The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:06 pm

The White Dominican
by Gustav Meyrink
Translated from the German by Mike Mitchell, and with an introduction by John Clute
First published in Germany in 1921
First English translation 1994
Translation and Introduction © le Dedalus 1994




Table of Contents:

• The Translator
• Introduction
• Preface
• Chapter 1
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5
• Chapter 6
• Chapter 7
• Chapter 8
• Chapter 9
• Chapter 10
• Chapter 11
• Chapter 12
• Chapter 13
• Chapter 14
• Chapter 15
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:06 pm


Mike Mitchell is a lecturer in German at Stirling University. His publications include a book on Peter Hacks, the East German playwright, and numerous studies on aspects of modem Austrian Literature; he is the co-author of Harrap' s German Grammar and the editor of The Dedalus Book of Austrian Fantasy: the Meyrink Years 1890-1930.

Mike Mitchell's translations include The Architect of Ruins by Herbert Rosendorfer, The Works of Solitude by Gyorgy Sebestyen, and Gustav Meyrink's novels The Angel of the West Window, The Green Face, Walpurgisnacht and The White Dominican.

He is currently engaged on translating Gustav Meyrink's The Golem into English.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:07 pm

by John Clute

Gustav Meyrink, it is possible to think, lived a life that was more like a dream than any of the stories he wrote. He was a bastard, a banker, an inventor, a fin-de-siecle flaneur, a jailbird, a guru who flyted his disciples, a pacifist in love with apocalypse, a magus who condemned the halitosic prattle of occultism. Each stage of his life had the saturated gluey intensity of dream; and the life as a whole seemed spatchcocked out of legend and sleep, a congeries of psychopomp blurbs. He was an Arcimboldi Green Man: rags and patches of life-stuff; granny-knots of circumstance unravelling at a jerk as the century downturned into disaster; a foliate head. The stories he wrote seemed to exfoliate from the life.

He was born Gustav Meyer, in Vienna. His mother was an actress and his father an elderly aristocrat with a position in government Grotesquely maladroit parent-figures appear and reappear throughout the fiction, most notably perhaps as the crone-courtesan and floundering ectomorph nobleman whose ultimate reconciliation transfigures his third novel, Walpurgisnacht (1917; translated by Mike Mitchell for Dedalus in 1993).

He moved to Prague as a young man and became a banker, an athlete, a philanderer, a fencer, and the owner of that city's first automobile. Much of the carnival night life hinted at in Walpurgisnacht, and treated in detail throughout his second novel, Das grune Gesicht (1916; translated by Mike Mitchell for Dedalus in 1992 as The Green Face), seems to make nineteenth century Prague visible in a crazy mirror, as topsy-turvy as the new century boded to become.

His first marriage ended badly. He remarried under circumstances which seemed scandalous to the Prague world he mocked, and which occasioned vicious gossip. He challenged one of his new wife's slanderers to a duel, but the challenge was declined on the grounds that, as a bastard, he was inherently incapable of receiving satisfaction. At about the same time, in 1902, he was arrested and imprisoned for three months, on charges of fraud. He was exonerated, but on his release was discovered to have tuberculosis of the spine. He was also destitute. His life as a banker Harlequin had terminated as though he had walked a plank, into a new medium. His first novel, Der Golem (1915; translated by Madge Pemberton in 1928 as The Golem; a new translation by Mike Mitchell will appear from Dedalus in the spring of 1995), is structured around visions of unbearable parents, occult amnesia, the false polder of the soon-to-be-demolished ghetto, a supernatural doppelganger who evokes a lacerating sehnsucht in the blanked protagonist, surreal interrogations and false imprisonment in a Prague like Kafka's, and an invisible new life told through a frame story which opens opaque hints of that new life whose details the novel cannot presume to depict.

But before Gustav Meyer's first life ended, he had begun the life for which he is now remembered. His first story, which was written under the name Meyrink, appeared in the magazine Simplicissimus in 1901, and within a few years he had become a central figure in pre-War German literature, a literature whose proleptic convulsiveness and rightness about the world to come it is difficult now, nearly a hundred years on, to comprehend. In 1994 it is difficult, and humbling, to realize that they were saying as much as we can about the heartbeat of the century; it is at times almost impossible not to feel that the apocalyptic insights we detect are simply, in fact, endogenous fevers of Expressionism: that we are patching 1910 metaphors into our knowledge of subsequent history, shaving them to fit. This indeed must surely happen: it must surely be the case that we do read them selectively, and that the writers and artists and composers and scholars and thinkers and architects of 1910 could not know that they were right, that the clock of history (as they intimated) had begun to stutter, setting off all the alarms at once. In the end, however, it may not altogether matter if they knew they were right In the end, perhaps, it is more important for us to realize that - in their dreams and paranoias and dread - they saw us here.

For English readers, it is not yet possible to know how fully Meyrink.'s earliest fiction engaged with the first years of turmoil, as he only began publishing his novels after World War One had already started. His initial reputation on the Continent came from the large number of short stories he published before The Golem first appeared, and which were collected in several volumes: Der heisse Soldal und andere Geschichten ["The Hot Soldier and Other Stories"] (1903); Orchideen: Sonderbare Geschichten ["Orchids: Strange Stories"] (1904); Das Wachsjigurenkabinett: Sonderbare Geschichten ["The Wax Museum: Strange Stories"] (1907); Des deutschen Spiessers Wunderhorn ['The German Philistine's Magic Horn"] (1913), the last being a three-volume omnibus incorporating old and new material; and Fledermase ["Bats"] (1916). E F Bleiler's Guide to Supernatural Fiction (1983) lists only one short story by Meyrink in English. The Golden Bomb: Phantastic German Expressionist Stories (1993) ed Malcolm Green includes a different one; and The Dedalus/Ariadne Book of Austrian Fantasy: The Meyrink Years, 1890-1930 (1992) ed Mike Mitchell includes five: which is a significant start, but one which shows the largeness of the vista that can be further unveiled now with The Opal (and other stories) collection of Meyrink stories translated by Maurice Raraty (Dedalus 1994).

On the whole, we are left with a fever of belatedness, through which the past makes the present (and the future) dance to dead tunes. The Golem is meant to be taking place around 1890, but scumbles chronology so thoroughly that the reader will find it hard to avoid conflating the destruction of the ghetto with larger devastations, or the mephitic arousals of psyche emblematized by the golem itself with more widespread (and far more vicious) hysterias. The Green Face, which was being drafted as World War One began, is ostensibly set in the future, after the end of hostilities, but the outcome and aftermath of the war are viewed, by an act of occultish legerdemain, through the lens of an ashen retrospect: the labyrinth of the trenches, like some rebirthing of Cthulhu; the end-of-the-world perspectives granted by No Man's Land; the taste of a world-order exhausted, of the dithering puniness of secular man sifting the ruins for loot It is astonishing that the book reached publication in the midst of a total war which was being lost. Like Walpurgisnacht, which also appeared before 1918, but far more explicitly, The Green Face treats the War to End War as a Saturnalia, a danse macabre which ends in Wind: in an apocalyptic harrowing of Europe, obliterating the false face of the material world.

Beneath that face (it is a turn of vision fundamental to occult dualism, and it appears in all Meyrink's work) can be discerned a higher, spiritual world of true effect and cause, which can now be celebrated in a chymical marriage between the scoured protagonist (all his protagonists have been deeply wounded by the harlequinade of appearance) and his dead love (Meyrink females, if they are worthy, are almost certain to be dead).

It may all come down to his actress mother, who abandoned him in early childhood; but it may, as well, have something to do with the fancy-step metamorphosizing almost any European writer of Meyrink's period engaged in whenever the Female Principle was to be distinguished from the Female Body. Whatever the cause, it cannot be denied that throughout his career Meyrink's female characters, with the exception of an occasional nurturing crone from the lower orders, occupy only two categories: either they are avatars of Medusa, whose wormy sexuality turns men into stone, imprisoning them in the maya of existence; or they are Beatrice and - having died well before the end of the novel- await their husband-to-be' s union with them in a higher world. Modem readers (of whom half may be presumed to be women) may understandably find this aspect of the male dualist imagination both distasteful and inutile; but it is an inescapable component of Meyrink's worldview from beginning to end.

In each of the first three novels, a transfiguring chymical marriage climaxes the personal story, though in each of these books the jettisoning of the material world is achieved with a panoramic glitter. After the end of World War One, however, Meyrink discarded the contemporary world, and his late work radically disengages from that Europe of aftermath he had so prophetically limned; there are no more prophetic spasms to remind us now, at the end of the millennium, that our visions of doom are epigonic. At the same time, however, he did continue to adhere to the occult dualisms to which (like William Butler Yeats) he seemed to give credence, and which shaped and fortified his work, though at the same time he never lost his marbles: whenever he was confronted with fraudulence or Golden Dawn vaporizings, he proved to be a savage debunker. But dualism in the hands of any male European writer born in the last century is almost invariably fatal to the female of the species, and it does remain the case that the modem reader may have trouble with some of the more didactic passages of his fourth novel, Der weisse Dominikaner (1921), now translated for Dedalus as The White Dominican by Mike Mitchell, in a style which admirably captures Meyrink' s sly swift eloquence. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the ongoing Medusa! Beatrice dualism - even when it is toned down by the fact that the only whorish female in the book is far too old to entrap the protagonist - will be hard for most contemporary readers to swallow. What remains?

In the event, a great deal. What The White Dominican loses in being the first fruit of Meyrink' s chastened post-catastrophe imagination, it gains in supernal equipoise, in an oneiric serenity which tugs very hard at the roots in dream of our own responses to the allure of Story. We begin with a frame: the author of the tale, who seems to be Meyrink himself, tells the reader that he has never found out for sure whether or not the protagonist of the story "ever actually lived; he certainly did not spring from my imagination, of that I remain convinced." This protagonist, it turns out, has mysteriously caused Meyrink to call him by his proper, heavily symbolic name, Christopher Dovecote, a name Meyrink claims to be unconscious of having used when drafting his novel; and we are cast immediately into a Tale whose material embodiment (the words we read, the paper we touch) is itself a lesson imparted. To understand the Tale we must understand that the words we read are nothing but echoes, caught in the Medusa dust of corporeality. "Being born on earth is nothing other than being buried alive." The true Tale will be what we rise to learn.

We enter the main story, which is told in the first person by Dovecote himself. He is an orphan, abandoned as an infant on the steps of the local church, but soon is adopted by the dominant figure in the town, Baron Bartholomew von Jocher, Freeman and Honorary Lamplighter. The town itself is never named. It lies downstream from the capital of the country, which is not named either. Only Paris - which is also the name of the fraudulent impresario who is the real father of the Beatrice figure we are soon to meet - can be recognized as a place inhabiting mortal history. The river comes north from the capital, almost completely encircles the town, and departs southward; on the neck of land separating the river flowing north and the river flowing south is the Baron's house, which has been occupied by his family for something like thirteen generations. Each new generation of von Jochers abandons the floor occupied by its predecessor, and moves upwards within the house, which must therefore, like so many labyrinth-portals to other worlds, be bigger inside than out. The town itself - empoldered by the river and guarded by the house whose occupants are themselves Guardians of (and Aspirants to) the Threshold to the upper levels - seems utterly secure.

Within this polder, at the top of this ladder of generations of Guardians, Christopher grows up. He finds he is the Baron's true son. He falls in love with the girl who lives in the house next to his. Her name is Ophelia. She too has difficulties in relating her nature to her corporeal parentage: her ostensible father, the town's coffin-maker and a man mentally damaged from the time his own father buried him alive in a coffin as a punishment, is not her father at all. Her true father, the reprehensible impresario Paris with his camp aristocratic mien, and her mother, the failed whorish actress, connive in repression and bad faith. But she transcends her corporeal bondage, she returns Christopher's love, and - as any reader experienced in Meyrink will know from the fact of that love for the protagonist, and from her name - she soon dies, voluntarily. But by then Christopher has undergone night journeys into occult realms; he has been told that he is destined to become transfigured, to rise from the top of the Tree of the Lamplighter family into true reality; and he treats her death as a confirmation of betrothal.

To this point, in The White Dominican, we have been gifted with scenes of epiphanic calm which alternate with "real-world" episodes of Dickensian splendour (Meyrink translated Dickens earlier in his career) whenever the lovable, duped coffin-maker comes into view. From this point onwards, in passages that shift levels of import as do dreams, we are invited to follow Christopher into his inheritance. Some of the terms of that invitation are couched with a didactic precision some readers may find distressingly liturgical, because Christopher's ascension is that of a magus, cloaked in arcana; but the flow of the ascent is irresistible.

And the visitations of the Medusa, the corporeal world, in false likenesses of the dead Ophelia, have a power that easily transcends the doctrinaire sexual Manicheeanism through which Meyrink articulates his vision of "the impersonal force of all evil, using the mute forces of nature to conjure up miracles which in reality are only hellish phantasms serving the ends of the spirit of negation." But "the head of Medusa, that symbol of the petrifying force that sucks us down," has no final sway, and the chymical marriage will ultimately be consummated, in some realm the pages of the book cannot reach. So be it.

We may baulk at some of the terms in which it is put. But it is his final word. After this novel came only the alchemical tales published as Goldmachergeschichten ["Tales of the Alchemists"] (1925) and the intermittently brilliant Der Engel Yom Westlichen Fenster (1927); translated by Mike Mitchell for Dedalus in 1991 as The Angel of the West Window], about Doctor Dee; neither book coins a new metaphor to replace the Medusa. It seems clear that for the Meyrink of the post-War years, the image of the Medusa was definitive. The Medusa, it is possible to think, was nothing less than the entirety of the world which opened its maw to sensitive men and women in 1914. The Medusa, whose image he unforgettably presented to his readers, stares upon us through every newsreel the century has disgorged. It is the tetanus which fixes us upon the wheel of time. It is surely not Gustav Meyrink' s fault that, for most of us, there will be no chymical marriage.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:07 pm


"X or Y has written a novel." What does that mean?

It is quite simple: he has used his imagination to portray people who do not really exist, has invented experiences for them and woven it all together. In broad terms that, or something like it, is the general opinion.

Everyone assumes they know what imagination is, but there are very few who are aware of the remarkable forms of imaginative power that exist.

What is one to say when one's hand, usually such a willing tool of the mind, suddenly refuses to write the name of the hero of the story one has thought up, and insists on choosing a different one instead? Is it not enough to make one pause and ask oneself, "Am I really the one who is 'creating' this work, or is my imagination merely some kind of receiver for supernatural communications? Something like what is called, in the sphere of wireless telegraphy, an aerial?"

There have been cases of people getting up in their sleep at night and completing pieces of writing, which, tired from the day's toil, they had left unfinished, and finding better solutions than they would probably have been capable of when awake. People tend to explain such things by saying it was done by their subconscious, which is usually asleep.

If something like that happens in Lourdes, they say the Mother of God came to their aid.

Who knows, perhaps the subconscious and the Mother of God are the same thing?

Which is not to say that the Mother of God is simply the subconscious, no, the subconscious is the 'mother' of 'god'.

In the present novel a certain Christopher Dovecote plays the role of a living person. I never succeeded in finding out whether he ever actually lived; he certainly did not spring from my imagination, of that I remain convinced. I say that openly, even if there is a danger people will think I am only saying it for effect.

This is not the place for a detailed description of the way this book came to be written, a brief sketch of what happened will suffice. In order to give that, it is unavoidable that I should talk about myself, which I will do in a few sentences, for which I hope the reader will forgive me.

I had worked out the whole of the novel in my head and started writing it down when I noticed - but only when I read through my draft - that I had written the name 'Dovecote' without being aware of it. But that was not all. As the pen moved across the paper, whole sentences changed and came to express something completely different from what I had intended. It developed into a duel between myself and the invisible' Christopher Dovecote' in which he ultimately gained the upper hand.

It had been my plan to portray a small town that lives in my memory; what emerged was a completely different picture, a picture that is much more vivid to my mind's eye than the one I had actually seen. Eventually there was nothing for it but to give in to the influence that called itself Christopher Dovecote, to lend him my hand, so to speak, to write down his story and to cross out everything that came from my own ideas.

If we assume this Christopher Dovecote is an invisible being who in some mysterious way is able to impress his will on a person of sound mind, then the question arises, why is he using me to describe his life-story and the process of his spiritual development?

Is it from vanity? Or to create a 'novel '?

I leave it to each reader to reach his own conclusion and keep my own opinion to myself.

Perhaps soon my case will not be an isolated one; perhaps this 'Christopher Dovecote' will guide someone else's hand tomorrow.

Something that appears unusual today might be an everyday event tomorrow.

Perhaps it is that ancient, yet ever-new insight which is beginning to manifest itself:

Each single action here on earth
Accords with nature's rule;
"I am the author of this act" -
Thus speaks the self-deceiving fool.

and the figure of Christopher Dovecote is only a harbinger, a symbol, the visible form assumed by an intangible force?

Of course, the idea that man is a mere puppet on a string is anathema to the know-alls who are so proud to think of themselves as lords of creation.

One day as I was writing, with these ideas running through my mind, I suddenly thought, 'Could this Christopher Dovecote perhaps be something like a being that has split off from my own self? An imaginary figure that has taken on independent, if transitory, existence and which I, without realising it, have brought into the world, as is said to happen to people who believe they see apparitions and even converse with them?'

As if this invisible being had been reading my thoughts, he immediately interrupted the story and used my hand to insert the following strange answer:

"And you yourself, sir," (this formal address from one so intimately related to me sounded like mockery) "you and all those humans who assume they are individual beings, are you anything other than 'chips' off some greater self, off the great self that is called God?"

Since then I have spent much time reflecting on the meaning of this extraordinary question, for I hoped it might provide the key to the mystery surrounding Christopher Dovecote. At one point I thought my ponderings were leading me somewhere, but then I received another bewildering message. It read:
"Every man is a dovecote, but not everyone is a Christopher. Most Christians merely imagine they are. The white doves fly in and out of a genuine Christian."

From then on I gave up all hope of ever solving the mystery, and at the same time I abandoned the idea that perhaps - following the ancient theory that human beings have several incarnations on earth - I might have been this Christopher Dovecote in an earlier existence.

What I would most like to believe is that what guided my hand over the page is an eternal force, free, self-sufficient and liberated from all constraints of shape and form; but sometimes, when I wake from dreamless sleep in the morning, I see, between eyeball and lid, like a memory of the night, the image of a white-haired, clean-shaven old man, tall and as slim as a youth, and for the rest of the day I cannot get rid of the feeling that that must be Christopher Dovecote.

This feeling is often accompanied by the strange idea that he lives beyond time and space, and that when death shall stretch out its hand to take me, he it will be who will enter on the inheritance of my life.

But what is the point of such reflections, which are of no concern to other people? There follow the revelations of Christopher Dovecote, in the often fragmentary form in which they came to me, with nothing added or left out.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:08 pm

Chapter 1: Christopher Dovecote's First Revelation

For as long as I can remember, the people in the town have maintained that my name is Dovecote.

When I was a boy, trotting from house to house in the twilight, bearing a long pole with a glowing wick at the end to light the lamps, street-urchins would march before me, clapping their hands and singing, "Doo' cot, Doo' cot, diddle diddle Doo'cot".

I did not get angry with them, even if I never joined in.

Later, the grown-ups took up the name and used it whenever they wanted something from me.

It was different with my first name of Christopher. That was written on a scrap of paper which was hanging round my neck when I was found one morning as a tiny baby, naked on the steps of St. Mary's. Presumably my mother wrote it before she left me there.

It is the only thing I have from her, and that is why I have always regarded the name of Christopher as something sacred. It has imprinted itself on my body, and I have borne it through life like a birth certificate issued in eternity which no one can steal from me. It kept on growing and growing, like a seed emerging from the darkness, until it once more appeared as what it had been from the very beginning, fused with me and accompanied me to the world of incorruptibility. Just as it is written, 'Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible'.

Jesus was baptised when he was a grown man and fully aware of what was happening: the name that was his self came down to earth. Nowadays people are baptised as infants: how can they grasp the significance of what has happened to them?! They wander through life towards the grave, like puffs of mist that the wind drives back to the swamp; their bodies decay, and they have no part in that which will rise again: their name.

But, insofar as any man can say of himself "I know", I know that I am called Christopher.

There is a legend current in the town that St. Mary's was built by a Dominican, Raimund de Pennaforte, from donations sent by unknown people from all over the world.

Over the altar is an inscription, "Flos florum: thus will I be revealed after three hundred years." A painted board has been nailed over it, but it keeps on falling down; every year on Lady Day.

It is said that on certain nights of the new moon, when it is so dark you can hardly see your hand before your eyes, the church casts a white shadow on the black market square. That is supposed to be the figure of the White Dominican, Pennaforte.

We children from the Home for Orphans and Foundlings had to go to confession for the first time when we were twelve years old.

"Why did you not come to confession?" the Chaplain barked at me the next morning.

"I did go to confession, Father."

"You're lying". Then I told him what had happened:

"I was standing in the church, waiting to be called, when a hand waved to me, and when 1entered the confessional 1found a white monk there who asked me three times what 1was called. The first time 1did not know; the second time 1knew, but forgot before 1 could speak; the third time a cold sweat broke out on my brow, my tongue was paralysed, 1 could not speak, but a voice in my breast screamed, 'Christopher!' The white monk must have heard, for he wrote the name down in a book, and pointed to it and said, 'Henceforth you are entered in the Book of Life. ' Then he blessed me and said, 'I forgive you your sins, your past and your future ones' ."

At these last words, which 1had spoken very softly, so that none of my classmates should hear, for 1was afraid, the Chaplain stepped back in horror and made the sign of the cross.

That very same night was the first occasion when I left the house in some inexplicable manner and without being able to explain how I returned home. I had gone to sleep in my nightshirt and had woken in my bed in the morning, fully dressed and with dusty boots on. In my pocket were some alpine flowers, which I suppose I must have picked in the mountains.

It happened again and again, until the supervisors in the orphanage found out about it and beat me because I could not say where I had been.

One day I was sent to see the Chaplain in the monastery. He was with the old gentleman who was later to adopt me, and I guessed that they had been talking about my nightwalks.

"Your body is not yet ripe. It must not accompany you. I will tie you down", said the old gentleman as he lead me by the hand, with an odd gasp for breath after every sentence, to his house. My heart was fluttering with fear, for I did not understand what he meant.

The door to the old gentleman's house was made of iron and decorated with huge nails; punched into the metal were the words: Baron Bartholomew von Jocher, Freeman and Honorary Lamplighter. I could not understand how a nobleman came to be a lamplighter. Reading it, I felt as if all the miserable knowledge they had taught me at school were falling from me like scraps of paper, so filled with doubt was I, that I was incapable of thinking clearly at all.

Later, I learned that the Baron's line had been founded by a simple lamplighter who had been ennobled, though for what I do not know. Since then the coat of arms of the Jochers has shown, along with other emblems, an oil-lamp, a hand and a pole, and from generation to generation they have been Freemen of the town and received a small pension, irrespective of whether they perform the office of lighting the street-lamps or not.

The day after my arrival the Baron commanded me to take up the duties of lamplighter. "Your hand must learn the task your spirit will later carry on", he said. "However low the occupation, it will be ennobled when the spirit can take it over. A task that the spirit refuses to inherit is not worthy of being performed by the body."

I gazed at the old gentleman in silence, for at that time I did not yet know what he meant.

"Or would you rather be a merchant?" he asked in a friendly, mocking tone.

"Should I put the lights out again in the morning?" I asked shyly.

The Baron stroked my cheek. "Of course; when the sun comes, people need no other light."

Occasionally when the Baron talked to me he had a strangely furtive look; there seemed to be a mute question lurking in his eyes. Was it "Do you understand at last?", or did it mean "I am worried that you may have guessed"? At such times I often felt a fiery, burning sensation in my breast, as if the voice that had shouted the name of Christopher to the white monk at my confession were giving some answer I could not hear.

The Baron was disfigured by a huge goitre on his left side which was so big that the collar of his coat had to be cut open down to the shoulder so as not to hamper his neck. At night, when it was hanging over the back of the armchair, looking like the body of a man who had been beheaded, the coat often caused me a sensation of indescribable horror. I could only free myself from it by thinking of the friendly influence the Baron radiated through life. In spite of his affliction, and the almost grotesque sight of his beard sticking out like a bristly brush from his goitre, there was something uncommonly fine and delicate about my foster-father, the child-like helplessness of someone who could not hurt a fly, which was even intensified on the infrequent occasions when he put on his threatening look and stared at you severely through the thick lenses of his old-fashioned pince-nez.

At such moments he always looked to me like a huge magpie, squaring up to you for a fight, whilst its eyes, on the look-out for the slightest danger, can hardly conceal its fear, as if it were saying, "You wouldn't have the cheek to try and catch me, would you?"

The house of the Jocher family, where I was to live for so many years, was one of the oldest in the town. It had many storeys, and each generation of the Baron's forebears had made its home in rooms one floor higher than the previous one, as if their longing to be nearer to heaven had grown ever stronger.

I cannot remember the Baron ever entering those older apartments, which stared out onto the street with blind, grey windows; he and I occupied a few bare, whitewashed rooms high under the flat roof.

In other places, the trees grow up from the ground and people walk. beneath them; we had an elderberry tree with fragrant white flowers growing high above us on the roof in a rusty old iron tub originally intended to gather the rainwater, the outlet of which was now blocked up with earth and dead, rotting leaves.

Far below, a broad, waveless river, grey with water from the glaciers, ran along the foot of the ancient pink, ochre or light-blue houses with uncurtained windows, and roofs that looked like moss-green hats without brims. It flows in a circle round the town, which is like an island, caught in a noose of water; it approaches from the south. then curves to the west before turning back to the south again, where it is only separated from the spot where it began its embrace by a narrow neck of land, on which our house is the last building; finally it disappears behind a green hill.

You can reach the other, wooded bank. where sandy slopes tumble down into the water, over the wooden bridge with planks the height of a man on either side and a floor of rough, bark-covered trunks, which tremble when the ox-carts cross it. From our roof, we can see far out into a landscape of fields and meadows where, in the hazy distance, the mountains hover in the air like clouds, and the clouds press down upon the earth like heavy mountains.

From the middle of the town there rises up a long, fortress-like building, which now serves no other purpose than to catch the glare of the autumn sun in fiery, lidless windows. In the deserted market place, littered with the huge umbrellas of the stallholders lying like giants' toys forgotten among piles of upturned baskets, the grass grows between the cobbles. Sometimes on Sundays, when the walls of the baroque Town Hall are scorched by the heat, the muffled tones of a brass band, borne along by a cool breeze, come out of the ground, growing louder as the door of the Post Inn, usually referred to as Hetzinger's, suddenly yawns wide and a wedding procession in colourful costume sets off with measured steps for the church; beribboned young men wave their festive wreaths and, at the head, is a band of young children with, far in front and nimble as a mountain goat in spite of his crutches, a tiny, ten-year-old crippled boy, bubbling over with joy, as if the happiness of the occasion were for him alone, whilst all the rest behave with due solemnity.

On that first evening, when I was already in bed and about to go to sleep, the door opened, and I was seized with fear once more, for the Baron came up to me, and I thought he was going to tie me down, as he had threatened. But he simply said, "I want to teach you to pray; none of them know how to pray. We do not pray with words, we pray with our hands. People who pray with words are begging. We should not beg. The spirit knows what we need. When the palms of our hands touch each other, the left and the right aspects of man are closed in a chain. Thus the body is bound fast, and a flame rises free from our fingertips as they point upwards. That is the secret of prayer; nowhere is it written down."

That was the first night when I walked without waking the next morning fully dressed in my bed and with dusty boots.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:08 pm

Chapter 2: The Mutschelknaus Family

Our house is the first in the street which memory tells me is called Baker's Row. It is the first and stands alone. On three sides it looks out over the open countryside, from the fourth I can touch the wall of the house next door if I open the window on the stairs and lean out, so narrow is the alleyway that separates the two buildings.

The alley between them has no name, it is no more than a steep passageway, a passage that is probably unique in the world, linking, as it does, two left banks of a river with each other; it cuts across the neck of land surrounded by a noose of water on which we live.

Early in the morning, when I set off to put the lamps out, a door opens in the neighbouring house and a broomstick appears and brushes wood-shavings into the river, which then carries them on a journey right round the town, to wash them, half an hour later and scarcely fifty yards from the other end of the passageway, over the weir, where it takes its thunderous leave of the town.

This end of the passageway joins Baker's Row; on the corner, above a shop in the neighbouring house, hangs a sign:

Adonis Mutschelknaus & Co.
"Fine Funeral Caskets"

It used to say, "Joiner and Coffin-Maker", which you can still clearly see when it is raining and the sign is wet; then the old writing shines through.

Every Sunday Herr Mutschelknaus, his wife Aglaia and his daughter Ophelia go to church, where they sit in the front row. That is, Frau and Fraulein Mutschelknaus sit in the front row; Herr Mutschelknaus sits in the third row, in the comer seat, beneath the wooden statue of the Prophet Jonah, where the darkness is deepest.

How ridiculous it all seems to me, after all these years, how ridiculous and how inexpressibly sad!

Frau Mutschelknaus is always enveloped in a rustle of black silk, from which her crimson, velvet-covered prayer-book shrieks out like a Hallelujah in colour. She lifts her skirts a respectable inch to reveal her little pointed boots of matt-black, elasticated prunello as she cautiously negotiates every puddle; under the pink powder on her cheeks a dense network of fine purple veins betrays the approach of middle age; her eyes, usually so expressive, are modestly veiled by their carefully mascara'd lashes, for when the bells call mankind to appear before their God, it is not seemly to radiate sinful feminine charm.

Ophelia is wearing a flowing, Grecian garment and a band of gold round the silky, ash-blond locks that fall to her shoulders and are crowned, as always, by a wreath of myrtle. She walks with the serene, unruffled gait of a queen.

My heart always beats faster whenever I think of her.

When she goes to church she is always heavily veiled, and it was only much later that I saw her face with the large, dark, dreamy eyes, which contrast so strangely with her blond hair.

Herr Mutschelknaus, in his long, baggy black coat, usually walks a few paces behind the two ladies. Whenever he forgets and walks beside them, Frau Aglaia immediately whispers to him, "Half a step back, Adonis."

He has a long, thin, mournful face with sunken cheeks, sparse, reddish facial hair and a beak of a nose jutting out in front; his convex forehead merges into a bald pate which, with its fringe of moth-eaten hair, makes him look as if he has thrust his head through a mangy pelt and then forgotten to brush off the bits of fur. On every formal occasion Herr Mutschelknaus dons his top hat and has to wedge it on with an inch-thick pad of cotton wool between the brim and his forehead. On weekdays he is never seen; he eats and sleeps in his workshop on the ground floor. The ladies of the family occupy several rooms on the third floor.

It must have been three or four years after the Baron had taken me in before I realised that Frau Aglaia and Ophelia and Herr Mutschelknaus belonged together.

From first light until after midnight the narrow passageway between the two houses is filled with a monotonous hum, as if there were a restless swarm of bumble-bees somewhere deep underground; when the air is still, the soft drone reaches us in our rooms high above. At first it attracted my attention, and I felt compelled to listen when I should have been learning my lessons, without it ever occurring to me, however, to ask where it came from. We do not look for the causes of constant phenomena, we accept them as a matter of course, however unusual they might in fact be. It is only when our nerves suffer a shock that we become curious - or run away.

I gradually became accustomed to the noise, as if it were a ringing in my ears; so accustomed, indeed, that whenever it suddenly stopped at night I would start from my sleep, thinking someone had hit me.

One day, when she rushed round the comer with her hands over her ears and knocked a basket of eggs out of my hand, Frau Aglaia excused herself by saying, "Oh, goodness me, my dear child, that's what comes of all that dreadful joinering by my ... my breadwinner. And ... and ... and his assistants", she added, as if she had let out a dire secret.

'Aha, it's Herr Mutschelknaus' lathe that makes that humming noise', I deduced.

It was only later that I learnt - from Mutsehelknaus himself - that he had no assistants at all and that the '& Co.' consisted of himself alone.

One dark winter's evening, when there was no snow, I was just raising my pole to open the glass of the lamp by the corner, in order to light it, when I heard someone whisper, "Psst, psst! Herr Dovecote." Standing beckoning to me from the alleyway was the carpenter, Mutsehelknaus, in a green baize apron and slippers with tiger's heads embroidered in coloured beads.

"Herr Dovecote, if it's at all possible, do you think you could leave it dark tonight? Please don't think", he went on, when he saw how surprised I was, although I felt too timid to ask him his reasons, "that I want to lead you astray and make you neglect your duty, but my wife's reputation is at stake, if people should find out the job I've taken on. And my daughter's future as an actress would be ruined for ever. What's going to be done here tonight must be hidden from human sight!" I took an involuntary step backwards, so horrified was I by the old man's tone and the way his features were distorted with fear. "No, no, please don't run away, Herr Dovecote. It isn't anything wrong. Though if it comes out, I shall have to throw myself in the river! You see, the fact of the matter is, I've had an order from a customer in the city that's not quite, well, respectable - the order that is - and we're going to load it on the cart and send it off tonight, when everyone's asleep. Yes, that's about the long and the short of it."

I gave a sigh of relief. Even if I had no idea what it was all about, I was at least sure it was something completely harmless.

"Would you like me to help you with the loading, Herr Mutschelknaus?" I offered.

TIle old carpenter was so delighted he almost embraced me. "But won't the Baron hear of it?" he asked the next moment, his old fears returning. "And are you allowed to come out that late? You're so young?"

"My foster-father will know nothing at all about it" , I assured him.

At midnight I heard someone softly calling my name from the street below.

I slipped down the stairs and saw a cart standing in the shadows. Pieces of cloth had been wrapped round the horses' hooves so that they would not be heard as they trotted along. The carter was standing beside the shaft and grinned every time Herr Mutsehelknaus came out of his shop lugging a basket full of large, round, brown-painted wooden rings with lids attached, each with a knob in the middle.

I hurried over to help him load them, and in half an hour the cart was filled to the brim and swaying over the wooden bridge before it was lost in the darkness.

With a deep sigh of relief, the old man drew me into his workshop, in spite of my reluctance. What little light that came from the tiny petroleum lamp hanging from the ceiling seemed to be absorbed by the white disc of the freshly planed table, on which stood a jug of weak beer and two glasses of which one, of beautifully cut crystal, was obviously intended for me. The rest of the room stretched away into darkness. Only gradually, as my eyes became accustomed to the light, could I distinguish the various objects. A steel shaft ran from wall to wall. During the day it was driven from outside by a water-wheel; now several hens were sleeping on it. Over the lathe, leather drivebelts hung down like gallows nooses, and in the comer stood a wooden statue of Saint Sebastian, pierced with arrows. Each arrow had its roosting hen. By the head-end of a wretched trestle, which presumably served the old man as a bed, was an open coffin in which a few rabbits shifted in their sleep from time to time.

The only decoration in the room was a picture in a golden frame surrounded by a laurel wreath. It represented a young woman in a theatrical pose, with eyes closed and mouth half-open; the figure was naked apart from a fig leaf, but white as snow, as if it were a model who had been painted over with plaster of Paris.

Herr Mutschelknaus blushed when he saw me stop in front of the picture, and he immediately began to reel off an explanation, "It's my lady wife, at the time when she bestowed her hand upon me. You see, she was", he cleared his throat, "a marble nymph. Ah, yes, Aloysia - that is, Aglaia; of course, Aglaia. It was, you see, my lady wife's misfortune, as a tiny baby, to be christened with the rather common name of Aloysia by her dear departed parents. But you won't tell anyone, will you, Herr Dovecote? Otherwise our daughter's artistic reputation would suffer. Hm. Well." He led me to the table, bowed as he offered me a chair and poured me some of the weak beer.

He seemed to have completely forgotten that I was still not fifteen and little more than a boy; he spoke to me as to a grown-up, as to a gentleman who stood far above him in rank and learning.

At first I thought he was just chatting to keep me amused, but then I realised, from his insistent, worried tone whenever I looked at the rabbits, that he wanted to divert my attention away from the shabby surroundings, so I tried to sit still and not let my eyes wander.

He had soon managed to talk himself into a fine state of agitation. Round red spots appeared on his hollow cheeks. I began to understand that his urgent assertions were a desperate attempt to justify himself - to justify himself to me!

At that time I was still very much a child, and most of what he said went far beyond my comprehension, so that an inexplicable feeling of horror gradually crept over me at the strange dissonances his words aroused. The horror of it etched itself deep on my soul, to reawaken long after I had reached manhood and more intensively with each passing year, whenever chance brought the scene back to mind. With my growing insight into the miseries to which existence condemns us, every word the old carpenter spoke that night grew more piercing, more naked in my memory, until they sometimes took on nightmare proportions. I would experience his wretched fate as my own, feel the darkness surrounding his soul as if I were trapped within it, torn apart by the terrible discord between the ghastly ludicrousness of his appearance and the grotesque yet deeply moving devotion with which he had sacrificed himself to a false ideal, such that even the Devil, had he wanted to delude him, could not have set a more malign snare.

On that night his story seemed to me, who was still a child, like the confession of a madman that was intended for other ears than mine. I was compelled to listen, whether I wanted to ornot, held there by an invisible hand which wanted to drip poison into my veins.

There were times when, for a few seconds, I felt as decayed and decrepit as an old man, so vivid was the effect on me of Herr Mutschelknaus' delusion that I was not a young boy, but equal to, or beyond him in years.

"Oh, yes, she was a great artist, and famous" - thus he began. "Aglaia! No one in this miserable hole has any idea. And she doesn't want any of them to find out! You see, Herr Dovecote, I can't tell you the story the way I would like to. I can hardly even write. But it'll be our little secret, won't it? Just like all those ... all those lids beforehand? There is only one word I can write," - he took a piece of chalk out of his pocket - "this one: Ophelia.

And I can't read at all. You see, I'm" - he bent over to whisper in my ear - "a simpleton. My father, you see, was very strict, and once, when I was a little boy, because I let the glue bum, he shut me up for twenty-four hours in a metal coffin he had just finished, and said I was going to be buried alive. I believed him, of course, and all the hours I was in there were like an eternity in hell. I couldn't move, I could hardly even breathe. I was in such mortal fear, I clenched my teeth until the bottom ones at the front fell out. But", he added, very softly, "why did I let the glue bum, anyway? When they took me out of the coffin, I had lost my wits. And my tongue. It was ten years before I slowly started to speak again. But it'll be our little secret, won't it, Herr Dovecote? If people come to hear of my shameful past, my daughter's artistic career will be ruined! Hm. Well. - Then when my father was taken from me - he was buried in that very same metal coffin - and left me his business and his money - he was a widower - Providence sent an angel to comfort me, for I felt I would weep myself to death in my sorrow at the loss of my father. Herr Paris, the celebrated theatre director, came to see me. You don't know Herr Paris? He comes every other day to instruct my daughter in the art of acting. He has the same name as Paris, the ancient Greek god, it was destiny from his earliest childhood. Well. Hm. At that time my present lady wife was still a maid. Hm. Well. That is, I mean, she was still a girl. Well. Hm. And Herr Paris was guiding her artistic career. She was a marble nymph in a private theatre in the capital. Hm. Well."

From the disjointed way he brought out each sentence, paused involuntarily, then abruptly went on, I realised that his memory kept on disappearing and reappearing. Like breathing in and out, his consciousness ebbed and flowed. 'He still hasn't recovered from the dreadful torture of the metal coffin', I sensed, 'he remains a man who has been buried alive.'

"Well, and when I inherited the business, Herr Paris came to the house and told me the celebrated marble nymph, Aglaia, had happened to see me at the funeral, as she was walking, unrecognised, through the town. Hm. And when she had seen me crying at my father's grave, she had said (Herr Mutschelknaus suddenly leapt to his feet and began to declaim, his little watery blue eyes fixed on the empty air, as if he could see the words in letters of fire), 'I will be a comfort and a support to this plain, simple man, a light that shineth in the darkness, never to be extinguished. And I will bear him a child, whose life shall be dedicated to art alone. I will open its spirit to the sublime, even though my heart should break in the dreary desert of the workaday world. Farewell, Art! Farewell, Fame! Farewell, ye haunts of glory! Aglaia is departing, never to return.' Hm. Well." He clasped his hand to his forehead and then, as if memory had suddenly departed, slowly sat down on his stool.

"Well. Herr Paris sobbed and tore his hair. When the three of us were sitting together at the wedding breakfast. And he kept on crying out. 'My theatre will be ruined if I lose Aglaia. I'm finished. ' Hm. The thousand crowns I forced on him, so that at least he wouldn't lose everything, were nowhere near enough, of course. Well. Hm. From then on he's suffered from melancholy. Only now, since he's discovered our daughter's great dramatic talent, has his health improved a little. Hm. Well.

She must have inherited it from her mother. Yes, some children are suckled by the muse in their cradles. Ophelia! Ophelia!" He was suddenly seized by a wild fit of enthusiasm, and grasped me by the ann and shook me violently. "Do you know, Herr Dovecote, Ophelia, my child, is a gift from God? Herr Paris keeps telling me, when he comes to the workshop for his salary, 'The divine Vestalus himself must have been present when she was conceived, Herr Mutschelknaus.' Ophelia -", his voice sank to a whisper, "but this must be a secret between us, like all those ... all those ... lids - Ophelia was born after only six months. Hm. Ordinary children need nine months. Well. But it wasn't a miracle. Her mother, too, was born under a royal star. Hm. But unfortunately it wasn't very constant. The star, that is. My wife doesn't want anyone to know, but I can tell you, Herr Dovecote. Do you know that she almost sat on a throne?! And if it hadn't been for me - it brings the tears to my eyes, just to think of it - she could be riding in a fine carriage behind six white horses. And she renounced it all for me. Hm. Well. And that about sitting on a throne", he solemnly raised three fmgers, "is the honest truth; as I hope to be saved, I swear it's no lie. I had it from Herr Paris himself. In his younger days he was Grand Fixer to the King of Arabia in Baghdad. He used to rehearse the Imperial Harem for His Majesty. Hm. Well. And Aglaia, who is now my wife, with her artistic talent, had already reached the position of first lady-in-waiting at the left hand of the King - His Majesty used to call her his 'Miss Therese'. Then the King was murdered and Herr Paris and my wife fled by night across the Nile. Well. Hmm. And that's when she became a marble nymph, as you know. In a private theatre that Herr Paris was director of at the time. Until she renounced fame and fortune. Herr Paris gave up the theatre as well; the only thing he lives for now is Ophelia's future. Hm. Well. 'We all must live for her alone' , he keeps on saying. 'And to you, Herr Mutsehelknaus, has fallen the noble task of doing your utmost to make sure Ophelia's artistic career is not nipped in the bud by lack of money.' So you see, Herr Dovecote, that's why I accept such unsavoury commissions as ... you know what I mean. Making coffins doesn't bring in much. So few people die. Hm. Well. Her training I could manage, but the world-famous poet, Professor Hamlet from America, demands so much money. I've had to give him an IOU, and now I'm paying it off. lbis Professor Hamlet, you see, is Herr Paris' foster-brother, and when he heard of Ophelia's great talent, he wrote a play specially for her. The title is The King of Denmark. In it the crown prince wants to marry my daughter, but his mother won't allow it, so my Ophelia throws herself into the river." The old man paused for a moment, then shouted out loud, "My Ophelia throw herself into the river! When I heard that, it almost broke my heart. No, no, no, my darling Ophelia, my everything, must not throw herself into the river! Not even in a play. Hm. Well. I went down on my knees to Herr Paris and implored him until he wrote to Professor Hamlet And Professor Hamlet has agreed to arrange it so that my Ophelia will marry the crown prince and not drown, provided I give him an IOU. Herr Paris wrote out the IOU and I made my three little crosses at the bottom. Perhaps you think it's silly, Herr Dovecote, because it's only a play and not real life. But you see, in the play my Ophelia will still be called Ophelia. You know, Herr Dovecote, I'm only a simpleton, but what if my Ophelia really should drown after all? Herr Paris is always saying art is truer than real life, what if she should throw herself into the river? What would become of me then? Wouldn't it have been better if I'd suffocated in that metal coffin in the first place?!" The rabbits started to make a noise, scuffling about in their coffin. Mutschelknaus came to with a start and muttered, "Damn bucks!"

There was a long pause. The old carpenter had lost the thread of his story. He seemed to have completely forgotten my presence; his eyes did not see me. After a while he stood up, went to the lathe, put the belt over the drive-wheel and set it going.

"Ophelia! No, my Ophelia must not die", I heard him murmur. "I must work, work, otherwise he won't alter the play and-"

His last words were drowned by the hum of the machine.

I quietly slipped out of the workshop and went up to my room. In bed, I put my hands together and, I don't know why, beseeched God to protect Ophelia.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:09 pm

Chapter 3: The Nightwalk

That night I had a strange experience. Others would call it a dream, for men have only that one, inadequate word to describe everything that happens to them when their body is asleep.

As always before I went to sleep, I had folded my hands so that, as the Baron put it, "the left lay on the right".

It was only through experience over several years that I came to realise what the purpose of this measure was. It could be that any other position of the hands would serve the same purpose as long as they result in the feeling that 'the body is bound'.

Every time since that first evening in the Baron's house I had lain down to sleep in this manner, and every morning I had woken feeling as if I had walked a long way in my sleep, and every time I was relieved to see that I was undressed and not wearing dusty boots in bed and need not fear being beaten for it, as had happened in the orphanage. But in the light of day I had never been able to remember where I had walked in my dream. That night was the first time the blindfold was taken from my eyes.

The fact that shortly before Mutschelknaus had treated me in such a remarkable way, like a grown-up, was probably the hidden reason why a self - perhaps my 'Christopher' - which had until then slept within me, now awoke to full consciousness and began to see and to hear.

I began by dreaming I had been buried alive and could not move my hands or my feet; but then I filled my lungs with mighty breaths and thus burst open the lid of the coffin; and I was walking along a white, lonely country road, which was more terrible than the grave I had escaped from, for I knew it would never come to an end. I longed to be back in my coffin, and there it was, lying across the road.

It felt soft, like flesh, and had arms and legs, hands and feet, like a corpse. As I climbed in, I noticed that I did not cast a shadow, and when I looked down to check, I had no body; then I felt for my eyes, but I had no eyes; when I tried to look at the hands that were feeling for them, I could see no hands.

As the lid of the coffin slowly closed over me, I felt as if all my thoughts and feelings as I was wandering along the white road had been those of a very old, if still unbowed, man; then when the coffin lid closed, they disappeared, just as steam evaporates, leaving behind as a deposit the half blind, half unconscious thoughts which normally filled the head of the half-grown youth that I was, standing like a stranger in life.

As the lid snapped shut. I woke in my bed.

That is, I thought I had woken up.

It was still dark, but I could tell by the intoxicating scent of elderflowers that came streaming in through the open window, that the earth was giving off the first breath of the coming morning and that it was high time for me to put out the lamps in the town.

I picked up my pole and felt my way down the stairs. When I had completed my task, I crossed the wooden bridge and climbed up a mountain; every stone on the path seemed familiar, and yet I could not remember ever having been there before.

In the high meadows, still dark green in the glowing half-light and heavy with dew, alpine flowers were growing, snowy cotton grass and pungent spikenard.

Then the farthest edge of the sky split open, and the invigorating blood of the dawn poured into the clouds.

Blue, shimmering beetles and huge flies with glassy wings suddenly rose from the earth with a buzzing sound and hovered motionless in the air at about head height, all with their heads turned towards the awakening sun.

When I saw, felt and comprehended this grandiose act of prayer from mute creation, a shiver of deepest emotion ran through my every limb.

I turned round and went back towards the town. My shadow preceded me, gigantic, its feet inseparably attached to mine. Our shadows: the bond that ties us to the earth, the black ghost that emanates from us, revealing the death within us, when light strikes our bodies!

TIle streets were blindingly bright when I entered them.

The children were making their noisy way to school.

'Why aren't they chanting, 'Doo'cot, doo'cot, diddle diddle doo'cot' at me as usual?' was the thought that awoke in my mind. 'Can they not see me? Have I become such a stranger to them that they don't know me any more? I have always been a stranger to them', I suddenly realised with a startlingly new awareness. 'I have never been a child! Not even in the orphanage when I was small. I have never played games as they do. At least whenever I did, it was only a mechanical motion of my body without my desire ever being involved; there is an old, old man living inside me and only my body seems to be young. The carpenter probably felt that yesterday, when he spoke to me as to a grown-up.'

It suddenly struck me, 'But yesterday was a winter evening, how can today be a summer morning? Am I asleep, am I walking in my sleep?' I looked at the street lamps: they were out, and who but I could have extinguished them? So I must have been physically present when I put them out. 'But perhaps I am dead now and being in a coffin was real and not just a dream?' I decided to carry out a test, and went up to one of the schoolboys and asked him, "Do you know me?" He did not reply, and walked through me as through empty air.

'I must be dead then', I concluded, unconcerned. 'Then I must take the pole back home quickly, before I start to decompose', came the voice of duty, and I went upstairs to my foster- father.

In his room I dropped the pole, making a loud noise.

The Baron heard it - he was sitting in his armchair - turned round and said, "Ah, there you are at last."

I was glad that he could see me, and concluded that I could not have died.

The Baron looked as he always did, was wearing the same coat with the jabot of mulberry lace that he always wore on feast days, but there was something about him that made him seem indefinably different. Was it his goitre? No, that was neither larger nor smaller than usual.

My eyes wandered round the room - no, that was unchanged, too. There was nothing missing, nothing had been added. Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, the only decoration in the room, was on the wall as usual; everything was in its usual place. Just a moment! That green plaster bust of Dante with the severe, sharp, monkish features, was it not on the right-hand end of the shelf yesterday? Had someone moved it round? It was on the left now.

The Baron noticed me looking round and smiled.

"You have been on the mountain?" he said, pointing to the flowers in my pocket which I had picked on the way.

I mumbled some excuse but he waved it aside. "I know; it's beautiful up there. I often go myself. You have often been there before, but you always forgot it afterwards. Young minds can't retain anything, their blood is still too hot; it washes the memory away. Did the walk make you tired?"

"Not on the mountain, but on ... on the white country road", I said, unsure whether he knew about that too.

"Ah, yes, the white road", he mused, "there are not many who can stand that. Only someone who is born a wanderer. It was because I saw that in you, all those years ago in the orphanage, that I brought you to live with me. Most people fear the road more than they fear the grave. They get back into their coffins because they think that is death and that it will bring them peace; but in reality the coffin is life, is the flesh. Being born on earth is nothing other than being buried alive! It is better to learn to walk the white road. Only one must not think of the end of the road, for it has no end. It is infinite. The sun on the mountain is eternal. Eternity and infinity are two different things. The only person for whom infinity and eternity are the same is one who seeks eternity in infinity and not the 'end'. You must walk along the white road for the sake of the walk itself, for the pleasure of walking and not to exchange one transient resting place with another.

Rest - not a resting place - can only be found in the sun on the mountain. It stands still and everything revolves round it Even its herald, the dawn, radiates eternity, and that is why the insects and flies worship it and stay still in the air until the sun comes. And that is why you did not feel tired when you climbed the mountain."

He suddenly gave me a close look. "Did you see the sun?" he asked.

"No, father, I turned back before it rose."

He gave a satisfied nod. '''That is good", adding under his breath, "otherwise we would have nothing more to do with each other. And your shadow went before you, down towards the valley?"

"Yes. Of course ..."

He ignored my surprise.

"Anyone who sees the sun", he continued, "seeks eternity alone. He is lost for the road. They are the saints of the church. When a saint crosses over, he is lost to this world, and to the next one too. But what is worse, the world has lost him; it is orphaned! You know what it means to be a foundling; do not consign others to the fate of having neither father nor mother. Walk the road. Light the lamps until the sun comes of its own accord."

"Yes", I stuttered, thinking with horror of the terrible white road.

"Do you know what it means that you got back into your coffin?"

"No, father."

"It means that for yet a little while you will share the fate of those who are buried alive."

"Do you mean Mutsehelknaus, the carpenter?" I asked in my childish way.

"I know no carpenter of that name; he has not yet become visible."

"Nor his wife and ... and Ophelia?" I asked, feeling myself blush.

"No; nor Ophelia either."

'Strange', I thought. 'they live just across the road, and he must see them every day. '

For a while we were both silent, and then I suddenly burst out sobbing, "But that is horrible! To be buried alive!"

"Nothing is horrible, my child, that you do for the sake of your soul. I, too, have been buried alive at times. On earth I have often met people who are wretched and in great need and who rail bitterly at the injustice of fate. Many of them sought comfort in the doctrine that came to us from Asia, the doctrine of the Karma which maintains that no being suffers unless it has sown the seed within itself in a former existence. Others seek comfort in the dogma of the unfathomable nature of God's designs. They all seek comfort, but none have found it.

I have lit a lamp for such people by inserting a thought" - his smile as he said that was almost grim, and yet at the same time as friendly as ever - "in their minds, but so delicately that they believe it came of its own accord. I ask them this question: 'Would you accept the agony of dreaming tonight, as clearly as if it were reality, that you lived through a thousand years of unimaginable poverty, if! assured you now that as a reward you would find a sack of gold outside your door when you woke in the morning.?'

'Yes! Of course!' is the answer every time.

'Then do not bemoan your fate. Are you sure that you did not choose this tormenting dream called life on earth which, at the worst, lasts seventy years, of your own free will, in the hope of finding something much more glorious than a miserable bag of money when you woke? Of course, if you sow a 'God with unfathomable designs' you will one day reap him as a malevolent devil.

Take life less seriously and dreams more so, then things will improve, then the dream can become your leader instead of, as now, going round as a garish clown in the motley shreds of our daytime memories. '

Listen, my child. There is no such thing as a vacuum. That sentence conceals the secret that everyone must unveil who wants to be transformed from a perishable animal to an immortal consciousness. Only you must not apply the words merely to external nature; you must use them like a key to open up the spiritual realm; you must transform their meaning. Look at it like this: someone wants to walk, but his feet are held fast in the earth; what will happen if his will to walk does not weaken? His creative spirit, the primal force that was breathed into him at the beginning, will find other paths for him to tread, and that force within him that can walk without feet, will walk in spite of the earth, in spite of the obstacle.

The creative will, man's divine inheritance, is a force of suction; this suction - you must understand it in a metaphorical sense! - would of necessity create a vacuum in the realm of first causes, if the expression of the will were not eventually followed by its fulfilment. See: a man is ill and wants to get better; as long as he resorts to medicines, the power of the spirit, which can heal better and more quickly than any medicine, will be paralysed. It is as if someone wanted to learn to write with the left hand: if he always uses the right, he will never learn to do it with the left. Every event that occurs in our life has its purpose; nothing is pointless; an illness says to a man, 'Drive me away with the power of the spirit so that the power of the spirit will be strengthened and once more be lord over the material world, as it was before the Fall.' Anyone who does not do that and relies on medicines alone has not grasped the meaning of life; he will remain a little boy playing truant. But anyone who can command with the field marshal's baton of the spirit, scorning the coarser weapons that only the common soldier uses, will rise again and again; however often death strikes him down, he will yet be a king in the end. That is why men should never weaken on the path to the goal they have set themselves; just as sleep is only a brief rest, so is death. You do not begin a task in order to abandon it, but to complete it. A task, however unimportant it appears, once begun and left half finished, corrodes the will with its poison, just as an unburied corpse pollutes the air of the whole house.

The purpose of our life is the perfection of the soul; if you keep that goal firmly in your sights, and in your mind and your heart every time you begin or decide something, then you will find yourself possessed by a strange, unknown calm, and your destiny will change in an incomprehensible way. Anyone who creates as if be were immortal- not for the sake of the object of his desires, that is a goal for the spiritually blind, but for the sake of the temple of his soul- ~ see the day come, even if it is after thousands of years, when he can say, 'I will it' and what he commands will be there, will happen, without needing time to ripen slowly.

Only then will the point be reached where the long road ends. Then you can look the sun in the face without it burning your eyes. Then you can say, 'I have found a goal because I sought none. ' Then the saints will be poor in understanding compared with you, for they will not know what you know: that eternity and rest can be the same as the road and the infinite."

These last words were far beyond my comprehension; it was only much later, when my blood was cool and my body manly, that they reappeared, clear and alive. But that morning I heard them with a deaf ear; I just looked at Baron Jocher and, in a sudden flash of recognition, I realised what "it was that had struck me as different about him, an odd thing, his goitre was on the right side of his neck, instead of the left as usual.

Today it sounds ridiculous, but I was seized with a nameless horror: the room, the Baron, the bust of Dante on the shelf, myself, for one brief second everything was transformed into ghosts, so spectral and unreal that my heart froze in mortal fear.

That was the end of what I experienced that night.

Immediately afterwards I awoke in my bed, trembling with fear. The daylight was bright behind the curtains. I ran to the window: a clear winter's morning!

I went into the next room; the Baron was sitting at his desk, reading and wearing his usual working clothes.

"You've slept in late this morning, my lad", he called to me with a laugh when he saw me by the door, still in my nightshirt, my teeth chattering with inner cold. "I had to go and put out the lamps in the town instead of you. The first time for many years. But what's the matter with you?"

A quick glance at his neck and the last drops of fear trickled out of my blood: his goitre was back on its usual left side and the bust of Dante was in the same place as ever.

Another second, and the earth had once more swallowed up the dreamworld; there was an echo fading in my ear, as if the lid of the coffin had fallen to, and then everything was forgotten.

With growing haste, I told my foster-father everything that had happened to me; the only thing I held back was my meeting with the old carpenter, Mutschelknaus. Only at one point I asked, in passing, "Do you know Herr Mutschelknaus?"

"Of course", he answered cheerfully. "He lives down below. A poor, poor wretch, by the way."

"And his daughter ... Fraulein Ophelia?"

"Yes, I know ... Ophelia as well", said the Baron, with a sudden earnest air. He gave me a long, sad look, "Ophelia as well."

Quickly I went back to the nightwalk, for I could feel a blush spreading over my cheeks. "Papa, in my dream, why did you have your ... your left neck on the other side?"

The Baron thought for a long time. When he began to speak, he kept searching for the right word, as if he found it difficult to adapt what he had to say to my still undeveloped understanding: "To make that clear to you, my son, I would have to give you an exceptionally complicated lecture lasting a whole week, and even then you wouldn't understand it. You'll have to content yourself with the few random thoughts I'll throw at you. Will you catch them? True teaching can only come from life or, better still, dreams.

Learning to dream is thus the first stage of wisdom. The world can give you cleverness; wisdom flows from your dreaming, whether it is a waking' dream' (in which case we say, 'something just occurred to me' or, 'it has just dawned on me'), or a sleeping dream, in which we are instructed through symbolic images. Likewise all true art comes from the realm of dreams. The gift of invention as well. Men speak. in words, dream in living images. The fact that they are taken from the happenings of the day has deceived many into thinking they are meaningless; which they are, of course, if you don't pay them any attention! In that case, the organ through which we dream will atrophy, just like-a limb we do not use, and a valuable guide will fall silent: the bridge to another life, that is of much greater value than earthly life, will collapse in ruins. Dreaming is the footbridge between waking and sleeping; it is also the footbridge between life and death.

You mustn't take me for a great sage, my boy, just because last night my double told you so much that might seem marvellous to you. I have not yet reached the stage when I can claim that he and I are one and the same person. It is true, however, that I am more at home in that dreamland than many other people. I have become visible over there and lasting, so to speak, but I still always have to shut my eyes here when I want to open them over there, and vice versa. 1bere are people for whom that is no longer necessary, but very, very few.

You remember that you could not see yourself, and had neither body, nor hands, nor eyes, when you lay down in the coffin again on the white road?

But the schoolboy couldn't see you, either! He walked right through you, as if you were empty air!

Do you know where that came from? You did not take the memory of the form of your earthly body over to the other side. Only someone who can do that - as I have learnt to - is visible to himself on the other side. He will create for himself a second body in dreamland, which will even become visible to others later on, however strange that might sound to you at the moment. In order to achieve that, there are methods" - with a grin he pointed at the print of Leonardo 's Last Supper - "which I will teach you when your body is mature and no longer needs to be bound. Anyone who knows them is capable of raising a ghost. With some people this 'becoming visible in the other realm' happens of its own accord, completely without method, but almost always only one part of them comes alive, usually the hand. That then often performs the most pointless acts, for the head is absent, and people who observe the effect cross themselves and talk of fiendish phantoms. You are thinking, how can a hand do something without its owner being aware of it? Have you never seen the tail of a lizard break off and writhe in apparent agony while the lizard stands by, in complete indifference? It is something like that.

The realm over there is just as real" ("or unreal", he added in an aside) "as this earthly realm. Each on its own is only a half, only together do they form a whole. You know the story of Siegfried: his sword was broken in two pieces; the cunning dwarf Alberich could not forge it together, because he was a creature of the earth, but Siegfried could.

Siegfried's sword is a symbol of that double life: the way to weld it together into one piece is a secret one must know, if one wants to be a knight.

The realm beyond is in fact even more real than this earthly one. The one is a reflection of the other, that is to say the earthly one is a reflection of 'beyond', not vice versa. Anything that is on the right over there" - he pointed to his goitre - "is on the left here.

Now do you understand?

That other man was my double. What he said to you I have only just now heard from your lips. It did not come from his knowledge, much less from mine; it came from yours!

Yes, yes, my lad, don't stare at me like that, it came from yours! Or rather", he ran his hand caressingly through my hair, "from the knowledge of the Christopher within you! Anything I can tell you, as one human animal to another, comes out of human lips and goes into a human ear, and is forgotten when the brain decays. The only talk you can learn from, is from talking to - yourself! When you were talking to my double, you were talking to yourself! Anything a human being can tell you is, on the one hand, too little, and, on the other, too much. Sometimes it comes too soon, at others too late, and always when your soul is asleep. And now, my son", he turned back to his desk, "it's time you got dressed. You're surely not going to run around in your nightshirt all day?"
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:09 pm

Chapter 4: Ophelia

The memories of my life have become like precious stones to me; when the time for observing them comes, and I have found a human hand I can bend to my will to write them down, I raise them from the watery depths of the past. Then, when I listen to the string of words as to a story from other lips, I feel as if they are glittering gems running through my fingers, and the past becomes present once more. To my eyes, they all gleam, the dull as well as the shining ones, the dark as well as the bright; I can look on them all with a smile in my heart, for I am forever 'dissolved with corpse and sword'.

But there is one jewel among them which I can only raise with trembling hand. I cannot play with it as I can with the others. It gives off the sweet, intoxicating power of Mother Earth which goes straight to my heart.

It is like alexandrite, a precious stone which is dark green by day but suddenly shines with a red glow when you stare into its depths in the still of night.

I carry it with me like a drop of crystallised heart's-blood, ever fearful that it might dissolve into liquid once more and scorch me, if I should bear it close to my breast for too long.

For that reason I have shut away the memory of that span of time that for me bears the name of Ophelia and is a brief spring followed by a long autumn, as if in a glass ball in which lives the boy I used to be, half child, half youth. I look through the glass sides at myself, but it is like looking at a figure in a waxworks: it has lost all power to ensnare me with its magic.

And just as I see this image before me, awaking, changing, fading, so will I - a reporter who has left this world - describe it.

All the windows of the town are open, their ledges red with the geraniums in bloom; the chestnut trees that line the banks of the river are festooned with living, scented, white spring candles. The air beneath the pale-blue, cloudless sky is mild and still. Over the meadows there is a flutter of colourful butterflies, as if a gentle breeze were playing with a thousand scraps of coloured tissue paper.

In the bright, moonlit nights, the eyes of the cats, spitting and yowling with the pangs of love, glitter from the silvery roofs.

I am sitting on the banisters in the stair-well, listening to the sounds coming from the open window of the third floor across the alley. The curtains are drawn, so I cannot see into the room, but two voices - one a deep, declamatory, man's voice, that I hate, and the other a soft, shy girl's voice - are carrying on a conversation which I find incomprehensible:

"To-o be-e or not to-o be-e, that is the question. Nymph, in thy orisons, be a-all my sins remember'd."

"Good my Lord, how does your honour for this many a day?" breathes the shy voice.

"Get thee-ee to a nunnery, Ophelia."
I am very eager to hear what will come next, but suddenly, as if the speaker had turned into a clockwork toy, the spring of which is beginning to unwind, the male voice, without any obvious reason, becomes a low, hurried gabble from which all I can fish out are a few meaningless sentences, "Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; if thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, or, if thou needs marry, marry a fool, and quickly too. Farewell."

To which the girl's voice shyly replies, "O! what a noble mind is here o'erthrown. O heavenly powers, restore him!"

Then both are silent, and I hear sparse applause. After half an hour of deathly hush, during which the smell of a greasy roast wafts from the window, a well-chewed cigar-butt usually flies, still glowing, out between the curtains, bounces off the wall of our house in a shower of sparks and drops onto the cobbles of the alleyway.

I sit there until late in the afternoon, staring across at the house. My heart gives a joyful start each time the curtains move. Will Ophelia come to the window? And if it is she, should I leave my hiding place and show myself?

I have picked a red rose; will I dare to throw it across to her? I ought to have something to say to her as I do. But what?

It does not come to that, however. The rose begins to droop in my hot hand and there is no sign of life from across the alleyway. Only the smell of the meat has given way to that of roasted coffee.

Ah! At last A woman's hands push the curtains apart For a moment my head spins, then I clench my teeth and force myself to throw the rose through the open window.

A soft cry of surprise, then - Frau Aglaia Mutschelknaus appears at the window.

I cannot duck down quickly enough, she has already seen me.

I feel the blood drain from my cheeks; all is revealed

But destiny has other ideas. Frau Mutschelknaus simpers, places the rose on her bosom, as if on a plinth, and bashfully lowers her eyes; then, when she raises her soulful gaze once more and realises that it is only me, a shadow flits across her features. But she inclines her head in thanks, and the simper widens to reveal one of her canines.

I feel as if a skull had smiled at me, and yet I am relieved! If she had guessed for whom the flower was intended, it would have all been over. An hour later I am even happy that it turned out the way it did. From now on I can leave a whole bunch of flowers on the window-ledge for Ophelia every morning: her mother will assume they are for herself.

Perhaps she'll even think they come from my foster-father, Baron Jocher!

Life certainly teaches you a trick or two.

For a moment I have a nasty taste in my mouth, as if the mean thought had poisoned me, but the next minute it has gone, and I am wondering whether the best plan would not be to go to the cemetery straight away to steal some fresh roses. Later on people come to pray at the graves, and in the evening the gates are locked.

Down in Baker's Row I meet Herr Paris, the actor, coming out of the alley in his creaky boots.

He knows who I am, I can tell by his look.

He is a fat, old, clean-shaven man with flabby cheeks and an alcoholic nose that quivers at every step. He is wearing a kind of loose velvet beret, his cravat is fastened by a pin with a silver laurel wreath on it, and across his paunch hangs a watch-chain woven from tresses of blond hair. His jacket and waistcoat are of brown velvet, his legs are tightly encased in bottle-green trousers, which are so long that at the bottom they have folds like a concertina.

Has he guessed that I'm going to the cemetery? And why I'm going to steal roses there? And for whom? That's silly, I'm the only one who knows that. I give him a defiant look and deliberately do not wish him a good morning, but my heart stands still for a second when I notice the hard, almost calculating stare he is giving me from beneath his half-closed lids; he stops, takes a reflective suck at his cigar and then closes his eyes, like someone who has just had a strange idea.

I walk past him as quickly as possible, but then, from behind me, I hear him clear his throat in a loud, unnatural manner, as if he were about to declaim a speech, "Hemhem, mhhm, hemm."

An ice-cold tremor runs down my spine, and I start to run; I can't help it, I have to run, even though something says, 'Don't! You're just giving yourself away."

In the first light of dawn I put out the lamps and then go back to sit on the banisters, although I know it will be hours before Ophelia comes and opens the window in the house across the way. But I am afraid I might sleep too long if I go back to bed instead of waiting here.

I have put three white roses on the window-ledge for her, and I was so excited that I almost fell down into the alley as I did.

I pass the time imagining I am lying on the ground with broken limbs; they carry me to my room, Ophelia hears what has happened, guesses the cause, comes to my sick -bed and kisses me, tenderly, lovingly.

Thus I weave myself a childish, sentimental dream, then I blush inwardly at it. embarrassed that I can be so foolish; but the idea of suffering pain for Ophelia's sake is so sweet.

I tear myself away from my daydream. Ophelia is nineteen and a young lady, while I am only seventeen, although I am a little taller than she is. She would only kiss me in the way one kisses a child that has hurt itself. I like to think of myself as a grown man, and here I am imagining myself lying helpless in bed, being looked after by her. It is not manly, it is like a little boy.

So I dream myself into another fantasy: it is night and the town is asleep when suddenly flames are reflected on my window and a cry echoes through the streets; the neighbouring house is on fire! There is no hope of saving the inhabitants; Baker's Row is blocked by blazing beams!

In the room across the alleyway the curtains go up in flames; but I leap over from the window of our stair-well and carry my love, who is lying unconscious on the floor in her nightdress, out through the inferno of smoke and fire.

My heart is beating fit to burst with joy and excitement. So vivid is the imagined scene, that I can feel the touch of her bare arms round my neck as I carry her and the coolness of the unmoving lips I cover with kisses. The image keeps on surging through my blood, as if, with each sweet. bewitching detail, it has entered my life-stream, so that I can never free myself from it And it makes me happy, for I know that the impression is so deep that it will appear to me tonight in a real, a living dream. But how many hours there are until then!

I lean out of the window and look up at the sky: day refuses to break. A whole long day still separates me from the night. I am almost afraid because the morning must come before the night, it might destroy all my hopes! The roses might fall off when Ophelia opens her window, and she won't see them at all. Or she will see them and pick them up and ... what then? Will I have the courage not to hide immediately? An icy cold spreads over my body, for I know I will definitely not have the courage. But I comfort myself with the thought that she might guess whom the roses are from.

She must guess! It is impossible that, however mute and shy they are, the passionate, yearning thoughts of love which my heart radiates, should not penetrate hers!

I close my eyes and imagine, as vividly as possible, that I am over there by her bedside, that I lean down and kiss her in her sleep, in the ardent hope that she will dream of me.

I see it all so clearly in my mind's eye that for a while I am unsure whether I have been sleeping or what was happening to me. I had been absentmindedly staring at the three white roses over there on the window-ledge until they dissolved in the morning twilight. Now they have reappeared, but I am tortured by the thought that I stole them from the cemetery. Why did I not steal red ones? They belong to life. I cannot imagine that a dead man, waking up to find red roses missing from his grave, would demand them back.

At last the sun has risen. The space between the two houses is filled with the light from its rays. I feel as if we are hovering high above the clouds, for down below the alley has become invisible, swallowed up by the mist the morning breeze wafts through the streets.

A bright figure is moving in the room across the alley. I hold my breath in apprehension. I clasp the banister-rail with both hands to stop myself running away.


For a long time I do not dare to look across. A horrible feeling that I have done something unutterably idiotic chokes me. It is as if the splendour of my dreamland has been simply wiped away. I feel that it will never return and that I should throw myself from the window at once, or do something else dreadful in order to stifle the ridicule which is bound to break out at any moment, if my fears are realised.

I make one last stupid attempt to rescue my self-respect by frantically rubbing at my sleeve, as if there was a dirty mark on it

Then our eyes meet.

The blood has rushed to Ophelia's face; I can see her delicate white hands trembling as they hold the roses.

We both want to say something and cannot; each can see that the other lacks the confidence.

Another moment and Ophelia has disappeared.

I crouch down on the steps, curling myself up into a tiny ball, and all I am aware of is the blaze of joy inside me, I am beside myself with a joy that is a jubilant hymn of praise.

Can it really be?

Ophelia is a young lady. And me? What am I?

But no. She is young like me. In my mind, I see her eyes again, even clearer than they were in the glare of the sunlight And I read there: she is a child like me. Only a child could look out of such eyes. We are both still children. She does not feel that I am still just a silly little boy.

I know ,just as surely as I know a he an beats in my breast that would let itself be tom into a thousand pieces for her sake, that we will meet again today without having to go looking for each other. I know too that, without either having to tell the other, it will be after sunset, in the little garden between our house and the river.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:09 pm

Chapter 5: The Midnight Talk

Just as the out-of-the-way little town girdled by the ever-rolling river lives on in my heart like a tranquil isle, so the memory of a conversation that I overheard one night rises like an island from the restless waves of those youthful days that bear the name of Ophelia.

I had - as I suppose I did hourly at that time - been dreaming of my love, when I heard the Baron open his study door to a visitor. By his voice I recognised the Chaplain. He sometimes came, even at a late hour, for they were old friends and they would talk, usually until long after midnight, over a glass of wine about all sorts of philosophical questions, and I imagine they sometimes discussed my education; in brief, they spoke of things which were of little concern to me.

The Baron refused to let me go to school. He used to say, "Our teachers are like sorcerer's apprentices, who spend all their time deforming the mind, until the heart dies of thirst. When they have accomplished that, they declare their students ready to go out into the world."

For that reason he would only give me books to read that he had carefully selected from his own library after he had questioned me in order to ascertain the state of my thirst for knowledge. But he never tested me to see if I had actually read them.

"You will note the things your spirit wants your memory to retain, because it will also make you enjoy them", was a favorite saying of his. "Schoolmasters, however, are like animal tamers; the latter think it is important for lions to jump through hoops, the former spend all their time getting children to remember that the late lamented Hannibal lost his left eye in the Pontine swamps; the one turns the king of the desert into a circus clown, the other a divine flower into a bunch of parsley."

The two of them must have been holding a similar conversation, for I heard the Chaplain say, "I would be afraid to let a child drift along like a ship without a rudder. I think it would be certain to run aground."

"As if most people don't run aground!" exclaimed the Baron heatedly. "Has someone not run aground, looked at from the higher standpoint of life itself, who, after a youth spent pining behind school windows, becomes, let's say, a lawyer, marries in order to bequeath his bitter lot to his children, then becomes sick and dies? Do you believe it was for that that his soul created the complicated mechanism we call the human body?"

"Where would we end up if everyone thought as you do?" objected the Chaplain.

"In the most blessed, the most beautiful state the human race can attain! Each one of us would grow in a different way, no one would be like anyone else, everyone would be a crystal, would think and feel in different colours and images, would love and hate differently, as the spirit within wants us to. It must have been Satan himself, the enemy of all colourful diversity, who thought up the slogan that all men are equal."

"So you do believe in the Devil, Baron? You usually deny it."

"I believe in the Devil in the same way as I believe in the deadly power of the north wind. But who can point to the place in the universe where cold originates? That is where the Devil must have his throne. Cold spends all its time pursuing warmth, for it wants to become warm itself. The Devil must come to God, icy death to the fire of life; that is the origin of all journeying. They say there is an absolute zero temperature? No one has ever found it yet, and no one ever will, no more than they can ever find absolute magnetic north. Even if you lengthen a bar magnet, or break it in two, the north pole will always be opposite the south pole, in the one case the portion separating the point where the two appear will be longer. in the other shorter, but the two poles will never meet, for that would mean the bar would be a ring and the magnet would no longer be a bar magnet. You may seek the source of either pole in the finite world, but you will always end up on a journey into infinity. Look at the picture on the wall, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. There you can see what I was saying about magnets, as well as about education through the soul, transferred to human beings. The mission of the soul of each of the disciples is indicated symbolically by the position of his hands and fingers. In each one of them the right hand is active, whether it is leaning on the table, the edge of which is divided into sixteen parts, which could indicate the sixteen letters of the ancient Roman alphabet, or joined with the left hand. It is Judas Iscariot alone whose left hand is active, his right hand is closed! John the Evangelist - of whom Jesus said he might tarry till He came, so that a saying went abroad among the disciples that he would not die - has his hands clasped together, which signifies that he is a magnet which is no longer a magnet, he is a ring in eternity, he is no longer journeying.

These finger positions are strange things, they conceal the deepest mysteries of religion. You find them on old statues of gods in the East, but they also reappear in the paintings of almost all the masters of the Middle Ages.

A legend has been handed down in our family that our ancestor, the lamp-bearer Christopher Jocher, came from the East, bringing with him the secret of using finger gestures to call up the shades of the dead and bend them to his will for all sorts of purposes.

A document which I possess reveals he was a member of an ancient order which in one place calls itself Shi Kiai, that is 'The Dissolution of the Corpse' , and in another Kieu Kiai, 'The Dissolution of the Swords'.

This document tells of things which will sound very strange to your ears. With the help of the art of making the hands and fingers spiritually alive, some members of the order disappeared from the grave along with their corpse, and others transformed themselves in the earth into swords.

Do you not see in that, Father, a striking parallel with the Resurrection of Christ? Especially if you relate it to the mysterious hand gestures in pictures and statues from the Middle Ages and Oriental antiquity?"

I heard the Chaplain becoming restless, walking up and down the room with hurried steps. Then he stopped and spoke in urgent tones:

"All this, my dear Baron, sounds too much like Freemasonry for me, as a Catholic priest, to accept without contradiction. What you call the deadly north wind is, for me, Freemasonry and everything connected with it. I know well- we have spoken about it often enough - that all great painters and artists were united by a common bond, which they called the Guild, and that they declared this unity beyond frontiers by attaching to the figures in their pictures secret signs, usually in the position of the fingers or gestures of the hands, or through the attitude of faces in the clouds, or sometimes through their choice of colours. Often enough the Church, before commissioning pictures of saints, made them solemnly swear to desist from this practice, but they kept on finding ways of circumventing their oath. People hold it against the Church that she says, if not for everyone to hear, that art comes from the Devil. Is that so incomprehensible for a strict Catholic? When it is well known that artists possessed and preserved a mystery that was clearly directed against the Church?

I know of a letter from a great painter of the past to a Spanish friend in which he openly admits the existence of the secret league."

"I know that letter too", the Baron broke in. "In it the painter says - more or less, I cannot remember his exact words - 'Go to such and such a person, a man by the name of X, and go down on thy knees and beg him to give me just one hint of how to proceed further with this mystery. I do not want to remain merely a painter to the end of my life.' And what does that tell us, my dear Chaplain? Nothing more than that the famous artist. however far he had been initiated into the externals, was in reality only a blind man. There is no doubt in my mind that he belonged to the Guild and that he was a Freemason, which, for me, is as much as to say: he was a mere labourer in the brickyard who was only involved in work on the exterior of the building. You are quite correct when you say that all the architects, painters, sculptors, goldsmiths and engravers of those days were Freemasons. But - and this is the crucial point - they were only acquainted with the external rituals and only understood them in an ethical sense; they were merely tools of that invisible power, which you, as a Catholic, mistakenly think of as the 'Master of the Left Hand'. Tools they were, nothing else, and their sole purpose was to preserve certain mysteries in symbolic form for posterity, until the time shall be ripe. They always came to a halt part of the way along the path, for they kept on hoping that human lips would give them the key that would open the door. They never suspected that it lies in the execution of their art itself; they never understood that art conceals a deeper meaning than merely producing pictures or creating literature, namely to develop within the artist a kind of hypersensitivity of perception and sensation, of which the first expression is called a 'right sense of art'. Even an artist alive today, insofar as his profession has opened his senses to the influences of that power, will be able to bring those symbols back to life in his works. There is no need at all for him to learn of them from the lips of a living person, nor to have been received into one or other of the Lodges. On the contrary, there are 'invisible lips' that speak a thousand times more clearly than the tongues of men. What is true art other than scooping up a portion of this eternal abundance?

It is true that there are people who may justifiably bear the title of' artist', and yet are possessed by a dark force which you, from your standpoint, can certainly designate as the 'Devil'. Their creations resemble the Christians' conception of the Devil's infernal kingdom, down to the last jot and tittle; their works give off the icy breath of the frozen north, which from earliest antiquity has been seen as the home of the demons that hate mankind. The means of expression their art uses are pestilence, death, madness, murder, blood, despair and depravity.

How can we explain this kind of artistic temperament? I will tell you. An artist is a person in whose mind the spiritual, occult side of man has achieved dominance over the material side. That can come about in two ways: on the one hand there are those, let us call them the 'satanic ones' , whose brain is beginning to degenerate through excess, through syphilis, through inherited or acquired vices; as a consequence it weighs lighter, so to speak, in the scales, with the result that the spiritual side is automatically made 'heavier and manifest in the world of appearances'. It is only because the other side has become lighter that the pan of the scales with the occult faculties sinks, and not because it has become heavier itself. In such cases the works of art are suffused with a putrid odour. It is as if the spirit were wearing a garment which shone with the phosphorescence of decay.

In the other artists - I like to call them the 'anointed ones' - the spirit has, like St. George, attained mastery over the animal. In them, the pan with the spirit sinks into the world of appearances thanks to its own weight. In such cases the spirit wears the golden garment of the sun.

In both kinds of artist, however, the balance of the scales has been tilted in favour of the occult, whilst in the average person it is the animal alone that has weight; both the 'satanic' artist and the 'anointed' artist are moved by the wind from the invisible realm of eternal abundance, the former by the north wind, the latter by the breath of dawn. The average person, on the other hand, is as unyielding as a solid block of wood.

What is that power that uses the great artists as an instrument to preserve the symbolic rites of magic for those that come after?

I tell you, it is the same power that once created the Church. It builds two living columns at the same time, the one white and the other black; two living columns, which will hate each other until they realise that they both support the same triumphal arch.

Remember the place in the Gospels where St. John says, 'And there are many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.' Now, Father, how can you explain that, according to your belief, it was the will of God that the Bible came down to us, but not those 'other things'? Have they been 'lost', just as a boy 'loses' his pocket-knife?

I tell you, those 'other things ' are still alive, they have always been alive, and will live on, even if all the lips to tell them, and all the ears to hear them, should die. The spirit will keep whispering them into life, and it will create more and more artists, with minds that vibrate when it wills it, and more and more hands, that will write as it commands. Those are the things that St. John knew of and knows of, the mysteries that were with 'Christ', and which he included when he made his instrument, Jesus, say, 'Before Adam was, I am'.

I tell you - whether you cross yourself or not - the Church began with Peter, but will only be completed by John. What does that mean? Try reading the Gospels as if they were a prophecy of what will become of the Church. Perhaps if you look at them from that point of view you will see what it means that Peter denied Christ thrice and was angry when Jesus said of John, 'I will that he tarry till I come. ' For your comfort, I will add that though I believe the Church will die - I can see it coming - it will rise from the dead, and it will be as it should be. Nothing, nor any person, not even Jesus Christ, has risen from the dead without dying first.

I know you too well as an honest man who takes his duty very seriously for me to harbour the least doubt that you have often asked yourself how it is that among the clergy, even among the Popes, there could be criminals, men unworthy of their position, unworthy to bear the name of monk? I know, too, that if anyone were to ask you for an explanation of such facts, you ~vould say, 'It is only the office that is free of sin, and not the man who holds the office.' Do not think, my dear friend, that I am one of those who would mock such an explanation, or who think themselves too clever to be taken in by what they see as a piece of glib hypocrisy. My conception of a priest's mission is too deep for that.

I know well, perhaps even better than you do, just how many Catholic priests there are whose hearts are filled with fearful doubt. 'Can it really be the Christian religion', they ask, 'that is called to redeem mankind? Do not all the signs of the times indicate that the Church is decayed. Will the millennium really come? It is true that Christianity is growing like a huge tree, but where are the fruits? Day by day the number of those that call themselves Christians is increasing, but fewer and fewer are worthy of it! '

Where do these doubts come from, I ask you? From weakness of faith? No. They come from the subconscious recognition that there are too few among the priests whose sense of mission is fiery enough for them to seek the path of sanctification, as the Yogis and Sadhus do in India. There are too few to take heaven by force. Believe me, there are more paths to the resurrection than the Church dreams of. But a lukewarm hope of 'grace' is not one of them! How many are there among your fellow priests who can say of themselves, 'As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God'?

They are all secretly hoping for the fulfIlment of the apocryphal prophecy, which says that fifty-two popes will appear, each one bearing a hidden Latin name, which alludes to his work on earth; the last one will be called 'flos florum', that is the 'flower of flowers', and it is under his sway that the millennium will dawn.

I will make you a prophecy - I, who am more of a heathen than a Catholic - that he will be called John and will be a mirror- image of John the Evangelist; from John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Freemasons, who preserve the mysteries of baptism with water without knowing them themselves, he will be given power over the lower world.

Thus will two pillars come to bear a triumphal arch!

But if, today, you were to write a book and say, 'To lead mankind we need neither a soldier nor a diplomat, neither a professor nor a ... blockhead, but a priest and no one else' , its publication would be greeted with a scream of rage. And if you were to go on to write, 'The Church is only one half of a sword that has been broken in twain, and its measures will only be half measures until Christ's representative is at the same time the Vicar of Solomon, the head of the Order' , the book will be burnt on a bonfire.

Of course, the truth could not be burnt or crushed. It is becoming more and more manifest, like the inscription over the altar in our St. Mary's Church, where the painted board they put there to cover it up keeps on falling off.

I can tell from your expression that you object to the idea that there might be a sacred mystery belonging to the opponents of the Church that the Catholic Church knows nothing of. Yet that is the case, though with the crucial restriction that those who guard it can make no use of it, their community is the other half of the 'broken sword' and cannot comprehend its meaning. Truly, it would be more than grotesque to imagine that the respectable gentlemen who founded the Gotha Life Insurance Company should possess a magic arcanum for the overcoming of death."

There was a long pause. The two old gentlemen seemed to be lost in thought. Then I heard the clink of glasses, and after a while the Chaplain said, "Where on earth do you get all this strange knowledge from?"

The Baron was silent.

"Or do you not like talking about it?"

The Baron avoided a direct answer, "Hmm. It depends. Some of it is connected with my life, some just came to me and some I ... er ... inherited."

"That one can inherit knowledge is new to me. However, people still tell the oddest stories about your late father."

"What, for example?" said the Baron, a smile on his face. "I would be very interested to hear."

"Well, people say he was ... he was ..."

"A fool!" said the Baron genially.

"Not exactly a fool. Oh no, not at all. But an eccentric of the first order. He is supposed - so people say, but you mustn't imagine I believe this kind of talk - he is supposed to have invented a machine to inculcate a belief in miracles in ... well ... in hounds."

"Ha ha ha!" the Baron burst out laughing. He laughed so loud and so long and so heartily that I, in my bed in the next room, found it infectious and had to clench my teeth on my handkerchief so as not to betray to them that I was listening.

"I knew it was all nonsense", the Chaplain apologised.

"Oh!" - the Baron was still gasping for breath - "oh, not at all. It's quite correct. Ha ha! Just a moment please, I must get this laughter out of my system. That's better. You see, my father was a character such as you don't seem to find any more nowadays. He had an immense store of knowledge, and if there was anything the human mind was capable of thinking up, he thought it up. One day he gave me a long look, snapped shut the fat tome he had been reading, threw it to the ground (since that day he never looked into another book) and said to me, 'Bartholomew, my lad, I have now realised that everything is nonsense. The brain is the most superfluous gland we humans possess. We should have it removed, like our tonsils. I have determined to start a new life from today.'

The very next morning he moved into a small castle we owned at that time in the country, and spent the rest of his days there. It was only shortly before his death that he returned home, to die here, peacefully, on the floor below.

Whenever I went to visit him in the castle, he would show me something new. Once it was an enormous, intricate spider's web on the inside of a window-pane, that he looked after as if it were the apple of his eye. 'You see, my son, ' he explained, 'in the evening I set a bright light here, behind the web, in order to attract the insects outside. Swarms of them come whizzing along, but they can't get caught in the web because the window is in between. The spider, who naturally has no idea what glass is - where would it find something like that in the natural world? - cannot understand what is happening, and is probably shaking its head in disbelief. But the fact is that every day it weaves a finer and finer web - without that having any effect on the problem whatsoever! In this way I want to cure the beast of its unhesitating trust in the omnipotence of understanding. Later on, when, through reincarnation, it has become a human being, it will thank me for such far-sighted education, for it will have a subconscious hoard of experience, which can be of great value to it. It is clear to me that when I was a spider, I lacked such an educator, otherwise I would have thrown away my books when I was a child.'

Another time he took me to see a cage full of magpies. He threw masses of food to them, and they all pounced on it greedily and, fearing the others might eat more quickly, stuffed their beaks and crops so full that they could not swallow.

'I am letting these creatures satisfy their greed and selfishness until they are nauseated by it' , he explained. 'I hope that in their later lives they will then avoid the barrenness of parsimony, the quality above all others which renders man ugly.'

'Or' , I objected, 'they will invent pockets and purses!' At this my father grew thoughtful, then without a word he opened the cage and set the birds free.

'I hope you won't have any objections to this at least', he growled, leading me to a balcony on which stood a ballista, a machine for hurling stones. 'Do you see all those curs in the meadow down there? They lie around all day in ungodly idleness without a care in the world. I'll soon put a stop to that.' He took a pebble and hurled it at one of the dogs, which immediately leapt up in fright and peered round on all sides to see where the missile might have come from; then it gazed up at the sky in bewilderment and padded about restlessly before it settled down again. To judge by its perplexed behaviour, it must quite often have been the victim of such mysterious attacks.

'Used with patience, this machine will unfailingly plant the seed of a future belief in miracles in any hound's heart, however godless it may be', said my father proudly. 'Don't laugh, presumptuous boy! You name me one calling that is more important. Do you think the way Providence treats us is any different from what I do to these curs?'

So you see, my father was a complete oddity, and yet full of wisdom", the Baron concluded.

They had both had a long laugh, then he continued, "A remarkable destiny is handed down from generation to generation in my family. But do not imagine, even if my words should sound somewhat arrogant, that I consider myself something special, even one of the elect. I do have a mission, it is true, but it is a very modest one, even if for me it is important and one that I hold sacred.

I am the eleventh in the generations of the Jochers. Our founding father we call the root; we other ten, the Barons, are the branches. All our first names begin with 'B', for example Bartholomew, Benjamin, Balthazar, Benedict and so on. Only the root, our founding father Christopher, has a name beginning with 'C'. In our family chronicle it says that our forefather prophesied that the twelfth branch, the crown of the family tree, would once more be called Christopher. 'It is strange', I often used to think to myself, 'everything he foretold has come true, word for word; only the last seems to be wrong, for I have no children. Then a strange thing happened; I heard about the child in the orphanage, whom I have now adopted, and took him in solely because he walked in his sleep, something which is characteristic of the Jochers. When I learnt he was called Christopher, it was like an electric shock, which so took my breath away, that I was gasping for air all the way home. In our chronicle the family is compared to a palm-tree, from which a branch falls off to make way for each new one that appears, until finally all that is left will be the root, the crown and the smooth trunk, which will send out no side-shoots, so that the sap can rise freely from the ground to the tree-top. None of my ancestors has had more than one son, and none any daughters at all, so that the palm-tree symbol retains its full force.

I am the last branch and, to cap it all, I live up here under the eaves. I don't know what it was, but I just felt there was something urging me to move to the top of the house. My ancestors never spent more than two generations on the same storey.

Much as I love him, the boy is not my son, of course. That's where the prophecy breaks down. It often makes me feel sad, for I would have liked the crown of the tree to be a shoot from my blood and that of my ancestors. And who can tell how far he will be our spiritual heir? But what is the matter, Chaplain? Why are you staring at me like that?"

From the sound of a chair falling over, I guessed that the Chaplain had jumped up. I was gripped with a burning fever that intensified with every word the Chaplain uttered.

"Baron Jocher! Hear me out!" he exclaimed. "I was going to tell you the moment I came in, but then I kept putting it off until the conversation took a suitable turn. But once you started your story, I forgot, for the while, my purpose in coming here. I am afraid I am going to open an old wound in your heart ..."

"Go on, go on", the Baron encouraged him.

"Your wife who disappeared ..."

"No, no, she didn't disappear, she ran away. Don't be afraid to say what really happened."

"Well, your wife and the unknown woman whose body was found in the river about fifteen years ago and who is buried in the cemetery, in the grave with the white roses but no name, were one and the same person. But - and here you have true cause for rejoicing, my friend - her child can only be - there is no possible doubt - the foundling, Christopher! You said yourself that your wife was pregnant when she left you. No! No! Do not ask me how I know. I would not tell you, even if I were permitted. Assume someone told me in confession. Someone you do not know -"

That was all that I heard. I was going hot and cold. That midnight talk gave me back both father and mother, as well as sadness at knowing I had stolen three white roses from the grave of the one who had given birth to me.
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Re: The White Dominican, by Gustav Meyrink

Postby admin » Thu May 17, 2018 11:10 pm

Chapter 6: Ophelia

The children still trot along behind me as I make my way through the streets, head held high and proud of the honorary office of the Jochers, especially since I now know that their forefather is also mine. But the mocking chant of "Doo'cot, doo'cot, diddle diddle doo'cot" is getting more and more ragged. Most of the children merely clap their hands to the rhythm or just sing "diddle diddle".

And the grown-ups! They doff their hats in response to my greeting, where before they only used to nod; and when people see me coming from my mother's grave, where I go every day, heads nod and tongues wag behind my back. Word has got around the little town that I am the natural son of Baron Jocher, and not just an adopted child.

Whenever I meet Frau Aglaia, she curtseys, as if a religious procession were passing, and takes every opportunity of speaking to me and asking me how I am. When she is with Ophelia, I slip out of the way before we meet, to save the pair of us from blushing at the old woman's obsequious manner.

Mutsehelknaus, the carpenter, literally freezes whenever he sees me; if he thinks he can get away without being seen, he shoots back into his den like a frightened mouse. I can feel his embarrassment at the fact that it is I, whom he now regards as belonging to another world, who share his midnight secret.

I went to see him in his workshop, just once. I wanted to tell him that he had no reason to be ashamed in front of me. I intended to say how much I respected him for the way he sacrificed himself for his family. I was going to use my father's words, that 'every profession was noble that the soul considered worthy of carrying on after death' , and was looking forward to the liberating effect they would have on him. I did not get the chance to deliver my speech, and the very thought of a further visit is more than I can bear.

He tore a curtain from the window and threw it over the coffin, so that I should not see the rabbits, threw his arms wide, bowed until his trunk was parallel to the ground and remained in this Chinese posture, without looking at me, repeating, over and over again, like a litany, "Your Serene and Honourable Baron Lordship has deigned -"

Eventually I turned tail and ran. The few words I stammered were all wrong. Whatever I tried, it sounded like arrogance, whatever word I managed to bring out, I was 'deigning'. The simplest, plainest language bounced back off his aura of servility, and wounded me, like an arrow whose head had been smeared with the poison of condescension.

Even my silent departure burdened me with the feeling that my behaviour had seemed haughty.

Herr Paris, the 'celebrated' theatre director, is the only one of the grown-ups who has not changed his behaviour towards me. My secret fear of him has increased. He has a paralysing influence, which I am powerless to oppose. I have the feeling that it resides in his bass voice and the loud imperiousness of his manner of speaking. I try to persuade myself that it is a silly idea, and that I don't have to start with fright whenever he shouts at me; and even if I do, what does it matter?

But every time I hear him across the alley, declaiming in Ophelia's room, the deep note of his voice makes me tremble, and I am gripped with a mysterious fear. I feel so small and weak and am ashamed of my high, boy's voice.

I keep telling myself that he has no idea, cannot possibly have any idea, that we are in love, Ophelia and I; I tell myself that he is a stupid play-actor and that the piercing looks he gives me when we meet in the street are nothing more than probes, sounding out the ground; but it is all to no effect, I can repeat it as much as I like, but I cannot free myself from the humiliating feeling that I am under his spell, and that it is nothing but a sham when I occasionally find the courage to look him straight in the eye. It is a coward's fear of himself, and nothing more.

I often wish he would clear his throat in that insolent and challenging manner again, as he did when he saw me coming from the cemetery, so that I would have an excuse to start an argument with him, but he has stopped doing it; he is lying in wait. I assume he is keeping his bass voice in reserve, until the right moment comes, and inside I am all aquiver that, when it comes, I may be unprepared.

Ophelia, too, is in his power, defenceless. I know, although we never talk of it. When we meet at night by the river, in the little garden outside our house, in rapturous embrace, whispering words of love to each other, we start with sudden fright each time we hear the slightest sound near us; and we each know that it is the constant fear of that man that makes the other's hearing so unnaturally keen.

We cannot even bring ourselves to speak his name. Timidly, we skirt round any topic that might lead to it.

There seems to be a curse on me that makes me run into him every evening, whatever time I choose to leave the house. I feel like a bird trapped by a snake that is circling closer and closer round it.

But he appears to sense in our meetings a portent of success; he savours the feeling that every day he is coming closer to his goal, I can tell by the malicious gleam in his tiny, spiteful eyes. But what can that goal be? I do not think he has any clear idea of that, any more than I have. That is his problem, and my comfort. Otherwise, why should he stop and ponder, gnawing at his lower lip, whenever I hurry past?

He no longer fixes me with his gaze. He knows it is not necessary any more. His soul has mine in its power anyway.

He cannot spy on us at night, but still I have thought up a plan to stop us having to live in constant fear of him. At the foot of the wooden bridge is an old boat, half pulled up onto the bank. I went to fetch it today and moored it near our garden. When the moon disappears behind the clouds I will row Ophelia over to the other side, and then we will float downstream, right round the town. The river is too wide for anyone to see, let alone recognise us.

I have slipped into the room separating my father's bedroom from mine and am counting my heartbeats, hoping that the strokes will soon come from the tower of St. Mary's, ten resounding blows, and then the eleventh, the one that cries in jubilation, 'Now, now Ophelia is coming down to the garden!'

Time seems to stand still, and in my impatience I start to play a curious game with my heart, so that my mind gradually becomes confused, as if in a dream. I try to persuade it to beat faster, so that the clock in the church tower will also go more quickly. It seems quite natural to me that the one should follow the other. Is my heart not a clock as well? asks a questioning thought. And if so, why should it not be more powerful than the one up in the tower, which is only made of lifeless metal and not of living flesh and blood like mine.

Why should it not have the power to make time hurry along? And as if in confirmation, two lines from a poem my father once read to me suddenly come to mind, "Heart-born and heart-joined, / All things proceed from the heart." Now I can understand the dreadful meaning that resides in those words, that were mere sound to my ears when I first heard them. Now I comprehend them with a meaning that shocks me to the core: the heart within me, my own heart, does not obey when I call to it, 'Beat faster'. Living within me must be one who is stronger than I, one who dictates time and destiny to me.

That is where things must proceed from.

I feel a shock of horror at myself, for suddenly the sense is clear to me, 'I would be a magician and would have mastery over each and every happening, if I only knew myself, if I only had power over my own heart.'

This train of thought is interrupted by another, which appears uncalled, saying, 'Do you remember that passage in the book you read years ago in the orphanage? Did it not say, 'Clocks often stop when someone dies '? This is how it comes about: with the nightmare of death weighing down on them, the dying mistake the slower and slower beat of their hearts for the tick of a clock. The fear of the body, which is about to be abandoned by the soul, whispers to them, 'When that clock stops ticking, I shall be dead' , and, as if by a magic command, the clock stands still with the last heart-beat. If there is a clock in the room of someone the dying person is thinking of, then that will be the one that will blindly follow the words that spring from mortal fear, for the dying are present, like their own doubles, in places they are thinking of at the moment of death.'

So it is fear that my heart obeys! It is more powerful than my heart! If I could banish it, then I would have power over everything that proceeds from the heart, over time and destiny!

I suddenly find myself breathless, fighting against a fear that falls on me, tries to suffocate me, because I am feeling my way towards its lair. I am too weak to master it, for I do not know how or where to grasp it. It attacks my heart instead of me, squeezing it to force it to shape my destiny according to its will and not mine.

I try to calm myself down by telling myself that, as long as I am not with Ophelia, she is in no danger, but I am too weak to follow the dictate of reason and not go down to the garden tonight. No sooner have I accepted the idea, than I reject it.

I can see the snare that my heart is laying for me and yet I walk straight into it. My yearning for Ophelia is stronger than all reason.

I go to the window to collect my thoughts and to find the courage to face up to the danger which I know is inevitable because I can sense my fear of it, but the sight of the inexorable flow of the mute, unfeeling water has such a fearful effect on me that for a moment I miss the thunder of the church clock striking. My mind is numbed by the dim fear that the destiny I can no longer avoid is being borne along by the river.

Then I am aroused by the metallic vibrations, wiping away fear and trepidation.


I can see her white dress shimmering in the garden.

"My dear, my own child, I've been so afraid for you all day."

"And I for you, Ophelia", I am about to say, but she embraces me and her lips close over mine.

"You know, I think this evening is the last time we will see each other, my poor, dear child?"

"Good God, Ophelia, has something happened? Quick, let's get into the boat, we'll be safe there."

"Yes, let's go. Perhaps we'll be safe there, safe from him."

From him! It is the first time she has mentioned 'him'! From the way her hand is trembling I can tell how boundless her fear of 'him' must be. I set off towards the boat, but for a moment she resists, as if she cannot tear herself from the spot. "Come along, Ophelia", I urge, "don't be frightened. We'll be over by the other side in a moment. The mist will veil-"

"I'm not frightened. I just want to ..." she falters.

"What's the matter, Ophelia?" I put my arms around her. "Don't you love me any more?"

"You know how much I love you, Christl, my child", is all she says. There follows a long silence.

"Let's go to the boat now", I urge her again in a whisper. "I want you so much."

Gently, she withdraws from my embrace, takes a step back towards the bench where we always sit, and runs her fingers along it, lost in thought.

"What's the matter, Ophelia? What are you doing? Is there something troubling you? Have I hurt you?"

"I just want to - I just want to say goodbye to the dear old bench. Do you remember when we first kissed here?"

"You're going to leave me?

I almost scream. "Ophelia, in God's name, you can't. Something's happened and you won't tell me! Do you think I could live without you?"

"No, my little child, be still, nothing's happened yet." She softly comforts me and tries to smile, but as the moonlight falls bright across her face, I can see that her eyes are full of tears. "Come, my love, come; you're right, let's get into the boat."

With every pull on the oars my heart feels lighter; the wider the stretch of water between us and the dark houses with their glowing, spying eyes, the safer we are from danger. Finally the willows along the other bank appear through the mist; the water is shallow and calm, and we drift along slowly beneath the overhanging branches. 1have shipped the oars and am sitting next to Ophelia on the rudder seat, locked in a tender embrace.

"Why were you so sad just now, my love? Why did you say you wanted to say farewell to the bench? Tell me you'll never leave me."

"Sometime or other it must be, my own, dear child. And the time is coming nearer. No, no, there's no need to be sad. It might still be a long time. Let's not think about it."

"I know what you are talking about, Ophelia." My eyes are brimming with tears and my throat is burning. "You mean when you will go to the capital to be an actress, and we won't see each other any more. Do you imagine 1haven't been thinking of it, dreading it day and night? 1 am certain 1won't be able to bear the separation. But you said yourself that it will be a year before you have to leave?"

"Yes, a year ... at least."

"And by that time 1will be sure to have found a reason for going to the capital myself, so that we can be together. 1 will keep on asking my father, pleading with him until he lets me study there. Then when I have a profession and can support myself, we will get married and never pan again ... You're not saying anything, Ophelia, don't you love me any more?" 1ask anxiously.

From her silence 1can read her thoughts, and they wound me to the heart. She is thinking how much younger than her I am, and that I am building castles in the air. I know that too, but 1 refuse to ... to think that we might ever have to part. I want us to intoxicate ourselves with the belief that miracles are possible.

"Ophelia, listen -"

"Please, please, don't say anything", she pleads. "Let me dream."

We snuggle up close to each other and sit there for a long time in silence. It is as if the boat were motionless and the steep, white sandy banks were slowly gliding past in the bright moonlight.

Suddenly she gives a start, as if she were awaking from sleep. I give her hand a comforting squeeze, for I think some noise has frightened her. Then she says, "Will you promise me something, Christl?"

I search for words of reassurance, I want to tell her that I would go through torture for her, if it were necessary.

"Will you promise me that you will ... that you will bury me under the seat in the garden, when I am dead?"


"Only you alone may bury me, and only in that spot Do you hear? No one else must be there, and no one must know where my grave is. Do you hear? I love the old bench so much. Then I will always feel as if I am waiting for you."

"Ophelia, don't say such things! Why are you thinking about death just now? When you die, I will die with you, you know that Can't you feel-"

She stops me before I can finish. "Christl, my own, don't ask me why, just promise me what I ask."

"I promise, Ophelia, I give you my solemn promise, even if I cannot understand what you mean."

"Thank you, thank. you my dear, dear child. Now I know you will keep it."

She presses her cheek against mine, and I can feel her tears falling on my face.

"You're crying, Ophelia. Won't you confide in me, tell me why you are so unhappy? Are they tormenting you at home? Please, please, tell me, Ophelia. I get so miserable when you are silent like this, that I don't know what to do."

"Yes, you're right, I will stop crying. It's so beautiful here, so quiet, so magically still. I am so unutterably happy that you are with me, my own."

And we kiss, wildly, passionately, until we almost faint with love.

All at once I feel full of a confident optimism about the future. It will surely turn out the way I pictured it to myself during those quiet nights. It must!

"Do you think", I ask, full of a secret jealousy, "you will enjoy being an actress? Do you imagine it will really be so wonderful when people applaud you and throw flowers onto the stage?" I kneel down before her, she has her hands clasped in her lap and is looking thoughtfully out across the surface of the water into the distance.

"I have never thought about how it will be, not even once ... It seems to me repulsive and ugly to stand up in front of people and act out delight or mental torment before them. It will be ugly if it is all feigned, and obscene if I really feel it and then a moment later throw off the mask to accept their thanks as reward. And to do that evening after evening, and always at the same time! I feel that I am being asked to prostitute my soul."

"Then you must not do it1" I exclaim, every muscle taut with determination. "Tomorrow, as soon as it is light, I will speak with my father. I know that he will help you; I'm sure of it! He is so immeasurably good and tender-hearted. He will not allow them to compel you -"

"No, Christl, you will not do that!" she interrupts in a calm, firm voice. "It is not for my mother's sake that I am asking you not to do it; it would destroy all her vain plans, but I don't ... I don't love her. I can't help it, I'm ashamed of her", she continues in low voice, her face turned away from me, "but I love my ... my ... foster-father. Why should I not say openly that he is not my real father? You know, don't you, even though we have never spoken about it? No one told me, but I know; even as a child I felt it, felt it even more clearly than one can know something. He has not the faintest idea that I am not his daughter. I would be happier if he did know. Then perhaps he would not love me so much and would stop torturing himself to death for my sake.

Oh, you have no idea how often, even as a child, I was close to telling him. But there is a dreadful wall between him and me. It was my mother who raised it. Ever since I can remember I have never been allowed to speak more than a few words with him alone, as a little girl I was never allowed to sit on his knee or kiss him. 'Don't touch him, you'll make yourself dirty', she always used to say. I was always the shining princess and he was the grubby, despised slave. It is a miracle that horrible, poisonous seed has not taken root in my heart. I thank God that He has not allowed it ... Sometimes, on the other hand, I think that if I really had turned into such an unfeeling, arrogant monster, then I would not feel tom apart by this indescribable pity for him, and I rail at destiny for not having let me be like that.

Often I choke on every bite I take at the thought that he has worked till his hands bled to put it on the table. Only yesterday I jumped up from the table and ran down to him. My heart was so full, that I thought that this time I would tell him everything. I wanted to say, 'Drive us from your door like stray dogs, my mother and I, for that is all we are worth. And him, 'him', that cruel, despicable bloodsucker, who is probably my real father! Throttle him! Take your honest carpenter's tools and strike him dead!' I wanted to scream at him, 'Hate me, with a hatred beyond forgiveness' , so that I should be finally freed from this terrible, burning pity.

How many thousand times have I prayed to God, 'Send hatred into his heart.' But I think it is more likely that this river should flow back upstream than that his heart should harbour hatred ...

My hand was already on the latch of the workshop door, when I looked in through the window. He was standing at the table, writing my name on it with a piece of chalk. The only word he can write! At that, my resolution left me. For ever.

I know what was bound to happen, if I had gone in to confront him: either he would not have listened to a word I was saying, but just stood there stammering, "Fraulein Ophelia, my daughter, what an honour!", as he does every time he sees me, or he would have understood and ... and ... gone mad.

You see, my own, that's why you cannot, must not help me. Could 1destroy the only hope he has? Could 1be the one to make his mind lose what grip on reality it has? No, there is only one course left open to me: to become that for which he slaves away day and night, a shining star; only, it is true, in his eyes, in my own 1will be a spiritual prostitute.

Don't cry, my child, my own dear child, don't cry now. Have I caused you pain? Come here and dry your tears. Would you love me more ifI thought differently? 1gave you a shock, that's all, dear, dear Christl. Look, perhaps it's not as bad as 1 portrayed it. Perhaps I'm just being sentimental and seeing everything distorted and out of perspective. If you spend all day declaiming 'Ophelia,' then some of it sticks. That is the horrid thing about this wretched acting business, it starts to infect your soul.

Look, perhaps a marvellous miracle will happen and 1'll be a resounding failure in the capital, then everything will turn out fine."

She laughed, loud and long, and kissed away my tears, but it was only a pretence she put on to comfort me, and I sensed it too clearly to join in her laughter. Mingled with my deep sadness for her is a feeling that almost crushes me. Sorrowfully I realise that it is not just in years that she is older than me, no, compared with her I am a child. All the time since we have known each other, she has concealed all her grief and torment from me. And I? I have taken every opportunity to pour out my trifling boyish worries to her.

It is as if this cruel recognition, that her soul is older and more mature than mine, were secretly sawing off the roots of all my hopes. She must be feeling something similar, for, however passionate and tender her embrace and her repeated kisses, her caresses suddenly seem to me to be those of a mother.

My lips pour out all the ardent words I can think of, but the wildest, most reckless thoughts are racing round my mind. 'There must be something I can do! Deeds alone can make me her equal. How can I help her? How can I save her?'

I feel an awful, black shadow rising up within me, a shapeless something reaching for my heart; I hear the whisper of a hundred hissing voices in my ear, 'Her father, that moronic carpenter, is the barrier! Tear it down! Get rid of him. Who will see it? What are you afraid of, you coward?'

Ophelia lets go of my hand. She shivers. I can see that it is a shudder of fear.

Has she guessed my thoughts? I wait for her to say something, anything that will give me a hint as to what I should do. Everything inside me is waiting: my mind, my heart and my blood; the whispers in my ear have stopped and are waiting, waiting and listening in expectation of victory.

Then she says - I can hear her teeth chattering with inner cold, and she murmurs as much as she speaks, "Perhaps the Angel of Death will have mercy on him."

The black shadow within me suddenly flares up into a terrible white blaze, filling me from head to foot. I jump up and grasp the oars. As if it is the sign it had been waiting for, the boat accelerates of its own accord, and we shoot out into midstream, towards the bank where Baker's Row runs.

The glowing eyes of the houses are shining out into the darkness once more.

The swift current is sweeping us towards the weir where it leaves the town. I row for all I am worth across it towards our house, white foam creaming along the sides of the boat.

Every stroke strengthens my wild determination. The leather straps in the rowlocks creak a rhythmical, 'Murder, murder, murder'.

Then I am making fast at a post on the embankment and lifting Ophelia out of the boat. She seems light as a feather in my arms. The feeling that, at a stroke, I have become a man in body and soul fills me with an unbounded, animal joy; quickly I carry Ophelia past the light of the lamp into the darkness of the alleyway.

We stay there for a long time, embracing each other in an all-consuming rage of passion. She is no longer a tender mother, once more she is my lover.

A noise behind us! I ignore it; what is it to me?!

Then she has vanished into the doorway of the house.

The light is still on in the carpenter's workshop. There is a gleam from the dusty window-panes; the lathe is humming.

I put my hand on the latch and cautiously push it down. A thin pencil of light shines and then disappears as I softly close the door again. I creep up to the window to see where the old man is. He is bent over the lathe, holding a glittering steel chisel in his hand; white, paper-thin wood shavings curl up between his fingers and drop into the murk of the room, piling up round the coffin like so many dead snakes.

I suddenly feel weak at the knees. I can hear my breath whistling in my throat. I have to lean against the wall to stop myself from falling forward through the glass of the window.

'Can I really become a murderer?' The piteous cry tears at my breast 'Can I fall on him from behind and strike him dead, this poor, old man who has worn himself out in the service of my Ophelia?'

Then: a jolt, and the lathe is still. The humming stops. A sudden deathly hush snaps at my throat.

Mutschelknaus has straightened up; his head on one side, he seems to be listening. Then he puts the chisel down and comes, hesitantly, over toward the window. Closer and closer. His eyes fixed on mine.

I know that he cannot see me as I am standing in darkness and he is in the light; but even if I knew that he could see me, I would still be unable to flee, for all the strength has drained out of me.

He has slowly come right up to the window and is staring out into the blackness. There is only a hand's-breadth between our eyes, and I can see every wrinkle in his face. It has an expression of boundless exhaustion. Then he passes his hand slowly over his forehead and looks at his fingers, half in astonishment, half musing, as if he had seen blood on them and did not know how it came to be there.

Suddenly his features are suffused with a faint ray of hope and joy, and he bows his head, patient and resigned, like a martyr awaiting the death-blow.

I can understand what his spirit is saying to me!

His dull wits do not know why they let him do all this. His body is merely the outward expression of his soul, which is whispering, 'Release me for the sake of my dear daughter. '

Now I realise that it must be. It is merciful death itself that will guide my hand. Can my love for Ophelia be less than his? Only now do I feel, in the deepest recesses of my soul, what Ophelia has to suffer daily, eaten away by the torment of her pity for him, the most pitiful of all the wretched. It bums into me, like the shirt of Nessus.

Will I be able to carry out the deed? It is impossible for me to imagine it.

Could I smash his skull with that cold chisel there?

Could I look into his dying eyes?

Could I drag his body out into the alley and throw it into the water? And then, my hands soiled with blood for the rest of my life, could I ever embrace Ophelia and kiss her again?

Could I, a murderer, look my dear, dear father in the face, that kindly face?

No! I would never be able to do that, I can feel it. The dreadful deed must be done, and I must carry it out, that I know, but I will sink to the bottom of the river with the dead body.

I pull myself together and slip over to the door. There I pause, before I grasp the latch, and clench my hands together as I try to scream a plea to my heart, 'Lord, who has mercy on us all, give me strength.'

But these are not the words my lips pray. My spirit cannot command them, and they whisper, "Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."

Then the deathly hush is shattered by a reverberation of brass, tearing the words from my lips. The air quivers, the earth trembles. The clock in the tower of St Mary's has bellowed out.

In all the life around and within me, it is as if the darkness has turned white.

And, as if from the far, far distance, from the mountain that I know from my dream, I hear the voice of the White Dominican, who confirmed me and forgave me my sins - my past as well as my future sins - calling my name:

"Christopher, Christopher!"

A heavy hand lands on my shoulder.

"Murder most foul!"

I realise it is the grumbling bass voce of Herr Paris, the actor, that is echoing in my ear, soft and muted, full of menace and hatred, but I do not resist Unresisting, I let myself be dragged into the lamplight.

"Murder most foul!"

I can see him foaming at the mouth. His swollen toper's nose, his flabby cheeks, his chin, gleaming with spittle, everything about him is bobbing with triumph and devilish delight.


He has grabbed me by the chest and shakes me at every syllable like a bundle of empty clothes.

It does not occur to me to resist him, or to tear myself free and run away. I have become as weak as some tiny creature at the end of its tether.

He interprets it as guilt, I can see by his expression, but how could I utter even one word? My tongue is limp. Even if I wanted to, I could not describe to him the devastating experience I have just been through.

He keeps shouting at me, then barking hoarsely in my ear, like a madman, foaming at the mouth, clenching his fists in front of my face; I can hear and see it all, but it has no effect on me, I am paralysed, hypnotised. I realise that he knows everything, that he saw us get out of the boat, saw us kissing, that he has guessed I was going to kill old Mutschelknaus, "in order to rob him" as he keeps on shouting.

I do not defend myself. I am not even shocked to find he knows our secret.

I am like a bird that has forgotten its fear in the jaws of the snake.
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