“But,” I said, “surely you are not quite correct, for you start on the assumption that all the poor people, or their spirits, will have to take their tombstones with them on the Day of Judgment. Do you think that will be really necessary?”
“Well, what else be they tombstones for? Answer me that, miss!”
“To please their relatives, I suppose.”
“To please their relatives, you suppose!” This he said with intense scorn. “How will it pleasure their relatives to know that lies is wrote over them, and that everybody in the place knows that they be lies?”
He pointed to a stone at our feet which had been laid down as a slab, on which the seat was rested, close to the edge of the cliff. “Read the lies on that thruff-stone,” he said.
The letters were upside down to me from where I sat, but Lucy was more opposite to them, so she leant over and read, “Sacred to the memory of George Canon, who died, in the hope of a glorious resurrection, on July 29,1873, falling from the rocks at Kettleness. This tomb was erected by his sorrowing mother to her dearly beloved son. ’He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’ Really, Mr. Swales, I don’t see anything very funny in that!” She spoke her comment very gravely and somewhat severely.
“Ye don’t see aught funny! Ha-ha! But that’s because ye don’t gawm the sorrowin’ mother was a hell-cat that hated him because he was acrewk’d, a regular lamiter he was, an’ he hated her so that he committed suicide in order that she mightn’t get an insurance she put on his life. He blew nigh the top of his head off with an old musket that they had for scarin’ crows with. ’Twarn’t for crows then, for it brought the clegs and the dowps to him. That’s the way he fell off the rocks. And, as to hopes of a glorious resurrection, I’ve often heard him say masel’ that he hoped he’d go to hell, for his mother was so pious that she’d be sure to go to heaven, an’ he didn’t want to addle where she was. Now isn’t that stean at any rate,” he hammered it with his stick as he spoke, “a pack of lies? And won’t it make Gabriel keckle when Geordie comes pantin’ ut the grees with the tompstean balanced on his hump, and asks to be took as evidence!”
I did not know what to say, but Lucy turned the conversation as she said, rising up, “Oh, why did you tell us of this? It is my favourite seat, and I cannot leave it, and now I find I must go on sitting over the grave of a suicide.”
“That won’t harm ye, my pretty, an’ it may make poor Geordie gladsome to have so trim a lass sittin’ on his lap. That won’t hurt ye. Why, I’ve sat here off an’ on for nigh twenty years past, an’ it hasn’t done me no harm. Don’t ye fash about them as lies under ye, or that doesn’ lie there either! It’ll be time for ye to be getting scart when ye see the tombsteans all run away with, and the place as bare as a stubble-field. There’s the clock, and I must gang. My service to ye, ladies!” And off he hobbled.