Posted on 2015-03-28
Edmund Bertram walked down the path from the parsonage door and set off in the direction of the church. It was not far, and a small, well-trod path marked the way. As he rounded one grey stone corner his eyes went immediately to the shaded cemetery beyond. He saw what he expected to see: a small, neat, womanly figure perched on a grave stone, the straight curve of her back towards him, and above it a slim neck and a little white cap set on a blonde head of curls.
He opened the gate; it creaked a little, but Fanny did not look around. The gravestone was wide enough for two, and he sat down next to her even while hoping in the back of his mind that none of his parishioners ever saw him doing such an irreverent thing.
Fanny sighed, and leaned against him as his arm went around her waist. He kissed her temple gently. "I will praise thee," she whispered, "for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect..." her voice trailed off.
"... and in thy book all my members were written."
They were silent for a long moment. "I know it's silly," she said at last. "To come here, when there is nothing to come to. I feel like there ought to be something to come to, that there ought to be a marker for my grief--that this ought to be the proper place to mourn."
"Perhaps it is," he said. "If coming here gives you peace, then you ought to come."
She did not answer, but he saw the sparkle of tears on her lashes and had to blink away a few of his own. "Oh, my lovely girl," he murmured against her hair. "There will be others. Remember that the doctor said it is quite common for a woman to lose the first one but then go on to have many more without trouble. There will be others."
"Yes. Yes, but none of them will be this one." Her hand moved reflexively to cover the area below her waist. "This one, I can never get back."
He tightened his arm.
"I think of it, sometimes. I try to understand how much is lost, but it is so much. An entire life, Edmund, from--" she swallowed. "From the quickening on through birth, childhood, adulthood--it is the most complete loss imaginable."
"And yet it is a merciful loss. You know."
Fanny nodded barely perceptively. The young Bertrams had seen a great deal in their short time in the Thornton Lacy parish. She knew perfectly well that of all the ways to lose a child, miscarriage was the least painful. Not for her was the stillborn babe, blue and silent in her arms. Not for her the slow anguish of watching a beloved little life suffer and burn away in fever until it was gone forever. For her, it was simply a continuance--everything going on exactly as it had before. Nothing changed. Everything changed.
"I have considered that. I remember it often, and I--" she blinked rapidly. "I thank God for His good purpose, because I know that it is good. After all, why should I be exempt from suffering?" She shifted a little now, and took his narrow, long-fingered hand between her own small ones. "I feel fully human now, Edmund," she said seriously.
Edmund did not wish to laugh at such a moment, but he could not entirely repress a smile. "And what did you feel yourself to be previously?"
"I mean that this--this loss," she was tearing up again but did not attempt to stop it this time, "has been suffered by so many women ever since the creation. It is--they are--death and loss are a part of what it means to be mortal in a fallen world." She looked at him solemnly. "This is the curse."
He brushed back a curl. "It is part of it, yes."
"Eve lost a son too."
His lips quirked. "In a rather more violent fashion."
"Which made it all the worse. She lost two sons, really. Two children to sin."
There seemed nothing much to say to that. He touched her face again, and murmured something, and they sat together in silence, enjoying the golden-patched, deep green shade.
After a time, Edmund tilted his head back, and pointed at a spot above them. "Look," he said quietly. "There is a sparrow bringing food to the nest."
Following his gaze, Fanny could just make out the drab little bird, bending over the twigged rim with darting motions. She imagined the little featherless heads and open beaks, and sighed.
It was little more than a gentle exhalation, but Edmund felt it, and shifted his attention to her again. "What is it?"
"New life," she whispered.
"Yes, new life, such as comes to all lands everywhere, time and again, year after year. As will come to us too." He laced his hand with hers. "Now is our time to mourn, Fanny, but soon it will be time to laugh again, I promise."
"I know." She fingers tightened around his, firmly. "Oh, Edmund, I do know."
And they remained among the grave stones until it was time for dinner, when Edmund pulled Fanny's hand through his arm, and together they walked back around the church, down the path, and into the house where Mrs. Corey had just taken the mutton out of the oven, and the flowers Fanny had picked yesterday still bloomed on the windowsill.The End