HE MEAL WAS served. It consisted of a soup of salted water, seasoned with pepper and rancid oil. The last ingredient played a very prominent part in the salad; stale eggs and roasted cocks'-combs furnished the grand dish of the repast; the wine even was not without a disgusting taste--it was like a medicinal draught.
At night the boxes and other effects of the passengers were placed against the rickety doors. One of the travellers kept watch while the others slept. The sentry was our young Divine. How close it was in the chamber! The heat oppressive to suffocation--the gnats hummed and stung unceasingly--the "miserabili" without whined and moaned in their sleep.
"Travelling would be agreeable enough," said he groaning, "if one only had no body, or could send it to rest while the spirit went on its pilgrimage unhindered, whither the voice within might call it. Wherever I go, I am pursued by a longing that is insatiable--that I cannot explain to myself, and that tears my very heart. I want something better than what is but what is fled in an instant. But what is it, and where is it to be found? Yet, I know in reality what it is I wish for. Oh! most happy were I, could I but reach one aim--could but reach the happiest of all!"
And as he spoke the word he was again in his home; the long white curtains hung down from the windows, and in the middle of the floor stood the black coffin; in it he lay in the sleep of death. His wish was fulfilled--the body rested, while the spirit went unhindered on its pilgrimage. "Let no one deem himself happy before his end," were the words of Solon; and here was a new and brilliant proof of the wisdom of the old apothegm.
Every corpse is a sphynx of immortality; here too on the black coffin the sphynx gave us no answer to what he who lay within had written two days before:
"O mighty Death! thy silence teaches nought, Thou leadest only to the near grave's brink; Is broken now the ladder of my thoughts? Do I instead of mounting only sink?
Our heaviest grief the world oft seeth not, Our sorest pain we hide from stranger eyes: And for the sufferer there is nothing left But the green mound that o'er the coffin lies."
Two figures were moving in the chamber. We knew them both; it was the fairy of Care, and the emissary of Fortune. They both bent over the corpse.
"Do you now see," said Care, "what happiness your Galoshes have brought to mankind?"
"To him, at least, who slumbers here, they have brought an imperishable blessing," answered the other.
"Ah no!" replied Care. "He took his departure himself; he was not called away. His mental powers here below were not strong enough to reach the treasures lying beyond this life, and which his destiny ordained he should obtain. I will now confer a benefit on him."
And she took the Galoshes from his feet; his sleep of death was ended; and he who had been thus called back again to life arose from his dread couch in all the vigor of youth. Care vanished, and with her the Galoshes. She has no doubt taken them for herself, to keep them to all eternity.