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Narcissus and Goldmund


an ascetic monk; a rigorous intellectual remains in the monastery to become an abbot; the epitome of the masculine, analytical mind.


romantic, dreamy, fla%en&haired boy; celebrates the lush, lyrical, rapturous, sensuous 'uality of (omen; lea)es the monastery to find his true nature; he epitomi*es the feminine mind.



t(o antithetical natures, the best of friends, (ho understand and assist each other.

+ranslated by Ursule $olinaro

1 !utside the entrance of the $ariabronn cloister, (hose rounded arch rested on slim double columns, a chestnut tree stood close to the road. It (as a s(eet chestnut, (ith a sturdy trunk and a full round cro(n that s(ayed gently in the (ind, brought from Italy many years earlier by a monk (ho had made a pilgrimage to Rome. In the spring it (aited until all the surrounding trees (ere green, and e)en the ha*el and (alnut trees (ere (earing ruddy foliage, before sprouting its o(n first lea)es; then, during the shortest nights of the year, it dro)e the delicate (hite&green rays of its e%otic blossoms out through tufts of lea)es, filling the air (ith an admonishing and pungent fragrance. In !ctober, after the grape and apple har)ests, the autumn (ind shook the prickly chestnuts out of the tree,s burnished gold cro(n; the cloister students (ould scramble and fight for the nuts, and -rior regory, (ho came from

the south, roasted them in the fireplace in his room. +he beautiful treetop.secret kin to the portal,s slender sandstone columns and the stone ornaments of the (indo( )aults and pillars, lo)ed by the Sa)oyards and "atins.s(ayed abo)e the cloister entrance, a conspicuous outsider in the eyes of the nati)es.

enerations of cloister boys passed beneath the foreign tree, carrying their (riting tablets, chatting, laughing, clo(ning, and s'uabbling, barefoot or shod according to the season, a flo(er or a nut bet(een their teeth or a sno(ball in their fists. +here (ere al(ays ne(comers; and the faces changed e)ery fe( years, yet most of them resembled one another, if only for their blond and curly hair. Some stayed for life, becoming no)ices and monks; they had their hair shorn, donned habit and cincture, read books, taught boys, gre( old, died. !thers after finishing their studies (ere taken home by their parents to castles, or to merchants, and artisans, houses, and then (ent out into the (orld and li)ed by their (its or their crafts. +hey returned to the cloister occasionally as gro(n men, bringing their little sons to be taught by the priests, stood for a (hile smiling pensi)ely at the chestnut tree, then )anished once more. +he cells and halls of the cloister, bet(een the thick round (indo( )aults and the trim double columns of red stone, (ere filled (ith life, (ith teaching, learning, administration, ruling; many kinds of arts and sciences.the pious and (orldly, the fri)olous and somber.(ere pursued here, and (ere passed on from one generation to another. /ooks (ere (ritten and annotated, systems in)ented, ancient scrolls collected, ne( scrolls illuminated, the faith

of the people fostered, their credulity smiled upon. 0rudition and piety, simplicity and cunning, the (isdom of the testaments and the (isdom of the reeks, (hite and black magic.a little of each

flourished here; there (as room enough for e)erything, room for meditation and repentance, for gregariousness and the good life. !ne interest (ould usually out(eigh another, predominating in accord (ith the personality of the incumbent abbot or the tendency of the day. At times the cloister,s reputation for e%orcism and demon&detecting (ould attract )isitors; at other times the cloister (ould be kno(n for its fine music, or for a holy monk (ho had the po(er to heal and perform miracles, or for the pike soup and stag& li)er pies ser)ed in the refectory. And among the throng of monks and pupils, (hether pious or luke(arm, fasting or fat, (ho came and li)ed there and died, there (ould al(ays be one or another (ho (as special, (hom all lo)ed or all feared, (ho seemed to be chosen, of (hom people spoke long after his contemporaries had been forgotten.

0)en no( the cloister of $ariabronn had in its midst t(o persons (ho (ere out of the ordinary, one old and one young. Among the many brethren (ho flocked to the dormitories, chapels, and classrooms (ere t(o of (hom all (ere a(are, (hom all respected1

Abbot #aniel and /rother Narcissus. +hough the latter had only recently entered on his no)itiate, he had, because of his gifts, been appointed a teacher, mainly of reek, against all tradition. +hese

t(o, the aging Abbot and the no)ice, had special standing in the house; they aroused curiosity and (ere (atched, admired, en)ied, and sometimes slandered.

$ost brothers lo)ed the Abbot for his kindness, simplicity, and humility. !nly the learned (ere a trifle condescending in their affection for him, because, for all his saintliness, Abbot #aniel (ould ne)er be a scholar. 2e had the simplicity of (isdom, but his "atin (as modest and he kne( no reek (hatsoe)er.

+he fe( (ho permitted themsel)es an occasional smile at their Abbot,s simplicity (ere all the more enamored of Narcissus, the handsome prodigy (ho possessed elegant reek, impeccable

manners, 'uietly penetrating thinker,s eyes, and beautiful, sharply outlined lips. +he scholars admired him for his e%traordinary reek; almost all the others, for his nobility and refinement. $any 'uite simply lo)ed him, but there (ere ine)itably those (ho resented his e%treme reser)e, self&control, and e%'uisite manners.

Abbot and no)ice, each bore his fate and ruled and suffered in his o(n (ay. +hey felt closer and more dra(n to each other than to anyone else in the cloister, yet neither found the (ay to the other or felt at ease in the other,s presence. +he Abbot treated the young man (ith the greatest solicitude, (orried about him as though he (ere a rare, sensiti)e, perhaps dangerously precocious younger brother. +he young man accepted the Abbot,s e)ery order, counsel, and good (ord (ith perfect e'uanimity, ne)er argued or sulked, and if the Abbot (as right in finding that /rother Narcissus,s only sin (as pride, Narcissus (as a master at concealing it. +here (as nothing to be said against him; he (as perfect and no one (as a match for him. 3et, apart from the learned, he had fe( friends; his distinction surrounded him like a chilling draft.

!nce, after confession, the Abbot said to him1 4Narcissus, I admit that I am guilty of ha)ing 5udged you harshly. !ften I ha)e considered you arrogant, and perhaps I ha)e done you an in5ustice. 3ou are )ery much alone, my young brother, you ha)e admirers, but no friends. I (ish I had reason to scold you from time to time, but I ha)e none. I (ish you (ould misbeha)e occasionally,

as young people of your age often do. /ut you ne)er misbeha)e. I (orry about you a little, Narcissus.4

+he young no)ice fi%ed his dark eyes on the old Abbot.

4I (ish abo)e all not to (orry you, gentle father. It may (ell be that I am arrogant. If so, I beg you to punish me. Sometimes I feel an urge to punish myself. Send me to a hermitage, father, or assign me lo(ly chores.4

43ou are too young for either, dear brother,4 said the Abbot. 4/esides, you are eminently gifted in speech and thought. +o assign you lo(ly chores (ould be (asting these od&gi)en talents.

In all probability you (ill become a teacher and a scholar. Is that not your o(n (ish64

47orgi)e me, father, I am not certain (hat my o(n (ishes are. I shall al(ays take pleasure in study, ho( could it be other(ise6 /ut I do not belie)e that my life (ill be limited to study. A man,s (ishes may not al(ays determine his destiny, his mission; perhaps there are other, predetermining, factors.4

+he Abbot listened gra)ely. Still, a smile played about his old face as he said1 4Insofar as I ha)e come to kno( people, (e all ha)e a slight tendency, especially (hile (e are young, to confuse our (ishes (ith predestination. /ut tell me, since you belie)e that you ha)e forekno(ledge of your destiny, tell me (hat you belie)e yourself destined for64

Narcissus let his dark eyes close until they disappeared in the shado(s of his long black lashes. 2e did not ans(er.

4Speak, my son,4 the Abbot ordered after much (aiting.

In a lo( )oice, his eyes on the ground, Narcissus began1 4I belie)e, gentle father, that I am destined abo)e all else for cloister life. I belie)e that I shall become a monk, a priest, a prior, perhaps an abbot. I do not belie)e that this is because I (ish it, I do not (ish for offices. +hey (ill be laid upon me.4







48hat gi)es you this belief64 the old man asked hesitantly. 48hat

talent is there in you, other than learning, that e%presses itself in this belief64

4It is a capacity to sense the characters and destiny of people,4 Narcissus said slo(ly, 4not only my o(n destiny, but that of others as (ell. It obliges me to ser)e others by ruling o)er them. 8ere I not born for cloister life, I should ha)e to become a 5udge or a statesman.4

4-erhaps,4 nodded the Abbot. 42a)e you tested your capacity to recogni*e e%amples64 people,s characters and destinies6 2a)e you













49ery (ell. Since I do not (ish to pry into the secrets of our brothers (ithout their kno(ledge, you might perhaps tell me (hat you think you kno( about me, your Abbot #aniel.4

Narcissus raised his lids and looked the Abbot in the eye.
















4And I, my young brother, I find it difficult to force you to speak. And yet I do. Speak.4

Narcissus bo(ed his head and said in a (hisper1 4I kno( little of you, gentle father. I kno( that you are a ser)ant of od (ho (ould

rather (atch o)er goats and ring the bell in a hermitage and listen to peasants, confessions than head a large cloister. I kno( that you ha)e a special lo)e for the 2oly $other of od and that most of

your prayers are addressed to her. !ccasionally you pray that reek and similar sub5ects that are studied in this cloister do not lead the souls in your care into confusion and danger. !ccasionally you pray for continued patience (ith -rior regory. Sometimes you

pray for a gentle end. And I think that your prayer (ill be heard and







It (as )ery still in the Abbot,s small office. At last the old man spoke.

43ou are a romantic and you ha)e )isions,4 said the old gentleman in a friendly )oice. 4/ut e)en pious, friendly )isions may trick us; do not rely on them any more than I rely on them..Can you see, my romantic brother, (hat I think about this matter in my heart64

47ather, I can see that you ha)e )ery friendly thoughts about it. 3ou are thinking the follo(ing1 ,+his youthful scholar is slightly in danger. 2e has )isions. -erhaps he meditates too much. -erhaps I could impose penance on him; it (ould do him no harm. /ut the penance that I shall impose on him, I (ill also impose on myself., +hat is (hat you are thinking.4

+he Abbot rose and smiled. 2e (a)ed to the no)ice to take his lea)e.

4All right,4 he said. 4#o not take your )isions altogether too seriously, my young brother, od demands much else of us

besides )isions. "et us assume that you ha)e flattered an old man by promising him an easy death. "et us assume that, for an instant, the old man (as glad to hear this promise. +hat is sufficient for no(. 3ou (ill say a rosary tomorro( morning, after early mass. 3ou (ill say it humbly and (ith de)otion, not superficially. And I shall do the same. ha)e been (ords o no(, Narcissus, there enough.4

!n another occasion Abbot #aniel had to settle a disagreement bet(een the youngest of the teaching fathers and Narcissus on the point of the teaching method. Narcissus passionately urged the introduction of certain changes and 5ustified them (ith con)incing arguments; but out of a kind of 5ealousy 7ather "oren* refused to hear of any changes, and each ne( discussion (ould be follo(ed by days of ill&humored silence and sulking, until Narcissus, (ho (as sure he (as right, (ould broach the sub5ect once more. 7inally 7ather "oren*, mildly offended, said1 48ell, Narcissus, let us put an end to this 'uarrel. As you kno(, the decision is mine and not yours. 3ou are not my colleague, you are my assistant, you must do as I say. /ut since this matter seems so important to you and since I am your superior only by rank and not by kno(ledge or talent, I (ill not take the decision upon myself. 8e

shall submit the matter to our father the Abbot and let him decide.4

+his they did. Abbot #aniel listened (ith gentle patience as the t(o learned men argued about their conceptions of the teaching of grammar.

After each had stated his point of )ie( and defended it, the old man looked at them (ith an amused air, shook his gray head softly, and said1 4$y dear brothers, neither of you thinks that I kno( as much of these matters as you do. I commend Narcissus for ha)ing a keen enough interest in the school to (ant to impro)e the teaching method. 2o(e)er, if his superior holds a different opinion, Narcissus must be silent and obey, because no impro)ement of the school (ould make up for the slightest disturbance of order and obedience in this house. I repro)e Narcissus for not kno(ing ho( to gi)e in. And I hope that you t(o young scholars may ne)er lack superiors (ho are less intelligent than you; it is the best cure for pride.4 8ith this amiable 5est he dismissed them. /ut during the ne%t fe( days he did not forget to keep an eye on the t(o teachers to see if harmony had been restored.

And then it happened that a ne( face appeared in this cloister (hich had seen so many faces come and go, a ne( face that did not pass unremarked and unremembered. An adolescent, pre)iously enrolled by his father, arri)ed one day in spring to study at the cloister school. 7ather and son tethered their horses under the chestnut tree; the porter came out to meet them.

+he boy looked up at the tree still bare (ith (inter. 4I,)e ne)er seen a tree like that,4 he said. 48hat a strange, beautiful tree. I (onder (hat it is called.4

+he father, an elderly gentleman (ith a (orried, slightly pinched face, paid no attention to his son,s 'uestion. /ut the porter, (ho liked the boy immediately, told him the tree,s name. +he young man thanked him in a friendly )oice, held out his hand, and said1 4I am oldmund, I,ll be going to school here.4 +he porter smiled and

led the ne(comers through the portal and up the (ide stone steps, and oldmund entered the cloister (ith confidence, feeling that he

had already met t(o beings in his ne( en)ironment (ith (hom he could be friends, the tree and the porter.

7ather and son (ere recei)ed first by the priest (ho headed the school, then, to(ard e)ening, by the Abbot himself. /oth times the father, (ho (as in the ser)ice of the 0mperor, introduced his son oldmund and (as in)ited to stay for a (hile as a guest of the cloister. /ut he accepted only for a night, saying that he had to ride back the ne%t day. 2e offered one of his t(o horses to the cloister as a gift, and it (as accepted. 2is con)ersation (as courteous and cool; but both abbot and priest looked (ith pleasure upon the respectfully silent oldmund. +hey had taken an immediate liking

to the delicate, good&looking boy. 8ithout regret, they let the father depart the follo(ing day; they (ere glad to keep the son. oldmund (as taken to see the teachers and gi)en a bed in the students, dormitory. Sad&faced and respectful, he said goodbye to his father and stood ga*ing after him until he had disappeared through the narro( arched gate of the cloister,s outer (all, bet(een the granary and the mill. A tear hung on his long blond lashes (hen he finally turned a(ay; but the porter (as there to gi)e him a friendly pat on the shoulder.

43oung master,4 he said consolingly, 4don,t be sad. $ost e)eryone is a little homesick at first, for his father, his mother, his brothers

and sisters. /ut you,ll see1 life isn,t bad here either, not bad at all.4

4+hank you, brother porter,4 said the boy. 4I ha)e no brothers or sisters, and no mother; my father is all I ha)e.4

43ou,ll find schoolmates here to make up for him, and books and music and ne( games you ne)er played before, all kinds of things, you,ll see. And if you feel the need for a friend, come to me.4

oldmund smiled at him. 4+hank you )ery much. 8ould you do me a fa)or then, please, and sho( me (here I can find the horse my father left behind. I,d like to say hello to him and see if he is happy here.4

+he porter led him to the stable beside the granary. +he luke(arm t(ilight smelled strongly of horses, manure, and oats, and in one of the stalls oldmund found the little bro(n horse that had carried

him to the cloister. 2e (rapped both arms around the neck of the animal, (hich (as stretching a long head to(ard him in greeting; he put his cheek to the (ide dappled forehead, caressed it tenderly, and (hispered into an ear1 42ello there, /less, my dear, my good horse, are you happy6 #o you lo)e me still6 2a)e you

been fed6 #o you still remember our home6 /less, my little horse, my friend, I,m so glad that you,)e stayed, I,ll come to see you often.4 7rom the cuff of his slee)e he pulled a slice of bread that he had hidden there, broke it into small pieces, and fed it to the horse. +hen he said goodbye and follo(ed the porter across a courtyard as (ide as the marketplace of a large city, shaded in places by linden trees. At the inner gate he thanked the porter and shook his hand. +hen he reali*ed that he no longer kne( the (ay to the classroom he had been sho(n yesterday, laughed a little, blushed, and asked the porter to take him there, (hich the porter (as glad to do. 2e entered the classroom, (here a do*en boys and young men (ere sitting on benches, and the assistant teacher, /rother Narcissus, turned his head.









Narcissus nodded to him, and briefly, (ithout a smile, indicated a seat on the rear bench and (ent on (ith the lesson.

oldmund sat do(n. 2e (as surprised to find the teacher so young, only a fe( years older than himself, surprised and deeply delighted to find this young teacher so handsome and refined, so

stern, yet so charming and likable. +he porter had been nice to him; the Abbot had gi)en him a friendly reception. Not far a(ay in the stable (as his /less, a little bit of home, and no( there (as this surprisingly young teacher, gra)e as a scholar, polished as a prince, (ith his cool, controlled, matter&of&fact yet compelling )oice. 2e listened gratefully, although (ithout at first understanding the sub5ect of the lesson. 2e began to feel happy. 2e (as among good, likable men and (as ready to seek their friendship. In his bed that morning he had a(akened (ith a feeling of anguish, still tired from the long 5ourney. And saying goodbye to his father had made him cry a little. /ut no( all (as (ell, he (as happy. Again and again, for long moments, he looked at the teacher, took pleasure in the straight, slender figure; the cool, sparkling eyes; the firm lips that (ere forming clear, precise syllables; the inspired, untiring )oice.

/ut (hen the lesson (as o)er and the pupils stood up noisily, oldmund started and reali*ed a little shamefacedly that he had been asleep for 'uite some time. And he (as not the only one to reali*e it; the boys on the bench beside him had noticed too and passed it on in (hispers. As soon as the young teacher had (alked out of the room, they nudged oldmund and pulled at him




42ad a nice nap64 asked one of them (ith a grin.

4A fine scholar:4 5eered another. 42e,s going to be a true pillar of the church, falling asleep during his first lesson:4

4"et,s put the baby to bed,4 proposed another. And they sei*ed his arms and legs to carry him off (ith mocking laughter.

oldmund (as startled; it made him angry. 2e struck out at them, tried to free himself, got punched se)eral times, and (as finally dropped to the ground, one of the boys still holding him by a foot. 2e kicked himself free, thre( himself upon the boy (ho happened to be standing nearest, and (as soon in)ol)ed in a )iolent fistfight. 2is ad)ersary (as strong; e)eryone (atched the fight eagerly. 8hen oldmund stood his ground and landed a fe( (ell&aimed

blo(s, he made a fe( friends among his classmates before he kne( a single one by name. /ut suddenly they all scattered and (ere hardly gone (hen 7ather $artin, the head of the school, entered and faced the boy, (ho (as still standing on the same spot, alone. Astonished, he looked at the boy, (hose embarrassed

blue eyes (ere looking out of a flushed, some(hat scarred face.

48hat has happened to you64 7ather $artin asked 4Aren,t you oldmund6 2a)e they been rough (ith you, the scoundrels64













4I don,t kno(. I don,t kno( anyone by name yet. !ne of them had a fight (ith me.4







4I,m not sure. No, I guess I started it myself. +hey (ere teasing me and I got angry.4

4An auspicious beginning, my boy. No( you listen to me. If I catch you once more fighting in the classroom, you,ll be punished. No( off (ith you to supper:4

8ith a smile he (atched the embarrassed

oldmund run off, trying

to smooth his tousled blond hair (ith his fingers as he ran.

oldmund thought that his first act in the cloister had been ill& mannered and foolish; rather de5ectedly, he looked for his classmates at the supper table. /ut they (elcomed him (ith friendship and respect. 2e made an honorable peace (ith the enemy and from that moment on he felt that he belonged to the school.

2 Although he (as on good terms (ith e)eryone, he had not made a real friend. +here (as no one among his classmates for (hom he felt any particular affinity, let alone fondness. And to their ama*ement, the others disco)ered in the fistfighter they had first taken for a ro(dy a peace&lo)ing companion, a model student (ho seemed to be stri)ing for scholarly laurels.

+here (ere t(o men in the cloister to (hom

oldmund,s heart

reached out, (ho filled his thoughts, (hom he admired and re)ered1 Abbot #aniel and the assistant teacher, /rother Narcissus. 2e felt that the Abbot (as a saint. 2e (as immensely

attracted by his kind simplicity, his clear, concerned eyes, by the (ay he ga)e orders and made decisions, humbly, as though it (ere a task, by his good, 'uiet gestures. 2e (ould ha)e liked to become the personal ser)ant of this pious man, to be in his presence constantly, obedient and ser)ing, to bring him the sacrifice of all his youthful need for de)otion and dedication, to learn a pure, noble, saintly life from him. oldmund (ished not

only to finish the cloister school but to remain in the cloister, indefinitely perhaps, dedicating his life to od. +his (as his

intention, as it (as his father,s (ish and command and, most likely, od,s o(n decision and command. Nobody seemed a(are of the burden that lay upon the handsome radiant boy, an original burden, a secret destiny of atonement and sacrifice. 0)en the Abbot (as not a(are of it, although oldmund,s father had

dropped se)eral hints and clearly e%pressed the (ish that his son remain in the cloister fore)er. Some secret fla( seemed attached to oldmund,s birth, something unspoken that sought e%piation.

/ut the Abbot felt little sympathy for the father, (hose (ords and air of self&importance he had countered (ith polite reser)e, dismissing the hints as not particularly important.

+he other man (ho had aroused

oldmund,s admiration had

sharper eyes and a keener intuition, but he did not come for(ard. Narcissus kne( only too (ell (hat a charming golden bird had flo(n to him. +his hermit soon sensed a kindred soul in oldmund,

in spite of their apparent contrasts. Narcissus (as dark and spare; oldmund, a radiant youth. Narcissus (as analytical, a thinker; oldmund, a dreamer (ith the soul of a child. /ut something they had in common bridged these contrasts1 both (ere refined; both (ere different from the others because of ob)ious gifts and signs; both bore the special mark of fate.

Narcissus took an ardent interest in this young soul, (hose character and destiny he had been 'uick to recogni*e. 7er)ently oldmund admired his beautiful, outstandingly intelligent teacher. /ut oldmund (as timid; the only (ay he kne( to court Narcissus

(as to e%haust himself in being an attenti)e, eager student. /ut more than timidity held him back. 2e sensed a danger to himself in Narcissus. It (as impossible to emulate simultaneously the kindly humble Abbot and the e%tremely intelligent, learned, brilliant /rother Narcissus. 3et e)ery fiber of his youthful soul stro)e to attain these t(o incompatible ideals. It caused him much suffering. +here (ere days during his first months at the cloister school (hen oldmund,s heart (as so torn, so confused, he felt strongly

tempted to run a(ay or to take his anguish and anger out on his classmates. Sometimes a bit of innocent teasing or a prank (ould stir such a (ild rage inside this (arm&hearted boy that the utmost control (as re'uired to hold it in; he (ould close his eyes and turn a(ay, silent and deathly pale. +hen he (ould go to the stable to find /less, lean his head against the horse,s neck, kiss him and cry his heart out. radually his suffering increased and became

noticeable. 2is face gre( thinner; his eyes became dull; he rarely laughed the laugh all liked so much.

2e didn,t kno( (hat (as happening to him. 2e honestly (ished, (as honestly determined, to be a good scholar, to begin his no)itiate as soon as possible, and after that to become a 'uiet, prayerful monk of the cloister. 2e firmly belie)ed that all his strength and talent dro)e to(ard this mild, pious goal; he kne( nothing of other dri)es. 2o( strangely sad then to find this simple, beautiful goal so difficult to attain. !ccasionally he (ould be discouraged, be(ildered to detect hateful moods and tendencies in himself1 he,d feel distracted, un(illing to learn. 2e,d daydream or dro(se through a lesson, rebel (ith sudden distaste against the "atin teacher, be cranky and impatient (ith his classmates. And (hat (as most confusing (as that his lo)e for Narcissus seemed

to fight his lo)e for Abbot #aniel. 3et at moments he felt almost certain that Narcissus lo)ed him also, that he (as concerned about him, (as (aiting for him.

Narcissus,s thoughts (ere far more occupied (ith

oldmund than

oldmund imagined. 2e (anted the bright boy as a friend. 2e sensed in him his opposite, his complement; he (ould ha)e liked to adopt, lead, enlighten, strengthen, and bring him to bloom. /ut he held himself back, for many reasons, almost all of them conscious. $ost of all, he felt tied and hemmed in by his distaste for teachers or monks (ho, all too fre'uently, fell in lo)e (ith a pupil or a no)ice. !ften enough, he had felt (ith repulsion the desiring eyes of older men upon him, had met their enticements and ca5oleries (ith (ordless rebuttal. 2e understood them better no( that he kne( the temptation to lo)e the charming boy, to make him laugh, to run a caressing hand through his blond hair. /ut he (ould ne)er do that, ne)er. $oreo)er, as a mere tutor, (ith the rank but not the position or the authority of a teacher, he had become especially cautious and (atchful. 2e (as used to conducting himself (ith pupils only a fe( years younger than himself as though he (ere t(enty years their senior, to forbidding himself sternly all partiality to(ard a pupil, to forcing himself to

particular fairness and concern for those pupils (ho (ere naturally repugnant to him. 2is (as the ser)ice of the mind, and to that he dedicated his strict life. !nly secretly, during his most unguarded moments, did he permit himself the pleasure of arrogance. No, no matter ho( tempting a friendship (ith oldmund seemed, it could

only be a danger; he must ne)er let it touch the core of his e%istence. +he core and meaning of his life (as to ser)e the mind, to ser)e the (ord1 the 'uiet, superior, self&negating guidance of his pupils.and not only of his high spiritual goals.

7or a year or more,

oldmund had been a student at the cloister

school of $ariabronn. 2e had played some hundred times (ith his classmates under the linden trees in the courtyard and under the beautiful chestnut tree.ball games, races, sno(ball fights. No( spring had come, but oldmund felt tired and sick and often had

headaches; he found it hard to stay a(ake in class, hard to concentrate.

+hen one e)ening Adolf came up to him, the classmate he had first met during a fistfight and (ith (hom he had begun to study 0uclid that (inter. It (as in the hour after supper, an hour of recreation (hen the boys (ere permitted to play in the dormitories, to (alk

and talk in the outer cloister yard.

4 oldmund,4 he said, pulling him do(n the stairs after him, 4I (ant to tell you something, something funny. /ut you,re such a model,ll probably end up a bishop one of these days. 7irst you must gi)e me your (ord of honor that you (on,t tell the teachers on me.4

oldmund immediately ga)e his (ord. +here (as cloister honor and student honor, and occasionally one contradicted the other, oldmund (as (ell a(are of that. /ut, as any(here else in the (orld, the un(ritten la( defeated the (ritten one; he (ould ne)er try to e)ade student la(s and codes (hile he (as himself a student.

Adolf dragged him outside the arch under the trees. +here (as, he (hispered, a group of good, strong&hearted classmates.he himself (as one of them.(ho (ere carrying on an old student tradition, of reminding themsel)es that they (ere not monks. +hey (ould occasionally steal a(ay from the cloister for an e)ening in the )illage. It (as the kind of prank or ad)enture no decent fello( could a)oid taking part in; later during the night they (ould sneak

back again.

4/ut the gates are locked at that hour,4

oldmund ob5ected.

!f course they (ere locked. -recisely. +hat (as the fun of the (hole thing. /ut there (ere secret (ays to get back inside unnoticed; it (ouldn,t be the first time.

oldmund recalled hearing the e%pression1 4going to the )illage.4 It stood for boys, nocturnal escapades, for all kinds of secret ad)entures and pleasures (hich (ere forbidden on pain of hea)y punishment. 2e fro*e inside. 4 oing to the )illage4 (as a sin, something forbidden. At the same time he understood only too (ell that that (as precisely (hy the 4regulars4 considered it a point of honor to take the risk and that it (as a certain distinction to be asked to 5oin in this ad)enture.

2e (ould ha)e liked to say no, to run back and go to bed. 2e felt tired and (eak; his head had ached all afternoon. /ut he felt slightly embarrassed in front of Adolf. And (ho could tell1 perhaps there (ould be something ne(, something beautiful outside the cloister, something that might make one forget headaches and

listlessness and all kinds of pain. It (as an e%cursion into the (orld .although secret and forbidden, nothing to feel proud of. Still, perhaps it (ould bring release, be an e%perience. 2e stood undecided (hile Adolf continued to talk; suddenly he laughed and said yes.

Unobser)ed, they slipped out under the linden trees in the )ast darkening courtyard; the outer gate had already been locked. Adolf led him to the cloister mill through (hich one could easily sneak out, unseen in the t(ilight, and unheard because of the constant (hirring of (heels. In complete darkness they climbed through a (indo( onto a pile of slippery&(et planks, one of (hich they pulled out and used as a bridge to cross the little stream. And no( they (ere outside, on the pale glistening road that disappeared into the dark forest. All this (as e%citing and secret; he en5oyed it )ery much.

At the edge of the forest they found a third classmate, ;onrad; they (aited for a long time and (ere 5oined by a fourth, big 0berhard. All four tramped through the forest. Nightbirds rose abo)e them in a rustle of (ings; a fe( stars peeked (et and bright through 'uiet clouds. ;onrad chattered and 5oked. !ccasionally

he,d make the others laugh, but there hung abo)e them the solemn an%iety of night that made their hearts beat faster.

After barely an hour they came to the )illage on the other side of the forest. It seemed asleep. +he lo( gables shimmered faintly, criss&crossed by dark ribs of timber; there (asn,t a light any(here. Adolf led the (ay. Silent, on tiptoe, they circled se)eral houses, climbed a fence, stood in a garden, sank into the soft earth of a flo(er bed, stumbled o)er steps, stopped by the (all of a house. Adolf knocked at a shutter, (aited, knocked again. +here (as a sound inside. Soon a light shone, the shutter opened, and one after the other they climbed into a kitchen (ith a black hearth and an earthen floor. A tiny oil lamp (as standing on the sto)e, its feeble flame flickering on a thin (ick. And there (as a girl, a haggard ser)ant girl, (ho stood holding out her hand to greet the intruders. Another girl stepped out of the shado(s behind the first one, a young thing (ith long black braids. Adolf had brought gifts for them, half a loaf of (hite cloister bread, and something in a paper sack, a handful of stolen incense perhaps, thought oldmund, or candle (a% or the like. +he young girl (ith the braids (ent out of the kitchen, groped her (ay through the darkness to the door, stayed a(ay for a long (hile, returned (ith a 5ug of gray

clay (ith a blue flo(er painted on it and offered the 5ug to ;onrad. 2e drank from it, passed it on. +hey all drank; it (as strong apple cider.

In the light of the tiny lamp they sat do(n, the girls on rigid little stools and the students around them on the floor. +hey spoke in (hispers, (ith interruptions for sips of cider, Adolf and ;onrad making most of the con)ersation. 7rom time to time one of them (ould get up and caress the hair and neck of the older girl, and (hisper into her ear; no one touched the younger girl. +he big one (as probably the maid, oldmund thought, and the smaller, pretty

one the daughter of the house. /ut (hat difference did it make. It (as none of his business and he (ould ne)er come back here. +he secrecy of the escapade, the (alk through the night forest had been beautiful, out of the ordinary, e%citing but not dangerous. 7orbidden yes, but e)en so the transgression did not burden one,s conscience. 8hereas this, )isiting girls at night, (as more than 5ust forbidden; he felt it (as a sin. -erhaps for the others e)en this (as only a small ad)enture, but not for him; he kne( that he (as destined for the ascetic life of a monk, and playing (ith girls (as not permitted him. No, he (ould ne)er come back here. /ut his heart pounded (ith anguish in the flickering half light of the poor


+he others (ere sho(ing off in front of the girls and spiking their talk (ith tidbits of "atin. +he ser)ant girl seemed to like all three; they (ould sidle up to her (ith their a(k(ard little caresses, a timid kiss at most. +hey seemed to kno( e%actly ho( much (as permitted. And since the (hole con)ersation had to be held in (hispers, there (as something rather silly about the scene, but oldmund did not see it that (ay. 2e crouched on the floor and stared into the flickering flame of the lamp, not saying a (ord. !ccasionally a slightly eager side glance (ould catch one of the caresses the others (ere e%changing. Stiffly he stared straight ahead again. $ore than anything else he (ould ha)e liked to look at the younger girl (ith the braids, at no one but her, but that especially he forbade himself. And e)ery time his (ill slackened and his eyes strayed to the s(eet 'uiet face of the girl, he found her dark eyes ri)eted on his face, staring at him as though she (ere spellbound.

An hour may ha)e had

oldmund li)ed through a

longer hour. +he students had e%hausted their con)ersation and caresses; they sat in embarrassed silence; 0berhard began to

ya(n. +he ser)ant girl said it (as time to lea)e. +hey stood up, shook her hand. oldmund last. +hen they shook hands (ith the younger girl. oldmund last. ;onrad (as first to climb out through the (indo(, follo(ed by 0berhard and Adolf. As oldmund (as

climbing out, he felt a hand hold him back by a shoulder. 2e could not stop; once outside on the ground he slo(ly turned his head. +he younger girl (ith the braids (as leaning out of the (indo(.

4 oldmund:4 she (hispered. 2e stood and (aited.

4Are you coming back64 she asked. 2er timid )oice (as no more than a breath.

oldmund shook his head. She reached out (ith both hands, sei*ed his head; her small hands felt (arm on his temples. She bent far do(n, until her dark eyes (ere close before his.

4#o come back:4 she (hispered, and her mouth touched his in a child,s kiss.

<uickly he ran through the small garden, toppled across the flo(er beds, smelled (et earth and dung. A rosebush tore his hand. 2e

climbed o)er the fence and trotted after the others out of the )illage to(ard the forest. 4Ne)er again:4 commanded his (ill. 4Again: +omorro(:4 begged his heart.

Nobody surprised the night o(ls. Nothing hindered their return to $ariabronn, across the little stream, through the mill, across the s'uare of linden trees, along secret passage(ays, o)er gables, around (indo( columns, into the cloister and the dormitory.

/ig 0berhard had to be punched a(ake in the morning, he (as sleeping so hea)ily. +hey (ere all on time for early mass, morning soup and assembly in the auditorium; but oldmund looked pale,

so pale 7ather $artin asked him if he (ere ill. Adolf shot him a (arning glance and oldmund said he felt all right. /ut during

reek, around noon, Narcissus did not take his eyes off him. 2e, too, sa( that oldmund (as ill, but said nothing and (atched

closely. At the end of the lesson he called him, sent him on an errand to the library to a)oid rousing the students, curiosity, and follo(ed him there.

4 oldmund,4 he said, 4can I help you6 I see you are in trouble. -erhaps you,re not feeling (ell. In (hich case (e shall put you to

bed and send you some soup and a glass of (ine. 3ou ha)e no head for reek today.4

7or a long (hile he (aited for an ans(er. +he pale boy looked at him out of troubled eyes, hung his head, raised it again. 2is lips 'ui)ered; he (anted to speak but could not. Suddenly he sank to one side, leaned his head on a lectern, bet(een the t(o small oak angels, heads that framed the lectern, and burst into such )iolent (eeping that Narcissus felt embarrassed and a)erted his eyes for some time before touching the sobbing boy to raise him up.

4All right,4 he said in a )oice that (as friendlier than

oldmund had

e)er heard from him. 4All right, amicus meus, you 5ust (eep; it (ill soon make you feel better. +here, sit do(n; there is no need to speak. I can see that it has been too much for you. It (as probably difficult for you to stay on your feet all morning (ithout letting anyone notice; you,)e been )ery courageous. 8eep no(, it is the best you can do. No6 All finished6 /ack on your feet so soon6 All right, (e,ll go to the infirmary then and you,ll lie do(n, and by e)ening you,ll feel much better. "et,s go.4

2e led

oldmund to the sick room, careful not to pass any study

halls on the (ay. 2e pointed to one of t(o empty beds and left the room (hen oldmund obediently began to undress, and (ent to

the superior to ha)e the boy put on the sick list. 2e also ordered the promised soup and a glass of (ine at the refectory, t(o special treats the cloister habitually allo(ed the ailing, (ho en5oyed it greatly (hen they did not feel too sick.

oldmund lay on the bed in the sick room, trying to think himself out of his confusion. Something like an hour ago he could perhaps ha)e e%plained to himself (hy he felt so indescribably tired today, (hat deathly strain on the soul drained his mind and made his eyes burn. It (as the desperate, constantly rene(ed, constantly failing effort to forget last night.but not the night itself, not the foolish, en5oyable escapade from the locked cloister, or the (alk through the forest, or the slippery makeshift bridge across the little black stream behind the mill, or the climbing o)er fences in and out of gardens, through (indo(s, sneaking along passage(ays, but the single second outside the dark kitchen (indo(, the girl,s (ords, her breath, the pressure of her hands, the touch of her lips.

/ut no( something ne( had occurred, another shock, another e%perience. Narcissus cared for him, Narcissus lo)ed him,

Narcissus had taken trouble o)er him.the refined, distinguished, intelligent young teacher (ith the narro(, slightly sarcastic mouth .and he, oldmund, had let himself break do(n in front of him,

had stood before him in stammering embarrassment, and had finally started to ba(l: Instead of (inning this superior being (ith the noblest (eapons, (ith reek and philosophy, (ith spiritual

heroism and dignified stoicism, he had collapsed in disgraceful (eakness. 2e,d ne)er forgi)e himself for it. Ne)er (ould he be able to look Narcissus in the eye again (ithout shame.

/ut his (eeping had released the great tension. +he 'uiet loneliness of the room and the bed (ere doing him good; the despair had lost more than half of its impact. After an hour or so, one of the lay brothers came in, brought a gruel soup, a piece of (hite bread, and a small mug of red (ine (hich the students normally drank only on holidays. oldmund ate and drank,

emptied half the plate, pushed it aside, started to think again, but couldn,t, reached for the bo(l once more, ate a fe( more spoonfuls. And (hen, some(hat later, the door 'uietly opened and Narcissus came in to look after his patient, oldmund (as asleep

and a rosy glo( had already returned to his cheeks. Narcissus looked at him for a long time, (ith lo)e, curiosity, and also a slight

en)y. 2e sa( that

oldmund (as not ill; there (ould be no need to

send him (ine tomorro(. /ut he kne( that the ice (as broken, that they (ould be friends. +oday it (as oldmund (ho needed him,

(hom he (as able to ser)e. Another time he himself might be (eak and in need of assistance and lo)e. And from this boy he (ould be able to accept it, (ere it to come to that some day. 3 It (as a curious friendship that had begun bet(een Narcissus and oldmund, one that pleased only a fe(; at times it seemed to displease e)en the t(o friends.

At first it (as Narcissus, the thinker, (ho had the harder time of it. All (as mind to him, e)en lo)e; he (as unable to gi)e in to an attraction (ithout thinking about it first. 2e (as the guiding spirit of this friendship. 7or a long time he alone consciously recogni*ed its destiny, its depth, its significance. 7or a long time he remained lonely, surrounded by lo)e, kno(ing that his friend (ould fully belong to him only after he had been able to lead him to(ard recognition. 8ith glo(ing fer)or, playful and irresponsible, oldmund abandoned himself to this ne( life; (hile Narcissus, a(are and responsible, accepted the demands of fate.


oldmund it (as a release at first, a con)alescence. 2is

youthful need for lo)e had been po(erfully aroused, and at the same time hopelessly intimidated, by the looks and the kiss of a pretty girl. #eep inside himself he felt the life he had dreamed of up to no(, all his beliefs, all the things for (hich he felt himself destined, his entire )ocation, threatened at the root by the kiss through the (indo(, by the e%pression of those dark eyes. 2is father had decided that he (as to lead the life of a monk; and (ith all his (ill he had accepted this decision. +he fire of his first youthful fer)or burned to(ard a pious, ascetic hero&image, and at the first furti)e encounter, at life,s first appeal to his senses, at the first beckoning of femininity he had felt that there (as an enemy, a demon, a danger1 (oman. And no( fate (as offering him sal)ation, no( in his most desperate need this friendship came to(ard him and offered his longing a ne( alter for re)erence. 2ere he (as permitted to lo)e, to abandon himself (ithout sinning, to gi)e his heart to an admired older friend, more intelligent than he, to spirituali*e the dangerous flames of the senses, to transform them into nobler fires of sacrifice.

/ut during the first spring of this friendship he ran up against

unfamiliar obstacles, une%pected, incomprehensible coolness, frightening demands. It ne)er occurred to him to see himself as the contradiction, the e%act opposite of his friend. 2e thought that only lo)e, only sincere de)otion (as needed to fuse t(o into one, to (ipe out differences and bridge contrasts. /ut ho( harsh and positi)e this Narcissus (as, ho( merciless and precise: Innocent abandonment, grateful (andering together in the land of friendship seemed unkno(n and undesirable to him. 2e did not seem to understand, to tolerate dreamy strolls on paths that led in no particular direction. 8hen oldmund had seemed ill, he had

sho(n concern, and loyally he helped and ad)ised him in all matters of school and learning; he e%plained difficult passages in books, opened ne( hori*ons in the realm of grammar, logic, and theology. 3et he ne)er seemed genuinely satisfied (ith his friend, or to appro)e of him; 'uite often he seemed to be smiling, seemed not to take him seriously. oldmund felt that this (as not mere

pedantry, not 5ust the condescension of someone older and more intelligent, but that there (as something else behind it, something deeper and important. /ut he (as unable to recogni*e this deeper something, and this friendship often made him feel sad and lost.

Actually Narcissus recogni*ed his friend,s 'ualities only too (ell;

he (as not blind to the budding beauty, the )ital force of nature in him, his flo(ering opulence. 2e (as no pedant bent on feeding reek to a fer)ent young soul, on repaying an innocent lo)e (ith logic. !n the contrary, he lo)ed the blond adolescent altogether too much, and this (as dangerous for him, because lo)ing, to him, (as not a natural condition but a miracle. +o fall in lo)e (as not permitted him; he could not be content (ith the 5oyful contemplation of those eyes, (ith the nearness of this golden light. Not e)en for a second could he let this lo)e d(ell upon the senses. /ecause (here oldmund felt himself destined for monkish

asceticism and a lifelong stri)ing for saintliness, Narcissus (as truly destined for that life. +o him, lo)ing (as permitted only in its highest form. Narcissus did not belie)e in oldmund,s calling to be

an ascetic. 2e kne( ho( to read people more clearly than most, and here lo)e increased his clarity. 2e recogni*ed oldmund,s

nature and understood it deeply, in spite of the contrasts, because it (as the other, the lost half of his o(n. 2e sa( that this nature (as armored by a hard shell, by fantasies, faults of upbringing and paternal (ords; he had long sensed the (hole, uncomplicated secret of this young life. 2e (as fully a(are of (hat he must do1 re)eal this secret to its bearer, free him from the shell, gi)e him back his true nature. It (ould be hard, and the hardest (as that

perhaps it (ould make him lose his friend.

8ith infinite caution he dre( closer to his goal. $onths (ent by before a serious approach became possible bet(een the t(o, a deep&reaching con)ersation. In spite of their friendship, they (ere so far apart, the bo(string (as so taut bet(een them1 a seeing man and a blind man, they (alked side by side; the blind man,s una(areness of his o(n blindness (as a consolation only to himself. Narcissus made the first breakthrough (hen he tried to disco)er (hat the e%perience had been that had dri)en the boy to(ard him at a (eak moment. It turned out to be less difficult than he had e%pected. oldmund had long felt the need to confess the

e%perience of that night, but there (as no one, outside the Abbot, (hom he trusted enough, and the Abbot (as not his confessor. And (hen Narcissus reminded his friend, at a moment he 5udged fa)orable, of the )ery beginnings of their bond and gently hinted at the secret, oldmund immediately said, 4If only you (ere an

ordained priest and able to confess me; I (ould ha)e liked to free myself of that matter in confession and I (ould gladly ha)e done penance for it. /ut I couldn,t tell my confessor.4

Carefully, shre(dly, Narcissus dug deeper; the )ein had been

found. 43ou remember the morning (hen you seemed to be ill,4 he )entured. 43ou can,t ha)e forgotten, since that (as (hen (e became friends. I think of it often. -erhaps you didn,t notice, but I (as rather helpless that morning.4

43ou helpless:4 cried his friend, incredulous. 4/ut I (as the helpless one: It (as I (ho stood there, s(allo(ing, unable to utter a (ord, (ho finally began to (eep like a child: Ugh, to this day I feel ashamed of that moment; I thought I could ne)er face you again. 3ou had seen me so disgracefully (eak.4

Narcissus groped ahead.

4I understand,4 he said. 4It must ha)e been unpleasant for you. Such a firm, courageous boy breaking into tears in front of a stranger, and a teacher at that, it (as 'uite out of character. 8ell, that morning I merely thought you (ere ill. In the throes of a fe)er, e)en a man like Aristotle may beha)e strangely. /ut you (ere not ill. 3ou had no fe)er: And that is (hy you feel ashamed. No one feels ashamed of succumbing to a fe)er, does he6 3ou felt ashamed because you had succumbed to something else, to something that o)erpo(ered you6 #id something special happen64

oldmund hesitated a second, then he said slo(ly1 43es, something special did happen. "et,s pretend you,re my confessor; sooner or later this thing must be told.4

8ith bo(ed head, he told his friend the story of that night.

Smilingly, Narcissus replied1 48ell yes, ,going to the )illage, is of course forbidden. /ut one can do all kinds of forbidden things and laugh them a(ay, or one can confess them and that is that; they need no longer concern one. 8hy shouldn,t you commit these little foolishnesses like other students6 8hat is so terrible about that64

Angrily, (ithout holding back,

oldmund burst out1 43ou do talk like

a schoolmaster: 3ou kno( )ery (ell (hat it is all about: !f course I don,t see a great sin in breaking the house rules for once, to play a student prank, although it,s not e%actly part of the preparatory training for cloister life.4

4=ust a moment, my friend,4 Narcissus called sharply. 4#on,t you kno( that many pious fathers (ent through precisely that kind of

preparatory training6 #on,t you kno( that a (astrel,s life may be one of the shortest roads to sainthood64

4!h, don,t lecture:4 protested

oldmund. 4It (asn,t a trifling

disobedience that (eighed on my conscience. It (as something else. It (as that girl. I can,t describe the sensation to you. It (as a feeling that if I ga)e in to the enticement, if I merely reached out to touch the girl, I,d ne)er be able to turn back, that sin (ould s(allo( me like the ma( of hell and not gi)e me up e)er. +hat it (ould be the end of e)ery beautiful dream, of all )irtue, of all lo)e of and good.4 od

Narcissus nodded, deep in thought.

4"o)e of

od,4 he said slo(ly, searching for (ords, 4is not al(ays

the same as lo)e of good, I (ish it (ere that simple. 8e kno( (hat is good, it is (ritten in the Commandments. /ut od is not

contained only in the Commandments, you kno(; they are only an infinitesimal part of 2im. A man may abide by the Commandments and be far from od.4

4/ut don,t you understand64

oldmund complained.

4Certainly I understand. 3ou feel that (oman, se%, is the essence of e)erything you call ,(orld, or ,sin,. 3ou think yourself incapable of all other sins; or, if you did commit them, you think they (ould not crush you, that you could confess them and be (hole again.4

43es, that is e%actly ho( I feel.4

43ou see, I do understand. 3ou,re not so terribly (rong after all; the story of 0)e and the serpent is certainly no idle tale. And yet you are not right about this, my dear friend. 3ou would be right if you (ere the Abbot #aniel, or your baptismal saint, the holy Chrysostom, or a bishop, or a priest, e)en a simple monk. /ut you aren,t. 3ou are a student, and although you (ish to remain in the cloister for life, or your father (ishes it for you, still you ha)e not taken any )o(s; you ha)e not been consecrated. If some pretty girl (ere to tempt you one of these days and you (ere to gi)e in to the temptation, you (ould not ha)e broken any )o(s.4

4No (ritten )o(s:4

oldmund cried heatedly. 4/ut an un(ritten

one, the most sacred, something I carry inside me. Can,t you see that this may apply to many others but not to me6 3ou ha)e not

been consecrated either, nor ha)e you taken any )o(s yet, but you (ould ne)er permit yourself to touch a (oman: !r am I mistaken6 Isn,t that ho( you are6 !r aren,t you the man I thought you (ere6 #idn,t you long ago, in your heart, make the )o( that has not yet been made (ith (ords before superiors, and don,t you feel bound by it fore)er6 Aren,t you e%actly like me64


oldmund, I am not like you, not in the (ay you think,

although I, too, am keeping an unspoken )o(.in that respect you are right.but I am in no (ay like you. Some day you (ill think of (hat I am going to say to you no(1 our friendship has no other purpose, no other reason, than to sho( you ho( utterly unlike me you are.4

oldmund (as stunned; Narcissus,s e%pression and tone permitted no contradiction. 2e (as silent. 8hy had Narcissus said these (ords6 8hy should Narcissus,s unspoken )o( be more sacred than his o(n6 #idn,t he take him at all seriously6 #id he see nothing but a child in him6 +he confusions and griefs of this strange friendship (ere beginning all o)er again.

Narcissus no longer had any doubt about the nature of

oldmund,s secret. It (as 0)e (ho stood behind it, the original mother. /ut ho( (as it possible that the a(akening of se% met (ith such bitter antagonism in such a beautiful, healthy, flo(ering adolescent6 +here must be a secret enemy (ho had managed to split this magnificent human being (ithin himself and turn him against his natural urges. +his demon had to be disco)ered, had to be con5ured up and made )isible; only then could it be defeated.


oldmund had been more and more neglected by his

classmates, or rather they felt neglected by him, betrayed. 2is friendship (ith Narcissus pleased no one. +he slanderers, those (ho had themsel)es been in lo)e (ith one or the other, said the (hole thing (as against nature. 0)en those (ho (ere certain that no )ice could be suspected here shook their heads. No one (anted to see these t(o friends together. It seemed that they (ere setting themsel)es apart from the others by this friendship, arrogantly, as though they (ere aristocrats for (hom the others (ere not good enough; that (as unbrotherly, not in keeping (ith the cloister spirit, not Christian.

$any things about the t(o.rumors, accusations, slander. reached Abbot #aniel. 2e had seen many friendships bet(een

young men in o)er forty years of cloister life; they belonged to cloister life and (ere a pleasant tradition, sometimes amusing, sometimes a danger. 2e (aited, (atched, did not inter)ene. Such a )iolent, e%clusi)e friendship (as rare, probably not undangerous, but since he did not for an instant doubt its purity, he decided to let it take its course. If it had not been for Narcissus,s e%ceptional position among students and teachers, the Abbot (ould not ha)e hesitated to place a fe( separating rules bet(een the t(o. It (as not good for oldmund to ha)e (ithdra(n from his classmates and

to be in close association only (ith someone older, (ith a teacher. /ut (as it permissible to disturb the e%traordinary, highly gifted Narcissus, (hom all teachers considered their e'ual if not their superior, in his pri)ileged career and relie)e him of his teaching position6 2ad Narcissus not pro)ed himself as a teacher, had this friendship led to partiality and neglectfulness, the Abbot (ould ha)e demoted him immediately. /ut there (as nothing to be held against him, only rumors and others, 5ealous suspicions. $oreo)er, the Abbot kne( of Narcissus,s special gifts, of his curiously penetrating, perhaps slightly presumptuous, insight into people. 2e did not o)erestimate these gifts, he (ould ha)e preferred Narcissus to ha)e other gifts; but he did not doubt that Narcissus had noticed something unusual in the student oldmund, that he

kne( him far better than he, or anyone else in the cloister. 2e himself, the Abbot, had not noticed anything unusual about oldmund, apart from his (inning nature, and perhaps a certain eagerness, a some(hat precocious *eal that made him conduct himself, still a student and a boarder, as though he belonged to the cloister and (as one of the brothers. 2e sa( no reason to fear that Narcissus (ould encourage this immature though touching *eal or that he (ould spur it on. 2e feared rather, for oldmund, that his

friend might infect him (ith a certain spiritual pride and erudite arrogance; but this danger seemed unlikely for this particular pupil; it (as all right to (ait and see. 8hen he thought ho( much simpler it (as for a superior, ho( much more peaceful and comfortable, to rule o)er a)erage rather than strong or e%ceptional characters, he had to sigh and smile. No, he (as not going to let himself be infected by suspicions; he did not (ish to be ungrateful for the t(o e%ceptional human beings entrusted to his care.

Narcissus pondered a great deal about his friend. 2is special gift of spotting and emotionally recogni*ing the nature and destiny of others had long since told him about oldmund. All that (as ali)e

and radiant in this young man spoke only too clearly1 he bore all the marks of a strong human being, richly endo(ed sensually and

spiritually, perhaps an artist, but at any rate a person (ith a great potential for lo)e, (hose fulfillment and happiness consisted of being easily inflamed and able to gi)e himself. +hen (hy (as this being (ith such rich and percepti)e senses so set on leading the ascetic life of the mind6 Narcissus thought at great length about it. 2e kne( that oldmund,s father fa)ored his son,s determination.

Could the father ha)e inspired it6 8hat spell had he cast o)er his son to make him belie)e that this (as his destiny, his duty6 8hat sort of a person (as this father6 Narcissus had often intentionally touched on the sub5ect of this father.and oldmund had

fre'uently spoken of him.and yet he could not imagine him, could not see him. 8as it not strange and suspicious6 8hene)er oldmund told a story about a trout he had caught as a boy, (hen he described a butterfly, imitated the call of a bird, spoke of a friend, a dog, a beggar, he created a )i)id picture. 8hene)er he spoke of his father, one sa( nothing. No, if his father had really been such an important, po(erful, dominant figure in oldmund,s

life, he (ould ha)e been able to describe him differently, to con5ure up )i)id images of him. Narcissus did not think highly of this father, he did not like him; sometimes he (ondered if he (ere really oldmund,s father. /ut (hat ga)e him such po(er6 2o( had he succeeded in filling oldmund,s soul (ith dreams so alien to his


oldmund also brooded a great deal. 2e did feel (armly lo)ed by his friend, and yet he often had the unpleasant sensation of not being taken seriously, of being treated a little like a child. And (hat did it mean (hen his friend insinuated, again and again, that he (as not like him6

3et thinking did not fill all of

oldmund,s days. 2e (as not able to

think for too long at a time. +here (ere other things to be done in the course of a day. 2e often (ent to see the friar porter, (ith (hom he (as on e%cellent terms. 2e,d beg and coa% for an opportunity to ride the horse /less for an hour or t(o, and he (as )ery popular (ith the fe( nearby cloister tenants, especially (ith the miller. 2e,d often stalk otters (ith the miller,s man, or they,d bake pancakes (ith the finely ground prelate,s flour, (hich oldmund could tell from all other kinds of flour, eyes closed, 5ust by the smell of it. Although he spent time (ith Narcissus, there still remained a number of hours in (hich he pursued his old habits and pleasures. And usually the ser)ice (as also a 5oy to him. 2e lo)ed to sing in the student choir; he lo)ed to say a rosary in front of a fa)orite altar, to listen to the solemnly beautiful "atin of the

mass, to see the gold of the receptacles and ornaments glitter through clouds of incense, and the 'uiet )enerable saints, figures standing on columns, the e)angelists (ith the beasts, St. =acob (ith his hat and pilgrim,s satchel.

2e felt dra(n to(ard these (ood and stone figures; he liked to think that they stood in secret relationship to him, perhaps like immortal, omniscient godfathers (ho protected and guided his life. 2e felt the same secret bond and lo)e for the columns and capitals of the (indo(s and doors, for the altar ornaments, for the beautifully profiled sta)es and (reaths, for the flo(ers and thickets of sprouting lea)es that burst from the stone of the columns and unfolded so elo'uently and intensely. It seemed a )aluable, intimate secret to him that, outside of nature (ith its plants and creatures, there e%isted a second, silent, man&made nature1 these men, beasts, and plants of stone and (ood. 2e spent many of his free hours copying these figures, animal heads and leaf clusters; sometimes he also tried to dra( real flo(ers, horses, human faces.

And he (as )ery fond of the hymns, especially of those in honor of $ary. 2e lo)ed the firm se)ere pace of these songs, their

constantly recurring rhythms and praises. 2e could follo( their re)erent meaning adoringly, or he could forget their meaning and become engrossed in the solemn cadence of the )erses and let himself be filled by them, by the deep, dra(n&out notes, the full sound of the )o(els, the pious refrains. #eep do(n in his heart he had no lo)e for learning, grammar, and logic, although they, too, had their beauty. 2is real lo)e (as for the image&and&sound (orld of liturgy.

And e)ery so often, for brief moments, he,d break the estrangement that had set in bet(een him and his classmates. It annoyed and bored him in the long run to find himself surrounded by re5ection and coolness. 0)ery so often he,d make a grumpy bench companion laugh or start a taciturn bed neighbor chatting; he,d (ork at it for an hour, ingratiating himself and (inning back a couple of friends for a (hile. +(ice these approaches brought him, much against his intention, an in)itation to 4go to the )illage.4 +hen he,d become frightened and 'uickly dra( back. No, he (as not going to the )illage again, and he managed to forget the girl (ith the braids, ne)er.or almost ne) think of her any more. 4

Narcissus,s long siege had not succeeded in bringing


secret out into the open. 7or a long time he had apparently labored in )ain to a(aken him, to teach him the language in (hich the secret could be told.

oldmund,s description of his home and childhood ga)e no clear picture. +here (as a shado(life, faceless father (hom he )enerated, and then there (as the legend of a mother (ho had )anished, or perished, long ago, (ho (as nothing but a pallid name. Narcissus, the e%perienced reader of souls, had gradually come to recogni*e that oldmund (as one of those people part of

(hose li)es ha)e been lost; pressure of circumstances or some kind of magic po(er has obliterated a portion of their past. 2e reali*ed that nothing (ould be gained by mere 'uestioning and teaching, that he had o)erestimated the po(er of logic and spoken many useless (ords.

/ut the lo)e that bound him to his friend and their habit of spending much time together had not been fruitless. In spite of the )ast differences of their characters, each had learned much from the other. /eside the language of reason, a language of the soul had gradually come into being bet(een them; it (as as if,

branching off the main street, there are many small, almost secret lanes. radually the imaginati)e po(er of oldmund,s soul had

tracked such paths into Narcissus,s thoughts and e%pressions, making him understand.and sympathi*e (ith.many of oldmund,s perceptions and feelings, (ithout need for (ords. Ne( links from soul to soul de)eloped in the (arm glo( of lo)e; (ords came later. +hat is ho(, one holiday, in the library, there occurred a con)ersation bet(een the friends that neither had e%pected.a con)ersation that touched at the core and purpose of their friendship and cast ne(, far&reaching lights.

+hey had been talking about astrology, a forbidden science that (as not pursued in the cloister. Narcissus had said that astrology (as an attempt to arrange and order the many different types of human beings according to their natures and destinies. At this point oldmund had ob5ected1 43ou,re fore)er talking of differences

.I,)e finally recogni*ed a pet theory of yours. 8hen you speak of the great difference that is supposed to e%ist bet(een you and me, for instance, it seems to me that this difference is nothing but your strange determination to establish differences.4

Narcissus1 43es. 3ou,)e hit the nail on the head. +hat,s it1 to you,

differences are 'uite unimportant; to me, they are (hat matters most. I am a scholar by nature; science is my )ocation. And science is, to 'uote your (ords, nothing but the ,determination to establish differences., Its essence couldn,t be defined more accurately. 7or us, the men of science, nothing is as important as the establishment of differences; science is the art of differentiation. #isco)ering in e)ery man that (hich distinguishes him from others is to kno( him.4

oldmund1 4If you like. !ne man (ears (ooden shoes and is a peasant; another (ears a cro(n and is a king. +hose are differences, I grant you. /ut children can see them, too, (ithout any science.4

Narcissus1 4/ut (hen peasant and king are dressed alike, the child can no longer tell one from the other.4

oldmund1 4Neither can science.4

Narcissus1 4-erhaps it can. Not that science is more intelligent than the child, but it has more patience; it remembers more than 5ust the most ob)ious characteristics.4

oldmund1 4So does any intelligent child. 2e (ill recogni*e the king by the look in his eyes, or by his bearing. +o put it plainly1 you learned men are arrogant, you al(ays think e)erybody else stupid. !ne can be e%tremely intelligent (ithout learning.4

Narcissus1 4I am glad that you,re beginning to reali*e that. 3ou,ll soon reali*e, too, that I don,t mean intelligence (hen I speak of the difference bet(een us. I do not say, you are more intelligent, or less intelligent; better or (orse. I merely say, you are different.4

oldmund1 4+hat,s easy enough to understand. /ut you don,t speak only of our difference in character; you often speak also of the differences in fate, in destiny. 8hy, for instance, should your destiny be different from mine6 8e are both Christians, (e are both resol)ed to lead the life of the cloister, (e are both children of our good 7ather in hea)en. !ur goal is the same1 eternal bliss. !ur destiny is the same1 the return to od.4

Narcissus1 49ery good. +rue, in the )ie( of dogma, one man is e%actly like another, but not in life. +ake !ur Sa)iour,s fa)orite disciple, =ohn, on (hose breast he rested his head, and that other

disciple (ho betrayed hardly can say that they had the same destiny.4

oldmund1 4Narcissus, you are a sophist. 8e,ll ne)er come together on that kind of road.4

Narcissus1 4No road (ill bring us together.4

oldmund1 4#on,t speak like that.4

Narcissus1 4I,m serious. 8e are not meant to come together, not any more than sun and moon (ere meant to come together, or sea and land. 8e are sun and moon, dear friend; (e are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recogni*e each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for (hat he is1 each the other,s opposite and complement.4

oldmund (as perple%ed. 2e bo(ed his head, and his face (as sad.

7inally he said1 4Is that (hy you so often don,t take my thoughts seriously64

Narcissus hesitated before he ans(ered. 2is )oice (as clear and hard (hen he said1 43es, that is (hy. I take only you seriously, dear oldmund; you,ll ha)e to get used to that. /elie)e me, there isn,t an intonation in your )oice, not a gesture, not a smile that I don,t take seriously. /ut your thoughts I take less seriously. I take seriously all that I find essential and necessary in you. 8hy do you (ant particular attention paid to your thoughts, (hen you ha)e so many other gifts64

oldmund smiled bitterly1 43ou,)e al(ays considered me a child; I,)e said it before.4

Narcissus remained firm1 4-art of your thought I consider a child,s thought. Remember (hat (e said earlier1 an intelligent child need not be less intelligent than a learned scholar. /ut (hen the child (ants to assert its opinion in matters of learning, then the scholar doesn,t take it seriously.4

oldmund said (ith )iolence1 43ou smile at me e)en (hen (e don,t discuss matters of learning: 7or instance, you al(ays act as though all my piety, my efforts to ad)ance my studies, my desire to

become a monk (ere so many childish fantasies.4

Narcissus looked at him gra)ely1 4I take you seriously (hen you are oldmund. /ut you,re not al(ays oldmund. I (ish nothing

more than to see you become

oldmund through and through. 3ou

are not a scholar, you are not a monk.scholars and monks can ha)e a coarser grain. 3ou think you,re not learned or logical or pious enough for me. !n the contrary, you are not enough yourself.4

-erple%ed and e)en hurt,

oldmund had (ithdra(n after this

con)ersation. And yet a fe( days later he himself (ished to hear more. And this time Narcissus (as able to gi)e oldmund a

picture of their different natures that he found more acceptable.

Narcissus had talked himself into a fe)er; he felt that


(as accepting his (ords more openly and (illingly, that he had po(er o)er him. 2is success made him gi)e in to the temptation to say more than he had intended; he let himself be carried a(ay by his o(n (ords.

4"ook,4 he said, 4I am superior to you only in one point1 I,m a(ake,

(hereas you are only half a(ake, or completely asleep sometimes. I call a man a(ake (ho kno(s in his conscious reason his innermost unreasonable force, dri)es, and (eaknesses and kno(s ho( to deal (ith them. 7or you to learn that about yourself is the potential reason for your ha)ing met me. In your case, mind and nature, consciousness and dream (orld lie )ery far apart. 3ou,)e forgotten your childhood; it cries for you from the depths of your soul. It (ill make you suffer until you heed it.

4/ut enough of that: /eing a(ake, as I,)e already said, makes me stronger than you. +his is the one point in (hich I am superior to you and that is (hy I can be useful to you. In e)ery other respect you are superior to me, my dear as soon as you,)e found yourself.4 oldmund.or rather, you (ill be,

oldmund had listened (ith astonishment, but at the (ords 4you,)e forgotten your childhood4 he flinched as though pierced by an arro(. Narcissus didn,t notice; he often kept his eyes closed for long moments (hile he spoke, or he,d stare straight ahead, as though this helped him to find his (ords. 2e did not see oldmund,s face t(itch suddenly.

4I > superior to you:4 stammered (hole body had been lamed.

oldmund, feeling as though his

48hy, yes,4 Narcissus continued. 4Natures of your kind, (ith strong, delicate senses, the soul&oriented, the dreamers, poets, lo)ers are almost al(ays superior to us creatures of the mind. 3ou take your being from your mothers. 3ou li)e fully; you (ere endo(ed (ith the strength of lo)e, the ability to feel. 8hereas (e creatures of reason, (e don,t li)e fully; (e li)e in an arid land, e)en though (e often seem to guide and rule you. 3ours is the plenitude of life, the sap of the fruit, the garden of passion, the beautiful landscape of art. 3our home is the earth; ours is the (orld of ideas. 3ou are in danger of dro(ning in the (orld of the senses; ours is the danger of suffocating in an airless )oid. 3ou are an artist; I am a thinker. 3ou sleep at the mother,s breast; I (ake in the desert. 7or me the sun shines; for you the moon and the stars. 3our dreams are of girls; mine of boys >4

oldmund listened, (ide&eyed. Narcissus spoke (ith a kind of rhetorical self&into%ication. Se)eral (ords struck oldmund like

s(ords. +o(ard the end he gre( pale and closed his eyes, and

(hen Narcissus became a(are of it and asked (ith sudden fear (hat (as (rong, the deathly pale boy said1 4!nce I broke do(n in front of you and burst into remember. +hat must not happen again. I,d ne)er forgi)e myself.or you: -lease go a(ay at once and let me be alone. 3ou,)e said terrible (ords to me.4

Narcissus (as o)ercome. 2is (ords had carried him a(ay; he had felt that he (as speaking better than usual. No( he sa( (ith consternation that some of his (ords had deeply affected his friend and someho( pierced him to the 'uick. 2e found it hard to lea)e him at that moment and hesitated a second or t(o, but oldmund,s fro(n left him no choice. Confused, he ran off to allo( his friend the solitude he needed.

+his time the e%treme tension in

oldmund,s soul did not dissol)e

itself in tears. 2e (as still, feeling deeply, desperately (ounded, as though his friend had plunged a knife into his breast. 2e breathed hea)ily, (ith mortally contracted heart, a (a%&pale face, limp hands. +his (as the old pain, only considerably sharper, the same inner choking, the feeling that something frightful had to be looked in the eye, something unbearable. /ut this time there (as no relief of tears to o)ercome the pain. 2oly $other of od, (hat then

could this be6 2ad something happened6 2ad he been murdered6 2ad he killed someone6 8hat had been said that (as so frightful6

2e panted, pushing his breath a(ay from him. "ike a person (ho has been poisoned, he (as bursting (ith the feeling that he had to free himself of something deadly, deep inside him. 8ith the mo)ements of a s(immer he rushed from his room, fled unconsciously to the 'uietest, loneliest parts of the cloister, through passages, do(n stair(ays and out into the open. 2e had (andered into the innermost refuge of the cloister, into the court of the cross. +he sky stretched clear and sunny o)er the fe( bright flo(er beds; the scent of roses drifted through the cool stony air in s(eet hesitant threads.

8ithout kno(ing it, Narcissus had accomplished his long&desired aim1 he had named the demon by (hich his friend (as possessed; he had called it out into the open. !ne of his many (ords had touched the secret in oldmund,s heart, (hich had reared up in

furious pain. 7or a long time Narcissus (andered through the cloister, looking for his friend, but he could not find him.

oldmund (as standing under one of the massi)e stone arches

that led from the passage(ay out into the little cloister garden; on each column three animal heads, the stone&car)ed heads of dogs and (ol)es, glared do(n at him. -ain (as raging inside him, pushing, finding no (ay to(ard the light, to(ard reason. #eathly fear clutched at his throat, knotted his stomach. $echanically he looked up, sa( the animal heads on the capital of one of the columns, and began to feel that those three monstrous heads (ere s'uatting, glaring, barking inside him.

4I,m going to die any moment,4 he felt (ith terror. 4I,ll lose my mind and those animal snouts (ill de)our me.4

2is body t(itched; he sank do(n at the foot of the column. +he pain (as too great; he had reached the limit. 2e fainted; he dro(ned in longed&for obli)ion.

It had been a rather unsatisfactory day for Abbot #aniel. +(o of the older monks had come to him, foaming (ith e%citement, full of accusations, bringing up petty old 5ealousies, s'uabbling furiously. 2e had listened to them altogether too long, had unsuccessfully admonished them, and dismissed them se)erely (ith rather hea)y

penances. 8ith a feeling of futility in his heart, he had (ithdra(n for prayer in the lo(er chapel, prayed, and stood up again, unrefreshed. No( he stepped out into the court a moment for some air, attracted by the smell of roses. +here he found the pupil oldmund lying in a faint on the stones. 2e looked at him (ith sadness, frightened by the pallor and remoteness of the usually (insome face. It had not been a good day, and no( this to top it all: 2e tried to lift the young man, but (as not up to the effort. 8ith a deep sigh the old man (alked a(ay to call t(o younger brothers to carry oldmund upstairs and to send 7ather Anselm to him, the

cloister physician. 2e also sent for /rother Narcissus, (ho soon appeared before him.

42a)e you heard64 he asked.


oldmund6 3es, gentle father, I 5ust heard that he has been

taken ill or has had an accident and has been carried in.4

43es, I found him lying in the inner court, (here actually he had no business to be. It (as not an accident that he fainted. I don,t like this. It (ould seem to me that you are someho( connected (ith it, or at least kno( of it, since you are so intimate. +hat is (hy I ha)e

called you. Speak.4

8ith his usual control of bearing and speech, Narcissus ga)e a brief account of his con)ersation (ith oldmund and of its

surprisingly )iolent effect on him. +he Abbot shook his head, not (ithout ill humor.

4+hose are strange con)ersations,4 he said, forcing himself to remain calm. 48hat you ha)e 5ust described to me is a con)ersation that might be called interference (ith another soul, (hat I might call a confessor,s con)ersation. /ut you,re not oldmund,s confessor. 3ou are no one,s confessor; you ha)e not been ordained. 2o( is it that you discussed matters (ith a pupil, in the tone of an ad)iser, that concern no one but his confessor6 As you can see, the conse'uences ha)e been harmful.4

4+he conse'uences,4 Narcissus said in a mild but firm )oice, 4are not yet kno(n to us, gentle father. I (as some(hat frightened by the )iolence of his reaction, but I ha)e no doubt that the conse'uences of our con)ersation (ill be good for oldmund.4

48e shall see. I am not speaking of the conse'uences no(, I am

speaking of your action. 8hat prompted you to ha)e such con)ersations (ith oldmund64

4As you kno(, he is my friend. I ha)e a special fondness for him and I belie)e that I understand him particularly (ell. 3ou say that I acted to(ard him like a confessor. In no (ay ha)e I assumed any religious authority; I merely thought that I kne( him a little better than he kno(s himself.4

+he Abbot shrugged.

4I kno(, that is your m?tier. "et us hope that you did not cause any harm (ith it. /ut is oldmund ill6 I mean, is anything (rong (ith

him6 #oes he feel (eak6 2as he been sleeping poorly6 #oes he eat badly6 2as he some kind of pain64

4No, until today he,s been healthy. In his body, that is.4

4And other(ise64

42is soul is ailing. As you kno(, he is at an age (hen struggles (ith se% begin.4

4I kno(. 2e is se)enteen64

42e is eighteen.4

40ighteen. 8ell, yes, that is late enough. /ut these struggles are natural; e)erybody goes through them. +hat is no reason to say that he is ailing in his soul.4

4No, gentle father. +hat is not the only reason. /ut


soul has been ailing for a long time; that is (hy these struggles hold more danger for him than for others. I belie)e that he suffers because he has forgotten a part of his past.4

4Ah6 And (hat part is that64

42is mother, and e)erything connected (ith her. I don,t kno( anything about her, either. I merely kno( that there must lie the source of his illness. /ecause oldmund kno(s nothing of his

mother apparently, e%cept that he lost her at an early age. I ha)e the impression that he seems ashamed of her. And yet it must be from her that he inherited most of his gifts, because his description

of his father does not make him seem a man (ho (ould ha)e such a (insome, talented, original son. Nothing of this has been told me; I deduced it from signs.4

At first the Abbot had smiled slightly at this precocious, arrogant& sounding speech; the (hole matter (as a troublesome chore to him. No( he began to think. 2e remembered oldmund,s father as

a some(hat brittle, distrustful man; no(, as he searched his memory, he suddenly remembered a fe( (ords the father had, at that time, uttered about oldmund,s mother. 2e had said that she

had brought shame upon him and run a(ay, and that he had tried to suppress the mother,s memory in his young son, as (ell as any )ices he might ha)e inherited from her. And that he had most probably succeeded, because the boy (as (illing to offer his life up to od, in atonement for his mother,s sins.

Ne)er had Narcissus pleased the Abbot less than today. And yet. ho( (ell this thinker had guessed; ho( (ell he really did seem to kno( oldmund.

2e asked a final 'uestion about the day,s occurrences, and Narcissus said1 4I had not intended to upset oldmund so )iolently.

I reminded him that he does not kno( himself, that he had forgotten his childhood and his mother. Something I said must ha)e struck him and penetrated the darkness I ha)e been fighting so long. 2e seemed beside himself; he looked at me as though he no longer kne( himself or me. I ha)e often told him that he (as asleep, that he (as not really a(ake. No( he has been a(akened, I ha)e no doubt about that.4

2e (as dismissed, (ithout a scolding but (ith an admonition not to )isit the sick boy for the time being.

$ean(hile 7ather Anselm had ordered the boy put to bed and (as sitting beside him. 2e had not deemed it ad)isable to shock him back into consciousness by )iolent means. +he boy looked altogether too sick. !ut of his kind, (rinkled face, the old man looked fondly upon the adolescent. $ean(hile he checked his pulse and heartbeat. +he boy must ha)e eaten something impossible, a bunch of sorrel, or something e'ually silly; that kind of thing happened sometimes. +he boy,s mouth (as closed, so he couldn,t check his tongue. 2e (as fond of oldmund but had little

use for his friend, that precocious, o)erly young teacher. No( it had come to this. /rother Narcissus surely had something to do

(ith this stupid mishap. 8hy had this charming, clear&eyed youngster, this dear child of nature, picked the arrogant scholar, the )ain grammarian, (ho )alued his li)ing creatures of this (orld: reek more highly than all

8hen the door opened much later, and the Abbot came in, 7ather Anselm (as still sitting beside the bed, staring into the boy,s face. 8hat a dear, trusting young face this (as, and all one could do (as to sit beside it, (ishing, but probably unable, to help. It might all be due to a colic, of course; he (ould prescribe hot (ine, perhaps some rhubarb. /ut the longer he looked into the greenish& pale, distorted face, the more his suspicions leaned to(ard another cause, a much more serious one. 7ather Anselm (as e%perienced. $ore than once, in the course of his long life, he had seen men (ho (ere possessed. 2e hesitated to formulate this suspicion e)en to himself. 2e (ould (ait and obser)e. /ut if this poor boy had really been he%ed, he thought grimly, (e probably (on,t ha)e to look far for the culprit, and he shall not ha)e an easy time of it.

+he Abbot stepped up to the bed, bent o)er the sick boy, and gently dre( back one of the eyelids.

4Can he be roused64 he asked.

4I,d rather (ait a bit longer. 2is heart is sound. 8e must not let anyone in to see him.4

4Is he in danger64

4I don,t think so. +here aren,t any (ounds, no trace of a blo( or fall. 2e is unconscious because of a colic, perhaps. 0%treme pain can cause loss of consciousness. If he had been poisoned, he,d be running a fe)er. No, he,ll come to and go on li)ing.4

4#o you think it could be his soul64

4I (ouldn,t rule that out. #o (e kno( anything6 2as he had a shock perhaps6 Ne(s of someone,s death6 A )iolent dispute, an insult6 +hat (ould certainly e%plain it.4

48e kno( of nothing. $ake sure that no one is allo(ed to see him. -lease stay (ith him until he comes to. If anything should go (rong, call me, e)en if it,s in the middle of the night.4

/efore lea)ing, the old man bent once more o)er the sick boy. 2e thought of the boy,s father, of the day this charming blond head had been brought to him, ho( e)eryone had taken to him from the start. 2e, too, had been glad to see him in the cloister. /ut Narcissus (as certainly right in one respect1 nothing in the boy recalled his father. Ah, ho( much (orry there (as e)ery(here, ho( insufficient all our stri)ing: 2ad he perhaps been neglectful of this poor boy6 8as it right that no one in the house kne( this pupil as thoroughly as Narcissus6 2o( could he be helped by someone (ho (as still a no)ice, (ho had not yet been consecrated, (ho (as not yet a monk, and (hose thoughts and ideas all had something unpleasantly superior about them, something almost hostile6 od alone kne( (hether Narcissus too had not been

handled (rongly all this time6 8as he concealing something e)il behind his mask of obedience, hedonism perhaps6 8hate)er these t(o young men (ould some day become (ould be partly his responsibility.

It (as dark (hen

oldmund came to. 2is head felt empty, di**y.

2e kne( that he (as lying in bed, but not (here. 2e didn,t think about that; it didn,t matter. /ut (here had he been6 7rom (hat

strange land of e%perience had he returned6 2e had been to some far&a(ay place. 2e had seen something there, something e%traordinary, something sublime, but also frightful, and unforgettable.and yet he had forgotten it. 8here had it been6 8hat (as it that had appeared to him, huge, painful, blissful6 +hat had )anished again6

2e listened deeply inside him, to that place from (hich something had erupted today, (here something had happened.(hat had it been6 8ild tangles of images rose before him, he sa( dogs, heads, the heads of three dogs, and he sniffed the scent of roses. +he pain he had felt: 2e closed his eyes. +he dreadful pain he had felt: Again he fell asleep.

As he a(oke from the rapidly )anishing dream (orld that (as sliding a(ay from him, he sa( it. 2e redisco)ered the image, and trembled (ith pain and 5oy. 2is eyes had been opened1 he sa( 2er. 2e sa( the tall, radiant (oman (ith the full mouth and glo(ing hair.his mother. And at the same time he thought he heard a )oice1 43ou ha)e forgotten your childhood.4 /ut (hose )oice (as that6 2e listened, thought, found it. Narcissus,s )oice. Narcissus6 In a flash e)erything came back1 he remembered. !

mother, mother: $ountains of rubbish collapsed, oceans of forgetfulness )anished. +he lost (oman, the indescribably belo)ed, (as again looking at him (ith her regal light&blue eyes.

7ather Anselm had do*ed off in the armchair beside the bed; he a(oke. 2e heard the sick boy stir, he heard him breathe. stood up. ently he

4Is someone in the room64

oldmund asked.

4It is I, ha)e no fear. I,ll put the light on.4

2e lighted the lamp, its glo( fell o)er his (ell&meaning, (rinkled face.

4/ut am I ill64 asked the boy.

43ou fainted, son. 2old out your hand, let,s take a look at your pulse. 2o( do you feel64

47ine. +hank you, 7ather Anselm, you,re )ery kind. Nothing,s (rong (ith me no(, I,m 5ust tired.4

4I bet you are. And you,ll go right back to sleep. /ut first you,ll ha)e a sip of hot (ine; it,s all made and ready. "et,s drain a mug together, my boy, to good fello(ship.4

2e had kept a small pitcher of hot (ine in readiness.

4So (e both bad a nice nap,4 laughed the physician. 4A fine night nurse, huh, (ho can,t keep a(ake. 8ell, (e,re all human. No( (e,ll take a sip of this magic potion, my boy. Nothing,s more pleasant than a little secret drinking in the middle of the night. Prosit.4

oldmund laughed, clinked cups, and tasted the (arm (ine. It (as spiced (ith cinnamon and clo)es and s(eetened; he had ne)er tasted such a drink before. 2e remembered his pre)ious illness, (hen Narcissus had taken care of him. No( it (as 7ather Anselm (ho (as caring for him. It (as all so pleasant and strange to be lying there in the lamplight, drinking a mug of s(eet (arm (ine (ith the old father in the middle of the night.

42a)e you a pain in your stomach64 the old man asked.


4I thought you probably had the colic,

oldmund. 3ou don,t then.

"et,s see your tongue. 8ell, fine, your old Anselm,s pro)ed his ignorance once again. +omorro( you,ll stay in bed and I,ll come and take a look at you. Already through (ith your (ine6 7ine, may it do you good. "et,s see if there is more. 2alf a mug each, if (e share and share alike..3ou really ga)e us a scare, oldmund:

"ying in the court like a child,s corpse. And you really ha)e no stomach ache64

+hey laughed together and shared (hat (as left of the con)alescent (ine. +he father 5oked; gratefully, delightedly oldmund looked at him. 2is eyes (ere clear again. +hen the old man (ent off to bed.

oldmund lay a(ake a(hile longer. Again the images rose up inside him; his friend,s (ords flamed up again. +he blond radiant (oman, his mother, appeared again in his soul. "ike a (arm south& (ind, her image s(ept through him1 like a cloud of life, of (armth and tenderness and innermost enticement. 4! my mother: 2o(

(as it possible, ho( (as I able to forget you:4 5 Up to no(, the fe( things oldmund kne( of his mother had come

from (hat others had told him. 2er image had almost faded from his memory. !f the little he thought he kne( of her, he had told Narcissus ne%t to nothing. $other (as a sub5ect he (as forbidden to mention.something to be ashamed of. She had been a dancer, a (ild beautiful (oman of noble, though poor, birth; oldmund,s

father said that he had lifted her from po)erty and shame; and since he couldn,t be sure she (as not a heathen, he had arranged to ha)e her bapti*ed and instructed in religion; he had married her and made her respectable. /ut after a fe( years of domesticated and ordered e%istence, she had remembered her old tricks and crafts, had started to make trouble and seduce men, had strayed from home for days and (eeks at a time, had ac'uired the reputation of a (itch, and, after her husband had gone to find her and taken her back to his house se)eral times, she had finally disappeared fore)er. 2er reputation had stayed ali)e, a (icked reputation that flickered like the tail of a comet, until it had been e%tinguished. Slo(ly her husband reco)ered from the years of disorder, fear, and shame, of the ne)er ending surprises she

sprang on him. In place of the unredeemed (ife, he educated his little son, (ho greatly resembled his mother in features and build; he gre( nagging and bigoted, instilling in he must offer up his life to oldmund the belief that

od to e%piate his mother,s sins.

+his (as the tale

oldmund,s father told of his lost (ife, although

he preferred not to speak of her. 2e had hinted at it to the Abbot the day he brought oldmund to the cloister. It (as all kno(n to

the son as a terrible legend, but he had learned to push it aside and had almost forgotten it. +he real image of his mother had been completely forgotten and lost, an altogether different image that (as not made of his father,s and the ser)ants, tales and dark (ild rumors. 2e had forgotten his o(n true li)ing mother&memory. And no( this image, the star of his earliest years, had risen again.

4I can,t understand ho( I could ha)e forgotten,4 he said to his friend. 4Ne)er in my life ha)e I lo)ed anyone as much as I lo)ed my mother, unconditionally, fer)ently. Ne)er did I )enerate or admire anyone as I did her; she (as sun and moon to me. od

only kno(s ho( it (as possible to darken this radiant image in my soul, to change her gradually to the e)il, pallid, shapeless (itch she (as to my father and to me for many years.4

Narcissus had recently completed his no)itiate and had donned the habit. 2is attitude to(ard /ecause oldmund (as strangely changed.

oldmund, (ho had often before re5ected his friend,s

hints and counsel as cumbersome superiority and pedantry, (as no(, since his deep e%perience, filled (ith astonished admiration of his friend,s (isdom. 2o( many of his (ords had come true like prophecies, ho( deeply had this uncanny man seen inside him, ho( precisely had he guessed the secret of his life, his hidden (ound, ho( deftly had he healed him:

At least

oldmund seemed to be healed. Not only had the fainting

spell been (ithout e)il conse'uences, but all that (as unformed and unauthentic in oldmund,s character had someho( melted

a(ay, his mistaken )ocation to monkhood, his belief that he (as obliged to render particular ser)ice to od. +he young man

seemed to ha)e gro(n younger and older all at once. 2e o(ed it all to Narcissus.

/ut Narcissus (as no( conducting himself (ith a strange caution to(ard his friend. 2e looked upon him (ith great modesty, no longer in the least condescending or instructing, (hile oldmund

admired him more than e)er. 2e sa(

oldmund fed from secret

sources to (hich he, himself, had no access; he had been able to further their gro(th, but had no part in them. +hough he (as glad to see his friend freeing himself of his guidance, he also felt sad. 2e sa( that this friendship, (hich had meant so much to him, (as nearing its end. 2e still kne( more about oldmund kne( about himself. oldmund than

oldmund had redisco)ered his

soul and (as ready to follo( its call, but he did not kno( (here it (ould lead him. Narcissus kne( this and felt po(erless; his fa)orite,s path led to regions in (hich he himself (ould ne)er tra)el.

oldmund,s eagerness to learn had decreased considerably, as had his desire to argue (ith his friend. Shamefacedly he remembered some of their former discussions. $ean(hile Narcissus began to feel the need for seclusion; either because he had completed the no)itiate or because of his e%perience (ith oldmund, he felt dra(n to fasting and long prayers, fre'uent confessions, )oluntary penitence, and oldmund understood this,

could almost share in it. Since his cure, his instincts had been sharpened. Although he had no inkling of (here his future (ould lead him, he did feel strongly, often (ith anguishing clarity, that his

destiny (as shaping itself, that this respite of innocence and calm (as coming to an end, that all (ithin him (as taut and ready. +hese premonitions (ere often blissful, kept him a(ake half the night like a s(eet infatuation; at other times they (ere full of darkness and suffocation. 2is long&lost mother had come back to him1 that (as deep happiness. /ut (here (as her enticing call leading him6 Into uncertainty and entanglement, into need, perhaps into death. It did not lead to 'uiet, mildness, security, to the monk,s cell, to collecti)e cloister life. 2er call had nothing in common (ith his fathers orders, (hich he had for so long confused (ith his o(n (ishes. oldmund,s piety fed on this emotion; it (as

often as strong and burning as a )iolent physical sensation. 2e (ould repeat long prayers to the holy $other of od, letting flo(

the e%cessi)e feelings that dre( him to(ard his o(n mother. /ut often his prayers (ould end in those strange, magnificent dreams of (hich he had so many no(1 day&dreams, (ith half&a(ake senses, dreams of her (ith all his senses participating. +he mother&(orld (ould spray its fragrance about him, look darkly from enigmatic eyes of lo)e, rumble deep as an ocean, like paradise, stammer caressing, senseless endearments, or rather endearments that filled his senses (ith a taste of s(eetness and salt and brushed his hungry lips and eyes (ith silken hair. 2is

mother meant not only all that (as graceful; not only (ere her gentle look of lo)e and s(eet, happiness&promising smile caressing consolations; but some(here beneath this enticing e%terior lay much that (as frightful and dark, greedy and fearful, sinful and sorro(ful, all that ga)e birth and all death.

+he adolescent (ould sink deeply into these dreams, into these many&threaded (ebs of soul&inhabited senses. 0nchantingly they resurrected not only the belo)ed past1 childhood and mother lo)e, the radiantly golden morning of life; but in them also the future s(ung, menacing, promising, beckoning, dangerous. At times these dreams, in (hich mother, 9irgin, and mistress all fused into one, seemed horrendous crimes to him after(ards, blasphemies, deadly, unpardonable sins; at other times he found in them nothing but harmony and release. "ife stared at him, filled (ith secrets, a somber, unfathomable (orld, a rigid forest bristling (ith fairy&tale dangers.but these (ere mother secrets, they came from her, led to her, they (ere the small dark circle, the tiny threatening abyss in her clear eye.

So much of his forgotten childhood surged up during these mother dreams, so many small flo(ers of memory bloomed from the

endless depth of forgetfulness, golden&faced premonition&scented memories of childhood emotions, of incidents perhaps, or perhaps of dreams. !ccasionally he,d dream of fish, black and sil)er, s(imming to(ard him, cool and smooth, s(imming into him, through him, coming like messengers bearing 5oyous ne(s of a more gracious, more beautiful reality and )anishing, tails flipping, shado(like, gone, ha)ing brought ne( enigmas rather than messages. !r he,d dream of s(imming fish and flying birds, and each fish or bird (as his creature, depended on him, could be guided like a breath, radiated from him like an eye, like a thought, returned to him. !r he,d dream of a garden, a magic garden (ith fabulous trees, huge flo(ers, and deep blue&dark ca)es; the eyes of unkno(n animals sparkled in the grass, smooth&muscled serpents slid along the branches; giant moist&glistening berries hung from )ine or bush, he,d pick them and they,d s(ell in his hand and leak (arm 5uices like blood, or they had eyes (hich they,d mo)e (ith cunning seduction; groping, he,d lean against a tree, reach for a branch, and see and feel bet(een trunk and branch a curling nest of thick tousled hair like the hair in the pit of an arm. !nce he dreamed of himself, or of his name&saint, he dreamed of oldmund of Chrysostom, (ho had a mouth of gold,

(ho spoke (ords (ith his golden mouth, and the (ords (ere small

s(arms of birds that fle( off in fluttering groups.

!nce he dreamed that he (as tall and adult but sat on the floor like a child, that he had clay in front of him and (as modeling clay figures, like a child1 a small horse, a bull, a tiny man, a tiny (oman. +he modeling amused him and he ga)e the animals and men ridiculously large genitals; it seemed (onderfully (itty to him in his dream. +hen he gre( tired of the game and (alked off and felt something ali)e at his back, something soundless and large that (as coming nearer and (hen he looked around he sa( (ith great astonishment and shock, but not (ithout 5oy, that his small clay figures bad gro(n and come to life. 2uge mute giants, they marched past him, continuing to gro(, monstrous, silent; to(er& high, they tra)eled on into the (orld.

2e li)ed in this dream (orld more than in the real one. +he real (orld1 classroom, courtyard, library, dormitory, and chapel (ere only the surface, a 'ui)ering film o)er the dream&filled superreal (orld of images. +he smallest incident could pierce a hole in this thin skin1 a sudden hint in the sound of a reek (ord during a

tedious lesson, a (hiff of scent from 7ather Anselm,s herb satchel, the sight of a garland of stone lea)es protruding from the top of a

column in a (indo( )ault.these small stimulants (ere enough to puncture the skin of reality, to unleash the raging abysses, streams, and milky (ays of an image (orld of the soul that lay beneath peacefully barren reality. A "atin initial changed to his mother,s perfumed face, a long note in the Ave became the gate to -aradise, a reek letter a galloping horse, a rearing serpent that

'uickly slithered off through the flo(ers, lea)ing the rigid page of grammar in its place.

2e rarely spoke of it, only occasionally did he gi)e Narcissus a hint of his dream (orld.

4I belie)e,4 he once said, 4that the petal of a flo(er or a tiny (orm on the path says far more, contains far more than all the books in the library. !ne cannot say )ery much (ith mere letters and (ords. Sometimes I,ll be (riting a reek letter, a theta or an omega, and

tilt my pen 5ust the slightest bit; suddenly the letter has a tail and becomes a fish; in a second it e)okes all the streams and ri)ers of the (orld, all that is cool and humid, 2omer,s sea and the (aters on (hich Saint -eter (andered; or it becomes a bird, flaps its tail, shakes out its feathers, puffs itself up, laughs, flies a(ay. 3ou probably don,t appreciate letters like that )ery much, do you,

Narcissus6 /ut I say1 (ith them

od (rote the (orld.4

4I do appreciate them greatly,4 Narcissus said sadly. 4+hose are magic letters, demons can be e%orcised (ith them. /ut for the pursuit of science they are, of course, unsuitable. +he mind fa)ors the definite, the solid shape, it (ants its symbols to be reliable, it lo)es (hat is, not (hat (ill be, (hat is real and not (hat is possible. It does not permit an omega to change to a serpent or a bird. +he mind cannot li)e in nature, only against nature, only as its counterpart. #o you belie)e no( that you,ll ne)er be a scholar, oldmund64


oldmund had long since begun to belie)e it, resigned

himself to it.

4I,m no longer intent on stri)ing for a mind like yours,4 he said, half 5okingly. 4I feel about mind and learning the (ay I did about my father1 I thought I lo)ed him )ery much and (anted to become like him and s(ore by e)erything he did. /ut as soon as my mother reappeared, I kne( the meaning of lo)e again and my father,s image had suddenly shrunk ne%t to hers and become 5oyless, almost repugnant. And no( I,m inclined to regard all things of the

mind as father&things, as unmotherly, and mother&hostile, and to feel a slight contempt for them.4

2e spoke in a 5oking tone, and yet he (as not able to bring a happy e%pression to his friend,s face. Narcissus looked at him in silence; his look (as like a caress. +hen he said1 4I understand you )ery (ell. +here,s no need for us to 'uarrel e)er again; you are a(akened, and no( you recogni*e the difference bet(een us, bet(een mother&heritage and father&heritage, the difference bet(een soul and mind. Soon you,ll probably also reali*e that cloister life and stri)ing for monkhood (ere a mistake for you, an in)ention of your father,s. 2e (anted you to atone for your mother,s memory, or perhaps a)enge himself on her in this (ay. !r do you still belie)e that its your destiny to remain in the cloister all your life64

oldmund looked pensi)ely at his friend,s hands. 2o( distinguished they (ere, se)ere as (ell as delicate, bony and (hite. No one could doubt that they (ere the hands of an ascetic and a scholar.

4I don,t kno(,4 he said in the lilting, slightly hesitant )oice he had

recently ac'uired and that seemed to d(ell lengthily on e)ery sound. 4I really don,t kno(. 3ou 5udge my father some(hat harshly. 2e has not had an easy life. /ut perhaps you,re right in this too. I,)e been in the cloister school for o)er three years, and he,s ne)er come to see me. 2e (ants me to stay here fore)er. -erhaps that (ould be best, I thought I (anted it myself. /ut today I,m no longer sure (hat I really (ant and desire. /efore, e)erything (as simple, as simple as the letters in my te%tbook. No( nothing is simple any more, not e)en the letters. 0)erything has taken on many meanings and faces. I don,t kno( (hat (ill become of me, I can,t think about that no(.4

4Nor need you,4 said Narcissus. 43ou,ll find out (here your road (ill lead you. It began by leading you back to your mother, and it (ill bring you closer to her still. As for your father, I,m not 5udging him too harshly. 8ould you (ant to go back to him64

4No, Narcissus, certainly not. If I did, it (ould ha)e to be as soon as I finished school; right no( perhaps. Since I,m not going to be a scholar anyho(, I,)e learned enough "atin and reek and

mathematics. No, I don,t (ant to go back to my father >4

#eep in thought, he stared ahead of him. Suddenly he cried out to Narcissus1 42o( on earth do you do it6 Again and again you say (ords to me, or pose 'uestions that shine a light into me and make me clear to myself. 3ou merely asked if I (anted to go back to my father, and suddenly I kne( that I didn,t (ant to. 2o( do you do it6 3ou seem to kno( e)erything. 3ou,)e said so many (ords that I didn,t 'uite grasp (hen I heard them but that became so important to me after(ards: It (as you (ho said that I take my being from my mother, you (ho disco)ered that I (as li)ing under a spell and had forgotten my childhood: 8hat makes you kno( people so (ell6 Couldn,t I learn that too64

Narcissus smiled and shook his head.

4No, my dear

oldmund, you cannot. Some people are capable of

learning a great deal, but you are not one of them. 3ou,ll ne)er be a student. And (hy should you be6 3ou don,t need to. 3ou ha)e other gifts. 3ou are more gifted than I, you are richer and you are (eaker, your road (ill be more beautiful and more difficult than mine. +here (ere times (hen you refused to understand me, you often kicked like a foal, it (asn,t al(ays easy, I (as often forced to

hurt you. I had to (aken you, since you (ere asleep. Recalling your mother to your memory hurt at first, hurt you )ery much; you (ere found lying in the cloister garden as though dead. It had to be. No, don,t stroke my hair: No, don,t: I don,t like it.4

4Can,t I learn anything then6 8ill I al(ays remain stupid, a child64

4+here (ill be others to teach you. 8hat you could learn from me, you child, you ha)e learned.4

4!h no,4 cried

oldmund, 4(e didn,t become friends to end it no(:

8hat sort of friendship (ould that be, that reached its goal after a short distance and then simply stopped6 Are you tired of me6 2a)e you no more affection for me64

Narcissus (as pacing )ehemently, his eyes on the floor. +hen he stopped in front of his friend. 4"et that be,4 he said softly. 43ou kno( only too (ell that my affection for you has not come to an end.4

8ith doubt in his eyes he studied his friend. +hen he began pacing once more, back and forth; again he stopped and looked at

oldmund, his eyes firm in the taut, haggard face. 2is )oice (as lo(, but hard and firm, (hen he said1 4"isten, oldmund: !ur

friendship has been good; it had a goal and the goal has been reached; you,)e been a(akened, I (ould like it not to be o)er; I (ould like it to rene( itself once more, rene( itself again and again, and lead to ne( goals. 7or the moment there is no goal. 3ours is uncertain, I can neither lead you nor accompany you. Ask your mother, ask her image, listen to her: /ut my goal is not uncertain, it lies here, in the cloister, it claims me at e)ery hour. I can be your friend, but I cannot be in lo)e. I am a monk, I ha)e taken the )o(s. /efore my consecration I shall ask to be released from my teaching duties and (ithdra( for many (eeks to fast and do e%ercises. #uring that period I,ll not speak of (orldly matters, nor (ith you either.4

oldmund understood. Sadly he said1 4So you,re going to do (hat I (ould ha)e done too, if I had 5oined the order. And after your e%ercises are o)er and you ha)e fasted and prayed and (aked enough.then (hat (ill be your goal64

43ou kno( (hat it is,4 said Narcissus.

48ell, yes. In a fe( years you,ll be the no)icemaster, head of the school perhaps. 3ou,ll impro)e the teaching methods; you,ll enlarge the library. -erhaps you,ll (rite books yourself. No6 All right, you (on,t. /ut (hat is your goal64

Narcissus smiled faintly. 4+he goal6 -erhaps I,ll die head of the school, or abbot, or bishop. It,s all the same. $y goal is this1 al(ays to put myself in the place in (hich I am best able to ser)e, (here)er my gifts and 'ualities find the best soil, the (idest field of action. +here is no other goal.4

oldmund1 4No other goal for a monk64

Narcissus1 4!h, there are goals enough. !ne monk may find his life,s goal in learning 2ebre(, another in annotating Aristotle, or embellishing the cloister church, or secluding himself in meditation, or a hundred other things. 7or me those are no goals. I neither (ant to increase the riches of the cloister, nor reform the order, nor the church. I (ant to ser)e the mind (ithin the frame(ork of my possibilities, the (ay I understand the mind; no more. Is that not a goal64

oldmund thought for a long (hile before he ans(ered.

43ou,re right,4 he said. 4#id I hinder you much on the road to(ard your goal64

42inder me: !h

oldmund, no one furthered me as much as you

did. 3ou created difficulties for me, but I am no enemy of difficulties. I,)e learned from them, I,)e partly o)ercome them.4

oldmund interrupted him. 2alf laughingly, he said1 43ou,)e o)ercome them (onderfully (ell: /ut, tell me1 (hen you aided me, guided and deli)ered me, and healed my soul.(ere you really ser)ing the mind6 In so doing you,)e probably depri)ed the cloister of an eager, (ell&intentioned no)ice, maybe you,)e raised an enemy of the mind, someone (ho,ll stri)e for, think and do the e%act opposite of (hat you deem good:4

48hy not64 said Narcissus in deep earnest. 4#ear friend, ho( little you kno( me still: -erhaps I did ruin a future monk in you, but in e%change I cleared the path inside you for a destiny that (ill not be ordinary. 0)en if you burned do(n our rather handsome cloister

tomorro(, or preached a mad doctrine of error to the (orld, I (ould not for an instant regret that I helped you on the road to(ard it.4

8ith a friendly gesture he laid both hands on his friend,s shoulders.

4See here, little

oldmund, this too is part of my goal1 (hether I be

teacher, abbot, father confessor, or (hate)er, ne)er do I (ish to find myself in the position of meeting a strong, )aluable human being and not kno( (hat he is about, not further him. And let me say this to you1 (hate)er becomes of either of us, (hether (e go this (ay or that, you,ll ne)er find me heedless at any moment that you call me seriously and think that you ha)e need of me. Ne)er.4

It sounded like a fare(ell; it (as indeed a foretaste of fare(ell. oldmund stood looking at his friend, the determined face, the goal&directed eyes; he had the unmistakable feeling that they (ere no longer brothers, colleagues, e'uals; their (ays had already parted. +he man before him (as not a dreamer; he (as not (aiting for fate to call to him. 2e (as a monk (ho had pledged his life, (ho belonged to an established order, to duty; he (as a ser)ant, a soldier of religion, of the church, of the mind. oldmund no( kne(

he did not belong here; this had become clear to him today. 2e had no home; an unkno(n (orld a(aited him. 2is mother had kno(n the same fate once. She had left house and home, husband and child, community and order, duty and honor, to go out into uncertainty; she had probably long since perished in it. She had had no goal, and neither had he. 2a)ing goals (as a pri)ilege he did not share (ith others, !h, ho( (ell Narcissus had recogni*ed all this long ago; ho( right he had been:

Shortly after the day of their con)ersation, Narcissus seemed to ha)e disappeared, to ha)e become suddenly inaccessible. Another instructor (as teaching his courses; his lectern in the library stood )acant. 2e (as still present, he (as not altogether in)isible, one sa( him (alk through the arcade occasionally, heard him murmur in one of the chapels, kneeling on the stone floor; one kne( that he had begun the great e%ercise, that he (as fasting, that he rose three times each night to e%ercise. 2e (as still present, but he had crossed o)er into another (orld; he could be seen, although not often, but he could not be reached. Nothing could be shared (ith him; one could not speak (ith him. oldmund kne(1 Narcissus

(ould reappear, he (ould be standing at his lectern again, sit in his chair in the refectory, he (ould speak again.but nothing of

(hat had been (ould be again; Narcissus (ould belong to him no longer. As he thought about this, it became clear to him that Narcissus alone had made the cloister, the monkish life, grammar and logic, learning and the mind seem important and desirable to him. 2is e%ample had tempted him; to become like Narcissus had been his ideal. +rue, there (as also the Abbot, (hom he had )enerated; he had lo)ed him, too, and thought him a high e%ample. /ut the others, the teachers and classmates, the dormitory, the dining hall, the school, e%ercises, mass, the entire cloister no longer concerned him (ithout Narcissus. 8hat (as he still doing here6 2e (as (aiting, standing under the cloister roof like a hesitant (anderer caught in the rain (ho stops under any roof, a tree, 5ust to (ait, for fear of the inhospitality of the unkno(n. oldmund,s life, during this span, (as nothing but hesitation and bidding fare(ell. 2e )isited the different places that had become dear and meaningful to him. 2e (as surprised that there (ere so fe( persons and faces it (ould be hard for him to lea)e. /rother Narcissus and old Abbot #aniel and good dear 7ather Anselm, the friendly porter maybe, and their 5o)ial neighbor, the miller.but e)en they had already become unreal. 2arder than that (ould be saying fare(ell to the tall stone madonna in the chapel, to the apostles of the portal. 7or a long time he stood in front of them, in

front of the beautiful car)ings of the choir pe(s, of the fountain in the cloister garden, the column (ith the three animal heads; he leaned against the linden trees in the courtyard, against the chestnut tree. !ne day, all of this (ould be memory to him, a small picturebook in his heart. 0)en no(, (hile he (as still in its midst, it started to fade a(ay from him, lose its reality, change phantomlike into something that no longer (as. 2e (ent in search of herbs (ith 7ather Anselm, (ho liked to ha)e him around; he (atched the men at (ork in the cloister mill; e)ery so often he let himself be in)ited to a meal of (ine and baked fish; but already it felt strange to him, half like a memory. In the t(ilight of the chapel and the penitence of his cell, his friend Narcissus (as pacing, ali)e, but to him he had become a shado(. +he cloister no( seemed to be drained of reality, and appeared autumnal and transient.

!nly the life (ithin him (as real, the anguished beating of his heart, the nostalgic sting of longing, the 5oys and fears of his dreams. +o them he belonged; to them he abandoned himself. Suddenly, in the middle of a page or a lesson, surrounded by his classmates, he,d sink into himself and forget e)erything, listening only to the ri)ers and )oices inside himself (hich dre( him a(ay, into deep (ells filled (ith dark melodies, into colorful abysses full

of fairy&tale deeds, and all the sounds (ere like his mother,s )oice, and the thousands of eyes all (ere his mother,s eyes.

6 !ne day 7ather Anselm called oldmund into his pharmacy, his oldmund kne( his (ay

pretty herb pantry full of (ondrous smells.

around there. +he monk sho(ed him a dried plant, neatly preser)ed bet(een t(o sheets of paper, and asked him if he kne( its name and could describe it accurately, the (ay it looked outside in the fields. 3es, oldmund could; the plant (as =ohn,s&(ort. 2e

(as asked for a precise description of its characteristics. +he old man (as satisfied and ga)e his young friend the mission of gathering a good bundle of these plants during the afternoon, in the plant,s fa)orite spots, (hich he indicated to oldmund.

4In e%change you,ll ha)e the afternoon off from your classes, my boy. 3ou,ll ha)e no ob5ection to that, and you (on,t lose anything by it. /ecause kno(ledge of nature is a science, too.not only

your silly grammar.4

oldmund thanked him for the most (elcome assignment to pick flo(ers for a couple of hours rather than sit in the classroom. +o make his 5oy complete, he asked the stablemaster to let him take the horse /less, and soon after lunch he led the animal from the stable. It greeted him enthusiastically; he 5umped on and galloped, deeply content, into the (arm, glo(ing day. 2e rode about for an hour or more, en5oying the air and the smell of the fields, and most of all the riding itself, then he remembered his errand and searched for one of the spots the father had described to him. 2e found it, tethered the horse in the shade of a maple, talked to it, fed it some bread, and started looking for the plants. +here (ere a fe( strips of fallo( land, o)ergro(n (ith all kinds of (eeds. Small, (i*ened poppies (ith a last fe( fading petals and many ripe seed pods stood among (ithering )etch and sky&blue chicory and discolored knot(eed. +he heaps of stones bet(een the t(o fields (ere inhabited by li*ards, and there, too, stood the first, yello(& flo(ered stalks of =ohn,s&(ort; oldmund began to pick them. After

he had gathered a si*able bunch, he sat do(n on a stone to rest. It (as hot and he looked longingly to(ard the shado(y edge of the distant forest, but he didn,t (ant to go that far from the plants and

from his horse, (hich he could still see from (here he sat. So he stayed (here he (as, on the (arm heap of stones, keeping )ery still to see the li*ards (ho had fled come out again; he sniffed at the =ohn,s&(ort, held one of its small lea)es to the light to study the hundred tiny pin pricks in it.

Strange, he thought, each of these thousand little lea)es has its o(n miniature firmament pricked into it, like a delicate embroidery. 2o( strange and incomprehensible e)erything (as, the li*ards, the plants, e)en the stones, e)erything. 7ather Anselm, (ho (as so fond of him, (as no longer able to pick his =ohn,s&(ort himself; his legs bothered him. !n certain days he could not mo)e at all, and his kno(ledge of medicine could not cure him. -erhaps he (ould soon die, and the herbs in his pantry (ould continue to gi)e out their fragrance, but the old father (ould no longer be there. /ut perhaps he (ould go on li)ing for a long time still, for another ten or t(enty years perhaps, and still ha)e the same thin (hite hair and the same funny (rinkle&shea)es around the eyes; but (hat (ould ha)e become of him, oldmund, in t(enty years6

!h, ho( imcomprehensible e)erything (as, and actually sad, although it (as also beautiful. !ne kne( nothing. !ne li)ed and

ran about the earth and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic1 a star in the e)ening, a blue harebell, a reed&green pond, the eye of a person or of a co(. And sometimes it seemed that something ne)er seen yet long desired (as about to happen, that a )eil (ould drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsol)ed, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one gre( old and looked cunning like 7ather Anselm or (ise like Abbot #aniel, and still one kne( nothing perhaps, (as still (aiting and listening.

2e picked up an empty snail house, it made a faint tinkling sound among the stones and (as (arm (ith sun. Absorbed, he e%amined the (indings of the shell, the notched spiral, the capricious d(indling of its little cro(n, the empty gullet (ith its shimmer of mother&of&pearl. 2e closed his eyes and felt the shape (ith probing fingers, (hich (as a habit and a game (ith him. 2e turned the shell bet(een loose fingers, slidingly retracing its contours, caressingly, (ithout pressure, delighted (ith the miracle of form, the enchantment of the tangible. !ne of the disad)antages of school and learning, he thought dreamily, (as that the mind seemed to ha)e the tendency to see and represent all things as though they (ere flat and had only t(o dimensions. +his,

someho(, seemed to render all matters of the intellect shallo( and (orthless, but he (as unable to hold on to this thought; the shell slid from his hand; he felt tired and dro(sy. 2is head sank o)er the herbs, (hich smelled stronger and stronger as they (ilted, he fell asleep in the sun. "i*ards ran o)er his shoes; the plants (ilted on his knees; under the maple, /less (aited and gre( impatient.

7rom the distant forest someone came (alking, a young (oman in a faded blue skirt, (ith a red kerchief tied around black hair, and a tanned summer face. +he (oman came closer; she (as carrying a bundle; a fire&red gillyflo(er shone bet(een her lips. She noticed the sitting man, (atched him from afar for a long (hile, curious and distrustful, sa( that he (as asleep, tiptoed closer on naked bro(n feet, stood in front of oldmund and looked at him. 2er

suspicions )anished; this fine young sleeper did not look dangerous; he pleased her greatly.(hat had brought him out here to these fallo( fields6 8ith a smile she sa( that he had been picking flo(ers; they (ere already (ilted.

oldmund opened his eyes, returning from a forest of dreams. 2is head (as bedded softly; it (as lying in a (oman,s lap. Strangely close, t(o (arm bro(n eyes (ere looking into his, (hich (ere

sleepy and astonished. 2e felt no fear; no danger shone in those (arm bro(n stars; they looked friendly. +he (oman smiled at his astonishment, a )ery friendly smile, and slo(ly he, too, began to smile. 2er mouth came do(n on his smiling lips; they greeted each other (ith a gentle kiss, and oldmund remembered the e)ening

in the )illage and the little girl (ith the braids. /ut the kiss (as not o)er yet. +he (oman,s mouth lingered, began to play, teased and tempted, and finally sei*ed his lips (ith greed and )iolence, set fire to his blood, made it throb in his )eins; in slo(, patient play the bro(n (oman ga)e herself to the boy, teaching him gently, letting him seek and find, setting him afire and stilling the flames. +he e%alted, brief 5oy of lo)e )aulted abo)e him, burned (ith a golden glo(, sank do(n and died. 2e lay (ith eyes closed, his face against the (oman,s breast. Not a (ord had been said. +he (oman didn,t mo)e, softly she stroked his hair, ga)e him time to come to himself. 7inally he opened his eyes.

43ou:4 he said. 43ou: /ut (ho are you64

4I,m "ise,4 she said.

4"ise,4 he repeated after her, tasting her name. 4"ise, you are


She brought her mouth close to his ear and (hispered into it1 4+ell me, (as this the first time6 #id you ne)er lo)e anyone before me6,

2e shook his head. Abruptly he sat up and looked across the fields and up into the sky.

4!h:4 he cried, 4the sun is almost do(n. I must get back.4

48here to64

4+o the cloister, to 7ather Anselm.4

4+o $ariabronn6 Is that (here you belong6 #on,t you (ant to stay (ith me a little longer64

4I,d like to.4

48ell, stay then:4

4No, that (ould not be right. And I must pick more of these herbs.4

4#o you li)e in the cloister64

43es, I,m a student. /ut I,ll not stay there. $ay I come to you, "ise6 8here do you li)e, (here is your home64

4I li)e no(here, dear heart. /ut (on,t you tell me your name6 . Ah, oldmund is (hat they call you. i)e me another kiss, little

oldmouth, then you may go.4

43ou li)e no(here6 /ut (here do you sleep64

4If you like, in the forest (ith you, or in the hay. 8ill you come tonight64

4!h, yes. /ut (here6 8here (ill I find you64

4Can you screech like a barn o(l64

4I,)e ne)er tried.4


2e tried. She laughed, satisfied.

4All right, come out of the cloister tonight and screech like a barn o(l. I,ll be close by. #o you like me, little oldmouth, my darling64

4!h, "ise, I do like you. I,ll come. No( go (ith

od, I must hurry.4

It (as t(ilight (hen

oldmund returned to the cloister on his

steaming horse, and he (as glad to find 7ather Anselm occupied. A brother had been (ading barefoot in the brook and cut himself on a shard of crockery.

No( it (as important to find Narcissus. 2e asked one of the lay brothers (ho (aited at table in the refectory. No, he (as told, Narcissus (ould not be do(n for supper; this (as his fasting day; he,d probably be asleep no( since he held )igils during the night. oldmund hurried off. #uring the long e%ercises, his friend slept in one of the penitents, cells in the inner cloister. oldmund ran there

(ithout thinking. 2e listened at the door; there (asn,t a sound. 2e

entered softly. +hat it (as strictly forbidden made no difference no(.

Narcissus (as lying on the narro( cot. In the half light he looked like a corpse, rigid on his back, (ith pale, pointed face, his hands crossed on his chest. 2is eyes (ere open; he (as not asleep. 2e looked at oldmund (ithout speaking, (ithout reproach, but

(ithout stirring, so ob)iously else(here, absorbed in a different time and (orld, that he had difficulty recogni*ing his friend and understanding his (ords.

4Narcissus: 7orgi)e me, dear friend, forgi)e me for disturbing you. I,m not doing it lightly. I reali*e that you ought not to speak to me, but do speak to me, I beg you (ith all my heart.4

Narcissus reflected, his eyes blinked )iolently for a moment as though he (ere struggling to come a(ake.

4Is it necessary64 he asked in a spent )oice.

43es, it is necessary. I,)e come to say fare(ell.4

4+hen it is necessary. 3ou shall not ha)e come in )ain. 2ere, sit (ith me. I ha)e fifteen minutes before the first )igil.4

2aggard, he sat on the bare sleeping plank. beside him.

oldmund sat do(n

4-lease forgi)e me:4 he said guiltily. +he cell, the bare cot, Narcissus,s strained face, dra(n (ith lack of sleep, his half&absent eyes.all this sho(ed plainly ho( much he disturbed his friend.

4+here is nothing to forgi)e. #on,t (orry about me; there,s nothing amiss (ith me. 3ou,)e come to take lea)e, you say6 3ou,re going a(ay then64

4I,m going this )ery day. !h, I don,t kno( ho( to tell you: Suddenly e)erything has been decided.4

42as your father come, or a message from him64

4No, nothing. "ife itself has come to me. I,m lea)ing (ithout father, (ithout permission. I,m bringing shame upon you, you kno(; I,m

running a(ay.4

Narcissus looked do(n at his long (hite fingers. +hin and ghostlike, they protruded from the (ide slee)es of the habit. +here (as no smile in his se)ere, e%hausted face, but it could be felt in his )oice as he said1 48e ha)e )ery little time, dear friend. +ell me only the essentials, tell me clearly and briefly. !r must I tell you (hat has happened to you64

43ou tell me,4

oldmund begged.

43ou,)e fallen in lo)e, little boy, you,)e met a (oman.4

42o( do you al(ays kno( these things64

43ou,re making it easy for me. 3our condition, amicus meus, sho(s all the signs of that drunkenness called being in lo)e. /ut speak no(, please.4


oldmund touched his friend,s shoulder.

43ou ha)e 5ust said it. Although this time you didn,t say it (ell,

Narcissus, not accurately. It is altogether different. I (as out in the fields, and I fell asleep in the heat, and (hen I (oke up, my head (as resting on the knees of a beautiful (oman and I immediately felt that my mother had come to take me home. I did not think that this (oman (as my mother. 2er eyes (ere bro(n and her hair (as black; my mother had blond hair like mine. +his (oman didn,t look in the least like her. And yet it (as my mother, my mother,s call, a message from her. It (as as though an unkno(n beautiful (oman had suddenly come out of the dreams of my o(n heart and (as holding my head in her lap, smiling at me like a flo(er and being s(eet to me. At her first kiss I felt something melt inside me that hurt in an e%'uisite (ay. All my longings, all my dreams and s(eet anguish, all the secrets that slept (ithin me, came a(ake, e)erything (as transformed and enchanted, e)erything made sense. She taught me (hat a (oman is and (hat secrets she has. In half an hour she aged me by many years. I kno( many things no(. I also suddenly kne( that I could no longer remain in this house, not for another day. I,m going as soon as night falls.4

Narcissus listened and nodded.

4It happened suddenly,4 he said, 4but it is more or less (hat I

e%pected. I shall think of you often. I,ll miss you, amicus. Is there anything I can do for you64

43es, if you can, please say a (ord to our Abbot, so that he does not condemn me completely. 2e is the only person in this house, besides you, (hose thoughts about me are not indifferent to me. 2is and yours.4

4I kno(. Is there anything else64

43es, one thing, please. "ater, (hen you think of me, (ill you pray for me from time to time6 And.thank you.4

47or (hat,


47or your friendship, your patience, for e)erything. Also for listening to me today, (hen it (as hard for you. And also for not trying to hold me back.4

42o( could I (ant to hold you back6 3ou kno( ho( I feel about it. ./ut (here (ill you go, going to that (oman64 oldmund6 2a)e you a goal6 Are you

43es, I,m going (ith her. I ha)e no goal. She is a stranger. homeless, it seems; perhaps a gypsy.4

48ell, all right. /ut do you kno(, my dear

oldmund, that your

road (ith her (ill be e%tremely short6 I don,t think you should count on her too much. -erhaps she has relati)es, a husband perhaps; (ho kno(s (hat kind of reception a(aits you there.4

oldmund leaned against his friend.

4I kno(,4 he said, 4although I had not thought of it yet. As I told you, I ha)e no goal. +his (oman (ho (as so )ery s(eet to me is not my goal, I,m going to her, but I,m not going because of her. I,m going because I must, because I ha)e heard the call.4

2e sighed and (as silent. +hey sat shoulder to shoulder, sad and yet happy in the feeling of their indestructible friendship. +hen oldmund continued1 4#o not think that I,m completely blind and nai)e. No. I,m happy to go, because I feel that it has to be, and because something so mar)elous happened to me today. /ut I,m not imagining that I,ll meet (ith nothing but 5oy and mirth. I think

the road (ill be hard. /ut it (ill also be beautiful, I hope. It is e%tremely beautiful to belong to a (oman, to gi)e yourself. #on,t laugh if I sound foolish. /ut to lo)e a (oman, you see, to abandon yourself to her, to absorb her completely and feel absorbed by her, that is not (hat you call ,being in lo)e,, (hich you mock a little. 7or me it is the road to life, the (ay to(ard the meaning of life. !h, Narcissus, I must lea)e you: I lo)e you, Narcissus, and thank you for sacrificing a moment of sleep to me today. I find it hard to lea)e you. 3ou (on,t forget me64

4#on,t make us both sad: I,ll ne)er forget you. 3ou (ill come back, I ask it of you, I e%pect it. If you are in need some day, come to me, or call to me. 7are(ell, oldmund, go (ith od:4

2e had risen.

oldmund embraced him. ;no(ing his friend,s

a)ersion of caresses, he did not kiss him; he only stroked his hands.

Night (as falling. Narcissus closed the cell behind him and (alked o)er to the church, his sandals slapping the flagstones. oldmund

follo(ed the bony figure (ith lo)ing eyes, until it )anished like a shado( at the end of the corridor, s(allo(ed by the darkness of

the church door, claimed by e%ercises, duties, and )irtues. 2o( e%traordinary, ho( infinitely pu**ling and confusing e)erything (as: +his, too.ho( strange and frightening1 to ha)e come to his friend (ith his heart o)erflo(ing, drunk (ith blossoming lo)e, at the )ery moment his friend (as in meditation, de)oured by fasting and )igils, crucifying his youth, his heart, his senses.all offered up in sacrifice; at the )ery moment his friend (as sub5ecting himself to the most rigorous obedience, pledging to ser)e only the mind, to become nothing but a minister verbi divini! +here he had lain, tired unto death, e%tenuated, (ith his pale face and bony hands, corpselike, and yet he had listened to his friend, lucid and sympathetic, had lent his ear to this lo)e&drunken man (ith the smell of a (oman still on him, had sacrificed his fe( moments of rest bet(een penances. It (as strange and di)inely beautiful that there (as also this kind of lo)e, this selfless, completely spirituali*ed kind. 2o( different it (as from today,s lo)e in the sunny field, the reckless, into%icated play of the senses. And yet both (ere lo)e. !h, and no( Narcissus had gone from him, after sho(ing him once again, clearly, at the last moment, ho( utterly different and dissimilar they (ere from one another.

No( Narcissus (as bent do(n in front of the altar on tired knees,

prepared and purified for a night of prayer and contemplation that permitted him no more than t(o hours, sleep, (hile he, oldmund,

(as running off to find his "ise some(here under the trees and play those s(eet animal games (ith her once more. Narcissus (ould ha)e said remarkable things about that. /ut he (as oldmund, not Narcissus. It (as not for him to go to the bottom of these beautiful, terrifying enigmas and ma*es and to say important things about them. 7or him there (as only gi)ing himself and lo)ing, lo)ing his praying friend in the night&dark church as much as the beautiful (arm young (oman (ho (as (aiting for him.

As he tiptoed a(ay under the lime trees in the courtyard and out through the mill, his heart beating (ith a hundred conflicting emotions, he had to smile at the memory of that e)ening (ith ;onrad (hen he had left the cloister once before by the same secret path, (hen they (ere 4going to the )illage.4 2o( e%cited and secretly afraid he had been, setting out on that little forbidden escapade, and today he (as lea)ing for good, taking far more forbidden, dangerous roads and he (as not afraid, not thinking about the porter, the Abbot, the teachers.

+his time there (ere no planks beside the brook; he had to cross

(ithout a bridge. 2e pulled off his clothes and tossed them to the opposite bank, then he (aded naked through the deep, s(irling stream, up to his chest in the cold (ater.

8hile he dressed again on the other side, his thoughts returned to Narcissus. 8ith great lucidity that made him feel ashamed, he reali*ed that he (as merely e%ecuting no( (hat the other had kno(n all along, to(ard (hich he had guided him. 9ery distinctly he sa( Narcissus,s intelligent, slightly mocking face, listening to him speak so much foolishness, the man (ho had once, at a crucial moment, painfully opened his eyes. Again he clearly heard the fe( (ords Narcissus had said to him at that time1 43ou sleep at your mother,s breast; I (ake in the desert. 3our dreams are of girls; mine of boys.4

7or an instant his heart fro*e. 2e stood there, utterly alone in the night. /ehind him lay the cloister, a home only in appearance, yet a home he had lo)ed and to (hich he had gro(n accustomed.

/ut at the same time he had another feeling1 that Narcissus had ceased to be his cautioning, superior guide and a(akener. +oday he felt he had entered a country in (hich he must find his o(n

roads, in (hich no Narcissus could guide him. 2e (as glad that he reali*ed this. As he looked back, the days of his dependence seemed shameful and oppressi)e to him. No( he had become a(are; he (as no longer a child, a student. It (as good to kno( this. And yet.ho( hard it (as to say fare(ell: +o kno( that his friend (as kneeling in the church back there and not be able to gi)e him anything, to be of no help, to be nothing to him. And no( he (ould be separated from him for a long time, perhaps fore)er, and kno( nothing of him, hear his )oice no longer, look into his noble eyes no longer.

2e tore himself a(ay and follo(ed the stony little road. A fe( hundred steps from the cloister (alls he stood still, took a deep breath, and uttered the o(l call as best he could. A similar call ans(ered in the distance do(nstream.

4"ike animals (e call to each other,4 (as the thought that came to him as he remembered the hour of lo)e in the afternoon. !nly no( it occurred to him that no (ords had been e%changed bet(een him and "ise, e%cept at the )ery end, after the caresses (ere o)er, and then only a fe( and they had been insignificant. 8hat long con)ersations he had had (ith Narcissus: /ut no(, it seemed, he

had entered a (ordless (orld, in (hich one called to one another like o(ls, in (hich (ords had no meaning. 2e (as ready for it. 2e had no more need for (ords today, or for thoughts; only for "ise, only for this (ordless, blind, mute groping and searching, this sighing and melting.

"ise (as there; she came out of the forest to meet him. 2e reached out to feel her, framed her head (ith tender, groping hands, her hair, her neck and throat, her slender (aist, her firm hips. !ne arm about her, he (alked on (ith her, (ithout speaking, (ithout asking (here to. She (alked (ith sure step in the dark forest. 2e had trouble keeping up (ith her. "ike a fo% or a marten, she seemed to see (ith night eyes, (alked (ithout stumbling, (ithout tripping. 2e let himself be led into the night, into the forest, into the blind secret (ordless, thoughtless country. 2e (as no longer thinking1 not of the cloister he had left behind, not of Narcissus.

"ike t(o mutes they mo)ed through the dark forest, sometimes on soft moss upholstery, sometimes on hard root ribs. Sometimes the sky shone light through sparse high treetops; at other times the darkness (as complete. /ranches slapped his face; brambles held

him back. 0)ery(here she kne( her (ay and found a passage; she seldom stopped, seldom hesitated. After a long time they arri)ed in a clearing of solitary pines that stood far apart. +he pale night sky opened (ide before them. +he forest had come to an end; a meado( )alley (elcomed them (ith a s(eet smell of hay. +hey (aded through a small, soundless creek. !ut here in the open the silence (as still greater than in the forest1 no rustling bushes, no startled night beast, no crackling t(igs.

"ise stopped in front of a big haystack.

48e,ll stay here,4 she said.

+hey sat do(n in the hay, taking deep breaths at first and en5oying the rest; they (ere both a little tired. +hey lay back, listening to the silence, feeling their foreheads dry and their faces gradually cool off. oldmund crouched, pleasantly tired. -layfully he bent his

knees and stretched them straight again, took deep breaths of the night air and the smell of hay, and thought neither back(ard nor for(ard. Slo(ly he let himself be dra(n and enticed by the scent and (armth of the (oman beside him, replied here and there to her caressing hands and felt 5oy (hen she began to burn and

pushed herself closer and closer to him. No, here neither (ords nor thoughts (ere needed. Clearly he felt all that (as important and beautiful, the youthful strength, the simple, healthy beauty of the female body, felt it gro( (arm, felt its desire; he also felt clearly that, this time, she (ished to be lo)ed differently from the first time, that she did not (ant to guide and teach him this time, but (anted to (ait for his attack, for his greed. <uietly he let the streams flo( through him; happily he felt the boundless fire gro(, felt it ali)e in both of them, turning their little lair into the )ital, breathing center of all the 'uiet night.

2e bent o)er "ise,s face and began to kiss her lips in the darkness. Suddenly he sa( her eyes and forehead shine (ith a gentle light. 2e looked in surprise, (atched the glo( gro( brighter, more intense. +hen he kne( and turned his head1 the moon (as rising o)er the edge of the long black stretch of forest. 2e (atched the (hite gentle light miraculously inundate her forehead, her cheeks, slide o)er her round, limpid throat. Softly, delighted, he said1 42o( beautiful you are:4

She smiled as though a present had been made her. 2e sat up; gently he pulled the go(n off her shoulders, helped her out of it,

peeled her until her shoulders and breasts shone in the cool light of the moon. Completely enraptured, he follo(ed the delicate shado(s (ith eyes and lips, looking and kissing; she held still as though under a spell, (ith eyes cast do(n and a solemn e%pression as though, e)en to her, her beauty (as being disco)ered and re)ealed for the first time. 7 It gre( cool o)er the fields. +he moon climbed higher by the hour. +he lo)ers lay on their softly lighted bed, absorbed in their games, do*ing off together, turning to(ard each other ane( upon a(akening, kindling each other, entangled once more, falling asleep once more. +hey lay e%hausted after their last embrace. "ise had nestled deep into the hay, breathing hea)ily. oldmund

(as stretched out on his back, motionless; for a long time he stared into the moon&pale sky; a deep sadness rose in both, (hich they escaped in sleep. +hey slept profoundly, desperately, greedily, as though for the last time, as though they had been condemned to stay a(ake fore)er and had to drink in all the sleep in the (orld during these last hours.


oldmund a(oke, he sa( "ise busy (ith her black hair. 2e

(atched her for a (hile, absent&minded, still half asleep.

43ou,re a(ake64 he said finally.

2er head turned (ith a start.

4I,)e got to go no(,4 she said, embarrassed and some(hat sad. 4I didn,t (ant to (ake you.4

48ell, I,m a(ake no(. $ust (e mo)e on so soon6 After all, (e,re homeless.4

4I am,4 said "ise. 4/ut you belong to the cloister.4

4I no longer belong to the cloister. I,m like you, completely alone, (ith no(here to go. /ut I,ll go (ith you, of course.4

"ise looked a(ay.

43ou can,t come (ith me,

oldmund. I must go to my husband;

he,ll beat me, because I stayed out all night. I,ll say I lost my (ay. /ut he (on,t belie)e me.4

oldmund remembered Narcissus,s prediction. So that,s ho( it (as.

4I,)e made a mistake then,4 he said. 4I had thought that you and I (ould stay together. .#id you really (ant to let me sleep and run off (ithout saying fare(ell64

4!h, I (as afraid you might get angry and beat me, perhaps. +hat my husband beats me, (ell, that,s ho( things are, that,s normal. /ut I didn,t (ant you to beat me, too.4

2e held on to her hand.

4"ise,4 he said, 4I (on,t beat you, not no(, not e)er. 8ouldn,t you rather stay (ith me than (ith your husband, since he beats you64

She tugged to get her hand free.

4No, no, no,4 she said (ith tears in her )oice. And since he could feel that her heart (as pulling a(ay from him, that she preferred the other man,s blo(s to his good (ords, he let go of her hand,

and no( she really began to cry. At the same time she started to run. Clasping both hands o)er her streaming eyes, she ran off. 2e stood silently and (atched her go. 2e felt sorry for her, running off across the mo(ed meado(s, summoned and dra(n by (ho kne( (hat po(er, an unkno(n po(er that set him thinking. 2e felt sorry for her, and a little sorry for himself as (ell; he had not been lucky apparently; alone and a little stunned, he sat in the hay, abandoned, deserted. /ut he (as still tired and eager for sleep; ne)er had he felt so e%hausted. +here (as time to be unhappy later. Immediately he (ent back to sleep and (oke only (hen the sun stood high and made the air hot around him.

2e felt rested no(; 'uickly he got up, ran to the brook, (ashed, and drank. $emories came gushing forth; lo)e images from the night e%haled their perfume like unkno(n flo(ers, e)oked many gentle, tender feelings. 2is thoughts ran after them as he began to (alk briskly. !nce more he felt, tasted, smelled, touched e)erything o)er and o)er. 2o( many dreams the unkno(n (oman had fulfilled for him, all the buds she had brought to flo(ering, stilled so many (onderings and longings, roused so many ne( ones in their place:

7ield and heath lay before him, dry, fallo( stretches and dark forest. /eyond it might be farms and mills, a )illage, a to(n. 7or the first time the (orld lay open before him, (ide and (aiting, ready to recei)e him, to do him good or harm. 2e (as no longer a student (ho sa( the (orld through a (indo(; his (alking (as no longer a stroll ending (ith the ine)itable return. No( the (ide (orld had become a reality, he (as part of it, it contained his fate, its sky (as his sky, its (eather his (eather. 2e (as small in this large (orld, no bigger than a horse, an insect; he ran through its blue& green infinity. No bell called him out of bed, to mass, to class, to meals.

!h, ho( hungry he (as: 2alf a loaf of corn bread, a bo(l of milk, some gruel soup.(hat delicious memories: 2is stomach had come a(ake. 2e passed a cornfield, (ith half&ripe ears. 2e stripped them (ith fingers and teeth; a)idly he che(ed the tiny, slimy kernels, plucked more and still more, stuffed his pockets (ith ears of corn. "ater he found ha*elnuts. +hey (ere still 'uite green, but he bit into them 5oyfully, cracked their shells, and put a handful in his pocket.

As he entered the forest, he sa( pines and an occasional oak or ash, and soon he found blueberries in unending abundance. 2e rested and ate and cooled off. /lue harebells gre( in the sparse, hard forest grass; bro(n, sunny butterflies rose and )anished capriciously in ragged flight. Saint ene)ie)e had li)ed in a forest

like this; he had al(ays lo)ed her story. 2o( much he (ould ha)e liked to meet her. !r he might find a hermitage in the forest, (ith an old, bearded father in a ca)e or a bark hut. !r perhaps peat diggers li)ed in the forest; he (ould ha)e liked to speak to them. !r e)en robbers; they (ould probably not harm him. It (ould be pleasant to meet somebody, anybody. /ut he (as (ell a(are that he could (alk in the forest for a long time, today, tomorro(, se)eral days more, (ithout meeting anyone. +hat, too, had to be accepted, if it (as his destiny. It (as better not to think too much, to take things as they came.

2e heard a (oodpecker tapping and tried to find it. 7or a long time he tried in )ain to catch sight of the bird. At last he succeeded and (atched it for a (hile1 the bird glued to the trunk of the tree, all alone, tap&tap&tapping, turning its busy head this (ay and that. 8hat a pity that one couldn,t speak to animals. It (ould ha)e been

pleasant to call a greeting up to the (oodpecker, to say a friendly (ord and learn something about its life in the trees perhaps, about its (ork and its 5oys. !h, if one could only transform oneself:

2e remembered ho( he used to dra( sometimes, during his hours of leisure, ho( he used to dra( figures (ith the stylus on his (riting tablet, and flo(ers, lea)es, trees, animals, people,s heads. 2e,d amuse himself that (ay for hours. Sometimes he had created creatures of his o(n imagination, like a small od, had dra(n eyes

and a mouth into the chalice of a flo(er, shaped figures into a cluster of lea)es sprouting on a branch, placed a head on top of a tree. 7or (hole hours those games had made him happy, spellbound, able to perform magic, dra(ing lines that often surprised him.a figure he had started suddenly turned into a leaf or a tree, the snout of a fish, a fo%tail, someone,s eyebro(. +hat,s ho( one ought to be able to transform oneself, he thought, the (ay he had been able to transform the playful lines on his tablet. oldmund longed to become a (oodpecker for a day perhaps, or a month; he (ould ha)e li)ed in the treetops, (ould ha)e run up the smooth trunks and pecked at the bark (ith his strong beak, keeping balance (ith his tail feathers. 2e (ould ha)e spoken (oodpecker language and dug good things out of the bark. +he

(oodpecker,s hammering sounded s(eet and strong among the echoing trees.

oldmund met many animals on his (ay through the forest. +here (ere 'uite a number of hares; at his approach they,d bound out of the underbrush, stare at him, turn and run off, ears folded back, (hite under the tail. 2e found a long snake lying in a clearing. It didn,t mo)e; it (as not a li)e snake, only an empty skin. 2e picked it up and e%amined it carefully1 a beautiful gray and bro(n pattern ran do(n the back; the sun shone through it; it (as cob(eb thin. 2e sa( blackbirds (ith yello( beaks; frightened, they,d look at him from stiff, narro( eyeballs, fly off close to the ground. +here (ere many red robins and finches. 2e came to a hole, a puddle filled (ith thick green (ater, on (hich long&legged spiders ran in eager, fren*ied confusion, absorbed in an incomprehensible game. Abo)e fle( se)eral dragonflies (ith deep&blue (ings. And once, to(ard nightfall, he sa( something.or rather, he sa( nothing e%cept frantic lea)es, branches breaking, clumps of mud slapping the ground. A large, barely )isible animal came bursting through the underbrush (ith enormous impact.a stag perhaps, or a boar; he couldn,t tell. 7or a long time he stood panting (ith fright. +errified, he listened in the direction the animal had taken, (as still listening

(ith pounding heart long after e)erything had gro(n silent again.

2e couldn,t find his (ay out of the forest; he (as forced to spend the night there. 2e picked a sleeping place and built a bed of moss, trying to imagine (hat it (ould be like if he ne)er found his (ay out of the forest, if he had to stay in it fore)er. +hat (ould surely be a great misfortune. "i)ing on berries (as after all not impossible, nor (as sleeping on moss. /esides, he (ould doubtless manage to build a hut for himself e)entually, perhaps e)en to make a fire. /ut li)ing alone fore)er and e)er, among the 'uietly sleeping tree trunks, (ith animals that ran a(ay, (ith (hom one could not speak.that (ould be unbearably sad. Not to see people, not to say good morning and good night to anyone; no more faces and eyes to look into; no more girls and (omen to look at, no more kisses; ne)er again to play the lo)ely secret game of lips and legs, that (ould be unthinkable: If this (ere his fate, he thought, he (ould try to become an animal, a bear or a stag, e)en if it meant forsaking the sal)ation of his soul. +o be a bear and lo)e a she&bear (ould not be bad, (ould at least be much better than to keep one,s reason and language and all that, and )egetate alone, sad and unlo)ed.

/efore falling asleep in his bed of moss, he listened to the many incomprehensible, enigmatic night sounds of the forest, (ith curiosity and fear. +hey (ere his companions no(. 2e had to li)e (ith them, gro( accustomed to them, compete (ith them, get along (ith them; he belonged to the fo%es and the deer, to pine and fir. 2e had to li)e (ith them, share air and sunshine (ith them, (ait for daybreak (ith them, star)e (ith them, be their guest.

+hen he fell asleep and dreamed of animals and people, (as a bear and de)oured "ise amid caresses. In the middle of the night he a(oke (ith a deep fear he couldn,t e%plain, suffered infinite anguish in his heart and lay thinking for a long time, deeply disturbed. 2e reali*ed that yesterday and today he had gone to sleep (ithout saying his prayers. 2e got up, knelt beside his moss bed, and said his e)ening prayer t(ice, for yesterday and today. Soon he (as asleep again.

In the morning he looked about the forest (ith surprise; he had forgotten (here he (as. No( his fear of the forest began to d(indle. 8ith ne( 5oy he entrusted himself to the life around him; and all the (hile he continued to (alk, taking his direction from the

sun. At one point he came to a completely smooth stretch in the forest.hardly any underbrush, nothing but )ery thick old straight pines. After he had (alked around these columns for a (hile, they began to remind him of the columns in the main cloister church, the )ery same church into (hich he had (atched his friend Narcissus disappear through the dark portal the other day.ho( long ago6 8as it really only t(o days ago6

It took him t(o days and t(o nights to reach the end of the forest. =oyfully he recogni*ed signs of human habitation1 culti)ated land, strips of field (ith barley and oats, meado(s through (hich a narro( footpath had been trodden; he could see sections of it here and there. oldmund pulled out a fe( stalks of barley and che(ed

on them. 8ith friendly eyes he looked at the tilled land; e)erything felt (arm and human to him after the long (ilderness of the (oods1 the little footpath, the oats, the (ilted, bleached cornflo(ers. Soon he (ould meet people. After a short hour he came to a crucifi% at the edge of a field; he knelt and prayed to the feet. Coming around the protruding nose of a hill, he suddenly found himself in front of a shady lime tree. #elighted, he heard the music of a (ell from (hich (ater ran through a (ooden pipe into a long (ooden trough. 2e drank cold delicious (ater and noticed

(ith 5oy a couple of thatched roofs seemingly coming out of the elderberry trees; the berries (ere already dark. +he lo(ing of a co( touched him still more than all these signs of friendliness; it sounded so pleasantly (arm and hospitable, like a greeting that had come to meet him, a (elcome.

2e in)estigated a bit and then approached the hut from (hich the lo(ing had come. !utside the door, in the mud, sat a small boy (ith reddish hair and light&blue eyes. An earthen pot (as beside him, filled (ith (ater, and (ith its mud and (ater he (as making a dough. 2is bare legs (ere already smeared (ith it. 2appy and earnest, he kneaded the (et mud bet(een his hands, (atched it s'uish through his fingers, made it into balls, used one knee for pressing and shaping.

4 od bless you, little boy,4

oldmund said in a )ery friendly )oice.

+he little boy looked up, sa( the stranger, opened his mouth, puckered his plump face, and ran ba(ling, on all fours, through the door. oldmund follo(ed him and came into a kitchen; it (as so

dark after the bright noon glare, he could not see anything at first. 2e said a Christian greeting, 5ust in case, but there (as no reply; but the screaming of the frightened child (as finally ans(ered by a

thin old )oice that comforted the boy. 7inally, a tiny old (oman stood up in the darkness and came closer; she held a hand to her eyes and looked at the stranger.

4 od bless you, mother,4

oldmund cried. 4$ay all the dear saints

bless your kind face; I ha)en t seen a human being in three days.4

+he little old (oman gaped at him, a bit simple, from farsighted eyes, not understanding.

48hat is it you (ant64 she asked suspiciously.

oldmund took her hand and stroked it lightly.

4I (ant to say

od bless you, little grandmother, and rest a(hile,

and help you make the fire. And I (on,t refuse a piece of bread if you offer me one, but there,s time for that.4

2e sa( a bench built into the (all and sat do(n on it, (hile the old (oman cut off a piece of bread for the boy, (ho (as no( staring at the stranger (ith interest and curiosity, but still ready to cry and run off at any moment. +he old (oman cut a second piece from the

loaf and brought it o)er to


4+hank you,4 he said. 4$ay

od re(ard you.4

4Is your belly empty64 asked the (oman.

4Not really. It,s full of blueberries.4

48ell, eat then. 8here do you come from64

47rom $ariabronn, from the cloister.4

4Are you a preacher64

4No. I,m a student. I,m tra)eling.4

She looked at him, half chiding, half simple, and shook her head a little on her long, (rinkled neck. She let oldmund take a fe( bites

and led the boy back outside into the sunshine. +hen she came back and asked curiously1 42a)e you any ne(s64

4Not much. #o you kno( 7ather Anselm64

4No. 8hy, (hat,s (ith him64

42e,s ill.4

4Ill6 Is he going to die64

48ho kno(s6 2e has it in the legs. 2e can,t (alk too (ell.4

4Is he going to die64

4I don,t kno(. $aybe.4

48ell, let him die. I must cook my soup. 2elp me chop the kindling.4

She handed him a pine log, nicely dried beside the hearth, and a knife. 2e cut kindling, as much as she (anted, and (atched her lay it on the ashes, and bend o)er it, and (hee*e and blo( until the fire caught. According to a precise, secret system, she piled no( pine, no( beech(ood. +he fire shone brightly in the open hearth. A big black kettle hung in the chimney on a sooty chain;

she pushed it into the flames.

At her behest

oldmund dre( (ater from the (ell, skimmed the

milk pail. 2e sat in the smoky t(ilight and (atched the play of the flames and the bony, (rinkled face of the old (oman appearing and disappearing abo)e them in the red glo(; he could hear the co( rummage and thump on the other side of the (all. 2e liked e)erything. +he lime tree, the (ell, the flickering fire under the kettle, the snuffing and munching of the feeding co(, the dull thuds she made against the (all, the half&dark room (ith table and bench, the small, ancient (oman,s gestures.all this (as beautiful and good, smelled of food and peace, of people and (armth, of home. +here (ere also t(o goats, and the old (oman told him that they had a pigsty in the back; the old (oman (as the farmer,s grandmother, the great&grandmother of the little boy. 2is name (as ;uno. 0)ery so often he came inside; he didn,t say anything and still looked a little frightened, but he (as no longer crying.

+he farmer arri)ed, and his (ife; they (ere greatly surprised to find a stranger in the house. +he farmer (as all set to start cursing. #istrustfully, he gripped the young man by the arm and pulled him to(ard the door to see his face in the daylight. +hen he laughed,

ga)e him a (ell&meaning slap on the shoulder, and in)ited him to eat (ith them. +hey sat do(n; each dipped his bread into the common milk bo(l until the milk (as almost gone and the farmer drank up (hat (as left.

oldmund asked if he might stay until tomorro( and sleep under their roof. No, said the man, there (asn,t enough room, but there (as enough hay lying around all o)er the place, outside, for him to find a bed.

+he farmer,s (ife sat (ith the boy by her side.

She did not take part in the con)ersation; but during the meal her in'uisiti)e eyes took possession of the stranger. 2is curls and eyes had made an impression on her and she noticed (ith pleasure his lo)ely (hite neck and smooth, elegant hands (ith their free, beautiful gestures. 2o( distinguished and imposing he (as, and so young: /ut most of all she felt dra(n by the stranger,s )oice. She fell in lo)e (ith the singing undertone, the radiating (armth and gentle (ooing in the young man,s )oice; it sounded like a caress. She (ould ha)e liked to go on listening to his )oice much longer.

After the meal, the farmer busied himself in the stable.


had gone outside to (ash his hands under the (ell; he (as sitting on its lo( edge, cooling himself and listening to the (ater. 2is mind (as undecided; there (as nothing for him to do here any more, yet he regretted ha)ing to mo)e on so soon. =ust then the farmer,s (ife came out (ith a bucket in her hand; she placed it under the gullet and let it run full. 2alf loud she said1 4If you,re still around here tonight, I,ll bring you some food. +here,s hay back there, behind the long barley field; it (on,t be taken in before tomorro(. 8ill you still be there64

2e looked into her freckled face, (atched her strong arms lift the bucket; her clear large eyes looked (arm. 2e smiled at her and nodded; she (as already (alking a(ay (ith the full bucket, disappearing in the darkness of the door. 2e sat, grateful and deeply content, listening to the running (ater. Some time later he (ent in, looked for the farmer, shook hands (ith him and (ith the grandmother, and thanked them. +he hut smelled of fire, soot, and milk. A moment ago it had still been shelter and home; no( it (as already foreign territory. 8ith a fare(ell, he (ent out.

/eyond the hut he found a chapel, and nearby a beautiful (ooded area, a clump of sturdy old oaks in short grass. 2e remained there, in their shade, strolling among the thick trunks. 2o( strange it (as (ith (omen and lo)ing: +here really (as no need for (ords. +he farmer,s (ife had said only a fe( (ords, to name the place of their meeting; e)erything else had been said (ithout (ords. +hen ho( had she said it6 8ith her eyes, yes, and (ith a certain intonation in her slightly thick )oice, and (ith something more, a scent perhaps, a subtle, discreet emanation of the skin, by (hich (omen and men (ere able to kno( at once (hen they desired one another. It (as strange, like a subtle, secret language; ho( fast he had learned that language. 2e (as )ery much looking for(ard to the e)ening, filled (ith curiosity about this tall blond (oman, the looks and sounds she,d ha)e, (hat kind of body, gestures, kisses.probably altogether different from "ise. 8here (as "ise at this moment, (ith her taut black hair, her bro(n skin and little gasps6 2ad her husband beaten her6 8as she still thinking of him6 !r had she found a ne( lo)er, as he had found a ne( (oman today6 2o( fast things happened, e)ery(here happiness lay in one,s path, ho( beautiful and hot it (as, and ho( strangely transitory: +his (as a sin, adultery. Not so long ago he (ould ha)e died rather than

commit this sin. And no( a second (oman (as (aiting to come to him and his conscience (as calm and serene; not so calm perhaps, but neither adultery nor lust (ere troubling and burdening it. Rather a feeling of guilt for some crime one had not committed but had brought along (ith one into the (orld. -erhaps this (as (hat theology called original sin6 It might (ell be. 3es, life itself bore something of guilt (ithin it.(hy else had a man as pure and a(are as Narcissus sub5ected himself to penance like a condemned felon6 And (hy did he, himself, feel this guilt some(here deep inside him6 8as he not a happy, healthy young man, free as a bird in the sky6 8as he not lo)ed by (omen6 8as it not beautiful to feel allo(ed to gi)e the (oman the same profound 5oy she ga)e him6 +hen (hy (as he not fully, not completely happy6 8hy did this strange pain penetrate his young 5oy, as it penetrated Narcissus,s )irtue and (isdom, this subtle fear, this grief o)er the transitory6 8hy (as he made to muse like this, e)ery so often, to think, (hen he kne( he (as no thinker6

Still, it (as beautiful to be ali)e. 2e plucked a small purple flo(er in the grass, held it to his eyes and peered into the tiny, narro( chalice; )eins ran through it, hair&thin tiny organs li)ed there; life pulsated there and desire trembled, 5ust as in a (oman,s (omb, in

a thinker,s brain. 8hy did one kno( so little6 8hy could one not speak (ith this flo(er6 /ut then, e)en human beings (ere hardly able to speak to each other. 0)en there one had to be lucky, find a special friendship, a readiness. No, it (as fortunate that lo)e did not need (ords; or else it (ould be full of misunderstanding and foolishness. Ah, ho( "ise,s half&closed eyes had looked almost blind at the height of ecstasy; only the (hite had sho(n through the slits of t(itching lids.ten thousand learned or lyrical (ords could not e%press it: Nothing, ah, nothing at all could be e%pressed .and yet, again and again one felt the urge to speak, the urge to think.

2e studied the lea)es of the tiny plant; ho( daintily, (ith (hat strange intelligence they (ere arranged around the stem. 9irgil,s )erses (ere beautiful, and he lo)ed them; still, there (as more than one )erse in 9irgil that (as not half as clear and intelligent, beautiful and meaningful as the spiraled order of those tiny lea)es climbing the stem. 8hat pleasure, (hat ecstasy, (hat a delightful, noble, meaningful task it (ould be for a man to be able to create 5ust one such flo(er: /ut no man (as able to do hero, no emperor, no pope or saint:

8hen the sun had sunk lo(, he got up and found the place the farmer,s (ife had indicated. +here he (aited. It (as beautiful to be (aiting like this, kno(ing that the (oman (as on her (ay, bringing him so much lo)e.

She arri)ed, carrying a linen cloth in (hich she had tied a chunk of bread and a piece of lard. She unknotted it and laid it out before him.

47or you,4 she said. 40at:4

4"ater,4 he said. 4I,m not hungry for bread, I,m hungry for you. !h, let me see the beautiful things you,)e brought me.4

She had brought him a great many beautiful things1 strong thirsty lips, strong gleaming teeth, strong arms that (ere red from the sun, but on the inside, belo( the neck and further do(n she (as (hite and delicate. She didn,t kno( many (ords but made a s(eet, luring sound in her throat, and (hen she felt his hands on her, his delicate, gentle hands so full of feeling, the like of (hich she had ne)er felt before, her skin shi)ered and her throat made

sounds like the purring of a cat. She kne( fe( games, fe(er games than "ise, but she (as (onderfully strong; she s'uee*ed as though she (anted to break her lo)er,s neck. 2er lo)e (as childlike and greedy, simple and still chaste in all its strength; oldmund (as )ery happy (ith her.

+hen she left, sighing. 8ith difficulty, she tore herself a(ay, because she could not stay. oldmund remained alone, happy as

(ell as sad. !nly much later did he remember the bread and the lard and ate it in solitude. No( it (as completely dark. 8 oldmund had been (alking for 'uite some time; he rarely spent t(o nights in the same place. 0)ery(here (omen desired him and made him happy. 2e (as dark from the sun and thin (ith (alking and frugal meals. $any (omen said fare(ell in the early hours of the morning, and left him, some in tears. !ccasionally he thought1 48hy doesn,t one of them stay (ith me6 8hy, if they lo)e me and commit adultery for the sake of a single night of lo)e.(hy do they all run back to their husbands immediately after(ards, e)en though most of them are afraid of being beaten64 Not one had seriously begged him to stay, not one had asked him to take her

along, had lo)ed him enough to share the 5oys and hardships of his (andering life. !f course he had ne)er asked that of them, had ne)er e)en hinted at it to any of them, and, (hen he 'uestioned his heart, he kne( that he cherished his freedom. 2e could not remember a single (oman for (hom he had not stopped longing in the arms of the ne%t. Still, it seemed a little odd and sad that lo)e had to be so e%tremely short&li)ed (here)er he (ent, his o(n lo)e as (ell as that of the (omen, and that it (as satiated as rapidly as it (as kindled. 8as that ho( it should be6 8as that ho( it (as al(ays and e)ery(here6 !r (as it because of him1 (as he perhaps fashioned in such a (ay that (omen thought him desirable and beautiful but did not (ish to be (ith him longer than the brief, (ordless span in the hay or on the moss6 8as it because he li)ed a (anderer,s life, because the settled ha)e a terror of the homeless6 !r (as it solely because of something in himself, because of him as a person6 #id (omen desire him as they desired a pretty doll, to hug to their hearts, only to run back to their husbands after(ards, in spite of the beatings that a(aited them6 2e couldn,t tell.

2e did not gro( tired of learning from (omen. Actually he felt more dra(n to girls, to the )ery young, as yet (ithout husbands, (ho

kne( nothing. 8ith them he could fall in lo)e longingly. /ut most young girls (ere out of reach; they (ere the cherished ones, timid and (ell protected. /ut he also en5oyed learning from the (omen. 0)ery one left him something, a gesture, a (ay of kissing, a particular play, her o(n special (ay of gi)ing herself, of holding back. oldmund ga)e in to e)erything; he (as as insatiable and

pliable as a child, open to e)ery seduction1 and only for that reason (as he so seducti)e. 2is beauty alone (ould not ha)e been enough to dra( (omen to him so easily; it (as his childlike openness, the in'uisiti)e innocence of his desire, his absolute readiness for anything a (oman might (ish of him. 8ithout kno(ing it, he (as to each (oman the lo)er she had (ished for and dreamed of1 delicate and patient (ith one, fast and greedy (ith another, a boy (ho e%periences lo)e for the first time, or again artful and kno(ing. 2e (as ready to play, to (restle, to sigh and laugh, to be chaste, to be shameless; he did nothing but (hat the (oman desired, nothing that she did not prompt him to do. +his (as (hat any (oman (ith intelligent senses soon percei)ed in him, and it made him their darling.

All the time he (as learning. In a short time he learned many kinds of lo)e, many arts of lo)e, absorbed the e%periences of many

(omen. 2e also learned to see (omen in their multiplicity, ho( to feel, to touch, to smell them. 2is ear gre( sensiti)e to e)ery tone of )oice; (ith certain (omen a certain tone infallibly told him the type and scope of their amorous capacities. 8ith unending delight he obser)ed their infinite )ariety1 ho( the head (as fastened to the neck, ho( the forehead emerged from the roots of the hair, the mo)ement of a knee. 2e learned to tell one type of hair from another in the dark, eyes closed, (ith discreetly probing fingers, one kind of skin, of do(n, from another. <uite soon he began to notice that the purpose of his (andering lay, perhaps, in this distinguishing, that he (as perhaps dri)en from (oman to (oman in order to learn and e%ercise this gift of recogni*ing and differentiating still more subtly, more profoundly, (ith greater )ariation. -erhaps his destiny (as to learn to kno( (omen and to learn lo)e in a thousand (ays, until he reached perfection, the (ay some musicians (ere able to play not only one, but three, four, or a great number of instruments. /ut to (hat purpose he kne( not, nor (here it (ould lead him; he merely felt that this (as his road. 2e had been able to learn "atin and logic (ithout being particularly gifted for either.but he (as gifted for lo)e, for this game (ith (omen. 2ere he had no difficulty learning; he ne)er forgot a thing. 2ere e%perience accumulated and classified itself.

oldmund had been (alking the roads for a year or t(o (hen he came to the homestead of a prosperous knight (ho had t(o beautiful young daughters. It (as early autumn; soon the nights (ould be getting cool. 2e had had a taste of cold (eather during the last autumn and (inter and he (as (orried about the months ahead; (andering (as difficult in (inter. 2e asked for food and a bed for the night, (as recei)ed (ith courtesy, and (hen the knight heard that he had studied reek, he called him a(ay from the

ser)ants, table and o)er to his o(n and treated him almost as an e'ual. +he daughters kept their eyes cast do(n. +he older (as eighteen; the younger 5ust si%teen1 "ydia and =ulie.

+he ne%t day

oldmund (anted to continue on his road. 2e could

not hope to (in one of these beautiful blond young ladies, and there (ere no other (omen (ho might ha)e enticed him to stay. /ut after breakfast the knight dre( him aside and led him to a room furnished for a special purpose. $odestly the old man told the young one of his (eakness for learning and books, and sho(ed him a small chest filled (ith scrolls he had collected, a (riting desk he had had built for himself, and a stock of the most e%'uisite paper and parchment. /y and by oldmund learned that

this pious knight had been a scholar in his youth but had completely abandoned his studies for the sake of (arfare and (orldly affairs until, during a gra)e illness, od had prompted him

to go on a pilgrimage and repent the sins of his youth. 2e had tra)eled as far as Rome and Constantinople, had found his father dead upon his return, the house empty, had settled do(n then and married, lost his (ife, raised his daughters, and no(, at the beginning of old age, he had begun to (rite a detailed account of his long&past pilgrimage. 2e had (ritten se)eral chapters, he confessed to the young man.his "atin (as some(hat faulty; it held him up constantly. 2e offered oldmund ne( clothes and free

shelter if he agreed to correct and copy out all that had been (ritten so far, and also to help him complete the book.

oldmund kne( the realities of (andering in the cold, nor (ere ne( clothes to be scorned either. /ut most of all the young man en5oyed the prospect of staying in the same house (ith the t(o beautiful sisters for many months to come. 8ithout another thought, he said yes. A fe( days later the housekeeper (as asked to unlock the (ardrobe, and in it they found a bolt of fine bro(n cloth, from (hich a suit and cap (ere ordered for oldmund. +he

knight had fancied black, a kind of scholar,s go(n, but his guest

(ould not hear of it and kne( ho( to coa% until a handsome& looking outfit, half that of a page, half that of a huntsman, (as made for him. It suited him (ell.

2is "atin (as not too rusty either. +ogether they (ent o)er all that had been (ritten. oldmund not only corrected the many

imprecise, faulty e%pressions; he also rounded out the knight,s clumsy, short sentences here and there and made them into pleasing "atin constructions, (ith solid grammar and neat, consecuti)e tenses. It ga)e the knight great pleasure and he (as not stingy (ith praise. 0)ery day they (orked at least t(o hours.

oldmund had no trouble passing his time in the castle.(hich (as in reality a spacious, fortified farmhouse. 2e (ent hunting, and huntsman 2einrich taught him ho( to use a crossbo(; he made friends (ith the dogs and (as allo(ed to ride as much as he pleased. 2e (as rarely alone; he,d either be talking to a dog, or a nag, or to 2einrich, or "ea, the housekeeper, a fat old (oman (ith a man,s )oice (ho liked a laugh and a 5est, or the kennel boy, or a shepherd. It (ould ha)e been easy for him to start a lo)e intrigue (ith the miller,s (ife (ho li)ed close by, but he held himself aloof and played innocent.

2e took great 5oy in the knight,s t(o daughters. +he younger (as the more beautiful, but so prim she hardly spoke to oldmund. 2e

treated both of them (ith great respect and courtesy, but both felt his presence to be a continuous courtship. +he younger one shut herself off completely, stubborn (ith shyness. "ydia, the older, found a special tone for him, treated him (ith a mi%ture of respect and mockery, as though he (ere a monster of learning. She asked him many curious 'uestions, and also about his life in the cloister, but there (as al(ays a slight irony in her tone, and the superiority of the lady. 2e ga)e in to e)erything, treated "ydia like a lady and =ulie like a little nun, and (hene)er his con)ersation detained the girls a little longer than usual at the table after meals, or if "ydia spoke to him outside the house, in the yard or in the garden, and permitted herself to tease him, he (as content and felt that he (as making progress.

+hat autumn the lea)es stayed late on the tall ash in the courtyard and there (ere still asters in the garden, and roses. !ne day )isitors arri)ed. A neighbor (ith his (ife and horseman came riding in; the mildness of the day had tempted them to tra)el farther than usual. No( they (ere there and asked shelter for the night. +hey

(ere courteously recei)ed;

oldmund,s bed (as mo)ed out of the

guest room into the (riting room; his room (as made up for the )isitors, chickens (ere killed, ser)ants ran to the millpond to get fish. 8ith pleasure oldmund took part in the festi)ities and the

e%citement; he immediately felt the unkno(n lady,s a(areness of him. And as soon as he noticed her interest in him and her desire, by a certain something in her )oice and in her eyes, he also noticed (ith gro(ing interest ho( changed "ydia (as, ho( silent and remote she became and ho( she sat (atching him and the unkno(n lady. #uring the elaborate dinner the lady,s foot came to play (ith oldmund,s under the table; he took great delight in this

game, but still greater delight in the brooding, silent tension (ith (hich "ydia (atched it, (ith in'uisiti)e, burning eyes. 7inally he dropped a knife on purpose, bent do(n to reach for it under the table and touched the lady,s foot and calf (ith a caressing hand. 2e sa( "ydia turn pale and bite her lip as he continued to tell anecdotes from his cloister days and felt the unkno(n lady listen intently, not so much to his stories as to the (ooing in his )oice. +he others, too, sat listening, his master (ith bene)olence, the guest (ith a stony face, although he, too, (as affected by the fire that burned in the young man. "ydia had ne)er heard him speak this (ay. 2e had blossomed, lust hung in the air, his eyes shone,

ecstasy sang in his )oice, lo)e pleaded. +he three (omen felt it, each in her o(n fashion1 little =ulie (ith )iolent resistance and re5ection, the knight,s (ife (ith radiant satisfaction, and "ydia (ith a painful commotion in her heart, a mi%ture of deep longing, soft resistance, and the most )iolent 5ealousy, (hich made her face look narro( and her eyes burn. oldmund felt all these (a)es.

"ike secret ans(ers to his courtship they came flooding back to him. "ike birds, thoughts of lo)e fluttered about him, gi)ing in, resisting, fighting each other.

After the meal =ulie (ithdre(; night had long since fallen; (ith her candle in a clay candlestick, she left the hall, frigid as a little cloister (oman. +he others stayed up for another hour, and (hile the t(o men discussed the har)est, the emperor, and the bishop, "ydia listened ardently to the idle chatter that (as being spun bet(een oldmund and the unkno(n lady, among the loose

threads of (hich a thick s(eet net of gi)e and take, of glances and intonations and small gestures had come into being, each one o)ercharged (ith meaning, o)erheated (ith desire. reedily the

girl drank in the atmosphere, but also felt disgust (hen she sa(, or sensed, oldmund touch the unkno(n lady,s knee under the table.

She felt the contact on her o(n flesh and ga)e a start. After(ards

she could not fall asleep and lay listening half the night, (ith pounding heart, sure that the t(o (ould come together. In her imagination she performed (hat (as denied them, sa( them embrace, heard their kisses, trembling (ith e%citement all the (hile, (ishing as much as fearing that the betrayed knight might surprise the lo)ers and sink his knife into the odious heart. oldmund,s

+he ne%t morning the sky (as o)ercast, a (et (ind ble(, the guests declined all urging to stay longer and insisted on immediate departure. "ydia stood by (hile the guests mounted. She shook hands and spoke (ords of fare(ell, but she (as not a(are of (hat she (as doing. All her senses (ere focused in her eyes as she (atched the knight,s (ife place her foot in oldmund,s proffered

hands, (atched his right hand (rap around the shoe, (ide and firm, and clutch the (oman,s foot forcefully for an instant.

+he strangers had ridden off;

oldmund (as in the study, (orking.

2alf an hour later he heard "ydia,s )oice gi)ing orders under the (indo(, heard a horse being led from the stable. 2is master stepped to the (indo(, looking do(n, smiling, shaking his head. +hen both (atched "ydia ride out of the courtyard. +hey seemed

to be making less progress in their "atin composition today. oldmund (as distracted; (ith a friendly (ord, his master released him earlier than usual.

No one sa(

oldmund sneak a horse out of the courtyard. 2e

rode against the cool (et (ind into the discolored landscape, galloping faster and faster; he felt the horse gro( (arm under him, felt his o(n blood catch fire. 2e rode through the gray day, across stubble fields, heath, and s(ampy spots o)ergro(n (ith sha)e grass and reeds, breathed deeply, crossed small )alleys of alder, rotting pine forest, and once again bro(nish, bare heath.

!n the high ridge of a hill, sharply outlined against the pale gray, cloudy sky, he sa( "ydia,s silhouette, sitting high on her slo(ly trotting horse.

2e raced to(ard her; she sa( that he (as follo(ing her and spurred her horse and fled. She (ould appear and then disappear, her hair flo(ing behind her. 2e ga)e chase as though she (ere a fo%; his heart laughed. 8ith brief, tender calls he encouraged his horse, scanned the landscape (ith happy eyes as he fle( past lo(&crouching fields, an alder forest, maples, the clay&co)ered

banks of ponds. Again and again his eyes returned to his target, to the beautiful, fleeing (oman. Soon he (ould catch up (ith her.

8hen "ydia sa( that he (as close, she abandoned the race and let her horse (alk. She did not turn her head to look at her pursuer. -roudly, apparently casually, she trotted ahead of him as though nothing had happened, as though she (ere alone. 2e pushed his horse up to hers; the t(o horses (alked gently side by side, but the animals and their riders (ere hot from the chase.

4"ydia:4 he called softly.

+here (as no ans(er.


She remained silent.

42o( beautiful that (as, "ydia, to (atch you ride from a distance, your hair trailing after you like a golden flash of lightning. +hat (as so beautiful: 2o( (onderful of you to flee from me. +hat,s (hen I reali*ed that you care for me a little. I didn,t kno(, I doubted until

last night. /ut (hen you tried to flee from me suddenly, I understood. 3ou must be tired, my beauty, my lo)e, let,s dismount.4

2e 5umped from his horse, sei*ing the reins of her horse in the same motion to keep her from galloping off once more. 2er sno(& (hite face looked do(n at him. As he lifted her from her saddle, she broke into tears. Carefully he led her a fe( steps, made her sit do(n in the (ilted grass, and knelt beside her. +here she sat, fighting her sobs. She fought bra)ely and o)ercame them.

4!h, (hy are you so bad64 she began (hen she (as able to speak. She could hardly utter the (ords.

4Am I so bad64

43ou are a seducer of (omen,

oldmund. "et me forget those

(ords you said to me; they (ere impudent (ords; it does not become you to speak to me that (ay. 2o( can you imagine that I care for you6 "et us forget that: /ut ho( am I to forget the things I (as forced to see last night64

4"ast night6 /ut (hat did you see last night64

4!h, stop pretending, don,t lie like that: It (as horrible and shameless, the (ay you played up to that (oman under my eyes: 2a)e you no shame6 3ou e)en stroked her leg under the table, under our table: /efore me, under my eyes: And no( that she,s gone, you come chasing after me. 3ou really don,t kno( (hat shame means.4

oldmund had long since regretted the (ords he had said before lifting her off her horse. 2o( stupid of him; (ords (ere unnecessary in lo)e; he should ha)e kept silent.

2e said no more. 2e knelt by her side; she looked at him, so beautiful and unhappy that her misery became his misery; he, too, felt that there (as something to be deplored. /ut in spite of all she had said, he still sa( lo)e in her eyes, and the pain on her 'ui)ering lips (as also lo)e. 2e belie)ed her eyes more than he belie)ed her (ords.

/ut she had e%pected an ans(er. As it (as not forthcoming,

"ydia,s lips took on an e)en more bitter e%pression. She looked at him some(hat tearfully and repeated1 42a)e you really no shame64

47orgi)e me,4 he said humbly. 48e,re talking about things that should not be talked about. It is my fault, forgi)e me. 3ou ask if I ha)e no shame. 3es, I ha)e shame. /ut I also lo)e you, and lo)e kno(s nothing of shame. #on,t be angry (ith me.4

She seemed hardly to hear him. She sat (ith a bitter mouth, looking into the distance, as though she (ere alone. 2e had ne)er been in such a situation. +his (as the result of using (ords.

ently he laid his face against her knee; immediately the contact made things better. 3et he felt a little confused and sad, and she too seemed to be sad. She sat motionless, saying nothing, looking into the distance. All this embarrassment and sadness: /ut the knee accepted his leaning cheek (ith friendliness; it did not re5ect him. 0yes closed, his face lay on her knee; slo(ly it took in the knee,s noble shape. 8ith 5oy and emotion oldmund thought ho(

much this knee (ith its distinguished youthful form corresponded to her long, beautiful, neatly rounded fingernails. ratefully he

embraced the knee, let his cheek and mouth speak to it.

No( he felt her hand posing itself bird&light and fearful on his hair. #ear hand, he could feel her softly, childishly stroke his hair. $any times before, he had e%amined her hand in great detail and admired it; he kne( it almost as (ell as his o(n, the long, slender fingers (ith their long, beautifully rounded pink nails. No( the long, delicate fingers (ere ha)ing a timid con)ersation (ith his curls. +heir language (as childlike and fearful, but it (as lo)e. ratefully

he nestled his head into her hand, feeling her palm (ith his neck, (ith his cheeks.

+hen she said1 4It,s time, (e must go.4

2e raised his head and looked at her tenderly. her slender fingers.

ently he kissed

4-lease, get up,4 she said. 48e must go home.4

2e obeyed instantly. +hey stood up, mounted, rode.

oldmund,s heart (as filled (ith 5oy. 2o( beautiful "ydia (as, ho(

like a child, pure and delicate: 2e had not e)en kissed her, and yet he felt so sho(ered (ith gifts by her, and fulfilled. +hey rode briskly.

!nly at their arri)al a fe( yards before the entrance to the court she gre( fearful and said1 48e shouldn,t ha)e both come back at the same time. 2o( foolish (e are:4 And at the last moment, (hile they dismounted and a ser)ant came running, she (hispered 'uickly and hotly in his ear1 4+ell me if you (ere (ith that (oman last night:4 2e shook his head many times and began unsaddling the horse.

In the afternoon, after her father had gone out, she appeared in the study.

4Is it really true64 she asked at once and (ith passion. 2e kne( (hat she meant.

4/ut then, (hy did you play (ith her like that, in that disgusting fashion, and make her fall in lo)e (ith you64

4+hat (as for you,4 he said. 4/elie)e me, I (ould ha)e a thousand

times rather caressed your foot than hers. /ut your foot ne)er came to me under the table; it ne)er asked me if I lo)ed you.4

4#o you really lo)e me,


43es, indeed.4

4/ut (hat (ill happen64

4I don,t kno(, "ydia. Nor do I (orry about it. It makes me happy to lo)e you. I don,t think of (hat (ill happen. I am happy (hen I see you ride, and (hen I hear your )oice, and (hen your fingers caress my hair. I,ll be happy (hen you,ll allo( me to kiss you.4

4A man is only allo(ed to kiss his bride, ne)er thought of that64

oldmund. 2a)e you

4No, I,)e ne)er thought of that. 8hy should I6 3ou kno( as (ell as I that you cannot become my bride.4

4+hat,s true. And since you cannot become my husband and stay (ith me fore)er, it (as )ery (rong of you to speak to me about

lo)e. #id you think that you (ould be able to seduce me64

4I thought and belie)ed nothing, "ydia. I think much less than you imagine, I (ish nothing e%cept that you might (ish to kiss me. 8e talk so much. "o)ers don,t do that. I think you don,t lo)e me.4

4+his morning you said 5ust the opposite.4

4And you did 5ust the opposite:4

4I6 8hat do you mean64

47irst you fled before me (hen you sa( me. +hat,s (hen I thought that you lo)ed me. +hen you cried, and I thought that (as because you lo)ed me. +hen my head lay on your knee and you caressed me, and I thought that (as lo)e. /ut no( you,re not beha)ing in a lo)ing manner (ith me.4

4I,m not like that (oman (hose foot you stroked yesterday. 3ou seem to be accustomed to (omen like that.4

4No, thank

od you,re much more beautiful and refined than she


4+hat,s not (hat I meant.4

4!h, but it,s true. #on,t you kno( ho( beautiful you are64

4I ha)e a mirror.4

42a)e you e)er looked at your forehead in the mirror, "ydia6 And at your shoulders, at your fingernails, at your knees6 And ha)e you e)er noticed ho( each part blends into and rhymes (ith each part, ho( they all ha)e the same shape, an elongated, taut, firm, )ery slender shape6 2a)e you noticed that64

4+he (ay you talk: I,)e ne)er noticed that, actually, but no( that you say it, I do kno( (hat you mean. "isten, you really are a seducer. No( you,re trying to make me )ain.4

48hat a shame that I can do nothing right (ith you. 8hy should I be interested in making you )ain6 3ou,re beautiful and I,d like to try to sho( you that I,m grateful for your beauty. 3ou force me to tell you (ith (ords; I could say it a thousand times better (ithout

(ords. 8ith (ords I can gi)e you nothing: 8ith (ords I can,t learn from you, nor you from me.4

48hat is there for me to learn from you64

47or me from you, "ydia, and for you from me. /ut you don,t (ant to. 3ou only (ant to lo)e the man (hose bride you,ll be. 2e,ll laugh (hen he disco)ers that you ha)en,t learned anything, not e)en ho( to kiss.4

4So you (ish to gi)e me kissing lessons, you learned man64

2e smiled at her. 2e didn,t like her (ords, but he could sense her girlhood from behind her slightly brus'ue, false&ringing talk, could sense desire taking possession of her and fear fighting against it.

2e ga)e no ans(er. 2e smiled at her, caught her restless glance in his eyes, and (hile she surrendered to the spell, not (ithout resistance, he slo(ly brought his face close to hers until their lips met. ently he brushed her mouth; it ans(ered (ith a little childlike

kiss and opened, as though in painful surprise, (hen he did not let it go. ently courting, he follo(ed her retreating mouth until it

hesitatingly came back to meet his and then he taught the spellbound girl (ithout )iolence the recei)ing and gi)ing of a kiss, until, e%hausted, she pressed her face against his shoulder. +here he let it rest, smelled (ith delight her thick blond hair, murmured tender, calming sounds into her ear and remembered ho( he, an ignorant pupil, had once been introduced to the secret by "ise, the gypsy. 2o( black her hair had been, ho( bro(n her skin, ho( the sun had burned do(n on him, ho( the (ilting =ohn,s&(ort had smelled: And ho( far back it (as, from (hat distance it came flashing across his memory. +hat (as ho( fast e)erything (ilted, it had hardly time to bloom:

Slo(ly "ydia stood up straight, her face (as transformed, her lo)ing eyes looked large and earnest.

4"et me go, lo)e.4

oldmund,4 she said. 4I,)e stayed (ith you so long, my

0)ery day they found their secret hour, and

oldmund let himself

be guided in e)erything by her. +his girlish lo)e touched and delighted him most (onderfully. Sometimes she,d only hold his hand in hers for a (hole hour and look into his eyes and depart

(ith a child,s kiss. !ther times, on the contrary, she,d kiss him insatiably but (ould not permit him to touch her. !nce, deeply blushing and struggling (ith herself, she let him see one of her breasts, (ith the intention of gi)ing him a great 5oy; timidly she brought the small (hite fruit out of her dress; he knelt and kissed it and she carefully co)ered it up again, still blushing all the (ay do(n to her neck. +hey also spoke, but in a ne( (ay, differently than on the first day. +hey in)ented names for each other; she liked to tell him about her childhood, her dreams and games. She also often said that her lo)e (as (rong since he could not marry her; sadly and (ith resignation she spoke of it and draped her lo)e (ith the secrecy of this sadness as (ith a black )eil.

7or the first time lo)ed.

oldmund felt not only desired by a (oman but

!nce "ydia said1 43ou are so handsome and you look so happy. /ut deep inside your eyes there is no gaiety, there is only sorro(, as though your eyes kne( that happiness did not e%ist and that all that is beautiful and lo)ely does not stay (ith us long. 3ou ha)e the most beautiful eyes of anyone I kno(, and the saddest. I think that that,s because you,re homeless. 3ou came to me out of the (oods,

and one day you,ll go off again and sleep on moss and (alk the roads. ./ut (here is my home6 8hen you go a(ay, I,ll still ha)e my father and my sister and my room and a (indo( (here I can sit and think of you; but I,ll no longer ha)e a home.4

2e,d let her talk. Sometimes he,d smile at her (ords, and sometimes he,d gro( sad. 2e ne)er consoled her (ith (ords, only (ith gentle caresses, only by holding her head against his chest, humming soft, meaningless, magic sounds that nurses hum to comfort children (hen they cry. !nce "ydia said1 4I,d really like to kno( (hat (ill become of you, oldmund. I often think about it.

3ou,ll ha)e no ordinary life, and it (on,t be easy. !h, I hope you,ll do (ell: Sometimes I think you ought to become a poet, a man (ho has )isions and dreams and kno(s ho( to describe them beautifully. Ah, you,ll (ander o)er the (hole (orld and all (omen (ill lo)e you, and yet you,ll al(ays remain alone. 3ou,d better go back to the cloister to your friend of (hom you,)e told me so much: I,ll pray for you that you (ill not be made to die alone in the forest.4

She,d speak that (ay, in deep earnest, (ith lost eyes. /ut then again she,d ride laughingly (ith him across the late&autumn land or

ask him funny riddles, or thro( dead lea)es and shiny acorns at him.

!ne night

oldmund (as lying in his bed in his room, (aiting for

sleep. 2is heart (as hea)y (ith a soft pain; full and hea)y it (as beating in his chest, brimming o)er (ith lo)e, and (ith grief; he didn,t kno( (hat to do. 2e heard the No)ember (ind rattle at the roof; he had gro(n accustomed to lying like that for 'uite some time before falling asleep; sleep (ould not come. Softly, as (as his custom in the e)ening, he intoned a chant to the 9irgin1 tu advocata peccatorum! et macula originalis non est in te. Tu laetitia Israel, tu advocata peccatorum!

8ith its soft music the song sank into his soul, but at the same time the (ind sang outside, a song of strife and (andering, of (ood, autumn, of the life of the homeless. 2e thought of "ydia and of Narcissus and of his mother. 7ull and hea)y (as his restless


Suddenly he started and stared, not belie)ing. +he door of his room had opened, in the dark a figure in a long (hite go(n came in; soundlessly "ydia came (alking on bare feet across the stone floor, gently closed the door, and sat do(n on his bed.

4"ydia,4 he (hispered, 4my little doe, my (hite flo(er: "ydia, (hat are you doing64

4I,)e come to you only for an instant,4 she said. 4=ust once I (anted to see my oldmund in his bed, my goldheart.4

She lay do(n beside him, they didn,t mo)e, their hearts (ere beating hea)ily. She let him kiss her, let his admiring hands play (ith her body, but more (as not permitted. After a short (hile she gently pushed his hands a(ay, kissed him on the eyes, got up soundlessly, and )anished. +he door creaked, the (ind tinkled and thumped in the attic. 0)erything (as under a spell, full of secrecy and anguish, promise and menace. oldmund did not kno( (hat

he (as thinking, (hat he (as doing. 8hen he (oke again after a troubled slumber, his pillo( (as (et (ith tears.

A fe( nights later she came back, the s(eet (hite ghost, lay do(n beside him for fifteen minutes, as she had the last time. In (hispers she spoke into his ear as she lay folded in his arms. She had much to tell, much to complain about. +enderly he listened; she (as lying on his left arm; his right hand caressed her knees.


oldmouth,4 she said in a completely muffled )oice near his

cheek, 4it is so sad that I may ne)er belong to you. !ur small happiness (on,t last much longer, our small secret. =ulie is already suspicious; soon she,ll force me to tell her. !r my father (ill notice. If he found me here in your bed, my little golden bird, your "ydia (ould fare ill; (ith tear&s(ollen eyes she (ould stand and look up to the trees to see her lo)er hang high up there, s(aying in the (ind. !h, you had better run a(ay, right no( (ould be best, rather than let my father ha)e you bound and hanged. I sa( a man hanged once, a thief. I could not bear to see you hanged. 3ou had better run a(ay and forget me; I don,t (ant you to die, my golden one, I don,t (ant the birds to hack out your blue eyes: !h no, my treasure, you must not go a(ay. Ah, (hat am I to do if you lea)e me all alone64

48on,t you come (ith me, "ydia6 8e,ll flee together, the (orld is (ide:4

4+hat (ould be (onderful,4 she sighed, 4oh, so (onderful to (ander into the (orld (ith you: /ut I can,t. I can,t sleep in the forest and be homeless and ha)e stra( in my hair, I can,t do that. Nor can I bring such shame upon my father. No, don,t speak, that,s not 5ust my imagination. I can,t. I couldn,t do it any more than eat off a dirty plate or sleep in a leper,s bed. Ah, e)erything good and beautiful is forbidden us, (e (ere both born for sadness. $y golden one, my poor little boy, I should ha)e to see you hanged after all. And I, I,ll be locked up in my room and later sent to a con)ent. 3ou must lea)e me, s(eetheart, and sleep (ith the gypsies again and the peasant (omen. !h, lea)e, go before they catch you and bind you: 8e,ll ne)er be happy, ne)er:4

Softly he stroked her knee, touched her se% )ery delicately, and begged1 4$y little flo(er, (e could be so )ery happy. 8on,t you let me64

Not angrily but firmly she pushed his hand aside and dre( a(ay


4No,4 she said, 4no, I (on,t let you. It is forbidden me. -erhaps you can,t understand that, you little gypsy. I am doing (rong, I,m a bad girl, I,m bringing shame upon the (hole house. /ut some(here inside my soul I still ha)e pride, and nobody may enter there. 3ou must let me keep that, or else I can ne)er again come to your room.4

2e (ould ne)er ha)e ignored an interdiction, a (ish, a hint from her. 2e himself (as surprised that she had so much po(er o)er him. /ut he (as suffering. 2is senses remained stirred up, often his heart fought )iolently against his dependence. Sometimes he made efforts to free himself. Sometimes he,d court little =ulie (ith elaborate flattery, and it (as indeed most important to remain on good terms (ith this po(erful person and to dupe her if possible. 2e had a strange relationship (ith this little =ulie, (ho often beha)ed like a child and often seemed omniscient. She really had more beauty than "ydia, an e%traordinary beauty (hich, combined (ith her some(hat precocious child&innocence, (as a great attraction for oldmund; he (as often deeply in lo)e (ith =ulie. In

this strong attraction he felt for the little sister, he recogni*ed (ith

surprise the difference bet(een lo)ing and desiring. In the beginning he had looked at both sisters (ith the same eyes, had found both desirable, but =ulie more beautiful and seducti)e, had courted both e'ually, al(ays kept an eye on both. And no( "ydia had gained this po(er o)er him: No( he lo)ed her so much that he had e)en renounced full possession of her, out of lo)e. 2er soul had become familiar and dear to him. In its childlike tenderness and inclination to sadness it seemed similar to his o(n. 2e (as often deeply astonished and delighted to see ho( much her o(n soul corresponded to her body; she,d do something, say something, e%press a (ish or an opinion, and her (ords and the attitude of her soul (ere molded in the same shape as the slant of her eyes and the form of her fingers.

+hese instants during (hich he thought he recogni*ed the basic forms and la(s that constituted her being, her soul as (ell as her body, had more than once roused in oldmund the desire to retain

something of this form and to re&create it. !n a fe( sheets of paper that he kept most secret, he had made se)eral attempts to dra( from memory the outline of her head (ith the strokes of a pen.the line of her eyebro(s, her hand, her knee.

8ith young =ulie the situation (as becoming rather difficult. She ob)iously sensed the (a)e of lo)e in (hich her older sister (as s(imming, and her senses turned to(ard this paradise (ith curiosity and greed, (hile her stubborn mind refused to admit it. She treated oldmund (ith e%aggerated coolness and dislike. 3et,

during moments of forgetfulness, she,d (atch him (ith admiration and desiring curiosity. 8ith "ydia she (as often most tender, and occasionally e)en came to )isit her in her bed, to breathe in the atmosphere of lo)e and se% (ith (ordless greed, purposely brushing against the forbidden and longed&for secret. +hen again she,d make clear (ith almost offensi)e brus'ueness that she kne( of "ydia,s secret transgression and felt contempt for it.

Attracti)e and disturbing, the beautiful, capricious child flittered bet(een the t(o lo)ers, tasted of lo)e,s secrecy in thirsty dreams, played innocent, and then again dangerously kno(ing. +he child rapidly gained a kind of po(er o)er them. "ydia suffered from it more than oldmund, (ho rarely sa( the younger sister e%cept oldmund (as not

during meals. And "ydia also reali*ed that

insensiti)e to =ulie,s charms; sometimes she,d see his appreciati)e, delighted eyes ga*ing at her. She could not say

anything about it, e)erything (as so complicated, so filled (ith danger. =ulie must especially not be offended or angered; alas, any day, any hour the secret of her lo)e could be disco)ered and an end put to her hea)y, anguished bliss, perhaps a dreadful end.


oldmund asked himself (hy he had not left long ago.

It (as difficult to li)e the (ay he (as no( li)ing1 lo)ed, but (ithout hope for either a sanctioned, lasting happiness, or the easy fulfillments to (hich his lo)e desires had been accustomed until no(. 2is senses (ere constantly e%cited and hungry, ne)er stilled; moreo)er, he li)ed in permanent danger. 8hy (as he staying and accepting it all, all these entanglements and confused emotions6 +hese (ere e%periences, emotions, and states of mind for the sedentary, the la(ful, for people in heated rooms. 2ad he not the right of the homeless, of the nonpossessing, to e%tricate himself from these delicate complications and to laugh at them6 3es, he had that right, and he (as a fool to look for a kind of home here and to be paying for it (ith so much suffering, so much embarrassment. And yet he did. 2e not only put up (ith it, but (as secretly happy to do so. It (as foolish, difficult, a strain to li)e this (ay, but it (as also (onderful. +he darkly beautiful sadness of his lo)e (as (onderful, in its foolishness and hopelessness; his

sleepless, thought&filled nights (ere beautiful; it (as all as beautiful and delectable as the fold of suffering on "ydia,s lips, or like the lost, resigned tone of her )oice (hen she spoke of her lo)e and sorro(. In a fe( (eeks, lines of suffering had appeared on "ydia,s young face. It seemed so beautiful and so important to him to retrace the lines of this face (ith a pen, and he felt he himself had become another person in these fe( (eeks1 much older; not more intelligent, yet more e%perienced; not happier, yet much more mature, much richer in his soul. 2e (as no longer a boy.

In her gentle, lost )oice "ydia said to him1 43ou mustn,t be sad, not because of me; I (ant to bring you only 5oy, to see you happy. 7orgi)e me, I,)e made you sad, I,)e infected you (ith my fears and my grief. I ha)e such strange dreams at night1 I,m al(ays (alking in a desert, it is )ast and dark, I can,t tell you ho( )ast and dark, and I (alk there, looking for you, but you,re not there and I kno( that I ha)e lost you and that I (ill ha)e to (alk like that fore)er and e)er, alone like that. +hen I (ake up and think1 oh, ho( good, ho( (onderful that he,s still here, that I,ll see him, perhaps for many (eeks more, or days, it doesn,t matter, it only matters that he,s still here:4

!ne morning Coldmund a(oke shortly after da(n and continued to lie in his bed for a (hile, musing. Images from a dream ho)ered about him, disconnected. 2e had dreamed of his mother and of Narcissus; he could still see both figures clearly. As he e%tricated himself from the strands of the dream, a peculiar light caught his attention, a strange kind of brightness (as filtering through the small (indo(. 2e 5umped up, ran to the (indo(, and sa( that the (indo(sill, the roof of the stable, the gate to the courtyard, the entire landscape beyond (as shimmering bluish&(hite, co)ered by the first sno( of (inter. 2e (as struck by the contrast bet(een his agitated heart and the 'uiet, resigned (inter landscape1 ho( 'uiet, ho( gracefully and piously field and forest, hill and heath ga)e in to sun, (ind, rain, draft and sno(, ho( beautifully and gently maple and ash bore the burden of (inter: Could one not become as they, could one learn nothing from them6 #eep in thought, he (alked out to the courtyard, (aded in the sno(, touched it (ith his hands, (ent into the garden and looked o)er the high, sno(& co)ered fence at the sno(&bent rose branches.

As they ate their gruel for breakfast, e)erybody mentioned the first sno(. 0)eryone.e)en the girls.had already been outside. Sno(

had come late this year, Christmas (as not far off. +he knight spoke about the lands to the south that (ere strangers to sno(. /ut the e)ent that made this first (inter day unforgettable for oldmund occurred long after nightfall.

+he t(o sisters had 'uarreled during the day, but

oldmund kne(

nothing of it. At night, after the house had gro(n 'uiet and dark, "ydia came to his room in accord (ith her custom. 8ordlessly she lay do(n beside him, leaned her head against his chest to hear his heartbeat and to console herself (ith his nearness. She (as sad and full of apprehension; she feared that =ulie might betray her; yet she could not make up her mind to speak to her lo)er about it and to cause him sorro(. She (as lying 'uietly against his heart, listening to the tender (ords he (hispered to her from time to time, feeling his hand in her hair.

/ut suddenly.she had not been lying there for )ery long.she had a terrible shock and sat up, her eyes gro(ing (ide. oldmund

(as also greatly frightened (hen he sa( the door of his room open and a figure enter. 2is shock kept him from recogni*ing immediately (ho it (as. !nly (hen the apparition stood close beside his bed and bent o)er it did he recogni*e (ith anguish in

his heart that it (as =ulie. She slipped out of the coat she had thro(n o)er her nightgo(n and let it drop to the floor. 8ith a cry of pain, as though cut by a knife, "ydia sank back and clung to oldmund.

In a mocking, triumphant, though shaking )oice =ulie said1 4I don,t en5oy being in my room by myself all the time. 0ither you take me in (ith you, and (e lie together all three of us, or I go and (ake father.4

48ell, come in then,4 said

oldmund, folding back the co)er. 43ou,ll

free*e your feet off there.4 She climbed in and he had trouble making room for her in the narro( bed, because "ydia had buried her face in the pillo( and (as lying motionless. 7inally, all three (ere in the bed, a girl on each side of oldmund. 7or a second he

could not resist the thought that not so long ago this situation corresponded to his most secret (ishes. 8ith strange anguish and secret delight, he felt =ulie,s hip against his side.

4I 5ust had to see,4 she began again, 4ho( it feels to lie in your bed, since my sister en5oys coming here so much.4

In order to calm her,

oldmund softly rubbed his cheek against her

hair and caressed her hip and knee (ith a 'uiet hand, the (ay one caresses a cat. Silent and curious she surrendered to his probing hand, felt the magic (ith curious re)erence, offered no resistance. /ut (hile he cast his spell, he also took pains to comfort "ydia, hummed soft, familiar lo)e sounds into her ear and finally made her lift her face and turn it to(ard him. Soundlessly he kissed her mouth and eyes, (hile his hand kept her sister spellbound on the other side. 2e (as a(are ho( embarrassing and grotes'ue the (hole situation (as; it (as becoming almost unbearable.

It (as his left hand that taught him the truth1 (hile it e%plored the beautiful, 'uietly (aiting body of =ulie, he felt for the first time not only the deep hopelessness of his lo)e for "ydia, but ho( ridiculous it (as. 8hile his lips (ere (ith "ydia and his hand (ith =ulie, he felt that he should either force "ydia to gi)e in to him, or he should lea)e. +o lo)e her and yet renounce her had been (rong, had been nonsense.

4$y heart,4 he (hispered into "ydia,s ear, 4(e are suffering unnecessarily. 2o( happy all three of us could be no(: "et us do

(hat our blood demands:4

She dre( back, shrinking, and his desire fled to the other girl. 2is hand (as doing such pleasing things to =ulie that she ans(ered (ith a long 'ui)ering sigh of lust.

"ydia heard the sigh and her heart contracted (ith 5ealousy, as though poison had been dropped into it. She sat up abruptly, tore the co)er off the bed, 5umped to her feet and cried1 4=ulie, let,s lea)e:4

=ulie (as startled. +he thoughtless )iolence of "ydia,s cry, (hich might betray them all, sho(ed her the danger. Silently she got up.


oldmund, offended and betrayed in all his senses, 'uickly put

his arms around =ulie as she sat up, kissed her on each breast, and hotly (hispered into her ear1 4+omorro(, =ulie, tomorro(:4

/arefoot, in her nightgo(n, "ydia stood on the stone floor, her feet blue (ith cold. She picked up =ulie,s coat and hung it around her sister (ith a gesture of suffering and submission that did not escape =ulie in spite of the darkness; it touched and reconciled

her. Softly the sisters )anished from the room. 8ith conflicting emotions, oldmund listened intently and breathed (ith relief as

the house remained deathly 'uiet.

+he three young people (ere forced to meditate in solitude o)er their strange and unnatural association. +he t(o sisters found nothing to say to each other, after they hurried back to their bedroom. +hey lay a(ake in their respecti)e beds, each alone, silent, and stubborn. A spirit of grief, contradiction, nonsense, alienation, and innermost confusion seemed to ha)e taken hold of the house. oldmund did not fall asleep until after midnight; =ulie

not until the early hours of morning. "ydia lay torturously a(ake until the pale day rose o)er the sno(. +hen she got up, dressed, knelt for a long time in prayer before the small (ooden Sa)iour in her room, and as soon as she heard her father,s step on the stairs (ent out and asked him to hear her. 8ithout trying to distinguish bet(een her fears for =ulie,s )irginity and her o(n 5ealousy, she had decided during the night to put an end to the matter. oldmund and =ulie (ere still asleep (hen the knight (as informed of e)erything "ydia had decided to tell him. She did not mention =ulie,s part in the ad)enture.


oldmund appeared in the (riting room at the usual hour

that morning, he found the knight in boots, )est, and girdled s(ord, instead of the slippers and housecoat he usually (ore (hile they (rote. At once he kne( the meaning of this.

4-ut on your cap,4 said the knight. 4I ha)e a (alk to take (ith you.4

oldmund took his cap from the nail and follo(ed his master do(n the stairs, across the courtyard, and out the gate. +heir soles made crunching noises on the slightly fro*en sno(; the sky (as still red (ith da(n. +he knight (alked ahead in silence; the young man follo(ed. Se)eral times he looked back at the house, at the (indo( of his room, at the steep, sno(&co)ered roof, until all disappeared and there (as nothing more to see. 2e (ould ne)er see that roof, those (indo(s again, ne)er again the study, the bedroom, the t(o sisters. 2e had so often toyed (ith the thought of sudden departure. No( his heart contracted (ith pain, and it hurt bitterly to lea)e this (ay.

7or an hour they (alked in this fashion, the master going on ahead. Neither spoke, and oldmund began to think about his

fate. +he knight (as armed; perhaps he (ould kill him. /ut he did not belie)e that he (ould. +he danger (as small; he,d only ha)e to run and the old man (ould stand there helpless (ith his s(ord. No, his life (as not in danger. /ut this silent (alking behind the offended, solemn man, this being led a(ay (ordlessly pained him more (ith e)ery step. 7inally the knight halted.

47rom here on,4 he said in a broken )oice, 4you (ill continue alone, al(ays in the same direction, you,ll lead the (anderer,s life you did before. If you e)er sho( your face again in the neighborhood of my house, you (ill be killed. I ha)e no desire to take re)enge on you; I should ha)e been more intelligent than to allo( so young a man to li)e intimately (ith my daughters. /ut if you ha)e the audacity to come back, your life is lost. o no(, and may od forgi)e you:4

As he stood in the sallo( light of the sno(y morning, his gray& bearded face looked almost dead. "ike a ghost he stood there, and did not mo)e until oldmund had disappeared o)er the ne%t ridge.

+he reddish tint in the cloudy sky had faded, the sun did not come out, and sno( began to fall in thin, hesitant flakes. 9

oldmund kne( the area from many pre)ious rides. +he knight o(ned a barn beyond the fro*en marsh, and farther on there (as a farmhouse (here he (as kno(n; he,d be able to rest and spend the night in one of those places. 0)erything else had to (ait until tomorro(. radually, the feeling of freedom and detachment took

hold of him again; he had gro(n unaccustomed to it. It did not ha)e a pleasant taste on this icy, gloomy (inter day; it smelled strongly of hardship, hunger, and (ant, and yet the )astness of it, its great e%panse, its merciless harshness (as almost comforting and soothing to his spoiled, confused heart.

2e (alked until he felt tired. $y riding days are o)er, he thought. !h, (ide (orld: A little sno( (as falling. In the distance the edges of the forest fused (ith gray clouds; infinite silence stretched to the end of the (orld. 8hat (as happening to "ydia, that poor, anguished heart6 2e felt bitterly sorry for her; he thought of her tenderly as he rested under a bare, lonely ash in the middle of the deserted marshland. 7inally the cold dro)e him on. Stiff&legged, he stood up, forced himself to a brisk pace; the meager light of the drab day already seemed to be d(indling. +he slo( trot across the bare fields put an end to his musing. It (as not a 'uestion of thinking no(, or of ha)ing emotions, no matter ho( delicate and

beautiful; it (as no( a 'uestion of keeping ali)e, of reaching a spot for the night in time, of getting through this cold, inhospitable (orld like a marten or a fo%, and not gi)ing out too soon, in the open fields. 0)erything else (as unimportant.

2e thought he heard the sound of distant hoofs and looked around in surprise. Could anyone be follo(ing him6 2e reached for the small hunting knife in his pocket and slipped off the (ooden sheath. +he rider became )isible; he recogni*ed a horse from the knight,s stable; stubbornly it (as heading to(ard him. 7leeing (ould ha)e been useless. 2e stopped and (aited, (ithout actual fear, but )ery tense and curious, his heart beating faster. 7or a second a thought shot through his head1 4If I killed this rider, ho( (ell off I,d be; I,d ha)e a horse and the (orld (ould be mine.4 /ut (hen he recogni*ed the rider, the young stableboy 2ans, (ith his light&blue, (atery eyes and the good, embarrassed boy,s face, he had to laugh; to murder this good dear fello(, one (ould ha)e to ha)e a heart of stone. 2e greeted 2ans (ith a friendly hand and tenderly patted 2annibal, the horse, on its (arm, moist neck; it recogni*ed him immediately.

48here are you headed, 2ans64 he asked.

4+o you,4 laughed the boy (ith shining teeth. 43ou,)e run a good distance. I can,t stay; I,m only here to gi)e you regards and this.4

4Regards from (hom64

47rom "ady "ydia. 8ell, you certainly ga)e us a nasty day, $aster oldmund, I (as glad to get a(ay for a (hile. /ut the s'uire must not kno( that I,)e been gone, and (ith an errand that could cost me my neck. 2ere:4

2e handed him a small package;

oldmund took it.

4I say, 2ans, you don,t happen to ha)e a piece of bread in one of your pockets that you might gi)e me64

4/read6 I might find a crust.4 2e rummaged in his pockets and pulled out a piece of black bread. +hen he (anted to ride off again.

42o( is the lady64 asked message6 No little letter64

oldmund. 4#idn,t she gi)e you any

4Nothing. I sa( her only for a moment. +here,s a storm at the house, you kno(; the s'uire is pacing like ;ing Saul. She told me to gi)e you these things, and nothing else. I,)e got to get back no(.4

4All right, all right, 5ust a moment more: Say, 2ans, you couldn,t let me ha)e your hunting knife6 I,)e only a small one. 8hen the (ol)es come and all (ould be better if I had something solid in hand.4

/ut 2ans (ould not hear of that. 2e,d be )ery sorry, he said, if something should happen to $aster oldmund. /ut he could not

part (ith his 5ackknife, no, ne)er, not for money, nor a s(ap either, no, no, not e)en if Saint ene)ie)e in person asked him for it.

+here, and no( he had to get a mo)e on, and he did (ish him (ell, and he did feel sorry about e)erything.

+hey shook hands and the boy rode off.

oldmund looked after

him (ith a strange pain in his heart. +hen he unpacked the things, happy to ha)e the strong calf,s&leather cord that held them together. Inside he found a knitted under)est of thick gray (ool,

(hich apparently "ydia had made for him herself, and there (as also something hard, (ell (rapped in the (ool, a piece of ham1 a small slit had been cut into the ham and a shiny gold piece had been stuck into the slit. +here (as no (ritten message. 2e stood in the sno(, undecided, holding "ydia,s gifts in his hands. +hen he took off his 5acket and slipped into the knitted )est; it felt pleasantly (arm. <uickly he put his 5acket back on, hid the gold piece in his safest pocket, (ound the cord around his (aist, and continued his (alk across the fields. It (as time he reached a place to rest; he had gro(n )ery tired. /ut he didn,t feel like going to the farmhouse, although it (ould ha)e been (armer and he,d probably also ha)e found some milk there; he didn,t feel like chatting and being asked 'uestions. 2e spent the night in the barn, continued on his (ay early the ne%t morning, in frost and sharp (ind, dri)en to long marches by the cold. 7or many nights he dreamed of the knight (ith his s(ord and of the t(o sisters; for many days loneliness and melancholy (eighed on his heart.

+he follo(ing e)ening he found a place for the night in a )illage, (here the peasants (ere so poor they had no bread, only gruel. 2ere, ne( ad)entures a(aited him. #uring the night, the peasant (oman (hose guest he (as ga)e birth to a child. oldmund (as

present (hile it happened; they had (aked him in the stra( to come and help, although there (as nothing for him to do finally, e%cept hold the light (hile the mid(ife (ent about her business. 7or the first time he (itnessed a birth. 8ith astonished, burning eyes he ga*ed at the face of the (oman in labor, richer suddenly by this ne( e%perience. At any rate the e%pression in the (oman,s face seemed most remarkable to him. In the light of the torch, as he stared (ith great curiosity into the face of the screaming (oman, lying there in pain, he (as struck by something une%pected1 the lines in the screaming (oman,s distorted face (ere little different from those he had seen in other (omen,s faces during the moment of lo)e,s ecstasy. +rue, the e%pression of great pain (as more )iolent and disfiguring than the e%pression of ultimate passion.but essentially it (as not different, it (as the same slightly grinning contraction, the same sudden glo( and e%tinction. $iraculously, (ithout understanding (hy, he (as surprised by the reali*ation that pain and 5oy could resemble each other so closely.

And yet another e%perience a(aited him in that )illage. +he morning after the birth, he ran into the neighbors (ife, (ho soon replied to the amorous 'uestioning of his eyes. 2e stayed a

second night and made the (oman )ery happy since it (as the first time in many (eeks of e%citation and disappointment that his desires (ere finally stilled. +his delay led to a ne( e%perience1 he found a companion on that second day in the )illage, a lanky, daring fello( named 9iktor, (ho looked half like a priest and half like a high(ay robber.

9iktor greeted him (ith scraps of "atin, claiming to be a tra)eling student, although he (as long past his student years. 2e (ore a pointed beard and treated oldmund (ith a certain heartiness and

high(ay humor that 'uickly (on the younger man.


oldmund,s 'uestions, (here he had studied and (here he

(as headed, this strange fello( replied1 4/y my destitute soul, I ha)e )isited enough places of high learning. I,)e been to Cologne and to -aris, and fe( scholars ha)e e%pressed deeper thoughts on the metaphysics of li)er(urst than I in my dissertation at "eyden. Since then, amicus, I, poor bastard that I am, ha)e crossed and recrossed the erman 0mpire in all directions, my dear soul

tortured by immeasurable hunger and thirst. 9iktor, the peasant terror, they call me. $y profession is teaching "atin to young (i)es and tricking sausages out of chimneys and into my belly. $y goal

is the bed of the mayor,s (ife, and if the cro(s don,t che( me up beforehand, I,ll hardly be able to a)oid the obligation of dedicating myself to the tiresome profession of archbishop. It is better, my dear young colleague, to li)e from hand to mouth than the other (ay round, and, after all, a roasted hare has ne)er felt better than in my humble stomach. +he king of /ohemia is my brother, and our father in hea)en feeds him as he does me, although he insists that I lend him a hand, and the day before yesterday this father, hardhearted as fathers are, tried to misuse me in order to sa)e the life of a half&star)ed (olf. If I hadn,t killed the beast, you, my dear colleague, (ould not ha)e the honor of making my fascinating ac'uaintance. In saecula saeculorum, amen."

oldmund (as still unfamiliar (ith the gallo(s humor and (ayfaring "atin of this (anderer. 2e felt a bit scared of the lanky, bristly rascal and the rasping laughter (ith (hich he applauded his o(n 5okes, yet there (as something about this hard&boiled )agrant that did please him, and he readily let himself be persuaded to continue the 5ourney (ith him, because, (hether the )an'uished (olf (as boasting or the truth, t(o (ere indisputably stronger than one and had less to fear. /ut before continuing the 5ourney, brother 9iktor (anted to speak a bit of "atin to the people, as he called it,

and installed himself in the house of one of the poorer peasants. 2e did not follo( the practice oldmund had so far applied on the

road, (here)er he had been the guest of a farmhouse or a )illage; 9iktor (ent from hut to hut, chatted (ith e)ery (oman, stuck his nose into e)ery stable and kitchen, and did not seem (illing to lea)e before each house had paid him a toll and a tribute. 2e told the peasants about the (ar in Italy and sang, beside their hearths, the song of the battle of -a)ia. 2e recommended remedies for arthritis and loose teeth to the grandmothers; he seemed to kno( e)erything, to ha)e been e)ery(here. 2e stuffed his shirt abo)e the belt full to bursting (ith the pieces of bread, nuts, and dried pears the peasants had gi)en him. 8ith surprise oldmund

(atched him (age his campaign, listened to him no( frighten, no( flatter the people, boast and (in their admiration, speak broken "atin and play the scholar, and the ne%t moment impress them (ith brash, colorful thie)es, slang, sa( ho(, in the middle of a tale or learned talk his sharp, (atchful eyes recorded e)ery face, e)ery table dra(er that (as pulled open, e)ery dish, e)ery loaf of bread. 2e sa( that this (as a seasoned ad)enturer (ho had been e%posed to all (alks of life, (ho had seen and li)ed through much, (ho had star)ed a good deal, and shi)ered, and gro(n shre(d and impudent in the bitter struggle for a meager, dangerous

e%istence. So this (as (hat became of people (ho led a (anderer,s life for a long time: 8ould he, too, be like that one day6

+he ne%t morning, as they mo)ed on, for the first time


had a taste of (alking in company. 7or three days they (ere on the road together, and oldmund found this and that to learn from

9iktor. Applying e)erything to the three basic needs of the homeless.skirting death, finding a place for the night, and a source of food.had become an instinct (ith 9iktor. 2e had learned much during the many years of roaming the (orld. +o recogni*e the pro%imity of human habitation by almost in)isible signs, e)en in (inter; at night, to inspect e)ery nook and cranny in forest or field as a potential resting or sleeping place; to sense instantly, upon entering a room, the degree of prosperity or misery of the o(ner, as (ell as the degree of his goodheartedness, or his curiosity, or fear.these (ere tricks (hich 9iktor had long since mastered. 2e told his young companion many instructi)e things. !nce oldmund replied that he (ould not like to approach people

from such a purposeful point of )ie( and that, although he (as unfamiliar (ith all these tricks, he had only rarely been refused hospitality upon his friendly re'uest. "anky 9iktor laughed and said

good&humoredly1 48ell sure, little

oldmund, you may not ha)e to,

you,re so young and pretty, you look so innocent, your face is a good recommendation. +he (omen like you and the men think1 ,!h "ord, he,s harmless, he (ouldn,t hurt a fly., /ut look here, little brother, a man gets older, the baby face gro(s a beard and (rinkles, your pants (ear out and before you kno( it you are an ugly, un(elcome guest, and instead of youth and innocence, nothing but hunger is staring out of your eyes. At that point you,)e got to be hard, you,)e got to ha)e learned a fe( things about the (orld; or else you,ll soon find yourself lying on the dung heap and the dogs,ll come and pee on you. /ut I don,t think that you,ll be running around for too long anyho(, your hands are too delicate and your curls too pretty, you,ll cra(l back to (here life is easier, into a nice (arm con5ugal bed or a good fat cloister or some beautifully heated (riting room. And your clothes are so fine, you could be taken for a s'uire.4

Still laughing, he ran his hands o)er

oldmund,s clothes.

oldmund could feel these hands grope and search along e)ery seam and pocket; he dre( back and thought of his gold piece. 2e told of his stay at the knight,s house, that he had earned his fine clothes by (riting "atin. 9iktor (anted to kno( (hy he had left

such a (arm nest in the middle of (inter, and

oldmund, (ho (as

not accustomed to lying, told him a little about the knight,s t(o daughters. +his led to their first 'uarrel. 9iktor thought oldmund

an incomparable fool for ha)ing run off and left the castle and the ladies to the care of the good "ord. +hat situation had to be remedied, he,d see to that. +hey,d )isit the castle; of course oldmund could not be seen there, but he should lea)e that to him. oldmund (as to (rite a little letter to "ydia, saying this and

that, and he, 9iktor, (ould take it to the castle and, by the Sa)iour,s (ounds, he (ould not come back (ithout a little something of this and that, money and loot. And so on. oldmund

refused and finally became )iolent; he did not (ant to hear another (ord about the matter, nor did he tell 9iktor the name of the knight or the (ay to the castle.

8hen 9iktor sa( him so angry, he laughed again and played the 5o)ial companion. 48ell,4 he said, 4don,t bite your teeth out: I,m merely telling you that you,re letting a good catch slip through our fingers, my boy. +hat,s not )ery nice and brotherly of you. /ut you don,t (ant to, you,re a nobleman, you,ll return to your castle on a high horse and marry the lady: /oy, your head is bursting (ith nonsense: 8ell, it,s all right (ith me, let,s (alk on and free*e our

toes off.4

oldmund remained grumpy and silent until e)ening, but since they came neither upon a house nor upon people that day, he gratefully let 9iktor pick a place for the night, let him build a (indbreak bet(een t(o trees at the edge of the forest and make a bed (ith an abundance of pine branches. +hey ate bread and cheese from 9iktor,s full pockets. oldmund felt ashamed of his

anger and tried to be polite and helpful; he offered his companion his (oolen 5acket for the night. +hey agreed to take turns keeping (atch against the animals, and oldmund took o)er the first )igil

(hile 9iktor lay do(n on the pine branches. 7or a long time oldmund stood 'uietly (ith his back against a fir trunk in order not to keep the other man from falling asleep. +hen he felt cold and began to pace. 2e ran back and forth at greater and greater distances, sa( the tips of firs 5ut sharply into the pale sky, felt the deep silence of the solemn and slightly a(esome (inter night, heard his (arm li)ing heart beat lonely in the cold, echoless silence, (alked 'uietly back and listened to the breathing of his sleeping companion. $ore po(erfully than e)er he (as sei*ed by a feeling of homelessness, (ithout a house, castle, or cloister (all bet(een him and the great fear, running naked and alone through

the incomprehensible, hostile (orld, alone under the cool mocking stars, among the (atchful animals, the patient, steady trees.

No, he thought, he (ould ne)er become like 9iktor, e)en if he (andered for the rest of his life. 2e (ould ne)er be able to learn 9iktor,s (ay of fighting the horror, his sly, thie)ish s'ueaking by, his loud bra*en 5ests and (ordy humor. -erhaps this shre(d, impudent man (as right; perhaps oldmund (ould ne)er

completely become his e'ual, ne)er altogether a )agrant. -erhaps he (ould some day creep back behind some sort of (all. Although e)en then he (ould remain homeless and aimless, ne)er feel really safe and protected, the (orld (ould al(ays surround him (ith mysterious beauty and eeriness; again and again he (ould be made to listen to this silence in (hich his heartbeat sounded anguished and fleeting. 7e( stars (ere )isible, there (as no (ind, but (ay up high the clouds seemed to be mo)ing.

After a long time 9iktor a(oke. oldmund had not felt like (aking him.and called to him. 4Come,4 he called, 4your turn to catch some sleep, or you,ll be no good tomorro(.4

oldmund obeyed; he stretched out on the pine bed and closed

his eyes. 2e (as e%tremely tired but did not fall asleep. 2is thoughts kept him a(ake, and something else besides thoughts, a feeling he did not admit to himself, an uneasiness and distrust that had to do (ith his companion. It (as inconcei)able to him no( that he had told this crude, loud&laughing man, this 5ester and bra*en beggar, about "ydia. 2e (as angry (ith him and (ith himself and (ondered ho( he could find a (ay and an opportunity to get rid of him.

After an hour or so, 9iktor bent o)er him and again began feeling his pockets and seams; oldmund fro*e (ith rage. 2e did not

mo)e, he merely opened his eyes and said disdainfully1 4 o a(ay, I ha)e nothing (orth stealing.4

2is (ords shocked the thief; he grabbed and s'uee*ed.

oldmund by the throat

oldmund fought back and tried to get up, but oldmund could

9iktor pressed harder, kneeling on his chest.

hardly breathe. 9iolently he (rithed and 5erked (ith his (hole body, and (hen he could not free himself, the fear of death shot through him and made his mind sharp and lucid. 2e managed to slip one hand in his pocket, pull out his small hunting knife, and (hile the other man continued strangling him he thrust the knife

se)eral times into the body that (as kneeling on him. After a moment, 9iktor,s hands let go; there (as air again and oldmund

breathed it deeply, (ildly, sa)oring his rescued life. 2e tried to sit up; limp and soft, his lanky companion sank into a heap on top of him (ith a ghastly sigh. 2is blood ran o)er oldmund,s face. !nly

no( (as he able to sit up. In the gray shimmer of the night he sa( the long man lying in a huddle; he reached out to him and touched only blood. 2e lifted the man,s head; it fell back, hea)y and soft like a bag. /lood spilled from his chest and neck; from his mouth life ran out in delirious, (eakening sighs.

4No( I ha)e murdered a man,4 thought

oldmund. Again and

again he thought it, as he knelt o)er the dying man and sa( pallor spread o)er his face. 4#ear $other of he heard himself say. od, I ha)e killed a man,4

Suddenly he could not bear to stay a moment longer. 2e picked up his knife, (iped it across the (oolen )est (hich the other man (as (earing, (hich "ydia,s hands had knitted for her belo)ed; he slipped the knife back into its (ooden sheath and into his pocket, 5umped up and ran a(ay as fast as he could.

+he death of the cheerful (ayfarer lay hea)y on his soul; shuddering, as the day gre( light he (ashed a(ay in the sno( the blood he had spilled; and then he (andered about for another day and another night, aimless and anguished. 7inally his body,s needs shocked him out of his fear&filled repentance.

"ost in the deserted, sno(&co)ered landscape, (ithout shelter, (ithout a path, (ithout food and almost (ithout sleep, he fell into a bottomless despair. 2unger cried in his belly like a (ild beast; se)eral times e%haustion o)ercame him in the middle of a field. 2e closed his eyes and thought that his end had come, (ished only to fall asleep, to die in the sno(. /ut again and again something forced him back on his feet. #esperately, greedily he ran for his life, delighted and into%icated in the midst of bitter (ant by this insane, sa)age strength of (ill not to die, by this monstrous force of the naked dri)e to li)e. 8ith frost&blue hands he picked tiny, dried&up berries off the sno(&co)ered 5uniper bushes and che(ed the brittle, bitter stuff, together (ith pine needles. +he taste (as e%citingly sharp; he de)oured handfuls of sno( against his thirst. /reathless, blo(ing into his stiff hands, he sat on top of the hill for a brief rest. A)idly he looked about1 nothing but heath and forest,

no trace of a human being. A fe( cro(s circled abo)e him; he looked at them angrily. No, they (ere not going to feed on him, not as long as there (as an ounce of strength left in his legs, a spark of (armth in his blood. 2e got up and resumed his merciless race (ith death. 2e ran on and on, in a fe)er of e%haustion and ultimate effort. Strange thoughts took hold of him; he held mad con)ersations (ith himself, no( silent, no( loud. 2e spoke to 9iktor, (hom he had stabbed to death. 2arshly and ironically he spoke to him1 48ell, my shre(d brother, ho( is it (ith you6 Is the moon shining through your bo(els, old fello(6 Are the fo%es pulling your ears6 3ou killed a (olf, you say6 #id you bite him through the throat, or tear off his tail, or (hat6 3ou (anted to steal my gold piece, you old gu**ler: /ut little oldmouth surprised you,

didn,t he, old friend, he tickled you in the ribs: And all the (hile you still had bags full of bread and sausage and cheese, you stuffed pig:4 2e coughed and barked mockeries; he insulted the dead man, he triumphed o)er him, he 5eered at him because he had let himself be slaughtered, the fool, the stupid braggart:

/ut after a (hile his thoughts and (ords turned a(ay from lanky 9iktor. 2e sa( =ulie (alking ahead of him, beautiful little =ulie, as she had left him that night; he called countless endearments to

her, tried to seduce her (ith delirious, shameless ca5oleries, to make her come to him, to make her drop her nightgo(n, to ride up to hea)en (ith him during this last hour before death, for a short moment before his miserable end. 2e implored and commanded her high little breasts, her legs, the blond kinky hair under her arms.

+rotting through the barren, sno(&co)ered heath (ith stiff, stumbling legs, drunk (ith misery, triumphant (ith the flickering desire to li)e, he began to (hisper. No( it (as Narcissus to (hom he spoke, to (hom he communicated his recent re)elations, insights, and ironies.

4Are you scared, Narcissus,4 he said to him, 4are you shuddering, did you notice something6 3es, my respected friend, the (orld is full of death, full of death. #eath sits on e)ery fence, stands behind e)ery tree. /uilding (alls and dormitories and chapels and churches (on,t keep death out; death looks in through the (indo(, laughing, kno(ing e)ery one of you. In the middle of the night you hear laughter under your (indo( and someone calls your name. o ahead, sing your psalms, burn pretty candles at the altar, say your e)ening prayers and your morning prayers, gather herbs in

your laboratory, collect books in your libraries. Are you fasting, dear friend6 Are you depri)ing yourself of sleep6 2e,ll lend you a hand, our old friend the Reaper, he,ll strip you to the bones. Run, dear friend, run as fast as you can, death is gi)ing a party in the fields, run and see that your bones stay together, they,re trying to escape, they don,t (ant to stay (ith us. !h, our poor bones, our poor throat and belly, our poor little scraps of brains under our skulls: It all (ants to become free, it all (ants to go to the de)il, the cro(s are sitting in the trees, those black&frocked priests.4

2e had long since lost all sense of direction; he didn,t kno( (here he (as running, (hat he (as saying, (hether he (as lying or standing. 2e stumbled o)er bushes, ran into trees; falling, he groped for sno( and thorns. /ut the dri)e (as strong in him. Again and again it pulled him for(ard, spurred his blind flight. 8hen he collapsed for the last time, it (as in the same little )illage in (hich he had met the (ayfaring charlatan a fe( days earlier, (here he had held the torch during the night for the (oman (ho (as gi)ing birth. +here he lay and people came running and stood about him and talked, yet he did not hear them. +he (oman (hose lo)e he had en5oyed earlier recogni*ed him; she (as shocked by the (ay he looked, and took pity. "et her husband scold her; she dragged

the half&dead

oldmund into the stable.

It (as not long before he (as back on his feet. +he (armth of the stable, sleep, and the goat,s milk the (oman ga)e him to drink re)i)ed him and let him reco)er his strength; but all recent e)ents had been pushed back in his mind as though much time had passed since they happened. 2is 5ourney (ith 9iktor, the cold, anguished (inter night under the pines, the dreadful struggle on the bed of boughs, his companion,s horrible death, the days and nights lost and cold and had all become the past. 2e had almost forgotten it; although it (as not (iped out, it had been li)ed through and (as nearly o)er. Something remained, something ine%pressibly horrible but also precious, something dro(ned and yet unforgettable, an e%perience, a taste on the tongue, a ring around the heart. In less than t(o years he had learned all the 5oys and sorro(s of homeless life1 loneliness, freedom, the sounds of forests and beasts, (andering, faithless lo)ing, bitter deathly (ant. 7or days he had been the guest of the summery fields, of the forest, of the sno(, had spent days in fear of death, close to death. 7ighting death had been the strongest emotion of all, the strangest, kno(ing ho( small and miserable and threatened one (as, and yet feeling this beautiful, terrifying

force, this tenacity of life inside one during the last desperate struggle. It echoed, it remained etched in his heart, as did the gestures and e%pressions of ecstasy that so much resembled the gestures and e%pressions of birth&gi)ing and dying. 2e remembered ho( the (oman had screamed that night in childbirth, distorting her face; ho( 9iktor had collapsed, ho( 'uietly and 'uickly his blood had run out: !h, and ho( he himself had felt death snooping around him on hungry days, and ho( cold he had been, ho( cold: And ho( he had fought, ho( he had struck death in the face, (ith (hat mortal fear, (hat grim ecstasy he had defended himself: +here (as nothing more to be li)ed through, it seemed to him. -erhaps he could talk about it (ith Narcissus, but (ith no one else.


oldmund first came to his senses on his bed of stra( in the

stable, he missed the gold piece in his pocket. 2ad he lost it during the terrible, half&unconscious stumbling march during those final days of hunger6 2e thought about it for a long time. 2e had been fond of the gold piece; he did not (ant to think it lost. $oney meant little to him; he hardly kne( its )alue. /ut this gold piece had become important to him for t(o reasons. It (as the only gift from "ydia that (as left him, since the (oolen )est (as lying in the

forest (ith 9iktor, soaked in 9iktor,s blood. And then, keeping the gold coin had been the reason for defending himself against 9iktor; he had murdered 9iktor because of it. If the gold piece (as lost, the (hole e%perience of that ghastly night (ould be useless, (ould ha)e no )alue. After much thinking about it, he confided in the peasant (oman.

4Christine,4 he (hispered to her, 4I had a gold piece in my pocket, and no( it,s no longer there.4

4!h, so you noticed64 she asked (ith a lo)ing smile that (as both sly and cle)er. It delighted him so much that he put his arm around her in spite of his (eakness.

48hat a strange boy you are,4 she said tenderly. 4So intelligent and refined, and yet so stupid. #oes one run around the (orld (ith a loose gold piece in one,s open pocket6 !h, you childish boy, you darling fool: I found your gold piece as soon as I laid you do(n on the stra(.4

43ou did6 8here is it64

47ind it,4 she laughed and let him search for 'uite a (hile before she sho(ed him the spot in his 5acket (here she had se(ed it. She added good motherly ad)ice too, (hich he 'uickly forgot, but he ne)er forgot her lo)ing care and the sly&kind look in her peasant face, and he tried hard to sho( her his gratitude. Soon he (as able to (alk again and eager to mo)e on, but she held him back because on that day the moon (as changing and the (eather (ould be turning milder the ne%t. And so it (as. /y the time he left, the sno( lay soiled and gray, the air (as hea)y (ith (etness. 2igh up, one could hear the spring (inds groan. 10 Again ice (as floating do(n the ri)ers, and a scent of )iolets rose from under the rotten lea)es. oldmund (alked through the

colorful seasons1 his insatiable eyes drank in the forests, the mountains, the clouds; he (andered from farm to farm, from )illage to )illage, from (oman to (oman. $any a cool e)ening he,d sit anguished, (ith aching heart, under a lighted (indo(; from its rosy shimmer radiated all that (as happiness and home and peace on earth, all that (as lo)ely and unreachable for him. 0)erything repeated itself o)er and o)er, all the things he thought

he had come to kno( so (ell; e)erything returned, and yet different each time1 the long (alks across field and heath, or along stony roads, sleeping in the summer forest, strolls through )illages, trailing after bands of young girls coming home, hand in hand, from turning o)er the hay or gathering hops; the first shudder of autumn, the first angry frosts.e)erything came back1 once, t(ice, endlessly the colorful ribbon rolled past his eyes.

$uch rain, much sno( had fallen on

oldmund. !ne day he

climbed uphill through a sparse beech forest already light green (ith buds. 7rom the mountain ridge he sa( a ne( landscape lying at his feet; it gladdened his eyes and a flood of e%pectations, desires, and hopes gushed through his heart. 7or se)eral days he had kno(n that he (as close to this region; he had been looking for(ard to it. No(, during this noon hour, it came as a surprise and his first )isual impression confirmed and strengthened his e%pectations. +hrough gray trunks and softly s(aying branches he looked do(n into a )alley lying green and bro(n, furro(ed by a (ide ri)er that shimmered like blue glass. 2e felt that his pathless roaming through landscapes of heath, forest, and solitude, (ith an isolated farm here and there, or a shabby )illage, (as o)er for a long time. #o(n there the ri)er flo(ed, and along the ri)er ran one

of the most beautiful and famous roads in the empire. A rich and bountiful land lay there, barges and boats sailed there, the road led to beautiful )illages, castles, cloisters, and prosperous to(ns, and anyone (ho so desired could tra)el along that road for days and (eeks and not fear that it (ould suddenly peter out in a forest or in humid reeds like those miserable peasant paths. Something ne( lay ahead and he (as looking for(ard to it.

+hat e)ening he came to a beautiful )illage, (edged bet(een the ri)er and red )ineyards along the (ide high(ay. +he pretty (ood(ork on the gabled houses (as painted red; there (ere arched entrance(ays and narro( alleys full of stone steps. A forge thre( a red fiery glo( across the street; he heard the clear ringing of the an)il. oldmund snooped about in e)ery alley and corner,

sniffed at cellar doors for the smell of (ine barrels and along the ri)erbank for the cool fish odor of the (ater; he inspected church and cemetery and did not forget to look for a good barn for the night. /ut first he (anted to try his luck at the priest,s house and ask for food. A plump, red&headed priest asked him 'uestions and oldmund told him the story of his life, (ith a fe( omissions and additions. +hereupon he (as gi)en a friendly reception and spent the e)ening in long con)ersation o)er good food and (ine. +he

ne%t day he continued his 5ourney on the high(ay, along the ri)er. 2e sa( barges and rafts float by; he passed horse carts, and some of them ga)e him a ride for a stretch of the (ay. +he spring days sped by, filled (ith color1 )illages and small to(ns recei)ed him; (omen smiled behind garden fences, knelt in the bro(n earth, planting bulbs; young girls sang in the )illage streets in the e)ening.

A young ser)ant girl in a mill pleased him so much he spent t(o days in the area and tried to get to kno( her. She liked to laugh and chat (ith him; he thought he (ould ha)e been happy to (ork at the mill and stay there fore)er. 2e sat (ith the fishermen; he helped the carters feed and comb their horses, (as gi)en bread and meat and a ride in e%change. +he sociable (orld of tra)elers did him good after the long loneliness; (ith a good meal e)ery day, after so much hunger, he gladly let himself be carried along by the 5oyous (a)e. It s(ept him on, and the closer he got to the bishop,s city, the more cro(ded and 5oyful the high(ay became.

In one )illage he took an e)ening stroll along the ri)er, (ith the trees already in leaf. +he (ater ran 'uietly, mightily; the current sighed and gushed under the o)erhanging roots of trees; the moon

came up o)er the hill, casting light on the ri)er and shado(s under the trees. 2e came upon a girl (ho (as sitting there, (eeping1 she had 'uarreled (ith her lo)er; he had (alked off and left her. oldmund sat do(n beside her and listened to her sorro(ful tale; he caressed her hand, told her about the forest and the deer, comforted her a little, made her laugh a little, and she permitted him a kiss. /ut at that point her young man came back looking for her; he had calmed do(n and regretted the 'uarrel. 8hen he found oldmund sitting beside her, he thre( himself upon him and oldmund had difficulty

hammered at him (ith both fists.

defending himself, but finally he fought the fello( off, and (atched him run cursing to(ard the )illage; the girl had long since fled. /ut oldmund did not trust the truce; he renounced his bed for the night and (andered on half the night in the moonlight, through a silent sil)er (orld, e%tremely content, glad of his strong legs, until the de( (ashed the (hite dust from his shoes and he suddenly felt tired, lay do(n under the ne%t tree, and fell asleep. It (as broad daylight (hen he (as a(akened by something tickling his face. 2e brushed it aside (ith a sleepy, groping hand, fell asleep again, (as once more a(akened by the tickling; a peasant girl (as standing there, looking at him, tickling him (ith the tip of a (illo( s(itch. 2e stumbled to his feet. 8ith a smile they nodded to each

other; she led him into a shed, (here the sleeping (as more comfortable. +here they lay together for a (hile, then she ran off and came back (ith a small pail of milk, still (arm from the co(. 2e ga)e her a blue hair ribbon he had recently found in the street, and they kissed once more before he (andered on. 2er name (as 7ran*iska; he (as sorry to lea)e her.

+hat e)ening he found shelter in a cloister, and the ne%t morning he (ent to mass. A thousand memories (elled up in his heart; the cool stone air of the dome and the flapping of sandals in the marble corridors felt mo)ingly familiar. After mass, (hen the cloister church had gro(n 'uiet, oldmund remained on his knees.

2is heart (as strangely mo)ed; he had had many dreams that night. 2e felt the urge to unburden himself of his past, to change his life someho(, he kne( not (hy; perhaps it (as only the memory of $ariabronn and of his pious youth that mo)ed him. 2e felt the urge to confess and purify himself. $any small sins, many small )ices had to be admitted, but most hea)ily he felt burdened by the death of 9iktor, (ho had died by his hand. 2e found a father and confessed to him, especially the knife stabs in poor 9iktor,s neck and back. !h, ho( long since he had been to confession: +he number and (eight of his sins seemed considerable to him;

he (as (illing to do a stiff penance for them. /ut his confessor seemed familiar (ith the life of the (ayfarers1 he (as not shocked; he listened calmly. 0arnest and friendly, he reprimanded and (arned (ithout speaking of damnation.


oldmund stood up, prayed in front of the altar as the

father had ordered and (as about to lea)e the church (hen a ray of sunshine fell through one of the (indo(s. 2is eyes follo(ed it; in a side chapel he sa( a statue that spoke to him so strongly and attracted him so much that he turned to(ard it (ith lo)ing eyes and looked at it (ith re)erence and deep emotion. It (as a (ooden madonna. #elicately, gently she leaned for(ard; the blue cloak hung from her narro( shoulders; she stretched out a delicate, girlish hand, and the e%pression of her eyes abo)e the grie)ing mouth and the gracefully rounded forehead (ere so ali)e and beautiful, so deeply permeated (ith spirit that oldmund thought

he had ne)er seen anything like it any(here before. 2e could not look enough at the mouth, at the lo)ely angle of the inclined neck. It seemed to him that he sa( something standing there that he had often seen in dreams and inklings, something he had often (ished for. Se)eral times he turned to go; again and again the statue dre( him back.

8hen he finally turned to lea)e, the father confessor (as standing behind him.

4#o you find her beautiful64 he asked in a friendly tone.

4Ine%pressibly beautiful,4 said


4+hat,s (hat some people say,4 said the priest. 4!thers say that this is no mother of od, that she is much too modern and (orldly,

that the (hole thing is untrue and e%aggerated. +here is a great deal of contro)ersy about it. So you like her; I,m glad. 8e,)e had her only for a year, a donation from a benefactor of our order. She (as made by $aster Niklaus.4

4$aster Niklaus6 8ho is he, (here does he li)e6 #o you kno( him6 +ell me about him, please: 8hat a magnificent, blessed man (ho can create a (ork like that.4

4I don,t kno( much about him. 2e is a car)er in our bishop,s city, a day,s 5ourney from here; he has a great reputation as an artist. Artists usually are no saints, he,s probably no saint either, but he

certainly is a gifted, high&minded man. I ha)e seen him a fe( times >4

4!h, you ha)e seen him: 8hat does he look like64

43ou seem completely fascinated (ith him, my son. 8ell, go to see him then, and gi)e him regards from 7ather /onifa*ius.4

oldmund thanked him e%uberantly. +he father (alked off (ith a smile; for a long time oldmund stood before the mysterious

statue, (hose bosom seemed to hea)e and in (hose face so much pain and s(eetness (ere li)ing side by side that it made his heart ache.

2e left the church a changed man. 2is feet carried him through a completely changed (orld. Since that moment in front of the s(eet saintly (ooden figure, oldmund possessed something he had not

possessed before, something he had so often mocked or en)ied in others1 a goal: 2e had a goal. -erhaps he (ould reach it; perhaps his (hole, ragged e%istence (ould gro( meaningful and (orth(hile. +his ne( feeling filled him (ith 5oy and fear and ga)e (ings to his steps. +he gay, beautiful high(ay on (hich he (as

(alking (as no longer (hat it had been the day before, a festi)e playground, a co*y place to be. No( it (as only a road that led to the city, to the master. Impatiently he hurried on. 2e arri)ed before e)ening1 to(ers rose from behind (alls; he sa( chiseled escutcheons and painted signs o)er the city gates, entered (ith pounding heart, hardly noticing the noise and bustle in the streets, the knights on their horses, the carts and carriages. Neither knights nor carriages, city nor bishop mattered to him. 2e asked the )ery first person he met (here $aster Niklaus li)ed, and (as deeply disappointed (hen the man didn,t kno( (ho $aster Niklaus (as.

2e came to a s'uare surrounded by stately houses, many painted or decorated (ith images. !)er the door of a house stood the figure of a lans'uenet in robust, laughing colors. It (as not as beautiful as the statue in the cloister church, but it had such a (ay of pushing out its cal)es and sticking its bearded chin into the (orld that oldmund thought this figure might ha)e been made by

the same master. 2e (alked into the house, knocked at doors, climbed stairs; finally he ran into a s'uire in a fur&trimmed )el)et coat and asked him (here he might find $aster Niklaus. 8hat did he (ant from him, the s'uire asked in return. oldmund had

difficulty holding himself back, to say merely that he had a message for him. +hereupon the s'uire told him the name of the street on (hich the master li)ed. /y the time oldmund had asked

his (ay there, night had fallen. An%ious but happy, he stood outside the master,s house, looking up at the (indo(s; he almost ran up to the door. /ut it (as already late, he (as s(eaty and dusty from the day,s march. 2e mastered his impatience and (aited. 7or a long time he stood outside the house. 2e sa( a light go on in a (indo(, and 5ust as he (as about to lea)e, he sa( a figure step to the (indo(, a )ery beautiful blond girl (ith the gentle shimmer of lamplight flo(ing through her hair from the back.

+he ne%t morning, after the city had a(akened and become noisy, oldmund (ashed his face and hands in the cloister (here he had been a guest for the night, slapped the dust from his clothes and shoes, found his (ay back to the master,s street and knocked at the door of the house. A ser)ant appeared (ho first refused to lead him to the master, but he managed to soften the old (oman,s resistance, and finally she led him into a small hall. It (as a (orkshop and the master (as standing there, a leather apron around his (aist1 a bearded, tall man of forty or fifty, oldmund

thought. 2e scanned the stranger (ith piercing, pale blue eyes and

asked curtly (hat he desired. /onifa*ius,s greetings.

oldmund deli)ered 7ather

4Is that all64


oldmund said (ith baited breath, 4I sa( your madonna

in the cloister there. !h, don,t gi)e me such an unfriendly look; nothing but lo)e and )eneration ha)e brought me to you. I am not a fearful man, I ha)e li)ed a (anderer,s life, sampled forest, sno(, and hunger; I,m not afraid of anyone, but I am afraid of you. I ha)e only a single gigantic desire, (hich fills my heart to the point of pain.4

4And (hat desire is that64

4+o become your apprentice and learn (ith you.4

43ou are not the only young man to (ish that. /ut I don,t like apprentices, and I already ha)e t(o assistants. 8here do you come from and (ho are your parents64

4I ha)e no parents, I come from no(here. I (as a student in a

cloister, (here I learned "atin and

reek. +hen I ran a(ay, and for

years I ha)e (andered the roads, until today.4

4And (hat makes you think you should become an image car)er6 2a)e you e)er tried anything similar before6 2a)e you any dra(ings64

4I,)e made many dra(ings, but I no longer ha)e them. /ut let me tell you (hy I (ish to learn this art. I ha)e done a great deal of thinking and seen many faces and figures and thought about them, and some of these thoughts ha)e tormented me and gi)en me no peace. It has struck me ho( a certain shape, a certain line recurs in a person,s structure, ho( a forehead corresponds to the knee, a shoulder to the hip, and ho(, deep do(n, it corresponds to the nature and temperament of the person (ho possesses that knee, that shoulder, that forehead, and fuses (ith it. And another thing has struck me1 one night, as I had to hold a light for a (oman (ho (as gi)ing birth, I sa( that the greatest pain and the most intense ecstasy ha)e almost the same e%pression.4

+he master ga)e the stranger a piercing look. 4#o you kno( (hat you are saying64

43es, $aster, it is the truth. And it (as that precisely that I found e%pressed in your madonna, to my utter delight and consternation, that is (hy I ha)e come. !h, there is such suffering in the beautiful delicate face, and at the same time all the suffering is also pure 5oy, a smile. 8hen I sa( that, a fire shot through me; all my year& long thoughts and dreams seemed confirmed. Suddenly they (ere no longer useless; I kne( immediately (hat I had to do and (here I had to go. #ear $aster Niklaus, I beg you (ith all my heart, let me learn (ith you:4

Niklaus had listened attenti)ely, (ithout making a friendlier face.

43oung man,4 he said, 4you kno( surprisingly (ell ho( to speak about art, and it pu**les me that, young as you are, you ha)e so much to say about ecstasy and pain. I,d gladly chat (ith you about this some e)ening o)er a mug of (ine. /ut look1 to speak pleasantly and intelligently (ith each other is not the same as li)ing and (orking together for a couple of years. +his is a (orkshop. 8ork is car)ed here, not con)ersation. 8hat a man may ha)e thought up and kno( ho( to e%press does not count here; here only (hat he can make (ith his hands counts. 3ou

seem to mean (hat you say. +herefore I,ll not simply send you on your (ay again. 8e,ll see if you can do anything at all. #id you e)er shape anything in clay or (a%64

oldmund found himself thinking of a dream he had long ago in (hich he had modeled small clay figures that had stood up and gro(n into giants. /ut he did not mention it and said that he had ne)er tried.

4 ood. 3ou,ll dra( something then. +here is a table; you,ll find paper and charcoal. Sit do(n and dra(, take your time, you can stay till noon or e)ening. -erhaps that (ill tell me (hat you are good for. No( then, (e ha)e talked enough. I,ll do my (ork; you,ll do yours.4

oldmund sat in the chair Niklaus had indicated to him, in front of the dra(ing table. 2e (as in no hurry to accomplish his task. 7irst he sat, (aiting and silent like an apprehensi)e student. 8ith curiosity and lo)e he stared to(ard the master, (hose back (as half turned and (ho continued to (ork at a small clay figure. Attenti)ely he studied this man, (hose stern, already slightly graying head and hard, though noble and animated artisan,s hands

held such graceful magic. 2e looked different than

oldmund had

imagined1 older, more modest, soberer, much less radiant and heart&(inning, and not in the least happy. +he merciless sharpness of his probing eyes (as no( concentrated on his (ork. 7reed from it, oldmund minutely took in the master,s entire figure. +his man,

he thought, might also ha)e been a scholar, a 'uiet earnest searcher, (ho has dedicated himself to a task that many predecessors ha)e begun before him, that he (ill one day lea)e to his successors, a tenacious, long&li)ed ne)er&ending (ork, the accumulation of the effort and dedication of many generations. At least this (as (hat oldmund read from the master,s head1 great

patience, years of study and thinking, great modesty, and an a(areness of the dubious )alue of all human undertaking, but also faith in his mission. +he language of his hands (as something else again; there (as a contradiction bet(een the hands and the head. +hese hands reached (ith firm but e%tremely sensiti)e fingers into the clay they (ere molding. +hey treated the clay like a lo)er,s hands treat the (illing mistress1 lo)ingly, (ith tenderly s(aying emotion, greedy but (ithout distinguishing bet(een taking and gi)ing, filled (ith desire but also (ith piety, masterful and sure as though from the depth of ancient e%perience. oldmund (atched

these blessed hands (ith delighted admiration. 2e (ould ha)e

liked to dra( the master, had it not been for the contradiction bet(een face and hands (hich paraly*ed him.

7or about an hour he (atched the steadily (orking artist, full of searching thoughts about the secret of this man. +hen another image began to form inside him, to become )isible in front of his soul, the image of the man he kne( best of all, (hom he had lo)ed deeply and greatly admired; and this image (as (ithout fla( or contradiction, although it too bore many lines and recalled many struggles. It (as the image of his friend Narcissus. It gre( more and more tangible, became an entity, a (hole. +he inner la( of the belo)ed person appeared more and more clearly in his picture1 the noble head shaped by the mind; the beautiful controlled mouth, tightened and ennobled by the ser)ice to the mind; the slightly sad eyes; the haggard shoulders animated (ith the fight for spirituality; the long neck; the delicate, distinguished hands. Not since his departure from the cloister had he seen his friend so clearly, possessed his image so completely (ithin him.

As though in a dream, (ill&less and yet eager,


cautiously began to dra(. 8ith lo)ing fingers he brushed re)erently o)er the figure that li)ed in his heart; he forgot the

master, himself, and the place at (hich he sat. 2e did not notice the light slo(ly (andering across the (orkshop, or the master looking o)er at him se)eral times. "ike a sacrificial ritual he accomplished the task that had been gi)en him, that his heart had gi)en him1 to gather his friend,s image and preser)e it the (ay it li)ed in his soul today. 8ithout thinking of it, he felt he (as paying back a debt, sho(ing his gratitude.

Niklaus stepped up to the dra(ing table and said1 4It,s noon. I,m going to eat; you can come along. "et,s see.did you dra( something64

2e stepped behind

oldmund and looked at the large sheet. +hen

he pushed him aside and carefully took the sheet in his able hands. oldmund had come out of his dream and (as no( looking

at the master (ith an%ious e%pectation. +he master stood, holding the dra(ing in both hands, looking at it )ery carefully (ith his sharp stern light&blue eyes.

48ho is the man you ha)e dra(n here64 he asked after a (hile.

4$y friend, a young monk and scholar.4

47ine. 8ash your hands, there,s a (ell in the yard. +hen (e,ll go and eat. $y assistants aren,t here, they,re (orking outside the city.4


oldmund (ent out, found the courtyard and the (ell,

(ashed his hands and (ould ha)e gi)en much to kno( the masters thoughts. 8hen he came back, the master (as gone; he heard him rummaging about in the ad5oining room. 8hen he reappeared, he too had (ashed himself and (ore a beautiful cloth 5acket instead of the apron; he looked solemn and imposing. 2e led the (ay, up a flight of stairs.there (ere small car)ed angels, heads on the (alnut banister posts.lined (ith old and ne( statues, into a beautiful room (ith floor, (alls, and ceiling of polished (ood; a table had been in the (indo( corner. A young girl came running in. oldmund kne( her; it (as the beautiful girl of

the e)ening before.

4"isbeth,4 the master said, 4bring another plate. I,)e brought a guest. 2e is.(ell, I don,t e)en kno( his name yet.4

oldmund said his name.

4 oldmund then. Is dinner ready64

4In a minute, 7ather.4

She fetched a plate, ran out and soon returned (ith the maid, (ho ser)ed the meal1 pork (ith lentils and (hite bread. #uring the meal the father spoke of this and that (ith the girl, oldmund sat in

silence, ate a little and felt )ery ill at ease and apprehensi)e. +he girl pleased him greatly, a stately, beautiful figure, almost as tall as her father, but she sat, (ell&mannered and completely inaccessible as though behind glass, and did not speak to the stranger, or look at him.

8hen they finished eating, the master said1 4I,ll rest for half an hour. 3ou go do(n to the (orkshop or stroll around a bit outside. After(ards (e,ll talk.4

oldmund bo(ed slightly and (ent out. It had been an hour or more since the master had seen his dra(ing, and he had not said a (ord about it. No( he had to (ait another half hour: 8ell, there (as nothing he could do about it; he (aited. 2e did not go into the

(orkshop; he did not (ant to see his dra(ing again 5ust no(. 2e (ent into the courtyard, sat do(n on the edge of the (ell, and (atched the thread of (ater trickling endlessly from the pipe into the deep stone dish, making tiny (a)es as it fell, al(ays carrying a little air do(n (ith it, (hich kept rising up in (hite pearls. 2e sa( his o(n face in the dark mirror of the (ell and thought that the oldmund (ho (as looking up at him from the (ater had long since ceased being the oldmund, or e)en the oldmund of cloister days, or "ydia,s oldmund of the forests. 2e thought that

he, that all men, trickled a(ay, changing constantly, until they finally dissol)ed, (hile their artist&created images remained unchangeably the same.

2e thought that fear of death (as perhaps the root of all art, perhaps also of all things of the mind. 8e fear death, (e shudder at life,s instability, (e grie)e to see the flo(ers (ilt again and again, and the lea)es fall, and in our hearts (e kno( that (e, too, are transitory and (ill soon disappear. 8hen artists create pictures and thinkers search for la(s and formulate thoughts, it is in order to sal)age something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than (e do. -erhaps the (oman after (hom the master shaped his beautiful madonna is already (ilted

or dead, and soon he, too, (ill be dead; others (ill li)e in his house and eat at his table.but his (ork (ill still be standing a hundred years from no(, and longer. It (ill go on shimmering in the 'uiet cloister church, unchangingly beautiful, fore)er smiling (ith the same sad, flo(ering mouth.

2e heard the master come do(nstairs and ran into the (orkshop. $aster Niklaus (as pacing; se)eral times he looked at oldmund,s

dra(ing; finally he (alked to the (indo( and said, in his some(hat hesitant, dry manner1 4It is customary for an apprentice to study at least four years, and for his father to pay for the apprenticeship.4 2e paused and oldmund thought the master (as afraid that he

could not pay him. <uick as lightning, he pulled out his knife, cut the stitches around the hidden gold piece, and held it up. Niklaus (atched him in surprise and broke out laughing (hen handed him the coin. oldmund

4Ah, is that (hat you thought64 he laughed. 4No, young man, you keep your gold piece. "isten no(. I told you ho( our guild customarily deals (ith apprentices. /ut I am no ordinary master, nor are you an ordinary apprentice. Usually an apprentice begins his apprenticeship at thirteen or fourteen, fifteen at the latest, and

half of his learning years are spent running errands and playing the ser)ant. /ut you are a gro(n man; according to your age, you could long ha)e been 5ourneyman or master e)en. !ur guild has ne)er had a bearded apprentice. /esides, as I told you before, I don,t like to keep an apprentice in my house. Nor do you look like a man (ho lets himself be ordered about.4

oldmund,s impatience (as at its peak. 0)ery ne( thoughtful (ord from the master put him on tenterhooks; it all seemed disgustingly boring and pedantic to him. 9ehemently he cried1 48hy do you tell me all this, if you don,t (ant to make me your apprentice64

7irmly the master continued1 4I ha)e thought about your re'uest for an hour. No( you must ha)e the patience to listen to me. I ha)e seen your dra(ing. It has faults, but it is beautiful. If it (ere not beautiful, I (ould ha)e gi)en you half a guilder and sent you on your (ay and forgotten about you. +hat is all I (ish to say about the dra(ing. I (ould like to help you become an artist; perhaps that is your destiny. /ut you,re too old to become an apprentice. And only an apprentice (ho has ser)ed his time can become 5ourneyman and master in our guild. No( you kno( the conditions. /ut you shall be allo(ed to gi)e it a try. If you can maintain yourself

in this city for a (hile, you may come to me and learn a fe( things. +here (ill be no obligation, no contract, you can lea)e again (hene)er you choose. 3ou may break a couple of car)ing kni)es in my (orkshop and ruin a couple of (oodblocks, and if (e see that you,re no (ood car)er, you,ll ha)e to try your skill at other things. #oes that satisfy you64

Ashamed and mo)ed,

oldmund had heard his (ords.

4I thank you (ith all my heart,4 he cried. 4I am homeless; I,ll be able to keep ali)e in this city as (ell as in the (oods. I understand that you don,t (ish to assume responsibility for me as for a young apprentice. I consider it a great fortune to be allo(ed to learn from you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this for me.4 11 Ne( images surrounded oldmund in this city; a ne( life began

for him. "andscape and city had recei)ed him happily, enticingly, generously, and so did this ne( life, (ith 5oy and many promises. Although sorro( and a(areness remained essentially untouched in his soul, life, on the surface, played for him in rainbo( colors. +he gayest and lightest period in oldmund,s life had begun.

!ut(ardly, the rich bishop,s city offered itself in all its arts; there (ere (omen, and hundreds of pleasant games and images. !n the inside, his a(akening craftsmanship offered ne( sensations and e%periences. 8ith the master,s help he found lodgings in the house of a gilder at the fish market, and at the master,s as (ell as at the gilder,s he learned ho( to handle (ood, plaster, colors, )arnish, and gold leaf.

oldmund (as not one of those forsaken artists (ho, though highly gifted, ne)er find the right means of e%pression. <uite a number of people are able to feel the beauty of the (orld profoundly and )astly, and to carry high, noble images in their souls, but they are unable to e%teriori*e these images, to create them for the en5oyment of others, to communicate them. oldmund did not suffer from this lack. +he use of his hands came easily to him; he en5oyed learning the tricks and practices of the craft, and he easily learned to play the lute (ith companions in the e)ening after (ork and to dance on Sundays in the )illage. 2e learned it easily; it came by itself. 2e (orked hard at (ood car)ing, met (ith difficulties and disappointments, spoiled a fe( pieces of good (ood, and se)erely cut his fingers se)eral times. /ut he 'uickly surmounted the beginnings and ac'uired skill. Still, the

master (as often dissatisfied (ith him and (ould say1 47ortunately (e kno( that you,re not my apprentice or my assistant, oldmund.

7ortunately (e kno( that you,)e (andered in from the (oods and that you,ll go back there some day. Anybody (ho didn,t kno( that you,re a homeless drifter and not a burgher or artisan might easily succumb to the temptation to ask this or that of you, the things e)ery master demands of his men. 3ou don,t (ork badly at all (hen you,re in the mood. /ut last (eek you loafed for t(o days. 3esterday you slept half the day in the courtyard (orkshop, instead of polishing the t(o angels you (ere supposed to polish.4

+he master (as right, and

oldmund listened in silence, (ithout

5ustifying himself. 2e kne( he (as not a reliable, hard&(orking man. As long as a task fascinated him, posed problems, or made him happily a(are of his skill, he,d (ork *ealously. 2e did not like hea)y manual (ork, or chores that (ere not difficult but demanded time and application. $any of the faithful, patient parts of craftsmanship (ere often completely unbearable to him. It sometimes made him (onder. 2ad those fe( years of (andering been enough to make him la*y and unreliable6 8as his mother,s inheritance gro(ing in him and gaining the upper hand6 !r (as something else missing6 2e thought of his first years in the

cloister, (hen he had been such a good and *ealous student. 8hy had he managed so much patience then6 8hy did he lack it no(; (hy had he been able to learn "atin synta% and all those reek

aorists indefatigably, although, at the bottom of his heart, they (ere 'uite unimportant to him6 !ccasionally he,d muse about that. "o)e had steeled his (ill; lo)e had gi)en him (ings. 2is life had been a constant courtship of Narcissus, (hose lo)e one could (oo only by esteem and recognition. In those days he (as able to sla)e for hours and days in e%change for an appreciati)e glance from the belo)ed teacher. 7inally the desired goal had been reached1 Narcissus had become his friend and, strangely enough, it had been that learned Narcissus (ho had sho(n him his lack of aptitude for learning, (ho had con5ured up his lost mother,s image. Instead of learning, monkhood, and )irtue, po(erful dri)es and instincts had become his masters1 se%, (omen, desire for independence, (andering. +hen he sa( the master,s madonna and disco)ered the artist (ithin himself. 2e had taken a ne( road, had settled do(n again. 8here did he stand no(6 8here (as his road leading him6 8here did the obstacles stem from6

At first he (as unable to define it. 2e kne( only this1 that he greatly admired $aster Niklaus, but in no (ay lo)ed him as he had

Narcissus, and that he took occasional delight in disappointing and annoying him. +his, it seemed, (as linked to the contrasts in the master,s nature. +he figures by Niklaus,s hand, at least the best among them, (ere re)ered e%amples for master himself (as not an e%ample. oldmund, but the

/eside the artist (ho had car)ed the madonna (ith the saddest, most beautiful mouth, beside the kno(ing seer (hose hands kne( magically ho( to transform deep e%perience and intuition into tangible forms, there (as another $aster Niklaus1 a some(hat stern and fearful father and guildsman, a (ido(er (ho led a 'uiet, slightly co(ering life (ith his daughter and an ugly ser)ant in his 'uiet house, (ho )iolently resisted oldmund,s strongest

impulses, (ho had settled into a calm, moderate, orderly, respectable life.


oldmund )enerated his master, although he (ould

ne)er ha)e permitted himself to 'uestion others about him or to 5udge him in front of others, he kne( after a year to the smallest detail all that (as to be kno(n about Niklaus. +his master meant much to him. 2e lo)ed him as much as he hated him; he could not stay a(ay from him. radually, (ith lo)e and (ith suspicion, (ith

al(ays )igilant curiosity, the pupil penetrated the hidden corners of the master,s nature and of his life. 2e sa( that Niklaus allo(ed neither apprentice nor assistant to li)e in his house, although there (ould ha)e been room enough. 2e sa( that he rarely (ent out and e'ually rarely in)ited guests to his house. 2e obser)ed that he lo)ed his beautiful daughter (ith touching 5ealousy, and that he tried to hide her from e)eryone. 2e also kne( that behind the strict, premature abstinence of the (ido(er,s life, instincts (ere still at play, that the master could strangely transform and re5u)enate himself (hen an order occasionally called him to tra)el for a fe( days. And once, in a strange little to(n (here they (ere setting up a car)ed pulpit, he had also obser)ed that Niklaus had clandestinely )isited a (hore one e)ening and that he bad been restless and ill&humored for days after(ards.

As time (ent on, something other than this curiosity tied


to the master,s house and preoccupied his mind. +he master,s beautiful daughter "isbeth attracted him greatly. 2e rarely got to see her; she ne)er came into the (orkshop and he could not determine (hether her brittleness and reser)e (ith men (as imposed by her father or (as part of her o(n nature. 2e could not o)erlook the fact that the master ne)er again in)ited him for a

meal, that he tried to make any meeting (ith her difficult. "isbeth (as a most precious, sheltered young girl; he could not hope to ha)e a lo)e affair (ith her, or a marriage. /esides, anyone (ho (anted to marry her (ould ha)e to come from a good family, be a member of one of the higher guilds and probably ha)e money and a house besides.

"isbeth,s beauty, so different from that of the gypsies and peasant (omen, had attracted oldmund,s eyes that first day. +here (as

something about her that he could not decipher, something strange that )iolently attracted him but also made him suspicious, irritated him e)en. 2er great calm and innocence, her (ell&mannered purity (ere not childlike. /ehind all her courtesy and ease lay a hidden coldness, a condescension, and for that reason her innocence did not mo)e him, or make him defenseless @he could ne)er ha)e seduced a childA, but annoyed and pro)oked him. As soon as her figure became slightly familiar to him as an inner image, he felt the urge to create a statue of her, not the (ay she (as no(, but an a(akened, sensuous, suffering face, a $agdalene, not a young )irgin. 2e often dreamed of seeing her calm, beautiful, immobile face distorted in ecstasy or pain, of seeing it unfold and yield its secret.

+here (as another face ali)e in his soul, although it did not altogether belong to him, a face he longed to capture and re&create artistically, but again and again it dre( back and shrouded itself1 his mother,s face. It (as no longer the face that had appeared to him one day, from the depths of lost memories, after his con)ersation (ith Narcissus. It had slo(ly changed during his days of (andering, his nights of lo)e, during his spells of longing, (hile his life (as in danger, (hen he (as close to death1 it had gro(n richer, deeper, subtler. +his (as no longer his o(n mother; her traits and colors had by and by gi)en (ay to an impersonal mother image, of 0)e, of the mother of men. +he (ay some of $aster Niklaus,s madonnas po(erfully e%pressed the suffering mother of od (ith a perfection that seemed unsurpassable to oldmund,

he hoped that one day, (hen he (as more mature and surer of his craft, he (ould be able to create the image of the (orldly mother, the 0)e&mother, as she li)ed in his heart, his oldest, most cherished image; an inner image that had once been the memory of his o(n mother, of his lo)e of her, but (as no( in constant transformation and gro(th. +he faces of "ise, the gypsy, of the knight,s daughter "ydia, of many other (omen had fused (ith that original image. 0ach ne( (oman added to it, each ne( insight,

each e%perience and e)ent (orked at it and fashioned its traits. +he figure he hoped to be able to make )isible some day (as not to represent any specific (oman, but the source of life itself, the original mother. $any times he thought he sa( it; often it appeared in his dreams. /ut he could not ha)e said anything about this 0)e,s face, or about (hat it (as to e%press, e%cept that he (anted it to sho( the intimate relationship of ecstasy to pain and death.

oldmund learned a great deal in the course of a year. 2e became an able draftsman; occasionally, beside (ood car)ing, Niklaus also let him try his hand at modeling (ith clay. 2is first successful (ork (as a clay figure, a good t(o spans high. It (as the s(eet, seducti)e figure of little =ulie, "ydia,s sister. +he master praised this (ork but did not fulfill oldmund,s (ish to ha)e it cast in metal;

he found the figure too unchaste and (orldly to become its godfather. +hen oldmund started (orking on a statue of

Narcissus, in (ood, portraying the Apostle =ohn. If successful, Niklaus (anted to include the figure in a crucifi%ion group he had been commissioned to e%ecute and on (hich his t(o assistants had been (orking e%clusi)ely for 'uite some time, lea)ing the final touches to the master.

oldmund (orked (ith profound lo)e at the statue of Narcissus. 2e redisco)ered himself in this (ork, found his skill and his soul again e)ery time he got off the track, (hich happened often enough. "o)e affairs, dances, drinking (ith (orking companions, dice playing, and many bra(ls (ould get him )iolently in)ol)ed; he,d stay a(ay from the (orkshop for a day or more, or stand distracted and grumpy o)er his bench. /ut at his St. =ohn, (hose cherished, pensi)e features came to meet him out of the (ood (ith greater and greater purity, he (orked only during hours of readiness, (ith de)otion and humility. #uring these hours he (as neither glad nor sad, kne( neither carnal longings nor the flight of time. Again he felt the re)erent, light, crystal feeling in his heart (ith (hich he had once abandoned himself to his friend, happy to be guided by him. It (as not he (ho (as standing there, creating an image of his o(n (ill. It (as the other man rather; it (as Narcissus (ho (as making use of the artist,s hands in order to step out of the fleeting transitions of life, to e%press the pure image of his being.


oldmund sometimes felt (ith a shudder, (as the (ay true

art came about. +his (as ho( the master,s unforgettable madonna

had been made, (hich he had )isited in the cloister again and again on many a Sunday. +he fe( good pieces among the old statues (hich (ere standing upstairs in the master,s foyer had come into being in this secret, sacred manner. And one day that other, the uni'ue image, the one that (as e)en more hidden and )enerable to him, the mother of men, (ould come about in the same manner. Ah, if only the hand of man could create such (orks of art, such holy, essential images, untainted by (ill or )anity. /ut it (as not that (ay. !ther images (ere created1 pretty, delightful things, made (ith great mastery, the 5oy of art lo)ers, the ornament of churches and to(n halls.beautiful things certainly, but not sacred, not true images of the soul. 2e kne( many such (orks, not only by Niklaus and other masters.(orks that, in spite of their delicacy and craftsmanship, (ere nothing but playthings. +o his shame and sorro( he had already felt that in his o(n heart, had felt in his hands ho( an artist can put such pretty things in the (orld, out of delight in his o(n skill, out of ambition and dissipation.

8hen he reali*ed this for the first time, he gre( deathly sad. Ah, it (as not (orth being an artist in order to make little angel figures and similar fri)olities, no matter ho( beautiful. -erhaps the others,

the artisans, the burghers, those calm, satisfied souls might find it (orth(hile, but not he. +o him, art and craftsmanship (ere (orthless unless they burned like the sun and had the po(er of storms. 2e had no use for anything that brought only comfort, pleasantness, only small 5oys. 2e (as searching for other things. A dainty cro(n for a madonna, fashioned like lace(ork and beautifully goldleafed, (as no task for him, no matter ho( (ell paid. 8hy did $aster Niklaus accept all these orders6 8hy did he ha)e t(o assistants6 8hy did he listen for hours to those senators and prelates (ho ordered a pulpit or a portal from him (ith their measuring sticks in their hands6 2e had t(o reasons, t(o shabby reasons1 he (anted to be a famous artist flooded (ith commissions, and he (anted to pile up money, not for any great achie)ement or pleasure but for his daughter, (ho had long since become a rich girl, money for her do(ry, for lace collars and brocade go(ns and a (alnut con5ugal bed (ith precious co)ers and linens. As though the beautiful girl could not come to kno( lo)e 5ust as (ell in a hayloft.

2is mother,s blood stirred deeply in

oldmund in the course of

such reflections; he felt the pride and disdain of the homeless for the settled, the proprietors. At times craft and master (ere so

repulsi)e to him that he often came close to running a(ay. $ore than once the master angrily regretted ha)ing taken on this difficult, unreliable fello( (ho often tried his patience to the utmost. +he things he learned about oldmund,s life, about his indifference

to money and o(nership, his desire to s'uander, his many lo)e affairs, his fre'uent bra(ls, did not make him more sympathetic; he had taken a gypsy into his house, a stranger. Nor had it escaped him (ith (hat eyes this )agrant looked at his daughter "isbeth. If he, ne)ertheless, forced himself to be patient, it (as not out of a sense of duty or out of fear, but because of the St. =ohn,s statue, (hich he (atched come into being. 8ith a feeling of lo)e and kinship of the soul that he did not 'uite admit to himself, the master (atched this gypsy, (ho had run to him out of the forest, shape his (ooden disciple after the mo)ing, beautiful, yet clumsy dra(ing that had made him keep oldmund at the time. 2e sa( oldmund

ho( slo(ly and capriciously, but tenaciously, unerringly,

fashioned the (ooden statue of the disciple. +he master did not doubt that it (ould be finished some day, in spite of all oldmund,s

moods and interruptions, that it (ould be a (ork the like of (hich not one of his assistants (as able to make, a (ork that e)en great masters did not often accomplish. In spite of the many things the master disliked in his pupil, of the many scoldings he ga)e him, of

his fre'uent fits of rage.he ne)er said a (ord about the St. =ohn.

#uring these years

oldmund had gradually lost the rest of the

adolescent grace and boyishness that had pleased so many. 2e had become a beautiful, strong man, much desired by (omen, little popular (ith men. 2is mind, his inner face, had greatly changed as (ell since the days Narcissus a(akened him from the happy sleep of his cloister years. 8orld and (andering had molded him. 7rom the pretty, gentle, pious, (illing cloister student (hom e)erybody liked, another being had emerged. Narcissus had a(akened him, (omen had made him a(are, the (andering had brushed the do(n from him. 2e had no friends; his heart belonged to (omen. +hey could (in him easily1 one longing look (as enough. 2e found it hard to resist a (oman and responded to the slightest hint. In spite of his strong sense of beauty, of his preference for the )ery young in the bloom of spring, he,d let himself be mo)ed and seduced by (omen of little beauty (ho (ere no longer young. !n the dance floor he,d sometimes end up (ith a discouraged elderly girl (hom no one (anted, (ho,d (in him by the pity he felt for her, and not pity alone, but also a constantly )igilant curiosity. As soon as he ga)e himself to a (oman.(hether it lasted (eeks or 5ust hours.she became

beautiful to him, and he ga)e himself completely. 0%perience taught him that e)ery (oman (as beautiful and able to bring 5oy, that a mousy creature (hom men ignored (as capable of e%traordinary fire and de)otion, that the (ilted had a more maternal, mourningly s(eet tenderness, that each (oman had her secrets and her charms, and to unlock these made him happy. In that respect, all (omen (ere alike. "ack of youth or beauty (as al(ays balanced by some special gesture. /ut not e)ery (oman could hold him e'ually long. 2e (as 5ust as lo)ing and grateful to(ard the ugly as to(ard the youngest and prettiest; he ne)er lo)ed half(ay. /ut some (omen tied him to them more strongly after three or ten nights of lo)e; others (ere e%hausted after the first time and forgotten.

"o)e and ecstasy (ere to him the only truly (arming things that ga)e life its )alue. Ambition (as unkno(n to him; he did not distinguish bet(een bishop and beggar. Ac'uisition and o(nership had no hold o)er him; he felt contempt for them. Ne)er (ould he ha)e made the smallest sacrifice for them; he (as earning ample money and thought nothing of it. 8omen, the game of the se%es, came first on his list, and his fre'uent accesses of melancholy and disgust gre( out of the kno(ledge that desire (as a transitory,

fleeting e%perience. +he rapid, soaring, blissful burning of desire, its brief, longing flame, its rapid e%tinction.this seemed to him to contain the kernel of all e%perience, became to him the image of all the 5oys and sufferings of life. 2e could gi)e in to this melancholy and shudder at all things transitory (ith the same abandonment (ith (hich he ga)e in to lo)e. +his melancholy (as also a form of lo)e, of desire. As ecstasy, at the peak of blissful tension, is certain that it must )anish and die (ith the ne%t breath, his innermost loneliness and abandonment to melancholy (as certain that it (ould suddenly be s(allo(ed by desire, by ne( abandonment to the light side of life. #eath and ecstasy (ere one. +he mother of life could be called lo)e or desire; she could also be called death, gra)e, or decay. 0)e (as the mother. She (as the source of bliss as (ell as of death; eternally she ga)e birth and eternally she killed; her lo)e (as fused (ith cruelty. +he longer he carried her image (ithin him, the more it became a parable and a sacred symbol to him.

Not (ith (ords and consciousness, but (ith a deeper kno(ledge of his blood, he kne( that his road led to his mother, to desire and to death. +he father side of life.mind and (ill.(ere not his home. Narcissus (as at home there, and only no( oldmund felt

penetrated by his friend,s (ords and understood them fully, sa( in him his counterpart, and this he also e%pressed in the statue of St. =ohn and made it )isible. 2e could long for Narcissus to the point of tears; he could dream of him (onderfully.but he could not reach him, he could not become like him.


oldmund also sensed (hat being an artist meant to him,

ho( his intense lo)e of art could also occasionally turn to hatred. 2e could, not (ith thoughts but (ith emotions, make many different distinctions1 art (as a union of the father and mother (orlds, of mind and blood. It might start in utter sensuality and lead to total abstraction; then again it might originate in pure concept and end in bleeding flesh. Any (ork of art that (as truly sublime, not 5ust a good 5uggler,s trick; that (as filled (ith the eternal secret, like the master,s madonna; e)ery ob)iously genuine (ork of art had this dangerous, smiling double face, (as male&female, a merging of instinct and pure spirituality. !ne day his 0)e&mother (ould bear this double face more than any other statue, if he succeeded in making her.

In art, in being an artist,

oldmund sa( the possibility of

reconciling his deepest contradictions, or at least of e%pressing

ne(ly and magnificently the split in his nature. /ut art (as not 5ust a gift. It could not be had for nothing; it cost a great deal; it demanded sacrifices. 7or o)er three years oldmund sacrificed

his most essential need, the thing he needed most ne%t to desire and lo)e1 his freedom. /eing free, drifting in a limitless (orld, the ha*ards of (andering, being alone and independent.all that he had renounced. !thers might 5udge him fickle, insubordinate, and o)erly independent (hen he neglected (orkshop and (ork during an occasional furious fling. +o him, this life (as sla)ery; often it embittered him and seemed unbearable. Neither the master nor his future nor need demanded his (as art itself.

Art, such a spiritual goddess in appearance, re'uired so many petty things: !ne needed a roof o)er one,s head, and tools, (oods, clay, colors, gold, effort and patience. 2e had sacrificed the (ild freedom of the (oods to this goddess, the into%ication of the (ide (orld, the harsh 5oys of danger, the pride of misery, and this sacrifice had to be made again and again, chokingly, (ith clenched teeth.

-art of this sacrifice (as reco)erable. A fe( of his lo)e ad)entures, his fights (ith ri)als constituted a small re)enge against the

sla)elike sedentary order of his present life. All his emprisoned (ildness, all the caged&in strength of his nature steamed out of this escape )al)e; he became a kno(n and feared ro(dy. A sudden attack in a dark side street, on his (ay to see a girl or on the (ay home from a dance; a couple of blo(s from a stick, thro(ing himself around (ith lightning s(iftness to pass from defense to attack, to press the panting enemy to him, to land a fist under the enemy,s chin, or drag him by the hair, or throttle him mightily.all these things tasted good to oldmund and cured his dark moods

for a (hile. And the (omen liked it, too.

All this ga)e him plenty to do, and it all made sense as long as he (as (orking on his St. =ohn. It took a long time. +he last delicate shapings of face and hands (ere done in solemn, patient concentration. 2e finished the statue in a small (ooden shed behind the assistants, (orkshop. +hen the hour of morning came (hen the (ork (as finished. oldmund fetched a broom, s(ept

the shed meticulously clean, gently brushed the last sa(dust from his Saint,s hair, and stood in front of his statue for a long time, an hour or longer, filled (ith the solemn feeling of a rare and great e%perience (hich he might perhaps kno( one more time in the course of his life or (hich might remain uni'ue. A man on the day

of his (edding or on the day he is knighted, a (oman after the birth of her first child might feel such emotions in the heart1 a deep re)erence, a great earnestness, and at the same time a secret fear of the moment (hen this high, uni'ue e%perience (ould be o)er, classified, s(allo(ed by the routine of the days.

2e sa( his friend Narcissus, the guide of his adolescent years, clad in the robe and role of the beautiful, fa)orite disciple, stand listening (ith lifted face and an e%pression of stillness, de)otion, and re)erence that (as like the budding of a smile. Suffering and death (ere not unkno(n to this beautiful, pious, spirituali*ed face, to this slender figure that seemed to be floating, to these graceful, piously raised long hands, although they (ere filled (ith youth and inner music; but despair (as unkno(n to them, and disorder, and rebellion. +he soul of those noble traits might be gay or sad, but its pitch (as pure, it suffered no discordant note.

oldmund stood and contemplated his (ork. 2is contemplation began as a meditation in front of the monument to his youth and friendship, but it ended in a tempest of sorro( and hea)y thoughts. +here his (ork (as, the beautiful disciple (ould remain, his delicate flo(ering (ould ne)er end. /ut he, the maker, (ould ha)e

to part (ith his (ork; tomorro( it (ould no longer be his, (ould no longer be (aiting for his hands, (ould gro( and unfold under them no longer, (as no longer a refuge to him, a consolation, a purpose in his life. 2e remained behind, empty. And therefore it seemed to him that it (ould be best to say fare(ell today not only to his St. =ohn but also to the master, to the city, to art. +here (as nothing here for him to do any more; no images filled his soul that he might ha)e car)ed. +he longed&for image of images, the figure of the mother of men, (as not yet accessible to him, (ould not be accessible for a long time. Should he go back to polishing little angel figures no( and car)ing ornaments6

2e tore himself a(ay and (alked o)er to the master,s (orkshop. Softly he entered and stood at the door, until Niklaus noticed him and called out to him.

48hat is it,


4$y statue is finished. -erhaps you,ll come and take a look at it before you go up to eat.4

4 ladly. I,ll come right no(.4

+ogether they (alked o)er, lea)ing the door open for more light. Niklaus had not seen the figure for a (hile; he had left oldmund

undisturbed at his (ork. No( he e%amined it (ith silent attention. 2is closed face gre( beautiful and light; eyes gro( happy. oldmund sa( his stern

4It is good,4 the master said. 4It is )ery good. It is your assistant,s piece, oldmund. No( you ha)e finished learning. I,ll sho( your

figure to the men at the guild and demand that they make you a master for it; you deser)e it.4

oldmund did not )alue the guild )ery highly, but he kne( ho( much appreciation the master,s (ords meant, and he (as glad.

8hile Niklaus (alked slo(ly around the figure of St. =ohn, he said (ith a sigh1 4+his figure is full of piety and light. It is gra)e, but filled (ith 5oy and peace. !ne might think that the man (ho made this had nothing but light and 5oy in his heart.4

oldmund smiled.

43ou kno( that I did not portray myself in this figure, but my dearest friend. It is he (ho brought light and peace to the picture, not I. It (as not really I (ho made the statue; he ga)e it into my soul.4

4+hat may be so,4 said Niklaus. 4It is a secret ho( such a (ork comes into being. I am not particularly humble, but I must say1 I ha)e made many (orks that fall far behind yours, not in craft and care, but in truth. No, you probably kno( yourself that such a (ork cannot be repeated. It is a secret.4


oldmund said. 48hen the figure (as finished and I looked

at it, I thought1 you can,t make that again. And therefore I think, $aster, that I,ll soon go back to (andering.4

Astonished and annoyed, Niklaus looked at him. 2is eyes had gro(n stern again.

48e,ll speak about that. 7or you, (ork should really begin no(. +his is not the moment to run a(ay. /ut take this day off, and at noon you,ll be my guest.4

At noon

oldmund appeared (ashed and combed, in his Sunday

clothes. +his time he kne( ho( much it meant and (hat a rare honor it (as to be in)ited to the master,s table. As he climbed the stairs to the foyer that (as cro(ded (ith statues, his heart (as far from being filled (ith the re)erence and an%ious 5oy of the other time, that first time (hen he had stepped into these beautiful 'uiet rooms (ith pounding heart.

"isbeth, too, (as dressed up and (ore a chain of stones around her neck, and besides carp and (ine there (as another surprise for dinner1 the master ga)e oldmund a leather purse containing

t(o gold pieces, his salary for the finished statue.

+his time he did not sit in silence (hile father and daughter talked. /oth spoke to him, they drank toasts. oldmund,s eyes (ere busy.

2e used this opportunity to study carefully the beautiful girl (ith the distinguished, slightly contemptuous face, and his eyes did not conceal ho( much she pleased him. She treated him courteously, but he felt disappointed that she did not blush or gro( animated. Again he (ished fer)ently to make this beautiful immobile face speak, to force it to surrender its secret.

After the meal he thanked them, lingering a (hile before the statues in the foyer. #uring the afternoon he strolled through the city, an aimless idler. 2e had been greatly honored by the master, beyond all e%pectation. 8hy did it not make him happy6 8hy did all this honor ha)e such an unfesti)e taste6

2eeding a (him, he rented a horse and rode out to the cloister (here he had first seen (ork by the master and heard his name. +hat had been a fe( years ago; it seemed unthinkably longer. 2e )isited the madonna in the cloister church and again the statue delighted and con'uered him. It (as more beautiful than his St. =ohn. It (as similar in depth and mystery, and superior in craft, in free, gra)ity&less floating. No( he sa( details in the (ork that only an artist sees, soft delicate mo)ements in the go(n, audacities in the formation of the long hands and fingers, sensiti)e utili*ation of the grain of the (ood. All these beauties (ere nothing compared to the (hole, to the simplicity and depth of the )ision, but they (ere there ne)ertheless, beauties of (hich only the blessed (ere capable, those (ho kne( their craft completely. In order to be able to create a (ork like this, one had not only to carry images in one,s soul; one also had to ha)e ine%pressibly trained, practiced eyes

and hands. -erhaps it (as after all (orth(hile to place one,s entire life at the ser)ice of art, at the e%pense of freedom and broad e%perience, if only in order to be able once to make something this beautiful, something that had not only been e%perienced and en)isioned and recei)ed in lo)e, but also e%ecuted to the last detail (ith absolute mastery6 It (as an important 'uestion.

"ate at night

oldmund returned to the city on a tired horse. A

ta)ern still stood open. +here he took bread and (ine. +hen he climbed up to his room at the fish market, not at peace (ith himself, full of 'uestions, full of doubts. 12 +he ne%t day oldmund could not bring himself to go to (ork. As

on many other 5oyless days, he roamed about the city. 2e sa( house(i)es and ser)ants go to market. 2e loitered around the fountain at the fish market and (atched the fish )enders and their burly (i)es praise their (ares, (atched them pull the cool sil)ery fish out of the barrels and offer them for sale, sa( the fish open their mouths in pain, their gold eyes rigid (ith fear as they 'uietly ga)e in to death, or resisted it (ith furious desperation. 2e (as gripped by pity for these animals and by a sad annoyance (ith

human beings. 8hy (ere people so numb and crude, so unthinkably stupid and insensiti)e6 2o( could those fishermen and fish(i)es, those haggling shoppers not see these mouths, the deathly frightened eyes and (ildly flailing tails, the gruesome, useless, desperate battle, this unbearable transformation from mysterious, miraculously beautiful animals.the 'uiet last shi)er that ran across the dying skin before they lay dead and spent.into flattened, miserable slabs of meat for the tables of those 5o)ial paunches6 +hese people sa( nothing, kne( nothing, and noticed nothing; nothing touched them. A poor, graceful animal could e%pire under their )ery eyes, or a master could e%press all the hope, nobility, and suffering, all the dark tense anguish of human life, in the statue of a saint (ith shudder&inducing tangibility.they sa( nothing, nothing mo)ed them: +hey (ere gay; they (ere busy, important, in a hurry; they shouted, laughed, bumped into each other, made noise, told 5okes, screamed o)er t(o pennies, felt fine, (ere orderly citi*ens, highly satisfied (ith themsel)es and the (orld. -igs, that,s (hat they (ere, filthier and )iler than pigs: !f course he had only too often been one of them, had felt happy among them, had pursued their girls, had gaily eaten baked fish from his plate (ithout being horrified. /ut sooner or later, as though by magic, 5oy and calm (ould suddenly desert him; all fat

plump illusions, all his self&satisfaction and self&importance, and idle peace of mind fell a(ay. Something plunged him into solitude and brooding, made him contemplate suffering and death, the )anity of all undertaking, as he stared into the abyss. At other times a sudden 5oy blossomed from the hopeless depth of uselessness and horror, a )iolent infatuation, the desire to sing a beautiful song, to dra(. 2e had only to smell a flo(er or play (ith a cat, and his childlike agreement (ith life came back to him. +his time, too, it (ould come back. +omorro( or the day after, the (orld (ould be good again, it (ould be (onderful. At least it (as so until the sadness returned, the brooding, the remorse for dying fish and (ilting flo(ers, the horror of insensiti)e, piglike, staring&but&not& seeing human e%istence. It (as at such moments that 9iktor al(ays came to his mind. 8ith torturing curiosity and deep anguish, he (ould think of the lanky (ayfarer (hom he had stabbed bet(een the ribs and left lying on pine boughs co)ered (ith blood. And he (ondered (hat had become of 9iktor. 2ad the animals eaten him completely, had anything remained of him6 +he bones probably, and perhaps a fe( handfuls of hair. And (hat (ould become of the bones6 2o( long (as it, decades or 5ust years, until bones lost their shape and crumbled into the earth6

As he (atched the goings&on in the marketplace, feeling pity for the fish and disgust for the people, anguished by the melancholy in his heart and a bitter hatred against the (orld and himself, he once more thought of 9iktor. -erhaps someone had found and buried him6 And in that case, had all the flesh fallen from the bones, had it all rotted off, had the (orms de)oured e)erything6 8as there still hair on the skull, and bro(s abo)e the hollo(s of the eyes6 And (hat had remained of 9iktor,s life, (hich had been so full of ad)entures and stories, the fantastic playfulness of his odd 5ests6 8as there nothing else left ali)e of this human e%istence, (hich had, after all, not been ordinary, other than the fe( stray memories his murderer had of him6 8as there still a 9iktor in the dreams of (omen (ho had once lo)ed him6 !r had e)ery )estige of him disappeared and dissol)ed6 +hus it happened to e)eryone and e)erything1 a brief flo(ering that soon (ilted and (as soon co)ered by sno(. All the things that had flo(ered in him (hen he arri)ed in this city a fe( years ago, burning (ith desire for art, (ith deep an%ious respect for $aster Niklaus.(hat (as still ali)e of them6 Nothing, nothing more than (as left of poor lanky 9iktor,s boastful silhouette. If somebody had told him a fe( years ago that the day (ould come (hen Niklaus (ould recogni*e him as an

e'ual and demand his master,s licence from the guild, he (ould ha)e belie)ed all the happiness in the (orld (as in his hands. And no( this achie)ement (as nothing but a faded flo(er, a dried&up, 5oyless thing.

In the middle of these thoughts

oldmund suddenly had a )ision. It

lasted only an instant, a lightning flash1 he sa( the face of the uni)ersal mother, leaning o)er the abyss of life, (ith a lost smile that (as both beautiful and gruesome. She (as looking at birth and death, at flo(ers, at rustling autumn lea)es, at art, at decay.

0)erything had the same meaning to the uni)ersal mother. 2er chilling smile hung abo)e e)erything like a moon, sad and pensi)e. +he dying carp on the cobblestones of the fish market (as as dear to her as oldmund; she (as as fond of the scattered bones of the

9iktor (ho had once tried to steal his gold as she (as of his master,s proud cool young daughter "isbeth.

+he lightning flash (as gone; the mysterious mother face had )anished. /ut the pale glo( continued to tremble deep in oldmund,s soul, the beat of life, of pain, of longing agitated his heart. No, no, he did not (ant the satiated happiness of the others,

of fish )enders, of burghers, of busy people. "et them go to hell. !h, her t(itching pale face, her fully ripe late&summer mouth, her hea)y lips on (hich the immense fatal smile trembled like (ind and moonlight:

oldmund (ent to the master,s house. It (as to(ard noon, and he (aited until he heard Niklaus lea)e his (ork and go to (ash his hands. +hen he (ent in.

4$ay I say a fe( (ords to you, $aster, (hile you,re (ashing your hands and putting on your 5acket6 I,m star)ing for a mouthful of truth. I (ant to say something to you that I might perhaps be able to say right no( and ne)er again. I must speak to a human being and perhaps you are the only one (ho can understand. I,m not speaking to the man (ith the famous (orkshop (ho is honored by so many assignments from great cities and cloisters, (ho has t(o assistants and a rich, beautiful house. I,m speaking to the master (ho made the madonna in the cloister outside the city, the most beautiful statue I kno(. I ha)e lo)ed and )enerated this man; to become like him seemed to me the highest goal on earth. No( I ha)e made a statue, my statue of St. =ohn. It,s not made as perfectly as your madonna; but that can,t be helped. I ha)e no

plans for other statues, no idea that demands e%ecution. !r rather, there is one, the remote image of a saint that I,ll ha)e to make some day, but not 5ust yet. In order to be able to make it, I must see and e%perience much, much more. -erhaps I,ll be able to make it in three or four years, or in ten years, or later, or ne)er. /ut until then, $aster, I don,t (ant to (ork as an artisan, lac'uering statues and car)ing pulpits and leading an artisan,s life in the (orkshop. I don,t (ant to earn money and become like other artisans. I don,t (ant that. I (ant to li)e and roam, to feel summer and (inter, e%perience the (orld, taste its beauty and its horrors. I (ant to suffer hunger and thirst, and to rid and purge myself of all I ha)e li)ed and learned here (ith you. !ne day I (ould like to make something as beautiful and deeply mo)ing as your madonna .but I don,t (ant to become like you and lead your kind of life.4

+he master had (ashed and dried his hands. 2e turned and looked at oldmund. 2is face (as stern, but not angry.

43ou ha)e spoken,4 he said, 4and I ha)e listened. #on,t (orry no(. I,m not e%pecting you to come to (ork, although there is much to be done. I don,t consider you an assistant; you need freedom. I,d like to discuss a fe( things (ith you, dear oldmund; not no(, in a

couple of days. In the meantime, you may spend your hours as you please. 3ou see, I am much older than you and ha)e learned a fe( things. I think differently than you do, but I understand you and (hat goes on in your mind. In a fe( days I,ll send for you. 8e,ll talk about your future; I ha)e all kinds of plans. Until then, be patient: I kno( only too (ell ho( one feels (hen one has finished a piece of (ork that (as important to one; I kno( this emptiness. It passes, belie)e me.4

oldmund left, dissatisfied. +he master meant (ell, but ho( could he be of help6 oldmund kne( a spot along the ri)er (here the

(ater (as not deep; its bed (as co)ered (ith shards and all kinds of rubbish that fishermen had thro(n there. 2e sat do(n on the embankment (all and looked into the (ater. 2e lo)ed (ater )ery much; all (ater attracted him. 7rom this spot, one could look through the streaming, crystal&threaded (ater and see the dark )ague bottom, see a )ague golden glitter here and there, an enticing sparkle, bits of a broken plate perhaps or a (orn&out sickle, or a smooth flat stone or a polished tile, or it might be a mud fish, a fat turbot or redeye turning around do(n there, a ray of light catching for an instant the bright fins of its scales and could ne)er make out (hat precisely (as there, but there (ere

al(ays enchantingly beautiful, enticing, brief )ague glints of dro(ned golden treasure in the (et black ground. All true mysteries, it seemed to him, (ere 5ust like this mysterious (ater; all true images of the soul (ere like this1 they had no precise contour or shape1 they only could be guessed at, a beautiful distant possibility that (as )eiled in many meanings. =ust as something ine%pressibly golden or sil)ery blinked for a 'ui)ering instant in the t(ilight of the green ri)er depths, an illusion that contained, ne)ertheless, the most blissful promise, so the fleeting profile of a person, seen half from the back, could sometimes promise something infinitely beautiful, something unbearably sad. In the same (ay a lantern hung under a cart at night, painting giant spinning shado(s of (heel spokes on (alls, could for a moment create a shado( play that seemed as full of incidents and stories as the (ork of 2omer. And one,s nightly dreams (ere (o)en of the same unreal, magic stuff, a nothing that contained all the images in the (orld, an ocean in (hose crystal the forms of all human beings, animals, angels, and demons li)ed as e)er ready possibilities.

2e (as absorbed in the game. 8ith lost eyes he stared into the drifting ri)er, sa( shapeless shimmerings at the bottom, kings,

cro(ns and (omen,s bare shoulders. !ne day in $ariabronn, he recalled, he had seen similar shape&dreams and magical transformations in reek and "atin letters. 2adn,t he once talked

about it (ith Narcissus6 8hen had that been, ho( many hundred years ago6 !h, Narcissus: +o be able to see him, to speak (ith him for an hour, hold his hand, hear his calm, intelligent )oice, he (ould gladly ha)e gi)en his t(o gold pieces.

2o( could these things be so beautiful, this golden glo( underneath the (ater, these shado(s and insinuations, all these unreal, fairylike ine%pressibly beautiful and delightful, (hen they (ere the e%act opposite of the beauty an artist might create6 +he beauty of those undistinguishable ob5ects (as (ithout form and consisted of nothing but mystery. +his (as the )ery opposite of the form and absolute precision of (orks of art. Nothing (as as mercilessly clear and definite as the line of a dra(n mouth or a head car)ed in (ood. -recisely to the fraction of an inch, he could ha)e retraced the underlip or the eyelids of Niklaus,s madonna statue; nothing (as indefinite there, nothing decepti)e, nothing )ague.

oldmund (as absorbed in his thoughts. 2e could not understand

ho( that (hich (as so definite and formal could affect the soul in the same manner as that (hich (as intangible and formless. !ne thing, ho(e)er, did become clear to him.(hy so many perfect (orks of art did not please him at all, (hy they (ere almost hateful and boring to him, in spite of a certain undeniable beauty. 8orkshops, churches, and palaces (ere full of these fatal (orks of art; he had e)en helped (ith a fe( himself. +hey (ere deeply disappointing because they aroused the desire for the highest and did not fulfill it. +hey lacked the most essential thing.mystery. +hat (as (hat dreams and truly great (orks of art had in common1 mystery.

oldmund continued his thought1 It is mystery I lo)e and pursue. Se)eral times I ha)e seen it beginning to take shape; as an artist, I (ould like to capture and e%press it. Some day, perhaps, I,ll be able to. +he figure of the uni)ersal mother, the great birthgi)er, for e%ample. Unlike other figures, her mystery does not consist of this or that detail, of a particular )oluptuousness or sparseness, coarseness or delicacy, po(er or gracefulness. It consists of a fusion of the greatest contrasts of the (orld, those that cannot other(ise be combined, that ha)e made peace only in this figure. +hey li)e in it together1 birth and death, tenderness and cruelty, life

and destruction. If I only imagined this figure, and (ere she merely the play of my thoughts, it (ould not matter about her, I could dismiss her as a mistake and forget about her. /ut the uni)ersal mother is not an idea of mine; I did not think her up, I sa( her: She li)es inside me. I,)e met her again and again. She appeared to me one (inter night in a )illage (hen I (as asked to hold a light o)er the bed of a peasant (oman gi)ing birth1 that,s (hen the image came to life (ithin me. I often lose it; for long periods it remains remote; but suddenly it flashes clear again, as it did today. +he image of my o(n mother, (hom I lo)ed most of all, has transformed itself into this ne( image, and lies encased (ithin the ne( one like the pit in the cherry.

As his present situation became clear to him,

oldmund (as afraid

to make a decision. It (as as difficult as (hen he had said fare(ell to Narcissus and to the cloister. !nce more he (as on an important road1 the road to his mother. 8ould this mother&image one day take shape, a (ork of his hands, and become )isible to all6 -erhaps that (as his goal, the hidden meaning of his life. -erhaps; he didn,t kno(. /ut one thing he did kno(1 it (as good to tra)el to(ard his mother, to be dra(n and called by her. 2e felt ali)e. -erhaps he,d ne)er be able to shape her image, perhaps

she,d al(ays remain a dream, an intuition, a golden shimmer, a sacred mystery. At any rate, he had to follo( her and submit his fate to her. She (as his star.

And no( the decision (as at his fingertips; e)erything had become clear. Art (as a beautiful thing, but it (as no goddess, no goal. not for him. 2e (as not to follo( art, but only the call of his mother. 8hy continue to perfect the ability of his hands6 $aster Niklaus (as an e%ample of such perfection, and (here did it lead6 It led to fame and reputation, to money and a settled life, and to a drying up and d(arfing of one,s inner senses, to (hich alone the mystery (as accessible. It led to making pretty, precious toys, all kinds of ornate altars and pulpits, St. Sebastians and cute, curly angels, heads at four guilders a piece. !h, the gold in the eye of a carp, the s(eet thin sil)ery do(n at the edge of a butterfly,s (ing (ere infinitely more beautiful, ali)e, and precious than a (hole roomful of such (orks of art.

A boy came singing do(n the ri)er road. Sometimes his singing (as interrupted by a bite into a big piece of (hite bread he (as carrying in his hand. oldmund sa( him and asked him for a small

piece of bread, scratched out some of the soft crumb (ith t(o

fingers, and formed tiny balls (ith it. 2e leaned o)er the embankment railing and thre( the bread balls slo(ly, one by one, into the (ater, sa( the (hite ball sink into the darkness, sa( pushing fish heads s(arm around it until it disappeared into one of the mouths. 8ith deep satisfaction he sa( ball after ball go under and disappear. +hen he felt hungry and (ent to see one of his lo)es (ho ser)ed as a maid in a butcher,s house and (hom he called 4$y "ady of Sausages and 2ams.4 8ith the usual (histle he called her to the (indo( of her kitchen, e%pecting her to gi)e him a little nourishing something to slip in his pockets and eat outdoors, high abo)e the ri)er on one of the )ine&co)ered hills (here thick red soil glistened healthily under the full grape lea)es, (here small blue hyacinths (ith the delicate scent of fruit blossomed in the spring.

/ut this seemed to be his day of decisions and reali*ations. As ;athrine appeared at the (indo(, smiling do(n to him out of her coarsened face, as he stretched out his hand to make the habitual signal, he suddenly remembered all the other times he had stood (aiting in the same manner. 8ith boring precision he foresa( e)erything that (ould happen in the ne%t fe( minutes1 she (ould recogni*e his signal, step back, reappear promptly at the back

door (ith a morsel in her hand, smoked sausages perhaps, (hich he (ould accept, and, he,d stroke her a little and press her to him as she e%pected of him. Suddenly it seemed infinitely stupid and ugly to pro)oke this (hole mechanical se'uence of often e%perienced things and play his part in it, to recei)e the sausage, to feel her sturdy breasts press against him, and s'uee*e her a little as though in payment. Suddenly he thought he sa( a trait of soul&less habit in her dear coarse face, something mechanical and unmysterious in her friendly smile, something un(orthy of him. 2is gesture fro*e in mid&air; the smile fro*e on his face. 8as he still in lo)e (ith her, did he really still desire her6 No, he had been there too often. All too often he had seen this selfsame smile and smiled back (ithout a prompting from his heart. 8hat had still been all right yesterday (as suddenly no longer possible today. +he girl (as still standing there, looking, but he had turned a(ay, )anished from the street, determined ne)er to go back there again. "et someone else stroke those breasts: "et someone else eat those delicious sausages: 2o( this fat, happy city stuffed and s'uandered day in, day out: 2o( la*y, spoiled, and fastidious these fat burghers (ere, for (hom so many so(s and cal)es (ere killed e)ery day, so many poor, beautiful fish pulled from the ri)er: And he.ho( spoiled and rotten he had become, ho( disgustingly

like the fat burghers: +o a (anderer in a sno(&co)ered field, a dried&up prune or an old crust of bread tasted more delicious than a (hole meal here (ith the prosperous guildsmen. !h, the roaming life, freedom, the heath in the moonlight, the animal tracks peered at attenti)ely in the gray&de(ed morning grass: 2ere in the city, among the (ell&established burghers, e)erything (as so easy and cost so little, e)en lo)e. 2e had had enough of it. Suddenly he spat on it. "ife here had lost its meaning; it (as a marro(less bone. As long as the master had been an e%ample and "isbeth a princess, it had been beautiful, it had made sense; it had been bearable as long as he (as (orking on his St. =ohn. No( that it (as o)er, the perfume (as gone and the flo(er had (ilted. 2e (as s(ept up in a )iolent (a)e. A sudden a(areness of impermanence (ashed o)er him, a feeling that often deeply tortured and into%icated him. 0)erything (as soon (ilted, e)ery desire 'uickly e%hausted; nothing remained but bones and dust. /ut one thing did remain1 the eternal mother, basic, ancient, fore)er young, (ith her sad, cruel smile of lo)e. Again he sa( her for an instant1 a giant figure (ith stars in her hair. #reamily she sat on the edge of the (orld, plucking flo(er after flo(er, life after life, (ith a playful hand, slo(ly dropping them into the bottomless )oid.

#uring these days, (hile

oldmund floated through the familiar

city in a drunken depression of bidding fare(ell, (atching a (ilted piece of life fade a(ay behind him, $aster Niklaus took great pains to pro)ide for his future and tried to make his restless guest settle do(n fore)er. 2e persuaded the guild to issue master,s diploma and concei)ed a plan to tie oldmund a oldmund to him

fore)er, not as a subordinate, but as an associate, (ith (hom he (ould discuss and e%ecute all important orders and share in the earnings. It might be a risk, not least because of "isbeth, because the young man (ould of course soon become his son&in&la(. /ut e)en the best assistant Niklaus had e)er paid (ages to could not ha)e made a statue like oldmund,s St. =ohn. /esides, he (as

gro(ing old; had fe(er ideas and less creati)e force, and he did not (ant to see his famous (orkshop sink to the le)el of ordinary craftsmanship. to take the risk. oldmund (ould not be easy to handle, but he had

+he master (orried and speculated. 2e (ould enlarge the back (orkroom for oldmund, gi)e him the room in the attic and present

him (ith beautiful ne( clothes for his acceptance by the guild. Carefully he sounded out "isbeth,s feelings. She had been

e%pecting something of the sort since the meal that noon. And "isbeth (as not opposed to it. If the fello( could be persuaded to settle do(n and become a master of his craft, she had no ob5ection. +here (ere no obstacles on her side. And if $aster Niklaus and his craft did not fully succeed in taming this gypsy, "isbeth (as sure she could achie)e the rest.

0)erything (as ready, the bait had been laid appeti*ingly before the trap for the bird to (alk in. +he master sent for oldmund, (ho

had not sho(n himself of late. !nce more he (as in)ited to dinner. Again he appeared brushed and pressed; again he sat in the beautiful, some(hat o)ersolemn room; again he drank toasts to master and daughter, until finally the daughter left the room and Niklaus brought forth his great plan and made his offer.

4I think you,)e understood me,4 he said, concluding his surprising disclosure, 4and I need not tell you that probably no young man has e)er been promoted to master as rapidly, (ithout e)en ser)ing the re'uired apprenticeship, and then placed in such a (arm nest. 3our fortune is made, oldmund.4

oldmund looked at his master (ith embarrassed surprise,

pushed the mug a(ay although it (as still half full. 2e had e%pected that Niklaus (ould scold him a little because of the days he had lost loafing, and then propose that he stay (ith him as his assistant. And no( this. 2e felt sad and constrained, sitting across the table from this man. 2e could not find a ready ans(er.

+he master,s face gre( slightly tense and disappointed (hen his honorable offer (as not accepted immediately (ith 5oyful modesty. 2e stood up and said1 48ell, my proposal comes une%pectedly. -erhaps you,d like to think about it. It does offend me a little that it should be this (ay; I had thought I (as gi)ing you a great 5oy. /ut ne)er mind, take your time and think it o)er.4


oldmund said, fighting for (ords, 4don,t be angry (ith

me: I thank you (ith all my heart for your good(ill, and e)en more for the patience (ith (hich you ha)e taught me. I,ll ne)er forget ho( deeply indebted I am to you. /ut I need no time to think it o)er, I ha)e long since decided.4

4#ecided (hat64

4I had made my decision before I accepted your in)itation and

before I had any idea of your honorable offer. I,m not going to remain here any longer, I,m going back on the road.4

Niklaus turned pale and looked at him darkly.

4$aster,4 begged

oldmund, 4I do not (ish to offend you, belie)e

me. I ha)e told you my decision. Nothing can change it. I must lea)e, I must tra)el, I must be free. "et me thank you cordially once again, and let us bid each other a friendly fare(ell.4

2e held out his hand; he (as close to tears. Niklaus did not take his hand. 2is face had turned (hite; he (as pacing the room, faster and faster, his steps echoing (ith rage. Ne)er had oldmund seen him like that.

Suddenly the master stopped, made a dreadful effort to control himself, and said, looking past oldmund, through clenched teeth1

4All right, go then if you must: /ut go at once: #o not force me e)er to see you again: I don,t (ant to do or say anything that I might regret later. o:4

!nce more

oldmund held out his hand. +he master looked as

though he (ere going to spit at it.

oldmund turned, no( also

pale, and (alked softly out of the room. !utside he put on his cap and crept do(n the stairs, letting his hand brush o)er the car)ed heads; do(nstairs he entered the small (orkshop in the courtyard, stood for a (hile in fare(ell in front of his St. =ohn, and left the house (ith a pain in his heart that (as deeper than (hen he left the knight,s castle and poor "ydia.

At least it had gone 'uickly: At least nothing unnecessary had been said: +hat (as his only consolation as he crossed the threshold. Suddenly street and city became transformed, had the unfamiliar face that familiar things take on (hen our heart has taken lea)e of them. 2e looked back at the door of the house1 it had become the door to a strange house that (as no( closed to him.

/ack in his room

oldmund began to prepare for his departure.

Not much preparation (as necessary; he merely had to say fare(ell. +here (as a picture on the (all that he had painted, a gentle madonna, and a fe( trifles that he had ac'uired1 a Sunday hat, a pair of dancing shoes, a roll of dra(ings, a small lute, a number of small clay figures he had modeled; a fe( presents from

(omen1 a bunch of artificial flo(ers, a rubyred drinking glass, a hard old heart&shaped cookie, and similar odds and ends. 0ach piece had a meaning and a story, had been dear to him and (as no( only cumbersome clutter, of (hich he could take nothing along. 2e traded the ruby glass for his landlord,s good strong hunting knife, (hich he sharpened at the (hetting stone in the courtyard. 2e crumbled up the cookie and fed it to the chickens in the yard ne%t door, ga)e the painting of the madonna to his landlady and (as gi)en a useful gift in e%change1 an old leather satchel and ample pro)isions for the road. 2e packed his fe( shirts in the satchel (ith a couple of small dra(ings rolled o)er a piece of broomstick, and put in the food. 0)erything else had to stay behind.

+here (ere se)eral (omen in the city to (hom he should ha)e said fare(ell; he had slept (ith one of them only yesterday, (ithout telling her of his plans. Romantic sou)enirs had a (ay of attaching themsel)es to one (hen one (anted to mo)e on, but they (ere not to be taken seriously. 2e said fare(ell to no one but the o(ners of the house. 2e did that in the e)ening, so he could lea)e )ery early the ne%t morning.

And yet there (as someone (ho got up in the morning and asked him into the kitchen for a cup of hot milk 5ust as he (as about to sneak out. It (as the daughter of the house, a child of fifteen, a 'uiet sickly creature (ith beautiful eyes (ho had a defect of the hip that made her limp. 2er name (as $arie. 8ith a sleepless face, completely pale but carefully dressed and combed, she ser)ed him hot milk and bread in the kitchen and seemed )ery sad to see him lea)e. 2e thanked her and out of pity kissed her goodbye on her narro( mouth. Re)erently, (ith closed eyes, she recei)ed his kiss. 13 #uring the first days of his ne( (andering life, in the first greedy (hirl of regained freedom, oldmund had to relearn to li)e the

homeless, timeless life of the tra)eler. !bedient to no man, dependent only on (eather and season, (ithout a goal before them or a roof abo)e them, o(ning nothing, open to e)ery (him of fate, the homeless (anderers lead their childlike, bra)e, shabby e%istence. +hey are the sons of Adam, (ho (as dri)en out of -aradise; the brothers of the animals, of innocence. !ut of hea)en,s hand they accept (hat is gi)en them from moment to moment1 sun, rain, fog, sno(, (armth, cold, comfort, and hardship;

time does not e%ist for them and neither does history, or ambition, or that bi*arre idol called progress and e)olution, in (hich houseo(ners belie)e so desperately. A (ayfarer may be delicate or crude, artful or a(k(ard, bra)e or co(ardly.he is al(ays a child at heart, li)ing in the first day of creation, before the beginning of the history of the (orld, his life al(ays guided by a fe( simple instincts and needs. 2e may be intelligent or stupid; he may be deeply a(are of the fleeting fragility of all li)ing things, of ho( pettily and fearfully each li)ing creature carries its bit of (arm blood through the glaciers of cosmic space, or he may merely follo( the commands of his poor stomach (ith childlike greed.he is al(ays the opponent, the deadly enemy of the established proprietor, (ho hates him, despises him, or fears him, because he does not (ish to be reminded that all e%istence is transitory, that life is constantly (ilting, that merciless icy death fills the cosmos all around.

+he childlike life of the (anderer, its mother&origin, its turning a(ay from la( and mind, its openness and constant secret intimacy (ith death had long since deeply impregnated and molded oldmund,s

soul. /ut mind and (ill li)ed (ithin him ne)ertheless; he (as an artist, and this made his life rich and difficult. Any life e%pands and

flo(ers only through di)ision and contradiction. 8hat are reason and sobriety (ithout the kno(ledge of into%ication6 8hat is sensuality (ithout death standing behind it6 8hat is lo)e (ithout the eternal mortal enmity of the se%es6

Summer sank a(ay, and autumn; painfully

oldmund struggled

through the bitter months, (andered drunkenly through the s(eet& smelling spring. 2astily the seasons fled; again and again high summer sun sank do(n. 3ears passed. oldmund seemed to

ha)e forgotten that there (ere other things on earth besides hunger and lo)e, and this silent, eerie onrush of the seasons; he seemed completely dro(ned in the motherly, instincti)e basic (orld. /ut in his dreams or his thought&filled moments of rest, o)erlooking a flo(ering or (ilting )alley, he (as all eyes, an artist. 2e longed desperately to halt the gracefully drifting nonsense of life (ith his mind and transform it into sense.

!ne day he found a companion. After his bloody ad)enture (ith 9iktor he ne)er tra)eled any (ay but by himself, yet this man surreptitiously attached himself to him and he could not get rid of him for 'uite some time. +his man (as not like 9iktor. 2e (as a pilgrim (ho had been to Rome, a still young man, (earing pilgrim,s

cloak and hat. 2is name (as Robert and his home (as on "ake Constance. Robert (as the son of an artisan. 7or a time he had attended the school of the St. allus monks, and (hile still a boy

had made up his mind to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. It (as his fa)orite ambition and he sei*ed the first opportunity to carry it out. +his opportunity presented itself (ith the death of his father, in (hose shop he had (orked as a cabinetmaker. +he old man (as hardly under the ground (hen Robert announced to his mother and sister that nothing could stop him from setting out on his pilgrimage to Rome, to satisfy his urge and atone for his and his father,s sins. In )ain the (omen complained; in )ain they scolded. 2e remained stubborn, and instead of taking care of them, he set out on his 5ourney (ithout his mother,s blessing and (ith the curses of his sister. 2e (as dri)en mainly by a desire to tra)el, and to this (as added a kind of superficial piety, an inclination to linger in the )icinity of churches and churchly rituals, a delight in masses, baptisms, burials, incense, and burning candles. 2e kne( a little "atin, but his childish soul (as not stri)ing for learning but rather for contemplation and 'uiet adoration in the shado(s of church )aults. 2e had been a passionately *ealous altar boy. oldmund

did not take him )ery seriously, but he liked him. 2e felt a slight kinship (ith his instincti)e surrender to (andering and ne( places.

At the time of his father,s death, Robert had contentedly set out and had indeed reached Rome, (here he had accepted the hospitality of cloisters and parsonages, looked at the mountains and at the south and felt )ery happy. 2e had heard hundreds of masses, prayed at all famous holy places, recei)ed the sacraments, and breathed in more incense than his small youthful sins and those of his father re'uired. 2e had stayed a(ay for a year or more, and (hen he finally returned and entered his father,s little house, he (as hardly recei)ed like the prodigal son. 2is sister had meantime taken o)er the duties and pri)ileges of the household. She had hired and then married an industrious cabinetmaker,s assistant, and ruled o)er house and (orkshop so thoroughly that the returned pilgrim soon reali*ed he (as not needed. 8hen he mentioned setting out on ne( tra)els, no one asked him to stay. 2e did not take it too much to heart. 2is mother ga)e him a fe( pennies, and again he put on pilgrim,s clothes and set out (ithout a goal, straight through the empire, a half&priestly )agrant. Copper sou)enir coins from (ell&kno(n pilgrim shrines and blessed rosaries tinkled around his body.

2e met

oldmund, (andered (ith him for a day, e%changed

(ayfarers, memories (ith him, disappeared in the ne%t small to(n,

reappeared here and there, and finally stayed (ith him, an amiable, dependable tra)eling companion. oldmund pleased him

greatly. 2e (ooed his fa)or (ith small ser)ices, admired his kno(ledge, his audacity, his mind, and lo)ed his health, strength, and frankness. +hey got used to each other, and oldmund (as

also easy to get along (ith. +here (as only one thing he (ould not tolerate1 (hen his melancholy and brooding moods sei*ed him, he remained stubbornly silent and ignored the other man as though he did not e%ist. #uring these moods one could neither chat nor ask 'uestions nor console oldmund; one had to let him be and

remain silent. Robert (as not long in learning this. 2e had noticed that oldmund kne( a lot of "atin )erses and songs by heart. 2e

had heard him e%plain the stone figures outside the portals of a cathedral, had seen him dra( life&si*e figures on an empty (all in rapid, bold strokes, and he thought his companion (as a fa)orite of od and practically a magician. Robert also sa( that oldmund

(as a fa)orite of (omen and could obtain their fa)ors (ith a glance and a smile; though he liked this less (ell, still he had to admire him for it.

!ne day their 5ourney (as interrupted in an une%pected manner. +hey (ere approaching a )illage (hen they (ere recei)ed by a

small group of peasants armed (ith cudgels, poles, and flails. 7rom far off the leader shouted to them that they should turn around at once and ne)er come back, that they should run like the de)il or else they,d be beaten to death. oldmund stopped and

(ished to kno( (hat this (as all about; the reply (as a stone against his chest. 2e turned to Robert, but Robert had already started running. +he peasants ad)anced threateningly, and oldmund had no choice but to follo( his fleeing companion. +rembling, Robert (aited for him under a crucifi% in the middle of a field.

43ou ran like a hero,4 laughed

oldmund. 4/ut (hat do those pigs

ha)e in their thick heads6 Is there a (ar on6 +o place armed sentinels outside their rotten little to(n, refusing to let people in.I (onder (hat it all means.4

Robert didn,t kno( either. /ut certain e%periences in an isolated farmhouse the ne%t morning made them guess the secret. +he farm, (hich consisted of a hut, a stable, and a barn surrounded by a green crop (ith high grass and many fruit trees, lay strangely still and asleep1 there (ere no )oices, no footfalls, no children screaming, no scythes being sharpened, not a sound. In the

courtyard, a co( stood in the grass, lo(ing furiously. It (as ob)iously time to milk her. +hey stepped up to the door, knocked, recei)ed no ans(er, (alked into the stable; it (as open and abandoned. +hey (ent to the barn. !n its stra( roof, light green moss glistened in the sun.but they didn,t find a soul there either. +hey (alked back to the house, astonished and depressed by the deserted homestead. Se)eral times they hammered against the door (ith their fists; no ans(er. oldmund tried to open it. +o his

surprise he found it unlocked, and he pushed and entered the pitch&dark room. 4 od bless you,4 he called loudly. 4Nobody home64 +he hut remained silent. Robert stayed outside. Impelled by curiosity, oldmund ad)anced further. +here (as a bad smell in

the hut, a strange, disgusting smell. +he hearth (as full of ash. 2e ble( into it1 sparks still gleamed at the bottom under charred logs. +hen he noticed someone sitting in the half light beside the hearth. Someone (as sitting there in an armchair, asleep1 it looked like an old (oman. Calling did no good1 the house seemed to be under a spell. 8ith a friendly tap he touched the seated (oman on the shoulder, but she did not stir and he sa( that she (as sitting in a cob(eb, (ith threads running from her hair to her chin. 4She is dead,4 he thought (ith a slight shudder. +o make sure, he tried to re)i)e the fire, scratched and ble( until a flame shot up and he

(as able to light a long piece of kindling. 2e held it up to the (oman and sa( a blue&black cada)er,s face under gray hair, one eye still open, staring empty and leaden. +he (oman had died sitting in the chair. 8ell, she (as beyond help.

8ith the burning stick in his hand,

oldmund searched further. In

the same room, across the threshold to a back room, he found another corpse, a boy perhaps eight or nine, (ith a s(ollen, disfigured face, dressed only in a shirt. 2e lay (ith his belly across the doorsill, both hands clenched in firm furious little fists. +he second one, thought oldmund. As though in a hideous dream, he

(alked into the back room. +here the shutters (ere open, the daylight pouring in. Carefully he e%tinguished his torch and ground the sparks out on the floor.

+here (ere three beds in the back room. !ne (as empty, and the stra( peeked out from under coarse gray sheets. In the second bed another person, a bearded man, lay stiffly on his back, his head bent back(ard and his chin and beard pointing at the ceiling; it (as probably the farmer. 2is haggard face shimmered faintly in unfamiliar colors of death, one arm dangling to the floor, (here an earthen (ater 5ug had been pushed o)er. +he (ater had run out

and had not yet been completely absorbed by the floor; it had run into a hollo( and made a small puddle. In the second bed, completely entangled in sheets and blanket, lay a big, husky (oman. 2er face (as pressed into the bed, and coarse, stra(& blond hair glistened in the bright light. 8ith her, (rapped around her as though caught and throttled in the tousled linen, lay a half& gro(n girl as stra(&blond as she, (ith gray&blue stains in her dead face.

oldmund,s eyes tra)eled from corpse to corpse. +he girl,s face (as already terribly disfigured, but he could see something of her helpless horror of death. In the neck and hair of the mother, (ho had dug herself so deeply into the bed, one could read rage, fear, and a passionate desire to flee, especially in the (ild hair, (hich could not resign itself to dying. +he farmer,s face sho(ed stubbornness and held&in pain. 2e had died a hard death, but his bearded chin rose steeply, rigidly into the air like that of a (arrior lying on the battlefield. 2is 'uiet, taut, stubbornly controlled posture (as beautiful; it had probably not been a petty, co(ardly man (ho had recei)ed death in this manner. $ost touching (as the little corpse of the boy lying on its belly across the threshold. +he face told nothing, but the posture across the threshold and the

clenched child fists told a great deal1 incomprehensible suffering, una)ailing struggle against unheard&of pain. /eside his head, a cat hole had been sa(ed into the door. oldmund e%amined

e)erything attenti)ely. +he sights in this hut (ere ghastly and the stench of the corpses dreadful; still, it all held a deep attraction for him. 0)erything spoke of greatness, of fate. It (as real, uncompromising. Something about it stirred his heart and penetrated his soul.

Robert had begun calling him from outside, (ith impatience and fear. oldmund (as fond of Robert, but at this moment he thought

ho( petty and cheap a li)ing person could be in his childish fear and curiosity, compared to the nobility of the dead. 2e did not ans(er Robert,s calls; he ga)e himself completely to the sight of the dead, (ith that strange mi%ture of heart&felt compassion and cold obser)ation of the artist. 2e took in all the details1 the spra(led&out figures, their heads and hands, the patterns in (hich they had fro*en. 2o( still it (as in the spellbound hut, and (hat a strange, terrible smell: 2o( sad and ghostlike (as this small home, (ith the remains of the hearth fire still glo(ing, inhabited by corpses, completely filled (ith death, penetrated by death. Soon the flesh (ould fall off these 'uiet faces; rats (ould eat the bodies.

8hat other people performed in the pri)acy of their coffins, in the gra)es, (ell hidden and in)isible, the last and poorest performance, this falling apart and decaying, (as performed here at home by fi)e people in their rooms, in broad daylight, behind an unlocked door, thoughtlessly, shamelessly, )ulnerably. oldmund

had seen many corpses, but ne)er an e%ample like this of the merciless (orkings of death. #eeply he studied it.

7inally Robert,s yelling outside the house began to disturb him, and he (ent out. 2is companion looked at him (ith fright.

48hat happened64 he asked in a lo(, fear&strangled )oice. 4Isn,t there anyone in the house6 !h, and (hat eyes you ha)e: Say something:4

oldmund measured him coolly.

4 o in and take a look. +his is a strange farmhouse all right. After(ard (e,ll milk the beautiful co( o)er there. o ahead:4

2esitantly Robert entered the hut, disco)ered the old (oman sitting at the hearth, and let out a loud scream (hen he reali*ed

that she (as dead. As he came out, he (as (ide&eyed (ith fright.

47or hea)en,s sake: A dead (oman is sitting there by the hearth. 2o( can it be6 8hy isn,t anyone (ith her6 8hy don,t they bury her6 !h od, she,s already begun to smell.4

oldmund smiled.

43ou,re a great hero, Robert; but you came back out too fast. A dead old (oman sitting in a chair like that is indeed a strange sight; but if you,d (alked a fe( steps farther, you,d see something stranger still. +here are fi)e corpses, Robert. +hree in bed, a dead boy lying across the threshold, and the old (oman. +hey,re all dead, the entire family. +he (hole household is gone. +hat,s (hy nobody milked the co(.4

2orrified, Robert stared at him and suddenly cried in a choking )oice1 4No( I understand (hy the peasants didn,t (ant to let us into their )illage yesterday. !h od, no( it,s all clear to me. +he oldmund, and you,)e

plague: /y my poor soul, it,s the plague,

stayed in there all this time, maybe you e)en touched those corpses: et a(ay, don,t come near me, I,m sure you,re infected.

I,m sorry,

oldmund, but I must go, I can,t stay (ith you.4

2e turned to run but (as held back by his pilgrim,s cloak. oldmund looked at him sternly, (ith silent reprimand, and mercilessly held on to the man, (ho pulled and tugged.

4$y dear little boy,4 he said in a friendly&ironic tone, 4you,re more intelligent than one might think, you,re probably right. 8ell, (e,ll find out in the ne%t farm or )illage. 3es, it,s probably the plague. 8e,ll see if (e escape it safe and sound. /ut, little Robert, I can,t let you run a(ay no(. "ook, I ha)e a soft heart, much too soft, and (hen I think that you might ha)e contaminated yourself in there I cannot let you run off to lie do(n some(here in a field and die, all alone, (ith no one to close your eyes and dig you a gra)e and thro( a bit of earth o)er you. No, dear friend, that (ould be too sad to bear. "isten then, and pay careful attention to (hat I am saying, because I,m not going to say it t(ice1 (e t(o are in the same danger; it can hit you or it can hit me. +herefore (e are staying together; (e (ill either perish together or escape this cursed plague together. If you fall ill and die, I,ll bury you; that,s a promise. And if I die, then you do as you please1 you can bury me or run off; I don,t care. /ut until then, my friend, no one runs off, remember

that: 8e need each other. And no( shut your trap; I don,t (ant to hear another (ord. No( go and find a bucket some(here in the stable so that (e can milk the co(.4

+hey did this, and from that moment on

oldmund commanded

and Robert obeyed, and both fared (ell for it. Robert made no more attempts to flee. 2e only said soothingly1 43ou frightened me for a moment. I didn,t like your face (hen you came out of that house of death. I thought you had caught the plague. And e)en if it isn,t the plague, your face has changed completely. 8as it so terrible, (hat you sa( in there64

4It (as not terrible,4

oldmund said slo(ly. 4I sa( nothing in there

that does not a(ait you and me and e)erybody, e)en if (e don,t catch the plague.4

As they (andered on, the /lack #eath (as e)ery(here they (ent, reigning o)er the land. Some )illages did not let strangers in; others let them (alk unhindered through e)ery street. $any farms stood deserted; many unburied corpses lay rotting in the fields and in the houses. Unmilked co(s lo(ed and star)ed in stables; other li)estock ran (ild in the fields. +hey milked and fed many a co(

and goat; they killed and roasted many a goatlet or piglet at the edge of the forest and drank (ine and cider in many a masterless cellar. +hey had a good life. +here (as abundance e)ery(here. /ut it tasted only half good to them. Robert li)ed in constant fear of the disease, and he felt sick at the sight of the corpses. !ften he (as completely beside himself (ith fear. Again and again he thought that he had caught the plague, and held his head and hands in the smoke of their campfire for a long time, for this (as supposed to be a pre)entati)e, and felt his body @e)en in his sleepA to see if bumps (ere forming on his legs or in his armpits.

oldmund often scolded and made fun of him. 2e did not share his fear or his disgust. 7ascinated and depressed, he (alked through the stricken country, attracted by the sight of the great death, his soul filled (ith the autumn, his heart hea)y (ith the song of the mo(ing scythe. Sometimes the image of the uni)ersal mother (ould reappear to him, a pale, gigantic face (ith $edusa eyes and a smile thick (ith suffering and death.

!ne day they came to a small to(n that (as hea)ily fortified. !utside the gates defensi)e ramparts ran house&high around the entire city (all, but there (as no sentinel standing up there or at

the (ide&open gates. Robert refused to enter the to(n, and he implored his companion not to go in either. =ust then a bell tolled. A priest came out of the city gates, a cross in his hands, and behind him came three carts, t(o dra(n by horses and one by a pair of o%en. +he carts (ere piled high (ith corpses. A couple of men in strange coats, their faces shrouded in hoods, ran alongside and spurred the animals on.

Robert disappeared, (hite&faced.

oldmund follo(ed the death

carts at a short distance. +hey ad)anced a fe( hundred steps farther; there (as no cemetery1 a hole had been dug in the middle of the deserted heath, only three spades deep but )ast as a hall. oldmund stood and looked on as the men pulled the corpses from the carts (ith staffs and boat hooks and tossed them into the )ast hole. 2e sa( the murmuring priest s(ing his cross o)er them and (alk a(ay, sa( the men light huge fires all around the flat gra)e and silently creep back into the city. No one had tried to thro( any earth o)er the pit. oldmund looked in1 fifty or more

persons lay there, piled one on top of the other, many of them naked. Stiff and accusing, an arm or a leg rose in the air, a shirt fluttered timidly in the (ind.

8hen he came back, Robert begged him almost on his knees to flee this place. 2e had good reason to beg, for he sa( in oldmund,s absent look the absorption in and concentration on horror, that dreadful curiosity that had become all too familiar. 2e (as not able to hold his friend back. Alone, the to(n. oldmund (alked into

2e (alked through the unguarded gates, and at the echo of his steps many to(ns and gates rose up in his memory. 2e remembered ho( he had (alked through them, ho( he had been recei)ed by screaming children, playing boys, 'uarreling (omen, the hammering of a forge, the crystal sound of the an)il, the rattling of carts and many other sounds, delicate and coarse, all braided together as though into a (eb that bore (itness to many forms of human labor, 5oy, bustle, and communication. 2ere, under this yello( gate, in this empty street, nothing echoed, no one laughed, no one cried, e)erything lay fro*en in deathly silence, cut by the o)erloud, almost noisy chatter of a running (ell. /ehind an open (indo( he sa( a baker amid his loafs and rolls. oldmund pointed

to a roll; the baker carefully handed it out to him on a long baking sho)el, (aited for oldmund to place money into the sho)el, and

angrily, but (ithout cursing, closed his little (indo( (hen the stranger bit into the roll and (alked on (ithout paying. /efore the (indo(s of a pretty house stood a ro( of earthen 5ars in (hich flo(ers had once bloomed. No( (ilted lea)es hung do(n o)er scraps of pottery. 7rom another house came the sound of sobbing, the misery of children,s )oices crying. In the ne%t street oldmund

sa( a pretty girl standing behind an upper&floor (indo(, combing her hair. 2e (atched her until she felt his eyes and looked do(n, blushing, and (hen he ga)e her a friendly smile, slo(ly a faint smile spread o)er her blushing face.

4Soon through combing64 he called up. Smiling, she leaned her light face out of the darkness of the (indo(.

4Not sick yet64 he asked, and she shook her head. 4+hen lea)e this city of death (ith me. 8e,ll go into the (oods and li)e a good life.4

2er eyes asked 'uestions.

4#on,t think it o)er too long. I mean it,4

oldmund called up to her.

4Are you (ith your father and mother, or are you in the ser)ice of

strangers6 Strangers, I see. Come along then, dear child. "et the old people die; (e are young and healthy and (ant to ha)e a bit of fun (hile there,s still time. Come along, little bro(n hair, I mean it.4

She ga)e him a probing look, hesitant and surprised. Slo(ly he (alked on, strolled through a deserted street and through another. Slo(ly he came back. +he girl (as still at the (indo(, leaning for(ard, glad to see him return. She (a)ed to him. Slo(ly he (alked on, and soon she came running after him, caught up (ith him before the gates, a small bundle in her hand, a red kerchief tied around her head.

48hat,s your name64 he asked.

4"ene. I,ll go (ith you. !h, it,s so horrible here in the city; e)erybody is dying. "et,s lea)e. "et,s lea)e.4

Not far from the gates Robert (as crouching moodily on the ground. 8hen oldmund appeared, he 5umped to his feet and

stared (hen he caught sight of the girl. +his time he did not gi)e in at once. 2e (hined and made a scene. 2o( could a man bring a person (ith him from that cursed plague hole and impose her

company on his companion6 It (as not only cra*y, it (as tempting od. 2e, Robert, (as not going to stay (ith him any longer; his patience had come to an end.

oldmund let him curse and lament until he found nothing more to say.

4+here,4 he said, 4no( you,)e sung your song. No( you,ll come (ith us, and be glad that (e ha)e such pretty company. 2er name is "ene and she stays (ith me. /ut I (ant to do you a fa)or too, Robert. "isten1 for a (hile (e,ll li)e in peace and health and stay a(ay from the plague. 8e,ll find a nice place for oursel)es, an empty hut, or (e,ll build one, and I,ll be the head of the household and "ene (ill be the mistress, and you,ll be our friend and li)e (ith us. !ur life is going to be a little pleasant and friendly no(. All right64

!h yes, Robert (as delighted. As long as no one asked him to shake "ene,s hand or touch her clothes >

No, said

oldmund, no one (ould ask him to. In fact, it (as strictly

forbidden to touch "ene, e)en (ith a finger. 4#on,t you dare:4

All three (alked on, first in silence, then gradually the girl began to talk. 2o( happy she (as to see sky and trees and meado(s again. It had been so gruesome in the plague&stricken city, more horrible than she could tell. And she began to clear her heart of all the sad, horrible things she had seen. She told so many a(ful stories1 the little to(n must ha)e been hell. !ne of the t(o doctors had died; the other only looked after the rich. In many houses the dead lay rotting, because nobody came to take them a(ay. In other houses looters stole, pillaged, and (hored. !ften they pulled the sick from their beds, thre( them onto the death carts (ith the corpses, and do(n into the pit of the dead. $any a horror tale she had to tell, and no one interrupted her. Robert listened (ith )oluptuous terror, oldmund silent and unruffled, letting the horrors

pour out and making no comment. 8hat (as there to say6 7inally "ene gre( tired, the stream dried up, she (as out of (ords.

oldmund began to (alk more slo(ly. Softly he began to sing, a song (ith many couplets, and (ith each couplet his )oice gre( fuller. "ene began to smile; Robert listened, delighted and deeply surprised. Ne)er before had he heard e)erything, this oldmund sing. 2e could do

oldmund. +here he (as singing, strange man: 2e

sang (ell; his )oice (as pure, though muffled. At the second song "ene (as humming (ith him, and soon she 5oined in (ith full )oice. 0)ening (as coming on. /lack forests rose up far o)er the heath, and behind them lo( blue mountains, (hich gre( bluer and bluer as though from (ithin. No( gay, no( solemn, their song follo(ed the rhythm of their steps.

43ou,re in such a good mood today,4 said Robert.

4!f course I,m in a good mood today, I found such a pretty lo)e. !h, "ene, ho( nice that the ghouls left you behind for me. +omorro( (e,ll find a little house (here (e,ll ha)e a good life and be happy to ha)e flesh and bone still together. "ene, did you e)er see those fat mushrooms in the (oods in autumn, the edible ones that the snails lo)e64

4!h yes,4 she laughed, 4I,)e seen lots of them.4

43our hair is that same mushroom bro(n, "ene, and it smells 5ust as good. Shall (e sing another song6 !r are you hungry6 I still ha)e a fe( good things in my satchel.4

+he ne%t day they found (hat they (ere looking for1 a log cabin in a small birch forest. -erhaps some (oodcutters had built it. It stood empty, and the door (as soon broken open. Robert agreed that this (as a good hut and a healthy region. !n the road they had met stray goats and had taken a fine one along (ith them.

48ell, Robert,4 said

oldmund, 4although you,re no carpenter, you

(ere once a cabinetmaker. 8e,re going to li)e here. 3ou must build us a partition for our castle, to make t(o rooms, one for "ene and me, and one for you and the goat. 8e don,t ha)e )ery much left to eat; today (e must be satisfied (ith goat,s milk, no matter ho( little there is. 3ou,ll build the (all, and (e,ll make up beds for all of us. +omorro( I,ll go out to look for food.4

Immediately e)erybody set to (ork.

oldmund and "ene (ent to

find stra(, fern, and moss for their sleeping places, and Robert sharpened his knife on a piece of flint and cut small birch posts to make a (all. /ut he could not finish it in one day and that e)ening he (ent outside to sleep in the open. oldmund had found a s(eet ently

playmate in "ene, shy and ine%perienced but deeply lo)ing.

he took her to his bosom and lay a(ake for a long time, listening to

her heart, long after she had fallen asleep, tired and satiated. 2e smelled her bro(n hair, nestled close to her, all the (hile thinking of the )ast flat pit into (hich the hooded de)ils had dumped their carts of corpses. "ife (as beautiful, beautiful and fleeting as happiness. 3outh (as beautiful and (ilted fast.

+he partition of the hut (as )ery pretty. All three (orked at it finally. Robert (anted to sho( (hat he could do and eagerly talked about all the things he (anted to build, if only he had a planing bench and tools, a straight edge and nails. /ut he had only his knife and his hands and had to be satisfied (ith cutting a do*en small birch posts and building a coarse sturdy fence in the hut. /ut, he decreed, the openings had to be filled in (ith plaited 5uniper. +hat took time, but it became gay and pretty; e)erybody helped. In bet(een, "ene (ent to gather berries and look after the goat, and oldmund scoured the region for food, e%plored the neighborhood, and came back (ith a fe( little things. +he region seemed uninhabited. Robert (as especially pleased about that1 they (ere safe from contamination as (ell as from 'uarrels; but it had one disad)antage1 there (as )ery little to eat. +hey found an abandoned peasant hut not far a(ay, (ithout corpses this time, and oldmund proposed to mo)e to the hut rather than stay in the

log cabin, but Robert shudderingly refused. 2e didn,t like to see oldmund enter the empty house, and e)ery piece he brought o)er had first to be smoked and (ashed before Robert touched it. oldmund didn,t find much.t(o posts, a milk pail, a fe( pieces of crockery, a hatchet, but one day he caught t(o stray chickens in the fields. "ene (as in lo)e and happy. All three en5oyed impro)ing their small home, making it a little prettier each day. +hey had no bread, but they took another goat into ser)ice and also found a small field full of turnips. +he days passed, the (all (as finished, the beds (ere impro)ed, they built a hearth. +he brook (as not far and had clear s(eet (ater. +hey often sang as they (orked.

!ne day, as they sat together drinking their milk and praising their settled life, "ene said suddenly in a dreamy tone1 4/ut (hat (ill (e do (hen (inter comes64

No one ans(ered. Robert laughed;

oldmund stared strangely

ahead of him. 0)entually "ene noticed that neither of them thought of (inter, that neither seriously thought of remaining such a long time in the same place, that this home (as no home, that she (as among (ayfarers. She hung her head.


oldmund said, playfully and encouragingly as though to a

child1 43ou,re a peasant,s daughter, "ene; peasants al(ays (orry. #on,t be afraid. 3ou,ll find your (ay back home once this plague period is o)er; it can,t last fore)er. +hen you,ll go back to your parents, or to (home)er is still ali)e, or you,ll return to the city and earn your bread as a maid. /ut no( it,s still summer. #eath is rampant throughout the region, but here it is pretty, and (e li)e (ell. +hat,s (hy (e can stay here for as long or as short a time as (e like.4

4And after(ards64 "ene asked )iolently. 4After(ards it is all o)er6 And you go a(ay6 8hat about me64

oldmund caught her braid and pulled at it softly.

4Silly little girl,4 he said, 4ha)e you already forgotten the ghouls and the abandoned houses, and the big hole outside the gates (here the fires burn6 3ou should be happy not to be lying in that hole (ith the rain falling on your little nightshirt. +hink of (hat you escaped, be glad that your dear life is still in your )eins, that you can still laugh and sing.4

She (as still not satisfied.

4/ut I don,t (ant to go a(ay again,4 she complained. 4Nor do I (ant to let you go. 2o( can one be happy (hen one kno(s that soon all (ill be finished and o)er (ith:4

!nce more

oldmund ans(ered her, in a friendly tone but (ith a

hidden threat in his )oice.

4About that, little "ene, the (ise men and saints ha)e (racked their brains. +here is no lasting happiness. /ut if (hat (e no( ha)e is not good enough for you, if it no longer pleases you, then I,ll set fire to this hut this )ery minute and each of us can go his (ay. "et things be as they are, "ene; (e,)e talked enough.4

She ga)e in and that,s (here they left it, but a shado( had fallen o)er her 5oy. 14 /efore summer had (ilted completely, life in the hut came to an end in a (ay they had not imagined. !ne day oldmund (as

roaming about the area (ith a slingshot, hoping to (ing a partridge or some other fo(l; their food had gro(n rather scarce. "ene (as not far a(ay, gathering berries, and from time to time he,d pass near her and see her head, her bro(n neck rising out of her linen shirt, or hear her sing. !nce he stole a fe( of her berries; then he (andered off and lost sight of her for a (hile. 2e thought about her, half tenderly, half annoyed, because she had again mentioned autumn and the future. She said that she thought she (as pregnant and she could not let him go off again. No( it (ill soon be o)er, he thought. Soon I,ll ha)e had enough and (ander on alone. I,ll lea)e Robert, too. I,ll try to get back to the big city (hen the cold begins, to $aster Niklaus. I,ll spend the (inter there and ne%t spring I,ll buy myself a ne( pair of shoes and (alk and (alk until I reach our cloister in $ariabronn and say hello to Narcissus. It must be ten years since I last sa( him, and I must see him again, if only for a day or t(o.

An unfamiliar sound roused him from his thoughts, and suddenly he reali*ed that all his thoughts and desires (ere already far a(ay from here. 2e listened intently. +he sound of fear repeated itself; he thought he recogni*ed "ene,s )oice and follo(ed it, irritated that she (as calling him. Soon he (as close enough.yes, it (as

"ene,s )oice. She (as calling his name as though in great distress. 2e ran faster, still some(hat annoyed, but pity and (orry gained the upper hand as her screaming continued. 8hen he (as finally able to see her, she (as kneeling in the heather, her blouse completely torn, screaming and (restling (ith a man (ho (as trying to rape her. oldmund ran for(ard (ith long leaps. All his

pent&up anger, his restlessness, his sorro( broke out in a ho(ling rage against the unkno(n attacker. 2e surprised the man as he tried to pin "ene to the ground. 2er naked breasts (ere bleeding, and a)idly the stranger held her in his grip. oldmund thre(

himself upon him, his furious fingers grabbing the man,s throat. It felt thin and stringy, co)ered (ith a (oolly beard. 8ith glee oldmund pressed the throat until the man let go of the girl and hung limply bet(een his hands; still throttling him, oldmund

dragged the e%hausted, half&dead man along the ground to a fe( gray ribs of rock protruding from the earth. 2e raised the defeated man, hea)y though he (as, t(ice, three times in the air and smashed his head against the sharp&edged rocks, broke his neck, and thre( the body do(n. 2is anger (as still not fully )ented; he (ould ha)e liked to mangle the man further.

Radiant, "ene sat and (atched. 2er breasts (ere bleeding; she

(as still trembling all o)er and panting, but she soon gathered herself together. 8ith a forlorn look of lust and admiration she (atched her po(erful lo)er dragging the intruder through the heather, throttling him, breaking his neck, and thro(ing his corpse do(n. "ike a dead snake, limp and distorted, the body lay on the ground, the gray face (ith unkempt beard and thinning hair falling pitifully to one side. +riumphant "ene sat up and fell against oldmund,s heart, but suddenly she turned pale. 7right (as still in her; she felt sick. 0%hausted, she sank into the blueberry bushes. /ut soon she (as able to (alk to the hut (ith oldmund. 2e

(ashed her breasts; one (as scratched and the other bore a bite (ound from the marauder,s teeth.

+he ad)enture e%cited Robert enormously. 2otly he asked for details of the combat. 43ou broke his neck, you say6 $agnificent: oldmund, you are a terrifying man.4


oldmund did not feel like talking about it any more; he had

cooled off. As he (alked a(ay from the dead man, poor boasting 9iktor had come to his mind. +his (as the second person (ho had died at his hand. In order to shut Robert up, he said1 4No( you might do something too; go o)er and get rid of the corpse. If it,s too

difficult to dig a hole for it, then drag it o)er to the reeds, or else co)er it up (ith stones and earth.4 /ut Robert turned do(n the proposal. 2e (anted no commerce (ith corpses; you could ne)er be sure they (eren,t infested (ith the plague.

"ene (as lying do(n. +he bite in her breast hurt, but soon she felt better, got up again, made a fire and cooked the e)ening milk; she (as cheerful, but oldmund sent her to bed early. She obeyed like oldmund (as somber and

a lamb, full of admiration for him.

taciturn; Robert reali*ed it and left him alone. $uch later oldmund (ent to bed. "istening, he bent o)er "ene. She (as asleep. 2e (as restless; he kept thinking of 9iktor, felt anguish and the urge to mo)e on; playing house had come to an end. !ne thing made him particularly pensi)e. 2e had caught "ene,s look (hile he bashed the man to death and tossed him do(n. A strange look. 2e kne( that he (ould ne)er forget it1 pride and triumph had radiated from her (ide, horrified, delighted eyes, a deep passionate desire to participate in the re)enge and to kill. 2e had ne)er seen anything like it in a (oman,s face, and had ne)er imagined such a look. 2ad it not been for that look, he thought, he might ha)e forgotten "ene,s face one day, after a number of years. It had made her peasant&girl face large, beautiful, and horrible. 7or

months his eyes had not e%perienced anything that made him 'ui)er (ith the (ish1 4!ne ought to dra( that:4 +hat look had caused this (ish to 'ui)er through him, and a kind of terror.

2e could not sleep, and finally he got up and (ent outside. It (as cool, and a light (ind played in the birches. 2e paced in the dark, sat do(n on a stone, dro(ned in thoughts and deep sadness. 2e felt sorry for 9iktor and for the man he had killed today. 2e regretted the lost innocence, the lost childlike 'uality of his soul. 2ad he gone a(ay from the cloister, left Narcissus, offended $aster Niklaus and renounced beautiful "isbeth merely to camp in the heath, track stray cattle, and kill that poor fello( back there on those stones6 #id all this make sense6 8as it (orth e%periencing6 2is heart gre( tight (ith meaninglessness and self&contempt. 2e let himself sink do(n and stared into the pale night clouds, and as he stared, his thoughts stopped; he didn,t kno( (hether he (as looking into the sky or into the drab (orld inside him. Suddenly, 5ust as he (as falling asleep on the stone, a large pale face appeared like far&a(ay lightning in the drifting clouds, the mother& face. It looked hea)y and )eiled, but suddenly its eyes opened (ide, large eyes full of lust and murder. de( fell on him. oldmund slept until the

+he ne%t day "ene (as ill. +hey made her stay in bed, for there (ere many things to be done1 in the morning Robert had seen t(o sheep in the small forest, but they had run from him. 2e called oldmund, and more than half the day they hunted until they caught one of the sheep; they came back e%hausted. "ene felt )ery sick. oldmund e%amined her and found plague boils. 2e

kept it secret, but Robert became suspicious (hen he heard that "ene had still not reco)ered. 2e (ould not stay in the hut. 2e,d find a sleeping place outside, he said, and he,d take the goat along too1 (hy let it get infected.

4 o to hell,4

oldmund yelled at him in fury. 4I don,t (ant to see

you e)er again.4 2e grabbed the goat and pulled her to his side of the 5uniper partition. Robert disappeared (ithout a (ord, (ithout the goat. 2e (as sick (ith fear1 of the plague, of oldmund, of

loneliness and the night. 2e lay do(n close to the hut.

oldmund said to "ene1 4I,ll stay (ith you, don,t (orry. 3ou,ll get (ell again.4

She shook her head.

4/e careful, lo)e. #on,t catch this sickness too; you mustn,t come so close to me. #on,t try so hard to console me. I,m going to die, and I,d rather die than find your bed empty one morning because you ha)e left me. I,)e thought of it e)ery morning and been afraid of it. No, I,d rather die.4

In the morning she (as e%tremely (eak.

oldmund had gi)en her

sips of (ater from time to time and napped a little in bet(een. No(, in the gro(ing light, he recogni*ed the signs of approaching death in her face, it looked so (ilted and flabby. 7or a moment he stepped outside to get some air and look at the sky. A fe( bent red fir trunks at the edge of the forest shone (ith the first rays of sun; the air tasted fresh and s(eet; the distant hills (ere still shrouded in morning clouds. 2e (alked a fe( steps, stretched his tired legs, and breathed deeply. +he (orld (as beautiful this morning. 2e,d probably soon be back on the road. It (as time to say goodbye.

Robert called to him from the forest. 8as she better6 If it (asn,t the plague, he,d stay. oldmund shouldn,t be angry (ith him; he

had (atched the sheep in the meantime.

4 o to hell, you and your sheep:4

oldmund shouted o)er to him.

4"ene is dying, and I too am infected.4

+his (as a lie; he had said it to get rid of Robert. 2e might be a (ell&meaning man, but oldmund had had enough of him. 2e (as

too co(ardly for him, too petty; he had no place in this fateful, shocking scene. Robert )anished and did not return. +he sun shone brightly.


oldmund came back to "ene, she lay asleep. 2e too fell

asleep once more, and in his dream he sa( his old horse /less and the beautiful chestnut tree at the cloister; he felt as though he (ere ga*ing back upon his lost and beautiful home from an infinitely remote, deserted region, and (hen he (oke, tears (ere running do(n his blond&bearded cheeks. 2e heard "ene speak in a (eak )oice. 2e thought she (as calling out to him and sat up on his bed, but she (as speaking to no one. She (as stammering (ords, lo)e (ords, curses, a little laugh, and began to hea)e deep sighs and s(allo(. radually she fell silent again. oldmund got

up and bent o)er her already disfigured face. 8ith bitter curiosity his eyes retraced the lines that the scalding breath of death (as so

miserably distorting and muddying. #ear "ene, called his heart, dear s(eet child, you too already (ant to lea)e me6 2a)e you already had enough of me6

2e (ould ha)e liked to run a(ay. +o (ander, roam, run, breathe the air, gro( tired, see ne( images. It (ould ha)e done him good; it might perhaps ha)e got him o)er his deep melancholy. /ut he could not lea)e no(. It (as impossible for him to lea)e the child to lie there alone and dying. 2e scarcely dared go outside e)ery fe( hours for a moment to breathe fresh air. Since "ene could no longer s(allo( any milk, he drank it himself. +here (as no other food. A couple of times he led the goat outside, for it to feed and drink (ater and mo)e around. !nce more he stood at "ene,s bed, murmured tender (ords to her, stared incessantly into her face, disconsolate but attenti)e, to (atch her dying. She (as conscious. Sometimes she slept, and (hen she (oke up she only half opened her eyes; the lids (ere tired and limp. Around eyes and nose the young girl looked older and older by the hour. A rapidly (ilting grandmother face sat on her fresh young neck. She spoke only rarely, said 4 oldmund,4 or 4lo)er,4 and tried to (et her s(ollen bluish lips (ith her tongue; (hen she did, he,d gi)e her a fe( drops of (ater. She died the follo(ing night. She died (ithout

complaining. It (as only a brief 'ui)er; than her breath stopped and a shudder ran o)er her. oldmund,s heart hea)ed mightily at

the sight. 2e recalled the dying fish he had so often pitied in the market1 they had died in 5ust that (ay, (ith a 'ui)er, a soft (oeful shudder, that ran o)er their skin and e%tinguished luster and life. 7or a (hile he knelt beside "ene. +hen he (ent out and sat do(n in the bushes. 2e remembered the goat and (alked back into the hut and let the animal out. After straying a short distance, it lay do(n on the ground. 2e lay do(n beside it, his head on its flank, and slept until the day gre( bright. +hen he (ent into the hut for the last time, stepped behind the braided (all, and looked for the last time at the poor dead face. It did not feel right to him to let the dead (oman lie there. 2e (ent out, filled his arms (ith dry (ood and underbrush, and thre( it into the hut. +hen he struck fire. 7rom the hut he took nothing along but the flint. In an instant the dry 5uniper (all burned brightly. 2e stood outside and (atched, his face reddened by the flames, until the (hole roof (as abla*e and the first beams crashed in. +he goat 5umped (ith fear and (hined. 2e kne( he ought to kill the animal and roast a piece of it and eat it, to ha)e strength for his 5ourney. /ut he could not bring himself to kill the goat; he dro)e it off into the heath and (alked a(ay. +he smoke of the fire follo(ed him into the forest. Ne)er before had he

felt so disconsolate setting out on a 5ourney.

And yet the things that lay in store for him (ere far (orse than he had imagined. It began (ith the first farms and )illages and continued to gro( more terrible as he (alked on. +he (hole region, the (hole )ast land lay under a cloud of death, under a )eil of horror, fear, and darkening of the soul. And the empty houses, the farm dogs star)ed on their chains and rotting, the scattered unburied corpses, the begging children, the death pits at the city gates (ere not the (orst. +he (orst (ere the sur)i)ors, (ho seemed to ha)e lost their eyes and souls under the (eight of horror and the fear of death. 0)ery(here the (anderer came upon strange, dreadful things. -arents had abandoned their children, husbands their (i)es, (hen they had fallen ill. +he ghouls reigned like hangmen; they pillaged the empty houses, left corpses unburied or, follo(ing their (hims, tore the dying from their beds before they had breathed their last and tossed them on the death carts. 7rightened fugiti)es (andered about alone, turned primiti)e, a)oiding all contact (ith other people, hounded by fear of death. !thers (ere grouped together by an e%cited, terrified lust for life, drinking and dancing and fornicating (hile death played the fiddle. Still others co(ered outside cemeteries, unkempt, mourning or

cursing, (ith insane eyes, or sat outside their empty houses. And, (orst of all, e)erybody looked for a scapegoat for his unbearable misery; e)erybody s(ore that he kne( the criminal (ho had brought on the disease, (ho had intentionally caused it. rinning,

e)il people, they said, (ere bent on spreading death by e%tracting the disease poison from corpses and smearing it on (alls and doorknobs, by poisoning (ells and cattle (ith it. 8hoe)er (as suspected of these horrors (as lost, unless he (as (arned and able to flee1 either the la( or the mob condemned him to death. +he rich blamed the poor, or )ice )ersa; both blamed the =e(s, or the 7rench, or the doctors. In one to(n, oldmund (atched (ith

grim heart (hile the entire ghetto (as burned, house after house, (ith the ho(ling mob standing around, dri)ing screaming fugiti)es back into the fire (ith s(ords and clubs. In the insanity of fear and bitterness, innocent people (ere murdered, burned, and tortured e)ery(here. oldmund (atched it all (ith rage and re)ulsion. +he

(orld seemed destroyed and poisoned; there seemed to be no more 5oy, no more innocence, no more lo)e on earth. !ften he fled the o)erly )iolent feasts of the desperate dancers. 0)ery(here he heard the fiddle of death; he soon learned to recogni*e its sound. !ften he participated in mad orgies, played the lute or danced through fe)erish nights in the glo( of peat torches.

2e (as not afraid. 2e had first tasted the fear of death during that (inter night under the pines (hen 9iktor,s fingers clutched at his throat, and later in the cold and hunger of many a hard day. +hat had been a death (hich one could fight, against (hich one could defend oneself, and he had defended himself, (ith trembling hands and feet, (ith gaping stomach and e%hausted body, had fought, (on, and escaped. /ut no one could fight death by plague; one had to let it rage and gi)e in. oldmund had gi)en in long ago.

2e had no fear. It seemed as though he (as no longer interested in life, since he had left "ene behind in the burning hut, since his endless 5ourney through a land de)astated by death. /ut enormous curiosity dro)e him and kept him a(ake; he (as indefatigable, (atching the reaper, listening to the song of the transitory. 2e did not go out of his (ay. 0)ery(here he felt the same 'uiet passion to participate, to (alk through hell (ith (ide& open eyes. 2e ate moldy bread in empty houses, sang and drank at the insane feasts, plucked the fast&(ilting flo(er of lust, looked into the fi%ed, drunken stares of the (omen, into the fi%ed, stupid eyes of the drunk, into the fading eyes of the dying. 2e lo)ed the desperate, fe)erish (omen, helped carry corpses in e%change for a plate of soup, thre( earth o)er naked bodies for t(o pennies. It

had gro(n dark and (ild in the (orld. #eath ho(led its song, and oldmund heard it (ith burning passion.

2is goal (as $aster Niklaus,s city; that,s (here the )oice of his heart dre( him. +he road (as long and lined (ith decay, (ilting, and dying. Sadly he 5ourneyed on, into%icated by the song of death, open to the loudly screaming misery of the (orld, sad, and yet glo(ing, (ith eager senses.

In a cloister he came upon a recently painted fresco. 2e had to look at it for a long time. A dance of death had been painted on a (all1 pale bony death, dancing people out of life, king and bishop, abbot and earl, knight, doctor, peasant, lans'uenet.e)eryone he took along (ith him, (hile skeleton musicians played on hollo( bones. oldmund,s curious eyes drank in the painting. An

unkno(n colleague had applied the lesson he too had learned from the /lack #eath, and (as screaming the bitter lesson of the ine)itable end shrilly into e)eryone,s ear. It (as a good picture, and a good sermon; this unkno(n colleague had seen and painted the sub5ect rather (ell. A bony, ghastly echo rose from his (ild picture. And yet it (as not (hat oldmund had seen and e%perienced. It

(as the obligation to die that (as painted here, the stern and

merciless end. /ut

oldmund (ould ha)e preferred another

picture. In him the (ild song of death had a completely different sound, not bony and se)ere, but s(eet rather, and seducti)e, motherly, an enticement to come home. 8here)er the hand of death reached into life, the sound (as not only shrill and (arlike but also deep and lo)ing, autumnal, satiated, the little lamp of life glo(ed brighter, more intensely at the approach of death. +o others death might be a (arrior, a 5udge or hangman, a stern father. +o him death (as also a mother and a mistress; its call (as a mating call, its touch a shudder of lo)e. After looking at the painted death dance, oldmund felt dra(n to the master and to his craft (ith

rene(ed force. /ut e)ery(here there (ere delays, ne( sights and e%periences. 8ith 'ui)ering nostrils he breathed the air of death. 0)ery(here pity or curiosity claimed an e%tra hour from him, an e%tra day. 7or three days he had a small ba(ling peasant boy (ith him. 7or hours he carried him on his back, a half&star)ed midget of fi)e or si% (ho caused him much trouble and (hom he didn,t kno( ho( to get rid of. 7inally a peat digger,s (ife took the boy in. 2er husband had died, and she (anted to ha)e a little life in the house again. 7or days a masterless dog accompanied him, ate out of his hand, (armed him (hile he slept, but one morning it too strayed off. oldmund (as sorry. 2e had become accustomed to speaking

to the dog; for hours he,d ha)e thoughtful con)ersations (ith the animal about the e)il in people, the e%istence of od, about art,

about the breasts and hips of a knight,s )ery young daughter named =ulie, (hom he had kno(n in his youth. oldmund had

naturally gro(n a trifle mad during his death 5ourney1 e)eryone (ithin the plague region (as a trifle mad, and many (ere completely insane. -erhaps young Rebekka (as also a trifle insane.a beautiful dark girl (ith burning eyes, (ith (hom he had spent t(o days.

2e found her outside a small to(n, crouching in the fields beside a heap of rubble, sobbing, beating her face, tearing her black hair. +he hair stirred his pity. It (as e%tremely beautiful, and he caught her furious hands and held them fast and talked to her, noting that her face and figure (ere also of great beauty. She (as mourning her father, (ho had been burned to ash (ith fourteen other =e(s by order of the to(n,s authorities. She had been able to flee but had no( returned in desperation and (as accusing herself for not ha)ing been burned (ith the others. -atiently he held on to her t(isting hands and talked to her gently, murmured sympathetically, and protecti)ely offered his help. She asked him to help her bury her father. +hey gathered all the bones from the still (arm ashes,

carried them into a hiding place farther a(ay in the field, and co)ered them (ith earth. In the meantime e)ening had fallen and oldmund looked for a place to sleep. In a small oak forest he arranged a bed for the girl and promised to (atch o)er her and listened to her moan and sob after she lay do(n; finally she fell asleep. +hen he, too, slept a little, and in the morning he began his courtship. 2e told her that she could not stay alone like this, she might be recogni*ed as a =e( and killed, or depra)ed (ayfarers might misuse her, and the forest (as full of (ol)es and gypsies. If he took her along, ho(e)er, and protected her against (olf and man.because he felt sorry for her and (as )ery fond of her, because he had eyes in his head and kne( (hat beauty (as.he (ould ne)er allo( her s(eet intelligent eyelids and graceful shoulders to be de)oured by animals or burned at the stake. #ark& faced, she listened to him, 5umped up, and ran off. 2e had to chase after her and catch her before he could continue.

4Rebekka,4 he said, 4can,t you see that I don,t mean you any harm6 3ou,re sad, you,re thinking of your father, you don,t (ant to hear about lo)e right no(. /ut tomorro( or the day after, or later, I,ll ask you again. Until then I,ll protect you and bring you food and I (on,t touch you. /e sad as long as you must. 3ou shall be able to

be sad (ith me, or happy. 3ou shall al(ays do only (hat brings you 5oy.4

/ut his (ords (ere spoken to the (ind. She didn,t (ant to do anything that brought 5oy, she said bitterly and angrily. She (anted to do (hat brought pain. Ne)er again (as she going to think of anything resembling 5oy, and the sooner the (olf ate her, the better. 2e should go no(, there (as nothing he could do, they had already talked too much.

43ou,4 he said, 4don,t you see that death is e)ery(here, that people are dying in e)ery house and e)ery to(n, that e)erything is full of misery. +he fury of those stupid people (ho burned your father is nothing but misery; it is the result of too much suffering. "ook, soon death (ill get us too, and (e,ll rot in the field and the moles (ill play dice (ith our bones. "et us li)e a little before it comes to that and be s(eet to each other. !h, it (ould be such a pity for your (hite neck and small feet: #ear beautiful girl, do come (ith me. I (on,t touch you. I only (ant to see you and take care of you.4

2e begged for a long time. Suddenly he understood ho( useless it

(as to court her (ith (ords and arguments. 2e fell silent and looked at her sadly. 2er proud regal face (as taut (ith re5ection.

4+hat,s ho( you are,4 she finally said in a )oice full of hatred and contempt. 4+hat,s ho( you Christians are: 7irst you help a daughter bury her father (hom your people ha)e murdered and (hose last fingernail (as (orth more than all of you together, and as soon as that is done, the daughter must belong to you and go off (horing (ith you. +hat,s ho( you are. At first I thought perhaps you (ere a good man. /ut ho( could you be: !h, you are pigs:4

As she spoke,

oldmund sa( glo(ing in her eyes, behind the

hatred, something that touched him and shamed him and (ent deep to his heart. 2e sa( death in her eyes, not the compulsion to die but the (ish to die, the (ish to be allo(ed to die, (ordless obedience, abandonment to the call of the uni)ersal mother.

4Rebekka,4 he said softly, 4perhaps you are right. I am not a good person, although I meant (ell (ith you. 7orgi)e me. !nly no( ha)e I understood you.4

2e raised his cap and bo(ed to her deeply as though to a

countess, and (alked off (ith hea)y heart; he had to let her perish. 7or a long time he (as sad and felt like speaking to no one. As little as they resembled each other, that proud =e(ish girl did in some (ays remind him of "ydia, the knight,s daughter. +o lo)e such (omen brought suffering. /ut for a (hile it seemed to him as though he had ne)er lo)ed any other (omen, only these t(o, poor fearful "ydia and the shy, bitter Rebekka.

2e thought of the black glo(ing girl for many days and dreamed many nights of the slender&burning beauty of her body that had been destined to 5oy and flo(ering and yet (as resigned to dying. !h, that those lips and breasts should fall prey to the 4pigs4 and rot in the fields: 8as there no po(er or magic to sa)e such precious flo(ers6 3es, there (as such a magic; they continued to li)e in his soul and (ould be fashioned and preser)ed by him. 8ith terror and delight he reali*ed that his soul (as filled (ith images, that this long 5ourney through the land of death had filled him (ith ideas for dra(ings and statues. !h, ho( this fullness strained at him, ho( he longed to come to himself 'uietly, to let them pour out, to con)ert them to lasting images: 2e pushed on, more glo(ing and eager, his eyes still open and his senses still curious, but no( filled (ith a )iolent longing for paper and crayon, for clay and (ood, for

(orkroom and (ork.

Summer (as o)er. $any people assumed that the epidemic (ould cease (ith autumn or the beginning of (inter. It (as an autumn (ithout gaiety. oldmund passed regions in (hich there (as no

one left to har)est the fruit. It fell off the trees and rotted in the grass. At other places sa)age hordes from the cities came to pillage, brutally robbing and s'uandering.


oldmund neared his goal, and during the last stretch he

(as sometimes sei*ed (ith the fear that he might be caught by the plague before he got there and die in some stable. 2e no longer (anted to die, not before tasting the 5oy of standing once more in a (orkshop and gi)ing himself up to creation. 7or the first time in his life the (orld (as too (ide for him, the erman 0mpire too large.

No pretty to(n could entice him to stay; no pretty peasant girl retain him longer than a night.

At one point he passed a church. !n its portal stood many stone figures in deep niches supported by ornamental small columns1 )ery old figures of angels, disciples, and martyrs, like those he had seen many times. In his cloister in $ariabronn there had been a

number of figures like this. /efore, as an adolescent, he had looked at them, but (ithout passion; they had seemed beautiful and dignified to him, but a little too solemn and stiff and old& fashioned. "ater, after he had been mo)ed and delighted by $aster Niklaus,s s(eet sad madonna at the end of his first long 5ourney, he had found these old solemn stone figures too hea)y and rigid and foreign. 2e had looked at them (ith a certain contempt and had found his master,s ne( type of art much more li)ely, intense, and animated. No(, returning from a (orld full of images, his soul marked by the scars and tracks of )iolent ad)entures and e%periences, filled (ith painful nostalgia for consciousness and ne( creation, he (as suddenly touched (ith e%traordinary po(er by these strict, ancient figures. Re)erently he stood before the )enerable images, in (hich the heart of long&past days continued to li)e on, in (hich, still after centuries, the fears and delights of long&since&)anished generations, fro*en to stone, offered resistance to the passage of time. A feeling of admiration rose (ith a humble shudder in his un(ieldy heart, and of horror at his (asted, burned&up life. 2e did (hat he had not done for an infinitely long time. 2e (alked up to a confessional to confess and be punished.

+here (ere a number of confessionals in the church, but no priests. +hey had died, or they lay in the hospital, or they had fled for fear of contamination. +he church (as empty. oldmund,s

steps echoed hollo( under the stone )ault. 2e knelt before an empty confessional, closed his eyes, and (hispered into the grill1 4#ear od, see (hat has become of me. I ha)e returned from the

(orld. I,)e become an e)il, useless man. I ha)e s'uandered my youth like a spendthrift and little remains. I ha)e killed, I ha)e stolen, I ha)e (hored, I ha)e gone idle and ha)e eaten the bread of others. #ear "ord, (hy did you create us thus, (hy do you lead us along such roads6 Are (e not your children6 #id your son not die for us6 Are there no saints and angels to guide us6 !r are they all pretty, in)ented stories that (e tell to children, at (hich priests themsel)es laugh6 I ha)e come to doubt you, "ord. 3ou ha)e ill& created the (orld; you are keeping it in bad order. I ha)e seen houses and streets littered (ith corpses. I ha)e seen the rich barricade themsel)es in their houses or flee, and the poor let their brothers lie unburied, each suspicious of the other. +hey slaughter the =e(s like cattle; I ha)e seen many innocent people suffer and die, and many a (icked man s(im in prosperity. 2a)e you completely forgotten and abandoned us, are you completely

disgusted (ith your creation, do you (ant us all to perish64

8ith a sigh he stepped out through the high portal and sa( the silent statues, angels and saints stand haggard and tall in their stiffly folded go(ns, immobile, inaccessible, superhuman and yet created by the hand and mind of man. Strict and deaf they stood there in their narro( niches, inaccessible to any re'uest or 'uestion. And yet they (ere an infinite consolation, a triumphant )ictory o)er death and despair as they stood in their dignity and beauty, sur)i)ing one dying generation of men after another. Ah, poor beautiful Rebekka should be up there too, and poor "ene (ho had burned (ith their hut, and graceful "ydia, and $aster Niklaus: !ne day they (ould stand up there and endure fore)er. 2e (ould put them there. +hese figures that meant lo)e and torture to him today, fear and passion, (ould stand before later generations, nameless, (ithout history, silent symbols of human life. 16 oIdmund spent a day of happy impatience roaming in the hills. If he had o(ned a horse, he (ould ha)e ridden to his master,s beautiful madonna in the cloister. 2e felt the urge to see her again and thought that he had dreamed of $aster Niklaus that night.

8ell, he,d go see the madonna another time. 2is bliss (ith Agnes might be of short duration, might lead to danger perhaps.but today it (as in full bloom; he did not (ant to miss any of it. 2e did not (ant to see people, to be distracted; he (anted to spend the mild autumn day outside, (ith the trees and clouds. 2e told $arie that he (as thinking of a hike in the countryside and might be back late. 2e asked her to gi)e him a good chunk of bread for the road and not (ait up for him in the e)ening. She made no comment, stuffed his pockets full of bread and apples, ran a brush o)er his old coat, (hich she had patched the )ery first day, and let him go.

2e strolled across the ri)er and climbed the steep&stepped paths through the empty )ineyards, lost himself in the forest on the heights, and did not stop climbing until he had reached the last plateau. +here the sun shone halfheartedly through bald trees. /lackbirds scurried before his steps; shyly they retreated into the bushes, looking at him (ith shiny black eyes. 7ar belo(, the ri)er seemed a blue cur)e. +he city looked like a toy; not a sound rose from it, e%cept that of the bells ringing for prayers. Near him on the plateau there (ere small, grass&co)ered s(ellings, mounds from ancient pagan days, perhaps fortifications, perhaps tombs. 2e sat do(n in the dry, crackling autumn grass on the side of one of

them. 2e could see the (hole )ast )alley, the hills and mountains beyond the ri)er, chain upon chain, all the (ay to the hori*on, (here mountains and sky merged in bluish uncertainty and could no longer be told apart. 2is feet had measured this s(eeping distance much farther than the eye could see. All these regions, (hich (ere far a(ay no( and remembered, had once been close and present. A hundred times he had slept in those forests, eaten berries, been hungry and cold, crossed those mountain ridges, and stretches of heath, been happy or sad, fresh or fatigued. Some(here in that distance, far out of the range of )ision, lay the charred bones of good "ene; some(here there his companion Robert might still be (andering, if the plague had not caught up (ith him; some(here out there lay dead 9iktor; and some(here too, far off in the enchanted distance, (as the cloister of his youth and the castle of the knight (ith the beautiful daughters, and poor, destitute, hounded Rebekka (as still roaming there if she had not perished. So many (idely scattered places, heaths and forests, to(ns and )illages, castles and cloisters, and people ali)e and dead e%isted inside him in his memory, his lo)e, his repentance, his longing. And if death caught him too, tomorro(, then all this (ould fall apart, (ould )anish, the (hole picture book full of (omen and lo)e, of summer mornings and (inter nights. !h, it

(as high time that he accomplished something, created something, left something behind that (ould sur)i)e him.

Up to no( little remained of his life, of his (anderings, of all those years that had passed since he set out in the (orld. 8hat remained (ere the fe( figures he had once made in the (orkshop, especially his St. =ohn, and this picture book, this unreal (orld inside his head, this beautiful, aching image (orld of memories. 8ould he succeed in sa)ing a fe( scraps of this inner (orld and making it )isible to others6 !r (ould things 5ust go on the same (ay1 ne( to(ns, ne( landscapes, ne( (omen, ne( e%periences, ne( images, piled one on the other, e%periences from (hich he gleaned nothing but a restless, torturous as (ell as beautiful o)erflo(ing of the heart6

It (as shameless ho( life made fun of one; it (as a 5oke, a cause for (eeping: 0ither one li)ed and let one,s senses play, drank full at the primiti)e mother,s breast.(hich brought great bliss but (as no protection against death; then one li)ed like a mushroom in the forest, colorful today and rotten tomorro(. !r else one put up a defense, imprisoned oneself for (ork and tried to build a monument to the fleeting passage of life.then one renounced life,

(as nothing but a tool; one enlisted in the ser)ice of that (hich endured, but one dried up in the process and lost ones freedom, scope, lust for life. +hat,s (hat had happened to $aster Niklaus.

Ach, life made sense only if one achie)ed both, only if it (as not split by this brittle alternati)e: +o create, (ithout sacrificing one,s senses for it. +o li)e, (ithout renouncing the nobility of creating. 8as that impossible6

-erhaps there (ere people for (hom this (as possible. -erhaps there (ere husbands and heads of families (ho did not lose their sensuality by being faithful. -erhaps there (ere people (ho, though settled, did not ha)e hearts dried up by lack of freedom and lack of risk. -erhaps. 2e had ne)er met one.

All e%istence seemed to be based on duality, on contrast. 0ither one (as a man or one (as a (oman, either a (anderer or a sedentary burgher, either a thinking person or a feeling person. no one could breathe in at the same time as he breathed out, be a man as (ell as a (oman, e%perience freedom as (ell as order, combine instinct and mind. !ne al(ays had to pay for the one (ith the loss of the other, and one thing (as al(ays 5ust as important

and desirable as the other. -erhaps (omen had it easier in this respect. Nature had created them in such a (ay that desire bore its fruit automatically, that the bliss of lo)e became a child. 7or a man, eternal longing replaced this simple fertility. 8as the god (ho had created e)erything in this manner an e)il god, (as he hostile, did he laugh ironically at his o(n creation6 No, he could not be e)il; he had created the hart and the roebuck, fish and birds, forests, flo(ers, the seasons. /ut the split ran through his entire creation. -erhaps it had not turned out right or (as incomplete.or did od intend this lack, this longing in human life for a special

purpose6 8as this perhaps the seed of the enemy, of original sin6 /ut (hy should this longing and this lack be sinful6 #id not all that (as beautiful and holy, all that man created and ga)e back to as a sacrifice of thanks spring from this )ery lack, from this longing6 od

2is thoughts depressed him. 2e turned his eyes to(ard the city, sa( the marketplace, the fish market, the bridges, the churches, the to(n hall. And there (as the castle, the proud bishop,s palace, in (hich Count 2einrich (as no( ruling. Agnes li)ed under those to(ers and high roofs, his beautiful regal mistress, (ho looked so proud but (ho could ne)ertheless lose herself, abandon herself

completely in lo)e. 2e thought of her (ith 5oy, and gratefully remembered last night. +o ha)e been able to e%perience the happiness of that night, to ha)e been able to make that mar)elous (oman happy, he had needed his entire life, all the things (omen had taught him, his many 5ourneys, his needs, (andering through the sno( at night, his friendship and familiarity (ith animals, flo(ers, trees, (ater, fish, butterflies. 7or this he had needed senses sharpened by ecstasy and danger, homelessness, all his inner (orld of images stored up during those many years. As long as his life (as a garden in (hich such magic flo(ers as Agnes bloomed, he had no reason to complain.

2e spent all day on the autumnal heights, (alking, resting, eating bread, thinking of Agnes and the e)ening before him. +o(ard nightfall he (as back in the city (alking to(ard the castle. It had gro(n chilly; the houses stared out of 'uiet red (indo( eyes; he met a small troop of singing boys carrying hollo(ed&out turnips (ith faces car)ed into them and candles inside. +his little mummery left a scent of (inter in its (ake, and smiling, oldmund

looked after them. 7or a long time he strolled about outside the castle. +he church dignitaries (ere still there; here and there he could see a priest silhouetted in one of the (indo(s. 7inally he

(as able to creep inside and find /erta, the chambermaid. Again she hid him in the little closet room until Agnes appeared and silently led him to her room. +enderly her beautiful face recei)ed him, tenderly, but not happily; she (as sad, (orried, frightened. 2e had to try )ery hard to cheer her a little. Slo(ly his lo)ing (ords and kisses restored a little of her confidence.

42o( )ery s(eet you can be,4 she said gratefully. 43ou ha)e such deep sounds in your throat, my golden bird, (hen you,re tender and chirp. I,m so fond of you, oldmund. If only (e (ere far from

here: I no longer like it here. It (ill soon come to an end anyho(; the count has been called a(ay; the silly bishop (ill soon return. +he count is angry today. +he priests ha)e had harsh (ords (ith him. !h, my dear, he must not set eyes on you: 3ou (ouldn,t li)e through the ne%t hour. I,m so afraid for you.4

2alf&lost sounds rose in his memory.hadn,t he heard this song before6 +hat (as ho( "ydia used to speak to him, so lo)ingly and full of fear, so tender&sad. +hat,s ho( she used to come to his room at night, full of lo)e and fear, full of (orry, of gruesome images. 2e liked to hear it, that tender&anguished song. 8hat (ould lo)e be (ithout secrecy6 8hat (ould lo)e be (ithout risk6

ently he dre( Agnes to him, caressed her, held her hand, hummed lo( (ooing sounds into her ear, kissed her eyebro(s. It touched and delighted him to find her so frightened and (orried because of him. ratefully she recei)ed his caresses, almost

humbly. 7ull of lo)e, she clung to him, but her mood did not brighten.

Suddenly she started as a nearby door (as slammed and rapid steps approached.

4!h, my

od, the count:4 she cried in despair. 4<uickly, you can

escape through the closet room. 2urry: #on,t betray me:4

She pushed him into the closet room. 2e stood alone groping hesitantly in the darkness. /ehind the door he heard the count speak loudly to Agnes. 2e felt his (ay through the dresses to the other door; soundlessly he set one foot before the other. 2e reached the door to the corridor and tried to open it. And only at that moment, (hen he found the door locked from the outside, did he feel fear, did his heart beat (ildly, painfully. It could be an unfortunate coincidence that someone had locked the door after

he came in, but he did not belie)e so. 2e had (alked into a trap; he (as lost. Someone must ha)e seen him sneak in here. It (ould cost him his life. +rembling, he stood in the darkness, and immediately thought of Agnes,s last (ords1 4#on,t betray me:4 No, he (ould not betray her. 2is heart pounded, but the decision steadied him. Angrily he clenched his teeth.

It all happened in seconds. A door opened and the count came in from Agnes,s room, a candlestick in his left hand and an unsheathed s(ord in his right. At the same moment, oldmund

hastily scooped up a fe( dresses and coats that (ere hanging all around him and placed them o)er his arm. "et them take him for a thief.perhaps that (as a (ay out.

+he count sa( him at once. Slo(ly he came closer.

48ho are you6 8hat are you doing here6 Ans(er, or I,ll run this s(ord through you.4

47orgi)e me,4 (hispered

oldmund. 4I,m a poor man and you are

so rich: I,ll gi)e it all back, my lord, e)erything I took. 2ere, see:4

And he put the coats on the floor.

4A thief, eh6 It (as not intelligent of you to risk your life for a fe( old coats. Are you a burgher of the city64

4No, my lord, I,m homeless. I,m a poor man, you,ll ha)e mercy >4

4Silence: I (ant to kno( if perchance you (ere bra*en enough to molest the lady. Ach, but since you,ll be hanged anyho(, (e (on,t ha)e to pry into that. +heft is enough.4

9iolently he hammered against the locked door and called1 4Are you there6 !pen up:4

+he door opened from the outside, and three footmen stood in readiness (ith dra(n blades.

4+ie him (ell,4 called the count in a )oice that croaked (ith irony and pride. 42e,s a )agrant (ho came in here to steal. -ut him in the dungeon, and tomorro( morning the rascal (ill dangle from the gallo(s.4

oldmund,s hands (ere tied; he put up no resistance. 2e (as led off, through the long corridor, do(n the stairs, through the inner courtyard, a butler carrying a torch ahead of them. +hey stopped in front of a round, iron&studded cellar door, shouted and cursed because the key (as not in the lock. !ne of the footmen took the torch (hile the butler ran back to fetch the key. +here they stood, three armed men and one bound one, (aiting outside the door. +he one (ith the light pushed it curiously on to oldmund,s face.

At this moment t(o of the priests (ho (ere guests in the castle (alked by on the (ay from the castle chapel. +hey stopped in front of the group; both looked at the night scene attenti)ely1 the three footmen, the bound man, the (ay they stood there, (aiting.

oldmund noticed neither the priests nor his guards. 2e could see nothing but the lo(, flickering light held close to his face. It (as blinding his eyes. And behind the light, in a t(ilight full of horror, he sa( something else, something formless, large, ghostlike1 the abyss, the end, death. 8ith staring eyes he stood there, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. !ne of the priests (as (hispering intently to one of the men. 8hen he heard that the man (as a thief and condemned to death, he asked if he had a confessor. No, they

said, he had 5ust been caught in the act.

4+hen I shall go to him in the morning,4 said the priest. 4/efore early mass I,ll bring him the holy sacraments and hear his confession. 3ou (ill s(ear to me that he (ill not be led a(ay before. I,ll speak to the count this )ery e)ening. +he man may be a thief; he still has the right to confession and the sacraments like any other Christian.4

+he men dared not contradict. +hey kne( the clerical dignitary. 2e (as one of the en)oys; they had seen him se)eral times at the count,s table. And besides, (hy should the poor )agrant be depri)ed of confession6

+he priests (alked off.

oldmund stared. 7inally the butler came

(ith the key and unlocked the door. +he prisoner (as led into a cellar, and stumbled do(n a fe( steps. A couple of three&legged stools (ere set around a table; it (as the anteroom of a (ine cellar. +hey pushed a stool to(ard him and told him to sit do(n.

4+omorro( a priest is coming to confess you,4 one of the men said. +hen they left and carefully locked the hea)y door.

4"ea)e me the light, brother,4 begged


4No, fello(, you might do mischief (ith it. 3ou,ll get along (ithout it. +he (isest (ould be to get used to the dark. 2o( long does such a light last any(ay6 It (ould be out (ithin an hour. ood night.4

No( he (as alone in the blackness. 2e sat on the stool and laid his head on the table. It (as painful to sit this (ay; the rope around his (rists hurt; but these feelings penetrated his consciousness only much later. At first he merely sat, (ith his head on the table as though he (ere about to be decapitated. 2e felt the urge to impress upon his body and senses (hat had been imposed upon his heart1 to accept the ine)itable, to accept dying.

7or an eternity he sat that (ay, miserably bent o)er, trying to accept (hat had been imposed upon him, to reali*e it, to breathe it in, and fill himself (ith it. It (as e)ening no(. Night (as beginning, and the end of this night (ould also be the end of him. +hat (as (hat he had to reali*e. +omorro( he (ould no longer be ali)e. 2e (ould be hanging, an ob5ect for birds to sit on and pick at. 2e (ould be (hat $aster Niklaus (as, (hat "ene (as in the burned&

out hut, like all those he had seen piled high on the death&carts. It (as not easy to accept that, to let himself be filled (ith it. It (as absolutely impossible to accept it. +here (ere too many things he had not yet gi)en up, to (hich he had not yet said goodbye. +he hours of this night had been gi)en him to do 5ust that.

2e had to say fare(ell to beautiful Agnes. Ne)er again (ould he see her tall figure, her light sunny hair, her cool blue eyes, the diminishing 'ui)er of pride in these eyes, the soft gold do(n on her s(eet&smelling skin. 7are(ell, blue eyes, fare(ell lo)ely mouth: 2e had hoped to kiss it many times more. !h, only this morning in the hills, in the late autumn sun, he had thought of her, belonged to her, longed for her: And he also had to say fare(ell to the hills, to the sun, the blue and (hite&clouded sky, the trees and forests, to (andering, the times of day, the seasons. -erhaps $arie (as still sitting up, e)en no(1 poor $arie (ith the good lo)ing eyes and hobbled gait, sitting and (aiting, falling asleep in her kitchen and (aking up again, but no oldmund (ould e)er come home.

!h, and his paper and dra(ing pen, and all the figures he had (anted to make.gone, gone: And the hope of seeing Narcissus again, his dear St. =ohn, that too had to be gi)en up.

And he had to say fare(ell to his hands, his eyes, to hunger and thirst, to lo)e, to playing the lute, to sleeping and (aking, to e)erything. +omorro( a bird (ould fly through the air and oldmund (ould no longer see it, a girl (ould sing in a (indo( and he (ould not hear her song, the ri)er (ould run and the dark fish (ould s(im silently, the (ind (ould blo( and s(eep the yello( lea)es on the ground, the sun (ould shine and stars (ould blink in the sky, young men (ould go dancing, the first sno( (ould lie on the distant mountains.e)erything (ould go on, trees (ould cast their shado(s, people (ould look gay or sad out of their li)ing eyes, dogs (ould bark, co(s (ould lo( in the barns of )illages, and all of it (ithout oldmund. Nothing belonged to him any more,

he (as being dispatched from it all.

2e smelled the morning smell of the heath; he tasted the s(eet young (ine, the young firm (alnuts; his memory spun a glo(ing panorama of the entire colorful (orld through his oppressed heart. In parting, all of life,s beautiful confusion shone once more through his senses; grief (elled up in him and he felt tear upon tear drop from his eyes. Sobbing, he ga)e in to the (a)e. 2is tears flooded out; collapsing, he abandoned himself to the infinite pain. !h,

)alleys and (ooded mountains, brooks among green elms, oh girls, oh moonlit e)enings on the bridges, oh beautiful radiant image (orld, ho( can I lea)e you: 8eeping, he lay across the table, a disconsolate boy. 7rom the misery of his heart, a sigh, an imploring complaint rose1 4!h mother, oh mother:4

And as he spoke this magic (ord, an image ans(ered him from the depths of his memory, the image of his mother. It (as not the figure of his thoughts and artist,s dreams. It (as the image of his o(n mother, beautiful and ali)e, the (ay he had not seen it since his cloister days. +o her he addressed his prayer, to her he cried his unbearable sorro( at ha)ing to die, to her he abandoned himself, to her he ga)e the forest, the sun, his eyes and hands; he placed his (hole life and being in her motherly hands.

And so (eeping he fell asleep; e%haustion and sleep held him in their arms like a mother. 2e slept an hour or t(o, escaping his misery.

2e (oke up and felt )iolent pain. 2is bound (rists burned horribly; a 5agged pain shot through neck and back. 2e had trouble sitting up; then he came to and reali*ed (here he (as again. Around him

the darkness (as complete. 2e did not kno( ho( long he had slept, ho( many hours he still had to li)e. -erhaps they,d come any moment to take him a(ay to die. +hen he remembered that he had been promised a priest. 2e didn,t think that the sacraments (ould do him much good. 2e didn,t kno( (hether e)en complete absolution of his sins could bring him to hea)en. 2e didn,t kno( if there (as a hea)en, a od the father, a 5udgment, an eternity. 2e

had long since lost all certitude about those things.

/ut (hether there (as an eternity or not1 he did not desire it, he (anted nothing but his insecure, transitory life, this breathing, this being at home in his skin, he (anted to li)e. 7uriously he sat up, groped his (ay to the (all in the dark, and began to think. +here had to be an escape: -erhaps the priest (as the ans(er. -erhaps he could con)ince him of his innocence, get him to say a good (ord on his behalf or help him secure a stay of e%ecution or make his escape6 2e (ent o)er these ideas again and again. If they didn,t (ork he could not gi)e up; the game 5ust couldn,t be o)er yet. 7irst he (ould try to (in o)er the priest. 2e (ould try as hard as he could to charm him, to enlist him in his cause, to con)ince him, to flatter him. +he priest (as the one good card in his hand; all the other possibilities (ere dreams. Still, there (ere

coincidence and destiny1 the hangman might ha)e a stomach& ache, the gallo(s might collapse, some unforeseeable possibility of escape might arise. In any case oldmund refused to die; he

had )ainly tried to accept his fate, and he could not. 2e (ould resist, he (ould struggle, he,d trip the guard, he,d attack the hangman, he (ould fight for his life to the last moment, (ith e)ery drop of blood in him. !h, if he could only persuade the priest to untie his hands: A great deal (ould be gained.

In the meantime he tried, in spite of the pain, to (ork at the ropes (ith his teeth. 8ith furious effort he succeeded, after a cruelly long time, in making them seem a little looser. -anting, he stood in the night of his prison, his s(ollen arms and hands hurting terribly. 8hen he had gotten his breath again, he crept along the (all, step by step, e%ploring the humid cellar (all for a protruding edge. +hen he remembered the steps o)er (hich he had stumbled do(n into this dungeon. 2e found them. 2e knelt and tried to rub the rope against the edge of one of the stones. It (as difficult. Again and again his (rists instead of the rope hit the stone; they burned like fire and he felt his blood flo(. /ut he did not gi)e up. 8hen a miserable strip of gray morning (as )isible bet(een the door and the sill, he had succeeded. +he rope had been rubbed through; he

could untie it; his hands (ere free: /ut after(ards he could hardly mo)e a finger. 2is hands (ere s(ollen and lifeless, and his arms (ere stiff (ith cramps all the (ay up to the shoulders. 2e had to e%ercise them. 2e forced himself to mo)e them, to make the blood stream through them again. No( he had a plan that seemed good to him.

If he could not succeed in persuading the priest to help him, (ell then, if they left the man alone (ith him e)en for the shortest time, he had to kill him. 2e could do it (ith one of the stools. 2e could not strangle him, he no longer had enough strength in his hands and arms. 7irst beat the priest to death, 'uickly slip into his robes and flee: 8hen the others found the dead man, he,d ha)e to be outside the castle, and then run, run. $arie (ould let him in and hide him. +he plan (ould (ork.

Ne)er in his life had

oldmund (atched the grayish beginning of

morning (ith such attention, longed for it and yet feared it. <ui)ering (ith tension and determination, he (atched the miserable strip of light under the door gro(ing slo(ly lighter. 2e (alked back to the table and practiced crouching on the stool (ith his hands bet(een his

knees so that the missing ropes (ould not be noticed immediately. Since his hands had been freed, he no longer belie)ed in his death. 2e (as determined to get through, e)en if the (hole (orld had to be smashed in the process. 2e (as determined to li)e at any cost. 2is nose 'ui)ered (ith eagerness for freedom and life. And (ho could tell, perhaps someone on the outside (ould come to his aid6 Agnes (as a (oman. 2er po(er did not reach )ery far, nor perhaps did her courage; and it (as possible that she (ould abandon him. /ut she lo)ed him; perhaps she could do something for him. -erhaps her chambermaid /erta (as ho)ering outside the door.and (asn,t there also a groom she thought she could trust6 And if nobody appeared and no sign (as gi)en him, (ell, then he,d go through (ith his plan. If it did not succeed, he,d kill the guards (ith the stool, t(o or three of them, as many as came in. 2e (as certain of one ad)antage1 his eyes had gro(n accustomed to the dark cellar. 2e no( recogni*ed instincti)ely all the shapes and shado(s in the t(ilight, (hereas the others (ould be completely blind for the first fe( minutes at least.

7e)erishly he crouched at the table, thinking carefully (hat he (ould say to the priest to (in his assistance, because that,s ho(

he had to begin. At the same time he eagerly (atched the modest s(elling of light in the slit. No( he longed desperately for the moment he had so dreaded hours ago. 2e could hardly (ait; the terrible tension (ould not be bearable much longer. 2is strength, his )igilance, his po(er of decision (ould gradually diminish. +he guard had to come soon (ith the priest, (hile his taut readiness, his determined (ill to be sa)ed (as still in the blossoming stage.

7inally the (orld outside a(akened, the enemy approached. Steps resounded on the pa)ement in the court, a key (as pushed into the lock and turned1 each sound boomed out like thunder after the long deathly silence.

Slo(ly the hea)y door opened a slit, creaking on its hinges. A priest came in, alone, (ithout a guard, carrying a candlestick (ith t(o candles. +his (as not at all (hat the prisoner had imagined.

2o( strangely mo)ing1 the priest (ho had entered, behind (hom in)isible hands pulled the door shut, (ore the habit of $ariabronn, the (ell&kno(n, familiar habit that Abbot #aniel, 7ather Anselm, and 7ather $artin had once (orn:

+he sight stabbed at his heart; he had to look a(ay. -erhaps the habit of this cloister (as the promise of something friendly, a good omen. /ut then again perhaps murder (as still the only (ay out. 2e clenched his teeth. It (ould be hard for him to kill this friar. 17 4-raised be the "ord,4 said the priest and placed the candlestick on the table. ahead. oldmund murmured the response, staring straight

+he priest said nothing. 2e (aited and said nothing, until oldmund gre( restless and searchingly raised his eyes to the man in front of him.

+his man, he no( sa( to his confusion, (as not only (earing the habit of the fathers of $ariabronn, he also (ore the insignia of the office of Abbot.

And no( he looked into the Abbot,s face. It (as a bony face, firmly, clearly cut, (ith )ery thin lips. It (as a face he kne(. As though spellbound, oldmund looked into this face that seemed

completely formed by mind and (ill. 8ith unsteady hand he reached for the candlestick, lifted it and held it closer to the stranger, to see his eyes. 2e sa( them and the candlestick shook in his hand as he put it back on the table.

4Narcissus:4 he (hispered almost inaudibly. +he cellar began to spin around him.


oldmund, I used to be Narcissus, but I abandoned that

name a long time ago; you,)e probably forgotten. Since the day I took the )o(s, my name has been =ohn.4

oldmund (as shaken to the roots of his being. +he (hole (orld had changed, and the sudden collapse of his superhuman effort threatened to choke him. 2e trembled; di**iness made his head feel like an empty bladder; his stomach contracted. /ehind his eyes something burned like scalding sobs. 2e longed to sink into himself, to dissol)e in tears, to faint.

/ut a (arning rose from the depths of the memories of his youth, the memories that the sight of Narcissus had con5ured up1 once, as a boy, he had cried, had let himself go in front of this beautiful,

strict face, these dark omniscient eyes. 2e could ne)er do that again. "ike a ghost, Narcissus had reappeared at the strangest moment of his life, probably to sa)e his life.and no( he (as about to break into sobs in front of him again, or faint6 No, no, no. 2e controlled himself. 2e subdued his heart, forced his stomach to be calm, (illed the di**iness out of his head. 2e could not sho( any (eakness no(.

In an artificially controlled )oice, he managed to say1 43ou must permit me to go on calling you Narcissus.4

4#o, my friend. And don,t you (ant to shake my hand64


oldmund dominated himself. 8ith a boyishly stubborn,

slightly ironic tone, like the one he had occasionally taken in his student days, he forced out an ans(er.

47orgi)e me, Narcissus,4 he said coldly and a trifle blas?. 4I see that you ha)e become Abbot. /ut I,m still a )agrant. And besides, our con)ersation, as much as I desire it, (on,t unfortunately last )ery long. /ecause, Narcissus, I,)e been sentenced to the gallo(s, and in an hour, or sooner, I,ll probably be hanged. I say this only to

clarify the situation for you.4

Narcissus,s e%pression did not change. 2e (as much amused by the boyish boasting streak in his friend,s attitude and at the same time touched. /ut he understood and keenly appreciated the pride that kept oldmund from collapsing tearfully against his chest. 2e,

too, had imagined their reunion differently, but he had no ob5ection (hatsoe)er to this little comedy. oldmund could not ha)e

charmed his (ay back into his heart any faster.

48ell yes,4 he said, (ith the same pretended casualness. 4/ut I can reassure you about the gallo(s. 3ou,)e been pardoned. I ha)e been sent to tell you that, and to take you a(ay (ith me. /ecause you cannot remain in this city. So (e,ll ha)e plenty of time to chat (ith each other. No( (ill you shake my hand64

+hey shook hands, holding on for a long time, pressing hard and feeling deeply mo)ed, but their (ords stayed brittle and playful for a (hile longer.

47ine, Narcissus, let,s lea)e this scarcely honorable retreat, and I,ll 5oin your retinue. Are you tra)eling back to $ariabronn6 3ou are.

8onderful. 2o(6 !n horseback6 Splendid. +hen it (ill be a 'uestion of getting a horse for me.4

48e,ll get a horse for you, amicus, and in t(o hours (e,ll be on our (ay. !h, but (hat happened to your hands: 7or hea)en,s sake, they are completely ra( and s(ollen, and bleeding: !h, oldmund, (hat ha)e they done to you:4

4Ne)er mind, Narcissus. I did that to my hands myself. +hey had tied me up and I had to get free. It (asn,t easy. /esides, it (as rather courageous of you to come in here (ithout an escort.4

48hy courageous6 +here (as no danger.4

4!h, only the slight danger of being murdered by me. /ecause that,s (hat I had planned to do. +hey had told me a priest (ould come. I,d ha)e murdered him and fled in his robes. A good plan.4

43ou didn,t (ant to die then6 3ou (anted to fight64

4Indeed I did. !f course I could hardly guess that the priest (ould be you.4

4Still,4 Narcissus said hesitantly, 4that (as a rather ugly plan. 8ould you really ha)e been capable of murdering a priest (ho,d come to confess you64

4Not you, Narcissus, of course, and probably no priest (ho (ore the habit of $ariabronn. /ut any other kind of priest, yes, I assure you.4 Suddenly his )oice gre( sad and dark. 4It (ould not ha)e been the first man I,)e murdered.4

+hey (ere silent. /oth felt embarrassed.

48ell, (e,ll talk about that some other time,4 Narcissus said in a cool )oice. 43ou can confess to me some day, if you feel like it. !r you can tell me about your life. I, too, ha)e this and that to tell you. I,m looking for(ard to it. Shall (e go64

4!ne moment more, Narcissus: I 5ust remembered something1 I did call you =ohn once before.4

4I don,t understand.4

4No, of course you don,t. 2o( could you6 It happened 'uite a number of years ago. I ga)e you the name =ohn and it (ill be your name fore)er. I (as for a time a car)er and a sculptor, and I think I,d like to become one again. +he first statue I car)ed in those days (as a (ooden, life&si*e disciple (ith your face, but its name is not Narcissus, it is =ohn, a St. =ohn under the cross.4

2e rose and (alked to the door.

4So you did think of me64 Narcissus asked softly.


ans(ered 5ust as softly1 4!h yes, Narcissus, I ha)e thought of you. Al(ays, al(ays.4

2e ga)e the hea)y cellar door a strong push, and the fallo( morning looked in. +hey spoke no more. Narcissus took him to his guest chamber. +here a young monk, his companion, (as busy readying the baggage. oldmund (as gi)en food, and his hands

(ashed and bandaged. Soon the horses (ere brought out.


oldmund said1 4I ha)e one more re'uest. "et us pass

by the fish market; I ha)e an errand there.4

+hey rode off and

oldmund looked up at e)ery castle (indo( to

see if Agnes might perhaps be )isible. 2e did not see her. +hey rode to the fish market; $arie had (orried a great deal about him. 2e bade fare(ell to her and to her parents, thanked them a thousand times, promised to come back one day, and rode off. $arie stood in the door(ay of her house until the riders (ere out of sight. Slo(ly she limped back inside.

+hey rode four abreast1 Narcissus, and an armed groom.

oldmund, the young monk,

4#o you still remember my little horse /less64 42e (as in your stable at the cloister.4

oldmund asked.

4Certainly. /ut you (on,t find him there any more, and you probably didn,t e%pect to. It,s been at least se)en or eight years since (e had to do a(ay (ith him.4

4And you remember that64

4!h yes, I remember.4

oldmund (as not sad about /less,s death. 2e (as glad that Narcissus kne( so much about /less, Narcissus (ho had ne)er cared about animals and probably had ne)er kno(n another cloister horse by name. +hat made him )ery glad.

48ith all the people in your cloister,4 he began again, 4you,ll laugh at me for asking first about that poor little horse. It (asn,t nice of me. Actually I had (anted to ask about something else entirely, about our Abbot #aniel. /ut I suppose that he is dead since you are his successor. And I didn,t intend to speak only of death to begin (ith. I,m not (ell inclined to(ard death at the moment, because of last night, and also because of the plague, of (hich I sa( altogether too much. /ut no( that (e,re on the sub5ect, and since (e,ll ha)e to speak about it some time, tell me (hen and ho( Abbot #aniel died. I re)ered him )ery much. And tell me also if 7ather Anselm and 7ather $artin are still ali)e. I,m prepared for the (orst. /ut I,m glad the plague spared you at least. I ne)er imagined that you might ha)e died; I firmly belie)ed that (e (ould meet again. /ut belief can decei)e, as I (as unfortunate enough to learn by e%perience. I could not imagine that my master Niklaus, the image car)er, (ould be dead either; I counted on seeing him

again and (orking (ith him again. Ne)ertheless, he (as dead (hen I got there.4

4All is 'uickly told,4 said Narcissus. 4Abbot #aniel died eight years ago, (ithout illness or pain. I am not his successor; I,)e been Abbot only for a year. 7ather $artin (as his successor, the former head of our school. 2e died last year; he (as almost se)enty. And 7ather Anselm is no longer (ith us either. 2e (as fond of you, he often spoke of you. #uring his last years he could no longer (alk at all, and lying in bed (as a great torture to him; he died of dropsy. 3es, and (e too had the plague; many died. "et,s not speak of it. 2a)e you any other 'uestions64

4Certainly, many more. $ost of all1 ho( do you happen to be here in the bishop,s city at the go)ernor,s palace64

4+hat is a long story, and you,d be bored (ith it; it is a matter of politics. +he count is a fa)orite of the 0mperor and his e%ecutor in many matters, and at this moment there are many things to be set to rights bet(een the 0mperor and our religious order. I (as one of the delegates sent to treat (ith the count. !ur success (as small.4

2e fell silent and

oldmund asked nothing more. 2e had no need

to kno( that last night, (hen Narcissus had pleaded for oldmund,s life, that life had been paid for (ith a number of concessions to the ruthless count.

+hey rode; the saddle.

oldmund soon felt tired and had difficulty staying in

After a long (hile Narcissus asked1 4/ut is it true that you (ere arrested for theft6 +he count said you had sneaked into the inner rooms of the castle, (here you (ere caught stealing.4

oldmund laughed. 48ell, it really looked as though I (ere a thief. /ut I had a meeting (ith the count,s mistress; he doubtless kne( that, too. I,m surprised that he let me go at all.4

48ell, he (asn,t abo)e a little bargaining.4

+hey could not co)er the distance they had set themsel)es for that day. oldmund (as too e%hausted; his hands could no longer hold

the reins. +hey took rooms in a )illage for the night; he (as put to bed running a slight fe)er, and they kept him in bed the ne%t day, too. /ut then he (as strong enough to ride on. Soon his hands (ere healed and he began to en5oy riding. 2o( long since he had last ridden: 2e came to life again, gre( young and animated, rode many a race (ith the groom, and during hours of con)ersation assaulted his friend Narcissus (ith hundreds of impatient 'uestions. Calmly, yet 5oyously, Narcissus responded. Again he (as charmed by oldmund. 2e lo)ed these )ehement, childlike

'uestions, all asked (ith unlimited confidence in his o(n ability to ans(er them.

4!ne 'uestion, Narcissus1 did you also burn =e(s64

4/urn =e(s6 2o( could (e6 +here are no =e(s (here (e are.4

4All right. /ut tell me1 (ould you be capable of burning =e(s6 Can you imagine such a possibility64

4No, (hy should I6 #o you take me for a fanatic64

4Understand me, Narcissus. I mean1 can you imagine that, in

certain circumstances, you might gi)e the order to kill =e(s, or consent to their being killed6 So many dukes, mayors, bishops, and other authorities did gi)e such orders.4

4I (ould not gi)e an order of that kind. !n the other hand it is concei)able that I might ha)e to (itness and tolerate such cruelty.4

43ou,d tolerate it then64

4Certainly, if I had no po(er to pre)ent it. 3ou probably sa( some =e(s being burned, didn,t you, oldmund64

4I did.4

48ell, and did you pre)ent it6 3ou didn,t. 3ou see.4

oldmund told the story of Rebekka in great detail; he gre( hot and passionate in telling it.

4And so,4 he concluded )iolently, 4(hat is this (orld in (hich (e are made to li)e6 Is it not hell6 Is it not re)olting and disgusting64

4Certainly, that,s ho( the (orld is.4


oldmund cried (ith indignation. 4And ho( often you told me

that the (orld (as di)ine, that it (as a great harmony of circles (ith the Creator enthroned in its midst, that (hat e%isted (as good, and so forth. 3ou told me Aristotle had said so, or Saint +homas. I,m eager to hear you e%plain the contradiction.4

Narcissus laughed.

43our memory is surprising, and yet it has decei)ed you slightly. I ha)e al(ays adored our Creator as perfect, but ne)er his creation. I ha)e ne)er denied the e)il in the (orld. No true thinker has e)er affirmed that life on earth is harmonious and 5ust, or that man is good, my dear friend. !n the contrary. +he 2oly /ible e%pressly states that the stri)ings and doings of man,s heart are e)il, and e)ery day (e see this confirmed ane(.4

49ery good. At last I see (hat you learned men mean. So man is e)il, and life on earth is full of ugliness and admit it. /ut some(here behind all that, in your thoughts and books, 5ustice

and perfection e%ist. +hey e%ist, they can be pro)ed, but only if they are ne)er put to use.4

43ou ha)e stored up a great deal of anger against us theologians, dear friend: /ut you ha)e still not become a thinker; you,)e got it all topsy&tur)y. 3ou still ha)e a fe( things to learn. /ut (hy do you say (e don,t put 5ustice to use6 8e do that e)ery day, e)ery hour. I, for instance, am an abbot and I go)ern a cloister. "ife in this cloister is 5ust as imperfect and full of sin as it is in the (orld outside. And yet (e constantly set the idea of 5ustice against original sin and try to measure our imperfect li)es by it and try to correct e)il and put oursel)es in e)erlasting relationship (ith od.4

4All right, Narcissus. I don,t mean you, nor did I mean that you (ere not a good abbot. /ut I,m thinking of Rebekka, of the burned =e(s, the mass burials, the reat #eath, of the alleys and rooms

full of stinking corpses, of all the gruesome looting, the haggard, abandoned children, of dogs star)ed to death on their chains.and (hen I think of all that and see these images before me, then my heart aches and it seems to me that our mothers ha)e borne us into a hopeless, cruel, de)ilish (orld, and that it (ould be better if they had ne)er concei)ed, if od had not created this horrible

(orld, if the Sa)iour had not let himself be nailed to the cross in )ain.4

Narcissus ga)e

oldmund a friendly nod.

43ou are 'uite right,4 he said (armly. 4 o ahead, say it all, get it all out. /ut in one thing you are 'uite (rong1 you think that the things you ha)e said are thoughts. /ut actually they are feelings. +hey are the feelings of a man preoccupied (ith the horror of life, and you must not forget that these sad, desperate emotions are balanced by completely different ones: 8hen you feel happy on a horse, riding through a pretty landscape, or (hen you sneak some(hat recklessly into a castle at night to court a count,s mistress, then the (orld looks altogether different to you, and no plague&stricken house or burned =e( can pre)ent you from fulfilling your desire. Is that not so64

4Certainly that is so. /ecause the (orld is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and to pick the flo(ers that gro( in the midst of hell. I find bliss, and for an hour I forget the horror. /ut that does not mean that it does not e%ist.4

43ou e%pressed that )ery (ell. So you find yourself surrounded by death and horror in the (orld, and you escape it into lust. /ut lust has no duration; it lea)es you again in the desert.4

43es, that,s true.4

4$ost people feel that (ay, but only a fe( feel it (ith such sharpness and )iolence as you do; fe( feel the need to become a(are of these feelings. /ut tell me1 besides this desperate coming and going bet(een lust and horror, besides this seesa( bet(een lust for life and sadness of death.ha)e you tried no other road64

4!h yes, of course I ha)e. I,)e tried art. I,)e already told you that, among other things, I also became an artist. !ne day, (hen I had roamed the (orld for three years perhaps, (andering almost all the time, I sa( a (ooden madonna in a cloister church. It (as so beautiful, the sight mo)ed me so deeply, that I asked the name of the sculptor (ho car)ed it and searched for him. I found him, he (as a famous master; I became his apprentice and (orked (ith him for a fe( years.4

43ou,ll tell me more about that later. /ut (hat has art meant to you, (hat has art brought to you64

4It (as the o)ercoming of the transitory. I sa( that something remained of the fools, play, the death dance of human life, something lasting1 (orks of art. +hey too (ill probably perish some day; they,ll burn or crumble or be destroyed. Still, they outlast many human li)es; they form a silent empire of images and relics beyond the fleeting moment. +o (ork at that seems good and comforting to me, because it almost succeeds in making the transitory eternal.4

4I like that )ery much,

oldmund. I hope you (ill again make

beautiful statues; my confidence in your strength is great. I hope you (ill be my guest in $ariabronn for a long time and permit me to set up a (orkshop for you; our cloister has long since been (ithout an artist. /ut I do not think your definition 'uite encompassed the miracle of art. I belie)e that art is more than sal)aging something mortal from death and transforming it into stone, (ood, and color, so that it lasts a little longer. I ha)e seen many (orks of art, many a saint and many a madonna, (hich did

not seem to me merely faithful copies of a specific person (ho once li)ed and (hose shapes or colors the artist has preser)ed.4

43ou are right in that,4

oldmund cried eagerly. 4I didn,t think you

(ere so (ell informed about art: +he basic image of a good (ork of art is not a real, li)ing figure, although it may inspire it. +he basic image is not flesh and blood; it is mind. It is an image that has its home in the artist,s soul. In me, too, Narcissus, such images are ali)e, (hich I hope to e%press one day and sho( to you.4

42o( lo)ely: And no(, my dear

oldmund, you ha)e strayed

unkno(ingly into philosophy and ha)e e%pressed one of its secrets.4

43ou,re mocking me.4

4!h no. 3ou spoke of ,basic images,, of images that e%ist no(here e%cept in the creati)e mind, but (hich can be reali*ed and made )isible in matter. "ong before a figure becomes )isible and gains reality, it e%ists as an image in the artist,s soul. +his image then, this ,basic image,, is e%actly (hat the old philosophers call an ,idea.,4

43es, that sounds 'uite plausible.4

48ell, and no( that you ha)e pledged yourself to ideas and to basic images, you are on mind&ground, in the (orld of philosophers and theologians, and you admit that, at the center of the confused, painful battlefield of life, at the center of the endless and meaningless death dance of fleshly e%istence, there e%ists the creati)e mind. "ook, I ha)e al(ays addressed myself to this mind in you, e)er since you came to me as a boy. In you, this mind is not that of a thinker but that of an artist. /ut it is mind, and it is the mind that (ill sho( you the (ay out of the blurred confusion of the (orld of the senses, out of the eternal seesa( bet(een lust and despair. Ah, my dear friend, I am happy to ha)e heard this confession from you. I ha)e (aited for it.since the day you left your teacher Narcissus and found the courage to be yourself. No( (e can be friends ane(.4

It seemed to

oldmund that his life had been gi)en a meaning. 7or

a moment it (as as though he (ere looking do(n on it from abo)e, clearly seeing its three big steps1 his dependence on Narcissus and his a(akening; then the period of freedom and (andering; and

no( the return, the reflection, the beginning of maturity and har)est.

+he )ision faded again. /ut he had found a fitting relationship to Narcissus. It (as no longer a relationship of dependence, but one of e'uality and reciprocity. 2e could be the guest of this superior mind (ithout humiliation, since the other man had gi)en recognition to the creati)e po(er in him. #uring their 5ourney he looked for(ard (ith increasing eagerness to re)ealing himself to him, to making his inner (orld )isible to him in (orks of images. /ut sometimes he also (orried.

4Narcissus,4 he (arned, 4I,m afraid you don,t kno( (hom you,re bringing into your cloister. I,m no monk, nor do I (ish to become one. I kno( the three main )o(s. I gladly accept po)erty, but I lo)e neither chastity nor obedience; these )irtues don,t seem )ery manly to me. And I ha)e nothing at all left of piety. I ha)en,t confessed or prayed or taken communion in years.4

Narcissus remained calm. 43ou seem to ha)e become a pagan. /ut (e are not afraid of that. 3ou need not pride yourself any longer on your many sins. 3ou ha)e li)ed the usual life of the

(orld. 3ou ha)e herded s(ine like the prodigal son; you no longer kno( (hat la( and order mean. Surely you,d make a )ery bad monk. /ut I,m not in)iting you to enter the order; I,m merely in)iting you to be our guest and to set up a (orkshop for yourself in our cloister. And one thing more1 don,t forget that, during your adolescent years, it (as I (ho a(akened you and let you go into the (orldly life. 8hate)er has become of you, good or bad, is my responsibility as (ell as yours. I (ant to see (hat has become of you; you (ill sho( me, in (ords, in life, in your (orks. After you ha)e sho(n me, if I find that our house is no place for you, I shall be the first to ask you to lea)e again.4

oldmund (as full of admiration e)ery time his friend spoke in this manner, (hen he acted the abbot, (ith 'uiet assurance and a hint of mockery of people and life in the (orld, because then he sa( (hat Narcissus had become1 a man. +rue, a man of the mind and of the church, (ith delicate hands and a scholar,s face, but a man full of assurance and courage, a leader, one (ho bore responsibility. +his man Narcissus (as no longer the adolescent of old times, no longer the gentle, de)oted St. =ohn; he (anted to car)e this ne( Narcissus, the manly, knightly Narcissus. $any statues a(aited him1 Narcissus, Abbot #aniel, 7ather Anselm,

$aster Niklaus, beautiful Rebekka, beautiful Agnes, and still others, friends and enemies, ali)e and dead. No, he did not (ant to become a brother of the order, or a pious or learned man; he (anted to make statues, and the thought that his youthful home (as to be the home of these (orks made him happy.

+hey rode through the chill of late autumn, and one day, on a morning (hen the bare trees hung thick (ith frost, they rode across a (ide rolling land of deserted reddish moors, and the long chains of hills looked strangely familiar, and then came a high elm (ood and a little stream and an old barn at the sight of (hich oldmund,s heart began to ache in happy anguish. 2e recogni*ed the hills across (hich he had once ridden (ith the knight,s daughter "ydia, and the heath across (hich he had (alked that day of thinly falling sno(, banished and deeply sad. +he elm clumps emerged, and the mill, and the castle. 8ith particular pain he recogni*ed the (indo( of the (riting room in (hich he had then, during his legendary youth, corrected the knight,s "atin and heard him tell of his pilgrimage. +hey rode into the courtyard; it (as one of the regular stopping places of the 5ourney. oldmund

asked the Abbot not to tell anyone there his name and to let him eat (ith the ser)ants, as the groom did. +hat,s ho( it (as

arranged. +he old knight (as no longer there and neither (as "ydia, but a fe( of the old hunters and ser)ants (ere still part of the household, and in the castle a )ery beautiful, proud, and domineering noble(oman, =ulie, li)ed and reigned at her husband,s side. She still looked (onderfully beautiful, and a little e)il. Neither she nor the ser)ants recogni*ed oldmund. After the

meal, in the fading light of e)ening he crept into the garden, looked o)er the fence at the already (intery flo(er beds, crept to the stable door and looked in on the horses. 2e slept on the stra( (ith the groom, and memories (eighed hea)ily on his chest; he a(akened many times. Scattered and infertile, the scenes of his life stretched out behind him, rich in magnificent images but broken in so many pieces, so poor in )alue, so poor in lo)e: In the morning, as they rode a(ay, he looked an%iously up to the (indo(s. -erhaps he could catch another glimpse of =ulie. A fe( days ago he had looked 5ust as an%iously up to the (indo(s of the bishop,s palace to see if Agnes might not appear. She had not sho(n herself, and neither did =ulie. 2is (hole life had been like that, it seemed to him. Saying fare(ell, escaping, being forgotten; finding himself alone again, (ith empty hands and a fro*en heart. 2e felt like that throughout the day, sitting gloomily in the saddle, not speaking at all. Narcissus let him be.

/ut no( they (ere approaching their goal, and after a fe( days they had reached it. Shortly before to(er and roofs of the cloister became )isible, they rode across the fallo( stony fields in (hich he had, oh so long ago, gathered =ohn,s&(ort for 7ather Anselm, (here the gypsy "ise had made a man of him. And no( they rode through the gates of $ariabronn and dismounted under the Italian chestnut tree. +enderly oldmund touched the trunk and stooped

to pick up one of the prickly, split husks that lay on the ground, bro(n and (ithered. 18 #uring the first days oldmund li)ed in the cloister, in one of the

guest cells. +hen, at his o(n re'uest, he (as gi)en a room across the forge, in one of the administrati)e buildings that surrounded the main yard like a marketplace.

2is homecoming put him under a spell, so )iolent that he himself (as astonished by it. !utside the Abbot no one kne( him here, no one kne( (ho he (as. +he people, monks as (ell as lay brothers, li)ed a (ell&ordered life and had their o(n special occupations, and left him in peace. /ut the trees of the courtyard kne( him, the

portals and (indo(s kne( him, the mill and the (ater (heel, the flagstones of the corridors, the (ilted rosebushes in the arcade, the storks, nests on the refectory and granary roofs. 7rom e)ery corner of his past, the scent of his early adolescence came to(ard him, s(eetly and mo)ingly. "o)e dro)e him to see e)erything again, to hear all the sounds again, the bells for e)ening prayer and Sunday mass, the gushing of the dark millstream bet(een its narro(, mossy banks, the slapping of sandals on the stone floors, the t(ilight 5angle of the key ring as the brother porter (ent to lock up. /eside the stone gutters, into (hich the rain(ater fell from the roof of the lay refectory, the same herbs (ere still sprouting, crane,s&bill and plantain, and the old apple tree in the forge garden (as still holding its far&reaching branches in the same (ay. /ut more than anything else the tinkling of the little school bell mo)ed him. It (as the moment (hen, at the beginning of recess, all the cloister students came tumbling do(n the stairs into the courtyard. 2o( young and dumb and pretty the boys, faces (ere.had he, too, once really been so young, so clumsy, so pretty and childish6

/eside this familiar cloister he had also found one that (as unkno(n, one (hich e)en during the first days struck his attention and became more and more important to him until it slo(ly linked

itself to the more familiar one. /ecause, if nothing ne( had been added, if e)erything (as as it had been during his student days, and a hundred or more years before that, he (as no longer seeing it (ith the eyes of a student. 2e sa( and felt the dimension of these edifices, of the )aults of the church, the po(er of old paintings, of the stone and (ood figures on the altars, in the portals, and although he sa( nothing that had not been there before, he only no( percei)ed the beauty of these things and of the mind that had created them. 2e sa( the old stone $other of od in the upper chapel. 0)en as a boy he had been fond of it, and had copied it, but only no( did he see it (ith open eyes, and reali*e ho( miraculously beautiful it (as, that his best and most successful (ork could ne)er surpass it. +here (ere many such (onderful things, and each (as not placed there by chance but (as born of the same mind and stood bet(een the old columns and arches as though in its natural home. All that had been built, chiseled, painted, li)ed, thought and taught here in the course of hundreds of years had gro(n from the same roots, from the same spirit, and e)erything (as held together and unified like the branches of a tree.

oldmund felt )ery small in this (orld, in this 'uiet mighty unity,

and ne)er did he feel smaller than (hen he sa( Abbot =ohn, his friend Narcissus, rule o)er and go)ern this po(erful yet 'uietly friendly order. +here might be tremendous differences of character bet(een the learned, thin&lipped Abbot =ohn and the kindly simple Abbot #aniel, but each of them ser)ed the same unity, the same thought, the same order of e%istence, recei)ed his dignity from it, sacrificed his person to it. +hat made them as similar to one another as their priestly robes.

In the center of his cloister, Narcissus gre( eerily tall in oldmund,s eyes, although he (as ne)er anything but a cordial friend and host. Soon any more. oldmund hardly dared call him Narcissus

4"isten, Abbot =ohn,4 he once said to him, 4I,ll ha)e to get used to your ne( name e)entually. I must tell you that I like it )ery much in your house. I almost feel like making a general confession to you and, after penance and absolution, asking to be recei)ed as a lay brother. /ut you see, then our friendship (ould be o)er; you,d be the Abbot and I a lay brother. /ut I can no longer bear to li)e ne%t to you like this and see your (ork and not be or do anything myself. I too (ould like to (ork and sho( you (ho I am and (hat I

can do, so that you can see if it (as (orth snatching me from the gallo(s.4

4I,m glad to hear it,4 said Narcissus, pronouncing his (ords e)en more clearly and precisely than usual. 43ou may set up your (orkshop any time you (ish. I,ll put the blacksmith and the carpenter at your disposal immediately. -lease use any material you find here and make a list of all the things you (ant brought in from the outside. And no( hear (hat I think about you and your intentions: 3ou must gi)e me a little time to e%press myself1 I am a scholar and (ould like to try to illustrate the matter to you from my o(n (orld of thought; I ha)e no other language. So follo( me once more, as you so often did so patiently in earlier years.4

4I,ll try to follo( you.

o ahead and speak.4

4Recall ho(, e)en in our student days, I sometimes told you that I thought you (ere an artist. In those days I thought you might become a poet; in your reading and (riting you had a certain dislike for the intangible and the abstract, and a special lo)e for (ords and sounds that had sensuous poetic 'ualities, (ords that appealed to the imagination.4

oldmund interrupted. 47orgi)e me, but aren,t the concepts and abstractions (hich you prefer to use really images too6 !r do you really prefer to think in (ords (ith (hich one cannot imagine anything6 /ut can one think (ithout imagining anything64

4I,m glad you ask: 3es, certainly one can think (ithout imagining anything: +hinking and imagining ha)e nothing (hatsoe)er in common. +hinking is done not in images but (ith concepts and formulae. At the e%act point (here images stop, philosophy begins. +hat (as precisely the sub5ect of our fre'uent 'uarrels as young men; for you, the (orld (as made of images, for me of ideas. I al(ays told you that you (ere not made to be a thinker, and I also told you that this (as no lack since, in e%change, you (ere a master in the realm of images. -ay attention and I,ll e%plain it to you. If, instead of immersing yourself in the (orld, you had become a thinker, you might ha)e created e)il. /ecause you (ould ha)e become a mystic. $ystics are, to e%press it briefly and some(hat crudely, thinkers (ho cannot detach themsel)es from images, therefore not thinkers at all. +hey are secret artists1 poets (ithout )erse, painters (ithout brushes, musicians (ithout sound. +here are highly gifted, noble minds among them, but they are all (ithout

e%ception unhappy men. 3ou, too, might ha)e become such a man. Instead of (hich you ha)e, thank od, become an artist and

ha)e taken possession of the image (orld in (hich you can be a creator and a master, instead of being stranded in discontentment as a thinker.4

4I,m afraid,4 said

oldmund, 4I,ll ne)er succeed in grasping the

idea of your thought (orld, in (hich one thinks (ithout images.4

4!h yes, you (ill, and right no(. "isten1 the thinker tries to determine and to represent the nature of the (orld through logic. 2e kno(s that reason and its tool, logic, are incomplete.the (ay an intelligent artist kno(s full (ell that his brushes or chisels (ill ne)er be able to e%press perfectly the radiant nature of an angel or a saint. Still they both try, the thinker as (ell as the artist, each in his (ay. +hey cannot and may not do other(ise. /ecause (hen a man tries to reali*e himself through the gifts (ith (hich nature has endo(ed him, he does the best and only meaningful thing he can do. +hat,s (hy, in former days, I often said to you1 don,t try to imitate the thinker or the ascetic man, but be yourself, try to reali*e yourself.4

4I understand something of (hat you say, but (hat does it mean to reali*e oneself64

4It is a philosophical concept, I can,t e%press it in any other (ay. 7or us disciples of Aristotle and St. +homas, it is the highest of all concepts1 perfect being. od is perfect being. 0)erything else that

e%ists is only half, only a part, is becoming, is mi%ed, is made up of potentialities. /ut od is not mi%ed. 2e is one, he has no

potentialities but is the total, the complete reality. 8hereas (e are transitory, (e are becoming, (e are potentials; there is no perfection for us, no complete being. /ut (here)er (e go, from potential to deed, from possibility to reali*ation, (e participate in true being, become by a degree more similar to the perfect and di)ine. +hat is (hat it means to reali*e oneself. 3ou must kno( this from your o(n e%perience, since you,re an artist and ha)e made many statues. If such a figure is really good, if you ha)e released a man,s image from the changeable and brought it to pure form. then you ha)e, as an artist, reali*ed this human image.4

4I understand.4

43ou see me, friend

oldmund, in a place and function (here it is

made rather easy for me to reali*e myself. 3ou see me li)ing in a community and a tradition that corresponds to me and furthers me. A cloister is no hea)en. It is filled (ith imperfections. Still, a decently run cloister life is infinitely more helpful to men of my nature than the (orldly life. I don,t (ish to speak morally, but from a merely practical point of )ie(, pure thinking, the practice and teaching of (hich is my task, offers a certain protection from the (orld. It (as much easier for me to reali*e myself here in our house than it (ould ha)e been for you. /ut, in spite of the difficulty, you found a (ay to become an artist, and I admire that a great deal. 3our life has been much harder than mine.4

+his praise made

oldmund blush (ith embarrassment, and also

(ith pleasure. In order to change the sub5ect, he interrupted his friend1 4I,)e been able to understand most of (hat you (anted to tell me. /ut there is one thing I still can,t get through my head1 the thing you call ,pure thinking., I mean your so&called thinking (ithout images, and the use of (ords (ith (hich one cannot imagine anything.4

48ell, you,ll be able to understand it (ith an e%ample. +hink of mathematics. 8hat kind of images do figures contain6 !r the plus and minus signs6 8hat kind of images does an e'uation contain6 None. 8hen you sol)e a problem in arithmetic or algebra, no image (ill help you sol)e it, you e%ecute a formal task (ithin the codes of thought that you ha)e learned.4

4+hat,s right, Narcissus. If you gi)e me a ro( of figures and symbols, I can (ork through them (ithout using my imagination, I can let myself be guided by plus and minus, s'uare roots, and so on, and can sol)e the problem. +hat is.I once could, today I could no longer do it. /ut I can,t imagine that sol)ing such a formal problem can ha)e any other )alue than e%ercising a student,s brain. It,s all right to learn ho( to count. /ut I,d find it meaningless and childish if a man spent his (hole life counting and co)ering paper (ith ro(s of figures.4

43ou are (rong,

oldmund. 3ou assume that this *ealous

problem&sol)er continuously sol)es problems a teacher poses for him. /ut he can also ask himself 'uestions; they can arise (ithin him as compelling forces. A man must ha)e measured and pu**led

o)er much real and much fictitious space mathematically before be can risk facing the problem of space itself.4

48ell, yes. /ut attacking the problem of space (ith pure thought does not strike me as an occupation on (hich a man should (aste his (ork and his years. +he (ord ,space, means nothing to me and is not (orth thinking about unless I can imagine real space, say the space bet(een stars; no(, studying and measuring star space does not seem an un(orthy task to me.4

Smilingly, Narcissus interrupted1 43ou are actually saying that you ha)e a rather lo( opinion of thinking, but a rather high one of the application of thought to the practical, )isible (orld. I can ans(er you1 (e lack no opportunities to apply our thinking, nor are (e un(illing to do so. +he thinker Narcissus has, for instance, applied the results of his thinking a hundred times to his friend oldmund,

as (ell as to each of his monks, and does so at e)ery instant. /ut ho( (ould he be able to ,apply, something if he had not learned and practiced it before6 And the artist also constantly e%ercises his eye and imagination, and (e recogni*e this training, e)en if it finds reali*ation only in a fe( good (orks. 3ou cannot dismiss thinking as such and sanction only its ,application,: +he contradiction is

ob)ious. So let me go on thinking and 5udge my thoughts by their results, as I shall 5udge your art by your (orks. 3ou are restless no( and irritable because there are still obstacles bet(een you and your (orks. Clear them out of the (ay. 7ind or build a (orkshop for yourself and get to (ork: $any problems (ill be sol)ed automatically that (ay.4

oldmund (ished nothing better.

/eside the courtyard gate he found a shed that (as both empty and suitable for a (orkshop. 2e ordered a dra(ing board and other tools from the carpenter, all to be made after precise plans he dre( himself. 2e made a list of the materials (hich the cloister carters (ere to bring him from nearby cities, a long list. 2e inspected all the felled timber at the carpenter,s and in the forest, chose many pieces and had them carried to the grassy lot behind his (orkshop, (here he piled them up to dry under a roof he built (ith his o(n hands. 2e also had much (ork to do (ith the blacksmith, (hose son, a dreamy young man, (as completely charmed and (on o)er by him. +ogether they stood half the day at the forge, o)er the an)il, by the cooling trough or the (hetstone, making all the bent or straight cutting kni)es, the chisels, drills, and

planes he needed for his (ork. +he smith,s son, 0rich, an adolescent of almost t(enty, became oldmund,s friend. 2e

helped him (ith e)erything and (as full of glo(ing interest and curiosity. oldmund promised to teach him to play the lute, (hich

he fer)ently desired, and he also allo(ed him to try his hand at car)ing. If at times oldmund felt rather useless and depressed in

the cloister and in Narcissus,s presence, he (as able to reco)er in the presence of 0rich, (ho lo)ed him timidly and admired him immensely. 2e often asked him to tell him about $aster Niklaus and the bishop,s city. Sometimes oldmund (as glad to tell

stories. +hen he (ould be suddenly astonished to find himself sitting like an old man, talking about the tra)els and ad)entures of the past, (hen his true life (as only no( about to begin.

Recently he had changed greatly and aged far beyond his years, but this (as )isible to no one, since only one man here had kno(n him before. +he hardships of his (andering and unsettled life may already ha)e undermined his strength, but the plague and its many horrors, and finally his capti)ity at the count,s residence and that gruesome night in the castle cellar had shaken him to his roots, and se)eral signs of these e%periences stayed (ith him1 gray hair in his blond beard, (rinkles on his face, periods of insomnia, and

occasionally a certain fatigue inside the heart, a slackening of desire and curiosity, a gray shallo( feeling of ha)ing had enough, of being fed up. #uring preparations for his (ork, during his con)ersations (ith 0rich or his pursuits at the blacksmith,s and at the carpenter,s, he gre( )i)acious and young and all admired him and (ere fond of him; but at other times he,d sit for hours, e%hausted, smiling and dreaming, gi)en o)er to apathy and indifference.

+he 'uestion of (here to begin (as )ery important to him. +he first (ork he (anted to make here, and (ith (hich he (anted to pay for the cloister,s hospitality, (as not to be an arbitrary piece that one placed 5ust any(here for the sake of curiosity, no, it had to blend (ith the old (orks of the house and (ith the architecture and life of the cloister and become part of the (hole. 2e (ould ha)e especially liked to make an altar or perhaps a pulpit, but there (as no need or room for either. 2e found another place instead. +here (as a raised niche in the refectory, from (hich a young brother read passages from the li)es of the saints during meals. +his niche had no ornament. oldmund decided to car)e for the steps to the

lectern and for the lectern itself a set of (ooden panels like those around a pulpit, (ith many figures in half&relief and others almost

free&standing. 2e e%plained his plan to the Abbot, (ho praised and accepted it.

8hen finally he could begin.sno( had fallen, Christmas (as already o)er. oldmund,s life took on another form. 2e seemed to ha)e disappeared from the cloister; nobody sa( him any more. 2e no longer (aited for the students at the end of classes, no longer drifted through the (oods, no longer strolled under the arcades. 2e took his meals in the (asn,t the same miller no( (hom he had often )isited as a student. And he allo(ed no one but his assistant 0rich to enter his (orkshop; and on certain days 0rich did not hear a (ord out of him.

7or this first (ork he had long since thought out the follo(ing design1 it (as to be in t(o parts, one representing the (orld, the other the (ord of od. +he lo(er part, the stairs, gro(ing out of a

sturdy oak trunk and (inding around it, (as to represent creation, images of nature and of the simple life of the patriarchs and the prophets. +he upper part, the parapet, (ould bear the pictures of the four apostles. !ne of the e)angelists (as to ha)e the traits of blessed Abbot #aniel; another those of blessed 7ather $artin, his successor; and the statue of "uke (as to eternali*e $aster


2e met (ith great obstacles, greater than he had anticipated. And these obstacles ga)e him many (orries, but they (ere s(eet (orries. No( enchanted and no( despairing, he (ooed his (ork as though it (ere a reluctant (oman, struggled (ith it as firmly and gently as a fisherman struggling (ith a giant pike, and each resistance taught him and made him more sensiti)e. 2e forgot e)erything else. 2e forgot the cloister; he almost forgot Narcissus. Narcissus came a number of times, but (as only sho(n dra(ings.

+hen one day

oldmund surprised him (ith the re'uest that he

hear his confession.

4I could not bring myself to confess before,4 he admitted. 4I felt too small, and I already felt small enough in front of you. No( I feel bigger, no( I ha)e my (ork and am no longer a nobody. And since I am li)ing in a cloister, I,d like to submit myself to the rules.4

No( he felt e'ual to the task and did not (ant to (ait a moment longer. +hose first meditati)e (eeks at the cloister, the abandonment of all the homecoming, all the memories of youth, as

(ell as the stories 0rich asked him for, had allo(ed him to see his life (ith a certain order and clarity.

8ithout solemnity Narcissus recei)ed his confession. It lasted about t(o hours. 8ith immobile face the Abbot listened to the ad)entures, sufferings, and sins of his friend, posed many 'uestions, ne)er interrupted, and listened passi)ely also to the part of the confession in (hich oldmund admitted that his faith in

od,s 5ustice and goodness had disappeared. 2e (as struck by many of the admissions of the confessing man. 2e could see ho( much he had been shaken and terrified, ho( close he had sometimes come to perishing. +hen again he (as mo)ed to smile, touched (hen he found that his friend,s nature had remained so innocent, (hen he found him (orried and repentant because of impious thoughts (hich (ere harmless enough compared to his o(n dark abysses of doubt.


oldmund,s surprise, to his disappointment e)en, the father

confessor did not take his actual sins too seriously, but reprimanded and punished him unsparingly because of his neglect in praying, confession, and communion. 2e imposed the follo(ing penance upon him1 to li)e moderately and chastely for a month

before recei)ing communion, to hear early mass e)ery morning, and to say three !ur 7athers and one 2ail $ary e)ery e)ening.

After(ards he said to him1 4I e%hort you, I beg you not to take this penance lightly. I don,t kno( if you can still remember the e%act te%t of the mass. 3ou are to follo( it (ord by (ord and gi)e yourself up to its meaning. I (ill myself say the !ur 7ather and a fe( canticles (ith you today, and gi)e you instructions as to the (ords and meanings to (hich you are to direct your particular attention. 3ou are to speak and hear the sacred (ords not the (ay one speaks and hears human (ords. 0)ery time you catch yourself 5ust reeling off the (ords, and this (ill happen more often than you e%pect, you are to remember this hour and my e%hortation, and you are to begin all o)er again and speak the (ords in such a (ay as to let them enter your heart, as I am about to sho( you.4

8hether it (as a beautiful coincidence, or (hether the Abbot,s kno(ledge of souls (as great enough to achie)e it, a period of fulfillment and peace came for oldmund from this confession and

penance. It made him profoundly happy. Amid the many tensions, (orries, and satisfactions of his (ork, he found himself morning

and e)ening released by the easy but conscientiously e%ecuted spiritual e%ercises, rela%ed after the e%citements of the day, his entire being submitted to a higher order that lifted him out of the dangerous isolation of the creator and included him as a child in od,s (orld. Although the battles of his (ork had to be o)ercome in solitude, and he had to gi)e it all the passions of his senses, these hours of meditation let him return to innocence again and again. Still hot (ith the rage and impatience of his (ork, or mo)ed to ecstasy, he (ould plunge into the pious e%ercises as though into deep, cool (ater that (ashed him clean of the arrogance of enthusiasm as (ell as the arrogance of despair.

It did not al(ays succeed. Sometimes he did not become calm and rela%ed in the e)ening, after burning hours of (ork. A fe( times he forgot the e%ercises, and se)eral times, as he tried to immerse himself in them, he (as tortured by the thought that saying prayers (as, after all, perhaps only childish stri)ing for a od (ho did not

e%ist or could not help. 2e compained about it to his friend.

4Continue,4 said Narcissus. 43ou promised; you must keep your promise. 3ou are not to think about (hether prayers or (hether there is a od hears your

od such as you imagine. Nor are

you to (onder (hether your e%ercises are childish. Compared to 2im to (hom all our prayers are addressed, all our doing is childish. 3ou must forbid yourself these foolish child,s thoughts completely during the e%ercises. 3ou are to speak the !ur 7ather and the canticles, and gi)e yourself up to the (ords and fill yourself (ith them 5ust the (ay you play the lute or sing. 3ou don,t pursue cle)er thoughts and speculations then, do you6 No, you e%ecute one finger position after another as purely and perfectly as possible. 8hile you sing, you don,t (onder (hether or not singing is useful; you sing. +hat,s ho( you are to pray.4

And once more it (orked. Again his taut, a)id ego e%tinguished itself in (ide&)aulted order; again the )enerable (ords floated abo)e him like stars.

8ith great satisfaction, the Abbot sa(

oldmund continue his daily

e%ercises for (eeks and months after his period of penance (as o)er and after he had recei)ed the holy sacraments.

In the meantime

oldmund,s (ork ad)anced. A small surging

(orld gre( from the thick spiral of the stairs1 creatures, plants, animals, and people. In their midst stood Noah bet(een grape

lea)es and grapes. +he (ork (as a picture book of praise for the creation of the (orld and its beauty, free in e%pression but directed by an inner order and discipline. #uring all these months no one but 0rich sa( the (ork; he (as allo(ed to e%ecute small tasks and thought of nothing but becoming an artist himself. /ut on certain days not e)en he (as allo(ed to enter the (orkshop. !n other days oldmund took his time (ith him, sho(ed him a fe( things

and let him try, happy to ha)e a belie)er and a disciple. If the (ork turned out successfully, he might ask 0rich,s father to release the boy and let him be trained as his permanent assistant.

2e (orked at the statues of the e)angelists on his best days, (hen e)erything (as harmonious and no doubts cast their shado(s o)er him. It seemed to him that he (as most successful (ith the figure that bore the traits of Abbot #aniel. 2e lo)ed it )ery much; the face radiated kindness and purity. 2e (as less satisfied (ith the statue of $aster Niklaus, e)en though 0rich admired it most of all. +his figure re)ealed discord and sadness. It seemed to be brimming o)er (ith lofty plans for creation and yet there (as also a desperate a(areness of the futility of creating, and mourning for a lost unity and innocence.

8hen Abbot #aniel (as finished, he had 0rich clean up the (orkshop. 2e hid the remaining statues under a cloth and placed only that one figure in the light. +hen he (ent to Narcissus, and (hen he found that he (as busy, he (aited patiently until the ne%t day. At the noon hour he took his friend to see the statue.

Narcissus stood and looked. 2e stood there, taking his time, e%amining the (ork (ith the attention and care of the scholar. oldmund stood behind him, in silence, trying to dominate the tempest in his heart. 4!h,4 he thought, 4if one of us does not pass this test, it (ill be bad. If my (ork is not good enough, or if he cannot understand it, all my (orking here (ill ha)e lost its )alue. I should ha)e (aited longer.4

$inutes felt like hours to him, and he thought of the time (hen $aster Niklaus had held his first dra(ing in his hands. 2e pressed his hot humid palms together in the effort of (aiting.

Narcissus turned to him, and immediately he felt relie)ed. In his friend,s narro( face he sa( flo(er something that had not flo(ered there since his boyhood years1 a smile, an almost timid smile on

that face of mind and (ill, a smile of lo)e and surrender, a shimmer, as though all its loneliness and pride had been pierced for a second and nothing shone from it but a heart full of 5oy.

4 oldmund,4 Narcissus said )ery softly, (eighing his (ords e)en no(, 4you don,t e%pect me to become an art e%pert all of a sudden. 3ou kno( I,m not. I can tell you nothing about your art that you (ould not find ridiculous. /ut let me tell you one thing1 at first glance I recogni*ed our Abbot #aniel in this e)angelist, and not only him, but also all the things he once meant to us1 dignity, kindness, simplicity. As blessed 7ather #aniel stood before our youthful )eneration, he stands here before me no( and (ith him e)erything that (as sacred to us then and that makes those years unforgettable to us. 3ou ha)e gi)en me a generous gift, my friend, and not only ha)e you gi)en our Abbot #aniel back to me; you ha)e opened yourself completely, to me for the first time. No( I kno( (ho you are. "et us speak about it no longer; I cannot. !h oldmund, that this hour has been gi)en us:4

It (as 'uiet in the large room. 2is friend the Abbot (as mo)ed to the depth of his heart. choked his breathing. oldmund sa( this and embarrassment

43es,4 he said curtly, 4I am happy. /ut no( it,s time to go and eat.4 19 7or t(o years oldmund (orked on this group and from the

second year on he (as gi)en 0rich as an apprentice. In the balustrade for the staircase he created a small paradise. 8ith ecstasy he car)ed a graceful (ilderness of trees, brush, and herbs, (ith birds in the branches, and the heads and bodies of animals emerging e)ery(here. In the midst of this peacefully sprouting primiti)e garden, he depicted se)eral scenes from the life of the patriarchs. +his industrious life (as rarely interrupted. +here (as seldom a day no( (hen (orking (as impossible for him, (hen restlessness or boredom made him disgusted (ith his art. /ut (hen he did feel bored or restless he,d gi)e his apprentice a chore and (alk or ride into the countryside to breathe in the memory&filled perfume of the free and (andering life of the forest, or )isit a peasant,s daughter, or hunt, or lie for hours in the green staring into the )aulted halls of treetops, into the sprouting (ilderness of ferns and 5uniper. 2e (ould al(ays return after a day or t(o. +hen he,d attack his (ork (ith rene(ed passion, greedily car)e the lu%uriant herbs, gently, tenderly coa% human heads from

the (ood, forcefully cut a mouth, an eye, a pleated beard. /eside 0rich only Narcissus kne( the statues and he came often to the (orkshop, (hich at times (as his fa)orite place in the cloister. 2e looked on (ith 5oy and astonishment. 0)erything his friend had carried in his restless, stubborn, boyish heart (as coming to flo(er. +here it gre( and blossomed, a creation, a small surging (orld1 a game perhaps, but certainly no less (orthy a game than playing (ith logic, grammar, and theology.

-ensi)ely he once said1 4I,m learning a great deal from you, oldmund. I,m beginning to understand (hat art is. 7ormerly it seemed to me that, compared to thinking and science, it could not be taken altogether seriously. I thought something like this1 since man is a dubious mi%ture of mind and matter, since the mind unlocks recognition of the eternal to him, (hile matter pulls him do(n and binds him to the transitory, he should stri)e a(ay from the senses and to(ard the mind if he (ishes to ele)ate his life and gi)e it meaning. I did pretend, out of habit, to hold art in high esteem, but actually I (as arrogant and looked do(n upon it. !nly no( do I reali*e ho( many paths there are to kno(ledge and that the path of the mind is not the only one and perhaps not e)en the best one. It is my (ay, of course; and I,ll stay on it. /ut I see that

you, on the opposite road, on the road of the senses, ha)e sei*ed the secret of being 5ust as deeply and can e%press it in a much more li)ely fashion than most thinkers are able to do.4

4No( you understand,4

oldmund said, 4that I can,t concei)e of

thoughts (ithout images64

4I ha)e long since understood it. !ur thinking is a constant process of con)erting things to abstractions, a looking a(ay from the sensory, an attempt to construct a purely spiritual (orld. 8hereas you take the least constant, the most mortal things to your heart, and in their )ery mortality sho( the meaning of the (orld. 3ou don,t look a(ay from the (orld; you gi)e yourself to it, and by your sacrifice to it raise it to the highest, a parable of eternity. 8e thinkers try to come closer to od by pulling the mask of the (orld

a(ay from 2is face. 3ou come closer to 2im by lo)ing 2is creation and re&creating it. /oth are human endea)ors, and necessarily imperfect, but art is more innocent.4

4I don,t kno(, Narcissus. /ut in o)ercoming life, in resisting despair, you thinkers and theologians seem to succeed better. I ha)e long since stopped en)ying you for your learning, dear friend,

but I do en)y your calm, your detachment, your peace.4

43ou should not en)y me,

oldmund. +here is no peace of the sort

you imagine. !h, there is peace of course, but not anything that li)es (ithin us constantly and ne)er lea)es us. +here is only the peace that must be (on again and again, each ne( day of our li)es. 3ou don,t see me fight, you don,t kno( my struggles as Abbot, my struggles in the prayer cell. A good thing that you don,t. 3ou only see that I am less sub5ect to moods than you, and you take that for peace. /ut my life is struggle; it is struggle and sacrifice like e)ery decent life; like yours, too.4

4"et,s not 'uarrel about it, Narcissus. 3ou don,t see all my struggles either. And I don,t kno( (hether or not you are able to understand ho( I feel (hen I think that this (ork (ill soon be finished, that it (ill be taken a(ay and set in its place. +hen I (ill hear a fe( praises and return to a bare (orkroom, depressed about all the things that I did not achie)e in my (ork, things you others can,t e)en see, and inside I,ll feel as robbed and empty as the (orkshop.4

4+hat may be so,4 said Narcissus. 4Neither of us can e)er

understand the other completely in such things. /ut there is one reali*ation all men of good (ill share1 in the end our (orks make us feel ashamed, (e ha)e to start out again, and each time the sacrifice has to be made ane(.4

A fe( (eeks later

oldmund,s big (ork (as finished and set in its

place. An old e%perience repeated itself1 his (ork became the possession of others, (as looked at, 5udged, praised; and he (as lauded, honored, but his heart and his (orkshop stood empty and he no longer kne( (hether the (ork had been (orth the sacrifice. !n the day of the un)eiling he (as in)ited to the fathers, table for a festi)e meal at (hich the oldest (ine of the house (as ser)ed. oldmund en5oyed the e%cellent fish and )enison, and e)en more than by the old (ine (as (armed by the interest and 5oy of Narcissus, (ho praised him and honored his (ork.

A ne( (ork, (hich the Abbot had asked for and ordered, (as already sketched out, an altar for the $ary chapel in Neu*ell, (hich belonged to the cloister and in (hich a father from $ariabronn officiated as priest. 7or this altar oldmund (anted to

make a statue of the madonna, and to eternali*e in her one of the unforgettable figures of his youth, beautiful fearful "ydia, the

knight,s daughter. !ther(ise this commission (as of little importance to him; it seemed suitable to him for 0rich,s assistant,s pro5ect. If 0rich did (ell, he,d ha)e a good permanent partner (ho could replace him, free him to do those (orks that alone (ere still close to his heart. 8ith 0rich, he chose the (ood for the altar and had him prepare it. !ften oldmund left him alone; he had

resumed his roaming, his long (alks in the (oods. !nce he (as absent for se)eral days, and 0rich notified the Abbot, (ho also feared that oldmund might ha)e left for good. /ut he came back,

(orked for a (eek on the statue of "ydia, then began to roam again.

2e (as troubled. Since the completion of his big (ork his life had been in disorder. 2e missed early mass; he (as deeply restless and dissatisfied. No( he often thought of $aster Niklaus and (ondered if he himself (ould not become soon (hat Niklaus had been, a hard&(orking and settled master in his craft, but unfree and unyoung. Recently a small ad)enture had gi)en him food for thought1 on one of his (andering days he had found a young peasant girl named 7ran*iska, (hom he liked. 2e had tried to charm her, had employed all the arts of seduction he kne(. +he girl listened gladly to his chatting, laughed delighted at his 5okes,

but she refused his ad)ances, and for the first time he reali*ed that, to a young (oman, he seemed an old man. 2e had not gone back, but he had not forgotten. 7ran*iska (as right. 2e (as older; he felt it himself, and it (as not because of a fe( premature gray hairs and a fe( (rinkles around his eyes, but rather something in his being, in his mind. 2e found himself old, found that he had become strangely similar to $aster Niklaus. 8ith ill humor he obser)ed himself and shrugged. 2e had gro(n cautious and tame; he (as no longer an eagle or a hare; he had become a domestic animal. 8hen he roamed about no(, he (as looking for the perfume of the past, for memories of his former ad)entures rather than for ne( freedom. "ike a dog, he looked longingly and distrustfully for the lost scent. And after he had been a(ay for a day or t(o, loafed a bit and caroused, something dre( him irresistibly back. 2e had a bad conscience. 2e felt this (orkshop (aiting for him, felt responsible for the altar he had begun, for the prepared (ood, for his assistant 0rich. 2e (as no longer free, no longer young. 2e made a firm resolution1 after the "ydia&$ary (as finished, he (anted to go on a trip and try (andering once more. It (as not good to li)e in a cloister for so long, (ith men only. It might be good for monks, but not for him. !ne could speak intelligently (ith men, and they understood an artist,s (ork, but all the rest.

chatting, tenderness, games, lo)e, pleasure (ithout thought.did not flourish among men, for that one needed (omen, (andering, freedom, and e)er ne( impressions. 0)erything around him (as a little gray and serious here, a little hea)y and manly, and he had become contaminated; it had crept into his blood. +he thought of a trip consoled him. 2e kept to his (ork courageously in order to be free sooner. And as "ydia,s figure gradually came to(ard him out of the (ood, as he draped the strict folds of her dress o)er her knees, a deep, painful 5oy o)ertook him, a nostalgic falling in lo)e (ith the image, (ith the beautiful shy girl figure, (ith his memory of that time, (ith his first lo)e, his first tra)els, his youth. Re)erently he (orked at the delicate image, felt it one (ith the best (ithin him, (ith his youth, (ith his most tender memories. It (as a 5oy to form her inclined neck, her friendly&sad mouth, her elegant hands, the long fingers, the beautifully arched cups of her fingernails. 0rich, too, (ould stare at the figure (ith admiration and lo)ing respect (hene)er he had a free moment.

8hen she (as almost finished,

oldmund sho(ed her to the

Abbot. Narcissus said1 4+hat is a beautiful (ork, my dear friend. 8e ha)e nothing in the (hole cloister that measures up to it. I must confess to you that I (orried about you on se)eral occasions

during the last months. I sa( that you (ere restless and disturbed, and (hen you disappeared and stayed a(ay for more than a day, I sometimes thought (ith sorro(1 perhaps he,s ne)er coming back. And no( you ha)e car)ed this (onderful statue. I am happy for you and proud of you.4


oldmund said, 4the statue turned out rather (ell. /ut no(

listen to me, Narcissus. In order to make this a good statue, I needed my entire youth, my (andering, my lo)e affairs, my courtship of many (omen. +hat is the source at (hich I ha)e drunk. Soon the (ell (ill be empty; I feel dry in my heart. I,ll finish this $ary, but then I,ll take a good long )acation, I don,t kno( for ho( long. I,ll retrace my youth and all that (as once so dear to me. Can you understand that6 8ell, yes. 3ou kno( I (as your guest, and I,)e ne)er taken any payment for my (ork here >4

4I often offered it to you,4 interrupted Narcissus.

43es, and no( I,ll accept it. I,ll ha)e ne( clothes made, and (hen they,re ready, I,ll ask you for a horse and a fe( gold pieces and then I,ll ride out into the (orld. Say nothing, Narcissus, and do not be sad. It is not that I don,t like it here any more; I couldn,t be

better off any(here else. Something else is at stake. 8ill you fulfill my (ish64

+hey spoke about it no more.

oldmund had made for himself a

plain riding outfit and boots, and as summer dre( near, he completed the $ary figure as though it (ere his last (ork. 8ith lo)ing care he ga)e the hands, the face, the hair their finishing touch. It might almost ha)e seemed that he (as prolonging his (ork, that he (as 'uite happy to be slightly delayed again and again by these final delicate touches to the figure. #ays passed, and al(ays there (as something ne( for him to arrange. Although Narcissus felt deeply sad about the approaching fare(ell, he sometimes smiled a little about oldmund,s being in lo)e, about

his not being able to tear himself a(ay from the $ary statue.

/ut one day

oldmund surprised him; suddenly he came to take

his lea)e. 2e had made up his mind during the night. In his ne( clothes, (ith a ne( cap, he came to Narcissus to say goodbye. 2e had already confessed and communed some time ago. No( he came to bid fare(ell and be gi)en the blessing for the road. +he lea)etaking came hard to both of them, and oldmund acted (ith

a brus'uesness and indifference he did not feel in his heart.

48ill I e)er see you again64 asked Narcissus.

4!h yes, if your pretty nag does not break my neck, you (ill certainly see me again. /esides, (ithout me, there (ouldn,t be anyone left to call you Narcissus and cause you to (orry. So don,t fear. 3es, and don,t forget to keep an eye on 0rich. And let no one touch my statue: She must remain standing in my room, as I ha)e said before, and you are not to let the key out of your hand.4

4Are you looking for(ard to the 5ourney64

oldmund blinked.

48ell, I (as looking for(ard to it; that,s 'uite true. /ut no( that I,m about to ride off, it feels less amusing than one might think. 3ou,ll laugh at me, but I don,t like going a(ay; and this dependence does not please me. It is like an illness; young healthy men don,t ha)e that. $aster Niklaus (as that (ay, too. 8ell, let,s not chat about useless stuff: /less me, dear friend; I (ant to lea)e.4

2e rode off.

In his thoughts, Narcissus (as greatly concerned about his friend. 2e (orried about him and missed him. 8ould he e)er come back6 No( this strange and lo)able person (as again follo(ing his crooked, (ill&less path, roaming the (orld (ith desire and curiosity, follo(ing his strong dark dri)es, stormy and insatiable, a gro(n child. $ight od be (ith him; might he come back safe and sound.

Again he (ould fly hither and thither, the butterfly, commit ne( sins, seduce (omen, follo( his instincts, (ould perhaps again be in)ol)ed in murder, danger, and imprisonment and might perish that (ay. 2o( much (orry this blond boy caused one: 2e complained about gro(ing old, all the (hile looking out of such boyish eyes: 2o( one had to fear for him. And yet, deep do(n in his heart, Narcissus (as happy about oldmund. It pleased him

)ery much that this stubborn child (as so difficult to tame, that he had such caprices, that he had broken out again to shake off his antlers.

0)ery day the Abbot,s thoughts returned at one time or another to his friend, (ith lo)e and longing, gratitude and (orry, occasionally also (ith doubt and self&reproach. Should he not perhaps ha)e sho(n his friend more clearly ho( much he lo)ed him, ho( little he

(ished him to be other than he (as, ho( rich he had become through his being and his art6 2e had not said much about it, perhaps not enough.(ho could tell if he might not ha)e been able to keep him6

/ut he had not only been enriched by

oldmund. 2e had also

gro(n poorer because of him, poorer and (eaker, and it (as certainly good that he had not sho(n that to his friend. +he (orld in (hich he li)ed and made his home, his (orld, his cloister life, his priestly office, his scholarly being, his (ell&constructed thought edifice.all this had often been shaken to its foundations by his friend and (as no( filled (ith doubt. Certainly, seen from the point of )ie( of the cloister, from the point of )ie( of reason and morality, his o(n life (as better, righter, steadier, more orderly, more e%emplary. It (as a life of order and strict ser)ice, an unending sacrifice, a constantly rene(ed stri)ing for clarity and 5ustice. It (as much purer, much better than the life of an artist, )agrant, and seducer of (omen. /ut seen from abo)e, (ith eyes.(as this e%emplary life of order and discipline, of renunciation of the (orld and of the 5oys of the senses, of remoteness from dirt and blood, of (ithdra(al into philosophy and meditation any better than oldmund,s life6 2ad man really been od,s

created to li)e a regulated life, (ith hours and duties indicated by prayer bells6 2ad man really been created to study Aristotle and Saint +homas, to kno( (orld6 2ad reek, to e%tinguish his senses, to flee the

od not created him (ith senses and instincts, (ith

blood&colored darknesses, (ith the capacity for sin, lust, and despair6 +hese (ere the 'uestions around (hich the Abbot,s thoughts circled (hen they d(elt on his friend. 3es, and (as it not perhaps more childlike and human to lead a oldmund&life, more

courageous, more noble perhaps in the end to abandon oneself to the cruel stream of reality, to chaos, to commit sins and accept their bitter conse'uences rather than li)e a clean life (ith (ashed hands outside the (orld; laying out a lonely harmonious thought& garden, strolling sinlessly among one,s sheltered flo(er beds. -erhaps it (as harder, bra)er and nobler to (ander through forests and along the high(ays (ith torn shoes, to suffer sun and rain, hunger and need, to play (ith the 5oys of the senses and pay for them (ith suffering.

At any rate,

oldmund had sho(n him that a man destined for

high things can dip into the lo(est depths of the bloody, drunken chaos of life, and soil himself (ith much dust and blood, (ithout becoming small and common, (ithout killing the di)ine spark (ithin

himself, that he can err through the thickest darkness (ithout e%tinguishing the di)ine light and the creati)e force inside the shrine of his soul. Narcissus had looked deeply into his friend,s chaotic life, and neither his lo)e for him nor his respect for him d(indled. !h no, since he had seen those miraculous still&life images, radiant (ith inner harmony, come into being under oldmund,s stained hands, those intent faces glo(ing (ith spirit, those innocent plants and flo(ers, those imploring or blessed hands, all those audacious, gentle, proud, or sacred gestures, since then he kne( )ery (ell that an abundance of light and the gifts of od d(elt in the fickle heart of this artist and seducer.

It had been easy for him to seem superior to

oldmund in their

con)ersations, to oppose his discipline and intellectual order to his friend,s passions. /ut (as not e)ery small gesture of one of oldmund,s figures, e)ery eye, e)ery mouth, e)ery branch and fold of go(n (orth more6 8as it not more real, ali)e, and irreplaceable than e)erything a thinker could achie)e6 2ad not this artist, (hose heart (as so full of conflict and misery, fashioned symbols of need and stri)ing for innumerable people, contemporary and future, figures to (hich the re)erence and respect, the deepest anguish and longing of countless people

(ould turn for consolation, confirmation, and strength6

Smiling and sad, Narcissus remembered all the times since their early youth (hen he had guided and taught his friend. ratefully

his friend had accepted, al(ays admitting Narcissus,s superiority and guidance. And then, 'uietly, he had fashioned his (orks, born of the tempest and suffering of his ragged life1 no (ords, no instructions, no e%planations, no (arnings, but authentic, heightened life. 2o( poor he himself (as by comparison, (ith his kno(ledge, his cloister discipline, his dialectics:

+hese (ere the 'uestions around (hich his thoughts turned. =ust as he had once, many years ago, inter)ened roughly, almost brutally, in oldmund,s youth and placed his life in a ne( sphere,

so his friend had preoccupied him since his return, had shaken him, had forced him to doubt and self&e%amination. 2e (as his e'ual; Narcissus had gi)en him nothing that had not been gi)en back to him many times o)er.

+he friend (ho had ridden off left him much time for thought. 8eeks passed. +he chestnut tree had long since lost its blossoms; the milky lightgreen beech lea)es had long since turned dark, firm,

and hard; the storks long since had hatched their young on the entrance to(er and taught them to fly. +he longer oldmund

stayed a(ay, the more Narcissus reali*ed ho( important he had been to him. 2e had se)eral learned fathers in the house, an e%pert on -lato, an e%cellent grammarian, and one or t(o subtle theologians. And there (ere among the monks a fe( faithful, serious, honest souls. /ut he had no e'ual, no one (ith (hom he could seriously measure himself. +his irreplaceable thing only oldmund had gi)en him. It (as hard to renounce it again no(. 2e thought of his absent friend (ith longing.

!ften he (ent to the (orkshop, to encourage the assistant 0rich, (ho continued (orking at the altar and eagerly a(aited his master,s return. Sometimes the Abbot unlocked oldmund,s room,

(here the $ary figure stood, lifted the cloth from the figure carefully and stayed (ith her a(hile. 2e kne( nothing of the figure,s origin; oldmund had ne)er told him "ydia,s story. /ut he

felt e)erything; he sa( that the girl,s form had long li)ed in oldmund,s heart. -erhaps he had seduced her, perhaps betrayed and left her. /ut, truer than the most faithful husband, he had taken her along in his soul, preser)ing her image until finally, perhaps after many years in (hich he had ne)er seen her again, he had

fashioned this beautiful, touching statue of a girl and captured in her face, her bearing, her hands all the tenderness, admiration, and longing of their lo)e. 2e read much of his friend,s history, too, in the figures of the lectern pulpit in the refectory. It (as the story of a (ayfarer, of an instincti)e being, of a homeless, faithless man, but (hat had remained of it here (as all good and faithful, filled (ith li)ing lo)e. 2o( mysterious this life (as, ho( deep and muddy its (aters ran, yet ho( clear and noble (hat emerged from them.

Narcissus struggled. 2e mastered himself; he did not betray his calling. 2e de)iated in no (ay from his strict ser)ice. /ut he suffered from a sense of loss and from the recognition of ho( much his heart, (hich (as to belong only to (as attached to his friend. 20 +he summer passed. -oppies and cornflo(ers, cockles and star(ort (ilted and )anished. +he frogs gre( silent in the pond and the storks fle( high and prepared for departure. +hat,s (hen oldmund returned. od and to his office,

2e arri)ed one afternoon, during a light rain, and did not go into the cloister; from the portal he (ent immediately to his (orkshop. 2e had come on foot, (ithout the horse.

0rich felt a shock (hen he sa( him come in. Although he recogni*ed him at first glance, and his heart (ent out to greet him, the man (ho had come back seemed completely different1 a false oldmund, many years older, (ith a half&spent, dusty, gray face, sunken cheeks, and sick, suffering eyes, although there (as no pain in them, but a smile rather, a kind&hearted, old, patient smile. 2e (alked painfully; he dragged himself, and he seemed to be ill and )ery tired.

+his changed, hardly recogni*able

oldmund peered strangely at

his assistant. 2e made no fuss about his return. 2e acted as though he had merely come in from another room, as though he had ne)er left e)en for a minute. 2e shook hands and said nothing, no greeting, no 'uestion, no story. 2e merely said1 4I must sleep,4 he seemed to be terribly tired. 2e sent 0rich a(ay and (ent into his room ne%t to the (orkshop. +here he pulled off his cap and let it drop, took off his shoes and (alked o)er to the bed.

7arther back in the room he sa( his madonna standing under a cloth; he nodded but did not go up to her to take off the cloth and greet her. Instead he crept to the little (indo(, sa( 0rich (aiting uneasily outside, and called do(n to him1 40rich, you needn,t tell anybody that I,m back. I,m )ery tired. It can (ait until tomorro(.4

+hen he lay do(n on the bed in his clothes. After a (hile, since he could not fall asleep, he got up and (alked hea)ily to the (all to look into a small mirror that hung there. Attenti)ely he looked at the oldmund (ho stared back at him out of the mirror, a (eary oldmund, a man (ho had gro(n tired and old and (ilted, (ith much gray in his beard. It (as an old, some(hat unkempt man (ho looked back at him from the little mirror,s dull surface.but strangely unfamiliar. It did not seem to be properly present; it did not seem to be of much concern to him. It reminded him of other faces he had kno(n, a little of $aster Niklaus, a little of the old knight (ho had once had a page,s outfit made for him, and also a little of St. =acob in the church, of old bearded St. =acob (ho looked so ancient and gray under his pilgrim,s hat, and yet still 5oyous and good.

Carefully he read the mirror face, as though he (ere interested in

finding out about this stranger. 2e nodded to him and kne( him again1 yes, it (as he; it corresponded to the feeling he had about himself. An e%tremely tired old man, (ho had gro(n slightly numb, (ho had returned from a 5ourney, an ordinary man in (hom one could not take much pride. And yet he had nothing against him. 2e still liked him; there (as something in his face that the earlier, pretty oldmund had not had. In all the fatigue and disintegration

there (as a trace of contentment, or at least of detachment. 2e laughed softly to himself and sa( the mirror image 5oin him1 a fine fello( he had brought home from his trip: -retty much torn and burned out, he (as returning from his little e%cursion. 2e had not only sacrificed his horse, his satchel, and his gold pieces; other things, too, had gotten lost or deserted him1 youth, health, self& confidence, the color in his cheeks and the force in his eyes. 3et he liked the image1 this (eak old fello( in the mirror (as dearer to him than the oldmund he had been for so long. 2e (as older,

(eaker, more pitiable, but he (as more harmless, he (as more content, it (as easier to get along (ith him. 2e laughed and pulled do(n one of the eyelids that had become (rinkled. +hen he (ent back to bed and this time fell asleep.

+he ne%t day he sat hunched o)er the table in his room and tried

to dra( a little. Narcissus came to )isit him. 2e stood in the door(ay and said1 4I,)e been told that you (ere back. +hank od,

I,m )ery glad. Since you did not come to see me, I,)e come to you. Am I disturbing you in your (ork64

2e came closer;

oldmund looked up from his paper and held out

his hand. Although 0rich had prepared him, the sight of his friend shocked Narcissus to the heart. smile. oldmund ga)e him a friendly

43es, I,m back. 8elcome, Narcissus, (e ha)en,t seen each other for a (hile. 7orgi)e me for not coming to you.4

Narcissus looked into his eyes. 2e too sa( not only the e%haustion, the pitiful (ilting of this face; he sa( other things besides, strangely pleasing signs of acceptance, of detachment e)en, of surrender and old man,s good humor. 0%perienced in reading human faces, Narcissus also sa( that this changed, different oldmund (as not altogether there any more, that either

his soul (as far (ithdra(n from reality and (andering dream roads or already standing at the gates that lead to the beyond.

4Are you ill64 he asked cautiously.

43es. I am also ill. I fell ill at the )ery start of my 5ourney, during the )ery first days. /ut you,ll understand that I didn,t (ant to come home again right a(ay. 3ou,d all ha)e had a good laugh if I had come back so 'uickly and taken off my tra)eling boots. No, I didn,t feel like it. I (ent on to roam about a bit; I felt ashamed because my 5ourney (as not (orking out. I had promised myself too much. 3es, I felt ashamed. Surely you understand that, you,re an intelligent man. 7orgi)e me, (as that (hat you asked6 It,s like a curse; I keep forgetting (hat (e,re talking about. /ut that thing (ith my mother, you did that (ell. It hurt a lot, but >4

2is murmuring ended in a smile.

48e,ll make you (ell again,

oldmund, (e,ll take care of you. If

only you had turned right around (hen you began feeling sick: 3ou really don,t ha)e to feel ashamed in front of us. 3ou should ha)e come right back.4

oldmund laughed.

43es, no( I remember. I didn,t dare come back. It (ould ha)e been shameful. /ut no( I ha)e come. No( I feel (ell again.4

42a)e you had great pain64

4-ain6 3es, I ha)e had pains enough. /ut you see, pains are not so bad; they,)e brought me to reason. No( I no longer feel ashamed, not e)en in front of you. +he day you came to see me in prison, to sa)e my life, I had to clench my teeth )ery hard, because I felt ashamed in front of you. /ut that is completely o)er no(.4

Narcissus put his hand on

oldmund,s arm and immediately

oldmund stopped speaking and closed his eyes (ith a smile. 2e fell peacefully asleep. #isturbed, the Abbot ran to fetch the house physician, 7ather Anton, to look after the sick man. 8hen they came back, oldmund (as still sitting fast asleep at his dra(ing

table. +hey put him to bed and the physician stayed to e%amine him.

2e found him hopelessly ill. 2e (as carried into one of the sick rooms, (here 0rich kept a constant (atch.

+he (hole story of his last 5ourney (as ne)er kno(n. 2e told a fe( details; others could be guessed. !ften he lay listlessly. Sometimes he had a fe)er and (as delirious; sometimes he (as lucid, and then Narcissus (as sent for each time. +hese last con)ersations (ith oldmund became e%tremely important to him.

Narcissus set do(n a fe( fragments of confessions. !thers (ere told by 0rich.

oldmund,s reports and

48hen did the pain start6 At the )ery beginning of my 5ourney. I (as riding in the forest and fell (ith my horse into a brook, (here I lay the (hole night in cold (ater. I must ha)e broken se)eral ribs; e)er since, I,)e had pains in my chest. At that time I (as not )ery far from here, but I didn,t (ant to turn back. +hat (as childish, I kno(, but I thought it (ould look foolish. So I rode on, and (hen I could ride no longer, because it hurt too much, I sold the horse, and then I (as in a hospital for a long time.

4I,ll stay here no(, Narcissus. I,ll ne)er ride off again. No more (andering. No more dancing, no more (omen. !h, other(ise I,d ha)e stayed a(ay much longer, years longer. /ut (hen I sa( that

there (as no 5oy out there for me any more, I thought1 before I go under, I (ant to dra( a bit more, and make a fe( more figures. !ne does (ant to ha)e some pleasure after all.4

Narcissus said to him1 4I,m )ery glad you,)e come back. I missed you )ery much. I thought of you e)ery day, and I (as often afraid that you (ould ne)er (ant to come back.4

oldmund shook his head1 48ell, the loss (ould not ha)e been great.4

Narcissus, his heart burning (ith grief and lo)e, slo(ly bent do(n to him, and no( he did (hat he had ne)er done in the many years of their friendship. 2e touched oldmund,s hair and forehead (ith oldmund kne( (hat

his lips. Astonished at first, and then mo)ed, had happened.

4 oldmund,4 the Abbot (hispered into his ear, 4forgi)e me for not being able to tell you earlier. I should ha)e said it to you the day I came to see you in your prison in the bishop,s residence, or (hen I (as sho(n your first statues, or at so many other times. "et me tell you today ho( much I lo)e you, ho( much you ha)e al(ays meant

to me, ho( rich you ha)e made my life. It (ill not mean )ery much to you. 3ou are used to lo)e; it is not rare for you; so many (omen ha)e lo)ed and spoiled you. 7or me it is different. $y life has been poor in lo)e; I ha)e lacked the best of life. !ur Abbot #aniel once told me that he thought I (as arrogant; he (as probably right. I am not un5ust to(ard people. I make efforts to be 5ust and patient (ith them, but I ha)e ne)er lo)ed them. !f t(o scholars in the cloister, I prefer the one (ho is more learned; I,)e ne)er lo)ed a (eak scholar in spite of his (eakness. If I kno( ne)ertheless (hat lo)e is, it is because of you. I ha)e been able to lo)e you, you alone among all men. 3ou cannot imagine (hat that means. It means a (ell in a desert, a blossoming tree in the (ilderness. It is thanks to you alone that my heart has not dried up, that a place (ithin me has remained open to grace.4

oldmund smiled happily; he (as slightly embarrassed. 8ith the soft, calm )oice he had during his lucid hours, he said1 48hen you sa)ed me from the gallo(s that day and (e (ere riding home, I asked you about my horse /less and you kne( (hat had happened to him. +hat day I sa( that you, (ho had ne)er kno(n one horse from another, had taken care of my little /less. I understood that you had done it because of me, and I (as )ery

happy about it. No( I see that it (as really so, that you really do lo)e me. /ut I ha)e al(ays lo)ed you, Narcissus. 2alf of my life (as spent courting you. I kne( that you, too, (ere fond of me, but I ne)er dared hope that you (ould tell me some day, you,re such a proud man. 3ou gi)e me your lo)e in this moment (hen I ha)e nothing left, (hen (andering and freedom, (orld and (omen ha)e abandoned me. I accept it and I thank you for it.4

+he "ydia&madonna stood in the room, (atching.

4#o you think constantly of death64 asked Narcissus.

43es, I think of it and of (hat has become of my life. As a young man, (hen I (as still your pupil, I (ished to become as spiritual as you (ere. 3ou sho(ed me that I had no calling for it. +hen I thre( myself into the other side of life, into the (orld of the senses, and (omen made it easy for me to find my 5oys there, they are so greedy and (illing. /ut I don,t (ish to speak disdainfully of them, or of the 5oys of the senses; I ha)e often been e%tremely happy. And I (as also fortunate enough in my e%periences to learn that sensuality can be gi)en a soul. !f it art is born. /ut no( both flames ha)e died out in me. I no longer ha)e the animal happiness

of ecstasy, and I (ouldn,t (ant it no( e)en if (omen (ere still running after me. And to create (orks of art is no longer my (ish either. I,)e made enough statues; the number does not matter. +herefore it is time for me to die. I am ready, and I,m curious about it.4

48hy curious64 asked Narcissus.

48ell, it may be a bit stupid of me. /ut I,m really curious about it. Not of the beyond, Narcissus. I think about that )ery little, and if I may say so openly, I no longer belie)e in it. +here is no beyond. +he dried&up tree is dead fore)er; the fro*en bird does not come back to life, nor does a man after he has died. !ne may continue to think of him for a (hile after he,s gone, but that doesn,t last long either. No, I,m curious about dying only because it is still my belief or my dream that I am on the road to(ard my mother. I hope death (ill be a great happiness, a happiness as great as that of lo)e, fulfilled lo)e. I cannot gi)e up the thought that, instead of death (ith his scythe, it (ill be my mother (ho (ill come to take me back to her, (ho (ill lead me back to nonbeing and innocence.4

#uring one of his last )isits, after

oldmund had not said anything

for se)eral days, Narcissus again found him a(ake and talkati)e.

47ather Anton thinks you must often be in great pain. 2o( do you bear it so calmly, peace no(.4 oldmund6 It seems to me you ha)e found

4#o you mean peace (ith

od6 No, that peace I ha)e not found. I

don,t (ant any peace (ith 2im. 2e has made the (orld badly; (e don,t need to praise it, and 2e,ll care little (hether I praise 2im or not. 2e has made the (orld badly. /ut I ha)e made peace (ith the pain in my chest, yes. In former days I (as not good at bearing pain, and although I sometimes thought dying (ould come easily to me, I (as (rong. 8hen death (as so near me that night in Count 2einrich,s prison, I sa( that I simply could not face it. I (as still much too strong and too (ild to die; they (ould ha)e had to break each one of my bones t(ice. /ut no( it is different.4

Speaking tired him. 2is )oice gre( (eaker. Narcissus asked him to spare himself.

4No,4 he said, 4I (ant to tell you. /efore this I (ould ha)e been ashamed to tell you. It,ll make you laugh. 8hen I mounted my

horse that day and rode a(ay, I (as not 5ust riding off into the blue. I had heard a rumor that Count 2einrich had returned to this region and that his mistress Agnes (as (ith him. 8ell, all right, that does not seem important to you, and today it does not seem important to me either. /ut at that time the ne(s burned itself into me, and I thought of nothing but Agnes. She (as the most beautiful (oman I had e)er kno(n and lo)ed1 I (anted to see her again, I (anted to be happy (ith her again. I rode off, and after a (eek I found her. And there, during that hour, the change in me took place. As I said, I found her. She had not gro(n less beautiful. I found her and found as (ell the opportunity to sho( myself to her and to speak to her. And 5ust think, Narcissus1 she no longer (anted to ha)e anything to do (ith me. I (as too old for her; I (as no longer pretty enough, amusing enough; she no longer (anted anything from me. +hat, actually, (as the end of my 5ourney. /ut I rode on. I didn,t (ant to come back to you so disappointed and ridiculous, and as I rode along, force and youth and intelligence had already completely abandoned me, because I stumbled into a gully (ith my horse and fell into a stream and broke se)eral ribs and lay there helpless in the (ater. +hat,s (hen I first learned about real pain. As I fell I felt something break inside my chest, and the breaking pleased me, I (as glad to hear it, I (as content (ith it. I

lay there in the (ater and kne( that I (as about to die, but e)erything (as completely different from that night in the count,s prison. I had nothing against it; dying no longer seemed terrible to me. I felt those )iolent pains (hich I,)e often had since then, and (ith them I had a dream, or a )ision, (hate)er you (ant to call it. I lay there and had burning pains in my chest and I (as defending myself against them and screaming (hen I heard a laughing )oice, a )oice I had not heard since childhood. It (as my mother,s )oice, a deep (omanly )oice, full of ecstasy and lo)e. And then I sa( that it (as she, that she (as (ith me, holding me in her lap, and that she had opened my breast and put her fingers bet(een my ribs to pluck out my heart. 8hen I sa( and understood that, it no longer hurt. And no(, (hen the pains come back, they are not pains, they are not enemies; they are my mother,s fingers taking my heart out. She (orks hard at it. Sometimes she presses do(n and moans as though in ecstasy. Sometimes she laughs and hums tender sounds. Sometimes she is not (ith me, but high abo)e in hea)en, and I see her face among the clouds, as large as a cloud. She floats there, smiling sadly, and her sad smile pulls at me and dra(s my heart out of my chest.4

Again and again he spoke of her, of his mother. 4#o you

remember64 he murmured on one of the last days. 4I had completely forgotten my mother until you con5ured her up again. +hat day, too, it hurt )ery much, as though animal 5a(s (ere tearing at my intestines. 8e (ere still young then, pretty young boys. /ut e)en then my mother called me and I had to follo(. She is e)ery(here. She (as "ise, the gypsy; she (as $aster Niklaus,s beautiful madonna; she (as life, lo)e, ecstasy. She also (as fear, hunger, instinct. No( she is death; she has her fingers in my chest.4

4#on,t speak so much, my dear friend,4 said Narcissus. 48ait until tomorro(.4

8ith his ne( smile

oldmund looked into Narcissus,s eyes, (ith

the smile that he had brought back from his 5ourney, the smile that looked at times so old and fragile, a little senile perhaps, and then again like pure kindness and (isdom.

4$y dear friend,4 he (hispered, 4I cannot (ait until tomorro(. I must say fare(ell to you no(, and as (e part I must tell you e)erything. "isten to me another moment. I (anted to tell you about my mother, and ho( she keeps her fingers clasped around

my heart. 7or many years it has been my most cherished, my secret dream to make a statue of the mother. She (as to me the most sacred of all my images; I ha)e carried her al(ays inside me, a figure of lo)e and mystery. !nly a short (hile ago it (ould ha)e been unbearable to me to think that I might die (ithout ha)ing car)ed her statue; my life (ould ha)e seemed useless to me. And no( see ho( strangely things ha)e turned out1 it is not my hands that shape and form her; it is her hands that shape and form me. She is closing her fingers around my heart, she is loosening it, she is emptying me; she is seducing me into dying and (ith me dies my dream, the beautiful statue, the image of the great mother&0)e. I can still see it, and if I had force in my hands, I could car)e it. /ut she doesn,t (ant that; she doesn,t (ant me to make her secret )isible. She rather (ants me to die. I,m glad to die; she is making it easy for me.4

#eeply shaken, Narcissus listened to his (ords. 2e had to bend close to his friend,s lips to be able to understand (hat they (ere saying. Some (ords he heard only indistinctly; others he heard clearly, but their meaning escaped him.

And no( the sick man opened his eyes again and looked for a

long (hile into his friend,s face. 2e said fare(ell (ith his eyes. And (ith a sudden mo)ement, as though he (ere trying to shake his head, he (hispered1 4/ut ho( (ill you die (hen your time comes, Narcissus, since you ha)e no mother6 8ithout a mother, one cannot lo)e. 8ithout a mother, one cannot die.4

8hat he murmured after that could not be understood. +hose last t(o days Narcissus sat by his bed day and night, (atching his life ebb a(ay. oldmund,s last (ords burned like fire in his heart.