From a Mattress Grave
“ I am a Jew, I am a Christian. I am tragedy, I am comedy,— Heraclitus and Democritus in one ; a Greek, a Hebrew ; an adorer of despotism as incarnate in Napoleon, an admirer of communism as embodied in Proudhon ; a Latin, a Teuton ; a beast, a devil, a god.”
THE carriage stopped, and the speckless footman, jumping down, inquired, “ Monsieur Heine ? ”
The concierge, knitting beside the porte-cochère, looked at him, looked at the glittering victoria he represented and at the grande dame who sat in it, shielding herself with a parasol from the glory of the Parisian sunlight; then she shook her head.
“ But this is No. 3 Avenue Matignon ? ”
“ Yes, but monsieur receives only his old friends. He is dying.”
“Madame knows. Take up her name.”
The concierge glanced at the elegant card. She saw “Lady”— which she imagined meant an English duchesse — and words scribbled on it in pencil.
“ It is au cinquième,” she said, with a sigh.
“ I will take it up.”
Ere he returned madame descended, and passed from the sparkling sunshine into the gloom of the portico, with a melancholy consciousness of the symbolic ; for her spirit, too, had its poetic intuitions and insights, and had been trained by friendship with one of the wittiest and tenderest women of her time to some more than common apprehension of the greater spirit at whose living tomb she was come to worship. Hers was a fine face, wearing the triple aristocracy of beauty, birth, and letters. The complexion was of lustreless ivory, the black hair wound round and round. The stateliness of her figure completed the impression of a Roman matron.
“ Monsieur Heine begs that your ladyship will do him the honor of mounting, and will forgive him the five stories for the sake of the view.”
Her ladyship’s sadness was tinctured by a faint smile at the message, which the footman delivered without any suspicion that the view in question meant the view of Heine himself. But then that admirable menial had not the advantage of her comprehensive familiarity with Heine’s writings. She crossed the blank stony courtyard and toiled up the curving five flights, her mind astir with pictures and emotions.
She had scribbled on her card a reminder of her identity ; but could he remember, after all those years and in his grievous sickness, the little girl of twelve who had sat next to him at the Boulogne table d’hôte ? And she herself could scarcely realize at times that the fat, good-natured, short-sighted little man who had lounged with her daily at the end of the pier, telling her stories, was the most mordant wit in Europe, “ the German Aristophanes,” and that those nursery tales, grotesquely compact of mermaids, water-sprites, and a funny old French fiddler with a poodle that diligently took three baths a day, were the frolicsome improvisations of perhaps the greatest lyric poet of his age. She recalled their parting: “When you go back to England, you can tell your friends that you have seen Heinrich Heine.” To which the little girl, “ And who is Heinrich Heine ? ” — a query which had set the fat little man roaring with laughter.
These things might be vivid still in her own vision, — they colored all she had read since from his magic pen: the wonderful poems, interpreting with equal magic the romance of the mediæval world, or the modern soul, naked and unashamed, as if clothed in its own complexity; the humorous-tragic questionings of the universe; the delicious travel pictures and fantasies; the lucid criticisms of art and politics and philosophy, informed with malicious wisdom, shimmering with poetry and wit. But as for him, doubtless she and her ingenuous interrogation had long since faded from his tumultuous life.
The odors of the sick-room recalled her to the disagreeable present. In the sombre light she stumbled against a screen covered with paper painted to look like lacquer-work, and as the slipshod old nurse in a serre-tête motioned her forwards she had a dismal sense of a lodging-house interior, a bourgeois barrenness enhanced by two engravings after Léopold Robert, depressingly alien from that dainty boudoir atmosphere of the artist life she knew.
But this sordid impression was swallowed up in the vast tragedy behind the screen. Upon a pile of mattresses heaped on the floor lay the poet. He had raised himself a little on his pillows, amid which showed a longish, pointed white face, with high cheek-bones, a Grecian nose, and a large pale mouth, wasted from the sensualism she recollected in it to a strange Christ-like beauty. The outlines of the shriveled body beneath the sheet seemed those of a child of ten, and the legs looked curiously twisted. One thin little hand, as of transparent wax, delicately artistic, upheld a paralyzed eyelid, under which he peered at her.
“ Lucy liebchen ! ” he piped joyously. “ So you have found out who Heinrich Heine is ! ”
He used the familiar German “ dn ; ” for him she was still his little friend. But to her the moment was too poignant for speech. The terrible passages in the last writings of this greatest of autobiographers, which she had hoped poetically colored, were then painfully, prosaically true.
“ Can it be that I still actually exist ?
My body is so shrunken that there is hardly anything left of me but my voice, and my bed makes me think of the melodious grave of the enchanter Merlin, which is in the forest of Broceliand, in Brittany, under high oaks whose tops shine like green flames to heaven. Oh,
I envy thee those trees, brother Merlin, and their fresh waving ! For over my mattress grave here in Paris no green leaves rustle, and early and late I hear nothing but the rattle of carriages, hammering, scolding, and the jingle of pianos. A grave without rest ; death without the privileges of the departed, who have no longer any need to spend money, or to write letters, or to compose books.”
And then she thought of that ghastly comparison of himself to the ancient German singer, — the poor clerk of the Chronicle of Limburg, — whose sweet songs were sung and whistled from morning to night all through Germany, while he himself, smitten with leprosy, hooded and cloaked and carrying the lazarus-clapper, moved through the shuddering city. Silently she held out her hand, and he gave her his bloodless fingers ; she touched the strangely satin skin and felt the fever beneath.
“ It cannot be my little Lucy,” he said reproachfully. “ She used to kiss me. But even Lucy’s kiss cannot thrill my paralyzed lips.”
She stooped and kissed his lips. His little beard felt soft and weak as the hair of a baby.
“ Ah, I have made my peace with the world and with God. Now he sends me his death-angel.”
She struggled with the lump in her throat. “ You must be indeed a prey to illusions if you mistake an Englishwoman for Azrael. ”
“ Ach, why was I so bitter against England? I was only once in England, years ago. I knew nobody, and London seemed so full of fog and Englishmen. And I wrote a ballet for your Mr. Lumley, and it was never produced. Now England has avenged herself beautifully. She sends me you. Others, too, mount the hundred and five steps. I am an annex to the Paris Exposition. Remains of Heinrich Heine. A very pilgrimage of the royal demimonde. A Russian princess brings the hateful odor of her pipe,” he said, with scornful satisfaction ; “ an Italian princess babbles of her aches and pains as if in competition with mine. But the gold medal would fall to my nerves, I am convinced, if they were on view at the Exposition. No, no, don’t cry; I meant you to laugh. Don’t think of me as you see me now ; pretend to me I am as you first knew me. But how fine and beautiful you have grown, even to my fraction of an eye, which sees the sunlight as through black gauze ! Fancy, little Lucy has a husband, a husband — and the poodle still takes three baths a day. Are you happy, darling, are you happy ? ”
She nodded. It seemed a sacrilege to claim happiness.
“ Das ist eigen ! Yes, you were always so merry. God be thanked ! How refreshing to find one woman with a heart, and that unseared! Here the women have a metronome under their corsets, which beats time, but not music. Himmel ! what a whiff of my youth you bring me! Does the sea still roll green at the end of Boulogne pier, and do the sea-gulls fly, while I lie here, a Parisian Prometheus, chained to my bedpost ? Ah, had I only the bliss of a rock with the sky above me ! But I must not complain. For six years before I moved here I had nothing but a ceiling to defy. Now my balcony gives sideways on the Champs Élysées, and sometimes I dare to lie outside on a sofa, and peer at beautiful, beautiful Paris as she sends up her soul in sparkling fountains, and incarnates herself in pretty women who trip along like dance-music. Look ! ”
To please him she went to a window, and saw upon the narrow iron-grilled balcony a tent of striped chintz, like the awning of a café, supported by a light iron framework. Her eyes were blurred by unshed tears, and she divined rather than saw the far-stretching avenue palpitating with the fevered life of the Great Exposition year; the intoxicating sunlight ; the horse-chestnut trees dappling with shade the leafy footways; the white fountain-spray and flaming flower-beds of the Rond Point; the flashing, flickering stream of carriages flowing to the Bois with their freight of beauty and wealth and insolent vice.
“ The first time I looked out of that window,” he said, “ I seemed to myself like Dante, at the end of the Divine Comedy, when once again he beheld the stars. You cannot know what I felt when, after so many years, I saw the world again with half an eye for ever so little a space. I had my wife’s operaglass in my hand, and I saw with inexpressible pleasure a young vagrant vender of pastry offering his goods to two ladies in crinolines with a small dog. I closed the glass : I could see no more, for I envied the dog. The nurse carried me back to bed, and gave me morphia. That day I looked no more. For me the Divine Comedy was far from ended. The divine humorist has even descended to a pun. Talk of Mahomet’s coffin! I lie between the two Champs Élysées : the one where warm life palpitates, and that other where the pale ghosts flit.”
Then it was not a momentary fantasy of the pen, but an abiding mood that had paid blasphemous homage to the “ Aristophanes of Heaven.” Indeed, had it not always run through his work, this conception of humor in the grotesqueries of history, “the dream of an intoxicated divinity ” ? But his amusement thereat had been genial. “ Like a mad harlequin,” he had written of Byron, “ he strikes a dagger into his own heart, to sprinkle mockingly with the jetting black blood the ladies and gentlemen around.
. . . My blood is not so splenetically black: my bitterness comes only from the gall-apples of my ink.” But now, she thought, that bitter draught always at his lips had worked into his blood at last.
“ Are you quite incurable ? ” she said gently, as she returned from the window to seat herself at his side.
“ No, I shall die some day, — Gruby says very soon. But doctors are so inconsistent. Last week, after I had had a frightful attack of cramp in the throat and chest, ‘ Pouvez-vous siffler?’ he asked.
‘ Non, pas même une comédie de Monsieur Scribe,’ I replied. So you may see how bad I was. Well, even that, he said, would n’t hasten the end, and I should go on living indefinitely ! I had to caution him not to tell my wife. Poor Mathilde ! I have been unconscionably long a-dying. And now he turns round again and bids me order my coffin. But I fear, despite his latest bulletin, I shall go on some time yet increasing my knowledge of spinal disease. I read all the books about it, as well as experiment practically. What clinical lectures I will give in heaven, demonstrating the ignorance of doctors! ”
She was glad to note the more genial nuance of mockery. Raillery vibrated almost in the very tones of his voice, which had become clear and penetrating under the stimulus of her presence; but it passed away in tenderness, and the sarcastic wrinkles vanished from the corners of his mouth, as he made the pathetic jest anent his wife.
“ So you read as well as write ? ” she said.
“ Oh well, Zi chi in sky — a nice young refugee — does both for me most times. My mother, poor old soul, wrote the other day to know why I only signed my letters ; so I had to say my eyes pained me, which was not so untrue as the rest of the letter.”
“ Does n’t she know ? ”
“ Know ? God bless her, of course not. Dear old lady, dreaming so happily at the Dammthor of Düsseldorf, too old and wise to read newspapers, — no, she does not know that she has a dying son; only that she has an undying! Nicht wahr ? ”
He looked at her with a shade of anxiety, — that tragic anxiety of the veteran artist scenting from afar the sneers of the new critics at his life-work, and morbidly conscious of his hosts of enemies.
“ As long as the German tongue lives.”
“ Dear old Germany ! ” he said, pleased. “ Yes, it is true, —
So wird auch der meine genannt.’ ”
She thought of the sequel —
So wird auch der meine genannt ” —
as he went on : —
“ That was why, though the German censorship forbade or mutilated my every book, which was like sticking pins into my soul. I would not become naturalized here. Paris has been my new Jerusalem, and I crossed my Jordan at the Rhine,but as a French subject I should be like those two-headed monstrosities they show at the fairs. Besides, I hate French poetry. What measured glitter ! Not that German poetry has ever been to me more than a divine plaything. A laurel wreath on my grave place or withhold, — I care not, — but lay on my coffin a sword, for I was as brave a soldier as your Canning in the liberation war of humanity. But my thirty years’ war is over, and I die ' with sword unbroken and a broken heart.’ ” His head fell back in ineffable hopelessness. “Ah,” he murmured, “ it was ever my prayer, ' Lord, let me grow old in body, but let my soul stay young ; let my voice quaver and falter, but never my hope.’ And this is how I end.”
“ But your work does not end. Your fight was not vain. You are the inspirer of young Germany, and you are praised and worshiped by all the world : is that no pleasure ? ”
“ No, I am not le bon Dieu! ” He chuckled, his spirits revived by the blasphemous mot. " Ah, what a fate ! To have the homage only of the fools, a sort of celestial Victor Cousin. One compliment from Hegel now must be sweeter than a churchful of psalms.” A fearful fit of coughing interrupted further elaboration of the blasphemous fantasia. For five minutes it rent and shook him, the nurse bending fruitlessly over him, but at its wildest he signed to his visitor not to go, and when at last it lulled he went on calmly : “ Donizetti ended mad in a gala-dress, but I end at least sane enough to appreciate the joke, — a little long drawn out and not entirely original, yet replete with ingenious irony. Little Lucy looks shocked, but I sometimes think, little Lucy, the disrespect is with the goody-goody folks, who, while lauding their Deity’s strength and hymning his goodness, show no recognition at all of his humor. Yet I am praised as a wit as well as a poet. If I could take up my bed and walk, I would preach a new worship, — the worship of the ArchHumorist. I would draw up the Ritual of the Ridiculous. Three times a day, when the muezzin called from the Bourse-top, all the faithful would laugh devoutly at the gigantic joke of the cosmos. How sublime, — the universal laugh at sunrise, noon,and sunset! Those who did not laugh would be persecuted ; they would laugh, if only on the wrong side of the mouth. Delightful! As most people have no sense of humor, they would swallow the school catechism of the comic as stolidly as they now swallow the spiritual. Yes, I see you will not laugh. But why may I not, as everybody else does, endow my Deity with the quality which I possess or admire most ? ”
She felt some truth in his apology. He was mocking, not God, but the magnified man of the popular creeds ; to him it was a mere intellectual counter with which his wit played, oblivious of the sacred aura that clung round the concept for the bulk of the world. Even his famous picture of Jehovah dying, or his suggestion that perhaps dieser Parvenu des Himmels was angry with Israel for reminding him of his former obscure national relations, what was it but a lively rendering of what German savants said so unreadably about the evolution of the God Idea ? But she felt also that it would have been finer to bear unsmiling the smileless destinies ; not to affront with the tinkle of vain laughter the vast imperturbable. She answered gently, “ You are talking nonsense.”
“ I always talked nonsense to you, little Lucy, for
And it bleeds within my breast.’
Will you hear its melodious drip-drip, my last poem ? My manuscript, Catherine, and then you can go and take a nap. I gave you little rest last night.”
The old woman brought him some folio sheets covered with great pathetically sprawling letters ; and when she had retired, he began : —
The hideous snail that hastens not ”...
His voice went on, but after the first lines the listener’s brain was too troubled to attend. It was agitated with whirling memories of those earlier outcries throbbing with the passion of life, flaming records of the days when every instant held an eternity, not of ennui, but of sensibility. “ Red life boils in my veins.
. . . Every woman is to me the gift of a world. ... I hear a thousand nightingales. ... I could eat all the elephants of Hindostan, and pick my teeth with the spire of Strasburg Cathedral.
. . . Life is the greatest of blessings, and death the worst of evils.” But the poet was still reading; she forced herself to listen.
Old faded gods, this brain is full;
Who, for their most unholy rites,
Have chosen a dead poet’s skull.”
He broke off suddenly : “ No, it is too sad. A cry in the night from a man buried alive ; a new note in German poetry, — was sage ich ? — in the poetry of the world. No poet ever had such a lucky chance before — voyez-vous — to survive his own death, though many a one has survived his own immortality. ‘ Neminem ante mortem miserum.’ Call no man wretched till he’s dead. 'T is not till the journey is over that one can see the perspective truthfully, and the tombstones of one’s hopes and illusions marking the weary miles. ’T is not till one is dead that the day of judgment can dawn ; and when one is dead, one cannot see or judge at all. An exquisite irony, nicht wahr ? The wrecks in the Morgue, what tales they could tell! But dead men tell no tales. While there’s life there ’s hope, and so the worst cynicisms have never been spoken. But I — I alone have dodged the fates. I am the dead-alive, the living-dead. I hover over my racked body like a ghost, and exist in an interregnum. And so I am the first mortal in a position to demand an explanation. Don’t tell me I have sinned and am in hell. Most sins are sins of classification by bigots and poor thinkers. Who can live without sinning, or sin without living ? All very well for Kant to say, ‘ Act so that your conduct may be a law for all men under similar conditions.’ But Kant overlooked that you are part of the conditions. And when you are a Heine, you may very well concede that future Heines should act just so. It is easy enough to be virtuous when you are a professor of pure reason, a regular, punctual mechanism, a thing for the citizens of Königsberg to set their watches by. But if you happen to be one of those fellows to whom all the roses nod and all the stars wink — I am for Schelling’s principle: the highest spirits are above the law. No, no, the parson’s explanation won’t do.
Perhaps heaven holds different explanations, graduated to rising intellects, from parsons upwards. Moses Lump will be satisfied with a gold chair, and the cherubim singing, ‘Holy! holy! holy!’ in Hebrew, and will ask no further questions. Abdullah ben Osman’s mouth will be closed by the kisses of houris. Surely Christ will not disappoint the poor old grandmother’s vision of Jerusalem the Golden, seen through tear-dimmed spectacles as she pores over the family Bible.
He will meet her at the gates of death with a wonderful smile of love; and as she walks upon the heavenly Jordan’s shining waters hand in hand with him, she will see her erst-wrinkled face reflected from them in angelic beauty. Ah, but to tackle a Johann Wolfgang Goethe or an Immanuel Kant, —what an ordeal for the celestial professor of apologetics ! Perhaps that’s what the Gospel means,—only by becoming little children can we enter the kingdom of heaven. I told my little god-daughter yesterday that heaven is so pure and magnificent that they eat cakes there all day,—it is only what the parson says translated into child-language, — and that the little cherubs wipe their mouths with their white wings. ‘ That’s very dirty,’ said the child. I fear that unless I become a child myself I shall have severer criticisms to bring against the cherubs. O God,” he broke off suddenly, letting fall the sheets of manuscript and stretching out his hands in prayer, “ make me a child again even before I die; give me back the simple faith, the clear vision, of the child that holds its father’s hand! Oh, little Lucy, it takes me like that sometimes, and I have to cry for mercy. I dreamt I was a child, the other night, and saw my dear father again. He was putting on his wig, and I saw him as through a cloud of powder. I rushed joyfully to embrace him, but as I approached him everything seemed changing in the mist. I wished to kiss his hands, but I recoiled with mortal cold. The fingers were withered branches, my father himself a leafless tree which the winter had covered with hoar frost. Ah, Lacy, Lucy, my brain is full of madness and my heart of sorrow. Sing me the ballad of the lady who took only one spoonful of gruel, ' with sugar and spices so rich.’ ”
Astonished at his memory, she repeated the song of Lady Alice and Giles Collins, the poet laughing immoderately till at the end,
in his effort to repeat the line that so tickled him he fell into a fearful spasm, which tore and twisted him till his child’s body lay curved like a bow. Her tears fell at the sight.
“ Don’t pity me too much,” he gasped, trying to smile with his eyes. “ I bend, but I do not break.”
But she, terrified, rang the bell for aid. A jovial-looking woman — tall and wellshaped— came in, holding a shirt she was sewing. Her eyes and hair were black, and her oval face had the rude coloring of health. She brought into the death-chamber at once a whiff of ozone and a suggestion of tragic incongruity. Nodding pleasantly to the visitor, she advanced quickly to the bedside and laid her hand upon the forehead sweating with agony.
“ Mathilde,” he-said, when the spasm abated, " this is little Lucy, of whom I have never spoken to you, and to whom I wrote a poem about her brown eyes, which you have never read.”
Mathilde smiled amiably at the Roman matron.
“No, I have never read it,” she said.
“ They tell me that Heine is a very clever man and writes very fine books, but I know nothing about it, and must content myself with trusting to their word.”
“ Is n’t she adorable ? ” cried Heine delightedly. “ I have only two consolations that sit at my bedside, my French wife and my German nurse, and they are not on speaking terms! But it has its compensations, for she is unable also to read what my enemies in Germany say about me, and so she continues to love me.”
“How can he have enemies?” said Mathilde, smoothing his hair. “ He is so good to everybody. He has only two thoughts, — to hide his illness from his mother, and to earn enough for my future. And as for having enemies in Germany, how can that be, when he is so kind to every poor German that passes through Paris ? ”
It moved the hearer to tears, — this wifely faith. Surely the saint that lay behind the Mephistopheles in his face must have as real an existence, if the woman who knew him only as man, undazzled by the glitter of his fame, unwearied by his long sickness, found him thus without flaw or stain.
“ Delicious creature ! ” said Heine fondly. “ Not only thinks me good, but thinks that goodness keeps off enemies. What ignorance of life she crams into a dozen words ! As for those poor countrymen of mine, they are just the people who carry back to Germany all the awful tales of my goings-on. Do you know there was once a poor devil of a musician who had set my Zwei Grenadiere, and to whom I gave no end of help and advice when he wanted to make an opera on the legend of the flying Dutchman which I had treated in one of my books. Now he curses me and all the Jews together, and his name is Richard Wagner.”
Mathilde smiled on vaguely. “ You would eat those cutlets,” she said reprovingly.
“ Well, I was weary of the chopped grass cook calls spinach. I don’t want seven years of Nebuchadnezzardom.”
“ Cook is angry when you don’t eat her things, chéri. I find it difficult to get on with her since you praised her dainty style. One would think she was the mistress, and I the servant.”
“ Ah, Nonotte, you don’t understand the artistic temperament.” Then a twitch passed over his face. “ You must give me a double dose of morphia to-night, darling.”
“ No, no, the doctor forbids.”
“ One would think he were the employer, and I the employee,” he grumbled smilingly. “ But I dare say he is right. Already I spend five hundred francs a year on morphia; I must really retrench. So run away, dearest. I have a good friend here to cheer me up.”
She stooped down and kissed him.
“ Ah, madame,” she said, “ it is very good of you to come and cheer him up.
It is as good as a new dress to me to see a new face coming in, for the old ones begin to drop off. Not the dresses ; the friends,” she added gayly, as she disappeared.
“ Is n’t she divine ? ” cried Heine enthusiastically.
“ I am glad you love her,” his visitor replied simply.
“You mean you are astonished. Love ? What is love ? I have never loved.”
“You!” And all the stories those countrymen of his had spread abroad, all his own love-poems, were in that exclamation.
“ No, — never mortal women ; only statues and the beautiful dead dreamwomen, vanished with the neiges d’antan. What did it matter whom I married ? Perhaps you would have had me aspire higher than a grisette ? To a tradesman’s daughter ? Or a demoiselle in society ? ‘ Explain my position ' —
a poor exile’s position —to some doublechinned bourgeois papa, who can only see that my immortal books are worth exactly two thousand marks bancor ? Yes, that’s the most I can wring out of those scoundrels in wicked Hamburg. And to think that if I had only done my writing in ledgers, the ’prentice millionaire might have become the master millionaire, ungalled by avuncular advice and chary checks. Ah, dearest Lucy, you can never understand what we others suffer, — you into whose mouths the larks drop roasted. Should I marry Fashion and be stifled ? Or Money and be patronized ? And lose the exquisite pleasure of toiling to buy my wife new dresses and knick - knacks ? Après tout, Mathilde is quite as intelligent as any other daughter of Eve, — whose first thought, when she came to reflective consciousness, was a new dress. All great men are mateless; 't is only their own ribs they fall in love with. A more cultured woman would only have misunderstood me more pretentiously. Not that I did n’t, in a weak moment, try to give her a little polish. I sent her to a boarding-school to learn to read and write, my child of nature among all the little schoolgirls, — ha ! ha ! ha ! — and I only visited her on Sundays; and she could rattle off the Egyptian kings better than I, and once she told me with great excitement the story of Lucretia, which she had heard for the first time. Dear Nonotte! You should have seen her dancing at the school ball, — as graceful and maidenly as the smallest shrimp of them all. What gaiety de cœur ! What good humor ! What mother wit! And such a faithful chum! Ah, the Freach women are wonderful. We have been married fifteen years, and still when I hear her laugh come through that door my soul turns from the gates of death and remembers the sun. Oh, how I love to see her go off to mass every morning, with her toilette nicely adjusted and her dainty prayer - book in her neatly gloved hand ! — for she ’s adorably religious, is my little Nonotte. You look surprised; did you then think religious people shock me? ”
She smiled a little. “ But don’t you shock her ? ”
“ I would n’t for worlds utter a blasphemy she could understand. Do you think Shakespeare explained himself to Anne Hathaway ? But she doubtless served well enough as artist’s model, — raw material to be worked up into Imogens and Rosalinds. Enchanting creatures ! How your foggy islanders could have begotten Shakespeare ! The miracle of miracles. And Sterne! Mais non, an Irishman like Swift. Ca s’explique. Is Sterne read ? ”
“ No, he is only a classic.”
“ Barbarians! Have you read my book on Shakespeare’s heroines ? It is good, nicht wahr ?”
“ Then why should n’t you translate it into English ? ”
“ It is an idea.”
“ It is an inspiration. Nay, why should n’t you translate all my books ? You shall, you must. You know how the French edition fait fureur. French, — that is the European hall-mark, for Paris is Athens. But English will mean fame in Ultima Thule, — the isles of the sea, as the Bible says. It is n’t for the gold-pieces, though God knows Mathilde needs more friends, as we call them. Heaven preserve you from the irony of having to earn your living on your death - bed ! Ach, my publisher Campe has built himself a new establishment, — what a monument to me ! Why should not some English publisher build me a monument in London ? The Jew’s books —like the Jew — should be spread abroad, so that in them all the nations of the earth shall he blessed. For the Jew peddles not only old clo’, but new ideas. I began life — tell it not in Gath — as a commission agent for English goods, and I end it as an intermediary between France and Germany, trying to make two great nations understand each other. To that not unworthy aim has all my later work been devoted.”
“ So you really consider yourself a Jew still ? ”
“Mein Gott! have I ever been anything else but an enemy of the Philistines ? ”
She smiled. “ Yes, but religiously ? ”
“ Religiously ! What was my whole fight to rouse Hodge out of his thousand years’ sleep in his hole ? Why did I edit a newspaper, and plague myself with our time and its interests ? Goethe has created glorious Greek statues; but statues cannot have children. My words should find issue in deeds. I am no true Hellenist. Like my ancestor David, I have been not only a singer, I have slung my smooth little pebbles at the forehead of Goliath.”
“ But have n’t you turned Catholic ? ”
“ Catholic ! ” he roared like a roused lion. “ They say that again ! Has the myth of death-bed conversion already arisen about me ? How they jump, the fools, at the idea of a man’s coming round to their views when his brain grows weak! ”
“ No, not death-bed conversion. Quite an old history. I was assured you had married in a Catholic church.”
“ To please Mathilde! Without that the poor creature would n’t have thought herself married in a manner sufficiently pleasing to God. It is true we had been living together without any church blessing at all, but que voulez-vous ? Women are like that. For my part, I should have been satisfied to go on as we were. I understand by a wife something nobler than a married woman chained to me by money-brokers and parsons, and I deemed my faux ménage far firmer than many a ' true ’ one. But since I was to be married, I could not be the cause of any disquiet to my beloved Nonotte. We even invited a number of Bohemian couples to the wedding-feast, and bade them follow our example in daring the last step of all. Ha! ha! There is nothing like a convert’s zeal, you see. But convert to Catholicism ! That’s another pair of sleeves. If your right eye offend you, pluck it out; if your right hand offend you, cut it off; and if your reason offend you, become a Catholic! No, no, Lucy, a Jew I have always been.”
“ Despite your baptism ? ”
The sufferer groaned, but not from physical pain.
“ Ah, cruel little Lucy, don’t remind me of my youthful folly. Thank your stars you were born an Englishwoman.
I was born under the fearful conjunction of Christian bigotry and Jewish, in the Judenstrasse. In my cradle lay my line of life marked out from beginning to end. My God, what a life ! You know how Germany treated her Jews, — like pariahs and wild beasts : at Frankfort, for centuries the most venerable rabbi had to take off his hat if the smallest gamin cried, ‘ Jude, mach mores ! ’ All, as I have always said, Judaism is not a religion, but a misfortune. And to be born a Jew and a genius ! What a double curse! Believe me, Lucy, a certificate of baptism was a necessary card of admission to European culture. And yet, no sooner had I taken the dip than a great horror came over me. Many a time I got up at night and looked in the glass and cursed myself for my want of backbone ! Alas, my curses were more potent than those of the rabbis against Spinoza, and this disease was sent me to destroy such backbone as I had. No wonder the doctors do not understand it. I learnt in the Ghetto that if I did n’t twine the holy phylacteries round my arm, serpents would be found coiled round the arm of my corpse. Alas, serpents have never failed to coil themselves round my sins. The Inquisition could not have tortured me more had I been a Jew of Spain. If I had known how much easier moral pain is to bear than physical, I would have saved my curses for my enemies, and put up with my conscience - twinges. Ah, truly said your divine Shakespeare that the wisest philosopher is not proof against a toothache. When was any spasm of pleasure so sustained as pain ? Certain of our bones, I learn from my anatomy books, manifest their existence only when they are injured. Happy are the bones that have no history. Ugh ! how mine are coming through the skin, like ugly truth through fair romance ! I shall have to apologize to the worms for offering them nothing but bones. Alas, how ugly-bitter it is to die ! How’ sweet and snugly we can live in this snug, sweet nest of earth ! What nice words ! I must start a poem with them. Yes, sooner than die I would live over again my miserable boyhood in my uncle Solomon’s office, miscalculating in his ledgers like a trinitarian while I scribbled poems for the Hamburg Wächter. Yes, I would even rather learn Latin again at the Franciscan cloister and grind law at Göttingen. For after all, I should n’t have to work very hard; a pretty girl passes, and to the deuce with the Pandects! Ah, those wild university days, when we used to go and sup at the Landwehr, and the rosy young Kellnerin who brought us our goose mit Apfelkompot kissed me before all the other Herren Studenten, because I was a poet, and already as famous as the professors ! And then, after I should be reëxpelled from Göttingen, there would be Berlin over again, and dear Rahel Levin and her Salon, and the Tuesdays at Elise von Hohenhausen’s (at which I would read my Lyrical Intermezzo), and the mad literary nights with the poets in the Behrenstrasse.
And balls, theatres, operas, masquerades ! Shall I ever forget the ball where Sir Walter Scott’s son appeared as a Scotch Highlander, just when all Berlin was mad about the Waverley novels ? I, too, should read them over again for the first time, those wonderful romances; yes, and I should write my own early books over again,— oh, the divine joy of early creation ! — and I should set out again with bounding pulses on my Harzreise; and the first night of Freischütz would come once more, and I should be whistling the Jungfern, and sipping punch in the Casino with Lottchen filling up my glass.” His eyes oozed tears; suddenly he stretched out his arms, seized her hand and pressed it frantically, his face and body convulsed, his paralyzed eyelids dropping. “No, no! ” he pleaded in a hoarse, hollow voice, as she strove to withdraw it. “ I hear the footsteps of death. I must cling on to life, — I must, I must. Oh, the warmth and the scent of it! ”
She shuddered ; for an instant he seemed a vampire, with shut eyes, sucking at her life-blood to sustain his ; and when that horrible fantasy passed, there remained the overwhelming tragedy of a dead man lusting for life. Not this the ghost who, as Berlioz put it, stood at the window of his grave regarding and mocking the world in which he had no further part. But his fury waned ; he fell back as in a stupor, and lay silent, little twitches passing over his sightless face.
She bent over him, terribly distressed. Should she go ? Should she ring again ? Presently words came from his lips at intervals, abrupt, disconnected, and now a ribald laugh, and now a tearful sigh. And then he was a student humming,
and his death-mask lit up with the wild joys of living. Then earlier memories still — of his childhood in Düsseldorf — seemed to flow through his comatose brain : his mother and brothers and sisters ; the dancing-master he threw out of the window ; the emancipation of the Jewry by the French conquerors; the joyous drummer who taught him French ; the passing of Napoleon on his white horse ; the atheist schoolboy friend with whom he studied Spinoza on the sly. And suddenly he came to himself, raised his eyelid with his forefinger and looked at her.
“ Catholic ! ” he cried angrily. “ I never returned to Judaism, because I never left it. My baptism was a mere wetting. I have never put ‘ Heinrich ’ — only ‘ H.’— in my books, and never have I ceased to write ‘Harry’ to my mother. Though the Jews hate me even more than the Christians, yet I was always on the side of my brethren.”
“ I know, I know,” she said soothingly. “ I am sorry I hurt you. I remember well the passage in which you say that your becoming a Christian was the fault of the Saxons who changed sides suddenly at Leipzig; or else of Napoleon, who had no need to go to Russia ; or else of his schoolmaster who gave him instruction at Brienne in geography, and did not tell him that it was very cold at Moscow in winter.”
“ Very well, then,” he said, pacified. “ Let them not say either that I have been converted to Judaism on my deathbed. Was not my first poem based on one in the Passover night Hagadah ? Was not my first tragedy — Almansor
— really the tragedy of downtrodden Israel, that great race which from the ruins of its second temple knew to save, not the gold and the precious stones, but the real treasure, the Bible, a gift to the world that would make the tourist traverse oceans to see a Jew if there were only one left alive ? The only people that preserved freedom of thought through the Middle Ages, they have now to preserve God against the freethought of the modern world. We are the Swiss Guards of Deism. God was always the beginning and end of my thought. When I hear his existence questioned, I feel as I felt once in your Bedlam when I lost my guide, a ghastly forlornness in a mad world. Is not my best work — The Rabbi of Baccharach
— devoted to expressing the ‘vast Jewish sorrow,’ as Börne calls it ? ”
“ But you never finished it! ”
“ I was a fool to be persuaded by Moser. Or was it Gans ? Ah, will not Jehovah count it to me for righteousness, that New Jerusalem Brotherhood with them in the days when I dreamt of reconciling Jew and Greek, the goodness of beauty with the beauty of goodness ! Oh, those days of youthful dream whose winters are warmer than the summers of the after-years ! How they tried to crush us, the rabbis and the state alike! O the brave Moser, the lofty-souled, the pure-hearted, who passed from countinghouse to laboratory and studied Sanscrit for recreation, moriturus te saluto. And thou, too, Markus, with thy boy’s body and thy old man’s look, and thy encyclopædic, inorganic mind; and thou, O Gans, with thy too organic Hegelian hocus-pocus ! Yes, the rabbis were right, and the baptismal font had us at last; but surely God counts the Will to Do, and is more pleased with great-hearted dreams than with the deeds of the whitehearted burghers of virtue, whose goodness is essence of gendarmerie. And where, indeed, if not in Judaism, broadened by Hellenism, shall one find the religion of the future ? Be sure of this, anyhow, — that only a Jew will find it.
We have the gift of religion, the wisdom of the ages. You others —young races fresh from staining your bodies with woad — have never yet got as far as Moses. Moses, that giant figure, who dwarfs Sinai when he stands upon it: the great artist in life, who, as I point out in my Confessions, built human pyramids ; who created Israel; who took a poor shepherd family and created a nation from it, — a great, eternal, holy people, a people of God, destined to outlive the centuries, and to serve as a pattern to all other nations : a statesman, not a dreamer, who did not deny the world and the flesh, but sanctified it. Happiness, — is it not implied in the very aspiration of the Christian for post-mundane bliss ? And yet ‘ the man Moses was very meek,’ the most humble and lovable of men. He too — though it is always ignored — was ready to die for the sins of others, praying, when his people had sinned, that his name might be blotted out instead; and though God offered to make of him a great nation, yet did he prefer the greatness of his people. He led them to Palestine, but his own foot never touched the promised land. What a glorious, Godlike figure, and yet so prone to wrath and error, so lovably human! How he is modeled all round like a Rembrandt, while your starveling monks have made your Christ a mere decorative figure with a gold halo ! O Moshé Rabbenu, Moses our teacher indeed ! No, Christ was not the first nor the last of our race to wear a crown of thorns. What was Spinoza but Christ in the key of meditation ? ”
“ Wherever a great soul speaks out his thoughts, there is Golgotha,” quoted the listener.
“ Ah, you know every word I have written,” he said, childishly pleased. “ Decidedly, you must translate me. You shall be my apostle to the heathen. You are good apostles, you English. You turned Jews under Cromwell, and now your missionaries are planting our Palestinian doctrines in the South Seas or amid the josses and pagodas of the East, and your young men are colonizing unknown continents on the basis of the Decalogue of Moses. You are founding a world-wide Palestine. The law goes forth from Zion, but by way of Liverpool and Southampton. Perhaps you are indeed the lost Ten Tribes.”
“ Then you would make me a Jew, too,” she laughed.
“ Jew or Greek, there are only two religious possibilities, — fetish - dances and spinning dervishes don’t count. The Renaissance meant the revival of these two influences, and since the sixteenth century they have both been increasing steadily. Luther was a child of the Old Testament. Since the exodus Freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent ! Christianity is Judaism run divinely mad : a religion without a drainage system, a beautiful dream dissevered from life, soul cut adrift from body and sent floating through the empyrean, when at best it can be only a captive balloon. At the same time, don’t take your idea of Judaism from the Jews. It is only an apostolic succession of great souls that understands anything in this world. The Jewish mission will never be over till the Christians are converted to the religion of Christ. Lassalle is a better pupil of the Master than the priests who denounce socialism. You have met Lassalle ? No ? You shall meet him here, one day. A marvel. Me plus Will. He knows everything, feels everything, yet is a sledge-hammer to act. He may yet be the Messiah of the nineteenth century. Ah, when every man is a Spinoza and does good for the love of good, when the world is ruled by Justice and Brotherhood, Reason and Humor, then the Jews may shut up shop, for it will be the holy Sabbath. Did you mark, Lucy, I said Reason and Humor ? Nothing will survive in the long run but what satisfies the sense of Logic and the sense of Humor ! Logic and Laughter, — the two trumps of doom ! Put not your trust in princes ; the really great of the earth are always simple. Pomp and ceremonial, popes and kings, are toys for children. Christ rode on an ass; now the ass rides on Christ.”
“ And how long do you give your trumps to sound before your millennium dawns?” said “little Lucy,” feeling strangely old and cynical beside this incorrigible idealist.
“ Alas, perhaps I am only another Dreamer of the Ghetto ; perhaps I have fought in vain. A Jewish woman once came weeping to her rabbi with her son, and complained that the boy, instead of going respectably into business like his sires, had developed religion, and insisted on training for a rabbi. Would not the rabbi dissuade him ? ‘ But,’ said the rabbi, chagrined, ‘ why are you so distressed about it ? Am I not a rabbi ? ’ ‘ Yes,’
replied the woman, ‘but this little fool takes it seriously.’ Ach, every now and again arises a dreamer who takes the world’s lip-faith seriously, and the world tramples on another fool. Perhaps there is no resurrection for humanity. If so, if there’s no world’s Saviour coming by the railway, let us keep the figure of that sublime Dreamer whose blood is balsam to the poor and the suffering.”
Marveling at the mental lucidity, the spiritual loftiness, of his changed mood, his visitor wished to take leave of him with this image in her memory ; but just then a half-paralyzed Jewish graybeard made his appearance, and Heine’s instant dismissal of him on her account made it difficult not to linger a little longer.
“ My chef de police ! ” he said, smiling. “ He lives on me, and I live on his reports of the great world. He tells me what my enemies are up to. But I have them in there,” and he pointed to an ebony box on a chest of drawers and asked her to hand it to him.
“ Pardon me before I forget,” he said, and seizing a pencil like a dagger he made a sprawling note, laughing venomously. “ I have them here! ” he repeated. “ They will try to stop the publication of my Memoirs, but I will outwit them yet. I hold them ! Dead or alive, they shall not escape me. Woe to him who shall read these lines, if he has dared attack me ! Heine does not die like the first comer. The tiger’s claws will survive the tiger. When I die, it will he for them the day of judgment.”
It was a reminder of the long fighting life of the free-lance ; of all the stories she had heard of his sordid quarrels, of his blackmailing bis relatives and besting his uncle. She asked herself his own question : “ Is genius, like the pearl in the oyster, only a splendid disease ? ”
Aloud she said, “ I hope you are done with Börne.”
“ Börne ? ” he said, softening. “ Ach, what have I against Börne ? Two baptized German Jews exiled in Paris should forgive each other in death. My book was misunderstood. I wish to Heaven I had n’t written it. I always admired Börne, even if I could not keep up the ardor of my St. Simonian days when my spiritual Egeria was Rahel Varnhagen. I had three beautiful days with him in Frankfort, when he was full of Jewish wit and had n’t yet shrunk to a mere politician. He was a brave soldier of humanity, but he had no sense of art, and I could not stand the dirty mob around him, with its atmosphere of filthy German tobacco and vulgar tirades against tyrants. The last time I saw him he was almost deaf and worn to a skeleton by consumption : he dwelt in a vast bright silk dressing-gown, and said that if an emperor shook his hand, he would cut it off. I said, if a workman shook mine, I should wash it. And so we parted ; and he fell to denouncing me as a traitor and a persifleur, who would preach monarchy or republicanism according to which sounded better in the sentence. Poor Lob Baruch ! Perhaps he was wiser than I in his idea that his brother Jews should sink themselves in the nations. He was born, by the way, in the very year of old Mendelssohn’s death. What an irony ! But I am sorry for those insinuations against Madame Strauss. I have withdrawn them from the new edition, although, as you may know, I had already satisfied her husband’s sense of justice by allowing him to shoot at me, whilst I fired in the air. What can I more ? ”
“ I am glad you have withdrawn them,” she said, moved.
“Yes ; I have no Napoleonic grip, you see. A morsel of conventional conscience clings to me.”
“ Therefore I could never understand your worship of Napoleon.”
“ There speaks the Englishwoman. You Pharisees — forgive me ! — do not understand great men, you and your Wellington! Napoleon was not of the wood of which kings are made, but of the marble of the gods. Let me tell you the Code Napoléon carried light not only into the Ghettos, but into many another noisome spider-clot of feudalism. The world wants earthquakes and thunderstorms, or it grows corrupt and stagnant. This Paris needs a scourge of God, and the moment France gives Germany a pretext there will be sackcloth and ashes, or prophecy has died out of Israel.”
“ Qui vivra verra,” ran heedlessly off her tongue. Then, blushing painfully, she said quickly, “ But how do you worship Napoleon and Moses in the same breath ? ”
“ Ah, my dear Lucy, if your soul were like an Aladdin’s palace with a thousand windows opening on the human spectacle ! Self-contradiction the fools call it, if you will not shut your eyes to half the show. I love the people, yet I hate their stupidity and mistrust their leaders. I hate the aristocrats, yet I love the lilies that toil not, neither do they spin, and sometimes bring their perfume and their white robes into a sick man’s chamber. Who would harden with work the white fingers of Corysande, or sacrifice one rustle of Lalage’s silken skirts ? Let the poor starve ; I ’ll have no potatoes on Parnassus. My socialism is not barracks and brown bread, but purple robes, music, and comedies.
“ Yes, I was born for paradox. A German Parisian, a Jewish German, a political exile who yearns for dear homely old Germany, a skeptical sufferer with a Christian patience, a romantic poet expressing in classic form the modern spirit, a Jew and poor, — think you I do not see myself as lucidly as I see the world ? ‘ My mind to me a king-
dom is ’ sang your old poet. Mine is a republic, and all moods are free, equal, and fraternal, as befits a child of light. Or if there is a despot, ’t is the king’s jester, who laughs at the king as well as all his subjects. But am I not nearer truth for not being caged in a creed or a clan ? Who dares to think truth frozen, on this phantasmagorical planet, that whirls in beginningless time through endless space! Let us trust, for the honor of God, that the contradictory creeds for which men have died are all true. Perhaps humor — your right Hegelian touchstone to which everything yields up its latent negation — passing on to its own contradiction gives truer lights and shades than your pedantic Philistinism. Is truth really in the cold white light, or in the shimmering interplay of the rainbow tints that fuse in it ? Bah ! Your Philistine critic will sum me up, after I am dead, in a phrase ; or he will take my character to pieces and show how they contradict one another, and adjudge me, like a schoolmaster, so many good marks for this quality, and so many bad marks for that. Biographers will weigh me grocer-wise, as Kant weighed the Deity. Ugh ! You can be judged only by your peers or by your superiors, — by the minds that circumscribe yours, not by those that are smaller than yours. I tell you that when they have written three tons about me, they shall as little understand me as the cosmos I reflect. Does the pine contradict the rose, or the lotus-land the iceberg ? I am Spain, I am Persia, I am the North Sea, I am the beautiful gods of old Greece, I am Brahma brooding over the sunlands, I am Egypt, I am the Sphinx! But oh, dear Lucy, the tragedy of the modern, all-mirroring consciousness that dares to look on God face to face ; not content with Moses to see the back parts, nor with the Israelites to gaze on Moses ! Ach, why was I not made foursquare like old Moses Mendelssohn, or sublimely one-sided like Savonarola ? I, too, could die to save humanity, if I did not at the same time suspect humanity was not worth saving. To be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in one, — what a tragedy ! No, your limited intellects are happier, — those that see life in some one noble way, and in unity find strength. I should have loved to be a Milton, like one of your English cathedrals, austere, breathing sacred memories, resonant with the roll of a great organ, with painted windows on which the shadows of the green boughs outside wave and flicker and just hint of nature. Or one of your aristocrats, with a stately home in the country, and dogs and horses, and a beautiful wife, —in short, I should like to be your husband. Or failing that, my own wife, — a simple, loving creature whose idea of culture is cabbages. Ach, why was my soul wider than the Ghetto I was born in, why did I not mate with my kind ? ” He broke into a fit of coughing, and " little Lucy ” thought suddenly of the story that all his life-sadness and song-sadness were due to his rejection by a Jewish girl in his own family circle.
“ I tire you,” she said. “ Do not talk to me. I will sit here a little longer.”
“Nay, I have tired you. I could not but tell you my thoughts, for you are at once a child who loves and a woman who understands me. And to be understood is rarer than to be loved. My very parents never understood me. Nay, were they my parents, the mild man of business, the clever, clear-headed Dutchwoman, God bless her ? No: my father was Germany, my mother was the Ghetto. The brooding spirit of Israel breathes through me, that engendered the tender humor of her sages, the celestial fantasies of her saints. Perhaps I should have been happier had I married the first black-eyed Jewess whose father would put up with a penniless poet! I might have kept a kitchen with double crockery, and munched Passover cakes at Easter. Every Friday night I should have come home from the labors of the week, and found the table-cloth shining like my wife’s face, and the Sabbath candles burning, and the angels of peace sitting hidden beneath their great invisible wings; and my wife, piously conscious of having thrown the dough on the fire, would have kissed me tenderly, and I should have recited in an ancient melody, ‘ A virtuous woman, who can find her ? Her price is far above rubies ! ’ There would have been little children with great candid eyes, on whose innocent heads I should have laid my hands in blessing, praying that God might make them like Ephraim and Manasseh, Rachel and Leah, — persons of dubious exemplariness; and we should have sat down and eaten Schalet, which is the divinest dish in the world, pending the Leviathan that awaits the blessed at Messiah’s table. And instead of singing of cocottes and mermaids, I should have sung, like Jehuda Halévi, of my Herzensdame, Jerusalem. Perhaps — who knows ? — my Hebrew verses would have been incorporated in the festival liturgy, and pious old men would have snuffled them helter-skelter through their noses ! The letters of my name would have run acrostic-wise adown the verses, and the last verse would have inspired the cantor to jubilant roulades or tremolo wails, while the choir boomed in ' Pom ' and perhaps my uncle Solomon, the banker, to whom my present poems made so little appeal, would have wept and beaten his breast and taken snuff to the words of them. And I should have been buried honorably in the House of Life, and my son would have said ‘ Kaddish.’ Ah me, it is after all so much better to be stupid and walk in the old laid-out, well-trimmed paths than to wander after the desires of your own heart and your own eyes over the blue hills. True, there are glorious vistas to explore, and streams of living silver to bathe in, and wild horses to catch by the mane, but you are in a chartless land without stars and compass. One false step, and you are over a precipice or up to your neck in a slough. Ah, it is perilous to throw over the old surveyors. I see Moses ben Amram, with his measuring-chain and his gravingtools, marking on those stone tables of his the deepest abysses and the muddiest morasses. When I kept swine with the Hegelians I used to say. — alas, I still say, for I cannot suppress what I have once published, — ‘ Teach man he ’s divine : the knowledge of his divinity will inspire him to manifest it.' Ah me, I see now that our divinity is like old Jupiter’s, who made a beast of himself as soon as he saw pretty Europa. No, no, humanity is too weak and too miserable. We must have faith — we cannot live without faith — in the old simple things, the personal God, the dear old Bible, a life beyond the grave.”
Fascinated by his talk, which seemed to play like lightning round a cliff at midnight, revealing not only measureless heights and soundless depths, but the greasy wrappings and refuse bottles of a picnic, the listener had an intuition that Heine’s mind did indeed — as he claimed — reflect, or rather refract, the All. Only not sublimely blurred as in Spinoza’s, but specifically colored and infinitely interrelated, so that he might pass from the sublime to the ridiculous with an equal sense of its value in the cosmic scheme. It was the Jewish artist’s proclamation of the Unity, the humorist’s “ Hear, O Israel.”
“Will it never end, this battle of Jew and Greek?” he said, half to himself, so that she did not know whether he meant it personally or generally. Then, as she tore herself away, “I fear I have shocked you,” he said tenderly. “ But one thing I have never blasphemed, — Life. Is not enjoyment an implicit prayer, a latent grace ? After all, God is our Father, not our drill-master. He is not so dull and solemn as the parsons make out. He made the kitten to chase its tail, and my Nonotte to laugh and dance. Come again, dear child, for my friends have grown used to my dying, and expect me to die forever, an inverted immortality. But one day they will find the puppet-show shut up and the jester packed in his box. Good-by. God bless you, little Lucy, God bless you.”
The puppet-show was shut up sooner than he expected, but the jester had kept his most wonderful mot for the last.
“ Dieu me pardonnera,” he said. “ C’est son métier.”