When Mother Is Gone
The hour set for the funeral had come. The hearse with its black plumes stood at the farmhouse door. It seemed a strange and foreign thing among the bright colored hollyhocks, the commonplace sunshine, the lowing of cows in the barnyard, and the chickens that moved about upon the green lawn before the house. The Jersey wagons of the neighboring farmers filled the road, for the Garrets were much respected.
Mrs. Garrett, who had just died, was a “home-body,” and saw but little of her neighbors, but her husband had grown rich by great industry and close saving, and had pushed his children on in the world.
John, his only son, had been to college, and the girls to a boarding school, and they were so improved that they seemed to belong to quite another class from their mother.
They had stood with their father at the coffin, to look for the last time at the woman who lay there.
“Your mother was a pretty woman when she was young,” the farmer had said. It had startled him to see how thin and withered her face was under the white hair.
“Sarah’s only fifty,” he continued, “She hadn’t ought to look so old.” He had not thought of her looks when she was alive.
There was a certain sullen resentment under his grief that she was dead. How was he to do without her? She was a master hand at cooking and butter-making and laundry work and sewing. He had never thought to ask her if she needed help. She had never complained, and to complete her work she had risen at four o’clock and gone to bed late at night. Things had always run smoothly. She never spoke of being ill. It stunned him when she took this cold, and sank under it in two days. The doctor said that all her strength was gone. “Sarah had the strength of ten women,” the husband said, “Where had it gone?”
He was amazed and indignant. Was this the justice of God, to take away a woman so useful in the world? It was not just!
Her daughters sobbed vehemently. She had always been so tender! She did so much for them! They did not, it is true, feel well acquainted with her since they grew up. But between their music, and their studies, and their young companions, and other social occupations, their lives had been filled. They smoothed the folds of her merino gown, a little ashamed that the neighbors should see that she had no silk dress. She had insisted that each of them should have silk gowns, and had helped to make them.
Jack, her son, like his father, was shocked to see how tired and worn his mother looked. He had talked for a year or two of taking her for a week to New York. She had never seen a great city. But he always had some engagement. He remembered now that she had made enough in the dairy to keep him in his spending money at college. He wished he had contrived that little holiday for her! They all felt now how good and unselfish she had been, and how dear to them.
“Why should she be taken from us?” the old man moaned bitterly. It is cruel. Why has God done this thing?”
And the dead woman lying there, her lips closed forever, could make no answer, save that which toil had stamped upon the thin, worn face that seemed pleading for rest.