Chapter 6

The sight which met Mamsell Westphalen's eyes when, she went into her room; and the reason why she let Corlin slap her twice on the back. How Fritz Sahlmann smashed the Herr Amtshauptmann's pipes, and the French Colonel nearly drew his sword.

If you wish to tell a story properly, you must do as the husbandman does when he tills a field: you must keep the furrows straight, clearing everything as you go along, and leaving no stubble standing. But do this as carefully as you may, there will always be some few bits left untouched here and there, and you must go back and finish them off. Even so must I go back a little way in my story to finish off Herr Droi's and Mamsell Westphalen's ends, that I may be able once more to work straight on.

On the same morning that the Miller, with his headache, looked into his bootiops, Mamsell Westphalen dressed herself, and was just going to put on her cap, when she saw it was rather out of shape; so she went into her room to get a fresh one, but tapped first at the door and asked, "Herr Droi, are you quite dressed?" The watchmaker said he was. She opened the door — merciful heavens, what a sight! Anything like it she had never seen in her life; for in the night she had only been as far as the door, and had not even glanced into the room. The top of the bed was broken in, and right across the door lay one of the Frenchmen rolled up in the white bed-curtains, and smoking a clay pipe, with her beautiful red-and-white-striped pillow under his head; the other was sitting in her easy chair, and had wrapped his feet up in her new gingham gown; Herr Droi sat at the foot of the bed, and from under bis bearskin peered a face that spoke only of sorrow and woe. What a sight her poor room was! It had been her pride, her jewel-box; here she had reigned supreme; here she had sat with everything round her clean and in order. She had dusted and polished everything with her own hands. No one else had dared to touch or alter anything — not even her oracle the Frau Meister. "No," she had said, "the Frau Meister is all very well in her way, but since she let my amber earrings fall, I cannot trust her any more."

And now everything was turned upside down, the room was blue with tobacco-smoke, her clothes had been taken out of the closet and were lying beside Herr Droi's gun, and the French Chasseur's helmet; and her bed — her beautiful bed — stood out in the middle of the room. The bed was her own; her godfather, the joiner Reuss (the old Eeuss, not the young one) had made it for her from the same block of wood from which he made her coffin; she had spun the yarn for the sacking herself, and the Meister Stahl had woven it "pretty well," she said, "but two inches too small each way, and that was stupid of him, for I am a well-grown woman, and that he might have known." The Frau Amtshauptmann had wished to make her a present of the feathers, but she had not accepted the offer, and had paid for them herself; "for, Frau Meister," she said, "it's my pride to earn my earthly and my heavenly rest." And when the bed was so far on, she bought two sets of snow-white curtains, and put them up, and then she drew back a few paces, and, nodding her head complacently, said, "Frau Meister, 'the last touch crowns the work.'" And now the bedding lay scattered about in disorder, and the crown lay levelled in the dust.

At first she stood as if thunderstruck, and looked through the tobacco-smoke like the full moon through the evening mist; then she advanced a couple of paces towards Herr Droi, her face as red as the inside of the great copper washing-kettle in her kitchen, and her cap shaking with anger; but she merely said, "What's this?" Herr Droi stuttered and stammered, and stammered and stuttered; but, looking him sharply in the face, she said, "Lies, Herr Droi. You lied last night, and you are lying again this morning. I gave up my room and my own bed to you out of pity, and this is the thanks I get." So saying, she went to her chest of drawers, and took out a clean cap, and then, without casting another glance at Herr Droi, she sailed out of the room like Innocence going to the block. The two Frenchmen laughed and joked, but she paid no heed to them.

As she passed down the corridor, the Colonel stepped out of the blue room in full uniform, with his adjutant, and made her a polite bow. She was not exactly in the mood for civilities, but if you are asked a question you must give an answer; and, besides, man is a creature that must have his sausages cooked, so she answered him with a low curtsey, "Good morning, Herr Colonel von Toll," and walked on.

But the Colonel stopped her. "I beg your par- don," he said, "but I must speak to the Herr Amtshauptmann. Where shall I be likely to find him?"

Mamsell Westphalen felt as if she should go into a fit. " What do you want?" she asked, quite dumbfoundered.

The Frenchman repeats his question.

"Is it possible," exclaims she, "that you want to speak to the Herr Amtshauptmann — our Herr Amtshauptmann at half-past seven o'clock in the morning?"

Finding he was not to be shaken, she said: "Herr Colonel Von Toll, everything was turned topsy-turvy in my room last night. Unfortunately I must put up with it as well as I can, but no one shall ever say of me that I lent a hand to overturn the laws of nature. And, though it's no Christian sleep that the old gentleman takes, still he is a gentleman, and can sleep like a gentleman, and do as he pleases. No king, no emperor — no, not even our Duke Friedrich Franz himself shall drag me into a conspiracy against the laws of this house."

"Then I will do it myself," said the colonel, and politely put her on one side and went up-stairs.

"Lord, save us!" said Mamsell; and her hands fell down helplessly by her side. "I do believe he'll do it;" and when she heard him go into the old Herr's room, "He has!" said she.

The adjutant went into her room to Herr Droi. "You long-legged donkey!" thought Mamsell Westphalen, "Must you poke yourself in there too;" and she went into the kitchen and said to the two maids, "Corlin and Hanchen, this God-given day has begun badly; and if it goes on so, Heaven only knows how it will end. We will put the clothes in soak to-morrow — I have my reasons for it; to-day we'll go about our work just as if nothing had happened."

And, so saying, she took the coffee-mill and turned and turned, and the mill rattled and rattled; but when she came to take the drawer out, there was nothing in it; for she had forgotten to pour any coffee-beans in at the top.

Up stairs, in the old Herr's room, the sound of loud talking was now heard, and that silly boy, Fritz Sahlmann, who was filling the Amtshauptmann's long pipes, must of course want to tell them what was going on, and rushed in at the kitchen-door with the pipes in his hand; but Hanchen had that moment put her ear against the door-post to hear a little of what was being said, and — bang! he went up against her, and — smash! went the pipes as they fell clattering on the floor. Mamsell Westphalen's hand was not raised this time; her hands lay on her lap, and she said meekly:

"It's not to be wondered at! If everything is going to rack and ruin, of course clay pipes will be amongst the first; and 'if the heavens fall the sparrows will all be crushed!' It would not surprise me now if some one were to come in and throw the whole of the crockery out at the window."

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13