The Project Gutenberg EBook of Joseph in the Snow, and The Clockmaker, by Berthold Auerbach This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Joseph in the Snow, and The Clockmaker In Three Volumes. Vol. II. Author: Berthold Auerbach Translator: Lady Wallace Release Date: July 15, 2010 [EBook #33163] [Last updated: May 31, 2011] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK JOSEPH IN THE SNOW *** Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by the Web Archive
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A Good Name
The Mourner And His Companion
Work And Good Deeds
Each One For Himself
The World steps in
The Civilities of a Landlord's Pretty Daughter
Happiness dawns, and a new Mother speaks
A Parley with Friends
A Dinner with Petrowitsch
The Great Clock plays its Melodies, and fresh ones are added
A good Escort, and Thoughts of the Future
Lion, Fox, and Magpie
Presses, and Eyes are opened
Young Hearts.—A Proposal
A Heart is won
A Friend's Opinion
A Rebuff, and a Betrothal
First Visit to a New House
A First Drive
A Gay Wedding,—and a Hard Nut to crack
A Morning Gift
There is a house on the declivity of a hill, on which the morning sun long lingers, and the eyes of those who gaze on this house sparkle with pleasure, for they augur from that glance that its inhabitants are happy. They are so; but their happiness is of a peculiar nature, for they have striven long and hard, before they at last acquired it. They have stood on the very threshold of death, though eventually restored to the living.
The wife appears at the door—her face is fair, pretty, and youthful, but her hair is white as snow—she smiles at an old woman who is working in the garden, and calls to the children to be less noisy; a thriving young fir plantation forms a background to the house.
"Come in, Franzl, and you children also; 'Wilhelm is to set off to-day on his travels," says the young woman with white hair.
The old woman comes up to her slowly; her figure is bent, and she is already taking hold of her apron, in order to dry the tears that are fast rising to her eyes. In a short time the husband comes out of the house with a young lad, who has a knapsack on his shoulders.
"Wilhelm," says the father, "take leave of your mother here, and be sure you conduct yourself so that whatever you do, you may be able to think:—'My father and mother may know this;' and then, please God! you will, one day, once more cross this threshold in peace."
The mother embraces the lad, and says, sobbing:—
"I have nothing more to say; your father has said all; but if you find a plant of Edelweiss on the Swiss mountains bring it home for me."
The youth walks on, and his brothers and sisters call after him, "Good bye, Wilhelm!" While the father, turning to his wife, says:—"Annette, I only mean to go as far as the boundary with Wilhelm and Lorenz. Pilgrim will go on with them to their first night's quarters. I shall return soon."
"Quite right, but don't hurry back, and above all, don't take the parting so to heart; and tell Lisle Faller, as you pass, that I wish her mother and her to dine here."
The father goes forward with his son, and the mother says to the old woman:—
"It is a great comfort to me, that young Faller goes with Wilhelm on his travels."
We can relate why the young mother with the white hair, begged her son to bring her home a plant of Edelweiss from his travels.
It is a hard, painful, almost cruel story, but the sun of love beams brightly, at last, through the clouds.
"She was an excellent woman."
"Few like her left."
"She was one of the good old-fashioned sort."
"Come when you would, she was always ready to bestow help and comfort."
"What trials she had gone through! she had buried four children and her husband, and yet she was always kind and cheerful."
"Lenz will miss her sadly; he will discover now what a mother he had."
"Oh, no! he knew that well enough during her life, and always strove to please her."
"He must marry soon, now."
"He can choose whoever he likes; any house he knocks at will gladly throw open the door to him, he is so good and steady."
"Besides, he must have a considerable sum of money."
"And he is heir to his rich uncle, Petrowitsch."
"How well the Choral Society sung at the funeral today! it quite went to the heart."
"How much it must have touched poor Lenz! he usually sings with them, and he has the best voice of them all."
"Very true—he did not shed a tear during the funeral service, but when his companions were singing, he cried and sobbed as if his heart would break."
"This is the first funeral that Petrowitsch did not leave the village to avoid: indeed, it would have been too bad if he had not shown this last mark of respect to his sister-in-law."
It was thus the men were conversing while going along, through the valley, and up the hill. They were all in black, for they were coming from a funeral. In the churchyard below, near which a few houses are clustered—the Inn of the Golden Lion parading itself in the centre—they had just buried the widow of the clockmaker, Lenz of the Morgenhalde, and all had a good word to say of the deceased, for each individual felt they had lost a kind friend when the good woman quitted the world.
The mourners seemed deeply affected, and sorrow was evident on every face, for just as some fresh grief revives former ones, so those who had just seen the earth scattered on the newly dug grave, had taken the opportunity of visiting the graves of their own relations, shedding tears over their silent resting place, and uttering fervent prayers.
We are in the district inhabited by the clockmakers of the Black Forest, a wooded and mountainous tract of country, where its streams on one side flow towards the Rhine, and on the other to the Donau, which has its source not far from this. The men have a pious, composed air; the number of women considerably exceeds that of the men, for a vast proportion of the latter are dispersed through the world, pursuing their traffic in clocks. Those who stay at home are generally pale, bearing traces of their sedentary occupation; the women, on the contrary, who work in the fields, are fresh coloured, and have a quaint, original appearance from the broad black ribbons tied under their chins, according to the fashion of the country.
The cultivation of land is however on a small scale, consisting chiefly, with the exception of a few large farms, of gardens and meadow land. In some spots, a narrow strip of plantation runs along the valley down to the stream, and at intervals may be seen a solitary fir, stripped of its branches to the crown, as if to show that both pasture and arable land have been gained from the wood. The village, or rather the district, is some miles in length, its cottages being scattered along the valley and on the adjacent hills. The houses are built of solid logs of wood, fitted together in cross beams—the windows are placed in front in regular succession, a very bright light being indispensable for the trade of clockmaking. The backs of the houses are invariably sheltered from storms by a hill or a wood, and heavy thatched roofs project far in front, as an additional defence against wind and weather, harmonizing in colour with their background,—narrow footpaths leading through green meadows to the dwellings of man.
Here and there a woman branches off from the group passing along the valley, making a sign with her hymnbook towards her home, where her children are watching from the narrow rows of windows, or running hastily down the meadow to meet their mother; and when these good creatures take off their Sunday clothes, they sigh heavily, thinking of the mournful death of their kind friend, and yet they feel how good a thing it is, that those nearest and dearest to them are still left, to be loved and cherished. Indoor work, however, does not seem to prosper today. The attractions of the world without, still seem to absorb the villagers, who do not find it so easy to dismiss them from their thoughts.
The balancemaker from Kunslingen, celebrated for his superior brass and leaden weights, who accompanied the groups to the nearest cross road, said in a thoughtful tone:—
"What a senseless thing it does seem, after all, to die! Lenz's good mother had gathered such a vast store of wisdom and experience, and now she is laid in the ground, and all her sagacity and good sense lost to the world for ever."
"At all events her son seems to have inherited her goodness," said a farmer.
"Yes; but experience and knowledge every man must acquire for himself," said a little old man, whose face was like a note of interrogation—he was nick-named the Pröbler (experimenter) though his real name was Zacherer, because, instead of applying steadily to the usual routine of clockmaking, he was constantly trying all kinds of new experiments, and consequently in very poor circumstances.
"The old customs were far better and more sensible," said an old man who lived on the other side of the valley, Schilder-David by name. "In those good old days, we had a substantial funeral feast, which was greatly needed as a restorative, after such a long journey and so much sorrow; for nothing makes a man more hungry and thirsty than the exhaustion of grief. At that time, too, it was the schoolmaster who pronounced the funeral exhortation, and if he was sometimes a little lengthy, what did it matter? Now this is all done away with, and I am so hungry, and so weary, that I can scarcely move from the spot."
"And I too!" "And I!" resounded on all sides; and Schilder-David continued:—"And what are we to do when we get home? our day is gone—of course we are glad to give it up, for the sake of paying proper respect to any one we liked; but in former times it was far better arranged, for we did not get home till night, and then we had no occasion to think about work."
"I suspect you had little capability of thinking at all," shrewdly observed young Faller, in his sonorous voice. He was the second bass singer in the choral society, and carried his music books under his arm. His mode of walking, and his general bearing, showed that he had been a soldier. "A funeral feast," he continued, "would have been quite contrary to the wishes of Lenz's mother. 'Everything in its due season—joy and mourning,' was her motto. I was apprenticed to old Lenz for five years and three quarters, and at school with young Lenz."
"I suppose you could have talked as glibly as the schoolmaster, and have given us the funeral oration;" said Schilder-David, muttering something of conceited singers, who imagined the world only began when they sang from notes.
"Indeed I could," rejoined the young man, who either did not hear these last words, or, at all events, affected not to do so. "I could have pronounced as great a eulogium on the deceased; and, when so good a person has just been laid in the grave, I think it is more fitting and congenial not so immediately to discuss other matters, and all kinds of worldly pleasures and occupations.
"My old master, Lenz, was a person, who if all men were like him, there would be no more need for either judges, soldiers, prisons, or houses of correction, in the world. Our old master was severe, and would allow no apprentice to exchange his file for the turning lathe, till he could polish an octagon with a free hand, so that it looked as if it had been in the turning-machine; and we were all obliged to learn how to make small clocks, for a workman who can finish small things properly is sure not to fail in larger ones. No clocks or watches were ever sent out of his house in which there was the smallest defect, for he said, 'It is both for my honour and that of our district, that our good name should remain untarnished.' I will only give you one instance, to enable you to judge of the influence he exercised over us young people. When young Lenz and I became journeymen, we began to smoke. The old man said: 'Very well, if you choose to smoke I cannot prevent you, and I do not wish you to do it secretly. Unfortunately for me I also indulge in the bad habit of smoking, but I tell you fairly, that if you smoke I must give it up, whatever it may cost me; for it is not possible that we should all smoke.' After this, we, of course, gave up all idea of such a thing, for we would rather have had all our teeth drawn than caused our old master to give up his pipe.
"His excellent wife is now on the road to heaven, and her guardian angel is no doubt saying to her, 'You have been a worthy woman—few better in the world. Perhaps you have had your faults; you spoiled your son considerably, and prevented him travelling to other countries, which would have done him good, and made him less delicate; but your thousand good deeds, which no one knew but God, and your never listening to evil of others, making the best of everything, and reading the Bible to Petrowitsch, all that will not be forgotten now, and surely you will have your reward.' And if she is offered any recompense in heaves, I am sure she will say, 'Give it to my son; and, if there is any to spare, there is such and such a one who stands in grievous need of it—help them—I am weary of watching over others.' You could scarcely believe how little she ate; her husband often laughed at her for it, but it is sure and certain enough, that seeing others enjoy their food seemed to satisfy her, and the son is just as good hearted as the mother was. What a kind heart he has! I would gladly go to the death for him."
This was the way in which the clockmaker Faller talked, and his deep bass voice often trembled from emotion. The others, however, did not let him have all the praise of Lenz to himself. The Pröbler declared, that Lenz was the only one in the whole district, who understood something more than what had been known here from time immemorial, and Schilder-David added: "He passes no man without striving to serve him; every year he repairs the old organ of the blind man at Fuchsberg, and does it for nothing; he often spends an entire holiday mending it, and he has helped me too. He came one day to visit me, and saw how hard I was working to make my wheel revolve properly. He went straight to the miller, and talked to him, and settled it all, and then came and fetched me to an upper loft, where he arranged my workshop, and fastening my wheel to that of the mill, I found I could work three times as fast and with one half the trouble."
Every one was as eager to contribute his offering in praise of Lenz, as if he had been an almsbox.
The balancemaker said nothing for some time, but he nodded approvingly; but he is the wisest of them however, for at last he says, that all that has been stated is true, but that enough has not been said, and that he knows something more. "There is no workman better than Lenz to work for; everything must indeed be very neat and properly finished, but then you not only get your full wages, but kind and honest words into the bargain, which is best of all."
Faller now left the group, and turned along the mountain path to his house, and the others also dispersed in different directions, after each had taken a pinch out of the Pröbler's birch snuffbox. Schilder-David went on alone with his stout staff farther up the valley, for he lived a good way on the other side of the country, and was the only one of his parish who had crossed the valley to attend the funeral.
A small footpath leads from the village to a solitary thatched house, which is not visible till after a good quarter of an hour's quick climbing. The path leads past the back of the church, at first between hedges, then through unenclosed green meadows, where the rustling of the fir plantation can be distinctly heard, that covers all the steep hill. Behind this hill—called Spannreute—others rise perpendicularly; the declivity is so steep, that, though cultivated, the crops on the table-land, even to this day, can only be conveyed down to the valley by means of sledges.
Two men were walking along singly on this footpath between the hedges: the one in front was a little old man, most respectably dressed; he had a staff in his hand, and, by way of precaution, had twisted the tassel of the handle round his wrist. The old man stepped along stoutly, and his face, which was a mass of wrinkles, moved up and down in a singular fashion, for he was chewing a lump of white sugar, and took a fresh piece from time to time out of his pocket. The sandy red eyebrows of the old man were coarse and bushy, and clear sharp blue eyes looked out from under them.
The young man walking behind his old companion was tall and slight; he wore a long blue coat, and had crape on his arm and his hat. He was looking down at the ground, and occasionally shaking his head mournfully. At last he raised his head, and a fresh coloured face, and a light beard became visible, but the eyelids of his blue eyes were red and swollen.
"Uncle," said he, standing still: his voice sounded hoarse.
The old man, still busily crunching sugar, turned round.
"Uncle, you have come far enough; I thank you much; the way is long, and I wish to go home alone."
"I don't know, but I feel that it must be so."
"No, you had far better, on the contrary, turn with me."
"I am sorry, uncle, that I cannot do so, but I cannot! I cannot go to the 'Golden Lion' today. I am neither hungry nor thirsty; indeed, at this moment, I feel as if I could never eat or drink again. I regret that you have had so long a walk on my account."
"No, no, I will go with you. I am not so hard hearted as your mother told you."
"My mother never said anything of the kind: all her life long she spoke well of her fellow creatures, and especially of relations; and she never could endure to hear illnatured gossip about them, from first one and then another: indeed she always quoted the proverb, 'Don't bite off your nose to spite your face.'"
"Yes, yes, she had a great store of proverbs; in the whole neighbourhood it is said—'Marie Lenz said so-and-so;' we should always speak well of the dead, and I'm sure no one could possibly speak ill of her."
The young man looked sadly at his old uncle; even if he said a civil thing, it always left an impression as if he had given you a pinch.
"Yes, uncle," continued the young man, "how oft enduring the last few days of her life, did she say (and it went to my heart to hear her), 'Lenz, I ought to have died six years ago for your sake; at five and twenty you ought to have been married, and you will find it hard to marry, for you have become so accustomed to me, and now that must end.' I could not persuade her to the contrary, and that was the only thing that made her unwilling to die."
"And she was right," said the old man, still crunching his sugar, "she was good and kind, though somewhat self willed, but that is no one's business; but her kindness tended to ruin you; you are sadly spoiled. I did not intend to tell you of it just at this moment, there will be time enough for me to talk to you further on the subject some other time, but I hope you will come with me now, and not be so childish; you really seem scarcely to know whether you are standing on your head or your heels. It is the law of nature that your mother should die before you, and at all events you have no cause to reproach yourself for ever having behaved unkindly to her."
"No, thank God! I have not."
"Very well, then, show that you are a man, and give over crying and sobbing. In all my life I never saw anything like the way you cried in the churchyard."
"Indeed, uncle, I really cannot say all I felt. I wept for my mother, but for myself also. When our choir sung those hymns, which I usually sung with them myself, and there was I, dumb and desolate, I felt as if I were also a corpse, and they were singing me into my grave, and that I could not raise my voice."
"You are—" said the old man, but he gulped down what he was on the point of saying, and strode on in front; his little dog, who trotted along before him, looked into the old man's face, and shook his head; he had never seen such an expression before in his master's face.
After a time the old man stopped of his own accord, and said: "I am going to turn here. I have only one thing to say to you: don't take any relation of your mother's to live with you, whom you must send away afterwards. They would forget all the kindness you have shown them, and only be indignant because they could not stay with you for ever. Above all, don't give away any of your property, come who may. If you intend to make any presents, wait till a few weeks are past. Take the keys into your own keeping when you go home; now God bless you, and be a man!"
"God bless you, uncle!" said the young man, and went on towards his own house. His eyes were still fixed on the ground, but at every step he took he knew where he was; he knew every stone on the path. When he came opposite the house, he felt as if he could not possibly cross the threshold. To think of all that has happened there, now past and gone—and what may the future have yet in store! But it must be borne.
The old maid was sitting in the kitchen beside the cold hearth, holding her apron to her eyes, and when the young man came up to the house, she said, sobbing: "Is that you, Lenz? God help you!"
The room seemed so empty, and yet everything was in it just as usual; the work bench, with five partitions for the five workmen, beside the straight rows of windows, and the materials for work hanging on the walls by hooks and straps; the clocks ticked, the turtle doves cooed, and yet everything looked so empty, and dead, and deserted. The easy chair stood there with outspread arms, waiting. Lenz leaned on it and wept bitterly; then he raised his head, and turned to the bedroom. "It cannot be that you are really no longer there, mother," said he, almost aloud: he shrunk from the sound of his own voice, and sunk down exhausted into the chair, where his mother had so often sat.
At last he summoned up courage to go into the next room. "I feel as if I must send something after you—as if you had forgotten something!" said he again, and with a cold shudder he opened his mother's press, into which he had never looked in his life. It seemed to him almost a crime to dare to do so, and yet he did it. Perhaps she had left him some sign or token. He found the godfathers' and godmothers' presents to his deceased brothers and sisters, all marked with their separate names, and his own also; some ancient coins, the Confirmation Certificate of his mother, her bridal wreath, dried and withered, but carefully preserved; her string of garnets, and, in a box by itself, in several folds of fine paper, a small white velvety looking plant, and a scrap of writing in his mother's hand. The son first read in a low voice, and then as if wishing to hear his mother's words, he read aloud: "This is a plant of Edelweiss."
"Dinner is ready," said a voice, suddenly, through the half open door.
Lenz started, as if he had heard the voice of a spirit, and yet it was only old Franzl calling to him.
"I will come immediately," answered Lenz, shutting the door, and bolting it. He then restored everything carefully to its place, and at last returned into the next room. He did not observe how ominously Franzl shook her head at such secret doings.
The nearest neighbour—and he was a good way off—the beadle, had sent up something to eat; for it is here the custom of the country for the nearest neighbour to prepare food, and to send it to the mourners after the funeral, under the idea that on such an occasion people are too much occupied to think of it themselves; indeed, during funeral obsequies, and for three hours afterwards, it is not customary to light any fires. The beadle's daughter brought the dinner herself. "Thank you, Kathrine, and thank your parents also from me. Take away the dinner, I will eat again when I am hungry; now, I really cannot."
"You must at all events try to do so, for that is the custom," said Franzl; "you must put it to your lips. Sit down, Kathrine; in the presence of a mourner you must always sit, and not stand. Young people now-a-days no longer know what is customary, and what is not. You must talk, Kathrine, too, for it is bad luck to be silent when a mourner is in the room, so say something."
The robust, cherry cheeked girl, blushing scarlet, stammered, "I really can't," and then burst out crying.
Lenz fixed his eyes on her, on which she threw her apron over her face.
"Compose yourself," said he kindly; "thank God, every day of your life, that you still have your parents. Now I have taken some of the soup."
"You must taste the other dishes also," urged Franzl.
Lenz did as she wished, though it was a painful effort; he then rose, and the girl did the same, saying: "Do not be angry with me, Lenz, I ought to have tried to comfort you, but—but—"
"I know; thank you. I can't speak much either, just now."
"May God preserve you! My father told me to say that he hoped you would come to us; he cannot leave the house, as he has a bad foot."
"I will see: when I feel able I will come."
The girl left the room, and Lenz paced up and down, stretching forth his hands, as if expecting some one to take hold of them, but no one did so; then his eyes rested on his tools, and more particularly on a certain file which hung on a nail by itself; he shivered as he laid hold of it, for something was now in contact with his hand.
This file was the most precious heritage he possessed. There was an indenture in its maple handle imprinted by his father's hand, for he had worked with this same tool for more than forty seven years, and liked to show it, and often said: "It seems scarcely credible that the wooden handle should, in the course of years, become indented in this way by the pressure of the fingers." Whenever a stranger came to call, his mother used to exhibit the singular looking tool.
The doctor, in the valley below, who had a collection of old fashioned clocks of the Black Forest, often begged to have the file, to hang it up in his cabinet, but the father never would consent to part with it, and still less the mother and son after his death. After his father's burial, when the son was sitting alone with his mother, she said: "Lenz, we must no longer grieve, we must bear our affliction with patience. Take your father's file, and set to work—'Watch and pray,' say the Scriptures, 'for the night cometh when no man can work.' Be thankful that you have an honest trade already, and not one still to seek. A thousand times your father used to say: 'It is such a good thing to rise in the morning, and to know that your work is waiting for you; and while I am filing, I file away all useless splinters out of my head; and when I hammer, I knock on the head all sad thoughts, and away they fly!'"
These were his mother's words, and, in recalling them at this moment, she seemed to say them once more: "If I could only recall thus every word she ever said to me!"
So Lenz began to work busily.
Franzl was standing outside with Kathrine, saying: "I am so glad that you were the first person to bring food here, it is a good omen—for the person who gives you the first morsel of food in such a case, is sure to——, but I won't say it out; we must not forestall such matters. Come back in the evening, for it must be you who say good night to him; and you must say it three times over, and then it has effect. Hush! what is that? Our Heavenly Father in the Seventh Heaven above! I declare he is at work on the day of the funeral! No one knows that young man thoroughly, not even I, who have been with him from his childhood; he has singular ideas which no one can understand, but the kindest heart in the world. But don't tell any one that he is working to-day, for it might bring him into bad odour. Do you hear? Come back for the dishes to-night, and then take care to speak to him properly; you can talk well enough generally."
Franzl was interrupted by Lenz opening the door, and saying: "Franzl, if any visitor comes, say that I can see no one but Pilgrim. So, you are not gone yet, Kathrine?"
"I am just going," said she, and ran hastily down the hill. Lenz went back into the room, and worked on busily, while Franzl was in a state of incessant perplexity at the strange young man, who had been first crying, as if his heart would break, and was now hard at work. It was certainly not from hardheartedness, nor from avarice, so what could be the reason?
"My old head is not wise enough to find out," said Franzl, turning to ask her old mistress what she was to think about it; but she clasped her hands in sorrow, on suddenly remembering that the mother was dead.
Franzl's heart sunk when she saw visitors arrive; the schoolmaster, some of the choir, and various others. She dismissed them all, with a sorrowful face, and would gladly have stopped their ears if she could, that they might not hear Lenz at work. She looked out anxiously for Pilgrim, who had great influence over him, and would, no doubt, take the file out of his hand; but Pilgrim did not come. Franzl, however, had now a lucky thought: there was no necessity for her to stay at home, so she walked along the path far enough to prevent any one hearing the filing and hammering, and she dismissed those whom she met coming to the house.
Lenz, however, found that active employment produced calmness and composure, and he did not leave off till evening, when he went down into the valley, past the scattered houses, to his friend the painter, Pilgrim; but half way he turned round suddenly, as if he had heard some one calling him, and yet all was still around. No sound was heard but the waterwagtail—called by the country people here Hockenock—twittering incessantly in the reeds, and the yellow hammer, perched on the young green shoots, on the top of the fir trees, whistling its solitary note, and glancing round with its bright eyes. There are no larks here, either in the valley or in the meadows beyond; they only soar on the high land above, where cornfields are cultivated.
Mists were rising in the meadows, but these thin vapours are only visible in front and behind, and never in the small space which a person occupies standing, or walking.
Lenz went quickly along the valley, and did not stop till the sun had gone down behind the mountains, and then he said: "It is setting for the first time over her grave." The evening bell rung out; he took off his hat and proceeded on his way. He paused at a bend in the valley, and, concealed by a bush, looked up at a solitary cottage. On a bench before the door was seated a man with whom we are already acquainted—the clockmaker, Faller. He had a child on his knee, whom he was playing with, and his sister was seated behind him, whose husband had gone to foreign parts. She was nursing an infant, and fondly kissing its little hands.
"Good evening, Faller;" said Lenz in his usual clear tenor voice.
"Oh! is that really you?" replied a bass voice; "we were just speaking of you; Lisbeth said you would forget us in your grief, and I said, on the contrary, it is the very thing that would make him think of us."
"You are right, I come to you for that very reason; I remembered that Hurgel's house is to be sold to-morrow, I will be your security if you choose to buy it. You will then also be nearer me."
"Capital! famous! so you are going to stay where you are?"
"People said that you were going to travel now, for a year or more."
"Who said so?"
"I think it was your uncle; but I am not quite sure."
"Really: well perhaps I may; if I go away, you must live in my house."
"You had far better stay at home, it is too late to travel——"
"And marry soon," added the young wife.
"Yes; for then all taste for travelling is at an end—a married man has too many links at home. There is no doubt you will prosper, Lenz, for thinking of me in all your sorrow; your mother in heaven will bless you for it; no single minute passes without my thinking of her; in all things her first thought was for others, and you take after her—God will bless you."
"Kindness brings its own blessing; my walk here, and what we have agreed on, has lightened my heart already.—Lisbeth, have you anything to eat in the house? I begin to feel hungry for the first time to-day."
"I will boil you a couple of eggs."
"That will be quite sufficient."
Lenz ate with a tolerable appetite, and his hosts were delighted to see him enjoy his meal.
Faller's mother, in spite of her son's remonstrances, persisted in asking Lenz to give her some of his mother's clothes.
Lenz promised to do so.
Faller would not be prevented walking a good part of the way home with him; but scarcely had he gone twenty steps, when he gave a shrill whistle. His sister asked what was the matter? He called out in answer, that he would not return home tonight.
"Where are you to be?" said Lenz.
The two friends walked on together in silence; the moon shone brightly, the owls in the wood hooted, but strains of cheerful music proceeded from the village.
"It would never do if every one lamented for one person:" said Lenz, "God be praised that each one has his own joys and sorrows!"
"Your mother said that through you;" replied Faller.
"Stop;" said Lenz, "would you not like to tell your betrothed bride, that you can now buy the house?"
"Indeed I should—come with me—you will see a degree of joy seldom to be seen in this world."
"Climb up the hill alone to her cottage, for I am not in a mood for joy today, and I feel quite exhausted. I will wait here; now go quickly, and don't be long of returning."
Faller went up the hill hurriedly, and Lenz seated himself on a heap of stones beside the path, and, like the dew now softly sinking on the grass and the trees, making everything revive, so a sensation of pure, heavenly dew, seemed to refresh the soul of the solitary man.
Far up the hill, a light now sparkled through the window of the cottage which had been hitherto dark, and hope and joy passed into the hearts of the betrothed, who had so long felt desolate and hopeless. Lenz too was happy.
There is no greater felicity on earth than doing good to others. Faller ran back, panting for breath, and described all the joy with which his news was received; the old father and the bride threw open the window, and shouted down into the valley, "May a thousand blessings attend you, worthy man!" and the bride first cried, and then laughed.
The two friends now pursued their way for some time, each following his own train of thought. Faller went along with a firm step: in his whole bearing there was something vigorous and determined, and while Lenz walked beside him, he involuntarily held himself more upright.
At the spot where the hill shuts out the valley Lenz turned to take a last look at the churchyard, and sighed heavily.
"My father lies there also, and he was not spared to me so long as yours;" said Faller.
Lenz went first up the hill. What is that white figure moving on the summit of the hill? who can it be? is it possible? is it not true that his mother is dead? She must have left the cold grave.
The mourner gazed in awe and trembling.
"Good evening, Lenz;" exclaimed a voice. It is the beadle's daughter Kathrine.
"How is it that you are here again?"
"I have been with Franzl, for she asked our maid to sit with her, she was so sad and solitary. She is old, so she is nervous and timid. I would have no fear if your mother were really to come again. Good night, Lenz; good night; good night."
Kathrine had said good night three times, just as Franzl had desired her; this means something, and who knows what may come of it?
A mild evening after a hot day was refreshing every one, and families were assembled on benches outside their houses, but a considerable number were sitting on the stone balustrade of the bridge; for wherever a bridge is in or near a village, it is the place where people meet for their evening's rest, and their evening's talk. Not only must every one pass this way from whichever side they come, but the rippling of the water beneath chimes in well with a pleasant flow of talk. There were various kinds of wood lying to soak in the stream, in order that the sap of the timber might exude from the fibres, and the wood neither shrink nor warp when made into clock cases; the men on the bridge understood well how to soak the timber, though each had their own plan. They were still talking this evening—and that is saying a good deal—of Lenz's mother, but even more of the propriety of Lenz soon marrying. The women praised Lenz highly, and many of their panegyrics were also intended as a hint to the other men to act in as praiseworthy a manner; for where there is good conduct it is always thoroughly appreciated. But the men said: "Oh! no doubt he is a very worthy man, but—too soft hearted." The girls—with the exception of those who had already declared lovers—said nothing. Suddenly a report was circulated from door to door, no one knew whence it came, and also on the bridge, that Lenz had worked incessantly on this very day, when his mother had been buried. The women lamented the avarice shown by so good a man; the men on the contrary tried to defend him. The conversation, however, soon turned on the weather, and worldly matters, and these are fruitful subjects, for no man can tell the result of either the one or the other. They went on chatting pleasantly till they wished each other a quiet night, leaving the stars in the sky, and the affairs in the world, to follow their appointed course.
The most agreeable spot of all is far down the valley, in the pretty garden of a house newly built in the style of a railway station, where the aromatic fragrance of plants in the night air is wonderfully pleasant. This is not surprising, for all kinds of medical herbs grow and flourish here. We are in the Doctor's garden, who also keeps a dispensary. The Doctor is a child of the village, the son of a clockmaker; his wife is from the capital, but she, as well as her husband, who seems fairly to have taken root in his native valley, has become quite at home here, and the Doctor's old mother, who still lives with them, often says that she thinks her daughter-in-law must have existed long ago in the world, and been born in the Black Forest, she is so completely at home there, and so well acquainted with all the ways and customs of the district. The Doctor is also Mayor of the village, and his wife likes this title the best. He has four children. The eldest son, having no turn for what is called study, learned watchmaking, and is now working in French Switzerland. The three daughters are the most refined girls in the country, but not less industrious on that account. Amanda, the eldest, is her father's chief assistant in his dispensary, and it is also her office to keep in order the garden, where many healing herbs are growing. Bertha and Minna are active in the household, but also occupy themselves busily in preparing straw plaiting, which goes to Italy, and returns thence in the shape of the finest Leghorn bonnets.
A stranger is in the garden with the family this evening—a young engineer—called the Techniker in the village. He is brother to the two sons-in-law of the landlord of the "Golden Lion." One of his brothers is a rich wood merchant in a neighbouring town, the other resides on the south side of the Black Forest, and is proprietor of a Spa there, and also of a considerable property. It is said that the Technicker wishes to marry Annele, the only remaining daughter of the landlord of the "Lion."
"Quite right, Herr Starr, I like that," said the Doctor to the Techniker. The sound of the Doctor's voice shows that he is a corpulent man. "It is not fair," said he, "to enjoy the beauties of the mountains and valleys, and yet show no interest in the life and actions of those who inhabit them. The world nowadays has far too many restless superficial tendencies towards incessant travelling. For my part I feel no inclination to knock about the world in distant countries; I feel happy and contented within my own narrow circle. I have been obliged to give up my old passion, that of collecting plants, and I did so cheerfully, for since then I know more of my fellow creatures. Each must take his own share in the division of labour; my countrymen will not comprehend this, yet it is the point in which our native industry fails."
"May I ask you to explain this more fully to me?"
"The subject is quite simple. Our clockmaking is, like all house labour, the natural result of the want of fruitfulness in our district, and the strict entail of property; the younger sons, and all who possess no capital but their industry, must find an equivalent for their labour, in order to gain their daily bread. Hence proceeds naturally the close and steady carefulness so universal among us. Our forest furnishes the best timber both for houses and for machinery, and so long as the old-fashioned Jockele clocks found a brisk sale, a clockmaker, in conjunction with his wife and children who painted the numbers on the dials, could finish a clock entirely at home. The more, however, that metal clocks are adopted, superseding the old Jockele clocks, the more are the profits shared by strangers. Indeed, in France and America, and more especially in Saxony, we have now a strong rival trade. We ought to adhere more to wooden clocks, which as you know do not work by weights, but by springs; for this purpose close union is necessary. The ancient engravers had a chief, whose office it was to keep them united, and such a man is sadly required here; all those who are now living scattered among the mountains, should unite in one close confederacy, and work into each other's hands. This, however, will not be easily effected here. In Switzerland a single watch passes through a hundred and twenty hands before it is completed. Even the very perseverance they display, which is undoubtedly a virtue in itself, prevents my worthy countrymen making much progress. It is only by frugality, and unparalleled industry, that our trade has been carried on. It is difficult to make any impression on our clockmakers, who have often shown a singular degree of susceptibility; they must be gently dealt with; a rude or careless grasp might injure their feelings, like the delicate works of a clock, and it is a serious matter when the mainspring snaps."
"I think," replied the young man, "that it would be profitable to give the clocks here a form more agreeable to the eye, and more calculated to ornament a room."
"It would be a great improvement," said Bertha, the second daughter. "I lived with my aunt for a year in the capital, and wherever I went I met my countrywoman, a Black Forest clock, banished like a Cinderella to the kitchen. French clocks in their gold and alabaster were paraded in every drawing-room; they were often not wound up, or else I was told they did not go well; whereas my countrywoman in the kitchen was steady and well regulated."
"This Cinderella ought to be rescued," said the young man, "but I hope she will retain her virtue in gay rooms, and go as correctly as ever."
The Doctor did not appear to enter into the scheme of the young people, for he began to relate to the Techniker the various singular peculiarities of the inhabitants of the district. He had been long enough in other countries to perceive the eccentricities of his own, and was yet so imbued with home feelings, that he knew how to value the hidden qualities of his countrymen; he spoke pure German, but with the accent of the dialect of the Black Forest.
"Good evening to you all," was the company greeted by a person passing by.
"Oh! is that you, Pilgrim? wait a minute;" called out the Doctor. The man remained standing beside the hedge, and the Doctor asked, "How is Lenz?"
"I don't know. I have not seen him since the funeral to-day; I have just come from the 'Lion,' where I stupidly got into a rage on his account."
"Really! What was the matter?"
"They say there that Lenz has been working all day at home, and they abuse him and declare he is miserly. Lenz miserly! it is enough to make a man go distracted."
"Don't allow yourself to be annoyed; you and I, and many others besides, know that Lenz is an excellent man. Was Petrowitsch with Lenz to-day?"
"No; I thought he was, and therefore I did not go to him. Herr Doctor, if you have time to-morrow, may I beg of you to come to see me in passing? I want to show you something that I have made."
"Very well. I will come."
"Good night, all!"
"Good night, Pilgrim! a good night's rest to you."
The pedestrian went on his way.
"Send me my songs back to-morrow," called out Bertha to him.
"I won't fail to send them," answered Pilgrim, and soon he was heard in the distance whistling with sweetness and skill.
"There you have a strange enough person," said the Doctor to the Techniker. "He is a painter, and is Lenz's best friend, whose mother was interred today. This Pilgrim has talents, which have, however, never borne fruit. The history of his life is remarkable."
"I wish you would relate it to me."
"Another time, when we are alone."
"Oh, no! we should like to hear it again," exclaimed the wife and daughters; and so the Doctor began.
"This Pilgrim is the son of a dial painter. Early left an orphan, he was educated by the old schoolmaster at the expense of the parish. He was, however, far more frequently with the clockmaker, Lenz of the Morgenhalde, than with the schoolmaster. Lenz's wife, who was buried today, was like a mother to the lad; and her only child, Lenz, was always like his brother. Pilgrim was considered quick and clever; whereas Lenz, with all his ability in his profession, has something vague and dreary in his nature; and who knows whether a great musical genius does not lie hidden in Lenz, and an equal talent for painting in Pilgrim! but it has not come to light yet in either of them. You really must hear Lenz sing some time: he sings the first tenor in the Choral Society, which has him chiefly to thank for having twice gained the Quartett Prize at a musical festival—once at Constance and another time at Freiberg. When the two lads were still half grown boys, Lenz became an apprentice to his father, and Pilgrim to a dial painter; but they still clung faithfully to their old companionship.
"In summer evenings, the two were to be seen together as certainly as the twin stars in the sky above us. They wandered together, singing and whistling, through the valley and over the hills; and in winter evenings, Pilgrim braved the snow and storm to go to Lenz; for the latter was obliged to stay at home, being somewhat spoiled by his mother—and no wonder, for he was the only child left out of five. The boys used to read together half the night; particularly books of travels. I have lent them many a book, for there was a great thirst for knowledge in both lads. When Pilgrim escaped the conscription—Lenz, as an only son, could not be drawn—they brought forward their plan to travel together through the world; for, with all their love of home, our people have an irrepressible desire to travel. On this occasion Lenz showed, for the first time, a degree of wilful obstinacy which no one had ever suspected. He refused positively to give up the journey, and his father was quite willing that he should go, but his mother was in despair; and as even the persuasions of the Pastor were fruitless, my aid was called in by the parents, and, if nothing else availed, I was to bring forward an array of medical experience to effect their purpose. I naturally sought some other resource.
"I had always enjoyed the entire confidence of the two inseparables, and they willingly imparted all their plans to me. Pilgrim was the prime mover. Lenz, with all his tenderness of feeling, is of a sound practical disposition—I mean, of course, within his own sphere—and, if not overpersuaded by others, he has sense and acuteness enough to know what is right, and a degree of perseverance in all he does which almost amounts to a virtue. Lenz was far from being as resolute to his parents, as he affected to be in Pilgrim's presence. Old Lenz wished that Pilgrim should regularly learn clockmaking, before beginning his travels with a stock to dispose of: for travelling merchants must of course be able to repair the clocks they may meet with, as well as those they dispose of. So Pilgrim learned clockmaking regularly. When, however, he had mastered what was absolutely indispensable, the project of the journey was all settled. Pilgrim had all sorts of plans in his head. At one time, his intention was to earn so much money in his travels, that he might enter the academy for painting as a pupil; then he proposed becoming an artist at once during his journey; and at last his grand purpose was to bring home a large sack of money, and to spend it freely among his own people; for, in fact, he had a great contempt for money, in so far as he was himself concerned. Moreover, at that time there was some love affair in his head. Greece—Athens, were the objects of his travels; and when he even named Athens, his eyes sparkled, and his cheeks flushed bright red. 'Athens!' said he often, 'does not the very sound of that name seem to transport us into lofty halls, where we ascend marble stairs?' He fancied that if he were to breathe this classical atmosphere, he would become another man, and, above all, a great artist. Of course I endeavoured to cure him of such wild delusions; and I so far succeeded, that he promised me to occupy himself solely in making money, and his other plans could be fulfilled hereafter. Old Lenz and I became his securities, for the value of the goods that he was to take with him. He set out alone on the journey, for Lenz, by our advice, stayed at home. 'I am like the river in the Black Forest which runs into the Black Sea!' said Pilgrim often. He hoped to introduce our forest clocks into the East and into Greece, where they had not hitherto met with the same success as in northern lands, and in the New World, It is very amusing to hear Pilgrim relate his progress through various countries, and through cities and villages, all hung round with Black Forest clocks, making them strike in the streets, while he eagerly looked round on every side. But this was his great fault: he was too anxious to see everything—customs, manners, fine buildings, beautiful landscapes; and this is a disadvantage to a merchant. The works in a clock never vary, even when carried over sea and land, and just as little do our countrymen, who are to be seen wandering in every zone, change their natures. To earn, and to save, and to live economically until they return home with a well-filled purse, when they can make up for their privations,—these are the fixed purposes of their hearts, and they care little how the world goes on around them. This is both prudent and necessary—it is impossible to carry different objects in the head at the same time."
"Did Pilgrim really arrive in Athens at last?"
"Not a doubt of it; and he often told me that the Crusaders, when they first saw Jerusalem, could not have felt more piety and enthusiasm than he did, when he gazed for the first time at Athens. He rubbed his eyes, and could scarcely believe that he really saw Athens, where marble statues were to welcome and greet him. He went along the streets sounding his clocks, but he did not succeed in selling a single clock in Athens. He suffered great privations, and was at last only too glad when he got employment. But what employment it was! For fourteen long days, under the blue Grecian sky, he was engaged in painting the railing of a public-garden green, within sight of the Acropolis!"
"What is the Acropolis?" asked Bertha.
"Explain the word to her, Herr Starr," said the Doctor.
The Techniker described, in a lively manner, the former glories of this grand Athenian citadel, and the few fragments that still remain. He promised on his return, to bring a sketch of it with him, and then begged the Doctor to go on with his story.
"I have not much more to tell," resumed the Doctor. "Pilgrim contrived to realize sufficient, by the sale of the clocks, to prevent his being a burden on the parish. It required no little courage to return home even poorer than he went, and to be the derision of his neighbours; but as his artistic nature feels the most thorough contempt for purse-pride, as he calls it, he always seems quite contented and at his ease, and pays no attention to the jeers and gibes of his companions. He arrived naturally, first of all, at the Morgenhalde. The family there were all seated at dinner, and were in the act of saying grace, when Lenz uttered such a cry, that his mother often said if she were to hear it again it would be her death. The two friends embraced eagerly. Pilgrim was soon as merry as ever, and said that he had best luck at home, for he had arrived just as dinner was ready, and no one would make him so welcome as the parents and their son at the Morgenhalde. Old Lenz wished Pilgrim to live in his house altogether, but he is unusually jealous of his independence. He erected a neat workshop near us, at Don Bastian's. At first he took great trouble to introduce new patterns of clock dials. He has a very good idea of colour, but his drawing is sadly defective: his chief mistake, however, was endeavouring to alter the original form of our Black Forest dials—a square with an arch above. When he discovered that he made no progress with his novelties, he resumed making the old fashioned timepieces to order, and is now always cheerful and good humoured. You must know that different countries have peculiar tastes in the dials of clocks. France likes bright colours, and the dial painted all over; North Germany, Scandinavia, and England prefer more simple lines, something architectural, triangular figures, columns, or at most a wreath; America likes no ornamental painting, nothing but a wooden clock case with more or less carving, and the weights resting on pulleys at the sides of the clock—these are called American clocks; Hungary and Russia approve of painted fronts or a landscape. The style of decoration that art would sanction as beautiful has seldom good sale; on the contrary, spirals and flourishes are generally most admired. If you could combine that style with the embellishment of our native clocks, you would find Pilgrim quick at executing a design; and you might, perhaps, thus give a fresh impulse to his life."
"I beg you will make me acquainted with the man."
"Certainly—you may accompany me tomorrow—you heard him invite me; but you must come quite early, and then you can cross the hills with me. I will show you some beautiful points of view, and many good honest men."
The Techniker wished them a cordial good night, and the Doctor went into the house with his family.
The moon shone bright in the sky—the flowers emitted their fragrance for themselves alone—and the stars gazed down on them. All was still around, save here and there, when, in passing a house, a clock was heard to strike.
"Good morning, Lenz!—so you slept well?—you are still like a child, who sleeps sound after crying till he is worn out," said Faller, in his deep hollow bass voice, next morning. And Lenz replied—"Ah, my friend! to wake, and wake again, and to remember the events of yesterday, is only fresh misery! But I must take courage, I will first of all prepare the security for you: take it to the mayor before he rides out, and remember me to him. By the bye, it has just occurred to me that I dreamt of him. Go to Pilgrim, too, if you have time, and tell him I am waiting at home for him. May good luck attend you! I am so glad that you will now have a roof of your own."
Faller went with the security into the valley, and Lenz began his work; but he first wound up one of the clocks, and it played a hymn. He nodded in unison, while filing a wheel. "That clock plays well: it was her favourite air—my mother's," thought Lenz. The large clock, in a beautifully carved walnut-wood case, as tall as a clothes press, was called "The Magic Flute," for its principal piece was the overture to that opera of Mozart's, besides five other airs: it was already sold to a well-frequented tea-garden near Odessa. A small clock stood beside it, and Lenz was working at a third. He worked unremittingly till noon. He was very hungry, but when he sat down to table alone, all hunger seemed to leave him.
He begged the old maid to sit down with him. She affected great shyness and modesty; however she allowed her scruples at last to be overcome, and when the soup was finished, she even volunteered the remark—"I really see no reason why you should marry."
"Who says that I have any thoughts of marrying?"
"My opinion is that if you do marry you ought to marry the beadle's daughter, Kathrine: she is come of good people, and has a great respect for you—she can talk of nothing but you. Such a wife would be worth having. It would be a bad business if you got a wife to whom you would have to play second fiddle. Girls, now-a-days, are so stylish in their ideas, and think of nothing but dress and vanity."
"I have no thoughts of marriage, especially at this moment."
"And you are right: it is not at all necessary—you will never better yourself, believe me. And I know how you have been coddled all your life, and I will take care to manage every thing so that you may almost think your mother is still in the world. Tell me, don't you find the beans good? I learned how to dress them from your mother—they are the very same. She understood everything, from the greatest thing to the least. You shall see how well pleased you will be while we live together—as happy as the day is long."
"But, Franzl," said Lenz, "I don't think I shall be long as I am."
"Really? Have you any one in your eye already? Look there!—People had agreed that Lenz had nothing in his head but his mother and his clocks! I only hope she comes of a good family. As I told you, Kathrine would be a wife for Saturdays and Sundays; she can work both in the house and in the fields; and her spinning is so first-rate, that I do believe she could spin the very straw off the roof. She thinks more of you than any one, and all that you do and say is sacred in her eyes. She always says—'All that Lenz does is right,' even when it appears otherwise, like his working yesterday;' and she will have a nice little nest egg of money, and a property besides from her mother, which will be an ample provision for one of your children."
"Franzl, there is no question of marriage at all. I have some idea—I have not yet quite made up my mind—of selling, or letting all my property, and going to foreign parts."
Franzl stared at Lenz in dismay, pausing halfway in lifting the spoon out of the plate to her mouth. Lenz continued—"I will take care to provide for you, Franzl—you shall never know want; but I have never yet seen the world, and I should like to do so, and to see and learn something, and perhaps I may improve in my own calling; and who knows——"
"I have no right to give an opinion," interrupted Franzl, "I am only a foolish woman, though every one knows that we Kunslingers are far from being jackasses. What do I know of the world! but this I do know, that I have not served seven and twenty years in this house without some profit. I came to this house when you were only four years old: you were the youngest child, and the pet of all the family. As for your brothers and sisters—now lying under the green turf;——however, don't let us talk about them just now. I have been seven and twenty years with your mother. I cannot say that I am as clever as she was—for who could you find, far or near, of whom we could say that? But we shall see her no more till the world is at an end. And how often she said—'Franzl,' said she, 'men rush out into the world just as if in other lands, beyond the Rhine or across the seas, Fortune ran about the streets welcoming all comers—"Good morning, Hans, Michel, and Christoph; I am so glad to see you," said Fortune to Hans, Michel, and Christoph.' 'My good Franzl,' said your mother, 'he who can't get on at home, will do just as little elsewhere; and wherever you go you will find plenty of men; and if it was to rain gold they would take good care to snap it up, and not wait for strangers to come and take their share; and after all, what great good fortune do you get by going out into the world? No one can do more than eat, and drink, and sleep. Franzl,' said she, 'my Lenz, too,'—forgive me, but it was your mother said so—I don't say it of myself,—'my Lenz also has got some silly nonsense in his head about travel; but where could he be better off than at home; and he is not a man to strive with the wide world.' A man must be a pirate like Petrowitsch, an audacious, niggardly, miserly, hardhearted creature to get on in the world. But, to tell the truth, she said nothing of the kind, for she never said an ill word of any one; but I think it and I say it—and she often appealed to my good feelings, saying—'Franzl, if my Lenz were to leave home, he would give away the shirt off his back if he saw some poor creature in want of one: he is so tenderhearted, that any one who chooses can impose upon him. Franzl,' said she, 'when I am no longer in the world, and this longing for travel again comes across him, Franzl,' said she, 'cling to his coat-tails, and don't let him go;' only, good gracious! I can't possibly do that—how could I? But I must say my say, and I will, for she charged me to look after you. Just look round you: here you have a comfortable house and the best of food—you are respected and loved; and if you go out into the world, who knows anything about you?—who knows that you are Lenz of the Morgenhalde? And when you have no shelter, and must lie all night in the woods, how often would you think—'Bless me! to think that I had once a house, and seven feather-beds, and plenty of good crockery, and a small cask of good wine in the cellar.' By the bye, shall I fetch you a pint of it now? just wait, I'll bring it in a minute. Those who are sad should drink wine. A thousand times have I heard your mother say—'Wine cheers the heart, and brings another train of thought.'"
Franzl hurried out of the room, and soon returned from the cellar with a pint of wine. Lenz insisted on her having a glass herself. He poured it out himself for her, and made his glass ring against hers. She only put it to her lips coyly; but when she cleared the table, she did not forget to take the glass of wine with her to the kitchen.
Lenz again worked hard till evening. Whether it was the wine or some other cause, he was very restless at his work, and often on the point of laying aside his tools to go out and visit some one; but again he thought that it was better he should not leave the house, as no doubt some of his kind friends would come to comfort him in his solitude, and he wished they should find him at home. No one came, however, but the Pröbler. He was much attached to Lenz; for he was one of the few who did not turn him into ridicule, and scoff at him for refusing to sell any of his ingenious devices—he only pawned them until he could no longer redeem them; and it was said that the landlord of the "Lion," who carried on a brisk trade as a packer (which in this district means a wholesale dealer and agent), and had an extensive business, made a good profit out of Pröbler, who had pledged his chief works to him.
Lenz always listened with serious attention to old Pröbler, even when he told him that he was constructing no less a piece of mechanism than the perpetuum mobile; and, in order to complete it, there was nothing wanting but forty two diamonds, on which the works must revolve.
On this occasion, however, Pröbler did not come on account of any new discovery, nor to discuss the perpetuum mobile; but when Lenz had taken the usual pinch of snuff from his box, he proposed himself as his negociator, if he wished to marry. He brought forward a whole array of marriageable girls, those of the Doctor included; and concluded by saying—"All houses are open to you—but you are shy. Tell me honestly whither your thoughts turn, and I will take care that you are met half way."
Lenz scarcely made any answer, and Pröbler went away. That he should be supposed to aspire to one of the Doctor's daughters, occupied Lenz for some time. They were three excellent and charming girls. The eldest was very prudent, and considerate beyond her years; and the second played the piano and sung admirably. How often had Lenz stood opposite the house listening to her! Music was, in fact, his sole passion, and his eager longing for it was like that of a thirsty man for a clear spring of water. How would it be if he could get a wife who could play the piano? He would ask her to play over to him all the airs that he put in his musical timepieces, and then they would sound very differently. But after all, a wife from so superior a family would not be very fitting for him; for it was not likely that, when she could play the piano, she could undertake the management of the house, the garden, and the stables, as all clockmakers' wives must do;—besides, he will wait patiently yet awhile. When twilight began to fall, Lenz dressed and went down into the valley. "All houses will be open to you," Pröbler had said. All houses? That was saying a great deal; in fact, so much that it meant nothing. To feel at home in entering a house, its inhabitants must go on calmly with their various pursuits; you must form so entirely a part of the family, that neither look nor gesture asks,—"Why do you come here?—what do you want?—what is the matter?" If you are not quite at home, then the house is not really open to you at any moment; and as Lenz's thoughts travel from house to house in the village for a couple of miles round, he knows he will be joyfully welcomed by all—but he is nowhere really at home; and yet he has one friend with whom he is thoroughly at home, just as much so as in his own room. The painter Pilgrim wished to go home with him yesterday after the funeral, but as his uncle Petrowitsch joined him, Pilgrim remained behind, for Petrowitsch had a hearty contempt for Pilgrim, because he was a poor devil—and Pilgrim had an equally hearty contempt for Petrowitsch because he was a rich devil—so Lenz resolved to go to see Pilgrim.
Pilgrim lodged far up the valley, with Don Bastian, as Pilgrim called him. He had been originally a clockmaker, who had acquired a considerable sum of money during a twelve years' residence in Spain. After his return to his native country he purchased a farm, resumed his peasant's dress, and retained nothing of his Spanish journey except his money, and a few Spanish phrases which he brought forth ostentatiously from time to time, especially in summer, when those who had wandered from their homes again returned to their own district.
A young man was seated alone at a well covered table in the large inn of the "Lion," and eating with that good appetite which is sure to fall to the share of a youth of twenty, after having roamed for a whole day through the valley and over the hills. Sometimes he cast an observant glance at the silver knives and forks: they are of the good old fashioned sort, when people did not grudge a little solid silver, though it brought no interest for their money. The young man—it is the Techniker, with whom we were in company yesterday at the Doctor's—lights a cigar, and smooths his thick light-brown beard with a small pocket brush; his face has strong lines, and his light brown hair, curls round a well-developed prominent forehead; his blue eyes are deep set, and have an expression of hearty cordiality; and his cheeks are full and fresh coloured.
A cool evening breeze blows in through the open oriel window, quickly dispersing the clouds of tobacco smoke.
"So you are smoking already, Herr Starr?—I suppose you don't want anything more to eat?" said a neatly dressed girl who entered the room at that moment. She wore a white apron and an embroidered stomacher; her figure was slender, flexible, and agile; her face full and oval, and her complexion bright; her brown fawnlike eyes had a shrewd expression; and three massive brown glossy plaits formed a crown on her head. It was Annele, the landlord's daughter.
The girl went on in a pleasant flow of words, saying—"You must make the best of it. We had no idea that you would dine at so late an hour."
"Everything is as good as possible. Sit down beside me for a few minutes, sister-in-law."
"I will, the moment I have cleared away everything. I cannot sit down in peace when everything is in such disorder."
"Yes, with you, everything must be as neat and tidy as yourself."
"Thank you for the compliment. I am glad you did not expend them all at the Doctor's."
"Now do return soon, for I have got much to tell you."
The young man continued alone for some time, and then the landlord's daughter came and seated herself opposite to him, with her knitting, and said, "Now tell me what you have got to say."
The young man told her, that he had this day accompanied the Doctor in his professional visits to hill and valley, and he could not sufficiently admire the deep insight he had acquired into the nature of the inhabitants. Their lives were, indeed, as the Doctor said, industrious and pious, and yet without any bigotry. "We were in three or four inns too today," said he. "Usually, when you enter a village inn, on a summer afternoon, you are sure to find a dissipated looking man, lolling at his ease on a bench behind the table, half asleep beside his glass of vapid beer or brandy; and the scamp of a fellow glares at the new arrival, and brags, and blusters, and abuses the world in general, in a confused manner. I have often seen this—but never here."
"Yes," said Annele, "our Doctor, who is also a magistrate, is very severe against drunkards, and we never give them anything to drink here."
The Techniker described the Doctor's disposition with great enthusiasm. Wherever he appeared the day seemed brighter, and even in the huts of poverty, his cordial sympathy brought consolation; and the confidence his nature inspired, and that breathed in every word he uttered, brought fresh courage everywhere.
Annele seemed rather embarrassed by this glowing description; and she only said, while pressing her knitting needles against her lips, "Yes, indeed, the Doctor is a true friend to his fellowcreatures."
"He is your friend, certainly, for he spoke very kindly of you."
"Really? But he only ventures to do so in the mountain paths: he dare not speak well of me at home. His wife and daughters would not allow him; and yet I except the wife, for she is truly kindhearted."
"And not the others? I should have thought——"
"I say nothing against any of them. I have no cause to speak ill of the people. God be praised! I don't need to obtain praise for myself by abusing others—'to get profit at other people's expense,' as Lenz's mother used to say, till it passed into a proverb. Hundreds of people are in the habit of going in and out of this house: they can proclaim in the streets, if they like, what we do, and an inn is an open house. We are not like many people who receive a guest for a few days only, and make the house clean and neat, and are all amiability to each other till the visit is over, and afterwards all is confusion and filth, and every one anxious to scratch out each other's eyes; and yet, when any one is passing the house, they can begin to play and sing, or seat themselves by the window with their work in their hand, and look amiable. I don't wish, however, to say a word against any one; I only wish to give you a hint that you had better not go so often up yonder. Forgive my interference, but you being the brother of my sister's husband makes me feel interested in you."
"I am very much obliged to you for your kindness."
"Where can my father be?" said the landlord's daughter, blushing.
"By the bye, where is your father?"
"He went out on particular business: he may come home at any minute. If he would only give up business altogether! Why should he continue such a life of toil? But he cannot live without it; and he always says—'Those who give up business very soon die.' Cares, and anxieties, and business, and occupation keep a man fresh and lively; and indeed I cannot understand how any one, with the use of their limbs, can sit down in the morning to play the piano, or wander about the house idle, singing silly tunes. To be always busy, and active, and stirring—that is the way to be healthy and happy. If, indeed, we reckon up what we women earn in money, it is certainly not much; but to know how to manage a house is worth something, too."
"Indeed it is," said the Techniker. "There is a vast amount of persevering industry in this country. Most of the clockmakers here actually work fourteen hours a-day. This is highly to their credit."
The girl looked at him in surprise. What on earth does he mean by always referring to the stupid clockmakers? Does he not understand, or does he not choose to understand, what I am aiming at?
A pause ensued, till the Techniker again asked—"Where is your mother?"
"She is in the garden gathering her crop of beans, which cannot be delayed. Come with me, and we will join her."
"No; let us stay where we are. Now, sister-in-law, as I venture to call you, is not the Doctor's eldest daughter, Amanda, an excellent, accomplished girl?"
"She!—Why should she not be excellent? She is old enough to be wise; and no one sees how crooked she is, for her dresses are so well made by a good milliner in the town."
Annele bit her lips when she had said this. She thought—"How stupid of me to say such a thing! As he has named Amanda, no doubt it is Bertha he fancies: it must be so." Breaking off, therefore, suddenly, she continued—"But Bertha is charming——"
"Yes, indeed, a most pleasing girl," interrupted the Techniker.
One of Annele's knittingneedles fell under the table, and he picked it up. The young man seemed to have repented having spoken out so freely; for he now said—"The Doctor was telling me yesterday all about Pilgrim."
"What is there to tell? The Doctor can make something out of nothing."
"Who is Petrowitsch? They tell me you know most about him."
"Not more than everyone knows. He dines here every forenoon, and pays his score regularly. He is a singular, crabbed old fellow—very rich and very hard. He was many, many years in foreign parts, and cares for no man living. There is only one thing in the world which gives him pleasure, and that is the avenue of cherry trees which line the valley towards the town. Formerly rows of pollards stood there, and Petrowitsch——"
"Why is he called Petrowitsch?"
"His real name is Peter; but, as he was so long in Servia, they will call him here Petrowitsch."
"Go on, and tell me about the avenue of cherry trees."
"Petrowitsch was in the habit of walking about with a knife in his hand, and pruning the superfluous branches off the trees; and one day the farm servant informed against him for destroying the trees. So he caused a whole avenue of new cherry trees to be planted at his own expense, and for the last six years he has pulled the unripe fruit, that the trees might not be injured by thieves, and they have made a fine growth; but he feels no interest in any man. See! there goes Lenz—his only brother's son, and he has never got from him as much as would go on the point of a needle."
"So that is Lenz? A good looking youth—an agreeable countenance—just what I had imagined him to be."
"Oh yes!—he is a very worthy young man, only rather too soft hearted. When he is passing along there, I know that two eyes from a new house are watching him, and would fain allure him in; and those eyes are Bertha's."
"So they understand each other, do they?" said the Techniker, his white forehead colouring to the roots of his hair.
"No; I never said anything of the kind. I dare say she would be very glad to marry him, for he has a nice property, and she has nothing but some fine Leghorn hats, and stockings in holes."
The landlord's daughter, or Lion-Annele, as she was called, inwardly rejoiced. "So! I have put salt enough in his soup!" And this pleasant thought restored her good humour.
The Techniker said that he was going out to take another walk.
"Where are you going?"
"Up yonder, towards the Spannreute."
"It is a very fine view from there, but as steep as the side of a house."
The Techniker went away, and Annele ran down into the garden behind the house and looked after him. He did, indeed, ascend the hill for a while, but he soon turned and went rapidly down the valley towards the Doctor's house.
"Go to the devil!" said Annele, in a rage. "From me you shall never more receive one civil word!"
"He is not at home," cried out Don Bastian's wife to Lenz, as he was crossing the meadow; "probably he is gone to your house. Did you not meet him?"
"No. Is his room locked?"
"Then I will sit down there for a little."
Lenz went into the familiar room. But as he opened the door he almost sank to the ground. His mother was standing opposite, smiling on him! He quickly, however, recovered from this startled feeling, and inwardly thanked his friend for having depicted so closely that dear, good, loving face, before time had effaced it from his memory. Yes, just so had she looked at him in life! "Pilgrim is, and always will be, my best friend. As he could not be with me he was engaged in doing me a favour; yes, the greatest favour he could have done me."
Lenz gazed long and mournfully at the beloved features. His eyes were swimming in tears, but still he continued to look at the picture. "So long as I have the use of my eyes I can now always see you, but I shall never hear you again. Oh! that I could but hear your voice once more! Oh! that we could but recall the voice of the dead!" He could scarcely prevail on himself to leave the room. It seemed so strange to leave his mother thus alone, looking at him as he went out, and no eyes meeting hers....
He did not go away till darkness set in, so that he could no longer see; and on his way he said to himself—"Now it is time that lamentation should cease. I can cherish my grief within my own heart, but the world shall not say that I don't bear it like a man." He heard the sound of music as he passed the Doctor's house. The windows were open, and a man was singing foreign songs in a fine baritone voice: it was not a voice belonging to the village. Who can it be? Whoever it is, he sings well.
He heard the stranger say, "Now, Mademoiselle Bertha, I hope you will sing me something."
"No, Herr Starr, I cannot just now; we must soon go to supper, and we can sing a duett afterwards. Look through this music in the mean time."
This allusion to supper, and the resolution he had formed to enjoy life again, seemed to awaken a good appetite in Lenz, and he forthwith determined to go to the "Golden Lion;" so he went towards the village with a quick and firm step.
"Oh, Lenz, good evening! How good of you to think of your friends, even in your sorrow!" said the landlady. "I mentioned your name only a few minutes since, and if you had been here today, you would have heard that all those who have been going in and out during the day, were talking of you. I am sure your cheeks must have been burning! Yes, my good Lenz, you will meet with your reward even in this world, for your admirable conduct to your excellent mother. And you know that your mother and I were always the best of friends; though it is true we did not see much of each other, for she disliked leaving her own house, and so did I. Will you have a pint of new wine or old? I advise the new, for it is particularly good and not so heating. You look red and flushed: to be sure, after losing such a mother, it is but natural. I don't say it is not, but——;" and the good woman waved her hand, as if emotion choked her voice.
At last, after placing the glass and bottle on the table, she resumed:—"What can we do?—we are all mortal. Your mother was seventy five years old—a full sheaf of years, indeed; and very possibly I may be called away tomorrow in my turn, just like your mother. With God's help, I, too, will leave a good name to my children. No one, indeed, can be compared with your mother. But may I give you a piece of advice?—I mean it well, believe me."
"Yes, yes—I am always glad to get good advice."
"I only wished to say, that I know you are tender hearted, but you must not allow yourself to be overwhelmed with grief. You don't take this amiss, I hope?"
"Certainly not. What is there that I could take amiss in it? On the contrary, I did not know till now, how many true friends my mother had, and that they intend to continue their friendship to her son."
"Oh! you deserve this for your own sake, for you are——"
"Good day to you, Lenz!"
The landlady's flattering speech was cut short suddenly by a clear young voice, and a pretty, plump hand was offered to him, and the face corresponded with the hand. It was Annele, who brought a lamp into the room, which lighted it up brightly; and, turning to the landlady, she said—"Mother, why did not you let me know that Lenz was here?"
"Surely, I may talk to a young man in the twilight just as well as you," answered the mother, with a significant smile.
The jest did not seem to please Lenz: and Annele went on to say—"My good Lenz, you should have seen how I cried both yesterday and to-day about your mother. I am still trembling in every limb. Such persons should not die; and when we think that she is no longer here to go on doing good, it is truly heart breaking. I can just imagine you in your own home. You look into every corner—you feel as if the door must open; it cannot be—she could not be so cruel—she cannot be gone for ever—she must come in soon. Good heavens, Lenz! all day long I said to myself—Poor dear Lenz! if I could only bear part of his burden, I would so gladly take a share of it. You were expected here without fail this forenoon to dinner. Your uncle expected you; and, though he is usually so particular as to dinner being served as the clock strikes, he said to-day—'Wait a bit, Annele—put off dinner a few minutes, Lenz is certain to come—surely he won't remain all alone at home.' And Pilgrim too made sure that you would go to him, and dine with him. You know Pilgrim is always with us, and just like a brother to me. In him you have, indeed, a good and true friend. Your uncle had a small table all to himself, and he made me sit down beside him, and talk to him. He is a man who likes his joke, but as clever as Old Nick himself. Well, remember that you must dine here tomorrow. What do you like best?"
"I have no great appetite for anything. I should like best of all, to be able to sleep for seven whole days—to sleep on and on continually, and know nothing of myself all the time."
"You will feel differently by and by.—I am coming in a moment!" said Annele, to some waggoners who had just seated themselves at another table. She brought them their dinner, and then returned to stand behind Lenz; and while she answered the other guests, she continued to hold her hand on the back of Lenz's chair, which gave him a strange sensation, as if a stream of electricity penetrated his whole frame. Now, however, seeing others eat, reminded him of his own hunger; and Annele went off to the kitchen and back again like a flash of lightning, and covered the table with a fine white cloth, and placed the dishes so neatly on the table, and said so heartily, "May God bless your meal!" that Lenz could not fail to enjoy his dinner.
Certainly few girls can be so active and neat as Annele. It is a pity that she is so addicted to making fools of her admirers: she is so quick in repartee, and has a surprising knack of introducing any subject she likes, and carrying on a conversation in a lively manner.
Lenz had finished his first pint of wine, and Annele quickly placed another before him, and poured it into his glass.
"I believe you don't smoke?" said she.
"I do smoke sometimes, but I don't care much about it,"
"I will bring you one of my father's cigars—our guests never get them." She brought a cigar and a match, and held a light for Lenz.
At this moment the landlord of the "Lion" came in—a tall, stout, massive figure, most respectable in appearance; for he had thin snow white hair and a small black velvet cap on his head, just like a clergyman: moreover, he wore silver spectacles with large round glasses; he used his spectacles only for reading, so they were usually pushed back on his forehead. Placidity and benevolence seemed impressed on his brow: he was, moreover, calm and sedate, and majestically self possessed, and was considered by his neighbours a very shrewd, sensible man. To be sure he said very little, but a man must have a good deal of intelligence who had prospered like the landlord of the "Lion." His face was rather red, and inspired considerable deference; his mouth alone, which usually looked as if he were eating something good, was not so awe inspiring as the rest of his appearance. He was a serious and silent man, as if he wished, by his silence, to counterbalance the incessant tongue of his wife, and, indeed, sometimes that of his daughter likewise. When his wife talked too much, or with levity, he occasionally shook his head gravely, as much as to say, "A man with my principles cannot approve of that;" and the landlord was a man of strict principles: this was known far and wide; and he was the best in his trade, which was that of what is here called a Packer—he bought clocks from the clockmakers, and sent them to all parts of the world.
"Good evening, Lenz!" said the landlord, in a sonorous voice, as if in these few words a vast deal was included; and when Lenz respectfully rose he gave him his hand, and said, "Don't rise or be on ceremony, remember you are in an inn." Then he nodded, as much as to say—"I have a high respect for you, and you are as sure of all proper condolence on my part, as if you held a threefold security for it." Then he went to his table and read the newspapers. Annele fetched her knitting, and seated herself beside Lenz, saying, politely—"With your permission!" She spoke much and cleverly, and was thought as good as she was clever. She seems both, and no one knows better how to make her game. When Lenz at last paid his score, she said: "I must say it vexes me to receive your money, I would far rather that you had considered yourself our guest. Now, good night! and don't grieve your heart out. I only wish I could comfort you. By the bye, I had almost forgotten to ask you when your great musical clock—which is supposed to be the finest that was ever made in this country—goes to Russia?"
"I may receive a letter any day, desiring it to be sent off."
"Will you let my mother and me come up to see it and hear it before it goes?"
"I shall be highly honoured. Pray come whenever you choose."
"Now, good night! sleep sound, and remember me to Franzl, and tell her that if she wants anything, she is to come to us for it."
"Thank you very much—I won't fail to tell her."
It was a good quarter of an hour's walk to Lenz's house, and a steep hill all the way. Today he was soon at home, however. He did not know why, but when he was once more alone in his room, he became very sorrowful. He gazed long out into the summer night—he did not know what he was thinking about. Here nothing is seen or heard of the world of human beings; the only object visible in the distance, on a far away hill, is a solitary cottage, where a blacksmith lives—a light sparkles up through the windows, but soon disappears. Those men who have no grief in their hearts can sleep.
Not far from the house of the smith, a sawmill is heard through the stillness of the night, busily revolving from a current of air. The stars are shining brightly over the dark line of the forest, and on the spot where the moon has gone down behind the hills, a pale blue halo is visible, and the fleecy clouds in the sky are gently illuminated.
Lenz supported his burning forehead on his hands: his pulses were beating—the world seems going round with him. No doubt the new wine is the cause of these sensations. "I ought not to have drunk wine at night. What a clever, good girl Annele is! Don't be a fool—What is she to you?—'Good night!—Sleep sound.'" He repeated her words gently, and indeed he did sleep soundly all night.
The journeymen and the apprentice, whom Lenz had sent home to their parents during his domestic troubles, were already busy in the workshop when Lenz awoke in the morning. It had never before happened that they were before their master at their work. Indeed, when Lenz opened the window the sun was already high in the heavens, and five or six clocks that were in the room, struck seven at the same moment. It seemed to Lenz as if his wish had been fulfilled, that he might sleep for a whole week. Between yesterday and today, weeks indeed seemed to have passed. The time appeared so long to Lenz, because such unwonted feelings had entered his heart.
Franzl brought him his breakfast, sat down uninvited beside him, and asked, "What shall I dress for your dinner today?"
"For me? Nothing. I don't intend to dine at home. Get what you like for yourself. Only think, Franzl, that kind Pilgrim——"
"Yes; he was here yesterday," interrupted Franzl, "and waited for you a long time."
"Did he? and I was at his house. What do you think, Franzl? the kindhearted fellow painted a portrait of my mother yesterday, secretly; you will be surprised to see how like life she looks: one might almost fancy she must begin to speak."
"I knew that he was doing it, for he made me send him, privately, your mother's Sunday jacket, and cap, and neckhandkerchief. You have locked up her string of garnets with other things, of which I know nothing. It is no affair of mine: I have no wish to know everything; but when I do know a thing, and it is to be kept secret, you might cut me in two, and I would not say a syllable. Has any one ferreted out of me that I knew what Pilgrim was doing? Did I say a single word to you to account for his not coming here? You may entrust me with anything."
As, however, Lenz did not entrust her with anything, she asked: "Where are you going today? and where were you last night?"
Lenz looked at her with surprise, and made no answer.
"Probably you were with your uncle Petrowitsch?" continued Franzl.
Lenz shook his head, but vouchsafed no other reply, and Franzl smoothed their mutual difficulty by saying: "I have no more time to spare; I must go to the garden to cut beans for our dinner. I have engaged a charwoman to help me a little; for we must collect our potatoes to-day. You approve of this, don't you?"
"Yes, yes—do everything just as you think best."
Lenz went to his workshop, but his head today seemed in considerable confusion. He could not please himself in the choice of his tools, and he even threw aside, pettishly, his father's file, which he had hitherto considered such a treasure.
The great clock played the music of the "Magic Flute."
"Who set these works again in motion?" asked Lenz quickly, in surprise.
"I did," said the apprentice.
Lenz said nothing. The usual routine must be resumed. The world does not stand still because a heart has ceased to beat for ever, or because a mourner would fain be still for ever, too. Lenz continued to work assiduously. The journeyman mentioned that a young artificer in Freiberg had come home from his travels, and that it was his intention to erect a manufactory of clocks at his own expense, and to settle in this vicinity.
"I might sell my whole stock to him," thought Lenz, "and then I could see with my own eyes, at last, how the world looks." But this idea of leaving home only recurred to his mind as a remembrance of something that he had wished once on a time, but long ago. He no longer felt any inward impulse in the matter; and precisely because his uncle had spread a report of his intention to travel, in order to constrain him to do so, he felt perverse and unwilling to go. He once more took up his father's file and looked at it intently, as if to say—"During his whole life, the man who guided this file, with the exception of a short absence in his early youth, remained stationary on this spot, and lived happily. To be sure—— he married young, which is a different thing."
Usually Lenz sent his apprentice to the Foundry on the other side of the hill, but to-day he went himself. When he returned, he did not sit long at his work. It would be very wrong not to go to see Pilgrim. Before noon he went down the hill, through the village, and across the meadow to Pilgrim. His worthy comrade was seated at his easel, painting. He rose—run his two hands through his long straight sandy hair, and gave Lenz his right hand; who now told him what joy the portrait had caused him, and how kind and thoughtful he considered his friend in giving him so agreeable a surprise.
"Pooh!" said Pilgrim, carelessly plunging both hands into his wide pockets. "I benefit myself by it. It is so desperately tiresome, year after year, to paint our primitive village; the church, with its mitre for a church tower, and so large a hole that a dial-plate might go into it; and the mower with his scythe stands there always on the same spot everlastingly; and the woman with the child going to meet him never reaches him; the child stretches out its hands, but it never joins its father; and the booby of a man stands there with his back to them, and I have no notion what kind of face he has—and yet hundreds and hundreds of times, I have been obliged to paint this confounded landscape of verdigris hue. So it is: the world will always have the same thing over and over again. I do believe I could paint the thing blindfold, and yet I must go at it again and again. Now I have pleased myself by painting your mother, though I no longer take portraits, for I have no fancy for any of the faces round here, and I would not be so spiteful towards generations yet unborn, as to force them to look at such physiognomies. Your uncle is right in positively refusing to be painted. Not long ago, when a travelling artist applied to him, he said—'No, no, or I shall probably be hung up in some pawnbroker's shop, at some distant day, along with Napoleon and old Fritz.' That man has most singular, quaint ideas!"
"What have you to do with my uncle just now? You painted my mother's picture for me, I know."
"Certainly, if you choose to accept of it Come, place yourself here. I am not quite satisfied with the eyes—I cannot catch the right expression. You have exactly your mother's eyes; so sit down there—so—just there. Now sit still, and think of something pleasant, or of giving away something. It was famous in you to become security for Faller, Think of that, and then you will have your mother's look that warmed the heart. Don't smile. But she was so good, so sincere, so—so——. Now, now I have it. Don't move an eyelash.—Now I can't paint any more when you are crying."
"My eyes overflowed," said Lenz, in an apologetic tone, "for I could not help thinking that my mother's eyes——"
"Never mind!—I have finished. I know now what to do. Come, let us be done working—besides, it is noon already. You will dine with me, I hope?"
"No—don't take it amiss; but I must dine with uncle Petrowitsch.
"I am never angry with you. Now tell me your plans."
Lenz explained—that he had half a mind to go from home for a couple of years; and he implored his friend to fulfil their former project, which they had been obliged to renounce, and to accompany him. Perhaps they might now conquer fortune in the same way they had hoped then.
"It won't do;—don't go," said Pilgrim, disapprovingly. "Rely upon it, Lenz, that neither you nor I are born to great riches, and so much the better, probably, for us. My host, Don Bastian, is a proper man of the world, who can gain money: the fellow has been half through the world, and knows no more of it than a cow does of the Catechism. Wherever he arrived, or walked, or stood, his sole thought was—'How is money to be got here?—how can I best save or cheat?' And he is no worse than the rest of the world. The Spanish peasants are just as cunning and as stupid as the German ones, and their chief glory is to fleece their neighbours. When Don Bastian came home, the only thing he had acquired was his money, and see how profitably he has laid it out—a man like that is sure to prosper."
"And why should not we?"
"Those who take pleasure in things that gold cannot buy, do not require money. See! all the superfluous clinking sounds I hear proceed from my guitar, and it is enough for me. A few days ago I heard Don Bastian's youngest boy say the Ten Commandments, and a very sagacious thought occurred to me—'What is the first Commandment?'—'Thou shalt have none other gods but me.' Now, every man can have but one god. You and I love our professions. You are happy when you have finished a work of which the mechanism is perfect; and I too, in the same way—though it often goes sadly against the grain with me to paint that one everlasting village, with the same everlasting girl, and the same woman and child—but still I am glad when it is done; and when I am painting it I am as merry as a bird—do you see?—as that goldfinch sitting on the roof of the church. And he who takes pleasure in what he does, and throws his whole heart and soul into it, cannot possibly spare time to think of how to become rich, and to speculate, and to overreach others. 'Thou shalt have none other gods but me'—that is a wise command. In fact, the other god is generally the Devil, and you may see the truth of that by your uncle Petrowitsch."
"Come and live with me," was the only answer that Lenz made to his friend. "I will build a couple of rooms for you upstairs."
"You mean well and kindly, but it would not do. Lenz, you are a singular man. You are a born husband and father of a family: you must marry, and already I rejoice at the thoughts of telling your children stories of my travels. And when I become old, and can no longer earn my bread, then I shall be only too thankful if you will take me into your house, and cram me with good things till I die. But now keep your eyes open, and remember I shall not be offended; on the contrary, it is my advice, that you depreciate me before your uncle, who hates me; and then, perhaps, he will leave you something in his will. You have quite talent enough to accept a legacy. I have a remarkable talent in that line myself; but unluckily all my relations are poor, or at least rich only in children. I am the only one of the family who has anything to leave, so you see I am a rich uncle like Petrowitsch."
His friend cheered Lenz, just as a passing sunny shower at that moment refreshed all nature. They waited till the rain was over, and then they went together to the "Lion," at the door of which they parted, for Pilgrim said he did not wish to go into the room where Petrowitsch was, along with Lenz. A carriage was standing before the inn, and the landlord accompanied a young man to the door, giving him two fingers in token of farewell, and touching his cap.
The young man looked up, and waved his hand to the wife and daughter in the room above, desiring the driver to drive on, and to wait for him at the Doctor's house.
When he passed the two friends, he bowed and took off his cap.
"Do you know who that is?" asked Pilgrim.
"Nor I either," said Pilgrim. "Who is that stranger?" said he to the Landlord.
"The brother of my son-in-law."
"Oh, oh!" whispered Pilgrim to Lenz. "Now I remember—he is one of Annele's admirers."
Lenz went hurriedly upstairs. Pilgrim did not see the expression of his face.
Petrowitsch was not yet arrived. In the mean time Lenz seated himself at his uncle's table, and conversed with the family and Pilgrim.
Annele was unusually sparing of her words today; indeed, when Lenz offered her his hand when he came in, she affected to be too busy to take it. No doubt her hand is promised, and she can no longer give it to any one, even in common courtesy. And yet she does not look much like a bride.
Uncle Petrowitsch now arrived; at least his dog appeared as his precursor—a mongrel, between a dachs and a terrier.
"Good day, Lenz!" said his uncle, rather crabbedly. "I expected you yesterday. Did you forget that I had invited you?"
"Indeed I did. I must confess that it quite went out of my head."
"At such a time it is allowable to forget, otherwise nothing is so inexcusable in a man of business as want of memory. During all my life I never either forgot anything, or lost anything—I never threw away a pin, or mislaid a pocket handkerchief A man ought always to make use of his seven senses. Now let us go to dinner."
Annele brought in the soup—the uncle filled two plates out of the tureen, and then said to Lenz, "You may take the remainder." Petrowitsch then took a newspaper out of his pocket, that he called for at the Post-office every day himself, and cut its leaves. While the soup was cooling, and after placing his tobacco bag and his meerschaum pipe on the paper, he began his dinner.
"You see," said he, after the soup, crumbling a quantity of bread into a plate for some one who had not yet appeared—"you see this is the way in which I like to live. If you dine at an inn, you are sure to have a clean cloth every day; and when my score is paid, day after day, then I am my own master." When the meat was put on the table, Petrowitsch cut a slice for Lenz with his own hands, then one for himself, and another for the unknown friend. He must have been on very intimate terms with him, for he put his finger into the plate, shook his head, and added some cold water to the meat. Now the friend came to light. "Come, Büble!" said Petrowitsch to his dog. "Gently, gently!—don't be in a hurry, Büble!—take it quietly." He put the plate on the floor, and the dog ate his food comfortably till he had finished the last morsel, when he looked up at his master gratefully, licking his lips and wagging his tail.
From this moment Büble only got little bits. Petrowitsch said very little, and after dinner, when he had lighted his pipe and glanced over the newspaper, Lenz asked: "Uncle, why did you spread a report that I was about to leave the country?"
Petrowitsch puffed away at his pipe for some minutes placidly, blowing away the smoke; then he called Büble, who jumped on his knee, and patted him; at last he said—"Why do you find fault with me for saying so? You told me yourself that you wished to make up for the idleness of your youth, and to visit other countries."
"I don't remember saying that."
"I don't reproach you with your supineness—you were not your own master; but it would be well worth your while to travel now—you would learn a good deal. I don't force you to go—indeed I can't."
Lenz allowed himself to be persuaded by his uncle's bold assertion, that he had really told him he wished to travel, and begged him not to take it amiss that he had forgotten he had ever said so.
"Lenz, bring your chair a little nearer," whispered Petrowitsch confidentially; "no one need hear what we are talking about. Listen! if you will take my advice, don't marry at all."
"There is little chance of my thinking of such a thing at this moment, uncle."
"Young people like you never know what they would be at—there can be no doubt of that. Now, Lenz, take example by me. I am one of the happiest men in the world. I have just been six weeks at Baden-Baden, and now I return to enjoy myself here; and wherever I go, I am my own master, and the world must serve me; and there are no girls in these days worth a farthing: those who are simple and good bore a man to death—those who are shrewd and clever, require constant amusement and excitement—all day long, at every meal, they must have some fresh diversion. And then you hear them say, day after day—'Goodness! how tiresome it is to manage a house—you men know nothing of such toil.' And then, in addition to all this, comes the plague of screaming babies, and relations, and school fees, and taxes."
"If the whole world thought like you, uncle, the human race would come to an end in a hundred years," said Lenz.
"Pooh! they would never die out," said old Petrowitsch, laughing, and filling his pipe with tobacco, pressing it down with a china stopper of antique shape. "Look, there goes Annele!" Lenz involuntarily started, he scarcely knew why; but his uncle continued, coolly—"No doubt, she is a vastly knowing little thing, always on the alert, and I call her my court jester. The kings of old were wise, for they kept jesters, whose office it was to make them laugh during meals. That is very healthy, and assists digestion. Annele is my court fool, and never fails to make me laugh."
When Lenz looked round. Pilgrim was gone. He seemed, indeed, resolved that his friend should disown him before Petrowitsch. Lenz, however, made a point of saying to his uncle, that he was a true friend of Pilgrim's, and intended always to be so.
The uncle said he was right, and commended his nephew; and Lenz was quite surprised when Petrowitsch even began to praise Pilgrim; adding, that he was something like himself, in some points, for he also disliked matrimony, and had a poor opinion of the female sex.
Büble now became very fidgety, and began to whine.
"Silence!" said Petrowitsch, angrily. "Have patience—we are going home immediately to take a nap. Down, down, Büble! Are you coming with me, Lenz?"
Lenz accompanied his uncle to his house—a large handsome building, in which no one lived but himself. The door opened of itself as if by magic, for the maid was obliged to be on the watch, and to open the door before her master had time to knock.
Lenz said—"Good bye!" to his uncle, who thanked him, yawning.
The young man was glad when he was again seated at his work the same afternoon. The house, which had seemed so desolate that he thought he could not possibly continue to live in it, now appeared to him once more like home—no real rest or peace is to be found in amusement elsewhere—a man is only really happy at home. He looked for a place to hang up his mother's picture; the best was just above his father's file, for there she could look down on him as he worked, and he could often look up at her.
"Mind you have the room tidy!" said Lenz to Franzl, who, with just indignation, replied—"It is always tidy!" Lenz did not choose to say that he had his own reasons for wishing it to be in particularly good order, for every hour he expected a visit from Annele and her mother, to see and hear his large clock, before it went forth into the wide world. Then he was resolved to ask her, in a straightforward manner—the straight way is always the best—whether the report about her and the Techniker had any foundation. He cannot tell, indeed, what gives him any right to ask such a question; but he feels that he must do so, and then he can talk to her in his own way, just as he may choose. Day after day passed and Annele did not come; and Lenz often went past the "Lion," but without going in, or even looking up at the window.
It was quite an event in the valley when the news was circulated that the large, handsome clock—the "Magic Flute," as it was called, made by Lenz of the Morgenhalde—was to be sent off in the course of a few days to its destination in Russia. It attracted a perfect pilgrimage to Lenz's house—every one wished to admire the fine instrument before it left the country for ever. Franzl had a great deal to do in welcoming all the people, and shaking hands with them—first wiping her hands carefully on her apron—and then escorting them a little way. There were not chairs enough in the house, for all the people who came to sit down at the same time.
Even uncle Petrowitsch condescended to come, and he not only brought Büble with him—for that was a matter of course—but Ibrahim, Petrowitsch's companion at cards—of whom people said that, during his fifty years' absence from home, he had become a Turk. The two old men said little; Ibrahim sat still and smoked his long Turkish pipe, and moved his eyebrows up and down; Petrowitsch fidgeted round him, just as Büble fidgeted round Petrowitsch. For Ibrahim was the only man who had a certain influence over Petrowitsch, which he only retained because he rarely exercised it. He would listen to no man who applied to him to obtain any favour from Petrowitsch. They played cards together for whole evenings, each paying his losses on the spot; and the restless, lively disposition of Ibrahim made Petrowitsch more polite and complaisant; and here, in the old family house, Petrowitsch seemed, in some degree, inclined to assist his nephew in doing the honours.
While the clock was playing a grand piece, Petrowitsch stood beside the work bench, examining everything that lay there or hung on the wall. At last he took down the well known file, with its worn handle. When the piece was finished, he said to Lenz—"This is your father's file, is it not?"
"Yes; it belonged to my deceased father."
"I will buy it from you."
"You are not in earnest, surely, uncle: it is not likely I should sell it."
"To me you certainly might."
"Not even to you, though I hope you will not be offended."
"Very well; then make me a present of it. I will give you something in return some day."
"Uncle, I scarcely can tell—I really don't know what to say; but my feeling is, that I cannot bear to part with the file."
"Very good!—'Stay there,'" said he to the tool, hanging it up again in its place; and soon he was walking down to the valley with Ibrahim.
People came from miles distant, and from quite the other side of the valley, to admire the clock; and Franzl was particularly pleased when the first man out of her village, Kunslingen, the balance maker, came and said openly—"Such an instrument has not been produced in our country for a hundred years. It is a pity that it must be dumb while it is travelling; and that it cannot go on playing all the way from here to Odessa, saying—'I come from the Black Forest—clever men must live there to complete such mechanism.'"
Franzl smiled with delight, and said—"This is the way the Kunslingen people speak—no others, from any part of the world, are as clever as they are." She told them how long and how eagerly Lenz had worked at the clock, and how often he used to rise in the night to adjust some part of the instrument, which had just struck him as requiring improvement. There were mysteries in the trade which few could explain. She, of course, was one of the initiated; and no girl's heart, listening to a first declaration of love, could receive it with greater delight than Franzl, when she heard the most esteemed man in her village say—"Yes, Franzl; and a house from which such a work proceeds—so accurate and so delicate—such a house must be a well ordered one, so you have some share in the merit also."
"I hope no one will take it amiss—I don't wish to offend any one; but I must say that nowhere in the world are people so clever as in our village. This man is the only person who has defined the matter properly. See how the others all stood there! just like a cow before a new barn door. Moo! moo!—not a bit more sense than that! But the Kunslingers! God be praised that I was born in Kunslingen!" Franzl's gestures and looks said all this, as she placed her hand on her beating heart, and her eyes looked devoutly up to Heaven.
Lenz could not help laughing when, at each meal, she brought in with every dish the good news that he was now quite famous in Kunslingen; and Kunslingen is no insignificant spot, for it has two parishes—Fuchsberg and Knelingen.
"Tomorrow I intend to nail up the case—tomorrow evening the 'Magic Flute' is positively to be sent off," said Lenz.
"So soon?" said Franzl sorrowfully; and she looked at the case, as if she wished to entreat it to stay a little longer. "It looks so well here, and brings us so much honour."
"I am only surprised," continued Lenz, "why the Doctor and his family have not been here; and——and the family at the 'Lion' promised they would come."
Franzl rubbed her forehead, and shrugged her shoulders, and regretted her ignorance; but it was impossible for her to know what went on in such fine houses.
Annele had repeatedly reminded her mother of her promise, but she refused to go without her husband, for their dignity is sadly diminished when the Landlord is not present; but this dignified person never runs after other people's things—if they wish for his approval, they must come to him.
But now, however, on this last day, Annele had heard—she always got good information—that the Doctor and his daughters intended to go to Lenz's; this being the very last day, the superior families reserved themselves for that. Mother and daughter resolved not to go to the Morgenhalde till the Doctor's family had preceded them: they said nothing to the majestic Papa of the diplomacy here displayed, for his sense of dignity would have been hurt.
"Here comes the Schoolmaster!" exclaimed Franzl early in the morning, looking out of the kitchen window. His companions called this young man the "Singing Master"—a title that he liked, for he was, in fact, the founder of the Choral Society; and when he sung with Lenz, Faller, and Pilgrim, they were a first rate quartett. Lenz gave him a hearty welcome, and Franzl begged him to stay with them for a couple of hours, to assist them in receiving the numerous visitors that were sure to come on this last day.
"Yes, do stay," said Lenz. "You can't imagine how grieved I am to see my work depart. I can fancy a person feeling just like that, when a brother or a child leaves home for foreign parts."
"You go too far," said the Schoolmaster, reprovingly; "you cling with your whole heart to everything—you have always some fresh object to devote yourself to! You know I don't care much for musical clocks." Franzl looked very angry, but the young man continued:—"They are for children and childish people. I don't even like the piano, because its tones are already made. Music on the piano is little better than whistling a song; and as for your clocks and barrel organs, they have tongues and lungs but no hearts."
Franzl bolted out of the room, very cross. "God be praised, that there are still Kunslingers in the world, who understand things better!" She heard them in the next room singing that touching song, "To-morrow must I leave thee!" Lenz sang a clear, though not a very full, tenor; and the Schoolmaster could not venture to put forth the energies of his bass voice, for fear of drowning Lenz's sweeter tones. Franzl interrupted the song by calling out through the open door—"Here come the people from the Doctor's."
The Schoolmaster, as master of the ceremonies, went to meet them at the door.
The Doctor came in, accompanied by his wife and his three daughters, and immediately said, in his unceremonious way, which had nothing imperious, but yet admitted of no denial, that Lenz was not to lose his working hours by talking, but merely set the clock going. He did so, and they were all evidently delighted. When the first piece was finished, Lenz cast down his eyes on hearing so much praise, and yet it was all said in a way which did not require deductions to be made for politeness.
"Grandmamma desires to be remembered to you," said the eldest daughter; and Bertha exclaimed—"Fancy a clockcase having so many voices!"
"I suppose you would like to have as many?" said her father, laughing.
The eldest, however, said to Lenz, while her brown eyes sparkled—"You seem to have a most superior talent for music."
"If my worthy father," said Lenz, "had bought me a violin when I was a child, so that I might have learned to play on it, I do think that I might have been a good musician in time, and perhaps done something."
"You have done something," said the stout Doctor, laying his large hand kindly on Lenz's shoulder.
The Schoolmaster, who was very proud of understanding the internal mechanism of the instrument, saved Lenz the trouble of explaining it to the ladies; and, indeed, Lenz could not so well have illustrated how the delicate shades of crescendo and decrescendo were produced, and what a quick ear it requires to produce a full tone without depriving the instrument of sweetness, and to blend the two properly. He repeatedly asserted that a sense of music and mechanical skill must be united to complete such a work; and especially pointed out how admirably Lenz had succeeded in the long drawn mournful tones. Nothing could be more difficult than to produce feeling and harmony, while working by the metronome; for a musician, playing as his sense of music dictates, never plays with a metronome, and is not therefore checked in his musical expression. He was on the point of showing how waltzes were constructed and nailed close together, and that the outside was made of soft alder wood, while in the inside there were various kinds of wood, the grain of which was in different directions, when his explanation was interrupted by hearing Franzl welcoming some visitors outside, with more than usual eagerness. Lenz went out: it was the Landlord of the "Lion," with his wife and Annele. The landlord offered him his hand, and nodded with the consciousness that there was no more to be said, when so dignified a person did a young man the honour to survey for a quarter of an hour, a work on which he had bestowed years of industry.
"So, you are really come at last?" was Lenz's greeting to Annele.
"Why at last?" asked she.
"What! have you forgotten that you promised me to come six weeks ago?"
"When?—I'm sure I don't remember."
"On the very day after my mother died; you said you would come soon."
"Yes, yes!—it must be so—no doubt I did. I felt that there was something on my conscience, but I did not know what. Now this is it—of course it is. But, good heavens! in a house like ours, you have no idea of all the things that pass through my head." So said Annele, and Lenz felt something like a sharp pain in his heart.
He had no leisure, however, to reflect at that moment as to what had caused him either pain or pleasure; for now there were mutual greetings on the part of the Doctor and the Landlord of the "Lion."
Annele had even some thoughts of following the town fashion, and kissing the Doctors daughters, the friends whom she detested so cordially—for they were always rather reserved with Annele.
Amanda, the daughter who cultivated herbs, had taken off her broad-leaved hat, as if she had been at home; and now Annele did the same, and she had much finer hair than all the other three put together—indeed, she could sit on hers; and it was so long and so luxuriant, that she wore it like a coronet in three thick plaits, and looked remarkably well in it too.
Lenz first put in a pretty waltz, and then a gay melody out of Mozart's "Magic Flute," which was set in a particular way—the "Song of the Moor."
The Landlord growled out—"Hum! Hum!"
That was a high compliment; and he nodded and drew in his under lip, as if he was tasting good wine.
"Very good!" said he, at last, in a pedantic tone, spreading out both hands as if he were scattering the praise letter by letter. "Very good, indeed!" These were important words, pronounced by such a man!
The Landlady crossed her hands on her breast, and looked at Lenz with unparalleled admiration. "Well!—really I—to think that a man can make a thing so cleverly, and such a young man too! and he stands there just as if he was no better than the others. Remain just so. The best ornament to a great artist is modesty. Go on your course—make more instruments like that: you can do so if you like, I can tell you."
After this speech, she looked pleasantly at the Doctor's wife, inwardly rejoicing thus:—"I suppose that stick of a woman—that hoppole—can't speak a word; and if she were to speak, what would she say? It is rather different, I imagine, when I say anything!"
Annele, too, took courage, and said—"You completed that fine clock while your good mother was still alive, and her blessing rests on it. I can easily understand how hard you must find it, to send it away into the wide world. Do you know what has just occurred to me? You must bring me that favourite tune of yours, and I will learn to play it on the piano."
"I can lend you the piece," said the Doctor's eldest daughter, who had heard Annele's last words.
"But we only have it arranged as a duett," said the second daughter.
"And I have only two hands," said Annele, pertly. The girls would have gone on talking together if the Doctor had not looked at them gravely, and made them a sign to be quiet, for the second piece was about to begin.
When it was finished, they all went into the next room. Franzl had placed on the table, cheese, wine, and bread and butter. The Landlord said—"Lenz, tell me, honestly, for I don't mean to take advantage of it, how much do you get for this musical instrument?"
"Two thousand two hundred gulden—money down. I don't make much by it—I have devoted a great deal of time to it, and the outlay has also been considerable; but when I make my next one, I expect to have more profit."
"Do you intend to make another?"
"No; for I have not one ordered as yet."
"I cannot bespeak one, for I have no traffic with musical instruments: so, as I say, I do not order one; but if you do make another, I think it probable that I will buy it from you. I have a kind of idea as to where I should dispose of it."
"Knowing that, I shall begin a new one with fresh spirit, and it shall be even better than the last. Now I feel as if I could see this one go with a light heart, although it takes with it the whole year that I laboured at it."
"As I said before, I say again—not a word more, not a word less. With me all is accurate and clear. I do not give the order; but it is possible."
"That is quite enough for me, and makes me quite happy. Your Annele said, just now, something of the same kind that I said to Pilgrim only yesterday: 'I cannot tell you how it grieves me to send away a work in which my mother felt so much interest.'"
Annele looked down modestly.
"And I will take an interest in it," said the Landlady, "just like your mother." At these words the Doctor's wife and daughter looked at the Landlady in surprise. The Landlord knit his brows fiercely, and cast a glance of reproof at his wife; but the very pause that ensued, made the words of the Landlady more insidious. Franzl, however, came to the rescue, by pressing every one to eat and drink; and she was made quite happy by Annele saying, that she might well be proud of having the house so neat, that its lamented mistress was not missed in that respect.
Franzl dried her eyes with her newly washed apron.
The Landlady soon thought of an appropriate question, and said—"Lenz, has your uncle not been here yet? and is he not proud of your fine clock?"
"He was here, but the only remark he made was, that I had sold it far too cheap, and did not understand my own advantage."
Now nothing can answer better than to bring forward some absent person, and especially one so generally disliked as Petrowitsch. The point now was in what tone he was to be spoken of Annele and her mother had already sharpened their tongues, when they were forced to silence by a warning glance from the Landlord. The Doctor began to praise Petrowitsch, saying that he affected to be rough because he dreaded his own soft heart; and, turning to the Schoolmaster and Lenz, he said—"Petrowitsch is like those trees that were not transformed into coal at the Deluge, but yet have rich warm substance within: this is just Petrowitsch." The Schoolmaster smiled assentingly, Lenz looked puzzled, and the Landlord hemmed.
The Doctor's eldest daughter said—"Petrowitsch is fond of music, and whoever likes music must have a good heart." Lenz nodded approvingly, and Annele smiled sweetly. The Landlady could not stand this. She had turned the conversation on such a fruitful subject, that she could not permit others to snatch it from her; so she, too, praised Petrowitsch's cleverness, and hinted that she was his confidant on most points; whence it was pretty plainly to be seen that she was very clever herself, so thoroughly to understand such a superior person, for it was not every one that was capable of doing so. Annele, too, had a good word to say, and praised Petrowitsch for his neatness, and always wearing such fine linen, and making so many pleasant jokes; even Büble came in for a good morsel from this rich banquet of praise. Annele described Petrowitsch as the most devoted friend of her family,—indeed, shortly they made him out to be a perfect saint, and only wanting a pair of wings to become an angel altogether. At last the visit came to an end; the Schoolmaster accompanied the Doctor; Lenz followed the Doctor as he went out, and said—
"Herr Doctor, I have a question to put to you, but you must not inquire why I ask it."
"What is it, pray?"
"I should like to know what kind of plant Edelweiss is."
"Do you know it, Amanda?" said the Doctor.
Amanda, colouring, said, "It is an Alpine plant which grows in snowy regions; in fact it springs up under the snow; but I never saw it growing."
"I should think not, child," answered the Doctor, smiling; "bold Alpine hunters and shepherds alone venture to gather this strange plant on the spot where it grows, and it is considered a sign of a bold spirit to secure it. It is a singular, fine, and delicately formed plant, with very little sap, and therefore more easily preserved, like our native Immortelle; the flower is edged with white velvety leaves, and the stalk is also covered with white down. The first time you come to see me, Lenz, I can show you a specimen of the little plant; its Latin name is Leontopodium Alpinum, which is called in Germany Löwenfuss (Lionfoot). I don't know whence its German name is derived, unless I can find it in some book; but at all events it is a prettier one than the Latin denomination."
Lenz thanked the Doctor, who went away with his family.
When they were all fairly gone, the Landlady stayed in the kitchen with Franzl, and could not say enough in praise of the neatness and regularity, and orderly state in which everything there was kept. "But, indeed, you are now in the place of a mother in this house," said she, with one of her magpie cackles (as Pilgrim called the worthy woman's laugh); "you well deserve that Lenz should have a high opinion of you, and entrust you with all his keys and belongings, and have no secret hid from you."
"Indeed, he has none almost—only one."
"Really! is it possible? May I ask what it is?"
"I don't quite know myself: when he came home from the funeral, he was rummaging in the next room in a press, of which his mother always kept the key herself, and when I called out to him, he shut the door in my face; and after searching for some time, he locked up every thing again, and when he leaves the house he always tries the lock of the press, to see whether it is fast. He is not at all mistrustful naturally."
The Landlady inwardly chuckled and gave a little sharp laugh: "All right, no doubt the old woman has hoarded up a stocking full of gold; who knows how much? Come to see me," said the Landlady in a condescending manner. "I hope you will come whenever you like, and if you want to borrow anything, I shall never forgive you so long as I live, if you go to any other house but mine for it. Your brother often arrives at our door with his cart of shingles; can I give him any message from you?"
"Yes! I think he might sometimes come here to look after me."
"Rely upon my telling him so; and if he has not time I will send for you. Many Kunslingers come to us,—they are sensible people,—at least I like to talk to them best of all. If the Kunslingers were only rich, they would be famed far and near. They often speak of you, and are pleased when I tell them how highly you are respected here."
The Landlady drew breath; Franzl stood looking at her, and would gladly have lent her some of her own breath, but she had scarcely any left; she laid her hand on her heart, to show her agitation, for speak she could not: but what has happened all of a sudden in the kitchen? It seems as if merry Kunslinger faces were laughing from all the crockery, and the handsome shining copper kettle, and pans, had become trumpets, and playing loudly, and the funnels puffing and blowing, and the pretty white china coffeepot sticking its arm in its side, dancing like the Bürgermeister's wife—Franzl's godmother. Heavens! it tumbles! but Franzl luckily caught the obstreporous coffeepot before it fell.
The Landlady rose, and concluded by saying, "Now, God be with you, Franzl! It does one good to have a chat with a good old friend once more. I am far more at my ease with you here, than in the other room with the Doctor, and his upsetting young ladies, who can do nothing but play the piano, and give themselves airs. Good bye, Franzl!"
The musical clock in the next room never played more or sweeter melodies, than at this moment sounded in Franzl's heart; she could have sung and danced from joy—she stared at the fire and laughed, and then she again looked out of the kitchen window after the Landlady. "What an admirable woman that is,—the most looked up to in the whole country, and yet she said herself, that I was her good old friend!"
When Franzl laid the cloth for dinner in the next room, she looked once more into the glass, like a girl just come home from a ball; she wished to see how Franzl looked—the Landlady's good old friend! She could not swallow a morsel of the comfortable dinner she had prepared; her appetite was satisfied—more than satisfied—for she had swallowed the fat Landlady whole.
"It is all ready now," said Lenz aloud, though he was alone in the room. "May you arrive safe!" He had been engaged in unscrewing the work, as it was to be brought down into the valley in different pieces, and the large framework to be carried on a handbarrow by men, for there was no carriage road to Lenz's house. The two enemies, Pilgrim and Petrowitsch, met beside the waggon in the valley, beside which Lenz was standing, busily engaged in packing securely the different parts of the instrument.
On one side of the waggon Petrowitsch was saying—"I know the man who has purchased your musical clock, he is one of my best friends in Odessa, and a most worthy respectable person. If you had any sense, you would go too, and exhibit the instrument in Odessa; and then you would be sure to get at least seven new orders.
"I have already got a fresh one," said Lenz.
On the other side of the waggon. Pilgrim said—"Lenz, let us escort the 'Magic Flute' part of the way, and we can return in good time this evening."
"I should like it very much, for I feel sure I can't work any more today."
When the two friends were walking along behind the waggon, as they passed the "Lion" Inn, Annele looked out of the window and called out "Good luck!"
The two friends thanked her.
In passing the Doctor's house, they were even more gratified, for a maid came out, and running up to the waggon laid a wreath on the packing case.
"Who sends that?" asked Pilgrim, for Lenz was too surprised to speak.
"The young ladies," said the maid, returning to the house.
The two friends looked up at the window and bowed; no one, however, was to be seen, but when they had gone on a few steps, they heard the music of the "Magic Flute" played in the Doctor's house.
"What excellent people they are at the Doctor's!" said Pilgrim. "I never feel more perplexed than when I ask myself, Which of them is the best? The one I like the most is the old grandmother; the whole district should put up a petition to the Almighty to preserve her life. Your mother is now dead, and if the Doctor's wife were to die also, then the whole of the good old fashioned world would be dead—who still know how to observe good old household customs and ways. But her granddaughters are also excellent girls, and I don't doubt that Amanda will one day be as admirable as her grandmother."
Lenz said nothing, and the whole way to the town he was equally silent. When, however, they had arrived there, and, the waggon having proceeded on its journey, the two friends were drinking their wine together, Lenz became more cheerful and talkative, and said he now felt as if life had revived within him.
"You really ought to marry," was again Pilgrim's admonition. "You have two classes to choose from: either a thoroughly well educated person, like one of the Doctor's daughters—you could marry one of them if you chose, and I advise you to propose for Amanda. It is a pity that she can't sing like Bertha, but she has the best heart in the world, and will honour you if you honour her, and she will esteem your talents."
Lenz looked into the glass, and Pilgrim continued—
"Or else you must make up your mind to be satisfied with an honest farmer's daughter—I mean the bailiffs Kathrine. Franzl is right, she would jump over hedge and ditch after you; she would be sparing and frugal, and you would have fine healthy children—seven sons strong enough to uproot the old firs in the wood of the Landlord of the 'Lion;' and you would become a man of substance too; but you must not in that case expect your wife to understand anything of your vocation, or of the many ideas you have in your head. You have the choice, but choose you must. When you have made up your mind, let me know, and send me to the family. I feel quite proud already at the thoughts of my dignity as matchmaker; I will even put on a white neckcloth for the occasion if necessary. Can I give you a more striking proof of my wish to serve you?"
Lenz still continued to look at himself in the glass. Pilgrim had excluded Annele from the possibility of his choice. After a long pause Lenz said, "I should like to be in a large town just for once; I should so enjoy hearing music played by a whole orchestra, and to hear the same piece played five or six times over, then I feel I could arrange it quite differently: it always seems to me as if there were certain tones wanting, that I can never produce. They may praise me as much as they like, but I can tell you that the pieces I set have not the right sound, very far from it; I know it is so, and yet I can't alter the tone. There is something squeaking, and dry, and hard, in the instrument, like a dumb man who has been taught to speak; it is something like our speech, but yet it is different. If I could only succeed in getting this tone. I know what it should be—I hear it, but I can't produce it."
"Yes, yes, I feel just the same; I imagine that there is a style of drawing and colour that I must aim at. I am always in hopes that I shall seize the idea, and hold it fast. But I shall die in obscurity without ever having succeeded. This is doomed to be our fate—both yours and mine. Come, let us finish our wine and go home."
They went along together in a cheerful mood, this fine autumnal evening, singing all kinds of melodies together, and when they were tired of singing they whistled duets. Pilgrim took leave of Lenz at his own house. Lenz, however, seeing lights in the "Lion," and hearing the sound of loud voices, went in.
"I am so glad that you have come again to see us," said Annele, stretching out her hand to him. "I could not help thinking that you must feel it very solitary at home, now that your work is gone; almost as bad as the day you lost your poor mother."
"Oh! not quite so bad as that, though something of the same kind; but, Annele, people may praise my musical clock as much as they like, but I know it should be very different. I don't wish to praise myself, but this I will say, that I understand how to listen to music, and really to understand that, is no small merit."
Annele looked at him in surprise, and thought: "To know how to listen to music; what knowledge does that require? any one can do that who has ears, if they do not put cotton into them." She, however, had a suspicion that Lenz meant something more; she knew well, from long experience, that people often begin with some very opposite subject when they have something to communicate which they are full of; she therefore cast a sympathising glance at Lenz, saying, "Yes, indeed; it is no small merit."
"You understand then what I mean?" cried Lenz with enthusiasm.
"Yes; but I don't exactly know how to express it."
"That is precisely my case. When I come to this point I get puzzled. I never learned the science of music, I can neither play on the violin nor on the piano; but when I hear the notes, I seem to know at once what the composer meant. I cannot express music, but I can listen to it."
"That is a capital expression," said Annele joyfully. "I shall never forget that phrase so long as I live; to express music and to listen to it are two different things; it is easy to learn from you, for though I feel just so myself, I could not explain it as you do."
Lenz drank in the good wine, the good words, and the good looks of Annele at the same time, and then continued, "Mozart especially I seem to hear without losing a note, and I think I hear him correctly. Oh! if I could only have given him my hand once while he was alive! but I think I should have died of grief when he died, if he had lived in my day; but I should like to serve him even now that he is in Heaven; and I often think it is better that I can't play on any instrument, for I should never have learned to express music as I can feel it. Hearing is a gift of nature, for which I have to thank God. My grandfather, too, had great knowledge of music. If I had not played in harmony, with my sense of hearing and feeling, it would certainly have grated distractingly on my nerves."
"It is just the same with me," interrupted Annele. "I like to listen to music, but I have no skill; and besides, when there is so much to do in the house I have no time to myself, so there is no chance of my improving. I have entirely given up the piano; my father is very angry with me for it, for he spared no money, and made all his children learn music, but I think if you can't do a thing really well it is better to let it alone altogether; and then for people like myself, who know how to hear music though not to speak it, we have you and the instruments you make. If I were master in this house, I would buy your best organ from you, and not let any more go to Russia: I would have it in the public room, where it would amuse all the guests, and you would in this way receive plenty of orders. Since I was up at your house, no matter where I go, I have always ringing in my ears that pretty melody with the bells, from the 'Magic Flute.'"
A pretty melody sounded in Lenz's ears also. He tried to explain to Annele that a person who had no true feeling for music, might indeed place the pegs in the instrument in the same order in which the notes were written; but that was not all; no, not even when attending to change of time as it was marked: where feeling does not exist, the instrument will never be anything better than a barrel-organ.
A person playing of his own accord makes the Piano slower and the Forte quicker; and a similar effect must be obtained by the mechanism of the instrument, but those shades in the time must be delicately managed. Though the forte should be well marked, the instrument having so much stress on it already, in the fortissimo a reinforcement of power should be given.
Annele listened to him with a very intelligent face, and at last said: "I am very much obliged to you for giving me all these details. If some people knew that you had been telling me all this, they might be jealous."
At these words Lenz passed his hands across his eyes, and said: "Annele, may I venture to ask you a question?"
"Yes, I would tell you anything."
"Don't take it amiss; but is it true that you are as good as betrothed to the Techniker?"
"Thank you for asking me that in a straightforward way. There, you have my hand as a pledge that there is not a word of truth in it;—there is nothing between us."
Lenz held her hand fast, and said: "May I ask you one thing more?"
"Ask whatever you choose, you shall have an honest answer."
"Tell me why your manner is so different to me when Pilgrim is present? have you and he had any quarrel?"
"May this be poison that I am drinking if I don't tell you the truth," said Annele, taking up Lenz's glass and sipping out of it; though Lenz assured her that there was no need of such strong asseverations—he could not bear them.
She continued: "If all men were like you, no asseverations would be necessary. Pilgrim and I are constantly teasing and tormenting each other, but he does not know me thoroughly; and when you are here I cannot bear all these silly jokes, and mountebank ways: but now you must promise me one thing: if there is anything you want to know about me, ask no one but myself; give me your hand on it."
They clasped each other's hands, and Annele continued in a sorrowful tone: "I am the daughter of the landlord of an inn; I am not so well off as most girls: they are not obliged to receive any one who chooses to come in, and to speak to them and answer them; so I often say sharp things, but I am not always what I appear—I may tell you that, and I do tell it to you."
"I never should have thought that; I never could have believed that any sorrowful thought had ever crossed your mind; I always supposed that all day long you were as merry as a bird."
"Yes, indeed, I would much rather be merry," answered Annele, her face quickly changing; "I don't like sad music either. How pretty and gay that air was from the 'Magic Flute'! it almost made one dance."
The conversation now turned again on the subject of music, and the instrument that had today left the village. Lenz liked to talk about it, and mentioned his having giving it a convoy part of the way. He would gladly have called out to all packers, waggoners, and sailors—"Be cautious with it! it is a pity you can't hear what it contains."
Never till this evening had Lenz been the last remaining guest in the inn; but he felt no inclination to rise and go home: the large clock in the room struck loudly, and in a warning tone, its weights rolling down angrily, but Lenz did not hear them. The Landlord walked up and down the room with creaking boots, but Lenz took no notice of them. It had never yet occurred that any one should act as if the Landlord was not in the room. He struck his repeater loudly, but Lenz did not appear to notice it; at last—the Landlord is not a man to stand on ceremony with any one—he spoke out: "Lenz, if you choose to stay here all night, I will have a room prepared for you."
Lenz started, and gave Annele his hand; he would gladly have done the same to the Landlord, but that is a liberty no man ventures to take, unless that potentate first offers his. Lenz walked home in silence, and buried in thought.
In the first winter months, as well as in those of early spring, no spot in the whole country was so beautiful as the Morgenhalde. Old Lenz was quite right; the mornings sun shone on it during half the day, and stoves were not much required. In the small garden behind the house, flowers were still blooming, when everywhere else no more were to be seen; and they sprung up there, too, when every other place was barren. This garden, however, was as much sheltered as a room, and, which is very rare in this country, a sweet-chesnut tree stood here, to which, however, the squirrels and woodpeckers in the neighbouring wood paid many unwelcome visits. The garden was sheltered by the house on one side, without being deprived by it, however, of the sun, after ten o'clock; and the large wood, which clothed the steep hill behind the house, seemed particularly to rejoice in the garden, two of its finest firs standing at the entrance.
If there had been many people who liked walking in the cold early winter months, they would certainly have crossed the meadow, gone through the wood, and taken the path to Lenz's house, and then returned by the crest of the mountain. There was, however, only one habitual pedestrian in the village, or rather we may say two, namely, Petrowitsch and his dog Büble. Every day before dinner, Petrowitsch ensured a good appetite by following the path along the meadow, past the house, and over the hill.
Büble took double and triple exercise, by jumping backwards and forwards over all the little stony channels on the hill side, leading down to the valley from Lenz's house. These channels were at present dry, but in spring and summer they served to carry off the rushing mountain springs to the valley beneath. Petrowitsch was always on the best terms with his dog, and in his fits of good humour he used to call him "my son." Petrowitsch had returned home from foreign parts a wealthy man; of course his riches were estimated in the country at threefold their real value, but what he really did possess made him very independent. That longing which never leaves the Swabians and the sons of the mountains to return to their homes, had also brought Petrowitsch back to his native country, where he lived a very pleasant life in his own fashion. His most stirring time was, however, at Midsummer, when merchants assembled from every part of the world, and in the "Lion" might be heard Spanish, Italian, English, Russian, and Dutch, in fact every European language; and amid all these foreign tongues, good, wholesome, old fashioned German, in the dialect of the Black Forest, spoken by the very same men who could speak every other language. Petrowitsch at such times was much sought after. Though usually leaving the "Lion Inn" at a particular hour, at such times as these he sometimes remained there for days, and even nights; and when the fair was over he was left alone, and occupied himself, especially with regard to those who were bound for the Lower Donau, where he had long resided, by guessing how far they had proceeded on their journey.
Petrowitsch kept the whole country in a state of excitement, for though he did not say so himself, still it was pretty well known that he intended to found a hospital for the district. There was a stove in every room of the large house he had built, which seemed to denote (and he neither said "Yes" or "No" when it was pointed out to him) that he intended to found a hospital for sick labourers.
Lenz, his only heir, was not less excited than the others, for it seemed naturally a settled point, that he should inherit the greatest part of his uncle's property. Lenz, however, never reckoned on it. He showed his uncle the proper respect due to him; still he had spirit enough to provide for himself. He made his apprentice keep his uncle's favourite walk in good order, but neither he nor Petrowitsch ever exchanged a word on the subject. Every forenoon, when Lenz's geese and hens made a commotion, and a dog barked, it was the signal of uncle Petrowitsch's approach. Lenz nodded through the window, where he always sat working; his uncle nodded in return and passed on. Lenz did not go to his uncle's house, nor did his uncle come to him.
One day Petrowitsch stood still before Lenz's window, and Büble seemed to guess his master's thoughts, for though in general he only chased Lenz's poultry as far as the garden, and was satisfied when they flew cackling behind the hedge, and returned content to his master; still, on this particular occasion, he chased the hens into the garden as far as the house, where they took refuge with Franzl. Petrowitsch scolded his dog angrily, and passed on, saying to himself, "Lenz must come to me, why should I trouble myself about him? best let him alone. When any man begins to feel an interest in another, all peace is at an end; for then it is perpetually—Will he do this? will he do that. None of that for me! Heaven be praised: I care for no man living." The thought now recurred to him, that he had heard something about the wood.
On the day before the Landlady of the "Lion" had sat down beside him, and after having talked on various matters she suddenly began to congratulate Petrowitsch on taking his quiet walk every day; it kept him in good health, and in this way he might live to be a hundred; in fact he looked as if he would. She honestly hoped he might, he had worked hard enough, and deserved rest and prosperity now. Petrowitsch was shrewd enough to know that there was more than met the ear in all this; he thought, and probably he was right, that the Landlady was so particularly civil to him, because she had designs on his nephew; but she did not say a word of this. She resumed the subject of his daily walk, and said it would be an excellent plan if Petrowitsch would purchase the fine Spannreuter wood at the Morgenhalde, from her husband; he was by no means anxious to part with it, in fact she did not know whether he could be persuaded to sell it at all, but she would like to be the means of procuring for Petrowitsch, the great pleasure of walking in his own wood, which would certainly be much more satisfactory.
Petrowitsch thanked her for her singularly delicate attention, but finally said he was quite as well pleased to walk in woods belonging to other people; in fact, on the contrary, at present he had no cause for irritation when he met people stealing the wood, and nothing was more unwholesome before dinner than irritation.
The Landlady smiled significantly, saying, "If any one had a clever idea in their head, Petrowitsch was sure to be still more clever."
He thanked her again, and both were as sweet as possible to each other, far sweeter in fact, than the pieces of sugar that Petrowitsch, had pocketed from the coffee he had after dinner.
It now occurred to Petrowitsch, that the wood would be a very suitable purchase for Lenz, if he could manage to buy it through a third person, for the Landlord would be sure to set a high price on it to himself. This was what he wanted to say to him; an intention which he however gave up, because, as we have seen, he wished to follow the noble principle of caring for no one but himself. His taking any trouble at all on the subject was too much.
He found the hill much steeper to climb than usual; for in going up a hill people should not have their thoughts occupied, but only think of breathing freely. Büble was busy scratching out a mole, although he was sure of a comfortable well dressed dinner very soon, but his master called out to him, "Here! you stupid fellow! what business have you with a mole? Let it burrow as much as it chooses;" and when the dog was trotting by his side he said, "Back!" The dog slunk behind his master, and in the same way the latter cast behind him all intrusive thoughts; he was resolved to banish them altogether, and not disturb the peaceful routine of his life.
Petrowitsch found the family at the "Lion" rather disturbed. The wife had told her husband that she had offered the wood at the Morgenhalde to Petrowitsch, and that he would have nothing to do with it.
The Landlord was furious at this overhasty confidential communication, and ended by saying, "Petrowitsch will no doubt now spread a report that I am in want of money."
"But you said that you were in want of money," said his wife snappishly.
"If it were so, I don't want your interference; only I don't wish to sell any of my securities at the present rate of exchange;" cried the Landlord in an unusually loud voice, just as Petrowitsch came into the room. The latter secretly chuckled, and thought to himself, "You talk so loudly and so pompously that I feel sure you are in want of money!"
Just as they were sitting down to table, the postman brought several letters, and some registered ones among them; the Landlord signed the receipt for these, but did not open the letters, saying in a loud voice as he seated himself at dinner, what indeed he frequently had said before: "I never read my letters before dinner, for whether agreeable or disagreeable, they are equally bad for digestion. Railway scrip shall never disturb me."
There was, however, a malicious scoffer at another table, who was not taken in by this superior wisdom, and who thought—"A steam-engine is driving round and round you for all that, in spite of your indifference;" and this scoffer was, of course, Petrowitsch.
After dinner, Pilgrim passed the table repeatedly at which Petrowitsch was seated, and several times stood opposite to it: four eyes stared at him with amazement. Büble, who was perched on his master's knee, fixed his eyes on him suspiciously and growled, for he had a perception that some service was to be claimed from his master, and Petrowitsch glanced up repeatedly from his newspaper: "What does the man want—has he a wood, too, that he wishes to sell?"
Pilgrim ran his fingers restlessly through his long thin hair, but this did not help him any nearer to Petrowitsch, who at this moment rose, paid his score, and went away. Pilgrim hurried after him into the street, saying, "Herr Lenz! pray allow me a couple of words."
"Good day,—that is exactly a couple of words."
"Herr Lenz! I want nothing for myself; but I consider it my duty to——"
"Your duty is nothing to me."
"But it does concern you, Herr Lenz. Just imagine that another person is telling you what I am about to say; it is right you should know it."
"I am not at all curious."
"Briefly,—it concerns your nephew, Lenz."
"Really? I suspected as much."
"But more than that; you may secure his happiness for life."
"Each man must secure his own."
"It will only cost you a visit to the Doctor."
"Is Lenz ill?"
"No! the case is shortly this. He must marry, and he wishes to do so; and the best wife for him is the Doctor's Amanda. I have reflected on the matter in every point of view. It seems difficult to persuade him to pluck up courage to go himself. He also thinks—he did not say so, but I know it—that he is not rich enough; but if his uncle would only make the proposal for him, and at the same time promise——"
"Really? I thought that was the point you were coming to. If my brother's son wants a wife and chooses one, he may get one himself; I am an old bachelor, and know nothing of such affairs."
"If his friends do nothing in the matter, Amanda will marry some one else. I know an apothecary who admires her extremely."
"And a very fitting wife she would be for him; but I am not Lenz's keeper."
"And suppose your nephew is taken in by a far less eligible person?"
"That is his own affair."
"Herr Lenz! I don't believe that you are so hard as you pretend."
"I pretend nothing. Good morning, Herr Pilgrim!"
He walked away, and left Pilgrim boiling over with rage; at last, however, he went home to rub colours for the following day, which he hoped might be brighter, for this afternoon was dark and dismal.
"Welcome, Franzl! So we have you here at last? We hoped to have seen you sooner." Thus was Franzl received by the Landlady, when she came into the public room.
"I beg your pardon, but did not you send for me? My brother I understood was here?" said Franzl in a hesitating voice.
The Landlady knew nothing of it. Her brother had certainly been here, but had been gone a long time. She had indeed told her errandboy to mention this to Franzl the first opportunity, but not particularly today.
Franzl apologised, and wished to return home immediately, for she felt as if she were an intruder; this seemed to satisfy the Landlady. She did not wish the simple creature to perceive what was going on, and thought that Franzl should feel herself highly honoured if she bestowed a few minutes on her. It was far better that she should give them a thousand thanks, than that they should owe her one. As Franzl was actually here, the Landlady insisted on her coming into the back parlour, to wait there for a little, till the busy lady could find time to come to her. Franzl did not venture to take a chair, but stood respectfully at the door, staring up at the huge presses that reached the ceiling.
At last the Landlady came and said, smoothing her gown: "So, now I have made all right, and I can have a nice quiet hour's chat with an old friend. What is more precious in the world, no matter how rich one may be?"
Franzl felt herself highly honoured. She was desired to sit down beside the Landlady, close to her in fact, on the sofa, and a maid brought in coffee and pastry.
Franzl simpered as in duty bound, and indeed far more than there was the slightest occasion for, and tried her best to pour all the cream that the Landlady wished to give her into her hostess's cup, till the latter said, "I shall be really quite angry if you stand on such ceremony."
At the second cup, Franzl had to tell how matters were going on up at the Morgenhalde, and she declared—that Lenz worked as hard as if he had no bread in the house, and yet they had stores of everything; he seldom left the house except to go to Faller's, whom he was assisting to furnish his house, for the purchase of which he had become security; that he had given Faller a bed and bedding, and sent his mother's Sunday dress to Faller's mother. If he did not soon get some one to take the keys from him, he would give away everything; but he was most frugal, and even parsimonious, where he was himself concerned. "He neither smokes nor drinks; he neither takes snuff nor gambles; he requires very little for himself;" said Franzl to his honour.
After the Landlady had once more sufficiently sung the praises of the Kunslingers, who know everything, she said cursorily:—"Do you know, my good Franzl, it is said that your master—or rather I should say your son, for he is more like your son than your master—intends to marry the Doctors daughter; I mean the one who is always sorting herbs. Is there anything in it?"
"I think there is."
"That is, I don't think it well can be; but Pilgrim has been talking to him about it, but Lenz does not seem to care, and I believe they are at two about it."
"So! well, I am not sorry. I always say that Lenz knows what he wishes. It would be much better if he did as you wish, and married the Bailiff's Kathrine."
"There! you see," exclaimed Franzl triumphantly, smiling into the air and nodding, as if Lenz was standing before her. "Do you see? the prudent, experienced Landlady of the 'Lion' also says that I am right. There! and yet you always will have it that she was too uncouth for you, and that nothing could be made of her. I will tell him, however, that you also advise him to marry her; that will help me on. I have been long looking out for some one to give me a lift in this business."
"No, Franzl; God forbid! You are not to say one word from me, when you go home; indeed he is quite right; Kathrine is not fit for so well educated a man; he deserves a superior wife."
"Yes, it's very well talking, but where is he to find one?"
"Good day, Franzl!" said Annele, coming in suddenly. "It is very pleasant to see you here again—sit still. To look at you, one would think you were the wife of some rich farmer, and you might well be, you are such a good manager. Drink your coffee, or it will get cold. Is it sweet enough?"
"Oh! more than enough;" and Annele's words were like a loaf of sugar in the cup.
"I should like to stay with you, and to hear some of your pleasant talk, but I must go back into the public room, for one of us must be there. Come back soon, and then I will sit with you."
"Oh! what a dear, good girl that is!" exclaimed Franzl when Annele left the room. "You have heaven on earth in this house."
"We have our cares also. She is our last remaining child, and we often wish we could see her well provided for."
Franzl opened her eyes very wide, then smiled in shy surprise, but she did not venture to say a word.
The Landlady laughed and rattled her cup, and Franzl thought it her duty to laugh also. She knows what is proper when you go to drink coffee with a friend; indeed, the natives of Kunslingen, be they where they will, are sure to fall on their feet. The Landlady, however, did not try to enlighten Franzl further, clever as she was, and she had her reasons for that.
"Tell me, Franzl, have you any fancy for looking at fine linen?"
"Nothing in the world that I like so much. If I were rich I would have at least seven chests full of linen. Do you know the wife of the balancemaker at Kunslingen? she has ..."
"There, just look!" said the Landlady, throwing open the doors of a huge press, where everything was heaped up to the top by dozens, tied up with blue, green, and red silk ribbons.
"Is this all for the use of your inn?" asked Franzl, when she had taken breath after all her exclamations of admiration.
"Heaven forbid! This is part of the dowry of my Annele; from their seventh year I have laid by a stock like this, for each of my three daughters. You never can tell with girls how soon such things may be wanted, and then I should have no occasion to apply either to the weaver, or the sempstress. I should like, however, if the trousseau of one daughter at all events should remain in this village, and that we should keep one child near us. My children are all, thank God! doing well, and more than well, but to see with your own eyes is better than hearing."
To Franzl all this was like a sudden revelation; the press with all its linen danced before her eyes, and the blue, red, green, and yellow ribbons, seemed to melt into one bright rainbow. "May I venture to say something? if I am indiscreet I beg your pardon a thousand times over. How would it do? May I speak plainly? If—my Lenz ...?"
"I say nothing, for I am the mother, and my child is here, and can answer for herself—do you understand? I think—I scarcely know—but—"
"Oh! that is enough; more than enough! Good heavens! I must fly home! I carried him in my arms when he was a baby, I must carry him here again forthwith; but such news will make him jump over seven hedges, and houses. I am simple and stupid; don't be offended with me."
"How? you simple? You have a way of getting at one's most secret thoughts. You might put seven councillors to shame; but now, Franzl, we are quite alone and confidential together, like two good old friends; I have not said a word, you found it out for yourself. My husband naturally looks higher; but I am resolved to have one child in this place, if God will! I tell you fairly, that I cannot be insincere or deny my meaning. I shall not forget your hint."
"That is enough. I will show that we Kunslingers deserve our reputation."
"But, how do you intend to set about it?"
"How? I will snatch his tools from his hand, and pack him off instantly. He must come here this very day: but you must encourage him, for he is rather shy with strangers."
The Landlady tried to quiet the excited Franzl, who first stood up, and then sat down again; at one moment raising her hands to heaven, and the next clasping them devoutly. She desired Franzl to show her good sense, by not betraying that Annele's mother was well disposed towards him. She also gave her other cunning directions, especially as to speaking ill of other girls; that is, to warn Lenz against them; and scarcely to mention Annele's name; for, concluded the Landlady, such a proposal must be received with proper coyness, and there is a proverb: "No man ought to point at a flash of lightning."
Franzl every instant said she was going, and yet she never went. At last she had the handle of the door in her hand, and took a last fond look at the large press, and her glance said:—"You will soon come to us;" and, nodding to all the furniture, "all this is ours, and it is I who have got it for Lenz;" and she went home as if all the linen had become sails, and wafted her across the hills in the sharp harvest wind.
Annele, however, said to her mother in the bar:—"Mother, what on earth do you mean by gossiping with that stupid old cow? If anything ever comes of the affair, must we pay court to that old woman? or if we don't, have her crying out about ingratitude! And what's the great hurry after all?"
"Don't pretend to know nothing. It is good and necessary to dispose of you."
"I am not pretending, and I do know nothing; formerly you would not hear of Lenz; why do you want him now?"
The mother looked straight in Annele's face; did the forward minx really guess nothing? she only said:—"Now it is very different, Lenz is alone, and has a well stocked house. I could not have given you over to a mother-in-law." The Landlady left the room, and thought;—"If you play false with me, I will play false with you, too."
At the Morgenhalde, Franzl went about in a perpetual giggle, while with smiling lips she disparaged every girl in the neighbourhood, especially the Doctor's daughters and Kathrine; she did not name Annele at all, but gave dark mysterious hints about mountains of fine linen, and people well to do in the world. Lenz almost thought that solitude was beginning to turn the old woman's brain; she, however, did her work steadily, and was more cheerful than ever, and he was himself in much better spirits at his own occupation, and was a long time without once going near the village.
Lenz stayed at home and worked incessantly. By the intervention of the balancemaker in Kunslingen, he had the good fortune to dispose of a smaller musical clock, that he had nearly finished. He worked with great eagerness at its completion, and was busy preparing for the new one that the Landlord of the "Lion" had as good as bespoken; he was so happy thus constantly occupied that he often thought—"I don't care to marry, and I cannot. How can I find room for thoughts of wife or children, when my heart and head are so full of my business?"
Pilgrim had resumed his old plans and designs for new models for clocks, and worked at them incessantly in the evening hours, for he could not spend his regular work hours in this manner. Thus the friends saw each other less frequently, and Lenz now no longer came on the evenings when the Choral Society practised singing.
Faller's wedding, however, brought Lenz once more into the village. His worthy companion never rested, till the founder of his happiness promised to go to church with him, in spite of his mourning.
The wedding was not numerous, and without guests or music, for Faller declared:—"When the time comes that I have anything to spare, I will then invite my friends, and the music I can make myself."
Lenz was obliged to hear himself much praised at the wedding for all he had done, and the old mother said:—"If you, God willing, soon marry, then I will wear your mother's Sunday clothes in church. I am not ashamed of wearing her things; on the contrary, everyone says that I ought to feel it a great honour."
"And what a capital bed I have now!" said Faller, and his strong, loud voice sounded almost musical, as it trembled with emotion:—"Oh, Lenz! I pray to God now oftener for you, than for myself. May God preserve you from all harm! but I can't help wishing that if ever you were to be in difficulty or danger, I might be the means of rescuing you. I should like to turn to the people in church and call out:—'It is through the goodness of God that I stand here, but He assisted me through my friend, and I hope the good Lord will bless him for it, and his parents in heaven.' Lenz, you cannot fail to be happy, for you have made a whole family happy."
Honest, rough Faller could not say another word, but twirled his soldierly moustaches.
Lenz was an object of more respect and attention at the wedding, than even the young couple, and he was glad when it was time to go to church.
The Choral Society sang beautifully in church, but the two principal voices were wanting—that of Lenz and also of Faller.
Nearly the whole village, above all, the women and girls, were present at the wedding; those that were married were glad to hear again the exhortation to the newly wedded pair, and the unmarried wished to take a lesson how to behave when it came to their turn, which they fervently hoped might be soon. The women cried, and the girls glanced curiously round the church, and if Lenz had looked up, he would have met many eyes fixed on him.
After the ceremony was over Lenz left them, and went alone towards his home. At the hedge of the churchyard he was greeted by Kathrine, standing with a handsome young man, who, from his costume, seemed to be the son of a farmer in the neighbouring valley. She coloured as Lenz looked earnestly at her, and passed on. He next took off his hat in courteous greeting. The Doctor's two eldest daughters were walking on the road, and they wore neat laced boots, which their short dresses in the wet weather fully displayed.
"We really thought that you had gone on a journey," said Bertha, the boldest of the two.
"No; I have never left home," answered Lenz.
"Nor we either," continued Bertha. Lenz did not say a word.
"Are you engaged in some new great work?" asked Amanda.
"Both in new and old; in our calling work never comes to an end."
"Is it not very fatiguing, such incessant labour?" asked Amanda again.
"Oh! no; I don't know what I should do without it."
"Yes, indeed, clockmakers," said Bertha, playfully, "are like their own clocks, they always want winding up."
"And you are like the key that winds them;" answered Lenz, quickly.
He would have liked to have made some other reply, but could not think of one.
"Quite right, Herr Lenz, to pay her back in her own coin," said Amanda; "but our paths separate here, so now we must say good-bye."
"Perhaps Herr Lenz is going our way," said Bertha; "perhaps you are going to see Pilgrim?"
Lenz's heart beat; he wished to say yes, and that he meant to go to Pilgrim's; but involuntarily he said in a shy voice, "No, I am going home—Adieu!"
Lenz went up the hill breathing hard: he thought of turning back, and who knows what might come of it! he could still overtake them; but while thinking thus, he went on and on, and at last reached his own door, his heart still beating restlessly, and he felt as if he were taking refuge in his own house. Refuge! from what? He cannot say; but he was very restless all this day—he had never felt so uneasy or out of sorts.
Towards evening he dressed, and went to the village; he wished to call on Pilgrim and on the Doctor also, who had long since asked him to come. Pilgrim was not at home; and Lenz stood for some minutes at the Doctor's door without having courage to pull the bell. He walked up and down several times. Perhaps the Doctor may come out and speak to him, and take him into the house, but no one came. Don Bastian went past, and Lenz fled like a thief into the village: he was better there, and one house was sure to be open. The "Lion" Inn is a capital place of refuge.
Lenz was thankful that there was still a quiet resting place to be found in the world; chairs on which people can sit down, and tables on which you can put your hat and stick; and those who live here don't know what it means to have your heart beat as if it would choke you; they are calm and composed; and here comes the most cool and indifferent of them all, and welcomes Lenz kindly.
The Landlord seated himself beside Lenz, and was very fatherly. "You have got the money for your musical work?" asked he, abruptly.
"Yes," answered Lenz.
"You would be wise," began the Landlord again, "if you secured shares in the New Railway Loan: they will become very profitable soon. You have still the money in hard cash, I presume?"
"No; I had eight hundred over, and I lent three thousand gulden in one round sum to my neighbour, the bailiff. He required it to pay his redemption money."
"Really? Have you any good security, and what interest does he pay?"
"I have merely an acknowledgment, and he gives five per cent."
"The bailiff is a solid man, and five per cent. solid also; but, as I said before, if you wish to make money, my advice is at your service."
"I prefer keeping to what I understand; though, of course, I should be quite willing to follow your advice blindfold. I am pretty far advanced already with the new work that you intend to buy from me, and I believe it will be the best I have yet finished."
"Lenz, don't forget that I said nothing positive—an upright man goes no further than——"
"Not another syllable; I can never——"
"As I said, even with one's best friends, a man can never be too clear and precise. I hope there will be one day written on my tombstone, 'Here lies an honest and accurate man.'"
Lenz was quite delighted with the just and equitable character of the worthy Landlord; he was indeed pure gold.
Annele came in, saying, "By your leave," and seated herself at the table with her father and Lenz. In a short time the Landlord rose, and Lenz said: "Annele, you may well be proud of such a father—he is a man of a thousand. It does one good to converse with him; and just because he says little, every word is—what shall I say?—sound grain, unadulterated ore."
"True," said Annele; "and there is nothing more pleasing to a child than to hear her father spoken of in such a manner; and he deserves it, too. To be sure he is often cross and perverse, like all men."
"All men?" asked Lenz.
"Yes, all—I may say it to your face; you are one of the best of them, but I dare say you have your humours also; but we must have patience with them, I suppose."
"That is very good of you, Annele; I must say it pleases me exceedingly to hear you praise me, though I don't deserve it, I know. I can't tell you how often I feel angry with myself; I mismanage many things, and music is so constantly in my head, that I often only hear half what is said, or do half of what I ought to do. I am not so clever as many others, and yet I am not without talent; and I am passionate besides, and many things weigh on my heart that others take lightly enough on their shoulders; so I fear I shall never get the better of such brooding. My mother said to me a thousand times, 'Lenz, with all your goodness, it would not be always easy to live with you, unless a person were both very forbearing, and very fond of you.' And it is a proof of true love, and true patience, when a person can say: 'He is in one of his tantrums, but I know him, and what he really is.' Let me hold your hand—why do you draw it away?"
In the heat of his description of his own shortcomings, Lenz had seized Annele's hand, but he was not aware of it till she snatched it from him.
With a modest, sly glance, Annele said: "We are not alone in the room; there are still people here."
Lenz all at once felt burning hot, and then as cold as ice, and said: "Do not be offended, I did not mean it, and you know I did not, Annele; I never wished to be importunate; I hope you are not angry?"
"Not in the most remote degree. Angry? how can you say such a thing?"
"Then you feel kindly towards me?" and Lenz's face beamed with joy.
"For Heaven's sake," said Annele, leaning forward on the arm of Lenz's chair, "don't go on talking in that manner! What makes you do so? What does it mean? I always thought that I might speak to you like a brother. Alas! I have none."
"And I have no sister, nor, indeed, anyone to care for me."
"Everyone likes you."
"If, however, I have not the one I want to care for me, I have no one."
A long pause ensued, and Annele asked: "Have you heard that the bailiff's Kathrine is betrothed to a young man named Holdersepp, from the other side of the valley? They have just sent to us for the betrothal wine."
"So," said Lenz, "when I came out of church I saw her standing with some one. She will make a good farmer's wife; I wish her all happiness. Tell me, Annele, were you in church at the wedding today?"
"Yes, and I saw you there: your conduct to Faller must help you on the road to heaven."
"I should win it easily in that case. The Pastor did preach admirably; everyone present might profit by it, married and single. The Holy Scriptures are like music,—out of the hundreds and hundreds who listen, not one deprives his neighbour of any share of it—each one has it entire for himself."
"And I can tell you that I like to listen to you almost better than to our Pastor; with you everything seems to have a firm and clear foundation. I can't quite explain what I mean:—I often think it is a sad pity that you are only a clockmaker."
"Only a clockmaker! I rejoice at being one, for it is a fine calling. I could preach a sermon on that text. The whole world is a clock, wound up by God from all Eternity. There the stars revolve, and run their appointed course. Pilgrim once said that there was no clock in Paradise; certainly not, but from the hour when men were forced to work, they were obliged to divide the time; and just imagine what it would be to us if we no longer knew the different hours; we should be like children or lunatics."
"You can expound everything so well; I had never thought of that before."
This remark inspired Lenz with fresh eloquence.
"I am devoted to clockmaking; and if I cannot succeed with my musical timepieces, I can at least make the common clocks of the Black Forest: a sure mode of getting money. I can always have recourse to that. I earn much more by the musical instruments, but I cannot trust to them for a livelihood, for I can only make them when they are bespoke, and I might some fine day discover that I had nothing, for lovers of music are not to be met with every day,—and when I do leave my common clocks for my musical ones, I feel so happy that——"
"Your heart jumps for joy,—you feel as if a blessing rested on your labours."
"Oh! Annele, how clever and loveable you are! If I only knew——"
"Knew what—what then?"
There was so much warmth and tenderness in these simple words, that Lenz, flushed with emotion, stammered,—
"I cannot say it—if you don't know it I cannot say; Annele, I feel——"
"My children, all the people in the room are staring at you. What are you saying to each other?" said the Landlady, suddenly coming up to them. "Lenz, if you have anything confidential to say to Annele, I place entire trust in you, for you are a high principled man; I will put lights into the back parlour, and you can talk together there at your ease."
"Oh, no, mother!" exclaimed Annele, trembling, but the Landlady went hastily out of the room, and Annele hurried after her. Lenz sat still—the whole room seemed to go round with him; at last he rose and slipped out; the back parlour door was open, and he was alone now with Annele. She hid her face with her hands.
"Look at me," said he; "Annele! Now may I speak out? You see, Annele, I am a plain man—a very plain man, but—" putting his hand on his heart, he could scarcely go on, "if you really think that I am worthy of you, you could make me very happy."
"You are more worthy than any man in the whole world—you are only too good; you have no idea of the wickedness of the world."
"The world is not all evil, as you are in it. Now, tell me, is it also your wish, your honest wish?—Will you stand by me, and be my helper in joy and sorrow, and be good, and industrious,—and will you be my mother, my wife, and my all? Say yes—and I will be yours for life and death!"
"Yes—a thousand times, yes!" She sank into his arms.
"Mother, dear mother!" cried Lenz. The Landlady came in. "Forgive me," said he, "for my presumption!"
"You have nothing but good to expect from me," said the Landlady; "but, children, I have one thing to beg of you. Annele can tell you who always spoke well of you, and always said, 'Lenz is sure to do well, for his mother's blessing rests on his head.' But I entreat of you to keep quiet; you don't know my husband as I do. All his children are wound round his heartstrings, and he is always vexed when one is taken from him. God be praised! if this event comes to pass; we shall have one child in our native place, and not estranged from us like the others." At these words the Landlady wept bitterly, but continued, after violently blowing her nose. "My husband must know nothing of it just at present. Let me, my children, prepare him for it by degrees, and I know well how to do it, and when you ought to make your proposals to him in due form; don't return to this house till then, and bring your uncle with you, for it is only proper that you should pay him the respect, to ask him to represent your father. Hitherto, my children have always entered families of note; we are accustomed to observe the same forms as the gentry. Lenz, God has given me no son of my own, and I must honestly say I am rejoiced that you are to become my son. I have a great regard for my other sons-in-law, but they are too genteel and too high for me. Now go, Lenz, for my husband may come in at any moment, and then who knows what might happen?—but stop, take this: give it to him, Annele." She opened the double doors of the huge press, and gave Annele a gold coin, saying, "Look! this is what your godfather, our worthy minister, placed in your cradle—an ancient coin; so it is quite suitable for the purpose: but, no—you must first give her a pledge."
"I have nothing—but yes, I have. There, Annele! that is my watch, made by my deceased father in Switzerland, and he gave it to my mother; and on our marriage day, please God, I will give you something else of my mother's, which will please you. There, take the watch; hear how it ticks,—it has lain on my heart for many years. I only wish I could take out my heart, and entrust it to your faithful hands."
They mutually exchanged pledges; the Landlady, who must always put in her word, declared: "Yes! a heart and a watch are like each other, and love is the watchkey." She smiled at her own cleverness—as no one else did so. She rummaged in the press, and said—"See! here is the first frock Annele wore, and her first shoe." Lenz begged he might have them; she gave them to him, and began again. "But now, Lenz! you really must go; I can't allow you to stay a moment longer. Go through the kitchen,—there is my hand as a pledge. Good night, Lenz!"
"May Annele go with me a little way?"
"No! I cannot permit it; you must not be displeased, but that is just what I am—I mean very strict. I have brought up three daughters, and no one can say a word against one of them; that is my pride. If it be God's will you may see enough of each other yet, with our sanction and knowledge."
"Good night, Annele!"
"Once more—good night!"
"Good night, my precious treasure!"
"Good-bye, dear Lenz I sleep sound!"
"And you, too, a thousand times!"
"Now, come along; you have said 'good night' often enough!" said the mother laughing.
When Lenz was in the street, the whole world seemed turning round with him, and the stars in the sky dancing, "Annele, the daughter of the Landlord of the 'Lion' is mine!" He hurried home,—he must tell it without delay to Franzl, for she had praised Annele so highly. "Oh! how she will rejoice! If I could shout it out from house to house—" But when he had got to the top of the hill, and was close to his own house, he checked himself, saying—"No! I must not tell it to Franzl; not till it is all settled, or it would not long remain a secret: but I must tell it to somebody." He retraced his steps, and stood for some time opposite the "Lion" Inn. "Now, I stand here as a stranger; but tomorrow I hope to be at home there." At last he tore himself away, and proceeded to Pilgrim's house.
"Heaven be praised he is at home! I see lights in his room, and he is playing the guitar. Oh! my good Pilgrim! my dear Pilgrim! God keep me in life and health, and prevent me dying from joy! Oh! that my dearest mother had only lived to see this hour!"
Pilgrim sang and played loud, so he did not hear his friend coming upstairs. Lenz opened the door, and spreading his arms, exclaimed—"Rejoice with me, brother of my heart—I am so happy."
"What is it?"
"I am betrothed."
"How can you ask? To her,—the most charming creature; and prudent, and clever as the day! Oh! Annele!"
"What Annele—Annele of the 'Lion'?"
"So you are surprised that she should accept me! I know I am not worthy of her, but I will try to deserve her. God is my witness that I will do my best; I will lay my head under her feet, and——" Lenz looking up at his mother's picture, said, "Good mother! dear loving mother! rejoice in the seventh heavens, for your son is happy."
He could not say another word, for tears choked his voice, and he knelt before the picture. Pilgrim went up to him, and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Forgive me, dear Pilgrim," said Lenz. "I had resolved to be such a strong iron man! I am to have a wife who well deserves a strong-minded husband; but on this day I feel quite overcome—but for this day only. On the way here I thought to myself, I wish some one would come and impose on me a severe task—I don't know what—but something—something that I might put my whole heart in, and, however difficult, I would accomplish it. I will show that I deserve the happiness God has sent me.
"Be quiet, do be quiet; other men besides you have got wives, and there is no occasion to turn the world upside down on that account."
"Oh! if my mother had only lived to see this day!"
"If your mother had lived, Annele would not have accepted you. You did not please her till you were quite alone, and without any mother."
"Don't say that; how highly she honoured my mother!"
"She finds it easy enough to do that, as she is no longer in the world, and I tell you that you are only in the world for Annele, since you have no mother."
"You have not once even wished me joy yet."
"I wish you joy—I wish you much joy."
"Why do you say that twice over—why twice?"
"Oh! it only chanced so."
"No! you meant something by it"
"It is true, I did. I will tell you what it was tomorrow, but not today."
"Why tomorrow? I must hear it now, you must tell me now."
"Remember you are now in a state of intoxication; how can I speak soberly to you?"
"I am not intoxicated, I am perfectly sober."
"Very well, then tell me how has this been so quickly brought about?"
"I don't myself very well know; it came on me like an inspiration from heaven, and now it is plain enough to me, that for a long time past I have thought of nothing else."
"I suspected as much, but I did think you would do nothing without me."
"Nor will I; you must go with me tomorrow, to propose in due form on my behalf to her father."
"So! I am glad of that, for then I hope the affair will soon be at an end."
"What! do you wish to drive me crazy?"
"No need for that; as yet she is neither your betrothed, nor your wife, So I may speak freely. Lenz, it would be an indiscretion were you now to draw back, but only an indiscretion; but if you marry Annele, you will do wrong during your whole life. Lenz, she is no wife for you."
"You do not know her. You always teaze each other; but I know her inmost heart, and I know her to be thoroughly good and amiable."
"I don't know her, do you say? and yet I have eaten at least a bushel of salt with these people. I will tell you exactly how it is. Annele and her mother are very much alike, and for this very reason they can't bear each other, however loving they may appear before the world. All their talk is nothing but flimsy music. People eat and drink better when they have music; not a note proceeds from their hearts,—they have no hearts. I never could have believed that there were such people in the world, but it is so; they can talk away glibly about kindness, love, and pity, and even sometimes of religion, and of their Fatherland,—but all these are mere words; they have no serious thoughts, they don't care for these things, and firmly believe that all men are accustomed to converse in that manner; but the facts themselves never trouble them in the slightest degree. Annele herself has not a spark of real feeling, and I maintain that a person who has no heart can have no understanding, nor be capable of entering into the feelings of another, of sharing their joys and their sorrows, or yielding to their wishes. Annele, like her mother, has the knack of listening to others, and then cleverly repeating their words; and she has also a peculiar talent for depreciating and harshly censuring her neighbour, but in such a way that it is difficult to discern whether she is praising or blaming. Father, mother, and daughter, make a fine trio of frivolous music; Annele plays the first violin, the old woman the second, and the pompous old Landlord, the great bass; still I must say he is the best of the family. It is a well known fact, that it is only female bees that can sting—and how they can sting to be sure! The Landlord talks well of everyone, and can't bear to hear his wife and daughter abuse people—for no occupation is more grateful to them, than blighting the good name of any girl or married woman. The mother does so with a kind of hypocritical compassion, but Annele likes to sport with slander, as a cat does with a mouse. The burden of their song is always to show that they are best and cleverest, and they think this redounds to their credit.
"I have often reflected in what the most cruel barbarity in this world consists, and I feel convinced it is in malignity towards others, and yet it often assumes a very polite mask. Oh, Lenz! you don't know the key in which that house is set, and no knowledge of music will help you to know it. There is nothing there but scoffing and lies."
"Pilgrim, what a man must you be yourself! For the last eight years, you have daily frequented the house of the very people of whom you are speaking so harshly; you have eaten with them at the same table, and have been the best friends with them. What can I think of you?"
"That I go to an inn, and eat and drink and pay ready money. I pay my score every day, and then have no more to do with them."
"I cannot understand a person doing that."
"I believe you. I have paid dear enough for it, however; I would much rather be like you. It is no treat to know men as they really are. There are some, however, who——"
"I suppose you consider yourself one of the good."
"Not altogether; but I expected that you would fly out at me. I must bear it. Abuse me, do with me what you will, hack off my hand; I will beg my bread, and at least know that I have saved a friend. Give up Annele! I implore you to do so! You have not yet made your proposals to the Landlord of the 'Lion;' you are not yet bound."
"These are your worldly subterfuges! I am not so clever as you, and I have never mixed with the world like you, but I know what is right. I betrothed myself to Annele in her mother's presence, and I will keep my word. God grant I may get her from her father! And, now I say to you for the last time, I did not ask your advice, and I know well what I am doing."
"Hear me, Lenz. I shall only be too glad if I have been in error: but, no! My dear Lenz, for God's sake listen to me; it is still time. You cannot say that I ever tried to dissuade you from marrying."
"No, you never did."
"You are just the man to be a good husband, but I was a fool not to say to you sooner, that you ought to marry one of the Doctor's daughters."
"Do you think I would have gone to them and said:—'My guardian, Pilgrim, desires his compliments, and bids me say that he thinks I ought to marry one of you: Amanda, if possible.' No, no; these young ladies are too high and refined for me."
"They are, indeed, refined; while Annele only pretends to be so. The fact is, you were shy with the Doctor's daughters, but not with Annele; you could go into the 'Lion,' without anyone asking you why you came there. Oh! I see it all! Annele talked to you about your sorrow, for she can talk on any subject, and that softened your heart. Annele wears a leather pocket in every one of her gowns, and her heart is nothing but leather, where she has always small coin ready to give every guest his change in full."
"You are committing a sin, a great sin!" said Lenz, his lip quivering from anger and grief; and to prove to Pilgrim how cruelly unjust he was towards Annele, he related to him how kindly and touchingly Annele had spoken to him, both about the death of his mother, and at the time when he sent away his clock; he had cherished every word like a revelation.
"My own money! my own coin!" cried Pilgrim. "She has plundered a beggar! What a confounded, stupid idiot I have been! Every syllable she said to you she picked up from my lips. I was such a fool as to say these very words before her, from time to time. I well deserve it all! but how could I possibly guess that she was to entrap you with my words? Oh! my poor coins!"
The two friends remained silent for a time. Pilgrim bit his lips till they bled, and Lenz shook his head incredulously; at last Pilgrim resumed the discussion by saying:—"Do you know Annele's principal reason for accepting you? Not from your tall figure nor your good heart; not for your property either! No, these are all very secondary considerations. Her real motive is to prevent one of the Doctor's daughters getting you. 'Aha! you shan't get him, but I shall!' Believe me, Annele is a creature that you cannot judge of; you cannot believe that there are people who have no real delight or happiness, unless their enjoyment makes some one else miserable; or unless they can triumph in the thought that they are envied for their riches, their beauty, or their good fortune. I never knew there were such people in the world till I knew Annele. My Lenz, don't you try to know anything further of her, for she will make you miserable. Why do you look so strangely at me, and never say a word? Attack me, do what you will, say what you choose to me, only give up Annele, for she is poison! I implore of you to renounce her. One very important point, too, I quite forgot: think of it, and God grant that you may not think of it too late; I do not wish to be a prophet of evil, but Annele will never live to be old."
"Ha, ha! I suppose you intend now to make out that she has bad health: her face is like the rose and the lily blended."
"That is not what I meant; but something very different: remember your mother; was there ever any one who was so pleasant to look at? because her kind heart was seen in her face; kindness for everyone, and her love for you, and anxiety about you: that makes an old face charming, and it does one's heart good to look at it. As for Annele, when she can no longer plait her hair in a coronet, and has lost her fresh complexion, and cannot show her white teeth when she laughs, what will remain? She has nothing to grow old on; she has no soul, she has only plausible speeches; no good heart, no good sense; all she can do is to scoff at others; when she is an old woman, she will be nothing but the devil's grandmother!"
Lenz pressed his teeth violently against his lips, and at last said:—"You have said enough; far too much, indeed! Not another word! But I must exact one thing from you, which is, that you are not to speak of her in such a way except to me, and even to me this day for the last time, and to no one else; no one! I love my Annele, and—and—you also; you may say what you will in your jealousy. I no longer wish that you should go with me when I make my offer. Fortunately these four walls alone have heard what has passed. Good night, Pilgrim!"
"Good night, Lenz!"
When Lenz was gone, Pilgrim sat for a long time alone, staring at the lamp and twisting his moustaches. He was vexed with himself, he had said all he wanted, but he had said too much, and consequently failed in his object. He could not recall it, for it was all true; but what good had he done? He paced his room restlessly, and then sat down again and fixed his eyes on the light. What a strange world this is! How seldom a man attains his original object in life! We cannot believe this when we are young, and we think the old grumbling and morose, and at last we become just the same ourselves, and find that we must submit to this patchwork existence: no use complaining, we must not expect to have all we wish.
Pilgrim could not help recalling distant memories of his hidden life. When he left his native home ten years ago, he felt as if he had courage to conquer the whole world, and was inspired with a sensation of tranquil happiness. He had said nothing, he had made no sign, he had received no pledge, and yet he had no doubts nor difficulties in his mind. He loved the fair, slender Amanda, the Doctor's daughter, and she had deigned to regard him, as a princess would have done. She had condescended merely to glance down on him like a goddess; he helped her in holiday time to affix labels to the foreign plants, on which he had himself written the names distinctly, copied out of a book. She treated the poor forsaken boy like a good and benevolent spirit, and even when he grew to manhood, she often asked him to assist her in her garden; she was always equally amiable and kind in manner, and her every glance was treasured by Pilgrim. And when the day of his leaving home arrived, when he was passing the Doctor's garden, she held out her hand to him over the hedge, saying:—"I have a whole collection of remembrances of you in the flower labels, on which you wrote all the names. When you find these plants in the course of your travels, in their native soil, you will often think of our garden, and our house, where everyone feels an interest in you. Farewell! and return to us soon!"
Farewell! and return soon! These were words that went with the traveller over hill and dale, across the ocean and to foreign lands, and many an echo repeated the name of Amanda, with unconscious gladness in the air.
Pilgrim wished to become rich, to be a great artist, and thus one day to aspire to Amanda. He came home poor, and in tatters. Many received him with unfeeling derision, but Amanda said—she was grown taller and less slender, but her brown eyes still sparkled with kindness:—"Pilgrim, be thankful that you have not lost your health, and don't be downhearted, but keep up your spirits."
And he did keep up his spirits. From that time he accustomed himself to love her, and to admire her, in the same way that he did the stately old limetree in his neighbour's garden, or the stars in heaven. No one ever heard a word, or saw the slightest indication of his love, not even Amanda herself; and, like the legend of certain precious gems which shine in the night like the sun, so did his secret passion for Amanda, light up the life of Pilgrim. Often he did not see her for weeks, and when he did see her, his manner was as calm as if he had met a stranger. One thought, however, constantly occupied him; that of whose home she was to brighten. He wished to leave the world without her ever having divined what she had been to him; but he hoped to see her happy. Lenz was the only man to whom he could willingly give her up, for they were worthy of each other, and he wished to nurse their children, and to amuse them by his whole stock of jests. Now this hope was gone for ever, and Pilgrim firmly believed that Lenz stood on the brink of an abyss.
So he sat absorbed in a painful reverie, shaking his head from time to time mournfully, till he put out the lamp, saying:—"I never was of use to myself, so what chance have I to be of use to others?"
In the meanwhile Lenz was on his way homewards. He walked slowly. He was so weary, that he was forced to rest on a heap of stones beside the road. When he reached the "Lion" inn all was dark, and no star was shining, for the sky was covered with heavy clouds. Lenz stood still, and he felt as if the house must fall on him and crush him.
He went home: Franzl was asleep: he awoke her; he must positively have one human being to rejoice with him; Pilgrim seemed to have strewed ashes on all his glad hopes.
Franzl was delighted with the news she heard, and Lenz could not help smiling when Franzl, as a proof that she knew what love was,—alas! she knew it only too well!—related, for the hundredth time at least, her "unhappy love," as she always called it. She invariably began by tears and ended by scolding; and she was well entitled to both.
"How pretty and fresh our home was then, in the valley yonder! He was our neighbour's son, and honest, and industrious, and handsome. No one now-a-days is half so handsome. People may be offended with me if they like, but so it is;—but he—I cannot name his name, though everyone knows, all the same, that he was called Anton Striegler. He was resolved to go to travel, and so he went off to foreign parts with merchandise; and by the brookside he took leave of me, and said, 'Franzl,' said he, 'so long as that brook runs, I will be faithful and true at heart to you; and be you the same to me.' He could say all these fine words, and write them down too; that is the way with these false men; I could never have believed it. In the course of four years, I got seventeen letters from him—from France, England, and Spain. The letter from England cost me at the time a crown dollar, for it came at the moment when Napoleon did not choose us to receive either foreign letters, or coffee; so our Pastor said the letter had come round by Constantinople and Austria, but at all events it cost a whole crown dollar. For a long, long time after, I never got one. I waited fourteen years, then I heard that he had married a black woman, in Spain. I never wanted to hear any more of the bad man, and none could be worse. And then I took out of my drawer the fine letters, the fine lying letters that he had written to me, and I burned them all, my love going off with them in smoke, up the chimney."
Franzl always finished her tale of woe with these heroic words. On this occasion she had a good listener,—there could not be a better; he had but one fault, which was that, in fact, he did not hear one word she said; he only looked intently at her, and thought of Annele. At last Franzl, through gratitude, began to talk of her. "Yes, yes, I will take care to tell Annele what an excellent creature you are, and how kind you have always been to me. Don't look so grave and gloomy,—you ought to be so merry. I know well—oh, heavens! but too well—that when we have just secured such great happiness, we seem quite upset by it God be praised! you are in luck;—you can stay quietly at home together, and can say good morning, and good night, to each other every day that God gives you. Now I must say good night! It is very late."
It was past midnight when at length Lenz went to rest, and he fell asleep with a "Good night, Annele! good night, you dear creature!"
He had strange sensations in the morning. He remembered what he had dreamt. His dream placed him on the top of the high rock on the crest of the hill behind his house, and he was always lifting his foot, and trying to soar into the air.
"What nonsense to allow myself to be plagued by a mere dream!" So he tried to forget it, and, quickly effacing it from his memory, he looked at Annele's coin.
A messenger presently arrived from the Landlady, to say that Lenz was to come there at eleven o'clock. Lenz dressed himself in his Sunday suit, and hurried to his uncle Petrowitsch.
After he had repeatedly rung at the bell, and was at last admitted, his uncle came towards him, looking considerably disturbed.
"What brings you here at this early hour?"
"Uncle, you are my father's brother."
"Yes; and when I left the country I left everything to your father. All that I possess, I earned for myself."
"I don't want any money from you, but to represent my father for me."
"Uncle, Annele of the 'Lion' and I are attached to each other, truly attached; and Annele's mother knows about it, and has given her consent; and I am to propose for her to-day, at eleven o'clock, in due form to her father, according to custom; and I wish you to go with me, as you are my father's brother."
"So?" said Petrowitsch, cramming a large piece of white sugar into his mouth, and walking up and down the carpeted room.
"Really?" said he, after a few turns. "You will get a sharp, quick wife, and I must say you show considerable nerve. I never should have imagined that you had sufficient courage, to take such a wife."
"Why courage? What has that to do with it?"
"Nothing bad; but I had no idea you were so vain as to try for such a wife."
"Vain? What vanity is there in it?"
Petrowitsch smiled, and made no reply.
Lenz continued: "You know her, uncle. She is prudent and frugal, and her family most respectable."
"That is not what I mean. It is vanity on your part to imagine that you can supply to a girl of twenty two the place of the numerous guests that swarm in the Inn, all complimenting her and flattering her. It is vanity in you to wish to secure for yourself alone, a woman who can conduct a large inn. A prudent man takes no wife who will make him spend half his substance, if he wishes to please her. And to rule such a woman is no trifle. It is far more difficult than to drive four wild horses on the steppes."
"I don't intend to rule her."
"Perhaps! But one of the two must be: to rule or to be ruled. I must say, however, that she is good tempered: only, indeed, towards those who praise her, or are submissive to her will. She is the only good one in the house. Both the old people are hypocrites in their various ways; the woman with her incessant talk, the man with his few words. Every step the Landlord takes has a solid sound: 'Here comes a honest man.' When he takes up his knife and fork, 'This is the way an honest man eats;' when he looks out of the window, 'This is the way an honest man looks:' and I would stake my life that neither his boots, nor his knife and fork are paid for."
"It is very painful, uncle, to hear you say such things."
"I should think it was."
"I only wished to ask you, from proper respect, whether you would take the place of a father, and go with me to make my proposals?"
"It does not suit me. You are of age. You never asked my opinion beforehand."
"Do not be displeased with me for asking you now."
"Oh, not at all! Stop!" cried Petrowitsch, as Lenz was about to withdraw. "One word; only one word!"
Lenz turned round, and Petrowitsch, for the first time in his life, laid his hand on his nephew's shoulder, who seemed moved by this action, and still more by the words Petrowitsch uttered with considerable emotion.
"I should like not to have lived entirely in vain for those who belong to me. I will give you what many men would have given their lives to have had, if given to them in time—good advice. Lenz, when a man is overheated and excited, he must not venture to drink, for he may cause his death; and he who dashes the glass out of his hand does him a service. There is, however, a different kind of excitement, when a man must equally avoid drinking; that is, doing anything which is to affect the whole course of his life. He may thus also incur death—a low, lingering sickness. You ought not to decide on any marriage at present, even if you had not chosen Annele. You are overheated; pause till you have recovered your breath, and six months hence talk over the matter with yourself. Let me go to the Landlord, and break off the affair for you. They may abuse me as much as they like—I don't care. Will you take my advice, and put an end to the thing? If not, you will bring on a chronic disease, which no doctor can ever cure."
"I am betrothed. It is too late now for advice," answered Lenz.
The cold perspiration stood on his forehead when he left his uncle's house.
"But this is only the way of old bachelors—their hearts get hard. Pilgrim and my uncle are very much alike. One thing is diverting! Pilgrim thinks the father the only honest one among them, and my uncle says the same of Annele. I suppose the third person I speak to on the subject, will tell me the old woman is the best of the lot. They may one and all go to the deuce! I need no one to back me; I am quite man enough to act for myself. I must put an end to every one interfering in this manner with my concerns. An hour hence I hope to be accepted as a member of a highly considered family."
An hour had not elapsed when Lenz was accepted. Pilgrim's speeches, and those of his uncle, had no influence over him; but that was their own fault. When he went straight to Annele's father, unshaken by all remonstrances, to ask for Annele's hand, he hoped inwardly that she would be aware of this, and thank him for having stood firm in spite of every dissuasion.
Annele held her muslin apron to her eyes with one hand, and clasped Lenz's hand with the other, when pledges were exchanged. The Landlord walked up and down the room, his new boots creaking loudly. The Landlady imagined that she was shedding real tears, and exclaimed: "Good heavens! must I give my last child away? When I go to rest, or when I rise in the morning, I shall feel utterly helpless. Where is my Annele? But one thing I distinctly say now, I won't hear of the marriage for a year to come. We don't need to tell you, Lenz, that you are dear to us, when we are bestowing our last child on you! Oh, if your mother had only lived to see this day! But she will rejoice over it in heaven!"
These words were so touching, that Lenz shed tears. If the Landlord's boots involuntarily creaked as an accompaniment to his wife's speech, they now creaked louder and quicker than ever. At last the Landlord's boots were silent, and his lips began.
"Enough for the present. Let us be men, Lenz;—compose yourself;—quite right. Now tell me what portion you expect with your wife."
"I never asked about her portion; she is your child, and you will do all you can. I am not rich, my profession is my chief source of income, but I have my parents to thank, for having provided against any evil day. There is no lack: we can have our daily bread, and to spare."
"Well said, and to the point,—just what I like. Now as to the marriage contract, what do you intend to do?"
"I can give no opinion on the subject: the law of the land will decide that."
"Yes, but I must have a particular settlement. You see a widow loses half her original value, and money must make up for that. Now if you die without children of your own—"
"Father!" cried Annele, "if you mean to say such things, let me leave the room, for I really cannot stay and listen to them."
The Landlord, however proceeded coolly: "Don't be so affected. Just like you women! 'Oh, pray don't talk of money!' Ah! bah! You shrink from it, just as if a frog were crawling about your feet. But if there was no money, you would wish for it often enough. God be praised! you never in your life knew what it was to be without it, and I hope you never may. So as to the survivor—"
"I will not listen to you. Is this like the happiness of a betrothal, to talk of such things?" said Annele, indignantly.
"Your father is right," said her mother, gently. "Show your good sense, and hold your tongue. These matters will soon be settled, and then you can be as merry as you please."
"My Annele is right," said Lenz, in an unusually loud, firm tone; "we shall marry according to the law of the land, and so not another word on the subject. Come, Annele! What! to talk of dying just now! At this moment we only think of living. Don't take it amiss, father and mother. We are all agreed, and every minute now is worth a million."
So saying, he ran down into the garden, holding Annele's hand clasped in his.
"A singular young man!" said the Landlord, looking after him: "but so it is. All musical geniuses have their whims. A moment ago he was sobbing like a child, and now he is singing like a lark; but he is an excellent creature, and when I win my Brazilian lawsuit, or gain the chief prize in the lottery, Lenz shall be paid a handsome marriage portion."
With this admirable and satisfactory project, the Landlord went creaking about the public room, receiving with dignity the congratulations of friends and strangers. He said little, but insinuated that a wealthy connection was of no great importance to him. "If the man is only healthy and high principled, that is my chief object;" and every one nodded approvingly. Great wisdom may be contained in few words.
The first person who came to wish Annele joy was Faller. She, indeed, looked down with considerable condescension on the poor creature; but his humility pleased her; and Faller could not make a sufficient number of apologies for coming so soon, but he had no rest till he came, for he was attached with all his heart to Lenz, for whom he would give his life.
"I am glad that my bridegroom has such good friends, but every man can provide for himself in this world, be he whom he may."
Faller did not perceive this last hit at him, or affected not to do so, and began enthusiastically to depict the excellence of Lenz's heart. Tears stood in his eyes, and he ended by saying:—"Annele, he has a heart like an angel!—like that of a newly born child. For God's sake never be harsh to him, or you would sin against God. Never forget that you have a husband to whom every sharp word is like a stab from a knife. He is not passionate, but his feelings are very sensitive. Do not take amiss my telling you this—I do so from the best of motives. I would gladly serve him if I could, and I don't know how. You are indeed favoured by God to be chosen by such a man; but go gently to work with him—very gently and kindly."
"Have you done at last?" asked Annele, her eyes flashing; "or have you got anything more to say?"
"No; I have finished."
"Now I will say something to you in return. You have been so forward and impertinent, that you deserve to have the door shut in your face. What do you mean?—how dare you speak in such a manner to me?—who asked you to interfere?—how can you suspect me of being hard? But it is lucky, very lucky that I know this so soon; now I see what sort of beggars hang about my Lenz. But I will soon make a clean sweep of the whole lot. The day when you could wheedle him by your hypocrisy and fine words is at an end. I make you a present of the wine you have drunk. Now go along, I will, however, repeat to my Lenz what you have presumed to say to me, and it shall be stored up against you."
In vain did Faller protest his innocence of all evil intentions: he begged pardon, and conjured her to listen to him; but it was all no use. Annele showed him the door—so at last he left her, and Annele did not vouchsafe him even a parting glance.
Soon after Faller came Franzl, beaming with joy. The mother took her forthwith into the back parlour. Franzl had been rejoicing that she had managed this affair, and thought she could now die happy; but it proved, to her consternation, that she had ascribed to herself much more merit than she deserved, and now she got none at all. The Landlady soon made her feel her mistake by saying—"Well, Franzl, what do you think about this? You had nothing to do with the affair, and I quite as little. The young people were sharper than we were. You and I were talking a few days ago as to what might come to pass, and all the time behind our backs they had settled everything. I could have believed this of Annele, but not of Lenz. But it is better so; and as God has willed it, let us thank him for his goodness."
Franzl stood with her mouth and eyes wide open, but she was obliged to go home without a scrap of praise or anything else, and Annele scarcely condescended to notice her.—Then Pilgrim came.
Annele behaved in a very different manner to Pilgrim than she had done to Faller. She knew that he did not like her; but before he had said a single word she thanked him for his warm sympathy, and Pilgrim treated the whole affair in a good-humoured and facetious manner, hinting that no man was to be trusted, or Lenz would not have kept the matter so close. He thought he thus saved his conscience, and yet did not disturb what was now a settled thing.
But the toughest wood to saw through, yet remained: this was Petrowitsch; and the father resolved to be present. When Petrowitsch came as usual to dinner, he affected to know nothing. The Landlord communicated the fact to him officially, and said that Lenz was expected every minute to dinner. Annele was very childlike and submissive to the old man, and seemed almost as if she intended to throw herself on her knees to ask his blessing. He stretched out his hand kindly to her. The Landlady, too, wished to get hold of his hand, but she only succeeded in grasping two fingers of his left hand. Lenz was glad when he came, to find all going on so smoothly. He was only vexed that Pilgrim, who had spoken so much against them all, should be seated at the same table; but Pilgrim seemed quite unconcerned, so Lenz was soon the same.
The sky looked down sourly on Lenz's betrothal: it rained incessantly for several days following. The rain kept trickling on like one of those incessant talkers who chatter without ceasing. Lenz was of course constantly at the "Lion" Inn, where everything was so comfortable, and every one as well cared for as in his own house. One day, when there were sixteen different tables in the large public room, Lenz told Annele it was like a well frequented marketplace.
"You are witty," said she. "I must tell my father that—it will amuse him."
"Don't do that. What I say to you, I don't intend to go farther."
Lenz was overflowing with happiness. He went backwards and forwards along the distant, and almost impassable road, just as if he had been passing from one room to another. He was often congratulated on his way by different people; and many said—"Don't think us impertinent, but we never believed that Annele would stay in this village. It was always said she would marry a landlord in Baden-Baden, or the Techniker. You may laugh, but you have fallen on your feet."
Lenz was not at all offended by being considered inferior to Annele; on the contrary, he was proud that she was so modest in her views as to choose him. When Lenz was sitting in the back parlour with Annele and her mother, and the old man sometimes came in, uttering some pious sentiment in his deep, sonorous voice, Lenz would say—"How grateful I ought to be to the good Lord, who has given me parents again! and such parents too! I seem to have come into the world a second time. I can scarcely realize that I am actually at home in the 'Lion' Inn, when I remember what I thought when, as a child, I saw the upper storey built, and plate glass in all the windows! I am sure the Palace at Carlsruhe cannot be finer, we children used to say to each other. And I was standing by when the Golden Lion itself was hung up. I little thought, then, that the day would come when I should be quite at home in such a palace! It is hard that my mother did not live to see it!"
The two women were touched by these words, although Annele did not leave off counting the stitches in a pair of slippers that she had begun to work for Lenz. Neither of them spoke for some little time, till the mother said—"Yes! besides, what first-rate connections you will have in my other two sons-in-law. I told you already that I love and respect them, but differently from you, I have known you from the time you were a child, and I feel towards you as if you had been my own flesh and blood. But you have seen them, and know what well bred, genteel young men they both are—and men of business, into the bargain. Many a one would be glad, if they had as much capital as they make in a single year."
After a pause, however, Annele said—"If that tiresome rain would only cease, then, Lenz, we would go out driving together at once."
"I should, indeed, enjoy being with you alone under God's spacious sky. The house seems too confined for my sense of happiness. Annele, we would drive to the town."
"Wherever you like."
Presently Lenz said again:—"I am very glad my 'Magic Flute' was so safely packed, for I should so grieve if it was injured."
"That is very needless anxiety," said the mother. "The thing is now sold, and of course the purchaser runs all risks."
"No, mother, that's not at all the case. I understand my Lenz better. He is attached to a work that cost him so much anxiety, and he would have been glad never to have parted with it. If one has passed days and nights, month after month, engrossed with one object, it would be very distressing to know that it was injured."
"Yes, dear Annele; you are indeed my own!" cried Lenz, joyfully. How well and thoroughly this excellent girl understood his feelings and explained them!
The mother chided them playfully:—"It's no good talking to you lovers; anyone who is not in love, is sure to be wrong in your eyes." She went in and out, for Lenz had begged that, at all events at first, Annele might be released from her attendance in the public room. "I am not jealous," said he, "far from it; but I should like to intercept every look you cast on others, for they all belong to me, and me only."
One afternoon the rain ceased for an hour. Lenz did not desist from urging Annele, till she consented to go with him to his own house. "I feel as if everything there was expecting you. All the stores, and presses, and china, and other things that you will like to see."
Annele resisted for some time, and at last said—"My mother must go too."
The old lady was very speedily equipped. They went through the village. Every one greeted them. They had scarcely gone a hundred steps when Annele complained—"What a horrid footpath, Lenz—it is so heavy and deep. You must repair it thoroughly. But I'll tell you what would be better: you must make a carriage road, so that people may be able to drive up to our door."
"That would be difficult," answered Lenz: "it would cost a large sum of money, and I should have to buy the ground. Do you see? Up there from the hazel hedge the meadow is my own, and I require no carriage road for my business. You know well, Annele dear, that I would do anything to please you, but I cannot do that."
Annele was silent and walked on. The mother, however, whispered to Lenz—"What's the good of discussing things? You ought to have said—'Oh yes, dear Annele! I will see about it'—or something of that kind, and afterwards you could have done just as you liked. She is a mere child, and that is the way to manage children. If you are shrewd, you can manage her perfectly; but you must not make too much of a thing, and snap up every word. Let the subject drop for a few days, and don't renew it immediately; don't promise rashly, if you are not sure about a thing: she will either think it over alone, or more probably forget it. She is but a child."
Lenz looked at her disapprovingly, and said, "Annele is no child; she is capable of discussing any subject, and she understands everything."
"Oh! you think so, of course," said the mother, shrugging her shoulders.
When they were half way across the meadow Annele exclaimed again: "Good heavens! I had no idea it was so far, or so steep! what a distance it is! it will be an age before we get there!"
"I can't make the distance shorter," said Lenz, in a displeased, dry tone.
Annele turned, and looked at him inquisitively.
He continued, stammering, "I am sure that, for all that, you will be rather glad that the distance is so far. Remember, that shows how large our meadow must be. I could keep three cows on it, if it were not so much trouble."
Annele smiled in a forced manner. At last they arrived at the house. Annele panted for breath, and complained that she was sadly overheated.
"Welcome home, in God's name," said Lenz, seizing her hand as she crossed the threshold.
She looked at him kindly, and suddenly said, "You are really a kind soul, and take everything with good humour!"
Lenz was pleased, and what a happy woman Franzl was. First the mother gave her her hand, and then Annele did the same. And both praised up to the skies the kitchen, the parlour, and the whole house, as so clean and neatly arranged.
The mother stood with Franzl below, while Lenz took Annele all over the house, and showed her the seven beds, and their stock of bedding, and two large feather beds besides, which could make at least three more. He opened trunks, and chests, in which stores of fine white linen were closely packed, and said, "Now Annele, what do you think of these? You are a little surprised, I should think? Can any one see a prettier sight?"
"Yes, it is all very orderly and nice. But I don't say anything of my sister Therese's stock of linen; for, of course, when there are often a hundred guests there at a time, come to drink the waters, a vast quantity of linen is required,—it forms part of their business. But you should really see the presses of Babet's mother-in-law; these would appear very scanty beside hers."
Lenz looked very much annoyed, and said, "Annele, don't say such things, even in jest."
"I am not jesting—I am quite in earnest. I am not in the least surprised, for I have seen both finer and better linen, and in far greater quantities too. Do show some sense: you surely can't expect me to be in ecstasies with what is just neat and tidy, and no more. I have seen a good deal more of the world than you, remember that."
"No doubt! It may be so," said Lenz, with trembling lips.
Annele stroked his face laughingly, and said, "My good Lenz, what need you care whether I am lost in admiration or not? Your mother made a good provision, a very fair one indeed, considering her position in life. No one can say otherwise. But, dear Lenz, I do not marry you for your property; I like you for your own sake,—that is the chief point."
This speech was both sweet and bitter, but the bitter seemed to Lenz to predominate, and he felt as if gall had touched his lips.
They returned to the sitting-room, where Franzl had prepared a plentiful repast. Annele said she had no appetite; but when Lenz said, "That won't do at all, you must eat something the first time you come to my house," she at last consented to take a crust of bread.
Lenz was obliged to silence Franzl repeatedly, as she thought she could not sufficiently praise him. "You must have done something very good in the world, to get such a husband," said she to Annele.
"And he must have done the same," said the mother, looking at Annele. Probably she meant maliciously to insinuate, that Lenz was fully as fortunate as her daughter.
"Come here, Annele, and sit down beside me," said Lenz; "you often said you would like to see how I put together a musical timepiece. I kept this one on purpose to show it to you the first time you came here. Now I will place it properly, and then it will play of itself. It is a beautiful melody of Spohr's. I can sing it to you, but it is far, far finer than I can show you by my singing."
He sung the air from "Faust," "Love is a tender flower." Then Annele sat down by him, and he began to place the different pegs skilfully, according to the music before him, taking them out of their case, just as printers do types, and placing them with quickness and dexterity.
Annele was full of admiration, and Lenz continued to work on gaily; but he begged her not to speak, for he was obliged to give his attention to the metronome which he had set going.
The mother knew that it would be hard work for Annele to sit quiet, and to look on silently. She therefore said, with a gracious smile, "Every one knows how clever you are, Lenz; but we must now go home, it is near our dinner hour, and we expect some strangers. It is quite enough that you began the work while we were here."
Annele rose, and Lenz ceased working.
Franzl kept watching Annele's hands, and also those of the Landlady, and when either placed them in their pockets she became agitated, and hid her hands quickly behind her back, to show that she would not accept any present. She must be persuaded by gentle force to take anything. "Now it is sure to come,—a gold chain, or a handsome ring, or perhaps a hundred new dollars. Who knows?—such people give handsomely."
But they gave neither handsomely nor shabbily—indeed, scarcely their hand in farewell; and Franzl went into the kitchen, and snatching up one of her largest and most favourite old pipkins, she held it up in the air, and would gladly have hurled it at the heads of those saucy, ungrateful women, but she could not bear to destroy her old favourite. "Did ever any one hear of such a thing?—not to bring her even an apron! Poor, poor Lenz! you have fallen into the hands of a fine shabby set! Heaven be praised that I had nothing to do with it! I should be very grieved to have any profit from such an affair,—every farthing would burn me!"
Lenz escorted his bride and his mother-in-law beyond the boundary of his meadow, and then returned home, after arranging that, if the next day was fine, they were to drive together to sister Babet's.
Lenz had a good deal to prepare, besides giving instructions to his workpeople.
His feelings were strange when he was once more alone, and two hours had scarcely elapsed when he wished to go down to see Annele. He felt anxious and nervous, he did not know why. Annele alone could, and would, drive away these nervous sensations. He stayed at home, however; and when, before going to rest, he again closed the chests that had remained open, he felt as if he were about to hear something, he knew not what. There lay the webs prepared by his mother, moistened by her lips, and spun by her fingers. Strange! but he almost seemed to feel as if a spirit were gliding by his side, and a mournful voice breathing out of the open chests.
Franzl, in the mean time, was in her room, sitting bolt upright in bed. She was muttering all kinds of imprecations against Annele and her mother; but then prayed to God to let her recall her words, and to consider them unsaid, as every evil wish that was realised on Annele, affected Lenz also.
On the morning after, the long wished for day arrived. The sun shone down gladly on the earth below, and Lenz felt gladdened also. He immediately sent off his apprentice to Annele, to beg her to be ready, for he would be with her in the course of an hour. And within that time, dressed in his best attire, he was on his way to the "Lion."
Annele, however, was not yet dressed, though at his earnest and repeated entreaty, she gave him one hand through the door of her room. She would not let him see her, but handed him out red ribbons and cockades, to give to the servant to put on the harness and the whip. At last—at last she appeared, so smartly dressed!
"Is the carriage ready?" was her first word.
"Why did you not see that it was ready? Tell Gregor to put on his postilion's livery, and take his horn with him."
"Oh, no! don't! Why should he do that?"
"We are to show ourselves to everybody, we have no leave to ask of any one, and every one must look round as we pass."
At last they got in. When they passed the Doctor's house, Annele said to Gregor: "Blow now! blow loud! The Doctor's daughters are sure to look out, and they shall see that we are driving out together. I declare! not a living creature to be seen, and the window in the corner room shut. They are there sure enough, however. They are bursting with rage inside there, and they must take some notice of us, in spite of themselves, for I know that the old grandmother is quite sure to ask, 'Who is blowing that horn?' I should like to be behind the door to hear them all discussing us."
"Annele, you are in a strange mood to-day!"
"Why not? I think you so goodlooking today. People are right in saying that you have such honest bright eyes. I really did not know till today that you were so goodlooking."
Lenz's face beamed with delight, which made him look still handsomer. "I ought to get a new fashionable set of clothes, don't you think so?" said Lenz.
"No, remain as you are. You look more solid and respectable as you are."
"It does not only look so, but it is really so."
"Yes, indeed it is so. But pray don't speak as if every word were a prong in a watchwheel."
"You are right."
They drove through the next village, and Annele again desired Gregor to blow his horn with all his might! "Look! look! there is Ernestine, the grocer's wife. She is a cousin of mine, and was long a servant in our house, and then married a tailor, who afterwards became a grocer. She can't bear me; she will be so spiteful that her green face will turn blue, when she sees us drive past without our calling on her. Ah, ha! there she comes to the window. Oh, yes! stare out your pig eyes, and gape till you show your long teeth. Yes, it is Lenz and I,—look well at my bridegroom! Much good may it do you!" They drove on.
"Now, does that give you any pleasure, Annele?" asked Lenz.
"Why not? We ought to be spiteful to spiteful people, and kind to the good. Both are right."
"Perhaps; but I can't be so."
"You ought to be glad, then that you have got me. They shall all creep into a mousehole before us, and be glad if we only look at them."
When they arrived in the town Annele gave her bridegroom fresh directions for his deportment:—"If my brother-in-law's brother is there, be sure you are very stiff to him. He would be glad to play you a trick, for he is very malicious, because I did not take him; but I did not care about him. And if my sister begins complaining, take it coolly; you need not try to comfort her, it does no good, and is not required. She has lots of money, and yet does nothing but grumble and complain; her health is very bad. Our family in general are healthy enough, you may see that by me."
The sister could not receive the betrothed couple at all, for she was confined to bed by illness, and neither the husband nor the brother-in-law were at home. They had both gone down the Rhine with a large raft.
"I suppose you would like to stay with your sister, for I have some business in the town."
"May I not go with you?"
"No; I have something to get for you."
"I had far better go with you in that case, for you men never know how to choose."
"No, no; you must not be with me," insisted Lenz. He took a large-sized packet out of the carriage and went with it into the town; for Babet's house was down by the river, close to a large wood yard.
Without Annele having observed it, Lenz brought back what he had taken with him, only rather larger in bulk, and put it into the carriage.
"What have you bought for me?" asked Annele.
"I will give it to you when we get home."
Annele was not a little provoked that she could not show the handsome present to her sister; but she had already perceived that there were points on which Lenz went his own way, and was not to be persuaded out of it.
They had refreshments in the inn, and Annele told Lenz that the son of the landlord, a superior young man, who had now a large hotel in Baden-Baden, had wished to marry her, but she would not have him.
"There was no need to tell me that," said Lenz. "I am quite jealous enough already of past days; but not of the future: here is my hand on that. I know you. It pains me to think that others should ever have raised their eyes to you. Let bygones be bygones; and let us commence life afresh."
A pleasant, warm smile lit up Annele's face at these words, as if a certain reflection of Lenz's kindness and simplicity beamed on her, and she was gentle and loving in her manner.
She could not express this, according to her ideas, better than by saying:—"Lenz, there is no need for you to buy me a bridal gift; you don't require to do what others do: I know you; there is something more precious than gold chains." Tears stood in her eyes as she said this, and Lenz never had been happier than at this moment.
The church clock was striking five; when they set off home in the carriage.
"My deceased father made that clock, and Faller helped him," said Lenz. "Stop! it is lucky that it struck me: Faller says that you were offended by some incautious expression of his; he will not tell me what it was. Do not be angry with him, he is often awkward and abrupt, a precise soldier, but an excellent man."
"Possibly; but, Lenz, you have a vast deal too many burrs sticking to you; you must shake them off."
"I will never give up my friends."
"I don't wish you to do so; God forbid! I only meant that you should not act so that everyone can come and persuade you to anything."
"There you are right; that is my failing; remind me of it as often as you like, that I may cure myself by degrees."
Just as Lenz had said this in a humble manner, Annele suddenly stood up in the carriage.
"What is it? what is the matter?" asked Lenz.
"Nothing, nothing at all; I don't know why I stood up. I mean I am not comfortably seated; now I am more at ease. It is very agreeable to drive in our carriage, is it not?"
"Yes, very; it is as easy as an armchair, and yet you can see round you in all directions. It is so pleasant to drive, and it is the first time I ever was in a carriage of my own; for your father's seems mine also."
The first excursion of the betrothed couple had not been quite so amusing as they had expected, but still both brought home with them much that was pleasant. Annele said very little, and it was evident that something unusual was occupying her mind.
It was still bright daylight when they arrived at home. Lenz assisted Annele out of the carriage, and let her go in first by herself. He then took out the parcel he had so carefully wrapped up, and when he was in the house he called Annele into the back parlour.
There the mystery was unravelled by these words:—"Annele, I here present you with the nearest and dearest object I possess on earth; my excellent friend Pilgrim gave it to me, and now it shall be yours."
Annele gazed intently at the portrait, for which Lenz had secretly ordered a frame in the town.
"Ah! I see you cannot speak, because my mother is looking at you!"
"So that is your mother? It is certainly her gown, and her cap and handkerchief, but as for your mother herself? No, it might just as well be old Annelise the carpenter's wife, or Faller's wife; indeed, I think it is very like the latter. What makes you look so pale all of a sudden? as if every drop of blood had left your cheeks? My good Lenz, would you have me tell an untruth? I am sure you would not; and how can you help it? Pilgrim never could do a thing well in his life. He has no talent for anything, except for painting his everlasting church towers."
"When I heard you speak, I felt as if my mother had died a second time," said Lenz.
"Don't be so melancholy all of a sudden," said Annele more graciously. "I will show all respect for the portrait, and hang it up over my bed. Come, you are no longer sad? You have been so loveable to-day, and really now, when I look again at the picture, I think it does remind me of your mother."
Just as Lenz first became as hot as fire, and then as cold as ice, so could Annele influence him as she chose, making him at one moment feel the happiest of men, and the next giving him deadly offence.
And thus it went on for weeks and months; but the prevailing feeling, however, was happiness, for Annele showed a degree of gentleness that no one had ever suspected she possessed. Even Pilgrim came one day to Lenz and said:—"Some men are happy when they see how wise they have been; I rejoice that I have been a fool."
"Really? on what subject?"
"No one can understand a young girl's disposition. I do think that in Annele's character, there is something that can make you entirely happy. It is, perhaps, fortunate that she is not so tender hearted as you."
"I thank you, Pilgrim; I am truly glad that you think so," cried Lenz, and the two friends grasped each other's hands affectionately.
Lenz of the Morgenhalde is going to be married to Annele of the "Golden Lion!" This report quickly spread through the whole valley, and far beyond it, and often in the same house first Annele was discussed and then Lenz, for their names were not yet coupled together till after the wedding, when Annele of the "Golden Lion" will be called Lenz Annele.
There had been deep snow, and now the sky had cleared up, bringing genuine bright sledging weather, and from every hill and valley bells and cracking of whips resounded, and a hundred sledges at least were standing before the door of the "Golden Lion" on the wedding morning; every stall had its share of strange company, and many a solitary cow could not comprehend how it came to pass, that a pair of such handsome horses should suddenly come to pay her a visit. To be sure a cow passing the winter in retirement, is not likely to know what is going on in the world, but men know all about it; an event is about to take place of no small importance in the village, and even bedridden old women never rest till they are dressed, and able to sit at the window, though they live far from the highroad, so that they can see nothing, and can only catch distant sounds of the bells on the horses' necks, and the cracking of whips.
Ernestine, the grocer's wife, had been helping for several days before the wedding in the "Lion." She would not show any symptoms of displeasure at not being particularly visited or invited; the head of the family was celebrating a feast, and all its branches must rally round their chief.
Ernestine had left her children in a neighbour's house; her husband in the mean time was to keep house, attend to the shop, and dress his food, as best he could: when the "Golden Lion" sends forth a summons no one can stand on their rights.
Ernestine knew every nook and corner of the house, and gave everyone what they wanted in a moment; she had unlimited authority both in kitchen and cellar, and exulted in her own importance. On the wedding morning Annele dressed herself, for she had no particular friend to assist her.
Lenz would have preferred, from his retiring disposition, to have had a very quiet wedding; but Annele was right in saying:—"I am quite aware of what you would have preferred; but it is our duty to our neighbours to provide some pleasure for them also, and we have only one wedding day in our lives. Year after year we have plague enough from these people, let us give them an opportunity of showing their gratitude to us. There are very few weddings during the year in the whole country that we do not attend, and take gifts with us. Two thousand gulden would not cover what we have laid out on such occasions. It is but fair that the neighbours should give in their turn. I don't want to gain by my wedding; I shall be quite satisfied if we get back the half of what we sent in this way."
And in truth the marriage gifts were very valuable, both in money and in money's worth. They were not satisfied with one day, but the marriage feast continued during two whole days; one day for friends and relations, and the other for strangers.
On the wedding morning Pilgrim arrived with his hair well oiled, and a bunch of rosemary tied with a ribbon in the button hole of his coat, and he said:—"I bring you no wedding present."
"You have already given me enough: the portrait of my mother."
"Oh! that does not count; I know very well what I ought to do, but I cannot. No, Lenz. I have given myself something, however, on the occasion of your marriage. See here! with this paper I am like Siegfried, whom you and I have read of: I have now a skin of callous horn, which nothing can pierce."
"What is it?"
"It is a bond which secures to me a hundred gulden annually, from the age of sixty; and till then I shall manage to get through; and then, when I can no longer live alone, you must give me an attic in your house, and a warm corner behind your stove, where I can play with your grandchildren, and make drawings for them, which they are sure to be pleased with. It cost me a good deal to make the first payment, and no wonder, for though I can gain my livelihood, I have nothing to spare. So I hit upon a good plan: for a whole year I gave up my breakfast,—the Landlord of the 'Lion,' I think, suspected that my dinner and breakfast were combined,—and in this way I contrived to get the money. I intend to give up my dinner presently. It would be a very good idea, in this way by degrees to close gently all the shutters,—and then, good night, world!"
While talking thus, he was assisting Lenz to dress in an entirely new suit of clothes. Lenz thanked his friend for telling him his scheme, and reminded him that all the members of the annuity society formed one family, with the sole exception of not wishing each other joy on their birthday, and that not from any negligence or ill will, but merely because they were not acquainted with each other.
Pilgrim had in his head all the statistics of the Annuity Society, and he began detailing them, to prevent Lenz giving way to emotion.
When Lenz was dressed in his bridal attire, Petrowitsch came of his own accord to act as best man. He said, with a mysterious face—"You will get no marriage present from me, Lenz; you know why; but it shall be made up to you some day." With this bait, and hint that Lenz was to be his chief heir,—which, however, he never said plainly—Petrowitsch became, of course, the most highly considered person at the marriage festivities. This was just what he liked; to sit in the place of honour, with all the others flocking round him, and yet to have the agreeable consciousness, "I have the keys of my house in my pocket, and my fireproof money-box safe at home." This was quite characteristic of the man. Two such festive days were a grand break, in the midst of the monotony of the winter season.
The Landlord of the "Lion" carried his apostolic head even higher than usual on this occasion, and stroked with dignity his newly shaved chin.
Music, and firing, and shouting, resounded in the bright wintry morning, as the wedding party were going to church, which could not contain all the curious and sympathizing crowd. There was, besides, as great a collection of people round the church door, as within the sacred building. The Pastor gave an appropriate exhortation, not resembling a public store of uniforms for recruits, supposed to fit all chance comers, but made to measure. He spoke most impressively on family respectability, and on the honour of the husband and the wife being identical. Children inherit the good name of their parents, but when they turn out badly, the parents are free from blame in the sight of God and man,—they did their best, they could do no more. The children of disreputable parents may attain respectability by their own efforts,—they have their life before them. The brother shares the honour of his brother, but he can leave him, and pursue his own path. But the honour of married people is different: here they are, in the purest sense of the word, one flesh; here harmony is a mutual object. When the one aspires to honour at the cost of the other, nothing can ensue but discord, disunion, and death. It is a holy and wise ordinance that the woman, though she preserves her baptismal name, receives a new family name from her husband. She adopts the man's name, and the man's honour. The Pastor commended the good qualities of the couple now standing before the altar, though Lenz came in for the largest share of praise; but Annele too had a fair portion; and he reminded them that no man living had any cause to be proud of his good qualities; that the slow and the quick should mutually esteem and regard each other; that marriage was not only according to the law of the land—a mere community of temporal goods,—but still more according to the law of God—a community of spiritual good, where mine and thine cease, and where every possession is called ours, and not only ours, but as belonging to the world at large, and, above all, to God.
Under cover of generalities, and yet easily applicable to the young couple, the Pastor gave utterance to the anxious wish of their mutual friends, that two persons so unlike in disposition, and in worldly occupations, might live henceforth in peaceful and happy union together.
Pilgrim, who was sitting with the singers in the gallery, nodded to the leader of the choir, who nodded back significantly. Faller did not once look up; he pressed his hand to his eyes, and thought, "It was thus I spoke myself to Annele; who knows what she would say to our Pastor, if she dared speak! But I pray thee, good Lord! who once performed so many miracles on this earth, do this one more,—implant good thoughts in her heart, and place good words on her lips, for my excellent Lenz, the most admirable—"
No voice sounded louder than that of Faller when he joined in the hymn, after the ceremony was over. The leader of the choir made him a sign to moderate his deep bass voice, for the tenor was very weak, and Lenz's voice was wanting; but Faller utterly refused to suppress his tones, which fairly overpowered both the organ and his fellow-singers, in the hymn, "Oh Lord, bless this bond!"
When the wedding was over, the women who were so fortunate as to see and hear the ceremony, had plenty to talk about when they left the church. Never before had the bridegroom been heard sobbing audibly; no man had ever done such a thing till now. To be sure, the Pastor had spoken in a most touching way, especially when he had alluded to Lenz's mother, and implored her blessing, which had caused Lenz to sob so violently that they really thought he must have fallen down, and all present had cried along with him; indeed, those who were talking of it had cried too; they had come to attend the marriage, and had a right to have a share of all that was going, whether it was crying or rejoicing. The men said to the strangers present—"No other village can have a more admirable Pastor than ours! His words come out so smoothly and glibly, and not stiff or precise; just as if he wished to discuss the matter quietly with us all. Oh, yes! our Pastor! few like him!"
Neither men nor women made any allusion, however, to the matter of the exhortation.
When Lenz left the church, escorted on one side by Petrowitsch, and on the other by the Landlord, Faller's mother came up to him, and said, "I have done what I intended—your mother's clothes have been in the church, and she could not have prayed from her heart for you more earnestly than I did."
Lenz could not answer, for the Landlord reproved the old woman for being the first to speak to the bridegroom,—although he condemned the foolish superstition, that saw an evil omen in being addressed by an old woman first; but, however, he called forward a handsome young lad to give Lenz his hand first.
From this moment, however, all was gaiety and merriment. It was not easy to believe that any one present had shed a single tear.
Lenz now shook hands with his sisters-in-law, and then with their husbands, in the back parlour. The Doctor, too, and his daughters came,—and very kind it was in them to come,—one after another came in and went out, wishing the young couple joy; while Annele sat in a chair, with a white handkerchief pressed to her eyes; and Lenz said, "I could not help crying so much, but you know for all that how happy I am; and we will remember to keep our honour one and the same, and, with the help of God, we shall preserve it entire. And when I see what a family you connect me with, I can never forget it. And, please God! these shall be the last tears we ever shed together. Take off your gloves, dear Annele, I have none."
Annele shook her head, but said nothing.
Dinner! dinner! dinner! was called out three times, and certainly people seemed to eat threefold. There was only one person who complained, "I can't eat, I cant swallow a single mouthful; it is a sad pity when there are so many good things before me; but I can't!" and this was Franzl.
Even before every one had dined, dancing had begun in the room above, and the bride and bridegroom went backwards and forwards from the dancing room to the dinner table.
"It is too bad in the Techniker to come to my wedding," said Annele to Lenz, on the stairs. "No one invited him; pray don't speak to him."
"Oh, never mind him! I wish to see no one dissatisfied to-day," said Lenz, kindly. "I am only vexed that Faller is not here. I sent a messenger to him, but I see he is not come."
Pilgrim danced the first dance with Annele, who said to him, "You are a first-rate dancer."
"But not a first-rate painter, you think?"
"I never said so."
"At all events, you won't be painted by me; and yet I had rather a fancy to-day to take your portrait. Besides, I don't think you would be easy to take: you are pretty so long as you are talking, but when you are silent there is something in your face I don't like. I can't say what it is."
"If you could only paint as well as you can chatter!"
"Well! well! you shall never be painted by me!
"I have no wish to go down to posterity painted by you," said Annele, who soon recovered her good humour.
The bridal pair were summoned to the lower room, where the most respectable of the connexions had assembled round Petrowitsch. They wished him to declare distinctly what sum he intended to bequeath to Lenz. Don Bastian, Pilgrim's cunning landlord, was the principal speaker. He had a good opportunity of larding his shabby wedding gift with another man's bacon, and he drove Petrowitsch into such a corner, that he could scarcely slip through his fingers. The blacksmith, who valued himself on being Lenz's only neighbour,—he lived about a mile from him, but his house was the only one to be seen from the Morgenhalde,—had been a schoolfellow of Petrowitsch, and knew how to put him into good humour, by recalling old times.
The Landlady thought that the presence of the young couple might do good, so she had sent for them. When they joined the circle, Petrowitsch, who was by this time at his wit's end, said—"Here is Lenz; he knows what my intentions are. In our family we don't send the public crier about to announce our affairs. You know, Lenz, how we stand, don't you?"
"Certainly, uncle," said Lenz.
"Now, I am not going to say one word more on the subject!" cried Petrowitsch, impatiently starting up. He was in mortal fear lest any one, his old schoolfellow the blacksmith especially, should discover that this was his sixty-fifth birthday, in which case he would no doubt have been congratulated on all sides, and been obliged to pay for their good wishes by making some settlement on his nephew. He pushed his way through the circle out of the room. Büble, who followed closely at his heels, howled loudly, having received a hearty kick from some invisible foot.
Lenz looked after his retreating uncle, rather disconcerted, for he felt he had not perhaps acted very prudently in helping him out of his dilemma. Petrowitsch might possibly have been induced to say something decided, and now all hope of such a thing was at an end.
But Lenz soon dismissed all such thoughts from his mind, and was as gay as possible the whole evening. Those relations who lived at a distance had already gone away. It was now time for Lenz and Annele to go home, as it is customary for a bridal pair to arrive in their own house before midnight; and Lenz said, "Annele, you were quite right; how vexed I am now that there is no carriage road to our home. Be sure you wrap yourself well up."
"You will see many a time yet that I am right in most things," said Annele.
Pilgrim had arranged the procession very artistically. The musicians went in front, and two torchbearers behind the young couple; and a number of children brought up the rear, carrying the handsomest of the wedding presents,—china, glass, trays and goblets,—and burning pine torches. When they began to ascend the hill the procession became less orderly, for they were obliged to go one by one. Lenz said to Annele, "Go on in front; I like you to take precedence in everything."
At last they reached Lenz's house at the top of the hill. The bridal gifts were delivered up, the musicians played a merry dance, and three loud shouts were given in honour of the happy pair. Then the music was heard dying away down the hill into the valley.
"We are in heaven, and know that men on earth below are rejoicing over us," said Lenz.
"I had no idea that you could talk in this way," said Annele. "How hushed and quiet it seems here all at once!"
"Wait a minute; I can welcome you with melody, and, Heaven be praised I it is for you and me alone." He wound up a large musical clock, and it played Beethoven's "Calm of the ocean!" It continued to play for long and long, and all was still in the house.
"I wish we had another wedding-feast to-day, don't you, darling Annele."
"No; why do you wish that?"
"Because my agitation yesterday destroyed great part of my pleasure in our wedding gaieties; but today I feel in such a happy mood; I feel as if I were invited to a wedding."
"You are a strange creature!" said Annele, with a smile.
"I must not forget, however," said Lenz, starting up, "that I have something to give you. Wait a moment."
He went to the next room, and remained there some time.
"What is he going to give me? No doubt it occurred to him that it is customary to present one's bride with a nice gold chain, or earrings. But then he ought to have done that yesterday: why today?" Annele had plenty of time to think it over. At last Lenz came back, and said—"At last I have found it; I had mislaid it. Here is my beloved mother's garnet necklace; they are good old fashioned stones, and they will look so well round your pretty throat. Come! try it on."
"No, Lenz; garnets are quite old fashioned; I can't wear them; besides, they scratch my throat. As I can't wear them, I will exchange them at some jeweller's."
"No, you must not do that."
"Just as you choose. But what can be your objection? What have you there besides?"
"What I would give to no living creature but you. It belonged to my poor mother. It is of no value, but still it has a charm attached to it."
"Well, show me this wonder."
"Here it is; look at it."
"What is it?"
"This is Edelweiss, a little plant that grows under the snow. Read what my mother wrote on the paper in which it is folded."
"I can't read it, the writing is so bad."
Lenz winced at this remark, though Annele only followed the custom of the country in calling an indistinct hand bad writing. She continued: "Read it to me yourself."
Lenz read aloud:—"This is a plant of Edelweiss, which grew on one of the highest mountains in Switzerland, under the snow. My husband found it himself, and thought of me when he saw it, so he brought it home with him from his wanderings, and gave it to me on our wedding day. I wish it to be placed in my hand when I am laid in the earth. If, however, this is overlooked or forgotten, my son is to give it to his wife the day after their marriage; and, so long as she preserves it carefully, it will bring a blessing with it, though it has no magic properties. This plant is named Edelweiss.—MARIE LENZIN."
When Lenz had finished reading the paper he said:—"Does it not go to your heart to hear the dead thus speak? Don't be agitated, but be gay and happy. She liked every one to be gay and happy, and was always cheerful herself, though she had known so much sorrow."
Annele smiled, and laid the plant, wrapped in paper, beside the row of garnets.
The young people talked to each other so long, that at last a message came from the "Golden Lion," that they were to make haste, as a great many guests had arrived.
Franzl made a very awkward lady's maid. Lenz was obliged to go himself first to the "Lion," to send one of the maids there to Annele. He said, also, that he would take the opportunity to go to Faller's, and press him to come to the "Lion" to-day. He must positively come, and Annele must be kind to him, and forget if he had said anything disagreeable.
Annele said: "Yes, yes; only go along, and send me Margaret as quick as you can; or Ernestine, which would be still better."
At last Annele appeared in her parents' house. The mother rushed up to her, and hugged her, as if she had not seen her for a whole year, and Annele was as gentle and respectful, as if she had never said one cross word to her mother in all her life.
In the back parlour, however, when she and her mother were alone, Annele said that Lenz had given her, a bridal present, an old string of garnets, and a withered plant; and she really could not bear to show herself among all her friends without a gold chain. "He is a skinflint; a poor stingy bit of a clockmaker!" said Annele, indignantly.
The mother showed her good sense—and if that had been the only white lie she ever uttered she would have been snow white when she got to heaven—by saying: "Annele, he is certainly not covetous; he never asked a question about your marriage portion, never gave a hint on the subject; and he is far from stupid, believe me. He is, in fact, rather too shrewd. Last night a travelling jeweller from Pforzheim came here with a large, well filled box. I saw at once that Lenz had desired him to come. He will choose for you what takes his fancy most." The mother knew that Annele did not believe this invention of hers, and Annele knew that her mother did not consider her such a fool as to credit such a fable. They both affected, however, to believe that they were mutually truthful, and the result was very happy.
Lenz was absent for some little time. He was standing beside Ernestine on the dark steps of the cellar. Presently he returned, and, exactly as her mother had predicted, he brought Annele a gold chain from the pedlar, who was in the house. To allow her to choose for herself—to say, "My darling, what do you like best?"—never occurred to him, in spite of many hints; so he did not receive many thanks for his dilatory present.
Annele, however, was soon as lively and gay as was expected. A landlord's daughter must always be merry and good-humoured, and anything that occurs in the back parlour of the family, does not extend to the public room.
If there had been numbers of carriages yesterday, there was a vast number more to-day, for all the innkeepers far and near arrived, with ringing bells round the necks of their handsome well fed horses. On such an occasion, it is but proper that people should show who they are, and what they have. The various landlords, and their wives and daughters, went about as proud of their possessions, as if they had brought their houses on their backs. Every glance seemed to say, "At home I have everything just the same, and, though I may not be as rich as the Landlord of the 'Golden Lion,' still I have every reason to be satisfied."
There were fine greetings, and friendly speeches, and thanks innumerable for handsome presents!—"Oh! that is really too much! No! this is far too handsome! No one but the Landlady of the 'Bear' would ever have thought of such a thing!" And then—"No one has so much taste as the Landlady of the 'Eagle.'—And the Landlady of the 'Angel'—I do hope we may one day act as handsomely, though we can scarcely hope to equal this!" It was truly marvellous, to hear the many hundred clever little speeches Annele made. Lenz was sometimes standing beside her, but he could not bring out a single word. Those who did not know him, thought him shy and simple; but he had a great aversion to this giving and accepting of presents, and all the fine speeches it entailed.
It was now the turn of the poor clockmakers, tributaries of the Landlord, whom he kept well under his thumb, and whose work he bought, to send off to distant countries. Annele took no notice of them, but they addressed Lenz respectfully, and expressed their great satisfaction that a clockmaker had now become the son-in-law of the Landlord of the "Lion." Many hoped, on this account, to get better terms from the Landlord, and others asked Lenz direct if he intended to give up his business, and to become a partner in the Inn. They smiled when Lenz declared he meant to remain just what he always had been. When these poor people, who even by their daily labour of fourteen hours, could only manage to live at all by the most extraordinary frugality and self-denial, and who looked thin and ill,—when even these worthy people, thought it indispensable to thrust their half-gulden pieces, and even smaller coin into Lenz's hand, as their bridal gifts, he felt as if he were handling burning coals. He would gladly have given back the money to the poor people, but he dared not offend them. He mentioned this feeling to Annele, when he could succeed in speaking to her for a moment.
She looked at him in surprise, and said, shaking her head: "My father is right,—you are no man of business. You can work and gain your own living, but you don't understand letting others work for your advantage. You are too fond of asking, 'How does so and so get on?' and that is no use. We must all drive straight on in this world, and never stop to inquire who it is that we pass on the road barefooted. But this is not the moment to lecture you. Oh! here comes the dear Landlady of the 'Lamb!' Better late than never! Though last, not least! I have been thinking of you all day, and only a few moments since I said to my mother: What can have become of that excellent Landlady of the 'Lamb,' from Edelshof? Half my pleasure would have been destroyed if you had not come to my wedding-feast! I suppose this is your daughter-in-law? Where is her husband?"
"He is still below with the horses. We scarcely know how to find stable room today."
"Yes; I am thankful to say we have many kind friends. On such a day as this, we find out how full the world is of well wishers and friends. Lenz, conduct the Landlady of the 'Lamb' to the upper table—I have kept one of the best seats for her there." And then Annele went on to welcome others.
It was only a passing hint, but still Lenz did not at all like Annele reproaching him already with thinking too much about others; and yet he was obliged inwardly to confess that it was true; and that for this very reason he was less energetic than his neighbours, and considered less shrewd than he really was. A single word or animadversion would dwell in his thoughts for days—he could not help brooding over it. At this very moment he thought—"Most men are far wiser than I am: they live for themselves, they clutch what they can get, and never ask how others fare. I must learn to do this also, and then we shall get on well together."
Lenz stood for a while absorbed in these thoughts like a stranger, as if quite unconnected with all the house and rejoicings. Soon, however, he was moving again among the throng, as the centre point of all, according to the duty of the bridegroom.
The assemblage was very crowded, and yet it was pleasant to see so many persons collected together, to rejoice in the good fortune of one happy couple. They were all so merry, that toward evening, when the guests wished to drive home, the Landlord had prepared a practical joke, having ordered Gregor to unfasten, and to hide the poles and shafts of all the sledges; so the worthy guests could not get away, and were forced to remain till long after midnight; but they consoled themselves with one accord, by the fact that the moon rose at midnight. The poor clockmakers were not detained, but some were anxious to get home, or they would lose another day's work; others, however, wished to receive the value of their wedding presents, and sat eating and drinking, as if they intended to satisfy their appetite for a year to come. Indeed, from early morning till far on in the night, fresh provisions were placed on the table—meat, and sausages, and sauerkraut without end.
Faller went about among the guests looking very stiff and awkward, but was at last relieved by Ernestine coming to assist him in serving the company. "I only do this for Lenz's sake," said he to himself, and he would have liked to say this to every person to whom he brought anything to eat. He scarcely ate or drank himself. When he was close to Lenz once, he said to him—"I have not brought you any wedding gift; I could not bear to give you little, and much I have not to give; but I would gladly give you my life if you required it."
Lenz enjoined on his worthy friend to take care of himself, and said he had now done enough for others. Just in good time he remembered that he had intended to invite old Pröbler. Faller offered to go and fetch him. Old Pröbler came, but he would not be persuaded to go into the public room, as he had no Sunday suit; so Lenz gave him a dish heaped up with meat, enough to last three days at least, and a good bottle of wine into the bargain. The old man was so surprised, that he almost forgot to offer his usual pinch of snuff; and all he said was, "I will bring back the bottle." Lenz said he might keep it, which pleased old Pröbler immensely, and he quickly took himself off.
When Lenz and Annele were on their way home, morning was almost breaking; and though the moon was up, it was again covered with heavy clouds. On this occasion they were without either escort or torches. Annele complained that it was frightfully dark, and that she was so weary she could scarcely stand. "I ought to have stayed at home to-night," said she.
"Home?—how do you mean? Your home is up on the hill there."
Annele was silent, and the two walked on together quietly for a time.
"Did you count the money we got today?" said Annele at last.
"No—I can do that at home. I know there must be a good deal, for it is such a weight. It was lucky that your father lent me one of his empty purses."
"What do you mean by empty purses? He has plenty full enough," said Annele quickly.
"I neither inquired about that, nor even once thought about it."
She now pressed forward up the hill, so that Lenz might get home to count the money. When they arrived he did so, but too slowly according to her ideas, and she soon showed him that a landlord's daughter knew better how to set about it. While she was counting, Lenz said:—"I take a different view of the case. It is just as well that we should have accepted presents from these poor people: it does them credit in the eyes of others, and enables them, one and all, to accept assistance from us in any difficulty without hesitation." Annele looked up at him in the midst of her reckoning.
Lenz had always his own peculiar reasons for everything. He never agreed to anything simply because it appeared to be so to others, but delayed his assent till he was convinced himself of the fact, and then he was thoroughly converted. Annele said nothing, but kept repeating the number she had arrived at, for fear of forgetting it. There were exactly one hundred and twenty gulden collected, deducting four bad smaller coins. Annele railed violently at those unprincipled men, who could deceive by giving base money. Lenz tried to pacify her by saying—"Don't say that—perhaps they were poor men who had nothing else to give," Annele's eyes flashed, and she replied testily:—"It appears that you know everything, and that I know nothing."
"I did not in the least mean that. Don't be so hasty."
"I never was ill-tempered in my life, and you are the first person that ever said so. Ask any one; and indeed you had pretty good proofs this very day what people think of me."
"Yes, yes! it is surely no use our quarrelling on such a subject."
"I am not quarrelling; and I am sure I don't care what the sum is—if it were only three farthings, it is all the same to me; but I don't choose to be snubbed every word I say."
"Now do be less hasty, Franzl will really think we are quarrelling."
"She may think just what she pleases; and it is just as well to tell you at once, that Franzl can't possibly stay in this house."
"You don't mean, I suppose, that she is to go tonight?"
"Not tonight, but either tomorrow or very soon."
"We will talk about it tomorrow; I am tired, and you said you were tired also."
"Yes; but when people are unjust to me, and attack me, I no longer feel tired. I have no idea of giving in."
"I neither attacked you nor wished to attack you. Remember what our Pastor said:—our honour is the same."
"You need not repeat to me what our Pastor said; and I don't think it was at all pleasant on his part, to preach as if he were reconciling two people who had already been at strife."
"God forbid he should ever have cause to do that for us. We shall, I trust, bear with each other, and live together in faithful love, both in joy and sorrow, so long as we live, as my mother used to say."
"Yes; let us show the world that we know how to keep house."
"Shall I set the musical timepiece going?"
"No; we have had enough of turmoil today."