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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Old Parson’s Death
By Fritz Reuter (1810–1874)
 
From ‘My Apprenticeship on the Farm’

EVERY house in the parish had its share of happiness, each of them after its kind; but one house formed an exception to this rule, although it used to have its full share. In winter round the fireside, and in summer under the great lime-tree, or in the arbor in the garden, there always used to be a calm peaceful happiness, in which the child Louisa, as she played about the old house and grounds, and little Mrs. Behrens, who ruled all things duster in hand, had had part; and also the good old clergyman, who had now done with all earthly things forever. Peace had taken leave of the house, and had gone forth calmly to the place from whence she came; and during that time of illness, care and sorrow had taken up their abode there, deepening with the growing weakness of the good old man. He did not lie long in bed, and had no particular illness; so that Dr. Strump of Rahnstädt could not find amongst all the three thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven diseases of which he knew, one that suited the present case. Peace seemed to have laid her hand on the old man’s head in blessing, and to have said to him: “I am going to leave thee, but only for a short time. I shall afterwards return to thy Regina. Thou needst me no more, because thou hast had me in thy heart during all the long years thou hast fought the good fight of faith. Now sleep softly: thou must needs be tired.”  1
  And he was tired,—very tired. His wife had laid him on the sofa under the pictures, that he might look out at the window as much as he liked; Louisa had covered him comfortably with rugs and shawls: and then they had both left the room softly, that he might rest undisturbed. Out of doors the first flakes of snow were falling slowly, slowly, from the sky; it was as quiet and still outside as within his heart: and he felt as if the blessing of Christ were resting upon him. No one saw it, but his Regina was the first to find it out.—He rose, and pushing the large arm-chair up to the cupboard, opened the door, and sitting down, began to examine the treasures that he had kept as relics of the past. Some of them had belonged to his father, and some to his mother: they were all reminiscences of what he had loved.  2
  This cupboard was the place where he had stowed away whatever reminded him of all the chief events of his life; and they had become relics, the sight of which did him good when he was down-hearted. They were not preserved in crystal vessels or in embroidered cases, but were simply placed on the shelf, and kept there to be looked at whenever he wanted to see them. When he felt low and sad, it did him good to take out these relics and to live over again in thought the happy days of which they reminded him; and he never closed the cupboard door without gaining strength and courage, or without thanking God silently for his many blessings. There lay the Bible his father had given him when he was a boy; the beautiful glass vase his old college friend had sent him; the pocket-book his Regina had worked for him during their engagement; the shell which a sailor had sent him in token of his gratitude for having been shown the way to become a better man; the pieces of paper on which Louisa, Mina, and Lina had written their Christmas and New-Year’s Day messages of affection,—as also some of their earlier bits of handiwork; the withered myrtle wreath his wife had worn on her wedding day; the large pictorial Bible with the silver clasps, that Hawermann had given him on his seventieth birthday, and the silver-mounted meerschaum that Bräsig had given him on the same occasion; and down below on the lowest shelf were three pairs of shoes,—the shoes that Louisa, Regina, and he had worn when they first entered the parsonage.  3
  Old shoes are not beautiful in themselves, but the memories attached to these made them beautiful in his eyes; so he took them out of the cupboard, and laid them down by his side, and then, placing his first Bible on his knee, he opened it at our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, and began to read. No one saw him, but that was not necessary; and his Regina knew when it was all over. He grew very tired; and resting his head in the corner of the great chair, fell asleep like a little child.  4
  And so they found him when they came back. Mrs. Behrens seated herself on the arm of his chair, clasped him in her arms, closed his eyes, and then, resting her head against his, wept silently. Louisa knelt at his feet, and laying her folded hands on his knee, looked with tearful eyes at the two quiet faces that were so dear to her. Then Mrs. Behrens rose, and folding down the leaf of the Bible, drew it softly out of her husband’s hand; and Louisa also rose, and threw her arms round her foster-mother’s neck. They both wept long and passionately; till at last, when it was growing dusk, Mrs. Behrens replaced the shoes in the cupboard, saying as she did so, “I bless the day when we came to this house together;” and while laying Louisa’s little shoes beside them, she added, “And I bless the day when the child came to us.”  5
  She then closed the cupboard door.  6
  The good old clergyman was buried three days later in the piece of ground he had long ago sought out for his last resting-place; and any one standing by the grave which was lighted by the earliest rays of the morning sun, might easily see into the parlor in the parsonage-house.  7
  The people who had been at the funeral were all gone home, and Hawermann had also been obliged to go; but Uncle Bräsig, who had spent the day at the parsonage, helping his friends in every possible way, had announced his intention of remaining for the night. Seeing the two women standing arm-in-arm at the window, buried in sad thought, he slipped quietly up-stairs to his bedroom, and going to the window looked sorrowfully down into the church-yard, where the newly made grave showed distinctly against the white snow surrounding it. He thought of the good man who lay there, and who had so often helped him with kindness and advice; and he swore to himself that he would be a faithful friend to Mrs. Behrens. Down-stairs the two sad-hearted women were gazing at the same grave, and silently vowing to show each other all the love and tenderness that he who was gone from them had been wont to bestow. Little Mrs. Behrens thanked God and her husband for the comforter she had in her adopted daughter, whom she held in her arms, and whose smooth hair she stroked as she kissed her lovingly. Louisa prayed that God would bless the lessons she had learned from her foster-father, and would give her strength to be a good and faithful daughter to the kind woman who had been as a mother to her. New-made graves may be likened to flower-beds in which the gardener puts his rarest and most beautiful plants; but alas, ill weeds sometimes take root there also.  8
 
 
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