THE DUMB BOOK 415
and at times the tears rolled over' his cheeks : Heaven knows what he was thinking of. But he begged us to put the book into the coffin, and now he lies there, and in a little while the lid will be nailed down, and he will have his quiet rest in the grave.'
The face-cloth was raised, and there was peace upon the features of the dead man, and a sunbeam played upon it ; a swallow shot with arrowy flight into the arbour, and turned rapidly, and twittered over the dead man's head.
What a strange feeling it is—and we have doubtless all experienced it—that of turning over old letters of the days of our youth !—a whole life seems to come up with them, with all its hopes and sorrows. How many persons with whom we were intimate in those days, are as it were dead to us ! and yet they are alive, but for a long time we have not thought of them—of them whom we then thought to hold fast for ages, and with whom wre were to share sorrow and joy.
Here the withered oak-leaf in the book reminded the owner of the friend, the schoolfellow, who was to be a friend for life : he fastened the green leaf in the student's cap in the green wood, when the bond was made ' for life ': where does he live now ? The leaf is preserved, but the friendship has perished ! And here is a foreign hothouse plant, too delicate for the gardens of the North ; the leaves almost seem to keep their fragrance still. She gave it to him, the young lady in the nobleman's garden. Here is the water-rose, which he plucked himself, and moistened with salt tears—the rose of the sweet waters. And here is a nettle—what tale may its leaves have to tell ? What were his thoughts when he plucked it and kept it ? Here is a lily of the valley from the solitudes of the forest. Here's an evergreen from the flower-pot of the tavern ; and here 's a sharp bare blade of grass.
The blooming lilac waves its fresh fragrant blossoms over the dead man's head, and the swallow flies past again. ' Pee-wit! pee-wit ! ' And now the men come with nails and hammers, and the lid is laid over the dead man, that his head may rest upon the dumb book—put away— forgotten !