Translator's Preface/Chapter 1
Now as concerns Droz the watchmaker, he was by birth a Neufchatelois; he had served under many flags, amongst them the French, and at last had come to a halt in my native town, where he had married a widow and settled. He had hung up his French uniform, and in the evening twilight when it was too dark to see to mend watches, he used to put it on and strut up and down his little room, but with his head bare, as the ceiling was too low for him to wear his bearskin. And then he would talk about "la grande nation" and "le grand Empereur" and command the division: Right wheel: Left wheel: Right about face: till his wife and children crept behind the bed for fear. But he was a good man and would not hurt a fly, and the next day "la grande nation" would be safe in the cupboard, and he mending away at his watches and eating Mecklenburg dumplings dipped in the fat of Mecklenburg bacon.
Well, while the watchmaker was buttoning on his leggings and putting on his bearskin. Miller Voss sat drinking with the Frenchman, both working well at the Amtshauptmann's red wine, and the Frenchman clinked glasses with the Miller and said: "A vous!" and the Miller then took his glass, drank and said: "Pooh, pooh!" and then the Miller clinked glasses with the Frenchman, and the Frenchman thanked him and said: "Serviteur," and then the Miller drank again and said: "Rasc'lly cur!" And in this way they went on drinking and talking French together.
Gradually they became more and more friendly, and the Frenchman put his sword in its sheath, and before very long they were in each other's arms. At this moment a cough was heard under the corner window, and my father stole out and gave the watchmaker directions what he was to do. But the Herr Amtshauptmann kept walking up and down, wondering what the Duke would say to all this if he were to see it, and said to the Miller: "Miller, don't give in, I will not forget you." And the Miller did not give in, but drank sturdily on.
Meanwhile the watchmaker went stealthily back again through the Schloss-garden, and when he came on to the road leading up to the Schloss, he slapped himself on the breast and drew himself up to his full height, for he was now "grande nation" again, and he marched in at the Schloss-gate in military style which suited him well, for he was a fine-looking fellow. The six Chasseurs who were standing by their horses, looked at him and whispered together, and one of them went after him and demanded whence he came and whither he was going. But Droz looked scornfully over his shoulder at him and answered him sharply and shortly in French that he was the quartermaster of the seventy-third Regiment, and that it would be up from Malchin in half-an-hour, and he must first of all speak to "Monsieur le Baillif." The Chasseur turned pale, and as Droz began to talk about marauders and related how his Captain had had a couple shot the day before, first one and then another jumped on to his horse, and although a few did chatter together for a moment or two and pointed to the Schloss, yet none of them felt inclined to stay any longer, and almost before you could lift your finger, the court-yard was empty. And we boys stood at the Brandenburg gate and watched the six French Chasseurs as they floundered about in the mud, for it was just the season for the Mecklenburg roads, being the spring and the thaw having just set in.
Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches IN THE YEAR 13