NE EVENING, AS he was sitting in his room, there was a gentle knocking at the door.
"Come in!" said he; but no one came in; so he opened the door, and there stood before him such an extremely lean man, that he felt quite strange. As to the rest, the man was very finely dressed--he must be a gentleman.
"Whom have I the honor of speaking?" asked the learned man.
"Yes! I thought as much," said the fine man. "I thought you would not know me. I have got so much body. I have even got flesh and clothes. You certainly never thought of seeing me so well off. Do you not know your old shadow? You certainly thought I should never more return. Things have gone on well with me since I was last with you. I have, in all respects, become very well off. Shall I purchase my freedom from service? If so, I can do it"; and then he rattled a whole bunch of valuable seals that hung to his watch, and he stuck his hand in the thick gold chain he wore around his neck--nay! how all his fingers glittered with diamond rings; and then all were pure gems.
"Nay; I cannot recover from my surprise!" said the learned man. "What is the meaning of all this?"
"Something common, is it not," said the shadow. "But you yourself do not belong to the common order; and I, as you know well, have from a child followed in your footsteps. As soon as you found I was capable to go out alone in the world, I went my own way. I am in the most brilliant circumstances, but there came a sort of desire over me to see you once more before you die; you will die, I suppose? I also wished to see this land again--for you know we always love our native land. I know you have got another shadow again; have I anything to pay to it or you? If so, you will oblige me by saying what it is."
"Nay, is it really thou?" said the learned man. "It is most remarkable: I never imagined that one's old shadow could come again as a man."
"Tell me what I have to pay," said the shadow; "for I don't like to be in any sort of debt."
"How canst thou talk so?" said the learned man. "What debt is there to talk about? Make thyself as free as anyone else. I am extremely glad to hear of thy good fortune: sit down, old friend, and tell me a little how it has gone with thee, and what thou hast seen at our opposite neighbor's there--in the warm lands."
"Yes, I will tell you all about it," said the shadow, and sat down: "but then you must also promise me, that, wherever you may meet me, you will never say to anyone here in the town that I have been your shadow. I intend to get betrothed, for I can provide for more than one family."
"Be quite at thy ease about that," said the learned man; "I shall not say to anyone who thou actually art: here is my hand--I promise it, and a man's bond is his word."
"A word is a shadow," said the shadow, "and as such it must speak."
It was really quite astonishing how much of a man it was. It was dressed entirely in black, and of the very finest cloth; it had patent leather boots, and a hat that could be folded together, so that it was bare crown and brim; not to speak of what we already know it had--seals, gold neck-chain, and diamond rings; yes, the shadow was well-dressed, and it was just that which made it quite a man.
"Now I shall tell you my adventures," said the shadow; and then he sat, with the polished boots, as heavily as he could, on the arm of the learned man's new shadow, which lay like a poodle-dog at his feet. Now this was perhaps from arrogance; and the shadow on the ground kept itself so still and quiet, that it might hear all that passed: it wished to know how it could get free, and work its way up, so as to become its own master.
"Do you know who lived in our opposite neighbor's house?" said the shadow. "It was the most charming of all beings, it was Poesy! I was there for three weeks, and that has as much effect as if one had lived three thousand years, and read all that was composed and written; that is what I say, and it is right. I have seen everything and I know everything!"
"Poesy!" cried the learned man. "Yes, yes, she often dwells a recluse in large cities! Poesy! Yes, I have seen her--a single short moment, but sleep came into my eyes! She stood on the balcony and shone as the Aurora Borealis shines. Go on, go on--thou wert on the balcony, and went through the doorway, and then--"
"Then I was in the antechamber," said the shadow. "You always sat and looked over to the antechamber. There was no light; there was a sort of twilight, but the one door stood open directly opposite the other through a long row of rooms and saloons, and there it was lighted up. I should have been completely killed if I had gone over to the maiden; but I was circumspect, I took time to think, and that one must always do."
"And what didst thou then see?" asked the learned man.