The wives of the dead

The rainy twilight of an autumn day,--a parlor on the second floor of a small house, plainly furnished, as beseemed the middling circumstances of its inhabitants, yet decorated with little curiosities from beyond the sea, and a few delicate specimens of Indian manufacture,--these are the only particulars to be premised in regard to scene and season. Two young and comely women sat together by the fireside, nursing their mutual and peculiar sorrows.

The wives of the dead

The Wives of The Dead The following story, the simple and domestic incidents of which may be deemed scarcely worth relating, after such a lapse of time, awakened some degree of interest, a hundred years ago, in a principal seaport of the Bay Province. The rainy twilight of an autumn day,--a parlor on the second floor of a small house, plainly furnished, as beseemed the middling circumstances of its inhabitants, yet decorated with little curiosities from beyond the sea, and a few delicate specimens of Indian manufacture,--these are the only particulars to be premised in regard to scene and season.

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Two young and comely women sat together by the fireside, nursing their mutual and peculiar sorrows. They were the recent brides of two brothers, a sailor and a landsman, and two successive days had brought tidings of the death of each, by the chances of Canadian warfare and the tempestuous Atlantic.

The universal sympathy excited by this bereavement drew numerous condoling guests to the habitation of the widowed sisters. Several, among whom was the minister, had remained till the verge of evening; when, one by one, whispering many comfortable passages of Scripture, that were answered by more abundant tears, they took their leave, and departed to their own happier homes.

The mourners, though not insensible to the kindness of The wives of the dead friends, had yearned to be left alone. United, as they had been, by the relationship of the living, and now more closely so by that of the dead, each felt as if whatever consolation her grief admitted were to be found in the bosom of the other.

They joined their hearts, and wept together silently. But after an hour of such indulgence, one of the sisters, all of whose emotions were influenced by her mild, quiet, yet not feeble character, began to recollect the precepts of resignation and endurance which piety had taught her, when she did not think to need them.

Her misfortune, besides, as earliest known, should earliest cease to interfere with her regular course of duties; accordingly, having placed the table before the fire, and arranged a frugal meal, she took the hand of her companion.

She now shrunk from Mary's words, like a wounded sufferer from a hand that revives the throb. Time went on, and their usual hour of repose arrived. The brothers and their brides, entering the married state with no more than the slender means which then sanctioned such a step, had confederated themselves in one household, with equal rights to the parlor, and claiming exclusive privileges in two sleeping- rooms contiguous to it.

Thither the widowed ones retired, after heaping ashes upon the dying embers of their fire, and placing a lighted lamp upon the hearth.

The doors of both chambers were left open, so that a part of the interior of each, and the beds with their unclosed curtains, were reciprocally visible.

Sleep did not steal upon the sisters at one and the same time. Mary experienced the effect often consequent upon grief quietly borne, and soon sunk into temporary forgetfulness, while Margaret became more disturbed and feverish, in proportion as the night advanced with its deepest and stillest hours.

She lay listening to the drops of rain, that came down in monotonous succession, unswayed by a breath of wind; and a nervous impulse continually caused her to lift her head from the pillow, and gaze into Mary's chamber and the intermediate apartment.

The cold light of the lamp threw the shadows of the furniture up against the wall, stamping them immovably there, except when they were shaken by a sudden flicker of the flame. Two vacant arm-chairs were in their old positions on opposite sides of the hearth, where the brothers had been wont to sit in young and laughing dignity, as heads of families; two humbler seats were near them, the true thrones of that little empire, where Mary and herself had exercised in love a power that love had won.

The cheerful radiance of the fire had shone upon the happy circle, and the dead glimmer of the lamp might have befitted their reunion now.

While Margaret groaned in bitterness, she heard a knock at the street door. It is difficult to be convinced of the death of one whom we have deemed another self. The knocking was now renewed in slow and regular strokes, apparently given with the soft end of a doubled fist, and was accompanied by words, faintly heard through several thicknesses of wall.

Margaret looked to her sister's chamber, and beheld her still lying in the depths of sleep.

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She arose, placed her foot upon the floor, and slightly arrayed herself, trembling between fear and eagerness as she did so. It was a lattice, turning upon hinges; and having thrown it back, she stretched her head a little way into the moist atmosphere.

A lantern was reddening the front of the house, and melting its light in the neighboring puddles, while a deluge of darkness overwhelmed every other object. As the window grated on its hinges, a man in a broad-brimmed hat and blanket-coat stepped from under the shelter of the projecting story, and looked upward to discover whom his application had aroused.

Margaret knew him as a friendly innkeeper of the town. He tarried at my house to refresh himself with a drop and a morsel, and I asked him what tidings on the frontiers.

He tells me we had the better in the skirmish you wot of, and that thirteen men reported slain are well and sound, and your husband among them.

Besides, he is appointed of the escort to bring the captivated Frenchers and Indians home to the province jail.

I judged you would n't mind being broke of your rest, and so I stepped over to tell you. But Margaret stayed not to watch these picturesque effects.

The wives of the dead

Joy flashed into her heart, and lighted it up at once; and breathless, and with winged steps, she flew to the bedside of her sister. She paused, however, at the door of the chamber, while a thought of pain broke in upon her.

No; I will keep it within my own bosom till the morrow. Her face was turned partly inward to the pillow, and had been hidden there to weep; but a look of motionless contentment was now visible upon it, as if her heart, like a deep lake, had grown calm because its dead had sunk down so far within.The Wives of The Dead is one of Hawthornes less remembered stories from a sequence of early tales he wrote in The story takes place in early eighteenth century Massachusetts Bay.

Mary and Margaret are the two main characters, they are sister in laws who are drawn closer together because both their husband die within two successive days. Thus, “The Wives of the Dead” turns out to be not a darkly ironic treatise on the hopelessness of the wives’ dreams, but simply a caution against ignorance of the distinction between dreams and reality.

Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, wives, and friends who lost their lives in the early stages of the zombie outbreak. They retain no memories of their former lives and attack any and all humans, even ones with whom they shared their deepest connections with.

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"The Wives of the Dead" was subsequently republished in other magazines such as Democratic Review under the title "The Two Widows." Hawthorne included the story in his collection The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales.

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The Wives of The Dead by Nathaniel Hawthorne