Imágenes de páginas


tient and irritable, and thought I would take a stroll through the streets for a little while, and then return to my lodgings. It was the first New Year's Eve I had spent alone for many years; but


friends were either absent from town or engaged in different occupations. I wrapped a thick shawl round my face, threw on my fur cloak, and made my way into the street. I was perfectly aware that the night air was generally considered injurious to decayed teeth, but the truth is, I could not rest within doors, and, whatever might be the consequences, I felt compelled to take exercise and seek excitement. I passed hurriedly through the streets, and encountered in my progress several persons reeling apparently homewards, and who had evidently not been unmindful of the festive season. The exercise, I found, did me good, and I continued to pace up and down the streets for a considerable time, till at length, attracting attention, I proceeded again to my lodgings. My landlady opened me the door, and showed me to my apartment. In a few minutes I was seated before a blazing fire, with a glass of strong brandy and water steaming before me. Whether it was owing to the warmness of the atmosphere in which I sat, or to the hot spirit and water I was drinking, I know not, but I was attacked with the most violent paroxysms of toothache, much more severe than any I had as yet experienced. "I strode about the room in the greatest agony—1 stamped with my feet- I committed, in short, all those excesses which people usually indulge in under similar circumstances. The stratagems I had recourse to did not alleviate the pain. I continued, however, to pace up and down the chamber with the greatest impatience. An hour or two, I suppose, passed away whilst I was thus engaged. I cannot say how long, for I took no note of time, but I was at length aroused from my self-absorption by the ringing of the various church-bells of the city, and the reiterated salutation of Prosst Neu Jahr, which was exchanged between the passengers in the street below.

year had anything but an auspicious commencement for me. I was labouring under an amount of physical pain scarcely to be endured, and which threatened almost to deprive me of my reason.

I was still particularly restless, and paced up and down the chamber with untiring energy. I occasionally varied this employment by walking for a few minutes in my bedroom, which was on the same floor as the apartment in which I sat.

It is essential, perhaps, to furnish the reader with some information as regards myself, so that he may have some data whereon to found an opinion as to the peculiar circumstances hereinafter to be related. It is not my wish to disguise a single feature which might lead to an elucida. tion of this remarkable case. I shall give the fullest information in my power, and it would be a source of considerable gratification to me if any of

my learned fellow-countrymen would institute a thorough investigation into the various circumstances which I shall presently lay before them. The subject is one deserving of their closest attention, and one, too, which falls peculiarly within their own province. I say this with considerable pride and pleasure, for whilst other European writers have, for the most part, devoted themselves to subjects capable of human comprehension, it has been the steadfast object of several of the authors of Germany to penetrate, as it were, into the very arcana of thingssearch into those secrets which have been hidden from the children of

The new

men since the foundations of the earth were laid. With what success these studies have been pursued, it is needless for me to add: they have gained for their followers a reputation in this peculiar department of literature that has rendered them world-famous. I do not envy their laurels, for I have little ambition, but I wish (and many of my readers will join me in it I am sure) that they may long live to wear them. It is to be hoped, therefore, that my fellow-countrymen will take up this subject_submit it to that close analysis, that subtle inquiry, which all matters of this kind receive at their hands—and I have little doubt that their labours will be crowned with abundant success.

I have just attained my twenty-fifth year; my complexion is sallow; my eyes (it was not only my dear cousin that told me so) dark and piercing. My temperament is what is usually called, I believe, nervous and sanguine. I have been a dreamer from my youth, poring over philosophical and imaginative works of all descriptions, but generally preferring those authors who most eschewed the subjects of every-day life, and who gave daring flights to their imagination by soaring into those mystic regions into which other writers with feebler pinions dared not penetrate. My reading, though exceedingly desultory, gave a certain tone to my feelings, and tended, perhaps, to throw over the daily occurrences of life an unhealthy colouring, which was likely to exercise a mischievous influence over my conduct and habits. I cannot deny that such a result has actually been produced. I lack, as it were, an aptitude for worldly affairs—ani the merest simpleton in making a purchase that you can well conceive-and have, perhaps, as much idea as to the value of several of the articles of daily use as a bricklayer's labourer of the

a gigantic proportions of the Pyramids. Admitting as I do the pernicious tendency of much of the literature at which I have pointed, I am compelled nevertheless to make some exceptions, and frankly to avow that I have not only derived much amusement but considerable instruction from some of the authors whom I have read. I allude in particular to those writers who have made it their particular study to search into the inmost recesses of nature, and to deduce therefrom such conclusions as to the nature and purpose of our being as their discoveries and speculations might seem to warrant. Oh! worthy disciples of Socrates and Plato ! Oh! noble supporters of a faith to which some of the most illustrious writers of ancient times have not hesitated to give credence. Oh! earnest apostles of truth, swerve not from the path which you

have marked out for yourselves; pursue it energetically, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left, and, despite the taunts and jeers of the world, you will one day astonish it with your singular and invaluable productions.

I have, perhaps, said as much on this score as is necessary, and shall now resume my narrative. I have said that my sleeping chamber was on the same flat as that in which I usually sat and took my meals. At the further end of the chamber there stood a quaint old cabinet; to judge from its appearance, it must have been of great age-probably not less than 150 to 200 years old. It was made of oak, highly polished, and on which innumerable quaint figures and devices were ingeniously carved. There were upon it heads of men and animals, and their several faces were made to assume every possible contortion that the human imagination could conceive. In the centre of the cabinet there was carved a full



length figure representing an aged man with a long, flowing beard. His features were stern but somewhat venerable, and he seemed to carry in his hand a long staff or wand. When I grew tired of one apartment, I relieved the monotony, as I have said, by walking backwards and forwards in the other. The pain with which I was afflicted was as acute as ever, and there was no appearance of its abatement. I knew not how to console myself; I became more feverish and irritable. I opened a small drawer in the cabinet, and drew from it a letter which I had received a few days before from


beloved Marie. I had read it a dozen timesI read it again.

“Prague, 10ten Decr., 18—, “MEIN LIEBER VETTER,—Deinen angenehmen Brief hatte ich das Vergnügen zu empfangen und es freuet mich sehr zu ersehen, dass du recht wohl bist und bald nach Hause kommen wirst. Ich habe mich oft selbst gefragt warum nicht sogleich, um die Feirtage bei uns zubringen zu können. Meine liebe Tante, so wie deine Schwester, wunschen dich recht bald zu sehen. Obgleich du so lang weggeblieben bist, vergessen wir dich doch nicht-nein, lieber August, wir denken täglich an dich.

"Ich werde dir heute nichts weiter schreiben, da uns das Vergnügen dich selbst zu sehen bevorsteht. Lebe wohl.

- Deine dich liebende,


When I had read this letter I replaced it in the cabinet ; the pain I endured was as intense as ever. I writhed with agony.

“Oh, Heavens!" I exclaimed in my suffering," wherefore should man be subject to so many physical ailments and infirmities—wherefore should his immortal spirit be enshrined in this fleshly tabernacle-why should it be clogged with an incumbrance that entails so much suffering upon him, and checks his noblest and loftiest aspirations ?”.

I had scarcely uttered these words before I thought I perceived a change in the old cabinet. The centre figure, representing the old man, evidently dilated. It grew larger and larger, till at length it assumed the appearance of an old man considerably above the average height. He smiled benignantly upon me, as though he were disposed to befriend me.

A very important change had come over me. I knew not how-the change, however, was manifest. I was free from all pain-cheerfulcontented. I was seated comfortably in my easy-chair, and the fire was blazing cheerfully before me.

“How different,” I thought, “ does life appear when one is not suffering from bodily pain."

I began to ponder over my sweet cousin's letter, and to picture to myself the pleasure which I should shortly derive from her society, when a slight noise on the stair-head arrested my attention; the room door was then slightly thrown open, and the head of my landlady was thrust in for a moment and then withdrawn.

“A very singular proceeding," I thought; my surprise, however, was considerably increased when she and her daughter walked into the room without making the slightest observation ; they took no notice whatever of my presence, and proceeded to dust the furniture, as if no person were in the room but themselves.

“A very singular proceeding this,” I repeated; and surely I was justified in coming to this conclusion. I had been a lodger of Madame Schwartzenbach for some months—I paid her handsomely for the rooms I occupied—I gave her little trouble, but frequent and valuable presents. I, therefore, ask if behaviour such as I have described was not intolerable in the extreme ? I am not proud-nor unsociable—nor unreasonable. I have no wish to see any servility on the part of others manifested towards myself. I arrogate to myself no superiority, but I do say that the conduct of Madame Schwartzenbach on this occasion was unwarrantable, and such as few gentlemen would pardon. If I had defrauded her of her money, kept unseasonable hours, or in any other objectionable way deported myself, treatment like this would have awakened no surprise. It is impossible to describe my indignation. Here was I exposed to all the dust and confusion incident to the operation I have referred to. I was treated with absolute contempt, as though I were a perfect nonentity, and as though it were too much trouble even for Madame Schwartzenbach to ask if these proceedings were convenient to me or otherwise.

I sat in amazement, scarcely able to believe that what I beheld was reality. And yet the circumstances were too real—the figures before me too life-like-to be easily mistaken. I remained quiescent. I was determined to see the end of these proceedings, and so observed the utmost silence. I was afraid even to stir in my chair, lest it should attract the notice of either Madame Schwartzenbach or her daughter. With breathless

suspense I watched all their movements; they passed from one piece of furniture to another, till at length the work appeared to be finished. I began to reflect upon what they should purpose to do next, and I was not long kept in suspense. Surprised, irritated, disgusted as I had previously been, I was certainly not prepared for the extraordinary behaviour which followed. Such audacity, such unparalleled effrontery, I am persuaded will seem perfectly incredible. I can swear, however, to every circumstance which I shall relate.

Their work being finished, Madame Schwartzenbach drew a chair towards the fire and seated herself upon it, desiring her daughter at the same time to follow her example. I retained my seat—moved pot, but kept my eyes steadfastly fixed upon them. My presence did not disturb them in the least; they saw me, that was evident. How, indeed, could they fail to do so ? Madame Schwartzenbach sat close at my elbowwithin a yard of me—there was a blazing fire-two lighted candles in the room. How, then, could they fail to see me? Yet they uttered not a word-evinced not the slightest consciousness of my presence. I was paralysed. Was it Madame Schwartzenbach and her daughter—was I not deceiving myself? Confusion! Was it the room—the chair I was sitting in- was it the fire blazing before me—the carpet upon which my feet were pressing-were these things real, and was the presence of Madame Schwartzenbach and her daughter not equally as tangibleequally as capable of demonstration ? And yet why did they not speak --utter a single syllable-exchange a solitary glance-indicate by a simple gesture their recognition of me? I say nothing of etiquette, deference, respect, which, under other circumstances, I should have con



[ocr errors]


ceived myself entitled to. I waive these considerations entirely, but fancy a situation such as I describe. I am seated in reflective mood by the fire -my privacy is broken in upon-my furniture turned upside down-and, to crown all, the intruders, after committing these acts of unparalleled audacity, seat themselves close at my elbow, as though I were of as little importance as the chair in which I sat. Assuredly this was the culminating point of human effrontery—assuredly this was the very climax of open contempt. My thoughts reverted again to my former proposition. Were the females not some airy shadows conjured up by my own imagination? I was determined to settle the question, so I arose from my chair, and making a slight inclination of the body, said:

“Madame, I am perfectly unconscious of having done anything since I have lived under this roof which should seem to warrant the remarkable intrusion on the part of yourself and daughter to which I have been subjected to to-night. I have sat for a considerable time an impatient witness of your movements. I am compelled, however, at length, to express the unbounded indignation which I feel, and to signify to you that I shall, as soon as possible, seek for other apartments."

I sat down with an air of triumph, well assured that the few observations which I had just made would have the desired effect. It will scarcely be credited, I think, when I say that my remarks elicited not a single syllable in reply. My astonishment was beyond all bounds. What could be the niotive for these singular proceedings? Was I a fool—an idiot—that I could be trifled and jested with in this singular manner, or had my landlady and her daughter simultaneously taken leave of their senses, and in a fit of insanity acted in the incomprehensible way I have described ?

“Madame Schwartzenbach," I said, in a firm tone of voice, “I entreat you to explain the cause of this unseemly intrusion.”

My words were again unheeded. After a short interval, however, Madame Schwartzenbach turned to her daughter, and said :

Well, Margaretha, are you ready; shall we go to bed ?"

Yes, just now; it is difficult to leave the fire such a cold night as this."

“Mr. Neuendorff has been in bed, I dare say, an hour or two."

It is said that language is but a feeble exponent of our thoughts and ideas. I am sure it is quite inadequate to describe my state of mind when this audacious falsehood was uttered in my presence. I had been in bed an hour or two, and was actually sitting close to the woman who was giving expression to this infamous mendacity! I know of no language forcible enough to convey a true conception of the feelings by which I was influenced.

“Hush,” said Madame Schwartzenbach; “I thought I heard Mr. Neuendorff ; he probably requires something, poor gentleman!"

She took one of the candles from the table and actually proceeded to my sleeping apartment. This last act, if possible, was more extraordinary than

any of its predecessors. In a minute or two she returned. “No; I was mistaken,” she said; "he sleeps soundly.

It was really some consolation to hear that she had seen me, and that I was, at all events, somewhere; but I have yet to learn how it was possible that I could be in two places at once. She had seen me in bed she stated, and yet, according to my own showing, I was seated in the

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »