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Tenth Evening

"I once knew an old maid," said the Moon. "Every winter she wore a coat of yellow satin trimmed with fur, which always s...

Tenth Evening

"I once knew an old maid," said the Moon. "Every winter she wore a coat of yellow satin trimmed with fur, which always seemed new, and was always her only fashion. Every summer she wore the same straw hat, and, I believe, the same gray-blue gown. She left her home only to visit an old lady friend who lived across the street; but in later years even these visits ceased, for the friend was dead. In her solitude my old maid used to putter about before her window, where all summer long a row of pretty flowers stood, and in winter a fine crop of cress grew on the top of a felt hat.

"During the last month she no longer sat at the window; but I knew she was still alive, for I had not yet seen her set out on that great journey which the old lady and her friend had so often discussed. 'Yes,' she would say, 'one day, when I die, I shall make a longer journey than I have made in my whole lifetime. The family vault is six miles from here, and that is where they will carry me, that I may sleep with the rest of my family.'

"Last night a hearse drove up before the house; a coffin was carried out, and then I knew that she had died. They packed straw and matting around the casket, and drove off. Now the quiet old maid, who in the last few years of her life had never left her house, slept quietly. And the hearse rolled swiftly out of town, as if this were a pleasure trip. On the highway it traveled even faster. From time to time the driver looked around nervously; I believe he feared seeing her seated behind him on the coffin, in her yellow satin and fur coat; therefore he lashed the horses recklessly while still holding in the reins as tightly as he could, until the poor horses were covered with foam. The horses were young and high -spirited, and when a hare darted across the road they became unmanageable and ran away. The quiet old maid, who year in and year out had only moved about slowly and noiselessly in a circle, was now a liveless corpse, rushed and bumped along the highway over stick and stone. The coffin, with its covering of straw, fell off, and lay on the road, while horses, hearse, and driver dashed wildly off.

"A lark rose from the field, twittering its morning hymn over the coffin, and then alighted on it, pecking with its beak at the straw matting, as if it wanted to pull it to pieces. The lark, singing happily, flew into the air, and I withdrew behind the reddening clouds of dawn."

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