While he was telling it, the Amtshauptmann paced up and down the room, and muttered every now and then in his beard something about "bad business." Then he stopped, in front of the Miller, and looked him sharply in the face; and when the Miller had done, he said:
"Well, Miller Voss, then it is certain, is it, that the Frenchman is still alive?"
"How can I tell, Herr Amtshauptmann? You see, I make my reckoning in this way. The night could hardly be called cold for this time of year, but it rained right through the night; and if we two, Herr Amtshauptmann, you or I, had spent the night there, maybe we should have been cold and stiff this morning. But then again I reckon, those sorts of fellows are more used to lying about on the ground than we are, and if it didn't do anything to him in Russia, maybe it won't hurt him here. And he went away afterwards, that's certain. Friedrich has gone to look for him; but if anything has happened to him since, it's not our fault."
"Miller," said the old Herr — and he shook his head — "this is a bad business. If your Friedrich doesn't catch the Frenchman again, it may cost you your head."
"Lord, save us!" cried the Miller; "Into what scrapes am I coming in my old age! Herr Amtshauptmann, I am innocent; and I haven't kept this leather bag either, and the horse is in Baker Witte's barn."
"Yes, lucky for you. Miller; that's very lucky for you, I give you my word. And you say there is nothing but gold and silver in the valise?"
"No," said the Miller; "nothing but gold and silver — Prussian money, Mecklenburg money, louisd'ors, and silver spoons;" and so saying he unbuckled the Valise, and disclosed its contents.
The Herr Amtshauptmann opened his eyes. "Heavens!" he cried, "why, that's a treasure!"
"Yes, you may well say that, Herr Amtshaupt- mann. My wife never says much; hut, when she saw this, she clasped her hands together, and couldn't get out a single word."
"This is all stolen. Miller. Here's the Wertzen crest on the silver things. I know their arms. The wretch has stolen these spoons somewhere in the neighbourhood. But this won't make your case better."
The Miller stood there as if petrified. The Herr Amtshauptmann walked down the room again, and scratched his head; at last, he went up to the Miller, and laid his hand on his shoulder. "Miller Voss," said he, "I have always held you to be an, honest man; but such honesty — in such circumstances! Why, you can hardly live from one day to another, and yet, from pure conscience, you give up a sum of money like that, coming nobody could have told from where!"
The old Miller turned as red as fire, and looked at the toes of his boots.
"Yes, Miller," the Amtshauptmann went on, "this conduct of yours is very strange, for you could not know what has happened here; but thank God for it; — it is possible this has saved your life."
The danger in which he thought he must be, the undeserved praise which sorely pricked his conscience; the sight of a small loophole by which, through God's help, he might yet escape out of this bad business, and the feeling that he had not deserved all this, came hard upon the Miller. He stood there with his eyes cast down, and moved about uneasily, — twirling his hat round more and more fiercely till at last it quite lost its shape.
"The devil take the whole business and me into the bargain, Herr Amtshauptmann!" he cried. "But the Lord is merciful to me and will help me in this trouble, and I won't have anything wrong on my conscience. No, what is true, is true. And if it hadn't been for my little Fieka, the cursed Frenchman's money would be lying at home in my cupboard at this moment, and I should be swinging on the gallows."
And now he told all about it.
"Miller,'' said the Amtshauptmann when the story was finished, "I'm not fond of girls myself; boys are better; girls fret and cry too much for me. But your Fieka is quite different. Miller, it is very much to the credit of you and your wife that you have brought up such a child. And, Miller, when you come again, bring your Fieka with you; don't forget; I — that is my wife — will be very glad to see her. What say you. Eh! And now take the valise and carry it down to the Rathhaus; the French are holding a court of justice there — fine justice it will be! — and ask for the Burmeister, he is a kind man and can talk French too; and I shall be there in a short time, and will do everything in my power for you."
"Thank you, sir. I'm a good bit lighter now about the heart. And about that other business, the bankruptcy? You think —"
"That you're an old fool to get into any more scrapes at your age."
"Thank you, Herr Amtshauptmann. Well, then, good day."
And the Miller departed.
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13