Chapter 3

So saying she went out, followed by the Frau Meister, and shortly afterwards by Herr Droi too, who suddenly remembered he had a message for the Frau Meister to take to his wife. Scarcely were the three out of the room, when some one flew along the corridor where the night-lamp was burning, into Mamsell Westphalen's room. It was that young rogue Fritz Sahlmann, and under his arm he had a lump of ice as large pumpkin; he climbed up the bedpost like a cat, and laid the lump of ice on the top of the bed. "Wait a little while, you old termagant, this is for the box on the ears I got," he said to himself. "It will perhaps cool you a little." And he slid down again and was out of the door in a moment.

Herr Droi now came back again, undressed, laid "la grande nation" on a chair by the side of the bed, blew out his candle, lay down, and stretched himself out in the nice soft bed and said: "Ah! Que c'est bon;" then listened to the storm outside and the rain pouring down and the jabbering of the Frenchmen. At last the chattering ceased; and Herr Droi was half asleep and half awake — when tap — tap — tap. "Haha," thought Herr Droi, in French, "that's the ghost in the next room;" and he listened to hear what his countrymen would have to say to it. They lay quite still; but tap — tap — tap — it goes again and now it seems to Herr Droi to he in his room. Yes, it is in his room; and if it's in the room, it must have come in at the door. How else could it get in? So he caught up one of his shoes and flung it at the door. Bang! went the shoe against the door; the noise resounded through the corridor as if a thunderbolt had fallen. The Frenchmen in the next room began to move and to speak to one another. All however was soon quiet again, but tap — tap — tap — it went once more, close to Herr Droi's bed. He raised himself up and bent over the side of tho bed to be able to hear better, — splash! — fell a drop on his bald head — and splash! another on his nose, and on stretching out his hands he found the bedclothes were beginning to get wet through. "Diantre!" he exclaimed, in French, "there's a hole in the roof, and the rain's coming in through the ceiling. What's to be done?" Of course he at once thought of moving his bed as any other sensible person in his place would have done. He therefore got up and began to drag at the head of the old bed, hut forgot all about the French Chasseur's helmet and sword which were standing in the corner and which now fell rattling and jangling along the wall down to the ground. Herr Droi was not a little startled and stood still and listened and — yes — the two Frenchmen had been awakened by the noise and were raging and swearing.

"But," thought he, "even this much must have done some good," and he crept into bed again. But the lump of ice was now nearly melted and the water of course came streaming through on to the bed; he lay still a while, but it kept coming faster and faster, and the water came through the bedclothes, and he got quite cold and he thought, in French, "they will be fast asleep now, if I can only bring the foot of the bed as far away from the wall, I shall get rid of this rain," and got up and began to move the foot of the bed; — crash! fell his musket along the wall on to the floor; and if there was no noise before, there was certainly noise now.

The poor watchmaker stood there biting his lip, biting his nails, and holding his breath as if his very breathing might wake the Frenchmen, who were already swearing half aloud and crying ''silence'' and tapping against the wall.

"Que faire?" he said to himself, in French. "The first want must be supplied, as the old woman said when she burned her kneading-trough to heat the water for the bread;" crept into bed again and said, "Heaven be praised at last I'm out of the drip."

But he had got out of the drip to come into the torrent, for — dash! — it came down from above, — splash! it poured into the bed. He felt cold and wet, like a frog in spring. It was all of no use. He must get up once more and turn the bed round again; but softly so as not to throw anything over. He pulled it into one corner, it had been dry there before; he pulled it into the other corner, there too it had been dry before, and in this way he went pulling the bed about the livelong night always gently, very gently, but wherever he went there was water.

At last he stood still in the middle of the room, and thought and thought, and finally slapped his forehead, in French, saying: "Fool that I am!" for a light had flashed across him, that's to say across his mind, for in the room it was quite dark. But a light in the room he must have. So he stole out into the corridor — yes — the nightlamp was still burning; he lighted his candle, and went back, looked up at the top of the bed and saw something lying there, muttered: "Ah, Canaille!" and mounted on to the bed, but could not reach. He stretched himself out as far as he could and tried to get the lump of ice but it was so slippery he could not hold it. Parbleu! half an inch more. He leant his whole weight against the top of the bed when — crack it went, and bed and ice and Droi all fell in a heap against the wall, and there lay Herr Droi among the innocent white curtains, helplessly kicking his feet about, as if they could express the state of their owner's mind.

All at once the door opens, and in comes the French Colonel. In order not to catch cold he had thrown a red blanket over his shoulders and in his hand he held a double-barrelled pistol. Behind him stood the adjutant with a drawn sword. Herr Droi scrambles out from under the bed-curtains, puts on his bearskin, then draws himself up to his full height and makes a salute saying: "Bon soir, mon colonel."

The Colonel looked at Droz, and the adjutant looked at the Colonel. They saw that they had a Frenchman to deal with. They saw the black leggings and the whole "grande nation" lying beside the bed. They saw the sword and gun, and — worse and worse — they saw the Chasseur's sabre and helmet. What's this? What's the meaning of this? Herr Droi stammers out something. Herr Droi begins to tell them about Jena and Marengo. Herr Droi begins to tell lies. Herr Droi lies capitally, pity they don't believe him. In the room and in the corridor there is a fearful noise; the Colonel calls Herr Droi a deserter and marauder, the adjutant calls for the orderlies, the orderlies in haste and in scant apparel, — as if some one had fallen into the water and they wanted to jump in after him without wetting their trousers, — rush in from one side of the corridor, while from the other side advances Mamsell Westphalen with the cook and the housemaid. In her hand she has a large stable lantern, but otherwise she is not well off as to clothes. She holds one hand up to her eyes as if the light of the lantern blinded her, and the housemaid looks over her (Mamsell Westphalen's) shoulder and says to the cook " Good heavens, Corlin, do look."

"For shame," says Mamsell Westphalen, "what is she to look at? what have you got to look at? And what is there here to look at? We have come here on account of this heathenish noise at a time when every one ought to be asleep, and because we heard Herr Droi's voice crying out in terror and trouble. And now turn about." The two women and Mamsell Westphalen turn their backs on the Frenchmen and Mamsell says: "Herr French Colonel, what is this? what do you call this? and what is the meaning of this? Why don't you let Herr Droi sleep in peace in my room? This is a christian house and a quiet house, and we are not accustomed to such ways." And she added to herself half aloud "one of them will be sure to understand me."

The French Colonel looked at himself, as he stood there in his red blanket, and Herr Droi with the bearskin on his head, and his thin-legged adjutant skipping about in his zeal, and Mamsell Westphalen's broad back-, and the whole scene looked so comical, he burst out laughing and said in good German that she was only to go on, he could understand her well enough, for he was a German, a Westphalian (Westphalen).

"That's my name," said Mamsell Westphalen.

The Colonel laughed and said he was only a Westphalian by birth, his name was "von Toll."

Mamsell Westphalen dropped a low curtsey, backwards. "Begging your pardon, are you perhaps a relative of Toll our postmaster and innkeeper down in the town?"

The Colonel said that he had not the honour, but that he was almost freezing; that the orderlies were to remain with Herr Droi, for he must be a French deserter, and they were also to search for the French Chasseur to whom the helmet and sabre belonged.

Herr Droi now began again to lie, and Mamsell Westphalen felt quite ashamed of him and turned round in anger and said: "For shame, Herr Droi, to be stuffing the easy chair that ought to make you comfortable in your old age with wickedness, you're making a hard pillow for your conscience." Then making a little curtsey, she said to the colonel, "My compliments, Herr Colonel von Toll," and marched off with the two maids.

The others also went-, and soon all was still again, and the Herr Amtshauptmann had no suspicion of what was passing in his house for he slept the sleep of the just.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13