and clinging to his feet, as though loath to let him escape the dust upon which they fed and grew so rank. Heedless of their greedy embrace, he walked with long stride towards the lower end of the yard, until he stood before a gray and lichen-covered slab, on which were letters old and new. There, by the moonlight, he read the record of a baby boy of two, carrying back the reader forty years. Above it was the name of a father, dead these ten years, and between these, all newly cut, were the lines:
Wife of the above,
who departed this
For some moments Moses stood before the stone; then, taking the hat from his head, he knelt down on the cold grass and, kissing the newly-cut name, he vowed a vow. If, with the power of his Master, whom he had only just begun to serve, he could have raised the sleeper, as Lazarus and the widow’s son and the ruler’s little child were raised, then the great grief of his heart would have disappeared. But he could not—the past, his past, was irrevocable. But there were the living—Jim Crawshaw, his wife, his babe—these were still within his reach of recompense. And again he vowed his vow, and the still night air carried it far beyond the distant stars to where He sits who knows the thoughts and tries the reins of men.
* * * * *
‘Thaa’rt lat’ to-neet, Moses; where hasto bin?’
‘Nowhere where thaa couldn’t go wi’ me, lass,’ and so saying, Moses kissed his wife, an act which he had dexterously and passionately performed several times since his immersion in the Green Fold Lodge on the previous day.
’Whatever’s come o’er thee, Moses? Thaa fair maks me shamed. It’s thirty year an’ more sin’ thaa kissed me. Hasto lost thi yed?’