Tall Kunz told us that there was no school today on account of the ceremonies connected with taking the oath of allegiance. We had to wait a long time ere these commenced. Finally, the balcony of the City Hall was filled with gaily dressed gentlemen, with flags and trumpets, and our burgomaster, in his celebrated red coat, delivered an oration, which stretched out like Indian rubber, or like a knitted nightcap into which one has thrown a stone—only that it was not the philosopher’s stone—and I could distinctly understand many of his phrases—for instance, that “we are now to be made happy;” and at the last words the trumpets sounded out, the flags were waved, the drums were beaten, the people cried, Hurrah! and while I myself cried hurrah, I held fast to the old Prince Elector. And it was really necessary that I should, for I began to grow giddy. It seemed to me as if the people were standing on their heads, because the world whizzed around, while the old Prince Elector, with his long wig, nodded and whispered, “Hold fast to me!” and not till the cannon reechoed along the wall did I become sobered, and climbed slowly down from the great bronze horse.
As I went home, I saw the crazy Aloysius again dancing on one leg, while he chattered the names of French generals, and I also beheld crooked Gumpertz rolling in the gutter and growling, “Ca ira, ca ira,” and I said to my mother, “We are all to be made happy; on that account there is no school today.”
The next day the world was again all in order, and we had school as before, and things were learned by heart as before—the Roman kings, dates, the nomina in im, the verba irregularia, Greek, Hebrew, geography, German, mental arithmetic—Lord! my head is still giddy with it!—all had to be learned by heart. And much of it was eventually to my advantage; for had I not learned the Roman kings by heart, it would subsequently have been a matter of perfect indifference to me whether Niebuhr had or had not proved that they never really existed. And had I not learned those dates, how could I ever, in later years, have found out any one in big Berlin, where one house is as like another as drops of water or as grenadiers, and where it is impossible to find a friend unless you have the number of his house in your head! At that time I associated with every acquaintance some historical event, which had happened in a year corresponding to the number of his house, so that the one recalled the other, and some curious point in history always occurred to me whenever I met any one whom I visited. For instance, when I met my tailor, I at once thought of the battle of Marathon; when I saw the well-groomed banker, Christian Gumpel, I immediately remembered the destruction of Jerusalem; when I caught sight of a Portuguese friend, deeply in debt, I thought at once of the flight of Mahomet; when I met the university judge, a man whose