Thus it spread, buzz, buzz, from house to house; and when at length the weary town went to its bed, there was certainly not a soul who had not heard of the engagement from at least five separate people. It was a wonderful time, rich in important events.
But just as one sometimes sees a little brawling and muddy brook flowing into a clear stream, and following along in its course, but ever keeping its little band of dirty brown water separate from the translucent river, even so there followed with the news of the great event, a little whisper of uncomfortable gossip. It always accompanied the main story, cropping up everywhere, whispered, muttered, doubted, but never contradicted; and this little bit of intelligence was, that Pastor Martens wore a wig. It was scarcely credible, but it was undeniable; Madame Rasmussen herself was the authority.
Like all wise rulers, who feel that they ought to mark the epoch of their arrival at power with certain merciful actions, Morten had given permission to Per Karl to drive the hearse with the old blacks, which were, however, condemned to be shot on the following day.
The old coachman had got them into “funeral trim,” as he said, and for three days had groomed them incessantly. The last night he had passed in the stable, so that they should not lie down and spoil their coats. They were therefore shining as they never shone before, when, at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning, they drew up with the hearse at the door.
There are three kinds of hearses, so that one has the option of driving to the churchyard just as one travels by rail—in a first, second, or third class carriage. Unless, indeed, one manages to quit life in such an abject state of poverty, that one has to get one’s self carried on foot by one’s friends. Consul Garman drove first class, in a carriage adorned with angels’ heads and silver trappings. Per Karl sat under the black canopy, with crape round his hat, and looking with pride and sadness on his old blacks.
When the coffin, which was adorned with flowers and white drapery, was carried down from upstairs, Miss Cordsen stood at the foot of the staircase, with the servants assembled in a group behind her. The old lady folded her hands on her breast, and bowed low as they bore him past; she then went up to her room, and locked the door.
The ladies of the family followed in the close carriage with Uncle Richard, so as to be present at the ceremony in the church. Morten and Gabriel were in the open carriage. The whole staff of workmen belonging to the firm, and many of the townspeople who were not contented with following from the church to the grave, joined the procession on foot when the hearse set itself in motion. The spring sunshine was reflected from the silver trappings and angels’ heads, and from the sleek and well-groomed horses, who were