"I will come at once, Luth. Neiting, the matter is pressing. Fritz Sahlmann, get my coat, and, Neiting, you go up to that old bird of misfortune and bring her down."
It may be guessed how quickly Fritz Sahlmann fetched the coat, and how glad he was to get out of sight of the Herr Amtshauptmann!
"Frau Amtshauptmann," said Fritz, "I must come with you, for she won't open the door for you alone; and she's not really in the garret itself, but sitting in a place quite near, that nobody knows but me."
So he ran on in front, and the Frau Amtshauptmann followed him softly. Fritz tapped at the door.
"Mamsell, it's me; open the door." No answer.
"Mamsell, all's well! Pickled pork!" Still no answer.
"Mamsell, the French are all gone." There upon, something began to move, and a piteous voice was heard to say —
"Fritz Sahlmann, you are a story-teller. Don't tempt me to come out."
Presently the Frau Amtshauptmann also cried out: "Open the door, Westphalen. It is I — your mistress."
"I cannot let myself be seen," cried the Voice, "I am a sinner, a miserable sinner."
"Only open the door. It will all come right again."
After long preliminaries, Mamsell Westphalen at length opened the door; and now stood there, red in the face, and the tears running down her cheeks. But, to this day, nobody knows whether it was from emotion or whether it was from the smoke; enough, the tears ran down, and, if it can properly be said of a stout elderly female, she looked like a broken reed.
“Frau Amtshauptmann," said she, “I cannot appear before you; I have sunk too low. For more than twenty years I have lived in your house, and in all that time I have never taken the smallest thing that did not belong to me; and now, in an evil hour, I have taken what was yours."
"Come, come, Westphalen, never mind. Only come down now."
"Not a step, Frau Amtshauptmann, till I have made a clean breast of it. — Look here, you must know I am in hiding; Rathsherr Herse and this imp, Fritz Sahlmann, helped me to hide. And while I was sitting here in sorrow and anguish thinking about Herr Droi and his fate and all the rest, and expecting this urchin would bring me word how things were going, I heard a cough outside and then my name was called, and when I stole to the window to see who it was I thought I was going to have a fit; for, just think, Frau Amtshauptmann, there was that wicked boy had climbed up into the old apple-tree and slid along one of the branches and was hanging like a crow over the abyss. — 'Boy,' I said, 'do you want to tumble out of the tree?' But he only grinned at me. 'Boy,' I cried, 'I can't bear to see you in such danger.' And, do you know, Frau Amtshauptmann, the boy actually laughed at me and said, 'I only came to bring you news that the watchmaker has been hanged, and that the French have seized the Rathsherr Herse, and he is lying in chains; and a whole battalion has been sent to find you out!' That was not comforting news, Frau Amtshauptmann, and I was terribly alarmed; but I assure you I was more alarmed about the boy. 'Fritz,' I cried again, 'get down out of the tree.' Then he grinned at me, like an ape at a camel, and said: 'Yes, if you'll give me a sausage!' And then he began playing all sorts of tricks, and jumping about in the branches like a rabbit in a cabbage-garden, till everything before my eyes seemed green and yellow. Then, Frau Amtshauptmann, then I thought — What is a pork sausage? And what is a human life? And in my terror, I took your property. He pushed in the pole, and I stuck a sausage on it. — Then he was called in by the Herr Amtshauptmann, and, as he clambered down, he said just loud enough for me to hear, that he had been chaffing me, and that it was all untrue. So I say he's a liar, Frau Amtshauptmann, and that's my last word."
"Never mind now, Westphalen, my husband has a rod in pickle for him. He won't escape punishment."
It was with great difficulty that the Frau Amtshauptmann succeeded in getting the old dame down-stairs, and when they reached the hall, the Herr Amtshauptmann was pacing up and down with his stately tread, quite ready and waiting for them.
It was hard work now to get Mamsell Westphalen to consent to go with the old Herr to the Rathhaus "into the Lion's jaws," as she said. She would bear what she had brought on herself by her ignorance, although she had acted honestly and with good intentions; but to stand before all the foreigners and to defend herself about Herr Droi, that was beyond her strength as a respectable woman, and, if the Herr Amtshauptmann insisted upon it, Hanchen and Corlin must go too, for they must bear witness that she had passed the night with them. On this point the Amtshauptmann had to give way, and while Mamsell Westphalen was gone to her room to get her cap and shawl, he walked up and down with long strides lost in thought and waving about his Jena stick, without which he never went out. At length he said —
"Neiting, she is right; the maids can do no harm. But, Neiting," and here he sniffed about in the air a little, "there's a smell here of smoked eels. Has old Neils of Gülzow been here with his eels?"
"What are you talking about, Weber? Why, it's from Mamsell Westphalen, she has been sitting, you know, in the smoking-garret for the last hour or so."
"That's another thing," said the old Herr.
His wife then called the two maids. As soon as Mamsell Westphalen came back and they were all together, they set off, after Mamsell Westphalen had taken an eternal farewell of the Frau Amtshauptmann.
No one spoke a word, only, when they reached the Schloss-gate, Mamsell Westphalen looked back and said — "Hanchen, when we get to the market-place, run over to Doctor Lukow, and let him bepresent at my misery. Something may happen to me — I may faint."
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13