Moriah's Mourning and Other Half-Hour Sketches

#Fiction #Historical
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Excerpt MORIAH'S MOURNING Moriah was a widow of a month, and when she announced her intention of marrying again, the plantation held its breath. Then it roared with laughter. Not because of the short period of her mourning was the news so incredible. But by a most exceptional mourning Moriah had put herself upon record as the most inconsolable of widows. So prompt a readjustment of life under similar conditions was by no means unprecedented in colored circles. The rules governing the wearing of the mourning garb are by no means stringent in plantation communities, and the widow who for reasons of economy or convenience sees fit to wear out her colored garments during her working hours is not held to account for so doing if she appear at all public functions clad in such weeds as she may find available. It is not even needful, indeed, that her supreme effort should attain any definite standard. Anybody can collect a few black things, and there is often an added pathos in the very incongruity of some of the mourning toilettes that pass up the aisles of the colored churches. Was not the soul of artlessness expressed in the first mourning of a certain young widow, for instance, who sewed upon her blue gown all the black trimming she could collect, declaring that she "would 'a' dyed de frock th'oo an' th'oo 'cep'n' it would 'a' swunked it up too much"? And perhaps her sympathetic companions were quite as naïve as she, for, as they aided her in these first hasty stitches, they poured upon her wounded spirit the healing oil of full and sympathetic approval, as the following remarks will testify. "Dat frock mo'ns all right, now de black bows is on it." "You kin put any colored frock in mo'nin' 'cep'n' a red one. Sew black on red, an' it laughs in yo' face." "I'm a-sewin' de black fringe on de josey, Sis Jones, 'case fringe hit mo'ns a heap mo'nfuler 'n ribbon do." Needless to say, a license so full and free as this found fine expression in a field of flowering weeds quite rare and beautiful to see. Moriah had proven herself in many ways an exceptional person even before the occasion of her bereavement, and in this, contrary to all precedent, she had rashly cast her every garment into the dye-pot, sparing not even so much as her underwear. Moriah was herself as black as a total eclipse, tall, angular, and imposing, and as she strode down the road, clad in the sombre vestments of sorrow, she was so noble an expression of her own idea that as a simple embodiment of dignified surrender to grief she commanded respect. The plantation folk were profoundly impressed, for it had soon become known that her black garb was not merely a thing of the surface. "Moriah sho' does mo'n for Numa. She mo'ns f'om de skin out." Such was popular comment, although it is said that one practical sister, to whom this "inward mo'nin'" had little meaning, ventured so far as to protest against it. "Sis Moriah," she said, timidly, as she sat waiting while Moriah dressed for church—"Sis Moriah, look ter me like you'd be 'feerd dem black shimmies 'd draw out some sort o' tetter on yo' skin," to which bit of friendly warning Moriah had responded, with a groan, and in a voice that was almost sepulchral in its awful solemnity, "When I mo'n I mo'n!" Perhaps an idea of the unusual presence of this great black woman may be conveyed by the fact that when she said, as she was wont to do in speaking of her own name, "I'm named Moriah—after a Bible mountain," there seemed a sort of fitness in the name and in the juxtaposition neither the sacred eminence or the woman suffered a loss of dignity....
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