"You young scoundrel," said Mamsell Westphalen, forgetting all her sorrows and woes, "then it's you who are always stealing the sausages from up there; and, Herr Rathsherr, I have always suspected the innocent rats."
My uncle, having threatened Fritz Sahlmann with a sound thrashing, said it was now high time and they must fly, and it would be the Very place. So they all set off up to the garret, and when Fritz Sahlmann had shown them the loose plank and the hiding-place, my uncle Herse said —
"Well, Mamsell, now sit down on the floor. There's no help for it. I will lock the door of the garret; and if you hear anyone coming, creep softly into the hole, and mind you don't sneeze or cough."
"You may well say that, Herr Rathsherr — in this smoke," she replied.
"Oh, we will soon manage that," said he, and opened the dormer window.
They were going away when she said, "Fritz, my lad, don't forsake me; and bring me word how things are going on."
"Under no circumstances must he come up here," said the Rathsherr, "he might be seen, and then everything would be discovered."
"Leave it to me, Mamsell," said Fritz, and made her a side wink, "I'll manage it."
They went; and Mamsell Westphalen sat alone in her sadness under her flitches of bacon and hams and sausages.
"Of what use are all these blessings," she said to herself, "when a person of my years has to take to flight."
After seeing Mamsell Westphalen into her place of safety, my uncle Herse went down again to the kitchen and cautioned Fritz Sahlmann once more against letting out anything, impressing his warning well on Fritz by a box on the ears. He then pulled the cape of his grey cloak over his cocked-hat and embroidered uniform collar, and crept cautiously out at the back-door like a cat out of a pigeon-house.
Scarcely had he put his head out of doors, when a screeching and yelling arose; and Hanchen and Corlin, who were going back into the kitchen, thinking that the coast was once more clear, flew asunder like two white doves when a hawk pounces down upon them.
"Hold your tongues! I am not going to do anything to you," cried my uncle Herse.
But what was the use of his saying that? The peasants, who had remained in the garden with their horses, looked round at the noise; and, seeing the disguised French officer, that is my uncle Herse, they all made for the green gate, and in a few moments not a man nor a hoof to draw the cannon was to be seen.
The Rathsherr now struck into a little side-path among the bushes, and whom should he meet but old Miller Voss with the valise under his arm.
"Good morning, Herr Rathsherr."
"The devil take you!" exclaimed Rathsherr Herse. "Don't you see. Miller Voss, that I don't wish to be known?"
"Well, that's my case too," said the Miller.
"But, Herr Rathsherr, you would do me a great favour if you would see my horse and cart into a place of safety. I have fastened it up near the green gate. I'll do you a good turn in exchange. As soon as the perch in the mill-pond begin to bite, I'll let you know."
"I will see to it," said the Rathsherr.
He went on to the green gate, and when he had found the Miller's cart and unfastened it, he got into it, and was just driving off, when up came a party of French soldiers, and at their head the colonel of artillery by whose command all the horses and waggons had been sent for from the surrounding Villages.
My uncle Herse was now forthwith arrested, and pulled down off the cart; and, what with his uniform and his keeping on crying out that he was “conseiller d' état” — for he could not at the moment find any better word for a Stemhagen Rathsherr — the French thought they must have made a good catch, and that they had now got the head of the conspiracy to rob them of their waggons and teams.
The colonel of artillery cursed and swore in the most unchristian French; he would make an example of the Rathsherr; four men should take him between them.
And so my uncle Herse, who had come in the greatest secrecy, to do a good work to others, was led back into the town a public spectacle, to suffer martyrdom for his good intentions.
When this happened, Witte the baker was standing close by, behind the great chestnut-tree; for he, too, had come to take" the Miller's cart into a place of safety.
"That can't hurt the Herr Rathsherr," he said to himself; "he buys his white bread of Guhlen, why doesn't he buy it of me? Well, he must judge for himself, and he can do it too, he's clever enough; but the unreasoning cattle can't, and so one of us must look after them." And, so saying, he got into the cart, and, following the French at a distance, drove slowly towards his barns, and put the horse in his stable.
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13