Golossa-a-l by Henry Seton Merriman

"Golossa-a-l!" I heard him say. "Golossa-a-l, these Englishmen! Are they not everywhere?"

A moment later I was introduced to him, and he rose to shake hands—a tall, fair, good-natured German student. Heavy if you will—but clean withal, and of a cleanly mind.

"Honour," he muttered politely. "It is not often we have an English student at Gottingen—but perhaps we can teach you something—eh?" And he broke into a boyish laugh. "You will take beer?" he added, drawing forward an iron chair—for we were in the Brauerei Garden.

"Thank you."

"A doctor of medicine—the Herr Professor tells me," he said pleasantly. "Prosit," he added, as he raised his great mug to his lips.

"Prosit! Yes, a doctor of medicine—of the army."

"Ah, of the army, that is good. I also I hope, some day! And you come to pass our Gottingen examination. Yes, but it is hard—ach Gott!—devilish hard."

There was a restrained shyness about the man which I liked. Shy men are so rare. And, although he could have cleared the Brauerei Garden in five minutes, there was no bluster about this Teutonic Hercules. His loud, good-natured laugh was perhaps the most striking characteristic of Carl von Mendebach. Next to that, his readiness to be surprised at everything or anything, and to class it at once as colossal. Hence the nickname by which he was known amongst us. The term was applied to me a thousand times—figuratively. For I am a small man, as I have had reason to deplore more than once while carrying the wounded out of action. It takes so much longer if one is small.

I cannot exactly say why Carl von Mendebach and I became close friends; but I do not think that Lisa von Mendebach had anything to do with it. I was never in love with Lisa, although I admired her intensely, and I never see a blue-eyed, fair-haired girl to this day without thinking of Lischen. But I was not in love with her. I was never good-looking. I did not begin by expecting much from the other sex, and I have never been in love with anybody. I wonder if Lisa remembers me.

The students were pleasant enough fellows. It must be recollected that I speak of a period dating back before the war of 1870—before there was a German Empire. I soon made a sort of place for myself at the University, and I was tolerated good-naturedly. But Carl did more than tolerate me. He gave me all the friendship of his simple heart. Without being expansive—for he was a Hanoverian—he told me all about himself, his thoughts and his aims, an open-hearted ambition and a very Germanic contentment with a world which contained beer and music. Then at last he told me all about his father, General von Mendebach, and Lisa. Finally he took me to his house one evening to supper.

"Father," he said in his loud, cheery way, "here is the Englishman—a good friend of mine—a great scholar—golossa-a-l."

The General held out his hand and Lisa bowed, prettily formal, with a quaint, prim smile which I can see still.

I went to the house often—as often, indeed, as I could. I met the Von Mendebachs at the usual haunts—the theatre, an occasional concert, the band on Sunday afternoon, and at the houses of some of the professors. It was Lisa who told me that another young Briton was coming to live in Gottingen—not, however, as a student at the University. He turned out to be a Scotsman—one Andrew Smallie, the dissolute offspring of a prim Edinburgh family. He had been shipped off to Gottingen, in the hope that he might there drink himself quietly to death. The Scotch do not keep their skeletons at home in a cupboard. They ship them abroad and give them facilities.

Andrew Smallie soon heard that there was an English student in Gottingen, and, before long, procured an introduction. I disliked him at once. I took good care not to introduce him to any friends of mine.

"Seem to lead a quiet life here," he said to me one day when I had exhausted all conversation and every effort to get him out of my rooms.

"Very," I replied.

"Don't you know anybody? It's a deuced slow place. I don't know a soul to talk to except yourself. Can't take to these beer-drinking, sausage-eating Germans, you know. Met that friend of yours, Carl von Mendebach, yesterday, but he didn't seem to see me."

"Yes," I answered. "It is possible he did not know you. You have never been introduced."

"No," he answered dubiously. "Shouldn't think that would matter in an out-of-the-way place like this."

"It may seem out of the way to you," I said, without looking up from my book. "But it does not do so to the people who live here."

"D—d slow lot, I call them," he muttered. He lighted a cigar and stood looking at me for some time and then he went away.

It was about this time that Carl von Mendebach fought his first student duel, and he was kind enough to ask me to be his surgeon. It was, of course, no quarrel of his own, but a point of honour between two clubs; and Carl was selected to represent his "corps." He was delighted, and the little slit in his cheek which resulted from the encounter gave him infinite satisfaction. I had been elected to the "corps" too, and wore my cap and colours with considerable pride. But, being an Englishman, I was never asked to fight. I did not then, and I do not now, put forward any opinion on student duelling. My opinion would make no difference, and there is much to be said on both sides.

It was a hard winter, and I know few colder places than Gottingen. An ice fete was organized by the University. I believe Carl and I were among the most energetic of the organizers. I wish I had never had anything to do with it.

I remember to this day the pleasure of skating with Lisa's warmly gloved little hands in my own—her small furred form touching me lightly each time we swung over to the left on the outside edge. I saw Andrew Smallie once or twice. Once he winked at me, knowingly, as I passed him with Lisa—and I hated him for it. That man almost spoilt Gottingen for me. Britons are no friends of mine out of their own country. They never get over the fallacy that everywhere except London is an out-of-the-way place where nothing matters.

As the evening wore on, some of the revellers became noisy in a harmless German way. They began to sing part songs with a skill which is not heard out of the Fatherland. Parties of young men and maidens joined hands and swung round the lake in waltz time to the strain of the regimental band.

Lisa was tired, so she sought a seat with the General, leaving Carl and me to practise complicated figures. They found a seat close to us—a seat somewhat removed from the lamps. In the dusk it was difficult to distinguish between the townspeople and the gentlefolk.

We were absorbed in our attempts when I heard a voice I knew—and hated.

"Here, you, little girl in the fur jacket—come and have a turn with me," it was saying in loud, rasping, intoxicated tones.

I turned sharply. Smallie was standing in front of Lisa with a leer in his eyes. She was looking up at him—puzzled, frightened—not understanding English. The General was obesely dumfounded.

"Come along—my dear," Andrew Smallie went on. He reached out his hand, and, grasping her wrist, tried to drag her towards him.

Then I went for him. I am, as I have confessed, a small man. But if a man on skates goes for another, he gathers a certain impetus. I gave it to him with my left, and Andrew Smallie slid along the ice after he had fallen.

The General hustled Lisa away, muttering oaths beneath his great white moustache.

When Andrew Smallie picked himself up, Carl von Mendebach was standing over him.

"Tell him," said Carl in German, "that that was my sister."

I told Smallie.

Then Carl von Mendebach slowly drew off his fur glove and boxed Smallie heavily on the ear so that he rolled over sideways.

"Golossa-a-l," muttered Von Mendebach, as we went away hurriedly together.

The next morning Carl sent an English-speaking student with a challenge to Andrew Smallie. I wrote a note to my compatriot, telling him that although it was not our habit in England, he would do well to accept the challenge or to leave Gottingen at once. Carl stood over me while I wrote the letter.

"Tell him," he said, "where he can procure fencing lessons."

I gave Smallie the name of the best fencing-master in Gottingen. Then we called for beer and awaited the return of our messenger. The student came back looking grave and pale.

"He accepts," he said. "But—"

"Well!" we both exclaimed.

"He names pistols."

"What?" I cried. Carl laughed suddenly. We had never thought of such a thing. Duelling with pistols is forbidden. It is never dreamt of among German students.

"Ah—all right!" said Carl. "If he wishes it."

I at once wrote a note to Smallie, telling him that the thing was impossible. My messenger was sent back without an answer. I wrote, offering to fight Carl myself with the usual light sword or the sabre, in his name and for him. To this I received no answer. I went round to his rooms and was refused admittance.

The next morning at five—before it was light—Carl and I started off on foot for a little forest down by the river. At six o'clock Andrew Smallie arrived. He was accompanied by an Einjahriger—a German who had lived in England before he came home to serve his year in the army.

We did not know much about it. Carl laughed as I put him in position. The fresh pink of his cheek—like the complexion of a healthy girl—never faded for a moment.

"When I've done with him," cried Smallie, "I'll fight you."

We placed our men. The German soldier gave the word. Carl von Mendebach went down heavily.

He was still smiling—with a strange surprise on his simple face.

"Little man," he said, "he has hit me."

He lay quite still while I quickly loosened his coat. Then suddenly his breath caught.

"Golossa-a-l!" he muttered. His eyes glazed. He was dead.

I looked up and saw Smallie walking quickly away alone. The Einjahriger was kneeling beside me.

I have never seen or heard of Andrew Smallie since. I am a grey-haired man now. I have had work to do in every war of my day. I have been wounded—I walk very lame. But I still hope to see Andrew Smallie—perhaps in a country where I can hold him to his threat; if it is only for the remembrance of five minutes that I had with Lisa when I went back to Gottingen that cold winter morning.