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The German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) online

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it to his lips noticed that it was stained with blood. He
was startled, thought he was still dreaming. Beyond the
windows the gray light of da^vn was already spreading.
Now he caught sight of the other fruit, gorgeous and abun-
dant, as if paradise had been pillaged. But all was stained
with blood ... A little rivulet of blood, divided into two
streams, trickled over from the corner of the wall.

And Bastide saw . . .

He tried to rise, but his unfinished sleep still paralyzed
his body.

Bitter and wild grief wrung his breast. He longed no
more for the day which awoke so drearily outside ; weary
of his own heart-beats and perfectly sure of what had hap-
pened and must happen, he yearned for the final end. He
desired no special knowledge of the consummated fate of
the being on the other side of the cell, who, dominated by
mysterious spirits, had trust herself into his path — no
knowledge of men and what they built or destroyed. Man
was an abomination to him.

And yet w^hen his glance fell upon the splendid fruit once
more, he felt the woe of all creation; he wished at least to
close the eyes of the giver. But just then the keeper, grown
suspicious, turned the key in the lock.





EFORE dawn the lawyer rose from his bed,
and at that very moment a thousand little
birds, who lived in his room, began to twitter
and trill. "Awake so early, little ones!"
whispered the lawyer. He never spoke aloud.

Well, good morning ! Hush! Hush!"

And the thousand little birds chirped in answer and then
obediently stopped singing.

The lawyer wrapped a thick woolen shawl around his
shoulders, for he was always very cold, slipped his feet
into his wadded boots, drew on his gloves, put his fur cap
on his bald head and w^ent out of the house.

It was still night and everything looked unreal and
magical. Now and then the grass would bow down with
a sudden jerk, as people do in their sleep, if they dream
that they are falling, and then for a moment the lawyer
would feel a warm breath, which vanished as suddenly as
it came. A confused mass of gray and black clouds swept
rapidly across the sky and at the zenith three golden stars
were visible in a line, so that they looked like a flying spear
darting through the clouds. The lawyer gazed thought-
fully for some moments at the flying spear while his mind
struggled with some dim idea. Then he hurried with short
shuffling steps as quietly as possible along the sandy paths
of the asylum gardens.

" Hush, keep still! " he whispered, as he passed some
bushes in which something was stirring.

At the edge of the kitchen-garden there was an old well



with a pump which was no longer used, and here the lawyer
began his task. He put the watering-pot under the spout
and began to pump, trying to make no noise. As there
was but little water in the well and the lawyer pumped
slowly and cautiously, it took him half an hour to fill the
pot. Then, panting and coughing, the little man carried
it to the garden beds, and began to water the flowers, smil-
ing happily and speaking lovingly to them meanwhile.
"Don't be in such a hurry, little ones," he whispered,
"my dear children, how you drink! Good morning! "

But just then began a great fluttering and stirring in an
elder bush. Hundreds of little birds suddenly thrust their
heads out between the leaves and chirped to the lawyer.

He made a startled gesture. " For heaven's sake, be
quiet ! ' ' said he. ' ' You are always trying to be the first !
Every morning. Hush ! ' ' And immediately silence reigned
in the elder bush.

The lawyer went quietly from bed to bed and watered
his flowers. He stopped frequently to draw a deep breath
and gazed up at the sky, where the motionless golden spear
still seemed to be darting through the clouds. He pon-
dered for some time over that and shook his head. From
the " violent ward " came a longdrawn wailing, which at
regular intervals was merged in pitiful weeping. But the
lawyer paid no attention to these sounds. He only heard
the birds fluttering their wings and whetting their beaks
in the bushes.

A night nurse passed by, shivering.

"Already at work, so early? " said she, turning her pale
face toward him.

The lawyer put down his watering-pot, bowed and took
off his cap. " One must keep at it," he whispered, " the
little ones will not wait."

Then he began with the tenderest care to water the beds
beside the principal buildings. He paused by the open
windows of the kitchen, which were very low, and examined
the window-sills. He shook his head and seemed much


grieved and disappointed. Yes, they had once more for-
gotten to put out the bread crumbs for his birds! How
could any one rely upon such maids?

He hunted up a couple of little pebbles on the path and
threw them, one at a time, into the dark kitchen, laughing
softly to himself. They really must learn to be more care-
ful. 0, he would soon teach them to put the bread crumbs
regularly on the window-sill. There was plenty of gravel
on the path. And what if they had already complained
so often!

The watering-pot was empty and in the gray light of
dawn the lawyer walked back to the well.

Ever since his wife's death the poor man had been a
friend of birds and flowers. When she was dying, she had
said, with her last breath, " The flowers must always be
watered and the birds must always ba fed." Those had
been her last words and the lawyer heard them ringing in
his ears day and night. He heard them in every breeze,
in every conversation, even when all was silent thej^ were
wafted to him. In his wife's room there had stood a dark,
heavy clothes press (which, oddly enough, he could still
remember), and this large, dark object also repeated his
wife's last words, although it made no sound whatever.
The lawyer continued to live in seclusion and solitude,
and watered the flowers in the window-boxes and fed and
watered the birds in the cages. The flowers withered and
the birds died, one by one. The lawyer took no notice of
his loss. Indeed it seemed to him as if the birds were
hopping and twittering gaily in their cages. They hatched
their young and kept on increasing. And the lawyer took
a childlike pleasure in this increase. Finally there were
hundreds, thousands, whose chirping he heard from morn-
ing till night. They lived in the walls, on the ceiling, every-
where. And the good man could not understand why others
neither saw nor heard them.

As the sun rose, the lawyer had already finished a good
part of his day 's work and turned back to the ward, which
looked like a country cottage standing in a pretty garden.


In the doorway, leaning against the doorpost, Michael
Petroff, a former officer in the Russian army, stood smiling,
and greeted him with a bright, cheerful ^' Good morning,
my friend! "

The lawyer in his woolen shawl, scarf and wadded boots,
bowed and touched his cap,

'' Good morning, Captain! "

They bowed several times, for they respected each other
highly, and shook hands only after the completion of this

" Did you sleep well, Herr Advokat? " asked Michael
Petrotf, bending forward a little and smiling pleasantly.

* ' Did I sleep w^ell ? Yes, thank you. ' '

" I too passed an excellent night," Michael Petroff con-
tinued with a bright happy laugh. ' ' Really excellent. I
had a dream — ," he added, smiling and gazing out into the
garden with his right eye half closed. ' ' Yes, indeed ! —
Now do come into my office, my friend. I have news. After
you! " He laid his hand on the little lawyer's shoulder
and with a slight bow allowed him to pass in first.

Captain Michael Petroff was a tall slender man with
cheerful steel-blue eyes and a small blond mustache, which
like his soft, blond, parted hair, was beginning to turn
white. He was dressed with scrupulous neatness and was
carefully shaved. His chin was round and exquisitely
formed, though a trifle weak, the modeling of his mouth
was unusually fine and delicate, like that of a mere boy.

" Please be seated," said Michael Petroff, while with a
gesture he invited the lawyer to sit on the sofa.

*' But perhaps I am intruding? " w^hispered the lawyer,
and remained standing.

' * No, indeed ! How could you — ? " x\nd Michael Pet-
roff led the lawyer over to the sofa. The little man sat
down timidly, looking gratefully up at his host. ' ' You
are so very busy — I know — ," said he, and nodded at the
writing table, which was heaped with documents, news-
papers, and manuscripts.


* ' I have plenty to do, ' ' added Michael Petroff, with a
curious smile on his pretty boyish lips. " But one has
always time for one's friends. Here, do listen! I have
just outlined a petition to the Hessian government — ,"
Michael Petroff smiled and balanced a sheet of paper on
his hand — '^ The Hessian government is to be urgently
requested, most — urgently — requested, to reconsider the
verdict in the case of a teacher ! ' '

Michael Petroff glanced at his guest while four deep lines
suddenly appeared on his forehead. " This teacher," he
went on, " was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, only
think — four years. He had ten mouths to feed and he
embezzled some funds. Voila tout! What do you think
of that ! Ha, ha ! That is the way of the world, you see !
In my petition I demand not merely that the sentence
should be revoked, but also that officers ' salaries should be
increased. I demand it — I, Captain Michael Petroff, and
I shall also appear in the Non-Partisan. You will see, my
friend!" Michael Petroff cast a fearless, triumphant
glance at the little baldheaded lawyer, who listened and
nodded, although he did not quite understand what the
Captain meant.

* ' You do a great deal of good ! " he whispered, nodding,
while a childish smile flitted t)ver his sad, pale little face.
And after a moment's reflection he added, " You are a good
man. You surely are ! ' '

Michael Petroff shook his head. '' I do my duty! " he
declared earnestly. And laying his hand on his heart while
his clear steel-blue eyes flashed, he added : ' ' My sacred
duty! "

Captain Michael Petroff, former officer in a St. Peters-
burg regiment, considered it his life work to plead for
justice in this world. He called himself " The Tribunal
of right and justice." He subscribed for two large daily
papers, and searched them every day for cases in which,
according to his judgment, injustice had been done to
some one. And every day Michael Petroff found cases.
Cases and nothing but cases. These cases he cut out,


arranged them in chronological order and immediately
went to work on them.

He often sat up late in his office, as he called his room,
or in his editorial sanctum, as he sometimes designated it
in an undertone when speaking to his confidential friend.
There he would sit and write, in a hand as neat as copper-
plate, his memorials, protests, petitions, which he delivered
every day at six o'clock to the head physician. Dr. Marz.
who had undertaken to forward them regularly. Dr. Marz
was glad to receive these manuscripts which he laid in a
separate pigeonhole, in order to use them from time to
time as material for his work on Graphomania.

The little time that this activity left him, Michael Petroff
employed in editing his newspaper. And it was because of
this paper that he sometimes secretly referred to his room
as ' ' his editorial sanctum. ' ' This newspaper did not
appear regularly, but only when it happened to be ready.
It usually appeared once a year, but sometimes twice, if
his nervous condition urged him to greater haste.

Michael Petroif 's paper was a fairly accurate represen-
tation of an ordinary daily paper, from the heading, in
which the conditions of subscription were stated, as well
as the name of the city in which the paper appeared — the
city was arbitrarily chosen by Michael Petroff — to the
fictitious names of the publisher and editor. Like any
other paper, it contained advertisements, which Michael
Petroff simply cut out of other papers, a leading article,
and contributions. The whole editorial part, however, was
engaged — with the exception of a few articles which were
slipped in as a disguise — with the question: Is the con-
finement of Michael Petroff, Captain in the Russian army,
justified? The titles of the separate articles varied from
year to year, although the ideas expressed in them were
similar. The Russian government 's Ultimatum ! — A letter
from the Czar to the head physician, Dr. Marz ! And every
year the paper appeared under a different name. Michael
Petroff called it The Eye of the World, The Conscience of
Europe, The Bayonet.


Michael Petroff made no secret of his petitions, but he
spoke of his newspaper only to his confidant, the lawyer.
And although he was naturally friendly and very kind-
hearted, possibly the reason he was so extremely fond of
the lawyer was that he could talk to him about his paper.

' * Just a moment, my friend, ' ' said he. * ' There is such
news ! I want to tell you the very latest. Please stay. ' '

He went to the door and cleared his throat and listened.
Then he stepped out into the corridor, coughed, looked up
and down and came back satisfied. He drew out the edi-
torial drawer, the key of which he wore around his neck,
and with a happy laugh began : ' * The very latest ! Listen !
This cannot fail to have its effect. Just hear the headline :
Doctor Marz arrested! "

'' Dr. Marz arrested? " whispered the lawyer anxiously,
looking up at Petroff in open-mouthed astonishment.

Michael Petroff laughed.

*' Arrested? No, of course not. I go on to explain in
the article that Dr. Marz is going to be arrested, and that
the only way for him to escape arrest is to give Michael
Petroff his discharge immediately."

The lawyer nodded. '' I see," said he, smiling because
he saw Petroff looking so cheerful. And yet he was not
thinking anything about Petroff 's article, but only that he
must give the birds their water. He grew restless and
started to rise.

'' Just a moment, please! " said Michael Petroff eagerly.
** Yes, it is really an excellent idea," he continued rapidly,
while his cheeks flushed with joy. " In my article I em-
phasize the fact that Dr. Marz is an honorable man and a
highly prized and respected physician, so that his conduct
in this particular case causes widespread astonishment.
I should like to ask you, my friend, what he will do when
he reads this article? Ha, ha, ha! They will find out
something, my dear fellow. I am not going to be unkind
to him, not in the least. Well, in fact, in fact, I shall say,
my dear Doctor, ha, ha ! But just look at this too, in the

N on-Partisan. Only look at this title, will you please! "

VoT.. XX— r>



''Which one—? "

''Why, this one!"
An interrogation point? "

Yes ! Ha, ha — Simply an interrogation point ! And
beneath that: Where is Michael Petroff? An appeal to
the public! But look at this, in the little Feuilleton:
Michael Petroff, a Captain in the Russian army, has just
completed his six-volume work on Shooting Stars. All
the scientific journals are praising the clearness and
acumen of this epoch-making work. Ha, ha, ha, didn't I
tell you that there was news, my friend? "

The lawyer crouched in the sofa corner and made such
an effort to think, that he held his breath.

"I don't understand — ?" he whispered and slowly
shook his head.

" What don't you understand? "

" That he should keep you in confinement."

Michael Petroff glanced at the lawyer in surprise. Then
he leaned forward and whispered : ' ' But I have already
told you that my relations pay him."

" They pay him? "

' ' Yes, of course ! ' ' answered Michael Petroff cheerfully.
" Enormous sums. Millions!"

" Oh! " The lawyer began to understand now.

"Yes, you see, that is how it is in the world! " said
Michael Petrotf, and snapped his fingers.

But the lawyer did not wholly comprehend yet.

" I do not understand, ' ' he began again. ' ' Dr. Marz
is so kindhearted. I live here, I have my home and mj'^
food and I pay nothing. He has never asked me for any
money. — I have no money, you know, ' ' he ended anxiously
in a still lower tone.

Michael Petroff laid his hand pompously but protectingly
on his friend's shoulder. " You work in the garden,"
said he, ' ' you water the flowers. How could he have the
face to expect you to pay money? That is perfectly simple.
But perhaps you too have relations outside who pay for


*' Relations?"

* * Yes. Outside — there ! " A bitter smile curved Michael
Petroff 's beautiful boyish mouth. Should he tell this little
old man in the woolen shawl where he really was ? Should
he perhaps explain to this little old man with the grayish
wrinkled face, that there was an " outside " — where one
could even get into a railway train or wash one's hands
before sitting down to table? Suddenly he stood up on
his tiptoes and instantly lost all conception of his own
actual body; he seemed to himself like a gigantic tower
rising up to the clouds, and looking down on the little bald-
headed man, who had only two thin tufts of gray hair
above his ears. He was seized with the desire to make
the lawyer cry.

But suddenly he bowed slightly to his friend and said:
" Please forgive Michael Petroff! " He walked across the
room, then turned to his guest and said in precisely his
usual tone : ' * Will the fair weather last today ? ' '

*' I think so — I am not sure," answered the lawyer

*' Well, we will play cricket this afternoon. Are you

* ' Yes, ' ' whispered the lawyer and drew his scarf closer.

Michael Petroff gazed at him with his head on one side.
** I cannot understand how you can be cold today." And
he laughed gaily. ' ' Come, ' ' said he, ' Met us — "he paused,
for he did not know what he wanted to do — ' ' Let us —
Oh yes, let us go and see Friend Engelhardt. Come! —
The Doctor was with him last night," he ended myste-

'' The Doctor?"

' ' Yes. Our friend is ill. Hm, hm. ' ' Michael Petroff
carefully locked up the manuscript of his newspaper, put
on a big gray English traveling cap, looked in the glass,
and they left the room together. Michael Petroff laughed
a soft guttural laugh. At Engelhardt 's door they paused
to listen, and then knocked. —


There were two great days in the year for Michael

One was his birthday, the sixteenth of May. Michael
Petroff never forgot it. On May sixteenth he would walk
about with an important air, and looking about him he
would say to every one he met : ' ' This is my birthday.
I thank you for your good wishes ! ' ' The attendant always
came before dinner and asked him to come to Dr. Marz's
room to receive his congratulations.

Then Michael Petroff would go, with quick, light steps
to Dr. Marz's parlor, shake hands with him and thank him
for the wonderful bouquet of white roses that Dr. Marz
gave him.

Michael never suspected where the bunch of white roses
came from. He did not know that, on his birthday, his
wife and daughter stood behind the portiere of the parlor,
nor that they made the long journey every year to see him.
The first few years the Captain's wife had had golden hair,
but it had gradually turned gray, and now it was white,
although she was still quite a young woman. Formerly
she used to come alone, but for three years past she had
always been accompanied by a young lady, who wept bit-
terly when she arrived and when she went away. This
young lady had but one ear and concealed the disfigure-
ment by the way in which she dressed her hair. Michael
Petroff had cut off her other ear when she was only a child,
during the first outbreak of his malady.

Michael Petroff chatted and laughed pleasantly with the
head physician and carried the roses to his friend, the

" Here are some flowers for you. I do not want them! "

The lawyer's eyes opened wide with delight, and he took
the roses carefully as if they were fragile.

Michael Petroff 's second great day was that on which
his newspaper appeared.

The paper was always printed in the town. Michael
Petroff had induced the porter of the Sanatorium to under-


take this commission. The porter delivered the manuscript
to the printer and brought back the twenty-five printed
copies to Michael Petroff. And then for a few days he
was in a state of the greatest excitement. He sent the
paper to the doctors, especially to Dr. Marz, and waited in
suspense to see what effect it would have. At such times
he could not work, but wandered about the house and
garden all day. If he met a doctor, he would stop and cast
a triumphant glance at him, smiling as if secure of victory.

But a few days later he would question the doctors:
** May I ask whether you have received a newspaper? "

* ' A newspaper ? ' '

** Yes! I received it myself. The Bayonet? "

** Oh yes, I remember now. I will take a look at it."

" Yes, please do. There may be some things in it that
will interest you. Ha, ha, ha!" And he laid his hand on
the Doctor's shoulder and gazed meaningly at him.

Finally he asked the head physician himself.

" Yes, yes," answered he, " certainly I read that paper,
my dear Captain. A curious thing. I made inquiries im-
mediately, but the editors were not to be found, in spite
of all my pains. They do not seem to be in existence.
Or else they are gone. I scarcely know what to think of
the paper, my dear Captain."

Then for a few days Michael Petroff would wander dis-
consolately about, and his depression might even bring on.
melancholia or frenzy. But after a few days he would
always regain his cheerful spirits. He would greet his
friends, and apologize for his disagreeable behavior. And
immediately he would begin to plan out another newspaper.
This time it must surely be a success. Take care. Dr. Marz!

Such was Michael Petroff, Captain in the Russian army.

Friend Engelhardt, whom Michael Petroff and the lawyer
were going to visit, was a gray-haired man about fifty
years old, who had been only a year in Dr. Miirz's sana-



torium. He was a shoemaker by trade and had sat all
his life, year in, year out, under his glass globe of water,*
tapping away on leather. He was unmarried, lived much
alone and since he was industrious and economical, he had
laid up a comfortable little property. And there he sat
under his glass globe and nothing whatever happened.
But gradually the globe began to look more and more
strange to him. It flashed upon him and dazzled him, so
that he sometimes felt for a moment a certain unacknowl-
edged fear of it. It seemed to grow bigger and bigger,
until at last the time came when Engelhardt's hair stood
on end with horror —

And thenceforth he suffered from the strange and terri-
ble delusion that he was the centre of the universe and that
it was his task to keep the whole world in equilibrium.
The myriad forces of all creation were united in him and
he felt with agonizing constancy, how the suns and the
planets were circling about him, and how everything was
rushing and whirling through space. If a chain of skaters
revolves around one man who is in the middle, that man
will feel the extraordinary force with which the two rush-
ing wings whirl around him, and he will be obliged to exert
all his strength to maintain his position. Engelhardt felt
precisely so and since his efforts were unremitting, his
delusion exhausted him to such an extent, that in one year
he had aged as if in ten. Even if — so he said — the
heavenly bodies had been so marvelously ordained by the
almighty Creator, that through all eternity they revolved
in their foreordained circles and spirals (as he said), yet
he suffered beyond endurance from the slightest disturb-
ance in outer space. During the winter he had been unable
to sleep for two weeks, because a swiftly moving star was
pulling at him. Curiously enough, at this very time a
comet appeared which astonished all the astronomers.
Just then Schwindt, an attendant, had died under peculiar

* German shoemakers used a glass globe full of water placed in front of
their lamp, to concentrate the light upon their work.

\ woV'\

f'lass glob-. ... .,ater,*

.. Liuarried, lived mnch

, and economical, he had

nertr. And there he sat

Online LibraryKuno FranckeThe German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) → online text (page 6 of 34)