A Gentle Ghost by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
OUT in front of the cemetery stood a white horse and a covered
wagon. The horse was not tied, but she stood quite still, her four
feet widely and ponderously planted, her meek white head hanging.
Shadows of leaves danced on her back. There were many trees about the
cemetery, and the foliage was unusually luxuriant for May. The four
women who had come in the covered wagon remarked it. "I never saw the
trees so forward as they are this year, seems to me," said one,
gazing up at some magnificent gold-green branches over her head.
"I was sayin' so to Mary this mornin'," rejoined another. "They're
uncommon forward, I think."
They loitered along the narrow lanes between the lots: four
homely, middle-aged women, with decorous and subdued enjoyment in
their worn faces. They read with peaceful curiosity and interest the
inscriptions on the stones; they turned aside to look at the tender,
newly blossomed spring bushes--the flowering almonds and the bridal
wreaths. Once in a while they came to a new stone, which they
immediately surrounded with eager criticism. There was a solemn hush
when they reached a lot where some relatives of one of the party were
buried. She put a bunch of flowers on a grave, then she stood looking
at it with red eyes. The others grouped themselves deferentially
They did not meet any one in the cemetery until just before they
left. When they had reached the rear and oldest portion of the yard,
and were thinking of retracing their steps, they became suddenly
aware of a child sitting in a lot at their right. The lot held seven
old, leaning stones, dark and mossy, their inscriptions dimly
traceable. The child sat close to one, and she looked up at the
staring knot of women with a kind of innocent keenness, like a baby.
Her face was small and fair and pinched. The women stood eying
"What's your name, little girl?" asked one. She had a bright
flower in her bonnet and a smart lift to her chin, and seemed the
natural spokeswoman of the party. Her name was Holmes. The child
turned her head sideways and murmured something.
"What? We can't hear. Speak up; don't be afraid! What's your
name?" The woman nodded the bright flower over her, and spoke with
"Nancy Wren," said the child, with a timid catch of her
The child nodded. She kept her little pink, curving mouth
"It's nobody I know," remarked the questioner, reflectively. "I
guess she comes from--over there." She made a significant motion of
her head towards the right. "Where do you live, Nancy?" she
The child also motioned towards the right.
"I thought so," said the woman. "How old are you?"
The women exchanged glances. "Are you sure you're tellin' the
The child nodded.
"I never saw a girl so small for her age if she is," said one
woman to another.
"Yes," said Mrs. Holmes, looking at her critically; "she is
dreadful small. She's considerable smaller than my Mary was. Is there
any of your folks buried in this lot?" said she, fairly hovering with
affability and determined graciousness.
The child's upturned face suddenly kindled. She began speaking
with a soft volubility that was an odd contrast to her previous
"That's mother," said she, pointing to one of the stones, "an'
that's father, an' there's John, an' Marg'ret, an' Mary, an' Susan,
an' the baby, and here's--Jane."
The women stared at her in amazement. "Was it your--" began Mrs.
Holmes; but another woman stepped forward, stoutly impetuous.
"Land! it's the Blake lot!" said she. "This child can't be any
relation to 'em. You hadn't ought to talk so, Nancy."
"It's so," said the child, shyly persistent. She evidently hardly
grasped the force of the woman's remark.
They eyed her with increased bewilderment. "It can't be," said the
woman to the others. "Every one of them Blakes died years ago."
"I've seen Jane," volunteered the child, with a candid smile in
Then the stout woman sank down on her knees beside Jane's stone,
and peered hard at it.
"She died forty year ago this May," said she, with a gasp. "I used
to know her when I was a child. She was ten years old when she died.
You ain't ever seen her. You hadn't ought to tell such stories."
"I ain't seen her for a long time," said the little girl.
"What made you say you'd seen her at all?" said Mrs. Holmes,
sharply, thinking this was capitulation.
"I did use to see her a long time ago, an' she used to wear a
white dress, an' a wreath on her head. She used to come here an' play
The women looked at each other with pale, shocked faces; one
nervous; one shivered. "She ain't quite right," she whispered. "Let's
go." The women began filing away. Mrs. Holmes, who came last, stood
about for a parting word to the child.
"You can't have seen her," said she, severely, "an' you are a
wicked girl to tell such stories. You mustn't do it again,
Nancy stood with her hand on Jane's stone, looking at her. "She
did," she repeated, with mild obstinacy.
"There's somethin' wrong about her, I guess," whispered Mrs.
Holmes, rustling on after the others.
"I see she looked kind of queer the minute I set eyes on her,"
said the nervous woman.
When the four reached the front of the cemetery they sat down to
rest for a few minutes. It was warm, and they had still quite a walk,
nearly the whole width of the yard, to the other front corner where
the horse and wagon were.
They sat down in a row on a bank; the stout woman wiped her face;
Mrs. Holmes straightened her bonnet.
Directly opposite across the street stood two houses, so close to
each other that their walls almost touched. One was a large square
building, glossily white, with green blinds; the other was low, with
a facing of whitewashed stone-work reaching to its lower windows,
which somehow gave it a disgraced and menial air; there were,
moreover, no blinds.
At the side of the low building stretched a wide ploughed field,
where several halting old figures were moving about planting. There
was none of the brave hope of the sower about them. Even across the
road one could see the feeble stiffness of their attitudes, the
half--palsied fling of their arms.
"I declare I shouldn't think them old men over there would ever
get that field planted," said Mrs. Holmes, energetically watchful. In
the front door of the square white house sat a girl with bright hair.
The yard was full of green light from two tall maple-trees, and the
girl's hair made a brilliant spot of color in the midst of it.
"That's Flora Dunn over there on the door-step, ain't it?" said
the stout woman.
"Yes. I should think you could tell her by her red hair."
"I knew it. I should have thought Mr. Dunn would have hated to
have had their house so near the poor-house. I declare I should!"
"Oh, he wouldn't mind," said Mrs. Holmes; "he's as easy as old
Tilly. It wouldn't have troubled him any if they'd set it right in
his front yard. But I guess she minded some. I heard she did. John
said there wa'n't any need of it. The town wouldn't have set it so
near, if Mr. Dunn had set his foot down he wouldn't have it there. I
s'pose they wanted to keep that big field on the side clear; but they
would have moved it along a little if he'd made a fuss. I tell you
what 'tis, I've 'bout made up my mind--I dun know as it's Scripture,
but I can't help it--if folks don't make a fuss they won't get their
rights in this world. If you jest lay still an' don't rise up, you're
goin' to get stepped on. If people like to be, they can; I
"I should have thought he'd have hated to have the poor-house
quite so close," murmured the stout woman.
Suddenly Mrs. Holmes leaned forward and poked her head among the
other three. She sat on the end of the row. "Say," said she, in a
mysterious whisper, "I want to know if you've heard the stories 'bout
the Dunn house?"
"No; what?" chorussed the other women, eagerly. They bent over
towards her till the four faces were in a knot.
"Well," said Mrs. Holmes, cautiously, with a glance at the
bright-headed girl across the way--"I heard it pretty straight---they
say the house is haunted."
The stout woman sniffed and straightened herself. "Haunted!"
"They say that ever since Jenny died there's been queer noises
'round the house that they can't account for. You see that front
chamber over there, the one next to the poorhouse; well, that's the
room, they say."
The women all turned and looked at the chamber windows, where some
ruffled white curtains were fluttering.
"That's the chamber where Jenny used to sleep, you know," Mrs.
Holmes went on; "an' she died there. Well, they said that before
Jenny died, Flora had always slept there with her, but she felt kind
of bad about goin' back there, so she thought she'd take another
room. Well, there was the awfulest moanin' an' takin' on up in
Jenny's room, when she did, that Flora went back there to sleep."
"I shouldn't thought she could," whispered the nervous woman, who
was quite pale.
"The moanin' stopped jest as soon as she got in there with a
light. You see Jenny was always terrible timid an' afraid to sleep
alone, an' had a lamp burnin' all night, an' it seemed to them jest
as if it really was her, I s'pose."
"I don't believe one word of it," said the stout woman, getting
up. "It makes me all out of patience to hear people talk such stuff,
jest because the Dunns happen to live opposite a graveyard."
"I told it jest as I heard it," said Mrs. Holmes, stiffly.
"Oh, I ain't blamin' you; it's the folks that start such stories
that I ain't got any patience with. Think of that dear, pretty little
sixteen-year-old girl hauntin' a house!"
"Well, I've told it jest as I heard it," repeated Mrs. Holmes,
still in a tone of slight umbrage. "I don't ever take much stock in
such things myself."
The four women strolled along to the covered wagon and climbed in.
"I declare," said the stout woman, conciliatingly, "I dun know when
I've bad such an outin'. I feel as if it had done me good. I've been
wantin' to come down to the cemetery for a long time, but it's most
more'n I want to walk. I feel real obliged to you, Mis' Holmes."
The others climbed in. Mrs. Holmes disclaimed all obligations
gracefully, established herself on the front seat, and shook the
reins over the white horse. Then the party jogged along the road to
the village, past outlying farmhouses and rich green meadows, all
freckled gold with dandelions. Dandelions were in their height; the
buttercups had not yet come.
Flora Dunn, the girl on the door-step, glanced up when they
started down the street; then she turned her eyes on her work; she
was sewing with nervous haste.
"Who were those folks, did you see, Flora?" called her mother, out
of the sitting-room.
"I didn't notice," replied Flora, absently.
Just then the girl whom the women had met came lingeringly out of
the cemetery and crossed the street.
"There's that poor little Wren girl," remarked the voice in the
"Yes," assented Flora. After a while she got up and entered the
house. Her mother looked anxiously at her when she came into the
"I'm all out of patience with you, Flora," said she. "You're jest
as white as a sheet. You'll make yourself sick. You're actin'
Flora sank into a chair and sat staring straight ahead with a
strained, pitiful gaze. "I can't help it; I can't do any different,"
said she. "I shouldn't think you'd scold me, mother."
"Scold you; I ain't scoldin' you, child; but there ain't any sense
in your doin' so. You'll make yourself sick, an' you're all I've got
left. I can't have anything happen to you, Flora." Suddenly Mrs. Dunn
burst out in a low wail, hiding her face in her hands.
"I don't see as you're much better yourself, mother," said Flora,
"I don't know as I am," sobbed her mother; "but I've got you to
worry about besides--everything else. Oh, dear! oh, dear, dear!"
"I don't see any need of your worrying about me." Flora did not
cry, but her face seemed to darken visibly with a gathering
melancholy like a cloud. Her hair was beautiful, and she had a
charming delicacy of complexion; but she was not handsome, her
features were too sharp, her expression too intense and nervous. Her
mother looked like her as to the expression; the features were widely
different. It was as if both had passed through one corroding element
which had given them the similarity of scars. Certainly a stranger
would at once have noticed the strong resemblance between Mrs. Dunn's
large, heavy-featured face and her daughter's thin, delicately
outlined one--a resemblance which three months ago had not been
"I see, if you don't," returned the mother. "I ain't blind."
"I don't see what you are blaming me for."
"I ain't blamin' you, but it seems to me that you might jest as
well let me go up there an' sleep as you."
Suddenly the girl also broke out into a wild cry. "I ain't going
to leave her. Poor little Jenny! poor little Jenny! You needn't try
to make me, mother; I won't!"
"I won't! I won't! I won't! Poor little Jenny! Oh, dear! oh,
"What if it is so? What if it is--her? Ain't she got me as well as
you? Can't her mother go to her?"
"I won't leave her. I won't! I won't!"
Suddenly Mrs. Dunn's calmness seemed to come uppermost, raised in
the scale by the weighty impetus of the other's distress. "Flora,"
said she, with mournful solemnity, "you mustn't do so; it's wrong.
You mustn't wear yourself all out over something that maybe you'll
find out wasn't so some time or other."
"Mother, don't you think it is--don't you?"
"I don't know what to think, Flora." Just then a door shut
somewhere in the back part of the house. "There's father," said Mrs.
Dunn, getting up; "an' the fire ain't made."
Flora rose also, and went about helping her mother to get supper.
Both suddenly settled into a rigidity of composure; their eyes were
red, but their lips were steady. There was a resolute vein in their
characters; they managed themselves with wrenches, and could be hard
even with their grief. They got tea ready for Mr. Dunn and his two
hired men; then cleared it away, and sat down in the front room with
their needlework. Mr. Dunn, a kindly, dull old man, was in there too,
over his newspaper. Mrs. Dunn and Flora sewed intently, never taking
their eyes from their work. Out in the next room stood a tall clock,
which ticked loudly; just before it struck the hours it made always a
curious grating noise. When it announced in this way the striking of
nine, Mrs. Dunn and Flora exchanged glances; the girl was pale, and
her eyes looked larger. She began folding up her work. Suddenly a low
moaning cry sounded through the house, seemingly from the room
overhead. "There it is!" shrieked Flora. She caught up a lamp and
ran. Mrs. Dunn was following, when her husband, sitting near the
door, caught bold of her dress with a bewildered air; he had been
dozing. "What's the matter?" said he, vaguely.
"Don't you hear it? Didn't you hear it, father?"
The old man let go of her dress suddenly. "I didn't hear nothin',"
But the cry, in fact, had ceased. Flora could be heard moving
about in the room overhead, and that was all. In a moment Mrs. Dunn
ran up--stairs after her. The old man sat staring. "It's all dum
foolishness," he muttered, under his breath. Presently he fell to
dozing again, and his vacantly smiling face lopped forward. Mr. Dunn,
slow-rained, patient, and unimaginative, had had his evening naps
interrupted after this manner for the last three months, and there
was as yet no cessation of his bewilderment. He dealt with the
simple, broad lights of life; the shadows were beyond his
speculation. For his consciousness his daughter Jenny had died and
gone to heaven; he was not capable of listening for her ghostly moans
in her little chamber overhead, much less of hearing them with any
When his wife came down-stairs finally she looked at him, sleeping
there, with a bitter feeling. She felt as if set about by an icy wind
of loneliness. Her daughter, who was after her own kind, was all the
one to whom she could look for sympathy and understanding in this
subtle perplexity which had come upon her. And she would rather have
dispensed with that sympathy, and heard alone those piteous, uncanny
cries, for she was wild with anxiety about Flora. The girl had never
been very strong. She looked at her distressfully when she came down
the next morning.
"Did you sleep any last night?" said she.
"Some," answered Flora.
Soon after breakfast they noticed the little Wren girl stealing
across the road to the cemetery again. "She goes over there all the
time," remarked Mrs. Dunn, "I b'lieve she runs away. See her look
"Yes," said Flora, apathetically.
It was nearly noon when they heard a voice from the next house
calling, "Nancy! Nancy! Nancy Wren!" The voice was loud and
imperious, but slow and evenly modulated. It indicated well its
owner. A woman who could regulate her own angry voice could regulate
other people. Mrs. Dunn and Flora heard it understandingly.
"That poor little thing will catch it when she gets home," said
"Nancy! Nancy! Nancy Wren!" called the voice again.
"I pity the child if Mrs. Gregg has to go after her. Mebbe she's
fell asleep over there. Flora, why don't you run over there an' get
The voice rang out again. Flora got her hat and stole across the
street a little below the house, so the calling woman should not see
her. When she got into the cemetery she called in her turn, letting
out her thin sweet voice cautiously. Finally she came directly upon
the child. She was in the Blake lot, her little slender body, in its
dingy cotton dress, curled up on the ground close to one of the
graves. No one but Nature tended those old graves now, and she seemed
to be lapsing them gently back to her own lines, at her own will. Of
the garden shrubs which had been planted about them not one was left
but an old low-spraying white rose-bush, which had just gotten its
new leaves. The Blake lot was at the very rear of the yard, where it
verged upon a light wood, which was silently stealing its way over
its own proper boundaries. At the back of the lot stood a thicket of
little thin trees, with silvery twinkling leaves. The ground was
quite blue with houstonias.
The child raised her little fair head and stared at Flora, as if
just awakened from sleep. She held her little pink mouth open, her
innocent blue eyes had a surprised look, as if she were suddenly
gazing upon a new scene.
"Where's she gone?" asked she, in her sweet, feeble pipe.
"Where's who gone?"
"I don't know what you mean. Come, Nancy, you must go home
"Didn't you see her?"
"I didn't see anybody," answered Flora, impatiently. "Come!"
"She was right here."
"What do you mean?"
"Jane was standin' right here. An' she had her white dress on, an'
Flora shivered, and looked around her fearfully. The fancy of the
child was overlapping her own nature. There wasn't a soul here.
"You've been dreaming, child. Come!"
"No, I wasn't. I've seen them blue flowers an' the leaves winkin'
all the time. Jane stood right there." The child pointed with her
tiny finger to a spot at her side. "She hadn't come for a long time
before," she added. "She's stayed down there." She pointed at the
grave nearest her.
"You mustn't talk so," said Flora, with tremulous severity. "You
must get right up and come home. Mrs. Gregg has been calling you and
calling you. She won't like it."
Nancy turned quite pale around her little mouth, and sprang to her
feet. "Is Mis' Gregg comin'?"
"She will come if you don't hurry."
The child said not another word. She flew along ahead through the
narrow paths, and was in the almshouse door before Flora crossed the
"She's terrible afraid of Mrs. Gregg," she told her mother when
she got home. Nancy had disturbed her own brooding a little, and she
spoke more like herself.
"Poor little thing! I pity her," said Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. Dunn did not
like Mrs. Gregg.
Flora rarely told a story until she had ruminated awhile over it
herself. It was afternoon, and the two were in the front room at
their sewing, before she told her mother about "Jane."
"Of course she must have been dreaming," Flora said.
"She must have been," rejoined her mother.
But the two looked at each other, and their eyes said more than
their tongues. Here was a new marvel, new evidence of a kind which
they had heretofore scented at, these two rigidly walking New England
souls; yet walking, after all, upon narrow paths through dark meadows
of mysticism. If they never lost their footing, the steaming damp of
the meadows might come in their faces.
This fancy, delusion, superstition, whichever one might name it,
of theirs had lasted now three months--ever since young Jenny Dunn
had died. There was apparently no reason why it should not last much
longer, if delusion it were; the temperaments of these two women,
naturally nervous and imaginative, overwrought now by long care and
sorrow, would perpetuate it.
If it were not delusion, pray what exorcism, what spell of book
and bell, could lay the ghost of a little timid child who was afraid
alone in the dark?
The days went on, and Flora still hurried up to her chamber at the
stroke of nine. If she were a moment late, sometimes if she were not,
that pitiful low wail sounded through the house.
The strange story spread gradually through the village. Mrs. Dunn
and Flora were silent about it, but Gossip is herself of a ghostly
nature, and minds not keys nor bars.
There was quite an excitement over it. People affected with morbid
curiosity and sympathy came to the house. One afternoon the minister
came and offered a prayer. Mrs. Dunn and Flora received them all with
a certain reticence; they did not concur in their wishes to remain
and hear the mysterious noises for themselves. People called them
"dreadful close." They got more satisfaction out of Mr. Dunn, who was
perfectly ready to impart all the information in his power and his
own theories in the matter.
"I never heard a thing but once," said he, "an' then it sounded
more like a cat to me than anything. I guess mother and Flora air
The spring was waxing late when Flora went up-stairs one night
with the oil low in her lamp. She had neglected filling it that day.
She did not notice it until she was undressed; then she thought to
herself that she must blow it out. She always kept a lamp burning all
night, as she had in timid little Jenny's day. Flora herself was
So she blew the light out. She had barely laid her head upon the
pillow when the low moaning wail sounded through the room. Flora sat
up in bed and listened, her hands clinched. The moan gathered
strength and volume; little broken words and sentences, the piteous
ejaculations of terror and distress, began to shape themselves out of
Flora sprang out of bed, and stumbled towards her west window--the
one on the almshouse side. She leaned her head out, listening a
moment. Then she called her mother with wild vehemence. But her
mother was already at the door with a lamp. When she entered, the
"Mother," shrieked Flora, "it ain't Jenny. It's somebody over
there--at the poor-house. Put the lamp out in the entry, and come
back here and listen."
Mrs. Dunn set out the lamp and came back, closing the door. It was
a few minutes first, but presently the cries recommenced.
"I'm goin' right over there," said Mrs. Dunn. "I'm goin' to dress
myself an' go over there. I'm goin' to have this affair sifted
"I'm going too," said Flora.
It was only half-past nine when the two stole into the almshouse
yard. The light was not out in the room on the ground-floor, which
the overseer's family used for a sitting-room. When they entered, the
overseer was there asleep in his chair, his wife sewing at the table,
and an old woman in a pink cotton dress, apparently doing nothing.
They all started, and stared at the intruders.
"Good-evenin'," said Mrs. Dunn, trying to speak composedly. "We
thought we'd come in; we got kind of started. Oh, there 'tis now!
What is it, Mis' Gregg?"
In fact, at that moment, the wail, louder and more distinct, was
"Why, it's Nancy," replied Mrs. Gregg, with dignified surprise.
She was a large woman, with a masterly placidity about her. "I heard
her a few minutes ago," she went on; "an' I was goin' up there to see
to her if she hadn't stopped."
Mr. Gregg, a heavy, saturnine old man, with a broad bristling
face, sat staring stupidly. The old woman in pink calico surveyed
them all with an impersonal grin.
"Nancy!" repeated Mrs. Dunn, looking at Mrs. Gregg. She had not
fancied this woman very much, and the two had not fraternized,
although they were such near neighbors. Indeed, Mrs. Gregg was not of
a sociable nature, and associated very little with anything but her
"Yes; Nancy Wren," she said, with gathering amazement. "She cries
out this way 'most every night. She's ten years old, but she's as
afraid of the dark as a baby. She's a queerchild. I guess mebbe she's
nervous. I don't know but she's got notions into her head, stayin'
over in the graveyard so much. She runs away over there every chance
she can get, an' she goes over a queer rigmarole about playin' with
Jane, and her bein' dressed in white an' a wreath. I found out she
meant Jane Blake, that's buried in the Blake lot. I knew there wa'n't
any children round here, an' I thought I'd look into it. You know it
says 'Our Father,' an' 'Our Mother,' on the old folks' stones. An'
there she was, callin' them father an' mother. You'd thought they was
right there. I've got 'most out o' patience with the child. I don't
know nothin' about such kind of folks." The wail continued. "I'll go
right up there," said Mrs. Gregg, determinately, taking a lamp.
Mrs. Dunn and Flora followed. When they entered the chamber to
which she led them they saw little Nancy sitting up in bed, her face
pale and convulsed, her blue eyes streaming with tears, her little
pink mouth quivering.
"Nancy--" began Mrs. Gregg, in a weighty tone. But Mrs. Dunn
sprang forward and threw her arms around the child.
"You got frightened, didn't you?" whispered she; and Nancy clung
to her as if for life.
A great wave of joyful tenderness rolled up in the heart of the
bereaved woman. It was not, after all, the lonely and fearfully
wandering little spirit of her dear Jenny; she was peaceful and
blessed, beyond all her girlish tumults and terrors; but it was this
little living girl. She saw it all plainly now. Afterwards it seemed
to her that any one but a woman with her nerves strained, and her
imagination unhealthily keen through watching and sorrow, would have
seen it before.
She held Nancy tight, and soothed her. She felt almost as if she
held her own Jenny. "I guess I'll take her home with me, if you don't
care," she said to Mrs. Gregg.
"Why, I don't know as I've got any objections, if you want to,"
answered Mrs. Gregg, with cold stateliness. "Nancy Wren has had
everything done for her that I was able to do," she added, when Mrs.
Dunn had wrapped up the child, and they were all on the stairs. "I
ain't coaxed an' cuddled her, because it ain't my way. I never did
with my own children."
"Oh, I know you've done all you could," said Mrs. Dunn, with
abstracted apology. "I jest thought I'd like to take her home
to-night. Don't you think I'm blamin' you, Mis' Gregg." She bent down
and kissed the little tearful face on her shoulder: she was carrying
Nancy like a baby. Flora had hold of one of her little dangling
"You shall go right up-stairs an' sleep with Flora," Mrs. Dunn
whispered in the child's ear, when they were going across the yard;
"an' you shall have the lamp burnin' all night, an' I'll give you a
piece of cake before you go."
It was the custom of the Dunns to visit the cemetery and carry
flowers to Jenny's grave every Sunday afternoon. Next Sunday little
Nancy went with them. She followed happily along, and did not seem to
think of the Blake lot. That pitiful fancy, if fancy it were, which
had peopled her empty childish world with ghostly kindred, which had
led into it an angel playmate in white robe and crown, might lie at
rest now. There was no more need for it. She had found her place in a
nest of living hearts, and she was getting her natural food of human
They had dressed Nancy in one of the little white frocks which
Jenny had worn in her childhood, and her hat was trimmed with some
ribbon and rose-buds which had adorned one of the dead young girl's
It was a beautiful Sunday. After they left the cemetery they
strolled a little way down the road. The road lay between deep green
meadows and cottage yards. It was not quite time for the roses, and
the lilacs were turning gray. The buttercups in the meadows had
blossomed out, but the dandelions had lost their yellow crowns, and
their filmy skulls appeared. They stood like ghosts among crowds of
golden buttercups; but none of the family thought of that; their
ghosts were laid in peace.