It rained in Herculaneum that night. The pavement in Williams Street glistened sharply, for a wind was swinging the arc-lamps. The trees on the Warrington lawn sighed incessantly; and drip, drip, drip, went the rain on the leaves. Not a light shone anywhere in the house; total darkness brooded over it. In one of the rooms a dog lay with his nose against the threshold of the door. From time to time he whined mournfully. In another room an Angora cat stalked restlessly back and forth, sometimes leaping upon a chair, sometimes trotting round and round, and again, wild-eyed and furtive, it stood motionless, as if listening. Death had entered the house; and death, to the beast, is not understandable.
Everybody had gone down the winding road to the granite entrance of the cemetery; the minister, the choir, the friends and those who had come because they reveled in morbid scenes. These were curious to see how Warrington was affected, if he showed his grief or contained it, so that they might have something to talk about till some one else died. There are some people in this merry world of ours who, when they take up the evening paper, turn first to the day’s death notices; who see no sermons in the bright flowers, the birds and butterflies, the misty blue hills, the sunshine, who read no lesson in beauty, who recognize no message in the moon and the stars, in cheerfulness and good humor. On the contrary, they seem to abhor the sunshine; they keep their parlors for ever in musty darkness, a kind of tomb where they place funeral wreaths under glass globes and enter but half a dozen times a year. Well, even these had finally dragged themselves away from the grave, and left Warrington standing alone beside the brown roll of damp fresh earth. No carriage awaited him, for he had signified his intention of walking home.
All about him the great elms and maples and oaks showed crisp against the pale summer sky. Occasionally a leaf fell. A red squirrel chattered above him, and an oriole sang shrilly and joyously near by. The sun was reddening in the west, and below, almost at his feet, the valley swam in a haze of delicate amethyst. The curving stream glittered. From where he stood he could see them bundling up the sheaves of wheat. All these things told him mutely that the world was going on the same as ever; nothing had changed. In the city men and women were going about their affairs as usual; the smoke rolled up from the great chimneys. When all is said, our griefs and joys are wholly our own; the outsider does not participate.
Yes, the world went on just the same. Death makes a vacancy, but the Great Accountant easily fills it; and the summing up of balances goes on. Let us thank God for the buoyancy of the human spirit, which, however sorely tried, presently rises and assumes its normal interest in life.