Page:Auerbach-Spinozanovel.djvu/109

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87
FATHER AND SON.

rice to me before, the way he now poisoned his own child's happiness made it difficult for me to conquer my disgust; but he was nevertheless Manuela's father. Manuela understood how to dispel my annoyance by innumerable little questions and reminiscences. She easily succeeded, for what an infinitude we had to say to each other. But how strange it is, that, while a hundred important questions crowd into the mind, it is so often the least important that first forms itself into words!

"How is old Laura?" I inquired.

"She is dead, the false viper! Hear what happened to her. Hardly seven months since my father lay very ill (he has hardly enjoyed a month's health during your absence). Laura fell ill also; she was taken to the hospital of San Lorenzo, which she made heir to all her possessions. Her illness increased; she was incurable. After she had received the final sacrament, she expressed as a last wish that they should bring me to her; she could not die in peace till she had spoken to me once more alone. My father, too, advised me to go to her, and with almost insuperable disinclination I allowed myself to be conducted to the hospital. I should hardly have recognized Laura, so emaciated she had become in a few weeks; she, however, knew me at once, and wept as she stretched out her bony hands to me. Her habitual talkativeness had not yet deserted her, and in a low voice, broken by groaning