The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VIII
Part 2 out of 9
one had more right or more inclination to be an "Eigenbroetlerin" than
did Black Marianne, although she never had anything to bake; for oatmeal
and potatoes and potatoes and oatmeal were the only things she ever ate.
She always lived by herself, and did not like to associate with other
people. Only along toward autumn did she become restless and impatient;
about that time of the year she would talk to herself a great deal, and
would often accost people of her own accord, especially strangers who
happened to be passing through the village. For she was anxious to find
out whether the masons from this or that place had yet returned home for
the winter, and whether they had brought news of her John. While she was
once more boiling and washing the linen she had been bleaching all
summer long, for which purpose she remained up all night, she would
always be muttering to herself. No one could understand exactly what she
said, but the burden of it was intelligible, for it was always: "That is
for me, and that is for thee." She was in the habit of saying twelve
Paternosters daily for her John, but on this particular washing-night
they became innumerable. When the first snow fell she was always
especially cheerful; for then there could be no more outdoor work, and
then he would be most likely to come home. At these times she would
often talk to a white hen which she kept in a coop, telling it that it
would have to be killed when John came. She had repeated these
proceedings for many years, and people never ceased telling her that
she was foolish to be thus continually thinking of the return of her
This autumn it would be eighteen years since John had gone away, and
every year John Michael Winkler was reported in the paper as missing,
which would be done until his fiftieth year--he was now in his
thirty-sixth. The story circulated in the village that John had gone
among the gipsies. Once, indeed, his mother had mistaken a young gipsy
for him; he was a man who bore a striking resemblance to her missing
son, in that he was small of stature and had the same dark complexion;
and he had seemed rather pleased at being taken for John. But the mother
had put him to the proof, for she still had John's hymn-book and his
confirmation verse; and, inasmuch as the stranger did not know this
verse and could not tell who were his sponsors, or what had happened to
him on the day when Brosi's Severin arrived with his English wife, and
later on when the new well was dug at the town-hall--inasmuch as he did
not satisfy these and other proofs, he could not be the right man. And
yet Marianne used to give the gipsy a lodging whenever he came to the
village, and the children in the streets used to cry "John!" after him.
John was advertised as being liable to military duty and as a deserter;
and although his mother declared that he would have slipped through
under the measuring-stick as "too short," she knew that he would not
escape punishment if he returned, and inferred that this was the reason
why he did not return. And it was very strange to hear her praying,
almost in the same breath, for the welfare of her son and the death of
the reigning prince; for she had been told that when the sovereign died,
his successor would proclaim a general amnesty for all past offenses.
Every year Marianne used to ask the schoolmaster to give her the page in
the newspaper in which her John was advertised for, and she always put
it with his hymn-book. But this year it was a good thing that Marianne
could not read, so that the schoolmaster could send her another page in
place of the one she wanted. For a strange rumor was going through the
whole village; whenever two people stood together talking, they would be
"Black Marianne must not be told anything about it. It would kill
her--it would drive her crazy."
For a report, coming from the Ambassador in Paris, had passed through a
number of higher and lower officers, until it reached the Village
Council; it stated that, according to a communication received from
Algiers, John Winkler of Haldenbrunn had perished in that colony during
an outpost skirmish. There was much talk in the village of the singular
fact that so many in high departments should have concerned themselves
so much about the dead John. But this stream of well-confirmed
information was arrested before it had reached the end of its course.
At a meeting of the Village, Council it was determined that nothing at
all should be said to Black Marianne about it. It would be wrong, they
said, to embitter the last few years of her life by taking her one
comfort away from her.
But instead of keeping the report secret, the first thing the members of
the Council did was to talk of it in their homes, and it was not long
before the whole village knew about it, excepting only Black Marianne.
Every one, afraid of betraying the secret to her, looked at her with
strange glances; no one addressed her, and even her greetings were
scarcely returned. It was only Marianne's peculiar disposition that
prevented her from noticing this. And indeed, if any one did speak to
her and was drawn on to say anything about John's death, it was done in
the conjectural and soothing way to which she had been accustomed for
years; and Marianne did not believe it now any more than she had
formerly, because nobody ever said anything definite about the report of
It would have been better if Amrei had known nothing about it, but there
was a strange, seductive charm in getting as close as possible to a
subject that was forbidden. Accordingly every one spoke to Amrei of the
mournful event, warned her not to tell Black Marianne anything about
it, and asked if the mother had no presentiments or dreams of her son's
death--if his spirit did not haunt the house. After she heard of it
Amrei was always trembling and quaking in secret; for she alone was
always near Black Marianne, and it was terrible to know something which
she was obliged to conceal from her. Even the people in whose house
Black Marianne had rented a small room could no longer bear to have her
near them, and they showed their sympathy by giving her notice to quit.
But how strangely things are associated in this life! As a result of
this very thing Amrei experienced joy as well as grief--for it opened up
her parents' home to her again. Black Marianne went to live there, and
Amrei, who at first trembled as she went back and forth in the house,
carrying water or making a fire, always thinking that now her father and
mother must come, afterward began gradually to feel quite at home in it.
She sat spinning day and night, until she had earned enough money to buy
back her parents' cuckoo-clock from Coaly Mathew. Now she had at least
one household article of her own! But the cuckoo had fared badly among
strangers; it had lost half of its voice, and the other half seemed to
stick in its throat--it could only cry "cook"--and as often as it did
that, Amrei would involuntarily add the missing "oo."
* * * * *
Black Marianne could not bear to hear the clock cuckoo and fixed the
pendulum so that it would not work, saying that she always had the time
in her head. And it was indeed wonderful how true this was--at any
minute she could tell what time it was, although it was of very little
consequence to her. In fact, this waiting, expectant woman possessed a
remarkable degree of alertness, for as she was always listening to hear
her son coming, she was naturally wide-awake all the time. And, although
she never visited anybody in the village, and spoke to nobody, she knew
everybody, and all about the most secret things that went on in the
place. She could infer a great deal from the manner in which people met
one another, and from words she overheard here and there. And because
this seemed very wonderful, she was feared and avoided. She often used
to describe herself, according to a local expression, as an
"old-experienced" woman, and yet she was exceedingly active. Every day,
year in and year out, she ate a few juniper berries, and people said
that was the reason why she was so vigorous and showed her sixty-six
years so little. The fact that the two sixes stood together caused her,
according to an old country saying (which, however, was not
universally believed in) to be regarded as a witch. It was said that she
sometimes milked her black goat for hours at a time, and that this goat
gave an astonishing quantity of milk, but that in milking this goat she
was in reality drawing the milk out of the udders of the cows belonging
to persons she hated, and that she had an especial grudge against Farmer
Rodel's cattle. Moreover, Marianne's successful poultry-keeping was also
looked upon as witchcraft; for where did she get the food, and how was
it that she always had chickens and eggs to sell? It is true that in
the summer she was often seen collecting cock-chafers, grasshoppers, and
all kinds of worms, and on moonless nights she was seen gliding like a
wil-o'-the-wisp among the graves in the churchyard, where she would be
carrying a burning torch and collecting the large black worms that crept
out, all the time muttering to herself. It was even said that in the
quiet winter nights she held wonderful conversations with her goat and
with her fowls, which she housed in her room during the winter. The
entire wild army of tales of witchcraft and sorcery, banished by school
education, came back and attached itself to Black Marianne.
Amrei sometimes felt afraid in the long, silent winter nights, when she
sat spinning by Black Marianne, and nothing was heard but an occasional
sleepy clucking from the fowls, or a dreamy bleat from the goat. And it
seemed truly magical how fast Marianne spun! She even said once:
"I think my John is helping me to spin." And then again she complained
that this winter, for the first time, she had not thought wholly and
solely of her John. She took her self to task for it and called herself
a bad mother, and complained that it seemed all the time as if the
features of her John were slowly vanishing before her--as if she were
forgetting what he had done at such and such a time, how he had laughed,
sung, and wept, and how he had climbed the tree and jumped into the
* * * * *
But however cheerfully and brightly Marianne might begin to speak, she
always ended by relapsing into gloomy complaint and mourning; and she
who professed to like to be alone and to think of nothing and to love
nothing, only lived to think about her son and to love him. Consequently
Amrei made up her mind to release herself from this uncanny position of
being alone with Black Marianne; she demanded that Damie should be taken
into the house. At first Marianne opposed it vehemently, but when Amrei
threatened to leave the house herself, and then coaxed her in such a
childlike way and tried so hard to do whatever would best please her,
the old woman at last consented.
Damie, who had learned from Crappy Zachy to knit wool, now sat beneath
the parental roof again; and at night, when the brother and sister were
asleep in the garret, each one of them would wake the other when they
heard Black Marianne down stairs, running to and fro and muttering to
herself. But Damie's transmigration to Black Marianne's was the cause of
new trouble. Damie was exceedingly discontented at having been compelled
to learn a miserable trade that was fit only for a cripple. He wanted to
be a mason, and although Amrei was very much opposed to it, for she
predicted that he would not keep at it, Black Marianne supported him in
it. She would have liked to make all the young lads masons, and then to
have sent them out on their travels that they might bring back news of
Black Marianne seldom went to church, but she always liked to have
anybody else borrow her hymn-book and take it to church--it seemed to
give her a kind of pleasure to have it there. She was especially pleased
when any strange workman, who happened to be employed in the village,
borrowed the hymn-book which John had left behind him for that purpose;
for it seemed to her as if John himself were praying in his native
church, when the words were spoken and sung out of his book. And now
Damie was obliged to go to church twice every Sunday with John's
While Marianne did not go to church herself, she was always to be seen
at every solemn ceremony in the village or in any of the surrounding
villages. There was never a funeral which Marianne did not attend as one
of the mourners; and at the funeral sermon, and the blessing spoken over
the grave, even of a little child, she always wept so violently that one
would have thought she was the nearest relative. On the way home,
however, she was always especially cheerful, for this weeping seemed to
be a kind of relief to her; all the year round she had to suppress so
much secret sorrow, that she felt thankful for an opportunity to give
vent to her feelings.
Could people be blamed if they shunned her as an uncanny person,
especially as they were keeping a secret from her? The habit of avoiding
Black Marianne was partly extended to Amrei herself; in several houses
where the girl called to offer help or sympathy she was made to see
distinctly that her presence was not desired, especially as she herself
was beginning to show certain eccentricities which astonished the whole
village; for example, except on the coldest winter days she used to go
barefoot, and people said that she must know some secret method to
prevent herself from catching cold and dying.
Only in the house of Farmer Rodel were they glad to have her, for the
farmer was her guardian. His wife, who had always taken Amrei's part and
who had one day promised to take her into her service when she was
older, was prevented from carrying out this plan. She herself was taken
by another--Death. The heaviness of life is generally felt in later
years, when one friend after another has been called away, and only a
name and a memory remains. But it was Amrei's lot to experience this in
her youth; and it was she and Black Marianne who wept more bitterly than
any of the others at the funeral of Farmer Rodel's wife.
Farmer Rodel was always complaining about how hard it was that he should
have to give up his property so soon, although not one of his three
children was yet married. But hardly a year had passed, and Damie had
not yet worked a full year in the quarry, when the celebration of a
double wedding was announced in the village; for Farmer Rodel's eldest
daughter and his only son were to be married on the same day. On this
day Farmer Rodel was to give over his property to his son, and at this
wedding it was fated that Amrei should acquire a new name and be
introduced into a new life.
In the space before the large dancing-floor the children were assembled,
and while the grown-up people were dancing and enjoying themselves
within, the children were imitating them outside. But, strange to say,
no boy and no girl would dance with Amrei. No one knew who said it
first, but a voice was heard to call out:
"No one will dance with you-you're Little Barefoot!" and "Barefoot!
Barefoot! Barefoot!" was echoed on all sides. Amrei was ready to weep;
but here again she quickly made use of the power which enabled her to
ignore insult and injury. Suppressing her tears, she seized her apron by
the two ends and danced around by herself so gracefully and prettily,
that all the children stopped to look at her. And presently the grown-up
people were nodding to one another, and a circle of men and women was
formed around Amrei. Farmer Rodel, in particular, who on this day was
eating and drinking with double relish, snapped his fingers and whistled
the waltz the musicians were playing, while Amrei went on dancing and
seemed to know no weariness. When at last the music ceased, Farmer Rodel
took Amrei by the hand and said:
"You clever girl, who taught you to do that so well?"
"Why don't you dance with any one?"
"It is better to dance alone--then one does not have to wait for
anybody, and has one's partner always at hand."
"Have you had anything from the wedding yet?" asked Farmer Rodel, with a
"Then come in and eat," said the proud farmer; and he led the poor girl
into the house and sat her down at the wedding table, at which feasting
was going on all day long. Amrei did not eat much. Farmer Rodel, for a
jest, wanted to make the child tipsy, but Amrei said bravely:
"If I drink more, I shall have to be led and shall not be able to walk
alone; and Marianne says 'alone' is the best conveyance, for then the
horses are always harnessed."
All were astonished at the child's wisdom.
Young Farmer Rodel came in with his wife and asked the child, to tease
"Have you brought us a wedding present? For if one eats so, one ought to
bring a wedding present."
The father-in-law, moved by an incomprehensible impulse of generosity,
secretly slipped a sixpenny piece into the child's hand. Amrei held the
coin fast in her palm, nodded to the old man, and said to the young
"I have the promise and an earnest of payment; your deceased mother
always promised me that I should serve her, and that no one else should
be nurse to her first grand-child."
"Yes, my wife always wished it," said the old farmer approvingly. And
what he had refused to do for his wife while she was alive, for fear of
having to provide for an orphan, he now did, now that he could no longer
please her with it, in order to make it appear before the people that
he was doing it out of respect for her memory. But even now he did it
not from kindness, but in the correct calculation that the orphan would
be serviceable to him, the deposed farmer who was her guardian; and the
burden of her maintenance, which would amount to more than her wages,
would fall on others and not on him.
The young couple looked at each other, and the man said:
"Bring your bundle to our house tomorrow--you can live with us."
"Very well," said Amrei, "tomorrow I will bring my bundle. But now I
should like to take my bundle with me; give me a bottle of wine, and
this meat I will wrap up and take to Marianne and my Damie."
They let Amrei have her way; but old Farmer Rodel said to her secretly:
"Give me back my sixpence--I thought you were going to give it up."
"I'll keep that as an earnest from you," answered Amrei slyly; "you
shall see, I will give you value for it." Farmer Rodel laughed to
himself half angrily, and Amrei went back to Black Marianne with money,
wine, and meat.
The house was locked; and there was a great contrast between the loud
music and noise and feasting at the wedding house, and the silence and
solitude here. Amrei knew where to wait for Marianne on her way home,
for the old woman very often went to the stone-quarry and sat there
behind a hedge for a long time, listening to the tapping of chisels and
mallets. It seemed to her like a melody, carrying her back to the times
when her John used to work there too; and so she often sat there,
listening and watching.
Sure enough, Amrei found Black Marianne there, and half an hour before
quitting time she called Damie up out of the quarry. And here among the
rocks a wedding feast was held, more merry than the one amid the noise
and music. Damie was especially joyful, and Marianne, too, was
unusually cheerful. But she would not drink a drop of the wine, for she
had declared that no wine should moisten her lips until she drank it at
her John's wedding. When Amrei told with glee how she had got a place at
young Farmer Rodel's, and was going there tomorrow, Black Marianne
started up in furious anger; picking up a stone and pressing it to her
bosom, she said:
"It would be better a thousand times that I had this in me, a stone like
this, than a living heart! Why cannot I be alone? Why did I ever allow
myself to like anybody again? But now it's all over forever! You false,
faithless child! Hardly are you able to raise your wings, than off you
fly! But it is well. I am alone, and my John shall be alone, too, when
he comes--and what I have wished would come to pass, shall never be!"
With that she ran off toward the village.
"She's a witch, after all," said Damie when she had disappeared. "I
won't drink the wine--who knows if she has not bewitched it?"
"You can drink it--she's only a strict Eigenbroetlerin and she has a
heavy cross to bear. I know how to win her back again," said Amrei,
THE SISTER OF MERCY
During the next year there was plenty of life in Farmer Rodel's house.
"Barefoot," for so Amrei was now called, was handy in every way, and
knew how to make herself liked by everybody; she could tell the young
farmer's wife, who had come to the place as a stranger, what the customs
of the village were; she studied the habits and characters of those
around her and learned to adapt herself to them. She managed to do all
sorts of kindnesses to old Farmer Rodel, who could not get over his
chagrin at having had to retire so early, and grumbled all day long
about it. She told what a good girl his daughter-in-law was, only that
she did not know how to show it. And when, after scarcely a year, the
first child came, Amrei evinced so much joy at the event, and was so
handy at everything that had to be done, that all in the house were full
of her praise; but according to the fashion of such people they were
more ready to scold her for any trifling omission than to praise her
openly. But Amrei did not expect any praise. She knew so well how to
carry the little baby to its grandfather, and just when to take it away
again, that it pleased and surprised everybody. And when the baby's
first tooth came, and Amrei exhibited it to the grandfather, the old man
"I will give you a sixpence for the pleasure you have given me. But do
you remember the one you stole from me at the wedding--now you may keep
Meanwhile Black Marianne was not forgotten. It was certainly a difficult
task to regain her favor. At first Marianne would have nothing to say to
Barefoot, whose new mistress would not allow her to go to Marianne's,
especially not with the child, as it was always feared that the witch
might do the baby some mischief. Great patience and perseverance were
required to overcome this prejudice, but it was accomplished at last.
Indeed, Little Barefoot brought matters to such a pass that Farmer Rodel
himself several times paid a visit to Black Marianne, a thing which
astonished the entire village. These visits, however, were soon
discontinued, for Marianne once said:
"I am nearly seventy years old and have got on until now without the
friendship of a farmer; and it's not worth while to make a change now."
Naturally enough Damie was often with his sister. But young Farmer Rodel
objected to this, alleging, not without reason, that it would result in
his having to feed the big boy; for in a large house like his one could
not see whether a servant was not giving him all kinds of things to eat.
He therefore forbade Damie to come to the house, except on Sunday
Damie, however, had already seen too much of the comfort of living in a
wealthy farmer's house; his mouth watered for the flesh-pots, and he
wanted to stay there, if only as a servant. Stone-chipping was such a
hungry life. But Barefoot had many objections to make. She told him to
remember that he was already learning a second trade, and that he ought
to keep at it; that it was a mistake to be always wanting to begin
something new, and then to suppose that one could be happy in that way.
She said that one must be happy in the place where one was, if one was
ever to be happy at all. Damie allowed himself to be persuaded for a
time. And so great was the acknowledged authority of Little Barefoot
already, and so natural did it seem that she should dictate to her
brother, that he was always called "Barefoot's Damie," as if he were not
her brother, but her son. And yet he was a head taller than she, and did
not act as if he were subordinate to her. Indeed, he often expressed his
annoyance that he was not considered as good as she, merely because he
did not have a tongue like hers in his head. His discontent with himself
and with his trade he always vented first on his sister. She bore it
patiently, and because he showed before the world that she was obliged
to give him his way, she really gained more influence and power through
this very publicity. For everybody said that it was very good of Amrei
to do what she did for her brother, and she rose in the public
estimation by letting him treat her thus unkindly, while she in turn
cared for him like a mother. She washed and darned for him at night so
steadily, that he was one of the neatest boys in the village; and
instead of taking two stout pairs of shoes, which she received as part
of her wages every half year, she always paid the shoemaker a little
extra money to make two pairs for Damie, while she herself went
barefoot; it was only on Sunday, when she went to church, that she was
seen wearing shoes at all.
Little Barefoot was exceedingly annoyed to find that Damie, though no
one knew why, had become the general butt of all the joking and teasing
in the village. She took him sharply to task for it, and told him he
ought not to tolerate it; but he retorted that she ought to speak to the
people about it, and not to him, for he could not stand up against it.
But that was not to be done--in fact, Damie was secretly not
particularly annoyed by being teased everywhere he went. Sometimes,
indeed, it hurt him to have everybody laugh at him, and to have boys
much younger than himself take liberties with him, but it annoyed him a
great deal more to have people take no notice of him at all, and he
would then try to make a fool of himself and expose himself to insult.
Barefoot, on the other hand, was certainly in some danger of developing
into the hermit Marianne had always professed to recognize in her. She
had once attached herself to one single companion, the daughter of Coaly
Mathew; but this girl had been away for years, working in a factory in
Alsace, and nothing was ever heard of her now. Barefoot lived so
entirely by herself that she was not reckoned at all among the young
people of the village; she was friendly and sociable with those of her
own age, but her only real playmate was Black Marianne. And just because
Barefoot lived so much by herself, she had no influence upon the
behavior of Damie, who, however much he might be teased and tormented,
always had to have the company of others, and could never be alone like
But now Damie suddenly emancipated himself; one fine Sunday he exhibited
to his sister some money he had received as an earnest from
Scheckennarre, of Hirlingen, to whom he had hired himself out as a
"If you had spoken to me about it first," said Barefoot, "I could have
told you of a better place. I would have given you a letter to Farmer
Landfried's wife in Allgau; and there you would have been treated like a
son of the family."
"Oh, don't talk to me about her!" said Damie crossly. "She has owed me a
pair of leather breeches she promised me for nearly thirteen years.
Don't you remember?--when we were little, and thought we had only to
knock, and mother and father would open the door. Don't talk to me of
Dame Landfried! Who knows whether she ever thinks of us, or indeed if
she is still alive?"
"Yes, she's alive--she's related to the family which I serve, and they
often speak of her. And all her children are married, except one son,
who is to have the farm."
"Now you want to make me feel dissatisfied with my new place," said
Damie complainingly, "and you go and tell me that I might have had a
better one. Is that right?" And his voice faltered.
"Oh, don't be so soft-hearted all the time!" said Barefoot. "Is what I
said going to take away any of your good fortune? You are always acting
as if the geese were biting you. And now I will only tell you one thing,
and that is, that you should hold fast to what you have, and remain
where you are. It's no use to be like a cuckoo, sleeping on a different
tree every night. I, too, could get other places, but I won't; I have
brought it about that I am well off here. Look you, he who is every
minute running to another place will always be treated like a
stranger--people know that tomorrow he perhaps won't belong to the
house, and so they don't make him at home in it today."
"I don't need your preaching," said Damie, and he started to go away in
anger. "You are always scolding me, and toward everybody else in the
world you are good-natured."
"That's because you are my brother," said Barefoot, laughing and
caressing the angry boy.
In truth, a strange difference had developed itself between brother and
sister; Damie had a certain begging propensity, and then again the next
minute showed a kind of pride; Barefoot, on the other hand, was always
good-natured and yielding, but was nevertheless supported by a certain
self-respect, which was never detracted from by her willingness to work
She now succeeded in pacifying her brother, and said:
"Look, I have an idea. But first you must be good, for the coat must not
lie on an angry heart. Farmer Rodel still has in his possession our dear
father's clothes; you are tall now, and they will just fit you. Now it
will give you a good appearance if you arrive at the farm in such
respectable clothes; then your fellow-servants will see where you come
from, and what worthy parents you had."
Damie saw that this was sensible, and Barefoot induced old Farmer
Rodel--with considerable difficulty, for he did not want to give up the
clothes so soon--to hand the garments over to Damie. Barefoot at once
took him up to her room and made him put on his father's coat and vest
then and there. He objected, but when Amrei had set her heart on a
thing, it had to be done. The hat, alone, Damie could not be induced to
wear; when he had put on the coat, Amrei laid her hand on his shoulder
"There, now you are my brother and my father, and now the coat is going
to be worn again with a new man in it. Look, Damie,--you have there the
finest coat of honor in the world; hold it in honor, and be as worthy
and honest in it as our dear father was."
She could say no more. She laid her head on her brother's shoulder, and
tears fell upon the paternal coat which had once more been brought to
"You say that I am soft-hearted," said Damie, "and you are much worse
And Barefoot was indeed deeply and quickly moved by anything; but she
was strong and light-hearted like a child. It was true of her, what
Marianne had observed when she went to sleep for the first time in the
old woman's house; she was waking and sleeping, laughing and weeping,
almost all at the same time. Every occurrence and every emotion affected
her very strongly, but she soon got over it and recovered her balance.
She continued to weep.
"You make one's heart so heavy," said Damie complainingly.
[Illustration: TEARS FELL UPON THE PATERNAL COAT]
"It's hard enough to have to go away from one's home and live among
strangers. You ought rather to cheer me up, than to be so--so--."
"Right thinking is the best cheer," replied Amrei. "It does not weigh
upon the heart at all. But you are right--you have enough to bear; a
single pound added to the load might crush you. I am foolish after all.
But come--let us see now what the sun has to say, when father walks out
in its light once more. No, I didn't mean to say that. Come, you
yourself surely know where we must go, and what you must take leave of;
for even if you are going only a couple of miles away, still you are
going away from the village, and you must bid it good-by. It's hard
enough for me that I am not to have you with me any longer--no, I mean
that I am not to be with you any longer, for I don't want to rule over
you, as people say I do. Yes, yes,--old Marianne was right; _alone_ is a
great word; one can't possibly learn all that it means. As long as you
were living on the other side of the street, even if I did not see you
for a week at a time, it did not matter; for I could have you at any
moment, and that was as good as living together. But now--well, it's not
out of the world, after all. But remember, don't try to lift too much,
or hurt yourself in your work. And when any of your things are torn,
send them to me--I'll mend them for you, and continue to knit for you.
And now, come, let us go to the churchyard."
Damie objected to this plan, making the plea that he felt the parting
heavy enough, and did not want to make it any heavier. His sister gave
in. He took off his father's clothes again, and Barefoot packed them in
the sack she had once worn as a cloak in the days when she kept the
geese. This sack still bore her father's name upon it, and she charged
Damie specially to send her back the sack at the first opportunity.
The brother and sister went out together. A cart belonging to Hirlingen
was passing through the village; Damie hailed it, and quickly loaded his
possessions on it. Then he walked with his sister, hand in hand, out of
the village, and Barefoot sought to cheer him up by saying:
"Do you remember the riddle I asked you there by the oven?"
"Think: What is best about the oven?"
"Of the oven this is best, 'tis said,
That it never itself doth eat the bread."
"Yes, you can be cheerful--you're going to stay home."
"But it was your own wish to go away. And you can be cheerful, too, if
you only try hard enough."
In silence she walked on with her brother to the Holderwasen. There,
under the wild pear-tree, she said:
"Here we will say good-by. God bless you, and don't be afraid of
They shook hands warmly, and then Damie walked on toward Hirlingen, and
Barefoot turned back toward the village. Not until she got to the foot
of the hill, where Damie could not see her, did she venture to lift up
her apron and wipe away the tears that were running down her cheeks.
[Amrei and Damie were separated for three years. During this time the
girl made herself more and more liked and respected by everybody, not
only on account of her pleasant ways and general helpfulness, but also
on account of her self-sacrificing devotion to her unappreciative
brother. While her going barefoot and having been a goose-girl caused
her to be the victim of more or less raillery, still nobody meant it at
all seriously unless it was Rose, Farmer Rodel's youngest daughter, who
was jealous of Amrei's popularity. One day when Amrei was standing by
her window, she heard the fire-bell ringing.]
"There's a fire at Scheckennarre's, at Hirlingen!" was the cry outside.
The engine was brought out, and Barefoot climbed upon it and rode away
with the firemen.
"My Damie! My Damie!" she kept repeating to herself in great alarm. But
it was day-time, and in the day-time people could not be burned to
death in a fire. And sure enough, when they arrived at Hirlingen, the
house was already in ashes. Beside the road, in an orchard, stood Damie
in the act of tying two piebalds,--fine, handsome horses,--to a tree;
and oxen, bulls, and cows were all running about in confusion.
They stopped the engine to let Barefoot get off, and with a cry of "God
be praised that nothing has happened to you!" she hurried toward her
brother. Damie, however, made no reply, and stood with both hands
resting on the neck of one of the horses.
"What is it? Why don't you speak? Have you hurt yourself?"
"I have not hurt myself, but the fire has hurt me."
"What's the matter?"
"All I have is lost--all my clothes and my little bit of money! I've
nothing now but what's on my back."
"And are father's clothes burnt too?"
"Are they fireproof?" replied Damie, angrily. "Don't ask such stupid
Barefoot was ready to cry at this ungracious reception by her brother;
but she quickly remembered, as if by intuition, that misfortune in its
first shock often makes people harsh, unkind, and quarrelsome. So she
"Thank God that you have escaped with your life! Father's clothes--to be
sure, in those there's something lost that cannot be replaced--but
sooner or later they would have been worn out anyway."
"All your chattering will do no good," said Damie, still stroking the
horse. "Here I stand like a miserable outcast. If the horses here could
talk, they'd tell a different story. But I am born to misfortune--whatever
I do that's good, is of no use. And yet--" He could say no more; his voice
"What has happened?"
"There are the horses, and the cows, and the oxen--not one of them was
burned. Look, that horse over there tore my shirt when I was dragging
him out of the stable. This nigh horse here did me no harm--he knows me.
Eh, Humple, you know me, don't you? We know each other, don't we?" The
horse laid his head across the neck of the other and stared at Damie,
who went on:
"And when I joyfully went to tell the farmer that I had saved all his
cattle, he said: 'You needn't have done it--they were all well insured,
and I would have been paid good money for them.' 'Yes,' thinks I to
myself, 'but to have let the poor beasts die, is that nothing? If a
thing's paid for, is that all?' The farmer must have read in my face
what I was thinking of, for he says to me: 'Of course, you saved your
clothes and your property?' And then I says: 'No, not a stitch. I ran
out to the stable directly.' And then he says: 'You're a noodle!'
'What?' says I, 'You're insured?--Well then, if the cattle would have
been paid for, my clothes shall be paid for--and some of my dead
father's clothes were among them, and fourteen guilders, and my watch,
and my pipe.' And says he: 'Go smoke it! My property is insured, but not
my servant's property.' And I says: 'We'll see about that--I'll take it
to court!' Whereupon he says: 'Now you may go at once. Threatening a
lawsuit is the same as giving notice. I would have given you a few
guilders, but now you shan't have a farthing. And now, hurry up--away
with you!' And so here I am. And I think I ought to take my nigh horse
with me, for I saved his life, and he would be glad to go with me,
wouldn't you? But I have never learned to steal, and I shouldn't know
what to do now. The best thing for me to do is to jump into the water.
For I shall never amount to anything as long as I live, and I have
"But I still have something, and I will help you out."
"No, I won't do that any longer--always depending upon you. You have a
hard enough time earning what you have."
Barefoot tried to comfort her brother, and succeeded so far that he
consented to go home with her. But they had scarcely gone a hundred
paces, when they heard something trotting along behind them. It was the
horse; he had broken loose and had followed Damie, who was obliged to
drive back the creature he was so fond of by flinging stones at it.
Damie was ashamed of his misfortune, and would hardly show his face to
any one; for it is a peculiarity of weak natures that they feel their
strength, not in their own self-respect, but always wish to show how
much they can really do by some visible achievement. Misfortune they
regard as evidence of their own weakness, and if they cannot hide it,
they hide themselves.
Damie would go no farther than the first houses in the village. Black
Marianne gave him a coat that had belonged to her slain husband; Damie
felt a terrible repugnance at putting it on, and Amrei, who had before
spoken of her father's coat as something sacred, now found just as many
arguments to prove that there was nothing in a coat after all, and that
it did not matter in the least who had once worn it.
Coaly Mathew, who lived not far from Black Marianne, took Damie as his
assistant at tree-felling and charcoal-burning. This solitary life
pleased Damie best; for he only wanted to wait until the time came when
he could be a soldier, and then he would enter the army as a substitute
and remain a soldier all his life. For in a soldier's life there is
justice and order, and no one has brothers and sisters, and no one has
his own house, and a man is provided with clothing and meat and drink;
and if there should be a war, why a brave soldier's death is after all
Such were the sentiments that Damie expressed one Sunday in Mossbrook
Wood, when Barefoot came out to the charcoal-burner's to bring her
brother yeast, and meal, and tobacco. She wanted to show him how--in
addition to the general charcoal-burner's fare, which consists of bread
baked with yeast--he might make the dumplings he prepared for himself
taste better. But Damie would not listen to her; he said he preferred to
have them just as they were--he rather liked to swallow bad food when he
might have had better; and altogether, he derived a kind of satisfaction
from self-neglect, until he should some day be decked out as a soldier.
Barefoot fought against this continual looking forward to a future time,
and this loss of time in the present. She was always wanting to put some
life into Damie, who rather enjoyed being indolent and pitying himself.
Indeed, he seemed to find a sort of satisfaction in his downward course,
for it gave him an opportunity to pity himself to his heart's content,
and did not require him to make any physical exertion. With great
difficulty Barefoot managed to prevail so far that he at least bought an
ax of his own out of his earnings; and it was his father's ax, which
Coaly Mathew had bought at the auction in the old days.
Barefoot often came back out of the Wood in profound despair, but this
state of mind never lasted long. Her inward confidence in herself, and
the natural cheerfulness that was in her, involuntarily burst forth from
her lips in song; and anybody who did not know her, would never have
thought that Barefoot either had a care then, or ever had had one in all
The satisfaction arising from the feeling that she was sturdily and
untiringly doing her duty, and acting as a Samaritan to Black Marianne
and Damie, impressed an indelible cheerfulness on her countenance; in
the whole house there was no one who could laugh so heartily as
Barefoot. Old Farmer Rodel declared that her laughter sounded like the
song of a quail, and because she was always serviceable and respectful
to him, he gave her to understand that he would remember her in his
will. Barefoot did not pay much attention to this or build much upon it;
she looked only for the wages to which she had a true and honest claim;
and what she did, she did from an inward feeling of benevolence, without
expectation of reward.
"SACK AND AX"
Scheckennarre's house was duly rebuilt, and in handsomer style than
before; and the winter came, and with it the drawing for recruits. Never
had there been greater lamentation over a "lucky number" than arose when
Damie drew one and was declared exempt. He was in complete despair, and
Barefoot almost shared his grief; for she looked upon this soldiering as
a capital method of setting Damie up, and of breaking him of his
slovenly habits. Still she said to him:
"Take this as a sign that you are to depend upon yourself now, and to be
a man; for you still behave like a little child that can't shift for
itself and has to be fed."
"You're reproaching me now for feeding upon you."
"No, I didn't mean that. Don't be so touchy all the time--always
standing there as if to say: 'Who's going to do anything for me, good or
bad?' Strike about for yourself."
"That's just what I am going to do, and I shall strike with a good
swing," said Damie.
For a long time he would not state what his real intention was; but he
walked through the village with his head singularly erect and spoke
freely to everybody; he worked diligently in the forest with the
woodcutters, having his father's ax and with it almost the bodily
strength of him who had swung it so sturdily in the days that were gone.
One evening in the early part of the spring, when Barefoot met him on
his way back from Mossbrook Wood, he asked, taking the ax from his
shoulder and holding it up before her:
"Where do you think this is going?"
"Into the forest," answered Barefoot. "But it won't go alone--there must
be a chopper."
"You are right; but it's going to its brother--and one will chop on
this side and another will chop on that side, and then the trees crash
and roar like cannons, and still you will hear nothing of it--and yet
_you_ may, if you wish to, but no one else in this place."
"I don't understand one peck of all your bushel," answered Barefoot.
"Speak out--I'm too old to guess riddles now."
"Well, I'm going to uncle in America."
"Indeed? Going to start to-day?" said Barefoot, laughing. "Do you remember
how Martin, the mason's boy, once called up to his mother through the
window: 'Mother, throw me out a clean pocket-handkerchief--I'm going to
America!' Those who were going to fly so quickly are all still here."
"You'll see how much longer I shall be here," said Damie; and without
another word he went into Coaly Mathew's house.
Barefoot felt like laughing at Damie's ridiculous plan, but she could
not; she felt that there was some meaning in it. And that very night,
when everybody was in bed, she went to her brother and declared once for
all that she would not go with him. She thought thus to conquer him; but
Damie replied quickly:
"I'm not tied to you!" and became the more confirmed in his plan.
Then there suddenly welled up in the girl's mind once more all that
flood of reflections that had come upon her once in her childhood; but
this time she did not ask advice of the tree, as if it could have
answered her. All her deliberations brought her to this one conclusion:
"He's right in going, and I'm right, too, in staying here." She felt
inwardly glad that Damie could make such a bold resolve--at any rate, it
showed manly determination. And although she felt a deep sorrow at the
thought of being henceforth alone in the wide world, she nevertheless
thought it right that her brother should thrust forth his hand thus
boldly and independently.
Still, she did not yet quite believe him. The next evening she waited
for him and said:
"Don't tell anybody about your plan to emigrate, or you'll be laughed at
if you don't carry it out."
"You're right," answered Damie; "but it's not for that. I'm not afraid
to bind myself before other people; so surely as I have five fingers on
this hand, so surely shall I go before the cherries are ripe here, if I
have to beg, yes, even to steal, in order to get off. There's only one
thing I'm sorry about--and that is that I must go away without playing
Scheckennarre a trick that he'd remember to the end of his days."
"That's the true braggart's way! That's the real way to ruin!" cried
Barefoot; "to go off and leave a feeling of revenge behind one! Look,
over yonder lie our parents. Come with me--come with me to their graves
and say that again there if you can. Do you know who it is that turns
out to be a no-good?--the boy who lets himself be spoiled! Give up that
ax! You are not worthy to have your hand where father had his hand,
unless you tear that thought out of your mind, root and branch! Give up
that ax! No man shall have that who talks of stealing and of murdering!
Give up that ax, or I don't know what I may do!"
Then Damie, in a frightened tone, replied:
"It was only a thought. Believe me I never intended to do it--I can't do
anything of that kind. But because they always call me "skittle-boy," I
thought I ought for once to threaten and swear and strike as they do.
But you are right; look, if you like, I'll go this very day to
Scheckennarre and tell him that my heart doesn't cherish a single hard
thought against him."
"You need not do that--that would be too much. But because you listen to
reason, I will help you all I can."
"It would be best if you went with me."
"No, I can't do that--I don't know why, but I can't. But I have not
sworn not to go--if you write to me that you are doing well at uncle's,
then I'll come after you. But to go out into the fog, where one knows
nothing--well, I'm not fond of making changes anyway, and after all I'm
doing fairly well here. But now let us consider how you are to get
Damie's savings were very trifling, and Barefoot's were not enough to
make up the deficiency. Damie declared that the parish ought to give him
a handsome contribution; but his sister would not hear of it, saying
that this ought to be the last resource, when everything else had
failed. She did not explain what else she was going to try. Her first
idea, naturally, was to make application to Dame Landfried at
Zumarshofen; but she knew what a bad appearance a begging letter would
make in the eyes of the rich farmer's wife, who perhaps would not have
any ready money anyway. Then she thought of old Farmer Rodel, who had
promised to remember her in his will; could he be induced to give her
now what he intended to give her later on, even if it should be less?
Then again, it occurred to her that perhaps Scheckennarre, who was now
getting on especially well, might be induced to contribute something.
She said nothing to Damie about all this. But when she examined his
wardrobe, and with great difficulty induced Black Marianne to let her
have on credit some of the old woman's heaped-up stores of linen, and
when she began to cut out this linen and sat up at night making shirts
of it--all these steady and active preparations made Damie almost
tremble. To be sure, he had acted all along as if his plan of emigrating
were irrevocably fixed in his mind--and yet now he seemed almost bound
to go, to be under compulsion, as if his sister's strong will were
forcing him to carry out his design. And his sister seemed almost
hard-hearted to him, as if she were thrusting him away to get rid of
him. He did not, indeed, dare to say this openly, but he began to
grumble and complain a good deal about it, and Barefoot looked upon this
as suppressed grief over parting--the feeling that would gladly take
advantage of little obstacles and represent them as hindrances to the
fulfilment of a purpose one would gladly leave unfulfilled.
First of all she went to old Farmer Rodel, and in plain words asked him
to let her have at once the legacy that he had promised her long ago.
The old man replied:
"Why do you press it so? Can't you wait? What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing's the matter with me, but I can't wait."
Then she told him that she was fitting out her brother who was going to
emigrate to America. This was a good chance for old Rodel; he could now
give his natural hardness the appearance of benevolence and prudent
forethought. Accordingly he declared to Barefoot that he would not give
her one farthing now, for he did not want to be responsible for her
ruining herself for that brother of hers.
Barefoot then begged him to be her advocate with Scheckennarre. At last
he was induced to consent to this; and he took great credit to himself
for thus consenting to go begging to a man he did not know on behalf of
a stranger. He kept postponing the fulfilment of his promise from day to
day, but Barefoot did not cease from reminding him of it; and so, at
last, he set forth.
But, as might have been anticipated, he came back empty-handed; for the
first thing Scheckennarre did was to ask how much Farmer Rodel himself
was going to give, and when he heard that Rodel, for the present, was
not going to give anything, his course, too, was clear and he followed
When Barefoot told Black Marianne how hurt she felt at this
hard-heartedness, the old woman said:
"Yes, that's just how people are! If a man were to jump into the water
tomorrow and be taken out dead, they would all say: 'If he had only told
me what was amiss with him, I should have been very glad to help him in
every way and to have given him something. What would I not give now, if
I could restore him to life!' But to keep a man alive, they won't stir a
Strangely enough, the very fact that the whole weight of things always
fell upon Barefoot made her bear it all more easily. "Yes, one must
always depend upon oneself alone," was her secret motto; and instead of
letting obstacles discourage her, she only strove harder to surmount
them. She scraped together and turned into money whatever of her
possessions she could lay hands on; even the valuable necklace she had
received in the old days from Farmer Landfried's wife went its way to
the widow of the old sexton, a worthy woman who supported herself in her
widowhood by lending money at high interest on security; the ducat, too,
which she had once thrown after Severin in the churchyard, was brought
into requisition. And, marvelous to relate, old Farmer Rodel offered to
obtain a considerable contribution from the Village Council, of which he
was a member; he was fond of doing virtuous and benevolent things with
the public money!
Still it almost frightened Barefoot when he announced to her, after a
few days, that everything had been granted--but upon the one condition,
that Damie should entirely give up his right to live in the village. Of
course, that had been understood from the first--no one had expected
anything else; but still, now that it was an express condition, it
seemed like a very formidable matter to have no home anywhere. Barefoot
said nothing about this thought to Damie, who seemed cheerful and of
good courage. Black Marianne, especially, continued to urge him strongly
to go; for she would have been glad to send the whole village away to
foreign parts, if only she could at last get tidings of her John. And
now she had firmly taken up the notion that he had sailed across the
seas. Crappy Zachy had indeed told her, that the reason she could not
cry any more was because the ocean, the great salty deep, absorbed the
tears which one might be disposed to shed for one who was on the other
Barefoot received permission from her employers to accompany her brother
when he went to town to conclude the arrangement for his passage with
the agent. Greatly were both of them astonished when they learned, on
arriving at the office, that this had already been done. The Village
Council had already taken the necessary steps, and Damie was to have his
rights and corresponding obligations as one of the village poor. On
board the ship, before it sailed out into the wide ocean, he would have
to sign a paper, attesting his embarkation, and not until then would the
money be paid.
The brother and sister returned sorrowfully to the village. Damie had
been seized with a fit of his old despondency, because a thing had now
to be carried out which he himself had wished. And Barefoot herself felt
deeply grieved at the thought that her brother was, in a way, to be
expelled from his native land. At the boundary-line Damie said aloud to
the sign-post, on which the name of the village and of the district were
"You there! I don't belong to you any longer, and all the people who
live here are no more to me than you are."
Barefoot started to cry; but she resolved within herself that this
should be the last time until her brother's departure, and until he was
fairly gone. And she kept her word to herself.
The people in the village said that Barefoot had no heart, because her
eyes were not wet when her brother went away. People like to see tears
actually shed--for what do they care about those that are shed in
secret? But Barefoot was calm and brave.
Only during the last days before Damie set out did she for the first
time fail in her duty; for she neglected her work by being with Damie
all the time. She let Rose upbraid her for it, and merely said: "You are
right." But still she ran after her brother everywhere--she did not want
to lose a minute of his company as long as he was there. She very likely
felt that she might be able to do something special for him at any
moment, or say something special that would be of use to him all his
life; and she was vexed with herself for finding nothing but quite
ordinary things to say, and for even quarreling with him sometimes.
Oh, these hours of parting! How they oppress the heart! How all the past
and all the future seem crowded together into one moment, and one knows
not how to set about anything rightly, and only a look or a touch must
tell all that is felt!
Still Amrei found good words to speak. When she counted out her
brother's stock of linen she said:
"These are good, respectable shirts--keep yourself respectable and good
And when she packed everything into the big sack, on which her father's
name was still to be seen, she said:
"Bring this back full of glittering gold; then you shall see how glad
they will be to give you back the right to live here. And Farmer Rodel's
Rose, if she's still unmarried, will jump over seven houses to get you."
And when she laid their father's ax in the large chest, she said:
"How smooth the handle is! How often it has slipped through our father's
hand. I fancy I can still feel his touch upon it! So now I have a motto
for you--'Sack and Ax.' Working and gathering in, those are the best
things in life--they make one keep cheerful and well and happy. God keep
you! And say to yourself very often--'Sack and Ax.' I shall do the same,
and that shall be our motto, our remembrance, our call to each other
when we are far, far apart, and until you write to me, or come to fetch
me, or do what you can, as God shall will it. 'Sack and Ax'--yes it's
all included in that; so one can treasure up everything--all thoughts
and all that one has earned!"
And when Damie was sitting up in the wagon, and for the last time gave
her his hand, for a long time she would not release it. And when at last
he drove away, she called out after him with a loud voice:
"'Sack and Ax'--don't forget that!"
He looked back, waved his hand to her, and then--he was gone.
[Illustration: HE GAVE HER HIS HAND FOR THE LAST TIME]
AN UNINVITED GUEST
"Glory to America!" the village watchman, to the amusement of all, cried
several nights when he called out the hours, in place of the usual
thanksgiving to God. Crappy Zachy, being a man of no consideration
himself, was fond of speaking evil of the poor when he found himself
among what he called "respectable people," and on Sunday when he came
out of church, or on an afternoon when he sat on the long bench outside
the "Heathcock," he would say:
"Columbus was a real benefactor. From what did he not deliver us? Yes,
America is the pig-trough of the Old World, and into it everything that
can't be used in the kitchen is dumped--cabbage and turnips and all
sorts of things. And for the piggies who live in the castle behind the
house, and understand French--'Oui! Oui!'--there's very good feeding
In the general dearth of interesting subjects, Damie and his emigrating
naturally formed the main topic of conversation for a considerable time,
and the members of the Council praised their own wisdom in having rid
the place of a person who would certainly have come to be a burden on
the community. For a man who goes driving about from one trade to
another is sure to drive himself into ruin eventually.
Of course, there were plenty of good-natured people who reported to
Barefoot all that was said of her brother, and told her how he was made
a laughing-stock. But Barefoot merely smiled. When Damie's first letter
came from Bremen--nobody had ever thought that he could write so
properly--then she exulted before the eyes of men, and read the letter
aloud several times; but in secret she was sorry to have lost such a
brother, probably forever. She reproached herself for not having put him
forward enough, for it was now evident what a sharp lad Damie was, and
so good too! He wanted to take leave of the whole village as he had
taken leave of the post at the boundary-line, and he now filled almost a
whole page with remembrances to different people, calling each one "the
dear" or "the good" or "the worthy." Barefoot reaped a great deal of
praise everywhere she delivered these greetings, and each time pointed
to the precise place, and said:
"See--there it stands!"
For a time Barefoot was silent and abstracted; she seemed to repent of
having let her brother go, or of having refused to go with him. Formerly
she had always been heard singing in the stable and barn, in the kitchen
and chamber, and when she went out with the scythe over her shoulder and
the grass-cloth under her arm; but now she was silent. She seemed to be
making an effort to restrain herself. Still there was one time when she
allowed people to hear her voice again; in the evening, when she put
Farmer Rodel's children to bed, she sang incessantly, even long after
the children were asleep. Then she would hurry over to Black Marianne's
and supply her with wood and water and whatever else the old woman
On Sunday afternoons, when everybody was out for a good time, Barefoot
often used to stand quiet and motionless at the door of her house,
looking out into the world and at the sky in dreamy, far-off meditation,
wondering where Damie was now and how he was getting on. And then she
would stand and gaze for a long time at an overturned plow, or watch a
fowl clawing in the sand. When a vehicle passed through the village, she
would look up and say, almost aloud:
"They are driving to somebody. On all the roads of the world there is
nobody coming to me, and no one thinking of me. And do I not belong here
And then she would make believe to herself that she was expecting
something, and her heart would beat faster, as if for somebody who was
coming. And involuntarily the old song rose to her lips:
All the brooklets in the wide world,
They run their way to the Sea;
But there's no one in this wide world,
Who can open my heart for me.
"I wish I were as old as you," she once said to Black Marianne, after
dreaming in this way.
"Be glad that a wish is but a word," replied the old woman. "When I was
your age I was merry; and down there at the plaster-mill I weighed a
hundred and thirty-two pounds."
"But you are the same at one time as at another, while I am not at
"If one wants to be 'even' one had better cut one's nose off, and then
one's face will be even all over. You little simpleton! Don't fret your
young years away, for nobody will give them back to you; and the old
ones will come of their own accord."
Black Marianne did not find it very difficult to comfort Barefoot; only
when she was alone, did a strange anxiety come over her. What did it
A wonderful rumor was now pervading the village; for many days there had
been talk of a wedding that was to be celebrated at Endringen, with such
festivities as had not been seen in the country within the memory of
man. The eldest daughter of Dominic and Ameile--whom we know, from
Lehnhold--was to marry a rich wood-merchant from the Murg Valley, and it
was said that there would be such merry-making as had never yet been
The day drew nearer and nearer. Wherever two girls meet, they draw each
other behind a hedge or into the hallway of a house, and there's no end
to their talking, though they declare emphatically that they are in a
particular hurry. It is said that everybody from the Oberland is coming,
and everybody from the Murg Valley for a distance of sixty miles! For it
is a large family. At the Town-hall pump, there the true gossiping goes
on; but not a single girl will own to having a new dress, lest she
should lose the pleasure of seeing the surprise and admiration of her
companions, when the day arrived. In the excitement of asking and
answering questions, the duty of water-carrying is forgotten, and
Barefoot, who arrives last, is the first to leave with her bucketful of
water. What is the dance to her? And yet she feels as if she hears music
The next day Barefoot had much running back and forth to do in the
house; for she was to dress Rose for the great occasion. She received
many an unseen knock while she was plaiting her hair, but bore them in
silence. Rose had a fine head of hair, and she was determined it should
make a fine show. Today she wished to try something new with it; she
wanted to have a Maria-Theresa braid, as a certain artistic arrangement
of fourteen braids is called in those parts. That would create a
sensation as something new. Barefoot succeeded in accomplishing the
difficult task, but she had scarcely finished when Rose tore it all down
in anger; and with her hair hanging down over her brow and face, she
looked wild enough.
But for all that she was handsome and stately, and very plump; her whole
demeanor seemed to say: "There must be not less than four horses in the
house into which I marry." And many farmers' sons were, indeed, courting
her, but she did not seem to care to make up her mind in favor of any
one of them. She now decided to keep to the country fashion of having
two braids, interwoven with red ribbons, hanging down her back and
reaching almost to the ground. At last she stood adorned and ready.
But now she had to have a nosegay. She had allowed her own flowers to
run wild; and in spite of all objections, Barefoot was ultimately
obliged to yield to her importunities and rob her own cherished plants
on her window-sill of almost all their blossoms. Rose also demanded the
little rosemary plant; but Barefoot would rather have torn that in
pieces than give it up. Rose began to jeer and laugh, and then to scold
and mock the stupid goose-girl, who gave herself such obstinate airs,
and who had been taken into the house only out of charity. Barefoot did
not reply; but she turned a glance at Rose which made the girl cast down
And now a red, woolen rose had come loose on Rose's left shoe, and
Barefoot had just knelt down to sew it on carefully, when Rose said,
half ashamed of her own behavior, and yet half jeeringly:
"Barefoot, I will have it so--you must come to the dance today."
"Do not mock so. What do you want of me?"
"I am not mocking," persisted Rose, still in a somewhat jeering tone.
"You, too, ought to dance once, for you are a young girl, and there will
be some of your equals at the wedding--our stable-boy is going, or
perhaps some farmer's son will dance with you. I'll send you some one
who is without a partner."
"Let me be in peace--or I shall prick you."
"My sister-in-law is right," said the young farmer's wife, who, until
now, had sat silent. "I'll never give you a good word again if you don't
go to the dance today. Come--sit down, and I will get you ready."
Barefoot felt herself flushing crimson as she sat there while her
mistress dressed her and brushed her hair away from her face and turned
it all back; and she almost sank from her chair, when the farmer's wife
"I am going to arrange your hair as the Allgau girls wear it. That will
suit you very well, for you look like an Allgau girl yourself--sturdy,
and brown, and round. You look like Dame Landfried's daughter at
"Why like her daughter? What made you think of her?" asked Barefoot, and
she trembled all over.
How was it that she was just now reminded again of Dame Landfried, who
had been in her mind from childhood, and who had once appeared to her
like the benevolent spirit in a fairy-tale? But Barefoot had no ring
that she could turn and cause her to appear; but mentally she could
conjure her up, and that she often did, almost involuntarily.
"Hold still, or I'll pull your hair," said the farmer's wife; and
Barefoot sat motionless, scarcely daring to breathe. And while her hair
was being parted in the middle, and she sat with her arms folded and
allowed her mistress to do what she liked with her, and while her
mistress, who was expecting a baby very soon, bustled about her, she
really felt as if she had suddenly been bewitched; she did not say a
word for fear of breaking the charm, but sat with her eyes cast down in
"I wish I could dress you thus for your own wedding," said the farmer's
wife, who seemed to be overflowing with kindness today. "I should like
to see you mistress of a respectable farm, and you would not be a bad
bargain for any man; but nowadays such things don't happen, for money
runs after money. Well, do you be contented--so long as I live you shall
not want for anything; and if I die--and I don't know, but I seem to
fear the heavy hour so much this time--look, you will not forsake my
children, but will be a mother to them, will you not?"
"Oh, good heavens! How can you think of such a thing?" cried Barefoot,
and the tears ran down her cheeks. "That is a sin; for one may commit a
sin by letting thoughts enter one's mind that are not right."
"Yes, yes, you may be right," said the farmer's wife. "But wait--sit
still a moment; I will bring you my necklace and put it around your
"No, pray don't do that! I can wear nothing that is not my own; I should
sink to the ground for shame of myself."
"Yes, but you can't go as you are. Or have you, perhaps, something of
Hereupon Barefoot said that she, to be sure, had a necklace which had
been presented to her as a child by Dame Landfried, but that on account
of Damie's emigration it was in pledge with the sexton's widow.
Barefoot was then told to sit still and to promise not to look at
herself in the glass until the farmer's wife returned; and the latter
hurried away to get the ornament, herself being surety for the money
lent upon it.
What a thrill now went through Barefoot's soul as she sat there! She
who had always waited upon others was now being waited upon
herself!--and indeed almost as if under a spell. She was almost afraid
of the dance; for she was now being treated so well, so kindly, and
perhaps at the dance she might be pushed about and ignored, and all her
outward adornment and inward happiness would go for nothing.
"But no," she said to herself. "If I get nothing more out of it than the
thought that I have been happy, that will be enough; if I had to undress
right now and to stay at home, I should still be happy."
The farmer's wife now returned with the necklace, and was as full of
censure for the sexton's wife for having demanded such usurious interest
from a poor girl, as she was full of praise for the ornament itself. She
promised to pay the loan that very day and to deduct it gradually from
Now at last Barefoot was allowed to look at herself. The mistress
herself held the glass before her, and both of their faces glowed and
gleamed with mutual joy.
"I don't know myself! I don't know myself!" Barefoot kept repeating,
feeling her face with both hands. "Good heavens, if my mother could only
see me now! But she will certainly bless you from heaven for being so
good to me, and she will stand by you in the heavy hour--you need fear
"But now you must make another kind of face," said her mistress, "not
such a pitiful one. But that will come when you hear the music."
"I fancy I hear it already," replied Barefoot. "Yes, listen, there it
And, in truth, a large wagon decorated with green boughs was just
driving through the village. Seated in the wagon were all the musicians;
in the midst of them stood Crappy Zachy blowing his trumpet as if he
were trying to wake the dead.
And now there was no more staying in the village; every one was
hastening to be up and away. Light, Bernese carriages, with one and two
horses, some from the village itself and some from the neighboring
villages, were chasing each other as if they were racing. Rose mounted
to her brother's side on the front seat of their chaise, and Barefoot
climbed up into the basket-seat behind. So long as they were passing
through the village, she kept her eyes looking down--she felt so
ashamed. Only when she passed the house that had been her parents' did
she venture to look up; Black Marianne waved her hand from the window,
the red cock crowed on the wood-pile, and the old tree seemed to nod and
wish her good luck.
Now they drove through the valley where Manz was breaking stones, and
now over the Holderwasen where an old woman was keeping the geese.
Barefoot gave her a friendly nod.
"Good heavens!" she thought. "How does it happen that I sit here so
proudly driving along in festive attire? It is a good hour's ride to
Endringen, and yet it seems as if we had only just started."
The word was now given to alight, and Rose was immediately surrounded by
all kinds of friends. Several of them asked:
"Is that not a sister of your brother's wife?"
"No, she's only our maid," answered Rose.
Several beggars from Haldenbrunn who were here, looked at Barefoot in
astonishment, evidently not recognizing her; and not until they had
stared at her for a long time did they cry out: "Why, it's Little
"She is only our maid." That little word "only" smote painfully on the
girl's heart. But she recovered herself quickly and smiled; for a voice
within her said:
"Don't let your pleasure be spoiled by a single word. If you begin
anything new, you are sure to step on thorns at first."
Rose took Barefoot aside and said: "You may go for the present to the
dancing-room, or wherever you like, if you have any acquaintances in the
place. When the music begins I shall want to see you again."
And so Barefoot stood forsaken, as it were, and feeling as if she had
stolen the clothes she had on, and did not belong to the company at all,
as if she were an intruder.
"How comes it that thou goest to such a wedding?" she asked herself; and
she would have liked to go home again. She decided to take a walk
through the village. She passed by the beautiful house built for Brosi,
where there was plenty of life today, too; for the wife of that high
official was spending the summer here with her sons and daughters.
Barefoot turned back toward the village again, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, and yet wishing that somebody would accost her
that she might have a companion. On the outskirts of the village she
encountered a smart-looking young man riding a white horse. He was
attired in farmer's dress, but of a strange kind, and looked very proud.
He pulled up his horse, rested his right hand with the whip in it on his
hip, and patting the animal's neck with his left, called out:
"Good morning, pretty mistress! Tired of dancing already?"
"I'm tired of idle questions already," was the reply.
The horseman rode on. Barefoot sat for a long time behind a hedge, while
many thoughts flitted through her mind. Her cheeks glowed with a flush
caused by anger at herself for having made so sharp a reply to a
harmless question, by bashfulness, and by a strange, inward emotion. And
involuntarily she began to hum the old song:
"There were two lovers in Allgau
Who loved each other so dear."
She had begun the day in expectation of joy, and now she wished that she
were dead. She thought to herself: "How good it would be to fall asleep
here behind this hedge and never to awake again. You are not to have any
joy in this life, why should you run about so long? The grasshoppers
are chirping in the grass, a warm fragrance is rising from the earth, a
linnet is singing incessantly and seems to dive into himself with his
voice and to bring up finer and finer notes, and yet seems to be unable
to say with his whole heart what he has to say. Up in the air the larks,
too, are singing, every one for himself--no one listens to the others or
joins in with the others--and yet everything is--"
Never in her life had Amrei fallen asleep in broad daylight, or if ever,
not in the morning. She had now drawn her handkerchief over her eyes,
and the sunbeams were kissing her closed lips, which, even in sleep,
were pressed together defiantly, and the redness of her chin had become
deeper. She had slept about an hour, when she awoke with a start. The
smart-looking young man on the white horse was riding toward her, and
the horse had just lifted up his fore feet to bring them down on her
chest. It was only a dream, and Amrei gazed around her as if she had
fallen from the sky. She saw with astonishment where she was, and looked
at herself in wonder. But the sound of music from the village soon
aroused the spirit of life within her, and with new strength she walked
back and found that everything had become more lively. She noticed that
she felt more rested after the many things that she had experienced that
day. And now let only the dancing begin! She would dance until the next
morning, and never rest, and never get tired!
The fresh glow following the sleep of childhood was on her face, and
everybody looked at her in astonishment. She went to the dancing-room;
the music was playing, but in an empty room--for no dancers had come
yet. Only the girls who had been hired to wait upon the guests were
dancing with one another. Crappy Zachy looked at Barefoot for a
longtime, and then shook his head; evidently he did not know her. Amrei
crept along close to the wall, and so out of the room again. She ran
across Farmer Dominic, whose face was radiant with joy today.
"Beg pardon," said he; "does the mistress belong to the wedding guests?"
"No, I am only a maid. I came with Farmer Rodel's daughter, Rose."
"Good! Then go out to the kitchen and tell the mistress that I sent you,
and that you are to help her. We can't have hands enough in my house
"Because it's you I'll gladly go," said Amrei, and she set out at once.
On the way she thought how Dominic himself had once been a servant,
and--"Yes, such things happen only once in a century. It cost him many a
pang before he came to the farm--and that's a pity."
Ameile, Dominic's wife, gave a friendly welcome to the new comer, who
offered her services and at the same time took off her jacket, asking if
she might borrow a large apron with a bib on it. But the farmer's wife
insisted that Amrei should satisfy her own hunger and thirst before she
set about serving others. Amrei consented without much ceremony, and won
Ameile's heart by the first words she spoke; for she said:
"I will fall to at once, for I must confess that I am hungry, and I
don't want to put you to the trouble of having to urge me."
Amrei now remained in the kitchen and handed the dishes to the
waitresses in such a knowing way, and managed and arranged everything so
well, that the mistress said:
"You two Amreis, you and my brother's daughter, can manage all this, and
I will stay with the guests."
Amrei of Siebenhofen, who was nicknamed the "Butter Countess," and who
was known far and wide as proud and stubborn, was very friendly with
Barefoot. Once, indeed, the mistress said to the latter:
"It's a pity that you are not a boy; I believe that Amrei would marry
you on the spot, and not send you home, as she does all of her suitors."
"I have a brother who's still single--but he's in America," replied
"Let him stay there," said the Butter Countess; "it would be better if
we could send all the men folk away and be here by ourselves."
Amrei did not leave the kitchen until everything had been put back in
its proper place; and when she took off her apron it was still as white
and unruffled as when she had put it on.
"You'll be tired and not able to dance," said the farmer's wife, when
Amrei, with a present, finally took her leave.
"Why should I be tired? This was only play; and, believe me, I feel much
better for having done something today. A whole day devoted to pleasure!
I shouldn't know how to spend it, and I've no doubt that was why I felt
so sad this morning--I felt that something was missing. But now I feel
quite ready for a holiday--quite out of harness. Now I feel just like
dancing, if I could only find partners."
Ameile did not know how to show greater honor to Barefoot than by
leading her about the house, as if she were a wealthy farmer's wife, and
showing her the large chest full of wedding presents in the bridal room.
She opened the tall, blue cabinets, which had the name and the date
painted upon them, and which were crammed full of linen and all sorts of
things, all tied up with ribbons of various colors and decorated with
artificial flowers. In the wardrobe there were at least thirty dresses,
and nearby were the high beds, the cradle, the distaff with its
beautiful spindles, and everywhere children's clothes were hanging,
presents from the bride's former playmates.
"Oh, kind Heaven!" cried Barefoot; "how happy a child of such a house
"Are you envious?" said the farmer's wife; and then remembering that she
was showing all these things to a poor girl, she added: "But believe me,
fine clothes are not all; there are many happier who do not get as much
as a stocking from their parents."
"Yes, yes, I know that. I am not envious of the beautiful things, but
rather of the privilege that it gives your child to thank you and so
many good people for the lovely things she has received from them. Such
clothes from one's mother must keep one doubly warm."
The farmer's wife showed her fondness of Barefoot by accompanying the
girl as far as the yard, as she would have done to a visitor who had
eight horses in the stable.
There was already a great crowd of people assembled when Amrei arrived
at the dancing-floor. At first she stood timidly on the threshold. In
the empty courtyard, across which somebody hurried every now and then, a
solitary gendarme was pacing up and down. When he saw Amrei coming along
with a radiant face, he approached her and said:
"Good morning, Amrei! Art thou here too?"
Amrei started and turned quite pale. Had she done anything punishable?
Had she gone into the stable with a naked light? She thought of her past
life and could remember nothing; and yet he had addressed her as
familiarly as if he had already arrested her once. With these thoughts
flitting through her mind, she stood there trembling as if she were a
criminal, and at last answered:
"Thank you. But I don't know why we should call each other 'thou.' Do
you want anything of me?"
"Oh, how proud you are. You can answer me properly. I am not going to
eat you up. Why are you so angry? Eh?"
"I am not angry, and I don't want to harm any one. I am only a foolish
"Don't pretend to be so submissive--"
"How do you know what I am?"
"Because you flourish about so with that light."
"What? Where? Where have I flourished about with a light? I always take
a lantern when I go out to the stable, but--"
The gendarme laughed and said: "I mean your brown eyes--that's where
the light is. Your eyes are like two balls of fire."
"Then get out of my way, lest you get burnt. You might get blown up with
all that powder in your cartridge-box."
"There's nothing in it," said the gendarme, embarrassed, but wishing to
make some kind of retort. "But you have scorched me already."
"I don't see where--you seem to be all right. But enough! Let me go."
"I'm not keeping you, you little crib-biter. You could lead a man a hard
life, who was fond of you."
"Nobody need be fond of me," said Amrei; and she rushed away as if she
had got loose from a chain.
She stood in the doorway where many spectators were crowded together. A
new dance was just beginning, and she swayed back and forth with the
music. The feeling that she had got the better of some one made her more
cheerful than ever, and she would have taken up arms against the whole
world, as well as against a single gendarme. But her tormentor soon
appeared again; he posted himself behind Amrei and said all kinds of
things to her. She made no answer and pretended not to hear him, every
now and then nodding to the people as they danced by, as if she had been
greeted by them. Only when the gendarme said:
"If I were allowed to marry, I'd take you."
"Take me, indeed! But I shouldn't give myself!"
The gendarme was glad to have at least got an answer from her, and
"And if I were allowed to dance, I would have one with you right now."
"I cannot dance," replied Amrei.
Just then the music ceased. Amrei pushed against the people in front of
her, and made her way in to seek some retired corner. She heard some one
behind her say:
"Why, she can dance better than anybody in this part of the country!"
ONLY A SINGLE DANCE
Down from the musicians' platform Crappy Zachy handed a glass to Amrei.
She took a sip, and handed it back; and Crappy Zachy said:
"If you dance, Amrei, I'll play all my instruments so that the angels
will come down from the sky and join in."
"Yes, but unless an angel comes down from the sky and asks me, I shall
not get a partner," said Amrei, half in fun and half in sorrow. And then
she began to wonder why there had to be a gendarme at a dance; but she
did not hold to this thought long, but immediately went on to say to
herself: "After all, he is a man like anybody else, even though he has a
sword on; and before he became a gendarme, he was a lad like the rest.
It must be a plague for him that he can't dance. But what's that to me?
I, too, am obliged to be a mere spectator, and I don't get any money for
For a short time things went on in a much more quiet and moderate manner
in the dancing-room. For the "English woman," as Agy, the wife of
Severin, the building contractor, was still called, had come to the
dance with her children. The rich wood-merchants set the champagne corks
to popping and offered a glass to the English woman; she drank the
health of the young couple and then made each one happy by a gracious
word. A constant and complacent smile was lighting up the face of
everybody. Agy honored many a young fellow who drank to her from the
garlanded glasses, by sipping from hers in return. The old women, who
sat near Barefoot, were loud in their praises of the English woman, and
stood up a long time before she came when they saw her approaching to
speak a few words to them. When Agy had gone away, the rejoicing,
singing, dancing, stamping, and shouting broke out again with renewed
Farmer Rodel's foreman now came toward Amrei, and she felt a thrill of
expectation. But the foreman said:
"Here, Barefoot, take care of my pipe for me while I am dancing." And
after that several young girls from her village also came; from one she
received a jacket, from another a cap, or a neckerchief, or a door-key.
She let them hand it all over to her, and stood there with an
ever-increasing load as one dance followed another. All the time she
smiled quietly to herself, but nobody came to ask her to dance. Now a
waltz was being played, so smoothly that one could have swum to it. And
then a wild and furious galop; hurrah! now they are all hopping and
stamping and jumping and panting in supreme delight. And how their eyes
glitter! The old women who are sitting in the corner where Amrei is
standing, complain of the dust and heat; but still, they don't go home.
Then--suddenly Amrei starts; her eyes are fixed upon a handsome young
man who is walking proudly to and fro among the crowd. It is the rider
who had met her that morning, and whom she had snubbed in such a pert
way. All eyes are fastened upon him as he comes forward, his right hand
behind him, and his left holding a silver-mounted pipe. His silver
watch-chain bobs up and down, and how beautiful is his black velvet
jacket, and his loose black velvet trousers, and his red waistcoat! But
more beautiful still is his round head with its curly, brown hair. His
brow is white as snow; but from the eyes down his face is sunburnt, and
a light, full beard covers his chin and cheeks.
"That's a bonny fellow," said one of the old women.
"And what heavenly blue eyes he has!" added another; "they are at once
so roguish and so kind."
"Where can he be from? He's not from this neighborhood," said a third.
And a fourth observed:
"I'll wager he's another suitor for Amrei."
Barefoot started. What did this mean? What was that she said? But she
soon found out the meaning of it, for the first old lady resumed:
"Then I'm sorry for him; for the Butter Countess makes fools of all the
And so the Butter Countess's name was also Amrei.
The young stranger had passed through the room several times, turning
his eyes from one side to the other. Then he suddenly stopped not far
from Barefoot and beckoned to her. A hot flush overspread her face; she
stood riveted to the spot and did not move a muscle. No, he certainly
beckoned to somebody behind you; he cannot mean you. The stranger
pressed forward and Amrei made way for him. He must be looking for some
"No, it's you I want," said the lad, taking Barefoot's hand. "Will you
Amrei could not speak. But what need was there to speak? She threw
everything she had in her arms down into a corner--jackets,
neckerchiefs, caps, pipes, and door-keys--and stood there ready. The
lad threw a dollar up to the musicians; and when Crappy Zachy saw Amrei
on the arm of the stranger, he blew his trumpet until the very walls
trembled. And to the blessed souls above no music can sound more
beautiful than did this to Amrei. She danced she knew not how; she felt
as if she were being carried in the stranger's arms, as if she were
floating in the air, and there seemed to be no one else there. And,
indeed, they both danced so well, that everybody involuntarily stopped
to look at them.
"We are alone," said Amrei during the dance; and then she felt the warm
breath of her partner as he answered:
"Oh that we were alone--alone in the world! Why cannot one go on dancing
thus--on and on to the end of time."
"I feel," said Amrei, "just as if we were two doves flying through the
air. Juhu! away into the heavens!" And "Juhu!" cried the lad gleefully,
"Juhu!" And the sound shot up heavenward like a fiery rocket. "Juhu!"
cried Amrei, rejoicing with him. And on they danced with ever-increasing
joy. Finally Amrei said:
"Tell me--is the music going on? Are the musicians still playing? I
don't hear them any more."
"Of course they are still playing. Don't you hear them?"
"Yes, now I do," said Amrei. And now they stopped, for her partner
probably felt that she was becoming giddy with happiness.
The stranger led Amrei to the table, and gave her wine to drink, and did
not let go her hand. He lifted the Swedish ducat that hung from her
necklace, and said:
"This ducat is in a good place."
"And it came from a good hand," answered Amrei. "That necklace was given
to me when I was a little child."
"By a relative?"
"No, the lady was no relative."
"Dancing agrees with you apparently."
"Oh, indeed it does! You see, I'm obliged to jump around so much all the
year around when nobody is playing for me--and therefore I enjoy it
"You look as round as a ball," said the stranger in jest. "You must live
where the food is good."
Amrei replied quickly:
"It's not the food itself that does it, but the way one enjoys it."
The stranger nodded; and after a pause, he spoke again, half
"You are the daughter of Farmer--"
"No, I am a maid," replied Amrei, looking him full in the face. The
stranger's eyes almost fell; the lids quivered, but he held them open by
force. And this struggle and victory of the bodily eye seemed to be a
symbol of what was going on within him. He felt almost inclined to leave
the girl sitting there; but he resisted and conquered the impulse, and
"Come, let us have another dance."
He held her hand fast, and the pleasure and excitement began again; but
this time it was more quiet and moderate. Both of them seemed to feel
that the sensation of being lifted to the sky was over and past; and
this thought was evidently in Amrei's mind when she said:
"Well, we have been very happy together once, even if we don't see each
other again in all our lives, and even though neither of us knows the
The youth nodded and said:
"You are right."
Amrei held the end of her braid between her lips in embarrassment, and
after a pause spoke again:
"The enjoyment one has once had cannot be taken from one; and whoever
you are, you need never repent of having given a poor girl a pleasure
she will remember all her life."
"I don't repent of it," replied her partner. "But I know that you repent
of having answered me so sharply this morning."
"Oh, yes, you are right there!" cried Amrei; and then the stranger said:
"Would you venture to go out into the field with me?"
"And do you trust me?"
"But what will your people say?"
"I have nobody but myself to give account of my actions to; I am an
Hand in hand the two went out of the dancing-room. Barefoot heard
several people whispering and tittering behind her, but she kept her
eyes fixed on the ground. She wondered if she had not ventured too far
In the fields, where the first ears of wheat were beginning to sprout
and still lay half concealed in their green sheaths, the two stopped and
stood looking at each other in silence. For a long time neither said a
word. But finally it was the man who broke the silence, by saying, half
"I wonder how it is that one, on first sight, can be so--so--I don't
know--so confidential with a person? How is it one can read what is
written in another's face?" "Now we have set a poor soul free," said
Amrei; "for you know, when two people think the same thought at the same
time, they are said to set a soul free. And I was thinking the very
words you just spoke."
"Indeed? And do you know why?"
"Will you tell me?"
"Why not? Look you; I have been a goose-keeper--"
At these words the stranger started again; but he pretended that
something had fallen into his eye, and began to rub that organ
vigorously, while Barefoot went on, undismayed:
"Look you; when one sits or lies alone out in the fields all day, one
thinks of hundreds of things, and some of them are strange thoughts
indeed. Just try it yourself, and you will certainly find it so. Every
fruit-tree, if you look at it as a whole, has the appearance of the
fruit it bears. Take the apple-tree; does it not look, spread out broad,
and, as it were, in round pieces, like the apple itself? And the same is
true of the pear-tree and the cherry-tree, if only you look at them in
the right way. Look what a long trunk the cherry-tree has--like the stem
of a cherry. And so I think--"
"Well, what do you think?"
"You'll laugh at me; but just as the fruit-trees look like the fruits
they bear, so is it also with people; one can tell what they are at once
by looking at them. But the trees, to be sure, always have honest faces,
while people can dissemble theirs. But I am talking nonsense, am I not?"
"No, you have not kept geese for nothing," said the lad; and there was a
strange mixture of feelings in the tone of his voice. "I like to talk
with you. I should give you a kiss, if I were not afraid of doing what
Barefoot trembled all over. She stooped to break off a flower, but did
not break it. There was a long pause, and then the lad went on: "We
shall most likely never meet again, and so it is best as it is."
Hand in hand the two went back to the dancing-room. There they danced
once more together without saying a word to each other, and when the
dance was over, the young man again led her to the table, and said:
"Now I shall say good-by. But first you must get your breath, and then
drink once more."
He handed her the glass, and when she set it down again, he said:
"You must drain it, for my sake, to the very bottom."
Amrei drank and drank; and when the glass was empty in her hand, she
looked around--the stranger was gone! She went down and stood in front
of the house; and there she saw him again, not far away, riding off on
his white horse; but he did not look back.
The mist hung over the valley like a veil of clouds, and the sun had
already set. Barefoot said to herself, almost aloud:
"I wish tomorrow would never come, but that it would always be
today--always today!" And then she stood still, lost in dreams.
The night came on quickly. The moon, looking like a thin sickle, was
resting on the summits of the dark mountains. One little Bernese wagon
after another drove away. Barefoot went to find her master's chaise, to
which the horses were now being hitched. Then Rose came and told her
brother that she had promised some young people of her village to go
home in company with them. And it was understood as a matter of course
that the farmer could not drive home alone with the maid. And so the
little Bernese wagon went rattling off toward home with a single
occupant. Rose must have seen Barefoot, but she acted as if she were not
there. And so Barefoot once more wandered forth along the road on which
the stranger had departed. Whither could he have gone? How many hundred
villages and hamlets there were along that road, and to which one was
he bound? Barefoot found the place again where he had first accosted her
in the morning; she repeated aloud to herself his salutation, and the
answer she had given him. And once more she sat down behind the hazel
hedge, where in the morning she had slept and dreamt. A yellowhammer sat
on a slender spray, and its six notes sounded just as if it were saying:
"And why art thou still here? And why art thou still here?"
Barefoot had lived through a whole life's history in this one day. Could
it be but a single day? She went back again to the dance, but did not go
up to the room itself. And then she started out homeward alone. She had
gone almost halfway to Haldenbrunn, when she suddenly turned back; she
seemed unable to tear herself away from the place where she had been so
happy. And she said to herself that it was not right for her to go home
alone anyway; she should go in company with the young men and girls from
her village. When she arrived in front of the tavern at Endringen again,
she found several people from her village already assembled there.
"Ah, are you here, too, Barefoot?" was the only greeting she received.
And now there was great confusion; for many who had been the first to
urge going home, were still upstairs dancing. And now some strange lads
came and begged and besought them to stay for just one more dance; and
they got their way. Barefoot, too, went upstairs, but only to look on.
At last the cry was: "Whoever dances now shall be left behind;" and
after a great deal of difficulty and much rushing to and fro, the
Haldenbrunn contingent was finally assembled in front of the house. Some
of the musicians escorted them through the village, and many a sleepy
father came to the window to see what was going on, while now and then a
woman, who had once been one of the merry-makers herself, but who had
married and so culminated her days of frivolity, would appear at a
window and cry: "A pleasant journey home!"
The night was dark, and large pine fagots had been provided for torches;
and the lads who carried them danced about and shouted with joy.
Scarcely had the musicians gone back, and scarcely had the party left
Endringen well behind, when the cry was: "Put out the torches! They only
dazzle us!" And two soldiers in particular, who were then off duty and
had joined the party, made fun of the torches, in proud consciousness of
their sabres. Accordingly the torches were extinguished in a ditch. And
now they began to miss this or that boy, and this or that girl, and when
their comrades called out to them, they would answer from a distance.
Barefoot walked behind the rest, a good distance from those of her own
village. They let her alone, and that was the greatest kindness they
could have done her; she was with the people of her own village, and yet
she was alone. She often looked around at the fields and the woods; how
wonderful it all looked in the night!--so strange and yet so familiar!
The whole world seemed as strange to her as she had become to herself.
And as she went along, step by step, as if she were being pulled or
pushed, without realizing that she was moving, so did her thoughts move,
involuntarily, in her mind; they seemed to be whirling on, and she could
not grasp or control them--she did not know what it meant. Her cheeks
glowed as if every star in the heavens were a heat-radiating sun, and
her very heart burned within her.
And now, just as if she had begun it, as if she herself had struck up
the tune, her companions ahead began to sing the song that had risen to
her lips that morning:
"There were two lovers in Allgau,
Who loved each other so dear;
And the young lad went away to war;
When comest thou home again?
Ah, that I cannot, love, tell thee,
What year, or what day, or what hour!"
Back to Full Books