Episode 22: “GHOSTS ARE NIGHT BIRDS”

“A ghost?!”, cries Caroline Walsolz, prey to a mixture of astonishment and terror (5% astonishment, 95% terror, to be precise).

Wieland has just informed his friends of what happened last night to Schlegel and himself.  And, just as if they were in Mrs. Schopenhauer’s salon, a lively debate begins chaired by the very Mrs. Schopenhauer, who let fly:

“Maybe it was Goethe’s ghost.”

“Nonsense! Goethe would never debase himself to be a ghost!”

“However (Adele Schopenhauer declares), at the costume party to celebrate the birthday of Schelling, he disguised himself as a ghost.”

“That one was Goethe?! (Schlegel jumps wringing his hands) I thought he was a real ghost! He gave me a fright and I gave him a beating! (And putting his hands together looking at the ceiling, he exclaims:) Forgive me, Master!

“That’s ridiculous!”, Tieck sentences.

“What nonsense are you all saying!”, Bettina Brentano bursts out, “Ghosts don’t exist! They are just an invention of the privileged classes to justify the rise of taxes. Only from time to time they let out some authentic ghost to give credibility to their lie.”

There is a long silence during which everyone tries in vain to unravel the hidden logic behind Bettina’s words, but they can not find it anywhere. Bettina’s logical reasoning was never well understood in her circle of friends. She failed to see the point herself.

“But are we now going to spend the day talking about ghosts?”, Mrs. Walsolz complains, “Is it that Iliterature is never going to be talked about in this salon? It’s supposed to be an illiterary salon!”

“Caroline, please” Johanna Schopenhauer begs her, “now is not the time to make a complaint. When we go back to Weimar, ask me for a Complaints Form.”

“Back to Weimar?!”, Tieck jumps, “There are still six days until the stagecoach come back to pick us up. Meanwhile, we’ll have to live with the ghost, whoever it is. Schlegel, what impression did you get from him? Did you find him a ghost you could reason with?”

“Yes, yes. Between slap and slap, he was willing to listen to what you had to say.”

“Well, that’s a good sign” Johanna says “Maybe we can reach an agreement with him.”

“An agreement?”, Mrs. Walsolz jumps, “What kind of agreement?”

Adele stands up for her mother:

“Maybe we can convince him of the instability of his position and the convenience of finding a way out for him.”

“Maybe we can help him find a way out”, Dorothea agrees.

“But first we have to find him”, Wieland says.

And Dorothea makes a suggestion: “Johanna may be able to discover his hiding place by reading the palm of his hand. If you look at Friedrich’s cheeks, you’ll realize that he has left the imprint of his palm engraved on Friedrich’s face.”

Everyone turns to look at Schlegel and, indeed, his cheeks are marked by a red spot in the shape of a hand.

Johanna is willing to try. She sits next to Schlegel and stares at his right cheek, then at the left, and finally declares:

“The ghost is the former owner of the castle and he doesn’t like people who stick their nose in where it’s not wanted. By hiding in what was once his living room,  Schlegel invaded his privacy. That’s why he was slapped.”

“Well, now we know where to find him.”

Guided by Schlegel, the group of Romantics goes deep into the dark corners of the semi-ruined castle. Finally they enter a bare room where rats scamper. “Here!”, Schlegel confirms, “Here is where the ghost slapped me.”

Wieland takes the leading role and shouts: “Sir Ghost! We apologize for disturbing you in your rooms, but we would like to exchange a few words with you.”

After a long silence, Dorothea bursts out: “It’s useless! He must leave only at night, like vampires.” And at that precise moment a bat crosses the room flying awkwardly. (No, it’s not Batman: Shelley’s experiments at Oxford are not as succesful as he would wish.)

“So, our ghost is a night bird”, Tieck says, “Therefore, I propose that we postpone the interview with him until night and meanwhile enjoy this beautiful day in the bosom of Mother Nature.”

Everyone agrees.

This is a non-profit blog whose purpose is to raise funds for children in need. So if you want to make a donation in exchange for this story, click on this link to UNICEF. I really appreciate it!

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