List Of Contents | Contents of Karl Ludwig Sand, by Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

since the messenger who undertook to deliver his last wards could
testify in how calm and joyful a temper he was awaiting death.

To this workman succeeded one of the guests whom Sand had met on the
staircase directly after Kotzebue's death.  He asked him whether he
acknowledged his crime and whether he felt any repentance.  Sand
replied, "I had thought about it during a whole year.  I have been
thinking of it for fourteen months, and my opinion has never varied
in any respect: I did what I should have done."

After the departure of this last visitor, Sand sent for Mr. G----,
the governor of the prison, and told him that he should like to talk
to the executioner before the execution, since he wished to ask for
instructions as to how he should hold himself so as to render the
operation most certain and easy.  Mr. G---- made some objections, but
Sand insisted with his usual gentleness, and Mr. G---- at last
promised that the man in question should be asked to call at the
prison as soon as he arrived from Heidelberg, where he lived.

The rest of the day was spent in seeing more visitors and in
philosophical and moral talks, in which Sand developed his social and
religious theories with a lucidity of expression and an elevation of
thought such as he had, perhaps, never before shown.  The governor of
the prison from whom I heard these details, told me that he should
all his life regret that he did not know shorthand, so that he might
have noted all these thoughts, which would have formed a pendant to
the Phaedo.

Night came.  Sand spent part of the evening writing; it is thought
that he was composing a poem; but no doubt he burned it, for no trace
of it was found.  At eleven he went to bed, and slept until six in
the morning.  Next day he bore the dressing of his wound, which was
always very painful, with extraordinary courage, without fainting, as
he sometimes did, and without suffering a single complaint to escape
him: he had spoken the truth; in the presence of death God gave him
the grace of allowing his strength to return.  The operation was
over; Sand was lying down as usual, and Mr. G---- was sitting on the
foot of his bed, when the door opened and a man came in and bowed to
Sand and to Mr. G----.  The governor of the prison immediately stood
up, and said to Sand in a voice the emotion of which he could not
conceal, "The person who is bowing to you is Mr. Widemann of
Heidelberg, to whom you wished to speak."

Then Sand's face was lighted up by a strange joy; he sat up and said,
"Sir, you are welcome."  Then, making his visitor sit down by his
bed, and taking his hand, he began to thank him for being so
obliging, and spoke in so intense a tone and so gentle a voice, that
Mr. Widemann, deeply moved, could not answer.  Sand encouraged him to
speak and to give him the details for which he wished, and in order
to reassure him, said, "Be firm, sir; for I, on my part, will not
fail you: I will not move; and even if you should need two or three
strokes to separate my head from my body, as I am told is sometimes
the case, do not be troubled on that account."

Then Sand rose, leaning on Mr. G----, to go through with the
executioner the strange and terrible rehearsal of the drama in which
he was to play the leading part on the morrow.  Mr. Widemann made him
sit in a chair and take the required position, and went into all the
details of the execution with him.  Then Sand, perfectly instructed,
begged him not to hurry and to take his time.  Then he thanked him
beforehand; "for," added he, "afterwards I shall not be able."  Then
Sand returned to his bed, leaving the executioner paler and more
trembling than himself.  All these details have been preserved by Mr.
G----; for as to the executioner, his emotion was so great that he
could remember nothing.

After Mr. Widemann, three clergymen were introduced, with whom Sand
conversed upon religious matters: one of them stayed six hours with
him, and on leaving him told him that he was commissioned to obtain
from him a promise of not speaking to the people at the place of
execution.  Sand gave the promise, and added, "Even if I desired to
do so, my voice has become so weak that people could not hear it."

Meanwhile the scaffold was being erected in the meadow that extends
on the left of the road to Heidelberg.  It was a platform five to six
feet high and ten feet wide each way.  As it was expected that,
thanks to the interest inspired by the prisoner and to the nearness
to Whitsuntide, the crowd would be immense, and as some movement from
the universities was apprehended, the prison guards had been trebled,
and General Neustein had been ordered to Mannheim from Carlsruhe,
with twelve hundred infantry, three hundred and fifty cavalry, and a
company of artillery with guns.

On, the afternoon of the 19th there arrived, as had been foreseen, so
many students, who took up their abode in the neighbouring villages,
that it was decided to put forward the hour of the execution, and to
let it take place at five in the morning instead of at eleven, as had
been arranged.  But Sand's consent was necessary for this; for he
could not be executed until three full days after the reading of his
sentence, and as the sentence had not been read to him till half-past
ten Sand had a right to live till eleven o'clock.

Before four in the morning the officials went into the condemned
man's room; he was sleeping so soundly that they were obliged to
awaken him.  He opened his eyes with a smile, as was his custom, and
guessing why they came, asked, "Can I have slept so well that it is
already eleven in the morning?"  They told him that it was not, but
that they had come to ask his permission to put forward the time;
for, they told him, same collision between the students and the
soldiers was feared, and as the military preparations were very
thorough, such a collision could not be otherwise than fatal to his
friends.  Sand answered that he was ready that very moment, and only
asked time enough to take a bath, as the ancients were accustomed to
do before going into battle.  But as the verbal authorisation which
he had given was not sufficient, a pen and paper were given to Sand,
and he wrote, with a steady hand and in his usual writing:

"I thank the authorities of Mannheim for anticipating my most eager
wishes by making my execution six hours earlier.

"Sit nomen Domini benedictum.

"From the prison room, May 20th, day of my deliverance.


When Sand had given these two lines to the recorder, the physician
came to him to dress his wound, as usual.  Sand looked at him with a
smile, and then asked, "Is it really worth the trouble?"

"You will be stronger for it," answered the physician.

"Then do it," said Sand.

A bath was brought.  Sand lay down in it, and had his long and
beautiful hair arranged with the greatest care; then his toilet being
completed, he put on a frock-coat of the German shape--that is to
say, short and with the shirt collar turned back aver the shoulders,
close white trousers, and high boots.  Then Sand seated himself on
his bed and prayed some time in a low voice with the clergy; then,
when he had finished, he said these two lines of Korner's :

    "All that is earthly is ended,
     And the life of heaven begins."

He next took leave of the physician and the priests, saying to them,
"Do not attribute the emotion of my voice to weakness but to
gratitude."  Then, upon these gentlemen offering to accompany him to
the scaffold, he said, "There is no need; I am perfectly prepared, at
peace with God and with my conscience.  Besides, am I not almost a
Churchman myself?"  And when one of them asked whether he was not
going out of life in a spirit of hatred, he returned, "Why, good
heavens! have I ever felt any?"

An increasing noise was audible from the street, and Sand said again
that he was at their disposal and that he was ready.  At this moment
the executioner came in with his two assistants;  he was dressed in a
long wadded black coat, beneath which he hid his sword.  Sand offered
him his hand affectionately; and as Mr.  Widemann, embarrassed by the
sword which he wished to keep Sand from seeing, did not venture to
come forward, Sand said to him, "Come along and show me your sword; I
have never seen one of the kind, and am curious to know what it is

Mr. Widemann, pale and trembling, presented the weapon to him; Sand
examined it attentively, and tried the edge with his finger.

"Come," said he, "the blade is good; do not tremble, and all will go
well."  Then, turning to Mr. G----, who was weeping, he said to him,
"You will be good enough, will you not, to do me the service of
leading me to the scaffold?"

Mr. G---- made a sign of assent with his head, for he could not
answer.  Sand took his arm, and spoke for the third time, saying once
more, "Well, what are you waiting for, gentlemen?  I am ready."

When they reached the courtyard, Sand saw all the prisoners weeping
at their windows.  Although he had never seen them, they were old
friends of his; for every time they passed his door, knowing that the
student who had killed Kotzebue lay within, they used to lift their
chain, that he might not be disturbed by the noise.

All Mannheim was in the streets that led to the place of execution,
and many patrols were passing up and down.  On the day when the
sentence was announced the whole town had been sought through for a
chaise in which to convey Sand to the scaffold, but no one, not even
the coach-builders, would either let one out or sell one; and it had
been necessary, therefore, to buy one at Heidelberg without saying
for what purpose.

Sand found this chaise in the courtyard, and got into it with Mr.  G-
---.  Turning to him, he whispered in his ear, " Sir, if you see me
turn pale, speak my name to me, my name only, do you hear?  That will
be enough."

The prison gate was opened, and Sand was seen; then every voice cried
with one impulse, "Farewell, Sand, farewell!"

And at the same time flowers, some of which fell into the carriage,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: