Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/27

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after the story which has been told here, that there is room for it all round, it will indeed be wonderful if the ministry of war does really shake off routine. Few people will venture to indulge the dream that such a result can ever be realized; for most of us are convinced that Dr. Chenu was right when he said, in his famous book on the mortality of the French army, that if an official of the ministry of war had been present at the creation, he would have cried out to the Creator, "Stop, stop! this will not do at all; you are disturbing chaos."

And we English, have we nothing to learn from this woeful story? Is it sure that none of its teachings apply to ourselves as well as to the French?



After the marriage 'tis too late.
Before the wedding tame your mate.

Meantime I had become an old bachelor. I had wandered about the world hither and thither, had often laid my head on a soft pillow and often on a bundle of straw; but as I grew older the straw didn't suit me so well as at twenty, for one who is glad to eat turnips in childhood doesn't exactly despise roast goose in after years. People said "Get married," and I said, "Consider," and circled around the holy estate of matrimony like a fox round a goose-pen, thinking, "You can doubtless get in; you can easily get in! But when you're once there, can you get out again?" But then when I thought of the inn-keeper's eternal roast pork and mutton, and that my room looked like the world before the first day of creation, and that one of my confounded old buttons was always coming off, I said "Get married," and then the stupid people said, "Consider." So I still remained between the tree and the bark, the years of consideration passed by, and my head was beginning to grow grey, when one day I stood by the stove, after lighting my pipe, and gazed at the weather.

The snow fell gently from the sky; everything outside was silent, no carriagewheels were to be heard, only in the distance the ringing of sleigh-bells; and I felt so lonely, tor it was the hallowed Christmas-eve. As I stood gazing absently through the panes, my shoemaker Linsen stopped before his door with a sled full of wood he had gathered in the city forest; and on the top of the sled lay a green fir-tree. "Now just see that rascal!" said I. "He ought to be making me that other pair of boots, and instead of that he's gathering wood! I won't let the fellow work for me any longer."

I was still standing there, when suddenly a shiver ran through my limbs, my flesh crept, and I said to myself. "Of course!" A cold, a bad cold! And why not? My boots are worn out, — and Frau Bütoun darns her own stockings with the yarn I gave her, while mine have no feet. Its all perfectly natural. I still stood in the same place till it grew dark, and when I wanted to light a lamp could find no match, and when I did find one the lamp wouldn't burn, Frau Bütoun hadn't trimmed the wick; and when after a great deal of trouble I made it burn freely it suddenly went out, Frau Bütoun had put in no oil. Under such circumstances, its a fine thing to have somebody at hand to scold; but I had no one there, and what was I to do? I looked out of the window again.

The shoemakers over the way was brightly lighted, and there was a rapid moving to and fro accompanied by merry shouts; but I could distinguish nothing, for the curtains were tightly drawn. Now just see that shoemaker! said I. He actually has curtains! I had no curtains, Frau Bütoun didnt understand them; she once put some up for me which looked like nothing on the earth or under the earth, and I tore them down when somebody asked me if I had childrens shirts drying at my window. Of course I felt provoked with the shoemaker; the fellow hadn't made my boots and wanted to live like a lord, while I sat in the dark without curtains and a cold coming on. I started up and went down into the street, thinking, Just wait! I'll give the fellow a good lesson!

When I entered the room, the fir-tree was standing on the table with lights burning around it, and the shoemakers little boys Carl and Christian were blowing a fife and a trumpet, while the shouting and screaming was done by little Marie, who was stretching her tiny hands towards the lights and kicking merrily in her mother's lap, for she was not yet able to walk. The shoemaker's wife, who had put her spinning-wheel aside, tied on a clean apron, and donned her Sunday cap and Sunday face, was laughing at the children