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GOOD HUMOUR

 

MY father left me the best inheritanceto wit——good humourAnd who was my fatherWhythat has nothing to do with the humourHe was lively and stoutround and fatand his outer and inner man were in direct contradiction to his callingAnd pray what was he by profession and calling in civil societyAhif this were to be written down and printed in the very beginning of a bookit is probablethat many when they read it would lay the book asideand say,“It looks so uncomfortableI don't like anything of that sort.”And yet my father was neither a horseslaughterer nor an executioneron the contraryhis office placed him at the head of the most respectable gentry of the townand he held his place by rightfor it was his right placeHe had to go firstbefore the bishop evenand before the Princes of the BloodHe always went first——for he was the driver of the hearse

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Therenow it's outAnd I will confess that when people saw my father sitting perched up on the omnibus of deathdressed in his longwideblack clockwith his blackbordered three-cornered hat on his head——and then his faceexactly as the sun is drawnround and jocund——it was difficult for them to think of the grave and of sorrowThe face said,“It doesn't matterit will be much better than one thinks.”

You seeI have inherited my good humour from himand also the habit of going often to the churchyardand that is an agreeable thing to do if it be done with good humourand then I take in the Intelligencerjust as he used to do

I am not quite youngI have neither wifenor childrennor a librarybutas aforesaidI take in the Intelligencerand that's my favourite newspaperas it was al-so my father'sIt is very usefuland contains everything that a man needs to know——such as who preaches in the church and in the new bookswhere one can get housesservantsclothesand foodwho is selling offand who is going off himselfAnd then what a lot of charityand what a number of innocentharmless verses are found in itAdvertisements for husbands and wivesand arrangements for meeting——all quite simple and naturalCertainlyone may live merrily and be contentedly buried if one takes in the IntelligencerAnd then one hasby the end of his lifesuch a capital store of paperthat he may use it as a soft bedunless he prefers to rest upon woodshavings

The newspaper and my walk to the churchyard were always my most exciting occupations——they were like bathingplaces for my good humour

The newspaper every one can read for himselfBut please come with me to the churchyardlet us wander there where the sun shines and the trees grow greenlet us walk among the gravesEach of these is like a closed bookwith the back placed uppermostso that one can only read the title which tells what the book containsand tells nothing morebut I know something of themI heard it from my fatheror found it out myselfI have it all down in my record that I wrote out for my own use and pleasureall that lie hereand a few moretooare chronicled in it

Now we are in the churchyard

Herebehind this white railingwhere once a rose tree grew——it is gone nowbut a little evergreen from the next grave stretches out its green fingers to make a show——there rests a very unhappy manand yetwhen he livedhe was in what they call a good positionHe had enough to live uponand something overbut worldly caresorto speak more correctlyhis artistic tasteweighed heavily upon himIf in the evening he sat in the theatre to enjoy himself thoroughlyhe would be quite put out if the machinist had put too strong a light into one side of the moonor if the skypieces hung down over the scenes when they ought to have hung behind themor when a palm tree was introduced into a scene representing Amageror a cactus in a view of the Tyrolor a beech tree in the far north of NorwayAs if that was of any consequenceIs it not quite immaterialWho would fidget about such a trifleIt's only make-believeafter alland every one is expected to be amusedThen sometimes the public applauded too muchand sometimes too little

They're like wet wood this evening,”he would say;“they won't kindle at all!”And then he would look round to see what kind of people they wereand sometimes he would find them laughing at the wrong timewhen they ought not to have laughedand that vexed himand he frettedand was an unhappy manand now he is in his grave

Here rests a very happy manThat is to saya very grand manHe was of high birthand that was lucky for himfor otherwise he would never have been anything worth speaking ofand nature orders all that very wiselyso that it's quite charming when we think of itHe used to go about in a coat embroidered back and frontand appeared in the saloons of society just like one of those costlypearlembroidered bellpulls which have always a good thickserviceable cord behind them to do the workHe likewise had a good stout cord behind himin the shape of a substitutewho did his dutyand who still continues to do it behind another embroidered bellpullEverything is so nicely managedit's enough to put one into a good humour

Here rests——wellit's a very mournful reflection——here rests a man who spent sixtyseven years considering how he should get a good ideaThe object of his life was to say a good thingand at last he felt convinced in his own mind that he had got oneand was so glad of it that he died of pure joy at having caught an idea at lastNobody derived any benefit from itfor nobody even heard what the good thing wasNowI can fancy that this same good thing won't let him lie quiet in his gravefor let us suppose that it is a good thing which can only be brought out at breakfast if it is to make an effectand that heaccording to the received opinion concerning ghostscan only rise and walk at midnightWhythen the good thing does not suit the timeno one laughsand the man must carry his good idea down with him againThat is a melancholy grave

Here rests a remarkably stingy womanDuring her lifetime she used to get up at night and mewso that the neighbours might think she kept a cat——she was so remarkably stingy

Here lies a lady of good familyin company she always wanted to let her singing be heardand then she sangmi manca la voce”,that was the only true thing in her life

Here is a maiden of another kindWhen the canary bird of the heart begins to chirpreason puts her fingers in her earsThe maiden was going to be marriedbut——wellit's an everyday storyand we will let the dead rest

Here sleeps a widow who carried melody in her mouth and gall in her heartShe used to go out for prey in the families round aboutand the prey she hunted was her neighbours’ faultsand she was an indefatigable hunter

Here's a family sepulchreEvery member of this family held so firmly to the opinions of the restthat if all the worldand the newspapers into the bargainsaid of a certain thing it is so and soand the little boy came home from school and said,“I've learned it thus and thus,”they declared his opinion to be the only true onebecause he belonged to the familyAnd it is an acknowledged factthat if the yard cock of the family crowed at midnightthey would declare it was morningthough the watchmen and all the clocks in the city were crying out that it was twelve o'clock at night

The great poet Goethe concludes hisFaustwith the wordsmay be continued”;and our wanderings in the churchyard may be continued tooI come here oftenIf any of my friendsor my non-friendsgo on too fast for meI go out to my favourite spotand select a moundand bury him or her there——bury that person who is yet aliveand there those I bury must stay till they come back as new and improved charactersI inscribe their life and their deedslooked at in my fashionin my recordand that's what all people ought to doThey ought not to be vexed when any one goes on ridiculouslybut bury him directlyand maintain their good humourand keep to the Intelligencerwhich is usually a bookwritten by people under competent guidance

When the time comes for me to be beund with my history in the boards of the graveI hope they will put up as my epitaph

A good humoured one.”

And that's my story

 


 

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