THE CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES
 A very wealthy and worthy merchant, named Vollmar,
lived in a large
commercial city. Here he carried on a prosperous
business which had
descended to him from his father. By clever management,
honesty, he succeeded in enlarging it; and thereby
increased his wealth.
Up to the present time, Mr. Vollmar had had unusual
circumstances were soon to change. One morning as the
breakfasting, the postman delivered a letter containing
that the ship which carried a valuable cargo belonging
to Mr. Vollmar
had been lost at sea.
This was a severe blow; for the greater part of his
fortune was now
gone. But as luck and riches had not made him proud, so
and loss did not make him despondent.
Turning to his children, he said: "God gives and He
also takes away. He
may restore all things unto us when His wise purposes
fulfilled. You can see that this is true, when you
review the lives of
your grandparents and
great-  grandparents, whose
pictures in the golden
frames grace this room so beautifully.
"Your great-grandfather, Lucas Vollmar, was the richest
man in the city.
All that we once had and now have would not have
equalled his fortune by
one quarter. Owing to the 'Thirty Years' War,' he lost
all. He was
obliged to flee from the enemy. His wife did not
survive the journey.
Their only son, my father, was then but a tender youth,
much during those troublous times.
"Soon this city was invaded by the enemy and plundered.
Many bombs were
fired into it and homes were reduced to ashes. Into
this very house,
which belonged to him, fell a great cannon ball which
did much damage
but did not set it on fire. All the families, too,
suffered the greatest
misery. Hunger and pestilence carried off many of them.
"Your worthy great-grandfather sought refuge in strange
suffered many hardships. He had taken as much money
with him as he could
carry, but on the way he was robbed. He earned his
livelihood in various
ways, and soon put his son out as an apprentice. When
the lad was
fourteen years old, he was called upon to face another
hardship in the
loss of his father, who died in misery and poverty,
although he had once
been the richest man in this city.
"This son, my father, now alone in the world,
 continued as an apprentice
and made progress in his trade. At last, when the war
was over and peace
had been restored, he returned to this city, poor in
the world's goods,
but rich in knowledge and goodness.
"Through a decision of the court, this house was
returned to him. The
things that he found when he entered were empty chests
and those two
pictures hanging on the wall opposite. Look at them. Do
you not read in
those faces kindness and true worth? Yes, my children,
they were indeed
"You never saw your great-grandparents, but you do
grandfather, for he often held you both on his lap. He
had to work hard
to build up a business, but through the help of his
good wife he soon
"So, my children, you have now seen how from wealth one
may be reduced
to poverty, and how from nothing one may rise and
"My father showed me that no matter how rich he became,
he always laid
by some money for the time of need. He employed the
best workers and
paid the best wages; and was a great benefactor to the
"His example and his teachings I have followed, or
to-day we would be
very poor indeed, now that I have lost my goods at sea.
We must be very
economical and, perhaps, in time we may retrieve our
 Other tradesmen, too, suffered by this shipwreck.
Mr. Vollmar did what
he could to help them and, little by little, they were
able to go on
with their business. But times changed, and there was
little demand for
Mr. Vollmar's goods. Failure stared him in the face.
"If I must give up my business, it will comfort me to
know that when I
have paid all my debts I shall still have a few dollars
conscience will be clear when I know that no one has
lost one cent
through me, and that my honor before God and man
Pressed on all sides, he was almost forced to give up,
but as a last
resort he made up his mind to seek aid from two
friends, both very rich
men. But the one said: "I am sorry that I cannot help
you, for I need my
money myself." The other man said: "I would lend you
some money, but I'm
afraid I won't get it back."
This treatment at the hands of his best friends, pained
him sorely, and
he returned in sadness to his home. Before entering, he
in a little bower to review the situation. The sun
shone with a friendly
light; the birds sang their gladsome songs; and the
flowers stood forth
in all their gay coloring.
"How hard it will be for me to leave this beautiful
garden upon which I
have spent so much money, and in which I have enjoyed
hours. Who knows in what corner of the earth I shall be
obliged to seek
a new home?"
He became sadder each moment, and, sinking upon his
knees, he prayed for
help. Hearing footsteps, he arose, and, looking down
the footpath, he
saw an old man with snow-white hair being led by a
little boy. Both
seemed very poor, but they were neatly clothed.
Just then the boy said to his companion: "Here, under
this tree, is a
nice seat. You are so tired, dear grandfather, rest
here a little and be
comforted; for the way is not much longer." Then they
"It is a great undertaking for a man like me, blind and
travel such a distance," said the old man. " 'Tis true,
cure blind people, but I wonder if my blindness can be
cured by that
doctor of whom we have heard so much? Besides, we have
so little money,
and what will we live on while we're in the city? It
must soon be fifty
years since I worked as a mason there. I really know no
one to whom we
could apply for aid; for all my friends have passed on
to a better land.
But I trust God will help us find some place to rest."
As Mr. Vollmar heard these words, he became greatly
touched. "To be
blind," said he, "and not to see the blue sky, the
trees, the flowers,
the sun and the people—that must be hard indeed. This
man's sorrows are
greater than mine. I
 have my two strong eyes; and
should I lose my whole
wealth, it would be as nothing compared to the loss of
"These poor people—this blind man, this brave
boy—know how to find
comfort in their sorrow by trusting in God. I will
learn from them and
"This brave boy and this blind man."
Just then Mrs. Vollmar entered the garden with her two
children, and Mr.
Vollmar beckoned them to join him. He related all that
he had heard the
old man say.
"My dear husband," said Mrs. Vollmar, "let us take them
into our house.
Though we are getting poorer each day, I am sure that
what we do for
them will not hurt us; for, it is written: 'Be merciful
and you shall
"True," said Mr. Vollmar, "and you certainly have a
bigger heart than I
have. Let us not only give them food and shelter, but
let us call in an
eminent eye doctor and have him examine this man's
Just then the old man rose to depart with the boy, but
hastened toward them, and said that they could remain
with them for a
Thanking them for this exceeding kindness, the
strangers entered the
house, and soon the old man began to talk about
"My name is Armand Seld. At one time I was a builder
and mason, and
lived with my son in
 this city. I have been blind
for the last seven
As he seemed very tired, Mrs. Vollmar urged him to
rest. She prepared a
repast for him and after he had partaken of it, she
showed him to his
On the following morning, Mr. Vollmar sent for the
examining the old man's eyes, he said that they were
both covered with
cataracts, of such a nature that he could remove them.
He also held out
the hope that he could cure them in a very short time.
"But," said he, "the old man must rest for three days
before I can
undertake the work."
After three days had elapsed the doctor returned and
operation. Then the eyes were bandaged and the old man
was kept in a
darkened room. At the end of a week, the doctor removed
the bandage from
the patient's eyes and slowly led him to the light.
"I see! I see the light!" cried the old man. "I see
your faces! Oh, I
thank God!" Then he folded his hands and silence filled
the room; for
each one was in sympathy with the old man and thanked
God for his mercy.
"But now," interrupted the doctor, "we must cover the
eyes again, and
let them become accustomed to the light by degrees, and
each day they
will grow stronger. I will return daily and watch their
meanwhile the patient must have
 nourishing food,
in small quantities,
and he must be kept very quiet in order to save his
strength." Then he
bade them good-bye and Mr. Vollmar and his wife
escorted the doctor to
The children kept shouting: "He sees! he sees!" and
tumult and joy ran
At last the bandages were removed for good, but the
doctor warned the
patient not to strain his eyes nor look into the
sunshine for another
 Armand Seld was now able to go about the house. The
first room that he
entered, after his tedious stay in his own darkened
bedroom, was the
dining-room, where the family loved best to sit. The
walls of this room
were graced by the pictures of the Vollmar ancestors,
together with a
landscape by a famous master.
The old man's attention was attracted to this painting.
"What do I see?" he shouted. "This picture I once saw
and I cannot forget it."
"Strange," said Mr. Vollmar, "that it should have made
impression upon you."
"May I ask," continued the old man, "have you owned
this picture long?
Have you lived here some time?"
Mr. Vollmar replied: "This house, as well as the
picture, descended to
me from my sainted grandparents. But why do you ask?"
"I must inquire still further before I can answer. Tell
grandfather die in this house, or did he flee to a
during the war?"
"He died far from here, in a strange land. But
surprises me how you
should hit upon this question."
"Did your grandmother die first?"
"Yes; but your questions disturb me."
The old man continued: "Was your own father present
grandfather's death, and did he not disclose to him a
"My grandfather died of a malignant fever which robbed
him of his
senses. My father, then a boy, was sent for, but when
he arrived he
found his father dead."
"One more question I must ask—and I know you will
forgive me. Did your
father receive a big fortune?"
"My father," continued Mr. Vollmar, "returned to this
city and this
house a poor man. He married a woman as poor as
himself, but with
industry they at last became rich."
"Do you know," continued the old man, "you look just
grandfather? He, too, was about the same age as you are
now, and I feel,
as I talk to you, as if he were here. But listen to my
story and perhaps
it may be of value to you.
"Shortly before this city was plundered I worked as a
mason. One day my
employer, a very honest man, received word to call at
once upon a
gentleman who wished him to do some work which was to
be kept a secret.
As my employer was sick, he sent me in his place,
vouching for my honor
 "I entered the house and was ushered into a room
where your grandfather
(for I have no doubts but that it was he) was seated.
He started, and
was indeed surprised that my employer should have sent
as a substitute
such a young man as I was then. After reading my
ordered the servants to light two candles and set them
on the table over
which this picture hung. He made me vow never to tell
the secret which
he would entrust to me, except in time of need, and
then only to one of
his descendants. He spoke the oath and I repeated it,
word for word,
looking up at this picture all the time.
"Then he led me into the cellar, down another stairway
made of stone
into a lower cellar, where he opened a strongly bolted
door. I gazed
into a hollow in the wall, where many chests were
standing. 'These boxes
hold all my valuables, which I wish to save,' said he.
'Now, I want you
to cement this door so cleverly that no one will
"As all the tools were lying there in readiness, and
the mortar had been
previously prepared, I started to work at once. It cost
a little labor
and much pains to do the work well and to hide the
door, but I
succeeded, and received a gold piece for my labor.
"The gentleman laid his finger on my lips, and said:
"Soon after the enemy appeared. Your
grand-  father fled and so did I.
Never again did I return to this city, nor did I think
of the valuables
secreted in these walls. The sight of this picture,
however, recalls to
my mind my vow." With a sigh of relief, Armand Seld
continued: "My dear
Mr. Vollmar, God moved your heart to help a poor,
strange, blind man. He
helped to open my eyes, so that I could behold this
picture, and to
disclose to you your buried riches. Thus has He
rewarded you for your
kindness to me."
Mr. Vollmar had listened attentively to the old man's
story, and said:
"You need not thank me. I did only what was my duty.
You may be right
about the treasure, for we often wondered what could
have become of all
my grandfather's wealth.
"Being the wise man that he was, he would have known
what havoc the war
would bring, and consequently would have collected his
possibly have hidden it somewhere. But where? Neither
my father nor I
could ever get the slightest clue. What you have said
of the little
stone stairway and the lower cellar describes exactly
the place under
this house. I am more and more convinced, each moment,
grandfather hid his treasures there, but now the
question is whether
they are still there. Let us go, at once, and find
They went, arm in arm. As they reached the lower
cellar, the old man
shouted: "This is the
 place. I remember this
little round spot that I
filled with putty and covered with cement."
By means of a long crow-bar, an opening was at last
made, and one stone
after another fell to the floor.
"Victory!" shouted the old man. "Here are the chests,
untouched. I know
my work. The treasure is still here."
Mr. Vollmar then called his son and a helper to his
assistance, and the
chests were soon opened. Bags upon bags of money,
silverware, hammered copper ornaments and some papers
which had yellowed
and had almost fallen to pieces—all these, met their
"The chests were opened."
Taking the papers first, Mr. Vollmar read many
important family records,
besides an index of the contents of the chests, and the
be made of them.
"Oh, what good luck this is! It has all been sent to us
just when we
need it most," said Mr. Vollmar.
The family soon assembled to hear the good news and see
A feast followed and fun and great merriment filled the
house. The care
of the old man and his grandchild was willingly
undertaken by the
Vollmars; and these good people lived together in peace
for many years.
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