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.
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.