by Conrad von Bolanden
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN OF CONRAD VON BOLANDEN.
* * * * *
THE CATHOLIC PUBLICATION SOCIETY,
9 WARREN STREET.
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CHAPTER I. THE WAGER
The balcony of the palais Greifmann contains three persons
who together represent four million florins. It is not often that one
sees a group of this kind. The youthful landholder, Seraphin Gerlach,
is possessor of two millions. His is a quiet disposition; very calm,
and habitually thoughtful; innocence looks from his clear eye upon the
world; physically, he is a man of twenty-three; morally, he is a child
in purity; a profusion of rich brown hair clusters about his head; his
cheeks are ruddy, and an attractive sweetness plays round his mouth.
The third million belongs to Carl Greifmann, the oldest member of
the group, head pro tem. of the banking-house of the same name.
This gentlemen is tall, slender, animated; his cheeks wear no bloom;
they are pale. His carriage is easy and smooth. Some levity is visible
in his features, which are delicate, but his keen, glancing eye is
disagreeable beside Seraphin's pure soul-mirror. Greifmann's sister
Louise, not an ordinary beauty, owns the fourth million. She is seated
between the young gentlemen; the folds of her costly dress lie heaped
around her; her hands are engaged with a fan, and her eyes are sending
electric glances into Gerlach's quick depths. But these flashing beams
fail to kindle; they expire before they penetrate far into those
depths. His eyes are bright, but they refuse to gleam with intenser
fire. Strange, too, for a twofold reason; first, because glances from
the eyes of beautiful women seldom suffer young men to remain cool;
secondly, because a paternal scheme designs that Louise shall be
engaged and married to the fire-proof hero.
Millions of money are rare; and should millions strive to form an
alliance, it is in conformity with the genius of every solid banking
establishment to view this as quite a natural tendency.
For eight days Mr. Seraphin has been on a visit at the palais
Greifmann, but as yet he has yielded no positive evidence of intending
to join his own couple of millions with the million of Miss Louise.
Whilst Seraphin converses with the beautiful young lady, Carl
Greifmann cursorily examines a newspaper which a servant has just
brought him on a silver salver.
Every age has its folly, suddenly exclaims the banker. In the
seventeenth century people were busy during thirty years cutting one
another's throats for religion's sakeor rather, in deference to the
pious hero of the faith from Sweden and his fugleman Oxenstiern. In the
eighteenth century, they decorated their heads with periwigs and
pigtails, making it a matter of conjecture whether both ladies and
gentlemen were not in the act of developing themselves from monkeydom
Elections are the folly of our century. See here, my good fellow,
look what is written here: In three days the municipal elections will
come off throughout the countryin eighteen days the election of
delegates. For eighteen days the whole country is to labor in election
throes. Every man twenty-one years of age, having a wife and a
homestead, is to be employed in rooting from out the soil of party
councilmen, mayors, and deputies.
And during the period these rooters not unfrequently get at
loggerheads. Some are in favor of Streichein the miller, because
Streichein has lavishly greased their palms; others insist upon
re-electing Leimer the manufacturer, because Leimer threatens a
reduction of wages if they refuse to keep him in the honorable
position. In the heat of dispute, quite a storm of oaths and ugly
epithets, yes, and of blows too, rages, and many is the voter who
retires from the scene of action with a bloody head. The beer-shops are
the chief battle-fields for this sort of skirmishing. Here, zealous
voters swill down hogsheads of beer: brewers drive a brisk trade during
elections. But you must not think, Seraphin, that these absurd election
scenes are confined to cities. In rural districts the game is conducted
with no less interest and fury. There is a village not far away, where
a corpulent ploughman set his mind on becoming mayor. What does he, to
get the reins of village government into his great fat fist? Two days
previous to the election he butchers three fatted hogs, has several
hundred ringlets of sausage made, gets ready his pots, and pans for
cooking and roasting, and then advertises: eating and drinking ad
libitum and gratis for every voter willing to aid him to
ascend the mayor's throne. He obtained his object.
Now, I put the question to you, Seraphin, is not this sort of
election jugglery far more ridiculous and disgusting than the most
preposterous periwigs of the last century?
Ignorance and passion may occasion the abuse of the best
institutions, answered the double millionaire. However, if beer and
pork determine the choice of councilmen and mayors, voters have no
right to complain of misrule. It would be most disastrous to the state,
I should think, were such corrupt means to decide also the election of
the deputies of our legislative assembly.
The banker smiled.
The self-same man[oe]uvring, only on a larger scale, replied he.
Of course, in this instance, petty jealousies disappear. Streichein the
miller and Leimer the manufacturer make concessions in the interest of
the common party. All stand shoulder to shoulder in the cause of
progress against Ultramontanes and democrats, who in these days
have begun to be troublesome.
Whilst at municipal elections office-seekers employed money and
position for furthering their personal aims, at deputy elections
progress men cast their means into a common cauldron, from which
the mob are fed and made to drink in order to stimulate them with the
spirit of progress for the coming election. At bottom it amounts
to the samethe stupefaction of the multitude, the rule of a minority,
in which, however, all consider themselves as having part, the folly of
the nineteenth century.
This is an unhealthy condition of things, which gives reason to
fear the corruption of the whole body politic, remarked the landholder
with seriousness. The seats of the legislative chamber should be
filled not through bribery and deception of the masses, nor through
party passion, but through a right appreciation of the qualifications
that fit a man for the office of deputy.
I ask your pardon, my dear friend, interposed the banker with a
laugh. Being reared by a mother having a rigorous faith has prompted
you to speak thus, not acquaintance with the spirit of the age. Right
appreciation! Heavens, what naïveté! Are you not aware that
progress, the autocrat of our times, follows a fixed, unchanging
programme? It matters not whether Tom or Dick occupies the cushions of
the legislative hall; the main point is to wear the color of
progress, and for this no special qualifications are needed. I will
give you an illustration of the way in which these things work. Let us
suppose that every member is provided with a trumpet which he takes
with him to the assembly. To blow this trumpet neither skill, nor quick
perception, nor experience, nor knowledgeneither of these
qualifications is necessary. Now, we will suppose these gentlemen
assembled in the great hall where the destinies of the country are
decided; should abuses need correction, should legislation for church
or state be required, they have only to blow the trumpet of progress. The trumpet's tone invariably accords with the spirit of progress, for
it has been attuned to it. Should it happen that at a final vote upon a
measure the trumpets bray loudly enough to drown the opposition of
democrats and Ultramontanes, the matter is settled, the law is passed,
the question is decided.
Evidently you exaggerate! said Seraphin with a shake of the head.
Your illustration beats the enchanted horn of the fable. Do not you
think so. Miss Louise?
Brother's trumpet story is rather odd, 'tis true, yet I believe
that at bottom such is really the state of things.
The instrument in question is objectionable in your opinion, my
friend, only because you still bear about you the narrow conscience of
an age long since buried. As you never spend more than two short winter
months in the city, where alone the life-pulse of our century can be
felt beating, you remain unacquainted with the present and its spirit.
The rest of the year you pass in riding about on your lands, suffering
yourself to be impressed by the stern rigor of nature's laws, and
concluding that human society harmonizes in the same manner with the
behests of fixed principles. I shall have to brush you up a little. I
shall have to let you into the mysteries of progress, so that you may
cease groping like a blind man in the noonday of enlightenment. Above
all, let us have no narrow-mindedness, no scrupulosity, I beg of you.
Whosoever nowadays walks the grass-grown paths of rigorism is a doomed
Whilst he was saying this, a smile was on the banker's countenance.
Seraph in mused in silence on the meaning and purpose of his
Look down the street, if you please, continued Carl Greifmann. Do
you observe yon dark mass just passing under the gas-lamp?
I notice a pretty corpulent gentleman, answered Seraphin.
The corpulent gentleman is Mr. Hans Shund, formerly treasurer of
this city, explained Greifmann. Many years ago, Mr. Shund put his
hand into the public treasury, was detected, removed for dishonesty,
and imprisoned for five years. When set at liberty, the ex-treasurer
made the loaning of money on interest a source of revenue. He conducted
this business with shrewdness, ruined many a family that needed money
and in its necessity applied to him, and became rich. Shund the usurer
is known to all the town, despised and hated by everybody. Even the
dogs cannot endure the odor of usury that hangs about him; just
seeall the dogs bark at him. Shund is moreover an extravagant admirer
of the gentler sex. All the town is aware that this Jack Falstaff
contributes largely to the scandal that is afloat. The pious go so far
as to declare that the gallant Shund will be burned and roasted in hell
for all eternity for not respecting the sixth commandment. Considered
in the light of the time honored morality of Old Franconia, Shund, the
thief, the usurer and adulterer, is a low, good-for-nothing scoundrel,
no question about it. But in the light of the indulgent spirit of the
times, no more can be said than that he has his foibles. He is about to
pass by on the other side, and, as a well-bred man, will salute us.
Seraphin had attentively observed the man thus characterized, but
with the feelings with which one views an ugly blotch, a dirty page in
the record of humanity.
Mr. Shund lowered his hat, his neck and back, with oriental
ceremoniousness in presence of the millions on the balcony. Carl
acknowledged the salute, and even Louise returned it with a friendly
inclination of the head.
The landholder, on the contrary, was cold, and felt hurt at
Greifmann's bowing to a fellow whom he had just described as a
scoundrel. That Louise, too, should condescend to smile to a thief,
swindler, usurer, and immoral wretch! In his opinion, Louise should
have followed the dictates of a noble womanhood, and have looked with
honest pity on the scapegrace. She, on the contrary, greeted the bad
man as though he were respectable, and this conduct wounded the young
Apropos of Hans Shund, I will take occasion to convince you of the
correctness of my statements, said Carl Greifmann. Three days hence,
the municipal election is to come off. Mr. Shund is to be elected
mayor. And when the election of deputies takes place, this same Shund
will command enough of the confidence and esteem of his fellow-citizens
to be elected to the legislative assembly, thief and usurer though he
be. You will then, I trust, learn to understand that the might of
progress is far removed from the bigotry that would subject a man's
qualifications to a microscopic examination. The enlarged and liberal
principles prevailing in secular concerns are opposed to the
intolerance that would insist on knowing something of an able man's
antecedents before consenting to make use of him. All that Shund will
have to do will be to fall in under the glorious banner of the spirit
of the age; his voting trumpet will be given him; and forthwith he will
turn out a finished mayor and deputy. Do you not admire the power and
stretch of liberalism?
I certainly do admire your faculty for making up plausible
stories, answered Seraphin.
Plausible stories? Not at all! Downright earnest, every word of it.
Hans Shund, take my word for it, will be elected mayor and member of
In that event, replied the landholder, Shund's disreputable
antecedents and disgusting conduct at present must be altogether a
secret to his constituents.
Again you are mistaken, my dear friend. This remark proceeds from
your want of acquaintance with the genius of our times. This city has
thirty thousand inhabitants. Every adult among them has heard of Hans
Shund the thief, usurer, and companion of harlots. And I assure you
that not a voter, not a progressive member of our community, thinks
himself doing what is at all reprehensible by conferring dignity and
trust on Hans Shund. You have no idea how comprehensive is the soul of
Let us quit a subject that appears to me impossible, nay, even
unnatural, said Gerlach.
No, no; for this very reason you need to be convinced, insisted
the banker with earnestness. My prospectivebut holdI was almost
guilty of a want of delicacy. No matter, my actual friend,
landholder and millionaire, must be made see with his eyes and touch
with his fingers what marvels progress can effect. Let us make a
bet: Eighteen days from now Hans Shund will be mayor and member for
this city. I shall stake ten thousand florins. You may put in the pair
of bays that won the best prizes at the last races.
Come on! urged the banker. Since you refuse to believe my
assertions, let us make a bet. May be you consider my stakes too small
against yours? Very well, I will say twenty thousand florins.
You will be the loser, Greifmann! Your statements are too
Never mind; if I lose, you will be the winner. Do you take me up?
Pshaw, Carl! you are too sure, said Louise reproachfully.
My feeling so sure is what makes me eager to win the finest pair of
horses I ever saw. Is it possible that you are a coward?
The landholder's face reddened. He put his right hand in the
banker's. My dear fellow, exclaimed he jubilantly, I have just
driven a splendid bargain. To convince you of the entire fairness of
the transaction, you are to be present at the manipulation that is to
decide. Even though you lose the horses, your gain is incalculable, for
it consists in nothing less than being convinced of the wonderful
nature and of the omnipotence of progress. I repeat, then, that,
wherever progress reigns, the elections are the supreme folly of the
nineteenth century; for in reality there is no electing; but what
progress decrees, that is fulfilled.
CHAPTER II. THE LEADERS.
The banker was seated at his office table working for his chance in
the wager with the industry of a thorough business man. Whilst he was
engaged in writing notes, a smile indicative of certainty of success
lit up his countenance; for he was thoroughly familiar with the figures
that entered into his calculations, and, withal, Hans Shund invested
with offices and dignity could not but strike him as a comical anomaly.
Happy thought! My father travels half of the globe; many wonderful
things come under his observation, no doubt, but the greatest of all
prodigies is to be witnessed right here: Hans Shund, the thief,
swindler, usurer, wantonmayor and law-maker! And it is the venerable
sire Progress that alone could have begotten the prodigy of a
Hans Shund invested with honors. My Lord Progress is therefore himself
a prodigya very extraordinary offspring of the human mind, the
culminating point of enlightenment. Admitting humanity to be ten
thousand million years old, or even more, as the most learned of
scientific men have accurately calculated it, during this rather long
series of years nature never produced a marvel that might presume to
claim rank with progress. Progress is the acme of human cultureabout
this there can be no question. Yes, indeed, the acme. And he
finished the last word in the last note. Humanity will therefore have
to face about and begin again at the beginning; for after progress
nothing else is possible. He rang his bell.
Take these three notes to their respective addresses immediately,
said he to the servant who had answered the ring. Greifmann stepped
into the front office, and gave an order to the cashier. Returning to
his own cabinet, he locked the door that opened into the front office.
He then examined several iron safes, the modest and smooth polish of
which suggested neither the hardness of their iron nature nor the
splendor of their treasures.
Gold or paper? said the banker to himself. After some indecision,
he opened the second of the safes. This he effected by touching several
concealed springs, using various keys, and finally shoving back a huge
bolt by means of a very small blade. He drew out twenty packages of
paper, and laid them in two rows on the table. He undid the tape
encircling the packages, and then it appeared that every leaf of both
rows was a five-hundred florin banknote. The banker had exposed a
considerable sum on the table. A sudden thought caused him to smile,
and he shoved the banknotes where they came more prominently into view.
The blooming double millionaire entered.
Sit down a moment, friend Seraphin, and listen to a short account
of my scheme. I have said before that our city is prospering and
growing under the benign sceptre of progress. The powers and honors of
the sceptre are portioned among three leaders. Everything is directed
and conducted by themof course, in harmony with the spirit of the
times. I have summoned the aforesaid magnates to appear. That the
business may be despatched with a comfortable degree of expedition, the
time when the visit is expected has been designated in each note; and
those gentlemen are punctual in all matters connected with money and
the bank. You can enter this little apartment, next to us, and by
leaving the door open hear the conversation. The mightiest of the
corypheuses is Schwefel, the straw-hat manufacturer. This potentate
resides at a three-minutes walk from here, and can put in an appearance
at any time.
I am on tiptoe! said Gerlach. You promise what is so utterly
incredible, that the things you are preparing to reveal appear to me
like adventures belonging to another world.
To another world!quite right, my dear fellow! I am indeed about
to display to your astounded eyes some wonders of the world of progress
that hitherto have been entirely unknown to you. Within eighteen days
you shall, under my tutorship, receive useful and thorough instruction.
This promise I can make you, as we are just in face of the elections, a
time when minds put aside their disguises, when they not unfrequently
shock one another, and when many secrets come to light!
You put me under many obligations!
Only doing my duty, my most esteemed! We are both aware that,
according to the wishes of parents and the desired inclinations of
parties known, our respective millions are to approach each other in
closer relationship. To do a relative of mine in spe a favor,
gives me unspeakable satisfaction. I shall proceed with my course of
instruction. See here! Every one of these twenty packages contains
twenty five-hundred florin banknotes. Consequently, both rows contain
just two hundred thousand florinsan imposing sum assuredly, and, for
the purpose of being imposing, the two hundred thousand have been laid
upon this table. Explanation: the mightiest of the spirits of progress
All forces, all sympathies, revolve about money as the heavenly
bodies revolve about the sun. For this reason the mere proximity of a
considerable sum of money acts upon every man of progress like a
current of electricity: it carries him away, it intoxicates his senses.
The leaders whom I have invited will at once notice the collection of
five-hundred florin notes: in the rapidity of calculating, they will
overestimate the amount, and obtain impressions in proportion, somewhat
like the Jews that prostrated themselves in the dust in adoration of
the golden calf. As for me, my dear fellow, I shall carry on my
operations in the auspicious presence of this power of two hundred
thousands. Such a display of power will produce in the leaders a frame
of mind made up of veneration, worship, and unconditional
submissiveness. Every word of mine will proceed authoritatively from
the golden mouth of the two hundred thousands, and my proposals it will
be impossible for them to reject. But listen! The door of the ante-room
is being opened. The mightiest is approaching. Go in quick. He pressed
the spring of a concealed door, and Seraphin disappeared.
When the straw-hat manufacturer entered, the banker was sitting
before the banknotes apparently absorbed in intricate calculations.
Ah Mr. Schwefel! pardon the liberty I have taken of sending for
you. The pressure of business, motioning significantly towards the
banknotes, has made it impossible for me to call upon you.
No trouble, Mr. Greifmann, no trouble whatever! rejoined the
manufacturer with profound bows.
Have the goodness to take a seat! And he drew an arm-chair quite
near to where the money lay displayed. Schwefel perceived they were
five-hundreds, estimated the amount of the pile in a few rapid glances,
and felt secret shudderings of awe passing through his person.
The cause of my asking you in is a business matter of some
magnitude, began the banker. There is a house in Vienna with which we
stand in friendly relations, and which has very extensive connections
in Hungary. The gentlemen of this house have contracts for furnishing
large orders of straw hats destined mostly for Hungary, and they wish
to know whether they can obtain favorable terms of purchase at the
manufactories of this country. It is a business matter involving a
great deal of money. Their confidence in the friendly interest of our
firm, and in our thorough acquaintance with local circumstances, has
encouraged them to apply to us for an accurate report upon this
subject. They intimate, moreover, that they desire to enter into
negotiations with none but solid establishments, and for this reason
are supposed to be guided by our judgment. As you are aware, this
country has a goodly number of straw-hat manufactories. I would feel
inclined, however, as far as it may be in my power, to give your
establishment the advantage of our recommendation, and would therefore
like to get from you a written list of fixed prices of all the various
I am, indeed, under many obligations to you, Mr. Greifmann, for
your kind consideration, said the manufacturer, nodding repeatedly.
Your own experience can testify to the durability of my work, and I
shall give the most favorable rates possible.
No doubt, rejoined the banker with haughty reserve. You must not
forget that the straw-hat business is out of our line. It is incumbent
on us, however, to oblige a friendly house. I shall therefore make a
similar proposal to two other large manufactories, and, after
consulting with men of experience in this branch, shall give the house
in Vienna the advice we consider most to its interest, that is, shall
recommend the establishment most worthy of recommendation.
Mr. Schwefel's excited countenance became somewhat lengthy.
You should not fail of an acceptable acknowledgment from me, were
you to do me the favor of recommending my goods, explained the
The banker's coldness was not in the slightest degree altered by the
implied bribe. He appeared not even to have noticed it. It is also my
desire to be able to recommend you, said he curtly, carelessly taking
up a package of the banknotes and playing with ten thousand florins as
if they were so many valueless scraps of paper. Well, we are on the
eve of the election, remarked he ingenuously. Have you fixed upon a
magistrate and mayor?
All in order, thank you, Mr. Greifmann!
And are you quite sure of the order?
Yes; for we are well organized, Mr. Greifmann. If it interests you,
I will consider it as an honor to be allowed to send you a list of the
I hope you have not passed over ex-treasurer Shund?
This question took Mr. Schwefel by surprise, and a peculiar smile
played on his features.
The world is and ever will be ungrateful, continued the banker, as
though he did not notice the astonishment of the manufacturer. I could
hardly think of an abler and more sterling character for the office of
mayor of the city than Mr. Shund. Our corporation is considerably in
debt. Mr. Shund is known to be an accurate financier, and an economical
householder. We just now need for the administration of our city
household a mayor that understands reckoning closely, and that will
curtail unnecessary expenses, so as to do away with the yearly
increasing deficit in the budget. Moreover, Mr. Shund is a noble
character; for he is always ready to aid those who are in want of
moneyon interest, of course. Then, again, he knows law, and we very
much want a lawyer at the head of our city government. In short, the
interests of this corporation require that Mr. Shund be chosen chief
magistrate. It is a subject of wonder to me that progress, usually so
clear-sighted, has heretofore passed Mr. Shund by, despite his numerous
qualifications. Abilities should be called into requisition for the
public weal. To be candid, Mr. Schwefel, nothing disgusts me so much as
the slighting of great ability, concluded the banker contemptuously.
Are you acquainted with Shund's past career? asked the leader
Why, yes! Mr. Shund once put his hand in the wrong drawer, but that
was a long time ago. Whosoever amongst you is innocent, let him cast
the first stone at him. Besides, Shund has made good his fault by
restoring what he filched. He has even atoned for the momentary
weakness by five years of imprisonment.
'Tis true; but Shund's theft and imprisonment are still very fresh
in people's memory, said Schwefel. Shund is notorious, moreover, as a
hard-hearted usurer. He has gotten rich through shrewd money
speculations, but he has also brought several families to utter ruin.
The indignation of the whole city is excited against the usurer; and,
finally, Shund indulges a certain filthy passion with such effrontery
and barefacedness that every respectable female cannot but blush at
being near him. These characteristics were unknown to you, Mr.
Greifmann; for you too will not hesitate an instant to admit that a man
of such low practices must never fill a public office.
I do not understand you, and I am surprised! said the millionaire.
You call Shund a usurer, and you say that the indignation of the whole
town is upon him. Might I request from you the definition of a usurer?
They are commonly called usurers who put out money at exorbitant,
You forget, my dear Mr. Schwefel, that speculation is no longer
confined to the five per cent. rate. A correct insight into the
circumstances of the times has induced our legislature to leave the
rate of interest altogether free. Consequently, a usurer has gotten to
be an impossibility. Were Shund to ask fifty per cent, and more, he
would be entitled to it.
That is so; for the moment I had overlooked the existence of the
law, said the manufacturer, somewhat humiliated. Yet I have not told
you all concerning the usurer. Beasts of prey and vampires inspire an
involuntary disgust or fear. Nobody could find pleasure in meeting a
hungry wolf, or in having his blood sucked by a vampire. The usurer is
both vampire and wolf. He hankers to suck the very marrow from the
bones of those who in financial straits have recourse to him. When an
embarrassed person borrows from him, that person is obliged to mortgage
twice the amount that he actually receives. The usurer is a heartless
strangler, an insatiable glutton. He is perpetually goaded on by
covetousness to work the material ruin of others, only so that the ruin
of his neighbor may benefit himself. In short, the usurer is a monster
so frightful, a brute so devoid of conscience, that the very sight of
him excites horror and disgust. Just such a monster is Shund in the
eyes of all who know himand the whole city knows him. Hence the man
is the object of general aversion.
Why, this is still worse, still more astonishing! rejoined the
millionaire with animation. I thought our city enlightened. I should
have expected from the intelligence and judgment of our citizens that
they would have deferred neither to the sickly sentimentalism of a
bigoted morality nor to the absurdity of obsolete dogmas. If your
description of the usurer, which might at least be styled
poetico-religious, is an expression of the prevailing spirit of this
city, I shall certainly have to lower my estimate of its intelligence
The leader hastened to correct the misunderstanding.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Greifmann! You may rest assured that we can
boast all the various conquests made by modern advancement. Religious
enthusiasm and foolish credulity are poisonous plants that
superannuated devotees are perhaps still continuing to cultivate here
and there in pots, but which the soil will no longer produce in the
open air. The sort of education prevailing hereabout is that which has
freed itself from hereditary religious prejudices. Our town is blessed
with all the benefits of progress, with liberty of thought, and freedom
from the thraldom of a dark, designing priesthood.
How comes it, then, that a man is an object of contempt for acting
in accordance with the principles of this much lauded progress? asked
the millionaire, with unexpected sarcasm. We are indebted to progress
for the abolition of a legal rate of interest. Shund takes advantage of
this conquest, and for doing so citizens who boast of being progressive
look upon him with aversion. A further triumph secured by progress is
freedom from the tyranny of dogmas and the tortures of a conscience
created by a contracted morality. This beautiful fruit of the tree of
enlightened knowledge Shund partakes of and enjoys; and for this he has
the distinction of passing for a vampire. And because he displays the
spirit of an energetic business man, because his capacity for
speculating occasionally overwhelms blockheads and dunces, he is
decried as a ravenous wolf. It is sad! If your statements are correct,
Mr. Schwefel, our city ought not to boast of being progressive. Its
citizens are still groping in the midnight darkness of religious
superstition, scarcely even united with modern intellectual
advancement. And to me the consciousness is most uncomfortable of
breathing an atmosphere poisoned by the decaying remnants of an age
long since buried.
My own personal views accord with yours, protested Schwefel
candidly. The subversion of the antiquated, absurd articles of faith
and moral precept necessarily entails the abrogation of the
consequences that flow from them for public life. For centuries the
cross was a symbol of dignity, and the doctrine of the Crucified
resulted in holiness. Paganism, on the contrary, looked upon the gospel
as foolishness, as a hallucination, and upon the cross as a sign of
shame. I belong to the classic ranks, and so do millions like
myselfamong them Mr. Shund. Viewed in the light of progress, Shund is
neither a vampire nor a wolf; at the worst, he is merely an ill used
business man. They who suffer themselves to be humbugged and fleeced by
him have their own stupidity to thank for it. This exposition will
convince you that I stand on a level with yourself in the matter of
advanced enlightenment. Nevertheless, you overlook, Mr. Greifmann,
that, so far as the masses of the people are concerned, reverence for
the cross and the holiness of its doctrines continue to prevail. The
acquisitions of progress are not yet generally diffused. The mines of
modern intellectual culture are being provisionally worked by a select
number of independent, bold natures. The multitude, on the other hand,
still continue folding about them the winding-sheet of Christianity.
The views, customs, principles, and judgments of men are as yet widely
controlled by Christian elements. Our city does homage to progress,
pretty nearly, however, in the manner of a blind man that discourses of
I do not catch the drift of your simile of the blind man and
colors, interrupted Greifmann.
I wanted to intimate that thousands swear allegiance to progress
without comprehending its nature. Very many imagine progress to be a
struggle in behalf of Germany against the enfeebling system of
innumerable small states, or a battling against religious rigorism and
priest-rule in secular concerns. In unpretending guises like these, the
spirit of the age circulates among the crowd travestied in the
fashionable epithet progressive. Were you, however, to remove
the shell from around the kernel of progress, were you to exhibit it to
the multitude undisguised as the nullification of religion, as the
denial of the God of Christians, as the rejection of immortality, and
of an essential difference between man and the beastwere you to
venture thus far, you would see the millions flying in consternation
before the monster Progress. Now, just because the multitude, although
progressive-minded, everywhere judges men by Christian standards, very
often, too, unconsciously, therefore Shund has to pass, not for an able
speculator, but for a miserable usurer and an unconscionable
For this very cause, the liberal leaders of this city should stand
up for Shund, opposed the banker. Just appreciation and respect
should not be denied a deserving man. To speak candidly, Mr. Schwefel,
what first accidentally arrested my attention, now excites my most
lively interest. I wish to see justice done Mr. Shund, to see his
uncommon abilities recognized. You must set his light upon a
candlestick. You must have him elected mayor and member of the
legislature; in both capacities he will fill his position with
distinction. I repeat, our deeply indebted city stands in want of a
mayor that will reckon closely and economize. And in the legislative
assembly Shund's fluency will talk down all opposition, his readiness
of speech will do wonders. Were it only to spite the stupid mob, you
must put Shund in nomination.
It will not do, Mr. Greifmann! it is impracticable! We have to
proceed cautiously and by degrees. Our policy lies in conducting the
unsophisticated masses from darkness into light, quite gradually, inch
by inch, and with the utmost caution. A sudden unveiling of the inmost
significance of the spirit of the age would scare the people, and drive
them back heels over head into the clerical camp.
I do not at all share your apprehensions, contended the
millionaire. Our people are further advanced than you think. Make the
trial. Your vast influence will easily manage to have Shund returned
mayor and delegate.
Undoubtedly, but my standing would be jeopardized, rejoined
That is a mistake, sir! You employ four hundred families.
Four hundred and seventy now, said the manufacturer, correcting
Four hundred and seventy families, therefore, are getting a living
through you, consequently you have four hundred and seventy voters at
your command. Add to these a considerable force of mechanics who earn
wages in your employ. You have, moreover, a number of warm friends who
also command a host of laborers and mechanics. Hence you risk neither
standing nor influence, that is, added he with a smile, unless
perhaps you dread the anathemas of Ultramontanes and impostors.
The pious wrath of believers has no terrors deserving notice,
observed the leader with indifference.
And yet all this time Shund's remarkable abilities have not been
able to win the slightest notice on the part of progressive menit is
revolting! cried the banker. Mr. Schwefel, I will speak plainly,
trusting to your being discreet; I will recommend your factory at
Vienna, but only on condition that you have Hans Shund elected mayor
and member of the legislature.
This is asking a great dealquite flattering for Shund and very
tempting to me, said the leader with a bright face and a thrice
repeated nod to the banker. Since, however, what you ask is neither
incompatible with the spirit of the times nor dishonorable to the sense
of a liberal man, I accept your offer, for it is no small advantage for
me from a business point of view.
Capital, Mr. Schwefel! Capital, because very sensible! spoke Carl
Greifmann approvingly. A short groan, resembling the violent bursting
forth of suppressed indignation, resounded from the adjoining
apartment. The banker shuffled on the floor and drowned the groan by
loudly rasping his throat.
One condition, however, I must insist upon, continued the
manufacturer of straw hats. My arm might prove unequal to a task that
will create no ordinary sensation. But if you succeeded in winning over
Erdblatt and Sand to the scheme, it would prosper without fail and
without much noise.
I shall do so with pleasure, Mr. Schwefel! Both those gentlemen
will, in all probability, call on me today in relation to matters of
business. It will be for me a pleasing consciousness to have aided in
obtaining merited recognition for Hans Shund.
Our agreement is, however, to be kept strictly secret from the
Of course, of course!
You will not forget, at the same time, Mr. Greifmann, that our very
extraordinary undertaking will necessitate greater than ordinary
outlay. It is a custom among laborers not to work on the day before
election, and the same on election day itself. Yet, in order to keep
them in good humor, they must get wages the same as if they had worked.
This is for the manufacturer no insignificant disadvantage. Moreover,
workingmen and doubtful voters, require to be stimulated with beer
gratisanother tax on our purses.
How high do these expenses run? asked the millionaire.
For Sand, Erdblatt, and myself, they never fall short of twelve
That would make each one's share of the costs four hundred
Taking a five-hundred florin banknote between his thumb and
forefinger, the banker reached it carelessly to the somewhat puzzled
My contribution to the promotion of the interests of progress! I
shall give as much to Messrs. Sand and Erdblatt.
Many thanks, Mr. Greifmann! said Schwefel, pocketing the money
The millionaire drew himself up. I have no doubt, said he, in his
former cold and haughty tone, that my recommendation will secure your
establishment the custom already alluded to.
I entertain a similar confidence in your influence, and will take
the liberty of commending myself most respectfully to your favor.
Bowing frequently, Schwefel retreated backwards towards the door, and
disappeared. Greifmann stepped to the open entrance of the side
apartment. There sat the youthful landholder, his head resting heavily
on his hand. He looked up, and Carl's smiling face was met by a pair of
stern, almost fierce eyes.
Have you heard, friend Seraphin? asked he triumphantly.
Yesand what I have heard surpasses everything. You have bargained
with a member of that vile class who recognize no difference between
honor and disgrace, between good and evil, between self-respect and
infamy, who know only one godwhich is money.
Do not show yourself so implacable against these vile
beings, my dearest! There is much that is useful in them, at any rate
they are helping me to the finest horses belonging to the aristocracy.
A stealthy step was heard at the door of the cabinet.
Do you hear that timid rap? asked the banker. The rapper's heart
is at this moment in his knuckles. It is curious how men betray in
trifles what at the time has possession of their feelings. The mere
rapping gives a keen observer an insight into the heart of a person
whom he does not as yet see. Listen Rapping again, still more
stealthily and imploringly. I must go and relieve the poor devil, whom
nobody would suspect for a mighty leader. Now, Mr. Seraphin, Act the
Second. Come in!
The man who entered, attired in a dress coat and kids, was Erdblatt,
a tobacco merchant, spare in person, and with restless, spering eyes.
The millionaire greeted him coldly, then pointed him to the chair that
had been occupied by Schwefel. The impression produced by the two
hundred thousands on the man of tobacco was far more decided than in
the case of the manufacturer of straw hats. Erdblatt was restless in
his chair, and as the needle is attracted by the pole, so did
Erdblatt's whole being turn towards the money. His eyes glanced
constantly over the paper treasures, and a spasmodic jerking seized
upon his fingers. But he soon sat motionless and stiff, as if
thunderstruck at Greifmann's terrible words.
Your substantial firm, began the mighty man of money, after some
few formalities, has awaked in me a degree of attention which the
ordinary course of business does not require. I have to-day received
notice from an English banking-house that in a few days several bills
first of exchange, amounting to sixty thousand florins, will be
presented to be paid by you.
Erdblatt was dumfounded and turned pale.
The amount is not precisely what can be called insignificant,
continued Greifmann coolly, and I did not wish to omit notifying you
concerning the bills, because, as you are aware, the banking business
is regulated by rigorous and indiscriminating forms.
Erdblatt took the hint, turned still more pale, and uttered not a
This accumulation of bills of exchange is something abnormal,
proceeded Greifmann with indifference. As they are all made payable on
sight, you are no doubt ready to meet this sudden rush with proud
composure, concluded the banker, with a smile of cold politeness.
But the dumfounded Erdblatt was far from enjoying proud composure.
His manner rather indicated inability to pay and panic terror. Not
only is the accumulation of bills of exchange to the amount of sixty
thousand florins something abnormal, but it also argues carelessness,
said he tersely. Were it attributable to accident, I should not
complain; but it has been occasioned by jealous rivalry. Besides, they
are bills first of exchangeit is something never heard of beforeit
is revoltingthere is a plot to ruin me! And I have no plea to allege
for putting off these bills, and I am, moreover, unable to pay them.
The banker shrugged his shoulders coldly, and his countenance became
Might I not beg you to aid me, Mr. Greifmann? said he anxiously.
Of course, I shall allow you a high rate of interest.
That is not practicable with bills of exchange, rejoined the
When will the bills be presented? asked the leader, with
Perhaps as early as to-morrow, answered Greifmann, still more
The manufacturer of tobacco was near fainting.
I cannot conceive of your being embarrassed, said the banker
coldly. Your popularity and influence will get you assistance from
friends, in case your exchequer happens not to be in a favorable
The amount is too great; I should have to borrow in several
quarters. This would give rise to reports, and endanger the credit of
You are not wrong in your view, answered the banker coldly.
Accidents may shake the credit of the most solid firm, and other
accidents may often change trifling difficulties into fatal
catastrophes. How often does it not occur that houses of the best
standing, which take in money at different places, are brought to the
verge of bankruptcy through public distrust?
The words of the money prince were nowise calculated to reassure Mr.
Be kind enough to accept the bills, and grant me time, pleaded he
That, sir, would be contrary to all precedents in business,
rejoined Greifmann, with an icy smile. Our house never deviates from
the paths of hereditary custom.
I could pay in ten thousand florins at once, said Erdblatt once
more. Within eight weeks I could place fifty thousand more in your
I am very sorry, but, as I said, this plan is impracticable,
opposed Greifmann. Yet I have half a mind to accept those bills, but
only on a certain condition.
I am willing to indemnify you in any way possible, assured the
tobacco merchant, with a feeling of relief!
Hear the condition stated in a few words. As you know, I live
exclusively for business, never meddle in city or state affairs.
Moreover, labor devoted by me to political matters would be
superfluous, in view of the undisputed sway of liberalism.
Nevertheless, I am forced to learn, to my astonishment, that progress
itself neglects to take talent and ability into account, and exhibits
the most aristocratic nepotism. The remarkable abilities of Mr. Shund
are lost, both to the city and state, merely because Mr. Shund's
fellow-citizens will not elect him to offices of trust. This is unjust;
to speak plainly, it is revolting, when one considers that there is
many a brainless fellow in the City Council who has no better
recommendation than to have descended from an old family, and whose
sole ability lies in chinking ducats which he inherited but never
earned. Shund is a genius compared with such boobies; but genius does
not pass current here, whilst incapacity does. Now, if you will use
your influence to have Shund nominated for mayor of this city, and for
delegate to the legislature, and guarantee his election, you may
consider the bills of exchange as covered.
Not even the critical financial trouble by which he was beset could
prevent an expression of overwhelming surprise in the tobacco man's
I certainly cannot have misunderstood you. You surely mean to speak
of Ex-Treasurer Shund, of this place?
The samethe very same.
But, Mr. Greifmann, perhaps you are not aware
I am aware of everything, interrupted the banker. I know that
many years ago Mr. Shund awkwardly put his hand into the city treasury,
that he was sent to the penitentiary, that people imagine they still
see him in the penitentiary garb, and, finally, that in the stern
judgment of the same people he is a low usurer. But usury has been
abrogated by law. The theft Shund has not only made good by restoring
what he stole, but also atoned for by years of imprisonment. Now, why
is a man to be despised who has indeed done wrong, but not worse than
others whose sins have long since been forgotten? Why condemn to
obscurity a man that possesses the most brilliant kind of talent for
public offices? The contempt felt for Shund on the part of a population
who boast of their progress is unaccountablemay be it would not be
far from the truth to believe that some influential persons are jealous
of the gifted man, concluded the banker reproachfully.
Pardon me, please! The thief and usurer it might
perhaps be possible to elect, conceded Erdblatt. But Shund's
disgusting and shameless amours could not possibly find grace with the
moral sense of the public.
Yes, and the origin of this moral sense is the sixth
commandment of the Jew Moses, said the millionaire scornfully. I
cannot understand' how you, a man of advanced views; can talk in this
You misinterpret my words, rejoined the leader deprecatingly. To
me, personally, Shund exists neither as a usurer nor as a debauchee.
Christian modes of judging are, of course, relegated among absurdities
that we have triumphed over. In this instance, however, there is no
question of my own personal conviction, but of the conviction of the
great multitude. And in the estimation of the multitude unbridled
liberty is just as disgraceful as the free enjoyment of what,
morally, is forbidden.
You are altogether in the same rut as Schwefel.
Have you spoken with Schwefel on this subject? asked Erdblatt
Only a moment ago. Mr. Schwefel puts greater trust in his power
than you do in yours, for he agreed to have Shund elected mayor and
delegate. Mr. Schwefel only wishes you and Sand would lend your aid.
With pleasure! If Schwefel and Sand are won over, then all is
From a hint of Schwefel's, said Greifmann, taking up a
five-hundred-florin banknote from the table, I infer that the election
canvass is accompanied with some expense. Accept this small
contribution. As for the bills of exchange, the matter is to rest by
Erdblatt also backed out of the cabinet, bowing repeatedly as he
Seraphin rushed from his hiding-place in great excitement.
Why, Greifmann, this is terrible! Do you call that advanced
education? Do you call that progress? Those are demoralized, infernal
beings. I spit upon them! And are these the rabble that are trying to
arrogate to themselves the leadership of the German people?rabble who
ignore the Deity, the human soul, and morality generally! But what
completely unsettles me is your connivanceat least, your connection
with these infernal spirits.
But be easy, my good fellow, be easy! I connected with
tobacco and straw?
At all events, you have been ridiculing the ten commandments and
Christian morals and faith.
Was I not obliged to do so in order to show how well the thief,
usurer, and filthy dog Shund harmonizes with the spirit of progress?
Can he who wishes to make use of the devil confer with the devil in the
costume of light? Not at all; he must clothe himself in the mantle of
darkness. And you must not object to my using the demon Progress for
the purpose of winning your span of horses and saving my stakes. Let us
not have a disgraceful altercation. Consider me as a stage actor,
whilst you are a spectator that is being initiated into the latest
style of popular education. Ah, do you hear? The last one is drawing
near. Be pleased to vanish.
The third leader, house-builder Sand, appeared. The greater portion
of his face is hidden by a heavy black beard; in one hand he carries a
stout bamboo cane; and it is only after having fully entered, that he
deliberately removes his hat.
I wish you a pleasant morning, Mr. Greifmann. You have sent for me:
what do you want?
The banker slowly raised his eyes from the latest exchange list to
the rough features of the builder, and remembering that the man had
risen up from the mortarboard to his present position, and had gained
wealth and influence through personal energy, he returned the short
greeting with a friendly inclination of the head.
Will you have the goodness to be seated, Mr. Sand?
The man of the black beard took a seat, and, having noticed the
handsome collection of banknotes, his coarse face settled itself into a
not very attractive grin.
I want to impart to you my intention of erecting a villa on the
Sauerberg, near the middle of our estate at Wilheim, continued the
Ah, that is a capital idea! And the man of the beard became very
deeply interested. The site is charming, no view equal to it; healthy
location, vineyards round about, your own vineyards moreover. I could
put you up a gem there.
That is what I think, Mr. Sand! My father, who has been abroad for
the last three months, is quite satisfied with the plan; in fact, he is
the original projector of it.
I know, I know! your father has a taste for what is grand. We shall
try and give him satisfaction, which, by the bye, is not so very easy.
But you have the money, and fine fortunes can command fine houses.
What I want principally is to get you to draw a plan, consulting
your own taste and experience in doing so. You will show it to me when
ready, and I will tell you whether I like it or not.
Very well, Mr. Greifmann, very well! But I must know beforehand
what amount of money you are willing to spend upon the house; for all
depends upon the cost.
Well, said the millionaire, after some deliberation, I am willing
to spend eighty thousand florins on it, and something over, perhaps.
Ah, well, for that amount of money something can be put
upsomething small but elegant. Are you in a hurry with the building?
To be sure! As soon as the matter is determined upon, there is to
be no delay in carrying it out.
I am altogether of your opinion, Mr. GreifmannI agree with you
entirely! assented the builder, with an increase of animation. I
shall draw up a plan for a magnificent house. If it pleases you, all
hands shall at once be set at work, and by next autumn you shall behold
the villa under roof.
Of course you are yourself to furnish all the materials, added the
banker shrewdly. When once the plan will have been settled upon, you
can reach me an estimate of the costs, and I will pay over the money.
To be sure, Mr. Greifmannthat is the way in which it should be
done, Mr. Greifmann! responded the man of the black beard with a
satisfied air. You are not to have the slightest bother. I shall take
all the bother upon myself.
That, then is agreed upon! Well, now, have you learned yet who is
to be the next mayor?
Why, yes, the old one is to be reelected!
Not at all! We must have an economical and intelligent man for next
mayor. Of this I am convinced, because the annual deficit in the
treasury is constantly on the increase.
Alas, 'tis true! And who is the man of economy and intelligence to
Mr. Hans Shund.
Whowhat? Hans Shund? The thief, the usurer, the convict, the
debauchee? Who has been making a fool of you?
Pardon me, sir! I never suffer people to make a fool of me!
rejoined the banker with much dignity.
Yes, yessomebody has dished up a canard for you. What, that
good-for-nothing scoundrel to be elected mayor! Never in his life! Hans
Shund mayorreally that is good nowha, ha!
Mr. Sand, you lead me to suspect that you belong to the party of
WhoI an Ultramontane? That is ridiculous! Sir, I am at the
head of the men of progressI am the most liberal of the
liberalsthat, sir, is placarded on every wall.
How come you, then, to call Mr. Sand a good-for-nothing scoundrel?
Simply for this reason, because, he is a usurer and a dissipated
Then I am in the right, after all! Mr. Sand belongs to the ranks of
the pious, jeered the banker.
Mr. Greifmann, you are insulting!
Nothing is further from my intention than to wound your feelings,
my dear Mr. Sand! Be cool and reasonable. Reflect, if you please.
Shund, you say, puts out money at thirty per cent. and higher, and
therefore he is a usurer. Is it not thus that you reason?
Why, yes! The scoundrel has brought many a poor devil to ruin by
means of his Jewish speculations!
Your pious indignation, commended the millionaire, is
praiseworthy, because it is directed against what you mistake for a
piece of scoundrelism. Meanwhile, please to calm down your feelings,
and let your reason resume her seat of honor so that you may reflect
upon my words. You know that in consequence of recent legislation every
capitalist is free to put out money at what rate soever he pleases.
Were Shund to ask fifty per cent., he would not be stepping
outside of the law. He would then be, as he now is, an honest man.
Would he not?
It is as you say, so far as the law is concerned!
Furthermore, if after prudently weighing, after wisely calculating,
the pros and cons, Shund concludes to draw in his money,
and in consequence many a poor devil is ruined, as you say, surely no
reasonable man will on that account condemn legally authorized
Don't talk to me of legally authorized speculation. The law must
not legalize scoundrelism; but whosoever by cunning usury brings such
to ruin is and ever will be a scoundrel.
Why a scoundrel, Mr. Sand? Why, pray?
Surely it is clear enoughbecause he has ruined men!
Ruined! How? Evidently through means legally permitted. Therefore,
according to your notion the law does legalize scoundrelism; at
least it allows free scope to scoundrels. Mr. Sand, no offence
intended: I am forced, however, once more to suspect that you do,
perhaps without knowing it, belong to the pious. For they think
and feel just as you do, that is, in accordance with so-called laws of
morality, religious views and principles. That, judged by such
standards, Shund is a scoundrel who hereafter will be burned eternally
in hell, I do not pretend to dispute.
At bottom, I believe you are in the right, after allyes, it is as
you say, conceded the leader reluctantly. Ahemand yet I am
surprised at your being in the right. I would rather, however that you
were in the right, because I really do not wish to blame anybody or
judge him by the standard of the Ultramontanes.
That tone sounds genuinely progressive, and it does honor to your
judgment! lauded the banker. Again, you called Shund a
good-for-nothing scoundrel because he loves the company of women. Mr.
Sand, do you mean to vindicate the sacred nature of the sixth
commandment in an age that has emancipated itself from the thrall of
symbols and has liberated natural inclinations from the servitude of a
bigoted priesthood?you, who profess to stand at the head and front of
the party of progress?
It is really oddyou are in the right again! Viewed from the
standpoint of the times, contemplated in the light of modern
intellectual culture, Shund must not really be called good-for-nothing
for being a usurer and an admirer of women.
Shund's qualifications consequently fit him admirably for the
office of mayor. He will be economical, he will make the expenditures
balance with the revenue. Even in the legislature, Shund's principles
and experience will be of considerable service to the country and to
the cause of progress. I am so much in favor of the man that I shall
award you the building of my villa only on condition that you will use
all your influence for the election of Shund to the office of mayor and
to the legislature.
Mayorassemblyman, tooahem! that will be hard to do.
By no means! Messrs. Schwefel and Erdblatt will do their best for
the same end.
Is that so, really? In that case there is no difficulty! Mr.
Greifmann, consider me the man that will build your villa.
The canvass will cost you some moneyhere, take this, my
contribution to the noble cause, and he gave him a five-hundred-florin
That will suffice, Mr. Greifmann, that will suffice. The plan you
cannot have until after the election, for Shund will give us enough to
Everything is possible to you, Mr. Sand! Whatever Cæsar, Lepidus,
and Antony wish at Rome, that same must be.
Very true, very true. And the last of the leaders disappeared.
I would never have imagined the like to be possible, spoke the
landholder, entering. They all regard Shund as a low, abandoned
wretch, and yet material interest determines every one of them to
espouse the cause of the unworthy, contemptible fellow. It is
extraordinary! It is monstrous!
You cannot deny that progress is eminently liberal, replied the
Nor will I deny that it possesses neither uprightness nor
conscience, nor, especially, morals, rejoined the young man with
Carl saw with astonishment Seraphin's crimsoned cheeks and flaming
My dear fellow, times and men must be taken as they are, not as
they should be, said the banker. Interest controls both men and
things. At bottom, it has ever been thus. In the believing times of the
middle ages, men's interest lay in heaven. All their acts were done for
heaven; they considered no sacrifice as too costly. Thousands quit
their homes and families to have their skulls cloven by the Turks, or
to be broiled by the glowing heats of Palestine. For the interests of
heaven, thousands abandoned the world, fed on roots in deserts, gave up
all the pleasures of life. At present, the interest lies in this world,
in material possessions, in money. Do not therefore get angry at
progress if it refuses to starve itself or to be cut down by Moorish
scimitars, but, on the other hand, has strength of mind and
self-renunciation enough to promote Hans Shund to honors and offices.
Seraphin contemplated Greifmann, who smiled, and hardly knew how to
An inborn longing for happiness has possession of all men, said he
with reserve. The days of faith were ruled by moral influences; the
spirit of this age is ruled by base matter. Between the moral struggles
of the past strong in faith, and the base matter of the present, there
is, say what you will, a notable difference.
Doubtless! conceded Greifmann. The middle ages were incontestably
the grandest epoch of history. I am actuated by the honest intention of
acquainting you with the active principles of the present.
Yes, and you have been not immaterially aided by luck. But for the
order from Vienna for straw hats, the bills of exchange, and that
villa, you would hardly have attained your aim.
The straw-hat story is merely a mystification, my dear friend. When
the end will have been reached, when Hans Shund will have been elected
mayor and assemblyman, a few lines will be sufficient to inform Mr.
Schwefel that the house in Vienna has countermanded its order. Nor is
any villa to be constructed. I shall pay Sand for his drawings, and
this will be the end of the project. The matter of the bills of
exchange is not a hoax, and I am still free to proceed against Erdblatt
in the manner required by the interests of my business.
Seraphin stood before the ingenuous banker, and looked at him
It is true, said Greifmann gaily, I have laid out fifteen hundred
florins, but I have done so against one hundred per cent.; for they are
to secure me victory in our wager.
Your professional routine is truly admirable, said Gerlach.
Not exactly that, but practical, and not at all sentimental, my
I shall take a walk through the garden to get over my
astonishment, concluded Gerlach; and he walked away from the astute
man of money.
CHAPTER III. SERAPHIN AND LOUISE.
Sombre spirits flitted about the head of the young man with the
blooming cheeks and light eyes. He was unable to rid himself of a
feeling of depression; for he had taken a step into the domain of
progress, and had there witnessed things which, like slimy reptiles,
drew a cold trail over his warm heart. Trained up on Christian
principles, schooled by enlightened professors of the faith, and
watched over with affectionate vigilance by a pious mother, Seraphin
had had no conception of the state of modern society. For this reason,
both Greifmann Senior and Gerlach Senior committed a
blunder in wishing to unite by marriage three millions of florins, the
owners of which not merely differed, but were the direct opposites of
each other in disposition and education.
Louise belonged to the class of emancipated females who have in vain
attempted to enhance the worth of noble womanhood by impressing on
their own sex the sterner type of the masculine gender. In Louise's
opinion, the beauty of woman does not consist in graceful gentleness,
amiable concession and purity, but in proudly overstepping the bounds
set for woman by the innate modesty of her sex. The beautiful young
lady had no idea of the repulsiveness of a woman who strives to make a
man of herself, but she was sure that the cause and origin of woman's
degradation is religion. For it was to Eve that God had said: Thou
shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over
thee. Louise considered this decree as revolting, and she detested the
book whose authority among men gives effect to its meaning. On the
other hand, she failed to observe that woman's sway is powerful and
acknowledged wherever it exerts itself over weak man through affection
and grace. Quite as little did Miss Louise observe that men assume the
stature of giants so soon as women presume to appear in relation to
them strong and manlike. Least of all did she discover anything
gigantic in the kind-hearted Seraphin. In the consciousness of her
fancied superiority of education, she smiled at the simplicity of his
faith, and, as the handsome young gentleman appeared by no means an
ineligible parti, she believed it to be her special task to
train her prospective husband according to her own notions. She
imagined this course of training would prove an easy undertaking for a
lady whose charms had been uniformly triumphant over the hearts of
gentlemen. But one circumstance appeared to her unaccountablethat was
Seraphin's cold-bloodedness and unshaken independence. For eight days
she had plied her arts in vain, the most exquisite coquetry had been
wasted to no purpose, even the irresistible fire of her most lovely
eyes had produced no perceptible impression on the impregnable citadel
of the landholder's heart.
He is a mere child as yet, the most spotless innocence, she would
muse hopefully. He has been sheltered under a mother's wings like a
pullet, and for this I am beholden to Madame Gerlach, for she has
trained up an obedient husband for me.
Seraphin sauntered through the walks of the garden, absorbed in
gloomy reflections on the leaders of progress. Their utter disregard of
honor and unparalleled baseness were disgusting to him as an honorable
man, whilst their corruption and readiness for deeds of meanness were
offensive to him as a Christian. Regarding Greifmann, also, he
entertained misgivings. Upon closer examination, however, the
unsuspecting youth thought he discovered in the banker's manner of
treating the leaders and their principles a strong infusion of ridicule
and irony. Hence, imposed upon by his own good nature, he concluded
that Greifmann ought not in justice to be ranked among the hideous
monstrosities of progress.
With head sunk and rapt in thought, Gerlach strayed indefinitely
amid the flowers and shrubbery. All at once he stood before Louise. The
young lady was seated under a vine-covered arbor; in one hand she held
a book, but she had allowed both hand and book to sink with graceful
carelessness upon her lap. For some time back she had been observing
the thoughtful young man. She had been struck by his manly carriage and
vigorous step, and had come to the conclusion that his profusion of
curling auburn hair was the most becoming set-off to his handsome
countenance. She now welcomed the surprised youth with a smile so
winning, and with a play of eyes and features so exquisite, that
Seraphin, dazzled by the beauty of the apparition, felt constrained to
lower his eyes like a bashful girl. What probably contributed much to
this effect was the circumstance of his being at the time in a rather
vacant and cheerless state of mind, so that, coming suddenly into the
presence of this brilliant being, he experienced the power of the
contrast. She appeared to him indescribably beautiful, and he wondered
that this discovery had not forced itself upon him before.
Unfortunately, the young gentleman possessed but little of the
philosophy which will not suffer itself to be deceived by seductive
appearances, and refuses to recognize the beautiful anywhere but in its
agreement with the true and good.
Louise perceived in an instant that now was at hand the
long-looked-for fulfilment of her wishes. The certainty which she felt
that the conquest was achieved diffused a bewitching loveliness over
her person. Seraphin, on the other hand, stood leaning against the
arbor, and became conscious with fear and surprise of a turmoil in his
soul that he had never before experienced.
I have been keeping myself quiet in this shady retreat, said she
sweetly, not wishing to disturb your meditations. Carl's wager is a
strange one, but it is a peculiarity of my brother's occasionally to
manifest a relish for what is strange.
You are rightstrange, very strange! replied Seraphin, evidently
in allusion to his actual state of mind. The beautiful young lady,
perceiving the allusion, became still more dazzling.
I should regret very much that the wager were lost by a guest of
ours, and still more that you were deprived of your splendid
race-horses. I will prevail on Carl not to take advantage of his
Many thanks, miss; but I would much rather you would not do so. If
I lose the wager, honor and duty compel me to give up the stakes to the
winner. Moreover, in the event of my losing, there would be another
loss far more severe for me than the loss of my racers.
What would that be? inquired she with some amazement.
The loss of my good opinion of men, answered he sadly. What I
have heard, miss, is base and vile beyond description. And he
recounted for her in detail what had taken place.
Such things are new to you, Mr. Seraphin; hence your astonishment
The youth felt his soul pierced because she uttered not a word of
disapproval against the villainy.
Carl's object was good, continued she, in so far as his
man[oe]uvre has procured you an insight into the principles by which
the world is just now ruled.
I would be satisfied to lose the wager a thousand times, and even
more, did I know that the world is not under such rule.
It is wrong to risk one's property for the sake of a delusion,
said she reprovingly. And it would be a gross delusion not to estimate
men according to their real worth. A proprietor of fields and woodland,
who, faithful to his calling, leads an existence pure and in accord
with nature's laws, must not permit himself to be so far misled by the
harmlessness of his own career as to idealize the human species. For
were you at some future day to become more intimately acquainted with
city life and society, you would then find yourself forced to smile at
the views which you once held concerning the present.
Smile at, my dear miss? Hardly. I should rather have to mourn the
destruction of my belief. Moreover, it is questionable whether I could
breathe in an atmosphere which is unhealthy and destructive of all the
genuine enjoyments of life!
And what do you look upon as the genuine enjoyments of life? asked
she with evident curiosity.
He hesitated, and his childlike embarrassment appeared to her most
I beg your pardon, Mr. Seraphin! I have been indiscreet, for such a
question is allowable to those only who are on terms of intimacy. And
the beauty exhibited a masterly semblance of modesty and amiability.
The artifice proved successful, the young man's diffidence fled, and
his heart opened.
You possess my utmost confidence, most esteemed Miss Greifmann!
Intercourse with good, or at least honorable, persons appears to me to
be the first condition for enjoying life. How could any one's existence
be cheerful in the society of people whose character is naught and
whose moral sense expired with the rejection of every religious
Yet perhaps it might, Mr. Seraphin! rejoined she, with a smile of
imagined superiority. Refinement, the polished manners of society, may
be substituted for the rigor of religious conviction.
Polished manners without moral earnestness are mere hypocrisy,
answered he decidedly. A wolf, though enveloped in a thousand
lambskins, still retains his nature.
How stern you are! exclaimed she, laughing. And what is the
second condition for the true enjoyment of life, Mr. Seraphin?
It is evidently the accord of moral consciousness with the behests
of a supreme authority; or to use the ordinary expression, a good
conscience, answered the millionaire earnestly.
A sneering expression spontaneously glided over her countenance. She
felt the hateful handwriting of her soul in her features, turned
crimson, and cast down her eyes in confusion. The young man had not
observed the expression of mockery, and could not account for her
confusion. He thought he had perhaps awkwardly wounded her
I merely meant to express my private conviction, said Mr. Seraphin
Which is grand and admirable, lauded she.
Her approbation pleased him, for his simplicity failed to detect the
concealed ridicule. After a walk outside of the city which Gerlach took
towards evening, in the company of the brother and sister, Carl
Greifmann made his appearance in Louise's apartment.
You have at last succeeded in capturing him, began he with a
chuckle of satisfaction. I was almost beginning to lose confidence in
your well-tried powers. This time you seemed unable to keep the field,
to the astonishment of all your acquaintances. They never knew you to
be baffled where the heart of a weak male was to be won.
What are you talking about?
About the fat codfish of two million weight whom you have been
successful in angling.
I do not understand you, most mysterious brother!
You do not understand me, and yet you blush like the skies before a
rainstorm! What means the vermilion of those cheeks, if you do not
I blush, first, on account of my limited understanding, which
cannot grasp your philosophy; and, secondly, because I am amazed at the
monstrous figures of your language.
Then I shall have to speak without figures and similes upon a
subject which loses a great deal in the light of bare reality, which, I
might indeed say, loses all, dissolves into vapor, like
will-o'-the-wisps and cloud phantoms before the rising sun. I hardly
know how to mention the subject without figures, I can hardly handle it
except with poetic figures, exclaimed he gaily, seating himself in
Louise's rockingchair, rocking himself. Speaking in the commonest
prose, my remarks refer to the last victim immolated to your
highnessto the last brand kindled by the fire of your eyes. To talk
quite broadly, I mean the millionaire and landholder Seraphin Gerlach,
who is head and ears in love with you. Considered from a business and
solid point of view, it is exceedingly flattering for the banker's
brother to see his sister adored by so considerable a sum of money.
Madman, you profane the noblest feelings of the heart, she
chidingly said, with a smile.
I am a man of business, my dear child, and am acquainted with no
sanctuary but the exchange. Relations of a tender nature, noble
feelings of the heart, lying as they do without the domain of
speculation, are to me something incomprehensible and not at all
desirable. On the other hand, I entertain for two millions of money a
most prodigious sympathy, and a love that casts the flames of all your
heroes and heroines of romance into the shade. Meanwhile, my sweet
little sister, there are two aspects to everything. An alliance between
our house and two millions of florins claims admiration, 'tis true; yet
it is accompanied with difficulties which require serious reflection.
The banker actually ceased rocking and grew serious.
Might I ask a solution of your enigma?
All jesting aside, Louise, this alliance is not altogether free
from risks, answered he. Just consider the contrast between yourself
and Seraphin Gerlach's good nature is touching, and his credulous
simplicity is calculated to excite apprehension. Guided, imposed upon,
entirely bewitched by religious phantasms, he gropes about in the
darkness of superstition. You, on the contrary, sneer at what Seraphin
cherishes as holy, and despise such religious nonsense. Reflect now
upon the enormous contrast between yourself and the gentleman whom fate
and your father's shrewdness have selected for your husband. Honestly,
I am in dread. I am already beginning to dream of divorce and every
possible tale of scandal, which would not be precisely propitious for
What contradictions! exclaimed the beauty with self-reliance. You
just a moment ago announced my triumph over Seraphin, and now you
proclaim my defeat.
Your defeat! Not at all! But I apprehend wrangling and discord in
your married life.
Wrangling and discord because Seraphin loves me?
Nonot exactlybut because he is a believer and you are an
unbeliever; in short, because he does not share your aims and views.
How short-sighted you are! As you conceive of it, love is not a
passion; at most, only, a cool mood which cannot be modified by the
lovers themselves. Your apprehension would be well grounded concerning
that kind of love. But suppose love were something quite different?
Suppose it were a passion, a glowing, dazzling, omnipotent passion, and
that Seraphin really loved me, do you think that I would not skilfully
and prudently take advantage of this passion? Cannot a woman exert a
decisive and directing influence over the husband who loves her
tenderly? I have no fears because I do not view love with the eyes of a
trader. I hope and trust with the adjurations of love to expel from
Seraphin all superstitious spirits.
How sly! Surely nothing can surpass a daughter of Eve in the matter
of seductive arts! exclaimed he, laughing. Hemyes, indeed, after
what I have seen to-day, it is plain that the Adam Seraphin will taste
of the forbidden fruit of ripened knowledge, persuaded by this tenderly
beloved Eve. Look at him: there he wanders in the shade of the garden,
sighing to the rose-bushes, dreaming, of your majesty, and little
suspecting that he is threatened with conversion and redemption from
the kingdom of darkness.
CHAPTER IV. HANS SHUND.
Hans Shund returned home from business in high feather. Something
unusual must have happened him, for his behavior was exceptional.
Standing before his desk, he mechanically drew various papers from his
pockets, and laid them in different drawers and pigeon-holes. The
mechanical manner of his behavior was what was exceptional, for usually
Hans Shund bestowed particular attention upon certain papers; his
soul's life was in those papers. Moreover, on the present occasion, he
kept shaking his head as if astonishment would not suffer him to remain
quiet. Yet habitually Hans Shund never shook his head, for that
proceeding betrays interior emotion, and Shund's neck was as hardened
and stiff as his usurer's soul. The other exceptional feature of his
behavior was a continuous growing, which at length waxed into a genuine
soliloquy. But Hans Shund was never known to talk to himself, for
talking to one's self indicates a kindly disposition, whilst Shund had
no disposition whatever, as they maintain who knew him; or, if he had
ever had one, it had smouldered into a hard, impenetrable crust of
Strangeremarkably strange! said he. Hem! what can it mean? How
am I to account for it? Has the usurer undergone a transformation
during the night? And a hideous grin distorted his face. Am I
metamorphosed, am I enchanted, or am I myself an enchanter?
Unaccountable, marvellous, unheard of!
The papers had been locked up in the desk. A secret power urged him
up and down the room, and finally into the adjoining sitting-room,
where Mrs. Shund, a pale, careworn lady, sat near a sewing-stand,
intent on her lonely occupation.
Wife, queer things have befallen me. Only think, all the city
notables have raised their hats to your humble servant, and have
saluted me in a friendly, almost an obsequious manner. And this has
happened to me to-dayto me, the hated and despised usurer! Isn't that
quite amazing? Even the city regent, Schwefel's son, took off his hat,
and bowed as if I were some live grandee. How do you explain that
The careworn woman kept on sewing without raising her head.
Why don't you answer me, wife? Don't you find that most
I am incapable of being astonished, since grief and care have so
filled my heart that no room is left in it for feelings of any other
Well, well! what is up again? asked he, with curiosity.
She drew a letter written in a female hand from one of the drawers
of the sewing-stand.
Read this, villain!
Hastily snatching the letter, he began to read.
Hem, growled he indifferently. The drab complains of being
neglected, of not getting any money from me. That should not be a cause
of rage for you, I should think. The drab is brazen enough to write to
you to reveal my weaknesses, all with the amicable intention of getting
up a thundergust in our matrimonial heaven. Do learn sense, wife, and
stop noticing my secret enjoyments.
Fie, villain. Fie upon you, shameless wretch! cried she, trembling
in every limb.
Listen to me, wife! Above all things, let us not have a scene, an
unnecessary row, interrupted he. You know how fruitless are your
censures. Don't pester me with your stale lectures on morals.
Nearly every month I get a letter of that sort written in the most
disreputable purlieus of the town, and addressed to my husband. It is
revolting! Am I to keep silent, shameless manI your wedded
wife? Am I to be silent in presence of such infamous deeds?
Rather too pathetic, wife! Save your breath. Don't grieve at the
liberties which I take. Try and accustom yourself to pay as little
attention to my conduct as I bestow upon yours. When years ago I
entered the contract with you vulgarly denominated marriage, I did it
with the understanding that I was uniting myself to a subject that was
willing to share with me a life free from restraints; I mean, a life
free from the odor of so-called hereditary moral considerations and of
religious restrictions. Accustom yourself to this view of the matter,
rise to my level, enjoy an emancipated existence.
He spoke and left the room. In his office he read the letter over.
This creature is insatiable! murmured he to himself. I shall have
to turn her off and enter into less expensive connections. I am talking
with myself to-dayqueer, very queer!
A heavy knock was heard at the door.
A man and woman scantily clad entered the room. The sight of the
wretched couple brought a fierce passion into the usurer's countenance.
He seemed suddenly transformed into a tiger, bloodthirstily crouching
to seize his prey.
What is the matter. Holt?
Mr. Shund, began the man in a dejected tone, the officer of the
law has served the writ upon us: it is to take effect in ten days.
That is, unless you make payment, interrupted Shund.
We are not able to pay just now, Mr. Shund, it is impossible. I
wished therefore to entreat you very earnestly to have patience with us
The woman seconded her husband's petition by weeping bitterly,
wringing her hands piteously. The usurer shook his head relentlessly.
Patience, patience, you say. For eight years I have been using
patience with you; my patience is exhausted now. There must be limits
to everything. There is a limit to patience also. I insist upon your
Consider, Mr. Shund, I am the father of eight children. If you
insist on payment now and permit the law to take its course, you will
ruin a family of ten persons. Surely your conscience will not permit
you to do this?
Conscience! What do you mean? Do not trouble me with your nonsense.
For me, conscience means to have; for you, it means you must.
Mr. Shund, you know it is yourself that have reduced us to this
You don't say I did! How so?
May I remind you, Mr. Shund, may I remind you of all the
circumstances by which this was brought about? How it happened that
from a man of means I have been brought to poverty?
Go on, dearest Holtgo on; it will be interesting to me! The
usurer settled himself comfortably to hear the summary of his
successful villanies from the mouth of the unfortunate man with the
same satisfaction with which a tiger regales itself on the tortures of
Nine years ago, Mr. Shund, I was not in debt, as you know. I
labored and supported my family honestly, without any extraordinary
exertion. A field was for sale next to my field at the Rothenbush. You
came at the timeit is now upwards of eight years, and said in a
friendly way, 'Holt, my good man, buy that field. It lies next to
yours, and you ought not to let the chance slip.' I wanted the field,
but had no money. This I told you. You encouraged me, saying, 'Holt, my
good man, I will let you have the moneyon interest, of course; for I
am a man doing business, and I make my living off my money. I will
never push you for the amount. You may pay it whenever and in what way
you wish. Suit yourself.' You gave me this encouragement at the time.
You loaned me nine hundred and fifty florinsin the note, however, you
wrote one thousand and fifty, and, besides, at five per cent. For three
years I paid interest on one thousand and fifty, although you had
loaned me only nine hundred and fifty. All of a suddenI was just in
trouble at the time, for one of my draught-cattle had been crippled,
and the harvest had turned out poorly, you came and demanded your
money. I had none. 'I am sorry,' said you, 'I need my money, and could
put it out at much higher interest.' I begged and begged. You
threatened to sue me. Finally, after much begging, you proposed that I
should sell you the field, for which three years previous I had paid
nine hundred and fifty florins, for seven hundred florins, alleging
that land was no longer as valuable as it had been. You were willing to
rent me the field at a high rate. And to enable me to get along, you
offered to lend me another thousand, but drew up a note for eleven
hundred florins at ten per cent., because, as you pretended, money was
now bringing ten per cent. since the law regulating interest had been
abrogated. For a long while I objected to the proposal, but found
myself forced at last to yield because you threatened to attach my
effects. From this time I began to go downhill, I could no longer meet
expenses, my family was large, and I had to work for you to pay up the
interest and rent. But for some time back I had been unable to do as I
wished. I could not even sell any of my own property; for you were
holding me fast, and I was obliged to mortgage everything to you for a
merely nominal price. My cottage, my barn, my garden, and the field in
front of my houseworth at least two thousand florinsI had to give
you a mortgage upon for one thousand. The rest of my immovable
property, fields and meadows, you took. Nothing was left to me but the
little hut and what adjoined it. With respects, Mr. Shund, you had long
since sucked the very marrow from my bones, next you put the rope about
my neck, and now you are about to hang me.
Hang you? Haha! That's good, Holt! You are in fine humor, cried
the usurer, after hearing with a relish the simple account of his
atrocious deeds. I have no hankering for your neck. Pay up, Holt, pay
up, that is all I want. Pay me over the trifle of a thousand florins
and the interest, and the house with everything pertaining to it shall
be yours. But if you cannot pay up, it will have to be sold at auction,
so that I may get my money.
For heaven's sake, Mr. Shund, be merciful, entreated the wife. We
have saved up the interest with much trouble; every farthing of it you
are to receive. For God's sake, do not drive us from our home, Mr.
Shund, we will gladly toil for you day and night. Take pity, Mr. Shund,
do take pity on my poor children!
Stop your whining. Pay up, money alone has any value in my
estimationpay, all the rest is fudge. Pay up!
God knows, Mr. Shund, sobbed the woman, wringing her hands, I
would give my heart's blood to keep my poor children out of
miserywith my life I would be willing to pay you. Oh! do have some
commiseration, do be merciful! Almighty God will requite you for it.
Almighty God, nonsense! Don't mention such stuff to me. Stupid
palaver like that might go down with some bigoted fool, but it will not
affect a man of enlightenment. Pay up, and there's an end of it!
Is it your determination then, Mr. Shund, to cast us out
mercilessly under the open sky? inquired the countryman with deep
I only want what belongs to me. Pay over the thousand florins with
the interest, and we shall be quits. That's my position, you may go.
In feeling words the woman once more appealed to Hans Shund. He
remained indifferent to her pleading, and smiled scornfully whenever
she adduced religious considerations to support her petition. Suddenly
Holt took her by the arm and drew her towards the door.
Say no more, wife, say no more, but come away. You could more
easily soften stones than a man who has no conscience and does not
believe in God.
There you have spoken the truth, sneered Shund.
You sneer, Mr. Shund, and the man's eyes glared. Do you know to
whom you owe it that your head is not broken?
What sort of language is that?
It is the language of a father driven to despair. I tell youand
the countryman raised his clenched fistsit is to the good God that
you are indebted for your life; for, if I believed as little in an
almighty and just God as you, with this pair of strong hands I would
wring your neck. Yes, stare at me! With these hands I would strangle
Shund, who has brought want upon my children and misery upon me. Come
away, wife, come away. He is resolved to reduce us to beggary as he has
done to so many others. Do your worst, Mr. Shund, but there above we
shall have a reckoning with each other.
He dragged his wife out of the room, and went away without saluting,
but casting a terrible scowl back upon Hans Shund.
For a long while the usurer sat thoughtfully, impressed by the
ominous scowl and threat, which were not empty ones, for rage and
despair swept like a rack over the man's countenance. Mr. Shund felt
distinctly that but for the God of Christians he would have been
murdered by the infuriated man. He discovered, moreover, that religious
belief is to be recommended as a safeguard against the fury of the mob.
On the other hand, he found this belief repugnant to a usurer's
conscience and a hindrance to the free enjoyment of life. Hans Shund
thus sat making reflections on religion, and endeavoring to drown the
echo which Holt's summons before the supreme tribunal had awakened in a
secret recess of his soul, when hasty steps resounded from the front
yard and the door was suddenly burst open. Hans' agent rushed in
breathless, sank upon the nearest chair, and, opening his mouth widely,
gasped for breath.
What is the matter, Braun? inquired Shund in surprise. What has
Braun flung his arms about, rolled his eyes wildly, and labored to
get breath, like a person that is being smothered.
Get your breath, you fool! growled the usurer. What business had
you running like a maniac? Something very extraordinary must be the
matter, is it not?
Braun assented with violent nodding.
Anything terrible? asked he further.
More nodding from Braun. The usurer began to feel uneasy. Many a
nefarious deed stuck to his hands, but not one that had not been
committed with all possible caution and secured against any afterclaps
of the law. Yet might he not for once have been off his guard? What
has been detected? Speak! urged the conscience-stricken villain
Mr. Shund, you are to bein this place
Arrested? suggested the other, appalled, as the agent's breath
failed him again.
Shund straightened himself, and raised his hands to feel his ears.
I am surely in possession of my hearing! Are you gone mad, fellow?
Mr. Shund, you are to be mayor and member of the legislature. It is
a settled fact!
Indeed, 'tis quite a settled fact that you have lost your wits. It
is a pity, poor devil! You once were useful, now you are insane; quite
a loss for me! Where am I to get another bloodhound as good as you?
Your scent was keen, you drove many a nice bit of game into my nets.
Hemso many instances of insanity in these enlightened times of ours
are really something peculiar. Braun, dearest Braun, have you really
lost your mind entirely? Completely deranged?
I am not insane, Mr. Shund. I have been assured from various
sources that you are to be elected mayor and delegate to the
Well, then, various persons have been running a rig upon you.
Running a rig upon me, Mr. Shund? Bamboozle meme who understand
and have practised bamboozling others for so long?
Still, I maintain that people have been playing off a hoax on
youand what an outrageous hoax it is, too!
I believe a hoax? Just listen to me. I have never been more
clearheaded than I am to-day. Acquaintances and strangers in different
quarters of the town have assured me that it is a fixed fact that you
are to be mayor of this city and member of the legislative assembly.
Now, were it a hoax, would you not have to presuppose that both
acquaintances and strangers conspired to make a fool of me? Yet such a
supposition is most improbable.
Your reasoning is correct, Braun. Still, such a conspiracy must
really have been gotten up. I mayor of this city? I?
Reflect for an instant, Braun. You know what an enviable reputation I
bear throughout the city. Many persons would go a hundred paces out of
their direction to avoid me, specially they who owe or have owed me
anything. Moreover, who appoints the mayor? The men who give the
keynote, the leaders of the town. Now, these men would consider
themselves defiled by the slightest contact with the outlawed
usurerwhich, of course, is very unjust and inconsistent on the part
of those gentlemenfor my views are the same as theirs.
Spite of all that, I put faith in the report, Mr. Shund. Schwefel's
bookkeeper also, when I met him, smiled significantly, and even raised
Hold on, Braun, hold! The deuceit just now occurs to meyou
might not be so much mistaken after all. Strange things have happened
to me also. Gentlemen who are intimate with our city magnates have
saluted me and nodded to me quite confidentially; I was unable to solve
this riddle, now it's clear. Braun, you are right, your information is
perfectly true. And Mr. Shund rubbed his hands.
Don't forget, Mr. Shund, that I first brought you the astounding
intelligence, the joyful tidings, the information on which the very
best sort of speculations may be based.
You shall be recompensed, Braun! Go over to the sign of the Bear,
and drink a bottle of the best, and I will pay for it.
At a thaler a bottle?
That quality isn't good for the health, my dear fellow! You may
drink a bottle at forty-eight kreutzers on my credit. But noI don't
wish to occasion you an injury, nor do I wish to see you disgraced. You
shall not acquire the name of a toper in my employ. You may therefore
call for a pint glass at twelve kreutzers a glass. Go, now, and leave
me to myself.
When the agent was gone, Hans Shund rushed about the room as if out
of his mind.
Don't tell me that miracles no longer occur! cried he. I,
the discharged treasurerI, the thief, usurer, and profligate,
at the mere sight of whom every young miss and respectable lady turn up
their noses a thousand paces offI am chosen to be mayor and
assemblyman! How has this come to pass? Where lie the secret springs of
this astonishing event? And he laid his finger against his nose in a
brown study. Here it isyes, here! The thinkers of progress have at
length discovered that a man who from small beginnings has risen to an
independent fortune, whose shrewdness and energy have amassed enormous
sums, ought to be placed at the head of the city administration in
order to convert the tide of public debt into a tide of prosperity.
Yes, herein lies the secret. Nor are the gentlemen entirely mistaken.
There are ways and means of making plus out of minus, of converting
stones into money. But the gentlemen have taken the liberty of
disposing of me without my previous knowledge and consent. I have not
even been asked. Quite natural, of course. Who asks a dog for
permission to stroke him? This is, I own, an unpleasant aftertaste.
Hem, suppose I were too proud to accept, suppose I wanted to bestow my
abilities and energies on my own personal interests. Come, now, old
Hans, don't be sensitive! Pride, self-respect, character, sense of
honor, and such things are valuable only when they bring emolument.
Now, the mayor of a great city has it in his power to direct many a
measure eminently to his own interest.
Another knock was heard at the door, and the usurer, taken by
surprise, saw before him the leader Erdblatt.
Have you been informed of a fact that is very flattering to you?
began the tobacco manufacturer.
Not the slightest intimation of a fact of that nature has reached
me, answered Shund with reserve.
Then I am very happy to be the first to give you the news, assured
Erdblatt. It has been decided to promote you at the next election to
the office of mayor and of delegate to the legislative assembly.
A malignant smile flitted athwart Shund's face. He shook his sandy
head in feigned astonishment, and fixed upon the other a look that was
the next thing to a sneer.
There are almost as many marvels in your announcement as words. You
speak of a decision and of a fact which, however, without my humble
co-operation, are hardly practicable. I thought all along that the
disposition of my person belonged to myself. How could anything be
resolved upon or become a fact in which I myself happen to have the
Your cordial correspondence with the flattering intention of your
fellow-citizens was presumed upon; moreover, you were to be agreeably
surprised, explained the progressionist leader.
That, sir, was a very violent presumption! I am a free citizen, and
am at liberty to dispose of my time and faculties as I please. In the
capacity of mayor, I should find myself trammelled and no longer
independent on account of the office. Moreover, a weighty
responsibility would then rest upon my shoulders, especially in the
present deplorable circumstances of the administration. Could I prevail
on my myself to accept the proffered situation, it would become my duty
to attempt a thorough reform in the thoughtless and extravagant
management of city affairs. You certainly cannot fail to perceive that
a reformer in this department would be the aim of dangerous
machinations. And lastly, sir, why is it that I individually have been
selected for appointments which are universally regarded as honorable
distinctions in public life? I repeat, why are they to be conferred,
upon me in particular who cannot flatter myself with enjoying very high
favor among the people of this city? And there glistened something
like revengeful triumph in Shund's feline, eyes. When you will have
given a satisfactory solution to these reflections and questions, it
may become possible for me to think of assenting to your proposal.
Erdblatt had not anticipated a reception of this nature, and for a
moment he sat nonplussed.
I ask your pardon, Mr. Shund, you have taken the words fact and
decision in too positive a sense. What is a decided fact is that the
leaders of progress assign the honorable positions mentioned to you. Of
course it rests with you to accept or decline them. The motive of our
decision was, if you will pardon my candor, your distinguished talent
for economizing. It is plain to us that a man of your abilities and
thorough knowledge of local circumstances could by prudent management
and, by eliminating unnecessary expenditure, do much towards relieving
the deplorable condition of the city budget. We thought, moreover, that
your well-known philanthropy would not refuse the sacrifices of
personal exertion and unremitting activity for the public good.
Finally, as regards the disrespect to which you have alluded, I assure
you I knew nothing of it. The stupid and mad rabble may perhaps have
cast stones at you, but can or will you hold respectable men
responsible for their deeds? Progress has ever proudly counted you in
its ranks. We have always found you living according to the principles
of progress, despising the impotent yelping of a religiously besotted
mob. Be pleased to consider the tendered honors as amends for the
insults of intolerant fanatics in this city.
Your explanation, sir, is satisfactory. I shall accept. I am
particularly pleased to know that my conduct and principles are in
perfect accord with the spirit of progress. I am touched by the
flattering recognition of my greatly misconstrued position.
The leader bowed graciously.
There now remains for me the pleasant duty, said he, of
requesting you to honor with your presence a meeting of influential men
who are to assemble this evening in Mr. Schwefel's drawing-room.
Particulars are to be discussed there. The ultramontanes and democrats
are turbulent beyond all anticipation. We shall have to proceed with
the greatest caution about the delegate elections.
I shall be there without fail, sir! Now that I have made up my mind
to devote my experience to the interests of city and state, I
cheerfully enter into every measure which it lies in my power to
As you are out for the first time as candidate for the assembly,
said Erdblatt, a declaration of your political creed addressed to a
meeting of the constituents would not fail of a good effect.
Agreed, sir! I shall take pleasure in making known my views in a
Erdblatt rose, and Mr. Hans Shund was condescending enough to reach
the mighty chieftain his hand as the latter took his leave.
CHAPTER V. ELECTIONEERING.
The four millions of the balcony are at present standing before two
suits of male apparel of the kind worn by the working class,
contemplating them with an interest one would scarcely expect from
millionaires in materials of so ordinary a quality. Spread out on the
elegant and costly table cover are two blouses of striped gray at
fifteen kreutzers a yard. There are, besides, two pairs of trowsers of
a texture well adapted to the temperature of the month of July. There
are also two neckties, sold at fairs for six kreutzers apiece. And,
lastly, two cheap caps with long broad peaks. These suits were intended
to serve as disguises for Seraphin and Carl on this evening, for the
banker did not consider it becoming gentlemen to visit electioneering
meetings, dressed in a costume in which they might be recognized. As
Greifmann's face was familiar to every street-boy, he had provided
himself with a false beard of sandy hue to complete his incognito. For Seraphin this last adjunct was unnecessary, for he was a stranger,
was thus left free to exhibit his innocent countenance unmasked for the
gratification of curious starers.
This will be a pleasant change from the monotony of a banking house
existence, said the banker gleefully. I enjoy this masquerade: it
enables me to mingle without constraint among the unconstrained. You
are going to see marvellous things to-night, friend Seraphin. If your
organs of hearing are not very sound, I advise you to provide yourself
with some cotton, so that the drums of your ears may not be endangered
from the noise of the election skirmish.
Your caution is far from inspiring confidence, said Louise with
some humor. I charge it upon your soul that you bring back Mr. Gerlach
safe and sound, for I too am responsible for our guest.
And I, it seems, am less near to you than the guest, for you feel
no anxiety about me, said the brother archly.
Eight o'clockit is our time.
He pulled the bell. A servant carried off the suits to the
May I beseech the men in blouses for the honor of a visit before
You shall have an opportunity to admire us, said Carl. The
transformation of the young men was more rapidly effected than the
self-satisfied mustering of Louise before the large mirror which
reflected her elegant form entire. She laughingly welcomed her brother
in his sandy beard, and fixed a look of surprise upon Seraphin, whose
innocent person appeared to great advantage in the simple costume.
Impossible to recognize you, decided the young lady. You, brother
Redbeard, look for all the world like a cattle dealer.
The gracious lady has hit it exactly, said the banker with an
assumed voice. I am a horse jockey, bent on euchreing this young
gentleman out of a splendid pair of horses.
Friend Seraphin is most lovely, said she in an undertone. How
well the country costume becomes him! And her sparkling eyes darted
expressive glances at the subject of her compliments.
For the first time she had called him friend, and the word friend
made him more happy than titles and honors that a prince might have
bestowed. He felt his soul kindle at the sight of the lovely being
whose delicate and bewitching coquetry the inexperienced youth failed
to detect, but the influence of which he was surely undergoing. His
cheeks glowed still more highly, and he became uneasy and embarrassed.
Your indulgent criticism is encouraging, Miss Louise, replied he.
I have merely told the truth, replied she.
But our handswhat are we to do with our hands? interposed Carl.
Soft white hands like these do not belong to drovers. First of all,
away with diamonds and rubies. Gold rings and precious stones are not
in keeping with blouses. Nor will it do, in hot weather like this, to
bring gloves to our aidthat's too bad! What are we to do?
Nobody will notice our hands, thought Seraphin.
My good fellow, you do not understand the situation. We are on the
eve of the election. Everybody is out electioneering. Whoever to-day
visits a public place must expect to be hailed by a thousand eyes,
stared at, criticised, estimated, appraised, and weighed. The deuce
take these hands! Good advice would really be worth something in this
To a powerful imagination like your own, added Louise playfully.
She disappeared for a moment and then returned with a washbowl. Pouring
the contents of her inkstand into the water, she laughingly pointed
them to the dark mass.
Dip your precious hands in here, and you will make them correspond
with your blouses in color and appearance.
How ingenious she is! cried Carl, following her direction.
Most assuredly nothing comes up to the ingenuity of women. We are
beautifully tattooed, our hands are horrible! We must give the stuff
time to dry. Had I only thought of it sooner, Louise, you should have
accompanied us disguised as a drover's daughter, and have drunk a
bumper of wine with us. The adventure might have proved useful to you,
and served as an addition to the sum of your experiences in life.
I will content myself with looking on from a distance, answered
she gaily. The extraordinary progressionist movement that is going on
to-day might make it a difficult task even for a drover's daughter to
keep her footing.
The two millionaires sallied forth, Carl making tremendous strides.
Seraphin followed mechanically, the potent charm of her parting glances
hovering around him.
We shall first steer for the sign of the 'Green Hat,' said
Greifmann. There you will hear a full orchestra of progressionist
music, especially trumpets and drums, playing flourishes on Hans Shund.
'The Green Hat' is the largest beer cellar in the town, and the
proprietor ranks among the leaders next after housebuilder Sand. All
the representatives of the city régime gather to-day at the
establishment of Mr. Belladonnathat's the name of the gentleman of
the 'Green Hat.' Besides the leaders, there will be upward of a
thousand citizens, big and small, to hold a preliminary celebration of
election day. There will also be 'wild men' on hand, proceeded Carl,
explaining. These are citizens who in a manner float about like atoms
in the bright atmosphere of the times without being incorporated in any
brilliant body of progress. The main object of the leaders this evening
is to secure these so-called 'wild men' in favor of their ticket for
the city council. Glib-tongued agents will be employed to spread their
nets to catch the floating atomsto tame these savages by means of
smart witticisms. When, at length, a prize is captured and the tide of
favorable votes runs high, it is towed into the safe haven of agreement
with the majority. Resistance would turn out a serious matter for a
mechanic, trader, shopkeeper, or any man whose position condemns him to
obtain his livelihood from others. Opposition to progress dooms every
man that is in a dependent condition to certain ruin. For these reasons
I have no misgivings about being able to convince you that elections
are a folly wherever the banner of progress waves triumphant.
The conviction with which you threaten me would be anything but
gratifying, for I abhor every form of terrorism, rejoined Seraphin.
Very well, my good fellow! But we must accustom ourselves to take
things as they are and not as they ought to be. Therefore, my youthful
Telemachus, you are under everlasting obligations to me, your
experienced Mentor, for procuring you an opportunity of becoming
acquainted with the world, and constraining you to think less well of
men than your generous heart would incline you to do.
They had reached the outskirts of the city. A distant roaring,
resembling the sound of shallow waters falling, struck upon the ears of
the maskers. The noise grew more distinct as they advanced, and finally
swelled into the brawling and hum of many voices. Passing through a
wide gate-way, the millionaires entered a square ornamented with
maple-trees. Under the trees, stretching away into the distance, were
long rows of tables lit up by gaslights, and densely crowded with men
drinking beer and talking noisily. The middle of the square was
occupied by a rotunda elevated on columns, with a zinc roof, and
bestuck in the barbarous taste of the age with a profusion of tin
figures and plaster-of-paris ornaments. Beneath the rotunda, around a
circular table, sat the leaders and chieftains of progress, conspicuous
to all, and with a flood of light from numerous large gas-burners
streaming upon them. Between Sand and Schwefel was throned Hans Shund,
extravagantly dressed, and proving by his manner that he was quite at
his ease. Nothing in his deportment indicated that he had so suddenly
risen from general contempt to universal homage. Mr. Shund frequently
monopolized the conversation, and, when this was the case, the company
listened to his sententious words with breathless attention and many
marks of approbation.
Mentor Greifmann conducted his ward to a retired corner, into which
the rays of light, intercepted by low branches, penetrated but faintly,
and from which a good view of the whole scene could be enjoyed.
Do you observe Hans there under the baldachin surrounded by his
vassals? rouned Carl into his companion's ear. Even you will be made
to feel that progress can lay claim to a touching spirit of magnanimity
and forgiveness. It is disposed to raise the degraded from the dust.
The man who only yesterday was engaged in shoving a car, sweeping
streets, or even worse, to-day may preside over the great council,
provided only he has the luck to secure the good graces of the princes
of progress. Hans Shund, thief, usurer, and nightwalker, is a most
striking illustration of my assertion.
What particularly disgusts and incenses me, replied the double
millionaire gravely, is that, under the régime of progress,
they who are degraded, immoral, and criminal, may rise to power without
any reformation of conduct and principles.
What you say is so much philosophy, my dear fellow, and philosophy
is an antique, obsolete kind of thing that has no weight in times when
continents are being cut asunder and threads of iron laid around the
globe. Moreover, such has ever been the state of things. In the dark
ages, also, criminals attained to power. Just think of those bloody
monarchs who trifled with human heads, and whose ministers, for the
sake of a patch of territory, stirred up horrible wars. Compared with
such monsters, Hans Shund is spotless innocence.
Quite right, sir, rejoined the landholder, with a smile. Those
bloody kings and their satanic ministers were monstersbut onlyand I
beg you to mark this wellonly when judged by principles which modern
progress sneers at as stupid morality and senseless dogma. I even find
that those princely monsters and their conscienceless ministers shared
the species of enlightenment that prides itself on repudiating all
positive religion and moral obligations.
Thunder and lightning, Seraphin! were not you sitting bodily before
me, I should believe I was actually listening to a Jesuit. But be
quiet! It will not do to attract notice. Ah! splendid. There you see
some of the 'wild men,' continued he, pointing to a table opposite.
The fellow with the bald head and fox's face is an agent, a salaried
bellwether, a polished electioneer. He has the 'wild men' already
half-tamed. Watch how cleverly he will decoy them into the
progressionist camp. Let us listen to what he has to say; it will amuse
you, and add to your knowledge of the developments of progress.
We want men for the city council, spoke he of the bald head, that
are accurately and thoroughly informed upon the condition and
circumstances of the city. Of what use would blockheads be but to fuss
and grope about blindly? What need have we of fellows whose stupidity
would compromise the public welfare? The men we want in our city
council must understand what measures the social, commercial, and
industrial interests of a city of thirty thousand inhabitants require
in order that the greatest good of the largest portion of the community
may be secured. Nor is this enough, proceeded he with increasing
enthusiasm. Besides knowledge, experience, and judgment, they must
also be gifted with the necessary amount of energy to carry out
whatever orders the council has thought fit to pass. They must be
resolute enough to break down every obstacle that stands in the way of
the public good. Now, who are the men to render these services? None
but independent men who by their position need have no regard to others
placed above themfree-spirited and sensible men, who have a heart for
the people. Now, gentlemen, have you any objections to urge against my
None, Mr. Spitzkopf! Your views are perfectly sound, lauded a
semi-barbarian. We have read exactly what you have been telling us in
the evening paper.
Of course, of course! cried Mr. Spitzkopf. My views are so
evidently correct that a thinking man cannot help stumbling upon them.
None but the slaves of priests, the wily brood of Jesuits, refuse to
accept these views, thundered the orator with the bald head. And why
do they refuse to accept them? Because they are hostile to
enlightenment, opposed to the common good, opposed to the prosperity of
mankind, in a word, because they are the bitter enemies of progress.
But take my word for it, gentlemen, our city contains but a small
number of these creatures of darkness, and those few are spotted,
emphasized he threateningly. Therefore, gentlemen, proceeded he
insinuatingly, I am convinced, and every man of intelligence shares my
conviction, that Mr. Shund is eminently fitted for the city
councileminently! He would be a splendid acquisition in behalf of the
public interests! He understands our local concerns thoroughly,
possesses the experience of many years, is conversant with business,
knows what industrial pursuits and social life require, and, what is
better still, he maintains an independent standing to which he unites a
rare degree of activity. Were it possible to prevail on Mr. Shund to
take upon himself the cares of the mayoralty, the deficit of the city
treasury would soon be wiped out. We would all have reason to consider
ourselves fortunate in seeing the interests of our city confided to
such a man.
The wild men looked perplexed.
Right enough, Mr. Spitzkopf, explained a timid coppersmith. Shund
is a clever, well-informed man. Nobody denies this. But do you know
that it is a question whether, besides his clever head, he also
possesses a conscience in behalf of the commonwealth?
The most enlarged sort of a conscience, gentlementhe warmest kind
of a heart! exclaimed the bald man in a convincing tone. Don't listen
to stories that circulate concerning Shund. There is not a word of
truth in them. They are sheer misconstructionsinventions of the
priests and of their helots.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Spitzkopf, they are not all inventions,
opposed the coppersmith. In the street where I live, Shund keeps up a
certain connection that would not be proper for any decent person, not
to say for a married man.
And does that scandalize you? exclaimed the bald-headed agent
merrily. Mr. Shund is a jovial fellow, he enjoys life, and is rich.
Mr. Shund will not permit religious rigorism to put restraints upon his
enjoyments. His liberal and independent spirit scorns to lead a
miserable existence under the rod of priestly bigotry. And, mark ye,
gentlemen, this is just what recommends him to all who are not
priest-ridden or leagued with the hirelings of Rome, concluded the
electioneer, casting a sharp look upon the coppersmith.
But I am a Lutheran, Mr. Spitzkopf, protested the coppersmith.
There are hypocrites among the Lutherans who are even worse than
the Romish Jesuits, retorted the man with the bald head. Consider,
gentlemen, that the leading men of our city have, in consideration of
his abilities, concluded to place Mr. Shund in the position which he
ought to occupy. Are you going, on to-morrow, to vote against the
decision of the leading men? Are you actually going to make yourselves
guilty of such an absurdity? You may, of course, if you wish, for every
citizen is free to do as he pleases. But the men of influence are also
at liberty to do as they please. I will explain my meaning more fully.
You, gentlemen, are, all of you, mechanicsshoemakers, tailors,
blacksmiths, carpenters, etc. From whom do you get your living? Do you
get it from the handful of hypocrites and men of darkness? No; you get
your living from the liberals, for they are the moneyed men, the men of
power and authority. It is they who scatter money among the people. You
obtain employment, you get bread and meat, from the liberals. And now
to whom, do you think, will the liberals give employment? They will
give it to such as hold their views, and notmark my wordto such as
are opposed to them. The man, therefore, that is prepared recklessly to
ruin his business has only to vote against Mr. Shund.
That will do the business, that will fetch them, said Greifmann.
Just look how dumfounded the poor savages appear!
It is brutal terrorism! protested Seraphin indignantly.
But don't misunderstand me. Mr. Spitzkopf! I am neither a
hypocritical devotee nor a Jesuit! exclaimed the coppersmith
deprecatingly. If Shund is good enough for them, pointing to the
leaders under the rotunda, he is good enough for me.
For me, too! exclaimed a tailor.
There isn't a worthier man than Shund, declared a shopkeeper.
And not a cleverer, said a carpenter.
And none more demoralized, lauded a joiner, unconscious of the
import of his encomium.
That's so, and therefore I am satisfied with him, assured a
So am Iso am I, chorussed the others eagerly.
That is sensible, gentlemen, approved the bald man. Just keep in
harmony with liberalism and progress, and you will never be the worse
for it, gentlemen. Above all, beware of reactiondo not fall back into
the immoral morasses of the middle ages. Let us guard the light and
liberty of our beautiful age. Vote for these men, and he produced a
package of printed tickets, and you will enjoy the delightful
consciousness of having disposed of your vote in the interests of the
Spitzkopf distributed the tickets on which were the names of the
councilmen elect. At the head of the list appeared in large characters
the name of Mr. Hans Shund.
The curtain falls, the farce is ended, said Greifmann. What you
have here heard and seen has been repeated at every table where 'wild
men' chanced to make their appearance. Everywhere the same arguments,
the same grounds of conviction.
Seraphin had become quite grave, and cast his eyes to the ground in
By Jove, the rogue is going to try his hand on us! said Carl,
nudging the thoughtful young man. The bald-headed fellow has spied us,
and is getting ready to bag a couple of what he takes to be 'wild men.'
Come, let us be off.
They left the beer cellar and took the direction of the city.
Now let us descend a little lower, to what I might call the
amphibia of society, said Greifmann. We are going to visit a place
where masons, sawyers, cobblers, laborers, and other small fry are in
the habit of slaking their thirst. You will there find going on the
same sort of electioneering, or, as you call it, the same sort of
terrorism, only in a rougher style. There beer-jugs occasionally go
flying about, and bloody heads and rough-and-tumble, fights may be
I have no stomach for fisticuffs and whizzing beer-mugs, said
Never mind, come along. I have undertaken to initiate you into the
mysteries of elections, and you are to get a correct idea of the life
action of a cultivated state.
They entered an obscure alley where a fetid, sultry atmosphere
assailed them. Greifmann stopped before a lofty house, and pointed to a
transparency on which a brimming beer-tankard was represented. A wild
tumult was audible through the windows, through which the cry of
Shund! rose at times like the swell of a great wave from the midst of
corrupted waters. As they were passing the doorway a dense fog of
tobacco smoke mingled with divers filthy odors assailed their nostrils.
Seraphin, who was accustomed to inhaling the pure atmosphere of the
country, showed an inclination to retreat, and had already half-way
faced about when his companion seized and held him. Courage, my
friend! wade into the slough boldly, cried he into the struggling
youth's ear. Hereafter, when you will be riding through woodland and
meadows, the recollection of this subterranean den will enable you to
appreciate the pure atmosphere of the country twice as well. Look at
those sodden faces and swollen heads. Those fellows are literally
wallowing and seething in beer, and they feel as comfortable as ten
thousand cannibals. It is really a joy to be among men who are
The millionaires, having with no little difficulty succeeded in
finding seats, were accosted by a female waiter.
Do the gentlemen wish to have election beer?
No, replied Gerlach.
His abrupt tone in declining excited the surprise of the fellows who
sat next to them. Several of them stared at the landholder.
So you don't want any election beer? cried a fellow who was pretty
Why not? May be it isn't good enough for you?
Oh, yes! oh, yes! replied the banker hastily. You see, Mr.
That's good! You call me Shund, interrupted the fellow with a
coarse laugh. My name isn't Shundmy name is Koenigyes,
Koenigwith all due respect to you.
Well, Mr. Koenigyou see, Mr. Koenig, we decline drinking election
beer because we are not entitled to itwe do not belong to this
Ah, yeswell, that's honest! lauded Koenig. Being that you are a
couple of honest fellows, you must partake of some of the good things
of our feast. I say, Kate, cried he to the female waiter, bring these
gentlemen some of the election sausages.
Greifmann, perceiving that Seraphin was about putting in a protest,
What feast are you celebrating to-day? inquired the banker.
That I will explain to you. We are to have an election here
to-morrow; these men on the ticket, you see, are to be elected. And he
drew forth one of Spitzkopf's tickets. Every one of us has received a
ticket like this, and we are all going to vote according to the
ticketof course, you know, we don't do it for nothing. To-day and
to-morrow, what we eat and drink is free of charge. And if Satan's own
grandmother were on the ticket, I would vote for her.
The first one on the list is Mr. Hans Shund. What sort of a man is
he? asked Seraphin. No doubt he is the most honorable and most
respectable man in the place!
Ha! ha! that's funny! The most honorable man in the place! Really
you make me laugh. Never mind, however, I don't mean to be impolite.
You are a stranger hereabout, and cannot, of course, be expected to
know anything of it. Shund, you see, was formerlythat, is a couple of
days agoShund was a man of whom nobody knew any good. For my part, I
wouldn't just like to be sticking in Shund's hide. Well, that's the way
things are: you know it won't do to babble it all just as it is. But
you understand me. To make a long story short, since day before
yesterday Shund is the honestest man in the world. Our men of money
have made him that, you know, giving a sly wink. What the men of
money do, is well done, of course, for the proverb says, 'Whose bread I
eat, his song I sing.'
Shut your mouth, Koenig! What stuff is that you are talking there?
said another fellow roughly. Hans Shund is a free-spirited, clever,
first-class, distinguished man. Taken altogether, he is a liberal man.
For this reason he will be elected councilman to-morrow, then mayor of
the city, and finally member of the assembly.
That's so, that's so, my partner is right, confirmed Koenig. But
listen, Flachsen, you will agree that formerlyyou know, formerlyhe
was an arrant scoundrel.
Why was he? Why? inquired Flachsen.
Why? Ha, ha! I say, Flachsen, go to Shund's wife, she can tell you
best. Go to those whom he has reduced to beggary, for instance, to Holt
over there. They all can tell you what Shund is, or rather what he has
been. But don't get mad, brother Flachsen! Spite of all that, I shall
vote for Shund. That's settled. And he poured the contents of his
beer-pot down his throat.
As you gentlemen are strangers, I will undertake to explain this
business for you, said Flachsen, who evidently was an agent for the
lower classes, and who did his best to put on an appearance of learning
by affecting high-sounding words of foreign origin.
Shund is quite a rational man, learned and full of intelligence.
But the priests have calumniated him horribly because he will not howl
with them. For this reason we intend to elect him, not for the sake of
the free beer. When Shund will have been elected, a system of economy
will be inaugurated, taxes will be removed, and the encyclical letter
with which the Pope has tried to stultify the people, together with the
syllabus, will be sent to the dogs. And in the legislative assembly the
liberal-minded Shund will manage to have the priests excluded from the
schools, and we will have none but secular schools. In short, the
dismal rule of the priesthood that would like to keep the people in
leading-strings will be put an end to, and liberal views will control
our affairs. As for Shund's doings outside of legitimate wedlock, that
is one of the boons of libertyit is a right of humanity; and when
Koenig lets loose against Shund's money speculations, he is only
talking so much bigoted nonsense.
Flachsen's apologetic discourse was interrupted by a row that took
place at the next table. There sat a victim of Shund's usury, the
land-cultivator Holt. He drank no beer, but wine, to dispel gloomy
thoughts and the temptations of desperation. It had cost him no
ordinary struggle to listen quietly to eulogies passed on Shund. He had
maintained silence, and had at times smiled a very peculiar smile. His
bruised heart must have suffered a fearful contraction as he heard men
sounding the praises of a wretch whom he knew to be wicked and devoid
of conscience. For a long time he succeeded in restraining himself. But
the wine he had drunk at last fanned his smouldering passion into a hot
flame of rage, and, clenching his fist, he struck the table violently.
The fellow whom you extol is a scoundrel! cried he.
Who is a scoundrel? roared several voices.
Your man, your councilman, your mayor, is a scoundrel! Shund is a
scoundrel! cried the ruined countryman passionately.
And you, Holt, are a fool!
You are drunk, Holt!
Holt is an ass, maintained Flachsen. He cannot read, otherwise he
would have seen in the Evening Gazette that Shund is a man of
honor, a friend of the people, a progressive man, a liberal man, a
brilliant genius, a despiser of religion, a death-dealer to
superstition, aaI don't remember what all besides. Had you read all
that in the evening paper, you fool, you wouldn't presume to open your
foul mouth against a man of honor like Hans Shund. Yes, stare; if you
had read the evening paper, you would have seen the enumeration of the
great qualities and deeds of Hans Shund in black and white.
The evening paper, indeed! cried Holt contemptuously. Does the
evening paper also mention how Shund brought about the ruin of the
father of a family of eight children?
What's that you say, you dog? yelled a furious fellow. That's a
lie against Shund!
Easy, Graeulich, easy, replied Holt to the last speaker, who was
about to set upon him. It is not a lie, for I am the man whom Shund
has strangled with his usurer's clutches. He has reduced me to
beggaryme and my wife and my children.
Graeulich lowered his fists, for Holt spoke so convincingly, and the
anguish in his face appealed so touchingly, that the man's fury was in
an instant changed to sympathy. Holt had stood up. He related at length
the wily and unscrupulous proceedings through which he had been brought
to ruin. The company listened to his story, many nodded in token of
sympathy, for everybody was acquainted with the ways of the hero of the
That's the way Shund has made a beggar of me, concluded Holt. And
I am not the only one, you know it well. If, then, I call Shund a
usurer, a scoundrel, a villain, you cannot help agreeing with me.
Flachsen noticed with alarm that the feeling of the company was
becoming hostile to his cause. He approached the table, where he was
met by perplexed looks from his aids.
Don't you perceive, cried he, that Holt is a hireling of the
priests? Will you permit yourselves to be imposed upon by this salaried
slave? Hear me, you scapegrace, you rascal, you ass, listen to what I
have to tell you! Hans Shund is the lion of the daythe greatest man
of this century! Hans Shund is greater than Bismarck, sharper than
Napoleon. Out of nothing God made the universe: from nothing Hans Shund
has got to be a rich man. Shund has a mouthpiece that moves like a
mill-wheel on which entire streams fall. In the assembly Shund will
talk down all opposition. He will talk even better than that fellow
Voelk, over in Bavaria, who is merely a lawyer, but talks upon
everything, even things he knows nothing about. And do you, lousy
beggar, presume to malign a man of this kind? If you open that filthy
mouth of yours once more, I will stop it for you with paving-stones.
Hold, Flachsen, hold! I am not the man that is paid; you are
the one that is paid, retorted the countryman indignantly. My mouth
has not been honey-fed like yours. Nor do I drink your election beer or
eat your election sausages. But with my last breath I will maintain
that Shund is a scoundrel, a usurer, a villain.
Out with the fellow! cried Flachsen. He has insulted us all, for
we have all been drinking election beer. Out with the helot of the
The progressionist mob fell upon the unhappy man, throttled him,
beat him, and drove him into the street.
Let us leave this den of cutthroats, said Gerlach, rising.
Outside they found Holt leaning against a wall, wiping the blood
from his face. Seraphin approached him. Are you badly hurt, my good
man? asked he kindly. The wounded man, looking up, saw a noble
countenance before him, and, whilst he continued to gaze hard at
Seraphin's fine features, tears began to roll from his eyes.
O God! O God! sighed he, and then relapsed into silence. But in
the tone of his words could be noticed the terrible agony he was
Is the wound deepis it dangerous? asked the young man.
No, sir, no! The wound on my forehead is nothingsignifies
nothing; but in here, pointing to his breastin here are care,
anxiety, despair. I am thankful, sir, for your sympathy; it is
soothing. But you may go your way; the blows signify nothing.
CHAPTER V. Gerlach whispered
something to the banker. Holt pressed his pocket-handkerchief to the
Please yourself! said the banker loudly, in a business tone.
Seraphin again approached the beaten man.
Will you please, my good man, to accompany us?
What for, sir?
Because I would like to do something towards healing up your wound;
I mean the wound in there.
Holt stood motionless before the stranger, and looked at him.
I thank you, sir; there is no remedy for me; I am doomed!
Still, I will assist you. Follow me.
Who are you, sir, if I may ask the question?
I am a man whom Providence seems to have chosen to rescue the prey
from the jaws of a usurer. Come along with us, and fear nothing.
Very well, I will go in the name of God! I do not precisely know
your object, and you are a stranger to me. But your countenance looks
innocent and kind, therefore I will go with you.
They passed through alleys and streets.
Do you often visit that tavern? inquired Seraphin.
Not six times in a year, answered Holt. Sometimes of a Sunday I
drink half a glass of wine, that's all. I am poor, and have to be
saving. I would not have gone to the tavern to-day but that I wanted to
get rid of my feelings of misery.
I overheard your story, rejoined Seraphin. Shund's treatment of
you was inhuman. He behaved towards you like a trickish devil.
That he did! And I am ruined together with my family, replied the
poor man dejectedly.
Take my advice, and never abuse Shund. You know how respectable he
has suddenly got to be, how many influential friends he has. You can
easily perceive that one cannot say anything unfavorable of such a man
without great risk, no matter were it true ten times over.
I am not given to disputing, replied Holt. But it stirred the
bile within me to hear him extolled, and it broke out. Oh! I have
learned to suffer in silence. I haven't time to think of other matters.
After God, my business and my family were my only care. I attended to
my occupation faithfully and quietly as long as I had any to attend to,
but now I haven't any to take care of. O God! it is hard. It will bring
me to the grave.
You are a land cultivator?
Shund intends to have you sold out?
Yes; immediately after the election he intends to complete my
How much money would you need in order with industry to get along?
A great deal of money, a great dealat least a thousand florins. I
have given him a mortgage for a thousand florins on my house and what
was left to me. A thousand florins would suffice to help me out of
trouble. I might save my little cottage, my two cows, and a field. I
might then plough and sow for other people. I could get along and
subsist honestly. But as I told you, nothing less than a thousand
florins would do; and where am I to get so much money? You see there is
no hope for me, no help for me. I am doomed!
The mortgaged property is considerable, said Gerlach. A house,
even though a small one, moreover, a field, a barn, a garden, all these
together are surely worth a much higher price. Could you not borrow a
thousand florins on it and pay off the usurer?
No, sir. Nobody would be willing to lend me that amount of money
upon property mortgaged to a man like Shund. Besides, my little
property is out of town, and who wants to go there? I, for my part, of
course, like no spot as much, for it is the house my father built, and
I was born and brought up there.
The man lapsed into silence, and walked at Seraphin's side like one
weighed down by a heavy load. The delicate sympathy of the young man
enabled him to guess what was passing in the breast of the man under
the load. He knew that Holt was recalling his childhood passed under
the paternal roof; that little spot of home was hallowed for him by
events connected with his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters,
or with other objects more trifling, which, however, remained fresh and
bright in memory, like balmy days of spring.
From this consecrated spot he was to be exiled, driven out with wife
and children, through the inhumanity and despicable cunning of an
usurer. The man heaved a deep sigh, and Gerlach, watching him sidewise,
noticed his lips were compressed, and that large tears rolled down his
weather-browned cheeks. The tender heart of the young man was deeply
affected at this sight, and the millionaire for once rejoiced in the
consciousness of possessing the might of money.
They halted before the Palais Greifmann. Holt noticed with surprise
how the man in blouse drew from his waistcoat pocket a small instrument
resembling a toothpick, and with it opened a door near the carriage
gate. Had not every shadow of suspicion been driven from Holt's mind by
Seraphin's appearance, he would surely have believed that he had fallen
into the company of burglars, who entrapped him to aid in breaking into
Reluctantly, after repeated encouragement from Gerlach, he crossed
the threshold of the stately mansion. He had not quite passed the door
when he took off his cap, stared at the costly furniture of the hall
through which they were passing, and was reminded of St. Peter's
thought as the angel was rescuing him from the clutches of Herod. Holt
imagined he saw a vision. The man who had unlocked the door
disappeared. Seraphin entered an apartment followed by Shund's victim.
Do you know where you are? inquired the millionaire.
Yes, sir, in the house of Mr. Greifmann the banker.
And you are somewhat surprised, are you not?
I am so much astonished, sir, that I have several times pinched my
arms and legs, for it all seems to me like a dream.
Seraphin smiled and laid aside his cap. Holt scanned the noble
features of the young man more minutely, his handsome face, his stately
bearing, and concluded the man in the blouse must be some distinguished
Take courage, said the noble looking young man in a kindly tone.
You shall be assisted. I am convinced that you are an honest,
industrious man, brought to the verge of ruin through no fault of your
own. Nor do I blame you for inadvertently falling into the nets of the
usurer, for I believe your honest nature never suspected that there
could exist so fiendish a monster as the one that lives in the soul of
You may rely upon it, sir. If I had had the slightest suspicion of
such a thing, Shund never would have got me into his clutches.
I am convinced of it. You are partially the victim of your own good
nature, and partially the prey of the wild beast Shund. Now listen to
me: Suppose somebody were to give you a thousand florins, and to say:
'Holt, take this money, 'tis yours. Be industrious, get along, be a
prudent housekeeper, serve God to the end of your days, and in future
beware of usurers'suppose somebody were to address you in this way,
what would you do?
Supposing the case, sir, although it is not possible, but supposing
the case, what would I do? I would do precisely what that person would
have told me, and a great deal more. I would work day and night. Every
day, at evening prayer, I would get on my knees with my wife and
children, and invoke God's protection on that person. I would do that,
sir; but, as I said, the case is impossible.
Nevertheless, suppose it did happen, explained Seraphin in a
preliminary way. Give me your hand that you will fulfil the promise
you have just given.
For a moment Seraphin's hand lay in a callous, iron palm, which
pressed his soft fingers in an uncomfortable but well-meant grasp.
Well, now follow me, said Gerlach.
He led the way; Holt followed with an unsteady step like a drunken
man. They presented themselves before the banker's counter. The latter
was standing behind the trellis of his desk, and on a table lay ten
rolls of money.
You have just now by word and hand confirmed a promise, said
Gerlach, turning to the countryman, which cannot be appreciated in
money, for that promise comprises almost all the duties of the father
of a family. But to make the fulfilment of the promise possible, a
thousand florins are needed. Here lies the money. Accept it from me as
a gift, and be happy.
Holt did not stir. He looked from the money at Gerlach, was
motionless and rigid, until, at last, the paralyzing surprise began to
resolve itself into a spasmodic quivering of the lips, and then into a
mighty flood of tears. Seizing Seraphin's hands, he kissed them with an
emotion that convulsed his whole being.
That will do now, said the millionaire, take the money, and go
My God! I cannot find utterance, said Holt, stammering forth the
words with difficulty. Good heaven! is it possible? Is it true? I am
still thinking 'tis only a dream.
Downright reality, my man! said the banker. Stop crying; save
your tears for a more fitting occasion. Put the rolls in your pocket,
and go home.
Greifmann's coldness was effective in sobering down the man
intoxicated with joy.
May I ask, sir, what your name is, that I may at least know to whom
I owe my rescue?
Seraphin is my name.
Your name sounds like an angel's, and you are an angel to me. I am
not acquainted with you, but God knows you, and he will requite you
according to your deeds.
Gerlach nodded gravely. The banker was impatient and murmured
discontentedly. Holt carefully pocketed the rolls of money, made an
inclination of gratitude to Gerlach, and went out. He passed slowly
through the hall. The porter opened the door. Holt stood still before
I ask your pardon, but do you know Mr. Seraphin? asked he.
Why shouldn't I know a gentleman that has been our guest for the
last two weeks?
You must pardon my presumption, Mr. Porter. Will Mr. Seraphin
remain here much longer?
He will remain another week for certain.
I am very much obliged to you, said Holt, passing into the street
and hurrying away.
Your intended has a queer way of applying his money, said the
banker to his sister the next morning. And he reported to her the story
of Seraphin's munificence. I do not exactly like this sort of
kindness, for it oversteps all bounds, and undoubtedly results from
That, too, can be cured, replied Louise confidently. I will make
him understand that eternity restores nothing, that consequently it is
safer and more prudent to exact interest from the present.
'Tis true, the situation of that fellow Holt was a pitiable one,
and Hans Shund's treatment of him was a masterpiece of speculation. He
had stripped the fellow completely. The stupid Holt had for years been
laboring for the cunning Shund, who continued drawing his meshes more
and more tightly about him. Like a huge spider, he leisurely sucked out
the life of the fly he had entrapped.
Your hostler says there was light in Seraphin's room long after
midnight. I wonder what hindered him from sleeping?
That is not hard to divine. In all probability he was composing a
sentimental ditty to his much adored, answered Carl teasingly.
Midnight is said to be a propitious time for occupations of that
Do be quiet, you tease! But I too was thinking that he must have
been engaged in writing. May be he was making a memorandum of
yesterday's experience in his journal.
May be he was. At all events, the impressions made on him were very
But I do not like your venture; it may turn out disastrous,
How can it, my most learned sister?
You know Seraphin's position, explained she. He has been reared
in the rigor of sectarian credulity. The spirit of modern civilization
being thus abruptly placed before his one-sided judgment without
previous preparation may alarm, nay, may even disgust him. And when
once he will have perceived that the brother is a partisan of the
horrible monster, is it probable that he will feel favorably disposed
towards the sister whose views harmonize with those of her brother?
I have done nothing to justify him in setting me down for a
partisan. I maintain strict neutrality. My purpose is to accustom the
weakling to the atmosphere of enlightenment which is fatal to all
religious phantasms. Have no fear of his growing cold towards you,
proceeded he in his customary tone of irony. Your ever victorious
power holds him spell-bound in the magic circle of your enchantment.
Besides, Louise, continued he frowning, I do not think I could
tolerate a brother-in-law steeped over head and ears in prejudices. You
yourself might find it highly uncomfortable to live with a husband of
Uncomfortable! No, I would not. I would find it exciting, for it
would become my task to train and cultivate an abnormal specimen of the
Very praiseworthy, sister! And if I now endeavor by means of living
illustrations to familiarize your intended with the nature of modern
intellectual enlightenment, I am merely preparing the way for your
CHAPTER VI. MASTERS AND SLAVES.
Under the much despised discipline of religious requirements, the
child Seraphin had grown up to boyhood spotless in morals, and then had
developed himself into a young man of great firmness of character,
whose faith was as unshaken as the correctness of his behavior was
The bloom of his cheeks, the innocent brightness of his eye, the
suavity of his disposition, were the natural results of the training
which his heart had received. No foul passion had ever disturbed the
serenity of his soul. When under the smiling sky of a spring morning he
took his ride over the extensive possessions of his father, his
interior accorded perfectly with the peace and loveliness of the sights
and sounds of blooming nature around him. On earth, however, no spring,
be it ever so beautiful, is entirely safe from storms. Evil spirits lie
in waiting in the air, dark powers threaten destruction to all blossoms
and all incipient life. And the more inevitable is the dread might of
those lurking spirits, that in every blossom of living plant lies
concealed a germ of ruin, sleeps a treacherous passioneven in the
heart of the innocent Seraphin.
The strategic arts of the beautiful young lady received no small
degree of additional power from the genuine effort made by her to
please the stately double millionaire. In a short time she was to such
an extent successful that one day Carl rallied her in the following
humorous strain: Your intended is sitting in the arbor singing a most
dismal song! You will have to allow him a little more line, Louise,
else you run the risk of unsettling his brain. Moreover, I cannot be
expected to instruct a man in the mysteries of progress, if he sees,
feels, and thinks nothing but Louise.
The banker had not uttered an exaggeration. It sometimes happens
that a first love bursts forth with an impetuosity so uncontrollable,
that, for a time, every other domain of the intellectual and moral
nature of a young man is, as it were, submerged under a mighty flood.
This temporary inundation of passion cannot, of course, maintain its
high tide in presence of calm experience, and the sunshine of more
ripened knowledge soon dries up its waters. But Seraphin possessed only
the scanty experience of a young man, and his knowledge of the world
was also very limited. Hence, in his case, the stream rose alarmingly
high, but it did not reach an overflow, for the hand of a pious mother
had thrown up in the heart of the child a living dike strong enough to
resist the greatest violence of the swell. The height and solidity of
the dike increased with the growth of the child; it was a bulwark of
defence for the man, who stood secure against humiliating defeats
behind the adamantine wall of religious principlesyet only so long as
life sought protection behind this bulwark. Faith uttered a serious
warning against an unconditional surrender of himself to the object of
his attachment. For he could not put to rest some misgivings raised in
his mind by the strange and, to him, inexplicable attitude which Louise
assumed upon the highest questions of human existence. The uninitiated
youth had no suspicion of the existence of that most disgusting product
of modern enlightenment, the emancipated female. Had he
discovered in Louise the emancipated woman in all the ugliness of her
real nature, he would have conceived unutterable loathing for such a
monstrosity. And yet he could not but feel that between himself and
Louise there yawned an abyss, there existed an essential repulsion,
which, at times, gave rise within him to considerable uneasiness.
To obtain a solution of the enigma of this antipathy, the young
gentleman concluded to trust entirely to the results of his
observations, which, however, were far from being definitive; for his
reason was imposed upon by his feelings, and, from day to day, the
charms of the beautiful woman were steadily progressing in throwing a
seductive spell over his judgment. The banker's daughter possessed a
high degree of culture; she was a perfect mistress of the tactics
employed on the field of coquetry; her tact was exquisite; and she
understood thoroughly how to take advantage of a kindly disposition and
of the tenderness inspired by passion. How was the eye of Seraphin,
strengthened neither by knowledge nor by experience, to detect the true
worth of what lay hidden beneath this fascinating delusion?
Here again his religious training came to the rescue of the
inexperienced youth, by furnishing him with standards safe and
unfalsified, by which to weigh and come to a conclusion.
Louise's indifference to practices of piety annoyed him. She never
attended divine service, not even on Sundays. He never saw her with a
prayer-book, nor was a single picture illustrative of a moral subject
to be found hung up in her apartment. Her conversation, at all times,
ran upon commonplaces of everyday concern, such as the toilet, theatre,
society. He noticed that whenever he ventured to launch matter of a
more serious import upon the current of conversation, it immediately
became constrained and soon ceased to flow. Louise appeared to his
heart at the same time so fascinating and yet so peculiar, so seductive
and yet so repulsive, that the contradictions of her being caused him
to feel quite unhappy.
He was again sitting in his room thinking about her. In the
interview he had just had with her, the young lady had exerted such
admirable powers of womanly charms that the poor young man had had a
great deal of trouble to maintain his self-possession. Her ringing,
mischievous laugh was still sounding in his ears, and the brightness of
her sparkling, eyes was still lighting up his memory. And the
unsuspecting youth had no Solomon at his side to repeat to him: My
son, can a man hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn? Or
can he walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt?... She
entangleth him with many words, and she draweth him away with the
flattery of her lips. Immediately he followeth her as an ox led to be a
victim, and as a lamb playing the wanton, and not knowing that he is
drawn like a fool to bonds, till the arrow pierce his liver. As if a
bird should make haste to the snare, and knoweth not that his life is
in danger. Now, therefore, my son, hear me, and attend to the words of
my mouth. Let not thy mind be drawn away in her ways: neither be thou
deceived with her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded, and the
strongest have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell,
reaching even to the inner chambers of death.
For Seraphin, however, no Solomon was at hand who might give him
counsel. Sustained by his virtue and by his faith alone, he struggled
against the temptress, not precisely of the kind referred to by
Solomon, but still a dangerous one from the ranks of progress.
Greifmann had notified him that the general assembly election was to
be held that day, that Mayor Hans Shund would certainly be returned as
a delegate, and that he intended to call for Gerlach, and go out to
watch the progress of the election.
Seraphin felt rather indifferent respecting the election; but he
would have considered himself under weighty obligation to the brother
for an explanation of the peculiar behavior of the sister at which he
was so greatly perplexed.
Carl himself he had for a while regarded as an enigma. Now, however,
he believed that he had reached a correct conclusion concerning the
brother. It appeared to him that the principal characteristic of Carl's
disposition was to treat every subject, except what strictly pertained
to business, in a spirit of levity. To the faults of others Carl was
always ready to accord a praiseworthy degree of indulgence, he never
uttered harsh words in a tone of bitterness, and when he pronounced
censure, his reproof was invariably clothed in some form of pleasantry.
In general, he behaved like a man not having time to occupy himself
seriously with any subject that did not lie within the particular
sphere of his occupation. Even their wager he managed like a matter of
business, although the landowner could not but take umbrage at the
banker's ready and natural way of dealing with men whose want of
principle he himself abominated. Greifmann seemed good-natured, minute,
and cautious in business, and in all other things exceedingly liberal
and full of levity. Such was the judgment arrived at by Seraphin,
inexperienced and little inclined to fault-finding as he was,
respecting a gentleman who stood at the summit of modern culture, who
had skill in elegantly cloaking great faults and foibles, and whose
sole religion consisted in the accumulation of papers and coins of
Gerlach's servant entered, and disturbed his meditation.
There is a man here with a family who begs hard to be allowed to
speak with you.
A man with a family! repeated the millionaire, astonished. I know
nobody round here, and have no desire to form acquaintances.
The man will not be denied. He says his name is Holt, and that he
has something to say to you.
Ah, yes! exclaimed Seraphin, with a smile that revealed a pleasant
surprise. Send the man and those who are with him in to me.
Closing a diary, in which he was recording circumstantially the
experiences of his present visit, he awaited the visitors. A loud knock
from a weighty fist reminded him of a pair of callous hands, then Holt,
followed by his wife and children, presented himself before his
benefactor. They all made a small courtesy, even the flaxen-headed
little children, and the bright, healthy babe in the arms of the mother
met his gaze with the smile of an angel. The dark spirits that were
hovering around him, torturing and tempting, instantly vanished, and he
became serene and unconstrained whilst conversing with these simple
You must excuse us, Mr. Seraphin, began Holt. This is my wife,
and these are seven of my children. There is one more; her name is
Mechtild. She had to stay at home and mind the house. She will pay you
an extra visit, and present her thanks. We have called that you might
become acquainted with the family whom you have rescued, and that we
might thank you with all our hearts.
After this speech, the father gave a signal, whereupon the little
ones gathered around the amiable young man, made their courtesies, and
kissed his hands.
May God bless you, Mr. Seraphin! first spoke a half-grown girl.
We greet you, dear Seraphin! said another, five years old.
We pray for you every day, Mr. Seraphin, said the next in
We are thankful to you from our hearts, Mr. Seraphin, spoke a
small lad, in a tone of deep earnestness.
And thus did every child deliver its little address. It was touching
to witness the noble dignity of the children, which may, at times, be
found beautifully investing their innocence. Gerlach was moved. He
looked down upon the little ones around him with an expression of
affectionate thankfulness. Holt's lips also quivered, and bright tears
of happiness streamed from the eyes of the mother.
I am obliged to you, my little friends, for your greetings and for
your prayers, spoke the millionaire. You are well brought up.
Continue always to be good children, such as you now are; have the fear
of God, and honor your parents.
Mr. Seraphin, said Holt, drawing a paper from his pocket, here is
the note that I have redeemed with the money you gave me. I wanted to
show it to you, so that you might know for certain that the money had
been applied to the proper purpose.
Gerlach affected to take an interest in the paper, and read over the
But there is one thing, Mr. Seraphin, continued Holt, that
grieves me. And that is, that there is not anything better than mere
words with which I can testify my gratitude to you. I would like ever
so much to do something for youto do something for you worth speaking
of. Do you know, Mr. Seraphin, I would be willing to shed the last drop
of my blood for you?
Never mind that, Holt! It is ample recompense for me to know that I
have helped a worthy man out of trouble. You can now, Mrs. Holt, set to
work with renewed courage. But, added he archly, you will have to
watch your husband that he may not again fall into the clutches of
beasts of prey like Shund.
He has had to pay dearly for his experience, Mr. Seraphin. I used
often to say to him: 'Michael, don't trust Shund. Shund talks too much,
he is too sweet altogether, he has some wicked design upon usdon't
trust him.' But, you see, Mr. Seraphin, my husband thinks that all
people are as upright as he is himself, and he believed that Shund
really meant to deal fairly as he pretended. But Michael's wits are
sharpened now, and he will not in future be so ready to believe every
man upon his word. Nor will he, hereafter, borrow one single penny, and
he will never again undertake to buy anything unless he has the money
in hand to pay for it.
In what street do you live? inquired Gerlach.
Near the turnpike road, Mr. Seraphin. Do you see that knoll? He
pointed through the window in a direction unobstructed by the trees of
the garden. Do you see that dense shade-tree, and yon whitewashed wall
behind the tree? That is our walnut-treemy grandfather planted it.
And the white wall is the wall of our house.
I have passed there twicethe road leads to the beech grove, said
the millionaire. I remarked the little cottage, and was much pleased
with its air of neatness. It struck me, too, that the barn is larger
than the dwelling, which is a creditable sign for a farmer. Near the
front entrance there is a carefully cultivated flower garden, in which
I particularly admired the roses, and further off from the road lies an
All that belongs to us. That is what you have rescued and made a
present of to us, replied the land cultivator joyfully. Everybody
stops to view the roses; they belong to our daughter Mechtild.
The soil is good and deep, and must bring splendid crops of wheat.
I, too, am a farmer, and understand something about such matters. But
it appeared to me as though the soil were of a cold nature. You should
use lime upon it pretty freely.
In this manner he spent some time conversing with these good and
simple people. Before dismissing them, he made a present to every one
of the children of a shining dollar, having previously overcome Holt's
protest against this new instance generosity.
Old and young then courtesied once more, and Gerlach was left to
himself in a mood differing greatly from that in which the visitors had
He had been conversing with good and happy people, and revelled in
the consciousness of having been the originator of their happiness.
Suddenly Greifmann's appearance in the room put to flight the bright
spirits that hovered about him, and the sunshine that had been lighting
up the apartment was obscured by dark shadows as of a heavy mass of
What sort of a horde was that? asked he.
They were Holt and his family. The gratitude of these simple people
was touching. The innocent little ones gave me an ovation of which a
prince might be envious, for the courts of princes are never graced by
a naturalness at once so sincere and so beautiful. It is an intense
happiness for me to have assured the livelihood of ten human beings
with so paltry a gift.
A mere matter of taste, my most sympathetic friend! rejoined the
banker with indifference. You are not made of the proper stuff to be a
business man. Your feelings would easily tempt you into very
unbusinesslike transactions. But you must come with me! The hubbub of
the election is astir through all the streets and thoroughfares. I am
going out to discharge my duties as a citizen, and I want you to
I have no inclination to see any of this disgusting turmoil,
Inclination or disinclination is out of the question when interest
demands it, insisted the banker. You must profit by the opportunity
which you now have of enriching your knowledge of men and things, or
rather of correcting it; for heretofore your manner of viewing things
has been mere ideal enthusiasm. Come with me, my good fellow!
Seraphin followed with interior reluctance. Greifmann went on to
impart to him the following information:
During the past night, there have sprung up, as if out of the
earth, a most formidable host, ready to do battle against the uniformly
victorious army of progressmen thoroughly armed and accoutred, real
crusaders. A bloody struggle is imminent. Try and make of your heart a
sort of monitor covered with plates of iron, so that you may not be
overpowered by the horrifying spectacle of the election affray. I am
not joking at all! True as gospel, what I tell you! If you do not want
to be stifled by indignation at sight of the fiercest kind of
terrorism, of the most revolting tyranny, you will have to lay aside,
at least for to-day, every feeling of humanity.
Gerlach perceived a degree of seriousness in the bubbling current of
Who is the enemy that presumes to stand in the way of progress?
The ultramontanes! Listen to what I have to tell you. This morning
Schwefel came in to get a check cashed. With surprise I observed that
the manufacturer's soul was not in business? 'How are things going?'
asked I when we had got through.
'I feel like a man,' exclaimed he, 'that has just seen a horrible
monster! Would you believe it, those accursed ultramontanes have been
secretly meddling in the election. They have mustered a number of
votes, and have even gone so far as to have a yellow ticket printed.
Their yellow placards were to be seen this morning stuck up at every
street cornerof course they were immediately torn down.'
'And are you provoked at that, Mr. Schwefel! You certainly are not
going to deny the poor ultramontanes the liberty of existing, or, at
least, the liberty of voting for whom they please?'
'Yes, I am, I am! That must not be tolerated,' cried he wildly.
'The black brood are hatching dark schemes, they are conspiring against
civilization, and would fain wrest from us the trophies won by
progress. It is high time to apply the axe to the root of the
upas-tree. Our duty is to disinfect thoroughly, to banish the
absurdities of religious dogma from our schools. The black spawn will
have to be rendered harmless: we must kill them politically.'
'Very well,' said I. 'Just make negroes of them. Now that in
America the slaves are emancipated, Europe would perhaps do well to
take her turn at the slave-trade.' But the fellow would not take my
joke. He made threatening gesticulations, his eyes gleamed like hot
coals, and he muttered words of a belligerent import.
'The ultramontane rabble are to hold a meeting at the Key of
Heaven,' reported he. 'There the stupid victims of credulity are to be
harangued by several of their best talkers. The black tide is
afterwards to diffuse itself through the various wards where the voting
is to take place. But let the priest-ridden slaves come, they will have
other memoranda to carry home with them beside their yellow rags of
You perceive, friend Seraphin, that the progress men mean mischief.
We may expect to witness scenes of violence.
That is unjustifiable brutality on the part of the
progressionists, declared Gerlach indignantly. Are not the
ultramontanes entitled to vote and to receive votes? Are they not free
citizens? Do they not enjoy the same privileges as others? It is a
disgrace and an outrage thus to tyrannize over men who are their
brothers, sons of Germania, their common mother.
Granted! Violence is disgraceful. The intention of progress,
however, is not quite as bad as you think it. Being convinced of its
own infallibility, it cannot help feeling indignant at the unbelief of
ultramontanism, which continues deaf to the saving truths of the
progressionist gospel. Hence a holy zeal for making converts urges
progress so irresistibly that it would fain force wanderers into the
path of salvation by violence. This is simply human, and should not be
regarded as unpardonable. In the self-same spirit did my namesake
Charles the Great butcher the Saxons because the besotted heathens
presumed to entertain convictions differing from his own. And those who
were not butchered had to see their sacred groves cut down, their
altars demolished, their time-honored laws changed, and had to resign
themselves to following the ways which he thought fit to have opened
through the land of the Saxons. You cannot fail to perceive that
Charles the Great was a member of the school progress.
But your comparison is defective, opposed the millionaire.
Charles subdued a wild and bloodthirsty horde who made it a practice
to set upon and butcher peaceful neighbors. Charles was the protector
of the realm, and the Saxons were forced to bend under the weight of
his powerful arm. If Charles, however, did violence to the consciences
of his vanquished enemies, and converted them to Christianity with the
sword and mace, then Charles himself is not to be excused, for moral
freedom is expressly proclaimed by the spirit of Christianity.
There is no doubt but that the Saxons were blundering fools for
rousing the lion by making inroads into Charles' domain. The
ultramontanes, are, however, in a similar situation. They have attacked
the giant Progress, and have themselves to blame for the consequences.
The ultramontanes have attacked nobody, maintained Gerlach. They
are merely asserting their own rights, and are not putting restrictions
on the rights of other people. But progress will concede neither rights
nor freedom to others. It is a disgusting egotist, an unscrupulous
tyrant, that tries to build up his own brutal authority on the ruins of
the rights of others.
Still, it would have been far more prudent on the part of the
ultramontanes to keep quiet, seeing that their inferiority of numbers
cannot alter the situation. The indisputable rights of the ascendency
are in our days with the sceptre and crown of progress.
A brave man never counts the foe, cried Gerlach. He stands to his
convictions, and behaves manfully in the struggle.
Well said! applauded the banker, And since progress also is
forced by the opposition of principles to man itself for the contest,
it will naturally beat up all its forces in defence of its conviction.
Here we are at the 'Key of Heaven,' where the ultramontanes are holding
their meeting. Let us go in, for the proverb says, Audiatur et
altera parsthe other side should also get a hearing.
They drew near to a lengthy old building. Over the doorway was a
pair of crossed keys hewn out of stone, and gilt, informing the
stranger that it was the hostelry of the Key of Heaven, where, since
the days of hoar antiquity, hospitality was dispensed to pilgrims and
travellers. The principal hall of the house contained a gathering of
about three hundred men. They were attentively listening to the words
of a speaker who was warmly advocating the principles of his party. The
speaker stood behind a desk which was placed upon a platform at the far
end of the hall.
Seraphin cast a glance over the assembly. He received the painful
impression of a hopeless minority. Barely forty votes would the
ultramontanes be able to send to each of the wards. To compensate for
numbers, intelligence and faith were represented in the meeting.
Elegant gentlemen with intellectual countenances sat or stood in the
company of respectable tradesmen, and the long black coats of the
clergy were not few in number. On a table lay two packages of yellow
tickets to be distributed among the members of the assembly. At the
same table sat the chairman, a commissary of police named Parteiling,
whose business it was to watch the proceedings, and several other
Compared with the colossal preponderance of progress, our influence
is insignificant, and, compared with the masses of our opponents our
numerical strength is still less encouraging, said the speaker. If in
connection with this disheartening fact you take into consideration the
pressure which progress has it in its power to exert on the various
relations of life through numerous auxiliary means, if you remember
that our opponents can dismiss from employment all such as dare uphold
views differing from their own, it becomes clear that no ordinary
amount of courage is required to entertain and proclaim convictions
hostile to progress.
Seraphin thought of Spitzkopf's mode of electioneering, and of the
terrible threats made to the wild men, and concluded the incredible
statement was lamentably correct.
Viewing things in this light, proceeded the orator, I
congratulate the present assembly upon its unusual degree of pluck, for
courage is required to go into battle with a clear knowledge of the
overwhelming strength of the enemy. We have rallied round the banner of
our convictions notwithstanding that the numbers of the enemy make
victory hopeless. We are determined to cast our votes in support of
religion and morality in defiance of the scorn, blasphemy, and violence
which the well-known terrorism of progress will not fail to employ in
order to frighten us from the exercise of our privilege as citizens. We
must be prepared, gentlemen, to hear a multitude of sarcastic remarks
and coarse witticisms, both in the streets and at the polls. I adjure
you to maintain the deportment alone worthy of our cause. A gentleman
never replies to the aggressions of rudeness, and should you wish to
take the conduct of our opponents in gay good-humor, just try,
gentlemen, to fancy that you are being treated to some elegant
exhibition of the refinement and liberal culture of the times.
Loud bursts of hilarity now and then relieved the seriousness of the
meeting. Even Greifmann would clap applause and cry, Bravo!
Let us stand united to a man, prepared against all the wiles of
intimidation and corruption, undismayed by the onset of the enemy. The
struggle is grave beyond expression. For you are acquainted with the
aims and purposes of the liberals. Progress would like to sweep away
all the religious heritages that our fathers held sacred. Education is
to be violently wrested from under the influence of the church; the
church herself is to be enslaved and strangled in the thrall of the
liberal state. I am aware that our opponents pretend to respect
religionbut the religion of would-be progress is infidelity. Divine
revelation, of which the church is the faithful guardian, is rejected
with scorn by liberalism. Look at the tone of the press and the style
of the literature of the day. You have only to notice the derision and
fierceness with which the press daily assails the mysteries and dogmas
of religion, the Sovereign Pontiff, the clergy, religious orders, the
ultramontanes, and you cannot long remain in the dark concerning the
aim and object of progress. Christ or Antichrist is the watchword of
the day, gentlemen! Hence the imperative duty for us to be active at
the elections; for the legislature has the presumption to wish to
dictate in matters belonging exclusively to the jurisdiction of the
church. We are threatened with school laws the purpose of which is to
unchristianize our children, to estrange them from the spirit of
religion. No man having the sentiment of religion can remain
indifferent in presence of this danger, for it means nothing less than
the defection from Christianity of the masses of the coming generation.
Gentlemen, there is a reproach being uttered just now by the
progressionist press, which, far from repelling, I would feel proud to
deserve. A priest should have said, so goes the report, that it is a
mortal sin to elect a progressionist to the chamber of deputies. Some
of the writers of our press have met this reproach by simply denying
that a priest ever expressed himself in those terms. But, gentlemen,
let us take for granted that a priest did actually say that it is a
mortal sin to elect a progressionist to the chamber of deputies, is
there anything opposed to morality in such a declaration?
By no means, if you remember that it is to be presumed the
progressionist will use his vote in the assembly to oppose religion.
Mortal sin, gentlemen, is any wilful transgression of God's law in
grave matters. Now I put it to you: Does he gravely transgress the law
of God who controverts what God has revealed, who would exclude God and
all holy subjects from the schools, who would rob the church of her
independence, and make of her a mere state machine unfit for the
fulfilment of her high mission? There is not one of you but is ready to
declare: 'Yes, such an one transgresses grievously the law of God.'
This answer at the same time solves the other question, whether it is a
mortal sin to put arms in the hands of an enemy of religion that he may
use them against faith and morality. Would that all men of Christian
sentiment seriously adverted to this connection of things and acted
accordingly, the baneful sway of the pernicious spirit that governs the
age would soon be at an end; for I have confidence in the sound sense
and moral rectitude of the German people. Heathenism is repugnant to
the deeply religious nature of our nation; the German people do not
wish to dethrone God, nor are they ready to bow the knee before the
empty idol of a soulless enlightenment.
Here the speaker was interrupted by a tumult. A band of factorymen,
yelling and laughing, rushed into the hall to disturb the meeting. All
eyes were immediately turned upon the rioters. In every countenance
indignation could be seen kindling at this outrage of the liberals. The
commissary of police alone sat motionless as a statue. The
progressionist rioters elbowed their way into the crowd, and, when the
excitement caused by this strategic movement had subsided, the speaker
resumed his discourse.
For a number of years back our conduct has been misrepresented and
calumniated. They call us men of no nationality, and pretend that we
get our orders from Rome. This reproach does honor neither to the
intelligence nor to the judgment of our opponents. Whence dates the
division of Germany into discordant factions? When began the present
faint and languishing condition of our fatherland? From the moment when
it separated from Rome. So long as Germany continued united in the bond
of the same holy faith, and the voice of the head of the church was
hearkened to by every member of her population, her sovereigns held the
golden apple, the symbol of universal empire. Our nation was then the
mightiest, the proudest, the most glorious upon earth. The church who
speaks through the Sovereign Pontiff had civilized the fierce sons of
Germany, had conjured the hatred and feuds of hostile tribes, had
united the interests and energies of our people in one holy faith, and
had ennobled and enriched German genius through the spirit of religion.
The church had formed out of the chaos of barbarism the Holy Roman
Empire of the German nationthat gigantic and wonderful organization
the like of which the world will never see again. But the church has
long since been deprived of the leadership in German affairs, and what
in consequence is now the condition of our fatherland? It is divided
into discordant factions, it is an ailing trunk, with many members, but
without a head.
It is rather amusing that the ultramontanes should be charged with
receiving orders from Rome, for the voice of the Father of Christianity
has not been heard for many years back, in the council of state.
Hurrah for the Syllabus! cried Spitzkopf, who was at the head of
the rioters. Hurrah for the Syllabus! echoed his gang, yelling and
The ultramontanes were aroused, eyes glared fiercely, and fists were
clenched ready to make a summary clearing of the hall. But no scuffle
ensued; the ultramontanes maintained a dignified bearing. The speaker
calmly remained in his place, and when the tumult had ceased he again
went on with his discourse.
Such only, said he, take offence at the Syllabus as know nothing
about it. There is not a word in the Syllabus opposed to political
liberty or the most untrammelled self-government of the German people.
But it is opposed to the fiendish terrorism of infidelity. The Syllabus
condemns the diabolical principles by which the foundations of the
Christian state are sapped and a most disastrous tyranny over
conscience is proclaimed.
Hallo! listen to that, cried one of the liberals, and the yelling
was renewed, louder, longer, and more furious than before.
The chairman rang his bell. The revellers relapsed into silence.
Ours is not a public meeting, but a mere private gathering,
explained the chairman. None but men of Christian principles have been
invited. If others have intruded violently, I request them to leave the
room, or, at least, to refrain from conduct unbecoming men of
Spitzkopf laughed aloud, his comrades yelled and stamped.
Let us go! said Greifmann to Gerlach in an angry tone.
Let us stay! rejoined the latter with excitement. The affair is
becoming interesting. I want to see how this will end.
The banker noticed Gerlach's suppressed indignation; he observed it
in the fire of his eyes and the expression of unutterable contempt that
had spread over his features, and he began to consider the situation as
alarming. He had not expected this exhibition of brutal impertinence.
In his estimation an infringement of propriety like the one he had just
witnessed was a far more heinous transgression than the grossest
violations in the sphere of morals. He judged of Gerlach's impressions
by this standard of appreciation, and feared the behavior of the
progressionist mob would produce an effect in the young man's mind far
from favorable to the cause which they represented. He execrated the
disturbance of the liberals, and took Seraphin's arm to lead him away.
Come away, I beg of you! I cannot imagine what interest the
rudeness of that uncultivated horde can have for you.
Do not scorn them, for they are honestly earning their pay,
What do you mean?
Those fellows are whistling, bawling, stamping, and yelling in the
employ of progress. You are trying to give me an insight into the
nature of modern civilization: could there be a better opportunity than
There you make a mistake, my dear fellow! Enlightened progress is
CHAPTER VII. The tumult continued. As
soon as the orator attempted to speak, his voice was drowned by cries
Commissary! cried the chairman to that officer, I demand that you
extend to our assembly the protection of the law.
I am here simply to watch the proceedings of your meeting, replied
Parteiling with cool indifference. Everybody is at liberty in meetings
to signify his approval or disapproval by signs. No act forbidden by
the law has been committed by your opponents, in my opinion.
Bravo! bravo! Three cheers for the commissary!
All at once the noise was subdued to a whisper of astonishment. A
miracle was taking place under the very eyes of progress. Banker
Greifmann, the moneyed prince and liberal, made his appearance upon the
platform. The rioters saw with amazement how the mighty man before whom
the necks of all such as were in want of money bowedeven the necks of
the puissant leadersstepped before the president of the assembly, how
he politely bowed and spoke a few words in an undertone. They observed
how the chairman nodded assent, and then how the banker, as if to
excite their wonder to the highest pitch, mounted to the speaker's
Gentlemen, began Carl Greifmann, although I have not the honor of
sharing your political views, I feel myself nevertheless urged to
address a few words to you. In the name of true progress, I ask this
honorable assembly's pardon for the disturbance occasioned a moment ago
by a band of uncultivated rioters, who dare to pretend that they are
acting in the cause and with the sanction of progress. I solemnly
protest against the assumption that their disgraceful and outrageous
conduct is in accordance with the spirit of the party which they
dishonor. Progress holds firmly to its principles, and defends them
manfully in the struggle with its opposers, but it is far from making
itself odious by rudely overstepping the bounds of decency set by
humanity and civilization. In political contests, it may be perfectly
lawful to employ earnest persuasion and even influences that partake of
the rigor of compulsion, but rudeness, impertinence, is never
justifiable in an age of civilization. Commissary Parteiling discovers
no legally prohibited offence in the expression of vulgarity and
lownessmay be. Nevertheless, a high misdemeanor has been perpetrated
against decorum and against the deference which man owes to man. Should
the slightest disturbance be again attempted, I shall use the whole
weight of my influence in prosecuting the guilty parties, and convince
them that even in the spirit of progress they are offenders and can be
reached by punishment.
He spoke, and retired to the other end of the hall, followed by loud
applause from the ultramontanes. Nor were the threats of the mighty man
uttered in vain. Spitzkopf hung his head abashed. The other revellers
were tamed, they listened demurely to the speakers, ceased their
contemptuous hootings, and stood on their good behavior. Greifmann's
proceeding had taken Seraphin also by surprise, and the power which the
banker possessed over the rioters set him to speculating deeply. He saw
plainly that Louise's brother commanded an extraordinary degree of
respect in the camp of the enemies of religion, and the only cause that
could sufficiently account for the fact was a community of principles
of which they were well aware. Hence the opinion he had formed of
Greifmann was utterly erroneous, concluded Gerlach, The banker was not
a mere secluded business manhe was not indifferent about the great
questions of the age. Then there was another circumstance that
perplexed the ruddy-cheeked millionaire to no inconsiderable
degreeGreifmann's unaccountable way of taking things. The tyrannical
mode of electioneering which they had witnessed at the sign of the
Green Hat had not at all disgusted Greifmann. Spitzkopf's threats had
not excited his indignation. He had with a smiling countenance looked
on whilst the most brutal species of terrorism was being enacted before
him, he had not expressed a word of contempt at the constraint which
they who held the power inhumanly placed on the political liberty of
their dependents. On the other hand, his indignation was aroused by a
mere breach of good behavior, an offence which in Gerlach's estimation
was as nothing compared with the other instances of progressionist
violence. The banker seemed to him to have strained out a gnat after
having swallowed a whole drove of camels. The youth's suspicions being
excited, he began to study the strainer of gnats and swallower of
camels more closely, and soon the banker turned out in his estimation a
hollow stickler for mere outward decency, devoid of all deeper merit.
He now recollected also Greifmann's dealings with the leaders of
progress, and those transactions only confirmed his present views. What
he had considered as an extraordinary degree of shrewdness in the man
of business, which enabled him to take advantage of the peculiar
convictions and manner of thinking of other men, was now to his mind a
real affinity with their principles, and he could not help being
shocked at the discovery.
He hung his head in a melancholy mood, and his heart protested
earnestly against the inference which was irresistibly forcing itself
upon his mind, that the sister shared her brother's sentiments.
This doubt must be cleared up, cost what it may, thought he. My
God, what if Louise also turned out to be a progressionist, a woman
without any faith, an infidel! No, that cannot be! Yet suppose it
really were the casesuppose she actually held principles in common
with such vile beings as Schwefel, Sand, Erdblatt, and Shund? Suppose
her moral nature did not harmonize with the beauty of her personwhat
then? He experienced a spasmodic contraction in his heart at the
question, he hesitated with the answer, but, his better self finally
getting the victory, he said: Then all is over. The impressions of a
dream; however delightful, must not influence a waking man. My father's
calculation was wrong, and I have wasted my kindness on an undeserving
So completely wrapt up was he in his meditations that he heard not a
word of the speeches, not even the concluding remarks of the president.
Greifmann's approach roused him, and they left the hall together.
That was ruffianly conduct, of which progress would have for ever
to be ashamed, said the banker indignantly, They bayed and yelped
like a pack of hounds. At their first volley I was as embarrassed and
confused as a modest girl would be at the impertinence of some young
scapegrace. Fierce rage then hurried me to the platform, and my words
have never done better service, for they vindicated civilization.
I cannot conceive how a trifle could thus exasperate you.
Greifmann stood still and looked at his companion in astonishment.
A trifle! echoed he reproachfully. Do you call a piece of wanton
impudence, a ruffianly outrage against several hundreds of men entitled
to respect, a trifle?
I do, compared with other crimes that you have suffered to pass
unheeded and uncensured, answered Gerlach. You had not an indignant
word for the unutterable meanness of those three leaders, who were
immoral and unprincipled enough to invest a notorious villain with
office and honors. Nor did you show any exasperation at the brutal
terrorism practised by men of power in this town over their weak and
Take my advice, and be on your guard against erroneous and
narrow-minded judgments. The leaders merely had a view to their own
ends, but they in no manner sinned against propriety. The raising a man
of Shund's abilities to the office of mayor is an act of prudenceby
no means an offence against humanity.
Yet it was an outrage to moral sentiment, opposed Seraphin.
See here, Gerlach, moral sentiment is a very elastic sort of thing.
Sentiment goes for nothing in practical life, and such is the character
of life in our century.
Well, then, the mere sense of propriety is not worth a whit more.
I ask your pardon! Propriety belongs to the realm of actualities or
of practical experiences, and not to the shadowland of sentiment.
Propriety is the rule that regulates the intercourse of men, it is
therefore a necessity, nothing else will serve as a substitute for it,
and it must continue to be so regarded as long as a difference is
recognized between rational man and the irrational brute.
The same may be said with much more reason of morality, for it also
is a rule, it regulates our actions, it determines the ethic worth or
worthlessness of a man. Mere outward decorum does not necessarily argue
any interior excellence. The most abandoned wretch may be distinguished
for easy manners and elegant deportment, yet he is none the less a
criminal. A dog may be trained to many little arts, but for all that it
continues to be a dog.
It is delightful to see you breaking through that uniform patience
of yours for once and showing a little of the fire of indignation,
said the banker pleasantly. I shall tell Louise of it, I know she will
be glad to learn that Seraphin too is susceptible of a human passion.
But this by the way. Now watch how I shall meet your arguments. That
very moral sentiment of which you speak has caused and is still causing
the most enormous crimes against humanity, and the laws of morality are
as changeable as the wind. When an Indian who has not been raised from
barbarism by civilization dies, the religious custom of the country
requires that his wife should permit herself to be burned alive on the
funeral pyre of her husband. Moral sentiment teaches the uncivilized
woman that it is a horrible crime to refuse to devote herself to this
cruel death. The pious Jews used to stone every woman to death who was
taken in adulteryin our day, such a deed of blood would be revolting
to moral sentiment, and would claim tears from the eyes of cultivated
people. I could mention many other horrors that were practised more or
less remotely in the past, and were sanctioned by the prevailing moral
sentiment. Here is my last instance: according to laws of morality, the
usurer was at one time a monster, an arch-villainat present, he is
merely a man of great enterprise. Propriety, on the other hand,
enlightenment, and polish are absolute and unalterable. Whilst rudeness
and impertinence will ever be looked upon as disgusting, good manners
and politeness will be considered as commendable and beautiful.
Seraphin could not but admire the skill with which Greifmann jumbled
together subjects of the most heterogeneous nature. But he could not,
at the same time, divest himself of some alarm at the banker's
declarations, for they betrayed a soul-life of little or absolutely no
moral worth. Money, interest, and respectability constituted the only
trinity in which the banker believed. Morality, binding the conscience
of man, a true and only God, and divine revelation, were in his opinion
so many worn-out and useless notions, which the progress of mankind had
successfully got beyond.
When those who hold power take advantage of it at elections, they
in no manner offend against propriety, proceeded Carl. Progress has
convictions as well as ultramontanism. If the latter is active, why
should not the former be so too? If, on the side of progress, the weak
and dependent permit themselves to be cowed and driven, it is merely an
advantage for the powerful, and for the others it is a weakness or
cowardice. For this reason, the mode of electioneering pursued by
Spitzkopf and his comrades amused but nowise shocked me, for they were
not acting against propriety.
Seraphin saw it plainly: for Carl Greifmann there existed no
distinction between good and evil; he recognized only a cold and empty
system of formalities.
The two young men issued from a narrow street upon the market-place.
This was occupied by a large public building. In the open space stood a
group of men, among whom Flachsen appeared conspicuous. He was telling
the others about Greifmann's speech at the meeting of the
ultramontanes. They all manifested great astonishment that the
influential moneyed prince should have appeared in such company, and,
above all, should have made a speech in their behalf.
He declared it was vulgar, impudent, ruffianly, to disturb a
respectable assembly, reported Flachsen. He said he knew some of us,
and that he would have us put where the dogs would not bite us if we
attempted to disturb them again. That's what he said; and I actually
rubbed my eyes to be quite sure it was banker Greifmann that was
speaking, and really it was he, the banker Greifmann himself, bodily,
and not a mere apparition.
I must say the banker was right, for it isn't exactly good manners
to howl, stamp, and whistle to annoy one's neighbors, owned another.
But we were paid for doing it, and we only carried out the orders
given by certain gentlemen.
To be sure! Men like us don't know what good breeding isit's for
gentlemen to understand that, maintained a third. We do what men of
good breeding hire us to do, and if it isn't proper, it matters nothing
to uslet the gentlemen answer for it.
Bravo, Stoffel, bravo! applauded Flachsen. Yours is the right
sort of servility, Stoffel! You are a real human, servile, and genuine
reactive kind of a fellowso you are. I agree with you entirely. The
gentlemen do the paying, and it is for them to answer for what happens.
We are merely servants, we are hirelings, and what need a hireling care
whether that which his master commands is right or not? The master is
responsible, not the hireling. What I am telling you belongs to the
exact sciences, and the exact sciences are at the pinnacle of modern
acquisitions. Hence a hireling who without scruple carries out the
orders of his master is up to the highest point of the agesuch a
fellow has taken his stand on servility. Hallo! the election has
commenced. Be off, every man of you, to his post. But mind you don't
look too deep into the beer-pots before the election is over. Keep your
heads level, be cautious, do your best for the success of the green
ticket. Once the election is carried, you may swill beer till you can
no longer stand. The gentlemen will foot the bill, and assume all
They dispersed themselves through the various drinking-shops of the
Near the door of the building in which the voting was to take place
stood a number of progressionist gentlemen. They all wore heavy beards,
smoked cigars, and peered about restlessly. To those of their party who
chanced to pass they nodded and smiled knowingly, upon doubtful voters
they smiled still more blandly, added some pleasant words, and pressed
the acceptance of the green ticket, but for ultramontane voters they
had only jeers and coarse witticisms. As Greifmann approached they
respectfully raised their hats. The banker drew Gerlach to one side,
and stood to make observations.
What swarms there are around the drinking-shops, remarked
Greifmann. It is there that the tickets are filled under the
persuasive influence of beer. The committee provide the tickets which
the voters have filled with the names of the candidates by clerks who
sit round the tables at the beer-shops. It is quite an ingenious
arrangement, for beer will reconcile a voter to the most objectionable
kind of a candidate.
A crowd of drunken citizens coming out of the nearest tavern
approached. Linked arm-in-arm, they swayed about and staggered along
with an unsteady pace. Green tickets bearing the names of the
candidates whom progress had chosen to watch over the common weal could
be seen protruding from the pockets of their waistcoats. Gerlach,
seeing the drunken mob and recollecting the solemn and important nature
of the occasion, was seized with loathing and horror at the corruption
of social life revealed in the low means to which the party of progress
had recourse to secure for its ends the votes of these besotted and
Presently Schwefel stepped up and saluted the young men.
Do you not belong to the committee in charge of the ballot-box?
No, sir, I wished to remain entirely untrammelled this morning,
answered the leader with a sly look and tone. This is going to be an
exciting election, the ultramontanes are astir, and it will be
necessary for me to step in authoritatively now and then to decide a
vote. Moreover, the committee is composed exclusively of men of our
party. Not a single ultramontane holds a seat at the polls.
In that case there can be no question of failure, said the banker.
Your office is closed to-day, no doubt?
Of course! assented the manufacturer of straw hats. This day is
celebrated as a free day by the offices of all respectable houses. Our
clerks are dispersed through the taverns and election districts to use
their pens in filling up tickets.
I am forced to return to my old assertion: an election is mere
folly, useless jugglery, said the banker, turning to Seraphin.
Holding elections is no longer a rational way of doing, it is no
longer a business way of proceeding, it is yielding to stupid timidity.
Mr. Schwefel, don't you think elections are mere folly?
I confess I have never considered the subject from that point of
view, answered the leader cautiously. But meanwhilewhat do you
understand by that?
Be good enough to attend to my reasoning for a moment. Progress is
in a state of complete organization. What progress wills, must be.
Another party having authority and power cannot subsist side by side
with progress. Just see those men staggering and blundering over the
square with green tickets in their hands! To speak without
circumlocution, look at the slaves doing the behests of their masters.
What need of this silly masquerade of an election? Why squander all
this money, waste all this beer and time? Why does not progress settle
this business summarily? Why not simply nominate candidates fit for the
office, and then send them directly to the legislature? This mode would
do away with all this nonsensical ado, and would give the matter a
prompt and business cast, conformable to the spirit of the age.
This idea is a good one, but we have an election law that would
stand in the way of carrying it out.
Boshelection law! sneered the banker. Your election law is a
mere scarecrow, an antiquated, meaningless instrument. Do away with the
election law, and follow my suggestion.
That would occasion a charming row on the part of the
ultramontanes, observed the leader laughing.
Was the lion ever known to heed the bleating of a sheep? When did
progress ever pay any attention to a row gotten up by the
ultramontanes? rejoined Greifmann. Was not the fuss made in Bavaria
against the progressionist school-law quite a prodigious one? Did not
our own last legislature make heavy assaults on the church? Did not the
entire episcopate protest against permitting Jews, Neo-pagans, and
Freemasons to legislate, on matters of religion? But did progress
suffer itself to be disconcerted by episcopal protests and the
agonizing screams of the ultramontanes? Not at all. It calmly pursued
the even tenor of its way. Be logical, Mr. Schwefel: progress reigns
supreme and decrees with absolute authoritywhy should it not
summarily relegate this election law among the things that were, but
are no more?
You are right, Greifmann! exclaimed Gerlach, in a feeling of utter
disgust. What need has the knout of Russian despotism of the sanction
of constitutional forms? Progress is lord, the rest are slaves!
You have again misunderstood me, my good fellow. I am considering
the actual state of things. Should ultramontanism at any time gain the
ascendency, then it also will be justified in behaving in the same
Upon more mature consideration, Gerlach found himself forced to
admit that Greifmann's view, from the standpoint of modern culture, was
entirely correct. Progress independently of God and of all positive
religion could not logically be expected to recognize any moral
obligations, for it had not a moral basis. Everything was determined by
the force of circumstances; the autocracy of party rule made anything
lawful. Laws proceeded not from the divine source of unalterable
justice, but from the whim of a majorityfashioned and framed to suit
peculiar interests and passions.
We have yet considerable work to do to bring all to thinking as
clearly and rationally as you, Mr. Greifmann, said the leader with a
Schwefel accompanied the millionaires into a lengthy hall, across
the lower end of which stood a table. There sat the commissary of
elections surrounded by the committee, animated gentlemen with great
beards, who were occupied in distributing tickets to voters or
receiving tickets filled up. The extraordinary good-humor prevailing
among these gentlemen was owing to the satisfactory course of the
election, for rarely was any ultramontane paper seen mingling in the
flood that poured in from the ranks of progress. The sides of the hall
were hung with portraits of the sovereigns of the land, quite a goodly
row. The last one of the series was youthful in appearance, and some
audacious hand had scrawled on the broad gilt frame the following
ominous words: May he be the last in the succession of expensive
bread-eaters. Down the middle of the hall ran a baize-covered table,
on which were numerous inkstands. Scattered over the table lay a
profusion of green bills; the yellow color of the ultramontane bills
was nowhere to be seen. The table was lined by gentlemen who were
writing. They were not writing for themselves, but for others, who
merely sighed their names and then handed the tickets to the
commissary. Several corpulent gentlemen also occupied seats at the
table, but they were not engaged in writing. These gentlemen,
apparently unoccupied, wore massive gold watch-chains and sparkling
rings, and they had a commanding and stern expression of countenance.
They were observing all who entered, to see whether any man would be
bold enough to vote the yellow ticket. People of the humbler sort,
mechanics and laborers, were constantly coming in and going out. Bowing
reverently to the portly gentlemen, they seated themselves and filled
out green tickets with the names of the liberal candidates. Most of
them did not even trouble themselves to this degree, but simply laid
their tickets before the penman appointed for this special service. All
went off in the best order. The process of the election resembled the
smooth working of an ingenious piece of machinery. And there was no
tongue there to denounce the infamous terrorism that had crushed the
freedom of the election or had bought the votes of vile and venal men
Seraphin stood with Greifmann in the recess of a window looking on.
Who are the fat men at the table? inquired he.
The one with the very black beard is house-builder Sand, the second
is Eisenhart, machine-builder, the third is Erdfloh, a landowner, the
fourth and fifth are tobacco merchants. All those gentlemen are
chieftains of the party of progress.
They show it, observed Gerlach. Their looks, in a manner, command
every man that comes in to take the green ticket, and I imagine I can
read on their brows: 'Woe to him who dares vote against us. He shall be
under a ban, and shall have neither employment nor bread.' It is
unmitigated tyranny! I imagine I see in those fat fellows so many
cotton-planters voting their slaves.
That is a one-sided conclusion, my most esteemed, rejoined the
banker. In country villages, the position here assumed by the magnates
of progress is filled by the lords of ultramontanism, clerical
gentlemen in cassocks, who keep a sharp eye on the fingers of their
parishioners. This, too, is influencing.
But not constraining, opposed the millionaire promptly. The
clergy exert a legitimate influence by convincing, by advancing solid
grounds for their political creed. They never have recourse to
compulsory measures, nor dare they do so, because it would be opposed
to the Gospel which they preach. The autocrats of progress, on the
contrary, do not hesitate about using threats and violence. Should a
man refuse to bow to their dictates, they cruelly deprive him of the
means of subsistence. This is not only inhuman, but it is also an
accursed scheme for making slaves of the people and robbing them of
Ah! look yonderthere is Holt.
The land cultivator had walked into the hall head erect. He looked
along the table and stood undecided. One of the ministering spirits of
progress soon fluttered about him, offering him a green ticket. Holt
glanced at it, and a contemptuous smile spread over his face. He next
tore it to pieces, which he threw on the floor.
What are you about? asked the angel of progress reproachfully.
I have reduced Shund and his colleagues to fragments, answered
Holt dryly, then approaching the commissary he demanded a yellow
Glorious! applauded Gerlach. I have half a mind to present this
true German man with another thousand as a reward for his
The fat men had observed with astonishment the action of the land
cultivator. Their astonishment turned to rage when Holt, leisurely
seating himself at the table, took a pen in his mighty fist and began
filling out the ticket with the names of the ultramontane candidates.
Whilst he wrote, whisperings could be heard all through the hall, and
every eye was directed upon him. After no inconsiderable exertion, the
task of filling out the ticket was successfully accomplished, and Holt
arose, leaving the ticket lying upon the table. In the twinkling of an
eye a hand reached forward to take it up.
What do you mean, sir? asked Holt sternly.
That yellow paper defiles the table, hissed the fellow viciously.
Hand back that ticket, commanded Holt roughly. I want it to be
here. The yellow ticket has as good a right on this table as the green
onedo you hear me?
Slave of the priests! sputtered his antagonist.
If I am a slave of the priests, then you are a slave of that
villain Shund, retorted Holt. I am not to be browbeatenby such a
fellow as you particularlyleast of all by a vile slave of Shund's.
He spoke, and then reached his ticket to the commissary.
That is an impudent dog, growled leader Sand. Who is he?
He is a countryman of the name of Holt, answered he to whom the
query was addressed.
We must spot the boor, said Erdfloh. His swaggering shall not
avail him anything.
Holt was not the only voter that proved refractory. Mr. Schwefel,
also, had a disagreeable surprise. He was standing near the entrance,
observing with great self-complacency how the workmen in his employ
submissively cast their votes for Shund and his associates. Schwefel
regarded himself as of signal importance in the commonwealth, for he
controlled not less than four hundred votes, and the side which it was
his pleasure to favor could not fail of victory. The head of the great
leader seemed in a manner encircled with the halo of progress: whilst
his retainers passed and saluted him, he experienced something akin to
the pride of a field-marshal reviewing a column of his victorious army.
Just then a spare little man appeared in the door. His yellowish,
sickly complexion gave evidence that he was employed in the
sulphurating of straw. At sight of the commander the sulphur-hued
little man shrank back, but his startled look did not escape the
restless eye of Mr. Schwefel. He beckoned to the laborer.
Have you selected your ticket, Leicht?
Let me see the ticket.
The man obeyed reluctantly. Scarcely had Schwefel got a glimpse of
the paper when his brows gathered darkly.
What means this? Have you selected the yellow ticket and not the
Leicht hung his head. He thought of the consequences of this
detection, of his four small children, of want of employment, of hunger
and bitter needhe was almost beside himself.
If you vote for the priests, you may get your bread from the
priests, said Schwefel. The moment you hand that ticket to the
commissary, you may consider yourself discharged from my employ. With
this he angrily turned his back upon the man. Leicht did not reach in
his ticket to the commissary. Staggering out of the hall, he stood
bewildered hear the railing of the steps, and stared vaguely upon the
men who were coming and going. Spitzkopf slipped up to him.
What were you thinking about, man? asked he reproachfully. Mr.
Schwefel is furiousyou are ruined. Sheer stupidity, nothing but
stupidity in you to wish to vote in opposition to the pleasure of the
man from whom you get your bread and meat! Not only that, but you have
insulted the whole community, for you have chosen to vote against
progress when all the town is in favor of progress. You will be put on
the spotted list, and the upshot will be that you will not get
employment in any factory in town. Do you want to die of hunger,
mando you want your children to die of hunger?
You are rightI am ruined, said the laborer listlessly. I
couldn't bring myself to write Shund's name because he reduced my
brother-in-law to beggarythis is what made me select the yellow
You are a fool. Were Mr. Schwefel to recommend the devil, your duty
would be to vote for the devil. What need you care who is on the
ticket? You have only to write the names on the ticketnothing more
than that. Do you think progress would nominate men that are unfitmen
who would not promote the interests of the state, who would not further
the cause of humanity, civilization, and liberty? You are a fool for
not voting for what is best for yourself.
I am sorry now, but it's too late. sighed Leicht. I wouldn't have
thought, either, that Mr. Schwefel would get angry because a man wanted
to vote to the best of his judgment.
There you are prating sillily again. Best of your judgment!you
mustn't have any judgment. Leave it to others to judge; they have more
brains, more sense, more knowledge than you. Progress does the
thinking: our place is to blindly follow its directions.
But, Mr. Spitzkopf, mine is only the vote of a poor man; and what
matters such a vote?
There is your want of sense again. We are living in a state that
enjoys liberty. We are living in an age of intelligence, of moral
advancement, of civilization and knowledge, in a word, we are living in
an age of progress; and in an age of this sort the vote of a poor man
is worth as much as that of a rich man.
If only I had it to do over! I would give my right hand to have it
to do over!
You can repair the mischief if you want.
Instruct me how, Mr. Spitzkopf; please tell me how!
Very well, I will do my best. As you acted from thoughtlessness and
no bad intention, doubtless Mr. Schwefel will suffer himself to be
propitiated. Go down into the court, and wait till I come. I shall get
you another ticket; you will then vote for progress, and all will be
I am a thousand times obliged to you, Mr. Spitzkopfa thousand
The agent went back to the hall. Leicht descended to the courtyard,
where he found a ring of timid operators like himself surrounding the
sturdy Holt. They were talking in an undertone. As often as a
progressionist drew near, their conversation was hushed altogether.
Holt's voice alone resounded loudly through the court, and his huge
strong hands were cutting the air in animated gesticulations.
This is not a free election; it is one of compulsion and violence,
cried he. Every factoryman is compelled to vote as his employer
dictates, and should he refuse the employer discharges him from the
work. Is not this most despicable tyranny! And these very tyrants of
progress are perpetually prating about liberty, independence,
civilization! That's a precious sort of liberty indeed!
A man belonging to the ultramontane party cannot walk the streets
to-day without being hooted and insulted, said another. Even up
yonder in the hall, those gentlemen who are considered so cultivated
stick their heads together and laugh scornfully when one of us draws
That's sothat's so, I have myself seen it, cried Holt. Those
well-bred gentlemen show their teeth like ferocious dogs whenever they
see a yellow ticket or an ultramontane. I say, Leicht, has anything
happened you? You look wretched! Leicht drew near and related what had
occurred. The honest Holt's eyes gleamed like coals of fire.
There's another piece of tyranny for you, cried he. Leicht, my
poor fellow, I fancy I see in you a slave of Schwefel's. From dawn till
late you are compelled to toil for the curmudgeon, Sundays not
excepted. Your church is the factory, your religion working in straw,
and your God is your sovereign master Schwefel. You are ruining your
health amid the stench of brimstone, and not so much as the liberty of
voting as you think fit is allowed you. It's just as I tell youyou
factorymen are slaves. How strangely things go on in the world! In
America slavery has been abolished; but lo! here in Europe it is
blooming as freshly as trees in the month of May. But mark my word,
friends, the fruit is deadly; and when once it will have ripened, the
great God of heaven will shake it from the trees, and the generation
that planted the trees will have to eat the bitter fruit.
Leicht shunned the society of the ultramontanes and stole away.
Presently Spitzkopf appeared with the ticket.
Your ticket is filled out. Come and sign your name to it. Schwefel
was again standing near the entrance, and he again beckoned the laborer
to approach. I am pacified. You may now continue working for me.
Carl and Seraphin returned to the Palais Greifmann. Louise received
them with numerous questions. The banker related what had passed;
Gerlach strode restlessly through the apartment.
The most curious spectacle must have been yourself, said the young
lady. Just fancy you on the rostrum at the 'Key of Heaven'! And very
likely the ungrateful ultramontanes would not so much as applaud.
Beg pardon, they did, miss! assured Seraphin. They applauded and
Really? Then I am proud of a brother whose maiden speech produced
such marvellous effects. May be we shall read of it in the daily paper.
Everybody will be surprised to hear of the banker Greifmann making a
speech at the 'Key of Heaven.' Carl perceived the irony and stroked
But what can you be pondering over, Mr. Seraphin? cried she to
him. Since returning from the turmoil of the election, you seem unable
to keep quiet. He seated himself at her side, and was soon under the
spell of her magical attractions.
My head is dizzy and my brain confused, said he. On every hand I
see nothing but revolt against moral obligation, sacrilegious disregard
of the most sacred rights of man. The hubbub still resounds in my ears,
and my imagination still sees those fat men at the table with their
slaveholder lookthe white slaves doing their masters' biddingthe
completest subjugation in an age of enlightenmentall this presents
itself to me in the most repulsive and lamentable guise.
You must drive those horrible phantoms from your mind, replied
They are not phantoms, but the most fearful reality.
They are phantoms, Mr. Seraphin, so far as your feelings exaggerate
the evils. Those factory serfs have no reason to complain. There is
nothing to be done but to put up with a situation that has
spontaneously developed itself. It is useless to grow impatient because
difference of rank between masters and servants is an unavoidable evil
upon earth. A servant entered to call them to dinner.
At her side he gradually became more cheerful. The brightness of her
eyes dispelled his depression, and her delicate arts put a spell upon
his young, inexperienced heart. And when, at the end of the meal, they
were sipping delicious wine, and her beautiful lips lisped the
customary health, the subdued tenderness he had been feeling suddenly
expanded into a strong passion.
After you will have done justice to your diary, said she at
parting, we shall take a drive, and then go to the opera.
Instead of going to his room, Seraphin went into the garden. He
almost forgot the occurrences of the day in musing on the inexplicable
behavior of Louise. Again she had not uttered a word of condemnation of
the execrable doings of progress, and it grieved him deeply. A
suspicion flitted across his mind that perhaps Louise was infected with
the frivolous and pernicious spirit of the age, but he immediately
stifled the terrible suggestion as he would have hastened to crush a
viper that he might have seen on the path of the beautiful lady. He
preferred to believe that she suppressed her feelings of disgust out of
regard for his presence, that she wisely avoided pouring oil upon the
flames of his own indignation. Had she not exerted herself to dispel
his sombre reflections? He was thus espousing the side of passion
against the appalling truth that was beginning faintly to dawn upon his
But soon the spell was to be broken, and duty was to confront him
with the alternative of either giving up Louise, or defying the stern
demands of his conscience.
The brother and sister, thinking their guest engaged with his diary,
walked into the garden. They directed their steps towards the arbor
where Gerlach had seated himself.
He was only roused to consciousness of their proximity by the
unusually loud and excited tone in which Louise spoke. He could not be
mistaken; it was the young lady's voicebut oh! the import of her
words. He looked through an opening in the foliage, and sat
You have been attempting to guide Gerlach's overexalted spirit into
a more rational way of thinking, but the very opposite seems to be the
result. Intercourse with the son of a strait-laced mother is infecting
you with sympathy for ultramontanism. Your speech to-day, continued
she caustically, in yon obscure meeting is the subject of the talk of
the town. I am afraid you have made yourself ridiculous in the minds of
all cultivated people. The respectability of our family has suffered.
Of our family? echoed he, perplexed.
We are compromitted, continued she with excitement. You have
given our enemies occasion to set us down for members of a party who
stupidly oppose the onward march of civilization.
Cease your philippic, broke in the brother angrily. Bitterness is
an unmerited return for my efforts to serve you.
To serve me?
Yes, to serve you. The disturbing of that meeting made a very
unfavorable impression on your intended. He scorned the noisy mob, and
was roused by what, from his point of view, could not pass for anything
better than unpardonable impudence. To me it might have been a matter
of indifference whether your intended was pleased or displeased with
the fearless conduct of progress. But as I knew both you and the family
felt disposed to base the happiness of your life on his couple of
millions, as moreover I feared my silence might be interpreted by the
shortsighted young gentleman for complicity in progressionist ideas, I
was forced to disown the disorderly proceeding. In so doing I have not
derogated one iota from the spirit of the times; on the contrary, I
have bound a heavy wreath about the brow of glorious humanity.
But you have pardoned yourself too easily, proceeded she,
unappeased. The very first word uttered by a Greifmann in that
benighted assembly was a stain on the fair fame of our family. We shall
be an object of contempt in every circle. 'The Greifmanns have turned
ultramontanes because Gerlach would have refused the young lady's hand
had they not changed their creed,' is what will be prated in society. A
flood of derision and sarcasm will be let loose upon us. I an
ultramontane? cried she, growing more fierce; I caught in the meshes
of religious fanaticism? I accept the Syllabusbelieve in the Prophet
of Nazareth? Oh! I could sink into the earth on account of this
disgrace! Did I for an instant doubt that Seraphin may be redeemed from
superstition and fanaticism, I would renounce my union with himI
would spurn the tempting enjoyments of wealth, so much do I hate silly
Seraphin glanced at her through the gap in the foliage. Not six
paces from him, with her face turned in his direction, stood the
infuriate beauty. How changed her countenance! The features, habitually
so delicate and bright, now looked absolutely hideous, the brows were
fiercely knit, and hatred poured like streams of fire from her eyes.
Sentiments hitherto skilfully concealed had taken visible shape, ugly
and repulsive to the view of the innocent youth. His noble spirit
revolted at so much hypocrisy and falsehood. What occurred before him
was at once so monstrous and so overwhelming that he did not for an
instant consider that in case they entered the arbor he would be
discovered. He was not discovered, however. Louise and Carl retraced
their steps. For a short while the voice of Louise was still audible,
then silence reigned in the garden.
Seraphin rose from his seat. There was a sad earnestness in his
face, and the vanishing traces of deep pain, which however were soon
superseded by a noble indignation.
I have beheld the genuine Louise, and I thank God for it. It is as
I feared, Louise is a progressionist, an infidel that considers it
disgraceful to believe in the Redeemer. Out upon such degeneracy! She
hates light, and how hideous this hatred makes her. Not a feature was
left of the charming, smiling, winning Louise. Good God! how horrible
had her real character remained unknown until after we were married!
Chained for life to the bitter enemy of everything that I hold dear and
venerate as holythink of it! With eyes bandaged, I was but two paces
from an abyss that resembles hellthank God! the bandage has fallenI
see the abyss, and shudder.
'The ultramontane Seraphin''the fanatical Gerlach''the
shortsighted Gerlach,' whose fortune the young lady covets that she may
pass her life in enjoymenta heartless girl, in whom there is not a
spark of love for her intended husbandhow base!
'Ultramontane'?'fanatical'?yes! 'Shortsighted?' by no means.
One would need the suspicious eyes of progress to see through the
hypocrisy of this lady and her brothera simple, trusting spirit like
mine cannot penetrate such darkness. At any rate, they shall not find
me weak. The little flame that was beginning to burn within my heart
has been for ever extinguished by her unhallowed lips. She might now
present herself in the garb of an angel, and muster up every seductive
art of womanhood, 'twould not avail; I have had an insight into her
real character, and giving her up costs me not a pang. It is not hollow
appearances that determine the worth of woman, but moral excellence,
beautiful virtues springing from a heart vivified by faith. No, giving
her up shall not cost me one regretful throb.
He hastened from the garden to his room and rang the bell.
Pack my trunks this very day, John, said he to his servant.
Tomorrow we shall be off.
He then entered in his diary a circumstantial account of the
unmasked beauty. He also dwelt at length upon the painful shock his
heart experienced when the bright and beautiful creature he had
considered Louise to be suddenly vanished before his soul. As he was
finishing the last line, John reappeared with a telegraphic despatch.
He read it, and was stunned.
Meet your father at the train this evening. He looked at the
concise despatch, and fancied he saw his father's stern and threatening
The contemplated match had for several years been regarded by the
families of Gerlach and Greifmann as a fixed fact. Seraphin was aware
how stubbornly his father adhered to a project that he had once set his
mind upon. Here now, just as the union had became impossible and as the
youth was about to free himself for ever from an engagement that was
destructive of his happiness, the uncompromising sire had to appear to
enforce unconditional obedience to his will. A fearful contest awaited
Seraphin, unequal and painful; for a son, accustomed from childhood to
revere and obey his parents, was to maintain this contest against his
own father. Seraphin paced the room and wrung his hands in anguish.
CHAPTER VIII. AN ULTRAMONTANE SON.
Greifmann and Gerlach had driven to the railway station. The express
train thundered along. As the doors of the carriages flew open,
Seraphin peered through them with eyes full of eager joy. He thought no
more of the fate that threatened him as the sequel of his father's
arrival; his youthful heart exulted solely in the anticipation of the
meeting. A tall, broad-shouldered gentleman, with severe features and
tanned complexion, alighted from a coupé. It was Mr. Conrad
Gerlach. Seraphin threw his arms around his father's neck and kissed
him. The banker made a polite bow to the wealthiest landed proprietor
of the country, in return for which Mr. Conrad bestowed on him a
cordial shake of the hand.
Has your father returned?
He cannot possibly reach home before September, answered the
banker. The traveller stepped for a moment into the luggage-room. The
gentlemen then drove away to the Palais Greifmann. During the ride, the
conversation was not very animated. Conrad's curt, grave manner and
keen look, indicative of a mind always hard at work, imposed reserve,
and rapidly dampened his son's ingenuous burst of joy. Seraphin cast a
searching glance upon that severe countenance, saw no change from its
stern look of authority, and his heart sank before the appalling
alternative of either sacrificing the happiness of his life to his
father's favorite project, or of opposing his will and braving the
consequences of such daring. Yet he wavered but an instant in the
resolution to which he had been driven by necessity, and which, it was
plain from the lines of his countenance, he had manhood enough to abide
Mr. Conrad maintained his reserve, and asked but few questions. Even
Carl, habitually profuse, studied brevity in his answers, as he knew
from experience that Gerlach, Senior, was singularly averse to the use
of many words.
How is business?
Very dull, sir; the times are hard.
Did you sustain any losses through the failures that have recently
taken place in town?
Not a farthing. We had several thousands with Wendel, but
fortunately drew them out before he failed.
Very prudent. Has your father entered into any new connections in
the course of his travels?
Several, that promise fairly.
Is Louise well?
Her health is as good as could be wished.
General prosperity, then, I see, for you both look cheerful, and
Seraphin is as blooming as a clover field.
How is dear mother?
Quite well. She misses her only child. She sends much love.
The carriage drew up at the gate. The young lady was awaiting the
millionaire at the bottom of the steps. While greetings were exchanged
between them, a faint tinge of warmth could be noticed on the cold
features of the land-owner. A smile formed about his mouth, his
piercing eyes glanced for an instant at Seraphin, and instantly the
smile was eclipsed under the cloud of an unwelcome discovery.
I am on my way to the industrial exhibition, said he, and I
thought I would pay you a visit in passing. I wish you not to put
yourself to any inconvenience, my dear Louise. You will have the
goodness to make me a little tea, this evening, which we shall sip
I am overjoyed at your visit, and yet I am sorry, too.
Sorry! Why so?
Because you are in such a hurry.
It cannot be helped, my child. I am overwhelmed with work. Harvest
has commenced; no less than six hundred hands are in the fields, and I
am obliged to go to the exhibition. I must see and test some new
machinery which is said to be of wonderful power.
Well, then, you will at least spare us a few days on your return?
A few days! You city people place no value on time. We of the
country economize seconds. Without a thought you squander in idleness
what cannot be recalled.
You are a greater rigorist than ever, chided she, smiling.
Because, my child, I am getting older. Seraphin, I wish to speak a
word with you before tea.
The two retired to the apartments which for years Mr. Conrad was
accustomed to occupy whenever he visited the Palais Greifmann.
The old man still maintains his characteristic vigor, said Louise.
His face is at all times like a problem in arithmetic, and in place of
a heart he carries an accurate estimate of the yield of his farms. His
is a cold, repelling nature.
But strictly honest, and alive to gain, added Carl. In ten years
more he will have completed his third million. I am glad he came; the
marriage project is progressing towards a final arrangement. He is now
having a talk with Seraphin; tomorrow, as you will see, the bashful
young gentleman, in obedience to the command of his father, will
present himself to offer you his heart, and ask yours in return.
A free heart for an enslaved one, said she jestingly. Were there
no hope of ennobling that heart, of freeing it from the absurdities
with which it is encrusted, I declare solemnly I would not accept it
for three millions. But Seraphin is capable of being improved. His eye
will not close itself against modern enlightenment. Servility of
conscience and a baneful fear of God cannot have entirely extinguished
his sense of liberty.
I have never set a very high estimate on the pluck and moral force
of religious people, declared Greifmann. They are a craven set, who
are pious merely because they are afraid of hell. When a passion gets
possession of them, the impotence of their religious frenzy at once
becomes manifest. They fall an easy prey to the impulses of nature, and
the supernatural fails to come to the rescue. It would be vain for
Seraphin to try to give up the unbelieving Louise, whom his
strait-laced faith makes it his duty to avoid. He has fallen a victim
to your fascinations; all the Gospel of the Jew of Nazareth, together
with all the sacraments and unctions of the church, could not loose the
coils with which you have encircled him.
In this scornful tone did Carl Greifmann speak of the heroism of
virtue and of the energy of faith, like a blind man discoursing about
colors. He little suspected that it is just the power of religion that
produces characters, and that, on this very account, in an irreligious
age, characters of a noble type are so rarely met with; the warmth of
faith is not in them.
Mr. Schwefel desires to speak a word with you, said a servant who
appeared at the door.
The banker nodded assent.
I ask your pardon for troubling you at so unseasonable an hour,
began the leader, after bowing lowly several times. The subject is
urgent, and must be settled without delay. But, by the way, I must
first give you the good news: Mr. Shund is elected by an overwhelming
majority, and Progress is victorious in every ward.
That is what I looked for, answered the banker, with an air of
satisfaction. I told you whatever Cæsar, Antony, and Lepidus command,
must be done.
I am just from a meeting at which some important resolutions have
been offered and adopted, continued the leader. The strongest prop of
ultramontanism is the present system of educating youth. Education
must, therefore, be taken out of the hands of the priests. But the
change will have to be brought about gradually and with caution. We
have decided to make a beginning by introducing common schools. A vote
of the people is to be taken on the measure, and, on the last day of
voting, a grand barbecue is to be given to celebrate our triumph over
the accursed slavery of religious symbols. The ground chosen by the
chief-magistrate for the celebration is the common near the Red Tower,
but the space is not large enough, and we will need your meadow
adjoining it to accommodate the crowd. I am commissioned by the
magistrate to request you to throw open the meadow for the occasion.
The banker, believing the request prejudicial to his private
interests, looked rather unenthusiastic. Louise, who had been busy with
the teapot, had heard every word of the conversation, and the new
educational scheme had won her cordial approval. Seeing her brother
hesitated, she flew to the rescue:
We are ready and happy to make any sacrifice in the interest of
education and progress.
I am not sure that it is competent for me in the present instance
to grant the desired permission, replied Greifmann. The grass would
be destroyed, and perhaps the sod ruined for years. My father is away
from home, and I would not like to take the responsibility of complying
with his honor's wish.
The city will hold itself liable for all damages, said Schwefel.
Not at all! interposed the young lady hastily. Make use of the
meadow without paying damages. If my brother refuses to assume the
responsibility, I will take it upon my self. By wresting education from
the clergy, who only cripple the intellect of youth, progress aims a
death-blow at mental degradation. It is a glorious work, and one full
of inestimable results that you gentlemen are beginning in the cause of
humanity against ignorance and superstition. My father so heartily
concurs in every undertaking that responds to the wants of the times,
that I not only feel encouraged to make myself responsible for this
concession, but am even sure that he would be angry if we refused. Do
not hesitate to make use of the meadow, and from its flowers bind
garlands about the temples of the goddess of liberty!
The leader bowed reverently to the beautiful advocate of progress.
In this case, there remains nothing else for me to do than to
confirm my sister's decision, said Greifmann. When is the celebration
to take place?
On the 10th of August, the day of the deputy elections. It has been
intentionally set for that day to impress on the delegates how genuine
and right is the sentiment of our people.
Very good, approved Greifmann.
In the name of the chief-magistrate, I thank you for the offering
you have so generously laid upon the shrine of humanity, and I shall
hasten to inform the gentlemen before they adjourn that you have
granted our request. And Schwefel withdrew from the gorgeously
Meanwhile a fiery struggle was going on between Seraphin and his
father. He had briefly related his experience at the Palais Greifmann;
had even confessed his preference for Louise, and had, for the first
time in his life, incurred his father's displeasure by mentioning the
wager. And when he concluded by protesting that he could not marry
Louise, Conrad's suppressed anger burst forth.
Have you lost your senses, foolish boy? This marriage has been in
contemplation for years; it has been coolly weighed and calculated. In
all the country around, it is the only equal match possible. Louise's
dower amounts to one million florins, the exact value of the noble
estate of Hatzfurth, adjoining our possessions. You young people can
occupy the chateau, I shall add another hundred acres to the land,
together with a complete outfit of farming implements, and then you
will have such a start as no ten proprietors in Germany can boast of.
Seraphin knew his father. All the old gentleman's thought and effort
was concentrated on the management of his extensive possessions. For
other subjects there was no room in the head and heart of the
landholder. He barely complied with his religious duties. It is true,
on Sundays Mr. Conrad attended church, but surrounded invariably by a
motley swarm of worldly cares and speculations connected with farming.
At Easter, he went to the sacraments, but usually among the last, and
after being repeatedly reminded by his wife. He took no interest in
progress, humanity, ultramontanism, and such other questions as vex the
age, because to trouble himself about them would have interfered with
his main purpose. He knew only his fields and woodlandsand God, in so
far as his providence blessed him with bountiful harvests.
What is the good of millions, father, if the very fundamental
conditions of matrimonial peace are wanting?
What fundamental conditions?
Louise believes neither in God nor in revelation. She is an
And you are a fanatica fanatic because of your one-sided
education. Your mother has trained you as priests and monks are
trained. During your childhood piety was very useful; it served as the
prop to the young tree, causing it to grow up straight and develop
itself into a vigorous stem. But you are now full-grown, and life makes
other demands on the man than on the boy; therefore, with your
To my dying hour I shall thank my mother for the care she has
bestowed on the child, the boy, and the young man. If her pious spirit
has given a right direction to my career, and watched faithfully over
my steps, the untarnished record of the son cannot but rejoice the
heart of the fathera record which is the undoubted product of
You are a good son, and I am proud of you, accorded Mr. Conrad
with candor. Your mother, too, is a woman whose equal is not to be
found. All this is very well. But, if Louise's city manners and free
way of thinking scandalize you, you are sheerly narrow-minded. I have
been noticing her for years, and have learned to value her industry and
domestic virtues. She has not a particle of extravagance; on the
contrary, she has a decided leaning towards economy and thrift. She
will make an unexceptionable wife. Do you imagine, my son, my choice
could be a blind one when I fixed upon Louise to share the property
which, through years of toil, I have amassed by untiring energy?
I do not deny the lady has the qualities you mention, my dear
Moreover, she is a millionaire, and handsome, very handsome, and
you are in love with herwhat more do you want?
The most important thing of all, father. The very soul of conjugal
felicity is wanting, which is oneness of faith in supernatural truth.
What I adore, Louise denies; what I revere, she hates; what I practise,
she scorns. Louise never prays, never goes to church, never receives
the sacraments, in a word, she has not a spark of religion.
That will all come right, returned Mr. Conrad. Louise will learn
to pray. You must not, simpleton, expect a banker's daughter to be for
ever counting her beads like a nun. Take my word for it, the weight of
a wife's responsibilities will make her serious enough.
Serious perhaps, but not religious, for she is totally devoid of
Enough; you shall marry her nevertheless, broke in the father. It
is my wish that you shall marry her. I will not suffer opposition.
For a moment the young man sat silent, struggling painfully with the
violence of his own feelings.
Father, said he, then, you command what I cannot fulfil, because
it goes against my conscience. I beg you not to do violence to my
conscience; violence is opposed to your own and my Christian
principles. An atheist or a progressionist who does not recognize a
higher moral order, might insist upon his son's marrying an infidel for
the sake of a million. But you cannot do so, for it is not millions of
money that you and I look upon as the highest good. Do not, therefore,
dear father, interfere with my moral freedom; do not force me into a
union which my religion prohibits.
What does this mean? And a dark frown gathered on the old
gentleman's forehead. Defiance disguised in religious twaddle? Open
rebellion? Is this the manner in which my son fulfils the duty of
Pardon me, father, said the youth with deferential firmness,
there is no divine law making it obligatory upon a father to select a
wife for his son. Consequently, also, the duty of obedience on this
point does not rest upon the son. Did I, beguiled by passion or driven
by recklessness, wish to marry a creature whose depravity would imperil
my temporal and eternal welfare, your duty, as a father, would be to
oppose my rashness, and my duty, as a son, would be to obey you. Louise
is just such a creature; she is artfully plotting against my religious
principles, against my loyalty to God and the church. She has put upon
herself as a task to lead me from the darkness of superstition into the
light of modern advancement. I overheard her when she said to her
brother, 'Did I for an instant doubt that Seraphin may be reclaimed
from superstition, I would renounce my union with him, I would forego
all the gratifications of wealth, so much do I detest stupid
credulity.' Hence I should have to look forward to being constantly
annoyed by my wife's fanatical hostility to my religion. There never
would be an end of discord and wrangling. And what kind of children
would such a mother rear? She would corrupt the little ones, instil
into their innocent souls the poison of her own godlessness, and make
me the most wretched of fathers. For these reasons Miss Greifmann shall
not become my wife-no, never! I implore you, dear father, do not
require from me what my conscience will not permit, and what I shall on
no condition consent to, concluded the young man with a tone of
Mr. Conrad had observed a solemn silence, like a man who suddenly
beholds an unsuspected phenomenon exhibited before him. Seraphin's
words produced, as it were, a burst of vivid light upon his mind,
dispelling the multitudinous schemes and speculations that nestled in
every nook and depth. The effect of this sudden illumination became
perceptible at once, for Mr. Gerlach lost the points of view which had
invariably brought before his vision the million of the Greifmanns, and
he began to feel a growing esteem for the stand taken by his son.
Your language sounds fabulous, said he.
Here, father, is my diary. In it you will find a detailed account
of what I have briefly stated.
Gerlach took the book and shoved it into the breast-pocket of his
coat. In an instant, however, his imagination conjured up to him a
picture of the Count of Hatzfurth's splendid estate, and he went on
coldly and deliberately: Hear me, Seraphin! Your marriage with Louise
is a favorite project upon which I have based not a few expectations.
The observations you have made shall not induce me to renounce this
project unconditionally, for you may have been mistaken. I shall take
notes myself and test this matter. If your view is confirmed, our
project will have been an air castle. You shall be left entirely
unmolested in your convictions.
Seraphin embraced his father.
Let us have no scene; hear me out. Should it turn out, on the other
hand, that your judgment is erroneous, should Louise not belong to yon
crazy progressionist mob who aim to dethrone God and subvert the order
of society, should her hatred against religion be merely a silly
conforming to the fashionable impiety of the age, which good influences
may correctthen I shall insist upon your marrying her. Meanwhile I
want you to maintain a strict neutralitynot a step backward nor a
step in advance. Now to tea, and let your countenance betray nothing of
what has passed. He drew his son to his bosom and imprinted a kiss on
The millionaires were seated around the tea-table. Mr. Conrad
playfully commended Louise's talent for cooking. Apparently without
design he turned the conversation upon the elections, and, to
Seraphin's utter astonishment, eulogized the beneficent power of
Our age, said he, can no longer bear the hampering notions of the
past. In the material world, steam and machinery have brought about
changes which call for corresponding changes in the world of intellect.
Great revolutions have already commenced. In France, Renan has written
a Life of Christ, and in our own country Protestant convocations
are proclaiming an historical Christ who was not God, but only an
extraordinary man. You hardly need to be assured that I too take a deep
interest in the intellectual struggles of my countrymen, but an excess
of business does not permit me to watch them closely. I am obliged to
content myself with such reports as the newspapers furnish. I should
like to read Renan's work, which seems to have created a great
sensation. They say it suits our times admirably.
The brother and sister were not a little astonished at the old
gentleman's unusual communicativeness.
It is a splendid book, exclaimed Louisecharming as to style,
and remarkably liberal and considerate towards the worshippers of
So I have everywhere been told, said Mr. Conrad.
Have you read the book, Louise?
Not less than four times, three times in French and once in
Do you think a farmer whose moments are precious as gold could
forgive himself the reading of Renan's book in view of the multitude of
his urgent occupations? asked he, smiling.
The reading of a book that originates a new intellectual era is
also a serious occupation, maintained the beautiful lady.
Very true; yet I apprehend Renan's attempt to disprove to me the
divinity of Christ would remain unsuccessful, and it would only cause
me the loss of some hours of valuable time.
Read it, Mr. Gerlach, do read it. Renan's arguments are
So you have been convinced, Louise?
Yes, indeed, quite.
Well, now, Renan is a living author, he is the lion of the day, and
nothing could be more natural than that the fair sex should grow
enthusiastic over him. But, of course, at your next confession you will
sorrowfully declare and retract your belief in Renan.
The young lady cast a quick glance at Seraphin, and the brim of her
teacup concealed a proud, triumphant smile.
Our city is about taking a bold step, said Carl, breaking the
silence. We are to have common schools, in order to take education
from the control of the clergy. And he went on to relate what Schwefel
When is the barbecue to come off? inquired Mr. Conrad.
On the 10th of August.
Perhaps I shall have time to attend this demonstration, said
Gerlach. Hearts reveal themselves at such festivities. One gets a
clear insight into the mind of the multitude. You, Louise, have put
progress under obligations by so cheerfully advancing to meet it.
After these words the landholder rose and went to his room. The next
morning he proceeded on his journey, taking with him Seraphin's diary.
The author himself he left at the Palais Greifmann in anxious
uncertainty about future events.
CHAPTER IX. FAITH AND SCIENCE OF
Seraphin usually look an early ride with Carl. The banker was
overjoyed at the wager, about the winning of which he now felt absolute
certainty. He expressed himself confident that before long he would
have the pleasure of going over the road on the back of the best racer
in the country. The noble animals, said he, shall not be brought by
the railway; it might injure them. I shall send my groom for them to
Chateau Hallberg. He can ride the distance in two days.
Seraphin could not help smiling at his friend's solicitude for the
Do not sell the bear's skin before killing the bear, answered he.
I may not lose the horses, but may, on the contrary, acquire a
pleasant claim to twenty thousand florins.
That is beyond all possibility, returned the banker. Hans Shund
is now chief-magistrate, has been nominated to the legislature, and in
a few days will be elected. Mr. Hans will appear as a shining light
to-morrow, when he is to state his political creed in a speech to his
constituents. Of course, you and I shall go to hear him. Next will
follow his election, then my groom will hasten to Chateau Hallberg to
fetch the horses. Are you sorry you made the bet?
Not at all! I should regret very much to lose my span of bays.
Still, the bet will be of incalculable benefit to me. I will have
learned concerning men and manners what otherwise I could never have
dreamed of. In any event, the experience gained will be of vast service
to me during life.
I am exceedingly glad to know it, my dear fellow, assured
Greifmann. Your acquaintance with the present has been very
superficial. You have learned a great deal in a few days, and it is
gratifying to hear you acknowledge the fact.
The banker had not, however, caught Gerlach's meaning.
But for the wager, Seraphin would not have become acquainted with
Louise's intellectual standpoint. He would probably have married her
for the sake of her beauty, would have discovered his mistake when it
could not be corrected, and would have found himself condemned to spend
his life with a woman whose principles and character could only annoy
and give him pain. As it was, he was tormented by the fear that his
father might not coincide in his opinion of the young lady. What if the
old gentleman considered her hostility to religion as a mere
fashionable mania unsupported by inner conviction, a girlish whim
changeable like the wind, which with little effort might be made to
veer round to the point or the most unimpeachable orthodoxy? He had not
uttered a word condemning Louise's infatuation about Renan. On taking
leave he had parted with her in a friendly, almost hearty, manner,
proof sufficient that the young lady's doubtful utterances at tea had
not deceived him.
Upon reaching home, Gerlach sat in his room with his eyes
thoughtfully fixed upon a luminous square cast by the sun upon the
floor. Quite naturally his thoughts ran upon the marriage, and to the
prospect of having to maintain his liberty by hard contest with his
inflexible parent. He was unshaken in his resolution not to accede to
the projected alliance, and, when a will morally severe conceives
resolutions of this sort, they usually stand the hardest tests. So
absorbing were his reflections that he did not hear John announcing a
visitor. He nodded mechanically in reply to the words that seemed to
come out of the distance, and the servant disappeared.
Soon after a country girl appeared entrance of the room. In both
hands she was carrying a small basket made of peeled willows, quite
new. A snow-white napkin was spread over the basket. The girl's dress
was neat, her figure was slender and graceful. Her hair, which was
wound about the head in heavy plaits, was golden and encircled her
forehead as with a nimbus. Her features were delicate and
beautiful, and she looked upon the young gentleman with a pair of
deep-blue eyes. Thus stood she for an instant in the door of the
apartment. There was a smile about her mouth and a faint flush upon her
Good-morning, Mr. Seraphin! said a sweet voice.
The youth started at this salutation and looked at the stranger with
surprise. She was just then standing on the sunlit square, her hair
gleamed like the purest gold, and a flood of light streamed upon her
youthful form. He did not return the greeting. He looked at her as if
frightened, rose slowly, and bowed in silence.
My father sends some early grapes which he begs you to have the
goodness to accept.
She drew nearer, and he received the basket from her hand.
I am very thankful! said he. And, raising the napkin, the
delicious fruit smiled in his face. These are a rarity this season. To
whom am I indebted for this friendly attention?
The obligation is all on our side, Mr. Seraphin, she replied
trustfully to the generous benefactor of her family. Father is sorry
that he cannot offer you something better.
Ah! you are Holt's daughter?
Yes, Mr. Seraphin.
Your name is Johanna, is it not?
Mechtild, Mr. Seraphin.
Will you be so good as to sit down? And he pointed her to a sofa.
Mechtild, however, drew a chair and seated herself.
He had noted her deportment, and could not but marvel at the
graceful action, the confiding simplicity, and well-bred
self-possession of the extraordinary country girl. As she sat opposite
to him, she looked so pure, so trusting and sincere, that his
astonishment went on increasing. He acknowledged to himself never to
have beheld eyes whose expression came so directly from the hearta
heart whose interior must be equally as sunny and pure.
How are your good parents?
They are very well, Mr. Seraphin. Father has gone to work with
renewed confidence. The sadah! the terrible period is past. You
cannot imagine, Mr. Seraphin, how many tears you have dried, how much
misery you have relieved!
The recollection of the ruin that had been hanging over her home
affected her painfully; her eyes glistened, and tears began to roll
down her cheeks. But she instantly repressed the emotion, and exhibited
a beautiful smile on her face. Seraphin's quick eye had observed both
the momentary feeling, and that she had resolutely checked it in order
not to annoy him by touching sorrowful chords. This trait of delicacy
also excited the admiration of the gentleman.
Your father is not in want of employment? he inquired with
No, sir! Father is much sought on account of his knowledge of
farming. Persons who have ground, but no team of their own, employ him
to put in crops for them.
No doubt the good man has to toil hard?
That is true, sir; but father seems to like working, and we
children strive to help him as much as we can.
And do you like working?
I do, indeed, Mr. Seraphin. Life would be worthless if one did not
labor. Man's life on earth is so ordered as to show him that he must
labor. Doing nothing is abominable, and idleness is the parent of many
Another cause of astonishment for the millionaire. She did not
converse like an uneducated girl from the country. Her accurate, almost
choice use of words indicated some culture, and her concise
observations revealed both mind and reflection. He felt a strong desire
to fathom the mysteryto cast a glance into Mechtild's past history.
Have you always lived at home, or have you ever been away at
She must have detected something ludicrous in the question, for
suddenly a degree of archness might be observed in her amiable smile.
You mean, whether I have received a city education? No, sir! Father
used to speak highly of the clearness of my mind, and thought I might
even be made a teacher. But he had not the means to give me the
necessary amount of schooling. Until I was fourteen years old, I went
to school to the nuns here in town. I used to come in of mornings and
go back in the evening. I studied hard, and father and mother always
had the satisfaction of seeing me rewarded with a prize at the
examinations. I am very fond of books, and make good use of the convent
library. On Sundays, after vespers, I wait till the door of the
book-room is opened. I still spend my leisure time in reading, and on
Sundays and holidays I know no greater pleasure than to read nice
instructive books. At my work I think over what I have read, and I
continue practising composition according to the directions of the good
ladies of the convent.
And were you always head at school?
Yes, she admitted, with a blush.
You have profited immensely by your opportunities, he said
approvingly. And the desire for learning has not yet left you?
This inordinate craving still continues to torment me, she
Because, my station and calling do not require a high degree of
culture. But it is so nice to know, and it is so nice to have refined
intercourse with each others. For seven years I admired the elegant
manners of the convent ladies, and I learned many a lesson from them.
How old are you now?
Seventeen, Mr. Seraphin.
What a pity you did not enter some higher educational institution!
A pause followed. He looked with reverence upon the artless girl
whom God had so richly endowed, both in body and mind, Mechtild rose.
Please accept, also, my most heartfelt thanks for your generous
aid, she said, with emotion, All my life long I shall remember you
before God, Mr. Seraphin. The Almighty will surely repay you what alas!
She made a courtesy, and he accompanied her through all the
apartments as far as the front door. Here the girl, turning, bowed to
him once more and went away.
Returning to his room, Seraphin stood and contemplated the grapes.
Strongly did the delicious fruit tempt him, but he touched not one. He
then pulled out a drawer, and hid the gifts as though it were a costly
treasure. For the rest of the day, Mechtild's bright form hovered near
him, and the sweet charm of her eyes, so full of soul, continually
worked on his imagination. When he again went into Louise's company,
the grace and innocence of the country girl gained ground in his
esteem. Compared with Mechtild's charming naturalness, Louise's manner
appeared affected, spoiled; through evil influences. The difference in
the expression of their eyes struck him especially. In Louise's eyes
there burned a fierce glow at times, which roused passion and stirred
the senses. Mechtild's neither glowed nor flashed; but from their
limpid depths beamed goodness so genuine and serenity so unclouded,
that Seraphin could compare them to nothing but two heralds of peace
and innocence. Louise's eyes, thought he, flash like two meteors of the
night; Mechtild's beam like two mild suns in a cloudless sky of spring.
As often as he entered the room where the grapes lay concealed, he
would unlock the drawer, examine the fragrant fruit, and handle the
basket which had been carried by her hands. He could not himself help
smiling at this childish action, and yet both great delicacy and deep
earnestness are manifested in honoring objects that have been touched
by pure hands, and in revering places hallowed by the presence of the
Next morning the banker asked his guest to accompany him to the
church of S. Peter, where Hans Shund was to address a large gathering.
In a church? Gerlach exclaimed, with amazement.
Don't get frightened, my good fellow. The church is no longer in
the service of religion. It has been secularized by the state,
and is customarily used as a hall for dancing. There will be quite a
crowd, for several able speakers are to discuss the question of common
schools. The church has been chosen for the meeting on account of the
The millionaires drove to the desecrated church. A tumultuous mass
swarmed about the portal. Let us permit them to push us; we shall get
in most easily by letting them do so, said the banker merrily. Two
officious progressionists, recognizing the banker, opened a passage for
them through the throng. They reached the interior of the church, which
was now an empty space, stripped of every ornament proper to a house of
God. In the sanctuary could yet be seen, as if in mournful abandonment,
a large quadrangular slab, that had been the altar, and attached to one
of the side walls was an exquisite Gothic pulpit, which on occasions
like the present was used for a rostrum. Everywhere else reigned
silence and desolation.
The nave was filled by a motley mass. The chieftains of progress,
some elegantly dressed, others exhibiting frivolous miens and huge
beards, crowded upon the elevation of the chancel. All the candidates
for the legislature were present, not for the purpose of proving their
qualifications for the officeprogress never troubled itself about
thosebut to air their views on the subject of education. There were
speakers on hand of acknowledged ability in the discussion of the
doctrines of progress, who were to lay the result of their
investigations before the people.
Seraphia also noted some anxious faces in the crowd. They were
citizens, whose sons were alarmed at the thought of yielding up the
training of their children into the hands of infidelity. And near the
pulpit stood two priests, irreverently crowded against the wall,
targets for the scornful pleasantries of the wits of the mob. Leader
Schwefel was voted into the chair by acclamation. He thanked the
assembly in a short speech for the honor conferred, and then announced
that Mr. Till, member of the former assembly, would address the
meeting. Amid murmurs of expectation a short, fat gentleman climbed
into the pulpit. First a red face with a copper-tipped nose bobbed
above the ledge of the pulpit, next came a pair of broad shoulders,
upon which a huge head rested without the intermediary of a neck, two
puffy hands were laid upon the desk, and the commencement of a
well-rounded pauch could just be detected by the eye. Mr. Till, taking
two handfuls of his shaggy beard, drew them slowly through his fingers,
looked composedly upon the audience, and breathed hotly through mouth
Gentlemen, he began, with a voice that struggled out from a mass
of flesh and fat, I am not given to many words, you know. What need is
there of many words and long speeches? We know what we want, and what
we want we will have in spite of the machinations of Jesuits and the
whinings of an ultramontane horde. You all know how I acquitted myself
at the last legislature, and if you will again favor me with your
suffrages, I will endeavor once more to give satisfaction. You know my
record, and I shall remain staunch to the last.
Cries of Good! from various directions.
Gentlemen! if you know my record, you must also be aware that I am
passionately fond of the chase. I even follow this amusement in the
legislative hall. Our country abounds in a sort of black game, and for
me it is rare sport to pursue this species of game in the assembly.
A wild tumult of applause burst forth. Jeers and coarse witticisms
were bandied about on every side of the two clergymen, who looked
meekly upon these orgies of progress.
Gentlemen! Till continued, the blacks are a dangerous kind
of wild beast. They have heretofore been ranging in a preserve, feeding
on the fat of the land. That is an abuse that challenges the wrath of
heaven. It must be done away with. The beasts of prey that in the dark
ages dwelt in castles have long since been exterminated, and their
rocky lairs have been reduced to ruins. Well, now, let us keep up the
chase in both houses of the legislature until the last of these
black beasts is destroyed. Should you entrust to me again your
interests, I shall return to the seat of government, to aid with
renewed energy in ridding the land of these creatures that are enemies
both of education and liberty.
Amid prolonged applause the fat man descended. The chieftains shook
him warmly by the hand, assuring him that the cause absolutely demanded
his being reelected.
Gerlach was aghast at Till's speech. He hardly knew which deserved
most scorn, the vulgarity of the speaker or the abjectness of those who
had applauded him. Their wild enthusiasm was still surging through the
building, when Hans Shund mounted the pulpit. The chairman rang for
order; the tumult ceased. In mute suspense the multitude awaited the
great speech of the notorious usurer, thief, and debauchee. And indeed,
progress might well entertain great expectations, for Hans Shund had
read a pile of progressionist pamphlets, had extracted the strong
passages, and out of them had concocted a right racy speech. His speech
might with propriety have been designated the Gospel of Progress, for
Hans Shund had made capital of whatever freethinkers had lucubrated in
behalf of so-called enlightenment, and in opposition to Christianity.
The very appearance of the speaker gave great promise. His were not
coarse features and goggle eyes like Till's; his piercing feline eyes
looked intellectual. His face was rather pale, the result, no doubt, of
unusual application, and he had skilfully dyed his sandy hair. His
position as mayor of the city seemed also to entitle him to special
attention, and these several claims were enhanced by a white necktie,
white vest, and black cloth swallowtail coat.
Gentlemen, began the mayor with solemnity, my honorable
predecessor in this place has told you with admirable sagacity that the
kernel of every political question is of a religious character. Indeed,
religion is linked with every important question of the day, it is the
ratio ultima of the intellectual movement of our times. Men of
thought and of learning are all agreed as to the condition to which our
social life should be and must be brought. The friends of the people
are actively and earnestly at work trying to further a healthy
development of our social and political status. Nor have their efforts
been utterly fruitless. Progress has made great conquests; yet,
gentlemen, these conquests are far from being complete. What is it that
is most hostile to liberalism in morals, to enlightenment, and to
humanity? It is the antiquated faith of departed days. Have we not
heard the language of the Holy Father in the Syllabus? But the Holy
Father at Rome, gentlemen, is no father of ourshappily he is the
father only of stupid and credulous men.
Bravo! Well said! resounded from the audience. Flaschen nudged
Spitzkopf, who sat next to him. Shund is no mean speaker. Even that
fellow Voelk, of Bavaria, cannot compete with Shund.
Gentlemen, our good sense teaches us to smile with pity at the
infallible declarations of yon Holy Father. We are firmly convinced
that papal decrees can no more stop the onward march of civilization
than they can arrest the heavenly bodies in their journeys about the
sun. 'Tis true, an [oe]cumenical council is lowering like a black
storm-cloud. But let the council meet; let it declare the Syllabus an
article of faith; it will never succeed in destroying the treasures of
independent thought which creative intellects have been hoarding up for
centuries among every people. Since men of culture have ceased to yield
unquestioning submission, like dumb sheep, to the church, they have
begun to discover that nowhere are so many falsehoods uttered as in
Tremendous applause, clapping, and swinging of hats, followed this
eloquent period. A distinguished gentleman, laying his hand upon Till's
shoulder, asked: What calibre of ammunition do you use in hunting
Conical balls of two centimetres, replied Till, with no great wit.
Yon fellow in the pulpit fires shells of a hundredweight, I should
say. And if in the legislative assembly his shells all explode, not a
man of them will be left alive.
Till thought this witticism so good that he set up a loud roar of
laughter, that could be heard above the general uproar.
Stimulated by these marks of appreciation, Shund waxed still more
eloquent. Gentlemen, cried he, no body of men is more savagely
opposed to science and culture than a conventicle of so-called servants
of God. Were you to repeat the multiplication table several times over,
there would be as much prayer and sense in it as in what is designated
the Apostles' Creed.
More cheering and boundless enthusiasm. Gentlemen! exclaimed the
speaker, with thundering emphasis and a hideous expression of hatred on
his face, the significance of religious dogmas is simply a sort of
hom[oe]opathic concoction to which every succeeding age contributes
some drops of fanaticism. Subjected to the microscope of science, the
whole basis of the Christian church evaporates into thin mist. We must
shield our children against religious fables. Away with dogmas and saws
from the Bible; away with the Trinity; the divinity and humanity of
Jesus, and other such stuff! Away with apothegms such as this:
Christ is my life, my death, and my gain. Such things are opposed
to nature. Children's minds are thereby warped to untruthfulness and
hyprocrisy. In this manner the child is deprived of the power of
thinking; loses all interest in intellectual pursuits, and ceases to
feel the need of further culture. The times are favorable for a
reformation. Our imperial and royal rulers have at length realized that
minds must be set free. For this end it was as unavoidable for them to
break with the church and priesthood as it is necessary for us. If we
cherish our fatherland and the people, we must take the initiative. We
are not striving to effect a revolution; we want intellectual
development, profounder knowledge, and healthier morality.
Shall peace be seen beneath our skies,
The spirit's freedom first must rise,
concluded the orator poetically, and he came down amidst a very
hurricane of applause.
There followed a lull. In the audience, heads protruded and necks
were stretched that their possessors might obtain a glimpse of the
great Shund. In the chancel, the chiefs and leaders crowded around him,
smiling, bowing, and shaking his hand in admiration.
You have won the laurels, smirked a fellow from amidst a
wilderness of beard.
Your election to the Assembly is a certainty, declared another.
You carry deadly weapons against Christ, said a professor.
Mr. Hans smiled, and nodded so often that he was seized with a pain
in the muscles of the face and neck. At length, the chairman's bell
came to the rescue.
The Rev. Mr. Morgenroth will now address the meeting.
The clergyman mounted the rostrum, but scarcely had he appeared
there, when the crowd became possessed by a legion of hissing demons.
Gentlemen, began the fearless priest, the duty of my calling as
well as personal conviction demands that I should enter a solemn
protest against the sundering of school and church.
Further the priest was not allowed to proceed. Loud howling,
hissing, and whistling drowned his voice. The president called for
In the name of good-breeding, I beg this most honorable assembly to
hear the speaker out in patience, cried Mr. Schwefel.
The mob relaxed into unwilling silence like a growling beast.
Not all the citizens of this town are affected with infidelity,
the reverend gentleman went on to say. Many honorable gentlemen
believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in his church. These
citizens wish their children to receive a religious education; it
would, therefore, be unmitigated terrorism, tyrannical constraint of
conscience, to force Christian parents to bring up their children in
the spirit of unbelief.
This palpable truth progress could not bear to listen to. A mad yell
was set up. Clenched fists were shaken at the clergyman, and fierce
threats thundered from all sides of the church. Down with the priest!
Down with the accursed blackcoat! Down with the dog of a Jesuit!
and similar exclamations resounded from all sides. The chairman rang
his bell in vain. The mob grew still more furious and noisy. The
clergyman was compelled to come down.
Such is the liberty, the education, the tolerance, the humanity of
progress, said he sadly to his colleague.
Once more the bell of the chairman was heard amid the tumult.
Mr. Seicht, officer of the crown, will now address the meeting,
The audience were seized with amazement, and not without a cause. A
dignitary of a higher order, a member of the administration, ascended
the pulpit for the purpose of making an assault upon Christian
education. He was about to make war upon morals and faith, the true
supports of every solid government, the sources of the moral sentiment
and of the prosperity of human society. A remnant of honesty and a
lingering sense of justice may have raised a protest in Seicht's mind
against his undertaking; for his bearing was anything but
self-possessed, and he had the appearance of a wretch that was being
goaded on by an evil spirit. Besides, he had the habit peculiar to
bureaucrats of speaking in harsh, snarling tones. Seicht was conscious
of these peculiarities of his bureaucratic nature, and labored to
overcome them. The effort imparted to his delivery an air of constraint
and a sickening sweetness which were climaxed by the fearfully involved
style in which his speech was clothed.
Gentlemen, said Seicht, in view of present circumstances, and in
consideration of the requirements of culture whose spirit is
incompatible with antiquated conditions, popular education, which in
connection with domestic training is the foundation of the future
citizen, must also undergo such changes as will bring it into harmony
with modern enlightened sentiment; and this is the more necessary as
the provisions of the law, which progress in its enlightenment and
clearness of perception cannot refuse to recognize as a fit model for
the imitation of a party dangerous to the stateI mean the party of
Jesuitism and ultramontranismallow untrammelled scope for the
reformation of the school system, provided the proper clauses of the
law and the ordinances relating to this matter are not left out of
consideration. Accordingly, it is my duty to refer this honorable
meeting especially to the ministerial decree referring to common
schools, in accordance with which said common schools may be
established, after a vote of the citizens entitled to the elective
franchise, as soon as the need of this is felt; which in the present
instance cannot be contested, since public opinion has taken a decided
stand against denominational schools, in which youth is trained after
unbending forms of religion, and in doctrines that evidently conflict
with the triumph of the present, and with those exact sciences which
make up the only true gospelthe gospel of progress, which scarcely in
any respect resembles the narrow gospel of dubious dogmasdubious for
the reason that they lack the spirit of advancement, and are
prejudicial to the investigation of the problems of a God, of material
nature, and of man.
Here leader Sand thrust his fingers in his ears.
Thunder and lightning! exclaimed he wrathfully, what a shallow
babbler! What is he driving at? His periods are a yard long; and when
he has done, a man is no wiser than when he began. Gospelgospel of
Quite a remarkable instance, this! said Gerlach to the banker.
Evidently this man is trying might and main to please, yet he only
succeeds in torturing his hearers.
I will explain this man to you, replied the banker. Heretofore
Mr. Seicht has been a most complete exemplar of absolute bureaucracy.
The only divinity he knew were the statutes, the only heaven the
bureau, and the only safe way of reaching supreme felicity was, in his
opinion, to render unquestioning obedience to ministerial rescripts.
Suddenly Mr. Seicht heard the card-house of bureaucracy start in all
its joints. His divinity lost its worshippers, and his heaven lost all
charms for those who were seeking salvation. He felt the ground moving
under him, he realized the colossal might of progress, and hastened to
commend himself to this party by adopting liberal ideas. He is now
aiming to secure a seat in the house of delegates, which is
subsequently to serve him as a stepping-stone to a place in the
cabinet. Just listen how the man is agonizing! He is wasting his
strength, however, and the attitude of the audience is beginning to get
For some time past, the chieftains in the chancel had been shaking
their heads at the efforts of this official advocate of progress. To
avoid being tortured by hearing, they had engaged in conversation. The
auditors in the nave of the church were also growing restive. The
speaker, however, continued blind to every hint and insinuation. At
last a tall fellow in the crowd swung his hat and cried, Three cheers
for Mr. Seicht! The whole nave joined in a deafening cheer. Seicht,
imagining the cheering to be a tribute to the excellence of his effort,
stopped for a moment to permit the uproar to subside, intending then to
go on with his speech; but no sooner had he resumed than the cheering
burst forth anew, and was so vigorously sustained that the man, at
length perceiving the meaning of the audience, came down amid peals of
Serves the gabbler right! said Sand. He's a precious kind of a
fellow! The booby thinks he can hoist himself into the chamber of
deputies by means of the shoulders of progress, and thence to climb up
higher. But it happens that we know whom we have to deal with, and we
are not going to serve as stirrups for a turn-coat official.
The chairman wound up with a speech in which he announced that the
vote on the question of common schools would soon come off, and then
adjourned the meeting.
The millionaires drew back to allow the crowd to disperse. Near them
stood Mr. Seicht, alone and dejected. The countenances of the
chieftains had yielded him no evidence on which to base a hope that his
speech had told, and that he might expect to occupy a seat in the
assembly. Moreover, Sand had rudely insulted the ambitious official to
his face. This he took exceedingly hard. All of a sudden, he spied the
banker in the chancel, and went over to greet him. Greifmann introduced
I am proud, Mr. Seicht asseverated, of the acquaintance of the
wealthiest proprietor of the country.
Pardon the correction, sir; my father is the proprietor.
No matter, you are his only son, rejoined Seicht. Your presence
proves that you take an interest in the great questions of the day.
This is very laudable.
My presence, however, by no means proves that I concur in the
object of this meeting. Curiosity has led me hither.
The official directed a look of inquiry at the banker.
Sheer curiosity, repeated this gentleman coldly.
Can you not, then, become reconciled to the spirit of progress?
asked Seicht, with a smile revealing astonishment.
The value of my convictions consists in this, that I worship
genuine progress, replied the millionaire gravely. The progress of
this community, in particular, looks to me like retrogression.
I am astonished at what you say, returned the official; for
surely Shund's masterly speech has demonstrated that we are keeping
pace with the age.
I cannot see, sir, how fiendish hatred of religion can be taken for
progress. This horrible, bloodthirsty monster existed even in the days
of Nero and Tiberius, as we all know. Can the resurrection of it, now
that it has been mouldering for centuries, be seriously looked upon as
a step in advance? Rather a step backward, I should think, of eighteen
hundred years. Especially horrible and revolting is this latest
instance of tyranny, forcing parents who entertain religious sentiments
to send their children to irreligious schools. Not even Nero and
Tiberius went so far. On this point, I agree, there has been progress,
but it consists in putting a most unnatural constraint upon
Gerlach's language aroused the official. He was face to face with an
ultramontane. The mere sight of such an one caused a nervous twitching
in his person. He resorted at once to bureaucratic weapons in making
You are mistaken, my dear siryou are very much mistaken. The
spirit of the modern state demands that the schools of the multitude,
particularly public institutions, should be accessible to the children
of every class of citizens, without distinction of religious
profession. Consequently, the schools must be taken from under the
authority, direction, and influence of the church, and put entirely
under civil and political control. Such, too, is now the mind of our
rulers, besides that public sentiment calls for the change.
But, Mr. Seicht, in making such a change, the state despotically
infringes on the province of religion.
Not despotically, Mr. Gerlach, but legally; for the state is the
fountain-head of all right, and consequently possessed of unlimited
You enunciate principles, sir, which differ vastly from what
morality and religion teach.
What signify moralswhat signifies religion? Mere antiquated
forms, sir, with no living significance, explained Seicht, lavishly
displaying the treasures of the storehouse of progressionist wisdom.
The past submitted quietly to the authority of religion, because there
existed then a low degree of intellectual culture. At present there is
only one authorityit is the preponderance of numbers and of material
forces. Consequently, the only real authority is the majority in power.
On the other hand, authorities based upon the supposed existence of a
supersensible world have lost their cause of being, for the reason that
exact science plainly demonstrates the nonexistence of an immaterial
world. Cessante causa, cessat effectus, the supersensible world,
the basis of religious authority, being gone, it logically results that
religious authority itself is gone. Hence the only real authority
existing in a state is the majority, and to this every citizen is
obliged to submit. You marvel, Mr. Gerlach. What I have said is not my
own personal view, but the expression of the principles which alone
pass current at the present day.
I agree in what you say, said the banker. You have spoken from
the standpoint of the times. The controlling power is the majority.
Shund, then, accurately summed up the creed of the present age when
he said, 'Progress conquers death, destroys hell, rejects heaven, and
finds its god in the sweet enjoyment of life.' It is to be hoped that
all-powerful progress will next decree that there are no death and no
suffering upon earth, that all the hostile forces of nature have
ceased, that want and misery are no more, and that earth is a paradise
of sweet enjoyment for all.
Mr. Seicht was rather taken aback by this satire.
Besides, gentlemen, proceeded Gerlach, you will please observe
that the doctrine of state supremacy is a step backward of nearly two
thousand years. In Nero's day, but one source of right, namely, the
state, was recognized. In the head of the state, the emperor, were
centred all power, all authority, and all right. In his person, the
state was exalted into a divinity. Temples and altars were reared to
the emperor; sacrifices were offered to him; he was worshipped as a
deity. Even human sacrifices were not denied him if the imperial
divinity thought proper to demand them. And, now, to what condition did
these monstrous errors bring the world of that period? It became one
vast theatre of crime, immorality, and despotism. Slavery coiled itself
about men and things, and strangled their liberty. Matrimonial life
sank into the most loathsome corruption. Infanticide was permitted to
pass unpunished. The licentiousness of women was even greater than that
of men. Life and property became mere playthings for the whims of the
emperor and of his courtiers. Did the divine Cæsar wish to amuse his
deeply sunken subjects, he had only to order the gladiators to butcher
one another, or some prisoners or slaves or Christians to be thrown to
tigers and panthers; this made a Roman holiday. Such, gentlemen, was
human society when it recognized no supersensible world, no God above,
no moral law. If our own progress proceeds much further in the path on
which it is marching, it will soon reach a similar fearful stage. We
already see in our midst the commencement of social corruption. We have
the only source of right proclaimed to be the divine state. Conscience
is being tyrannized over by a majority that rejects God and denies
future rewards and punishments. All the rest, even to the divine
despot, has already followed, or inevitably will follow. Therefore, Mr.
Seicht, the progress you so loudly boast of is mere stupid
retrogression, blind superstition, which falls prostrate before the
majority of a mob, and worships the omnipotence of the state.
Don't you think my friend has been uttering some very bitter
truths? asked the banker, with a smile.
Pretty nearly so, replied the official demurely. However, one can
detect the design, and cannot help getting out of humor.
What design? asked Seraphin.
Of creating alarm against progress.
Indeed, sir, you are mistaken. I, too, am enthusiastic about
progress, but genuine progress. And because I am an advocate of real
progress I cannot help detesting the monstrosity which the age would
wish to palm off on men instead.
The church was now cleared. Greifmann's carriage was at the door.
The millionaires drove off.
Pity for this Gerlach! thought the official, as he strode through
the street. He is lost to progress, for he is too solidly rooted in
superstition to be reclaimed. War against nature's claims; deny healthy
physical nature its rights; re-establish terror of the seven capital
sins; permit the priesthood to tyrannize over conscience; restore the
worship of an unmathematical triune Godno! no! cried he fiercely, I
shall all go to the devil!
A carriage whirled past him. He caste a glance into the vehicle, and
raised his hat to Mr. Hans Shund.
The chief magistrate was on his way home from the town-hall. He
could not rest under the weight of his laurels; the inebriation of his
triumph drove him into the room where sat his lonely and careworn wife.
My election to the assembly is assured, wife. And he went on with
a minute account of the proceedings of the day.
The pale, emaciated lady sat bowed in silence over her work, and did
not look up.
Well, wife, don't you take any interest in the honors won by your
husband? I should think you ought to feel pleased.
All my joys are swallowed up in an abyss of unutterable
wretchedness, replied she. And my husband is daily deepening the
gulf. Yesterday you were again at a disreputable house. Your abominable
deeds are heaped mountain highand am I to rejoice?
A thousand demons, wife, I'm beginning to believe you have spies on
I have not. But you are at the head of this cityyour steps cannot
possibly remain unobserved.
Very well! cried he, it shall be my effort in the assembly to
bring about such a change that there shall no longer be any houses of
disrepute. Narrow-minded moralists shall not be allowed to howl any
longer. The time is at hand, old ladyso-called disreputable houses
are to become places of amusement authorized by law.
He spoke and disappeared.
CHAPTER X. PROGRESS GROWS JOLLY.
The agitators of progress were again hurrying through the streets
and alleys of the town. They knocked at every door and entered every
house to solicit votes in favor of common schools. Thanks to the
overwhelming might of the party in power, they again carried their
measure. Dependent, utterly enslaved, many yielded up their votes
without opposition. It is true conscience tortured many a parent for
voting against his convictions, for sacrificing his children to a
system with which he could not sympathize; but not a man in a dependent
position had the courage to vindicate for his child the religious
training which was being so ruthlessly swept away. Even men in high
office gave way before the encroaching despotism, for in the very
uppermost ranks of society also progress domineered.
One man only, fearless and firm, dared to put himself in the path of
the dominant powerthe Rev. F. Morgenroth. From the pulpit, he
unmasked and scathed the unchristian design of debarring youth from
religious instruction, and of rearing a generation ignorant of God and
of his commandments. He warned parents against the evil, entreated them
to stand up conscientiously for the spiritual welfare of their
children, to reject the common schools, and to rescue the little ones
for the maternal guardianship of the church.
His sermon roused the entire progressionist camp. The local press
fiercely assailed the intrepid clergyman. Lies, calumnies, and
scurrility were vomited against him and his profession. Hans Shund
seized the pen, and indited newspaper articles of such a character as
one would naturally look for from a thief, usurer, and debauchee.
Morgenroth paid no attention to their disgraceful clamor, but continued
his opposition undismayed. By means of placards, he invited the
Catholic citizens to assemble at his own residence, for the purpose of
consulting about the best mode of thwarting the designs of the
liberals. This unexpected fearlessness put the men of culture,
humanity, and freedom beside themselves with rage. They at once decided
upon making a public demonstration. The chieftains issued orders to
their bands, and these at the hour appointed for the meeting mustered
before the residence of the priest. A noisy multitude, uttering
threats, took possession of the churchyard. If a citizen attempted to
make his way through the mob to the house, he was loaded with vile
epithets, at times even with kicks and blows. But a small number had
gathered around the priest, and these showed much alarm; for outside
the billows of progress were surging and every moment rising higher.
Stones were thrown at the house, and the windows were broken.
Parteiling, the commissary of police, came to remonstrate with the
Dismiss the meeting, said he. The excitement is assuming alarming
Commissary, we are under the protection of the law and of civil
rule, replied Morgenroth. We are not slaves and helots of progress.
Are we to be denied the liberty of discussing subjects of great
importance in our own houses?
A boulder coming through the window crushed the inkstand on the
table, and rolled on over the floor. The men pressed to one side in
Your calling upon the law to protect you is utterly unreasonable
under present circumstances, said Parteiling. Listen to the howling.
Do you want your house demolished? Do you wish to be maltreated? Will
you have open revolution? This all will surely follow if you persist in
refusing to dismiss the meeting. I will not answer for results.
Stones began to rain more densely, and the howling grew louder and
Gentlemen, said Morgenroth to the men assembled, since we are not
permitted to proceed with our deliberations, we will separate, with a
protest against this brutal terrorism.
But, commissary, said a much frightened man, how are we to get
away? These people are infuriated; they will tear us in pieces.
Fear nothing, gentlemen; follow me, spoke the commissary, leading
The ultramontanes were hailed with a loud burst of scornful
laughter. The commissary, advancing to the gate, beckoned silence.
In the name of the law, clear the place! cried he.
The mob scoffed and yelled.
Fetch out the slaves of the priestmake them run the
gauntletdown with the Jesuits!
At this moment, a man was noticed elbowing his way through the
crowd; presently Hans Shund stepped before the embarrassed guardian of
Three cheers for the magistrate! vociferated the mob.
Shund made a signal. Profound silence followed.
Gentlemen, spoke the chief magistrate, in a tone of entreaty,
have goodness to disperse.
Repeated cheers were raised, then the accumulation of corrupt
elements began to dissolve and flow off into every direction.
I deeply regret this commotion of which I but a moment ago received
intelligence, said Shund. The excitement of the people is
attributable solely to the imprudent conduct of Morgenroth.
To be sureto be sure! assented Parteiling.
The place was cleared. The Catholics hurried home pursued and hooted
by straggling groups of rioters.
The signs of the approaching celebration began to be noticeable on
the town-common. Booths were being erected, tables were being disposed
in rows which reached further than the eye could see, wagon-loads of
chairs and benches were being brought from all parts of town, men were
busy sinking holes for climbing-poles and treacherous turnstiles; but
the most attractive feature of all the festival was yet invisiblefree
beer and sausages furnished at public cost. The rumor alone, however,
of such cheer gladdened the heart of every thirsty voter, and
contributed greatly to the establishment of the system of common
schools. Bands of music paraded the town, gathered up voters, and
escorted them to the polls. As often as they passed before the
residence of a progressionist chieftain, the bands struck up an air,
and the crowd cheered lustily. They halted in front of the priest's
residence also. The band played, Today we'll taste the parson's
cheer, the mob roaring the words, and then winding up with whistling
and guffaws of laughter. This sort of disorderly work was kept up
during three days. Then was announced in the papers in huge type: An
overwhelming majority of the enlightened citizens of this city have
decided in favor of common schools. Herewith the existence of these
schools is secured and legalized.
On the fourth day, the celebration came off. The same morning
Gerlach senior arrived at the Palais Greifmann on his way home from the
I am so glad! cried Louise. I was beginning to fear you would not
come, and getting provoked at your indifference to the interests of our
people. We have been having stirring times, but we have come off
victorious. The narrow-minded enemies of enlightenment are defeated.
Modern views now prevail, and education is to be remodelled and put in
harmony with the wants of our century.
Times must have been stirring, for you seem almost frenzied,
Louise, said Conrad.
Had you witnessed the struggle and read the newspapers, you, too,
would have grown enthusiastic, declared the young lady.
Even quotations advanced, said the banker. It astonished me, and
I can account for it only by assuming that the triumph of the
common-school system is of general significance and an imperative
desideratum of the times.
How can you have any doubt about it? cried his sister. Our town
has pioneered the way: the rest of Germany will soon adopt the same
Seraphin greeted his father.
Well, my son, you very likely have heard nothing whatever of this
hubbub about schools?
Indeed, I have, father. Carl and I were in the midst of the
commotion at the desecrated church of S. Peter. We saw and heard what
it would have been difficult to imagine. He then proceeded to give his
father a minute account of the meeting. His powerful memory enabled him
to repeat Shund's speech almost verbatim. The father listened
attentively, and occasionally directed a glance of observation at the
young lady. When Shund's coarse ridicule of Christian morals and dogmas
was rehearsed, Mr. Conrad lowered his eyes, and a frown flitted over
his brow. For the rest, his countenance was, as usual, cold and stern.
This Mr. Shund made quite a strong speech, said he, in a
He rather intensified the colors of truth, 'tis true, remarked
Louise. The masses, however, like high coloring and vigorous
A servant brought the banker a note.
Good! Shund is elected to the assembly! The span of bays belongs to
me, exulted Carl Greifmann.
Your bays Seraphin? inquired the father. How is this?
Mr. Conrad had twice been informed of the wager; he had learned it
first from Seraphin's own lips, then also he had read of it in his
diary; still he asked again, and his son detailed the story a third
I should sooner have expected to see the heavens fall than to lose
that bet, added Seraphin.
When a notorious thief and usurer is elected to the chief
magistracy and to the legislative assembly, the victory gained is
hardly a creditable one to the spirit of progress, my dear Carl. Don't
you think so, Louise? said the landholder.
You mustn't be too rigorous, replied the lady, with composure.
Rumor whispers many a bit of scandal respecting Shund which does,
indeed, offend one's sense of propriety; for all that, however, Shund
will play his part brilliantly both in the assembly and in the town
council. The greatest of statesmen have had their foibles, as everybody
Very true, said Gerlach dryly. Viewed from the standpoint of very
humane tolerance, Shund's disgusting habits may be considered
Seraphin left the parlor, and retired to his room. Here he wrestled
with violent feelings. His father's conduct was a mystery to him.
Opinions which conflicted with his own most sacred convictions, and
principles which brought an indignant flush to his cheek, were listened
to and apparently acquiesced in by his father. Shund's abominable
diatribe had not roused the old gentleman's anger; Louise's avowed
concurrence with the irreligious principles of the chieftain had not
even provoked his disapprobation.
My God, my God! can it be possible? cried he in an agony of
despair. Has the love of gain so utterly blinded my father? Can he
have sunk so low as to be willing to immolate me, his only child, to a
base speculation? Can he be willing for the sake of a million florins
to bind me for life to this erring creature, this infidel Louise? Can a
paltry million tempt him to be so reckless and cruel? No! no! a
thousand times no! exclaimed he. I never will be the husband of this
woman, neverI swear it by the great God of heaven! Get angry with me,
father, banish me from your sightit would be more tolerable than the
consciousness of being the husband of a woman who believes not in the
Redeemer of the world. I have swornthe matter is for ever settled.
He threw himself into an arm-chair, and moodily stared at the opposite
wall. By degrees, his excitement subsided, and he became quiet.
In fancy, he beheld beside Louise's form another lovely one rise
upthat of the girl with the golden hair, the bright eyes, and the
winning smile. She had stood before him on this very floor, in her neat
and simple country garb, radiant with innocence and purity, adorned
with innate grace and uncommon beauty. And the lapse of days, far from
weakening, had deepened the impression of her first apparition. The
storm that had been raging in his interior was allayed by the
recollection of Mechtild, as the fury of the great deep subsides upon
the reappearance of the sun. Scarcely an hour had passed during which
he had not thought of the girl, rehearsed every word she had uttered,
and viewed the basket of grapes she had brought him. Again he pulled
out the drawer, and looked upon the gift with a friendly smile; then,
locking up the precious treasure, he returned to the parlor.
He found the company on the balcony. The sound of trumpets and drums
came from a distance, and presently a motley procession was seen coming
up the nearest street.
You have just arrived in time to see the procession, cried Louise
to him. It is going to defile past here, so we will be able to have a
good look at it.
A dusky swarm of boys and half-grown youths came winding round the
nearest street-corner, followed immediately by the head of a mock
procession. In the lead marched a fellow dressed in a brown cloak, the
hood of which was drawn over his head. His waist was encircled with a
girdle from which dangled a string of pebbles representing a rosary. To
complete the caricature of a Capuchin, his feet were bare, excepting a
pair of soles which were strapped to them with thongs of leather. In
his hands he bore a tall cross rudely contrived with a couple of
sticks. The image of the cross was represented by a broken
mineral-water bottle. Behind the cross-bearer followed the procession
in a double line, consisting of boys, young men, factory-hands, drunken
mechanics, and such other begrimed and besotted beings as progress
alone can count in its ranks. The members of the procession were
chanting a litany; at the same time they folded their hands, made
grimaces, turned their eyes upwards, or played unseemly pranks with
genuine rosary beads.
Next in the procession came a low car drawn by a watery-eyed mare
which a lad bedizened like a clown was leading by the bridle. In the
car sat a fat fellow whose face was painted red, and eyebrows dyed, and
who wore a long artificial beard. Over a prodigious paunch, also
artificial, he had drawn a long white gown, over which again he wore a
many-colored rag shaped like a cope. On his head he wore a high paper
cap, brimless; around the cap were three crowns of gilt paper to
represent the tiara of the pope. A sorry-looking donkey walked after
the car, to which it was attached by a rope. It was the rôle of
the fellow in the car to address the donkey, make a sign of blessing
over it, and occasionally reach it straw drawn from his artificial
paunch. As often as he went through this man[oe]uvre, the crowd set up
a tremendous roar of laughter. The fat man in the car represented the
pope, and the donkey was intended to symbolize the credulity of the
This mock pope was not a suggestion of Shund's or of any other
inventive progressionist. The whole idea was copied from a caricature
which had appeared in a widely circulating pictorial whose only aim and
pleasure it has been for years to destroy the innate religious
nobleness of the German people by means of shallow wit and vulgar
caricatures. And this very sheet, leagued with a daily organ equally
degraded, can boast of no inconsiderable success. The rude and vulgar
applaud its witticisms, the low and infamous regale themselves with its
pictures, and its demoralizing influence is infecting the land.
The principal feature of the procession was a wagon, hung with
garlands and bestuck with small flags, drawn by six splendid horses. In
it sat a youthful woman, plump and bold. Her shoulders were bare, the
dress being an exaggerated sample of the style décolleté; above
her head was a wreath of oak leaves. She was attended by a number of
young men in masks. They carried drinking-horns, which they filled from
time to time from a barrel, and presented to the bacchante, who
sipped from them; then these gentlemen in waiting drank themselves, and
poured what was left upon the crowd. A band of music, walking in front
of this triumphal car, played airs and marches. Not even the mock pope
was as great an object of admiration as this shameless woman. Old and
young thronged about the wagon, feasting their lascivious eyes on this
beastly spectacle which represented that most disgusting of all
abominable achievements of progressthe emancipated woman. And perhaps
not even progress could have dared, in less excited times, so grossly
to insult the chaste spirit of the German people; but the social
atmosphere had been made so foul by the abominations of the election,
and the spirits of impurity had reigned so absolutely during the
canvass in behalf of common schools, that this immoral show was
suffered to parade without opposition.
The very commencement of this sacrilegious mockery of religion had
roused Seraphin's indignation, and he had retired from the balcony. His
father, however, had remained, coolly watching the procession as it
passed, and carefully noting Louise's remarks and behavior.
What does that woman represent? he asked. A goddess of liberty, I
Only in one sense, I think, replied the progressionist young lady.
The woman wearing the crown symbolizes, to my mind, the enjoyment of
life. She typifies heaven upon earth, now that exact science has done
away with the heaven of the next world.
I should think yon creature rather reminds one of hell, said Mr.
Of hell! exclaimed Louise, in alarm. You are jesting, sir, are
Never more serious in my life, Louise. Notice the shameless
effrontery, the baseness and infamy of the creature, and you will be
forced to form conclusions which, far from justifying the expectation
of peace and happiness in the family circle, the true sphere of woman,
will suggest only wrangling, discord, and hell upon earth.
The young lady did not venture to reply. A gentleman made his way
through the crowd, and waved his hat to the company on the balcony. The
banker returned the salutation.
Official Seicht, said he.
What! an officer of the government in this disreputable crowd!
exclaimed Gerlach, with surprise.
He is on hand to maintain order, explained Greifmann. You see
some policemen, too. Mr. Seicht sympathizes with progress. At the last
meeting, he made a speech in favor of common schools; he sounded the
praises of the gospel of progress, gave a toast at the banquet to the
gospel of progress, and has won for himself the title of evangelist of
progress. He once declared, too, that the very sight of a priest rouses
his blood, and they now pleasantly call him the parson-eater. He is
I am amazed! said Gerlach. Mr. Seicht dishonors his office. He
advocates common schools, insults all the believing citizens of his
district, and runs with mock processionsa happy state of things,
His conduct is the result of careful calculation, returned
Greifmann. By showing hostility to ultramontanism, he commends himself
to progress, which is in power.
But the government should not tolerate such disgraceful behavior on
the part of one of its officials, said Gerlach. The entire official
corps is disgraced so long as this shallow evangelist of progress is
permitted to continue wearing the uniform.
You should not be so exacting, cried Louise. Why will you not
allow officials also to float along with the current of progress until
they will have reached the Eldorado of the position to which they are
The corruption of the state must be fearful indeed, when such
deportment in an officer is regarded as a recommendation, rejoined Mr.
A servant appeared to call them to table.
Would you not like to see the celebration? inquired Louise.
By all means, answered Gerlach. The excitement is of so unusual a
character that it claims attention. You will have to accompany us,
I shall do so with pleasure. When sound popular sentiment thus
proclaims itself, I cannot but feel a strong desire to be present.
The procession had turned the corner of a street where stood Holt
and two more countrymen looking on. The religious sentiment of these
honest men was deeply wounded by the profanation of the cross; and
when, besides, they heard the singing of the mock litany, their anger
kindled, their eyes gleamed, and they mingled fierce maledictions with
the tumult of the mob. Next appeared the mock pope, dispensing
blessings with his right hand, reaching straw to the donkey with his
left, and distorting his painted face into all sorts of farcical
The peasants at once caught the significance of this burlesque.
Their countenances glowed with indignation. Avenging spirits took
possession of Mechtild's father; his strong, stalwart frame seemed
suddenly to have become herculean. His fist of iron doubled itself;
there was lightning in his eyes; like an infuriated lion, he burst into
the crowd, broke the line of the procession, and, directing a
tremendous blow at the head of the mock pope, precipitated him from the
car. The paper cap flew far away under the feet of the bystanders, and
the false beard got into the donkey's mouth. When the mock pope was
down. Holt's comrades immediately set upon him, and tore the
many-colored rag from his shoulders. Then commenced a great tumult. A
host of furious progressionists surrounded the sturdy countrymen,
brandishing their fists and filling the air with mad imprecations.
Kill the dogs! Down with the accursed ultramontanes!
Some of the policemen hurried up to prevent bloodshed. Mr. Seicht
also hurried to the scene of action, and his shrill voice could be
heard high above the noise and confusion.
Gentlemen, I implore you, let the law have its course, gentlemen!
cried he. Gentlemen, friends, do not, I beg you, violate the law!
Trust me, fellow-citizensI shall see that the impertinence of these
ultramontanes is duly punished.
They understood his meaning. Sticks and fists were immediately
Brigadier Forchhaem, cried Mr. Seicht, in a tone of
commandForchhaem, hither! Put handcuffs on these ultramontanes,
these disturbers of the peaceput irons on these revolutionists.
Handcuffs were forthwith produced by the policemen. The towering,
broad-shouldered Holt stood quiet as a lamb, looked with an air of
astonishment at the confusion, and suffered himself to be handcuffed.
His comrades, however, behaved like anything but lambs. They laid about
them with hands and feet, knocking down the policemen, and giving
bloody mouths and noses to all who came within their reach.
Handcuff us! they screamed, grinding their teeth, bleeding and
cursing. Are we cutthroats? The bystanders drew back in apprehension.
The confusion seemed to be past remedying. A thousand voices were
screaming, bawling, and crying at the same time; the circle around the
struggling countrymen was getting wider and wider; and when finally
they attempted to break through, the crowd took to flight, as if a
couple of tigers were after them.
Many of the spectators found a pleasurable excitement in watching
the battle between the policemen and the peasants; but they would not
move a finger to aid the officers of the law in arresting the culprits.
They admired the agility and strength of the countrymen, and the more
fierce the struggle became, the greater grew their delight, and the
louder their merriment.
Holt had been carried on with the motion of the crowd. When he dealt
the blow to the fellow in the car, he was beside himself with rage. The
genuine furor teutonicus had taken possession of him so
irresistibly and so bewilderingly as to leave him utterly without any
of the calm judgment necessary to measure the situation. After his
first adventure, he had submitted to be handcuffed, and had watched the
struggle between Forchhaem and his own comrades in a sort of absence of
mind. He had stood perfectly quiet, his face had become pale, and his
eyes looked about strangely. The excitement of passion was now
beginning to wear off. He felt the cold iron of the manacles around his
wrists, his eyes glared, his face became crimson, the sinews of his
powerful arm stiffened, and with one great muscular convulsion he
wrenched off the handcuffs. Nobody had observed this sudden action, all
eyes being directed to the combatants. Shoving the part of the handcuff
which still hung to his wrist under the sleeve of his jacket, Holt
disappeared through the crowd.
The resistance of the peasants was gradually becoming fainter. At
length they succumbed to overpowering force, and were handcuffed.
Where is the third one? cried Seicht. There were three of them.
Where is the third one? There were three of them, was echoed on
every hand, and all eyes sought for the missing one in the crowd.
The third one has run away, sir, reported Forchhaem.
What's his name? asked Seicht.
A street boy, looking up at the official, ingenuously cried, 'Twas
Seicht looked down upon the obstreperous little informant.
A Tartardo you know him?
No; but these here know him, pointing to the captives.
What is the name of your comrade?
We don't know him, was the surly reply.
Never mind, he will become known in the judicial examination. Off
to jail with these rebellious ultramontanes, the official commanded.
Bound in chains, and guarded by a posse of police, these honest men,
whose religious sense had been so wantonly outraged as to have
occasioned an outburst of noble indignation, were marched through the
streets of the town and imprisoned. They were treated as criminals for
a crime, however, the guilt of which was justly chargeable to those
very rioters who were enjoying official protection.
The procession moved on to the ground selected for the barbecue. A
motley mass, especially of factory-men, were hard at work upon the
scene. The booths, spread far and wide over the common, were thrown
open, and around them moved a swarm of thirsty beings drawing rations
of beer and sausages, with which, when they had received them, they
staggered away to the tables. Degraded-looking women were also to be
seen moving about unsteadily with brimming mugs of beer in their hands.
There were several bands of music stationed at different points around
The chieftains of progress, perambulating the ground with an air of
triumph, bestowed friendly nods of recognition on all sides, and
condescendingly engaged in conversation with some of the rank and file.
Hans Shund approached the awning where the woman with the bare
shoulders and indecent costume had taken a seat. She had captivated the
gallant chief magistrate, who hovered about her as a raven hovers over
a dead carcass. Moving off, he halted within hearing distance, and,
casting frequent glances back, addressed immodest jokes to those who
occupied the other side of the table, at which they laughed and
The men whom Seraphin had met in the subterranean den, on the
memorable night before the election, were also present: Flachsen,
Graeulich, Koenig, and a host of others. They were regaling themselves
with sausages which omitted an unmistakable odor of garlic, and were of
a very dubious appearance; interrupting the process of eating with
frequent and copious draughts from their beer-mugs.
Drink, old woman! cried Graeulich to his wife. Drink, I tell you!
It doesn't cost us anything to-day.
The woman put the jug to her lips and drained it manfully. Other
women who were present screamed in chorus, and the men laughed
Your old woman does that handsomely, applauded Koth. Hell and
thunder! But she must be a real spitfire.
Again they laughed uproariously.
I wish there were an election every day, what a jolly life this
would be! said Koenig. Nothing to do, eating and drinking
gratiswhat more would you wish?
That's the way the bigbugs live all the year round. They may eat
and drink what they like best, and needn't do a hand's turn. Isn't it
glorious to be rich? cried Graeulich.
So drink, boys, drink till you can't stand! We are all of us
And if things were regulated as they should be, said Koth, there
would come a day when we poor devils would also see glorious times. We
have been torturing ourselves about long enough for the sake of others.
I maintain that things will have to be differently regulated.
What game is that you are wishing to come at? Show your hand, old
fellow! cried several voices.
Here's what I mean: Coffers which are full will have to pour some
of their superfluity into coffers which are empty. You take me, don't
'Pon my soul, I can't make you out. You are talking conundrums,
You blockhead, I mean there will soon have to be a partition. They
who have plenty will have to give some to those who have nothing.
Bravo! Long live Koth!
That sort of doctrine is dangerous to the state, said Flachsen.
Such principles bring about revolutions, and corrupt society.
What of society! You're an ass, Flachsen! Koth is rightpartition,
partition! was the cry all round the table.
As you will! I have nothing against it if only it were
practicable, expostulated Flachsen; for I, too, am a radical.
It is practicable! All things are practicable, exclaimed Koth.
Our age can do anything, and so can we. Haven't we driven religion out
of the schools? Haven't we elected Shund for mayor? It is the majority
who rule; and, were we to vote in favor of partition to-morrow,
partition would have to take place. Any measure can be carried by a
majority, and, since we poor devils are in the majority, as soon as we
will have voted for partition it will come without fail.
That's sensible! agreed they all. But then, such a thing has
never yet been done. Do you think it possible?
Anything is possible, maintained Koth. Didn't Shund preach that
there isn't any God, or hell, or devil? Was that ever taught before? If
the God of old has to submit to being deposed, the rich will have to
submit to it. I tell you, the majority will settle the business for the
rich. And if there's no God, no devil, and no life beyond, well then,
you see, I'm capable of laying my hand to anything. If voting won't do,
violence will. Do you understand?
Bravo! Hurrah for Koth!
There must be progress, cried Graeulich, among us as well as
others. We are not going to continue all our lives in wretchedness. We
must advance from labor to comfort without labor, from poverty to
wealth, from want to abundance. Three cheers for progresshurrah!
hurrah!, And the whole company joined in frantically.
There comes Evangelist Seicht, cried Koenig. Though I didn't
understand one word of his speech, I believe he meant well. Although he
is an officer of the government, he cordially hates priests. A man may
say what he pleases against religion, and the church, and the Pope, and
the Jesuits, it rather pleases Seicht. He is a free and enlightened
man, is he. Up with your glasses, boys; if he comes near, let's give
him three rousing cheers.
They did as directed. Men and women cheered lustily. Seicht very
condescendingly raised his hat and smiled as he passed the table. The
ovation put him in fine humor. Though he had failed in securing a place
in the assembly, perhaps the slight would be repaired in the future.
Such was the tenor of his thoughts whilst he advanced to the
climbing-pole, around which was assembled a crowd of boys. Quite a
variety of prizes, especially tobacco-pipes, was hanging from the
cross-pieces at the top of the mast. The pole was so smooth that more
than ordinary strength and activity were required to get to the top.
The greater number of those who attempted the feat gave out and slid
back without having gained a prize. There were also grown persons
standing around watching the efforts of the boys and young men.
It's my turn now, cried the fellow who had carried the cross in
But, first, let me have one more drinkit'll improve the sliding.
He swallowed the drink hastily, then swaying about as he looked and
pointed upward, Do you see that pipe with tassels to it? he said.
That's the one I'm going after.
Throwing aside his mantle, he began to climb.
He'll not get up, he's drunk, cried a lad among the bystanders.
Belladonna has given him two pints of double beer for carrying the
cross in the processionthat's what ails him.
Wait till I come down, I'll slap your jaws, cried the climber.
The spectators were watching him with interest. He was obliged to
pause frequently to rest himself, which he did by winding his legs
tightly round the pole. At last he reached the top. Extending his arm
to take the pipe, it was too short. Climbing still higher, he stretched
his body to its greatest length, lost his hold, and fell to the ground.
The bystanders raised a great cry. The unfortunate youth's head had
embedded itself in the earth, streams of blood gushed from his mouth
and nostrilshe was lifeless.
He's dead! It's all over with him, was whispered around.
Carry him off, commanded Seicht, and then walked on.
One of the bystanders loosed the cross-piece of the mock crucifix;
the corpse was then stretched across the two pieces of wood and carried
off the scene. As the body was carried past, the noise and revelry
Wasn't that the one who carried the cross? was asked. Is he dead?
Did he fall from the pole? How terrible!
Even the progressionist revellers were struck thoughtful, so deeply
is the sense of religion rooted in the heart of man. Many a one among
them, seeing the pale, rigid face of the dead man, understood his fate
to be a solemn warning, and fled from the scene in terror.
The progressionist element of the town was much flattered by the
presence at its orgies of the wealthiest property owner of the country.
The women had already made the discovery that the millionaire's only
son, Mr. Seraphin Gerlach, was on the eve of marrying a member of the
highly respectable house of Greifmann, bankers. But it occasioned them
no small amount of surprise that the young gentleman was not in
attendance on the beautiful lady at the celebration. Louise's radiant
countenance gave no indication, however, that any untoward occurrence
had caused the absence of her prospective husband. The wives and
daughters of the chieftains were sitting under an awning sipping coffee
and eating cake. When Louise approached leaning on her brother's arm,
they welcomed her to a place in the circle of loveliness with many
courtesies and marks of respect.
Mr. Conrad strolled about the place, studying the spirit which
animated the gathering.
CHAPTER XI. PROGRESS GROWS JOLLY.
In passing near the tables Gerlach overheard conversations which
revealed to him unmistakably the communistic aspirations and tendencies
prevailing among the lower orders, their fiendish hatred of religion
and the clergy, their corruption and appalling ignorance. On every hand
he perceived symptoms of an alarmingly unhealthy condition of society.
He heard blasphemies uttered against the Divinity which almost caused
his blood to run cold; sacred things were scoffed at in terms so coarse
and with an animus so plainly satanical that his hair rose on his head.
It was clear to him that the firmest supports, the only true
foundations of the social order, were totteringrotted away by an
In Gerlach's life, also, as in that of many other men, there had
been a period of mental struggle and of doubt. He, too, had at one time
himself face to face with questions the solution of which involved the
whole aim of his existence. During this period of mental unrest, he had
thought and studied much about faith and science, but not with a silly
parade of superficial scepticism. He had resolutely engaged in the soul
struggle, and had tried to end it for once and all. Supported by a good
early training and a disposition naturally noble, instructed and guided
by books of solid learning, he had come out from that crisis stronger
in faith and more correct in his views of human science. The scenes
which he was witnessing reminded him vividly of that turning-point in
his life; they were to him an additional proof that man's dignity
disappears as soon as he refuses to follow the divine guidance of
religion. Grave in mood, he returned to the table around which were
gathered the chieftains. The marks of respect shown to the millionaire
were numerous and flattering. Even the bluff Sand exerted himself
unusually in paying his respects to the wealthy landholder, and
Erdblatt, whose embarrassed financial condition enabled him beyond them
all to appreciate the worth of money, filled a glass with his own hand,
and reached it to Mr. Conrad with the deference of an accomplished
butler, Gerlach was pleased to speak in terms of praise of the
nut-brown beverage, which greatly tickled Belladonna, the fat brewer.
Naturally enough, the conversation turned upon the subject of the
I confess I am not quite clear respecting the purpose of your city
in the matter of schools, said Mr. Conrad. How do you intend to
arrange the school system?
In such a way as to make it accord with the requirements of the
times and the progressive spirit of civilization, answered Hans Shund.
An end must be put to priest rule in the schools. The establishment of
common schools will be a decided step towards this object. For a while,
of course, the priests will be allowed to visit the schools at
specified times, but their influence and control in school matters will
be greatly restricted. Education will be withdrawn from the church's
supervision, and after a few years we hope to reach the point when the
school-rooms will be closed altogether against the priests. There is
not a man of culture but will agree that children should not be
required to learn things which are out of date, and the import of which
must only excite smiles of compassion.
Whom do you intend to put in the place of the clergy? inquired Mr.
We intend to impart useful information and a moral sense in harmony
with the spirit of the age, replied Hans Shund.
It seems to me the elementary branches have been very competently
taught heretofore in our schools, consequently I do not see the need of
a change on this head, said Gerlach. But you have not understood my
question, I mean, who are to fill the office of instructors in morals
and in religion?
The chieftains looked puzzled, for such a question they had not
expected to hear from the wealthiest man of the country.
You see, Mr. Gerlach, said Sand bluntly, religion must be done
away with entirely. We haven't any use for such trash. Children ought
to spend their time in learning something more sensible than the
I am not disposed to believe that what you have just uttered is a
correct expression of the general opinion of this community on the
subject of the school question, returned the millionaire with some
warmth. It is impossible to bring up youth morally without religion.
You are a housebuilder, Mr. Sand. What would you think of the man who
would expect you to build him a house without a foundationa castle in
Why, I would regard him as nothing less than a fool, cried Sand.
The case is identically the same with moral education. Morality is
an edifice which a man must spend his life in laboring at. Religion is
the groundwork of this edifice. Moral training without religion is an
impossibility. It would be just as possible to build a house in the
air, as to train up a child morally without a religious belief, without
being convinced of the existence of a holy and just God.
Facts prove the contrary, maintained Hans Shund. Millions of
persons are moral who have no religious belief.
That's an egregious mistake, sir, opposed the landholder. The
repudiation of a Supreme Being and the violent extinction of the idea
of the Divinity in the breast are of themselves grave offences against
moral conscience. I grant you that, in the eyes of the public,
thousands of men pass for moral who have no faith in religion. But
public opinion is anything but a criterion of certainty when the moral
worth of a man is to be determined. A man's interior is a region which
cannot be viewed by the eye of the public. You know yourselves that
there are men who pass for honorable, moral, pure men, whose private
habits are exceedingly filthy and corrupt.
Hans Shund's color turned a palish yellow; the eyes of the
Besides, gentleman, it would be labor lost to try to educate youth
independently of religion. Man is by his very nature a religious being.
It is useless to attempt to educate the young without a knowledge of
God and of revealed religion; to be able to do so you would previously
have to pluck out of their own breasts the sense of right and wrong,
and out of their souls the idea of God, which are innate in both. Were
the attempt made, however, believe me, gentlemen, the yearning after
God, alive in the human breast, would soon impel the generation brought
up independently of religion to seek after false gods. For this very
reason we know of no people in history that did not recognize and
worship some divinity, were it but a tree or a stone, that served them
for an object of adoration. In my opinion, it would be far more
indicative of genuine progress to adhere to the God of Christians, who
is incontestably holy, just, omnipotent, and kind, whilst to return to
the sacred oaks of ancient Germany or to adopt the fetichism of
uncivilized tribes would be a most monstrous reaction, the most
The chieftains looked nonplussed. Earnest thinking and investigation
upon subjects pertaining to religion were not customary among the
disciples of progress. They looked upon religion as something so common
and trivial that anybody was free to argue upon and condemn it with a
few flippant or smart sayings; But the millionaire was now disclosing
views so new and vast, that their weak vision was completely dazzled,
and their steps upon the unknown domain became unsteady.
Mr. Seicht, observing the embarrassment of the leaders, felt it his
duty to hasten to their relief. His polemical weapons were drawn from
the armory of bureaucracy.
The progressive development of humanity, said Mr. Seicht, has
revealed an admirable substitute for all religious ideas. A state well
organized can exist splendidly without any religion. Nay, I do not
hesitate to maintain that religion is a drawback to the development of
the modern state, and that, therefore, the state should have nothing
whatever to do with religion. An invisible world should not exert an
influence upon a statethe wants of the times are the only rule to be
What do you understand by a state, sir? asked the millionaire.
A state, replied the official, is a union of men whose public
life is regulated by laws which every individual is bound to observe.
You speak of laws; upon what basis are these laws founded?
Upon the basis of humanity, morality, liberty, and right, answered
the official glibly.
And what do you consider moral and just?
Whatever accords with the civilization of the age.
A faint smile passed over the severe features of Mr. Conrad.
I was watching the procession, spoke he. I have seen the
religious feelings of a large number of citizens publicly ridiculed and
grossly insulted. Was that moral? Was it just? You are determined to
oust God and religion from the schools; yet there are thousands in the
country who desire and endeavor to secure a religious education for
their children. Is it moral and just to utterly disregard the wishes of
these thousands? Does it accord with a profession of humanity and
freedom to put constraint on the consciences of fellow-citizens?
The persons of whom you speak are a minority in the state, and the
minority is obliged to yield to the will of the majority, answered
It follows, then, that the basis of morality and justice is
Yes, it is! In a state, it appertains to the majority to determine
and regulate everything.
Gentlemen, spoke Gerlach with great seriousness, as I was a
moment ago strolling over this place, I overheard language at several
tables, which was unmistakably communistic. Laborers and factory men
were maintaining that wealth is unequally distributed; that, whilst a
small number are immensely rich, a much greater number are poor and
destitute; that progress will have to advance to a point when an equal
division of property must be made. Now, the poor and the laboring
population are in the majority. Should they vote for a partition,
should they demand from us what hitherto we have regarded as
exclusively our own, we, gentlemen, will in consistency be forced to
accept the decree of the majority as perfectly moral and justwill we
There was profound silence.
I, for my part, should most emphatically protest against such a
ruling of the majority, declared Greifmann.
Your protest would be contrary to morals and equity; for, according
to Mr. Seicht, only what the majority wills is moral and just,
returned the landowner. And, in mentioning partition of property, I
hinted at a red monster which is not any longer a mere goblin, but a
thing of real flesh and bone. We are on the verge of a fearful social
revolution which threatens to break up society. If there is no holy and
just God; if he has not revealed himself, and man is not obliged to
submit to his will; if the only basis of right and of morals is the
wish of the majority, this terrible social revolution must be moral and
just, for the majority wills it and carries it out.
Of course, there must be a limit, said the official feebly.
The demands of the majority must be reasonable.
What do you understand by reasonable, sir?
I call reasonable whatever accords with the sense of right, with
sound thinking, with moral ideas.
Sense of rightmoral ideas? I beg you to observe that these
notions differ vastly from the sole authority of numbers. You have
trespassed upon God's kingdom in giving your explanation, for ideas are
supersensible; they are the thought of God himself. And the sense of
right was not implanted in the human breast by the word of a majority;
it was placed there by the Creator of man.
The official was driven to the wall. The chieftains thoughtfully
stared at their beer-pots.
It is clear that the will of the majority alone cannot be accepted
as the basis of a state, said Schwefel. The life of society cannot be
put at the mercy of the rude and fickle masses. There must be a moral
order, willed and regulated by a supreme ruler, and binding upon every
man. This is plain.
I agree with you, sir, said the millionaire. Let us continue
building on Christian principles. As everybody knows, our civilization
has sprung from Christianity. If we tear down the altars and destroy
the seats from which lessons of Christian morality are taught,
confusion must inevitably follow. And I, gentlemen, have too exalted an
opinion of the German nation, of its earnest and religious spirit, to
believe that it can be ever induced to fall away completely from God
and his holy law. Infidelity is an unhealthy tendency of our times; it
is a pernicious superstition which sound sense and noble feeling will
ultimately triumph over. We will do well to continue advancing in
science, art, refinement, and industry, in true liberty and the right
understanding of truth; we will thus be making real progress, such
progress as I am proud to call myself a partisan of.
The chieftains maintained silence. Some nodded assent. Hans Shund
gave an angry bite to his pipe-stem, and puffed a heavy cloud of smoke
across the table.
I have confidence in the enlightenment and good sense of our
people, said he. You have called modern progress 'a pernicious
superstition and an unhealthy tendency of the times,' Mr. Gerlach,
turning towards the millionaire with a bow. I regret this view of
Which I have substantiated and proved, interrupted Gerlach.
True, sir! Your proofs have been striking, and I do not feel myself
competent to refute them. But I can point you to something more
powerful than argument. Look at this scene; see these happy people
meeting and enjoying one another's society in most admirable harmony
and order. Is not this spectacle a beautiful illustration and
vindication of the moral spirit of progress?
These people are jubilant from the effect of beer, why shouldn't
they be? But, sir, a profound observer does not 'suffer himself to be
deceived by mere appearances.'
An uproar and commotion at a distance interrupted the millionaire.
At the same instant a policeman approached out of breath.
Your honor, the factorymen and the laborers are attacking one
What are you raising such alarm for, said Hans Shund gruffly. It
is only a small squabble, such as will occur everywhere in a crowd.
I ask your honor's pardon: it is not a small squabble, it is a
Well, part the wranglers.
We cannot manage them; there are too many of them. Shall I apply
Hell and thundermilitary! cried Hans Shund, getting on his feet.
Are you in your senses?
Several men have already been carried off badly wounded, reported
the policeman further. You have no idea how serious the affray is, and
it is getting more and more so; the friends of both sides are rushing
in to aid their own party. The police force is not a match for them.
Women, screaming and in tears, were rushing in every direction. The
bands had ceased playing, and noise and confusion resounded from the
scene of action. Louise ran to take her brother's arm in consternation.
The wives and daughters of the chieftains huddled round their natural
Hurry away and report this at the military post, was Seicht's
order to the policeman. The feud is getting alarming. One moment!
Tearing a leaf from a memorandum book, he wrote a short note, which
he sent by the messenger.
Off to the postbe expeditious!
Louise hastened with her brother and Gerlach senior to their
carriage, and her feeling of security returned only when the noise of
the combat had died away in the distance.
The next day the town papers contained the following notice: The
beautiful celebration of yesterday, which, on account of its object,
will be long remembered by the citizens of this community, was
unfortunately interrupted by a serious conflict between the laborers
and factorymen. A great many were wounded during the mêlée, of
whom five have since died, and it required the interference of an armed
force to separate the combatants.
CHAPTER XII. BROWN BREAD AND
Seraphin had not gone to the celebration. He remained at home on the
plea of not feeling well. He was stretched upon a sofa, and his soul
was engaged in a desperate conflict. What it was impossible for himself
to look upon, had been viewed by his father with composure: the
burlesque procession, the public derision of holy practices, the
mockery of the Redeemer of the world, in whose place had been put a
broken bottle on the symbol of salvation. He himself had been stunned
by the spectacle; and his father? Was it his father? Again, his father
had accompanied the brother and sister to the infamous celebration. Was
not this a direct confirmation of his own suspicions? His father had
become a fearful enigma to his soul! And what if, upon his return from
the festival, the father were to come and insist upon the marriage with
Louise, declaring her advanced notions to be an insufficient ground for
renouncing a pet project? A wild storm was convulsing his interior. He
could not bear it longer, he was driven forth. Snatching his straw hat,
he rushed from the house, ran through the alleys and streets, out of
the town, onward and still onward. The August sun was burning, and its
heat, reflected from the road, was doubly intense. The perspiration was
rolling in large drops down the glowing face of the young man, whom
torturing thoughts still kept goading on. Holt's whitewashed dwelling
became visible on the summit of a knoll, and gleamed a friendly welcome
as he came near ita welcome which seemed opportune for one who hardly
knew whither he was hastening. The walnut-tree which could be seen from
afar was casting an inviting shade over the table and bench that seemed
to be confidingly leaning against its stem. A flock of chickens were
taking a sand-bath under the table, flapping their wings, ruffling
their feathers, and wallowing in the dust. Seated on the sunny hillock,
the cottage appeared quiet, almost lonesome but for a ringing sound
which came from the adjoining field and was made by the sickle passing
through the corn. A broad-brimmed straw hat with a blue band could be
noticed from the road moving on over the fallen grain, and presently
Mechtild's slender form rose into view as she pushed actively onward
over the harvest field. Hasty steps resounded from the road. She raised
her head, and her countenance first indicated surprise, then
embarrassment. Whom did her eyes behold rushing wildly by, like a
fugitive, but the generous rescuer of her family from the clutches of
the usurer Shund. His hat was in his hand, his auburn locks were
hanging down over his forehead, his face aglow, his whole being seemed
to be absorbed in a mad pursuit. To her quick eye his features revealed
deep trouble and violent excitement She was frightened, and the sickle
fell from her hand. Not a day passed on which she would not think of
this benefactor. Perhaps there was not a being on earth whom she
admired and revered as much as she did him. All the pure and elevated
sentiments of an innocent and blooming girl, united to form a halo of
affection round the head of Seraphin. At evening prayer when her father
said, Let us pray for our benefactor Seraphin, her soul sent up a
fervent petition to God, and she declared with joy that she was willing
to sacrifice all for him. But behold this noble object of her
admiration and affection suddenly presented before her in a state that
excited the greatest uneasiness. With his head sunk and his eyes
directed straight before him, he would have rushed past without
noticing the sympathizing girl, when a greeting clear and sweet as the
tone of a bell caused him to look up. He beheld Mechtild with her
beautiful eyes fixed upon him in an expression of anxiety.
Good-morning, Mr. Seraphin, she said again.
Good-morning, he returned mechanically, and staring about vaguely.
His bewilderment soon passed, however, and his gaze was riveted by the
She was standing on the other side of the ditch. The fear of some
unknown calamity had given to her beautiful face an expression of
tender solicitude, and whilst a smile struggled for possession of her
lips her look indicated painful anxiety. Mechtild's appearance soon
directed the young man's attention to his own excited manner. The dark
shadow disappeared from his brow, he wiped the perspiration from his
face, and began to feel the effect of his walk under the glowing heat
Ah! here is the neat little white house, your pretty country home,
Mechtild, he said pleasantly. If you had not been so kind as to wish
me good-morning, I should actually have passed by in an unpardonable
fit of distraction.
I was almost afraid to say good-morning, Mr. Seraphin, but She
faltered and looked confused.
Butwhat? You didn't think anything was wrong?
No! But you were in such a hurry and looked so troubled, I got
frightened, she confessed with amiable uprightness. I was afraid
something had happened you.
I am thankful for your sympathy. Nothing has happened me, nor, I
trust, will, he replied, with a scarcely perceptible degree of
defiance in his tone. This is a charming situation. Corn-fields on all
sides, trees laden with fruit, the skirt of the woods in the
backgroundand then this magnificent view! With your permission, I
will take a moment's rest in the shade of yon splendid walnut-tree
planted by your great-grandfather.
She joyfully nodded assent and stepped over the ditch. She shoved
back the bolt of the gate. Together they entered the yard, which a
hedge separated from the road. The cock crew a welcome to the stranger,
and led his household from the sand-bath into the sunshine near the
This is a cool, inviting little spot, said the millionaire, as he
pointed to the shade of the walnut-tree. No doubt you often sit here
Yes, Mr. Seraphin; but the dirty chickens have scattered dust all
over the bench and table. Wait a minute, you'll get your clothes
She hurried into the house. His eyes followed her receding form, his
ears kept listening for her departing steps, he heard the opening and
closing of doors: presently she reappeared, dusted the bench and table
with a brush, and spread a white cloth over the table. Seraphin looked
on with a smile.
I do not wish to be troublesome, Mechtild!
It is no trouble, Mr. Seraphin! Sit down, now, and rest yourself. I
am so sorry father and mother are not at home. They will be ever so
glad to hear that you have honored us with a visit.
Is nobody at home?
Father is in town, and mother is at work with the children in the
Are you not afraid to stay here by yourself?
What should I be afraid of? There are no ghosts in daytime, she
said with a bewitching archness; and as for thieves, they never expect
to find anything worth having at our house.
She was standing on the other side of the table, looking at him with
a beautiful smile.
Won't you have a seat on this bench? said he, making room for her.
You need rest more than I do. You have been working, and I am merely
an idle stroller. Do take a seat, Mechtild.
Thank you, Mr. SeraphinI could not think of doing so! It would
not be becoming, she answered with some confusion.
Why not becoming?
Because you are a gentleman, and I am only a poor girl.
Your objection on the score of propriety is not worth anything.
Oblige me by doing what I ask of you.
I will do so, Mr. Seraphin, since you insist upon it, but after a
while. I would like to offer you some refreshments beforehand, if you
will allow me.
With pleasure, he said, nodding assent.
A second time she hurried away to the house, whilst he kept
listening to her footsteps. The extraordinary neatness and cleanliness
which could be seen everywhere about the little homestead did not
escape his observation. On all sides he fancied he saw the work of
Mechtild. The purity of her spirit, which beamed so mildly from her
eyes and was revealed in the beauty of her countenance and the grace of
her person, seemed embodied in the very odor of roses wafted over from
the neighboring flower garden. He was unconscious of the rapid growth
within his bosom of a deep and tender feeling. This feeling was casting
a warm glow, like softest sunshine, over all that he beheld. Not even
the chickens looked to him like other fowls of their kind; they were
ennobled by the reflection that they were objects of Mechtild's care,
that she fed them, that when they were still piping little pullets she
had held them in her lap and caressed them. He abandoned himself
completely to this sentiment; it carried him on like a smooth current;
and he could not tell, did not suspect even, why so wonderful a
reaction had in so short a time taken place in his interior. Beholding
himself seated under the walnut-tree surrounded only by evidences of
honorable poverty and rural thrift, and yet feeling a degree of
happiness and peace he had never known before, he fancied he was
performing a part in some fairy tale which he was dreaming with his
eyes open. And now the fairy appeared at the door having on a
snowy-white apron, and carrying a shallow basket from which could be
seen, protruding above the rest of its contents, a milk jar. She set
before him a pewter plate, bright as silver. Then she took out the jar
and a cup, next she laid a knife and spoon for him, and finished her
hospitable service with a huge loaf of bread.
Don't get dismayed at the bread, Mr. Seraphin! I am sorry I cannot
set something better before you. But it is well baked and will not hurt
You baked it yourself, did you not?
Yes, Mr. Seraphin!
He attacked the loaf resolutely. From the dimensions of the slice
which he cut off, it was plain that appetite and his confidence in her
skill were satisfactory. She raised the jar of bonnyclabber, which
lurched out in jerks upon his plate, whilst he kept gayly stirring it
with the spoon. Then she dipped a spoonful of rich cream out of the cup
and poured it into the refreshing contents of the plate.
Let me know when you want me to stop, Mr. Seraphin. Mechtild
poured spoonful after spoonful; he sat immovable, seemingly observing
the spoon, but in reality watching her soft plump fingers, then her
well-shaped hand, next her exquisitely arm, and, when finally he raised
his eyes to her face, they were met by a mischievous smile. The cup was
empty, and all the cream was in his plate.
May I go and fetch some more? she asked.
No, Mechtild, no! Why, this is a regular yellow sea!
You wouldn't cry 'enough!'
I forgot about it, he replied, somewhat confused. To atone for my
forgetfulness, I will eat it all.
I hope you will relish it, Mr. Seraphin!
Thank you! Where is your plate?
I had my dinner before you came.
Well, then, at any rate you must not continue standing. Won't you
share this seat with me?
She seated herself upon the bench, took off her hat, smoothed down
her apron, and appeared happy at seeing him eating heartily.
Don't you find that dish refreshing, Mr. Seraphin?
You have done me a real act of charity, he replied. This bread,
is excellent. Who taught you how to make bread?
I learned from mother; but there isn't much art in making that sort
of bread, Mr. Seraphin. The food which people in the country eat does
not require artistic preparation. It only needs good, pure material, so
that it may give strength to labor.
I suppose you attend to the kitchen altogether, do you not?
Yes, Mr. Seraphin. That's not very difficult, our meals are of the
plainest kind. We have meat once a week, on Sundays. When the work is
unusually hard, as in harvest time, we have meat oftener. We raise our
own meat and cure it.
You have assumed household cares at quite an early age, Mechtild.
Early? I am seventeen now, and am the oldest. Mother has a great
deal of trouble with the small ones, so the housework falls chiefly to
my share. It does not require any great exertion, however, to do it.
Plain and saving is our motto. Mother specially recommends four things:
industry, cleanliness, order, and economy. She advises me not to
neglect any one of these points when once I will have a household of my
Do you think you will soon set up a separate household? asked he
with some hesitation.
Not for some time to come, Mr. Seraphin, yet it must be done one
day. If my own inclination were consulted, I would prefer never to
leave home. I should like things to continue as they are. But a
separation must come. Death will pay us a visit as it has done to
others, father and mother will pass away, and the course of events will
sever us from one another.
Her head sank, the brightness of her face became obscured beneath
the shadow of these sombre thoughts, and, when she again looked up,
there appeared in her eyes so touching and childlike a sadness that he
felt pained to the soul. And yet this revelation of tenderness pleased
him, for it made known to him a new phase of her amiable nature.
For a long time he continued conversing with the artless girl. Every
word she uttered, no matter how trifling, had an interest for him.
Besides her charming artlessness, he had frequent occasions to admire
the wisdom of her language and her admirable delicacy. The setting sun
had already cast a subdued crimson over the hilltops, hours had sped
away, the chickens had gone to roost, still he remained riveted to the
spot by Mechtild's grace and loveliness.
Father is just coming, she said, pointing down the road. How glad
he will be to find you here!
His head bent forward. Holt came wearily plodding up the road. His
right hand was hidden in the pocket of his pantaloons, and his head was
bowed, as if beneath a heavy weight. As Mechtild's clear voice rang
out, he raised his head, caught sight of his high-hearted benefactor,
and smiled in joyful surprise.
Welcome, Mr. Seraphin; a thousand times welcome! he cried from the
other side of the road. Why, this is an honor that I had not
He stood uncovered, holding his cap in the left hand, his right hand
was still concealed. Mechtild at once noticed her father's singular
behavior, and her eye watched anxiously for the hidden hand.
Your daughter has been so kind as to offer refreshments to a weary
wanderer, said Gerlach, and it has been a great pleasure for me to
sit awhile. We have been chatting for several hours under this glorious
tree, and may be I am to blame for keeping her from her work.
Holt's honest face beamed with satisfaction. He entirely forgot
about his secret, he drew his hand out of his pocket, Mechtild turned
pale, and a sharp cry escaped her lips.
For mercy's sake, father! And she pointed to the broken chain.
What are you screaming for, foolish girl? Don't be alarmed, Mr.
Seraphin! this chain has got on my arm in an honorable cause. I will
tell you the whole story; I know you will not inform on me.
Seating himself on the bench, he related the adventures of the day.
The mock procession passed before Mechtild's imagination with the
vividness of reality. The narration transformed her. Her mildness was
changed to noble anger. She had heard of the vicar of Christ being
insulted, of holy things being scoffed at, of the Redeemer being
derided by a horde of wretches. With her arms akimbo, she drew up her
lithe and graceful form to its full height, and with flashing eyes
looked at her father while he related what had befallen him. Seraphin
could not help wondering at the transformation. Such a display of
spirit he had not been prepared to witness in a girl so gentle and
beautiful. When her father had ended his account, she seized his hand
passionately, pressed it warmly between her own hands, and kissed the
Father, dear father, she exclaimed in a burst of feeling, I thank
you from my heart for acting as you did! Those wretches were scoffing
at our holy religion, but you behaved bravely in defence of the faith.
For this they put chains on you, as the heathen did to S. Peter and S.
Once more she kissed the chain, then, turning quickly, hastened
across the yard to the house.
Mechtild isn't like the rest of us, said Holt, smiling. There's a
great deal of spirit in her. I have often noticed it. But I am not
astonished at her being roused at the mock processionI was roused
myself. I declare, Mr. Seraphin, it is a shame, a crying shame, that
persons are permitted to rail at doctrines and things which we revere
as holy. One would almost believe Satan himself was in some people,
they take so fanatical a delight in scoffing at a religion which is
holy and enjoins nothing but what is good.
It is incontestable that infidelity hates and opposes God and
religion, replied Gerlach. The boasted culture of those who find a
pleasure in grossly wounding the most sacred feelings of their
neighbors, is wicked and stupid.
Mechtild returned with a file in her hand.
Right, my child! I was just thinking of the file myself. Here, cut
the catches of the lock.
He laid his arm across the table. A few strokes of the file caused
the lock and remnant of chain to fall from his wrist.
We will keep this as a precious memento, said she. Only think,
father, that wicked official ordered you to be manacled, and he is the
representative of authority. How can one respect or even pray for
authorities when they allow religion to be ridiculed?
Pray for your enemies, answered the countryman gravely.
I will do so because God commands me; but I shall never again be
able to respect the official!
Her anger had fled; she appeared again all light and loveliness. He
did not fail to observe a searching look which she directed upon him,
but its meaning became clear to him only when, as he was taking leave,
she said in a tone of humility: Pardon my vehemence, Mr. Seraphin!
Don't think me a bad girl.
There is nothing to be forgiven, Mechtild. You were indignant
against godless wretches, and they who are not indignant against evil
cannot themselves be good.
We are most heartily thankful for this visit, spoke Holt. I need
not say that we will consider it a great happiness as often as you will
be pleased to come.
Good-night! returned the young man, and he walked away.
Deeply immersed in his thoughts, Seraphin went back to town. What he
was thinking about, his diary does not record. But the excitement under
which he had rushed forth was gonedispelled by the magic of a rural
sorceress. He walked on quietly like a man who seems filled with
confidence in his own future. The recent painful impressions seemed to
his mind to lie far back in the past; their place was taken up by
beautiful anticipations which, like the aurora, shed soft and pleasing
light upon his path. He halted frequently in a dream-like reverie to
indulge the happiness with which his soul was flooded. The full moon,
just peering over the hills, shed around him a mystic brightness that
harmonized perfectly with the indefinable contentment of his heart, and
seemed to be gazing quizzingly into the countenance of the young man,
who almost feared to confess to himself that he had found an invaluable
As he stopped before the Palais Greifmann, all the bright spirits
that had hovered round about him on the way back from the little
whitewashed cottage, fled. He awoke from his dream, and, ascending the
stairs with a feeling of discomfort, he entered his apartment, where
his father sat awaiting him.
At last, spoke Mr. Conrad, looking up from a book. You have kept
me waiting a long time, my son.
I was in need of a good long walk, father, to get over what I
witnessed this morning. The country air has dispelled all those
horrible impressions. There is only one thing more required to make me
feel perfectly well, dear father, which is that you will not insist on
my allying myself to people who are utterly opposed to my way of
thinking and feeling.
I understand and approve of your request, Seraphin. The impressions
made on me, too, are exceedingly disagreeable. The advancement of which
this town boasts is stupid, immoral, detestable. How this state of
society has come about, is inexplicable to me who live secluded in the
country. Society is diseased, fatally diseased. Many of the new views
professed are sheer superstition, and their morality is a mere cloak
for their corruption and wickedness. All the powers of progress
so-called are actively at work to subvert all the safeguards of
society. And what your diary reports of Louise, I have found fully
confirmed. Though it cost the sacrifice of a long cherished plan, a son
of mine shall never become the husband of a progressionist woman.
O father! how deeply do I thank you! cried the youth, carried away
by his feelings.
I must decline being thanked, for I have not merited it, spoke Mr.
Conrad earnestly. A father's duty determines very clearly what my
decision upon the matter of your marriage with Louise, ought to be. But
I am under obligations to you, my son, which justice compels me to
acknowledge. Your discernment and moral sense have prevented a great
deal of discord and unhappiness in our family. Continue good and true,
He pressed his son to his bosom and imprinted a kiss on his
To-morrow we shall start for home by the first train. Fortunately
your prudent behavior makes it easy for us to get away, and the final
breaking off of this engagement I will myself arrange with Louise's
SERAPHIN GERLACH TO THE AUTHOR.
Dear Sir: Two years ago, I took the liberty of sending you my diary,
with the request that you would be pleased to publish such portions of
its contents as might be useful, in the form of a tale illustrative of
the times. I made the request because I consider it the duty of a
writer who delineates the condition of society, to transmit to
posterity a faithful picture of the present social status, and I am
vain enough to believe that my jottings will be a modest contribution
towards such a tableau.
The meagre account given by the diary of my intercourse with
Mechtild, will probably have enabled you to perceive the germ of a pure
and true relation likely to develop itself further. I shall add but a
few items to complete the account of the diary, knowing that poets,
painters, and artists have rigorously determined bounds, and that a
twilight cannot be represented when the sun is at the zenith. I am
emboldened to use this illustration because your unbounded admiration
of pure womanhood is well known to me, and because the brightness of
Mechtild's character, were it further described, would no more be
compatible with the sombre colorings in which a true picture of modern
progress would have to be exhibited, than the noonday sun with the
shadows of evening.
My memoranda concerning Mechtild, which, despite studied soberness,
betrayed a considerable degree of admiration, made known to my parents,
naturally enough, the secret of my heart. Hence it came that a quiet
smile passed over my father's face every time I commenced to speak of
Mechtild. Holt's manly deed at the mock procession had already gained
for him my father's esteem, and, as I spoke a great deal about Holt's
thoroughness as a cultivator, my father began to look upon him as a
very desirable man to employ.
We want an experienced man on the 'green farm,' said father, one
day. Offer the situation to Holt, and tell him to come to see me about
it. I want to talk with him.
Give the good man my compliments, said mother; tell him I would
be much pleased to become acquainted with Mechtild, who sympathized
with you so kindly on that memorable day!
I wrote without delay. Holt came, and so did Mechtild. But few
moments were necessary to enable mother to detect the girl's fine
qualities. Father, too, was delightfully surprised at her modesty, the
beauty of her form, and grace of her manner. He visited the farm
accompanied by Holt. The cultivator's extraordinary knowledge, his
practical manner of viewing things, and the shrewdness of his counsels
in regard to the improvement of worn-out land and the cultivation of
poor soil, completely charmed my father. A contract containing very
favorable conditions for Holt was entered into, and three weeks later
the family took charge of the green farm.
Upon mother's suggestion, Mechtild was sent to an educational
institution, where she acquired in ten months' time the learning and
culture necessary for associating with cultivated people.
Father and mother had received her on her return like a daughter.
This reception was given her not only in consideration of Holt's
skilful and faithful management of business, but also on account of
Mechtild's own splendid womanly characterperhaps, too, partly on
account of my unbounded admiration for the rare girl.
The girl is an ornament to her sex, lauded my father. Her
polished manner and ease in company do not suffer one to suspect ever
so remotely that she at any time plied the reaping-hook, and came out
of a stubblefield to regale a weary wanderer with brown bread and
bonnyclabber. I am quite in harmony with, your secret wishes, my dear
Seraphin! At the same time, I am of opinion that a step promising so
much happiness ought not to be longer deferred. I think, then, you
should ask the father for his daughter without delay, so that I may
soon have the pleasure of giving you my blessing.
From my father's arms, into which. I had thrown myself in
thankfulness, I hastened away to the green farm, where Mechtild with
maidenly blushes, and Holt in speechless astonishment, heard and
granted my petition.
I am now four months married. I am the blest husband of a wife whose
lovely qualities are daily showing themselves to greater advantage.
Mechtild presides over Chateau Hallberg like an angel of peace. Towards
my father and mother she conducts herself with filial reverence and
never-ceasing delicate attentions. Mother loves her unspeakably, and no
access of ill humor in father can withstand her charming smile and
prudent mirth. Concerning the banking-house of Greifmann, I have only
sad things to tell. Carl's father had entered into very considerable
speculations which failed and drove him into bankruptcy. Carl saw the
blow coming, and saved himself in a disgraceful manner. There was a
savings institution connected with the bank in which poor people and
servants deposited the savings of their hard labor. Carl appropriated
this fund and made off a short time before the failure of the house.
Thousands of poor persons were robbed of the little sums which they
were saving for old age, by denying themselves many even of the
necessaries of life.
The maledictions and curses of these unfortunate people followed
across the ocean the thief whose modern culture and progressive
humanity did not hinder him from committing a crime which no Christian
can be guilty of without losing his claim to the title. Carl, however,
still continues to pass for a man of culture and humanity
notwithstanding his deed. And why should he not, since without faith in
the Deity moral obligations do not exist, and consequently every
species of crime is allowable? The old gentleman Greifmann died shortly
after his ruin; Louise lost her mind.
My father felt the misfortune of the Greifmanns deeply, without,
however, regretting in the smallest degree the wise determination which
their godless principles and actions had driven him to. Formerly he
could never find time to take part in the elections. But now he is
constantly speaking about the duty of every respectable man to oppose
the infernal machinations and plans of would-be progress. He intends at
the next election to use all his influence for the election of
conscientious deputies, so that the evil may be put an end to which
consists in trying to undermine the foundations of society.
Accept, dear sir, the assurance of the esteem with which I have the
honor to be
Your most obedient servant,
Chateau Hallberg, Jan. 4, 1872.
FOOTNOTE TO THE PROGRESSIONISTS.
[Footnote 1: Proverbs vi., vii.]