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THE DUMB BOOK

 

BY the high road in the forest lay a lonely farm the road went right through the farmyardThe sun shone downand all the windows were openIn the house was bustle and movementbut in the yardin an arbor of blossoming lilacstood an open coffinA dead man had been carried out hereand he was to be buried this morning Nobody stood by the coffin and looked sorrowfully at the dead man no one shed a tear for himhis face was covered with a white clothand under his head lay a great thick bookwhose leaves consisted of whole sheets of gray paperand on each leaf lay a faded flowerIt was a commapelt herbariumgathered by him in various placesit was to be buried with him for so he had wished it With each flower a chapter in his life was associated

Who is the dead man?” we askedand the answer was

The Old Student from UpscaleThey say he was once a brisk lad and studied the old languagesand sang and even wrote poemsThen something happened to him that made him turn his thoughts to brandyand take to itand when at last he had ruined his health he came out here into the country where somebody paid for his board and lodgingHe was as gentle as a child except when the dark mood came upon himbut when it came he became like a giantand then ran about in the woods like a hunted stagbut when we once got him home againand prevailed with him so far that he opened the book with the dried plantshe often sat whole days and looked sometimes at one plant and sometimes at anotherand at times the tears rolled over his cheeksHeaven knows what he was thinking ofBut he begged us to put the book into the coffin and now he lies thereand in a little while the lid will be nailed downand he will have his quiet rest in the grave.”

The facecloth was raisedand there was peace upon the features of the dead man and a sunbeam played upon ita swallow shot with arrow flight into the arborand turned rapidly and twittered over the dead man's head

What a strange feeling it isand we have doubtless all experienced itthat of turning over old letters of the days of our youth!—a whole life seems to come up with themwith all its hopes and sorrows. How many persons with whom we were intimate in those daysare as it were dead to usand yet they are alive but for a long time we have not thought of them of them whom we then thought to hold fast for ages and with whom we were to share sorrow and joy.

Here the withered oak-leaf in the book reminded the owner of the friendthe school fellowwho was to be a friend for life he fastened the green leaf in the student's cap in the green wood when the bond was made for life”:where does he live now The leaf is preserved but the friendship has perishedAnd here is a foreign hot-house planttoo delicate for the gardens of the Norththe leaves almost seem to keep their fragrance still. She gave it to himthe young lady in the nobleman's garden

Here is the water-rose which he plucked himselfand moistened with salt tearsthe rose of the sweet waiters. And here is a nettlewhat tale may its leaves have to tell What were his thoughts when he plucked it and kept it

Here is a lily of the valley from the solitude's of the forestHere's an evergreen from the flowerpot of the tavernand here's a sharp bare blade of grass.

The blooming lilac waves its fresh fragrant blossoms over the dead man's head and the swallow flies past again.“Peewit peewit!”And now the men come with nails and hammersand the lid is laid over the dead man that his head may rest upon the dumb bookput awayforgotten

 


 

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