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  1. The Devil's Elixir, Vol. 1 (of 2) by E. T. A. Hoffmann
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The Devil's Elixir, Vol. 1 (of 2) by E. T. A. Hoffmann

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General Imprint:. Ernst Theodore Amadeus Hoffmann. Now what may be the meaning of all this? During this discourse, the physician had continued to hold my arm, and to gaze steadfastly in my face. Tired of this restraint, I disengaged myself with some roughness—and answered— I really know not how to interpret all this discourse of yours, sir; but I must confess, that when I saw the beautiful Aurelia surrounded by that tribe of conceited young gentry, a very bitter remembrance from my early life was called up in my mind; and that, seized with a kind of angry scorn at the behaviour of such empty-brained coxcombs, I forgot in whose presence I was, and laughed aloud in a manner that would only have been warrantable when I was alone.

I am truly sorry that I have unintentionally brought about so much mischief; but I have done penance on that score, having for some time denied myself the pleasure of being at court. I hope that the Prince's family and the Baroness Aurelia will excuse me. Who is there, said I vehemently, on this earthly sphere, that may boast of being so?

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Mildly and seriously he said— Mr Leonard, you appear to me to be really and truly sick: your looks are pale and disordered—your eyes are sunk, and gleam with a strange kind of fire—your pulse, too, is feverish, and your voice sounds strangely. It may, however, be, that — hesitating — It is wonderful indeed, but——. I must beg of you, sir, said I, now quite angry, not to torment me in that manner by your broken hints, but at once to speak out.

Not so fast, Mr Leonard—yonder comes the Princess—there are in this world the strangest delusions, and for my part, I feel almost a conviction that people have here built up an hypothesis which a few minutes' explanation will dissolve into nothing. Yonder, as I said, comes the Princess with Aurelia. Offer your own excuses for your behaviour.

Properly, indeed, your only crime is, that you have laughed—in an extraordinary tone it is true, and rather inopportunely. But who can help it, if people with weak nerves have on that occasion chosen to be so absurdly terrified? The physician started away with that vivacity which to him was peculiar. I trembled; but with my whole strength laboured to regain composure, for after the mysterious discourse of the physician, I felt that it was my duty on the instant to defend my character.

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Resolutely, therefore, I went forward to meet them; but no sooner had Aurelia fixed her eyes upon me than she became deadly pale, and to my utter astonishment, with a suppressed scream, she fell down in a fainting fit, to the ground. I wished to assist her, but with looks of aversion and horror, the Princess then motioned me away, at the same time calling loudly for help!

As if hunted by a thousand devils and furies, I ran away homewards through the park—I shut myself up in my lodgings, and gnashing my teeth with rage and despair, threw myself on the bed. Evening came, and then the dark hours of night, and I still lay there obstinately cherishing my grief.

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At last I heard the outer gate of the house open, and many voices murmuring and whispering confusedly together. Then there was a noise of heavy steps tottering and clattering up the staircase,—and with three hollow knocks on my door, I was commanded to rise and open it in the name of the magistracy.

Without clearly comprehending the danger that awaited me, I yet felt an instinctive conviction that I was now for ever lost. To save myself instantly by flight—This was my only thought, and I flew to the window, tearing open the lattice. This, however, availed me nothing,—for before the house door, I saw a troop of armed men, one of whom directly observed me, and at the same moment, the door of my apartment was burst in—several men immediately stood around me, whom I recognized for officers of police, and who shewed me an order of the Justiciary Court for my immediate imprisonment.

Any attempt at resistance would now have been in vain. They led me down stairs, and placed me in a carriage, which stood there ready to receive me, and which immediately drove off rapidly, through the streets. When arrived at the place which seemed that of my destination, after being led through divers passages and corridors; also up staircases that staircases were none , but seemed having no steps [1] to be like the side of a mountain; I inquired Where I was? I received for answer, In the prison of the upper castle. In this place, according to information already received on the arrestment of others, I knew that dangerous and treasonable criminals were shut up during the time that their trial was going on, or was in preparation.

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