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- The Malady of the Century - 1/71 -
THE MALADY OF THE CENTURY
BY MAX NORDAU
Author of "THE COMEDY OF SENTIMENT," "HOW WOMEN LOVE," Etc., Etc.
CHAPTER I. Mountain and Forest
CHAPTER II. Vanity of Vanities
CHAPTER III. Heroes
CHAPTER IV. It was not to be
CHAPTER V. A Lay Sermon
CHAPTER VI. An Idyll
CHAPTER VII. Symposium
CHAPTER VIII. Dark Days
CHAPTER IX. Results
CHAPTER X. A Seaside Romance
CHAPTER XL In the Horselberg
CHAPTER XII. Tannhauser's Plight
CHAPTER XIII. Consummation
CHAPTER XIV. Uden Horizo
MOUNTAIN AND FOREST.
"Come, you fellows, that's enough joking. This defection of yours, melancholy Eynhardt, combines obstinacy with wisdom, like Balaam's ass! Well! may you rest in peace. And now let us be off."
The glasses, filled with clear Affenthaler, rang merrily together, the smiling landlord took up his money, and the company rose noisily from the wooden bench, overturning it with a bang. The round table was only proof against a similar accident on account of its structure, which some one with wise forethought had so designed that only the most tremendous shaking could upset its equilibrium. The boisterous group consisted of five or six young men, easily recognized as students by their caps with colored bands, the scars on their faces, and their rather swaggering manner. They slung their knapsacks on, stepped through the open door of the little arbor where they had been sitting, on to the highroad, and gathered round the previous speaker. He was a tall, good-looking young man, with fair hair, laughing blue eyes, and a budding mustache.
"Then you are determined, Eynhardt, that you won't go any further?" asked he, with an accent which betrayed him as a Rhinelander.
"Yes, I am determined," Eynhardt answered.
"A groan for the worthless fellow; but more in sorrow than in anger," said the tall one to the others. They groaned three times loudly, all together, while the Rhinelander gravely beat time. An unpracticed ear would very likely have failed to note the shade of feeling implied in the noise; but he appeared satisfied.
"Well, just as you like. No compulsion. Freedom is the best thing in life--including the freedom to do stupid things."
"Perhaps he knows of some cave where he is going to turn hermit," said one of the group.
"Or he has a little business appointment, and we should be in the way," said another.
They laughed, and the Rhinelander went on:
"Well! moon away here, and we will travel on. But before all things be true to yourself. Don't forget that the whole world is as much a phantom as the brown Black Forest maiden. And now farewell; and think a great deal about us phantom people, who will always keep up the ghost of a friendship for you."
The young man whom he addressed shook him and the others by the hand, and they all lifted their caps with a loud "hurrah," and struck out vigorously on the road. The sentiment of the farewell, and the tender speeches, had been disposed of in the inn, so they now parted gayly, in youth's happy fullness of life and hope for the future, and without any of that secret melancholy which Time the immeasurable distils into every parting. Hardly had they turned their backs on the friend they left behind them when they began to sing, "Im Schwarzen Walfisch zu Askalon," exaggerating the melancholy of the first half of the tune, and the gayety of the second, passing riotously away behind a turn of the road, their song becoming fainter and fainter in the distance.
This little scene, which took place on an August afternoon in the year 1869, had for its theater the highroad leading from Hausach to Triberg, just at the place where a footpath descends into the valley to the little town of Hornberg. The persons represented were young men who had lately graduated at Heidelberg, and who were taking a holiday together in the Black Forest, recovering from the recent terrors of examination in the fragrant air of the pine woods. As far off as Offenburg they had traveled by the railway in the prosaic fashion of commercial travelers, from there they had tramped like Canadian backwoodsmen, and reached Hasslach--twelve miles as the crow flies. After resting for a day they set out at the first cockcrow, and before the noontide heat reached the lovely Kinzigthal, which lies all along the way from Hausach to Hornberg. Over the door of a wayside inn a signboard, festooned with freshly- cut carpenter's shavings, beckoned invitingly to them, and here the young men halted. The view from this place was particularly beautiful. The road made a kind of terrace halfway up the mountain, on one side rising sheer up for a hundred feet to its summit, thickly wooded all the way, on the other side sloping to the wide valley, where the Gutach flowed, at times tumbling over rough stones, or again spreading itself softly like oil, through flat meadow land. Below lay the little town of Hornberg, with its crooked streets and alleys, its stately square, framing an old church, several inns, and prosperous-looking houses and shops. Beyond the valley rose a high, steep hill, with a white path climbing in zigzags through its wooded sides. On the summit a white house with many windows was perched, seeming to hang perpendicularly a thousand feet above the valley. Its whitewashed walls stood out sharply against the background of green pine trees, clearly visible for many miles round. A conspicuous inscription in large black letters showed that this audacious and picturesque house was the Schloss hotel, and a glance at the gray ruined tower which rose behind it gave at once a meaning to the name. Behind the hill, with its outline softened by trees and encircled by the blue sky, were ridges of other hills in parallel lines meeting the horizon, alternately sharp-edged and rounded, stretching from north to south. They seemed like some great sea, with majestic wave-hills and wave-valleys; behind the first appeared a second, then a third, then a fourth, as far as one's eye could see; each one of a distinct tone of color, and of all the shades from the deepest green through blue and violet to vaporous pale gray.
The sight of this picture had decided Wilhelm Eynhardt not to go any further. The others had resolved to push on to Triberg the same day, and above all, not to turn back till they had bathed in the Boden- see. As every persuasion was powerless to alter Eynhardt's decision, they separated, and the travelers started on their walk to Triberg. Eynhardt, however, stayed at Hornberg, meaning to climb to the Schloss hotel again from the other side.
Wilhelm Eynhardt was a young man of twenty-four, tall and slim of figure, with a strikingly handsome face. His eyes were almond- shaped, not large but very dark, with much charm of expression. The finely-marked eyebrows served by their raven blackness to emphasize the whiteness of the forehead, which was crowned by an abundant mass of curling black hair. His fresh complexion had still the bloom of early youth, and would hardly have betrayed his age, if it had not been shaded by a dark brown silky beard, which had never known a razor. It was an entirely uncommon type, recalling in profile, Antinous, and the full face reminding one of the St. Sebastian of Guido Roni in the museum of the Capitol; a face of the noblest manhood, without a single coarse feature. His manner, although quiet, gave the impression of keen enthusiasm, or, more rightly speaking, of unworldly inspiration. All who saw him were powerfully attracted, but half-unconsciously felt a slight doubt whether even so fine a specimen of manhood was quite fitly organized and equipped for the strife of existence. At the university he had been given the nickname of Wilhelmina, on account of a certain gentleness and delicacy of manner, and because he neither drank nor smoked. Such jokes, not ill-natured, were directed against his outward appearance, but had a shade of meaning as regards his character.
As Wilhelm walked into the courtyard of the Schloss hotel he stopped a moment to regain his breath. Before him was the stately new house, whose white-painted walls and many windows had looked down on the high-road; to the left stood the round tower inclosed within a ruined wall, shading an airy lattice-work building, in which on a raised wooden floor stood a table and some benches. Several people, evidently guests at the hotel, sat there drinking wine and beer, and eying the newcomer curiously. The burly landlord, in village dress, emerged from the open door of the cellar in the tower, and wished
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