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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VIII by Various

Part 6 out of 9

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dug; if all of them had to follow soon, think what a lot of deaths
there'd be."

"Oh, forgive me," said Freneli; "but the more important a journey is the
more alarmed the poor soul gets and wants to know what will be the
outcome, and so takes every encounter as an omen, bad or good; do you
remember when you did the like?"

Then Uli pressed her hand and said, "You're right; but let us put our
trust in God and not worry. What He shall do to us, or give or take, is
well done."

They entered the church softly and hesitatingly; went separately to left
and right; saw a child taken into the covenant of the Lord; thought how
beautiful it was to be permitted to commend such a tender and feeble
being, body and soul, to the especial care of its Saviour, and how great
a load it must take from the parents' breasts, when they received in the
baptism the assurance that the Lord would be with them and let them feed
the child with His spirit, as the mother fed it with her milk. They
joined very reverently in the prayers, and thought how seriously they
would take it when they should have to promise as godparents to see to
it that a child should be brought to the Lord. The customary collect was
lost upon them in the importance of the serious moment that came nearer
and nearer. When the pastor stepped forward from behind the baptismal
fount, when Uli had taken Freneli by the hand, and they had stepped
forward to the bench, both sank to their knees, far anticipating the
ceremony, held their hands in fervent clasp, and with all their soul and
all their heart and all their strength they prayed and promised what the
words bid them--yes, and much more that gushed forth from their true
hearts. And when they arose, they felt exceedingly firm and cheerful;
both felt that they had won a great treasure for their whole life, which
must make them happy, which none could take from them by force or guile,
and with which they must remain united to all eternity.

When outside, Uli begged his bride to go with him to the pastor, to get
the certificate. Abashed, Freneli tried to decline, under the pretext
that she did not know him, that it was unnecessary, and so on. But she
went none the less, and no longer timorous, like a thief in the night,
but as well becomes a happy woman at the side of an honest man. Freneli
knew how to take herself in hand.

With kindness they were received by the pastor, a venerable, tall, lean
gentleman. There were not many who, like him, knew how to mingle
seriousness and graciousness, so that hearts opened before him as if
touched with a magic wand.

When he had looked at Freneli, he asked, "What do you think, Uli? Was it
due to luck or God's guidance that you got this little wife?"

"Your Reverence," said Uli, "you are right; I think her a gift of God."

"And you, little wife, of what mind are you?"

"I too have no other thought but that the dear God brought us together,"
said Freneli.

"I think so too," said the pastor; "God willed it; never forget that.
But why did He bring you two together? That one should make the other
happy, not only here, but also yonder--don't forget that either.
Marriage is God's sanctuary on earth, in which men are to consecrate and
purify themselves for Heaven. You are good people; be pious and upright;
but you both have faults. In you, Uli, I know one which steadily gains
power over you; it is avarice. You, Freneli, must have some too, but I
do not know them. These faults will appear little by little, and when a
fault becomes visible in you, Uli, your wife will be the first to see
it, and you can tell that by her face; and, on the other hand, you can
see what comes out in Freneli, and she can read it in your expression.
One almost becomes the other's mirror. In this mirror, Uli, you should
recognize your faults, and try to put them from you out of love for your
wife, because she suffers most from them; and you, wife, should assist
him in all gentleness, but should recognize your own faults too and try
to conquer them for Uli's sake, and he will help you too. If this labor
becomes too heavy for love, then God gives us child after child, and
each is an angel come to sanctify us; each brings us new lessons of how
to appear rightly before God, and new desires, to the end that the child
be prepared for a sacrifice that shall be holy and well-pleasing to God.
And the more you live together in this spirit, the happier you shall be
in Heaven and on earth; for, believe me, true worldly happiness and
heavenly happiness are to be found on exactly the same road. Believe me:
the dear God has brought you together to help each other gain Heaven, to
be prop and staff to each other on the narrow, toilsome way that leads
to eternal life, to level and lighten that way for each other through
love, meekness, and long-suffering--for it is rough and thorny. Now when
gloomy days come, when faults break out in one or the other, or both,
then think not of bad luck, as if that made you unhappy, but of the dear
God, who has long seen all these faults and who has brought you together
just so that one should cure the other and help him to mend his ways;
that is the purpose and the task of your marriage. And as love sent the
Saviour and led Him to the cross, so love must be active in you too;
that is the power which exceeds all others, which cures and betters.
With cursing and scolding, with threats and blows one can put down the
other, but not better him so that he can be well-pleasing to God.
Usually, the worse one grows, the worse the other becomes too, and so
they help each other down to hell. So never forget: God has brought you
together, and He will demand each of the other. Man, He will say, where
is your wife's soul? Woman, He will say, where is your husband's soul?
Act so that you can answer with one voice: Lord, here are we both, here
at Thy right hand. Forgive me, little wife, that I have spoken so
seriously to you this morning. But it is better that you be so talked to
now, than later, after Uli is dead, and men think him ruined by your
fault; and for Uli too it is better now than later, when he should have
brought you to the grave. But this I think neither of you would have
done, for you both look to me as if God and men might take pleasure in
you."

When Freneli heard him speak of dying, the tears rushed to her eyes, and
with agitated voice she said, "O, Your Reverence, there is no thought of
offense. I give you a hundred thousand thanks for your beautiful lesson;
I'll think of it as long as I live. And it would make me very glad if
you would some time come into our district and visit us, to see how your
words bear fruit in us, and that we haven't forgotten them."

The pastor said he would surely do so as soon as he came into their
district, and that might very easily happen. He considered them,
although they did not live in his parish, as quite half his sheep, and
they might depend upon it that if they prospered and were happy, nobody
would rejoice more than he. And if he could serve them in any way, let
it be what it would, and if it were in his power, they must surely come
to him; it would be a pleasure to him.

Thereupon they took their leave and all felt very happy and cheerful at
heart. A comforting, warming feeling had been aroused such as all people
ought to feel for each other at every meeting; then it would be
beautiful on God's fair earth. "Isn't that the friendliest gentleman?"
said Freneli as they went away; "he takes things seriously and still he
is so kind; I could listen to him all day long and never get tired of
it."

When they reached the inn the guests had not arrived, only the message
that Johannes would come soon, but that his wife could not very well get
away. Then Freneli cried, "You must go for her; drive up there, it's not
so very far; if you drive fast, you can be back in half an hour."

"I don't like to overwork Blackie; he has enough trotting to do today,"
answered Uli. "The host will probably lend a horse for that little
distance."

So it was done, and quite fortunately. Johannes had not yet started, and
his wife was very dubious about sitting in the tavern on a work-day,
unless there were a christening; what would folks say? He should have
come to them with his wife, instead of running up a bill there in the
tavern; they would have had enough for them to eat and drink. He knew
that well, said Uli; but that would have been presuming, and the
distance was too great beside, for they were going back today; he had
his hands full now. But he begged that they would come; otherwise he
would have to think they were ashamed of them.

"What are you thinking of, Uli?" exclaimed the mistress; "why, you know
how much we think of you. I ought to stay away now, just because you
could think such a thing." At the same time she was getting ready,
however, but would not permit her daughter to go along, whom Uli would
have liked to invite too. "I should think so!" said she; "and the cat
and the dog to boot; that would be fine! It's presuming enough for me to
come. Just wait, you'll be able to use your money in other
ways--housekeeping has a pretty big maw."

With eagerness Freneli had watched for them from the corner of the inn.
All that passed could not take their eyes from her, and when they were
past they would ask, "Whose bride is that? I haven't seen a prettier
girl in along time." Through the whole village went the news of the
pretty bride, and whoever could take the time or had any pretext, went
by the inn.

At last Uli came driving up and with great friendliness Freneli welcomed
them. "Well, here you've got to be wife, haven't you?" cried the old
mistress; "God bless you!" and stretched out her plump hand to Freneli.
"I just thought you'd make a couple; no two could have suited each other
better."

"Yes, but there wasn't anything at the time; only on the way home they
began to torment me, and I believe that was your fault, too," said
Freneli, turning to Johannes and offering him her hand. "But you just
wait; I'll make war on you, for discussing me so behind my back. Nice
customers you are! And if you do that to me any more, I'll pay you
back; just wait. We'll talk about you behind your backs, too."

Johannes answered, and Freneli met him again with well-chosen playful
words. When she had gone out for a moment, the old mistress said, "Uli,
you've got an amazingly well-mannered wife; she can talk well enough to
suit a manor-house, and the best of it is that she understands her work
just as well; you don't always find the two together. Look out for her;
you'll never get her match again!" Then Uli too began to sing her
praises with tears in his eyes, until Freneli came back.

As the conversation suddenly halted at her entrance, she looked
roguishly at them all in turn, and said, "There you've been talking
about me again behind my back and my left ear tingled; you just wait!
Uli, is it nice to begin accusing me that way, when I turn my back for
just a minute?"

"He didn't accuse you," said the old mistress, "just the opposite; but I
told him to look out for you, for he'd never get your match again. Oh,
if men only knew how the second wife often turns out, they'd be more
careful of the first! Not that I can complain. My husband I love and
value; I couldn't get a better one, and he allows me all I want; but I
see how it goes elsewhere."

"I was listening hard," answered Johannes; "but you ended up all right.
You're right! In some places the women have a hard time, in others the
men; it always depends on where there's understanding and then the
belief that there's a God in Heaven. Where there's no belief, evil is
king."

Hereupon they were invited into the back room. There the soup was
already served, a quart of wine was on the table, and beside it a little
pot of sweet, tea. She thought she'd make tea right off, said the
hostess; then anybody could take it that wanted to; some liked it, some
didn't. With unfeigned friendliness Freneli played the hostess, filled
the glasses, passed them around, and urged her guests to empty them;
all felt comfortable and at home. Uli sat down near the master and asked
him this and that--how to arrange his stables; what he thought it paid
best to plant; when he sowed this and that; what this or that soil was
best for. Johannes answered like a father, then asked in his turn, and
Uli gave his experience.

At first the women listened; but then Freneli's heart overflowed with
questions and she sought advice about the hundred and one things in
which a farmer's wife ought to be past-master; told how she had done
things heretofore, but wondered whether they could not be done better
and more profitably. Joyfully the old mistress revealed her secrets, but
often said, "I think you do it better; I must try that too." The
comfortable homeliness of the party lured in host and hostess, sensible
people, and both helped to advise and discuss what was best, and showed
their pleasure in much that they heard. And the more they heard the more
desire to learn did Uli and Freneli display and the more humble did they
become; they harkened to the experiences of the older people and
impressed them upon their memories, not burdened with useless things.

The afternoon passed by without their knowing it. All at once the sun
cast a golden beam into the room, and all that was in it floated
transfigured in its light. They started up in alarm at the unexpected
light, which almost seemed to come from a sudden conflagration. But the
hostess bade them to be at ease; that was only the sunlight; the sun
always shone in there in the spring before it set.

"Mercy, is it so late?" cried Freneli; "we must go, Uli."

"I didn't want to hurry you," said the hostess; "the moon will come up
before it's dark."

"How fast this afternoon went by?" said Johannes' wife. "I don't know as
I ever remember time going so fast."

"I feel the same way," said the hostess. "This wedding was something
different from that of so many young couples who are so bored they
don't know what to do except drink and play cards, and make you so tired
that you're glad when you see their backs. Why, sometimes I feel, when I
see a lad who can't do anything but curse on his wedding-day, and who
sticks out his borrowed pipe as if he wanted to pull down the moon, that
I'd like to give him a punch in the head, so that he'd have it where
other folks have it, and learn to talk like other folks."

The old mistress gave Freneli her hand and said, "You've grown very dear
to me, as God lives, and I won't let you go away until you promise me to
come back to us real soon."

"Very gladly," said Freneli, "if it's possible. I've been feeling, too,
as if I was talking to a mother; and if we only lived nearer, I'd come
only too often. But we have a big place and shan't be able to leave it
much, Uli and I. But you come to see us--you must promise me that; you
have grown-up children and you know your house will be all right even if
you are away."

"Yes, I'll come to see you, I promise. I've often said to Johannes that
I wondered what Slough Farm was like. And listen, if you should want a
godmother some time, don't take the trouble to go a long ways for one. I
know one that won't refuse."

"That would be good news," said Freneli, and plucked at a ribbon; "I
won't forget it, and will think of it if the time ever comes; you can
never know what may happen."

"Oh, yes, just about," laughed the other, "and then we'll see whether
you care for us or not."

Meanwhile Uli had paid the account, ordered the horse hitched up, and
now filled all the glasses and pressed them to drink a farewell glass.
Now the host came in with an extra bottle and said he wanted to do
something too and not have his drinks all paid for. He was glad that
they had been with him and he would be willing to put up a bottle of his
best every Friday if such couples would come to be married; he had had
his joy of them. When he heard that the bill had been paid, Johannes
insisted that the host bring another bottle at his expense; and the
stars were shining in the sky when, after a most affectionate farewell,
such as unrelated people seldom bid one another, the spirited Blackie
swiftly pulled a happy couple away--toward Paradise.

Yes, dear Reader, Freneli and Uli are in Paradise--that is, they live in
unclouded love, blessed by God with four boys and two girls; they live
in growing prosperity, for the blessing of God is their luck; their name
has good repute in the land, and far and wide they stand in high esteem;
for their aspiration is high, so high as to try to write their names in
Heaven. But not in a day, but after many a severe conflict did they
reach the level road and become certain of the goal.

* * * *

THE BRAeSIG EPISODES FROM UT MINE STROMTID[4]

TRANSLATED BY M.W. MACDOWALL

EDITED AND ABRIDGED BY EDMUND VON MACH, PH.D.

[UT MIND STROMTID: A story of my youth, depicts the joys and sorrows of
a North German country community during the lean years of the second
quarter of the nineteenth century. Human passions rent the hearts of men
then as now. Nobility of soul distinguished some, and was lacking in
many. Education was not universal, but common sense perhaps rather
frequent. The best road to a happy life, however, was then as always, a
kindly heart, a strict sense of justice, and a dash of unconscious
humor. This lucky combination endeared Uncle Braesig to everyone, and
enabled him to make his blustering way cheerfully, yet serenely
conscious of all joys and sorrows, amid the vicissitudes of life. He
understood the human heart, whether it beat in the breast of a child or
a tired old man, of a villain or of a loving wife. Nobody, however, was
dearer to him than Mina and Lina Nuessler, his god-children. And naughty
little girls these angelic twins were too, without respect for
grandfather's peruke or grandmother's Sunday cap. They placed them on
their own curly locks, and danced the "Kringelkranz-Rosendanz," and in
so doing broke Mina's favorite toy-jar. In their eagerness to have it
mended they ran from the house.]

* * * * *

Just as the children entered the yard a little man came in at the gate.
And this little man had a red face, and a very imposing red nose which
he always held cocked up in the air. He wore a square cap of no
particular color with a tassel in front, and a long-tailed, loose, gray
linen-coat. He always kept his feet turned out in an exaggerated first
position which made his short legs look as if they were fastened to his
body in the wrong way. He had striped trousers and long boots with
yellow tops. He was not stout, and yet he was by no means thin, in fact
his figure was beginning to lose its youthful proportions.

The children walked on, and when they had got near enough for the
farm-bailiff--for such was the calling of the little man--to see what
they were wearing, he stood still, and raised his bushy yellow eye-brows
till they were quite hidden under his pointed cap, treating them as if
they were the most beautiful part of his face, and must therefore be put
away in a safe place out of all danger: "Bless me!" cried he. "What's
the matter? What on earth have you been about? Why you've got the whole
of your old grandparent's Sunday-finery on your heads!" The two little
girls allowed themselves to be deprived of their borrowed plumes without
remonstrance, and showing the broken jar, said that the wheel-wright was
to mend it. "What!" exclaimed Mr. farm-bailiff Braesig--that was the way
he liked to be addressed--"is it possible that there is such insummate
folly in the world? Lina, you are the eldest and ought to have been
wiser; and, Mina, don't cry any more, you are my little god-child, and
so I'll give you a new jar at the summer-fair. And now get away with you
into the house." He drove the little girls before him, and followed
carrying the peruke in one hand and the cap in the other.

When he found the sitting-room empty, he said to himself: "Of course,
every one's out at the hay. Well, I ought to be looking after my hay
too, but the little round-heads have made such a mess of these two bits
of grandeur, that they'd be sure to get into a scrape if the old people
were to see what they've been after; I must stay and repair the mischief
that has been done."

[Illustration: FRITZ REUTER]

With that he pulled out the pocket-comb that he always carried about
with him to comb his back-hair over to the front of his head, and so
cover the bald place that was beginning to show. He then set to work at
the peruke, and soon got that into good order again. But how about the
cap? "What in the name of wonder have you done to this, Lina? It's
morally impossible to get it back to the proper _fassong_. Ah--let me
think. What's the old lady like on Sunday afternoons? She has a good
bunch of silk curls on each side of her face, then the front of the cap
rises about three inches higher than the curls; so the thing must be
drawn more to the front. She hasn't anything particular in the middle,
for her bald head shows through, but it always goes into a great bunch
at the back where it sticks out in a mass of frills. The child has
crushed that part frightfully, it must be ironed out." He put his
clenched fist into the cap and pulled out the frills, but just as he
thought he was getting them into good order, the string that was run
through a caser at the back of the frilled mass gave way, and the whole
erection flattened out. "Faugh!" he cried, sending his eye-brows right
up in the air. "It wasn't half strong enough to keep it firm. Only a bit
of thread! And the ends won't knot together again! God bless my soul!
whatever induced me to meddle with a cap? But, wait a bit, I'll manage
it yet." He thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew out a quantity of
string of different sizes, for like every farm-bailiff who was worth
anything he always carried a good supply of such things about with him.
He searched amongst his store for some thing that would suit the case in
hand. "Whip-cord is too thick; but this will do capitally," and then he
began to draw a piece of good strong pack-thread through the caser. It
was a work of time, and when he had got about half of it done, there was
a knock at the door; he threw his work on the nearest chair, and called
out: "Come in."

The door opened, and Hawermann entered with his little girl in his arms.
Braesig started up. "What in the--" he began solemnly, then interrupting
himself, he went on eagerly: "Charles Hawermann, where have you come
from?" "From a place, Braesig, where I have nothing more to look for,"
said his friend. "Is my sister at home?" "Every one's out at the hay;
but what do you mean?" "That it's all up with me. All the goods that I
possessed were sold by auction the day before yesterday, and yesterday
morning"--here he turned away to the window--"I buried my wife." "What?
what?" cried the kind-hearted old farm-bailiff, "good God! your wife.
Your dear little wife?" and the tears ran down his red face. "Dear old
friend, tell me how it all happened." "Ah, how it all happened?"
repeated Hawermann, and seating himself, he told the whole story of his
misfortunes as shortly as possible.

Meanwhile, Lina and Mina approached the strange child slowly and shyly,
stopping every now and then, and saying nothing, and then they went a
little nearer still. At last Lina summoned courage to touch the sleeve
of the stranger's frock, and Mina showed her the bits of her jar: "Look,
my jar is broken." But the little girl looked round the room uneasily,
till at last she fixed her great eyes on her father.

"Yes," said Hawermann, concluding his short story, "things have gone
badly with me, Braesig; I still owe you thirty pounds, don't ask for it
now, only give me time, and if God spares my life, I'll pay you back
every farthing honestly." "Charles Hawermann, Charles Hawermann," said
Braesig, wiping his eyes, and blowing his imposing nose, "you're--you're
an ass! Yes," he continued, shoving his handkerchief into his pocket
with an emphatic poke, and holding his nose even more in the air than
usual, "you're every bit as great an ass as you used to be!" And then,
as if thinking that his friend's thoughts should be led into a new
channel, he caught Lina and Mina by the waist-band and put them on
Hawermann's knee, saying "There, little round-heads, that's your uncle."
Just as if Lina and Mina were playthings and Hawermann were a little
child who could be comforted in his grief by a new toy. He, himself,
took Hawermann's little Louisa in his arms and danced about the room
with her, his tears rolling down his cheeks the while. After a short
time he put the child down upon a chair, upon the very chair on which he
had thrown his unfinished work, and right on the top of it too.

In the meanwhile the household had come back from the hay-field, and a
woman's clear voice could be heard outside calling to the maids to make
haste: "Quick, get your hoop and pails, it'll soon be sunset, and this
year the fold's[5] rather far off. We must just milk the cows in the
evening. Where's your wooden-platter, girl? Go and get it at once. Now
be as quick as you can, I must just go and have look at the children." A
tall stately woman of five-and-twenty came into the room. She seemed
full of life and energy, her cheeks were rosy with health, work, and the
summer air, her hair and eyes were bright, and her forehead, where her
chip-hat had sheltered it from the sun, was white as snow. Any one could
see the likeness between her and Hawermann at first sight; still there
was a difference, she was well-off, and her whole manner showed that she
would work as hard from temperament as he did from honor and necessity.

To see her brother and to spring to him were one and the same action:
"Charles, brother Charles, my second father," she cried throwing her
arms round his neck; but on looking closer at him, she pushed him away
from her, saying: "What's the matter? You've had some misfortune! What
is it?"

Before he had time to answer his sister's questions, her husband, Joseph
Nuessler, came in, and going up to Hawermann shook hands with him, and
said, taking as long to get out his words as dry weather does to come:
"Good day, brother-in-law; won't you sit down?" "Let him tell us what's
wrong," interrupted his wife impatiently. "Yes," said Joseph, "sit down
and tell us what has happened. Good-day, Braesig; be seated, Braesig."
Then Joseph Nuessler, or as he was generally called, young Joseph, sat
down in his own peculiar corner beside the stove. He was a tall, thin
man, who never could hold himself erect, and whose limbs bent in all
sorts of odd places whenever he wanted to use them in the ordinary
manner. He was nearly forty years old, his face was pale, and almost as
long as his way of drawling out his words, his soft blond hair, which
had no brightness about it, hung down equally long over his forehead and
his coat collar. He had never attempted to divide or curl it. When he
was a child his mother had combed it straight down over his brow, and so
he had continued to do it, and whenever it had looked a little rough and
unkempt, his mother used to say: "Never mind, Josy, the roughest colt
often makes the finest horse." Whether it was that his eyes had always
been accustomed to peer through the long hair that overhung them, or
whether it was merely his nature cannot be known with any certainty, but
there was something shy in his expression, as if he never could look
anything full in the face, or come to a decision on any subject, and
even when his hand went out to the right, his mouth turned to the left.
That, however, came from smoking, which was the only occupation he
carried out with the slightest perseverance, and as he always kept his
pipe in the left corner of his mouth, he, in course of time, had pressed
it out a little, and had drawn it down to the left, so that the right
side of his mouth looked as if he were continually saying "prunes and
prism," while the left side looked as if he were in the habit of
devouring children.

There he was now seated in his own particular corner by the stove, and
smoking out of his own particular corner of his mouth, and while his
lively wife wept in sympathy with her brother's sorrow, and kissed and
fondled him and his little daughter alternately, he kept quite still,
glancing every now and then from his wife and Hawermann at Braesig, and
muttering through a cloud of tobacco smoke: "It all depends upon what it
is. It all depends upon circumstances. What's to be done now in a case
like this?"

Braesig had quite a different disposition from young Joseph, for instead
of sitting still like him, he walked rapidly up and down the room, then
seated himself upon the table, and in his excitement and restlessness
swung his short legs about like weaver's shuttles. When Mrs. Nuessler
kissed and stroked her brother, he did the same; and when Mrs. Nuessler
took the little child and rocked it in her arms, he took it from her and
walked two or three times up and down the room with it, and then placed
it on the chair again, and always right on the top of the grandmother's
best cap.

"Bless me!" cried Mrs. Nuessler at last, "I quite forgot. Braesig, _you_
ought to have thought of it. You must all want something to eat and
drink!" She went to the blue cupboard, and brought out a splendid loaf
of white household bread and some fresh butter, then she went out of the
room and soon returned with sausages, ham and cheese, a couple of
bottles of the strong beer that was brewed on purpose for old Mr.
Nuessler, and a jug of milk for the children. When everything was neatly
arranged on a white table cloth, she placed a seat for her brother, and
lifting her little niece, chair and all, put her beside her father. Then
she set to work and cut slices of bread, and poured out the beer, and
saw that there was enough for everybody.

"I'll be ready to give you something presently," she said, stroking her
little girls' flaxen heads fondly, "but I must see to your little cousin
first. Here's a chair for you, Braesig--Come, Joseph." "All right," said
Joseph, blowing a last long cloud of smoke out of the left corner of his
mouth, and then dragging his chair forward, half sitting on it all the
time. "Charles," said Braesig, "I can recommend these sausages. Your
sister, Mrs. Nuessler, makes them most capitally, and I've often told my
housekeeper that she ought to ask for the receipt, for you see the old
woman mixes up all sorts of queer things that oughtn't to go together at
all; in short, the flavor is very extraordinary and not in the least
what it ought to be, although each of the ingredients separately is
excellent, and made of a pig properly fattened on peas." "Mother, give
Braesig some more beer," said Joseph. "No more, thank you, Mrs. Nuessler.
May I ask for a little kuemmel instead? Charles, since the time that I
was learning farming at old Knirkstaedt with you, and that rascal
Pomuchelskopp, I've always been accustomed to drink a tiny little glass
of kuemmel at breakfast and supper, and it agrees with me very well, I am
thankful to say. But, Charles, whatever induced you to have any business
transactions with such a rascal as Pomuchelskopp? I told you long ago
that he was not to be trusted, he's a regular old Venetian, he's a
cunning dog, in short, he's a--Jesuit." "Ah, Braesig," said Hawermann,
"we won't talk about it. He might have treated me differently; but still
it was my own fault, I oughtn't to have agreed to his terms. I'm
thinking of something else now. I wish I could get something to do!" "Of
course, you must get a situation as soon as possible. The Count, my
master, is looking out for a steward for his principal estate, but don't
be angry with me for saying so Charles, I don't think that it would do
for you. You see, you'd have to go to the Count every morning with
laquered boots, and a cloth coat, and you'd have to speak High-German,
for he considers our provincial way of talking very rude and
uncultivated. And then you'd have all the women bothering you, for they
have a great say in all the arrangements. You might perhaps manage with
the boots, and the coat, and the High-German--though you're rather out
of practice--but you'd never get on with the women. The Countess is
always poking about to see that all's going on rightly in the
cattle-sheds and pig-sties,--in short--it's, it's as bad as Sodom and
Gomorrah." "Bless me!" cried Mrs. Nuessler, "I remember now. The
farm-bailiff at Puempelhagen left at the midsummer-term, and that would
just be the place for you, Charles." "Mrs. Nuessler is right, as usual,"
said Braesig. "As for the _Councillor[6]_ at Puempelhagen"--he always gave
the squire of Puempelhagen his professional title, and laid such an
emphasis on the word councillor that one might have thought that he and
Mr. von Rambow had served their time in the army together, or at least
had eaten their soup out of the same bowl with the same spoon--"as for
the _Councillor_ at Puempelhagen, he is very kind to all his people,
gives a good salary, and is quite a gentleman of the old school. He
knows all about you too. It's just the very thing for you, Charles, and
I'll go with you tomorrow. What do you say, young Joseph?" "Ah!" said
Mr. Nuessler meditatively, "it all depends upon circumstances." "Good
gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Nuessler with a look of anxiety on her pretty
face. "I'm forgetting everything today. If grandfather and grandmother
ever find out that we've been having a supper-party here without their
knowledge, they'll never forgive me as long as I live. Sit a little
closer children. You might have reminded me, Joseph." "What shall I do
now?" asked Joseph, but she had already left the room.

A few minutes later she came back, accompanied by the two old people.
There was an expression of anxious watchfulness and aimless attention in
both faces, such as deaf people often have, and which is apt to
degenerate into a look of inanity and distrust. It is a very true saying
that when a husband and wife have lived many years together, and have
shared each other's thoughts and interests, they at last grow to be like
one another in appearance, and even when the features are different the
expression becomes the same. Old Mr. and Mrs. Nuessler looked thoroughly
soured, and as if they had never had the least bit of happiness or
enjoyment all their lives long, such things being too expensive for
them; their clothes were threadbare and dirty, as if they must always be
saving, saving, and even found water a luxury that cost too much money.
There was nothing comfortable about their old age, not a single gleam of
kindliness shone in their lack-lustre eyes, for they had never had but
_one_ joy, and that was their son Joseph, and his getting on in the
world. They were now worn out, and everything was tiresome to them, even
their one joy, their son Joseph, was tiresome, but they were still
anxious and troubled about his getting on in the world, that was the
only thing they cared for now. The old man had become a little childish,
but his wife had still all her wits about her, and could spy and pry
into every hole and corner, to see that everything was going on as she
wished.

Hawermann rose and shook hands with the old people, while his sister
stood close by looking at them anxiously, to see what they thought of
the visitor. She had already explained to them in a few words, why her
brother had come, and that may have been the reason that the old faces
looked even sourer than usual, but still it might be because she had
provided a better supper than she generally did. They seated themselves
at table. The old woman caught sight of Hawermann's little girl: "Is
that his child?" she asked. Her daughter-in-law nodded. "Is she going to
remain here?" she asked. Her daughter-in-law nodded again. "O--h!" said
the old woman, drawing out the word till it was long enough to cover all
the harm she thought the cost of the child's keep would bring upon her
Joseph. "Yes, these _are_ hard times," she continued, as though she
thought speaking of the times would best settle the question, "_very_
hard times, and every man has enough to do to get on in the world
himself." Meanwhile the old man had done nothing but stare at the bottle
of beer and at Braesig's glass: "Is that my beer?" he asked. "Yes,"
shouted Braesig in his ear, "and most excellent beer it is that Mrs.
Nuessler brews, it's a capital _rajeunissimang_ for a weak stomach!"
"What extravagance! What extravagance!" grumbled the old man. His wife
ate her supper, but never took her eyes off the oak chest opposite.
Young Mrs. Nuessler, who must have studied the peculiarities of her
mother-in-law with great care, looked to see what was the matter, and
found to her horror and dismay that the cap was gone from its stand.
Good gracious! what had become of it? She had plaited it up that very
morning, and hung it on the stand. "Where's my cap?" the old woman at
last inquired. "Never mind, mother," said her daughter-in-law bending
toward her, "I'll get it directly." "Is it done up yet?" The young woman
nodded, and thought, surely grandmother will be satisfied now, but the
old woman glanced into every corner of the room to see what she could
find out. Braesig's countenance changed when he heard the cap spoken of,
and he looked about him hastily to see where the "beastly thing" could
have got to, but in another moment old Mrs. Nuessler pointed at little
Louisa Hawermann, and said with a venomous smile, like a stale roll
dipped in fly-poison: "It must be plaited all over again." "What's the
matter?" cried her daughter-in-law, and starting up as she spoke, she
saw the ends of the cap ribbons hanging down below the hem of the
child's frock; she lifted her niece off the chair, and was going to have
picked up the cap, but the old woman was too quick for her. She seized
her crumpled head-gear, and when she saw the flattened puffs, and
Braesig's bit of pack-thread hanging half in and half out of the caser,
her wrath boiled over, and holding up her cap so that every one might
see it, exclaimed: "Good for nothing chit!" and was going to have struck
the little girl over the head with her cap.

But Braesig caught her by the arm and said: "The child had nothing to do
with it," and then growled out in a half whisper: "The old cat!" At the
same moment loud crying was to be heard behind the grandmother's chair,
and Mina sobbed: "I'll never, never do it again," and Lina sobbed: "And
I'll never do it again." "Bless me!" cried young Mrs. Nuessler, "it was
the little girls who did all the mischief. Mother, it was our own
children that did it." But the old woman had been too long accustomed to
turn everything to her own advantage, not to know how to make a
judicious use of her deafness; she never heard what she did not want to
hear; and she did not want to hear now. "Come," she shouted, and signed
to her husband. "Mother, mother," cried her daughter-in-law, "give me
your cap, and I'll set it to rights." "Who's at the fold?" asked the old
woman as she left the room with old Joseph. Young Joseph lighted his
pipe again. "Good gracious!" said Mrs. Nuessler, "she's quite right
there, I ought to be at the fold. Ah well, grandmother won't be civil to
me again for a month." "Crusty," said Braesig, "was an old dog, and
Crusty had to give in at last." "Don't cry any more, my pets," said the
mother, wiping her little girls' eyes. "You didn't know what harm you
were doing, you are such stupid little things. Now be good children, and
go and play with your cousin, I must go to my work. Joseph, just keep an
eye on the children, please," and then Mrs. Nuessler put on her chip-hat,
and set off to the fold where the cows were milked.

"A mother-in-law's the very devil!" said Braesig. "But you, young
Joseph," he continued, turning to Mr. Nuessler, who was smoking as calmly
as if what had happened was nothing to him, "ought to be ashamed of
yourself for allowing your mother to bully your wife." "But," said young
Joseph, "how can I interfere? I am her son." "You needn't actually
_strike_ her," said Braesig, "because your parents are given you by God,
but you might give her a little filial advice now and then, such as
befits an obedient son, and so prevent the devil of dispeace getting
into the house. And as for you, Charles Hawermann, don't take a little
tiff like this to heart, for your sister has a cheerful disposition, and
an affectionate nature, so she'll soon be on good terms with the old
skin-flints again, and they can't get on without her, she's the mainstay
of the household."

"But now," and he pulled an enormous watch out of his pocket, the kind
of watch that is called a warming-pan, "it's seven o'clock, and I must
go and look after my work-people." "Wait," said Hawermann, "I'll go part
of the way with you. Good-by for the present, Joseph." "Good-by,
brother-in-law," said young Joseph from his corner.

As soon as they were out of doors Hawermann asked "I say, Braesig, how
could you speak of the old people in such a way before their son?" "He's
quite accustomed to it, Charles. No one has a good word for the two old
misers, they've quarreled with all the neighbors, and as for the
servants, _they_ take very good care to keep out of the old wretches'
sight." "My poor sister!" sighed Hawermann; "she used to be such a merry
light-hearted girl, and now, shut up in a house with such people, and
such a Nuss (slow) of a man." "You're right enough there, Charles, he is
an old Nuss, and Nuessler (slow-coach) is his name; but _he_ never
bullies your sister, and although he is such an ass that he can manage
nothing himself, he has sense enough to see that your sister is quite
able to keep everything straight." "Poor girl! She married that man for
my sake, to make my way easier for me, she said; and for our old
mother's sake, to give her a comfortable home with one of her children
in her latter days." "I know, I know, Charles. I know it from my own
experience. Don't you remember it was during the rye-harvest, and you
said to me, Zachariah, you said, you must be in love, for you're leading
in your rye quite wet. And I said; how so? On the Sunday before that we
had had spruce-beer, and your sister was one of the party, or else I
shouldn't have led in the rye in such weather. And then I told you that
if I didn't change my mind your sister was the only one of my three
sweethearts that I'd marry. Then you laughed heartily, and said, she was
too young. What has being young to do with it? I asked. And then you
said that my other two sweethearts came first, and so they ought to have
the preference. And then you laughed again, and didn't seem to believe
that I was in earnest. A short time afterward my lord the Count changed
_his_ mind, and said he wouldn't have a married bailiff. And then a
little more time passed, and it was too late. Young Joseph made her an
offer, and your mother begged her so hard to take him, that she
consented. Ah well, that marriage ought never to have been," and Braesig
looked down gravely. After a moment's silence he went on--"When I saw
the twins I felt drawn to them, and thought that they might have been my
own, and I almost wished that the old woman, old Joseph, and young
Joseph were in their graves. It was indeed a happy day for the old
Jesuits when your sister brought her loving heart and cheerful nature
into their house, if it had been any one else there would have been
murder done long ago."

While they were talking they had left the village behind them, and were
now beside the large garden. Suddenly Hawermann exclaimed: "Look there,
the two old people are on the top of the hill yonder." "Yes," said
Braesig with a derisive chuckle, "there they are, the hypocritical old
Jesuits, standing in their hiding-place." "Hiding-place?" asked
Hawermann, astonished. "Up there on the hill?" "Even so, Charles, the
old creatures can trust no one, not even their own children, and when
they want to say anything to each other that they can't explain by their
usual signs, they always go to the very top of the hill where they can
see that there are no eavesdroppers, and shout their secrets in one
another's ears. Look at them cackling away, the old woman has laid
another dragon's egg, and now they're both going to hatch it." "How
eagerly they're talking," said Hawermann. "Do you see how the old woman
is gesticulating? What can it all be about?" "I know what they are
laying down the law about, for I know them well. And Charles," he
continued after a short silence, "it is better that you should
understand the whole state of the case at once, and then you'll know how
to act."

"They're talking about you, and your little girl." "About me, and my
little girl!" repeated Hawermann in astonishment. "Yes, Charles--don't
you see. If you had come with a great purse full of money, they would
have received you with open arms, for money is the only thing for which
they have the slightest respect; but as it is they regard you and the
child in the light of beggarly poor relations who will take the very
bread out of the mouth of their unfortunate son." "Oh!" sighed
Hawermann, "why didn't I leave the child with the Rassows? Who is to
take care of her? Can you advise me what to do? I can't leave her here
in my sister's charge for my sister's sake." "Of course you'd like to
have her near you. Well, Charles, I'll tell you something. You must
remain at the Nuesslers tonight. Tomorrow we'll go and see the
_Councillor_ at Puempelhagen: if we succeed there we'll look out for a
good place for the child in the neighborhood; and if we don't succeed,
we'll go to the town and board her for the present with Kurz, the
shopkeeper. And now good-night, Charles! Don't be down-hearted,
everything will look brighter soon." And so he went away.

Braesig arrived in good time next morning to go to Puempelhagen with
Hawermann. Mrs. Nuessler was sitting in the porch paying the
farm-servants, and Joseph was sitting beside her smoking while she
worked. Neither of the old people had come down yet, for the grandmother
had said to her daughter-in-law, she, at least, could not join them in
the parlor, for she had nothing to put on her head; and the grandfather
had said, they could all be quite happy without him. "That's really kind
of them," said Braesig. "There's no fear of our dinner being spoilt now
by their bad temper, for, Mrs. Nuessler, I'm going to spend the day with
Charles. Come, Charles, we must be off. Good-by little round-heads."

When they were out in the yard Braesig stood still, and said: "Look,
Charles, did you ever see anything more like the desert of Sahara? One
heap of manure here and another there! And look, that's the drain old
Joseph cut from the farm-yard to the village horse-pond. And as for the
roofs," he continued, "they have enough straw to make new ones, but the
old people think money expended on thatching sheer waste. I come here
often, and for two reasons; firstly because of my stomach, and secondly
because of my heart. I've always found that well-cooked food is not only
pleasant to the taste, but also produces a wholesome exhilaration when
followed by one of the little rages I generally get into here. And I
come here for the sake of your sister and the little round-heads. I know
that I am of use to her, for young Joseph just rolls on smoothly like
the wheel of the coach that runs every winter from here to Rostock. How
I should like to have him as leader in a three-horse team, harnessed
into a farm cart, and then drive him with my whip!" "Ah!" said Hawermann
as they came to a field, "they've got very good wheat here." "Yes, it's
pretty fair, but what do you think they were going to have had there
instead? Rye! And for what reason? Simply because old Joseph had sown
rye in that field every year for twenty-one years!" "Does their farm
extend to the other side of the hill?" "No, Charles, it isn't quite such
a fat morsel as all that, like bacon fried in butter and eaten with a
spoon! No, no, the wheat on the top of the hill is mine." "Ah, well,
it's odd how soon one forgets. Then your land comes down as far as
this?" "Yes, Charles; Warnitz is a long narrow estate, it extends from
here on the one side as far as Haunerwiem on the other. Now stand still
for a moment, I can show you the whole lie of the country from this
point. Where we are standing belongs to your brother-in-law, his land
reaches from my wheat-field up there to the right, as far as that small
clump of fir-trees to the left. You see, Rexow is quite a small farm,
there are only a few more acres belonging to it on the other side of the
village. To the right up there is Warnitz; and in front of us, where the
fallow ground begins, is Puempelhagen; and down there to the left, behind
the little clump of firs, is Guerlitz."

"Then Warnitz is the largest!" "No, Charles, you've mistaken me there.
Puempelhagen is the best estate in the neighborhood, the wheat-land there
produces forty-two loads, and that is eight more than Warnitz can show.
It would be a blessing if all the other places were like it. The
_Councillor_ is a good man, and understands farming, but you see his
profession obliges him to live in Schwerin, so he can't attend to
Puempelhagen. He has had a good many bailiffs of one kind or another. He
came into the estate when everything was very dear, and there are a
considerable number of apothecaries[7] on it, so that he must often feel
in want of money, and all the more so that his wife is extravagant, and
likes to live in a constant whirl of gaiety. He is a worthy man and kind
to his people, and although the von Rambows are of very old family--my
master, the Count, often asks him to dinner, and _he_ will not admit any
but members of the nobility to the honor of his acquaintance--he goes
about quite _doucimang_, and makes no fuss about his position."

Hawermann listened attentively to all that was said, for if he succeeded
in getting the place of bailiff, these things would all be of importance
to him, but his thoughts soon returned to the subject of his greatest
present anxiety. "Braesig," he said, "who is the best person to take
charge of my little girl?" "I can't think of any one. I'm afraid that we
must take her to the town to Kurz. Mrs. Kurz is an excellent woman, and
he, well he is a good hand at a bargain like all tradesmen. Only think,
he sold me a pair of trousers last year. I wanted them for Sundays--they
were a sort of chocolate color: well listen: the first morning I put
them on, I went through the clover-field, and when I came out of it, my
trousers were as red as lobsters, as high as the knee--bright scarlet I
assure you. And then he sent me some kuemmel, it was Prussian made,
wretched sweet stuff, and very bad. I returned it, and told him a bit
of my mind. But he won't take the trousers back, and tells me he never
wore them. Does the fellow imagine that _I_ will wear red trousers?
Look, Charles, that's Guerlitz down there to the left." "And that, I
suppose, is Guerlitz church-steeple?" asked Hawermann. "Yes!" said
Braesig, raising his eye-brows till they were hidden by the brim of his
hat--he always wore a hat on Sunday--and opening his mouth as wide as he
could, he stared at Hawermann as if he wanted to look him through and
through. "Charles," he exclaimed, "you spoke of Guerlitz church-steeple,
and as sure as your nose is in the middle of your face the parson at
Guerlitz must take your child." "Parson Behrens?" asked Hawermann. "Yes,
the same Parson Behrens who taught you and me at old Knirkstaedt." "Ah,
Braesig, I was just wishing last night that such a thing were possible."
"Possible? He must do it. It would be the best thing in the world for
him to have a little child toddling about his knees, and growing up
under his care, for he has no children of his own, has let all the glebe
land, and has nothing whatever to do but to read his books and study,
till any other man would see green and yellow specks dancing before his
eyes even with looking at him from a distance. It would be a capital
thing for him, and Mrs. Behrens is so fond of children that the little
ones in the village cling to her skirts whenever she goes there. She is
also a most excellent worthy woman, and so cheerful that she and your
sister get on capitally together."

"If it could only be," cried Hawermann. "What do we not both owe that
man, Zachariah, don't you remember that when he was assistant to the
clergyman at Knirkstaedt, he held an evening class during the winter, and
taught reading and writing, and how kind he always was to us stupid
boys?" "Yes, Charles, and how Samuel Pomuchelskopp used to get behind
the stove and snore till he nearly took the roof off, while we were
learning the three R's. Don't you remember when we got to the rule of
three in our sums, and tried to get the fourth unknown quantity?

"Ah yes, in quickness I had the best of it, but in correctness, you had.
You got on better than I did in o'thography, but in _style_, in writing
letters, and in High German, I was before you. And in these points I'm
much improved since then, for I've made them my study, and of course
every one has his own _speshialitee_. Whenever I see the parson I feel
bound to thank him for having educated me so well, but he always laughs
and says he owes me far more for letting his glebe at such a good rent
for him. He is on very friendly terms with me, and if you settle down
here, I'll take you to call and then you'll see it for yourself."

Meanwhile they had reached Puempelhagen, and Braesig took Hawermann quite
under his protection as they crossed the court-yard, and addressing the
old butler, asked if his master was at home and able to see them. He
would announce the gentlemen, was the servant's reply, and say that Mr.
Farm-bailiff Braesig was there. "Yes," said Braesig. "You see, Charles,
that he knows me, and the _Councillor_ knows me also--and--did you
notice?--announce! That's what the nobility always have done when any
one calls on them. My lord the Count has three servants to announce his
visitors; that is to say, one servant announces to another who it is
that has called, and the valet tells his lordship. Sometimes queer
mistakes are made, as with the huntsman the other day. The first foot
man announced to the second: 'The chief huntsman,' and the second added
the word 'master,' and the third announced the arrival of a 'grandmaster
of the huntsmen.' So the Count came forward very cordially to receive
the strange gentleman who had come to see him, and--he found no one but.
old Tibaeul the rat-catcher."

The butler now returned and showed the two friends into a good-sized
room, tastefully, but not luxuriously furnished, and in the centre of
the room was a large table covered with papers and accounts. A tall thin
man was standing beside the table when they entered; he was a
thoughtful-looking, gentle-mannered man, and the same simplicity was
observable in his dress as in the furniture of his room. He appeared to
be about fifty-two or three, and his hair was of an iron gray color; he
was perhaps shortsighted, for, as he went forward to receive his
visitors, he picked up an eye-glass that was lying on the table, but
without using it: "Ah, Mr. Braesig," he said quietly, "what can I do for
you?" Uncle Braesig now involved himself in such a labyrinth of words in
his desire to speak grandly as befitted his company, that he would never
have extricated himself if the squire had not come to the rescue.
Looking more attentively at Hawermann he said: "You want * * *? but," he
interrupted himself, "I ought to know you. Wait a moment. Were you not
serving your apprenticeship twelve years ago on my brother's estate?"
"Yes, Sir, and my name is Hawermann." "Of course it is. And to what do I
owe the pleasure of seeing you here?" "I heard that you were looking out
for a farm-bailiff, and as I was in want of just such a place * * *."
"But I thought you had a farm in Pomerania?" interrupted the squire. Now
was the time for Braesig to speak if he was going to say anything of
importance, so he exclaimed: "It's quite true, Mr. Councillor von
Rambow, that he had one, _had_ it, but has it no longer, and it's no use
crying over spilt milk. Like many other farmers he met with reverses,
and the hardness and wickedness of his landlord ruined him. What do you
think of that, Sir?"

At this moment there was a loud shout of laughter behind Braesig's back,
and when he turned round to see who it was he found himself face to face
with a boy of ten or twelve years old. Mr. von Rambow also smiled, but
fortunately it never occurred to Braesig that their amusement could mean
anything but satisfaction with a well delivered speech, so he went on
seriously: "And then he came a regular cropper." "I'm very sorry to hear
it," said Mr. von Rambow. "Yes," he continued with a, sigh, "these are
very hard times for farmers, I only hope they'll change soon. But now to
business--Alick, just run upstairs and see if breakfast is ready. It is
quite true that I am looking out for a new bailiff, as I have been
obliged to part with the last man, because of--well, his carelessness in
keeping accounts--but," said he, as his son opened the door and
announced that breakfast was ready, "you hav'n't had breakfast yet, we
can finish our talk while we eat it." He went to the door, and standing
there signed to his guests to precede him. "Charles," whispered Braesig,
"didn't I tell you? Quite like one of ourselves?" But when Hawermann
quietly obeyed the squire's sign and went out first, he raised his
eyebrows up to his hair, and stretched out his hand as though to pull
his friend back by his coat-tails. Then sticking out one of his short
legs and making a low bow, he said, "Pardon me--I couldn't think of
it--the _Councillor_ always has the _paw_." His way of bowing was no
mere form, for as he had a long body and short legs it was both deep and
reverential.

Mr. von Rambow went on first to escape his guest's civilities, and
Braesig brought up the rear. The whole business was talked over in all
its bearings during breakfast; Hawermann got the place of bailiff with a
good salary to be raised in five or six years, and only one condition
was made, and that was that he should enter on his duties at once. The
new bailiff promised to do so, and the following day was fixed for
taking stock of everything in and about the farm, so that both he and
his employer might know how matters stood before the squire had to leave
Puempelhagen. Then Braesig told the "sad life-story" of the old
thoroughbred, which had come down to being odd horse about the farm, and
which he "had had the honor of knowing from its birth," and told how it
"had spavin, grease and a variety of other ailments, and so had been
reduced to dragging a cart for its sins." After that he and Hawermann
took leave of Mr. von Rambow.

"Braesig," said Hawermann, "a great load has been taken off my heart.
Thank God, I shall soon be at work again, and that will help me to bear
my sorrow. Now for Guerlitz--Ah, if we are only as fortunate there."
"Yes, Charles, you may well say you are fortunate, for you are certainly
wanting in the knowledge of life and fine tact that are necessary for
any one to possess who has to deal with the nobility. How _could_ you,
how _could_ you go out of the room before the _Councillor_?" "I only did
as he desired me, Braesig, and I was his guest, not his servant then. I
wouldn't do so _now_, and believe me, he'll never ask me to do it
again." "Well, Charles, let me manage the whole business for you at the
parsonage. I'll do it with the greatest _finesse_." "Certainly Braesig,
it will be very kind of you to do it for me; if it were not for my dear
little girl, I should never have the courage to ask such a favor. If you
will take the task off my shoulders, I shall look upon it as the act of
a true friend."

When they passed Guerlitz church they heard from the singing that service
was still going on, so they determined to wait in the parsonage till it
was over, but on entering the sitting-room, a round active little woman
about forty years old came forward to receive them. Everything about her
was round, arms and fingers, head, cheeks and lips; and her round eyes
twinkled so merrily in her round smiling face that one would at once
jump to the conclusion that she had never known sorrow, and her every
action was so cheery and full of life that one could easily see that she
had a warm heart in her breast. "How d'ye do, Mr. Braesig, sit down, sit
down. My pastor is still in church, but he would scold me if I allowed
you to go away. Sit down, Sir--who are you? I should have liked to have
gone to church today, but only think, the clergyman's seat broke down
last Sunday; lots of people go to it, you see, and one can't say 'no,'
and old Pruesshawer, the carpenter, who was to have mended it this week,
is down with a fever." Her words poured out smoothly like polished
billiard-balls rolled by a happy child over the green cloth.

Braesig now introduced Hawermann as Mrs. Nuessler's brother. "And so you
are her brother Charles. _Do_ sit down, my pastor will be delighted to
see you. Whenever Mrs. Nuessler comes here she tells us something about
you, and always in your praise--Mr. Braesig can vouch for that. Good
gracious, Braesig, what have _you_ got to do with my hymn-book? Just put
it down, will you. _You_ never read such things, you are nothing but an
old heathen. These are hymns for the dying, and what are hymns for the
dying to you? _You_ are going to live for ever. You're not a whit better
than the wandering Jew! One has to think of death sometimes, and as our
seat is broken, and the old carpenter has a fever, I have been reading
some meditations for the dying." While saying this she quickly picked up
her books and put them away, carefully going through the unnecessary
ceremony of dusting a spotless shelf before laying them down on it.
Suddenly she went to the door leading to the kitchen, and stood there
listening; then exclaiming: "I was sure I heard it--the soup's boiling
over," hastened from the room. "Well, Charles--wasn't I right? Isn't she
a cheery, wholesome-natured woman? I'll go and arrange it all for you,"
and he followed Mrs. Behrens to the kitchen.

Hawermann looked round the room, and admired the cleanly, comfortable,
home-like, and peaceful look of everything around him. Over the sofa was
a picture of our Saviour, and encircling it, above and below, were
portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Behrens' relations, some colored, some black,
some large, and some small. In the picture of our Lord, His hands were
raised in blessing, so Mrs. Behrens had hung the portraits of her
relatives beneath it that they might have the best of the blessing, for
she always regarded herself as the "nearest." She had hung her own
portrait, taken when she was a girl, and that of her husband in the
least prominent place over against the window, but God's sun, which
shone through the white window-curtains, and gilded the other pictures,
lighted up these two first of all. There was a small book-case
containing volumes of sacred and profane literature all mixed up
together, but they looked very well indeed, for they were arranged more
in accordance with the similarity of their bindings than with that of
their contents. Let no one imagine that Mrs. Behrens did not care for
reading really good standard works, because she spoke the Provincial
German of her neighborhood. Whoever took the trouble to open one of the
books, which had a mark in it, would see that she was quite able to
appreciate good writing, and her cookery-book showed that she studied
her own subjects as thoroughly as her husband did his, for the book was
quite full of the notes and emendations she had written at the sides of
the pages in the same way as Mr. Behrens made notes in his books. As for
her husband's favorite dishes she "knew them," she said, "by heart, and
had not to put in a mark to show where they were to be found."

And it, was in this quiet home that Hawermann's little daughter was to
spend her childhood, if God let him have his wish. The raised hands in
the Saviour's picture would seem to bless his little girl, and the
sunlight would shine upon her through these windows, and in those books
she would read what great and good men had written, and by their help
would gradually waken from childish dreams into the life and thoughts of
womanhood.

As he was sitting there full of alternating hopes and fears, Mrs.
Behrens came back, her eyes red with weeping: "Don't say another word,
Mr. Hawermann, don't say another word. Braesig has told me all, and
though Braesig is a heathen, he is a good man, and a true friend to you
and yours. And my pastor thinks the same as I do, I know that, for we
have always been of one mind about everything. My goodness, what
hard-hearted creatures the old Nuesslers are," she added, tapping her
foot impatiently on the floor. "The old woman," said Braesig, "is a
perfect harpy." "You're right, Braesig, that's just what she is. My
pastor must try to touch the conscience of the two old people; I don't
mean about the little girl, she will come here and live with us, or I
know nothing of my pastor."

Whilst Hawermann was expressing his deep gratitude to Mrs. Behrens her
husband came in sight. She always talked of him as "_her_" pastor,
because he belonged to her soul and body, and "_pastor_" because of his
personal and official dignity. He had nothing on his head, for those
high soft caps that our good protestant clergy now wear in common with
the Russian popes were not the fashion at that time, in the country at
least, and instead of wide bands, resembling the white porcelain plate
on which the daughter of Herodias received the head of John the Baptist
from her stepfather, he wore little narrow bands, which his dear wife
Regina had sewed, starched and ironed for him in all Christian humility,
and these little bits of lawn she rightly held to be the true insignia
of his office, and not the gown, which was fastened to his collar with a
small square piece of board. "For, my dear Mrs. Nuessler," she said, "the
clerk has a gown exactly the same as that, but he dar'n't wear bands,
and when I see my pastor in the pulpit with these signs of his office
on, and watch them rising and falling as he speaks, I sometimes think
that they look like angels' wings upon which one might go straight away
up to heaven, except that the angels wear their wings behind, and my
pastor's are in front."

The parson was not an angel by any means, and was the last man in the
world to think himself one, but still his conduct was so upright, and
his face so expressive of love and good-will, that any one could see in
a moment that he was a good man, and that his was a serious, thoughtful
mode of life, and yet--when his wife had taken off his gown and
bands--there was a bright sparkle in his eye that showed he did not at
all disdain innocent mirth. He was a man who could give good counsel in
worldly matters as well as in spiritual, and he was always ready to
stretch out a helping hand to those in need of it.

He recognized Hawermann the moment he saw him, and welcomed him
heartily. "How d'ye do, dear old friend, what an age it is since I saw
you last. How are you getting on? Good morning, Mr. Braesig." Just as
Braesig was about to explain the reason of his and Hawermann's visit,
Mrs. Behrens, who had begun to take off her husband's clerical garments,
called out: "Don't speak, Mr. Hawermann; Braesig be quiet, leave it all
to me. I'll tell you all about it," she continued, turning to her
husband, "for the story is a sad one--yes, Mr. Hawermann, terribly
sad--and so it will be better for me to speak. Come," and she carried
her pastor off to his study, saying in apology for doing so as she left
the room: "I am the nearest to him, you know."

[Illustration: BIBLE LESSON BENJAMIN VAUTIER]

When Mr. Behrens returned to the parlor with his wife, he went straight
up to Hawermann, and taking his hand, said: "Yes, dear Hawermann, yes,
we'll do it. We'll do all that lies in our power with, very great
pleasure. We have had no experience in the management of children, but
we will learn--won't we, Regina?" He spoke lightly, for he saw how
deeply Hawermann felt his kindness, and therefore wished to set him at
ease. "Reverend Sir," he exclaimed at last, "you did much for me in the
old days, but this * * *." Little Mrs. Behrens seized her duster, her
unfailing recourse in great joy or sorrow, and rubbed now this, and now
that article of furniture vigorously, indeed there is no saying whether
she might not have dried Hawermann's tears with it, had he not turned
away. She then went to the door and called to Frederika: "Here, Rika,
just run down to the weaver's wife, and ask her to send me her cradle,
for," she added, addressing Braesig, "she doesn't require it." And Braesig
answered gravely: "But Mrs. Behrens, the child isn't quite a baby." So
the clergyman's wife went to the door again, and called to the servant
"Rika, Rika, not the cradle. Ask her to lend me a crib instead, and then
go to the parish-clerk's daughter, and see if she can come this
afternoon. Good gracious! I forgot it was Sunday! But if thine ass falls
into a pit, and so on--yes, ask her if she will come and help me to
stuff a couple of little mattresses. It isn't a bit heathenish of me
to do this, Braesig, for it's a work of necessity, as much so as when you
have to save the Count's wheat on a Sunday afternoon. And, my dear Mr.
Hawermann, the little girl must come to us this very day, for Frank,"
turning to her husband, "the old Nuesslers will grudge the child her
food, and Braesig, bread that is grudged * * *" she stopped for breath,
and Braesig put in: "Yes, Mrs. Behrens, bread that is grudged maketh fat,
but the devil take that kind of fatness!" "You old heathen! How _dare_
you swear so in a Christian parsonage," cried Mrs. Behrens. "But the
short and the long of it is that the child must come here today." "Yes,
Mrs. Behrens," said Hawermann, "I'll bring her to you this afternoon. My
poor sister will be sorry; but it's better for her and her household
peace that it should be so, and for my little girl * * *." He then
thanked the clergyman and his wife gratefully and heartily, and when he
had said good-by, and he and Braesig were out of doors, he drew a long
breath of relief, and said "Everything looked dark to me this morning,
but now the sun has begun to shine again, and though I have a
disagreeable bit of business before me, it is a happy day." "What is it
that you have to do?" asked Braesig. "I must go to Rahnstaedt to see old
Moses. He has held a bill of mine for seventy-five pounds for the last
eighteen months. He took no part in my bankruptcy, and I want to arrange
matters with him." "Yes, Charles, you ought to make everything straight
with him as soon as you can, for old Moses is by no means the worst of
his kind. Now then, let's lay out our plan of operations for today. We
must return to Rexow at once, dine there, and after dinner young Joseph
must get the carriage ready for you to take your little girl to Guerlitz;
from Guerlitz you should drive on to Rahnstaedt, and then in the evening
come over to Warnitz and spend the night with me, and early next morning
you can be at Puempelhagen with the Councillor, who expects to see you in
good time." "That will do very well," said Hawermann.

[Wheat was again growing in the field by the mill, as when Hawermann
came to Puempelhagen eleven years before. The same people still lived in
the various villages and estates, only the manor house of Guerlitz had
changed hands, for Pomuchelskopp, the man who had brought about
Hawermann's failure in Pomerania, lived there now. His was the only
house which uncle Braesig shunned, everywhere else he was the welcome
guest bringing sunshine whenever he arrived. His breezy common sense
often recalled his friends from useless trains of thought. "Braesig,"
said Hawermann, "I don't know what other people may think of it, but
life and work always seem to me to be one and the same thing." "Oh, ho!
Charles, I have you now! You learnt that from pastor Behrens. But,
Charles, that is a wrong way of looking at it, it goes clean against
Scripture. The Bible tells us of the lilies of the field, how they toil
not, neither do they spin, and yet our Heavenly Father feeds them. And
if God feeds them, they are alive, and yet they do not work. And when I
have that confounded gout, and can do nothing--absolutely nothing,
except flap the beastly flies away from my face--can I be said to work?
And yet I am alive, and suffer horrible torture into the bargain."
Gradually this torture grew so unbearable that uncle Braesig had to
submit to treatment at a watering place.]

Spring was gone, and summer had come, when one Sunday morning Hawermann
received a letter from Braesig dated from Warnitz, in which his friend
requested him to remain at home that day, for he had returned and
intended to call on him that afternoon. When Braesig arrived, he sprang
from his saddle with so much force that one might have thought he wanted
to go through the road with both legs. "Oho!" cried Hawermann, "how
brisk you are! You're all right now, ar'n't you?" "As right as a
trivet, Charles. I've renewed my youth." "Well, how have you been
getting on, old boy?" asked Hawermann, when they were seated on the
sofa and their pipes were lighted. "Listen, Charles. Cold, damp, watery,
clammy-that's about what it comes to. It's just turning a human being
into a frog, and before a man's nature is so changed, he has such a hard
time of it that he begins to wish that he had come into the world a
frog: still, it isn't a bad thing! You begin the day with the common
packing, as they call it. They wrap you up in cold, damp sheets, and
then in woollen blankets, in which they fasten you up so tight that you
can't move any part of your body except your toes. In this condition
they take you to a bath-room, and a man goes before you ringing a bell
to warn the ladies to keep out of your way. Then they place you, just as
God made you, in a bath, and dash three pails of water over your bald
head, if you happen to have one, and after that they allow you to go
away. Well, do you think that that's the end of it? Nay, Charles,
there's more to follow; but it's a good thing all the same. Now you've
got to go for a walk in a place where you've nothing earthly to do. I've
been accustomed all my life to walk a great deal, but then it was doing
something, ploughing or harrowing, spreading manure or cutting corn, and
there I'd no occupation whatever. While walking you are expected to
drink ever so many tumblers of water, ever so many. Some of the people
were exactly like sieves, they were always at it, and they used to gasp
out 'What splendid water it is!' Don't believe them, Charles, it is
nothing but talk. Water applied externally is bad enough in all
conscience, but internally it's still more horrible. Then comes the
sitz-bath. Do you know what a bath at four degrees below zero is like?
It's very much what you would feel if you were in hell, and the devil
had tied you down to a glowing iron chair, under which he kept up a
roaring fire; still it's a good thing! Then you've to walk again till
dinner-time. And now comes dinner. Ah, Charles, you have no idea what a
human being goes through at a water-cure place! You've got to drink no
end of water. Charles, I've seen ladies, small and thin as real angels,
drink each of them three caraffes as large as laundry-pails at a
sitting--and then the potatoes! Good gracious, as many potatoes were
eaten in a day as would have served to plant an acre of ground! These
water-doctors are much to be pitied, their patients must eat them out of
house and home. In the afternoon the water-drinking goes on as merrily
as before, and you may now talk to the ladies if you like; but in the
morning you may not approach them, for they are not then dressed for
society. Before dinner some of them are to be seen running about with
wet stockings, as if they had been walking through a field of clover,
others have wet bandages tied round their heads, and all of them let
their hair hang down over their shoulders, and wear a Venus' girdle
round their waists, which last, however, is not visible. But in the
afternoon, as I said, you may talk to them as much as you like, but will
most likely get short answers unless you speak to them about their
health, and ask them how often they have been packed, and what effect it
had on them, for that is the sort of conversation that is most approved
of at a water-cure establishment. After amusing yourself in this way for
a little you must have a touche (douche), that is a great rush of
ice-cold water--and that's a good thing too. Above all, Charles, you
must know that what every one most dislikes, and whatever is most
intensely disagreeable is found to be wholesome and good for the
constitution." "Then you ought to be quite cured of your gout," said
Hawermann, "for of all things in the world cold water was what you
always disliked the most." "It's easy to see from that speech that
you've never been at the water-cure, Charles. Listen--this is how the
doctor explained the whole thing to me. That confounded gout is the
chief of all diseases--in other words, it is the source of them all, and
it proceeds from the gouty humor which is in the bones, and which simply
tears one to pieces with the pain, and this gouty substance comes from
the poisonous matter one has swallowed as food--for example, kuemmel or
tobacco--or as medicine at the apothecary's. Now you must understand
that any one who has gout must, if he wishes to be cured, be packed in
damp sheets, till the water has drawn all the tobacco he has ever
smoked, and all the kueimmel he has ever drunk out of his constitution.
First the poisonous matter goes, then the gouty matter, and last of all
the gout itself." "And has it been so with you?" "No." "Why didn't you
remain longer then? I should have stayed on, and have got rid of it once
for all if I had been you." "You don't know what you are talking about,
Charles. No one could stand it, and no one has ever done it all at once.
* * * But now let me go on with my description of our daily life. After
the touche you are expected to walk again, and by the time that is
finished it has begun to grow dusk. You may remain out later if you
like, and many people do so, both gentlemen and ladies, or you may go
into the house and amuse yourself by reading. I always spent the evening
in studying the water-books written by an author named Franck, who is, I
understand, at the head of his profession. These books explain the plan
on which the water-doctors proceed, and give reasons for all they do;
but it's very difficult to understand. I could never get further than
the two first pages, and these were quite enough for me, for when I'd
read them I felt as light-headed and giddy as if I had been standing on
my head for half an hour. You imagine, no doubt, Charles, that the water
in your well is water? He does not think so! Listen, fresh air is
divided into three parts: oxygen, nitrogen, and black carbon; and water
is divided into two parts: carbon and hydrogen. Now the whole water-cure
the'ry is founded on water and air. And listen, Charles, just think of
the wisdom of nature: when a human being goes out into the fresh air he
inhales both black carbon and nitrogen through his windpipe, and as his
constitution can't stand the combination of these two dreadful things,
the art of curing by water steps in, and drives them out of his throat.
And the way that it does so is this the oxygen grapples with the carbon,
and the hydrogen drives the nitrogen out of your body. Do you
understand me, Charles?" "No," said Hawermann, laughing heartily, "you
can hardly expect me to do that." "Never laugh at things you don't
understand, Charles. Listen--I have smelt the nitrogen myself, but as
for the black carbon, what becomes of it? That is a difficult question,
and I didn't get on far enough with the water-science to be able to
answer it. Perhaps you think that parson Behrens could explain the
matter to me, but no, when I asked him yesterday he said that he knew
nothing about it. And now, Charles, you'll see that I've still got the
black carbon in me, and that I shall have that beastly gout again."

"But, Zachariah, why didn't you remain a little longer and get thoroughly
cured?" "Because," and Braesig cast down his eyes, and looked
uncomfortable, "I couldn't. Something happened to me. Charles," he
continued, raising his eyes to his friend's face, "you've known me from
my childhood, tell me, did you ever see me disrespectful to a woman?"
"No, Braesig, I can bear witness that I never did." "Well, then, just
think what happened. A week ago last Friday the gout was very
troublesome in my great toe--you know it always begins by attacking the
small end of the human wedge--and the water-doctor said: 'Mr. Bailiff,'
he said, 'you must have an extra packing, Dr. Strump's colchicum is the
cause of this, and we must get rid of it.' Well, it was done; he packed
me himself, and so tight that I had hardly room to breathe, telling me
for my comfort that water was more necessary for me than air, and then
he wanted to shut the window. 'No,' I said, 'I understand the the'ry
well enough to know that I must have fresh air, so please leave the
window open.' He did as I asked, and went away.[8] I lay quite still in
my compress thinking no evil, when suddenly I heard a great humming and
buzzing in my ears, and when I could look up, I saw a swarm of bees
streaming in at my window, preceded by their queen. I knew her well,
Charles, for as you know I am a bee-keeper. One spring the school-master
at Zittelwitz and I got fifty-seven in a field. I now saw that the queen
was going to settle on the blanket which the doctor had drawn over my
head. What was to be done? I couldn't move. I blew at her, and blew and
blew till my breath was all gone. It was horrible! The queen settled
right on the bald part of my head--for I had taken off my wig as usual to
save it--and now the whole swarm flew at my face. That was enough for me.
Quickly I rolled out of bed, freed myself from the blanket, wriggled out
of the wet sheets, and reached the door, for the devil was at my heels. I
got out at the door, and striking out at my assailants blindly and madly,
shrieked for help. God be praised and thanked for the existence of the
water-doctor--his name is Ehrfurcht--he came to my rescue, and, taking me
to another room, fetched me my clothes, and so after a few hours' rest I
was able to go down to the dining-room-_salong_ as they call it--but
I still had half a bushel of bee-stings in my body. I began to speak to
the gentlemen, and they did nothing but laugh. Why did they laugh,
Charles? You don't know, nor do I. I turned to one of the ladies, and
spoke to her in a friendly way about the weather; she blushed. What was
there in the weather to make her red? I can't tell, nor can you,
Charles. I spoke to the lady who sings, and asked her very politely to
let us hear the beautiful song which she sings every evening. What did
she do, Charles? She turned her back upon me! I now busied myself with
my own thoughts, but the water-doctor came up to me, and said
courteously: 'Don't be angry with me, Mr. Bailiff, but you've made
yourself very remarkable this afternoon.' 'How?' I asked. 'Miss von
Hinkefuss was crossing the passage when you ran out of your room, and
she has told every one else in strict confidence.' 'And so,' I said,
'you give me no sympathy, the gentlemen laugh at me, and the ladies turn
their pretty backs upon me. No, I didn't come here for that! If Miss von
Hinkefuss had met _me_, if half a bushel of bee-stings had been planted
in _her_ body, I should have asked her every morning with the utmost
propriety how she was. But let her alone! There is no market where
people can buy kind-heartedness! Come away, doctor, and pull the stings
out of my body.' He said he couldn't do it. 'What!' I asked, 'can't you
pull bee-stings out of a man's skin?' 'No,' he said, 'that is to say, I
_can_ do it, but I dare not, for that is an operation such as surgeons
perform, and I have no diploma for surgery from the Mecklenburg
government.' 'What?' I asked, 'you are allowed to draw gout out of my
bones, but it is illegal for you to draw a bee-sting out of my skin? You
dare not meddle with the outer skin which you can see, and yet you
presume to attack my internal maladies which you can't see? _Thank_
you!' Well, Charles, from that moment I lost all faith in the
water-doctor, and without faith they can do nothing as they themselves
tell you when it comes to the point. So I went away quietly and got old
Metz, the surgeon at Rahnstaedt, to draw out the stings. That was the end
of the water-cure; still it's a good thing; one gets new ideas in a
place like that, and even if one's gout is not cured, one gains some
notion of what a human being can suffer. And now, Charles, this is a
water-book I have brought you, you can study it in the winter-evenings."

[Three more years had passed, and Louisa Hawermann at the parsonage was
repaying her father's and her foster parents' love and care by growing
up the loveliest girl of the neighborhood. Uncle Braesig, to be sure,
would have qualified this by saying "next to his two round-heads." No
qualification, however, was justified in the eyes of Frank von Rambow
and Fred Triddelfitz, the two young men studying agriculture under
Hawermann. They fell in love with her, each after his own fashion. Frank
deeply and lastingly, Fred--whom uncle Braesig loved to call the "gray
hound"--ardently if not irretrievably. This, however, he did not know,
and as he felt his blood seething, he was thoroughly wretched.]

No human being can stand more than a certain amount of pain, after that
it becomes unbearable and a remedy must be found; now the only remedy a
lover finds effectual is an interview with his sweetheart. Matters had
come to such a pass with Fred that he could no longer exist without
seeing Louisa, so he began to lie in wait for her in all sorts of holes
and corners. Every hollow-tree was a good hiding-place from which he
could watch for her coming, every ditch was of use in concealing his
advance, every hill was a look-out from which he could sweep the country
with his gaze, and every thicket served him for an ambush. He was so
much in earnest that he could not fail to succeed in his attempts to see
her, and he often gave Louisa a great fright by pouncing out upon her,
when she least expected him, and when she was perhaps thinking of * * *
we will not say Frank. Sometimes he was to be seen rearing his long
slight figure out of a bush like a snake in the act of springing,
sometimes his head would appear above the green ears of rye like a seal
putting its head above water, and sometimes as she passed under a tree
he would drop down at her side from the branches where he had been
crouched like a lynx waiting for its prey. At first she did not mind it
much, for she looked upon it as a new form of his silly practical
joking, and so she only laughed and talked to him about some indifferent
subject; but she soon discovered that a very remarkable change had taken
place in him. He spoke gravely and solemnly and uttered the merest
nothings as if they had been the weightiest affairs of state. He passed
his hand meditatively across his forehead as if immersed in profound
thought, and when she spoke of the weather, he laid his hand upon his
heart as if he were suffering from a sudden pain in the side. When she
asked him to come to Guerlitz he shook his head sadly, and said: Honor
forbade him to do so. When she asked him about her father, his words
poured forth like a swiftly flowing stream: The bailiff was an angel;
there never was, and never would be such a man again on the face of the
earth; _his_ father was good and kind, but _hers_ was the prince of
fathers. When she asked after Miss Fidelia, he said: He never troubled
himself about women, and was utterly indifferent to _almost_ all of
them; but once when, as ill luck would have it, she asked him about
Frank, his eyes flashed and he shouted "Ha!" once or twice with a sort
of snort, laughed scornfully, caught hold of her hand, slipped a bit of
paper into it, and plunged head foremost into the rye-field, where he
was soon lost to sight. When she opened the paper she found that it
contained the following effusion:

TO HER.

"When with tender Silvery light
Luna peeps the clouds between,
And 'spite of dark disastrous night
The radiant sun is also seen
When the wavelets murmuring flow
When oak and ivy clinging grow,
Then, O then, in that witching hour
Let us meet _in my_ lady's bow'r.

"Where'er thy joyous step doth go
Love waits upon thee ever,
The spring-flow'rs in my hat do show
I'll cease to love thee never.
When thou'rt gone from out my sight
Vanished is my sole delight,
_Alas!_ Thou ne'er canst understand
What I've suffered at thy hand.

"My _vengeance_ dire! will fall on him,
The foe who has hurt me sore,
Hurt _me!_ who writes this poem here;
_Revenge!!_ I'll seek for evermore.

FREDERIC TRIDDELFITZ.
_Puempelhagen, July 3d, 1842._"

The first time that Louisa read this effusion she could make nothing of
it, when she had read it twice she did not understand it a bit better,
and after the third reading she was as far from comprehending it as she
had been at first; that is to say, she could not make out who it was on
whom the unhappy poet wished to be revenged. She was not so stupid as
not to know that the "Her" was intended for herself.

She would have liked to have been able to think that the whole affair
was only a silly joke, but when she remembered Fred's odd manner she was
obliged to confess that it was anything but a joke, and so she
determined to keep as much as possible out of his way. She was such a
tender-hearted little creature that she was full of compassion for
Fred's sufferings. Now pity is a bridge that often leads to the
beautiful meadows stretched on the other side of it full of rose-bushes
and jasmine-hedges, which are as attractive to a maiden of seventeen as
cherries to a bird, and who knows whether Louisa might not have been
induced to wander in those pleasant groves, had she not been restrained
by the thought of Fred riding amongst the roses on the old sorrel-horse,
holding a great slice of bread and butter in one hand and a bottle of
beer in the other. In spite of her compassion for him she could not help
laughing, and so remained safely on this side of the bridge; she liked
best to watch Fred from a distance, for the sorrel might have lain down
in the pond again, and Fred might have smeared her with the bread and
butter. The stupidest lads under the sun may often win the love of girls
of seventeen, and even men with only an apology for a heart are
sometimes successful, but alas for the young fellow who has ever
condescended to wear motley, he can never hope to win his lady's
affection, for nothing is so destructive to young love as a hearty fit
of laughter.

Louisa could not restrain her laughter when she thought of the ludicrous
scene that had just taken place, but she suddenly stopped in the midst
of her merriment, for she felt as if a soft hand had just taken hers,
and as if a pair of dark eyes were looking at her affectionately.
Perhaps this thought may have come into her head because she caught
sight of Frank coming toward her from the distance. The next moment it
flashed into her mind that it was Frank on whom Fred wished to be
revenged, and so when they met a deep blush overspread her face, and
feeling that that was the case made her so angry with herself that she
blushed even deeper than before. Frank spoke to her in his usual
courteous manner about indifferent things, but she was strangely shy,
and answered him at cross-purposes, for her mind was full of Fred and
his vows of vengeance.

"Heaven knows what's the matter," thought Frank as he was returning home
after having walked a short way with her, "she isn't at all like herself
today. Is it my fault? Has she had anything to vex or annoy her? What
was that piece of paper she was tearing up?" Meanwhile he had reached
the place where he had met her. Some of the bits of paper were still
lying on the ground, and he saw on one of them, without picking it up:
"_Revenge!_ I'll seek for evermore. Frederic Triddelfitz." This made him
curious, for he knew Fred's handwriting, so he looked about and found
two more bits of paper, but when he put them together he could make
nothing more out of them but "clinging grows * * * that witching hour *
* * meet in my lady's bow'r. * * * Spring flowers. * * * I'll cease to *
* * from out my sight * * * my sole delight. * * * _Alas!_ thou ne'er *
* * my _vengeance_ dire! * * * The foe * * * _Revenge!!_ I'll seek for
evermore. Frederic Triddelfitz." The wind had blown away all the rest.

There was not much to be made out of it, but after a time Frank came to
the conclusion that Fred Triddelfitz was in love with Louisa, dogged her
footsteps, and wanted to be revenged on her for some reason only known
to himself. It was a ridiculous affair altogether, but still when he
remembered that Fred Triddelfitz was as full of tricks as a donkey's
hide of gray hair, and that he might easily do something that would be
of great annoyance to Louisa, Frank determined to keep watch, and not to
let Fred out of his sight when he went in the direction of Guerlitz.

Fred had broken the ice, he had spoken, he had done his part, and it was
now Louisa's turn to speak if anything was to come of it. He waited, and
watched, and got no answer. "It's a horrid shame," he said to himself.
"But she isn't up to this sort of thing yet, I must show her what she
ought to do." Then he sat down and wrote a letter in a feigned hand.

Address: "To Her that you know of.
Inscription: "Sweet Dream of my soul!

"This letter can tell you nothing, it only contains what is absolutely
necessary for you to learn, and you will find it in the _third_
rose-bush in the _second_ row. I'll tell you the rest by word of mouth,
and will only add: Whenever you see a _cross_ drawn in white _chalk_ on
the garden-door, you will find the disclosure of my sentiments under the
flower-pot beside the third rose-bush in the Second row. The _waving_ of
a _pocket-handkerchief_ on the _Guerlitz_ side of the house will be a
token of your presence, and of your desiring an interview; _my_ signal,
on the other hand, will be _whistling_ three times on the crook of my
stick. (Our shepherd taught me how to do it, and love makes everything
easy to learn.) _Randyvoo:_ The large ditch to the _right_ of the
bridge.

"Ever thine!!

"From Him whom you know of."

"P.S. Pardon me for having written this in my shirt-sleeves, it is such
a frightfully hot day.----"

This letter fell into the wrong hands, for it was Mrs. Behrens who found
it when she went out to water her flowers, whilst Louisa, who was now a
notable little housekeeper, was busy indoors making gooseberry jam. The
clergyman's wife had no scruples about opening and reading the letter,
and after she had done so she was quite convinced that it was intended
for Louisa, and had been written by her nephew Fred.

She could not tell Louisa of her discovery, for that would simply have
been playing into Fred's hands, she had therefore to content herself
with talking of letters in general, and trying to find out in a
roundabout kind of way whether Louisa had received any epistles such as
she had in her pocket, but as the girl did not understand what she
meant, she determined not to tell her pastor what had happened. For, she
thought, why should she make him angry by telling him of the foolish
boy's love troubles, and besides that, it would have been very painful
for her to have to give evidence against her own flesh and blood--and
unfortunately Fred was her sister's son. But she wished with all her
heart that she could have had a few minutes' quiet talk with the culprit
himself, and that was impossible, for she never saw him by any chance.

She was very silent and thoughtful for a few days, and took the entire
charge of watering the flowers into her own hands. It was just as well
that she did so, for soon afterward she found a letter drenched with
rain under the third rose-bush in the second row. This letter was still
more to the point than the last:

Address: "To _Her_, the _only_ woman I adore.
Inscription: "Soul of my existence!!

"We are surrounded by pitfalls; I am aware that our foe watches my every
step. Cowardly _spy_, I _scorn_ you! Have no fear, Beloved, I will
conquer all difficulties. One bold deed will bring our love
_recognition._ At two o'clock tomorrow afternoon, when the _Dragon_ is
asleep that guards my _treasure,_ I shall expect to See your signal with
the pocket-handkerchief. As for myself, I shall then be hidden behind
the manure heap on the bank beside the large ditch, and shall whistle
three times on the crook of my stick to entice you to come to me.
And--even though the powers of hell should fight against me--I have
sworn to be ever

THINE"

Mrs. Behrens was furious when she read this letter. "The * * *! The * *
*! Oh you young rascal! 'When the dragon is asleep!' The wretch means me
by that! But wait a bit! I'll entice _you_ to come to _me,_ and though
the powers of hell won't touch you, if once I get hold of you, I'll give
you such a box on the ear as you never had before!"

About two o'clock next day, Mrs. Behrens rose from her sofa and went
into the garden. The parlor-door creaked and the garden-door banged as
she went out, and the parson, hearing the noise, looked out at the
window to see what it was that took his wife out at that unusual hour,
for as a general rule she did not move from her sofa till three had
struck. He saw her go behind a bush and wave her pocket-handkerchief.
"She's making signs to Hawermann, of course," said he, and then he went
and lay down again. But the fact of the matter is that she only wanted
to show her sister's son how much she longed to get within reach of his
ears. But he did not come, nor yet were his three whistles to be heard.
She returned to her room very crossly, and when her husband asked her at
coffee time to whom she had been making signals in the garden, she was
so overwhelmed with confusion that in spite of being a clergyman's
wife--I am sorry to have to confess it--she told a lie, and said that
she had found it so frightfully close she had been fanning herself a
little.

On the third day after that she found another letter:

Address: "To _Her_ who is intended for me by _Fate._
Inscription: "_Sun_ of my dark existence!!

"Have you ever suffered the _pains of hell?_ I have been enduring them
since two o'clock in the afternoon of the day before yesterday when I
was hidden behind the manure-heap. The weather was lovely, our _foe_ was
busy in the clover-field, and your handkerchief was waving in the
perfumed air like one of those tumbler pigeons I used to have long ago.
I was just about to utter the three _whistles_ we had agreed upon, when
that stupid old _ass_ Braesig came up to me, and talked to me for a
_whole hour by the clock_ about the farm. As soon as he was gone I
hastened to the ditch, but, _oh agony!_ I was terribly disappointed. The
time must have seemed very long to you, for you were gone.--But now,
_listen._ As soon as I have finished my curds and cream this evening I
shall start for the place of _Randyvoo_ where I shall be hidden
punctually at _half-past eight._ This is Saturday, so the parson will be
writing his sermon, and the _Dragon_ will be busy, so it is a favorable
_opportunity_ for us to meet, and the _alder-bushes_ will screen us from
every eye. (Schiller!) Wait awhile--thy rest comes presently (Goethe) in
the _arms_ of thy _adorer,_ who would _sell_ all that is dear to him, if
he could _buy_ what is dear to thee with the proceeds.

"Again to meet! again to meet!
Till then I fain would sleep;
My longings and my thoughts to steep
In Lethe's waters dark and deep.
My loved one I again shall see,
There's rapture in the thought!
In the hope tomorrow of thee,
My darling, I fear nought.

"(The _beginning_ is by myself, the _middle_ part by Schiller, and the
_end_ by a certain person called Anonymous who writes a great deal of
poetry, but I have altered his lines to suit the present case.)

"_In an agony of longing to see you, EVER THINE._"

"_No!_" cried little Mrs. Behrens when she had read the letter. "This is
really too much of a good thing! Ah, my dear sister, I'm sorry for you!
Well, it's high time for _other_ people to interfere, and I think that
being his aunt, I am the proper person to do so. And I will do it," she
exclaimed aloud, stamping her foot emphatically, "and I should like to
see who'd dare to prevent me!"

"I promise not to interfere with you, Mrs. Behrens," said Braesig, coming
from behind the bee-hives.

"Have you been listening, Braesig?" asked Mrs. Behrens rather sharply.
"'Listening!' I never listen! I only keep my ears open, and then I hear
what's going on; and I keep my eyes open, and see what passes before me.
For instance, I see that you are very cross." "Yes, but it's enough to
drive an angel wild." "Ah, Mrs. Behrens, the angels are wild enough
already in all conscience, but we don't need to speak of them just now,
for I believe that the devil himself is going about Puempelhagen."
"Goodness gracious me! Has Fred * * *?" "No," answered Braesig, "I don't
know what it is, but certainly there's something up." "How?" "Mrs.
Behrens, Hawermann is in a bad humor, and that is enough to show you
that something unpleasant is going on. When I went to Puempelhagen last
week I found him busy with the hay and rape-harvest, and said:
'Good-morning,' I said. 'Good-morning,' said he. 'Charles,' I began, and
was going to have said something when he interrupted me by asking:
'Have you seen Triddelfitz anywhere?' 'Yes,' I answered. 'Where?' he
asked. 'Sitting in the large ditch,' I said. 'Did you see young Mr. von
Rambow?' he asked. 'He's sitting in the next ditch close behind Fred,' I
replied. 'What are they doing?' he asked. 'Playing,' I said. 'You don't
give me much comfort,' he said, '_playing_, when there's so much to be
done!' 'Yes, Charles,' I said, 'and I played with them.' 'What were you
playing at?' he asked. 'We had a game at 'I spy,' Charles. You must
understand that your gray-hound was peeping over the edge of the ditch
toward Guerlitz, and your young nobleman was watching the gray-hound, so
I hid myself in the marl-pit, and watched them both. Whenever one of
them turned the others ducked, so there we sat peeping and ducking till
at last I found it a very tiresome amusement, and, leaving my
hiding-place, went to join Mr. von Rambow.' 'Good-day,' I said.
'Good-day,' he replied. 'Pardon me,' I said, 'but which of your
farming-operations is it that is occupying your attention just now?'
'I,' he stammered, 'w--wanted to see how the peas were getting on!'
'H'm!' I said. 'Ah!' I said. 'I understand.' Then I bade him 'good-by,'
and went to have a look at the gray-hound. Don't be angry, Mrs. Behrens,
but that's what I always call your nephew." "Not at all, not at all!"
cried the little lady, though her own name for him was different. Then
Braesig continued: "'Good-day,' I said, 'may I ask what you are doing
here?' 'Oh, nothing in particular,' he said, looking rather foolish,
'I'm only looking at the peas.' 'Now, Charles,' I said, 'if you can get
the peas staked by setting those two lads to look at them, why all that
I can say is that you're a deuced lucky fellow.' 'The devil take it!' he
said, 'they're both up to some folly. Mr. von Rambow is quite changed
this summer, he isn't like the same person. He goes about in a dream,
forgets all that I tell him, and so I can't rely on him as I used to do.
And as for that other stupid dolt, he's worse than ever.' Now, Mrs.
Behrens, pray don't be angry with Hawermann for calling your nephew a
'stupid dolt.'" "Certainly not," replied Mrs. Behrens, "for that's just
what he is." "Well, you see that all happened a week ago, but this
morning I went out early with my fishing-rod to try whether I couldn't
catch a few trout, when just as I was coming in this direction I caught
sight of your nephew, the gray-hound. He slipped cautiously into the
garden, and after remaining there for a few minutes, came out again.
Meanwhile I perceived that the young nobleman was watching him from
amongst the thorn-bushes by the side of the ditch; but what was my
astonishment when I saw that my good old friend Charles Hawermann was
following them on the hill-side. I brought up the rear, and so we all
went on in single file quite round the village, and I couldn't help
laughing when I thought that each of us only knew of the presence of the
game he was stalking, and was totally unaware that he himself was being
stalked in his turn. We're all to be at it again tomorrow I believe, for
Hawermann, who has followed them twice already, is determined to get to
the bottom of the mystery; so if either you or the parson has a fancy to
join us in the hunt, you can follow me." "Thanks very much," said Mrs.
Behrens, "but I've got my part to play already. Braesig, can you keep a
secret?" "Like a safe when the padlock is on," he answered. "No, no. Do
be serious. Can you be silent?" "I beg your pardon," he said gravely,
and clapped his hand on his mouth in token of shame at his ill-timed
jesting, though had any one else done it, he would have given him a
black eye for his pains. "Why well then, listen," said Mrs. Behrens, who
now proceeded to relate all that she knew of the affair. "Wheugh!"
whistled Braesig, "what a fool that nephew of yours is." Mrs. Behrens
then read him the letters she had found. "Hang it," cried Braesig, "where
did the young rascal get that grand way of expressing himself. Stupid as
he is in other matters, he can write much better than one would expect."
When she came to the bit about the dragon Braesig laughed heartily, and
said:

"That's you, Mrs. Behrens, that's you!" "I know," she answered sharply,
"but the ass in the third letter is intended for you, so neither of us
need laugh at the other. But now, Braesig, you see that it's quite
necessary that I should get hold of the little wretch, and box his ears
well for him." "You're quite right, and it's easily managed. Listen. You
and I must hide at the bottom of the garden at eight o'clock this
evening; at half past eight, Louisa must take her place in the ditch,
and you'll see that he'll come like a bear to wild honey; and then we'll
spring out upon him, and take him prisoner before he knows where he is."
"That won't do at all, Braesig. If I were going to act in that sort of
way I shouldn't require your help. It would be a great misfortune if
Louisa were ever to know anything about this, and I'd rather that
neither Hawermann nor even my pastor should hear of it." "H'm, h'm!"
said Braesig. "Then * * * then * * * Stop! I have it now. Mrs. Behrens,
you must make yourself as thin as possible, put on Louisa's clothes, and
go to the _randyvoo_ in her stead. Then, as soon as he is seated by your
side, and is on the point of kissing you, you must seize him by the
scruff of the neck, and hold on till I come." "Nay, Braesig, that would
never do!" "Don't you think so, Mrs. Behrens? You understand that if he
doesn't see his sweet-heart in the ditch, you'll never manage to
inveigle him there; and if we don't nab him unexpectedly, we'll never
succeed in catching him, for he's a long-legged, thin-flanked
gray-hound, and if it came to a race, we'd be nowhere with our short
legs and round bodies." It was quite true; but no! she go to a
_rendezvous_? And Braesig was very stupid, how could she ever get into
Louisa's gown? But Braesig would not be convinced, he maintained that it
was the only way in which she could get the interview she wanted with
her nephew, and assured her that all she had to do was to put on
Louisa's shawl and Leghorn hat, and then go and sit on the edge of the
ditch. "You must remember to sit down," he continued, "for if you remain
standing he will see at once that you're a foot shorter, and at least a
foot broader than Louisa." At last--at last Mrs. Behrens allowed herself
to be persuaded, and when she went out at the back-door about eight
o'clock that evening, wearing Louisa's shawl and hat, the parson who was
standing at his study-window thinking over his sermon, said to himself
wonderingly: "What on earth is Regina doing with Louisa's hat and shawl?
And there's Braesig coming out of the arbor. He must want to speak to me
about something--but it's a very odd thing altogether!"

Mrs. Behrens went down the garden path with Braesig feeling ready for
anything that might befall. She opened the garden-gate and went out
alone, leaving Braesig squatted under the hedge like a great toad, but no
sooner was she by herself than her courage oozed away, and she said:
"Come to the ditch with me, Braesig, you're too far away there, and must
be close at hand to help me when I've caught him." "All right!" said
Braesig, and he accompanied her to the ditch.

Canal-like ditches such as this are no longer to be found in all the
country-side, for the thorough system of drainage to which the land has
been subjected has done away with their use; but every farmer will
remember them in the old time. They were from fifteen to twenty feet
wide at the top, but tapered away till quite narrow at the bottom, and
were fringed with thorns and other bushwood. They were generally dry
except in spring and autumn, when there was a foot or a foot and half of
water in them, or in summer for a day or two after a thunder-storm. That
was the case now. "Braesig hide yourself behind that thorn so that you
may come to the rescue at once." "Very well," said Braesig. "But, Mrs.
Behrens," he continued after a pause, "you must think of a signal to
call me to your help." "Yes," she said. "Of course! But what shall it
be? Wait! when I say: _'The Philistines be upon thee,'_ spring upon
him." "I understand, Mrs. Behrens!"

"Goodness gracious me!" thought the clergyman's wife.

[Illustration: BETWEEN DANCES BENJAMIN VAUTIER]

"I feel as if I were quite a Delilah. Going to a _rendezvous_ at half
past eight in the evening! At my age too! Ah me, in my old age I'm going
to do what I should have been ashamed of when I was a girl." Then aloud.
"Braesig don't puff so loud any one could hear you a mile off." Resuming
her soliloquy: "And all for the sake of a boy, a mischievous wretch of a
boy. Good gracious! If my pastor knew what I was about!" Aloud. "What
are you laughing at, Braesig? I forbid you to laugh, it's very silly of
you." "I didn't laugh, Mrs. Behrens." "Yes, you _did,_ I heard you
distinctly." "I only yawned, Mrs. Behrens, it's such frightfully slow
work lying here." "You oughtn't to yawn at such a time. I'm trembling
all over. Oh, you little wretch, what misery you have caused me! I can't
tell any one what you've made me suffer, and must just bear it in
silence. It was God who sent Braesig to my help." Suddenly Braesig
whispered in great excitement, his voice sounding like the distant cry
of a corn-crake: "Mrs. Behrens, draw yourself out till you're as long as
Lewerenz's child;[9] make yourself as thin as you possibly can, and put
on a pretty air of confusion, for I see him coming over the crest of the
hill. His figure stands out clearly against the sky." Little Mrs.
Behrens felt as if her heart had stopped beating and her anger waxed
hotter against the boy who had brought her into such a false position.
She was so much ashamed of herself for being where she was, that she
would most assuredly have run away if Braesig had not laughed again, but
as soon as she heard that laugh, she determined to stay and show him
that he was engaged in a much more serious undertaking than he seemed to
imagine.

It was quite true that Braesig had laughed this time, for he saw a second
and then a third black figure following the first down the hill. "Ha,
ha, ha!" he chuckled in his hiding-place in the thorn-bush, "there's
Charles Hawermann too! I declare the whole overseeing force of
Puempelhagen is coming down here to see how the peas are growing in the
dusk of evening. It's as good as a play!" Mrs. Behrens did not see the
others, she only saw her sister's son who was coming rapidly toward her.
He hastened over the bridge, ran along the bank, sprang to her side, and
threw his arms round her neck, exclaiming: "Sweet angel!" "Oh you wicked
little wretch!" cried his aunt trying to seize him in the way Braesig had
desired her, but instead of that she only caught hold of the collar of
his coat. Then she called out as loudly as she could: "The Philistines
be upon thee!" and immediately Braesig the Philistine started to his
feet. Confound it! His foot had gone to sleep! But never mind! He hopped
down the bank as quickly as he could, taking into consideration that one
leg felt as if it had a hundred-and-eighty pound weight attached to the
end of it, but just as he was close upon his prey he tripped over a low
thorn-bush and tumbled right into the foot and a half of water. And
there he sat as immovably as if he had gone back to the hydropathic
establishment, and were in the enjoyment of a sitz-bath! Fred stood as
if he had been turned to stone, and felt as though he were suffering
from a douche-bath, for his dear aunt was clutching him tightly and
scolding him to her heart's content: "The dragon has caught you now my
boy! Yes, the dragon has caught you!" "And here comes the ass," shouted
Braesig picking himself out of the water and running toward him. But Fred
had now recovered from his astonishment. He shook himself free from his
aunt, and darting up the bank would have escaped had he not at the same
moment encountered a new enemy--Frank. In another second Hawermann had
joined them, and Mrs. Behrens had scarcely recovered from the shock of
seeing him, when her pastor came up, and said: "What's the matter,
Regina? What does all this mean?" The poor little lady's consternation
was indescribable, but Braesig, from whose clothes the water was running
in streams, was too angry to hold his tongue, and exclaimed: "You
confounded rascal! You gray-hound!" giving Fred a hearty dig in the ribs
as he spoke. "It's all your fault that I shall have another attack of
gout. But now, I'll tell you what, every one shall know what a d----d
Jesuit you are. Hawermann, he * * *" "For God's sake," cried Mrs.
Behrens, "don't attend to a single word that Braesig says. Hawermann, Mr.
von Rambow, the whole thing is ended and done with. It's all over now,
and what has still to be done or said can quite well be managed by my
pastor alone; it's a family matter and concerns no one but ourselves.
Isn't that the case, my dear Fred? It's merely a family matter I assure
you, and no one has anything to do with it but we two. But now, come
away, my boy, we'll tell my pastor all about it. Good-night, Mr. von
Rambow. Good-night, Hawermann, Fred will soon follow you. Come away,
Braesig, you must go to bed at once."

And so she managed to disperse the assembly. The two who were left in
ignorance of what had happened, went home separately, shaking their
heads over the affair. Hawermann was indignant with his two young
people, and put out because he was to have no explanation of their
conduct. Frank was mistrustful of everyone; he had recognized Louisa's
hat and shawl in spite of the darkness, and thought that the mystery
must have something to do with her, though how he was unable to
conjecture.

Fred was much cast down in spirit. The clergyman and his wife went on in
front of him, and the latter told her husband the whole story from
beginning to end, scolding her hopeful nephew roundly the whole time.
The procession moved on toward the parsonage, and as the evil-doer
guessed that a bad half-hour awaited him there, he had serious thoughts
of making his escape while it was possible, but Braesig came as close up
to him as if he had known what he was thinking of, and that only made
him rage and chafe the more inwardly. When Braesig asked Mrs. Behrens who
it was that had come up in the nick of time, and she had answered that
it was Frank, Triddelfitz stood still and shaking his fist in the
direction of Puempelhagen, said fiercely "I am betrayed, and _she_ will
be sold, sold to that man because of his rank and position!" "Boy!"
cried Mrs. Behrens, "will you hold your tongue!" "Hush, Regina," said
her husband, who had now a pretty good idea of what had taken place,
"now please go in and see that Braesig's room is prepared, and get him
sent to bed as quickly as you can. I will remain here and speak to
Fred."

This was done. The parson appealed to Fred's common sense, but his sense
of injury far exceeded that other, and his spirit seethed and boiled
like wine in the process of fermentation. He put aside all the
clergyman's gentle arguments, and declared passionately that his own
aunt had determined to destroy the whole happiness of his life, and that
she cared more for the rich aristocrat than for her sister's son.

Within the house matters were going on in the same unsatisfactory
manner; uncle Braesig refused to go to bed in spite of all Mrs. Behren's
entreaties. "I can't," he said, "that is to say, I can, but I musn't do
it; for I must go to Rexow. I had a letter from Mrs. Nuessler saying that
she wanted my help." The same yeast which had caused Fred to seethe and
boil over was working in him, but more quietly, because it had been a
part of his being for a longer time. At last, however, he was persuaded
to go to bed as a favor to Mrs. Behrens, and from fear of bringing on an
attack of gout by remaining in his wet things, but his thoughts were as
full of anxious affection for Mrs. Nuessler as Fred's were of love for
Louisa when on leaving the parsonage he exclaimed passionately: "Give
her up, does he say! Give her up! The devil take that young sprig of the
nobility!"

Next day--it was Sunday morning--when Braesig awoke, he gave himself a
comfortable stretch in the soft bed. "A luxury," he said to himself,
"that I've never before enjoyed, but I suppose one would soon get
accustomed to it." Just as he was about to get up the house-maid came
in, and taking possession of his clothes, placed a black coat, waistcoat
and pair of trousers over the back of a chair in their stead.

"Ho, ho!" he said with a laugh as he examined the black suit, "it's
Sunday, and this is a parsonage; but surely they never think that I'm
going to preach today!" He lifted one article of clothing after the
other curiously, and then said: "Ah! I see now, it's because mine were
wet through in the ditch last night, so they've given me a suit
belonging to his Reverence. All right then!--here goes." But it did not
go so easily after all! And as for comfort, that was totally out of the
question. The trousers were a very good length, but were frightfully
tight. The lower buttons of the waistcoat could neither be coaxed nor
forced into the button-holes, and when he put on the coat, there was an
ominous cracking somewhere between the shoulders. As for his arms, they
stood out from his body as if he were prepared to press the whole world
to his faithful heart on this particular Sunday.

After he was dressed he went down stairs, and joined Mrs. Behrens in the
parlor. As to his legs, he looked and walked very much as he had done
ever since he had received his pension; but as to the upper part of his
body! Mrs. Behrens burst out laughing when she saw him, and immediately
took refuge behind the breakfast table, for he advanced with his arms
outstretched as if he wished to make her the first recipient of his
world-embrace. "Keep away from me, Braesig!" she laughed. "If I had ever
imagined that my pastor's good clothes would have looked so ridiculous
on you I'd have let you remain in bed till dinner-time, for your own
things won't be washed and dried before that." "Oh, ho!" laughed Braesig,
"that was the reason you sent me these things, was it? I thought perhaps
you wanted to dress me up for another _randyvoo_ today." "Now, just
listen to me, Braesig!" said little Mrs. Behrens, blushing furiously. "I
forbid you to make such jokes. And when you're going about in the
neighborhood--you have nothing to do now except to carry gossip from one
house to another--if you ever tell any one about that wretched
_rendezvous_ of last night--I'll never speak to you again." "Mrs.
Behrens, you may trust me not to do that," here he went nearer the
clergyman's wife with both arms outstretched, and she once more
retreated behind the table. "Indeed, you've nothing to fear. I'm not a
Jesuit." "No, Braesig, you're an old heathen, but you arn't a Jesuit. But
if you say anything about it * * * Oh me! Hawermann must be told, my
pastor says so. But if he asks about it, don't mention my name, please.
Oh, dear! If the Pomuchelskopps were ever to hear of it, I should be the
most miserable of women. God knows, Braesig, that what I did, I did for
the best, and for the sake of that innocent child. I've sacrificed
myself for her." "That's quite true," answered Braesig with conviction,
"and so don't let fretting over it give you any gray hairs. Look here.
If Charles Hawermann asks me how you came to be there, I'll say--I'll
say--h'm!--I'll say that you had arranged a _randyvoo_ with me." "_You!_
Fie, for shame!" "Nay, Mrs. Behrens, I don't see that. Am I not as good
as the young gray-hound any day? And don't our ages suit better?" And as
he spoke he looked as innocently surprised at her displeasure as if he
had proposed the best possible way out of the difficulty. Mrs. Behrens
looked at him dubiously, and then said, folding her hands on her lap:
"Braesig, I'll trust to you to say nothing you ought not to say. But
Braesig--dear Braesig, do nothing absurd. And * * * and * * * come and sit
down, and drink a cup of coffee." She took hold of his stiff arm and
drew him to the table, much as a miller draws the sails of a windmill
when he wants to set it going.

"Thank you," said Braesig. He managed to get hold of the handle of the
cup after a struggle, and lifted it as if he were a juggler and the cup
were at least a hundred pounds in weight, and as if he wanted to make
sure that all the audience saw it properly. Then he tried to sit down,
but the moment he bent his knees a horrible cracking noise was heard,
and he drew himself up again hastily--whether it was the chair or the
trousers that cracked he did not know. He therefore drank his coffee
standing, and said: it didn't matter, for he hadn't time to sit down, he
must go to Mrs. Nuessler at once because of her letter. Mrs. Behrens
implored him to wait until his clothes were dry, but in vain; Mrs.
Nuessler's slightest wish was regarded by him as a command, and was
inscribed as such in the order-book of his conscience. So he set out for
Rexow along the Puempelhagen road, the long tails of his clerical garment
floating behind him. His progress was as slow and difficult as that of a
young rook learning to fly.

As he passed Puempelhagen, Hawermann saw him, and called him to stop,
adding: "Bless me, Zachariah, why are you dressed so oddly?" "An
accident, nothing but an accident. You remember that I fell into the
muddy water in the ditch last night. But I hav'n't time to stop now, I
must go to your sister." "My sister's business can wait better than
mine, Braesig. I've noticed lately that a great many things are going on
behind my back that I'm not wanted to know. It wouldn't have mattered so
much, but that I saw last night that both the parson and his wife are
better informed than I am, and that these good people want to hide the
true state of the case from me out of the kindness of their hearts."
"You're right, Charles. It is out of kindness." "Certainly, Braesig, and
I am not mistrustful of them, but I can't help thinking that it's
something that concerns me very nearly, and that I ought to know. What
were you doing yesterday evening?" "I, Charles? I was just having a
_randyvoo_ with Mrs. Behrens in the ditch." "And the parson?" "We knew
nothing of what brought him, Charles. He took us by surprise when he
came." "What had Mr. von Rambow to do with it?" "He caught your
gray-hound by the scruff of the neck, and perhaps threw me into the
water by accident." "_What_ _had Fred Triddelfitz to do with it?_"

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