THE SEXTON'S COTTAGE 37
' Did you ever see a raven do that ? I told you I was a sexton ! '
I Does a sexton toss worms in the air, and turn them into butterflies ?'
'I never saw one do it!'
' You saw me do it!—But I am still librarian in your house, for I never was dismissed, and never gave up the office. Now I am librarian here as well.'
' But you have just told me you were sexton here I
' So I am. It is much the same profession. Except you are a true sexton, books are but dead bodies to you, and a library nothing but a catacomb !'
' You bewilder me !'
That's all right!'
A few moments he stood silent. The woman, moveless as a statue, stood silent also by the coffin-door.
' Upon occasion,' said the sexton at length, ' it is more convenient to put one's bird-self in front. Every one, as you ought to know, has a beast-self—and a bird-self, and a stupid fish-self, ay, and a creeping serpent-self too—which it takes a deal of crushing to kill! In truth he has also a tree-self and a crystal-self, and I don't know how many selves more—all to get into harmony. You can tell what sort a man is by his creature that comes oftenest to the front.'
He turned to his wife, and I considered him more closely. He was above the ordinary height, and stood more erect than when last I saw him. His face was, like his wife's, very pale; its nose handsomely encased the beak that had retired within it; its lips were very thin, and even they had no colour, but their curves were beautiful, and about them quivered a