Chapter 10

How Fritz Sahlmann sat in an apple-tree in the rain without any umbrella, and stuffed a roll of papers in under the back of his waistcoat; and how Mamsell Westphalen declared herself to be a miserable sinner.

After a little while, the Frau Amtshauptmann came back into the room and said, "Weber, what can be the meaning of this? Fritz Sahlmann is not there; and Mamsell Westphalen is not there, and her room looks as if Turks and Infidels had been holding high holiday in it; and the maids say all they know about it is, that the Rathsherr Herse had slipped in at the back-door, and Hanchen had pushed her broom in his face by accident, and Mamsell Westpha len had thrown a lot of peat-ashes in his eyes, also by accident, and afterwards Mamsell Westphalen and Fritz Sahlmann had gone away; and they don't know where they are."

"This is a very strange thing," said the old Herr. "What has the Rathsherr Herse to do in the kitchen? I like the man well enough, Neiting, he's a pleasant fellow; but he must poke his nose into every hole, and I never heard of anything sensible coming of it. Tell me, Neiting, which of the maids do you consider the most sensible?"

"Weber, what are you talking about? As if you could expect sense from that class."

"Well then, the quickest, the sharpest?"

"Oh, then certainly Hanchen Besserdich, for her eyes take in everything at once, and her tongue goes even faster than her eyes."

"Call her to me," said the Herr.

It was done, and Hanchen came. Hanchen Besserdich was a smart little damsel, as sharp and wide-awake as only a Gülzow Schult's* daughter can be, — at that time it was the custom for the daughters of the village Schults to go into service. — But now she stood before the Herr Amtshauptmann, and played with her apron-strings, with her eyes cast down, for she felt as if she were in a court of justice.

"You are now before me to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," said her master. "Hanchen Besserdich, what do you know of Mamsell Westphalen? Begin by yesterday evening."

Hanchen told him what she knew, and what we know.

"So she slept with you, and not in her own room?" said the old Herr.

"Weber, what can you mean by asking such questions?" broke in the Frau Amtshauptmann.

"Neiting, every circumstance is of importance, if innocence is to be brought to light. And you don't think," he went on, turning to Hanchen, "that she has run away with the Herr Rathsherr Herse?"

"No, Herr; I think she has run away, but not with the Rathsherr; for I met him alone at the back-door when I came back from seeing my brother who was in the garden, Herr Amtshauptmann, with our horse to draw the French cannons; but —" and here she raised her eyes from the ground, and there was a roguish look in her fresh round face, — "but, Herr Amtshauptmann, he has got away from the French."

"Indeed!" said the old Herr. "Your brother has got away, has he?"

"Yes," said Hanchen, smiling again roguishly, "and he was the first to begin the running-away, and he showed the others the little green gate."

"That was a foolish prank of his; and if the French catch him, they'll make him smart for it. You Besserdichs are a saucy lot. — Neiting, remind me of that young rascal, Fritz Besserdich, another time. — And, Hanchen, where is Fritz Sahlmann?"

Hanchen was cowed again, and what followed, came only by fits and starts. "Why, Herr Amts- hauptmann, he smashed all your pipes to pieces this morning and then said I had done it. And, indeed, it wasn't my fault; for I only just wanted to look round the corner when the French Colonel was raging about, and then he ran at me with the pipes in his hand, and now the pieces are strewn all over the kitchen."

"And since then you have seen nothing of him this morning?"

"Yes, Herr, when the watchmaker was transpired, he ran along with him, and then, when he came back again, he went talking High German to Mamsell Westphalen and then they both whispered together."

"High German? Fritz Sahlmann talking High German? What does the rascal want to be talking High German for? What did he say?"

"He said: 'help is near.' ''

"Oh! and then the Rathsherr came?"

"Yes, Herr Amtshauptmann, and I shoved my broom in his face; but I couldn't help it."

"This is a very strange thing!" said the old Herr, and walked up and down, and stroked his chin, and looked up at the ceiling, and looked down on the floor. At last he stood still and said, "Neiting, I see clearly what it is. That old fool, Westphalen, has taken fright, and the Rathsherr has been meddling, and has put her up to some folly. She has hidden herself — you'll see."

"Well then, let her, Weber."

"No, Neiting, that won't do. She must come to the town and bear witness for the watchmaker and the Miller, or both their necks may be in danger. If I only knew where that monkey, Fritz Sahlmann, was! He'll know all about it. And you don't know where he is, Hanchen?"

"No, Herr."

"Well, then, you may go."

As Hanchen turned round to go, her eyes fell on the end-window, but, being naturally very clear and wide-awake they took in, not only the window, but what was passing outside it. She turned quickly round again, and said —

"Now I know where he is, Herr Amtshaupt-mann."

"Well, then, where?"

"Out there, sir."

"Where?" answered the old Herr, and he put up his eye-glasses, and looked everywhere except where Fritz Sahlmann was.

"There, Herr Amtshauptmann, there, in the old apple-tree that stands at the corner of the kitchen wall."

"So he is! Well, this is a strange thing! — In the winter too! Now, if it had been autumn when the apples are on the tree, I could have understood it; but in the winter!"

"Oh! Weber," said his wife, "he is no doubt practising now."

"Hanchen Besserdich, you have good eyes, what is he doing there?" asked the old Herr fumbling with his eye-glass.

"Why, he has got a long pole, but what he means to do with it 1 don't see. He's pointing it towards the smoking-garret."

"Towards our smoking-garret! What can he want there, Neiting?"

"I don't know, Weber; but I should not be at all surprised if some more sausages were missing to- morrow."

"Bravo, bravo! Why, that is a capital tree for my Fritz. Apples in summer, and sausages in winter!" And he opened the window and cried: "Fritz Sahlmann! Fritz, my lad, come down from that tree; you might catch cold out in the rain."

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13