Part 4 out of 8
said nothing. Schrotter after consideration, said:
"Why do you separate a part of the eternal principle from itself?"
"To make its unity manifold through divisibility, to arrive at the
consciousness of the 'ego,' through the creation of an absolute
"Your eternal principle then," said Schrotter, "appears to you like
some lord or master, who is lonely because he is by himself in the
world, and wishes to have the society of others."
"Over this, however, is placed the creation of the negation arriving
at the consciousness of its own 'ego,' in addition to the knowledge
of the object it has in view; thus consciousness precedes the rest,"
Dorfling shook his head.
"These objections are close reasoning. You will find them answered
in the book."
"You are right," said Schrotter, "it is unfair to criticize before
we have read the book. I only want to make one remark, not in the
sense of criticism, but rather to confirm a fact. Your "Philosophy
of Deliverance" is no other than a form of Christianity which looks
upon the earth as a vale of tears, on life as a banishment, and on
death as going home to the Father's house. The theology of the
Vatican would not find a hitch in your system."
"Forgive me, doctor," answered Dorfling. "I see a great difference
between my system and Christianity. Both of them hold that life is a
misery, and death is the deliverance. But Christianity does not
explain why God creates men, and sends them to the misery of earth,
instead of leaving them in peace in heaven. I, on the contrary,
claim that I explain the creation of living and conscious beings."
"Your assertion then means that the eternal principle of phenomena
creates organisms, with the object of arriving at the consciousness
"Now, we have already answered you as to that," said Schrotter, "and
I will not keep back my objection any longer. Let me get away for a
moment from your system, and say that between metaphysics and
theology I do not see the least difference. A metaphysical system
and a religious dogma are both attempts to explain the
incomprehensible secret to human reason. The negro solves the riddle
of the musical-box, believing that a spirit is inside it, which
gives forth musical sounds at the white man's command; and that is
precisely what priests and philosophers do when they explain the
great workings of the universe by a God, or a principle, or whatever
they call their fetich. Human nature always wants to know the why
and wherefore of things. When we are not sure of our ground, we help
ourselves by conjectures, or even by imagination. These conjectures
are senseless or reasonable, according to whether our knowledge is
insufficient or comprehensive. Men are satisfied in their childhood
with stories as explanations of the world's mysteries, in their
maturity they advance to plausible hypotheses: the stories yield to
theology, hypotheses to philosophy. Religion presents a fictitious
solution to the riddle in a concrete form, and metaphysics in an
abstract form; the one relates and asserts, the other argues and
avoids the improbable. It is only a difference of degree, not of
"That is just so," cried Wilhelm. "Metaphysics are as incapable as
religion of disclosing what lies behind the phenomenal world, and I
cannot conceive (forgive me, Dorfling, if I say straight out what I
mean), I cannot conceive how a philosopher can really take his own
system in earnest. He must know that his explanation is only a
conjecture, a possibility at the best, and he actually has the
temerity to preach it as a fixed truth. No, my friend, I do not
expect anything from metaphysics. It only interests me as a means
for studying psychology. The history of philosophical systems is a
history of the development of the mind of humanity. The systems are
only valuable as testimonials to the endless extent and possibility
of human thought. All the systems put together do not contain a
spark of objective truth."
"That is upon the whole the difference between natural science and
metaphysics," said Schrotter. "Science regulates the boundary
between what is known and what is not known, and declares when the
limit is reached. Our knowledge has attained to a certain point, and
beyond that we know and understand nothing, absolutely nothing.
Metaphysics will not stop at that limit. It confuses knowledge and
dreams together, and manufactures out of the two something quite
worthless. It explains things which it does not understand, and
which cannot be understood, and offers us detailed descriptions of
countries into which it has never traveled, and where mankind
probably never will travel."
"May I say a word in defence of your metaphysics?" said Dorfling,
with a slight smile.
"Yes, go on," cried Barinskoi. He had drunk more than all the rest
put together, and the serious conversation seemed to afford him
"Look here, Eynhardt. I cannot possibly uphold your statement that
metaphysics do not contain a spark of objective truth. To be certain
of that, one must also be certain what objective truth is. But you
are not certain, as you very well know, and so logically you must
admit the possibility that metaphysics can hold a spark of objective
truth. I am of an entirely different opinion on this point. I
believe that the science of the actual content of things, the
foundation of all appearances, the laws of the universe, in short,
everything which you call objective truth, is the property peculiar
to the atoms, of which the world formerly existed. Absolute science,
I say, is inherent matter, like motion and gravitation. Matter does
not learn of them, it possesses them. A cell has not studied
chemistry, but with unfailing accuracy it executes its wonderful
chemical operations. Water knows nothing of physics and mathematics,
but it flows from the spring, just as high as the laws of hydraulic
"Bravo," interrupted Mayboom, "that explains at last something I
never understood; and that is, why a flower pot should fall off a
window straight on the heads of people in the street, with unfailing
"Please, Mayboom, no bad jokes to-day," said Dorfling gently.
The comic song writer sighed and again sank into deep thought, and
the philosopher went on:
"The science of truth, to which every atom adheres, dwells in men.
We must not forget that man is a collection of countless millions of
atoms; the collected consciousness of mankind can know just as much
of what each atom knows, as a whole people can understand of Greek
or Sanscrit because one or other of its members can read those
languages. Only through intercommunication can the knowledge of the
few become the knowledge of the many. The development of the living
being I regard in this way, that the atoms at first only hang
loosely, gradually becoming more closely knit together, until they
make a substantial organism. The single atoms in the course of this
process of development step over the boundary toward consciousness.
At first it is a trembling, insecure foreboding, like the sensation
of light to one nearly blind, then the outlines of truth become
clearer, and all at once grow sharp and clearly defined. The
different attempts at explanation of the secrets of the world are
the expression of these forebodings of truth. So every one of the
religious and philosophical systems is to my mind a grain of the
truth, and the whole of it will be found in the great unity which we
shall reach in a higher development."
"As charming as a pretty story," said Schrotter, "but--it is only a
story after all. You conjecture that the thing is so situated, but
you are not in a condition to prove it; and if I deny it, you have
no means of compelling me to believe, as I can compell you to
believe that twice two makes four. No, no; nothing can come of these
metaphysical speculations. The whole philosophy is not worth
psychological treatment. We are no further to-day than the old
Greeks, whose knowledge led to the formula, 'Know thyself.' "We can
hope to know ourselves some day, to know what goes on in our brains.
I hardly believe, however, that science will ever arrive at it."
"The study of natural science has brought me to the same
conclusion," said Wilhelm. "We know nothing to-day of the nature of
phenomena--we knew nothing yesterday, and we shall know nothing to-
morrow. The great advance in thought has only brought us to the
point of no more self-deception, and exactly knowing what we do
know, whereas yesterday men deceived themselves, and imagined that
the fables of religion and metaphysics were positive knowledge. The
history of physical science is in this respect very interesting. It
teaches that every step forward does not consist of a new
explanation, but rather goes to prove, that the earlier explanations
were untrustworthy. The sphere of the exact sciences does not grow
wider, but narrower. It would be very instructive to study the
history of natural science at the point it has reached."
"Why do you not write such a history?" asked Schrotter.
"Why? It would be foolish to add another book to the millions of
books already written. All that one can say about it is soon said.
Anything really new is written once in a thousand years, all the
rest is repetition, dilution, compilation. If everyone who writes on
a subject were to read first everything which has been written on
that subject, he would very soon throw his pen out of the window."
"I must again differ from you," said Dorfling. "I think it is best,
that we so seldom know all that has been thought and written on a
subject. It is best that we write new books without wearying to read
the millions of others. I grant that most books are only repetitions
of earlier ones. But it is unconscious repetition, and it is exactly
that which gives it a wonderfully new meaning. It proves unity of
mind, identity of science. Thousands of men daily discover
gunpowder. Many of them laugh, because gunpowder was first
discovered two hundred years ago. I do not laugh. I see in it the
manifestation of the eternal unity of phenomenal principle. So many
men could not arrive at the same thought if they were not fragments
of a whole; now you know why I have written a book, and also, why I
have not put my individual name on the title-page."
From the next room they heard a woman laugh in a wild, excited way,
glasses chinked together, and a man's voice was just distinguished
in conversation. Barinskoi pricked up his ears and winked at Paul;
the others paid no attention.
"Do not misunderstand me," said Wilhelm, answering Dorfling's last
remark. I do not mean to say that your book is superfluous. You had
every right to it, having made it the object of your life."
"Not the object of my life," interrupted Dorfling. "The only object
I have in life is death, which I call deliverance."
"Very good; I will say then, when you conceived it your duty to
"'Duty' yes, I will allow that word to pass. Let us rather say
impulse, or instinct. If one has a perception one also feels an
impulse, which one calls a feeling of duty to share it with others."
"You believe even in perception. That proves above all what you mean
by your duty. I know, to my regret, that I have no perceptions to
share with others, and the duty of my life is only toward my own
moral education and greatest possible perfection."
"That is not enough," Paul broke in, "this self-culture in one's own
study does no one any good. For that reason I do not mind if I
appear unphilosophical. One has duties toward one's fellowmen. One
must be useful to the State, as a good citizen. One must make money,
to add to the national wealth."
"Bravo, Herr Haber," said Mayboom gravely. "You speak like a town-
crier," and after a short pause he added, "That is a great
compliment from me."
"We express the same meaning in different forms," answered "Wilhelm,
"How can you add to the national wealth? By making yourself a rich
man. And I try to be useful to the community by educating myself in
the greatest possible morality, and the highest ideal of a citizen.
No one can work outside of himself when every individual strives to
be good and true, then the whole people will be good and noble."
"Now you are disputing as to your life's duty," cried Baninskoi,
whose eyes glowed, and whole face was red with the alcohol he had
imbibed. "Prove first that it is a duty. I deny without exception
every duty to others. Why should I trouble myself about the world?
What are my fellow-creatures to me? Dinner is trumps, and long live
wine!" and he drank a glassful.
"It is an instinct born with us," said Wilhelm, without any
vexation, "to care for one's fellow-creatures, and to feel a duty in
sympathy for others."
"But suppose I have not got this instinct?" answered Barinskoi.
"Then you are an unhealthy exception."
"The best proof is the continuance of mankind. If the instinct of
sympathy with others were to fail among men, humanity would long ago
have ceased to exist."
"That is a convenient arrangement. Instinct then is the only
foundation for your duty, and the continuance of humanity is the
only sanction of your instinct. I will leave you to listen to your
instinct, and sympathize as much as you like, but for my part I
joyfully renounce this duty; the only punishment I should be afraid
of is the destruction of mankind, and that is not likely to happen
in my lifetime."
"There is another punishment," said Mayboom solemnly, "that I take
this bottle of champagne away from you on account of--your bad
While he spoke he took away the bottle, and Barinskoi tried to get
it back again; a little struggle ensued. Dorfling put an end to it
by an emphatic "Please don't do that." Turning to Wilhelm he went
"I do not believe in your idea of duty; you place instinct at the
foundation. I use another word. I call your instinct the foreboding
that each has of its being, and its outflow toward the eternal
phenomenon of principle. At all events, that seems to suffice for a
foundation. But I conceive duty to be quite a different thing. You
limit your view to self-culture, and have love for your fellow-
creatures, but no desire to instruct them. Now, I think that culture
should begin with oneself, but end with others. That is my idea of
love for humanity. One need hardly go out of oneself to do this. One
can influence things remote without disturbing oneself. Just think
of the magnet; it is an immense source of influence, called example.
It sets an astonishing example without moving out of itself--an
example which cannot be overlooked, and powerfully affects the
"One illustration for another," said Schrotter, who had shown his
interest in the conversation by nodding his head now and then. "You
wish man to play the part of a magnet; that is not enough, I want
him to play the part of a cogwheel. He must catch hold of his
surroundings while he moves, he must also move all those round him.
Everyone cannot be a magnet; we are not all made of the same stuff.
But one can make a cogged wheel out of whatever one will--and
beside, a magnet only influences certain substances. It will draw
iron, but cannot attract copper, wood, or stone; but the cogwheel
takes hold of anything near it, of whatever material it is made. I
will not work the illustration to death. You can see by this what I
mean. I think a far-reaching activity is the first business of
mankind. Our nerves are not so much those of sensation as of
movement; we do not only take in impressions from the outside, we
are provided with organs which give out impressions received from
within. Every sensation of movement which nature sends through us is
a summons to be answered by an action, not only self-culture, not
example, not passive good-will toward others, but by the intention
an object of activity toward the world and humanity. The Middle Ages
summoned up the business of life in the words, 'Ora et Labora.' They
are beautiful words, and after this lapse of time we take the
meaning out for ourselves, in other words, 'Think and Act.'"
The woman's laughter from the next room became louder, and then they
heard chairs pushed back, and the noise of departure. The rustling
of a silk dress, with the clinking of spurs and sword, passed the
door, became fainter, and then ceased. It was near midnight, and
Schrotter rose to go. He was thinking of Bhani, who was sitting up
for him at home. The dinner must have been paid for beforehand, for
the guests were spared the sight of a money transaction to chill the
end of their pleasant evening. The cool night air felt refreshing
after the heat of the small room. Dorfling declined the offers his
friends made to accompany him home. They all wished him "Farewell."
"Die well, would be a better wish," replied Dorfling, and with these
strange words in their ears they left him.
Schrotter and Wilhelm went a part of the way with Paul, who had the
furthest to go. For a little while he was silent, then he broke out:
"I declare this is beyond my comprehension. The whole time I was
there I felt as if I were in a vault with a lot of ghosts. You, Herr
Doctor, were the only living being among them; I breathed again when
I heard you talking. If I had not head the sounds from next door,
and had not had the realities of our dinner before me, I should have
thought I was dreaming."
"What has put you out so, my dear Paul?" said Wilhelm.
"What! Are you men of flesh and blood? Are you really alive? There
we sat for four mortal hours, and the talk was wearisome to a
degree, never one sensible word."
"Now! now!" protested Schrotter.
"Herr Doctor, forgive me, but I must repeat it, never one sensible
word. Do you call Dorfling's 'Philosophy of Deliverance' sensible?
or, Wilhelm, your philosophy of self-culture, which, with all
deference to you, I call philosophical onanism? Only six men, two of
them under thirty-five, and the whole blessed evening not one word
about either pleasure or love."
They had come to the place where Friedrichstrasse and
Leipzigerstrasse cross each other; and Schrotter signed to them to
look toward the left corner. There under a gas lamp they saw
Barinskoi in earnest conversation with a woman.
"Yes, look at him! That brute is still the most reasonable among all
your philosophics. He has his method of sponging, and enjoys himself
according to the category of Aristotle. But your metaphysics--"
"What do you really want, Paul?"
"Well, I want you all to have to do for once with practical life,
with two hundred workmen to pay and ten thousand acres of land to
see after; and artificial manures and the price of corn to worry
you; then perhaps you would take a little less interest as to
whether the soul was a phenomenon or an india-rubber ball, or
whether men were magnets or cogwheels."
Wilhelm only smiled. He had long ago given up trying to bring his
practical friend to ideal views. At the corner of the Kochstrasse
they separated, and Paul continued his way to the Lutzowstrasse,
while Wilhelm and Schrotter turned back.
Twenty minutes later, as Wilhelm entered his bedroom, his eyes fell
on a letter for him in Dorfling's handwriting. He opened it, greatly
surprised, and read as follows:
"DEAR FRIEND: When you read this I shall be free from all trouble
and all doubt. I have accomplished what I set myself to do, and I am
going back to eternity from this limited sphere. May you be as happy
as I shall be in a few hours! Keep a friendly thought for me as long
as you stay in this world of misery, and believe that he who writes
this had the warmest friendship for you."
Wilhelm stood as if thunderstruck. Was it by any chance a dreadful
joke? No; Dorfling was incapable of that. It must be a grim reality.
He ran quickly out of the house to seek Schrotter. The old Indian
servant opened the door, and in his broken English informed him that
Schrotter Sahib had found a letter when he reached home and had
immediately gone out again.
Wilhelm could now doubt no longer, and running swiftly, he reached
the street where Dorfling lived, waited in agonizing suspense for
the door to be opened, flew up the stairs, and through the open door
to his friend's bedroom. There he found Schrotter; Mayboom was also
there sobbing, and a tearful old servant. In an arm chair near the
bed was Dorfling, still in his dress coat and tie, his head sunk on
his breast, his face hardly whiter than in life, his arms hanging
down, and in the middle of the white shirt-front a great red stain.
On the floor lay a revolver.
Wilhelm, horrified, took his friend's hand. It was still quite warm.
His agonizing look sought Schrotter's, who answered in a hushed
voice, "He is dead."
Then his tears broke out, and his trembling fingers had hardly
strength to close the lids over his friend's eyes, those eyes which
looked so strangely quiet and peaceful as if they now knew the
answer to the Great Secret.
Dorfling's suicide made a profound impression on Wilhelm, and for
months he was haunted by the vision of that motionless form with its
white face and blood-stained breast. It had a weird fascination for
him, causing him to revert constantly to that tragical May night
that had begun with a cheerful dinner, and ended in a fatal pistol
shot. Paul's comment on the occurrence was short and concise. "The
poor chap was mad," he said, and there the matter ended as far as he
was concerned. Mayboom revered his friend's memory as he would a
saint, and erected a kind of chapel to him in his house, in which
Dorfling's portrait, his book, and various objects belonging to him,
thrown up in relief against draperies and surrounded by a variety of
symbolical accessories, were set forth for the pious delectation of
the master of the house and his visitors. Schrotter held aloof from
this cult. He appreciated Dorfling's character, his consistency, his
strength of will and highmindedness as they deserved, but he was
never tired of preaching and demonstrating to Wilhelm that all these
admirable qualities had been turned out of their proper course by a
disturbing morbid influence. It was monstrous, he contended, that a
system of philosophy should arm you for suicide. What if the
premises should prove false? Then your voluntary death would be a
frightful mistake which nothing could retrieve. One has no right to
risk making such a mistake. He believed in development, in the
progress of the organic world from a lower to a higher stage.
Progress and development, however, were conditional upon life, and
he who has recourse to self-destruction sets an example of unseemly
revolt against one of the most beautiful and comforting of all the
laws of nature. Moreover, suicide was a waste of force on which it
was simply heartrending to have to look. There were so many great
deeds to be done which called for the laying down of life. In a
thousand different ways one might benefit mankind by Winkelried-like
actions. If one was determined to die, one should at least render
thereby to those left behind one of those sublime services which
demand the sacrifice of a life.
In their frequent conversations upon this subject, he was so
earnest, so eloquent, so markedly intentional, that Wilhelm finally
gave him the smiling assurance that he was preaching to a convert.
It was true, he had the highest respect for a man who did not
hesitate to cast life from him when his whole mind and thought led
him to the conviction that death was preferable to life; and
unprincipled as suicide might be from an objective point of view,
subjectively considered, there surely was an ideal fitness in making
one's actions agree to the uttermost point with one's opinions?
Nevertheless, he himself did not approve of Dorfling's deed, and
would certainly never imitate it, for one could never know what
intentions the unknown powers might not have with regard to the
individual; by committing suicide he maybe threw up some possible
mission, or by his premature departure disturbed the action of the
great machine in which he--as some small screw or wheel--doubtless
had his modest place and function.
As if to prove to Schrotter that he was no disciple of the
"Philosophy of Deliverance," he turned his attention, more than he
had ever done before, to the realities of life. Dorfling left a
remarkable will. He bequeathed his fortune--most advantageously
invested in a house in Dusseldorf and in public funds--yielding a
yearly income of about thirty-five thousand marks, to his two
friends, Dr Schrotter and Dr Eynhardt, with the sole charge that out
of it they should provide a sufficient competency for his old
servant, dating from his father's time, who had attended him
literally from the cradle to the grave. The fortune was to be theirs
conjointly and indivisibly, and should one of them die, to devolve
to the survivor, who in his turn was to make such arrangements as he
thought best to insure its being applied, after his death, in
accordance with the testator's views. He expressed the hope that his
two heirs would use the income derived from the property in
alleviating the misery inseparable from human existence, of which
throughout life they must be witnesses. Dorfling's only near
relative was herself very wealthy and generous-minded, and did not
dispute the will, it was accordingly proved.
Wilhelm declared from the first that he understood nothing of the
management of a fortune, of business papers, and so forth, and
wanted to hand over the administration of the whole to Schrotter.
Schrotter, however, would not hear of it, and after vying with one
another in generous self-disparagement and mutual confidence, they
finally agreed that Schrotter, being a practical man, and conversant
with the ways of business and the world, should take the management
of the fortune upon himself, but that Wilhelm should receive a
monthly sum of fifteen hundred marks out of the income to apply as
he thought best to the relief of the needy. The other half of the
income was at Schrotter's disposal, who put it, of course, to the
same use. In his capacity as member of the deputation for the poor,
and also as parish doctor, he came in contact with much poverty and
misery, and was able to direct Wilhelm's charity into the right
channels. It became Wilhelm's regular afternoon employment to visit
the homes of those mentioned to him as in need of relief, that he
might the better judge for himself of the true state of the case,
make personal inquiries about the people, and step in where help was
necessary and deserved.
Only now did he learn what life really was, and what he saw neither
increased his pleasure in being alive nor made him proud to be a man
among men. Needless to say, it was not long before the news reached
the circles of the professional beggars that there was a gentleman
in the Dorotheenstrasse who had a considerable yearly sum of money
to give away. The result was that his modest apartment was so
besieged by petitioners that his old landlady, Frau Muller, the
widow of a post-office official, with whom he had boarded and lodged
for seven years, was goaded to desperation, and declared that if the
disgraceful rabble was encouraged she would be obliged to part from
Wilhelm, though it would be her death, she being so fond of him and
so used to his ways. Wilhelm was wise enough to admit the justice of
her complaint, and empowered Frau Muller to turn away ruthlessly all
such visitors whose names were unknown to her, or who came without
recommendation, which orders she carried out with such virulence and
relentlessness, that the worshipful company of professional beggars
rapidly came to the conclusion that it was useless trying to gain
admittance to Dr. Eynhardt as long as he was guarded by the tall,
bony old lady who opened the door but would not leave hold of it. So
the unceasing tramp of dirty boots on the echoing stair was hushed,
and Wilhelm saw no more of the crape-clad widows of eminent
officials who required a sewing machine or a piano to save them from
starvation; the gentlemen who would be forced to put a bullet
through their brains if they did not procure the money to pay a debt
of honor; or the unemployed clerks who had eaten nothing for days,
and who all had a sick wife and from six to twelve children (all
small) at home crying for bread; or the foreigners who could find no
work in Berlin, and would return to their native countries if he
would give them a few thalers to pay their fourth-class railway
fare; and similar interesting persons, the endless diversity of
whose life-histories had kept him in a chronic state of surprise for
months. In place of the visitors he now received letters, as many as
if he had been a cabinet minister. It was the same old story, only
less affecting, because generally deficient in style, and faulty as
to spelling, and no longer illustrated by tearful, vigorously mopped
eyes, abysmal sighs, and hands wrung till they cracked. For a time
Wilhelm went to every address given in these letters, in order to
see and hear for himself, but after awhile his powers of
discrimination were sharpened, and he learned to distinguish between
the impositions of swindlers and professional beggars, and the real
distress which has a claim to sympathy.
By degrees, it is true, he became convinced, even in the chill
dwellings of real poverty, that this was hardly ever entirely
unmerited. Where it had not been brought about by laziness,
frivolity, or drink, its source was to be found in ignorance or
incapacity, in other words, in an inefficient equipment for the
battle of life. He judged all these circumstances, however, to be
the outward and visible signs of obscure natural laws, and that to
interfere with rash and ignorant hands in their workings was as
useless as it was unreasonable. He therefore pondered seriously
whether, by denying to a portion of mankind the qualities
indispensable to success in the struggle for existence, Nature
herself did not predestine them to misery and destruction; whether
the irredeemable poor--those who after each help upward invariably
fell back in the former state--were not the offscourings of
humanity, the preservation of whom was a fruitless task, and
altogether against the design of Nature?
Fortunately, he did not allow his deeds of brotherly love to be
darkened by the shadow of these and kindred thoughts. He brought
forward reasons which always ended by triumphing over his cold
doubts. Misery was possibly the outcome of inexorable natural laws,
but then was not compassion the same? The poor were poor under the
pressure of some irresistible force, but did not the charitable act
under the same pressure? Moreover, was Wilhelm so sure that he
himself was better equipped for the race of life than those
unfortunates who went under because they chose a trade for which
they were neither mentally nor physically competent, or because,
from laziness or obstinacy, they insisted on remaining in Berlin,
where nobody wanted them, when a few miles off they might have found
all the conditions conducive to their prosperity? How could he know
whether he would have been capable of earning his living if his
father had not left him a plentifully-spread table? In the rooms
that contained so little furniture and so many emaciated human
beings, into which his charitable zeal led him every day, he
pictured himself, pale and thin, without food, without books; and
although he had the harmless vanity to believe that privation and
penury would affect him less deeply than the poor devils he visited,
the idea that he saw his own face before him, as it might have been
had he not had the good luck to be his father's heir opened his hand
still wider, and added to the money words of sympathy and comfort,
which afforded the recipients--unless they were utterly hardened--as
much pleasure as the donation itself.
Beside his almsgiving, he now had another occupation which took up
all his surplus time. Schrotter had not let the suggestion drop
which he made at Dorfling's dinner-party, and had persuaded Wilhelm
so long that he finally rouse himself to attempt an account of the
ways and means by which the human mind has freed itself of its
grossest errors. It was to be entitled "A History of Human
Ignorance," and promised to be a most original work. He would
endeavor to show what idea people had had of the universe at various
periods, how they explained the phenomena of nature, their
connection, their causes and effects. He would begin with the
childish superstitions of the savages, and continuing through the
so-called learned systems of the ancients and of the Middle Ages,
would bring his history up to the theories of contemporary
scientists. He would demonstrate the psychological causes of the
fact that man, at a certain stage of intellectual development, must
necessarily fall into certain errors, and by the aid of what
experiments, experiences, and conclusions he had come gradually to
recognize them as such. How the fresh interpretation of a single
phenomenon would overturn, at one blow, a number of other phenomena
hitherto considered entirely satisfactory, how prevailing scientific
theories, instead of assisting the fearless observer or discoverer,
invariably hindered him and turned him from the right path, in proof
of which assertion he brought forward such striking examples as
Aristotle's convulsive endeavors to make each of the senses
correspond to one of the four elements in which they believed in his
day, and Kepler with his fantastic efforts to prove the supremacy of
the Pythagorean seven in the solar system. The object of the book
was to show that the history of human knowledge is a history of
false inferences and the erroneous interpretations of correctly
observed phenomena, that the increase of knowledge always means the
destruction of existing opinions, that of all the scientific systems
up to the present day, only those retained their position which
proved the futility of earlier theories--never those which built up
new structures on the foundations of the old house of cards that had
been blown down. In a word, that progress means not the acquisition
of fresh knowledge, but an ever-extended consciousness of the
futility of the knowledge we thought to possess.
Wilhem spared himself no pains with this work. He brought all the
thoroughness and industry of his honest nature to bear upon it,
would accept no statement at second-hand, but went for every
information to the fountain head. It would cost an immense amount of
time, but after all he had that at his disposal. There was no need
for him to hurry, seeing that he did not write from ambition or for
any material advantage, but simply for his own gratification. He
began by rubbing up his school Greek sufficiently to enable him to
read the ancient philosophers with ease, which he achieved in a few
months, and then set to work to learn Arabic, that being the chief
language of science in the Middle Ages. Schrotter was seriously
alarmed at these extensive preparations, and hastened to procure,
through his pandit friends, some English extracts from the
scientific literature of India, lest Wilhelm might think fit to
study Sanscrit, and decades would pass before he came to write the
first word of his book.
Thus four years went by, years full of work, though they left no
visible traces. Meanwhile the aspect of things in the new Empire had
become very different. Men breathed the oppressive air with laboring
breasts; the bright dawn which promised so glorious a day had, been
followed by sullen mists, and the blue sky had disappeared behind
heavy, leaden-gray clouds, through which no comforting ray of
sunshine pierced. Where was all the glowing enthusiasm, the rapture
of hope and joy that, in the first years after the great war, had
flushed every German cheek and lit up every eye? Throughout the
length and breath of the land the opposing factions confronted one
another like armed antagonists preparing for a duel to the death.
Town and village rang with execration and satire, with howls of rage
or satisfied revenge vented by German against German. The Roman
Catholic shook his clinched fist at the Protestant, the liberal at
the conservative, the protectionist at the free-trader, the partisan
of absolute government at the defender of the people's rights.
Everywhere hatred and malice, everywhere a mad desire to gag, to
maltreat, to tear limb from limb; this unfettering of the basest
human passions giving meanwhile such an impetus to bribery,
corruption, and unprincipled advancement for party purposes as to
resemble the loathsome luxuriant growth of mildew in the damp
corners of some neglected storeroom.
The high tide of the foreign millions had ebbed away, showing itself
to have been no fructifying Nile but a destructive lava stream,
leaving the country charred and desolate after its passage. The gold
that only yesterday had poured through greedy fingers, had turned
to-day to ashes and withered leaves like the goblin gold of a fairy
tales. Diminished inclination for work, an insanely increased demand
for the luxuries of life, the accepted ideas of morality shaken to
their foundations by scandalous examples of triumphant vice and
villainy--these were the blessings that remained after the so-called
impetus following on the "Downfall." Work was scarcer, wages lower,
but the flood of country people seeking work continued to roll
toward the capital, overcoming with irresistible force the backward
wave of unfortunates who could find no employment in the building
yards, the factories or the workshops, trampling blindly over the
bodies of the fallen, like a herd of buffaloes which marches ever
straight ahead, which nothing can turn out of its course, and when
it arrives at a precipice over which the leaders fall, presses
onward till the last one is swallowed up in the depths. The misery
and privation became heartrending to witness. Each morning you might
see in the working quarters of the town and suburbs hundreds of
strong men, their hands--perforce idle--buried in their torn and
empty pockets, going from factory to factory asking for work, while
the overseers would wave them off from afar to avoid a useless
interchange of words. If, in the years of the French milliards, the
workingman had turned socialist out of sheer envy and wantonness, be
became so now under the sting of adversity, and in all the length
and breadth of Berlin there was hardly one of the proletariat who
was not a fanatical disciple of the new doctrine, with its slashing
denunciations against all that was, and its intoxicating promises of
all that was to be. Wilhelm had many opportunities of intercourse
with the unemployed. He gave help as far as his fifty marks a day
would reach, and kept the wolf from many a door. But the miraculous
loaves and fishes of the gospel would have been necessary to
successfully alleviate even the distress which he saw with his own
eyes, and although much of the preaching of the social democrats
still seemed to him mere phrase-making and altogether mistaken, he
yet came gradually to the conclusion that somewhere--he did not
precisely know where--in the construction of the social machine
there must be a flaw, seeing that there were so many people who
could and would work, and yet were doomed to despair and ruin for
lack of employment. The spring of 1878 came round, and brought with
it two attempts on the life of the emperor within three weeks.
Scarcely had the people recovered from the horror caused by Hodel's
crime when it was shaken to its depths by Nobiling's murderous shot.
On that terrible Sunday, June the 2d, Wilhelm had dined with
Schrotter, and about three o'clock they started for a walk. In the
few steps that separate the Mittelstrasse from the Linden they saw
what was going on in the town. In Unter den Linden, however, they
were received by the yells of the newspaper men calling out the
first special editions, and found themselves in the stream of people
pouring toward the Palace or to No. 18, where they pointed out the
window on the second floor from which the too-well-aimed shot had
From the special editions, from the confused remarks and
exclamations of the crowd in which the two friends found themselves,
and the information they obtained from the grim-looking policemen,
rougher and less communicative than ever, they learned all that was
necessary of the bloody deed which had taken place an hour ago.
Wilhelm could scarcely control his horror, and even Schrotter,
though calmer, was deeply moved and downcast. All pleasure in their
walk was gone, and they decided to return to Schrotter's house.
"It is simply hideous," said Wilhelm, as they turned into the
Friedrichstrasse, "that we have such brutes living among us! We
know, of course, that there is a great deal of distress, but a man
who can revenge his own trouble on the person of the emperor must be
lower than the beasts of the field. And men who at this time of day
have such ideas on State organization are electors!"
"Good heavens!" cried Schrotter, with unconscious vehemence, "you
are surely not going to make the popular mistake of drawing sweeping
conclusions from these outrages? Such occurrences have no outside
importance. They are the acts of madmen. Their following so closely
upon one another is the very surest proof of that. There are in
Germany thousands--perhaps tens of thousands--of unhappy creatures
whose minds are more or less unhinged, though their inexperienced
surroundings do not know it. Some exceptional event will suddenly
put the entire population in a state of ferment, the imagination of
the already morbidly inclined will be particularly strongly affected
thereby; they picture the occurrence to themselves till it takes
hold of them, and drives out every other thought from their minds,
becomes a nightmare, a possession, and finally an irresistible
impulse to do the same. After every event of the kind, you hear that
a whole number of people have gone mad, and that their insanity is
somehow connected with it. No such thing. They were mad before, and
the insanity which had lain dormant in them only waited for a chance
shock to give it definite form and character."
They had reached Schrotter's door by this time, and were on the
point of entering, when a policeman stepped up to them, and touching
Wilhelm's arm, said:
"Gentlemen, you will have to come with me."
"Why, what do you mean?" they exclaimed, very much taken aback.
"Better make no fuss, but come quietly with me," answered the
policeman, "This gentleman accuses you of making insulting remarks
against his majesty."
Only now did they become aware of a man standing behind the
policeman and glaring at them in fury.
"Are you mad?" Schrotter burst out angrily. "That is for the
magistrate to decide," exclaimed the man, in a voice trembling with
rage; "and you, policeman, do your duty."
Passers-by began to gather round the group, so, to bring a
disagreeable scene to a close, Schrotter said to Wilhelm:
"We had better go with the policeman; I suppose we shall be
A short walk brought them to the police office in the Neue Wilhelms
Strasse, where they were taken before the lieutenant of police. The
policeman deposed in a few words that he had been standing at the
corner of the Friedrich and Mittelstrasse, the two gentlemen passed
him in loud conversation; the third gentleman, who was following
them, then came up to him, and told him to arrest them because they
had spoken insultingly of his majesty, and here they were. He had
neither seen nor heard anything further.
The lieutenant of police began by asking their names. When they told
him--"Dr. Schrotter, M. D. one of the members for Berlin and
Professor Emeritus," and "Dr. Eynhardt, Doctor of Philosophy,
householder," he offered them chairs. The informer introduced
himself as "non-commissioned officer Patke, retired, member of a
military association, and candidate for the private constabulary."
"What have you to bring forward against the gentlemen?"
"I walked behind the two gentlemen from the Linden to the
Mittelstrasse. They were conversing loudly about the attempted
assassination, and I naturally listened."
"It does not appear to me so very natural," commented the lieutenant
The informer was a trifle disconcerted, but he soon recovered
himself, and proceeded in a declamatory manner:
"The younger gentleman--the dark one--expressed himself in very
unbecoming terms with regard to his majesty the emperor, and said
among other things, that the outrage was of no real importance. I am
a patriot, I have served his august majesty; if his majesty--"
"That will do," the lieutenant broke in, ruthlessly interrupting the
retired non-commissioned officer's flow of language, which he
accompanied with a dramatic waving of the right arm. "Can you repeat
the 'unbecoming terms' of which, according to your account, this
gentleman made use?"
"I cannot remember the exact words. I was too excited. So much,
however, I remember distinctly--he declared the attempt upon his
majesty's life to be an occurrence of no importance."
Wilhelm now broke in.
"Not a word of that is true," he said quietly. "Neither of us said
one word which could justify this inconceivable charge."
"The remark which this informer seems to have taken hold of,"
Schrotter observed, "was not made by my friend, Dr. Eynhardt, but by
me. I did not say either that the occurrence was unimportant, but
that it had no general significance--that it was not a proof of the
prevailing feeling at large."
"It comes to the same thing whether you say it has no importance or
no significance," interrupted the informer. "That gentleman may have
made the remark, but I certainly heard it, and as a loyal servant of
"That is quite enough," said the lieutenant of police
authoritatively. Then turning to the two friends--"I am very sorry,
but as things stand at present, I must let the law take its course.
Do you persist in your charge?" he asked the informer.
"Yes, Herr Lieutenant; my duty to my sovereign--"
"Silence. Gentlemen, I shall be obliged to notify the matter to the
proper authorities. I expect you will be called upon to clear
yourselves before the magistrate, which I have no doubt you will be
able to do successfully. I need not detain you any longer."
Wilhelm and Schrotter bowed courteously and withdrew, without
vouchsafing a glance at the informer. The latter lingered, as if he
would have liked to continue the conversation with the lieutenant of
police, but an emphatic "You may go!" sent him rapidly over the
threshold of the office.
Five days afterward, on a Friday, Schrotter and Wilhelm were
summoned to appear in the Stadtvogtei [Footnote: A certain prison in
Berlin.] before the magistrate, a disagreeable person with a bilious
complexion, venomous eyes behind his spectacles, and the unpleasing
habit of continually scooping out his ear with the little finger of
his left hand. The two friends, the informer, and the policeman were
present. The magistrate could not have received them differently if
they had been accused of robbing and murdering their parents. To be
sure, he behaved no better to the informer. His expression of
unmitigated disgust was perhaps a freak of nature, and no indication
of the true state of his feelings.
He had a bundle of papers before him, in which he searched for some
time before opening his mouth.
"You are accused of having made use of offensive expressions
regarding his majesty," he said to Schrotter.
"On a preposterously unfounded charge," he retorted.
"And you too," he turned to Wilhelm.
"I can only repeat Dr. Schrotter's answer."
"Give your evidence," he ordered the policeman.
The man did so.
"Could you understand what the gentleman said?"
"How far was Patke behind them?"
"A few steps."
"You must be more exact."
"I can't say more exactly than that, for I paid no attention to the
gentlemen till I was told to arrest them."
"Is it your opinion that Herr Patke could have heard distinctly what
the gentlemen were saying to one another?"
"I dare say he might have understood if they spoke very loud, but I
can't say for certain."
"Herr Patke, what have you to say?"
The former non-commissioned officer, who had donned his 1870 medal
for the occasion, hereupon assumed a strictly military bearing,
fixed his eye firmly on the magistrate, and began in a sing-song
"I happened to be in the street last Sunday when the infamous wretch
lifted his murderous hand against the sacred person of our august
monarch. My heart bled; I was beside myself; I could have torn
everybody and everything to pieces. As I walked along I noticed
these two gentlemen, who looked to me suspicious from the first--"
"Why?" asked the magistrate.
"Well--the one with his black hair, and the other with his hooked
nose--I said to myself, 'Those are Jews!'"
The magistrate suddenly bent over his papers, and gave a kind of
grunt. Even the policeman, in spite of his wooden official air,
could not repress a smile. Patke continued:
"Then I heard the younger gentleman say, 'It serves his majesty the
emperor quite right.'"
"Did he actually say, his majesty the emperor?" interrupted the
"No," answered Patke eagerly, "I say that."
"You are only to repeat the gentleman's actual words."
"He actually did say that it served the emperor right."
"This is beyond a joke," Schrotter burst out. "Why, man, I wonder
the lie does not stick in your throat and choke you!"
"I must beg you not to address the witness," said the magistrate
brusquely. Then to Patke severely--"That is not what you said in
your first charge."
"I was confused then; I did not recollect distinctly. But later on
it came back to me."
"That is very improbable. What have you to answer, Dr. Eynhardt?"
"Simply, that the man's statement is absolutely untrue. I never
uttered or thought words bearing the remotest resemblance to those
"What my friend does not say is," broke in Schrotter, "that, on the
contrary, he expressed the deepest and most painful emotion at the
The magistrate shot a venomous glance from under his spectacles at
Schrotter, but quailed before those flaming half-closed blue eyes
fixed so sternly upon him.
"Well, and what have you to bring forward against the other
"That gentleman said the outrage was of no great importance."
"In your first account you said the outrage had no real
significance, and that Dr. Eynhardt made the remark."
"Whether he said 'no importance' or 'no significance,' it is all the
same thing, and one cannot so easily distinguish the speaker when
one is walking behind. I may have been mistaken on that point."
"You do not repudiate the remark?" asked the magistrate of Schrotter
in his most biting tones.
"Your expression is not very happily chosen. By repudiating I
understand the declaring of a fact to be false when we know it to be
true. I am not in the habit of doing that, nor should I suppose it
of you, Herr Staatsanwalt."
"I need no instruction from you," the other returned angrily.
"It would seem so, however" Schrotter calmly rejoined.
The magistrate grunted several times and then asked, after a pause,
during which he was particularly busy with his ear:
"You admit the statement, then?"
"Not altogether. It is true that I said the attempt on the emperor's
life had no general significance, but I meant by that and the rest
of what I said, that if the political parties should make this
isolated crime (committed by an undoubtedly insane person) the
excuse for adopting measures inimical to the liberty of the public
in general, they would be doing something both unjustifiable and
"Can he have said that?" asked the magistrate, turning to Patke.
"I don't know. I only know what I said just now."
Renewed grunting, renewed digging in the ear and turning over of
papers. "Hm--hm," he muttered to himself testily, "that is not
enough. It is too indefinite, in spite of strong grounds for
suspicion." Then he looked up, and in a tone which was meant to
convey as much scorn as possible, he asked Schrotter--"You played a
part in the political events of 1848?"
"Yes, and the recollection of it is the pride of my life."
"I did not ask you about that. And you are at present the chairman
of a district society of progressive opinions?"
"I have that honor."
"There is nothing further against you. And you, Dr. Eynhardt, you
refused the Iron Cross in the late campaign?"
"You were discharged from the army without comment?"
"For declining a duel," observed Schrotter.
"Dr. Eynhardt is of age, and can answer for himself. You have
attended Socialist meetings?"
"And made speeches?"
"And that was directed against Socialism," said Schrotter again.
The magistrate grew lobster-red in the face.
"It is really scandalous," he cried, quivering with rage, "that I am
repeatedly obliged to remind a man of your position that he is only
to answer when spoken to. Why didn't you say yourself, Dr. Eynhardt,
that you had spoken against the Socialists?"
"Because you did not ask me," answered Wilhelm, with a gentle smile.
After a slight pause the magistrate resumed--"You are on friendly
terms with a Russian named Dr. Barinskoi?"
"You can hardly call it that. I did know him, though not exactly in
a friendly way, but for two years I have quite lost sight of him."
"Did you know that Dr. Barinskoi was a Nihilist?"
"And you did not let that make any difference to you?"
"I was not afraid of infection," said Wilhelm, and smiled again.
"Perhaps not, but of being compromised," growled the magistrate.
"That idea has not troubled me as yet."
"You inherited from a friend who committed suicide a large fortune,
which you use chiefly for the benefit of Socialist workmen?"
"I use it for the benefit of the poor, and those I certainly find
more frequently among the Socialist workmen than among factory
owners and householders."
"I'll thank you to remember that this is not the place for making
bad jokes!" roared the magistrate.
"You are quite right," Wilhelm answered serenely. "I know nothing
more unpleasant than bad jokes."
Schrotter looked as if he were going to embrace his friend. He had
never seen him from this side.
"Did it never occur to you to put yourself in communication with the
clergymen of your district, these gentlemen having far greater
facilities for finding out deserving objects of charity than a
"I will answer that question when you have had the goodness to
explain to me what connection it has with this man's denunciation."
The magistrate glared at him in a manner calculated to wither him on
the spot, but only met a quiet, smiling face which he was incapable
"May I request you now," said Schrotter in his turn, "to ask the
witness Patke if for the last few weeks he has not been a candidate
for a post as detective on the political police staff?" Schrotter
too had made a variety of inquiries since last Sunday, and had
learned this fact.
"That is so," stammered Patke, turning very red. "In these terrible
times, when the Socialists and the enemies of the country--"
"Silence, Herr Patke," interrupted the magistrate angrily; "that has
nothing to do with the business on hand." He reflected for awhile,
and then said with the most deeply grudging manner--"The statement
of the one witness--seeing too that it is indefinite in some
important points--is not sufficient to warrant me in passing a
sentence, in spite of many good grounds for suspicion afforded by
your past history and known opinions. I will therefore dismiss the
charge, if only to avoid the public scandal of a Member being
accused of lese majeste."
Schrotter was boiling with rage, and had the greatest difficulty in
restraining his naturally passionate temper. "Many thanks for your
kindness," he said in a choking voice, "and for this scoundrel you
have no reprimand?"
"Sir," screamed the magistrate, springing out of his chair with
fury, "leave this room instantly; and you, Herr Patke, if you wish
to bring an action for libel against the gentleman you may call upon
me as a witness."
Patke was too modest to avail himself of this friendly offer.
Wilhelm dragged Schrotter out of the office as fast as he could, and
even outside they still heard the magistrate's grunts of wrath.
Dark days followed, in which Schrotter seemed to live over again the
worst horns of the "wild year." A moral pestilence--the craze for
denunciation--spread itself over the whole of Germany, sparing
neither the palace nor the hut. No one was safe, either in the bosom
of the family, at the club table, in the lecture room, or in the
street, from the low spy who, from fanaticism or stupidity, from
personal spite or desire to make himself conspicuous, took hold of
some hasty or imprudent word, turned it round, mangled it, and
brought it redhot to the magistrates, who seldom had the courage to
kick the informer downstairs. Such unspeakable depths of human
baseness came to light, so full of corruption and pestilence, that
the eye turned in horror from the incredible spectacle. The
newspapers brought daily reports of denunciations for "lese
majeste," and when Schrotter read them he clasped his hands in
horrified dismay and exclaimed, "Are we in Germany? are these my
fellow-countrymen?" He became at last so disgusted that he gave up
reading the German papers, and derived his knowledge of what was
going on in the world from the two London papers which, from the
habit of a quarter of a century, he still took in. He wished to hear
no more about denunciations by which, with the aid of police and
magistrates, every kind of cowardice and vileness, social envy and
religious hatred, rivalry, spite, and inborn malevolence, sought a
riskless gratification, and usually found it in full measure. But it
took away all pleasure in social intercourse. One learned to be
cautious and suspicious. One grew accustomed to see an enemy in
every stranger, and to be upon one's guard before a neighbor as
before some lurking traitor. Hypocrisy became an instinct of self-
preservation; every one carefully avoided speaking of those things
of which the heart was full, and Berlin afforded an insight into the
mental condition of the people of Spain during the most flourishing
period of the Inquisition, or of Venice in the days when anonymous
denunciations poured into the yawning jaws of the Lions of St.
The Reichstag was dissolved, the people of Germany must choose new
representatives, and the chief, if not the sole question to be
decided by the election was, Are the Socialists to be dealt with
under a special act, or to come under the common law? Schrotter now
felt it justifiable, nay, that it was his duty, to throw off the
reserve he had maintained since his return to the Fatherland, and
come forward as a candidate for the Reichstag, though for a suburban
district, as the city district to whose poor he had been an untiring
benefactor as physician and friend, with help, counsel, and money,
was not available.
At a meeting of his constituents he laid down his confession of
faith. A special act, he explained, was in no way justified, would
indeed be ineffectual, and lead away from the object they had in
view. The government would be guilty of libel if it made the
Socialists answerable for a crime committed by two half or wholly
insane persons; it was the duty of the government to prove that
these attacks were the work of the Socialists: that proof, however,
it had been unable to discover. Moreover, no special act in the
world could hinder people of unsound mind from committing insane
deeds--the crimes of a Hodel or a Nobiling could not be predicted,
but neither could they be prevented by any kind of precautionary
measure. The sole result of a special act would be to make the
Socialists practically outlaws in their own country. That would
constitute not only a terrible severity against a large class of
their fellow-citizens, but a frightful danger to the State. In
hundreds and thousands of hearts it would destroy the sense of
fellowship with the community in which they lived; they would look
upon themselves as outcasts, and become the enemies of their
pursuers. It would be exactly as if some thousands of Frenchmen were
set down in the midst of the German population--in the army, in the
cities, the factories, the arsenals and railways, where they would
only wait for a favorable opportunity to revenge themselves on their
conquerors. That would be the inevitable result if the Socialists
were deprived of the security of the common law. He considered the
Socialist doctrines false and mischievous, and their aims senseless
and--fortunately--unattainable, and for that very reason he did not
fear them. But deprive the Socialists of the possibility of
expressing themselves freely in word and print, and their
grievances, which now found vent in harmless speechifying, would
assume the form of practical violence.
His speech made an impression, but that of a rival candidate a still
greater, for he succeeded in rousing the deepest and most powerful
emotions of his hearers, by the plain statement that whoever refused
the government the right of adopting such measures as it thought
necessary for the safety of the public, simply delivered the life of
their aged and beloved sovereign into the hands of assassins. At the
election, Schrotter had on his side only a small number of
independent-minded voters, who were able to remain unmoved by
sentimental arguments. The workingmen would not vote for him,
knowing him to be an opponent of Socialism. The rival candidate was
returned by a large majority.
The Reichstag assembled, the Socialist Act was passed, Berlin
declared to be in a state of semi-siege, and a great number of
workmen dismissed from the city. It was November, and winter had set
in with unusual severity. On a dark and bitterly cold afternoon, old
Stubbe, who had been agent in the Eynhardts' house for twenty years,
entered Wilhelm's room.
"What is the news, Father Stubbe?" cried Wilhelm, as he came in.
"No good news, Herr Doctor. Wander the locksmith--you know the man
who rents the second floor of the house in our court--has been
turned out by the police. It seems he's a very dangerous customer; I
must say I have never noticed it. He was always very decent; the
children were a bother, certainly--always running about the court
and getting between your feet. Well, we all have our faults; and
then, too, he didn't pay his rent in October."
Wilhelm, who was well acquainted with Father Stubbe's flow of
language, and did not greatly admire it, interrupted him at this
"Well, and what is the matter?"
"What's the matter, Herr Doctor? Why, the wife is there now with the
five children, and there's no earning anything, and yesterday she
took away a cupboard to turn it into money somewhere--not that she
can have got much for it, it was all tumbling to pieces. The rest of
the furniture will take legs to itself soon, I dare say, for six
mouths must be fed, and where is food to come from? There will be no
removal expenses anyhow, for there will soon be nothing but the bare
walls. There's no question of paying the rent, and never will be, as
far as I can see; so I thought I had better ask what was to be done
with the poor things."
"What can we do?"
"We could seize the bits of sticks they still have, though that
would not cover the rent that is owing. The best thing, perhaps,
would be to tell Frau Wander just to take her things and clear out;
then at least we could relet the rooms."
"Frau Wander does not work?"
"How can she?--five children, and the youngest still at the breast."
"I will see to it myself, and let you know what is to be done."
"Very good, Herr Doctor," said Stubbe, much relieved. He had a kind
heart and it was only his strict sense of duty that led him to
mention the case of the Wanders, and particularly the unpermissible
selling of the furniture, to the owner of the house.
Stubbe had barely reached home before Wilhelm appeared in the
Kochstrasse. His house lay between the Charlotten and
Markgrafenstrasse, and was an old and unpretentious structure,
looking, among the stately houses of a later period which surrounded
it on all sides, like a poor relation at a rich and distinguished
family gathering. During the "milliard years," building speculators
had offered him considerable sums for the ground, but he was not to
be prevailed upon to sell the house left him by his father. It was
only seven windows wide, and had consisted originally of one story
only, but a low second story had been added, recognizable instantly
as a piece of patchwork. A great key hanging over the entrance
announced the fact that there was a locksmith's workshop inside. The
courtyard was very low and narrow, and roughly paved with
cobblestones, between which the grass sprouted luxuriantly. At the
further end of this court stood the "Hinterhaus," likewise two-
storied, on the ground floor of which the locksmith carried on his
Accompanied by Stubbe, Wilhelm mounted the worn wooden staircase
leading to the second floor. The flat consisted of a kitchen and a
room with one window. Even when the sun was most lavish of his rays,
it was none too light there; now, in the early-falling dusk of a
dull late autumn day, Wilhelm found himself in a dim half-light as
he opened the door. There was no fire in the stove, no lamp upon the
table. In the cold and darkness he could just distinguish among the
sparse furniture a slim, wretched-looking woman sitting on a chair
by the table, nursing a baby wrapped in an old blanket; a tall,
large-boned man in workman's clothes, with a bushy beard and gloomy
eyes, leaning against the wall beside the window, and some fair-
haired children, unnaturally silent and motionless for their age,
crouching side by side on the bed, only swinging their legs a little
from time to time.
At Wilhelm's entrance with a friendly "Good-evening," the woman rose
from her seat and gazed at the intruder with hostile eyes, the
children ceased swinging their legs, and the workman shrank away
from the window into the deeper shadow of the corner.
"The landlord," Stubbe announced solemnly.
Frau Wander threw up her head. "Now then, what do you want now?" she
said hurriedly, her bitter tone beginning on the ordinary pitch, but
rising rapidly to a shrewish scream. "It's the rent, I suppose; and
I suppose we're to have notice to quit? It's all one to me. I've got
no money and so I tell you; but what's here you can keep, and you
can have the skin off my back too, and I'll throw in the children
beside. They can drag a milk-cart as well as dogs. Why don't you cut
my throat at once and have done with it?"
"But, my good woman," cried Stubbe, horror-stricken, "what are you
thinking of? The Herr Doctor only means well by you."
Wilhelm had come quite close to the poor thing, who had worked
herself up into such a state of excitement that she was trembling
from head to foot, and said in that gentle voice of his that always
found its way to the heart:
"You are worrying yourself unnecessarily, Frau Wander. I have not
come about the rent, and nobody is going to turn you out of your
home. Herr Stubbe here has been telling me about your troubles, and
I came to see if we could not give you a little assistance."
She stared at him speechless, with wide-open eyes. The children on
the bed began to whisper to one another. Wilhelm took advantage of
the pause to say a few words in Father Stubbe's ear, whereupon the
old man vanished.
"Why don't you offer the gentleman a chair?" said the workman,
coming out of his dark corner.
The woman slowly drew forward a chair, round the torn seat of which
the straw stood up raggedly on all sides. Wilhelm thanked her with a
wave of the hand.
"Do not be afraid of me, dear Frau Wander," he went on. "Tell me
something of your circumstances."
"What was there to tell?" answered the woman, still somewhat
ruffled. He could see for himself how things stood with her. Her
husband had been turned out of Berlin; but much the police cared if
she and her five children starved or froze to death. It would have
come to that already if some of her husband's fellow-workmen had not
given them a little help in their distress, like her present
visitor, the iron-worker, Groll. But what could they do? They had
not anything themselves, and the police were always after them like
the devil after a poor soul. What did they want of them after all?
Her husband had held with the Socialists certainly, but he had done
nobody any harm by that. Ever since Wander had gone over to the
Socialists he had left off drinking--not a drop--only coffee, and
sometimes a little beer; and he was always good to his wife and
children, and he had no debts as long as he had been able to earn
anything. The locksmith downstairs had discharged him after the
second attack on the emperor, although he was a clever workman; but
the master was afraid of the police, and none of the others would
risk taking him on. That was bad enough, but it was not so hard to
bear in the summer, and the Socialists held faithfully together, and
now and then there was a penny to be earned. But now--now that he
had to go away, and winter was at the door--
She could keep up no longer, and burst into tears.
Wilhelm seated himself cautiously on the broken chair, and asked,
"Where is your husband now? and what does he think of doing?"
"He is trying to get through to the Rhine, and get work at Dortmund,
or somewhere in that neighborhood," she answered, while the tight
sobs caught her breath, and she wiped away the tears with the back
of her hand. "If he can't get any work he will go to France, or
Belgium, or even America, if he must. But that takes a lot of money,
and where is one to get it without stealing? We are to come to him
when he has found work, and can send us the money for the journey.
With the free arm that was not holding the child she made a hopeless
At that moment the door opened and Father Stubbe came in, carrying
in one hand a lighted candle, and in the other a great, fresh-
smelling loaf of bread. He placed both upon the bare table, and then
"Bread! bread!" cried the children, awakened to sudden life, and
jumping off the bed they gathered round the table with greedy eyes,
clapping their hands. There were four of them--the youngest a mite
of two or three, who only babbled with the others; the eldest, a
pale little girl of seven or eight years.
"Children! Just let me catch you!" scolded the mother; but her voice
shook with nervous excitement.
"Please, Frau Wander, won't you cut the children some bread first?
We can talk afterward."
In a twinkling the eldest girl had fetched a knife from the kitchen,
the children continuing to clap their hands delightedly, and Frau
Wander cut them large slices, and while she was so engaged, "We have
never had anything given us, Herr Doctor," she said; "we have always
earned our living with honest work. It is hard to have to come to
this; but what can you do when the police put a rope round your
"You must not worry any longer, dear Frau Wander," said Wilhelm,
"but you must not speak like that of the police. You do yourself no
good by it, and perhaps a great deal of harm. We will do what we can
for you. Never mind about the rent. You will stay on quietly here,
and allow me to assist you with this trifle." He pressed two twenty-
mark pieces into the half-reluctant hand so unused to accepting
alms. "And Herr Stubbe will give you the same sum every month till
you are able to join your husband."
He held out his hand, which she grasped in silence, incapable of
finding suitable words to thank him, and he hurried to the door. The
mechanic hastily snatched up the candle from the table, ran after
him and lighted him downstairs, murmuring with real emotion:
"Thank you a thousand times, Herr Doctor, and may God bless you!"
And all the way downstairs Wilhelm was followed by the children's
jubilant song of "Bread! bread!"
One morning a few days later--it was December the 2d--as Wilhelm was
sitting at his writing-table engaged in making notes from a thick
English book of travels on the Australian savage's ideas on nature,
he heard a sound of quarreling going on in the hall. He could
distinguish Frau Muller's irate tones, and then a man's voice
mentioning his name. He gave no further heed to the dispute,
thinking it was doubtless some importune person in whom worthy Frau
Muller had detected the professional beggar, and was therefore
driving away. But it did not leave off, and grew louder and louder,
Frau Muller's voice rising at last to an exasperated scream--there
even seemed to be something like a hand-to-hand fight going on--till
Wilhelm thought it behooved him to see what was happening, and, if
need be, come to the rescue of his faithful house-dragon. He opened
the door quickly and received Frau Muller in his arms. If he had not
caught her, she would have fallen backward into the room, for she
had leaned--a living bulwark--against the door, defending the
entrance with her body against two men, one of whom was trying to
push her away, while the other, standing further back, was
restraining his companion from grasping Frau Muller all too roughly.
In the daring man who did not shrink from laying sacrilegious hands
upon the furious and snorting landlady, Wilhelm instantly recognized
the mechanic whom he had seen at Frau Wander's. At sight of him the
man raised his hat politely, and before the gasping Frau Muller, who
was simply choking with excitement, could find her tongue, he said:
"Beg pardon, I am sure, Herr Doctor, for disturbing you; but we
really must speak to you. I knew from Herr Stubbe that you are
always at home at this hour, so I would not let the lady send us
"The lady indeed!" Frau Muller managed at last to exclaim. "Now he
talks about ladies, and a minute ago he had the impudence--"
"You must excuse us, madam," said the workman with the utmost
civility; "we meant no harm, and we simply must speak to the Herr
"Come in," said Wilhelm curtly, and not overwarmly, while he pressed
the still angrily glaring Frau Muller's hand gratefully.
The second visitor now mentioned his name--it was that of one of the
most prominent leaders of the Social Democrats in Germany. Wilhelm
signed to the two men to be seated, and asked what he could do for
"I heard through the mechanic Groll here," answered the stranger,
pointing to the other man, "what you did for Frau Wander. That
encouraged us to come to you with a request."
At a sign from Wilhelm he continued:
"You have seen one of our cases for yourself, and that not by any
means the worst. We have dozens of such cases, and there will
probably be hundreds more. Our union does what it can. Every member
gives up part of his week's wages for the unfortunate victims, and
thereby we perhaps save the government from the crime of having
condemned innocent women and children to death by starvation. But
our people are poor, and have to fight against want themselves. We
cannot expect any great sacrifice from them. What we want is a
considerable lump sum to enable us to send on the families of the
exiled workmen to join their respective bread-winners. So we go
round knocking at the doors of our wealthy associates, who, though
in consideration of the times they do not care to declare themselves
openly for us, nevertheless have a feeling heart for the
All the time he was speaking he looked Wilhelm straight in the eyes.
Wilhelm bore his gaze quietly, and answered:
"If you think I share your opinions you are much mistaken. I
consider that you are pursuing a false course, that you make
assertions to the workingman which you cannot prove, and promise him
things you cannot fulfill, and I frankly confess that I do not envy
you the responsibility you have taken upon your own shoulders."
The leader stroked his short beard with a nervous movement, and the
mechanic twisted his hat awkwardly between his hands. Wilhelm went
on after a short pause:
"But that does not prevent me from sympathizing with the distress of
women and children, and I shall be very glad to do what I can if you
will give me a detailed account of the state of affairs."
In a few plain words the visitor gave a sketch of the circumstances,
all the more heartbreaking for its very unpretentiousness. So many
men dismissed, so many wives, so many children, so many parents and
near relatives unable to support themselves. Of these so many were
sick, so many women lately confined, so many cripples. So many had
prospects of better circumstances if they could get away from
Berlin. For that purpose such and such a sum was necessary. So much
was already in hand. He stated the amount of certain large
donations, and added--"I will not mention the names of the
subscribers, as it might happen that it would be to your advantage
not to know them."
Wilhelm had listened in silence. He now opened a drawer of his
writing-table, took out a yellow envelope in which Schrotter was in
the habit of giving him, on the first of every month, fifteen
hundred marks out of the Dorfling bequest, and handed the sum which
he had received the day before, and was still unbroken, to the
workingmen's leader. The man turned over the three five-hundred-mark
notes, and then looked up startled. Wilhelm only nodded his head
The leader rose. "It would be inadvisable to give you a receipt. You
have no doubt, I think, that your noble gift will be used for its
proper object. Thank you a thousand times, and if you should ever
stand in need of faithful and determined men, then think of us."
A week later, to the very day, early in the morning a police officer
brought Wilhelm an official document summoning him to appear that
afternoon before the head police authorities in the Stadtvogtei. He
presented himself at the appointed hour in the office, and handed
the document to an official, who, after glancing at it, asked:
"You are Dr. Wilhelm Eynhardt?
He took up a paper lying ready at hand, and said dryly: "I have to
inform you that, in accordance with the Socialist Act, you are
ordered out of Berlin and its purlieus, and must be out of the city
by to-morrow at midnight at the latest."
"Ordered out of Berlin!" cried Wilhelm, utterly taken, aback. "And
may I ask what I have done?"
"You must know that better than I," answered the official sternly.
"However, I have no further information to give you, and can only
advise you to address yourself to the Committee of Police, in case
you require a day or two more to regulate your affairs."
At the same time he handed him the paper, which proved to be the
written order of banishment, and dismissed him with a slight bend of
Wilhelm went without a word. Naturally he turned his steps almost
unconsciously to Schrotter, to whom he held out the police paper in
silence. Schrotter read it, and struck his hands together.
"Is it possible?" he murmured. "Is it possible?" He paced the room
with long strides, then suddenly stood still before his friend, and
laying his hands on Wilhelm's shoulder, he said in tones of profound
emotion: "I never thought I should live to see such things in my own
country. I am nearly sixty, and it is late in the day for me to
begin a new life. But really I find it difficult to breathe this air
any longer. Where shall you go?"
"I do not know yet myself. I must collect my thoughts a little
"Whatever you decide upon, I have a very good mind to go with you.
There is nothing left for me to do in my old age but emigrate
"You will not do that!" answered Wilhelm hurriedly. "Men like you
are more badly needed here than ever. You must stay. I implore you
to do so. Remember how you reproached yourself for twenty years,
because you were not there when the people were struggling against
the Manteuffel reaction. And then--your patients, your poor, the
hundreds who have need of you."
Schrotter did not answer, and seated himself on the divan. His
massive face was gloomy as midnight, and the fiery blue eyes almost
closed. After awhile he growled: "But why--why?"
"Oh, I suppose because of the fifteen hundred marks for the families
of the dismissed workmen."
"Of course!" cried Schrotter, clapping his hand to his forehead.
"Dorfling's gold does not come from the Rhine for nothing," Wilhelm
smiled sadly. "Like the Nibleungen treasure, it is doomed to bring
disaster on all who possess it."
As Schrotter did not answer, Wilhelm resumed: "And as we are on the
subject, we may as well settle that matter at once. Of course you
will use the whole income now for your poor?"
"Not at all!" cried Schrotter. "Why should things not remain as they
are? Wherever you may take up your abode, the poor you have always
Wilhelm shook his head. "I may possibly go abroad, and you see, Herr
Doctor, I am prejudiced in favor of my own country. I think we shall
carry our Dorfling's intentions best by using his money for the
relief of German necessity."
Schrotter made no further objection. That Wilhelm would not, under
any circumstances, use a penny of the money for himself he knew
perfectly well, and in the end it was all the same whether the poor
received it from his hand or Wilhelm's. He merely wrote down some
addresses which Wilhelm gave him of people to whom he gave regular
assistance, and whom he recommended to Schrotter to that end.
When toward evening Wilhelm returned home, and, as was inevitable,
told Frau Muller the news, she nearly fainted, and had to sit down.
She was struck dumb for some time, and then only found strength to
utter low groans. Her lodger turned out of Berlin like a vagrant. A
householder too! Such a respectable, fine young gentleman, whom she
had watched over like the apple of her eye for seven years--
dreadful--dreadful. But it was all the fault of the low wretches who
had forced their way in last week. She had thought as much at the
time. If she had only called in the police at once! The police--oh
yes, she had all due respect for the police, she was the widow of a
government official, and she loved her good old king certainly--but
that they should have banished the Herr Doctor--that was not right--
that could not possibly be right! Frau Muller could not reconcile
herself to the thought of parting. She would go to her friend and
patron the "Geheimer Oberpostrath," and he would use his influence
in the matter; and at last, seeing that Wilhem only smiled or spoke
a few soothing words to her, she burst into tears and sobbed out: "I
am so used to you, Herr Doctor, I don't know how I am going to live
without you." She only composed herself a little when Wilhelm told
her that, for the present at any rate, he was going to leave his
books and other goods and chattels where they were, for he might
perhaps be allowed to return after a time, and meanwhile a young
man, whom she knew, and who was studying at Wilhelm's at Schrotter's
expense, should board and lodge with her, and she would receive the
same sum as Wilhelm had always paid.
With night came counsel. Wilhelm decided to go first to Hamburg,
where Paul lived during the winter, wait there till the spring, and
then arrange further plans. He visited the grave of his father and
mother, gave Stubbe orders as to the management of the house, took
leave of a few friends, visited one or two poor people whom he was
in the habit of looking after, and then had nothing further to keep
him in Berlin. The rest of the day he passed with Schrotter, who
found the parting very hard to bear. Bhani, whom they had acquainted
with the matter, had tears in her beautiful dark eyes--the last
remnant of youth in the withered face. And as he left the dear
familiar house in the Mittelstrasse she begged him--translating the
Indian words plainly enough by looks and gestures--to accept an
amulet of cold green jade as a remembrance of her.
That night at eleven o'clock a slow train bore Wilhelm away from
At the station he caught sight of the face of his old friend Patke,
whom he had come across more than once during that day. The former
non-commissioned officer had apparently reached the goal of his
ambitions and become a private detective.
Schrotter had stood on the step of the carriage till the very last
moment, holding his friend's hand. Now Wilhelm leaned back in his
corner and closed his eyes, and while the train rattled along over
the snow-covered plain, he asked himself for the first time whether
after all Dorfling had been quite such a fool as most of them
considered him to have been?
On alighting next morning at the station in Hamburg, Wilhelm found
himself clasped in a pair of strong arms and pressed to a
magnificent fur coat. Inside this warm garment there beat a still
warmer heart, that of Paul Haber, who had received a letter from
Wilhelm the day before, telling him of his dismissal from Berlin,
and that he was leaving for Hamburg by the last train before
midnight, and whom neither the cold and darkness nor the extreme
earliness of the hour could restrain from meeting his friend at the
Their greeting was short and affectionate.
"A hearty welcome to you!" cried Paul. "We will do our best to make
a new home for you here."
"You see, I thought of you at once when I had to look about me for
some resting-place in the wide world."
"I should have expected no less of you. Keep your ears stiff, and
don't let the horrid business worry you."
Wilhelm's bag was handed to an attendant servant, and the two
friends walked off arm in arm toward an elegant brougham lined with
light blue, with a conspicuously handsome long-limbed chestnut and a
stout, bearded coachman, which stood waiting for them.
Wilhelm mentioned the name of the hotel where he intended to stay,
but Paul cut him short. "Not a bit of it! Home, Hans, and look sharp
about it!" And before Wilhelm could offer any remonstrance, he found
himself pushed into the carriage, Paul at his side. The door banged,
the footman sprang on to the box, and off they went as fast as the
long legs of the chestnut would carry them.
For the last two years Paul had owned a villa on the Uhlenhorst, in
the Carlstrasse, and there the fast trotter drew up. Wilhelm had
said but little during the drive, and Paul had confined the
expression of his feeling of delight to clapping his friend on the
shoulder from time to time, and pressing his hand. Rather less than
half an hour's drive brought them to their destination. Paul would
not hear of Wilhelm making any alteration in his dress, but drew him
as he was into the smoking room on the ground floor, where Malvine
came to meet him, and received him in her hearty but quiet and
uneffusive manner. She was the picture of health, but had grown
perhaps a little too stout for her age. She wore a morning wrap of
red velvet and gold lace, and looked, in that costly attire, like a
princess or a banker's wife.
"You must be very cold and tired," she said; "the coffee is ready,
come at once to breakfast--that will put some warmth into you--you
can dress afterward." She hurried before them into the next room,
where they found an amply spread table over which hovered the
fragrant smell of several steaming dishes. It was a lavish breakfast
in the English style; beside tea and coffee there were eggs, soles,
ham, cold turkey, lobster salad, and several excellent wines. A
servant in the livery of a "Jager" waited at table.
Wilhelm shook his head at the sight of all this splendor. "But, my
dear lady, so much trouble on my behalf!"
"You are quite mistaken," Paul answered for Malvine, and not without
a smile of satisfied pride; "it is our usual breakfast--we have it
so every day."
Wilhelm looked at him surprised, and then remarked after a short
pause: "I would never have written to you, if I had dreamed that you
would get up before daybreak, and upset your whole household in
order to fetch me from the station."
"Why, what nonsense! We are quite used to getting up early. At
Friesenmoor we have to be still earlier."
"But that is in the summer."
"So it is, but then our broken rest is not made up to us by the
sight of a friend."
While they devoured the good things, and Paul, who despised tea and
coffee, sipped his slightly warmed claret, he remarked, between two
mouthfuls, "I was struck all of a heap by your letter. You turned
out! the most harmless, law-abiding citizen I ever heard of! What in
the world did you do? You need not mind telling me."
"I cannot say that I am aware of having committed any crime, Paul."
"Come now, something must have happened, for the police does not
take a step of that kind without some provocation--it's only your
beggarly Progressives who think that, but nobody who knows the
fundamental principles of our government and its officials would
"You seem to have become a warm admirer of the government."
"Always was! But, upon my word, when I see the way the opposition
parties go on I am more so than ever--positively fanatical."
"Then I have no doubt that you will consider that I did commit a
"Ah! so there was something after all?"
"Yes, I contributed fifteen hundred marks to a collection for the
distressed families of the Social Democrats who had been dismissed
"You did?" cried Paul, dropping his knife and fork, and staring at
Wilhelm in amazement.
"And that seems so criminal to you?"
"Look here, Wilhelm, you know I'm awfully fond of you, but I must
say you have only got what you deserve. How could you take part in a
revolutionary demonstration of the kind?"
"I did not, nor do I now see anything political in it. It was a
question of women and children deprived of their bread-winners, and
whom one cannot allow to starve or freeze to death."
"Oh, go along with your Progressionist phrases! Nobody need starve
or freeze in Berlin. The really poor are thoroughly well looked
after by the proper authorities. The supposed distress of these
women and children is a mere trumped-up story on the part of the
Revolutionists--a means of agitation, a weapon against the
government. The beggars simply speculate on the tears of sentimental
idiots. They get up a sort of penny-dreadful, whereon the one side
you have a picture of injured innocence in the shape of pale
despairing mothers and clamoring children, and on the other,
villainy triumphant in the form of a police constable or a
government official. And to think that you should have been taken in
by such a swindle!"
"I suppose you do not see how heartless it appears to speak so
lightly of other people's hunger, sitting oneself at such a table as
"Bravo, Wilhelm! Now you are throwing my prosperity in my teeth like
any advocate of division of property. I trust you have not turned
Socialist yourself? you who used not to have a good word to say for
"Never fear--I am not a Socialist. Their doctrines have not been
able to convince me yet. But for years I have seen the distress of
the working people with my own eyes, and I know that every human
being with a heart in his body is in duty bound to help them."
"And who says anything against that? Don't we all do our duty?
Poverty has always existed and always will to the end of time. But,
on the other hand, that is what charity is there for. We have
hospitals for the sick, workhouses and parish relief for the aged
and incapable, for lazy vagabonds who won't work, it is true, only
"That is all very fine, but what are you going to do with the honest
men who want to work but can find none?"
"Wilhelm, I have always had the highest respect for you, your
wisdom, your intellect, but forgive me if I say that, in this case,
you are talking of things you do not understand. Everybody who wants
work finds it. I hope you will be at my place next summer. Then
you'll see how I positively sweat blood in harvest-time trying to
get the necessary number of laborers together, and what I have to
put up with from the rascals only to keep them in good humor. Don't
try on any of these windy arguments with a landowner--people that
want work and can't find it indeed! Let me tell you, my son, neither
I nor any one of my country neighbors can scrape together as many
people as we need."
"But everybody cannot work in the fields."
"There, at last, you have hit the bull's eye--that is where the shoe
pinches. Agriculture offers a certain means of livelihood to all who
can and will work properly. But that does not suit the lazy beggars.
The work is too hard, and, more particularly, the discipline on an
estate is too strict for their fancy. They would rather be in the
town, rather starve in a workshop, or ruin their lungs in a factory,
because there they have more freedom--that is, they can go on the
spree all night and shirk their work all day, if they like--they can
play the gentleman, and think themselves as good as any general or
minister. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that they soon
come to want, and instead of admitting that it is entirely the fault
of their own pigheadedness and perversity, they go and turn unruly
against the government. They should be turned out neck and crop, the
whole pack of them."
"Don't excite yourself so, Paul," warned Malvine gently, as her
husband grew crimson in the face and ceased to eat.
Wilhelm remained unruffled. "So you think the Socialist Act was
"Justified! Why, my only objection to it is that it is much too
mild. A State has a right to use every means it can--even the
sharpest--to defend itself against its deadly enemies. To deal
mildly with the enemies of society is to be unjust to us, the
orderly and industrious members of the community, who work hard to
get on, and who don't want to be for ever trembling for their well-
earned possessions, because thieves and vagabonds--as is the way of
all robbers--would like to enjoy the good things of this life
without working for them."
"My good Paul, that is the language of fanaticism, and, of course,
it is useless to try to reason against that. Only let me tell you
this. I do not believe that the Socialists want to rob anybody; I do
not believe that they are enemies to the State and to society. They
too desire a State and a society, but different from the existing
ones; they too have an ideal of justice, but it is not the one that
has become traditional with us. Under the new order of things, as
they have arranged it in their minds, there should be room for every
individual, every opinion, all sorts and conditions of men. What the
ruling classes say against them to-day has been said against the
adherents of all new ideas since the beginning of time. Whoever
tried to make the slightest alteration in the existing order of
things was always considered, by those who derived advantages
therefrom, to be a foe to the State and to society in general-a
robber and a revolutionist. The early Christians enjoyed exactly the
same reputation as the Socialists to-day. They were looked upon as
enemies of the whole human race, and were torn to pieces by wild
beasts, though--doubtless to your regret--it has not come to that
with, the Socialists. And nevertheless, though lions and tigers are
a good deal worse than police officers, the principles of
Christianity have triumphed, and there is nothing to prove that the
principles of Socialism will not triumph in their turn."
"Prophet of evil omen!" cried Paul.
"Not necessarily so. Where would be the misfortune? I am firmly
persuaded that a Socialist State would not differ in any important
point from the accepted forms of government of the day. The
administrative power would merely be transferred from the hands of
the military and the landed aristocracy to another class. To those
who do not want a share in the governing power, it is all the same
who wields it. You see, human nature remains the same, and its
organization alters only very gradually, almost imperceptibly,
though it sometimes changes its name. Christianity promised to be
the beginning of the thousand years' reign, but in the main,
everything has gone on just as it was before. A Socialist State
would not be able to make the sun rise in the west, or do away with
death any more than we can. They would have ministers, custom-house
officers, policemen, virtue, vice and ambition, self-interest,
oppression and brotherly love just as we do, and if the Socialists
come into power, they will soon pass special acts and prosecute the
followers of other opinions just as they are being prosecuted to-
day. That is all upon the surface, and does not touch the root of
things. Why excite yourself about a mere shadowplay?"
"In practical matters," answered Paul, laughing, "I consider I am
the better man, but you certainly beat me at metaphysics. Prophecy
decidedly comes under the heading of metaphysics, so I strike my
colors before you."
"The sooner the better," said Malvine; "especially as it is quite
unpardonable of you to start off on a long discussion when our poor
friend must be so tired and sleepy."
It was eight o'clock by this time, and Wilhelm really felt the want
of rest. But before going to his room he asked after his godson,
little Willy. Malvine was evidently expecting this, she ran to the
door and called into the next room: "Come here, Willy--come quick--
Uncle Eynhardt is here and wants to see you." Whereupon the boy came
bounding in, and threw himself with a shout of delight upon
Wilhelm's neck. Willy was still his mother's only child. He was
nearly six years old, not very tall for his age, but a fine,
handsome, thoroughly healthy child, with firm legs, a blooming
complexion, the dark eyes of his grandmother, and long fair curls.
He was charmingly dressed in a sailor suit with a broad turned-back
collar over a blue-and-white striped jersey, long black stockings,
and pretty little patent leather shoes with silk ties. Wilhelm
lifted up this young prince, kissing him, and asked, "Well, Willy,
do you remember me?" He had not seen, him for eighteen months.
"Of course, I do, uncle, we talk about you every day," cried the
child in his clear voice. "Are you going to stay with us now?"
"Yes, that he is!" his father answered for the friend.
"How jolly! how jolly!" cried Willy, clapping his hands with glee.
"And you will teach me to ride, won't you, uncle? Papa has no time."
"But I don't know how to ride myself," returned Wilhelm with a
Willy looked up disappointed. "What can you do then?"
"Be a good boy now," Malvine broke in, "and leave uncle in peace and
go back to the nursery. You shall have him again later on."
After more kisses and caresses Willy ran off, and Paul led his guest
to the room prepared for him, where at last he left him to himself.
Wilhelm had visited Paul on his estate during the preceeding summer,
but since then had only seen him in Berlin. The house on the
Uhlenhorst was new to him, and he marveled at the solid
sumptuousness that met the eye at every turn. The visitor's room was
not less splendidly furnished than the smoking and breakfast rooms
he had already seen, and when he looked about him at the great
carved bedstead with its ample draperies, the silk damask-covered
chairs, the thick rugs, the marble washstand, and the toilet table
with its array of bottles and dishes of china, cut glass, and
silver, he could not help feeling almost abashed. His friend Paul
had become a very great gentleman apparently!
And so in point of fact he had. The Friesenmoor had proved itself a
very gold mine, and in the district round about they calculated that