I now sat, my eye fixed on the fingers of the clock, counting the seconds, the minutes, like dagger-strokes. At every noise which arose, I started up; the day broke. The leaden hours crowded one upon another. It was noon—evening—night; as the clock fingers sped on, hope withered; it struck eleven and nothing appeared; the last minutes of the last hour fell, and nothing appeared. It struck the first stroke—the last stroke of the twelfth hour, and I sank hopeless and in boundless tears upon my bed. On the morrow I should—forever shadowless, solicit the hand of my beloved. Toward morning an anxious sleep pressed down my eyelids.
It was still early morning when voices, which were raised in my ante-chamber in violent dispute, awoke me. I listened. Bendel forbade entrance; Rascal swore high and hotly that he would receive no commands from his equal, and insisted on forcing his way into my room. The good Bendel warned him that such words, came they to my ear, would turn him out of his most advantageous service. Rascal threatened to lay hands on him if he any longer obstructed his entrance.
I had half dressed myself. I flung the door wrathfully open, and advanced to Rascal—“What wantest thou, villain?” He stepped two strides backward, and replied quite coolly: “To request you most humbly, Count, for once to allow me to see your shadow—the sun shines at this moment so beautifully in the court.”
I was struck as with thunder. It was some time before I could recover my speech. “How can a servant toward his master”—he interrupted very calmly my speech.
“A servant may be a very honorable man, and not be willing to serve a shadowless master—I demand my discharge.” It was necessary to try other chords. “But honest, dear Rascal, who has put the unlucky idea into your head? How canst thou believe—?”
He proceeded in the same tone: “People will assert that you have no shadow—and, in short, you show me your shadow, or give me my discharge.”
Bendel, pale and trembling, but more discreet than I, gave me a sign. I sought refuge in the all-silencing gold; but that too had lost its power. He threw it at my feet. “From a shadowless man I accept nothing!” He turned his back upon me, and went most deliberately out of the room with his hat upon his head, and whistling a tune. I stood there with Bendel as one turned to stone, thoughtless, motionless, gazing after him.
Heavily sighing and with death in my heart, I prepared myself at last to redeem my promise, and, like a criminal before his judge, to appear in the Forest-master’s garden. I alighted in the dark arbor, which was named after me, and where they would be sure also this time to await me. The mother met me, care-free and joyous. Mina sat there, pale and lovely as the first snow which often in the autumn kisses the last flowers and then instantly dissolves into bitter