Chapter 23

The two individuals - The long pipe - The Germans - Werther - The female Quaker - Suicide - Gibbon - Jesus of Bethlehem - Fill your glass - Shakespeare - English at Minden - Melancholy Swayne Vonved - The fifth dinner - Strange doctrines - Are you happy? - Improve yourself in German.

IT might be some six months after the events last recorded, that two individuals were seated together in a certain room, in a certain street of the old town which I have so frequently had occasion to mention in the preceding pages; one of them was an elderly, and the other a very young man, and they sat on either side of a fireplace, beside a table on which were fruit and wine; the room was a small one, and in its furniture exhibited nothing remarkable. Over the mantelpiece, however, hung a small picture with naked figures in the foreground, and with much foliage behind. It might not have struck every beholder, for it looked old and smoke-dried; but a connoisseur, on inspecting it closely, would have pronounced it to be a judgment of Paris, and a masterpiece of the Flemish school.

The forehead of the elder individual was high, and perhaps appeared more so than it really was, from the hair being carefully brushed back, as if for the purpose of displaying to the best advantage that part of the cranium; his eyes were large and full, and of a light brown, and might have been called heavy and dull, had they not been occasionally lighted up by a sudden gleam - not so brilliant however as that which at every inhalation shone from the bowl of the long clay pipe which he was smoking, but which, from a certain sucking sound which about this time began to be heard from the bottom, appeared to be giving notice that it would soon require replenishment from a certain canister, which, together with a lighted taper, stood upon the table beside him.

‘You do not smoke?’ said he, at length, laying down his pipe, and directing his glance to his companion.

Now there was at least one thing singular connected with this last, namely, the colour of his hair, which, notwithstanding his extreme youth, appeared to be rapidly becoming gray. He had very long limbs, and was apparently tall of stature, in which he differed from his elderly companion, who must have been somewhat below the usual height.

‘No, I can’t smoke,’ said the youth, in reply to the observation of the other; ‘I have often tried, but could never succeed to my satisfaction.’

‘Is it possible to become a good German without smoking?’ said the senior, half speaking to himself.

‘I daresay not,’ said the youth; ‘but I shan’t break my heart on that account.’

‘As for breaking your heart, of course you would never think of such a thing; he is a fool who breaks his heart on any account; but it is good to be a German, the Germans are the most philosophic people in the world, and the greatest smokers: now I trace their philosophy to their smoking.’

‘I have heard say their philosophy is all smoke - is that your opinion?’

‘Why, no; but smoking has a sedative effect upon the nerves, and enables a man to bear the sorrows of this life (of which every one has his share) not only decently, but dignifiedly. Suicide is not a national habit in Germany as it is in England.’

‘But that poor creature, Werther, who committed suicide, was a German.’

‘Werther is a fictitious character, and by no means a felicitous one; I am no admirer either of Werther or his author. But I should say that, if there ever was a Werther in Germany, he did not smoke. Werther, as you very justly observe, was a poor creature.’

‘And a very sinful one; I have heard my parents say that suicide is a great crime.’

‘Broadly, and without qualification, to say that suicide is a crime, is speaking somewhat unphilosophically. No doubt suicide, under many circumstances, is a crime, a very heinous one. When the father of a

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.