They sang Eternal Memory through, blew out the candles, and the little blue streams spread in the air, blue from frankincense. The priest read through the farewell prayer; and afterwards, in the general silence, scooped up some sand with the little shovel handed to him by the psalmist, and cast it cross-wise upon the corpse, on top of the gauze. And at this he was uttering great words, filled with the austere, sad inevitability of a mysterious universal law: “The world is the Lord’s, and its fulfillment the universe, and all that dwelleth therein.”
The girls escorted their dead mate to the very cemetery. The road thither intersected the very entrance to Yamskaya Street. It would have been possible to turn to the left through it, and that would have been almost half as short; but dead people were not usually carried through Yamskaya.
Nevertheless, out of almost all the doors their inmates poured out towards the cross roads, in whatever they had on: in slippers upon bare feet, in night gowns, with kerchiefs upon their heads; they crossed themselves, sighed, wiped their eyes with their handkerchiefs and the edges of their jackets.
The weather cleared up ... The cold sun shone brightly from a cold sky of radiant blue enamel; the last grass showed its green, the withered leaves on the trees glowed, showing their pink and gold ... And in the crystal clear, cold air solemnly, and mournfully reverberated the sonorous sounds: “Holy God, Holy Almighty, Holy Everliving, have mercy upon us!” And with what flaming thirst for life, not to be satiated by aught; with what longing for the momentary—transient like unto a dream—joy and beauty of being; with what horror before the eternal silence of death, sounded the ancient refrain of John Damascene!
Then a brief requiem at the grave, the dull thud of the earth against the lid of the coffin ... a small fresh hillock ...
“And here’s the end!” said Tamara to her comrades, when they were left alone. “Oh, well, girls—an hour earlier, an hour later! ... I’m sorry for Jennka! ... Horribly sorry! ... We won’t ever find such another. And yet, my children, it’s far better for her in her pit than for us in ours ... Well, let’s cross ourselves for the last time—and home! ...”
And when they all were already nearing their house, Tamara suddenly uttered pensively the strange, ominous words:
“And we won’t be long together without her: soon we will be scattered, by the wind far and wide. Life is good! ... Look: there’s the sun, the blue sky ... How pure the air is ... Cobwebs are floating—it’s Indian summer ... How good it is in this world! ... Only we alone—we wenches—are wayside rubbish.”
The girls started off on their journey. But suddenly from somewhere on the side, from behind a monument, a tall sturdy student detached himself. He caught up with Liubka and softly touched her sleeve. She turned around and beheld Soloviev. Her face instantaneously turned pale, her eyes opened wide and her lips began to tremble.