Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (German II).djvu/31

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29
CHRISTIAN GELLERT'S LAST CHRISTMAS.

It was day as he arrived before the gates of Leipzig. Here there met him a funeral-procession; behind the bier the scholars of St. Thomas, in long black cloaks, were chanting. Christopher stopped and raised his hat. Whom were they burying? Supposing it were Gellert. Yes, surely, he thought, it is he: and how gladly, said he to himself, would you now have done him a kindness,—ay, even given him your wood! Yes, indeed you would, and now he is dead, and you cannot give him any help!

As soon as the train had passed, Christopher asked who was being buried. It was a simple burgher, it was not Gellert; and in the deep breath which Christopher drew lay a double signification: on the one hand, was joy that Gellert was not dead; on the other, a still small voice whispered to him that he had now really promised to give him the wood: ah! but whom had he promised?—himself: and it is easy to argue with one's own conscience.

Superstition babbles of conjuring-spells, by which, without the co-operation of the patient, the evil spirit can be summarily ejected. It would be convenient if one had that power, but, in truth, it is not so: it is long ere the evil desire and the evil habit are removed from the soul into which they have nestled; and the will, for a long while in bondage, must co-operate, if a releasing spell from without is to set the prisoner free.