Still Grieving Lost Children

This is really sad, from Joseph Leech’s Rural Rides, from the churchyard at Keynsham, though the author could have been a bit more diplomatic:

My attention was attracted by 2 very antiquated crones, who came hobbling towards me over the graves which, in the course of nature, they ought to have long since filled; both had apparently attained to 4 score years, and one was considerably taller than the other, and as she bent over her crooked stick, reminded me of the penny portrait of ‘Mother Hubbard’: her companion was a little crabbed-faced old creature, and carried a large gingham umbrella that seemed as if it had been made in the time of the Norman Conquest., if not for Noah. they made their way with pain and difficulty to nearly the spot where I sat, when the taller of the 2, turning aside the long rank grass with her tick pointed out a little rudely placed row of stones to her fellow crone. “Here”, said she, in a voice faltering with age, and wiping her old eyes with a large snuffy brown cotton handkerchief, “is where by baby (poor dear!) lies. Ip placed these stones myself, and Mr. – grumbled a good ‘un.”

“Poor dear!” croaked her companion,moving a few steps nearer the church and pointing with her umbrella to a little green mound, “and here’s where my little da-ar-ling is buried.”

Good gracious, thought I, and could these sapless old creatures with half an inch of hair on their upper lips, and looking as hard as walking mummies, have ever been young mothers with blue-eyed babies at their breasts! I shut my eyes to try if I could picture either to my fancy as fresh, soft-looking young woman; but their old quivering voices,which seemed to me as if 2 of the last generation had arisen to have a gossip among the headstones, kept off the illusion: the very babies of whom they spoke, and whom they recollected with a tenderness that age hardly impaired, had they lived would have been grandfathers or grandmothers at that moment. Yet such had, of course, been the case: these old crones, with their horny eyes and their hard features, had, no doubt, their day of rustic attraction, when they

‘Danced with the lads of the village,

No cheeks glowed more ruddy than theirs.

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