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    Ch. 15 - The Mute Book

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    Chapter 15
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    By the high road into the forest there stood a solitary farm-house.
    Our way lay right through the farm-yard; the sun shone; all the
    windows were open; there was life and bustle within, but in the yard,
    in an arbour of flowering lilacs, there stood an open coffin. The
    corpse had been placed out here, and it was to be buried that
    forenoon. No one stood by and wept over that dead man; no one hung
    sorrowfully over him; his face was covered with a white cloth, and
    under his head there lay a large, thick book, every leaf of which was
    a whole sheet of grey paper, and between each lay withered flowers,
    deposited and forgotten--a whole herbarium, gathered in different
    places. He himself had requested that it should be laid in the grave
    with him. A chapter of his life was blended with every flower.

    "Who is that dead man?" we asked, and the answer was: "The old student
    from Upsala. They say he was once very clever; he knew the learned
    languages, could sing and write verses too; but then there was
    something that went wrong, and so he gave both his thoughts and
    himself up to drinking spirits, and as his health suffered by it, he
    came out here into the country, where they paid for his board and
    lodging.

    "He was as gentle as a child, when the dark humour did not come over
    him, for then he was strong, and ran about in the forest like a hunted
    deer; but when we got him home, we persuaded him to look into the book
    with the dry plants. Then he would sit the whole day and look at one
    plant, and then at another, and many a time the tears ran down his
    cheeks. God knows what he then thought! But he begged that he might
    have the book with him in his coffin; and now it lies there, and the
    lid will soon be fastened down, and then he will take his peaceful
    rest in the grave!"

    They raised the winding-sheet. There was peace in the face of the
    dead: a sunbeam fell on it; a swallow in its arrowy flight, darted
    into the new-made arbour, and in its flight circled twittering over
    the dead man's head.

    How strange it is!--we all assuredly know it--to take out old letters
    from the days of our youth and read them: a whole life, as it were,
    then rises up with all its hopes, and all its troubles. How many of
    those with whom we, in their time, lived so devotedly, are now even as
    the dead to us, and yet they still live! But we have not thought of
    them for many years--them whom we once thought we should always cling
    to, and share our mutual joys and sorrows with.

    The withered oak-leaf in the book here, is a memorial of the
    friend--the friend of his school-days--the friend for life. He fixed
    this leaf on the student's cap in the green wood, when the vow of
    friendship was concluded for the whole of life. Where does he now
    live? The leaf is preserved; friendship forgotten. Here is a foreign
    conservatory-plant, too fine for the gardens of the North--it looks as
    if there still were fragrance in these leaves!--_she_ gave it to
    him--she, the young lady of that noble garden.

    Here is the marsh-lotus which he himself has plucked and watered with
    salt tears--the marsh-lotus from the fresh waters. And here is a
    nettle: what does its leaf say? What did he think on plucking it--on
    preserving it? Here are lilies of the valley from the woodland
    solitudes; here are honeysuckle leaves from the village ale-house
    flower-pot; and here the bare, sharp blade of grass.

    The flowering lilac bends its fresh, fragrant clusters over the dead
    man's head; the swallow again flies past; "quivit! quivit!" Now the
    men come with nails and hammer; the lid is placed over the corpse,
    whose head rests on the Mute-Book--preserved--forgotten!
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