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totally changed since the commencement of this discussion on the number Thirteen. He sat silent and thoughtful on his chair, and left his glass untasted before him, while his thoughts were evidently occupied by some unpleasant subject. His companions pressed him for the cause of this change, and after for some time evading their questions, he at last confesses that the turn the conversation had taken had brought painful recollections to his mind.
It is a matter I love not to speak about,' said he, but it is no secret, and least of all could I have any wish to conceal it from you, my good and kind friends. We have yet an hour before the arrival of the mail, and if you are disposed to listen, I will relate to you the strange incidents, the recollection of which has saddened me.'
The Painter's offer was eagerly accepted; the young men drew their chairs round the table, and Solling commenced as follows:
*I am a native of the small town of Geyer, in Saxony, of the tin mines of which place my father was inspector. I was the twelfth child of my parents and half an hour after I saw the light my mother gave birth to the Thirteenth, also a boy. Death, however, was busy in this numerous family. Several had died while yet infants, and there now survive only three besides myself, and perhaps my twin brother.
* The latter, who was christened Bernard, gave indications at a very early age of an eccentric and violent disposition. Precocious in growth and strength, wild as a young foal, headstrong and passionate, full of spiteful tricks and breakneck pranks, he was the terror of the family and the neighbors. In spite of his unamiable qualities, he was the pet of his father, who pardoned or laughed at all his mischief, and the consequence was, that he became an object of fear and hatred to his brothers and sisters.Our hatred, however, was unjust; for Bernard's heart was good, and he would have gone through fire and water for any of us. But he was rough and violent in whatever he did, and we dreaded the fits of affection he sometimes took for us, almost as much as his less amiable humors.
*As far back as I can remember, Bernard received not only from his brothers, but also from all our play-fellows, the nickname of the Thirteenth, in allusion, of course, to his being my mother's thirteenth child. At first this offended him grievously, and many were the sound thrashings he inflicted in his endeavors to get rid of the obnoxious title. Finally he succeeded, but scarcely had he done so when, from some strange perversity of character, he adopted as an honorable distinction the very name he had taken such pains to suppress.
We were playing one Sunday afternoon in the large court of our house; several of the neighbors' children were there, and it chanced that we were exactly twelve in number. We had wooden swords, and were having a sort of tournament, from which, however, we had managed to exclude Barnard, who, in such games, was accustomed to hit rather hard. Suddenly he bounded over a wall, and fell among us like a thunderbolt. He had painted his face in red and black stripes, and made himself a pair of wings out of an old apron; and thus equipped and armed with the largest broomstick he had been able to find, he showered his blows around him, driving us right and left, and shouting out, Room, room for the mad Thirteenth!'
'Soon after this incident my father died. Bernard, who had been his favorite, was as violent in his grief as he had already shown himself to be
in every thing else. He wept and screamed like a mad creature, tore his hair, bit his hands till they bled, and struck his head against the wall, raved and few at every body that came near him, and was obliged to be shut up when his father's coffin was carried out of the house, or he would certainly have done himself or somebody else a mischief.
“My mother had an unmarried brother in the town of Marienberg, a wealthy man, and who was Bernard's godfather. On learning my father's death, he came to Geyer, and invited his sister and her children to go and take
their abode with him. But the worthy man little knew the plague he was receiving into his house in the person of his godson. Himself of a mild, quiet disposition, he was greatly scandalized by the mad pranks of his nephew, and made vain attempts to restrain him within some bounds: but by so doing he became the aversion of my brother, who showed his dislike in every possible way. He gave him nicknames, broke his china cups and saucers, by which the old gentleman set great store, splashed his white silk stockings with mud as he went to church, put the house clock an hour forward or back, and tormented his kind godfather in every way he could devise.
· Bernard had not forgotten his title of the Thirteenth; but it was probable he would soon have got tired of it, for it was not his custom to adhere long to any thing, had not my uncle, who was a little superstitious, strictly forbidden him to adopt it. This opposition was all that was wanting to inake my brother bring forward the unlucky number upon every possible occasion. When any body mentioned the number twelve before him, or called any thing the twelfth, Bernard would immediately cry out, ' And I am the Thirteenth!'
No matter when it was, or before whom; time, place and persons were alike to him indifferent. For instance one Sunday in church, when the clergyman in the course of the service said, 'Let us sing a portion of such a psalm, beginning at the twelfth verse.' Bernard immediately screamed out, 'And I am the Thirteenth!'
This was a grievous scandal to my uncle, and Bernard was called that evening before a tribunal, composed of his godfather, my mother, and the old clergyman whom he had so gracelessly interrupted, and who was also teacher of Latin and theology at the school to which Bernard and I went. But all their reproaches and remonstrances were lost upon my brother, who had evidently much difficulty to keep himself from laughing in their faces. My mother wept, my uncle paced the room in great perplexity,
. and the worthy old dominie clasped his hands together, and exclaimed,
My child! I fear me, God's chastisement will be needed to amend you.' The event proved that he was right.
It was on Friday before Christmas-day, and we were assembled in school. The near approach of the holidays made the boys somewhat turbulent, and the poor old dominie had had much to suffer during the whole day from their tricks and unruliness. My brother, of course, had contributed largely to the disorder, much to the delight of his bosom friend and companion the only son of the master. This boy, whose name was Albert, was a blue-eyed, fair-haired lad, gentle as a girl. Bernard had conceived a violent friendship for him, and had taken him under his protection. Albert's father, as may be supposed, was little pleased at this intimacy, yet out of consideration for my uncle, he did not entirely for
bid it; and the more so as he perceived that his son in no respect imitated his wild playmate, but contented himself with admiring him beyond all created beings, and repaying with the warmest affection Bernard's watchful and jealous guardianship.
On the afternoon in question, my brother surpassed himself in wayward conceits and mischievous tricks, to the infinite delight of Albert, who rocked with laughter at each new prank. The good dominie, who was indulgence itself, was instructing us in Bible history, and had to interrupt himself every moment to repress the unruliness of his pupils, and especially of Bernard.
*It seemed pre-ordained that the lesson should be an unlucky one.Every thing concurred to make it so. Ourinstructor had occasion to speak of the twelve tribes of Israel, of the twelve patriarchs, of the twelve gates of the holy city. Each of these served as a cue to my brother, who immediately shouted out, “And I am the Thirteenth !' and each time Albert threw himself back shrieking with laughter, thus encouraging Bernard to give full scope to his mad humor. The poor dominie remonstrated, menaced, supplicated, but all in vain. I saw the blood rising into his pale face, and at last his bald head, in spite of the powder which sprinkled it, became red all over. He contained himself however, and proceeded to the account of the Lord's Supper. He began, 'And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.'
"And I am the Thirteenth!' yelled Bernard.
'Scarcely were the words uttered, when a Bible flew across the school, the noise of a blow, and a cry of anguish followed, and the old man fell senseless to the ground. The heavy Bible, the corners of which were bound with silver, and that he had hurled in a moment of uncontrolable passion at my brother, had missed its mark, and struck his own son on the head. Albert lay bleeding on the floor, while Bernard hung over him like one beside himself, weeping, and kissing his wounds.
The boys ran one and all out of the school room, shrieking for assistance. Our cries soon brought the servants to the spot, who on learning what had happened, hastened with us back to the school, and lifted up the old master, who was still lying on the gronnd near his desk. He had been struck with apoplexy, and survived hut a few hours. Albert was wounded in two places, one of the sharp corners of the Bible having cut open his forehead, while another had injured his left eye. After much suffering he recovered, but the sight of his eye was gone.
Bernard however, had disappeared. When we re-entered the school room, a window which looked into the playground was open, and there were marks of footsteps on the snow without. A short distance further were traces of blood, where the fugitive had apparently washed his face and hands in the snow. We have never seen him since that day.'
The painter paused, and his friends remained some moments silent, musing on the tragical history they had heard.
' And do you know nothing whatever of your brother's fate?' inquired Raphael at last.
Next to nothing. My uncle caused inquisies to be made in every direction, but without success. Once only a neighbor at Marienberg, who had been travelling on the Bohemian frontier, told us that he had met at a village inn a wandering clarinet player who bore so strong a resemblance to my brother, that he accosted him by his name. The musician seemed confused, and muttered some unintelligible reply, left the house in haste. What renders it probable that this was Bernard is that he had a great natural talent for music, and at the time he left home had already attained considerable proficiency on the clarinet.'
• How old was your brother when he so strangely disappeared ?' asked one of the party.
* Fifteen, but he looked at least two years older, for he was stout and manly in person beyond his age.'
At this moment the rattling of wheels, and sound of a postillion's horn, was heard. The Halle mail drove up to the door, the guard bawling out for his passenger. The young painter took a hasty leave of his friends, and sprang into the vehicle, which the next instant disappeared in the darkness.
There was an overplus of travellers by the mail that night, and the carriage in which Solling had got, was not the mail itself, but a calache, holding four persons which was used as a sort of supplement, and followed close to the other carriage. Two of the places were occupied by a Jew horse dealer and sergeant of hussars, who were engaged in an animated, and to them a most interesting conversation, on the subject of horse-flesh, to which the painter paid little attention ; but leaning back in his corner, remained absorbed in the painful reflection which the incidents he had been narrating had called up in his mind. In spite of his brother's eccentricities, he was truly attached to him; and although eight years had elapsed since his disappearance, he had not yet given up hopes of finding him, if still alive. The inquiries that he and his uncle had unceasingly made after their lost relative, had put them, about three years previous to this time, upon the trace of a clarinet player who had been seen at Venice and Trieste, and went by the name of Voltojo. This might have been a name adopted by Bernard, as being nearly the Italian equivalent of Geyer, or hawk, the name of his native town; and Solling was not without a faint hope, that in the course of his journey to Rome he might obtain some tidings of his brother.
He was roused from his reverie by the postillion shouting out to the guard of the mail, which was just before them on the road, to know where they were to take up the passengers who were to occupy the remaining seat in the calache.
• Where will the Thirteenth meet us?' asked the man. * At the inn at Schoueber,' replied the guard.
The Thirteenth! The word made the painter's blood run cold. The horse dealer and the sergeant, who had began to doze in their respective corners, were also disturbed by the ill-omened sound.
"The Thirteenth! The Thirteenth!' muttered the Jew in his beard, still half asleep. God forbid! Let's have no thirteenth!'
A company of travelling commedians, who occupied the mail, took up the word. "The Thirteenth is coming,' said one. Somebody will die!' cried another.
Or we shall be upset and brake our necks,' exclaimed a third. • No Thirteenth!' cried they all in chorus. Drive on, drive on! he shan't get in!
This was addressed to the postillion, who just pulled up at the door of
the village inn, and giving a blast with his horn, shouted loudly for his remaining passenger to appear.
The door of the public house opened and a tall figure with a knapsack on his shoulder and a knotty stick in his hand, stepped out and approached the mail. But when he heard the cries of the comedians, who were still protesting against the admission of a Thirteenth traveller, he started suddenly back, swinging his cudgel in the air.
* To the devil with you all, vagabonds that you are ! vociferated he.* Drive on, postillion, with your cage of monkeys. I shall walk.'
At the sound of the stranger's voice, Solling sprang up in the carriage and seized the handle of the door. But as he did so, a strong arm grasped him by the collar, and pulled him back into his seat. At the same moment the carriage drove on.
The man is drunk,'-said the sergeant, who had misinterpreted his fel. low passenger's intentions. It is not worth while dirtying your hands, and perhaps getting an ugly blow, in a scuffle with such a fellow.'
' Stop, postillion, stop! shouted Solling. But the postillion either did not or would not hear, and some time elapsed before the painter could persuade his well meaning companion of his peaceable intentions. At length he did so, and the carriage which had meanwhile been going at full speed, was stopped.
You will leave my luggage at the first post-house,' said Solling, jumping out and beginning to retrace his steps to the village, which they had now left some distance behind them.
The night was pitch dark, so dark that the painter was compelled to feel his way, and guide himself by the line of trees that bordered the road. He reached the village without meeting a living creature, and strode down the narrow street amid the baying of the dogs, disturbed by his footsall at that silent hour of the night. The inn door was shut, but there was a light glimmering in one of the casements. He knocked several times without any body answering. At length a woman's head was put out of an upper window.
Go your ways,' cried a shrill voice, and don't come disturbing honest folks at this time o' night. Do you think we have nought to do but to open the door for such raff as you? Be off with you, you vagabond, and blow your clarinet elsewhere.
"You are mistaken madam,' said Solling, I am no vagabond, but a passenger by the Halle mail, and
What brings you here, then?' interrupted the virago; 'the Halle mail is far enough off by this.'
“My good madam,' said the painter in his softest tone, 'for God's sake tell me who and where is the person who was waiting for the mail at your hotel.'
"Ha! ha! laughed the hostess, considerably mollified by the madam and the hotel. The mad Italian musician, the clarinet fellow? Why, I took you to be him at first, and wondered what brought him back, for he started as soon as the mail left the door. He'd have done much better to have got into it, with a dark night and a long road before him. Ha! ha! He's mad, to be sure.'
His name! His name ! cried Solling, impatiently.