The Story of My Life Complete
The Story of My Life Complete
CHAPTER I. GLANCING BACKWARD.
Though I was born in Berlin, it was also in the country. True, it was fifty-five years ago; for my birthday was March 1, 1837, and at that time the house-[No. 4 Thiergartenstrasse]-where I slept and played during the first years of my childhood possessed, besides a field and a meadow, an orchard and dense shrubbery, even a hill and a pond. Three big horses, the property of the owner of our residence, stood in the stable, and the lowing of a cow, usually an unfamiliar sound to Berlin children, blended with my earliest recollections.
The Thiergartenstrasse-along which in those days on sunny mornings, a throng of people on foot, on horseback, and in carriages constantly moved to and fro-ran past the front of these spacious grounds, whose rear was bounded by a piece of water then called the "Schafgraben," and which, spite of the duckweed that covered it with a dark-green network of leafage, was used for boating in light skiffs.
Now a strongly built wall of masonry lines the banks of this ditch, which has been transformed into a deep canal bordered by the handsome houses of the Konigin Augustastrasse, and along which pass countless heavily laden barges called by the Berliners "Zillen."
The land where I played in my childhood has long been occupied by the Matthaikirche, the pretty street which bears the same name, and a portion of Konigin Augustastrasse, but the house which we occupied and its larger neighbour are still surrounded by a fine garden.
This was an Eden for city children, and my mother had chosen it because she beheld it in imagination flowing with the true Garden of Paradise rivers of health and freedom for her little ones.
My father died on the 14th of February, 1837, and on the 1st of March of the same year I was born, a fortnight after the death of the man in whom my mother was bereft of both husband and lover. So I am what is termed a "posthumous" child. This is certainly a sorrowful fate; but though there were many hours, especially in the later years of my life, in which I longed for a father, it often seemed to me a noble destiny and one worthy of the deepest gratitude to have been appointed, from the first moment of my existence, to one of the happiest tasks, that of consolation and cheer.
It was to soothe a mother's heartbreak that I came in the saddest hours of her life, and, though my locks are now grey, I have not forgotten the joyful moments in which that dear mother hugged her fatherless little one, and among other pet names called him her "comfort child."
She told me also that posthumous children were always Fortune's favorites, and in her wise, loving way strove to make me early familiar with the thought that God always held in his special keeping those children whose fathers he had taken before their birth. This confidence accompanied me through all my after life.
As I have said, it was long before I became aware that I lacked anything, especially any blessing so great as a father's faithful love and care; and when life showed to me also a stern face and imposed heavy burdens, my courage was strengthened by my happy confidence that I was one of Fortune's favorites, as others are buoyed up by their firm faith in their "star."
When the time at last came that I longed to express the emotions of my soul in verse, I embodied my mother's prediction in the lines:
The child who first beholds the light of day
After his father's eyes are closed for aye,
Fortune will guard from every threatening ill,
For God himself a father's place will fill.
People often told me that as the youngest, the nestling, I was my mother's "spoiled child"; but if anything spoiled me it certainly was not that. No child ever yet received too many tokens of love from a sensible mother; and, thank Heaven, the word applied to mine. Fate had summoned her to be both father and mother to me and my