The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. VIII
Part 5 out of 9
tormented by such a fellow. She was sorry for him; he was well-mannered
and he certainly could work, she must admit. Everything he put his hands
to went well. While they were threshing the carter had ridden off,
ostensibly to the blacksmith. The milker had gone off with the cow, but
without telling his errand. It was noon before either came back, and
neither had worked a stroke.
After dinner Uli helped peel the remaining potatoes, as is customary in
well-ordered households if time permits; the others ran out, scarcely
taking time to pray. When Uli came out there was an uproar in the barn;
two couples were wrestling on the straw of the last threshing, while the
others looked on. He called to the milker to come quickly and take out
the calves and look to them; probably they needed to be shorn and
salved. The milker said that wasn't Uli's business; nobody was to touch
his calves; they would be all right for a long while. And the carter
stepped up to Uli, crying, "Shall we have a try at each other--if you
dare?" Uli's blood boiled, for he saw that it was a put-up job; yet he
could not well refuse. Sooner or later, he well knew, he would have to
stand up to them and show his mettle. And so he said to himself, let it
be now; then they would have his measure.
"Ho, if you want to try it, I'm willing," he replied, and twice running
he flung the Carter on his back so that the floor cracked. Then the
milker said he would like to try too; to be sure, it was scarcely worth
while to try falls with a walking-stick, with legs like pipe-stems and
calves like fly-specks. With his brown hairy arms he grasped Uli as if
he would pull him apart like an old rag. But Uli held his ground and the
milker made no headway. He grew more and more angry, took hold with ever
greater venom, spared neither arms nor legs, and butted with his head
like an animal, until at last Uli had enough of it, collected all his
strength, and gave him such a swing that he flew over the grain-pile
into the middle of the floor and fell on the further side; there he lay
with all fours in the air, and for a long time did not know where he
As if by chance Freneli had brought food for the hogs and had seen Uli's
victory. In the house she told her godmother that she had seen something
that tickled her. They had wanted to give Uli a beating; he had had to
wrestle with them, but he was a match for them all. He had thrown the
hairy milker on his back as if he had never stood up. She was glad that
he could manage them all; then they would be afraid of him and respect
him. But Uli, interrupted in his examination of the calves, seized a
flail and merely told the milker that he had no time for the calves
today; they would look to them another day. The cleaning of the grain
took more time than usual, and yet they were through quicker and the
grain was better cleaned; but they had exerted themselves more, too, and
in consequence had felt the cold less. When Uli told the master how much
grain he had obtained, the latter said that they had never done so much
this year and yet today they had been threshing the fallen grain.
In the evening, as they sat at table, the master came and said he
thought it would be convenient to cut wood now; the horses weren't
needed, the weather was fine, and it seemed to him that the threshing
and the wood-cutting could go on together if properly arranged. The
carter said the horses' hoofs were not sharpened; and another said that
they couldn't go on threshing by sixes, but at most by fours, and would
never get done. Uli said nothing.
Finally, when Joggeli had no further answers to give, and was out-talked
by the servants, he said to Uli, "Well, what do you think?"
"If the master orders it's got to be done," answered Uli. "Hans, the
carter, and I will bring the wood in, and if the milker helps in the
threshing and the others help him with fodder and manure, the threshing
won't suffer." "All right, do it so," said Joggeli, and went out.
Now the storm broke over Uli's head, first in single peals, then in
whole batteries of thunder. The carter swore he wouldn't go into the
woods; the milker swore he wouldn't touch a flail; the others swore they
wouldn't thresh by fours. They wouldn't be howled at; annoyed; they
weren't dogs; they knew what was customary, etc. But they knew where all
this came from, and he had better look out for himself if he was going
to have the evening bells ring at six here (in the winter three o'clock
is the hour, six in summer). Many a fellow had come along like a
district governor, and then had had to make tracks like a beaten hound.
It was a bad sort of fellow who got his fellow-servants into trouble in
order to put the master's eyes out. But they would soon give such a
fellow enough of it. Uli said little in reply, only that the master's
orders had to be carried out. The master had ordered, not he, and if
none of them got off worse than he they ought to thank God for it. He
wasn't going to torment anybody, but he wouldn't be tormented either; he
had no cause to fear any of them. Then he told the mistress to be kind
enough to put up lunch for three, for they would scarcely come back from
the woods to dinner.
The next morning they went out into the woods. Much as the carter
growled and cursed, he had to go along. The milker would not thresh and
the master did not appear. Then the mistress plucked up courage and went
out and said that she thought he needn't be too high and mighty to
thresh; better folks than he had threshed before now. They couldn't
afford to pay a milker who wanted to dry his teeth in the sun all the
morning. So the wood was brought in, they scarcely knew how; and in
February weather and roads were so bad that they would have had a hard
time with the wood.
Hard as Uli had worked outside (and he had a bad time of it, for he
always took the heavy end, wishing to be master not only in giving
orders, but in working too), still in the evening he always helped to
prepare whatever vegetables the mistress ordered, no matter what they
were. He never shirked and he prevented the others from doing so; the
more they helped each other, he said, the sooner they would get done,
and if they wanted food it was only reasonable that they should help get
it ready. He himself always helped wherever he could: when one of the
maids had washed a basket of potatoes and did not like to carry it alone
because she would get all wet, he would help her carry it himself, or
would order the boy (half child, half servant) to do so; and when the
latter at first refused, or failed to come at his word, he punished him
until the boy learned to obey. It was not right, he said, for one
servant to refuse to help another take care of his clothes, or for
servants to plague each other; that was just wantonly making service
worse than it needed to be. But it was long before they grasped this,
for a peculiar atmosphere existed there. The men teased the maids
wherever they could; nowhere was there any mutual assistance. When one
of the men was asked to lend a hand he scoffed and cursed and would not
budge; even the mistress had to endure this, and when she complained to
Joggeli he simply said she was always complaining. He didn't hire
servants to help the women-folk; they had something else to do beside
hauling flowers around.
The behavior of Uli, who was not accustomed to such discord in a house,
attracted attention and brought down upon him the bitter mockery and
scorn of the men, which was aggravated intolerably by other causes. On
the very first Saturday the milker refused, out of sheer wilfulness, to
attend to the manure, but let it go till Sunday morning. This Uli would
not permit; there was absolutely no reason for putting it off, and it
would keep them from cleaning up around the house on Saturday, as was
customary. Besides, the commandment said men shouldn't work on Sunday
"thou nor thy man-servant nor thy maid-servant." Least of all was it
becoming to leave the dirtiest tasks for Sunday. The milker said,
"Sunday fiddlesticks! What do I care about Sunday? I won't do it today."
Uli's blood boiled hotly; but he composed himself and said merely, "Well
then, I will."
The master, who had heard the clamor, went into the house, grumbling to
himself, "If only Uli wouldn't insist on bossing and starting new
customs; I don't like that. Folks have manured on Sunday time out of
mind, and were satisfied with it; it would have been good enough for him
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN THE NEW PLACE
[Uli insists on going to church, but can get no one to accompany him,
and all but Freneli ridicule him. The people at church recognize in Uli
the new overseer, and wonder how long he will stay; but to his face they
tell him to make what profit he can out of Joggeli. He comes home to new
ridicule but, facing it down, retires to his cold room to read his
Bible. A message is brought from the others to come and join them. They
tell him that each new overseer is expected to treat the others to
brandy or wine, and all plan to go to the tavern after supper. Freneli
is surprised that he is going with them, and cautions him to be on his
guard. At the tavern all begin to flatter him at once, but Uli is
mindful of what he heard at church and of Freneli's caution. One by one
the others all leave, except one man; he offers to take Uli a-courting.
Uli half yields, and is led into a dark alley where the others set upon
him. He seizes a cudgel from one of them, lays about him with a will,
flings one of them into a court, and vanishes, leaving the discomfited
assailants to nurse their wounds and trail along home, after vainly
waiting for him to appear.]
ULI GAINS A PLACE IN HOUSE AND FIELD, AND EVEN IN SOME HEARTS
[Uli requests the mistress to be allowed to sit in the house on Sunday
afternoons. Freneli, Joggeli, and especially Elsie are put out, the
latter because she is wont to spread out her finery on the table and Uli
is in her way. But Uli wins her over by admiring the finery, and Elsie
begins to set her cap for him. Uli cleans up about the house, and
effects many an improvement in yard and field. This vexes Joggeli, and
still more so when Uli forces him to plan the spring work. Joggeli makes
Uli's life a burden, blows hot and cold, refuses to give orders to the
servants, and censures Uli to the others for taking the reins in his
ULI GETS NEW COWS AND NEW SERVANTS
[Uli is sent to market to sell two cows and bring back two others. On
the way a man catches up with him and buys his cows at a higher price
than Uli expected to get. At the market he makes two excellent
purchases, and comes away with more money than he had before. He is
tempted to conceal this profit from the master, and keep it for himself,
but better counsels prevail. Joggeli bids him share the profit with the
milker, and reluctantly pays Uli's expenses out of his own pocket. He
boasts to his wife that he has tested Uli by sending a man to him to buy
the old cows; she upbraids him for this underhandedness. Uli forces
Joggeli to be the first farmer with his haying, but cannot get him to
supply decent tools. The other servants are lazy and slack--the milker
and carter especially so. Although Uli urges and drives him in vain,
Joggeli takes malicious enjoyment in his distress. At last Uli loses all
patience and demands the instant dismissal of the carter and the milker,
his own departure being the alternative. Joggeli is with difficulty
persuaded to take this step; but once taken, the good results are
immediate and permanent. The carter and the milker, at first expecting
to be taken back in a day or two, finally beg for their old places; but
Uli is firm. New men are engaged, with instructions to take their orders
HOW FATHER AND SON OPERATE ON A SERVANT
[Things now run like a newly oiled machine; but Joggeli is discontented
and constantly seeks cause for complaint against Uli. He arranges with
the miller to have the latter attempt to bribe Uli, to see what he will
do. Uli dresses down the miller, and the latter, to clear himself,
betrays the instigator of the plan. Uli at once begins to pack up, while
the mistress, informed by the miller, chides her husband. With great
difficulty the latter is induced to beg Uli's pardon and assure him that
the offense will not be repeated. The harvest goes on this year as never
before. Joggeli's son Johannes comes with his wife Trinette and three
children for the harvest festival. Trinette is the same kind of fool as
Elsie; they think of nothing but their finery, their ailments, and their
supposedly fine manners. This annual visit is always a torment. Trinette
plays the grand lady, the children are a constant nuisance, and the
whole house is in an uproar. Johannes takes a fancy to Uli, and offers
him any amount of pay to take a place with him. Freneli overhears the
conversation and tells the mistress, who is enraged with Johannes.
Joggeli bursts out into a tirade against Freneli.]
HOW A GOOD MOTHER STRAIGHTENS OUT THE CROOKED, AND TURNS EVIL INTO GOOD
[Joggeli sows in Uli's mind suspicion of Freneli, intimating that she is
injuring him behind his back. Uli is deeply wounded, and shows it; but
neither Freneli nor her aunt knows the reason, and Joggeli is silent.
Finally the mistress asks Uli, discovers the trouble, and undeceives him
as to Freneli; Joggeli wonders at the restored peace, but dares not ask
A DAUGHTER APPEARS AND WOULD EDUCATE ULI
[The other servants had been wondering at Uli's good behavior, and, not
being able to understand it from their viewpoint, had sought for the
explanation in self-interest; for Elsie had begun to be very silly with
Uli. As time goes on, this becomes more and more noticeable, and Uli him
self is not a little put out by it. Elsie proposes to visit her brother,
and Uli is to drive her. On the open road, where there is none to see,
she bids him sit beside her; when they come to a village she sends him
back to the front seat, and it is "My servant" this and "My servant"
that. Uli is offended, but Elsie excuses herself and finally weeps until
Uli yields and joins her again. She coaxes him and flirts with him all
the way. Johannes welcomes them cordially enough. The "visit," however,
consists principally in a clothing contest between Elsie and Trinette,
from which the latter, by a shrewd stroke, issues victorious, and thus
accelerates Elsie's discomfited departure. Johannes's mismanagement is
mercilessly exposed, and his ultimate ruin clearly foreshadowed. On the
homeward road Elsie waxes affectionate, and spends most of the time
after nightfall in kissing Uli, who, however, is indifferent to her
ULI HAS THOUGHTS AND BECOMES A CALCULATOR
So the trip went off safely and innocently, but not without
consequences. Little by little the thought began to turn Uli's head that
he could easily make himself happy by getting a rich wife; for,
unreasonable as it is, in our ordinary speech to get happiness and to
get wealth are synonymous. So often we hear it said, "He's lucky; he
made a fine marriage and got over ten thousand gulden with his wife. Of
course she's a fool and gives him lots of trouble; but what's the odds
if you've got money? Money's all that counts." Uli was not free from
this general and yet so baseless notion; for did he not wish to become a
rich man himself? When he thought of Elsie's utterances, which, to be
sure, were made in the rain and mist, it seemed more and more probable
to him that she would take him if he tried hard to get her. The brother
had treated him so amicably and shown him so much confidence that he
probably would really not greatly oppose it; if Elsie was to marry
somebody, Uli might suit better than many another. The parents, he
thought, wouldn't like it at first, and would make a fuss; but if Elsie
managed it and the thing was done, he wasn't afraid of not winning them
over. The thought of one day living on Slough Farm and being his own
master there, was infinitely pleasant to him. In twenty years, he
sometimes calculated, he would easily double his wealth; he would show
the whole district what farming could bring in. One plan after the other
rose before him--how to go about it, all the things he would do, what
the pastor would say when he published the banns, what the people in his
home district would say when some day he would come along with his own
horse and wagon and it would be noised around that he had six horses in
his stable and ten of the finest cows. To be sure, when he saw Elsie
lolling around lazily there were blots on his calculation. He realized
that she was no housekeeper, and was moreover queer and extravagant. The
last fault she might overcome, he thought, if she had a husband. He
could afford to have servants then; other folks got along without the
wife doing anything, and with such wealth it wouldn't matter much. There
was something the matter with every woman; he'd never heard of any that
was so perfect that one wouldn't wish for anything else. Rich, rich!
That was the thing. And still, when he saw Elsie, his calculations came
to a sudden stop. This fading, languishing, sleepy thing seemed too
unpalatable to him. When she touched him with her clammy hands he
shuddered; he felt as if he must wipe the spot she had touched. And then
when he heard her talk, so affected and stupid, it almost drove him out
of the room, and he had to reflect: No, you can't stand living with this
woman; every word she said would shame you. But when he was away from
Elsie again he saw the handsome farm, heard the money clink, imagined
himself looked up to, and he felt as if Elsie were not so bad after all;
so he would gradually persuade himself that perhaps she was cleverer
than she seemed, and, if she loved a man and he talked sensibly to her,
something might yet be done with her, and with a proper man she might
yet turn out a very sensible woman.
All this merely went on in Uli's head; but murder will out. The trip had
made Uli and Elsie more familiar; they used a different tone in speaking
to each other, Elsie regarded him with the peculiar glance of a certain
understanding. Uli, to be sure, tried to avoid her eyes, especially when
they were in sight of Freneli; for just as Elsie's riches allured him
more strongly every day, so Freneli seemed to him ever handier and
prettier. The best thing, he often thought, would be to have Freneli
stay with them and manage the household. But Elsie ran after Uli more
than ever, and when on a Sunday afternoon she was alone with him for an
instant in the living-room, she would not rest until they got to
kissing. She would have given anything to take another drive with him;
but she did not know where to go, and when they went to market her
father and mother went along. Just the same, if Uli had had bad
intentions and had wanted to secure a marriage by an evil road--of which
there are cases enough with men worse than Uli--Elsie would have given
plenty of opportunity, nor would she have done anything to shield
herself. "Uli, don't be so timid!" she would perhaps have said. But Uli
was honest and desired no evil; so he shunned such opportunities, and
often avoided the chances Elsie gave him, much preferring to deserve her
than to seduce her. He worked all the harder, took especial pains with
every detail, and tried to earn the commendation that, if he were not
rich already, he could not fail to become so with such aptitude; this,
he thought, would have as much weight with the parents as many thousand
francs. He did not think of that terrible saying--"Only a servant." But,
his fellow-servants had eyes in their heads, too, and long before Uli
had begun to think of anything, they had noticed Elsie's indiscreet
conduct and had teased Uli about it. More and more they ascribed his
activity to the intention of becoming son-in-law. The change since the
trip was not hidden from them. They invented divers accounts of what had
happened, taunted Uli to his face and calumniated him behind his back.
Whenever he required anything new of them they interpreted it to mean
that he wanted to get himself valued at their expense; therefore they
took it ill, became unruly, and said they would take him down a peg.
They lay in wait for Uli and Elsie wherever they could, tried to disturb
or to witness their accidental or intentional meetings, and to play all
kinds of tricks on them; and they would have dearly loved to uncover
some serious scandal, but Uli gave them no opportunity. With him the
scale still hung in the balance. At times Elsie and his life on Slough
Farm became so bitter to him that he would have liked to be a hundred
miles away. But the girl grew more and more in love with him, bought him
gifts at every opportunity, gave him more than he wanted to accept, and
acted in such a silly way with him that it finally attracted her
parents' attention. Joggeli grumbled: there you had it now; now you
could see the scheme Uli was working; but he would put a spoke in his
wheel. At the same time he did nothing; and in secret he thought that
his son, who so often tricked his father, would be served just right if
Elsie played the fool and disgraced him by having to marry a servant.
But the mother took it very much to heart and talked to Elsie: she
should not be so silly with Uli; she must think what folks would say and
how they would gossip about her. It was truly not seemly for a rich girl
to treat a servant like a sweetheart. No, she had nothing against Uli,
but still he was only a servant, and Elsie surely didn't want to marry a
Then Elsie blubbered: everything she did was wrong; in God's name, they
were always complaining of her; now they accused her of being too stuck
up, now of making herself too cheap; when she said a kind word to a
servant, folks made such a to-do that it couldn't be worse if she had
lost her good name; nobody wanted her to have any pleasure, and
everybody was down on her; it would be best for her if she could die
soon. And Elsie blubbered more and more vehemently, until she was all
out of breath, and her mother had to undo her bodice hastily, thinking
in all seriousness that Elsie was going to die. Then the good mother
held her peace again; for she did not want to scold Elsie to death. She
merely complained at times to Freneli that she didn't know what to do.
If she scolded, Elsie was capable of doing something foolish; but if she
let things go and something really did happen, then she would get the
blame for everything, and people would ask why hadn't she done something
in time. Of Uli she couldn't complain; he was acting very sensibly, and
she even thought the whole thing was disagreeable to him. And she would
be sorry to send him off packing without notice, before they had more
grounds of complaint; for, if she did, Joggeli would be the first to
accuse her of dismissing through groundless anxiety the best servant
they had ever had. But that was the way he always did--when she wanted
him to speak he would keep still, and when she wanted him to keep still
he would always meddle. She, Freneli, should keep her eyes open, and if
she saw anything out of the way she was to tell her. But from Freneli
the old woman got little comfort; she acted as if the whole affair were
none of her business. Elsie could not refrain from talking to Freneli
about Uli--how fine and handsome he was, and how she wouldn't take her
oath that she wouldn't marry him yet; if her people angered her by
refusing to do what she wanted, they'd just see what she'd do. She
wouldn't take long to think about it, and she'd only have to say the
word and Uli would go and have the banns published. Then, when Freneli
would say little to all this, Elsie would accuse her of being jealous.
Or when Freneli would talk to her and tell her not to make a fool of
Uli, whom she didn't really want, or would tell her not to grieve her
parents in this way, Elsie would accuse her of wanting Uli herself and
of trying to entice her away from him in order to climb up in the world;
but Uli wouldn't take such a penniless pauper as she--he was too shrewd
for that. She needn't imagine that she could get a husband so easily;
the poorest servant would think twice before he'd take a poor girl,
and twice again before he'd take a bastard--that was the greatest
disgrace there was.
[Illustration: THE BATH BENJAMIN VAUTIER]
Although Freneli felt such speeches deeply she would give no sign of it,
would neither weep nor scold, but say at most, "Elsie, that you're not a
bastard too isn't your fault; and that you haven't one by now isn't your
The hardest thing for Freneli was to regulate her conduct toward Uli.
The more Elsie's money went to his head, the more he felt himself drawn
to Freneli; he could not bear to have her give him short answers or to
seem angry with him, and tried in every way to pacify her and win her
favor. He often fled from Elsie, and never sought her out; he never fled
from Freneli, but often looked for her; while Freneli fled from him and
Elsie ran after him. Freneli wanted to be short and dry with Uli, and
still, with the best intentions, she often could not but be friendly
with the friendly lad, and at times forgot herself and would spend two
or three minutes chatting and laughing with him. When Elsie happened to
see this there were terrible scenes. First she would make the wildest
accusations against Freneli, until she could talk no more and was
completely out of breath; when in this state she would sometimes rush at
her, and would have tried to beat her if she had had the strength. Then
she would pitch into Uli; a hundred times he would have to hear that he
was a filthy fellow and only a servant; that she saw what she had to
expect if she was such a fool as folks thought; but, thank heaven, there
was still time enough, and she wouldn't be such a fool as to bring her
money to a man who she was afraid would waste it all on women. Then she
would begin to bawl at such false statements, and say she was going to
die either by hanging or shooting herself. Often she would become
reconciled in the midst of her tears, and Uli had to promise not to run
after others any more, and not to say another good word to that old
Freneli, who just wanted to lead him on and astray. Again, the quarrel
would continue and Elsie would sulk. Then Uli would think: a girl that
was so jealous, and so often told him he was a servant, and bawled and
sulked so much, wouldn't be the most agreeable kind of wife; it would be
hard living with her, and it would be better if he drove the whole thing
out of his mind. But as soon as he became indifferent to her sulks,
Elsie grew anxious and sought a reconciliation; then she would buy him
something, or seek some other opportunity to flatter Uli, and beg him to
love her, for she had no other joy in life. And when she made him so
angry he mustn't take it ill of her; she only did it because her love
was so great and she didn't want anybody else to have him--etc., etc.
When she once had him to herself she wouldn't be jealous any more; but
so long as she was all in the air and didn't know where she stood, she
often felt as if she'd rather die. And she didn't really know whether
Uli loved her, either; sometimes it seemed to her that, if he loved her
very much, he'd go at it quite differently, and take hold of things
better; but he was just like a wooden doll and never lifted a hand. Then
when Uli would say that he didn't know how to do any better, that he too
didn't exactly know whether Elsie really wanted him, and if she was in
earnest about it she should speak with her parents, or they would go to
the pastor and announce their engagement and then see what would come of
it, Elsie would say that there was no hurry about it; they could get
married any time; the chief thing was that he should love her, and then
a year would be soon enough, or if he went at it right (that depended on
him, she would see about it), six months; but with that Freneli he must
have nothing more to do or she would scratch both their eyes out and the
hussy would have to leave the house.
Of course the affair made talk for miles around, and people told much
more than there was to tell. There were two parties: one thought the
parents were rightly served, the other thought Uli would get his deserts
with his rich wife. The longer it lasted, and it was over a year now,
the more probable seemed his success; the more the servants submitted
to Uli and ranged themselves on the side of the presumptive son-in-law,
so that the farm took on a more and more prosperous appearance and Uli
became more and more indispensable. Even Joggeli, into whose money-bags
the cash profit flowed, and who could easily figure what twenty
additional cords of fodder and a thousand sheaves of grain meant, choked
down his anger and shut one eye, comforting himself by saying that he
would use Uli as long as possible; and if matters ever got serious, why
then there would still be time enough. Once when Johannes, having heard
the gossip, came along, and cursed and swore and demanded that Uli be
discharged, Joggeli would not hear to it; as long as he lived he would
give orders here, and Johannes would be glad to have Uli if he could get
him; what went on here was none of his business, and if they wanted to
give Elsie to Uli that was none of his business either. He needn't think
he'd inherit everything; for the time being everything that they still
had and that he hadn't wormed out of 'em was theirs; the more Johannes
carried on, the sooner Elsie would have to marry--not that it would have
to be Uli; there were others too. They knew well enough how much he
loved them; if he just had the money he'd never ask again after father
and mother and Elsie; and they could all marry again for all he cared,
and if to tramps or gipsies it would be all one to him.
Thus Joggeli talked to his son in his nagging, coughing way, so that the
mother grew quite anxious, and interrupted: Johannes needn't be afraid;
that wouldn't happen, for she was still at the helm and Elsie wouldn't
force them to everything, and Uli was a good lad, and so on. Then
Johannes wanted to talk with Uli himself, but he was not to be found; he
had gone out to get a cow, it, was said. Trinette, this time much more
beautifully sulphur-yellow than Elsie had been, strutted around her with
contemptuous mien and turned-up nose, and finally said, "Fie and for
shame, how common you're making yourself! To take up with a servant!
It's a disgrace for the whole family! If my folks had known that my
husband's sister would marry a servant, they'd have given him the mitten
like a flash; they didn't like him any too well as it was; but I was
fool enough to want him absolutely. We can't count you as one of the
family any more, and then you can see where you'll find a roof for your
head; you can't stay here any more--I say this once and for all. Faugh,
to have a love-affair with a servant! You give me the creeps; I can't
bear to look at you any more. Ugh, aren't you ashamed to the bottom of
your soul, and don't you feel like crawling into the ground?"
However, Elsie was not ashamed, but paid Trinette back heartily in her
own coin: a girl could choose anybody she wanted for her sweetheart, and
could marry a servant or a master; all men were alike before God. But if
once she was a wife she'd be ashamed to have her name connected now with
the stable-boy and now with the butcher, now with the herder and now
with the carter, and finally with all the peddlers and traders, and to
have children with no two noses the same and looking as much alike as
Swiss and Italians. But for Freneli and the mother, the two
sisters-in-law would have torn the grass-green and the sulphur-yellow
dresses from each other's bodies. When the mother wanted to help out
Trinette by speaking for her, Elsie became so excited that they had to
put her to bed. Now, she said, when she recovered consciousness and
speech--now she surely would do what she wanted; she wouldn't let
herself be made into sausages like a fat sow; and it was cruel of her
parents to want just one child to inherit and to let the other child
pine away without a husband, just so all the money would stay in one
Johannes and his wife did not stay long. Turning in frequently on the
homeward road, and giving up all restraint, they spun out at length the
whole story to their friends and colleagues, male and female, and their
story carried the rumor to complete certainty. The brother and his wife
told it themselves, people said, and they ought to know.
Not long afterward Uli drove to market with a horse, but soon saw that
he could not sell it for what he was instructed to get, so, as it was
bad weather, he took it from the market-place and stabled it in an inn.
Turning a corner to enter the inn, he bumped into his old master. With
unconcealed joy Uli held out his hand and told him how glad he was to
see him and to be with him for a while. The master was somewhat cool and
spoke of much business, but finally named a place where they could drink
a bottle in peace. There, after they were seated in a corner fairly well
out of sight, they began the preliminaries. Johannes asked whether there
had been much hay, and Uli said yes, and asked whether his grain had
fallen too; the first wind had felled theirs. "You're doing well,"
continued the master after some further talk, "and what do I hear? Folks
say you're soon to be farmer at Slough Farm."
"Why, who says that?" asked Uli.
"Oh, folks say it's being talked about far and wide, and they say it's
"Folks always know more than those concerned," said Uli.
"There must be something in it," answered the master. "Oh," said Uli, "I
wouldn't say that it might not be some time, but it's a long way off
yet; nothing has been said about it and it might turn out either way."
"Well," said Johannes, "it seems to me there's been enough talk about
"Why, how so?" asked Uli.
"Why, the girl's pregnant!"
"That's an accursed lie," cried Uli, "I haven't been near her. I won't
say that I couldn't have been; but I'd have been ashamed to. Everybody
would have blamed me and thought it was a scoundrelly trick, like a good
many others; and I didn't want that. Folks mustn't say of me that I got
a rich wife that way." "So, so!" said Johannes; "then things aren't as
I've heard, and here I thought that Uli wanted to ask me to be his
spokesman. I shouldn't have liked that, I must say, and that's the
reason I'd have preferred not to meet you. I'm glad it isn't so; I'd
have dirtied my own hands with it too. And in any case it would have
vexed me if you'd done like other skunks. But something is in it?"
"Oh," replied Uli, "I wouldn't deny that I've thought the daughter
wanted me, and it might be carried through if we took hold of it right.
And, to be sure, it has seemed to me that that would be a piece of good
fortune for a poor lad like me; I could never do better."
"I suppose it's that pale, transparent little thing, that has to go in
out of the wind for fear of getting blown away?"
"Why, she isn't the prettiest that ever was," said Uli; "she's thin and
sickly; but she'll surely get better when she has a husband, the doctor
says; and she'll get fifty thousand."
"Does she still loll around the house, or does she take hold with the
housekeeping?" asked Johannes.
"She doesn't do much work and isn't in the kitchen very often; but she
can knit finely and makes all sorts of pretty things with beads. But if
she gets the farm some time we could afford a cook. If she only looks
after things now and then, she doesn't need to do everything herself,"
"Ye-up, but to look after things you have to know how yourself; it's
foolish to think that if a woman just looks at something, that's all
that's necessary. For instance, a woman can sit all day in a drug-store
with her knitting, but that won't keep the apprentices from doing as
they please. And I thought she looked rather ugly and scowled at a
person instead of giving him a friendly word."
"She does have failings," said Uli, "and is mighty sensitive too. But if
she once has a good husband and has enough to do to keep her busy, so
that she could forget herself now and then, she'd surely improve. Not
that she can't ever be friendly. She can act very prettily at times;
and if the farm's properly worked one can get at least ten thousand
sheaves from it, not counting rye and wheat."
"That's a lot," said Johannes, "and there aren't many more such farms in
the canton. But if you gave me the choice between a good farm and a bad
wife, or neither, I'd take the latter a hundred times over. To be rich
is nice, but riches aren't happiness; and to have a hateful sour woman
at home, that either turns up her nose or bawls at everything, would
make a home for the devil to live in. And if a man has to look for his
pleasure outside his house, he's badly off."
"But master," said Uli, "you always told me to save and be thrifty, and
then I'd be somebody; that the man who had nothing was nothing."
"Quite right, Uli," said the master, "that's what I said and what I
still say. A man is happier when thrifty than when extravagant, and he's
no man if he can't provide for his old age while he's young and single.
If a man doesn't begin well while he's young he'll come to a bad end. A
good lad with some money can marry more easily than a vagabond, and
should look for a good wife; but the richest isn't always the best. Some
women I'd rather take without a farthing than others with a hundred
francs. Everything depends on the person. Do as you will, but consider
"To be sure, Elsie's a wretched creature," said Uli, "but she can
improve; many a girl has been thin when young, and has grown stout in
old age; and she's not really bad tempered, especially when she's
contented. When she's angry--then, to be sure, she doesn't know just
what she's saying, and throws my position in my face, and twits me about
other girls; but when she's contented again she can be quite amusing,
and has the best heart in the world. She's given me presents, Lord knows
how many, and would have given me lots more if I hadn't kept stopping
her." "Do as you will," said Johannes, "but I tell you again: consider
it well. It seldom turns out well when such different folks come
together, and it has rarely turned out well when a servant has married
his master's daughter. I set great store by you; to another man I
wouldn't have said so much. Now I must go home; come and see us some
time when you have the leisure; then we'll talk the matter over some
more, if it's not too late."
Uli looked discontentedly after his master. "I shouldn't have thought,"
he reflected, "that he would grudge me my good fortune. But that's the
way with these cursed farmers; they're all alike; they don't want to see
a servant get hold of a farm. Johannes is one of the best of 'em; but he
can't stand it either to see his servant get to be richer than he is and
own a finer farm. Why else should it have mattered to him whether
Elsie's pretty or ugly? He didn't just lookout for a pretty one when he
married. They seem to think it's almost a sin when the like of us thinks
of a farmer's daughter, and still many a one might be glad if she got a
mannerly servant for a husband and didn't have to live like a dog on the
farm all her life." But he said to himself that he wouldn't let himself
be dissuaded so easily; the thing had gone on too long and there had
been too much talk about it for him to back out that way. But the affair
must be brought to a conclusion, he thought; he wanted to know where he
stood, once and for all; he was tired of hanging between door and hinge.
He'd tell Elsie that she must speak with her parents; by autumn the
banns must be published, or he'd leave at Christmas; he wouldn't be made
a fool of any longer.
HOW A TRIP TO A WATERING-PLACE SAILS THROUGH A CALCULATION
[Elsie and her mother go to spend a week at the Gurnigel, a fashionable
resort, leaving a heavenly peace behind them. Elsie attracts
extraordinary attention with her clothes, and is too stupid to
understand that she is being ridiculed to her face. At the same time her
hundred thousand francs dowry are not to be sneezed at, and these lure a
bird of prey in the shape of a cotton-dealer, who takes mother and
daughter off for a drive, and, making good use of his opportunity,
carries his point by storm. Elsie is in the seventh heaven, her mother
not quite so overjoyed.]
OF INWARD CONFLICTS, WHICH ARE TO BE ENDED BY AN ENGAGEMENT
[Joggeli will not hear to the affair, fearing to lose Uli. Freneli
chides Elsie for breaking her promise to Uli, and the latter is at first
completely stunned, overwhelmed with chagrin, rage, and disappointment.
He is only saved from some act of rash folly by Freneli, who counsels
him to put the mockers off the track by pretending utter indifference.
The cotton-dealer loses no time in coming in state to secure his prize;
Joggeli is quite overcome by his smooth tongue, but requests a fortnight
for deliberation with his son and others.]
OF SUBSEQUENT EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH RESULT FROM THE ENGAGEMENT
[Uli's behavior staggers the gossips, but his assumed indifference soon
becomes genuine; none the less, he is resolved to give up his place at
Christmas. Johannes and Trinette are both beside themselves; the reports
about the prospective son-in-law are conflicting and doubtful. But Elsie
is so wild, and the cotton-dealer so persuasive, that the parents
finally give reluctant consent to the marriage. Elsie constantly accuses
Freneli of flirting with her husband, who is not insensible to Freneli's
beauty and charm; she resolves to leave Slough Farm also, since Elsie is
no longer to be controlled and Freneli is subjected to her unbridled
temper. The old mistress is in utter consternation at the imminent loss
of her two best helpers, Uli and Freneli; and new sorrow comes to her
through the son-in-law, who guts the house of its stores on pretense of
putting the money out at interest, and keeps a hawk's eye on all her
OF ANOTHER TRIP, WHICH DOES NOT DESTROY A CALCULATION, BUT UNEXPECTEDLY
ALL this weighed on the good mother's mind, and when she reflected that
Uli and Freneli would both leave besides, that her son-in-law would then
get the reins wholly into his hands, that she would have to run the
house on nothing, be stingy to the poor, and be held accountable for
every cup of flour and for every cake she baked, such a feeling of
misery came over her that she had to sit down and cry, shedding tears
enough to wash her hands in, until even Joggeli came out and told her
not to cry so--that everybody would hear her and would wonder what was
What he had said, she answered, didn't amount to anything; she knew that
he had to talk at times. And Freneli also comforted her, telling her not
to take it so hard; things always turned out better than one expected.
But she shook her head and bade them let her alone; she would have to
compose herself--talking was no use. For many days following she sought
composure. They saw her going about silently as if she were revolving
grave things in her mind, or sitting apart now and then when she thought
herself unnoticed, her hands in her lap, and picking up from time to
time the tip of her apron and wiping her eyes with the wrong side of it.
Finally her spirits became lighter; the state of uncertainty seemed to
leave her; she said she felt much better, but she thought she'd like to
go away somewhere; she had such an unsatisfied longing, and she believed
she'd get over it if she could get away for a day or two. This time
Joggeli had no objection; his old wife had made even him anxious. She
could go either to her son or her daughter, whichever she wished! Uli
would drive her, for he had plenty of time now, said he.
No, she didn't want to go there, she said; there was everlasting
quarreling there, and even if she filled her pockets with thalers, she
wouldn't have enough. She thought she'd like to visit cousin Johannes;
they had long promised him a visit, but hadn't kept the promise and she
had never been there. She would see a new road and an unfamiliar
country, and could perhaps best forget what was grieving her. She wanted
to take Freneli along; she too hadn't been away for a long time. They
hadn't taken her with them to Elsie's wedding, and it was only fair to
give the girl a pleasure once in a while.
To the latter plan Joggeli had many objections; but this time he gave in
for his old wife's sake and agreed to get along for a couple of days. In
a glory of color the withered leaves hung on the trees, in the gleam of
their own after-glow; below them, in cheerful green, lay the young
crops, and played merrily with the winking dew-drops that clung to their
tips; and over everything the sky spread itself, mysterious and
fragrant, the impenetrable source of God's wonders. Black crows were
flying across the fields; green woodpeckers hung on the trees; fleet
squirrels ran across the road and, hastily gaining a branch, peeped out
curiously at the passing travelers, while high in the air the snow-geese
sailed on toward a, warmer country in their well-ordered triangle, and
their strange travel-song floated strangely down from their lofty
The mother's judicious eyes roved actively over the whole scene; there
was no end to her comments, and she and Uli exchanged many a shrewd
remark. Especially when they drove through the villages did the
noteworthy things become legion, and there were few houses that did not
offer her opportunity for comment. To sit at home all the time was no
use, said she; one always kept seeing the same things. One ought to
drive around the country from time to time; then one could not merely
gratify his curiosity, but learn a lot too. Folks didn't do things
everywhere alike, and in some places they did better than in others, and
so one could always pick and choose the best. They had not driven much
more than, two hours when she began to suggest that they must give
Blackie something to eat. He was not used to running so long, and they
must bring him home in good condition. "You stop at the next
public-house," she said in response to Uli's objections, "and see if he
won't eat a measure of oats. I'd just as soon have something myself; I'm
actually beginning to be cold."
Arrived there, she said to Uli, "When the horse has his oats, come in."
In the doorway she again turned around and cried, "Do you hear? Come in
then." After the hostess having wiped off the benches in the tavern with
her apron, had asked, "What can I bring you?" and a good bottle and some
tea had been ordered, the women sat down, looked around the room, made
their comments in a low voice, and wondered that it was no later by this
clock. But Uli had probably driven fast; one could see that he had been
in a hurry to get there. When finally the order was brought with the
excuse that it had taken a long time because the water had not been hot
and the wood had refused to burn, the mother told Freneli to call Uli;
she didn't see why he didn't come; she had told him twice. When he had
come and had drunk their health sufficiently, the hostess tried to begin
a conversation, saying that another wedding party had stopped in there
today. The mother laughed out heartily, and Uli was amused too; but
Freneli grew red and angry and remarked that not all the parties on the
road today were wedding parties; that other folks, she supposed, had the
right to go driving on Saturday, too; the road wasn't reserved for
wedding parties.--She shouldn't get so angry, said the hostess; she
didn't know her, but it seemed to her that the young folks were just
right for each other; she hadn't seen such a handsome couple for a long
time. The mother appeased the hostess, saying that she needn't excuse
herself so much; they had had a great laugh about it at home, and had
thought that's the way it would be, and then too the girl had got so
"It's not nice of you, auntie, to help torment me," said Freneli; "if I
had known this I shouldn't have come along."
"Why, nobody's tormenting you," said her aunt laughing. "Don't be so
silly; many a girl would be tickled to be taken for a bride."
"That doesn't tickle me," said Freneli, "and if I'm not let alone, I'll
go home this minute."
"Why, you can't tie up people's mouths, and you ought to be glad that
they haven't anything worse to say about you," answered her aunt.
"It's bad enough, if folks marry me off to a man that I don't want and
that doesn't want me."
Freneli would have continued indefinitely if they had not hitched up and
driven on. They advanced rapidly. Uli had much to tell as to who owned
this house or that field. As he saw the first of Johannes' fields, his
heart laughed within him. All that he had formerly done there came back
to him; from a distance he pointed everything out, and praised its good
qualities. Then came another field and still another, and they were
driving up to the house before they knew it. Johannes' people were busy
putting up sauerkraut in the front shed; the whole household was
gathered there. All raised their heads as the unexpected little wagon
came along. At first the strangers were not recognized; then the cry
arose: "It's Uli, it's Uli," and the children sprang down from the
porch; then Johannes said, "Cousin Joggeli's wife is with him! What the
dickens has got into her? What does she want?"
He and his wife now stepped forward and reached up their hands in
welcome, and his wife said, "God bless you, Uli, are you bringing your
wife with you?"
Then the mistress laughed heartily again, and said, "There you have it,
whether you will or no; that's the way it is; why, everybody says so."
"Everywhere they take us for a wedding party," explained Uli, "because
we're driving along on Saturday, when so many folks get married."
"Ho, and not only that," said Johannes, "but it strikes me that you
wouldn't make a bad couple."
"You hear, Freneli," said her aunt, "Johannes says so too; there's no
use fighting it any more."
With Freneli tears had been contending with smiles, anger with jest;
finally she gained the mastery over herself, so as not to make a scene
before strangers, and replied, "I've always heard that if there was to
be a marriage, two people had to want it; but in this case nobody wants
it, and so I don't see how anything is to come of it."
"What isn't, can be," said Johannes' wife; "such things often come
"I don't feel any traces of it," said Freneli, but then broke off and
held out her hand again, saying how bold it had been of her to go along;
but her aunt had wished it, and she could make the excuses if they were
put to expense.
"I'm very glad you've come," said the housewife, and urgently bade them
come in, although the visitors, said they would not keep her from her
work, but would stay outside, it was so nice and pleasant in the open.
But, protest as they might that they needed nothing and had just eaten,
a fire was made and only by a thrice repeated trip to the kitchen could
a, formal meal be prevented, and hospitality reduced to a pot of coffee.
Freneli had soon made friends with the oldest daughter, who had grown
from an active child into a beautiful young girl, and had to inspect all
her treasures. Out of due respect, Uli soon withdrew, and the older
people were left alone.
Finally, with a heavy sigh, Uli's mistress began the conversation,
saying that she'd have to come out with the reason for her journey; she
hadn't known any better place to go for advice and help than just here.
Johannes had so often helped 'em that she thought he wouldn't leave 'em
in the lurch this time either. Everything had gone so well with 'em that
it had been a real pleasure. To be sure, Uli had got Elsie into his head
for awhile; but the girl herself had been to blame for that, and she
thought Uli had seen in the end that she was no suitable match for him.
Then misfortune had taken them to the Gurnigel, and there Elsie had
picked up a husband, and since then everything had been ruined. Her
Johannes was carrying on; her son-in-law wasn't as he should be, but
poked his nose into everything and thought she ought not to spend
anything more in her housekeeping. Elsie was always quarreling with
Freneli, and Freneli was going to leave on account of it; Uli too;
everything came on her, and she didn't know for the life of her what to
do; many a night she hadn't closed an eye and just cried and cried
because such misfortune had come to her in her old age. Then an idea had
come to her; surely no sensible person could make any objection if they
should lease out their farm, and that would take the load off her. And
then she had thought that they couldn't possibly get a better tenant
than Uli, who'd look after everything for them and was good and honest;
and Uli could make his fortune there, too, for he shouldn't be treated
badly, she would see to that; it would be his profit as well as theirs.
"That's all well and good," said Johannes; "but don't be angry, cousin,
only I must ask whether you think that every one will consent? There's a
lot of folks have to have their say in this, if it's to be done. What
will your folks say? Joggeli's awfully queer sometimes. And your
children will put in their oar too and want to make the farming as
profitable as possible. Uli has a risky undertaking. A single bad year,
with sickness of the stock or the like, can ruin him. On such a farm a
thousand francs more or less in earnings can scarcely be seen, whereas
in a single year four or five thousand can be lost."
"Cousin Johannes," said she, "you mustn't think we're such heartless
creatures as to ruin our tenant on account of a single bad year. If we
had the farm, shouldn't we have the bad year ourselves, and why should
the tenant have to stand the loss if it's too dry or too wet? It's our
farm all the time, and how can he avoid it? It's often seemed cruel to
me when the leaseholder always has to pay the same rent, whether or no.
No, cousin, Joggeli's queer, but he's not the worst, and, if everything
else failed, it isn't as if I didn't have something of my own to help
"No harm intended," said Johannes; "but to do a thing properly one has
to mention everything. I should be awfully glad of it, for your sake and
for Uli's and for my own too; for I set some store by Uli. It's true
that he's almost as dear to me as my own child, and I won't be stingy if
I can do anything for him. He told me about Elsie, too, and I tried to
talk him out of it. He didn't like it at the time, as I could well see.
I wonder whether he'll say anything about it to me now. Shall I talk to
him about this affair, and try to sound him and see what he thinks, or
shall I talk right out bluntly, or do you want to talk with Joggeli
"I'd rather be clear about Uli and Freneli, and that's why I came with
'em," said she. "If I talk to Joggeli about it and then find out later
that they're not willing, I'll never hear the last of it and how silly
and stupid I was; you know he's so queer and never gives up a grudge;
and still he's not the worst either. If you're willing, cousin, then
sound Uli and see what he says, drag the secret out of him; I'd like it
very much if I knew where he stands. It seems to me I'd be in heaven if
the business was all fixed up. Don't you like the girl too?" asked his
cousin. And Johannes and his wife praised her highly, saying how pretty
and attractive she was, and the former promised to help as much as he
That evening it was not convenient; there was no opportunity to be alone
with Uli. But the next morning, as soon as they had breakfasted,
Johannes asked Uli if he would go out to the pasture with him; he would
like to show him what he had sowed and ask him about this and that.
Uli's mistress admonished them not to stay too long, for they wanted to
set out in good season so as not to get home too late. While Johannes's
wife was urging her to stay over another night the men strolled away.
It was another beautiful day. One steeple after another proclaimed that
it was the Lord's day, that hearts should open to the Lord and keep
Sabbath with Him, to receive His peace and feel His love. The two
wanderers felt the solemnity of it; over many a field they walked with
little speech. Then they came to the edge of the woods, whence they
could see the valley floating in the wonderful autumn haze and hear the
peal of the bells from many steeples, calling the people together to
take into their open hearts the seed that bears sixty and a hundredfold
on good soil. Silently they sat down there and drew in through the
wide-open gates of their eyes and ears the glorious sermon of the Lord,
which can be heard without words every day in all countries; and in deep
reverence they heard the tones reecho in the sanctuary of their souls.
At last Johannes asked, "You're not going to stay on Slough Farm?"
"No," said Uli. "Not that I'm angry with them about Elsie. I'm glad it
turned out so. Now it's over I can see that I shouldn't have had a happy
hour with her, and that with such an ugly, lazy hussy no amount of money
would make a man happy. I can't understand what I was thinking of. But I
don't want to stay. The son-in-law is always there, wants to start
running things, and swindles the mistress wherever he can, so that I
can't bear to see it; and I won't take orders from him."
"But what do you want?" asked Johannes.
"That's just what I'd like to talk to you about," said Uli. "I could get
places enough; I could go to their son, too, and he'd give me as much
pay as I wanted. But I don't know; being a servant isn't exactly
unsatisfactory, but it seems to me that, if I want to start out for
myself, now's the time. I'm in the thirties, and almost beginning to get
"Oh, that's it!" said Johannes. "Have you got marrying into your head?"
"Not especially," said Uli. "But if I'm going to marry it ought to be
soon, and a man ought to start for himself, too, while he's still
active. But I don't know what to do. I haven't enough for anything worth
while, for what's two thousand francs to make a decent start with? I
keep thinking about what you said, that you can't get the rent out of a
little farm, and that a leaseholder can't very well take over a big
place unless he has money in hand, and still he'll be ruined on a little
"Ho," said Johannes, "two thousand francs is something, and there's
farms here and there with the stock all on 'em, where you can get the
stock too on appraisal, so that you could keep your cash in hand for
your own dealings, and then if you needed more you'd probably find folks
that had money."
"Yes, but they won't give it to me. If a man wants money he's got to
have good security, or guarantors, and where'd he get 'em?"
"Well, Uli," said Johannes, "that's just what I told you: a good name is
good security. Fifteen years ago I wouldn't have lent you fifteen cents;
but today, if you need two or three thousand francs, you can have 'em on
a simple note; or if you want me to indorse your note, just say so. What
are folks in the world for if not to help each other?"
"That's good news," said Uli; "I wouldn't have dared to think of that;
and if I knew of anything, I'd take right hold."
"I wouldn't," said Johannes. "I'd go looking for a wife first, and then
when I had one I'd make my start. Lots of men have been ruined before
now, only because their wives didn't suit their business, or wouldn't.
To carry on a household well, there must be harmony in it. Once you've
got a wife and the two of you choose a place to buy or let that suits
you both, you've gained a lot. Or have you something of the kind under
"No," said Uli. "I know of one, but she wouldn't take me."
"Why not?" asked Johannes. "Is it another rich farmer's daughter?"
"No," said Uli, "it's the girl that came along today. She hasn't much
money; but whoever gets her is lucky. I've often thought that with her a
man would go farther, even though she hasn't a cent, than with the rich
Elsie. Whatever she takes hold of she does well; she has luck with
everything, and there's nothing she doesn't understand. I don't think
she's ever tired; she's first in the morning and last at night, and
never idle all day. You never have to wait for meals, she never forgets
the maids, and you'd think she couldn't lose her temper; the more there
is to do, the merrier she gets, whereas most people get cross when
they've got a lot to do, and it's no fun to be around. She's thrifty in
everything and yet she's good to the poor, and when anybody gets sick
she can't look after him enough. There's nobody like her far and wide."
"But why shouldn't you get her?" asked Johannes. "Does she hate you?"
"Not exactly," said Uli. "She's nice to me; when she can do me a favor
she never says no, and when she sees that I'd like to have something
done she helps me as much as she can; and she never tries to put
obstacles in the way, like so many women, who, when they see you
absolutely ought to do one thing, absolutely want something else and
hinder you as much as they can. But still she's rather proud, and she
can't forget that she comes of a distinguished family, even if she is
illegitimate. If anybody gets anywhere near her she goes for him as if
she'd eat him, and I wouldn't advise anybody to try to flirt with her
and put hands on her, as is customary in lots of places. More than one
has got a good box from her."
"But that doesn't at all mean that she wouldn't have you," said
Johannes. "If she won't let herself be fingered by everybody, I can't
think any the less of her for it."
"Well, then there's something else," said Uli. "I daren't think of
Freneli any more. Wouldn't she say to me, 'Now that you can't have the
rich one, I'm to be good enough for you, am I? If you could prefer that
green, yellow Elsie to me, then I don't want you now, either; I don't
want a fellow who has gone around sweethearting with such a withered
grass-blade as that.' She's bound to give me that answer. And still I
thought of Freneli more than I did of Elsie all through the affair; only
now I begin to see that I've loved Freneli more and more, and if I had
the girl I'd guarantee to take over a farm and make more on it than
anybody else. But now it's too late; she won't have me; she's awfully
"Ho!" said Johannes, "never lose your courage as long as a girl's
single. They're the queerest sort of ducks and generally do just the
opposite of what you expect. If that's the way it is I'd have a try; the
girl pleases me."
"No, master, I wouldn't ask that girl for a hundred crowns. I know well
enough that it will almost break my heart if I have to go away from her
and can't see her every day any more. But if I asked her and she should
despise me and say no, I think I'd hang myself on the garret ladder. By
the Almighty, I couldn't stand it if another man led her off to church;
I believe I'd shoot him. But she won't marry, she'll stay single."
Then Johannes began to laugh very heartily and asked how he knew that
such a girl, twenty-three years old, would stay single.
[Illustration: IN AMBUSH BENJAMIN VAUTIER]
"Oh," said Uli, "she won't have anybody; I don't know who'd be good
enough for her."
Now Johannes said they had better think about getting home before church
was out; he didn't wish to run into the church-goers. Uli followed him,
speaking little, and what he said was concerned only with Freneli, now
one thing and then another, and he asked Johannes to promise that he
wouldn't let a word that Uli had told him cross his lips. "You
simpleton," said Johannes, "who should I tell?"
Meanwhile Uli's mistress had long since been quivering with impatience,
and as soon as Uli and his old master entered the room she said to him,
"Go up to the room we slept in and see what Freneli's doing. Tell her to
pack up; we want to start out." Uli found the girl standing before a
table, folding up one of her aunt's aprons. He stepped softly up behind
her, put his arm about her quite gently, and said, "Your aunt's in a
hurry." Freneli turned swiftly about, and looked silently up at Uli, as
if surprised at this unwonted familiarity, and the latter asked, "Are
you still angry at me?"
"I've never been angry at you," she replied.
"Then give me a kiss; you've never given me one," answered Uli, and bent
At that instant Freneli twisted away so powerfully that he was driven
back half across the room; and still it seemed to him as if he had got
his kiss; he thought he felt Freneli's lips quite distinctly on one
spot. But the latter waggishly gave him a dressing down, intimating that
she thought he was too old for such tricks, and probably her aunt hadn't
sent him up to take her time with such foolishness. He must think what
Stini, his old sweetheart, would say to it if she came in; she didn't
went to have a wrestling match with her, like Yrsi. At the same time she
laughed so that Uli felt quite crushed and got out as soon as he could.
They were later in setting out than they had expected, for as they were
about to hitch up they had to sit down to a meal for which Johannes's
wife had summoned her whole culinary skill and the entire resources of
her house. Although Uli's mistress kept saying time after time, "Good
heavens, who can eat of every dish?" still there was no end of pressing
them, and she was not left in peace until she declared that she simply
couldn't swallow another thing; if she was to eat another bite, she'd
While Uli was hitching up she put new coins into the hands of her
cousin's children, although the latter tried to refuse them, and the
parents told her not to go to such expense and admonished the children
not to be so bold as to take them. When they took them just the same and
ran and showed the treasure to their mother, she said, "Oh, what a thing
to do; it makes us ashamed." And then her cousin said it was not worth
talking about, and urged them to come very soon and visit them, and get
back what this visit had cost them. They would surely come, was the
answer; but they shouldn't have hurried so and should have stayed
another day. So amid much talk they finally reached their little wagon
and continued talking as they drove away, Freneli telling her aunt all
that she had noticed, which was indeed not a little; for she had seen
many things of which she said, "If I was younger and could work better
I'd have that too." To all this Uli said nothing, and only paid such
strict attention to his Blackie, which he made trot so sharply that his
mistress finally said, "Uli, is anything the matter with you? Aren't you
driving Blackie too hard? He's not used to running so." Uli excused
himself and received orders to stop when they had gone something more
than halfway. * * *
Without paying attention to the conversation of the two women, Uli drove
to the designated inn. The hostess welcomed them and led them into a
special room, as the mother had desired, after telling Uli to come right
in. Then she ordered wine and a couple of plates with something to eat;
driving had made them hungrier than they would have believed possible.
The order was brought, but Uli was missing. The hostess had been sent
out after him, and came back and said she had told him; but still he did
not come. Then the mistress said, "Go, Freneli, and tell him to come at
once." Freneli hesitated and thought they oughtn't to compel him; if he
was hungry or thirsty he'd come all right. "If you won't go," said her
aunt, "I'll have to go myself." Then Freneli went out in a temper, and
with stinging words drove Uli along, who had been standing in the sulks
by the bowling alley and had at first refused to come. He could stay
where he was, for all of her, she said; but her aunt had ordered it. It
was she that wanted him to come; she herself, Freneli, had no desire to
run after him any more.
Uli came at last, giving little answer to the many reproaches of his
mistress for having to be forced to come. But she filled his glass
heartily, forced him to eat, and kept up a chatter of talk--how well she
had liked it at Cousin Johannes' house, and how she could now see where
Uli had got his training. But he must have been especially good to them,
too, for the children still hung upon him and their parents loved him
almost like a son. "I suppose you'll want to go back to them, when you
"No," said Uli.
"It's not customary to ask, to be sure; but will you tell me where you
are going?" asked his mistress.
"I don't know yet," said Uli; "I haven't been in a hurry to take a
place, although I could have had several."
"Well then, stay with us; that's the best thing for both of us; we're
accustomed to each other now."
"I hope you won't take it ill of me," he said; "but I don't intend to be
a servant any more."
"Have you something else?" she asked.
"No," he answered.
"Well, if you don't want to be a servant any more, suppose we make you
tenant on our farm."
This speech affected Uli like a sudden blow. He dropped his mutton-laden
fork on his plate, but kept his mouth open, turned his saucer eyes upon
his mistress and stared at her as if she had come down from the moon.
Freneli, who had been standing at the window, vexed at Uli's slow
eating, turned swiftly about and opened eyes and ears to see what would
"Yes, look at me all you want," said the mistress to Uli; "I mean it
seriously; if you won't stay as servant would you stay as leaseholder?"
"Mistress," said Uli at last, "how should I be able to become your
tenant? I'm not able; I'd have to be lots better off than I am. You're
only making game of me."
"No, Uli, I mean it," said his mistress, "and your not having money
doesn't matter; we could arrange it so that it wouldn't cost you
anything to begin; the whole place is furnished."
"But what do you suppose, mistress," exclaimed Uli; "even if you did
this, who would be my security? A single bad year on such a farm would
ruin me. The place is too big for me."
"Ho, Uli, that can be managed, and we're not such hard-hearted wretches
as to let a tenant that suits us be ruined on account of a single year.
Just say you're willing, and we'll fix all that."
"Well, mistress," said Uli, "even so; but who would look after the
housekeeping for me? There's a lot to do there."
"Ho, take a wife," said she.
"That's easily said," answered Uli; "but where should I find one that
would be the right person for it and that would have me?"
"Don't you know of anybody?" asked the mistress.
At that Uli's voice stuck in his throat, and hesitating and embarrassed,
he poked around on his plate with his fork. But Freneli said quickly
that it seemed to her it was time to go, for Blackie must have eaten his
oats long ago and Uli had probably had enough by this time; they, could
continue their jokes another day.
Without listening to these words her aunt finally said, "Don't you know
of anybody? For I do."
Again Uli turned saucer eyes upon her; Freneli said she was curious too.
Her aunt, with undisturbed, playful ease, one hand on the table, her
broad back rested comfortably against her chair, said, "Give a guess;
you know her." Uli looked around at the walls; he could not find the
right word; he felt as if he had a whole bagful of mashed potatoes in
his mouth. Freneli tripped up impatiently behind her aunt, remarking
that they ought to start out, as it was getting dark. Her aunt, however,
did not listen to Freneli, but went on, "Can't you think of her? You
know her well. She's a hard-working girl, but acts up a little at times,
and if you don't quarrel you can have a very good life together."
Thereupon she laughed very heartily, and looked first at one and then
Then Uli looked up; but before he had gulped out an answer Freneli
intervened, and said, "Go and hitch up; Auntie, one can carry a joke too
far, too. I wish I'd never gone along. I don't know why I can't be left
in peace. Yesterday other folks made me angry, and today you're worse
still. That's not kind, Auntie."
Uli had stood up to go out; but his mistress said, "Sit down and listen.
I'm in earnest; I've said to Joggeli many a time that there never were
two people better fitted for each other than you two; it was as if you'd
grown up for each other."
"But Auntie," cried Freneli, "for goodness gracious sake, do stop, or
I'll run away. I won't be auctioned off like a cow. Wait till Christmas;
then I'll get out of your sight, or even before, if I'm so displeasing
to you. Why do you take so much useless pains to bring two people
together that don't want each other? Uli cares for me just as much as I
do for him, and the sooner we part company the gladder I'll be."
But now Uli's tongue was loosened and he said, "Freneli, don't be so
angry with me; I can't help this. But this much let me tell you; even if
you do hate me, I've loved you this long time, and wouldn't want a
better wife. Any one would be happy with you; if you'll have me, I'd be
only too happy."
"Oh, ho!" said Freneli, "now that you hear about the farm and that you'd
get it in lease if you had a wife, all at once I'll just suit you.
You're a cheerful fellow! If you only got the farm you'd marry a hussy
from the gutter, or a fence-post, wouldn't you? But oh, ho ho!" she
laughed scornfully, "you've struck the wrong girl; I don't have to have
a husband; I don't want any, and least of all a man that would marry a
lamp-wick if there was a little oil on it. If you won't start off I'll
walk home alone," and with that she was about to dart out of the door.
But Uli caught her and held her with a strong arm, resist as she would,
saying, "No, truly, Freneli, you wrong me. If I could have you, I'd go
out into the wilderness, where I'd have to clear the whole land before I
could plant it. It's true that when Elsie flirted so with me, the farm
went to my head and I'd have married her just on that account. But I'd
have committed a heavy sin; for even then you were in my heart, and I
always liked to see you a hundred times better than her. Every time I
saw her I was frightened; but when I met you my heart always jumped for
joy. Just ask Johannes; I told him this morning that I didn't know where
under the sun I could find a better wife than you."
"Let me go," cried Freneli, who had carried on like an angry cat during
all this handsome speech and had not even refrained from pinching and
"I'll let you go," said Uli, who manfully bore the scratching and
pinching; "but you mustn't suspect me of wanting you only in case I
could be tenant on the farm. You must believe that I love you anyway."
"I make no promises," cried Freneli, and she pulled herself free with
all her might, and fled to the other end of the table.
"Why, you act just like a wild-cat," cried her aunt. "I never saw such a
girl. But now be sensible, come and sit down beside me. Will you come or
not? I'll never say another kind word to you as long as I live if you
won't sit down here a minute and keep still. Uli, order another bottle.
Keep still now, girl, and don't interrupt me," continued her aunt, and
she went on to tell how she should feel if they both went away; what
evil days awaited her; shed painful tears over her own children, and
said that she could still be made happy if it might turn out as she had
thought it through in her sleepless nights. If two people could be happy
together, they were the ones. She had often told Joggeli that she had
never seen two people that understood each other so well in their work
and were so helpful to each other. If they kept on in the same way they
must become very prosperous. They would do whatever they could to help
them, she and Joggeli. They weren't like some proprietors, who weren't
happy unless a tenant was ruined on their place every other year, and
who spent sleepless nights planning to raise the rent when the tenant
was able to pay the whole amount on time, because they were afraid he
had got it too cheap. Truly, they'd do by her as by their own children,
and Freneli would have a dowry that no farmer's daughter need be ashamed
of. But if that didn't suit her and Freneli carried on so, then she
didn't know what to do; she'd rather never go home again. She wouldn't
reproach her; but she surely hadn't deserved to have Freneli act so now;
she had always done by her as she thought right. And now Freneli was
behaving in this way just to grieve her--that she could see; she hadn't
been the same to her for a long time. And the good woman wept right
"But, Auntie," said Freneli, "how can you talk so? You've been a mother
to me; I've always looked on you as such, and if I had to go through
fire for you I wouldn't hesitate a minute. But I won't be forced upon
such a puppy who doesn't want me. If I have to have a husband I want one
who loves me and takes me for my own sake, not one that takes me along
with the other cows as part of the lease."
"How can you talk so?" asked her aunt. "Didn't you hear him say he's
loved you this long time?"
"Yes," said Freneli, "that's what they all say, one with another; but if
they all choked on that lie there wouldn't be many weddings. He's no
better than the rest, I guess; if you hadn't talked about the farm
first, then you could have seen how much he'd have been in love with me.
And it's not right of you to tell me nothing about all this, or to fling
me plumb at his head like a pine-cone thrown to a sow. If you'd confided
in me first I could have told you what's trumps with Uli. What he says
is: 'Gold, I love you;' and then he expects us to hear: 'Girl, I love
"You're a queer Jenny," said her aunt, "and you act as if you was the
daughter of a lord."
"That's just it, Auntie! Just because I'm only a poor girl, it's proper
for me to hold myself high and not let myself be treated like a handful
of fodder. I think I have more right to it than many a high-born girl,
no matter whether she's the daughter of a lord or a farmer."
"But, Freneli," protested Uli, "how can I change that, and do I have to
pay for it? You know well in your heart that I love you, and I knew just
as little of what your aunt had in mind as you; and so it's not right of
you to vent your anger on me."
"Ah," said Freneli, "now I begin to see that the whole thing was a
put-up job; otherwise you wouldn't excuse yourself before I accused you.
That's worse than ever, and I won't listen to another word; I won't let
myself be caught like a fish in a net."
With that Freneli again tried to get up and run out; but her aunt held
her fast by her bodice, saying that she was the wildest and most
suspicious creature under the sun. Since when did she set traps for her?
It was true that she had wanted to visit her cousin about this affair,
and for that reason she had taken them both along. But what she had in
mind nobody knew, not even Joggeli, much less Uli. She had commissioned
her cousin to worm Uli's secrets out of him, and it was true that Uli
had praised Freneli to the skies, so that her cousin had told her that
Uli would take Freneli any time--the sooner the better; but that Uli was
afraid to say anything to Freneli for fear she'd hold up Elsie against
him. At that she had thought that she would speak, if Uli was afraid to;
for that Uli didn't suit the girl, nobody could convince her; her eyes
weren't in the back of her head yet. So Uli couldn't help it at all.
"But then why did he come into the room today while I was packing up and
want to give me a kiss? He never did that before."
"Oh," said Uli, "I'll just tell you. After I had talked with old master
today you were in my mind more than ever, and I thought I'd give
everything I had if I knew whether you loved me and would have me. I
didn't know a thing about the farm. Then when I found you alone,
something came over me, I didn't know what; I felt a sort of longing in
my arm; I had to touch you and ask for a kiss. At first I thought I had
had one; but then later I thought it couldn't have been, or else you;
wouldn't have pushed me out into the room so wildly. I thought you
didn't care for me, and that made me so sad at heart that I wished
Christmas was here and I could go away; indeed I was going far, far away
down into Italy, so that nobody would ever hear anything of me. And I
feel so still, Freneli, if you won't have me. I don't want the lease,
and I'll go away and away, as far as my feet will carry me, and no one
shall ever know where I've gone."
He had stood up and stepped up to Freneli, and tears stood in his honest
eyes; while they were rolling down her aunt's cheeks. Then Freneli looked
up at him and her eyes grew moist, though mockery and defiance still
quivered about her mouth; but the repressed love broke through and began
to send its shining rays out of her eyes, while her maidenly reluctance
cast up her lips as bulwark against her surrender to his manly insistence.
And while her eyes radiated love, still there came forth from behind the
pouting lips the mocking words: "But, Uli, what will Stini say, if you're
after another girl so soon? Won't she sing to you:
'A dove-cot would be just as true:
It's off with the old love, on with the new.'"
"But how can you play the fool with him so?" queried her aunt; "you see
he's in earnest. If I was in his place I'd turn my back on you and tell
you to whistle for me if you wanted me."
"He's free to do it, Auntie, and you don't know but I wish he would,"
"No you don't," retorted her aunt; "I can hear that in your voice. And
Uli, if you're not a stupid, you'll put your arms around her this
minute; she won't shove you out into the room now, trust me."
But her aunt was mistaken. Once more the girl summoned all her strength,
and whirled about so sharply that she almost shook off Uli again. But
her strength did not hold out. She fell on Uli's breast and broke out in
loud, almost convulsive weeping. The two others almost became
frightened, as her sobbing seemed to have no end; they did not
understand what was the matter. Uli comforted her as well as he could,
and begged her not to go on so: if she'd rather not have him, he could
go away, he wouldn't torment her. Her aunt was vexed at first and told
her she was silly; that in her day girls hadn't put a hound to shame
with their howling when they found a sweetheart. But then she became
alarmed and said she wouldn't force the girl; if she was unwilling to
have Uli she could do what she liked for all of her. Only for goodness
sake she shouldn't go on so; the innkeepers might wonder what was
Finally Freneli recovered enough to tell them just to leave her in
peace; that she would try to compose herself. She had been a poor orphan
all her life, and an outcast from childhood. No father had ever taken
her on his lap, no mother ever kissed her; never had she had a breast to
lay her head on. She had often thought it wouldn't be hard even to die,
if only she could sit on somebody's lap and clasp somebody around the
neck; but during all her childhood nobody had loved her, and she had had
no home. She couldn't say how often she had wept alone. Her longing had
always and always been to have somebody that she could love with all her
heart and all her soul; to find somebody on whose breast she could hide
her head at all times. She had never found a chum to satisfy her
longing. And so when folks talked to her about marrying, she had thought
she never would unless she could believe from the bottom of her heart
that she had found the breast on which to lay her head in joy and
sorrow, and which would be true to her in life and death. But she had
found none that she could have such faith in. She loved Uli, had loved
him long, more than she could say; but this faith in him she hadn't yet
been able to have. And if she was deceived this time, if Uli's love and
loyalty weren't true and genuine, then her last hope would be gone, then
she'd never find the breast she sought, and would have to die unhappy.
That was why she was so afraid, and she begged them on her knees to
leave her in peace, so that she could consider thoroughly what was best
for her to do. Oh, they didn't know how a poor orphan felt, that had
never sat on her father's lap, or been kissed by her mother!
"You're a dear silly child," said her aunt, wiping her wet cheeks. "If
I'd known that that's what you wanted I certainly wouldn't have grudged
you an extra kiss now and then. But why didn't you say so? A body can't
think of everything; when you have to plan all day long what to give
your folks to eat, you don't stop to think about who's to be kissed."
Uli said he had deserved it; it only served him right, and he ought to
have known that it would be so. But if she could look into his heart
she'd see how much he loved her and how honestly. He wouldn't excuse
himself; he had thought of marrying several times, but never had he
loved any one as he did her. But he wouldn't coerce her; he would simply
have to be content to accept her will in the matter.
"Why, you can just hear," said her aunt, "how much he loves you. Come,
take your glass and drink health to Uli, and promise him that you'll be
the wife of the leaseholder of Slough Farm."
Freneli stood up, took her glass and drank the health, but made no
promise, only begging them to leave her in peace for today, and say no
more about it; tomorrow, if must be, she would give her answer.
"You're a queer Jenny," said her aunt. "Well then, Uli, hitch up; our
folks will wonder where we are."
Outside, the stars were twinkling against the dark-blue background;
small wisps of white mist hovered over the moist meadows; single
streamers rose along the valley slopes; mild breezes rocked the faded
foliage; here and there on the pasture a forgotten cow tinkled her bell
for her forgetful master; here and there a frolicsome lad sent his merry
cry flying over hill and dale. The commotion of the day and the driving
lulled the old woman into deep sleep, and Uli, with tense muscles, held
in the wildly racing Blackie to a moderately fast pace; Freneli was
alone in the wide world. As far off in the distant sky the stars floated
in the limitless space of the unfathomable blue ocean, each by itself in
its solitary course, so she felt herself again to be the poor, solitary,
forsaken girl in the great turmoil of the universe. When she had left
aunt and uncle, when they were dead, she would have no one left on
earth; no house for a refuge in time of sickness; no one to tell her
troubles to; no eye to laugh and weep with her; no person that would
weep when she should die; yes, perhaps no one who would escort her
coffin to that narrow, cold resting-place that they would some day have
to assign her. She was alone; solitary and forsaken she was to wander
through the turmoil of the world to her lonely grave; perhaps a long
journey through many, many lonely years, more bowed, more discouraged
and powerless from year to year--an old, withered, despised creature, to
whom scarce any would give refuge, even though begged for it in the name
of the Lord. New sorrow quivered in her heart, lamentations were about
to well up. Why did the good Father, who was called Love, let such poor
children, who had nobody in the world, live, to be cast out in
childhood, seduced in their prime, despised in old age? But then she
began to feel that she was sinning against God, who had given her more
than many had, who had preserved her innocence to this day, and had so
formed and developed her that an abundant living seemed secured to her
if God preserved her health. Little by little, as the hill-tops and the
tree-tops peeped out of the mist, so the love-tokens which God had
visibly scattered through her life began to appear--how she had been
guarded here and there, how she had enjoyed many more cheerful days than
many, many poor children, and how she had found parents too, much better
than other children had, who, if they had not taken her to their hearts
like father and mother, had still loved her and so brought her up that
she could face all people with the feeling that she was looked upon as a
real human being. No, she might not complain of her good Father up
yonder; she felt that His hand had been over her. And was His hand not
over her still? Had He perhaps taken compassion on the poor lonely girl?
Had He decreed, since she had remained faithful till then and tried to
keep herself unspotted by sin, to satisfy now the longing of her heart,
to give her a faithful breast to lay her head on-something of her own,
so that one day somebody would weep at her death, somebody escort her on
the sad road to the gruesome grave? Was it perhaps Uli, the loyal,
skilful servant, whom she had loved so long in her reserved heart; whom
she could reproach with nothing save his mistake with Elsie, and that he
too had been seized by the delusion that money makes happiness; who had
so faithfully and honestly laid bare his heart and repented of his
error? Was it not a strange dispensation that they had both come to this
particular place, that Uli had not gone away before, that Elsie had had
to marry, that the desire had come to her aunt to give the lease of the
farm to Uli? Was it not wonderful how all that fitted in together; was
not the Father's kind hand evident in it? Should she scorn what was
offered her? Was it something hard or repulsive that was asked of her?
Now her spirit unveiled its pictures, peopled the desolate future with
them. Uli was her husband; she had taken root in life, in the broad
world; they were the centre about which a great household revolved,
circling about their will. In a hundred different forms this picture
rose before her eyes, and ever fairer and lovelier became the harmony of
its colors. She no longer knew that she was driving in the wagon; her
heart felt as light and happy as if she were already breathing the air
of that world where there is no more care, no more sorrow--but just then
the wagon bumped over a stone.
Freneli did not feel it; but her aunt awoke with a long yawn and asked,
finding it hard to collect her thoughts, "Where are we, hey? I haven't
been asleep, I hope."
Uli said, "If you look sharply, you can see our light yonder through the
"Gracious, how I have slept! I wouldn't have believed it. If only
Joggeli doesn't scold because we're so late."
"It doesn't matter," said Uli; "and Blackie can rest tomorrow; we don't
"Well, well," said his mistress, "then that's all the better. But when
horses get home late and have to start out early, that's maltreatment.
Just imagine how we'd feel if they did the same to us--run, run all the
time, and no time for eating and sleeping."
As they heard the approaching wagon, all the inhabitants of Slough Farm
rushed out of the doors with candles and lanterns, some to the horse,
others to the wagon; even Joggeli limped up, saying, "I thought you
wouldn't get here today, thought something had happened."
THE PLOT BEGINS TO UNRAVEL, AND AS IT IS ABOUT TO SNARL AGAIN, A GIRL
KNOCKS OUT THE TANGLE WITH A BEECH CUDGEL
[Freneli's restless eagerness to give Uli her answer banishes sleep, and
she rises before all the others, only to find Uli before her at the
wash-trough, and there they plight their faith. The mistress broaches
the subject of the lease to Joggeli, but he will not hear to it.
Freneli, however, is not disturbed, but outlines the plan of action,
which succeeds admirably. Now comes the son-in-law and makes a scene,
but Freneli trumps his ace by getting word to Johannes, who, already
suspicious of the cotton-dealer, is glad to have a chance to spoke his
wheel for him. A frightful turmoil ensues, with Johannes pounding the
table and threatening the cotton-dealer, while the latter, unterrified,
calmly admits marrying Elsie for her money, and himself draws up a
leasing plan which rather pleases Joggeli, but would exclude Uli. While
the others are arguing about this plan, the son-in-law attempts a
private understanding with Freneli, to the effect that he will further
Uli's cause if she will be complaisant with him. Freneli snatches up a
beech-wood stick and belabors him soundly, while he yells for help, and
finally escapes through an open door. Freneli tells her story; the
son-in-law sticks his head in at the door to say she lies, but the beech
stick, hurled by Freneli's strong hand, strikes him full in the face,
and, minus three teeth, he finally quits the field of battle, completely
routed, strewing the path of his retreat with noisy but vain threats.]
HOW FRENELI AND ULI GET OUT AND ARE FINALLY WEDDED
From this point on affairs went much better than Uli had expected, and
many a time he could not but think that he was faring better than he
deserved and was forcibly reminded of what his old master had said--that
a good name was veritable capital and worth more than gold and goods.
The rent was reasonable; but the chief thing was the extras. Some things
that he liked especially, to be sure, Johannes came and seized. That was
only reasonable, he said, to balance up the corn and cherry brandy that
his brother-in-law had talked them out of. The extras included not only
the entire live-stock, utensils and dishes, but also the
house-furnishings and the servants' beds. The appraisal was reasonable
throughout, so that the receiver could not be ruined if the things ever
had to be returned. There were some considerable reservations, but they
could be overlooked in view of the low rent. Uli was to feed one cow for
Joggeli, fatten two hogs, supply potatoes, sow one measure of flax-seed
and two of hemp, and furnish a horse whenever they wanted to drive. If
people are on good terms such reservations are seldom too heavy; but if
misunderstandings arise, then every reservation becomes a
Uli and Freneli could save most of their money and needed to buy very
little; the promised dowry did not fail; they received a bed and a
wardrobe as handsome as could be got in all the country round. Johannes,
without waiting for their choice, sent them a handsome cradle, which
Freneli would not admit for a long time, maintaining it was not meant
So in some anxiety of spirit they saw the time approach when Uli was to
take over the lease, given to him chiefly through confidence in his
ability and loyalty. First, however, he was to be married to Freneli.
Since New Year's there had been talk of it; but the girl always had
excuses for delay. Now she had not had time to think it all over; now
she had just been thinking it over and had decided it was better to wait
another Sunday or two; again she said she wanted to enter on her duties
as mistress immediately after the wedding, and not still be servant; or
else the shoemaker had her Sunday shoes, and she couldn't go on wooden
soles to the pastor to announce the marriage. So passed one Sunday after
another. * * *
Then one Sunday, when the shoemaker had brought the shoes, the dear God
sent a terrible snow-storm, such that no human being could take a dozen
steps with open eyes, and a dark night, the thickest and blackest that
ever was, interposed between heaven and earth. While the storm was at
his height and snow and hail rattled against the windows and piled up a
finger's length against the frames, while the wind whistled mournfully
about the roof, darkness came in at the windows thick and gloomy, so
that the lamp could scarcely prevail against it, the cats crawled
shivering to the back of the stove, and the dog scratched at the kitchen
door and crawled under the stove with his tail between his legs, Freneli
at length said, "Now Uli, get ready and we'll go; now folks certainly
won't be watching us." * * *
When they were ready and opened the kitchen door, Freneli had to make
three attempts before she could get out, and Uli had to look for his hat
on the other side of the kitchen. Her aunt began to wail and to implore
them in God's name not to go; they would be killed! But Freneli summoned
all her strength for a third attempt, and vanished in the snow-flurry; her
aunt's lamentations died away unheard. It was really almost a break-neck
undertaking, and Uli had to help the girl. With the wind directly in their
faces, they often lost the road, had to stand still at times and look
about them to see where they were and gather breath, or turn around to
let the strongest gusts go by; it took them three-quarters of an hour to
go the scant fifteen minutes' walk to the parsonage. There they first
shook off the snow as well as they could, then knocked on the door. But
they knocked long in vain; the sound was swallowed up in the howling of
the wind, which raged awesomely through the chimneys. Then Freneli lost
patience; in place of Uli's reverent knock she now tried her own, and it
was such that the indwellers started up from their seats and the
pastor's wife cried, "Mercy on us, what's that?" But the pastor calmed
her by saying that it was either a baptism or a wedding, only that, as
usual, Mary had not heard their first knocks. While Mary answered the
door he was lighting a light, so that the people need not wait long, and
as soon as Mary opened the door to say, "There's two people here, Sir,"
he was already stepping out.
Back of the house door stood the two, Freneli behind Uli. The pastor,
somewhat short, of middle age, but already venerable in appearance and
with shrewd features that could be either very sharp or very pleasant,
raised the light above his head, peered out with head bowed slightly
forward, and cried at last, "Why, Uli, is it you, in such weather? And I
suppose Freneli's behind you," he said, letting the light fall on her.
"But dear me," he cried, "in such weather? And the good mistress let you
go? Come, Mary," he called, "brush off these folks for me, and take this
collar and dry it." Mary came up very willingly with her lamp.
Now the pastor's wife opened the door, her light in her hand, and said,
"Bring them in here, why don't you? It's warmer than your study, and
Freneli and I know each other right well." There stood Freneli now in
the blaze of three lights, still between Uli and the door, not knowing
what expression to assume. Finally she put a good face on a bad game, as
the saying goes, came forward, and saluted the pastor and his wife quite
properly, saying that her aunt bade her wish them good evening, and
Joggeli too. All this Freneli said with the most innocent face in the
"But," said the pastor, "why do you come in such a storm? You might have
lost your lives!"
"We couldn't manage it any other way," said Uli, who began to feel the
man's duty of taking his wife's obstinacy on his own shoulders--a duty
which one must eventually fulfil of necessity, either to avoid appearing
lien-pecked or to hide the weakness of his wife. "We couldn't wait any
longer," he continued, "as we wanted to ask the pastor to announce the
affair here and there, so that it could be published next Sunday."
They were rather late for that, the pastor said; he didn't know whether
the mail would reach both places before Sunday.
"I am sorry for that," said Uli; "I hadn't thought of it."
Freneli acted as, if she had nothing to do with it, and talked quite
interestedly with the pastor's wife about the flax, which had seemed so
fine and still yielded so little when they combed it. When the
formalities were over the pastor said to Uli, "And so you're to be
tenant on Slough Farm? I'm glad of it. You're not like so many servants,
that don't even look human, to say nothing of Christian; you act like a
man and like a Christian too."
"Yes," said Uli, "why should I forget God? I need Him more than He does
me, and if I forget Him can I hope that He will think of me when He
bestows His gifts and His mercies?"
"Yes, Uli, that's fine," said the pastor, "and I think He has not
forgotten you either. You have a good farm and I think you're getting a
Here the maid came in with the plates to set the table. Freneli noticed
it and stood up to go, although the hostess told them not to hurry, or,
better still, to have supper with them. But Freneli said they must go or
her aunt would think something had happened, thanked the pastor and
asked him to promise that he would come to see them, although they were
only leaseholders. They could always give them a cup of coffee, if they
would be satisfied with that. Her heart always rejoiced to see him, even
from a distance. Wishing them happiness and blessing in the holy state
of matrimony, the pastor himself lighted them out with candle held high,
and bade them to wish good evening to aunt and uncle for him. * * *
Nearer, and nearer came the fateful wedding-day. As on the day before
some holy Sunday, when solemn feelings almost irresistibly make their
way into the heart, almost as on the eve of her confirmation, so Freneli
felt on the eve of her wedding. Thoughtfully and seriously she did her
housework; perhaps she had never spoken so little as on that day. At
times she felt like weeping, and still she had a friendly smile for all
she met. Then again she would sink into deep reflection, in which she
forgot place and time and everything; she knew nothing of herself,
nothing of this brooding. Then when some one spoke to her, she would
start up as out of deep sleep; it seemed to her as if she had only just
recovered her eyes and ears, as if she were falling back upon the earth
from another world.
As they were sitting at supper, such an unexpected crash was heard on
the hill near the house that all started up. It was the men and some of
the day-laborers, who wished to proclaim to the world the glory of their
new masters. There lies hidden in this shooting and banging at weddings
a deep significance; the only pity is that so many a human life is
endangered by it. No hateful horn-blowing was heard; no horrible
serenades, such as envy or enmity offer to bridal couples, disturbed the
peaceful evening. * * *
Uli had a bad night. As they wanted to start at three in the morning the
hours for sleep were few, but it seemed as if they would not pass. He
could not sleep; many things busied his thoughts and tossed him
restlessly back and forth, and every thirty seconds he reached for his
watch. The whole importance of what he was now to become rolled itself
upon his soul with its entire weight. Then again lovely pictures danced
before his closed eyes. [Illustration: FIRST DANCING LESSONS _From
the Painting by Benjamin Vautier_] The spirit-hour was not long past
when he left his bed, in order to give the horse his fodder and to brush
and curry him thoroughly. When he had finished this work he went to the
well and began a similar task on himself. Then playful hands enfolded
him and Freneli brought him her loving morning salute. A glad hope had
drawn her to the well, and they lingered to caress each other in the
cold morning air as if mild evening zephyrs were blowing. All anxiety
and oppression forsook him now, and he hastened the preparations for
their departure. Soon he could go into the house for the hot coffee
which Freneli had made and for the white bread and cheese her aunt had
provided. Little peace did the girl have at the table, for the fear of
having forgotten something would not let her rest; again and again she
looked over the bundle of her belongings, and even then her aunt's
fur-lined shoes were nearly left behind. At last she stood there all in
readiness, sweet and beautiful. The two maids, whom curiosity had drawn
from their beds, encircled her with their lights, and were so absorbed
in admiration that they forgot that oil makes spots and that fire
kindles; a little more and Freneli, soaked in oil, would have gone up in
flame. Alas, in the fleshy bosoms of the poor maids heaved the yearning:
Oh, if they once had such pretty clothes, they would be as pretty as
Freneli; and then they too could ride off to be married to such a
Long before three o'clock they drove out into the cold, frosty morning.
Amid question and answer the flickering stars paled and sought their
sky-blue beds, and the good mother sun began to weave golden curtains
about them out of sparkling rays of light, so that their chaste
retirement, their innocent sleep, might not be sullied by the eyes of
curious sinners. Jack Frost shook his curls more mightily; driven by the
sun from the little stars to the dark bosom of the earth, away from his
heavenly sweethearts, he tried to caress earthly ones, wanted to embrace
Freneli and put his cold arms about the warm girl; his white breath was
already playing in the tips of her cap. The girl shivered and begged
Uli to take refuge just a moment in a warm room; she was shaking through
and through, and they would reach their destination soon enough.
It was one of the good old taverns whose proprietors do not change every
year, but where one generation succeeds the other. The innkeepers, who
were just sitting at their coffee as the bridal couple entered,
recognized Uli at once. Now a very friendly salutation, and the couple
must sit down and celebrate with them, whether or no. They were told not
to make a fuss about it, everything was ready, and nothing was more
grateful on such a cold morning than a cup of hot coffee. Freneli acted
somewhat bash-fully, for it seemed bold of her to sit down with them as
if that was her home. But the hostess urged her until she sat down,
surveyed her, and began to praise her to Uli, remarking what a pretty
wife he had; there hadn't been a prettier one there this long time. She
was glad he was doing so well; they had all been sorry when he went
away; one always liked to see a friend get along well. Not that there
weren't folks that couldn't bear to see it, but there weren't many such.
Uli asked whether she thought the pastor was up; he would go to him
first. He surely would be, they thought, especially on a Friday, when
folks usually came. Not that he was one of the earliest risers usually,
for he liked to lie abed; but he was getting old and so that could be
excused. But he had had a vicar during the winter, and he had never been
in sight before eight; everybody had been vexed that they had to have
such a lazy vicar. Here Uli asked whether it was customary to take the
bride along. No, they said; folks seldom waited in the parsonage.
Afterward a good many went back together to get the certificate. But the
bashful ones, or those that thought the pastor would have cause to say
something to them, would come right back to the inn, and only the lads
would go for the certificate. After Freneli had declined to go along and
had bidden Uli to let his master know and send word to have his master
and mistress come, he set out.
In his handsome dress and in the dark room the old pastor did not at
first recognize him, but then was heartily rejoiced. "I heard," he said,
"that you were doing well, were to get a fine lease and a good wife, and
had saved a tidy sum. It gives me great joy to bless a marriage that I
can hope will remain in the Lord. That you have saved something is not
the chief thing; but you wouldn't have it, and people wouldn't have had
so much confidence in you, if you were not honest and God-fearing, and
that's what pleases me most of all. The things of the world and the
things of the spirit are much closer to each other than most people
believe. They think that in order to get along well in the world, you've
got to hang up your Christianity on a nail. But it's just the reverse;
that's what causes the everlasting complaint in the world; that's why
most men make their beds so that they have to lie on nettles. Ask
yourself if you would be as happy now if you had stayed a vagabond,
despised by all. What do you think--what sort of a wedding would you
have had? Just imagine what kind of a wife you would have got, and the
prospects you would have had, and what people would have said when they
saw you going to be married, and then see how it is today; reckon up the
enormous difference. Or what do you think about it? Is blind fortune,
accident, so-called luck, back of it all? Folks are always saying: 'I
don't have any luck; you just can't do anything nowadays.' What do you
think, Uli? Is it only luck? Would you have had this luck if you had
stayed a vagabond? But the misfortune is just that people want to be
happy through luck and not by God-fearing lives on which God's blessing
rests. And so it's quite fitting that those who are only waiting for
luck should be deceived by it, until they come to the knowledge that
nothing depends on luck, but everything on the blessing of God."
"Yes, Your Reverence," said Uli, "I can't tell you how much happier I am
now than when I was one of the rabble that run around the streets. But
something depends on luck, too; for if I hadn't come to such a good
master no good would have come of me."
"Uli, Uli," said the pastor, "was that luck or God's decree?"
"It's all the same, I think," answered Uli.
"Yes," said the pastor, "it is the same; but it's not a matter of
indifference which you call it, as men think, and that's just where the
difference lies. The man that talks of luck doesn't think of God, nor
thank Him, nor seek His grace; he seeks luck of and in the world. He who
speaks of God's providence thinks of Him, thanks Him, seeks to please
Him, sees God's hand in everything; he knows neither bad nor good luck,
but to him everything is God's good guidance, which is to lead him to
blessedness. The different words are the expression of a different state
of mind, a different view of life; that is why there is so much
difference in the words, and it is important which one we use. And
however good our intentions, still, when we talk of luck, it makes us
frivolous or discontented; but if we speak of God's providence, then
these words themselves awaken thoughts in us and direct our eyes to
"Well, yes, Your Reverence," said Uli, "you're about right in that, and
I'll bear it in mind."
"I hope you will come back here with your bride after the service?"
"Very willingly, if you wish it," said Uli; "but I'm afraid we shall
keep you from your work."
"No one does that," said the pastor; "for it is not only my office, but
also my pleasure, to speak on serious occasions a serious word to hearts
in which I can hope for good soil that will bear fruit. What the pastor
says on such occasions is not so soon forgotten."
Meanwhile Freneli had taken off the fur-lined shoes and put on the
proper cap, and with her own hands the hostess had fastened on the
wreath. It was made in the Langental fashion, she said. "But whatever
fashion it is, it's becoming to you," she continued.
The bells began to peal and Freneli's heart to beat loudly; her eyes
grew fairly dim with dizziness. The hostess brought her aromatic salts,
rubbed her temples with something, and said, "You mustn't take it so
hard, girlie, we all have to go through with it. But go now in God's
name; the pastor doesn't wait long on a Friday; he's a great one for
Uli took his Freneli by the hand and walked with her toward the church;
solemnly the solemn peals echoed in their hearts; for the sexton rang
the bells with all his skill, so that the clappers struck on both edges,
and not as if they were lame, now on one edge, now on the other. As they
came to the churchyard, the grave-digger was just busy at a grave, and
it was quiet about him; no sheep, no goat came and desecrated man's last
resting-place; for in this village the churchyard was no pasture for
Suddenly an irresistible melancholy came over Freneli. The venerable
mound, the digging of the new grave, woke gloomly thoughts. "That's no
good omen," she whispered; "they are digging a grave for one of us."
Before the church stood a baptismal party, one godmother holding a child
on her arm. "That means a child-bed for one of us," whispered Uli, to
"Yes, that I'm to die in one," she answered; "that I must leave my
happiness for the cold grave."
"Just remember," said Uli, "that the dear God does everything and that
we mustn't be superstitious, but believing. That our graves will be dug
some day is certain; but that digging a grave means death to those who
come along I never heard. Just think how many people see a grave being
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