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A Division In The Coolly
by [?]

A funeral is a depressing affair under the best circumstances, but a funeral in a lonely farm-house in March, the roads full of slush, the ragged gray clouds leaping the sullen hills like eagles, is tragic.

The teams arrived splashed with mud, the women blue with cold under their scanty cotton-quilt lap robes, their hats set awry by the wind. They scurried into the house, to sit and shiver in the best room, where all the chairs that could contrive to stand erect, and all of any sort that could be borrowed, were crammed in together to seat the women folks.

The men drove out to the barn, and having blanketed their teams with lap robes, picked their way through the slush of the yard over to the lee side of the haystack, where the pale sun occasionally shone.

They spoke of “diseased” Williams, as if Diseased were his Christian name. They whittled shingles or stalks of straw as they talked.

Sooner or later, after each new arrival, they branched off upon politics, and the McKinley Bill was handled gingerly. If any one, in his zeal, raised his voice above a certain pitch, some one said “Hish!” and the newcomer’s voice sank again to that abnormal quiet which falls now and again on these loud-voiced folk of the wind and open spaces.

The boys hung around the kitchen and smoke-house, playing sly jokes upon each other in order to provoke that explosion of laughter so thoroughly enjoyed by those who can laugh noiselessly.

A snort of this sort brought Deacon Williams out to reprimand them, “Boys, boys, you should have more respect for the dead.”

The preacher came. The choir raised a wailing chant for the dead, but the group by the haystack did not move.

Occasionally they came back, after talking about seeding and the price of hogs, to the discussion of the dead man’s affairs.

“I s’pose his property will go to Emmy and Serry, half and half.”

“I expec’ so. He always said so, an’ John wa’n’t a man to whiffle about every day.”

“Well, Emmy won’t make no fuss, but if Ike don’t git more’n his half, I’ll eat the greaser.”

“Who’s ex-ecutor?”

“Deacon Williams, I expect.”

“Well, the Deacon’s a slick one,” some one observed, as if that were an excellent quality in an executor.

“They ain’t no love lost between Bill Gray and Harkey, I don’t expect.”

“No, I don’t think they is.”

“Ike don’t seem to please people. It’s queer, too. He tries awful hard.”

The voice of the preacher within, raised to a wild shout, interrupted them.

“The Elder’s gettin’ warmed up,” said one of the story-tellers, pausing in his talk. “And so I told Bill if he wanted the cord-wood–“

The sun shone warmer, and the chickens caw-cawed feebly. The colts whinnied, and a couple of dogs rolled and tumbled in wild frolic, while the voice of the preacher sounded dolefully or in humming monotone.

Meanwhile, in the house, in the best room and in the best seats near the coffin, the women, in their black, worn dresses, with wrinkled, sallow faces and gnarled hands, sat shivering. Theirs was to be the luxury of the ceremony.

The carpet was damp and muddy, the house was chill, and the damp wind filled them all with ague; but they had so much to see and talk about, that time passed rapidly. Each one entering was studied critically to see whether dress and deportment were proper to the occasion or not, and if one of the girls smiled a little as she entered, some one was sure to whisper:–

“Heartless thing, how can she?”

There were a few young men, only enough to help out on the singing, and they remained mainly in the kitchen where they were seen occasionally in anxious consultation with Deacon Williams.

The girls looked serious, but a little sly, as if they could smile if the boys looked their way or if one of the old women should cough her store teeth out.