In the Old Sun
by Hermann Hesse
TRANSLATED BY A. I. DU P. COLEMAN, A.M.
Professor of English Literature, College of the City of New York
Whenever, in spring or summer or even early autumn, there comes a
soft, pleasant day, just warm enough to make it agreeable to loiter in
the open air, then the extravagantly crooked path that joins the
Allpach road, just before you leave the last high-lying houses of the
town, is a charming spot. On the serpentine windings of the path as it
goes up the hill the sun always lies warm. The place is sheltered from
every wind. A few gnarled old fruit-trees give not indeed fruit but a
little shade, and the border of the road, a green strip of smooth surf,
entices you in the friendliest way by its soft curves to sit down or to
stretch yourself at full length. The white path gleams in the sunlight
as it climbs slowly and easily, sending a thin cloud of dust up to
greet every farm-wagon or landau or post-chaise; and it gives a view
over a steep huddle of dark roofs, broken here and there by the tops of
trees, down into the heart of the townto the market-place, which
indeed, seen from here, loses a good deal of its impressiveness, and
appears only as a peculiarly fore-shortened rectangle of irregular
houses and curiously protruding front steps and cellar doors.
On such mild, sunshiny days the comfortable turf border of this
lofty hill-climbing path is always occupied by a small troop of resting
men, whose bold, weather-beaten faces do not entirely harmonize with
their tame and sluggish gestures, and the youngest of whom is well up
in the fifties. They sit or lie at their ease in the warm greenness;
they are silent, or carry on short, muttered conversations; they smoke
short black pipes, and are continually spitting, with an air of
contempt for the world, down the steep slope below them. The few
workmen who pass by are sharply observed by them and critically placed;
and each, according to the verdict, is greeted with a benevolent nod
and How are you, comrade? or allowed to pass in disdainful silence.
A stranger who watched the old men lounging there, and inquired in
the first street he came to about the odd collection of gray idlers,
could learn from any child that they were known as the Sun-Brothers.
Many such strangers turned to look back once more at the weary group
blinking in the sunlight, and wondered how they came to get such a
lofty-sounding and poetical name. Some traveling enthusiasts felt a
mysterious thrill at the name, and made out of the half-dozen gray
loafers the surviving remnants of an almost extinct and very ancient
community of worshippers of the orb of day. But the luminary after
which the Sun-Brothers had been named had long ceased to shine in any
sky; it was only the sign of a miserable tavern which had vanished
several years before. Both sign and fame had disappeared, for the
building served later as the city poorhouse, still harboring, indeed,
numerous guests who had lived to see the setting of the sun taken down
from the sign, and had acquired at its bar the reversion of their
present shelter and guardianship.
[Illustration: HERMANN HESSE]
The small house stood last in the steep lane and in the town, close
to this sunny strip of turf. It offered a warped and weary front to the
eye, as though it was a considerable effort to stand upright, and had
nothing now about it to show how much merriment and cheerful clinking
of glasses, joking and laughter it had seen, to say nothing of lively
brawls and knife-play. Since the old pink paint of the front had grown
pale and peeled off in cracked patches, the ancient abode of vagabonds
corresponded accurately in its external appearance to its purpose,
which is not always the case with municipal buildings in our day.
Plainly and honestly, even eloquently, it gave every one to understand
that it was a refuge for those who had made shipwreck of their lives
and been left behind in the race, the desperate end of a narrow
backwater from which no plans or hidden resources could ever work them
out again into the stream of life.
Fortunately, little of the melancholy of such reflections was to be
found in the circle of the Sun-Brothers. Rather, theymost of
themwent on living after the fashion of their bygone days, puffed up
their petty bickerings and fancies and amusements, friendships and
jealousies, to the dimensions of weighty events and affairs of state,
and took not each other but themselves as seriously as possible. In
fact, they behaved as if it was only now, since they had extricated
themselves from the noisy streets of the bustling world, that the chase
was beginning; they carried on their insignificant affairs with a
gravity and a tenacity which for the most part they had never been able
to attain in their earlier activities. Like many another small
collection of men, although they were ruled on the principles of
absolute monarchy by the head of the institution and treated as mere
imaginary existences without rights, they believed themselves to be a
small republic, in which every free citizen had the same title to rank
and position as another and was firmly determined never to allow
himself to be too little esteemed, even by a hair's breadth.
The Sun-Brothers had this too in common with other people, that they
experienced the greater part of their destinies and satisfactions,
their joys and sorrows, more in imagination than in tangible reality. A
humorist might indeed have considered the difference between the life
of these wrecks of humanity and that of busy citizens as consisting
only in imagination, since both alike carried on their large and small
affairs with the same busy gravity, and in the last resort an
unfortunate inmate of the poorhouse might possibly not be much worse
off in God's eyes than many a great and honored personage. But without
going as far as that, it might well be contended that for the easygoing
observer of life these Sun-Brothers were no unworthy object of
contemplation, since human life, even upon a small stage, always offers
an amusing drama and one well worth consideration.
The nearer the time approaches when the present generation will have
forgotten the name of the old Sun tavern and the Sun-Brothers, and
its poor and outcast members will be cared for in other places, the
more desirable it is that there should be a history of the old house
and its inmates. As a contribution to such a chronicle, these pages
will narrate something of the life of the first Sun-Brothers.
In the days when the present young men of Gerbersau were still
wearing short breeches or even dresses, and when over the door of the
present poorhouse there still swung proudly from the pink facade, at
the length of a wrought-iron arm, the tin sun which was its ensign, one
day late in autumn Karl Hürlin came back to his native town. He was the
son of Hürlin the locksmith in the Senfgasse, who was long since dead.
He was a little more than forty, and no one knew him any longer, since
he had wandered away as a very young man and had never since been seen
in the town. Now, however, he wore a good, neat suit of clothes, a
moustache and well-trimmed hair, a silver watch-chain, a stiff hat and
a high clean collar. He visited some of the former acquaintances of his
family and a few old school friends, and bore himself in general as a
man who had gone away and risen in the world, conscious of his value
without over-emphasis. Then he went to the town hall, exhibited his
papers, and declared that he intended to settle down in the place.
After the necessary preliminaries had been accomplished, Herr Hürlin
developed a busy and mysterious activity and correspondence, often took
little journeys, and bought a piece of ground at the bottom of the
valley. He began to build there, on the site of an oil-works that had
burned down, a new brick house, a stable and coachhouse near it, and
between the stable and the house a huge brick chimney. In the meantime
he was seen now and then in the town taking his glass of an evening. At
the beginning he was quiet and dignified, but after he had had a few
glasses he would talk loud and emphatically, and made no secret of the
fact that he had money enough to live a fine gentleman's lifebut that
one man was a thick-headed idler and another a genius and a man of
business, that he belonged to the latter class and had no idea of
sitting down to rest until he was able to write six ciphers after the
figures that denoted his wealth.
Business people from whom he asked credit inquired into his history,
and found out that up to that time he had never played an important
part, but had been employed in various workshops and factories, rising
finally to be a foreman. Lately, however, he had fallen into a tidy
inheritance; and so people accorded him a certain measure of respect,
and a few enterprising men put money also into his business. Soon,
then, a moderately large and good-looking factory arose, in which
Hürlin proposed to turn out certain rollers and other machinery
required in the woolen industry.
Hardly was the place opened when its projector was sued by the same
firm for which he had been overseer, on a charge of illegally
representing as his own inventions and using some technical secrets
which he had acquired there. He came out of the endless litigation
without discredit but with heavy costs; he pushed his business with
redoubled zeal, lowering his prices somewhat and flooding the country
with advertisements. Orders were not lacking, the big chimney smoked
night and day, and for a few years Hürlin and his factory flourished,
and enjoyed respect and ample credit.
He had attained his ideal and fulfilled his old dream. It was true
that in his earlier years he had made more than one attempt to acquire
wealth, but it was the almost unexpected inheritance which had set him
on his feet and enabled him to carry out his bold plans. Riches had not
been his only aim; his warmest desires had all along tended toward the
acquisition of a great and commanding position in the world. He would
have been in his element as an Indian chief, as a privy councillor, or
even as a master-huntsman; but the life of a factory-owner seemed to
him both more comfortable and more independent. A cigar in the corner
of his mouth and a grave and thoughtful smile upon his face, standing
at the window or sitting at his desk to issue all sorts of orders, to
sign contracts, to listen to suggestions and requests, to combine the
wrinkled brow of the very busy man with an easy, comfortable manner, to
be now unapproachably strict and now good-naturedly condescending, and
at all times to feel that he was a leader of men and that much depended
on himthis was his gift, which unfortunately had come only too late
in life to full exercise. But now he had his desire to the full; he
could do as he pleased, set people up or put them down, heave
delightful sighs over the burden of wealth, and feel that he was envied
by many. All this he enjoyed with a connoisseur's pleasure and with
entire absorption; he wallowed in happiness, and felt that fate had at
last given him the place that belonged to him.
In the meantime, the rival at whose expense he had grown great, made
a new discovery, the introduction of which showed a number of the
earlier products to be useless and turned out others much more cheaply.
Since Hürlin, for all his self-confidence, was not a genius and
understood only the externals of his trade, he descended at first
slowly and then with increasing rapidity from his height of success,
and finally reached a point where he was unable to conceal from himself
that he was beaten. In desperation, he tried some daring financial
expedients, through which he involved himself and a number of creditors
with him in a complete and unsavory bankruptcy. He fled, but was caught
and brought back, tried, and sent to jail; and when after several years
he appeared once more in the town it was as a discredited and broken
man who could not hope to make a fresh start.
For a while he found humble occupations; but in the sultry days when
the storm was gathering he had developed into a secret drinkerand
what had then been concealed and little regarded became now a public
scandal. Dismissed from a small clerk's place for untrustworthiness, he
became an insurance agent, and in this capacity took to visiting all
the taverns of the neighborhood. He lost this employment too, and, when
an attempt to peddle matches and pencils from house to house also
failed to produce an income, he sank to be a charge on the community.
In these years he had become suddenly old and wretched; but from the
days of his ruined splendor he had retained a certain provision of
small arts and an external manner which helped him over some rough
places and still produced their effect in the lower class of
public-houses. He took with him to these places certain majestic and
sweeping gestures and well-sounding habits of speech which had long
corresponded to no inner reality, but on the strength of which he still
enjoyed a standing among the good-for-nothings of the town.
At that time there was no poorhouse in Gerbersau; but people who
were of no use to the community were maintained at a small provision
from the town funds here and there in private families as lodgers. Here
they were furnished with the absolute necessities of life and employed
according to their capacity in small domestic labors. Since, however,
all sorts of inconveniences arose from this system, and since no one at
all was willing to receive the broken-down manufacturer, who enjoyed
the hatred of the whole population, the community saw itself compelled
to establish a special house as an asylum. And as at that particular
moment the miserable old Sun tavern came under the hammer, the town
acquired it and placed there as the first inmate, with a manager, Karl
Hürlin. Others soon followed him; and they became known as the
Now Hürlin had long had close relations with the Sun, since in the
course of his decline he had frequented always lower and more wretched
places, and finally had made his main headquarters there. He was
expected among the daily visitors, and sat in the evenings at the same
table with several boon companions who, when their time too came, were
to follow him as despised paupers into the very same house. He was
really glad to take up his abode there. In the days after the purchase
of the property, when carpenters were busy transforming the old place
to its new condition, he stood watching them from morning till night.
One mild, sunshiny morning he had arrived there as usual and taken
up his position near the main door to watch the workmen at their task
inside. One of the floors was broken and had to be relaid, the rickety
stairs had to be patched up and provided with a firm balustrade, a
couple of thin partitions put in. The town foreman was getting after
the workmen, who were simulating great industry, and the
school-children were wandering from room to room. All this activity
delighted old Hürlin. He looked on with cheerful interest, pretending
not to hear the malicious remarks of the workmen; he plunged his hands
into the deep pockets of his greasy coat, and twisted his charity
trousers, much too long and wide for him, into various spiral forms in
which his legs looked like corkscrews. He pulled continually at a
chipped clay pipe, which was not lit but still smelt of tobacco. His
approaching entry into his new abode, from which he promised himself a
new and fairer existence, filled the old drunkard with delighted
curiosity and excitement.
While he was watching the laying of the new stairs and silently
estimating the quality and probable durability of the thin pine boards,
he suddenly felt himself pushed to one side. As he turned in the
direction of the street, he saw a workman with a large step-ladder
which with great care and many props he was attempting to set up on the
sloping surface of the street. Hürlin betook himself to the opposite
side of the street, leaned against a stone, and followed the activity
of the workman with great attention. The latter had now set up his
ladder and made it secure; he climbed it and began to scratch about in
the mortar over the main door with a view of taking down the old sign.
His efforts filled the ex-manufacturer with interest and also with
pain, as he thought of the bygone days, of the many glasses of wine or
spirits he had drunk under the now disappearing sign, and of the past
in general. He took no little joy in observing that the iron arm was so
firmly fixed in the wall that the workman had much trouble in getting
it loose. Under the poor old sign there had been so many infernally
good times! When the workman began to swear, the old man smiled; when
he pulled and pushed and twisted and knocked, when he began to sweat
and almost fell off the ladder, the spectator felt no little
satisfaction. Finally he went away, and came back in a quarter of an
hour with an iron-saw. Hürlin perceived that now it was all over with
the venerable ensign. The saw bit shriekingly into the good iron; after
a few moments the arm began to droop, and finally fell with a rattle
and a clang on the pavement.
Hürlin crossed the street. I say, Mr. Workman, he begged humbly,
give me the thing; it's of no value now.
Why? Who are you? asked the fellow.
I'm of the same religion, answered Hürlin entreatinglymy father
was a locksmith too, and I've been one in my time. Give it me, won't
The workman picked up the sign and looked at it. The arm is still
good, he decided. For its time it was not a bad piece of work. But if
you want the tin thing, that's no use to anybody ...
He tore away the green tin wreath in which, with long since dimmed
and lumpy rays about it, the golden sun had hung, and gave it to him.
The old man thanked him and made off with his prize, to hide it in the
elder-bushes further up with a strange greed and pleasure in the
thought of contemplating it. So, after a lost battle, a paladin might
have hidden the insignia of fallen royalty, to preserve them for other
days and new glories. When he returned, to recommence his inspection of
the carpenters' work, the house struck him as changed and desolate
because the sun was gone, and in its place over the door there was
nothing but an ugly hole in the plaster.
A few days later, without much pomp or ceremony, the opening of the
scantily-furnished poorhouse took place. A few beds had been put up;
the rest of the furniture was the product of the tavern-keeper's sale,
except that a supporter of the scheme had decorated each of the three
bedrooms with a Bible text surrounded by wreaths of flowers painted on
cardboard. For the position of manager, when it was put up to
competition, there had not been many applicants; and the choice had
fallen upon Herr Andreas Sauberle, a widowed weaver of good repute, who
brought his loom with him and continued to work at his tradethe
position was not very remunerative, and he had no desire to become a
Sun-Brother himself in his old age.
When old Hürlin had his room assigned to him, he at once began a
minute examination of it. He found a window looking on the small
courtyard, two doors, a bed, a chest, two chairs, a jar, a broom and
duster; further, a shelf in the corner covered with oilcloth, on which
stood a glass, a tin basin, a clothesbrush and a New Testament. He felt
the stout bedclothes, tried the brush on his hat, held up glass and
basin critically to the light, sat down experimentally on both the
chairs, and decided that all was satisfactory and in order: Only the
impressive text on the wall failed to meet with his approval. He
contemplated it for awhile with a scornful expression, read the words,
Little children, love one another, and shook his bushy head
discontentedly. Then he pulled the thing down, and with great care hung
the old Sun sign in its placethe only piece of property he had
brought with him to his new dwelling. But just as he did so the manager
came in, and ordered him in a tone of rebuke to put back the text. He
was going to take the tin sun with him to throw it away, but Karl
Hürlin clung to it desperately, insisting with loud outcries on his
rights of property, and finally hid the trophy, still growling, under
The life that began on the following day did not quite correspond to
his expectations and at first did not please him at all. He was obliged
to rise at seven and go to get his coffee in the weaver's quarters,
then make his bed, clean his wash-basin, polish his boots, and
generally tidy up the room. At ten o'clock there was a piece of black
bread for him, after which began the forced labor which he dreaded. A
huge pile of wood had been dumped in the yard, which was all to be
sawed and split.
As winter was still a long way off, Hürlin did not hurry himself
with the wood. Slowly and carefully he laid a log in position, then he
adjusted it with great accuracy, and considered awhile where he should
begin to saw it, whether in the middle or on the right or the left.
Then he applied the saw with the same care, laid it aside once more,
spat on his hands and picked it up again. Now he took three or four
strokes, cutting half an inch into the wood, but then drew the saw out
again and examined it minutely, turned the screw, set it a little
sharper, held it up and blinked at it for awhile, then heaved a deep
sigh and rested for a time. Presently he began again and sawed a few
inches into the wood; but he grew unbearably warm and stopped to take
off his coat. This process he performed slowly and with reflection, and
then looked about some time for a clean and safe place to put it. When
it was properly bestowed, he began to saw once morebut not for long;
the sun had come up over the roof, and shone directly in his face. This
necessitated moving the log and the trestle and the saw, each
separately, to another place where he could be in the shade. This
exertion brought out the perspiration, and he was obliged to look for
his handkerchief to wipe his forehead. It was not in his trousers
pocket; he remembered having it in his coat, and so he strolled over to
where he had put the coat, spread it out carefully, sought and found
the colored handkerchief, wiped off the sweat, blew his nose, put the
handkerchief away, folded the coat with great attention, and returned
to his saw-horse much refreshed. Here he came to the conclusion that he
had perhaps set the saw at too sharp an angle, and so he performed a
new operation upon it which took some time, and finally, with much
grunting, achieved the complete division of the log into two pieces. By
this time the midday bells were ringing from the church-tower, so he
quickly got into his coat, put the saw away, and went into the house to
You're punctual, I'm bound to say that for you, remarked the
weaver. The woman brought in the soup, after which there was some
cabbage with a slice of bacon, and Hürlin fell to with a will.
After dinner the sawing was supposed to continue, but this he
declined with emphasis. I'm not accustomed to it, he said in an
injured tone, and stuck to it. I'm tired out, and must have a little
The weaver shrugged his shoulders and said Do as you likebut a
man that won't work must'nt expect any supper. At four o'clock there'll
be bread and cider, if you've done your sawingotherwise nothing more
till the soup at night.
[Illustration: A HUMAN LOAD] Franz Wilhelm Voigt
Bread and cider, thought Hürlin, and was confronted with a very
serious problem. In the end he went out and picked up the saw again;
but he shuddered at the thought of working in the hot midday hours, and
he let the wood lie where it was. He went out in the street, found a
cigar-stump on the pavement, put it in his mouth, and slowly covered
the fifty paces to the bend in the road. There he stopped to take
breath, sat down by the roadside on the fine warm turf, looked out over
the many roofs and down to the market-place, catching a glimpse at the
bottom of the valley of his old factory, and dedicated this place as
the first of the Sun-Brothersthe place to which afterward so many of
his comrades and successors have come to lounge away their summer
afternoons, and often mornings and evenings as well.
The gentle, beneficent contemplation of an old age free from cares
and troubles, which he had promised himself in the poorhouse, and which
that morning had faded under the pressure of hard work like a fair
mirage, now returned gradually to him. His heart soothed by the feeling
of a pensioner assured for the rest of his days from anxiety, hunger,
and homelessness, he sat at his ease on the turf, feeling the pleasing
warmth of the sun on his withered skin. He gazed over the scene of his
former activities and misfortunes, and waited without impatience till
some one should come who would give him a light for his cigar-stump.
Shrill hammering from a workshop, the distant ring of the anvil in a
smithy, the low rumbling of a far-away wagon came up to his heights
with a little dust from the road and thin smoke from chimneys of all
sizes, to show him that down in the town people were bravely toiling
and sweating, while Karl Hürlin sat peacefully untroubled on his throne
at a dignified distance from it all.
About four o'clock he came quietly into the room of the weaver, who
was moving his shuttle regularly back and forth. He waited a while to
see if there might not, after all, be some bread and cider, but the
weaver only laughed at him and sent him away. He returned disappointed
to his post of observation, growling to himself; there he put in an
hour or more in a sort of half sleep, and then watched the coming of
evening to the narrow valley. It was still warm and comfortable up
there, but his cheerful mood departed little by little; in spite of his
slackness, he began to get horribly bored doing nothing, and his
thoughts returned incessantly to the snack that he had missed. He saw a
tall glass full of cider standing in front of him, yellow and sparkling
and perfumed with sweet herbs. He imagined how he would have taken it
up, the cool round glass, and gulped down a good draught at the first,
drinking then more sparingly. He gave an angry sigh as often as he woke
from the delightful dream; and his anger went out against the pitiless
manager, the weaver, the miserable skinflint, the little stumpy fellow,
the oppressor, the seller of his soul, the poisonous Jew. After he had
fumed enough at the manager, he began to be sorry for himself and fell
into a tearful mood; but finally he made a resolution to work the next
He did not see how the valley grew paler and filled with soft
shadows, and how the clouds took on a rosy tint; he was blind to the
mild, sweet evening colors of the sky and the mysterious blue that came
over the distant mountains. He saw nothing but that lost glass of
cider, the toil that waited inevitably for him on the morrow, and the
hardness of his lot. Those were the kind of thoughts he had been used
to having when he had passed a day without getting anything to drink.
What it would be like to have a glass of something stronger than cider
was a thing he did not even dare to think about.
Stooping and languid, he made his way down to the house at
supper-time, and took his seat ill-humoredly at the table. There was
soup, bread, and onions, and he ate grimly as long as there was
anything on his plate; but there was nothing to drink. After the meal
he sat still disconsolately and did not know what to be at. Nothing to
drink, nothing to smoke, no one to gossip with! For the weaver was
working busily by lamplight, paying no attention to him.
Hürlin sat for a half hour at the empty table, listening to the
click of Sauberle's machine and staring at the yellow flame of the
hanging lamp, until he sank into an abyss of discontent, self-pity,
envy, hatred and malice from which he neither sought nor found any way
of escape. At last his silent anger and hopelessness grew too much for
him. He raised his fist and brought it down on the table with a bang,
rolling out a good German oath.
Here! said the weaver, coming over to him. What's the matter with
you? No cursing allowed where I am.
Well, what in the devil's name am I to do?
Oh, you find the evening long? Then go to bed.
There you are again! People send little children to bed at a
certain timenot me!
Then I'll get a little work for you.
Work? You're too free with your tyranny, you old slave-driver!
Come, keep cool! But therethere's something for you to read. He
put out a couple of volumes from the thinly-furnished shelves that hung
on the wall, and went back to his work. Hürlin had no inclination to
read, but he took one of the books in his hand and opened it. It was an
almanac, and he began to look at the pictures. The first was a
fantastically dressed ideal woman's figure depicted as an ornament for
the title-page, with bare feet and flowing locks. Hürlin remembered
that he had a stump of lead-pencil in his pocket. He took it out, wet
it in his mouth, and drew two large round breasts on the woman's
bodice, which he continued to emphasize, wetting his pencil again and
again, until the paper was almost worn through. Then he turned the page
and saw with satisfaction that the impress of his artistic design had
gone through several other pages. The next picture on which he came
illustrated a fairy-story, and represented a kobold or some malicious
spirit with evil eyes, a fierce moustache and a huge open mouth.
Eagerly the old man wet his pencil again, and wrote under the monster,
in large, legible letters, This is Weaver Sauberle, the manager.
He was proposing to go through the whole book and deface and defile
it all. But the next picture arrested his attention, and he forgot
himself in studying it. It represented the explosion of a factory, and
consisted of little beyond a huge mass of smoke and fire, around and
above which whole or fragmentary human bodies, bricks, plaster, laths,
and beams were flying through the air. This interested him, and led him
into trying to reconstruct the whole story, and especially to imagine
how the victims must have felt at the moment of being hurled into the
air. There was a charm and a satisfaction in this for him which held
him intent on the picture a long time; with all his egoism, he belonged
to the numerous class who find more to think about in other people's
fate, especially when it is strikingly illustrated, than in their own.
When he had exercised his imagination sufficiently on this exciting
picture, he went on turning over the pages, and presently came to
another that arrested him, though in quite a different way. It was a
bright and cheerful picturea pretty arbor, on the outer boughs of
which hung a star for a sign. On the star sat, with ruffled neck and
open beak, a little bird singing. Inside the arbor was to be seen,
about a rough rustic table, a small group of young men, students or
roving journeymen, who chatted and drank a good wine out of
cheerful-looking bottles. To one side of the picture was visible a
ruined castle raising its towers to heaven, and in the background a
fair landscape stretched away, as it might have been the Rhine valley,
with a river and boats and distant hills. The revellers were all
handsome youths, merry and amiable lads, smooth-faced or with light
youthful beards, who were evidently singing over their wine the praises
of friendship and love, of the good old Rhine and of God's blue heaven.
At first this engraving reminded the morose and lonely man who
looked at it of his own better days, when he, too, could call for a
bottle of wine, and of the many glasses of good sound stuff which he
had consumed. But by degrees the conviction stole over him that he had
never been as happy and gay as these young revellers, even long ago in
his light-hearted years of wandering, when he had taken the road as a
journeyman-locksmith. The summer gladness in the arbor, the bright,
good-humored faces of the young people made him sad and angry. He
wondered whether it was all the invention of a painter, idealized and
false, or whether there were in reality somewhere such arbors and such
merry, carefree youths. Their smiling faces filled him with an envious
longing; the more he looked at the picture, the more he felt as though
he were looking for a moment through a small window into another world,
into a fairer country and the life of freer and more gracious men than
he had ever met in his life. He did not know into what strange kingdom
he was gazing, nor that his feelings were those of people who read
poetry, and get their pleasure in the beauty of the description from
the reflection how much smaller and meaner the every-day reality is,
passing into a slight, sweet sadness and longing. He did not well
understand how to extract the sweetness from this kind of sadness, and
so he shut the book, threw it angrily on the table, muttered a forced
Good night, and went up to his room, where the moonlight lay on bed
and floor and chest and was reflected in the filled wash-basin. The
deep stillness, early as the hour was, the peaceful moonlight, and the
emptiness of the room, almost too large for a mere sleeping-chamber,
awoke in the rough old fellow a feeling of unbearable loneliness, from
which he escaped only after many muttered curses and some time later
into the land of slumber.
There followed days in which he sawed wood and enjoyed his afternoon
refreshment, alternating with days in which he was idle and did without
it. He often sat up there by the roadside, full of poisonous, malicious
thoughts, spitting down toward the town with all the bitterness of his
unrestrained heart. The feeling he had hoped for, of being at peace in
a safe haven, failed to visit him; instead, he felt himself sold and
betrayed, and either made violent scenes with the weaver or brooded
secretly in his own heart on the feeling of defeat and disgust and
Meanwhile the term for which board had been paid for one of the
pensioners in private houses expired, and one day there came to the
Sun as a second guest, the former sailmaker, Lukas Heller.
While business reverses had made a drinker out of Hürlin, it was
just the opposite with Heller. Nor had he, like the manufacturer,
fallen suddenly from the height of showy riches; he had gone down
slowly and steadily, with the necessary pauses and interludes, from an
uncommon workman to a common vagabond. His good and energetic wife had
been unable to save him; rather, the hopeless struggle had been too
much for her, though she seemed much stronger than he, and she had
diedwhile her good-for-nothing husband enjoyed rude health, played
the fool for a few more years, and then, after he was ruined and
dependent, went lazily on with no apparent diminution of strength
toward a ripe old age. Of course his conviction was that he had had bad
luck with his wife as well as with the sail-making business, and that
his gifts and performances had merited a better fate.
Hürlin had awaited this man's arrival with great eagerness, for he
was growing daily more utterly weary of being alone. But when Heller
appeared, the ex-manufacturer stood on his dignity and would scarcely
have anything to do with him. He even grumbled because Heller's bed was
put in the same room with his, although he was secretly glad of it.
After supper, since his comrade seemed disposed to be so grumpy, the
sailmaker took a book and began to read. Hürlin sat opposite him and
threw occasional glances of suspicious observation at him. Once, when
the reader could not help laughing at something amusing, the other was
very much tempted to ask him what it was. But as Heller looked up from
his book at the same moment, evidently willing to communicate the joke,
Hürlin assumed a gloomy expression and pretended to be wholly absorbed
in the contemplation of a fly that was crawling across the table.
So they sat the whole evening through. One read, looking up
occasionally as if ready for a chat, the other watched him incessantly,
only turning his eyes away haughtily when his companion happened to
raise his. The manager worked away busily until late. Hürlin's face
grew more and more sour and hostile, although he was really pleased to
think he would no longer be alone in his bedroom. When ten o'clock
struck, the manager spoke: Now you might as well be going to bed, you
two. Both rose and went upstairs.
While they were slowly and stiffly undressing in the dimly-lighted
room, Hürlin thought the time had come to enter on an inquiry into the
qualities of the companion in misfortune whom he had so long desired.
Well, there's two of us now, he remarked, throwing his waistcoat
on a chair.
Yes, said Heller.
It's a pig-sty, this, the other went on.
Is it? I ought to know! But now there'll be a little life in
Say, asked Heller, do you take your shirt off at night or keep it
In summer I take it off.
So Heller took his shirt off too, and lay down in the creaking bed.
Soon he began to snore loudly. But Hürlin's curiosity was not yet
exhausted. Are you asleep, Heller?
There's plenty of time.... Tell me, you're a sailmaker, aren't
I wasa master sailmaker.
And nowyou must think a lot of me, to ask such silly questions.
Oh, you needn't be so snippy! You old fool, you may have been a
master sailmaker, but that's not so much. I was a manufacturerI owned
a factory, do you understand?
You needn't shout at meI knew that before. And after that, what
did you manufacture?
What do you mean, after that?
You know what I meanin jail.
Hürlin emitted a bleating laugh. Oh, I suppose you're one of the
pious kinda psalm-singer, eh?
I? That's the last thing! No, I'm not piousbut at the same time
I've never been in jail.
You wouldn't have been at home there. Most of the people there are
O Lord! Fine fellows of your sort? You're rightI shouldn't have
Some people have got to talk, whether they know what they're
talking about or not.
Just what I was thinking.
Oh, come now, be a good fellow! What made you give up the
Oh, don't bother me! The business was all right, but the devil got
into it somehow. It was my wife's fault.
Your wife? Did she drink?
That would have been too much. No, I did all the drinking that was
done, as is mostly the case, not the wife. But it was her fault just
Was it? What did she do?
Don't ask so many questions!
Have you got any childen?
One boyin America.
Sensible fellowa man's better off there.
You'd think sobut he's always writing for money, the rascal! He's
married, too. When he went away, I said to him, 'Friedel,' I said,
'good luck to you, and take care of yourself; do whatever you likebut
if you marry, there'll be trouble.' Well, now he's got himself into it.
Say, were you ever married?
Nobut you see man can get into trouble even without a wifedon't
you think so?
That's according to the man. I'd have my own shop today, if it
hadn't been for my fool of a wife.
Did you say anything?
Hürlin was silent, and pretended to be asleep. He had a premonition
that if the sailmaker ever got fairly started on the subject of his
wife, there would be no end to it.
Go to sleep, then, stupid! cried Heller; the other did not allow
himself to be drawn, but went on deliberately taking long breaths,
until he really fell asleep.
Next morning the sailmaker, who at sixty did not need so much sleep,
was the first to wake. He lay for half an hour staring at the white
ceiling. Then, although he had seemed so stiff in his movements the day
before, he got out of bed as lightly and gently as a morning breeze,
stole over in his bare feet to Hürlin's bed without making a sound, and
began to explore the latter's clothes. He searched carefully through
them, but found nothing except the stump of a pencil in the waistcoat
pocket, which he took out and appropriated. A hole which he discovered
in the left stocking of his companion he enlarged with the help of his
two thumbs until it was of considerable size. Then he crept quietly
back to his warm bed and did not move again until Hürlin was awake and
up and had thrown a few drops of water in his face. Then he sprang up
nimbly and got into his trousers. He did not, however, hasten to finish
his toilette, and when the ex-manufacturer advised him to hurry, he
said Oh, you go on downI'll be after you in a minute. Hürlin did
so, and Heller heaved a sigh of relief. He seized the washbasin and
emptied the clean water out of the windowfor he had a horror of
washing. When he had avoided this distasteful process, he was soon
ready to hasten down and get his coffee.
The making of the beds, tidying up the room, and polishing of shoes
was attended to after breakfast, of course without undue haste and with
plenty of pauses for conversation. The manufacturer found it all much
more sociable and pleasant in company than alone; he began to have very
friendly feelings toward his housemate, and to congratulate himself on
the prospect of a lively and cheerful existence. Even the inevitable
work seemed less terrifying than usual, and at the manager's summons he
went down to the yard with Heller, not indeed swiftly but with an
almost smiling countenance.
In spite of passionate outbursts on the part of the weaver and his
constant endeavors to conquer the reluctance of his charge, in the last
few weeks the wood-pile had shown very little alteration. It seemed
almost as high and wide as everas though it had the blessed
permanence of the widow's cruse of oil; and the little heap of sawed
bits lying in a corner, barely a couple of dozen, looked like the
result of a child's play, begun in a whim and as lightly thrown aside.
Now both the old men were to work at it. It was necessary to arrange
for a combination, since there was only one saw-horse and one saw.
After a few preparatory motions, sighs, and remarks, they conquered
their inner reluctance and addressed themselves to their task. And now,
unfortunately, Karl Hürlin's glad hopes showed themselves to have been
idle dreams, for the manner of working of the two displayed the
essential difference between them.
Each had his own special way of being busy. In both, alongside of
the innate overmastering laziness, a remnant of conscience exhorted
timidly to work; neither of them really wanted to work, but they wanted
to be able to pretend to themselves at least that they were of some use
in the world. They strove to attain this result in different ways; and
in these two worn-out and useless fellows, whom fate had apparently
destined to be brothers, there appeared an unexpected divergence of
aptitudes and inclinations.
Hürlin was master of a method by which, though he did next to
nothing, he was or seemed continually busy. The simple act of taking
hold of a thing had come with him to be a highly developed man[oe]uvre,
owing to the way in which he associated with this small action a
noticeable ritardando. Moreover, he invented and employed,
between two simple motions, as between the grasping and applying the
saw, a whole series of useless but easy intervening details, and was
always concerned in keeping actual work as far as possible from contact
with his body by such unnecessary trivialities. Thus he resembled a
condemned criminal who devises this and that and the other thing that
must be done and cared for and attended to before he goes to suffer the
inevitable penalty. And so he contrived to fill the required hours with
an incessant activity and to bring to them a pretence of honest toil,
without having really accomplished anything that could be called work.
In this characteristic and practical system he had hoped to be
understood and supported by Heller, and now found himself disappointed.
The sailmaker, in accordance with his inner character, followed an
entirely opposite method. He worked himself up by a convulsive decision
into a foaming fury, rushed at his work as though he did not care for
life, and raged at it until the sweat flowed and the splinters flew.
But this only lasted a few minutes; then he was exhaustedbut he had
appeased his conscience, and rested in motionless collapse until after
a certain time the fury came upon him once more, and again he raged and
steamed at his task. The results of this fashion of working did not
notably surpass those of the manufacturer's.
Under these circumstances each was bound to be an offence and a
hindrance to the other. The hasty and violent method of Heller,
beginning at the wrong end, revolted the deepest feelings of the
manufacturer, while his steady sluggish appearance of doing something
was just as abhorrent to the sailmaker. When the latter fell into one
of his furious attacks on the job, Hürlin stepped back a few paces as
if alarmed and looked on scornfully as his comrade puffed and panted,
retaining, however, just enough breath to reproach Hürlin for his
Look at him, he would cry, look at him, the good-for-nothing
loafer! You like that, don't you? to see other people doing your work!
Oh yes, the gentleman is a manufacturer. I believe you've been quite
capable of sawing away four weeks on the same log!
Neither the offensiveness nor the truth of these reproaches stirred
Hürlin up very much; but he did not let Heller get the better of him.
As soon as the sailmaker, wearied out, stopped to rest, he gave him
back his accusations, finding a choice variety of ingenious terms of
abuse to describe him, and threatening to hammer on his thick head
until he should be in condition to mistake the world for a dish of
mashed potatoes and the twelve apostles for a band of robbers. It never
came, of course, to the execution of these threats; they were merely
rhetorical exercises, and neither of the adversaries regarded them in
any other light. Now and then they brought charges against each other
before the manager; but Sauberle was wise enough to decline to
interfere. You fellows, he said crossly, are not school-children any
longer. I'm not going to mix myself up with such squabblesand there's
an end of it!
In spite of this, both of them came again, each for himself, to
complain to him. Thereupon one clay the manufacturer got no meat for
his dinner; and when he defiantly asked for it, the weaver said merely
Don't get so excited, Hürlin; there must be penalties now and then.
Heller has told me what you've been saying to him again this morning.
The sailmaker was not a little triumphant over this unexpected victory;
but at supper the thing was reversedHeller got no soup; and the two
sly dogs realized that they were beaten at their own game. From that
time on there was no more tale-bearing.
But between themselves they gave each other no peace. Only now and
then, when they crouched side by side on the turf by the roadside and
stretched their wrinkled necks to look after the passers by, a
temporary soul-brotherhood grew up between them, as they discussed the
ways of the world, the weaver, the system of caring for the poor, and
the wretchedly thin coffee in their abode, or exchanged their slender
stock of ideaswhich with the sailmaker consisted in a conclusive
psychology of women, with Hürlin in recollections of his travels and
fantastic plans for financial speculations on a grand scale.
You see, when a fellow gets married that was how Heller always
began. And Hürlin, when it was his turn, opened with If I knew anybody
who would lend me a thousand marks, or Once upon a time, when I was
down at Solingen. He had worked there for three months many years ago;
but it was remarkable how many things had happened to him or come under
his notice in Solingen.
When they had talked themselves out, they sucked silently at their
usually empty pipes, folded their arms about their thin knees, spat at
irregular intervals on the road, and stared past the gnarled old
apple-trees down into the town whose outcasts they were, and whom in
their folly they held responsible for their misfortunes. Then they
became gloomy, sighed, made discouraged gestures with their hands, and
realized that they were old and played out. This always lasted until
their dejection changed again into malice, which generally took half an
hour. Then, as a rule, it was Lukas Heller who opened the ball, at
first with some little teasing remark.
Just look down there! he would cry, pointing toward the valley.
What is it? growled the other.
You don't need to askI know what I see.
Well, what do you see, in the devil's name?
I see the cylinder-factory that used to be Hürlin &Schwindelmeier,
now Dallas &Co. Rich men they are, I'm toldrich men!
Oh, go to the deuce! growled Hürlin.
Do you want to make me out a swindler?
No need to make you one!
You dirty old sail-cobbler!
You're an old drunkard!
Drunkard yourself! You've got no call to abuse decent
I'll knock in half a dozen of your teeth!
And I'll make you walk lame, my fine fellow. Bankrupt!
Then the fight was on. After exhausting all the terms of abuse usual
in the locality, the imagination of both rascals would invent new ones
of the most audacious sort, until this capital too was used up, and the
two fighting-cocks would totter back to the house, exhausted and
Neither had any dearer wish than to get the better of the other and
make him feel his superiority; but if Hürlin had the better brain, the
sailmaker was the more cunningand since the weaver took no side,
neither could claim a real triumph over the other. Both longed ardently
to attain a position of superior consideration in the house; and they
employed for this purpose so much energy, caution, thought, and secret
obstinacy that with the half of these either of them, if he had put it
to use at the right time, might have kept his bark afloat instead of
becoming a Sun-Brother.
In the meantime the huge pile of wood in the yard had slowly become
smaller. What remained had been left for another time, and other
employments had been taken up. Heller sometimes worked by the day in
the mayor's garden, and Hürlin was occupied under the manager's
supervision in washing salad, picking lentils, shelling beans and the
liketasks in which he was not required to overexert himself, and yet
could feel he was being useful. Under these conditions the feud between
the two brethren seemed slowly healing, since they never worked
together the whole day, and in their leisure hours each had enough to
complain of and to report. Each of them imagined, too, that he had been
selected for this particular work on account of special aptitudes which
gave him a certain superiority over the other. So the summer drew
along, until the leaves began to turn brown, and the evenings on which
one could do without a light until nine o'clock were no more.
At this time it happened to the manufacturer, as he was sitting
alone on the doorstep one afternoon and sleepily contemplating the
world, to see a strange young man come down the hill who asked the way
to the town hall. Hürlin was civil out of sheer boredom, went a couple
of streets with the stranger, answered his questions, and was presented
for his trouble with two cigars. He asked the next wagon-driver for a
light, lit one of them, and returned to his shady place on the
doorstep, where with enthusiastic delight he gave himself up to the
pleasure, long unknown, of smoking a good cigar. The last of it he put
into his pipe and smoked it until there was nothing left but ashes and
a few brown drops. In the evening, when the sailmaker came from the
mayor's garden, with, as usual, plenty to relate about the pear-cider
and white bread and radishes he had had for his lunch, and how
splendidly they had treated him, Hürlin also recounted his adventure
with long-winded eloquence, to Heller's great envy.
And what have you done with the cigars? he asked at once with
Smoked them, said Hürlin, haughtily.
Yes, you old simpleton, both.
Both at once?
No, you fool, first one and then the other.
Is that true?
Why shouldn't it be true?
Well, said the sailmaker, who did not believe the story, quickly,
then I'll tell you something. You're a dumb ox, and a big one at
Am I? And why?
If you'd put one by, you'd have had something for tomorrow. Now
what have you got?
This was too much for the manufacturer. With a grin he drew the
remaining cigar from his breast-pocket and held it before the eyes of
the envious sailmaker, in order to annoy him. Do you see that?
ThereI'm not such a God-forsaken idiot as you think I am!
Oh, so you've still got one left! Let me look at it.
Hold on! I don't know
Oh, just to look at it. I'm a judge of whether it's a good one.
You'll get it back right away. So Hürlin gave him the cigar. He turned
it about in his fingers, held it to his nose and sniffed at it awhile,
and said, as he reluctantly gave it back, There you areit's
miserable cabbage-leaf, the kind you get two for a kreuzer.
Then there arose a discussion as to the goodness and the price of
the cigar, which lasted until they went to bed. When they were
undressing, Hürlin laid his treasure on his pillow and watched it
anxiously. Heller mocked him: Yes, take it to bed with you! Perhaps
it'll have little ones. The manufacturer made no reply; when his
companion was in bed, he put the cigar carefully on the windowsill and
went to bed too. He stretched himself luxuriously, and before he went
to sleep still savored the enjoyment of the afternoon, when he had so
proudly blown his smoke out into the sunshine, and when with the
fragrance something of his former splendor and consciousness of
greatness had returned to him. Just so in the old days, between his
office and his workshop, he had pulled at his long cigar and sent up
careless, lordly, captain-of-industry clouds. Then he went to sleep,
and while his dreams conjured up the picture of his vanished greatness
in all its glory, he stuck up his red and swollen nose into the air
with the same proud contempt of the world as in his best days.
In the middle of the night, however, contrary to his custom, he
suddenly woke up, and there he saw in the dim light the sailmaker
standing at the head of his bed, with a thin hand stretched out toward
the cigar on the window-sill.
With a cry of rage he threw himself out of bed and barred the
retreat of the malefactor. For a while no words were spoken; the two
enemies stood facing each other, breathing hard but not moving,
surveying each other with piercing glances of anger, uncertain
themselves whether it was fear or excess of surprise that prevented
them from having each other by the hair.
Drop that cigar! cried Hürlin at last, hoarsely. The sailmaker did
not alter his position. Drop it! shouted the other, and as Heller
still did not move, he hauled off and would undoubtedly have given him
a swinging blow if the sailmaker had not ducked in time. In the
movement, however, he dropped the cigar, Hürlin tried to grasp it,
Heller trod on it with his heel, and with a light crackle it went to
pieces. Then the manufacturer gave him a good one in the ribs, and the
next thing a fair tussle was on. It was the first time they had come to
blows; but their cowardice outweighed even their anger, and no serious
damage resulted. Now one advanced a step, now the other; the two naked
old men circled about the room without much noise as if they were
performing some antique dance, each a hero and neither receiving a
blow. This went on until in a favorable moment the manufacturer got his
hand on his empty wash-basin. He swung it wildly over his head and
brought it down forcibly on the skull of his unarmed foe. It did him no
particular harm, but the crash of the tin basin gave out a warlike and
resonant sound that rang through the whole house. At once the door
opened, admitting the manager in his nightshirt, who stood between
scolding and laughing before the duelists.
You're a pair of precious old rascals, he cried, knocking each
other about without a stitch on you, like a couple of old he-goats!
Into bed with youand if I hear another sound, you'll get something to
be thankful for!
But he was stealing Hürlin began to shout, almost crying with
rage and injured dignity, only to be instantly interrupted and ordered
to keep quiet. The he-goats retreated muttering to their beds; the
weaver listened a few moments at the door, and when he had gone all was
still in the room. By the wash-basin the fragments of the cigar lay on
the floor; the pale summer night peeped in at the window, and over the
two old rogues in their deadly hatred hung the flower-bedecked text,
Little children, love one another.
Hürlin extracted at least a minor triumph out of the affair the next
day. He steadfastly refused any longer to share the same room with the
sailmaker; and after a stubborn resistance the weaver was obliged to
give in and assign Heller another room. So the manufacturer once more
became a hermit; and glad as he was to be rid of the sailmaker's
company, it preyed on his spirits to such an extent that he realized
fully for the first time into what a hopeless cul de sac fate
had thrust him in his old age.
The poor old man could make no cheerful prognostications. Formerly,
however badly things went, he had at least been free; even in his most
miserable days he had had a few pennies to spend at the tavern, and
could set out on his wanderings again whenever he chose. Now he sat
there, stripped of all rights and under discipline, never saw a copper
that he could call his own, and had nothing before him in the world
except to become older and feebler and, when his time came, to lie down
He began to do what he had never done beforeto look up and down
from a high point of vantage on the Allpach road, over the town and
along the valley; to measure the white high-roads with his eye, and
watch the soaring birds and the clouds; to follow longingly with his
eye the passing wagons and the pedestrians that went up and down, as a
mourning exile from their company, left behind never to join them in
their journeys. To pass the evenings, he accustomed himself now to
reading; but from the edifying histories of the almanacs and pious
periodicals he often raised a distant and depressed eye, feeling that
he had nothing in common with such people and events, recalling his
young days, Solingen, his factory, the prison, the joyous evenings in
the old Sun, and coming back always to the thought that now he was
alone, hopelessly alone.
Heller, the sailmaker, cast sidelong and malicious glances at him,
but after a time attempted to reëstablish intercourse with him. When he
met the manufacturer out at their resting-place, he would occasionally
put on a friendly expression and greet him with Fine weather, Hürlin!
I think we shall have a good autumn, don't you? But Hürlin merely
looked at him, nodded wearily, and made no sound.
In spite of all this, some thread would have gradually spun itself
to link the two perverse creatures together; out of his very melancholy
and disgust, Hürlin would have grasped as for dear life at the first
comer, if only to get rid now and then of the wretched feeling of
loneliness and emptiness. The manager, who was displeased by the
manufacturer's silent moroseness, did what he could also to bring his
two charges together. But finally a sort of salvation, if a dubious
one, came to all three. During the month of September there came to the
house at short intervals two new inmatestwo very different ones.
One was called Louis Kellerhals; but this name was not known to
anybody in the town, for Louis had borne for decades the appellation of
Holdria, whose origin is undiscoverable. When, many years before, he
had become a pensioner of the community, he had been placed with a
friendly artisan, where he had been well treated and counted as a
member of the family. The artisan had now, however, died with
unexpected suddenness; and since his protégé could hardly be reckoned
as part of the inheritance he left, it was necessary for the poorhouse
to receive him. He made his entrance with a well-filled linen bag, a
huge blue umbrella, and a green wooden cage, containing a very fat
common sparrow. He seemed little upset by his change of quarters; he
came in smiling and beaming with cordiality, shook every one heartily
by the hand, spoke no word and asked no questions, brimmed over with
delight and kindliness when any one spoke to him or looked at him, and
even if he had not long been a well-known figure, could not have
concealed for a quarter of an hour the fact that he was a harmless and
The second, who made his appearance about a week later, brought with
him not less joyful benevolence, but was not weak in the head; on the
contrary, though harmless enough, he was a thoroughly cunning fellow.
His name was Stefan Finkenbein; he was a member of the wandering
beggars' dynasty of the Finkenbeins, long well known throughout the
whole town and neighborhood. Of this complicated family two branches
had settled in Gerbersau, counting several dozen members. They were all
without exception sharp-witted fellows; yet none of them had ever come
to any notable fortune, for it was an inseparable characteristic of
their nature to love to be free as the birds and to rejoice in the
humor of having no possessions.
The said Stefan was still below sixty, and enjoyed perfect health.
He was rather thin, indeed, and his limbs were delicate; but he was
always well and active, and it was something of a mystery how he had
been able to foist himself upon the community as a candidate for a
place in the poorhouse. There were plenty of people in the town older,
more wretched, and even poorer. But from the very foundation of the
institution he had been consumed by a desire to enter it; he felt
himself a born Sun-Brother, and would and must be one. And now there he
was, as smiling and amiable as the excellent Holdria, but with much
less extensive baggagefor besides what he wore on his back he brought
nothing but a stiff Sunday hat of old-fashioned respectable elegance,
well preserved in shape if not in color. He bore himself as a lively
social light, accustomed to the world. Since Holdria had already been
assigned to Hürlin's room, he was put in with Heller, the sailmaker. He
found all his surroundings good and praiseworthy, except that the
taciturnity of his companions did not please him. One evening before
supper, as all four sat outside the door, he suddenly began: Say, Mr.
Manufacturer, are you always so mournful? You're a regular streamer of
Oh, don't bother me!
[Illustration: FLOWER MARKET AT LEYDEN]
Why, what's the matter with you? Why do we all sit round, anyhow,
so solemnly? We could have a drop of something good once in a while,
Hürlin gave ear for a moment with delight, and his tired eyes
glistened; then he shook his head despairingly, he turned his empty
pockets inside out, and assumed an expression of suffering.
Oh, I seeno coin! cried Finkenbein, laughing. Good gracious, I
always thought one of those manufacturer fellows had something jingling
in his purse. But today's my first day here, and it mustn't go dry like
this. Come on, all of youFinkenbein's still got a little capital in
his breeches for a time of need.
Both the mourners sprang to their feet at once. They left the
weak-minded old fellow sitting where he was, and the three others
tottered off at a quick pace toward the Star, where they were soon
sitting on a bench against the wall, each with a glass in front of him.
Hürlin, who had not seen the interior of a tavern for weeks and months,
was full of joyous excitement. He breathed in the atmosphere of the
place in long draughts, and absorbed his liquor in short, economical,
timid sips. Like a man awakening from an evil dream, he felt that he
had been restored to life again, and welcomed home by the familiar
surroundings. He brought out once more all the half-forgotten free
gestures of his old sporting days, banged thunderously on the table,
snapped his fingers, spat at ease on the floor and scraped noisily over
it with his foot. Even his manner of talking showed a sudden change,
and the full-toned words of power that recalled the days when he was a
commanding figure rang out from his blue lips with something of the old
While the manufacturer thus renewed his youth and sunned himself in
the afterglow of his old accomplishments and his bygone happiness,
Lukas Heller blinked thoughtfully at his glass and felt that the time
had come to repay the proud fellow for all his insults, and especially
for the dishonoring blow with the tin wash-basin on that memorable
night. He kept quite still and waited watchfully for the right moment.
Meantime Hürlin, as had always been his custom, began with the
second glass to listen to the conversation of his neighbors at the next
table, to take part in it with nods and grunts and play of expression,
and finally to interject an occasional Oh yes, or Really? He felt
himself quite restored to the beautiful past; and as the conversation
at the adjoining table grew more animated, he turned more and more to
face the speakers and, as his old habit was, soon plunged with fire
into the clash of conflicting opinions. At first the other men paid no
attention to him, but presently one of them, a driver, suddenly cried
out, Lord, it's the manufacturer! What's the matter with you, you old
rascal? Be good enough to hold your tongue, or I shall have to tell you
Hürlin turned away, cast down; but the sailmaker gave him a dig in
the ribs and murmured eagerly to him, Don't let that fellow shut you
up! You tell him something, the smarty!
This encouragement at once inflamed the sensitiveness of the
manufacturer to new self-consciousness. He banged on the table
defiantly, moved a little nearer to the speaker, threw bold glances at
him, and spoke in his deep chest-tone, A little more manners, if you
please. You don't seem to know how to behave.
Some of the men laughed. The driver answered, still good-humoredly,
Look out for yourself, manufacturer! If you don't shut up, you may get
more than you bargain for.
I don't have to, said Hürlin with emphatic dignity, once more
egged on by a nudge from the sailmaker; I belong here just as much as
you do, and have got as good a right to talk as the next man. So now
The driver, who had just paid for a round of drinks at his table and
so felt entitled to take the leading position, got up and came over,
tired of the altercation. Go back to the poorhouse, where you belong!
he said to Hürlin; then he took him, shrinking in alarm, by the collar,
dragged him over to the door, and helped him through it with a kick.
The others laughed, and were of the opinion that it served the
disturber right. The little incident was closed, and they resumed their
important discussion with oaths and shouts.
The sailmaker was happy. He persuaded Finkenbein to order one more
little drink, and, recognizing the value of this new associate, he bent
all his endeavors to establish friendly relations with him, to which
Finkenbein yielded with a quiet smile. He had once undertaken to beg
where Hürlin was already at work on the same line, and had been
forcibly warned off by him. In spite of this, he bore no grudge against
him, and declined to join in the abuse which the sailmaker now poured
out upon the absent man. He was better adapted than these who had sunk
from happier circumstances to take the world as it came and to tolerate
people's little peculiarities.
That's enough, sailmaker, he said protestingly. Hürlin's a fool,
of course, but by long odds not the worst in the world. I'm glad we've
got him to play the fool with up there.
Heller accepted the correction and hastened to adapt himself to this
conciliatory tone. It was now time to leave, so they moved along and
got home just in time for supper. The table, with five people sitting
at it, had now an imposing appearance. At the head sat the weaver; then
on one side came the red-cheeked Holdria next to the thin, decayed and
miserable-looking Hürlin. Opposite them sat the cunning sailmaker with
his scanty hair, and the merry, bright-eyed Finkenbein. The latter
entertained the manager successfully and kept him in good humor, from
time to time addressing a few jokes to the imbecile, who received them
with a flattered grin. When the table had been cleared off and the
dishes washed, he drew a pack of cards from his pocket and proposed a
game. The weaver was disposed to forbid it, but finally gave in, on
condition that the game should only be for love. Finkenbein burst out
Of course, Herr Sauberle. What else could it be for? I was born to
millions, but they were all swallowed up in the Hürlin stockexcuse
me, Mr. Manufacturer!
They began to play, then, and for awhile the game went along
merrily, broken only by numerous jokes from Finkenbein and by an
attempt at cheating on the sailmaker's part, discovered and exposed by
the same clever person. But then the sailmaker began to feel his oats,
and displayed a tendency to make mysterious allusions to the adventure
at the Star. At first Hürlin paid no attention; then he made angry
signs to stop him. The sailmaker laughed maliciously, looking at
Finkenbein. Hürlin looked up, caught the disagreeable laugh and wink,
and suddenly realized that Heller had been the original cause of his
ejection and was now making merry at his expense. This struck him to
the heart. He made a sour grimace, threw his cards on the table in the
middle of a hand, and could not be persuaded to continue the game.
Heller saw what was the trouble; he discreetly said nothing, and
redoubled his endeavors to place himself on a friendly footing with
Thus the fat was in the fire again between the two old antagonists;
and the discord was all the worse because Hürlin was now convinced that
Finkenbein had known of the plot and helped it along. The latter bore
himself with unchanged geniality and comradeship; but since Hürlin now
always suspected him, and took in bad part his jesting designations as
the Councillor, Herr von Hürlin, and the like, the Sun-Brotherhood
soon split into two parties. The manufacturer had soon grown accustomed
to the silly Holdria as a roommate and had made him his friend.
From time to time Finkenbein, who from some hidden source or other
had now and then a little money in his pocket, proposed another secret
excursion to the tavern. But Hürlin, strong as the temptation was for
him, kept a stiff front and never went with them, although it hurt him
to think that Heller was thus getting the better of him. Instead, he
stayed at home with Holdria, who listened to him with radiant smiles or
with large, troubled eyes when he growled and cursed or when he drew
fanciful pictures of what he would do if any one lent him a thousand
Lukas Heller, on the other hand, cleverly kept up his relations with
Finkenbein. It was true that in the early days he had exposed the new
friendship to grave peril. One night, in his characteristic fashion, he
had gone through his roommate's clothes, and found thirty pfennigs in
them which he appropriated. The victim of the theft, who was not
asleep, watched him calmly through his half-closed eyelids. Next
morning he congratulated the sailmaker on his dexterity, paid him high
compliments, requested the return of the money, and behaved as though
it had all been a good joke. In this way he got Heller completely in
his power; and although the latter had in him a good, lively comrade,
he could not pour out his complaints against Hürlin to him quite as
unrestrainedly as could Hürlin to his ally. And his diatribes against
women soon became wearisome to Finkenbein.
That's all right, sailmaker, that's all right. You're like a
hand-organ with only one tuneyou haven't any changes. As far as the
women are concerned, I dare say you're right. But enough of anything is
enough. You ought to get another waltz put inanything else, you
knowotherwise I wouldn't care if some one stole you.
The manufacturer was secure against such declarations. This was well
enough, but it did not make him happy. The more patient his auditor
was, the deeper he sank in his melancholy. A few times the sovereign
light-heartedness of the good-for-nothing Finkenbein infected him for
half an hour to the extent of reviving the grand gestures and
sententious utterances of his golden daysbut his hands had grown
stiff, and the words no longer came from his heart. In the last
sunshiny days of autumn he sometimes sat under the decaying
apple-trees; but he never looked on town and valley now with envy or
desire. His glance was far-away and strange, as if all this meant
nothing to him and was out of his range. As a matter of fact, it did
mean nothing to him, for he was visibly breaking up and had nothing
more ahead of him.
His decline came on him very swiftly. It was true that soon after
his downfall, in the thirsty days when he first grew well acquainted
with the Sun, he had grown very gray and begun to lose his agility.
But he had been able for years to get about and drink many a glass of
wine and play the leading part in a conversation in the tavern or on
the street. It was only the poorhouse that had really brought him to
his knees. When he had rejoiced at his installation there, he had not
realized that he was cutting off the best threads of his life. For he
had no talent for living without projects and prospects and all sorts
of movement and bustle; and it was when he had given in to weariness
and hunger and abandoned himself to rest that his real bankruptcy took
place. Now there was nothing left for him but to wait a little while
until his life went out.
The fact was that Hürlin had been too long accustomed to tavern
life. A gray-haired man cannot break off old habits, even when they are
vicious, without damage. His loneliness and his breach with Heller had
helped to make him increasingly silent; and when a great talker grows
silent, it means that he is well on the road toward the churchyard.
It is a depressing sight when an artist in life, even on a small
scale, who has grown old in elegant trifles and ostentation and
self-seeking, instead of coming to a sudden end in a fight or as he
goes home at night from the tavern, must live on to grow melancholy and
end as a dabbler in the sentimental reflections which have always been
foreign to him. But since life is incontestably a powerful composer,
and thus cannot be accused of senseless caprices, there is nothing for
it but to listen to the strains it produces, to admire, and to think
the best of it. And after all there is a certain tragic beauty in the
thing when such a spirit, that has been spoiled and left raw and then
beaten down, rebels at the very end and clamors for its rights, when it
flutters its awkward wings and, since nothing else is left, insists on
having its fill of bitterness and complaint.
There was much now that came to rub and gnaw at this rude,
ill-trained soul; and it became evident that its earlier stubbornness
and self-control had rested upon insecure foundations. The manager was
the first to realize his condition. To the pastor, on one of his
visits, he said with a shrug of his shoulders: One can't really help
being sorry for Hürlin. Since he's been looking so down in the mouth, I
don't make him work; but it's no usethat's not what's troubling him.
He thinks and studies too much. If I didn't know his sort too well, I
should say it was just his bad conscience, and serve him right. But
that's not all of it. There's something gnawing at him from insideand
at his age a fellow can't stand that long. We shall see. After this
the minister sat now and then with Hürlin in his room, near Holdria's
green bird-cage, and talked to him of life and death, and tried to
bring some light into his darknessbut in vain. Hürlin listened or not
as his mood was, nodded or hummed, but spoke no word and grew
constantly stranger. Once in a while one of Finkenbein's jokes would
appeal to him, and he would give a dry laugh or beat on the table and
nod approvingly; but immediately afterward he would sink into himself
again to listen to the confused voices that claimed his attention and
tormented him without his being able to understand them.
Outwardly he only seemed quieter and more plaintive, and all treated
him much as before. The imbecile alone, even if he had not been himself
so feeble-minded, was capable of understanding Hürlin's condition and
his gradual decline and feeling a certain horror at the sight; for this
friendly and peaceful soul had become the manufacturer's constant
companion and friend. They sat together by the wooden cage, put their
fingers in between the bars for the fat sparrow to peck at, lounged of
a morning, now that winter was coming on, by the half warm stove, and
looked at each other with as much comprehension as if they had been two
sages instead of a pair of poor hopeless fools. You can see at times
two wild beasts locked in together looking at each other in just the
same way; according to the mood of the observer, their gaze will seem
dull, amusing, or terribly moving.
What troubled Hürlin most was the humiliation he had experienced at
the Star through Heller's instigation. At the very table where he had
long sat almost daily, where he had spent his last penny, where he had
been a good customer, a friend of the house and a leader in debate,
there landlord and guests alike had looked on and laughed when he was
kicked out. He had been forced to feel in his own bones that he
belonged there no longer, that he did not count, that he had been
forgotten and struck off the list and had no longer any shadow of
For any other scurvy trick he would have avenged himself on Heller
at the first opportunity. But now he did not even bring out the
accustomed words of abuse that sat so easily on his tongue. What could
he say to him? He had been entirely right. If he were still the same
man as of old, still worth anything, they would not have dared to turn
him out of the Star. He was done for, and might as well pack up and
And now he looked forward to contemplate the destined straight and
narrow path, an uncounted series of empty, dull, dead days, and at the
end of it deathof which he thought sometimes with longing, sometimes
with an angry shudder. It was all settled, nailed down and prescribed,
unmistakable and inevitable. There was no longer any possibility of
falsifying a balance-sheet or forging a paper, of turning himself into
a stock-company, or by tortuous paths through bankruptcy sneaking out
again into life. He was no longer a firm or a nameonly a worn-out old
man before whom the abyss of the infinite opened in all its terror,
with the grisly skeleton silently grinning at him to cut off his
retreat. Though the manufacturer had been accustomed to many different
kinds of circumstances and knew how to find his way about in them,
these were different. Now he tried to wave them away with weak gestures
of his old arms, now he buried his face in his hands, shut his eyes,
and trembled with fear of the unescapable hand which he felt descending
to grasp him.
The good-hearted Finkenbein, coming gradually to suspect that all
manner of ghosts were closing in upon the manufacturer, sometimes gave
him an encouraging word, or clapped him on the shoulder with a
consoling laugh. I say, Mr. Councillor, you oughtn't to study so much.
You're quite clever enoughin your time you got the best of plenty of
rich and clever people, didn't you? Don't be cross, millionaireI
don't mean any harm. It's just my little jokeman, think of the holy
text up over your bed! And he would spread out his arms with a
pastoral dignity, as if in blessing, and recite with unction, Little
children, love one another!
Or, wait a bit, he would say again, we'll start a savings-bank,
and when it's full we'll buy from the town its shabby poorhouse, and
take the sign out and make the old Sun rise again, so as to get some
oil into the machine once more. What do you say to that?
If we only had five thousand marks Hürlin would begin to reckon;
but the others would laugh, and he would break off, heave a sigh, and
return to his brooding.
When winter had fully come, they saw him getting more silent and
restless. He had fallen into the habit of wandering in and out of the
room, sometimes grim, sometimes with a look of terror, sometimes with
one of watchful cunning. Otherwise he disturbed nobody. Holdria often
kept him company, falling into step with him in his incessant
wanderings through the room, and answering to the best of his powers
the glances, gestures, and sighs of the restless rambler, always
fleeing before the evil spirits whom he could not escape because he
carried them with him. Since all his life he had loved to play a
deceiver's part and played it with varying luck, now he was condemned
to play through to a desperately sad end with his harlequin-like
manners. He played miserably and absurdly enoughbut at least the role
corresponded to himself, and the former poseur now for the first time
came on the stage without his mask, not to his advantage. The
realization of the infinite and the eternal, the longing for the
inexpressible, innate in this soul as in others but neglected and
forgotten through a whole lifetime, found now, when it swelled up, no
outlet, and attempted to express itself in grimaces, gestures, and
tones of the strangest kind, absurdly and laughably enough. But there
was a real power behind it all; and the uncomprehending desire for
death was certainly the first great and, in the higher sense, rational
movement which this small soul had known for years.
Among the queer performances of a mind off the track was this, that
several times a day he crawled under his bed, brought out the old tin
sun, and offered it a foolish reverence. Sometimes he carried it
solemnly before him like a holy monstrance; sometimes he set it up in
front of him and gazed upon it with entranced eyes, sometimes he smote
it angrily with his fist, only to take it up tenderly the moment after,
caress it and dandle it in his arms before he restored it to its
hiding-place. When he began these symbolic farces, he lost what little
credit for intelligence remained to him among his housemates, and was
put down with his friend Holdria as an absolute imbecile. The sailmaker
especially regarded him with undisguised contempt, played tricks upon
him and humiliated him whenever he could, and was seriously annoyed
that Hürlin seemed to take so little notice of him.
Once he got the tin sun away from him and hid it in another room.
When Hürlin went to get it and could not find it, he roamed through the
house for a while, looking for it repeatedly in many different places;
then he addressed impotent threatening speeches to all the inmates, the
weaver not excepted; and when nothing did any good, he sat down at the
table, buried his head in his hands, and broke into pitiful sobbing
which lasted for half an hour. This was too much for the sympathetic
Finkenbein. He gave a mighty box on the ear to the terrified sailmaker,
and forced him to restore the concealed treasure.
The tough frame of the manufacturer might have resisted for many
more years, in spite of his almost white hair. But the desire for
death, though it was working almost unconsciously in him, soon found
its way out, and made an end to the ugly tragi-comedy. One night in
December it happened that the old man could not sleep. Sitting up in
bed, he gave himself to his desolate thoughts, staring at the dark
wall, and seemed to himself more forsaken than usual. In this mood of
weariness, fear, and hopelessness he finally rose from his bed without
knowing too well what he was doing, unfastened his hempen suspenders,
and hanged himself with them to the top of the door-jamb. So Holdria
found him in the morning, and the imbecile's cry of horror soon brought
the manager. Hürlin's face was just a little bluer than usual, but it
was impossible to disfigure it very much.
It was a terrible surprise, but its effect was of short duration.
Only Holdria whimpered softly over his bowl of coffee; all the others
knew or felt that the manufacturer's end had come at a good time for
him, and that there was no real cause for regret or horror. And then no
one had loved him.
Of course a few penny-a-liners made haste to investigate the
interesting case, and communicated to the readers of their cheap
papers, together with the necessary moralizings, the fact that the not
unknown bankrupt Karl Hürlin had made a rather suitable end as a
suicide in the poorhouse.
When Finkenbein had come as the fourth inmate, there had been some
complaints in the town about the way in which the newly-founded
institution was rapidly filling. Now one was gone from the number; and
though it is true that paupers are usually of robust constitution and
reach a good old age, yet it is also true that a hole seldom stays as
it is, but seems to eat into the stuff around it. So it was here, at
any rate. The colony of good-for-naughts was scarcely founded before
consumption seemed to set in and went on working.
For the moment, indeed, the manufacturer seemed to be forgotten, and
all went on as before. Lukas Heller took the lead in the little
community, so far as Finkenbein would allow him the primacy, made the
weaver's life a burden to him, and managed to put off half of the
little work he was supposed to do upon the willing Holdria. He was thus
comfortable and cheerful; he began to settle down as in a warm nest,
and resolved not to worry under these delightful circumstances, but to
live many years for his own pleasure and the annoyance of the citizens.
Now that Hürlin was gone, he was the eldest of the Sun-Brothers. He
made himself quite at home, and had never in his life found himself so
much in harmony with his environment, whose secure though not luxurious
peace and idleness left him time to stretch himself easily and to
contemplate himself as a respectable and not altogether useless member
of societyof the town, and of the world as a whole.
It was otherwise with Finkenbein. The ideal picture of a
Sun-Brother's life which his lively fancy had painted in such glowing
colors was far different from what he had found the reality to be. To
be sure, to all appearance he was still the same light-footed jester as
of old; he enjoyed his good bed, the warm stove, the solid and
sufficient food, and seemed to find no fault with anything. He
continued to bring back from mysterious trips into the town a few small
coins for drink and tobacco, in which he generously allowed the
sailmaker to share. He was seldom at a loss to know how to pass the
time, for he knew every face up and down the road, and was a general
favoriteso that at any house or shop door, on bridge or steps, by
wagons or push-carts, as well as at the Star and the Lion, he was
able to enjoy a gossip with any one who came along.
In spite of all this, he was not at ease. To begin with, Heller and
Holdria were hardly satisfying daily companions for him, who had been
used to intercourse with livelier and more rewarding people; and then
he found increasingly burdensome the regularity of this life, with its
fixed hours for rising, eating, working, and going to bed. Finally, and
this was the main point, the life was too good and comfortable for him.
He was trained to alternating days of hunger with days of feasting, to
sleeping now on linen and now on straw, to being sometimes admired and
sometimes browbeaten. He was used to wandering where the spirit moved
him, to being afraid of the police, to having little games with the
fair sex, and to expecting something new from each new day. He missed
this poverty, freedom, movement and continual expectation here; and he
soon came to the conclusion that his admission to the house, which he
had procured by many stratagems, was not, as he had thought, his
master-stroke but a stupid mistake with troublesome and lasting
If these views led Finkenbein to a somewhat different end from the
manufacturer's, it was because he was in everything of an opposite
temperament. Above all, he did not hang his head, nor did he let his
thoughts travel ceaselessly over the same empty field of mourning and
dissatisfaction, but kept them fresh and lively. He paid little heed to
the future, and danced lightly from one day into the next. He
captivated the weaver, the simpleton, the sailmaker Heller, the fat
sparrow, the whole system on their humorous side, and had retained from
his old life the comfortable artist's habit of never making plans or
throwing out anchors for wishes or hopes beyond the situation of the
moment. So it proved successful for him now too, since he was assured
and provided for the rest of his days, to lead the life of the birds
and the flies; and it was a blessing not only to him but to the whole
house, whose daily life acquired through his presence a touch of
freedom and of elegant hilarity. This was distinctly neededfor
Sauberle and Heller had, of their own resources, hardly more than the
good-natured simpleton Holdria to contribute to the cheering and
adornment of the monotonous existence.
So the days and weeks flowed along quite tolerably, and if it was
not always jolly, at least there were no more quarrels or discords. The
manager worked and worried himself thin and weary; the sailmaker
greedily enjoyed his cheap comfort; Finkenbein shut one eye and lived
on the surface of things; Holdria positively bloomed in eternal peace
of mind, and increased daily in amiability, in appetite, and in weight.
It would have been an idyllic state of thingsbut the haggard ghost of
the dead manufacturer was hovering about. The hole was destined to grow
And so it came to pass that on a Wednesday in February Lukas Heller
had some work to do in the woodshed in the morning; and since he was
still unable to work in any other way than by fits and starts and with
long pauses, he came and sat down under the archway in a perspiration
and developed a cough and a headache. At midday he ate hardly half his
usual amount; in the afternoon he stayed by the stove shivering,
coughing, and swearing; and by eight in the evening he went to bed.
Next morning the doctor was sent for. This time Heller ate nothing at
all at dinner; a little later fever set in, and in the night Finkenbein
and the manager had to take turns in watching by him. The next thing
was that the sailmaker died, recalcitrant, envious, and by no means
patient or tranquil; and the town was rid of one more pensioner, which
no one regretted.
It was to have better luck still. In March an unusually early spring
set in, and things began to grow. From the big mountains to the ditches
by the roadside, everything became green and young; the high-road was
peopled by precocious chickens, ducks, and traveling journeymen, and
birds of every size flitted through the air on joyous wings.
The growing loneliness and stillness of the house had been getting
more and more on Finkenbein's nerves. The two deaths seemed to him of
evil omen, and he felt more than ever like the last survivor on a
sinking ship. Now he took to smoking and leaning out of the window by
the hour into the warmth and mild spring feelings. A sort of ferment
was in all his limbs and around his still young heart, which felt the
call of spring, remembered old days, and began to consider whether
there might not be a spring for it too amidst all this universal
growing, sprouting and well-being.
One day he brought back from the town not only a packet of tobacco
and the latest news, but also, in a worn bit of waxed cloth, two new
pieces of paper which were adorned with beautiful flourishes and solemn
official blue seals, but which had not been procured at the town-hall.
How should such an old, bold traveler not understand the delicate and
mysterious art of producing on nicely written documents any desired
stamp, either old or new? It is not every one who knows how to do it;
it takes skilful fingers and much practice to extract the thin inner
skin of a fresh egg and spread it out without a wrinkle, to press on it
the stamp of an old certificate of residence and permit to travel, and
to transfer it cleanly from the damp skin to a new paper.
One fine day, then, Stefan Finkenbein disappeared without any
flourish of trumpets from the town and the district. He took for his
journey his tall, stiff hat, and left behind as a sole memento his old
woolen cap which was almost falling to pieces. The officials instituted
a small and considerate investigation. But since rumors soon came in
that he had been seen in a neighboring jurisdiction, alive and happy in
a favorite resort of his kind, and since nobody had any interest in
bringing him back without necessity, standing in the way of whatever
happiness he might find, and continuing to feed him at the town's
expense, it was decided to abandon the investigation and allow the free
bird, with the best of wishes, to fly wherever he chose. Six weeks
later came a postcard from him to the weaver, in which he wrote:
Honored Herr Sauberle: I am in Bavaria. It is not so warm here. Do
you know what I think you'd better do? Take Holdria and his sparrow and
show him off for money. We might both travel on that. Then we might
hang up Hürlin's sign. Your true friend, Stefan Finkenbein,
There might have been more trouble in the almost empty nest of fate,
but the last Sun-Brother, Holdria, was too innocent and of too
sedentary a disposition. Fifteen years have gone by since Heller's
death and Finkenbein's disappearance, and the imbecile still dwells,
sound and rosy-cheeked, in the former Sun. For a while he was the
only inmate. The numerous personages who were qualified held back
discreetly and timidly for some little time; the terrible death of the
manufacturer, the swift taking off of the stout sailmaker, and the
flight of Finkenbein had gradually shaped themselves into a
widely-known theory, and surrounded the dwelling of the imbecile for as
much as six months with bloody legends and tales of horror. After this
period, however, need and laziness again brought several guests to the
old Sun, and since that time Holdria has never been alone. He has
seen some curious and tiresome brothers come, share his meals, and die;
and at this moment he is the senior of a company of seven, without
counting the manager. Any warm, pleasant day you may see the whole
company on the turf by the side of the hill-road, smoking their stumpy
pipes and with weather-beaten faces and various feelings looking down
on the town which in the meantime has grown considerably up and down