How the Miller felt next morning; why Friedrich appeared to the Miller's wife like the serpent in the Garden of Paradise ; and why Fieka thought Joe Voss's son was sent to them by Providence .
The next morning Miller Voss felt as if he had half-a-dozen sparrows in his head, which were pecking away at flies. It was not, he said to himself, because of last night's deep drinking. No, it was chiefly because of the Frenchman.
"Mother," said he as he pulled on his boots, —and he nodded his head and looked knowingly into their wide tops, "red wine is a fine thing in the evening, but, in the morning, it seems to me it's no better than brandy or beer. However, if you jump over a dog you jump over his tail too. But where is the Frenchman? He lay in the straw, and Friedrich must know what has become of him."
"Father," said his wife, "never mind that now. Friedrich must come soon you know, for it's time for the first breakfast."
The Miller went into the room, sat down at the table where the large bowl of barley-broth was standing and helped himself; then the mother helped herself and then Fieka and, lastly, the two maid-servants; for such was the custom in those days; and no miller had yet heard of coffee.
The Miller ate, then laid down his spoon: "Where can Friedrich be?" He began eating again, then went to the window and shouted across the yard; "Friedrich." Still no Friedrich.
The bowl of broth was empty; the servants took away the things, and the Miller said: "When I have hired a servant, I'm not going to have him play the fine gentleman!" — and was just setting out to look after him, when Friedrich came in, carrying something under his arm.
"Where have you been, you vagabond?" asked the Miller?
"Miller," said Friedrich, and drew his clasp-knife out of his pocket and stuck it under the doorlatch, "don't speak like that; it's not fit for you, nor yet for me. When wild geese are in the air it's ill sowing peas, and when gossiping women are in the room it's best not to say what you don't wish everybody to know. So I waited till the maids had left the room. Here!" and he threw something on to the table so that it rang again. "Here, Miller Voss. I've not brought you the fox himself, nor yet his skin, but here's his leather bag."
"What does this mean?" exclaimed the Miller, and hastily seized the Valise and began unbuckling the straps.
"What does it mean?" said Friedrich "You must find that out for yourself; it's no business of mine. I have taken my share already."
The Miller shook the Valise over the table, and a packet of silver spoons fell out and a quantity of silver coin, and beautiful, round, yellow gold — and a little box came to light, and when the Miller's wife opened it, there lay rings and broaches with gold chains coiled in amongst them like serpents among brilliant flowers.
"Heaven preserve us!" she cried, and let the box fall.
Fieka had stood there looking on, her hands pressed to her bosom and her eyes getting larger and larger. She now threw herself, pale as death, across the table, laid her arms over the gold and silver treasure and cried:
"It is the Frenchman's! It is the Frenchman's. It is not ours."
When she lifted up her head, and glanced at her father, she looked as if some one had stabbed her with a knife, and the anguish of death was in her face as she said "Father, father."
And the old Miller sat there fidgeting about with his night-cap, and he looked at his child in her anguish and then again at the glittering money. All at once he sprang up, nearly overturning the table, and cried:
"God in Heaven! I know nothing about it. I don't know what has become of him; he lay in the straw, that I know," and added in a feeble Voice, "Friedrich must know the rest."
Fieka left the money, and darted towards Friedrich. "Where is the Frenchman?" she screamed.
Friedrich, with his old iron face, stood quietly looking at her. "God save us!" he said at last. "Is this to be a court of justice then? Why, Fieka, Fieka! Do I look like a robber and murderer? I laid the Frenchman with my own hands under a beech-tree in the Stemhagen wood, and, if the night air hasn't been too cool for him, he'll be lying there now — still as a rat — for he was dead drunk."
"That he was," said the Miller.
Fieka looked first at Friedrich and then at her old father, who was listening to what Friedrich was saying, "Friedrich," she said, "how could I help thinking it. You are always talking about killing and murdering Frenchmen." And she put her apron up to her eyes, threw herself down on the bench behind the large, tile-covered stove, and began to cry bitterly.
"Dumouriez! That I am," said Friedrich, "and if I could wring the necks of those d—d patriots I'd do it. But a man who could not defend himself? — And for his money too!" ... muttered something in his beard and went to the door; he took his knife from under the latch, and then turned round and said: "Miller, the air is clear again, for the two girls are gone to their Vork. I have given you the things; consider well what you do with them. If you wish to keep them — well and good. I have nothing to say against it, for, according to my poor wits you've a right to them. The French have taken more than this from you; and, if you don't wish it to be talked about, I, for my part, can be silent. But if you are going to deliver it up to the Amtshauptmann, and have to swear that nothing has been taken out of it, just say that I have taken my share."
"Friedrich, Friedrich," said the Miller's wife, "do not be bringing yourself into trouble, nor us either. — At this moment you seem to me to be like the serpent in the Garden of Paradise ."
"Frau," replied Friedrich, "everybody knows best what he ought to do himself. Two years ago when I had been taking salt to the Inn at Klaukow for Rathsherr Krüger of Malchin, and was going to pay my bill, and put an eight-groschen piece down on the table, an infamous rascal rascal of a Chasseur pounced upon it, and when I tried to get it back, three of them fell upon me and nearly beat me todeath. I have taken the eight groschen, but the blows I keep in store for them. And if this fellow did not do it himself, perhaps his brother did, or his comrade — the account remains in the family. The eight groschen I shall certainly keep." And so saying he went out at the door.
The Miller, meanwhile, had been walking up and down the room, and had rubbed his head, and had scratched his head, had stood still and looked at the money, and when Friedrich went out, he walked up to his cupboard, brought out Adler Erben of Rostock's Calendar, and looked for that which he had looked for a hundred times before, and sighed "Yes, it is to-morrow." His wife stood with her back against the clock, wringing her hands.
"Tes," said the Miller, "if we keep it, we shall be out of our troubles."
"O God, Father!" groaned his wife, and looked up anxiously in his face.
"And the fellow has stolen it," he went on; "the silver spoons have a crest; but even if it can be found out who they have belonged to, the money is from all sorts of places and won't easily find its way back to the right pockets."
"Father," said his wife, "you risk your neck if the fellow accuses you publicly of having taken them from him."
"He won't open his mouth, for if he has to tell where the money has all come from, they won't quite feed him on raisins and almond cakes. — And after all, have we taken it? They fastened the horse to the tail of the waggon up at the Schloss, and the horse brought the leather bag into the stable to Friedrich last night. Who can say I took it?"
Thereupon he began to count the money, and sort it into heaps.
"Yes, but it does not belong to us," said his wife.
"Who does it belong to, then?" asked the Miller. "It doesn't belong to the Frenchman either; and, if we wanted to give it back to him, where is he?"
"Why, Friedrich tells you he is in the Stemhagen Wood."
"Indeed!" said the Miller scornfully. "Do you think then that he would lie there in this weather from eight o'clock in the evening till nine o'clock in the morning? He will have gone on his way long ago; and who is to order me to run after him with his money?"
He began to count again, and his wife sat down and folded her hands in her lap, and sighed. "You know who orders it."
Fieka was still sitting on the bench crying by herself. The Miller went on counting the money, but looked up so frequently at Fieka that it seemed as if he must certainly miscount. At last he had finished, and leaning with his two hands on the table, he looked once more over the treasure, and said, —
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13