THE CHILD IN THE GRAVE 695
whose eyes, even on his sick bed, she could never forget. How eloquent had that glance been, when she had bent over him and seized his delicate hand, which he had no longer strength to raise ! As she had sat by his crib, so she now sat by his grave, but here her tears had free course, and fell thick upon the grave.
' Thou wouldst gladly go down and be with thy child,' said a voice quite close to her, a voice that sounded so clear and deep, it went straight to her heart.
She looked up, and near her stood a man wrapped in a black cloak, with a hood drawn closely down over his face. But she glanced keenly up, and saw his face under his hood. It was stern, but yet awakened confidence, and his eyes beamed with the radiance of youth.
' Down to my child! ' she repeated ; and a despairing supplication spoke out of her words.
* Darest thou follow me ? ' asked the form. ' I am Death.'
And she bowed her head in assent. Then suddenlv it seemed as though all the stars were shining with the radiance of the full moon ; she saw the varied colours of the flowers on the grave, and the covering of earth was gradually withdrawn like a floating drapery ; and she sank down, and the apparition covered her with his black cloak ; night closed around her, the night of death, and she sank deeper than the sexton's spade can penetrate, and the churchyard was as a roof over her head.
A corner of the cloak was removed, and she stood in a great hall which spread wide and pleasantly around. It was twilight. But in a moment her child appeared, and was pressed to her heart, smiling at her in greater beauty than he had ever possessed. She uttered a cry, but it was inaudible, for a glorious swelling strain of music sounded close to her, and then in the distance, and then again close at hand : never had such tones fallen on her ear ; they came from beyond the great dark curtain which separated the hall from the great land of eternity beyond.
' My sweet darling mother,' she heard her child say.
It was the well-known, much-loved voice, and kiss followed kiss in boundless felicity ; and the child pointed to the dark curtain.