A Phantom Funeral
THE harvest of 1816 was one of the wettest ever known in Wales. In the evening of a day which had been comparatively dry a man and his wife, who lived in the Hundred of Moeddin, in Cardiganshire, went out to bind into sheaves some corn which had long been reaped and was lying on the ground. It was a beautiful evening, and the harvest moon was shining brightly.
The field in which they worked had the parish road passing along one of its sides, without a hedge or a ditch to separate it from the corn. When they had been busy for half-an-hour or more, they heard the hum of voices, as if of a crowd of people coming along the road leading past the field. They paused in their work and, looking in the direction of the sounds, they saw in the golden light of the moon a multitude of men and women coming into sight and advancing towards them. Being very intent upon their work, they again bent them to their task, without thinking much about what they had heard and seen; for they fancied, so far as they reflected over the matter at all, that some belated travellers were making their way to the village, which was about a mile off.
But the confused hum grew louder, and when the two binders looked up again they beheld a large crowd approaching gradually nearer. This time they continued to gaze at the assemblage, and they beheld quite clearly a coffin on a bier, carried on the shoulders of men, who were relieved by others in turn, as is usual in Cardiganshire funerals. "Here is a funeral," said the binders to one another, forgetting for the moment that it was not customary for funerals to be seen at night. They kept looking on till the crowd was right opposite them: some of them did not keep to the road, but walked over the corn alongside of the bulk of the procession. The binders heard the tramp of feet and the sound of voices, but not a syllable could they comprehend of what was said, not a face could they recognise. They kept their eyes on the procession till it went out of sight on the way leading towards the parish church. They saw no more of it, and an eerie feeling coming over them, they went home, leaving the corn on the ground.
Further on the funeral was met by a tailor at a point in the road where it was narrow and bounded by a fence on either side. The mourners filled the space from hedge to hedge, and when the tailor tried to force his way through, such was the pressure of the throng that he was obliged to get out of the way by crossing the hedge. He also failed to recognise any face, nor did he understand a word of the talk which he heard.
It was not, however, a real funeral: it was three weeks after this spectral funeral that the real one came down that way from the upper end of the parish.