AN EXTRACT FROM “HYPERICUM,” BY IRVING VANDERBLOCK-WHEEDLE.

Reprinted from Hypericum: A Romance, by Irving Vanderblock-Wheedle, with permission of the author.


How sad, thought Vanderstone-Beadle as he wandered down the Denkenstrasse, with its quaint projecting oriels in which generations of blushing maidens had waited for a glimpse of their lovers as they passed down toward the stock exchange, that even the most artistic souls in this sublunary world seldom if ever reach that state of refinement which he had reached in his appreciation of Beauty and Truth! What a burden to meander through this mortal life alone, with no one else who was capable of feeling that same thrill of splendid superiority to the common that he felt when he appreciated the golden yellow of a St. Johnswort flower, so much more poetic than the other hues of other flowers that foolish simpletons prize just as much!

But providence did not intend that Vanderstone-Beadle should pass his entire life without such companionship. For it was later that afternoon that he heard a voice singing an old English ballad with the most exquisitely artistic expression; and he followed the voice to its source, and was rewarded with a glimpse of that spiritual sort of beauty which he had hitherto thought did not dwell on this earth. She was an American traveler; her brown eyes betrayed a keenness of intellect that surprised him, and her golden hair glinted like the treasures of Manco Capac, and her pale complexion glowed with just a slight suffusion of the rose of dawn with its thousand promises, and her name was Britney.

Oh! I shall not describe the meeting that took place between these kindred souls, because I am not very good at describing things that happen outside the heart rather than within it. But it was not half an hour before Vanderstone-Beadle was speaking to her of his favorite enthusiasm, the poetry of the great Normalverbraucher, rightly called the Only True One among German poets.

“Yet I have heard some say that Normalverbraucher is not to be compared with Richter,” the girl remarked.

“Oh! the poetry of Normalverbraucher indeed is not to everyone’s taste; but to the soul which can throb in his rhythm, it is like a draught of that elixir which the ancient Nordic gods relied upon to sustain them while they played dodgeball. I have here one of his little ballads, which I transcribed on the back of a chewing-gum wrapper, and nothing would delight me more than to read it to you.”

“Have you an English translation?” asked Britney with eyes wide in anticipation, “—for you know that my knowledge of German is not always as thorough and refined as yours.”

“I have no written translation with me,” Vanderstone-Beadle replied, “but I shall improvise a translation, sticking as close to the original meter as the difference in languages will permit:

“‘Oh, when I see the snow-capped hills,
They make me think of death.
Of death! Of death!
They make me think of death!
Oh, when I see the snow-capped hills.
They make me think of death.

“‘And when I hear the gushing rills,
They make me think of death.
Of death! Of death!
They make me think of death!
Oh, when I hear the gushing rills,
They make me think of death.

“‘And when I swallow strychnine pills,
They make me think of death.
Of death! Of death!
They make me think of death!
Oh, when I swallow strychnine pills,
They make me think of death.’

“There—it loses some of the poetry in the translation, but is it not fine?”

“I think it is beautiful, with a beauty I have never felt before; it speaks to me of twilight and sauerkraut and cummerbunds and steam-whistles and trickling cascades in the Alpine fastnesses where none but the lonely Edelweiss ever hears their music. Oh! I feel as if I have seen heaven opened, and heard the song the janitor whistles as he scrubs the gates of pearl to a more than lustrous shine!”

“Yes!” cried Vanderstone-Beadle. “Yes, that is it exactly! And the janitor is wearing a greenish tweed overcoat, and smells of parsnips! You understand!” And the enchanting creature nodded, and fixed his eyes with her own, and Vanderstone-Beadle understood that he was in love, and that providence had led him to the one human female in all the world who was fit to share the life of a true poet.

But later that evening, as she was walking alone on the Ambossestrasse, and the larks were singing their tuneless melody so strangely gay and melancholy at the same time, and the delicate perfume of the night-phlox wafted over a homely garden gate badly in need of painting, an anvil fell out of a picturesque gable window in a quaint half-timbered house once inhabited by the famous minnesinger Mittelstirn, but now belonging to a healthy and prosaic blacksmith, and crushed her delicate little head in. Ah, the transience of hope! Ah, the fickleness of fortune! When Vanderstone-Beadle heard the news the next morning, he was very sad for a little while; but then he reflected that it was well that he had learned this lesson now instead of next Tuesday, when he had a dental appointment, and he understood that Providence was all-wise.