"Are you possessed by the devil?" asked the Miller. "If they go on riding that way, they may look at the Gielow mill with their backs all their lives. But what was it for?"
"Those sorts of fellows leave a house cleared out, and I have no wish to eat warmed-up cabbage for the first breakfast every morning."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I only mean — look here. Miller; who knows but what those two, if they had gone to the mill, might have fallen in love with our Stiena. And perhaps they might have followed her into the cow-house, and the cow-house might have seemed a little crowded, and they might have led out our two milch-cows; and when they had got them out, it might have come into their heads to drive them away, and then we should have no more boiled milk for breakfast, and the cabbages would have come on in their turn and I can't bear cabbages."
"Yes, that is possible," said the Miller.
"But maybe they weren't after cows at all," Friedrich went on after a short pause. "They were a couple of your mounted Gensdarmes, and they are no doubt looking for something Very different. I think it's a mercy we are not at the mill, for — Miller, we must look out — they are after the Frenchman or perhaps after you. Who knows what has happened in Stemhagen. Something may have come- out. Perhaps Fieka was right after all. I should be glad myself now, if we had the Frenchman with us."
"That's what I said, that's what I said," cried the Miller.
"Hm," said Friedrich, "he lay here, and he's got up, and he has gone down here, these are his marks in the mud; and look — he has dragged the straw along with him a little way, and he's gone towards Gülzow. Now, I'll bring you back the horse, and then you can drive to the bailiwick and deliver up bag and horse together, and I will go after the Frenchman and stop him."
So the horse was fastened to the waggon once more, and Friedrich started off towards Gülzow, and said to himself:
"Dumouriez! I'ye brought the Miller into a pretty mess, and our Fieka is, after all, a clever girl. But if the Frenchman is to be found between here and Gripswald, I'll find him."
The Miller drove towards Stemhagen. "Lord of my life!" he said, "If it had not been for my little Fieka, most likely I should be sitting in irons now. And I'm many miles from safe yet, for the devil's only just beginning his work. — It's raining, too, and pretty heavily!"
The first person he met when he reached the Stemhagen Barns was Witte, the baker, standing before his barn by a waggon of straw:
"Good morning, neighbour," said Witte. "What the thunder! How came you by that French horse?"
"Well, I'll tell you," replied Miller Voss; and he briefly narrated the story.
"That's ugly," said the baker, "for the whole town is filled with French, and you couldn't get the horse through without being seen. I advise you to leave him here in my empty barn."
This was done. Old Baker Witte drew his crooked brass comb through his hair several times, shook his head and said:
"Neighbour, you have let yourself in for a scrape you won't get out of easily, and up at the Schloss things don't seem to be quite right; for this morning the Herr Amtshauptmann sent for the roll he takes with his coffee, at eight o'clock instead of eleven. And Fritz Sahlmann says Mamsell Westphalen has disappeared — not a soul knows where she is to be found — and the watchmaker has been thrown into prison — that I saw with my own eyes; and people are talking about court-martials and executions."
"Lord, save us!" cried the old Miller. "What a swarm of bees I have sat down on! But it can't be helped; I must take the bag up to the Schloss. And, neighbour, I'll drive round the town till I get near the green gate of the Schloss garden, and then I'll fasten up my horse. You follow to take care of him and the cart, and if I am carried off to prison, drive over to the mill and break the news gently to my wife and Fieka; and tell the young man you'll find there to do his uncle the favour of looking after the house and mill, and not to leave the women."
Baker Witte promised, and the Miller drove round, as they had agreed, tied up his horse, and was proceeding on his way on foot, when Farmer Roggenbom's waggoner, Johann Brummer, dashed through the gate, lashing his four greys till they struck out behind and bespattered the Miller with mud.
"Better mud in my face than your lashes across the back," cried the Miller.
"Hmm! It only wanted this. Robbers!" grumbled old Zanner of Gielow, as he drove full gallop with his cream-coloured horses through the gate after Brummer.
"Yes," said Adler of Stemhagen, who had thrown a sack over his shoulders (the only waterproof coats known in those days), giving his black saddle-horse a dig in the ribs; "it would be nice work for us to be drawing cannons, wouldn't it, old fellow? No! I'll take you to the Stemhagen wood, and fasten you to a tree by the sand-pit. It's all one here or there, for there's nothing at home for you to eat — confound it, how it's raining!"
When the Miller entered the garden, he found it all alive — peasants hustling and bustling about, hiding their carts and waggons, some behind the bushes and some behind the ramparts.
"Miller Voss," said the son of the Schult Besserdich of Gielow, "hide your horse. Everyone who is wise is taking advantage of this rain, for the French have all crept under cover,"
But the old Miller went steadily on, and took the valise to the Schloss.
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13