736 A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES
' Let us pray that God may take him to Himself; he will never be a sane man again !'
But life would not depart from him—the thread would not snap ; but the thread of memory broke : the thread of all his mental power had been cut through ; and, what was most terrible, a body remained—a living healthy body.
Jurgen remained in the house of the merchant Bronne.
* He contracted his illness in his endeavour to save our child,' said the old man, ' and now he is our son.'
People called Jurgen imbecile ; but that was not the right expression. He was like an instrument in which the strings are loose and will sound no more ; only at times for a few minutes they regained their power, and then they sounded anew: old melodies were heard, snatches of song ; pictures unrolled themselves, and then disappeared again in the mist, and once more he sat staring before him, without a thought. We may believe that he did not suffer, but his dark eyes lost their brightness, and looked only like black clouded glass.
' Poor imbecile Jurgen ! ' said the people.
He it was whose life was to have been so pleasant that it would be ' presumption and pride ' to expect or believe in a higher existence hereafter. All his great mental faculties had been lost; only hard days, pain, and disappointment had been his lot. He was like a rare plant torn from its native soil, and thrown upon the sand, to wither there. And was the image, fashioned in God's likeness, to have no better destination ? Was it to be merely the sport of chance ? No. The all-loving God would certainly repay him, in the life to come, for what he had suffered and lost here. ' The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all His works.' These words from the Psalms of David, the old pious wife of the merchant repeated in patience and hope, and the prayer of her heart was that Jurgen might soon be summoned to enter into the life eternal.
In the churchyard where the sand blows across the walls, Clara lay buried. It seemed as if Jurgen knew nothing of this—it did not come within the compass of his thoughts, which comprised only fragments of a past