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      THE COMET

       

       THE comet came,shone with its core of fire,andthreatened with its rod;they looked at it from the richpalace,and the poor cottage;the crowd on the streetlooked at it,and the lonely one who went his way over thepathless heath;every one had his thoughts about it

      "Come and look at the sign in the heavens!come andlook at the splendid sight,"they said,and an hastened tolook

      But in the room there sat a little boy with his mother;the tallow candle was burning,and the mother thought thatthere was a shroud in the candle;the tallow stood up in apoint and curled over;that meant,she believed,that thelittle boy must soon die,the shroud turned towards himItwas an old superstition,and she believed it

      The little boy was really destined to live many yearson the earth,to live and see the comet,when it reappearedmore than sixty years later

      He did not see the shroud in the candle,and had nothought for the comet,which for the first time in his lifeshone from the heavensHe sat with a mended slopbasinin front of him;in it were some soapsuds,and he dippedthe head of a clay-pipe down into it,put the stem in hismouth and blew soap-bubbles,great and small;theyswayed and floated with the most lovely colours,whichchanged from yellow to red,lilac and blue,and then became green,like 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 many,so many,"said the little one,"the soap-suds can never be all used up!"and the little one blewbubble after bubble

      "There flies a year!there flies a year!see how theyfly!"said he,with every bubble which got free and flewoffOne or two went right into his eyes;they smarted andburned,and the tears came into his eyesIn every bubblehe saw a vision of the future,shining and glittering

      "Now you can see the comet!"cried the neighbours"Come out;don't sit inside there!"

      And the mother took the little boy by the hand;hewas obliged to lay aside the claypipe,and stop playingwith the soapbubbles;—the comet was there

      And the little boy saw the shining ball of fire,withthe radiant tail;some people said that it was three yardslong,others that it was millions of yards long;people 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 reappeared;but the little boy for whom theshroud stood in the candle,and of whom the motherthought"He will die soon!"still lived,old and whitehaired"White hair is the flower of age!"the proverbsays,and he had many of the flowers;he was now an oldschoolmasterThe school-children said he was very wise,and knew so much;knew history,and geography,andeverything that is known about the heavenly bodies

      "Everything comes round again!"said he;"onlytake notice of people and events,and you will find thatthey always come again,in another dress,in anothercountry"

      The schoolmaster had just told about William Tell,who had to shoot an apple off his son's head,but beforehe shot the arrow,he hid in his breast another arrow withwhich to shoot the wicked Gesler in the heartIt was inSwitzerland that that happened,but many years before,the same thing had happened in Denmark with Palnatoke;he also had to shoot an apple off his son's head,andhid,like Tell,an arrow to avenge himself with;and morethan a thousand years farther back,the same story wasrecorded as having taken place in EgyptThe same thingscome again like the comet,they pass away,disappear,and come again

      And he talked about the comet which was expected,the comet he had seen as a little boyThe schoolmasterknew the heavenly bodies,and thought over them,butdid 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 he,and 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 Skagen,the glisteningholly over at SilkeborgThe towns themselves were markedwith stone figuresHere stood StCanute with the dragon,that signified Odense;Absalon with a bishop's staff signi-fied Sor;the little boat with the oars was the mark thathere lay the town of AarhusFrom the schoolmaster's garden,one could learn the map of Denmark very well;butone must first be instructed by him,and that was so pleasant

      The comet was expected now,and he told what thepeople had said and thought about it,in the old days whenit was here last"The cometyear is a good wine year,"hesaid;"one can dilute the wine with water,and 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 seen,but it was there

      The old schoolmaster sat in his little room,close bythe schoolroomThe grandfather's clock,which had belonged to his parents,stood in the corner;the heavy leadenweights neither rose nor fell,the pendulum did not moveThe little cuckoo,which used to come forward to cuckoothe hour,had for several years sat silent behind closeddoorsall was quiet and silent there,the clock went nomoreBut the old piano close by,which had also belongedto his parents,still had life,and the strings could sound,though certainly a little hoarse,the melodies of a wholegenerationThe old man remembered so many of them,both joyful and sorrowful,in the years from the time whenhe was a little boy and saw the comet,till now when it washere againHe remembered what his mother said about theshroud in the candle,he remembered the lovely soapbubbles he blew;every one was a year of life,he had said,how radiant,how rich in colour!everything lovely and joyful he saw there;childish games and youthful pleasure,the whole of the wide world open in the sunshine,and heshould go out in it!that 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 tints;there 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 ball,aminuet and Polish dance;now sounded soft,sorrowfultones,which brought tears into the eyes of the old man;now rushed a battle-march,now a psalm tune,now gaytones,bubble on bubble,just as when he,as a littleboy,blew them of soapsuds

      His eyes were fastened on the window,a cloud inthe sky glided away and he saw in clear air the comet,itsshining heart,its bright misty veil

      It seemed as if he had seen it yesterday evening,and yet there lay a whole lifetime between that time andnow;at that time he was a child,and saw the future inthe bubbles,now the bubbles pointed backward;he feltthe childish mind and childish faith,his eyes shone,hishand sank down on the keysit sounded as if a stringbroke

      "Come and see,the comet is here,"cried theneighbours,"the sky is so beautifully clear!come andsee!"The old schoolmaster did not answer,he was goneto see in reality;his soul had gone on a longer course,in a wider space than the comet flies throughThecomet was again seen from the rich castle,from the poorcottage,by the crowd in the street,and by the crowd inthe street,and 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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