Friday, 8 December 2017

Friends in Life and Death

There were once upon a time two fellows who were such good friends that they swore to one another that they would not be parted, neither in life nor death. One of them died before he grew old, and after a while the other proposed to a farm hand’s girl, gained her as his sweetheart, and was to be married. When they invited to the wedding, the bridegroom himself went to the churchyard where his friend lay, knocked on the tomb, and called upon him. No, he did not come. He knocked again, and he called again, but no one came. A third time he knocked, harder, and called louder that he should come so that he could speak with him. After a long, long time, he heard some rustling, and finally the revenant up from the grave.

“It is good you came now,” said the bridegroom; “I have stood knocking and calling for you for a long time.”

“I was far away,” said the revenant, “so I did not hear you well enough before the last time.”

“Well, well, today I am to stand bridegroom,” said the boy, “and you well remember that we should attend each other’s wedding.”

“I remember,” said the revenant, “but you must wait a little so I may wash and tidy myself; I am not not used to being invited to a wedding.”

The boy had little time, for he should go home to the wedding farm, and they should soon go to church; but they would just have to wait a little, and let the dead have a room of his own, as he had asked for, so he could wash and tidy himself, so he could attend well dressed, like the others, for he had to come to church.

Yes, the revenant went to church, but when the wedding drew on so long that they had taken the bride’s crown, he would leave. For the sake of old companionship and friendship, the bridegroom would accompany him back to his grave.

As they walked to the churchyard, the bridegroom asked if he had seen anything much strange, or anything worth knowing.

“Yes, I have,” replied the revenant; “much and a lot have I seen,” he said.

That would be rare to see,” said the bridegroom. “I might have a mind to join you, to see it too,” he said.

“You can, to be sure,” said the revenant, “but you may be away for a while.”

It would be so, said the bridegroom, following down through the grave. But before they stepped down, the revenant took a patch of turf from the churchyard, and laid it on the boy’s head. They went far through the pitch darkness, thicket and moor, until they came to a great big gate. It opened up when the revenant touched it. Inside, it was as if it grew lighter, as in the moonlight, and the farther they came, the lighter it grew. After a long time and distance, they came to a place where there were green banks of lovely lush grass, and there grazed a great herd of cattle; but for all they ate, they looked terrible and empty and pathetic.

“What should this mean,” said the boy who was bridegroom, “that they are so lean and look so bad, even though they eat as if they were paid to do so?”

“It is a parable of those who never can have enough, no matter how much they get and scrape together,” said the dead.

So they travelled far, and farther than far, to some mountain pastures, where there was nothing but rocks and bare mountain, with the odd small patch of grass here and there. Here there grazed a great herd of cattle that were so beautiful and fat and sleek that they shone.

“What?” said the bridegroom. “These that have so little pasture, and yet look so good, what is it?”

“It is a parable of those who are well satisfied with the little they have,” said the revenant.

So they went far, and farther than far again, until they came to a great water. There it was so light and gleaming that the bridegroom could not tolerate to look at it.

“Now you shall sit here until I return,” said the revenant. “I will be away for a while, now.”

With that, he set off, and the bridegroom sat down. And as he sat, he was overcome with sleep, and it was as if nothing mattered to him in his safe, sound sleep.

After a while the revenant returned.

“It is good you remained sitting here, where I could find you again,” he said. But when the bridegroom should rise, he was overgrown with moss and trees, so that he sat as if in a thicket. When he had cleared all this off himself, they travelled back, and the revenant went with him the same way, all the way to the grave. There they parted, and said farewell to one another, and when the bridegroom came up, he went straight to the wedding farm. But when he arrived there where he thought it should be, he could not recognise where he was. He looked around in every direction, and he asked everybody he met, but he heard nothing of a bride or a wedding or kin or parents, yes he heard of nothing of anyone he knew. Everyone wondered at this figure who went there, looking like a scare-folk.

As he could find no one he knew, he went on his way to the parson, and told him of his kin, and how things had gone, to the time that he stood as bridegroom, and had left the wedding. The parson knew nothing about it, but when he searched through the old church registers, he found that the wedding had been held a long, long time ago, and the folk he spoke of had lived four-hundred years ago.

After that time, a great big oak had grown up in the garden of the parsonage. When he saw it, he climbed up, to take a look around; but the old man who had sat sleeping in heaven for four-hundred years and had come home again did not come down well from the oak. He was stiff and solid, which was only reasonable, and when he should come down again, he fumbled so that he fell and broke his neck bone and tumbled himself to death.

No comments:

Post a Comment