Chapter 9

Why the Herr Amtshauptmann had to read Marcus Aurelius, and was not allowed to wash his face; and why he did not think the Miller's Fieka was, like other girls, always fretting and crying.

The Amtshauptmann walked round and round his room, and fumed inwardly; for, though not naturally of a hasty temper, still he was an old man, and accustomed to command and have his own way, and Avas he now to be ordered about by others? He had been obliged to get up at eight o'clock in the morning — a thing which went against all his feelings— and he had not got his coffee; and when he had wanted to smoke a pipe, to comfort himself a little, no pipes were there. He rang the bell once — no Fritz Sahlmann; he rang twice — no Hanchen; he pulled his snuff-box out of his pocket and took a pinch slowly and thoughtfully, as people do when they want to prepare themselves for all the possible evils that may come; then he drew out his eyeglass and looked at the weather. Outside, it was raining in torrents, and the crows sat still and hunched-up in the high bare branches of the elm-trees with their wings drooping — looking as if they were stuck together, and dripping like old peasant Kugler, when he had been soused one evening up to the brim of his hat in the Village pond.

"No comfort out there either," said the old Herr to himself; "but where is there comfort in Germany now? It's a very strange thing is the government of this world. The Almighty lets a miserable hound like that Buonaparte bring ruin on the whole earth. It's difficult for Christian people to understand. The high ducal cabinet often issues orders and decrees that no Christian or official can make out; but the high ducal cabinet ministers are, after all, only poor sinners, and stupidity is one of their high qualities, and we know that, and make up our minds to it, though not perhaps without just a little anger and Vexation. But to Christians who believe in God's Providence, to see the use of the base cur Buonaparte, is — is — " and he took off the night-cap, which he always wore until his hair was dressed, and held it about three inches above his head. "May God forgive me my sins! I have borne hatred to no one, and have had enmity with no one — not even with the high ducal cabinet and its confounded admonitions; but I have a hatred now! — " and he threw his nightcap on the ground and stamped upon it, "I have a hatred now, and I will keep it."

Probably he said these last words rather loud, for his wife came in, looking anxious.

"Weber! Weber! what is the matter with you?' Has Fritz Sahlmann or Hanchen. . .?"

"No, Neiting;" he broke in, and picked up his nightcap. "It's not that. It's Buonaparte."

"Gracious heavens!" she cried, "at him again. Why must you keep plaguing yourself about him?" And she walked up to the Amtshauptmann's book-case, and took out a book. "There, Weber, read your book."

Now this was Marcus Aurelius, of which the Herr Amtshauptmann used to read a chapter when he was out of humour; or, if he was angry, two. He took the book, therefore, and read; and his wife tied the white napkin round his neck, and combed his grey hair, and twisted it into the fanny little pigtail, and shook the powder lightly and gently over his head. Marcus Aurelius did its share too, and all the angry wrinkles were gone from the fine open forehead by the time the Frau Amtshauptmann had scraped the powder off his face with her little silver knife. "For she must always scrape it off," said Hanchen, in talking about it; "and he mustn't wash his face after, or else the flour would paste his eyes together."

"Neiting," said the Herr Amtshauptmann, when his head was finished, "just give a look, if you don't mind, to the household down-stairs. I can't make it out; Hanchen doesn't come, and Fritz Sahlmann doesn't come. The dam—, I mean to say, the godless Frenchmen have turned the whole house upside down. What say you, eh?"

The Frau Amtshauptmann was a good little woman; and, though rather delicate in health, she was not irritable, and was always ready to bear with the old gentleman's eccentricities. Their only son, Joe, was abroad, and so the two old people were thrown together quite alone in the great old castle, and faithfully and honestly they shared their griefs and joys together; and if ever time began to seem long, it always so chanced that the Herr Amtshauptmann would, at the right time, take up some wonderful new whim, and the yawning would be changed into a sun-shower which freshened up their love again; for it is with love as with a tree — the more the wind blows in its top and branches, the faster it throws out roots.

Now, what the Herr Amtshauptmann asked from his wife that morning, namely that she should look to the household, cannot exactly be called a whim, and therefore his wife made no objection; though many a well brought-up wife in these days would have done so.

She had just gone on her way when old Miller Voss entered the room with the Valise.

"Good morning, Herr Amtshauptmann," said the Miller, and made his bow, "if you'll allow me," and he laid the valise on the table; "here it is."

"What is it?" asked the old Herr.

"How should I know, Herr? But I do know this much — it's stolen goods."

"How do you come by stolen goods. Miller Yoss?"

"How does the hound get into the leash, Herr Amtshauptmann? — All I know is, this is the chasseur's leather bag, and the devil put him into my waggon last night, and afterwards Friedrich threw him out again." And then the Miller told the whole story.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13