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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IV by Editor-in-Chief: Kuno Francke

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herself, and pushed out her head in terror to look after them; when
Zerina from the air, held up her finger, and threatened, yet smiled;
then descended with the child, embraced her, and disappeared. After
this, it happened more than once that Mary was observed by her; and
every time, the shining little creature shook her head, or threatened,
yet with friendly looks.

Often, in disputing with her husband, Mary had said in her zeal: "Thou
dost injustice to the poor people in the hut!" But when Andrew pressed
her to explain why she differed in opinion from the whole village,
nay, from his lordship himself, and why she could understand it better
than the whole of them, she still broke off embarrassed, and became
silent. One day, after dinner, Andrew grew more insistent than ever,
and maintained that, by one means or another, the crew must be packed
away, as a nuisance to the country; when his wife, in anger, said to
him: "Hush! for they are benefactors to thee and to every one of us."

"Benefactors!" cried the other, in astonishment; "These rogues and

In her indignation, she was now at last tempted to relate to him,
under promise of the strictest secrecy, the history of her youth; and
as Andrew at every word grew more incredulous, and shook his head in
mockery, she took him by the hand, and led him to the chink; where, to
his amazement, he beheld the glittering Elf sporting with his child,
and caressing her in the arbor. He knew not what to say; an
exclamation of astonishment escaped him, and Zerina raised her eyes.
On the instant she grew pale, and trembled violently; not with
friendly, but with indignant looks, she made the sign of threatening,
and then said to Elfrida "Thou canst not help it, dearest heart; but
outsiders will never learn sense, wise as they believe themselves."
She embraced the little one with stormy haste; and then, in the shape
of a raven, flew with hoarse cries over the garden, toward the firs.

In the evening, the little one was very still, she kissed her rose
with tears; Mary felt depressed and frightened; Andrew scarcely spoke.
It grew dark. Suddenly there went a rustling through the trees; birds
flew to and fro with wild screaming, thunder was heard to roll, the
earth shook, and tones of lamentation moaned in the air. Andrew and
his wife had not courage to rise; they wrapped themselves in their bed
clothes, and with fear and trembling awaited the day. Toward morning
it grew calmer; and all was silent when the sun, with his cheerful
light, rose over the wood.

Andrew dressed himself, and Mary now observed that the stone of the
ring upon her finger had become quite pale. On opening the door, the
sun shone clear on their faces, but the scene around them they could
scarcely recognize. The freshness of the wood was gone; the hills were
shrunk, the brooks were flowing languidly with scanty streams, the sky
seemed gray; and when you turned to the Firs, they were standing there
no darker or more dreary than the other trees. The huts behind were no
longer frightful; and several inhabitants of the village came and told
about the fearful night, and how they had been across the spot where
the gipsies had lived; how these people must have left the place at
last, for their huts were standing empty, and within had quite a
common look, just like the dwellings of other poor people; some of
their household gear was left behind.

Elfrida in secret said to her mother: "I could not sleep last night;
and in my fright at the noise, I was praying from the bottom of my
heart, when the door suddenly opened, and my playmate entered to take
leave of me. She had a traveling-pouch slung round her, a hat on her
head, and a large staff in her hand. She was very angry at thee; since
on thy account she had now to suffer the severest and most painful
punishments, as she had always been so fond of thee; for all of them,
she said, were very loath to leave this quarter."

Mary forbade her to speak of this; and now the ferryman came across
the river, and told them new wonders. As it was growing dark, a
stranger of large size had come to him, and had hired his boat till
sunrise, but with this condition, that the boatman should remain quiet
in his house--at least should not cross the threshold of his door. "I
was frightened," continued the old man, "and the strange bargain would
not let me sleep. I slipped softly to the window, and looked toward
the river. Great clouds were driving restlessly through the sky, and
the distant woods were rustling fearfully; it was as if my cottage
shook, and moans and lamentations glided round it. On a sudden, I
perceived a white streaming light that grew broader and broader, like
many thousands of falling stars; sparkling and waving, it proceeded
forward from the dark Fir-ground, moved over the fields, and spread
itself along toward the river. Then I heard a trampling, a jingling, a
bustling, and rushing, nearer and nearer; it went forward to my boat,
and all stepped into it, men and women; as it seemed, and children;
and the tall stranger ferried them over. In the river, by the boat,
were swimming many thousands of glittering forms; in the air white
clouds and lights were wavering; and all lamented and bewailed that
they must travel forth so far, far away, and leave their beloved
dwelling. The noise of the rudder and the water creaked and gurgled
between whiles, and then suddenly there would be silence. Many a time
the boat landed, and went back, and was again laden; many heavy casks,
too, they took along with them, which multitudes of horrid-looking
little fellows carried and rolled; whether they were devils or
goblins, Heaven only knows. Then came, in waving brightness, a stately
train; it seemed an old man, mounted on a small white horse, and all
were crowding round him. I saw nothing of the horse but its head; for
the rest of it was covered with costly glittering cloths and
trappings; on his brow the old man had a crown, so bright that, as he
came across, I thought the sun was rising there and the redness of the
dawn glimmering in my eyes. Thus it went on all night; I at last fell
asleep in the tumult, half in joy, half in terror. In the morning all
was still; but the river is, as it were, run off, and I know not how
I am to use my boat in it now."

The same year there came a blight; the woods died away, the springs
ran dry; and the scene, which had once been the joy of every traveler,
was in autumn standing waste, naked, and bald, scarcely showing here
and there, in the sea of sand, a spot or two where grass, with a dingy
greenness, still grew up. The fruit-trees all withered, the vines
faded away, and the aspect of the place became so melancholy that the
Count, with his people, next year left the castle, which in time
decayed and fell to ruins.

Elfrida gazed on her rose day and night with deep longing, and thought
of her kind playmate; and as it drooped and withered, so did she also
hang her head; and before the spring, the little maiden had herself
faded away. Mary often stood upon the spot before the hut, and wept
for the happiness that had departed. She wasted herself away like her
child, and in a few years she too was gone. Old Martin, with his
son-in-law, returned to the quarter where he had lived before.


* * * * *



President of Lake Forest College

Brandenburg has, from olden times, been the stern mother of soldiers,
rearing her sons in a discipline that has seemed harsh to the gentler
children of sunnier lands. The rigid and formal pines that grow in
sombre military files from the sandy ground make a fit landscape for
this race of fighting and ruling men. In the wider extent of Prussia
as well, the greatest names have been those of generals and statesmen,
such as the Great Elector, Frederick the Great, and Bismarck, rather
than poets and artists. Even among the notable writers of this region,
intellectual power has usually predominated over gifts of feeling or
of imagination; the arid, formal talent of Gottsched is an exemplary
instance, and the singularly cold and colorless mind of the greatest
thinker of modern times, Immanuel Kant, seems eminently Prussian in
quality. Growing out of such traditions and antecedents as these, the
genius of Heinrich von Kleist appears as a striking anomaly.

This first great literary artist of Prussia was descended from a
representative Prussian family of soldiers, which had numbered
eighteen generals among its members. Heinrich von Kleist was born
October 18, 1777, at Frankfort-on-the-Oder, in the heart of
Brandenburg, where his father was stationed as a captain in the
service of Frederick the Great. The parents, both of gentle birth,
died before their children had grown to maturity. Heinrich was
predestined by all the traditions of the family to a military career;
after a private education he became, at the age of fourteen, a
corporal in the regiment of guards at Potsdam.

after a miniature presented by the poet to his bride]

The regiment was ordered south for the Rhine campaign against the
French revolutionists, but the young soldier saw little actual
fighting, and in June, 1795, his battalion had returned to Potsdam; he
was then an ensign, and in his twentieth year was promoted to the rank
of second lieutenant.

The humdrum duties and the easy pleasures of garrison life had no
lasting charms for the future poet, who was as yet unconscious of his
latent power, but was restlessly reaching out for a wider and deeper
experience. We soon find him preparing himself, by energetic private
study, for the University; in April, 1799, against the wishes of his
family and his superior officers, he obtained a discharge from the
army and entered upon his brief course as a student in his native
city. He applied himself with laborious zeal to the mastery of a wide
range of subjects, and hastened, with pedantic gravity, to retail his
newly won learning to his sisters and a group of their friends. For
the time being, the impulse of self-expression took this didactic
turn, which is very prominent also in his correspondence. Within the
year he was betrothed to a member of this informal class, Wilhelmina
von Zenge, the daughter of an officer. The question of a career now
crowded out his interest in study; in August, 1800, as a step toward
the solution of this problem, Kleist returned to Berlin and secured a
modest appointment in the customs department. He found no more
satisfaction in the civil than in his former military service, and all
manner of vague plans, artistic, literary and academic, occupied his
mind. Intensive study of Kant's philosophy brought on an intellectual
crisis, in which the ardent student found himself bereft of his fond
hope of attaining to absolute truth. Meanwhile the romantic appeal of
Nature, first heeded on a trip to Wuerzburg, and the romantic lure of
travel, drew the dreamer irresistibly away from his desk. His sister
Ulrica accompanied him on a journey that began in April, 1801, and
brought them, by a devious route, to Paris in July. By this time
Kleist had become clearly conscious of his vocation; the strong
creative impulse that had hitherto bewildered him now found its proper
vent in poetic expression, and he felt himself dedicated to a literary
career. With characteristic secretiveness he kept hidden, even from
his sister, the drama at which he was quietly working.

Absorbed in his new ambition, Kleist found little in Paris to interest
him. He felt the need of solitude for the maturing of his plans, and
with the double object of seeking in idyllic pursuits the inspiration
of Nature and of earning leisure for writing, he proposed to his
betrothed that she join him secretly in establishing a home upon a
small farm in Switzerland. When Wilhelmina found it impossible to
accept this plan, Kleist coldly severed all relations with her. He
journeyed to Switzerland in December, 1801, and in Bern became
acquainted with a group of young authors, the novelist Heinrich
Zschokke, the publisher Heinrich Gessner, and Ludwig Wieland, son of
the famous author of _Oberon_. To these sympathetic friends he read
his first tragedy, which, in its earlier draft, had a Spanish setting,
as _The Thierrez Family_ or _The Ghonorez Family_, but which, on their
advice, was given a German background. This drama Gessner published
for Kleist, under the title _The Schroffenstein Family_, in the winter
of 1802-03. It had no sooner appeared than the author felt himself to
have outgrown its youthful weaknesses of imitation and exaggeration.
Another dramatic production grew directly out of the discussions of
this little circle. The friends agreed, on a wager, to put into
literary form the story suggested by an engraving that hung in
Zschokke's room. By common consent the prize was awarded to Kleist's
production, his one comedy, _The Broken Jug_.

In April, 1802, Kleist realized his romantic dream by taking up his
abode, in rural seclusion, on a little island at the outlet of the
Lake of Thun, amid the majestic scenery of the Bernese Oberland. In
this retreat, encouraged by the applause of his first confidants, he
labored with joyous energy, recasting his _Schroffenstein Family_,
working out the _Broken Jug_, meditating historical dramas on Leopold
of Austria and Peter the Hermit, and expending the best of his
untrained genius on the plan of a tragedy, _Robert Guiscard_, in which
he strove to create a drama of a new type, combining the beauties of
Greek classical art and of Shakespeare; with his _Guiscard_ the young
poet even dared hope to "snatch the laurel wreath from Goethe's brow."

Two months of intense mental exertion in the seclusion of his island
left Kleist exhausted, and he fell seriously ill; whereupon Ulrica, on
receiving belated news of his plight, hastened to Bern to care for
him. When a political revolution drove Ludwig Wieland from Bern, they
followed the latter to Weimar, where the poet Wieland, the dean of the
remarkable group of great authors gathered at Weimar, received Kleist
kindly, and made him his guest at his country estate. With great
difficulty Wieland succeeded in persuading his secretive visitor to
reveal his literary plans; and when Kleist recited from memory some of
the scenes of his unfinished _Guiscard_, the old poet was transported
with enthusiasm; these fragments seemed to him worthy of the united
genius of AEschylus, Sophocles, and Shakespeare, and he was convinced
that Kleist had the power to "fill the void in the history of the
German drama that even Goethe and Schiller had not filled." But in
spite of Wieland's generous encouragement, Kleist found it impossible
to complete this masterpiece, and his hopeless pursuit of the perfect
ideal became an intolerable obsession to his ambitious and sensitive
soul. He could not remain in Weimar. In Dresden old friends sought to
cheer him in his desperate attempts to seize the elusive ideal; to
more than one of them, in his despair, he proposed a joint suicide.
Again he was driven to seek solace and inspiration in travel, a friend
accompanying him to Switzerland. Arrived at Geneva in October, 1803,
Kleist fell into the deepest despondency, and wrote Ulrica a letter
full of hopeless renunciation. Half crazed by disappointment and
wounded pride, he rushed madly through France to Paris, broke with his
friend, who had again repelled a joint suicide, burned his manuscript
of _Guiscard_, and made secretly for Boulogne, hoping to find an
honorable death in Napoleon's projected invasion of England.
Fortunately he fell in with an acquaintance who saved him from the
risk of being arrested as a spy, and started him back on his homeward
way. He was detained at Mentz by serious illness, but finally, in
June, 1804, reappeared in Potsdam. The poet's spirit was broken, and
he was glad to accept a petty civil post that took him to Koenigsberg.
After a year of quiet work, he was enabled, by a small pension from
Queen Louise, to resign his office and again devote himself to

The two years spent in Koenigsberg were years of remarkable development
in Kleist's literary power. Warned by the catastrophe of the earlier
attempt to reach the heights at a single bound, he now schooled
himself with simpler tasks: adaptations, from the French, of La
Fontaine's poem, _The two Pigeons_, and of Moliere's comedy,
_Amphitryon_--both so altered in the interpretation that they seem
more like originals than translations; prose tales that are admirable
examples of this form--_The Marquise of O._, _The Earthquake in
Chili_, and the first part of the masterly short story _Michael
Kohlhaas_; and the recasting of the unique comedy _The Broken Jug_.
Finally he attempted another great drama in verse, _Penthesilea_,
embodying in the old classical story the tragedy of his own desperate
struggle for _Guiscard_, and his crushing defeat.

Meanwhile the clouds were gathering about his beloved country, and in
October, 1806, the thunderbolt fell in the rout of the Prussian army
at Jena. Napoleon's victorious troops pressed on to Berlin and the
Prussian court retreated with the tide of fugitives to Koenigsberg.
Kleist was overwhelmed by the misery of this cataclysm, which,
however, he had clearly foreseen and foretold. With a group of
friends he started on foot for Dresden, but was arrested as a spy at
the gates of Berlin and held for months as a prisoner in French
fortresses, before the energetic efforts of Ulrica and others procured
his release.

Late in July, 1807, he finally arrived in Dresden, where he remained
until April, 1809. These were the happiest and the most prolific
months of his fragmentary life. The best literary and social circles
of the Saxon capital were open to him, his talent was recognized by
the leading men of the city, a laurel wreath was placed upon his brow
by "the prettiest hands in Dresden;" at last he found all his hopes
being realized. With three friends he embarked on an ambitious
publishing enterprise, which included the issuing of a sumptuous
literary and artistic monthly, the _Phoebus_. This venture was
foredoomed to failure by the inexperience of its projectors and by the
unsettled condition of a time full of political upheaval and most
unfavorable to any literary enterprise. Kleist's own contributions to
this periodical were of the highest value; here appeared first in
print generous portions of _Penthesilea, The Broken Jug_, and the new
drama _Kitty of Heilbronn_, the first act of the ill-fated _Robert
Guiscard_, evidently reproduced from memory, _The Marquise of O._, and
part of _Michael Kohlhaas_. If we add to these works the great
patriotic drama, _Arminius_ (_Die Hermannsschlacht_), two tales, _The
Betrothal in San Domingo_ and _The Foundling_, and lyric and narrative
poems, the production of the brief period in Dresden is seen to bulk
very large.

In the stress of the times and in spite of the most strenuous efforts,
the _Phoebus_ went under with the first volume, and the publishing
business was a total wreck. Kleist's joy at the acceptance of _The
Broken Jug_ by Goethe for the Weimar theatre was turned to bitterness
when, because of unintelligent acting and stage management, this
brilliant comedy failed wretchedly; the disappointed author held
Goethe responsible for this fiasco and foolishly attacked him in a
series of spiteful epigrams. He longed to have his _Arminius_
performed at Vienna, but the Austrian authorities were too timid to
risk the production of a play that openly preached German unity and a
war of revenge against the "Roman tyranny" of Napoleon. Kleist then
turned to lyric poetry and polemic tirades for the expression of his
patriotic ardor. When Austria rose against Napoleon, he started for
the seat of war and was soon the happy eye-witness of the Austrian
victory at Aspern, in May, 1809. In Prague, with the support of the
commandant, he planned a patriotic journal, for which he immediately
wrote a series of glowing articles, mostly in the form of political
satires. This plan was wrecked by the decisive defeat of the Austrians
at Wagram in July.

Broken by these successive disasters, Kleist again fell seriously ill; for
four months his friends had no word from him, and reports of his death
were current. In November, 1809, he came to Frankfort-on-the-Oder to
dispose of his share in the family home as a last means of raising funds,
and again disappeared. In January, 1810, he passed through Frankfort
on the way to Berlin, to which the Prussian court, now subservient to
Napoleon, had returned. He found many old friends in Berlin, and even
had prospects of recognition from the court, as the brave and beautiful
Queen Louise was very kindly disposed toward him. Again he turned to
dramatic production, and in the patriotic Prussian play, _Prince
Frederick of Homburg_, created his masterpiece. Fortune seemed once
more to be smiling upon the dramatist; the _Prince of Homburg_ was to
be dedicated to Queen Louise, and performed privately at the palace of
Prince Radziwill, before being given at the National Theatre. But
again the cup of success was dashed from the poet's lips. With the
death of Queen Louise, in July, 1810, he lost his only powerful friend
at court, and now found it impossible to get a hearing for his drama.

CHARLOTTENBURG _Sculptor, Christian Rauch_]

Other disappointments came in rapid succession. _Kitty of Heilbronn_,
performed after many delays at Vienna, was not a success, and Iffland,
the popular dramatist and director of the Berlin Theatre, rejected
this play, while accepting all manner of commonplace works by inferior
authors. The famous publisher Cotta did print _Penthesilea_, but was
so displeased with it that he made no effort to sell the edition, and
_Kitty of Heilbronn_, declined by Cotta, fell flat when it was printed
in Berlin. Two volumes of tales, including some masterpieces in this
form, hardly fared better; the new numbers in this collection were
_The Duel, The Beggar Woman of Locarno_, and _Saint Cecilia_. Again
the much-tried poet turned to journalism. From October, 1810, until
March, 1811, with the assistance of the popular philosopher Adam
Mueller and the well-known romantic authors Arnim, Brentano, and
Fouque, he published a politico-literary journal appearing five times
a week. The enterprise began well, and aroused a great deal of
interest. Gradually, however, the censorship of a government that was
at once timid and tyrannical limited the scope and destroyed the
effectiveness of the paper, and Kleist spent himself in vain efforts
to keep it alive. The poet now found himself in a desperate
predicament, financially ruined by the failure of all his enterprises,
and discredited with the government, from which he vainly sought some
reparation for the violence done to his journal; worst of all, he
found himself without honor at home, where he was looked upon as a
ne'er-do-well and a disgrace to the reputation of a fine old military
family. As a last resort he applied for reinstatement in the army, it
being a time when Prussia seemed to be girding herself for another
struggle with Napoleon. But the attempt to borrow enough money for his
military equipment failed, and he found no sympathy or support on a
final visit to his family in Frankfort. In October, 1811, the
patriotic men who had been quietly preparing for the inevitable war of
liberation were horrified by the movement of the Prussian government
toward another alliance with Napoleon; and Kleist felt it impossible
to enter an army that might at any moment be ordered to support the
arch-enemy of his country. His case had become utterly hopeless.

At this juncture the unfortunate poet found what he had so often
sought in his crises of despair--a companion in suicide. Through Adam
Mueller he had become acquainted with Henrietta Vogel, an intelligent
woman of romantic temperament, who was doomed by an incurable disease
to a life of suffering. She listened eagerly to Kleist's suggestions
of an escape together from the intolerable ills of life. The two drove
from Berlin to a solitary inn on the shore of the Wannsee, near
Potsdam; here Kleist wrote a touching farewell letter to his sister,
and, on the afternoon of November 21, 1811, after the most deliberate
preparations, the companions strolled into the silent pine woods,
where Kleist took Henrietta's life and then his own. In the same
lonely place his grave was dug, and here the greatest Prussian poet
lay forgotten, after the brief, though violent, sensation of his
tragic end; half a century elapsed before a Prussian prince set up a
simple granite monument to mark the grave. Ten years passed after
Kleist's death before his last great dramas, _Arminius_ and the
_Prince of Homburg_, were published, edited by the eminent poet and
critic Ludwig Tieck, who also brought out, in 1826, the first
collection of Kleist's works. Long before this time, the patriotic
uprising for which he had labored with desperate zeal in his later
works, had brought liberation to Germany; it was on the thirty-sixth
anniversary of Kleist's birth that Napoleon's power was shaken by the
decisive Battle of Leipzig.

Heinrich von Kleist was born into a generation that was dominated by
the spirit of Romanticism. Tieck and the Schlegels were a few years
older, Fouque was of the same age as he, and Arnim and Brentano
somewhat younger. His acquaintance was largely with the authors who
represented this tendency. In his own works, however, Kleist was
singularly independent of the romantic influence. This is the more
remarkable inasmuch as his character had many traits in common with
the ardent spirits of the Romantic group. His uncompromising
individualism and overweening ambition, his love of travel, his
enthusiastic acceptance of Rousseau's gospel of Nature, are
characteristically Romantic, and so, we may say, is his passionate
patriotism. Eccentricities he had in plenty; there was something
morbid in his excessive reserve, his exaggerated secretiveness about
the most important interests of his life, as there surely was in his
moroseness, which deepened at times into black despair. Goethe was
most unpleasantly impressed by this abnormal quality of Kleist's
personality, and said of the younger poet: "In spite of my honest
desire to sympathize with him, I could not avoid a feeling of horror
and loathing, as of a body beautifully endowed by nature, but infected
with an incurable disease." That this judgment was unduly harsh is
evident enough from the confidence and affection that Kleist inspired
in many of the best men of his time.

Whatever may have been Kleist's personal peculiarities, his works give
evidence of the finest artistic sanity and conscience. His acute sense
of literary form sets him off from the whole generation of
Romanticists, who held the author's personal caprice to be the supreme
law of poetry, and most of whose important works were either medleys
or fragments. He was his own severest critic, and labored over his
productions, as he did over his own education, with untiring energy
and intense concentration. A less scrupulous author would not have
destroyed the manuscript of _Robert Guiscard_ because he could not
keep throughout its action the splendid promise of the first act. His
works are usually marked by rare logical and artistic consistency.
Seldom is there any interruption of the unity and simple directness of
his actions by sub-plots or episodes, and he scorned the easy
theatrical devices by which the successful playwrights of his day
gained their effects. Whether in drama or story, his action grows
naturally out of the characters and the situations. Hence the
marvelous fact that his dramas can be performed with hardly an
alteration, though the author, never having seen any of them on the
stage, lacked the practical experience by which most dramatists learn
the technique of their art.

Kleist evidently studied the models of classical art with care. His
unerring sense of form, his artistic restraint in a day when caprice
was the ruling fashion, and the conciseness of his expression, are
doubtless due to classical influence. But, at the same time, he was an
innovator, one of the first forerunners of modern realism. He
describes and characterizes with careful, often microscopic detail;
his psychological analysis is remarkably exact and incisive; and he
fearlessly uses the ugly or the trivial when either better serves his

In all the varied volume of Kleist's works, there is very little that
is mediocre or negligible. The _Schroffenstein Family_, to be sure, is
prentice work, but it can bear comparison with the first plays of the
greatest dramatists. The fragment of _Robert Guiscard_ is masterly in
its rapid cumulative exposition, representing the hero, idolized by
his troops, as stricken with the plague when the crowning glory of his
military career seems to be within his grasp; while the discord
between Guiscard's son and nephew presages an irrepressible family
conflict. The style, as Wieland felt when he listened with rapture to
the author's recital, is a blend of classical and Elizabethan art. The
opening chorus of the people, the formal balanced speeches, the
analytical action, beginning on the verge of the catastrophe, are
traits borrowed from Greek tragedy. On the other hand, there is much
realistic characterization and a Shakespearian variety and freedom of
tone. _The Broken Jug_, too, is analytical in its conduct. Almost from
the first it is evident that Adam, the village judge, is himself the
culprit in the case at trial in his court, and the comic efforts of
the arch-rascal to squirm out of the inevitable discovery only serve
to make his guilt the surer. In this comedy the blank verse adapts
itself to all the turns of familiar humorous dialogue, and the effect
of the Dutch genre-paintings of Teniers or Jan Steen is admirably
reproduced in dramatic form. The slowly moving action, constantly
reverting to past incidents, makes a successful performance difficult;
the fate of this work on the stage has depended upon finding an actor
capable of bringing out all the possibilities in the part of Adam, who
is a masterpiece of comic self-characterization.

_Penthesilea_ is a work apart. Passionate, headlong, almost savage, is
the character of the queen of the Amazons, yet wonderfully sweet in
its gentler moods and glorified with the golden glow of high poetry.
Nothing could be further removed from the pseudo-classical manner of
the eighteenth century than this modern and individual interpretation
of the old mythical story of Penthesilea and Achilles, between whom
love breaks forth in the midst of mortal combat. The clash of passions
creates scenes in this drama that transcend the humanly and
dramatically permissible. Yet there is a wealth of imaginative beauty
and emotional melody in this tragedy beyond anything in Kleist's other
works. It was written with his heart's blood; in it he uttered all the
yearning and frenzy of his first passion for the unattainable and
ruined masterpiece _Guiscard_.

_Kitty of Heilbronn_ stands almost at the opposite pole from
_Penthesilea_. The pathos of Griselda's unquestioning self-abnegation
is her portion; she is the extreme expression of the docile quality
that Kleist sought in his betrothed. Instead of the fabled scenes of
Homeric combat, we have here as a setting the richly romantic and
colorful life of the age of chivalry. The form, too, is far freer and
more expansive, with an unconventional mingling of verse and prose.

The last two plays were born of the spirit that brought forth the War
of Liberation. In them Kleist gave undying expression to his ardent
patriotism; it was his deepest grief that these martial dramas were
not permitted to sound their trumpet-call to a humbled nation yearning
to be free. _Arminius_ is a great dramatized philippic. The ancient
Germanic chiefs Marbod and Arminius, representing in Kleist's
intention the Austria and Prussia of his day, are animated by one
common patriotic impulse, rising far above their mutual rivalries, to
cast off the hateful and oppressive yoke of Rome; and after the
decisive victory over Varus in the Teutoburg Forest, each of these
strong chiefs is ready in devoted self-denial to yield the primacy to
the other, in order that all Germans may stand together against the
common foe. _Prince Frederick of Homburg_ is a dramatic glorification
of the Prussian virtues of discipline and obedience. But the finely
drawn characters of this play are by no means rigid martinets. They
are largely, frankly, generously human, confessing the right of
feeling as well as reason to direct the will. Never has there been a
more sympathetic literary exposition of the soldierly character than
this last tribute of a devoted patriot to his beloved Brandenburg.

The narrative works of Kleist maintain the same high level as his
dramas. _Michael Kohlhaas_ is a good example of this excellent
narrative art, for which Kleist found no models in German literature.
Unity is a striking characteristic; the action can usually be summed
up in a few words, such as the formula for this story, given expressly
on its first page: "His sense of justice made him a robber and a
murderer." There is no leisurely exposition of time, place, or
situation; all the necessary elements are given concisely in the first
sentences. The action develops logically, with effective use of
retardation and climax, but without disturbing episodes; and the
reader is never permitted to forget the central theme. The descriptive
element is realistic, with only pertinent details swiftly presented,
often in parentheses, while the action moves on. The characterization
is skilfully indirect, through unconscious action and speech. The
author does not shun the trivial or even the repulsive in detail, nor
does he fear the most tragic catastrophes. He is scrupulously
objective, and, in an age of expansive lyric expression, he is most
chary of comment. The sentence structure, as in the dramas, is often
intricate, but never lax. The whole work in all its parts is firmly
and finely forged by a master workman.

Kleist has remained a solitary figure in German literature. Owing
little to the dominant literary influences of his day, he has also
found few imitators. Two generations passed before he began to come
into his heritage of legitimate fame. Now that a full century has
elapsed since his tragic death, his place is well assured among the
greatest dramatic and narrative authors of Germany. A brave man
struggling desperately against hopeless odds, a patriot expending his
genius with lavish unselfishness for the service of his country in her
darkest days, he has been found worthy by posterity to stand as the
most famous son of a faithful Prussian family of soldiers.


A Tale from an Old Chronicle


Toward the middle of the sixteenth century there lived on the banks of
the river Havel a horse-dealer by the name of Michael Kohlhaas, the
son of a school-master, one of the most upright and, at the same time,
one of the most terrible men of his day. Up to his thirtieth year this
extraordinary man would have been considered the model of a good
citizen. In a village which still bears his name, he owned a farmstead
on which he quietly supported himself by plying his trade. The
children with whom his wife presented him were brought up in the fear
of God, and taught to be industrious and honest; nor was there one
among his neighbors who had not enjoyed the benefit of his kindness or
his justice. In short, the world would have had every reason to bless
his memory if he had not carried to excess one virtue--his sense of
justice, which made of him a robber and a murderer.

He rode abroad once with a string of young horses, all well fed and
glossy-coated, and was turning over in his mind how he would employ
the profit that he hoped to make from them at the fairs; part of it,
as is the way with good managers, he would use to gain future profits,
but he would also spend part of it in the enjoyment of the present.
While thus engaged he reached the Elbe, and near a stately castle,
situated on Saxon territory, he came upon a toll-bar which he had
never found on this road before. Just in the midst of a heavy shower
he halted with his horses and called to the toll-gate keeper, who
soon after showed his surly face at the window. The horse-dealer told
him to open the gate. "What new arrangement is this?" he asked, when
the toll-gatherer, after some time, finally came out of the house.

"Seignorial privilege" answered the latter, unlocking the gate,
"conferred by the sovereign upon Squire Wenzel Tronka."

"Is that so?" queried Kohlhaas; "the Squire's name is now Wenzel?" and
gazed at the castle, the glittering battlements of which looked out
over the field. "Is the old gentleman dead?"

"Died of apoplexy," answered the gate keeper, as he raised the

"Hum! Too bad!" rejoined Kohlhaas. "An estimable old gentleman he was,
who liked to watch people come and go, and helped along trade and
traffic wherever he could. He once had a causeway built because a mare
of mine had broken her leg out there on the road leading to the
village. Well, how much is it?" he asked, and with some trouble got
out the few groschen demanded by the gate keeper from under his cloak,
which was fluttering in the wind. "Yes, old man," he added, picking up
the leading reins as the latter muttered "Quick, quick!" and cursed
the weather; "if this tree had remained standing in the forest it
would have been better for me and for you." With this he gave him the
money, and started to ride on.

He had hardly passed under the toll-bar, however, when a new voice
cried out from the tower behind him, "Stop there, horse-dealer!" and
he saw the castellan close a window and come hurrying down to him.
"Well, I wonder what he wants!" Kohlhaas asked himself, and halted
with his horses. Buttoning another waistcoat over his ample body, the
castellan came up to him and, standing with his back to the storm,
demanded his passport.

"My passport?" queried Kohlhaas. Somewhat disconcerted, he replied
that he had none, so far as he knew, but that, if some one would just
describe to him what in the name of goodness this was, perhaps he
might accidentally happen to have one about him. The castellan, eying
him askance, retorted that without an official permit no horse-dealer
was allowed to cross the border with horses. The horse-dealer assured
him that seventeen times in his life he had crossed the border without
such a permit; that he was well acquainted with all the official
regulations which applied to his trade; that this would probably prove
to be only a mistake; the castellan would please consider the matter
and, since he had a long day's journey before him, not detain him here
unnecessarily any longer. But the castellan answered that he was not
going to slip through the eighteenth time, that the ordinance
concerning this matter had been only recently issued, and that he must
either procure the passport here or go back to the place from which he
had come. After a moment's reflection, the horse-dealer, who was
beginning to feel bitter, got down from his horse, turned it over to a
groom, and said that he would speak to Squire Tronka himself on the
subject. He really did walk toward the castle; the castellan followed
him, muttering something about niggardly money-grubbers, and what a
good thing it was to bleed them; and, measuring each other with their
glances, the two entered the castle-hall.

It happened that the Squire was sitting over his wine with some merry
friends, and a joke had caused them all to break into uproarious
laughter just as Kohlhaas approached him to make his complaint. The
Squire asked what he wanted; the young nobles, at sight of the
stranger, became silent; but no sooner had the latter broached his
request concerning the horses, than the whole group cried out,
"Horses! Where are they?" and hurried over to the window to look at
them. When they saw the glossy string, they all followed the
suggestion of the Squire and flew down into the courtyard. The rain
had ceased; the castellan, the steward, and the servant gathered round
them and all scanned the horses. One praised a bright bay with a
white star on its forehead, another preferred a chestnut, a third
patted the dappled horse with tawny spots; and all were of the opinion
that the horses were like deer, and that no finer were raised in the
country. Kohlhaas answered cheerily that the horses were no better
than the knights who were to ride them, and invited the men to buy.
The Squire, who eagerly desired the big bay stallion, went so far as
to ask its price, and the steward urged him to buy a pair of black
horses, which he thought he could use on the farm, as they were short
of horses. But when the horse-dealer had named his price the young
knights thought it too high, and the Squire said that Kohlhaas would
have to ride in search of the Round Table and King Arthur if he put
such a high value on his horses. Kohlhaas noticed that the castellan
and the steward were whispering together and casting significant
glances at the black horses the while, and, moved by a vague
presentiment, made every effort to sell them the horses. He said to
the Squire, "Sir, I bought those black horses six months ago for
twenty-five gold gulden; give me thirty and you shall have them." Two
of the young noblemen who were standing beside the Squire declared
quite audibly that the horses were probably worth that much; but the
Squire said that while he might be willing to pay out money for the
bay stallion he really should hardly care to do so for the pair of
blacks, and prepared to go in. Whereupon Kohlhaas, saying that the
next time he came that way with his horses they might perhaps strike a
bargain, took leave of the Squire and, seizing the reins of his horse,
started to ride away.

At this moment the castellan stepped forth from the crowd and reminded
him that he would not be allowed to leave without a passport. Kohlhaas
turned around and inquired of the Squire whether this statement, which
meant the ruin of his whole trade, were indeed correct. The Squire, as
he went off, answered with an embarrassed air, "Yes, Kohlhaas, you
must get a passport. Speak to the castellan about it, and go your
way." Kohlhaas assured him that he had not the least intention of
evading the ordinances which might be in force concerning the
exportation of horses. He promised that when he went through Dresden
he would take out the passport at the chancery, and begged to be
allowed to go on, this time, as he had known nothing whatever about
this requirement. "Well!" said the Squire, as the storm at that moment
began to rage again and the wind blustered about his scrawny legs;
"let the wretch go. Come!" he added to the young knights, and, turning
around, started toward the door. The castellan, facing about toward
the Squire, said that Kohlhaas must at least leave behind some pledge
as security that he would obtain the passport. The Squire stopped
again under the castle gate. Kohlhaas asked how much security for the
black horses in money or in articles of value he would be expected to
leave. The steward muttered in his beard that he might just as well
leave the blacks themselves.

"To be sure," said the castellan; "that is the best plan; as soon as
he has taken out the passport he can come and get them again at any
time." Kohlhaas, amazed at such a shameless demand, told the Squire,
who was holding the skirts of his doublet about him for warmth, that
what he wanted to do was to sell the blacks; but as a gust of wind
just then blew a torrent of rain and hail through the gate, the
Squire, in order to put an end to the matter, called out, "If he won't
give up the horses, throw him back again over the toll-bar;" and with
that he went off.

The horse-dealer, who saw clearly that on this occasion he would have
to yield to superior force, made up his mind to comply with the
demand, since there really was no other way out of it. He unhitched
the black horses and led them into a stable which the castellan
pointed out to him. He left a groom in charge of them, provided him
with money, warned him to take good care of the horses until he came
back, and with the rest of the string continued his journey to
Leipzig, where he purposed to go to the fair. As he rode along he
wondered, in half uncertainty, whether after all such a law might not
have been passed in Saxony for the protection of the newly started
industry of horse-raising.

On his arrival in Dresden, where, in one of the suburbs of the city,
he owned a house and stable--this being the headquarters from which he
usually conducted his business at the smaller fairs around the
country--he went immediately to the chancery. And here he learned from
the councilors, some of whom he knew, that indeed, as his first
instinct had already told him, the story of the passport was only made
up. At Kohlhaas's request, the annoyed councilors gave him a written
certificate of its baselessness, and the horse-dealer smiled at the
lean Squire's joke, although he did not quite see what purpose he
could have had in view. A few weeks later, having sold to his
satisfaction the string of horses he had with him, Kohlhaas returned
to Tronka Castle harboring no other resentment save that caused by the
general misery of the world.

The castellan, to whom he showed the certificate, made no comment upon
it, and to the horse-dealer's question as to whether he could now have
his horses back, replied that he need only go down to the stable and
get them. But even while crossing the courtyard, Kohlhaas learned with
dismay that for alleged insolence his groom had been cudgeled and
dismissed in disgrace a few days after being left behind at Tronka
Castle. Of the boy who informed him of this he inquired what in the
world the groom had done, and who had taken care of the horses in the
mean time; to this the boy answered that he did not know, and then
opened to the horse-dealer, whose heart was already full of
misgivings, the door of the stable in which the horses stood. How
great, though, was his astonishment when, instead of his two glossy,
well-fed blacks, he spied a pair of lean, worn-out jades, with bones
on which one could have hung things as if on pegs, and with mane and
hair matted together from lack of care and attention--in short, the
very picture of utter misery in the animal kingdom! Kohlhaas, at the
sight of whom the horses neighed and moved feebly, was extremely
indignant, and asked what had happened to his horses. The boy, who was
standing beside him, answered that they had not suffered any harm, and
that they had had proper feed too, but, as it had been harvest time,
they had been used a bit in the fields because there weren't draught
animals enough. Kohlhaas cursed over the shameful, preconcerted
outrage; but realizing that he was powerless he suppressed his rage,
and, as no other course lay open to him, was preparing to leave this
den of thieves again with his horses when the castellan, attracted by
the altercation, appeared and asked what was the matter.

"What's the matter?" echoed Kohlhaas. "Who gave Squire Tronka and his
people permission to use for work in the fields the black horses that
I left behind with him?" He added, "Do you call that humane?" and
trying to rouse the exhausted nags with a switch, he showed him that
they did not move. The castellan, after he had watched him for a while
with an expression of defiance, broke out, "Look at the ruffian! Ought
not the churl to thank God that the jades are still alive?" He asked
who would have been expected to take care of them when the groom had
run away, and whether it were not just that the horses should have
worked in the fields for their feed. He concluded by saying that
Kohlhaas had better not make a rumpus or he would call the dogs and
with them would manage to restore order in the courtyard.

The horse-dealer's heart thumped against his doublet. He felt a strong
desire to throw the good-for-nothing, pot-bellied scoundrel into the
mud and set his foot on his copper-colored face. But his sense of
justice, which was as delicate as a gold-balance, still wavered; he
was not yet quite sure before the bar of his own conscience whether
his adversary were really guilty of a crime. And so, swallowing the
abusive words and going over to the horses, he silently pondered the
circumstances while arranging their manes, and asked in a subdued
voice for what fault the groom had been turned out of the castle. The
castellan replied, "Because the rascal was insolent in the courtyard;
because he opposed a necessary change of stables and demanded that the
horses of two young noblemen, who came to the castle, should, for the
sake of his nags, be left out on the open high-road over night."

Kohlhaas would have given the value of the horses if he could have had
the groom at hand to compare his statement with that of this
thick-lipped castellan. He was still standing, straightening the
tangled manes of the black horses, and wondering what could be done in
the situation in which he found himself, when suddenly the scene
changed, and Squire Wenzel Tronka, returning from hare-hunting, dashed
into the courtyard, followed by a swarm of knights, grooms, and dogs.
The castellan, when asked what had happened, immediately began to
speak, and while, on the one hand, the dogs set up a murderous howl at
the sight of the stranger, and, on the other, the knights sought to
quiet them, he gave the Squire a maliciously garbled account of the
turmoil the horse-dealer was making because his black horses had been
used a little. He said, with a scornful laugh, that the horse-dealer
refused to recognize the horses as his own.

Kohlhaas cried, "Your worship, those are not my horses. Those are not
the horses which were worth thirty gold gulden! I want my well-fed,
sound horses back again!"

The Squire, whose face grew momentarily pale, got down from his horse
and said, "If the d----d scoundrel doesn't want to take the horses
back, let him leave them here. Come, Gunther!" he called; "Hans,
come!" He brushed the dust off his breeches with his hand and, just as
he reached the door with the young knights, called "Bring wine!" and
strode into the house.

Kohlhaas said that he would rather call the knacker and have his
horses thrown into the carrion pit than lead them back, in that
condition, to his stable at Kohlhaasenbrueck. Without bothering himself
further about the nags, he left them standing where they were, and,
declaring that he should know how to get his rights, mounted his bay
horse and rode away.

He was already galloping at full speed on the road to Dresden when, at
the thought of the groom and of the complaint which had been made
against him at the castle, he slowed down to a walk, and, before he
had gone a thousand paces farther, turned his horse around again and
took the road toward Kohlhaasenbrueck, in order, as seemed to him wise
and just, to hear first what the groom had to say. For in spite of the
injuries he had suffered, a correct instinct, already familiar with
the imperfect organization of the world, inclined him to put up with
the loss of the horses and to regard it as a just consequence of the
groom's misconduct in case there really could be imputed to the latter
any such fault as the castellan charged. On the other hand, an equally
admirable feeling took deeper and deeper root the farther he rode,
hearing at every stop of the outrages perpetrated daily upon travelers
at Tronka Castle; this instinct told him that if, as seemed probable,
the whole incident proved to be a preconcerted plot, it was his duty
to the world to make every effort to obtain for himself satisfaction
for the injury suffered, and for his fellow-countrymen a guarantee
against similar injuries in the future.

On his arrival at Kohlhaasenbrueck, as soon as he had embraced his
faithful wife Lisbeth and had kissed his children, who were shouting
joyfully about his knees, he asked at once after Herse, the head
groom, and whether anything had been heard from him. Lisbeth answered,
"Oh yes, dearest Michael--that Herse! Just think! The poor fellow
arrived here about a fortnight ago, most pitifully bruised and beaten;
really, he was so battered that he couldn't even breathe freely. We
put him to bed, where he kept coughing up blood, and after repeated
questions we heard a story that no one could understand. He told us
that you had left him at Tronka Castle in charge of some horses which
they would not allow to pass through there, that by the most shameful
maltreatment he had been forced to leave the castle, and that it had
been impossible for him to bring the horses with him."

"Really!" exclaimed Kohlhaas, taking off his cloak. "I suppose he has
recovered before this?"

"Pretty well, except that he still coughs blood," she answered. "I
wanted to send another groom at once to Tronka Castle so as to have
the horses taken care of until you got back there; for as Herse has
always shown himself truthful and, indeed, more faithful to us than
any other has ever been, I felt I had no right to doubt his statement,
especially when confirmed by so many bruises, or to think that perhaps
he had lost the horses in some other way. He implored me, however, not
to require any one to go to that robber's nest, but to give the
animals up if I didn't wish to sacrifice a man's life for them."

"And is he still abed?" asked Kohlhaas, taking off his neckcloth.

"He's been going about in the yard again for several days now," she
answered. "In short, you will see for yourself," she continued, "that
it's all quite true and that this incident is merely another one of
those outrages that have been committed of late against strangers at
Tronka Castle."

"I must first investigate that," answered Kohlhaas. "Call him in here,
Lisbeth, if he is up and about." With these words he sat down in the
arm-chair and his wife, delighted at his calmness, went and fetched
the groom.

"What did you do at Tronka Castle," asked Kohlhaas, as Lisbeth entered
the room with him. "I am not very well pleased with you."

On the groom's pale face spots of red appeared at these words. He was
silent for a while--then he answered, "You are right there, Sir; for a
sulphur cord, which by the will of Providence I was carrying in my
pocket so as to set fire to the robber's nest from which I had been
driven, I threw into the Elbe when I heard a child crying inside the
castle, and I thought to myself, 'Let God's lightning burn it down; I
will not!'"

Kohlhaas was disconcerted. "But for what cause were you driven from
the castle?" he asked.

To this Herse answered, "Something very wrong, Sir," and wiped the
perspiration from his forehead. "What is done, however, can't be
undone. I wouldn't let the horses be worked to death in the fields,
and so I said that they were still young and had never been in

Kohlhaas, trying to hide his perplexity, answered that he had not told
the exact truth, as the horses had been in harness for a little while
in the early part of the previous spring. "As you were a sort of guest
at the castle," he continued, "you really might have been obliging
once or twice whenever they happened not to have horses enough to get
the crops in as fast as they wished."

"I did so, Sir," said Herse. "I thought, as long as they looked so
sulky about it, that it wouldn't hurt the blacks for once, and so on
the third afternoon I hitched them in front of the others and brought
in three wagon-loads of grain from the fields."

Kohlhaas, whose heart was thumping, looked down at the ground and
said, "They told me nothing about that, Herse!"

Herse assured him that it was so. "I wasn't disobliging save in my
refusal to harness up the horses again when they had hardly eaten
their fill at midday; then too, when the castellan and the steward
offered to give me free fodder if I would do it, telling me to pocket
the money that you had left with me to pay for feed, I answered that I
would do something they didn't bargain for, turned around, and left

"But surely it was not for that disobliging act that you were driven
away from the castle," said Kohlhaas.

"Mercy, no!" cried the groom. "It was because of a very wicked crime!
For the horses of two knights who came to the castle were put into
the stable for the night and mine were tied to the stable door. And
when I took the blacks from the castellan, who was putting the
knights' horses into my stable, and asked where my animals were to go,
he showed me a pigsty built of laths and boards against the castle

"You mean," interrupted Kohlhaas, "that it was such a poor shelter for
horses that it was more like a pigsty than a stable?"

"It was a pigsty, Sir," answered Herse; "really and truly a pigsty,
with the pigs running in and out; I couldn't stand upright in it."

"Perhaps there was no other shelter to be found for the blacks,"
Kohlhaas rejoined; "and of course, in a way, the knights' horses had
the right to better quarters."

"There wasn't much room," answered the groom, dropping his voice.
"Counting these two, there were, in all, seven knights lodging at the
castle. If it had been you, you would have had the horses moved closer
together. I said I would try to rent a stable in the village, but the
castellan objected that he had to keep the horses under his own eyes
and told me not to dare to take them away from the courtyard."

"Hum!" said Kohlhaas. "What did you say to that?"

"As the steward said the two guests were only going to spend the night
and continue on their way the next morning, I led the two horses into
the pigsty. But the following day passed and they did not go, and on
the third it was said the gentlemen were going to stay some weeks
longer at the castle."

"After all, it was not so bad, Herse, in the pigsty, as it seemed to
you when you first stuck your nose into it," said Kohlhaas.

"That's true," answered the groom. "After I had swept the place out a
little, it wasn't so bad! I gave a groschen to the maid to have her
put the pigs somewhere else; and by taking the boards from the
roof-bars at dawn and laying them on again at night, I managed to
arrange it so that the horses could stand upright in the daytime. So
there they stood like geese in a coop, and stuck their heads through
the roof, looking around for Kohlhaasenbrueck or some other place where
they would be better off."

"Well then," said Kohlhaas, "why in the world did they drive you

"Sir, I'll tell you," answered the groom, "it was because they wanted
to get rid of me, since, as long as I was there, they could not work
the horses to death. Everywhere, in the yard, in the servants' hall,
they made faces at me, and because I thought to myself, 'You can draw
your jaws down until you dislocate them, for all I care,' they picked
a quarrel and threw me out of the courtyard."

"But what provoked them?" cried Kohlhaas; "they must have had some
sort of provocation!"

"Oh, to be sure," answered Herse; "the best imaginable! On the evening
of the second day spent in the pigsty, I took the horses, which had
become dirty in spite of my efforts, and started to ride them down to
the horse-pond. When I reached the castle-gate and was just about to
turn, I heard the castellan and the steward, with servants, dogs and
cudgels, rushing out of the servants' hall after me and calling, 'Stop
thief! Stop gallows-bird!' as if they were possessed. The gate-keeper
stepped in front of me, and when I asked him and the raving crowd that
was running at me, 'What in the world is the matter?'--'What's the
matter!' answered the castellan, seizing my two black horses by the
bridle. 'Where are you going with the horses?' he asked, and seized me
by the chest. 'Where am I going?' I repeated. 'Thunder and lightning!
I am riding down to the horse-pond. Do you think that I--?'--'To the
horse-pond!' cried the castellan. 'I'll teach you, you swindler, to
swim along the highroad back to Kohlhaasenbrueck!' And with a spiteful,
vicious jerk he and the steward, who had caught me by the leg, hurled
me down from the horse so that I measured my full length in the mud.
'Murder! Help!' I cried; 'breast straps and blankets and a bundle of
linen belonging to me are in the stable.' But while the steward led
the horses away, the castellan and servants fell upon me with their
feet and whips and cudgels, so that I sank down behind the castle-gate
half dead. And when I cried, 'The thieves! Where are they taking my
horses?' and got to my feet--'Out of the courtyard with you!' screamed
the castellan, 'Sick him, Caesar! Sick him, Hunter!' and, 'Sick him,
Spitz!' he called, and a pack of more than twelve dogs rushed at me.
Then I tore something from the fence, possibly a picket, and stretched
out three dogs dead beside me! But when I had to give way because I
was suffering from fearful wounds and bites, I heard a shrill whistle;
the dogs scurried into the yard, the gates were swung shut and the
bolt shot into position, and I sank down on the highroad unconscious."

Kohlhaas, white in the face, said with forced jocularity, "Didn't you
really want to escape, Herse?" And as the latter, with a deep blush,
looked down at the ground--"Confess to me!" said he; "You didn't like
it in the pigsty; you thought to yourself, you would rather be in the
stable at Kohlhaasenbrueck, after all!"

"Od's thunder!" cried Herse; "breast strap and blankets I tell you,
and a bundle of linen I left behind in the pigsty. Wouldn't I have
taken along three gold gulden that I had wrapped in a red silk
neckcloth and hidden away behind the manger? Blazes, hell, and the
devil! When you talk like that, I'd like to relight at once the
sulphur cord I threw away!"

"There, there!" said the horse-dealer, "I really meant no harm. What
you have said--see here, I believe it word for word, and when the
matter comes up, I am ready to take the Holy Communion myself as to
its truth. I am sorry that you have not fared better in my service.
Go, Herse, go back to bed. Have them bring you a bottle of wine and
make yourself comfortable; you shall have justice done you!" With
that he stood up, made out a list of the things which the head groom
had left behind in the pigsty, jotted down the value of each, asked
him how high he estimated the cost of his medical treatment, and sent
him from the room after shaking hands with him once more.

Thereupon he recounted to Lisbeth, his wife, the whole course of the
affair, explained the true relation of events, and declared to her
that he was determined to demand public justice for himself. He had
the satisfaction of finding that she heartily approved his purpose,
for, she said, many other travelers, perhaps less patient than he,
would pass by the castle, and it was doing God's work to put a stop to
disorders such as these. She added that she would manage to get
together the money to pay the expenses of the lawsuit. Kohlhaas called
her his brave wife, spent that day and the next very happily with her
and the children, and, as soon as his business would at all permit it,
set out for Dresden in order to lay his suit before the court.

Here, with the help of a lawyer whom he knew, he drew up a complaint,
in which, after giving a detailed account of the outrage which Squire
Wenzel Tronka had committed against him and against his groom Herse,
he petitioned for the lawful punishment of the former, restoration of
the horses to their original condition, and compensation for the
damages which he and his groom had sustained. His case was indeed
perfectly clear. The fact that the horses had been detained contrary
to law threw a decisive light on everything else; and even had one
been willing to assume that they had sickened by sheer accident, the
demand of the horse-dealer to have them returned to him in sound
condition would still have been just. While looking about him in the
capital, Kohlhaas had no lack of friends, either, who promised to give
his case lively support. His extensive trade in horses had secured him
the acquaintance of the most important men of the country, and the
honesty with which he conducted his business had won him their good

Kohlhaas dined cheerfully several times with his lawyer, who was
himself a man of consequence, left a sum of money with him to defray
the costs of the lawsuit and, fully reassured by the latter as to the
outcome of the case, returned, after the lapse of some weeks, to his
wife Lisbeth in Kohlhaasenbrueck.

Nevertheless months passed, and the year was nearing its close before
he received even a statement from Saxony concerning the suit which he
had instituted there, let alone the final decree itself. After he had
applied several times more to the court, he sent a confidential letter
to his lawyer asking what was the cause of such undue delay. He was
told in reply that the suit had been dismissed in the Dresden courts
at the instance of an influential person. To the astonished reply of
the horse-dealer asking what was the reason of this, the lawyer
informed him that Squire Wenzel Tronka was related to two young
noblemen, Hinz and Kunz Tronka, one of whom was Cup-bearer to the
person of the sovereign, and the other actually Chamberlain. He also
advised Kohlhaas not to make any further appeal to the court of law,
but to try to regain possession of his horses which were still at
Tronka Castle, giving him to understand that the Squire, who was then
stopping in the capital, seemed to have ordered his people to deliver
them to him. He closed with a request to excuse him from executing any
further commissions in the matter, in case Kohlhaas refused to be
content with this.

At this time Kohlhaas happened to be in Brandenburg, where the City
Governor, Heinrich von Geusau, to whose jurisdiction Kohlhaasenbrueck
belonged, was busy establishing several charitable institutions for
the sick and the poor out of a considerable fund which had fallen to
the city. He was especially interested in fitting up, for the benefit
of invalids, a mineral spring which rose in one of the villages in the
vicinity, and which was thought to have greater powers than it
subsequently proved to possess. As Kohlhaas had had numerous dealings
with him at the time of his sojourn at Court and was therefore known
to him, he allowed Herse, the head groom, who, ever since that unlucky
day in Tronka Castle, had suffered pains in the chest when he
breathed, to try the effect of the little healing spring, which had
been inclosed and roofed over.

It so happened that the City Governor was just giving some directions,
as he stood beside the depression in which Kohlhaas had placed Herse,
when a messenger, whom the horse-dealer's wife had sent on after him,
put in his hands the disheartening letter from his lawyer in Dresden.
The City Governor, who, while speaking with the doctor, noticed that
Kohlhaas let a tear fall on the letter he had just read, approached
him and, in a friendly, cordial way, asked him what misfortune had
befallen him. The horse-dealer handed him the letter without
answering. The worthy Governor, knowing the abominable injustice done
him at Tronka Castle as a result of which Herse was lying there before
him sick, perhaps never to recover, clapped Kohlhaas on the shoulder
and told him not to lose courage, for he would help him secure
justice. In the evening, when the horse-dealer, acting upon his
orders, came to the palace to see him, Kohlhaas was told that what he
should do was to draw up a petition to the Elector of Brandenburg,
with a short account of the incident, to inclose the lawyer's letter,
and, on account of the violence which had been committed against him
on Saxon territory, solicit the protection of the sovereign. He
promised him to see that the petition would be delivered into the
hands of the Elector together with another packet that was all ready
to be dispatched; if circumstances permitted, the latter would,
without fail, approach the Elector of Saxony on his behalf. Such a
step would be quite sufficient to secure Kohlhaas justice at the hand
of the tribunal at Dresden, in spite of the arts of the Squire and his
partisans. Kohlhaas, much delighted, thanked the Governor very
heartily for this new proof of his good will, and said he was only
sorry that he had not instituted proceedings at once in Berlin without
taking any steps in the matter at Dresden. After he had made out the
complaint in due form at the office of the municipal court and
delivered it to the Governor, he returned to Kohlhaasenbrueck, more
encouraged than ever about the outcome of his affair.

After only a few weeks, however, he was grieved to learn from a
magistrate who had gone to Potsdam on business for the City Governor,
that the Elector had handed the petition over to his Chancellor, Count
Kallheim, and that the latter, instead of taking the course most
likely to produce results and petitioning the Court at Dresden
directly for investigation and punishment of the outrage, had, as a
preliminary, applied to the Squire Tronka for further information.

The magistrate, who had stopped in his carriage outside of Kohlhaas'
house and seemed to have been instructed to deliver this message to
the horse-dealer, could give the latter no satisfactory answer to his
perplexed question as to why this step had been taken. He was
apparently in a hurry to continue his journey, and merely added that
the Governor sent Kohhlhaas word to be patient. Not until the very end
of the short interview did the horse-dealer divine from some casual
words he let fall, that Count Kallheim was related by marriage to the
house of Tronka.

Kohlhaas, who no longer took any pleasure either in his
horse-breeding, or his house or his farm, scarcely even in his wife
and children, waited all the next month, full of gloomy forebodings as
to the future. And, just as he had expected at the expiration of this
time, Herse, somewhat benefited by the baths, came back from
Brandenburg bringing a rather lengthy decree and a letter from the
City Governor. The latter ran as follows: He was sorry that he could
do nothing in Kohlhaas' behalf; he was sending him a decision from the
Chancery of State and he advised him to fetch away the horses that he
had left behind at the Tronka Castle, and then to let the matter drop.

The decree read as follows: "According to the report of the tribunal
at Dresden, he was a good-for-nothing, quarrelsome person; the Squire
with whom he had left the horses was not keeping them from him in any
way; let him send to the castle and take them away, or at least inform
the Squire where to send them to him; in any case he should not
trouble the Chancery of the State with such petty quarrels and

Kohlhaas, who was not concerned about the horses themselves--he would
have felt just as much pain if it had been a question of a couple of
dogs--Kohlhaas foamed with rage when he received this letter. As often
as he heard a noise in the courtyard he looked toward the gateway with
the most revolting feelings of anticipation that had ever agitated his
breast, to see whether the servants of the Squire had come to restore
to him, perhaps even with an apology, the starved and worn-out horses.
This was the only situation which he felt that his soul, well
disciplined though it had been by the world, was not prepared to meet.

A short time after, however, he heard from an acquaintance who had
traveled that road, that at Tronka Castle his horses were still being
used for work in the fields exactly like the Squire's other horses.
Through the midst of the pain caused by beholding the world in a state
of such monstrous disorder, shot the inward satisfaction of knowing
that from henceforth he would be at peace with himself.

He invited a bailiff, who was his neighbor, to come to see him. The
latter had long cherished the idea of enlarging his estate by
purchasing the property which adjoined it. When he had seated himself
Kohlhaas asked him how much he would give for his possessions on
Brandenburg and Saxon territory, for house and farm, in a lump,
immovable or not.

Lisbeth, his wife, grew pale when she heard his words. She turned
around and picked up her youngest child who was playing on the floor
behind her. While the child pulled at her kerchief, she darted glances
of mortal terror past the little one's red cheeks, at the
horse-dealer, and at a paper which he held in his hand.

The bailiff stared at his neighbor in astonishment and asked him what
had suddenly given him such strange ideas; to which the horse-dealer,
with as much gaiety as he could muster, replied that the idea of
selling his farm on the banks of the Havel was not an entirely new
one, but that they had often before discussed the subject together. As
for his house in the outskirts of Dresden--in comparison with the farm
it was only a tag end and need not be taken into consideration. In
short, if the bailiff would do as he wished and take over both pieces
of property, he was ready to close the contract with him. He added
with rather forced pleasantry that Kohlhaasenbrueck was not the world;
that there might be objects in life compared with which that of taking
care of his home and family as a father is supposed to would be a
secondary and unworthy one. In a word, he must tell him that his soul
was intent upon accomplishing great things, of which, perhaps, he
would hear shortly. The bailiff, reassured by these words, said
jokingly to Kohlhaas' wife, who was kissing her child repeatedly,
"Surely he will not insist upon being paid immediately!" Then he laid
his hat and cane, which he had been holding between his knees, on the
table, and taking the paper, which the horse-dealer was holding in his
hand, began to read. Kohlhaas, moving closer to him, explained that it
was a contingent contract to purchase, drawn up by himself, his right
to cancel the contract expiring in four weeks. He showed the bailiff
that nothing was wanting but the signatures, the insertion of the
purchase-price itself, and the amount of the forfeit that he,
Kohlhaas, would agree to pay in case he should withdraw from the
contract within the four weeks' time. Again Kohlhaas gaily urged his
friend to make an offer, assuring him that he would be reasonable and
would make the conditions easy for him. His wife was walking up and
down the room; she breathed so hard that the kerchief, at which the
boy had been pulling, threatened to fall clear off her shoulder. The
bailiff said that he really had no way of judging the value of the
property in Dresden; whereupon Kohlhaas, shoving toward him some
letters which had been exchanged at the time of its purchase, answered
that he estimated it at one hundred gold gulden, although the letters
would show that it had cost him almost half as much again. The bailiff
who, on reading the deed of sale, found that, strangely enough, he too
was guaranteed the privilege of withdrawing from the bargain, had
already half made up his mind; but he said that, of course, he could
make no use of the stud-horses which were in the stables. When
Kohlhaas replied that he wasn't at all inclined to part with the
horses either, and that he also desired to keep for himself some
weapons which were hanging in the armory, the bailiff still continued
to hesitate for some time. At last he repeated an offer that, once
before, when they were out walking together, he had made him, half in
jest and half in earnest--a trifling offer indeed, in comparison with
the value of the property. Kohlhaas pushed the pen and ink over for
him to sign, and when the bailiff, who could not believe his senses,
again inquired if he were really in earnest, and the horse-dealer
asked, a little sensitively, whether he thought that he was only
jesting with him, then took up the pen, though with a very serious
face, and wrote. However, he crossed out the clause concerning the sum
to be forfeited in case the seller should repent of the transaction,
bound himself to a loan of one hundred gold gulden on a mortgage on
the Dresden property, which he absolutely refused to buy outright, and
allowed Kohlhaas full liberty to withdraw from the transaction at any
time within two months.

The horse-dealer, touched by this conduct, shook his hand with great
cordiality, and after they had furthermore agreed on the principal
conditions, to the effect that a fourth part of the purchase-price
should without fail be paid immediately in cash, and the balance paid
into the Hamburg bank in three months' time, Kohlhaas called for wine
in order to celebrate such a happy conclusion of the bargain. He told
the maid-servant who entered with the bottles, to order Sternbald,
the groom, to saddle the chestnut horse for him, as he had to ride to
the capital, where he had some business to attend to. He gave them to
understand that, in a short time, when he returned, he would talk more
frankly concerning what he must for the present continue to keep to
himself. As he poured out the wine into the glasses, he asked about
the Poles and the Turks who were just then at war, and involved the
bailiff in many political conjectures on the subject; then, after
finally drinking once more to the success of their business, he
allowed the latter to depart.

When the bailiff had left the room, Lisbeth fell down on her knees
before her husband. "If you have any affection for me," she cried,
"and for the children whom I have borne you; if you have not already,
for what reason I know not, cast us out from your heart, then tell me
what these horrible preparations mean!"

Kohlhaas answered, "Dearest wife, they mean nothing which need cause
you any alarm, as matters stand at present. I have received a decree
in which I am told that my complaint against the Squire Wenzel Tronka
is a piece of impertinent mischief-making. As there must exist some
misunderstanding in this matter, I have made up my mind to present my
complaint once more, this time in person, to the sovereign himself."

"But why will you sell your house?" she cried, rising with a look of

The horse-dealer, clasping her tenderly to his breast, answered,
"Because, dear Lisbeth, I do not care to remain in a country where
they will not protect me in my rights. If I am to be kicked I would
rather be a dog than a man! I am sure that my wife thinks about this
just as I do."

"How do you know," she asked wildly, "that they will not protect you
in your rights? If, as is becoming, you approach the Elector humbly
with your petition, how do you know that it will be thrown aside or
answered by a refusal to listen to you?"

"Very well!" answered Kohlhaas; "if my fears on the subject are
unfounded, my house isn't sold yet, either. The Elector himself is
just, I know, and if I can only succeed in getting past those who
surround him and in reaching his person, I do not doubt that I shall
secure justice, and that, before the week is out, I shall return
joyfully home again to you and my old trade. In that case I would
gladly stay with you," he added, kissing her, "until the end of my
life! But it is advisable," he continued, "to be prepared for any
emergency, and for that reason I should like you, if it is possible,
to go away for a while with the children to your aunt in Schwerin,
whom, moreover, you have, for some time, been intending to visit!"

"What!" cried the housewife; "I am to go to Schwerin--to go across the
frontier with the children to my aunt in Schwerin?" Terror choked her

"Certainly," answered Kohlhaas, "and, if possible, right away, so that
I may not be hindered by any family considerations in the steps I
intend to take in my suit."

"Oh, I understand you!" she cried. "You now need nothing but weapons
and horses; whoever will may take everything else!" With this she
turned away and, in tears, flung herself down on a chair.

Kohlhaas exclaimed in alarm, "Dearest Lisbeth, what are you doing? God
has blessed me with wife and children and worldly goods; am I today
for the first time to wish that it were otherwise?" He sat down gently
beside his wife, who at these words had flushed up and fallen on his
neck. "Tell me!" said he, smoothing the curls away from her forehead.
"What shall I do? Shall I give up my case? Do you wish me to go to
Tronka Castle, beg the knight to restore the horses to me, mount and
ride them back home?"

Lisbeth did not dare to cry out, "Yes, yes, yes!" She shook her head,
weeping, and, clasping him close, kissed him passionately.

"Well, then," cried Kohlhaas, "if you feel that, in case I am to
continue my trade, justice must be done me, do not deny me the liberty
which I must have in order to procure it!"

With that he stood up and said to the groom who had come to tell him
that the chestnut horse was saddled, "To-morrow the bay horses must
be harnessed up to take my wife to Schwerin." Lisbeth said that she
had an idea! She rose, wiped the tears from her eyes, and, going over
to the desk where he had seated himself, asked him if he would give
her the petition and let her go to Berlin in his stead and hand it to
the Elector. For more reasons than one Kohlhaas was deeply moved by
this change of attitude. He drew her down on his lap, and said,
"Dearest wife, that is hardly practicable. The sovereign is surrounded
by a great many people; whoever wishes to approach him is exposed to
many annoyances."

Lisbeth rejoined that, in a thousand cases, it was easier for a woman
to approach him than it was for a man. "Give me the petition," she
repeated, "and if all that you wish is the assurance that it shall
reach his hands, I vouch for it; he shall receive it!"

Kohlhaas, who had had many proofs of her courage as well as of her
wisdom, asked her how she intended to go about it. To this she
answered, looking shamefacedly at the ground, that the castellan of
the Elector's palace had paid court to her in former days, when he had
been in service in Schwerin; that, to be sure, he was married now and
had several children, but that she was not yet entirely forgotten,
and, in short, her husband should leave it to her to take advantage of
this circumstance as well as of many others which it would require too
much time to enumerate. Kohlhaas kissed her joyfully, said that he
accepted her proposal, and informed her that for her to lodge with the
wife of the castellan would be all that was necessary to enable her to
approach the sovereign inside the palace itself. Then he gave her the
petition, had the bay horses harnessed, and sent her off, well bundled
up, accompanied by Sternbald, his faithful groom.

Of all the unsuccessful steps, however, which he had taken in regard
to his suit, this journey was the most unfortunate. For only a few
days later Sternbald entered the courtyard again, leading the horses
at a walk before the wagon, in which lay his wife, stretched out, with
a dangerous contusion of the chest. Kohlhaas, who approached the wagon
with a white face, could learn nothing coherent concerning the cause
of the accident. The castellan, the groom said, had not been at home;
they had therefore been obliged to put up at an inn that stood near
the palace. Lisbeth had left this inn on the following morning,
ordering the servant to stay behind with the horses; not until evening
had she returned, and then only in this condition. It seemed she had
pressed forward too boldly toward the person of the sovereign, and
without any fault of his, but merely through the rough zeal of a
body-guard which surrounded him, she had received a blow on the chest
with the shaft of a lance. At least this was what the people said who,
toward evening, had brought her back unconscious to the inn; for she
herself could talk but little for the blood which flowed from her
mouth. The petition had been taken from her afterward by a knight.
Sternbald said that it had been his wish to jump on a horse at once
and bring the news of the unfortunate accident to his master, but, in
spite of the remonstrances of the surgeon who had been called in, she
had insisted on being taken back to her husband at Kohlhaasenbrueck
without previously sending him word. She was completely exhausted by
the journey and Kohlhaas put her to bed, where she lived a few days
longer, struggling painfully to draw breath.

They tried in vain to restore her to consciousness in order to learn
the particulars of what had occurred; she lay with fixed, already
glassy eyes, and gave no answer.

Once only, shortly before her death, did she recover consciousness. A
minister of the Lutheran church (which religion, then in its infancy,
she had embraced, following the example of her husband) was standing
beside her bed, reading in a loud solemn voice, full of emotion, a
chapter of the Bible, when she suddenly looked up at him with a stern
expression, and, taking the Bible out of his hand, as though there
were no need to read to her from it, turned over the leaves for some
time and seemed to be searching for some special passage. At last,
with her fore-finger she pointed out to Kohlhaas, who was sitting
beside her bed, the verse: "Forgive your enemies; do good to them that
hate you." As she did so she pressed his hand with a look full of deep
and tender feeling, and passed away.

Kohlhaas thought, "May God never forgive me the way I forgive the
Squire!" Then he kissed her amid freely flowing tears, closed her
eyes, and left the chamber.

He took the hundred gold gulden which the bailiff had already sent him
for the stables in Dresden, and ordered a funeral ceremony that seemed
more suitable for a princess than for her--an oaken coffin heavily
trimmed with metal, cushions of silk with gold and silver tassels, and
a grave eight yards deep lined with stones and mortar. He himself
stood beside the vault with his youngest child in his arms and watched
the work. On the day of the funeral the corpse, white as snow, was
placed in a room which he had had draped with black cloth.

The minister had just completed a touching address by the side of the
bier when the sovereign's answer to the petition which the dead woman
had presented was delivered to Kohlhaas. By this decree he was ordered
to fetch the horses from Tronka Castle and, under pain of
imprisonment, not to bring any further action in the matter. Kohlhaas
put the letter in his pocket and had the coffin carried out to the

As soon as the mound had been raised, the cross planted on it, and the
guests who had been present at the interment had taken their
departure, Kohlhaas flung himself down once more before his wife's
empty bed, and then set about the business of revenge.

He sat down and made out a decree in which, by virtue of his own
innate authority, he condemned the Squire Wenzel Tronka within the
space of three days after sight to lead back to Kohlhaasenbrueck the
two black horses which he had taken from him and over-worked in the
fields, and with his own hands to feed the horses in Kohlhaas' stables
until they were fat again. This decree he sent off to the Squire by a
mounted messenger, and instructed the latter to return to
Kohlhaasenbrueck as soon as he had delivered the document.

As the three days went by without the horses being returned, Kohlhaas
called Herse and informed him of what he had ordered the Squire to do
in regard to fattening them. Then he asked Herse two questions: first,
whether he would ride with him to Tronka Castle and fetch the Squire;
and, secondly, whether Herse would be willing to apply the whip to the
young gentleman after he had been brought to the stables at
Kohlhaasenbrueck, in case he should be remiss in carrying out the
conditions of the decree. As soon as Herse understood what was meant
he shouted joyfully--"Sir, this very day!" and, throwing his hat into
the air, he cried that he was going to have a thong with ten knots
plaited in order to teach the Squire how to curry-comb. After this
Kohlhaas sold the house, packed the children into a wagon, and sent
them over the border. When darkness fell he called the other servants
together, seven in number, and every one of them true as gold to him,
armed them and provided them with mounts and set out for the Tronka

At night-fall of the third day, with this little troop he rode down
the toll-gatherer and the gate-keeper who were standing in
conversation in the arched gateway, and attacked the castle. They set
fire to all the outbuildings in the castle inclosure, and, while, amid
the outburst of the flames, Herse hurried up the winding staircase
into the tower of the castellan's quarters, and with blows and stabs
fell upon the castellan and the steward who were sitting, half
dressed, over the cards, Kohlhaas at the same time dashed into the
castle in search of the Squire Wenzel. Thus it is that the angel of
judgment descends from heaven; the Squire, who, to the accompaniment
of immoderate laughter, was just reading aloud to a crowd of young
friends the decree which the horse-dealer had sent to him, had no
sooner heard the sound of his voice in the courtyard than, turning
suddenly pale as death, he cried out to the gentlemen--"Brothers, save
yourselves!" and disappeared. As Kohlhaas entered the room he seized
by the shoulders a certain Squire, Hans Tronka, who came at him, and
flung him into the corner of the room with such force that his brains
spurted out over the stone floor. While the other knights, who had
drawn their weapons, were being overpowered and scattered by the
grooms, Kohlhaas asked where the Squire Wenzel Tronka was. Realizing
the ignorance of the stunned men, he kicked open the doors of two
apartments leading into the wings of the castle and, after searching
in every direction throughout the rambling building and finding no
one, he went down, cursing, into the castle yard, in order to place
guards at the exits.

In the meantime, from the castle and the wings, which had caught fire
from the out-buildings, thick columns of smoke were rising heavenward.
While Sternbald and three busy grooms were gathering together
everything in the castle that was not fastened securely and throwing
it down among the horses as fair spoils, from the open windows of the
castellan's quarters the corpses of the castellan and the steward,
with their wives and children, were flung down into the courtyard amid
the joyful shouts of Herse. As Kohlhaas descended the steps of the
castle, the gouty old housekeeper who managed the Squire's
establishment threw herself at his feet. Pausing on the step, he asked
her where the Squire Wenzel Tronka was. She answered in a faint
trembling voice that she thought he had taken refuge in the chapel.
Kohlhaas then called two men with torches, and, since they had no
keys, he had the door broken open with crowbars and axes. He knocked
over altars and pews; nevertheless, to his anger and grief, he did
not find the Squire.

It happened that, at the moment when Kohlhaas came out of the chapel,
a young servant, one of the retainers of the castle, came hurrying
upon his way to get the Squire's chargers out of a large stone stable
which was threatened by the flames. Kohlhaas, who at that very moment
spied his two blacks in a little shed roofed with straw, asked the man
why he did not rescue the two blacks. The latter, sticking the key in
the stable-door, answered that he surely must see that the shed was
already in flames. Kohlhaas tore the key violently from the
stable-door, threw it over the wall, and, raining blows as thick as
hail on the man with the flat of his sword, drove him into the burning
shed and, amid the horrible laughter of the bystanders, forced him to
rescue the black horses. Nevertheless, when the man, pale with fright,
reappeared with the horses, only a few moments before the shed fell in
behind him, he no longer found Kohlhaas. Betaking himself to the men
gathered in the castle inclosure, he asked the horse-dealer, who
several times turned his back on him, what he was to do with the
animals now.

Kohlhaas suddenly raised his foot with such terrible force that the
kick, had it landed, would have meant death; then, without answering,
he mounted his bay horse, stationed himself under the gateway of the
castle, and, while his men continued their work of destruction,
silently awaited the break of day.

When the morning dawned the entire castle had burned down and only the
walls remained standing; no one was left in it but Kohlhaas and his
seven men. He dismounted from his horse and, in the bright sunlight
which illuminated every crack and corner, once more searched the
inclosure. When he had to admit, hard though it was for him to do so,
that the expedition against the castle had failed, with a heart full
of pain and grief he sent Herse and some of the other men to gather
news of the direction in which the Squire had fled. He felt
especially troubled about a rich nunnery for ladies of rank, Erlabrunn
by name, which was situated on the shores of the Mulde, and whose
abbess, Antonia Tronka, was celebrated in the neighborhood as a pious,
charitable, and saintly woman. The unhappy Kohlhaas thought it only
too probable that the Squire, stripped as he was of all necessities,
had taken refuge in this nunnery, since the abbess was his own aunt
and had been his governess in his early childhood. After informing
himself of these particulars, Kohlhaas ascended the tower of the
castellan's quarters in the interior of which there was still a
habitable room, and there he drew up a so-called "Kohlhaas mandate" in
which he warned the country not to offer assistance to Squire Wenzel
Tronka, against whom he was waging just warfare, and, furthermore,
commanded every inhabitant, instead, relatives and friends not
excepted, to surrender him under penalty of death and the inevitable
burning down of everything that might be called property.

This declaration he scattered broadcast in the surrounding country
through travelers and strangers; he even went so far as to give
Waldmann, his servant, a copy of it, with definite instructions to
carry it to Erlabrunn and place it in the hands of Lady Antonia.
Thereupon he had a talk with some of the servants of Tronka Castle who
were dissatisfied with the Squire and, attracted by the prospect of
plunder, wished to enter the horse-dealer's service. He armed them
after the manner of foot-soldiers, with cross-bows and daggers, taught
them how to mount behind the men on horseback, and after he had turned
into money everything that the company had collected and had
distributed it among them, he spent some hours in the gateway of the
castle, resting after his sorry labor.

Toward midday Herse came and confirmed what Kohlhaas' heart, which was
always filled with the most gloomy forebodings, had already told
him--namely, that the Squire was then in the nunnery of Erlabrunn with
the old Lady Antonia Tronka, his aunt. It seemed that, through a door
in the rear wall behind the castle, leading into the open air, he had
escaped down a narrow stone stairway which, protected by a little
roof, ran down to a few boats on the Elbe. At least, Herse reported
that at midnight the Squire in a skiff without rudder or oars had
arrived at a village on the Elbe, to the great astonishment of the
inhabitants who were assembled on account of the fire at Tronka Castle
and that he had gone on toward Erlabrunn in a village cart.

Kohlhaas sighed deeply at this news; he asked whether the horses had
been fed, and when they answered "Yes," he had his men mount, and in
three hours' time he was at the gates of Erlabrunn. Amid the rumbling
of a distant storm on the horizon, he and his troop entered the
courtyard of the convent with torches which they had lighted before
reaching the spot. Just as Waldmann, his servant, came forward to
announce that the mandate had been duly delivered, Kohlhaas saw the
abbess and the chapter-warden step out under the portal of the
nunnery, engaged in agitated conversation. While the chapter-warden, a
little old man with snow-white hair, shooting furious glances at
Kohlhaas, was having his armor put on and, in a bold voice, called to
the men-servants surrounding him to ring the storm-bell, the abbess,
white as a sheet, and holding the silver image of the Crucified One in
her hand, descended the sloping driveway and, with all her nuns, flung
herself down before Kohlhaas' horse.

Herse and Sternbald overpowered the chapter-warden, who had no sword
in his hand, and led him off as a prisoner among the horses, while
Kohlhaas asked the abbess where Squire Wenzel Tronka was. She
unfastened from her girdle a large ring of keys, and answered, "In
Wittenberg, Kohlhaas, worthy man!"--adding, in a shaking voice, "Fear
God, and do no wrong!" Kohlhaas, plunged back into the hell of
unsatisfied thirst for revenge, wheeled his horse and was about to
cry, "Set fire to the buildings!" when a terrific thunder-bolt struck
close beside him. Turning his horse around again toward the abbess he
asked her whether she had received his mandate. The lady answered in a
weak, scarcely audible voice--"Just a few moments ago!" "When?" "Two
hours after the Squire, my nephew, had taken his departure, as truly
as God is my help!" When Waldmann, the groom, to whom Kohlhaas turned
with a lowering glance, stammered out a confirmation of this fact,
saying that the waters of the Mulde, swollen by the rain, had
prevented his arriving until a few moments ago, Kohlhaas came to his
senses. A sudden, terrible downpour of rain, sweeping across the
pavement of the courtyard and extinguishing the torches, relaxed the
tension of the unhappy man's grief; doffing his hat curtly to the
abbess, he wheeled his horse, dug in his spurs, calling "Follow me, my
brothers; the Squire is in Wittenberg," and left the nunnery.

The night having set in, he stopped at an inn on the highroad, and had
to rest here for a day because the horses were so exhausted. As he
clearly saw that with a troop of ten men (for his company numbered
that many now) he could not defy a place like Wittenberg, he drew up a
second mandate, in which, after a short account of what had happened
to him in the land, he summoned "every good Christian," as he
expressed it, to whom he "solemnly promised bounty-money and other
perquisites of war, to take up his quarrel against Squire Tronka as
the common enemy of all Christians." In another mandate which appeared
shortly after this he called himself "a free gentleman of the Empire
and of the World, subject only to God"--an example of morbid and
misplaced fanaticism which, nevertheless, with the sound of his money
and the prospect of plunder, procured him a crowd of recruits from
among the rabble, whom the peace with Poland had deprived of a
livelihood. In fact, he had thirty-odd men when he crossed back to the
right side of the Elbe, bent upon reducing Wittenberg to ashes.

He encamped with horses and men in an old tumble-down brick-kiln, in
the solitude of a dense forest which surrounded the town at that time.
No sooner had Sternbald, whom he had sent in disguise into the city
with the mandate, brought him word that it was already known there,
than he set out with his troop on the eve of Whitsuntide; and while
the citizens lay sound asleep, he set the town on fire at several
points simultaneously. At the same time, while his men were plundering
the suburbs, he fastened a paper to the door-post of a church to the
effect that "he, Kohlhaas, had set the city on fire, and if the Squire
were not delivered to him he would burn down the city so completely
that," as he expressed it, "he would not need to look behind any wall
to find him."

The terror of the citizens at such an unheard-of outrage was
indescribable, though, as it was fortunately a rather calm summer
night, the flames had not destroyed more than nineteen buildings,
among which, however, was a church. Toward daybreak, as soon as the
fire had been partially extinguished, the aged Governor of the
province, Otto von Gorgas, sent out immediately a company of fifty men
to capture the bloodthirsty madman. The captain in command of the
company, Gerstenberg by name, bore himself so badly, however, that the
whole expedition, instead of subduing Kohlhaas, rather helped him to a
most dangerous military reputation. For the captain separated his men
into several divisions, with the intention of surrounding and crushing
Kohlhaas; but the latter, holding his troop together, attacked and
beat him at isolated points, so that by the evening of the following
day, not a single man of the whole company in which the hopes of the
country were centred, remained in the field against him. Kohlhaas, who
had lost some of his men in these fights, again set fire to the city
on the morning of the next day, and his murderous measures were so
well taken that once more a number of houses and almost all the barns
in the suburbs were burned down. At the same time he again posted the
well-known mandate, this time, furthermore, on the corners of the
city hall itself, and he added a notice concerning the fate of Captain
von Gerstenberg who had been sent against him by the Governor, and
whom he had overwhelmingly defeated.

The Governor of the province, highly incensed at this defiance, placed
himself with several knights at the head of a troop of one hundred and
fifty men. At a written request he gave Squire Wenzel Tronka a guard
to protect him from the violence of the people, who flatly insisted
that he must be removed from the city. After the Governor had had
guards placed in all the villages in the vicinity, and also had
sentinels stationed on the city walls to prevent a surprise, he
himself set out on Saint Gervaise's day to capture the dragon who was
devastating the land. The horse-dealer was clever enough to keep out
of the way of this troop. By skilfully executed marches he enticed the
Governor five leagues away from the city, and by means of various
manoeuvres he gave the other the mistaken notion that, hard pressed by
superior numbers, he was going to throw himself into Brandenburg.
Then, when the third night closed in, he made a forced ride back to
Wittenberg, and for the third time set fire to the city. Herse, who
crept into the town in disguise, carried out this horrible feat of
daring, and because of a sharp north wind that was blowing, the fire
proved so destructive and spread so rapidly that in less than three
hours forty-two houses, two churches, several convents and schools,
and the very residence of the electoral governor of the province were
reduced to ruins and ashes.

The Governor who, when the day broke, believed his adversary to be in
Brandenburg, returned by forced marches when informed of what had
happened, and found the city in a general uproar. The people were
massed by thousands around the Squire's house, which was barricaded
with heavy timbers and posts, and with wild cries they demanded his
expulsion from the city. Two burgomasters, Jenkens and Otto by name,
who were present in their official dress at the head of the entire
city council, tried in vain to explain that they absolutely must await
the return of a courier who had been dispatched to the President of
the Chancery of State for permission to send the Squire to Dresden,
whither he himself, for many reasons, wished to go. The unreasoning
crowd, armed with pikes and staves, cared nothing for these words.
After handling rather roughly some councilors who were insisting upon
the adoption of vigorous measures, the mob was about to storm the
house where the Squire was and level it to the ground, when the
Governor, Otto von Gorgas, appeared in the city at the head of his
troopers. This worthy gentleman, who was wont by his mere presence to
inspire people to respectful obedience, had, as though in compensation
for the failure of the expedition from which he was returning,
succeeded in taking prisoner three stray members of the incendiary's
band, right in front of the gates of the city. While the prisoners
were being loaded with chains before the eyes of the people, he made a
clever speech to the city councilors, assuring them that he was on
Kohlhaas' track and thought that he would soon be able to bring the
incendiary himself in chains. By force of all these reassuring
circumstances he succeeded in allaying the fears of the assembled
crowd and in partially reconciling them to the presence of the Squire
until the return of the courier from Dresden. He dismounted from his
horse and, accompanied by some knights, entered the house after the
posts and stockades had been cleared away. He found the Squire, who
was falling from one faint into another, in the hands of two doctors,
who with essences and stimulants were trying to restore him to
consciousness. As Sir Otto von Gorgas realized that this was not the
moment to exchange any words with him on the subject of the behavior
of which he had been guilty, he merely told him, with a look of quiet
contempt, to dress himself, and, for his own safety, to follow him to
the apartments of the knight's prison. They put a doublet and a helmet
on the Squire and when, with chest half bare on account of the
difficulty he had in breathing, he appeared in the street on the arm
of the Governor and his brother-in-law, the Count of Gerschau,
blasphemous and horrible curses against him rose to heaven. The mob,
whom the lansquenets found it very difficult to restrain, called him a
bloodsucker, a miserable public pest and a tormentor of men, the curse
of the city of Wittenberg, and the ruin of Saxony. After a wretched
march through the devastated city, in the course of which the Squire's
helmet fell off several times without his missing it and had to be
replaced on his head by the knight who was behind him, they reached
the prison at last, where he disappeared into a tower under the
protection of a strong guard. Meanwhile the return of the courier with
the decree of the Elector had aroused fresh alarm in the city. For the
Saxon government, to which the citizens of Dresden had made direct
application in an urgent petition, refused to permit the Squire to
sojourn in the electoral capital before the incendiary had been
captured. The Governor was instructed rather to use all the power at
his command to protect the Squire just where he was, since he had to
stay somewhere, but in order to pacify the good city of Wittenberg,
the inhabitants were informed that a force of five hundred men under
the command of Prince Friedrich of Meissen was already on the way to
protect them from further molestation on the part of Kohlhaas.

The Governor saw clearly that a decree of this kind was wholly
inadequate to pacify the people. For not only had several small
advantages gained by the horse-dealer in skirmishes outside the city
sufficed to spread extremely disquieting rumors as to the size to
which his band had grown; his way of waging warfare with ruffians in
disguise who slunk about under cover of darkness with pitch, straw,
and sulphur, unheard of and quite without precedent as it was, would
have rendered ineffectual an even larger protecting force than the one
which was advancing under the Prince of Meissen. After reflecting a
short time, the Governor determined therefore to suppress altogether
the decree he had received; he merely posted at all the street corners
a letter from the Prince of Meissen, announcing his arrival. At
daybreak a covered wagon left the courtyard of the knight's prison and
took the road to Leipzig, accompanied by four heavily armed troopers
who, in an indefinite sort of way, let it be understood that they were
bound for the Pleissenburg. The people having thus been satisfied on
the subject of the ill-starred Squire, whose existence seemed
identified with fire and sword, the Governor himself set out with a
force of three hundred men to join Prince Friedrich of Meissen. In the
mean time Kohlhaas, thanks to the strange position which he had
assumed in the world, had in truth increased the numbers of his band
to one hundred and nine men, and he had also collected in Jessen a
store of weapons with which he had fully armed them. When informed of
the two tempests that were sweeping down upon him, he decided to go to
meet them with the speed of the hurricane before they should join to
overwhelm him. In accordance with this plan he attacked the Prince of
Meissen the very next night, surprising him near Muehlberg. In this
fight, to be sure, he was greatly grieved to lose Herse, who was
struck down at his side by the first shots but, embittered by this
loss, in a three-hour battle he so roughly handled the Prince of
Meissen, who was unable to collect his forces in the town, that at
break of day the latter was obliged to take the road back to Dresden,
owing to several severe wounds which he had received and the complete
disorder into which his troops had been thrown. Kohlhaas, made
foolhardy by this victory, turned back to attack the Governor before
the latter could learn of it, fell upon him at midday in the open
country near the village of Damerow, and fought him until nightfall,
with murderous losses, to be sure, but with corresponding success.
Indeed, the next morning he would certainly with the remnant of his
band have renewed the attack on the Governor, who had thrown himself
into the churchyard at Damerow, if the latter had not received
through spies the news of the defeat of the Prince at Muehlberg and
therefore deemed it wiser to return to Wittenberg to await a more
propitious moment.

Five days after the dispersion of these two bodies of troops, Kohlhaas
arrived before Leipzig and set fire to the city on three different
sides. In the mandate which he scattered broadcast on this occasion he
called himself "a vicegerent of the archangel Michael who had come to
visit upon all who, in this controversy, should take the part of the
Squire, punishment by fire and sword for the villainy into which the
whole world was plunged." At the same time, having surprised the
castle at Luetzen and fortified himself in it, he summoned the people
to join him and help establish a better order of things. With a sort
of insane fanaticism the mandate was signed: "Done at the seat of our
provisional world government, our ancient castle at Luetzen."

As the good fortune of the inhabitants of Leipzig would have it, the
fire, owing to a steady rain which was falling, did not spread, so
that, thanks to the rapid action of the means at hand for
extinguishing fires, only a few small shops which lay around the
Pleissenburg went up in flames; nevertheless the presence of the
desperate incendiary, and his erroneous impression that the Squire was
in Leipzig, caused unspeakable consternation in the city. When a troop
of one hundred and eighty men at arms that had been sent against him
returned defeated, nothing else remained for the city councilors, who
did not wish to jeopardize the wealth of the place, but to bar the
gates completely and set the citizens to keep watch day and night
outside the walls. In vain the city council had declarations posted in
the villages of the surrounding country, with the positive assurance
that the Squire was not in the Pleissenburg. The horse-dealer, in
similar manifestos, insisted that he was in the Pleissenburg and
declared that if the Squire were not there, he, Kohlhaas, would at any
rate proceed as though he were until he should have been told the
name of the place where his enemy was to be found. The Elector,
notified by courier of the straits to which the city of Leipzig was
reduced, declared that he was already gathering a force of two
thousand men and would put himself at their head in order to capture
Kohlhaas. He administered to Sir Otto von Gorgas a severe rebuke for
the misleading and ill-considered artifice to which he had resorted to
rid the vicinity of Wittenberg of the incendiary. Nor can any one
describe the confusion which seized all Saxony, and especially the
electoral capital, when it was learned there that in all the villages
near Leipzig a declaration addressed to Kohlhaas had been placarded,
no one knew by whom, to the effect that "Wenzel, the Squire, was with
his cousins Hinz and Kunz in Dresden."

It was under these circumstances that Doctor Martin Luther, supported
by the authority which his position in the world gave him, undertook
the task of forcing Kohlhaas, by the power of kindly words, back
within the limits set by the social order of the day. Building upon an
element of good in the breast of the incendiary, he had posted in all
the cities and market-towns of the Electorate a placard addressed to
him, which read as follows:

"Kohlhaas, thou who claimest to be sent to wield the sword of justice,
what is it that thou, presumptuous man, art making bold to attempt in
the madness of thy stone-blind passion--thou who art filled from head
to foot with injustice? Because the sovereign, to whom thou art
subject, has denied thee thy rights--thy rights in the struggle for a
paltry trifle--thou arisest, godless man, with fire and sword, and
like a wolf of the wilderness dost burst upon the peaceful community
which he protects. Thou, who misleadest men with this declaration full
of untruthfulness and guile, dost thou think, sinner, to satisfy God
therewith in that future day which shall shine into the recesses of
every heart? How canst thou say that thy rights have been denied
thee--thou, whose savage breast, animated by the inordinate desire
for base revenge, completely gave up the endeavor to procure justice
after the first half-hearted attempts, which came to naught? Is a
bench full of constables and beadles who suppress a letter that is
presented, or who withhold a judgment that they should deliver--is
this thy supreme authority? And must I tell thee, impious man, that
the supreme authority of the land knows nothing whatever about thine
affair--nay, more, that the sovereign against whom thou art rebelling
does not even know thy name, so that when thou shalt one day come
before the throne of God thinking to accuse him, he will be able to
say with a serene countenance, 'I have done no wrong to this man,
Lord, for my soul is ignorant of his existence.' Know that the sword
which thou wieldest is the sword of robbery and bloodthirstiness. A
rebel art thou, and no warrior of the righteous God; wheel and gallows
are thy goal on earth--gallows and, in the life to come, damnation
which is ordained for crime and godlessness.

Wittenberg, etc. MARTIN LUTHER."

When Sternbald and Waldmann, to their great consternation, discovered
the placard which had been affixed to the gateway of the castle at
Luetzen during the night, Kohlhaas within the castle was just revolving
in his distracted mind a new plan for the burning of Leipzig--for he
placed no faith in the notices posted in the villages announcing that
Squire Wenzel was in Dresden, since they were not signed by any one,
let alone by the municipal council, as he had required. For several
days the two men hoped in vain that Kohlhaas would perceive Luther's
placard, for they did not care to approach him on the subject. Gloomy
and absorbed in thought, he did indeed, in the evening, appear, but
only to give his brief commands, and he noticed nothing. Finally one
morning, when he was about to have two of his followers strung up for
plundering in the vicinity against his express orders, Sternbald and
Waldmann determined to call his attention to it. With the pomp which
he had adopted since his last manifesto--a large cherubim's sword on
a red leather cushion, ornamented with golden tassels, borne before
him, and twelve men with burning torches following him--Kohlhaas was
just returning from the place of execution, while the people on both
sides timidly made way for him. At that moment the two men, with their
swords under their arms, walked, in a way that could not fail to
excite his surprise, around the pillar to which the placard was

When Kohlhaas, sunk in thought and with his hands folded behind his
back, came under the portal, he raised his eyes and started back in
surprise, and as the two men at sight of him drew back respectfully,
he advanced with rapid steps to the pillar, watching them
absent-mindedly. But who can describe the storm of emotion in his soul
when he beheld there the paper accusing him of injustice, signed by
the most beloved and honored name he knew--the name of Martin Luther!
A dark flush spread over his face; taking off his helmet he read the
document through twice from beginning to end, then walked back among
his men with irresolute glances as though he were about to speak, yet
said nothing. He unfastened the paper from the pillar, read it through
once again, and cried, "Waldmann! have my horse saddled!"--then,
"Sternbald, follow me into the castle!" and with that he disappeared.
It had needed but these few words of that godly man to disarm him
suddenly in the midst of all the dire destruction that he was

He threw on the disguise of a Thuringian farmer and told Sternbald
that a matter of the greatest importance obliged him to go to
Wittenberg. In the presence of some of his most trustworthy men he
turned over to Sternbald the command of the band remaining in Luetzen,
and with the assurance that he would be back in three days, during
which time no attack was to be feared, he departed for Wittenberg. He
put up at an inn under an assumed name, and at nightfall, wrapped in
his cloak and provided with a brace of pistols which he had taken at
the sack of Tronka Castle, entered Luther's room. When Luther, who
was sitting at his desk with a mass of books and papers before him,
saw the extraordinary stranger enter his room and bolt the door behind
him, he asked who he was and what he wanted. The man, who was holding
his hat respectfully in his hand, had no sooner, with a diffident
presentiment of the terror that he would cause, made answer that he
was Michael Kohlhaas, the horse-dealer, than Luther cried out, "Stand
far back from me!" and rising from the desk added, as he hurried
toward a bell, "Your breath is pestilence, your presence destruction!"

Without stirring from the spot Kohlhaas drew his pistol and said,
"Most reverend Sir, if you touch the bell this pistol will stretch me
lifeless at your feet! Sit down and hear me. You are not safer among
the angels, whose psalms you are writing down, than you are with me."

Luther sat down and asked, "What do you want?" Kohlhaas answered, "I
wish to refute the opinion you have of me, that I am an unjust man!
You told me in your placard that my sovereign knows nothing about my
case. Very well; procure me a safe-conduct and I will go to Dresden
and lay it before him."

"Impious and terrible man!" cried Luther, puzzled and, at the same
time, reassured by these words. "Who gave you the right to attack
Squire Tronka in pursuance of a decree issued on your own authority,
and, when you did not find him in his castle, to visit with fire and
sword the whole community which protects him?"

Kohlhaas answered, "Reverend Sir, no one, henceforth. Information
which I received from Dresden deceived and misled me! The war which I
am waging against society is a crime, so long as I haven't been cast
out--and you have assured me that I have not."

"Cast out!" cried Luther, looking at him. "What mad thoughts have
taken possession of you? Who could have cast you out from the
community of the state in which you lived? Indeed where, as long as
states have existed, has there ever been a case of any one, no matter
who, being cast out of such a community?"

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