Parson William Hogarth stood under cover of the lychgate, awaiting the arrival of the body of dear departed brother Jeremiah Stodart with some foreboding. The family were known to the good people of the Kent hamlet of Beckenham as drunkards and ne’er-do-wells and the affair was as likely to end in an unholy debauch as it was to be a sober and somber interment. It did not help that the heavens had opened up, and the parson’s cassock was subjected to considerable muddy splashings from the wind blowing in the torrential rains.
He might have expected the burial party to be late. When it eventually arrived, the motley cortege consisted of assorted rural labourers, sporting their best hats and cleanest smocks, some clearly staggering from a morning spent imbibing their breakfast. Thankfully the body was borne upon a cart rather than being taken up on the shoulders of the brethren, who would undoubtedly have dropped the cadaver in their drunken state. A rude cloth covered the mortal remains of the deceased and dragged in the mud and horse shit. Hogarth was thankful that he would not have to handle the earthly remains of the deceased.
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