THE CEMETERY 45
This is the couch that has been waiting for you,' he ended, pointing to one of the three.
' Why just this ? ' I said, beginning to tremble, and anxious by parley to delay.
'For reasons which one day you will be glad to know,' he answered.
' Why not know them now ? '
' That also you will know when you wake.'
' But these are all dead, and I am alive ! ' I objected, shuddering.
' Not much,' rejoined the sexton with a smile, '—not nearly enough! Blessed be the true life that the pauses between its throbs are not death !'
' The place is too cold to let one sleep!' I said.
' Do these find it so ? ' he returned. ' They sleep well—or will soon. Of cold they feel not a breath: it heals their wounds.—Do not be a coward, Mr. Vane. Turn your back on fear, and your face to whatever may come. Give yourself up to the night, and you will rest indeed. Harm will not come to you, but a good you cannot foreknow.'
The sexton and I stood by the side of the couch, his wife, with the candle in her hand, at the foot of it. Her eyes were full of light, but her face was again of a still whiteness; it was no longer radiant.
I Would they have me make of a charnel-house my bed-chamber ? ' I cried aloud. ' I will not. I will lie abroad on the heath; it cannot be colder there ! '
'I have just told you that the dead are there also,
" Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks In Vallombrosa,"'
said the librarian.