Episode 25: “DANAUS”

The next day passes without news worthy of mention. Mrs. Schopenhauer proposes some discussion topics (the maximum age that an ant can reach, the most appropriate size of underpants for a poet, the role played by art in artistic creation …) so that the Romantics are entertained until late afternoon and refrain from playing truant. Even so, Wieland disappears for hours and always comes back with his face covered in pollen and muddy shoes. This man’s love for Nature is beginning to be a bit burdensome for the group, and Johanna orders Tieck to watch him and keep him away from the wildflowers.

At sunset, everyone prepares to search the preserved wing of the castle again. As on the previous occasion, each one is provided with a candlestick, with the exception of Mrs. Walsolz who, according to her, prefers spiritual enlightenment and that’s why she wave an Easter palm about. Led by Friedrich Schlegel, the group enters the darkness that reigns in the gloomy corridors and rooms of the gothic castle, breaking through the cobwebs and the fluttering of the bats. Suddenly they stop when they hear a strange sound that leaves everyone stiff with fright, except for Mrs. Walsolz who, panic-stricken, runs forwards like crazy waving the Easter palm.

“What has that been?”, Tieck asks petrified.

“It has sounded like a broken bell”, Adele answers.

“To me it has seemed more like the squeak you emit when you sip a bowl of boiling soup”, Wieland explains.

After these thoughtful comments, they resume the march. A few meters ahead they find Mrs. Walsolz entangled in a jumble of cobwebs and they waste a lot of time trying to free her. This little incident unsettles the Romantics emotionally, what explains why some of them begin to sing La Marseillaise and the others reprove them accusing the song of being unpatriotic. When the tempers are running high, the Romantics see a diffuse clarity that comes from around a corner. As the clarity advances, they back off. Then, the clarity begins to recede and they advance. But when the clarity advances again, they fall back. Maybe they would have gone through this stupid maneuver all night if Tieck, after arming himself with courage, would not have lunged headlong into clarity, crashing against the wall at the end of the corridor. 

Quickly, a human-looking being of light comes around the corner to help Tieck, who lies unconscious on the floor. The ghost kneels next to him, takes his pulse and then goes to the Romantics to reassure them: “It’ll pass. It’s just a slight shock”.

“¿Who-Who are you?”, Mrs. Schopenhauer dares to ask. 

He bows and introduces himself: “I am Franz Xavier von Zwack, owner of this castle. And you? What is your excuse to be here?”

“We are Romantics.”

“Ah, I should have guessed!”

Then the being of light shrinks with an expression of pain. 

“What’s wrong?”, Mrs. Schopenhauer asks him.

“It’s just that I was also a Romantic and that brings back memories… Have you heard about Danaus? ”

Schlegel steps forward: “The author of The cauliflower?”

“Do you know the poem?”

“I don’t. But as I understand it, its author was considered a genius. A misunderstood genius. So, you are Danaus…”

“It was my pseudonym. No publisher wanted to publish it. They pressed me to change the cauliflower for any other flower. Then it would be a sublime poem, they said. But I refused. The cauliflower is not only pretty but also edible. What more could you want?”

“Is that why you took your life? Out of spite towards the world?”

The being of light laughs: “But do you think I’m dead? What do you take me for? A ghost?”. And laughs again.

“And what about that luminosity that emanates from you?”

The being of light plays hard to get when answering that question. However, finally he lets fly: “Have you heard about the Illuminati?”

The Romantics are stunned to hear that word. Of course they have heard of that legendary government in the shadow that directs the destinies of the planet. But they had never thought that there could be any truth in it. And even less that the term illuminati (illuminated) would define them so literally. Also, what is an illuminati doing in a ruined castle in the middle of the forest? He is supposed to be ruling the destinies of the world. Has no sense. 

Schlegel makes him notice the incoherence and then the being of light confesses that he is a renegade illuminati, because he does not agree with the enthronement of Napoleon, as well as with certain plant species that are being grown in China.

“But a person as important as you, ¿couldn’t have chosen a more comfortable place to spend his exile?”

All of a sudden, a nostalgic feeling overwhelms the being of light: “Here I spent the happiest years of my life: my childhood and early youth. If you had known the castle in those days, before the Napoleonic wars, the assault of the Ottomans and the fall of the meteorite! Anyway, my stay here is just provisional. I am looking for a certain person…

Suddenly the strange noise they heard before sounds again and the being of light puts himself on guard: “The bell again! She is not far! I must go in her search!”. And disappears around the corner.

“I wonder what he is looking for”, Dorothea says.

“Maybe the cauliflower”, Mrs. Walsolz responds.

(NOTE BENE: The historical origin of the Illuminati is precisely in Germany, specifically in Bavaria, just thirty years before the temporal context in which this story unfolds. Like most of its protagonists, Franz Xavier von Zwack (1756-1843) is a real character, a Bavarian diplomat who rose to the rank of the Order’s second-in-command.)

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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