Title: The Marvellous History of the Shadowless Man, and The Cold Heart
Author: Adelbert von Chamisso
Author of introduction, etc.: A. S. Rappoport
Illustrator: Forster Robson
Release date: May 2, 2010 [eBook #32219]
Most recently updated: January 29, 2013
Credits: Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by the Web Archive
THE SHADOWLESS MAN
"THE WHOLE SWARM PROCEEDED IMMEDIATELY TO RECONNOITRE ME AND TO PELT ME WITH MUD"
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"AN EXTRAORDINARY LOOKING OLD MAN LEFT ME THESE PAPERS SAYING HE CAME FROM BERLIN"
"I DREW THE ILL-FATED PURSE FROM MY BOSOM; AND IN A SORT OF FRENZY THAT RAGED LIKE A SELF-FED FIRE WITHIN ME, I TOOK OUT GOLD--GOLD--GOLD"
"AND TREMBLING LIKE A CRIMINAL STOLE OUT OF THE HOUSE"
"I SUFFERED HER TO FALL FROM MY ARM IN A FAINTING FIT"
"SHE ADVANCED FROM THE MIDST OF HER COMPANIONS, AND BLUSHINGLY KNELT BEFORE ME PRESENTING A WREATH"
"NEXT EVENING I WENT AGAIN TO THE FORESTER'S GARDEN"
"SO SAYING HE DREW MY SHADOW OUT OF HIS POCKET AND STRETCHED IT OUT AT HIS FEET IN THE SUN"
"ALONE ON THE WILD HEATH I DISBURDENED MY HEART"
THE FOREST OF ANCIENT FIRS
"WITH SOME HESITATION HE PUT HIS HAND INTO HIS POCKET AND DREW OUT THE ALTERED AND PALLID FORM OF MR. JOHN"
"AND SO WAS OBLIGED TO CONTENT MYSELF WITH A SECONDHAND PAIR"
THE FROZEN SEA
"AT LAST I SAT DOWN AT THE EXTREME POINT OF LOMBOCK LAMENTING"
PETER AT HOME"
THE COLD HEART
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DUTCH MICHAEL FELLING THE TREES
"HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH, THEY ASKED HIM"
"PETER MUNK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE PINE GROVE"
"THEN IN A FLASH A MONSTROUS WOODCOCK SWEPT DOWN FROM ABOVE AND SEIZED THE SNAKE IN ITS BEAK"
"YOU HAVEN'T QUITE HIT IT, CHARCOAL PETER"
PETER GAMBLING AT THE INN"
"SO HERE WE ARE AT THE END OF IT ALL"
"THEN THE MONSTER STRETCHED FORTH AN ARM AS LONG AS A WEAVER'S BEAM AND A HAND AS BROAD AS A LARGE TABLE"
"AH, HAVE MERCY, GOOD LADY AND GIVE ME A DRINK OF WATER"
"BUT SCARCELY HAD HE UTTERED THESE WORDS THAN THE GLASS MANIKIN SUDDENLY BEGAN TO INCREASE IN SIZE AND STATURE"
"AND AS HE PRAYED MICHAEL DECREASED MORE AND MORE IN SIZE, FALLING TO THE GROUND"
"LOOK ONCE MORE AROUND, PETER MUNK!"
In 1813 Europe was busy watching the career of the Corsican Giant--which was nearing its end. Having reached the summit of power, and put his foot on the neck of Europe, Napoleon was suddenly hurled down from his dizzy height. And yet in the midst of stirring events and the din of arms, people found time to pay attention to important literary productions. A curious book, "The Strange Narrative of Peter Schlemihl," by Louis Adelbert von Chamisso, which made its first appearance in Germany in 1813, aroused an ever increasing interest, in spite of the distraction of the public mind, until the name of the author became world-famous.
Chamisso was by birth a Frenchman, having been born at the castle of Bon-Court in Champagne, on January 27, 1781.1 On the outbreak of the French Revolution our author left France with his parents; and in 1795 we find them in Bayreuth, which then belonged to the King of Prussia, the Margrave of Anspach having sold the town to his Prussian Majesty in 1791. Chamisso's parents at last came to Berlin, and young Adelbert was appointed page to Queen Louise. This famous queen, wife of Frederic William II. and mother of Frederic William III., took a lively interest in the young page and decided to complete his somewhat neglected education. A commission in the army was secured for him, he was made ensign and soon afterwards lieutenant. Napoleon having in the meantime become First Consul, he recalled the French emigrants, and Chamisso's parents availed themselves of the permission and returned to their home, but they nevertheless advised their son to remain in Prussian service. Adelbert obeyed them, although he felt far from happy in Berlin. The service of page did not please him, and his correspondence is full of passages revealing the melancholy state of his mind. The court atmosphere was stifling him, and his poverty caused him a great deal of humiliation. We see him, at that time, as a young man of a serious and independent disposition, a dreamer and a sceptic, timid and naive, dissatisfied with his position as page and as soldier, unhappy in his exile, his misery and his solitude!
But at last Chamisso found consolation in work. With great ardour he applied himself to the study of the German language and literature, and particularly to poetry and philosophy. He learned Greek, and the Iliad became his constant companion. Klopstock and Schiller attracted him greatly; but he also read J. J. Rousseau, Voltaire and Diderot. He published several poems in the language of his adopted country, compositions distinguished by an originality of style and a peculiar vigour. Chamisso's first work is supposed to have been "The Count de Comminges," written in 1801 or 1802. It is not an original work, but rather an imitation or translation of a drama from the pen of Baculard d'Arnaud, produced in 1790. Later on he read Wieland and Goethe, and in 1803 appeared his Faust, in which the influence of the philosophy of Fichte made itself felt. It was also in this year that love, by the side of poetry and metaphysics, occupied the mind and heart of the young lieutenant. Chamisso fell in love with Madame Cérès Duvernay, a young French coquette widow, of whom--unlike Sam Weller--he did not learn to beware. He had made her acquaintance in the salon of the banker Ephraim, and asked her to marry him. Madame Duvernay, however, was a practical Frenchwoman and refused the legitimate love of the poor lieutenant! This love affair and its sad ending increased Chamisso's melancholy and his inclination for solitude. The war with France then broke out, and Chamisso tasted the bitterness which is so often the lot of that unhappy product of modern civilization and political circumstances: the naturalized alien! He found himself in an anomalous position which caused him great distress, for it isolated him among many millions. Although a naturalized German, nay, at heart attached to Germany and animated--like so many of his confrères--by the spirit of liberty--he was nevertheless of French parentage. It was not only a question whether he should take up arms on behalf of Germany, but also, whether he should fight against France and the people with whom he was connected by ties of blood and family relationship. Hence arose a struggle in his breast. "I, and I alone," he exclaimed in his despair, "am forbidden at this juncture to wield a sword!" Very few people understand the tragedy of those exiles who are compelled to seek a new home and adopt a new country which they love as much, if not more, than the people among whom they have come to dwell. Instead of meeting with sympathy on account of his peculiar situation, Chamisso was frequently doomed to hear, in the Capital of Prussia, the headquarters of the confederation against France and Napoleon, expressions of hatred and scorn directed against his countrymen. He was himself too fair-minded to mistake the cause of such expressions, which were, after all, only natural in the circumstances, but they nevertheless deeply hurt the sensitive poet when they reached his ears.
After the treaty of Tilsit had been signed by Napoleon and the King of Prussia, Chamisso visited France, where his family regained possession of part of their estates, and our author secured, for a short time, the post of professor at the school at Napoléonville in the Vendée. It was during his stay in France that Chamisso was drawn into the circle of Madame de Stael, and he followed her to Coppet, where she had been exiled by Napoleon in 1811. In the house of this "magnificent and wonderful woman," as he calls her in his letters, he passed incomparable days in the company of August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Madame Récamier and other celebrities. It was also then that he began to study botany on the advice of an English friend. Soon, however, Chamisso returned to Berlin, which was to him what Delphi once was to the ancient Athenians. He continued his botanical studies and at the age of 31 entered the University as a student of medicine. Again the war broke out, and the uprising of the Germans against Napoleon involved Chamisso once more in the popular hatred against the French. Anyone who lays claim to some historical knowledge and a dash of culture is acquainted with the events of 1813. A wave of patriotic enthusiasm swept over Germany, and Germans rose like one man, in answer to the appeal of Frederic William, King of Prussia. Houses, streets and universities resounded with the clash of arms and the shouts of war-like patriots. In the midst of this effervescence Chamisso suffered greatly. He loved Germany and liberty, but he also cherished France, his native land; moreover, he could not help admiring Napoleon, in spite of the latter's tyranny. While the German poets Koerner and Eichendorff took up arms, while Arndt, Rückert and Uhland fired the courage of their compatriots by their warlike songs, Chamisso not only stood alone, but was even exposed to danger. His friends therefore decided to remove him from Berlin. Lichtenstein, his professor at the University, found him a position as teacher in the family of Count Itzenplitz, where he taught French and botany. He was sufficiently near to the capital to be kept acquainted with the gradual development of the all-important crisis, and yet remained free from any unpleasant personal contact with it! Here, at Kunnersdorf, the family seat of Count Itzenplitz, scarcely a day's journey from Berlin, while occupied with the study of botany and other sciences, Chamisso conceived the idea of "The Shadowless Man," and with rapid pen completed the story.
One day, to divert himself and to amuse the wife and children of his friend Hitzig, whom Heine calls Der Dekan der Schlemihle, he wrote Peter Schlemihl.
In 1814, this wonderful narrative was brought to the notice of Baron de la Motte Fouqué, the celebrated author of Undine, under whose auspices the book was published with the following letter from de la Motte Fouqué to Julius Edward Hitzig, by way of introduction:--
We should take care, my dear Edward, not to expose the history of poor Schlemihl to eyes unfit to look upon it. That would be a bad experiment. Of such eyes there are plenty; and who is able to predict what may befall a manuscript, which is almost more difficult to guard than spoken language? Like a person seized with vertigo, therefore, who, in the paroxysm of his feelings, leaps into the abyss, I commit the story to the press.
And yet there are better and more serious reasons for the step I have taken. If I am not wholly deceived, there are in our dear Germany many hearts both capable and worthy of comprehending poor Schlemihl, although a smile will arise on the countenance of many among our honest countrymen at the bitter sport which was death to him and to the innocent being whom he drew along with him. And you, Edward, when you have seen the estimable work and reflected on the number of unknown and sympathising bosoms who, with ourselves, will learn to love it,--you will then, perhaps, feel that some drops of consolation have been instilled into those wounds inflicted on you, and on all who love you, by death.
To conclude: I have become convinced, by repeated experience, that a guardian angel watches over books, places them in proper hands, and if not always, yet often, prevents them from falling into improper. In any case, he exercises an invisible guardianship over every work of true genius and genuine feeling, and with unfailing tact and skill opens or shuts its pages as he sees fit.
To this guardian angel I commit our Schlemihl. And so, adieu!
Neunhausen, May 1814.
Some of the incidents of the wonderful story of "The Shadowless Man" were suggested by actual experiences of its author; and it is remarkable that in the latter part of the narrative Chamisso should have anticipated his own voyage round the world.
Chamisso was often pestered with questions respecting what he really meant by the story of Schlemihl. These questions amused as well as annoyed him. The truth is, that his intention in writing it was perhaps scarcely of so precise a nature as to admit of his giving a formal account of it. The story sprang into being of itself, like every work of genius, prompted by a self-creating power. In a letter which he wrote to Trinius, Councillor at St. Petersburg in 1829, Chamisso says: "When I write I rarely have anything in view; I am, if you like, a nightingale, a singing bird, and not a reasoning man." And when he had just commenced the book he wrote to Hitzig as follows: "A book was the last thing you would have expected from me! Place it before your wife this evening, if you have time; should she be desirous to know Schlemihl's further adventures, and particularly who the man in the grey cloak is--send me back the MS. immediately, that I may continue the story; but if you do not return it, I shall know the meaning of the signal perfectly." "One day," Chamisso further relates, "I had lost my hat, portmanteau, gloves and all my luggage, and Fouqué asked me jestingly whether I had also lost my shadow. We then amused ourselves imagining such a calamity. I conceived the idea of Peter Schlemihl, and as I had leisure in the country I wrote the story."
In the preface to a French translation (which appeared in 1838) of this story, Chamisso amuses himself over the prying curiosity of those who want to know what was his real object in writing this tale:--"The present story," he says, "has fallen into the hands of thoughtful people, who, being accustomed to read only for instruction's sake, have been at a loss to know what the shadow signifies. On this point several have formed curious hypotheses; others, who do me the honour to believe that I am more learned than I really am, have addressed themselves to me for the solution of their doubts. The questions with which they have besieged me have made me blush on account of my ignorance. I have therefore been induced to devote myself to the investigation of a matter not hitherto the subject of my studies; and I now beg to submit to the world the result of my learned researches:
"'Concerning Shadows.--A dark body can only be partially illuminated by a bright one. The dark space which lies in the direction of the un-illuminated part is what we call a shadow. Properly speaking, shadow signifies a bodily space, the form of which depends upon the form of the illuminating body, and upon their opposite position with regard to each other. The shadow thrown on a surface situated before the shadow-projecting body is therefore nothing else than the intersection of this surface by the bodily space [in French, le solide, on which word solid the whole force of the humour turns], which we before designated by the word shadow.'
"The question in this wonderful history of Peter Schlemihl relates entirely to the last-mentioned quality, solidity. The science of finance instructs us sufficiently as to the value of money: the value of a shadow is less generally acknowledged. My thoughtless friend was covetous of money, of which he knew the value, and forgot to think of solid substance. It was his wish that the lesson which he had paid for so dearly should be turned to our profit; and his bitter experience calls to us with a loud voice. Think of the solid--the substantial!"
In Peter Schlemihl, it is practically admitted by all literary critics, Chamisso drew his own portrait, not only with regard to external appearance but also in a moral sense. He is supposed to have described his own sufferings, the sufferings of a man who has lost his fatherland and nationality, and is an exile. Peter Schlemihl, the shadowless man, at last finds consolation and reconciliation in wandering over the face of earth. Here again the author mirrors his own yearning in a moment when--in the tumult of war--he, a German Frenchman or a French German, finds no proper place in countries limited by political boundaries. He strove therefore to rise above the quarrels of the human race and to wander forth into the vast space of nature, or plunge into the depths of science! His dream soon became realised, when he found himself on board the Rurik. It was in the early part of 1815 when Chamisso gladly accepted the invitation of Count Roumyanzov to accompany the latter on a voyage round the world. The ships left Kronstadt in 1815, and returned in 1818, and although the discovery of a north-west passage--the object of the expedition--was not accomplished, yet extensive acquisitions were made in every department of scientific research.
Chamisso's share in the voyage is recorded in the third volume of the account of it published at Weimar in 1821, and does honour to his spirit of careful observation and his accuracy. Like Darwin after him, Chamisso has related his experiences interspersed with scientific observations. He now again fixed his residence at Berlin, from which University he received the degree of Doctor in Philosophy. An appointment at the Botanic Gardens allowed him full liberty to follow up his favourite pursuit of Natural History, and bound him by still stronger ties to his second fatherland. He soon married Antonie Piaste, a relation of Hitzig. Chamisso then wrote an account of the principal plants of the north of Germany, with views respecting the vegetable kingdom, and science of Botany; this work appeared at Berlin in 1827. Poetry, however, had still some share of his attention; and he continued, during the latter years of his life, to maintain his claims to an honourable place among the poets of Germany. In 1829 he published his famous work "Salas y Gomez." Several of his ballads and romances rank with the most distinguished of modern times in this branch of composition. With regard to the story before us, the narrative of Peter Schlemihl, it is in any case very original. At once comic and tragic, grotesque and terrible, it is full of gaiety and emotion, and the supernatural, phantastic and absurd are skillfully mixed with natural and real elements. From the world which we inhabit the author leads us into the realm of mystery--and yet, while we experience sensations of the marvellous, we do not seem to leave the world of reality. And herein lies the difference between Peter Schlemihl and other tales of the period. In Tieck and Arnim the fairy and real worlds are opposed and hostile to each other, in Fouqué's Undine these elements are reconciled, but the events are laid in the middle-ages, when people believed in fairies. Chamisso, however, wields into one the supernatural and the real and writes a fable in accordance with modern civilization! Of course, Chamisso cannot be compared with Ariosto and The Thousand and One Nights,--where we find logic even in the domain of the impossible. Chamisso, it must further be pointed out, while possessing all the qualities of the Romanticists, is free from their obscurities. His nationally dual nature and his peculiar poetic gifts enabled him to give expression in poetry to the variegated manifestations of science and of art. He contributed greatly to the unification of the national German and foreign elements, and was one of the most useful and productive workers in the lovely garden of fairy tales. Surrounded by a circle of admiring friends, Chamisso continued his literary work until his death in 1839.
A. S. RAPPOPORT.
Footnote 1: From certain passages in Chamisso's works it appears, however, that he was born on January 31st.--Cf. Brun X., A. de Chamisso's de Boncourt, Lyon, 1895, p. 4.
"An extraordinary looking old man left me these papers,
saying he came from Berlin."
You, who forget nobody, must surely remember one Peter Schlemihl, whom you used to meet occasionally at my house,--a long-legged youth, who was considered stupid and lazy, on account of his awkward and careless air. I was sincerely attached to him. You cannot have forgotten him, Edward. He was, on one occasion, the hero of our rhymes, in the hey-day of our youthful spirits; and I recollect taking him one evening to a poetical tea-party, where he fell asleep while I was writing, without even waiting to hear my effusion: and this reminds me of a witticism of yours respecting him. You had already seen him, I know not where or when, in an old black frock-coat, which indeed, he constantly wore; and you said, "He would be a lucky fellow if his soul were half as immortal as his coat,"--so little opinion had you of him. I loved him, however: and to this very Schlemihl, of whom for many years I had wholly lost sight, I am indebted for the little volume which I communicate to you, Edward, my most intimate friend, my second self, from whom I have no secrets;--to you, and of course our Fouqué, I commit them, who, like you, is intimately entwined about my dearest affections,--to him I communicate them only as a friend, but not as a poet; for you can easily imagine how unpleasant it would be if a secret confided to me by an honest man, relying implicitly on my friendship and honour, were to be exposed to the public in a poem.
One word more as to the manner in which I obtained these sheets; yesterday morning early, as soon as I was up, they were brought to me. An extraordinary-looking man, with a long grey beard, and wearing an old black frock-coat, with a botanical case hanging at his side and slippers over his boots, in the damp, rainy weather, had just been inquiring for me, and left me these papers, saying he came from Berlin.
ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO.
After a prosperous, but to me very wearisome, voyage, we came at last into port. Immediately on landing, I got together my few effects; and, squeezing myself through the crowd, went into the nearest and humblest inn which first met my gaze. On asking for a room, the waiter looked at me from head to foot, and conducted me to one. I asked for some cold water, and for the correct address of Mr. Thomas John, which was described as being "by the north gate, the first country-house to the right, a large new house of red and white marble, with many pillars." This was enough. As the day was not far advanced, I untied my bundle, took out my newly-turned black coat, dressed myself in my best clothes, and, with my letter of recommendation, set out for the man who was to assist me in the attainment of my moderate wishes.
After proceeding up North Street, I reached the gate, and saw the marble columns glittering through the trees. Having wiped the dust from my shoes with my pocket-handkerchief, and re-adjusted my cravat, I rang the bell--offering up, at the same time, a silent prayer. The door flew open; and the porter sent in my name. I had soon the honour to be invited into the park, where Mr. John was walking with a few friends. I recognised him at once by his corpulency and self-complacent air. He received me very well; just as a rich man receives a poor devil; and, turning to me, took my letter.
"Oh, from my brother! It is a long time since I heard from him, is he well?--Yonder," he went on, turning to the company, and pointing to a distant hill--"Yonder is the site of the new building." He broke the seal without discontinuing the conversation, which turned upon riches. "The man," he said, "who does not possess at least a million is a poor wretch."
"O how true!" I exclaimed, in the fulness of my heart.
He seemed pleased at this, and replied with a smile, "Stop here, my dear friend; afterwards I shall, perhaps, have time to tell you what I think of this," pointing to the letter, which he then put into his pocket, and turned round to the company, offering his arm to a young lady. His example was followed by the other gentlemen, each politely escorting a lady; and the whole party proceeded towards a little hill thickly planted with blooming roses.
I followed without troubling any one, for none took the least further notice of me. The party were in high spirits--lounging about and jesting--speaking sometimes of trifling matters very seriously, and of serious matters as triflingly--and exercising their wit in particular to great advantage on their absent friends and their affairs. I was too ignorant of what they were talking about to understand much of it, and too anxious and absorbed in my own reflections to occupy myself with the solution of such enigmas as their conversation presented.
By this time we had reached the thicket of roses. A beautiful girl, who seemed to be the queen of the day, was obstinately bent on plucking a rose-branch for herself, and, in the attempt, pricked her finger with a thorn. The crimson stream, as if flowing from the dark-tinted rose, tinged her fair hand with the purple current. This circumstance set the whole company in commotion; and court-plaster was called for. A quiet, elderly man, tall, and meagre-looking, who was one of the company, but whom I had not before observed, immediately put his hand into the tight breast-pocket of his old-fashioned coat of grey sarsnet, pulled out a small letter-case, opened it, and, with a most respectful bow, presented the lady with the wished-for article. She received it without noticing the giver, or thanking him. The wound was bound up; and the party proceeded along the hill towards the back part, from which they enjoyed an extensive view across the green labyrinth of the park to the wide-spreading ocean.
The view was truly a magnificent one. A slight speck was observed on the horizon, between the dark flood and the azure sky.
"A telescope!" called out Mr. John. But before any of the servants could answer the summons, the grey man, with a modest bow, drew his hand from his pocket, and presented a beautiful Dollond's telescope to Mr. John, who, on looking through it, informed the company that the speck in the distance was the ship which had sailed yesterday, and which was detained within sight of the haven by contrary winds.
The telescope passed from hand to hand, but was not returned to the owner, whom I gazed at with astonishment, for I could not conceive how so large an instrument could have proceeded from so small a pocket. This, however, seemed to excite surprise in no one; and the grey man appeared to create as little interest as myself.
Refreshments were now brought forward, consisting of the rarest fruits from all parts of the world, served up in the most costly dishes. Mr. John did the honours with unaffected grace, and addressed me for the second time, saying, "You had better eat; you did not get such things at sea." I acknowledged his politeness with a bow, which, however, he did not perceive, having turned round to speak with some one else.
The party would willingly have stopped some time here on the declivity of the hill, to enjoy the extensive prospect before them, had they not been apprehensive of the dampness of the grass.
"How delightful it would be," exclaimed some one, "if we had a Turkey carpet to lay down here!"
The wish was scarcely expressed, when the man in the grey coat put his hand in his pocket, and, with a modest and even humble air, pulled out a rich Turkey carpet, embroidered in gold. The servant received it as a matter of course, and spread it out on the desired spot; and, without any ceremony, the company seated themselves on it. Confounded by what I saw, I gazed again at the man, his pocket, and the carpet, which was more than twenty feet in length and ten in breadth; and rubbed my eyes, not knowing what to think, particularly as no one saw anything extraordinary in the matter.
I would gladly have made some inquiries respecting the man, and asked who he was, but knew not to whom I should address myself, for I felt almost more afraid of the servants than of their master. At length I took courage, and stepping up to a young man who seemed of less consequence than the others, and who was more frequently standing by himself, I begged of him, in a low tone, to tell me who was the obliging gentleman in the grey cloak.
"That man who looks like a piece of thread just escaped from a tailor's needle?"
"Yes; he who is standing alone yonder."
"I do not know," was the reply; and to avoid, as it seemed, any further conversation with me, he turned away, and spoke of some common-place matters with a neighbour.
The sun's rays now becoming stronger, the ladies complained of feeling oppressed by the heat; and the lovely Fanny, she who had pricked her finger with the thorn, turning carelessly to the grey man, to whom I had not yet observed that any one had addressed the most trifling question, asked him if, perhaps, he had not a tent about him. He replied with a low bow, as if some unmerited honour had been conferred upon him; and, putting his hand in his pocket, drew from it canvass, poles, cord, irons--in short, every thing belonging to the most splendid tent for a party of pleasure. The young gentlemen assisted in pitching it; and it covered the whole carpet: but no one seemed to think that there was anything extraordinary in it.
I had long secretly felt uneasy--indeed, almost horrified; but how was this feeling increased when, at the next wish expressed, I saw him take from his pocket three horses! Yes, three large beautiful steeds, with saddles and bridles, out of the very pocket whence had already issued a letter-case, a telescope, a carpet twenty feet broad and ten in length, and a pavilion of the same extent, with all its appurtenances!
This man, although he appeared so humble and embarrassed in his air and manners, and passed so unheeded, had inspired me with such a feeling of horror by the unearthly paleness of his countenance, from which I could not avert my eyes, that I was unable longer to endure it.
I determined, therefore, to steal away from the company, which appeared no difficult matter, from the undistinguished part I acted in it. I resolved to return to the town, and pay another visit to Mr. John the following morning, and, at the same time, make some inquiries of him relative to the extraordinary man in grey, provided I could command sufficient courage. Would to Heaven that such good fortune had awaited me!
I had stolen safely down the hill, through the thicket of roses, and now found myself on an open plain; but fearing lest I should be met out of the proper path, crossing the grass, I cast an inquisitive glance around, and started as I beheld the man in the grey cloak advancing towards me. He took off his hat, and made me a lower bow than mortal had ever yet favoured me with. It was evident that he wished to address me; and I could not avoid encountering him without seeming rude. I returned his salutation, therefore, and stood bareheaded in the sunshine, as if rooted to the ground. I gazed at him with the utmost horror, and felt like a bird fascinated by a serpent.
He affected himself to have an air of embarrassment. With his eyes on the ground, he bowed several times, drew nearer, and at last, without looking up, addressed me in a low and hesitating voice, almost in the tone of a suppliant: "Will you, sir, excuse my importunity in venturing to intrude upon you in so unusual a manner? I have a request to make,--would you most graciously be pleased to allow me--?"
"Hold! for Heaven's sake!" I exclaimed; "what can I do for a man who"--I stopped in some confusion, which he seemed to share.
After a moment's pause, he resumed: "During the short time I have had the pleasure to be in your company, I have--permit me, sir, to say--beheld with unspeakable admiration your most beautiful shadow, and remarked the air of noble indifference with which you, at the same time, turn from the glorious picture at your feet, as if disdaining to vouchsafe a glance at it. Excuse the boldness of my proposal; but perhaps you would have no objection to sell me your shadow?"
He stopped; while my head turned round like a millwheel. What was I to think of so extraordinary a proposal? To sell my shadow!
"He must be mad," thought I; and assuming a tone more in character with the submissiveness of his own, I replied, "My good friend, are you not content with your own shadow? This would be a bargain of a strange nature indeed!"
"I have in my pocket," he said, "many things which may possess some value in your eyes: for that inestimable shadow, I should deem the highest price too little."
A cold shuddering came over me as I recollected the pocket; and I could not conceive what had induced me to style him "good friend," which I took care not to repeat, endeavouring to make up for it by a studied politeness.
I now resumed the conversation:--"But, sir--excuse your humble servant--I am at a loss to comprehend your meaning,--my shadow!--how can I?"
"Permit me," he exclaimed, interrupting me, "to gather up the noble image as it lies on the ground, and to take it into my possession. As to the manner of accomplishing it, leave that to me. In return, and as an evidence of my gratitude, I shall leave you to choose among all the treasures I have in my pocket, among which are a variety of enchanting articles, not exactly adapted for you, who, I am sure, would like better to have the wishing-cap of Fortunatus, all made new and sound again, and a lucky purse, which also belonged to him."
"Fortunatus's purse!" cried I; and, great as was my mental anguish, with that one word he had penetrated the deepest recesses of my soul. A feeling of giddiness came over me, and double ducats glittered before my eyes.
"Be pleased, gracious sir, to examine this purse, and make a trial of its contents."
He put his hand in his pocket, and drew forth a large strongly stitched bag of stout Cordovan leather, with a couple of strings to match, and presented it to me. I seized it--took out ten gold pieces, then ten more, and this I repeated again and again. Instantly I held out my hand to him.
"Done," said I; "the bargain is made: my shadow for the purse."
"Agreed," he answered; and, immediately kneeling down, I beheld him, with extraordinary dexterity, gently loosen my shadow from the grass, lift it up, fold it together, and, at last, put it in his pocket. He then rose, bowed once more to me, and directed his steps towards the rose-bushes. I fancied I heard him quietly laughing to himself. However, I held the purse fast by the two strings. The earth was basking beneath the brightness of the sun; but I presently lost all consciousness.
* * * * *
On recovering my senses, I hastened to quit a place where I hoped there was nothing further to detain me. I first filled my pockets with gold, then fastened the strings of the purse round my neck, and concealed it in my bosom. I passed unnoticed out of the park, gained the high road, and took the way to the town.
As I was thoughtfully approaching the gate, I heard some one behind me exclaiming, "Young man! young man! you have lost your shadow!" I turned, and perceived an old woman calling after me. "Thank you, my good woman," said I; and throwing her a piece of gold for her well-intended information, I stepped under the trees.
At the gate, again, it was my fate to hear the sentry inquiring where the gentleman had left his shadow; and immediately I heard a couple of women exclaiming, "Jesu Maria! the poor man has no shadow!" All this began to depress me, and I carefully avoided walking in the sun; but this could not everywhere be the case: for in the next broad street I had to cross, and, unfortunately for me, at the very hour in which the boys were coming out of school, a humpbacked lout of a fellow,--I see him yet,--soon made the discovery that I was without a shadow, and communicated the news, with loud outcries, to a knot of young urchins. The whole swarm proceeded immediately to reconnoitre me, and to pelt me with mud. "People," cried they, "are generally accustomed to take their shadows with them when they walk in the sunshine."
In order to drive them away, I threw gold by handfuls among them, and sprang into a hackney-coach which happened to be passing.
As soon as I found myself alone in the rolling vehicle, I began to weep bitterly. I had by this time a misgiving that, in the same degree in which gold in this world prevails over merit and virtue, by so much one's shadow excels gold; and now that I had sacrificed my conscience for riches, and given my shadow in exchange for mere gold, what on earth would become of me?
As the coach stopped at the door of my late inn, I felt much perplexed, and not at all disposed to enter so wretched an abode. I called for my things, and received them with an air of contempt, threw down a few gold pieces, and desired to be conducted to a first-rate hotel. This house had a northern aspect, so that I had nothing to fear from the sun. I dismissed the coachman with gold; asked to be conducted to the best apartment, and locked myself up in it as soon as possible.
Imagine, my friend, what I then set about? O my dear Chamisso! even to thee I blush to mention what follows.
[Illustration: I drew the ill-fated purse from my bosom and took gold--gold--gold, more and more.]
I drew the ill-fated purse from my bosom; and, in a sort of frenzy that raged like a self-fed fire within me, I took out gold--gold--gold--more and more, till I strewed it on the floor, trampled upon it, and feasting on its very sound and brilliancy, added coins to coins, rolling and revelling on the gorgeous bed, until I sank exhausted.
Thus passed away that day and evening; and as my door remained locked, night found me still lying on the gold, where, at last, sleep overpowered me.
Then I dreamed of thee, and fancied I stood behind the glass door of thy little room, and saw thee seated at thy table between a skeleton and a bunch of dried plants; before thee lay open the works of Haller, Humboldt, and Linnæus; on thy sofa a volume of Goethe, and the Enchanted Ring. I stood a long time contemplating thee, and every thing in thy apartment; and again turning my gaze upon thee, I perceived that thou wast motionless--thou didst not breathe--thou wast dead.
I awoke--it seemed yet early--my watch had stopped. I felt thirsty, faint, and worn out; for since the preceding morning I had not tasted food. I now cast from me, with loathing and disgust, the very gold with which but a short time before I had satiated my foolish heart. Now I knew not where to put it--I dared not leave it lying there. I examined my purse to see if it would hold it,--impossible! Neither of my windows opened on the sea. I had no other resource but, with toil and great fatigue, to drag it to a huge chest which stood in a closet in my room; where I placed it all, with the exception of a handful or two. Then I threw myself, exhausted, into an arm-chair, till the people of the house should be up and stirring. As soon as possible, I sent for some refreshment, and desired to see the landlord.
I entered into some conversation with this man respecting the arrangement of my future establishment. He recommended for my personal attendant one Bendel, whose honest and intelligent countenance immediately prepossessed me in his favour. It is this individual whose persevering attachment has consoled me in all the miseries of my life, and enabled me to bear up under my wretched lot. I was occupied the whole day in my room with servants in want of a situation, and tradesmen of every description. I decided on my future plans, and purchased various articles of vertue and splendid jewels, in order to get rid of some of my gold; but nothing seemed to diminish the inexhaustible heap.
And trembling like a criminal, stole out of the house.
I now reflected on my situation with the utmost uneasiness. I dared not take a single step beyond my own door; and in the evening I had forty wax-tapers lighted before I ventured to leave the shade. I reflected with horror on the frightful encounter with the school-boys; yet I resolved, if I could command sufficient courage, to put the public opinion to a second trial. The nights were now moonlight. Late in the evening I wrapped myself in a large cloak, pulled my hat over my eyes, and, trembling like a criminal, stole out of the house.
I did not venture to leave the friendly shadow of the houses until I had reached a distant part of the town: and then I emerged into the broad moonlight, fully prepared to hear my fate from the lips of the passers-by.
Spare me, my beloved friend, the painful recital of all that I was doomed to endure. The women often expressed the deepest sympathy for me--a sympathy not less piercing to my soul than the scoffs of the young people, and the proud contempt of the men, particularly of the more corpulent, who threw an ample shadow before them. A fair and beauteous maiden, apparently accompanied by her parents, who gravely kept looking straight before them, chanced to cast a beaming glance at me; but was evidently startled at perceiving that I was without a shadow, and hiding her lovely face in her veil, and holding down her head, passed silently on.
This was past all endurance. Tears streamed from my eyes; and with a heart pierced through and through, I once more took refuge in the shade. I leant on the houses for support, and reached home at a late hour, worn out with fatigue.
I passed a sleepless night. My first care the following morning was, to devise some means of discovering the man in the grey cloak. Perhaps I may succeed in finding him; and how fortunate it were if he should be as ill satisfied with his bargain as I am with mine!
I desired Bendel to be sent for, who seemed to possess some tact and ability. I minutely described to him the individual who possessed a treasure without which life itself was rendered a burden to me. I mentioned the time and place at which I had seen him, named all the persons who were present, and concluded with the following directions:--he was to inquire for a Dollond's telescope, a Turkey carpet interwoven with gold, a marquee, and, finally, for some black steeds,--the history, without entering into particulars, of all these being singularly connected with the mysterious character who seemed to pass unnoticed by every one, but whose appearance had destroyed the peace and happiness of my life.
As I spoke, I produced as much gold as I could hold in my two hands, and added jewels and precious stones of still greater value. "Bendel," said I, "this smooths many a path, and renders that easy which seems almost impossible. Be not sparing of it, for I am not so; but go, and rejoice thy master with intelligence on which depends all his hopes."
He departed, and returned late and melancholy. None of Mr. John's servants, none of his guests (and Bendel had spoken to them all) had the slightest recollection of the man in the grey cloak. The new telescope was still there, but no one knew how it had come; and the tent and Turkey carpet were still stretched out on the hill. The servants boasted of their master's wealth; but no one seemed to know by what means he had become possessed of these newly acquired luxuries. He was gratified; and it gave him no concern to be ignorant how they had come to him. The black coursers which had been mounted on that day were in the stables of the young gentlemen of the party, who admired them as the munificent present of Mr. John.
Such was the information I gained from Bendel's detailed account; but, in spite of this unsatisfactory result, his zeal and prudence deserved and received my commendation. In a gloomy mood, I made him a sign to withdraw.
"I have, sir," he continued, "laid before you all the information in my power relative to the subject of the most importance to you. I have now a message to deliver which I received early this morning from a person at the gate, as I was proceeding to execute the commission in which I have so unfortunately failed. The man's words were precisely these: 'Tell your master, Peter Schlemihl, he will not see me here again. I am going to cross the sea; a favourable wind now calls all the passengers on board; but, in a year and a day, I shall have the honour of paying him a visit; when, in all probability, I shall have a proposal to make to him of a very agreeable nature. Commend me to him most respectfully, with many thanks.' I inquired his name; but he said you would remember him."
"What sort of person was he?" cried I, in great emotion; and Bendel described the man in the grey coat, feature by feature, word for word; in short, the very individual in search of whom he had been sent.
"How unfortunate!" cried I, bitterly; "it was himself."
Scales, as it were, fell from Bendel's eyes.
"Yes, it was he," cried he, "undoubtedly it was he; and fool, madman, that I was, I did not recognise him--I did not, and have betrayed my master!"
He then broke out into a torrent of self-reproach; and his distress really excited my compassion. I endeavoured to console him, repeatedly assuring him that I entertained no doubt of his fidelity; and despatched him immediately to the wharf, to discover, if possible, some trace of the extraordinary being. But on that very morning many vessels, which had been detained in port by contrary winds, had set sail, all bound to different parts of the globe; and the grey man had disappeared with my shadow.
Of what use were wings to a man fast bound in chains of iron? They would but increase the horror of his despair. Like the dragon guarding his treasure, I remained cut off from all human intercourse, and starving amidst my very gold, for it gave me no pleasure: I anathematised it as the source of all my wretchedness.
Sole depository of my fearful secret, I trembled before the meanest of my attendants, whom, at the same time, I envied; for he possessed a shadow, and could venture to go out in the daytime; while I shut myself up in my room day and night, and indulged in all the bitterness of grief.
One individual, however, was daily pining away before my eyes--my faithful Bendel, who was the victim of silent self-reproach, tormenting himself with the idea that he had betrayed the confidence reposed in him by a good master, in failing to recognise the individual in quest of whom he had been sent, and with whom he had been led to believe that my melancholy fate was closely connected. Still, I had nothing to accuse him with, as I recognised in the occurrence the mysterious character of the unknown.
In order to leave no means untried, I one day despatched Bendel with a costly ring to the most celebrated artist in the town, desiring him to wait upon me. He came; and dismissing the attendants, I secured the door, placing myself opposite to him, and, after extolling his art, with a heavy heart came to the point, first enjoining the strictest secrecy.
"For a person," said I, "who most unfortunately has lost his shadow, could you paint a false one?"
"Do you speak of the natural shadow?"
"But," he asked, "by what awkward negligence can a man have lost his shadow?"
"How it occurred," I answered, "is of no consequence; but it was in this manner"--(and here I uttered an unblushing falsehood)--"he was travelling in Russia last winter, and one bitterly cold day it froze so intensely, that his shadow remained so fixed to the ground, that it was found impossible to remove it."
"The false shadow that I might paint," said the artist, "would be liable to be lost on the slightest movement, particularly in a person who, from your account, cares so little about his shadow. A person without a shadow should keep out of the sun, that is the only safe and rational plan."
He rose and took his leave, casting so penetrating a look at me, that I shrank from it. I sank back in my chair, and hid my face in my hands.
In this attitude Bendel found me, and was about to withdraw silently and respectfully on seeing me in such a state of grief: looking up, overwhelmed with my sorrows, I felt that I must communicate them to him.
"Bendel," I exclaimed, "Bendel, thou the only being who seest and respectest my grief too much to inquire into its cause--thou who seemest silently and sincerely to sympathise with me--come and share my confidence. The extent of my wealth I have not withheld from thee, neither will I conceal from thee the extent of my grief. Bendel! forsake me not. Bendel, you see me rich, free, beneficent; you fancy all the world in my power; yet you must have observed that I shun it, and avoid all human intercourse. You think Bendel, that the world and I are at variance; and you yourself, perhaps, will abandon me, when I acquaint you with this fearful secret. Bendel, I am rich, free, generous; but, O God, I have no shadow!"
"No shadow!" exclaimed the faithful young man, tears starting from his eyes. "Alas! that I am born to serve a master without a shadow!" He was silent, and again I hid my face in my hands.
"Bendel," at last I tremblingly resumed, "you have now my confidence; you may betray me--go--bear witness against me."
He seemed to be agitated with conflicting feelings; at last he threw himself at my feet and seized my hand, which he bathed with his tears. "No," he exclaimed; "whatever the world may say, I neither can nor will forsake my excellent master because he has lost his shadow. I will rather do what is right than what may seem prudent. I will remain with you--I will shade you with my own shadow--I will assist you when I can--and when I cannot, I will weep with you."
I fell upon his neck, astonished at sentiments so unusual; for it was very evident that he was not prompted by the love of money.
* * * * *
My mode of life and my fate now became somewhat different. It is incredible with what provident foresight Bendel contrived to conceal my deficiency. Everywhere he was before me, and with me, providing against every contingency, and in cases of unlooked-for danger, flying to shield me with his own shadow, for he was taller and stouter than myself. Thus I once more ventured among mankind, and began to take a part in worldly affairs. I was compelled, indeed, to affect certain peculiarities and whims; but in a rich man they seem only appropriate; and so long as the truth was kept concealed, I enjoyed all the honour and respect which gold could procure.
I now looked forward with more composure to the promised visit of the mysterious unknown at the expiration of the year and a day.
I was very sensible that I could not venture to remain long in a place where I had once been seen without a shadow, and where I might easily be betrayed; and perhaps, too, I recollected my first introduction to Mr. John, and this was by no means a pleasing reminiscence. However, I wished just to make a trial here, that I might with greater ease and security visit some other place. But my vanity for some time withheld me, for it is in this quality of our race that the anchor takes the firmest hold.
Even the lovely Fanny, whom I again met in several places, without her seeming to recollect that she had ever seen me before, bestowed some notice on me; for wit and understanding were mine in abundance now. When I spoke, I was listened to; and I was at a loss to know how I had so easily acquired the art of commanding attention, and giving the tone to the conversation.
The impression which I perceived I had made upon this fair one completely turned my brain; and this was just what she wished. After that, I pursued her with infinite pains through every obstacle. My vanity was only intent on exciting hers to make a conquest of me; but although the intoxication disturbed my head, it failed to make the least impression on my heart.
But why detail to you the oft-repeated story which I have so often heard from yourself?
However, in the old and well-known drama in which I played so worn-out a part, a catastrophe occurred of quite a peculiar nature, in a manner equally unexpected to her, to me, and to everybody.
"I suffered her to fall from my arm in a fainting fit."
One beautiful evening I had, according to my usual custom, assembled a party in a garden, and was walking arm in arm with Fanny at a little distance from the rest of the company, and pouring into her ear the usual well-turned phrases, while she was demurely gazing on vacancy, and now and then gently returning the pressure of my hand. The moon suddenly emerged from behind a cloud at our back. Fanny perceived only her own shadow before us. She started, looked at me with terror, and then again on the ground, in search of my shadow. All that was passing in her mind was so strangely depicted in her countenance, that I should have burst into a loud fit of laughter, had I not suddenly felt my blood run cold within me. I suffered her to fall from my arm in a fainting-fit; shot with the rapidity of an arrow through the astonished guests, reached the gate, threw myself into the first conveyance I met with, and returned to the town, where this time, unfortunately, I had left the wary Bendel.
He was alarmed on seeing me: one word explained all. Post-horses were immediately procured. I took with me none of my servants, one cunning knave only excepted, called Rascal, who had by his adroitness become very serviceable to me, and who at present knew nothing of what had occurred. I travelled thirty leagues that night; having left Bendel behind to discharge my servants, pay my debts, and bring me all that was necessary.
When he came up with me next day, I threw myself into his arms, vowing to avoid such follies and to be more careful for the future.
We pursued our journey uninterruptedly over the frontiers and mountains; and it was not until I had placed this lofty barrier between myself and the before-mentioned unlucky town, that I was persuaded to recruit myself, after my fatigues, in a neighbouring and little-frequented watering-place.
* * * * *
I must now pass rapidly over one period of my history, on which how gladly would I dwell, could I conjure up your lively powers of delineation! But the vivid hues which are at your command, and which alone can give life and animation to the picture, have left no trace within me; and were I now to endeavour to recall the joys, the griefs, the pure and enchanting emotions, which once held such powerful dominion in my breast, it would be like striking a rock which yields no longer the living spring, and whose spirit is fled for ever. With what an altered aspect do those bygone days now present themselves to my gaze!
In this watering-place I acted an heroic character, badly studied; and being a novice on such a stage, I forgot my part before a pair of lovely blue eyes.
All possible means were used by the infatuated parents to conclude the bargain; and deception put an end to these usual artifices. And that is all--all.
The powerful emotions which once swelled my bosom seem now in the retrospect to be poor and insipid, nay, even terrible to me.
Alas, Minna! as I wept for thee the day I lost thee, so do I now weep that I can no longer retrace thine image in my soul.
Am I, then, so far advanced into the vale of years? O fatal effects of maturity! would that I could feel one throb, one emotion of former days of enchantment--alas, not one! a solitary being, tossed on the wild ocean of life--it is long since I drained thine enchanted cup to the dregs!
But to return to my narrative. I had sent Bendel to the little town with plenty of money to procure me a suitable habitation. He spent my gold profusely; and as he expressed himself rather reservedly concerning his distinguished master (for I did not wish to be named), the good people began to form rather extraordinary conjectures.
As soon as my house was ready for my reception, Bendel returned to conduct me to it. We set out on our journey. About a league from the town, on a sunny plain, we were stopped by a crowd of people, arrayed in holiday attire for some festival. The carriage stopped. Music, bells, cannons, were heard; and loud acclamations rang through the air.
She blushingly knelt before me, presenting on a
cushion, a wreath.
Before the carriage now appeared in white dresses a chorus of maidens, all of extraordinary beauty; but one of them shone in resplendent loveliness, and eclipsed the rest as the sun eclipses the stars of night. She advanced from the midst of her companions, and with a lofty yet winning air, blushingly knelt before me, presenting on a silken cushion a wreath, composed of laurel-branches, the olive, and the rose, saying something respecting majesty, love, honour, &c., which I could not comprehend; but the sweet and silvery magic of her tones intoxicated my senses and my whole soul: it seemed as if some heavenly apparition were hovering over me. The chorus now began to sing the praises of a good sovereign, and the happiness of his subjects. All this, dear Chamisso, took place in the sun: she was kneeling two steps from me, and I, without a shadow, could not dart through the air, nor fall on my knees before the angelic being. O, what would I not now have given for a shadow! To conceal my shame, agony, and despair, I buried myself in the recesses of the carriage. Bendel at last thought of an expedient; he jumped out of the carriage. I called him back, and gave him out of the casket I had by me a rich diamond coronet which had been intended for the lovely Fanny.
He stepped forward, and spoke in the name of his master, who, he said, was overwhelmed by so many demonstrations of respect, which he really could not accept as an honour--there must be some error; nevertheless he begged to express his thanks for the good-will of the worthy townspeople. In the meantime Bendel had taken the wreath from the cushion, and laid the brilliant crown in its place. He then respectfully raised the lovely girl from the ground; and at one sign, the clergy, magistrates, and all the deputations withdrew. The crowd separated, to allow the horses to pass; and we pursued our way to the town at full gallop, through arches ornamented with flowers and branches of laurel. Salvos of artillery again were heard. The carriage stopped at my gate; I hastened through the crowd which curiosity had attracted to witness my arrival. Enthusiastic shouts resounded under my windows, from whence I showered gold amidst the people; and in the evening the whole town was illuminated. Still all remained a mystery to me, and I could not imagine for whom I had been taken. I sent Rascal out to make inquiry; and he soon obtained intelligence that the good King of Prussia was travelling through the country under the name of some count; that my aide-de-camp had been recognised, and that he had divulged the secret; that on acquiring the certainty that I would enter their town, their joy had known no bounds: however, as they perceived I was determined on preserving the strictest incognito, they felt how wrong they had been in too importunately seeking to withdraw the veil. But I had received them so condescendingly and so graciously, that they were sure I would forgive them. The whole affair was such capital amusement to the unprincipled Rascal, that he did his best to confirm the good people in their belief, while affecting to reprove them. He gave me a very comical account of the matter; and seeing that I was amused by it, actually endeavoured to make a merit of his impudence.
Shall I own the truth? My vanity was flattered by having been mistaken for our revered sovereign. I ordered a banquet to be got ready for the following evening, under the trees before my house, and invited the whole town. The mysterious power of my purse, Bendel's exertions, and Rascal's ready invention, made the shortness of the time seem as nothing.
It was really astonishing how magnificently and beautifully everything was arranged in these few hours. Splendour and abundance vied with each other, and the lights were so carefully arranged that I felt quite safe: the zeal of my servants met every exigency, and merited all praise.
Evening drew on, the guests arrived, and were presented to me. The word majesty was now dropped; but, with the deepest respect and humility, I was addressed as the count. What could I do? I accepted the title; and from that moment I was known as Count Peter. In the midst of all this festivity my soul pined for one individual. She came late--she who was the empress of the scene, and wore the emblem of sovereignty on her brow.
She modestly accompanied her parents, and seemed unconscious of her transcendent beauty.
The Ranger of the Forests, his wife, and daughter, were presented to me. I was at no loss to make myself agreeable to the parents; but before the daughter I stood like a well-scolded school-boy, incapable of speaking a single word.
At length I hesitatingly entreated her to honour my banquet by presiding at it--an office for which her rare endowments pointed her out as admirably fitted. With a blush and an expressive glance she entreated to be excused; but in still greater confusion than herself, I respectfully begged her to accept the homage of the first and most devoted of her subjects; and one glance of the count was the same as a command to the guests, who all vied with each other in acting up to the spirit of the noble host.
In her person, majesty, innocence, and grace, in union with beauty, presided over this joyous banquet. Minna's happy parents were elated by the honours conferred upon their child. As for me, I abandoned myself to all the intoxication of delight: I sent for all the jewels, pearls, and precious stones still left to me--the produce of my fatal wealth; and filling two vases, I placed them on the table in the name of the Queen of the banquet, to be divided among her companions and the remainder of the ladies.
I ordered gold in the meantime to be showered down without ceasing among the happy multitude.
Next morning Bendel told me in confidence that the suspicions he had long entertained of Rascal's honesty were now reduced to a certainty: he had yesterday embezzled many bags of gold.
"Never mind," said I; "let him enjoy his paltry booty. I like to spend it--why should not he? Yesterday he, and all the newly-engaged servants whom you had hired, served me honourably, and cheerfully assisted me to enjoy the banquet."
No more was said on the subject. Rascal remained at the head of my domestics. Bendel was my friend and confidant; he had by this time become accustomed to look upon my wealth as inexhaustible, without seeking to inquire into its source. He entered into all my schemes, and effectually assisted me in devising methods of spending my money.
Of the pale, sneaking scoundrel--the unknown--Bendel only knew thus much, that he alone had power to release me from the curse which weighed so heavily on me, and yet that I stood in awe of him on whom all my hopes rested. Besides, I felt convinced that he had the means of discovering me under any circumstances, while he himself remained concealed; I therefore abandoned my fruitless inquiries, and patiently awaited the appointed day.
The magnificence of my banquet, and my deportment on the occasion, had but strengthened the credulous towns-people in their previous belief.
It appeared, soon after, from accounts in the newspapers, that the whole history of the King of Prussia's fictitious journey originated in mere idle report. But a king I was, and a king I must remain, by all means; and one of the richest and most royal, although people were at a loss to know where my territories lay.
The world has never had reason to lament the scarcity of monarchs, particularly in these days; and the good people, who had never yet seen a king, now fancied me to be first one, and then another, with equal success; and in the meanwhile I remained as before. Count Peter.
Among the visitors at this watering-place, a merchant made his appearance, one who had become a bankrupt in order to enrich himself. He enjoyed the general good opinion; for he projected a shadow of respectable size, though of somewhat faint hue.
This man wished to shew off in this place by means of his wealth, and sought to rival me. My purse soon enabled me to leave the poor devil far behind. To save his credit, he became bankrupt again, and fled beyond the mountains; and thus I was rid of him. Many a one in this place was reduced to beggary and ruin through my means.
In the midst of the really princely magnificence and profusion which carried all before me, my own style of living was very simple and retired. I had made it a point to observe the strictest precaution; and, with the exception of Bendel, no one was permitted, on any pretence whatever, to enter my private apartment. As long as the sun shone, I remained shut up with him; and the Count was then said to be deeply occupied in his closet. The numerous couriers, whom I kept in constant attendance about matters of no importance, were supposed to be the bearers of my despatches. I only received company in the evening under the trees of my garden, or in my saloons, after Bendel's assurance of their being carefully and brilliantly lit up.
My walks, in which the Argus-eyed Bendel was constantly on the watch for me, extended only to the garden of the forest-ranger, to enjoy the society of one who was dear to me as my own existence.
Oh, my Chamisso! I trust thou hast not forgotten what love is! I must here leave much to thine imagination. Minna was in truth an amiable and excellent maiden: her whole soul was wrapped up in me, and in her lowly thoughts of herself, she could not imagine how she had deserved a single thought from me. She returned love for love with all the full and youthful fervour of an innocent heart; her love was a true woman's love, with all the devotion and total absence of selfishness which is found only in woman;--she lived but in me, her whole soul being bound up in mine, regardless what her own fate might be.
Yet I, alas, during those hours of wretchedness--hours I would even now gladly recall--how often have I wept on Bendel's bosom, when after the first mad whirlwind of passion I reflected, with the keenest self-upbraidings, that I, a shadowless man, had, with cruel selfishness, practised a wicked deception, and stolen away the pure and angelic heart of the innocent Minna!
At one moment I resolved to confess all to her; then that I would fly for ever; then I broke out into a flood of bitter tears, and consulted Bendel as to the means of meeting her again in the forester's garden.
At times I flattered myself with great hopes from the near approaching visit of the unknown; then wept again, because I saw clearly on reflection that they would end in disappointment. I had made a calculation of the day fixed on by the fearful being for our interview; for he had said in a year and a day, and I depended on his word.
The parents were worthy old people, devoted to their only child; and our mutual affection was a circumstance so overwhelming, that they knew not how to act. They had never dreamed for a moment that the Count could bestow a thought on their daughter; but such was the case--he loved and was beloved. The pride of the mother might not have led her to consider such an alliance quite impossible, but so extravagant an idea had never entered the contemplation of the sounder judgment of the old man. Both were satisfied of the sincerity of my love, and could but put up prayers to Heaven for the happiness of their child.
A letter which I received from Minna about that time has just fallen into my hands. Yes, these are the characters traced by her own hand. I will transcribe the letter:--
"I am indeed a weak, foolish girl to fancy that the friend I so tenderly love could give an instant's pain to his poor Minna! Oh no! thou art so good, so inexpressibly good! But do not misunderstand me. I will accept no sacrifice at thy hands--none whatever. Oh heavens! I should hate myself! No; thou hast made me happy--thou hast taught me to love thee.
"Go, then--let me not forget my destiny--Count Peter belongs not to me, but to the whole world; and oh! what pride for thy Minna to hear thy deeds proclaimed, and blessings invoked on thy idolised head! Ah, when I think of this, I could chide thee that thou shouldst for one instant forget thy high destiny for the sake of a simple maiden! Go, then; otherwise the reflection will pierce me. How blest I have been rendered by thy love! Perhaps, also, I have planted some flowers in the path of thy life, as I twined them in the wreath which I presented to thee!
"Go, then--fear not to leave me--you are too deeply seated in my heart--I shall die inexpressibly happy in thy love."
Conceive how these words pierced my soul, Chamisso!
I declared to her that I was not what I seemed--that although a rich, I was an unspeakably miserable man--that a curse was on me, which must remain a secret, although the only one between us--yet that I was not without a hope of its being removed--that this poisoned every hour of my life--that I should plunge her with me into the abyss--she, the light and joy, the very soul of my existence. Then she wept, because I was unhappy. Oh! Minna was all love and tenderness. To save me one tear she would gladly have sacrificed her life. Yet she was far from comprehending the full meaning of my words. She still looked upon me as some proscribed prince or illustrious exile; and her vivid imagination had invested her lover with every lofty attribute.
One day I said to her, "Minna, the last day in next month will decide my fate, and perhaps change it for the better; if not, I would sooner die than render you miserable."
She laid her head on my shoulder, to conceal her tears. "Should thy fate be changed," she said, "I only wish to know that thou art happy; if thy condition is an unhappy one, I will share it with thee, and assist thee to support it."
"Minna, Minna!" I exclaimed, "recall those rash words--those mad words which have escaped thy lips! Didst thou know the misery and curse--didst thou know who--what--thy lover----Seest thou not, my Minna, this convulsive shuddering, which thrills my whole frame, and that there is a secret in my breast which you cannot penetrate?" She sank sobbing at my feet, and renewed her vows and entreaties.
Her father now entered, and I declared to him my intention to solicit the hand of his daughter on the first day of the month after the ensuing one. I fixed that time, I told him, because circumstances might probably occur in the interval materially to influence my future destiny; but my love for his daughter was unchangeable.
The good old man started at hearing such words from the mouth of Count Peter. He fell upon my neck, and rose again in the utmost confusion for having forgotten himself. Then he began to doubt, to ponder, and to scrutinise; and spoke of dowry, security, and future provision for his beloved child. I thanked him for having reminded me of all this, and told him it was my wish to remain in a country where I seemed to be beloved, and to lead a life free from anxiety. I then commissioned him to purchase the finest estate in the neighbourhood in the name of his daughter,--for a father was the best person to act for his daughter in such a case,--and to refer for payment to me. This occasioned him a good deal of trouble, as a stranger had everywhere anticipated him; but at last he made a purchase for about 150,000l.
I confess this was but an innocent artifice to get rid of him, as I had frequently done before; for it must be confessed that he was somewhat tedious. The good mother was rather deaf, and not jealous, like her husband, of the honour of conversing with the count.
The happy party pressed me to remain with them longer this evening. I dared not--I had not a moment to lose. I saw the rising moon streaking the horizon--my hour was come.
[Illustration: Next Evening, I went to the foresters ... She raised her head and looked at me and started involuntarily.]
Next evening I went again to the forester's garden. I had wrapped myself closely up in my cloak, slouched my hat over my eyes, and advanced towards Minna. As she raised her head and looked at me, she started involuntarily. The apparition of that dreadful night in which I had been seen without a shadow was now standing distinctly before me--it was she herself. Had she recognised me? She was silent and thoughtful. I felt an oppressive load at my heart. I rose from my seat. She laid her head on my shoulder, still silent, and in tears. I went away.
I now found her frequently weeping. I became more and more melancholy. Her parents were beyond expression happy. The eventful day approached, threatening and heavy, like a thunder-cloud. The evening preceding arrived. I could scarcely breathe. I had carefully filled a large chest with gold, and sat down to await the appointed time--the twelfth hour--it struck.
Now I remained with my eyes fixed on the hand of the clock, counting the seconds--the minutes--which struck me to the heart like daggers. I started at every sound--at last daylight appeared. The leaden hours passed on--morning--evening--night came. Hope was fast fading away as the hand advanced. It struck eleven--no one appeared--the last minutes--the first and last stroke of the twelfth hour died away. I sank back in my bed in an agony of weeping. In the morning I should, shadowless as I was, claim the hand of my beloved Minna. A heavy sleep towards daylight closed my eyes.
It was yet early, when I was suddenly awoke by voices in hot dispute in my ante-chamber. I listened. Bendel was forbidding Rascal to enter my room, who swore he would receive no orders from his equals, and insisted on forcing his way. The faithful Bendel reminded him that if such words reached his master's ears, he would turn him out of an excellent place. Rascal threatened to strike him, if he persisted in refusing his entrance.
By this time, having half dressed myself, I angrily threw open the door; and addressing myself to Rascal, inquired what he meant by such disgraceful conduct. He drew back a couple of steps, and coolly answered, "Count Peter, may I beg most respectfully that you will favour me with a sight of your shadow? The sun is now shining brightly in the court below."
I stood as if struck by a thunderbolt, and for some time was unable to speak. At last, I asked him how a servant could dare to behave so towards his master. He interrupted me by saying, quite coolly, "A servant may be a very honourable man, and unwilling to serve a shadowless master--I request my dismissal."
I felt that I must adopt a softer tone, and replied, "But, Rascal, my good fellow, who can have put such strange ideas into your head? How can you imagine--"
He again interrupted me in the same tone--"People say you have no shadow. In short, let me see your shadow, or give me my dismissal."
Bendel, pale and trembling, but more collected than myself, made a sign to me. I had recourse to the all-powerful influence of gold. But even gold had lost its power--Rascal threw it at my feet: "From a shadowless man," he said, "I will take nothing."
Turning his back upon me, and putting on his hat, he then slowly left the room, whistling a tune. I stood, with Bendel, as if petrified, gazing after him.
With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, I now prepared to keep my engagement, and to appear in the forester's garden, like a criminal before his judge. I entered by the shady arbour, which had received the name of Count Peter's arbour, where we had appointed to meet. The mother advanced with a cheerful air; Minna sat fair and beautiful as the early snow of autumn reposing on the departing flowers, soon to be dissolved and lost in the cold stream.
The ranger, with a written paper in his hand, was walking up and down in an agitated manner, and struggling to suppress his feelings--his usually unmoved countenance being one moment flushed, and the next perfectly pale. He came forward as I entered, and, in a faltering voice, requested a private conversation with me. The path by which he requested me to follow him led to an open spot in the garden, where the sun was shining. I sat down. A long silence ensued, which even the good woman herself did not venture to break. The ranger, in an agitated manner, paced up and down with unequal steps. At last he stood still; and glancing over the paper he held in his hand, he said, addressing me with a penetrating look, "Count Peter, do you know one Peter Schlemihl?" I was silent.
"A man," he continued, "of excellent character and extraordinary endowments."
He paused for an answer. "And supposing I myself were that very man?"
"You!" he exclaimed, passionately; "he has lost his shadow!"
"Oh, my suspicion is true!" cried Minna; "I have long known it--he has no shadow!" And she threw herself into her mother's arms, who, convulsively clasping her to her bosom, reproached her for having so long, to her hurt, kept such a secret. But, like the fabled Arethusa, her tears, as from a fountain, flowed more abundantly, and her sobs increased at my reproach.
"And so," said the ranger fiercely, "you have not scrupled, with unparalleled shamelessness, to deceive both her and me; and you pretended to love her, forsooth!--her whom you have reduced to the state in which you now see her. See how she weeps!--Oh, shocking, shocking!"
By this time I had lost all presence of mind; and I answered, confusedly, "After all, it is but a shadow, a mere shadow, which a man can do very well without; and really it is not worth the while to make all this noise about such a trifle." Feeling the groundlessness of what I was saying, I ceased; and no one condescended to reply. At last I added, "What is lost to-day may be found to-morrow."
"Be pleased, sir," continued the ranger, in great wrath--"be pleased to explain how you have lost your shadow."
Here again an excuse was ready: "A boor of a fellow," said I, "one day trod so rudely on my shadow that he tore a large hole in it. I sent it to be repaired--for gold can do wonders--and yesterday I expected it home again."
"Very well," answered the ranger. "You are a suitor for my daughter's hand, and so are others. As a father, I am bound to provide for her. I will give you three days to seek your shadow. Return to me in the course of that time with a well-fitted shadow, and you shall receive a hearty welcome; otherwise, on the fourth day--remember, on the fourth day--my daughter becomes the wife of another."
I now attempted to say one word to Minna; but, sobbing more violently, she clung still closer to her mother, who made a sign for me to withdraw. I obeyed; and now the world seemed shut out from me for ever.
Having escaped from the affectionate care of Bendel, I now wandered wildly through the neighbouring woods and meadows. Drops of anguish fell from my brow, deep groans burst from my bosom--frenzied despair raged within me.
I knew not how long this had lasted, when I felt myself seized by the sleeve on a sunny heath. I stopped, and looking up, beheld the grey-coated man, who appeared to have run himself out of breath in pursuing me.
"I had," he began, immediately, "appointed this day; but your impatience anticipated it. All, however, may yet be right. Take my advice,--redeem your shadow, which is at your command, and return immediately to the ranger's garden, where you will be well received, and all the past will seem a mere joke. As for Rascal--who has betrayed you in order to pay his addresses to Minna--leave him to me; he is just a fit subject for me."
I stood like one in a dream. "This day?" I considered again. He was right--I had made a mistake of a day. I felt in my bosom for the purse. He perceived my intention, and drew back.
"No, Count Peter; the purse is in good hands--pray keep it."
I gazed at him with looks of astonishment and inquiry.
"I only beg a trifle as a token of remembrance. Be so good as to sign this memorandum." On the parchment, which he held out to me, were these words:--"By virtue of this present, to which I have appended my signature, I hereby bequeath my soul to the holder, after its natural separation from my body."
I gazed in mute astonishment alternately at the paper and the grey unknown. In the meantime he had dipped a new pen in a drop of blood which was issuing from a scratch in my hand just made by a thorn. He presented it to me.
"Who are you?" at last I exclaimed.
"What can it signify?" he answered; "do you not perceive who I am? A poor devil--a sort of scholar and philosopher, who obtains but poor thanks from his friends for his admirable arts, and whose only amusement on earth consists of his small experiments. But just sign this; to the right, exactly underneath--Peter Schlemihl."
I shook my head, and replied, "Excuse me, sir; I cannot sign that."
"Cannot!" he exclaimed; "and why not?"
"Because it appears to me a hazardous thing to exchange my soul for my shadow."
"Hazardous!" he exclaimed, bursting into a loud laugh. "And, pray, may I be allowed to inquire what sort of a thing your soul is?--have you ever seen it?--and what do you mean to do with it after your death? You ought to think yourself fortunate in meeting with a customer who during your life, in exchange for this infinitely-minute quantity, this galvanic principle, this polarised agency, or whatever other foolish name you may give it, is willing to bestow on you something substantial--in a word, your own identical shadow, by virtue of which you will obtain your beloved Minna, and arrive at the accomplishment of all your wishes; or do you prefer giving up the poor young girl to the power of that contemptible scoundrel Rascal? Nay, you shall behold her with your own eyes. Come here; I will lend you an invisible cap (he drew something out of his pocket), and we will enter the ranger's garden unseen."
I must confess that I felt excessively ashamed to be thus laughed at by the grey stranger. I detested him from the very bottom of my soul; and I really believe this personal antipathy, more than principle or previously formed opinion, restrained me from purchasing my shadow, much as I stood in need of it, at such an expense. Besides, the thought was insupportable, of making this proposed visit in his society. To behold this hateful sneak, this mocking fiend, place himself between me and my beloved, between our torn and bleeding hearts, was too revolting an idea to be entertained for a moment.
I considered the past as irrevocable, my own misery as inevitable; and turning to the grey man, I said, "I have exchanged my shadow for this very extraordinary purse, and I have sufficiently repented it. For Heaven's sake, let the transaction be declared null and void!"
He shook his head; and his countenance assumed an expression of the most sinister cast.
I continued, "I will make no exchange whatever, even for the sake of my shadow, nor will I sign the paper. It follows, also, that the incognito visit you propose to me would afford you far more entertainment than it could possibly give me. Accept my excuses, therefore; and, since it must be so, let us part."
"I am sorry, Mr. Schlemihl, that you thus obstinately persist in rejecting my friendly offer. Perhaps, another time, I may be more fortunate. Farewell! May we shortly meet again! But, allow me to shew you that I do not undervalue my purchase, but preserve it carefully."
So saying, he drew my shadow out of his pocket; and shaking it cleverly out of its folds, he stretched it out at his feet in the sun--so that he stood between two obedient shadows, his own and mine, which was compelled to follow and comply with his every movement.
On again beholding my poor shadow after so long a separation, and seeing it degraded to so vile a bondage at the very time that I was so unspeakably in want of it, my heart was ready to burst; and I wept bitterly. The detested wretch stood exulting over his prey, and unblushingly renewed his proposal.
"One stroke of the pen, and the unhappy Minna is rescued from the clutches of the villain Rascal, and transferred to the arms of the high-born Count Peter--merely a stroke of your pen!"
My tears broke out with renewed violence; but I turned away from him, and made a sign for him to be gone.
Bendel, whose deep solicitude had induced him to come in search of me, arrived at this very moment. The good and faithful creature, on seeing me weeping, and that a shadow (evidently mine) was in the power of the mysterious unknown, determined to rescue it by force, should that be necessary; and disdaining to use any finesse, he desired him directly, and without any disputing, to restore my property. Instead of a reply, the grey man turned his back on the worthy fellow, and was making off. But Bendel raised his buckthorn stick; and following close upon him, after repeated commands, but in vain, to restore the shadow, he made him feel the whole force of his powerful arm. The grey man, as if accustomed to such treatment, held down his head, slouched his shoulders, and, with soft and noiseless steps, pursued his way over the heath, carrying with him my shadow, and also my faithful servant. For a long time I heard hollow sounds ringing through the waste, until at last they died away in the distance, and I was again left to solitude and misery.
* * * * *
"Alone on the wild Heath I disburdened my heart
insupportable load, by giving free vent to my tears."
Alone on the wild heath, I disburdened my heart of an insupportable load, by giving free vent to my tears. But I saw no bounds, no relief, to my surpassing wretchedness; and I drank in the fresh poison which the mysterious stranger had poured into my wounds with a furious avidity. As I retraced in my mind the loved image of my Minna, and depicted her sweet countenance all pale and in tears, such as I had beheld her in my late disgrace, the bold and sarcastic visage of Rascal would ever and anon thrust itself between us. I hid my face, and fled rapidly over the plains; but the horrible vision unrelentingly pursued me, till at last I sank breathless on the ground, and bedewed it with a fresh torrent of tears--and all this for a shadow!--a shadow which one stroke of the pen would repurchase. I pondered on the singular proposal, and on my hesitation to comply with it. My mind was confused--I had lost the power of judging or comprehending. The day was waning apace. I satisfied the cravings of hunger with a few wild fruits, and quenched my thirst at a neighbouring stream. Night came on; I threw myself down under a tree, and was awoke by the damp morning air from an uneasy sleep, in which I had fancied myself struggling in the agonies of death. Bendel had certainly lost all trace of me, and I was glad of it. I did not wish to return among my fellow-creatures--I shunned them as the hunted deer flies before its pursuers.
Thus I passed three melancholy days.
I found myself on the morning of the fourth on a sandy plain, basking in the rays of the sun, and sitting on a fragment of rock; for it was sweet to enjoy the genial warmth, of which I had so long been deprived. Despair still preyed on my heart. Suddenly a slight sound startled me; I looked round, prepared to fly, but saw no one. On the sunlit sand before me flitted the shadow of a man not unlike my own; and wandering about alone, it seemed to have lost its master. This sight powerfully excited me.
"Shadow!" thought I, "art thou in search of thy master? in me thou shalt find him." And I sprang forward to seize it, fancying that could I succeed in treading so exactly in its traces as to step in its footmarks, it would attach itself to me, and in time become accustomed to me, and follow all my movements.
The shadow, as I moved, took to flight, and I commenced a hot chase after the airy fugitive, solely excited by the hope of being delivered from my present dreadful situation; the bare idea inspired me with fresh strength and vigour.
The shadow now fled towards a distant wood, among whose shades I must necessarily have lost it. Seeing this, my heart beat wild with fright, my ardour increased, and lent wings to my speed. I was evidently gaining on the shadow--I came nearer and nearer--I was within reach of it, when it suddenly stopped and turned towards me. Like a lion darting on its prey, I made a powerful spring and fell unexpectedly upon a hard substance. Then followed, from an invisible hand, the most terrible blows in the ribs that any one ever received. The effect of my terror made me endeavour convulsively to strike and grasp at the unseen object before me. The rapidity of my motions brought me to the ground, where I lay stretched out, with a man under me, whom I held tight, and who now became visible.
The whole affair was now explained. The man had undoubtedly possessed the bird's nest which communicates its charm of invisibility to its possessor, though not equally so to his shadow; and this nest he had now thrown away. I looked all round, and soon discovered the shadow of this invisible nest. I sprang towards it, and was fortunate enough to seize the precious booty, and immediately became invisible and shadowless.
The moment the man regained his feet he looked all round, over the wide sunny plain, to discover his fortunate vanquisher, but could see neither him nor his shadow, the latter seeming particularly to be the object of his search: for previous to our encounter he had not had leisure to observe that I was shadowless, and he could not be aware of it. Becoming convinced that all traces of me were lost, he began to tear his hair, and give himself up to all the frenzy of despair. In the meantime, this newly acquired treasure communicated to me both the ability and the desire to mix again among mankind.
I was at no loss for a pretext to vindicate this unjust robbery--or, rather, so deadened had I become, I felt no need of a pretext; and in order to dissipate every idea of the kind, I hastened on, regardless of the unhappy man, whose fearful lamentations long resounded in my ears. Such, at the time, were my impressions of all the circumstances of this affair.
I now ardently desired to return to the ranger's garden, in order to ascertain in person the truth of the information communicated by the odious unknown; but I knew not where I was, until, ascending an eminence to take a survey of the surrounding country, I perceived, from its summit, the little town and the gardens almost at my feet. My heart beat violently, and tears of a nature very different from those I had lately shed filled my eyes. I should, then, once more behold her!
Anxiety now hastened my steps. Unseen I met some peasants coming from the town; they were talking of me, of Rascal, and of the ranger. I would not stay to listen to their conversation, but proceeded on. My bosom thrilled with expectation as I entered the garden. At this moment I heard something like a hollow laugh, which caused me involuntarily to shudder. I cast a rapid glance around, but could see no one. I passed on; presently I fancied I heard the sound of footsteps close to me, but no one was within sight. My ears must have deceived me.
It was early; no one was in Count Peter's bower--the gardens were deserted. I traversed all the well-known paths, and penetrated even to the dwelling-house itself. The same rustling sound became now more and more audible. With anguished feelings I sat down on a seat placed in the sunny space before the door, and actually felt some invisible fiend take a place by me, and heard him utter a sarcastic laugh. The key was turned in the door, which was opened. The forest-master appeared with a paper in his hand.
Suddenly my head was, as it were, enveloped in a mist. I looked up, and, oh horror! the grey-coated man was at my side, peering in my face with a satanic grin. He had extended the mist-cap1 he wore over my head. His shadow and my own were lying together at his feet, in perfect amity. He kept twirling in his hand the well-known parchment, with an air of indifference; and while the ranger, absorbed in thought, and intent upon his paper, paced up and down the arbour, my tormentor confidentially leaned towards me, and whispered, "So, Mr. Schlemihl, you have at length accepted my invitation; and here we sit, two heads under one hood, as the saying is. Well, well, all in good time. But now you can return me my bird's nest--you have no further occasion for it; and I am sure you are too honourable a man to withhold it from me. No need of thanks, I assure you; I had infinite pleasure in lending it to you."
He took it out of my unresisting hand, put it into his pocket, and then broke into so loud a laugh at my expense, that the forest-master turned round, startled at the sound. I was petrified.
"You must acknowledge," he continued, "that in our position a hood is much more convenient. It serves to conceal not only a man, but his shadow, or as many shadows as he chooses to carry. I, for instance, to-day bring two, you perceive." He laughed again. "Take notice, Schlemihl, that what a man refuses to do with a good grace in the first instance, he is always in the end compelled to do. I am still of opinion that you ought to redeem your shadow and claim your bride (for it is yet time); and as to Rascal, he shall dangle at a rope's end--no difficult matter, so long as we can find a bit. As a mark of friendship, I will give you my cap into the bargain."
The mother now came out, and the following conversation took place: "What is Minna doing?"
"She is weeping."
"Silly child! what good can that do?"
"None, certainly; but it is so soon to bestow her hand on another. O husband, you are too harsh to your poor child."
"No, wife; you view things in a wrong light. When she finds herself the wife of a wealthy and honourable man, her tears will soon cease; she will waken out of a dream, as it were, happy, and grateful to Heaven and to her parents, as you will see."
"Heaven grant it may be so!" replied the wife.
"She has, indeed, now considerable property; but after the noise occasioned by her unlucky affair with that adventurer, do you imagine that she is likely soon to meet with so advantageous a match as Mr. Rascal? Do you know the extent of Mr. Rascal's influence and wealth? Why, he has purchased with ready money, in this country, six millions of landed property, free from all emcumbrances. I have had all the documents in my hands. It was he who outbid me everywhere when I was about to make a desirable purchase; and, besides, he has bills on Mr. Thomas John's house to the amount of three millions and a half."
"He must have been a prodigious thief!"
"How foolishly you talk! he wisely saved where others squandered their property."
"A mere livery-servant!"
"Nonsense! he has at all events an unexceptionable shadow."
While this conversation was passing, the grey-coated man looked at me with a satirical smile.
The door opened, and Minna entered, leaning on the arm of her female attendant, silent tears flowing down her fair but pallid face. She seated herself in the chair which had been placed for her under the lime-trees, and her father took a stool by her side. He gently raised her hand; and as her tears flowed afresh, he addressed her in the most affectionate manner.
"My own dear, good child--my Minna--will act reasonably, and not afflict her poor old father, who only wishes to make her happy. My dearest child, this blow has shaken you--dreadfully, I know it; but you have been saved, as by a miracle, from a miserable fate, my Minna. You loved the unworthy villain most tenderly, before his treachery was discovered: I feel all this, Minna; and far be it from me to reproach you for it--in fact, I myself loved him so long as I considered him to be a person of rank: you now see yourself how differently it has turned out. Every dog has a shadow; and the idea of my child having been on the eve of uniting herself to a man who----but I am sure you will think no more of him. A suitor has just appeared for you in the person of a man who does not fear the sun--an honourable man--no prince indeed, but a man worth ten millions of golden ducats sterling--a sum nearly ten times larger than your fortune consists of--a man, too, who will make my dear child happy--nay, do not oppose me--be my own good, dutiful child--allow your loving father to provide for you, and to dry up these tears. Promise to bestow your hand on Mr. Rascal. Speak my child: will you not?"
Minna could scarcely summon strength to reply that she had now no longer any hopes or desires on earth, and that she was entirely at her father's disposal. Rascal was therefore immediately sent for, and entered the room with his usual forwardness; but Minna in the meantime had swooned away.
My detested companion looked at me indignantly, and whispered, "Can you endure this? Have you no blood in your veins?" He instantly pricked my finger, which bled. "Yes, positively," he exclaimed, "you have some blood left!--come, sign." The parchment and pen were in my hand!----
Footnote 1: The Nebelkappe, or Tarnkappe (Germ.), which imparts invisibility to its owner.
The forest of ancient firs.
I submit myself to thy judgment, my dear Chamisso; I do not seek to bias it. I have long been a rigid censor of myself, and nourished at my heart the worm of remorse. This critical moment of my life is ever present to my soul, and I dare only cast a hesitating glance at it, with a deep sense of humiliation and grief. Ah, my dear friend, he who once permits himself thoughtlessly to deviate but one step from the right road, will imperceptibly find himself involved in various intricate paths, all leading him farther and farther astray. In vain he beholds the guiding-stars of Heaven shining before him. No choice is left him--he must descend the precipice, and offer himself up a sacrifice to his fate. After the false step which I had rashly made, and which entailed a curse upon me, I had, in the wantonness of passion, entangled one in my fate who had staked all her happiness upon me. What was left for me to do in a case where I had brought another into misery, but to make a desperate leap in the dark to save her?--the last, the only means of rescue presented itself. Think not so meanly of me, Chamisso, as to imagine that I would have shrunk from any sacrifice on my part. In such a case it would have been but a poor ransom. No, Chamisso; but my whole soul was filled with unconquerable hatred to the cringing knave and his crooked ways. I might be doing him injustice; but I shuddered at the bare idea of entering into any fresh compact with him. But here a circumstance took place which entirely changed the face of things----
I know not whether to ascribe it to excitement of mind, exhaustion of physical strength (for during the last few days I had scarcely tasted anything), or the antipathy I felt to the society of my fiendish companion; but just as I was about to sign the fatal paper, I fell into a deep swoon, and remained for a long time as if dead. The first sounds which greeted my ear on recovering my consciousness were those of cursing and imprecation; I opened my eyes--it was dusk; my hateful companion was overwhelming me with reproaches. "Is not this behaving like an old woman? Come, rise up, and finish quickly what you were going to do; or perhaps you have changed your determination, and prefer to lie groaning there?"
I raised myself with difficulty from the ground, and gazed around me, without speaking a word. It was late in the evening, and I heard strains of festive music proceeding from the ranger's brilliantly illuminated house; groups of company were lounging about the gardens; two persons approached, and seating themselves on the bench I had lately occupied, began to converse on the subject of the marriage which had taken place that morning between the wealthy Mr. Rascal and Minna. All was then over.
I tore off the cap which rendered me invisible; and my companion having disappeared, I plunged in silence into the thickest gloom of the grove, rapidly passed Count Peter's bower towards the entrance-gate; but my tormentor still haunted me, and loaded me with reproaches. "And is this all the gratitude I am to expect from you, Mr. Schlemihl--you, whom I have been watching all the weary day, until you should recover from your nervous attack? What a fool's part I have been enacting! It is of no use flying from me, Mr. Perverse--we are inseparable--you have my gold, I have your shadow; this exchange deprives us both of peace. Did you ever hear of a man's shadow leaving him?--yours follows me until you receive it again into favour, and thus free me from it. Disgust and weariness sooner or later will compel you to do what you should have done gladly at first. In vain you strive with fate!"
He continued unceasingly in the same tone, uttering constant sarcasms about the gold and the shadow, till I was completely bewildered. To fly from him was impossible. I had pursued my way through the empty streets towards my own house, which I could scarcely recognise--the windows were broken to pieces, no light was visible, the doors were shut, and the bustle of domestics had ceased. My companion burst into a loud laugh. "Yes, yes," said he, "you see the state of things: however, you will find your friend Bendel at home; he was sent back the other day so fatigued, that I assure you he has never left the house since. He will have a fine story to tell! So I wish you a very good night--may we shortly meet again!"
I had repeatedly rung the bell: at last a light appeared and Bendel inquired from within who was there. The poor fellow could scarcely contain himself at the sound of my voice. The door flew open, and we were locked in each other's arms. I found him sadly changed; he was looking ill and feeble. I, too, was altered; my hair had become quite grey. He conducted me through the desolate apartments to an inner room, which had escaped the general wreck. After partaking of some refreshment, we seated ourselves; and, with fresh lamentations, he began to tell me that the grey withered old man whom he had met with my shadow had insensibly led him such a zig-zag race, that he lost all traces of me, and at last sank down exhausted with fatigue; that, unable to find me, he had returned home, when, shortly after, the mob, at Rascal's instigation, assembled violently before the house, broke the windows, and by all sorts of excesses completely satiated their fury.
Thus had they treated their benefactor. My servants had fled in all directions. The police had banished me from the town as a suspicious character, and granted me an interval of twenty-four hours to leave the territory. Bendel added many particulars as to the information I had already obtained respecting Rascal's wealth and marriage. This villain, it seems--who was the author of all the measures taken against me--became possessed of my secret nearly from the beginning, and, tempted by the love of money, had supplied himself with a key to my chest, and from that time had been laying the foundation of his present wealth. Bendel related all this with many tears, and wept for joy that I was once more safely restored to him, after all his fears and anxieties for me. In me, however, such a state of things only awoke despair.
My dreadful fate now stared me in the face in all its gigantic and unchangeable horror. The source of tears was exhausted within me; no groans escaped my breast; but with cool indifference I bared my unprotected head to the blast.
"Bendel," said I, "you know my fate; this heavy visitation is a punishment for my early sins: but as for thee, my innocent friend, I can no longer permit thee to share my destiny. I will depart this very night--saddle me a horse--I will set out alone. Remain here, Bendel--I insist upon it: there must be some chests of gold still left in the house--take them, they are thine. I shall be a restless and solitary wanderer on the face of the earth; but should better days arise, and fortune once more smile propitiously on me, then I will not forget thy steady fidelity; for, in hours of deep distress, thy faithful bosom has been the depository of my sorrows."
With a bursting heart, the worthy Bendel prepared to obey this last command of his master; for I was deaf to all his arguments and blind to his tears. My horse was brought--I pressed my weeping friend to my bosom--threw myself into the saddle, and, under the friendly shades of night, quitted this sepulchre of my existence, indifferent which road my horse should take; for now on this side the grave I had neither wishes, hopes, or fears.
* * * * *
After a short time I was joined by a traveller on foot, who, after walking for a while by the side of my horse, observed, that as we both seemed to be travelling the same road, he should beg my permission to lay his cloak on the horse's back behind me, to which I silently assented. He thanked me with easy politeness for this trifling favour, praised my horse, and then took occasion to extol the happiness and the power of the rich, and fell, I scarcely know how, into a sort of conversation with himself, in which I merely acted the part of listener. He unfolded his views of human life and of the world, and touching on metaphysics, demanded an answer from that cloudy science to the question of questions--the answer that should solve all mysteries. He deduced one problem from another in a very lucid manner, and then proceeded to their solution.
You may remember, my dear friend, that after having run through the school-philosophy, I became sensible of my unfitness for metaphysical speculations, and therefore totally abstained from engaging in them. Since, then, I have acquiesced in some things, and abandoned all hope of comprehending others; trusting, as you advised me, to my own plain sense and the voice of conscience to direct and, if possible, maintain me in the right path.
Now this skilful rhetorician seemed to me to expend great skill in rearing a firmly-constructed edifice, towering aloft on its own self-supported basis, but resting on, and upheld by, some internal principle of necessity. I regretted in it the total absence of what I desired to find; and thus it seemed a mere work of art, serving only by its elegance and exquisite finish to captivate the eye. Nevertheless I listened with pleasure to this eloquently gifted man, who diverted my attention from my own sorrows to the speaker; and he would have secured my entire acquiescence, if he had appealed to my heart as well as to my judgment.
In the meantime the hours had passed away, and morning had already dawned imperceptibly in the horizon; looking up, I shuddered as I beheld in the east all those splendid hues that announce the rising sun. At this hour, when all natural shadows are seen in their full proportions, not a fence or a shelter of any kind could I descry in this open country, and I was not alone! I cast a glance at my companion, and shuddered again--it was the man in the grey coat himself! He laughed at my surprise, and said, without giving me time to speak: "You see, according to the fashion of this world, mutual convenience binds us together for a time: there is plenty of time to think of parting. The road here along the mountain, which perhaps has escaped your notice, is the only one that you can prudently take; into the valley you dare not descend--the path over the mountain would but re-conduct you to the town which you have left--my road, too, lies this way. I perceive you change colour at the rising sun--I have no objections to let you have the loan of your shadow during our journey; and in return you may not be indisposed to tolerate my society. You have now no Bendel; but I will act for him. I regret that you are not over-fond of me; but that need not prevent you from accepting my poor services. The devil is not so black as he is painted. Yesterday you provoked me, I own; but now that is all forgotten, and you must confess I have this day succeeded in beguiling the wearisomeness of your journey. Come, take your shadow, and make trial of it."
The sun had risen, and we were meeting with passengers; so I reluctantly consented. With a smile, he immediately let my shadow glide down to the ground; and I beheld it take its place by that of my horse, and gaily trot along with me. My feelings were anything but pleasant. I rode through groups of country-people, who respectfully made way for the well-mounted stranger.
Thus I proceeded, occasionally stealing a sidelong glance, with a beating heart, from my horse, at the shadow once my own, but now, alas, accepted as a loan from a stranger, or rather a fiend.
He moved on carelessly at my side, whistling a song. He being on foot, and I on horseback, the temptation to hazard a silly project occurred to me; so, suddenly turning my bridle, I set spurs to my horse, and at full gallop struck into a by-path; but my shadow, on the sudden movement of my horse, glided away, and stood on the road, quietly awaiting the approach of its legal owner. I was obliged to return abashed towards the grey man; but he very coolly finished his song, and with a laugh set my shadow to rights again, reminding me that it was at my option to have it irrevocably fixed to me, by purchasing it on just and equitable terms: "I hold you," said he, "by the shadow; and you seek in vain to get rid of me. A rich man, like you, requires a shadow, unquestionably; and you are to blame for not having seen this sooner."
I now continued my journey on the same road; every convenience and even luxury of life was mine; I moved about in peace and freedom, for I possessed a shadow, though a borrowed one; and all the respect due to wealth was paid to me. But a deadly disease preyed on my heart. My extraordinary companion, who gave himself out to be the humble attendant of the richest individual in the world, was remarkable for his dexterity; in short, his singular address and promptitude admirably fitted him to be the very beau ideal of a rich man's lacquey. But he never stirred from my side, and tormented me with constant assurances that a day would most certainly come, when, if it were only to get rid of him, I should gladly comply with his terms, and redeem my shadow. Thus he became as irksome as he was hateful to me. I really stood in awe of him--I had placed myself in his power. Since he had effected my return to the pleasures of the world, which I had resolved to shun, he had the perfect mastery of me. His eloquence was irresistible, and at times I almost thought he was in the right. A shadow is indeed necessary to a man of fortune; and if I chose to maintain the position in which he had placed me, there was only one means of doing so. But on one point I was immovable: since I had sacrificed my love for Minna, and thereby blighted the happiness of my whole life, I would not now, for all the shadows in the universe, be induced to sign away my soul to this being--I knew not how it might end.
One day we were sitting by the entrance of a cavern, much visited by strangers, who ascended the mountain: the rushing noise of a subterranean torrent resounded from the fathomless abyss, the depths of which exceeded all calculation. He was, according to his favourite custom, employing all the powers of his lavish fancy, and all the charm of the most brilliant colouring, to depict to me what I might effect in the world by virtue of my purse, when once I had recovered my shadow. With my elbows resting on my knees, I kept my face concealed in my hands, and listened to the false fiend, my heart torn between the temptation and my determined opposition to it. Such indecision I could no longer endure, and resolved on one decisive effort.
"You seem to forget," said I, "that I tolerate your presence only on certain conditions, and that I am to retain perfect freedom of action."
"You have but to command, I depart," was all his reply.
The threat was familiar to me; I was silent. He then began to fold up my shadow. I turned pale, but allowed him to continue. A long silence ensued, which he was the first to break.
"You cannot endure me, Mr. Schlemihl--you hate me--I am aware of it--but why?--is it, perhaps, because you attacked me on the open plain, in order to rob me of my invisible bird's nest? or is it because you thievishly endeavoured to seduce away the shadow with which I had entrusted you--my own property--confiding implicitly in your honour? I, for my part, have no dislike to you. It is perfectly natural that you should avail yourself of every means, presented either by cunning, or force, to promote your own interests. That your principles also should be of the strictest sort, and your intentions of the most honourable description,--these are fancies with which I have nothing to do; I do not pretend to such strictness myself. Each of us is free, I to act, and you to think, as seems best. Did I ever seize you by the throat, to tear out of your body that valuable soul I so ardently wish to possess? Did I ever set my servant to attack you, to get back my purse, or attempt to run off with it from you?"
I had not a word to reply.
"Well, well," he exclaimed, "you detest me, and I know it; but I bear you no malice on that account. We must part--that is clear; also I must say that you begin to be very tiresome to me. Once more let me advise you to free yourself entirely from my troublesome presence, by the purchase of your shadow."
I held out the purse to him.
"No, Mr. Schlemihl; not at that price."
With a deep sigh, I said, "Be it so, then; let us part, I entreat; cross my path no more. There is surely room enough in the world for us both."
Laughing, he replied, "I go; but just allow me to inform you how you may at any time recall me whenever you have a mind to see your most humble servant: you have only to shake your purse, the sound of the gold will bring me to you in an instant. In this world every one consults his own advantage; but you see I have thought of yours, and clearly confer upon you a new power. Oh this purse! it would still prove a powerful bond between us, had the moth begun to devour your shadow.--But enough: you hold me by my gold, and may command your servant at any distance. You know that I can be very serviceable to my friends; and that the rich are my peculiar care--this you have observed. As to your shadow, allow me to say, you can only redeem it on one condition."
Recollections of former days came over me; and I hastily asked him if he had obtained Mr. Thomas John's signature.
He smiled, and said, "It was by no means necessary from so excellent a friend."
"Where is he? for God's sake tell me: I insist upon knowing."
With some hesitation, he put his hand into his pocket, and drew out the altered and pallid form of Mr. John by the hair of his head, whose livid lips uttered the awful words, "Justo judicio Dei judicatus sum; justo judicio Dei condemnatus sum"--"I am judged and condemned by the just judgment of God."
I was horrorstruck; and instantly throwing the jingling purse into the abyss, I exclaimed, "Wretch! in the name of Heaven, I conjure you to be gone!--away from my sight!--never appear before me again!" With a dark expression on his countenance, he arose, and immediately vanished behind the huge rocks which surrounded the place.
He put his hand in his pocket and drew out the
and pallid form of Mr. John.
I was now left equally without gold and without shadow; but a heavy load was taken from my breast, and I felt cheerful. Had not my Minna been irrecoverably lost to me, or even had I been perfectly free from self-reproach on her account, I felt that happiness might yet have been mine. At present I was lost in doubt as to my future course. I examined my pockets, and found I had a few gold pieces still left, which I counted with feelings of great satisfaction. I had left my horse at the inn, and was ashamed to return, or at all events I must wait till the sun had set, which at present was high in the heavens. I laid myself down under a shady tree, and fell into a peaceful sleep.
Lovely forms floated in airy measures before me, and filled up my delightful dreams. Minna, with a garland of flowers entwined in her hair, was bending over me with a smile of good-will; also the worthy Bendel was crowned with flowers, and hastened to meet me with friendly greetings. Many other forms seemed to rise up confusedly in the distance: thyself among the number, Chamisso. Perfect radiance beamed around them, but none had a shadow; and what was more surprising, there was no appearance of unhappiness on this account. Nothing was to be seen or heard but flowers and music; and love and joy, and groves of never-fading palms, seemed the natives of that happy clime.
In vain I tried to detain and comprehend the lovely but fleeting forms. I was conscious, also, of being in a dream, and was anxious that nothing should rouse me from it; and when I did awake, I kept my eyes closed, in order if possible to continue the illusion. At last I opened my eyes. The sun was now visible in the east; I must have slept the whole night: I looked upon this as a warning not to return to the inn. What I had left there I was content to lose, without much regret; and resigning myself to Providence, I decided on taking a by-road that led through the wooded declivity of the mountain. I never once cast a glance behind me; nor did it ever occur to me to return, as I might have done, to Bendel, whom I had left in affluence. I reflected on the new character I was now going to assume in the world. My present garb was very humble,--consisting of an old black coat I formerly had worn at Berlin, and which by some chance was the first I put my hand on before setting out on this journey, a travelling-cap, and an old pair of boots. I cut down a knotted stick in memory of the spot, and commenced my pilgrimage.
In the forest I met an aged peasant, who gave me a friendly greeting, and with whom I entered into conversation, requesting, as a traveller desirous of information, some particulars relative to the road, the country, and its inhabitants, the productions of the mountains, &c. He replied to my various inquiries with readiness and intelligence. At last we reached the bed of a mountain-torrent, which had laid waste a considerable tract of the forest; I inwardly shuddered at the idea of the open sunshine. I suffered the peasant to go before me. In the middle of the very place which I dreaded so much, he suddenly stopped, and turned back to give me an account of this inundation; but instantly perceiving that I had no shadow, he broke off abruptly, and exclaimed, "How is this?--you have no shadow!"
"Alas, alas!" said I, "in a long and serious illness I had the misfortune to lose my hair, my nails, and my shadow. Look, good father; although my hair has grown again, it is quite white; and at my age, my nails are still very short; and my poor shadow seems to have left me, never to return."
"Ah!" said the old man, shaking his head; "no shadow! that was indeed a terrible illness, sir."
But he did not resume his narrative; and at the very first cross-road we came to, left me without uttering a syllable.
Fresh tears flowed from my eyes, and my cheerfulness had fled. With a heavy heart I travelled on, avoiding all society. I plunged into the deepest shades of the forest; and often, to avoid a sunny tract of country, I waited for hours till every human being had left it, and I could pass it unobserved. In the evenings I took shelter in the villages. I bent my steps to a mine in the mountains, where I hoped to meet with work underground; for besides that my present situation compelled me to provide for my own support, I felt that incessant and laborious occupation alone could divert my mind from dwelling on painful subjects. A few rainy days assisted me materially on my journey; but it was to the no small detriment of my boots, the soles of which were better suited to Count Peter than to the poor foot-traveller. I was soon barefoot, and a new purchase must be made.
"So was obliged to content myself with a
The following morning I commenced an earnest search in a market-place, where a fair was being held; and I saw in one of the booths new and second-hand boots set out for sale. I was a long time selecting and bargaining; I wished much to have a new pair, but was frightened at the extravagant price; and so was obliged to content myself with a second-hand pair, still pretty good and strong, which the beautiful fair-haired youth who kept the booth handed over to me with a cheerful smile, wishing me a prosperous journey. I went on, and left the place immediately by the northern gate.
I was so lost in my own thoughts, that I walked along scarcely knowing how or where. I was calculating the chances of my reaching the mine by the evening, and considering how I should introduce myself. I had not gone two hundred steps, when I perceived I was not in the right road. I looked round, and found myself in a wild-looking forest of ancient firs, where apparently the stroke of the axe had never been heard. A few steps more brought me amid huge rocks covered with moss and saxifragous plants, between which whole fields of snow and ice were extended. The air was intensely cold. I looked round, and the forest had disappeared behind me; a few steps more, and there was the stillness of death itself. The icy plain on which I stood stretched to an immeasurable distance, and a thick cloud rested upon it; the sun was of a red blood-colour at the verge of the horizon; the cold was insupportable. I could not imagine what had happened to me. The benumbing frost made me quicken my pace. I heard a distant sound of waters; and, at one step more, I stood on the icy shore of some ocean. Innumerable droves of sea-dogs rushed past me and plunged into the waves. I continued my way along this coast, and again met with rocks, plains, birch and fir forests, and yet only a few minutes had elapsed.
It was now intensely hot. I looked around, and suddenly found myself between some fertile rice-fields and mulberry-trees; I sat down under their shade, and found by my watch that it was just one quarter of an hour since I had left the village-market. I fancied it was a dream; but no, I was indeed awake, as I felt by the experiment I made of biting my tongue. I closed my eyes, in order to collect my scattered thoughts. Presently I heard unintelligible words uttered in a nasal tone; and I beheld two Chinese, whose Asiatic physiognomies were not to be mistaken, even had their costume not betrayed their origin. They were addressing me in the language and with the salutations of their country.
On the shores of the Frozen Sea.
I rose, and drew back a couple of steps. They had disappeared; the landscape was entirely changed; the rice-fields had given place to trees and woods. I examined some of the trees and plants around me, and ascertained such of them as I was acquainted with to be productions of the southern part of Asia. I made one step towards a particular tree, and again all was changed. I now moved on like a recruit at drill, taking slow and measured steps, gazing with astonished eyes at the wonderful variety of regions, plains, meadows, mountains, steppes, and sandy deserts, which passed in succession before me. I had now no doubt that I had seven-leagued boots on my feet.
I fell on my knees in silent gratitude, shedding tears of thankfulness; for I now saw clearly what was to be my future condition. Shut out by early sins from all human society, I was offered amends for the privation by Nature herself, which I had ever loved. The earth was granted me as a rich garden; and the knowledge of her operations was to be the study and object of my life. This was not a mere resolution. I have since endeavoured, with anxious and unabated industry, faithfully to imitate the finished and brilliant model then presented to me; and my vanity has received a check when led to compare the picture with the original. I rose immediately, and took a hasty survey of this new field, where I hoped afterwards to reap a rich harvest.
I stood on the heights of Thibet; and the sun I had lately beheld in the east was now sinking in the west. I traversed Asia from east to west, and thence passed into Africa, which I curiously examined at repeated visits in all directions. As I gazed on the ancient pyramids and temples of Egypt, I descried, in the sandy deserts near Thebes of the hundred gates, the caves where Christian hermits dwelt of old.
My determination was instantly taken, that here should be my future dwelling. I chose one of the most secluded, but roomy, comfortable, and inaccessible to the jackals.
I stepped over from the pillars of Hercules to Europe; and having taken a survey of its northern and southern countries, I passed by the north of Asia, on the polar glaciers, to Greenland, and America, visiting both parts of this continent; and the winter, which was already at its height in the south, drove me quickly back from Cape Horn to the north. I waited till daylight had risen in the east of Asia, and then, after a short rest, continued my pilgrimage. I followed in both the Americas the vast chain of the Andes, once considered the loftiest on our globe. I stepped carefully and slowly from one summit to another, sometimes over snowy heights, sometimes over flaming volcanoes, often breathless from fatigue. At last I reached Elias's mountain, and sprang over Behring's straits into Asia; I followed the western coast in its various windings, carefully observing which of the neighbouring isles was accessible to me. From the peninsula of Malacca, my boots carried me to Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Lombock. I made many attempts--often with danger, and always unsuccessfully--to force my way over the numerous little islands and rocks with which this sea is studded, wishing to find a north-west passage to Borneo and other islands of the Archipelago.
At last I sat down at the extreme point of Lombock, my eyes turned towards the south-east, lamenting that I had so soon reached the limits allotted to me, and bewailing my fate as a captive in his grated cell. Thus was I shut out from that remarkable country, New Holland, and the islands of the southern ocean, so essentially necessary to a knowledge of the earth, and which would have best assisted me in the study of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. And thus, at the very outset, I beheld all my labours condemned to be limited to mere fragments.
Ah! Chamisso, what is the activity of man?
Frequently in the most rigorous winters of the southern hemisphere I have rashly thrown myself on a fragment of drifting ice between Cape Horn and Van Dieman's Land, in the hope of effecting a passage to New Holland, reckless of the cold and the vast ocean, reckless of my fate, even should this savage land prove my grave.
But all in vain--I never reached New Holland. Each time, when defeated in my attempt, I returned to Lombock; and seated at its extreme point, my eyes directed to the south-east, I gave way afresh to lamentations that my range of investigation was so limited. At last I tore myself from the spot, and, heartily grieved at my disappointment, returned to the interior of Asia. Setting out at morning dawn, I traversed it from east to west, and at night reached the cave in Thebes which I had previously selected for my dwelling-place, and had visited yesterday afternoon.
At last I sat down at the extreme point of
After a short repose, as soon as daylight had visited Europe, it was my first care to provide myself with the articles of which I stood most in need. First of all a drag, to act on my boots; for I had experienced the inconvenience of these whenever I wished to shorten my steps and examine surrounding objects more fully. A pair of slippers to go over the boots served the purpose effectually; and from that time I carried two pairs about me, because I frequently cast them off from my feet in my botanical investigations, without having time to pick them up, when threatened by the approach of lions, men, or hyenas. My excellent watch, owing to the short duration of my movements, was also on these occasions an admirable chronometer. I wanted, besides, a sextant, a few philosophical instruments, and some books. To purchase these things, I made several unwilling journeys to London and Paris, choosing a time when I could be hid by the favouring clouds. As all my ill-gotten gold was exhausted, I carried over from Africa some ivory, which is there so plentiful, in payment of my purchases--taking care, however, to pick out the smallest teeth, in order not to overburden myself. I had thus soon provided myself with all that I wanted, and now entered on a new mode of life as a student--wandering over the globe--measuring the height of the mountains, and the temperature of the air and of the springs--observing the manners and habits of animals--investigating plants and flowers. From the equator to the pole, and from the new world to the old, I was constantly engaged in repeating and comparing my experiments.
My usual food consisted of the eggs of the African ostrich or northern sea-birds, with a few fruit, especially those of the palm and the banana of the tropics. The tobacco-plant consoled me when I was depressed; and the affection of my spaniel was a compensation for the loss of human Sympathy and society. When I returned from my excursions, loaded with fresh treasures, to my cave in Thebes, which he guarded during my absence, he ever sprang joyfully forward to greet me, and made me feel that I was indeed not alone on the earth. An adventure soon occurred which brought me once more among my fellow-creatures.
* * * * *
One day, as I was gathering lichens and algae on the northern coast, with the drag on my boots, a bear suddenly made his appearance, and was stealing towards me round the corner of a rock. After throwing away my slippers, I attempted to step across to an island, by means of a rock, projecting from the waves in the intermediate space, that served as a stepping-stone. I reached the rock safely with one foot, but instantly fell into the sea with the other, one of my slippers having inadvertently remained on. The cold was intense; and I escaped this imminent peril at the risk of my life. On coming ashore, I hastened to the Libyan sands, to dry myself in the sun; but the heat affected my head so much, that, in a fit of illness, I staggered back to the north. In vain I sought relief by change of place--hurrying from east to west, and from west to east--now in climes of the south, now in those of the north; sometimes I rushed into daylight, sometimes into the shades of night. I know not how long this lasted. A burning fever raged in my veins; with extreme anguish I felt my senses leaving me. Suddenly, by an unlucky accident, I trod upon someone's foot, whom I had hurt, and received a blow in return, which laid me senseless.
On recovering, I found myself lying comfortably in a good bed, which, with many other beds, stood in a spacious and handsome apartment. Someone was watching by me; people seemed to be walking from one bed to another; they came beside me, and spoke of me as Number Twelve. On the wall, at the foot of my bed,--it was no dream, for I distinctly read it,--on a black-marble tablet was inscribed my name, in large letters of gold:
Underneath were two rows of letters in smaller characters, which I was too feeble to connect together, and closed my eyes again.
I now heard something read aloud, in which I distinctly noted the words "Peter Schlemihl," but could not collect the full meaning. I saw a man of benevolent aspect, and a very beautiful female dressed in black, standing near my bed; their countenances were not unknown to me, but in my weak state I could not remember who they were. Some time elapsed, and I began to regain my strength. I was called Number Twelve, and, from my long beard, was supposed to be a Jew, but was not the less carefully nursed on that account. No one seemed to perceive that I was destitute of a shadow. My boots, I was assured, together with every thing found on me when I was brought here, were in safe keeping, and would be given up to me on my restoration to health. This place was called the SCHLEMIHLIUM: the daily recitation I had heard, was an exhortation to pray for Peter Schlemihl as the founder and benefactor of this institution. The benevolent-looking man whom I had seen by my bedside was Bendel; the beautiful lady in black was Minna.
I had been enjoying the advantages of the Schlemihlium without being recognised; and I learned, further, that I was in Bendel's native town, where he had employed a part of my once unhallowed gold in founding a hospital in my name, under his superintendence, and that its unfortunate inmates daily pronounced blessings on me. Minna had become a widow: an unhappy law-suit had deprived Rascal of his life, and Minna of the greater part of her property. Her parents were no more; and here she dwelt in widowed piety, wholly devoting herself to works of mercy.
One day, as she stood by the side of Number Twelve's bed with Bendel, he said to her, "Noble lady, why expose yourself so frequently to this unhealthy atmosphere? Has fate dealt so harshly with you as to render you desirous of death?"
"By no means, Mr. Bendel," she replied; "since I have awoke from my long dream, all has gone well with me. I now neither wish for death nor fear it, and think on the future and on the past with equal serenity. Do you not also feel an inward satisfaction in thus paying a pious tribute of gratitude and love to your old master and friend?"
"Thanks be to God, I do, noble lady," said he. "Ah, how wonderfully has everything fallen out! How thoughtlessly have we sipped joys and sorrows from the full cup now drained to the last drop; and we might fancy the past a mere prelude to the real scene for which we now wait armed by experience. How different has been the reality! Yet let us not regret the past, but rather rejoice that we have not lived in vain. As respects our old friend also, I have a firm hope that it is now better with him than formerly."
"I trust so too," answered Minna; and so saying, she passed by me, and they departed.
This conversation made a deep impression on me; and I hesitated whether I should reveal myself, or depart unknown. At last I decided; and, asking for pen and paper, wrote as follows:--
"Matters are indeed better with your old friend than formerly. He has repented; and his repentance has led to forgiveness."
I now attempted to rise, for I felt myself stronger. The keys of a little chest near my bed were given me; and in it I found all my effects. I put on my clothes--fastened my botanical case round me, wherein, with delight, I found my northern lichens all safe--put on my boots--and leaving my note on the table, left the gates, and was speedily far advanced on the road to Thebes.
Passing along the Syrian coast, which was the same road I had taken on last leaving home, I beheld poor Figaro, my spaniel, running to meet me. The faithful animal, after vainly waiting at home for his master's return, had probably followed his traces. I stood still, and called him. He sprang towards me with leaps and barks, and a thousand demonstrations of unaffected delight. I took him in my arms--for he was unable to follow me--and carried him home.
There I found everything exactly in the order in which I had left it; and returned by degrees, as my increasing strength allowed me, to my old occupations and usual mode of life, from which I was kept back a whole year by my fall into the Polar ocean. And this, dear Chamisso, is the life I am still leading. My boots are not yet worn out, as I had been led to fear would be the case, from that very learned work of Tieckius--De rebus gestis Pollicilli. Their energies remain unimpaired; and although mine are gradually failing me, I enjoy the consolation of having spent them in pursuing incessantly one object, and that not fruitlessly.
Peter at Home.
So far as my boots would carry me, I have observed and studied our globe and its conformation, its mountains and temperature, the atmosphere in its various changes, the influences of the magnetic power,--in fact, I have studied all living creation--and more especially the kingdom of plants--more profoundly than any one of our race. I have arranged all the facts in proper order, to the best of my ability, in different works. The consequences deducible from these facts, and my views respecting them, I have hastily recorded in some essays and dissertations. I have settled the geography of the interior of Africa and the Arctic regions, of the interior of Asia and of its eastern coast. My Historia stirpium plantarum utriusque orbis is an extensive fragment of a Flora universalis terræ and a part of my Systema naturæ. Besides increasing the number of our known species by more than a third, I have also contributed somewhat to the natural system of plants, and to a knowledge of their geography. I am now deeply engaged on my Fauna, and shall take care to have my manuscripts sent to the University of Berlin before my decease.
I have selected thee, my dear Chamisso, to be the guardian of my wonderful history, thinking that, when I have left this world, it may afford valuable instruction to the living. As for thee, Chamisso, if thou wouldst live amongst thy fellow-creatures, learn to value thy shadow more than gold; if thou wouldst only live to thyself and thy nobler part--in this thou needest no counsel.
Wilhelm Hauff was born on the 29th November, 1802, at Stuttgart, and died in the same town on the 18th November, 1827, within a few days of completing his twenty-fifth year.
Losing his father when but six years of age, he was placed in the care of his grandfather in Tübingen, and was later sent to a convent school at Blaubeuren. Returning to Tübingen, he devoted four years, 1820-24, to the study of theology, and was appointed tutor to the family of Baron von Hügel in Stuttgart.
It was at this time that Hauff began his remarkable literary career with the publication in November, 1825, of his "Fairy Tale Annual for 1826." The years 1826 and 1827 saw the appearance of two succeeding annuals of fairy stories, which were everywhere received with the most enthusiastic admiration.
Hauff's productivity was truly amazing; in four years he wrote, besides the fairy-tales, poems, short stories, fantasies satirical and humourous, and the classic novel "Lichtenstein," all of which have gained an enduring place in German literature.
Returning from a journey through France, Holland and North Germany, Hauff was appointed to the literary editorship of the "Morgenblatt," a position which enabled him to marry, the wedding taking place in Nördlingen, on the 13th February, 1827.
Hauff's journalistic duties did not interfere with his activity in other spheres of literary work. In this last year of his short life he continued to produce short stories and fantasies, his experiences while on his travels furnishing him with plenty of material. Indeed, it was while on a journey that he wrote the second "Fairy-tale Annual."
Shortly after his marriage he set himself to the composition of his third a final "Annual"--the connecting story of which is entitled "The Inn in Spessart," and in which occurs the story of "The Cold Heart," a new translation of which is published in the present volume.
Hauff's brilliant career was now drawing to a close. The last work to proceed from his pen was the playful fantasy, "Phantasien im Bremer Ratskeller." Early in November, 1827, a daughter was born to him; but he was already suffering from an attack of typhoid fever, to which he succumbed on the 18th day of the same month.
Notwithstanding the genius displayed in his other works, the "Fairytales" will always be regarded as the most precious legacy which the great author has bequeathed to posterity; and of these "The Cold Heart" holds undoubtedly the first place in popular esteem. Unlike the majority of his fairy-tales, it owes something of its origin to folk-lore, as it is based on an old Black Forest Legend. But the human figures in the story are Hauff's very own; those conversant with the master's works will recognise in Charcoal Peter and Fat Ezekiel characters which only Hauff could have created.
As in all his fairy-tales the human element is supreme, even Dutch Michael and the Glassmanikin evince more human characteristics than supernatural, and though they came from a mythological source they never appear to us pale and colourless as the supernatural beings in the fairy-tales of the brothers Grimm. Having chosen the groundwork of his story, Hauff developed it with all the force of his vivid imagination, fantastic humour and rare talent for narration.
H. Robertson Murray.
He who travels through Suabia should not pass without seeing something of the Black Forest; not because of the trees, although such countless masses of stately pines are not to be met with everywhere; but because of the people, who differ remarkably from their neighbours on every side. They are broad-shouldered and strong-limbed and taller than the generality of human beings; it is as if the invigorating air, which blows every morning through the pines, has endowed them with a freer respiration, a clearer eye and a firmer though, perhaps, rougher courage than is possessed by the dwellers in valley and on plain. And not only in bearing and stature, but also in customs and dress they form a marked contrast to those who live beyond the confines of the forest. The costume of the Baden Black Forester is the more picturesque: with full-grown beards, as in accordance with Nature's intention, the men, in their black jerkins, their enormous narrow-pleated breeches, their red stockings and their peaked, broad-brimmed hats, have an air somewhat strange, but, at the same time, serious and dignified. These people are mostly occupied in glassblowing; but they are also noted for the manufacture of clocks, which are exported to all parts of the world.
On the other side of the forest dwell people of the same stock; but their employment has imparted to them habits, manners and customs differing from those of the glass-blowers. They are occupied with their forest, felling and splitting up the pine trees, which they float down the Nagold to the Necker, and thence to the Rhine and to far-away Holland. The Black Foresters and their rafts are familiar objects even to the inhabitants of the remote coast regions. The raftsmen touch at every town along the river, proudly awaiting offers for their baulks and beams; but the strongest and the longest of the former they sell for gold to the Mynheers, who build ships of them. These men are accustomed, therefore, to a rough, wandering existence. Their delight is to float down stream on their rafts, while the return homeward along the river-banks is but weary work.
Their holiday costume is also very different from that of the glass-blowers on the other side of the Black Forest. They wear dark linen jerkins with wide, green braces across their broad chests, and black leathern breeches, from the pocket of which peeps, as a badge of honour, the end of a brass foot-rule. But they take most joy and pride in their boots, the biggest, perhaps, which have ever been in fashion in any part of the world, for these are drawn quite two handspans above the knee, so that the raftsmen can wade knee deep in the water without getting wet.
Until quite recently the inhabitants of this forest believed it inhabited by supernatural beings, and it is only latterly that they have begun to abandon the superstition, and it is remarkable that even the forest spirits, which according to legend haunt the Black Forest, are also distinguished by their different costume and habits. Thus we are assured, the Glass-manikin, a benevolent elf, of about four feet in height, is never seen in anything but a little peaked broad trimmed hat, with jerkin, knee-breeches and red stockings.
Dutch Michael again, who dwells on the other side of the forest, is said to be a gigantic, broad shouldered fellow, dressed in like fashion to the raftsmen; and many people, who have seen him, are wont to declare that they would not like to bear the cost of the calves, the skins of which have gone to the making of the boots. "So big are they that an ordinary man could stand up to his neck in them," say the latter, protesting that the description is no exaggerated one.
Now, there is a story of the very strange adventure which a young Black Forester once had with these forest spirits, and which story I will now relate.
In the Black Forest there lived a widow, one Mistress Barbara Munk; her husband had been a charcoal burner, and after his death she brought up her son, a lad of sixteen, to the same calling. Peter Munk, a slenderly built young fellow, took to the business as a matter of course, because he had never seen his father do aught else but sit by his smoking charcoal-kiln, or, blackened and begrimed, travel to the towns to sell his charcoal.
Now, a charcoal-burner has a great deal of time for meditation on things as they are, and on himself; and as Peter Munk sat before his kiln, the dark trees around him and the heavy silence of the forest stirred his heart to sorrow and to vague longings. He felt grieved and vexed at something; but what that something was he could not tell. At last, the cause of his discontent was revealed to him: it was--his position in the world.
"A grimy, lonely charcoal-burner!" he exclaimed to himself. "What a wretched existence! Look at the glassblowers, the watchmakers, even the musicians who play on Sunday evenings--how they are respected! And I, Peter Munk, though cleaned up and dressed in my father's best jerkin with the silver buttons, and with my brand-new red stockings on, if someone follows me and asks himself 'Who can that slim young fellow be?'--admiring my stockings and easy gait, no sooner does he pass me and chance to look round, than he exclaims, 'Pooh, it's only that charcoal-burning Peter Munk after all.'"
The raftsmen on the other side of the forest were also objects of his envy. When these giants came over to his side of the forest, in all their glory of apparel, their buttons, chains and buckles representing great weight and wealth of silver; when they stood with outstretched legs looking on at the dancing, swearing Dutch oaths, and smoking yard-long Rhenish pipes like the grandest Mynheers, each of these handsome raftsmen appeared to him to be a perfect representation of a really happy man. And when one of these lucky fellows chanced to dive his hands into his pockets, bringing forth whole handsful of silver thalers, and throwing them down on the dice table, five gulden here, ten there, Peter became well-nigh distracted, and slunk dolefully back to his hut; for on many a festival he had seen one or other of these woodsmen play away more money than his poor father had been able to earn in a year.
There were three of these men in particular of whom he could not say which he admired the most. One was a big, fat, red-faced man, generally conceded to be the richest person in those parts. He was called Fat Ezekiel. Twice a year he travelled to Amsterdam with building timber, and always had the good fortune to dispose of it at so much better profit than his comrades could, that he was able to travel homewards in luxurious style, while they were compelled to return on foot.
The second was the tallest and lankiest fellow in the whole forest. He was called Lanky Schlurker, and Munk envied him because of his extraordinary boldness. He would flatly contradict the most worthy people, and always took up more room in the overcrowded tavern than was required by four others of the bulkiest, leaning with both elbows on the table, or stretching his legs along the bench; yet nobody dared to complain, for he was fabulously rich.
The third was a handsome young man, the best dancer for miles round, who had earned the nickname of the Dance King. He had formerly been a poor man in the service of a wealthy timber merchant; but all at once he had become immensely rich. Some said that he had found a jar, full of money, at the root of an old pine tree; others maintained that not far from Bingen on the Rhine he had brought up with his pole, such as the raftsmen use to spear fish, a bundle filled with gold, and that this bundle had formed part of the great Nibelung's hoard which lies buried there. But no matter--the fact was that he had suddenly become rich, and was consequently respected by young and old as if he had been a prince.
The charcoal-burner, Peter Munk, thought long and oft of these men as he sat alone among the pine-trees. All three of them had one great failing which made them hated by all; and this common failing was their inhuman avarice, their callousness towards debtors and the poor, for the Black-foresters were a kindly and good-hearted people. Nevertheless, as is often found in such cases, though they were hated because of their covetousness, they were held in awe because of their money; for who but they could fling thalers broadcast as though by simply shaking the pine-trees the money fell into their hands.
"I cannot endure this any longer!" said Peter to himself, sorely depressed, one day when there had been a fête, and the people had foregathered in the tavern to enjoy themselves. "If I do not soon have a stroke of luck, I shall be doing myself some harm. Oh, if I were only as rich and feared as Fat Ezekiel, or as bold and strong as the Lanky Schlurker, or as famous as the Dance King, throwing thalers instead of kreuzers to the musicians, as he does! Where the fellow gets his money from is a mystery to me!" He turned over in his mind all possible means of earning money, but none attracted him; at last, he fell to reflecting on the stories which he had heard of people who in bygone times had become rich through the aid of Dutch Michael or the Glassmanikin. While his father was alive, other poor folk would often pay him visits, and the conversation would turn on rich people and how they had gained their wealth. In these stories the Glassmanikin often played a part. Indeed, after some striving, Peter was able to recall a portion of the little rhymed incantation which had to be pronounced in the depths of the forest before the Glassmanikin would appear. It began thus:
"Guardian of gold in the pine-tree wold,
Art many hundred ages old.
Lord of all lands where pine-trees grow."
But tax his memory as he might, he could not recollect any more of the rhyme. He often felt inclined to question this or that old man how the little incantation ran, but a certain shyness always prevented him from betraying the drift of his thoughts. He came also to the conclusion that not many could be acquainted with the story of the Glassmanikin, and but few could know the incantation, as there were hardly any rich people in the forest, and--but why had not his father and other poor folk tried their luck? At last, he coaxed his mother to talk of the Glassmanikin; but she could only tell him what he already knew, being able to quote only the first line of the rhymed incantation, although she informed him, at length, that the goblin showed himself only to those born on a Sunday between the hours of eleven and two. He himself, having been born at noon on a Sunday, was, therefore, one of the elect, if he but knew the incantation.
When Charcoal-Peter Munk heard this he could scarcely contain himself with joy and eagerness to make the adventure. Because he knew a part of the incantation and was born on Sunday, he conjectured that the Glassmanikin would surely show himself. One day, therefore, having sold all his charcoal he kindled no fresh fires in his kilns, but dressed himself in his father's state-jerkin and new red stockings, donned his Sunday hat, took his five-foot blackthorn stick in hand, and bade farewell to his mother. "I must go to the mayoralty in town," he said, "for we have to draw lots as to who shall serve as soldier, and I will impress it on the mayor, for once and for all, that you are a widow and that I am your only son."
His mother having commended his resolution, he made his way to the Pine-grove. The Pine-grove lies on the highest point of the Black Forest, for miles around which there lay at that time no village, not even a hut, for the superstitious people believed that the spot was haunted. Further, no one cared to fell wood in that quarter, though the pines there grew tall and stately, for it often happened that when woodcutters were at work there, their axeheads flew from the hafts and wounded them in the foot, or the trees fell over without warning, injuring and even killing the men round about; besides which, even the finest trees growing there were only used as firewood, for the raftsmen never took any timber from the Pine-grove, because the saying went that man and wood would surely come to grief if a tree from the Pine-grove found itself in a raft. This is the reason why the trees grew so thick and tall in the Pine-grove, so that even in the brightest sunshine all was as dark as night. Well might Peter Munk shudder with fear, for he could hear no sound of of human voice, no ring of axe, and no footfall save his own; even the very birds appeared to shun this awesome grove.
Having reached the highest point in the Pine-grove, Charcoal-Peter Munk stood before a pine of huge circumference, one for which any Dutch ship-builder would have given many hundred guilders on the spot.
"This must be the place," thought Peter, "where the Treasure-guardian lives." Saying which, he doffed his big Sunday hat, made a deep bow before the tree, cleared his throat and spoke in a trembling voice: "I wish you a very good evening, Master Glassmanikin!"
No answer--all was as silent as before.
"Perhaps I had better recite the little verse," thought Peter, and straightway began to mutter:
"Guardian of gold in the pine-tree wold,
Art many hundred ages old;
Lord of all lands where pine-trees grow."
As he uttered these words he saw to his amazement a tiny, weird figure peeping forth from behind the great pine tree. He fancied he could see the little Glassmanikin just as the latter had been described to him, with his little black jerkin, little red stockings, little hat; everything, indeed, even the pale, but wise and refined little face of which he had heard so much. But, alas! the Glassmanikin vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
"Master Glassmanikin!" said Peter Munk, after a moment's hesitation, "please don't take me for a fool!--Master Glassmanikin, if you think that I did not catch sight of you, you are greatly mistaken: I saw you quite clearly peeping from behind the tree."
Still no answer, though, at times, he fancied he could hear a faint, hoarse chuckle from behind the tree. Finally, his impatience overcame his fear, which until now had restrained him.
"Just you wait a moment, you little beggar," he cried out, "I'll soon have you!" and at one bound he was behind the pine-tree, but there was no "guardian of gold in the pine-tree wold," nothing but a pretty little squirrel clambering away up the tree.
Peter Munk shook his head; he perceived that he had succeeded in working the spell to a certain degree; and if he could only think of the last line to the rhyme he would be able to induce the Glassmanikin to show himself. He pondered, and pondered, and pondered, but all to no purpose. He could see the little squirrel perched on the lowest branch of the pine, and he could not be sure whether it was trying to inspire him with courage or only making fun of him. It cleaned itself, whisked its beautiful tail to and fro, gazing at him all the while with intelligent eyes, until he began to be almost afraid of being alone with the creature; for, at one moment, the little squirrel appeared to have a human head covered with a three cornered hat; then it looked just like any other squirrel, except that on its hind legs it had red stockings and black shoes. In short it was a comical creature; but, nevertheless, it made Charcoal Peter feel quite uncomfortable, for it seemed to him to be so uncanny.
Peter returned at a quicker pace than he had gone thither. The gloom of the pine-forest seemed to be intensified, the trees grew in denser clumps, and at last he was so fearful that he broke into a run, and did not regain courage until he heard dogs barking in the distance, and saw, shortly afterwards the smoke from a cottage rising between the trees. On drawing nearer, he was able to distinguish the costume of the people in the cottage, and he realised to his consternation that he had fled in exactly the opposite direction to the one he had intended, and had arrived among the raftsmen instead of among the glass-blowers. The cottagers were wood-fellers, and the family consisted of an old man, his son, who was the owner of the cottage, and some grown-up grandchildren. They bade Charcoal-Peter a kindly welcome when he asked for a night's lodging, without questioning him as to his name or whence he came, offered him cider to drink, and set on the table for supper a large woodcock, which is the choicest dish of the Black Forest.
Dutch Michael felling the trees.
After supper the housewife and her daughters betook themselves to their spinning, sitting round the large burning wood-splinter, which served as light and which the young people kept fed with the finest pine-resin, while the grandfather, the house-owner and their guest smoked and watched the women, and the boys busied themselves cutting spoons and forks out of wood. Without, in the forest the storm howled and rushed through the pines, heavy thuds being heard every now and then, as if whole trees were being torn up by the roots and flung to earth. The fearless youngsters wanted to run out into the forest to witness the scene in all its awful grandeur, but their grandfather forbade them with stern words and looks. "I advise no one to set foot outside the door this night," he cried to them; "he who does so will never return; for Dutch Michael is abroad to-night hewing down timber for a new raft."
The young ones stared at him; although they must have heard many a time of Dutch Michael, yet they begged their grandfather to relate them once more some good story of that forest-spirit. Peter Munk, also, who had only heard vague rumours of Dutch Michael on his side of the forest, chimed in with the others and begged the old man to say who and what he might be.
"He is the lord of this forest," answered the old man, "and for one of your age not to have heard of him tells me that your home lies on the other side of the Pine-grove, or even farther off. But I will relate to you what I know of Dutch Michael, and what people say of him. About a hundred years ago, at least, so my grandfather told me, there were no more honourable people than the Black-Foresters in the whole world. But now that money is so plentiful, dishonesty and evil are everywhere. Our young lads dance and riot on the Sabbath, and swear terribly. But formerly it was quite otherwise, and, though he himself were to look through the window at this moment, I say, as I have said time and again, that Dutch Michael is to blame for all the mischief. Well--one hundred or more years ago, there lived a rich timber merchant who had a very large business; he traded far away down the Rhine, and his affairs prospered, for he was a good Christian. One evening there came to his door a man, the like of whom he had never cast eyes upon. He was dressed as one of our young Black-Foresters, but was a good head taller than any of them; indeed, one could hardly have believed that there was such a giant in existence. The fellow asked the merchant for work, and the latter, seeing how strong and capable of doing heavy work he looked, was ready to engage him at a fair wage. So the matter was agreed upon. Michael turned out to be a workman such as that merchant had never yet employed. He was equal to three men at felling trees, and where it took six men to carry one end of a trunk, he could manage the other end all by himself. But after six months at tree-felling, he went one day to his master, and demanded of him: 'I have been hewing wood long enough in this place, and I would like to know where the felled trunks go; how would it be if you were to let me go for a time on one of your rafts?'"
The timber merchant replied: "I won't stand in your way, Michael, if you want to see a bit of the world. It's true that I am in sore need of strong fellows like yourself for the tree-felling, while on the rafts it is more a question of skill. For this once, however, you may go!"
And thus it was; the raft upon which he was to go was in eight parts, the last part being composed of enormous roof-beams. But what happened? The night before starting, this huge fellow brought down to the water yet another eight beams, bigger and longer than any that had ever been seen, so much so that everybody was amazed. And no one knows to this day where he had felled them. The merchant chuckled to himself when he calculated the price these beams would fetch. But Michael said: "These are for me to travel upon, for I could not make any headway on those little splinters."
His grateful master then wished to present him with a pair of raftsmen's boots, but Michael put them aside, and brought forth another pair, such as had never before been made. My grandfather used to declare that they must have weighed a hundred pounds, and were five feet in length.
The raft went on its way, and as Michael had hitherto astonished the wood-cutters, he now caused the raftsmen to marvel; for the raft, instead of going more slowly down the stream, as one would have thought, taking the monstrous baulks into consideration, it simply flew forward like an arrow as soon as it reached the Neckar. And when it came to a bend in the river where otherwise the raftsmen would have had trouble to keep the raft in mid-stream or to prevent it from stranding, Michael would spring into the water, and with one push would force the raft to left or right, so that it escaped danger; and if they came to a shallow, he ran to the forepart of the raft, made them all lay aside their poles, laid a huge round beam on the sandbank, and with one push the raft sped over, so fast that land, trees and villages seemed to fly past. Thus they came to Cologne in about half the time it usually takes. Here it was that the wood was always sold at that time; but Michael addressed the raftsmen: "I can see that you are all good business men, and know how to manage your affairs to the best advantage! Do you suppose that here in Cologne they want all the timber which comes from the Black Forest for their own use? Not at all: they buy it from you at half its value, and then sell it at a higher price in Holland. Let us sell our smaller beams here, and then go on to Holland with the big ones; and what we receive above the usual price will be for our own profit."
Thus spoke the cunning Michael, and the others agreed; some because they wished to go to Holland, others for the sake of the money. There was only one honest man among them, and he tried to dissuade them from risking their master's goods, and from cheating him out of any higher price they might get. But they would not listen to him, and soon forgot the words he had said; though Dutch Michael did not forget them.
The raft continued its journey down the Rhine with Michael in command, so that it soon arrived at Rotterdam. There they received about four times the price usually obtained, while Michael's huge baulks fetched an enormous sum of money. When the Black Foresters saw so much gold they could scarcely contain themselves for joy. Michael divided the money into four parts, setting aside one for the master, and dividing the remainder among the men. With this they mixed with sailors and evil characters, spending their money in dissipation and debauchery in the taverns. As to the honest man, who had warned them, Dutch Michael is said to have sold him to a slave-dealer, for nothing more was ever heard of him.
From that day forth Holland has been the paradise of our Black Forest lads; the timber merchants knew nothing of this trade, and all the while money, swearing, evil habits, drink and gambling were being introduced by the raftsmen from Holland.
Dutch Michael, so the story goes, disappeared and was nowhere to be found; but it is certain that he did not die. For one hundred years his spirit has haunted the forest, and it is said that he has helped many to become rich, at the cost of their poor souls, of which I would rather not say any more. This much is certain, that on such stormy nights as this he is up in the Pine-grove, where no one fells trees, selecting the biggest pines. And my father has seen him take hold of one, four to five feet in thickness, and snap it as one would a reed. This is his gift to those who turn from the straight path to go to him; at midnight they carry their timber to the water, and fare away on it into Holland. Oh, if I were only king and lord of Holland, I would send him to the bottom with grape-shot; for every ship, the hull of which contains one single beam of Dutch Michael's felling, must come to grief. And that is the reason why one hears of so many shipwrecks; how otherwise could a fine, strong ship, as big as a church, sink in the open sea? Every time Dutch Michael fells a pine on a stormy night in the Black Forest, one of his old ones is sprung from the bottom of some ship, the water rushes in, and that ship with all on board is lost.
Such is the story of Dutch Michael, and it is but the truth when people declare that he is the author of all the evil which is committed in the Black Forest!
"Ah! he can make you rich enough!" continued the old man, confidentially. "But I would receive nothing at his hands, not for all the gold in the world would I stand in the shoes of Fat Ezekiel or the Lanky Schlurker. And it is also thought that the Dance-King is one of his familiars."
The storm had abated during the recital of the old man's story; the girls lit the lamps, and stole away; the men gave Peter Munk a sack full of leaves to serve as a pillow, and left him to sleep on the hearth, wishing him good-night as they went.
Never in his life had Charcoal-Peter dreamed so heavily as during that night. First there appeared to him the dark gigantic form of Dutch Michael, who wrenched open the window and stretched an enormously long arm into the room, in the hand of which was a purse full of gold pieces, which he shook so that the money jingled temptingly. Then he saw the little, friendly Glassmanikin riding round the room on a huge green bottle, and he seemed again to hear that hoarse chuckle he had heard in the Pine-grove. Then it was as if someone was murmuring in his left ear:
"From Holland comes Gold!
Canst have it, if bold.
For payment soon told!
Then again in his right ear he heard the little rhyme beginning:
"Guardian of gold in the pine tree wold!"
and a soft voice whispered: "Stupid Charcoal-Peter! silly Peter Munk! cannot you find a rhyme to 'grow,' and yet you were born at noon on a Sunday! Rhyme, stupid Peter, rhyme!"
Peter's dream in thee woodman's cottage.
He sighed and groaned in his sleep, he tried hard to find a rhyme; but as he had never been able to make one when awake, to do so in a dream was equally beyond him. But when he awoke with the first flush of dawn, his dream seemed to have been very wonderful; he sat with folded arms at the table, and thought of the whispered exhortation which still resounded in his ear: "Rhyme, stupid Charcoal-Peter, rhyme!" he repeated to himself, pressing his finger to his forehead; but no rhyme was forthcoming. But while he sat there, staring despondently in front of him and trying to think of a rhyme to "grow," three lads passed the house on their way through the forest, and one of them was singing as he trudged along:
"To the mountains there above,
To the heights where pine-trees grow,
I go to meet my love;
She's true to me, I know."
The words thrilled Peter's senses like a flash of lightning. He leapt to his feet and rushed out of the house, for he was not sure whether he had caught the words correctly. He ran after the three lads, and seized the singer by the arm.
"Stop, my friend!" he cried, "what was it you made to rhyme with 'grow'? For the love of Heaven tell me what you were singing?"
"What ever is the matter with you?" demanded the Black Forester. "I can sing what I like--and if you don't leave go of my arm, I'll----"
"Not till you tell me what you were singing," screamed Peter, nearly beside himself, and gripping the other more tightly by the arm.
Seeing which, the two friends of the singer lost all patience, and started punching the wretched Peter with all their might until the pain he suffered forced him to loose his hold and to sink to his knees.
"Have you had enough?" they asked him, while laughing at him. "Take care, you foolish fellow, that in future you do not molest people on the public highway."
"Ah, I will be careful enough as to that," replied Charcoal-Peter, dismally. "But now that you have beaten me, be so good as to repeat slowly and distinctly what that friend of yours was singing."
At which all three once more burst out laughing, making game of him; but the singer repeated the words of his song for him, and, laughing and singing, they went their way.
"Then know is the word," said Peter Munk, getting once more on to his legs. "Know rhymes with grow--and now Master Glassmanikin we will have another little chat together."
"Have you had enough?" they asked him.
He returned to the cottage, took his hat and long stick, bade farewell to the cottagers, and strode away in the direction of the pine-grove. Becoming engrossed in thought, he slackened his speed, for it had occurred to him that, now he had found a rhyme, he must complete the verse. At length, approaching the Pine-grove, and reaching the part where the trees grow taller and denser, he completed the missing line, and his delight caused him to bound into the air. At the same moment there stepped from behind a pine a gigantic man, dressed as a raftsman, and with a pole as big as a ship's mast in his hand. Peter Munk sank in terror to his knees, as he saw the stranger striding slowly towards him. He felt that this could be none other than Dutch Michael. No sound came from the terrible apparition, while Peter stole fearful glances at him every now and then. He towered a full head above the tallest man whom Peter had ever seen; his features were not youthful in appearance, neither did he look old, though his face was a mass of wrinkles and furrows. He wore a linen jerkin, and his huge boots, which were drawn up well over his leather knee-breeches, were exactly as they had been described to Peter.
"Peter Munk! what are you doing in the Pine-grove?" asked the lord of the forest, at last, in deep, threatening tones.
"Good morning, countryman," answered Peter, trying to conceal his terror, but trembling violently all the same. "I am going home through the Pine-grove."
"Peter Munk," rejoined the other, surveying him with a terrible penetrating look. "Your way lies not through this glade."
"You are quite right," said Peter, "but it is so hot to-day, and I thought it would be cooler here."
"Utter no falsehoods, Charcoal-Peter!" thundered Dutch Michael; "or I will strike you to earth with my staff! Do you think that I have not seen you begging of that pigmy yonder?" And he continued in more gentle tones: "Go to! Go to! that was a silly thing to do, and well it was for you that you did not know the incantation. He is a niggard, that little fellow, and gives but little; and those to whom he gives have not enough wherewith to enjoy themselves. Peter, you are a poor simpleton, and my heart grieves for you; such a brave and handsome fellow as you are, one who should make his mark in the world, and yet but a charcoal-burner! While others can throw away whole armsful of thalers and ducats, you have but a few farthings to spend;--'tis a wretched existence."
"True! true! You are right! 'Tis a miserable life!"
"Well, it is no fault of mine," pursued the terrible Michael; "I have already rescued many a brave fellow from misery, and you would not be the first. Tell me: how many hundred thalers do you want to begin with?"
As he spoke Michael rattled the money in his huge pocket, and the sound of it was as in the dream overnight. But his words caused Peter's heart to quake fearfully and painfully in his breast, he went hot and cold, for he did not look as one who offers gold out of compassion without expecting something in exchange.
Peter Munk, what are you doing in the pine grove?
There flashed into his mind the mysterious words of the old man when speaking of those who had become rich, whereupon, seized with indefinable horror and dread, he exclaimed: "Many thanks, good sir! but I would rather have nothing to do with you; I have heard enough of you already!" Saying which, he turned and ran away as fast as he could.
But the Forest demon, taking enormous strides, kept at his side, muttering in a dull and threatening voice: "You will repent this, Peter--so stands it written on your brow; I can read it in your eyes! You cannot escape me!--Run not so fast: hearken to a word of reason; yonder is the boundary of my domain."
Hearing this and seeing not far ahead a little ditch, Peter redoubled his speed in order to cross it and escape, and Michael was compelled to hurry in order to keep up with him, cursing and muttering threats the while. On coming to the ditch, the lad made a desperate leap, for he perceived that the demon had raised his staff to crush him with it. Luckily he managed to jump the ditch, and as he did so the staff flew into splinters as though it had struck against an invisible wall, while a large piece of it fell at Peter's feet.
He seized it, turning triumphantly to hurl it at the brutal Dutch Michael; but, in the same moment, he felt the wood moving in his hand, and discovered to his horror that he had hold of a huge snake, which was rearing its head at him with venomous tongue and glittering eyes. He loosened his grasp of it; but it had already entwined itself about his arm, bringing its swaying head nearer and nearer to his face. Then, in a flash, a monstrous woodcock swept down from above, seized the snake in its beak, and bore it aloft in the air. Dutch Michael, who had been watching the scene from the further side of the ditch, howled and shouted and raved as he saw the snake overpowered by this powerful antagonist.
"Then, in a flash, a monstrous woodcock swept
above and seized the snake in its beak."
Exhausted and trembling, Peter pursued his way; the path grew steeper, the scene ever wilder, until he found his way blocked by a huge pine-tree.
Bowing low towards the invisible Glassmanikin, just as he had done the day before, he began:
"Guardian of all in the pine-tree wold,
Art many hundred ages old,
Lord of all lands where pine-trees grow,
Thee only Sunday's children know."
"You haven't quite hit it, Charcoal-Peter; but as it is yourself, we will let it pass," said a soft clear voice close by him. He turned round in amazement; and there, under a splendid pine-tree, he saw a little, old manikin, clad in black jerkin and red stockings, and with a large hat on his head. He had a delicate friendly little face and beard, the latter as fine as a spider's web. And what was the more wonderful, he was smoking a pipe of blue glass; and Peter, on going nearer was astounded to see that the little man's clothes, shoes and hat were also made of coloured glass; yet it was as pliant as if still molten, for it folded and creased like cloth with every movement of the little body.
"So you have just met that vagabond, Dutch Michael," said the manikin, with an odd wheeze between each word. "He tried to give you a good fright; but I have relieved him of that magic cudgel of his--it will never serve him again as a weapon."
"Yes, Master Guardian," replied Peter, with a deep bow "I was quite terrified. You must indeed have been that Master Woodcock which bit the snake to death; for which I thank you with all my heart. But I have come to you for advice; things are very bad and irksome with me; a charcoal-burner cannot do much for himself; and as I am still young, I thought that, perhaps, I could become something better. And I cannot help thinking of others, and how well they have done for themselves in a very short time--take, for example, that fellow, Ezekiel, and the Dance-King, why, money is to them as leaves in autumn."
"Peter," said the little man gravely, emitting a long puff of smoke from his mouth: "Peter, don't mention such people to me. What profit have those who are able to appear to be happy for a year or two, only at the cost of misery hereafter? You must not despise your trade; it was your father's and your grandfather's before you, and they were worthy men, Peter Munk! I should not like to think that it is love of idleness that has led you to me!"
The seriousness with which the manikin spoke disconcerted Peter. "No, no," he replied, blushing. "Idleness, I know well, Master Guardian, is the root of all evil; but you cannot blame me for preferring other trades to my own. Charcoal-burning is held by the world to be such a mean calling, while glassblowers, and raftsmen, and watchmakers and such like are highly respected."
"Pride often comes before a fall," replied the diminutive lord of the Pine-forest, in somewhat friendlier tones. "You are a peculiar race, you human beings! It is seldom indeed that one is found who is contented with the lot to which he was born and bred. And to little purpose would it be if you did become a glass-blower, you would then yearn to be a timber-merchant; and were you timber-merchant, you would at once be coveting the post of forester or magistrate! Yet, so be it, Peter! if you promise me to be diligent, I will help you to something better. To every Sunday's child who knows how to find me, I am bound to accord three wishes. The first two I freely grant; but the third I can refuse, if it be a foolish one. Wherefore, Peter, wish yourself something: but take care that it is something good and useful!"
You hav'nt quite hit, Charcoal Peter.
"Hurrah! what a splendid Glass-manikin you are; you rightly deserve to be called Guardian, for you can dispense treasures indeed! Well--and so I may wish for whatever my heart desires! Now, for my first, I wish I could dance even better than the Dance-King, and could always have as much money in my pocket as Fat Ezekiel."
"You idiot!" cried the dwarf, angrily. "What a miserable wish--to be a good dancer, and to have money wherewith to gamble! Are you not ashamed of yourself, you stupid Peter, to cheat yourself of so good a chance of happiness? What good will your dancing be to your mother or to yourself? How will your money help you, which, according to your wish, is only for the tavern, and will only stay there like that of the wretched Dance-King? For the rest of the week you will have nothing, and be no better off than before. One more wish I am to grant you; but take care you ask for something more sensible." Peter scratched his head, and after a little hesitation, said: "Well, I will wish myself the finest and richest glass-factory in the whole Black Forest with everything complete and money to carry it on."
"Nothing else?" asked the little man, anxiously. "Nothing else, Peter?"
"Well--you might add a horse, and a little trap--"
"Oh, you stupid Charcoal-Peter!" exclaimed the dwarf, throwing his glass-pipe angrily against a big pine, where it shattered to atoms. "Horses! Traps! Sense, I say to you, good sense, sound common-sense and insight you should have wished for--not horses and traps. Ah well, don't be so downcast; we will see whether we cannot keep you from coming to harm, for the second wish was not so foolish on the whole. A good glass-factory will support both master and man; if you had only insight and understanding into the bargain, carriages and horses would have come of themselves."
"But, Master Guardian," remarked Peter, "I have still one wish left. I could wish for sense with that, if it is so supremely necessary as you say."
"No, no, Peter. You will find yourself in many an awkward fix yet, when you will be glad that you have still another wish left you. For the present, take yourself homewards. Here are two thousand guilders," continued the little forest gnome, drawing a little purse from his pocket. "Be satisfied with them; for if you come here again asking for money, I shall have to hang you to the tallest of yonder pine-trees. Such has been my custom ever since I came to live in this forest. Old Winkfritz, who owned that large glass-factory in the lower part of the forest, died three days ago. Go thither early to-morrow morning, and make a bid for the property. Behave yourself, be industrious, and I will visit you from time to time, to be at hand with advice and help, seeing that you did not wish for common-sense. But--and I am now speaking in all seriousness--your first wish was a bad one. Have a care of becoming too fond of the tavern, Peter! it is a place which brings good to nobody in the long run!"
While speaking, the little man had pulled out another pipe of the finest flint-glass, and after filling it with dried pine-needles, had thrust it into his little, toothless mouth. He then produced a huge burning-glass, stepped into the sunlight and lit his pipe. This business over, he turned to Peter, and shook hands with him in the most friendly manner, gave him a few more words of advice, puffed away at his pipe even more vigorously until he disappeared in a cloud of smoke which gave forth an aroma of the finest Dutch tobacco as it curled slowly upwards among the pine branches overhead.
On arriving home, Peter found his mother in great trouble about him, for the good lady had come to the conclusion that her son must have enlisted as a soldier. But with great glee he bade her be of good cheer, telling her how he had fallen in with a good friend in the forest, who had advanced him money so that he could set himself up in a business other than charcoal-burning. Although his mother had been living for a good thirty years in the charcoal-burner's hut, and had grown as accustomed to the sight of grimy faces as a miller's wife to the flour-covered features of her husband, yet she was vain enough to despise her former station from the very moment in which Peter showed her the means to a more ostentatious way of life.
"Ah!" she said, "as the mother of the owner of a glass factory, my position is very different from that of my neighbours, Greta and Beta; in future I shall occupy a more prominent place in church, in a pew where the better class people sit."
Her son soon came to an agreement with the owners of the glass-factory. He kept on the old staff of workmen, and busied himself night and day in the manufacture of glass. At first, he was very interested in the work. It was his pleasure to go down to the glass-works, walking about with a pompous air and with his hands in both pockets, up and down, in and out, peeping in here, and peering in there, talking to this man, and then to that one, often causing his work-people to laugh heartily at his comments; while his chief delight was to watch the glass being blown, frequently taking a hand himself in the work, forming from the molten mass the most extraordinary patterns.
But too soon he began to weary of the business; at first, he was at the factory for only one hour per day, then only every other day, and, finally, only once a week, so that his workmen did just as they pleased. And it was all the result of his visits to the tavern. On the Sunday after his return from the Pine-grove, he went into the tavern, and who should be footing it on the dancing floor but the Dance-King; while Fat Ezekiel was already sitting behind a stoup of ale, throwing dice for crown-thalers. At sight of the latter Peter thrust his hands in his pockets to find out if the Glassmanikin had kept his word--and behold! his pockets were stuffed full of gold and silver pieces. Meanwhile, his legs were twitching and jerking as if they were itching to be dancing; so when the first dance was over, he took up a position with his partner exactly opposite the Dance-King. Whenever the latter sprang three feet into the air, Peter leapt four; and if his rival performed any particularly wonderful or graceful steps, Peter twirled and twisted his feet so that all beholders were well nigh beside themselves with delight and admiration. And when those at the dance heard that Peter had bought a glass-factory, and when they saw how he flung a small coin to the musicians every time he danced past them, there was no limit to their astonishment. Some were of opinion that he had discovered a treasure in the forest; others held that he must have inherited a fortune; while all paid him honour, and thought him to be a man of position, simply because he had money. He might gamble away twenty guilders in an evening, yet his pockets rattled and jingled just the same, as though they still contained hundreds of thalers. When Peter saw how much he was respected, he did not know how to contain himself, so great was his joy and pride. He threw money about by handsful, and was particularly liberal to the poor, because he himself knew what it was to feel the pinch of poverty. The supernatural ability of the new dancer soon cast all the feats of the Dance-King into the shade, and Peter was now hailed as "Dance-Emperor." The most venturesome gamblers did not stake so recklessly as he did, and therefore did not lose so heavily. But the more he lost, the more he gained--which was quite in accordance with the promise he had obtained from the Glassmanikin. He had wished always to have as much money in his pockets as there was in Fat Ezekiel's, and it was to him he lost most of his money. No matter whether he lost twenty or thirty guilders on a single throw, there they were again in his pocket as soon as Ezekiel had gathered them from the table.
Peter gambling at the Inn.
But gradually he brought his debauchery and gambling to a degree worse than that of the vilest character in the Black Forest; and he was more often dubbed Gambling-Peter than Dance-Emperor, for he was at the gambling table nearly the whole week through. Meanwhile his glass-business was going rapidly to rack and ruin, and it was all due to Peter's folly. He manufactured glass as fast as it could be made; but with the glass-factory he had not bought the secret how to manage it. In the end he had so much glass on hand that he did not know what to do with it; and he was forced to sell it at half its value to pedlars in order to find the money wherewith to pay his workpeople. One evening while returning home from the tavern, despite all the wine he had drunk to keep up his spirits, he could not help contemplating with terror and grief the ruin of his fortunes. All at once he noticed that somebody was walking at his side; he looked round, and behold--it was the Glassmanikin. He flew at once into a furious passion, bewailing his bad luck and cursing the little man as the cause of all his misfortune. "What am I to do now with my horses and carts?" he said. "Of what use to me is my factory and all my glass? Even when I was a miserable charcoal-burner, I was happier, and did not have all these worries. Now, I am expecting any day to see the bailiffs in my factory to sell me up in order to pay my debts."
"So-ho?" rejoined the Glassmanikin. "So-ho? Then I am to be blamed for your misfortunes? Is this your gratitude for all my kindness to you? Did I not warn you not to make such foolish wishes. You wished to become a glass-blower, without having the slightest idea how to sell your glass. Did I not tell you not to wish too hastily? Common-sense, Peter, Wisdom, that was what you lacked."
"Bother your Common-sense and Wisdom!" cried the other. "I am as clever a fellow as anyone else--and what is more I will prove it to you, Glassmanikin." Saying which he seized the little man by the collar, and shouted: "Ha! I have you now. Guardian of the pine-tree wold! And now I will make my third wish, which you will have to grant me. I demand, without delay, on this very spot, two hundred thousand thalers, and a house, and--oh-oh-ah!" he shrieked, wringing his hands, for the Glassmanikin had turned into a mass of white-hot glass, burning Peter's hand as if he had thrust it into fire; and in the same moment the manikin vanished.
For several days afterwards Peter's scorched and swollen hand reminded him of his ingratitude, and folly. But he soon turned a deaf ear to the voice of conscience, consoling himself with the reflection: "What if they do sell up my glass-factory and everything else. Fat Ezekiel is still left to me! So long as he has money on Sundays, I shall not go without."
Very good Peter! But supposing he should happen to have none at all, for once?
And this is what actually came to pass. One Sunday, Peter drove to the tavern, people observing him through their windows as he passed.
"There goes Gambling-Peter!" cried some; while others exclaimed: "Hullo, there's the Dance-Emperor, the rich Glass-manufacturer." But a few shook their heads, saying: "Don't be so sure about his wealth; why, everybody is talking about his debts, and it is rumoured among the townspeople that the bailiffs will soon be selling him up."
Meanwhile Peter bowed proudly and gravely to those he knew, and on arriving at the tavern, alighted from his carriage, crying out: "Good evening, landlord; has Fat Ezekiel yet arrived?" To which a deep voice replied: "Just come in, Peter? Your place has been kept for you, and we have got the cards out already."
Peter entered and got ready to play, well aware that Ezekiel must be well supplied with funds, for his own pockets were stuffed full with money.
Having taken his seat opposite the others he began playing, now winning, and now losing; and they kept on until such a late hour that all respectable people went off home. The lamps were lighted, and still they played on, until two of the players said: "There, that's enough! we must be getting home to wife and child."
But Gambling-Peter urged Fat Ezekiel to stay on. The latter was for a time unwilling, but said at last: "Well, I will just count my money, and then we will play at dice--and let the stake be five guilders, for to throw for less is child's play."
He pulled out his purse and counted his money, of which he found he had nearly a hundred guilders; whereby, Peter knew at once how much he himself had in his pockets without being under the necessity of reckoning.
But Ezekiel's luck had gone; exactly as he had been winning, hitherto, he now lost steadily at every throw, cursing heartily the while. If he threw a pair, Gambling-Peter followed with one, two pips higher. At length he laid his last five guilders on the table, saying: "One more throw, and if I lose, you can lend me some of your winnings, Peter, so that we can continue, for every good sportsman ought to help another."
"As much as you like, even to a hundred guilders," said the Dance-Emperor, rejoicing in his luck; whereupon Fat Ezekiel shook the dice-box and threw "fifteen."
"Good," he cried, "now we shall see." Peter threw eighteen, and as he looked he heard a harsh voice, not unknown to him, mutter in his ear: "So, here we are at the end of it all!" He swung round. There, standing directly behind him, towered the gigantic form of Dutch Michael. Stricken with surprise and horror he let the money, which he had just picked up from the table, slip through his fingers.
Fat Ezekiel apparently, had not noticed the demon, for he requested Gambling-Peter to lend him ten guilders so that he could go on playing. As one in a dream, Peter put his hand in his pocket--it was empty! He tried another pocket--there was nothing in that, either. He took off his coat and turned it upside down, shaking it--but not a single coin showed itself. And now, for the first time he remembered his first wish--to have always as much money in his pockets as Fat Ezekiel had in his. But all had vanished like smoke.
"So! here we are at the end of it all."
Meanwhile the landlord and Ezekiel sat staring at him in bewilderment, as he searched himself all over in vain to find some money somewhere. They refused to believe that he had none; and, at last, after they themselves had felt in his pockets, they grew angry, vowing that Gambling-Peter must be a magician who had transported all the money he had won together with his own to his house. Peter defended himself as best he could, but appearances were against him. Ezekiel vowed he would spread the shameful story all over the Black Forest; and the landlord declared he would go to town the first thing on the morrow, and denounce Peter as a sorcerer, and he would see to it, he added, that he was burnt at the stake as such. Whereupon they both fell on him in a fury, tore his clothes from his back, and flung him out into the road.
It was pitch-dark, not a star appearing in the sky, as Peter slunk homewards; but the misery which he suffered did not prevent him from recognising a dark form which strode along at his side, and which broke silence, at length, with the following words: "It is all up with you, Peter Munk; all your glory has come to an end; as I would have told you at first, if you had but listened to me instead of running off to that stupid Glassmanikin. Now you can see for yourself what is to be gained by despising my advice. Just try your luck with me for once, for I am very sorry for you in your present miserable condition. Nobody who comes to me ever repents having done so; and if you are not too afraid to come, I shall be awaiting you all day in the Pine-grove and you have only to call me, and I will come to you."
Peter knew well who it was thus addressing him. Seized with a sudden dread, he made no reply, but sped onwards to his home.
On the Monday morning when Peter arrived at his Glassworks, he found not only his workpeople there, but also some very unwelcome visitors; these were the Bailiff and three of his myrmidons. The Bailiff greeted Peter with a "Good-morning," asked how he had slept, and then produced a lengthy document on which appeared the names of Peter's creditors.
"Can you settle or not?" demanded the official, with a keen glance at Peter. "And make haste, please, for I have very little time to spare, as the tower-clock struck three some time ago."
Then Peter, in despair, had to confess that he had no more money in the world, and made over to the Bailiff for appraisement all his property, including factory, stock, stables, horses, wagons, etc.; and as the official and his men went round making an inventory of everything, he thought to himself: "The Pine-grove is not so far away; and as the Little One has not come to my aid, I'll try my luck with the Big One." And straightway he set off running for the Pine-grove as fast as if the officers of justice were at his heels.
As he passed the spot where he had first spoken to the Glassmanikin, he felt as though an invisible hand had caught hold of him; but he wrenched himself free, and ran on towards the ditch which, as he had had occasion to remember marked the boundary of Dutch Michael's domain, and no sooner did he spy it than he cried out with what breath he had left in his lungs: "Dutch Michael! Master Dutch Michael!" and immediately there stood before him the gigantic form of the raftsman, pole in hand.
"So, you've come!" cried Michael, with a laugh. "Did they want to strip the skin from your back in order to sell it for the benefit of your creditors? Well, don't worry about it; as I have already told you, for your troubles you have to thank that sanctimonious little hypocrite, the Glassmanikin. When one gives at all, it should be with a lavish hand, and not stingily as is that niggard's wont. But come," he continued, turning towards the forest, "follow me to my house, and we will see if we cannot strike a bargain."
"Strike a bargain?" thought Peter. "What can he get out of me? What have I to offer him? Must I serve him in some way; or what else will he require of me?"
At first, they climbed a steep incline which ended abruptly on the edge of a dark, deep, precipitous ravine. Dutch Michael sprang down from rock to rock as easily as down a broad staircase; and Peter nearly fainted with terror when he perceived how the form of the demon, as soon as the latter's foot had touched bottom, shot up to the height of a church steeple. Then the monster stretched forth an arm as long as a weaver's beam, and a hand as broad as a large table, crying out in a deep voice that sounded like a death-knell: "Stand on my hand and take hold of my fingers, so that you do not fall." Trembling all over, Peter did as he was bid, sitting down on the palm and steadying himself by grasping the gigantic thumb.
Deep down into the bowels of the earth he descended, but to Peter's surprise it grew no darker; on the contrary, the daylight seemed to become more and more intense in the ravine, until his eyes could scarcely bear the glare of it.
As Peter descended, Dutch Michael gradually decreased in size until when Peter had reached the ground the former had regained his normal stature, and there they stood before a house similar in all respects to those owned by well-to-do peasants in the Black Forest. The room, into which Peter was conducted, differed in no particular from the rooms of other Black Forest cottages, except that its appearance imparted a feeling of loneliness. The wooden clock hanging on the wall, the huge Dutch stove, the broad benches, the crockery arranged along the cornice were just as one might see anywhere.
Michael bade Peter take a seat at the great table, and then left the room, returning immediately with a jug of wine and glasses. He poured out some for Peter and himself, after which they sat and talked, Dutch Michael speaking of the joys of life, of foreign countries, of beautiful cities and rivers, until Peter became possessed of a longing to visit the same, and expressed his desire to the Dutchman.
And stretched forth an arm as long as a
and a hand as broad as a large table.]
"But even if your whole frame were pulsating with the courage and energy to undertake something of the sort, would not a few beats of that foolish heart of yours set you all of a tremble at the prospect? And why should a sensible fellow such as you be troubled with such things as misfortune or wounded pride? The other day when they called you a cheat and a villain, was it in your head that you felt the disgrace? Did you get a pain in your stomach when the bailiff appeared just now and turned you out of doors? Come, tell me, where did you feel most anguish?"
"In my heart," Peter replied, pressing his hand on his throbbing breast; for he felt that his heart was turning over and over in his bosom.
"Now, don't be angry at what I am going to say--you have thrown away many a hundred guilders to beggars and other worthless people; and what profit has it brought you? They have showered blessings on your head, and wished you good health; but did you ever feel any better for that? Why, you could have kept a physician on half the money you thus wasted. A blessing, indeed--a fine blessing, now that they have seized your goods and turned you out! What was it that drove you to dive your hands into your pockets every time a beggarman stretched out his tattered hat to you?--Your heart it was, and always your heart; never your eyes, nor your tongue, your arms, nor your legs,--but your heart; you have always taken it too much to heart, as the saying is."
"But how can one manage to avoid it? I am trying all I can to suppress it, but my heart keeps on thumping and causing me anguish."
"By yourself, poor wretch that you are, you can do nothing," cried the other with a laugh; "but just let me take charge of the fluttering thing, and you will see how much more pleasant it will be."
"Give you my heart?" shrieked the horrified Peter. "Why I should fall down dead on the spot! Not if I can help it!"
"Of course, if one of your master surgeons were to remove your heart, then you would die to a certainty; but with me it is quite another matter. But just come in here and satisfy yourself."
Saying which, he opened a door leading into another room, and bade Peter follow him. As the latter crossed the threshold his heart contracted convulsively, but he did not notice it, for the sight which now presented itself to him was too weird and amazing. On a number of wooden shelves stood glass-vessels filled with some transparent fluid, and in each of these was a human heart. Moreover, to every vessel was affixed a label upon which a name had been inscribed, several of which Peter's curiosity drove him to read. Here was the heart of the mayor of a neighbouring town; there, that of Fat Ezekiel; in the next vessel lay the heart of the Dance-King; further on, was the head-forester's heart. Here were also six hearts of well-known corn-brokers, eight belonging to conscription overseers, three to money lenders; in short, it was a collection of hearts of the most respected people in the district for twenty miles round.
"Look," said Dutch Michael, "all these people have shaken themselves free from the cares and troubles of life! These hearts beat anxiously and painfully no longer, and their original owners rejoice that they have been able to rid themselves of such restless companions."
"But what do they carry in their breasts in place of these?" asked Peter, who was quite faint with all that he had seen.
"This!" answered the other, as he took from a drawer a heart of stone.
"What?" cried Peter, unable to repress a shudder which affected his entire frame. "A heart of marble? But, if it is as you say, Master Dutch Michael, such a thing must feel very cold inside one's bosom."
"Not exactly cold, but quite pleasantly cool. Why should one's heart be warm? It doesn't keep you warm in winter--a good glass of spirits is far better for that purpose than a warm heart; while in summer, when it is so hot and close, you cannot think how cooling is the effect of such a heart as this. Besides which, as I have already told you, such a heart as this never throbs with anguish or terror, with foolish compassion or with any other emotion."
"And is that all that you have to give me?" asked Peter disappointedly. "I hoped for money, and you offer me a stone!"
"Well, perhaps a hundred thousand guilders may satisfy you for a start. If you went the right way to work, you would soon be a millionaire."
"A hundred thousand?" cried the poor charcoal-burner in an ecstasy. "There, don't beat so violently in my breast, we shall soon have done with one another. Good, Michael! give me the stone and the money, and you may relieve this habitation of its restless inmate."
"Ah, I was sure that you were a sensible fellow!" answered the Dutchman, smiling amiably. "Come, we will have just one more glass, and then I will count out the money for you!"
Whereupon they returned to the other room, and sat down to their wine, drinking glass after glass, until Peter fell into a deep sleep.
* * * * *
Charcoal-Peter was awakened by the joyous fanfare of a posthorn, and behold he was sitting in a coach, which was bowling along a handsome broad highway, and when he leaned out of the window he could see the Black-Forest lying far behind him in the distance. At first he could not believe that it was he himself who could be thus sitting in this coach. His clothes were not the same that he had been wearing the day before; yet he remembered everything that had happened so clearly, that at last he doubted no longer, but cried out: "I am Charcoal-Peter, that's certain--Charcoal-Peter Munk and no other!"
He fell to wondering why it was that he could feel no regret, considering that, for the first time in his life, he had left the peaceful homestead and the forest where he had lived so long. Even when the thought of his mother occurred to him, helpless and wretched as she must be now, no tear came to his eyes, not a sigh escaped him--he felt so absolutely indifferent to everything. "Truly," he muttered, "tears and sighs, homesickness and melancholy, all come from the heart; thanks to Dutch Michael, mine is cold and made of stone."
He laid his hand on his breast; all was still within; there was no movement whatever. "If he has kept his word as to the hundred thousand guilders as he has with regard to my heart, I shall be quite content," he cried, beginning to examine everything in the coach. He found wearing apparel in such quantity and of such variety as he could possibly desire, but no money. At last he came upon a pocket in which he found many thousands of thalers in gold, besides bills drawn on business houses in all the great cities. "Now I have got what I want," he thought, and he settled himself comfortably in a corner of the coach, as it drove onward into the wide world.
For two years Peter drove about everywhere, gazing to left and right from his coach at the houses as he passed them, and at the signboards of the inns at which he stopped, afterwards wandering about the towns, where everything that was worthy of note was shown to him. But he found pleasure in nought;--no picture, no building, no music, no dance,--nothing could move his heart of stone; his eyes and ears could no longer convey to him any sense of the beautiful. Nothing remained for him but to take what joy he could in eating, drinking, and sleeping; and thus he lived; travelling aimlessly about the world, eating, drinking for his sole entertainment, and sleeping his only escape from ennui. Now and then he would recollect how he had been happier when he was poor and had to work for his living. Then every beautiful vista over hill and vale had enchanted him, music and song had always delighted him, and he had found lasting enjoyment in the simple fare brought him by his mother as he sat by the charcoal pile. And as he pondered on the fact, he thought it very strange that now he could laugh at nothing, whereas, formerly, he had been wont to roar over the smallest joke. Now, when others laughed, he, for politeness' sake, distended his mouth, but there was no laughter in his heart. He perceived then that this outward tranquility of his brought no contentment. In the end it was not homesickness or melancholy which drove him homeward, but a depressing sense of solitude and joylessness.
As he drove over from Strasburg and came within view of the dark forest which was his home; when he saw for the first time since his departure the powerful frames, the friendly, trusty faces of the Black Foresters; as his ears caught the old familiar homely sounds, he put his hand to his heart, for his pulse beat more quickly, and he was sure that in another moment he must either rejoice or weep--but, how was it possible for him to be so foolish; had he not a heart of stone?
His first visit was to Dutch Michael, who welcomed him with all his old friendliness.
"Michael," he said to the latter, "I've been on my travels, and have seen everything; but it is all trash and humbug, and has only succeeded in boring me. Certainly, this stony thing of yours, which I bear in my bosom, saves me from much. I am never angry, and never sorrowful; but then I am never glad, and I feel as if I were only half alive. Cannot you put a little life into this stone heart? or, better still, give me back my old heart? It was my companion for five and twenty years, and if at times it did play me a bad turn, yet on the whole it was a merry and brave heart."
The forest spirit laughed grimly and bitterly.
"When you are dead, Peter Munk," he replied, "it will not fail you; then, indeed, will that soft, emotional heart be yours once more, and you will be able to feel whatever happens to you, joy or sorrow. But here on this earth it can never return to you! Yes, Peter, you have certainly been on your travels, but the way in which you lived was too aimless to be of any use to you. Settle down somewhere in the forest, build yourself a house, marry; set up in business--it is occupation of which you are in need; you were bored because you were idle, and yet you blamed it all upon this unoffending heart!"
Peter perceived that Michael was right in so far as his idleness was concerned, and determined to amass riches for himself. Michael gave him another hundred thousand guilders, and they parted good friends.
The story was soon spread throughout the Black-Forest that Charcoal-Peter Munk, or Gambling-Peter, had returned, this time richer than before. And it was the same as it is always: when he was reduced to beggary, they had thrust him from the door in broad daylight; but now, when he once more visited the inn one fine Sunday afternoon, they held out their hands to him, praised his horse, asked him about his travels, and when he sat down to play with Fat Ezekiel with thalers for points, he stood as high in their esteem as ever. He no longer engaged in glass-making, but in timber dealing, though this was merely a blind. His real business was corn-selling and money-lending. By degrees nearly half the Black Forest was in his debt; he lent money only at a ruinously high rate of interest, and sold corn only to the poor, to those who could not pay him cash down for it, at three times its value. He and the bailiff were now on the friendliest terms, and when anybody failed to pay Master Peter Munk to the very day, the bailiff and his myrmidons rode over, made an inventory of all the debtor's belongings and sold him up, driving father, mother and child out into the forest. At first, these proceedings caused the wealthy Peter some trouble; for the poor outcasts besieged his door, the men begging for time to pay, while their wives sought to move his stony heart by drawing his attention to their children, who were crying for bread. But after he had provided himself with one or two big and savage dogs, there was soon an end to these "cat's concerts," as he termed them. He had but to whistle and call his dogs, and the beggars fled, crying and screaming, in all directions.
His chief annoyance was the "old woman"--who was none other than Dame Munk, his own mother. She had lived in misery and want from the day when they had sold up her house and home; and now her son, though he had come back rich, no longer took any notice of her. Yet she, old, feeble and broken down, would come from time to time and stand, leaning on her stick, in front of his house. She did not now dare to enter, for he had once driven her out. But her greatest grief was that she was compelled to accept the charity of others in order to live, though her own son could have made her old age happy and free from care. But the cold heart was never touched at the sight of those pale well-known features, by their pleading expression, by the withered outstretched hand, by the frail and tottering form. When she knocked at the door on Saturdays he would draw sixpence from his pocket, grumbling the while, wrap it up in a piece of paper, and send a servant out to her with it. He caught the sound of her quavering voice as she spoke her thanks and wished him well on this earth; he heard her pant as she shuffled away from his door; then he thought no more of her except to regret that another sixpence had been so profitlessly expended.
At length Peter determined to marry. He knew well that any father in the Black Forest would be glad to let him wed his daughter; but he took pains over his choice, for he wanted everybody to praise his good luck and sense even in this matter. Wherefore he rode about on a round of inspection, visiting several houses in all parts of the forest; but none of the pretty Black Forest maidens seemed to be beautiful enough for him. At last, after having vainly attended all the dance-meetings in his search for a beautiful damsel, he heard one day that the loveliest and most virtuous of all the girls in the forest was the daughter of a poor woodcutter.
She lived quietly and alone, keeping house for her father, was clever and diligent, and never attended a dance, not even at Whitsuntide nor on Dedication Day. When Peter learnt of this jewel of the Black Forest, he resolved to marry her, and rode to the cottage which had been pointed out to him. The father of the lovely girl, whose name was Elspeth, received his distinguished visitor with surprise, but was even more astonished when he discovered that this was the wealthy Peter, and that he was anxious to become his son-in-law. He was not long making up his mind, for he considered that now there would be an end to all his troubles and poverty; therefore, without consulting Elspeth, he gave his consent; and the good child was so obedient that she became Dame Peter Munk without a murmur of dissent.
But it did not turn out so well for the poor girl as she had expected. She thought she knew how to keep house, but in nothing could she please Master Peter. She was sorry for poor people, and as her husband was a rich man, she considered it no crime to give a penny to a beggar-woman, or to offer an old man a "schnaps." But one day Master Peter, who had been watching her, spoke to her roughly and angrily: "Why are you wasting my fortune on rascals and vagabonds? Did you bring anything with you into the house that you might give away? In your father's house there was not enough broth to go round, and yet you are now throwing money about as if you were a princess! Let me catch you once more, and you shall feel the weight of my hand."
The lovely Elspeth wept in her room over her husband's ill-nature, and she often wished she were back again in her father's mean cottage instead of having to live in the house of the rich, avaricious and hard-hearted Peter. Even had she known that he had a heart of marble, and could never love anybody, not even herself, she would not have been so greatly surprised. Whenever she sat in the porch and a beggar passed by, taking off his hat and asking for alms, she shut her eyes in order not to see his wretchedness; she clenched her fist as if to keep her hand from straying against her will into her pocket in order to bestow a farthing or so. And so it came about that people throughout the forest began to speak despitefully of the beautiful Elspeth, saying that she was even more miserly than Peter Munk.
But one day Elspeth was sitting in front of the house, spinning and humming a little song, for she was in good spirits, the day was fine, and her husband, Peter, had ridden away across the country. And as she sat there, there came along the road a little old man, who was carrying a great heavy sack, and she could hear him panting from a long way off. Dame Elspeth regarded him sympathetically, thinking the while that such a little old man should not have to carry so heavy a burden.
Meanwhile the little man, panting and staggering, drew near, and as he passed Elspeth, he nearly broke down under the weight of the sack. "Ah, have mercy, good lady, and give me a drink of water!" said the little man; "I can go no further, and feel ready to perish."
"But at your age you ought not to carry such a heavy load," said Elspeth.
Oh, have mercy, good lady and give a drink of water.
"But I must run errands; I am so poor, and I have to earn my living somehow," he replied. "Surely so rich a lady as yourself can never know how hard it is to be poor, and how welcome would be a fresh drink on such a hot day."
Hearing this, she hurried indoors, took down a jug and filled it with water; but as she was returning, and was only a few paces away from him, she noticed how wretched and miserable the little man looked, and how he had sunk in exhaustion on his sack. This filled her with pity for him, and, the thought occurring to her that her husband was not at home, she put down the jug of water, took a goblet and filled it with wine, and carried it, with a loaf of good rye-bread, out to the old man. "There!" she said, "as you are so very old a draught of wine will do you much more good than water. But don't drink it so quickly, and eat a little of the bread with it."
The little man looked at her in astonishment, then great tears gathered in his eyes, and he spoke: "I am very old, but I have seen few people who were so compassionate and who have known so well how to dispense charity as you, Dame Elspeth. And therefore it will go well with you on this earth, such a heart as yours shall not lack its reward."
"Nay, and her reward she shall have on this very spot," cried a terrible voice. Both turned, and there stood Peter, his face crimson with rage.
"Not only do you offer my best wine to beggars, but you bring it out in my own goblet so that it may be contaminated by the lips of vagabonds! There--take your reward!" Elspeth fell at his feet, imploring pardon; but the stony heart knew no mercy; he swung the whip which he held in his hand, and with the ebony handle of it struck the beautiful forehead uplifted to him. Elspeth sank lifeless into the old man's arms.
When he saw her fall, Peter bent over her to see if she still lived. It was as if he repented the deed for a moment. And as he looked, the little man spoke to him in a well-known voice: "Don't trouble yourself, Charcoal-Peter; this was the most beautiful and most lovable flower in the forest; you have struck it down, and it will never bloom again."
All the blood left Peter's face as he replied: "So, it is you, Master Guardian? Well, what has been done cannot be undone, and it was bound to happen thus. But I hope you won't accuse me before the justices as a murderer."
"Wretch!" answered the Glassmanikin. "What profit could it be to me to bring your mortal body to the gallows? It is no earthly judge that you have to fear, but another and sterner Judge; for you have sold your soul to the Evil One."
"And if I have sold my heart," shrieked Peter, "then nobody is to blame but yourself and your illusory gifts. Malicious spirit that you are, you led me on to my destruction; it was you who drove me to seek help of that other, and you will have to answer for it."
But scarcely had he uttered these words than the Glassmanikin suddenly began to increase in size and stature, his eyes became as big as soup-plates, and his mouth was as a glowing furnace, flames darting from between his lips. Peter sank to his knees, and even his stone-heart did not prevent his limbs from trembling like an aspen. With vulture-like claws the forest spirit seized Peter by the neck, swung him round like dried leaves in a whirlwind, and flung him to earth with such force that all his ribs cracked.
"Earth-worm!" cried the spirit in a voice that rolled like thunder; "I could smash you to atoms if I would, for you have blasphemed against the lord of the forest. But for this dead woman's sake, who gave me food and drink, I give you eight days' grace. If you do not repent I will come and crush your bones to powder, and send you hence in your sins."
It was not until nightfall that some men, who happened to be passing that way, spied the wealthy Peter Munk lying stretched on the ground. They turned him over, seeking to discover if he yet lived; and for a long time he gave no sign. At last, one of them went to a house and fetched some water. After they had dashed some in his face, Peter drew a deep breath, groaned and opened his eyes. He gazed about him, and then asked for his wife, Elspeth; but no one had seen her. He thanked the men for their assistance, rose and crept into his house, where he hunted high and low for Elspeth, but without finding her; and he now knew that what he had hoped had been only a terrible dream was a grim reality. In his loneliness strange thoughts occurred to him. He feared nothing, for his heart was insensible to that emotion; but whenever he thought of his wife's death, he could not help but contemplate his own probable destiny; when his hour arrived to quit the world, how heavily laden he would be with the tears and curses of the poor who could not soften his heart, with the wails of those wretched beings at whom he had set his dogs, and, yet more, how he would have to bear the weight of his mother's silent despair, and the blood of his good and beautiful wife. And what sort of answer would he give the old man, his father-in-law, if he should come and demand: "Where is my daughter, your wife?" And how should he answer Another, to Whom all belongs--woods, seas, hills and the lives of human beings?
"His eyes became as big as soup plates and his
a glowing furnace."
The thought of it haunted his dreams; and every now and then he was awakened by the sound of a sweet voice calling to him: "Peter, get yourself a warmer heart!" And when thus awakened, he would quickly close his eyes again, for the voice was that of Elspeth, warning him. In order to distract his thoughts he sought the tavern, and there he met Fat Ezekiel. He took a seat opposite him, and they started talking on various topics: the fine weather, the war, the taxes, and at last about death and what happened afterwards. Ezekiel replied that the body is buried while the soul ascends to Heaven or descends to Hell.
"Then they bury one's heart with one?" asked Peter with intense interest.
"Certainly, that's buried with us."
"But if a man has no heart?" Peter went on. Ezekiel stared at him in terror. "What do you mean by that? Are you trying to make a fool of me? Do you suggest that I have no heart?"
"Oh, you have a heart right enough--as hard as stone," replied Peter.
Ezekiel looked at him in amazement, then glanced around to make sure nobody was within earshot, and spoke: "How do you know that? Perhaps, your own heart beats no longer?"
"It beats no more;--at least, not here in my breast," answered Peter. "But tell me, now you know what I mean, what will happen to our hearts?"
"My dear fellow, why worry about it?" Ezekiel laughingly remonstrated. "You have plenty to go through this life with, and that is all one wants. That is just the comfort of having a cold heart; we can never feel any fear at such thoughts."
"That's true enough; but one cannot help thinking of such things, even though one feels no dread of them; and I can well remember how terribly afraid of Hell I used to be when I was a little innocent boy."
"Well--it is certain that it will not go well with us hereafter," said Ezekiel. "I once asked a schoolmaster about it, and he told me that, after death, our hearts are weighed to find out how much they are burdened with sins committed. The light ones mount upwards; the heavy ones sink downwards; and our stone hearts will weigh a good bit, I'm thinking."
"That's very probable," replied Peter; "and I often feel very uneasy that my heart is so indifferent and unfeeling whenever such thoughts occur to me."
The night following this conversation Peter heard the well-known voice whisper five or six times in his ear: "Peter! get yourself a warmer heart!"
Although he felt no remorse that he had killed her, yet when he told his servants that his wife had gone on a journey, he could not help thinking: "Ah, but whither has she gone?"
Six days passed in this manner; every night he heard the voice, while the little forest-spirit's terrible threat rang continually in his ears. On the seventh morning he sprang out of bed, crying: "Come, I will see if I can get a warmer heart, for this insensible stone in my breast makes life too wearisome and dull for anything!"
He put on his best clothes, mounted his horse and rode off to the Pine-grove.
Having arrived at the spot where the pines grew thickest, he dismounted, tied his horse to a tree, and then strode swiftly to the summit of the hill, and taking his stand before the great pine, he repeated the old rhyme:
"Guardian of gold in the pine-tree wold.
Art many hundred ages old;
Lord of all lands where pine trees grow,
Thee only Sunday's children know."
And then the Glassmanikin appeared, but not friendly and cordial as before, but sad and mournful. He was clad in a little coat of black glass, and a long mourning band trailed from his hat; and Peter knew well enough for whom he mourned.
"What do you want with me, Peter Munk?" he asked in a hollow voice.
"I have still one wish left, Master Guardian," replied Peter, casting down his eyes.
"Can stone-hearts wish for anything?" said the other. "You have everything that your evil mind desired; and I shall be very reluctant to grant you anything."
"But you promised me three wishes; and one of them still remains to me."
"But I can reject it, if it is foolish," the forest spirit replied. "Yet, speak out, I will listen to what you have to say."
"Then take this dead stone away, and give me my living heart," said Peter.
"Did I make the bargain with you?" the Glassmanikin demanded. "Am I Dutch Michael, who gives away riches and cold hearts? To him you must go if you want your own heart again."
"Alas, he will never give it back to me," answered Peter, dejectedly.
"I am sorry for you, bad as you are," said the little man, after a moment's reflection. "And as your wish is not a foolish one, I can at least, not refuse to help you. Listen, therefore. By force you can never regain possession of your heart, but you can do so by cunning; and by such means you may achieve your purpose without much difficulty; for Michael is still the stupid Michael, although he deems himself so clever. Go straight to him, therefore, and do exactly as I tell you!" Saying which, he gave him full instructions how to proceed, and handed him a little cross of transparent glass. "He cannot take your life, and if you hold this up in front of him, saying your prayers meanwhile, he will have to let you go unharmed. And if you succeed in obtaining that which you go for, return to me here immediately."
Peter Munk took the little cross, and trying to remember all that he had been told to do, he proceeded to Dutch Michael's abode. Having called him thrice by name, the giant stood before him.
"And so you have slain your wife?" asked the Dutchman, laughing horribly. "I should have done the same, for she was squandering all your fortune on beggars. But you must leave the country for a time, for there will be trouble when they find she is missing; and you want money, of course, and have come to me for some?"
"You have guessed aright!" replied Peter; "and a substantial sum this time, for it is a long way to America."
Michael led the way to his cottage, where he opened a desk in which lay a store of money, and took therefrom a roll of gold coins. As he was counting them out on the table, Peter said to him: "You are a miserable cheat, Michael, to have deceived me as you did, trying to make me believe that I had a stone in my breast and that you had my heart."
Michael stared at him perplexedly. "And is it not so?" he asked. "Can you feel your heart? Is it not as cold as ice? Do you know what it is to be afraid, or sorry, or remorseful?"
"You have only made my heart stop still; but it is still here in my breast; and Ezekiel, also, agrees with me that you have imposed on both of us. You are not the sort of man who could tear anybody's heart out of their breast without their knowledge, or without danger to them--that would be witchcraft indeed!"
"But I assure you," cried Michael angrily, "you and Ezekiel and all those who came to me and are now rich have cold hearts in their bosoms just as you have, and their own hearts I have here in my keeping."
"Ah; how glibly the lies slip off your tongue," laughed Peter. "You may tell that story to other people. Do you think I did not come across dozens of such conjuring tricks when on my travels? The hearts here in this room are made of wax. You are a wealthy fellow--I will concede so much, but you are a fool at magic."
The giant flew into a rage, and, flinging open the door to the inner room, he cried: "Come in here and read all the labels, especially that one there; look, that is Peter Munk's heart. See how it beats! Do you think it is possible to make such a thing as that out of wax?"
"And yet it is wax," answered Peter. "A real heart would not beat thus; and mine is here in my breast. No, no, you are no good at magic."
"But I will prove it to you!" cried Michael, angrily. "You shall feel for yourself that it is your own heart." He took up the heart, tore Peter's jerkin open, and drew from his breast a stone which he held before him; then he breathed on the heart carefully and put it back in its original place; and as Peter felt the old familiar beat of it, he rejoiced, that it was possible to him once more.
"How do you feel now?" asked Michael, smiling.
"Well, I must confess you were right after all," answered Peter, feeling carefully in his pocket for the little cross. "I could not have believed that anybody could do such things."
"Well, it's possible, anyway! And I can work magic, as you see. But come, I will now replace the stone."
"And, as he prayed, Michael decreased more and
size, falling to the ground, where he lay writhing to and fro like a
"Gently, Master Michael!" cried Peter, retreating a step and holding up the cross in front of him. "I laid the trap for you this time, and you have fallen into it!" And straightway he began to pray, saying whatever came to his mind. And as he prayed, Michael decreased more and more in size, falling to the ground, where he lay writhing to and fro like a worm, groaning and moaning; and all the hearts on the surrounding shelves began to beat and throb until the place sounded as it might have been a clockmaker's workshop. Then Peter's courage left him; he rushed from the room and out of the house, and, goaded on by terror, began to clamber up the rocky precipice; and as he climbed he heard Michael stamping and clattering and roaring out the most terrible curses, as he rose from the ground to follow him. Having succeeded in surmounting the cliff, Peter set out to run to the Pine-grove; and at the same time a most frightful storm broke out; lightning flashes fell to right and left of him, creating havoc among the trees. But Peter reached the Glassmanikin's domain in safety.
His heart beat joyfully in his breast; but only because it did beat. Then all his past life flashed before him, as horrible as the storm which was laying waste the forest on all sides behind him. He thought of Elspeth, his lovely, gentle wife, whom in his avaricious rage he had murdered; he saw himself as an outcast from society, and he burst into tears as he stood before the mount on which the Glassmanikin had sat.
And there was the Guardian of the Pine-forest, sitting under a pine and smoking a little pipe; but he looked more cheerful now. "Why are you weeping, Charcoal-Peter?" he asked. "Have you your own heart again, or is the cold stone still in your breast?"
"Ah, Master Guardian!" sobbed Peter; "when I had that cold stone heart I could not weep, my eyes were as dry as the country in July; and now this real heart of mine is like to break with grief at my misdeeds! I drove my debtors to ruin; I set my dogs at the poor and sick, and, you yourself saw how with my whip I struck the fair forehead of Elspeth!"
"Peter! you were a great sinner!" said the manikin. "Money and idleness were your undoing, until your heart was turned to stone, knowing neither joy, nor sorrow, nor remorse, nor compassion. But repentance atones for much; and if I were only sure that you truly repent for your past life, I could do something for you even now."
"I want nothing now," answered Peter, sadly, while his head drooped on his bosom. "I have nothing left to live for; I could never be happy again; besides what is there for me to do now that I am left alone in the world? My mother will never forgive my conduct towards her; and, perhaps, monster that I am, I have already sent her to her grave. And Elspeth, my wife! Slay me also, Master Guardian, and then there will be an end at least of my wretched life."
"Good!" replied the Glassmanikin, "If that is your only wish, I can not refuse to grant it; and my axe is here to my hand."
Calmly he withdrew his little pipe from his mouth, knocked out the ashes and pocketed it. Then, slowly, he arose and went behind the pine-trees. Peter threw himself down weeping, on the grass; he had nothing more to do with this life but to await patiently the death-blow that should end it. After a while he heard light footsteps approaching, and thought: "Now he is coming."
"Look once more around, Peter Munk."
"Look once more around, Peter Munk!" said the voice of the Manikin. He brushed the tears from his eyes, and looked up,--and there before him stood his mother and Elspeth, his wife, smiling kindly at him.
He sprang joyfully to his feet: "You are not dead, Elspeth! And you, mother!--Ah, how can you ever pardon me?"
"They will pardon you," said the Glassmanikin, "because you have truly repented, and they will forget everything. Return to your father's cottage, a charcoal-burner as before. If you are good and honest, you will do honour to your trade, and your neighbours will love and respect you more than if you were the possessor of ten tons of gold."
Thus spoke the Glassmanikin, and bade them farewell.
The three praised and blessed him, and set out for home together.
The grand house which had belonged to Peter in his days of splendour was no longer there; it had been struck by lightning and had been burnt to the ground with all its treasures; but the cottage which had been his father's home was not far distant; thither they went their way, quite unmoved by their heavy loss.
But what a surprise was in store for them when they reached the cottage. It had been changed into a fine farmhouse, and everything within, though simple, was good and clean.
"The good Glassmanikin has done all this!" cried Peter.
"How lovely!" exclaimed Elspeth. "I shall feel much more at home here than in that big house with all those servants."
Thenceforth Peter Munk became a hard-working and noble man. He was content with his lot, and worked at his trade without murmuring; and thus it came that by his own efforts he made money, and earned the love and respect of all in the forest. He never spoke another harsh word to his wife Elspeth, he honoured his mother, and relieved all the poor who knocked at his door.
One year after, when his wife bore him a beautiful boy, Peter set out for the Pine-grove and repeated the old rhyme. But no Glassmanikin showed himself.
"Master Guardian!" he shouted. "Do listen to me! I don't want anything, but have come to ask you to be godfather to my little son."
But there was no answer; nothing but a light breath of wind which rustled through the pines, causing a few pinecones to fall at his feet.
"Well, I will take these with me in remembrance, as you will not show yourself," cried Peter, putting the cones in his pocket, and turning homewards. But when he took off his jerkin, and his mother turned the pockets inside out before putting the jerkin away, there fell on the floor four bulky packets of money, which, when opened, were seen to contain nothing but bright new Baden thalers, with not a single bad one among them. And this was the manikin's present, as sponsor, to his little godchild, Peterkin.
Thus they lived on in peace and contentment, and Peter would often say then, and in after years when a grey-haired old man: "It is better to be content with a little, than to be possessed of wealth and a cold heart!"
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Printed by Ebenezer Baylis & Son, Trinity Works, Worcester.