122 THE GOLOSHES OF FORTUNE
e Yes, lay the table down in the stable,' said one of the travellers. ' There, at least, one knows what one is breathing.'
The windows were opened, so that a little fresh air might find its way in ; but quicker than the air came the withered arms and the continual whining, ' Miserabili, Eccellenza ! ' On the walls were many inscriptions ; half of them were against ' La bella Italia.'
The supper was served. It consisted of a watery soup, seasoned with pepper and rancid oil. This last dainty played a chief part in the salad ; musty eggs and roasted cocks'-combs were the best dishes. Even the wine had a strange taste—it was a dreadful mixture.
At night the boxes were placed against the doors. One of the travellers kept watch while the rest slept. The theologian was the sentry. Oh, how close it was in there ! The heat oppressed him, the gnats buzzed and stung, and the miserabili outside moaned in their dreams.
' Yes, travelling would be all very well,' said the theologian, ' if one had no body. If the body could rest, and the mind fly ! Wherever I go, I find a want that oppresses my heart: it is something better than the present moment that I desire. Yes, something better—the best; but what is that, and where is it ? In my own heart I know very well what I want: I want to attain to a happy goal, the happiest of all! '
And as soon as the word was spoken he found himself at home. The long white curtains hung down from the windows, and in the middle of the room stood a black coffin ; in this he was lying in the quiet sleep of death : his wish was fulfilled—his body was at rest and his spirit roaming. ' Esteem no man happy who is not yet in his grave,' were the words of Solon ; here their force was proved anew.
Every corpse is a sphinx of immortality ; the sphinx here also in the black sarcophagus answered, what the living man had laid down two days before :
Thou strong, stern Death ! Thy silence waketh fear, Thou leavest mould'ring gravestones for thy traces. Shall not the soul see Jacob's ladder here ? No resurrection type but churchyard grasses ?