The gravedigger of Penvenan was at that time Poëzevara the Elder. He was hardly ever called anything but Poaz-coz. However old he was, and even though he had "ploughed six times the whole extent of the cemetery", that is, even though he had laid successively in the same hole until six dead, it was a man who could tell you, to the nearest day, how long this or that had been in the ground and even at what degree of "cooking" his body must have happened. In short, it would have been difficult to find a gravedigger more heard. He continued to see clearly as if in broad daylight in the pits he had filled. The holy ground of the cemetery was, for his eyes, as transparent as water.
One morning, however, the rector called him:
- Poaz-coz, Mab Ar Guenn has just passed away. I think you can dig his hole where the great Roperz was buried five years ago. Isn't that your opinion?
- No, Mr. Rector, no!... In this area, you see, corpses can be kept for a long time. I know my Roperz. At the moment, the vermin have barely begun to work on his guts.
- Never mind that! Make it right!... Mab Ar Genn's family is very keen to have him buried in this place. Roperz has been there for five years. Let him give it up to someone else. It's only fair.
Poaz-coz left, nodding his head. He was not the master, he had to obey, but he was not happy.
Here he is, putting a pickaxe in the ground.
Three-quarters of the pit was soon cleared.
- One more pickaxe, Poaz thought to himself, and I would have, if I am not mistaken, reached the coffin.
He gave it so kindly, this pickaxe, that not only did he reach the coffin, but he even gutted it. Infected splashes sprang up in his face. He blamed himself for hitting too hard.
- God is my witness, however," he whispered, "that I had no intention of hurting poor Roperz! Even so, I'll make sure he's not too embarrassed by Mab Ar Genn's neighborhood.
The brave gravedigger spent two hours digging out the bottom of the pit in such a way that two coffins could keep it comfortable, Roperz's one occupying a kind of recess.
Once this was done, he felt more at ease, although, nevertheless, he was not entirely reassured. The idea of "brutalizing one of his dead" was causing him trouble. He had no good appetite that evening and went to bed earlier than usual.
He had already taken a nap when the sound of the door turning on his hinges woke him up.
- Who is there?" he asked, putting himself on his side.
- So you weren't expecting me? A voice replied, which he immediately recognized, despite the cavernous tone.
- To tell you the truth, François Roperz, I thought you would have come...
- Yes, I came to show you how you made me feel!
The moon was high in the sky; its bright light illuminated all things in the gravedigger's house.
- Look, the spectre continued.... One does not treat a living person, let alone a dead person in this way.
He had unbuttoned his long-breasted jacket. Poaz-coz closed his eyes. There was enough to die of disgust. The chest of the great Roperz was nothing more than a hideous hole where fragments of broken ribs appeared, mixed with a kind of greenish slurry.
- In truth, François Roperz, begged the unfortunate Poaz, in truth, forgive me!.... I'm not as guilty as you think I am. I didn't want to touch your pit. I knew your time was not over... But I'm just a servant. When the rector commands, I can only bow, otherwise I will lose my only livelihood, because I am too old to change jobs... Moreover, this is the first time that this has happened to me. Never before had the deceased had he had anything to complain about me: everyone in the cemetery will tell you...
- Also, I don't hold a grudge against you, Poaz-coz. Especially since you did everything you could to make up for the damage you caused me unintentionally.
The gravedigger opened his eyes again. The ghost had re-buttoned his jacket. Poaz-coz listened to him speak now without fear.
- I can see," he cried, "that even in the other world, you have remained the best of men.
Alas! Fit Roperz, the best from here is not worth much there.
- So you're not entirely happy?
- No. I'm missing a mass. I thought that after what just happened, you would not hesitate to have it said and pay for it with your own money.
- Certainly not, I will not hesitate. You will have the mass you miss, François Roperz!
- You didn't let me finish; this mass must be said by the rector of Penvenan, by himself, do you mean?
- I hear.
- Thank you, Poaz-coz! Pronounced the spectrum. That was his last word. The gravedigger saw him leave, cross the village square and cross the cemetery stairs.
The next day, which was a Sunday, at the prelate of the great mass, the rector announced for the Tuesday of the coming week a service "recommended by Poëzevara, the gravedigger, for the soul of François Roperz, from Kerviniou."
This Tuesday arrived. The mass was said. The rector officiated in person and, in the first row of assistants, was Poaz-coz on his knees. I was there too, talking to you. My chair was touching the gravedigger's chair.
Just as the service was over, the rector was walking towards the sacristy, Poaz pushed my elbow.
- Look at this! Look at this! He said in a trembling voice.
- What? What?
- Don't you see someone entering the sacristy behind the rector?
- Yes, it is.
- Don't you recognize him?
And, as I didn't find out quickly enough who it could be, Poaz-coz blew into my ear:
- But it's François Roperz, unfortunate, it's François Roperz!
That was true. I recognized him right away when Poaz named him to me. The wearing, the walk, the clothing, it was from every point François Roperz. I was stunned by it.
- You'll see, Poaz-coz told me, there's still something under there.
As the rector, after stripping the priestly ornaments, crossed the cemetery to reach his presbytery by the shortest, he was suddenly seen to collapse on himself and fall dead, not far from the freshly filled pit where, near François Roperz's coffin, Mab Ar Guenn's was resting.
The Legend of Death
Anatole Le Braz