It was a Sunday morning in the loveliest spring. Georg Bendemann, a young merchant, was sitting in his private room on the first floor of one of the low, light houses that stretched along the river in a long row, almost only different in height and color. He had just finished a letter to a childhood friend who was abroad, locked it slowly and playfully, and then, resting his elbow on the desk, looked out the window at the river, the bridge and the hills on the other bank with their pale green.
He reflected on how this friend, dissatisfied with his progress at home, had formally fled to Russia years ago. He was now running a business in Petersburg that had started off very well, but had long since seemed to have stalled, like his friendcomplained about his increasingly rare visits. So he worked his way through uselessly in a foreign country, the strange full beard only poorly covered the face, which had been well known since childhood, the yellow skin color of which seemed to indicate a developing disease. As he said, he had no real connection with the colony of his compatriots there, but also almost no social intercourse with local families, and so he was preparing for a final bachelorhood.
What could one write to such a man, who had obviously lost his way, whom one felt sorry for but could not help? Should he perhaps be advised to come back home, to transfer his existence here, to resume all the old friendly relationships - which was no obstacle to this - and, for the rest, to rely on the help of friends? But that meant nothing other than that at the same time, the gentler the more offensive, he was told that his previous attempts had failed,that he should finally let go of them, that he must return and be amazed by everyone with wide eyes as someone who has returned forever, that only his friends understand something and that he is an old child who is easy on the successful friends who stayed at home have to follow. And then was it still certain that all the plague that should be inflicted on him had a purpose? Perhaps it wasn't even possible to get him home at all - he said himself that he no longer understood the conditions at home - and so he would stay in a foreign country in spite of everything, bitter from the advice and friends Bit more alienated. But if he really followed the advice and would be depressed here - not on purpose, of course, but by the facts, Wouldn't find his way around his friends and not without them, would suffer from shame, would really no longer have a home and no friends, wasn't it much better for him there, he stayed in a foreign country as he was? In such circumstances, could one think thathe would actually make it forward here?
For these reasons, if one wanted to keep up the correspondence at all, one could not give him any real information, as one would without hesitation make even the most distant acquaintance. The friend had not been home for more than three years and explained this very poorly with the uncertainty of the political situation in Russia, which accordingly did not allow even the briefest absence of a small businessman, while hundreds of thousands of Russians were quietly driving around the world. In the course of these three years, however, a lot had changed for Georg in particular. About the death of Georg's mother, which occurred about two years ago and since which Georg had lived in a common economy with his old father,will. But since that time Georg, like everything else, had tackled his business with greater determination. Perhaps while his mother was alive, the father had prevented him from realizing his own activity by only wanting to accept his opinion in the business; perhaps the father had become more reluctant since his mother's death, although he was still working in the business. maybe lucky coincidences played a far more important role - which was very likely - but in any case the business had developed quite unexpectedly in these two years, the staff had to be doubled, sales had quintupled, and further progress was undoubtedly imminent.
But the friend had no idea of this change. Earlier, perhaps for the last time in that letter of condolence, he had tried to persuade Georg to emigrate to Russia and had spread the word about the prospects that existed for Georg's branch of business in Petersburg. The digits were vanishing compared to thatThe extent that Georg's business had now assumed. Georg, however, had no desire to write to his friend about his business successes, and had he done so now afterwards, it would really have looked strange.
So Georg limited himself to writing to his friend only about insignificant incidents, such as those that pile up in your memory when you think about it on a quiet Sunday. All he wanted was to leave undisturbed the idea that his friend of his hometown had made for himself in the long interim and with which he had come to terms. So it happened to Georg that he reported the engagement of an indifferent person to an equally indifferent girl three times in letters that were quite far apart, until the friend, however, quite contrary to Georg's intention, began to take an interest in this peculiarity.
Georg preferred to write such things to him rather than admitting that he was with a young lady himself a month ago Frieda Brandenfeld, a girl from a wealthy family, got engaged. He often spoke to his bride about this friend and the special correspondence he had with him. "So he won't come to our wedding at all," she said, "and I have the right to get to know all of your friends." "I don't want to disturb him," answered Georg, "I understand, he probably would come, at least I think so, but he would feel compelled and damaged, perhaps envy me and certainly dissatisfied and unable to ever remove this dissatisfaction, drive back on his own. Alone - do you know what that is? ”“ Yes, can't he find out about our marriage in another way? ”“ I can't prevent that, but it's unlikely given his way of life. "If you have friends like that, Georg, you shouldn't have gotten engaged at all." but I didn't want it any other way now either. ”And when she, breathing quickly under his kisses,still said: "It actually offends me," he really thought it innocuous to write everything to his friend. "That's how I am and that's how he has to accept me," he said to himself, "I can't cut a person out of myself who might be more suitable for friendship with him than I am."
And in fact, in the long letter he wrote that Sunday morning, he reported to his friend that the engagement had taken place with the following words: “I've saved the best news for the last time. I got engaged to a Fräulein Frieda Brandenfeld, a girl from a wealthy family who only settled here long after you left, so who you should hardly know. There will still be an opportunity to tell you more about my bride, today it is enough for you that I am very happy and that something has changed in our mutual relationship only insofar as you now have a happy friend in me instead of an ordinary friend will.You will also get a sincere friend in my bride, who sends you my best regards and who will write to you in the near future, which is not entirely without significance for a bachelor. I know there are many things that hold you back from visiting us, but wouldn't my wedding be the right opportunity to throw all obstacles overboard? But however this may be, act without any consideration and only according to your opinion. "
With this letter in hand, Georg sat at his desk for a long time, his face turned to the window. He had hardly responded with an absent smile to an acquaintance who had greeted him as he passed from the alley.
Finally he put the letter in his pocket and walked out of his room across a small corridor into his father's room, which he had not been in for months. There was no other need to do so, because he was always in business with his father, having lunch took them at the same time in a dining-house, in the evenings everyone took care of themselves as they pleased, but then they mostly sat, when Georg was not, as was most often the case, with friends or was visiting his bride for a while, each with his newspaper , in the common living room.
Georg was amazed at how dark his father's room was even on this sunny morning. Such a shadow was cast by the high wall that rose beyond the narrow courtyard. The father sat by the window in a corner, which was decorated with various souvenirs of the blessed mother, and read the newspaper which he held in front of his eyes, trying to make up for any weakness in his eyes. On the table were the remains of breakfast, which did not seem to have taken much.
"Ah, Georg!" Said the father, and went straight to meet him. His heavy dressing gown opened as he walked, the ends fluttering around him - "My father is still a giant," said Georg to himself.
"It's unbearably dark here," he said then.
"Yes, it is already dark," answered the father.
"Did you close the window too?"
"I prefer it that way."
"It's really warm outside," said Georg, as if following on from what happened earlier, and sat down.
The father cleared away the breakfast dishes and put them on a box.
"I really just wanted to tell you," continued Georg, who followed the old man's movements with a completely lost voice, "that I have now reported my engagement to Petersburg." He pulled the letter a little out of his pocket and let it fall back again .
"To Petersburg?" Asked the father.
"Yes, to my friend," said Georg, looking for his father's eyes. - "He's quite different in business," he thought, "as he sits here broadly and crosses his arms over his chest."
"Yes. Your friend, "said the father with emphasis.
“You know, father, that I wanted to keep my engagement from him at first. Out of consideration, for no other reason. You know yourself he's a difficult person. I said to myself that he can probably find out about my engagement from another side, even if that is hardly likely in his lonely way of life - I can't prevent that - but he shouldn't find out from myself. "
"And now you've changed your mind?" Asked his father, placing the large newspaper on the window sill and the glasses on top of the newspaper, which he covered with his hand.
“Yes, now I've thought about it again. If he's my good friend, I told myself, then my happy engagement is lucky for him too. And that's why I didn't hesitate to report it to him. Before I posted the letter, however, I wanted to tell you. "
"Georg," said his father, widening his toothless mouth, "listen! You came to me about this thingto advise you with me. That undoubtedly honors you. But it's nothing, it's worse than nothing if you don't tell me the full truth now. I don't want to stir things up that don't belong here. Since the death of our dear mother, certain unpleasant things have happened. Perhaps the time will come for them too, and perhaps it will come sooner than we think. I miss some things in business, they may not be hidden from me - I don't even want to assume that they are being hidden from me now - I am no longer strong enough, my memory is fading, I no longer have an eye for all of them many things. First of all, this is the course of nature, and secondly, the death of our mother depressed me much more than you did. - But because we are sticking with this thing, with this letter, I ask you, Georg, do not fool me. It's a trifle, it's not worth breathing, so don't fool me. Do you really have this friend in Petersburg? "
Georg got up, embarrassed. “Let's be my friends. Replace a thousand friendsme not my father. Do you know what i believe You are not caring enough But old age demands its rights. You are indispensable to me in the business, you know that very well, but if the business should threaten your health, I will shut it down forever tomorrow. That will not do. We have to introduce a different way of life for you. But from the ground up. You're sitting here in the dark, and you'd have nice light in the living room. You sip from breakfast instead of strengthening yourself properly. You sit with the window closed and the air would do you so good. No my father! I'll get the doctor and we'll follow his instructions. We'll change rooms, you'll move into the front room, I'll move here. There will be no change for you, everything will be carried over. But everything has time now lie down in bed a little longer, you absolutely need rest. Come on, I'll help you undress, you'll see, I can. Or do you want to go straight into the front room, then you lie down for the time beingin my bed. By the way, that would be very sensible. "
Georg was standing right next to his father, who had lowered his head with the shaggy white hair onto his chest.
"Georg," said his father quietly, without moving.
Georg knelt down at once next to his father; he saw the oversized pupils in the father's tired face directed at him in the corners of his eyes.
“You have no boyfriend in Petersburg. You have always been a joker and you didn’t hold back from me either. How are you supposed to have a boyfriend there! I can't believe that. "
"Think again, father," said Georg, lifted his father from the armchair and, when he was now standing very weakly, pulled off his dressing gown, "it will be three years now, my friend was with me to visit us. I still remember that you weren't particularly fond of him. At least twice I denied him to you, despite the fact that he was at the momentsat in my room. I could well understand your dislike for him, my friend has his peculiarities. But then you had a pretty good conversation with him again. I was so proud then that you listened to him, nodded and asked. If you think, you have to remember. Back then, he told incredible stories about the Russian Revolution. How he z. B. on a business trip in Kiev, during a tumult, had seen a clergyman on a balcony who cut a wide blood cross in the palm of his hand, raised that hand and called the crowd. You yourself have told this story every now and then. "
In the meantime Georg had managed to put his father down again and carefully take off his jersey pants that he wore over his linen pants and his socks. At the sight of the not particularly clean laundry, he reproached himself for neglecting his father. It would certainly have been his duty to watch over his father's change of linen. He had with his bride about how herwanted to arrange the future of the father, not yet explicitly said, for they had tacitly assumed that the father would stay alone in the old apartment. But now he made a brief and definite decision to take his father with him into his future household. It almost seemed, if you looked more closely, that the care that was to be given to the father there might come too late.
He carried his father to bed in his arms. He had a terrible feeling when, while walking a few steps to the bed, he noticed that his father was playing with his watch chain on his chest. He couldn't put him to bed straight away, he was holding onto this watch chain so tightly.
But no sooner was he in bed than everything seemed fine. He covered himself up and then pulled the covers over his shoulder particularly far. He did not look up at Georg unfriendly.
"Don't you, you remember him already?" Asked Georg and nodded encouragingly to him.
"Am I well covered now?" Asked the father, as if he could not see whether his feet were covered enough.
"So you already like it in bed," said Georg, and it was better to put the covers around him.
"Am I well covered?" Asked the father again, seeming to be paying particular attention to the answer.
"Just be quiet, you are well covered."
"No!" Cried the father, when the answer came up against the question, threw back the blanket with such force that it unfolded completely for a moment in flight, and stood upright in bed. He only held one hand lightly against the ceiling. “You wanted to cover me up, I know that, my fruit, but I am not yet covered up. And is it also the last strength, enough for you, too much for you. I know your friend well. He would be a son after my heart. That's why you cheated on him all these years. Why else? Do you think I didn't cry for him? That's why you lock yourself in your office, nobody should disturb you, the boss is busy- just so you can write your fake letters to Russia. Fortunately, however, nobody has to teach the father to see through the son. How you now believed that you had got him down, got him down so that you could sit on him with your buttocks and he wouldn't budge, so my son decided to marry! "
Georg looked up at his father's terrible picture. The Petersburg friend, whom the father suddenly knew so well, seized him as never before. He saw him lost in vast Russia. He saw him at the door of the empty, robbed shop. He was just standing between the ruins of the shelves, the tattered goods, the falling gas arms. Why did he have to drive so far away!
"But look at me!" Called the father, and Georg ran, almost absent-mindedly, to the bed to take everything, but stopped in the middle of the way.
"Because she lifted her skirts," the father began to whistle, "because she lifted her skirts that way, the disgusting goose," and he lifted his shirt like this to represent it high that one saw the scar from his war years on his thigh, "because she lifted her skirts so and so and so, you approached her, and so that you can satisfy yourself with her without disturbance, you have memories of our mother violated, betrayed the boyfriend and put your father in bed so he couldn't move. But can he move or not? "
And he stood completely free and threw his legs. He beamed with insight.
Georg was standing in a corner as far as possible from his father. A long time ago he had made up his mind to observe everything very closely so that he might not be surprised somehow in a roundabout way, from behind, from above. Now he remembered the long-forgotten decision and forgot how to pull a short thread through the eye of a needle.
"But the friend has not been betrayed after all!" Cried the father, and his forefinger, waved to and fro, confirmed it. "I was his representative here at the place."
"Comedian!" Georg could not refrain from shouting, recognized the damage immediately and bit too late - his eyes frozen - into his tongue that he buckled in pain.
“Yes, of course I did a comedy! Comedy! Good word! What other consolation was left to the old widowed father? Say - and for the moment you are still my living son - what was left for me, in my back room, pursued by the unfaithful staff, old to the bone? And my son went through the world in jubilation, did business that I had prepared, fell over his head with pleasure and walked away from his father with the closed face of a gentleman! Do you think I didn't love you, the one you thought you were? "
"Now he'll lean forward," thought Georg, "if he fell and smashed!" This word hissed through his head.
The father leaned forward but did not fall. Since Georg did not approach as he had expected, he got up again.
“Stay where you are, I don't need you! You think you still have the strength to come here and are just holding yourself back because you want to. That you are not mistaken! I'm still the stronger one. Alone I might have had to back down, but that's how my mother gave me her strength, I made a wonderful bond with your friend, I have your customers here in my pocket! "
"He even has pockets in his shirt!" Said Georg to himself, believing that with this remark he could make him impossible in the whole world. He thought that for only a moment, because he kept forgetting everything.
“Just hang yourself in your bride and come to meet me! I'll sweep it off your side, you don't know how! "
Georg made faces as if he didn't believe it. Father merely nodded in Georg's corner, affirming the truth of what he was saying.
“How did you entertain me today when you came and asked if you were going to write to your boyfriend about the engagement should. He knows everything, stupid boy, he knows everything! I wrote to him because you forgot to take my writing materials away from me. That's why he hasn't come for years, he knows everything a hundred times better than you do yourself, he crumples your letters unread in his left hand, while in his right he holds my letters up to read! "
He swung his arm over his head in excitement. "He knows everything a thousand times better!" He shouted.
"Ten thousand times!" Said Georg, to laugh at his father, but the word sounded dead serious in his mouth.
“I've been watching you come up with this question for years! Do you think I care about something else? Do you think i read newspapers? There! ”And he tossed Georg a newspaper that had somehow been carried to bed with him. An old newspaper with a name that was already completely unknown to Georg.
“How long did you hesitate before you matured! The mother had to dieshe could not live to see the happy day, the friend is perishing in his Russia, three years ago it was yellow to throw away, and I, you can see how things are with me. You have eyes for that! "
"So you were lying in wait for me!" Cried Georg.
In passing, the father said pityingly: "You probably wanted to say that earlier. Now it doesn't fit anymore. "
And louder: "So now you know what else there was outside of you, until now you only knew about yourself!" You were actually an innocent child, but actually you were a devilish person! - And therefore know: I am now condemning you to the death of drowning! "
Georg felt chased out of the room, the blow with which his father fell on the bed behind him was still in his ears. On the stairs, over the steps of which he hurried as if over a sloping surface, he surprised his operator, who was about to go up to clean up the apartment after the night. "Jesus!" She cried, covering her face with her apron, but he was already away. From theHe jumped Tor, across the road to the water drove him. He was already holding the railing like a hungry man holding food. He overflowed as the excellent gymnast he had been the pride of his parents in his teenage years. He was still holding on with weakening hands, spotted a car omnibus between the handrails that would easily drown out its fall, shouted softly: "Dear parents, I've always loved you," and let himself fall down.
At that moment there was almost never-ending traffic across the bridge.