ART N Lyrics | Short Story: The Bouquet, By Charles Waddell Chesnutt, 1858-1932

From The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line, [An Excerpt]

By Charles Chessnutt

Pg. 269: The Bouquet

 …So Sophy stayed outside, and looked through the fence. Her poor bouquet had begun to droop by this time, and the yellow ribbon had lost some of its freshness. Sophy could see the rector standing by the grave, the mourners gathered round; she could faintly distinguish the solemn words with which ashes were committed to ashes, and dust to dust. She heard the hollow thud of the earth falling on the coffin; and she leaned against the iron fence, sobbing softly, until the grave was filled and rounded off, and the wreaths and other floral pieces were disposed upon it. When the mourners began to move toward the gate, Sophy walked slowly down the street, in a direction opposite to that taken by most of the people who came out.

When they had all gone away, and the sexton had come out and locked the gate behind him, Sophy crept back. Her roses were faded now, and from some of them the petals had fallen. She stood there irresolute, loath to leave with her heart’s desire unsatisfied, when, as her eyes sought again the teacher’s last resting-place, she saw lying beside the new-made grave what looked like a small bundle of white wool. Sophy’s eyes lighted up with a sudden glow.

        “Prince! Here, Prince!” she called.

        The little dog rose, and trotted down to the gate. Sophy pushed the poor bouquet between the iron bars. “Take that ter Miss Ma’y, Prince,” she said, “that’s a good doggie.”

Credit: Illustrated by Clyde O. De Land, Public Domain, Illustration from Chesnutt’s book depicting young Sophy peering into the graveyard through the fence. Caption reads, “For White People Only. Others Please Keep Out.”

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