A collection of short stories by F. Schiller A walk under the lime trees The mind reader The whims of destiny A good deed A remarkable feminine revenge
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The following Schiller short stories drag us into the intricacies of human destinies as the main characters and events of these novels were all gleaned from real life.
“Lost honour”: This short story made his fame as a sensitive and humanist writer. It tells about the progressive descent to hell of a landlord’s unfortunate son, his enrolment into a secret group and finally, his emancipation from a life of crimes.
In “A walk under the lime trees”, two young men who have recently known their destinies are discussing about some truths they have been made aware of about the world. The first one has fully accepted his destiny and sees the future brightly, the other is still full of thoughts about the whole process.
“The mind reader” relates the tentative of some officers to extirpate one of their fellows from the mental imbroglio woven around him, during a stay in Venice, to incorporate him into a secret society. Intrigues, deceit, crimes are unravelled in this long and original writing which is the only mystery novel written by F. Schiller.
In “A remarkable feminine revenge”, a middle aged woman is abandoned by her younger lover and sets up a subtle and devastating plot to avenge her humiliation.
“The whims of destiny” is a dark and implacable story of revenge among court members. “A good deed” is a surprising love triangle involving two brothers, a short story also based upon real events.
Self redemption, sense of duty, jealousy, friendship, but also treason and revenge. All the seasons of the human heart are displayed in these short stories in remarkable and intense scenes which reveal the author as a fine connoisseur of human motives and feelings.
In these stories as well as in his essays, Schiller positions himself as the writer of destinies: he combines the beautiful with the tragic and makes of each of his narration an incredibly moving assembly of actions and feelings to our most intimate delight.
A true story
In the whole human history, there is not a more informative chapter for the heart and the spirit than the annals of one’s own mistakes. For in every great crime, a proportionately great force was set into movement by its perpetrator.
If the secret game of covetousness remains hidden under the weaker light of common affects; hence, it will become more expressive, more colossal, louder, under the condition of violent passion; the finer human researcher who knows how much may be specifically expected from the human drives for freedom, and how widely one can derive the same conclusion based upon the same principles, will recall many experiences from this field in his mental education, and will use them in his own moral reflections.
The human heart is something so uniform and yet, has so many various aspects. The one and same skill or desire can be displayed in thousand forms and directions, it can act upon thousand contradicting phenomena, it can appear differently in thousand characters and actions, and yet it can again be traced back from the same inclination, especially if the human being about whom we are now discussing, presumes nothing of such a relatedness.
Then appeared a Linnaeus who classified also the human kind in the same way as the other species of Nature, according to its impulses and inclinations: how much one would then be astonished to find, together in the same classification as the monstrous Borgia, so many people whose vice must be contained, for now, in the new sphere of citizenry and in the narrow limitation of laws!
Considered in that aspect, a lot can be said against the use of a story, and here, I suppose, lies also the difficulty which prevent the study of the same story to be yet fruitful for the life of the citizens. Between the fervent mental agitation of the active human being who is the hero, and the calm disposition of the reader to whom these acts will be presented, such an incongruous contrast dominates, such a broad gap exists, that it is difficult, indeed, almost impossible for the reader to presume only of a relatedness with him and the hero.
Between the subject of a story and the reader, there remains a vacuum which removes the reader from any possibility of comparing the subject with himself, or with any application in his life; and instead of arousing this salutary fright which is a sign of a proud vitality, the subject arouses only confusion in him.
We consider the unfortunate person as a creature of a different kind than ourselves who, precisely in the hour when he committed the criminal act, as much as in the one when he repented for the same act, was a human being like us, but whose blood runs differently than ours, whose willpower follows other rules than ours; his destiny moves us lesser, for our emotion toward him grounds itself, indeed, only on a shadowy awareness of a similar danger in ourselves and of which we are far from only guessing the existence.
The lesson is wasted because of the reader's remoteness from the subject; and the story, instead of being a school of education, must content itself with performing a miserable service to our inclination. Should it represent more to us and reach its great, final goal; hence, it must choose necessarily one of these two methods: either the reader must become as inspired as the hero, or the hero must become as uninspired as the reader.
I know that from the best storytellers of recent times and from Antiquity, many have kept themselves to the first method and have fascinated the heart through pleasant talk. However, this manner of proceeding is an usurpation on the writer’s side and damages the republican freedom of the person who reads, who happens to be, in this instance, the judge; it is, at the same time, an offence to the rule of delimitation, for this method belongs exclusively and specifically to the orator and the poet. The storyteller only has the second method left.
The hero must become as uninspired as the reader, or, equally said, in this instance, we must acquaint ourselves with him before he acts; we must not only see him completing his action, but rather also see him wanting the same action. In his thoughts lies, for us, infinitely more than in his acts, and still much more lies in the sources of his thoughts than in the consequences of each of his act.
If people have searched the soil around the Vesuvius to explain its eruption; why should people offer less attention to a moral appearance than to a physical one? Why do people care not, in equal degree, to examine the condition and place which surrounded a man, until the gathered material ignited passion in his inner being?
The dreamer who loves anything wonderful, is precisely attracted by the strangeness and the adventurous side of the appearance; the friend of Truth seeks a mother for these lost children. He seeks her in the unchanged structure of the human soul and in the unchanged circumstances which determined them from outside, and in these two, he finds her certainly. It does not surprise him, now, any more, in the namely parcels where everywhere salutary herbs would grow, to see also the poisonous hemlock thriving, to find together in the same cradle wisdom and foolishness, vice and virtue.
Even if I do not invoke, here, any specifc advantage which psychology possesses when used in weaving a story; hence, psychology alone already retains the preference, just because it annihilates the horrible derision and the proud security with which, usually, the untested, righteous virtue looks down upon the persons who have failed; because it spreads throughout the story the soft spirit of tolerance, spirit of tolerance without which any fugitive may not wish to return back to his homeland any more; without which any reconciliation of law with its offenders cannot happen; without which any infected member of society will not be saved from the whole gangrene.
Would the criminal from whom I will speak about now, still have a right to call for this spirit of tolerance? Was he really lost without any possibility of rescue for the State? Alas, I will not focus the reader's attention on that concern any more. Our gentleness is not of any use to him any more, for he has died by the hand of the executioner; however, the autopsy of his misdeeds may still teach something to Humanity, and yes, it is possible, to Justice.
Christian Wolf was the son of a landlord in a small town (which name must be kept secret on grounds which later on, will be evident), and when his father died, he helped his mother to care for the family affairs until he reached his twentieth year. The family trade was not going very well, and Wolf had quite some idle time for himself. Already in school, he was known for being a dispersed young man.
The young ladies often complained about his brazenness while the young men of his small town, paid homage to his inventiveness. Nature has neglected his body. A small, inconspicuous face with curly hair of an unpleasant blackness, a flat nose and a swollen upper lip which was caused by a horse kick, gave to his appearance a disturbance which repulsed all the women from him, and offered many causes for raillery to his comrades.
He would aim at things that were refused to him; because he looked unpleasant, he wanted to please people. He was sensible and would usually confess what he loved. The young lady whom he chose as his sweetheart, mistreated him; he had cause to fear his rivals who had more fortune, even if the young lady of his choice was poor. He thought that a heart which remained insensitive to all his promises, maybe, would be more sensitive to his gifts; but neediness pressed upon him; and the vain research to make his outside appearance more affable, disposed of the little earnings which he acquired by doing dubious trades.
Too uninterested and too ignorant to help out his ruined household through speculation, too proud, also too weak to transform the lord whom he once was into a farmer, and to separate himself from his revered freedom; he saw only a way out, a way which has given thousands before and after him a better luck: to steal honestly.
His hometown bordered a large forest, so he decided he would become a robber, and the product of his robbery would go, faithfully, into the hands of his beloved sweetheart.
Among Anna's lovers was Robert, a fellow hunter of the foresters. Early on, Robert has noticed the advantage which the generosity of his rival has achieved over him, and he searched cunningly for the source of this change in munificence. He appeared diligently at the “Sun” – this was the name of Wolf's trading place – and his scrutinizing eye, sharpened by jealousy and envy, discovered very soon, from where the money was coming.
Not long before, a strict edict against the protection of wilderness had been renewed; this would condemn any trespasser to a jail term. Robert was undeterred in outsmarting the secret maneuvers of his enemy; finally, he succeeded to catch the imprudent in the act. Wolf had been trapped, and only at the cost of his whole small savings would he painstakingly succeed to avert the endorsed punishment into a fine.
Robert triumphed. His rival was evicted from the competition, and Anna’s favour for the delinquent was lost. Wolf knew his enemy, and this enemy was now the fortunate possessor of his Anna. The pressing feeling of need culminated into an offended pride; necessity and jealousy stormed into unison in his sentiments; hunger propelled him outside into the wider world; anger and passion kept him determined. He will, for the second time, become a robber; however, Robert’s increased vigilance outwitted him for the second time. Now, he is experiencing the whole severity of law, as he had no more money to give; hence, a few weeks later, he would be given a residence in jail.
The one-year jail term was over, his passion grew with distance, and his defiance grew even more under the weight of misfortune. As soon as he has recovered his freedom, he rushed to his place of birth to appear before his Anna. As he appeared in the small town, people would flee before him. In the meantime, the pressing necessity has finally bent his arrogance and overcome his weakness: he would settle to work for the town rich people and will earn a daily wage.
However, a farmer would only shake his shoulder in indifference towards the weak soul's request for work; the coarser stature of his solid competitors would cut him out from a work with another insensitive employer. Despite all this, he dared still a last attempt. A position was still vacant, the ultimate, remaining position for an honest man: he would apply to become the shepherd of his little town; alas, not a single farmer would even entrust his pigs to a good-for-nothing. Deceived in all his endeavours, turned down from all places, he will, for the third time, turn himself into a robber, and for the third time, he would encounter the misfortune of falling into the hands of his watchful enemy.
The double relapse has worsened the accusation against him. The judge looked into the appropriate legal code; however, not any one disposition fit the state of mind of the accused. As the directive against robbery needed a solemn and exemplary condemnation, Wolf was condemned to work three years in the fortress and the pending sentence on the gallows was forfeited.
Here begins a new era in his life; people even heard him as he made confessions afterwards before the tribunal and for his spiritual defence, avowing the following: “I went into incarceration” said he, “as an offender and left it as a villain.
Before my imprisonment, I still had something in the world that was dear to me, and my pride still bent under the burden of shame. When I was brought into prison, people locked me up with twenty one other prisoners, among whom two murderers and the others were all notorious thieves and vagabonds.
People mocked me when I spoke of God, and pressed me to say shameful calumnies against the Saviour.
People sang before me dirty songs which I, a boy of good judgement, heard not without disgust and shock; however, what I saw being practised regularly in this fortress, did not outrage my decency any more.
Not a day passed without the recurrence of some shameful act, the perpetration of some serious aggression. In the beginning, I fled these people and kept myself away from their company, as much as it was possible; however, I needed human presence, for the barbarism of my guards had also refused me the company of my dog.
The work was hard and afflicting, my body was ever aching; I needed assistance, and if I can express it correctly, I needed to repent, and this repentance, I must redeem by giving up whatever I had left as conscience. Hence, I was used, finally, to the most horrible things, and during the last trimester of my imprisonment, I have surpassed my masters in the knowledge and practice of such horrible things.
From then on, I longed for the day of my freedom, as I longed for revenge. Every human being has offended me; for everyone was better and more fortunate than me.
I considered myself the martyr of natural rule and a victim of laws. I used to scrape fiercely my chains when the sun came up from behind the fortress: a sunrise is a vision of double hell for a prisoner.
The free wind which whistled through the apertures of my tower, and the swallow which settled on the metal bar of my lattice, seemed to defy me with their freedom and made me feel even more atrociously my state of imprisonment. In these days, I avowed an irreconcilable, glowing hatred for anything that resembles the human being, and what I avowed, I have kept uprightly.
My first thoughts, as soon as I was freed, were about returning to my hometown.
Very little was to be hoped there for my future livelihood; yet, so much was promised there for my desire for revenge. My heart bat even faster as the church tower appeared to me from afar in the woods. It did not feel any more the sincere contentment which I have felt in my first hometown pilgrimage.
The memory of all the misfortune, of all the persecution which I have endured there, stirred up, at once, into a terrible exhaustion, all the wounds bled again, all the scars reopened.
I quickened my steps, they drove me into horrifying my enemies just with my unexpected apparition, and I was looking, now, to face a new humiliation from my enemies as much as I, before, have resented it.
The bells were calling for the vespers as I stood in the middle of the marketplace. The parishioners were rushing to church. People recognized me immediately, everyone who complained about me before, fled in horror.
I have always been fond of children, and even now, this feeling invaded me unintentionally as I offered a coin to a young boy who scurried around me.
The young boy stared at me and threw the coin at my face. Were my blood only been calmer; hence, I would have remembered that the beard that I grew in prison has deformed my facial features into disgracefulness; however, the sad condition of my heart has hindered my reason. Tears, as I have never wept, ran on my cheeks.
“The young boy did not know who I was, or from where I came“ said I to myself softly, “and hence, he avoided me like a shameful animal. I am, indeed, nowhere on my forehead marked, or have I ceased to look like a human, because I feel I cannot love anyone any more?”
The despise of this young boy was more painful to me than three years of forced labor, because I meant to do him good, and could not accuse him of any personal blame.
I sat on a stall across the church; what I wanted particularly at this moment, I did not know;
I knew only, as I stood up with bitterness, that of all the people I knew formerly, none has granted me a welcome, not a single person.
Unwillingly, I left the place and went to look for some accommodation; as I was at the corner of a street, I ran into my Anna: “The Boss!” shouted she loudly, and made a movement to embrace me. “You are here again, dear Boss! Thank God! You are back here!“
Hunger and misery were visible in her way of dressing, the trace of a shameful disease could be seen on her face, and her look betrayed the most repulsive creature into which she was lowered.
I figured rapidly what has been happening here; some dragons of the Prince, who precisely were passing by, allowed me to guess that there was now a garrison in the small town. “A woman for soldiers!” I shouted and turned my back laughing. It did me good that a creature was still lower than me among the livings. I just realized I have never loved her anyway.
My mother was dead. My creditors have reimbursed themselves with my small house. I have no one and nothing any more. The entire world fled me as if I was a poison; however, I have finally learned to be ashamed. Before, I retracted from the view of the human beings, because despise was unbearable to me. Now, I compelled myself into scaring the world and deride myself for such behaviour.
It did me some good, because I have nothing more to lose and have nothing more to save. I needed not to have any good quality any more, because people expected none from me any more.
The whole world stood open for me, I would have, maybe, been an honest man in a foreign province; but, anyway, I have lost the courage only to appear so at home. Despair and shamefulness compelled me, finally, into this way of thinking.
It was the last illusion which was left to me: I thought I still had my honour after having paid my debt to society, but now I know I will also have to learn to do without honour, because I might not make pretence to any, any more. Would my vanity and my pride have still survived all the humiliation; hence, I would have had to get rid of them myself.
What I should, now, particularly be deciding, was unknown even to me. I would carry out wrongdoings, I still repeated to myself gloomily. I would be serving my destiny. The laws, I told myself, were good deeds for the world; hence, I conceived a plan to violate them; previously, I had sinned from necessity and carelessness; now, I will do it, voluntarily, for my own enjoyment.
The first of my misdeeds was to continue hunting wild animals. Hunting, anyway, has progressively become a passion to me, and I wanted to earn a living from it. However, it was not the only reason; it delighted me to deride the Prince's edict and to damage my landlords with all my forces. To be caught was not any more a concern to me, for I have prepared, now, a bullet for the person who would catch me, and I knew that my shot would not miss its target.
I shot at anything wild that I came cross with; only with a few did I make money, I let most of them decay on the spot. I lived miserably to finance my expenses on ammunition and powder. My ravages with the great hunt became known; however, other people's suspicion did not bear down on me any more. My outlook did wipe any out, for my name was forgotten.
This way of living went on for a few months.
One morning, as usual I had crossed the woods to follow the track left by a stag. I exhausted myself in vain for two long hours and already began to hold my prey as lost, when I discovered it, at once, at a shooting distance. I was about to shoot and fire, but suddenly, the view of a hat a few steps before me, frightened me.
I explored it more precisely and recognized the hunter Robert who, behind the thick trunk of an oak, was preparing to shoot at the wild beast which I had also determined to shoot. This view sent a deadly coldness, deep into my bones. There was the man whom I, among all living creatures, hated most ferociously, and this man was given to me, at the mercy of my bullet. This view made me believe that the whole world was at the reach of my weapon, and the hate of my whole life would condense into a single pressure of my fingertip with which I should be performing the murder.
An invisible, terrible hand hanged over me, the decisive hour of my destiny appeared irrevocably in this dark minute. My arm trembled as I allowed the shotgun to execute my horrible choice; my teeth clenched as if paralyzed by a fever frost, and breathing was suspended chokingly in my lungs.
The direction of my shot remained uncertain, wavering, for one long minute, between the human being and the stag: a minute and then another one, and again revenge and conscience struggled insistently and yet indecisively in me; finally, revenge won, and there laid the hunter, dead, on the ground.
My rifle fell with the shot. ”Murderer!” stammered I slowly. The forest was as quiet as a cathedral. I heard distinctively that I said to myself “You are a murderer!”.
As I sneaked closer, I saw that the man has died. I stood for a long time, speechless, before him; a light laughter, finally, made me breathe fresh air. “Now, you will not denounce me any more, my good friend!” I said and went bravely nearer, while, at the same time, turning the murdered's face to myself. His eyes were bulging. I became serious and suddenly, silent again. I began to feel strange.
Until now, I acted upon the shamefulness of my past condemnations; now, something has happened for which I was still not sentenced.
An hour ago, I believed that no one would have convinced me that there was a person worse than me on earth; now, I began to wonder if an hour ago, my situation really was still to be envied.
I did not apprehend the judgement of God; to the contrary, another judgement, I did not know about, did concern me. There were confused memories about rope and sword and about the execution of an infanticide which I have seen when I was a schoolboy. Something particularly terrible for me hovered in my mind: the thought that from now on, my life has gone totally astray. I did not remember anything any more.
I wished, at once, that Robert could still live. I did violence to myself by reminding so vividly all the malice that the deceased had inflicted upon me when he was living. However, how strange! My memory was completely blank. I could not recall anything any more about what had brought me, in a matter of a quarter of an hour, into a rage. I really did not conceive how I did arrive to this act of murder.
I stood still before the corpse, always silent.
The cracks of some whips and the creaks of a freight carriage which echoed through the woods, brought me back to reality. The country road was hardly a quarter of a mile away from where the murder took place. I had to think, now, about my safety.
Involuntarily, I lost myself deeper into the forest. On the way, I remembered that the victim had possessed a pocket watch. I needed money to reach the frontier; and hence, I felt the courage to return to the place where the murder occurred. At that moment, a thought about the devil and the almighty God frightened me. I summoned all my whole courage, decided to go through the whole hell and then, went back to the crime scene.
I found what I have expected, and even found money in a green purse, about a little over a Thaler in coins.
Precisely there, as I was about to take both loots with me, I suddenly halted for a moment and thought. It was not a result of shame, also not of fear which led me to worsen my crime with plundering. I believe, it was defiance; anyway, I threw the watch away and kept only half the money. I would be hold for a personal enemy of the murdered, but not for his robber.
Now, I was fleeing towards the woods. I knew that the woods stretched northward still four German miles further and headed towards the frontier. I ran breathlessly until midday. The deftness of my runaway had dispersed the fears in my conscience; however, they came back even more terribly, as my forces faded away progressively. Thousand atrocious images went on in my mind and were cutting my breast more sharply than knives would do.
A terrible choice was, now, left to me; I had to choose between a life full of restless fear of death and a violent suicide. I had not the heart to go through a suicide, and yet, was horrified by the perspective to stick with the other decision. Stuck between the certain torments of life and the uncertain terrors of eternity, almost incapable to live and to die, I brought the sixth hour of my runaway in that way, an hour, completely pressed by torments, from which no one in my knowledge has been through.
I gathered my senses and slowly, without knowing it, I have deeply pulled the hat down my face, as if it could have made me unrecognizable before the eye of the lifeless nature; I had also, unintentionally, followed a narrow lane which led me into the darkest thicket, when suddenly a rough, commanding voice shouted somewhere before me: “Stop!”. The voice was really close; fortunately, my disguise and the well pulled down hat have prevented me for being immediately recognized.
I opened my eyes and saw coming towards me a wild man who carried a large, curved stick. His face was Herculean – my first consternation, at least, had made me believe so – and the colour of his skin was of a yellowish, mulatto black, from which the white of the squinted eyes came out horribly.
He had, instead of a belt, worn a thick rope wrapped twice around a green woolen cloth from which a large battle-knife stuck out near a pistol.
The warning would be repeated, and then, a forceful arm grabbed me firmly. The presence of an honest man would have scared me to death; however, the view of a villain gave me courage. In my current situation, I had cause to tremble before any honest man; however, none more before a robber.
- “Who’s there?“ said the man to me.
- “Your equal!” was my answer, “If you are really like the person who appears to me now!”
- “There is no way further on. What are you looking for here?”
- “Why do you have to ask that?“ replied I defiantly.
The man observed me a second time from head to toe. It seemed as if he wanted to hold my face against his, and to substantiate my answers against my external look.
- “You speak brutally like a beggar!” he said finally.
- "That may be. I was still one yesterday!“
The man laughed.
- “One could be swearing about that!”, he said, “You are still not worth that much today!”
- “For someone worse then!?“ I pursued further.
- “Dear friend! What are you hunting, then? What are you wasting your time for?”
I took a moment to gather myself. I did not know how the following words came to my lips:
- “Life is short”, I said slowly, “and Hell goes on forever.”
He stared at me.
- “May I be damned”, he said finally, “Or you have been somehow condemned to the gallows in the past!?”
- "That may still be happening. Goodbye, comrade!”
- “Hold it, comrade!” shouted he, while reaching for a tin bottle in his hunting bag, then took a forceful gulp from it and handed it over to me.
Escape and apprehension have flattened my forces; and during this whole, dreadful day, I have still not had any refreshment. I have already feared to crave in this surrounding forest where, three miles around, there was not any ray of hope for me to find water. People can imagine how happy I was to thank this offered sip. New forces flowed into my bones and fresh courage into my heart, and also hope and love for life; with this refreshing drink, I began to believe that I, hence, was not really so miserable; the welcome drink did a lot of good to me.
Indeed, I had to recognize that my condition was again close to a happy one; for, finally, after thousand failed hopes, I have found a creature who seemed to be like me. In my dreadful condition, I would share the cup of friendship with an infernal spirit, and find, finally, a trustful person again. The man has, now, stretched himself on the grass, I did the same.
- “Your drink did me a lot of good!” I said, “We must get to know each other better!”
He lighted a match to smoke his pipe.
- “Do you carry this handwork already for long?”
He looked at me fixedly.
- “What do you mean by that?”
- “Has this knife always been bloody?”, while pulling the knife from his belt.
- "Who are you?“, he said fearfully while putting the pipe away.
- “A murderer like you, but only just a beginner!”
The man stared at me, then took his pipe again.
- “Are you not at home here?” he said finally.
- “Home is three miles away from here. I am the owner of “The Sun” in L…., if you have already heard about me.“
The man jumped as if possessed.
- “The wild, hunting Wolf?” he shouted hastily.
- “Welcome, comrade! Welcome!”, he said and shook my hand firmly. “It is good that I finally have you, Boss. I meant to get hold of you already for long. I know you very well. I know everything about you. I have for long counted on you.”
- "Counted on me!? For what?“
- "The whole area has had enough of you. You have enemies; an officer has looked after you, Wolf. People have brought you down; people have become outraged by your actions!”
Then the man became aggressive.
- “Because you have shot at a pair of pigs which the Prince fed on our farmland and field anyway, they have kept you, yearlong, into imprisonment and under arrest; they have stolen home and livelihood from you, they have made you into a beggar. How did it happen, that a human being is not worth more than a rabbit? Are we not better than the cattle in the fields? How could a fellow like you be accepting that?”
- "Could I have done something about it?“
- “We will see about that. However, tell me, where are you going to, now, and what led you into hiding?”
I told him the whole story. The man, without waiting for me to finish, stood up with happy impatience, and mulled me near him.
- “Come, Brother Boss!”, he said, “Now, you are ripe; now I have you where I need you! I will confer you honour. Follow me!”
- “Where are you leading me to?”
- “Ask no more! Follow me!” – He dragged me forth with force.
We have walked for a quarter of a mile. The forest became more sloping, more impracticable and wilder, none of us uttered a word, until finally my guide’s whistle startled me from my thoughts. I opened my eyes wide; we were standing near the steep fall of a cliff which stooped down into a deep hole.
A second whistle answered from deep inside the cliff, and another person came by himself, appearing slowly from the depths.
My guide went down, first, he told me to wait there until his return.
- “I must first put the dog on a leach” he added, “You are foreign here, the beast would attack you.” So, he went.
Now, I stood alone before the hole, and knew perfectly that I was alone. My guide's absence of suspicion did not escape my attention. It would only cost me a firm resolution to run off my guide and be free; and in addition, my escape would be secured. I confess that I have foreseen that alternative. I looked down at the opening which I should be taking soon: it reminded me sombrely of hell's underworld from where any salvation is not to be expected.
I began to shiver before the turnout which would, now, be happening; only a rapid escape could still be saving me. I decided for this escape: I was already pulling myself from the embroil set up by my guide; but, something hammered in my ears, it resounded in me like a laughter from hell: “What is the murderer daring?”; then my arms fell down, motionless. My plan of escape was gone, the time of remorse came, my committed crimes were looming above me like a rock and would eternally obstruct any turn back. At the same time, my guide reappeared and announced to me that I should be coming with him.
Now, there was not any more choice left. I came down the cliff.
We were a few steps down the cliff, the passage enlarged itself, and some huts were becoming visible. In the midst of these, a round grass court opened itself to us on which between eighteen and twenty people were gathered around a coal fire.
- “Here, comrade!” said my guide and sat me down in the middle of the circle; “Here is “The Sun”'s boss! The Boss himself! Wish him welcome!”
- ”The Sun”’s boss!?” shouted they altogether, and they all came to me, men and women alike.
Should I confess it? The joy reigning among them was frank and sincere; trust and respect even appeared on their faces, one person would shake my hand, another would pull me confidently by my clothes, and all this had the appearance of a reunion with old, dear acquaintances. My entry has interrupted the feast which precisely should have been starting.
People resumed the feast at once and asked me to have a welcome drink. Roasted wild meat of all kinds was on the table, and bottles of wine wandered tirelessly from one person to the other. Good life and unity seemed to possess the entire band, and everyone competed to wear me off his joy, without any restrain.
People have seated me between two women, at the place of honour.
I expected to find the scum of their gender in this place; however, how great was my wonder, as I, under this shameful group, discovered the most beautiful women which I happened to have ever seen. Margaret, the oldest and the most beautiful of both, allowed herself to be called Miss and could approximately be twenty five.
She spoke very saucily, and her features were even more promising. Mary, the younger one, was married, but ran away from her husband who mistreated her. She was finely built, however, appeared pale and frail and was lesser pleasant to the eye than her ardent neighbour. Both women attended to awake my desires; the beautiful Margaret overcame my shyness with saucy jokes, but her whole presence was somehow repulsive to me; and my heart has always preferred the shier Mary.
- ”You see, brother Boss“ began, now, the man who has brought me, “you see, we live among one another, and every day is similar to this day. Isn’t it, comrades?”
- “Yes! Every day is like today!” repeated the whole band.
- “Should you, hence, decide to find our way of living pleasant, so please join us and be our leader! Until now, I held that position; however, I will give way to you. Are you happy about that, comrades?”
A happy “Yes!” was uttered by all throats.
My head warmed up, my mind became oblivious, my blood was boiling from wine and desires. The world has thrown me out of its midst as if I was pest-ridden; here, I found fraternal reception, good life and honour.
No matter what choice I will be making, death sentence was awaiting me anyway; here, at least, I could buy my life for a higher price until the fatal outcome. Voluptuousness was my most ardent inclination; the other gender has shown to me, until now, only despise; here, unbridled pleasures and favours awaited me.
A resolution did cost me little effort. “I stay with you, comrades!”, said I loudly with a resolute voice and stepped in the middle of the band; “I stay with you!”, I said once more, “If you give me my beautiful neighbour as companion!”. All of them agreed to satisfy my demand, I was the declared possessor of a whore, and the new chief of a band of robbers.
I really skip the following part of the story; total dreadfulness is nothing to be known by any reader. An unfortunate person who sank into such a depth, must allow himself to do anything that outrages Humanity; however, a second murder he did not commit any more, as he himself testified under torture. The reputation of this person reverberated, in a short period, into the whole province. The country roads became insecure, nightly burglaries worried the citizens, the name of The Sun’s Boss became the synonym of terror in the countryside, Justice looked for him, and a reward was put on his head.
He was so happy to secure his freedom after each attack, and was enough cunning to use the superstition of the credulous farmers for his own safety.
His resources did expand; it was rumoured that he had made a pact with the devil himself and could practice witchcraft.
The district where he was operating, belonged in those days, to a lesser extent than it is now, to the enlightened part of Germany; people believed the rumours, and hence, his person was secured from any denunciation. No one showed any interest in linking oneself with the dangerous fellow who stood at the service of the devil.
He has carried this miserable occupation already for a year, when the situation began to become unbearable to him. The group, at the head of which he has himself placed, did not fulfil his gleaming expectations. A tempting, external dazzle has blinded him once under the rapture of wine; now, he would be aware with terror, how atrociously he has been deceived. Hunger and deprivation led him into a land of abundance which people used to lure him; very often he did have to risk his life for a loot which was hardly enough to protect him against famine.
The vision of fraternal harmony in the band disappeared; envy, mistrust and jealousy raged inside this rejected group. Justice has promised a reward to the person who would be capturing him alive, and if the betrayer was an accomplice, such betrayer would even be promised a solemn amnesty, a powerful temptation for the wretched of the world! Our unfortunate hero knew the danger surrounding him. The honesty of people whom human beings and God alike have abandoned, was a less than unreliable guarantee for his life.
From then on, his sleep became uncertain, eternal fear of death troubled his inner peace, the atrocious ghost of suspicion rattled behind him wherever he flew, it tormented him even when he was awake, it went to bed with him, it terrified him during dreadful dreams.
His silenced conscience expressed itself again in his speech; and the dormant viper of remorse watched, amidst the general storm, within his bosom. His whole hatred turned itself, now, away from Humanity; and his terrible resentment blamed again only himself. He forgave, now, the whole Nature and found no one else to run away from than himself.
Vice has completed its teachings with the unfortunate man; fortunately, his natural intelligence, finally, won over the sad deception. Now, he felt how deep he has fallen; calmer melancholy replaced the grinding despair. Now, he regretted with tears his past life; he knew now certainly that he would redo things really differently if given another chance. He started to hope that he still might be doing right things, because he felt in himself that he could behave well now. At the highest point of his deterioration, he was closer to goodness than he, maybe, has ever been before his first fall.
At precisely this time, the Seven-Year War broke out; and recruitment went on extensively. Our unfortunate character drew hope from this circumstance, and wrote a letter to the country's Prince, an excerpt of which I join here:
“If Your Princely Highness does not disdain to extend his consideration onto me, if criminals of my sort still deserve your mercy; hence, allow yourself to hear me, Your Highness.
I am a murderer and a burglar, law has condemned me to death, tribunals are looking for me, and I offer myself to become a voluntary recruit. However, I bring, at the same time, a strange request before your throne.
I hate my life and fear not death; however, it is terrible for me to die without having ever lived. I would like to live to use for something good all that I have learned during a part of my past; I would like to live to reconcile myself with the State which I have offended.
My execution will be an example for the world, however not a compensation for my acts.
I hate crime and long ardently for respectability and virtue. I have shown capacity to be useful to my country; I hope that some of this capacity is still left to be of use to Your Highness.
I know that I request something unheard of. My life is lost; nothing else is left to me to intermediate with Justice. However, I appear not in chains and bands before you. I am still free, and fear has the least part in my request.
It is grace which I long for. A pretence to Justice, if I still have some, I dare not any more make prevail. However, may I remind my Judge of something. The time of my crimes began with the sentence which took from me, for always, my honour. Were it less severely pronounced against me then; hence, maybe I would not need grace now.
Allow yourself to show grace for rightfulness, my Prince. If it is in your princely power to influence law in my favour; hence, you will offer me a life. It should be dedicated to your service from now on. If it pleases you, hence, allow me to request your most gracious clemency through public announcement, and I will appear, upon your princely instructions, in the capital. Should you decide otherwise with my case; hence, Justice will accomplish your will, and I must do mine.”
This request remained without any answer, the same way as a second and a third one in which the supplicant offered himself to become a horseman at the Prince's service. His hope for a pardon has completely vanished, he decided, then, to flee from the country and to die as a courageous soldier at the King of Prussia's service.
He separated happily from his band and went on for the journey. It led him through a small town where he would spend the night over.
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