Kuno Francke.

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

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circumstances and Engelhardt — as he himself said — had
drunk in his soul, from which he had gained fresh strength,
sufficient to last him throughout the spring and summer.
But now again his task was wearing him out more every
day and his powers were failing rapidly. The shooting
stars and the swarms of meteors dragged at him, until he
became dizzy, and especially the moon exerted at this
period a terrible power over him. It sucked in his strength,
and Engelhardt imagined that at any moment the ground
might give way beneath him and he might sink into the
depths and the whole universe might collapse above him.

When Michael Petroff and the little lawyer entered
Engelhardt 's room, after vainly knocking at the door for
some time, they found him in bed, with his thin hairy hands
lying helplessly on the coverlet. He was gazing directly
upward, and indeed his eyes were rolled up so far that the
whites showed, and he seemed to be looking fixedly at some
special point in the ceiling. His face was of a somewhat
yellowish tone and gave the impression of being made of
porcelain, the skin was so smooth and the bones were so
prominent. His forehead was uncommonly large in pro-
portion to his small face and mouth, which w^as drawn
together as if ready to whistle and was surrounded by
many little lines centering at the lips. The shoemaker
had wasted away so during the year that the collar of his
bright colored shirt stood out a finger's breadth from his
thin neck.

"Good morning!" said Michael Petroff gently and
cheerfully. *' Here are some friends to see you! " The
lawyer remained timidly standing in the doorway.

Engelhardt did not answer. A shudder passed over him,
and his thin hairy hands twitched from time to time, as if
he were receiving an electric shock of varying strength.

Michael Petroff smiled and came toward him. " How
are you, my dear friend? " said he softly and sympa-
thetically, bending over Engelhardt. ' ' Did the Doctor
come to see you last night? "


Engelliardt rolled his head from side to side on the pil-
low. He was exhausted by a sleepless night and by the
effects of the hypnotics that the Doctor had given him.

'' Very ill! " answered he in a lifeless tone.

* ' Very ill ? " Michael Petroff raised his eyebrows
anxiously. He turned to the little lawyer, who still stood
at the door. ' * Our poor friend does not feel well ! ' '
said he.

"Are you in pain? " Michael Petroff bent once more
over the sick man and held his ear near Engelhardt 's mouth.

' ' Yes, ' ' answered the sick man in a dull and lifeless
tone, and murmured something in Petroff 's ear. It sounded
as if he were praying.

Michael Petroff straightened up again and glanced at
the little lawyer. " He says that he has come to the end
of his strength, our poor friend. He needs a new soul —
like that time in the winter, when the attendant died, don't
you remember? " And he shouted into the ear of the
sufferer, unnecessarily loud : "I will speak with the
Doctor, Friend Engelhardt. This is the Doctor's business.
In one way or another he will get you a soul ! ' '

But the little lawyer suddenly wrapped himself closer
in his shawl. He was as cold as ice. Ordinarily very few
impressions remained in his memory, but he still remem-
bered clearly the death of the attendant Schwindt — and
how Michael Petroff had come to his room and whispered
mysteriously in his ear : ' * The attendant is dead. Engel-
hardt has taken his soul, don't you see! " So now he was
horrified at the thought that Engelhardt might perhaps
demand his soul, and there was nothing that he feared
more than death.

Death dwelt in his confused sick brain as a figure that
was invisible all but the hands. Suddenly, Oh so suddenly,
it would stand near him, close by his side. And a horrible
chill would stream forth from the dread form, and all the
flowers, white with frost, would die, and the millions of
swift little birds would fall frozen through the air, and he
himself would be changed into a little heap of snow.


The lawyer drew in his head, so that his thin gray beard
pushed out above his scarf, and gazed timidly at Michael
Petroff with his little mouse-like eyes and shivered.

Michael Petroff looked at him in astonishment. ' ' What
is the matter, my dear fellow?" he drawled, smilingly.
"Are you afraid! Why should you be, I wonder? I shall
go at once to Dr. Marz and explain to him what Engelhardt
requires. From what I know of him, he will not delay,
and so everything will be attended to. I would gladly
place my own soul at your disposal. Friend Engelhardt,
but I still need it myself- — I have a mission to fulfil, you
know — I am Napoleon, and I fight a battle every day,
I am — " But here he paused suddenly and listened.

"The Doctor is coming! Don't you hear him?" he
whispered. ' ' He will be here immediately — ' '

Dr. Marz had come into the ward. He could be heard
speaking with some one in the corridor, and the three men
in the shoemaker's room listened. The Doctor's voice was
the only one which had the power to change the current
of their thoughts and to give- them hopes, great hopes,
indefinite though they were. It affected them somewhat
as a voice affects wanderers, who believe that they are lost
in a solitary wilderness. And yet Dr. Marz did not talk
much, but he had become a master of the art of listening,
and would pay attention for hours every day to the com-
plaints, the lamentations, and the hundreds of requests of
his patients. But a few words from him had the power
to encourage, to comfort, to cheer and to influence the
mood of his patients for the whole day.

Suddenly the lawyer ceased to shiver, Michael Petroff
began to laugh happily, and Engelhardt withdrew his gaze
from the point in the ceiling and looked toward the half
open door. He gazed so intently that his small bright eyes
seemed to squint.

" Listen ! The Rajah is talking with him ! " said Michael
Petroff, holding up his finger for silence.

"Nobody is watching you, my dear friend," said the
Doctor 's quiet voice.


And a deep and almost gentler voice replied : "I heard
the watchman walking back and forth before my door all
night, Sir. And I also heard the drum when the watch was
relieved. ' '

*' My friend," answered the Doctor, ''You must have
been dreaming."

" No," continued the man whom Michael Petroff had
called the " Rajah," " I excuse you. Sir, because I know
that you are only doing your duty. But your tact ought
to prevent you from carrying out your precautions in such
an obvious way. I have given you my word of honor not
to make any attempt to escape. I want you to tell that
to the English government, by whose authority you are
keeping me here in confinement. Neither have I any
weapons concealed in my room. I want you to search it. ' '

" I know that perfectly well, my friend !"

"All the same, I want you to search."

And the "Rajah" would not be satisfied until the
Doctor had promised that his room should be searched

During this conversation Dr. Marz had appeared in the
doorway, with the " Rajah " just behind him. Dr. Marz
was a small man, dressed in a light-gray suit, with a ruddy
beardless face and a quick, searching but gentle eye, while
the " Rajah " stood behind him, tall and dark, and almost
filling up the doorway. The " Rajah " had a long black
beard and a fearless, dark brown face, in which the whites
of his eyes showed strikingly.

The " Rajah " was simply a teacher, who had taught for
a few years in India in a German school. A protracted fever
had caused an incipient delusion, which, after his return to
his native land, took entire possession of him. He imagined
himself to be an Indian prince, who had been exiled by the
English government.

He was extremely silent and reserved, and never talked
with the other patients. His bearing expressed an in-
scrutable calm and an apparently quite natural pride.


For days together he would favor no one with a glance.
He would walk up and down the garden, very slowly,
gazing scornfully at the flowers and trees, and every even-
ing, if the weather permitted, he would sit apart on a
bench and gaze at the sinking sun, turning his dark face
toward it until it disappeared. And as he gazed at the
setting sun, an obscure, wistful sorrow glowed in his dark
eyes. For he saw palm trees, that seemed to melt into the
sun, so that only their tops showed, edged with flame, while
their trunks were invisible — and elephants, stepping
proudly, with their little brown maJwuts upon their necks
— and glittering golden temples, and crowds of dark, half
naked natives, trotting along with branches in their hands,
and uttering shrill cries — and then too, he saw himself,
going on board the steamer that was to carry him into
exile, while the dark people threw themselves dow^n on the
quay and wept. The " Rajah's " soul was filled with deep
and bitter sorrow, and he rose and held his broad shoulders
more erect, as if he were bearing a heavy burden. And
he bore it ! The '* Rajah " never complained, never showed
despondency, nor did he ever show any sign of what was
taking place within him.

Even in his own room he behaved tranquilly. Very
rarely w^as he heard to speak, and only once in a while —
in his sleep — would he utter a long-drawn singing cry,
such as street venders use in the Orient.

As Dr. Miirz entered the room, the little baldheaded
lawyer bowed, with his cap in his hand, and stood modestly
against the wall. His gratitude knew no bounds, because
the Doctor allowed him to live quietly and peacefully
among his flowers and birds, without ever asking him to
pay anything. So today he did not even venture to ask
Dr. Marz for crumbs for the birds nor to complain of the
negligence of the maids in the kitchen, although he had
fully determined to do so.

But the lawyer could not look at the '* Rajah " who stood
dark and unapproachable in the passageway, without feel-



ing timid and slightly anxious. To express his respect, he
bowed low to the '' Rajah," and since the latter did not
notice him, he bowed once more, moving his lips in a
whisper. But the *' Rajah " did not vouchsafe him a
glance. For a moment the lawyer thought of approaching
and kissing the ^' Rajah's " hand. For he recalled a cir-
cumstance that had been sharply impressed upon his
memory: One evening he had met the *' Rajah" in the
corridor and had bowed to him. They had been quite alone.
The " Rajah " had come toward him and had said in a
deep, mysterious voice, " My loyal subject ! " and had given
him his hand to kiss. '' Wait! " the *' Rajah " had con-
tinued, *' I will show my favor to you. I have very little
of the treasure left, that I brought with me into exile, but
— here, take this." And the " Rajah " had slipped a little
gray stone into his hand.

Michael Petroff, on the contrary, looked smilingly and
questioningly at Dr. Marz, while he stood politely back
against the door. Meanwhile he tipped his head somewhat
backward and sidewise and looked at the Doctor, as if he
expected some very special news from him and as if he
knew quite well that Dr. Marz had such news for him today.
So confidently did he look at him, while a smile played
about his pretty bojdsh mouth.

But Engelhardt, whose brows were drawn up with pain
as if they were fastened with rivets, had half sat up in bed
and was explaining his needs and his sufferings to the
Doctor. He spoke in a guttural tone, rapidly, in a murmur
that was hard to understand, and his voice sounded like
the distant barking of a dog, heard on a still night.

He had come to the end of his strength — the moon was
drawing at him! — in the night thousands of people had
begged him on their knees not to give them up to destruc-
tion — only a new soul could give him back his strength —
he felt that he was bending over more and more to the left
and the whole universe might collapse at any moment:
all this he muttered indistinctly, confusedly, his distressful
eyes fixed pleadingly upon Dr. Marz.


Dr. Miirz listened gravely, as did also Michael Petroff
and even the '' Rajah," who had stepped inside the door.
And because they were all listening so earnestly — espe-
cially the '' Rajah," whose large brilliant eyes were fixed
upon Engelhardt — the little lawyer was once more seized
with fear. He felt as if his legs were sinking through the
floor, as if in a swamp, but just when this fear was about
to overwhelm him like black darkness, a bird lit on the
window-sill and chirped, and the lawyer seemed suddenly

' ' I am coming ! " he whispered hurriedly.

"Don't go! " said Michael Petroff softly, taking hold
of his arm. '' Where are you going? "

* ' He was calling me ! ' ' answered the lawyer and slipped
quickly away.

" How he is hurrying! " thought Michael Petroff, and
heard himself laughing inwardly. And presently he said
to Dr. Marz, laying his hand confidentially on his shoulder :
" The lawyer is certainly a clever, well educated man —
and yet he thinks that the birds call him ! Between you and
me, Doctor, hasn't it ever occurred to you, that he is not
quite right — 1 "

After luncheon Dr. Marz's patients went out into the
garden as usual. They trotted along in little groups, one
after the other, round and round the biggest flower bed,
at equal distances, silently, lost in thought. Only the
* ' Inventor, ' ' a young man, sometimes paused, rested his
hand on his side, put his other hand to his forehead and
gazed steadily at a point on the ground.

The lawyer was watering his flowers and listening de-
lightedly to the thousands and thousands of birds that
were hopping in the bushes and treetops. Michael Petroff
was in high good humor. There was news — ! Just listen!
Just listen! He was smoking a cigarette that Dr. Marz
had given him, and was enjoying every whiff of it. He held
the cigarette with his fingers coquettishly crossed, and



swung it in sweeping curves, as if he w^ere taking off his
hat to some one, and at every whiff he drew, he stood still
and blew the smoke up into the sunny air and watched the
blue cloud drift awaj. Everything gave him pleasure.
Even walking was a delight to him. His steps w^ere short,
his knees sprung playfully; and he felt with delight how
his toes crackled a little and how the elastic balls of his
feet rebounded in his thin soled shoes from the ground,
while his heels touched the path but lightly and his knees
swung. When he stood still, he set the muscles of his
thighs, by a certain pressure of the knees, and then enjoyed
the firmness with which he stood there like a statue. He
was convinced that nothing could have knocked him down.
He walked along smiling and glancing cheerfully about
him, as if to share his happiness. He greeted everyone,
and whenever he met an acquaintance he would tell him
the great event that had happened today.

' ' Just hear this, my friend ! " he called out to the little
lawyer, who w^as standing on the lawn, stooping over a
tulip bed to water the flowers in the middle of it. '* Do
come over here ! There is such news ! Oh, please do
come ! ' '

He waited with friendly impatience until the lawyer had
finished and came back to the path, meaning to go back to
the well with his empty green can. '* I want to tell you
what has happened today," he began hastily, " His
Majesty the king of Saxony has condescended — "

" Pardon me," the lawyer interrupted him in a whisper
and started to leave him, " I am in a hurry. It is hot and
the flowers are drying up."

' ' I will walk to the well with you, ' ' continued Michael
Petroff good humoredly, and walked rapidly beside the
departing lawyer. ' ' I can tell you just as well while we
are walking. So I said to the Doctor today : ' Now, Doctor,
haven't you anything for me today? ' * No,' said he, ' my
dear Captain, nothing at all, I am sorry to say. ' ' Eeally
nothing,' said I, and I took him by the arm. ' Has not


there been a single answer for weeks? Really nothing,
Doctor? ' He looked at me and thought a while. ' Oh yes,'
he said, * I had almost forgotten. A document did come
for you. It is about that carpenter, you know. Captain.'
'A carpenter. Doctor? I don't remember ' — so I took out
my memorandum book, in which I enter all the documents
that I send out: 'Where did the answer come from?
From Saxony? Ah! ' said I, ' then it must be about the
butcher 's apprentice who Avas condemned to death. ' ' Yes, '
said the Doctor, ' that is it. The fellow was a butcher's
apprentice.' And now listen, my friend. Because of my
petition, his Majesty the King of Saxony has condescended
to pardon him. I must write a letter of thanks to His
Majesty this very day."

'' How the sun burns today," the lawyer responded to
Michael Petroff 's tale, and began to work the pump handle.
''All the flowers look so wilted."

' ' Ha, ha ! " laughed Michael Petroff . ' ' You 're not
listening at all, are you ? ' '

No, the lawyer was not listening. He was looking into
his can to see if it was full.

Michael Petroff looked at him a while with his head on
one side, then he laughed quietly to himself and walked
rapidly away. He glanced about the garden in search of
some one to whom he could tell his cheerful tale.

Just then he espied the " Rajah," who was walking up
and down in the vegetable garden between two beds of
lettuce. According to his habit, the " Rajah " was alone,
and in a place where no one else would be apt to come.

Michael Petroff rose up on tiptoes and considered
whether he had better, with one jump, spring over the
beds, which separated him by about a hundred paces from
the " Rajah." He would only have to soar upward a very
little and he would be there. But he was afraid of being
impolite to the " Rajah " or perhaps of startling him, so
he gave up the idea.

The " Rajah " was pacing up and down with his usual



pride and dignity, but today he was restless and troubled.
Engelhardt 's words about preserving tbe equilibrium of
the universe had taken possession of his mind. He had
been considering the matter, and after long and inexorable
reflection he had come to the decision that there was only
one way — only one —

Just then Michael Petroff came up to him.

" Will you permit me to disturb you? " he asked politely,
taking off his gray English traveling cap. " I am Captain
Michael Petroff."

The *' Rajah " gazed at him earnestly with his glowing
dark eyes.

' ' What do you want, ' ' he asked quietly.

Michael Petroff smiled. ' ' I want to tell you a piece of
good news," he began. " This morning I said to the
Doctor: 'Now, Doctor, haven't you anything for me
today — I ' " — And beaming with joy, he went on to tell
the same story that he had told a dozen times that day.

The "Rajah" listened in silence, looking thoughtfully
at Michael Petroff. Then he said : "I should like to have
a word with you."

* ' I am quite at your service ! ' '

The ** Rajah's " eyes wandered over the garden slowly
and with dignity.

"■ Shall we go over to that bench? "

' ' With pleasure. ' '

The " Rajah " sat down, and with a condescending ges-
ture invited Michael Petroff to be seated also.

" I see you writing all the time — " he began,

Michael Petroff lifted his cap. ' ' Michael Petroff, Cap-
tain in the Russian army," he said politely.

The " Rajah " looked at him and went on, with his usual
quiet pride : ' ' Since you write, you must understand. And
you surely must have gained knowledge of men and things
from sacred books, which are closed to the rest of us, and
you must have passed your life in meditation, according to
the rules of your caste. Very well. Then explain to me


the words of the Fakir, who, according to the inscrutable
decision of the Gods, is bearing up the universe on his
shoulders. Speak!"

Michael Petroff smiled, highly flattered, and bowed to
the " Rajah." He did not really understand all that the
'* Rajah " said, but he perceived that his words expressed
respect and admiration. He felt that it was in some way
his duty to confide to the " Rajah " the secret of his paper,
but to his own surprise he asked : * ' You mean our friend
Engelhardt? "

' ' You heard what he said ? ' '

*' Yes."

" Then speak! " It appeared that the " Rajah " had
not forgotten a single word that Engelhardt had said to
Dr. Marz. Michael Petroff, on the contrary, remembered
almost nothing, and so fell into the '' Rajah's " disfavor.

'* Pardon mo! " he apologized. *' So many things pass
through my head. ' '

*' But what will happen if he cannot get another soul? "
asked the " Rajah."

* ' Oh, the Doctor will take care of that. ' '

'' Even Fakirs are only human. What will happen if
his strength gives way? Will the world collapse? "

"Surely it will collapse!" replied Michael Petroff,

*' What are you laughing at? " asked the " Rajah "
quietly, w^hile his dark eyes gleamed. ' ' What will you do
if it collapses? "

'' I? " Michael Petroff smiled and pointed to the cottage,
which showed dimly through the shrubbery. * ' If that
house tumbles down," he went on, ''I will run away as
fast as I can, and go back to my own country. Russia is
my native land. Do you know about Russia? You could
hold Germany on the palm of your hand, but you couldn't
carry Russia even on your back. My country is so big. ' '

The " Rajah " considered this idea long and carefully.

Then he said slowly, and as if speaking to himself: " If
Vol. XX— e


the world collapses, will my kingdom be destroyed too?
The mountains and the temples, the forests and the towns,
will they all fall in ruins? "

Michael Petroff nodded, laughing maliciously. " I sup-
pose so! "

And now the " Rajah " nodded too. He bowed his head
slowly several times. "All my subjects would be de-
stroyed? " he asked, and nodded. He rose and shook his
head. " No," he said solemnlj^, gazing at Michael Petroff.
' ' That must not be ! We cannot allow it. ' '

The " Rajah " turned away. Through the sunshine he
walked, slowly and with dignity, back to the ward.

Michael Petroff looked after him. He smiled and shook
his head. ' ' What a curious being he is though ! ' ' said he,
laughing. And when he heard his own laughter, he laughed
again, loudly and gaily and snapped his fingers. Ha, ha, ha !

But the " Rajah " went to Engelhardt's room and in-
formed him that he had decided to give up his own soul to
him. ' ' If the Gods deign to accept my sacrifice. ' '

Engelhardt, who lay in his bed as if he were already dead,
opened his eyes and looked at the " Rajah."

' ' Will you ? " he gasped, while his hands and face
twitched convulsively.


' ' I will try to hold out for three days yet ! ' ' gasped

The " Rajah " closed the door. He went to his own room
and wrote, in a large rapid hand that wandered in all direc-
tions, a short letter to Dr. Marz.

* ' Your Excellency, ' ' he wrote, " It is the will of Heaven.
We shall see the blue river no more. We shall see no more
the flooded rice fields, nor the white elephants with bands
of gold upon their tusks. It is the will of Heaven and we
obey. Say to the English Government that we are too
noble for bitterness or revenge. Say to the English Gov-
ernment that we are pleased to rescue our subjects and
to yield up our soul, if the sacrifice is pleasing to the Gods. "


The " Rajah " rang for the attendant and gave him the
letter, quietly and with great dignity. Then he undressed
and went to bed, prepared to die.

At nightfall, when it was growing dark, the lawyer, much
excited, rushed into Michael Petroff 's room, without knock-
ing, or waiting at the door, as he was in the habit of doing.

' ' Help me. Captain ! " he whispered, and threw himself
into the arms of the astonished Michael Petroff. The
lawyer was trembling with fright.

''What in the world — ?" exclaimed Michael Petroff,
surprised and startled.

' ' He is standing in the corridor ! ' ' whispered the lawyer.

Online LibraryKuno FranckeThe German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) → online text (page 7 of 34)