Reinhard Werner, an old man, returns from his walk at dusk and enters his home. He climbs the stairs and sits in his usual place in his study. His housekeeper has not yet turned on the lights for the evening. As it becomes darker, a ray of moonlight enters the room and falls on a woman’s portrait. Whispering the name Elisabeth, Reinhard recollects his youth.
As children, Reinhard and Elisabeth were inseparable. When she was five and he was ten, he told her stories. Once he asked her if she would go to India with him, and she said that her mother would have to come with them. She was upset when he said that her mother would be too old to come by then, but she finally agreed to go with him. He was afraid, however, that Elisabeth would not be brave enough.
As the two grew older, they were always together; Reinhard wrote stories and poems about Elisabeth. When Reinhard was an adolescent, he had to go away to school. As a final celebration before his departure, the village families held a picnic in the woods. The children were told to gather strawberries for dinner, and Elizabeth and Reinhard went off together to look for them. They got lost and did not find any strawberries, although the other children did. Reinhard’s love for Elisabeth was intensified by the experience, and he wrote a poem about that day in the woods.
While Reinhard was away at school, during Christmas student festivities when the students were drinking and joking at the Ratskeller, a popular student bar, he was interrupted by a friend who told him that Santa had visited Reinhard’s rooms. Elisabeth sent him a package and a letter in which she told him that Erich, an old friend of his, was doing her portrait and that she would give the portrait to Reinhard’s mother. Elisabeth complained that Reinhard had not kept his promise to send her stories. Homesick, he was unable to go back to the Ratskeller crowd but instead gave the presents to a poor child and wrote letters to his mother and Elisabeth.
A visit home showed him that Elisabeth had grown into a beautiful young woman. Erich was often in the house,...
(The entire section is 868 words.)