“Yes, but the candles—”
“Never mind, I am a little beforehand with my work,” said the poor girl, telling a falsehood.
“Kiss me, at least,” said Frances, with moist eyes, “for you are the very best creature in the world.” So saying, she hastened cut of the room.
Rose and Blanche were left alone with Mother Bunch; at length had arrived the moment for which they had waited with so much impatience. Dagobert’s wife proceeded to St. Merely Church, where her confessor was expecting to see her.
Nothing could be more gloomy than the appearance of St. Merely Church, on this dark and snowy winter’s day. Frances stopped a moment beneath the porch, to behold a lugubrious spectacle.
While a priest was mumbling some words in a low voice, two or three dirty choristers, in soiled surplices, were charting the prayers for the dead, with an absent and sullen air, round a plain deal coffin, followed only by a sobbing old man and a child, miserably clad. The beadle and the sacristan, very much displeased at being disturbed for so wretched a funeral, had not deigned to put on their liveries, but, yawning with impatience, waited for the end of the ceremony, so useless to the interests of the establishment. At length, a few drops of holy water being sprinkled on the coffin, the priest handed the brush to the beadle, and retired.
Then took place one of those shameful scenes, the necessary consequence of an ignoble and sacrilegious traffic, so frequent with regard to the burials of the poor, who cannot afford to pay for tapers, high mass, or violins—for now St. Thomas Aquinas’ Church has violins even for the dead.
The old man stretched forth his hand to the sacristan to receive the brush. “Come, look sharp!” said that official, blowing on his fingers.
The emotion of the old man was profound, and his weakness extreme; he remained for a moment without stirring, while the brush was clasped tightly in his trembling hand. In that coffin was his daughter, the mother of the ragged child who wept by his side—his heart was breaking at the thought of that last farewell; he stood motionless, and his bosom heaved with convulsive sobs.
“Now, will you make haste?” said the brutal beadle. “Do you think we are going to sleep here?”
The old man quickened his movements. He made the sign of the cross over the corpse, and, stooping down, was about to place the brush in the hand of his grandson, when the sacristan, thinking the affair had lasted long enough, snatched the sprinkling-brush from the child, and made a sign to the bearers to carry away the coffin—which was immediately done.
“Wasn’t that old beggar a slow coach?” said the beadle to his companion, as they went back to the sacristy. “We shall hardly have time to get breakfast, and to dress ourselves for the bang-up funeral of this morning. That will be something like a dead man, that’s worth the trouble. I shall shoulder my halberd in style!”