The Ball of
Crystal by Helen
TRANSLATED BY A. I. DU P. COLEMAN, A. M.
Professor of English Literature, College of the City of New
On the long, bare slope of the Ettersberg lay the buildings that
marked the centre of an estate, not far from the Sperber property, but
not, like it, embedded in swelling fields on the side of the steep road
where the land lay broader and less precipitous. It lay nearer to the
wooded mountainside, so that the farm-buildings could look down a
little haughtily on those of the Sperber placealthough there was
really no reason for it, since the latter was not at all inferior
either in extent or in great straw-thatched barns and stables or the
The estate that lay nearer the woods belonged to an old soldier,
Captain Rauchfuss, who, after a busy life in war and peace, had retired
and come back to his native town a little stiff in the legs, to find a
corner where he could live on his little pension in quietness.
But after a few years of rest the querulous veteran had blossomed
out into the likeness of a lively fellow in the prime of life, who
enjoyed a special reputation among the Weimar townspeople as a jolly
companion. And so it came to pass that he finally installed as his wife
up at the Ettersberg the daughter of his housekeeper, a young widow,
and thus became not only a landed proprietor but the husband of a nice
little woman to boot. He sat perched like a falcon above the cramped
little town, where so many strange and remarkable things were going on,
things that seemed quite unnecessary to the old soldier.
Celebrities were going in and out down there in the narrow streets,
who were neither princes, nor generals, nor even captains, and yet the
people looked after them with respectful curiositymere quill-drivers!
It was too absurd.
As for the widow and the estate, they were not too well off in the
hands of the old soldier. He drove away from the Ettersberg oftener
than was really necessary, down to the Elephant, where he stopped and
addressed forcible language to the hostler. He spent more there than
was quite wise, in order to impress his importance upon the Elephant.
The pleasant little widow had abandoned her comfortable widowhood
without sufficient reflection: and now she had to put up as best she
might with the difficulties of Herr Rauchfuss's dispositionsighing or
complaining would do no good.
You ought to have taken more time to think about it, was all the
answer she got from her light-hearted husband. What made you marry an
old soldier? You know that isn't the same thing as a grandmother! So
she could only try and content herself, and go on looking after the
considerable estate alone.
Frau Rauchfuss became the mother of a little daughter, a regular
ruddy-golden fox's cub. That it was not a boy his wife had borne him
annoyed Captain Rauchfuss.
Thunder! This won't doit's ridiculous! Me bringing
women-creatures into the world! Really, my dear ... and such a little
vixen as that!
Yet he had himself a red brush of hair on top of his head and a
thick, fair moustache.
Oh, it's too absurd, he said. To think that I've risked my skin
all these years to come down to sitting at home within four walls and
trotting about after a little brat of a girl! Don't come near me with
itI won't touch the creature!
Captain Rauchfuss was angry and out of humor. To be a country
gentleman and husband of the pretty widow was well enough; but father
of a familythat didn't suit him at all; it was not in his line.
And oftener than before he had his trap hitched up and drove down
into Weimar; or else he went shooting over his own ground, or to
Sperber's to play bulldog with the old man and any one who happened in,
or bézique with the pastor.
He was on specially good terms with old Sperber, because he too had
a strong objection to the way things were going down in the town.
That's all silly impudence down there, he would say. Well, we'll see
how far they'll go with itwe'll see. Those fellows in the town might
give over scribbling; no cock would crow the louder, nor would loaves
of bread get any smaller. But we ...! Suppose we up there, and people
like us up and down the country were to stop working, what do you think
would happen then, my friend? Simply the end of the worldall up,
And so I don't set foot down there, if I can help it. I don't let
it irritate me any moreGod forbid. I'm very well off up here, I'm
bound to sayand I wouldn't change places with any of those frogs that
have swelled to such unnatural proportions down there in the marsh.
Indeed, the old fellows up on the Ettersberg often held discourses
over their bézique which were almost blasphemous, if you consider that
they were talking about the greatest man of Germany; without whom
Germany would not be Germany; the man to produce whom nature labored
for thousands of years, tossed up millions and millions of stupid or
average heads, more or less lacking in sense and reason.
That down there in Weimar at last the barren tree of humanity had
borne a fruit seemed to the card-players of the Ettersberg a matter of
no importance; but the tree went on producing its green leaves quite
joyously. To them this fruit, indeed, seemed to be not a fruit at all
but a blister, a perfectly unnecessary excrescence.
And they had nothing to complain of, heaven knew, up on their
Ettersberg; their fine properties were prospering.
Herr and Frau Sperber worked together, getting through the day's
business honestly and good-humoredly. Very early in the morning you
might see brisk Frau Sperber in her pink print apron, with her keys
jingling at her waist, cross the courtyard to hold a general inspection
of the stables and stock-rooms; and Herr Sperber's huge rubber boots
carried their fat little master through hedge and ditch, over ploughed
field and meadow and woodland.
On the Rauchfuss place a brave woman was working beyond her
strength; but she made it gothe two properties showed but little
difference. To be sure, it would have been much easier for Frau
Rauchfuss if her jewel of a husband had been of a less jovial
disposition and had not considered it his principal duty to show the
people down in Weimar that persons of importance lived up on the
Ettersberg, and to prove to them that no one could tell, even when he
had his heaviest load on, just how much he was carrying. He could rise
from his accustomed table and march to the door just as straight as
when he came in; and the exhibition of this faculty called for constant
If Frau Rauchfuss had not had her little daughter Beate, she might
have looked a long time for the joys of life.
The time came, however, when the child was big enough to dance about
in farm-yard and garden, looking like a flower with long golden
stamina. She was simply brimming over with merriment and delight in
being alive; and now Captain Rauchfuss condescended to take notice of
his daughter. He brought her home all sorts of toys and trifles, and
took great pleasure in seeing how quick and clever the little creature
was, in watching her scramble about and in listening to the soft lips
repeat in sweet tones the old soldier's expletives that she heard him
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Frau Rauchfuss's treasure grew to be a pretty little
schoolgirl, it befell one day that the mother went down to the town
with a heavy heart, to ask advice of her doctor about a trouble which
for some time she had been silently carrying about with her, and which
had made her work a heavy and oppressive burden. After long and anxious
consideration she had finally made up her mind to the step, and gone
off with a fervent prayer and a passionate kiss to her little girl.
And now, as she drove home again in her light carriage, it seemed to
her as if, since she came down, the beautiful world had been
transformed into a dark and unfamiliar place. She had set out with an
anxious heart, and had had no one to speak an encouraging word to her;
but still it was only down at the very bottom of her heart that there
crouched, half hidden, the fear of what was so hard to realizethat
her life might be wiped out.
Now she knew it was true. She was nearing the end of her days. The
easy-going every-day life, that went about its business as if there
were never to be an end, had been suddenly rent asunder; and through
the gap the laboring soul stared out into empty darkness.
It was so that Frau Rauchfuss came home; the well-known road looked
terrifying and strange to her, the golden grain in the fields by which
she passed, as the wind went over it, bowed sadly to her because she
must die ... she ... she alone of all the world. What was the death of
others? An empty word. To her alone death meant something. Now for the
first time it was a serious matterthe very first time on earth.
And no one had compassion on her. Her old coachman sat on the box
with bent back and urged the horses to a trot. He was not going
to dieno, only she. To herself, the poor unlearned woman that shrank
back in her terror against the hard leather cushions was the world, the
big splendid world; with her all its splendor would perish.
And this death-struggle of the world went on beneath her dotted blue
Sunday dress, which she had put on for the difficult journey to the
town. Was the seat of this bitter struggle in her breast? Was it in her
flesh and bonein her beating heartin her poor aching head? Yes,
where was the conflict going on? Could she point with her finger
and say Here? O mystery of mysterieswhere is the poor Ego with its
cosmic suffering? Is it leaning against the hard cushions of the
carriage? Is it flesh and boneis it a living point, in which all this
pain is now alive?
The woman's passive nature woke up, became sharply penetrating, was
alive for the first time. Struck through by the certainty of death, she
became conscious that she was alivealmost as it was when she had her
first consciousness of her child's life, in the same mysterious and yet
Then she shut her troubled eyes; and before her mind rose up her
little golden-haired child, her only treasure, her darling. Burning
tears flowed from her eyes, and her own life, the sacred centre of
life, was again shaken, this time by pure love and anxiety about her
dearest. Who would care for the childwho in all the world? Only a
few more years, she sobbed, so that they shan't spoil her!
And as this torture grew overpowering, a ray of comfort stole into
her darkened soul. Who knew whether it was as bad as they thought? And
though she had seen her own mother die of the same disease, why might
it not be different with her?
So she went on from one stage of suffering to another, broke down
under her cross only to raise herself again, and again to fall, as once
our Lord and Saviour did.
When she drove into the courtyard, her face was calm, her tears
wiped away. This she had done automatically, of long habit. It was time
now for her to be silent as to her suffering, and to live what must be
wholly within herself.
Where is Beate? she asked the maid.
With the master, in the garden.
The mother set out to find her, for she needed to fold her child in
her arms, and went through the house into the garden.
When she drew near the great lime-tree, which was now in full bloom
and looked like a fine golden net shot through with glimmering golden
pearls, she heard the powerful laugh of her lord and master, and the
sweet voice of her child like the twitter of birds answering it.
Tubby, he cried in his mighty bass, you're a little rogue! The
child laughed aloud.
With disquiet and emotion the mother drew nearer. On the wide bench
under the tree sat the captain, a bottle of wine by his side. He was
making the child drink from his glass.
The youngster has a good capacity, he muttered with a grin. Now
dance some more, Tubby! The child skipped and danced, her red-gold
hair tumbling about her flushed face. Confounded little witch! A
regular soldier's girl! the merry old fellow growled in his red beard.
And the evening glow shone upon the red beard of the father and the red
wealth of hair of the dancing child.
They are of one blood, she said to herself; and she stood as if
everything were over already, and she only a departed spirit watching.
Then anger, a deadly anger, rose up in her. She rushed at her
husband. What are you doing to her? she cried in anguish. Lookonly
look! You've let her drink too much! Oh ...!
Well, what of it? said the captain with a thick tongue, taken
aback by the sudden onslaught.
Little Beate stopped dancing, frightened, and looked at them with
strange, doubtful eyes.
Oh, you finicky creatures! What wishy-washy stuff! Women are fools!
I should think a fellow might be allowed ... growled Herr Rauchfuss.
The child made an odd movement, stretched out her arms to her
mother, staggered and fell, her face hidden by her arms, sobbing. The
mother bent anxiously over her.
There, Tubbydon't be a baby! stammered the old man. You ought
to be ashamed of yourselfa good stomach isn't upset by a couple of
mouthfuls! You a soldier's daughter!
The mother took the little girl in her arms and carried her to the
house, paying no more attention to Herr Rauchfuss, who looked after her
with a forced laugh.
In the room where she and the child slept, she laid Beate, still
dressed, on the bed. The child kept on sobbing; her face was burning,
and her eyes glowed as with fever. Frau Rauchfuss knelt by the bed in
grief and fear. What was she to do? She simply did not know. To whom
could she commend her poor little girl? Now that she had acquired
certainty about herself, she felt for the first time her weakness and
helplessness. At the physician's words a heavy burden had fallen upon
her which she could not shake off.
As the darkness slowly crept into the room, she still knelt there,
holding her child's hand and sadly racking her brains. Finally she
undressed the child, who was now fast asleep, and herself lay down to
She had the feeling that she was only a guest in her own house.
Anguish came over her, and fear; the weight on her heart was as though
she were buried for all eternity under a huge gloomy mountain. Plans of
all sorts chased each other feverishly through her mind. What could she
do? She thought of going to all the people she knew, whom she felt to
be kind-hearted and begging them to watch over her child; to the
Sperbers, her neighbors, to old Frau Kummerfelden who had a
sewing-school in Weimar, to her pastor. She found few, as she passed
them in review for qualities of heart and head, of whom she could be
sure that they would not soon forget her prayer.
At last she grew weary of thinking and planning, and nestled down
upon the bosom of her weariness as in her mother's arms. A mournful old
hymn that she had been used to sing went through her head before she
A stranger and a pilgrim
On this terrestrial sphere,
Be peace, O Lord, my portion
While yet I tarry here.
Let me not fix my dwelling
Here on a foreign shore:
The heart to earth is fettered
That seeks of gain a store.
I'll wear but pilgrim's clothing,
O Lord, while here I stay;
For all our cherished treasures
The winds must bear away.
The sun of every mortal
Goes down at last in night,
And flown before you taste it
Is every dear delight.
The next day, in the bright summer evening light, Frau Rauchfuss
took her child by the hand, and they went through the garden and passed
out of a little gate to a narrow path that ran through swelling, sunny
fields up to the wood; then they rambled slowly under the trees.
Little Beate clung close to her mother, for this was a rare treat to
wander in such a holiday fashion with the busy, hard-working woman.
Look, look, mother! she kept crying at every moment: There comes
something! There's something! Listena woodpecker! a deer!
The arms of the sturdy ten-year-old quivered with joy. Frau
Rauchfuss felt her child's delight in life. It went keenly to her
heart, and she pressed the little girl closely to her. Ah, if God
would only grant, dear, that everything might go on just as it is!
They came to the other side of the wood which lies like a broad band
across the slope of the Ettersberg, where there was a very old wayside
shrine without a saint. The saints had been too long exposed to the
weather and to the onslaughts of Protestantism, and were worn away,
broken, and vanished. Nothing was to be seen but a dilapidated low
wall, on which the sorrowful Mother of God had once stood. Fran
Rauchfuss sat down wearily on it and lifted her child to her lap.
Together they looked out silently over the world which is closed to the
people of Weimar, the world that lies behind the Ettersberg, a
sunshiny, grain-bearing landscape, over which lay the last warm,
lingering rays of the evening sun.
What's the matter, mother? You're so quiet!
This time yesterday I had to carry you to bed because you had drunk
too much. The child hid her face in her mother's neck. Other
children, she went on calmly, while they are young, have a mother to
watch over them. The time will come when you will have none. Other
children have a father who helps them and advises them. That your
father cannot do. Presently you will be quite alone, and will have to
help yourself in every difficulty, and at the same time to look after
your father and see that nothing happens to him.
The child raised her head and looked at her mother with
astonishment. You will be all alone; you must learn to think now what
is right and wrong. Tears sprang to the eyes of the frightened child.
The mother's eyes were as moist as the little girl's; and they gazed at
each other with sad, uncertain faces. Frau Rauchfuss let her head fall
on the soft, yielding shoulder of her child, and a mighty sob tore
itself loose from her laden heart. The loving fair-haired child stroked
her mother's face and pressed more closely to her.
I am ill, my darlingI cannot live very much longer; and I'm so
worried I don't know what to do, because I must leave you alone with
your father. No one will look after you.
A sort of convulsion passed through the child's body, which the
mother felt in the clinging arms. Then the little thing let go of her,
and took the edge of her apron and passed it gently across her mother's
eyes. Don't cry, she saidI shall be all right. Frau Rauchfuss
looked down into a pair of earnest and determined eyes. Put your head
down on my shoulder again, and don't worry, said the child. The
mother's heart was wonderfully lightened; she felt that she had with
her a noble little being who could bring her comfort.
If you die, said the child gravely, will they put you in a coffin
and carry you away and put you in the ground and cover you all up with
Yes, said the mother.
Won't you ever be able to come back?
No. Then I shall be with God.
Is God good? asked the child.
YesGod is good.
Good ...? the child said thoughtfully.
The mother looked at her with surprise. Other mothers don't tell
their children when they are going to die; but I had toit was needful
that you should know.
That's all right, said the child; tell me everything. Tell me all
I must do at home, after you're dead. I'll look after father.... And
when are you going to die?
I don't know yet.
Well, then ... said the child. They sat a while in silence on the
low wall, on which in the times long ago the statue of the sorrowful
Mother of God had stood. The child was not crying now, but gazing
steadily and seriously before her. The mother also wept no longer; she
had found comfort, and looked down wonderingly at the strong, grave
little thing that sat by her side. From this day she felt herself no
more alone or comfortless.
And when, a year later, the time to die really came, and she held
the hand of Beate, now eleven years old, in hers, she felt confident
that the child would know how to help herself and others. She commended
her to God, but to no one else. In the last hard moments of the
struggle she felt that she had some one noble and strong by her,
comforting her with silent power.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
And now Captain Rauchfuss was all alone with his little Tubby.
His wife had often been an uncomfortable companion to him. He had
imagined something quite different under the name of a wife; and now it
was not so very different with his little Tubby. He expected to find
in her a pretty little plaything, and began to realize that instead he
had got growing up in his house a small person whom he had to respect,
He went off to the town with just as uncomfortable a conscience as
before, and growled in his red beard at womenfolks that put on airs,
whom a man would have to show their place or send to the devil.
Frau Rauchfuss had taken care to provide a capable woman to look
after the house and a bailiff for the estate, so that Beate's
inheritance might be kept in good condition in spite of her
light-headed father. In this plain and thrifty company Herr Rauchfuss
was not at all at his ease. He went on drinking as before; and it was
no longer requisite that it should be the Elephant where he washed
down his worries and his ill-temper. Any tavern would do, even up
behind the Ettersberghe was not so particular. But he still remained
a reputable member of society with his wits about him, behaving with
perfect propriety in the tavern parlor and still proud of his ability
to walk and talk straight after an indefinite number of glasses.
As Beate grew older, she went down every morning at five o'clock in
the milk-wagon to the town, winter and summer, to go to school, and got
down in the Entenfang at Madame Kummerfelden's. The child stayed with
her until school began, had dinner with her at midday, took part in the
famous sewing-class with the other girls under the kind, lively
teacher, and then went home in the wagon when it brought the afternoon
Good Frau Kummerfelden took a great deal of pleasure in the child's
companybut she had some left over for the father also. When, arrayed
in one of her flowered dresses and a cap tilted up over her still
youthful face, she took her coffee comfortably on Sunday afternoons in
the little house in the Entenfang, it was not at all disagreeable to
her to have the old sinner pass an hour with her. He got two or three
drinks of schnapps, some of the best snuff any nose could wish, and
extra strong coffee, that even a throat as hardened as his could taste
when it went down.
It's good to see something like a man now and then, she said; and
Rauchfuss with his red beard and his giant stature and his mighty
stride reminds an old woman like me that there are still men on earth,
which one goes near to forgetting in these endless sewing-classes of
wretched little girls!
And, to tell the truth, she liked just such an old reprobate. Yes,
she said once to her friend, if the good God were a woman, which isn't
such an impossible thing to imagine, the men would get a pretty good
deal up above. The worst scapegraces would be handled most graciously,
as they are here on earthwhere a man can do without any morals and be
loved and run after because he's got a way with him. By such
discourses the wise woman established herself in the captain's favor,
and was able to make herself very much at home with him. Often she
scolded him as if he were a schoolboybut he took it in the
With a man you must never come straight out with a thing. Spread
plenty of honey about your mouth, and while they're licking it off they
get the right thing with it, what they should get. That's the only
way. So said the old woman often. And thus she gave it him roughly and
merrily, like many another clever woman, and had a submissive friend
for her pains.
The captain was foolishly vain of Tubby's beauty. The old friends
were sitting together one Sunday afternoon in the little house in the
Entenfangthe captain and the old actress turned sewing-teacher.
Well, Rauchfuss has got a pretty good-looking daughter, eh, my good
Kummerfelden? Such plump, firm armsand the walk of her! A well set up
creatureand then her red-gold hair, and her confounded eyes! Eh,
Kummerfelden, I didn't do a bad piece of work there, did I? Look at all
the generation that's growing upcan you show me her like?
Now, now, said Frau Kummerfelden; you needn't be stuck up about
it, my good sir. She is more than half the daughter of her noble
Eh, what? Noble? said the captain. Deuce take itbeauty's the
thing in a woman. There you are!
You old fool! said Frau Kummerfelden. What was it kept your
property in such fine condition? Was it your wife's beauty, or her
Ah, bah! Of course non-essentials have their use too. But the main
thing ... Lookshe might have gone down on her knees to me, and I'd
never have married Frau Rauchfuss if she hadn't been such a fetching
The Lord have mercy on you men! said Frau Kummerfelden, stirring
the sugar in her coffee. You choose one that takes your fancy, and you
call her beautiful as long as you care for her. What sort of a life did
your wife have up there, lonely and deserted, as if she'd married a log
I say, Kummerfelden! Thunderyou're saying a good deal!
Because it's the truth! said Frau Kummerfelden crossly. And a
rocking-horse would make as good a father as you are to that dear
child. What kind of a way is that to doto come home drunk at two
o'clock in the morning, without a thought for the poor little thing
that's waiting for you half asleep to help you to bed, you old rascal?
And at that hour of the morning you make the good little thing get you
a cup of coffee; and you take it like a thankless fool. Pooh, captain,
I don't expect any man to be a pattern of morality and temperance. But
even for a man there are some limitsand those limits you
overstep, my good sir!
On this particular day Frau Kummerfelden was more than usually put
out with her old friend on account of something that had just come to
her ears. But none the less she poured him out his third cup of strong
coffee, and waited on him just as attentively as if he had been Saint
And another thing, she saiddo you suppose the good child ever
talks of the way you go on? Not a syllable! People might tear her in
little pieces and they wouldn't get a word out of her that wasn't to
A soldier's childdamn it all! cried the captain, bringing down
his fist on the table. She gets that from me, the little rogue!
Frau Kummerfelden put up both her busy hands to her big cap, as if
to protect it from hearing impossible things. Lord save us! she said.
There's no use talking to people like you.
When Captain Rauchfuss's daughter had reached her seventeenth year,
it came to pass that the old man got involved in a love-affair. On his
Sunday visits to Frau Kummerfelden about this time he had often found
there a neat little widow who professed a charming devotion to her old
teacher. After her husband's death she had been left in poor
circumstances. She came to consult Frau Kummerfelden very seriously
about a project of settling down in Weimar as a nurse; and she made it
all so touching and edifying that the captain, who happened to be
present at some of these discussions, found his heart growing quite
warm. Moreover, the little woman had a fascinating heart-shaped face,
broad in the brow and pointed at the chin, and a pair of round, merry
That'd be the kind of nurse for me, said the captain; a lively
creature, who'd make the whole business look less bad. It would be
Shame on you, old simpleton! said Frau Kummerfelden crossly.
Well, but, Kummerfelden, said the captain, you're a stately old
frigate with that cap of yours. A light modern craft like our Marianne
sails in different waters from such a venerable ship of virtueeh,
Oh, really, captain, pouted the little woman. Do you think I am
not serious about all this? And once more she paraded her virtues and
her edifying design before the eyes of the good old woman and Herr
A devil of a girl! muttered the captain in his red beard.
Oh yes, said the neat little woman, making a charming gesture with
her little heart-shaped head, about which she had tied a snow-white
three-cornered piece of linen to give herself a tidy and almost nunlike
appearanceoh yes, I like that! A devil of a girl.... Well, you'll
find out what sort of a girl I am if you ever get into my hands! I'd
take charge of the cooking as wellnobody knows how to get up tempting
little dishes for an invalid's appetite, so that his spirits begin to
come back to him at the very smell of the broth I make him. And another
thing I may saywith me a patient can save on doctors' visits. I
learned a great many things from my poor motherall kinds of wonderful
remedies, for gout and things like that ... the doctors' noses are out
Haven't got it! said the captain.
Well, so much the better, said the little woman. But I should be
in demand, I think. For who is there now? A couple of old slow-coaches,
that rattle at every move they make, and your friend the old
raven-mother, Frau Kummerfelden, whose rough paws would kill anything
at all delicate.
Now, now, said Frau Kummerfelden, you mustn't say anything about
the raven-mothershe's a splendid old soul.
Soul, perhaps ... but a little too much body with it! said the
little woman, spinning round to emphasize her dainty figure.
Well, facts are facts, said Frau Kummerfelden. The raven-mother
is perhaps a trifle massively built. To be sure, last winter, when I
was full of all kinds of pains, she picked me up out of bed and put me
in again like a child. It's true she puffed and snorted over it as if
she'd been Saint Christopher, which wouldn't suit everybody.
No, no, no, said the little widow, one must know how to move
without making a noise.
One day the pretty little woman said, It's time for me to be
getting home nowmy gentlemen will be waiting for me. One of them will
need me to get his beer for him.
Gentlemen? said the captain, taken aback. What kind of gentlemen
have you got?
For board and lodging, she said; and her merry heart-shaped face
with its round brown eyes looked up rather challengingly at the old
The devil! he cried.
What's the matter with you? said Frau Kummerfelden. It's a very
good thing that Providence has sent a couple of decent, sensible men
into this part of the town, or how should the poor thing live?
The captain laughed a little awkwardly. When she had gone, he got up
stiffly from the table and walked about the room. That boarder
business doesn't please me at all, he said crossly.
Look at the man! laughed Frau Kummerfelden. Captain, you needn't
worry yourself. She's so clever that you have no thread fine enough to
thread her needle.
From that day neither the captain nor the little widow was ever
missing from Frau Kummerfelden's on Sunday afternoon, until it got too
much for the old lady. It was some time before she began to notice that
the captain and the young woman were getting to be on terms of
Lord, she said within herself, Thou hast chosen to ordain that my
eyes should never see a man who couldn't get a woman, a man whom no
woman would look at. Amen.
When she finally became aware of what was going on, she began to
make excursions into the country on Sunday afternoons. She took her
sewing-bag, put on a big hat over her cap, dressed herself in a
becoming flowered dress, and locked the door of the house in the
Entenfang behind her. Then she went off to contemplate God's free
nature, picking up on the way a few rolls at the baker's, so that she
might have something to dip in her coffee at Rödchen, Tröbsdorf, or
Well, she said to herself, we've got 'Tubby' to the point where
she doesn't need a stepmother; it's quite unnecessary that she should
have one at all, least of all Frau Marianne. I believe in giving every
one their duebut I wouldn't risk a penny on betting that her heart is
even as big as an old hen's that you make soup out of. I really don't
see any reason why we should provide her with a sinecure up on the
The first Sunday or two that the captain found the door locked, he
was very much annoyed with Frau Kummerfelden. An old woman like that,
he growled in front of the door, steals God's days from himand just
when there's some use to be got out of her, she's off!
So far the captain's love had been easy and comfortable to bear, a
smooth and happy love. But now it began to trouble his bones like the
gout. Getting old ... getting old, he thought to himself; he went to
the Elephant to refresh his forces, to dull his longing, to drown his
discomfortand yet he did not succeed. An unconquerable restlessness
drove him hither and thither. Ten times in the day he marched with
majestic steps through the little town, and could have wished it were
ten times as big. At last he summoned up courage to pay a visit to the
object of his adoration with due formality, but was scornfully repulsed
by the lady herself. Did he think she received visits from gentlemen?
That took him woefully aback. When she's got the house full of men
boarders! he said to himself.
His astonishment was so plainly to be read in the old soldier's face
that the pretty; little, woman quite understood it, and said to him in
a friendly tone: My dear Captain, people understand that a poor widow
has to make a living; but if I were to let any one that chose come and
visit me, I should soon be nicely talked about. So you mustn't mind,
Captain. As she said this, she looked very charming, her face tinted
by a sweet blush, for as a matter of fact she was not very much pleased
to have her admirer standing in front of her door, in the tiny garden,
for all the world to see. But, she said, looking down modestly, it
might be all right for me to take a little walk some day and pay a
visit to your daughter ...
To Tubby! he laughed, surprised. On a Sunday, then, when Tubby's
at home, he said slyly, and made such a bow as he had had no occasion
to make, in years. Her prudent behavior proved to him that she looked
upon him without disfavor, and he was thus in an excellent temper.
That evening Tubby had a good deal of trouble with her father. He
got out of the trap with decidedly unsteady steps. Up to that time he
had always marched in a very stately manner through the courtyard,
unnaturally straight, his moustache standing out stiffly, his hand
behind him, like a man who is ready to face anybody's eyes with a
Well, look at me!
The trouble had always begun after he got into the house; then he
had collapsed and given poor Tubby a lot of trouble and distress; he
had scolded her crossly and even struck her, and then passed to
extravagant praises, staring at her with glassy eyes, until the poor
child was terribly frightened.
But this evening he was queerer than ever before. He sat in his
armchair, and seemed to be busy with something that was not there.
Go, he said, or stay, if you like! And then he began to stroke the
cat, which was not there.
Father, said the girl, what's the matter with you? What kind of a
joke is this? The cat isn't there.
You goose, said Herr Rauchfuss, have you got a hole in your eyes
big enough for the cat to get through? He stood up and pretended to be
playing with the invisible cat. There ... What? You'd bite, would you?
That's something new! Like a dog ... the beast! His face took on a
dull red, and the veins in his temples stood out. He gave a kick.
Therethat'll teach her a lesson! Such a brute was never nailed up to
a barn door!
He sat down again as if satisfied, breathing heavily. He looked ill.
Now he had grown quite pale, with a bluish tint under the eyes, and his
glance was expressionless. The child would have called the housekeeper,
but she was afraid to stir from her place, and began to cry bitterly.
Herr Rauchfuss broke out again: There ...! It's back againdon't you
see it? he cried angrily. Open your eyes! He stared stonily in front
of him. There's no doing anything with a beast like that. Out you go!
And he made as if to thrust it away with his foot.
All at once a tender mood came over him. Tubby, he said in a weary
voice, you've got to be a good girl ... What do you suppose it costs
me to see to it that you are? To bring up a motherless child is no easy
job for an old sinner. Go, child, brew me a grog, a fine one ... an
infernally fine one ... that'll do me good!
Such remarkable scenes as this took place now more frequently. In
between there were calm days, on which Herr Rauchfuss did not seem to
be feeling particularly well. Sometimes he would eat nothing all day,
and was out of humor and dull.
On a fine summer afternoon Frau Marianne, the young widow, came
wandering up to the Ettersberg through the swelling fields, and asked
for Mamsell Beate Rauchfuss, whom she found in the garden. The child
was lying asleep on the lawn that was used for bleaching, and did not
wake when the stranger approached her.
Queer, thought the young widow, to lie and sleep like that! What
does the girl do with herself, I wonder, the whole day long? She
looked at the auburn hair that was wound in a great coil around the
head, the tender face, the small well-cut nose, the mouth that seemed
to be a compound of strength and sorrow, the young body in a short pink
dress; a pair of round childish arms; brown hands that attracted the
eye. One of them was clenched as if to say, What I hold, I hold; what
I will, I will.
The young widow thought to herself, The fine estate would be well
enough, and the old man too. But the girl ...! It was really too bad
that a poor woman should have to go to so much trouble in order to have
a place to slip intothat one might be good and clever and pretty, and
yet all that didn't help. However you took it, it was always a
difficult business ... She thought of her boarders, and of more than
one pleasing possibility that had slipped through her fingers.
The young girl woke up, uneasily conscious of a stranger's gaze, and
looked at her with astonishment and momentary alarm.
I have come up to pay you and your father a visit, said Frau
Marianne, a little embarrassed, for the unrecognizing, inquiring glance
showed her that Beate knew nothing of her. Your father asked me to
come and look you up some day.
My father ...? said Beate slowly and thoughtfully.
How is your father?
The child answered with a short, hard monosyllable: Well.
What a charming, lively gentleman he is!
The young girl was silent, and looked straight before her with a
troubled face. She did not know how to take this dainty, friendly
person; the sweet awkwardness of youth lay heavy upon her, she was not
used to talking with strangers, and the wonderful deep summer sleep
still held her eyelids.
What a nice place you have here! said the older woman, hoping at
last to find some echo to her friendliness. Beate gave a slight nod.
Is it true that your father eats a rose before breakfast every day in
summer, in order to keep so fresh and young?
A rose ...? The girl seemed to start out of a reverie. Yes, I
think I remember hearing him say that he used to do that. Did he tell
Yes, said the widow, and it must be a good system. When one sees
him going along with that stately tread of his, one can see that it
Tubby! cried a powerful voice from the house. Where are you? And
as Tubby looked up, she saw her father approaching with that identical
stately tread. He must indeed have consumed many roses, for he seemed
to be transformedshe had never seen him look like that in all her
recollection. Could it be trueonly today, at table, so lowering and
ill-humored and full of disgust for everything ... and now ...! The red
beard seemed to glow, the eyes sparkled, and he walked on air. Beate
opened her eyes wide.
That's fine, Frau Marianne! cried Herr Rauchfuss. You've actually
taken this long sunny walk in order to be a little company for my poor
girl. I appreciate it, I can tell you!
The young girl looked anxiously at her father and the guest. What
was this new idea of providing company for her? She had long been used
to loneliness in her upland home. It was true, she had often wished
that the Kirsten girls and their friends whom she met at the
sewing-school and now and then at the Sperbers' would come up and see
her; but then the thought came ... suppose they were to see her father
as she often saw himand the desire for company went out.
But Beate's loneliness had been a wonderfully strenuous loneliness.
Like a little wild animal she had lived in the shady garden, had slept
under the trees or out in the full sunlight, and dug and planted and
run about through field and wood without any one questioning her
movements. When it was time to work, she had stoutly lent a hand, at
sowing-time or harvest, in stable and dairy, in the orchard and the
vegetable-garden. The men and maids all respected her, and said, Just
see how she takes hold of everything, as sensibly as a grown-up
And in winter she scarcely missed companions of her own age and
kind; in the big servants' hall there was always something interesting
to listen tothings were called by their right names, and a rough
world grew up before her mind in which even the ghosts were of a
concrete and tangible nature. In the servants' hall the atmosphere was
fairly clean as regards jokes and silly stories. Like a child of the
people, she soon knew all about love, but without any desire to
experience it. There was nothing mysterious and alluring about it for
her; it was a thing that had to be, like sowing and reaping, like life
and death. For her there was no veil over the phenomena of the world,
not even death. All was as it was, and must be accepted.
And so the relation between her father and the guest struck her at
once as peculiar. In the servants' hall they had more than once tried
to tease her by telling her that her father would some day bring a
stepmother home to her. And now she thought, Is this the one?
She found the newcomer beautiful: her daintiness, her pleasant
smile, her dark, well-arranged locks, all charmed her. In fact, the
young woman seemed a wonder to her by the side of her own bashful
It was a lively afternoon up at the old farm-house; not for years
had the sound of such bright feminine laughter been heard there.
The housekeeper got up an excellent tea and spread it in the garden
under the same tree where Frau Rauchfuss had once watched her child
dance, feeling like a departed spirit. She laid a clean white cloth on
the table, and brought out some special fresh-baked little cakes. Young
Beate cut some flowers and put a bouquet on the tea-table. Frau
Marianne almost drowned herself in the abundance of her own amiability,
and the captain was like the ghost of his departed youth.
Beate sat very still and looked on, comparing this one fine summer
day with all the summer, winter, spring and autumn days that she
remembered. She clenched her firm little hands in an effort to keep
back the tears, and stared at her father, from whom so much sorrow had
come to her life, and thought of the joyless existence of her mother.
No, thought the child, she mustn't come here to usI should be
sorry for her. It doesn't matter about meI know everything already.
When the pretty widow drove off in the little carriage, the captain
kissed her hand tenderly and with assurance. She departed full of
triumph; she had him now, the old fellow! And how comfortably the
carriage rolled along. It was the same carriage in Which Frau
Rauchfuss, crouching down against the leather cushions, had come back
to her house in mortal sadness.
Frau Marianne was in a haughty mood, and thought lightly of her
boarders. When she rolled up to her doorit was getting lateshe was
thinking, Herr Leinhose ought to have had his beer some time ago, and
Herr Oehmchen his sausage ... Oh, bother! It'll do them good to be kept
waiting for once. They were both sitting in the living-room when she
came in, and looked at her somewhat sourly. One of them took out his
watch and looked at it, as an indignant creditor looks at his bill.
We're latewe're late! he said significantly. The little widow
answered with a light laugh. The hunger of her boarders seemed not to
touch herthese same boarders who used to be so near her heart and
whose welfare had been her greatest care; for no bachelor is better
looked after than when a little woman who regards him as a possible
suitor has charge of his affairs.
For a year and a day both of them had received this care from the
little widow, and both of them were on such terms with her that she
believed she had only to choose between them. One was waiting for an
increase of salary, which might happen any day; the other had a nice
little lawsuit on concerning an inheritance, and might at any moment be
master of a few thousand thalers, enough at least to make a good start.
They were, in short, both gentlemen of the fairest prospects; and a
little widow who thought about marrying again could afford to go out of
her way to feed them well and make them comfortable. They were both of
the right age, neither too old nor too young.
So they looked up in considerable astonishment at their
boarding-mistress, who seemed entirely unmoved by their ill-humor, and
was very calmly putting away her hat and cape in the lavender-perfumed
chest of drawers. What could have come to her?
They waited and waited. The little widow was positively dawdling
over the preparations for supper. And when at last it came, she set it
in front of them not with the charming manner to which they were
accustomed, but quite indifferently. And the sausage was not as fresh
and crisp as usual.
The young woman took her seat by the window and began to spin. This
was the time when they had always been accustomed to discuss the
program of the meals for the next day. At supper-time they had thus a
double peaceful pleasure, by virtue of their imagination and its
creative powers. But this also was missing tonight. She spun and smiled
dreamily to herself; and the two boarders at their supper had ceased to
exist for her. She was keeping house at the fine farm up on the
hillside; she was wandering in spirit through stable and kitchen, she
was changing the places of the furniture in the sitting-room to suit
her taste, and feeling herself at last in her proper place.
Suddenly there resounded at the house-door a loud and peculiar
knock. When the little widow reascended the stairs, the boarders heard
hesitating footsteps following her. She came in showing some
excitement, and after her came a visitor for whom the boarders were not
prepareda childish, red-haired girl. She wore a shawl over her head,
half covering her hair; but it overflowed in ringlets and stray
The soft figure, neither tall nor short, the tender, rosy
countenance, the sharply-marked dark eyebrows, all these made the
apparition which remained silently at the door so visionary and
remarkable that Herr Oehmchen and Herr Leinhose stopped with their
mouths full to stare. But the fair apparition did not move, and stared
at the two men in helpless confusion.
Why, Mamsell Rauchfuss, said the little woman with the
heart-shaped face, to what do I owe the pleasure ...?
The strange creature did not answer, but kept on staring. Evidently
she was struggling with something that she wanted to say and could not.
Oh, but won't you sit down, Mamsell? said Herr Leinhose, pulling
up a chair to the table.
Tell me, for heaven's sake, what has happened! cried the widow in
a faint voice.
Then the strange being sat down on the chair, threw her arms out
desperately on the table, buried her face in them, and began to sob.
The widow laid a soothing hand on her shoulder. Oh, don't marry my
father! came out passionately and yet with a tender sound like a
breath of spring from between the sobs. It would be such a pity for
you! The girl now gave free rein to her tears.
But who is thinking of any such thing? asked the little widow,
Yes, you areyou are! And so is my fatherI know it! For heaven's
sake, don't! You've no idea how wretched it is up there. Her sobs were
so wild and unrestrained that it seemed she had been damming them up
for years, and now it was like the breaking loose of a torrent in the
spring. I was so afraid that I ran all the way downI just had to
tell you! It would have been a great sin if I hadn't. If you only knew
how sad my poor mother always was, and how sadlyhow sadlyshe died!
The poor dear child, meaning so well in her anguish of heart and yet
doing the widow such an ill turn, was still resting her head with its
glorious crown of hair on her outstretched arms. She did not see how
the two boarders were casting amused glances at the widow, or how pale
her face was and full of woe at the thought of labor spent in vain and
hope dispelled. Solitary in the midst of these three, who all had their
own private thoughts, the lovely young creature wept.
Ah ... ah ...! said Herr Oehmchen at lastOur beloved Frau
Marianne! His voice sounded rather poisonous. Heaven only knew whether
he had ever taken any advantage of the kindness and readiness of his
benefactressbut he wished to be the one to choose or to reject, not
she. He was the injured one. Herr Leinhose's conduct was very
similar; he also felt himself a lord of creation, and relieved himself
by a grieved and unkind remark or two. The little widow was helpless
against the two men so fully armed with injustice.
The picture of the four puppets which Fate had dancing on its thread
now underwent a change which completely altered the situation. The eyes
of the boarders were no longer directed in anger and injured dignity at
the pretty widow, but fell with complacency and sympathy upon the
weeping girl, who now found friends at the expense of another, as so
often happensif one loses, another must win.
Really, can none of us do anything to help Mamsell Rauchfuss to
compose herself? Herr Leinhose shot out of the door, and returned with
a glass of cold water. Here, Mamsell, he said as gently as a child's
nurse, drink a mouthful of this! Frau Marianne looked up in
amazement; such a note in his voice she had never heard! The two men
had always been well taken care of, only too well, by her, and they had
absolutely no excuse for seeking revenge upon her for fancied wrongs.
But when a man woos, he likes to see the woman in need of help, however
much this characteristic alters after he has won her.
Oh dear! thought the pretty widowThere it is! She could do
nothing but look on while both of them offered their services to the
young girl. Their voices grew tenderer and tendererpositively carried
away by emotion. The poor lonely girl felt some good from these kind
voices; she began to be more composed, and looked up.
The rosy face, slightly swollen from crying, under the crown of red
hair, quite visibly inflamed the enthusiasm of the boarders. They
simply poured forth kindness and amiability; and Frau Marianne could
not be too far behind them for fear of making herself ridiculous; so
she was forced to show a certain amount of motherly tenderness toward
the disturber of her peace.
Poor thing, she was now learning by experience that love is not to
be ensnared by correct deportment and just deserts. So she was obliged
to put up with it while her two well-nourished boarders, on whom she
had lavished so much conscientious labor, escorted the little brat home
in the darkness to the Ettersberg. She was also obliged to endure it
when the stupid girl, in her passionate anxiety, threw her arms around
her once more, saying, You would be sad and unhappyand you're so
pretty and nice! Oh, if I could only learn to be like you!
It was hardly necessary for young Beate to have brought so much
disturbance into the house of the unfortunate widow; for Captain
Rauchfuss soon after grew very weak and showed signs of breaking up.
The evil thing came upon him which attacks so many fine fellows that
have drunk freely and stoutly all their days, and condemns them to see
the light of life go out slowly amid pains and tortures. Captain
Rauchfuss began to live in the midst of wonderful tormenting illusions.
He saw things that other people could not see; and since the majority
rules on this earth, and exceptions are penalized, Herr Rauchfuss was
obliged to make a journey now and then to Jena, to a physician whose
house offered a hospitable retreat for such peculiarly affected
gentlemen, until such time as they had provisionally, at least, laid
aside certain errors and misconceptions.
The less severe attacks he fought through on the Ettersberg, in his
old home; and it was there that his last hour found him.
The Sperbers had come, and old Frau Kummerfelden also, when they
heard that Herr Rauchfuss was about to depart. They wanted, in his last
hour, to be near the old fellow who had led his life as foolishly and
light-heartedly as most people, both for his own sake and for Beate's.
And so they sat in an adjoining room, while Herr Rauchfuss prepared
himself amid great sufferings for his long journey; they sat and drank
coffee, which the housekeeper was always making fresh, and ate ham
sandwiches. That night the doctor stayed up at the Ettersberg and
chatted with the three old people.
Tubby watched by her father's bedside through it all, like a brave
soldier. It was a hard death, and the child looked into the horrors of
life as into a blazing furnace. She herself had so much life and
sunshine in her that it was as though Life itself were standing by the
You rascal, you! cried Herr Rauchfuss angrily. Just wait a
bityou see how it goes? Soldier's child ... soldier's child!
After he had lain awhile in the night very quiet and indifferent, he
said in a faint voice, Let Sperber come. And when his old neighbor
entered, he felt for his hand and held on to it as if in terror; but
nothing could be done for him. He wanted to speak, and after a hard
struggle he got out, wellbornand dyingvery illold friendold
Now, now, said Sperber, good-naturedly trying to soothe him, we
all have to come to itall come to it ... Oh, my God! So he held the
old sinner's hand, with whom he had played so many games of bézique and
had so many good drinks, while the poor foolish soul in mortal agony
fluttered over the threshold of the door that leads from life to death.
The summer after her father's death seemed to bring a wonderful
blossoming-time to the young girl. That was a summer! No long rainy
spellsnow and then a heavy storm bursting over the old Ettersberg;
showers in the night, and fresh, dewy, sunny morningssuch a summer,
in short, as one might have dreamed of.
The burden of life had fallen from the girl; she fairly bloomed and
glowed. There's one up here that'll turn many a head, said old
Sperber. God only knows what that girl will do before she's through.
If she only hadn't that cursed red hair ... but she runs about like a
blazing torch, and everybody that sees her takes after her, down to the
She lived like a queen up on the hill, although the old Sperbers
growled and blamed her for doing what she thought best and staying in
her father's house, instead of moving over to theirs and letting the
Since that evening at the widow's, when the dry voices of the
boarders had transformed themselves into the melting tones of
tenderness and care, tones that they hardly recognized themselves, she
had known that she was beautiful and possessed power over men. That
night, when the two men had left her at her own door, the lonely girl
had opened her window and gazed out into the huge darkness and silence.
Her heart beat as if it would break; her warm blood glowed through her
skin. A miracle had happened! Men were drunk with her beauty, drunk
with joy of her. She thanked God, and pressed her clasped hands to her
bosom, full of amazed happiness. She could not tear herself away from
the peaceful stillness that filled her with its own splendor.
The fact that poor Frau Marianne's two boarders were after all but
miserable specimens of manhood did not affect her. She had seen them
grow drunk with joy. That filled her with emotion all day long and
hallowed her in her own eyes. In this glorious summer, in which the
burden of life had fallen from her, she expanded and grew increasingly
beautiful through her own happiness. As a child she had envied the
flowers for their beautyand now she knew that she herself was
beautiful. She possessed a sure and abiding joy. It was well for her
that she was conscious of her beauty. Death she had known, and utter
loneliness, and patient endurance. When she was a child, they had
called her little fox and red-head; now she noticed that every man
looked after her, that people stood still when she passed. And so again
and again this great joy came to her, ran through all her veins and
During this summer she worked valiantly. She wanted to show the old
Sperbers that she could be a good housewife and manager. Although the
real responsibility lay upon the bailiff and the housekeeper, she would
not altogether let go of the helm. She insisted on knowing everything
that was to be done and giving her approval.
The young rascal! said old Sperber. She was often at their house,
getting advice and meeting the young girls and their comrades, whom she
had so long thought of and wished to know. Now that she was alone in
the world, there was nothing any longer to keep her away from them.
There were two daughters of Councillor Kirsten from the
Wünschengasse down in Weimar, who, with their friends Bundang, Ernst
von Schiller, and Horny, came up to see the old Sperbers and made real
festivities of their visits. The old people loved them very dearly, for
they knew how to be merry and pleasant and were full of youthful
audacity and exuberance that cheered the hearts of the aged couple.
[Illustration: WIFE OF A CLAMDIGGER]
Beate had never known how to make the good old people smile and
laugh in the same way. That hurt her. From her childhood up, there had
always been a heavy weight upon her; she had not known what it was to
be quite carefree. To her the two girls, Röse and Marie, were something
wonderful. Now that she knew she herself was beautiful, she drew nearer
to them as one of their own kind, and they welcomed her joyfully.
The girl of the Ettersberg, who had always been in the habit of
taking flight when they met her by chance at the Sperbers', had long
attracted them, especially since their three friends seemed to have so
high an opinion of her.
Is it for her mop of red hair that you like her? the girls asked
the young men.
She has something queenly about her, said Horny. I watched her
once, two years ago last autumn, when she lit a fire in the field after
the men and women were gone, all by herself, to roast potatoes. I saw
her gathering dry weeds and setting fire to them, and laying the
potatoes in the hot embers, and then crouching down looking into the
glowing fire, lonely and full of thoughts. I was hidden in the wood,
and I had to press my hands over my mouth to keep from crying out, so
much her loneliness affected me, and her making the fire all by herself
and taking her ease there in the solitude of the woods. Then she ate
some of the potatoes, quite simply, like a young animal that had been
deserted; and, you may believe me or not as you please, but tears ran
down my cheeks. The fields and all around were so big and wide and gray
and cool. Her fire, and she herself, seemed to me the only tiny living
point in all the gray mist. I knew, too, that she had no mother. Then I
saw her go, gravely and silently, along the path toward her home. I
shall never forget that picture.
The two girls looked at each other in amazement. When Horny
recounted to them the experience about which he had so long been
reticent, they were walking up and down in the evening on the Sperber
Why did he never tell us that before? asked Röse, but she got no
answer. The Sperbers want us to take more notice of her, she
continued; and now it's really possible to do something with her.
She's not so shy as she used to be, and one can talk quite sensibly
with her. And she dislikes the same things we dislike. What pleases her
best is to run about in the fields and work. Oh, but she's got a nice
life of it!
I don't know, said Marieall alone like that!
Yes, said Horny again, she has something about her that makes me
think of a queen. She does what she pleases and thinks what she
chooses. She lives her own life.
As if queens did that! said Röse.
The kind of queens I mean, answered Horny, may live in the
Wünschgengasse or on the Ettersberg.
Oh, that sort of queens! laughed Marie.
That's the only sort that's worth while! They must be young, and
pure, and free, and joyous, and look every one straight and proudly in
Röse and Marie were delighted. We're three queens! they called to
Ernst von Schiller and Budang. Come, we'll go and pay a visit to the
So they all set off and went by a narrow path through a few fields
and meadows, by a sand-pit, to the Rauchfuss farm, and found its young
mistress sitting in the garden under the lime-tree, eating her supper.
On the white-covered table was a bowl of sour milk from which she
ladled some out every little while, and a loaf of fresh bread, and a
plate of golden butter shining against the white cloth.
Oh, how nice, said Röse, the way she has her supper! And they
were asked to share it, and presently each of them was sitting in front
of a bowl of sour milk and cutting bread and spreading butter on it. To
themselves they thought, There, Frau Sperber will be waiting supper
for us! But they saw in their minds the good-natured friendly face of
the old woman who, they knew, would not begrudge them their pleasure,
and they said to themselves, Who knows? When we get back there,
perhaps well be hungry enough again to eat what she's got for us.
When they had finished their supper, the most natural thing was to
begin to dance under the blossom-laden lime-tree. It needed no long
discussion to decide on this.
Off you go! cried Röse. The couples paired off; singing or humming
a tune, they swung round on the firm gravel. Tubby ran into the house
when it began to grow dark and brought out a stable-lantern; for under
the trees the light had faded when it was still only twilight in the
garden. Then came the glow-worms and crawled about among the perfumed
branches. The young creatures caught each other's hands and danced in
circles under the dark old tree, now to the right, now to the left,
They were drawn to each other by the most delightful harmony. The
still, peaceful garden around them, the fragrant, sheltering tree and
the beaming lantern in whose rays young charms shone resplendent, all
made for happiness. They spoke and laughed little. A great, sacred
bliss spread through them all. The lonely maiden whom the merry friends
had drawn into their circle was flooded with an almost unearthly joy.
That was her first dance, this silent, blissful circling under the
trees, first right, then left, as long as their strength held out. It
was a dance in praise of God's goodness, of beauty on earth and of the
wonder of youth. It seemed they could never really tire of it; and they
all knew that they had loved each other from childhood. Oh, it's
lovely! said Röse.
Herr and Frau Sperber had come over to see what had become of the
fugitives, and were standing at a little distance, not wishing to break
in upon the sacred dance. Frau Kummerfelden, who now and then spent the
week-end in summer with themfor the Sperbers' hospitality was
boundlesshad come with them.
The three old people stood motionless. Ah ... yes! said good Herr
Sperber; and if he had made a long speech on all the joy and all the
sorrow of this mysterious earth, it could not have been deeper or more
expressive. The old Kummerfelden said to herself, You dear good
Sperber, I should like to shake hands with you for thatyou've hit it
exactly. And she repeated after him, Ah ... yes! But it went to Frau
Sperber's heart, for Frau Kummerfelden had not been a famous tragic
actress for nothing.
Don't make a person's heart heavy, you foolish Suse! she said to
her good friend. You must always go putting emotion into things.
But, said Herr Sperber, it can't go on like thisit would be a
nice state of things. Tubby must marry.
Marry! said Frau Kummerfelden. A beauty like her! That would be a
Well, what do you intend to do with her? asked Herr Sperber.
After all, that's what women are meant for.
Yes, more's the pity.
And old Rauchfuss's daughter especially ought to marry earlyor we
shall see things. She's a devil of a girl ... The pastor says he's got
somebody for her.
Well, why not? The pastor, he'll have somebody decent, said Frau
And what about our nephew? asked Frau Sperber. Both the girl and
the estate would be just the thing for him; and then we should have him
Oh, of course, said Frau Kummerfelden; everything would be
beautifully arranged then.
In the meantime the young people were still dancing under the trees,
paying no attention to the old folks who have forgotten what real joy
is, and with their hateful sensible theories based on experience can't
help spoiling pure young human happiness, however well they mean.
Without knowing that old eyes full of sorrowful memories and wisdom had
rested on them, the happy young things danced on in silent bliss.
When at last they had had enough, they wandered into the darkening
wood and sang and looked at the glow-worms, and talked as only very
young men and maidens talk who are still afraid to speak of love.
It began to grow late. I'm thirsty, said Röse, and now we can't
expect to get any supper at the Sperbers'we'll be lucky if we get in
without a scolding.
Beate had an idea: Let's go into the cow-stable and drink fresh
milk. Every one was agreeable. But we shall have to be very quiet,
because the men sleep quite near.
So they stole cautiously into the stable, Beate carrying the
lantern. The courtyard lay dark and still; a strong perfume rose from
the high manure-piles. The lovely girl opened the old, worn door, and
they entered. A warm breath blew into their faces. From a niche in the
wall an oil lamp threw down a faint glimmer of yellow on the white back
of a cow.
It'll soon begin to get lightthe maid will be coming to milk
before long. She threw the light of the lantern into a shelf on which
stood all sorts of brightly-scoured bowls and porringers, and took down
a snow-white wooden bowl.
Prom the swallows' nests up among the dark rafters sounded the
chirping of the young birds, very sweet in the warm damp air. The
little spring plashed in its trough.
Beate took the maid's milking-stool, stroked and patted a fine brown
and white cow, and began to milk into the bowl. The girl's bright head
stood out against the cow's great side. Horny held the lantern.
Presently she had filled the bowl with foaming milk. The cow lowed a
little at being disturbed so early and in such a peculiar manner.
That is milk! said the young mistress proudly. And now all
of you drink. She held out the bowl to them, and they drank long, long
A queen she is! said Horny again to Röse. How fine all this is!
It's great to have such a sea of white, fragrant milk rising in waves
under your eyes and filling you with its warmth and strength.
You've had as much as you want? said Beate with blissful pride.
They said good-by, reconducting their young hostess to the door of her
But the three old folks had taken a very firm resolution to make
some sort of settlement up at the Rauchfuss place. Tubby must not be
left to herselfit would never do. A girl like that all alone in the
house! said both the Sperbers very thoughtfully; and so it came about
that they invited their nephew to come and see them.
He was a good, wholesome fellow. But all the neighbors in the
country round, on the Ettersberg and behind the Ettersberg, in Weimar
and the suburbs, thought as did the old Sperbers: It isn't the thing
for a slip of a silly girl to be alone on the farm like that. Each
thought of a nephew, a brother, a son or some other relative who might
be launched, on the chase of the rare wild creatureall the while that
the young girl was enjoying in fullest measure her freedom and her
youth. In spite of them all, she lived very peacefully and properly,
knowing how to make herself felt as mistress for all the bailiff and
housekeeper were there; all she did was well and diligently done.
But presently there broke loose what the old people in their zeal
had wisheda flood of suitors. The lovely youthful peace of the three
queens and their good friends was disturbed. Such new, wonderful youth
must first become conscious of itself before it can pass on to longings
and desires. The three sensible elders would have better let the three
queens go on quietly with their delightful dancesfirst to the right,
then to the left, until they were weary. They will never have such
dances againnever in their lives.
The first suitors who presented themselves were the two boarders of
the pretty little widow with the heart-shaped face, Herr Oehmchen and
Herr Leinhose. They paid a visit to the Sperbers, but not together;
neither knew of the other's intention. They did not venture to go
directly to the Rauchfuss farm; the thing was to be conducted with
Hallo! thought Herr Sperber. The thing must be getting serious
when such settled gentlemen put themselves in motion. Herr Sperber did
not fly too high in his ambitions for his protégée. A plain fellow
like that is the best for a woman of her sort, he thought to himself;
then there won't be any such business as there was with Herr
Rauchfuss. Such a chap hasn't anything particular to show off before
the world, no red beard, no giant's stature, no whimsies in the brain,
no big heart, no witjust an average fellow that'll settle down and
Herr Sperber received both the gentlemen in a very friendly fashion.
The nephew, of course, would cut them outbut that was his affair.
Beate, who was invited one evening to meet the nephew and the other
two at her old friends', enjoyed the astonished admiration of the three
like a delicious confectionor rather like a sweet perfume that she
breathed in. Men are drunk with me, she thought again, and was proud
Although the two boarders and the nephew were quite sufficiently
wearisome in their enamored state, she was not bored; she was only
conscious of herself and of the incense of sacrifice which arose under
her nostrils and seemed to invigorate her. The three men were alike
indifferent to her; they were only the vessels in which the incense was
After such an evening she was gay and strong as a young goddess. The
next day she was indefatigably at work, imposed even more respect than
usual on her people, and felt exceedingly well.
On Saturday evenings the Kirsten girls had a way of strolling up
with their friends; but it was not long before first one and then
another came with them, whom they had met on the way and did not know
how to shake off. This annoyed Röse and Marie very much. These people
are in the way, they saidwe like to be by ourselves. But Beate
Rauchfuss said, Oh, let them comeit doesn't make any difference.
Of course they all run after you, because they think there's
something to get, said Röse. You'd better tell them you don't mean to
have anything to say to them. What do you want of them? You've
The old Sperbers began to be overburdened by the multitude of young
people who developed a desire to visit them; and the nephew in
particular grew tired of it. So they decided to give Beate Frau
Kummerfelden's old friend, the Raven-mother, as a chaperon. She was
quite capable of keeping ten suitors in their proper place, and was
useful for anything; she could watch the dead and the sickthen why
not for once the beauty of a young girl?
She was the widow of the tinsmith Lange; she had married all her
children, and so was ready to come to the service of her friends and
acquaintances. She was even to be called upon for poetical effusions
for special occasions; under the great Saint Christopher's cloak that
she wore winter and summer alike beat a feeling heart, and a noble soul
dwelt in the big strong body.
She was only too glad to go up to the Ettersberg as Beate's
chaperon. It was the beginning of winter when they sent for her. For
some time she had been wishing for something of the sort. Up there on
the fine farm she would be very comfortable. When the snow lay on the
ground, she would not have far to go to find her little pensioners, the
ravens, whom she was accustomed to provide with food when the fields
She came up to the Rauchfuss farm at the beginning of November. By
spring we'll be having a wedding, old Sperber had said to her. I
don't know why this girl, who ought for all reasons to choose a husband
nicely and quietly, should be such a burning hay-rick! And the rascal
likes it; just as a drinker enjoys his wine, so she enjoys the
lovesighs of all these asses. Ah, there you arethe sins of the
fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation! Old
Sperber looked very black; he was displeased with Herr Rauchfuss's
What foolishness is this? he said to her. Down in the town a girl
takes what she can get and is thankfulbut you make everything that's
got legs trudge all this long way up the hill. You know, you ought to
be ashamed of yourself. A girl ought to have more discretion.
At this the girl laughed rather haughtily. Her heart was still free,
and simply running over with the happiness of earth. No matter what was
said to her, she heard only half of it. She seemed to have wrapped
herself up in a sort of chrysalis. Her soul was round as a ball,
without any angles on which cares could be hung, or cracks into which
they could insinuate themselvesa fair ball of crystal, with light
shining all about and through it.
It is a wonderful thing, the perfect egoism of early youth, the way
it has no ears for the words of reason and wisdom, and only half an ear
for anything else. Like a distant noise and bustle sound the world's
doings amid the undisturbed content of self-centred youth and beauty.
But quite respectable personages came wandering all the long way up
the hill. Herr Oehmchen and Herr Leinhose were indefatigable. With them
came not seldom the young widow with the heart-shaped face, in the wise
conviction that the dangerous maiden could at worst take only one of
her well-nourished boarders from her, and that it would pay her to keep
on good terms with both.
Besides these a courtier often came up, a man who had in the
neighborhood of Weimar a rather heavily mortgaged estate. But he had
also faultless manners, an extraordinarily small head and aristocratic
hands. He could look back upon a long line of ancestors, who had all
nibbled away something of his property and his personality; there was
little of either left, and it was extremely sensible of him to think of
supplementing them. He was superior to all the others when it came to a
question of form, and so made a great impression on them. They
considered him a dangerous rival, and rejoiced when he was obliged to
stay in his town housefor he went to courtwhen they had anything on
like a sleigh-ride or a dance; in fact, they arranged such things if
possible on days when they knew he would have to be absent.
Dances, musical evenings, masked balls, sewing-circles were abundant
that winter in Weimar, and the pretty Rauchfuss girl was asked to
everythingnow it was one paying attention to her, now another. She
had plenty of cavaliers: all the marriageable merchants' sons of the
town, young lawyersin brief, the wooers recruited themselves from the
entire circle of the townspeople, and even beyond it. The hunt was on,
and every one joined it who could.
She loved dancing. It seemed to her the most glorious thing in the
world to forget herself, to let herself dissolve in music and motion.
She distinguished her suitors only by their ability as dancers; as to
their intellectual capacity, which indeed was not specially noticeable
in any of them, she easily confused them. She herself was without any
instinct of the chase or desire for conquest, simply contented and
happy in herself.
So the time passed on. The impatience of the aspirants might well
have seemed to her like a flood rising to her very lips, threatening
and terrifying her, or like a row of insistent creditors, with herself
sitting in her little room in peace and letting them knock and call as
loud as they would. She did not realize the impatience of the hunters;
they seemed all so foreign, so far off to her.
To take one of these strangers into her house, to have him always
about, to be obliged to see him every day, seemed a thing so
distasteful and impossible that the thought did not even trouble her.
But she dreamed of wondersof one whom she would long to love. She
felt something strong, great and good in herself, and realized at the
same time her ignorance and her limitations. Her longing for freedom
was also a longing for breadth, a desire to escape from all that was
narrow, a will to grow.
Hitherto no one had offered her the bread of life; and she was
hungry. Her beauty had in it something sleeping, something strong, that
yearned to be active in this world and beyond; but no one offered to
nourish this wonderful thing. What they offered her was no royal,
soul-strengthening food; it was but ordinary, every-day diet, on which
she would pine away and starve.
Yes ... she dreamed long, amidst all her suitors, of an awakening
compared with which the life which these others called into being in
her was but a deep, dull sleep.
The Raven-mother took delight in observing that the fortress she was
set to guard showed no signs of surrendering; for so the comfortable
existence up at the Rauchfuss farm might prolong itself a while longer.
On Sunday afternoons and evenings they had the most of their
visitors. Then came the suitors, the Kirsten girls with their friends,
the pretty young widow, and often the good Kummerfelden, who took great
delight in listening to the irrational chatter of the amorous youths.
These men-creatures are enough to drive one mad when they're in
love, she said once to the Raven-mother. The bird sings his prettiest
songs to his mate and finds the nicest things to tell her; but men,
with the exception of a few, who immediately print their pretty
phrases, talk miserable rubbish. It positively makes my hair stand on
end when I think that they used to do exactly the same in my day, and I
didn't take it in ill part. They are only really clever when they're
driven into a corner and can't help themselves; it must be a fearful
strain on them.
Yes, said the Raven-mother, it's as if they thought that a fresh
girl like that could only be caught by extraordinary nonsenseto be
sure, she laughs at their foolishness; but I tell you she's a cool head
all the same.
And she's right, said Frau Kummerfelden.
But the talk of two old women is a dry affair. In the spring
twilight they were sitting by the window in the great living-room; the
young people were playing forfeits. In the next room the table was laid
They had passed a good many merry Sunday afternoons and evenings
with the object of all this devotion, harmless, amusing hours, in which
the suitors forgot what had brought them there and enjoyed themselves
just like other people. But tonight there seemed to be a sort of spring
fever in the air. Outside a cold, persistent rain could be heard
falling, in spite of the new leaves on the trees. In the chicken-house
the fowls were clucking in a Sunday afternoon ennui. The wretched rain
had interfered with the usual Sunday occupations of the men and maids.
Footsteps dragged across the yard in whose very sound discontent and
boredom could be detected. The raindrops beat against the window-panes,
or when the wind dropped, came down like a soft gray curtain.
The little town of Weimar, with all its distinguished men, lay
hidden in mist and equally bored at the foot of the long slope of the
Ettersberg, looking like any other little country town in the
raincomfortless and desolate'. In the midst of the loneliness and the
spring rain, sounded now and then the note of a thrush, crying for the
The Kirsten girls and their comrades had slipped up in spite of rain
and mud, because they hoped that on such a day the amorous youths, the
donkeys, as they called them, would stay at home. But the same thought
had struck others. Each had hoped not to find the rest and to be able
to show off his own personality; and all had been disappointed.
The object of their devotion was in anything but a good mood. A sort
of disgust had seized her as all the dripping, commonplace figures
divested themselves of their outer garments at the door with much noise
and snorting. The stable-girl had to clean off their muddy boots, or,
in case they had brought another pair to change, take the wet ones away
to dry them at the stove.
Each one that came in seemed to make a great deal more noise than
there was any need of. To the young girl they all seemed like
blustering husbands; she too would rather have been alone with the
Kirsten girls and their friends. Today all these strange men oppressed
her, each of them coming with the hope of remaining at home there,
master of all. They seemed positively shameless to her. A heavy sadness
came upon her. She thought of her mother's marriage, of the quiet
woman's hard-working life, of her loneliness, of the indifference she
had to bear, of the warm, sorrowful embraces she had for her child.
A pretty situation! The young girl grew full of anger and disgust.
Has one of these men who come here given me anything that I didn't
know all about? They are tiresome! If I were to take one of them, he'd
soon forget to notice that I was beautiful. What is there left, then?
They played at forfeits, the restless, discontented thoughts of them
all making the very air of the room heavy. At supper, too, it was not
so lively as at other times. The hostess was silent, not beaming as
usual with the consciousness of her youth and beauty.
For the first time since she awoke to the carefree joy of budding
youth, the ball of crystal that was her soul seemed stained and
darkened; it no longer swam in the sunlight, shot through and through
by the rays.
About nine o'clock, when the rain was coming down in torrents, and
it had been proposed that the Kirsten girls should spend the night with
Beate, their three comrades and Frau Kummerfelden at the Sperbers',
while the suitors would have to accustom themselves gradually to the
idea of going out into the wind and wet, there came a loud ring at the
gate of the courtyard.
For heaven's sake! cried the Raven-mother. The rest sat in silent
wonder; their number was completewho could it be?
Perhaps it's another one coming over from the Sperbers', said
Heaven forbid! said Beate. She was thinking, It will be no life
at all if I marry one of theseit would be a hopeless business. And
she felt again the strength of her longing, hungry young soul, which
yearned to grow and yet no one would give it its food.
She was lost in these thoughts, in her new strange pain, when the
stable-girl came in out of breath and said, I've just let in a strange
gentleman, who asks leave to wait a little while till the weather's not
so bad. He's come across country, he says.
Well, said the Raven-mother, is he a proper sort of a person?
Oh yes! The stable-girl brought her hand down on her thigh in
emphatic assurance. He's certainly a gentleman, even if he is wet
through. All laughed loudly. The sudden burst of laughter rose up as
unexpectedly as a covey of birds startled by a pedestrian in a quiet
Before it had died away, Beate said to the girl, Bring him in and
do what you can for him.
The Raven-mother also rose, saying, We'll have a look at him.
Didn't he give his name?
Engraver Kosch, he said three timesand how he said it! answered
the sturdy girl, grinning. And he said other things too ... that he
came from White of Egg, he said, and Ashes or ... I don't know what all
else. The girl rubbed her arms and kept on grinning. I was to tell
you that, he said. He was brewed and baked, he said just the same way
as the people up here.
The courtier jumped up, crying, We can't have him in herehe's a
lunatic! It's quite impossible, my dear Mamsell Rauchfuss.
Beate smiled. If he's brewed and baked in the same way as all of
us, why not?
Because that's foolishness, said the Sperbers' nephew.
Foolish? said the much-courted one, laughing. Are we then from
White of Egg?
But, my dear Mamsell, said Herr von Mengersen, these are things
And he said more ... other kinds of things, said the maid,
Be quiet! commanded the courtier.
No, no, said the girl, I wasn't going to say anything. That was
just for us.
Go! cried the courtier, stretching out his long, soft hands as if
to ward off some danger. Remember that there are young ladies
Leave the room, you stupid creature! growled the Sperbers' nephew.
Off with you!
Still grinning, the maid disappeared. Beate laughed. It seemed as if
fresh air had come into the room. She drew a long breath. How much
merrier and more amusing were the farm men and maids among themselves
than her suitors! What sort of things had she herself heard among them?
They were not strong on ceremony, and said what they thought.
The Raven-mother came back into the room. Quite a respectable man,
she said with some excitement; yes, really.
Is he coming in, then? cried the Kirsten girls.
And with that he came in, making so low a bow at the door that his
long hair fell over his forehead. He stood there modestlyrather
poorly dressed, thin, and not specially well cared for. When he raised
his head again, he showed a pale, irregular face, looking on the
company with sharp gray eyes. His mouth was large and sensible, partly
covered by a somewhat bristling, colorless moustache.
He took his place at the table pleasantly enough. He was not a
society man, but he seemed to have taken the resolution not to be put
out of countenance. His whole person seemed to be permeated by a
uniform will. He did not make the impression of having suffered too
severely from the weather; he had simply emerged from the storm, like a
pike from the water, in gray, unobtrusive apparel. In contrast to him
the others all looked over-dressed, hung about with foreign stuffs and
incongruous patchesall except the three queens, whose youth and
beauty penetrated their clothes with a powerful and living harmony.
He took a seat by Beate. There was a general silence.
Mr. Engraver, said the Raven-mother, please help yourself.
Mr. Engraver? said the stranger with a peculiar intonation. Why
not, for example, Mr. Walker, Mr. Eater, Mr. Drinker, or Mr. Sleeper?
Or ... no, that's enough! He put the question with great calmness.
Well ... said the Raven-mother.
Yes, of course, said the stranger, but how do you know that I
spend more time, or spend it more pleasantly in scratching on copper
than in sleeping or feedingpardon, eating?
Well, said the Raven-mother, it's customary to call a man
according to his most respectable occupation.
Respectable? I find it, for example, quite respectable to lie on
one's stomach on a hot summer day in the field, in front of a
mouse-hole and observe the daily occupations of the little gray
mistress of the domain. That way one comes nearer to the soul of the
world than by engraving what any fool has chosen to smear on canvas. Ah
yes ... our respectable professions!
Well, but ... said the Raven-mother, considerably disconcerted,
looking around at the other faces. She saw a merry twinkle in the eyes
of old Frau Kummerfelden. The Kirsten girls looked very roguish,
because they had got launched on a good laugh and had not yet been able
to give it free course. Their young comrades gazed with interest on the
man who had emerged like a pike from the floods. The suitors looked
extremely impatient. Beate's eyes were fastened longingly on the
stranger, as if he were cutting the bread of life for her. To be sure,
it seemed rather crusty and brittlebut there was something there that
had a nourishing flavor.
The stranger's nose had a peculiar shape. It was a nose that seemed
somehow rather lonely in the middle of the face with its prominences
and depressions. Oh, quite a respectable nose, if one did not make too
many claims for beauty on its behalf. It had, as it were, broken away
from its companion features; but it seemed somehow to have great
affinity and sympathy with the inner being of the stranger. There was
something pugnacious about his manner of expressing himself, about his
whole bearing and every gesture he made.
May one ask, began little Madame Kummerfelden, in her charming
flowered dress and from under her big cap, where the gentleman has
come from, and where he is purposing to go?
I was purposing to pay a visit to your town down there and see your
His Excellency? said Frau Kummerfelden in a very polished tone
which she enjoyed producing. She knew well how to speak to and of
people of rank.
His Excellency! said the stranger harshly. That's the end of
itnow you've spoiled the whole thing for me. Now I might just as well
turn round and go back the way I came. I come from the Harz country,
from one of the many little unknown corners of the earth; and since I'd
passed my life among the animals that are called men in those parts, I
wanted just once to see the real man who said 'The whole misery of
humanity seizes upon me'and other things like that. I knew itbut
now I hear it. 'His Excellency!' Wonderful! And how beautifully you
said it, my dear lady. One could see him standing stiffly before one.
And I wanted to go in and take him by the hand and say, 'God, I thank
Thee that for once Thou hast created something rational, so that people
may believe in Thee with a good consciencefor most of Thine images
here on earthwell, I don't want to be disrespectful, but really ...!'
No, what I was wanting doesn't fit in with bows and ante-chambers. He
ought to walk perfectly naked, your 'Excellency,' under grand, lofty
trees, on the solemn bare ground!
You seem, my dear sir, said the courtier in measured tones, to
have a peculiar conception of his Excellency. It is not the easiest
thing in the world to get an audience with him.
And I don't want one! said the engraver roughly. To me at home,
in my solitude, he is a wonderful friend whom one lovesas only a
lonely man can love a wonderful friend. No, no, you may keep your
Ernst von Schiller, the friend of the Kirsten girls, said, modestly,
but enthusiastically: He pervades all the relations of lifehe is
stronger than all. The son of well-to-do parents, growing up in a large
city, becoming a lawyer, then holding office and rank in narrow little
Weimar, becoming a courtier, and always in comfortable
circumstancesis there a worse road for genius to travel? And yet he
has remained clear-sighted, penetrating, deep, full of kindnesshe has
never grown dull and heavy.
Ah ...! said the engraver passionately. Who says that? Have you
seen him sitting among the poor and miserable? Have you seen him
strugglingstriving with the powers of lifefighting his way out of
darkness? Do you know anything of those mighty forces that press
thought out of a man as the winepress squeezes the juice from the
grapes? One year without moneyone single year without money, without
followersand your 'Excellency' would have become alive as God is
alive. There would never have been such a miracle seen on earth. He
would have redeemed the world, if he had been inflamed to the very
marrow; if he had sat among the wretched, among those who see the world
on the side that is in shadow. Ah, to have stood for a little while
where they stand who stretch out their arms to their fellow-beings for
help, to have wandered for awhile through cities and villages face to
face with winter, without knowing where to find shelter or food, to
have known a few good comrades among those on whom respectable people
spit ...! But now ... I'll put my hand in the fire to show how sure I
am ... I might go to his door and knock, and cry, 'Open, brother! One
comes that loves you. He comes from the world that has given you your
strength, your insight, your greatness, your wonderful goodness. Open
to him, as it says in the Song of Solomon ...' He wouldn't even say, as
it goes on there, 'I have washed my feethow shall I defile them?' If
my luck was good, I shouldn't even be let in to where his Excellency
could hear my voice! Well, all right!
But, my good sir, said the courtier, what would become of his
Excellency if he undertook to receive everybody who passed through the
town? Only think!
I am not everybody! said the engraver, and stared at the table
before him as if he were looking upon the most moving sights. Perhaps
he saw himself, his innermost being, his past, all the facts and events
that he knew and that concerned no one else.
Beate Rauchfuss felt as if some one who belonged to her had come
home. She would not have been surprised if the visitor had said to her,
Well, how is it? Have I changed much in all this time? I hope you will
understand me as well as you used to. She spoke no word, or as good as
none. If she had let herself go, she would have had to pour out her
whole heart to him.
This was a mana live man. She knew it. None of the people of her
acquaintance, it seemed to her, had ever been so much alive. They were
all lulled into a stupor by habit becoming second nature. Her father?
She half suspected that he might have been alive, if he had chosen. But
it hadn't suited him to, and he had drunk to stupefy himself. It was no
doubt from him that she inherited the longing to be alive and to live
among the living. She could not take her eyes from the keen, alert
face, and she felt a stream of life and power flowing to her from him.
But he scarcely noticed her, and went on arguing in his curt,
pugnacious way with the suitors, who looked at him as if he were some
When the party began to break up, she said to the Raven-mother
firmly and audibly, so that they all heard it, Herr Kosch will stay
here. It is too late now for him to go down into Weimar to find an inn.
Have the guest-room got ready for him.
These words forced themselves out of her very soul. She seemed to
have to lift a ton's weight to speak them. She would not give him up!
And he stayed.
When all had gone, she had a few short moments alone with him in the
living-room. He stood with his back to the window and looked about the
room. What will these gentlemen say to your entertaining a chance
stranger here? And what do you think of it?
I? I think that it is too late for you to find lodgings down in
Oh, he said, I'm not a princess. I'd have crept into any hole
that offered me shelter.
She gazed at him in silence, and blushed a rosy red. There was
something of merry mockery in the glance that he fixed on her. Ah ...
women ... women! he said lightly.
It was as if something had seized her by the throat and strangled
her. That is a man who has been through a great deal, she thought to
herself; and she remembered the men's tales about women that she had
heard in the servants' hall. What does he think of me? Hot tears rose
to her eyes. She took a step forward, and tried to speak, but found no
words. I know ... she said, and could get no further.
What do you know, child? What should a pretty child like you know?
She grew deadly pale. Oh, speak to me as you spoke to the young
men! Speak to me as if I were a human being! There was something
beseeching in her voice, and something shy and awkward. She went on
hurriedly, like one who has much to say and condenses a great deal into
a few words, Give me your hand, and say quite simply, 'It is good of
you to want to keep me here.'
Queer little thing! said the stranger as if to himself, with a
cool smile. What? His eyes took on a bolder expression.
The girl questioned him in deep excitement: Have you never met a
kind, simple woman, or a girl ...?
He broke in: Kind ones there are a-plenty, fair lady.
No, she said, more calmly now, I mean a woman who said to you,
'Speak to me as to a human beingtell me what you know and what you
think. I need something for my soul to live on!'
No, he said, I have never met one like that. When I have talked
to one as to a human being, she always began to yawn.
Really? said the girl sadly. Or is it that it happened two or
three times as you say, and then you frightened all the rest?
It may be. But it's not a question of much importance.
Why not! she asked excitedly.
Because the most that could come out of it would be a silly
love-story, Mamsellthe same old silly story.
That is sad, said the girl. God looks into my heart, she went on
simply. Yes, I wanted to keep you here because I felt that you could
say some living words to me. I wanted to hear you say them. But now you
are not the sort of man I thought ... Do you think that the men you saw
here tonight are cleverer than I am? And do you suppose that a single
one of them understood what you were saying? I could see in their faces
that they thought you were half crazy. Good night! she said quietly,
turning from him and going through the door.
The devil! he thought. A clever little bluestockingand good
looking! Well, we'll see ... Even a few miles from his Excellency
wonderful specimens are growing.
When the Raven-mother had conducted him to his room, he came to the
conclusion, as he stood by the snow-white bed, that he had not fallen
badly. The big farm, the roomy house, the pretty girl whom he had found
surrounded by her suitors and her friendsand her love-sickness, that
she concealed so amusingly ... She had struck him as uncommonly
beautiful at the first glance, and he had thought, There she sits, and
will no doubt choose of all these polite gentlemen the politest and the
richest and the stupidest! That her choice might fall on him never
entered into his dreams; and so he had not considered her worthy of any
special notice. He had so far emancipated himself from the tyranny of
small circumstances that he was able to lead a life according to his
own sweet will. He had learned to restrict himself to the most modest
manner of existence, and knew no luxuries except the freedom to think
and act as he chose, and from time to time to drink a glass of good
winehe liked that, and thought it beseemed a German. His whole
temperament made such a supply of strength from without almost
necessary from time to time. His passion to worm himself into the
things of this world was so violent that it was naturally followed by
spells of exhaustion which had to be relieved. Women played a small,
almost comic, and not very exalted part in his life. He looked upon
them compassionately as very imperfect, morbid creatures. In his
love-affairs he had not been specially fastidious. His mother had been
a downtrodden little woman, who had never understood him; his sister
full of provincial pettiness. So he had no very high opinion of the
sex. Incidentally he considered horses also as particularly stupid
animals, and was capable of flying into a temper when a horse-lover
tried to prove the contrary. All his views were very deeply rooted in
him, and he could be very irritable when any one questioned them.
Well, it would be an odd chance if, in this out-of-the-way place
that I could hardly see for rain and fog, I should have tumbled into a
love-affair! he said to himself; and with that he laid his head on the
pillow. Too bad that such a pretty creature should have a bee in her
bonnet! I wonder how it comes about ... She looks healthy enough
The next thing he knew was a smiling spring morning; the storm had
at last spent its rage. The Kirsten girls had gone down very early to
the town with their comrades, promising to come up again as soon as
possible. Beate had had breakfast with them, and was now strolling
about the garden; but she scarcely heeded the young splendor of spring
about her. The thought of the guest in the spare room made her heart
beat. Yes ... she ought not to have done it. She ought not to have
plucked up courage and said, Herr Kosch will stay here.
Meantime Herr Kosch was roaming about the courtyard and stables, and
finally, coming into the garden, he spied his young hostess. Well, he
said to himself, suppose we make an exception, and see how long it
will be before she begins the yawning game. It'll be worth the trouble,
So it came about that he talked to her as to one of his own kind, as
he would have talked with his comrades over the familiar table in the
tavern of an eveningalthough he had never got further with them than
to be considered an eccentric, possibly dangerous fellow: on two very
different grounds, first because they didn't understand him, and then
... he went easily for this reason into a passion.
So now he took from his young hostess's heart the weight that he had
put there the previous evening by his mocking and contemptuous manner.
He let himself go, spoke after his own manner, and gave up the jesting,
playful tone which he always had ready for women. She listened to him
with silent attention, no matter what he talked about. The wide leaps
his mind took did not seem to weary her in the following. To his
astonishment, she did not yawn once. She must be very much in love,
he said to himself.
To her, among other things, he said: I'm glad you've got your
garden so wild and naturalnothing clipped and trimmed, no rectangles,
circles, or other geometrical figures, from which one deduces at once
that one has to do with men of a very low grade of intelligence. To
take delight in squares and circles is a bad sign. Who wants to have
intercourse with cave-men? Noyou've got a very decent garden that
But I know, said Beate, that people have lived here who got no
great pleasure out of life. If my mother had been happier, I believe
she would have laid out a few tulip-bedswhich might have been round
or square, as the notion took her.
Yeswell, said the engraver, one must allow people to be happy
in their own way. But it's a horrible way. Just thinka poor devil
wants to create something in the joy of his heart; and he scratches
like a chicken in the earth, longish or oval, until he makes a bed, and
is proud and happy. That's the way life isall a miserable fraud.
There's eatingand most people understand how to do that fairly
wellbut outside of that there's little except scratching up the
earth. Have you, for example, ever thought anything, my pretty young
lady? I don't mean whether it's going to be fine today, or whether to
accept Müller or Meier, or whether the blue dress is more becoming to
you than the pink one, or whether there is an eternal life or not. I
mean, did a real light ever break upon you about anything, contrary to
the opinion of the rest of the world? And did this new light give you
such immeasurable joy that you wanted to do a war-dance with cries of
No, Herr Kosch, I have never had such a joy, said the girl.
You see, Mamsell, he laughedand you wanted to talk with me!
Is what people do nothing in your eyes? she asked, anxious
to know what he thought on this point.
What people do? What do you mean?
I mean if some one takes care of a person and comforts him in his
dying hour, or if a mother sacrifices herself to her children.
No, no, he cried passionatelyall those things are mere details.
Thought, thought is what counts! Knowledge is the only thing that makes
a man. Then only is he glad and strongwhen he's learned how to think
for himself. Then only is he alive!
She was intoxicated with his words, and the tenderest feeling which
can spring up in a human heart came to life in her. She, with her so
much younger soul, stretched out her hands to his, longing to love it
and to care for it. She hardly understood him as yet; but she was full
of a mother's feeling for his soul, thinking and studying how to help
him. The glances her suitors had cast at him hurt her to remember. They
did not understand him; they did not even realize that he was a living
It was remarkable, the way she pierced searchingly into his mind,
longingly, acutely, gravely and sincerely. He appeared to himself a man
with considerable self-respect, a solitary, tried, and well-tempered
character. And he thought, She's a pretty creature. It's too badwhy
does she bother her head with thoughts which are of no use to a woman!
He was a little impatient with her.
The habit of solitude had laid its hand heavily upon him; and now he
was not conscious how a young, hardly awakened spirit sought, anxiously
and full of friendship, to approach his soul. Her senses were still
asleep. It was something not of the earth that he was going through
without realizing it. If he had understood it, who knows whether the
thick skin which had formed on him through renunciation and struggle
would have allowed him to feel it?
He could not help realizing that chance had brought him to the most
important decision of his life; for he could no longer doubt that he
had won complete mastery over the heart of the loving girl. He had
never thought of bettering his condition; he had never even wished such
a thing, for a life without needs is a happy life, good for body and
soul. He loved his freedom; he was exactly what he wanted to be.
And yet fate seemed to intend that he should burden himself with a
wife, with duties to others than himself, and with the comforts which
he had hitherto neglected. He meant not to defend himself, but to let
the thing develop as it would, whatever were the consequences.
On this day he strolled down to Weimar, which had been the goal of
his pilgrimage, in order to tread the streets and roads which the old
man was accustomed to walk. He went to the theatre, and came back to
the Ettersberg and the farm late in the evening. The whole place was
asleep; only the Raven-mother came to bring him some supper.
So he wandered about the next day also. Beate was not to be seen.
The Raven-mother told him that he was always welcome at meal-times, but
was not to put any constraint on himself.
A sly little creature, that pretty hostess of mine! he said to
himself. In the afternoon he met her, but outside the garden. It struck
him that she did not blush, but simply looked pleased. Her whole being
had something free and light about it. Her crown of red hair glowed in
the afternoon sun; she had the freedom and the happiness of summer.
Herr Kosch could not help feeling that he had contributed but little
to this beautiful light-heartedness. After all, he was not well
acquainted with the circumstances of these people; and he had had his
first sight of the much courted one in the midst of her suitors. The
affectionate disposition which she had shown toward him that evening
seemed to him no longer so indisputable.
He was decidedly the possessor of what people call luck with women.
They like, he told himself, what is unusual. A dark fellow like me,
firm and energetic, with irregular features, and a bearing a trifle
mysterious and suggestive of the werewolfthat's what takes with these
romantic creatures. They are proud of such a loveras a lover; but a
husband they choose out of other stuff. He must be reliablea good,
solid member of society. Herr Kosch had had some experience; and he
decided to be simply polite.
So they walked along together. The grass was fragrantly springing in
all its green abundance from the soil, and waved a perfume in the May
breeze soft as silk. The leaves of the beech-trees at the edge of the
wood were still folded together like tender green butterflies on the
branches. The trees out in the open had their full outlines. The
lime-trees were like their own leaves, standing up like great green
hearts. All this Herr Kosch pointed out.
Yes, like hearts, she answered, smiling. I've often noticed that
each tree is like its own leaf. Have you ever heard the tops of the
trees whispering to each other. They often make gestures like old
women, bowing with discretion and dignity; again, one sees them talking
together like children, and other times like serious men.
You're a child of the country, he saida child of the country!
Be glad of it.
Now, he thought, she would begin to tell him something of her life,
of her parents, of her childhoodthat she was tired of the country, or
that she loved it. They all do that; they talk of themselves and their
memories as soon as they begin to get a little tamer. They're shut up
within themselves, in a narrow circle. Nothing has grown but their
selves. A man doesn't speak of his growing-process; he speaks of what
he has become, what the world is to get from him. No, these womenfolks
are a bore!
To his astonishment, his dissatisfied astonishment, she was rather
silent and did not talk about herself. I have been trying to
understand, she said after awhile, how it happens that you are full
of thoughts, and all the other people I know and I myself have none.
Oh, he said, dear Mamsell, it is simply because you have not
loved life warmly enough.
Not warmly enough? she said thoughtfully.
Yes, he said, that's the explanation. You people take everything
in such a cool, such a proper way. You never come to the boiling-point,
and so there are no thoughts. When you are young, you are just
youngwithout the bliss, the glow, the blessed consuming
consciousness. Young people ought to be positively drunk with happy
thoughts! If I were a girl and had such a wonderful head of red hair,
and limbs of perfect, rounded beautyby the Lord above! I should run
about joyously, in full consciousness of my powers, letting not a
single hour of the day be lost. I should taste my youth with all its
feelings and thoughts, its sins and its glories. And when old age came
on, I should throw myself on the ground and rage and moan and tear my
clothes and strew ashes upon my head, and die of grief. But you others,
because you don't think and don't know, you are able to live through a
dull, proper youth and a comfortable old age. If people knew what a
thing youth is, there'd be no holding the world. All that was young
would be brewing and fermenting to such a point that no ruler in the
world would be able to keep it down.
Then the world doesn't seem to be made for thinking? asked the
No, he answered passionately. If everybody thought, instead of
only one in hundreds of thousands, it would be an impossible place.
Just imagine, fair lady, what would happen if women began to think!
It's inconceivable. The greatest revolution in history would break out;
a volcanic eruption would convulse society. It's quite rightonly the
few are supposed to think. There must be dead bodies without will, to
live mechanically, to do mechanically what they are told. A thinking
worldno, thank you! No, Mamsell, we'll stick to the old system.
So they walked along through the splendor of spring, until music
sounded in their ears. Where does it come from? asked the engraver.
From Rödchen, said she, absent-mindedly.
Let us go there. Dance-music ... I shouldn't mind ... among the
peasant-folk ... How would it be?
These are not peasants, she said. They're Weimar people who come
out to amuse themselves in the woods. I wonder what's going on ...
We'll go and see, he answered. So they went down a narrow path
through the thick woods. The music sounded more clearly amidst the May
green. And now they stood near the forester's low house, and saw the
long gray benches set all about, and people dancing under the trees in
the last rays of the sun. Beate greeted the forester's family, and
introduced her guest to them.
Who are all these people? asked Herr Kosch.
Oh, nothing but a bowling party.
Would they allow us to join their dance?
Herr Kosch led his fair hostess to the board-floored dancing-place
under the trees, threw his arm about her, and drew her in among the
other couples. He danced in a way that was like his whole nature,
passionately, irregularly, and yet with power and skill, and found that
his partner fitted him wonderfully. She danced with a perfect
comprehension of his way of dancing. This pleased him not a little.
Before this, when he had had occasion to dance, he had been much
annoyed by finding in the dance the same conflict as in life,
resistance instead of adaptation. But this time he found a singular
pleasure in it, as it were an assertion of himself. Like a good strong
wine the delight ran through his body. He felt himself free and
unfettered as he seldom didhimself, without a struggle.
Now his partner was out of breath, though he was far from exhausted.
She tottered, and there was something unrhythmic in her movements that
disturbed him. Exhausted, she drew him out of the crowd of dancers, and
sank faintly almost into the arms of a short, stout gentleman.
He laughed good-naturedly. Yes, my pretty child, I've been looking
on for some timebut why must girls dance at such a tremendous rate?
The engraver saw his partner grow more and more confusedmore than he
would have thought a chance contact should have accounted for. Oh,
pardon! he heard her say. Pardon, your Royal Highness, for my
Oh, then it's Karl August that she almost bumped into! thought
Herr Kosch. To be sure, there by the house stood the hunting-coach
which he had seen in pictures. His eyes eagerly sought further. Quite
near him he caught sight of a dignified old gentleman in a dark-gray
coat, a snowy white neckerchief about his throat in which a
reddish-yellow stone glowed, his hat in his hand, his hair like a
well-arranged gray mist above his lofty forehead, which rose in lines
pure as the dome of a templeand those eyes! He had danced himself up
to the very goal of his pilgrimage.
But he did not go up to this man and say, Brother! He just stood
and stared. God in heaven, what a man! he murmured to himself. He
has built up his manhood like a throne. He stands alone among them
allthey are simply wiped out by his presence.
The engraver saw his friend, for whom he had so longed in his lonely
hours, standing now at an immense distance from him. Yesa man must
build such a wall about him if he means to create and express himself
as he has. Nohe has nothing to do or to seek among the
wretched. What a plebeian I am that I couldn't understand this!
Then he saw the prince take Beate Rauchfuss, whose beauty dazzled
Kosch at this moment, so great and strong was it, and lead her with a
smile to the distinguished old man, saying, This is the red-haired
beauty from the Rauchfuss farm, who crossed our path so often as a wild
youngster when we used to make excursions up to the Ettersberg. Our
hills produce such wonders.
The girl bowed before the dignified old man and kissed his hand
respectfully. He patted her auburn hair softly. Happy man for whom
this sunny head shall shine! Joy and love beam in her eyes. He turned
to his princely friend. What an ocean of beneficent happiness lies in
the young creatures of the earth!
If it only didn't dribble away in such cursed little drops!
growled the prince, raising his blunt nose and beckoning to the coach
to draw near.
Ah, but from another point of view that means watering the earth!
Have no care, pretty childwhichever way it comes!
The grave, distinguished man followed his prince into the coach, and
both waved a farewell to the pretty girl, who made the deep curtesy she
had learned so thoroughly from Frau Kummerfelden. Every girl in Weimar
who had ever been to the old actress's sewing-classes understood how to
make a proper court reverence; for, said the good woman, in a little
town like this, where there are so many princes both of the blood and
of the intellect, a certain savoir vivre should prevail, even in
the streets. In things of this kind she was a past mistress.
The engraver had stood as if under a spell; his meeting with his
brother, the old master, had come and gone. But he had played no part
in it. He looked at his rough, sinewy hands. Those are hands for you!
he cried in his heart. To gain nothing but a halfway-decent suit of
clothes, four shirts, two pairs of shoes, and a miserable hole to live
in, they have become as rough and lined as if they had conquered a
world. He has conquered a worldand his hands, at his age, have
remained soft, moved by the soul. Ah, plebeian, you won't go and knock
at his window! But the girl whom he caressed with his eyes and passed
his hand over her hairthis little goose! He grasped angrily at
Beate's hand. Let us go, Mamsell, he criedlet us go!
And amidst all the still May greenness, under the shelter of the
tender shrubs, he caught the startled girl to him, kissed her and
buried his face in the glory of her hair, which his brother had
stroked and the perfume of whose young life intoxicated him. Into thy
hands, O Lord ...! he almost sobbed.
She had fallen suddenly into such a storm of hot caresses that her
breath failed her as if a hailstorm were beating down on her. She
pushed him away, and at the same time nestled closer to him.
Do you love me, then? Do you love me? she asked him, trembling and
Do I love you? For heaven's sake, would not any one love anything
so young and wonderful when he sees it and feels it? What do you think?
Skin and hair with the scent of May in them!
She freed herself from his arms and walked silently by his side for
a little way. Do you love me? she asked again, as shaken and
distraught as he was. Do you know me? Do you know what I want in
You want me! he said passionately.
She wanted to speak, she triedtriedtried, but her excitement was
too great. Do you wish to be my friend? she said at last, anxiously.
Yesof course I do! he answered.
Will you teach me how to think? I want to be as much alive as you
Silly child! He would have taken her in his arms again; but she
kept him off with passionate refusal.
I love you because you are different from the others, and so that
you may speak to me as to a friend, as to a human being.
And don't I, then?
I don't want to live my life asleep all the time, do you hear?
What a strange little woman-thing you are! There's a time for
kissing, and a time for everything, you babe!
Life is what I long for! she cried, trembling with the uncertainty
of what it was she wanted.
Life? Love is life!
No, no! To understandthat is life. If I join my life to yours, I
want to be alive, and not dead and dumb as my mother was.
You have queer notions. Do you suppose, then, that people can learn
how to think as they learn any other trade f I tell you, what you've
got to do is to love lifeI'll make it my business to see that you
I shouldn't like to be cast off, she said with a kind of
bitterness, when you thought I was no longer beautiful. I should run
away from you if you deceived me and were no longer my friend.
All right, he said, laughing. So they walked along close together,
and he kept his arm tightly about her waist. Bound, he said, you
will walk more freely and happily than unbound. Everything is not what
it seems to be. You catch sight of a thought or a feeling, and you
imagine it is as simple and as limited as a point. You come closer to
it, and you find it grows, it turns into a garden with all sorts of
walks and labyrinths. You walk about in it and are astonished. Then
under your very feet it changes to a wilderness full of precipices and
impenetrable thickets. The wilderness grows to a world, which you can
never see the whole of and never come to the end of. All things are
included in this world, all things and everything.
It is very much less trouble to take things as simply and smoothly
as most people do than to try to move huge blocks of thought. Thinking
is like drinkinga man easily falls into it, if the shoe pinches
anywhere. And what does he get out of it? An endless struggle with
headaches. He's got to be a hero to keep it up. Do you think you'd ever
get used to drinking?
I don't think so, laughed the girl.
Just as soon as you would to thinking. These headaches are much
more serious for a woman. To endure them one must be freefree as a
man is without chick or child, without a little ache or pain; he must
be able to sink himself in his great trouble. She looked at him in
questioning astonishment. You see, he went on, you're a little
tender spring world, and you want to go rolling after a burnt-out,
petrified, stiff and stony winter world. 'Deuce take it!' people will
say, 'What do they want with each other?' The sweet spring world will
be burned up or crushed to piecesit's plainly to be seen.
Then let it be! answered the girl firmly and quietly. We are all
burning up anyhow ... And he was conscious again of the May-perfume of
the spring world which intoxicated his unaccustomed senses.
She was too full of beauty for him, too ready with her devotion, too
tender of soul and too longing of heart. Something less generous would
have done better for him. Excess always oppressed and troubled him. His
ascetic chamber rose before his eyes: his bed covered with a woolen
counterpane and a few rags, a regular wolf's lairhis work-table, the
whole room with its clouded windows; and he thought of the distress
that came upon him when he knew there were a few gold pieces in his box
and felt himself turned, as long as they weighed him down, into a
To win a scanty reward with great pains had become a necessity of
his life. The comfortable existence which seemed to be approaching
troubled him. What would he do with it, and it with him? He recognized
only a few duties to himself, and they were more than enough. Now a
little spring world came rolling up to him and revolving around him in
its fragrant orbit. He would have to adapt himself to itand that
would be no simple matter.
Deeply moved, both of them, they reached the Rauchfuss farm, and
found all sorts of guests awaiting them. The Kirsten girls and their
friends, Frau Marianne's boarders and the little widow herself, and
some of the bachelors were there.
To all of these the guest who had dropped from the clouds seemed a
doubtful addition. They had come up to have a look round, and they
found Beate joyous and rosy. She greeted them all more warmly than had
been her wont. Each felt himself specially made welcome.
The new guest stood there, thin and angular in his gray suit in
which he had emerged as a pike from the water, and looked none too well
pleased at the coming and going, at the chatter and the laughter.
The fellow hasn't accomplished anything herethat skeleton! said
one of the boarders. He himself showed the good results of Frau
Marianne's care. Her idea was to keep one of the two always well taken
care of for herselfthat was her fixed policy, because in any case she
wanted to have one of the two to console her.
The Raven-mother was grumbling because this evening she had all the
labor of preparing supper; but the table under the trees was spread,
and old Sperber, who came to see how they were getting on, announced
that he would provide a punch.
The Kirsten girls and their friends brought the wine from the
Sperber farm and worked reverently and busily at the brewing of the
punch. When it mingled its fragrance with the perfume of the young
foliage and the blooming lilacs, the mood of the assemblage was a.
festive one. The girls began to sip and to laugh, the young men became
more lively, old Sperber nursed his glass lovingly with both hands, as
if to caress the soft golden liquor. The engraver drank not in a
festive manner, but in the measured yet not ungenerous fashion to which
he was used at his inn among his accustomed companions. It was not such
an extraordinary occasion to him as it was to the rather sober-minded
guests here. They were frugal people; the Sperbers and the Weimar folks
were in the habit of drinking of an evening the honest home-brewed
stuff that was brought in open pails from the town hall and then
The engraver held his glass in his hand and gazed into it. On my
way to this Promised Land of yours, he said, I sat in a village
tavern and drank the wretched beer they gave me. In came a miserable
old woman, worn with age and sorrow, and touched me on the shoulder,
saying, 'Give me a sup, for Christ's sake!' 'Here, old girl!' I said,
and gave her my glass. She sat down and drained it to the last drop;
then she looked up at me with her big old eyes and said, 'Now I have
drunk your cup of sorrow!'
The engraver was silent; the others stared at him. My hat comes off
to that word! he said, and seemed to sink into himself. That was the
greatest word of love that I ever heard in my life. Amen. The young
folks burst out laughing; old Sperber still caressed his glass, and
looked half-mockingly at the stranger. But he went on: All the
church-bells ought to have been rung when the old woman said, 'Now I
have drunk your cup of sorrow!' People should have rushed out of their
houses to see what was happeningthey should have cried, 'Hosanna!'
Does no one understand the immeasurable depth of such poverty and
goodness! I fell on my knees before the old woman, I kissed the
tattered hem of her garmentsand she ... spat in my face! Amen. And
the meaning of it all isthat no one knows what he says and does in
this world, neither in the highest sense nor in the lowest. They utter
oracles like the gods, and understand nothing of them. They are angry
with each other, and know not why. A world of dreams ... Here's to your
good health! And he raised his glass and drank.
A positive fool! whispered old Sperber to his neighbor. Why can't
he talk like other people! And the same sentiment might have been read
in the glances of the rest.
This brought all her blood to the hostess's cheeks. A warm,
protecting love for him seized upon her; a kind, inextinguishable flame
sprang up in her heart. It seemed to her as if she could dip her young
soul in his and bring it up again full of the power of life and of
riches. He was a revelation to her. She felt that she was escaping from
a dark, dumb world to him and to the light.
It was not long before the suitors became aware that the strange
engraver was on the road to snatching from under their very noses the
rich and beautiful prize to which they aspired. Even to Herr Sperber
the situation seemed to be getting queer; and Herr Kosch had a hard
time of it. The men made him a target for their remarks, and tried to
set him in an absurd light. He held his own bravely, and gave valiant
answers back. The rough give-and-take of the tavern had accustomed him
to that, and at first he defended himself with equanimitybut you must
remember that he was the man who could not suffer it to be said, in
opposition to his views, that horses were intelligent animals. So he
poured upon his wrath no small quantity of the excellent punch,
although he knew it was a dangerous policy.
What was that you said just now, Herr Kosch, if I may inquire?
said the courtier with mocking politeness. What was that expression
you used? 'All those old barnyard cocks that were clustered around his
Excellency?' Do I quote the expression correctly?
You do, said the engraver harshly. Scratching in the earth around
him to see what they can pick upin a disgusting way, so I imagine.
Barnyard cocksand barnyard hens!
Oh, said the courtier bitingly, you have a singular conception of
our society here!
Society! said the stranger scornfully. Two-legged creatures like
those that run about everywhere, a crowing, clucking crowd! And then
one of them crows himself up in the big barnyard to the position of a
demigod! Lord, how the fellow must be bored with the rest of the
And how do you feel, Mr. Barnyard Cock? asked Sperber's nephew,
raising his glass. Here's to you!
To you! said Herr Kosch, bowing very low toward him and trying to
fix a somewhat unsteady gaze upon him. It seemed that in this firmly
organized body of his the eyes were not altogether obedient. Barnyard
cock? Barnyard cock? Sir, I come from shimmering depths, from the
caverns under the earth. You think the earth ends there where you walk?
You think there is nothing moving under your feet. But the mole and the
rabbit burrow deepvery deep. Well, well, I'm not a barnyard ...
barnyard cockthat I'm not ... certainly not. And he shook his hard,
lined hand. No ... no!
The fellow's drunk, muttered Herr Sperber. He no longer held
caressingly encircled the clear liquor in his glass, but looked at his
old friend's daughter, and saw how, pale and with big, wide-open eyes,
she watched anxiously every movement of the stranger. Old Sperber rose,
came quietly behind her chair, touched her on the shoulder, and said,
I'll soon get rid of the fool for youdon't worry, Tubby. In reply
he got from her a glance full of rebellion, and yet uncertain, as if
seeking for help. Listen, child, come with me through the garden, he
said, cheerfully and heartily. She shook her head, and her eyes
fastened again on the engraver.
A man, the latter was just saying to his neighbor, Sperber's
nephew, in whom one notices by his walk or his bearing or his speech,
even to the slightest degree, that he has taken too much of a good
thingis a degenerate! In man there is a whole world at war. The
microcosm is in revolution! Storms are raging in the brainthe world
is on fire! He stands unmoved, a god in revolt! What is your opinion?
That is the highest self-conquest, the primeval type of manhood, the
struggle and victory without a parallel!
Well, drinking too deep can happen to a fellow ... I don't say no,
said the nephew very quietly. But your way of putting it strikes me as
Oho ...! The engraver stretched himself, disengaged himself, so to
speak, from his own ego, and looked challengingly down the table. His
eye fell upon the beautiful girl who had given him her heart. He was
aware of her deadly pallor, of her eyes fixed desperately upon him.
God help methat sweet soul! he said within himself. There isn't
half an ounce of strength and sap in a woman like that. Wash me, but
don't make me wet! She wants a man with spirit, but she can't bear to
see the bottling. Ah, there ...! He pulled himself together and
remained quite silent.
The young hostess rose now, and with her the guests. The last half
hour at the rustic table under the trees, the air had been a little
heavy. Many an eye had seemed to see old Rauchfuss go by and stop to
shake the engraver's hand mysteriously, as though to say that he spoke
after his own heart, and much more forcibly than he had ever been able
The engraver now approached his hostess and said in a rather thick
voice, To judge the living and the dead. In heaven's name, then, good
night. Tomorrow I go. She looked at him with eyes full of the
deadliest anxiety, but spoke not a word, holding him only with her
eyes. He was silent and gazed straight in front of him. It was evident
that he was making a great struggle, internally and externally, to
control himself. I am who I am, he said. There is no interpretation
to that. What has grown so, and he held out his sinewy hands before
him, has grown so. Farewell ... But oh, your kissesyour royal
kisses! God keep you!
Stay, she said, stay! But her features grew even paler, she
tottered, and her head sank against the tree-trunk. Herr Kosch caught
her in his arms. The candles on the table in their glass shades threw a
yellow light on them.
Herr Sperber and some of the others saw the girl resting in the
Good Lord! As quickly as his short legs permitted, Sperber reached
the spot. What's the matter? he cried. What's the matter?
My fiancée seems a little unwell, said Herr Kosch gravely.
Yourwhat? cried Herr Sperber. But that'sthat's He was
going to say horrible, but thought better of it, and only looked at
him in a way that left no doubt, taking the girl without ceremony in
his strong arms.
Then she opened her eyes, and said, as she saw the friendly,
horrified face of old Sperber bending over her, I love him beyond
anything on earth.
The engraver seized both her hands and kissed them. Go, she said;
I want to be alone. You promised to be my friend. I long to be alive
as you are alive. That is what you must understand. Good night!
He kissed her hand again, and bowed to Herr Sperber. I will go, he
said, and he went, just as Herr Rauchfuss used to walk when he wanted
to show the world that he was completely master of himself.
The girl remained behind, dissolved in burning tears. Herr Sperber
led her to the deserted table and made her sit down by his side. A
bitter odor came up from the dregs in the bottom of the glasses. The
two candles made a small white island in the midst of the darkness, in
which dim forms were seen walking up and down in excited converse.
Still the tears ran incessantly down the girl's cheeks.
Child, said Herr Sperber, what have you done? An utterly unknown
man! Are you womenfolks all crazy? For a whole year everything
respectable that had two legs has been running up here after youand
you ... A man like our nephew ... Think, childso straight and steady,
pure and good; he would make a woman happy.
Don'tdon't! she said.
They sat silently side by side.
No one need know. Come, child, let us go to the others. Helplessly
she followed him, and took leave of her guests. The suitors went away
in deep, dumb amazement. The Kirsten girls kissed their friend heartily
on the cheeks, and their comrades pressed her hand.
For God's sake, child, said the Raven-mother, when the last had
departed, are you clean out of your senses?
Let her alone, said Herr Sperber. We don't need anything. Go to
bed. I'll stay with our child. Leave us alone.
And they were left alone. They went together into the living-room,
Herr Sperber carrying one of the large candles with him. Now tell me,
child, how all this has happened! She knelt in front of the little old
man, who sat, full of care, in Herr Rauchfuss's armchair; and again the
hot tears flowed. Do you remember the night when your father lay
dying, and we sat here and waited for him to draw his last breatheh,
child? The girl nodded. Do you know that Herr Kosch shows a decided
inclination to take to drinking? She nodded again, her eyes staring
straight before her, full of pain. And in spite of that ...? Tell me,
is it absolutely necessary for a woman to be entirely without reason?
Do you think you could stop him if he made up his mind to be a
No, she said.
Then what did you mean, my girl, by what you said just now? You
want to be alive as he is alive? And you want him to be your friend?
What did it mean? Look, I'll set the thing all straight for you. You
must know your mother was just such another overstrained little soul,
good and dear as she was. Look at my old woman, look at the old
Kummerfelden. All women of the better sort have had their little
whimsies when they were young. But you see, women learn to think in
another fashion from men. Men come to it soonerpeople teach them the
trick. You see, I'm telling you the thing just as I see it ... They go
to school longer; they learn their trade; they've got to play a part in
the world. Of course a good deal of it is put upon them
artificiallyit doesn't always come to them naturally; but it's got to
come. One generation tells the next what it has thought. Like an
irresistible avalanche the whole heap of thoughts, whatever has been
thought, comes down on us men. Or, if you'll understand me better, we
get all our food ready chewed up for us.
Now women learn to think in quite a different way. When they're
very young, life leaves them quiet, doesn't put too much of a strain on
them. But when the time comes, life itself teaches them to think. The
avalanche of thoughts doesn't come down on them, nor do they get their
food ready chewed. Out of their own nature grow the thoughts, and
understanding of life. Look at my old woman and the Kummerfelden. I
take my hat off to those two good old souls! They think simply about
everything; but what they think is nothing foreign, nothing learnedit
is their own, their hard-won property. We men are seldom so natural, so
penetrated by our convictions, so simple. We have much in us that is
foreignor dead. I'm not talking so much of myselfI'm a simple old
fellow. But for all that, you know, old Sperber isn't a fool. Do you
think he doesn't understand you? Ah ...
When a man is in love with you, he's everything but your friend. He
can only be your friend when the stage of being in love has passed; and
even then he may not be your friend. That's a thing you've got to
deserve! That is life's highest gift, and it doesn't fall into
everybody's lap. Yesperhaps you can't even deserve it; it's got to
come to you like the big prize in the lottery.
And so we come to it: we are too simple for youyou want to go up
higher. You don't want to grow as we have grown, I fancy, to develop
quietly like my old woman. You want to spring up suddenly to the
heights. The air that comes up from Weimar has poisoned youthat fine
spiritual air. But you see there's nothing for you in that. Wait, wait,
wait! What the good God has chosen that we should know here below, we
shall know when the time comes; mother Nature looks out for that.
There's no need of a forcing-house for such plants.
Lookthere's still time. Tomorrow morning early I'll go to your
engraver and say to him: 'My dear fellow, you probably know by this
time what girls are ... An old man has been talking to her, and she has
changed her mind.' It would be ruination for both of you.
Let me go my way, Uncle Sperber, she saidlet me go my way. I
can't live without him!
Tubby, that's exactly the way your mother talked. I don't take any
stock in a love like thatnone of God's creatures is worth it. Not
one. My old woman and I began gently and quietly, and we've always gone
along the same way. It seems to me one doesn't want a harbor where the
waves run so high that the ship can't rest in it. Listen, my girl ...
were you intending to copy him in all his nonsense? I don't know ... I
should be telling a lie if I said it would please me specially!
No, she said, I believe you, Uncle Sperber; I suppose it couldn't
please you. Every one speaks only to his own kind, and the rest don't
understand him. My man is understood here by nobodyif he spoke with
the tongue of an angel, it would be just the same. But I ...! My heart
went out to him instantly: from the very first moment I felt that I
knew him like an old friend.
Tubby, said the old man with a sigh, I don't have to tell you
what you'd be exposed to with him. God gave you your father for a
warning. What you are doing is against God's will. Your hot tears bear
witness against you.
Uncle Sperber, she said gravely, that is just the reason why
words are unnecessary. My tears must say to you, 'I know everything, I
understand everything, and yet I cannot let him go.'
Then God be with you, my child! If it is so that you know what you
are doing, then go the way that you are destined to go. I see nothing
good before you. Exactly so I spoke to your motherthe very same
words. She married the man she loved for no other reason, as it seems
to me now, than that you should come to be what you are at this moment.
You wanted to come to life. And now ... others are wanting to come to
life, and seem, worse luck, to need you and this chance stranger.
Child, if love only lasted! A marriage for love like that is a
serious thing for anybody. If it were only for a short time, it
wouldn't be so bad. But to choose a partner for life in the glare of a
Bengal light! It would be the same for me to buy my cows by Bengal
light, or when I was drunk. If you'd only listen to me! Let him go,
Tubby, let him go, I've said; take our nephew. I can't do better by
Then the girl raised herself to her full height: That's enough,
Uncle Sperber, she said with shining eyes, as she gave him her hand.
You are very good to me! But if in the morning he still wants me, I
stand by it. I am so full of force and courage and joy because he loves
me. I am strong anyhowI will work out whatever fate lays upon me. I
know that every happiness must be paid for in suffering.
Well, said old Sperber, if you go to your folly with courage and
joy, it's one thingbut with burning tears ...? Am I not right, my
girl? If you have courage, you may get the best of this devil of a
fellowbut going to it in sorrow ... no!
And so they came together, as thousands and thousands of others have
done, driven by love, in the face of all reason. The history of their
marriage was the history of many another that reaches from youth to old
age. They made each other happy and disappointed each other, they did
good and evil to each other, they bored each other and grew accustomed
to each other. As with all mortals, there were long stretches of life
over which dulness lay like a covering of thickly-matted seaweed. Under
this covering the waves of life could hardly move, could not break
through to the light of day; only a mighty wave of joy or sorrow could
break through it and send its spray up toward the heavens.
And now Beate Rauchfuss, as an old woman, sat at the end of an
afternoon in her garden on the Ettersberg. All was over that she had
once knownjoys, longings, hopes, desires, and powers; and Herr Kosch
was gone too. She, that loved most deeply, had the most to bearfor
she bore him the rest of his life. His sufferings were her sufferings,
the movements of his life also the movements of hers. So she led
woman's burdensome double existencethe burdensome manifold existence
which is woman's.
With her children she shared the bliss of youth and the sorrows of
youth, felt with them their disappointments and their joys. With two of
her dear ones she had looked into the face of death; she had climbed
Herr Kosch's steep path with him, without his calling her to follow.
She had stolen out after him, learned to keep step with him as an
unnoticed companion of the way. And when he, weary of wandering, found
his faithful helper and comrade by his side, she had reached the goal
of her life.
Yes, women learn to think in a different way from men. She came to
understand her old friend's saying. As she gave birth to children, so
she gave birth to thoughts. Each was a hard-won conquest from the heart
of things, not found by chance, not learned, not strange and
separatebut born alive of herself and paid for with suffering.
When she sat, an old woman, in the rays of the setting sun, full of
peace, her soul was round as it had been in her first youth, with no
projections, no fissures, on which cares could hang themselves or into
which they could creep. Like a distant noise and bustle sounded the
world's business in the undisturbed peace. For the second time in her
life, her soul was like a sunlit ball of crystal; it had been so in her
youth, when no stain or shadow had yet fallen upon it from life, and
now, when all the stains and shadows were purged away from it.
Whether life was easy or hard, marriage happy or unhappy, work
successful or unsuccessful, it was all onea matter of indifference.
Only one thing was not a matter of indifference: that the old woman sat
here now in the evening sunshine with a soul that was rounded and
transparent, floating in space like a clear shining sphere, dreaming
peacefully and asking nothingdone with the world.