Honouring the dead
The graveyard was not far from the house, less than ten minutes on foot, but the Jelains insisted on the carriage. Sarnia was still too weak to walk out, Mrs Jelain declared, and Edmund supported the argument. In fact, Sarnia was not sorry to acquiesce. Although she had ceased taking Dr Falla’s potion, a lethargy clung to her mind and her limbs felt weak. She was grateful for the help of Edmund’s arm as he led her from the landau to the graveyard.
It stood on high ground, on the side of a hill. A granite wall surrounded it but there was a spot from which one could look down over the town, to the harbour and the sea. The day was unsettled, a little chill, and a wind carried seagulls in long shrieking arcs overhead. Despite the protecting walls, it ruffled the wreaths heaped above the low mound of earth. The flowers were fading, and rain had smudged the writing on the cards. There were more of both than she had expected, and she spoke of that to Edmund.
He said: ‘We honour the dead, regardless of their disposition or popularity in life. It is an island tradition. The church was packed with people.’
‘I should have been there.’
‘No. Dr Falla was right. And in fact it is uncommon for members of your sex to attend funerals. That is another island custom. Our women mourn behind closed doors.’
The wreath sent in her name was enormous in size, made up of the huge Guernsey lilies. There had been nothing so splendid at her mother’s burial. She knelt by the grave, and prayed. She thought of Michael. He, being a Roman, would have prayed for the souls of the dead, but she could not. They were at peace. She prayed for the strength to believe it utterly.