His name was Dandon and he was a strange man even for 1812 Berlin.
By day, he was a Professor of Languages at the University. He was competent and respected by both students and faculty members.
But at night he was something quite different.
After dark, Dandon adopted the shabby clothes and plaintive appearance of the beggar and took to the streets. And begged for coins.
His students were shocked to see this man of letters, this cultured figure of authority, begging for coins like a common street urchin. But beg he did, returning every night to the dark and dangerous streets to plead for money from passing strangers.
It is not known what the other people forced by circumstance to beg for money on the streets thought of Dandon the pretender. Their stories have not come down to us. Perhaps they never noticed Dandon’s cultured airs. After all, was not Dandon a master of languages? Could the language of the beggar pose any challenge for him?
Not if it provided money. Dandon loved money. He craved it, he coveted it. And when he found out he could beg for it, that he could get those shiny coins for free, he haunted the streets with the truly misfortunate.
Dandon’s love of money was no secret. His neighbors knew him to be a miser. Dandon had once disowned his only brother when the man forgot to put a stamp on a letter and Dandon had to pay the postage due. For this crime of a penny, Dandon had not spoken to his brother in 37 years.
But money will not prolong your life and Dandon’s coins were not enough to save him from death.
And so Dandon died.
In his apartment, under the floorboards, they found a fortune in coins, the equivalent of $500,000 USD today.
His brother got it all.
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Photo by Stefan David via Flickr/Creative Commons