The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IX
Part 11 out of 13
Madman? God grant that I am!
[_A knock is heard; he steps back in horror and stretches out his hands
toward the door, as if warding off something_.]
Nonsense! What do you want, the whole lot of you? Why, that is Mary. She
is standing outside, and does not dare to come in, because she ran out
in the night. She hasn't the courage. I am severe--oh, I am severe!
[_Stands up straight_.]
Come what may!
[_He rushes toward the door; before he reaches it, another knock is
heard; he steps back again horrified and powerless_.]
The raging fever has seized me--nothing else. These are the
symptoms--chattering of the teeth and chills along the spine.
Elderberry-tea--a night or two of perspiration! What has the knocking to
do with my fever? Why does not some one open, some one call her in? Why
are you all so pale and tongueless? Has some one told a fairy-tale, and
are you afraid? My Mary was a living fairy-tale--she is-she is, I mean
to say. That Mary could be dead--but she would not give me such pain!
She knows that I cannot live without my Mary. Do you hear her giggling
outside? Now she will come skipping in and hold her hands over my eyes,
as she is accustomed to do, and I must not spoil her fun. Oh, it
is--[_Attempts to laugh, but sobs_.]--a--[_Beside himself_.]--After all,
it has to be! Come in!
[_Attempts to go to the door, but with eyes closed sinks into a chair on
ROBERT, WILLIAM, _then two men with a covered stretcher, which they put
down. The men go away_.
[_Going toward him_.]
Do you see, Ulrich? He lives!
ROBERT (_embracing him, pale and distracted_).
What has happened to you?
Would that the murderer had killed me! Father Ulrich, be a man!
FORESTER (_making a supreme effort to collect his energies_).
Go on! I will see whether I am a man.
[ROBERT _removes the covering_.]
SOPHY (_who, supported by_ ANDREW _and the_ PASTOR, _has
fallen upon her knees by the stretcher_).
Oh, God! It is Mary!
How did this happen? Explain it, Robert.
It is dreadfully clear to me.
ROBERT (_with difficulty maintaining his self-possession_).
She was praying: "God, let me belong only to my father." I was about to
say to her: "Mary, you are going to give me up?" Then she rushed upon
me, as if she wished to protect me with her own body, made a sign and
called in the direction of the forest. I saw no one; I did not
understand her; I was about to ask: "What is the matter, Mary?"
when--the report of a gun--she sank down in my arms; I threw myself over
her; a bullet had penetrated her heart.
That was her dream.
STEIN (_holds_ ROBERT _in his embrace, almost simultaneously_).
She died for you!
She saw me aim at him, and ran purposely into the course of my bullet. I
wanted to judge and--have judged myself. Crime and punishment at the
same moment! I was praying: "God have mercy on his poor soul!" I prayed
for myself, and the owls screeched Amen, and meant me!
ROBERT (_recoils, horrified_).
Almighty God--he himself!--
You did not do it consciously. A fearful madness urged you against your
Do not be so obstinate, man; God does not measure the deed according to
a superficial standard. Innocence and crime are at the extreme poles of
human nature. But often it is merely a quicker pulse that separates the
innocent from the criminal.
Give me words of life instead of your cobwebs of the brain--no If and
no But. Tell me something, so that I must believe it! Your words do not
convince me. Why do you offer consolation to my head? Offer consolation
to my heart, if you can. Can you with your consolation restore my child
to life, so that she will rush into my arms? In that case keep on
consoling me. Every word that fails to restore my child to life slays
her once more.
Flee to America; I will procure passports for you; all my money is
yours. Your wife and your children are mine!
Do you hear, Andrew, what that man there is saying? He wants to give you
money. Buy a hand-organ with it. Go about to the fairs, and sing of the
old murderer who shot his child--for no reason, for no reason at all in
the world. You need no picture. Take the old woman there along with you.
No painter can paint the story as it stands written upon her face.
Praise the child. Represent her more beautiful than she was--if you
can--as you imagine the most beautiful angel, and then say: "And yet she
was a thousand times more beautiful!" And represent the old murderer so
that people will shed a waterfall of tears for the child, and that every
street-urchin will shake his fist at the old fellow. And he who hears
this story and does not give you with chattering teeth his last penny,
though he had ten starving children at home, and does not pray to God
for the child and curse the old murderer that shot her, must have a
heart like the old murderer's who committed the deed. Do not say: "The
man was honest throughout his life and avoided evil and believed in a
God, and did not permit the least taint upon his honor." If you do, they
will not believe you. Say: He looked like a wolf; do not say: His beard
was white when he committed the crime. If you do, no one will give you
anything; none will believe that one can be so old and yet such an
abandoned villain. And on the lower part of your organ have a picture
painted--how the old murderer blows out his brains and walks as a ghost
during the night--and on the spot where the crime was perpetrated he
sits moaning at midnight with his fiery eyes and white beard--and there
no breeze wafts coolness, and there no dew falls and no rain--there grow
poisonous weeds--the spot is accursed like himself--and the animal that
accidentally strays there bellows with fear--and man is shaken as with
the ague. And have an angel painted from whose mouth proceeds a scroll
on which is written: "There sits he whom God has marked. Abel was a man,
and Cain was only his brother; but this was a child, and he that slew
her was her father. For Cain, there is still a hope of salvation, but
for the old murderer of his child, none--none--none!" Oh! Some comfort!
Some comfort! Only a shadow of comfort! For this I would give my
salvation, if I had any hope of salvation. I will ask God whether there
is any comfort for me!
[_He takes the Bible and reads, at first trembling in every limb, with
"And he that killeth any--"
No further, Ulrich. Let me show you words of life, words of humanity:
"'As I live,' saith the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of
the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.'"
FORESTER (_who keeps a firm hold of the Bible, and breaks away from the_
PASTOR, _almost simultaneously_).
Leave me alone, you inhuman creatures, with your humanity!
[_He continues reading. With every word his manner becomes more calm and
certain, the sound of his voice stronger_.]
"And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death."
[_Lays down the Bible_.]
Does he find solace in these words?
Let him have such comfort as consoles him.
FORESTER (_takes up the Bible again; his manner assumes an expression
That is certainty, that is promise, that convinces me--no But and no If.
"And he that killeth a man shall surely be put to death." That means:
Then it is expiated, then it is wiped out, and he is pure once more.
[_Puts on his hat and buttons his coat_.]
I am going before the magistrate.
[_About to go_.]
And you think they are going to put you to death?
[FORESTER _stops and turns around_.]
People more guilty than you have been pardoned.
Pardoned to be imprisoned--hey? Like Leutner? He--Indeed, they don't
judge right in those courts, not as it is written here. I know very
well--but--never mind!--All right!--
[_Takes his gun_.]
What do you intend to do?
Nothing, I must take along the rifle with which the deed was done. O,
they are particular about that! Farewell, Andrew, William. Take good
care of your mother.
[_Shakes hands with everybody_.]
Stein, Pastor, Robert, Sophy--she has fainted. God will soon let her
come after me. Bury my child. Have the bells ring; lay her bridal wreath
upon her coffin. O, I am an old woman! When we meet again I shall be a
murderer no longer.
[_Makes with his hand a sign of farewell_.]
FORESTER (_turns around at the door_).
My sight--and then--[_Points upward to heaven_.]--to meet my child.
[_Exit. Short pause, during which the others look after him with
surprise and emotion_.]
STEIN (_seized with a sudden apprehension_).
If the other barrel is still loaded--quick--after him--
[_Outside the door a shot is heard_.]
Too late! I suspected it!
ANDREW, WILLIAM (_rushing out_).
ROBERT (_in the open door, rooted to the spot through horror and pain at
what he sees_).
He has his right!
STEIN (_also at the door_).
A second time his own judge!
PASTOR (_stepping to the others_).
May God do unto him according to his faith.
[Footnote 7: Translation of the King James version.]
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH (1856)
By OTTO LUDWIG
TRANSLATED AND CONDENSED BY MURIEL ALMON
The little garden lies between the dwelling-house and the slate shed;
whoever goes from one to the other must pass it. As you go from the
house to the shed it is on your left; on the right there is a yard
with a woodshed and a stable, separated from the neighboring house by
a trellis-fence. Every morning the house opens twelve green shutters
onto one of the busiest streets of the town, the shed opens a large
gray door on a back street; the roses on the bushes that have been
trained to grow like trees in the little garden can look out into the
lane which connects its two larger sisters. On the other side of the
lane stands a tall house which, in elegant seclusion, does not deign
to bestow a glance on the smaller one. Its eyes are open only to the
doings of the main street; if you look nearer at its closed eyes
facing the narrow street, you soon see the reason for its eternal
sleep--they are only a sham, painted on the outer wall.
Not all sides of the house that belongs to the little garden look as
decorative as the one on the main street. There, a pale rose-colored
tint contrasts not too sharply with the green window-shutters and the
blue slate roof. The weather side of the house, on the narrow street,
looks as if it were clad in an armor of slate from top to toe; the
other gable-end joins directly on to the row of houses of which it is
the beginning or the end; at the back, however, it is an example of
the proverb that everything has its weak point. There, an upstairs
piazza has been built onto the house, not unlike half a crown of
thorns. Supported by roughly-hewn wooden posts it runs along the upper
story and expands toward the left into a little room. There is no
direct entrance to it from the upper story of the house. To reach the
"gallery chamber" from there one must leave the house by the back
door, walk perhaps six steps along the wall, past the dog-kennel, to
the wooden stairs, resembling those of a henhouse, and after climbing
these must wander the whole length of the piazza to the left.
If all the structures are not equally ornamental and if piazza, stable
and shed stand out noticeably against the dwelling-house, yet there is
nowhere lacking a quality which adorns more than beauty of form and
shining ornamentation. Extreme cleanliness smiles at the observer from
the most hidden corners. In the little garden it reaches such a pitch
that it hardly dares to smile. The garden does not look as if it were
cleaned with a hoe and broom; it looks as if it had been brushed. The
little beds that stand out so sharply against the yellow gravel of the
walks look, not as if they had been dug by a cord, but as if they were
drawn on the ground with a ruler and compasses, the box edging has the
air of being daily attended to by the most accurate barber in town
with comb and razor. And yet the blue coat which, if one stands on the
piazza, one may see twice daily stepping into the little garden and
every day at exactly the same minute, is still more neatly kept than
the garden. When, after doing various pieces of work, the old
gentleman leaves the garden again--and every day he goes at the same
minute, just as punctually as he comes--the white apron over his blue
coat shines with such unblemished whiteness that it is really
incomprehensible why the old gentleman should have put it on. When he
moves about among the tall rose-bushes which seem to have taken the
old gentleman's bearing for a model, each of his steps is like the
other, none is longer or fails to keep the regularity of his tempo. If
one looks at him closer as he stands thus in the middle of his
creation, one sees that he has merely copied externally that of which
nature has created the model in himself. The regularity of the
different parts of his tall figure seems to have been as accurately
measured as the beds of the little garden. When nature formed him, her
countenance must have borne the same expression of conscientiousness
as the old man's face--an expression which, because of its strength,
would appear to be obstinacy if an expression of loving gentleness,
indeed almost of dreamy enthusiasm, were not mixed with it. And even
now nature seems to watch over him with the same care that his eye
shows when it looks over his little garden. His hair, cut short at the
back and twisted above his brow into a so-called "corkscrew-curl," is
of the same unblemished whiteness that is shown by his neckerchief,
waistcoat, collar and the apron over his buttoned-up coat. Here, in
his little garden, he completes the finished picture that it presents;
away from home his appearance and personality must appear a little
odd. His hat still has the high pointed crown, his blue overcoat the
narrow collar and padded shoulders of a long vanished fashion. These
offer opportunities enough for bad jokes; but no one makes them. It is
as if there were an invisible something emanating from the stately
figure that prevents the rise of flippant thoughts.
When the older inhabitants of the town, meeting Herr Nettenmair, pause
in their conversation to greet him respectfully, it is not alone the
magic something that has this effect. They know what it is that they
respect in the old gentleman; when he has passed, their eyes follow
him as they stand, still in silence, until he has disappeared round
the corner; then it may well be that a hand is raised and an extended
forefinger tells more eloquently than lips could of a long life
adorned with all the virtues of a good citizen and untarnished by a
single misdeed. He is never seen in a public place, unless indeed
something relating to the common welfare is to be discussed or
started. The recreation which he allows himself he seeks in his little
garden. At other times he sits over his ledgers or stands in the shed
superintending the loading and unloading of the slate which comes from
his own quarry and which he sells all over the country and far beyond
its borders. A widowed sister-in-law looks after his house for him
and her sons manage the business of slating which is connected with
the trade in slate and is scarcely inferior to it in size. It is their
uncle's spirit, the spirit of orderliness, of conscientiousness to the
point of obstinacy, that rests upon the nephews and gains and keeps
for them such confidence that they are sent for from far away wherever
a slater is needed to roof a new building or to make extensive repairs
to an old one.
It is a peculiar life that goes on in the house with the green
window-shutters. The sister-in-law, still a beautiful woman, little
younger than the master of the house, treats him with a kind of silent
respect, or even veneration. And her sons do the same. The old
gentleman shows his sister-in-law a respectful consideration, a sort
of chivalry that has something touching in its grave reserve; toward
his nephews he displays the fondness of a father. Yet even there
something lies between them that lends to their whole intercourse
something of considerate formality.
The sabbath-like peace that now spreads its wings above the most
strenuous activity of the dwellers in the house did not always hover
there. There was a time when bitter sorrow that came from stolen
happiness, and wild desires divided its inmates, when even the menace
of murder cast its shadow into the house; when despair at self-created
misery wandered, wringing its hands in the still night, from the back
door, up the stairs and along the piazza and down again by the path
between the little garden and the stable-yard to the shed, creeping
restlessly to the front again and again to the back.
What, at that time, made the hearts in the house swell to the
bursting-point, what went on in the shadowed souls and issued from
them in part, in the self-forgetfulness of fear, or became a deed, a
deed of desperation--all that may pass through the memory of the man
with whom we have been occupied. It is thirty-one years today since he
returned to his home town from a long absence. So we turn back the
thirty-one years and find a young man instead of the old one whom we
leave. He is tall, but not so strong; and, like the old man, he wears
his brown hair cut short at the back and brushed into a
"corkscrew-curl" above his high white forehead. The sternness of the
old man does not yet appear in his face, and the scar of mental pain
endured has not yet been stamped upon his good-humored expression. Yet
he is far from showing the light-hearted carelessness usually
belonging to his age and the easy-going manners that are so frequently
habitual with the traveling journeyman. The high road still leads him
through the dense woods; but from the town, far down below, the sound
of St. George's bells rises up to the height, as impossible to
restrain as a mother flying to the loved child that comes toward her.
Home! How much lies in this one short syllable! What swells within the
human heart when the voice of home, the tone of the bells, calls a
welcome to him who is returning from abroad, the tone that called the
child to church, the boy to his confirmation and his first communion,
that spoke to him every hour! In the idea of home, all our good angels
embrace one another.
Tears gathered in our young wanderer's serious and yet kindly eyes. If
he had not been ashamed he would have sobbed aloud. He felt as if he
had only dreamed his sojourn away from home and, now that he was
awake, could scarcely remember the dream; as if he had only dreamed
that he had grown to be a man while abroad; as if it had always seemed
to him in his dreams that he was only dreaming abroad in order, when
he should wake up at home, to be able to tell about it. It might have
been noticed that, in spite of all this inward agitation of the
moment, he did not fail to see the cobweb that the breeze from home
laid as a greeting against his coat collar, and that he carefully
dried his tears so that they might not fall on his neckerchief, and
that he removed the last, tiniest scraps of the silver thread with the
most persistent patience before he gave himself up to his feeling for
home with his whole soul. And even his attachment to his home was in
part only an expression of his obstinate need of cleanliness which
made him regard everything alien that threatened to fly against him as
dirt; and this need in turn sprang from the warmth of feeling with
which he embraced everything that stood in closer relation to his
personality. The clothes on his body were a piece of home to him, from
which he must ward off everything strange.
Now the road turned; the mountain ridge which had closed it in up to
this point was now left behind to one side and the top of a spire
appeared above the young growth. It was the top of St. George's
steeple. The young wanderer paused. Natural as it was that the highest
building of the town should become visible to him before the others,
the tender meaning with which his fancy imbued the fact made him
forget that it was so. The slate roof of the church and steeple needed
repairs. This work had been given to his father; and it was the
reason, or at least the pretext, for his father's calling him back
home sooner than he had intended. Perhaps tomorrow he would begin his
part of the work. There, above the wide arch through which he saw the
bells moving, the steeple door had been placed. There the two beams
would have to be pushed out to bear the ladder on which he should
climb up to the broach-post to fasten to it the rope of the
contrivance in which he would make his airy circuit of the roof. And
as it was his nature to bind the cords of his heart to the objects
with which his work brought him in touch, he saw a greeting in the
sudden appearance of the spire and involuntarily reached out toward it
as if he would press a hand offered him in friendship. Then the
thought of the work quickened his step, till a clearing in the wood
and his arrival on the highest slope of the mountain showed him his
whole home town lying at his feet.
Again he stopped. There stood his father's house with the slate shed
behind it, not far from it the house where she had lived at the time
he went away. Now she lived in his father's house, was his father's
daughter, his brother's wife; and from now on he was to live in the
same house with her and to see her daily as his sister-in-law. His
heart beat harder at the thought of her. But it did not allow any of
the hopes which had formerly been bound up with her memory to rise.
His affection had become that of a brother for a sister, and what
moved him now was more like anxiety. He knew that she thought of him
with dislike. She was the only one in his father's whole house who
looked forward to his coming with displeasure. How had this all come
about? Had there not been a time when she seemed to be fond of him,
when she had apparently liked to meet him as much as she later avoided
him? Down below there, in front of the town, the shooting-house stood
surrounded by gardens. How much bigger the trees round the house had
grown since he had waved his last greeting to it from this height!
Shortly before he had stood there under that acacia--it had been a
beautiful spring evening, the most beautiful he thought he had ever
known--at the Whitsuntide shooting. Within all the other young people
were dancing; he walked happily round outside the house in which he
knew her to be dancing. Even now he still felt embarrassed with girls
and women and did not know how to talk to them; at that time he had
felt even more so. How dearly he would have loved to tell her--how
much he had to tell her, when he was alone, and how well he knew how
to say it; and if chance ordained that he met her alone (it was
wonderful how busy chance seemed to be in arranging such meetings) the
thought that now the moment had come drove all the blood to his heart,
the words from his tongue back into their hiding-place in the depths
of his soul. Thus it had been when, her cheeks still glowing from the
dance, she had come out of the house alone. She seemed to be concerned
only with getting cool; she fanned herself with her white scarf, but
her cheeks only grew the redder. He felt that she had seen him, that
she expected him to come nearer; and it was the knowledge that he
understood her that dyed her cheeks redder--that drove her, as he
hesitated, back again into the hall. Perhaps, too, she had heard a
third person coming. His brother came out of another door of the hall.
He had seen the two standing silently opposite each other, perhaps had
also seen the girl's blush. "Are you looking for Beate?" asked our
hero to hide his embarrassment. "No," answered his brother, "she is
not at the dance--and it's just as well. Nothing can come of it, after
all; I must get another--and until I find one, Bohemian beer is my
There was something wild in his brother's speech. Our hero looked at
him amazed and at the same time disturbed. "Why can nothing come of
it?" he asked. "And what is the matter with you?"
"Oh, yes, you think I ought to be like you, pious and patient so long
as there is no thread on your coat. But I am another kind of fellow,
and if anybody upsets my calculations I have to let off steam. Why can
nothing come of it? Because the old man in the blue coat won't have
"Father called you into the little garden yesterday--"
"Yes, and raised his white eyebrows, which are drawn with a ruler, an
inch and a half. 'I thought it was so. You are going with Beate, the
collector's daughter. That comes to an end today!'"
"Is it possible? And why?"
"Did you ever know old Blue-coat to give any 'why'? And did you ever
ask him 'But why, father?' He didn't say so, but I know why it has to
come to an end with me and Beate. I've been expecting it the whole
week; whenever he raised his hand I thought he was pointing to the
little garden and was ready to follow him like a poor sinner. That is
the place where he gives his cabinet orders. The collector is said not
to be in very good circumstances. There is some gossip about his
spending more than his pay. And--well, you are a quill-driver, too,
like old Blue-coat. But what can the girl do? Or I? Well, the affair
must stop--but I'm sorry about the girl, and I must see how I can
forget her. I must drink or get another one."
Our hero was accustomed to his brother's manner; he knew that the
words were not intended to be as wild as they sounded, and his brother
was showing his love and respect for their father by the fact of his
obedience; still our hero would have liked to see them shown in speech
as well as in action. It seemed to Apollonius as if there were
something unclean on his brother's soul and involuntarily he stroked
the other's coat collar several times with his hand as if he could
brush it off him from outside. Dust had collected on the collar during
the dance; when he had removed it he felt as if he had really removed
what had troubled him.
The subject of their conversation changed. They began to speak of the
girl who had just been out, fanning herself to get cool; Apollonius
certainly did not know that he was responsible for this. Just as the
girl was the goal to which all his lines of thought led, so, too, when
once he began to speak of her he could not escape from his theme. He
forgot his brother so completely that at last he was really talking to
himself. His brother now seemed for the first time to perceive all the
beautiful and good things in her that the hero lauded with unconscious
eloquence. He agreed with more and more enthusiasm until he broke into
a wild laugh which roused the hero from his self-forgetfulness and
dyed his cheeks as red as those of the girl had been a short time
"And so you slink about round the hall where she is dancing with
others, and if she shows herself you haven't the heart to draw her
into conversation. Wait, I will be your ambassador. From now on she
shall dance no turn except with me, so that no one else shall cross
your plans. I know how to get on with girls. Let me take your part for
Our hero was frightened at the thought that the girl should learn that
very day what he felt for her. Besides, he was ashamed of his own
embarrassed and awkward behavior to her, and of what she must think of
him when she knew that he needed a mediator. He had already raised his
hand to stop his brother when the appearance of the girl herself
caused everything else to grow dark to him. Quietly and alone, as
before, she stepped out of the door. Beneath the scarf with which she
had fanned herself she seemed to glance furtively about her. Again he
saw her cheeks grow redder. Had she seen him? But she turned her face
in the opposite direction. She seemed to be looking for something in
the grass in front of her. He saw her pick a little flower, lay it on
a bench and, after she had stood for a time as if in doubt whether she
should pick it up again or not, with quick decision turn again to the
door. A half involuntary movement of her arm seemed to tell him to
take it, that it was picked for him. Once more a wave of red rushed up
over her face to her dark brown hair, and the haste with which she
disappeared in the door seemed intended to prevent a regret which
might give rise to anxiety as to how her conduct would be understood.
The brother, who seemed not to have noticed anything of all this, had
continued to speak in his lively, vehement fashion; his words were
lost; our hero would have had to have had two lives in order to hear
them, for all the one he possessed was in his eyes. Now he saw his
brother rushing away toward the hall. He thought of detaining him, but
it was too late. In vain he hurried after him up to the door. There
the flower absorbed him again which the girl had left lying for some
finder, for a happy one, if _he_ found it for whom it was intended.
And while his lips continued to call softly and mechanically to his
brother, who no longer heard him, to keep silence, he was inwardly
asking himself: "Was it really I for whom she laid the flower here?
Did she lay it here for any one?" His heart answered both questions
with a happy "Yes," while at the same time the thing that his brother
intended to do troubled him.
If it was a sign of love from her and for him, then it was the last.
Twice he glanced surreptitiously into the hall when the door was
opened; he saw her dancing with his brother and then, when they were
resting after the dance, he saw his brother talking persuasively to
her in his hasty way. "Now he is talking of me," he thought, his whole
face burning. He rushed into the shade of the bushes when she left the
hall. His brother took her home. He followed them at as great a
distance as he thought necessary to prevent her seeing him. When his
brother came back from accompanying her he stepped away from the door.
He felt naked with shame. His brother had noticed him nevertheless. He
said: "She won't hear of you yet; I don't know whether she means it,
or whether it is just airs. I shall meet her again. No tree falls at
one stroke. But I must confess, you have good taste. I don't know
where my eyes have been up to now. She's away ahead of Beate; and
that's saying a good deal!"
From then on his brother had danced untiringly with Walter's
Christiane and spoken for Apollonius and always, after he had taken
her home, he came and gave our hero an account of his efforts on his
behalf. For a long time he was uncertain whether it was only
affectation, or whether she really looked with disfavor on our hero.
He repeated conscientiously what he had said in our hero's praise, and
how she had answered his questions and assurances. He still had hope
after our hero had already given it up. And her behavior toward the
latter would have compelled him to realize that he could expect no
return of his affection, even if he had not known what answers she
gave his brother. She avoided him wherever she saw him as assiduously
as she had formerly seemed to seek him. And had it really been he whom
she had sought before, if indeed she had sought any one?
A hundred times his brother urged him to waylay her and press his own
suit. He exerted all his inventive power to procure him an opportunity
of speaking to her alone. Our hero refused to be urged or to accept
his offers. After all, it was useless. All that he might accomplish
would be to make her still more angry.
"I can't stand by any longer and see you growing thinner and paler all
the time," said his brother one evening, after he had reported how
unsuccessfully he had spoken for him again that day. "You must go away
from here for a while; that will have good results for you in two
ways. When I tell her that it is on her account that you have gone out
into the world, perhaps she will turn. Believe me, I know the
long-haired tribe, and I know how to treat them. You must write her a
touching letter for good-by; I will deliver it, and I'll manage to
soften her heart. And if it can't be accomplished, it will do you good
to be away from here where everything reminds you of her, for a
year--or several years. And finally, strange places will make another
man of you, who will know better how to get round the apron-wearers.
You must learn to dance; that's already half the battle. And anyway,
the old Blue-coat has been asked by his cousin in Cologne to send one
of us to him; I read it the other day in a letter that had fallen out
of his pocket. Just tell him that you have gathered something of the
sort from several things he has said lately and that you are ready to
go if he wants you to. Or let me do that. You are too honest."
And he really did arrange it. It is a question whether our hero would
have been able voluntarily to make up his mind to leave home. He could
not understand how any one could live anywhere else but in his home
town; to him it had always seemed like a fairy tale that there were
other towns and people living in them. He had not imagined the life
and doings of these people as real, like those of the inhabitants of
his home, but as a kind of shadow-play that existed only for the
looker-on, not for the shadows themselves. His brother, who knew how
to treat the old man, led the conversation up to the cousin in Cologne
as if by chance, and was clever enough to interpret the suggestions
that Herr Nettenmair made in his diplomatic way as preliminary hints
and connect them with others that referred to our hero. After frequent
conversations he seemed to take it as the express desire of the old
man that Apollonius should go to his cousin in Cologne. This put the
idea into the old man's mind and, as it passed for his own, he brooded
over it in his own way. There was little work to do at the time, and
there seemed to be no prospect of its increasing materially for some
time. A pair of hands could be spared; if they remained in the
business all the workers would be condemned to semi-idleness. The old
man could stand nothing as little as what he called dawdling. The only
thing that was lacking was that our hero should resist. He knew
nothing of his brother's plans. The latter had wisely not initiated
him into them, because he knew him too well to expect his support in a
matter that he would have rejected as both underhand and disrespectful
to his father.
"You want to send Apollonius to Cologne," said his brother to the old
man one afternoon; "but will he want to go? I don't think so. You will
have to send me out on my travels. Apollonius won't go--at least not
today, nor tomorrow."
That was enough. That very evening the old man beckoned our hero to
follow him into the little garden. He stopped in front of the old
pear-tree and, removing a little twig that was growing out of its
trunk, said: "Tomorrow you will go to your cousin in Cologne."
With a rapid movement he turned toward his son, and saw with
astonishment that Apollonius nodded his head obediently. It seemed
almost to displease him that he should have no self-will to break.
Did he think that the poor boy was nursing defiant thoughts, even if
he did not express them, and did he want to break down even the
defiance of thoughts? "You pack your knapsack this very day, do you
hear?" he shouted at him.
"Yes, father," said Apollonius.
"You start tomorrow at sunrise." After he had seemed to try almost to
force a defiant answer, he may have regretted his anger. He made a
gesture of dismissal; Apollonius went obediently. The old man followed
him, and several times he came up to the brothers' room with milder
sternness to remind his son, who was packing, of this and that which
he was not to forget.
And the last of four strokes was just ringing out from the tower of
St. George's when the door of the house with the green shutters
opened, and our young wanderer stepped out, accompanied by his
brother. At the same spot where he now stood looking down on the town
lying below him, his brother had taken farewell of him, and he had
looked after him a long, long time. "Perhaps I can win her for you
after all," his brother had said; "and then I'll write you so at once.
And if you can't get her, she isn't the only one in the world. I can
tell you, you are as good-looking a fellow as any; and if you'll only
lay aside your stupid way you can get on with any of them. Once for
all, things are so that the girls can't court us--and I shouldn't even
want one that threw herself at my head of her own accord. And what can
a lively girl do with a dreamer? Our cousin in Cologne is said to have
a couple of pretty daughters. And now, good-by. I will deliver your
letter today." With that his brother had left him.
"Yes," said Apollonius to himself as he looked after him. "He is
right. Not because of my cousin's daughters, or any other girl, no
matter how pretty she might be. If I had been different perhaps I need
not have had to go away now. Was it I for whom she laid the flower
there at the Whitsuntide shooting? Did she want to meet me then, and
before then? Who knows how hard it has become for her! And having done
all that in vain must she not have felt ashamed? Oh, she is right not
to want to have anything more to do with me. I must learn to be
And this resolution had been no bloomless bud. His cousin's house in
Cologne did not encourage dreaming of any kind. Apollonius found an
entirely different family life there from that in his own home. His
old cousin was as full of life as the youngest member of the family.
Loneliness was impossible. A lively sense of the ridiculous
[Illustration: Jacob's Journey. Schnorr Von Carolsfeld] [Blank Page]
prevented the growth of any kind of peculiarity. Every one had to be
on his guard; no one could let himself go.
Apollonius could not have avoided growing to be another man, even if
he had not wanted to change; and he recognized clearly that it was a
piece of good fortune that had led him to his cousin. He lost more and
more of his dreaminess; before long his cousin could put the most
difficult task into the young man's hands and he would complete it,
without the aid of another's advice, so satisfactorily that his cousin
was obliged to confess to himself that even he would not have begun
the matter more thoroughly, carried it on more energetically, finished
it more speedily and happily. Soon the youth was able to form his own
opinion of the way in which the business at home had been carried on.
He was obliged to acknowledge that it had not been the most practical
way, in fact, that some of his father's orders could not but be called
wrong-headed; then he reproached himself bitterly for his unfilial
criticism, endeavored to justify his father's actions to himself, and,
if he found that impossible, forced himself to believe that the old
man must have had his good reasons and it could only be that he
himself was too limited in knowledge to be able to guess them.
Letters came from his brother. In the first one he wrote that he was
now clear in his mind about the girl to this extent, that her
harshness toward Apollonius was due to her fondness for another whom
he could not bring her to name. In the next, one in which he scarcely
spoke of the girl, Apollonius read between the lines a certain pity
for himself, the reason for which he knew not how to find. The third
gave this reason only too clearly. His brother himself was the object
of the girl's secret affection. She had given him various signs of
this, after he had renounced his former sweetheart in accordance with
his father's will. He had suspected nothing of this; and when he had
approached her as a suitor on his brother's behalf, shame and the
conviction that he himself did not love her had sealed her lips.
Now Apollonius realized with pain that he had been mistaken when he
believed that those dumb signs had been meant for him. He wondered that
he had not seen that he was in error at the time. Had not his brother
been as near to her as he when she laid down the flower which the wrong
man found? And when she had met him alone so intentionally
unintentionally--indeed, when he called to mind the moments that
dominated his dreams--she had sought his brother, that was why she had
been so startled to meet him, that was why she had fled every time as
soon as she had recognized him, as soon as she found him whom she was
not seeking. She did not talk to him, but she could joke for a quarter
of an hour at a time with his brother.
These thoughts characterized hours, days and weeks of pain that lay
deep within him, but his cousin's confidence which he had to reward by
living up to it, the healing effect of busy and purposeful work, the
manliness which both these things had already ripened in him, all held
their own in the struggle and came out of it strengthened.
A later letter which he received from his brother announced that old
Walther had discovered the inclination of the girl's heart and that he
and the old gentleman in the blue coat had decided that Apollonius'
brother should marry the girl. The old gentleman's "should" was a
"must;" Apollonius knew that as well as his brother. The girl's
affection had touched his brother; she was beautiful and good; should
he oppose his father's will for Apollonius' sake, for the sake of a
love that was without hope? Being certain of Apollonius' consent
beforehand, he had resigned himself to the decree of heaven.
Throughout the first half of the following letter, in which he
announced his marriage, this pious mood echoed. After many cordial
words of comfort came his brother's apology, or rather justification,
for having allowed two years to elapse between this letter and the
last one. Then followed a description of his domestic happiness; his
young wife who still clung to him with all the fire of her girlish
love, had borne him a girl and a boy. In the mean time his father had
been afflicted by an ailment of the eyes, and had grown constantly
less able to conduct the business alone in his sovereign manner. This
had made him grow odder and odder. After he had left the reins in his
son's hands for a time, the old imperative desire to rule, intensified
by the monotony of enforced idleness, had caused him to rouse himself
once more. Finally, however, he had been obliged to realize that
things could not go on in his way. To subordinate himself to another
merely as an advisory assistant, and particularly when the other was
his own son who until recently had carried out his commands without
being consulted and without any will of his own, this proved to be
impossible for the old man. He found occupation in the little garden.
There he could remove the old, think of something new, and again make
room for something newer; and he did so. Ruling unrestrictedly in the
little green realm in which from now on no "why" might be heard,
where, beside the law of nature, only one other governed and that his
will, he forgot or seemed to forget that he had formerly borne a
But his brother's following letters were not so full of the business
and of the odd old gentleman as they were of the festivities of the
shooting society of the home town and of a club which had been formed
to keep its pleasures separate from those of the lower classes. In all
the descriptions of bird and target shooting, concerts and balls of
which he and his young wife appeared as the centre, shone the utmost
gratification of the writer's vanity. Only in a postscript to the last
letter did he mention the more serious fact that the town wanted to
have repairs made to the tower and roof of St. George's, and that the
work had been entrusted to him. The old gentleman in the blue coat
urged him to ask Apollonius to return to his home town and the
business. It was his brother's opinion that Apollonius would not care
to leave the life in Cologne of which he had become fond for such a
trifling matter. The repairs could be completed in a short time with
the present working force. There were only a few damaged places on the
tower and roof. Moreover, apart from his wife's dislike of Apollonius
which he had continued to combat in vain, it would be a useless
torture to his brother to refresh in his mind all that he must be glad
to have forgotten. He would easily find an excuse for refusing to obey
a command which only oddity had suggested. The conclusion of the
letter contained a teasing insinuation of a relation between our hero
and his cousin's youngest daughter, of which his home town was
talking. His brother sent his regards to her as his future
Although no such relation existed, Apollonius acknowledged to himself
that it was only for him to call it into being. He knew that he could
become his cousin's son-in-law if he wished. The girl was pretty,
good, and fond of him, as was her sister. But he looked on her only as
a sister; he had never felt a wish that she might be more to him. He
believed he had conquered his love for Christiane; he did not know
that after all it was only she that stood between him and his cousin's
daughter, as she would have stood between him and any other woman.
When he learned that Christiane loved his brother, he had taken from
his breast the little metal box in which he had carried the flower
ever since the evening when he had picked it up in the mistaken
belief that it had been laid there for him. When Christiane became his
brother's wife, he packed up the box with the flower and sent it to
him. He could not throw away what had once been dear to him--but he
might no longer possess it. Only he had a right to the flower for whom
it had been intended, to whom belonged the hand which had bestowed it.
His father called him back; he must obey. But it was more than mere
obedience that awoke in him. He not only went; he went gladly. His
father's words conveyed to him a permission rather than an order. When
the spring sun penetrates into a room that has been uninhabited and
closed for the winter we see that what has lain on the floor like dry
mummies was really sleeping life. Now it moves and stretches itself
and becomes a buzzing cloud and swarms up jubilantly into the golden
ray. Not his father alone, every house in his home-town, every hill,
every garden about it, every tree within it, called him. His brother,
his sister--this was the name he gave Christiane--called him. Yet, she
did not call him. She felt a dislike of him, a dislike so strong that
for six years his brother had struggled in vain to overcome it. He
felt as if he must go home on that account if on no other; he must
show her that he did not deserve her dislike, that he was worthy to be
her brother. He wrote this to his brother in the letter which
announced his intention to obey and named the day on which they might
expect him. He was able to assure him that recollections of the time
that was gone would not torture him, that his brother's anxiety was
It had come to that--the thought of her did not awaken any of the old
hopes. When he looked down from the height he asked himself: "Shall I
succeed in becoming a brother to her who is now my sister?"
He has arrived at the door of the paternal home. In vain he has
scanned the windows, seeking for some familiar face. Now a thickset
man in a black coat comes rushing out. He dashes out so hastily,
embraces him so wildly, presses him so close to his white waistcoat,
lays his cheek so near his cheek and keeps it there so long that one
must choose to believe either that he loves his brother to the utmost
or--that he does not want him to look into his eyes. But at last he
has to let go of him; he takes him by the right arm and draws him into
"It's fine that you've come! It's grand that you've come! It really
wasn't necessary--simply an idea of the old man's, and he has nothing
more to say about the business. But it really is splendid of you; I'm
only sorry that you're making your betrothed's eyes red for nothing."
He said the words "your betrothed" so distinctly and in such a loud
tone that they could be heard and understood in the living room.
Apollonius searched his brother's face with moist eyes, as if to check
off, point by point, whether everything was still there that had been
so dear to him. His brother did nothing to help him; he looked only at
what lay between Apollonius' chin and toes.
"Father wanted it," said Apollonius easily; "and what you say of a
His brother interrupted him; he laughed loudly in his old manner, so
that even if Apollonius had gone on speaking he could not have been
understood. "That's all right! That's all right! And once more, it's
splendid that you've come to visit us, and we won't let you go for a
fortnight at least, whether you want to or not. Don't mind her," he
added softly, pointing through the doorway with his right hand while
he opened the door with his left.
The young wife was standing at a cupboard with the contents of which
she was busy, her back toward the door. She turned, in an embarrassed
and not quite friendly manner, and only toward her husband. Her
brother-in-law could still see nothing but a part of her right cheek,
with a burning blush upon it. Whatever other criticism might be made
of her behavior, an unmistakable honesty showed itself in it, an
incapability of pretending to be otherwise than she was. She stood
there as if she were preparing herself to hear an expected insult.
Apollonius went up to her and took her hand, which at first she seemed
to want to draw away and then allowed to lie motionless in his. He was
glad to greet his sister-in-law. He begged her not to be displeased at
his coming and hoped by earnest endeavor to conquer the unmistakable
dislike that she felt for him.
* * * * *
However considerate and courteous were the terms in which he clothed
his pleading and hope, yet he expressed both only in thought. That
everything was just as he had imagined it and yet so entirely
different robbed him of all ease and courage.
His brother put a welcome end to the painful pause, for his wife did
not utter a syllable in reply. He pointed to the children. They were
still crowding, unconfused by all that oppressed their elders and
which they did not notice or understand, about their new uncle; and he
was glad of the opportunity to bend down to them and to have to answer
a thousand questions.
"They're a forward brood," said their father. He pointed to the
children, but he looked furtively at his wife. "For all that I'm
surprised to see how soon you have become acquainted--and intimate at
once," he added. Perchance he continued his last remark in thought:
"it seems that you know how to become intimate quickly and to make
others intimate with you!" A shade as of anxiety spread over his red
face. But his anxiety was not about the children; otherwise he would
have looked at the children and not at his wife.
Apollonius was talking more and more eagerly to the children. He had
failed to hear the remark or he did not want to let the angry woman
know whose face he carried so vividly within him. He would have
recognized the little ones, if they had met him by chance, as his
brother's children by their resemblance to their mother. But the
question how they had become so quickly intimate with him ought to
have been put to old Valentine. It was he who had been continually
telling them about the uncle who was soon coming to see them--perhaps
only so as to be able to talk with some one about what he liked to
talk of so much. The brother and the sister-in-law avoided such
conversations, and the father did not make himself familiar enough
with the old fellow to talk with him about matters which might give
him an excuse to drop into any kind of intimacy. Old Valentine would
also have been able to say that the children had not met their uncle
just by chance. They had come to find him. Old Valentine had thought
of how love that has waited long hurries to meet thousands of
homecomers; it had hurt him to think that his favorite alone should
fail to find any greeting before he knocked at his father's door.
Apollonius suddenly ceased speaking. He was shocked to think that his
embarrassment had caused him to forget his father. His brother
understood his start and said with relief: "He's in the little
garden." Apollonius jumped up and hurried out.
There, among his beds, crouched the figure of the old gentleman. He
was still following old Valentine's shears with his critical hands as
the servant slipped along on his knees before him. He found many an
inequality which the fellow had to remove at once. It was no wonder.
Twice every minute old Valentine thought: "Now he's coming!" And when
he thought thus the shears cut crookedly right into the bog. And the
old gentleman would have growled in quite another manner if the same
thought had not made uncertain the hand that was now his eye.
Apollonius stood before his father and could not speak for pain. He
had long known that his father was blind and had often pictured him to
himself in sorrowful thought. At such times he had seen him looking as
usual, only with a shield over his eyes. He had thought of him sitting
or leaning on old Valentine, but never as he now saw him, the tall
figure helpless as a child, the trembling and uncertain hands feeling
their way. Now he knew for the first time what it meant to be blind.
Valentine laid the shears down and laughed or cried on his knees; it
could not be said what he did. The old gentleman first inclined his
head to one side as if listening, then he pulled himself together.
Apollonius saw that his father felt his blindness to be something of
which he must be ashamed. He saw how the old man exerted himself to
avoid every movement that might recall the fact that he was blind. The
old gentleman felt that the new-comer was somewhere near him. But
where? On which side? Apollonius understood that his father felt this
uncertainty with shame, and forced himself to cry with a voice that
almost failed him. "Father! Dear father!" He dropped on his knees
beside the old man and wanted to throw both arms around him. His
father made a motion which seemed to beg for forbearance, though it
was only intended to keep the young man away from him. Apollonius
threw the arms his father had refused around his own breast to hold
the pain there which, if it had risen and crossed his lips, would have
betrayed to his father how deeply he felt the latter's misery. The
same consideration made old Valentine turn his involuntary motion to
help the old gentleman to stand upright, into a movement to pick up
the shears which lay between him and his master. He too wanted to hide
from the son what could not be hidden, so faithfully and deeply had he
learned to live in the father's feelings.
The old gentleman had risen and held out his hand to his son much as
if the latter had been absent as many days as he had been years. "You
must be tired and hungry! I am somewhat troubled with my eyes--but it
is of no consequence. As regards the business, talk to Fritz. I have
given it up. I want to have peace. But that is not the real reason;
young people must become independent some time. It makes them more
eager to work."
He came a step nearer his son. He seemed to be carrying on a struggle
within himself. He wanted to say something which no one should hear
except his son. But he was silent. Why did he suppress what he wanted
to say? Did it concern the business, or the honor of the house? And
did he know or suspect that the one who was now responsible for both
in his place was standing leaning against the gate of the little
garden and could hear what he said to the new-comer, or, if he spoke
secretly to him, could at least see that he did so? Was this why he
had had Apollonius called home from abroad? And did the expression of
a "why" now still seem to him incompatible with his position?
It was a curious party at the midday meal. The old gentleman dined
alone in his little room as usual. The children too had been sent
away, and did not come in again until after the meal. The young wife
was more in the kitchen or elsewhere out of the room than at the
table; and if she did once sit down there for a few minutes, she was
as dumb as she had been when Apollonius greeted her; the resentful
cloud did not pass from her forehead. Fritz was accustomed to his
father's condition, which pierced Apollonius' heart with the keenness
of new-felt pain. He talked only of the old man's oddities; old
Blue-coat did not know what he wanted himself, and made life
needlessly unpleasant for himself and all the others in the house. If
Apollonius began to talk of the business, of the repairs to be made to
the roof of St. George's, his brother spoke of pleasures with which he
was glad to be able to make his brother's stay with him more
agreeable--and he always mentioned this stay as he would a passing
visit. When Apollonius told him he had not come to enjoy himself but
to work, he laughed as if it were an incomparable joke that Apollonius
should want to help to do nothing, and showed that he understood wit,
however dry might be its expression. Then, when his wife had gone out
of the room, he asked about his brother's understanding with his
cousin's daughter, and then laughed again at his brother wag, in whom
no one would recognize the old dreamer.
After dinner the children came in again, and with them more life and
easy familiarity. While the old conditions still confronted Apollonius
as new and strange, to the children what was new had already become
old and familiar. All the afternoon Fritz, and apparently his wife
too, were occupied only with a ball that was to be given. Fritz forgot
more and more whatever might have caused him uneasiness, in thinking
of the impression that he, as the chief person, would make on the
new-comer at the festivity, and made use of the time till it should
begin in giving him a foretaste of the affair by means of tales and
hints dropped of the honor and attention shown him on such occasions
by the most prominent citizens. He became noticeably more cheerful,
and walked more and more proudly up and down the room. The creaking of
his well-polished shoes said for the present, before the guests at the
ball could do so: "Ah, there he is! Ah, there he is!" And when at
intervals he jingled the money in his trousers-pockets all the corners
of the hall rang with: "Now the fun will begin! Now the fun will
begin!" And thither among those who were welcoming the guests--but he
was no longer walking, he was gliding, swimming on the music--every
dance was a jubilant overture on the name Nettenmair--he felt no
floor, no feet, no legs beneath him, he scarcely still felt young Frau
Nettenmair swimming along beside him, hanging to his right fin, the
most beautiful among the beautiful, just as he was the most jovial
among the jovial, the thumb on the hand of the ball.
And two hours later cries of "There he is!" really did ring from all
sides and all the corners shouted: "Now the fun will begin!" Wherever
they passed chairs were offered them. No hand was shaken as often and
as long as that of jovial Fritz Nettenmair, no member of the company
had so much sincere praise poured into his ears as he. But then, how
agreeable he was! How condescendingly he accepted all this deserved
homage! How witty he showed himself; how pleasantly he laughed! And
not at his own jokes alone--there was no art in that; they were so
brilliant that he had to laugh even if he didn't want to--he laughed
at others too, little as they deserved it, compared with his. There
were people, to be sure, who paid little attention to him, but he did
not notice them; and those who showed it more plainly were
"Philistines, everyday fellows, insignificant people," as he whispered
to his brother with contemptuous pity. It was quite peculiar:
everyone's greater or lesser importance as a man and a citizen could
be measured with perfect exactitude by the degree of his admiration
for Fritz Nettenmair.
When the dancing began Fritz drew his brother into a room at the side.
"You must dance," he said. "My wife would turn you down, and that
would be unpleasant for me. I will bring you a partner who is firm on
her feet and can keep you in time. Pluck up heart, boy, even if it
doesn't go smoothly all at once."
In the excitement of vanity Fritz Nettenmair had forgotten six years.
His brother was still to him the dreamer of old whom he forced to
dance at times for his pleasure. Now, when, paying no attention to his
refusal, he led the girl to Apollonius, the latter resigned himself so
as not to appear impolite.
Fritz Nettenmair was the best-natured fellow in the world as long as
he knew himself to be the sole object of the general admiration. In
such a mood he could perform deeds of sacrifice for those who threw
his brilliance into the shade. So it was now. As he sat among the
important people, treating them to champagne, and read in his wife's
eyes the gratification with which she saw him overwhelmed with honors,
a feeling crept over him as if he had forgiven his brother a great
wrong, and he felt himself to be an extraordinarily noble man, who
deserved all these marks of honor and who yet with wonderful modesty
condescended to allow himself to be touched by them. He saw that his
brother was no longer the dreamer of old; but he forgave him that too.
All eyes were directed toward the handsome dancer and his skilful
carriage. Fritz teased his wife, and, in the certainty that he must
far outshine his brother, he felt the additional gratification of
forgiving any amount of wrong that Apollonius had never done him.
But, oh the ungrateful one! He would not allow himself to be outshone.
Fritz Nettenmair danced jovially, as one who is at home in the world
and knows how to treat the species that wears long hair and aprons;
his brother was a stiff figure in comparison. He did not keep time
with his head, nor, if the step was made with the left foot on the
down beat, throw the upper part of his body to the right and vice
versa; he did not now and again, with the boldness of a genius, slide
across the hall and outdistance other couples. He danced neither
jovially nor as one who is familiar with the world and knows how to
treat the species that wears long hair and aprons; yet all eyes
remained fixed on him, and Fritz Nettenmair outdid himself in vain.
It was the dullest ball that Fritz Nettenmair had ever experienced; it
could not have been more so if Fritz Nettenmair had stayed at home.
Fritz Nettenmair proclaimed the fact with mighty oaths, and the
important people who had drunk his champagne agreed with him in his
opinion, as they always did.
Some of the important women expressed to Frau Nettenmair their
righteous and friendly indignation at her brother-in-law. That he had
not asked his sister-in-law for the first dance betrayed an
unpardonable disparagement of her. Frau Nettenmair, who felt the
universal wrong done to her husband as deeply as if it had been done
to herself, said that her brother-in-law had long known that she would
only have turned him down if he had. But still Apollonius was only
admired and honored more and more, and consequently the ball only
became still duller. It became so dull, in fact, that Fritz Nettenmair
left with his wife at an hour when as a rule he was only just
beginning to be really jovial. Nevertheless he heaped coals of fire on
his ungrateful brother's head. He asked the girl in his brother's name
to allow Apollonius to accompany her home. Then he went out of the
little room at the side into the hall again to his wife, and with her
left the house, to the unfeigned despair of the important people, who
were still thirsty for champagne.
After he had performed his enforced knightly service for his lady,
Apollonius found the door of the paternal home open and all its
inmates already asleep. At least there was no light to be seen
anywhere and everything was still. His brother had assigned to him the
little room at the left of the second-story piazza. Fortunately for
Apollonius, the six years had not altered the house as they had its
inmates. He went softly through the back door, past Moldau who growled
in a friendly way and whose rough neck he stroked full of gratitude
for this sign of constancy, mounted the stairs, walked the length of
the piazza and found a bed in his little room. But before he undressed
he still sat for a long time on the chair by the window and compared
what he had found with what he had left. Before he lay down for the
night he had determined on his future course of action. The next
morning he must learn what he was to do here, his relation to his
father's house must be clearly settled. If there was no work for him,
he would be on his way back to Cologne before the day was over.
He was up with the sun; but he had long to wait before it pleased his
brother to rise from his couch. He made use of the time to take a walk
to St. George's; he wanted to see for himself what was to be done
there. When he came back again he met his brother and a gentleman with
him who were just about to leave the living room. Apollonius knew the
gentleman as the inspector of buildings from the town council. They
greeted each other. They had already spoken to each other the day
before at the ball, where the gentleman had not proved himself to be a
prominent man and citizen, but, on the contrary, had joined the
Philistines, everyday fellows, and insignificant people. Apparently he
was not displeased to meet Apollonius just now. After the customary
exchange of courtesies he explained the purpose of his presence. A
final conference of experts was to take place that morning to consider
what was to be done to the roof of the church and the tower, so that
the result could be reported at a meeting of the council in the
afternoon and a decision reached. Fritz Nettenmair and the inspector
were on the way to St. George's, where they knew that the rest of the
experts were already assembled.
Fritz, as he said, did not want to trouble his visitor by making him
participate in business in which he was not concerned; just as
little--but he did not say this--did he want to leave him alone at
home. He asked him to be at the house in the woods, from which he
would fetch him to go for a walk. Apollonius assured him quite easily
that he would rather be present at the meeting; and when the inspector
went so far as to ask him to go with him as another expert, no pretext
could be found on which this could be prevented. Perhaps Fritz
Nettenmair had a suspicion that he would soon have a great deal more
to forgive the newcomer.
They found the rest of the meeting, two strange master-slaters and the
official builders of the council, carpenter, masons, and tinsmiths,
waiting for them at the tower-door. Several scaffoldings had already
been fastened to the roof so that it could be examined; the conference
took place in the church-loft nearest the largest of them. Apollonius
stood modestly a few steps away in order to hear and, if he were
asked, to speak. He had carefully examined the roof beforehand and
formed his own opinion of the matter.
The two strange slaters stated that they thought extensive repairs
were necessary. Fritz Nettenmair, on the contrary, was convinced that
with a few patches which he enumerated, nothing more need be done for
years. The builders, carpenter, masons and tinsmith eagerly agreed
with him; all of them jovial and prominent men at yesterday's ball who
conscientiously believed that if you drank a man's champagne, his was
the opinion you must hold. The strange slaters knew very well that the
Council feared the expense of more extensive repairs and had postponed
those that had long been highly necessary from year to year. As,
moreover, they had no prospect of being intrusted with the repairs
themselves, they did not give themselves unnecessary trouble to aid in
forcing upon Herr Fritz Nettenmair work and profit for which he
himself seemed to care nothing at all. Hence in the course of the
discussion they became more and more convinced that, whatever way you
looked at the matter, Herr Fritz Nettenmair too was right. The
inspector, a good man, perhaps grasped their motives and those of the
prominent men. For a time he had listened in silence with a
dissatisfied face, when he remembered Apollonius. He saw something in
the latter's expression that seemed to correspond to his own opinion.
"And what do you say?" he asked, turning to him.
Apollonius modestly came a step nearer.
"I wish you would look at the matter as carefully as possible," said
Apollonius replied that he had already done so.
"I need not draw your attention to the fact that the matter is very
important," continued the councilman.
Apollonius bowed. The councilman repressed what he had been about to
say. With all its softness and mildness, such strict conscientiousness
and obstinate honesty was expressed in the young man's countenance,
that the councilman was almost ashamed of the admonition he had been
on the point of giving him.
Apollonius began by stating the results of the examination he had
made. He explained the condition of the places he had been able to
test and what might be inferred from that as regarded the others. As
the church accounts showed, no extensive repairs had been made to the
church roof for eighty years. Even though the slate itself, if the
material was good, might defy the elements for a long time yet, this
was not true of the nails with which the slates were fastened to the
lathing and planking. And wherever he had tested them he had found the
nails either entirely destroyed or very nearly so.
It was unavoidably necessary to re-lay the entire slate covering and
to replace with new material the rotten spots in the lathing and
planking. Another winter would make the condition of the roof so much
worse that there was nothing to be gained by postponing the repairs
with the object of saving the interest, for, without greater loss, the
repairs could at the most be delayed only till the next year. He led
those assembled to places which might serve as samples. He did not
draw the conclusion himself, but knew how to use the cleverness which
he had learnt from his cousin to force his opponents to do that for
The councilman's confidence in and respect for our Apollonius grew
visibly. During the rest of the discussion he appealed almost entirely
to him and shook his hand cordially when the left the meeting. If the
undertaking should receive the approval of the Council, which he now
no longer doubted, he hoped that Apollonius would take an active part
in it, and he requested him to write out a report as to the most
practical method of beginning it. Apollonius thanked him modestly for
his confidence, of which he would try to show himself worthy. As to
his taking part in the work itself, he replied that his father, as the
master, would have to decide.
"I'll go with you at once," said the councilman, "and speak to him."
Even though Fritz had conducted the business until now and was
regarded and treated by the important people as the master, still he
was not. The old man had let him become master just as little as he
had formally made over the business to him; he wanted to reserve to
himself a sovereign power of interference wherever he should find it
He heard the two approaching while still at a distance and groped his
way to a bench in his arbor. There he was sitting when they entered.
After greetings had passed the councilman asked after Herr
"Thank you," replied the old gentleman, "I am somewhat troubled with
my eyes--but it is of no consequence." He smiled as he spoke, and the
councilman exchanged a glance with Apollonius that won the latter's
whole soul. Then he told the old man the whole conference, and made
Apollonius blush in his modesty so that it was long before his usual
color came back. The old man pulled his shield lower down on his face,
that no one might see the thoughts which were oddly struggling with
one another there.
Any one who could have seen beneath the shield would have thought at
first that the old gentleman was glad; the shade of suspicion with
which he had received Apollonius the day before disappeared. He need
not be afraid, then, that this son would make common cause with his
brother against him! Indeed, a something appeared on his countenance
that seemed to rejoice malignantly at the elder's humiliation. Perhaps
he might have interfered, as was his way, with a laconic: "You will
take my place from now on, Apollonius, do you hear?" if the councilman
had not sung Apollonius' praise and if it had not been so well
"Yes," he said in his diplomatic manner of hiding his thoughts by only
half expressing them; "yes, indeed, youth! he is young." "And yet so
efficient already!" supplemented the councilman.
The old gentleman inclined his head. One who was interested, as was
the councilman, might believe that he nodded. But he said: "It's the
young men that are all-important today in the world!" Yes, he felt
proud that his son was so efficient, ashamed that he himself was
blind, glad that Fritz could now no longer do as he liked, that the
honor of the home had gained one guardian more, afraid that the
efficiency in which he rejoiced would make him himself superfluous.
And he could do nothing to prevent it; he could do nothing more, he
was nothing more. And as if Apollonius had expressed that, he rose
stiffly erect, as if to show that his son was triumphing too early.
The councilman begged the old gentleman to keep his son at home during
the time that the repairs were being made and to allow him to work at
them. The old gentleman was silent for a time as if he were waiting
for Apollonius to refuse to stay. Then he seemed to assume that
Apollonius refused for, with his harsh brevity, he commanded: "You are
to stay; do you hear?"
Apollonius went to his little room to unpack his things. He was still
thus engaged when the news came that the town council had approved the
So it was settled: he was to stay. He was to be allowed to work for
his beloved home and to apply what he had learnt while abroad.
After he had arranged all his things in his room, he at once set to
work on the report which the councilman had requested. The repairs had
been decided upon on his advice, he was concerned in them not alone as
one of his father's "hands," as a mere workman; he felt that he had
taken upon himself in addition a special moral obligation toward his
home town; he must do everything in his power to fulfil it. He would
not have needed such an incentive; even without it he would have done
all that he could; he did not know himself well enough to know that.
In this exalted mood it appeared to him easy to overcome whatever
threatened, on the part of his brother and his sister-in-law, to make
his stay uncomfortable. After all, his brother wished him to go only
on account of his sister-in-law's dislike of him and that could be
conquered by enduring, honest effort. He had never offended his
brother; he would willingly subordinate himself to him in the
business. It did not occur to him that we can offend without knowing
it or wishing to do so, in fact, that duty may command us to offend.
It did not occur to him that his brother might have offended him. He
did not know that one can also hate him whom one has offended, not
only the offender.
Below, near the shed, a disagreeable-looking workman stood grinning in
front of Fritz Nettenmair and said: "I understand some one at the
first glance. Oh, yes, Herr Apollonius knows what he's about! But it's
of no consequence. That won't last long!" Fritz Nettenmair gnawed his
nails and ignored the gesture that was intended to excite him to ask
what the fellow meant when he said, that would not last long. He went
toward the living room and as he went he flew out quietly at somebody
who was not there: "Uprightness? Knowledge of business, as that
Philistine of an inspector says? I know why you're forcing your way in
and insinuating yourself in here, you fluff-picker! Pretend to be as
innocent as you like, I"--he made the gesture that meant: "I am one
who know life and the species that wears long hair and aprons!" With
this he turned toward the door, but his movement was not jovial, as
How many people think they know the world, and know only themselves!
* * * * *
Between heaven and earth lies the slater's realm. Far below is the
noisy tumult of the wanderers of the earth, high above are the
wanderers of the sky, the silent clouds in their vast course. For
months, years, decades, this realm has no inhabitants but the
restlessly fluttering race of cawing jackdaws. But one day the narrow
door halfway up the tower-roof is opened; invisible hands push two
scaffolding timbers out, part way into space. To the spectator below
it looks as if they wanted to build a bridge of straws into the sky.
The jackdaws have fled to the pommel of the steeple and to the
weather-vane and look down from there, ruffling their feathers with
fear. The timbers stand out only a few feet from the door and the
invisible hands cease pushing. Then a hammering begins in the heart of
the tower-loft. The sleeping owls start up and tumble staggeringly out
of their scuttles into the open eye of the day. The jackdaws hear it
with horror; the child of man below on the firm earth does not catch
the sound, the clouds above on the sky pass over it untroubled. The
pounding continues a long time; then it ceases and two or three short
boards follow the timbers and are laid across them. Behind them appear
a man's head and a pair of vigorous arms. One hand holds the nail, the
other swings the hammer that strikes it until the boards are firmly
nailed down. The "flying" scaffold is ready. Thus the builder calls
it, for whom it may become a bridge to heaven, without his desiring
it. Then from the scaffold the ladder is built and, if the tower roof
is very high, ladder upon ladder. Nothing holds it together but iron
hooks, nothing holds it firm but two pairs of hands on the scaffold
and, at the top, the broach-post against which it leans. Once it is
tied fast to the broach-post and at the bottom, the slater no longer
sees any danger in mounting it, however anxious the dizzy man may feel
down on the firm earth when he looks up and thinks the ladder made of
match-wood glued together, like a child's Christmas toy. But before he
has bound the ladder fast--and in order to do that he must climb it
once--the slater may commend his poor soul to God. Then he is indeed
between heaven and earth. He knows that the slightest shift of the
ladder--and a single false step may shift it--will dash him helplessly
down to certain death. Stop the clang of the bells beneath him, it may
startle him! The spectators far below on the earth involuntarily clasp
their hands breathlessly; the jackdaws, who have been driven from
their last place of refuge by the ascending figure, caw as they
flutter wildly round his head; only the clouds in the sky pursue their
way above him, untouched. Only the clouds? No. The daring man on the
ladder goes on as calmly as they. He is no vain dare-devil wantonly
bent on making himself talked of; he goes his dangerous way in the
course of his calling. He knows that the ladder is firm; he himself
has built the scaffold, he knows that it is firm; he knows that his
heart is strong and his tread sure. He does not look down where the
earth holds out her green arms luringly, he does not look up where
from the procession of clouds in the sky the fatal giddiness may drop
down on his steady eye. The centre of the rungs is the pathway of his
glance, and he stands on top. No heaven exists for him, no earth,
nothing but the broach-post and the ladder which he ties together with
his rope. The knot is made; the spectators breathe with relief and
give utterance in all the streets to their admiration for the daring
man and his doings high up between heaven and earth. For a week the
children of the town play at being slaters.
But now the daring man begins his work indeed. He fetches up another
rope and lays it as a rotary ring round the post below the pommel of
the steeple. To this he fastens his tackle with three blocks, to the
tackle the rings of his hanging seat. A board to sit on with two
places cut out to allow his legs to hang down, and with a low, curved
back, on either side boxes for slates, nails and tools; in front,
between the places for his legs, a little anvil on which he hammers
the slate to the shape he wants it with his slater's hammer; this
apparatus, held by four strong cables which unite above to form two
rings for the hooks of the tackle, is the hanging-seat as he calls it,
the light craft in which he sails round the roof of the steeple high
in the air. By means of the tackle he easily pulls himself up or lets
himself down as high or as low as he likes; the ring above turns round
the steeple with the tackle and hanging-seat in whichever direction he
desires. A gentle kick against the roof sets the whole in motion, for
him to stop where he pleases. Soon no one stands below any longer
looking up; the slater at work is no longer any novelty. The children
turn again to their old games. The jackdaws grow accustomed to him;
they regard him as a bird, like themselves, only bigger, but
peaceful, as they are; and the clouds in the sky have never troubled
themselves about him from the beginning. The ladies envy him his view.
Who can look out so freely across the green plain and see how
mountains range themselves behind mountains, first green, then growing
bluer and bluer to where the sky, even bluer than they, rests on the
last ones! But he troubles himself as little about the mountains as
the clouds trouble themselves about him. Day after day he works on
with iron and claw-hammer, day after day he hammers slates and drives
in nails, till he is done with hammering and nailing. One day man,
tackle, ladder and scaffolding have disappeared. The removal of the
ladder is just as dangerous as its setting up; but no one below folds
his hands, no mouth extols the achievement of the man between heaven
and earth. The crows wonder for a whole week and then it seems to them
as if years ago they had dreamt of some odd bird. Far below the tumult
of the wanderers of the earth still sounds, high above the wanderers
of the sky, the silent clouds still continue in their vast course, but
no one flies around the steep roof save the cawing swarm of jackdaws.
It was proposed to put the whole management of the repairs in
Apollonius' hands. In order not to hurt his brother's feelings, he
begged the council to arrange differently. He was so anxious not to
hurt his brother that he did not even say why he asked this. His work
in Cologne had accustomed him to act independently; he foresaw that
his brother, as he had found him again, would be the cause of many a
hindrance. He knew that he was taking a heavy burden upon himself when
he promised the inspector that the work itself should not suffer by
reason of the two-headed management. The honest man, who guessed
Apollonius' purpose and only respected him the more on that account,
obtained the consent of the council for him, and silently resolved
that wherever it should be necessary he would take the part of his
favorite and uphold the latter's orders against those of his brother.
It was a difficult task that Apollonius had set himself; it was much
more difficult than he knew. His presence at home had not pleased his
brother from the beginning; Apollonius attributed that to the
influence of his sister-in-law; since then he had grown even more
estranged from him--and no wonder! Apollonius had already become
acquainted with his brother's vanity and greed for honor, and what had
happened since then had made the latter feel himself slighted in favor
of Apollonius. His sister-in-law's dislike Apollonius thought he could
overcome in time by honest endeavor, his brother's injured greed of
honor by outward subordination. If there was no further obstacle in
the way, he might hope to perform the task, difficult as it seemed.
But what lay between him and his brother was something different, very
different, from what he thought; and that he did not know it only made
it more dangerous. It was a suspicion, born of the consciousness of
guilt. Whatever he did to clear the apparent obstacles out of the way
could only increase the real one.
Apollonius soon saw that the system to which he had become accustomed
in Cologne, the rapid and carefully planned cooeperation, did not exist
here, nor even such methodical management as his father had formerly
maintained. The slater had to wait for fifteen minutes and longer at a
time for the slates; the tenders dawdled and had a good excuse for
doing so in the slackness and laziness of the cutters and sorters. His
brother laughed half compassionately at Apollonius' complaint. Such
system as he demanded did not exist anywhere and was not even
possible. In his own mind he made fun again of the dreamer who was so
unpractical. And even if the system had been possible the work was
done by the day. Wasted time was paid for just the same as that
properly applied. And when Apollonius himself tried to put an end to
the old method of jogging along, his brother saw in him again the
time-server of the inspector and the council, while he saw himself as
the straightforward man who disdained such tricks. He persuaded
himself that Apollonius wanted to unseat him altogether, and had even
worse intentions in his mind--in which, however, he should not succeed
with all his cunning, although he had come home on purpose to do so.
And still he thought the dreamer would make a fool of himself if he
tried to carry out what he himself, who knew the world, could not
succeed in doing;--he who was keener in action than even old Blue-coat
had been in his day.
Fritz Nettenmair thought he was outdoing the old gentleman when he
whistled still more shrilly on his fingers, coughed still more
wrathfully and spat still more decisively. The qualities in the old
gentleman that had really commanded respect, the consistency which,
even where it degenerated into obstinacy, compelled esteem, the calm,
self-contained dignity of a capable personality--these he failed to
see. Not possessing them himself, he lacked also the desire to
perceive them in others. Just as his figure was absolutely at variance
with the bearing of the old gentleman which he sought artificially to
assume, so too his lack of repose and inward stability constantly
contradicted it. He seemed merely to have borrowed the old gentleman's
diplomatic manner of speaking in order to show his own superficiality
and emptiness. Then at times he would suddenly lapse from the stiff
demeanor of the wearer of the blue coat into his own patronizing
joviality and onto a plane where joking rubs out with dirty fingers
the line between superior and subordinate as if it had never existed.
Then when he forcibly jerked himself back just as suddenly into the
person of authority, he did not regain the respect he had lost, he
merely offended. To all this was added the fact that he knew himself
to be excelled by some of his workmen, and in difficult cases was
obliged to let them do as they liked.
Apollonius, on the contrary, had by nature and by virtue of the
training that he had received at his cousin's what his brother lacked;
he possessed dignity of personality, consistency to the point of
obstinacy. His inward sureness made him authoritative; he did not have
to exert himself to be so--he was raised above the necessity of
demanding respect by visible effort which so seldom attains its
purpose, indeed usually defeats it. And so he succeeded in doing what
he wanted. Soon the work was being carried on in the most systematic
order, and all those concerned seemed to feel contented under the
change--all except Fritz Nettenmair. The rapid cooeperation that moved
as on the track of an invisible necessity made the figure in the blue
coat in which he felt himself so big, superfluous. Another reason for
uneasiness was that the new system came from his brother; from him
whom he already had so much to forgive and whom he wanted less and
less to forgive. He did not know, or did not want to know, what charm
a self-contained personality exercises, although he himself was
obliged to acknowledge it against his will, and still less that he
lacked this and that his brother possessed it. He had agreed in his
own mind that his brother had used means which he was pleased to feel
himself too noble to apply. In that way Apollonius had won the people
away from him. The latter had no suspicion of what was going on in his
brother's breast; he was on his guard against him, as one must be
against cunning persons, for such enemies can only be defeated with
their own weapons. The brotherly friendliness and respect with which
Apollonius treated him was a mask behind which he thought he could
certainly hide his sinister plans; he would pay him back and make him
more easily harmless if he hid his watchfulness behind the same mask.
Apollonius' good-natured willingness outwardly to subordinate himself
to him appeared to his brother like derision in which the workmen, won
over by the deceitful one, knowingly took part. In his sensitiveness,
he himself resorted to the means that he assumed his brother employed.
He was prevented from opposing him openly by the fact that Apollonius
impressed him himself, even though he would not have acknowledged
this to be the reason. He laid the blue coat of thunder aside and
descended to the very lowest rung of his joviality. He began by hints
and then gradually by words to show his sympathy with the workmen who
groaned beneath the tyranny of a time-serving intruder, as he proved
to them; as he had not the courage to incite them to open rebellion he
sought to lead them to commit single petty acts of mutiny. He began to
treat them to food and drink daily. They ate and drank, but remained
as before in the course that Apollonius marked out for them.
The common man has a child's keen eye for the strong points and
weaknesses of his superior. This endeavor, which they saw through,
lost Fritz Nettenmair the last vestige of the men's respect; it taught
them, if they did not already know it, in whose bad books they might
safely come, in whose they might not. And if they had been uncertain,
the inspector's different behavior toward the two brothers might have
determined them. And as they were not so finely organized, and also
had not the same reasons as Fritz Nettenmair, their opinion made
itself undisguisedly plain. They took liberties with him which showed
him that the success of his condescension was entirely different from
what he had intended. Then he drew the cloud of the blue coat once
more wrathfully about him, whistled more shrilly than ever, so that
the big bell on the other side resounded, was doubly bombastic and
raised his shoulders as high again toward his black head. The wrath
and decision of his former coughing and spitting was child's play to
those he displayed now. But the workmen soon knew that this went on
only in Apollonius' absence; and his chance appearance, like the
rising full moon, disconcerted the heaviest thunder-storms.
Fritz Nettenmair was obliged to despair of reestablishing his lost
importance on the scene of the repairs. Naturally he added also the
result of his mistaken measures to Apollonius' ever-growing account.
The feeling that he was superfluous seized him as it had his father,
but not with quite the same effect. What the little garden was to the
old gentleman the slate-shed now became to the elder son; at least as
long as he saw Apollonius on the hanging-seat or on the church roof.
But now he also brought the blue coat with him into the living room.
His children--and this was easy as he himself did not trouble himself
about them--had also been won over by his brother, by reprehensible
means, of course. The reprehensible means were just those which he
himself never applied: unintentional kindness and love that was wise
in its severity. But even in his wife he began to see more and more
one who was to some extent his brother's ally in the latter's
conspiracy against him. He saw this long before he had the slightest
real cause to do so, and that was the shadow that his guilt threw
across the future of his imagination. Its old law was to compel him,
by reason of the wrongness of his means of defense, to make of this
shadow a real, living form and to place it in his life as a
Vague, premonitory fear that fluttered by in momentary clear
intervals, seemed to tell him that his changed behavior toward his
wife must hasten this change. At such times he suddenly became doubly
pleasant and jovial with her; but even this joviality bore something
of the nature of the sultry soil from which it grew.
One cure for such a disease is highly praised; that is diversion,
self-forgetfulness. As if the navigator should forget himself at sight
of the threatening reef, as if every one should forget himself
wherever double foresight is necessary! Fritz Nettenmair took the
From now on he was never missing at a ball or any public amusement;
he felt himself to have fled the danger forever if he were absent only
for an hour from the place where he saw it threatening. He was more
out of his house than in it--and not he alone. He thought the cure
still more necessary for his wife than for himself. His vengeful
self-consciousness assumed what lay as a mere possibility in the
future to be a reality of the present. And his wife was still so much
on his side that she was now angry with his brother to whose influence
she attributed the change in her husband's behavior--only not in the
way in which it really was responsible.
Apollonius, who was oppressed by all this as by a heavy cloud, an
uncomprehended intuitive feeling, understood only this: his brother
and his sister-in-law avoided him. He kept away from the places to
which they went. The inmost need of his nature, the tendency to gather
together rather than to dissipate, in itself, would have led him to do
so. Solitude became a better cure for him than diversion proved to be
for the other two. He saw how different his sister-in-law was from
what she had seemed to him to be before. He was obliged to
congratulate himself that his dearest hopes had not been fulfilled.
His work gave him enough sense of himself; whatever gaps remained the
And the old man in the blue coat? Has he in his blindness no suspicion
of the clouds that are piling up all about his house? Or is it such a
suspicion that grips him at times when, meeting Apollonius, he
exchanges indifferent words with him? Then two powers strive on his
brow which his son, confronted by the shield over his father's eyes,
does not see. He wants to ask something but he does not ask. So thick
is the cloud that the old man has spun about him like a cocoon that
there is no longer any way through it from him out into the world nor
any, leading from outside in to him. He behaves as if he knew about
everything. If he did not do so, he would show the world his
helplessness and himself challenge it to abuse this helplessness. And
if he should ask would people tell him the truth? No! He believes the
world to be as obdurate toward him as he is toward it. He does not
ask. He listens where he knows he is not seen listening, straining
feverishly to catch every sound. And in every sound he hears something
that is not there; his strained imagination builds boulders of it that
crush his breast, but he does not ask. He dreams of nothing but of
things that bring disgrace on him and his house.
It is the nature of guilt that it entangles not alone its author in
new guilt. It has the magic power of drawing into its fermenting
circle all who surround him and of ripening in him whatever is bad to
fresh guilt. Well for him who successfully defends his unblemished
heart against this magic power! Even if he cannot save the guilty one
himself, he may be an angel to the others. Here are these four human
beings with all their differences of individuality, held together in
one knot of life which is being consumed by the guilt of one! What
destiny will they spin for themselves, the people in the house with
the green shutters?
Weeks had now passed since Apollonius' return and still he had not
realized his sister-in-law's fears. During the first few days Fritz
Nettenmair read in her demeanor a convulsive effort to pull herself
together, a desperate endeavor to be prepared; now this gave way to
something that appeared to be amazement. He, and he alone, saw how she
began to observe his brother more and more courageously when he did
not suspect that her gaze rested upon him. She seemed to be comparing
his personality, his behavior with her expectation. Fritz Nettenmair
felt in her soul how little the two agreed. He took pains to nurse his
young wife's dislike of her brother-in-law back to its old strength.
He did so, feeling all the time how vain his effort was; for a single
glance at his brother's gentle, upright countenance must tear down
what it had taken him days laboriously to build up. He felt how
delicately he ought to go to work and how roughly he really did so;
for the same power that sharpened his feeling for the degree carried
him beyond it as soon as he came to act. He knew that what he had
begun must complete its course to his ruin. He sought forgetfulness
and drew his wife ever deeper with him into the whirlpool of
Medicines taken in too large doses are said to have the opposite of
the desired effect. Thus it was with Fritz Nettenmair's medicine; at
least as regarded his young wife. In the midst of every-day domestic
work she had formerly longed for the festival of pleasure; now that
this had become her every-day atmosphere her longing was for the quiet
life of her home. Satiated with the marks of honor bestowed upon her
husband by the important people, she now began for the first time to
notice that there were other people who measured him according to a
different standard. She began to compare, and the important people
fell lower and lower in her eyes beside the every-day people. She
thought of the dull ball on the evening of Apollonius' arrival.
She was sitting in the garden sewing while the old gentleman dreamt
his heavy midday dreams. She felt so peculiarly happy at home. Her
boys were playing at her feet, as quietly as if the old gentleman had
been present, or no, not like that, for if he had been in the little
garden they would not have dared to go in there at all. The little
girl had thrown her arms round her mother, who seemed herself to be
still a girl, so chaste did she appear. Now the child raised her
little head with old-fashioned earnestness, looked meditatively at her
mother and said: "Whatever can be the reason?"
[Illustration: SCHNORR VON CAROLSFELD DAVID BEING STONED BY SINAI]
"Reason of what?" asked her mother.
"Whenever you have been with us and then go away, he looks after you
"Who?" asked her mother.
"Why, Uncle Apollonius. Who else could it be? Did you scold him, or
slap him as you do me when I take sugar without asking? You must have
done something to him, or he wouldn't be so sorry."
The little girl went on chattering and soon forgot her uncle over a
butterfly. Not so her mother. She no longer heard what the child said.
What a queer feeling was this that had come over her, happy and
unhappy at the same time! She had let her needle fall without noticing
it. Was she startled? It seemed to her that she was startled, much as
she would have been if she had been speaking to some one and suddenly
realized that it was not the person she thought. She had thought that
Apollonius wanted to insult her, and now the child told her that she
had insulted him. She looked up and saw Apollonius coming from the
shed toward the house. At the same moment another man stood between
her and him as if he had grown up out of the earth. It was Fritz
Nettenmair. She had not heard him approaching.
After putting an indifferent question he went on with strange haste to
speak of the "dull ball." He repeated what people had said about it,
told her how offended every one felt that Apollonius had not asked her
for a dance, not even for the first one. It was curious that when he
reminded her of it now she felt it more keenly than ever; but not with
anger, only with sad pain. She did not say so; she did not need to.
Fritz Nettenmair was like a man in a magnetic sleep; from the leaf of
a tree, from a picket in the fence, from a white wall he read, with
closed eyes, what his wife felt.
"We shall soon get rid of him, I think," he went on as if he had not
been reading from the stable-wall. "There is no room here for two
households. And Anne is accustomed to plenty of space."
That was the name of the girl with whom Apollonius had been obliged to
dance at the dull ball and see home afterward. Since then she had
often been at the house on pretexts which her crimson cheek branded as
lies. Her father too, a much-respected citizen, had sought Apollonius'
acquaintance, and Fritz Nettenmair had furthered the matter in every
way he could.
"Anne?" cried his wife as if shocked.
"It's good that she can't lie," thought Fritz Nettenmair with relief.
But it occurred to him that her inability to disguise her feelings
would also promote his brother's evil plan. He had sought to make her
jealous as a last resort. That had been foolish of him, and he already
regretted it. She could not pretend; and even if he were still the
dreamer of old, her excitement could not but betray to him what was
going on in her breast, could not but betray it to herself. And
then--once more he had reached the point to which every conclusion led
him; he saw her awakening to an understanding of herself. "And
then"--he forced the words out so that every syllable tore itself on
his teeth--"and then--she'll learn to know what it means!"
His brother expected him in the living-room. "Of course, now that he
knows I saw him, he must make some excuse for having passed by here
when he thought she was alone." Thus thought Fritz, and followed his
Apollonius was really waiting for him in the living-room. He wanted to
see his brother in order to warn him against the evil-looking workman.
He had heard much that was suspicious about him, and knew that his
brother trusted him implicitly. "And so you order me to send him
away?" asked Fritz; and this time he could not help allowing his spite
to gleam through his disguise. From the tone in which he spoke
Apollonius could not fail to read his real feeling. It was: "So you
want to force your way even into the shed too, and drive me out of it.
Try it, if you dare!"
Apollonius looked into his brother's eyes with unconcealed pain. He
brushed the lapel of his brother's coat as if he would wipe away
whatever clouded the relations between them, and said: "Have I done
anything to hurt you?"
"Me?" laughed his brother. His laughter was intended to mean: "I'm
sure I don't know what!" But it really meant: "Do you ever do anything
else, do you ever want to do anything else, but just what you know
will hurt me?"
"For a long time I have wanted to say something to you," went on
Apollonius, "I will tomorrow; you are not in the right humor today.
You had to know what I have told you about the workman, and it wasn't
meant as you have taken it."
"Of course! Of course!" laughed Fritz. "I'm convinced that it wasn't
Apollonius went and Fritz supplemented his speech with, "it was not
meant as you would have me believe, old fox. And wasn't it meant as I
took it? You think--The workman is a bad fellow; but you would never
have warned me if you hadn't needed an excuse." He turned on his heel
with a movement that suggested his feeling of superiority. In his
desolate state of mind it had pleased him to make successful use of
his father's diplomatic method of concealing his thoughts by half
His pleasure was short-lived; his old worry fastened him again to the
rack. And a newer one had been added to it. He had neglected the
business. In his master's absence from the shed the workman had had
opportunity enough to steal, and had certainly made use of it. It was
long since Fritz had done any work at the church; Apollonius had been
obliged to engage another workman and put him in his brother's place.
He had earned nothing now for a long time and yet never missed any
public amusement. The esteem of the important people showed a growing
inclination to fall, and could only be kept up by increasing
quantities of champagne. He had plunged himself into debt, and
continued to add to his obligations daily. And yet the moment was
bound to come when the appearance of prosperity which he had been at
such pains to sustain would disappear.
Anne Wohlig had often been at the house since Apollonius' arrival; and
Christiane, with the credulity which in simple souls is the natural
consequence of their own truthfulness, had seen nothing suspicious in
her most far-fetched pretexts. This was not so today. She had suddenly
grown so keen-sighted that what she recognized to be an excuse assumed
in her eyes the proportions of an unpardonable crime. She disliked any
girl that could be so double-faced, and she herself was too honest to
hide her opinion. Anne sought the reason for Christiane's treatment of
her in the latter's dislike of her brother-in-law. It was well known
that she begrudged the poor fellow his brother's affection. She
herself had said that she would turn him down if he should dare to ask
her for a dance. And Apollonius' appearance showed that she made it
impossible for him to enjoy his stay in his father's house. Vexation
made Anne honest, too, and she expressed her thoughts as far as she
could without touching on the delicate point of her own feeling for
Apollonius. Christiane was now obliged to hear the same reproach from
a stranger's mouth that she had already heard from her own child.
The girl went. Apollonius, on his way back from his brother, passed by
again. He was still in time to see Anne leaving. But nothing showed in
his face to confirm Christiane's only half understood fear.
The child had said: "You have done something to him." Anne had said:
"You hate him, you won't let him enjoy himself." And the sad glance
that he sent after her--she herself caught him now and then
unnoticed--said the same thing. Like a flash of joyous light it came
into her mind that he did not look sadly after Anne--nor joyfully
either. His gaze was as indifferent as it was with every one else. She
had been told: "You hate him, you have offended him and you want to
hurt him." And she had believed that he hated her, that he wanted to
hurt her. And had he not done so? She looks back into the time long
past when he insulted her. It is long now since she had felt angry
with him for it; she had only feared a fresh insult. Could she still
be angry, when he had become such a different man, when she herself
knew that he would not offend her, when people said, and his own sad
glance confirmed it, that she offended him? And she let her thoughts
run back eagerly, so eagerly that the music sounded again about her
and she sat again among her girl friends, in her white dress with the
pink sash, in the shooting-house, on the bench in front of the
windows; and she got up again, driven by a vague impulse and,
dreaming, made her way among the dancers to the door--there she saw
outside, was it not the same face that looked after her now when she
passed, so honest, so gentle in its sadness? Was it not the same
peculiar sympathy now as then, that followed her every step and never
left her? Then, she had avoided him and looked at him no more, for he
was false. False? Is he false again? Is he still false?
* * * * *
All day long Fritz Nettenmair thought of what it could be that
Apollonius wanted to say to him tomorrow: "Tomorrow, because I am not
in the humor for it today? In the humor? I've let the fox see my hand.
If I hadn't, he would have blurted it out; now I have warned him and
made him cautious. I am too honest with a player who cheats so; I am
bound to lose. Good; I will be 'in the humor' tomorrow, I'll act as
though I were blind and deaf, as if I didn't see what it is he is
trying to do, even if it were still clearer. A cobweb on the lapel of
my coat so that he may have something to brush off! I can't bear to
have a fellow like that look into my face--the hypocrite!"
Thus prepared and resolved to outdo the fox in cunning, even though it
should put his self-control to the severest test, Apollonius found his
brother waiting for him the following day. Apollonius too had resolved
on his course. He was determined not to let himself be confused today
by any mood of his brother's; everything depended on shutting off the
source of all these moods. Fritz wished him the most unembarrassed,
jovial good morning that he could command.
"If you will listen to me calmly and in a spirit of brotherliness,"
said Apollonius, "I hope that this will be the best kind of a morning
for you and me and all of us."
"And all of us," repeated Fritz and put nothing of his explanation of
the three words into his tone. "I know that you always think of us
all, so speak out merrily from your heart; I'll do the same."
Apollonius omitted his intended introduction. He had learnt to be wise
and cautious; but to be wise and cautious toward a brother would have
seemed to him to be duplicity. Even if he had known of his brother's
duplicity he, unlike the latter, would never have thought of meeting
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