Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/399

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311
BIRTH—BAPTISM—ETC.

spirit in it because it burnt so blue. For my mother would often tell me that when the candle burnt blue there was some ill spirit in the house, and now I perceive it was the spirit of brimstone."

The place of interment was supposed to be ever after haunted by the spirit of the deceased except at such times as he was compelled to walk elsewhere in the way of penance. The presence of spirits in the neighbourhood of graves is the subject of frequent allusion.

"Now it is the time of night,
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the churchyard paths to glide."

In another part of the same play (iii. 2) Puck says:—

"At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyards: damned spirits all,
That in cross-ways and floods have burial,
Already to their wormy beds are gone;
For fear lest day should look their shames upon."

Those buried in cross-ways were those who had committed suicide. It was customary to dig the graves of such at the intersection of two public roads. The interment took place at midnight by torchlight, and part of the ceremony was the driving of a sharp wooden stake through the