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Title: Seldwyla Folks - Three Singular Tales
Author: Keller, Gottfried, 1819-1890
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note:
   1.Page scan source:
   http://www.archive.org/details/seldwylafolksthr00kellrich



                             SELDWYLA FOLKS

                          THREE SINGULAR TALES



                             SELDWYLA FOLKS

                          THREE SINGULAR TALES



                                   BY
                             THE SWISS POET
                            GOTTFRIED KELLER



                            TRANSLATIONS BY
                      WOLF VON SCHIERBRAND, Ph.D.



                                NEW YORK
                               BRENTANO'S
                               PUBLISHERS



                            COPYRIGHT, 1919
                               BRENTANO'S

                               *   *   *

                         _All rights reserved_



                                PREFACE


Gottfried Keller may fitly be called the greatest narrative writer that
Switzerland has ever produced. Born July 19, 1819, near Zurich, he was
reared in direst poverty. By dint of the hardest labor and by
practicing the utmost frugality, his father was barely able to provide
bread for wife and children. But in the midst of this penury the genius
of his young son Gottfried expanded. As a mere child he gave already
unmistakable evidence of being a dreamer, a thinker, a philosopher, a
"fabulist," an artist. Just able to write, the little boy forever
scribbled poems and fanciful tales, made rapid sketches with pencil and
pen, portraits, caricatures, landscapes. At the village school he
imbibed knowledge like a sponge. Soon the gnarled old schoolmaster,
half peasant, half teacher, looked aghast at his little scholar: he had
no more to teach him. Generous friends sent the youth to Munich, there
to study art. For at that time his desire was to become a great
painter. Desperately and with fiery energy the young fellow devoted
himself to study, and his attainments were considerable. They would
fully have sufficed for a career as a mediocre portrait painter. But
his very excess of zeal led to surfeit, to exhaustion, to a period of
lethargy. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." This fit of
listlessness lasted even for some time after Gottfried's return home.
All effort with him slackened.

Patrons finally intervened. With their aid he went to Heidelberg, and
for two full years, 1848-1850, he there pursued literary and historical
research. The historian, Hettner, took great interest in the young
Swiss. Next he went to Berlin, and during the ensuing five years he
wrote and studied in a desultory manner there. Great attention was paid
him by Goethe's intimate friend, Varnhagen von Ense, and the latter's
wife, the "seeress," Rahel, who drew the shy young man into their wide
literary circle, comprising for two decades the _beaux esprits_ of the
capital. But his bluntness of speech, his sturdy Swiss republicanism,
often gave offense.

For that was one of the remarkable points about Gottfried Keller:
despite his long residence on German soil and the flattering reception
accorded him by the intellectual _élite_ there, he remained a thorough
democrat, an uncompromising friend of the plain people, a fearless
champion of Swiss free government, a hater of tyranny in any form, a
despiser of monarchs and their favors. Among his poems, later collected
into a bulky tome, there are many that breathe defiance to royalty by
"divine grace."

Much of this sentiment of anti-monarchism has crept into his first
great work, the "Gruener Heinrich." This, a sort of autobiography in
guise of a big novel, alive with adventure as well as thoughts on men
and things, he first published from 1854 to 1855, but it was afterward
recast in characteristic fashion, 1879-1881. In a manner of speaking,
his "Gruener Heinrich" is also a confession of faith. There are many
didactic passages in it; the whole book, in fact, breathes the
convictions of its author. This is still more the case with the last
great work from Keller's pen, "Martin Salander," where the frequent
political and social precepts interwoven into the text of the story
form, from the purely artistic viewpoint, a serious blemish.

It is generally conceded that Keller's masterpiece is "Seldwyla Folks"
("Die Leute von Seldwyla"), which appeared in two sections, the first
of these in 1856, the second in 1874. From this group of weird,
fantastic tales the three forming the contents of this book are taken.
About the origin of the title Keller himself has written in his
inimitably oracular and whimsical style. The name and the town itself
are wholly fictitious. They represent a sort of collective traits of a
number of ancient, unprogressive Swiss towns, left head over heels in
medievalism, in outworn customs, with some peculiar features
exclusively their own. Each tale is a jewel cut and polished, a
distinctive literary entity, something that may not be duplicated
elsewhere in the whole realm of letters, with a full flavor of its own.
Where, for instance, in the literature of any tongue, is to be found a
humorous-sarcastic story of the raciness of "The Three Decent
Combmakers"?

From 1861 to 1878 Keller filled, to the eminent satisfaction of his
countrymen, the important and remunerative office of "Staatsschreiber,"
one that combined the duties of secretary of state with those of
custodian of documents and librarian for his native canton, which was
offered him in direct recognition of his literary merits. As such he
utilized for a cycle of semi-historical tales some of the most curious
records in his keeping, which are embalmed in his "Zurich Stories"
(Zuericher Novellen), 1877. In the year after that he retired from
office, and in 1882 appeared "The Epigram" (Das Sinngedicht), in 1883
his "Seven Legends," based on some of the Lives of the Saints,
singularly humanized and modernized, and in 1886 finally "Martin
Salander," an intensely patriotic and peculiarly Helvetian novel. He
was also a master of the short story, a sadly neglected field in
Teutonic literature.

Meanwhile, wherever German was understood or spoken the writings of
Gottfried Keller had found intense appreciation, at first slowly, then
more rapidly, and eminent German critics and authors, such as Theodore
Storm, Berthold Auerbach, F. Th. Vischer and others, had pronounced
themselves ardent admirers of his. But in 1890 he died, after a
lingering illness.

The question may well be asked how it is that the literary lifework
of such a man as Gottfried Keller has for so many years been denied
the most sincere form of homage, that of translation, by the whole
non-German-speaking world. There may be additional reasons for this
seeming neglect, but I believe the chief one lies in the fact of the
unusual difficulty of the task. To cast the thoughts and conceits of an
individualistic writer into another vehicle of speech is in itself no
easy matter. But in the case of Gottfried Keller it is especially so.
For the man, as I took pains to point out, was a Swiss, not by any
manner of means a German. And not only is the subject matter of his
lyrical and epical output strongly tinged with Helvetism, but his very
language as well. The Swiss-German vernacular is more than a mere
dialect; it is almost a tongue of its own. On all but on the few solemn
and formal occasions of life the Swiss expresses himself in what he
terms "Schwyzer-Dütsch," which is indeed scarcely understood by persons
habituated to German proper, and even when the Swiss author perforce
drops into the latter he uses so many peculiarly Helvetian terms and
modes of speech, so many archaic saws, his whole method of handling the
language is so different that to reshape what he says into another
tongue without doing violence to the spirit, the soul, the flavor and
thus marring the translation irretrievably and doing gross injustice to
the original becomes doubly hard.

I can only say that I have done in this respect what was humanly
possible. What the final result has turned out to be is for the court
of last resort, for the final arbiter, the reader, to say.

                                                    W. V. S.



                                CONTENTS

      PREFACE

      THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS

      DIETEGEN

      ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE



                      THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS



                            THE THREE DECENT
                               COMBMAKERS


The people of Seldwyla have furnished proof that a whole townful of the
unjust or frivolous may, after all, continue for ages to exist despite
changes of time and traffic; the three combmakers, though, demonstrate
as clearly that not even three decent human beings may manage to live
for a long stretch under one roof without getting their backs up. And
with decent, with just, is not by any means meant heavenly justice, nor
even the natural justice of the human conscience, but rather that
vacuous justice which from the Lord's Prayer has struck the plea: And
forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors! And this simply
because they never contract any debts whatever and cannot stand the
idea of debts. Indeed, also because they live to no one's harm, but
also to no one's pleasure; because, true enough, they work and earn
money, but will not spend a stuyver, and find in their laboring task
some small profit but never any joy. Such soberly decent chaps do not
smash window panes for the wicked fun of it, but neither do they ever
light any lanterns of their own, and no enlightenment proceeds from
them. They toil at all sorts of things, and one thing, to their minds,
is as good as another, so long as no risk or danger be involved. But
they prefer to settle in such places where there are many unjust in
their sense. For if left to themselves, without any mingling with the
said unjust, they would soon grind each other sorely, as do millstones
which lack corn between. And if at any time some piece of ill-luck
befalls them, they are greatly amazed and wail and whine as though
their last hour had come, inasmuch as they, so they say, have never
done harm to anyone. For they look upon this world of ours as a huge
and well-organized police department in which nobody need fear any fine
or punishment so long as he unfailingly sweeps his sidewalk, does not
leave flowerpots standing loosely on his window sill and does not pour
any water into the street.

Now in Seldwyla there was a combmaking establishment the owner of which
habitually changed every fifth or sixth year, and this although it did
fair business when taken proper care of. For the small traders and
stand-keepers who attended the fairs in the neighborhood, obtained
there their horn wares. Beside the horn rasps and files, the implements
of various kinds, the most marvelous ornaments and back-combs of every
description for the use of the village belles and servant maids were
made there out of handsome transparent ox horns, and the rare skill of
the workmen (for, of course, the master never actually toiled himself)
consisted in branding and searing the close counterfeit of the most
artistically designed clouds of reddish brown tortoise shell, each
according to his conceit and fancy, so that, when admiring these combs
as the light played on their fantastic cumulations, it looked almost as
though the most magnificent sunups and sundowns were concealed within
the polished horn surface, rubicund gatherings of cloudlets,
thunderstorms and tornadoes, as well as still other varicolored
manifestations of the forces of Nature.

In the summertime, when these proud artisans loved to wander over the
surface of the land and when they were scarce, they were treated with
courtesy by the masters, and received good board and wages. But during
the winter, at a time when they were looking for shelter and were
plentiful, they had to be humble, had to turn out combs till their very
pates smoked with the effort, and all for slender pay. During that
inauspicious season the mistress of the house one day after another
would put a big dish of sourkrout on the table, and the master himself
would then say: "These are fish!" And if at such a time any fellow was
rash enough to remark: "With your permission, this is sourkrout!" he
was instantly handed his walking papers and had to issue forth into the
dreary winter landscape. However, as soon as the meadows once more
turned green and the roads became passable, they all said: "All the
same, it's sourkrout!" and made up their bundle. For even in case the
mistress instantly threw a boiled ham on top of the smoking sourkrout,
and the master would murmur: "Goodness, I thought all along it was
fish! But this time, surely, it is a ham!" nevertheless the workmen
were not to be propitiated any longer. They longed for freedom and the
open, as during the long winter all three of them had had to sleep in
one bed and had grown thoroughly tired of each other because of the
continual kicking of ribs and because of frozen and numbed bare sides.
But it so happened that once a decent and gentle soul came that way,
from out of the Saxon lands, and this good fellow complied with
everything, worked as hard as any ant and was absolutely not to be
frozen out, in such fashion that finally he became so to speak a part
of the furnishings of the house and saw the owners changing several
times, those years being somewhat more given to changes than of yore.
Jobst (such was the creature's name) stretched himself in the bed as
stiff as a ramrod and maintained his particular place next the wall,
both winter and summer. He likewise willingly accepted the sourkrout
for fish, and in the spring received with humble thanks a mouthful of
the ham. His lesser wages he put aside as he did his larger ones. For
he never spent anything; rather he saved every penny. He did not live
like the other workmen: he never touched a drop of wine, did not
associate with any of his own countrymen nor with other young fellows,
but stood evenings under the house door and joked with the old women,
lifted the heavy water pails upon their padded heads, at least when he
chanced to be in good humor, and went to bed with the chickens, except
at such times as he could do extra work against extra pay. Sundays he
also toiled until late into the afternoon, no matter if the weather was
fine. But do not assume that he did all this with pleasure and
alacrity, as did John the merry Chandler in the well-known song. On the
contrary, he was always cast-down and of ill-humor because of these
voluntary abstentions from the amenities of life, and he was forever
complaining about his hard lot. Come Sunday afternoon, however, Jobst
went in all the disarray and filth of workaday, and with his clattering
sabots across the lane and fetched from the laundress his clean shirt
and his neatly ironed "dicky," his high linen collar or his better
handkerchief, and proceeded to carry these things in his hands to his
room, stepping the while with that rooster-like majesty which used to
distinguish the prideful artisan of former days. For it belonged to
their privileges, when walking attired in leather apron and heavy
slippers, to observe a very peculiar stride, affected and as though
they were floating in upper spheres. And of them all the highly
instructed bookbinders, the jolly shoemakers and cobblers, and the
rarer and queer-mannered combmakers excelled in these mannerisms. But
arrived in his little chamber Jobst once more took thought to himself,
ruminating and seriously reflecting as to whether it was really worth
while to don the clean shirt and the snowy "dicky." For with all his
gentleness and moral decency he was, after all, somewhat of a swinish
fellow, and thus doubts arose in his penurious little soul as to the
advisability of the whole proceeding, and as to whether the soiled
linen would not do just as well for another week or so, in which latter
case he would simply remain at home and work a little more. Then he
would sit down with a sigh and begin anew, teeth clenched and mien
fierce, cutting into the horn, or else he would transmute the horn into
pseudo-tortoise shell, in doing which, however, he never forgot his
innate sobriety and want of imagination, so that he always put but the
same odious three splotches into the smooth surface. For with him it
was always thus that he would not use even the slightest trouble if he
was not specially bidden to do so.

On the other hand, if his resolution ripened into the actual taking of
a walk, he spent first one or two hours painfully adorning himself,
next he took his dapper little cane and stalked stiffly towards the
gate of the town, and there he would stand around humbly and tediously
and would carry on stupid gossip with others of the same ilk, some of
those who did not know any more than himself how to kill time
pleasantly, perhaps ancient and decrepit Seldwylians who had neither
money nor gumption to find their way into the gay tavern. With such
godforsaken old fossils he was in the habit of placing himself in front
of a house in process of construction, or near a field in seed, before
an apple tree injured in the last storm, or perhaps next to a new yarn
factory, and then he would discuss with an infinitude of detail these
things, the need of them, their cost, about the hopes entertained as to
the next crop, and about the actual condition of the fields, of all of
which he would know no more than the man in the moon. In fact, he did
not care whether he did or not; the main thing with him was that time
thus slipped away in what to him appeared the cheapest and the
pleasantest manner. And thus it came about that these, the old and
decrepit Seldwylians, only spoke of him as the "well-mannered and
sensible Saxon," for they themselves understood not a whit more than he
himself. When the people of Seldwyla founded a large brewery on shares,
hoping therefrom for huge business in their town, and when the
extensive foundation walls emerged from the ground, Jobst used to make
it his task of boring into the soil thereabouts with his cane, talking
like an expert and showing the keenest interest in the progress of the
work, for all the world as if he were the most assiduous toper himself
and as if the success or non-success of the enterprise were a matter of
life and death with him. "No indeed," he would then exclaim in his
lisping voice, "this is a shplendid undertakking. Only, the devil of it
is it costs so mooch monnee! So mooch monnee! It's a pity! And here,
this here vault ought really to be a leetle, yoost a leetle bit deeper,
and this wall a leetle bit thicker." And the other idiots sided with
him and said he knew all about it.

However, for all his enthusiasm he never failed to show up in time for
his Sunday supper. For that was indeed the sole chagrin he inflicted on
the mistress at home that he never missed a meal, Sunday or any other
day. The other workmen would go to the tavern with their comrades and
friends, dance, play cards and amuse themselves. But not so Jobst. On
his account alone the master's wife was forced to remain at home
Sundays, or else to provide his lonesome supper. And then, after
chewing as long as he could his portion of bread and sausage or cold
meat, he would spend another considerable while pawing over his slender
possessions, fingering them as though they were the treasures of
Aladdin, with bated breath, and then he would retire to his strictly
virtuous couch. That according to his notions had been an enjoyable, a
roystering Sunday.

But with all his humble, decent and inconspicuous ways, Jobst was not
lacking in a species of inner, hidden irony, as though in his own
peculiar way he were making fun of the world with its vanity and its
foolishness. Indeed he seemed even to have strong doubts as to the
grandeur and worth of things in general, and to be conscious of
harboring within his own soul plans far more momentous and stirring. On
Sundays, notably when delivering his expert opinions on creation as a
whole, he often showed a face alive with superior, with almost owlish
wisdom. It was plainly to be seen in his pinched features how he
carried within his inmost ken plans of immense importance, plans
compared with which the doings of the others, after all, were but as
child's play. The great, the overwhelmingly great plan he cherished day
and night and which had been all these years his loadstar, ever since
he had first appeared in Seldwyla, amounted indeed to this: To save his
wages until there would be a sum sufficient to present himself some
fine morning, on an occasion when the business would be once more for
sale, with the money in his hand and purchase it, himself at last
becoming owner and master.

This darling hope lay at the bottom of all his scheming and contriving,
as he had not failed to notice how an industrious and abstemious man
could not fail to flourish in Seldwyla. He, to be sure, was such a man,
one who went his own quiet way and who was bound to profit from the
carelessness of the people thereabouts without falling into the same
errors as these. And once master and owner of the establishment, it
would not be difficult for him to acquire citizenship and then, he
calculated, he would spend the remainder of his life more sensibly and
economically than any previous citizen of Seldwyla had ever done, not
bothering the slightest about anything which was not likely to increase
his wealth, not spending a penny, but accumulating more and more money,
watching all the time his chances among the spendthrifts of the town.
This plan was indeed as simple as it was sensible and well-considered,
especially as he had begun to realize it, in his own slow but sure way,
for a number of years past. For he had already saved up quite a neat
little sum; this he had hidden away securely, and with things going on
as they had hitherto, it was but a question of time when his scheme
would attain full fruition.

But there was one point about his plan which seemed to brand it as
almost inhuman. That was the fact that Jobst had conceived it at all,
that is, in Seldwyla, for nothing in his heart really inclined him to
Seldwyla, and nothing compelled him to remain there. He cared not a fig
really either for the town or its inhabitants, either for the political
condition of the country or its manners and customs. All this was as
indifferent to him as was his own native land, and which latter he did
not even care to ever see again. In a hundred other places of the world
he might have equally well succeeded with his diligence and his habits.
However, he had discarded all sense of free choice, and with his
grossly grasping senses he had seized upon the first tendril of hope
that offered, in order to keep hold and suck himself through it full of
wealth and vigor. The saying, it is true, is: "Where I fare well, there
is my home," and this may be true enough in the case of those who can
really show some good and sufficient reasons why they love their new
country and who of their free and conscious will went out into the wide
world in order to achieve success and to return as men of weight, or of
those who escape unfortunate conditions at home and, obeying a strong
tendency, join the modern migration across the seas; or of those who
somewhere have found better and truer friends than at home, or who
discovered conditions abroad that suited their ideals and secret hopes
better or who became bound by stronger ties abroad. And this new home
in any case, this second home where they found things more to their
taste and where they succeeded well, they necessarily must care for, so
long as there they are treated humanely and fairly. Jobst, however,
scarcely knew where he was; the institutions and customs of the Swiss
he was unable to understand, and he merely said sometimes: "Why, yes,
the Swiss are strong on politics. Maybe that's good, so long as one
likes it. But I don't, and where I'm from nobody ever bothered about
political things."

The customs of the Seldwylians he hated, and he felt afraid of their
noisy demonstrations when they organized a political procession or had
mass meetings. At such times he sat in the rear of the workshop and
feared bloody riots and murder growing out of it all. But nevertheless
it remained his sole object and his great secret to stay on in Seldwyla
until the end of his days. Such just and decent persons like him you
will find scattered all over the earth, and where they are for no
better reason than that it just so happened they got hold without
trouble of their own of one of these sucking tubes guaranteeing a
satisfactory income. And this they do steadily, giving no thought the
while to the land of their birth, but without loving their new home,
without a glance to right or left, and thus resembling not so much a
freeman as one of those lower organisms, odd animalculae or vegetable
seeds, which by the whims of wind or water are accidentally carried to
the spot where they flourish.

Thus Jobst had lived year after year in Seldwyla, slowly but constantly
adding to his secret store which he had buried under the tiles of his
chamber floor. No tailor could boast of having earned anything through
him, for he still possessed the same Sunday coat in which he had
arrived in town, and the garment was still in the same condition.
Neither had any shoemaker done any work for him in Seldwyla, for the
soles of his boots were still intact. The year, after all, has but
fifty-two Sundays, and only the half of these were utilized by him for
a walk. Nobody, in fact, had been the better for his stay in town; as
soon as he received his wages the money went to the hiding-place
mentioned, and even when he went off on his Sunday excursions he never
put a coin in his pocket, so as to foil any temptation for spending.
When hucksters or old women came to the shop with goods or fruit, with
cherries, plums or pears, it was amusing to watch Jobst, who tenderly
felt of the quality of the fruit, entered into discussions with the
vendors, thus leading these to indulge false and extravagant hopes,
only to be disappointed. He would, however, advise his comrades as to
how to make the most of their purchases, how to bake their apples in
the oven, to peel them or to stew them, without ever asking for or
receiving one mouthful himself. But though nobody ever saw the color of
his money, neither did they ever hear him swear, show any anger, demand
anything not strictly within his rights, or give vent to ill-humor. He
was the very essence of pacifism. He carefully avoided quarrels or
argument, and he did not even make a wry face when anyone, as happened
frequently, would play tricks on him. And while indeed eaten up
constantly with curiosity as to the issue of every kind of gossip,
disputes or wrangling he had come to know about, since these furnished
him with one of his chief amusements, and while he would keep a strict
account and inquire in a mild way about them and the right and wrong in
each case, the while the other workmen were indulging in their rude
brawls or tavern orgies, he nevertheless was mighty careful never to
interfere or to take a decided part for or against. In short, he was a
most curious medley of truly heroic wisdom and persistence, coupled
with a gentle but pronounced want of heart and feeling.

At one time he had been for many weeks the sole workman in the
establishment, and he had flourished under these circumstances like a
green bay tree. Nights especially he rejoiced in the exclusive tenancy
of the big, wide bed. He made full use of his opportunities, and went
through incredible contortions while stretching his lank limbs in the
bed. He in a manner trebled his person, changing his posture
ceaselessly, and indulged in the hallucination that, as usual, there
were three of them and he were urgently requested by the other two not
to stand on ceremony and to take things easy. The third one being
himself, he voluptuously complied with the invitation, wrapped himself
completely in the feather bed, or else straddled his legs, lay across
the full width of the couch, or in the harmless exuberance of delight
would even turn a decent somersault or two.

But alas! the day came when he, already indulging in some such innocent
capers, after having retired early, suddenly saw a strange workman
sedately enter the chamber, being led thither by the mistress of the
house. Jobst was just lying in measureless comfort with his head at the
foot of the bed, his not quite immaculate feet on the pillows, when
this happened. The stranger unfastened his heavy knapsack from his
back, stood it in a corner, and then, without loss of time, began to
undress, since he felt very tired. Jobst quick as a flash assumed the
proper position in bed and stretched himself along his accustomed spot
next to the wall. While doing this the thought rushed through his head:
"Surely he'll soon clear out again, since it is summertime and fine
weather for roaming about."

This hope on further consideration took firm root, and with sundry
sighs and grunts lulled him to sleep. He dreamt, though, of a speedy
resumption of the kicking and rowing in bed, and a nightmare woke him
in the middle of the night, an evil omen. He was amazed, however, when
dawn came, and he had felt neither pokes in the ribs, nor had been
feloniously deprived of his share of the covering. Not only that; the
new arrival, although a Bavarian, was inordinately polite, peaceable
and well-behaved, for all the world like a counterpart of his own self.
This unheard-of fact cost Jobst his calmness of mind. He could not
drive the misgivings thus engendered from his head. And while the two
were dressing in the dim light of early morning, he scrutinized his new
fellow-worker closely. It seemed a singular case to him. He observed
that this new man, like himself, was no longer quite young, but cleanly
and decent in speech and manners. The Bavarian on his part with words
well-set and sober inquired of Jobst about the circumstances of life in
Seldwyla, just about in the same way in which he himself would have
done it. As soon as this became apparent to him, Jobst grew secretive
and kept to himself the simplest and most harmless things, opining
that, of course, the Bavarian must have some occult motive in coming to
this town. To ascertain this secret now became the prime object with
him. That there was a deep secret he never had the slightest doubt.
Why else should this man, just like himself, be such a gentle,
smooth-spoken and experienced sort? Only by the theory of his harboring
a deep-laid scheme, of being a designing person, could he explain
matters to himself. And thus began a kind of silent, never-sleeping
warfare between these two. Each did his best to find out the "secret"
of the other; but it was all done with the greatest precaution, in
words of double meaning, by amiable subterfuges and in peaceable ways.
Neither ever gave a clear answer to any question, but yet after the
lapse of but a few hours each of the pair was firmly convinced that the
other was in all essential respects his own double. And when in the
course of the day Fridolin, the Bavarian, several times visited the
chamber and busied himself with something, Jobst seized upon the first
chance to go there likewise at a moment when the other was fully
occupied with his work, and hurriedly made a search of Fridolin's
personal property. However, he discovered nothing but almost precisely
the same articles owned by himself, down to a small wooden needle case,
except that here he found it in the shape of a fish, while his own bore
a sportive resemblance to a baby; and, further, in lieu of a somewhat
dilapidated conversational grammar for popular use in which Jobst
sometimes studied French, the Bavarian could boast of a neatly bound
copy of a book entitled "The cold and the hot Vat, an indispensable
Handbook for Dyers." And in it there was a penciled note on the margin:
"Pledge for three Stuyvers which the Nassau man borrowed of me." From
this Jobst judged that he was dealing with somebody who knew how to
take care of his own, and thinking so instinctively cast searching
glances along the floor. Soon, too, he noticed a tile which seemed to
have recently been removed. And sure enough, when he took this out, he
found the man's treasure, folded and wrapped in the half of an old
handkerchief tightly wound about with tough twine, almost as heavy as
his own, although his was encased in an old sock. Trembling with
excitement he replaced the tile in its yawning hole, trembling at the
thought of such admirable foresight and wise economy in the case of
another, a rival, a competitor. He flew down the stairs, and in the
workshop he set to as if it depended on his exertions to provide the
entire world with combs for generations to come. And the Bavarian did
the same, as if Heaven itself must also be combed. During the ensuing
week each found full confirmation of his first suspicion. For if Jobst
was industrious and frugal, Fridolin was active and abstemious, and
with the same regretful sighs at the difficulty of these virtues. And
when Jobst was serene and sapient, Fridolin was jocular and knowing. If
the one was humble, the other was even more so. When Jobst showed
himself sly or ironical, the other was sarcastic and almost astute. And
if Jobst made a face betraying his peaceful disposition, his double
succeeded in putting on an air of incomparable asininity.

The whole was not so much a race between the two as it was the simple
exercise of conscious mastery in all these arts. Each was fully
permeated with the conviction that the other would excel him if not
constantly on the watch. Neither disdained imitating the other. Each of
them was forever on the lookout to perfect himself, taking the other as
a model in any traits which he himself might yet lack or be deficient
in. And with all that they looked most of the time as though each was
perfectly incapable of seeing through the other. Thus they resembled
two doughty heroes who behave towards each other with knightly courtesy
and even assist one another until the moment shall arrive when they
begin to hack away at each other.

However, after the lapse of this week a third came, a Suabian, by name
Dietrich, whereat the two in silence rejoiced, as at a jolly foil
against which their own greatness of soul could best be measured and
compared. And they intended to place the poor little Suabian between
their own selves, to make the contrast between him and their own patent
virtues all the more striking, about as in the case of two stately
lions with a tiny monkey between, with whom they might deign to play.

But who can describe their astonishment when they observed that the
Suabian behaved precisely in the same manner as themselves, and when
the recognition of a kindred soul took place by the identical processes
as had been the case before. The same adroit system of standing
sentinel over each other was repeated. But with this signal difference,
that now it was a triangular game, whereby not only they themselves
altered somewhat their own attitude, but the third man his also, and
that they all three finally stood towards each other in distinctly
different positions.

This became first apparent on the night of his arrival when they took
him between themselves in bed. The Suabian demonstrated his entire
parity. Like a match he lay within the slim space, so perfectly poised
and without the flicker of an eyelid that there actually remained a bit
of room, of neutral territory, on either side. And the bed cover
remained spread over the trio as tight and smooth as the wrapping paper
over three herrings. He was evidently their match. The situation now
commenced to be more serious, more complicated, and since all three now
faced each other like the three corners of a triangle, and since no
friendly or confidential relations were under these circumstances
feasible between them, no armistice or courtly tournament, they got
into a state of mind where they with malice aforethought, each in his
own way and with his own weapons, gently and slily began to try ousting
each other out of bed and house.

When the master of the house saw that these three queer customers would
put up with anything, if only they were allowed to remain in his
service, he first lowered their wages, and next gave them scanter fare.
But this only led to an aggravation of diligence on their part, and
that again enabled him to flood the whole surrounding district with his
goods, and he got orders upon orders, so that he made a pile of money
out of their cheap labor and possessed a veritable gold mine in them.
He let out his leather belt around the loins by several holes and
began to play quite an important part in the town, while all this time
his foolish workmen slaved like beasts of burden in their dark and
ill-ventilated shop at home, striving, each of them, to force the other
two out of the race. Dietrich, the Suabian, although the youngest of
them, proved of the same calibre as the other two. The only difference
was that he as yet had scarcely any savings, inasmuch as he had not yet
traveled around much, having been a prentice until recently. This would
have been an unfortunate obstacle for him in the race, for Jobst and
Fridolin would have had greatly the start of him, if he as a Suabian
had not been inventive in stratagem. For although Dietrich's heart,
like that of the others, was wholly bare of any sinful or earthly
passion, always excepting the one of persisting to remain in Seldwyla
and nowhere else, and to reap all the advantages of that plan, he
nevertheless bethought him of the trick of falling in love and to woo
such a maiden as should possess about such a dowry in size as the
respective treasures which the Saxon or the Bavarian had hidden under
their tiles.

It was one of the better peculiarities of the Seldwyla folk that they
were averse to wed unattractive or unamiable women just for the sake of
a somewhat larger dowry. There was no very great temptation anyway, for
wealthy heiresses there were none in their town, either pretty or
homely ones, and thus they at least maintained their sturdy and manly
independence even by disdaining the smaller mouthfuls, and preferred to
unite themselves rather with goodlooking and merry girls, and thus lead
for a few years with them at any rate a happy life. Hence it was not
hard for the Suabian, spying about for a suitable partner, to find his
way into the good graces of a virtuous maiden. She dwelt in the same
street, and in conversation with old women he had soon ascertained that
she possessed as her own undoubted property a mortgage of seven hundred
florins. This maiden was Zues Buenzlin, the twenty-eight-year-old
daughter of a washerwoman. She lived with her mother, but could freely
dispose of this legacy from her deceased father. This valuable bit of
paper she kept in a highly varnished trunk. There, too, she had the
accumulated interest money, her baptismal certificate, her testimonial
of confirmation, and a painted and gilt Easter egg; in addition to all
this she preserved there half a dozen silver spoons, the Lord's Prayer
printed in gold letters upon transparent glass, although she believed
the material to be human skin, a cherry stone into which was carved the
Passion of Christ, and a small box of ivory, lined with red satin, and
in which were concealed a tiny mirror and a silver thimble; there was
also in it another cherry stone in which you could hear clattering a
diminutive set of ninepins, a nutshell in which a madonna became
visible behind glass, a silver heart, in a hollow of which was a scent
bottle, and a candy box fashioned out of dried lemon peel, on the cover
of which was painted a strawberry, and in which there might be
discovered a golden pin displayed on a couch of cotton wool
representing a forget-me-not, and a locket showing on the inside a
monument woven out of hair; lastly, a bundle of age-yellowed papers
with recipes, secrets, and so forth; also a small flask of Cologne
water, another holding stomach drops, a box of musk, another with
marten excrements, and a small basket woven out of odoriferous grasses,
another of beads and cloves, and then a small book bound in sky-blue
silk and entitled "Golden Life Rules for the Maiden as Betrothed, Wife
and Mother"; and a dream book, a letter writer, five or six love
letters, and a lancet for use to let blood. This last piece came from a
barber and assistant surgeon to whom she had once been engaged, and
since she was a naturally skillful and very sensible person she had
learned from her fiancé how to open a vein, to put on leeches, and
similar things, and had even been able to shave him herself. But alas,
he had proved an unworthy object of her affections, with whom she might
easily have risked her temporal and heavenly welfare, and thus she had
with saddened but wise resolution broken the engagement. Gifts were
returned on both sides, with the exception of the lancet. This she kept
in pawn as pledge for one florin and eight and forty stuyvers, which
sum she on one occasion had lent him in cash. The unworthy one claimed,
however, that she had no right to it since she had given him the money
on the occasion of a ball, in order to defray joint expenses, and he
added that she had eaten twice as much as himself. Thus it happened
that he kept the florin and forty-eight stuyvers, while she kept the
surgical appliance, with which Zues operated extensively among her
female acquaintance and earned many a penny. But every time she used
the instrument she could not help mentioning the low habits of him who
had once stood so close to her and who had almost become her partner
for life.

All these things were locked up in that trunk, and the trunk again was
kept in a large walnut wardrobe, the key to which Zues had constantly
in her pocket. As to her person, Zues had rather sparse reddish hair as
well as clear pale-blue eyes; these now and then possessed some charm,
and then would throw glances both wise and gentle. She owned an
enormous store of clothes, but of these she only wore the oldest.
However, she was always carefully and cleanly dressed, and just as neat
was the appearance of her room. She was very industrious and helped her
mother in her laundry work, ironing out the finer and more delicate
fabrics and washing the lace caps and the jabots of the wealthier
Seldwyla ladies, thus earning quite a bit. And it may be that it was
due to this sort of activity that Zues always exhibited the peculiar
stern and dignified bent of mind which women show when they are dealing
with laundry work, especially with the work over the tub. For Zues
never unbent at all until the ironing began. Then, it might be, a
species of sedate cheerfulness would seize upon her, in her case,
however, invariably spiced with words of wisdom. This sedate spirit,
too, was recognizable in the chief decorative piece on the premises,
namely, a garland of soap cakes, square, accurately gauged cakes, which
encircled the large living room on shelves. The soap was thus exposed
to the warm air currents in order to harden and become fitter for use.
And it was Zues herself who always cut out the cakes by means of a
brass wire. The wire had fastened to it at either end two small wooden
knobs so one could seize them there for a more commodious cutting of
the soft soap. But a fine pair of compasses used in dividing the soap
in equal sections was also there. This instrument had been made for her
and presented as a valued gift by a journeyman mechanician with whom
she had at one time been as good as engaged. From him, too, came a
gleaming small brass mortar for the pulverization of spices. This
decorated the edge of her cupboard, right between the blue china tea
can and the painted flower vase. For long such a dainty little mortar
had been her special desire, and the attentive mechanician was
therefore extremely welcome when he appeared one afternoon on her
birthday and likewise brought along something to put the mortar to its
legitimate use: a boxful of cinnamon, lump sugar, cloves and pepper.
The mortar itself he hung, before entering at the door, by one of its
handles to his little finger, and with the pestle he started a gay
tinkling, just like a bell, so that out of the adventure grew a jolly
day of festivity. However, shortly afterwards the false scoundrel fled
from the district, and was never heard of more. Besides that, his
master even demanded the return of the mortar, since the fugitive had
taken it from his shop, but had forgotten to pay for it. But Zues did
not deliver up this valuable object. On the contrary, she went to law
for its undisputed possession, and in court she defended her claim
valiantly, basing her rights on the fact that she had washed, starched
and ironed a set of "dickies" for the vanished lover. Those days, the
days when she was forced to defend her rights to the mortar in open
court, were the most conspicuous and painful of her whole life, since
she with her deep feelings felt these things and more particularly her
appearance in court for the sake of such delicate affairs much more
keenly than others of a lighter disposition would have done. All the
same she scored a victory and kept her mortar.

If, however, this neat soap gallery proclaimed her exact working
tactics and her passion for toil, a row of books, arranged in orderly
fashion on the window ledge, did honor to her religious and disciplined
mind. These books were of a miscellaneous description, and she read and
reread them studiously on Sundays. She still possessed all her school
books, never having lost a single one of them. She also still carried
in her head all her little stock of scholastic learning acquired at
school; she knew the whole catechism by heart, as well as the contents
of the grammar, of the arithmetic, of her geography book, of the
collection of biblical stories, and of the various readers and
spellers. Then she also owned some of the pretty tales by Christoph
Schmid and the latter's short novelettes, with handsome verses at the
end, at least a half dozen of sundry treasuries of poetry and
gatherings of popular fairy tales, a number of almanacs full of
specimens of homely wisdom and practical experience, several precise
and remarkable prophecies of tremendous events to come, a guide for
laying the cards, a book of edification for every day of the year
intended for the use of thoughtful virgins, and an old and slightly
damaged copy of Schiller's "The Robbers," which she slowly perused
again and again, as often as she feared she might begin to forget this
stirring drama. And each time she read it, the play appealed to her
sentimental heart anew, so that she made constant references to it and
commented in a highly praiseworthy manner on the various personages
presented in it. And really all there was in these books she also
retained in her memory, and understood exceedingly well how to speak
about them and about many other things as well. When she felt cheerful
and contented and did not have to hasten her labors too greatly, speech
flowed continuously from her lips, and everything under the sun she
knew how to judge and to put into its proper category. Young and old,
high and low, learned and unlearned, they all were compelled to listen
and to receive instruction from her. First, she would hear everybody
out, meanwhile smilingly and sensibly straightening out the case in her
wise little head. And then, having now perceived whither all these
plaints or fears tended, she would solve the more or less knotty
problem at a stroke. Sometimes she would speak so unctuously and
elaborately on matters that irreverent criticasters had compared her to
learned blind persons who have never had sight of the world and whose
sole solace it is to hear themselves talk.

From the time she went to the town school and from her lessons of
instruction before she was confirmed by the pastor, she had retained
the habit of composing, from time to time, essays and exercises, and
thus it was that she would, on quiet Sundays, laboriously write out the
most marvelous compositions. One of her favorite methods in doing this
was to seize upon some melodious title that she had heard of or read in
the course of the week, and taking this, so to speak, as her text,
would proceed to pile up from it the most wonderful conclusions and
deductions, not infrequently culminating in very odd or nonsensical
dicta. Page on page of this balderdash she would perpetrate, just as it
issued from the convolutions of her silly brain. Such themes, for
example, as "The Various Beneficent Uses of a Sickbed," "About Death,"
"About the Wholesomeness of Resignation," "About the Giant Size
of the World," "About the Secrets of Life Eternal," "About Residence
in the Country," "About Nature," "About Dreams," "About Love,"
"About Redemption and Christ," "Three Points in the Theory of
Self-Justification," "Thoughts about Immortality," she often solved in
her own easy way. Then she would read aloud to her friends and admirers
these productions, and it was a supreme proof of her special regard and
affection for her to present one or the other of them to a close
friend. Such gifts, she insisted on, had to be placed within the pages
of a Bible, that is, if the recipient happened to have one.

This leaning of Zues' nature towards religious ecstasy and
contemplation had once gained her the profound and respectful affection
of a young bookbinder, a man who read every book he bound and who was,
besides, both ambitious and enthusiastic. Whenever he brought his
bundle of soiled linen to Zues' mother, he deemed himself to be in
paradise, for he swallowed greedily all of the maiden's thoughts, and
her boldest figures of speech now and then, he shyly said, would remind
him of things he had dared to think himself, but which he had never had
the skill and the courage to frame into words. Bashfully and humbly he
approached this talented virgin, who was by turns severe and eloquent,
and she deigned to suffer this modest intercourse and held him in
leading-strings for a whole year, not, however, without making the
hopelessness of his suit plain to him, gently but determinedly. For
inasmuch as he was nine years her junior, poor as a church mouse and
awkward in gaining a living, men of his calling not being in clover in
Seldwyla anyhow, since people there do not read much and, consequently,
have few books to bind, she never for a moment hid from herself the
impossibility of a union. She merely found it pleasant to develop his
mind and character and to furnish her own as a model to strive after.
Her own powers of resignation were all the time for him to take pattern
by, and so she embalmed his aspirations in an iridescent cloud of
phrases. And he on his part would listen modestly, and once or twice
find heart to risk a beautiful sentence himself. This she invariably
answered by instantly killing his observation with a finer one. That
year, when she calmly received the adoration of this youth, was
reckoned by her the most ethereal and noblest of her existence, since
it was not disturbed by a single breath from the lower and material
spheres, and the young man during it bound anew all her books, and with
infinite pains wrought night after night toward the ultimate completion
of an artful and precious monument of his adoration for her. This was,
to be plain, a huge Chinese temple of pasteboard, containing
innumerable tiny compartments and secret receptacles, and which might
be entirely taken apart and reconstructed on following carefully
previous instructions. This miracle was pasted all over with the finest
samples of varicolored and glazed paper, and everywhere ornamented with
gilt borders. Minute mirrors inside colonnaded halls of state reflected
the gay colors, and by removing one section of the structure or opening
another one there were more mirrors and hidden pictures, nosegays of
paper or loving couples. The curving or shelving roofs were everywhere
hung with little bells. Even a small stand for a lady's watch was
there, with hooks to hang it up on and with other hooks to trail a
slender meandering chain through. Only up to now no watchmaker had yet
offered a pretty watch or a chain to decorate this altar with. An
enormous deal of trouble and skill had been wasted on this pasteboard
temple, and its ground plan was just as correct as the work itself. And
when this monument of a year passed jointly so pleasantly had been duly
accepted, Zues Buenzlin encouraged the good bookbinder, doing violence
to her own well-regulated heart, to tear himself away from the town and
to set once more his staff for a wandering life. She pointed out with
perfect justice that the whole world stood open to him, and she assured
him that now, having schooled and ennobled his heart by improving his
acquaintance with herself, happiness elsewhere would certainly be in
store for him. She would never forget him and retire into solitude. And
indeed, the young fellow was so much affected by these moral
exhortations that he shed a few melancholy tears in passing the town
gate on his way. His masterpiece, however, since stood on top of Zues'
old-fashioned clothes press, daintily covered by a veil of green gauze,
thus defying dust and profane gaze. She considered it so much of a
sacred relic that she kept it intact and without even placing anything
whatever into those many tiny recesses of the temple. In her memory he
continued to live as "Emmanuel," although his real name had been Veit.
And she told everyone with whom she discussed the case that Emmanuel
alone had completely understood her inner self. This she said now that
he was gone, but while he had been with her in the flesh she had been
of different opinion, for she had rarely admitted to him that he was
right, deeming it wiser to thus urge him on to higher and ever higher
endeavor in his search of a perfect agreement of mind with his idol.
Indeed, she had more than once intimated to him, at times when he hoped
he had at last fully entered the arcana of her soul, that he was
farther and farther from it.

But he, too, Veit-Emmanuel, played her a little trick. He had placed in
a false bottom, in one of the diminutive apartments of his pasteboard
fairy palace, the most touching of all love letters, bedewed with his
tears, wherein he confessed his bitter grief at parting from her, his
love, his worship and his sublime steadfastness, and in such passionate
and sincere terms had he done this as only genuine feeling can find,
even if it has lost itself in a cul-de-sac. Such touching, such moving
things he had never said to her, simply because she never would give
him the chance, having always interrupted him when he was on the point
of doing so. But as she had not the slightest suspicion that any such
document had been put away within the temple, she never found the
missive and thus fate for once dealt justly and did not let a false
beauty see that which she was not worthy of. And it was also a symbol
that she it was who had not fathomed the somewhat silly, but devoted
and sincere heart of the youth.


For a long while she had been praising the doings of the three
combmakers, and had called them three decent and sensible men; for she
had closely observed them. When, therefore, Dietrich, the Suabian,
began to linger longer and longer in her dwelling when bringing or
fetching his shirt, and to pay court to her, she treated him in a
friendly manner and kept him near her for hours by means of her lofty
conversation. And Dietrich talked back, of course, to please her, just
as much as he could; and she was one of the kind that could stand more
than a fair measure of laudation. Indeed, one might truthfully say that
she liked it all the more the more spiced and peppered it was. When
praising her wisdom and kindness, she kept still as a mouse, until
there was no more of it, whereupon she would with heightened color pick
up the thread where it had been dropped, and would touch up the
painting in those spots where it seemed to require a trifle of
additional color. And Dietrich had not been going back and forth in
her house for any great length of time when she showed him that
mortgage of hers, and he thereupon began to exude a quiet, sedate
species of self-satisfaction, and began to behave toward his rivals
with such stealth as though he had invented the perpetuum mobile. Jobst
and Fridolin, however, soon unearthed his secret, and they were amazed
at the depth of his dissimulation and at his cleverness. Jobst above
all clutched his hair and tore out a good handful of it; for had he
himself not been going to the same house for a long while, and had it
ever occurred to him to look for anything there but his clean linen?
Rather, he had hitherto almost hated the washerwomen because he had
been forced to dig up a few stuyvers every week to pay them. Never had
he thought of marriage, because he was unable to conceive of a wife
under any other aspect than that of a being that wanted something out
of him which he did not deem her due, and to expect something from such
a feminine creature that might be of advantage to him had never entered
his thoughts, since he had confidence only in himself, and his
calculations had so far never gone beyond the narrowest horizon, that
of his secret. But now reflecting deep and serious he reached the
determination to outdo this sly little Suabian, for if the latter
should really succeed in getting hold of Dame Zues' seven hundred
florins, he might become a keen competitor. The seven hundred florins,
too, suddenly shone and glittered very differently, in the eyes both of
the Saxon and of the Bavarian. Thus it was that Dietrich, the man of
invention, had discovered a land which soon became the joint property
of the three, and thus shared the hard lot of all discoverers, for the
two others at once got on the same track and likewise became steady
callers on Zues Buenzlin. She therefore saw herself surrounded by a
whole court of decent and respectable combmakers. That she relished
greatly; never before had she had a number of admirers at one time. It
became a novel entertainment for her shrewd mind to handle these three
with the greatest impartiality and skill, to keep them at all times
within bounds and cool reason, and to thus influence them by frequent
speeches in favor of the beauties of resignation and unselfishness
until Heaven itself should by some act of intervention decide matters
irrevocably.

As each of the three had confided to her his secret and his plans, she
immediately made up her mind to render happy that one who really would
attain his goal and become owner of the business. And in thus deciding
in her own heart how she should proceed, she from that hour on
deliberately excluded the Suabian, since he could not succeed except
through and by her money. But while thus actually discarding the
Suabian as a possible candidate for her hand, she reflected that, after
all, he was the youngest, handsomest and most amiable of the trio, and
thus she would spare for him many a token of regard and confidence, and
lull him into the belief that his chances were the best. But while so
doing, she knew how to arouse the jealousy of the other two, and thus
spur them on to greater zeal. And so it came to pass that Dietrich,
this poor Columbus who had first sighted and nearly taken possession of
the pretty land, became nothing but a mere pawn in her game, nothing
but the poor fool who unconsciously assisted in the angling for the
real fish. Meanwhile all three of them assiduously wooed and courted
the coy maiden, running a close race in the difficult art of showing
all the time devotion, modesty and sense, while being kept by the
bridle. She on her part was in her element, for she forever told them
to be unselfish and to practice resignation. When the whole four now
and then happened to be together, they made the impression of a
singular conventicle where the queerest remarks were being expressed.
And despite of all their timidity and humility it would happen once in
a while that one of the three, suddenly dropping his hosannahs in
praise of the rare gifts and virtues of the maiden, would plunge into a
measure of self-laudation. At such moments it was edifying and truly
touching to see Zues gently interrupt the rash one and chide him for
his breach of good manners. She would then shame him by forcing him to
listen to a homily on his rivals.

However, this was really a hard sort of life for the poor combmakers to
lead. No matter how much ordinarily they had themselves under control,
now that a woman had entered as a factor into their game, there would
occur wholly novel spurts of jealousy, of fear, of misgiving, and of
hope. What with a fury of work and increased economy, they almost
killed themselves and certainly lost flesh. They became melancholy, and
while before people--and especially before Zues--they endeavored hard
to maintain the appearance of the utmost harmony, they scarcely spoke a
word to each other when alone together at work or in their common
sleeping chamber, lay down sighing in their joint bed, and dreamed of
murder, albeit still resting quietly and immovably one next the other
as so many sticks. One and the same dream hovered nightly over the
trio, until really once it came to one of the sleepers, so that Jobst
in his place by the wall turned over violently and kicked Dietrich.
Dietrich avoided the kick and gave Jobst a hard push, and now there was
among the three sleepy combmakers an outbreak of elemental wrath. The
most tremendous row ensued in the bed, and for fully three minutes they
treated each other to fearful lunges, kicks and pushes, so that all the
six legs formed an inextricable tangle, until with a thundering crash
they rolled out of bed and began to howl like savage beasts. Becoming
fully awake they at first thought the devil were after them or else
thieves had entered their room. Screaming they rose quickly. Jobst took
his stand upon his tile; Fridolin planted himself firmly upon his own,
and Dietrich did the like upon that tile beneath which his still rather
slender savings reposed. And thus standing in a triangle, they worked
their arms like flails and shouted their loudest: "Get out; get out!"
until the master came rushing up from below and after a while quieted
the three frenzied fellows. Trembling then with fear, shame and anger,
they crept back into bed, and then, wide-awake, lay there mute until
dawn came and forced them to rise.

However, the nocturnal spook had only been the prelude to something
worse. For at breakfast the master let them know that for the time
being he had no longer need of three journeymen, and that two of them
would have to pack up their bundle. It appeared that they had defeated
their own object by hurrying and hastening work, so that now there were
more wares than the boss was able to dispose of, while on the other
hand, he, the master, himself had taken advantage of the extreme mood
for work his men had shown for months to lead on his part an opulent
and disorderly life, spending nearly all his extra gains in riotous
quips. Indeed, when the details of his doings became public it turned
out that he had run into such an amount of debt that the load of it
came well-nigh smothering him. Thus it came about that he, looking over
his own situation, was unable to employ or support his three workmen,
no matter how abstemious they were and how intent on his further
profit. For consolation he told them that he was equally fond of all
three of them and loath to tell either to go, wherefore he had made up
his mind to leave it wholly to them which of the three should leave and
which should stay. All they had to do, he remarked smilingly, was to
agree among themselves upon that point.

But they were unable to come to a decision as to this. Rather they
stood there pale as ghosts, and simpered timidly at each other. Then
they became tremendously excited, since they clearly perceived that the
most momentous hour of their existence was approaching. For they judged
from the words of the master that he would not be able to continue the
business much longer, and that, therefore, it would soon become an
object of sale. The goal, then, each of them had striven for with such
infinite patience and cunning seemed in sight, and to their heated
fancy was already glittering and shining like a new Jerusalem. And now
came this awful decree, and two of them would have to turn their backs
upon the heavenly prospect. It was almost more than they could bear.
After a very brief consultation and reflection all three of them went
to see the master, and declared with tearful voices that rather than
leave him they would stay on, even though they would have to work
gratis. But then the master declared jovially that even in that case he
had no further use for all the three. Two of them, he again assured
them, would have to quit the house. They fell at his feet; they wrung
their hands; they asked and implored him to let them stay on: only for
another three months, for one month, for a fortnight. The master,
however, after at first enjoying the humor of the situation, at last
lost all patience. Besides, he was perfectly aware what their motive in
all this pretended loyalty for him was, and that soured his temper.
Suddenly an idea occurred to him, and he did not hesitate to make them
a proposition.

"Why," he smiled, "if you cannot agree among yourselves at all as to
who is to remain and who to go, I will tell you how we will decide this
matter. But that is absolutely the last proposal I shall make to you.
To-morrow being Sunday, I shall pay your wages; you pack up your
belongings, get ready to go forth and take your staffs. Then you will
in all good faith and perfect harmony leave jointly, going out by
whichever gate you may agree upon, and march on the highroad for
another half-hour, no more, no less, and then stop. Then you will rest
yourselves a trifle, and if you care to do so, you may even drink a
shoppen or two. Having done so, you will all three of you turn once
more and walk back to town, and whoever will then first ask me for
work, him I will keep, but the other two must wander forth for good and
all, wherever they might choose to go."

Hearing this cruel decision, they three fell once more at his feet and
begged him most pitifully to have mercy on them and to desist from his
plan. But the master, who by this time began to anticipate some rare
fun in his wicked soul, was obstinate and would not listen to them,
hardening himself. Suddenly the Suabian sprang up and ran out of the
house like a man demented, across the street to Zues Buenzlin. Scarcely
had Jobst and the Bavarian observed that, when they ceased to lament
themselves and followed the youngest. Within a very brief space the
three of them were seated in the dwelling of the frightened maiden.

Zues felt rather abashed and undecided by reason of the adventure
taking such an unexpected turn. But she calmed herself, and viewing the
matter from her own particular angle, she resolved to make her plans
subservient to the master's odd conceit. In fact, she regarded this new
aspect of affairs as a special dispensation of Providence. Touched and
devout she fetched out one of her volumes, then with her needle at
random pricked among the leaves, and when she opened the book at the
spot, she found a passage that spoke of the persistent following of the
righteous path. Next she made the three guests turn up passages
blindfolded, and all that was found treated of walking along the narrow
way, of advancing without looking backwards, in short, of nothing but
running and racing. Thus, then, she decided, Heaven itself had
prescribed the projected race for to-morrow. But since she was afraid
that Dietrich, as being the youngest and the ablest in jumping,
walking, and running, and thus most likely to win the palm if left
without supervision, she made up her mind to go herself along with the
three lovers, and to watch for an opportunity for bending or
influencing possibly the outcome of this undertaking in accordance with
her own secret desires. For she wished, as we must recall, one of the
older men to be the victor, she did not care which of the two.

In furtherance of this plan she insisted that the three be quiet for a
spell and cease slandering and berating each other, but rather summon
themselves to acquiescence in God's will. She put on her judicial air
and said:

"Know, my friends, that nothing happens here below without the
direction and sometimes direct interference of Providence, and no
matter if the plan of your master be unusual and singular, we must look
upon it as ordered by higher powers than he, although it may be that he
has not even an inkling of this. He is the dumb and unconscious
instrument in the hands of the Ruler. Our peaceable and harmonious
intercourse here has been too beautiful altogether to have been
prolonged much farther. For, behold, all the good things in life are
but transitory and pass away, and nothing is lasting but evil things,
the loneliness of the soul and the persistence of sin, whereupon we
feel impelled to consider all this and to try and grasp their meaning
in this life and in the life to come. Hence, too, let us rather
separate before the wicked demon of discord raises its head amongst us,
and let us bid each other farewell, just as do the soft zephyrs of
springtime when they swiftly move along high in the sky, and let us do
this before the rough storms of autumn overtake us. I myself will
accompany you on the first stage of your hard road, and will be the
eyewitness of your trial race, so that you will start on it with a good
courage and so that you know behind you a gentle propelling power,
while victory winks from afar. But just as the victor will forbear to
show a spirit of undue pride, those who have been defeated will not
permit themselves to become despondent nor to load their souls with
grief or wrath because of their lack of success in the venture. They
will depart feeling affection for him who bears the palm, and will
enshrine him and us in their inmost heart. They will fare forth into
the wide world with joyous disposition. They must reflect on the fact
that men have built cities galore that outshine in their splendors and
beauties Seldwyla by far. There is, for instance, a huge and memorable
city wherein dwells the Father of all Christendom. And Paris, too, is
quite a mighty town, where may be found innumerable souls and many fine
palaces. And in Constantinople there rules the Sultan, of Turkish faith
is he, and there is Lisbon, once destroyed by an earthquake, but since
reconstructed finer than ever. Again we have Vienna, the capital of
Austria and called the gay imperial city, and London is the wealthiest
town of all, situated in Engelland, along a river the name of which is
the Thames. Two millions of human beings, they say, have their
habitation there. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, is the capital and
imperial city of Russia, whereas Naples is the capital of the kingdom
of the same name, near which is the Vesuvius, a high mountain forever
breathing fire and smoke. On that mountain, according to the version of
a credible witness, a lost soul once upon a time appeared to a ship's
captain, as I have read in a curious book of travel, which soul
belonged to John Smidt, who one hundred and fifty years ago was a
godless man, and who now commissioned the said captain to visit his
descendants in Engelland, so he might be redeemed. For look you, the
entire mountain is the abode of the damned, as may also be read in the
tract of the learned Peter Hasler where he discusses the probable
entrance to hell. Many other cities there are indeed, whereof I will
still mention Milan, and Venice, built wholly upon water, and Lyons,
and Marseilles, and Strasbourg, and Cologne, and Amsterdam. Of Paris I
have already spoken, but there is also Nuremberg, and Augsburg, and
Frankfort, and Basle, and Berne, and Geneva, all of them handsome
towns, and pretty Zurich, and besides all these still many more which I
have neither leisure nor inclination to enumerate here. For everything
has its limits, excepting the inventive genius of man, who goes
everywhere and undertakes anything which seems to him useful. And if
men are just everything prospereth with them; but if they are unjust
they will perish like the grass of the fields and vanish like smoke.
Many are called, but few are chosen. For all these reasons and because
of others to which our duty and the virtue of a clear conscience oblige
us, we will now submit ourselves to the voice of fate. Go forth,
therefore, and prepare for the time of trial, and for the period of
wandering, but do so as just and gentle beings, who bear their worth
within themselves, no matter whither they may go, and whose staff will
everywhere take root, who, no matter what their calling may be and no
matter what business they may seize upon, are always in the right in
saying to themselves; 'I have chosen the better part.'"

Of all this the combmakers really did not want to hear just then, but
on the contrary insisted that Zues should select one of them and tell
him to remain in Seldwyla, and each one of them in saying so only
thought of himself. She, however, was careful to avoid a premature
choice. On the contrary, she told them bluntly that they must obey her
on pain of forfeiting her friendship forever. At once Jobst, the oldest
of the three, skipped off, right into the house of their ex-master, and
to perceive that and follow him in haste, was the work of an instant,
since they were afraid that he might be planning something against them
on the sly, and thus the trio acted all day long, whisking about like
falling stars, hither and thither. They hated each other like three
spiders in one web. Half the town witnessed this queer spectacle,
observing the three strangely excited combmakers, they who until that
day had always been so orderly and quiet. The ancient people of the
town could not but feel that something evil, something tragic was
underway, and they would nod and whisper to one another of their fears.
Towards nightfall, however, the combmakers became tired and spent,
without having reached any definite conclusion, and in that mood they
retired and stretched out their limbs in the old bed, with chattering
teeth and half-sick with impotent rage. One by one they crept beneath
the covering, and there they lay, as though felled by the hand of death
itself, with thoughts in turmoil and confusion, until at last sleep
came like balm for their uproarious minds.

Jobst was first to waken, at early dawn, and he saw that spring was
weaving its garlands and that the great orb was rising in the east, in
a mass of cloudlets of dainty hue. The first rays of the sun were
already penetrating the dusky chamber wherein he had been sleeping for
the past six years. And while the room assuredly looked bare and
unattractive enough, it seemed nevertheless a paradise to him, a
paradise from which he was about to be driven thus unjustly and
unfairly, it appeared to him. He let his eyes wander all over the
walls, and counted on them the traces left by all the preceding
journeymen that had been harbored under that roof. Here there was a
dark stain from the one who was in the habit of rubbing against the
wall his greasy pate; there another one had driven in a nail, on which
he used to hang his long pipe, and, sure enough, a bit of scarlet tape
still clung to the nail. How good and harmless had they all been, all
those that had come and gone, while these fellows now, spread out their
whole length next to him in bed, would not go. Next he fastened his
glance upon the objects nearer his field of vision, those objects which
he had noticed thousands of times before, on all those occasions when
he had lain in bed in a contemplative mood, mornings, nights, or
daytime, and when he had enjoyed in his own peculiar way the bliss of
existence, free of cost and with a serene mind. There was, for example,
a spot in the ceiling where the wet had damaged it. This spot had often
set his imagination at work. It looked like the map of a whole country,
with lakes and rivers and cities, and a group of grains of sand
represented an isle of the blessed. Farther down a long bristle from
the painter's brush attracted Jobst's wandering attention; for this
bristle had been held back by the blue paint and was embedded in it.
This phenomenon interested Jobst greatly, for it was his own handiwork.
Last autumn he had accidentally discovered a small remnant of the azure
paint, and to utilize it had proceeded to spread it over that portion
of the ceiling nearest to him. But just beyond the bristle there was a
very slight protuberance, almost like a chain of mountains, and this
threw its shadow across the bristle over against the isle of the
blessed. About this rise in the scenery he had been brooding and
speculating the whole of the past winter, because it seemed to him that
it had not been there formerly.

And as he now cast searching glances for this protuberance and could
not find it despite all his pains, he thought he must suddenly have
gone daft when instead of it he discovered a tiny bare spot on the
wall. On the other hand he noticed that the small bluish mountain
itself was moving. Amazed beyond measure at this miracle, Jobst quickly
sat up and watched the cerulean wonder march steadily on: the
conviction dawned on him that the prodigy was nothing but a bedbug; his
logical deduction then was that he must have unawares applied a coat of
paint to this insect, at a time in its life when it was already in a
state of coma. But now the little creature had been reawakened under
the warming influence of the spring sun, had started on a tour of
adventure, and was actually and bravely ascending the steep pathway on
the wall, ready for business, without in the least minding its blue
back and Jobst's astonishment. Jobst watched the meanderings of the
dear little thing with concentrated interest. So long as it cut across
the blue paint it was barely visible; but now it issued forth into the
region beyond, traversing first a few remaining splotches of paint, and
next wandering diligently among the darker districts. With softened
feelings Jobst sank back into his pillows. Generally rather indifferent
to quips of mere fancy, this time sentiment struggled uppermost. He
took the enterprising bedbug as an omen for himself. He, too, must be
wandering forth again, seeking new pastures. And thankfully and
resignedly he thought of this insect as a model for himself to strive
after. In this frame of mind he resolved to put a good face on the
matter and to bow to the unavoidable. He meant to start at once.
Indulging these wise reflections his natural wisdom and forethought
slowly came back to him, however, and resuming his train of
deliberations he at last concluded that there might not be any
necessity for clearing out at all. By reassuming his habitual modesty
and resignation and submitting in that spirit to the trial at hand, it
might come to pass, after all, that he would overcome his rivals.
Softly and slowly, therefore, he now rose, and began to arrange his
belongings; but above all he dug up his hidden treasure and started to
pack it away, lowest in his knapsack. While thus engaged the others
also awoke. And when they observed Jobst packing up his things in that
matter-of-fact, unobtrusive manner, they grew more and more astonished,
and this feeling increased when Jobst spoke to them in a conciliatory
tone and wished them a good morning. More than that, though, he did not
say, but continued peaceably in his task. Instantly, however, not being
able to explain to themselves his behavior, they began to suspect a
ruse, a deep-laid scheme, and to imitate him. At the same time they
closely watched him, curious to find out what he would do next.

It was ludicrous as well to observe the other two now exhuming their
hoards quite openly from underneath their own tiles, and to put them
away, without first counting them over, in their knapsacks. For they
had known for long that each was aware of the secret of the others, and
according to the old-fashioned honorable traditions of their guild not
one of them suspected the others of theft. Each of them, in fact, was
fully convinced that they would not be robbed. For it is an iron-clad
custom among traveling journeymen, soldiers, and similar folk that
nothing must be locked up and that there must be no suspicion of foul
play.

In this way they at last were ready to start. The master paid each his
wages, and handed them back their service booklets, wherein on the part
of the town authorities and of the master himself there were inscribed
the most satisfactory certificates as to good behavior and steadiness
of conduct. A minute later they stood, in a state of soft melancholy,
before the house door of Zues Buenzlin, each dressed in a long brown
coat, with a duster above that, and their hats, albeit by no means new
or fashionable, covered with a tight casing of oil cloth. Each carried
a tiny van strapped to his knapsack to enable him, as soon as
long-distance walking should start, to pull his heavy baggage with
greater ease. The small wheels belonging to this contraption stood up
high above their shoulders. Jobst was assisted in walking by a decent
bamboo cane, Fridolin by a staff of ash painted all over with red and
black stripes, and Dietrich by a fantastic baton around which were
curling carved branches. But he was almost ashamed of this absurd and
bragging thing, since it dated from the first days of his pilgrimage, a
time when he had not yet attained to the sober view of life as since.
Many neighbors and their children lined the way and wished these three
serious-minded men godspeed.

But now Zues showed at the door, her mien even more solemn than usual,
and at the head of the little procession she went on with the three
courageously to beyond the town gate. In their honor she had donned
some of her choicest finery. She wore a huge hat draped with broad
yellow ribbons, a pink calico dress trimmed in a style of ten years
ago, a black velvet scarf and shoes of red morocco with fringes. With
this costume she also carried a reticule of green silk filled with
dried pears and prunes, and had a small parasol in her other hand on
top of which there could be seen an ivory ornament carved in the shape
of a lyre. She had also hung around her fair neck the locket with the
monument of hair, and in front of her chaste bosom had pinned on the
gold forget-me-not, and wore white knit gloves. Dainty and pleasant she
looked in this guise; her countenance was slightly flushed and her
bosom heaved higher than its wont, and the departing combmakers
scarcely were able to conceal their feelings of utter woe and sorrow at
the prospect of losing her. For even their extreme situation, the
lovely spring weather, and Zues' exquisite finery, or all of it
together mingled with their sentiments of expectation and anxiety
something of what habitually is denominated Love. Arrived beyond the
town gate, though, the winsome maiden encouraged her three admirers to
place their heavy knapsacks upon those tiny wheels and to pull their
loads, so as not to tire themselves needlessly. This they did, and as
they steadily began to climb the steep heights that rose just outside
the town, it looked for all the world almost like a train of light
mountain guns moving slowly upwards, in order to form a battery for
attack. And when they had thus proceeded for half an hour they reached
a pleasant hilltop, where they halted. A crossroad was there, and they
sat down beneath a linden tree, in a semicircle, whence a far view was
obtainable across forests and lakes and villages. Zues brought out her
reticule and handed to each one a handful of pears and prunes, in order
to restore themselves. Thus they sat for quite a while, solemn and
silent, merely causing a slight noise by the slow degustation of the
sweet fruit.

Then Zues, throwing away a prune pit and drying her hands on the grass,
drew breath and began to speak: "Dear friends," she said, "only see how
beautiful and how big the world is, all around full of fine things and
of human habitations! And yet I should wager that in this fateful hour
there are nowhere else seated together four such decent and just souls
as are seated here under this tree, four who are so sensible and so
gentle in all their doings, so inclined to all useful and laborious
exercises, so given to virtues like economy, peaceableness, and dutiful
friendship. How many flowers are surrounding us here, of every kind,
such as early spring produces, especially yellow cowslips, from which a
wholesome and well-tasting tea may be prepared. But are these flowers,
I ask you, as decent and as diligent, as economical and cautious, as
apt to think correct and useful thoughts? No, indeed, they are ignorant
and soulless things, and without benefiting themselves they waste time
and opportunity, and no matter how nice they may look in a short time
they turn into dead and useless hay, while we with our virtues are far
superior to them and also do not yield to them in beauty of outward
shape. For it was God who created us after His image and blew His
divine breath into us. Ah, would it were possible to keep seated here
in this spot for all eternity, in this paradise and in our present
state of innocency. Indeed, my friends, it seems to me that we all of
us at this hour are in a state of innocency, although ennobled by
sinless consciousness and intelligence, for all four of us are able,
God be praised, to read and write, and we have, each of us, likewise
acquired a craft, a useful calling. For many things, I am aware, I have
talent and skill, and would engage to do many things which even the
most learned young lady would be unable to do, that is, if I were
inclined to go outside of and beyond my proper station. But modesty and
humility are the dearest virtues of a decent maiden, and it is enough
for me to know that my intellectual gifts are not worthless nor
despised by the judicious and those of a keener discernment. Many have
before this wooed me, men who were not worthy of me, and now I see
three just and decent bachelors assembled around me, each of whom is as
worthy to win me as are the others. From this, my friends, you may
measure and imagine how my own heart must long for a solution in view
of this unheard-of abundance, and may each of you take pattern by me
and think for the moment that he, too, were surrounded by three
virgins, each equally lovely and worthy to be loved, and all three
desirous to wed and possess him, and that on that account it might
happen that he would be unable to make up his mind to incline to this
or that one, and therefore at last unable to wed any. Only place
yourselves in your thoughts in my stead: fancy that each of you were
courted simultaneously by three Miss Buenzlins at once, and were thus
seated around you the way we are seated here, dressed as I am, and of
similarly alluring exterior, so that I in a manner of speaking would
exist ninefold, and that they all were regarding you with love-lorn
eyes, and were desiring to possess you with great strength of feeling.
Can you do that?"

The three lovers ceased for a moment to chew their dried prunes, and
made an attempt to follow the maiden's flight of fancy, their faces
meanwhile assuming a peculiarly sheep-like cast. But after a while the
Suabian, as the greatest thinker and inventor amongst them, seemed to
grasp the idea, and said with a voluptuous grin: "Well, most beloved
Miss Zues, if you have no objection, I should indeed like to see you
hover around here not only threefold but a hundredfold, and to have you
look at me with lovelorn eyes and to offer me a thousand kisses!"

"Nay, nay," Zues replied, rather put out by this, "do not talk in this
unbecoming and extravagant style! What is entering your head, you
overbold Dietrich? Not a hundredfold and not offering kisses, but only
threefold and in a virtuous and honorable manner, so that no wrong may
be done me!"

"Yes," now cried Jobst, brandishing a pear stalk and gesturing with it,
"only threefold and behaving with the greatest chastity do I see the
beloved Miss Buenzlin walking about me and greeting me while placing
her hand on her heart. Your most devoted servant, thank you, thank
you!" he said, smiling with great urbanity and bowing thrice in
different directions as though he really perceived these hallucinations
in the air around him. "Thus you should speak," rejoined Zues, with a
seductive smirk. "If there really exists any difference between you
three, it is you, after all, dear Jobst, who are the most gifted, or at
least the most sensible."

Fridolin, the Bavarian, had not yet succeeded in conjuring up in his
slower brain all these figments of imagination. But now seeing Jobst
evidently scoring a hit, he was afraid that he was losing in favor, and
so shouted in haste: "I also notice the lovely virgin, Miss Zues
Buenzlin, perambulating right here in my vicinity and throwing
voluptuous glances in my direction, while putting her hand on--"

"Fie, you Bavarian," shrieked Zues wrathfully, turning her face aside
out of very shame. "Not another word! Where do you get the courage from
to talk to me in such a tone of impure grossness, and to allow your
fancy to indulge in such smuttiness? Fie, fie!"

The poor Bavarian felt abashed, reddened under this reproof, and looked
about foolishly, not knowing what he had done amiss. For really his
imagination had not been at work at all, and he had merely meant to
repeat about what he had heard Jobst say a moment before and what the
latter had been praised for. But now Zues once more turned and
remarked: "And you, dear Dietrich, have you not yet been able to
reshape that last observation of yours in a more modest guise?"

"Indeed I have," the young man made answer, glad to be forgiven, "I now
perceive you only in three different shapes, regarding me pleasantly
but in a quite respectable manner, and offering me three white hands,
on which I imprint three just as respectable kisses."

"Well, then, that is proper," remarked Zues, "and you, Fridolin, have
you recovered from your fit of libertinism? Have you not yet calmed
your rampageous blood, and are you now in condition to conceive of an
image not so obscene?"

"Begging pardon," murmured Fridolin greatly crestfallen, "I also can
now clearly recognize three maidens, each of whom has dried pears in
her hand and offers them to me, not being quite at variance with me any
longer. One of these is as handsome as the others, and to make a choice
among them appears to me a hard matter indeed."

"Well said," remarked Zues, "and since you in your fancy are surrounded
by no less than nine equally desirable persons, and nevertheless in
spite of such delectable superabundance are suffering in your hearts
from a lack of love, you may easily conceive of my own condition. And
as you also saw how with modest and pure heart I know to tame my
desires, I trust you will take me as a model and will vow here and now
to further live in amity and to separate when the hour comes just as
pleasantly and without a grudge, no matter how fate may deal with each
one of you. Rise and come hither. Let each one of you place his hand in
mine, and pledge himself to act just as I have indicated!"

"With perfect good faith," said Jobst in reply, "I at least will do
precisely as you suggest!"

And the other two, not to be behindhand, likewise shouted: "And so will
I!" and they all three pledged themselves as she had requested,
secretly, of course, each with the proviso to run as hard towards the
goal as he was able.

"Yes, indeed," Jobst once more interjected, "I at least will live up to
my promise, for from my youth upwards I have unfailingly shown a
conciliatory and equable disposition. Never in my life have I had a
quarrel with anyone, and would never suffer to see an animal tortured.
Wherever I have been I was on good terms with my fellows, and thus
earned much praise because of my peaceful ways. And while I may say
that I, too, understand many things passably well, and am usually held
a sensible young man, at no time have I interfered with things that did
not concern me, and have always done my duty with consideration for
others. I can work just as hard as I choose without losing my health,
since I am sound and strong and abstemious in my ways, and have still
the best years before me. All the wives of my masters have said that I
was a man in a thousand, a real treasure, and that it was easy to get
along with me. Oh, indeed, Miss Buenzlin, I believe I could live with
you as though in Heaven, in uninterrupted bliss."

"That would not be hard," broke in the Bavarian at this, "to live in
concord and happiness with Miss Zues. I also would undertake to do the
same. I am not a fool, either. My craft I understand as well as the
best, and I know how to keep things in order without ever having to get
excited about it. And although I also have dwelt in the largest cities
and have earned good wages there, I have never got into trouble, and
neither have I ever killed as much as a spider or thrown a brick at a
mewling cat. I am temperate and easily pleased with my food, and am
able to get along with very little indeed. With that I am in full
health and of good temper and cheerful. I can stand much hardship
without losing my bland mind, and my good conscience is an elixir that
keeps me in excellent spirit. All animals love me and follow me,
because they scent my kind heart, for with an unjust man they would not
stay. A poodle dog once followed me for three entire days, on leaving
the town of Ulm, and at last I was forced to leave it in charge of a
peasant, since I as an humble journeyman combmaker could not afford to
feed such a creature. When I was traveling through the Bohemian Forest
stags and deer used to come within twenty paces of me, and would then
stand and watch me. It is wonderful indeed how even such wild beasts
know by instinct what kind of human beings they have to deal with."

"True," here sang out the Suabian. "Don't you see how this chaffinch
has been fluttering around me this whole while, and how it is anxious
to approach me? And that squirrel over there by the pine tree is
constantly glancing towards me, and here again a small beetle is
creeping up my leg and will not go away. Surely, it must be feeling
comfortable with me, the tiny thing."

But now Zues grew jealous. Rather nettled, she spoke: "Animals all love
me and like to stay with me. One of my birds remained with me for eight
years, until unfortunately it died. Our cat is so fond of me that it
forever purrs about me, and our neighbor's pigeons crowd about me every
day when I scatter some crumbs for them on my window sill. Wonderful
qualities animals have, anyway, each after its kind. The lion loves to
follow in the footprints of kings and heroes, and the elephant
accompanies the prince and the doughty warrior. The camel bears the
merchant through the desert and keeps a store of fresh water in its
belly for him. The dog again shares all the dangers with his owner and
pitches himself headlong into the sea just to prove his devotion. The
dolphin has a strong love for music and swims in the wake of vessels,
while the eagle accompanies armies. The ape bears a strong resemblance
to the human species and imitates everything he sees us do. The parrot
understands our speech and converses with us just like any person of
sense. Even the snakes may be tamed and then dance on the tip of their
tails. The crocodile sheds human tears and is consequently in those
parts esteemed and spared. The ostrich may be saddled and ridden like a
horse. The savage buffalo pulls the carriage of his human master, as
the reindeer does the sledge of his. The unicorn furnishes man with
snow-white ivory and the tortoise with its transparent bones--"

"Beg pardon," interrupted all the three combmakers together, "herein
you are slightly in error, for ivory comes from the teeth of the
elephant, and tortoise-shell combs are made out of the shell of that
animal and not of the bones of the tortoise."

Zues colored deeply and rejoined: "That, I believe, remains to be
proved. For you certainly have not seen of your own knowledge whence it
is obtained, but only work up its pieces. I as a rule make no mistakes
in matters of that kind. However, be that as it may, just let me
finish. Not the animals alone have their peculiarities implanted by the
hand of God, but even dead minerals that are dug out of the sides of
mountains. The crystal is clear as glass, marble hard and full of
veins, sometimes white and sometimes black. Amber possesses electric
properties and attracts lightning; but in that case it burns and smells
like incense. The magnet attracts iron; on slates one can write, but
not upon diamonds, for these are hard as steel; the glazier, too, uses
the diamond for cutting glass, because it is small and pointed. You
see, dear friends, that I can also tell you a few things about minerals
and animals. But as regards my relations with them I may say this: that
the cat is a sly and cunning beast, and that is why it will attach
itself only to persons possessing the same characteristics. The pigeon,
however, is the symbol of innocence and simplicity of mind, and may
only be the companion of those similarly constituted. And since it is
certain that both cats and pigeons are attracted by me, the conclusion
must be that I am at the same time sly and cunning, simple-minded and
innocent. As Holy Writ says, Be wise like the serpent and simple like
the dove! In this way we are able to understand both animals and our
relations to them, and to learn a deal, if we only look at things in
the right manner."

The poor combmakers had not dared to interrupt her more. Zues had got
the better of them, and she went on for some time longer at the same
rate, talking about all sorts of intellectual things, until their
senses were in a whirl. But they admired Zues' spirit and her
eloquence, although with all their admiration none of them deemed
himself too humble to possess this jewel of a woman, especially as this
ornament of a house came cheap and consisted merely in an eager and
tireless tongue. Whether they themselves, after all, were worthy of
this that they valued so highly, and whether they would be able to
utilize this gift of hers, that class of idiot seldom inquires. They
are more like children who reach out for anything that glitters, who
lick off the vivid paint on a multicolored toy, and who put a mouth
harmonica into their little jaw instead of being content with listening
to its music. But while drinking in the high-flown phrases that dropped
so mellifluously from her lips, the three of them goaded on their
imagination more and more, sharpened their greed to own such a
distinguished person, and the more heartless, idle and parrot-like
Zues' chatter became, the more melancholy and depressed became her
swains. At the same time they felt a terrific thirst in consequence of
having swallowed so much of this dried fruit. Jobst and the Bavarian
looked for and found in the near-by woods a spring, and filled their
stomachs with cold water. But the Suabian had slyly taken along a flask
of cherry brandy and water, and with this he now refreshed himself. His
plan had been to thus gain an advantage over the others when making the
race, for well he knew that the other two were too parsimonious to
bring along a stimulant like that or to turn in at a tavern on the way.

This flask he now pulled out of his pocket, and while the others drank
their water he offered it to Zues. She accepted it, emptied the flask
half, and regarded Dietrich while she thanked him for the refreshment
with such an affectionate glance that Dietrich felt more than
recompensed and tremendously encouraged in his suit. He could not
withstand the temptation to seize her hand courteously and to kiss the
tips of her fingers. She on her part lightly touched his lips with her
hand, and he made belief of snapping at it, whereupon she smirked
falsely and pleasantly at him. Dietrich answered similarly. Then the
two sat down on the ground close to each other, and once in a while
would touch the soles of the other's shoe with his own, almost as
though they were shaking hands with their feet. Zues was bending over
slightly, and laid her hand on his shoulder, while Dietrich was on the
very point of imitating this little sport when the Bavarian and the
Saxon returned jointly, observed this philandering, and groaned and
lost color both at the same time.

From the water they had drunk on top of all this dried fruit they had
become uneasy, both of them, and now that they saw the playful pair
indulging in their little game, everything seemed to turn around them.
Cold sweat began to break out on their foreheads, and they nearly gave
themselves up for lost. Zues, however, did not for an instant lose her
self-possession, but turned to the two and said: "Come, friends, sit
down a little while longer here with me, so that we may enjoy, perhaps
for the last time, our harmony and our undisturbed friendship."

Jobst and Fridolin pressed up quickly, and sat down, stretching out
their thin legs. Zues left her one hand in the Suabian's own, gave
Jobst her other one, and touched with the soles of her shoes those of
Fridolin, while she turned her face to one after the other, smiling
most enchantingly. Thus there are skilled virtuosi who know how to play
a number of instruments at once, who shake bells with their heads, blow
the Pan's pipe with their mouths, touch the guitar with their hands,
strike the cymbal with their knees, with the foot a triangle, and with
the elbow a drum suspended from their backs.

But now she rose, smoothed out her dress very carefully, and said: "The
hour has now come, I think, my friends, when you must get ready for
your great race, the race which your master in his folly has imposed on
you, but which we ourselves have agreed to regard as the disposition of
a higher power. Run this race with all the energy you can muster, but
without enmity or rancor, and leave the crown of the victor willingly
to him who has earned it."

And as if stung by a vicious wasp the three sprang up and stood up
ready and eager on their legs. Thus they stood, and they were now to
try and vanquish each other with the same legs with which until now
they had made only slow and thoughtful steps. Not one of the three
could even recall ever having used these legs jumping or running. The
Suabian, perhaps, was most inclined for the venture. He even seemed to
be impatient for the struggle, and an eager look was in his eyes. At
that moment of severe crisis they three scanned each other's features
closely; the sweat had gathered on their pale brows, and they breathed
hard and spasmodically, as though they were already running at full
tilt.

"Shake hands once more, in token of good feeling," said Zues. And they
did so, but in so lifeless a manner that the three hands dropped to
their sides as if made of lead.

"And are we really to start on this fool's errand?" asked Jobst in a
voice thick with suppressed emotion, while wiping the perspiration from
his forehead. Some single tears were slowly crawling down his hollow
cheeks.

"Yes, indeed," chimed in the Bavarian, "are we actually to run and jump
like apes on a rope?" and began to weep in good earnest.

"And you, most charming Miss Buenzlin," added Jobst, "how are you going
to behave in the circumstances?"

"It behoves me," answered she and held her handkerchief to her eyes,
"to keep silent, to suffer and to look on."

"But afterwards," put in the Suabian, with a sly smile, "afterwards.
Miss Zues, when all is over?"

"Oh, Dietrich," she responded softly, "do you not know what the poet
says: 'As Fate decides, so turns the heart of maid'?" And in
introducing this quotation from Schiller she regarded him so temptingly
aside that he again lifted up his long legs and shuffled them, feeling
like starting off at once.

While the two rivals arranged their little vehicles on their wheels,
and Dietrich did the same, she repeatedly touched him with her elbow,
or else stepped on his foot. She also wiped the dust from his hat, but
at the same time threw inviting glances towards the others, pretending
to be highly amused at the Suabian's eagerness. But she did this
without being observed by Dietrich.

And now all three of them drew deep breaths and sighed like so many
furnaces. They looked all about them, took off their hats, fanned
themselves and then once more put on their hats. For the last time they
sniffed the air in all the directions of the compass, and tried to
recover their breath. Zues herself felt deeply for them, and for very
compassion shed sundry tears.

"Here," she then said, "are the last three prunes. Take each of you one
in the mouth, that will refresh you. And now depart, and turn the folly
of the wicked into the wisdom of the just! That which the wicked have
invented for your confusion, now change into a work of self-denial and
of serious enterprise, into the well-considered final act of good
conduct maintained for years, and into a competitive race for virtue
itself."

And she herself with her own fair hands shoved a dried prune between
the cramped lips of each, and each of them at once began to gently chew
the prune.

Jobst pressed his hand upon his stomach, exclaiming: "What must be,
must be. Let us start, in the name of Heaven!"

And saying which and raising his staff, he began to stride ahead, knees
strongly bent and nostrils high in air, dragging his little load after
him. Scarcely had Fridolin seen that, when he, too, did the same,
taking long steps, and without once looking behind him. Both of them
could now be seen descending the hill and entering the dusty highway.

The Suabian was the last one to get away, and he was walking, without
showing any great hurry, with Zues at his side, grinning in a
self-satisfied way, as though he felt sure of victory, and as though he
were willing, out of mere generosity, to grant a little start to his
rivals, while Zues praised him for this supposed noble action and for
his equanimity.

"Ah," she now sighed, "after all, it is a blessing to be sure of a firm
support in life! Even where one is sufficiently gifted oneself with
insight and cleverness and follows, besides, the path of rectitude, all
the same it makes it much easier to walk through life on the arm of a
tried friend."

"Quite right," the Suabian hastened to reply, and nudged her
energetically with the elbow, while at the same time he watched his
rivals so as not to let their start become too great. "Do you at last
notice that, my dear Miss Zues? Are you becoming convinced? Have your
eyes opened to the truth?"

"Oh, Dietrich, my dear Dietrich," and she sighed more strongly, "I
often feel so very lonesome."

"Hop-hop," he now laughed light-heartedly, "that is where the shoe
pinches? I thought so all along," and his heart began to leap like a
hare in a cabbage patch.

"Oh, Dietrich," she again breathed low, and she pressed herself much
tighter against the young man's side. He felt awkward, and the heart in
his bosom grew big with pleasure, and joy began to fill it altogether.
But at the same instant he made the discovery that his precursors had
already vanished from his sight, they having turned a corner. At once
he wanted to tear himself loose from Zues' arm and hasten after them.
But Zues kept such a tight hold of him that he was unable to do so, and
she grasped him so firmly that he thought she was going to faint.

"Dietrich," she whispered, and she made sheep's eyes at him, "don't
leave me alone at this moment. I rely on you, you are my sole help!
Please support me."

"The devil. Miss Zues," he murmured anxiously, "let me go, let me go,
or else I shall miss this race, and then good-by to everything!"

"No, no, you must not leave me just now. I feel that I am becoming very
ill!" Thus she lamented.

"I don't care, ill or not ill," he cried, and tore himself loose from
her. He quickly climbed a rock whence he was able to overlook the whole
highroad below. There they were, he saw the two runners far away, deep
below towards the town. And then he made up his mind to a great spurt,
but at the same moment once more looked back for Zues. Then he saw her,
seated at the entrance to a shady wood path, and motioning to him with
her lily hand. This was too much for him. Instead of hurrying down the
hill, he hastened back to her. And when she saw him coming, she turned
and went in deeper into the cool wood, all the time casting inviting
glances at him, for her object was, of course, to draw him away from
the race and cheat him out of his victory, make him lose and thus
render his further stay in Seldwyla impossible.

But Dietrich, the Suabian, was, as pointed out before, of an inventive
and resourceful turn. Thus it was that he, too, quickly made up his
mind to alter his tactics, and to score victory not down there but up
here. And thus things came to pass very much differently from what had
been calculated on. For as soon as he had come up with her in a
sheltered spot in the depth of the forest, he fell at her feet and
overwhelmed her with the most ardent declarations of his love for her
to which any combmaker ever gave expression. At first she made a great
attempt to withstand his wooing, bade him be quiet and desist from his
violent protestations, and to befool him a little while longer until
all danger of his winning should be past. She let loose the torrent of
her wisdom and learning, and tried to awe him. But the young Suabian
was not to be caught with this chaff. Paying not the slightest regard
to all these rhetorical fireworks, he let loose Heaven and Hell in his
stormy suit, lavishing caresses and blandishments on the surprised
maiden by which he finally stifled the voice of her severely attuned
conscience, and his excited and ready wit furnished him with enough of
love's ammunition to overcome all her scruples. His eloquence and his
bold and ever persistent wheedling and dandling gave her not a second's
respite nor leisure to reflect and deliberate. He first took possession
of her hands and feet, to kiss and fondle them, despite her strenuous
protests, and next he flattered her to the top of her bent, lauding
both her bodily and mental charms to the very skies, until Zues was in
a very paradise of self-glorification and satisfied vanity. Added to
this was the solitude and the sense of security from curious and
peering eyes in the leafy shade of the forest. Until at last Zues
really lost the compass to which hitherto she had clung as her safe
though rather selfish guide through life. She succumbed to all these
allurements, not so much by reason of exalted sensualism, as because
for the moment she was overcome and helpless against the stronger and
more primitive passion of this young man. Her heart fluttered timidly
up and down, and vainly attempted to find its former balance. Her
thoughts were in a perfect storm of contradictions, and she was
altogether like a poor impotent beetle turned over on its back and
struggling to recover the use of its limbs. And thus it was that
Dietrich vanquished her in every sense. She had tempted him into this
impenetrable thicket in order to betray him like another Delilah, but
had been quickly conquered by this despised Suabian. And this was not
because she was so utterly love-sick as to lose her bearings but rather
because she was in spite of all her fancied wisdom so short of vision
as not to see beyond the tip of her own nose. Thus they remained
together an hour or more in this delectable solitude, embraced ever
anew, kissed one another a thousand times, thus realizing the vision of
the Suabian not long before, and swore eternal faith and unending
affection, and agreed most solemnly, no matter how the affair of the
race should terminate, to marry and become man and wife.


In the meanwhile news of the curious undertaking of the three
combmakers had spread throughout the town, and the master himself had
not a little aided in this, for the whole matter appealed strongly to
his sense of humor. And hence all the people of Seldwyla rejoiced in
advance at the prospect of a spectacle so novel and unconventional.
They were eager to see the three journeymen arrive out of breath and in
complete disarray, and laughed heartily in anticipation of the fun they
counted on. Gradually a vast throng had assembled outside the town
gate, impatient to see the arrival. On both sides of the highroad the
curious people were seated at the edge of the trenches, just as if
professional runners were expected. The small boys climbed into the
tops of trees, while their elders sat on the grass and smoked their
pipe, quite content that such an amusement had been provided for them.
Even the dignitaries of Seldwyla had not scorned to put in their
appearance, sat in the taverns by the wayside and discoursed of the
chances of each of the three, and making a number of not inconsiderable
wagers as to the final result. In those streets which the runners had
to pass on their way to the goal all the windows had been thrown open,
the wives had placed in their parlors on the window ledges pretty
vari-colored cushions, to rest their arms upon, and had received
numerous visits from the ladies of their acquaintance, so that coffee
and cake was hospitably provided for them all, and even the maid
servants were in a holiday mood, being sent to bakers and confectioners
for goodies of every description with which to entertain the guests.

All of a sudden the little fellows keenly watching from out of their
leafy domes dimly saw in the distance tiny dust clouds approaching, and
they set up the cry: "Here they're coming! They're coming!" And indeed,
not long thereafter were seen Jobst and Fridolin rushing past, each
wrapped in his own hazy column of dust, in the middle of the road. With
the one hand they were pulling their valises on wheels each by himself,
these rattling over the cobblestones with a noise like drumbeats, and
with the other they held on tight to their heavy hats, these having
slid down their necks, and their long dusters and coats were flying in
the breeze. Both of the rivals were covered thickly with dust, almost
unrecognizable; they had their mouths wide open and were yapping for
breath; they saw and heard nothing that transpired around them, and
thick tears were slowly rolling down their faces, there being no time
to wipe them away, and these tears had dug paths in criss-cross fashion
in the grime on their countenances.

They came close upon each other, but the Bavarian was just about half a
horse's length ahead. A terrific shouting and laughter was set up by
the audience, and this droned in the ears of the racers as they sped on
in insane haste. Everybody got up and crowded along the sidewalk, and
there were cries raised: "That's it, that's it! Run, Saxon, defend
yourself: don't let the Bavarian have it all his own way! One of the
three has already given in--there are but two of them left."

The gentlemen who were standing on the tables and chairs in the gardens
and roadhouses laughed fit to split their sides. Their roars sounded
across the highway and streets, and woke the echoes, and the affair was
turned into a popular festival. Small boys and the entire rabble of the
town followed densely in the wake of the two, and this mob stirred up
thick volumes of biting dust, so that the racers were almost stifled
before they arrived at the near goal. The whole immense cloud rolled
towards the town gate, and even women and girls ran along, and mingled
their high, squeaking voices with those of the male ruffians. Now they
had almost reached the old town gate, the two towers of which were
lined with the curious who were waving their caps and hats. The two
were still running, foaming at the mouth, eyes starting out of sockets,
running like two run-away horses, without sense or mind, their hearts
full of fear and torture. Suddenly one of the little street boys knelt
down on Jobst's small vehicle, and had Jost pull him along, the crowd
howling with appreciation of the joke. Jobst turned and pleaded with
the youngster to get off, even struck at him with his staff. But the
blows did not reach the urchin, who merely grinned at him. With that
Fridolin gained on Jobst, and as Jobst noticed this, he threw his staff
between the other's feet, so that Fridolin stumbled and fell. But as
Jobst attempted to pass him, the Bavarian pulled him by the tail of his
coat, and by the aid of that got again on his feet. Jobst struck him
upon his hands like a maniac, and shouted: "Let go! Let go!" But
Fridolin did not let go, and so Jobst seized him also by the coat tail,
and thus both had hold of each other, and were slowly making their way
into the gateway, once in a while attempting to get rid of the other by
venturing on a bound. They wept, sobbed and howled like babies, shouted
in the agony of their grief and fear: "My God, let go!" "For the love
of Heaven, let go!" "Let go, you devil; you must let go!" Between
whiles each struck hard blows at the other's hands, but with all that
they advanced a little all the time. Their hats and staffs had been
lost in the scuffle, and ahead of them and behind them the hooting mob
was accompanying them, their escort growing more turbulent and violent
each minute. All the windows were occupied by the ladies of Seldwyla,
and they threw, so to speak, their silvery laughter into this avalanche
of noise, and all were agreed that for years past there had not been
such a ludicrous scene as this.

As a matter of fact, this crazy free show was so much to the taste of
the whole town that nobody took the trouble to point out to the two
rivals their ultimate goal, the house of their old master. They
themselves, these two, did not see it. Indeed, they did not see
anything more. They reached their goal and did not perceive it, but
went past and hurried crazily on, on and on, always escorted by the
shouts and yells of the mob, fighting each other, their faces drawn and
pinched as though in death, on and on, until they reached the other end
of the little town and so through the second gate out into the open
once more. The master himself had stood at the window of his house,
laughing and greatly amused, and after patiently waiting for another
hour for the victor in the strange tournament, he had been on the point
of leaving the house and joining some of his cronies at the tavern,
when Zues and Dietrich quietly and unobtrusively entered.

For Zues had meanwhile been busy with her thoughts, combining, after
her wont, this and that. And thus she had reached the conclusion that
in all likelihood the master combmaker would be willing to sell his
business outright on a cash basis, since he could not continue it
himself much longer. For that purpose Zues herself was ready to give up
her interest-bearing mortgage, which together with the slender savings
of Dietrich would doubtless suffice and thus they two would remain
victors and could laugh at the other two. This plan, together with
their intention to marry, they told the astonished master about, and
he, readily seeing that thus he could cheat his creditors and by
concluding the bargain quickly would also get possession of a
considerable sum of money to do with as he pleased, was glad of the
opportunity thus afforded him. Quickly, therefore, the two parties were
in agreement as to the terms, and before the sun went down Zues became
the lawful owner of the business and her promised husband the tenant of
the house in which the business was being conducted. Thus it was Zues,
without indeed having intended or suspected it in the morning, who was
tied down and conquered by the quickwitted Suabian.

Half dead with shame, exhaustion and anger, Jobst and Fridolin
meanwhile lay in the inn to which they had been taken when picked up
limp and spent in the open field. To separate the two rivals, thirsting
for each other's blood and maddened from the whole crazy adventure, had
been no light task. The whole of Seldwyla now, having in their peculiar
reckless way already forgotten the immediate cause of the whole
turmoil, was now celebrating and making a night of it. In many houses
there was dancing, and in the taverns there was much drinking and
singing and noise, just as on the greatest Seldwyla holidays. For the
people of Seldwyla never required much urging to enjoy themselves to
the top of their bent. When the two poor devils saw how their own
superior cunning with which they had counted on making a good haul had,
on the contrary, only served these careless people in all their folly
to make a feast of it, how they themselves had been the immediate cause
of their own downfall, and had made a laughingstock of themselves for
all the world, they thought their hearts would break. For they had
managed not only to defeat the wise and patient plans of so many years,
but had also lost forever the reputation of being shrewd men
themselves.

Jobst as the oldest of the three and having spent in Seldwyla full
seven years, was wholly overwhelmed and dazed by the collapse of all
his secret hopes, and quite unable to reconstruct a new world after
having lost the one of his dreams. Utterly dejected he left his
sleepless pillow before daybreak, wandered away from town and crept to
the very spot where the day before they and Zues had sat under the
linden tree, and there he hanged himself to one of the lowest branches.
When the Bavarian, but an hour later, passed there on his way into
strange parts, such a fit of fright seized him that he ran off like a
lunatic, altered completely his whole ways, and later on was heard to
have become a dissolute spendthrift, who never saved a penny, and who
was in the habit of cursing God and men, being no one's friend any
more.

Dietrich the Suabian alone remained one of the Decent and Just, and
stayed on in the little town. But he had little good of it, for Zues
left him nothing to say, and ruled him strictly, never allowing him to
have his way in anything. On the contrary, she continued to consider
herself the sole source of all wisdom and success.



                                DIETEGEN



                                DIETEGEN


To the north of those hills and woods where Seldwyla nestles, there
flourished as late as the end of the fifteenth century the town of
Ruechenstein, lying in the cool shade, whereas her rival Seldwyla
basked in the full glare of the midday sun. Gray and forbidding looked
the massed body of its towers and strong walls, and upstanding and just
were its councilmen and citizens, but severe and morose also, and their
chief employment consisted in the execution of their prerogatives as an
independent city, in the exercise of law and justice, the issuing of
mandates and decrees, of impeachments and committals. The greatest
source of their pride was the fact that there had been conferred on
them the exercise and enforcement of the power over life and death of
all subject to their sway, and so eager and willing they were to
sacrifice for this power their all, their privileges and their
substance, as entrusted to them by Empire and supreme ruler, as other
commonwealths were to achieve their liberty of conscience and the
freedom of worship according to their faith.

On the rocky promontories all around their town wore conspicuous the
emblems of their dread sovereignty. Such as tall gallows and scaffolds,
sundry places of execution, showing the wheel where miscreants had
their limbs broken, the stake where heretics or other evildoers were
made to suffer, and their grim-faced town hall was hung full of iron
chains with neck rings; steel cages were exhibited on the towers of the
walls, and wooden drills wherein loose-tongued or wicked women were
being stretched and turned, could be seen at almost every corner. Even
by the shore of the dark-blue river which washed the walls of the town,
sundry stations had been erected where malefactors could be drowned or
ducked, with tied feet or in sacks, according to the finer
discriminations of the decree of judgment.

Now it need not be supposed that because of all this the
Ruechensteiners were iron men, robust and inspiring terror by their
looks, such as one would be inclined to think from their favorite
pastimes. That was indeed not the case. Rather were they people of
ordinary, philistine appearance, with thin shanks and pot-bellies,
their only distinctive mark being their yellow noses, the same noses
with which the year around they used to besniff and watch each other.
And nobody indeed would have guessed from the more than commonplace and
scanty semblance of their whole physical being that their nerves were
like ropes, such as were absolutely required not only to view all along
the grewsome sights offered to them by their authorities in the putting
to a shameful and lingering death of scores and scores of felons and
other poor wretches condemned by their councilmen, but actually to
enjoy the sight. These cruel instincts of theirs were not apparent on
their faces; they were hidden away in their hearts.

Thus they kept spread like a dense net their judiciary powers over the
dominion subject to their fierce rule, always eager for a chance to
apply it. And indeed nowhere were there such singular crimes to punish
as in this same Ruechenstein. Their inventive gift was fairly
inexhaustible. It seemed almost as though their talent for discovering
ever new and hitherto unheard-of crimes acted as a spur on sinners to
commit the latest delinquencies threatened with penalties of the
severest type. However, if despite all this at any time there was a
lack of evildoers, the people of the town knew how to help themselves.
For then they simply caught and punished the rascals of other towns.
And it was only a man with a clear conscience who had the hardihood to
cross at any time the territory of Ruechenstein. For when they heard of
a crime committed, even if done far away from their own area, they
would seize and hold the first landloper that came along, put him to
the torture and make him confess his guilt. Not infrequently it would
happen that such enforced confession related to a crime that, as later
turned out, had only been based on hearsay, and had really never been
done. But then it was too late. The supposed malefactor had been hung
in chains on the gallows or otherwise disposed of, and could not be
brought to life again. Of course, it was unavoidable that because of
this inclination of the people of Ruechenstein they would often get
into a more or less acrimonious controversy with other towns whose
citizens they had thus overzealously dispatched, and they even had
constantly pending a number of such cases before the Swiss federal
council, and had to be sharply reprimanded, but that did not cure them.

By preference the people of Ruechenstein liked calm, sunny, pleasant
weather when indulging in their favorite amusement of holding penal
executions, burnings at the stake, and forcible drownings, and that is
why on fine summer days there was always something of the kind going on
there. The wanderer in a far-off field might then, keeping his eyes
fastened on the greyish rock buttress high up on the horizon, notice
not infrequently the flashing of the headsman's sword, the smoke pillar
of the stake, or in the bed of the river something like the glittering
leaping of a fish, which would usually mean the bobbing up and down of
a witch undergoing the solemn test. And the word of God on a Sunday
they would not have relished at all without at least one erring lovers'
couple with straw wreaths before the altar and without the reading out
of some sharpened moral mandates.

Other festivals, processions and public pleasures there were none; all
such were prohibited by numerous mandates or ordinances.

It may easily be supposed that a town of that stripe could have no more
distasteful neighbors than Seldwyla, and behind their woods, too, they
would forever think up new methods of interfering with and annoying
them. Any Seldwylian whom they caught on their own soil was seized and
tortured to get at the facts regarding the latest breach of the peace
or any other misdemeanor charged upon their neighbor's score. And on
their account, to get even, the Seldwyla people made fast every man of
Ruechenstein and, on their public market square, administered to him
six choice blows with the rod, on the spot which they deemed specially
adapted for that purpose. This, though, was as far as they ever went,
for they had a prejudice against bloody spectacles, and amongst
themselves never indulged in corporal punishments. But in addition to
this mild chastisement they would also blacken the long nose of the
culprit, and then they would let him run home. That was why there
always were in Ruechenstein several specially disgruntled persons with
noses dyed black that but slowly were recovering their pristine hue,
and these naturally were particularly zealous in trying to unearth
miscreants that could be dealt with severely and subjected to
castigation or torture.

The Seldwylians on their part kept this black paint constantly ready in
a huge iron pot, and upon this was limned the Ruechenstein town
escutcheon, and they denominated this pot the "friendly neighbor." This
and the huge paint brush belonging to it was always suspended under the
arch of the gate fronting towards Ruechenstein. When this tincture had
dried up or been used up it was renewed and the occasion utilized to
get up a frolicsome procession ending with a gay banquet, all with a
view to rendering the neighbor ridiculous. And because of this at one
time the latter became so wrathful that their whole town turned out,
banners flying, to inflict punishment on the Seldwylians.

But these, informed of this intention, quickly issued forth and waylaid
the Ruechenstein hosts, attacking them unawares. However, the
Ruechensteiners had marching at the head of their column a dozen of
graybearded and fierce-looking civic soldiers, with new ropes tied to
the handles of their long swords, and these wore such an unholy mien as
to scare the merry Seldwylian blades. The latter, in fact, began to
back out, and they were on the point of losing the fight if a clever
conceit had not saved them. For just for fun they had been carrying
along the punitive pot of paint, etc., "the friendly neighbor," and
instead of a banner the long paint brush. With quick intuition the
bearer of the latter dipped his brush deeply into the dark liquid,
bounded ahead of his comrades like a flash, and bedaubed the faces of
the leading rank of foes a sable hue before these knew what he was
about. So that all those in front, threatened immediately with this
indelible paint, turned and fled, and that nobody of them all further
felt like marching in the van of the host. With that the whole outfit
began to sway, and a strange terror fell on them all, whereas the
Seldwylians now, their courage restored, manfully went up against the
men of Ruechenstein, pressing them back towards the rear, in the
direction of their own town. With savage laughter the Seldwyla people
took advantage of the occasion, and wherever their foes dared to defend
themselves the dreaded paint brush came into instant action, handled
with supreme skill by means of its long shaft, and in the mêlée there
was indeed no lack of real heroism. For twice already the daring
painters had been pierced by arrows and fallen to rise no more. But
each time some other equally courageous fellow had sprung into the gap,
and had treated the foe in the same ignominious manner.

In the end the Ruechensteiners were totally defeated, and they fled
with their banner towards the clump of woods which led to their town,
with the Seldwyla people on their heels. Barely were they able to find
refuge in their town, and to close the gate thereof, and the latter,
too, was painted all over by the pursuing foe with the black paint,
together with its drawbridge, until the Ruechensteiners, somewhat
recovered and collected again, threw potfuls of whitewash upon the
heads of the uproarious painters.

But because a few Seldwylians of note who in the heat of combat had
penetrated into the town and there been taken prisoner, and also about
a dozen of the Ruechensteiners had likewise been seized and held by the
victors, there was effected an armistice after the lapse of a few days.
The prisoners were exchanged on both sides, and a regular peace was
concluded, in which both sides gave way a bit. There had been fighting
enough to suit them for a spell, and there was a desire for a mutual
adjustment. So it came to pass that both sides made fair promises of
future good behavior. The Seldwyla people bound themselves to give up
the iron paint pot, and to abolish it forever, and the people of
Ruechenstein solemnly relinquished all rights of seizure against
Seldwylians out walking or strolling in the Ruechenstein territory, and
all other privileges and prerogatives on either side were carefully
weighed and mostly abolished.

To confirm this agreement a day was appointed, and as place of meeting
was chosen the mountain clearing where the chief fight had occurred.
From Ruechenstein came a few of the younger councilmen; for their
elders had not succeeded in overcoming their strong feelings of
reluctance to consort with their ancient foes on terms of quasi
friendship. The Seldwyla people on their part showed up in goodly
numbers, brought the "friendly neighbor," the heraldic paint pot, as
well as a small cask of their choicest and oldest wine, grown on the
municipal vineyards, with them, and also a number of their finest
silver or gilt tankards and trenchers which belonged to their municipal
treasure. In this way they nicely befooled the delegates from
Ruechenstein, glad to escape for even a short spell the rigid regimen
of their own town, and they were so charmed at this reception that
they, instead of immediately returning after the consummation of their
errand, allowed themselves to be inveigled in following the tempters to
Seldwyla itself. There they were escorted to the town hall, where a
grand feast was awaiting them. Beautiful ladies and maidens attended
the occasion, and more and more tankards, beakers, and flagons were set
up on the banqueting board, so that with the glitter and sheen of all
this precious metal and the gleaming of all these bewitching eyes the
poor Ruechensteiners clean forgot their original mission and became as
gay as larks. They sang, since they knew no other tunes, one Latin
psalm after another, while the Seldwylians on their part hummed wicked
drinking songs, and finally they wound up in the midst of the noise by
inviting their new Seldwyla friends to make a return visit to their own
town, being most particular to include the Seldwyla ladies in the
invitation, and promising them the most hospitable reception.

This invitation was accepted unanimously, amidst great enthusiasm on
both sides, and when the delegates from Ruechenstein at last departed,
they did so under the happiest auspices, smiling blissfully from all
the choice wine under their belts, and deeming themselves conquerors of
the handsome Seldwyla ladies besides, since a number of these, laughing
and in rosy humor, gave them safe conduct as far as the gates of the
city.

Of course, things took on a somewhat different hue when these jolly
young councilmen of Ruechenstein on the following day awoke in their
stern city and had to give an account of their stewardship and of the
whole proceedings on the day previous. Little was wanting indeed, and
they would have been incarcerated and subjected to ardent tests on the
charge of having been bewitched. However, they themselves had also a
right to speak with authority, and notwithstanding that the whole
matter already seemed to them a mistake on their part, they
nevertheless stuck to their bargain, and strongly represented to their
elder colleagues that the very honor of the city demanded a resplendent
reception of the Seldwylian folks. Their views gained acceptance among
a section of the citizens, especially when they described the
magnificent table silver that had been brought out to honor them, and
when they spoke of the handsome Seldwyla ladies and their gracefulness
and beautiful attire. The men were of opinion that such ostentatious
hospitality must not go unrebuked and unrivaled, and that it was
necessary to reciprocate at the coming return visit of their ancient
foes by a display of their own wealth, jeweled and precious tableware
glittering in their own iron safes aplenty. The women again were
itching to circumvent on such a favorable occasion the strict decrees
against too profuse finery from which they had been suffering so long,
and under the guise of civic patriotism to make a gaudy display of all
their hidden trinkets and gorgeous silks. For in their coffers and
lockers there was slumbering enough of costly stuffs to outshine the
Seldwyla ladies tenfold, they thought. If that had not been the case
they would surely long ago have rebelled against the severe sumptuary
decrees in vogue and brought the regiment in power to its fall.
Therefore, everything considered, the promise made by the Ruechenstein
emissaries was formally approved, to the great grief of the elder and
sterner members of the council.

To offset this piece of laxity they were unable to hinder these latter,
the graybeards of the city, resolved, however, to enjoy another kind of
spectacle on their own account, and thus they began to make their
arrangements to have an execution performed on the very day when the
Seldwyla people were to dwell within their walls, and thus to dampen at
least, so far as they could, the unseemly spirit of merriment which
otherwise would go unchecked. And so while the younger members of the
council were busy with their preparations for the feast, the others
quietly made arrangements for another show after their own heart, and
for that purpose they selected a young, fatherless boy who was just
then caught in the net of their barbarous laws. It was a very handsome
boy of eleven, whose parents had both been engulfed in the recent wars,
and who was being educated and taken care of by the town. That is to
say, he had been put to board with the parish beadle, a conscienceless
and pitiless scoundrel, and there the little fellow--a slender,
vigorous and well-formed child enough--had been treated just like a
domestic animal, the wife aiding her husband in the task. The boy had
been named Dietegen, and this his baptismal name was all he really
owned in the world. It was his sole piece of property, his past and his
future. He was dressed in rags, and had never even had a holiday
garment, so that if it had not been for his good looks he would have
presented a miserable appearance. He had to sweep and dust, and to do
all the tasks that usually fall to a maid servant, and whenever the
beadle's wife did not happen to have anything to do for him in her own
house she lent him out to women neighbors for a trifle, there to do
anything that might be asked of him. They all thought him, in spite of
his strength and skill to do any work demanded of him, a stupid fellow,
and this because he obeyed silently all the orders he received and
because he never remonstrated. Yet it was the truth that none of the
women was able to look him in his fiery eyes for long, and these eyes
would often wander about as keen as an eagle's.

Now several days before Dietegen had been sent on an errand to the
cooper in order to fetch some vinegar for a lettuce salad that his
foster parents wanted to prepare. Their vinegar the couple had been
keeping for a long time customarily in a small jug, and this was almost
black with age and had always been deemed cheap tin, having been bought
many years ago by the mother of the beadle's wife for a couple of
pennies from a peddler. But in reality the little jug was of silver.
The cooper of whom the vinegar was to be purchased dwelt rather far, in
a lonesome place near the city wall. As now the boy came walking along
with his small vessel, an ancient Hebrew came past him with his bag,
and threw a rapid glance at the curiously fashioned little jug, and
stopped the boy with the request to be allowed to examine this vessel
more closely. Dietegen handed it to him, and the Jew quickly and
secretly scratched the surface of the vessel with his thumb nail,
offering then to the astonished boy a pretty crossbow in exchange, and
this he produced at once out of a bag made of moth-eaten otterskin,
with a few bolts to boot. Boy-like, Dietegen at once seized the weapon
and relinquished his small jug to the Jew, who then at once
disappeared. Rejoicing in his good fortune the boy now began to aim and
shoot at the small gate of the near-by door of a tower, and without
being at all disturbed he continued this enticing sport, forgetting
everything else, until dusk came and then moonlight, improving his aim
steadily, and shooting by the bright light of the orb.

Meanwhile the beadle had also made a last inspection tour around the
inside of the town walls, and had met with and held the Jew with his
bag. Examining the latter he had with amazement recognized his own
vinegar jug, and questioning the Jew the latter, in fear of his own
neck, owned at once that it was of silver, and pretended that a young
boy had forced it on him in lieu of a fine crossbow. Now the beadle ran
and consulted a goldsmith, who on testing the vessel likewise
pronounced it fine pure silver and of rarest workmanship. Thereupon the
beadle and his wife, the latter now having joined him, became
exceedingly angry, not only because they had had, without knowing it,
for so many years such a valuable piece of property, but also because
they had almost lost it.

The world to them seemed to be full of the grossest wrong; the child
now appeared to them as their archenemy who had almost cheated them out
of their eternal reward, the reward for their infinite merits and
frugality. They suddenly pretended to have known for a long time that
the small jug was of silver, and that it had always been so considered
in their house. Cursing him bitterly they clamorously charged the
little fellow with larceny, and while he, entirely unconscious of all
this, was still engaged with his crossbow practice, and was hitting his
goal more and more often, two groups of searchers were already out
looking for him. At the head of the one party was the beadle, while the
woman, his wife, was heading the other. Thus they soon found him, still
busily engaged with his bow and bolts, and unpleasantly wakened from
his occupation when surrounded by the thief-takers. And now only he
remembered his errand and at the same time the loss of the small
vessel. But he believed he had made a good bargain, and handed the
beadle smilingly his crossbow, in order to pacify him. Notwithstanding
this he was instantly bound and gagged, carried off to jail, and then
examined. He admitted at once having exchanged the little pitcher for
the Jew's crossbow, and did not even attempt to defend himself.

The poor little child was condemned to the gallows, and the time of his
death set for the very day when the Seldwylians were to visit the
people of Ruechenstein.

And indeed they did appear on the appointed day, making a gorgeous
procession, in luminous colors and rich finery, with their town
trumpeter to lead them. They were, however, all armed with swords and
daggers, although that did not hinder them from bringing along a dozen
of their most fearless ladies. These rode in the centre of the
cavalcade, charming and richly attired, and even a number of pretty
children were with them, costumed in the colors of Seldwyla and bearing
gifts.

The young councilmen of Ruechenstein, their new-won friends, rode out
some little distance without the city gates to welcome them, and led
them a bit crestfallen within. The strong entrance gate had had that
ominous black paint scratched off as much as had been found feasible,
had then been plentifully whitewashed and decorated with wreaths. But
just within this gate the guests found the whole contingent of
Ruechenstein's town mercenaries in rank and file, clad in full armor
and looking like brawny warriors indeed. These escorted the guests,
rattling and clanging in their iron harness, through the shady and
rather dark streets, with fierce mien. The people of the town peered
mute but curious out of their windows, as though their guests had been
beings from another world. When one of the gay Seldwylians gazed
upwards at the ladies leaning out of their windows, these would at once
duck and disappear. Their menfolk, though, flattened the tips of their
long noses against the greenish window panes, in order to observe as
closely as possible the spectacle of bare female necks, such as the
Seldwyla ladies offered.

Thus, then, the whole cavalcade finally reached the huge hall inside
the town house, and that looked ornate but forbiddingly austere. Walls
and ceiling were decorated entirely with black-tinted oak, here and
there gilt. A long, long banqueting board was covered with beautiful
linen, and woven into it were foliage, stags, huntsmen and dogs of
green silk picked out with thin gold wire. Above this were further
spread dainty napkins of snowy white damask, and these again on nearer
sight exhibited patterns woven into them representing rather broadly
joyous scenes from Roman and Greek mythology, such as would have been
least expected in this grave concourse. Thickly grouped there stood on
this festal table everything which at that time belonged to a gala
meal, and what particularly claimed the attention of the Seldwyla
observers was a number of truly magnificent pieces of tableware--some
of them being in repoussé work, some round and some in relief, a
glittering world of nymphs, fauns, nude demigods and heroes, with
lovely feminine forms intermingled. Even the chief table ornament, a
warship in solid silver, with sails spread and bellying in the breeze,
otherwise very respectable and officially stiff, showed as its emblem a
Galathea of the most opulent forms.

Along this table of enormous dimensions a number of the wives of
councilors were slowly pacing to and fro, all of them dressed either in
black or scarlet silks and satins, heavy lace covering bosom and neck
up to the very chin. They did wear many gold chains, girdles and caps,
encrusted with jewels in many cases, and on their fingers they had,
over their gloves, priceless rings. And these ladies were not ugly to
look at, but rather in most instances handsome and of regular features;
many of them, too, showed a delicate complexion and their pretty oval
cheeks were rosy. But nearly all had an unpleasant glance, severe and
sour, so that it seemed doubtful whether they had ever smiled in their
lives, save perhaps at nighttime after fooling their gullible husbands.

The mutual introductions were therefore not very cordial, and everybody
seemed indeed glad when this ceremony was over and guests and hosts
both sat down at table and the feelings of embarrassment could be
concealed by the engrossing charms of eating and drinking. The
Seldwylians were the first to recover their natural equanimity, and
then there could be heard among them frequent outbursts of hilarity as
they admired the dazzling table trappings. That indeed was to the
liking of their hosts, and they were just on the point of starting a
formal conversation on that topic, when the matter took a turn wholly
unexpected by them. For the Seldwyla people, accustomed always to use
their eyes, had quickly discovered the amorous and graceful topics
which the weaver's art had embodied in the woof of this linen and the
goldsmith's in the silver and goldware so liberally displayed before
their eyes. After allowing, therefore, their ribald glances to dwell
with a close scrutiny on the lustful scenes depicted here, many
Seldwylians called the attention of their neighbors to it all, all
smiles and good humor, and interpreted the true meaning of the scene in
each instance, often naming Ovid or some other heathen author as the
original source. Even the Seldwyla ladies did not refrain, but shared
in this amusement of their husbands. The hosts at first were slow to
understand this and were inclined to think it one of the childish
tricks for which they were forever blaming their merry neighbors of
Seldwyla, but as they finally likewise bent their glances on the things
occasioning the outbursts of their guests, they were as though smitten
with palsy. For it had never entered their minds before to look with
attention at these table appointments, and had merely accepted, when
ordered by them, the exquisite products of the loom or of the
goldsmith's skill as finished ware without ever bothering their heads
further about it, and nothing had been further from them than to cast
critical glances at the subjects represented by these artisans, and it
was thus reserved for their gay guests from Seldwyla to sharpen their
vision so to speak. Now when looking closer and closer, they perceived
what pagan horrors they had chosen to ornament their own board with,
and they were struck dumb with painful amazement. But what irked them
still more was what they deemed the lack of tact and decorum on the
part of their guests who, instead of purposely overlooking such an
involuntary blunder of their hosts actually magnified it and drew it
into the full glare of publicity. According to their way of thinking
what the Seldwylians ought to have done under these peculiar
circumstances was to praise and pay attention to the costliness of the
stuff out of which these implements had been fashioned, and not to go
beyond that. The Ruechensteiner grandees now were obliged to smile with
faces as sour as vinegar when a Seldwylian neighbor would call their
attention to an exquisitely wrought silver Leda and the Swan, or to a
Europa on the back of her bull. Their wives, however, showed their
displeasure more openly, blushed and paled by turns with wrath, and
were just on the point of demonstratively leaving the banquet when the
mournful sound of a bell quickly reassured them. For it was the poor
sinners' bell of Ruechenstein. A dull and confused din in the streets
gave notice that young Dietegen was now being led to his shameful
death. All the company rose from the table, and hastened to the
windows, the Ruechensteiners purposely making room for their guests to
enable these to view the sad spectacle plainly, while they themselves
stood in the rear, an insidious grin on their sallow features.

A priest, a hangman with his helper, some court officials, and a few
armed attendants of the council went slowly past, and at their head
walked Dietegen, barefooted and clad only in a white, black-edged
delinquent shift, his hands tied in the back, and led by the hangman at
a rope. His golden hair fell in a shower down his white neck, and
confused and appealingly he looked aloft at the houses which he passed.
Under the portal of the town hall stood the boys and girls from
Seldwyla, who had, after the manner of children, left the table and the
weary banquet, and had hastened into the open air. When the pitiful
delinquent saw these pretty and happy children, the like he had never
yet perceived before, he wanted to stop a moment and talk to them,
while tears were streaming down his pale cheeks. But the executioner
roughly pushed him on, so that the train passed on and had soon
disappeared from view. The Seldwyla ladies lost color when they watched
this scene, and their men were seized with a deep dismay, since they at
no time loved to see sights of this kind. They felt out of spirits and
not at home with their hosts after such an exhibition, and thus they
soon yielded to the urging of their womenfolk, and as politely as they
could took leave of their grim hosts. The people of Ruechenstein, on
the other hand, were satisfied with the triumph they had scored against
their volatile guests, and thereby rendered almost complaisant towards
them, so that both sides parted amicably. The hosts even escorted their
honored guests, as they put it, to the town gate, and were talkative,
gallant towards the ladies, and courteous.

Outside the gate the Seldwyla cavalcade met the small group of hangmen
and their assistants, who passed them morosely. Behind them there came
a single helper pushing a small cart whereon lay, in a plain pine
coffin, the young delinquent's body. Shy and bitten with curiosity to
watch this number of brilliantly attired persons, this fellow stopped
for a moment, and turned aside, in order to let the procession file
past him. He was placing the loose lid of the bier in its proper place,
it having almost slid off and exposed the sight of the hanged.

Among the children of Seldwyla there was a seven-year-old maid, bold,
pretty and curly, who had never ceased to weep since seeing the poor
boy being led to the gallows, and refused to be consoled. And as the
train of Seldwylians now slowly swept on, the child at the moment she
came up with the cart and coffin, quickly sprang towards it, stood on
its large wheel, and threw off the lid, so that the lifeless Dietegen
lay exposed to view. At that moment he opened his eyes and drew a
breath. For in the confusion of that day he had not been hanged
according to traditional rules, and had been taken off the gallows too
early, because his executioners were in a great hurry in the hope of
returning to town in time to get some of the remnants of the feast. The
bold little girl loudly exclaimed, "He is still alive! He is still
alive!"

At once the women of Seldwyla surrounded the bier, and when they saw
indeed the handsome pale boy move about and give signs of life, they
took possession of him, removed him from the cart, and fully recalled
him to this world by rubbing his stiffened joints, sprinkling him with
water, making him swallow some wine, and using all their endeavors in
other ways. The men indeed also gave their assistance, while the
gentlemen of Ruechenstein stood by dazedly, and did not know what to
say or do. When at last the boy again stood on his own feet, and gazed
about him as though he had waked in paradise, he suddenly caught a
glimpse of the hangman's assistant, and quite astounded that he, too,
as he thought, had gone to heaven, he fled and squeezed in among the
crowd of women. Touched and moved to tears, they begged with great
earnestness of their stern neighbors to pardon the boy and to make them
a gift of him, as a token of their new friendship. Their husbands
joined in this petition, and finally, after a brief consultation
amongst themselves, the Ruechensteiners yielded assent, saying that
henceforth the youthful sinner was to be theirs. On this the pretty
Seldwyla ladies and their young children rejoiced abundantly, and
Dietegen went along with them just as he was, in his poor delinquent's
shift.

It happened to be a fine mild summer evening, wherefore the Seldwyla
folks, as soon as they had reached the crest of the mountain and
therewith also their own territory, resolved to amuse themselves here
in this delightful grove, on their own account, and to recover from the
frightful experience on their neighbors' ground. And this all the more
because there now approached a numerous reënforcement from Seldwyla
itself, full of curiosity to learn what their luck had been in
Ruechenstein. Thus it came to pass that the musicians had to intone a
merry tune and next a dance, and the goblets and tankards were filled
with the wine they had brought along, and then circulated quite
rapidly.

During all these scenes Dietegen let his eyes roam all around, and all
who saw him perceived clearly that he was indeed nothing worse than an
innocent and harmless child, a notion which his tale, when asked to
state the facts, amply confirmed. The Seldwyla women could hardly get
their fill of the sight, wove a wreath of wildflowers for him, and
placed it on his young head, so that in his long and ample shift he
looked almost like a little saint. He won their hearts, and at last
they kissed him to their full content, and when he had thus passed
through the concourse of rivaling femininity they began anew with their
kissing.

But the little girl who really had saved Dietegen from a horrible and
premature death did not at all approve of this proceeding. Quite wroth
she suddenly placed herself between the boy and the woman who just that
moment was on the point of kissing him, and took him by the hand,
leading him to a group of other children. Then the whole company burst
out laughing, saying: "That is quite right. Little Kuengolt clings to
her property! And she has taste likewise. Only see how well she and the
boy look alongside of each other!"

Kuengolt's father, however, the chief forester of the town, remarked:
"I like the looks of that boy. He has eyes that speak truth and good
sense. If you gentlemen have no objection, I will take him along for
the time being, since I have but one child, and I will try and make an
honest huntsman out of him."

This proposal met the unanimous approval of the Seldwylians, and thus
Kuengolt, well contented, did not let the boy's hand slip out of her
fingers more, but kept tight hold of it. And indeed, these two did make
a very comely pair. The little girl also wore a wreath on her head and
was clad in green and red, the town's colors. Hence they went at the
head of the whole merry procession like a picture from fairyland, in
the midst of the gay townspeople. And thus they all in the glow of
sunset poured down the mountain side on their way homewards. Soon,
however, the chief forester separated from the procession and went on
with the children on side paths to his cosy residence, which lay not
far from the city itself in the forest. A double row of tall trees led
to the main entrance, and there the demure wife of the forester sat
now, and saw with amazement the approach of the two children.

The household servants also gathered, and while the wife gave the two
hungry children an abundant supper her husband related in detail the
adventures of the boy. The latter was now completely exhausted, and
with that he felt cold in his flimsy costume, and hence the question
was put who would share overnight his bed with him. But the servant
maids as well as the men anxiously avoided to answer. They dreaded as
unlucky and impious close touch with any one who had just been hanging
from the gallows. But Kuengolt cried: "Let him share my bed. It is
large enough for both of us."

And when everybody was laughing at this, her mother said pleasantly:
"You are quite right, my little daughter." And looking closely at the
boy she added: "From the very first moment I saw the poor little chap
enter the door a strange foreboding crept over me, as though a good
angel were coming who will yet bring us a blessing. That much is
certain, according to my idea: he will not be of evil to us all!"

With that she took the two children into the adjoining bedchamber, next
to the large one, and put them to bed. Dietegen, who was so sleepy that
he scarcely noticed what was going on around him, instinctively went
through the motions for disrobing. But since he was already, in a
manner of speaking, in his shirt, his drowsy motions made such a
ludicrous impression, especially upon the little girl, that she,
already under her blanket, could not help screaming with mirth: "Oh,
just watch the comical shirtmannikin! He is always trying to take off
his spenser and boots, and yet he hasn't any!" Her mother, too, had to
smile and said to the boy: "In God's name, go to bed in your poor
sinner's shift! My poor boy, that shift is quite new and really of good
linen. Truly, these wicked people of Ruechenstein at least do their
atrocities with a certain amount of decency."

In saying which she wrapped the two little ones up well in their
blankets, and could not forbear to kiss both of them, so that Dietegen
was really better off than he had ever been in his whole life. But his
eyes were already tightly closed and his soul in deep sleep. "But now
he has not said his prayers at all," whispered Kuengolt in sorrow. Her
mother replied: "Then you will do it for both of you, my little
daughter!" and left the two. And indeed, the girl now said the Lord's
prayer twice, once for herself, once for her new bedfellow. And then
quiet reigned in the little chamber.

Some time after midnight Dietegen woke up, because only now his neck
had begun to pain him from the unfriendly rope of the hangman. The
chamber was flooded with moonlight, but he was perfectly unable to
recall where he was and how he had come there. Merely this he was
conscious of, that he aside from his sore throat, was far better of!
than ever before in his young life. The window stood open, a spring
outside murmured softly, and the silver night blew whisperingly through
the tree tops; over them all the moon shone in gentle radiance. All
this to him was wondrous, since he had never before seen the solitude
of the forest, neither by day nor by night. He gazed sleepily, he
listened, and finally he assumed a sitting posture. Then he perceived
next to him on the couch little Kuengolt, the moon's beams playing
right over her small face. She lay still, but was broad awake, since
excitement and joy would not let her sleep. Because of that her eyes
were opened to their full extent, and her mouth was smiling when
Dietegen peered into her face.

"Why don't you sleep? You ought to sleep," said the girl. But he then
complained of the pain at his throat. At once little Kuengolt weaved
her tender arms around his neck and full of pity put her own cheeks
against his. And really it soon seemed to him that his pain subsided
under such sympathetic treatment. And then they began to chat in a low
voice. Dietegen was asked to tell about himself. But he was reticent
because there was not much to tell that was pleasant, and about the
misery of his childhood he also was not able to say a great deal, since
no contrasts were within his ken, with the single exception of that
evening. Suddenly, however, he recalled his pleasant sport with the
crossbow, which had slipped his mind before, and so he told the little
girl all about the Jew, and how that one had been the cause of his
imprisonment and unjust sentence, but also about how he had taken great
delight in shooting with the crossbow, for over an hour, and how he now
longed for just such a weapon.

"My father has crossbows and weapons of every type in plenty,"
commented Kuengolt breathlessly. "And you may start in to-morrow and
shoot all you wish."

And then she set out to tell him about all the nice things in the
house, and she included in these her own pretty knicknacks, locked up
in a casket, especially two golden "rainbow" keys, a necklace of amber,
a volume full of holy legends, illustrated with pictures showing saints
in their beautiful vestments, and also a multicolored medallion in
which sat a Mother of God clad in gold brocade and vermilion silk, and
covered with a tiny round glass. Also, she enumerated further, she
owned a silver-gilt spoon, with a quaintly turned handle, but with that
she would be permitted to eat only when she was grown up and had a
husband of her own. And when it came to her wedding she would get the
bridal jewelry of her mother, together with her blue brocade dress,
which was so thick and heavy that it stood up without any one being
inside of it. Then she kept still a short while, but pressing her
bedfellow more closely against her heart, she said in a very low voice:
"Listen, Dietegen!"

"Well, what is it?" he answered.

"You must be my husband when we are big. For you belong to me. Will
you, of your own free will?"

"Why, yes," he replied.

"Then you must shake hands on it," she remarked, in a peremptory voice.
He did so, and after this binding promise the two children finally fell
asleep and did not wake till the sun stood high in the heavens. For the
kind mother had purposely refrained from rousing them, so that the poor
boy should have a thorough rest.

But now at last she cautiously crept into the little chamber, bearing
on her arm a complete boy's suit of clothing. Two years before her own
son had been killed by the fall of an oak tree, and the clothes of this
boy of hers, although he had been Dietegen's senior by a whole year,
were likely to fit him, since he was just his size. And it was her lost
boy's holiday attire, which in a saddened spirit she had preserved.
Therefore she had risen with the sun, in order to remove from the
doublet some gay ribbons ornamenting it, and to sew up the slits in the
sleeves which let the silk lining peep forth. Her tears had flown anew
in doing this labor, when she saw the scarlet silken lining that
glinted from below the black jerkin gradually disappear from view, as
jocund spring vanished in sorrow, and become of a piece with the black
trunks. The tears were shed because of the death of her own dear boy,
but a sweet consolation tinctured her soul since Fate now had sent her
such a handsome, lovable little fellow, one who had been snatched, so
to speak, out of Death's hard grasp, and whom she now could clothe in
the habiliments of her own son. And it was not from haste or fear of
the task that she left the gay silken lining under the sable outer
covering, but on purpose, as the hidden fire of affection in her bosom
moved her. For she was of those who mean better by their familiars than
they dare show openly. If the new boy proved worthy of it, she vowed to
herself, she would open the seams of the slits again, for his joy and
pride. Anyway, on workadays Dietegen was to wear this suit but for a
few days, until one of stronger and more suitable material should have
been made for him to measure by the tailor, one that he could expose to
rough usage during his ordinary occupations. But while she instructed
the boy how to put on this fine suit of a kind to which he was quite
unused, little Kuengolt had slipped out of bed, and in a spirit of
childish mischief had got hold of the gallows shift, which she now put
on and was stalking gravely in about the room, trailing its tail behind
her on the floor. With that she kept her little hands folded behind
her, as though they were tied by the hangman. Then she sang aloud: "I
am a miserable sinner now, and even lack my hose, I trow." At this the
kindly woman fell into a great affright, grew deadly pale, and said in
a low, soft voice: "For our Savior's sake, who is teaching you such
wicked jokes, my child?" And she seized the ominous shift from the
little girl's hands, who smiled at this, but Dietegen took it, being
wroth at the scene, and tore it into a score of pieces.

Now that the two children were dressed they were taken along for
breakfast in the adjoining room. Early in the morning bread had been
baked, and with the milk soup the little ones received each a fresh
loaf of cummin seed bread, and in place of the one sweet roll which on
ordinary days was specially baked for Kuengolt, there were two that
day, and the little girl would have it that the boy received the larger
of them. Dietegen ate without urging all that was offered him, just as
though he had returned to his father's house after an enforced stay
with evil strangers. But he was very still throughout, and he keenly
observed everything around him: the pleasant mild woman who treated him
like her own son, the sunny, light room, and the comfortable furniture
with which it was fitted up. And after having eaten his breakfast with
a good appetite, he continued these observations, noticing that the
walls were wainscoted with smooth pine, and higher up decorated with
painted wreaths and flowers, and that the leaded window panes showed
the arms both of husband and wife. When he also carefully inspected the
handsome closets and the sideboard with its load of shining vessels and
tableware, he suddenly remembered the dingy silver jug that had almost
brought him to his death, and the cheerless house of the beadle in
Ruechenstein, and then, afraid that he should have to return there
again, he asked with a tremor in his voice: "Must I now return home?
But I don't know the way."

"There is no need of your knowing it," said the housewife, moved by his
evident dread, and she stroked his smooth chin. "Have you not yet
noticed that you are to remain with us? Go along with him now, my
little Kuengolt, and show him the house and the woods, and everything
else. But do not go too far away!"

Then Kuengolt took the boy by the hand, and first led him into the
forester's armory where he kept his weapons. And there hung seven
magnificent crossbows and arquebuses, and spears and javelins for the
chase, hangers and dirks, and also the long sword of the master of the
house which stood in the corner by itself. Dietegen examined all this,
silently but with gleaming eyes, and Kuengolt mounted a chair to take
down several of the finest crossbows from the wall, which she handed
him so that he could look them over more at leisure, and he was
delighted with these, for they showed ornaments inlaid in ivory or
mother-of-pearl, daintily done by some expert artisan. The boy admired
it all, in a silent sort of ecstasy, about as would a rather talented
prentice in the studio of a great master painter while the latter might
be absent from home. But Kuengolt's quick proposal to have him try his
marksmanship outside in a meadow could not be realized at the time,
because the bolts and arrows were locked away in a separate receptacle.
But to make up for that she gave him a fine hunting spear to hold so
that he should have a weapon of some kind to take along into the
greenwoods. Near the house she showed him a hedged-in space full of
deer and game, in which the town constantly kept its reserve of stock,
so that at no time there should be lack of venison and other fine
roasts for public or private banquets. The girl coaxed several roes and
stags to come to her at the hedge, and this was astonishing to
Dietegen, for so far he had seen such animals only when dead. With his
spear, therefore, he stood attentive, his eyes fixed on these pretty
denizens of the woods, and could not get his fill of watching them.
Eagerly he held out his hand to fondle a finely antlered stag, and when
the latter shyly bounded aside and leisurely trotted off, the boy
scurried after him with a joyous halloo, and ran and jumped with the
animal around in a wide circle. It was perhaps the first time in his
life that he could use his young limbs in this way, and when he felt
how his tendons stretched with the violent exercise and how he was able
to race with the swift stag, the latter apparently taking as much
pleasure in the sport as Dietegen himself, a feeling of untried
strength and agility first woke within him.

But as they later on stepped into the domain of the deep forest, high
up on the hill, the boy resumed once more his usual air of thoughtful
quiet and deliberation. Up there mighty trees grew closer together,
leaving hardly a fragment of sky to discover from below--tall pine and
gnarled oak, spreading lindens, beeches, maple and spruce, all growing
in a semidarkness where the sunlight seldom pierced. Red squirrels
glided spectrelike from trunk to trunk, woodpeckers hammered
incessantly for their fare, high up birds of prey shrilly pursued their
quarry in the open, and a thousand forest mysteries were dimly at work.
Below, in the dense underbrush, hares and foxes, deer and smaller game
were waging war, and song birds twittered or warbled in a chorus of
multiform sound. Kuengolt laughed and laughed because the boy knew
nothing of all these secret doings in the forest, although he had grown
up in a mountain fastness surrounded by the very life of the woods, but
she at once began to explain to him these things of which he was so
profoundly ignorant. She showed him the hawk and his nest, the cuckoo
in his retreat, and the gay-clad woodpecker as he was just clambering
up a thick trunk with bark promising him rich harvest. And about all
these things he was highly amazed, and wondered that trees and bushes
should bear so many names, and that each should differ from the next.
For he had not even known the hazelnut bush or the whortleberry in
their haunts. They came to a rushing brook, and disturbed by their
steps, a snake made off into the water, and the girl seized the spear
in the boy's hand and wanted to stick it into the rocky nook. But when
Dietegen saw that she was going to blunt or break the edge of the
finely tempered weapon, he at once took it out of her fingers, saying
that she might damage the spear.

"That is well done," suddenly came the voice of the chief forester, his
patron; "you will prove a help to me." With a gamekeeper he stood
behind the two children. For the noise of the rushing water had drowned
in their ears all other noise. The gamekeeper bore in his hand a
woodcock, just shot, for the two had gone forth early in the morning.
Dietegen was permitted to hang the stately bird to the tip of his
spear, flinging it over his shoulder, so that the spread wings of the
bird enveloped him, and the forester gazed with approval upon the
handsome youngster, and made up his mind to make an all-around woodsman
of him.

Just now, though, he was to learn somewhat the difficult arts of
reading and writing, and for that purpose was obliged to walk every day
to town with the little girl; there in a convent and in a monastery the
two were taught as much of these mysteries as seemed good for them. But
his chief lessons Dietegen had from the little girl herself when coming
and going from town, Kuengolt delighting in informing him as to all
that was going on in the world, so far at least as she herself knew,
and more particularly as to the ordinary things of life, as to which
Dietegen had been left in deplorable ignorance by his former
taskmaster, the beadle.

But the little instructress was in her way a ruthless practical joker,
and followed a unique method of her own in teaching the boy. She
exaggerated, distorted or plainly misstated the facts as to most things
in talking to her pupil, and abused grossly the credulity and
trustfulness of the boy, merely for her amusement, and she did this as
to most things. In this she showed a wonderful gift of invention, an
exuberant fancy of the rarest. When Dietegen then had accepted her
fictions, and would perhaps express his wonder at them, she would shame
him with the cool statement that not a single word had been true. She
would scornfully blame him for believing such palpable untruths, and
then, with a show of infinite wisdom, she would tell him the real
facts. Then he would redden under her sarcastic remarks, and would
endeavor to avoid her pitfalls, but only until she saw fit to make
sport of him once more. However, in the course of time Dietegen's
powers of judging facts began to widen, and he ceased to be so
gullible, and this another boy who attempted to emulate Kuengolt's
example found out to his sorrow. For Dietegen simply slapped his face
when he came out with a particularly outrageous whopper.

Kuengolt, rather taken aback at witnessing this castigation, was
curious to ascertain whether this wrath under given circumstances would
also turn against herself. She made a test on the spot, feeding him
with some of her choicest fairy tales. But from her he accepted
everything without a murmur, and so she continued her peculiar method
of instruction. At last, though, she discovered that he had acquired
enough independence of thought and a large enough stock of knowledge to
enable him to play with her himself. He would answer her inventions
with counterinventions, and would argue from her nonsensical statements
in such shrewd fashion as to turn her first doctrines into ridicule,
and he would do this in perfect good-nature, proving the untenableness
of her own theories. Then she came to the conclusion that it was time
to give up her nonsense. But in place of that amusement she now
indulged in another. Namely, she began to tyrannize over him most
unmercifully. It grew so that it was almost worse than things had been
with the beadle's wife. His servitude was deplorable. She made him
fetch and carry during all his spare time. He had to haul and hoist and
labor for her in a truly ridiculous manner. She constantly required his
presence about her; he had to bring her water, shake the trees, dig in
the garden, crack open nuts after getting them for her, hold her little
basket, and even to brush and comb her hair she wanted to train
him--only that is where he drew a line. But then he was scolded by her
for refusing this, and when her mother took sides against her she
became quite obstreperous with the latter as well.

But Dietegen did not pay her back in her own coin, never lost his
patience with her, and was always equally submissive and indulgent with
her. Her mother saw that with vast pleasure, and to reward him for his
fine conduct she treated the boy like her own son, and gave him all
those finer hints and that almost imperceptible guidance and advice
which else are only saved for children of one's own, and by means of
which children finally acquire without knowing it those habits and
better manners which are commonly comprised under the name of a careful
education. Of course, she herself gained in a way from this; for her
own daughter thus acquired unconsciously many of her lessons, Dietegen
being there as a sort of mirror of what was expected of her. Truly, it
was almost comical how little Kuengolt in her restless temperament
veered and shifted constantly between imitating her better model or
else becoming jealous and wroth and scorning it for the time. On one
occasion she became so excited as to stab at him with all her might
with a sharp pair of scissors. But Dietegen caught her wrist quickly,
and without hurting her or showing any anger he made her drop them.
This little scene which her mother had espied from a hiding-place,
moved the latter so strongly that she came forth, took the boy in her
arms, and kissed him. Pale and excited the girl herself left the room
with out a word. "Go, follow her, my son," whispered the mother, "and
reconcile her. You are her good angel."

Dietegen did as bidden. He found her behind the house and under a lilac
bush. She was weeping wildly and tearing her amber necklace, trying, in
fact, to throttle herself by means of it, and stamping on the scattered
beads on the ground. When Dietegen approached her and wanted to seize
her hands, she cried with a great sob: "Nobody but I may kiss you. For
you belong to me alone. You are mine, my property. I alone have freed
you from that horrid coffin, in which without me you would have
remained forever."

As the boy grew up marvelously, becoming handsomer and more manly with
every day, the forester declared at breakfast one morning that the time
was now ripe to take him along into the woods and let him learn the
difficult craft of the huntsman. Thus he was taken from the side of
Kuengolt, and spent now all his time, from dawn until nightfall, with
the men, in forest, moor and heath. And now indeed his limbs began to
stretch that it was a pleasure to watch him. Swift and limber like a
stag, he obeyed each word or hint, and ran whither he was sent. Silent
and docile, he was forever where wanted; carried weapons and tackle,
gear and utensils, helped spread the nets, leaped across trenches and
morass, and spied out the whereabouts of the game. Soon he knew the
tracks of all the animals, knew how to imitate the call of the birds,
and before any one expected it, he had a young wildboar run into his
spear. Now, too, the forester gave him a crossbow. With it he was every
day, every hour almost, exercising his skill, aiming at the target,
shooting at living objects as well. In a word, when Dietegen was but
sixteen, he was already an expert woodsman who might be placed
anywhere, and it would happen now and then that his patron sent him out
with a number of his men to guard the municipal woods and head the
chase.

Dietegen, therefore, might be seen not alone with the crossbow on his
back, but also with pen and ink-horn in his girdle upon the mountain
side, and with his keen watchful eyes and his unfailing memory he was a
great help to his fosterfather. And since with every day he became more
reliable and useful, the master forester learned to love him better
all along, and used to say that the boy must in the end become a
full-fledged, an honorable and martial citizen.

It could under these circumstances not be otherwise than that Dietegen
on his part was devoted soul and body to the forester. For there is no
attachment like that of the youth for the mature man of whom he knows
that he is doing his best to teach him all the secrets of his craft,
and whom he holds to be his unapproached model.

The chief forester was a man of about forty; tall and well-built, with
broad shoulders and of handsome appearance and noble carriage. His hair
of golden sheen was already lightly sprinkled with silver, but his
complexion was ruddy, and his blue eyes shone frank, open and full of
fire. In his younger days, too, he had been among the wildest and
merriest of Seldwyla's choice spirits, and many were the quaint and
original quips he had perpetrated at that time of his life. But when he
had won his young wife, he altered instantly, and since then he had
been the soberest and the most sensible man in the world. For his dear
wife was of a most delicate habit, and of a kindness of heart that
could not defend itself, and although by no means without a spirit and
a wit of her own, she would have been unable to meet unkindness with a
sharp tongue. A wife of ready wit and pugnacity would probably have
spurred this naturally sprightly man on to further doings, but in
contest with the graceful feebleness of this delicate wife of his he
behaved like the truly strong. He watched over her as over the apple of
his eye, did only those things which gave her pleasure, and after his
busy day's work remained gladly at his own hearth.

At the most important festivities of the town only, three or four times
a year, he went among the councilmen and other citizens, led them with
his fresh vigor in deliberation and at the festive board, and after
drinking one after the other of the great guzzlers under the table, he
would, as the last of the doughty champions, rise upright from his
seat, stride quietly out of the council chamber, and then with a jolly
smile walk uphill to his forest home.

But the chief comedy would always come the next day. For then he would
waken, after all, with a head that hummed like a beehive, and then he
would rouse himself fully, half morosely, half with a leonine jovial
humor that indeed had the dimensions of a lion when compared with the
proverbial distemper of the average toper. Early he would then show up
at breakfast, the sun shining with strength upon his naked scalp, and
ignoring his symptoms, he would jest and make fun of himself and his
achievements of the previous night. His wife, then, always hungering
after her husband's humor, he being usually rather reticent, would then
answer his sallies with a merry laughter, so bell-like and wholesouled
as one would never have suspected in a being so demure as she. His
children would laugh, also his gamekeepers and huntsmen, and lastly his
servants. And in that way the whole day would pass. Everything that day
would be done with a bright smile and a salvo of hearty laughter. And
always the chief forester leading them all, handling his axe, lifting
heavy weights, doing the work of three ordinary men. On such a day it
was once that fire broke out in the town. High above burning roofs a
poor old woman, in her frail wooden balcony, forgotten and disregarded,
was shrilly crying and moaning for help from a fiery death, and above
her shoulder her tame starling went through the drollest of antics,
likewise claiming attention. Nobody could think of a way to save
mistress and bird. The flames came nearer and ever nearer. But our
chief forester climbed up to a protruding coping on a high wall facing
the old woman's nook, a spot where he stood like a rock. Then with
herculean strength he pulled up a long ladder to him, turned it over
and balanced it neatly until it touched the window where the old hag
was struggling for breath. He placed it securely within the opening, on
the sill, and then he strode across it, firm and unafraid, back and
forth, carrying the ancient woman safely across his shoulder, and the
stuttering starling on his head, the greedily licking flames and the
swirling clouds of smoke beneath his feet. And all this he did, not by
any means in a heroic pose, as something dangerous or praiseworthy, but
as though it were a harmless joke, smiling and laughing.

After a solid piece of work of that kind he would feast with his family
in jolly style, dishing up the best the house afforded. And at such
times he always was particularly tender to his wife, taking her on his
knee, to the great amusement of the children, and dubbing her his
"little whitebird," and his "swallow," and she, her arms clasped in
pleasurable self-forgetfulness, would laughingly watch his antics.

On a day like that, too, he once arranged for a dance, it being the
first of May. He had a musician fetched from town, and got likewise
some merry young folks to increase the sport. And there was dancing
aplenty on the smooth greensward in front of the house, right under the
blooming trees, and dainty dancing it was. The chief forester opened
the merriment with his smiling young wife, she in her modest finery and
with her girlish shape. As they made the first steps, she looked over
her shoulder at the youngsters, happy as could be, and tipping her foot
on the green sod, impatient to be off. Just then Dietegen, who for much
of the time past had kept to the men entirely, threw a glance at
Kuengolt, and lo! he saw that she also was growing up to be a handsome
woman, as pretty a picture as her mother. Her features indeed strongly
resembled those of her mother, small, regular and charming. But in her
figure she took more after her father, for she was trimly built like a
straight young pine, and although but fourteen her bosom was already
rounded like that of a grown-up damsel. Golden curls fell in a shower
down her back and hid the somewhat angular shoulderblades. She was clad
all in green, wore around her neck her amber beads, and on her head,
according to the fashion of those days, a wreath of rosebuds. Her eyes
shone pleasantly and frankly from a guileless face, but once in a while
they would flash wilfully and glide casually over the row of youths
whose eyes hung on her youthful beauty, with a slightly critical bent,
and at last rest for an instant on Dietegen, then turn away again.
Dietegen looked as though hungering for recognition, but she only once
more glanced back at him. But that glance seemed to have somewhat
embarrassed her, for she stopped to arrange her hair, while he flushed
deeply.

That indeed was the first time when they two felt they were no longer
mere children. But a few minutes later they met and found themselves
partners in a country dance, hand in hand. A new and sweet sensation
pulsed through his veins, and this remained even after the ring of
dancers had again been broken.

Kuengolt, however, had still the same feeling regarding him; she looked
upon the youth as upon something all her own, as something belonging to
her, and of which, therefore, one may be sure and need not guard
closely. Only once in a while she would send a spying glance in his
direction, and when accident would bring him into the close
neighborhood of another maiden, there would also be Kuengolt watching
him.

Thus innocent pleasure reigned until an advanced hour of the evening.
The young people became as sprightly as new-fledged wood pigeons, and
soon even excelled in their merry humor their bounteous host, and the
latter on his part delighted to pleasure his amiable young wife, while
soberly encouraging his youthful guests in amusing themselves. She, the
wife, was serene and happy as sunlight in springtime. And she even
became playful enough to call her brawny husband by intimate nicknames.

But harmless and decorous as all this was, it may be that the citizens
of other towns where merriment was not the natural birthright, as in
the case of the Seldwylians, would have deemed it a trifle beyond the
proper limits. The spiced May wine which was served the guests had been
mingled in its elements according to ancient usage, but just as in
their joy itself there was a bit too much license, so also there was a
trifle too much honey in the drink. The hands of the young girls lay
perhaps somewhat too frequently upon the shoulders of the youths, and
now and then, without meaning any harm, a couple would quickly kiss and
part, and this without playing at blind man's buff, as do the
philistines of our days under similar conditions. In short, what these
young people of Seldwyla lacked in their diversion was the gift of
attracting without seeming to; but with this gift, on the other hand,
Dietegen, as a regulation Ruechensteiner, was plentifully endowed. For
although he was already in love, he fled like fire from the fondling
and caressing which with these Seldwyla couples was by now rather
freely indulged in, and preferred to keep himself out of the danger
line. All the bolder and provoking was Kuengolt who, in her childish
ignorance and after the manner of half-grown girls, did not know how to
control her affections, and who went to look up the frigid youth. She
discovered him seated in the shadow of a group of darksome trees, and
sat down beside him, seizing his hand and playfully twining his
fingers. When he submitted to that and even, gently and almost in a
fatherly way, spun her ringlets in his palm, the girl at once put her
arms around his neck and caressed him with the innocence but also with
the abandon of a child, whereas in truth it was already the maiden that
spoke out of her. Dietegen, however, no longer a child, essayed to use
his maturer judgment for both of them, and thus was strenuously trying
to loosen her hold on him, when his fostermother, the chief forester's
wife, came joyously running up to the bench, and noticed with
particular pleasure how matters stood apparently.

"That is right," she cried, "that you, too, are of accord," and she
embraced them both tightly. "I hope and trust, my dearest daughter,
that you will love and cherish Dietegen with all your might. He is
deserving indeed, my child, that he not only has found a new home in
our house, but that you, too, will give him a home in your little
heart. And you, dear Dietegen, will, I know, at all times be a true and
faithful protector and guardian to my little Kuengolt. Never leave her
out of your sight, for your eyes are keen and observant."

"He is nobody's but mine, and has been for long," said Kuengolt to
this, and she kissed him boldly and lightly upon the cheek, half like a
bride and half as a child caresses a kitten which belongs to it. But
now the situation for the poor bashful youth, thus hemmed in between
mother and daughter, became unbearable, and he flushed and awkwardly
loosened their combined hold of him, stepping back a few paces to
escape their blandishments. But Kuengolt, in her wilful mood, pursued
him laughing, and when in his retreat from her he came into close
proximity to the pretty mother, the latter jestingly caught him by the
arm, saying: "Here he is, my little daughter, now come and hold him
fast."

When thus entrapped anew by them, his heart beat excitedly, and while
finding himself thus wooed, so to speak, by both feminine tempters, he
at the same time felt intensely his lonesome condition in the world.
The odd conceit overcame him that he was a lost soul shaken from the
tree of life, which while cherished by soft hands, was nevertheless to
be forever deprived of its own existence and individuality, a state of
mind which with callow youths thus beset may be more frequent than
commonly supposed. Therefore, a prey to two conflicting emotions
equally powerful, of which one necessarily excluded the other, his
strong sense of personal freedom struggling within his breast with the
new-born sentiment of tender regard, he stood mute and trembling, half
in rebellion against the sudden intimate aggression of the two women,
and half strongly inclined to draw the young girl into his arms and to
overwhelm her with caresses. His Ruechenstein blood was against him.
While he loved the mother with a wholesouled and most grateful
devotion, her thoughtless encouragement of him to play a lover's part
towards her daughter seemed to him strange and unbecoming. He looked
upon himself as really Kuengolt's property, as truly belonging to her
by reason of her having saved his forfeited life. But at the same time
he felt himself seriously responsible for her moral conduct, for her
maiden chastity and her correct manners, and when now Kuengolt strove
to kiss him on the mouth, he said to her, in perfect good humor but
withal in the tone of a crabbed schoolmaster: "You are really still too
young for things of that kind. This is not suitable for your age."

At these words the girl paled with shame and annoyance. Without another
syllable she turned away and joined once more the throng of
merrymakers, where she danced and sprang about recklessly a few times,
and then sat down a little distance away by herself, with a face that
betrayed clearly how hurt she was at the rebuff.

The chief forester's wife smilingly stroked the strict young moralist's
cheek, saying: "Well, well, you are certainly very strict. But the more
faithfully you will one day take care of my child. Give me your promise
never to desert her! Only don't forget, we Seldwyla folk are all of us
rather gay and debonair, and it is possible that in being so we
sometimes do not think enough of the future."

Dietegen's eyes grew wet, and he gave her his hand in solemn vow. Then
she conducted him back to the others. But Kuengolt turned her back on
him, and instead in real grief gazed into the mild May night.

He on his part now marveled at himself. Strange, now of a sudden this
girl whom but a minute before he had misnomed a mere child, was old and
grown-up enough to cause him, the moralizing youth, love pangs. For sad
and confused he too stood now aside and felt still more ashamed than
the girl herself.

"What ails you? Why do you look so sorrowful?" asked the forester, when
he in the best humor in the world now approached the group. But
Kuengolt at the question broke into passionate tears, and exclaimed
before everybody: "He was a gift to me by the judges when he was really
nothing but a poor lifeless corpse, and I have reawakened him to life.
And therefore he has no right to sit in judgment on me, but rather I
alone am his judge. And he must do everything I want, and when I love
to kiss him it is his business to simply keep still and let me do it."

They all laughed at this odd statement, but the mother took Dietegen's
hand and led him to the child, saying: "Come, make up with her and let
her kiss you once more. Later on you, also, shall be her master, and
shall do as you see fit in such matters."

Blushing deeply because of the many onlookers, Dietegen offered his
mouth to the girl, and she seized him by his curls, quite in a frenzy,
and kissed him hard, more in wrath than in love, and then, having once
more thrown him a look that betrayed anger, she quickly turned on her
heels and dashed away in such haste that her golden ringlets fluttered
in the night air and in passing brushed his face.

But now the reluctant fire of love had also been kindled in his own
young soul, and soon after he left the throng and went in search of
rash Kuengolt, striding rapidly and gazing all about for her. At last
he discovered her on the other side of the house where she sat dreamily
at the well, and was playing with the amber beads of her necklace.
Advancing quickly he seized both her hands, compressed them in his
vigorous right, and then laid his left on her shoulder so that she
shuddered, and said: "Listen, child, I shall not permit you to trifle
with me. From to-day on you are just as much my own property as I am
yours, and no other man shall have you living. Keep that in mind when
some day you will be grown up."

"Oh, you big old man," she murmured slowly and smiled at him, but
pallor had overspread her features. "You indeed are mine, but not I
yours. However, you need not mind that, because I don't think I'll ever
let you go!"

So saying she rose and went, without first looking at her old
playfellow once more, over to the other side of the house.

But this was not all. The forester's wife caught a cold in the suddenly
chilled air of this very May night, and an insidious disease grew out
of it which carried her off within a few months. On her deathbed she
grieved much about her husband and her child, and expressed great
anxiety on their behalf. She also denied till her last breath the real
cause of her illness and death, deeming it scarcely a fit thing for a
housewife and a mother to thus go out of life merely because of a
surfeit of riotous pleasure.

But while she thus lay lifeless in the house, all that had loved her
mourned for her; indeed the whole town did so, for she had not had a
single enemy in the world. Her widowed husband wept at night in his
bed, and at daytime he spoke never a word, but only from time to time
stepped up to the coffin in which she lay so still and peaceful,
looking and looking at his sweet partner, and then, shaking his head,
slowly walking off again.

He had a heavy wreath of young pine twigs fashioned for her and placed
it on the bier. Kuengolt heaped a perfect mountain of wildflowers on
top of that, and thus the graceful form of the dead was borne down from
the hillside to the church below, followed by the bereaved family and a
crowd of relatives, friends and members of the household.


After the burial the chief forester took all the mourners to the
tavern, where he had caused a bounteous meal in honor of the dead to be
prepared, according to ancient custom. The roast venison for it, a
capital roebuck, and two fine grouse, he had shot himself, grieving all
the while at the loss he had sustained. And when the gorgeously
feathered birds now appeared on the long board he minded him again of
the dense grove of mighty oak and maple, high up on the mountain side,
in which she had sat awaiting his return from the chase, and in which
he, his heart full of love of her who now rested in the cool ground,
had many a time been stalking the deer. The image of her stood before
his thoughts like life itself. But yet he was not to be left long to
brooding, for strict laws of custom called for his active services as
host on this occasion. When the claret from France and the golden
malmsey had been uncorked and poured into capacious goblets, and the
heavy table been loaded with sweets and cakes that scented the precious
spices from the Indies, the guests grew lively and clamorous, and he
had to propose and answer many a toast, despite his sincere mourning,
and the noise soon drowned the still voice within him. Life and death
were twin brothers in those days of our forbears.

The forester was seated at table between Kuengolt and Dietegen, and
these two because of his tall and broad-backed person were unable to
catch a look of one another save by bending over or behind him, and
this neither of them wished to do for decency's sake, for they were the
only ones who among this crowd of buzzing guests remained sad and
serious. Across the board from him sat a cousin, a lady of about thirty
named Violande.

This lady indeed could not well be overlooked, for she wore a singular
costume, one which did not seem fit for a person satisfied with her
lot, a person living in happy circumstances, but rather one who is
restless and hollow of heart. Yet she was handsome, and knew well how
to impress people with her charms, but ever and anon something selfish
and mendacious would flash out of her handsome eyes that destroyed all
these efforts at enforced amiability.

When but fourteen she had already been in love with the forester, her
cousin, merely because amongst those young men that came before her
vision he was the best-looking and the tallest and strongest. He,
however, had never noticed the preference shown for him. Indeed he had
not given a thought to this overyoung cousin of his, since his serious
choice lay altogether among the more adult persons of the other sex,
and wavered among several of these. Full of envy and jealousy, this
unmature cousin, though, was already so skilled in feminine intrigue as
to be able to destroy the chances of two or three young women that the
forester had looked upon with favor, using for that purpose that
poisonous weapon, gossip and backbiting. Always when he was on the
point of proposing to a beauty that had won his regard, this sly
half-woman skillfully understood how to spread rumors calculated to
entangle the two, fictitious words uttered by one or the other seeming
to show mutual dislike, or something equally efficacious in bringing
about a rupture. If her designs miscarried with him, why then she spun
her threads so as to make the other believe that the swain was false or
fickle, full of guile or not dependable. Thus it came to pass
repeatedly that without his ever discovering the author the lady of his
suit would suddenly swerve and leave him out in the cold, while
another, of whom he had never thought in that connection, would as
quickly show him her favor--all owing to the arts of this Macchiavell
in petticoats. And then impatiently and disgustedly he would turn his
back on both the willing and the unwilling and plunge once more for a
spell into his easy bachelordom. In this way it was that, one after the
other, all his wooings came to nought, until he at last happened to
meet the mild and amiable lady that subsequently became his spouse.
This one, though, kept hold of him, since she was just as guileless as
he himself, and all the artifices and stratagems of the little witch
were in vain. Yea, she never even noticed the other's cleverest
schemes, simply because she kept her eyes all the time fixed upon him
she loved. And indeed he too had been grateful to her for her
singlemindedness, and held her all the years of their happy union as a
jewel of rare price.

Violande, however, when she saw the man whose love she had aspired to
married, after all, to another had not given up the frequent use of her
talent for mischiefmaking, for fear she might get out of practice. The
older she grew the more artistic became her endeavors in that line, but
without success for herself, since she remained a spinster, and since
even the men themselves whom by her wiles she had alienated from other
women turned away from her as from a dangerous person, feeling in their
hearts only contempt and hatred for her. Then it was she turned her
face heavenwards, giving it out that she was on the point of entering a
convent and becoming a nun. But she changed her mind in the last hour,
and instead of a convent entered a house devoted to some holy order,
but such a one as would permit her, in case the chance of becoming a
wife should unexpectedly present itself to her, to leave it. Thus she
disappeared for years from view, since she was in the habit of going
from one town to another at short intervals, and nowhere feeling rested
or contented. Suddenly, when the forester's wife was lying sick to
death, she reappeared again, in Seldwyla, and in worldly dress, and so
it had come about that here she was as one of the guests at this
funeral celebration, seated opposite the widower.

She put restraint on her restlessness, and now and then looked modest
and almost childlike, and when the women rose and walked about in
couples, the while the men remained seated at table drinking and
talking, she went up to Kuengolt, kissed her on both cheeks, and made
friends with her. The half-grown girl felt honored by these advances of
a semi-clerical woman, one who had apparently great knowledge of the
world and had been about a good deal, and so these two were at once
involved in a long and intimate conversation, as though they had known
each other all their lives. When the company broke up Kuengolt asked
her father to invite Violande to his house, in order to manage the big
household, a task for which she herself felt not equal and entirely too
young and inexperienced. The forester whose mood at that moment was a
curious compound of mourning and vinous elation, and whose thoughts
still belonged altogether to his departed wife, raised no objection to
this request, although he did not care much for his cousin and thought
her a queer sort of person.

Thus in a day or two Violande made her formal entrance into the
widower's house, and had sense enough to take the place of the dead
wife at the hearth with judicious modesty and not without a spice of
sentimentality, the reflection no doubt occurring to her that here she
was at last, after long wanderings, where the desires of her first
youth seemed at last on the point of being realized. Without undue
elation she opened the closets and presses of her predecessor,
examining in detail their contents: linen and homespun cloth piled up
in orderly rows, and provisions of every kind arranged for instant or
occasional use, such as preserved fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, stored
away in carefully tied-up pots; many flitches of bacon and salted beef
and pork, smoked hams and potted venison, and hundreds of bunches of
flax hung up to dry under the ceilings of the roof. Her heart beat at a
more lively gait when inspecting all these domestic riches speaking so
eloquently of the forester's easy circumstances, and almost tenderly
she handled these hundreds of vessels and receptacles, dreaming of a
near housewifely future. And in this peaceable frame of mind she
remained for a number of weeks. But then her old restlessness seized
her again. It had to find a vent. And so she began to turn everything
topsy-turvy, starting with the pots and kettles, each of which she
assigned to a new place, mingling the big and little, shoving about the
bolts of linen and cloth, entangling the flax carded and uncarded, and
when she finally had done all this she had also managed to seriously
interfere with human affairs in the house, upsetting them as much as
she dared.

Since it was her design to become, after all, the forester's wife, so
as to acquire a more dignified and assured position in life, it became
clear to her that what above all would be necessary was to part
permanently Kuengolt and Dietegen, as to whose inclination for each
other she had soon satisfied herself. For she argued quite correctly
that Dietegen, once he married Kuengolt, would doubtless become the
forester's successor, and thus not only remain permanently in the
house, but that in that case the forester himself, in view of his
strong affection for the memory of his departed wife, would never wed
again. But, she reasoned, if both the children in some way could be
made to shun the house, it would be much more likely that the forester
would marry again, feeling lonesome all by himself.

And as now, as she discovered, Kuengolt every day grew handsomer and
more womanly, she took care to make the girl constantly conscious both
of her own beauty and of the gifts of her mind, as well as to further
develop in her an inborn leaning towards coquetry. To do the latter she
skillfully manipulated Kuengolt's natural vanity, insinuating to her
that every young man with whom she came in contact was smitten with her
charms and a ready suitor for her hand and love, and this with such
success that Kuengolt actually learned to look upon all the youths of
her acquaintance solely from the point of view whether they readily
acknowledged her preëminence in beauty and intellectual gifts or not,
while by her shrewd maneuvers Violande on the other hand made every one
of all these young men think that the girl's affections were centered
wholly upon himself.

Another trick used by Violande with the same end in view was to
cultivate social intercourse with a number of other young girls of
marriageable age, who were frequently invited to the house for parties
to which young men were encouraged to come, and under her guidance and
leadership there was much courting and gallivanting going on at these
meetings. Thus it came about that Kuengolt, when less than sixteen, had
already assembled around her a circle of unquiet young people, each
more or less an expert in playing the love game as a species of
delightful sport.

In the pursuance of her one aim Violande, too, arranged all sorts of
festivities, great and small, at the house, and there was mongering in
scandal, stories more or less compromising this or that couple or
individual, many quarrels and much noise and singing and music or
dancing, and it was usually the most objectionable of the customary
guests on these occasions that were also the boldest and most foolish,
and at the same time the most difficult to get rid of.

All these things were not to Dietegen's taste. At first he was a mere
onlooker, indifferent and still in the grasp of his sincere and deep
mourning for the death of his fostermother, making a melancholy face
which to a growing youth is not the most becoming. But when all these
pleasure-mad young people were rather amused by a seriousness which
seemed unsuitable to his age, and as Kuengolt herself took the same
attitude towards him, the youth tried to revenge himself by awkward
attempts at dignified silence. But these tactics were even less
successful, and ended one day with Dietegen's clearly perceiving that
he among them all was out of tune. In fact, on one occasion he observed
Kuengolt seated in the midst of a group of scornful youths all of whom
were deriding him and she, instead of disapproving, evidently siding
with them against him.

When Dietegen had experienced this, he turned silently away, and from
that day on avoided the whole company. Anyway, he had now attained the
age when vigorous youths begin to think of making strong men of
themselves. Upon the holding upon which stood the forester's house
there was, from time immemorial laid the duty of maintaining three or
four fully equipped fighting men, and this obligation the forester
himself had always carried out most scrupulously. With great pleasure
he found that Dietegen, shot up straight and nimble, would soon fill
the same fine armor in which he had once hoped to see his own son.

Thus Dietegen with other young gamekeepers and helpers on lengthy
winter evenings went to fencing school, where he learned to make proper
use of the shorter weapons, according to the methods of his home, and
during the spring and summer seasons he spent many a Sunday or holiday
upon spacious fields or forest clearings where the youths of the
district learned to march in closed formations for hours at a stretch,
and to attack, leaping broad trenches by the aid of their long spears,
and in every other way to render their bodies supple, active and
strong, or else, perhaps, to practice the new art of the musketeer
whose weapon is loaded with powder and shot.

Since by all these changes mentioned above life in the forester's house
altered greatly, and since particularly the feminine doings there
disturbed him sadly, although he paid scant attention to the latter, it
happened that he little by little acquired the habit of frequenting the
taverns where his townsfellows met much oftener than had been the case
during his married life. And while absenting himself from the childish
folly practiced at his own house, he succumbed to the maturer folly of
men, and it would happen now and then that he would carry his head like
a heavy burden, but always upright, to his forest home as late as
midnight or more.

Things went on in this way until, on a sunny St. John's Day, a network
of events began to close in.

The forester himself went to town to the headquarters of his guild,
where on that festive day all were summoned to attend the settlement of
important affairs concerning the craft, to conclude with a great annual
feast, and he intended to remain and join there in the carousal until
the advance of night.

Dietegen on his part went to the sharpshooter's meeting place,
intending to spend the whole long midsummer's day in perfecting himself
as a marksman. The other assistants of the forester and his servants of
the household also went their own way, the one to visit his relatives
some distance across the country, another to the dance with his
sweetheart, and the third to the holiday fair to buy himself cloth for
a new coat and a pair of shoes.

So the women were sitting all by themselves in the house, not at all
delighted with the rude manner in which the men had left them to their
own devices, but yet eyeing every passer-by and peering out at the
sunny landscape in the hope that some guests would show up and with
their help a festivity of their own might be arranged.

As a suitable preparation for that or any contingency they began to
bake spice cakes and prepare all sorts of sweets, and they brewed a
huge bowlful of heady May wine flavored with honey and herbs, so as to
be ready for either chance comers or to offer a night cup to the men
returning home. Next they decked themselves in holiday finery, and
ornamented head and bosom with flowers, while other young maidens,
bidden to join them in a feminine festival time, one after the other
also came from town, and even the very last and least of the serving
maids belonging to the household was freshly attired to look her best.

Under broadspreading linden trees, right in front of the house, the
table was set for a dainty meal, the westering sun sending his last
golden rays like a benediction abroad over town and valley.

There the women now were seated about the table, relishing all the good
things prepared for them, and soon the chorus of them were intoning
folk-songs with melodious voices, songs telling in many stanzas of the
delights and despair of love, songs like that of the two royal
children, or "There dallied a knight with his maiden dear," and similar
ones. All the tunes sounded the longing of love-lorn hearts, the faith
kept or broken, the eternal drama of passion. Far out into the evening
the sweet voices were carrying, alluring, inviting. The birds nesting
up in the dense foliage of the linden trees, after being silenced for a
spell, now joined in, rivaling their human competitors, and from over
in the forest other feathered songsters assisted. But suddenly another
band of choristers could be heard above the din. That new volume of
sound came floating down the mountain side, a mingling of male voices
with the more strident notes of fiddle and tabor pipes. A troop of
youths had come from Ruechenstein, and this instant issued from the
edge of the woods. Thus they came, striding along the path that led
past the forester's home down to the valley, a number of musicians at
their head. There was the son of the burgomaster of Ruechenstein,
rather a madcap and therefore a great exception to the overwhelming
majority of his townsfolk, who clearly dominated the noisy throng.
Having left the university abroad, he had brought with him a few
fellow-students after his own heart, among them being a couple of
divinity students and a young and jolly monk, as well as Hans
Schafuerli, the council scribe, or secretary, of Ruechenstein, who was
a scrawny, bent figure of a man, with a mighty hunchback and a long
rapier. He was the last of the train, all walking singly because of the
narrow path.

But when they set eyes on the row of singing ladies, their own music
ceased, and they stood all there, listening attentively to the charming
tune. However, the ladies likewise became mute, being surprised and
wishful to see what now was going to happen. Violande alone retained
her presence of mind, and stepped to the burgomaster's son, who in turn
saluted her with elaborate courtesy, and telling her that he with his
friends purposed to pay a flying and amusing visit to the merry
neighboring town, in order to spend St. John's Day in a manner
agreeable to them all. But, he continued, having had the good fortune
to meet with these ladies in this unhoped-for way, they counted on the
pleasure of a dance with them, if they might make so bold as to offer
themselves as partners, in all honor and decency.

Within the space of a few minutes these formalities had been complied
with, and the dance was in full swing on the floor of the big
banqueting hall of the forester's house. Kuengolt led with the
burgomaster's son, Violande with the jolly monk, and the other ladies
with the young scholars. But the most expert and ardent dancer proved
to be the hunchback scribe. And despite his crooked back this valiant
devotee of the terpsichorean art understood marvelously well how to
advance and retreat with his long shanks in the maze, these legs of his
seeming to begin right below his chin.

But Kuengolt's humor was no joyous one, and when Violande whispered to
her to aim at the conquest of the burgomaster's son, in order to become
herself one day the mistress of Ruechenstein, she remained frigid and
indifferent. But suddenly she perceived the herculean efforts of the
artful hunchback, and this extraordinary sight restored her spirits, so
that she laughed with all her heart. And she instantly demanded to
dance with the crooked monster. Indeed it looked like a scene in a
curious fairy tale, to see her graceful figure, clad in green and the
head set off by a wreath of ruby roses, flitting to and fro in the arms
of the ghastly scribe, his hump covered with vivid scarlet.

But swiftly her mind altered. From the scribe she flew into the arms of
the monk, and from those into the keeping of the young students, so
that within less than half an hour she had taken a turn or two with
each one of the young strangers. All of these now centered their gaze
upon the beautiful damsel, while the other young women present
attempted in vain to recapture their partners.

Violande seeing the state of the case, quickly summoned all the couples
to the table beneath the lindens, to rest there for a while and to be
hospitably entertained. She placed the whole company most judiciously,
each young man next a damsel, and Kuengolt beside the burgomaster's
son.

But Kuengolt was tormented by a craving to see all these young men
subject to her will and under the complete influence of her charms. She
exclaimed that she herself wished to wait upon her guests, and hastened
into the house to get more wine. There she quickly and surreptitiously
found her way into Violande's chamber, where she rummaged in her
clothes press. In an hour of mutual confidences Violande had shown her
a small phial and told her that this contained a philtre, or love
potion, called "Follow Me." Whoever should drink its contents when
served by the hand of a woman, would inevitably become her slave and
victim, being bound to follow her even to death's door. True, Violande
had added, there was not contained in that potion any of the strong and
dangerous poison denominated Hippomanes, brewed from the liquor
obtained from the frontal excrescence of a first-born foal, but rather
it came from the small bones of a green frog that had been placed upon
an ants' nest and cleanly scraped and gnawed off by these insects,
until ready for occult use. But all the same, Violande had stated, this
preparation was potent enough to turn the heads of a half dozen of
obstreperous men. She herself, Violande said, had obtained the philtre
from a nun whose whilom lover had succumbed to the pest before the
philtre had had time to work, so that she, the nun, had resigned
herself to a convent life, and now Violande had possession of this
sovereign remedy without knowing exactly what to do with it. For she
did not dare to throw it away for fear of the unknown consequences.

This phial Kuengolt now found after some search, and poured its
contents into the jug of wine she carried, and with a beating heart she
hastened outside to her guests. She bade the youths all quaff their
drink inasmuch as she would offer to them a new and sweet spice wine,
and when serving out the contents of the jug she knew how to contrive
matters in such wise that not a drop of the fluid remained. To
accomplish this she had first evenly distributed wine into all the
goblets, and afterwards poured something more into each man's, in every
instance sending an alluring glance into the soul of every swain, so
that the sorcery should have its full effect, as she thought.

But indeed the magical workings of the philtre really consisted in
these impartially and enticingly subdivided glances of her roguish eye,
so that the youths all vied, blind and selfish with passion, to gain
her sole favor, as will always happen when a goal striven for by all in
common lies temptingly there for the boldest and luckiest to achieve.

All the young men without exception participated in this love game,
leaving their partners rudely to themselves, and the latter, feeling
deeply the disgrace and humiliation of being outstripped by Kuengolt,
paled with anger and disappointment, casting their eyes down and vainly
trying to cover their defeat by a whispered conversation amongst
themselves. Even the monk suddenly abandoned a dusky serving maid whom
but a moment before he had embraced tenderly, while the haughty scribe,
the hunchback, with energetic steps crowded out the burgomaster's son
who at that instant held Kuengolt's lovely hand in his own, caressing
it subtly.

But Kuengolt showed no favors to any one in particular. Cold as an
icicle she remained towards each and every one of her young guests, and
like a smooth snake she glided about among them, with head and senses
cool. And when she saw that thus she held them all in the hollow of her
hand, she even attempted to reconcile anew the other women, speaking
pleasantly to them and urging them to return to the table.

Darkness had fallen. The stars glinted high in the heavens, and the
sickle of the new moon stood above the forest, but this gentle light
now was wiped out by the gleaming and wavering flames of a huge St.
John's bonfire that had been lighted up on the summit of a lone hill by
the peasant population, visible from afar.

"Let us all go and look at this bonfire," cried Kuengolt. "The way to
it is short and pleasant through the woods! But we must have it done as
beseems us all--the women and girls first, and the young men in the
rear."

And so it was done. Pitch torches lighted up the path for them, and
song cheered the company.

Violande alone had remained behind as custodian of the house, but more
especially to await the coming of the chief forester. For she, too,
meant to make her catch that day. And she had not long to wait. He came
in the roused mood of a toper, and with his senses only partly under
control. When he saw the tables under the lindens before the house, he
sat down and called for a sleeping draught at Violande's hands.

Without loss of time she went to do his bidding. But she also first
disappeared into her own room to get the small vial containing the love
potion which she meant to serve the man who had scorned her so far.
However, her hasty search for it was fruitless. Neither did she
discover it in Kuengolt's chamber, whither instant suspicion had driven
her. For the truth was that that serving maid who had been carelessly
pushed aside by the monk when Kuengolt had triumphed over her rivals,
had picked it up on the stairs where it had been cast by the haughty
girl.

But Violande lost no time in searching further. Instead she made his
cup all the stronger and sweeter, and then she bent over the man of her
choice while he slowly and rapturously emptied the tankard. Violande
was dressed for the occasion. She wore over her skirt a tunic of pale
gold, the edges and seams picked out in red, and allowing her delicate
white skin to peep forth here and there. Her bosom heaved stormily and
she showed a tenderly caressing humor. Thus she leaned on the table in
close proximity to him.

"Ah indeed, cousin," said the forester, when accidentally he cast a
glance in her direction, "how handsome you look to-night."

At these words she smiled happily and looked full at him with eyes that
spoke eloquently, saying: "Do you indeed like my looks? Well, it has
taken you a long time to find that out. If you only knew for how many
years, in fact, ever since I was a child, I have cherished you in my
heart."

That had a greater effect on the good man than any love potion made of
frog's bones, and he seemed to see before his eyes dim recollections.
Of a pretty girl child he dreamed, and now he saw her before him at his
side, a matured beauty in the full development of her womanly charms,
and it was as if she had come to him from a far distance, bringing to
him unsolicited the splendid gift of her fine person. His generous
heart became entangled with his excited senses, and reshaped and
formulated all sorts of enticing images. Through his hazy brain in its
vinous exaltation there floated a Violande who suddenly had been
metamorphosed into a winsome being that, after all manner of
sufferings, had been offered to his arms as something that to embrace
and call his would not only make herself happy but would likewise
entrust to his care a chaste and loving woman that would render himself
happy once more. The memory of his dead wife paled for the nonce before
this glittering picture.

He seized her hand, fondled her cheeks, and said: "We are not yet old,
dear Cousin Violande! Will you become my wife?"

And since she left her hand in his grasp, and bent nearer to him, this
time, seeing at last the realization of her ambition, actually glowing
with her new-found bliss, he loosened the bridal ring of his wife from
the handle of his dagger where since her death he had worn it, and
placed the trinket on Violande's finger. She thereupon pressed her own
face against the leonine and ruddy countenance of her middle-aged
lover, and the two embraced tenderly and kissed under the whispering
linden trees which were stirred by the night breeze. The shrewd man,
ordinarily of such sound judgment, thought he had discovered the
sovereign blessing of life itself.

At this moment Dietegen returned home, bearing his weapons in his
hand. Since he went towards the house across the greensward, the fond
couple did not hear his approach, and he saw with confusion and
amazement the whole scene. Shamed and reddening, he retired as quietly
as he could, so that they did not notice him, and he went around the
whole house, in order to make his entrance by the back door. But while
still on his way he heard suddenly loud calling and noise as though
someone were in peril and hot dispute. Without a moment's hesitation
Dietegen hurried off in the direction of the hubbub. And soon he found
the same company that had ere now left the house in the happiest humor
in a terrible uproar.

It seemed that the young men, half-crazed by the strong wine and by
jealousy of each other, on their way back from the St. John's bonfire,
being now mingled with the young women, had begun to quarrel among
themselves. From words they had come to daggers drawn, and more than
one was bleeding from serious wounds. But just the very moment of his
arrival he had seen the Ruechenstein scribe furiously attacking the
burgomaster's son, and running him through with his long rapier. The
victim, also with sword in hand, lay prone on the grass and was just
giving up the ghost. The others, unaware of this, had seized each other
by the throats, and the women were shrieking and calling loudly for
help. Only Kuengolt stood there pale as death but watching the horrible
scene with open mouth.

"Kuengolt, what is up here?" asked Dietegen, when he had made her out.
She shuddered at his address, but looked as though relieved. However,
he now vigorously began to interfere, and by dint of rough handling of
some of the worst fire-eaters he soon succeeded in separating the
struggling and cursing mass. Then he pointed to the dead youth on the
ground, and that sobered them even more quickly than his remonstrances.
Then they all stared like mutes upon the dead man and upon the grim
hunchback, who seemed to have lost his wits completely.

In the meanwhile some peasants from the neighborhood as well as the
homecoming gamekeepers from the forestry had appeared on the scene, and
these bound securely the raging Schafuerli, the murderous scribe, and
arrested the remainder of the Ruechensteiners.


And that was a bad morning that now followed. The forester was engaged
to the wicked Violande, and his head buzzed unmercifully. One dead
Ruechensteiner lay in the house, and the rest of them were kept in the
dungeon. Before the noon hour had tolled a delegation from
Ruechenstein, with the burgomaster himself, the father of the slain, at
its head, had arrived in order to inquire carefully into the whole
matter and to demand strict justice and punishment of the guilty.

But already the imprisoned secretary of the Ruechenstein council, the
grim Schafuerli, knowing that his neck was in peril, had made a
deposition in his tower in which he charged responsibility for the
whole bad business upon the women of Seldwyla whom they had met on the
previous day, and more especially upon Kuengolt, whom he accused of
sorcery and black art.

That maid servant who had become disgruntled for a cause mentioned
before had passed on the empty vial that had contained Violande's
philtre, to the monk, and the latter had hastened to put it into the
hands of the scribe, who now used it as a powerful weapon.

To the grave dismay of the Seldwylians the whole matter in the course
of that first day even turned against the forester's daughter and
against his household. Everybody in those days, and not alone in
Seldwyla, firmly believed in sorcery and love potions, and the members
of the Ruechenstein delegation behaved so menacingly and hinted at such
terrible reprisals that the popularity and the respect in which the
forester was held could not prevent the imprisonment of Kuengolt,
especially as he was still severely suffering from his excesses of the
previous day, and felt like one paralyzed.

She instantly made a full confession, being more dead than alive from
terror, and Schafuerli and his boon companions were liberated. And then
the Ruechensteiners made the formal demand to have the girl delivered
up to them for adequate atonement, since she had injured a number of
their townsfolk and caused the death of one of them. This, however, was
not conceded to them, and then the Ruechensteiners departed in an angry
mood, threatening dire reprisals. The body of the burgomaster's son
they took along. But when later on they heard that the Seldwyla
authorities had sentenced the girl but to a twelvemonth's mild
incarceration, the ancient enmity which had slept for a number of years
now reawakened, and it became a perilous adventure for any Seldwylian
to be caught on Ruechenstein soil.

Now the town of Seldwyla counted as a fit penalty for misdeeds which
according to their notions were reckoned among the lighter ones and
which consequently required no severe treatment, not imprisonment
proper but rather the awarding of the culprits to persons that became
responsible for their further conduct. In the custody of such persons
the culprits remained during the length of the sentence, and these
custodians were held to employ them suitably and to feed and shelter
them adequately. This mode of punishment was used most often with women
or youthful persons. Thus, then, Kuengolt, too, was taken to one of the
chambers of the town hall, and there she was to be auctioned off, at
least her services and keep. And before that ceremony she had to submit
to being publicly exhibited there.

The forester, whose sunny humor had altogether disappeared with these
trials, said sighing to Dietegen that it was a hard thing for him to go
to the town hall and watch there in behalf of his daughter, but
somebody surely must be there of her family during these bitter hours.

Then Dietegen said: "I will go in your stead; that is, if I am good
enough for it in your opinion."

His patron shook hands with him. "Yes, do it!" he said, "and I will
thank you for it."

So Dietegen went where some of the councilmen were seated and a few
persons willing to take charge of the prisoner. He had girded his sword
around his loins, and had a manly and rugged air about him.

And when Kuengolt was led inside, white as chalk and deeply chagrined,
and was to stand in front of the table, he swiftly pulled up a chair
and made her sit down in it, he placing himself behind and putting his
hand on the back of it. She had looked up at him surprised, and now
sent him a glance fraught with a painful smile. But he apparently paid
no heed looking straight on over her head, severe of mien.

The first who made a bid for her custody was the town piper, a
drunkard, who had been sent by his poor wife in order to help increase
their receipts a bit. This, she calculated, was all the more to be
expected because Kuengolt would probably receive from her home all
sorts of good things to eat, and these, she considered, they would
secure wholly or in part.

"Do you want to go to the town piper's house?" Dietegen curtly asked
the girl. After attentively regarding the red-nosed and half-drunken
fellow, she said: "No." And the piper, with a blissful smile, remarked
laughing: "Good, that suits me too," and toddled off on shaking legs.

Next an old furrier and capmaker made a bid, since he thought he could
utilize Kuengolt very handily in sewing and making a goodly profit out
of her services. But this man had a large sore on his thigh, and this
he was greasing and plastering with salve all day long, and also a
growth the size of a chicken's egg on the top of his pate, so that
Kuengolt had already been afraid of him when she passed his shop as a
child going to school. When, therefore, Dietegen put the query to her
whether she was willing to go to his house, and the girl decidedly
negatived that, the man went off loudly venting his spleen. He grumbled
and growled like a bear whose honeycomb has been snatched away.

Now a money changer stepped up, one who was notorious both for his
greed and usurious avarice and for his lewdness. But scarcely had that
one leveled his red eyes upon her, and opened his wry mouth for a bid,
when Dietegen motioned him off with a threatening gesture, even without
asking the terrified girl herself.

And now there were left but a few more, decent and respectable
citizens, people against whom nothing could be urged reasonably, and it
was these between whom the final choice and decision lay. The smallest
bid was made by the gravedigger of the cemetery next the town
cathedral, a quiet and good man, who also possessed an excellent wife
and, so he thought, a suitable place where to keep such a prisoner in
safe custody, and who certainly had already had charge of several other
prisoners before.

To this man, then, Kuengolt was given in charge, and was taken at once
to his house which was situated between the cemetery and a side street.
Dietegen went along in order to see how she would be housed. It turned
out that her quarters would be an open, small antechamber of the house
itself, immediately adjoining the graveyard and only separated from it
by an iron fence. There, as it seemed, the sexton was in the habit of
keeping his prisoners during the warm season of the year, while for the
winter he simply admitted them into his own dwelling room, a slender
chain fastening them to the tile stove.

But when Kuengolt found herself in her prison and was separated merely
by a fence from the graves of the dead, moreover saw near by the old
deadhouse filled with skulls and bones, she began to tremble and begged
they would not leave her there all through the night. But the sexton's
wife who was just dragging in a straw mattress and a blanket, and also
hid the sight of the graves by suspending a curtain, answered that this
request could not be listened to, and that her new abode would be
wholesome for her moral welfare and as a means of repenting her sins.
And she could not be shaken in this resolve.

But Dietegen replied: "Be quiet, Kuengolt, for I am not afraid of the
dead or of any spook, and I will come here every night and keep watch
in front of the iron fence until you, too, will no longer fear."

He said this, however, in an aside to her, so that the woman could not
overhear it, and then he left for home. There he found the saddened
forester who had just reached an understanding with Violande that they
would not celebrate their wedding until after Kuengolt's release from
prison and after the scandal created by the occurrence should have had
time to blow over. During all their discussion of the matter Violande
kept still as a mouse, glad that she as the prime author of the whole
mischief should have escaped all the consequences, for the magical
philtre had been hers, as we know.

When the early hours of evening were over and midnight approaching,
Dietegen began to make good his promise. He started unobserved, took
his sword and a flask of choice wine along, and climbed from the high
slope down into the valley and so to town, and there he swung himself
fearlessly over the graveyard wall, strode across the graves
themselves, and at last stood in front of Kuengolt's new abode. She sat
breathlessly and shaking with fright upon her straw mattress, behind
the curtain, and listened with freezing blood to every noise, even the
slightest, that struck her ear. For even before this ghostly hour of
twelve she had undergone several convulsions of dread and unreasoning
fear. In the deadhouse, for instance, a cat had slyly climbed over the
bones, and these had clattered somewhat. Then also the night wind had
moved the bushes growing over the tombs, so that they made a weird
noise, and the iron rooster that served as a weather vane on top of the
church roof had creaked mysteriously, making an awful sound never heard
in daytime. So that the girl was in a frenzy of terror.

When she therefore heard the steps nearing more and more, Kuengolt had
a new fit of fright, and shook like a leaf. But when he stretched his
hands through the iron bars of the fence and pushed back the curtain,
so that the full moon lit up the whole dark space around her, and in a
low voice called her name, she rose quickly, ran in his direction and
stretched out both hands to him.

"Dietegen!" she exclaimed, and burst into tears, the first she had been
able to shed since that ominous day; for until that hour she had lived
as though smitten with paralysis, dazed and benumbed.

Dietegen, however, did not take her hand, but instead handed her the
flask of wine, saying: "Here, take a mouthful! It will do you good."

So she drank, and also ate of the dainty wheaten bread of her father's
house that he had brought along. And by and by her courage was
restored, and when she clearly perceived that he had no mind to
converse any more with her, she retired silently to her couch and cried
without a stop, till at last she sank into a quiet sleep.

But he, the young man, in his narrow youthful ideas and in his
inexperience of real life had made up his mind that she was a being
turned completely to wickedness and evil, and one that was unable to do
right. And he served as her sentinel during this and other nights,
seating himself upon an ancient gravestone leaning against the wall
solely out of regard for her departed mother and because she had saved
his own life.

Kuengolt slept until sunrise, and when she awoke and looked about she
observed that Dietegen had softly stolen away.

Thus one night after another passed, and he faithfully watched and
guarded her, for he indeed held the belief that the place was not
without danger for anyone without a good conscience and shaken with
fear. But each time he brought her something of a relish along, and
often he would ask her what she desired for herself, and he would carry
out her wishes if at all justifiable.

He also came when it rained or stormed, missing not a single night, and
on those nights when, according to the popular superstitions then
universally held, the dead walked and which were considered
particularly perilous to the living, he came all the more promptly.

Kuengolt on her part by and by managed to arrange things so that during
the daytime she had her curtain drawn, in order, as she said, to
conceal herself from the curious who went to the cemetery to spy on
her, but in reality to sleep, for she preferred to remain awake at
night, to keep her faithful sentinel in view all the time, and to
ponder the things that had brought her there, and how he had conducted
himself towards her these last few years. But Dietegen knew nothing of
all this, believing her to be sound asleep.

She felt herself engrossed with a new and unexpected happiness, and
while he diligently kept watch over her during the hours of darkness,
she enjoyed his mere presence, and all her thinking was of him. She had
no slightest suspicion that he judged her so harshly, and was living in
hopes that she could reestablish her claim on him, seeing that he
proved so faithful to her. Her father, however, did not share her
dreams. He visited her at least once every week, and when she on these
occasions nearly always shyly mentioned Dietegen's name, and he marked
that she indeed had again turned to him in her thoughts, he would sigh
and groan in spirit, because while also wishing for a union of those
two, and feeling convinced that his fine foster son alone was able to
again rehabilitate his daughter, it appeared highly improbable to him
that Dietegen would wish to woo a witch that had been punished for her
uncanny doings by his fellow citizens, and as it seemed to him, justly.

In the meantime another caller had put in an appearance with Kuengolt,
no less a person than the secretary of the council of Ruechenstein
himself.

This highly enterprising and venturesome hunchback was unable to forget
the beautiful being on whose account he had committed murder. The blood
coursed through his veins more rapidly than in those of a normally
shaped fellow, and waking or sleeping her image did not lose its hold
on him. His belief was that the image of this witch dwelt in his heart
by virtue of her black art, and that it was shooting along within his
blood vessels as does a frail boat in a powerful storm, all in a
magical way.

The more he reflected the more convinced he became of this, and since
he had daring enough and to spare, he finally made up his mind to seek
alleviation of his tortures from the primal source, the witch herself.
At the Capuchin monastery, where he had first gone for a ghostly cure,
he had failed, and thus one moonless, dark night he started out, across
the mountain and as far as the cemetery where he knew her to be kept a
captive.

Kuengolt heard his approaching steps. Since it was not yet the hour
when Dietegen used to come, and also because these steps did not seem
to be his, she took fright and hid behind the curtain. But Schafuerli
now lighted a candle he had brought along, and thrust his hand with it
through the aperture, searching the dark space with his eager eyes
until he had finally discovered her crouched in a corner.

"Come here, witch maid," he muttered excitedly, "and give me both thine
hands and that scarlet mouth of thine. For thou must quench the fire
thou hast caused."

The girl was frightened beyond words. By his crooked shape she had
recognized him in the dusky half-light, and the recollection of the
sufferings this misshapen recreant had occasioned her, together with
the repugnant presence of the man himself, drove her almost to madness.
Powerless to utter a sound, she sank down trembling in every limb.

Seeing this, the bold knave began to shake the iron bars of her grate,
and since it was by no means very strong but rather intended only for
the keeping of less vigorous prisoners, it began to yield, and he was
about to tear it out of its staples. But just that instant Dietegen
arrived on the scene. To notice the whole proceeding and to seize the
madman firmly by the shoulder was the work of a flash. The enraged
scribe yelled like one possessed, and was for drawing his poniard. But
Dietegen kept an iron hold on him, grasping his hands and wrestling
with him until the humpback owned himself beaten. Then Dietegen was
uncertain whether to hand the maddened creature over to the authorities
or to let him go. Not knowing the circumstances of the case and
unwilling to cause new complications for Kuengolt, he finally allowed
the scribe to escape, warning him, however, on pain of death, not to
return again to the place. Next Dietegen woke the sexton and induced
him, since autumn with its cool nights was approaching, to afford
shelter to his prisoner henceforth within his own dwelling, in order to
avert repetition of a scene like the one of that night.

Therefore Kuengolt that very night was taken inside, and secured by a
light chain to the foot of the stove. The latter was a trim structure
built of green tiling and showing in raised outlines the biblical story
of the creation of man and his fall from grace. At the four corners of
this stove there stood the four greater prophets upon twisted pillars,
and the whole of it formed a somewhat attractive monument. Against it
and tied to it by her gyves Kuengolt now lay stretched out on a bench
for her couch.

She was glad of having obtained a more sheltered spot, and more still
of having been rescued out of the hands of this evil hunchback, and she
ascribed the whole of Dietegen's efforts to his devoted feelings for
her, and this despite the fact that he had not spoken a syllable to her
through it all and had gone away immediately after the new arrangements
had been effected.

When, however, Kuengolt had thus been installed in a more convenient
place, a new admirer of her charms turned up in the person of a
chaplain whose duties obliged him to attend to a number of small
matters in the church building close by, and to whose obligations it
also belonged to offer ghostly counsel and consolation to the sick or
imprisoned. This young priest came, once Kuengolt was an inmate of the
gravedigger's household, more and more frequently, not only to exorcise
her and to expel from her soul all inclination towards magic, sorcery
and witchcraft, but also to enjoy incidentally her rare feminine charms
and beauty. He strenuously endeavored to dissuade her from using any
more love philtres and similar means forbidden by the canons of the
Church, but in doing so became thoroughly imbued with her physical
attractions.

For of late, that is, since these trials had overtaken her, the maiden
had wonderfully grown in beauty. She had become a more mature, slender
and spiritualized being, albeit pallor had succeeded her former healthy
complexion, and her eyes now shone with a gentle and lovely fire,
encircled with a shadow of sadness.

Save for her being tied to the foot of the warm stove, she was being
treated in every respect like a member of the sexton's family, among
the members of which there were several children, and when the chaplain
came to visit her, he was usually regaled with a tankard of ale or a
flask of drinkable wine, these being supplied by the forester,
Kuengolt's father. But whenever the reverend divine had sufficiently
indulged in his admonishments, had partaken of the refreshment provided
for him, and still remained behind, evidently to enjoy the society of
the charming penitent, there would be some queer goings-on. For the
chaplain would squeeze and caress the pretty hand of his spiritual
daughter, would sigh and groan audibly, and then Kuengolt, comparing
this sniffling priest in her thoughts with the stately and handsome
Dietegen whom she considered in truth her lover, was prone to scoff at
the inconspicuous Levite, but in a good-natured and gentle manner.

In this way it came about that Kuengolt, after displaying all day long
her cheerful and somewhat sportive disposition, would be the declared
favorite of the sexton's household in the evening, the big family table
invariably being pushed over towards her where she perforce sat tied to
the stove. So also it was on New Year's Eve, and the young priest was
one of the company, so that the sexton, his wife and children, together
with the chaplain, were seated near the prisoned girl, all of them
munching walnuts and sweet honey cakes, and Kuengolt having just
laughed at something the priest had said, the latter meanwhile holding
her hand, when Dietegen entered the room. He brought for his patron's
daughter and his own whilom playmate some dainties from home. In coming
he had yielded to the instinctive promptings of his heart, a mingling
of pity, sympathy and affection, an unconscious longing for her
company, and the desire had been strong within him to spend at least an
hour that evening with her, this being the first time in her young life
she had to pass away from home on a night like that.

But when he saw the merry scene and caught sight of the chaplain's
caressing hand, his blood seemed to freeze within him, and he left her
after just a couple of words in explanation of his mission, without any
more ado. In going, perhaps unconsciously, Dietegen muttered as though
to himself: "Forgotten is forgotten!"

Only now Kuengolt suddenly felt the full force and meaning of these
words and of his previous devotion, and her heart seemed to stand
still. Pale and faint she sank down on her bench at the stove, and the
jolly gathering broke up. Even before the midnight bells tolled out the
new year the light in the sexton's window was gone, and the girl was
weeping bitter tears of sorrow.

From that night on she remained almost forgotten by the forester and
his household. Great days were on the way. The Swiss federation was
humming like a beehive with war's alarum. Those events were in the
making which in history are known as the Burgundian War.

When spring had come and the great day of Grandison approached, the
town of Seldwyla, too, like Ruechenstein and many others, sent her
embattled citizens into the field, and it was for the forester as well
as for Dietegen a happy release to be able to leave the disturbed
harmony and comfort of the house and to step into the clear, rugged
atmosphere of war.

With firm tread they both went along with their banner, though perhaps
more silent than most, and joined with the other hurrying detachments
the mighty battle array of the federated Swiss allies, coming most
opportunely to the armed aid of the latter.

Like unto an iron garden stood the long square of the fighting men, and
in its midst waved the standards and pennons of the cantons and towns
there represented. In serried ranks they stood, many thousands of them,
each in his independence and reliability again a world in himself; in
fearlessness and will each could depend on his neighbor, and yet all of
them together, after all, but a throng of fallible human beings.

There was the spendthrift and the light-hearted side by side with the
curmudgeon and the cautious, each awaiting the hour of supreme
sacrifice. The quarrelsome and the peaceable had to stay on with equal
patience. He whose heart was heavy within his bosom was no more
taciturn than the talkative and the braggart. The poor and indigent
stood in equal pride next to the wealthy and domineering. Whole squares
made up of neighbors ordinarily disagreeing were here one single unit.
And envy or jealousy held spear or halberd as manfully and firmly as
did generosity or reconciliation, and unjust as just aimed for the
nonce both of them to fulfil the duty immediately urgent. Whoever had
done with life and meant to sacrifice without regrets the mean remnant
of it, was no more or less than the reckless red-cheeked youth upon
whom his mother had built all her hope and in whom rested the future.
The morose submitted without protest to the silly sallies of the jester
or buffoon, and the latter on his part saw without ridicule the prosaic
conceits of the small-souled philistine.

Next to the banner of Seldwyla was visible that of Ruechenstein, so
that the serried ranks of the inimicable neighbors closely touched each
other, and the forester who was leader of a section of his fellow
citizens and formed the cornerstone of their whole formation, was the
very neighbor of the council scribe of Ruechenstein, who on his part
stood at the tail end of one of the ranks of his townsmen. But at this
hour not one of them all seemed to recall reasons for differences or to
remember the past. Dietegen was among the sharpshooters and "lost
fellows," somewhat outside these regimental formations, and was already
in the very heat of combat when the main body of the Swiss suddenly
began to move and to plunge right into the midst of battle, in order
to administer a stupendous defeat upon one of the most brilliant
warrior-princes and his luxurious and splendid army, and to drive him
to ignominous flight like a fabled king.

In the pressure of the hard-fought battle the forester with some of his
gamekeepers had been separated by Burgundian cavalry from his banner
and now fought his way through the latter, but only to encounter on the
other side enemy foot soldiery. In meeting his new foe the doughty
warrior set to work hewing and carving out for himself a roomy corner
of his own, and he had already achieved this task when through this new
opening a belated and spent cannon ball from the hosts of Charles the
Bold came smashing and crushed the broad manly chest of the man, so
that within another moment or two he had found in peace his eternal
rest, and nothing more troubled him.

When Dietegen, sound and hearty, returned from the fight and from
following the fleeing Burgundians, inquiring for his friend and father,
he found his body after but a short search, and he buried him together
with his trusty sword within the mighty roots of a far-spreading oak,
not far from the battlefield on the edge of a grove.

Then he returned home with the remainder of the Swiss hosts, and
because of his intrepidity and the ability shown by him during the
campaign he was by the town authorities made provisional chief
forester, and was given the house that had been his home for so long as
his new abode and to supervise the assistants. With the death of his
dear old patron his household had been dissolved. His savings and
accumulated wealth had vanished during the last few years preceding his
death, owing to careless management, and now Kuengolt had nothing left
in the world save her own self and the care of Dietegen, provided he
was able to give it, for he himself was but poor. She sat day after day
at her stove, leaning her cheeks against its tiles representing, in
four or five groups that recurred around the whole surface, the loss of
Paradise, the creation of Adam and of Eve, the Tree of Knowledge, and
the expulsion at last from their blessed abode. When the girl's face
ached from the rough imprint of these raised images, she shifted it by
turning to the next series, always and always contemplating them, and
between the intervals shedding tears over her lot. But even then she
could sometimes not help laughing outright when her glance traveled to
that scene showing the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. For by reason
of the potter's inadvertence this picture had been so modelled as to
give to Adam instead of a real navel on his abdomen, a round little
button and this protuberance repeating itself twentyfold on the surface
of the stove excited unfailingly her playful humor, though it also
heightened her discomfort when leaning against it.

In the midst of her fit of laughter, however, at this harmless blunder
poor Kuengolt was invariably overcome by the weight of her misery,
which would constrict heart and throat alike, and this conflict of
thought and impressions produced a keen physical pain, so that her eyes
grew wet and her face would look like that of a person wanting to
sneeze yet unable to. So that at last she avoided looking at all at
this particular group.

Meanwhile the great battle of Murten had also been fought, and at the
same time Kuengolt's term of imprisonment was ended. Dietegen had given
instructions for herself and Violande to keep house provisionally at
the forestry lodge. Violande of late had become rather modest, contrite
and well-behaved, for to her feminine sense of pride it had been a
great gratification that the late forester, although he had postponed
the wedding indefinitely and perhaps unduly, yet had wooed her and
proposed marriage. But Dietegen himself did not remain at home. On the
contrary, he drifted back and forth at the various scenes of the great
war that had not yet ended.

And it must be owned that he, too, during all these troublous times,
was not without faults. The rude customs of war, combined with the ever
gnawing grief of what he had lost of his one-time hopes, had molded him
afresh, so that a certain savagery and relentlessness had crept into
the very fibre of his being. He joined that throng of adventurous young
lads who under the name of "The Giddy Life" had started out on their
own behalf to force the town of Geneva to pay out that amount of ransom
which in the peace treaty was specified as its share. Out of Burgundian
booty that had fallen to him he had had luxurious garments fashioned
for himself. Trailing behind the banner of the Wild Boar (token of the
aforementioned wild brotherhood) he wore a magnificent surcoat of
roseate Burgundian damask, and the cross of the Swiss Federation on
chest and back was made of heavy argent stuff and trimmed with seed
pearls. His broad velvet hat was all about covered by a load of waving
ostrich plumes, taken from knightly plunder in camps stormed during the
campaign. Poniard and sword were suspended from costly girdles
ornamented with blood-red rubies or emeralds. And beside a ponderous
musket he carried a long spear which he used to balance himself with
when striding along. His broad shoulders and straight, sinewy body
looked formidable when his hawk eyes peered forth under his beplumed
hat at a cowardly braggart or in order to strike terror in controversy.
He was fond those days of seizing perhaps a shrieking maid by her
braids, glancing a moment at her startled face, and then letting her go
again at a venture.

Dressed up in this gorgeous style he had also, before joining the
companions of The Giddy Life, paid a short call at the forestry lodge
of Seldwyla. He was the very image of a nobly descended, pure-blooded
warrior, so bold and strong, elastic and sure of himself he seemed.

When Kuengolt saw him thus, receiving from him just one short cold
smile in passing, such as stern war had fixed on his features, her eyes
were dazzled. And while subsequently he was in foreign parts she loved
nothing better than to ponder the past and to live over in her thoughts
the happy days of her childhood. And almost at all times her
recollection dwelt upon that hour up on the steep slope where the
Seldwyla ladies had caressed and fondled little Dietegen, clad in
nothing but his poor sinner's shift and just escaped from an
ignominious death; how they had crowned him with wildflowers, and made
him their darling. Then she would hasten up to the summit of that hill,
and would scan the far horizon towards the Southwest where, as people
said, that unconquerable throng of youths, with him amongst them, was
doing deeds of valor.

But in that same mountainous landscape, bifurcated as it was by the
Ruechenstein territorial limits, that ominous scribe, Schafuerli, was
frequently roaming about. This man was still thirsting for revenge
because of the injury done his soul and his reputation alike, as he
deemed; for though he had escaped that time any penalty he was yet
looked upon with disfavor by most of the Ruechenstein citizens on
account of the homicide committed by him. He still lived in hopes,
therefore, of making amends by capturing the "witch" and turning her
over for expiation to the authorities of his home town. When then one
day poor Kuengolt was seated carelessly upon the very boundary line
stone, deep in her meditations, with her feet resting on Ruechenstein
soil, the vengeful hunchback quickly stepped out from some bushes, and
assisted by a municipal guard, took her prisoner and brought her
securely bound to Ruechenstein itself. And there she had to submit a
second time to a penal trial for having with her witchery caused the
death, wholly unatoned according to their notions, of the burgomaster's
son.

In Seldwyla there was, notably in those stirring war times, nobody who
felt at all any obligation to interfere in her behalf, even if there
had been much of a hope for her. Hence the rumor soon spread that
Kuengolt's life would soon pay the forfeit.

And it was Violande, once false and wicked, who now alone began to
bestir herself for the rescue of her young relative. Pity and
repentance moved her to the resolve to go in search of the only human
being from whom prompt aid might be expected. Thus she went off, being
on her errand night and day, ever going in a southwesterly direction,
in order to find that band of overbold adventurers yclept "The Giddy
Life," with Dietegen in their midst, as she knew. And since rumor was
at all times quite busy with that mettlesome brotherhood she soon found
herself in the right neighborhood, and at last came across Dietegen
himself, just as he was throwing dice for money and booty with some of
his hardy companions in a tavern.

Violande at once let him know about the ill-starred excursion of
Kuengolt and about the danger now threatening her on the part of the
Ruechensteiners, and against her own expectation he listened
attentively. But his reply was discouraging.

"I am powerless to do anything in this case," he remarked, rather
coldly. "For this is a matter of law, and since the Seldwyla people
themselves do not choose to intervene, I should not be able to find
even ten trusty comrades-in-arms to follow me and help free the child."

Violande, though, with that special knowledge which she had acquired
from her former experiences, interrupted him.

"There is no need of force in this case," quoth she. "The Ruechenstein
people have from old a law which says that any woman sentenced to death
may be saved by a man and delivered over to him if he is willing and
able to wed her on the spot."

Dietegen gazed at Violande long and in amazement wearing the while his
sneering soldier's smile.

At last he spoke.

"I am then to marry a sort of courtesan," he growled darkly, twirling
his small moustache daintily and putting on an incredulous mien, while
yet at the same time a look of tenderness beamed forth from his eyes.

"Do not say so," put in Violande, "for it is not so."

And bursting into tears she seized Dietegen's hand, and continued: "In
so far as she is to blame it is my own fault. Let me here confess it,
that I wished to separate you and her, for I wanted you two out of the
house in order to marry the father. And that is why I led the child
into all sorts of folly."

"But she ought not to have let you do so," exclaimed Dietegen. "Her
parents indeed came of good stock and deserved respect, but she has
gone astray."

"But I swear to you on my hope of salvation," cried Violande, "it is as
if a cleansing fire had passed over her, and all that once disfigured
her has been removed. She is good and true, and she is so much in love
with you that she long ago would have died if you also had left this
world like her father. Besides, have you quite forgotten what you owe
her? Would you now stand here in front of me, strong and handsome, if
she had not rescued you out of the hangman's coffin? And mind you too
of Kuengolt's kind mother and of her excellent father, who have
educated and loved you like their own son. And are you entitled to be
judge over the failings of a frail woman? Have you yourself never done
wrong? Have you never slain a man in battle when there was no need of
it? Have you never laid in ashes the hut of a defenceless and poor
person during these wars? And even though you have not done any of
these things, have you always shown mercy where you might?"

At this earnest plea Dietegen reddened, and then said: "I will not owe
anything I can pay off, and will leave no debts behind me. If it be as
you say regarding this Ruechenstein legal custom, I will go and help
the child and take her to my heart. May God then help me and her if she
is no longer able to conduct herself properly!"


Then Dietegen gave a sum of money to Violande, who was quite exhausted
from the fatigues of her journey, and who needed rest and nourishment
to strengthen herself for her return home. But he himself, only seizing
his weapons, started off instantly right across the country, and had no
rest or sleep until he discerned the dark towers and walls of
Ruechenstein rising before his eyes.

There they had not delayed matters. They had, after the lapse of a few
days consumed with legal formalities, condemned Kuengolt, who had
meanwhile been confined in an old tower, to death. But inasmuch as her
father had been of blameless life and reputation and had, moreover,
fallen as a hero battling for his country, the sentence was that she
would, as a sign of unusual mercy, be merely beheaded, instead of being
brought from life to death by fire or the wheel, or by some other of
their customary procedures.

Accordingly she was taken to the place of execution, just outside the
great gate of the town, barefooted and clothed in nought but a
delinquent's shift. All adown her back and neck floated her heavy
golden strands of hair. Step for step she went her death path, in the
midst of her tormentors, several times stumbling, but of good heart and
steady courage, since she had quite submitted to her sad fate and had
abandoned all hope of life or happiness.

"Thus luck may turn!" she was saying to herself, with a slight smile,
but just then she was thinking again of Dietegen, and sweet tears
rained down her cheeks. Memory came back to her of how he owed his
vigorous life to her, and, so good and unselfish she had grown in
adversity, she felt glad of it and kindly towards him.

Already she had been placed in the fatal chair and was, in a sense,
thankful of the chance to renew her drooping strength before receiving
the death stroke. For the last time she gazed ahead at the glories of
the land, at the hazy chain of mountains and the darksome woods. Then
the headsman tied up her eyes, and was on the point of cutting off the
wealth of her hair, or as much of it as protruded from under the cloth.
But he held his hand, for Dietegen was there, only a short distance
away, shouting with all his strength and waving his spear and hat to
draw attention. At the same time, though, to insure delay, he tore his
musket from the shoulder and sent a shot over the executioner's head.
Astonished and affrighted both judges and headsman stopped in their
doings, and all around the spectators took firm hold of their weapons.
But Dietegen did not hesitate. In a few bounds he had arrived at the
place, and had climbed to the bloody scaffold, so that under his weight
it nearly broke. Seizing Kuengolt in her chair by the hair and
shoulder, since her hands were already fastened behind, he for a moment
had to recover his breath before being able to speak.

The Ruechensteiners, as soon as assured that there was but a single man
and that no murderous attack was intended, grew attentive and waited
for further developments. When at last he had stated his business, the
judges retired to take counsel.

Not only their own habit of always strictly conforming with customs
firmly rooted in the past, but also the reputation enjoyed by Dietegen
himself in those warlike days and his whole appearance and demeanor,
were in favor of adjusting this matter according to his wishes, once
the first annoyance at the unceremonious interruption of so solemn a
spectacle as an execution had been overcome. Even the rancorous scribe,
Hans Schafuerli, who had put in an appearance to make sure of the death
of the witch, hid from the grim man of war, whose heavy hand he feared
despite his ordinarily daring temper.

The same priest who a short while back had been praying for the poor
delinquent, now was told to perform the wedding ceremony on the very
scaffold itself. Kuengolt was untied, placed upon her swaying feet, and
then asked whether she was willing to marry this man who sought her as
his lawful wife, and to follow him through life.

Mute she looked up to him who, after the cloth had been removed from
her eyes was the first object she saw again of this world that she had
taken leave from a few moments before, and it seemed to her that it
must all be a delicious dream. But in order to miss nothing even if it
should only turn out a dream, she nodded, being still unable to speak,
with great presence of mind, three or four times in rapid succession,
in a ghost-like manner, so that the severe councilmen of Ruechenstein
were touched, and to make quite sure she repeated her nodding another
few times. And tremblingly Kuengolt was supported during the wedding
ceremony by the same sinister men who had come to witness her shameful
death. But she became his wife according to all the established forms
of the Church.

And now, this done, she was handed over to Dietegen "with life and
limb," as the phrase went, just as she was, without any later claim of
dowry or recompense, damages, or excuse, against his payment of fees
for the priest and of money for ten gallons of wine for headsman and
assistants, as a wedding gift, and of three pounds of pennies for a new
jerkin for the headsman.

After paying all this, Dietegen took his wife by the hand and left with
her the place of execution.

Since he had to take her, however, just as she was, and she was not
only barefooted but merely clad in her death shift, the season also
being early and the weather chilly, she was suffering from this and
unable to keep step with her husband. He lifted her, therefore, from
the ground to his arms, pushed his hat back from his forehead, and then
she put her arms around his neck, leaned her head against his, and
immediately fell asleep, while he used his long spear as a staff in his
other hand. Thus he walked swiftly along on the mountain path, all
alone by himself, and he felt how in her sleep she was weeping softly,
and how her breath grew less agitated. At last her tears ran along his
own face, and then a strange illusion as though blessed bliss were
baptising him anew came over him. And this rough, war-hardened man, for
all his self-command, felt his own tears staining his ruddy bearded
chin. His was the life he bore in his arms, and he held it as if God's
whole world were in his keeping.

When they arrived on the spot where he himself, a small child, had sat
among the women in his scanty garb and where more recently poor
Kuengolt had been taken prisoner, the March sun shone clear and warm,
and he concluded to take a short rest. Dietegen sat down on the
boundary stone, and let his burden slowly glide down on his knees. The
first glance which she gave him, and the first poor words which she
stammered, were proof to him that he not only had truly fulfilled a
sacred duty towards her by what he had done, but that in addition he
had undertaken another, an even more sacred one, namely, to conduct
himself through life in such a manner as to be worthy of the happy lot
that had fallen to him in becoming the husband of the charming creature
at his side. And this he silently vowed to do.

The soil around the boundary stone was already thickly speckled with
primroses and wild violets, the sky was cloudless, and not a sound
broke the still air but the cheery song of the finches in the wood.

So they spoke no more for some time, but both breathed the soft air
that filled their lungs with new hope and life, but at last they rose,
and because from now on there was but the velvety moss-covered ground
to traverse which led through the beeches down to the forestry lodge,
Kuengolt was able to walk by his side. Suddenly she touched her golden
hair, being afraid that it had been shorn by the headsman. But as she
still found it unharmed, she halted for a moment, saying: "May I not
have a little bridal wreath?" And she looked at her husband with a
half-roguish smile.

He let his eyes roam all about him, and discovered a bunch of snowdrops
in full bloom. Quickly he went and cut off enough of the flowers to
weave into a coronet for his bride, and then he carefully placed it on
her head, saying: "It is not much. It is out of fashion. But let this
wreath be a token to us and all the world that our domestic honor will
remain as spotless as these. Whoever by word or deed will harm it, let
him pay the penalty!"

Then he kissed her once, firmly and with a look that boded ill to any
disturber of his peace, right under the wreath, and she looked up at
him, satisfied and with confidence, and then they two resumed again
their walk.

The forestry lodge they found empty and deserted. The house servants
had left it unguarded, partly from mourning Kuengolt whose death on the
scaffold they had assumed as certain, partly from neglect of their
duty. None of them returned under its roof that day. But Kuengolt and
Dietegen did not miss them. She now with every minute recovered more
and more from the numbing effects of her recent miseries, and to feel
herself at last in truth the mistress of this house and clothed with
wifely dignity poured balm into her soul. Like a squirrel she busied
herself, hurried from chamber to chamber, from closet to closet,
counting her treasures, investigating all. Soon she returned dressed in
the splendid bridal costume of her mother, the one she had told
Dietegen about that night when they, both small children, had shared
the same cot on the night of his first arrival, and she shone like a
queen in it. But next she set the table, using the linen which her
mother had always reserved for festive occasions, and placed in
platters and dishes on the snowy surface what she had been able to find
in the house.

All by themselves, with no noise from the outside world to disturb
them, they then sat down, she in her wreath, and he with weapons laid
aside, and ate the simple meal prepared by her. And then they went to
bed just as peacefully.

"Thus luck may turn!" she said, the second time that day, as she lay
content by the side of her beloved. For after all there was a bit of
roguishness left in her heart, despite all she had gone through.


Dietegen rose to be a man of great and generally acknowledged
reputation as a warrior and military leader in those troubled days. He
was not much better than others of his ilk in those times, but rather
subject to similar failings. He became a doughty captain in the field,
taking service with or against various countries and belligerents,
according to what seemed to him good and where his own advantage lay.
He hired mercenaries, earned gold and rich booty, and so he drifted
from one war to another, conducted one campaign after the other, always
fighting and seeing the horrors of warfare closely. And in so doing he
did precisely what the first men of his country did in those warlike
days, and he grew steadily in power and influence, and his word and his
mailed fist were held in awe in all those parts.

But with his wife he lived in uninterrupted concord and affection, and
the honor of his hearth was never questioned. And she bore him a number
of strong and militant children, all endowed with the vigorous spirit
alive in father and mother. And of their descendants there are
flourishing even at this day a number in sundry countries, rich in
substance and potency, in countries whither the warlike gifts of their
forbears had blown them.

Violande on her part soon after Dietegen's and Kuengolt's union, which
latter had been in such large part brought about by herself, retired to
a veritable convent, and became a nun for good and all. To the children
of the couple she sent quite often all sorts of goodies and tidbits.
She also rather retained her habit of being interested in the great
events of the day, and in influencing them by dint of feminine
intrigues more or less. She liked to sit along with other guests of
distinction, respected as a woman of shrewd and subtle mind and with a
huge golden cross on her bosom, on banquet days at Dietegen's house,
and she would demurely advise Dietegen, now adorned not only with a
long and majestic beard, but also with the heavy golden chain denoting
knighthood, in matters of state. Her counsel would still flow as
mellifluously as ever, and her politeness remained proverbial.

How Kuengolt looked at the beginning of the sixteenth century, after
many years of happy married life, may still be studied from the
painting of a great artist which hangs among others in a well-known
collection and which is expressly designated as her portrait. One sees
there a slim elegant patrician woman, the beautiful lineaments of the
face bespeaking plainly deep seriousness and uncommon understanding,
but tempered by a gentle and somewhat roguish humor.

She also died before old age had claimed her, like her mother in
consequence of a chill. That was when her husband, in one of the
campaigns for the possession of Milan, had perished and was buried in
the cemetery next a small chapel in Lombardy. Kuengolt hastened there,
intending to have a monument in his honor erected; but indeed she spent
two long nights at his tomb, with a ceaseless rainstorm raging, thus
contracting a fever that carried her off within a couple of days, and
she thus lies next to her husband in Italian soil.



                    ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE



                    ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE


Near the fine river which flows along half an hour's distance from
Seldwyla, rises in a long stretch a headland which finally, itself
carefully cultivated, is lost in the fertile plain. Some distance away
at the foot of this rise there lies a village, to which belong many
large farms, and across the hillock itself there were, years ago, three
splendid holdings, like unto as many giant ribbons, side by side.

One sunny September morning two peasants were plowing on two of these
vast fields, the two which stretched along the middle one. The middle
one itself seemed to have lain fallow and waste for a long, long time,
for it was thickly covered with stones, bowlders and tall weeds, and a
multitude of winged insects were humming around and over it. The two
peasants who on both sides of this huge wilderness were following their
plows, were big, bony men of near forty, and at the first glance one
could tell them as men of substance and well-regulated circumstances.
They wore short breeches made of strong canvas, and every fold in these
garments seemed to be carved out of rock. When they hit against some
obstacle with their plow their coarse shirt sleeves would tremble
slightly, while the closely shaved faces continued to look steadfastly
into the sunlight ahead. Tranquilly they would go on accurately
measuring the width of the furrow, and now and then looking around them
if some unusual noise reached their ears. They would then peer
attentively in the direction indicated, while all about them the
country spread out measureless and peaceful. Sedately and with a
certain unconscious grace they would set one foot before the other,
slowly advancing, and neither of them ever spoke a word unless it was
to briefly instruct the hired man who was leading the horses. Thus they
resembled each other strongly from a distance; for they fitly
represented the peculiar type of people of the district, and at first
sight one might have distinguished them from each other only by this
one fact that he on the one side wore the peaked fold of his white cap
in front and the other had it hanging down his neck. But even this kept
changing, since they were plowing in opposite directions; for when they
arrived at the end of the new furrow up on high, and thus passed each
other, the one who now strode against the strong east wind had his cap
tip turned over until it sat in the back of the bull neck, while the
second one, who had now the wind behind him, got the tip of his cap
reversed. There was also a middling moment, so to speak, when both caps
of shining white seemed to flare skywards like shimmering flames. Thus
they plowed and plowed in restful diligence, and it was a fine sight in
this still golden September weather to see them every short while
passing each other on the summit of the hill, then easily and slowly
drifting farther and farther apart, until both disappeared like sinking
stars beyond the curve of the rise, only to reappear a bit later in
precisely the same fashion.

When they found a stone in their furrows they threw it on the fallow
field between them, doing so leisurely and accurately, like men who
have learnt by habit to gauge the correct distance. But this occurred
rarely, for this waste field was apparently already loaded with about
all the pebbles, bowlders and rocks to be discovered in the
neighborhood.

In this quiet way the long forenoon was nearly spent when there
approached from the village a tiny vehicle. So small it looked at first
when it began to climb up the height that it seemed a toy. And indeed,
it was just that in a sense, for it was a baby carriage, painted in
vivid green, in which the children of the two plowers, a sturdy little
youngster and a slip of a small girl, jointly brought the lunch for
their parent's delectation. For each of the two fathers there lay a
fine appetizing loaf in the cart, wrapped neatly in a clean napkin, a
flask of cool wine, with glasses, and some smaller tidbits as well, all
of which the tender farmer's wife had sent along for the hard-working
husband. But there were other things as well in the little vehicle:
apples and pears which the two children had picked up on the way and
out of which they had taken a bite or so, and a wholly naked doll with
only one leg and a face entirely soiled and besmeared, and which sat
self-satisfied in this carriage like a dainty young lady and allowed
herself to be transported in this way. This small vehicle after sundry
difficulties and delays at last arrived in the shade of a high growth
of underbrush which luxuriated there at the edge of the big field, and
now it was time to take a look at the two drivers. One was a boy of
seven, the other a little girl of five, both of them sound and healthy,
and else there was nothing remarkable about them except that they had
very fine eyes and the girl, besides, a rather tawny complexion and
curly dark hair, and the expression of her little face was ardent and
trustful.

The plowers meanwhile had also reached once more the top, given their
horses a provender of clover, and left their plows in the half-done
furrow; then as good neighbors they went to partake jointly of the
tempting collation, and meeting there they gave greeting, for until
that moment they had not yet spoken to each other on that day.

While they ate, slowly but with a keen appetite, and of their food also
shared with the children, the latter not budging as long as there were
eatables in sight, they allowed their glances to roam near and far, and
their eyes rested on the town lying there spread out in its wreath of
mountains, with its haze of shiny smoke. For the plentiful noonday meal
which the Seldwylians prepared each and every day used to conjure up a
silvery cloud of smoke surrounding the roofs and visible from afar, and
this would float right along the sides of their mountains.

"These loafers at Seldwyla are again living on the fat of the land,"
said Manz, one of the two peasants, and Marti, the other, replied:
"Yesterday a man called on me on account of these fallow fields."

"From the district council? Yes, he saw me too," rejoined Manz.

"Hm, and probably also said you might use the land and pay the rental
to the council?"

"Yes, until it should have been decided whom the land belongs to and
what is to be done with it. But I wouldn't think of it, with the land
in the condition it's in, and told him they might sell the land and
keep the money till the owner had been found, which probably will never
be done. For, as we know, whatever is once in the hands of the
custodian at Seldwyla, does not easily leave it again. Besides, the
whole matter is rather involved, I've heard. But these Seldwyla folks
would like nothing better than to receive every little while some money
that they could spend in their foolish way. Of course, that they could
also do with the sum received from a sale. However, we here would not
be so stupid as to bid very high for it, and then at least we should
know whom the land belongs to."

"Just what I think myself, and I said the same thing to the fellow."

They kept silent for a moment, and then Manz added: "A pity it is, all
the same, that this fine soil is thus going to waste every year. I can
scarce bear to see it. This has now been going on for a score of years,
and nobody cares a rap about it, it seems, for here in the village
there is really nobody who has any claim to it, nor does anybody know
what has become of the children of that hornblower, the one who went to
the dogs."

"Hm," muttered Marti, "that is as may be. When I have a look at the
black fiddler, the one who is a vagrant for a spell, and then at other
times plays the fiddle at dances, I could almost swear that he is a
grandson of that hornblower, and who, of course, does not know that he
is entitled to these fields. And what in the world could he do with
them? To go on a month's spree, and then to be as badly off as before.
Besides, what can one say for sure? After all, there is nothing to
prove it."

"Indeed, yes, one might do harm by interfering," rejoined Manz. "As it
is we have to do with our own affairs, and it takes trouble enough now
to keep this hobo from acquiring home rights in our commune. All the
time they want to burden us with that expense. But if his folks once
have joined the stray sheep, let him keep to them and play his fiddle
for a living. How can we really know whether he is the hornblower's
grandson or no? As far as I'm concerned, although I believe I can
recognize the old fellow in his dark face, I say to myself: It is human
to err, and the slightest scrap of a legal document, a bit of a
baptismal record or something, would be to my mind better proof than
ten sinful human faces."

"My opinion exactly," opined Marti, "although he says it is not his
fault that he never was baptized. But are we to lug our baptismal fount
around in the woods? No indeed. That stands immovable in the church,
and on the other hand, to carry around the dead we have the stretcher
which is always hanging from the wall. As it is, we are too many now in
our village and shall soon need another schoolmaster."

With that the colloquy and the midday meal of the two peasants came to
an end, and they now rose and prepared to finish the rest of their
day's task. The two children, on the other hand, having vainly planned
to drive home with their fathers, now pulled their little vehicle into
the shade of the linden saplings close by, and next undertook a
campaign of adventure and discovery into the vast wilderness of the
waste fields. To them this wilderness was interminable, with its
immense weeds, its overgrown flower stalks, and its huge piles of stone
and rock. After wandering, hand in hand, for some time in the very
center of this waste, and after having amused themselves in swinging
their joined hands over the top of the giant thistles, they at last sat
down in the shade of a perfect forest of weeds, and the little girl
began to clothe her doll with the long leaves of some of these plants,
so that the doll soon wore a beautiful habit of green, with fringed
borders, while a solitary poppy blossom she had found was drawn over
dolly's head as a brilliant bonnet, and this she tied fast with a grass
blade for ribbon. Now the little doll looked exactly like a good fairy,
especially after being further ornamented with a necklace and a girdle
of small scarlet berries. Then she sat it down high in the cup on the
stalk of the thistle, and for a minute or so the two jointly admired
the strangely beautified dolly. The boy tired first of this and brought
dolly down with a well-aimed pebble. But in that way dolly's finery got
disordered, and the little girl undressed it quickly and set to anew to
decorate her pet. But just when the doll had been disrobed and only
wore the poppy flower on her head, the boy grasped the doll, and threw
it high into the air. The girl, though, with loud plaints jumped to
catch it, and the boy again caught it first and tossed it again and
again, the little girl all the while vainly attempting to recover it.
Quite a while this wild game lasted, but in the violent hands of the
boy the flying doll now came to grief, and sustained a small fracture
near the knee of her sole remaining limb. And from a small aperture
some sawdust and bran began to escape. Hardly had he perceived that
when he became quiet as a mouse, with open lips endeavoring eagerly to
enlarge the little hole with his nails, in order to investigate the
inside and find out whence the scattered bran came. The poor little
girl, rendered suspicious by the boy's sudden silence, now squeezed up
and noticed with terror his efforts.

"Just look!" shouted the boy and swung the doll's leg right before his
playmate's nose, so that the bran spurted into her face. When she tried
to recover her doll, and pleaded and shrieked, he sprang away with his
prey, and did not desist before the whole leg had been emptied of its
filling and hung, a mere hollow shell, from his hand. Then, to crown
his misdeeds, he actually threw the remains of the doll away, and
behaved in a rude and grossly indifferent manner when the little girl
gathered up her treasure and put it weeping in her apron.

But she took it out after a while and gazed with tears at what was
left. When she fathomed the full extent of the damage, she resumed
weeping, and it was particularly the ruined leg that grieved her;
indeed it hung just as limp and thin as the tail of a salamander. When
she wept aloud for sorrow the sinner evinced evidently some qualms of
conscience, and he stood stock-still, his features suffused with
anxiety and repentance. When she became aware of this state of the
case, she stopped crying and struck him several times with her doll,
and he pretended that she hurt him and exclaimed in a natural manner:
"Outch!" So naturally indeed did he do so that she was satisfied and
now engaged with him in the great sport of further and complete
destruction. Together they bored hole upon hole into the martyred body,
and let the bran out everywhere. This bran they collected with great
pains, deposited it on a big flat stone, and stirred it over and over
to ascertain its mysterious properties.

The sole part of the doll still in its former state was the head, and
thus of course it attracted the special attention of the two children.
With great care they separated it from the trunk, and peered in
amazement at its hollow interior. Seeing this great hollow the thought
occurred to them to fill it up with the loose bran. With their tiny
baby fingers they stuffed and stuffed by turns the bran into the empty
space, and for the first time in its existence this head was filled
with something. The boy, however, evidently deemed the task incomplete;
probably it required some life, something moving, to satisfy him. So he
caught a huge blue fly, and while he held it tight he instructed the
little girl to let out the bran once more. Then he placed the fly into
the hollow head, and stopped up the exit with a small bunch of grass.
The two children held the head to their ears, and then put it solemnly
upon a great rock. Since the head was still covered with the scarlet
poppy, this receptacle of sound now closely resembled a soothsaying
oracle, and the two listened with great respect to queer noises it
emitted, in deep silence as if fairy tales were being told, holding
each other close meanwhile. But every prophet awakens not only respect
but also terror and ingratitude. The odd noises inside the hollow head
aroused the human cruelty of the children, and jointly they resolved to
bury it. They dug a shallow grave, and placed the head in it, without
first obtaining the views of the imprisoned fly on it. Then they
erected over the grave a monument of stone. But awe seized them at this
instance, since they had buried something living and conscious, and
they went away from the scene of this pagan sacrifice. In a spot wholly
overgrown with green herbs the little girl lay down on her back, being
tired, and began singing, over and over again, a few simple words in a
monotonous voice, and the little boy sat near and joined singing, and
he, too, was so tired as almost to fall asleep. The sun shone right
into the open mouth of the singing girl, illuminating her white little
teeth, and rendered her scarlet lips semi-transparent. The boy saw
these white teeth, and he held her head and curiously investigating
them he said: "Guess how many teeth you have." The little girl
reflected for a moment, and then she said at random: "A hundred!" "No,"
said the boy, "two and thirty." But he added: "Wait, I will count
them!"

And he started to count them, and counted over and over, and it was at
no time thirty-two, and so he resumed his count. The girl kept patient
for a long time, but at last she got up and said: "Now I will count
yours." And the boy lay down amongst the herbs, the little one above
him, and she embraced his head, he opened wide his mouth, and she began
to count: One, two, seven, five, two, one; for the little thing knew
not yet how to count. The boy corrected her and instructed her how to
go about it, and thus she also started again and again, and curiously
enough it was precisely this little game that pleased them best of all
that day. But at last the little girl sank down on the soft couch of
herbs, and the two children fell asleep in the full glare of the noon
sun.

Meanwhile the fathers had finished their job of plowing and had changed
the stubble field into a brown plain, strongly scenting the earth. When
at the end of the last furrow the helper of one of the two wanted to
stop, his master shouted: "Why do you stop? Turn up another furrow!"
"But we're done," said the helper. "Shut your mouth, and do what I tell
you," replied the other. And they did turn once more and tore a big
furrow right into the middle, the ownerless, field, so that weeds and
stones flew about. But the peasant took no time to remove these.
Probably he considered that there was ample time for that some other
day. He was satisfied to do the thing for the nonce only in its main
feature. Thus he went up the height softly, and when up on top and the
delicious play of the wind now turned once more the tip of his white
cap backwards, on the other side of the fallow field the second peasant
was just plowing a similar furrow, the wind having also reversed the
tip of his cap, and cut also a goodly furrow off from the same fallow
field. Each of them saw, of course, what the other did, but neither
seemed to do so, and thus they once more strode away one from the
other, each falling star finally disappearing below the curve of the
ground. Thus the woof of Fate spins its net around us, "and what he
weaves no weaver knows."


One harvest after another went by and the two children grew steadily
taller and handsomer, and the ownerless fields as steadily smaller
between the two neighbors. With every new plowing the section between
lost hither and thither one furrow, without there being a word said
about it, and without a human eye apparently noting the misdeed. The
stones and rocks became more and more compact and formed already a
perfect and continuous ridge the whole length of the field, and the
shrubs and weeds on it had already attained such an altitude that the
two children, although they, too, had grown, could no longer see each
other across them.

They no longer went to the field together, since ten-year-old Salomon,
or Sali, as he was mostly called, now kept with the bigger boys or the
men, and dusky Vreni,[1] though a fiery little thing, had already to
place herself under the supervision of those of her sex, for fear of
being laughed at as a tomboy. In spite of all that they improved the
occasion of the harvest, when everybody was out in the fields, to climb
once on top of the huge stony ridge, or breastworks, which ordinarily
divided them, and to wage a toy war, pushing each other down from it,
as the culmination of the battle. Even though they had no longer
anything more to do with each other, this annual ceremony was
maintained by them all the more carefully since the land of their
fathers did not meet anywhere else.

However, now the fallow field was to be sold, after all, and the sum
realized provisionally kept by the authorities. The day came at last,
and the public sale took place on the spot itself. But beside Manz and
Marti there were present only a few curious ones, since nobody but they
felt like buying the odd piece of ground and cultivating it between the
property of the two peasants. For although these two belonged among the
best farmers of the village, and had done nothing but what two-thirds
of the others would also have done under like circumstances, still now
they were looked at askance because of it, and nobody wanted to be
squeezed in between them in the diminished and orphaned field. For most
men are so made as to be quite ready to commit a wrong which is more or
less in vogue, especially if the circumstances of the case facilitate
the wrong. But as soon as the wrong has been perpetrated by some one
else, they are glad that it was not they who had been exposed to the
temptation, and then they regard the guilty one almost as a warning
example in regard to their own failings, and treat him with a delicate
aversion as a sort of lightning rod of evil itself, as one marked by
the gods themselves, while all the while their mouths are watering for
the advantages thus accrued to him by means of his sin.

Manz and Marti were, therefore, the only ones who seriously bid on the
ownerless land, and after a rather spirited contest, during which the
price was driven up higher than had been supposed, it was Manz to whom
it was awarded. The officials and the lookers-on soon drifted away, and
the two neighbors who had been busy on their fields after the sale, met
again, and Marti said: "I suppose you will now put your land, the old
and the new, together, halve it, and work it in that way? That, at
least, is what I should have done if I had got the land."

"That indeed is what I mean to do," answered Manz, "for as one single
field it would not be easy to manage. But there is another thing I want
to say. I noticed the other day that you drove into the lower end of
this field that has now become mine, and that you cut off quite a
good-sized triangle. It may be you thought at the time that you
yourself would soon own the whole of it and that then it would make no
difference anyway. But since now it belongs to me, you will admit that
I cannot and will not permit such a curtailment of my property rights,
and you will not take it amiss if I again straighten out the right
lines. Of course you will not. There need be no hard feelings on that
score."

Marti, however, replied just as coolly: "Neither do I look for any
trouble. For my opinion is you have purchased the field just as it is.
We both examined it before the sale, and of course it has not changed
within an hour or so."

"Nonsense," said Manz, "what was done formerly, under different
conditions, we will not go into. But too much is too much, and
everything has its limit, and must be adjusted according to reason in
the end. These three fields have from of old been lying one next to the
other just as though marked with the measuring tape. You may think it
funny to put in such an unjustifiable objection or claim. We both of us
would get a new nickname if I let you keep that crooked end of it
without rhyme or reason. It must come back where it by right belongs."

But Marti only laughed and said: "All at once so afraid of what people
may think? But then, it's easily arranged. I have no objection at all
to such a crooked-shaped bit of land. If you don't like it, all right,
we can straighten it out. But not on my side, I swear."

"Don't talk so strange," replied Manz with some heat. "Of course it
will be straightened out, and that on your side. You can bet your
bottom dollar on that."

"Well, we'll see about that," was Marti's parting remark, and the two
men separated without even looking at each other. On the contrary, they
gazed steadfastly in different directions, as if something of enormous
interest were floating in the air which it was absolutely necessary to
keep an eye on.

On the next day already Manz sent his hired boy, also a wench working
for daily wage, and his own boy Sali out to the new field, to begin
removing the weeds and wild growths, and to pile them up at certain
places, so as to make the loading up and carting away of the crop of
stones all the easier. This noted a change in his character, this
sending the little boy, scarcely eleven, whom he had never before
driven to hard work such as weeding, out to field labor, and this
against the will of the mother. It seemed indeed, since he defended his
order with solemn and high-sounding words, as if he wanted to daze his
own better conscience. At any rate, the slight wrong thus done to his
own flesh and blood in insisting on onerous and unfit labor, was but
one of the consequences growing out of the original wrong done by him
for years in regard to the field itself. One by one more wrong, more
evil unfolded itself. The three meanwhile weeded away industriously on
the long strip of ground, and hacked away at the queer plants that had
been flourishing on the soil for so many years. And to the young people
doing this hard work, albeit it taxed and tried their strength greatly,
it really was something of an amusement, since it was no carefully
graduated and scaled task, but rather a wild job of destruction. After
piling all this vegetable refuse up in heaps and letting the sun dry
it, it was set afire with great jubilation and noise, and when the
murky flames shot up and broad swaths of smoke waved irregularly, the
young people jumped and danced about like a band of wild Indians.

But this was the last festival on the ominous new field, and little
Vreni, Marti's young daughter, also crept out and joined the revels.
The unusual occasion and the spirit of rampant gaiety easily brought it
about that the two playmates of yore once more came in contact and were
happy and jolly at their bonfire. Other children, too, gathered, until
there was quite a crowd of youthful, excited merrymakers assembled. But
always it happened that, as soon as the two became separated in the
throng, Vreni would rejoin Sali, or Sali Vreni. When it was she it was
a treat to watch her face when she slipped her little hand in that of
the boy, her animated features and her glowing eyes fairly brimming
with pleasure. To both of them it seemed as though this glorious day
could never end. Old Manz, though, came out toward evening, to see what
had been accomplished, and despite the fact that their labor had been
done well and as directed, he scolded at the childish jollification and
drove the young people off his ground. Almost at the same time Marti
visited his own section adjoining, and noticing his little daughter
from afar, he whistled to her shrill and peremptory, and when she
obeyed the summons in frightened haste he struck her harshly in the
face without giving any reason. So that both little ones went home
weeping and sad; yet they were both still so much children that they
scarcely knew at this time why they were so sad or knew before why they
felt so happy. As for the rudeness of their fathers they did not
understand the underlying motive of it, and it did not touch their
hearts.

During the next days the labor became harder and more strenuous, and
some men had to be hired for it. For the task was this time to load and
clean off the huge crop of stones along the entire length of the field.

There seemed to be no end to this work, and one would have said that
all the stones in the world had been collected there. But Manz did not
have the stones carted off entirely from the field, but every load was
taken to the triangular piece of ground in dispute, where it was
dumped. It was dumped on the neatly plowed soil that Marti had toiled
over. Manz had previously drawn a straight line as boundary, and now he
loaded this spot down with all these thousands upon thousands of
pebbles, rocks and bowlders which he and Marti had for whole decades
thrown upon ownerless soil. The heap grew, and grew for days and weeks,
until there was a mighty pyramid of stone which, as Manz felt
convinced, his adversary would surely be loath to trouble with. Marti,
in fact, had expected nothing of the kind. He had rather thought that
Manz would go to work with his plow, as he used to do, and had
therefore waited to see him appear in that part. And Marti did not hear
of the rocky monument until almost completed. When he ran out in the
full blast of his anger, and saw it all, he hastened home and fetched
the village magistrate in order to protest against the accumulation of
stones on "his" ground, and to have the small bit of ground officially
declared as in litigation.

From that sinister day on the two peasants sued and countersued each
other in court, and neither desisted until both were completely ruined.

The thinking of these two ordinarily shrewd and fair men became
fundamentally wrong and fallacious. They were unable to view anything
henceforth as unrelated with their quarrel. Their arguments fell short
of the mark in everything. The most narrow sense of legality, of what
was permitted and what not, filled the head of each of them, and
neither was able to understand how the other could seize so entirely
without reason or right this bit of soil, in itself so insignificant.
In the case of Manz there was added a wonderful sense for symmetry and
parallel lines, and he felt really and truly shortened in his rights by
Martins insistence on retaining hold of a fragment of property laid out
on different geometrical lines. But both tallied in their conceptions
in this that the other must think him a veritable fool to try and get
the better of him in this particular manner, in this impudent and
unparalleled manner, since to make such an attempt at all was perhaps
thinkable in the case of a mere nobody, of a man without reputation and
substance, but surely not in the case of an upstanding, energetic and
able man, of one who was both willing and able to take care of his
interests. And it was this consideration above all that rankled and
festered in the heart of each of the two once so friendly neighbors.
Each felt himself hurt in his quaint sense of honor, and let himself go
headlong in the rush of passion and of combativeness, without even
attempting at any time to stop the resultant moral and material decay
and ruin. Their two lives henceforth resembled the torture of two lost
souls who, upon a narrow board, carried along a dark and fearsome
river, yet deal tremendous blows at the air, seize upon each other and
destroy each other finally, all in the false belief of having seized
and trying to destroy their evil fate itself.

As their whole matter in dispute was in itself and on both sides not
clean or lucid, they soon got into the hands of all sorts of swindlers
and cutthroats, of pettifoggers and evil counselors, men who filled
their imagination with glittering bubbles, containing no substance
whatever. And especially it was the speculators and dishonest agents of
Seldwyla who found this case one after their own heart, and soon each
of the two litigants had a whole train of advisers, go-betweens and
spies around him, fellows who in all sorts of crooked ways knew how to
draw cash money out of them. For the quarrel for that tiny fragment of
soil with the stone pyramid on top on which already a perfect forest of
weeds, thistles and nettles had grown anew, was only the first stage in
a labyrinth of errors that little by little changed the whole character
and method of living for the two. It was singular, too, how in the case
of two men of about fifty there could shoot up and become fixed an
entire crop of new habits and morals, principles and hopes, all of a
kind which were foreign to their former natures, how men who all
their lives had been noted for their hard common-sense could become
day-dreamers and gullible oafs.

And the more money they lost by all this the more they longed to
acquire more, and the less they possessed the more persistently they
endeavored to become rich and to shine before their fellows. Thus they
easily allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by the clumsiest tricks, and
year after year they would play in all the foreign lotteries of which
Seldwyla agents were praising to them the splendid chances. But never
so much as a dollar came their way in prizes. On the other hand, they
forever heard of the big winnings in these lotteries made by others;
they also were told that it had hung just by a hair that they would
have done as well, and thus they were constantly bled by these leeches
of their scantier and scantier means.

Now and then the rascally Seldwylians played a trick on the two deadly
enemies which for its peculiar raciness was specially relished by them,
the people of Seldwyla, that is. They would sell the two peasants
sections of the same lottery tickets, so that Manz as well as Marti
would build their hopes of a rich strike on precisely the same
fallacious foundation, and also in the end would feel the same
despondency from the same source. Half their time the two now spent in
town, and there each had his headquarters in a miserable tavern. There
they would indulge in foolish bragging and bluster, would drink too
much and play the Lord Bountiful to loafers that would flatter the
simpletons to the top of their bent, and all the while the dark doubt
would assail them that they who in order not to be reckoned dunces had
gone to law about a trifling object, had now really become just that
and furthermore, were so reckoned by general consent.

The other half of the time they spent at home, morose and incapable of
steady work or sober reflection. Habitually neglecting their farm
labor, at times they tried to make up for that by undue haste,
overworking their help and thus soon unable to retain any respectable
men in their employ.

Thus things went from bad to worse little by little, and within less
than ten years both of them were overburdened with debts, and stood
like storks with one leg upon their farms, so that the slightest change
might blow them over. But no matter how else they fared, the hatred
between them grew more intense every day, since each looked upon the
other as the cause of his misfortune, as his archenemy, as his foe
without rhyme or reason, as the one being in the world whom the devil
purposely had invented to ruin him. They spat out before each other
when they saw the adversary approaching from afar. Nobody belonging to
them was permitted to speak to wife, child or servants of the other, on
pain of instant brutal punishment. Their wives behaved differently
under these circumstances. Marti's wife, who came of good family and
was of a fine disposition, did not long survive the rapid downfall of
her house and family, sorrowed silently and died before her little
daughter was fourteen. The wife of Manz, on the other hand, altered her
whole character. Only for the worse, of course. And to do that all she
needed to do was to aggravate some of her natural defects, let them go
on, so to speak, without bridling them at all. Her passion for tidbits
and sweets became boundless; her love of gossip deteriorated into a
veritable craze, and she soon became unable to tell the truth about
anything or anybody. She habitually spoke the very contrary of what was
in her thoughts, cheated and deceived her own husband, and found keen
pleasure in getting everybody by the ears. Her original frankness and
her harmless delight in satisfying her feminine curiosity turned into
evil intrigue and the inclination to make mischief between neighbors
and friends. Instead of suffering patiently under the rudeness and
changed habits of her husband, she fooled him and laughed behind his
back in doing so. No matter if he now and then behaved with cruelty to
her and his household, she did not care. She denied herself nothing,
became more luxurious in her tastes as his money affairs grew steadily
more involved, and fattened on the very misfortunes that were rapidly
leading to complete ruin.

That with all that the two children fared any better was scarcely to be
expected. While still mere human buds and incapable of meeting the
harsh fate slowly preparing for them, they were done out of their youth
and out of the hopes and advantages incident to their tender years.
Vreni indeed was worse off in this respect than Sali, the boy, since
her mother was dead and she was exposed in a wasted home to the tyranny
of a father whose violent instincts found no check whatever. When
sixteen Vreni had developed into a slender and charming young girl. Her
hair of dark-brown naturally curled down to her flashing eyes; her
swiftly coursing blood seemed to shimmer through the delicate oval of
her dusky cheeks, and the scarlet of her dainty lips made a strikingly
vivid contrast, so that everybody looked twice when she passed. And
despite her sad bringing-up, an ardent love of life and an
inextinguishable cheerfulness were trembling in every fibre of Vreni's
being. Laughing and smiling at the least encouragement she forgot her
troubles easily, and was always ready for a frolic and a romp if
domestic weather permitted at all, that is, if her father did not
hinder and torture her too cruelly. However, with all her
lightheartedness and her buoyant temperament, the deepening shadows
over the house inevitably enshrouded her all too often. She had to bear
the brunt of her father's soured disposition, and she had hardly any
help in trying to keep house for him after a fashion. On her young
shoulders mainly rested the embarrassments of a home constantly
threatened by importunate creditors and wild boon companions of her
dissolute father. And not alone that. With the natural taste of her sex
for a neat and clean appearance her father refused her nearly every
means to gratify it. Thus she had great trouble to ornament her pretty
person the way it deserved. But somehow she managed to do it, to
possess always a becoming holiday attire, including even a couple of
vividly colored kerchiefs that set off marvelously her darksome beauty.
Full of youthful animation and gaiety she found it hard to mostly have
to renounce all the social pleasures of her years; but at least this
prevented her from falling into the opposite extreme. Besides, young as
she was, she had witnessed the declining days and the death of her
mother, and had been deeply impressed by it, so that this had acted as
another restraint on her joyous disposition. It was almost a pathetic
sight to observe how notwithstanding all these serious obstacles pretty
Vreni instantly would respond to the calls of joy if the occasion was
at all favorable, as a flower after drooping in a heavy rainstorm will
raise its head at the first rays of the reappearing sun.

Sali was not faring quite so ill. He was a good-looking and vigorous
young fellow who knew how to take care of himself and whose size and
physical strength alone would have forbidden harsh bodily mistreatment.
He saw, of course, how his parents were sliding down-hill more and
more, and he seemed to remember a time when things had been otherwise.
He even carried in his memory the picture of his father as that of an
upstanding, determined, serious and energetic peasant, while now he saw
before him all the while a man who was a gray-headed dolt, a
quarrelsome fool, who with all his fits of impotent rage and all his
brag and bluster was every hour more and more crawling backwards like a
crawfish. But when these things displeased him and filled him with
shame and sorrow, although he could not very well understand how it all
had come about, the influence of his mother came to deaden this feeling
and to fill him with an unjustified hope of improvement. She would
flatter her son in the same extravagant and wholly unreasonable manner
which had become her second nature in dealing with the new troubles
that were gradually overcoming the whole family. For in order to lead
her life of self-indulgence the more easily and to have one critical
observer the less, and to make her son her partisan, but also as a vent
for her love of display, she contrived to let her son have everything
he had a desire for. She saw to it that he was always dressed with
care, and entirely too expensively for the means of the family, and
indulged him in his pleasures. He on his part accepted all that without
much thought or gratitude, since he noticed at the same time how his
mother was juggling with and tricking his father, and how she was
continually telling untruths and vainly boasting. And while thus
allowing his mother to spoil him without paying much attention to the
process itself, no great harm was yet done in his case, since he had so
far not been much tainted by the vices and sins of mother or father.
Indeed, in his youthful pride he had the strong wish to become, if
possible, a man such as he recalled his own father once to have been, a
man of substance and of rational and successful conduct of his life.
Sali was really very much as his father knew himself to have been at
his own age, and a queer remnant of respectability urged the father to
treat his son well. In honoring him he seemed to honor his old self.
Confused reminiscences at such times drifted through his beclouded
soul, and they afforded him a species of subconscious delight. But
although in this manner Sali escaped some of the natural consequences
of the process of domestic decay which was going on around him, he was
not able to genuinely enjoy his life and to make rational plans for an
assured future. He felt well enough that he was resting on quicksand,
that he was neither doing anything much to bring himself into a
position of independence nor to look for any secured future; nor was he
learning much towards that end in the broken-down household and on the
neglected farm of his father. The work done there was done haphazard
style, and no systematic and orderly effort was made to get things done
in season. His best consolation, therefore, was to preserve his good
reputation, to work with a will on the farm when he could, and to turn
his eyes away from a threatening future.

The sole orders laid upon him by his father were to avoid any sort of
intercourse with all that bore the name of Marti. All he knew about the
matter personally was that Marti had done wrong to his father, and that
in Marti's house precisely the same bitter enmity was felt towards the
Manz family. Of the details involved in this state of affairs, of the
manner in which the old-time good-neighborliness and friendship
existing for so many years between the two families had been turned
into hatred and scorn Sali knew nothing, these things having shaped
themselves at a period of his life when his boyish brain had been
unable to grasp their true meaning. He had perforce been content with
the verdict of his father, obeying the latter's prohibition to further
consort with the Marti people without attempting to ascertain the
underlying causes of the quarrel. So far he had not found it difficult
to do as his father told him, and he did not meddle in the least with
the whole business. He made no effort to either see or avoid Marti and
his daughter Vreni, and while he assumed that his father must be in the
right of it, he was no active enemy of the Martis. Vreni, on her part,
was differently constituted from the lad. Having to suffer much more
than Sali at home and feeling more deeply than he, woman-fashion, her
almost total isolation, she was not so ready to let a sentiment of
declared enmity enter her young and untried heart. In fact, she rather
believed herself scorned and despised by the much better clad and
apparently also much more fortunate former playmate. It was, therefore,
only from a feeling of embarrassment that she hid from him, and
whenever he came near enough to perceive her, she fled from him. He
indeed never troubled to glance at her. So it happened that Sali had
not seen the girl near enough for a couple of years to know what she
was like. He had no notion that she was now almost grown-up, and that
she was distinctly beautiful. And yet, once in a while he would
remember her as his little playmate, as the merry companion of his
carefree boyhood, and when at his home the Martis were mentioned he
instinctively wondered what had become of her and how she would look
now. He certainly did not hate her. In his memory she lived in a
shadowy sort of way as a rather attractive girl.

It was his father, Manz, now who first had to go under. He was no
longer able to stave off his creditors and had to leave farm and house
behind. That he, though somewhat of better means originally than his
neighbor and foe, was first to collapse was owing to his wife, who had
lived in quite an extravagant style, and then he, too, had a son who,
after all, cost him something. Marti, as we know, had but a little
daughter who was scarcely any expense to him. Manz did not know what
else to do but to follow the advice of some Seldwyla patrons and move
to town, there to turn mine host of an inn or low tavern. It is always
a sad sight to see a former peasant of some substance, a man who has
been leading for many years a life of unremitting toil, it is true, but
also one of independence and usefulness, after growing old among his
acres, seek refuge from ill-fortune in town, taking the small remnants
of his belongings with him and open a poor, shabby resort, in order to
play, as the last safety anchor, the amiable and seductive host, all
the while feeling by no means in a holiday mood himself. When the Manz
family then left their farm to take this desperate step, it was first
apparent how poor they had already grown. For all the household goods
that were loaded on a cart were in a deplorable state, defective and
not repaired for many years. Nevertheless the wife put on her best
finery, when seating herself on top of the crazy old vehicle, and made
a face of such pride as though she already looked down upon her
neighbors as would a city lady of taste and refinement, while all the
while the villagers peeped from behind their hedges full of pity at the
sorry show made by the exodus. For Mother Manz had settled it in her
foolish noddle to turn the heads of all Seldwyla by her fine manners
and her wheedling tongue, thinking that if her boorish husband did not
understand how to handle and cajole the town folks, it was vastly
different with herself who would soon show these Seldwyla people what
an alluring hostess she would make at the head of a tavern or inn doing
a rushing business.

Great was her disenchantment, however, when she actually set eyes on
this inn vaunted so much in advance by her addled spirits. For it was
located in a small side-street of a rather disreputable quarter of
Seldwyla, and the inn itself was one in which the predecessor, one of
several that had gone the same way, had just been forcibly ousted
because of being unable to pay his debts. His Seldwyla patrons had, in
fact, rented this mean public house for a few hundred dollars a year to
Manz in consideration of the fact that the latter still had some small
sums outstanding in town, and because they could find nobody else to
take the place at a venture. They also sold him a few barrels of
inferior wine as well as the fixtures which consisted in the main of a
couple of dozen glasses and bottles, and of some rude and hacked pine
tables and benches that had once been painted a hue of deadly scarlet
and were now reduced to a dingy brownish tint. Before the entrance door
an iron hoop was clattering in the wind, and inside the hoop a tin hand
was pouring out forever claret into a small shoppen vessel. Besides all
these luxuries there was a sun-dried bunch of datura fastened above the
door, all of which Manz had noted down in his lease. Knowing all this
Manz was by no means so full of hopes and smiling humor as his spouse,
but on the contrary whipped up his bony old horses, lent him by the new
owner of his farm, with considerable foreboding. The last shabby helper
he had had on his farm had left him several weeks before, and when he
left the village on this his present errand he had not failed to note
Marti who, full of grim joy and scorn, had busied himself with some
trifling task along the road where his fallen foe had to pass. Manz saw
it, cursed Marti, and held him to be the sole cause of his downfall.
But Sali, as soon as the cart was fairly on the way, got down, speeded
up his steps and reached the town along by-paths.

"Well, here we are," said Manz, when the cart had reached its
destination. His wife was crestfallen when she noticed the dreary and
unpropitious aspect of the place. The people of the neighborhood
stepped in front of their housedoors to have a look at the new
innkeeper, and when they saw the rustic appearance of the outfit and
the miserable trappings, they put on their Seldwyla smile of
superiority. Wrathfully Mother Manz climbed down from her high seat,
and tears of anger were in her eyes as she quickly fled into the house,
her limber tongue for once forsaking her. On that day at least she was
no more seen below. For she herself was well aware of the sorry show
made by her, and all the more as the tattered condition of her
furniture could not be concealed from prying eyes when the various
articles were now being unloaded. Her musty and torn beds,
particularly, she felt ashamed of. Sali, too, shared her feelings, but
he was obliged to help his father in unloading, and the two made quite
a stir in the neighborhood with their rustic manners and speech,
furnishing the curious children with food for laughter. These little
folks, indeed, amused themselves abundantly that day at the expense of
the "ragged peasant bankrupts." Inside the house, though, things looked
still more desolate; the place, in fact, had more the looks of a
robbers' roost than of an inn. The walls were of badly calsomined
brick, damp with moisture, and beside the dark and poorly furnished
guest room downstairs there were but a couple of bare and uninviting
bedrooms, and everywhere their predecessor had left behind nothing but
spider's webs, filth and dust.

That was the beginning of it, and thus it continued to the end. During
the first few weeks indeed there came, especially in the evenings, a
number of people anxious to see, out of sheer curiosity, "the peasant
landlord," hoping there would be "some fun." But out of the landlord
himself they could not get much of that, for Manz was stiff,
unfriendly, and melancholy, and did not in the least know how to treat
his guests, nor did he want to know. Slowly and awkwardly he would pour
out the wine demanded, put it before the customer with a morose air,
and then make an unsuccessful attempt to enter into some sort of
conversation, but brought forth only some stammered commonplaces,
whereupon he gave it up. All the more desperately did his wife endeavor
to entertain her guests, and by her ludicrous and absurd behavior
really managed, for a few days at least, to amuse people. But she did
this in quite a different way from that intended by her. Mother Manz
was rather corpulent, and she had from her own inventive brain composed
a costume in which to wait on her guests and in which she believed
herself to be simply irresistible. With a stout linen skirt she wore an
old waist of green silk, a long cotton apron and a ridiculous broad
collar around the neck. Out of her hair, no longer abundant, she had
twisted corkscrew curls ornamenting her forehead, and in the back she
had stuck a tall comb into her thin braids. Thus made up she mincingly
danced on the tips of her toes before the particular guest to be
entranced, pointed her mouth in a laughable manner, which she thought
was "sweet," hopped about the table with forced elasticity, and serving
the wine or the salted cheese she would exclaim smilingly: "Well, well,
so alone? Lively, lively, you gentlemen!" And some more of such
nonsense she would whisper in a stilted way, for the trouble was that
although usually she could talk glibly about almost anything with her
cronies from the village, she felt somewhat embarrassed with these city
people, not being acquainted with the subjects of conversation they
liked to touch on. The Seldwyla people of the roughest type who had
dropped in for something to laugh at, put their hands before their
mouths to prevent bursting out in her face, nearly suffocated with
suppressed merriment, trod upon each other's feet under the table, and
afterwards, in relating the matter, would say: "Zounds, that is a woman
among a thousand, a paragon!" Another one said: "A heavenly creature,
by the gods. It is worth while coming here just to watch her antics.
Such a funny one we haven't had here for a long while."

Her husband noticed these goings on, with a mien of thunder, and he
would perhaps punch her in the ribs and say: "You old cow, what is the
matter with you?"

But then she gave him a superior glance, and would murmur: "Don't
disturb me! You stupid old fool, don't you see how hard I am trying to
please people? Those over there, of course, are only low fellows from
among your own acquaintance, but if you don't interfere with me I shall
soon have much more fashionable guests here, as you'll see."

These illusions of hers were illuminated in a room with but two tallow
dips, but Sali, her son, went out into the dark kitchen, sat down at
the hearth and wept about father and mother.

However, these first guests had soon their fill of this kind of sport,
and began to stay away, and then went back to their old haunts where
they got better drink and more rational conversation, and there they
would laughingly comment on the queer peasant innkeepers. Only once in
a while now a single guest of this type would drop in, usually to
verify previous reports heard by him, and such a one found as a rule
nothing more exciting to do than to yawn and gaze at the wall. Or
perhaps a band of roystering blades, having heard the place spoken of
by others, would wind up a jolly evening by a brief visit, and then
there would be noise enough, but not much else, and the old couple
could often not even thus be roused from their melancholy. For by that
time both wife and husband had grown heartily sick of their bargain.
The new style of living felt to him almost as lonesome and cold as the
grave. For he who as a lifelong farmer had been used to see the sun
rise, to hear and feel the wind blow, to breathe the pure air of the
country from morning till night, and to have the sunshine come and go,
was now cooped up within these dingy, hopeless walls, had to draw in
his lungs with every breath the contaminated atmosphere of this
miserable neighborhood, and when he thus dreamed day-dreams of the wide
expanse of the fields he once owned and tilled, a dull sort of despair
settled down on him like a pall. For hours and hours every day he would
stare in a dark humor at the smoke-begrimed ceiling of his inn, having
mostly little else to do, and dull visions of a future unrelieved by a
single ray of hope would float across his saturnine mind. Insupportable
his present life seemed to him then. Then a purposeless restlessness
would come over him, when he would get up from his seat a dozen times
an hour, run to the housedoor and peer out, then run back and resume
his watch. The neighbors had already given him a nickname. The "wicked
landlord," they dubbed him, because his glance was troubled and fierce.

Not long and they were totally impoverished, had not even enough ready
money left to put in the little in drink and provisions needed for
chance customers, so that the sausages and bread, the wine and liquor
that were ordered by guests had to be got on trust. Often they even
lacked the wherewithal to make a meal of, and had to go hungry for a
while. It was a curious tavern they were keeping. When somebody
strolled in by accident and demanded refreshment they were forced to
send to the nearest competitor, around the corner, and obtain a measure
of wine and some food, paying for it an hour or so later when they
themselves had been paid. And with all that, they were expected to play
the cheerful host and to talk pleasantly when their own stomachs were
empty. They were almost glad when nobody came; then each of them would
cower in a dark corner by the chimney, too lethargic to stir.

When Mother Manz underwent these sad experiences she once more took off
her green silk waist, and another metamorphosis was noticed. As
formerly she had shown a number of feminine vices, so now she exhibited
some feminine virtues, and these grew with the evil times. She began to
practice patience and sought to cheer up her morose husband and to
encourage her young son in trying for remunerative work. She sacrificed
her own comfort and convenience even, went about like a happy busybody,
and chattered incessantly merrily, all in an attempt to put some heart
into the two men. In short, she exerted in her own queer way an
undoubted beneficial influence on them, and while this did not lead to
anything tangible it helped at least to make things bearable for the
time being and was far better than the reverse would have been. She
would rack her poor brains, and give this advice or that how to mend
things, and if it miscarried she would have something fresh to propose.
Mostly she proved in the wrong with her counsel, but now and then, in
one of the many trivial ways that her petty mind was dwelling on she
was successful. When the contrary resulted, she gaily took the blame,
remained cheerful under discouragement, and, in short, did everything
which, if she had only done it before things were past repair, might
have really cured the desperate situation.

In order to have at least some food in the house and to pass the dull
time, father and son now began to devote their leisure time to the
sport of fishing, that is, with the angle, as far as it is permissible
to everybody in Switzerland. This, be it said, was also one of the
favorite pastimes of those decrepit Seldwylians who had come to grief
in the world, most of them having failed in business. When the weather
was favorable, namely, and when the fish took the bait most readily,
one might see dozens of these gentry wander off provided with rod and
pail, and on a walk along the shores of the river you might see one of
them, every little distance, angling, the one in a long brown coat once
of fashionable make, but with his bare feet in the water, the next
attired in a tattered blue frock, astride an old willow tree, his
ragged felt hat shoved over his left ear. Farther down even you might
perceive a third whose meagre limbs were wrapped in a shabby old
dressing gown, since that was the only article of clothing he had left,
his long tobacco pipe in one hand, and an equally long fishing rod in
the other. And in turning a bend of the river one was apt to encounter
another queer customer who stood, quite nude, with his bald head and
his fat paunch, on top of a flat rock in the river. This one had,
though almost living in the water during the warm season, feet black as
coal, so that it looked from a distance as if he had kept his boots on.
Each of these worthies had a pot or a small box at his side, in which
were swarming angle worms, and to obtain these they were industriously
digging at all hours of the day not actually employed in fishing.
Whenever the sky began to cloud up and the air became close and sultry,
threatening rain, these quaint figures could be seen most numerously
along the softly rolling stream, immovable like a congregation of
ancient saints on their pillars. Without ever deigning to cast a glance
in their direction, rustics from farm and forest used to pass them by,
and the boatmen on the river did not even look their way, whereas these
lone fishermen themselves used to curse in a forlorn way at these
disturbers of their prey.

If Manz had been told twelve years before when he was still plowing
with a fine team of horses across the hillock above the shore, that he,
too, one day would join this strange brotherhood of the rod, he would
probably have treated such a prophet rather roughly. But even to-day
Manz hastened past those fishermen that were rather crowding one
another, until he stood, upstream and alone, like a wrathful shadow of
Hades, by himself, just as if he preferred even in the abode of the
damned a spot of his own choosing. But to stand thus with a rod, for
hours and hours, neither he nor his son Sali had the patience, and they
remembered the manner in which peasants in their own neighborhood used
to catch fish, especially to grasp them with their hands in the purling
brooks. Therefore, they had their rods with them only as a ruse, and
they walked upstream further and further, following the tortuous
windings of the water, where they knew from of old that trout, dainty
and expensive trout, were to be had.


Meanwhile Marti, though he had still nominal possession of his farm,
had likewise been drifting from bad to worse, without any gleam of
hope.

And since all toil on his land could no more avert the final
catastrophe, and time hung heavy on his hands, he also had taken to
this sport of fishing. Instead of laboring in his neglected fields he
often would fish for days and days at a time. Vreni at such times was
not permitted to leave him, but had to follow him with pail and nets,
through wet meadows and along brooks and waterholes, whether there was
rain or shine, while neglecting her household labors at home. For at
home not a soul had remained, neither was there any need, since Marti
little by little had already lost nearly all his land, and now owned
but a few more acres of it, and these he tilled either not at all or
else, together with his daughter, in the slovenliest way.

Thus it came to pass that he, too, one early evening was walking along
the borders of a rapid and deep brook, one in which trout were leaping
plentifully, since the sky was overhung with dark and threatening
clouds, when without any warning he encountered his enemy, Manz, who
was coming along on the other side of it. As soon as he made him out a
fearful anger began to gnaw at his very vitals. They had not been so
near each other for years, except when in court facing the judge, and
then they had not been permitted to vent their hatred and spite, and
now Marti shouted full of venom: "What are you doing here, you dog?
Can't you stay in your den in town? Oh, you Seldwylian loafer!"

"Don't talk as if you were something better, you scoundrel," growled
Manz, "for I see you also catching fish, and thus it proves you have
nothing better to do yourself!"

"Shut your evil mouth, you fiend," shrieked Marti, since to make
himself heard above the rush of waters he had to strain his voice. "You
it is who have driven me into misery and poverty."

And since the willows lining the brook now also were shaken by the
gathering storm, Manz was forced to shout even louder: "If that is
true, then I should feel glad, you woodenhead!"

And thus, a duel of the most cruel taunts went on from both borders of
the brook, and finally, driven beyond endurance, each of the two
half-crazed men ran along the steep path, trying to find a way across
the deep water. Of the two Marti was the most envenomed because he
believed that his foe, being a landlord and managing an inn, must at
least have food enough to eat and liquor to drink, besides leading a
jolly sort of life, while he was barely able to eke out a meal or two
on the coarsest fare. Besides, the memory of his wasted farm stung him
to violence. But Manz, too, now stepped along lively enough on his side
of the water, and behind him his son, who, instead of sharing his
father's grim interest in the quarrel, peeped curiously and amazedly at
Vreni. She, the girl, followed closely behind her father, deeply
ashamed at what she heard and looking at the ground, so that her curly
brown hair fell over her flushed face. She carried in her hand a wooden
fishpail, and in the other her shoes and stockings, and had shortened
her skirt to avoid its dragging in the wet. But since Sali was walking
on the other side and seemed to watch her, she had allowed her skirt to
drop, out of modesty, and was now thrice embarrassed and annoyed, since
she had not alone to carry all, pail, nets, shoes and stockings, but
also to hold up her skirt and to feel humiliated because of this bitter
and vulgar quarrel. If she had lifted her eyes and read Sali's face,
she would have seen that he no longer looked either proud or elegant as
hitherto his image had dwelt in her mind, but that, on the contrary,
the young man also wore a distressed and humbled mien.

But while Vreni so entirely ashamed and disconcerted kept her eyes on
the ground, and Sali stared in amazement at this dainty and graceful
being that had so suddenly crossed his path, and who seemed so weighed
down by the whole occurrence, they did not properly observe that their
fathers by now had become silent but were both of them striving in
increased rage to reach the small wooden bridge a short distance off
and which led across to the other shore.

Just then the first forks of lightning were weirdly illuminating the
scene. The thunder was rolling in the dun clouds, and heavy drops of
rain were already falling singly, when these two men, almost driven out
of their senses, simultaneously reached the tiny bridge with their
hurried and determined tread, and as soon as near enough seized each
other with the iron grip of the rustic, striking with all the power
they could summon with clenched fists into the hateful face of the
adversary. Blows rained fast and furious, and each of the combatants
gnashed his teeth with rage.

It is not a becoming nor a handsome sight to see elderly men usually
soberminded and slow to act in a personal encounter, no matter whether
occasioned by anger, provocation or self-defense, but such a spectacle
is harmless in comparison with that of two aged men who attack each
other with uncontrolled fury because while knowing the other deeply and
well, now out of the depths of that very knowledge and out of a fixed
belief that the other has destroyed his very life, seize each other
with their naked fists and try to commit murder from unrequited
revenge. But thus these two men now did, both with hair gray to the
roots. More than fifty years ago they had last fought with each other
as lads, merely out of a youthful spirit of rivalry, but during the
half century succeeding they had never laid hands on each other, except
when, as good neighbors and fellow-peasants, they had grasped each
other's hand in peace and concord, but even that, with their rather dry
and undemonstrative ways, but rarely. After the first two or three
frenzied blows, they both became silent, and now they struggled and
wrestled in all the agony of senile impotence, their stiffened muscles
and tendons stretched with the tension, murder in their glaring eyes,
each groaning with the supreme effort to master the other. They now
attempted, both of them, to end the fearsome fight by pushing the other
over into the rushing flood below, the slender supports of the rails
creaking under the pressure. But now at last their children had reached
the spot, and Sali, with a bound, came to his father's help, to enable
the latter to make an end of the hated foe, Marti being just about
spent and exhausted. But Vreni also sprang, dropping all her burdens,
to the rescue, and after the manner of women in such cases, embracing
her father tightly and really thus rendering him unable to move and
defend himself. Tears streamed from her eyes, and she looked with
silent appeal at Sali, just at the moment when he was about also to
grasp old Marti by the throat. Involuntarily he laid his hand upon the
arm of his father, thus restraining him, and next attempted to wrest
his father loose. The combat thus grew into a mutual swaying back and
forth, and the whole group was impotently straining and pushing,
without either party coming to a rest.

But during this confused jumbling the two young people had, interfering
between their elders, more and more approached each other, and just at
this juncture a break in the dark bank of clouds overhead let the
piercing rays of the setting sun reach the scene and illuminate it with
a blinding flash, and then it was that Sali looked full into the
countenance of the girl, rosy and embellished by the excitement. It was
to Sali like a glimpse of another, a brighter and more heavenly world.
And Vreni at the same instant, too, quickly observed the impression she
had made on her onetime playmate, and she smiled for the fraction of a
second at him, right in the midst of her tears and her fright. Sali,
however, recovered himself instantly, warned by the energetic struggles
of his father to shake off the restraining arm of his son. By holding
him firmly and by speaking with authority to his father, he managed to
calm him down at last and to push him out of the reach of the other.
Both old fellows breathed hard at this outcome of their desperate
fight, and began again to heap insults on one another, finally turning
away, however. Their children, though, were now silent in the midst of
their relief. But in turning away and separating they for a moment
glanced once more at each other, and their two hands, cool and moist
from the water and the rain, met and each noticed a slight pressure.

When the two old men turned from the scene, the clouds once more
closed, darkness fell, and the rain now poured down in torrents. Manz
preceded his son upon the obscured wet paths, bent to the cold rain,
and the terrific excitement still trembled in his features. His teeth
were chattering, and unseen tears of defeated hatred ran into his
stubbly beard. He let them run, and did not even wipe them away,
because he was ashamed of them, and had no wish for his son to see
them.

But his son had seen nothing. He went through rain and storm in an
ecstasy of happiness. He had forgotten all, his misery and the awful
scene just witnessed, his poverty and the darkness around him. In his
heart there was a happy song. Light and warm and full of joy everything
within him was. He felt as rich and powerful as a king's son. He saw
nothing but the smile of a second. He saw the beautiful face lit up by
the miracle of love. And he returned that smile only now, a half hour
later, and he laughed at the beautiful face and returned its gaze,
looking into the night and storm as into a paradise, the face shining
through the murk of rain like a guiding star. Indeed, he believed Vreni
could not help noticing his answering smile miles away, and was smiling
back at him.


Next day his father was stiff and sore and would not leave the house,
and to him the whole wretched meeting with his foe and the whole
development of the enmity between them, and the long years of misery
that had grown out of it suddenly seemed to take on a new form and to
become much plainer, while its influence spread around even in his
dusky tavern. So much so that both Manz and his wife were moving about
like ghosts, out of one room into another, into the cheerless kitchen
and the bedchambers, and thence back again into the equally bare and
dark guest room, where not a person was to be seen all day. At last
they both began to grumble, one blaming the other for things that had
gone wrong, dropping into an uneasy slumber from time to time from
which a nightmare would waken them with a start, and in which their
unquiet consciences upbraided them for past misdeeds. Only Sali heard
and saw nothing of all this, for his mind was entirely engrossed with
Vreni. Still the illusion was strong with him of being immeasurably
wealthy, but beside that he had a hallucination that he was powerful
and had learned how to conduct the most complicated and important
affairs in the world. He felt as if he knew all the wisdom on earth,
everything great and beautiful. And forever there stood before his
dreamy soul, clear and distinct, that great happening of the night
before, that wonderful creature with her enticing smile, that smile
which had shed a blinding flash of happiness on his path. The
consciousness of this great adventure dwelt with him like an
unspeakable secret, of which he was the sole possessor and which had
fallen to his share direct from heaven. It afforded him constant food
for thought and wonderment. And yet with all that it seemed also to him
that he had always known this would happen to him, and as if what now
filled him with such marvelous sweetness had always dwelt in his heart.
For nothing is just like this happiness of love, this sharing of a
mystery between two persons, which approaches human beings in the form
of unspeakable bliss, yet in a form so clear and precise, sanctioned
and sanctified by the priest, and endowed with a name so mellifluously
fine that no other word sounds half so sweet as Love.

On that day Sali felt neither lonesome nor unhappy; where he went and
stood Vreni's image followed him and glowed in his inner self; and this
without a moment's respite, one hour after another. But while his whole
being was engrossed with the lovely image of the girl at the same time
its outlines constantly became blurred, so that, after all, he lost the
faculty of reproducing it clearly. If he had been asked to describe her
in detail he would have been unable to do it. Always he saw her
standing near him, with that wizard smile; he felt her warm breath and
the whole indefinable charm of her presence, but it was for all that
like something which is seen but once and then vanishes forever. Like
something the potency of which one cannot escape and yet which one
never can know. In dreaming thus he was able to recall fully the
features of her when still a tiny maiden, and to experience a most
pronounced pleasure in doing so, but the one Vreni of yesterday he
could not recall as plainly. If indeed he had never seen Vreni again it
might be that his memory would have pieced her personality together,
little by little, until not the slightest bit had been wanting. But now
all the strength of his mind did not suffice to render him this
service, and this was because his senses, his eyes, imperatively
demanded their rights and their solace, and when in the afternoon the
sun was shining brilliantly and warm, gilding the roofs of all these
blackened housetops, Sali almost unconsciously found himself on the way
towards his old home in the country, which now seemed to him a heavenly
Jerusalem with twelve shining portals, and which set his heart to
beating feverishly as he approached it.

While on his way, though, he met Vreni's father, who with hurried and
disordered steps was going in the direction of the town. Marti looked
wild and unkempt, his gray beard had not been shorn for many weeks, and
altogether he presented indeed the picture of what he was: a wicked and
lost peasant who had got rid of his land and who now was intent on
doing evil to others. Nevertheless, Sali under these radically
different circumstances did not regard the crazed old man with hatred
but rather with fear and awe, as though his own life was in the hands
of this man and as though it were better to obtain it by favor than by
force. Marti, however, measured the young man with a black look,
glancing at him from his feet upwards, and then he went his way
silently. But this encounter came most opportunely to Sali. For seeing
the old man leaving the village on an errand it for the first time
became quite clear to him what his own object had been in coming. Thus
he proceeded stealthily on by-paths towards the village, and when
reaching it cautiously felt his way through the small lanes until he
had Marti's house and outbuildings right in front of him.

For several years past he had not seen this spot so closely. For even
while he still dwelt in the village itself he had been forbidden to
approach the Marti farm, avoiding meeting the family with whom his
father lived on terms of enmity. Therefore he was now full of wonder at
what, just the same, he had had ample opportunity to observe in the
case of his own father's property. Amazedly he stared at this once
prosperous and well-cultivated farm now turned into a waste. For Marti
had had one section after another of his property sequestrated by
orders of the court, and now all that was left was the dwelling house
itself and the space around it, with a bit of vegetable garden and a
small field up above the river, which latter Marti had for some time
been defending in a last desperate struggle with the judicial power.

There was, it is true, no longer any question of a rational cultivation
of the soil which once had borne so plentifully and where the wheat had
waved like a golden sea toward harvest time. Instead of that now there
was a mixed crop sprouting: rye, turnips, wheat and potatoes, with some
other "garden truck" intermingling, all from seed that had come from
paper packages left over or purchased in small quantities at random, so
that the whole cultivated space looked like a negligently tended
vegetable bed, in which cabbage, parsley and turnips predominated. It
was plainly to be seen that the owner of it, too lazy or indifferent to
do his farmer's work properly, had mainly had in mind to raise such
things as would enable him to live from day to day. Here a handful of
carrots had been torn out, there a mess of cabbage or potatoes, and the
rest had fared on for good or ill, and much of it lay rotting on the
ground. Everybody, too, had been in the habit of treading around and in
it all, just as he listed, and the one broad field now presented nearly
the desolate appearance of the once ownerless field whence had grown
all the mischief that had wrought havoc and brought the two neighbors
of old down so low. About the house itself there was no visible sign at
all of farm work. The stable stood vacant, its door hung loosely from
the broken staples, and innumerable spider's webs, grown thick and
large during the summer, were shimmering in the sunshine. Against the
broad door of a barn, where once were housed the fruits of the field,
hung untidy fishermen's nets and other sporting apparatus, in grim
token of abandoned farming. In the farmyard was to be seen not a single
chicken, pigeon or turkey, no dog or cat. The well only was the sole
live thing. But even its clear water no longer flowed in a regular gush
through the spout, but trickled through the broken tube, wasting itself
on the ground and forming dark pools on the soggy earth, a perfect
symbol of neglect. For while it would not have taken much time or
trouble to mend the broken tube, now Vreni was forced to use the water
she needed for her domestic tasks, for cooking and laundry work, from
the tricklings that escaped. The house itself, too, was a sad thing to
see. The window panes were all broken and pasted over with paper. Yet
the windows, after all, were the most cheerful-looking objects, for
Vreni kept them clean and shiny with soap and water, as shiny, in fact,
as her own eyes, and the latter, too, had to make up for all lack of
finery. And as the curly hair and the bright kerchiefs made amends for
much in her, so the wild growths stretching up toward windows and along
the jamb of the doorsills, and almost covering the very broken panes on
the windows, gave a charm to this tumbledown homestead. A wilderness of
scarlet bean blossoms, of portulac and sweet-scented flowers ran riot
along the house front, and these in their vivid colors clambered along
anything that would give them a hold, such as the handle of a rake, a
stake or broken rod. Vreni's grandfather had left behind a rusty
halberd or spontoon, such as were weapons much in vogue in his days,
for he had fought as a mercenary abroad. Now this rusty implement had
been stuck into the ground, and the willowy tendrils of the beanstalk
embraced it tightly. More bean plants groped their way up a shattered
ladder which had leaned against the house for ages, and thence their
blossoms hung into the windows as Vreni's curls hung into her pretty
face.

This farmyard, so much more picturesque than prosperous, lay somewhat
apart from its neighbors, and therefore was not exposed so much to
their inspection. But for the moment as Sali stared and watched nothing
human at all was visible. Sali thus was undisturbed in his reflections
as he leaned with his back against the barndoor, about thirty paces
away, and studied with attentive mien the deserted yard. He had been
doing this for some time when Vreni at last appeared under the
housedoor and gazed calmly and thoughtfully before her as if thinking
deeply of only one matter. Sali himself did not stir but contemplated
her as he would have done a fine painting. But after a brief while her
eyes traveled towards him, and she perceived him. Then she and he stood
without motion and looked, looked just as if they did not see living
beings but aerial phenomena. But at last Sali slowly stood upright, and
just as slowly went across the farmyard and towards Vreni. When he was
but a step or so from her, she stretched out her hands toward him and
pronounced only the one word: "Sali!"

He seized her hands speechlessly, and then continued gazing into her
face which had suddenly grown pale. Tears filled her eyes, and
gradually under his gaze she flushed painfully, and at last she said in
a very low voice: "What do you want here, Sali?"

"Only to see you," he replied. "Will we not become good friends again?"

"And our fathers, Sali?" asked Vreni, turning her weeping face aside,
since her hands had been imprisoned by him.

"Must we bear the burden of what they have done and have become?"
answered Sali. "It may be that we ourselves can redeem the evil they
have wrought, if we only love each other well enough and stand together
against the future."

"No, Sali, no good will ever come of it all," replied Vreni sobbingly;
"therefore better go your ways, Sali, in God's name."

"Are you alone, Vreni?" he asked. "May I come in a minute?"

"Father has gone to town for a spell, as he told me before leaving,"
remarked Vreni, "to do your father a bad turn. But I cannot let you in
here, because it may be that later on you would not be able to leave
again without attracting notice. As yet everything around here is still
and nobody about. Therefore, I beg of you, go before it is too late."

"No, I could not leave you without speaking," was his answer, and his
voice shook with emotion. "Since yesterday I have had to think of you
constantly, and I cannot go. We must speak to each other, at least for
half an hour or an hour; that will be a relief to both of us."

Vreni reflected a minute. Then she said thoughtfully: "Toward sundown I
shall walk out toward our field. You know the one I mean--we have but
the one left. I must pick some vegetables. I feel sure that nobody else
will be there, because they are mowing all of them in a different
direction. If you insist on coming, you may come there, but for the
present go and take care nobody else sees you. Even if nobody at all
bothers any longer about us, they would nevertheless gossip so much
about it that father could not fail to hear it."

They now dropped their hands, but once more seized them, and both also
asked: "How do you do?"

But instead of answering each other they repeated the same phrase over
and over again, since they, after the manner of lovers, no longer were
able to guide or control their words. Thus the only answer each
received was given with the eyes, and without saying anything more to
each other they finally separated, half sad, half joyful.

"Go there at once," she called after him; "I shall be there almost as
soon as yourself."

Sali followed this advice, and went at once up the steep path that led
to the hill where the busy world seemed so far away and where the soul
expanded, to the undulating fields that stretched out far on both
sides, where the brooding July sun shone and the drifting white clouds
sailed overhead, where the ripe corn in the gentle breeze bobbed up and
down, where the river below glinted blue, and all these scenes of past
happiness filled his soul after a long dearth with peace and gentle
joy, and his griefs and fears were left below. At full length he threw
himself down amid the half-shade of the upstanding wheat, there where
it marked the boundary of Marti's waste acres, and peered with
unblinking eyes into the gold-rimmed clouds.

Although scarcely a quarter hour elapsed until Vreni followed him, and
although he had thought of nothing but his bliss and his love, dreaming
of it and building castles in the air, he was yet surprised when Vreni
suddenly stood at his side, smiling down at him, and with a start he
rose.

"Vreni," he exclaimed in a voice that trembled with love, and she,
still and smiling, tendered both her hands to him. Hand in hand they
then paced along the whispering corn, slowly down towards the river,
and then as slowly back again, with scarcely any words. This short walk
they repeated twice or thrice, back and forth, still, blissful, and
quiet, so that this young pair now resembled likewise a pair of stars,
coming and going across the gentle curve of the hillock and adown the
declivity beyond, just as had once, years and years ago, the accurately
measuring plows of the two rustic neighbors. But as they once on this
pilgrimage lifted their eyes from the blue cornflowers along the edge
of the field where they had rested, they suddenly saw a swarthy fellow,
like a darksome star, precede them on their path, a fellow of whom they
could not tell whence he had appeared so entirely without warning.
Probably he had been lying in the corn, and Vreni shuddered, while Sali
murmured with affright: "It's the black fiddler!" And indeed, the
fellow ambling along before them carried under his arm a violin, and
truly, too, he looked swarthy enough. A black crushed felt hat, a black
blouse and hair and beard pitchdark, even his unwashed hands of that
hue, he made the impression of a man carrying along an evil omen. This
man led a wandering life. He did all sorts of jobs: mended kettles and
pans, helped charcoal burners, aided in pitching in the woods, and only
used his fiddle and earned money that way when the peasants somewhere
were celebrating a festival or holiday, a wedding or big dance, and
such like. Sali and Vreni meant to leave the fiddler by himself. Quiet
as mice they slowly walked behind him, thinking that he would probably
turn off the road soon. He seemed to pay no attention to the two, never
turning around and keeping perfect silence. With that they felt a weird
influence coming from the fellow, so that they had not the courage to
openly avoid him and turning aside unconsciously they followed in his
tracks to the very end of the field, the spot where that unjust heap of
stone and rock lay, the one that had started the two families on their
downward road. Innumerable poppies and wild roses had grown there and
were now in full bloom, wherefore this stony desert lay like an
enormous splotch of blood along the road.

All at once the black fiddler sprang with one jump on top one of the
irregular ramparts of stone, the rim of which was also scarlet with
wild blossoms, then turned himself around, and threw a glance in every
direction. The young couple stopped and looked up at him shamefaced.
For turn they would not in face of him, and to proceed along on the
same path would have taken them into the village, which they also
wished to avoid.

He looked at them keenly, and then he shouted: "I know you two. You are
the children of those who have stolen from me this soil. I am glad to
see you here, and to notice how the theft has benefited you. Surely, I
shall also live to see you two go before me the way of all flesh. Yes,
look at me, you little fools. Do you like my nose, eh?"

And indeed, he had a terrible nose, one which broke forth from his
emaciated swarthy face like a beak, or rather more like a good-sized
club. As if it had been pasted on to his bony face it looked and below
that the tiny mouth, in the shape of a small round hole, singularly
contracted and expanded, and out of this hole his words constantly
tumbled, whistling or buzzing or hissing. His small twisted felt hat,
shapeless and shabby, pushed over his left ear, heightened the uncanny
effect. This piece of his apparel seemed to change its form with every
motion of the queer-looking head, although in reality it sat immovable
on his pate. And of the eyes of this strange fellow nothing was to be
noticed but their whites, since the pupils were flashing around all the
time, just as though they were two hares jumping about to escape being
seized.

"Look at me well," he then continued. "Your two fathers know all about
me, and everybody in the village can identify me by my nose. Years ago
they were spreading the rumor that a good piece of money was awaiting
the heir to these fields here. I have called at court twenty times. But
since I had no baptismal certificate and since my friends, the
vagrants, who witnessed my birth, have no voice that the law will
recognize, the time set has elapsed, and they have cheated me out of
the little sum, large enough all the same to permit my emigrating to a
better country. I have implored your fathers at that time, again and
again, to testify for me to the effect that they at least believed me,
according to their conscience, to be the rightful heir. But they drove
me from their farms, and now, ha! ha! ha! they themselves have gone to
the devil. Well and good, that is the way things turn out in this
world, and I don't care a rap. And now I will just the same fiddle if
you want to dance."

With that he was down again on the ground beside them, at a mighty
bound, and seeing they did not want to dance he quickly disappeared in
the direction of the village; there the crop was to be brought in
towards nightfall, and there would be gay doings.

When he was gone the young couple sat down, discouraged and out of
spirits, among the wilderness of stone. They let their hands drop and
hung their poor heads too. For the sudden appearance of the vagrant
fiddler had wiped out the happy memories of their childhood, and their
joyous mood in which they, like they used in their younger days, had
wandered about in the green and among the corn, had gone with him. They
sat once more on the hard soil of their misery, and the happy gleam of
childhood had vanished, and their minds were oppressed and darkened.

But all at once Vreni remembered the fiddler's nose, and his whole odd
figure, and she burst out laughing loud and merry. She exclaimed: "The
poor fellow surely looks too queer. What a nose he had!" And with that
a charmingly careless merriment flashed out of her brown eyes, just as
though she had only been waiting for the fiddler's nose to chase away
all the sad clouds from her mind. Sali, too, regarded the girl, and
noticed this sunny gaiety. But by that time Vreni had already forgotten
the immediate cause of her gleefulness, and now she laughed on her own
account into Sali's face. Sali, dazed and astonished, involuntarily
gazed at the girl with laughing mouth, like a hungry man who suddenly
is offered sweetened wheat bread, and he said: "Heavens, Vreni, how
pretty you are!"

And Vreni, for sole answer, laughed but the more, and out of the mere
enjoyment of her sweet temper she gurgled a few melodious notes that
sounded to the boy like the warblings of a nightingale.

"Oh, you little witch," he exclaimed enraptured, "where have you
learned such tricks? What sorcery are you applying to me?"

"Sorcery?" she murmured astonished, in a voice of sweet enchantment,
and she seized Sali's hand anew. "There's no sorcery about this. How
gladly I should have laughed now and then, with reason or without. Now
and then, indeed, all by myself, I have laughed a bit, because I
couldn't help it, but my heart was not in it. But now it's different.
Now I should like to laugh all the time, holding your hand and feeling
happy. I should like to hold your hand forever, and look into your
eyes. Do you too love me a little bit?"

"Ah, Vreni," he answered, and looked full and affectionately into her
eyes, "I never cared for any girl before. And I have never until now
taken a good look at another girl. It always seemed to me as though
some time or other I should have to love you, and without knowing it, I
think, you have always been in my thoughts."

"And so it was in my case," said Vreni, "only more so. For you never
would look at me and did not know what had become of me and what I had
grown into. But as for me, I have from time to time, secretly, of
course, and from afar, cast a glance at you, and knew well enough what
you were like. Do you still remember how often as children we used to
come here? You know in the little baby cart? What small folk we were
those days, and how long, long ago that all is! One would think we were
old, real old now. Eh?"

Sali became thoughtful.

"How old are you, Vreni?" he asked. "I should think you must be about
seventeen?"

"I am seventeen and a half," answered she. "And you?"

"Guess!"

"Oh, I know, you are going on twenty."

"How do you know?" he asked.

"I won't tell you," she laughed.

"Won't tell me?"

"No, no," and she giggled merrily.

"But I want to know."

"Will you compel me?"

"We'll see about that."

These silly remarks Sali made because he wanted to keep his hands busy
and to have a pretext for the awkward caresses he attempted and which
his love for the beautiful girl hungered for. But she continued the
childish dialogue willingly enough for some time longer, showing plenty
of patience the while, feeling instinctively her lover's mood. And the
simple sallies on both sides seemed to them the height of wisdom, so
soft and sweet and full of their mutual feelings they were. At last,
however, Sali waxed bold and aggressive, and seized Vreni and pressed
her down into the scarlet bed of poppies by main strength. There she
lay panting, blinking at the sun with eyes half-closed. Her softly
rounded cheeks glowed like ripe apples and her mouth was breathing hard
so that the snow-white rows of teeth became visible. Daintily as if
penciled her eyebrows were defined above those flashing eyes, and her
young bosom rose and fell under the working four hands which mutually
caressed and fought each other. Sali was beyond himself with delight,
seeing this wonderful young creature before him, knowing her to be his
own, and he deemed himself wealthier than a monarch.

"I see you still have all your teeth," he said. "Do you recall how
often we tried to count them? Do you now know how to count?"

"Oh, you silly," smilingly rejoined Vreni, "these are not the same.
Those I lost long ago."

So Sali in the simplicity of his soul wanted to renew the game, and
prepared to count them over once more. But Vreni abruptly rose and
closed her mouth. Then she began to form a wreath of poppies and to
place it on her head. The wreath was broad and long, and on the brow of
the nut-brown maid it was an ornament so bewitching as to lend her an
enchanting air. Sali held in his arms what rich people would have
dearly paid for if merely they had had it painted on their walls.

But at last she sprang up. "Goodness, how hot it is here! Here we
remain like ninnies and allow ourselves to be roasted alive. Come,
dear, and let us sit among the corn!"

And they got up and looked for a suitable hiding-place among the tall
wheat. When they had found it, they slipped into the furrows of the
field so that nobody would have discovered them without regular search,
leaving no trace behind, and they built for themselves a narrow nest
among the golden ears that topped their heads when they were seated, so
that they only saw the deep azure of the sky above and nothing else in
the world. They clung to each other tightly, and showered kisses on
cheeks and hair and mouth, until at last they desisted from sheer
exhaustion, or whatever one wishes to call it when the caresses of two
lovers for one or two minutes cease and thus, right in the ecstasy of
the blossom tide of life, there is the hint of the perishableness of
everything mundane. They heard the larks singing high overhead, and
sought them with their sharp young eyes, and when they thought they saw
one flashing along in the sunlight like shooting stars along the
firmament, they kissed again, in token of reward, and tried to cheat
and to overreach each other at this game just as much as they could.

"Do you see, there is one flitting now," whispered Sali, and Vreni
replied just as low: "I can hear it, but I do not see it."

"Oh, but watch now," breathed Sali, "right there, where the small white
cloud is floating, a hand's breadth to the right."

And then both stared with all their might, and meanwhile opened their
lips, thirsty and hungry for more nourishment, like young birds in
their nest, in order to fasten these same lips upon the other if
perchance they both felt convinced of the existence of that lark.

But now Vreni made a stop, in order to say, very seriously and
importantly: "Let us not forget; this, then, is agreed, that each of us
loves the other. Now, I wish to know, what do you have to say about
your sweetheart?"

"This," said Sali, as though in a dream, "that it is a thing of beauty,
with two brown eyes, a scarlet mouth, and with two swift feet. But how
it really is thinking and believing I have no more idea than the Pope
in Rome. And what can you tell me about your lover? What is he like?"

"That he has two blue eyes, a bold mouth and two stout arms which he is
swift to use. But what his thoughts are I know no more than the Turkish
sultan."

"True," said Sali, "it is singular, but we really do not know what
either is thinking. We are less acquainted than if we had never seen
each other before. So strange towards each other the long time between
has made us. What really has happened during the long interval since we
grew up in your dear little head, Vreni?"

"Not much," whispered Vreni, "a thousand foolish things, but my life
has been so hard that none of them could stay there long."

"You poor little dear," said Sali in a very low voice, "but
nevertheless, Vreni, I believe you are a sly little thing, are you
not?"

"That you may learn, by and by, if you really are fond of me, as you
say," the young girl murmured.

"You mean when you are my wife," whispered Sali.

At these last words Vreni trembled slightly, and pressed herself more
tightly into his arms, kissing him anew long and tenderly. Tears
gathered in her eyes, and both of them all at once became sad, since
their future, so devoid of hope, came into their minds, and the enmity
of their fathers.

Vreni now sighed deeply and murmured: "Come, Sali, I must be going
now."

And both rose and left the cornfield hand in hand, but at the same
instant they spied Vreni's father. With the idle curiosity of the
person without useful employment he had been speculating, from the
moment he had met Sali hours before, what the young man might be
wanting all alone in the village. Remembering the occurrence of the
previous day, he finally, strolling slowly towards the town, had hit
upon the right cause, merely as the result of venom and suspicion. And
no sooner had his suspicion taken on a definite shape, when he, in the
middle of a Seldwyla street, turned back and reached the village. There
he had vainly searched for Vreni everywhere, at home and in the meadow
and all around in the hedges. With increasing restlessness he had now
sought her right near by in the cornfield, and when picking up there
Vreni's small vegetable basket, he had felt sure of being on the right
track, spying about, when suddenly he perceived the two children
issuing from the corn itself.

They stood there as if turned to stone. Marti himself also for a moment
did not move, and stared at them with evil looks, pale as lead. But
then he started to curse them like a fiend, and used the vilest
language toward the young man. He made a vicious grab at him,
attempting to throttle him. Sali instantly wrested himself loose, and
sprang back a few paces, so as to be out of the reach of the old man,
who acted like one demented. But when he perceived that Marti instead
of himself now took hold of the trembling girl, dealing her a violent
blow in the face, then seizing her by the back of her hair, trying to
drag her along and mistreat her further, he stepped up once more.
Without reflecting at all he picked up a rock and struck the old man
with it against the side of the head, half in fear of what the maniac
meant to do to Vreni, and half in self-defense. Marti after the blow
stumbled a step or two, and then fell in a heap on a pile of stones,
pulling his daughter down with him in so doing. Sali freed her hair
from the rough grasp of the unconscious man, and helped the girl to her
feet. But then he stood lifeless, not knowing what to say or do.

The girl seeing her father lying prone on the ground like dead, put her
hands to her face, shuddered and whispered: "Have you killed him?"

Sali silently nodded his head, and Vreni shrieked: "Oh, God, oh, God!
It is my father! The poor man!"

And quite out of her senses she knelt down alongside of him, lifted up
his head and began to examine his hurt. But there was no flow of blood,
nor any other trace of injury. She let the limp body drop to the ground
again. Sali put himself on the other side of the unconscious old man,
and both of them stared helplessly at the pale and motionless face of
Marti. They were silent and their hands dropped.

At last Sali remarked: "Perhaps he is not dead at all. I don't think he
is dead. That blow can never have killed him."

Vreni tore a leaf off one of the wild roses near her, and held it
before the mouth of her father. The leaf fluttered a little.

"He is still alive," she cried, "Run to the village, Sali, and get
assistance."

When Sali sprang up and was about to run off, she stretched out her
hand towards him, and cried: "Don't come back with the others and say
nothing as to how he came by his injury. I shall keep silent and betray
nothing."

In saying which the poor girl showed him a face streaming with tears of
distress, and she looked at her lover as though parting from him
forever.

"Come and kiss me once more," she murmured. "But no, get along with
you. Everything is over between us. We can never belong to each other."
And she gave him a gentle push, and he ran with a heavy heart down the
path to the village.

On his way he met a small boy, one he did not know, and him he bade to
get some people and described in detail where and what assistance was
required. Then he drifted off in despair, wandering at random all night
about the woods near the village.

In the early morning he cautiously crept forth, in order to spy out how
things had gone during the night. From several persons early astir he
heard the news. Marti was alive, but out of his senses, and nobody, it
seemed, knew what really had happened to him. And only after learning
this his mind was so far at ease that he found the way back to town and
to his father's tavern, where he buried himself in the family misery.


Vreni had kept her word. Nothing could be learned of her but that she
had found her father in this condition, and as he on the next day
became again quite active, breathed normally and began to move about,
although still without his full senses, and since, besides, there was
no one to frame a complaint, it was assumed that he had met with some
accident while under the influence of drink, probably had had a bad
fall on the stones, and matters were left as they were.

Vreni nursed him very carefully, never left his side, except to get
medicine and remedies from the shop of the village doctor, and also to
pick in the vegetable patch something wherewith to cook him and herself
a simple stew or soup. Those days she lived almost on air, although she
had to be about and busy day and night and nobody came to help her.
Thus nearly six weeks elapsed until the old man recovered sufficiently
to take care of himself, though long before that he had been sitting up
in bed and had babbled about one thing or another. But he had not
recovered his mind, and the things he was now saying and doing seemed
to show plainly that he had become weak-minded, and this in the
strangest manner. He could recall what had happened but darkly, and to
him it seemed something very enjoyable and laughable. Something, too,
which did not touch him in any way, and he laughed and laughed all day
long, and was in the best of humor, very different from what he had
been before his accident. While still abed he had a hundred foolish,
senseless ideas, cut capers and made faces, pulled his black peaked
woollen cap over his ears, down to his nose and his mouth, and then he
would mumble something which seemed to amuse him highly. Vreni, pale
and sorrowful, listened patiently to all his stories, shedding tears
about his idiotic behavior, which grieved her even more than his former
malicious and wicked tricks had. But it would nevertheless happen now
and then, that the old man would perform some particularly ludicrous
antics, and then Vreni, tortured as she was by all these scenes, would
be unable to help bursting into laughter, as her joyous disposition,
suppressed by all these sad events, would sometimes rend the bounds
which confined her, just like a bow too tightly strung that would
break.

But as soon as the old man could once more get out of bed, there was
nothing more to be done. All day long he did nothing but silly things,
was grinning, smirking and laughing to himself constantly, turned
everything in the house topsy-turvy, sat down in the sunshine and
blared at the world, put out his tongue at everybody that passed, and
made long monologues while standing in the midst of the bean field.

Simultaneous with all this there came also the end of his ownership in
the farm. Everything upon it had, of course, gone to wrack and ruin,
and disorder reigned supreme. Not only his house, but also the last bit
of land left him, pledged in court some time before, were now seized
and the day of forced sale was named. For the peasant who had claims to
these pieces of property, very naturally made use of the opportunities
now afforded him by the illness and the failing powers of Marti to
bring about a quick decision. These last proceedings in court used up
the bit of cash still left to Marti, and all this was done while he in
his weakness of mind had not even a notion what it was all about.

The forced sale took place, and at its close, Marti being penniless and
bereft of sense, by the action of the village council, it was decided
to make him an inmate of the community asylum that had been founded
many years before for the precise benefit of just such poor devils as
himself. This asylum was located in the cantonal capital. Before he
started for his destination he was well fed for a day or two, to the
eminent satisfaction of the idiot, who had developed an enormous
appetite of late, and then was put on a cart drawn by a phlegmatic ox
and driven by a poor peasant who besides attending to this community
errand wanted to sell also a sack of potatoes at the town. Vreni sat
down on the same vehicle alongside of her father in order to accompany
him on this day of his being buried alive, so to speak.

It was a sad and bitter drive, but Vreni watched lovingly over her
father, and let him want for nothing; neither did she grow impatient
when passers-by, attracted by the ridiculous behavior of the old man,
would follow the cart and make all sorts of audible remarks on its
inmates. Finally they did reach the asylum, a complex of buildings
connected by courts and corridors, and where a big garden was seen
alive with similarly unfortunate beings as Marti himself, all dressed
in a sort of uniform consisting of white coarse linen blouses and
vests, with stiff caps of leather on their foolish old heads. Marti,
too, was put into such a uniform, even before Vreni's departure, and
her father evinced a childish joy at his new clothes, dancing about in
them and singing snatches of wicked drinking songs.

"God be with you, my lords and honored fellow-inmates," he harangued a
knot of them, "you surely have a palace-like home here. Go away, Vreni,
and tell mother that I won't come home any more. I like it here
splendidly. Goodness me, what a palace! There runs a spider across the
road, and I have heard him barking! Oh, maiden mine, oh, maiden mine,
don't kiss the old, kiss but the young! All the waters in the world are
running into the Rhine! She with the darkest eye, she is not mine.
Already going, little Vreni? Why, thou lookest as though death were in
thy pot. And yet things are looking up with me. I am doing fine. Am
getting wealthy in my old days. The she-fox cries with him: Halloo!
Halloo! Her heart pains her. Why--oh, why? Halloo! Halloo!"

An official of the institution bade him hold his infernal noise, and
then he led him away to do some easy work. Vreni took her leave sadly
and then began to look up her ox cart with the peasant. When she had
found it she climbed in and sat down and ate a slice of bread she had
brought with her. Then she lay down and fell asleep, and a couple of
hours later the peasant came and woke her, and then they drove home to
the village. They arrived there in the middle of the night. Vreni went
to her father's house, the one where she had been born and had spent
all her days. For the first time she was all alone in it. Two days'
grace she had to get out and find some other shelter. She made a fire
and prepared a cup of coffee for herself, using the last remnants she
still had. Then she sat down on the edge of the hearth, and wept
bitterly. She was longing with all her soul to see and talk once more
to Sali, and she was thinking and thinking of him. But mingling with
these desires of hers were her anxieties and her fears of the future.
Thus sat the poor thing, holding her head in her hand, when somebody
entered at the door.

"Sali!" cried Vreni, when she looked up and saw the face dearest to her
in the world. And she fell on his neck, but then they both looked at
one another, and they shouted: "How poorly you look!" For Sali was as
pale and sorrowful as the girl herself. Forgetting everything she drew
him to her on the hearth, and questioned him: "Have you been ill, or
have you also fared badly?"

"No, not ill," said Sali, "but longing for you. At home things are
going fine. My father now has rare guests, and as I believe, he has
become a receiver of stolen goods. And that is why there are big doings
at our place, both day and night, until, I suppose, there will come a
bad end to it all. Mother is helping along, eager to have guests of any
kind at all, guests that fetch money into the house, and she tries to
bring some order out of all this disorder, and also to make it
profitable. I am not questioned about the matter at all, neither do I
care. For I have only been thinking of you all along. Since all sorts
of vagrants come and go in our place, we have heard of everything
concerning you, and my father is beside himself with joy, and that your
father has been taken to-day to the asylum has delighted him immensely.
Since he has now left you I have come, thinking you might be lonesome,
and maybe in trouble."

Then Vreni told him all her sorrows in detail, but she did this with
such fluency and described the intimate details in such an almost happy
tone of voice as if what she was saying did not disturb her in the
least. All this because the presence of her lover and his solicitude
about her really rendered her happy and minimized her anxieties. She
had Sali at her side. And what more did she want? Soon she had a vessel
with the steaming coffee which she forced Sali to share with her.

"Day after to-morrow, then, you must leave here?" said Sali. "What is
to become of you now?"

"I don't know," answered Vreni. "I suppose I shall have to seek some
service and go away from here, somewhere in the wide world. But I know
I won't be able to endure that without you, Sali, and yet we cannot
come together. If there were no other reason it would not do because
you hurt my father and made him lose his mind. That would always be a
bad foundation for our wedded state, would it not? And neither of us
would ever be able to forget that, never!"

Sali sighed deeply, and rejoined: "I myself wanted a hundred times to
become a soldier or else go far away and hire out on a farm, but I
cannot do it, I cannot leave you here, and after we are separated it
will kill me, I feel sure of it, for longing for you will not let me
rest day or night. I really believe, Vreni, that all this misery makes
my love for you only the stronger and the more painful, so that it
becomes a matter of life or death. Never did I dream that this should
ever be my end."

But Vreni, while he was thus pouring out his burdened mind, gazed at
him smilingly and with a face that shone with joy. They were leaning
against the chimney corner, and silently they felt to the full the
intense ecstasy of communion of spirits. Over and above all their
troubles, high above them all, there was hovering the genius of their
love, that each felt loving and beloved. And in this beatitude they
both fell asleep on this cold hearth with its feathery ashes, without
cover or pillow, and slept just as peacefully and softly as two little
children in their cradle.

Dawn was breaking in the eastern sky when Sali awoke the first. Gently
he woke Vreni, but she again and again snuggled near to him and would
not rouse herself. At last he kissed her with vehemence on her mouth,
and then Vreni did awaken, opened her eyes wide, and when she saw Sali
she exclaimed: "Zounds, I've just been dreaming of you. I was dreaming
I danced on our wedding-day, many, many hours, and we were both so
happy, both so finely dressed, and nothing was lacking to our joy. And
then we wanted to kiss each other, and we both longed for it, oh, so
much, but always something was dragging us apart, and now it appears
that it was you yourself that was interfering, that it was you who
disturbed and hindered us. But how nice, how nice, that you are at
least close by now."

And she fell around his neck and kissed him wildly, kissed him as if
there were to be no end to it.

"And now confess, my dear, what have you been dreaming?" and she
tenderly caressed his cheeks and chin.

"I was dreaming," he said, "that I was walking endlessly along a
lengthy street, and through a forest, and you in the distance always
ahead of me. Off and on you turned around for me, and were beckoning
and smiling at me, and then it seemed to me I were in heaven. And that
is all."

They stepped on the threshold of the kitchen door left open the whole
night and which led direct into the open, and they had to laugh as they
now saw each other plainly. For the right cheek of Vreni and the left
one of Sali, which in their sleep had been resting against each other,
were both quite red from the pressure, while the pallor of the opposite
cheeks was engrossed by the coolth of early morning. So then they
rubbed vigorously the pale cheeks to bring them into consonance with
the others, each performing that service for the other. The fresh
morning air, the dewy peace lying over the whole landscape, and the
ruddy tints of coming sunrise, all this together made them forget their
griefs and made them merry and playful, and into Vreni especially a gay
spirit of carelessness seemed to have passed.

"To-morrow night then, I must leave this house," she said, "and find
some other shelter. But before that happens I should love to be merry,
real merry, just once, only once. And it is with thee, dear, that I
want to enjoy myself. I should like to dance with you, really and
truly, for a long, long time, till I could no longer move a foot. For
it is that dance in my dream that I have to think of steadily. That
dream was too fine, let us realize it."

"At all events I must be present when you dance," said Sali, "and see
what becomes of you, and to dance with you as long as you like is just
what I myself would love to do, you charming wild thing. But where?"

"Ah, Sali, to-morrow there will be kermess in a number of places near
by. Of two of these I know. On such occasions we should not be spied
upon and could enjoy ourselves to our heart's content. Below at the
river front I could await you, and then we can go wherever we like, to
laugh and be merry--just once, only once. But stop--we have no money."
And Vreni's face clouded with the sad thought, and she added blankly:
"What a pity! Nothing can come of it."

"Let be," smilingly said Sali, "I shall have money enough when I meet
you."

But Vreni flushed and said haltingly: "But how--not from your father,
not stolen money?"

"No, Vreni. I still have my silver watch, and I will sell that."

"Then that is arranged," said Vreni, and she flushed once more. "In
fact, I think I should die if I could not dance with you to-morrow."

"Probably the best for us," said Sali, "if we both could die."

They embraced with tearful smiles, and bade each other good-by, but at
the moment of parting they again laughed at each other, in the sure
hope of meeting again next day.

"But when shall we meet?" asked Vreni.

"At eleven at latest," answered Sali. "Then we can eat a good noon meal
together somewhere."

"Fine, fine," Vreni cried after him, "come half an hour earlier then."

But the very moment of their parting Vreni summoned him back once more,
and she showed suddenly a wholly changed and despairing face: "Nothing,
after all, can come of our plans," she then said, weeping hard,
"because I had forgotten I had no Sunday shoes any more. Even yesterday
I had to put on these clumsy ones going to town, and I don't know where
to find a pair I could wear."

Sali stood undecided and amazed.

"No shoes?" he repeated after her. "In that case you'll have to go in
these."

"But no, no," she remonstrated. "In these I should never be able to
dance."

"Well, all we can do then is to buy new ones," said Sali in a
matter-of-fact tone.

"Where and what with?" asked Vreni.

"Why, in Seldwyla, where they have shoe stores enough. And money I
shall have in less than two hours."

"But, Sali, I cannot accompany you to all these shoe stores, and then
there will not be money enough for all the other things as well."

"It must. And I will buy the shoes for you and bring them along
to-morrow."

"Oh, but, you silly, they would not fit me."

"Then give me an old shoe of yours to take along, or, stop, better
still, I will take your measure. Surely that will not be very
difficult."

"Take my measure, of course. I never thought of that. Come, come, I
will find you a bit of tape."

Then she sat down once more on the hearth, turned her skirt somewhat up
and slipped her shoe off, and the little foot showed, from yesterday's
excursion to town, yet covered with a white stocking. Sali knelt down,
and then took, as well as he was able, the measure, using the tape
daintily in encompassing the length and width with great care, and
tying knots where wanted.

"You shoemaker," said Vreni, bending down to him and laughingly
flushing in embarrassment. But Sali also reddened, and he held the
little foot firmly in the palm of his hand, really longer than was
necessary, so that Vreni at last, blushing still a deeper red, withdrew
it, embracing, however, Sali once more stormily and kissing him with
ardor, but then telling him hastily to go.

As soon as Sali arrived in town he took his watch to a jeweler and
received six or seven florins for it. For his silver watch chain he
also got some money, and now he thought himself rich as Croesus, for
since he had grown up he had never had as large a sum at once. If only
the day were over, he was saying to himself, and Sunday come, so that
he could purchase with his riches all the happiness which Vreni and
himself were dreaming of. For though the awful day after seemed to loom
darker and darker in comparison, the heavenly pleasures anticipated for
Sunday shone with all the greater lustre. However, some of his
remaining leisure time was spent agreeably by him in choosing the
desired pair of shoes for Vreni. In fact this job to him was a most
joyous diversion. He went from one shoestore to another, had them show
him all the women's footwear they had in stock, and finally bought the
prettiest pair he could find. They were of a finer quality and more
ornate than any Vreni had ever owned. He hid them under his vest, and
throughout the rest of the day did not leave them out of his sight; he
even put them under his pillow at night when he went to bed. Since he
had seen the girl that day and was to meet her again next day, he slept
soundly and well, but was up early, and then began to pick out his
Sunday finery, dressing with greater care than ever before in his life.
When he was done he looked with satisfaction at his own image in his
little broken mirror. And indeed it presented an enticing picture of
youth and good looks. His mother was astonished when she saw him thus
attired as though for his wedding, and she asked him the meaning of it.
The son replied, with a mien of indifference, that he wanted to take a
long stroll into the country, adding that he felt the effects of his
constant confinement in the close house.

"Queer doings, all the time," grumbled his father with ill-humor, "and
forever skirmishing about."

"Let him have his way," said the mother. "Perhaps a change of air and
surroundings will do him good. I'm sure to look at him he needs it. He
is as pale as a ghost."

"Have you some money to spend for your outing?" now asked his father.
"Where did you get it from?"

"I don't need any," said Sali.

"There is a florin for you," replied the old man, and threw him the
coin. "You can turn in at the village and visit the tavern, so that
they don't think we're so badly off."

"I don't intend to go to the village, and I have no use for the money.
You may keep it," replied Sali, with a show of indignation.

"Well, you've had it, at any rate, and so I'll keep the money, you
ill-conditioned fellow," muttered the father, and put the coin back in
his pocket.

But his wife who for some reason unknown to herself felt that day
particularly distressed on account of her son, brought down for him a
large handkerchief of Milan silk, with scarlet edges, which she herself
had worn a few odd times before and of which she knew that he liked it.
He wound it about his neck, and left the long ends of it dangling. And
the flaps of his shirt collar, usually worn by him turned down, he this
time let stand on end, in a fit of rustic coquetry, so that he offered
altogether the appearance of a well-to-do young man. Then at last,
Vreni's little shoes hid below his vest, he left the house at near
seven in the morning. In leaving the room a singularly powerful
sentiment urged him to shake hands once more with his parents, and
having reached the street, he was impelled to turn and take a last
glance at the house.

"I almost believe," said Manz sententiously, "that the young fool is
smitten with some woman. Nothing but that would be lacking in our
present circumstances indeed."

And the mother replied: "Would to God it were so. Perhaps the poor
fellow might yet be happy in life."

"Just so," growled the father. "That's it. What a heavenly lot you are
picking for him. To fall in love and to have to take care of some
penniless woman--yes indeed, that would be a great thing for him, would
it not?"

But Mother Manz only smiled slightly, and said never another word.

Sali at first directed his steps toward the shore of the river, to that
trysting-place where he was to meet Vreni. But on the way he changed
his mind and steered straight for the village itself, hoping to meet
her there awaiting him, since the time till noon otherwise seemed lost
to him.

"What do we have to care about gossips now?" he said to himself. "And
they dare not say anything against her anyway, nor am I afraid of
anyone."

So he stepped into Vreni's room without any ceremony, and to his
delight found her already completely dressed and bedecked, seated
patiently on a stool, and awaiting her lover's coming. Nothing but the
shoes was lacking.

But Sali stopped right in the centre of the room and stood like one
nailed to the spot, so beautiful and alluring Vreni looked in her
holiday attire. Yet it was simple enough. She wore a plain skirt of
blue linen, and above that a snow-white muslin kerchief. The dress
fitted her slender body wonderfully, and the brown hair with its pretty
curls had been well arranged, and the usually obstinate curls lay fine
and dainty about head and neck. Since Vreni had scarcely left the house
for so many weeks, her complexion had grown more delicate and almost
transparent; her griefs also had contributed toward that result. But at
that instant a rush of sudden joy and love poured over that pallor one
scarlet layer after another, and on her bosom she wore a fine nosegay
of roses, asters and rosemary. She was seated at the window, and was
breathing still and quiet the fresh morning air perfumed by the sun.
But when she saw Sali she at once stretched out her pretty arms, bare
from the elbow. And with a voice melodious and tender she exclaimed:
"How nice of you and how right to come already. But have you really
brought me the shoes? Surely? Well, then I won't get up until I have
them on."

Sali without further ado produced the shoes and handed them to the
eager maiden. Vreni instantly cast her old ones aside, slipped the new
ones on, and indeed, they fitted excellently. Only now she rose quickly
from her seat, dandled herself in the shoes, and walked up and down the
room a few times, to be sure of their fit. She pulled up a bit her blue
dress in order to admire them the better, and with extreme pleasure she
examined the red loops in front, while Sali could not get his fill of
the charming picture the girl presented--the lovely excitement that
beautified her the more, the willowy shape, the gently heaving bosom,
the delicate oval of the face with its pretty features, animated with
feminine enjoyment of the moment, eager with the mere joy of living,
grateful to the giver of this last bit of finery that her childish soul
had longed for.

"You are looking at my posy," she said. "Have I not managed to pick a
nice one? You must know these are the last ones I have managed to find
in this wasted place. But there was, after all, still left a rosebud,
over at the hedge in a sheltered spot a few of them and some other
flowers, and the way they are now gathered up and arranged one would
never think they came from a house decayed and fallen. But now it is
high time for me to leave here, for not a single flower is there, and
the whole house is bare."

Then only Sali noticed that all the few movables still left were gone.

"You poor little Vreni," he deplored, "have they already taken
everything from you?"

"Yes," she said with a ludicrous attempt to be tragic, "yesterday,
after you had left, they came and took everything of mine away that
could be moved at all, and left me nothing but my bed. But that I have
also sold at once, and here is the money for it--see!" And she hauled
forth from the depths of an inside pocket a handful of bright new
silver coins.

"With this," she continued, "the orphan patron said to me, I was to
find another service in town somewhere, and that I was to start out
to-day."

"Really," said Sali, after glancing about in the kitchen and the other
rooms, "there is nothing at all left, no furniture, no sliver of fuel,
no pot or kettle, no knife or fork. And have you had nothing to eat
this morning?"

"Nothing at all," answered Vreni, with a happy laugh. "I might have
gone out and got myself something for breakfast, but I preferred to
remain hungry, so I could eat a lot with you, for you cannot think how
much I am going to enjoy my first meal with you--how awfully much I am
going to eat with you present. I am almost dying with impatience for
it." And she showed him a row of pearly teeth and a little red tongue
to emphasize what she said.

Sali stood like one enchanted.

"If I only might touch you," murmured Sali, "I should soon show you how
much I love you, you pretty, pretty thing."

"No, no, you are right," quickly rejoined Vreni, "you would ruin all my
finery, and if we also handle my flowers with some care my head and
hair will profit from it, because ordinarily you disarrange all my
curls."

"Well, then," grumbled Sali, "let us go."

"Not quite yet; we must wait till my bed has been fetched away. For as
soon as that is gone I am going to lock up the house, and I am never to
return to it. My little bundle I am going to give to the woman to keep,
to the one who has bought my bed."

So they sat down together and waited until the woman showed up, a
peasant woman of squat shape and robust habit, one who loved to talk,
who had a stout boy with her that was to carry the bedstead. When this
woman got sight of Vreni's lover and of the girl herself in all her
finery, she opened mouth and eyes to their fullest, squared herself and
put her arms akimbo, shouting: "Why, look only, you're starting well,
Vreni. With a lover and yourself dressed up like a princess."

"Don't I?" laughed Vreni, in a friendly way. "And do you know who that
is?"

"I should think so," said the woman. "That is Sali Manz, or I am much
mistaken. Mountains and valleys, they say, do not meet, but people most
certainly do. But, child, let me warn you. Think how your parents have
fared."

"Ah, that is all changed now," smilingly replied Vreni. "Everything has
been adjusted, and now things are smoothed out. See here, Sali is my
promised husband." And the girl told this bit of news in a manner
almost condescending, and bent toward the woman one of her bewitching
glances.

"Your promised husband, is he? Well, well, who would have thought it?"
chattered the peasant woman, feeling highly honored at being the
recipient of this interesting intelligence.

"Yes, and he is now a wealthy gentleman," went on Vreni, "for he has
just won a hundred thousand dollars in the lottery. Just think!"

The woman gave a jump of surprise, threw up her hands, and shouted:
"Hund--hundred thousand--Hund--"

Vreni repeated it with a serious face.

The woman grew still more excited.

"Hundred thousand--well, well. But you are making fun of me, child.
Hund--Is it possible?"

"All right, as you choose," went on Vreni, still smiling.

"But if it is true, and he gets all that money, what are you two going
to do with it? Are you to become a stylish lady, or what?"

"Of course, within three weeks our wedding takes place--such a
wedding."

"Oh, my goodness, is it possible? But no, you are telling me stories, I
know."

"Well, he has already bought the finest house in Seldwyla, with a fine
vineyard and the biggest garden attached. And you must come and pay us
a visit, after we're there--I count on it."

"Why, what a witch you are," the woman went on between belief and
unbelief.

"You will see how nice it is there," continued Vreni unabashed. "A cup
of coffee you'll get, such as you never drank before, and plenty of
cake with it, of butter and honey."

"Oh, you lucky duck!" shrieked the woman, "depend upon my coming, of
course." And she made an eager face, as though she already saw spread
before her all these dainties.

"But if you should happen to come at noontime," went on Vreni in her
fanciful tale, "and you would be tired from marketing, you shall have a
bowl of strong broth and a bottle of our extra wine, the one with the
blue seal."

"That will certainly do me good," said the woman.

"And there shall be no lack of some candy and white wheaten rolls, for
your little ones at home."

"I think I can taste it already," answered the woman, and she turned
her eyes heavenwards.

"Perhaps a pretty kerchief, or the remnant of a bolt of extra fine
silk, or a costly ribbon or two for your skirts, or enough for an apron
I suppose will be found, if we rummage in my drawers and trunks
together sometime when we are talking things over."

The woman turned completely on her heels and shook her skirts with a
jubilant yodel.

"And in case your husband could start in the cattle dealing way, and
needed a bit of capital for it, you would know where to apply, would
you not? My dear Sali will always be glad to invest some of his
superfluous money in such a manner. And I myself might add a few
pennies from my savings to help out a good and intimate gossip, you may
be certain."

By this time the last faint doubts had vanished. The woman wrung her
uncouth hands, and said, with a great deal of sentiment: "That's what I
have always been saying, you are a square and honest and beautiful
girl! May the Lord always be good to you and reward you for what you
are going to do for me!"

"But on my part, I must insist that you, too, treat me well."

"Surely you have a right to expect that," said the woman.

"And that you at all times offer me first all your produce, be it fruit
or potatoes, or vegetables, and to do this before you take them to the
public market, so that I may always be sure of having a real peasant
woman on hand, one upon whom I may rely. Whatever anybody else is
willing to pay you for your produce, I will also be willing to give.
You know me. Why, there is nothing nicer than a wealthy city lady, one
who sits within town walls and cannot know prices and conditions there,
and yet needs so many things in her household, and an honest and
well-posted woman from the country, experienced in all that concerns
her, who are bound together by durable friendship and a community of
interests. The city lady profits from it at all sorts of occasions, as
for example at weddings and baptisms, at seasons of illness or crop
failure, at holidays and famine time, or inundations, from which the
Lord preserve us!"

"From which the Lord preserve us!" repeated the woman solemnly,
sobbing and wiping her wet face on her ample apron. "But what a
sensible and well-informed little wife you'll make, to be sure! Without
doubt you will live as happily as a mouse in the cheese, or there is no
justice in this world. Handsome, clean, smart and wise, fit for and
willing to tackle all work at any time. None is as good-looking and as
fine as thou art, no, not in the whole village, and even some distance
further away. And who has got you for wife can congratulate himself; he
is bound to be in paradise, or he is a scoundrel, and he will have me
to deal with. Listen, Sali, do not fail to be nice to Vreni, or you
will hear a word from me, you lucky devil, to break such a rose without
thorns as this one here!"

"For to-day, my dear woman," concluded Vreni, "take this bundle along,
as we agreed yesterday, and keep it till I send for it. But it may be
that I myself come for it, in my own carriage, and get it, if you have
no objection. A drink of milk you will not refuse me in that case, and
a nice cake, such as perhaps an almond tart, I shall probably bring
along myself."

"You blessed child, give it here, your bundle," the peasant woman
quavered, still completely under the influence of Vreni's eloquence.

Vreni therefore deposited on top of the bedding which the woman had
already tied up, a huge bag containing all the girl's belongings, so
that the stout-limbed woman was bearing a perfect tower of shaking and
trembling baggage on her head.

"It is almost too much for me to carry at once," she complained. "Could
I not come again and divide the load in halves?" she wanted to know.

"No, no," answered Vreni, "we must leave here at once, for we have to
visit a whole number of wealthy relatives, and some of these are far
away, the kind, you know, who have now recognized us since we have
become rich ourselves. You know how the world wags."

"Yes, indeed," said the woman, "I do know, and so God keep you, and
think of me now and then in your glorious new state."

Then the peasant woman trundled off with her monstrously high tower of
bundles, preserving its equilibrium by skillfully balancing the weight,
and behind her trudged her boy, who stood up in the center of Vreni's
gaily painted bedstead, his hard head braced against the baldaquin of
it in which the eye beheld stars and suns in a firmament of
multicolored muslin, and like another Samson, grasping with his red
fists the two prettily carved slender pillars in front which supported
the whole. As Vreni, leaning against Sali, watched the procession
meandering down between the gardens of the nearer houses, and the
aforesaid little temple forming part of her whilom bedstead, she
remarked: "That would still make a fine little arbor or garden pavilion
if placed in the midst of a sunny garden, with a small table and a
bench inside, and quickly growing vines planted around. Eh, Sali,
wouldn't you like to sit there with me in the shade?"

"Why, yes, Vreni," said he, smiling, "especially if the vines once had
grown to a size."

"But why not go now?" continued she. "Nothing more is holding us here."

"True," he assented. "Come, then, and lock up the house. But to whom
will you deliver up the key?"

Vreni looked around. "Here to this halberd let us hang it. For more
than a century it has been in our house, as I've often heard father
say. Now it stands at the door as the last sentinel."

So they hung the rusty key of the housedoor to one of the rustier
curves of the stout weapon, which was fairly overgrown with bean vines,
and sallied forth.

But after all Vreni grew faint, and Sali had to support her the first
score steps, the parting with the place where her cradle had stood
making her sad. But she did not look back.

"Where are we bound for first?" she wanted to know.

"Let us make a regular excursion across the country," said Sali, "and
stop at a spot where we shall be comfortable all day long. And don't
let us hurry. Towards evening we shall easily be able to find a dance
going on."

"Good," answered Vreni. "Thus we shall be together the whole day, and
go where we like. But above all, I feel quite faint. Let us stop in the
next village and get some coffee."

"Of course," said the young man. "But let us first get away from here."

Soon they were in the open, fields of ripe, waving corn or else of
fresh stubble around them, and went along, quietly and full of deep
contentment, close to each other, breathing the pure air as though
freed from prison walls. It was a delicious Sunday morning in
September. There was not a cloud to be seen in the sky of deep azure,
and in the distance the hills and woods were enwrapped in a delicate
haze, so that the whole landscape looked more solemn and mysterious.
From everywhere the tolling of the church bells was heard, the
harmonious deep tones of a big swinging bell belonging to a wealthy
congregation, or the talkative two small bells of a poor village that
made fast time to create any impression at all. The lovers forgot
completely as to what was to become of them at the end of this rare
day, forgot the disturbing uncertainties of their young lives, and gave
themselves up completely to the intoxicating delights of the moment,
sank their very souls in a calm joy that knew no words and no fears.
Neatly clothed, free to come or go, like two happy ones who before God
and men belong to each other by all rights, they went forth into the
still Sunday country side. Each slight sound or call, reverberating and
finally losing itself in the general silence, shook their hearts as
though the strings of a harp had been touched by divine fingers. For
Love is a musical instrument which makes resound the farthest and the
most indifferent subjects and changes them into a music all its own.

Though both were hungry and faint, the half hour's walk to the next
village seemed to them but a step, and they entered slowly the little
inn that stood at the entrance to the place.

Sali ordered a substantial and appetizing breakfast, and while it was
being prepared they observed, quiet as two mice, the interior of this
homely place of entertainment, everything in it being scrupulously
clean and orderly, from the walls and tables and napkins to the hearth
and floor. The guest room itself was large and airy, and the window
panes glittered in the furtive rays of the sun. The host of the inn was
at the same time a baker, and his last baking, just out of the oven,
spread a delicious odor through the whole house. Stacks of fresh loaves
were carried past them in clean baskets, since after church service the
members of the congregation were in the habit of getting here their
white bread or to drink their noon shoppen. The hostess, a rather
handsome and neat woman, dressed in their Sunday finery all her little
brood of children, leisurely and pleasantly, and as she was done with
one more of the little ones, the latter, proud and glad, would come
running to Vreni, showing her all their finery, and innocently boasting
and bragging of their belongings and of all else they held precious.

When at last the fragrant coffee was brought and served for them,
together with other good things, at a convenient table, the two young
people sat down somewhat embarrassed, just as if they had been invited
as honored guests to do so. But they got over this mood, and whispered
to each other modestly but happily, feeling the joy of each other's
presence. And oh, how Vreni enjoyed her breakfast, the strong coffee,
the cream, the fresh rolls still warm from the oven, the rich butter
and the honey, the omelet, and all the other splendid things dished up
for them. Delicious it all tasted, not only because she had been really
hungry, but because she could look all the while at Sali, and she ate
and ate, as if she had been fasting for a whole year.

With that she also took pleasure in the pretty service, the fine cups
and saucers and dishes, the dainty silver spoons, and the snowy linen.
For the hostess seemed to have made up her mind about these two, and
she evidently regarded them as young people of good family, who were to
be waited upon in proper style, and several times she came and sat down
by them, chatting most agreeably, and both Sali and Vreni answered her
sensibly, whereat the woman became still more affable. And Vreni felt
the wholesome influence of all this so strongly, and a sense of snug
comfort coursed so pleasantly through her veins that she in her mind
found it hard to choose between the delights of wandering about in the
woods and fields, hand in hand with her lover, or remaining for some
time longer here in this inn, in this haven of rest and creature
comfort, honored and respected and dreaming herself into the illusion
of owning such a nice home as this herself.

But Sali himself rendered the choice easier, for in a perfectly proper
and rather husbandlike manner he urged departure, just as though they
had duties to fulfil elsewhere. Both host and hostess saw the young
couple to the door, and bade them good-by in the most orthodox and
well-meaning way, and Vreni, too, showed her manners and reciprocated
their courtesy like one to the manner born, then following Sali in most
decent and moral style. But even after reaching the open country once
more and entering an oak forest a couple of miles long, both of them
were still under the influence of the spell, and they went along in a
dreamy mood, just as though they both did not come from homes destroyed
and filled with hatred and discord, but from happy and harmonious
homes, expecting from life the near fulfilment of all their rosy hopes.

Vreni bent her pretty head down on her flower-bedecked bosom, deep in
thought, and went along the smooth, damp woodpath with hands carefully
held along her sides, while Sali stepped along elastic and upright,
quick and thoughtful, his eyes fastened to the oak trunks ahead of him,
like a well-to-do peasant reflecting on the problem which of these
trees it would best pay to cut down and which to leave. But at last
they awoke from these vain dreams, glanced at each other and discovered
that they were still maintaining the attitude with which they had left
the inn. Then they both blushed and their heads drooped in melancholy
fashion. Youth, however, soon reasserted itself. The woods were green,
the sky overhead faultlessly blue, and they were alone by themselves in
the world, and thus they soon drifted back into that train of thought.
But they did not long remain by themselves, since this attractive
forest road began to be alive with groups and couples out for a bracing
walk in the cool shade, most of them returning from service in church,
and nearly all of these were singing gay worldly tunes, trifling and
joking with each other. For in these parts it so happens that the
rustics have their customary walks and promenades as well as the city
dwellers, to which they resort at leisure, only with this great
difference that their pleasure grounds cost nothing to maintain and
that these are finer in every way, since Nature alone has made them.
Not alone do they stroll about on Sundays through fields and meadows
and woods with a peculiar sense of freedom and recreation, taking stock
of their ripening crops and the prospects of the harvest to come, but
they also choose with unerring taste excursions along the edge of
forest or meadow, hill or dale, sit down for a brief rest on the summit
of a height, whence they enjoy a fine view, or sing in chorus at
another suitable spot, and certainly obtain fully as much, if not more,
pleasure out of all this as town folk do. And since they do all this,
not as labor but diversion, one must conclude that these rustics,
despite of what has often been claimed to the contrary, are lovers of
nature, aside from the strictly utilitarian view of it. And always they
break off something green and living, young and old, even weak and
decrepit women, when they revisit the scenes of long ago, and the same
spirit is seen in the habit that these country people have, including
sedate men of business, of cutting for themselves a slender rod of
hazel, or a snappy cane, whenever they walk through woods or forest,
and these they will peel all but a small bunch of green leaves at the
point. Such rods or twigs they will bear as though it were a sceptre,
and when they enter an office or public place they will put them in a
corner of the room, and never forget to get them again, even after the
most serious and important matters have been discussed, and to take
them along with them home. And it is then only the privilege of the
youngest of their boys to seize it, break it, play with it, in fine,
destroy it.

When Sali and Vreni noticed these many couples out for a holiday
stroll, they laughed to themselves, and rejoiced that they, too, were
such a happy pair; they lost themselves on side paths that led away
from every noise, and there they felt protected by the green solitude.
They remained where they liked, went on or rested again for a spell,
and in unison with the sky overhead which was cloudless, no carking
care came to disturb their serenity. This state of perfect, unalloyed
bliss lasted for them for hours, and they for the time forgot wholly
whence they came and whither they were going, and behaved with such a
degree of decorum that Vreni's little posy actually remained as fresh
and intact as it had been early in the morning, and her plain Sunday
dress showed neither crease nor stain. As to Sali, he behaved all this
time not like a youthful rustic of less than twenty, nor like the son
of a broken-down tavern keeper, but rather like a youth a couple of
years younger and quite innocent, withal of the best education. It was
almost comical to observe his conduct towards his merry Vreni, looking
at her with a touching mixture of tenderness, respect and care. For
these two lovers, so unsophisticated and so entirely without guile,
somehow understood how to run in the course of this one day of perfect
joy vouchsafed them through all the gamut of love, and to make up not
alone for the earlier and more poetic stages of it but also to taste
its bitter and ultimate end with its passionate sacrifice of life
itself.

Thus they thoroughly tired themselves running about part of the day,
and hunger had come a second time that day when, from the crest of a
shady mountain, they at last perceived, far down at their feet, a
village of some size lying there in the glow of the westering sun.
Rapidly they made the descent, and entered the village just as
decorously as they had done the other earlier in the day. Nobody was
about that knew them even by sight, for Vreni particularly had scarcely
at all mingled with people during the last few years, nor had she been
off on visits to other villages. Therefore they presented entirely the
appearance of a decent young couple out on an errand of importance.

They went to the best inn of the place, and there Sali at once ordered
a good and substantial meal. A table was specially reserved for them,
and everything needful was there laid out and they sat down again
demurely in the corner and eyed the trappings and furniture of the
handsome room, with its wainscoted walls of polished walnut, the
well-appointed sideboard of the same wood, and the filmy window
curtains of white lace. The hostess stepped up to them in a sociable
manner, and set a vase full of fresh flowers on the table.

"Until the soup is ready," she said pleasantly, "you may like to feast
your eyes on these flowers from our garden. From all appearance, if you
don't mind my curiosity, you are a young couple on their way to town to
get married to-morrow?"

Vreni blushed furiously, and did not dare raise her head. Nor did Sali
say anything in reply, and the hostess continued: "Well, of course, you
are both still very young. But young love, long life, as the saying is,
and at least you are both good-looking enough and need not hide
yourselves from people. If you will but work and strive together like
sensible folk, you may succeed in life before you know it, for youth is
a good thing, and so are diligence and faith in one another. But that,
of course, is necessary, for there will come also days you will not
like, many days, many days. But after all, life is pleasant enough, if
one but understands how to make a proper use of it. And don't mind my
chatter, you young people, but it does me good to look at you two, so
handsome and young."

Just then the waitress brought in the soup, and since she had overheard
the concluding phrases, and would herself have liked to get married,
she regarded Vreni with envious eyes, for she begrudged her what she
assumed was so soon in store for this young girl. She retired
precipitately into the adjoining room, and there she let her tongue go
clacking. To the hostess who was busy there with some household task,
she said, so loud as to be distinctly heard by the young people: "Yes,
these are indeed the right kind of people to go to town and hurry up
marrying, without a penny, without friends, without dowry, and with
nothing in view but misery and beggary! What in the world is to become
of such people if the girl is still so young that she does not even
know how to put on her frock or jacket, nor how to cook a plate of
soup! Oh, what fools! But I feel sorry for the young fellow, such a
good-looking fellow he is, and then to get a little ignorant doll like
that!"

"Sh-sh--will you keep your mouth shut, you evil-mouthed slut," broke in
the indignant hostess. "Don't you dare say anything against them. I am
pretty sure that is a deserving young couple, and I will not hear them
wronged. Probably they are from the mountains where the factories are,
and while they are not dressed richly they look neat and cleanly, and
if only they are fond of each other and not afraid of work, they will
get along better than you with your bitter tongue. And that I will tell
you--you'll have to wait a long while before anybody will take you,
unless you change considerably, you vinegary old thing!"

Thus it was that Vreni tasted all the delights of a bride on her
wedding trip: the well-meaning conversation of an experienced and
sensible woman, the jealousy of a wicked and man-crazy person, one who
from anger at the bride praises and sympathizes with the lover, and an
appetizing meal at the side of this same lover. She glowed in the face
like a carnation, her heart beat like a trip hammer, but she ate and
drank nevertheless with a perfectly normal appetite, and was all the
more amiable with the waitress who served them, but could not help on
such occasions looking tenderly at Sali, and whispering to him, so that
he also began to feel rather amorous. However, they sat a long time
over their meal, delaying its end, as though they were both unwilling
to destroy the lovely deception. The hostess came and brought them for
dessert all sorts of sweet cakes and other dainties, and Sali ordered
rarer and more fiery wine, so that the choice liquor ran through
Vreni's veins like a flame, albeit she was cautious and sipped it but
sparingly and kept up the semblance of a chaste and prudent young
bride. Half of this was natural cunning on her part; but as for the
other half, she felt indeed as if the rôle were reality, and what with
anxiety and what with ardent love for Sali she thought her little heart
would burst, so that the walls seemed to her too narrow, and she begged
him to go. And they went off. It was now as if they were afraid to turn
aside from the main road and into side paths, where they would be by
themselves, for they continued on the highway, right through the throng
of pleasure seekers, not looking to right or left. But when they had
left the village behind them and were on their way towards the next,
where kermess was being celebrated, Vreni linked her arm in his and
whispered: "Sali, why not belong altogether one to the other and be
happy!"

And Sali answered, fastening his dreamy eyes upon the sun-flooded
valley below where the meadows showed like a purple carpet of
wildflowers, "Ah, why not?"

And they instantly stopped in the road, and wanted to kiss each other.
But suddenly a group of passers-by broke out of the near woods, and
then they felt shy and desisted. On they went towards the big village
in which the bustle of kermess was already noticeable from afar. The
lanes were crowded, and before the most considerable tavern of the
place a multitude of noisy, shouting people were assembled. From inside
the tavern the strains of a lively, gay tune were heard. For the young
villagers had begun dancing shortly after the noon hour, and on an open
square in front of the tavern a market had been established where all
sorts of sweets were for sale, and in another couple of booths could be
seen flimsy bits of finery, ornaments, silk kerchiefs and the like, and
around these were to be seen children and some others who for the
moment were content to be mere observers.

Sali and Vreni also stepped up to these booths, and they let their eyes
travel over all these things. For both had instantly put their hands in
their pockets and each wanted to present the other with a little gift,
since that was the first and only time they had been together at a
fair. Sali, therefore, bought a big house of gingerbread, the walls of
which were calsomined with a mixture of butter and melted sugar, and on
the green roof of which were perching snow-white pigeons, while from
the chimney a small cupid was peeping forth clad as a chimney sweep. At
the open windows of this wonderful house plump-cheeked persons with
diminutive red mouths were embracing each other most affectionately,
the kissing process being represented by the gingerbread artist by a
sort of double mouth, or twins, one melting into the other. Black
points meant eyes, and on the pinky-red housedoor there could be read
the following touching stanzas:


            Enter my house, beloved,
            Yet do not thou forget
            That all the coin accepted
            Is kisses sweet, you bet.

            His sweetheart said: "Oh, dear one,
            This threat does not deter!
            My love for thee is greater
            Than any kind of fare.

            "And come to think it over,
            'Twas kisses I did seek."
            Well, then, step in, my lady,
            And let thy lips now speak.


A gentleman in a blue frock coat and a lady with an expansive bosom
thus complimented each other by these rhymes into the house; both were
painted to right and left of the wall. Vreni on her part presented Sali
with a gingerbread heart, on which on either side these verses were
pasted:


      A sweet, sweet almond pierces my heart, as you see,
      But sweeter far than almonds is my love for thee.

      When thou my heart hast eaten,
      Oh, let me not disguise
      That sooner than my love can break
      Will break my nutbrown eyes.


Both of them eagerly read these verses, and never had rhymes, never had
any kind of poetry, been more deeply felt and appreciated than were
these gingerbread stanzas. They could not help fancying that they had
been specially written for them, for they fitted so marvelously their
requirements.

"Ah, you give me a house," sighed Vreni. "But I have first made thee a
gift of one myself, and of the real one. For our hearts are now our
sole dwellings, and within them we live, and we carry our houses about
with us wherever we may go, just like the snail. Other abode we have
none left now."

"But then we are snails really, of which each carries the house of the
other," replied Sali.

"Then we must never leave each other, for fear that we lose the other's
house," answered Vreni.

They did not notice that they themselves were perpetrating the same
species of humor as was spread out on the printed pasters of the
gingerbread literature. So they continued to study the latter with deep
interest. The most pathetic sentiments, both agreed, were found on the
heartshaped cakes, whereof there was a great choice, both plain and
ornamental, small and large. All the verses they read seemed to them
wonderfully apt and appropriate to the occasion. When Vreni read on a
gilt heart which like a lyre bore strings:


            My heart is like a fiddlestring,
            Touch gently it and it will sing,


she could not refrain from remarking: "How true that is! Why, I can
hear my own heart making music!"

An image of Napoleon in gingerbread was also there, and even this,
instead of speaking in heroic measure, symbolized a love-smitten swain,
for it declared in wretched rhyme:


            Terrific was Napoleon's might,
            His sword of steel, his heart was light;
            My love is sweet like any rose,
            Yet is she faithful, goodness knows.


But while both seemed busy sounding all the depths of these appeals to
the muses, they secretly made a purchase. Sali bought for Vreni a small
gift ring, with a stone of green glass, and Vreni a ring fashioned out
of chamois horn, in which a gold forget-me-not was cleverly inlaid.
Probably both were moved with the same idea, that of a farewell gift.

However, while they thus were entirely engrossed with these things they
had not remarked that a wide ring was forming gradually around them
made up of people who watched them closely and curiously. For as quite
a number of lads and lasses from their own village had come to the
kermess, they had been recognized, and these all now stood at some
little distance away from them, regarding with astonishment this neatly
dressed couple that in their intense preoccupation had eyes for nothing
else in the world.

"Just look," the murmuring went round; "why, that is Vreni Marti and
Sali from town. They surely have met and made up. And what tenderness,
what friendship for one another! Only notice!"

The amazement of these onlookers was strangely mingled of pity with the
ill-fortune of the young couple, of disdain for the wickedness and
poverty of their parents, and of envy for the happiness and deep
affection of these two. For it struck these coarse materialistic
rustics that the couple were fond of each other in a manner most
unusual in their own circles, excited to an uncommon degree and so
taken up with one another and indifferent to all else, as to make them
almost appear to belong to a more aristocratic sphere, so that
altogether they seemed singular and strange to these gross villagers.

When therefore Sali and Vreni finally awoke from their dreams and threw
a glance around, they saw nothing but staring faces. Nobody greeted
them; and they themselves knew not whether to salute anyone of these
former acquaintances, whose show of unfriendliness was, just the same,
not so much design as astonishment. Vreni became afraid and blushed
from sheer embarrassment, but Sali took her hand and led her away. And
the poor girl followed him willingly, bearing in her hand the huge
gingerbread cottage, although the trumpets and horns from inside the
inn sounded so invitingly, and although she was most anxious and eager
to dance.

"We cannot dance here," said Sali, when they had been going some little
distance aside, "for there would not be any amusement in it under the
circumstances."

"You are right," Vreni said sadly, "and I really think now we had
better drop the whole idea and I will try and find a place for me to
stay overnight."

"No," Sali cried, "you must have a chance to dance for once. For that,
too, I brought you the shoes. Let us go where the poor folks are having
a good time, since we, too, belong to them. They will not look down on
us. At every kermess here there is also dancing at the Paradise Garden,
since it belongs to this parish, and we are going there, and you can,
if it comes to the worst, also find a bed to sleep there."

Vreni shuddered at the thought of having to sleep for the first time of
her young life in a place where nobody knew her. But she followed
without a murmur where Sali led her. Was he not everything in the world
to her now? The so-called Paradise Garden was a house of entertainment
situated in a beautiful spot, lying all by itself at the side of a
mountain from which one had a view far over the whole country. But on
holidays like this only the poorer classes, the children of small
farmers and of day laborers, even vagrants, used to resort to it. A
hundred years before a wealthy man of queer habits had built it as a
summer villa for himself, and nobody had succeeded him as tenant, and
since the house could not be used for anything else, the whole place
after a while began to decay, and so finally it got into the hands of
an innkeeper who managed it in his own peculiar way.

The name alone and the style of architecture had remained. The house
itself consisted of but one story, and on top of that an open loggia
had been erected, the roof of which was borne on the four corners by
statues of sandstone. These were meant for the four archangels and were
wholly defaced. At the edge of the roof could be seen all about small
angels carved of the same material and all of them playing some musical
instrument, the angels themselves showing monstrous heads and big
paunches, fiddling, touching the triangle, blowing the flute, striking
the cymbal or the tambourine; these instruments had originally been
gilt. The ceiling inside and the low sidewalls, as well as all the rest
of the house were still covered with rather dingy fresco paintings, and
these represented dancing and singing saints. But all of it had
suffered from the weather and the rain, and was now as indistinct and
chaotic as a dream itself. And besides, all over the walls clambered
grapevines, and at this time of year purplish ripening grapes peeped
forth from between the foliage. All about the house itself there stood
chestnut trees, and gnarled big rosebushes, growing wildly after a
fashion of their own, just as lilac bushes would grow elsewhere.

The loggia served as dance hall, and as Vreni and Sali came in sight of
the building they could notice the dancing couples turning around and
around under the open roof, and outside, under the trees, drinking,
shouting and noisy men and women were disporting themselves. It was a
merry throng.

Vreni, who was carrying in her hand, demurely and almost piously, her
wonderful gingerbread palace, resembled one of those ancient and
sainted church patronesses sometimes seen in missals, with a model of
the cathedral or other devout foundation displayed which would earn her
the Church's benediction. But as soon as she heard the wild music that
came down in a tumbling stream from the loggia, the poor thing forgot
her grief. Suddenly all alive she demanded rapturously that Sali should
dance with her. They pushed their way through all these people that
were crowding the environs of the house and the lower floor, these
being mostly ragged people from Seldwyla, with some who had been making
a cheap excursion into the country, and all sorts of homeless vagrants.
Then they ascended the stairs and at once after arriving on top they
seized each other and were whirling away in a lively waltz. Not an eye
did they give to their surroundings until the music came to a temporary
halt. Then they stopped and turned around. Vreni had crushed her
gingerbread house, and was just going to shed a few tears on that
account when she noticed the black fiddler, and now felt a veritable
terror.

He was seated near them, upon a bench which itself stood upon a big
table, and he looked just as black and tawny as ever. But to-day he
wore a bunch of green holly and pine in his funny little hat, and at
his feet there stood a big bottle of claret and a tumbler, and he did
not in the least touch either of these with his feet, although he was
forever kicking up his legs to keep the tune while fiddling. Next to
him sat a handsome young man with a French horn, but the young man
looked melancholy, and a hunchback there also was, standing next a bass
viol. Sali also had a fright in seeing the black fiddler, but the
latter greeted them both in the friendliest manner and called out to
them: "You see I knew that some day I should play to your dancing, just
as I said when I last met you. And now, you darlings, I trust you'll
have a good time, and take a drink with me."

He offered the full glass to Sali, who accepted it, emptied it and
thanked the fiddler. And when he saw that Vreni was badly scared at
seeing him, he did his best to reassure her, and jested with her in a
rather nice way, until he had made her laugh. Thereupon Vreni recovered
her courage, and both of them felt rather glad that they had an
acquaintance there and were in a certain sense standing under the
special protection of the black fellow. Then they danced steadily,
forgetting themselves and the whole world in the constant twirling,
singing, shouting and general noise, a noise which rolled down the hill
and over the whole landscape which gradually began to be shrouded in a
silvery autumn haze. They danced until twilight, when most of the merry
guests disappeared, unsteady on their feet and shouting at the top of
their voices. Those still remaining were the vagrants and stragglers,
houseless and strongly inclined to turn night into day. Amongst these
there were some who seemed on very friendly terms with the black
fiddler and who for the most part looked outlandish because of oddities
of costume. There was, for instance, a young man in a green corduroy
jacket and a tattered straw hat, who wore around the crown of the
latter a wreath of wild scarlet berries. He again had with him a savage
sort of female who wore a skirt of cherry-red chintz and had a hoop
made of young grapevine tied around her temples, so that at each side
of her face hung a bunch of grapes. This couple was the jolliest of
all, to be met with everywhere, and was dancing and singing without a
stop. Then there was a slender, graceful girl there, wearing a thin
silk dress and a white cloth on her head, the ends of which fell on her
shoulders. The cloth had evidently once been a napkin or towel. But
below this doubtful cloth there glowed a pair of magnificent eyes of
deep violet hue. Around her neck this extravagant person wore a sixfold
chain of the same autumnal berries, and this ornament suited her
complexion marvelously well. This strange woman was dancing perpetually
with none but herself, whirling almost unintermittently, with great
grace and a very light step, refusing every partner that offered
himself. Every time she passed in her dancing the sad hornblower she
smiled, and the musician turned away his head.

Some other gay women or girls there were, together with their escorts,
all of them poorly or fantastically clad, but with all that they
assuredly enjoyed themselves greatly, and there seemed to be perfect
accord among them all. When it had turned completely dark the host
refused to furnish light for illumination, since the wind would blow
the candles out anyway, and besides the full-moon would be out in a
short spell, and for the present company, he claimed, the moonlight was
ample. This declaration, instead of being opposed, caused general
satisfaction among this mongrel crowd; they all stood up at the open
sides of the dance hall and watched the moon rise in her full splendor,
and when the new golden light flooded the wide hall, dancing was
resumed with great earnestness. And so quiet, good-natured and
well-mannered was it done as if they were turning under the light of a
hundred wax candles. This singular light, too, made them all more
intimately acquainted with each other, as though they had known them
for years, and thus it was that Sali and Vreni could not very well
avoid mingling with the rest and dancing with other partners. But
whenever they had been separated for just a short while they flew and
rejoined the other without delay, and felt delighted thereat. Sali made
a sad face at this, and when dancing with another person would turn
toward Vreni. But she would not notice that, but would glide along like
a fairy, her features transfigured with pleasure, and her whole soul
enraptured with the swaying motions of the dance, no matter who her
partner.

"Are you jealous, Sali?" she asked smilingly, when the musicians took a
longer rest.

"Not the least," he replied.

"Then why are you so angry when I'm dancing with somebody else?" she
wanted to know.

"I am not angry because of that," he said, "but only because I am
forced to dance with another person but you. I cannot feel pleasant
towards another girl. In fact, I feel just as though I had a block of
wood in my arms if it is anybody but you. And you? How do you feel
about that?"

"Oh, I feel as though I were in heaven so long as I merely can dance
and know that you are present," replied Vreni. "But I believe I should
at once fall down dead if you went and left me here by myself."

They had gone down from the dance hall and were now standing in the
grounds before the house. Vreni put both her arms around his neck,
pressed her slender trembling body against him, and put her burning
cheek, wet from hot tears, to his, sobbing out: "We cannot marry, and
yet I cannot leave you, not for a moment, not for a minute."

Sali embraced the girl, pressed her ardently against his heart, and
covered her with kisses. His confused thoughts were struggling for some
way out of the labyrinth that encompassed them both, but he saw none.
Even if the blot of his family misery and his neglected education were
not weighing against him, his extreme youth and his ardent passion
would have prevented a long period of patience and self-denial, and
then there would still have been his misfortune in having injured
Vreni's father for life. The consciousness that happiness for himself
and her was, after all, to be found only in a union honest, blameless
and approved by the whole world, was just as much alive in him as in
Vreni. In her case as in his, two beings ostracized by all, these
reflections were like the last flaring up of their lost family honor,
an honor that had been blazing for centuries in their respectable
houses like a living flame, and which their fathers had involuntarily
extinguished and destroyed by a misdeed which at the time had been
committed more in thoughtlessness than with malice aforethought. For
when they, in the attempt to enlarge their holdings by a piece of
dishonesty that seemed at the time wholly without risk and not likely
to entail serious consequences, had been guilty of a wrong to a person
that had been universally given up as lost, they had done something
which many of their otherwise correct neighbors would, under the same
circumstances, likewise have done.

Such wrongs as that are indeed perpetrated every day in the year, on a
large or a small scale. But once in a while Fate furnishes an example
of how two such transgressors against the honor of their houses and
against the property of another may oppose each other, and then these
will unfailingly fight to the death and devour one the other like two
savage beasts. For those who furtively or forcibly increase their
estate may commit such fateful blunders not only when they are seated
on thrones and then apply a high-sounding name to their lust and their
misdeed, but the same in substance is often done as well in the
humblest hut, and both categories of sinners frequently accomplish the
very reverse of what they aimed at, and their shield of honor then
becomes overnight a tablet of shame. But Sali and Vreni had both of
them, when still children, seen and cherished the honor of their
families, and well remembered how well they themselves were taken care
of and how respected and highly considered their fathers had been in
those days.

Later they had been separated for long years, and when they met again
they saw in each other also the lost honor and luck of their houses,
and that instinctive feeling had helped to make them cling to each
other all the more tenaciously. They longed indeed, both of them, for
happiness and joy, but only if it might be done legitimately and in the
sight of all; yet at the same time their ardent affection for each
other could not be suppressed and their senses, their bounding blood,
called loudly for the consummation of their desires.

"Now it is night," said Vreni in a low tone of voice, "and we will have
to part."

"What, I am to go home now and leave you alone?" retorted Sali. "No,
that can never be."

"But what then?" said Vreni, plaintively. "Tomorrow morning by daylight
things will look no better."

"Let me give you a piece of advice," a shrill voice suddenly was heard
behind them. It was the black fiddler, who now came up to them. "You
foolish young things! There you are now, and you know not what to do
with yourselves, although you are fond of each other. Yet nothing
easier than that. I advise you to delay no more. Let one take the
other, just as you are. Come along with me and my good friends here,
right into the mountains, for there you need no priest, no money, no
documents, no honor, no dowry, no bed and no wedding--nothing but your
mutual good will. Don't get frightened. Things are not at all so bad
with us. Pure air and enough to eat, provided one is not afraid to
work. The green woods are our home, and there we love and keep house
just as we wish. During the winter we lie snug in some warm, cosy den
of our own contriving, or else we creep into the warm hay of the
peasants. Therefore, lose no time. Keep your wedding right now and
here, and then come along with us, and you are rid of all your cares,
and may belong to each other forever and aye, or at least as long as
you want to. For have no fear--you'll grow old with us; our style of
life procures good strong health, you may well believe me. And don't
think, you silly young folk, that I am bearing you a grudge because of
what your fathers have done to me. No indeed. Of course, it gives me
pleasure to see you arrived there where you now are. But with that I
rest content, and I promise you to help and aid you in all sorts of
ways if you will only be guided by me."

He said all this in a sincere and well-meaning tone. "Well, think it
over, if you wish, for a spell," he encouraged them still further, "but
follow my counsel if you are wise. Let the world go, and belong to each
other and ask nobody's consent. Think of the gay bridal bed in the deep
forest glade, and of the comfortable hay barn in winter." And saying
which he disappeared again in the house.

But Vreni was trembling like aspen in Sali's arms, and he asked her:
"What do you think of all that? To me it seems indeed it would be best
to let the whole world go hang, and to love each other without
hindrance and fear."

But Sali said this more jokingly than in earnest. Vreni, on the other
hand, took it all seriously, kissed him and replied: "No, I should not
like that. These people do not act according to my notions. That young
man with the French horn, for instance, and the girl in the silk skirt
also belong together in that way, and are said to have been very much
in love. But last week, it seems, she has been, for the first time,
unfaithful to her lover, and he grieves greatly on that account, and he
is angry at her and at the others, but they merely ridicule him. And
she is imposing a kind of self-inflicted and ludicrous penance on
herself by dancing all alone, without any partner, and without speaking
to anyone, but that, too, is only making a fool of him. However, one
may see that the poor musician is going to make up with her this very
night. But I must say, I should not like to be with a company where
such doings are common, for I never could be unfaithful to you,
although I would not mind undergoing all else for the sake of
possessing you."

For all that, poor Vreni, being held in Sali's arms, became more and
more feverish, for ever since noon when that hostess at the inn had
mistaken her for a bride, and she herself had not contradicted, this
alluring prospect had been burning in her veins, and the less hopeful
things seemed to turn for a realization of this idea, the more
relentlessly her pulses were hammering with expectation and desire. And
Sali was experiencing similar hallucinations, since the fiddler's
enticing remarks, while he meant not to listen to them, had also been
fuel to his passion. So he said in embarrassment to Vreni: "Let us go
inside for a spell. At least we must eat and drink something."

They were greeted in entering the guest room where nobody had remained
but the fiddler's friends, the vagrants, which latter were seated about
a poor meal at table, by a merry chorus: "There comes our bridal pair!"
"Yes," added the fiddler, "now be friendly and comfortable, and we will
see you married."

Urged to join the company the two young lovers did so rather
shamefacedly. But after a moment they began to brighten, and were glad
to be at least rid for the moment of the darker problem that was yet to
be solved. Sali ordered wine and some choicer dishes, and soon general
merriment spread among them all. The heretofore implacable lover had
become reconciled to his unfaithful one, and the couple now fondled and
caressed each other in reestablished ecstasy, while the giddy other
pair ceaselessly yodled, sang and guzzled, but they also did not forget
to give plain evidences of their amatory disposition. The fiddler and
the hunchback accompanied all this with a great deal of cheerful noise.
Sali and Vreni kept very close to each other, tightly holding hands,
and all at once the fiddler bade all the company be quiet, and a
jocular ceremony was performed signifying the union of the two young
people. They had to clasp hands, and the whole audience rose and, one
by one, stepped up to congratulate them and to bid them welcome within
their fraternity. They placidly submitted to it all, but said never a
word, and regarded the whole as a jest, while all the while a shudder
of voluptuous feeling ran through them.

The merry company now became louder and more excited, the fiery wine
spurring them on, until at last the black fiddler urged departure.

"We have a long way before us," he cried, "and it is past midnight. Up,
all of you! Let us solemnly escort the young bridal couple, and I
myself will open the procession. You will hear me fiddling as never
before."

Since Sali and Vreni felt perfectly dazed, and scarcely knew what they
were doing in this hurly-burly around them, they did not protest when
they were made to head the file, the other two couples following, and
the hunchback, with his huge bass viol on his shoulder, being at its
tail end. The black fiddler, though, strode in advance, playing like a
man possessed, skipping down the steep hill path like a chamois, and
the others laughed, singing in chorus, and jumping from rock to rock.
Thus this nocturnal procession hastened on and on, through the quiet
fields and at last through the home village of Sali and Vreni, now sunk
in deep slumber.

When they two came through the still lanes and past their abandoned
homes, a painfully savage mood seized them, and they danced and whirled
along with the others behind the fiddler, kissed, laughed and wept.
They also danced up the hill with the three fields that had tempted
their fathers to their ruin, the fiddler all the time leading, and on
its crest the dusky fiddler fell into a frenzy of fantastic melody, and
his train of followers jumped about like veritable demons. Even the
poor hunchback acted like demented. This quiet hill resounded with the
infernal noise of the whole crew, and it was a perfect witches' Sabbath
for a short while. The hunchback breathed hard and in a muffled voice
squeaked with delight, swinging his heavy instrument like a baton. In
their paroxysm none saw or heard the next.

But Sali seized Vreni and thus forced her to halt. He imprinted a kiss
on her mouth, thus stopping her shouts of joy. At last she gathered his
meaning, and ceased struggling. They stood there, right on the spot
where they first had encountered the black fiddler, listening to the
wild music and to the singing and shrieking of the demoniac cortège, as
the sounds gradually swept onwards down the hill towards the river
below. Nobody evidently had missed them in the midst of the whole
spook. The shrill tones of the fiddle, the laughter of the girls, and
the yodels of the men resounded for another spell through the night,
fainter and fainter, until at last the noise died away down by the
shores of the river.

"We have escaped those," now said Sali, "but how are we going to escape
from ourselves? How shall we separate, and how keep apart?"

Vreni was not able to answer him. Breathing hard she lay on his breast.

"Had I not better take you back to the village, and wake some family in
order to make them take you in for the night? To-morrow you can leave
and look for some work. You'll be able to get along anywhere."

"But without you? Get along without you?" said the girl.

"You must forget me."

"Never," she murmured sadly. "Never in my life." And she added,
glancing sternly at him: "Could you do that?"

"That is not the point, dear heart," answered Sali, slow and distinct.
He caressed her feverish cheeks, while she kept pressing herself
against his bosom. "Let us only consider your own case. You, Vreni, are
still so very young, and quite likely you will fare well enough after a
short while."

"And you also--you ancient man," she said, smiling wistfully.

"Come!" now said Sali, and dragged her along. But they only went on a
few steps, and then they halted once more, the better to embrace and
kiss. The deep quiet of the world ran like music through their souls,
and the only sound to be heard around them was the gentle rush and
swish of the waves as they slowly went on further down the valley
below.

"How beautiful it is around here! Listen! It seems to me there is
somebody far away singing in a low voice."

"No, sweetheart; it is only the water softly flowing."

"And yet it seems there is some music--way out there, everywhere."

"I think it is our own blood coursing that is deceiving our ears."

But though they hearkened again and again, the solemn stillness
remained unbroken. The magic effect of the light of a resplendent full
moon was visible in the whole landscape, as the autumnal veil of fog
that rose in semi-transparent layers from the river shore mingled with
the silvery sheen, waving in grayish or bluish bands.

Suddenly Vreni recalled something, and said: "Here, I have bought you
something to remember me by."

And she gave him the plain little ring, and placed it on his finger.
Sali, too, found the little ring he had meant for her, and while he put
it on her hand, he said: "Thus we have had the same thought, you and
I."

Vreni held up her hand into the silvery light of the moon and examined
the little token curiously.

"Oh, what a fine ring," she then said, laughing. "Now we are both
betrothed and wedded. You are my husband, and I'm your wife. Let us
imagine so, just long enough until that small cloud has passed the
moon, or else until we have counted twelve. You must kiss me twelve
times."

Sali was surely fully as much in love as was Vreni, but the marriage
problem was, after all, not of such intense interest to him, not such a
question of Either--Or, of an immediate To Be or Not To Be, as it was
in the case of the girl. For Vreni could feel just then only that one
problem, saw in it with passionate energy life or death itself. But now
at last he began to see clearly into the very soul of his companion,
and the feminine desire in her became instantly with him a wild and
ardent longing, and his senses reeled under its potency. And while he
had previously caressed and embraced her with the strength and fervor
of a devoted lover, he did so now with an incomparably greater
abandonment to his passion. He held Vreni tightly to his beating heart,
and fairly overwhelmed her with endearments. In spite of her own love
fever, the girl with true feminine instinct at once became aware of
this change, and she began to tremble as with fear of the unknown. But
this feeling passed almost in a moment, and before even the cloud had
flitted over the moon's face her whole being was seized by the
whirlwind of his ardor, and engulfed in its depths. While both
struggled with and at the same time fondled the other, their beringed
hands met and seized the other as though at that supreme moment their
union was consummated without the consent of their will power. Sali's
heart knocked against its prison door like a living being; anon it
stood still, and he breathed with difficulty and said slow and in a
whisper: "There is one thing, only one thing, we can do, Vreni; we keep
our wedding this hour, and then we leave this world forever--there
below is the deep water--there is everlasting peace and fulfilment of
all our hopes--there nobody will divorce us again--and we have had our
dearest wish--have lived and died together--whether for long, whether
for short--we need not care--we are rid of all care--"

And Vreni instantly responded. "Yes, Sali--what you say I also have
thought to myself--not once but constantly these days--I have dreamed
of it with my whole soul--we can die together, and then all this
torment is over--Swear to me, Sali, that you will do it with me!"

"Yes, dearest, it is as good as done--nobody shall take you from me now
but Death alone!" Thus the young man in his exaltation. But Vreni's
breath came quick and as if freed from an intolerable burden. Tears of
sweetest joy came to her eyes, and she rose with spontaneous alacrity
and, light as a bird, flew down towards the river side. Sali followed
her, thinking for a moment she wanted to escape him, while she fancied
he would wish to prevent her. Thus they both sprang down the steep
path, and Vreni laughed happily like a child that will not allow her
playmate to catch her.

"Are you sorry for it already?" Thus they both apostrophized the other,
as they in a twinkling had reached the river shore and seized hold of
each other. And both answered: "No, indeed, how can you think so?"

And carefree they now walked briskly along the river bank, and they
outdistanced the hastening waves, for thus keenly they sought a spot
where they could stay for a while. For in the trance of their
enthusiasm they knew of nothing but the bliss awaiting them in the full
possession of each other. The whole worth and meaning of their lives
just then condensed itself into that one supreme desire. What was to
follow it, death, eternal oblivion, was to them a mere nothing, a puff
of air, and they thought less of it than does the spendthrift think of
the morrow when wasting his last substance.

"My flowers shall precede me," cried Vreni, "only look! They are quite
withered and dusty!" And she plucked them from her bosom, cast them
into the water, and sang aloud: "But sweeter far than almonds is my
love for thee!"

"Stop!" called out Sali. "Here is our bridal chamber!"

They had reached a road for vehicles which led from the village to the
river, and here there was a landing, and a big boat, laden high with
hay, was tied to an iron ring in the bank. In a reckless mood Sali
instantly set to freeing the ship from the strong ropes that held it to
the landing. But Vreni grasped his arm, and she shouted laughing: "What
are you about? Are we to wind up by stealing from the peasants their
haycock?"

"That is to be the dowry they give us," replied Sali with humor. "See!
A swimming bedstead and a couch softer than any royal couple ever had.
Besides, they will recover their property unharmed somewhere near the
goal whither it was to travel anyway, and they will hardly trouble
their hard heads with the question how it got there. Do you notice,
dear, how the boat is swaying and rocking? It is impatient to start on
the journey."

The ship lay a few paces off the shore in deeper water. Sali lifted
Vreni in his arms high up, and began to wade through the water towards
the boat. But she caressed him so fervently and wriggled like a fish on
the angle, that Sali was losing his footing in the rather strong
current. She strained her hands and arms in order to plunge them in the
water, crying: "I also want to try the cool water. Do you remember how
cold and moist our hands were when we first met? That time we had been
catching fish. Now we ourselves will be fish, and two big and handsome
ones to boot."

"Keep still, you wriggling darling," said Sali, scarcely able to stand
up in the water, with his sweetheart tossing in his arms and the
current pulling at him, "or it will drag me under!"

But now he lifted his pretty burden into the boat, and scrambled up its
side himself. Then he hoisted her up to the hay, packed in orderly
fashion in the middle, sweet-scented and downy like a vast pillow, and
next he swung himself up to her. When they both were thus enthroned on
their bridal bed the ship drifted gently into the middle of the stream,
and then, turning slowly, it headed sluggishly in an easterly
direction.


The river flowed through dark woods, shadowing it; it flowed through
the fruitful plain, past quiet villages and hamlets and single
homesteads; there it broadened out like a still lake and the ship moved
but slightly downwards, and here it turned tall rocks and left the
slumbering landscape quickly behind. And when dawn broke there was in
sight at some distance a town rising with its age-worn towers and
steeples above the silver-gray river. The setting moon, red as gold,
cast a quivering track of light upstream towards the dim outlines of
the ancient city, and into this luminous bed the ship finally turned
its prow. When the houses of the town at last approached closely two
pale shapes, locked in a tight embrace, glided in the autumnal frost of
early morn from off the dark mass of the ship into the silent waters.

The ship itself shortly after fetched up near a bridge, unharmed, and
remained there. When sometime later the two bodies, still locked in
each others' arms, were found, and details about the young man and his
sweetheart were learned, one might have read in the newspapers that
these two, the children of two ruined and impoverished families that
had lived in bitter enmity, had sought death in the water together
after dancing with great animation at a kermess. This event probably
was connected with the other fact that a boat laden with hay had landed
in town without anyone on board. It was supposed that the young couple
had cut loose the boat somewhere in order to hold their godforsaken
wedding on it. "Once again a proof of the spread of lawless and impious
passion among the lower classes." That was the concluding paragraph in
the newspaper report.



FOOTNOTE:

[Footnote 1: Vreni, Vreneli, Vreeli; Swiss diminutive forms of
Veronica.]



                                THE END





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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