DECEMBER hath 31 days
IN this cold and chill December, the Month of the Year when the proof of God died, died Saint Musset, proof of Earth, for she had loosened and come uprooted in the Path of Love, where she had so long flourished. Nor yet with any alien Sickness came she to her Death, but as one who had a grave Commission and the ambassador recalled.
She had blossomed on Sap's need, and when need's Sap found such easy flowing in the Year of our Lord 19-- what more was there for her to do? Yet though her Life was completed, she has many Transactions for her end, so said she, lying on the flat of her Back, her good Beak of a nose yet more of a Pope's proportion, "I have heard somewhere that there be as many Burials, and as different, as there be Births, yea, even in excess of this, for a Babe is born one of two ways, Head or Foot, but a Corpse can go down all-in-one or bit by bit, sideways or lengthwaya or Shin to Chin. There is the Small-town Burial and the Burial of State, and the Burial of Harvest, and the Burial of Frost. There is cracking and crating as they understand it in the District of the Ganges, and there is the upright and the supine, and the Head to Heel, there is Urn Burial or Cremation, there is the Flesh-eating Stone, the Sarcophagus, there is embalming and stretching of the Gut, there is lamenting, and there is laughing, There are those buried in Trenches, and those in Tombs, and those on Hills and those in Dales, those buried of shallow and those of deep digging. Some are followed on Foot, and some are followed in Carriages, and some are followed in the Mind alone and some are not followed at all; some have a Christian and some a Pagan rite, and some are swallowed up for an Hour in Churches, and others are accompanied with Wine and Song and covered with the Leaves of the Day, the while the Ass brays in the Market-place, and the sound of the Wine-press is like the Gush of a Girl's first Sorrow.
"Now I leave behind me, to those who shall follow, or I much mistake my Prowess in these ripe Days of my Life (she having reached a good ninety-nine), many Mourners of many Races and many Tempers, and as they loved me differently in Life so I would have them plan differently for me in Death. Think then of as many manner of Rites of Interment and ending, burning and cracking as there be ingenuity, only", she said in that logical Measure that had made her a great Politician all the days of her Hour, "plan differently, for if you burn me first, how shall you lay me out for shriving, and how, if you drop me in Ocean, can you also bind me with Earth? Nay, you must come to the matter with Forethought and no Jealousies, so that I stay not too long in that condition, which left to Nature, is most unseemly, like many of her raw Tricks. Therefore provide a Council, and plan with Fecundity, and bring about as good a Series as the Wits of Women can devise."
So it was that when she came to die, there were many so hard pressed with lamenting, and some so glut with Vanity, and others so spoiled of Thought, that a wrangling was heard for full forty-eight Hours, the while she lay easily, as if she sensed in them a little old time Custom.
First forty Women shaved their Heads (all but Señorita Fly-About who for no Woman, quick or dead, would alter her Charm) and carried her through the City on a monstrous Catafalque, and then in forty different Heights these Women went down upon their knees in the darkness of the Catholic Church, and then she was sealed in a Tomb for many days, and the Women twittered about the Tomb like Birds about the Border of a Storm: and then they bore her to the Crossroads, and at every Crossway the Bier was laid down. And a Bird came, and in passing, crowed lamentably, though but that instant an Oat had descended into the dark of its Craw, and a little later at another Crossroad a Hare came, and standing upon the Lid, beat thrice with its custom of hind-foot Mating, and yet further on, a Mountain Goat that way going, threw its Beard up, and lamented bitterly from between its even row of Teeth that knew only the Grass going inward and no word over, and a little later, (there were many Forks going hither and thither, for the Spring in the Grass had seen many herds going four ways, and Love making a common pasture for a Season, what with moo and bray and Hoof and Heel stamping for tell tale), a Night-owl came and sat upon one end of the great and ebon Tassels, and said, or so the Parishioners aver, "Oh ! God !" as if it were his Heart's first Need, and still later a Ground thing, not to this day identified, came upward out of the Earth, and stood awhile, and still purblind and lidless, shook its Fur from Throat to Tail in one long, slow Undulation of Misery, and descended again. Now, a Tup, so new with Life that it walked on Waves came and raising its God's Gift of a Mouth, said "Baaaaa!" And so it was that they hurried on and laid her in the Earth of a little Village, and then they put her low in a great City, and some buried her shallow and some deep, and Women who had not told their Husbands everything, joined them. And there was veiled Face downcast, and bare Face upturned, and some lamenting sideways and some forward, and some who struck their Hands together, and some who carried them one on one. And they carved her many Tombs, and many sayings, and much Poetry was cast for her, and in the end they put her upon a great Pyre and burned her to the Heart, warming her Urn for her with their Hands, as a good Wine-bibber warms his Cup of Wine. And when they came to the ash that was left of her, all had burned but the Tongue, and this flamed, and would not suffer Ash, and it played about upon the handful that had been she indeed. And seeing
this, there was a great Commotion, and the sound of Skirts
swirled in haste, and the Patter of much running in feet, but Señorita Fly-About came down upon that Urn first,
and beatitude played and flickered upon her Face, and
from under her Skirts a slow Smoke issued, though no
thing burned, and the Mourners barked about her covetously, and all Night through, it was bruited abroad that
the barking continued, like the mournful baying of Hounds
in the Hills, though by Dawn there was no sound, And
as the day came some hundred Women were seen bent in
Prayer. And yet a little later between them in its Urn on
high, they took the Ashes and the Fire, and placed it
on the Altar in the Temple of Love. There it is said, it
flickers to this day, and one may still decipher the
Line, beneath its Handles, "Oh ye
of little Faith."