And he? Did he love her as he should, before he had the right to bind her to him for life? His earnestness and exalted morality looked upon marriage as a rash adventure full of alarming secrets. Was it possible that their two lives should be so blended together that they should withstand every accident of fate? He meant to give himself entirely, to keep nothing back, and to be true in body and soul. Was he sure that he could keep the vow, and that no sinful wishes should come to break it? Already he was thinking that he might not be always happy with her. Certainly her beauty, her wit, the attraction of her fresh, healthy youth charmed him, and when she spoke to him with her sweet voice, he had to shut his eyes and hold himself together, not to fall at her feet and bury his head in her dress. But he feared for himself, for his honor, that a sensual attraction should hardly outlast possession. His innermost being was painfully troubled. Never an elevated word from her! Never a deep and serious thought! Often he reflected that the faults of her upbringing were the inevitable results of her life in the midst of idle people, and that it would be possible to deepen and widen her mind and sensations. If he could only go with her to a desert island, alone with the loneliness of nature, and could live between the heavens and the sea! How soon then could he inspire her thoughts and bring her to his own standpoint. Then the fear would take hold of him that she could not do without theaters, frocks, soirees, and balls, and under the recent impression of the New-Year's party he became despondent, and said to himself, "No. The life of show and appearance has too great a hold on her, and I shall never be able to give her what she wants, and what seems necessary to her happiness." Paul's opinion, which he gave on the way home, struck him sorrowfully. One of the richest "parties" in Berlin! Would not people say he was marrying her for her money? What people said was really nothing to him, and he considered himself free to act as his innermost judgment counseled. But might not Loulou herself believe that her father's money added something to her attractions? He recognized that this feeling indicated a weakness, a want of self-reliance, but the idea that she might be capable of such a thought made him angry. Her money did not attract him! On the contrary, it was an obstacle between them. Why was she not a Moscow gypsy girl? Just as young, and pretty, and charming, but uncultivated, and therefore ready for cultivation and capable of it; poor as a beggar, and therefore free from pretensions, but without knowledge of the world, and therefore without desire for it. How happy they might both be then! Such thoughts ran riot in his brain, and he fell asleep only when the late winter sun shone through the curtains on his tired white face.
The winter went quickly by under amusements of all kinds. Loulou had never known it so pleasant. The theater season was brilliant, the weather for skating lasted longer than usual, and balls succeeded each other in her father's and friends' houses in rapid succession. Wilhelm only went once or twice, and then he firmly declined any more, to the great astonishment of Frau Ellrich, and the vexation of Loulou, whose pretty face always lit up with pleasure when she saw his dark eyes watching her from the doorways or window recesses while she danced. He said that the sight of social frivolity bored him, and she thought in her naive way, "It is always like that. Men must have some fad." Paul was just the other way. He accepted every invitation, and he had a great many. He had always some new acquaintances to tell Wilhelm of, and often spoke of Fraulein Malvine Marker, who appeared to be Loulou's dearest friend, and no feeling of jealousy prevented him from repeating to Wilhelm that the pretty girl had often inquired about him, always regretting his absence from the Ellrichs' dances.
The beautiful time of the year drew near. Outside the gates of the city, where open places were free to her, the spring triumphed in the budding trees of the Thiergarten. Arrangement of plans for the summer was the chief occupation with most people. The Ellrichs talked of Switzerland, and Wilhelm thought timidly of the charms of the Black Forest. He longed to be back at Hornberg, and he spoke often of being there together in the near future. He did not mention marriage, however, and his formal offer had not yet been made. Loulou thought this very odd, and one day she spoke to her mother about it. Frau Ellrich, however, caressed her pretty child, and kissing her on the forehead said:
"It is nothing but modesty. I think it is very nice of him to leave you in freedom for the whole season."
"I am not free, however."
"I mean before the world, dear child. You are both so young that it would not matter if you did not take the cares of marriage upon you for another year."
And to Loulou that was evident.
All over Germany the corn stood high in the fields, ripe for the sickle. Then suddenly the threatening shadow of war rose in the west like a black thundercloud in the blue summer sky, filling the harvest gatherers with anxious forebodings. For fourteen days the people waited in painful suspense, not knowing whether to take up the sword or the scythe. Then the cry of destiny came crashing through the country, terrifying and relieving at the same time: "The French have declared War!"
That was on July 15, 1870, on a Friday. Late in the afternoon the dismal news was spread in Berlin that the French ambassador at Ems had insulted the king, who had retired to the capital, and that a combat with the arrogant neighbors on the Rhine was inevitable. Before night the street Unter den Linden, from the Brandenburger Thor to the Schlossbrucke, was packed with men overflowing with intense excitement. Without any preconceived arrangement, all the inhabitants decorated their windows with banners and lights, and the streets assumed the festal appearance of rejoicings over a victory. The crowd looked upon this spectacle not as an undecided beginning, but a glorious conclusion. There was no fear in any face, no question as to the future in any eye, but the certainty of triumph in all; as if they had seen the last page turned in the book of fate, with victory and its glorious results written thereon.
Toward nine o'clock a thunderbolt broke over the Brandenburger Thor, and rolled like the breaking of a wave to the other end of the street. The king had left the Potsdam railway station a quarter of an hour ago, and the crowd greeted him with a tremendous shout as his carriage appeared. The people wished by this acclamation, springing from the depths of their hearts, to show their ruler that they were prepared to follow him even to death. But the king was so much absorbed in thought that he scarcely seemed to hear or notice the enthusiasm of the crowd. He saluted and bowed to right and left as a prince is accustomed to do from his childhood, but it was a mechanical action of the body, and his mind had little part in it. His eyes were not looking at the sea of uncovered heads, but seemed fixed, under knitted brows, on the distance, as if they endeavored to decipher there some indistinct, shadowy form. Did the king perceive in this moment the responsibility of one human being to carry such a load? Did he wish in his innermost heart that he might share the weight of the decision with others—the representatives of the people—and not alone be forced to throw the dice deciding the life or death of hundreds and thousands? Who can say? At all events the powerful features of the king's face betrayed no such uneasy doubt—only a deep earnestness and an immovable steadiness of expression. Belief in the divine right of his kingship gave him power over the minds of men, and he took his duties on him in this hour without weakness or failing, grasping with his human hand the obscure spiritual web of man's destiny, and with his limited intelligence trying to unravel the dark threads here and there, on which hung the healing and destruction of millions. In such moments a whole people will become united into one being, swayed by the mastery of a single mind, and await the commands of a single will. It comes, no one knows from whom—all blindly follow. In spite of the superficial differences which men find in one another under similar conditions, the powerful effect of unconscious imitation is surprisingly apparent, and under its operation personal peculiarities disappear.
Wilhelm and Paul that same evening sat at one of the windows of Spargnapani's, looking on the Lindens. The small rooms were filled to overflowing, and the guests were crammed together in the open doorways, or on the stone staircase, where their loud talking mingled with the noise of the people in the street. The king's carriage had hardly passed, when several young men sprang shouting into the room, threw a quantity of printed leaflets, still damp from the press, on the nearest table, and rushed out again. These were the proofs of an address on the war to the king. No one knew who had written it, who had had it printed, who the people were who had distributed it, but everyone crowded excitedly round it, and begged for pens from the counter to add their signatures to it. A few specially enthusiastic souls even put a table with inkstands and pens out on the pavement, and called to the passers-by to sign the paper. Paul was among the first to fulfill this duty of citizenship, and then handed the pen to his friend. But Wilhelm laid it down on the table, took Paul's arm, and drew him out of the crowd into the quiet of the Friedrichstrasse.
"Are you a Prussian?" cried Paul angrily.
"I am as good a Prussian as you are," said Wilhelm quietly, "and ready to do my duty again, as I have done it before, but these silly effusions don't affect me at all."
"Such a manifesto gives the government the moral force for the sternest fulfillment of duty."
"I hope you are not in earnest when you say that, my dear Paul. The government does what it has to do without troubling itself about our manifestoes. It is repugnant to me to have my approval of the war dragged from me without being asked for it. I may not appear to say 'yes' willingly, but at the same time may not have the right to say 'no.'"
Paul followed silently, and Wilhelm went on:
"You deceive yourself as to your duty like all these people, who imagine that they are still separate individuals, and that they can sanction or forbid as they will the declaration of war. I, however, know and feel that I have no longer a voice in the matter. I have only to obey. I am no longer an individual. I am only an evanescent subordinate unit in the organism of the State. A power over which I have no control has taken possession of me, and has made my will of no avail. Is there still a part of your destiny which you have the power to guide as you will? Is there such for me? We shall be forced to join simply in the united destiny of one people. And who decides this? The king, no doubt, thinks that he does; the Emperor Napoleon thinks he does. I say that these two have no more influence over the capabilities of their people than we two have over the capabilities around us. The State commands us, the whole evolution of mankind from its beginning commands them. All of the race which has gone before holds them fast, and compels them as the wheels of the State compel us. The dead sternly point out the way to them, as the living do to us. We all of us know nothing, kings and ministers as little as we, of the real forces at work. What these forces will do, and what they strive to attain to, is hidden from us, and we only see what is nearest to us, without any connection with its causes and final operation. That is why it seems to me better to do what one sees as one's duty at the moment, rather than to give ourselves the absurd appearance of being free in our movements, and certain as to our goal." Paul pressed his hand at parting, and murmured:
"Theoretically you are right, but practically I do not see why the tyrant at the Tuileries need begin with us. He could at least leave us in peace."
The order for mobilization was issued. Wilhelm was surprised to receive his appointment again as second lieutenant, and was nominated to the 61st Pomeranian Regiment. His duties during the next few days took up the whole of his time, and left him hardly a moment to himself. He was free only for a few hours before the march to the frontier, and then he made all the haste he could to say good-by at the Lennestrasse. His heart beat quickly as he hurried along, and now that the time of separation was near, he reproached himself for the irresolution of the last few weeks. He was going to the front without leaving a clear understanding behind him. He tried to convince himself that perhaps it was better so—if he fell she would be free before the world. But at the bottom of his heart this reasoning did not satisfy him, and he lingered over the idea of taking his weeping betrothed to his heart before all the world, and kissing the tears off her cheeks, instead of bidding farewell to her at the station, and holding her to him from a distance by an acknowledged tie. Was not their love alone enough? No, he knew that it was not, and he felt with painful surprise that his contempt for outward appearances, his impulse after reality, were vigorous in him as long as he followed his inmost life alone; but when he came out of himself, and wished to unite another human destiny with his own, these things had become a painful weakness. Through this other life, the world's customs and frivolities began to influence him, and his proud independence must be humbled to the dust, or he must painfully tolerate his own weakness. These reflections brought another with them—it was quite possible that an opportunity might occur at the last moment. He painted the scene in his own imagination; he found Loulou alone, embraced her fervently, asked her if she would be his for life; she said "Yes;" then her mother came in, Loulou threw herself on her neck; he took her hand and asked her in due form if she would accept him as a son-in-law, as he had already gained Loulou's consent. If the councilor was at home, his consent was also given, if not they must wait until he came, and the time could not seem long, even if it lasted an hour. He did not doubt that they would all consent. Things might very likely have happened just as he dreamed of, if he had only come to his determination at the right time, and had not hazarded success on the decision of the last moment, when there was hardly time for a weighty decision.
As he approached the red sandstone house, with its sculptured balconies, and its pretty front garden, he had a disagreeable surprise. At the iron gate two cabs were standing, evidently waiting for visitors at the house. He was shown, not into the little blue-room, but into the large drawing-room near the winter garden, and found several people there in lively conversation. Beside Loulou and Frau Ellrich there were Fraulein Malvine Marker, with her mother, and also Herr von Pechlar, the lieutenant of hussars of cotillion fame.
"Have you come too to say good-by?" cried Loulou, going to meet Wilhelm.
Her face looked troubled, and her voice trembled, and yet Wilhelm felt as if a shower of cold water had drenched his head. The insincerity of their relations, her distant manner before the others, but above all the unfortunate word "too," including him with the lieutenant, put him so much out of tune that all his previous intentions vanished, and he sank at once to the position of an ordinary visitor.
Herr von Pechlar led the conversation, and took no notice of the new guest's presence. He oppressed Wilhelm, and made him feel small by the smartness of his uniform, his rank as first lieutenant, and his eyeglasses. Wilhelm tried hard to fight against the feeling. After all, he was the better man of the two, and if human nature alone had been put in the scale—that is to say, the value both of body and mind—Herr von Pechlar would have flown up light as a feather. But just now they did not stand together as man to man, but as the bourgeois second lieutenant in his plain infantry uniform, against the aristocratic first lieutenant—the smart hussar, and the first place was not to be contested.
In Fraulein Malvine's kind heart there lurked a vague feeling that she must come to Wilhelm's help, and overcoming her natural shyness, she said to him:
"It must be very hard for you to tear yourself away under the circumstances."
She was thinking of his attachment to Loulou, which in her innocence she quite envied.
Oppressed and distracted as his mind was, he found nothing to say but the banal response:
"When duty calls, fraulein." But while he spoke he was conscious of the kindness of her manner, and to show her that he was grateful he went on, "My friend Haber wishes to say good-by to you before he leaves Berlin. He thinks a great deal of you, and is very happy in having made your acquaintance."
Malvine threw him a quick glance from her blue eyes and looked down again.
"What a good thing that I was here when you came," he said softly; "I might certainly not have seen you but for this chance."
"The fact is, gnadiges Fraulein," he stammered, "our duties demand so much of our time."
"Is Herr Haber in your regiment?" she asked.
"No; he has remained with our old Fusilier Guards."
"Ah, what a pity! It would have been so nice for you to be side by side again, as in 1866."
"How much she knows about us," thought Wilhelm, wondering.
"I often think of Uhland's comrades. It must be a great comfort in war to have a friend by one."
"Happily one makes friends quickly there."
"On that point we are better off than the poor reserve forces," remarked Herr von Pechlar, not addressing himself to the speaker, but to Frau and Fraulein Ellrich. "We regular officers pull together like old friends in danger and in death, while the others come among us unknown. I imagine that must be very uncomfortable."
Wilhelm felt that he had no answer to make, and a silence ensued. Loulou broke it by moving her chair near Wilhelm, and began to chatter in a cheerful way over the occurrences of the last few days. How dreadfully sudden all this was! Just in the midst of their preparations to go away. That was put aside now. They must stay behind and do their duty. Mamma had presided at a committee for providing the troops with refreshment at the railway station; she herself and Malvine were also members. There were meetings every day, and then there was running about here, there, and everywhere, to collect money, enlist sympathy, make purchases, and finally to see to the arrangements at the departure of the troops.
"It is hard work," sighed Frau Ellrich; "I have dozens of letters to write every day, and can hardly keep up with the correspondence."
Herr von Pechlar said he regretted that he was obliged to take to the sword; he would much rather have helped the ladies with the pen.
Wilhelm felt that the moral atmosphere was intolerable. He had nothing to say, and yet it was painful to him to be silent. Nobody made any sign of leaving, so at last he rose. Herr von Pechlar did not follow his example, merely giving him a distant bow. Malvine put out her hand quickly, which Wilhelm grasped, feeling it tremble a little in his. Frau Ellrich went with him to the door. She seemed touched, and said with motherly tenderness, while he kissed her hand:
"We shall anxiously expect letters from you, and I promise you that we will write as often as possible."
Loulou went outside the door with Wilhelm, in spite of a glance from her mother. She thought they could bid each other good-by with a kiss, but two servants stood outside, and they had to content themselves with a prolonged clasp of the hand, and a look from Wilhelm's troubled eyes into hers, which were wet. She was the first to speak:
"Farewell, and come back safely, my Wilhelm. I must go back to the drawing-room."
Yes, if she must! and without looking back, he descended the marble staircase, feeling chilled to the bone, in spite of the hot sunlight in the street. He had the feeling that he was leaving nothing belonging to him in Berlin, except his own people's graves.
In the evening he left by one of the numberless roads which at short distances traverse Germany toward the west like the straight lines of a railway. The quiet of the landscape was disturbed by the fifes, rattle of wheels, and clanking of chains, and to all the villages along the road they brought back the consciousness, forgotten till now, that Germany's best blood was to be shed in a stream flowing westward. A time was beginning for Wilhelm of powerful but very painful impressions, not, it is true, to be compared with those which the battlefields of 1866 had made on him when an unformed youth. The war unveiled to him the foundations of human nature ordinarily buried under a covering of culture, and his reason, marveled over the reconciliation of such antitheses. On the one hand one saw the wildest struggle for gain, and love of destruction; on the other hand were the daily examples of the kindest human nature, self-sacrifice for fellow-creatures, and an almost unearthly devotion to heroic conceptions of duty. Now it appeared as if the primitive animal nature in man were let loose, and bellowing for joy that the chains in which he had lain were burst, and now again as if the noblest virtues were proudly blossoming, only wanting favorable circumstances in which to develop themselves. Life was worth nothing, the laws of property very little; whatever the eyes saw which the body desired, the hand was at once stretched out to obtain, and the point of the bayonet decided if anything came between desire and satisfaction. But these same men, who were as indifferent to their own lives, and as keen to destroy the lives of others as savages, performed heroic deeds, helping their comrades in want or danger, sharing their last mouthful with wounded or imprisoned enemies, who returned them no thanks; and after the battle, in the peasant's hut, cradling in their arms the little child, whose roof they had perhaps destroyed, and possibly whose father they might have slain. These impulses, as far apart as the poles, occurred hour after hour before Wilhelm's eyes. He was not a born soldier, and his nature was not given to fighting. But when it was necessary to endure the wearisome fulfillment of duty, to bear privation silently, and to look at menacing danger indifferently, then few were his equals, and none before him. This quiet, passive heroism was noticed by his comrades. The officers of his company found out that he did not smoke, and never drank anything stronger than spring water. They noticed also that dirt was painful to him, even the ordinary dust of the country roads, and that he was dissatisfied if his boots and trousers bore the marks of muddy fields. They thought him a spoiled mother's darling, a "molly-coddle," and their instructive knowledge of human nature found a name for him, the same name his schoolfellows had already given him. They called him the "Fraulein."
But in the day of battle, when Wilhelm with his company stood for the first time in the line of fire, the "Fraulein" was perhaps the firmest of them all. The hissing balls made apparently no more impression on him than a crowd of swarming gnats, and the only moment his courage left him was when he thought he might be thrown into a ditch, which the rains had turned into a complete puddle. He remained standing when all the others lay down, and the captain at last called out to him, "In the devil's name, do you want to be a target for the French?" making him seek shelter behind a little mound, which left him nearly as uncovered as he was before. And after hours of solid exertion, straining nerves and muscles to the utmost, when peace came with night, Wilhelm began a tiring piece of work with sticks and brushwood, out of pity for a weary comrade.
On the strength of these first days before the enemy his position as a soldier was established. A few harmless jokes were made on the march and in the camp on Wilhelm's anxiety as to the removal of mud on his clothes, and on the example he set in going out at night to save the dead and wounded enemy from plunder, but the whole company loved and admired the "Fraulein."
The officers, however, did not entirely share this feeling. This lieutenant was not smart enough. They did full justice to his courage, but thought that he was wanting in alertness and initiative. He lacked the proper campaigning spirit, and they found it chilling that he should be so distant in his manners after so long a time together. Another said that Lieutenant Eynhardt went into action like a sleep-walker, and his calmness had something uncanny about it. The captain was not pleased with him, because he had no knowledge of business; as far as example went he was the worst forager in the whole regiment. If a peasant's wife complained to him, he would leave empty-handed a house whose cellars were stocked with wine, and larders with hams one could smell a hundred yards off. It was all the more provoking as he could speak French perfectly, an accomplishment which no one else in the regiment could, to the same extent, boast of. It came even to a scene between him and the captain, who said angrily to him after a fruitless search in a new and well-to-do village in Champagne: "A good heart is a fine thing to have, but you are an officer now, and not a Sister of Mercy. Our men have a right to eat, and if you want to be compassionate, our poor fellows want food just as much as those French peasants. Deny yourself if you like, but take care that the soldiers have what they need. If ever you get back to Berlin, then in God's name you can please yourself by distributing alms, and buy a place for yourself in heaven."
Wilhelm was obliged to admit that the captain was right, but he could not change his nature. Capturing, destroying, giving pain, were not to his taste. From that time he left other people's property alone, and let the French run if they fell into his hands. He was excellent on outpost and patrol duties, for then his brains and not his hands were at work—then he could think and endure. He could go for twenty-four hours on a bit of bread and a draught of water better than any one, and without a minute's sleep, stand for hours at a stretch holding a position; he was always the first to explore dangerous roads, signing to his companions if he could answer for their safety, and all this with a natural, quiet self-possession as if he were taking a walk in town, or reading a newspaper at Spargnapani's.
Weeks and months went by like a dream, in constant excitement, and the exhausting strain of strength. Christmas passed at the outposts without gifts and with few good wishes, and the thunder of the guns took the place of church bells. January came in with a hard frost, trying the field troops bitterly, and bringing with it hard work for Wilhelm's regiment. The 61st belonged to General Kettler's brigade, which strategically kept the Garibaldi and Pelissier divisions in check. By the middle of January the brigade was in full touch with the enemy. On the 21st the troops broke out from the St. Seine, dashed into the Val Suzon, and after an hour's conflict with the Garibaldians, drove them out and established themselves on the heights of Daix toward two o'clock. Before them were the rugged summits of Talant and Fontaine, the last spurs of the Jura Mountains seen in the blue distances both of them crowned, by old villages, whose outer walls looked down a thousand feet below. The gray walls, the rhomboid towers of the mediaeval churches, brought to one's mind the vision of robber knights rather than the modest homes of peasants. Between these two mountains was a narrow valley, through which one caught a glimpse of Dijon, with its red roofs and numbers of towers, and its high Gothic church above all, St. Benigne, well known later to the German soldiers.
There lay before them the great wealthy town, looking as if one could throw a pebble through one of its windows, so near did it seem in the clear winter air. The smoke went straight up out of its thousand chimneys, exciting appetizing thoughts of warm rooms and boiling pots on kitchen fires. There were the sheltered streets full of shops, friendly cafes, houses with beds and lamps and well-covered tables—but the soldiers stood outside on the cold hillside, chilled to the bone by the north wind, so tired that they could hardly stand, and often sinking down in the snow, where they lay benumbed, without energy to rouse themselves. They had gone for twenty-four hours without food, and had only some black bread remaining for the evening, worth a kingdom in price. Between their misery and the abundance before their eyes lay the enemy's army, and this army they must conquer, if they would sit at those tables and lie in the soft beds. The general wanted to take Dijon in order to remove a danger menacing to South Germany, and to secure the advance of the German army toward Paris and Belfort—the soldiers had the same desire, but their longing for Dijon was for comfort, satisfaction of hunger, and rest.
The German battalion kept on pressing forward. This mistake was hardly the fault of the officers, who on this occasion strove to keep the men back rather than encourage them to advance. The Garibaldian troops had the advantages of superior forces, a greater range of artillery, and sheltered position in the hills, and they pressed with increased courage to the attack. The Germans did not await them quietly but threw themselves on them, so that in many cases it came to a hand-to-hand fight, and serious work was done with bayonets and the butt-ends of rifles. At length the French began to retreat, and the Germans with loud "Hurrahs!" flung themselves after them. But the pursuit was soon abandoned, as they had to withdraw under the fire from the Talant and Fontaine positions, and then, after a short rest, the French again advanced. So the fight lasted for three hours, the snowflakes dispersed by the balls, the men stamping their half-frozen feet on the ground, stained in so many places with blood, but the distance between the German battalion and beckoning, mocking Dijon never diminished. The right wing of the brigade made a strenuous attempt, pressed hard toward Plombieres, forced the Garibaldians back at the point of the bayonet, and took possession of the village, which already had been stormed from house to house. The sight of the slopes before Plombieres covered with the enemy running, sliding, or rolling, acted like strong drink; the whole German line threw itself on the yielding enemy before it had time to regain breath, and amid the thunder of artillery, with the balls from the French reserves on the heights rattling like hailstones, it gained at last a footing on the hill. Some of the troops sank down exhausted in the shelter of the little huts which were strewed over the vineyard, while others followed the division of the enemy which had forced itself between the mountain and the narrow valley behind the French line of defense.
It was now night, and very dark, and to follow up the hard-won victory was not to be thought of, so the German troops halted to rest if possible for an hour. It was a terrible night, and the cold was intense. Campfires were almost useless. The men's clothes were insufficient and nearly worn out. During the last few days, on the march and in the camp, every one had huddled together whatever seemed warmest, and in the pale moon or starlight, figures in strange disguises might be seen. One wore the thick wadded cloak of a peasant woman over woefully torn trousers, another whose toes till now had always been seen out of noisy boots, stalked in enormous wooden shoes, the extra room being filled up with hay and straw. Overcoats from the French and German dead had been taken, and were useful for replenishing outfits—particularly when a German soldier wore red trousers, and the braided fur coat of the fantastic Garbaldian uniform. Many others had bed-clothing and horse-coverings, carpets and curtains, one even went so far as to wear an altar-cloth from some poor village church over his shoulders, and those who still had pocket-handkerchiefs in their possession wore them tied over their ears. Many, however, had nothing but their own torn uniforms, and these tried hard to get warm by rolling themselves close against one another like dogs. The dark masses lay there all among the trodden and half-frozen snow stained with blood, sand, and clay, huddled together one on the top of the other, and if their labored breathing had not been heard, one could hardly have told whether one stood by living men or dead—the dead indeed lay near, many hundreds of them, singly and in groups, scarcely more cramped and huddled together than the sleepers, nor more quiet than they. When the cold, even to the most warmly dressed, became intolerable, they would spring up and stagger about, stumbling over heaps of dead and living men, the latter cursing them loudly.
The dreadful night passed, and at most a third only of the German troops had rested. The gray dawn began to appear in the sky, bugles sounded, and cries of command were heard, but it was hard for the poor soldiers to rouse themselves, to stir their benumbed limbs, which at last were beginning to get a little warm. One after another the ridges of the Jura Mountains became suffused with pink as the sun rose, but the fissures in the hills and the valleys were still dark and filled with thick mist, behind which the enemy's position and the town of Dijon were still invisible. The soldiers soon forced their stiffened limbs into position, the last remaining rations were quickly distributed, and a picked number of the freshest of the men, i.e. those who had had no night duty, went out doggedly against the enemy, with trailing steps and gray, tired-out faces. The crackle of their lively firing aroused the French from sleep, and perhaps from dreams of conquest and fame, put them to confusion, and drove them back toward Dijon. The Germans followed, this time without shouting, and as the fog gradually dispersed, they saw the first skirmishers of the batteries on Talant and Fontaine, apparently far distant against the Porte Guillaume (the old town gate of Dijon, built to imitate a Roman arch of victory), were really quite near them. One more tug and strain and the goal was near. A fresh swing was put into the attack, but the French had found time with the advancing day to gather themselves together, and to be aware of the inferior numbers of the attacking party, and they threw themselves in column formation down the hill, which the German division threatened to attack in the rear. Fresh troops came marching out of Dijon, and the Germans, to avoid being between two fires, drew back again through the valley behind the mountain. The French pressed after them, but were received by the German reserves with such a firm front, that they paused and slowly retreated.
General von Kettler knew that in spite of his momentary success, he could expect no further advance from his half-starved, cold, and weary brigade, and therefore he ordered them half a mile to the rear. The Garibaldian troops, who thought victory could be gained by one strenuous effort, tried to arrest the departing troops, endeavoring to bring them back to another advance. When they were at last distributed in the villages, the exhausted Germans found rest and refreshment for the first time for forty-eight hours. They had lost a tenth part of their powers of endurance in those dreadful two days spent on the hills in sight of Dijon.
The brigade had retreated, as one who jumps goes a step or two backward to obtain more impetus. The next morning, January 23, they ware again on the march to Dijon. This time, however, they chose another way to avoid the batteries of Talant and Fontaine, and approached the town from the north instead of from the west. Following the road and the railway embankment from Langres to Dijon, the German troops pressed forward without halting. The French outposts and breastworks soon fell before the advancing Germans, and made no stand till they got to the Faubourg St. Nicholas, the northeast suburb of Dijon. The greater number of the Germans stationed themselves on the embankment, but the walls of the vineyard, plentifully loopholed, pressed them hard with shot. Toward evening the second battalion of the 61st, to which Wilhelm belonged, received the order to advance. Over pleasure-gardens and vineyards they went, through poor people's deserted houses the four companies of skirmishers worked their way to the entrance of the Rue St. Catherine, a long, narrow street. Just at the end stood a large three-storied factory, whose front, filled with large high windows, looked like a framework of stone and iron. At every window there was a crowd of soldiers; the whole front bristled with death-dealing weapons. Sixteen windows were on each floor, and at every window at least three rows of four soldiers stood. It was therefore easy to reckon the total number at six hundred at the very least.
As the points of the German bayonets came round the corner in sight of this fortress a terrible change took place: in the twinkling of an eye all the openings blazed out at once, and the building seemed to shake from its foundations; forty-eight red tongues of flame blazed out suddenly to right and left, as if so many throats of Vulcan or abysses into hell had been opened, and soon the whole building was wrapped in a thick white smoke, through which the men were invisible. Then a fresh roar and fresh bursts of flame, and fresh puffing out of white smoke, and so it went on, flash after flash, roar after roar came from that awful wall, whose windows were every now and then visible between the volleys of smoke. Hardly one of the soldiers within the line of fire was left standing, numbers were crushed, many more lying dead or wounded-and the furious firing took on a fresh impetus. If the whole battalion was not to be destroyed, it must speedily get under cover. So, running some hundred and fifty yards to the right, they threw themselves into an apparently deep sandpit, and there they lay directly opposite to the factory. During these few minutes the facade, still vomiting fire, bellowed and poured out bullets like hailstones against the sixty men in the sandpit, doing murderous work.
Hardly giving themselves time to take breath, the brave men began to fire steadily at the factory, which up till now appeared, in spite of its nearness, to be very little damaged. The enemy were there completely enveloped from sight, and a lurid red flame through the cloud of smoke was the only guide for the German shot. So the fighting lasted for some time, till an adjutant sprang from over the field behind, which he had reached by a circuitous way, bringing from the commander-in-chief the questions as to what was going on, and why were they there. The major pointed with his sword at the factory, and said
"We must have artillery against this."
"There is none here to have," answered the adjutant.
The major shrugged his shoulders, and gave the command for the Fifth company to storm the factory. While they prepared themselves to leave the sandpit the German firing stopped, and almost at the same time, the French. The enemy could now see what was going on outside, for at this moment the cloud of smoke became less dense. The company broke out of the sandpit, and with the flag of the battalion gallantly waving over them rushed madly toward the door of the factory, while the men who were left behind tried by a furious fire to support their comrades and to confuse the enemy. The strange silence had lasted forty or fifty seconds, probably till the Germans had given some idea of their intentions. This bit of time allowed the storming party to gain, without loss, the middle of the space which separated them from their object, the intoxication of victory began to possess them, and they gave a cheer which rang with the exultant sound of triumph. Again the crashing din began, as terribly as before, it was an uninterrupted sound like the howling of a hurricane, in which no single report or salvo could be distinguished; the whole building seemed to flame at once from the top to the bottom in one red glow, and the bullets flew and whistled in such a confusing mass, that it seemed as if the heavens were opened and it rained balls, a dozen for every four square foot of earth, and the men felt that they must be prepared for repeated attacks of the same description, one after the other without stopping. In but a few seconds half of the company lay on the ground, and the colors had disappeared among the fallen. Those who remained standing seemed for a short time as if stunned. A few, acting on the instinct of self-preservation, fled almost unconsciously. Among the greater part, however, the fighting Prussian instinct prevailed, impelling the soldiers forward and never back, and so with renewed shouts they pressed on. But only for a few minutes. The colors flew upward again, raised by hands wearied to death, only to fall again at once. Three times—four times the flag emerged, sinking again and again, and each flutter meant a new sacrifice, and each fall the death of a hero. Soon there was no one left standing, no man and no standard, nothing but a gray heap of bodies, whose limbs palpitated and moved like some fabulous sea creature, making groaning, ghostly sounds. Ten or twelve poor fellows wounded by stray shots sheltered themselves in the sandpit without weapons, with staring eyes and distorted features. That was all there was left of the Fifth company.
There was deathly silence in the sandpit; the firing had ceased for some minutes. The soldiers looked at one another, and at the mountain of human bodies before them in the evening twilight, and threw doubtful glances at the handful of men just returned, lying exhausted on the ground. Suddenly the major called out:
"The colors!" murmured several men, while others remained silent.
"We must search for them under the wounded," said the major sadly.
His glance strayed right and left, and seemed to invite volunteers among the twenty or thirty who were nearest to him. The little band cautiously left their shelter, and set diligently to work on the hill of dead bodies. But in spite of the growing darkness they were observed by the French, who began their fire anew, and a few minutes later no living soul was left on the field.
The captain and Wilhelm were now the only remaining officers of the battalion. The former cried: "Who—will volunteer?" and was surrounded by a dozen brave fellows. Wilhelm was not among them. He stood leaning on his sword against the half-frozen side of the pit, observing with sorrowful expression what was going on around him. The captain threw him a strange look, in which contempt and reproach were mingled, then he drew out his watch, as if to note the last moment of his life, and with the cry "Forward!" disappeared in the evening light. He did not reach the spot where the corpses lay thickest. The factory went on spitting fire, and crashing everything down over the heap. The shots, however, came more slowly, and pauses came between them. A shriek was heard, not far distant. Evidently it was one of the wounded who lay on the ground. At the same time a form could be distinguished raising itself up and then sinking again. Heedless of the balls which whistled round his ears, Wilhelm raised his head out of the sandpit and looked over the field. Then he worked himself out on his hands and knees, and to the astonishment of the soldiers in the pit moved away toward the wounded, alone and without hurry or excitement. Over there on the other side they saw him, and although the artillery did not fire on him, he received a brisk volley of single shots without, however, being hit, and he reached the first group of wounded. A hasty glance showed him only stiffened limbs and stony faces. He went on searching, and then he heard close by him a feeble voice saying: "Here!" and a hand was stretched out to him. With one bound he was near the wounded man, and recognized the captain.
"Are you seriously hurt?" he asked, while as quickly as possible he raised the wounded man on his shoulder, who answered almost inaudibly:
"A ball through the chest, and one in my foot. I am in awful pain."
As Wilhelm went slowly back with his burden, he looked so fantastic in the growing darkness, that the French did not know what to make of the strange apparition, and began to fire afresh. "Wilhelm, however, reached the sandpit safely, where friendly arms were stretched out to help him, and relieve him of the captain. He stayed to breathe a moment, and then said:
"If any one will come with me, we might bring in one or two more poor devils who have still life in them."
He was soon surrounded by five or six figures, and he was going with them to search for wounded in the rain of balls which was falling, when with a sudden cry of pain he sank backward. A ball had struck his right leg. His volunteers put him back into the sandpit, and no one thought any more either of the colors or the wounded who lay out there under the fire from the factory. At this moment too an adjutant brought the command to retreat, which the remains of the wearied battalion slowly began, to obey under the command of a sub-officer.
The captain, who could not be moved, was left in a peasant's hut in the village of Messigny, but as Wilhelm's injury was only a flesh wound, and he was merely exhausted from loss of blood, he was sent with the others to Tonnerre, where he arrived the next day, after a journey of great suffering.
The schoolhouse was turned into an infirmary, many of the rooms holding nearly a hundred and twenty beds. Wilhelm was put into a little room, which he shared with one French and two German officers. A Sister of Mercy and a male volunteer nurse attended to the patients in this as well as in the four neighboring rooms. Wilhelm exercised the same influence here as he did everywhere, by the power of his pale thin face, which had not lost all its beauty; by the sympathetic tones of his voice, and above all by the nobility of his quiet, patient nature. His fellow-sufferers were attracted to him as if he were a magnet. Some occupants of the room gave up their cigars when they noticed that he did not smoke. The Frenchman declared immediately that he was le Prussien le plus charmant he had ever seen. The Sister took him to her motherly heart, and the doctor was constantly at his bedside. He was able to give him a great deal of attention without neglecting his duty, as there were few very severe cases under his care, and no new ones came in—Paris had surrendered and a truce was declared.
At first Wilhelm's wound was very bad. It had been carelessly bound up at first, and in the long journey to the infirmary had been neglected, but owing to antiseptic treatment the fever soon abated and then left him entirely. He took such a particular fancy to the doctor that after a few days they were like old friends, and knew everything about each other.
Dr. Schrotter was an unusual type, both in appearance and character. Of middle height, extraordinarily broad-shouldered, and with large strong hands and feet, he gave the impression of having been intended for a giant, whose growth had stopped before reaching its fulfillment. The powerful, nobly-formed he ad was rather bent, as if it bore some heavy burden. His light hair, not very thick, and slightly gray on the temples, grew together in a tuft over the high forehead. The closely-cropped beard left his chin free, and the fine mustache showed a mouth with a rather satirical curve and closely compressed lips A strong aquiline nose and narrow bright blue eyes completed a physiognomy indicating great reserve and a remarkable degree of melancholy. It is no advantage to a man to possess a Sphinx-like head. The pretty faces apparently full of secrets offer easy deceptions, and one expects that the mouth when open will reveal all that the eyes seem to mean. One is half-angry and half-inclined to laugh when one discovers that the face of the Sphinx has quite an everyday meaning, and utters only commonplaces. But with Dr. Schrotter one had no such deception. He spoke quite simply, and when he closed his lips he left in the minds of his listeners a hundred thoughts which his words had conveyed, He was born in Breslau, had studied in Berlin, and had started a practice there when his student day's were over. The Revolution of '48 came, and he at once threw himself head over ears into it. He fought at the barricades, took part in the storming of the Arsenal, became a celebrated platform orator, and relieved a great deal of distress during the reactionary policy which followed, leaving soon afterward, however, to travel abroad. He went to London almost penniless, and at first, through his ignorance of the language, he was barely able to maintain himself, but he soon had the good fortune to obtain an appointment in the East India Company. In the spring of 1850 he went to Calcutta, where he helped to manage the School of Medicine, and some years later was sent to Lahore, where he also established a medical school. After twenty years' service he was discharged with a considerable pension. His return to Europe falling in with the outbreak of the war, he hastened to offer his voluntary services to the army as surgeon. Owing to temperate habits and a strong physique, he had kept in good health, and no one would have dreamed that this strong, fifty-year-old man had passed so many years in an enervating tropical climate. The only signs it had left on his face were the dark, yellowish color of his skin, and the habit of keeping the eyes half-closed. The long years in India had also made a deep impression on his character, and many things about him would have appeared strange and odd in a European. They amounted to sheer contradictions, but their explanation was to be looked for in the environment of his life. Physically he was still young, but his mind seemed very old, and had that appearance of dwelling quietly apart which is the privilege of wise minds who have done with life, and who look on at the close of the comedy free from illusions. His eyes often flashed with enthusiasm, but his speech was always gentle and quiet. In his relations with other men he had the decided manner of one who was accustomed to command, and at the same time the kindness of a patriarch for his children. He was a moderate sceptic, nevertheless he combined with it a mysticism which a superficial judge might have denounced as superstition. He believed, for instance, that many persons had power over wild animals; that they could raise themselves into the air; that they could interrupt the duration of their lives for months, or even for years, and then resume it again; that they could read the thoughts of others, and communicate without help the speech of others over unlimited distances. All these things he averred he had himself seen, and if people asked him how they were possible, he answered simply, "I can no more explain these phenomena than I can explain the law of gravitation, or the transformation of a caterpillar into a moth. The first principles of everything are inexplicable. The difference in our surroundings is only that some things are frequently observed, and others only seldom."
His philosophy, which he had learned from the Brahmins, attracted Wilhelm greatly; it made many things clear to him which he himself had vaguely felt possible ever since he had learned to think. "The phenomenon of things on this earth," said Dr. Schrotter, "is a riddle which we try to read in vain. We are borne away by a flood, whose source and whose mouth are equally hidden from us. It is of no avail when we anxiously cry, 'Whence have we come, and whither are we going?' The wisest course for us is to lie quietly by the banks and let ourselves drift—the blue sky above us, and the breaking of the waves beneath us. From time to time we come to some fragrant lotus-flower, which we may gather." And when Wilhelm complained that the philosophy of the world is so egoistic, Dr. Schrotter answered, "Egoism is a word. It depends on what meaning is attached to it. Every living being strives after something he calls happiness, and all happiness is only a spur goading us on to the search. It belongs to the peculiar organism of a healthy being that he should be moved by sympathy. He cannot be happy if he sees others suffering. The more highly developed a human being is the deeper is this feeling, and the mere idea of the suffering of others precludes happiness. The egoism of mankind is seen in this; he searches for the suffering of others, and tries to alleviate it, and in the combat with pain he insures his own happiness. A Catholic would say of St. Vincent de Paul or St. Charles Borromeo, 'He was a great saint.' I would say, 'He was a great egoist.' Let us render love to those who are swimming with us down the stream of life, and without pricking of conscience take joy in being egoists."
Wilhelm was never tired of talking about the wonderland of the rising sun, of its gentle people and their wisdom, and Dr. Schrotter willingly told him about his manner of life and experience there. So the peaceful days went by in the quiet schoolhouse at Tonnerre, the monotony being pleasantly relieved by visits from comrades, and letters from Paul Haber and the Ellrichs. Paul was going on very well. He was at Versailles, making acquaintances with celebrated people, and had nothing to complain of except that, in spite of the truce, he had no leave of absence to come and see his friend. Frau Ellrich complained of the irregularity of their correspondence during the war. Loulou wrote lively letters full of spirit and feeling. She had been frightened to hear of his wound, but his convalescence had made her happy again. She hoped that it would not leave him with a stiff leg, but even if it did it would not matter so much, as he neither danced nor skated. What a dreary winter they were having in Berlin! No balls, no parties, nothing but lint-picking, and their only dissipation the arrival of the wounded and the prisoners at the railway station. And that was quite spoiled by the abominable newspaper articles on the subject—presuming to criticize ladies because they were rather friendly to the French officers! The French, whom one had known so well in Switzerland, must be of some worth, and it was the woman's part to be kind to the wounded enemy, and to intercede for human beings even in war, while the men defended them by their courage and strength. Some of these Frenchmen were charming, so witty, polite, and chivalrous, that one could almost forgive them had they conquered us. One's friends were suffering so much—one heard such dreadful things. Herr von Pechlar had escaped without a hair being injured, and he already had an Iron Cross of the first class! She hoped that Wilhelm would soon get one too.
Up till now Wilhelm had not been able to answer this question decidedly. One morning, toward the end of February, as he was limping about the room on a stick, the adjutant came in and said:
"I have brought you good news. You have won the Iron Cross." As Wilhelm did not immediately answer he went on: "Your captain has the first class. He is now out of danger. He has naturally surpassed you. I may tell you between ourselves that it did not seem quite the thing, your being so cool about the colors; but the way in which you fetched the captain out was ripping. Don't be offended if I ask you why you exposed yourself for the captain when you refused for the flag?"
"I don't mind telling you at all. The captain is a living man, and the flag only a symbol. A symbol does not seem to me to be worth as much as a man."
The adjutant stared at him, and he repeated confusedly:
Wilhelm said nothing in explanation, but went on:
"I regret very much that I was not asked before I was proposed for the Iron Cross. I cannot accept it."
"Not take it? You can't really mean that!"
"Yes, I do. In trying to fulfill my duties as a man and a citizen, I cannot hang a sign of my bravery on me for all passers-by to see."
"You speak like a tragedy, my dear Herr Eynhardt," said the adjutant. "But just as you like. You can have the satisfaction of having done something unique. It is hardly a usual thing to refuse the Iron Cross."
As he went out with a distant bow, Dr. Schrotter came in, and said, smiling:
"What the adjutant said about the tragedy is very true. Decoration appears very theatrical to me, but you might take it quietly and put it in your pocket. I have got quite a collection of such things which I never wear."
"But do you blame the men who despise these outward forms in order to give an example to others?"
"My friend, when one is young one hopes to guide others, as one grows older one grows more modest."
This objection struck Wilhelm, and he grew confused. Dr. Schrotter laid his hand quietly on his shoulder, and said:
"That does not matter. We really mean the same thing. The difference is only that you are twenty-five and I am fifty."
As Wilhelm was silent and thoughtful, Schrotter went on:
"There is a great deal to be said about symbols. Theoretically you are right, but life practically does not permit of your views. Everything which you see and do is a symbol, and where are you to draw the line? The flag is one, but without doubt the battle is one too. I believe, in spite of the historian who is wise after the event, that the so-called decisive battles do not decide anything, and that it is the accidental events which have the permanent influence on the destiny of peoples. Neither Marathon nor Cannae kept the Greeks or Carthaginians from destruction; all the Roman conquests did not prevent the Teutonic race from overrunning the world; all the Crusader conquests of Jerusalem did not maintain Christianity, or Napoleon's victories the first French Empire; nor did the defeats sustained by the Russians in the Crimea influence their development. And finally, I am convinced that Europe to-day would not be materially different, even if all the decisive victories of her people could be changed into defeats, and their defeats into victories. So you see that a battle is a symbol of the momentary capabilities of a people, and a very useless symbol, because it tells nothing of the immediate future, and yet you will sacrifice your life for this symbol, and not for another! It is not logical."
"You are right," said Wilhelm, "and our actions in cases like this are not guided by logic. But one thing I am sure of, if everything else is a symbol, a man's life is not. It is what it appears to be; it signifies just itself."
"Do you think so?" said Schrotter thoughtfully.
"Yes, although I understand the doubt implied in your question. A living man is to me a secret, which I respect with timidity and reverence—who can tell his previous history, what things he does, what truths he believes in, what happiness he is giving to others? Therefore when I see him in danger I willingly risk my life to save his. I know myself, and I estimate my value as a trifling thing."
Schrotter shook his head.
"If that were right, an adult must in all cases give his life to save a child, because he might grow to be a Newton, or a Goethe, and above all, because the child is the future, and that must always taken precedence of the past and the present. But to a mature man that is not practicable. There are no more secrets. Mankind knows that the probable is planted within his own being. Do not seek to find additional reasons for a fact which has already sprung up from unknown forces. It was sympathy which impelled you, the natural feeling for a fellow-creature. And that is right and natural."
Wilhelm looked at Schrotter gratefully as he affectionately grasped his hand.
IT WAS NOT TO BE.
The sun streamed down on Berlin from a cloudless sky, and all the life of the town gathered in a confused, restless throng in Unter den Linden; but the bustle on this hot summer day, June 16, 1871, had quite a different character from that of eleven months before. And if any one could have listened to it all with closed eyes, he might have distinguished a joyful excitement in the air, in the laughing of children and girls, in the lively gossip of the men; and from all these sounds of joy and chatter he might have detected the signs that overstrained nerves were now relaxed after long hours of weary suspense. What hundreds of thousands had wished and hoped for on that Friday in July had now come to its glorious fulfillment, and Berlin, as the proud capital of a newly-established empire, was giving a welcome home to the army. They had at last found the answer to Arndt's ill-natured question about the German Fatherland, and had set the great Charles' imperial crown on the head of their bold Hohenzollern king.
On one of the raised platforms near the Brandenburger Thor were Wilhelm and Dr. Schrotter. The former had renounced the privilege which belonged to him, as officer in the Reserves, and moreover, as an example, had not claimed his position among those who were wounded in the war, still however wearing his uniform. Had he consulted his own inclinations, he would not have come to see this triumphant entrance, as he took very little pleasure in the noisy enthusiasm of crowds. A great deal of actual vulgarity is always exhibited on these occasions, mingled with some real nobility of feeling. Counter-jumpers and work-girls secure comfortable positions from which to see the processions, groups of calculating shopkeepers with advertisements of pictures and medals of hateful ugliness speculate on the generosity of the crowd, and others push with all the force of their bodily weight to obtain and keep the front places for themselves. Frau Ellrich had sent Wilhelm two tickets, hoping that he would make use of them. Dr. Schrotter wished to see the spectacle, so Wilhelm asked his new friend to go with him.
Near where they sat was the platform for the ladies who were to crown the victors with wreaths. Among them was Loulou. All the emotions and force of character of which she was capable had been brought out by her position. Through the influence of her father, who, in all the difficult and responsible business of the French indemnity had found time to intercede for his little daughter with the burgomasters and magistrates, Loulou's dream was realized; a dream which all the prettiest girls in the best society in Berlin had also shared during the last week. Her enrollment in this troop of beauties was regarded by her less successful friends with envy, but the vexation of disappointed rivals was naturally the sweetest part of her triumph.
The young girls were dressed all alike in mediaeval dresses like the well known pictures of Gretchen in "Faust," with long plaits of hair, puffed and slashed sleeves, and senseless and theatrical-looking little hanging pockets. All were nevertheless conscious of the propriety of their appearance, and felt quite heroic. It really was heroic to sit there hour after hour in the burning sun bareheaded, until all were gathered into one great picture, and a documentary proof could be handed down to their grandchildren in the shape of a large-sized photograph, showing that their grandmothers had been chosen as the official beauties of Berlin in the year 1871. The satisfaction of vanity, involving such a sacrifice, almost deserves admiration.
It was nearly midday when a sudden stir took place in the crowd. Every one on the platforms sprang up and began to wave hats and handkerchiefs. In the windows, on the roofs, in the spaces between the platforms, wherever men could be packed, suddenly all the heads turned to one side, just as a field of corn bends before a breeze. Then uprose a roar of shouts and cheers, deafening and almost stunning in intensity. It was impossible any longer to distinguish tone, but only a tumult, such as a diver in deep water might hear of the surface waves above him. The senses were bemused by the continual succession, of heads set close together like a mosaic, and covering the whole surface of the great street, and by the roar which went up, cheering everything which made its appearance; whether it were the struggling activity of the crowd moving in the center of the street, the sudden fall of foolhardy boys who had climbed into trees or up lampposts, or the short and sharp fights which went on between spectators for the best places, nothing escaped recognition.
Now between the firing of cannons was heard a more distant sound of a warlike fanfare of trumpets, and between the pillars of the central Brandenburg Gateway came the Field-Marshal Wrangel, recognizing all the arrangements with a pleasant smile, and with a radiantly happy expression on his withered face, as the first enthusiasm of the people burst upon him, though he had demanded no part of the triumph for himself. A group of generals followed him in gorgeous uniforms, decorated with shining medals and stars, all bore famous names, attracting the keenest interest and centering the enthusiasm of the crowd. Endless and numberless seemed the ever-changing and richly-colored procession—Moltke, Bismarck, and Roon side by side, all statuesque figures, their eyes with stately indifference glancing at the rejoicing people. They seemed in the midst of this stormy wave of excitement like stern, immovable rocks, standing firm and high above the breaking surf at their feet. Many people had at the sight of them an intuitive feeling that they were not mortal men, but rather mystical embodiments of the power of nature, just as the gods of the sun, the sea, and the storm were the conceptions of the old religions. They passed on, and at a short interval behind them came the Emperor Wilhelm. His supreme importance was emphasized by the space left before and after him. Wreaths covered his purple saddle, flowers drooped over the glossy skin of his high-stepping charger, his helmeted head and his gloved hand saluted and bowed, and on his face shone a mingled expression of gratitude and emotion, which, after the hard, cold bearing of his fellow-workers, was doubly impressive and affecting. Manifestly this conqueror was not like his Roman prototype who had the words, "Think of death," whispered in his ear, while he tolerated the idolization of the people.
The monarch had to hear long speeches from the officials and verses from the trembling lips of the young girls who surrounded him before he could ride further. The train of individual heroes ended with him. The principle of massing together was now the order, in which individuality is no longer recognized.
Battalion after battalion and squadron after squadron in endless lines passed by, until the tired eyes of the spectators could hardly after a time distinguish whether the lines were still moving, or had come to a standstill. The helmets and weapons of the soldiers were garlanded with flowers and foliage, the horses' legs were twined with wreaths, and their feet trod on a mass of trampled flowers and leaves. The strength of the German army seemed to be decked and curled out of it; the lines of marching soldiers had women's faces: here and there a man had a patriotic admirer on his arm, who let it be seen that she had taken possession of his weapon and carried it for him. The officers, as much bedecked as their men, managed nevertheless to preserve their dignity.
The crowd was gradually becoming stupefied by the spectacle, throats were sore with shouting and cheering, and the oppressive heat took the freshness out of the people's enthusiasm. Once more, however, they broke out again, just as when the emperor and his paladins appeared, and this was when the French field-trophies were carried past. Eighty-one standards and flags were there, from the battlefields of Russia, Italy, and Mexico, soaked through with men's blood, gloriously decomposed, torn, blackened with powder, and riddled with bullets. Now the strong arms of German non-commissioned officers carried them in the sultry heat of the midsummer afternoon, these miserable remnants hanging heavy and limp without a flutter, without a spark of trembling life in the silken folds; they looked like imprisoned kings, who with heads bowed down, and despair in their eyes, walked in chains behind the triumphant Roman chariots.
"Look," sad Dr. Schrotter to Wilhelm, when a short pause came in the shouting, and in the rain of wreaths and flowers—"Look what makes the deepest impression on the people, next to the great representative figures. There is the symbol which you despised."
"What does that prove?" answered Wilhelm. "I never doubted that the crowd was roused by appearances, and not by the reason of things. The ideal results of victory one cannot see with one's eyes or applaud with one's hands, but a dismantled banner one can."
"That does not explain everything. Atavism comes into it. The inhabitants of towns in ancient times need to rejoice and cheer in the same way when their victorious troops brought home the tutelary gods of their enemies. It is the same idea, the same superstition, after an interval of three thousand years."
"Yes, it is curious. I was thinking the whole time that one had a picture of ancient civilization before one. The wreaths of flowers, these swaggering figures with their trophies of war, this gay crowd, distributing food and drink, these young girls with their crowns, is it not all exactly the manner in which the people of the Stone Age or the savages of to-day would feast their heroes? Cannot one understand in this that at the beginning of civilization war was the highest object in state and society, an opportunity of enrichment by booty, and a festival for youth? Nowadays we ought to have got far enough to see in war only a weary fulfilling of duty, a barbarous waste of labor, of which we are inwardly ashamed; and we should keep away from this noisy festival as from the execution of a criminal, which may be necessary, but is painful to witness. The progress from barbarism to civilization is frightfully slow."
"It is true; we are still carrying ancient barbarism round our necks, and without a great deal of rubbing you will easily find the primitive savage under the skin of our dear contemporaries who are able to construe Latin beautifully. And these are not the only gloomy thoughts which this spectacle gives me. Look there! over yonder at the other end of the street they are unveiling a monument to Friedrich Wilhelm III., and the festival of victory is spoiled by homage paid to a despot who during twenty-seven years never redeemed his pledge to give the people a constitution. I am forty-eight years old, and yet I have not forgotten my youthful ideas. My generation looked forward to a united as well as to a free Germany, and hoped that unity would not come out of a war, but rather from the freewill of the German people. It is now with us through other means, but I fear not better ones. The aristocracy and the Church will assert themselves again, and the military system will lay its iron hand over the life of the whole nation. People say already that it is the officer and not the schoolmaster who has made Germany great. These changes put my thoughts in a ferment. One has yet to see whether such a society of officers can produce a people, and if its thinkers and teachers could not lead it to a richer cultivation, and its poets to a higher ideal of duty. I am afraid, my friend, that the higher souls in our new empire will not find this an easy time."
"And yet you left your dreaming in India to come home to discomfort," said Wilhelm.
"My longing for Germany never left me all the twenty years I was there. And then I confess that I secretly reproached myself for going away. It is comfortable to turn one's back on the Fatherland, and to find more agreeable conditions in a foreign country. But afterward one tells oneself that only egoists leave their own people fighting against darkness and oppression, and that one has no right to play the traitor to home and belongings, while those left behind are striving bitterly to better their condition."
The procession of troops was still passing, but the young girls had already left their posts; the stands were beginning to empty, and Wilhelm and Dr. Schrotter tried to break through the crowd and go homeward. After a short silence Schrotter again went on:
"Don't misunderstand me," he said; "in spite of thinking this triumphal procession barbaric, and my ideal being different from that of most people, I was deeply moved to-day with sympathy and admiration. This generation has achieved something colossal. My eyes fill with tears when I see these men. For six or seven years they have shed their blood in these wars without a murmur, they have fought in a hundred battles without taking breath, they have neither counted the cost nor spared their labor, and one feels astounded at living amid such heroes, who seem to belong to a fairy tale. This generation has done more than its duty, and if now it is weary and will rest for thirty years in peace, surely no one can reproach it."
Schrotter spoke with emotion, and Wilhelm who would not grieve his friend by a contradiction, repressed a retaliation which rose to his lips, and silently took leave of him.
The life of the community, as of single individuals, went back gradually into its old channels, and so it did with Dr. Schrotter. He had lived hitherto in an old-fashioned quarter of the town, and now, to be as near as possible to Wilhelm, he rented a house in the Mittelstrasse. He established a private hospital in the old Schonhauserstrasse, in the midst of artisans and very poor people, and there he spent daily many hours, treating for charity all those who came to him for help. He soon had a larger attendance than was comfortable, and had to extend the work, without which he could not have lived. He found endless opportunities of relieving misery and distress in this poor quarter of the town, and as he was a rich man, and independent of his own creature comforts, he could put his philosophy of compassion into practice to his heart's content. Wilhelm took up his work again at the Laboratory, and also resumed his visits to the Ellrichs, but it was with an increasing discomfort. The councilor, who had been distinguished for his services in the financial transactions with the French Government, had heard the story of the refusal of the Iron Cross. He thought it very ridiculous, and his early friendship for Wilhelm became markedly cooler. Even Frau Ellrich's motherly feeling for him received a check, and modesty and shyness no longer seemed a sufficient explanation of the unaccountable delay in his love-making. Only Loulou was apparently the same, whenever he came, always lively and friendly, but when he left she was affectionate without any display of emotion, grateful for tender glances, not withholding quiet kisses, but not offering them—her calm manner almost mysterious, as if love were simply something superficial and of small import. Wilhelm could no longer deny that his first love, which had stirred his being to the depths, was a mistake, but he could not bring himself to definitely end the existing conditions. Hundreds of times he was on the point of saying to Loulou that he did not think the tie between them would secure their happiness, and offering her her freedom, but as soon as he began his courage would fail him. If people were present he was confused; if they were alone, her personal appearance had the same charm for him, or rather it awoke in him the remembrance of the delight and enthusiasm he had felt in the past, and prevented him taking a step toward what would do grievous injury to her girlish vanity, if nothing more.
Would this suspense and these fears, which made him so restless and unhappy, always last? He might write a letter to Loulou, as he was unable to say what he wished to in the light of her beautiful brown eyes. Then he threw this idea aside as unworthy of consideration; he could not simply dismiss a girl whom he loved by means of the post. The simple thing to do seemed to wait, until, on the other side, they should grow disgusted with him, and would tell him to go. This agreed with his passive character, which was timidly inclined to draw back before the rushing current of events, and preferred to be carried along by them, just as a willow leaf is borne along on the surface of a stream. Wilhelm could not help noticing that Herr von Pechlar was now a favorite guest at the Ellrichs', that he made himself very fussy about both mother and daughter, and that he had a very impertinent and slightly triumphant air when he met him. He would only have to leave the coast clear for Pechlar and all would be at an end.
Paul Haber, who was in Berlin again, and paying a great deal of attention to Fraulein Marker, was grieved and really angry at the turn his friend's romance had taken. He knew through Fraulein Marker how Herr von Pechlar was trying to supplant Wilhelm, and that he took every opportunity of making abominably false representations about him. There ought to be no more foolish loitering about. It was unpardonable to let the golden bird fly away so easily. Once open the hand, and she might be off. If Fraulein Ellrich was beginning to flirt with Pechlar, it was quite excusable, as Wilhelm's coolness might well drive her to it. But if he stuck to his absurd whim, that she was too superficial for him!—as if every girl were not superficial, and as if a man cannot educate her to whatever level he pleases—then in heaven's name let him make an end of it all, or the affair would become ridiculous and contemptible. But other considerations had weight with Wilhelm.
Through Paul and the officers of his acquaintance he heard very unfavorable things of Pechlar. He was only moderately well off, and had more debts than hairs on his head; perhaps for a son-in-law of Herr Ellrich's that was a venial offense. He was also a common libertine, whose excesses were more like those of a pork-butcher than of a cultivated man. His companions were not disinclined for little amorous adventures—a joke with a pretty seamstress or restaurant waitress were their capital offenses. But the manner in which Pechlar carried on his amours was such as did not commend itself to either the easygoing or cautious among the officers.
Wilhelm clearly saw that Pechlar did not love Loulou—he was probably incapable of loving, and only wanted her dowry. Without a thought of jealousy, and out of compassion for an inexperienced and guileless creature who was dear to him, he thought it his duty to warn her before she sullied herself by becoming bound to such a man. To save Loulou he at last took the step which no respect for his own peace or honor had allowed him to take before.
He went to the Ellrichs' house the next day at the usually early hour of eleven o'clock, and asking for the young lady, he was shown into the little blue boudoir, where he hoped to find Loulou alone. But he was painfully surprised. Herr von Pechlar sat there, and appeared to be in the middle of a conversation with Loulou. She smiled at Wilhelm, and beckoned to him to come and sit near her, without embarrassment. Wilhelm stayed a moment at the door irresolute, then he went forward, and bowing to her without looking at the hussar, said earnestly: "I came in the hope of speaking to you alone, gnadiges Fraulein. Perhaps I may be so fortunate another time."
At these unexpected words Loulou opened her eyes wide. Herr von Pechlar, however, who since Wilhelm's arrival had been tugging angrily at his red mustache, could contain himself no longer, and said in a harsh voice, which trembled with passion:
"That is the coolest thing I have ever heard. May I ask first of all why you cut me on entering the room?"
"I only recognize people whom I esteem," said Wilhelm over his shoulder.
"You are a fool," flashed back Pechlar's answer.
Perfectly master of himself, Wilhelm said to Loulou, "I am extremely sorry that I have been the cause of an outbreak of bad manners in your presence," then he bowed and left the room, while Loulou sat there motionless, and Herr von Pechlar gave him a scornful laugh.
With all his retirement from the world, and his indifference to the usages of society, Wilhelm felt nevertheless a sharp stab of pain, as if he had been struck across the face with a whip. As he walked down the Koniggratzer Strasse it seemed to him as if a bright, fiery wound burned on his face, and the passers-by were staring at this sign of insult. His powerful imagination formed pictures unceasingly of violent deeds of revenge. He saw himself standing with a smoking pistol opposite the offender, who fell to the ground with a wound in his forehead; or he fought with him, and after a long struggle he suddenly pierced the hussar through the breast with his sword. By degrees his blood cooled, and with all the strength of his will he fought against the feelings which he knew formed the brute element in man, and which with his philosophy he believed he had tamed, and he said to himself, "No, no fighting. What good would it do? I should either kill him, or be killed myself. His insulting words really do me no more harm than the yelping of this little dog who is running past me. I will not let a remnant of prejudice be stronger than my judgment."
Although he had come to this resolution, his nerves were still so unstrung that he could not quiet them alone. He felt he must unburden himself to some one, so he hastened toward Dr. Schrotter's. The doctor, however, had not yet returned from his hospital. Wilhelm soon found the inmates of his friend's household, an old Indian man-servant and a housekeeper, also an Indian of about thirty-five, with a yellow face already wrinkled and withered, large dark eyes, and a gold-piece hanging from her nostrils. The old man maintained a respectful attitude toward her, which pointed to a great difference of caste between them. The woman showed by her small hands and feet, and the nobility of her expression, the modest and yet dignified character of a lady, rather than of a person in a subordinate position. Both wore Indian dress, and attracted great attention when they showed themselves in the street. They hardly ever went out, however, and were always busily employed in service for Dr. Schrotter, to whom they were very devoted.
The old man, who spoke a little English, opened the door to him, and told him that Schrotter Sahib would soon be in. The woman also appeared, and beckoned to him to go and wait in the drawing-room, opening the door as she did so. As he went in she crossed her arms on her breast, bowed her head with its golden-colored silk turban, and vanished noiselessly. She only spoke Hindustani, and always greeted Wilhelm in this expressive manner.
The drawing-room, in which Wilhelm walked restlessly up and down, was full of Indian things; oriental carpets on the floor, low divans along the walls covered with gold embroidery and heaped with cushions, rocking-chairs in the corners, punkahs hanging from the ceilings—no heavy European furniture anywhere, but here and there a little toy-like table or stool made of sandalwood or ebony, inlaid with silver or mother-o'-pearl. Everything smelled strangely of sandalwood and camphor and unknown spices, everything seemed to spring and shake under a heavy European foot, everything had such an unaccustomed look, that one felt as if one were in a foreign land, where Western prejudices and standpoints were unknown and inadmissible. These surroundings spoke to Wilhelm dumbly yet intelligibly, and he felt their persuasive power almost immediately. He had recovered his equanimity when, a quarter of an hour later, Schrotter came in.
"What a pleasant surprise!" he cried from the doorway. "Will you stay to lunch with me?"
Wilhelm accepted gratefully, and then related his morning's experiences. Schrotter had made him sit on a divan surrounded by cushions, and listened attentively, while his half-closed eyes, full of fire, rested on his friend's unhappy face. Wilhelm had never mentioned his engagement to Fraulein Ellrich to many of his old friends, but Dr. Schrotter had been told of it in all its circumstances by Paul Haber. Now, however, Wilhelm could not avoid the subject in his mind, and to make his last visit to the Ellrichs, and his behavior with regard to Herr von Pechlar intelligible, he told Dr. Schrotter, in short, concise language, the beginning and subsequent development of his love-affair, and by the confession of his consideration of Loulou's nature, gave a clew to his delay, coolness, and final renunciation.
When Wilhelm had finished, and raised his eyes questioningly to Schrotter, the latter said, after a short silence:
"I congratulate you on the quiet way in which you have told me all this. For a young fellow of twenty-six with deep feelings it is little short of a wonder. But the question is, what do you intend to do?"
"Nothing," answered Wilhelm simply.
"You will not call out Herr von Pechlar?"
"And if Herr von Pechlar challenges you?"
"He challenge me?"
"Certainly; for although he is the direct offender, we can't overlook the fact, dear Eynhardt, that you first insulted him, which by a nice point of honor would justify him in taking the first steps. The man is evidently bent on a quarrel, so we have to consider the possibility that he may send his second with a challenge."
"In that case I would make it clear that I do not demand satisfaction, but neither will I give it."
There was another pause.
"You are undertaking what may involve serious consequences," remarked Schrotter.
"It appears to me easy enough," said Wilhelm.
"You could not think of an academic career in Germany after it."
"You know I do not aspire to that."
"Beside that, the episode will become an insurmountable barrier in a hundred circumstances of life."
Wilhelm was silent.
"Don't misunderstand me. I have not a word to say in favor of the regulation of duels. I abhor them. It is as stupid and brutal as the offering of human sacrifices to appease angry gods. I myself have never fought in a duel. But I—I am already on the shadowy side of life. I want nothing more from the world. But those still on the sunny side have other things to consider. I think war is a horrible barbarism, still I would not advise any one to hold back from his duty in time of war. Men are often compelled to take part in the foolishness of majorities. I know your heart is in the right place, and that you don't place any exaggerated value on your life. You are content to stand alone in the world, and have no mortgage of obligation on your life. Why will you not fight?"
"Simply because I think as you do about duels. I agree that one must often take part in the folly of the crowd, but I see a difference there. I go and fight in battle because the State compels me. I can struggle against these laws with my feeble forces, and I can exert myself to bring about their alteration; but so long as they exist I must submit to them, or else exile myself or commit suicide. If the duel were a written law, I would fight; but the law as a matter of fact forbids it, and my opinions are in accordance with the law."
"But there are laws of society as well as laws of the State. There are customs which prevail over opinion and prejudices."
"That is not the same thing. If the folly of the majority form itself into laws of the State, the gendarmes see to their enforcement. No judge or jailer compels obedience to the laws of society."
"Something like it, however. It is unspeakably bitter to live without the respect of one's fellow-creatures."
"I am coming to that point. But please do not think me overbearing and conceited. The respect of my fellow-men I hold far more lightly than self-respect. If I despised myself it would be no compensation if every one saluted me, and if I respect myself, it does not trouble me if others hold me lightly. When I am not forcibly compelled I cannot let my own actions be guided by the caprices and fads of other people. So long as it is possible my actions shall be guided by my own judgment. You say you want nothing more of the world—I require nothing more either. The only thing I demand is the freedom of the soul."
"Yes—yes," murmured Schrotter as if to himself, "I know this direction of thought better than you think. It has been brought before me a hundred times by the word and action of Indian fakirs. It seems to me that false freedom of the soul is a chimera. Our most unfettered resolves are called forth by unknown, often by outward conditions, by our own peculiar qualities, by the state of our bodily health, by unknown nervous sources of energy through what we see, hear, read, learn. You make your judgment the sole guide of your actions, but your judgment itself is the result of forces and influences unsuspected by yourself and depending on them. Well! you want to lead the life of a fakir, to unloose the ties binding you to other men, that is one of several ways to secure peace and happiness, which to me also is an object in life. The principal thing is not to be superficial, but to consider both what one requires and what one gives up before turning into a fakir. I respect you in any case."
The drawing-room door opened noiselessly, and the Indian woman appeared, and with a pleasant inclination of her head spoke a word to Dr. Schrotter. He got up and said, "Lunch is ready." They went into the adjoining dining-room, furnished like any ordinary room. On the table was a beautiful silver bowl of Indian work filled with flowers, the sole luxury of this bachelor's table, neither wine nor anything else to drink being visible. Schrotter drank nothing but water, and he knew that Wilhelm's taste was similar. Bhani, as the Indian housekeeper was called, stood close behind her master's chair, never taking her eyes off him. The dishes were brought in by the white-bearded servant, and handed with a deep reverence to Bhani. She placed the dishes before Schrotter, changing them for a fresh course, and poured water into his glass. It was a silent, attentive service, almost giving the impression of adoration. Bhani appeared not to be waiting on a mortal master, but taking part in a sacrifice in a temple, so much devotion was expressed in her noble, warmly-colored face.
A dish of curry spread its oriental scent through the room, and Schrotter continued:
"Tell me, dear Eynhardt, in what way you mean to accomplish your fakir's contempt of the world?"
"Pardon me," interrupted Wilhelm, "the expression does not strike me as quite fair. I don't despise the world, I consider it merely as a phenomenon, valueless to my way of thinking, and in which I fail to find any real actuality."
"I understand quite well; we are not debating on a platform, but chatting over our lunch. I am not troubling either to talk in the correct jargon of school philosophy, and therefore I am at liberty to call your longings after the essence of things, contempt of the world. Now this occurs in two places—either among inexperienced young men of strong, noble natures, instinctively conscious of their own vitality, and intoxicated by their own strength, who feel so overcome by the phenomenon that they undervalue it, and believe that they are able singly to fight against it. Or there are the weak natures, who think that they are capable of changing the phenomenon to suit themselves. As they are not in a position to strive against it they retire sullenly defeated. The story of the fox and the grapes would just express their case, and also an excess of the consciousness of their 'ego.' Those are, I think, the resources from which spring contempt of the world: neither of these cases coincide with yours; you are not young and inexperienced enough for the one, and you are too useful for the other. You are healthy and sound, of average powers and energy, uncommonly well made in body and mind; of the poetical age, comfortably off, and I should like to know how you have come to despise the world?"
"I hardly know. The first impulse came perhaps in Russia in early childhood, where I got into the habit of regarding people around me as barbarous—neither useful nor valuable."
Schrotter shook his head.
"I have lived for twenty years among a subdued and so-called inferior race, but I have learned to love them instead of despising them."
"Very likely I have inherited the feeling from my mother, who was very timid of other people, and given to mysticism."
"Is it not rather your reading? The unhappy Schopenhauer?"
Wilhelm smiled a little.
"I am above all things an admirer of Schopenhauer, although his explanation of the mysteries of the world through the will is a joke. What he has written about the main teachings of Buddhism has influenced me very much."
"I see where you have got to—'Maja Nirvana'"
"That is all a fraud," Schrotter broke out, so that Bhani, who never saw him violent, looked up frightened. "I know Indians who have talked endlessly to learned pandits on these questions, and have explained the real ideas of Maja Nirvana to me. It is incomprehensible that people can misuse words on this subject as they do in Europe. Nirvana is not what European Buddhists appear to believe—an absolute negation—a cessation of consciousness and desire; but, on the contrary, it is the highest consciousness, the expansion of individual being into universal existence. Here is the Indian seer's conception: the most limited individuality cares only for his own 'ego.' But in the same measure that he transcends his limitation, the circle of his interest is widened; more actualities and existing phenomena are admitted, and come into sympathy with himself. All things mingle with and extend his own 'ego;' and that can be so widened as to embrace the interests of the whole world, until man can be in as much sympathy with a grain of sand, or the most distant star, and take as much share in the ant, and in the dwellers on Saturn, as in his own stomach and toes. In this way the whole universe becomes a constituent part of his 'ego;' thus his desires cease individually to exist, and are assimilated with the entire phenomenal world, and he longs for nothing beyond this. The 'ego' ceases because nothing is left outside the individual 'ego;' but this Nirvana, this highest step in the perfection of humanity, is, as you can see, not the negation of everything, but the absorption of everything; not something immovable, but rather the wonderful, ceaseless movement of the world's life. Men will not attain to Nirvana through quiet and indifference, but through strenuous labor, not by withdrawing into their 'ego,' but by going outside it. The true Nirvana of the pandits is the exact opposite of your Schopenhauer's Nirvana."
"But how can this conception of the seer's Nirvana coincide with their inactivity and renunciation of the world?"
"People misunderstand the fakir's belief. The Indian wise men think that the work of perfection is performed by the spirit alone, and that the activity of the body disturbs it; therefore the body must rest while the soul accomplishes its full measure of work, while it widens the circle of its interest, and absorbs into itself the phenomenal world. The clumsy understanding of the crowd thereupon comes to the conclusion that to become holy and attain to Nirvana, one must not stir a finger, not even to support oneself."
Wilhelm thought over this new point of view, but Schrotter went on:
"Believe me, true wisdom is neither that of the fakir nor of the man of the world; but as it appears to me, it neither despises the world nor admires it. One must not depend on oneself too much, neither on others. One must always be saying to oneself that one has no lasting importance in the world, but that in this transitory state eternal forces are at work, the same forces which drive the earth round the sun, and which operate on all men and things. Do not let us individualize too much; we are only a piece of the whole, to which we hang by a thousand unknown threads. Let us not either be too arrogant in our bearing toward our fellow-men, in whose company we are the involuntary puppets of unknown laws of development which are leading humanity on to a given epoch."
This conversation had taken Wilhelm's mind off his misfortune, and he had almost forgotten his adventure with Pechlar. He was reminded of it, however, on reaching home about three o'clock, by finding Paul, who always came to see him at that hour.
"What's the news?" cried he, coming cheerfully to meet him.
"I went to-day to see Fraulein Ellrich, to set things right between us."
"Yes; I went, but I have not done it." And then he related the incident again.
Paul seemed quite stunned while Wilhelm was speaking, and then sprang up in great excitement from the sofa, and cried:
"You will fight the scoundrel, of course!"
"No," said Wilhelm quietly.
"What!" shouted Paul, taking hold of Wilhelm's shoulder and shaking him. "Surely you are not in earnest? You are an officer—you have been a student—you will never let that fool of a fellow place you in a false position!" Wilhelm freed himself, and tried to speak reasonably; but Paul would not listen, and went on, his face red with anger: