They place him on the ground near one of the fires. The pale face is so quiet, so peaceful, and a gentle, happy smile plays about the pale lips.
Oldenburg looks over to Oswald, who is kneeling on the other side, of the body. He is startled. The young man's countenance is as pale as that of the dead man, and his eyes glare like those of a madman.
"Great God, Oswald! are you wounded?"
"I am afraid I am," replies Oswald, and sinks down by the side of Berger's body.
The sun has risen twice since the night of the barricades. A wondrously beautiful spring day is shining upon the immense city. The splendid palaces show their noble outlines clearly against the bright sky, while their mighty columns and richly-adorned friezes are bathed in the golden morning sun. And so there are bathing in the same golden morning sun thousands and thousands of happy men who wander in endless crowds through the city. All the pilgrims feel like pious pilgrims who have long painfully wandered through desert wastes and over rough mountains to the sacred image of Our Lady, and at last they behold the Holy One, and she smiles upon them forgiveness of their sins, and peace and joy and hearty confidence. Now they go back to their homes, silent and full of emotion, or loud in pious songs, praising the Holy One who has done wondrously for them....
"Poor, gullible people! As if all the saints of the almanac could help you if you do not help yourself--as if the sins of a generation could be atoned for in a single night--as if a diseased state could be cured in a day! You are willing to forget and to forgive those who have never, never forgiven you anything, and who will never forget that you have sinned against them as they look upon it. Your houses still show the traces of the fratricidal struggle. Your roofs, from which in your despair you hurled stones upon the heads of your enemies, are still uncovered. The pavements which you tore up to form a wall against reckless tyranny, have not yet been replaced. The dead even, who shed their blood for you, have not yet been buried. The wounded--the mortally wounded, are still waiting on their sorrowful couch for the hour of release----"
It was Oldenburg who spoke these words to himself as he stood in one of the windows of the hotel, and looked down upon the people who now merrily swarmed over the place where two days ago a huge barricade had been erected; where men had fought with bitter hatred and gallant bravery; where many a noble patriot had breathed his last.
Two of these victims were in the hotel.
Below, a few feet only above the pavement on which joyous crowds were thronging, a pale man was lying in his coffin, from whose face a gray beard was flowing in ample locks over a deep wound, from which night before last his heart's blood has escaped.
And in the same room, on his bed of sorrow, lay a young man who had been mortally wounded by the side of the gray-haired enthusiast, and whose powerful, youthful strength had so far struggled fearfully with pitiless death, causing him unspeakable suffering.
After the charge in which Berger fell and Oswald received his fatal wound, the troops had not renewed the attack; partly because the position was really held to be impregnable, partly because hesitation prevailed among the ruling spirits, and partly because the death of Prince Waldenberg, who had led the last charge with almost rapturous bravery and had fallen in the attack, had disheartened the men, so that the leaders dreaded a second failure. They had contented themselves with an occasional fire at the barricade; and at last, towards five o'clock, the last shot had been fired.
Oldenburg had stood by his post till he was certain that no new attack was to be expected, and that the troops had received orders to retreat.
Only then he had called Schmenckel, who had stood by him like a true squire through the whole fight, and they had left the partially abandoned barricade the last of them all.
Schmenckel had told Oldenburg that same night, with big tears rolling down his cheeks, that the officer who had fallen before their eyes, had been his son. Oldenburg had been greatly surprised when he heard the somewhat confused account which honest Caspar Schmenckel gave of his life, and especially the events of the last days--the plot of poor Albert Timm, whose body had been carried to the hospital--of brave Jeremy Goodheart, who had led the surprise in the Dismal Hole, and who had been the first to escape--the interviews between Count Malikowsky and the Princess Letbus, and the manner in which Albert Timm had boasted he could transform Oswald Stein at any moment into a Baron Grenwitz.
Oldenburg knew the world, and especially the higher regions mentioned in Schmenckel's story, too well to doubt for a moment that the events he narrated were possible or even plausible.
Did Oswald know his own history? But after all that was now perfectly immaterial. Death was not likely to make any difference between the son of Baron Harald and the son of Mr. Stein, teacher of languages; and Oswald was no longer his own, he belonged to death.
That had been ascertained an hour after he had been wounded. About that time medical aid had been procured; Doctor Braun arrived in company with Melitta. The latter had still been with Sophie when old Baumann brought the news of the conflict and that Oldenburg was in command at the barricade in Broad street. Melitta had at once decided to join Oldenburg, and Sophie saw very well that Franz could not stay at home, when so many thousands were risking their lives, and therefore said nothing when he declared his intention to accompany Melitta. Old Baumann and Bemperlein, who were also present, were to stay with Sophie to guard her and the children.
Melitta and Franz found much difficulty in making their way, and it was only after several hours wandering, and often at the peril of their lives, that they reached Broad street.
To see his beloved there, was, however, ample compensation to Oldenburg for all he had endured. Melitta embraced and kissed him amid tears, in Braun's presence; she clung to his arm and could not let him go again.
She had trembled for his life, and was all joy now to find him again, blackened with powder but in the full glory of his manhood, till he whispered in her ear that Oswald was lying, mortally wounded, in one of the rooms of the hotel. Then Melitta had withdrawn her arm from his, and had said--pale and distressed, but not overcome--that she would attend to the poor man, as it was her duty.
Since then a day and a night had passed--an eternity for those who watched by the bedside of the patient. The wounded man suffered indescribable agony. He would now rise madly, so that it required all of Schmenckel's gigantic strength to put him back in his bed, and now describe volubly all the fearful images which crowded his overwrought brain. He who in life was so reserved, had thus revealed the secret of his birth, a revelation which perfectly overwhelmed Mrs. Black, and made her bitterly regret her long-continued longing for Marie, which was so sadly gratified by the sight of Marie's son--on his death-bed.
The old lady, however, remitted none of her tender cares; she was ever busy; and if for moments nothing could be done, she folded her hands and prayed Heaven to save the son of her darling daughter.
But that had been from the beginning a hopeless wish. Franz had immediately pronounced Oswald's wound fatal, and given him one or at best two days' life. It is possible, however, he added, that he may recover his consciousness once more before he dies.
Melitta looked forward to that moment with great sadness. She now knew that she loved Oswald only as an unfortunate brother. Oswald had not once mentioned her name in all his wanderings; he had only spoken of a dear, sweet woman, against whom he had sinned grievously, and who could never forgive him for what he had done. This recollection had each time brought bitter tears to his eyes, and Melitta had wiped them from his face and wished she could tell him that she had long since forgiven him all.
Then the wounded man had groaned so loud that Oldenburg turned quickly from the window and stepped up to the bed where Melitta was sitting.
But the groan had not been one of pain; it was the deep breathing of a breath which had been relieved of an unbearable burden. What Franz had foretold had happened now--the pain had left him, and with it the last hope of life.
As long as the pain of the torn vitals had raged within him the mind of the poor sufferer had been sunk in an abyss of horror, amid hideous masks that stared at him through hollow eyes, amid monsters that tore him with their sharp teeth, and dead men who glided by wrapped in their winding sheets, and displaying as they turned some sweet faces that had been dear to him. And the abyss had grown still darker--he had been driven through narrow crevices, pursued by demoniac howls which re-echoed fearfully from the bare rocky walls, and the hot breath of hell all around him. Then he heard a voice calling, Oswald! Oswald! And at the silvery sound of this dear soft voice all the masks and monsters had vanished and the howling of demons had ceased. The hot, narrow passages widened into lofty, airy halls which began to sway gently to and fro, so that there were no longer arches of stone but the majestic tops of venerable, giant trees, with merrily singing birds skipping through the green foliage, and here and there golden rays of the sun.
And again the voice called Oswald! Oswald! and he flew towards the sound, through the dark shady woods, over mossy ground, through which silvery veins of water were playing. And it grew lighter and lighter around him; his eye saw beyond the cool twilight, which felt so sweet and pleasant to him, a land full of blooming life, of golden harvests, and smiling sunshine. And as his eye eagerly drew in the unaccustomed sight there came floating over the flowery fields and the ripening wheat-fields two lofty, beautiful forms. At first he did not know them, but as they came nearer he recognized both. They were Oldenburg and Melitta; and he stretched out his arms towards them and said: "You dear and good ones! can you forgive me?"
Then they bent over him, and he felt their kisses on his lips. He would have wept aloud with blissful delight, but he could not. Sweet weariness flowed through his limbs. He wanted to open his eyes, but a dear warm hand softly closed them; the land of harvests and sunshine faded away, the lofty forms floated back into soft mists, the woods sounded louder, he was drawn back again into the cool twilight, and then it was night aboriginal, eternal night.
And once more the spring sun has risen twice, and once more the immense city wears a festive air; but the color of this solemnity is that of mourning, for the feast they celebrate is the feast of the dead.
Black banners are waving from the towers and parapets of the royal palace; mourning crape is floating from all the windows; crape is seen on the bonnets of ladies and on the hats of men, on the arms of countless numbers, who are all making their way towards the beautiful open square in the heart of the city, where, amid temples bathed in the rays of the noon-day sun, the coffins of all the victims of that night of terror are standing on a huge platform. One hundred and eighty-seven coffins, some containing women and children, innocent flowers, that fell under the pitiless scythe when the grim mowers of the bloody harvest were reaping the field on which the seed of liberty was to have ripened.
And even this did not complete the bloody harvest. The hospitals, as well as numberless private houses, had besides their wounded men, many of whom were never to see the golden day of freedom.
And now the bells begin to toll solemnly on all the steeples--the same bells which in the night of the barricade had rang the alarm.
The church ceremonies are ended. The procession is in motion. A procession such as that city had never seen; such as the world's history perhaps never recorded.
In endless length the coffins with their rich loads of flowers are borne on the shoulders of citizens, and twenty thousand men of every age and every rank form the escort. On every coffin is a paper with the name of the deceased. Unmeaning names! Who was Oswald Stein? Who was Eberhard Wolfgang Berger?
What is there in a name? What matters it who they were in life? what they did and suffered, blundered and sinned, desired and failed to achieve? All desires are crowned, all sins are expiated, by their dying for freedom. This was felt by the hundred thousands who stood on both sides of the streets through which the procession moved, reverently baring their heads before every coffin.
And thus the endless procession moves slowly in silent, solemn stillness to its destination, a high hill at one of the gates of the city, where the men of the barricades have on the day before dug out an immense square hole. The procession enters the cutting. The bearers quietly set down the coffins and move on, and so the others, till the whole procession has passed out again.
And the thousands are standing around in solemn silence. Guns are fired and a whole nation prays at the graves of its martyrs.
For the dead?
They need their pious wishes no longer in their cool resting places, in their eternal sleep.
But the living?
Their lot is not worse, but harder. They must work and be useful in the hot dust of every day's life, without rest or repose, for tyranny never sleeps. They must work and watch, lest the night come once more in which the brave feel sad and the wicked delight; that night full of romantic masks and fantastic spectres; that night so poor in sound strong men, and so rich in problematic characters; that long, wretched night, out of which only the thunderstorm of revolution can lead through bloody dawn to freedom and to light.