Nobody knew who put it there, nobody knew whether it was done out of joy or sorrow, whether it should be a thank you or a request, whether a pious soul had established it or someone who cried guilt in his heart.
It stood there for centuries. And spring put its blossoms all around; the summer sun gilded the gray stone; at his foot the beetles lay asleep in the autumn season in the green moss, and when the Christmas bells rang from the valley, ice and snow shimmered around the old picture, like white ceilings on the altar in the church shiny stones. Sometimes a lonely wanderer took off his cap in front of the old picture. It is not idolatry when a person bares his head in such a venerable place, where so much suffering and pleasure, so much peace and devotion, but also so much struggle and repentance have been at home for many years.
Liese Berger knelt by this icon. The evening wasn’t far. There was a red, transfiguring glow over her and the gray stone. In the distance a few birds were singing. Otherwise everything was quiet. And the forest bloomed over her.
A long, silent prayer lay in the girl’s eyes, a prayer full of agony. But when she looked at the picture, her eyes became quieter.
“If it was a sin, forgive me, holy Mother of God!”
The picture gave no answer; but peace came in the eyes of those who prayed. –
There was one from afar. He had secretly followed the Liese. Mathias, her father.
He didn’t bother her – oh no! He knew what she was praying. He knew that it was a funeral prayer for his and her dearest hope in life.
Now she got up and saw him. She was a little startled, but he walked up to her and took her in his arms.
They didn’t say a word. They stood very still. A bird sitting on the branch paused in its song, tilted its head to one side and looked at them both in amazement. And when they finally left, he flew over to the icon where his wife was sitting in the nest, and told her that there were people who stood very still and didn’t talk. The woman winked at him understandingly and pointed with her beak down at the crushed grass in front of the picture.
And then they spoke of their own worries. –
The two people, however, went down the mountain path in silence. After a while the Liese stopped.
“Father, I want to go to the monastery!”
He was shocked as if by lightning.
She clung to his arm.
“It’s not – it’s not just since yesterday – it’s been much longer, I’ve always thought so, as a schoolchild – but now – father, I want to go to the monastery!”
“No, Liese! Under no circumstance! I won’t admit that! ”
She bowed her head. But he wrapped his arm around her shoulder, shaken.
“That’s why, Liese! My only! No, I would rather— ”The language failed him.
“It’s not just about that, father!”
“Yes! I already know! I know exactly! No, Liese, I won’t admit that. We’d rather go far! You are next to me. That can’t be! That’s why not! ”
Liese walked silently beside her father.
“Do you think I’m no longer worth it?”
“Not worth it? You, my pious, golden child, you! But my daughter, everything can still be fine. Nothing happened after all, everything can still be. ”
She met his eyes brightly and shook her head. At the same time she said calmly: “No, it’s over!”
“It’s not over! How come?”
“If I wanted me too – now I don’t want it anymore!”
He looked at her, shaken.
“We’re not for each other! Now I know. It was wrong of me to think of it, and I’ve wanted to go to the monastery for a long time. ”
“Liese, I won’t admit it!”
“Why not, father? I’m pretty good there. I go to nurse the sick, I like to do that. I can be of use there. And I may be very happy. And so – if I stay in the world? ”
He said nothing more. The silent women appeared before his soul, the winners who have overcome the world within themselves. Everything that arouses the children of men lies behind them: they want no money, no fame, no pleasure, no comfort, no earthly love. They only want the good. Perhaps that one struggles here and there; most have peace. And everything else is poor trinkets against peace.
And what if the Liese in the world remained without a job, without love, without peace?
Maybe that it would be good for her in the monastery, maybe!
But he? – But he! –
“Liese, we don’t want to say” yes “or” no “; we want to wait, wait a long time. ”
Young Riedel and the barber came up from the village to Buchenkretscham.
“If we can sort it out, fifty talers will be yours,” said Riedel.
“It won’t be that easy,” said the barber, “you’ve annoyed an old weirdo too often. And then the Raschdorf! ”
“Don’t nonsense, human! There’s nothing more than fifty thalers! Mit’m Raschdorf is nonsense. The weird Lotte and the Raschdorf! There’s no such thing. Don’t tell me anything. “- – –
Stranger was alone. He wasn’t sober again. The two men entering said hello and ordered something.
“Well, one hears beautiful things,” began the barber.
“What, beautiful things?” Asked Schräger stupidly.
“Well, from Lotte. How long have you been going for a walk with Raschdorf Heinrich? ”
“Yes, since when have you been going for a walk with Raschdorf Heinrich?” Repeated Riedel pointedly.
“I don’t know,” said Schräger pomadig, and drank a schnapps.
“You know,” said the other two at the same time and very concerned.
“Yes, don’t you care, Schräger, when your girl drives around the world for a spectacle with Raschdorf?”
“No,” said Schräger, “everything is very peeping for me. I don’t care anything! Get everything from the Teifel! Cheers!”
“The fellow is drunk,” said the suitor softly.
“Tell me, weird, you can’t care less. The people in the village talk a lot. They say Lotte has a relationship with Heinrich. ”
“Relationship? I don’t know! May be! Can be! I’m all sausage! ”
Riedel and the barber looked at each other perplexed.
“Well, weird, you’re not clever? You won’t admit that Raschdorf has a relationship with Lotte? You’re crazy?”
“Nah, I’m not crazy at all! It’s really good like that. Everything comes together, everything comes together. Is everything good! I am glad! I’m really happy! ”
He rubbed his hands.
“A’s really gone mad,” said Riedel.
“I’ll tell you something, weird,” began the barber in a sharp tone. “You are a sheep’s head! Raschdorf doesn’t even think of Lotte, he’s got something completely different. And you can only put lice on fur with such stupid fuss. If it comes out that you are speculating on a Raschdorf, then – ”
“So and so -”
“What so and so?”
The landlord became a little more sober.
“Well, I don’t want to say too much; but maybe you knew that Mathias said you were speculating that the goods would come together and that was why you brought in an old Raschdorf like that. ”
Schräger started up angrily.
“The Teifel fetch a Mathias; I’m not speculating! I never did! This is a hoax! ”
“Yes, but people will say so; they will now agree with Mathias – ”
“Who? Who? I’m suing! ”
“You can’t! And then, if something really came of it, no one would drink more schnapps from you for five pfennigs. Nobody wants to have anything to do with a Buchenhof people. ”
The landlord stared at the two of them. He wanted to say something, curse, deny, but finally turned away and went to the window.
This morning, when he had slept in and remembered the events of the previous day with a sober mind, he was first angry and wanted to make a great spectacle. But then, when he was picturing everything more precisely and had drunk a lot of schnapps again, his old, long-abandoned favorite idea suddenly came back to him: to unite the two beech farms. It had been the first thought in years that roused him from his drunkard lethargy and brought something like a joyful enthusiasm over him.
To be sure, the matter seemed insane to him too, he didn’t know anything in particular, just the short report from old Stenzeln, and so he decided to let the matter run free. Now these two came and spoiled his plan. He turned around.
“What do you actually have? She drove a bit with him. Nothing more! ”
“Yes, and a horse didn’t hold onto the way she dismounted. A fine coachman is a, we all know that. But how a brought her home, how a she had around a neck – ”
“Dizziness! Shut up!”
“We know! And everyone knows it! ”
The young Riedel jumped up.
“Herr Schräger, it – it has to go! I’m good for Lotte, I like her even if she hasn’t learned to work, and I wanted to ask today – today how it would be if we threw a lot together; but if people talk like that, and if you don’t mind, and if there’s an economy here, there – there it could be, I’ll have a different idea. ”
Strangely turned crab red.
“Riedel! Torch boy! Do you think I’ll take it easy? Is that supposed to be courtship? Sann a different way, Schafkopp! Did I save up and work and let Lotte learn so much that a lousy boy comes to me? Me, ‘m father? Out!”
“Human children, make up, make up!” Implored the barber.
The young Riedel was seething with anger.
“Keep her!” He shouted. “Keep it! Pack is doing well, Pack is getting along. ”With that he was out. The companion followed him.
Schräger was alone again. A couple of times he went through the room and spoke to himself. Then he sank down on one Chair. He wanted to think. But it didn’t work. So he got some schnapps and drank.
Gradually his excitement subsided.
It was actually stupid that he had thrown Riedel out. The Riedel had money.
But Raschdorf had more. Much more! And the brick factory! And the farms came together!
The courtyards! – – – If only his name wasn’t Raschdorf!
The drunkard shivered.
The other’s son!
Sometimes he came – the other one – at night, sometimes when Schräger had not drunk enough, or when he was sick and couldn’t sleep.
The son! Was that possible? Would it get better with him or worse? Would he be more afraid or less? Back when young Raschdorf was at the helm, Schräger slept well that night. – –
And he doesn’t let himself go! And say nothing to Lotte, nothing! Not even on the boy! It’s the children! He has it afterwards; he doesn’t need to be told anything to himself or the children! Again he struggles for a clear thought, wants to make a certain resolution. It is not possible, everything remains confused. He drinks and then he talks to himself again. All mixed up. Sometimes against the Riedel, sometimes against the Raschdorf. Finally he babbles:
»Get the Teifel! No matter, no matter! But there must be money! Money! ”And he reaches for the rum bottle.
It was evening. Lotte lay with red cheeks up in the hospital room. She always checked the clock and watched with excruciating impatience how lazily the hands moved on. Now the clock struck nine times.
The old Stenzeln did not move and tinkered with her knitted stocking.
“It’s nine o’clock, Stenzeln,” said Lotte haltingly.
“Yes, yes,” replied the old woman, “time flies.”
She forgot. If he came now and didn’t hit the Stenzeln!
“Stenzeln. It seems to me as if you had said yesterday that at nine the Raschdorf Heinrich wanted – ”
“Jesses, I would have forgotten that! Well, the clock is a bit too early. I want to go straight down. ”She left.
“Stenzeln! Tell him I – I said thank you for bringing me home and for fetching the doctor. ”
“Will do it!”
“Stenzeln! Don’t you ask him whether his people – whether they weren’t angry – yes? ”
“What are they supposed to be angry with? But I’ll arrange it. ”
“Stenzeln! And then, I’ll give him my regards again. I have to, Stenzeln, don’t I? ”
“Yes, of course! Is there anything else?”
“No! Just go quickly so that you don’t miss it. ”
Die Stenzeln went, and Lotte listened down. Her cheeks burned and her eyes were wide open. Time passed slowly. If she could open, could go to the window once! But she wasn’t allowed to stir. A quarter of an hour had passed now. Where was the Stenzeln? Was he late? Or did he have so much to say to her? So much? – –
The Stenzeln stood a little away from the front door and looked around. There was no one to be seen. The gate and the door of the Buchenhof were closed. There was no light in any room over there either.
Where was he The Stenzeln became long, and she paced the street a bit and looked around. Somebody came. It was the barber.
“Ah – Stenzeln! I think you have an ambulance? You don’t stand in the street and look around as if someone should come? ”
“That’s nobody’s business! And I haven’t waited for you. ”
“I believe that. Just don’t be so rough right away, grandmother! I just wonder. How’s Lotte doing? ”
“Grandmother, you’re a prickly thistle, but if it’s okay with you, I’ll be with you for a while.”
“Nope! I don’t need anyone. I’m just taking a breath. Just go in and quench your thirst! Here you are a very redundant piece of furniture! Go in! ”
“Don’t think about it! I am curious who you are waiting for. Do you want to get married again and wait for a darling?
“Old shame! You know what? Now I’m going in. You spoil my air, you windy soap bubble! ”
“Well, an old saw! Look, grandmother, I want to tell you something. There’s a lot of talk in the village about a young Raschdorf and Lotte – ”
“May they talk! The worst is not there now. ‘s nastiest mouth is not in the village now. ”
“Look, Grandmother, wait a minute! I’m sorry about Lotte, because Raschdorf only makes her talk, well, and it’s as good as being married to Liese. ”
“Well, with the Berger Liese. Well, Stenzeln, don’t you know that? ”
“Are you in a mood?”
“Well, what is it that is surprising? Do you think old Mathias did something for free? He didn’t speculate badly. Well, and Heinrich, he can’t do anything else, Mathias is holding him tight. Grandmother, why don’t you wait – – Gone is it, the old rind! ”
“Well, Stenzeln, have you been so long?”
“Yes! A didn’t come. ”
“Did not come? Is that possible?”
“A wasn’t there! Maybe a forgot. ”
“Lotte, it’s best I’m not going down any more. It’s no use. Somebody can catch me too. The bather saw me today. He said that people were talking about you and a Raschdorf Heinrich, and that he was as good as married to Liese. ”
“What? – – With whom? – – Stenzeln! Ooh! ”
“What is it, Lotte, what was screaming?”
“Oh, my foot – my foot hurts!”
“The foot? But a is right! Well, it would have been best if you hadn’t met Heinrich. That doesn’t do anything good. Well, and the barber is right there, Raschdorf owes it to Berger Mathias, because he owes everything to him. ”
“Yes! – Yes, Stenzeln! – It’s enough! – – I want to sleep! Be very quiet now – I am so very tired! “