Chapter 4

"A third of this gold and silver would make more than seven hundred thalers in Prussian money. Now, we are out of our troubles."

Then Fieka stood up and dried her eyes; her face was pale and quiet; — "Our troubles are only just beginning," she said in a low voice.

"Don't talk like that, Fieka," said her father, and turned his head away from her.

"From this time forward we shall eat unblessed bread, and sleep unblessed sleep, and you can bury the money and bury your own good name with it.

"There is no question of burying," said the Miller, "No indeed! I shall pay my debts with it honestly."

"Honestly, Father? And if it were so — which it is not — would not the old Herr Amtshauptmann ask you what money you had paid the Jew with?

And would not the French ask where you got the horse from? And how can you be sure that Friedrich will not tell?"

The Miller looked half taken aback and half angry, and was just going to burst out as people do when any one catches them in some stupid or dishonest act. They try to silence their conscience by bluster, as children in the dark try to keep away the ghosts by whistling and singing. But Fieka did not let the storm come; she flung her arms round her father, looked straight into his eyes, and cried —

"Father! Father! Take the money to the bailiwick; give it to the Herr Amtshauptmann. You know he said he would not forget you. How often you have told me about your old father, and about your mother, how she honestly earned her bread to the end of her life by spinning; and how often you have told me about when you were an apprentice, and your finding the other apprentice's purse, and how you gave it back to him, and how glad he was, and how glad you were."

"That was quite a different thing," said the Miller. "I knew who that money belonged to, but I don't know whose this is, and I haven't either taken or stolen it. I have a clear conscience."

All at once the Miller's wife jumped up from her chair, and cried, "Good Heavens! A strange man has just passed the window and he is coming in."

"Bolt the door!" shouted the Miller, and turned sharply round towards the money; knocked up against the table, and shook down some of the gold pieces which went rolling along the floor.

"Is that your clear conscience?" asked Fieka, and looked at her father and mother, and said: "Mother, unbolt the door. The man is sent by Providence ; he brings a blessing upon the house."

Her mother unbolted the door, and stood with her eyes cast down, while the Miller grew Very red, and turned hastily round, and looked out at the window.

A knock came. "Come in," said Fieka, and in stepped a fine young fellow of about two-and-twenty. He glanced round the room rather curiously as if he had long been wishing to know how it stood with them; made a proper bow with a little scrape of the foot, and said —

"Good morning."

"Good morning," returned Fieka.

The Miller did not move, and his wife stooped down and picked up the gold pieces which had fallen on the floor. As the two elders did not return his greeting, and he became aware of the money on the table, the young man said —

"I am afraid I am in the way?"

"Oh, no!" said Fieka and put a chair for him by the tile-stove, "Father will soon have done his business."

"Yes, directly," said the .Miller, and he opened the window, and called out "Friedrich, get out the little cart, and put the horse to, and fasten the Frenchman's horse behind. We are going to the bailiwick." He shut the window, and said, turning to his wife and daughter: "Well! That's done. Now, pack the things into the leather bag, and Friedrich can put it into the cart" — went up to the stranger and said "welcome."

"Miller Voss," said the young man, rising and giving the Miller his hand, "don't let me disturb you. I can wait-, for, though the matter I have come to you about is important, there is no great hurry. — In fact what I chiefly came for was to see my relations."

"Relations?" said the Miller, and looked at him doubtingly.

"Yes," said the other, "I am Joe Voss's son, your twin-brother's child;" and as the Miller was silent, and drew back his hand, he added: "a fortnight ago, I came of age, and then I thought to myself, 'I have no brother or sister or any relation hereabouts, I must drive over to Stemhagen and see if there is no one there who will care to know Joe Voss's son.'" And, so saying he went up to the Miller's wife, and gave her his hand, and then to Fieka; and, as the miller still stood pondering and looking as if the mice had taken the butter off his bread, he added: "Uncle, the lawsuit is weighing on your mind; let it be, we can be friends all the same."

"The devil we can!" said the Miller. "And you've been boasting to people that you would oust me from the Borcherts Inn."

"Whom have I said it to?" asked Heinrich. "People will talk. Can I help it? My father began the quarrel; — he thought he was in the right — my guardian has gone on with it; and I have stood by. But a pretty sum of money has slipped through my lingers, I honestly confess, and it shall not be my fault if we don't come to an understanding."

"You want to beat the bush; your lawyer has advised you to come here."

"I advise myself, uncle," said the young man, and took up his hat, "for, if I were to listen much longer to the lawyer's advice, the water would run short and my mill would stop. It's very different for you. Any one who can lard his leather bag like that, can fry a long time without burning."

And he pointed to the valise which was just packed.

"What the devil does that matter to you?" thundered the Miller, and turned hastily round quite black in the face. "That money .... that money is not mine."

Fieka went up to her father, and stroked his cheek. "Father, he did not mean anything wrong."

"No," said Heinrich, "I came with good intentions, and I will not go away in anger if I can help it. So I wish you good morning. My waggon is standing out there before the yard gate only a couple of paces off."

"Stop," said Fieka, " Cousin Heinrich, do not be in such a hurry. Father's head is full of business that must be attended to this morning. It would vex him very much if you were to leave us in ill will."

"Fieka," said the old Miller, and turned round, and kissed his daughter on the forehead, "you have been twice right and I twice wrong, this morning; you are a darling child," and he gave his hand to the young man. — "Heinrich, it shall never be said that I drove Joe Voss's son out of my house with hard words. You want to go away without having anything to eat or drink? No, my son, you must stay here till I come back, for I must be off now to the bailiwick, I have pressing business. Look, Friedrich is waiting. Well, goodbye! and if you are really in earnest about coming to an understanding, something may be done. Goodbye, mother; goodbye, Fieka." And he went out and mounted into his waggon.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13