CHAPTER V. - About ten o'clock in the morning, a few days later, the sun was peeping down on the garden of Gürlitz manor-house from behind a cloud.

About ten o'clock in the morning, a few days later, the sun was peeping down on the garden of Gürlitz manor-house from behind a cloud. Her daughter, the earth, had been having a great washing-day, and she wanted to give her beloved child a little help with the drying of the clothes. There is nothing more delightful than to see old mother sun looking down sympathetically, her broad kindly old face showing between the white sheets of cloud, and to see her seizing her watering-can now and then to sprinkle the linen. At such times she is always in high spirits, and, in spite of her old age and experience, is as changeable in her humour as a young girl who is in love for the first time. One moment she is sad and tearful, and the next laughing and joyous.

The old lady laughed heartily as she looked down on the garden at Gürlitz. "Well," she cried, scattering her golden laughter over plants and bushes, "one sees queer things sometimes in this stupid old world! A neat white figure used to stand there, which by my help enabled those poor hungry children of men to know the exact time to eat their dinner, and now a fat, awkward looking fellow has taken its place, he has green-checked trousers on, and there is a pipe in his mouth. Nothing is done so foolishly anywhere else as in the world!" And with that she laughed merrily over the new squire, Mr. Pomuchelskopp, who was standing like a sun-dial, dressed in a yellow nankin-coat, and green-checked trousers, in the same place where the graceful heathen god Apollo used to be, except that while the god had a lyre in his hand, he was provided with a short pipe. The sun's face clouded over now and then when she saw her old friend, who, for so many years, had noted her doings faithfully, lying neglected among the rankgrass and nettles. — And then she began to laugh again.

Pomuchelskopp laughed too. There was no smile to be seen on his face, but when stretching himself up as high as his short stature would allow, he gazed around him, his heart rejoiced and cried: "It is all mine! All mine!" He did not see the sun-beams which gilded the earth, these made no impression on him; but the sun-beam within him, which was caused by nothing better than pounds, shillings, and pence, lighted up his heart, though it did not show in his face. Before an expression of amusement could be seen there something very humorous must take place, and matter to call it forth was not wanting.

His two youngest children, Tony and Phil, had come out into the garden, and Phil had made himself a rod of docken and nettle-stalks, with which he beat the statue of the fallen god, and that made father Pomuchelskopp laugh most heartily, and Tony ran into the kitchen and got a bit of charcoal, and was just going to give him a moustache, when his father stopped him, and said: "Tony, don't do that, you may spoil it, and perhaps we may sell it, Tony. But you may thrash it as much as you like." — And so they beat the statue with their stinging rods, and father Pomuchelskopp laughed till he shook in his green-checked trousers.

At this moment "madam" appeared, and she was Pomuchelskopp's sterner half. She was extremely tall, and as angular as king Pharaoh's seven lean kine, her forehead was always wrinkled into a frown, as if the cares of the whole world were laid upon her, or as if she were always suffering a sort of martyrdom, or as if all the crockery broken by all the maid-servants throughout the world belonged to her, and her mouth had such a bitter curve that one would have thought that she was accustomed to drink vinegar, and eat sorrel. She wore every morning, in spite of the hot summer-weather, a black merino dress that she had bought once when she was in mourning, and that must therefore be worn out, and when she changed it she put on a. cotton gown which she had had dyed olive green with elder-bark; and on such occasions as Pomuchelskopp wore a blue coat and brass buttons, she put on a cap with so many frills and furbelows that her weazened face peering out of it, looked for all the world like a half starved mouse in a bundle of tow; as for the rest of her dress, she v/ore petticoat on the top of petticoat, but still her poor shrunken legs looked like a couple of knitting-needles that had lost their way in a bag of odds and ends. At such times it was advisable that her servants should keep out of her way, for when she went about with velvet or silken streamers, her soul was weighed down with the constant fear of unnecessary expense in housekeeping details.

She was a "mother" who pondered day and night how she might best make a waistcoat for Phil out of an old dress of Mally's. She loved her children according to the Scriptures, and so she chastened them, and Tony might count two slaps on the back for every stain on his coat, and two on the legs for every stain on his trousers. Yes, she was stern to her own flesh and blood, but still she was able to rejoice in due measure, as for instance to-day, when she came into the garden, and saw how her youngest olive-branches were amusing themselves, a smile then crossed her face like a pale gleam of sunshine in February when the earth is still frozen, and which seems to say: "Never fear, spring is coming at last."

She was the kind of wife of whom it might be said that she never in thought, word, or deed sinned against the letter of her duty, although Pomuchelskopp's conduct was rather trying, for in her opinion he was often guilty of too great levity; for instance, when he thought a joke a good one, he would laugh at it outright, and that was not seemly behaviour in the father of a family, and must necessarily end by impoverishing him, and bringing her and her children to beggary. She therefore did more than she was bound to do by her marriage-vows, she discouraged such outward signs of mirth, and gave him of her own vinegar to drink, and of her own sorrel to eat. She lectured him — that is to say when they were alone — as if he were her youngest son Phil, she treated him as if he were still a child; in short, she bullied him after her own fashion. — She never beat him — God forbid! — She contented herself with words. She understood how to bring him round to her way of thinking by the mode of her address: if he were behaving with undignified thoughtlessness, she called him coldly and hardly by the last syllable of his name, "Kopp," for she generally addressed him by the two middle syllables, "Muchel;" but when he was acting so as to meet with her entire satisfaction, for instance, when he sat crossly in the corner of the sofa, and slashed angrily at the flies, she called him by the beginning of his name in a loving tone, "Poking."*)

She did not call him "Poking" to-day. "Kopp," she said, to show her disapproval of his undignified manner of testifying his amusement at what the boys were doing, "Kopp, why are you standing there smoking like a chimney? Let us go and call at the parsonage." — "My chick," involuntarily taking the pipe out of his mouth, "we can set off at once if you like. I shan't be a moment in changing my coat." — "Coat? Why! you don't suppose that I am going to put on my best black silk? — We are only going to call on our clergyman." — She laid as great an emphasis on the word "our," as if she had been speaking of her shepherd, or as if she thought that the parson was indebted to her for his daily bread. — "Just as you like, my Henny. I can put on my brown overcoat instead. — Phil, don't beat the statue any more, mama doesn't like it." — "Never mind the children, Kopp, you've got enough to do, to look after yourself. You'll go in your nankin-coat, it is clean and good." — "My chuck," said Pomuchelskopp, who, when he was of a different opinion from the wife of his bosom, always began with "Henny," and ended with "chuck," "always dress in good style, my dearest chuck. Even if we don't do it for the sake of the clergyman's family, let us do it for our own sake. And if Mally and Sally go with us, they ought to dress so as to make an imposing impression on the people at the parsonage."

*) Translator’s note, "ing" is used instead of " chen" as a diminutive in Mecklenburg.

This last reason was deemed a sufficient one, and gained Pomuchelskopp leave to put on his brown coat. He was made very happy by being allowed to have his own way, a piece of good fortune that did not often happen to him, so he felt proportionably grateful, and being desirous of pleasing his Henny in return for her kindness, he wished to make her partake in his joy. Let no one imagine however that Pomuchelskopp was so ill-bred as to give audible signs of merriment in his own house, no, he was always humble and quiet when there. He waved his hand towards the fields around him, and said: "Look, my chick, these all belongs to us!" — "Muchel," said madam shortly, "you are exaggerating, that is Pümpelhagen down there." — "You are right, Henny, that is Pümpelhagen. — But," he added, his little eyes twinkling avariciously as he looked down on Pümpelhagen, "who knows? — If I am spared, and if I sell my Pomeranian property well, and the times remain good, and the old Counsellor dies, and his son contracts debts " — "Yes, Muchel," interrupted his affectionate wife with the satirical curl of her lip, which the world had to accept as her only substitute for a smile, for it was the nearest approach to one that ever was seen on her face, "yes, that is just like old Strohpagel, when he said: if I were ten years younger, and were steadier on my legs, and hadn't my wife, you would all see what sort of fellow I really am!" — "Henny," said Pomuchelskopp, putting on an injured expression, "how can you say such a thing? How could I ever wish to get rid of you? I should never have been able to buy Gürlitz without the eight thousand five hundred pounds you inherited from your father. And what a splendid place Gürlitz is! All that land belongs to it," and he waved his hand as he spoke. — "Yes, Kopp," said his wife shortly, "except the glebe, which you have allowed to slip through your fingers." — "Dear me, chuck, will you never leave the subject of the glebe alone! What can I do? — You see I am a straightforward, honest man, so what chance have I with a couple of sly rogues like Hawermann and the parson? But we hav'n't done with each other yet, Mounseer Hawermann! We'll have some thing to say to each other before long, reverend Sir!"

Three neat little maidens were seated in Mrs. Behrens' tidy parlour in Gürlitz parsonage on the same morning. They were plying their needles and tongues busily, for they were trying a race both in sewing and in talking, and as they sat there they looked as sweet and rosy in contrast with the white linen, as freshly plucked strawberries on a white plate. And these three children were Louisa Hawermann, and the twins, Lina and Mina Nüssler. — "Children," said little Mrs. Behrens, on one of the many incursions from the kitchen into the parlour, “you can't think what a pleasure it is to me in my old age when I am laying the clean linen away in the chest, that I know exactly when I spun and hemmed each separate piece! How differently one treats it when one knows from experience how much trouble it has cost. Mina, Mina, that hem's all crooked. Goodness gracious me, Louisa, I believe you've been going on sewing without ever looking what you were about, don't you see that you hav'n't got a knot on your thread! Now I must go and see that the potatoes are boiling properly, for my pastor will soon be in," and then she hastened from the room, only popping her head in at the door again to say, "Mina and Lina, you are to remain to dinner," and so she kept flying about between kitchen and parlour in measured time like the pendulum of a clock, and keeping everything in good order in both.

But how was it that Lina and Mina had joined Mrs. Behrens' sewing-class? This was how it happened. — When the two little girls had grown so old that they could pronounce the letter "r," and no longer cared about playing with the sand-box, but ran after Mrs. Nüssler all day long, saying: "What shall we do now, mother?" Mrs. Nüssler told young Joseph that it was high time for the children to have some schooling: they must have a governess. Joseph had no objection, and his brother-in-law Baldrian the schoolmaster, was commissioned to engage one. When the governess had been six months at Rexow, Mrs. Nüssler said she was a discontented old woman who did nothing but nagg at the children all day long, and made her so uncomfortable that she scarcely felt at home in her own house. So that governess had to take her departure. — Kurz, the shop-keeper, chose the next, and one day, when no one in Rexow had any suspicion of what was going to happen, the door opened, and in marched an enormous woman, as tall as a grenadier, with strongly marked eye-brows, a yellow complexion, and spectacles on her nose, who introduced herself as the "new governess." She then began to speak French to the two little girls, and finding that they were innocent of all knowledge of that language, she addressed herself to young Joseph in the same tongue. Such a thing had never happened to young Joseph before, and it astonished him so much that he let his pipe go out, and as they were drinking coffee at the time, he said, in order to say something: "Mother, fill the new teacher's cup." — Well, in a very short time the new governess ruled the whole house, but at last Mrs. Nüssler who had borne it bravely as long as she could, said: "Stop, this will never do. If any one is to rule here, it is I, for I am the 'nearest,' as Mrs. Behrens would say," and so the grenadier had to march. — Uncle Bräsig now tried what he could do, "so that the little round-heads might learn something." He engaged what he called a "capital teacher," and "one who is always merry, and who is not to be beat in playing the piano-forty." — He was right. One evening in winter a red-faced, smiling little woman arrived at Rexow, and she had not been ten minutes in the house before she fell upon the newly bought second-hand piano, and beat it and thumped it as if she were threshing out corn. When she had gone to bed, young Joseph opened the piano, but as soon as he found out that three of the strings were broken, he shut it again, and said: "What's to be done now?" — There was great fun and laughter in the house in those days, for the governess played and frisked about with the little girls, till Mrs. Nüssler came to the conclusion that her eldest daughter Lina was on the whole a more sensible person than her teacher. She wanted to know what the children were taught, and therefore begged Madmoiselle to draw out a plan of lessons, and let her see it. Next day Lina brought her a large sheet of paper containing the plan, which was as follows: German, French, orthography, geography, religion. Scripture history, and the other kind of history, and Bible natural history, and at the end came music, music, music, music. — "Ah well,'' said she to Joseph, "she may teach music as much as she likes, if only the religion is all right. What do you think, Joseph?" — "Oh," said Joseph," it all depends upon circumstances!" — Nothing more would have been said, if Mrs. Nüssler had not accidentally found out from Lina that the time that ought to have been devoted to Scripture history, was spent in playing at ball, and soon afterwards when she happened to be upstairs at the time of the religious lesson, she heard peals of laughter from the school-room, and on going there to see what sort of religion was being taught, she found — Mademoiselle playing at Tig with the children. Mrs. Nüssler would have nothing to say to a religious lesson of that kind, and so Mademoiselle "Jack in the box" had to beat a retreat like her forerunner the grenadier.

The worst of it was that it was in the middle of the quarter, and Mrs. Nüssler complained of the children being always in her way, to which Joseph merely said: "Oh, what can I do?" but at the same time he began to study the Rostock newspaper very attentively, and one day he put down the paper, and desired Christian to get the phaeton ready. His wife was rather uneasy because she had no idea what he was going to do, but as soon as she saw that his mouth was even more drawn down to the left than usual, which was his way of giving a friendly smile, she said to herself: "Let him be, he has got some kindly thought in his head." — Three days later Joseph returned, bringing with him a shadowy lady of a certain age, and the news spread like wild-fire: "Only think, young Joseph has engaged a governess by himself this time!" — "Bräsig came on the following Sunday and looked her over, he was pretty well satisfied with her, "but," he said, "mark my words, young Joseph, she has got nerves." — Bräsig had not only a great knowledge of horses, he had also a knowledge of men, and he was right. Mademoiselle had nerves, many nerves. The twins had to go about the house on tip-toe. Mademoiselle took Mina's ball away from her because she had once thrown it against her window by mistake, and locked the piano to prevent Lina playing, "Our cat has nine kittens," the only air which Miss "Jack in the box" had taught her. —

In course of time Mademoiselle had fits of rigidity in addition to her nerves, and Mrs. Nüssler had to rush and administer all sorts of reviving drops to her, and Frida and Caroline had to sit up with her at night, for one would have been afraid to do it alone. "I should send her away if I were you," said Uncle Bräsig, but Mrs. Nüssler was too kind-hearted to do that, she sent for the doctor instead. — Dr. Strump came from Rahnstädt, and when he had looked at the clenched teeth of the patient, he said it was a very interesting case, and explained it by saying that he had lately been studying "The night-side of human nature." — Young Joseph and his wife thought no evil, except that they had been obliged to get up in the night several times, but something else was to come. — One day when the doctor was there Caroline rushed down-stairs: "Mistress, Mistress, the illness is at its height. The doctor has been waving his hands before Mamselle's face, and now she's prophesying, and she's telling the truth too. She told me that I had a sweetheart." — "Heaven preserve me!" said Bräsig who happened to be there. "The young woman ought to be in an asylum! " — And then he followed Mrs. Nüssler upstairs. — After a little he came down again, and asked: "What do you say now, young Joseph?" — Joseph sat silently thinking for some time, at last he said: "It's no use, Bräsig." — "Joseph," said Bräsig, striding up and down as he spoke, "I advised you to send her away before, but now I say, don’t send her away. I asked her what sort of rain we shall have to-morrow, and she answered in her sun-and-bulist state, that we should have a regular plump. If there is a plump tomorrow, take your perometer down from the wall — perometers are of no more use, and yours has been standing at 'set fair' for the last two years — and then you can hang her in its place, and so make the fortune of the whole neighbourhood." — Young Joseph made no reply, and when he saw how frightfully it rained the next day, he still said nothing, but pondered over the marvellous circumstance for three days in silence. The news, meanwhile, spread throughout the countryside that young Joseph had engaged a prophetess, and that she had prophesied the heavy rain which had fallen on the previous Saturday, and also that Caroline Kräuger and Mr. Farm-bailiff Bräsig should be married before the year was out. — Naturally Dr. Strump was not behind-hand in publishing the details of the interesting case he was attending, and before long Mrs. Nüssler's quiet house became the meeting-place of all the neighbourhood, every one going there either from curiosity or to study the case from a scientific point of view; and as Mrs. Nüssler would have nothing to do with it, and young Joseph would have nothing to do with it, Zachariah Bräsig took the case in hand when the doctor was not there, and conducted the visitors up-stairs to Madmoiselle's apartment, and explained the nature of somnambulism to them. Christian, the coach-man, held watch by Madmoiselle's bed, because he was so brave that he did not fear the devil himself, and Caroline and Frida were too frightened to remain in the room, even in company, and indeed they did not consider it a proper occupation for them, for they thought a somnambulist must be a very wicked person. — Amongst the visitors was the young Baron von Mallerjahn of Gräunenmur, who came every day to enquire scientifically into the affair, and who at last used to go up to see Madmoiselle without waiting for Bräsig. Mrs. Nüssler was very angry when she found out that he did so, and told Joseph that he ought to be present at the interviews, but her husband answered that Christian was there, and so there was no need of him. At last however Christian came down, and said that the young Baron had turned him out of the room because he smelt too strongly of the stable, and that made Mrs. Nüssler cry with anger, and if Bräsig had not appeared at that moment she would herself have ordered the Baron out of the house, but Bräsig of course undertook to do it for her. He therefore went up-stairs, and said politely, but firmly: "My lord, will you be so good as to look at the other side of the door?" — The Baron seemed to understand what was meant, for he smiled rather constrainedly, and said that he was just then in magnetic rapport with Mademoiselle. "What do you mean by a 'monetary report?'" said Bräsig, "we want none of your money here, nor your reports either; that's the reason that Christian was told to sit here." — Now Bräsig was, without knowing it, in magnetic rapport himself, for whenever he saw Mrs. Nüssler shed tears, it put him in a rage, so he now ended by saying angrily: "And now. Sir, I must beg of you to go at once." — The Baron was naturally put out at being addressed in such an unceremonious manner, and asked haughtily, if Bräsig knew that he was extremely rude. — "If you call that rude," cried Bräsig, seizing the Baron by the arm, "Til soon show you something else." — The noise they made wakened Mademoiselle from her sleep, she started up off the sofa, and, seizing the Baron by the other arm, declared that she would remain there no longer; no one understood her except him, and she would go with him. — "That's the best thing to do," said Bräsig. "One ought always to speed the parting guest. Two flies at one blow!" he concluded, showing them down-stairs.

The Baron's carriage drove up to the door, and the Baron himself looked nervous and uncomfortable, but Mademoiselle was determined. "Well, well, what's to be done now?" said young Joseph as he watched the departure from the window. — "Young Joseph," said Bräsig as the carriage drove out of the yard, "it all depends upon circumstances, and it's hard to say. And, Mrs. Nüssler, let them be, the Baron will soon find out now how to manage his monetary report."

For some time past Hawermann had been a great deal from home on his master's business, and when he returned for a few days he had too much to do about the farm to have time to attend to anything else. He had, it is true, gone to see his sister once or twice, and had comforted her by assuring her that the governess was ill, and would of course soon get well again, but once when he came home he found that the doings at Rexow were the talk of the whole neighbourhood. He was told that young Joseph's sleeping Mademoiselle had run away with the Baron von Mallerjahn, and that before she left she had infected Bräsig with the gift of prophecy, and Christian with that of sleeping, so that Bräsig now prophesied as he went about, and Christian could sleep standing.

Hawermann went to Mr. Behrens, asked him to tell him the rights of the story, and to accompany him to his sister's house. "With pleasure, Hawermann, I'll go with you gladly," said the clergyman, "but, to tell you the truth, I have not taken any notice of the affair on principle. I know that many of my brethren in Christ have tried the effect of exorcism when such cases have fallen under their notice, but in my opinion, in illnesses of this kind, the doctor is the proper person to consult, and sometimes," he added with a sly smile, "the police are of more use than any one else."

When they reached Rexow, they found Mrs. Nüssler, who was generally able to see the bright side of everything, looking sad and weary. "Oh, Mr. Behrens! My dear brother Charles!" she said. "That was a dreadful woman, and I have been in great distress about her, but indeed, all the governesses that I have tried have been dreadful people. That isn't the worst of it. I shall get over that in time. What makes me miserable is that my dear good little girls know nothing, and are learning nothing. I can't bear to think that the time may come when my children may have to sit silently amongst other young people of their own age and standing, because they are too ignorant to join in the conversation, and that perhaps they won't even be able to write a letter! Ah, reverend Sir, you who are so learned can't understand how bitterly one feels one's ignorance when one is in the company of people of one's own station who have been properly educated, but I can understand it, and so can you, Charles. Oh, Mr. Behrens, I'd rather send my little girls away to school, though it would break my heart to part with them, and Joseph and I would feel lost in the house without them, than that they should grow up stupid and ignorant. When Louisa comes here she can answer our questions sensibly, and she can read Joseph's newspapers. Mina can also read, but when she comes to a foreign word she has to spell it out. The other day Louisa read to us about 'Bordoe,' and that I suppose is the right way to call the town, but Mina said 'B-o-r-d Board, e-a-x oaks,' and what was the sense of calling it 'Boardoaks' when it is always pronounced 'Bordoe?'"

During this long address of Mrs. Nüssler's the clergyman rose, and walked thoughtfully up and down the room, at last he stood still and said: "I have a proposal to make to you, neighbour. Perhaps Louisa is farther advanced than your children, perhaps not. You need not part with your little girls, if you will send them to me, and let me teach them." — Whether Mrs. Nüssler had an undefined hope that her difficulties would be ended in this way, or whether it was an utter surprise to her, cannot be known, but this at any rate is certain, that the relief was like a sudden turning from darkness to light. She looked at the pastor with her frank blue eyes, and exclaimed: "Oh, Sir!" and springing from her chair she went on: "Joseph, Joseph, did you hear? Mr. Behrens says he will teach our little girls!"' — Joseph had heard, and had also risen. He wanted to say something, but not being able to find the right words he just tried to seize the clergyman's hand, and when he had got hold of it, he pressed it, and drawing Mr. Behrens to the sofa, made him sit down by the little supper-table, and then when Mrs. Nüssler and Hawermann had told the good man how happy he had made them all, young Joseph said: "Mother, give the pastor a glass of beer."

So Mina and Lina became daily guests at Gürlitz parsonage. They were still as like each other as two peas, except that Lina as the eldest was a small half inch taller than Mina, and Mina was a good half inch rounder than Lina, and, if you looked very particularly, you could see that Mina's nose was rather more of a snub than Lina's.

And now we return to when the three little girls were having their sewing-lesson in Mrs. Behrens' parlour, on the day that the Pomuchelskopps came to pay their first visit at the parsonage, for as soon as the clergyman had finished his morning-lessons, his wife began her share of the children's education.

"Goodness gracious me!" cried Mrs. Behrens, running into the parlour. "Put away your sewing, children. Louisa, carry it all into my bed-room. Mina, pick up all the threads and scraps that have fallen on the carpet. Lina, put the chairs in order. The new squire is coming through the church-yard with his wife and daughters, and will be here in a minute — and my pastor hasn't come back from the christening at Warnitz !" As she spoke, she involuntarily caught up her duster, but put it down again immediately, for there was a knock at the door, and on her cahing out "come in," Pomuchelskopp, his wife, and his two daughters, Amalia and Rosalia entered.

Pomuchelskopp tried to make a polite bow as he came in, but failed, owing to his style of figure being of the unbending order, and said: "We have done ourselves the honour of waiting upon Mr. and Mrs. Behrens — and — and — hope to have the pleasure of making their acquaintance, now — now — that we are such near neighbours." — Mrs. Pomuchelskopp stood behind her lord as stiff and straight as if she had swallowed the poker, and Mally and Sally in their bright silk dresses looked, in contrast with the three little girls in their washed out cotton-frocks, like gay butterflies beside common grubs.

Now although Mrs. Behrens was very confidential with her friends, her manner to strangers was rather formal, and in her husband's absence it was even more dignified than it would otherwise have been, so she drew herself up, and her lilac cap-ribbons rose and fell under her firm little chin with every word she spoke, as much as to say, "I am a person to be treated with respect." — "The honour," she said, "is on our side. I am sorry that my pastor is not at home. — Won't you sit down?" — And she signed to Mr. and Mrs. Pomuchelskopp to seat themselves on the sofa under the gallery of portraits, and the picture of our Saviour with His hands raised to bestow the blessing, which, like the rain and sunshine, falls alike on the just and the unjust.

While the elder people talked about indifferent subjects upon which there could be no diversity of opinion, Louisa went up to the two young ladies, and shook hands with them, and the twins followed her example. — Now Mally and Sally were eighteen and nineteen years old, but they were not at all pretty, for Sally's complexion was of an unwholesome greenish gray colour, and Mally was her father's own child. They had — alas — quite finished their education, and had been at the Whitsun and Trinity balls in Rostock, so that their interests were of course far removed from those of the little girls, and as they were not particularly good-natured, they rather snubbed the children. And the little girls either not wishing it to be remarked, or thinking it was all right and proper, would not allow themselves to be repulsed by cold answers, and Louisa said to Mally with great eyes of admiration: "Oh, what a pretty dress you have on!" — All ladies however highly educated are pleased with remarks of this kind, so Mally thawed a little, and answered with a smile: "It is only an old gown, my new one cost thirty shillings more with the trimming and making." — "Papa gave us our new dresses for the Trinity ball. Oh, how we did dance to be sure!" added Sally. — Louisa knew the proper services for Trinity Sunday, but she had never in all her life heard of a Trinity ball, and besides that, she had no very clear idea of what a ball was, for although Mrs. Behrens had often spoken of what she had done in the days of her youth, and had also confessed to having been at a ball, still when Louisa asked what a ball was, she answered with all the dignity of a clergyman's wife, that it was "a very silly kind of amusement," and alluded to the subject no more. — Lina and Mina knew even less about it than she did. Their mother had of course danced now and then when she was a girl, but only at dances got up on the spur of the moment; and as for young Joseph, he had certainly been at a ball once, but then he had stopped at the door of the dancing-room, for he was so overwhelmed with shyness when he got there, that he beat a speedy retreat without venturing further; and uncle Bräsig had described it to them in a totally incomprehensible manner, as a number of white dresses with red and green ribbons, clarionets and flutes, waltzes and quadrilles, and a great many glasses of punch. When uncle Bräsig told them this, he used to show them, with his own short legs, the difference between a glissade and a hop, and that made them laugh heartily, and was great fun, but what it all had to do with a "ball," a ball such as their last governess had taken away from Mina, they could not comprehend.

Mina therefore asked with great simplicity: "Do you play with a ball when you are dancing?" — This question showed what a stupid innocent little thing Mina was, but as she was the youngest and most inexperienced of the party, it was unkind of the Miss Pomuchelskopps to laugh at her as they did. "Well!" said Rosalia, "that is really too silly!" — "Dear me, how very countrified!" said Mally, drawing herself up, and putting on the high and mighty manner of a town-lady, and looking as if she wished it to be supposed that she had been accustomed to see Rostock cathedral out of her nursery-window from the time of her babyhood, and as if she and his worship, the mayor, had been old play-fellows. — Our poor little Mina blushed as red as a peony, for she felt that she must have said something very foolish indeed, and Louisa reddened with anger, for she could not bear to hear any one laughed at. She did not mind it so much for herself, but when one of her friends, any one whom she loved was treated so, it made her tingle all over. — "Why are you laughing?" she asked quickly. "What is there to laugh at in our not knowing what a ball is?" — "Look, look! What a rage she's in!" laughed Mally. — "Dear child " she could not finish her sentence, for Mr. Pomuchelskopp just then said excitedly: "I think it is very wrong, Mrs. Behrens. I am the squire of Gürlitz, and if your husband wanted to let the glebe " — "My pastor has let it, and Mr. von Rambow is an old friend of ours, and his estate, which marches as well with our land as Gürlitz does, is also in this parish, and then Hawermann, his farmbailiff " — "Is a cunning rascal," interrupted Pomuchelskopp. — "Who has cheated us once already," added his wife. — "What?" cried little Mrs. Behrens. “What?" She then stopped short, for she remembered that Louisa was present, and she was afraid of the child hearing and being hurt by what was said, so she contented herself with making signs to her visitors to change the subject. But it was too late. Louisa had heard, and was now standing before the surly looking man and his cold-hearted wife: “What did you call my father? What has he done?" And the gentle little creature who until that moment had lived in peace with all men, was filled with burning wrath against her father's slanderers, and her eyes flashed as she looked at them. — It is said that the beautiful green earth will one day burst out in fire and flame, and bury the work of men's hands and the temple of God in ashes. — It was much the same with the child, a temple of the living God that she had loved and reverenced was threatened with destruction, and her sorrow found relief in an agony of tears as her good foster-mother put her arm round her, and led her from the room.

Muchel looked at his Henny, and Henny at her Muchel; he had got into a nice scrape now. It was quite a different thing when one of his labourer's wives came to him weeping tears of blood, and told him a dismal tale of starvation and misery, he knew what to do to get rid of the woman, but now he could not think of anything to say or do, and as he looked about him awkwardly he caught sight of the raised hands in the Saviour's picture, and then he suddenly remembered one of the lessons he had learnt in his boyhood, that Christ had once said: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." — He felt extremely uncomfortable. And even his brave strong-minded Henny was quite confounded; she had children of her own, and had often heard them cry when she punished them, but this was different; her Mally and Sally had often looked at her with angry eyes, and had stamped their feet at her with rage, but this was different. She soon recovered herself however, and said: "Don't look so idiotic, Kopp. What was that she said about her father? Is Hawermann her father?" — "Yes," wept Mina and Lina, "she is Louisa Hawermann," and then they left the room to join their tears with those of their school-fellow, for though they did not know how deeply their little cousin felt the blow she had just received, still their love and sympathy were so great that they longed to comfort her. — "I didn't know that," said Pomuchelskopp, using the same words that he had done eleven years before when told of the death of Hawermann's wife. — "A spoilt child! " said his Henny. "Come, Mally and Sally, we will go. I don't think that Mrs. Behrens intends to come back to us. — And so they departed like the year 1822, of which, to carry out the illustration, Henny might be called the 1, because she was always number 1 in her own estimation; Pomuchelskopp the 8, because of his round portliness, and the daughters the 2S, for they resembled, to my mind, the figure 2 that a goose makes when it is swimming in a pond.

Just as they left the house Mr. Behrens came back from Warnitz, accompanied by uncle Bräsig. He knew from the dress of the Pomuchelskopp family that they had come to pay a visit of ceremony, and hastened from the carriage that he might speak to them before they left. "Ah, how do you do! But," he added in astonishment, "where is my wife?" — "She went away and left us," said Mrs. Pomuchelskopp shortly. — "There must be some mistake," he said, "pray come in, and I will rejoin you in a few minutes." He went away to look for his wife. — Meanwhile Bräsig had approached his old acquaintance Pomuchelskopp. "Good morning, Samuel. How are you?" he said. — "Thank you, Mr. bailiff Bräsig, I am very well," was the answer. — Bräsig raised his eye-brows, looked him full in the face, and whistled, and when Mrs. Pomuchelskopp curtsied to him before going away, she might have spared herself the trouble, for he had already turned his back upon them, and was entering the house. "Come, Kopp," said his wife crossly, and they went home.

Mr. Behrens found no one in the house; so he went into the garden, and shouted, and very soon the twins appeared, red-eyed, from behind the raspberry hedge. They pointed to the hornbeam arbour with anxious faces, as much as to say that he would find the cause of their sorrow there. He went to the arbour, and there he found his Regina sitting with Louisa on her knee, comforting her. As soon as she saw her pastor she put the child gently on the bench, and, drawing him away to a short distance, told him all that had happened.

Mr. Behrens listened silently, but when his wife repeated the cruel words that Mr. Pomuchelskopp had used in speaking of Hawermann, his face flushed with anger, and his eyes were full of a deep compassion, he then asked his wife to return to the house, for he would like to speak to the child alone. — His beautiful human flower had now been hurt for the first time, she had had her first blow from the pitiless world, a blow that her gentle heart would never forget as long as it continued to beat; she had now taken her place in the eternal battle of existence that will last as long as the human race. It must have come — it must have come to that at last, no one knew that better than he did, but he also knew that the great object of those who undertake the education of a human soul is to preserve it from such rude experiences until it has grown strong to bear, so that the blow may neither strike so deep, nor the wound take so long to heal — and this child knew nothing of the malice and un-charitableness of the world. — He entered the arbour. — Thou art still happy, Louisa, in spite of all that has come and gone, for it is well for him who in an hour like this has such a true-hearted friend by his side.

Mrs. Behrens found Bräsig in the parlour. Instead of sitting on the sofa, or on a chair like a reasonable mortal, he had perched himself on the edge of the table, and was working off the excitement caused by Pomuchelskopp's snub, by throwing his legs about like weaver's shuttles. "He had me there!" he muttered. "The Jesuit!" — When Mrs. Behrens came in, Bräsig got off the table, and exclaimed:*) "What is it, when one has called a man by his Christian name for forty years, and when one on meeting that man addresses him as one has been accustomed to do, and meets with a frigid 'Mr. Bailiff Bräsig' in return?" — "Ah, Bräsig . . . . . . . . " — "That is what Pomuchelskopp has just done to me." — "Let the man alone! Just fancy what he did here," and then she told the whole story. Bräsig was angry, very angry, he rushed up and down the room puffing and blowing, and making use of such strong language that Mrs. Behrens would have bidden him be silent, if she had not been in as great a rage as himself; at last he threw himself into a corner of the sofa, and stared moodily at the opposite wall without uttering another word.

*) Translator’s note. I have changed Thou and You into Christian name, &c., as it sounds better in English.

The clergyman soon afterwards joined them, and his wife looked at him enquiringly. "She is watering the flowers," he said with a reassuring smile, and then he began to pace the room thoughtfully. At length, turning to Bräsig, he said: "What are you thinking about, my friend?" — "The punishment of hell — I am thinking of the punishment of hell, reverend Sir." — "And why?" asked Mr. Behrens. — Instead of answering, Bräsig sprang to his feet, and said: "Is it true, Sir, as you once told me, that there are mountains that vomit fire?" — "Certainly," said the pastor. — "And is it a good or bad thing for man that they do so?" — "The people who live near these mountains regard it as a good thing, because it saves them from having such violent earthquakes." — "Ah, well," said Bräsig, apparently rather dissatisfied with the answer he had received. "But," he asked, "do the flames come out of a mountain such as that in the same way as out of one of our chimneys when it is on fire?" — "Something like it," replied the clergyman, who had not the faintest idea what Bräsig was aiming at. — "Then," said Bräsig with a stamp of his foot, "I wish that the devil would seize Samuel Pomuchelskopp, and put him on the top of a horrible fire-spouting mountain such as you have described, and roast him there for a little." — "Ugh!" cried little Mrs. Behrens. "Bräsig, you are nothing better than a heathen. How dare you express such a wish in a Christian parsonage?" — "Mrs. Behrens," said Bräsig, throwing himself once more into the corner of the sofa, "it would be a benefit to humanity, and it is just the sort of benefit that I should be the first to grant to Samuel Pomuchelskopp." — "Dear Bräsig," remonstrated the clergyman, "we must not forget that when those people spoke so offensively they did not intend to hurt our feelings." — "It's all the same to me," answered Bräsig, "whether they intended it or not. He enraged me intentionally, and what he said here unintentionally was a thousand times worse than that. Reverend Sir, it is quite necessary to get angry sometimes, and indeed a good farmer ought to be angry two or three times a day, it is part of his work, but of course I don't mean a regular passion, just enough vehemence to show the labourers that one is in earnest. I will give you an instance. I told the carters yesterday when I was top-dressing a field with marl, that I wished them to drive their carts in regular order. Then I took my station by the marl-pit, and saw that everything was done properly. Well, what do you think happened? That scoundrel, Christian Kohlhaas — he's as stupid as an ox — came up with his cart still full of marl ! Why, you great ass, I said, what are you doing here with your full cart? And the silly fellow looked me full in the face, and said: he hadn't time to put the marl on the field before the other carts left, and so, as he had been desired to keep the line unbroken, he had just come away with his load. — Wasn't that enough to make me angry? I was rather angry, but, as I said before, one's rages are as different as their causes. An official outburst, such as I have described, does one good, especially after dinner, but this! — Pomuchelskopp and a farm-labourer are two very different people. This is horrible, most horrible, and you'll see, Mrs. Behrens, that I shall have another attack of that confounded gout." — "Bräsig," entreated the little lady, "will you do me a great favour? Don't tell Hawermann anything about what has happened to-day." — "What do you take me for, Mrs. Behrens? — But now I will go and comfort the child Louisa, and I will tell her that as true as the sun shines, Samuel Pomuchelskopp is an infamous wretch of a Jesuit." — "No, no," interrupted Mr. Behrens hastily, "don't do that. The child will get over it, and I hope that it has done her no harm." — "Well then, good-bye," said Bräsig, picking up his cap. — "Dear me, Bräsig, ar'n't you going to remain to dinner?" — "Thank you very much, Mrs. Behrens. There is a difference. I said that anger was good after dinner, not before, it does me harm then. I shall just go to work at the marl-pit at once; but take care, Christian, I advise you not to try that dodge again with the full cart! — Good-bye." And so he went away.
Reuter, Fritz (1810-1874) Mecklenburger, Dichter und Schriftsteller der niederdeutschen Sprache

Reuter, Fritz (1810-1874) Mecklenburger, Dichter und Schriftsteller der niederdeutschen Sprache

alle Kapitel sehen