“Foul mushrooms!” he muttered, half asleep. There is, you must know, in that region a species of very juicy mushrooms which live only a few days and then shrivel up and emit an insufferable odor. Brandes thought he smelt some of these unpleasant neighbors; he looked around him several times, but did not feel like getting up; meanwhile his dog leaped about, scratched at the trunk of the beech, and barked at the tree. “What have you there, Bello? A cat?” muttered Brandes. He half opened his lids and the Hebrew inscription met his eye, much distorted but still quite legible. He shut his eyes again; the dog kept on barking and finally put his cold nose against his master’s face.
“Let me alone! What’s the matter with you, anyway?” Brandes was lying on his back, looking up; suddenly he jumped up with a bound and sprang into the thicket like one possessed.
Pale as death he reached the castle; a man was hanging in the “Jew’s Beech-tree”; he had seen his limbs suspended directly above his face. “And you did not cut him down, you fool?” cried the Baron.
“Sir,” gasped Brandes, “if Your Honor had been there you would have realized that the man is no longer alive. At first I thought it was the mushrooms!” Nevertheless Herr von S. urged the greatest haste, and went out there himself.
They had arrived beneath the beech. “I see nothing,” said Herr von S. “You must step over there, right here on this spot!” Yes, it was true; the Baron recognized his own old shoes. “God, it is John! Prop up the ladder!—so—now down—gently, gently! Don’t let him fall! Good heaven, the worms are at him already! But loose the knot anyway, and his necktie!” A broad scar was visible; the Baron drew back. “Good God!” he said; he bent over the body again, examined the scar with great care, and in his intense agitation was silent for some time. Then he turned to the foresters. “It is not right that the innocent should suffer for the guilty; just tell everybody this man here”—he pointed to the dead body—“was Frederick Mergel.”
The body was buried in the potter’s field.
As far as all main events are concerned, this actually happened during the month of September in the year 1789.
The Hebrew inscription on the tree read: “When thou comest near this spot, thou wilt suffer what thou didst to me.”
* * * * *
THE DURATION OF LOVE (1831)
Oh! love while Love is left to thee;
Oh! love while Love is yet thine own;
The hour will come when bitterly
Thou’lt mourn by silent graves, alone!
And let thy breast with kindness glow,
And gentle thoughts within thee move,
While yet a heart, through weal and woe,
Beats to thine own in faithful love.
And who to thee his heart doth bare,
Take heed thou fondly cherish him;
And gladden thou his every hour,
And not an hour with sorrow dim!