A PICTURE-BOOK WITHOUT PICTURES 1123
convulsions of laughter ; and yet there is no art in it all— it is complete nature. When he was yet a little boy, playing about with other boys, he was already Punch. Nature had intended him for it, and had provided him with a hump on his back, and another on his breast; but his inward man, his mind, on the contrary, was richly furnished. No one could surpass him in depth of feeling or in readiness of intellect. The theatre was his ideal world. If he had possessed a slender well-shaped figure, he might have been the first tragedian on any stage ; the heroic, the great, filled his soul; and yet he had to become a Punchinello. His very sorrow and melancholy did but increase the comic dryness of his sharply-cut features, and increased the laughter of the audience, who showered plaudits on their favourite. The lovely Columbine was indeed kind and cordial to him ; but she preferred to marry the Harlequin. It would have been too ridiculous if beauty and the beast had in reality paired together.
1 When Punchinello was in very bad spirits, she was the only one who could force a smile or even a hearty burst of laughter from him : first she would be melancholy with him, then quieter, and at last quite cheerful and happy. " I know very well what is the matter with you," she said ; " yes, you're in love ! " And he could not help laughing. " I in love ! " he cried, " that would have an absurd look. How the public would shout ! " ' Certainly, you are in love," she continued ; and added with a comic pathos, " and I am the person you are in love with." You see, such a thing may be said when it is quite out of the question—and indeed, Punchinello burst out laughing, and gave a leap into the air, and his melancholy was forgotten.
' And yet she had only spoken the truth. He did love her, love her adoringly, as he loved what was great and lofty in art. At her wedding he was the merriest among the guests, but in the stillness of night he wept: if the public had seen his distorted face then, they would have applauded rapturously.
' And a few days ago, Columbine died. On the day of the funeral, Harlequin was not required to show himself on the boards, for he was a disconsolate widower. The director had to give a very merry piece, that the public might not