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The Elixir   By: (1837-1898)

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This eBook was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]


By Georg Ebers

Every Leipziger knows well the tall gabled house in the Katherinenstrasse which I have in mind. It stands not far from the Market Place, and is particularly dear to the writer of this true story because it has been in the possession of his family for a long time. Many curious things have happened there worthy of being rescued from oblivion, and though my relatives would now like to relieve me of this task, because I have found it necessary to point out to certain ingenuous ones among them the truth which they were endeavoring to conceal, I rejoice that I have sufficient leisure to chronicle for future generations of Ueberhells the wonderful life and doings of their progenitor as I learned them from my grandmother and other good people.

So here, then, begins my story.

Of old, the aforementioned house was known as "The Three Kings," but in no otherwise was it distinguished from its neighbours in the street save through the sign of the Court apothecary on the ground floor; this hung over the arched doorway, and gay with bright colour and gilding represented the three patron Saints of the craft: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

This house in the Katherinenstrasse continued to be called "The Three Kings," although, soon after the death of old Caspar Ueberhell, the sign was removed, and the shop closed. And many things happened to it and the house which ran counter to the usual course of events and the wishes of the worthy burghers.

Gossip there had been in plenty even during the lifetime of the old Court apothecary whose only son Melchior had left his father's house and Leipsic not merely to spend a few years in Prague, or Paris or Italy like any other son of well to do parents who wished to perfect himself in his studies, but, as it would seem, for good and all.

Both as school boy and student Melchior had been one of the most gifted and most brilliant, and many a father, whose son took a wicked delight in wanton and graceless escapades, had with secret envy congratulated old Ueberhell on having such an exceptionally talented, industrious and obedient treasure of a son and heir. But later not one of these men would have exchanged his heedless scrapegrace of a boy for the much bepraised paragon of the Court apothecary, since, after all, a bad son is better than none at all.

Melchior, in fact, came not home, and that this weighed on the mind of the old man and hastened his death was beyond doubt; for although the stately Court apothecary's rotund countenance remained as round and beaming as the sun for three years after the departure of his boy, it began gradually to lose its plumpness and radiance until at length it was as faded and yellow as the pale half moon, and the cheeks that had once been so full hung down on his ruff like little empty sacks. He also withdrew more and more from the weighing house and the Raths keller where he had once so loved to pass his evenings in the company of other worthy burghers, and he was heard to speak of himself now and then as a "lonely man." Finally he stayed at home altogether, perhaps because his face and the whites of his eyes had turned as yellow as the saffron in his shop. There he left Schimmel, the dispenser, and the apprentice entirely in charge, so that if any one wished to avoid the Court apothecary that was the surest place. When, in the end, he died at the age of fifty six, the physicians stated that it was his liver the seat of sorrow as well as of anger which had been overtaxed and abused.

It is true that no one ever heard a word of complaint against his son pass his lips, indeed it was certain that to the very last he was well acquainted with his son's whereabouts; for when he was asked for news, he answered at first: "He is finishing his studies in Paris," later: "He seems to have found in Padua what he is seeking," and towards the end: "I think that he will be returning very soon now from Bologna... Continue reading book >>

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