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 THE comet cameshone with its core of fireandthreatened with its rodthey looked at it from the richpalaceand the poor cottagethe crowd on the streetlooked at itand the lonely one who went his way over thepathless heathevery one had his thoughts about it

"Come and look at the sign in the heavenscome andlook at the splendid sight"they saidand an hastened tolook

But in the room there sat a little boy with his motherthe tallow candle was burningand the mother thought thatthere was a shroud in the candlethe tallow stood up in apoint and curled overthat meantshe believedthat thelittle boy must soon diethe shroud turned towards himItwas an old superstitionand she believed it

The little boy was really destined to live many yearson the earthto live and see the cometwhen it reappearedmore than sixty years later

He did not see the shroud in the candleand had nothought for the cometwhich for the first time in his lifeshone from the heavensHe sat with a mended slopbasinin front of himin it were some soapsudsand he dippedthe head of a clay-pipe down into itput the stem in hismouth and blew soap-bubblesgreat and smalltheyswayed and floated with the most lovely colourswhichchanged from yellow to redlilac and blueand then became greenlike the leaves of the forest when the sunshines through them

"God grant thee as many years here on the earth asthe bubbles thou blowest"

"So manyso many"said the little one"the soap-suds can never be all used up"and the little one blewbubble after bubble

"There flies a yearthere flies a yearsee how theyfly"said hewith every bubble which got free and flewoffOne or two went right into his eyesthey smarted andburnedand the tears came into his eyesIn every bubblehe saw a vision of the futureshining and glittering

"Now you can see the comet"cried the neighbours"Come outdon't sit inside there"

And the mother took the little boy by the handhewas obliged to lay aside the claypipeand stop playingwith the soapbubbles;—the comet was there

And the little boy saw the shining ball of firewiththe radiant tailsome people said that it was three yardslongothers that it was millions of yards longpeople seeso differently"Children and grandchildren may be deadbefore it appears again"people said

Most of those who said it were really dead and gonebefore it reappearedbut the little boy for whom theshroud stood in the candleand of whom the motherthought"He will die soon"still livedold and whitehaired"White hair is the flower of age"the proverbsaysand he had many of the flowershe was now an oldschoolmasterThe school-children said he was very wiseand knew so muchknew historyand geographyandeverything that is known about the heavenly bodies

"Everything comes round again"said he"onlytake notice of people and eventsand you will find thatthey always come againin another dressin anothercountry"

The schoolmaster had just told about William Tellwho had to shoot an apple off his son's headbut beforehe shot the arrowhe hid in his breast another arrow withwhich to shoot the wicked Gesler in the heartIt was inSwitzerland that that happenedbut many years beforethe same thing had happened in Denmark with Palnatokehe also had to shoot an apple off his son's headandhidlike Tellan arrow to avenge himself withand morethan a thousand years farther backthe same story wasrecorded as having taken place in EgyptThe same thingscome again like the cometthey pass awaydisappearand come again

And he talked about the comet which was expectedthe comet he had seen as a little boyThe schoolmasterknew the heavenly bodiesand thought over thembutdid not forget history and geography because of them

He had laid out his garden in the shape of the map ofDenmarkThe plants and flowers were arranged accordingas they grow best in the different parts of the country"Bring me some peas"said heand one went to the bedwhich represented Lolland"Fetch me some buck-wheat"and one went to LangelandThe lovely blue gentian andsweet-willow were to be found up in Skagenthe glisteningholly over at SilkeborgThe towns themselves were markedwith stone figuresHere stood StCanute with the dragonthat signified OdenseAbsalon with a bishop's staff signi-fied Sorthe little boat with the oars was the mark thathere lay the town of AarhusFrom the schoolmaster's gardenone could learn the map of Denmark very wellbutone must first be instructed by himand that was so pleasant

The comet was expected nowand he told what thepeople had said and thought about itin the old days whenit was here last"The cometyear is a good wine year"hesaid"one can dilute the wine with waterand it will notbe noticedThe wine-sellers should think much of thecometyear"

The sky was full of clouds for fourteen days andnightsThe comet could not be seenbut it was there

The old schoolmaster sat in his little roomclose bythe schoolroomThe grandfather's clockwhich had belonged to his parentsstood in the cornerthe heavy leadenweights neither rose nor fellthe pendulum did not moveThe little cuckoowhich used to come forward to cuckoothe hourhad for several years sat silent behind closeddoorsall was quiet and silent therethe clock went nomoreBut the old piano close bywhich had also belongedto his parentsstill had lifeand the strings could soundthough certainly a little hoarsethe melodies of a wholegenerationThe old man remembered so many of themboth joyful and sorrowfulin the years from the time whenhe was a little boy and saw the comettill now when it washere againHe remembered what his mother said about theshroud in the candlehe remembered the lovely soapbubbles he blewevery one was a year of lifehe had saidhow radianthow rich in coloureverything lovely and joyful he saw therechildish games and youthful pleasurethe whole of the wide world open in the sunshineand heshould go out in itthat was the bubble of the futureAsan old man he heard melodies of the vanished times fromthe strings of the pianothe bubbles of remembrance withmemory's colour tintsthere sounded Grandmother'sknitting song

'Twas certainly no Amazon That knitted first a stocking

There sounded the song which the old servant hadsung for him as a child

There are so many dangers Wherein the young may fall Who are of years but tender And understanding small

Now sounded the melodies from the first ballaminuet and Polish dancenow sounded softsorrowfultoneswhich brought tears into the eyes of the old mannow rushed a battle-marchnow a psalm tunenow gaytonesbubble on bubblejust as when heas a littleboyblew them of soapsuds

His eyes were fastened on the windowa cloud inthe sky glided away and he saw in clear air the cometitsshining heartits bright misty veil

It seemed as if he had seen it yesterday eveningand yet there lay a whole lifetime between that time andnowat that time he was a childand saw the future inthe bubblesnow the bubbles pointed backwardhe feltthe childish mind and childish faithhis eyes shonehishand sank down on the keysit sounded as if a stringbroke

"Come and seethe comet is here"cried theneighbours"the sky is so beautifully clearcome andsee"The old schoolmaster did not answerhe was goneto see in realityhis soul had gone on a longer coursein a wider space than the comet flies throughThecomet was again seen from the rich castlefrom the poorcottageby the crowd in the streetand by the crowd inthe streetand by the lonely one on teh trackless heathHis soul was seen by God and by the dear ones who hadgohe beforethose he had longed for



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