Of what avail are wings to him who is fast bound in iron fetters? He is compelled only the more fearfully to despair. I lay, like Faffner by his treasure, far from every consolation, starving in the midst of my gold. But my heart was not in it; on the contrary, I cursed it, because I saw myself through it cut off from all life. Brooding over my gloomy secret alone, I trembled before the meanest of my servants, whom at the same time I was forced to envy, for he had a shadow; he might show himself in the sun. I wore away days and nights in solitary sorrow in my chamber, and anguish gnawed at my heart.
There was another who pined away before my eyes; my faithful Bendel never ceased to torture himself with silent reproaches, that he had betrayed the trust reposed in him by his master, and had not recognized him after whom he was dispatched, and with whom he must believe that my sorrowful fate was intimately interwoven. I could not lay the fault to his charge; I recognized in the event the mysterious nature of the Unknown.
That I might leave nothing untried, I one time sent Bendel with a valuable brilliant ring to the most celebrated painter of the city, and begged that he would pay me a visit. He came. I ordered my people to retire, closed the door, seated myself by the man, and, after I had praised his art, I came with a heavy heart to the business, causing him before that to promise the strictest secrecy.
“Mr. Professor,” said I, “could not you, think you, paint a false shadow for one who, by the most unlucky chance in the world, has become deprived of his own?”
“You mean a personal shadow?”
“That is precisely my meaning”—
“But,” continued he, “through what awkwardness, through what negligence, could he then lose his proper shadow?”
“How it happened,” replied I, “is now of very little consequence, but thus far I may say,” added I, lying shamelessly to him; “in Russia, whither he made a journey last winter, in an extraordinary cold his shadow froze so fast to the ground that he could by no means loose it again.”
“The false shadow that I could paint him,” replied the professor, “would only be such a one as by the slightest movement he might lose again, especially a person, who, as appears by your relation, has so little adhesion to his own native shadow. He who has no shadow, let him keep out of the sunshine—that is the safest and most sensible thing for him.” He arose and withdrew, casting at me a trans-piercing glance which mine could not support. I sunk back in my seat, and covered my face with my hands.
Thus Bendel found me, as he at length entered. He saw the grief of his master, and was desirous silently and reverently to withdraw. I looked up, I succumbed under the burden of my trouble; I must communicate it.