Various.

The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 08 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes online

. (page 24 of 39)
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with a boy of ten or twelve years old. Mr. von Rambow also smiled, but
fortunately it never occurred to Bräsig that their amusement could mean
anything but satisfaction with a well delivered speech, so he went on
seriously: "And then he came a regular cropper." "I'm very sorry to hear
it," said Mr. von Rambow. "Yes," he continued with a, sigh, "these are
very hard times for farmers, I only hope they'll change soon. But now to
business - Alick, just run upstairs and see if breakfast is ready. It is
quite true that I am looking out for a new bailiff, as I have been
obliged to part with the last man, because of - well, his carelessness in
keeping accounts - but," said he, as his son opened the door and
announced that breakfast was ready, "you hav'n't had breakfast yet, we
can finish our talk while we eat it." He went to the door, and standing
there signed to his guests to precede him. "Charles," whispered Bräsig,
"didn't I tell you? Quite like one of ourselves?" But when Hawermann
quietly obeyed the squire's sign and went out first, he raised his
eyebrows up to his hair, and stretched out his hand as though to pull
his friend back by his coat-tails. Then sticking out one of his short
legs and making a low bow, he said, "Pardon me - I couldn't think of
it - the _Councillor_ always has the _paw_." His way of bowing was no
mere form, for as he had a long body and short legs it was both deep and
reverential.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: BIBLE LESSON BENJAMIN VAUTIER]

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

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

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

"But, Zachariah, why didn't you remain a little longer and get thoroughly
cured?" "Because," and Bräsig cast down his eyes, and looked
uncomfortable, "I couldn't. Something happened to me. Charles," he
continued, raising his eyes to his friend's face, "you've known me from
my childhood, tell me, did you ever see me disrespectful to a woman?"
"No, Bräsig, I can bear witness that I never did." "Well, then, just
think what happened. A week ago last Friday the gout was very
troublesome in my great toe - you know it always begins by attacking the
small end of the human wedge - and the water-doctor said: 'Mr. Bailiff,'
he said, 'you must have an extra packing, Dr. Strump's colchicum is the



Online LibraryVariousThe German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 08 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes → online text (page 24 of 39)