Salley Vickers
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Extract

IDeath is outside life but it alters it: it leaves a hole in the fabric of things which those who are left behind try to repair. Perhaps it is because of this we are minded to feast at funerals and it is said that certain children are conceived on the eve of a departure, lest the separation of the partners be permanent. When in ancient stories heroes die, the first thing their comrades do, having made due observances to the gods, is sit and eat. Then they travel on, challenging, with their frail vitality, the large enigma of non-being.

When Miss Garnet's friend Harriet died, Miss Garnet decided to spend six months abroad.

II

I am an old man near the end of my life although my son lies and protests this is not so. (He is a good son, in spite of the lies.) You may ask what an old man of one hundred and eighty-five years can have to say to interest you? The secret of my longevity, perhaps? Well, it may be that our years are not reckoned as you reckon yours. But even allowing for differences I would say we live close to the cycle of the sun and moon, we rise and go to bed with the birds, labour hard, eat frugally and these things conspire towards longevity; hut I will hazard there is another thing more important than these: it may be we may live long because there is something we value above human life - I shall not give it a name!

Among our people the old are respected for their wisdom - I hope it may be the same with yours. However it is with you, if you are young now you might hold it in your mind that one day you too will he old and may find yourself glad then to he heard; if you are already old, perhaps like me you already have a story to tell (for all lives, I think, have some sort of a story in them)? Yet I do not tell my own because I wish it, or because I wish to instruct you in how to live, though I'll admit that might once have been my purpose. No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it by what you might call 'a higher authority' - and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for many years.


 
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