The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VIII
Part 4 out of 9
Then the Farmer, bursting into laughter, said:
"Just think, dame! Here's a girl from Haldenbrunn, and she has something
to say to Farmer Landfried and his wife, but she won't tell me what it
is. Now do you tell her what my name is."
"Why, that's the Farmer himself," said the woman; and she welcomed the
old man home by taking his hat from his head and hanging it up on a peg
over the stove.
"Do you see now?" said the old man to Amrei, triumphantly. "Now say what
"Won't you sit down," said the mother, pointing to a chair.
Amrei drew a deep breath and began:
"You may believe me when I say that no child could have thought more
about you than I have done, long ago, long before these last days. Do
you remember Josenhans, by the pond, where the road turns off to
"Surely, surely!" said the two old people.
"Well, I am Josenhans's daughter!"
"Why, I thought I knew you!" exclaimed the old woman. "God greet you!"
She held out her hand to Amrei, and said: "You have grown to be a
strong, comely girl. Now tell me what has brought you here."
"She rode part of the way with our John," the Farmer interposed. "He'll
be here directly."
The mother gave a start. She had an inkling of something to come, and
reminded her husband that, when John went away, she had thought of the
"And I have a remembrance from both of you," said Amrei, and she brought
out the necklace and the piece of money wrapped in paper. "You gave me
that the last time you were in our village."
"See there--you lied to me, you told me that you had lost it," cried the
Farmer to his wife, reproachfully.
"And here," continued Amrei, holding out to him the groschen in its
paper cover; "here's the piece of money you gave me when I was keeping
geese on the Holderwasen, and gave you a drink from my jug."
"Yes, yes, that's all right! But what does it all mean? What you've had
given you, you may keep," said the Farmer.
Amrei stood up and said:
"I have one thing to ask you. Let me speak quite freely for a few
minutes, may I?"
"Yes, why not?"
"Look--your John wanted to take me with him and bring me here as a maid.
At any other time I would have been glad to serve in your house, indeed,
rather than anywhere else. But now it would have been dishonest; and to
people to whom I want to be honest all my life long, I won't come for
the first time with a lie in my mouth. Now everything must be as open as
the day. In a word, John and I love each other from the bottom of our
hearts, and he wants to have me for his wife."
"Oho!" cried the Farmer, and he stood up so quickly that one could
easily see that his former helplessness had been only feigned. "Oho!" he
called out again, as if one of his horses were running away.
But his wife put out her hand and held him, saying:
"Let her finish what she has to say."
And Amrei went on:
"Believe me, I have sense enough to know that one cannot take a girl,
out of pity, for a daughter-in-law. You can give me something, you can
give me a great deal, but to take me for your daughter-in-law out of
pity, is something you cannot do, and I do not wish you to do it. I
haven't a groschen of money--oh, yes, the groschen you gave me on the
Holderwasen I still have--for nobody would take it for a groschen," she
added, turning to the Farmer, who could not repress a smile. "I have
nothing of my own, nay, worse than that--I have a brother who is strong
and healthy, but for whom I have to provide. I have kept geese, and I
have been the most insignificant person in the village, and all that is
true. But nobody can say the least harm of me, and that, too, is true.
And as far as those things which are really given to people by God are
concerned, I could say to any princess: 'I don't put myself one hair's
breadth behind you, if you have seven golden crowns on your head.' I
would rather have somebody else say these, things for me, for I am not
fond of talking about myself. But all my life I have been obliged to
speak for myself, and today, for the last time, I do it, when life and
death are at stake. By that I mean--don't misunderstand me--if you won't
have me, I shall go quietly away; I shall do myself no harm, I shall not
jump into the water, or hang myself. I shall merely look for a new
position, and thank God that such a good man once wanted to have me for
his wife; and I'll consider that it was not God's will that it should be
so--" Amrei's voice faltered, and her form seemed to dilate. And then
her voice grew stronger again, as she summoned all her firmness and
said, solemnly: "But prove to yourselves--ask yourselves in your deepest
conscience, whether what you do is God's will.--I have nothing more to
Amrei sat down. All three were silent for a time, and then the old man
"Why, you can preach like a clergyman."
But the mother dried her eyes with her apron, and said:
"Why not? Clergymen have not more than one mind and one heart!"
"Yes, that's you!" cried the old man with a sneer. "There's something of
a parson in you, too. If any one comes to you with a few speeches like
that, you're cooked directly!"
"And you talk as if you would not be cooked or softened till you die,"
retorted the wife.
"Oh, indeed!" said the old man bitterly. "Now look you, you saint from
the lowlands; you're bringing a fine sort of peace into my house; you
have managed already to make my wife turn against me--you have captured
her already. Well, I suppose you can wait until death has carried one
off, and then you can do what you please."
"No!" exclaimed Amrei, "I won't have that! Just as little as I wish that
John should take me for his wife without your blessing, just so little
do I wish that the sin should be in our hearts, that we should both be
waiting for you to die. I scarcely knew my parents, I cannot remember
them--I only love them as one loves God, without ever having seen Him.
But I also know what it is to die. Last night I closed Black Marianne's
eyes; I did what she asked me to do all my life long, and yet now that
she is dead, I sometimes think: How often you were impatient and bitter
toward her, and how many a service you might have done her! And now she
is lying there, and it is all over; you can do nothing more for her, and
you can't crave her forgiveness for anything.--I know what it is to die,
and I will not have--"
"But I will!" cried the old man; and he clenched his fists and set his
teeth. "But I will!" he shouted again. "You stay here, and you belong to
us! And now, whosoever likes may come, and let him say what he pleases.
You, and no one but you, shall have my John!"
The mother ran to the old man and embraced him; and he, not being
accustomed to it, called out in surprise:
"What are you doing?"
"Giving you a kiss. You deserve it, for you are a better man than you
make yourself out to be."
The old man, who all this time had a pinch of snuff between his fingers
which he did not want to waste, took it quickly, and then said:
"Well, I don't object," but he added: "But now I shall dismiss you, for
I have much younger lips to kiss, which taste better. Come here, you
"I'll come, but first you must call me by name."
"Well, what is your name?"
"You need not know that, for you can give me a name yourself--you know
what name I mean."
"You're a clever one! Well, if you like, come here, daughter-in-law.
Does that name suit you?"
In reply Amrei flung herself upon him.
"Am I not to be asked at all?" complained the mother with a radiant
The old man had become quite saucy in his joy. He took Amrei by the
hand, and asked, in a satirical imitation of a clergyman's voice:
"Now I demand of you, honorable Cordula Catherine, called Dame
Landfried, will you take this--" and he whispered to the girl aside:
"What is your Christian name?"
Then the Farmer continued in the same tone:
"Will you take this Amrei Josenhans, of Haldenbrunn to be your
daughter-in-law, and never let her have a word to say, as you do to your
husband, feed her badly, abuse her, oppress her, and as they say, bully
The old fellow seemed beside himself; some strange revulsion had taken
place within him. And while Amrei hung around the mother's neck, and
would not let her go, the old man struck his red cane on the table and
"Where's that good-for-nothing, John? Here's a fellow who sends his
bride for us to take care of, and goes wandering about the world
himself! Who ever heard of such a thing?"
Amrei then tore herself away, and said that the wagoner, or some one
else, must be sent at once to the mill to get John, who was waiting
there. The father declared that he ought to be left in suspense in the
mill for at least three hours; that should be his punishment for having
hidden in such a cowardly way behind a petticoat. And when he came
home, he should wear a woman's hood; in fact, he wouldn't have him in
the house, for when John came, he, the father, would have nothing of the
bride at all, and it made him angry already to think of the foolish way
in which they would carry on together.
Meanwhile the mother managed to slip away and send the quick-footed
wagoner to the mill.
And now the mother thought that Amrei ought to have some refreshment.
She wanted to cook an omelette immediately, but Amrei begged to be
allowed to light the first fire in the house that was to prepare
something for herself, and asked that she might cook something for her
parents too. They let her have her way, and the two old people went with
her into the kitchen. She knew how to manage it all so cleverly, seeing
at a glance where everything was, and hardly requiring to ask a single
question, that the old Farmer kept nodding to his wife, and said at
"She can do housekeeping like singing at sight; she can read it all off
from the page, like the new schoolmaster."
The three stood by the fire, which was blazing merrily, when John came
in; and the fire was not blazing more merrily on the hearth than was
inward happiness blazing in the eyes of all three. The hearth and its
fire became a holy altar, surrounded by worshippers, who, however, only
laughed and teased one another.
Amrei felt so much at home in the house that, by the second day, she was
acting as if she had been brought up there from childhood. The old man
followed her around and looked on, while she knowingly took things in
hand and accomplished them calmly and steadily, without hurrying or
There are people who, when they go to get the least thing, a plate or a
jug, disturb the thoughts of everybody in the room, and seem to drag, so
to speak, the attention of all present about with them. Amrei, on the
contrary, knew how to manage and accomplish everything in such a way
that it was restful to watch her work, and people were consequently so
much the more grateful for everything she did for them. How often had
the Farmer complained about the fact that, when the salt was wanted,
some one always had to rise from the table to get it! But now Amrei
herself set the table, and she took care to put the salt-cellar on
immediately after the cloth was spread. When the Farmer praised Amrei
for this, his wife said with a smile:
"You talk as if you had not lived at all until now, and as if you had
always been obliged to eat your food without salt or seasoning!"
And then John told them that Amrei was also called the Salt Countess,
and he related the story of the King and his Daughter.
It was a happy family--in the parlor, in the yard, in the field. The
Farmer often said that his food for years had not tasted so good to him
as it did now; and he used to get Amrei to prepare things for him three
or four times a day, at quite irregular hours. And he made her sit with
him while he ate it.
The wife, with a feeling of proud satisfaction, took Amrei into the
dairy, and then into the store-rooms. In the latter place she opened a
large, gaily-painted chest, full of fine, bleached linen, and said:
"This is your outfit--nothing is lacking but shoes. I am very glad that
you kept the shoes you got with your wages, for I have a superstition
When Amrei questioned her about the way things had been done in the
house hitherto, she nodded approvingly. She did not, however, express
any approval in words, but the confidential tone in which she discussed
ordinary matters made it quite evident that she felt it. The very
supremity of satisfaction lay in her words. And when she began to
depute certain matters in the household management to Barefoot, she
"Child, let me tell you something; if there is anything about our ways
of doing things in the house that doesn't please you, you needn't be
afraid to alter it so that it suits you. I am not one of those who think
that things must always remain just as they were originally arranged,
and that no changes should be made. You have a perfect right to do as
you think best, and I shall be glad to see a fresh hand at work. Only if
you'll listen to me--I advise you, for your own sake, to do it
It was pleasant, indeed, to see old experience and young strength
joining hands, physically and mentally. Amrei declared with heartfelt
sincerity that she found everything capitally arranged, and that she
should be only too glad if one day, when she was old, the household was
in as good order as it was now.
"You look far ahead," said the old woman. "And that is a good thing; for
whosoever thinks of the future thinks of the past as well, and so you
will not forget me when I am gone."
Messengers had been sent out to announce the family event to the sons
and sons-in-law of the house, and to invite them to Zumarshofen the
following Sunday. After that the old man trotted about after Amrei more
than ever; he seemed to have something on his mind which he wanted to
say, but could not express.
There is a saying about buried treasures to the effect that a black
monster squats over them, and that on holy nights a blue flame appears
over the spot where the rich treasures lie buried; furthermore that
children, born on Sunday, can see this flame, and if they remain calm
and unmoved, they can secure the treasure. One would never have thought
that such a treasure was hidden in old Farmer Landfried, and that
squatting over it was black obstinacy and contempt for humankind. But
Amrei saw the little blue flame hovering above him, and knew how to
conduct herself in such a way as to release the treasure.
No one could tell how she produced such an effect upon him that he
manifestly strove to appear particularly good and benevolent in her
eyes--the mere fact that he took any interest in a poor girl at all was
in itself a wonder. This alone was clear to Amrei--that he did not want
his wife alone to appear as the just and amiable one, and himself as the
angry snarler, of whom people must be afraid. Perhaps the fact that
Amrei, even before she knew who he was, had accused him of not thinking
it worth while to appear good and kind before men, had opened his heart.
At all events he had so much to say now, every time he encountered her,
that it seemed as if he had been keeping all his thoughts in a
savings-box, which he was at last opening. And in it there were some
very singular old coins which had declined in value, also some large
medals which were no longer in circulation at all, and again there were
some quite fresh ones, of pure, unalloyed silver. He could not express
his thoughts as well as his wife had done on that day when she had
talked with John--his language was stiff in all its joints--but still he
managed to hit the point, and almost gave himself the appearance of
taking Amrei's part against his wife; nor was it at all amiss when he
"Look you, the Dame is like the 'good hour' itself; but the good hour is
not a good day, a good week, or a good year. She is but a woman, and
with women it is always April weather; for a woman is only half a
person--that I maintain, and nobody can dissuade me from it!"
"You give us fine praise," said Amrei.
"Yes, it is true," said the Farmer, "I am talking to you. But as I was
saying, the Dame is a good soul, only she's too good. Consequently it
annoys her when one doesn't do as she says, because she means well; and
she thinks one doesn't know how good she really is, if one does not obey
her. She can't understand that often one does not obey her because what
she asks is inadvisable, however good her intentions may have been. And
remember this especially; don't ever do anything after her, that is,
just as she does it; do it your own way, the way you think is right--she
likes that much better. She does not like to have it appear that people
are subject to her orders--but you will find all that out yourself. And
if anything should happen, for heaven's sake don't put your husband
between two fires! There is nothing worse than when a husband stands
between his wife and mother, and the mother says: 'I no longer amount to
anything as far as my daughter-in-law is concerned; yes, even my own
children are untrue to me;' and the wife says 'Yes, now I see what kind
of a man you are--you let your wife be trampled on!' I advise you, if
anything should come up that you can't manage by yourself, to tell me
about it quietly, and I'll help you. But; as I say, don't put your
husband between two fires. He has been a bit spoiled by his mother, but
he'll grow more manly now. Just keep on pushing ahead, and think of me
as one of your family, and as your natural protector. For that is true;
on your mother's side I am very distantly related to you."
And now he tried to disentangle a strangely intricate genealogy; but be
was unable to find the right thread, and succeeded only in getting the
different relationships more and more mixed up, like a skein of yarn.
And at last he always concluded by saying:
"You may believe me on my word that we are related; for we _are_
related, although I can't quite figure out how."
And now the time before his end had really come, when he no longer gave
away merely bad grosschens; it did him good to donate at last a part of
his possessions having some real significance and value. For one evening
he called Amrei out behind the house and said to her:
"Look, my girl, you are good and sensible, but you don't know just how it
is with a man. My John has a good heart, but some day it may possibly
annoy him, the thought that you had absolutely nothing of your own. So
then, take this, but don't tell a soul anything about it, or from whom
you got it. Say that you worked hard and saved it up. There--take it!"
He handed her a stocking full of round thalers, and added:
"That was not to have been found until after I was dead; but it is
better so--he'll get it now and think it came from you. This whole
affair is out of the common way, so that it can easily be added that you
had a secret sum of money. But don't forget that there are also
thirty-two feather-thalers in it, which are worth a grosschen each more
than ordinary thalers. Take good care of it--put it in the chest where
your linen is, and always keep the key with you. And on Sunday, when the
entire family is assembled, pour it out on the table."
"I don't like to do that. I think John ought to do that, if it is
necessary to do it at all."
"It is necessary. But if you like, John may do it--but sh! put it out of
sight!--quickly! Hide it in your apron, for I hear John coming! I think
he is jealous." And the two parted in haste.
And that very evening the mother took Amrei up into the attic, and out
of a drawer drew forth a tolerably heavy bag. The cord which held it
together was tied and knotted in a remarkable manner. She said to Amrei:
Amrei tried, but it was hard work.
"Wait! I'll get a pair of shears and we'll cut it open!"
"No," objected Amrei. "I don't like to do that! Just have a little
patience, mother, I'll undo it all right!"
The mother smiled; and Amrei, with great difficulty, but with a skilful
hand, finally got the cord untied. Then the old woman said:
"Good! That's fine! Now look at what's inside of it."
Amrei looked in and saw a quantity of gold and silver coins. Then the
mother went on to say:
"Look you, child, you have wrought a miracle upon the Farmer. Even now
I can't understand how he came to give in--but you have not entirely
converted him yet. My husband is always talking about it, saying what a
pity it is that you have nothing of your own. He can't get over it, and
keeps thinking that you must have a neat little sum tucked away
somewhere, and that you are deceiving us about it, merely to find out if
we are content to take you as you are. He won't let himself be talked
out of that notion, and so I hit upon an idea. God will not impute it to
us as a sin. Look--this is what I have saved during the thirty-six years
my husband and I have kept house together. There was no deception about
it, and some of it I inherited from my mother anyway. But now you take
it and say it is your property. It will make the Farmer very happy,
especially since he was clever enough to suspect it beforehand. Why do
you look at me in such a confused way? Believe me when I tell you that
you may do it--there is no wrong in it, for I have thought it over time
and again. Now, go and hide it, and don't say a word against it--not a
single word. Don't thank me or do anything--for it's the same to me
whether my child gets it now or later, and it will please my husband
while he's yet alive. And now, quick!--tie it up again!"
Early the next morning Amrei told John all about what his parents had
said to her, and what they had given her. And John cried out joyously:
"Lord in heaven, forgive me! I could have believed such a thing of my
mother, but of my father I should never have dreamt it! Why, you must be
a witch! And look you! We will do that--we won't tell either of them
about the other. And the best part of it is, that each wants to deceive
the other, whereas, in reality, both of them will be deceived! Yes, they
must both think that you really had some extra money! Hurrah! That will
be a merry jest for the betrothal party!"
But in the midst of all the joy in the house there were all sorts of
IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE
It is not morality that rules the world, but a hardened form of it
called "custom." As the world is now disposed, it would rather forgive
an offense against morality than an offense against custom. Happy are
those times and countries in which morality and custom are still one.
Every dispute that arises, on a small scale as well as on a large one,
in general as well as in particular, hinges on the effort to reconcile
the contradiction between these two; and to melt the hardened form of
custom back into the true ore of morality, and stamp the coin anew
according to its value.
Even here, in this little story dealing with people who live apart from
the great tumult of the world, the reflection of this truth is seen.
The mother, who was secretly the most rejoiced over the happy
realization of her hopes, was yet full of peculiar anxiety concerning
the opinion of the world.
"After all," she said, complainingly, to Amrei, "you did a thoughtless
thing to come into the house in the way you did, so that we cannot go
and fetch you to the wedding. It was not good, not customary. If I could
only send you away for a short time, or else John, so that it would all
be more according to rule."
And to John she said plaintively:
"I hear already the talk there'll be if you marry in such a hurry.
People will say: 'Twice asked, the third time persuaded--that's the way
worthless people do it!'"
But she allowed herself to be pacified by both of them, and smiled when
"Mother, you have studied up everything, like a clergyman. Then tell me,
why should decent people refrain from doing something, simply because
indecent people use it as a cloak? Can any one say anything bad about
"No,--you have been a good lad all your life."
"Well, then let them have a little confidence in me now, and believe
that a thing may be good, even if it does not look so at first sight. I
have a right to ask that much of them. The way Amrei and I came together
was out of the usual order, to be sure, and the affair has gone on in
its own way from the very beginning. But it wasn't a bad way. Why, it's
like a miracle, if we look at it rightly. And what is it to us if people
refuse to believe in miracles nowadays, and prefer to find all sorts of
badness in these things? One must have courage and not ask the world's
opinion in everything. The clergyman at Hirlingen once said: 'If a
prophet were to rise today, he would first have to pass the government
examination and show that what he wanted was in the regular order.' Now,
mother, when one knows for oneself that something is right, then it is
best to go forward in a straight line and push aside, right and left,
whatever stands in one's way. Let people stare and wonder for a
while--they will think better of it in time."
The mother very likely felt that a thing might be accepted as a miracle
if it came in the form of a sudden, happy event, but that even the most
unusual things later on must gradually conform to the laws of tradition
and of strong, established custom. The wedding might appear as a
miracle, but the marriage, which involved a continuance, would not. She
"With all these people, whom you now look at with proud indifference,
because you know that you are doing right--with all these people you'll
have to live, and you'll expect them, not to look at you askance, but to
give you due respect. Now if they are to do that, you must give and
allow them what they are accustomed to demand. You cannot force them to
make an exception in your case, and you can't run after each one
separately and say: 'If you knew how it all came about, you would say
that I was quite right in doing it.'"
But John rejoined:
"You shall see that nobody will have anything to say against my Amrei,
when he or she has known her a single hour!"
And he resorted to a good way, not only of pacifying his mother, but
also of causing her to rejoice in her innermost soul. He reported to her
how all the warnings she had given him, and all the ways of testing a
girl she had enumerated, had found exact correspondence in Amrei, as if
she had been made to order. And she could not help laughing, when he
"You must have had the last in your head upon which the shoes up above
are made; for they fit her who is to run about in them as if they were
made for her." The mother let herself be quieted.
On the Saturday morning previous to the family gathering, Damie made his
appearance; but he was immediately dispatched back to Haldenbrunn to
procure all the necessary papers from the magistrate in the town-hall.
The first Sunday was an anxious day at Farmer Landfried's. The old
people had accepted Amrei, but how would it be with the rest of the
family? It is no easy matter to enter a large family of that kind unless
the way is paved with horses and wagons, and all sorts of furniture and
money, and a number of relatives.
Many wagons arrived that Sunday at Farmer Landfried's from the uplands
and lowlands. There came driving up brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law,
and all their relations.
"John has a wife, and he brought her straight home without her parents,
without a clergyman, and without the authorities having had a word to
say in the matter. She must be a beauty that he found behind a hedge
This is what all of them were saying.
The horses on the wagons also suffered for what had happened at Farmer
Landfried's. They received many a lash, and when they kicked, they
suffered all the more for it; for whoever was driving whipped them until
his arm was tired. This caused many a wrangle with the wives, who sat
beside the drivers and protested and scolded about such a reckless,
cruel way of driving.
A little fortress of carriages stood in Farmer Landfried's courtyard,
and in the house the entire large family was assembled. There they sat
together in high water-boots, or in clouted laced-boots, and with
three-cornered hats, some worn with the corner, others with the
broadside forward. The women whispered among themselves, and then made
signs to their husbands, or else said to them quietly: "Just let us
alone--we will drive the strange bird out all right." And a bitter,
jeering laugh arose when it was rumored here and there, that Amrei had
been a goose-girl.
At last Amrei entered; but she could not offer, her hand to anybody. For
she was carrying a large bottle of red wine under her arm, and so many
glasses, besides two plates of cake, that it seemed as if she had seven
hands. Every finger-joint appeared to be a hand; but she put everything
so gently and noiselessly on the table, on which her mother-in-law had
spread a white cloth, that everybody looked at her in wonder. Then,
silently and without any signs of trepidation, she filled all the
glasses, and said:
"My parents have given me authority to bid you a hearty welcome! Now
"We are not used to it in the morning," said a heavy man, with an
uncommonly large nose; and he spread himself out in his chair. This was
George, John's oldest brother.
"We drink only goose-wine (water)," said one of the women; and a
scarcely-suppressed laugh went around the room.
Amrei felt the taunt, but kept her temper; and John's sister was the
first to take the glass and drink to her. She first clinked her glass
against John's with a "May God bless you!" She only half responded to
Amrei, who also held out her glass. Now, the other women considered it
impolite, even sinful,--for, at the first draught, the so-called
"John's-draught," it is looked upon as sinful to hold back--not to
respond; and the men also let themselves be persuaded, so that for a
time nothing was heard but the clinking and putting down of glasses.
"Father is right," old Dame Landfried at last said to her daughter.
"Amrei looks as if she were your sister, but she resembles still more
Elizabeth, who died."
"Yes; none of you have lost by it. If Elizabeth had lived, the property
would have been smaller by one share anyway," observed the father. And
the mother added:
"But now she has been given back to us again."
The old man had hit the spot where, as a matter of fact, all of them
were sore, although they tried to persuade themselves, and each other,
that they were prejudiced against Amrei because she had come among them
without any relatives of her own. And while Amrei was talking to John's
sister, the old farmer said to his son in a low voice:
"One would never imagine, to look at her, what she has. Just think!--she
has a bag stuffed full of crown thalers! But you must not say anything
to any one about it."
This injunction was so well obeyed, that within a few minutes every
person in the room knew about the bag of thalers, with the exception of
John's sister, who afterward took great credit to herself for having
been so friendly to Amrei, although she thought that Amrei had not a
farthing of her own.
Sure enough! John had gone out, and he was now entering again with a
large bag, on which was written the name "Josenhans of Haldenbrunn;" and
when he poured out the rich contents, which rolled rattling and clinking
over the table, all were dumbfounded. But the most astonished of all
were the father and mother.
So Amrei had really had a secret treasure! For there was much more here
than either one had given her. Amrei did not dare to look up, and every
one praised her for her unexampled humility. And now she succeeded in
winning them all over to her side; and when the numerous members of the
family took their leave in the evening, each one said to her in secret:
"Look you; it was not I who was against you because you had nothing--it
was so-and-so, who was always opposing you. I say now, as I said and
thought before, that even if you had had nothing but the clothes you
wore, you were cut out for our family; and I could not have wished for a
better wife for John, or a better daughter-in-law for the old people."
It was easy to say that now, for they all thought that Amrei had brought
with her a considerable fortune in cash.
In Allgau they talked for years of the wonderful way in which young
Farmer Landfried had brought home his wife, and told how finely he and
his wife had danced together at their wedding, and especially did they
praise a waltz called "Silverstep," the music for which they got from
And Damie?--he is one of the most noted shepherds in Allgau, and has,
moreover, a lofty name, for he is known in the country as "Vulture
Damie." Why? Because Damie has destroyed the nests of two dangerous
vultures, and thus avenged himself on them for twice having stolen young
lambs from him. If it were the custom to dub men knights nowadays, he
would be called "Damian of Vulturescraig." Moreover, the male side of
the Josenhanses of Vulturescraig will die with him, for he is still a
bachelor. But he is a good uncle--better than the one in America. When
the cattle are brought in at the end of the summer, he has many stories
to tell his sister's children, on winter nights, about life in America,
about Coaly Matthew in Mossbrook Wood, and about shepherds' adventures
in the mountains of Allgau. In particular, he knows a number of funny
stories to tell about a cow which he calls his "herd-cow," and which
wears a deep-sounding bell.
And Damie said once to his sister:
"Dame"--for that is what he always calls her--"Dame, your oldest boy
takes after you, and uses just such words as you used to. What do you
think?--the boy said to me today: 'Uncle, your herd-cow is your
heart-cow too, isn't she?' Yes, the boy is just on your pattern."
Farmer John wanted to have his first little daughter christened
"Barefoot," but it is no longer permissible to create names out of
incidents in daily life. The name was not accepted in the church
register, so that John had the child named "Barbara." But, on his own
authority, he has changed that name to "Barefoot."
* * * * *
* * * * *
ULI, THE FARMHAND
TRANSLATIONS AND SYNOPSES
BY BAYARD QUINCY MORGAN, PH.D.
Instructor in German, University of Wisconsin
A MASTER AWAKES; A SERVANT IS AROUSED
A dark night lay upon the earth; still darker was the place where a
subdued voice repeatedly called, "Johannes." It was a tiny chamber in a
large farmhouse; the voice came from the great bed which almost filled
the further end of the room. In it lay a farmer and his wife, and to him
the latter cried "Johannes" until he presently began to grumble and
finally to ask, "What do you want? What is it?"
"You'll have to get up and fodder the stock. It's after half-past four,
and Uli didn't get home till after two and fell downstairs at that when
he tried to get into his room. I should think you'd have waked up, he
made such a noise. He was drunk, and now he won't want to get up; and
anyhow I'd rather he wouldn't take a lantern into the stable while he's
"Servants are a trial nowadays," said the farmer, striking a light and
dressing. "You can hardly get 'em or pay 'em enough, and then you're
supposed to do everything yourself and never say a word about anything.
You're not master in your own house any more, and you can't do enough of
your own errands to keep from quarrels and from being run down."
"But you can't let this go on," said his wife; "it's happening too
often. Only last week he went off on two sprees; you know he drew his
pay before Ash Wednesday. I'm not thinking of you alone, but also of
Uli. If nothing's said to him he'll think he's got a right to go on so,
and will keep on worse and worse, and then we'll have to take it on our
consciences; for masters are masters after all, and let folks say what
they will about the new fashion, that it's nobody's business what the
servants do out of working hours, we're masters in our own house just
the same, and we're responsible to God and men for what we allow in our
house and what we overlook in our servants. Then too I'm thinking of the
children. You must take him into the sitting-room after breakfast, and
read him the riot act."
You must know that there prevails on many farms, especially those which
belong to the real farmer aristocracy--i.e., those which have for a long
time been handed, down in the same family, so that family customs have
been established and family respectability is cherished--the very
pleasant custom of causing absolutely no quarrel, no violent scene,
which could attract the neighbors' attention in any way. In proud calm
the house stands amid the green trees; with calm, grave demeanor its
indwellers move about and in it, and over the tree-tops sounds at most
the neighing of the horses, never the voices of men. There is little
noisy rebuke. Man and wife never rebuke each other in public; and
mistakes of the servants they often ignore, or make, as it were in
passing, a remark, let fall merely a word or a hint, which reaches only
the ear for which it is intended. When something unusual occurs or the
measure is full, they call the sinner into the sitting-room as
unostentatiously as possible, or seek him out while he is working alone,
and "read him the riot act," as the saying is; and for this the master
has usually prepared himself carefully. He performs this duty in perfect
calm, quite like a father, keeps nothing from the sinner, not even the
bitterest truth, but gives him a just hearing too, and puts before him
the consequences of his misdoings with respect to his future destiny.
[Illustration: JEREMIAS GOTTHELF]
And when the master is done he is content, and the affair is settled to
this extent, that neither the rebuked one nor his fellows can detect the
least thing in the conduct of the master--no bitterness, nor vehemence,
nor anything else. These reprimands are mostly of good effect by virtue
of the prevailing fatherly tone, the calmness of their delivery, and
their considerately chosen setting. Of the self-control and calm
serenity in such houses one can scarcely form a conception.
When the master was almost through in the stable Uli came along, but in
silence; they spoke no word to each other. When the voice from the
kitchen door called them to breakfast the master went at once to the
well-trough and washed his hands, but Uli stood long undecided. Perhaps
he would not have come to breakfast at all if the mistress herself had
not called him again. He was ashamed to show his face, which was black
and blue and bloody. He did not know that it is better to be ashamed of
a thing before it is done, than afterward. But this he was to learn.
At the table no remark was passed, no question which might have
concerned him; and the two maids did not even venture to show mocking
faces, for the master and mistress wore serious ones. But when they had
eaten and the maids were carrying out the dishes, and Uli, who had
finished last, raised his elbows from the table and put his cap on his
head again, showing that he had prayed and was going out, the master
said, "A word with you," went into the sitting-room and shut the door
behind them. The master sat down at the further end near the little
table; Uli stood still by the door and assumed a sheepish expression
which could as easily be transformed into defiance as into penitence. He
was a tall, handsome lad, not yet twenty years old, powerful in build,
but with something in his face that did not indicate innocence and
moderation, and that by next year could make him look ten years older.
"Listen, Uli," the master began, "things can't go on this way; you're
getting too wild to suit me. You go on night revels and sprees too
often. I won't trust my horses and cows to a man whose head is full of
brandy or wine, and I can't send him into the stable with a lantern,
especially when he smokes as you do. I've seen too many houses burned up
by such carelessness. I don't know what you're thinking of and what you
think is going to come of all this."
He hadn't burned up anything yet, Uli answered; he had always done his
work, no one had needed to do it for him, and nobody had paid for what
he drank; it was nobody's business what he spent on drink, it was his
"But it's my servant," answered the master, "that's drinking up his
money. When you carry on it comes back on me, and the people say that
you're the Bottom-Farmer's man and that they can't imagine what he's
thinking of to let you carry on so and to have such a servant as you.
You haven't burned up any house yet, but think, Uli, wouldn't once be
too much, and would you ever have a quiet moment again if you thought
you had burned up my house, and if we and the children couldn't get out
and were burned to death? And how about your work? I'd rather have you
lie abed all day long. Why, you fall asleep under the cows you're
milking, and you don't see, hear, or smell anything, and stumble around
the house as if your liver was out of whack. It's terrible to watch
He wouldn't take this, said Uli, and if his work wasn't good enough for
him he'd leave. But it was always so nowadays, you couldn't satisfy a
master any more, even if working all the time; one was worse than the
other. As for pay, they wanted to give less and less, and the food got
worse every day. After awhile one would have to gather fleas, beetles,
and grasshoppers if one wanted to have meat and fat with his vegetables.
"Listen, Uli," said the master, "you're in a bad temper still, and I
oughtn't to have said anything to you. But I'm sorry for you, for you've
been a fine lad and used to be able to work. For awhile I thought you'd
turn out well, and I was glad. But since you began this idling and
night-running, you've become a different fellow. You don't care about
anything any more; you're a sorehead, and when I say the least word to
you either sauce me or sulk for a week. Go now, think it over, and if
you're not willing to change, then in God's name leave me; I don't want
you any longer. Give me your answer in a week."
He'd soon have his mind made up, it wouldn't take a week, Uli growled as
he went out; but the master pretended not to hear.
When the master came out, his wife asked him as usual, "What did you say
to him, and what did he say?"
"I couldn't do anything with him," answered the master. "Uli is still in
a bad temper, for he hasn't slept off his spree yet; it would have been
better to talk to him tomorrow or in the evening, after the natural
seediness of 'the day after' had softened him up a little. Now I've
given him time to think it over, and shall wait and see what comes of
Uli went out in bitter anger, as if the greatest injustice had been done
him. He flung the tools around as though everything was to go to smash
in the one day, and he bawled at the cattle until the master ached in
every bone. But the latter forced himself to be calm, merely saying
once, "Easy, easy!" With the other servants Uli had no dealings, but
scowled at them too. As the master had not reprimanded him before the
others, he did not care to inform them of his disgrace, and because he
did not make common cause with them he considered that they were on the
master's side and his enemies--a state of mind quite in accord with that
deeply truthful saying: "He that is not for me is against me." So there
was no one to put notions into his head, and he had no opportunity to
swear that the devil or what-not might take him if he stayed here an
hour after his time was up.
Little by little the wine and other spirits departed from him, and more
and more sluggish grew his limbs; the previous tension yielded to an
intolerable exhaustion, which affected not only body but mind. And as
every act of the exhausted body is hard and painful to perform, so every
past and potential act seems to the exhausted spirit, which would fain
weep over what it laughed at before; what formerly caused pleasure and
joy now brings only grief and sorrow; the things but yesterday eagerly
grasped now bring a craze that would tear the hair from its head, aye,
even the whole head from its body. When this mood envelops the soul it
is irresistible, and over all a man's thought and ideas it casts its
While Uli, as long as the effect of the wine was upon him, had been
angry with the master for his rebuke, now that its force was spent he
became angry at himself for his debauch. He recalled the twenty-three
farthings which he had gone through in one evening, and which would now
take almost a fortnight's work to earn again. He was angry at the work
which he would have to do for this purpose, at the wine which he had
drunk, at the tavern-keeper who had furnished it, and so on. He lost all
sense, forgot everything, did everything wrong. He was uncomfortable,
discontented with himself, hence also with all others, with the whole
world; he had good words for none, and nothing suited him. He imagined
that the mistress was intentionally cooking poor meals and preparing
everything he didn't like; that the master was tormenting him with
needless work; that the horses were all bad-tempered and that the cows
purposely did everything they could to bother him--the stupidest cows
that ever grazed on God's earth.
The farmer and his wife let the lad alone; it seemed as if they paid no
heed to him. But it was not so. The mistress had once or twice remarked
to her husband how wildly Uli was carrying on--she had never known him
to be in such a state before. Had her husband spoken too sharply to him?
But the farmer did not think so; Uli wasn't angry at him alone but at
the whole world, he said--probably chiefly angry at himself and was
letting it out on others.
On Sunday he would talk with him again. Things couldn't go on this way
any longer; Uli would have to mend his ways or go. But he mustn't be too
harsh, said the mistress. After all, Uli wasn't the worst in the world;
they knew what he was, but they didn't know what they might get.
A QUIET SUNDAY IN A FINE FARMHOUSE
[This describes in detail the Sunday activities on the
farm--churchgoing, visits from relatives, an afternoon walk, inspection
of the crops and the cattle, a coffee party.]
A NOCTURNAL ADMONITION
After they had hung up the lantern out in the stable and bedded the
horses, the master himself made a bed for the cow, which tramped
restlessly back and forth and could not lie down for uneasiness, and
then remarked that it might be an hour or two yet, and they would go out
and sit on the bench and smoke a pipe; the cow would give warning when
the time came.
It was a mild night, half spring, half summer. Few stars twinkled in the
blue ocean above; a ringing shout, a distant wagon broke in at times
upon the stillness of the night.
"Have you made up your mind now, Uli?" asked the master, when they were
sitting on the bench before the stable.
Uli answered that he was still rather undecided, but his tone was no
longer angry. He wouldn't take everything, but he shouldn't mind
He had already adopted the generally accepted maxim, never to show
eagerness lest the opponent draw an advantage from it. Hence the
remarkable calm and cold-bloodedness in farmers, which diplomats should
admire. But in its full extent and application it is a vicious policy,
which causes unspeakable evil, estranges countless people, makes them
appear enemies to one another, generates coldness where generous zeal
should be kindled, and results in an indifference which causes an
involuntary goose-flesh to scamper up the back of every friend of
The master did not take the reply amiss, but said that he felt the same
way. He had nothing against Uli; but things would have to change. He
wanted to know who was in the wrong, and whether he couldn't say a word
in his own house any more without getting cross words all the week and
seeing a face sour enough to poison all America.
He couldn't help it, said Uli. To look cross was his style of
friendliness, and if his face hadn't looked the same as usual it wasn't
on his master's account, for he had no special complaint against him or
anybody. But he was only a poor servant after all, and had no right to a
home or any fun; he was on earth only to be unhappy, and when ever he
tried to forget his misery and have a good time everybody got after him
and tried to put him down. Whoever could shove him into misfortune, did
so. Who could be expected to look sweet all the time?
He ought to see that he didn't want to shove him into misfortune--quite
the contrary, said the master. If any one was doing that it was himself.
When a lad went with bad girls he was the cause of his own misfortune,
and no one else. "No, Uli," continued the master, "you must give up your
loose living; you make yourself unhappy, and I won't have such vexation
as you've caused me this week."
He hadn't done anything bad, Uli rejoined.
"Ho, ho," said the master; "I wonder whether getting full is something
Oh, there were much worse than he, said Uli, and there were lots of
farmers that he couldn't hold a candle to.
He couldn't deny it, said the master, but a bad man didn't make the
others good, and even if many a farmer was a drunkard or even a
scoundrel, that didn't make Uli any better if he was a loafer and other
Well, a man surely ought to be allowed to have some fun, said Uli;
who'd want to live if he couldn't have any fun any more?
"But Uli, is it any fun if you don't want to see anybody for a week
afterward, if you don't feel happy anywhere? Is it any fun if it can
make you miserable and unhappy for the rest of your life? Such fun is
the devil's bait. Of course you can have your fun; every man has a right
to it, but in good and right ways. You can tell whether a man is good or
bad by his enjoyment of good or bad things."
"Well, it's easy for you to crow," said Uli, "you've got the finest farm
for miles around, your stables are full of good stock, you granaries
full; you have a good wife--one of the best, and fine children; you can
enjoy yourself, for you have things to enjoy; if I had 'em, I'd never
think of sprees and wild living. But what have I got? I'm a poor lad,
haven't a soul in the world that wishes me well; my father's dead, my
mother too, and my sisters are all looking out for themselves.
Misfortune's my lot in this world; if I get sick, nobody wants me, and
if I die they'll bury me like a dog, and not a soul will cry over me.
Oh, why don't they kill the like of me when we come into the world!" And
with that, big strong Uli began to cry bitterly.
"Now, now, Uli," said the master, "you're not so badly off, if you'd
only think so. Give up your wild life and you can be a man yet. Many a
man has started with as little as you, and got house and farm and full
Yes, said Uli, such things didn't happen any more, and then a man had to
have more luck for that than he had.
"That's stupid talk," said the master; "how can a man talk of luck when
he throws away and squanders all he gets his hands on? I never saw a
coin yet that wasn't willing to leave the hand that spent it. But your
mistake is just this--that you don't believe you could become a man. You
think you're poor and will stay poor and are worth nothing, and so you
stay poor. If you thought something different, things would go better.
For everything still depends on what a man believes."
"But for goodness gracious sake, master," said Uli, "how should I get
rich? Think how little my pay is, and how many clothes I need; and I
have debts to boot. What's the use of saving? And can't I have any fun?"
"But for goodness gracious sake," echoed the master, "what are you
coming to if you've got debts now, while you're strong and well and
nobody to care for? You'll be a vagabond, and then nobody will want you
any more; you'll earn less and less and need more and more. No, Uli,
think it over a little; this can't go on. There's still time, and I tell
you honestly it would be a pity."
"It's no use; what's the good of drudging and giving up all my fun? I
shan't get anywhere; a poor lad like me can never be anything else,"
"See what the cow's doing," said the master. And when Uli came back with
the reply that the calf was not coming just yet, the master said, "I
shall remember all my life how our pastor explained serving in our
religious teaching, and how he made it so clear that you had to believe
him; and many a man has grown happy by doing so. He said that all men
got from God two great funds to put out at interest--namely, powers and
time. By good use of these we must win temporal and eternal life. Now,
many a man has nothing to exercise his powers on, so as to use his time
serviceably and profitably; so he lends his powers and his time to some
one who has too much work, but too little time and powers, in return for
a definite pay; that is called serving. But it was an unfortunate thing,
he said, that most servants regarded this serving as a misfortune and
their employers as their enemies or at least their oppressors; that they
regarded it as an advantage to do as little as possible for them, to be
able to waste as much time as possible in chattering, running, and
sleeping; that they became unfaithful, for they withheld in this way
from their masters what they had lent and sold to them--time. But as
every disloyalty punished itself, so this also caused very direful
consequences; for betrayal of the master was betrayal of oneself. Every
action tended imperceptibly to form a habit which we could never get rid
of. When a maid-servant or a man-servant had for years done as little as
possible, worked as slowly as possible, always grumbled at each new
task, and either run away, heedless of the outcome, or dawdled over it
so that the very grass grew under their feet, had taken no pains with
anything, spoiled as much as possible, never been careful but always
indifferent to everything--this soon formed a habit, and after a while
it couldn't be shaken off. Such a habit would be carried along into each
employment, and if in time independence came and marriage, then who had
to bear these habits--laziness, sloth, insubordination, discontent? The
man himself had to bear them and all their consequences, distress and
calamity, until death, through death, and before God's judgment seat. He
told us to look and see how many thousands were a burden to their
fellows and an offense to God, dragging themselves around as repulsive
creatures, visible witnesses to the thoughtful, how unfaithfulness
"But as a man formed a habit by his acts, so also he made a name for
himself among others. For this name, for his reputation or esteem among
men, every man worked from childhood to the grave; every little act,
yes, every single word, contributed to this name. This name opens or
closes hearts to us, makes us worthy or unworthy, desired or rejected.
However humble a man, he has his name, and his fellows judge his value
to them by it. So every man-servant and maid-servant involuntarily
creates a name, and the amount of their wages is determined by it; it
opens a way to them or closes it. Then it's no use for a man to make
long speeches and complain about former employers; that won't give him a
good name, for his actions have already given him a bad one. His
reputation would be known for miles around, one scarcely knew how. This
name was a wonderful thing, and yet people gave much too little thought
to it, especially those with whom it was only second in importance to
their habits of mind; with these two things they wished to gain a third,
a good living in the world, wealth; and a fourth--Heaven and its
treasures. What a wretched wight he was, then, who had bad habits and a
bad name, and who was losing Heaven and earth!
"And so, the pastor continued, every man who went into service ought to
look on it not as slavery, nor the master as his enemy; but as
schooling, and the master as a blessing from God; for what should the
poor do--i.e., those who had but time and powers (and that was much
after all), if no one would give them work and pay. They should regard
their time of service as an opportunity to accustom themselves to work
and industry and make a good name for themselves among men. According as
they were true to the master they were true to themselves, and as the
master profited by them they profited themselves. They should never
think that only the master gained advantage from their industry; they
gained at least as much from it. Then, even if they came to a bad
master, they should by no means plan to punish him by bad behavior; they
would only injure themselves thereby, inwardly and outwardly. Now when a
servant worked better and better, was increasingly faithful and capable,
that was his own possession which nobody could take from him, and in
addition he had his good name. People would like him and intrust much to
him, and the world would be open to him. Let him undertake what he
would, he would find good people to help him because his good name was
the best security. We should stop and think what servants men
commended--the faithful or the unfaithful; and which among them attained
property and respect.
"Then the pastor said a third thing, and that touches you especially. He
said that men wanted to have pleasure and ought to have it, especially
in their youth. Now when a servant hated his service and found work
disagreeable, he would desire some special pleasures and so would begin
to idle, to run wild, to take part in bad affairs, and finally would
take delight in these things and meditate upon them day and night. But
if maid or man had seen the light, realized that they might come to
something, and had faith in themselves, then they would love their work,
would take pleasure in learning something, in doing something well;
pleasure in success at something, in the growth of what they had
planted, what they had fed. They would never say, 'What do I care about
this? What business is that of mine? I get nothing out of it.' No, they
would take genuine pleasure in doing something unusual, undertaking
something hard; thus their powers would best grow, thus they would make
the best name for themselves. So they would take delight in their
master's business, in his horses, cows, corn, grass, as if they were
their own. 'Of that in which a man delights doth he think; where the
treasure is, there is the heart also,' said the pastor. Now if the
servant has his mind on his service, if he is filled with the desire to
become a thoroughly capable man in the eyes of God and men, then the
devil has little power over him, cannot suggest evil things to him,
wicked thoughts for him to think continually, so that he hasn't his mind
on his work but is drawn from one vice to another and is ruined in soul
and body. Those were the pastor's words," concluded the master; "it
seems as if it was today that he spoke them to us, and I have seen a
hundred times over that he was right. I thought I'd tell it to you; it
just fits your case. And if you'd only think so, you could be one of the
finest lads in the world and have just the kind of life you want."
HOW THE EARS OF A SERVANT ARE OPENED TO A GOOD MASTER
Uli's answer was cut off by the cow, which proclaimed her pangs more
clearly: now there was work to do, and the conversation could not be
continued. All went well, and finally there was a handsome calf,
coal-black with a white star, such as neither had ever seen; it was
decided to raise it. Uli was twice as active and attentive as usual, and
the little calf he treated quite gently, almost tenderly, and regarded
it with real affection.
When they were done with the cow and she had had her onion soup, the
morning was already dawning, and no time was left to continue their
The ensuing work-days engrossed them with various labors and the master
was frequently absent on business in the neighborhood, so that they had
no further talk together. But it seemed to be assumed by both that Uli
was to remain, and when the master came home his wife could not praise
Uli enough, saying how well he had performed his duty and that she had
not had to give him any orders; he had thought of everything himself,
and when she had thought of it it had already been done. This naturally
pleased the master very much and caused him to speak with increasing
kindness to Uli and to show more and more confidence in him. Nothing is
more vexatious for a master than to come home in the evening tired or
sleepy and find everything at sixes and sevens and his wife full of
complaints; to see only half the work done that should have been
accomplished, much of it botched and ruined, so that it had better have
been let alone; and then into the bargain to hear his wife complain half
the night how the servants had been unruly, had given impudent answers,
and done just what they pleased, and how she hated to have it so--and if
he ever went away again she would run off too. It is terrible for a man
who has to go away (and the necessity arises occasionally) if the heavy
sighs begin on the homeward road, as soon as he can see his house. What
has happened today, he thinks--what shall I see and hear? And so he
scarcely wants to go home at all; and whereas he would like to return
with love and joy, he has to march with thunder and lightning into his
In Uli something new had awakened and was filling his whole frame,
without his rightly knowing it as yet. As time went on he had to think
more and more of the master's words, and more and more he began to
believe that the master was right. It was grateful to him to think that
he was not created to remain a poor despised lad, but might yet become a
man. He saw that wild ways would not bring him to that, and that the
more he persisted in them the more ground he would lose. He was
strangely affected by what the master had said about habits, and about
the good name that one could get in addition to his pay, and so keep on
earning more and more the more faithfully he worked; and how one could
not look better to his own interest than by being very faithful in the
service of his master.
He found himself less and less ready to deny that it was so. More and
more examples kept occurring to him of bad servants who had become
unhappy and remained poor, and on the other hand he remembered how he
had heard others praised by their old employers, who told how they had
had a good man or maid, and how these had done well and were now Well
Only one thing he could not understand--how he, Uli, should ever come to
money, to wealth; that seemed absolutely impossible to him. His pay was
thirty crowns in cash, that is, seventy-five francs; also two shirts and
a pair of shoes. Now he still had debts of almost four crowns and had
already drawn much pay. Heretofore he had never been able to keep within
his income; and now he was to pay debts and save, and that seemed
impossible to him, for in the natural course of things he was prepared
to see his debts increase each year. Of the thirty crowns he needed at
least ten for clothes, and even then he could not dress very elegantly;
for stockings, shoes, shirts, of which he had only three good and four
poor ones, washing, etc., at least eight crowns would go; a packet of
tobacco every week (and he generally used more) made two crowns more;
that left ten crowns. Now there were fifty Saturday nights, fifty Sunday
afternoons, six of which were dance-Sundays at that; nobody knew how
many market-days; then there was a review, perhaps even a quartering of
soldiers, not counting all the chance occasions for a lark, such as
weddings, shooting, bowling, the newly fashionable masquerades, and
evening parties, the most dangerous of all evil customs. Independence
Day, which degenerates into a perfect orgy of debauchery, was not then
in vogue. Now if he figured only two pence a week for brandy or wine,
that made four crowns again. If he skipped three dance-Sundays, still he
needed at least a crown if he was to pay the fiddler, have a girl, and,
as was customary, go home full; and often he needed a thirty-fiver for
each of the other three Sundays. Now for the market-days, reviews, and
other sprees he had only three crowns left. With this, he thought, it
was really humanly impossible to get along; two markets and the review
alone would use up more than that; so he had nothing at all for the
rest. He figured it over and over, tried to cut down on clothes, on
other expenses; but it couldn't be done. He had to be clothed and have
washing done; nor could he run barefoot. And so, let him figure as he
would, he always came to the sad result that, instead of putting by, he
would be falling behind.
One day soon after this calculation master and man were hauling stones
for a new stove. On the homeward way they stopped at an inn, for they
had a long and hilly road. Since the master was not so niggardly as to
order the poorest wine when the servant was with him, and only a
halfpence worth of bread for the two, Uli became talkative as they
proceeded. "Listen, master," said Uli, "I have been thinking that the
pastor who gave you your instruction wasn't altogether a fool; but he
didn't know anything about what pay a farmer lad gets and what he needs;
I suppose he thought it was about as much as a vicar's pay. But you
ought to know better, and that saving and getting rich are no go. I've
spent many a day in figuring, till I was like to burst the top of my
head off; but I always got the same result: nothing comes of nothing,
and zero from zero is zero."
"Why, how did you figure?" asked the master.
Uli went through the whole account again for him, and when he was done
he asked the master mockingly, "Now, what do you say to that? Isn't it
The master said, "By your account, to be sure; but there's a very
different way of reckoning, my lad. Here now, I'll figure it up for you
my way; I wonder what you'll say to it."
"I won't change much what you put down for clothes. It's possible that
if you want to keep yourself in good condition, and in particular to
have shirts that will save washing, and to look as a self-respecting lad
likes to look on Sundays and work-days, you'll need even more at first.
But for tobacco you've put down two crowns, and that's too much. A man
that has to go into the stable and on the barn-floor ought not to smoke
all day, not till after working hours. You don't need to smoke to offset
your hunger on my place, and if you could get out of the habit
altogether it would help you a lot. When a man doesn't smoke he always
increases his wages.
"The other ten crowns that you put down for amusements of all kinds I'll
strike out, every one. Yes, open your mouth and look at me like a stork
at a new roof. If you want to cure yourself and come to something,
you've got to make some decent resolution at the outset--a resolution
not to squander a single penny of your pay in any way. If you resolve
simply to go gallivanting a little less often, to spend a little less
than before, that's just throwing your money to the winds. Once in the
tavern, you're no longer master of yourself; the old companionship, the
old habit will carry you along, and you'll spend two or three weeks' pay
again. Then the after-thirst will come and you'll have to improve other
evenings, and more and more you'll lose all belief that you could ever
help yourself up, you'll become slacker every day, and you'll despair of
yourself more and more. Besides, it's not so dreadful as the face you
makeup. See how many people never take a glass the year round, or go
into a tavern. It's not only poor day-laborers, who have all they can do
to keep off the parish, but some of them are well-to-do, even rich
people, who've made it a habit never to spend anything uselessly, and
they are not only contented but can much less understand how a
reasonable man can enjoy idling than you are willing to understand me
when I say a man can live without idling."
"I walked home once with a little man from the Langental market. He was
surprised to find me going home so early; usually he had to go home
alone, he said. I answered that I hadn't had anything more to do, and
that I didn't care to sit in the tavern till evening; that it cost money
and time, and a man didn't know when and how he would finally get home.
He felt the same way, he said. He had begun with nothing and barely got
along. For a long time he had supported father and mother alone, but now
he had his home and farm paid for and every year two cows to sell, and
not one of them under six hundred pounds. But he had never wasted a cent
from the very beginning. Only once, he remembered, in Burgdorf he had
bought a roll for a halfpenny without needing to--he could have stood it
till he got home, and had a cheaper meal there. Well, I told him I
couldn't say as much; many a penny I had wasted. But one could overdo
it, too, for a man had to live. 'Yes, to be sure,' said he. 'I live too,
and am happy. A farthing saved gives me more satisfaction than another
man gets from spending a crown. If I hadn't begun that way I'd never
have come to anything. A poor lad doesn't know enough to stop at the
right time when once he begins; when he's thrown away one penny it pulls
a dozen along after it. But you mustn't think I'm a miserable miser.
Many a man has gone away empty-handed from the big farm-houses and has
got what he needed from me. I didn't forget who has blessed my work and
will soon demand an account from me.' At this I looked the little man up
and down with great respect; nobody could have told what was in him from
his looks. Before we separated I wanted to buy him a bottle of wine for
his good advice. But he refused; he didn't need anything, and whether he
squandered my money or his would come to the same thing on that future
account. Since then I've never seen him; probably he's gone to his
account by now, and if nobody had a worse one than he many a man would
be better off.
"So this is my opinion: every single farthing of your pay that you spend
for such useless things is ill spent. Stay at home, and you'll save not
merely ten crowns, but a lot besides. All the servants complain how many
shoes and clothes they need, when they have to be out in wind and
weather; but do you know how most of their clothes are spoiled? By
running around at night in all kinds of weather, through thick and thin,
and with all that goes on then. If you wear your clothes twenty-four
hours, you evidently use 'em up more than if it was only fourteen. You
don't go calling in wooden shoes, and do you burst out more shoe-nails
by day, or by night when you can't see the stones, the holes, or the
ditches? And tell me, how do your Sunday clothes look after you've
stumbled around in them drunk, pulled each other about, and rolled in
the mud? How many a Sunday jacket has been torn to pieces, the trousers
ruined, the hat lost!
"Many a man would surely need less for his clothes if he stayed at home;
I say nothing about the girls. And think, Uli, if you need ten crowns
now for such useless habits, in ten years you'll need twenty and in
twenty forty, if you have them; for a habit like that doesn't stand
still it grows. And doesn't that lead straight as a string to your old
"Finally, Uli, you get not only thirty crowns, but also many a penny in
the way of tips when a cow or a horse is sold, and the like. Use those
when you must have an outing and can't give up the tavern. Out of that
money you can drink a glass or two at a review, if you like, or put it
by against your going into garrison; there'll be plenty for that. You've
drawn a lot of your pay; but if you'll believe me and follow my advice
you can get out of debt this year; and next year you can start laying
by. And if you believe me, I don't say that I can pay you only thirty
crowns. When a servant attends to his business and doesn't have his mind
set simply on foolishness; when I can intrust something to him and
things go the same whether I'm with him or not, so that I don't have to
come home every time in anxiety lest something has gone wrong--then I
won't haggle over a crown or two. Think of that, Uli: the better the
habits, the better the name, the better the pay."
At these words Uli's mouth opened and his nose lifted, and at last he
said that that would be fine, but it probably would never happen; he
didn't think he could stand it.
"Well, try it a month and see how it goes; and don't think about
gadding, drinking, and the tavern, and you can do it all right."
NOW COMES THE DEVIL AND SOWS TARES AMONG THE GOOD SEED
[Uli's fellow-servants, on his master's farm and on the neighboring
ones, attempt to drag him back into his old ways, chiefly with ridicule
and mockery. At times his resolution fails him, but he masters himself
again. Then a bad-hearted neighbor, who hates Uli's master, tries to
lure him away from his new faith. He praises Uli to the skies, tells him
he is not properly appreciated, and poisons his mind against his master.
Uli grows more and more puffed-up, and is about ready to be caught in
the neighbor's snare; for the latter merely wishes to use him for his
own selfish ends.]
HOW THE WEEDS WERE UPROOTED FROM ULI
[A Neighboring village, Brandywine, is to play a championship game of
_hurnuss_ (a kind of ball game played in spring and autumn in the canton
of Bern), with Uli's village, Potato Hollow. There is deep enmity
between the two places, and the contest is likely to be bitter. The
losing team must give the winners a full dinner, with plenty of wine.
Uli's master urges him to refuse the invitation to play on the team; but
the malicious neighbor talks him over. Though the Potato Hollowers use
all their skill and cunning, even to cheating the umpire, they lose the
game by one point; they must set up the dinner, which ends in a free
fight. A victory in this comforts Potato Hollow somewhat. But two of the
Brandywiners claim damages, and the local players are afraid of severe
judgment if it comes to trial, it being not the first offense. They
agree to a plan, devised by the malicious neighbor, to let the entire
penalty fall on Uli's head, so that they can go scot-free. Uli is to
confess himself the guilty party, and in return for this service the
others, all wealthy farmers' sons, will reimburse him for all expenses
and give him a handsome bonus besides. Uli's master overhears his
neighbor talking to Uli, decides to interfere, and points out to him the
noose into which he is running his head. He advises Uli to demand a
written promise, signed by all, that they will do what has been agreed
upon. Uli brings home the written promise and shows it to his master; it
turns out to be nothing but a certificate that Uli is the guilty party.
Uli is in consternation; but the master promises to help him out if he
will abide by his word in the future. Accordingly, Johannes meets the
scheming neighbor and advises him to have the other players settle up
and leave Uli in peace, or else Uli may have occasion to show the paper
to the governor. Uli hears nothing more about the affair.]
HOW THE MASTER KINDLES A FIRE FOR THE GOOD SEED
[The author points out the disastrous consequences of giving the
servants on a farm only unheated rooms to live in, and no access to the
warm house; on Sundays they seek warmth in the public-houses or
elsewhere, and terrible immorality results. Uli feels the need of a
warm room to sit in, and the master invites him into the house. The
maids are at first much put out, and the mistress too; but the master
upholds Uli, and gradually the new custom wins favor and results in a
betterment of all the servants.]
A SERVANT BECOMES PROSPEROUS AND SOON THE SPECULATORS APPEAR
[Uli becomes quite settled in steady habits, and soon has a nice little
sum of money in hand. But others get wind of it, and they borrow various
sums of him, promising to pay back at a certain time with interest. Soon
Uli's money is all gone, but he exults in the thought of his interest.
When the time for payment comes the debtors make excuses; and as time
goes on and no money is forthcoming, Uli becomes anxious. At length the
master notices his distress, finds out the trouble, and helps him to
recover most of what he had lent, admonishing him hereafter to put his
savings in the bank.]
ULI GAINS PRESTIGE AND IMPRESSES GIRLS
[Uli's improvement proceeds steadily, and his self-respect with it. The
two maids are greatly impressed by him, and both set their caps for him.
Stini, the elder, is very ugly and cross-grained, but a good worker and
very thrifty. Yrsi, on the other hand, is pretty and sweet-tempered, but
lazy and heedless, and wants a husband so as to avoid working. Jealously
the two watch each other's attempts to catch Uli, who is drawn now to
Yrsi's prettiness, now to Stini's thrift. Their jealousy finally becomes
so furious that Uli begins to cool off, which only makes them the more
eager. Yrsi plans a master-stroke: she uncovers the liquid manure-pit,
and Stini tumbles into it. When she is finally hauled out, not without
difficulty and amid the gibes of the other servants, she falls like a
tigress upon her rival, and the two roll in the dirt and become such a
reeking ball of filth that no one ventures to touch them to pull them
apart. But Uli has had enough of them both and is entirely cured, though
not of his desire for marriage.]
HOW ULI SELLS A COW AND ALMOST GETS A WIFE
[Uli is sent to market with a cow, which he sells at a good profit. On
the way home he encounters the daughter of a neighbor, struggling with
four little pigs. She begs his assistance, and as they go along she
gives him a glowing account of her father's prosperity and the size of
her dowry. She invites him into a tavern on the way, and they take some
refreshment together. Then she goes on about herself--how strong she is,
and how much work she can do, and what a good catch she would make. Uli
cannot get in a word edgewise, but is mightily impressed by her imposing
vigor and her father's wealth, so that he goes home with his head in a
whirl. The master and his wife are pleased with Uli's success, and the
master hands over to Uli the profit he has made on the cow. Uli asks the
master about the neighbor's Katie, saying that he thinks she would have
him. The master, however, strongly dissuades him, pointing out that
Katie might make a good field-hand, but not a good wife. She can make
hay, but not soup; and there is not so much wealth, for the farm is
badly managed. The boys will get the land, and the girls can take the
leavings, which will not amount to very much. Besides, the girls are
spoiled and will not know what to do on a small farm, after being used
to a big one; and if Uli stays there he will simply be a servant without
pay. Uli sees that the master is right, and decides to think no more of
HOW DESIRES TAKE FORM IN A SERVANT, AND HOW A GOOD MASTER REALIZES THEM
[Uli gradually reaches something like perfection, and his savings amount
to a handsome sum. But the money seems to come too slowly, and he begins
to feel impatient. The master is at first vexed, but sees that he must
either pay Uli what will satisfy him, or let him go. Uli suggests buying
or renting something, but the master will not hear to it; Uli has too
little money for that. Then one autumn the master goes to market and
encounters there a cousin, Joggeli, who has come, he says, to see
Johannes. Joggeli tells his troubles: he and his wife are getting old
and decrepit, and can no longer look after their large farm as formerly.
Their son Johannes has become too stuck-up for the farm and now runs a
tavern; their daughter is good for nothing, incompetent and lazy. The
overseer whom he has had for eleven years has been cheating him right
and left, and the other servants are hand in glove with him. Joggeli
desires a new overseer, a first-class man on whom he can depend; he
would pay as high as a hundred crowns if he could find what he wants.
Johannes recommends Uli, and Joggeli comes to have a look at him. He
does his best to find some fault in him, but can discover none. Johannes
and his wife are both reluctant to let Uli go, but they think it is for
his good, and so Uli is induced to hire out to Joggeli for sixty crowns,
two pairs of shoes, four shirts, and tips. All hearts are heavy as New
Year's approaches, when the change is to be made. The master himself
plans to drive Uli over to his new place.]
HOW ULI LEAVES HIS OLD PLACE AND REACHES HIS NEW ONE
On the following morning the sleigh was made ready and the box fastened on
it, and Uli had to breakfast with the family in the living-room--coffee,
cheese, and pancakes. When the horse was harnessed Uli could scarcely go,
and when at last the time came, and he stretched out his hand to his
mistress and said, "Good-bye, mother, and don't be angry with me," the
tears rushed to his eyes again; and the mistress had to lift her apron
to her eyes, saying, "I don't know what for; I only hope you'll get
along well. But if you don't like it come back any time, the sooner the
better." The children would scarcely let him go; it seemed as if his
heart would break when the master finally told them to let loose, that
they must start if they wanted to get there today, and it wouldn't be
the last time they were to see each other; but that now there was no
help for it. When they drove away the mistress kept wiping her eyes for
a long time, and had to comfort the children, who, it seemed, could not
stop weeping and lamenting.
In silence the two men drove over the gleaming snow. "Steady!" the
master had to say occasionally, when the wild Blazer struck into a
gallop, pulling the light sleigh along like the wind and kicking the
snow high in the air. "It distresses me," said Uli, "and more and more,
the nearer we get; it's so hard for me! I can't believe that I'm not
running into misfortune; it seems as if it was right ahead of me."
"That's natural," said the master, "and I wouldn't take that as a bad
omen. Think: nearly ten years ago, when you were a ne'er-do-well and I
started you going right, how hard it was for you to do better, and how
little faith you had in the possibility that everything would turn out
right. But still it did, gradually. Your faith got stronger, and now
you're a lad that can be said to have won his battle. So don't be
distressed; what you've got before you now is all the easier for it, and
the worst thing that can happen is that you'll come back to me in a
year. Just keep yourself straight and watch out, for my cousin is
terribly suspicious; but once he's taken your measure, you can put up
with him. You'll have the worst time with the other servants; go easy
with them, little by little, and in kindness as long as you can; then if
that's no good, speak right up so that you'll know where you are--I
wouldn't like a year of that sort of thing myself."
It was a bright, clear January day as they drove through handsome
fields, then between white fences and glittering trees, toward Slough
Farm. This property lay perhaps ten minutes' walk from Uefligen, was
over a hundred acres in size and very fruitful, but not all in one
piece; some fields and one grass-meadow lay at some distance. In wet
years it might be swampy in spots, but that could be managed. As they
drove up, Joggeli came stumping on a stick around the house, which stood
on rather low ground, and said that he had been looking for them for a
long time, and had almost thought they weren't coming; he had become
impatient. He shouted toward the barns, which were built against the
house, for some one to come and take the horse. No one came. Uli himself
had to unhitch and asked where to take Blazer. "Why, is nobody here?"
Nobody came. Then the old man went angrily to the stable and pulled the
door open, and there was the carter calmly currying horses. "Don't you
hear when you're called?" cried Joggeli.
"I didn't hear anything."
"Then prick up your ears and come and take the horse."
He'd have to make room for it first, growled the fellow, and shot in
among his horses like a hawk in a pigeon-house, so that they dashed at
their mangers and kicked, and Uli only by constant "Whoas" and at risk
of life got Blazer into the last stall. There he could find no halter
for a time.
"Should have brought one," was the carter's remark. When Uli went back
to the sleigh and untied his box, the wood-cutters were to help him
carry it; but for a long time none stirred. Finally they dispatched the
boy, who let the handle go when they were on the stairs, so that Uli
almost tumbled down backward and only owed it to his strength that he
did not. The room to which he was shown was not bright, was unheated,
and provided with two beds. He stood in it somewhat depressed, until
they called to him to come down and get something warm to eat. Outside,
a cheerful, pretty girl received him, nutbrown of hair and eyes, red and
white as to cheeks, with kissable lips, blinding white teeth, tall and
strong, yet slender in build, with a serious face behind which lurked
both mischief and good nature.
And over the whole lay that familiar, but indescribable Something, that
always testifies to inward and outward purity, to a soul which hates the
unclean and whose body therefore never becomes unclean, or never seems
so even in the dirtiest work. Freneli--this was the girl's name--was a
poor relation, who had never had a home and was always treated like
Cinderella, but always shook off the ashes--a girl who was never dimmed
outwardly or inwardly, but met God and men and every new day with fresh
and merry laughter, and hence found a home everywhere and made a place
for herself in all hearts, however they might try to resist her;
therefore she was often dearly loved by her relatives even while they
fancied they hated her, casting her out because she was the offspring of
an illicit intercourse between an aristocratic relative and a
day-laborer. Freneli had not opened the door. When Uli came out the
brown eyes rapidly swept over him, and quite seriously Freneli said, "I
suppose you're the new overseer; they want you to come down and get
something warm to eat." There was no need, said Uli, they had eaten
something on the way.
None the less he followed the fleet girl to the living-room in silence.
In it Joggeli and Johannes were already sitting at the table, half
hidden by smoking meat, both fresh and salted, sauerkraut and dried
pears. A plump, friendly old woman came to meet him, wiped her hand on
her apron, Held it out to him, and said, "Are you the new overseer?
Well, well, if you're as good as you are handsome, it'll be all right, I
don't doubt. Sit down and eat, and don't be bashful; the food's there to
On the stove bench there sat yet another form, lean, with a white face
and pale, lustreless eyes; she acted as if she were paying no heed to
anything, but had a pretty box before her, and was winding blue silk
from one ball to another. Joggeli was telling about the time he had had
with the last overseer, and what he had had to stand since then, and how
it seemed to him that it had been much worse than he could remember
now. "All the torment such a fellow can make you, and you can't string
him up for it--it's not right, I swear. It didn't use to be so; there
was a time when they hanged everybody that stole as much as would pay
for the rope. That was something like, but all that's changed. It's
enough to make you think the bad folks have nothing but their own kind
in the government, the way it lets 'em get away. Why, we don't even hang
the women that poison their husbands any more. Now, I'd like to know
what's worse, to break the law by killing somebody, or by letting him
live; it looks to me as if one was as bad as the other. And then it
seems to me that if those who ought to maintain the law are the ones to
break it, they deserve no forgiveness of God or men. Then I think we
ought to have the right to put 'em where they belong, instead of having
to pay 'em besides."
During this long speech of Joggeli's, which he fortunately delivered
inside his four walls, as otherwise it might easily have brought down
upon him an action for high treason, his wife kept constantly saying to
Johannes and especially to Uli, "Take some more, won't you, that's what
it's for; or don't you like it? We give what we've got--it's bad enough;
but at least we don't grudge it to you. (Joggeli, do fill up the
glasses; look, they're empty.) Drink, won't you, there's more where that
came from. Our son gave us the wine; they say it's good; he bought it
himself down in Italy; it actually cost fivepence halfpenny the quart,
and not too full a quart at that." When Uli did not wish to take any
more the old woman still kept putting food before him, stuck the fork
into the largest pieces and then thrust them off on his plate with her
thumb, saying, "Ho, you're a fine fellow if you can't get that down too;
such a big lad must eat if he wants to keep his strength, and we're glad
to give it to him; whoever wants to work has got to eat. Take some more,
But at last Uli really could eat nothing more, took up his cap, prayed,
and stood up to go. "Stay awhile," said Joggeli; "where are you going?
They'll look after your Blazer, I gave 'em strict orders."
"Oh, I'd like to go out and look around a bit and see how I like it,"
"Go then; but come back when you get cold; you're not to work today, do
you hear," said the mother.
"He'll have something to live through," said Joggeli, "they hate like
poison to have him come, and I think the carter would have liked to be
overseer. But I don't care if they are against each other. It's never
good to have the servants on too good terms; it always comes out of the
"Ho," said Johannes, "that's as you take it. If the servants are on one
side and the master on the other, then he has a hard time and can't do
anything. But when the servants are all against each other, and each one
does his best to vex the others, and one won't help another--that's bad
for the master too; for after all in the end everything hits the master
and his interests. I think it's a true saying that peace prospers,
discord destroys. I don't just like it here. Nobody came to take the
horse; nobody wanted to help Uli with his box; each one does as he
likes, and they don't fear anybody. Cousin, that won't be good. I must
tell you, Uli won't stay here under those conditions. If he's to be
overseer and have the responsibility, he wants order too; he won't let
'em all do as they please. Then there'll be a fuss; it will all come
back on him, and if you don't back him up he'll run off. Let me say
frankly: I told him that if he couldn't stand it here any longer, he was
to come back to me, that I'd always have room for him. We're sorry
enough to lose him, and the wife cried when I went off with him, as if
it was her own child."
That seemed very lovely to the old mother and she wiped her own eyes
just from hearing about it, and said, "Have no fear, Cousin Johannes, he
shan't have a hard time with us; we know how to look after him, too. I
am sure that if we've only found some one at last that we can trust and
that takes an interest in things, no pay will seem too high."
"Cousin," said Johannes, "pay isn't everything; you must back Uli up and
you must trust him. We've treated him almost like our own child, and
he'd feel very strange if he was to be nothing but a servant."
"Oh," said the mother, "don't be anxious, Johannes, we'll do all we can.
When we make coffee for ourselves in between meals, it can't be but he
shall have a cup of it. And we have our piece of meat every day, but the
servants only on Sunday. What would become of us if we gave 'em meat
every day? But if you think best we'll see to it that Uli gets a piece
of meat every now and then."
"Cousin," said Johannes, "that's not the thing, and Uli doesn't want it
either, for it only makes the others envious. No matter how you do it,
they find it out just the same. We had a maid once that used to smell of
all the pots when she came in from the field, and she always guessed
when coffee had been given to the other servants; and then she used to
sulk for a week, so that you could hardly stand it. No, you must have
confidence in him and help him; then it'll be all right."
Joggeli did not want the conversation to continue and took Johannes
around through stables and granary, as long as it was light. He asked
for advice and got it, but Johannes would praise nothing. Of the calves
he said that they ought to be looked to, for they had lice; and of the
sheep that they were too cramped for room, that they would squeeze each
other and the lambs would be ruined. For the rest, the inspection was
made in silence. On the way back they found Uli standing gloomily in the
front shed and took him in with them; but he remained down-cast the
whole evening--indeed on the verge of tears whenever any one spoke to
On the following morning Johannes made ready for his return, after
having had to eat beyond his capacity and drink a nip of brandy on top
of it, although he said he never did so in the morning. Uli almost clung
to his coat like a child that fears its father will run away from it;
and when he started to give him his hand, Uli said he would drive a
piece with him if he might; he didn't know when he should see him again.
"And how do you like it?" asked Johannes, as soon as they were away
from the house.
"Oh, master, I can't tell you how I feel. I've been in a lot of places,
but I never saw anything like that. So help me God, there's no order in
the place anywhere. The liquid manure runs into the stable; they've
never cleaned out the dung properly, the horses' hind feet are higher
than the forefeet; half the grain is in the straw; the loft is like a
pig-sty; the tools aren't fit to be seen. The men all look at me as if
they'd like to eat me. Either they give me no answer, or they give me
impudent ones, so that I feel as if I'd have to punch their heads."
"Be patient and calm yourself," said Johannes. "Begin slowly, take the
helm little by little, do all you can yourself, speak pleasantly, and
try to bring 'em around gradually or at least get some on your side.
Then wait awhile and see how things go, until you're familiar with
everything, so that you can tell the best way to take hold. It's no good
to rush right in at the start; usually one doesn't know his business
well enough and takes hold of it at the wrong end. Then when you know
how you stand, and if things don't get any better, sail into 'em good
and proper, let 'em know where they stand with you, and force one or two
of 'em to leave; you'll see an improvement right away. And be of good
cheer; you're no slave, and you can go when you will. But it's a good
apprenticeship for you, and the more a young man has to stand the better
for him. You can learn a lot--even to be master, and that takes more
skill than you think. But I keep feeling that you can make your fortune
at it and make a proper man of yourself. Get on good terms with the
women-folk, but not so as to make the old man suspicious; if you can get
on their good side, you've won a lot. But if they keep inviting you away
from your work to drink coffee with 'em, don't go; stay with the
others. And always be the first one in the work; then they'll have to
give in at last, willing or not."
This put Uli on his feet. He found new courage; but still be could
hardly leave the master. A number of things came into his mind, about
which he ought to ask; it seemed as if he knew nothing. He asked about
the sowing, and how he had best do this or that; whether this plant grew
here, and how that one should be raised. There was no end to his
questions, until finally Johannes stopped at an inn, drank another
bottle with him, and then almost drove him off home.
Encouraged, Uli finally set off, and now for the first time felt his
importance to the fullest extent. He was somebody, and his eyes saw
quite differently, as he now set foot on the farm that was to get its
rightful attention from him alone. With quite a different step he
approached the house where he was, in a sense, to govern, and where they
were waiting for him as a rebellious regiment awaits its new colonel.
HOW ULI INSTALS HIMSELF AS OVERSEER
Calmly, with resolution taken, he joined the workers; it was afternoon,
shortly after dinner. They were threshing by sixes. The milker and
carter were preparing fodder; these he joined and helped. They did not
need him, they said, and could do it alone.--He couldn't do anything on
the threshing-floor, he said, until they started to clear up, and so
today he would help them prepare fodder and manure. They grumbled; but
he took hold and with his wonted adroitness mixed the fodder and shook
the dust from it, and so silently forced the others to work better than
usual. Below in the passage he shook out the fodder again, and made the
fodder piles so fine and even along the walls, sweeping up with the
broom the path between the horse-fodder and the cow-fodder, that it was
a pleasure to see him. The milker said that if they did it that way
every day, they couldn't prepare in two days what the stock would eat
in one. That depended, said Uli, how one was accustomed to prepare, and
according to how the stock treated the fodder.
When they went at the manure he had his troubles with the milker, who
wanted to take only the coarsest stuff off the top, as it were the cream
from the milk. It was nice and warm outside, said Uli, and the stock
wouldn't get cold; they would work thoroughly this time. And indeed it
was necessary, for there was old stuff left that almost required the
mattock before they could get to the stone floor of the stable. But
there was no time left to dig out between the stones. They had to dip
out the manure-pit, for the liquid was rising and almost reached the
back of the stable; and only with difficulty could he get them to carry
what they clipped out into the courtyard and not pour it into the road.
When the manure was outside no one wanted to spread it, and the answer
he got to his question was that they had no time today; they must soon
fodder; it would be time enough in the morning.--It could easily be done
during the foddering, said Uli, and the dung must be spread while still
warm, especially in winter. Once frozen, it wouldn't settle any more and
one would get no manure from it. With that he went at it himself, and
the two men calmly let him work and made fun of him behind the
stable-doors and in the fodder-passage.
In the house they had long since begun to wonder that the new overseer
did not come home, and to fear that he might have driven off and away.
Joggeli had sat down at the window from which he could see the road,
almost looked his eyes out, and began to scold: he hadn't thought
Johannes was as bad as that, and here he was his cousin, too, and such a
trick he wouldn't play on the merest stranger; but nowadays one couldn't
place reliance upon anybody, not even one's own children.
While he was in his best vein, Freneli came in and said, "You can look a
long time; the new man's out there spreading the manure they've taken
out; he probably thinks it's better not to let it pile up. If nobody
else will do it he probably thinks he must do it himself."
"Why doesn't he show himself when he comes home?" said Joggeli; and
"Good gracious, why doesn't he come to supper?" said the mother. "Go and
tell him to come in at once, we're keeping something warm for him."
"Wait," said Joggeli, "I'll go out myself and see how he's doing it and
what's been done."
"But make him come," said the mother; "I think he must have got good and
Joggeli went out and saw how Uli was carefully spreading the manure and
thoroughly treading it down; that pleased him. He wanted to look for the
milker and the carter, to show them how Uli was doing it and to tell
them to do it so in the future; he looked into the fodder-passage and
could not take his eyes from it for a long time, as he saw the handsome,
round, appetizing fodder-piles and the clean path between them. He
looked into the stable, and as he saw the cows standing comfortably in
clean straw and no longer on old manure he too felt better, and so he
now went to Uli and told him that it had not really been the intention
that he should do all the dirty work himself; that was other people's
business. He had had the time for it, said Uli; there was no place for
him in the threshing, and so he had done this in order to show how he
wanted it done in the future. Joggeli wanted to bid him come in; but Uli
said he would first like to watch the cleaning up after the threshing;
he wanted to see how they did it. There he saw that the men simply
thought of getting through quickly. The grain was poorly threshed; a
number of ears could still be seen; it was winnowed still worse. The
grain in the bin was not clean, so that he felt like emptying it and
beginning the work over; however, he controlled himself and thought he
would do it otherwise tomorrow.--But in the house Joggeli was saying
that he liked the new man, for he knew his business; but he hoped he
wouldn't boss too much--he didn't like that. You couldn't do things in
all places just alike, and by and by he wouldn't have any orders to give
After supper Uli came to the master and asked him what was to be done
during the winter; it seemed to him that the work should be so arranged
that one should be all ready for the new work when the spring came.
Yes, said Joggeli, that might be good; but one couldn't do everything
all at once; things had to take their time. The threshing would last
about three weeks more; then they could begin to cut wood, and by the
time they were through with that the spring would just about be at hand.
If he might say so, said Uli, it seemed to him that they ought to bring
in the wood now. It was fine weather and the road good, so it would be
twice as easy. In February the weather was generally bad and the ground
soft; then you couldn't budge anything and ruined all the wagons.
That wouldn't do very well, thought Joggeli; it was not customary to
begin threshing in February.
He hadn't meant that, said Uli. They should continue threshing. He and
one more would cut down and get ready all the wood the carter could
bring home, and until a load was ready the carter could help them in the
Then they couldn't thresh by sixes any more, said Joggeli, if he took a
man from the threshing, and when they all cut wood together they could
do a lot in a short time.
"Well," said Uli, "as you will; but I thought this way: couldn't the
milker help in the threshing during the morning and the afternoon, too,
if the others help with the manure and the foddering at noon? And
sometimes two can do more in the woods than a whole gang, when nobody
wants to take hold."
"Yes," said Joggeli, "sometimes it goes that way; but let's let the wood
go: the threshing's more pressing now."--
"As you will," said Uli, and went somewhat heavy-hearted to bed.
"Well, you are the queerest man," said the old woman to her husband. "I
liked what Uli said awfully well. It would have been to our advantage;
and if those two fine gentlemen, the carter and the milker, don't have
time to be drying their noses in the sun all day, it won't hurt 'em a
bit, the scamps. Uli will be worth nothing to you, if you go on that
"But I won't take orders from a servant. If I let him do that he'd think
nobody but he was to give orders. You've got to show 'em right from the
start how you want to have things." grumbled Joggeli.
"Yes, you're the right one to show 'em; you spoil the good ones, and the
bad ones you're afraid of and let 'em do as they please--that's your
way," said his wife. "It's always been that way, and it isn't going to
be any different now."
The next morning Uli told the mistress that one maid was superfluous on
the threshing-floor, and she might keep for the house whichever she
wanted. And Uli threshed through to the floor, and held his flail so
that it touched his neighbor's and forced him to thresh the whole length
of the grain to the wall; and when one section was done, the secondary
tasks were quickly finished and they threshed again; and all this Uli
effected not by words, but, by the rapidity of his own work. In the
house they remarked that it seemed as if they must have different flails
for the threshing; these sounded quite different, and as if they went
through to the floor. The maid who was released told Freneli how they
were going to do for this fellow; he needn't think that he was going to
start a new system, for they weren't going to let themselves be
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