420 THE OLD GRAVESTONE
two to be used as paving-stones ; but that old stone was left over, and has been lying in the courtyard ever since.'
' One can very well see that it is a gravestone,' observed the eldest of the children ; ' we can still see on it an hourglass and a piece of an angel; but the inscription which stood below it is almost quite effaced, except that you may read the name of Preben, and a great S close behind it, and a little farther down the name of Martha. But nothing more can be distinguished, and even that is only plain when it has been raining, or when we have washed the stone.'
' On my word, that must be the gravestone of Preben Svane and his wife !'
These words were spoken by an old man ; so old, that he might well have been the grandfather of all who were present in the room.
1 Yes, they were one of the last pairs that were buried in the old churchyard of the convent. They were an honest old couple. I can remember them from the days of my boyhood. Every one knew them, and every one esteemed them. They were the oldest pair here in the town. The people declared that they had more than a tub-full of gold ; and yet they went about very plainly dressed, in the coarsest stuffs, but always with splendidly clean linen. They were a fine old pair, Preben and Martha ! When both of them sat on the bench at the top of the steep stone stairs in front of the house, with the old linden tree spreading its branches above them, and nodded at one in their kind gentle way, it seemed quite to do one good. They were very kind to the poor; they fed them and clothed them ; and there was judgement in their benevolence and true Christianity. The old woman died first: that day is still quite clear before my mind. I was a little boy, and had accompanied my father over there, and we were just there when she fell asleep. The old man was very much moved, and wept like a child. The body lay in the room next to the one where we sat; and he spoke to my father and to a few neighbours who were there, and said how lonely it would be now in his house, and how good and faithful she (his dead wife) had been, how many years they had wandered together through life, and how it had come