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Title: The Story of My Life — Volume 05
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Volume 5.



It was hard for me to leave Keilhau, but our trip to Rudolstadt, to which
my dearest companions accompanied me, was merry enough.  With Barop's
permission we had a banquet in the peasant tavern there, whose cost was
defrayed by the kreutzers which had been paid as fines for offences
against table rules.  At one of these tables where we larger boys sat,
only French was spoken; at another only the purest German; and we had
ourselves made the rule that whoever used a word of his native tongue at
one, or a foreign one at the other, should be fined a kreutzer.

How merry were these banquets, at which usually several teachers were
welcome guests!

One of the greatest advantages of Keilhau was that our whole lives, and
even our pleasures, were pure enough not to shun a teacher's eyes.  And
yet we were true, genuine boys, whose overplus of strength found vent not
only in play, but all sorts of foolish tricks.

A smile still hovers around my lips when I think of the frozen snow-man
on whose head we put a black cap and then placed in one of the younger
teacher's rooms to personate a ghost, and the difficulty we had in
transporting the monster, or when I remember our pranks in the dormitory.

I believe I am mentioning these cheerful things here to give myself a
brief respite, for the portion of my life which followed is the one I
least desire to describe.

Rousseau says that man's education is completed by art, Nature,
and circumstances.  The first two factors had had their effect upon me,
and I was now to learn for the first time to reckon independently with
the last; hitherto they had been watched and influenced in my favour by
others.  This had been done not only by masters of the art of pedagogy,
but by their no less powerful co-educators, my companions, among whom
there was not a single corrupt, ill-disposed boy.  I was now to learn
what circumstances I should find in my new relations, and in what way
they would prove teachers to me.

I was to be placed at school in Kottbus, at that time still a little
manufacturing town in the Mark.  My mother did not venture to keep me in
Berlin during the critical years now approaching.  Kottbus was not far
away, and knowing that I was backward in the science that Dr. Boltze,
the mathematician, taught, she gave him the preference over the heads
of the other boarding-schools in the Mark.

I was not reluctant to undertake the hard work, yet I felt like a colt
which is led from the pastures to the stable.

A visit to my grandmother in Dresden, and many pleasures which I was
permitted to share with my brothers and sisters, seemed to me like the
respite before execution.

My mother accompanied me to my new school, and I can not describe the
gloomy impression made by the little manufacturing town on the flat
plains of the Mark, which at that time certainly possessed nothing that
could charm a boy born in Berlin and educated in a beautiful mountain

In front of Dr. Boltze's house we found the man to whose care I was to be
entrusted.  At that time he was probably scarcely forty years old, short
in stature and very erect, with a shrewd face whose features indicated an
iron sternness of character, an impression heightened by the thick, bushy
brows which met above his nose.

He himself said that people in Pomerania believed that men with such
eyebrows stood in close relations to Satan.  Once, while on his way in a
boat from Greifswald to the island of Rugen, the superstitious sailors
were on the point of throwing him overboard because they attributed their
peril to him as the child of the devil, yet, he added--and he was a
thoroughly truthful man--the power which these strange eyebrows gave him
over others, and especially over men of humble station, induced them to
release him.

But after we had learned what a jovial, indulgent comrade was hidden
behind the iron tyrant who gazed so threateningly at us from the black
eyes beneath the bushy brows, our timidity vanished, and at last we found
it easy enough to induce him to change a resolute "No" into a yielding

His wife, on the contrary, was precisely his opposite, for she wielded
the sceptre in the household with absolute sway, though so fragile a
creature that it seemed as if a breath would blow her away.  No one could
have been a more energetic housekeeper.  She was as active an assistant
to her husband with her pen as with her tongue.  Most of my reports are
in her writing.  Besides this, one pretty, healthy child after another
was born, and she allowed herself but a brief time for convalescence.
I was the godfather of one of these babies, an honour shared by my
school-mate, Von Lobenstein.  The baptismal ceremony was performed in the
Boltze house.  The father and we were each to write a name on a slip of
paper and lay it beside the font.  We had selected the oddest ones we
could think of, and when the pastor picked up the slips he read Gerhard
and Habakkuk.  Thanks to the care and wisdom of his excellent mother, the
boy throve admirably in spite of his cognomen, and I heard to my great
pleasure that he has become an able man.

This boyish prank is characteristic of our relations.  If we did not go
too far, Frau Boltze always took our part, and understood how to smooth
her husband's frowning brow quickly enough.  Besides, it was a real
pleasure to be on good terms with her, for, as the daughter of a
prominent official, she had had an excellent education, and her quick
wit did honour to her native city, Berlin.

Had Dr. Boltze performed his office of tutor with more energy, it would
have been better for us; but in other respects I can say of him nothing
but good.

The inventions he made in mechanics, I have been told by experts, were
very important for the times and deserved greater success.  Among them
was a coach moved by electricity.

My mother and I were cordially welcomed by this couple, on conversing
with whom my first feeling of constraint vanished.

The examination next morning almost placed me higher than I expected,
for the head-master who heard me translate at first thought me prepared
for the first class; but Pro-Rector Braune, who examined me in Latin
grammar, said that I was fitted only for the second.

When I left the examination hall I was introduced by Dr. Boltze to one of
my future school-fellows in the person of an elegant young gentleman who
had just alighted from a carriage and was patting the necks of the horses
which he had driven himself.

I had supposed him to be a lieutenant in civilian's dress, for his dark
mustache, small whiskers, and the military cut of his hair, which already
began to be somewhat thin, made me add a lustrum to his twenty-one years.

After my new tutor had left us this strange school-fellow entered into
conversation with me very graciously, and after telling me many things
about the school and its management which seemed incredible, he passed
on to the pupils, among whom were some "nice fellows," and mentioned a
number of names, principally of noble families whose bearers had come
here to obtain the graduation certificate, the key without which
so many doors are closed in Prussia.

Then he proceeded to describe marvels which I was afterwards to witness,
but which at that time I did not know whether I ought to consider
delightful or quite the contrary.

Of course, I kept my doubts to myself and joined in when he laughed; but
my heart was heavy.  Could I avoid these companions?  Yet I had come to
be industrious, prepare quickly for the university, and give my mother

Poor woman!  She had made such careful inquiries before sending me here;
and what a dangerous soil for a precocious boy just entering the years of
youth was this manufacturing town and an institution so badly managed as
the Kottbus School!  I had come hither full of beautiful ideals and
animated by the best intentions; but the very first day made me suspect
how many obstacles I should encounter; though I did not yet imagine the
perils which lay in my companion's words.  All the young gentlemen who
had been drawn hither by the examination were sons of good families,
but the part which these pupils, and I with them, played in society,
at balls, and in all the amusements of the cultivated circle in the town
was so prominent, the views of life and habits which they brought with
them so completely contradicted the idea which every sensible person has
of a grammar-school boy, that their presence could not fail to injure the

Of course, all this could not remain permanently concealed from the
higher authorities.  The old head-master was suddenly retired, and one
of the best educators summoned in his place man who quickly succeeded
in making the decaying Kottbus School one of the most excellent in all
Prussia.  I had the misfortune of being for more than two years a pupil
under the government of the first head-master, and the good luck of
spending nearly the same length of time under the charge of his

My mother was satisfied with the result of the examination, and the next
afternoon she drove with me to our relatives at Komptendorf.  Frau von
Berndt, the youngest daughter of our beloved kinsman, Moritz von
Oppenfeld, united to the elegance of a woman reared in a large city
the cordiality of the mistress of a country home.  Her husband won the
entire confidence of every one who met the gaze of his honest blue eyes.
He had given up the legal profession to take charge of his somewhat
impoverished paternal estate, and soon transformed it into one of the
most productive in the whole neighbourhood.

He was pleased that I, a city boy, knew so much about field and forest,
so at my very first visit he invited me to repeat it often.

The next morning I took leave of my mother, and my school life began.
In many points I was in advance of the other pupils in the second class,
in others behind them; but this troubled me very little--school seemed a
necessary evil.  My real life commenced after its close, and here also my
natural cheerfulness ruled my whole nature.  The town offered me few
attractions, but the country was full of pleasures.  Unfortunately,
I could not go to Komptendorf as often as I wished, for it was a two
hours' walk, and horses and carriages were not always at my disposal.
Yet many a Saturday found me there, enjoying the delight of chatting with
my kind hostess about home news and other pleasant things, or reading
aloud to her.

Even in the second year of my stay at Kottbus I went to every dance given
on the estates in the neighbourhood and visited many a delightful home in
the town.  Then there were long walks--sometimes with Dr. Boltze and my
school-mates, sometimes with friends, and often alone.

We frequently took a Sunday walk, which often began on Saturday
afternoon, usually with merry companions and in the society of our stern
master, who, gayer than the youngest of us, needed our care rather than
we his.  In this way I visited the beautiful Muskau, and still more
frequently the lovely woodlands of the Spree, a richly watered region
intersected by numerous arms of the river and countless canals, resting
as quietly under dense masses of foliage as a child asleep at noontide
beneath the shadow of a tree.

The alders and willows, lindens and oaks, which grow along the banks,
are superb; flocks of birds fly twittering and calling from one bush and
branch to another; but all human intercourse is carried on, as in Venice,
by boats which glide noiselessly to and fro.

Whoever desires a faithful and minute picture of this singular region,
which reminded me of many scenes in Holland and many of Hobbema's
paintings, should read The Goddess of Noon.  It contains a number of
descriptions whose truth and vividness are matchless.

Every trip into the woodlands of the Spree offered an abundance of
beautiful and pleasurable experiences, but I remember with still greater
enjoyment my leafy nooks on the river-bank.



Although the events of my school-days at Kottbus long since blended
together in my, memory, my life there is divided into two sharply
defined portions.  The latter commences with Professor Tzschirner's
appointment and the reform in the school.

From the first day of the latter's government I can recall what was
taught us in the class and how it influenced me, while I have entirely
forgotten what occurred during the interim.  This seems strange; for,
while Langethal's, Middendorf's, and Barop's instruction, which I
received when so much younger, remains vividly impressed on my memory,
and it is the same with Tzschirner's lessons, the knowledge I acquired
between my fifteenth and seventeenth year is effaced as completely as
though I had passed a sponge over the slate of my memory.  A chasm yawns
between these periods of instruction, and I cannot ascribe this
circumstance entirely to the amusements which withdrew my thoughts from
study; for they continued under Tzschirner's rule, though with some
restrictions.  I wish I could believe that everything which befel me
then had remained entirely without influence on my inner life.

A demon--I can find no other name--urged me to all sorts of follies, many
of which I still remember with pleasure, and, thank Heaven, not a single
one which a strict teacher--supposing that he had not forgotten how to
put himself into the place of a youth--would seriously censure.  The
effervescing spirits which did not find vent in such pranks obtained
expression in a different form.

I had begun to write, and every strong emotion was uttered in verses,
which I showed to the companions from whom I could expect sympathy.  My
school-mates were very unlike.  Among the young gentlemen who paid a high
price to attend the school not a single one had been really industrious
and accomplished anything.  But neither did any one of the few lads whose
fathers were peasants, or who belonged to the lower ranks, stand at the
head of his class.  They were very diligent, but success rarely
corresponded with the amount of labour employed.  The well-educated
but by no means wealthy middle class supplied the school with its best

The evolution of the human soul is a strange thing.  The period during
which, in my overflowing mirth, I played all sorts of wild pranks, and at
school worked earnestly for one teacher only, often found me toiling late
at night for hours with burning head over a profound creation--I called
it The Poem of the World--in which I tried to represent the origin of
cosmic and human life.

Many other verses, from a sonnet to the beautiful ears of a pretty cousin
to the commencement of the tragedy of Panthea and Abradatus, were written
at that time; but I owe The Poem of the World special gratitude, for it
kept me from many a folly, and often held me for weeks at my desk during
the evening hours which many of my comrades spent in the tavern.
Besides, it attracted the new head-master's attention to my poetical
tastes, for a number of verses had been left by mistake in an exercise-
book.  He read them, and asked to see the rest.  But I could not fulfil
the wish, for they contained many things which could not fail to offend
him; so I gave him only a few of the tamest passages, and can still see
him smile in his peculiar way as he read them in my presence.  He said
something about "decided talent," and when preparations for the
celebration of the birthday of King Frederick William IV were made he
gave me the task of composing an original poem.  I gladly accepted it.
Writing was a great pleasure, and though my productions at school were
far too irregular for me to call them good, I was certainly the best

                    THE NEW HEAD OF THE SCHOOL.

Before passing on to other subjects, I must devote a few words to the
remodelling of the school and its new head.

At the end of my first term in the first class we learned that we were to
have a new teacher, and one who would rule with a rod of iron.  Terrible
stories of his Draconian severity were in circulation, and his first
address gave us reason to fear the worst, for the tall man of forty in
the professor's chair was very imposing in his appearance.  His smoothly
shaven upper lip and brown whiskers, his erect bearing and energetic
manner, reminded one of an English parliamentary leader, but his words
sounded almost menacing.  He said that an entirely new house must be
erected.  We and the teachers must help him.  To the obedient he would
be a good friend; but to the refractory, no matter what might be their
position, he would----  What followed made many of us nudge one another,
and the young men who attended the school merely for the sake of the
examination left it in a body.  Many a teacher even changed colour.

This reorganizer, Professor Tzschirner, had formerly been principal of
the Magdalen Gymnasium at Breslau.  In energy and authoritative manner he
resembled Barop, but he was also an eminent scholar and a thorough man of
the world.  The authorities in Berlin made an excellent choice, and we
members of the first class soon perceived that he not only meant kindly
by us, but that we had obtained in him a teacher far superior to any we
had possessed before.  He required a great deal, but he was a good friend
to every one who did his duty.  His kindly intention and inspiring
influence made themselves felt in our lives; for he invited to his house
the members of the first class whom he desired to influence, and his
charming, highly educated wife helped him entertain us, so that we
preferred an evening there to almost any other amusements.  Study began
to charm us, and I can only repeat that he seemed to recall Langethal's
method and awaken many things which the latter had given me, and which,
as it were, had fallen asleep during the interval.  He again aroused in
my soul the love for the ancients, and his interpretations of Horace or
Sophocles were of great service to me in after-years.

Nor did he by any means forget grammar, but in explaining the classics he
always laid most stress upon the contents, and every lesson of his was a
clever archaeological, aesthetic, and historical lecture.  I listened to
none more instructive at the university.  Philological and linguistic
details which were not suited for the senior pupils who were being fitted
for other callings than those of the philologist were omitted.  But he
insisted upon grammatical correctness, and never lost sight of his maxim,
"The school should teach its pupils to do thoroughly whatever they do at

He urged us especially to think for ourselves, and to express our ideas
clearly and attractively, not only in writing but verbally.

It seemed as though a spring breeze had melted the snow from the land,
such bourgeoning and blossoming appeared throughout the school.

Creative work was done by fits and starts.  If the demon seized upon me,
I raved about for a time as before, but I did my duty for the principal.
I not only honoured but loved him, and censure from his lips would have
been unbearable.

The poem which I was to read on the king's birthday has been preserved,
and as I glanced over it recently I could not help smiling.

It was to describe the life of Henry the Fowler, and refer to the
reigning king, Frederick William IV.

The praise of my hero had come from my heart, so the poem found favour,
and in circles so wide that the most prominent man in the neighbourhood,
Prince Puckler-Muskau, sent for my verses.

I was perfectly aware that they did not represent my best work, but what
father does not find something to admire in his child?  So I copied them
neatly, and gave them to Billy, the dwarf, the prince's factotum.  A
short time after, while I was walking with some friends in Branitz Park,
the prince summoned me, and greeted me with the exclamation, "You are a

These four words haunted me a long while; nay, at times they even echo in
my memory now.  I had heard a hundred anecdotes of this prince, which
could not fail to charm a youth of my disposition.  When a young officer
of the Garde-du-Corps in Dresden, after having been intentionally omitted
from the invitations to a court-ball, he hired all the public conveyances
in the city, thus compelling most of the gentlemen and ladies who were
invited either to wade through the snow or forego the dance.

When the war of 1813 began he entered the service of "the liberators," as
the Russians were then called, and at the head of his regiment challenged
the colonel of a French one to a duel, and seriously wounded him.

It was apparently natural to Prince Puckler to live according to his own
pleasure, undisturbed by the opinions of his fellow-men, and this
pleasure urged him to pursue a different course in almost every phase of
life.  I said "apparently," because, although he scorned the censure of
the people, he never lost sight of it.  From a child his intense vanity
was almost a passion, and unfortunately this constant looking about him,
the necessity of being seen, prevented him from properly developing an
intellect capable of far higher things; yet there was nothing petty in
his character.

His highest merit, however, was the energy with which he understood how
to maintain his independence in the most difficult circumstances in which
life placed him.  To one department of activity, especially, that of
gardening, he devoted his whole powers.  His parks can vie with the
finest pleasure-grounds of all countries.

At the time I first met him he was sixty-nine years old, but looked much
younger, except when he sometimes appeared with his hair powdered until
it was snow-white.  His figure was tall and finely proportioned, and
though a sarcastic smile sometimes hovered around his lips, the
expression of his face was very kindly.  His eyes, which I remember as
blue, were somewhat peculiar.  When he wished to please, they sparkled
with a warm--I might almost say tender-light, which must have made many a
young heart throb faster.  Yet I think he loved himself too much to give
his whole affection to any one.

A great man has always seemed to me the greatest of created things, and
though Prince Puckler can scarcely be numbered among the great men of
mankind, he was undoubtedly the greatest among those who surrounded him
at Branitz.  In me, the youth of nineteen, he awakened admiration,
interest, and curiosity, and his "You are a poet" sometimes strengthened
my courage, sometimes disheartened me.  My boyish ambitions in those days
had but one purpose, and that was the vocation of a poet.

I was still ignorant that the Muse kisses only those who have won her
love by the greatest sufferings.  Life as yet seemed a festal hall, and
as the bird flies from bough to bough wherever a red berry tempts him, my
heart was attracted by every pair of bright eyes which glanced kindly at
me.  When I entered upon my last term, my Leporello list was long enough,
and contained pictures from many different classes.  But my hour, too,
seemed on the point of striking, for when I went home in my last
Christmas vacation I thought myself really in love with the charming
daughter of the pleasant widow of a landed proprietor.  Nay, though only
nineteen, I even considered whether I should not unite her destiny with
mine, and formally ask her hand.  My father had offered himself to my
mother at the same age.

In Kottbus I was treated with the respect due to a man, but at home I was
still "the boy," and the youngest of us three "little ones."  Ludo, as a
lieutenant, had a position in society, while I was yet a schoolboy.  Amid
these surroundings I realized how hasty and premature my intention had

Only four of us came to keep Christmas at home, for Martha now lived in
Dresden as the wife of Lieutenant Baron Curt von Brandenstein, the nephew
of our Aunt Sophie's husband.  Her wedding ceremony in the cathedral was,
of course, performed by the court-chaplain Strauss.

My grandmother had died, but my Aunt Sophie still lived in Dresden, and
spent her summers in Blasewitz.  Her hospitable house always afforded
an atmosphere very stimulating to intellectual life, so I spent more time
there than in my mother's more quiet residence at Pillnitz.

I had usually passed part of the long--or, as it was called, the "dog-
day"--vacation in or near Dresden, but I also took pleasant pedestrian
tours in Bohemia, and after my promotion to the senior class, through the
Black Forest.

It was a delightful excursion!  Yet I can never recall it without a
tinge of sadness, for my two companions, a talented young artist named
Rothermund, and a law student called Forster, both died young.  We had
met in a railway carriage between Frankfort and Heidelberg and determined
to take the tour together, and never did the Black Forest, with its
mountains and valleys, dark forests and green meadows, clear streams and
pleasant villages, seem to me more beautiful.  But still fairer days were
in store after parting from my friends.

I went to Rippoldsau, where a beloved niece of my mother with her
charming daughter Betsy expected me.  Here in the excellent Gohring
hotel I found a delightful party, which only lacked young gentlemen.
My arrival added a pair of feet which never tired of dancing, and every
evening our elders were obliged to entreat and command in order to put an
end to our sport.  The mornings were occupied in walks through the superb
forests around Rippoldsau, and the afternoons in bowling, playing graces,
and running races.  I speedily lost my susceptible heart to a charming
young lady named Leontine, who permitted me to be her Knight, and I
fancied myself very unjustly treated when, soon after our separation,
I received her betrothal cards.

The Easter and Christmas vacations I usually spent in Berlin with my
mother, where I was allowed to attend entertainments given by our
friends, at which I met many distinguished persons, among others
Alexander von Humboldt.

Of political life in the capital at that time there is nothing agreeable
to be said.  I was always reminded of the state of affairs immediately
after my arrival; for during the first years of my school life at Kottbus
no one was permitted to enter the city without a paper proving identity,
which was demanded by constables at the exits of railway stations or in
the yards of post-houses.  Once, when I had nothing to show except my
report, I was admitted, it is true, but a policeman was sent with me to
my mother's house to ascertain that the boy of seventeen was really the
person he assumed to be, and not a criminal dangerous to the state.

The beautiful aspirations of the Reichstag in Paulskirche were baffled,
the constitution of the empire had become a noble historical monument
which only a chosen few still remembered.  The king, who had had the
opportunity to place himself at the head of united Germany, had preferred
to suppress the freedom of his native land rather than to promote its
unity.  Yet we need not lament his refusal.  Blood shed together in
mutual enthusiasm is a better cement than the decree of any Parliament.

The ruling powers at that time saw in the constitution only a cage whose
bars prevented them from dealing a decisive blow, but whatever they could
reach through the openings they tore and injured as far as lay in their
power.  The words "reactionary" and "liberal" had become catch terms
which severed families and divided friends.

At Komptendorf, and almost everywhere in the country, there was scarcely
any one except Conservatives.  Herr von Berndt had driven into the city
to the election.  Pastor Albin, the clergyman of his village, voted for
the Liberal candidate.  When the pastor asked the former, who was just
getting into his carriage, to take him home, the usually courteous,
obliging gentleman, who was driving, exclaimed, "If you don't vote with
me you don't ride with me," and, touching the spirited bays, dashed off,
leaving the pastor behind.

Dr. Boltze was a "Liberal," and had to endure many a rebuff because his
views were known to the ministry.  Our religious instruction might serve
as a mirror of the opinions which were pleasing to the minister.  It had
made the man who imparted it superintendent when comparatively young.
The term "mob marriage" for "civil marriage" originated with him, and it
ought certainly to be inscribed in the Golden Book above.

He was a fiery zealot, who sought to induce us to share his wrath and
scorn when he condemned Bauer, David Strauss, and Lessing.

When discussing the facts of ecclesiastical history, he understood how to
rouse us to the utmost, for he was a talented man and a clever speaker,
but no word of appeal to the heart, no exhortation to love and peace,
ever crossed his lips.

The vacations were the only time which I spent with my mother.  I ceased
to think of her in everything I did, as was the case in Keilhau.  But
after I had been with her for a while, the charm of her personality again
mastered my soul, her love rekindled mine, and I longed to open my whole
heart to her and tell her everything which interested me.  She was the
only person to whom I read my Poem of the World, as far as it was
completed.  She listened with joyful astonishment, and praised several
passages which she thought beautiful.  Then she warned me not to devote
too much time to such things at present, but kissed and petted me in a
way too charming to describe.  During the next few days her eyes rested
on me with an expression I had always longed to see.  I felt that she
regarded me as a man, and she afterwards confessed how great her hopes
were at that time, especially as Professor Tzschirner had encouraged her
to cherish them.



After returning to Kottbus from the Christmas vacation I plunged headlong
into work, and as I exerted all my powers I made rapid progress.

Thus January passed away, and I was so industrious that I often studied
until long after midnight.  I had not even gone to the theatre, though I
had heard that the Von Hoxar Company was unusually good.  The leading
lady, especially, was described as a miracle of beauty and remarkably
talented.  This excited my curiosity, and when a school-mate who had made
the stage manager's acquaintance told us that he would be glad to have us
appear at the next performance of The Robbers, I of course promised to be

We went through our parts admirably, and no one in the crowded house
suspected the identity of the chorus of robbers who sang with so much
freshness and vivacity.

I was deeply interested in what was passing on the stage, and, concealed
at the wings, I witnessed the greater part of the play.

Rarely has so charming an Amalie adorned the boards as the eighteen-year-
old actress, who, an actor's child, had already been several years on the

The consequence of this visit to the theatre was that, instead of
studying historical dates, as I had intended, I took out Panthea and
Abradatus, and on that night and every succeeding one, as soon as I had
finished my work for the manager, I added new five-foot iambics to the
tragedy, whose material I drew from Xenophon.

Whenever the company played I went to the theatre, where I saw the
charming Clara in comedy parts, and found that all the praises I had
heard of her fell short of the truth.  Yet I did not seek her
acquaintance.  The examination was close at hand, and it scarcely entered
my mind to approach the actress.  But the Fates had undertaken to act as
mediators and make me the hero of a romance which ended so speedily, and
in a manner which, though disagreeable, was so far from tragical, that
if I desired to weave the story of my own life into a novel I should be
ashamed to use the extensive apparatus employed by Destiny.

Rather more than a week had passed since the last performance of The
Robbers, when one day, late in the afternoon, the streets were filled
with uproar.  A fire had broken out, and as soon as Professor Braune's
lesson was over I joined the human flood.  The boiler in the Kubisch
cloth factory had burst, a part of the huge building near it was in
flames, and a large portion of the walls had fallen.

When, with several school-mates, I reached the scene of the disaster, the
fire had already been mastered, but many hands were striving to remove
the rubbish and save the workmen buried underneath.  I eagerly lent my

Meanwhile it had grown dark, and we were obliged to work by the light of
lanterns.  Several men, fortunately all living, had been brought out, and
we thought that the task of rescue was completed, when the rumour spread
that some girls employed in one of the lower rooms were still missing.

It was necessary to enter, but the smoke and dust which filled the air
seemed to preclude this, and, besides, a high wall above the cleared
space in the building threatened to fall.  An architect who had directed
with great skill the removal of the debris was standing close beside me
and gave orders to tear down the wall, whose fall would cost more lives.

Just at that moment I distinctly heard an inexpressibly mournful cry of
pain.  A narrow shouldered, sickly-looking man, who spite of his very
plain clothing, seemed to belong to the better classes, heard it too, and
the word "Horrible!" in tones of the warmest sympathy escaped his lips.
Then he bent over the black smoking space, and I did the same.

The cry was repeated still louder than before, my neighbour and I looked
at each other, and I heard him whisper, "Shall we?"

In an instant I had flung off my coat, put my handkerchief over my mouth,
and let myself down into the smoking pit, where I pressed forward through
a stifling mixture of lime and particles of sand.

The groans and cries of the wounded guided me and my companion, who had
instantly followed, and at last two female figures appeared amid the
smoke and dust on which the lanterns, held above, cast flickering rays of

One was lying prostrate, the other, kneeling, leaned against the wall.
We seized the first one, and staggered towards the spot where the
lanterns glimmered, and loud shouts greeted us.

Our example had induced others to leap down too.

As soon as we were released from our burden we returned for the second
victim.  My companion now carried a lantern.  The woman was no longer
kneeling, but lay face downward several paces nearer to the narrow
passage choked with stones and lime dust which separated her from us.
She had fainted while trying to follow.  I seized her feet, and we
staggered on, but ere we could leave the passage which led into the
larger room I heard a loud rattling and thundering above, and the next
instant something struck my head and everything reeled around me.  Yet I
did not drop the blue yarn stockings, but tottered on with them into the
large open space, where I fell on my knees.

Still I must have retained my consciousness, for loud shouts and cries
reached my ears.  Then came a moment with which few in life can compare
--the one when I again inhaled draughts of the pure air of heaven.

I now felt that my hair was stained with blood, which had flowed from a
wound in my head, but I had no time to think of it, for people crowded
around me saying all sorts of pleasant things.  The architect, Winzer,
was most cordial of all.  His words, "I approve of such foolhardiness,
Herr Ebers," echoed in my ears long afterwards.

A beam had fallen on my head, but my thick hair had broken the force of
the blow, and the wound in a few days began to heal.

My companion in peril was at my side, and as my blood-stained face looked
as if my injuries were serious he invited me to his house, which was
close by the scene of the accident.  On the way we introduced ourselves
to each other.  His name was Hering, and he was the prompter at the
theatre.  When the doctor who had been sent to me had finished his task
of sewing up the wound and left us, an elderly woman entered, whose rank
in life was somewhat difficult to determine.  She wore gay flowers in her
bonnet, and a cloak made of silk and velvet, but her yellow face was
scarcely that of a "lady."  She came to get a part for her daughter; it
was one of the prompter's duties to copy the parts for the various

But who was this daughter?

Fraulein Clara, the fair Amalie of The Robbers, the lovely leading lady
of the theatre.

My daughter has an autograph of Andersen containing the words, "Life is
the fairest fairy tale."

Ay, our lives are often like fairy tales.

The Scheherezade "Fate" had found the bridge to lead the student to the
actress, and the means employed were of no less magnitude than a
conflagration, the rescue of a life, and a wound, as well as the somewhat
improbable combined action of a student and a prompter.  True, more
simple methods would scarcely have brought the youth with the examination
in his head and a pretty girl in his heart to seek the acquaintanceship
of the fair actress.

Fate urged me swiftly on; for Clara's mother was an enthusiastic woman,
who in her youth had herself been an ornament of the stage, and I can
still hear her exclamation, "My dear young sir, every German girl ought
to kiss that wound!"

I can see her indignantly forbid the prompter to tie his gay
handkerchief over the injury and draw a clean one from her own velvet bag
to bind my forehead.  Boltze and my school-mates greeted me very warmly.
Director Tzschirner said something very similar to Herr Winzer's remark.

And so matters would have remained, and in a few weeks, after passing the
examination, I should have returned to my happy mother, had not a
perverse Fate willed otherwise.

This time a bit of linen was the instrument used to lead me into the path
allotted, for when the wound healed and the handkerchief which Clara's
mother had tied round it came back from the wash, I was uncertain whether
to return it in person or send it by a messenger with a few words of
thanks.  I determined on the latter course; but when, that same evening,
I saw Clara looking so pretty as the youthful Richelieu, I cast aside my
first resolve, and the next day at dusk went to call on the mother of the
charming actress.  I should scarcely have ventured to do so in broad
daylight, for Herr Ebeling, our zealous religious instructor, lived
directly opposite.

The danger, however, merely gave the venture an added zest and, ere I was
aware of it I was standing in the large and pretty sitting-room occupied
by the mother and daughter.

It was a disappointment not to meet the latter, yet I felt a certain
sense of relief.  Fate intended to let me escape the storm uninjured,
for my heart had been by no means calm since I mounted the narrow stairs
leading to the apartments of the fair actress.  But just as I was taking
leave the pavement echoed with the noise of hoofs and the rattle of
wheels.  Prince Puckler's coupe stopped in front of the house and the
young girl descended the steps.

She entered the room laughing merrily, but when she saw me she became
graver, and looked at her mother in surprise.

A brief explanation, the cry, "Oh, you are the man who was hurt!" and
then the proof that the room did not owe its neat appearance to her, for
her cloak flew one way, her hat another, and her gloves a third.  After
this disrobing she stood before me in the costume of the youthful
Richelieu, so bewitchingly charming, so gay and bright, that I could not
restrain my delight.

She had come from old Prince Puckler, who, as he never visited the
theatre in the city, wished to see her in the costume whose beauty had
been so much praised.  The vigorous, gay old gentleman had charmed her,
and she declared that she liked him far better than any of the young men.
But as she knew little of his former life and works, I told her of his
foolish pranks and chivalrous deeds.

It seemed as if her presence increased my powers of description, and when
I at last took leave she exclaimed: "You'll come again, won't you?  After
one has finished one's part, it's the best time to talk."

Did I wait to be asked a second time?  Oh, no!  Even had I not been the
"foolhardy Ebers," I should have accepted her invitation.  The very next
evening I was in the pleasant sitting-room, and whenever I could slip
away after supper I went to the girl, whom I loved more and more
ardently.  Sometimes I repeated poems of my own, sometimes she recited
and acted passages from her best parts, amid continual jesting and
laughter.  My visits seemed like so many delightful festivals, and
Clara's mother took care that they were not so long as to weary her
treasure.  She often fell asleep while we were reading and talking, but
usually she sent me away before midnight with "There's another day coming
to-morrow."  Long before my first visit to the young actress I had
arranged a way of getting into the house at any time, and Dr. Boltze
had no suspicion of my expeditions, since on my return I strove the
more zealously to fulfil all my school duties.

This sounds scarcely credible, yet it is strictly true, for from a child
up to the present time I have always succeeded, spite of interruptions of
every kind, in devoting myself to the occupation in which I was engaged.
Loud noises in an adjoining room, or even tolerably severe physical pain,
will not prevent my working on as soon as the subject so masters me as to
throw the external world and my own body into the background.  Only when
the suffering becomes very intense, the whole being must of necessity
yield to it.

During the hours of the night which followed these evening visits I often
succeeded in working earnestly for two or three hours in preparation for
the examination.  During my recitations, however, weariness asserted
itself, and even more strongly the new feeling which had obtained
complete mastery over me.  Here I could not shake off the delightful
memories of these evenings because I did not strive to battle with them.

I am not without talent for drawing, and even at that time it was
an easy matter to reproduce anything which had caught my eye, not only
distinctly, but sometimes attractively and with a certain degree of
fidelity to nature.  So my note-book was filled with figures which amazed
me when I saw them afterwards, for my excited imagination had filled page
after page with a perfect Witch's Sabbath of compositions, in which the
oddest scrolls and throngs of genii blended with flowers, buds, and all
sorts of emblems of love twined around initial letters or the picture of
the person who had captured my heart at a time so inopportune.

I owe the suggestion of some verses which were written at that time to
the memory of a dream.  I was on the back of a swan, which bore me
through the air, and on another swan flying at my side sat Clara.  Our
hands were clasped.  It was delightful until I bent to kiss her; then the
swan I rode melted into mist, and I plunged headlong down, falling,
falling, until I woke.

I had this dream on the Friday before the beginning of the week in which
the first examination was to take place; and it is worthy of mention, for
it was fulfilled.

True, I needed no prophetic vision to inform me that this time of
happiness was drawing to a close.  I had long known that the company was
to remove from Kottbus to Guben, but I hoped that the separation would be
followed by a speedy meeting.

It was certainly fortunate that she was going, yet the parting was hard
to bear; for the evening hours I had spent with her in innocent mirth and
the interchange of all that was best in our hearts and minds were filled
with exquisite enjoyment.  The fact that our intercourse was in a certain
sense forbidden fruit merely doubled its charm.

How cautiously I had glided along in the shadows of the houses, how
anxiously I had watched the light in the minister's study opposite, when
I went home!

True, he would have seen nothing wrong or even unseemly, save perhaps
the kiss which Clara gave me the last time she lighted me down stairs,
yet that would have been enough to shut me out of the examination.
Ah!  yes, it was fortunate that she was going.

March had come, the sun shone brightly, the air was as warm as in May,
and I had carried the mother and daughter some violets which I had
gathered myself.  Suddenly I thought how delightful it would be to drive
with Clara in an open carriage through the spring beauty of the country.
The next day was Sunday.  If I went with them and spent the night in
Guben I could reach home in time the next day.  I need only tell Dr.
Boltze I was going to Komptendorf, and order the carriage, to transform
the dear girl's departure into a holiday.

Again Fate interfered with the course of this story; for on my way to
school that sunny Saturday morning I met Clara's mother, and at sight
of her the wish merged into a resolve.  I followed her into the shop she
entered and explained my plan.  She thought it would be delightful, and
promised to wait for me at a certain place outside of the city.

The plan was carried out.  I found them at the appointed spot, my darling
as fresh as a rose.  If love and joy had any substantial weight, the
horses would have found it a hard matter to drag the vehicle swiftly on.

But at the first toll-house, while the toll-keeper was changing some
money, I experienced the envy of the gods which hitherto I had known
only in Schiller's ballad.  A pedestrian passed--the teacher whom I had
offended by playing all sorts of pranks during his French lesson.  Not
one of the others disliked me.

He spoke to me, but I pretended not to understand, hastily took the
change from the toll-keeper, and, raising my hat, shouted, "Drive on!"

This highly virtuous gentleman scorned the young actress, and as, on
account of my companions, he had not returned my greeting, Clara flashed
into comical wrath, which stifled in its germ my thought of leaving the
carriage and going on foot to Komptendorf, where Dr. Boltze believed me
to be.

Clara rewarded my courageous persistence by special gaiety, and when we
had reached Guben, taken supper with some other members of the company,
and spent the evening in merriment, danger and all the ills which the
future might bring were forgotten.

The next morning I breakfasted with Clara and her mother, and in bidding
them good-bye added "Till we meet again," for the way to Berlin was
through Guben, where the railroad began.

The carriage which had brought us there took me back to Kottbus.  Several
members of the company entered it and went part of the way, returning on
foot.  When they left me twilight was gathering, but the happiness I had
just enjoyed shone radiantly around me, and I lived over for the second
time all the delights I had experienced.

But the nearer I approached Kottbus the more frequently arose the
fear that the French teacher might make our meeting the cause of an
accusation.  He had already complained of me for very trivial
delinquencies and would hardly let this pass.  And yet he might.

Was it a crime to drive with a young girl of stainless reputation under
her mother's oversight?  No.  I had done nothing wrong, except to say
that I was going to Komptendorf--and that offence concerned only Dr.
Boltze, to whom I had made the false statement.

At last I fell asleep, until the wheels rattled on the pavement of the
city streets.  Was my dream concerning the swan to be fulfilled?

I entered the house early.  Dr. Boltze was waiting for me, and his wife's
troubled face betrayed what had happened even more plainly than her
husband's frown.

The French teacher had instantly informed my tutor where and with whom he
had met me, and urged him to ascertain whether I had really gone to
Komptendorf.  Then he went to Clara's former residence, questioned the
landlady and her servant, and finally interrogated the livery-stable

The mass of evidence thus gathered proved that I had paid the actress
numerous visits, and always at dusk.  My dream seemed fulfilled, but
after I had told Dr. Boltze and his wife the whole truth a quiet talk
followed.  The former did not give up the cause as lost, though he did
not spare reproaches, while his wife's wrath was directed against the
informer rather than the offence committed by her favourite.

After a restless night I went to Professor Tzschirner and told him
everything, without palliation or concealment.  He censured my frivolity
and lack of consideration for my position in life, but every word, every
feature of his expressive face showed that he grieved for what had
happened, and would have gladly punished it leniently.  In after years
he told me so.  Promising to make every effort to save me from exclusion
from the examination in the conference which he was to call at the close
of the afternoon session, he dismissed me--and he kept his word.

I know this, for I succeeded in hearing the discussion.  The porter of
the gymnasium was the father of the boy whom my friend Lebenstein and I
kept to clean our boots, etc.  He was a conscientious, incorruptible man,
but the peculiar circumstances of the case led him to yield to my
entreaties and admit me to a room next to the one where the conference
was held.  I am grateful to him still, for it is due to this kindness
that I can think without resentment of those whose severity robbed me
of six months of my life.

This conference taught me how warm a friend I possessed in Professor
Tzschirner, and showed that Professor Braune was kindly disposed.  I
remember how my heart overflowed with gratitude when Professor Tzschirner
sketched my character, extolled my rescue of life at the Kubisch factory,
and eloquently urged them to remember their own youth and judge what had
happened impartially.  I should have belied my nature had I not availed
myself of the chain of circumstances which brought me into association
with the actress to make the acquaintance of so charming a creature.

To my joyful surprise Herr Ebeling agreed with him, and spoke so
pleasantly of me and of Clara, concerning whom he had inquired, that I
began to hope he was on my side.

Unfortunately, the end of his speech destroyed all the prospects held
out in the beginning.

Space forbids further description of the discussion.  The majority, spite
of the passionate hostility of the informer, voted not to expel me, but
to exclude me from the examination this time, and advise me to leave the
school.  If, however, I preferred to remain, I should be permitted to do

At the close of the session I was standing in the square in front of the
school when Professor Tzschirner approached, and I asked his permission
to leave school that very day.  A smile of satisfaction flitted over his
manly, intellectual face, and he granted my request at once.

So my Kottbus school-days ended, and, unfortunately, in a way unlike what
I had hoped.  When I said farewell to Professor Tzschirner and his wife I
could not restrain my tears.  His eyes, too, were dim, and he repeated to
me what I had already heard him say in the conference, and wrote the same
thing to my mother in a letter explaining my departure from the school.
The report which he sent with it contains not a single word to indicate
a compulsory withdrawal or the advice to leave it.

When I had stopped at Guben and said goodbye to Clara my dream was
literally fulfilled.  Our delightful intercourse had come to a sudden
end.  Fortunately, I was the only sufferer, for to my great joy I heard
a few months after that she had made a successful debut at the Dresden
court theatre.

I was, of course, less joyfully received in Berlin than usual, but the
letters from Professor Tzschirner and Frau Boltze put what had occurred
in the right light to my mother--nay, when she saw how I grieved over my
separation from the young girl whose charms still filled my heart and
mind, her displeasure was transformed into compassion.  She also saw how
difficult it was for me to meet the friends and guardian who had expected
me to return as a graduate, and drew her darling, whom for the first time
she called her "poor boy," still closer to her heart.

Then we consulted about the future, and it was decided that I should
graduate from the gymnasium of beautiful Quedlinburg.  Professor
Schmidt's house was warmly recommended, and was chosen for my home.

I set out for my new abode full of the best resolutions.  But at
Magdeburg I saw in a show window a particularly tasteful bonnet trimmed
with lilies of the valley and moss-rose buds.  The sight brought Clara's
face framed in it vividly be fore my eyes, and drew me into the shop.  It
was a Paris pattern-hat and very expensive, but I spent the larger part
of my pocket-money in purchasing it and ordered it to be sent to the girl
whose image still filled my whole soul.  Hitherto I had given her nothing
except a small locket and a great many flowers.



The atmosphere of Quedlinburg was far different from that of the Mark
factory town of Kottbus.  How fresh, how healthful, how stimulating to
industry and out-door exercise it was!

Everything in the senior class was just as it should be.

In Kottbus the pupils addressed each other formally.  There were at the
utmost, I think, not more than half a dozen with whom I was on terms of
intimacy.  In Quedlinburg a beautiful relation of comradeship united all
the members of the school.  During study hours we were serious, but in
the intervals we were merry enough.

Its head, Professor Richter, the learned editor of the fragments of
Sappho, did not equal Tzschirner in keenness of intellect and bewitching
powers of description, yet we gladly followed the worthy man's

Many a leisure day and hour we spent in the beautiful Hartz Mountains.
But, best of all, was my home in Quedlinburg, the house of my tutor,
Professor Adalbert Schmidt, an admirable man of forty, who seemed
extremely gentle and yielding, but when necessary could be very
peremptory, and allowed those under his charge to make no trespass
on his authority.

His wife was a model of amiable, almost timid womanliness.  Her sister-
in-law, the widow of a magistrate, Frau Pauline Schmidt, shared the care
of the pupils and the beautiful, large garden; while her pretty, bright
young sons and daughters increased the charm of the intercourse.

How pleasant were the evenings we spent in the family circle!  We read,
talked, played, and Frau Pauline Schmidt was a ready listener when ever
I felt disposed to communicate to any one what I had written.

Among my school friends were some who listened to my writings and showed
me their own essays.  My favorite was Carl Hey, grandson of Wilhelm Hey,
who understood child nature so well, and wrote the pretty verses
accompanying the illustrations in the Speckter Fables, named for the
artist, a book still popular with little German boys and girls.  I was
also warmly attached to the enthusiastic Hubotter, who, under the name of
"Otter," afterwards became the ornament of many of the larger German
theatres.  Lindenbein, Brosin, the talented Gosrau, and the no less
gifted Schwalbe, were also dear friends.

At first I had felt much older than my companions, and I really had seen
more of life; but I soon perceived that they were splendid, lovable
fellows.  My wounded heart speedily healed, and the better my physical
and mental condition became the more my demon stirred within me.  It was
no merit of mine if I was not dubbed "the foolhardy Ebers" here also.
The summer in Quedlinburg was a delightful season of mingled work and
pleasure.  An Easter journey through the Hartz with some gay companions,
which included an ascent of the Brocken--already once climbed from
Keilhau--is among my most delightful memories.

Like the Thuringian Mountains, the Hartz are also wreathed with a garland
of legends and historical memories.  Some of its fairest blossoms are in
the immediate vicinity of Quedlinburg.  These and the delight in nature
with which I here renewed my old bond tempted more than one of us to
write, and very different poems, deeper and with more true feeling, than
those produced in Kottbus.  A poetic atmosphere from the Hercynian woods
and the monuments of ancient days surrounded our lives.  It was
delightful to dream under the rustling beeches of the neighbouring
forest; and in the church with its ancient graves and the crypt of St.
Wiperti Cloister, the oldest specimen of Christian art in that region,
we were filled with reverence for the days of old.

The life of the great Henry, which I had celebrated in verse at Kottbus,
became a reality to me here; and what a powerful influence a visit to the
ancient cloister exerted on our young souls!  The nearest relatives of
mighty sovereigns had dwelt as abbesses within its walls.  But two
generations ago Anna Amalie, the hapless sister of Frederick the Great,
died while holding this office.

A strange and lasting impression was wrought upon me by a corpse and a
picture in this convent.  Both were in a subterranean chamber which
possessed the property of preserving animal bodies from corruption.  In
this room was the body of Countess Aurora von Konigsmark, famed as the
most beautiful woman of her time.  After a youth spent in splendour she
had retired to the cloister as superior, and there she now lay unveiled,
rigid, and yellow, although every feature had retained the form it had in
death.  Beside the body hung her portrait, taken at the time when a smile
on her lips, a glance from her eyes, was enough to fire the heart of the
coldest man.

A terrible antithesis!

Here the portrait of the blooming, beautiful husk of a soul exulting in
haughty arrogance; yonder that husk itself, transformed by the hand of
death into a rigid, colourless caricature, a mummy without embalming.

Art, too, had a place in Quedlinburg.  I still remember with pleasure
Steuerwald's beautiful winter landscapes, into which he so cleverly
introduced the mediaeval ruins of the Hartz region.

Thus, Quedlinburg was well suited to arouse poetic feelings in young
hearts, steep the soul with love for the beautiful, time-honoured region,
and yet fill it with the desire to make distant lands its own.  Every one
knows that this was Klopstock's birthplace; but the greatest geographer
of all ages, Karl Ritter, whose mighty mind grasped the whole universe as
if it were the precincts of his home, also first saw the light of the
world here.

Gutsmuths, the founder of the gymnastic system, Bosse, the present
Minister of Public Worship and Instruction, and Julius Wolff, are
children of Quedlinburg and pupils of its gymnasium.

The long vacation came between the written and verbal examinations,
and as I had learned privately that my work had been sufficiently
satisfactory, my mother gave me permission to go to the Black Forest, to
which pleasant memories attracted me.  But my friend Hey had seen nothing
of the world, so I chose a goal more easily attained, and took him with
me to the Rhine.  I went home by the way of Gottingen, and what I saw
there of the Saxonia corps filled me with such enthusiasm that I resolved
to wear the blue, white, and blue ribbon.

The oral was also successfully examination passed, and I returned to my
mother, who received me at Hosterwitz with open arms.  The resolve to
devote myself to the study of law and to commence in Gottingen was
formed, and received her approval.

For what reason I preferred the legal profession it would be hard to say.
Neither mental bias nor interest gained by any searching examination of
the science to which I wished to devote myself, turned the scale.  I
actually gave less thought to my profession and my whole mental and
external life than I should have bestowed upon the choice of a residence.

In the ideal school, as I imagine it, the pupils of the senior class
should be briefly made acquainted with what each one of the principal
professions offers and requires from its members.  The principal of the
institution should also aid by his counsel the choice of the young men
with whose talents and tastes long intercourse had rendered him familiar.

     [It should never contain more than seventy pupils.  Barop, when I
     met him after I attained my maturity, named sixty as the largest
     number which permitted the teacher to know and treat individually
     the boys confided to his care.  He would never receive more at

Of course I imagine this man not only a teacher but an educator, familiar
not alone with the school exercises, but with the mental and physical
characteristics of those who are to graduate from the university.

Had not the heads of the Keilhau Institute lost their pupils so young,
they would undoubtedly have succeeded in guiding the majority to the
right profession.


Coach moved by electricity
Do thoroughly whatever they do at all
I approve of such foolhardiness
Life is the fairest fairy tale (Anderson)
Loved himself too much to give his whole affection to any one
Scorned the censure of the people, he never lost sight of it
What father does not find something to admire in his child

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