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A narrow grave-yard in the heart of a bustling, indifferent city,
seen from the windows of a gloomy-looking inn, is at no
time an object of enlivening suggestion; and the spectacle
is not at its best when the mouldy tombstones and funereal
umbrage have received the ineffectual refreshment of a dull,
moist snow-fall. If, while the air is thickened by this
frosty drizzle, the calendar should happen to indicate that
the blessed vernal season is already six weeks old, it will be
admitted that no depressing influence is absent from the scene.
This fact was keenly felt on a certain 12th of May, upwards of
thirty years since, by a lady who stood looking out of one of
the windows of the best hotel in the ancient city of Boston.
She had stood there for half an hour--stood there, that is,
at intervals; for from time to time she turned back into
the room and measured its length with a restless step.
In the chimney-place was a red-hot fire which emitted
a small blue flame; and in front of the fire, at a table,
sat a young man who was busily plying a pencil.
He had a number of sheets of paper cut into small equal squares,
and he was apparently covering them with pictorial designs--
strange-looking figures. He worked rapidly and attentively,
sometimes threw back his head and held out his drawing at
arm's-length, and kept up a soft, gay-sounding humming and whistling.
The lady brushed past him in her walk; her much-trimmed skirts
were voluminous. She never dropped her eyes upon his work;
she only turned them, occasionally, as she passed, to a mirror
suspended above the toilet-table on the other side of the room.
Here she paused a moment, gave a pinch to her waist with her
two hands, or raised these members--they were very plump and pretty--
to the multifold braids of her hair, with a movement half caressing,
half corrective. An attentive observer might have fancied
that during these periods of desultory self-inspection her face
forgot its melancholy; but as soon as she neared the window again
it began to proclaim that she was a very ill-pleased woman.
And indeed, in what met her eyes there was little to be
pleased with. The window-panes were battered by the sleet;
the head-stones in the grave-yard beneath seemed to be
holding themselves askance to keep it out of their faces.
A tall iron railing protected them from the street, and on
the other side of the railing an assemblage of Bostonians were
trampling about in the liquid snow. Many of them were looking
up and down; they appeared to be waiting for something.
From time to time a strange vehicle drew near to the place
where they stood,--such a vehicle as the lady at the window,
in spite of a considerable acquaintance with human inventions,
had never seen before: a huge, low omnibus, painted in
brilliant colors, and decorated apparently with jangling bells,
attached to a species of groove in the pavement,
through which it was dragged, with a great deal of rumbling,
bouncing and scratching, by a couple of remarkably small horses.
When it reached a certain point the people in front of
the grave-yard, of whom much the greater number were women,
carrying satchels and parcels, projected themselves upon it
in a compact body--a movement suggesting the scramble for places
in a life-boat at sea--and were engulfed in its large interior.
Then the life-boat--or the life-car, as the lady at the window
of the hotel vaguely designated it--went bumping and jingling
away upon its invisible wheels, with the helmsman (the man
at the wheel) guiding its course incongruously from the prow.
This phenomenon was repeated every three minutes, and the
supply of eagerly-moving women in cloaks, bearing reticules
and bundles, renewed itself in the most liberal manner.
On the other side of the grave-yard was a row of small red
brick houses, showing a series of homely, domestic-looking backs;
at the end opposite the hotel a tall wooden church-spire,
painted white, rose high into the vagueness of the snow-flakes.
The lady at the window looked at it for some time; for reasons
of her own she thought it the ugliest thing she had ever seen.
She hated it, she despised it; it threw her into a state of
irritation that was quite out of proportion to any sensible motive.
She had never known herself to care so much about church-spires.