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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

A Cheerful Temper

FROM my father I received the best inheritance, namely a
'good temper.' 'And who was my father?' That has nothing to do
with the good temper; but I will say he was lively,
good-looking round, and fat; he was both in appearance and
character a complete contradiction to his profession. 'And
pray what was his profession and his standing in respectable
society?' Well, perhaps, if in the beginning of a book these
were written and printed, many, when they read it, would lay
the book down and say, 'It seems to me a very miserable title,
I don't like things of this sort.' And yet my father was not a
skin-dresser nor an executioner; on the contrary, his
employment placed him at the head of the grandest people of
the town, and it was his place by right. He had to precede the
bishop, and even the princes of the blood; he always went
first,- he was a hearse driver! There, now, the truth is out.
And I will own, that when people saw my father perched up in
front of the omnibus of death, dressed in his long, wide,
black cloak, and his black-edged, three-cornered hat on his
head, and then glanced at his round, jocund face, round as the
sun, they could not think much of sorrow or the grave. That
face said, 'It is nothing, it will all end better than people
think.' So I have inherited from him, not only my good temper,
but a habit of going often to the churchyard, which is good,
when done in a proper humor; and then also I take in the
Intelligencer, just as he used to do.

I am not very young, I have neither wife nor children, nor
a library, but, as I said, I read the Intelligencer, which is
enough for me; it is to me a delightful paper, and so it was
to my father. It is of great use, for it contains all that a
man requires to know; the names of the preachers at the
church, and the new books which are published; where houses,
servants, clothes, and provisions may be obtained. And then
what a number of subscriptions to charities, and what innocent
verses! Persons seeking interviews and engagements, all so
plainly and naturally stated. Certainly, a man who takes in
the Intelligencer may live merrily and be buried contentedly,
and by the end of his life will have such a capital stock of
paper that he can lie on a soft bed of it, unless he prefers
wood shavings for his resting-place. The newspaper and the
churchyard were always exciting objects to me. My walks to the
latter were like bathing-places to my good humor. Every one
can read the newspaper for himself, but come with me to the
churchyard while the sun shines and the trees are green, and
let us wander among the graves. Each of them is like a closed
book, with the back uppermost, on which we can read the title
of what the book contains, but nothing more. I had a great
deal of information from my father, and I have noticed a great
deal myself. I keep it in my diary, in which I write for my
own use and pleasure a history of all who lie here, and a few
more beside.

Now we are in the churchyard. Here, behind the white iron
railings, once a rose-tree grew; it is gone now, but a little
bit of evergreen, from a neighboring grave, stretches out its
green tendrils, and makes some appearance; there rests a very
unhappy man, and yet while he lived he might be said to occupy
a very good position. He had enough to live upon, and
something to spare; but owing to his refined tastes the least
thing in the world annoyed him. If he went to a theatre of an
evening, instead of enjoying himself he would be quite annoyed
if the machinist had put too strong a light into one side of
the moon, or if the representations of the sky hung over the
scenes when they ought to have hung behind them; or if a
palm-tree was introduced into a scene representing the
Zoological Gardens of Berlin, or a cactus in a view of Tyrol,
or a beech-tree in the north of Norway. As if these things
were of any consequence! Why did he not leave them alone? Who
would trouble themselves about such trifles? especially at a
comedy, where every one is expected to be amused. Then
sometimes the public applauded too much, or too little, to
please him. 'They are like wet wood,' he would say, looking
round to see what sort of people were present, 'this evening;
nothing fires them.' Then he would vex and fret himself
because they did not laugh at the right time, or because they
laughed in the wrong places; and so he fretted and worried
himself till at last the unhappy man fretted himself into the
grave.

Here rests a happy man, that is to say, a man of high
birth and position, which was very lucky for him, otherwise he
would have been scarcely worth notice. It is beautiful to
observe how wisely nature orders these things. He walked about
in a coat embroidered all over, and in the drawing-rooms of
society looked just like one of those rich pearl-embroidered
bell-pulls, which are only made for show; and behind them
always hangs a good thick cord for use. This man also had a
stout, useful substitute behind him, who did duty for him, and
performed all his dirty work. And there are still, even now,
these serviceable cords behind other embroidered bell-ropes.
It is all so wisely arranged, that a man may well be in a good
humor.

Here rests,- ah, it makes one feel mournful to think of
him!- but here rests a man who, during sixty-seven years, was
never remembered to have said a good thing; he lived only in
the hope of having a good idea. At last he felt convinced, in
his own mind, that he really had one, and was so delighted
that he positively died of joy at the thought of having at
last caught an idea. Nobody got anything by it; indeed, no one
even heard what the good thing was. Now I can imagine that
this same idea may prevent him from resting quietly in his
grave; for suppose that to produce a good effect, it is
necessary to bring out his new idea at breakfast, and that he
can only make his appearance on earth at midnight, as ghosts
are believed generally to do; why then this good idea would
not suit the hour, and the man would have to carry it down
again with him into the grave- that must be a troubled grave.

The woman who lies here was so remarkably stingy, that
during her life she would get up in the night and mew, that
her neighbors might think she kept a cat. What a miser she
was!

Here rests a young lady, of a good family, who would
always make her voice heard in society, and when she sang 'Mi
manca la voce,'* it was the only true thing she ever said in
her life.


* 'I want a voice,' or, 'I have no voice.'


Here lies a maiden of another description. She was engaged
to be married,- but, her story is one of every-day life; we
will leave her to rest in the grave.

Here rests a widow, who, with music in her tongue, carried
gall in her heart. She used to go round among the families
near, and search out their faults, upon which she preyed with
all the envy and malice of her nature. This is a family grave.
The members of this family held so firmly together in their
opinions, that they would believe in no other. If the
newspapers, or even the whole world, said of a certain
subject, 'It is so-and-so;' and a little schoolboy declared he
had learned quite differently, they would take his assertion
as the only true one, because he belonged to the family. And
it is well known that if the yard-cock belonging to this
family happened to crow at midnight, they would declare it was
morning, although the watchman and all the clocks in the town
were proclaiming the hour of twelve at night.

The great poet Goethe concludes his Faust with the words,
'may be continued;' so might our wanderings in the churchyard
be continued. I come here often, and if any of my friends, or
those who are not my friends, are too much for me, I go out
and choose a plot of ground in which to bury him or her. Then
I bury them, as it were; there they lie, dead and powerless,
till they come back new and better characters. Their lives and
their deeds, looked at after my own fashion, I write down in
my diary, as every one ought to do. Then, if any of our
friends act absurdly, no one need to be vexed about it. Let
them bury the offenders out of sight, and keep their good
temper. They can also read the Intelligencer, which is a paper
written by the people, with their hands guided. When the time
comes for the history of my life, to be bound by the grave,
then they will write upon it as my epitaph-


'The man with a cheerful temper.'

And this is my story.




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