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

Part 7 out of 9

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asked Hawermann impressively, "and what had Louisa's hat and shawl got
to do with it?" "Nothing more than that they didn't fit Mrs. Behrens at
all, for she's far too stout to wear them." "Zachariah," said Hawermann,
stretching his hand toward his friend over the low hedge, "you are
trying to put me off. _Won't_ you tell me what is the matter, we are
such old friends--or is it that you must not tell me?" "The devil take
the _randyvoo_ and Mrs. Behrens' anxiety," cried Braesig, seizing
Hawermann's hand and shaking it vehemently over the hedge and amongst
the tall nettles that grew there, till the smart of the stings made them
both draw back. "I'll tell you, Charles. The parson's going to tell you
himself, so why shouldn't I? Fred Triddelfitz fell in love with you
sometime ago, most likely because of the good fatherly advice you have
often given him, and now it seems his love for you has passed on to your
daughter. Love always passes on, for example with me from your sister to
Mina." "Do be serious, Braesig!" "Am I not always in earnest, Charles,
when I speak of your sister and Mina?" "I am sure you are," cried
Hawermann, seizing his friend's hand again in spite of the nettles,
"but, tell me, what had Frank to do with it?" "I think that he must have
fallen in love with you too, and that his love has also passed on from
you to your daughter." "That would be a great pity," cried Hawermann, "a
very great pity. God only knows how it's to be stopped." "I'm not so
sure, Charles, that you're right in thinking it a misfortune, for he has
two estates * * *" "Don't talk about that, Braesig, but come in and tell
me all that you know."

As soon as Braesig had told as much as he knew of the affair, he set off
down the footpath that led to Rexow. Hawermann stood and watched him
till he was out of sight, and then said to himself: "He's a good man,
his heart's in the right place, and if I find that it is so, I will * *
* but * * * but * * *!" He was not thinking of Braesig when he said this,
but of Frank.

[When uncle Braesig had reached Rexow, he was consulted on a matter of
great consequence. Two young nephews of Joseph Nuessler, Godfrey Baldrian
and Rudolph Kurz, had asked permission to spend the weeks before their
examinations--both were students of theology--at Rexow. Should they be
invited to come? Godfrey was all right, a serious-minded youth, but
Rudolph, although a good sort of a fellow, was frivolous, he had even
fought a duel in Rostock for the sake of a merchant's pretty daughter.
Was there any danger of Lina and Mina falling in love? "Braesig," Joseph
said, "you see it might quite well happen, and what are we as their
parents to do?" "Let them alone, Joseph!" he replied. "Why does God send
young folks into the world, if he does not intend them to love each
other? But the little round-heads!" His advice was finally taken, and
the two young men were soon settled at the Nuessler home. At first
everything went well, but after a while difficulties arose, and uncle
Braesig was again called upon for advice.]

Braesig went to Rexow that morning to see Mrs. Nuessler as he had
intended. The crown-prince was in the doorway when he arrived, and came
forward to meet him with such a hearty wag of the tail that any one
would have thought him a most christian-minded dog, and would have
imagined that he had quite forgiven Braesig the fright he had given him
the last time he was at Rexow. There was a look of such quiet
satisfaction in his yellow brown eyes that one would have thought that
everything was going on well in the house; that Mrs. Nuessler was busy in
the kitchen, and that Joseph was comfortably seated in his own
particular arm-chair. But it was not so. When Braesig went into the
parlor he certainly found Joseph in his old place, but Mrs. Nuessler was
standing in front of him, and was giving him a lecture about caring for
nothing, and never interfering when things were going wrong, although it
was his duty to do so. As soon as she saw Braesig, she went up to him
and said angrily: "And _you_ keep out of the way, Braesig. Every one may
be standing on their heads here for anything _you_ care, and it's all
your fault that we ever took those two lads into the house." "Gently,"
said Braesig. "Gently! Don't excite yourself, Mrs. Nuessler! Well what's
all this about the divinity students?" "A very great deal! But I should
never have said a word about it, for they're Joseph's relations, and
'it's an ill bird that soils its own nest!' There has been no peace or
comfort in the house since the two young men have been here, and if it
goes on like this much longer, I'm afraid that I shall have a quarrel
with Joseph himself." "Mother," said young Joseph, "what can I do?"
"Hold your tongue, young Joseph," cried Braesig, "it's all your fault.
Why didn't you teach them better manners?" "Come, come, Braesig," said
Mrs. Nuessler, "just leave Joseph to me if you please, and remember it's
your fault this time. You promised to keep an eye on the young men, and
see that they didn't get into mischief, and instead of that, you let one
of them do what he likes and never trouble your head to see what he's
after, while you encourage the other to spend all his time in fishing
and such like nonsense, instead of minding his books, so that he's
always out in the fields, and comes home in the evening with a lot of
perch about the length of my finger, and when I think the day's work is
over, I'm expected to go back to the kitchen and cook that trash!"
"What!" cried Braesig. "Does he only bring you in such tiny little fish?
That's queer now, for I've shown him all the best pools for catching
large perch. Then you must * * *! Just wait!" "I'll tell you,"
interrupted Mrs. Nuessler, "you must forbid him to fish, for he didn't
come here to do that. His father sent him here to learn something, and
he's coming to see him this very afternoon." "Well, Mrs. Nuessler," said
Braesig, "I can't help admiring the persistency with which he has
followed my advice about fishing. Hasn't he done anything else though?"
"A great deal, both of them have done a great deal. I've never spoken
about it because they're Joseph's relations, and at first everything
went on _pretty_ well. It was an idle, merry life at first; my two
little girls were very much brightened up by the change and all went on
smoothly. Mina here, and Rudolph there, Lina here, and Godfrey there.
They talked sense with Godfrey and nonsense with Rudolph. The two lads
worked away properly at their books in the morning; Godfrey indeed
sometimes read so long that it gave him a headache, and Rudolph did
quite a fair amount of study. But that did not last long. They soon
began to quarrel and wrangle about theological questions, and Godfrey,
who knows more than the other, said that Rudolph did not speak from a
Christian standpoint." "Did he say 'standpoint'?" put in Braesig. "Yes,
that was his very word," answered Mrs. Nuessler. "Oho!" said Braesig. "I
think I hear him. While other people end with standpoint, Methodists
always begin with it. And then I suppose he wanted to convert him?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Nuessler. "That's just what he wanted to do. But you see
the other lad is much cleverer than Godfrey, and made so many jokes
about all that he said, that at last Godfrey quite lost his temper, and
so the discomfort in the house grew worse and worse. I don't know how it
was, but my two girls mixed themselves up in the quarrel. Lina who is
the gravest and most sensible took Godfrey's side of the argument, and
Mina laughed and giggled over Rudolph's jokes." "Yes," interrupted
Joseph, "it's all according to circumstances!" "You ought to be ashamed
of yourself, young Joseph," said Braesig, "for allowing such a Hophnei to
remain in the house." "Nay, Braesig," said Mrs. Nuessler, "let Joseph
alone, he did his best to make matters comfortable again. When Godfrey
talked about the devil till we all felt quite eerie, Joseph believed in
his existence; and when Rudolph laughed at, and ridiculed all belief in
him, Joseph laughed as heartily as anyone. When the dispute ran highest,
my little Mina took all Godfrey's books to Rudolph's room, and all
Rudolph's to Godfrey's, and when the young men looked rather cross, she
said quickly, that they'd better both study the subject thoroughly, and
then perhaps they might agree better about it than at present." "Mina's
a clever little woman," cried Braesig. "Well," continued Mrs. Nuessler,"
they didn't like it at all at first; but whatever Godfrey's faults may
be, he's a good-natured lad, so he began to study Rudolph's books. And
the other at last set to work at Godfrey's, for you see it was wintry
weather and it gave him something to do. You should have seen them a
short time afterward! They had changed as much as their books. Godfrey
made poor jokes about the devil, and Rudolph sighed and groaned, and
spoke of the devil as if he knew him intimately, and as if he were
accustomed to sit down to dinner with us every day and to eat his
potatoes like any other honest man. Then my little girls turned right
round. Mina took Godfrey's part; and Lina took Rudolph's, for Rudolph
said that Godfrey didn't speak from a Christian standpoint." "Ugh!" said
Braesig, "he oughtn't to have said that. But wait a bit! Is he really
that sort of fellow, and can't he ever catch a good-sized perch?" "And
then," cried Mrs. Nuessler indignantly, "they were all at sixes and
sevens again, because of that horrible perch fishing, for as soon as
spring returned and the perch began to bite, Rudolph cared no more about
the Christian standpoint. He took his fishing-rod, and went out after
you all day long. The other went back to his old opinion about the
existence of the devil, you see he was preparing for his examination and
couldn't get through it properly without that. My two girls didn't know
which of their cousins to trust to." "They're a couple of rascals,"
cried Braesig, "but it's all the Methodist's fault, what business had he
to bother the other about the devil and the Christian standpoint?" "No,
no, Braesig, I've nothing to say against him for that. He has learnt
something, has passed his examination, and may be ordained any day. But
Rudolph does nothing at all, he only makes mischief in the house." "Why,
what has he been after now? Has he been fishing for whitings?" asked
Braesig raising his eyebrows. "Whitings!" said Mrs. Nuessler scornfully.
"He has been fishing for a sermon. You must know that Mrs. Baldrian
wanted to hear her son preach, so she asked the clergyman at Rahnstaedt
to let him preach in his church, and he said he might do so. She then
went and told her sister what she had done, and Mrs. Kurz was very much
put out that her son wasn't as far on as his cousin, so she went to the
old parson too and asked him to allow Rudolph to preach for him some day
soon. Well the clergyman was so far left to himself as to arrange that
Rudolph should preach on the same day as Godfrey. The two young men had
a great argument as to which was to have the forenoon and which the
afternoon, but at last it was settled that Rudolph should preach in the
morning. Well, Godfrey set to work as hard as he could, and spent the
whole day from morning till evening in the arbor. As he has a bad memory
he learnt his sermon by repeating it aloud. Rudolph did nothing but
amuse himself as usual, till the two last days, when he seated himself
on the grass bank behind the arbor, and seemed to be thinking over his
sermon. On the Sunday morning, Joseph drove the two young clergymen and
us to Rahnstaedt. We went into the parsonage pew, and I can assure you I
was in a great fright about Rudolph, but the rogue stood there as calmly
as if he were quite sure of himself, and when the time came for him to
preach, he went up into the pulpit and began his sermon. He got on so
well that every one listened attentively, and I was so pleased with the
boy that I turned to whisper to Godfrey, who sat next to me, how
relieved and overjoyed I was, when I saw that he was moving about
restlessly in his seat, and looking as if he would like to jump up and
pull Rudolph out of the pulpit: 'Aunt,' he said, 'that is my sermon.'
And so it was, Braesig. The little wretch had got it by heart from
hearing his cousin learning it aloud in the arbor." "Ha, ha, ha!"
laughed Braesig. "What a joke! What a capital joke!" "Do you call it a
_joke_?" said Mrs. Nuessler angrily. "Do you call playing a trick like
that in God's house a joke?" "Ha, ha, ha!" roared Braesig. "I know that
it's wicked to laugh, and I know that only the devil could have prompted
the lad to play such a trick, but I can't help it, I must laugh at it
all the same." "Oh, of course," said Mrs. Nuessler crossly, "of course
_you_ do nothing but laugh while we are like to break our hearts with
grief and anger." "Never mind me," said Braesig soothingly, "tell me,
what did the Methodist do? Ha, ha, ha! I'd have given a good deal for a
sight of his face!" "You would, would you? Of course he couldn't preach
the same sermon in the afternoon, so the parson had to give his people
one of his old sermons over again; but he was very angry, and said that
if he chose to make the circumstance public, Rudolph might go and hang
himself on the first willow he came across." "But the Methodist?" "The
poor fellow was miserable, but he didn't say a word. However his mother
said enough for two, and she spoke so harshly to her sister Mrs. Kurz
about what had happened, that they're no longer on speaking terms. There
was a frightful quarrel. I was both ashamed and angry at the way they
went on, for both Baldrian and Kurz joined in the squabble, and even
Joseph began to mix himself up in it, but fortunately our carriage drove
up, and I got him away as quickly as I could." "What did the duelist
say?" "Oh, the wretch was wise enough to run away here as soon as he had
concluded his stolen sermon." "And you gave him a regular good scolding,
I suppose," said Braesig. "Not I indeed," said Mrs. Nuessler decidedly. "I
wasn't going to put my finger in that pie. His father is coming today
and he is 'the nearest' to him, as Mrs. Behrens would say; and I've told
Joseph that he's not to mix himself up in the affair or to talk about it
at all. He's quite changed latterly. He has got into the habit of
putting up his back and meddling with things with which he has nothing
to do. Now just keep quiet, Joseph." "Yes, Joseph, hold your tongue,"
said Braesig. "And my two girls," continued Mrs. Nuessler, "are quite
different from what they used to be. Since that unlucky sermon their
eyes have always been red with crying, and they've gone about the house
as quietly as mice. They hardly ever say a word to each other now,
though they used never to be separate, and when one of them was happy or
unhappy the other had to know all about it immediately. My household is
all at odds." "Mother," said young Joseph rising from his chair with a
look of determination, "that's just what I say, and I _will_ speak;
you'll see that the boys have put it into their heads." "What have they
put into their heads, Joseph?" asked Mrs. Nuessler crossly. "Love
affairs," said Joseph, sinking back into his corner. "My dear mother
always used to say that when a divinity student and a governess were in
the same house * * * And you'll see the truth of it with Godfrey and
Mina." "Law, Joseph! How you do talk to be sure! May God preserve you in
your right mind! That's all nonsense, but if it were the case, the
divinity student should leave the house at once and Rudolph too. Come
away, Braesig, I've got something to say to you."

As soon as they had left the house, Mrs. Nuessler signed to Braesig to
follow her into the garden, and when they were seated in the arbor, she
said: "I can't stand Joseph's eternal chatter any longer, Braesig. It was
Rudolph who taught him to speak so much by continually encouraging him
to talk last winter, and he has got into the habit now and won't give it
up. But, tell me honestly--remember you promised to watch--have you seen
anything of the kind going on?" "Bless me! No. Not the faintest approach
to anything of the sort." "I can't think it either," said Mrs. Nuessler
thoughtfully. "At first Lina and Godfrey, and Mina and Rudolph used to
go about together. Afterward Mina took to Godfrey, and Lina to Rudolph,
but ever since the examination Lina and Godfrey have been on their old
terms with each other once more, while Mina and Rudolph have never made
friends again; indeed I may say that she has never so much as looked at
him since the day he preached in Rahnstaedt." "Ah, Mrs. Nuessler," said
Braesig, "love shows itself in most unexpected ways. Sometimes the giving
of a bunch of flowers is a sign of it, or even a mere 'good-morning'
accompanied by a shake of the hand. Sometimes it is shown by two people
stooping at the same moment to pick up a ball of cotton that one of them
has dropped, when all that the looker-on sees is that they knocked their
heads together in trying which could pick it up first. But gradually the
signs become more apparent. The girl blushes now and then, and the man
watches whatever she does; or the girl takes the man into the larder,
and gives him sausages, or cold tongue, or pig's cheek, and the man
begins to wear a blue or a red necktie; but the surest sign of all is
when they go out on a summer-evening for a walk in the moonlight, and
you hear them sigh without any cause. Now, has anything of that kind
been going on with the little round-heads?" "No, I can't say that I've
noticed them doing that, Braesig. They used to go to the cold meat-larder
sometimes it's true, but I soon put an end to that; I wasn't going to
stand that sort of thing; and as for blushing, I didn't notice them
doing that either, though of course I've seen that their eyes are often
red with crying." "Well," said Braesig, "there must have been a reason
for that--I'll tell you what, Mrs. Nuessler, you just leave the whole
management of the affair in my hands, for I know how to arrange such
matters. I soon put an end to that sort of nonsense in Fred Triddelfitz.
I'm an old hunter, and I'll ferret the matter out for you, but you must
tell me where they generally meet." "Here, Braesig, here in this arbor.
My girls sit here in the afternoon with their work, and then the other
two join them. I never thought any harm of it." "All right!" said
Braesig, going out of the arbor, and looking about him. He examined a
large cherry-tree carefully which was growing close by, and seeing that
it was thickly covered with leaves he looked quite satisfied. "That'll
do," he said, "what can be done, shall be done." "Goodness, gracious
me!" said Mrs. Nuessler, "I wonder what will happen this afternoon! It's
very disagreeable. Kurz is coming at coffee-time, and he is desperately
angry with his son for playing such a trick on his cousin. You'll see
that there will be a terrible scene." "That's always the way with these
little people," said Braesig, "when the head and the lower part of the
constitution are too near each other, the nature is always fiery." "Ah!"
sighed Mrs. Nuessler as she entered the parlor, "it'll be a miserable
afternoon."

She little knew that misery had long ago taken up its abode in her
house.

Whilst these arrangements were being made down-stairs the twins were
busy sewing in their garret-room. Lina was seated at one window, and
Mina at the other; they never looked up from their work, and never spoke
to each other as in the old days at Mrs. Behrens' sewing-class. They
worked away as busily as if the world had been torn in two, and they had
to sew up the rent with their needles and thread, while their serious
faces and deep sighs showed that they were fully aware of the gravity of
their employment. It was strange that their mother had not told Braesig
how sadly pale they had grown. The change must have been very gradual
for her not to have noticed it. But so it was. The two apple-cheeked
maidens looked as if they had been growing on the north-side of the tree
of life, where no sunbeams could ever come to brighten their existence,
and tinge their cheeks with healthful color. They could no longer be
likened to two apples growing on one stalk. At last Lina's work fell on
her lap, she could go on sewing no more, her eyes were so full of tears,
and then large drops began to roll slowly down her pale cheeks; Mina
took out her handkerchief and wiped her eyes, for her tears were falling
upon her work, and so the two little sisters sat weeping each in her own
window, as if all her happiness were gone past recall.

Suddenly Mina jumped up, and ran out of the room as if she must go out
into the fresh air, but she stopped short on the landing, for she
remembered that her mother might see her and ask her what was the
matter, so she remained outside the door crying silently. And then Lina
started up to go and comfort Mina; but she suddenly remembered that she
did not know what to say to her, so she remained standing within the
room beside the door, crying also. It often happens that a thin wall of
separation rises between two loving hearts, and while each would give
anything to get back to the other, neither will be the first to turn the
handle--for in every such partition wall there is a door with a handle
on each side of it--and so they remain apart in spite of their longing
to be reconciled.

But fortunately the twins were not so selfishly proud as to allow this
state of matters to go on for ever. Mina opened the door, and said: "Why
are you crying, Lina?" and Lina immediately stretched out both hands to
her sister, and said: "Oh, Mina, why are you crying?" Then they fell
upon each other's necks and cried again, and the color returned to their
cheeks as if a sunbeam had kissed them, and they clung to each other as
if they were once more growing on the same stalk. "Mina, I will let you
have him. You must be happy," said Lina. "No, Lina," said Mina, "he
likes you most, and you are much better than I am." "No, Mina. I've
quite made up my mind. Uncle Kurz is coming this afternoon, and I'll ask
father and mother to let me go home with him, for I couldn't remain here
and see it all just yet." "Do so, Lina, for then you'll be with his
parents, and when you both come back, I'll ask Godfrey to get his father
to look out for a situation for me as governess in some town far, far
from home, for I couldn't stay here either." "Mina!" cried Lina, holding
her sister from her at arm's length, and looking at her in amazement,
"with _his_ parents? With whose parents?" "Why--Rudolph's." "You meant
Rudolph?" "Yes, why who did you mean?" "I? Oh, I meant Godfrey." "No,
did you really?" exclaimed Mina, throwing her arms round Lina's neck,
"but is it possible? How is it possible? We don't mean the same after
all then!" "Ah!" said Lina who was the most sensible of the two, "what a
great deal of unnecessary pain we have given each other!" "Oh, how happy
I am," cried Mina, who was the least sensible, as she danced about the
room. "All will be well now." "Yes, Mina," said Lina the sensible,
joining in the dance. "Everything will go on happily now." Then silly
little Mina threw herself into her sister's arms again--she was so
happy.

If people would only turn the handle of the door that divides them from
their friends while there is yet time, all would go well with them, even
though it might not bring such intense joy as it did to the two girls in
the little garret-room.

The sisters cried one moment and laughed the next; then they danced
round the room, and after that they sat on each other's knees, and told
how it all happened, and sorrowed over their own stupidity, which had
prevented them seeing the true state of the case. They wondered how it
was that they had not had an explanation sooner, and then they confessed
to each other exactly how matters stood between them and their cousins,
and ended by being more than half angry with the two young men, whom
they accused of being the real cause of the misunderstanding. Lina said
that she had been in great doubt before, but that ever since last Sunday
she had been quite certain that Mina cared for Godfrey because of her
constant tears; and Mina said that she had been miserable because of the
wicked trick Rudolph had played in church about the sermon, and that she
had been puzzled to account for Lina's tears. Lina then explained that
she had been so very sorry for poor Godfrey's disappointment. All was
made up now between the sisters, and when the dinner-bell rang they ran
down-stairs together arm in arm, looking as sweet and fresh as two
roses. Braesig, who had seated himself with his back to the light that he
might see them better, was very much astonished when he caught sight of
their happy faces. "What," he said to himself, "these two girls changed
and shy, and suffering from some secret grief? In love? Not a bit of it!
They're as merry as crickets."

The sound of the dinner-bell brought Godfrey Baldrian, or the Methodist,
as Braesig called him. Lina blushed and turned away from him, not in
anger, but because she remembered the confession she had just made in
the garret. And Braesig said to himself: "That's very odd now! Lina seems
to have taken the infection, but how can she care for a scare-crow of a
Methodist?" Braesig expressed himself too strongly, but still it must be
acknowledged that Godfrey was no beauty. Nature had not given him many
personal advantages, and he did not use those that he had in the wisest
possible way. For example his hair. He had a thick head of yellow hair
that would have provoked no criticism, and indeed would have looked
quite nice if it had only been cut properly, but unfortunately he had
taken the pictures of the beloved disciple John as his model, and had
parted his hair down the middle, and brushed it into ringlets at the
ends, though the upper part of his head showed that the real nature of
his hair was to be straight. I have nothing to say against little boys
of ten or even twelve going about with curls, and the mothers of these
same little boys would have still less objection to it than I should,
for they delight in stroking the curls lovingly out of their children's
faces, and in combing them out smooth when visitors come to the house.
Some mothers have even gone so far, when their children's hair did not
curl naturally, as to screw it up in paper or use tongs, but that was a
mistake on their part. If it were the fashion, I should have nothing to
say against even old people wearing curls, for it looks very nice in
some ancient pictures, but there are two remarks I should like to make
while on this subject, and these are: a man with thin legs ought never
to wear tight trousers, and he whose hair does not curl naturally should
cut it short. Our poor Godfrey's hair, which hung down his back, was
burnt to a sort of dun color by the sun, and as he liked it to look
smooth and tidy, he put a good deal of pomade on it, which greased
his coat-collar considerably.

[Illustration: THE BRIDAL PAIR AT THE CIVIL MARRIAGE OFFICE _From the
Painting by Benjamin Vautier_]

Beneath this wealth of hair was a small pale face with an expression of
suffering on it, which always made Braesig ask sympathizingly what
shoemaker he employed, and whether he was troubled with corns. The rest
of his figure was in keeping with his face. He was tall, narrow-chested,
and angular, and that part of the human body which shows whether a man
enjoys the good things of life, was altogether wanting in him. Indeed he
was so hollowed out where the useful and necessary digesting apparatus
is wont to show its existence by a gentle roundness of form, that he
might be said to be shaped like the inside of Mrs. Nuessler's
baking-trough. For this reason Braesig regarded him as a sort of wonder
in natural history, for he ate as much as a ploughman without producing
any visible effect. Let no one imagine that the Methodist did not do his
full duty in the way of eating and drinking; I have known divinity
students, and know some now, with whom I should have no chance in that
respect. But the fact is that young men whose minds are employed in
theological studies are generally somewhat thin, as will be seen in any
of the numerous divinity students to be met with in Mecklenburg; when
they have been settled in a good living for a few years, they begin to
fill out like ordinary mortals. Braesig remembered this, and did not
despair of seeing Godfrey a portly parson one of these days, though how
it was to come about was rather a puzzle to him. Such was Godfrey
Baldrian in appearance; but his portrait would not be complete if I did
not add that he had the faintest possible tinge of Phariseeism in his
expression. It was only a tinge, but with Phariseeism as with rennet, a
very small quantity is enough to curdle a large pan of milk.

They sat down to dinner, and Joseph asked: "Where is Rudolph?" "Goodness
gracious me, Joseph, what are you talking about!" said Mrs. Nuessler
crossly. "I'm sure you might know by this time that Rudolph is always
late. I dare say he's out fishing; but whatever he's about I can assure
him that if he doesn't come in time for dinner, he may just go without."
The meal was a very silent one, for Braesig was too much occupied
watching what was going on to be able to talk, and Mrs. Nuessler had
enough to do wondering over the cause of the remarkable change in her
daughters' appearance. The twins sat side by side, and looked as happy
as if they had just awakened from a disagreeable dream, and were
rejoicing that it was only a dream, and that the warm sunbeams were once
more shining upon them.

When dinner was over, Mina whose turn it was to help her mother to clear
away the dishes, tidy the room, and prepare the coffee, asked her
sister: "Where are you going, Lina?" "I'll get my sewing and go to the
arbor," answered Lina. "Very well," said Mina, "I'll join you there as
soon as I'm ready." "And I'll go too," said Godfrey, "for I've got a
book I want to finish." "That's right," said Braesig; "it'll be a deuced
good entertainment for Lina." Godfrey felt inclined to take the old man
to task for using such a word as "deuced," but on second thoughts
refrained from doing so, for he knew that it was hopeless to try to
bring Braesig round to his opinion, so he followed the girls from the
room. "Bless me!" cried Mrs. Nuessler.

"What can have happened to my girls? They were as quiet as mice and
never said a word to each other till this afternoon, and now they are
once more one heart and one soul." "Hush, Mrs. Nuessler," said Braesig,
"I'll find out all about it for you today. Joseph, come with me; but
mind you're not to talk." Joseph followed him to the garden, and when
they got there Braesig took his arm: "Now hold your tongue, Joseph," he
said, "don't look round, you must appear to be taking a walk after
dinner." Joseph did as he was told with much success. When they reached
the cherry-tree beside the arbor, Braesig stood still and said: "Now
then, Joseph, give me a back--but put your head close to the stem of the
tree." Joseph was about to speak, but Braesig pressed down his head,
saying: "Hold your tongue, Joseph--put your head nearer the tree." He
then stepped on his back, and when standing there firmly, said: "Now
straighten yourself--It does exactly!" Then seizing the lower branch
with both hands, Braesig pulled himself up into the tree. Joseph had
never spoken all this time but now he ventured to remark: "But, Braesig,
they're not nearly ripe yet." "What a duffer you are, Joseph," said
Braesig, thrusting his red face through the green leaves which surrounded
him. "Do you really think that I expect to eat Rhenish cherries at
midsummer. But go away now as quickly as you can and don't stand there
looking like a dog when a cat has taken refuge in a tree." "Ah well,
what shall I do?" said Joseph, going away and leaving Braesig to his
fate.

Braesig had not been long in his hiding-place, when he heard a light step
on the gravel walk, and, peering down, saw Lina going into the arbor
with such a large bundle of work in her arms that if she had finished it
in one day it would have been difficult to keep her in sewing. She laid
her work on the table and, resting her head on her hand, sat gazing
thoughtfully at the blue sky beyond Braesig's cherry-tree. "Ah, how happy
I am," she said to herself in the fulness of her grateful heart. "How
happy I am. Mina is so kind to me; and so is Godfrey, or why did he
press my foot under the table at dinner. What made Braesig stare at us so
sharply, I wonder? I think I must have blushed. What a good man Godfrey
is. How seriously and learnedly he can talk. How decided he is, and I
think he has the marks of his spiritual calling written in his face. He
isn't the least bit handsome it is true; Rudolph is much better looking,
but then Godfrey has an air with him that seems to say, 'don't disturb
me by telling me of any of your foolish worldly little vanities, for I
have high thoughts and aspirations, I am going to be a clergyman.' I'll
cut his hair short though as soon as I have the power." It is a great
blessing that every girl does not set her heart on having a handsome
husband, for otherwise we ugly men would all have to remain bachelors;
and pleasant looking objects we should be in that case, as I know of
nothing uglier than an ugly old bachelor. Lina's last thought, that of
cutting Godfrey's hair, had shown so much certainty of what was going to
happen, that she blushed deeply, and as at the same moment she heard a
slow dignified step approaching, she snatched up her work and began to
sew busily.

Godfrey seated himself at a little distance from his cousin, opened his
book and began to read, but every now and then he peeped over the edge
of it, either because he had read it before, or because he was thinking
of something else. That is always the way with Methodistical divinity
students even when they firmly believe what they teach. _Before_ the
examination they think of nothing but their spiritual calling, but
_after_ the examination is well over human nature regains its sway, and
they look out for a fitting wife, before they begin to think of a
parsonage. Godfrey was like all the rest of his kind, and as no other
girls except Mina and Lina had come in his way, and as Lina attended to
his admonitions far more docilely than her sister, he determined to make
her his helpmate. He was ignorant as to how such matters ought to be
conducted, and felt a little shy and awkward. He had got no further in
his wooing than pressing his lady-love's foot under the table, and
whenever he had done so he was always much more confused than Lina,
whose foot had received the pressure.

However he had determined that the whole matter should be settled that
day, so he began: "I brought this book out entirely for your sake, Lina.
Will you listen to a bit of it just now?" "Yes," said Lina. "What a slow
affair it's going to be," thought Braesig, who could hardly be said to be
lying on a bed of roses, his position in the cherry-tree was so cramped
and uncomfortable. Godfrey proceeded to read a sermon on Christian
marriage, describing how it should be entered into, and what was the
proper way of looking upon it. When he had finished he drew a little
nearer his cousin and asked: "What do you think of it, Lina?" "It's
very nice," said Lina. "Do you mean marriage?" asked Godfrey. "O-oh,
Godfrey," said Lina, her head drooping lower over her work. "No, Lina,"
Godfrey went on drawing a little closer to her, "it isn't at all nice. I
am thankful to see that you don't regard the gravest step possible in
human life with unbecoming levity. Marriage is a very hard thing, that
is to say, in the Christian sense of the word." He then described the
duties, cares and troubles of married life as if he wished to prepare
Lina for taking up her abode in some penal settlement, and Braesig, as he
listened, congratulated himself on having escaped such a terrible fate.
"Yes," Godfrey continued, "marriage is part of the curse that was laid
on our first parents when they were thrust out of paradise." So saying
he opened his Bible and read the third chapter of Genesis aloud. Poor
Lina did not know what to do, or where to look, and Braesig muttered:
"The infamous Jesuit, to read all that to the child." He nearly jumped
down from the tree in his rage, and as for Lina, she would have run away
if it had not been the Bible her cousin was reading to her, so she hid
her face in her hands and wept bitterly. Godfrey was now quite carried
away by zeal for his holy calling; he put his arm round her waist, and
said: "I could not spare you this at a time when I purpose making a
solemn appeal to you. Caroline Nuessler, will you, knowing the gravity of
the step you take, enter the holy estate of matrimony with me, and
become my Christian helpmeet?" Lina was so frightened and distressed at
his whole conduct that she could neither speak nor think; she could only
cry.

At the same moment a merry song was heard at a little distance:

"One bright afternoon I stood to look
Into the depths of a silver brook,
And there I saw little fishes swim,
One of them was gray, I look'd at him.

He was swimming, swimming and swimming
And with delight seemed overbrimming;
I never saw such a thing in my life
As the little gray fish seeking a wife."

Lina struggled hard to regain her composure, and then, in spite of the
Bible and the Christian requirements demanded of her, she started up and
rushed out of the arbor. On her way to the house she passed Mina who was
coming out to join her with her sewing. Godfrey followed Lina with long
slow steps, and looked as much put out as the clergyman who was
interrupted in a very long sermon by the beadle placing the church key
on the reading desk and saying that he might lock up the church himself
when he had done, for he, the beadle, must go home to dinner. Indeed he
was in much the same position as that clergyman. Like him he had wished
to preach a very fine sermon, and now he was left alone in his empty
church.

Mina was an inexperienced little thing, for she was the youngest of the
family, but still she was quick-witted enough to guess something of what
had taken place. She asked herself whether she would cry if the same
thing were to happen to her, and what it would be advisable for her to
do under the circumstances. She seated herself quietly in the arbor, and
began to unroll her work, sighing a little as she did so at the thought
of the uncertainty of her own fate, and the impossibility of doing
anything but wait patiently. "Bless me!" said Braesig to himself as he
lay hidden in the tree. "This little round-head has come now, and I've
lost all feeling in my body. It's a horribly slow affair!" But the
situation was soon to become more interesting, for shortly after Mina
had taken her seat a handsome young man came round the corner of the
arbor with a fishing rod over his shoulder and a fish basket on his
back. "I'm so glad to find you here, Mina," he exclaimed, "of course
you've all finished dinner." "You need hardly ask, Rudolph. It has just
struck two." "Ah well," he said, "I suppose that my aunt is very angry
with me again."

"You may be certain of that, and she was displeased with you already,
you know, even without your being late for dinner. I'm afraid, however,
that your own stomach will punish you more severely than my mother's
anger could do, you've neglected it so much today." "All the better for
you tonight. I really couldn't come sooner, the fish were biting so
splendidly. I went to the black pool today, though Braesig always advised
me not to go there, and now I know why. It's his larder. When he can't
catch anything else--where he's sure of a bite in the black pool. It's
cram full of tench. Just look, did you ever see such beauties?" and he
opened the lid of his basket as he spoke, and showed his spoil, adding:
"I've done old Braesig this time at any rate!" "The young rascal!"
groaned Braesig as he poked his nose through the cherry-leaves, making it
appear like a huge pickled capsicum such as Mrs. Nuessler was in the
habit of preserving in cherry-leaves for winter use. "The young rascal
to go and catch my tench! Bless me! what monsters the rogue has caught!"
"Give them to me, Rudolph," said Mina. "I will take them into the house,
and will bring you something to eat out here." "Oh no, never mind" "But
you musn't starve," she said. "Very well then--anything will do. A bit
of bread and butter will be quite enough, Mina." The girl went away, and
Rudolph seated himself in the arbor. "The devil take it!" muttered
Braesig, stretching his legs softly, and twisting and turning in the vain
endeavor to find a part of his body which was not aching from his
cramped position. "The wretch is sitting there now! I never saw such
goings on!"

Rudolph sat buried in thought, a very unusual circumstance with him. He
was easy-going by nature, and never troubled himself beforehand about
vexations that might come to him. He was not in the habit of brooding
over his worries, but on the contrary always tried to forget them. He
was tall and strongly made, and his mischievous brown eyes had sometimes
a look of imperious audacity which was in perfect keeping with the scar
on his sunburnt cheek that bore witness that he had not devoted his
whole time and energy to the study of dogmatic theology. "Yes," he said
to himself as he sat there waiting for his cousin, "I must get myself
out of this difficulty! I could bear it as long as it was far off, for
there was always plenty of time to come to a decision, but two things
must be settled today beyond recall. My father is coming this afternoon.
I only hope that my mother won't take it into her head to come too, or I
should never have courage to do it. I'm as well suited to be a clergyman
as a donkey is to play the guitar, or as Godfrey is to be colonel of a
cavalry regiment. If Braesig were only here, he'd stand by me I know. And
then Mina--I wish it were all settled with her." At this moment Mina
appeared carrying a plate of bread and butter--Rudolph sprang up,
exclaiming: "What a dear good little girl you are, Mina!" and he threw
his arm round her waist as he spoke. Mina freed herself from him,
saying: "Don't do that. Ah, how could you have been so wicked? My mother
is very angry with you." "You mean about the sermon," he answered;
"well, yes, it was a stupid trick." "No," said Mina quickly, "it was a
wicked trick. You made game of holy things." "Not a bit of it," he
replied. "These trial sermons are not holy things, even when they are
preached by our pious cousin Godfrey." "But, Rudolph, it was in
_church!_" "Ah, Mina, I confess that it was a silly joke. I didn't think
sufficiently of what I was doing. I only thought of the sheepish look of
amazement Godfrey's face would wear, and that tickled me so much that I
was mad enough to play the trick. Now don't let us talk any more about
it, Mina," he said coaxingly, as he slipped his arm round her waist
again. "No, I won't allow that," said Mina. "And," she went on, "the
parson said that if he were to make the story known, you'd never get a
living all your life." "Then I hope that he'll tell every one what I did
and it'll end all the bother." "What do you mean?" asked Mina, pushing
him from her and staring at him in perplexity. "Are you in earnest?"

"Never more so in my life. I've entered the pulpit for the first and
last time." "Rudolph!" cried Mina in astonishment. "What's the use of
trying to make me a clergy man," said Rudolph quickly. "Look at Godfrey
and then look at me. Do you think I should make a good parson? And then,
there's another thing, even if I were so well up in theology that I
could puzzle the learned professors themselves, they would never pass me
in the examination. All that they care about is having men who can adopt
all their cant phrases. If I were the apostle Paul himself they'd refuse
to pass me, if they caught sight of this little scar upon my cheek."
"What are you going to do then?" asked Mina anxiously, and laying her
hand upon his arm, she added: "Oh, _don't_ be a soldier!" "I should
think not! No, I want to be a farmer." "The confounded young rascal!"
muttered Braesig. "Yes, my own dear little Mina," continued Rudolph,
drawing her to his side on the bench, "I intend to be a farmer; a real
good, hard-working farmer, and you, dear Mina, must help me to become
one." "What!" said Braesig to himself, "is she to teach him to plough and
harrow?" "I, Rudolph?" asked Mina. "Yes, my sweet child," he answered,
stroking her smooth hair and soft cheeks; then taking her chin in his
hand, he raised her face toward him, and looking into her blue eyes,
went on: "If I could only be certain that you'd consent to be my little
wife as soon as I'd a home to offer you, it would make everything easy
to me, and I should be sure of learning to be a good farmer. Will you,
Mina, will you?" Mina began to cry softly, and Rudolph kissed away the
tears as they rolled down her cheeks, and then she laid her little
round-head on his shoulder. Rudolph gave her time to recover her
composure, and after a few minutes she told him in a low whisper that
she would do as he asked, so he kissed her again and again. Braesig
seeing this exclaimed half aloud: "The devil take him! Stop that!"
Rudolph found time to tell her in the midst of his kissing that he
intended to speak to his father that afternoon, and said amongst other
things that it was a pity Braesig was not there, as he was sure he would
have helped him to make his explanation to his father, who, he knew,
thought a great deal of Braesig's advice. "The young rascal to catch my
fish!" muttered Braesig. Then Mina said: "Braesig was here this morning
and dined with us. I daresay he is enjoying an after-dinner sleep now."
"Just listen to little round-head," said Braesig to himself. "An
after-dinner sleep indeed! But everything is settled now, and I needn't
cramp my bones up here any longer." And while Rudolph was saying that he
would like to see the old man before he went into the house, Braesig
slipped out of his hiding-place in the cherry-tree, and clinging with
both hands to the lowest branch, let his legs dangle in the air, and
shouted: "Here he is!" Bump! He came down on the ground, and stood
before the lovers with an expression on his red face which seemed to say
that he considered himself a competent judge on even the most delicate
points of feeling.

The two young people were not a little startled. Mina hid her face in
her hands as Lina had done, but she did not cry; and she would have run
away like Lina if she and uncle Braesig had not always been on the most
confidential terms with each other. She threw herself into uncle
Braesig's arms, and in her desire to hide her blushing face, she tried to
burrow her little round-head into his waistcoat-pocket, exclaiming:
"Uncle Braesig, uncle Braesig, you're a very naughty old man!" "Oh!" said
Braesig, "you think so, do you?" "Yes," answered Rudolph, who had mounted
his high horse, "you ought to be ashamed of listening to what you were
not intended to hear." "Moshoo Rudolph," said the old bailiff stiffly,
"I may as well tell you once for all, that shame is a thing that must
never be mentioned in connection with me, and if you think that your
grand airs will have any effect upon me, you're very much, mistaken."
Rudolph saw clearly that such was the case, and as he did not want to
quarrel with the old man for Mina's sake, he relented a little, and
said more gently that he would think nothing more of what had occurred,
if Braesig could assure him that he had got into the tree by accident,
but still he considered that Braesig ought to have coughed, or done
something to make his presence known, instead of sitting still and
listening to the whole story from A to Z. "Oh," said Braesig, "I ought to
have _coughed,_ you say, but I _groaned_ loud enough, I can tell you,
and you couldn't have helped hearing me if you hadn't been so much taken
up with what you yourself were about. But _you_ ought to be ashamed of
yourself for having fallen in love with Mina without Mrs. Nuessler's
leave." Rudolph replied that that was his own affair, that no one had a
right to meddle, and that Braesig understood nothing about such things.
"What!" said Braesig. "Have you ever been engaged to three girls at once.
I have, Sir, and quite openly too, and yet you say that I know nothing
about such things! But sneaks are all alike. First of all you catch my
fish secretly in the black pool, and then you catch little Mina in the
arbor before my very eyes. No, no, let him be, Mina. He shall not hurt
you." "Ah, uncle Braesig!" entreated Mina, "do help us, we love each
other so dearly." "Yes, let him be, Mina, you're my little godchild;
you'll soon get over it." "No, Mr. Braesig," cried Rudolph, laying his
hand on the old man's shoulder, "no, dear good uncle Braesig, we'll never
get over it; it'll last as long as we live. I want to be a farmer, and
if I have the hope before me of gaining Mina for my wife some day, and
if," he added slyly, "you will help me with your advice, I can't help
becoming a good one." "What a young rascal!" said Braesig to himself,
then aloud: "Ah yes, I know you! You'd be a latin farmer like Pistorius,
and Praetorius, and Trebonius. You'd sit on the edge of a ditch and read
the book written by the fellow with the long string of titles of honor,
I mean the book about oxygen, nitrogen, and organisms, whilst the
farm-boys spread the manure over your rye-field in lumps as big as your
hat. Oh, I know you!

"I've only known one man who took to farming after going through all the
classes at the high-school, who turned out well. I mean young Mr. von
Rambow, Hawermann's pupil." "Oh, uncle Braesig," said Mina, raising her
head slowly and stroking the old man's cheek, "Rudolph can do as well as
Frank." "No, Mina, he _can't_. And shall I tell you why? Because he's
only a gray-hound, while the other is a man." "Uncle Braesig," said
Rudolph, "I suppose you are referring to that silly trick that I played
about the sermon, but you don't know how Godfrey plagued me in his zeal
for converting me. I really couldn't resist playing him a trick." "Ha,
ha, ha!" laughed Braesig. "No, I didn't mean that, I was very much amused
at that. So he wanted to convert you, and perhaps induce you to give up
fishing? He tried his hand at converting again this afternoon, but Lina
ran away from him; however that doesn't matter, it's all right." "With
Lina and Godfrey?" asked Mina anxiously. "And did you hear all that
passed on that occasion too?" "Of course I did. It was for her sake
entirely that I hid myself in that confounded cherry-tree. But now come
here, Moshoo Rudolph. Do you promise never to enter a pulpit again, or
to preach another sermon?" "Never again." "Do you promise to get up at
three o'clock in the morning in summer, and give out the feeds for the
horses?" "Punctually." "Do you promise to learn how to plough, harrow,
mow and bind properly? I mean to bind with a wisp, there's no art in
doing it with a rope." "Yes," said Rudolph. "Do you promise when coming
home from market never to sit in an inn over a punch-bowl while your
carts go on before, so that you are obliged to reel after them?" "I
promise never to do so," said Rudolph. "Do you promise--Mina, do you see
that pretty flower over there, the blue one I mean, will you bring it to
me, I want to smell it--do you promise," he repeated as soon as Mina was
out of hearing, "never to flirt with any of those confounded
farm-girls?" "Oh, Mr. Braesig, do you take me for a scoundrel?" asked
Rudolph, turning away angrily. "No, no," answered Braesig, "but I want
you to understand clearly from the very beginning that I will strangle
you if ever you cause my little godchild to shed a tear." And as he
spoke he looked so determined, that one might have thought he was going
to begin the operation at once. "Thank you, Mina," he said, taking the
flower from her, and after smelling it putting it in his button-hole.
"And now come here, Mina, and I will give you my blessing. Nay, you
needn't go down on your knees, for I'm not one of your parents, I'm only
your godfather. And, Moshoo Rudolph, I promise to take your part this
afternoon when your father comes, and to help you to free yourself from
being bound to a profession you don't like. Come away both of you, we
must go in now. But, Rudolph, remember you musn't sit on the grass and
read, but must see to the proper manuring of your fields yourself. Look,
this is the way the farm-lads ought to hold their pitch-forks, not like
that. Bang! and tumble off all that is on it; no, they must shake the
fork gently three or four times, breaking and spreading the manure as
they do so. When a bit of ground is properly spread it ought to look as
smooth and clean as a velvet table-cover." He then went into the house
accompanied by the two young people.

[The love affairs of both young couples ran smoothly, since uncle Braesig
was on their side. Godfrey and Lina were married first and, when pastor
Behrens died, moved into the parsonage of Guerlitz, for Godfrey was
elected the dear old man's successor. Rudolph studied agriculture and,
when he had mastered his subject, returned to Rexow, where he was
intrusted with the management of the farm, and married Mina. No finer
wedding had ever been celebrated in the neighborhood. All the rich
relatives of Joseph Nuessler were present, in addition to the more
intimate friends. There was also a horde of young people whom uncle
Braesig had been permitted to invite from Rahnstaedt, where he had been
living since his retirement on a pension.

Mina looked for all the world like a rosy apple lying on a silver plate
surrounded by its green leaves as she stood there in her white satin
gown and myrtle wreaths. Uncle Braesig was groomsman, and blew his nose
energetically as he said: "My little Mina! My little godchild! How happy
she looks!" and every time one of the fat old Nuessler's gave Mina a
kiss, he bent down and kissed Mrs. Behrens, as much as to imply that he
thought this would prevent any contamination of his goddaughter by the
foolish old Nuesslers with their wretched worldly notions. But finally,
when Braesig was about to salute her again, she said: "You ought to be
ashamed of yourself, Braesig." Then Braesig drew back rather crestfallen
and said: "Don't take it ill of me, Mrs. Behrens, my feelings ran away
with me."

Those kindly feelings often ran away with him and enabled him to bring
happiness to his friends where more cautious people would have been
helpless. It was he who unraveled the mystery which had cast a shadow
over the good name of Hawermann, and who at the proper moment called
Frank von Rambow home from Paris. When Hawermann had received the news
that he was cleared, and Mrs. Behrens wished to go to him at once, uncle
Braesig drew her gently back to the sofa and said: "Not quite yet, Mrs.
Behrens. You see, I think that Hawermann wants to have a little quiet
time to tell God all about it, and that Louisa is helping him. It's
enough for her to be there, for as you know our God is a jealous God,
and doesn't suffer people to meddle, when he is speaking to a soul that
is filled with gratitude to Him." Little Mrs. Behrens gazed at him in
speechless amazement. At last she murmured: "Oh, Braesig, I've always
looked upon you as a heathen, and now I see that you're a Christian." "I
know nothing about that, Mrs. Behrens. I'm sure of this, however, that
what little I've been able to do in this matter has been done as an
assessor and not as a Christian." Uncle Braesig, you must know, had
recently been appointed an assessor to the Rahnstaedt court, and he was
as proud of his new title as he had been of that of "farm-bailiff"
before.

As the years advanced, his friends prospered, while Pomuchelskopp, whom
the Guerlitz laborers had badly treated in the revolution of 1848, sold
his estates and moved away. Uncle Braesig went about visiting his friends,
and on one such visit had an attack of gout that would have been of
little consequence, but which seized both legs and then mounted into his
stomach, because of a chill he got on his journey home. And that caused
his death. Mrs. Behrens, Mrs. Nuessler, and his old friend Charles
Hawermann came round his bed. He held Mrs. Nuessler's hand tight all the
while. Suddenly he raised himself and said: "Mrs. Nuessler, please put
your hand on my head; I have always loved you. Charles Hawermann, will
you rub my legs, they're so cold." Hawermann did as he was asked, and
Braesig said, very slowly with one of his old smiles: "In style I was
always better than you." That was all.]

_ADALBERT STIFTER_

* * * * *

ROCK CRYSTAL[10] (1846)

TRANSLATED BY LEE M. HOLLANDER, PH.D.

Among the high mountains of our fatherland there lies a little village
with a small but very pointed church-tower which emerges with red
shingles from the green of many fruit-trees, and by reason of its red
color is to be seen far and away amid the misty bluish distances of the
mountains. The village lies right in the centre of a rather broad valley
which has about the shape of a longish circle. Besides the church it
contains a school, a townhall, and several other houses of no mean
appearance, which form a square on which stand four linden-trees
surrounding a stone cross. These buildings are not mere farms but house
within them those handicrafts which are indispensable to the human race
and furnish the mountaineers with all the products of industry which
they require. In the valley and along the mountain-sides many other huts
and cots are scattered, as is very often the case in mountain regions.
These habitations belong to the parish and school-district and pay
tribute to the artisans we mentioned by purchasing their wares. Still
other more distant huts belong to the village, but are so deeply
ensconced in the recesses of the mountains that one cannot see them at
all from the valley. Those who live in them rarely come down to their
fellow-parishioners and in winter frequently must keep their dead until
after the snows have melted away in order to give them a burial. The
greatest personage whom the villagers get to see in the course of the
year is the priest.

[Illustration: ADALBERT STIFTER DAFFINGER]

They greatly honor him, and usually he himself through a longer
sojourn becomes so accustomed to the solitude of the valley that he not
unwillingly stays and simply lives on there. At least, it has not
happened in the memory of man that the priest of the village had been a
man hankering to get away or unworthy of his vocation.

No roads lead through the valley. People use their double-track
cart-paths upon which they bring in the products of their fields in
carts drawn by one horse. Hence, few people come into the valley, among
them sometimes a solitary pedestrian who is a lover of nature and dwells
for some little time in the upper room of the inn and admires the
mountains; or perhaps a painter who sketches the small, pointed spire of
the church and the beautiful summits of the rocky peaks. For this reason
the villagers form a world by themselves. They all know each other by
name and their several histories down from the time of grandfather and
great-grandfather; they all mourn when one of them dies; know what name
the new-born will receive; they have a language differing from that of
the plains; they have their quarrels, which they settle among
themselves; they assist one another and flock together when something
extraordinary has happened.

They are conservative and things are left to remain as they were.
Whenever a stone drops out of a wall, the same stone is put back again,
the new houses are built like the old ones, the dilapidated roofs are
repaired with the same kind of shingles, and if there happen to be
brindled cows on a farm, calves of the same color are raised always, so
that the color stays on the farm.

To the south of the village one sees a snow-mountain which seems to lift
up its shining peaks right above the roofs of the houses. Yet it is not
quite so near. Summer and winter it dominates the valley with its
beetling crags and snowy sides. Being the most remarkable object in the
landscape, this mountain is of main interest to the inhabitants and has
become the central feature of many a story.

There is not a young man or graybeard in the village but can tell of the
crags and crests of the mountain, of its crevasses and caves, of its
torrents and screes, whether now he knows it from his own experience or
from hearsay. The mountain is the boast of the villagers as if it were a
work of theirs and one is not so sure, however high one may esteem the
plain-spokenness and reputation for truth-telling of the natives,
whether they do not fib, now and then, to the honor and glory of their
mountain. Besides being the wonder of the valley, the mountain affords
actual profit; for whenever a company of tourists arrives to ascend the
mountain the natives serve as guides; and to have been a guide, to have
experienced this or that, to know this or that spot, is a distinction
every one likes to gain for himself. The mountain often is the object of
their conversation at the inn, when they sit together and tell of their
feats and wonderful experiences; nor do they omit to relate what this or
that traveler had said and what reward they had received from him for
their labor. Furthermore, the snowy sides of the mountain feed a lake
among its heavily forested recesses, from which a merry brook runs
through the valley, drives the saw-mill and the flour-mill, cleanses the
village and waters the cattle. The forests of the mountain furnish
timber and form a bulwark against the avalanches.

The annual history of the mountain is as follows: In winter, the two
pinnacles of its summit, which they call horns, are snow-white and, when
visible on bright days, tower up into the blackish blue of the sky in
dazzling splendor, and all its shoulders are white, too, and all slopes.
Even the perpendicular precipices, called walls by the natives, are
covered with white frost delicately laid on, or with thin ice adhering
to them like varnish, so that the whole mass looms up like an enchanted
castle from out of the hoary gray of the forests which lie spread out
heavily about its base. In summer, when the sun and warm winds melt the
snow from their steep sides, the peaks soar up black into the sky and
have only beautiful veins and specks of white on their flanks--as the
natives say. But the fact is, the peaks are of a delicate, distant blue,
and what they call veins and specks is not white, but has the lovely
milk-blue color of distant snow against the darker blue of the rocks.
When the weather is hot, the more elevated slopes about the peaks do not
lose their covering of eternal snow. On the contrary it then gleams with
double resplendence down upon the green of the trees in the valley; but
the winter's snow is melted off their lower parts. Then becomes visible
the bluish or greenish iridescence of the glaciers which are bared and
gleam down upon the valley below. At the edge of this iridescence, there
where it seems from the distance like a fringe of gems, a nearer view
reveals confused masses of wild and monstrous boulders, slabs, and
fragments piled up in chaotic fashion. In very hot and long summers, the
ice-fields are denuded even in the higher regions, and then a much
greater amount of blue-green glacier-ice glances down into the valley,
many knobs and depressions are laid bare which one otherwise sees only
covered with white, the muddy edge of the ice comes to view with its
deposit of rocks, silt, and slime, and far greater volumes of water than
usual rush into the valley. This continues until it gradually becomes
autumn again, the waters grow less, and one day a gray continuous gentle
rain spreads over all the valley. Then, after the mists have dispersed
about the summits, the mountain is seen to have draped itself again in
its soft robe of snow, and all crags, cones, and pinnacles are vested in
white. Thus it goes on, year after year, with but slight divergences,
and thus it will go on so long as nature remains the same, and there is
snow upon the heights and people live in the valleys. But to the natives
these changes seem great, they pay much attention to them and calculate
the progress of the seasons by them.

The ascent of the mountain is made from our valley. One follows a fine
road which leads south to another valley over a so-called "neck." Neck
they call a moderately high mountain-ridge which connects two
mountain-ranges of considerable magnitude and over which one can pass
from one valley to another between the mountains. The neck which
connects our snow-mountain with another great mountain-mass is
altogether covered with pine-forests. At its greatest elevation, where
the road begins gradually to descend into the valley beyond, there
stands a post erected to commemorate a calamity. Once upon a time a
baker carrying bread in a basket slung around his neck was found dead on
that spot. They painted a picture of the dead baker with his basket and
the pine-trees round about, and beneath it an explanation with a request
for prayer from the passer-by, and this picture they fastened to a
wooden post painted red, and erected it at the spot where the accident
occurred. At this post, then, one leaves the road and continues along
the ridge of the "neck" instead of crossing it and descending into the
valley beyond. There is an opening among the pine-trees at that spot, as
if there were a road between them. In fact, a path is sometimes made in
that direction which then serves to bring down timber from the higher
regions, but which is afterward overgrown again with grass. Proceeding
along this way, which gently ascends, one arrives at last at a bare,
treeless region. It is barren heath where grows nothing but heather,
mosses, and lichens. It grows ever steeper, the further one ascends; but
one always follows a gully resembling a rounded out ditch which is
convenient, as one cannot then miss one's way in this extensive,
treeless, monotonous region. After a while, rocks as large as churches
rise out of the grassy soil, between whose walls one climbs up still
farther. Then there are again bleak ridges, with hardly any vegetation,
which reach up into the thinner air of higher altitudes and lead
straight to the ice. At both sides of this path, steep ledges plunge
down, and by this natural causeway the snow-mountain is joined to the
"neck." In order to surmount the ice one skirts it for some distance
where it is surrounded by rock-walls, until one comes to the old
hard snow which bridges the crevasses and at most seasons of the year
bears the weight of the climber.

[Illustration: A MOUNTAIN SCENE _From the Painting by H. Reifferscheid_]

From the highest point of this snowfield, two peaks tower up, of which
the one is higher and, therefore, the summit of the mountain. These
pinnacles are very hard to climb. As they are surrounded by a chasm of
varying width--the bergschrund--which one must leap over, and as their
precipitous escarpments afford but small footholds, most of the tourists
climbing the mountain content themselves with reaching the bergschrund
and from there enjoy the panorama. Those who mean to climb to the top
must use climbing-irons, ropes, and, iron spikes.

Besides this mountain there are still others south of the valley, but
none as high. Even if the snow begins to lie on them early in fall and
stays till late in spring, midsummer always removes it, and then the
rocks gleam pleasantly in the sunlight, and the forests at their base
have their soft green intersected by the broad blue shadows of these
peaks which are so beautiful that one never tires of looking at them.

On the opposite, northern, eastern, and western sides of the valley the
mountains rise in long ridges and are of lower elevation: scattered
fields and meadows climb up along their sides till rather high up, and
above them one sees clearings, chalets, and the like, until at their
edge they are silhouetted against the sky with their delicately serrated
forest--which is indicative of their inconsiderable height--whereas the
mountains toward the south, though also magnificently wooded, cut off
the shining horizon with entirely smooth lines.

When one stands about in the centre of the valley it would seem as if
there were no way out or into the basin; but people who have often been
in the mountains are familiar with this illusion: the fact is, diverse
roads lead through the folds of the mountains to the plains to the
north, some of them with hardly a rise; and to the south where the
valley seems shut in by precipitous mountain-walls, a road leads over
the "neck" mentioned above.

The village is called Gschaid and the snow-mountain looking down upon
it, Gars.

On the other side of the "neck" there lies a valley by far more
beautiful and fertile than that of Gschaid. At its entrance there lies a
country-town of considerable size named Millsdorf which has several
industrial enterprizes and carries on almost urban trade and business.
Its inhabitants are much more well-to-do than those of Gschaid and,
although only three hours away, which for these labor-loving
mountaineers used to great distances is only a bagatelle, yet manners
and customs are so different in the two valleys and even their external
appearance is so unlike that one might suppose a great number of miles
lay between. This is of common occurrence in the mountains and due not
only to the more or less favored position of the valleys but also to the
spirit of the natives who by reason of their differing occupations are
inclined this way or that. But in this they all agree, that they adhere
to established customs and the usages of their forefathers, lightly bear
the absence of great traffic, cling to their native valley with an
extraordinary love; in fact, can hardly live out of it.

Months, ay a whole year may pass without a native of Gschaid setting
foot into the valley beyond and visiting the town of Millsdorf. The same
is true of the people of Millsdorf, although they have more intercourse
with the country beyond and hence live in less seclusion than the
villagers of Gschaid. A road which might be called a high-road leads
through the length of their valley and many a traveler passes through it
without suspecting in the least that to the north of him, on the other
side of the snow-mountain towering high above him, there is another
valley with many scattered houses and the village with its pointed
church-tower.

Among the trades of the village which supply the necessities of the
valley is that of the shoemaker, indispensible indeed to man excepting
in his most primitive condition.

But the natives are so high raised above that condition that they stand
in need of very good and durable footgear for the mountains. The
shoemaker is the only one of his trade in the valley--with one
inconsiderable exception. His house stands on the public square of
Gschaid where most of the larger dwellings are situated and its gray
walls, white window-frames, and green shutters face the four
linden-trees. On the ground-floor are the workshop, the workmen's room,
a larger and a smaller sitting-room, the shop, and then the kitchen and
pantry; the first story or, more properly, the attic-space, contains the
"upper-room" which is also the "best room." In it there stand two beds
of state, beautifully polished clothes-presses; there is a china-closet
with dishes, a table with inlaid work, upholstered easy-chairs, a
strong-box for the savings. Furthermore there hang on the walls pictures
of saints, two handsome watches, being prizes won in shooting-matches,
and finally there are some rifles both for target-firing and hunting,
with all the necessary paraphernalia, carefully hung up in a special
case with a glass-door.

Added to the shoemaker's house there is a smaller house, built exactly
like it and, though separated from it by an arched gateway, belonging to
it like part of a whole. It has only one large room with some closets.
Its purpose is to serve the owner of the larger house as habitation for
the remainder of his days, after having left the property to his son or
successor; there to dwell with his wife until both are dead and the
little house stands empty again and is ready for another occupant. To
the rear of the shoemaker's house are stable and barn; for every dweller
in the valley carries on farming along with his regular occupation and
makes a good living from it. Behind these buildings, finally, is the
garden which is lacking to none of the better houses of Gschaid, and
from which the villagers obtain their vegetables, their fruit, and the
flowers necessary for festive occasions. And, as quite commonly in the
mountains, apiculture is pursued also in the gardens of Gschaid.

The small exception alluded to, and the only competitor of the shoemaker
is a man of the same trade, old Tobias, who is not a real rival, though,
because he only cobbles and is kept quite busy with that. Nor would he
ever think of competing with the gentleman shoemaker of the township,
especially as the latter frequently provides him gratuitously with
leather-cuttings, sole strips, and the like. In summertime, old Tobias
sits under a clump of elder-bushes at the end of the village and works
away. All about him are shoes and lace-boots, all of them, however,
gray, muddy, and torn. There are no high boots because these are not
worn in the village and its surroundings; only two personages own such
boots, the priest and the schoolteacher, both of whom have their new
work and repairing done by the shoemaker. In winter, old Tobias sits in
his cot behind the elder-bushes and has it comfortably warm, because
wood is not dear in Gschaid.

Before entering into possession of his house, the shoemaker had been a
chamois-poacher--in fact, had not exactly been a model in youth, so the
people of Gschaid said. In school, he had always been one of the
brightest scholars. Afterwards, he had learned his father's trade and
had gone on his journeyman wanderings, finally returning to the village.
Instead of wearing a black hat, as befits a tradesman, and as his father
had done all his life, he put on a green one, decorated it with all the
feathers obtainable and strutted around in the very shortest homespun
coat to be found in all the valley; whereas his father always had worn a
coat of dark, even black cloth with very long tails to indicate his
station as tradesman. The young shoemaker was to be seen on all dancing
floors and bowling alleys. Whenever any one gave him a piece of good
advice he merely whistled. He attended all shooting-matches in the
neighborhood with his target-rifle and often brought back a prize, which
he considered a great victory. The prize generally consisted of coins
artistically set. To win them, he frequently had to spend more coins of
the same value than the prize was worth--especially as he was very
generous with his money. He also participated in all the chases of the
surrounding country and won a name as a marksman. Sometimes, however, he
issued alone with his double-barreled gun and climbing irons, and once,
it is said, returned with an ugly wound in his head.

In Millsdorf there lived a dyer who carried on a very notable industry.
His works lay right at the entrance of the town at the side toward
Gschaid. He employed many people and even worked with machines, which
was an unheard of thing in the valley. Besides, he did extensive
farming. The shoemaker frequently crossed the mountain to win the
daughter of this wealthy dyer. Because of her beauty, but also because
of her modesty and domesticity she was praised far and near.
Nevertheless the shoemaker, it is said, attracted her attention. The
dyer did not permit him to enter his house; and whereas his beautiful
daughter had, even before that, never attended public places and
merry-makings, and was rarely to be seen outside the house of her
parents, now she became even more retiring in her habits and was to be
seen only in church, in her garden, or at home.

Some time after the death of his parents, by which the paternal house
which he inhabited all alone became his, the shoemaker became an
altogether different man. Boisterous as he had been before, he now sat
in his shop and hammered away day and night. Boastingly, he set a prize
on it that there was no one who could make better shoes and footgear. He
took none but the best workmen and kept after them when they worked in
order that they should do as he told them. And really, he accomplished
his desire, so that not only the whole village of Gschaid, which for the
most part had got its shoes from neighboring valleys, had their work
done by him, but the whole valley also. And finally he had some
customers even from Millsdorf and other valleys. Even down into the
plains his fame spread so that a good many who intended to climb in the
mountains had their shoes made by him for that purpose.

He ordered his house very neatly and in his shop the shoes, lace-boots,
and high boots shone upon their several shelves; and when, on Sundays,
the whole population of the valley came into the village, gathering
under the four linden trees of the square, people liked to go over to
the shoemaker's shop and look through the panes to watch the customers.

On account of the love he bore to the mountains, even now he devoted his
best endeavor to the making of mountain lace-shoes. In the inn he used
to say that there was no one who could show him any one else's mountain
boots that could compare with his own. "They don't know," he was
accustomed to add, "and they have never learned it in all their life,
how such a shoe is to be made so that the firmament of the nails shall
fit well on the soles and contain the proper amount of iron, so as to
render the shoe hard on the outside, so that no flint, however sharp,
can be felt through, and so that it on its inside fits the foot as snug
and soft as a glove."

The shoemaker had a large ledger made for himself in which he entered
all goods he had manufactured, adding the names of those who had
furnished the materials and of those who had bought the finished goods,
together with a brief remark about the quality of the product. Footgear
of the same kind bore their continuous numbers, and the book lay in the
large drawer of his shop.

Even if the beautiful daughter of the Millsdorf dyer did not take a step
outside her parents' home, and even though she visited neither friends
nor relatives, yet the shoemaker of Gschaid knew how to arrange it so
that she saw him from afar when she walked to church, when she was in
her garden, and when she looked out upon the meadows from the windows of
her room. On account of this unceasing spying the dyer's wife by dint of
her long and persevering prayers had brought it about that her obstinate
husband yielded and that the shoemaker--as he had, in fact, become a
better man--led the beautiful and wealthy Millsdorf girl home to
Gschaid as his wife. However, the dyer was a man who meant to have his
own way. The right sort of man, he said, ought to ply his trade in a
manner to prosper and ought, therefore, to be able to maintain his wife,
children, himself, and his servants, to keep house and home in good
condition, and yet save a goodly amount--which savings were, after all,
the main aids to honor and dignity in the world. Therefore, he said, his
daughter would receive nothing from home but an excellent outfit; all
else it was and remained the duty of the husband to provide. The dyeing
works in Millsdorf and the farming he carried on were a dignified and
honorable business by themselves which had to exist for their own sake.
All property belonging to them had to serve as capital, for which reason
he would not give away any part of them. But when he, the dyer, and his
wife, were deceased, then both the dye-works and the farm in Millsdorf
would fall to their only daughter, the shoemaker's wife in Gschaid, and
she and her husband could do with the property what they pleased: they
would inherit it, however, only if worthy of inheriting it; if unworthy,
it would go to their children, and if there were none, to other
relatives, with the exception of the lawful portion. Neither did the
shoemaker demand anything, but proudly gave the dyer to understand that
he had cared but for his beautiful daughter and that he was able to
maintain her as she had been maintained at home. And when she was his
wife, he gave her clothes not only finer than those the women of Gschaid
and the Gschaid valley owned, but also than she had ever worn at home.
And as to food and drink, he insisted on having it better, and her
treatment more considerate than she had enjoyed in her own father's
house. Moreover, in order to show his independence of his father-in-law,
he bought more and more ground with his savings so that he came to own a
goodly property.

Now, the natives of Gschaid rarely leave their valley, as has been
remarked--hardly even traveling to Millsdorf from which they are
separated by customs as well as by mountain-ridges; besides, it never
happens that a man leaves his valley to settle in a neighboring
one--though settlements at greater distances do take place; neither does
a woman or a girl like to emigrate from one valley into another, except
in the rather rare cases when she follows her love and as wife joins her
husband in another valley. So it happened that the dyer's daughter from
Millsdorf was ever considered a stranger by all the people of Gschaid,
even after she had become the shoemaker's wife; and although they never
did her any ill, ay, even loved her on account of her beautiful ways,
yet they always seemed to keep their distance, or, if you will, showed
marked consideration for her, and never became intimate or treated her
as their equal, as men and women of Gschaid did men and women of their
own valley. Thus matters stood and remained, and were not mended by the
better dress and the lighter domestic duties of the shoemaker's wife.

At the end of the first year, she had born to her husband a son, and
several years afterward, a daughter. She believed, however, that he did
not love his children as she thought he ought to, and as she knew she
loved them herself; for his face was mostly serious and he was chiefly
concerned with his work. He rarely fondled or played with the children
and always spoke seriously to them as one does to adults. With regard to
food and clothes, and other material things, his care for them was above
reproach.

At first, the dyer's wife frequently came over to Gschaid, and the young
couple in their turn visited Millsdorf on occasion of country-fairs and
other festivities. But when the children came, circumstances were
altered. If mothers love their children and long for them, this is
frequently, and to a much higher degree, the case with grandmothers;
they occasionally long for their grandchildren with an intensity that
borders on morbidness. The dyer's wife very frequently came over to
Gschaid now, in order to see the children and to bring them presents.
Then she would depart again after giving them kindly advice. But when
her age and health did not any longer permit of these frequent journeys
and the dyer for this reason objected to them, they bethought themselves
of another plan; they changed about, and now the children visited their
grandmother. Frequently, the mother herself took them over in their
carriage; at other times, they were bundled up warmly and driven over
the "neck" under the care of a servant girl. But when they were a little
older, they went to Millsdorf on foot, either in the company of their
mother or of some servant; indeed, when the boy had become strong,
clever, and self-reliant, they let him travel the well-known road over
the "neck" by himself; and, when the weather was specially beautiful and
he begged them, they permitted his little sister to accompany him. This
is customary in Gschaid as the people are hardy pedestrians, and because
parents--especially a man like the shoemaker--like to see their children
able to take care of themselves.

Thus it happened that the two children made the way over the pass more
frequently than all the other villagers together; and inasmuch as their
mother had always been treated as half a stranger in Gschaid, the
children, by this circumstance, grew up to be strangers' children to the
village folks; they hardly were Gschaid children, but belonged half to
Millsdorf.

The boy, Conrad, had already something of the earnest ways of his
father, and the girl, Susanna, named so after her mother, or Sanna for
brevity, had great faith in his knowledge, understanding, and strength,
and unquestioningly followed where he led, just as her mother absolutely
trusted her husband whom she credited with all possible insight and
ability.

On beautiful mornings, one could see the children walk southward through
the valley, and traverse the meadows toward the point where the forest
of the "neck" looks down on them. They would enter the forest, gain the
height on the road, and before noon come to the open meadows on the
side toward Millsdorf. Conrad then showed Sanna the pastures that
belonged to grandfather, then they walked through his fields in which he
explained to her the various kinds of grain, then they saw the long
cloths wave in the wind and blow into antic shapes as they hung to dry
on poles under the eaves; then they heard the noises of the fullery and
of the tannery which the dyer had built by the brook, then they rounded
a corner of the fields, and very soon entered the garden of the dyer's
establishment by the back gate, where they were received by grandmother.
She always had a presentiment when the children were coming, looked out
of the windows, and recognized them from afar, whenever Sanna's red
kerchief shone brightly in the sun.

She led the children through the laundry and the press into the
living-room and had them sit down, not letting them take off their
neckcloths or coats lest they should catch cold, and then kept them for
dinner. After the meal they were allowed to go into the open and play,
and to walk about in the house of their grandparents, or do whatever
else they cared to, provided it was not improper or forbidden. The dyer,
who always ate with them, questioned them about school and impressed
upon them what they ought to learn. In the afternoon, they were urged by
their grandmother to depart even before it was time, so that they should
in no case reach home too late. Although the dyer had given his daughter
no dowry and had vowed not to give away anything of his fortune before
his death, his wife did not hold herself so strictly bound. She not only
frequently made the children presents of pieces of money, sometimes of
considerable value, but also invariably tied two bundles for them to
carry in which there were things she believed were necessary or would
give the children pleasure. And even if the same things were to be found
in the shoemaker's house and as good as one might wish, yet grandmother
made presents of them in her joy of giving, and the children carried
them home as something especially fine. Thus it happened that the
children on the day before Christmas unwittingly carried home the
presents--well sealed and packed in paste-board boxes--which were
intended for them as their Christmas presents the very same night.

Grandmother's pressing the children to go before it was time, so that
they should not get home late, had only the effect that they tarried on
the way, now here, now there. They liked to sit by the hazelwoods on the
"neck" and open nuts with stones; or, if there were no nuts, they played
with leaves or pegs or the soft brown cones that drop from the branches
of fir-trees in the beginning of spring. Sometimes, Conrad told his
little sister stories or, when arrived at the red memorial post, would
lead her a short distance up the side-road and tell her that here one
could get on the Snow-Mountain, that up there were great rocks and
stones, that the chamois gamboled and great birds circled about up
there. He often led her out beyond the forest, when they would look at
the dry grass and the small bushes of the heather; but then he returned
with her, invariably bringing her home before twilight, which always
earned him praise.

One winter, on the morning before Christmas, when the first dawn had
passed into day, a thin dry veil was spread over the whole sky so that
one could see the low and distant sun only as an indistinct red spot;
moreover, the air that day was mild, almost genial, and absolute calm
reigned in the entire valley as well as in the heavens, as was indicated
by the unchanging and immobile forms of the clouds. So the shoemaker's
wife said to her children: "As today is pleasant and it has not rained
for a long time and the roads are hard, and as father gave you
permission yesterday, if the weather continued fine, you may go to visit
grandmother in Millsdorf; but ask father once more."

The children, who were still standing there in their little nightgowns,
ran into the adjoining room where their father was speaking with a
customer and asked him again for his permission, because it was such a
fine day. It was given and they ran back to their mother.

The shoemaker's wife now dressed the children carefully, or rather, she
dressed the little girl in snug-fitting warm dresses; for the boy began
to dress himself and was finished long before his mother had the little
girl straightened out. When they were both ready she said: "Now, Conrad,
be nice and careful. As I let your little sister go with you, you must
leave betimes and not remain standing anywhere, and when you have eaten
at grandmother's you must return at once and come home; for the days are
very short now and the sun sets very soon."

"Yes, I know, mother," said Conrad.

"And take good care of Sanna that she does not fall or get over-heated."

"Yes, mother."

"Well, then, God bless you, now go to father and tell him you are
leaving."

The boy slung a bag of calfskin, artfully sewed by his father, about his
shoulders by a strap and the children went into the adjoining room to
say farewell to their father. Soon they issued again and merrily skipped
along the village street, after their mother had once more made the sign
of the cross over them.

Quickly they passed over the square and along the rows of houses, and
finally between the railings of the orchards out into the open. The sun
already stood above the wooded heights that were woven through with
milky wisps of cloud, and its dim reddish disk proceeded along with them
through the leafless branches of the crab-apple trees.

There was no snow in the whole valley, but the higher mountains that had
been glistening with it for many weeks already were thoroughly covered.
The lower ridges, however, remained snowless and silent in the mantle of
their pine forests and the fallow red of their bare branches. The ground
was not frozen yet and would have been entirely dry, after the long dry
period that had been prevailing, if the cold of the season had not
covered it with a film of moisture. This did not render the ground
slippery, however, but rather firm and resilient so that the children
made good progress. The scanty grass still standing on the meadows and
especially along the ditches in them bore the colors of autumn. There
was no frost on the ground and a closer inspection did not reveal any
dew, either, which signifies rain, according to the country people.

Toward the edge of the meadows there was a mountain brook over which led
a high, narrow wooden bridge. The children walked over it and looked
down. There was hardly any water in the brook, only a thin streak of
intensely blue color wound through the dry white pebbles of its stony
bed, and both the small amount and the color of the water indicated that
cold was prevailing in the greater altitudes; for this rendered the soil
on the mountains dry so that it did not make the water of the brook
turbid and hardened the ice so that it could give off but a few clear
drops.

From the bridge, the children passed through the valleys in the hills
and came closer and closer to the woods. Finally they reached the edge
of the woods and walked on through them.

When they had climbed up into the higher woodlands of the "neck," the
long furrows of the road were no longer soft, as had been the case in
the valley, but were firm, not from dryness, but, as the children soon
perceived, because they were frozen over. In some places, the frost had
rendered them so hard that they could bear the weight of their bodies.
From now on, they did not persist any longer in the slippery path beside
the road, but in the ruts, as children will, trying whether this or that
furrow would carry them. When, after an hour's time, they had arrived at
the height of the "neck," the ground was so hard that their steps
resounded on it and the clods were hard like stones.

Arrived at the location of the memorial post, Sanna was the first to
notice that it stood no longer there. They went up to the spot and saw
that the round, red-painted post which carried the picture was lying in
the dry grass which stood there like thin straw and concealed the fallen
post from view. They could not understand, to be sure, why it had
toppled over--whether it had been knocked down or fallen of itself; but
they did see that the wood was much decayed at the place where it
emerged from the ground and that the post might therefore easily have
fallen of itself. Since it was lying there, however, they were pleased
that they could get a closer look at the picture and the inscription
than they had ever had before. When they had examined all--the basket
with the rolls, the whitish hands of the baker, his closed eyes, his
gray coat and the pine-trees surrounding him--and when they had spelt
out and read aloud the inscription, they proceeded on their way.

After another hour, the dark forest on either side receded, scattered
trees, some of them isolated oaks, others birches, and clumps of bushes,
received them and accompanied them onward, and after a short while the
children were running down through the meadows of the valley of
Millsdorf.

Although this valley is not as high, by far, as the valley of Gschaid
and so much warmer that they could begin harvesting two weeks earlier
than in Gschaid, the ground was frozen here too; and when the children
had come to the tannery and the fulling-mill of their grandfather,
pretty little cakes of ice were lying on the road where it was
frequently spattered by drops from the wheels. That is usually a great
pleasure for children.

Grandmother had seen them coming and had gone to meet them. She took
Sanna by her cold little hands and led her into the room.

She made them take off their heavy outer garments, ordered more wood to
be put in the stove, and asked them what had happened on the way over.

When they had told her she said: "That's nice and good, and I am very
glad that you have come again; but today you must be off early, the day
is short and it is growing colder. Only this morning there was no frost
in Millsdorf."

"Not in Gschaid, either," said the boy.

"There you see. On that account you must hurry so that you will not grow
too cold in the evening," said grandmother.

Then she asked how mother was and how father was, and whether anything
particular had happened in Gschaid.

After having questioned them she devoted herself to the preparation of
dinner, made sure that it would be ready at an earlier time than usual,
and herself prepared tidbits for the children which she knew would give
them pleasure. Then the master dyer was called. Covers were set on the
table for the children as for grown-up people and then they ate with
grandfather and grandmother, and the latter helped them to particularly
good things. After the meal, she stroked Sanna's cheeks which had grown
quite red, meanwhile.

Thereupon she went busily to and fro packing the boy's knapsack till it
was full and, besides, stuffed all kinds of things into his pockets.
Also in Sanna's little pockets she put all manner of things. She gave
each a piece of bread to eat on the way and in the knapsack, she said,
there were two more pieces of wheat bread, in case they should grow too
hungry.

"For mother, I have given you some well-roasted coffee," she said, "and
in the little bottle that is stoppered and tightly wrapped up there is
also some black coffee, better than mother usually makes over at your
house. Just let her taste it; it is a veritable medicine tonic, so
strong that one swallow of it will warm up the stomach, so that the body
will not grow cold on the coldest of winter days. The other things in
the pasteboard-box and those that are wrapped up in paper in the
knapsack you are to bring home without touching."

After having talked with the children a little while longer she bade
them go.

"Take good care, Sanna," she said, "that you don't get chilled, you
mustn't get overheated. And don't you run up along the meadows and under
the trees. Probably there will be some wind toward evening, and then you
must walk more slowly. Greet father and mother and wish them a right
merry Christmas."

Grandmother kissed both children on their cheeks and pushed them through
the door. Nevertheless she herself went along, accompanied them through
the garden, let them out by the back gate, closed it behind them, and
went back into the house.

The children walked past the cakes of ice beside grandfather's mill,
passed through the fields of Millsdorf, and turned upward toward the
meadows.

When they were passing along the heights where, as has been said, stood
scattered trees and clumps of bushes there fell, quite slowly, some few
snow-flakes.

"Do you see, Sanna," said the boy, "I had thought right away that we
would have snow; do you remember, when we left home, how the sun was a
bloody red like the lamp hanging at the Holy Sepulchre; and now nothing
is to be seen of it any more, and only the gray mist is above the
tree-tops. That always means snow."

The children walked on more gladly and Sanna was happy whenever she
caught a falling flake on the dark sleeves of her coat and the flake
stayed there a long time before melting. When they had finally arrived
at the outermost edge of the Millsdorf heights where the road enters the
dark pines of the "neck" the solid front of the forest was already
prettily sprinkled by the flakes falling ever more thickly. They now
entered the dense forest which extended over the longest part of the
journey still ahead of them.

From the edge of the forest the ground continues to rise up to the point
where one reaches the red memorial post, when the road leads downward
toward the valley of Gschaid. In fact, the slope of the forest from the
Millsdorf side is so steep that the road does not gain the height by a
straight line but climbs up in long serpentines from west to east and
from east to west. The whole length of the road up to the post and down
to the meadows of Gschaid leads through tall, dense woods without a
clearing which grow less heavy as one comes down on the level again and
issues from them near the meadows of the valley of Gschaid. Indeed, the
"neck," though being only a small ridge connecting two great mountain
masses, is yet large enough to appear a considerable mountain itself if
it were placed in the plain.

The first observation the children made when entering the woods was that
the frozen ground appeared gray as though powdered with flour, and that
the beards of the dry grass-stalks standing here and there between the
trees by the road-side were weighted down with snow-flakes; while on the
many green twigs of the pines and firs opening up like hands there sat
little white flames.

"Is it snowing at home, too, I wonder?" asked Sanna. "Of course,"
answered the boy, "and it is growing colder, too, and you will see that
the whole pond is frozen over by tomorrow."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

She hastened her steps to keep up with the boy striding along.

They now continued steadily up along the serpentines, now from west to
east and again from east to west. The wind predicted by grandmother did
not come; on the contrary, the air was so still that not a branch or
twig was moving. In fact, it seemed warmer in the forest, as, in
general, loose bodies with air-spaces between, such as a forest, are in
winter. The snow-flakes descended ever more copiously so that the ground
was altogether white already and the woods began to appear dappled with
gray, while snow lay on the garments of the children.

Both were overjoyed. They stepped upon the soft down, and looked for
places where there was a thicker layer of it, in order to tread on them
and make it appear as if they were wading in it already. They did not
shake off the snow from their clothes.

A great stillness had set in. There was nothing to be seen of any bird
although some do flit to and fro through the forest in winter-time and
the children on their way to Millsdorf had even heard some twitter. The
whole forest seemed deserted.

As theirs were the only tracks and the snow in front of them was untrod
and immaculate they understood that they were the only ones crossing the
"neck" that day.

They proceeded onward, now approaching, now leaving the trees. Where
there was dense undergrowth they could see the snow lying upon it.

Their joy was still growing, for the flakes descended ever more densely,
and after a short time they needed no longer to search for places to
wade in the snow, for it was so thick already that they felt it soft
under their soles and up around their shoes. And when all was so silent
and peaceful it seemed to them that they could hear the swish of the
snow falling upon the needles.

"Shall we see the post today?" asked the girl, "because it has fallen
down, you know, and then the snow will fall on it and the red color will
be white."

"We shall be able to see it though, for that matter," replied the boy;
"even if the snow falls upon it and it becomes white all over we are
bound to see it, because it is a thick post, and because it has the
black iron cross on its top which will surely stick out."

"Yes, Conrad."

Meanwhile, as they had proceeded still farther, the snowfall had become
so dense that they could see only the very nearest trees.

No hardness of the road, not to mention its ruts, was to be felt, the
road was everywhere equally soft with snow and was, in fact,
recognizable only as an even white band running on through the forest.
On all the branches there lay already the beautiful white covering.

The children now walked in the middle of the road, furrowing the snow
with their little feet and proceeding more slowly as the walking became
more tiresome. The boy pulled up his jacket about his throat so that no
snow should fall in his neck, and pulled down his hat so as to be more
protected. He also fastened his little sister's neckerchief which her
mother had given her to wear over her shoulders, pulling it forward over
her forehead so that it formed a roof.

The wind predicted by grandmother still had not come, on the other hand,
the snowfall gradually became so dense that not even the nearest trees
were to be recognized, but stood there like misty sacks.

The children went on. They drew up their shoulders and walked on.

Sanna took hold of the strap by which Conrad had his calfskin bag
fastened about his shoulders and thus they proceeded on their way.

They still had not reached the post. The boy was not sure about the
time, because the sun was not shining and all was a monotonous gray.

"Shall we reach the post soon?" asked the girl.

"I don't know," said the boy, "I can't see the trees today and recognize
the way, because it is so white. We shall not see the post at all,
perhaps, because there is so much snow that it will be covered up and
scarcely a blade of grass or an arm of the black cross will show. But
never mind. We just continue on our road, and the road goes between the
trees and when it gets to the spot where the post stands it will go
down, and we shall keep on it, and when it comes out of the trees we are
already on the meadows of Gschaid, then comes the path, and then we
shall not be far from home."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

They proceeded along their road which still led upward. The footprints
they left behind them did not remain visible long, for the extraordinary
volume of the descending snow soon covered them up. The snow no longer
rustled, in falling upon the needles, but hurriedly and peacefully added
itself to the snow already there. The, children gathered their garments
still more tightly about them, in order to keep the steadily falling
snow from coming in on all sides.

They walked on very fast, and still the road led upward. After a long
time they still had not reached the height on which the post was
supposed to be, and from where the road was to descend toward Gschaid.

Finally the children came to a region where there were no more trees.

"I see no more trees," said Sanna.

"Perhaps the road is so broad that we cannot see them on account of the
snow," answered the boy.

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

After a while the boy remained standing and said: "I don't see any trees
now myself, we must have got out of the woods, and also the road keeps
on rising. Let us stand still a while and look about, perhaps we may see
something." But they perceived nothing. They saw the sky only through a
dim space. Just as in a hailstorm gloomy fringes hang down over the
white or greenish swollen clouds, thus it was here, and the noiseless
falling continued. On the ground they saw only a round spot of white and
nothing else.

"Do you know, Sanna," said the boy, "we are on the dry grass I often led
you up to in summer, where we used to sit and look at the pasture-land
that leads up gradually and where the beautiful herbs grow. We shall now
at once go down there on the right."

"Yes, Conrad."

"The day is short, as grandmother said, and as you well know yourself,
and so we must hurry."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

"Wait a little and I will fix you a little better," replied the boy.

He took off his hat, put it on Sanna's head and fastened it with both
ribbons under her chin. The kerchief she had worn protected her too
little, while on his head there was such a mass of dense curls that the
snow could fall on it for a long time before the wet and cold would
penetrate. Then he took off his little fur-jacket and drew it over her
little arms. About his own shoulders and arms which now showed the bare
shirt he tied the little kerchief Sauna had worn over her chest and the
larger one she had had over her shoulders. That was enough for himself,
he thought, and if he only stepped briskly he should not be cold.

He took the little girl by her hand, so they marched on. The girl with
her docile little eyes looked out into the monotonous gray round about
and gladly followed him, only her little hurrying feet could not keep up
with his, for he was striding onward like one who wanted to decide a
matter once for all.

Thus they proceeded with the unremitting energy children and animals
have as they do not realize how far their strength will carry them, and
when their supply of it will give out.

But as they went on they did not notice whether they were going down or
up. They had turned down to the right at once, but they came again to
places that led up. Often they encountered steep places which they were
forced to avoid, and a trench in which they continued led them about in
a curve. They climbed heights which grew ever steeper as they proceeded,
and what they thought led downward was level ground, or it was a
depression, or the way went on in an even stretch.

"Where are we, I wonder, Conrad?" asked the girl.

"I don't know," he answered. "If I only could see something with my
eyes," he continued, "that I could take my direction from."

But there was nothing about them but the blinding white, white
everywhere which drew an ever narrowing circle about them, passing,
beyond it, into a luminous mist descending in bands which consumed and
concealed all objects beyond, until there was nothing but the
unceasingly descending snow.

"Wait, Sanna," said the boy, "let us stand still for a moment and
listen, perhaps we might hear a sound from the valley, a dog, or a bell,
or the mill, or a shout, something we must hear, and then we shall know
which way to go."

So they remained standing, but they heard nothing. They remained
standing a little longer, but nothing came, not a single sound, not the
faintest noise beside their own breath, aye, in the absolute stillness
they thought they could hear the snow as it fell on their eyelashes. The
prediction of grandmother had still not come true; no wind had arisen,
in fact, what is rare in those regions, not a breath of air was
stirring.

After having waited for a long time they went on again.

"Never mind, Sanna," said the boy, "don't be afraid, just follow me and
I shall lead you down yet.--If only it would stop snowing!"

The little girl was not faint-hearted, but lifted her little feet as
well as she could and followed him. He led her on in the white, bright,
living, opaque space.

After a time they saw rocks. Darkling and indistinct they loomed up out
of the white opaque light. As the children approached they almost bumped
against them. They rose up like walls and were quite perpendicular so
that scarcely a flake of snow could settle on them.

"Sanna, Sanna," he said, "there are the rocks, just let us keep on, let
us keep on."

They went on, had to enter in between the rocks and push on at their
base. The rocks would let them escape neither to left nor right and led
them on in a narrow path. After a while the children lost sight of them.
They got away from the rocks as unexpectedly as they had got among them.
Again, nothing surrounded them but white, no more dark forms interposed.
They moved in what seemed a great brightness and yet could not see three
feet ahead, everything being, as it were, enveloped in a white darkness,
and as there were no shadows no opinion about the size of objects was
possible. The children did not know whether they were to descend or
ascend until some steep slope compelled their feet to climb.

"My eyes smart," said Sanna.

"Don't look on the snow," answered the boy, "but into the clouds. Mine
have hurt a long time already; but it does not matter, because I must
watch our way. But don't be afraid, I shall lead you safely down to
Gschaid."

"Yes, Conrad."

They went on; but wheresoever they turned, whichever way they turned,
there never showed a chance to descend. On either side steep acclivities
hemmed them in, and also made them constantly ascend. Whenever they
turned downward the slopes proved so precipitous that they were
compelled to retreat. Frequently they met obstacles and often had to
avoid steep slopes.

They began to notice that whenever their feet sank in through the new
snow they no longer felt the rocky soil underneath but something else
which seemed like older, frozen snow; but still they pushed onward and
marched fast and perseveringly. Whenever they made a halt everything was
still, unspeakably still. When they resumed their march they heard the
shuffling of their feet and nothing else; for the veils of heaven
descended without a sound, and so abundantly that one might have seen
the snow grow. The children themselves were covered with it so that they
did not contrast with the general whiteness and would have lost each
other from sight had they been separated but a few feet.

A comfort it was that the snow was as dry as sand so that it did not
adhere to their boots and stockings or cling and wet them.

At last they approached some other objects. They were gigantic fragments
lying in wild confusion and covered with snow sifting everywhere into
the chasms between them. The children almost touched them before seeing
them. They went up to them to examine what they were.

It was ice--nothing but ice.

There were snow-covered slabs on whose lateral edges the smooth green
ice became visible; there were hillocks that looked like heaped-up
foam, but whose inward-looking crevices had a dull sheen and lustre as
if bars and beams of gems had been flung pellmell. There rose rounded
hummocks that were entirely enveloped in snow, slabs and other forms
that stood inclined or in a perpendicular position, towering as high as
houses or the church of Gschaid. In some, cavities were hollowed out
through which one could insert an arm, a head, a body, a whole big wagon
full of hay. All these were jumbled together and tilted so that they
frequently formed roofs or eaves whose edges the snow overlaid and over
which it reached down like long white paws. Nay, even a monstrous black
boulder as large as a house lay stranded among the blocks of ice and
stood on end so that no snow could stick to its sides. And even larger
ones which one saw only later were fast in the ice and skirted the
glacier like a wall of debris.

"There must have been very much water here, because there is so much
ice," remarked Sanna.

"No, that did not come from any water," replied her brother, "that is
the ice of the mountain which is always on it, because that is the way
things are."

"Yes, Conrad," said Sanna.

"We have come to the ice now," said the boy; "we are on the mountain,
you know, Sanna, that one sees so white in the sunshine from our garden.
Now keep in mind what I shall tell you. Do you remember how often we
used to sit in the garden, in the afternoon, how beautiful it was, how
the bees hummed about us, how the linden-trees smelled sweet, and how
the sun shone down on us?"

"Yes, Conrad, I remember."

"And then we also used to see the mountain. We saw how blue it was, as
blue as the sky, we saw the snow that is up there even when we had
summer-weather, when it was hot and the grain ripened."

"Yes, Conrad."

"And below it where the snow stopped one sees all sorts of colors if one
looks close--green, blue, and whitish--that is the ice; but it only
looks so small from below, because it is so very far away. Father said
the ice will not go away before the end of the world. And then I also
often saw that there was blue color below the ice and thought it was
stones, or soil and pasture-land, and then come the woods, and they go
down farther and farther, and there are some boulders in them too, and
then come meadows that are already green, and then the green
leafy-woods, and then our meadow-lands and fields in the valley of
Gschaid. Do you see now, Sanna, as we are at the ice we shall go down
over the blue color, and through the forests in which are the boulders,
and then over the pasture-land, and through the green leafy-forests, and
then we shall be in the valley of Gschaid and easily find our way to the
village."

"Yes, Conrad," said the girl.

The children now entered upon the glacier where it was accessible. They
were like wee little pricks wandering among the huge masses.

As they were peering in under the overhanging slabs, moved as it were by
an instinct to seek some shelter, they arrived at a trench, broad and
deeply furrowed, which came right out of the ice. It looked like the bed
of some torrent now dried up and everywhere covered with fresh snow. At
the spot where it emerged from the ice there yawned a vault of ice
beautifully arched above it. The children continued in the trench and,
entering the vault, went in farther and farther. It was quite dry and
there was smooth ice under their feet. All the cavern, however, was
blue, bluer than anything else in the world, more profoundly and more
beautifully blue than the sky, as blue as azure glass through which a
bright glow is diffused. There were more or less heavy flutings, icicles
hung down pointed and tufted, and the passage led inward still farther,
they knew not how far; but they did not go on. It would also have been
pleasant to stay in this grotto, it was warm and no snow could come in;
but it was so fearfully blue that the children took fright and ran out
again. They went on a while in the trench and then clambered over its
side.

They passed along the ice, as far as it was possible to edge through
that chaos of fragments and boulders.

"We shall now have to pass over this, and then we shall run down away
from the ice," said Conrad.

"Yes," said Sanna and clung to him.

From the ice they took a direction downward over the snow which was to
lead them into the valley. But they were not to get far. Another river
of ice traversed the soft snow like a gigantic wall bulging up and
towering aloft and, as it were, reaching out with its arms to the right
and the left. It was covered by snow on top, but at its sides there were
gleams of blue and green and drab and black, aye, even of yellow and
red. They could now see to larger distances, as the enormous and
unceasing snowfall had abated somewhat and was only as heavy as on
ordinary snowy days. With the audacity of ignorance they clambered up on
the ice in order to cross the interposing tongue of the glacier and to
descend farther behind it. They thrust their little bodies into every
opening, they put their feet on every projection covered by a white
snow-hood, whether ice or rock, they aided their progress with their
hands, they crept where they could not walk, and with their light bodies
worked themselves up until they had finally gained the top of the wall.

They had intended to climb down its other side.

There was no other side.

As far as the eyes of the children reached there was only ice. Hummocks,
slabs, and spires of ice rose about them, all covered with snow. Instead
of being a wall which one might surmount and which would be followed by
an expanse of snow, as they had thought, new walls of ice lifted up out
of the glacier, shattered and fissured and variegated with innumerable
blue sinuous lines; and behind them were other walls of the same nature,
and behind them others again, until the falling snow veiled the distance
with its gray.

"Sanna, we cannot make our way here," said the boy. "No," answered his
sister.

"Then we will turn back and try to get down somewhere else."

"Yes, Conrad."

The children now tried to climb down from the ice-wall where they had
clambered up, but they did not succeed. There was ice all about them, as
if they had mistaken the direction from which they had come. They turned
hither and thither and were not able to extricate themselves from the
ice. It was as if they were entangled in it. At last, when the boy
followed the direction they had, as he thought, come, they reached more
scattered boulders, but they were also larger and more awe-inspiring, as
is usually the case at the edge of the glacier. Creeping and clambering,
the children managed to issue from the ice. At the rim of the glacier
there were enormous boulders, piled in huge heaps, such as the children
had never yet seen. Many were covered all over with snow, others showed
their slanting under-sides which were very smooth and finely polished as
if they had been shoved along on them, many were inclined toward one
another like huts and roofs, many lay upon one another like mighty
clods. Not far from where the children stood, several boulders were
inclined together, and over them lay broad slabs like a roof. The little
house they thus formed was open in front, but protected in the rear and
on both sides. The interior was dry, as not a single snow-flake had
drifted in. The children were very glad that they were no longer in the
ice, but stood on the ground again.

But meanwhile it had been growing dark.

"Sanna," said the boy, "we shall not be able to go down today, because
it has become night, and because we might fall or even drop into some
pit. We will go in under those stones where it is so dry and warm, and
there we will wait. The sun will soon rise again, and then we shall run
down from the mountain. Don't cry, please, don't cry, and I shall give
you all the things to eat which grandmother has given us to take
along."

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