Mathias Berger had stopped trading in rags, he had become the caretaker of the Buchenhof.
The peasants in the village laughed. A ragged farmer, that was laughable too. Being a farmer requires understanding and even more money. And Mathias Berger didn’t have either. At least not the right mind. There was no talk of money anyway.
The barber had made a “poem”; that meant:
“The gentleman from Buchenhofe has six threes and
A ‘rag wagon and a’ big dog. ”
This poem was well received in the village, and even the small children learned it by heart. Also invented one Tonkünstler added a sensible melody so that the song could be sung and whistled. It popularized the poet, and everyone thought he was a funny person with a brighter head than other people.
Mathias Berger heard of the mocking verse and decided to give the barber and the villagers a rough public answer in a real poem, which the editor of the little popular paper would certainly print.
Mathias was a poet in his celebrations. Although he mostly only wrote occasional poems, such as obituaries, holiday wishes, and the like; but some poems had also been in the newspaper, and so Mathias hoped to arrive with an armored poem this time too.
Then he found the words written in chalk at the gate of the Buchenhof: “Barbiehr is a donkey!” Hannes, the son of the Schaffer, confessed with a happy smile that he was the author of this motto and assured him with importance that he would use the same sentence on almost all fences and gates of the village. For this he received an unexpected but very expressive slap in the face from Mathias Berger, who on the other hand drew the wise lesson from the incident that it was not good to get involved in a literary battle with Schubiacks. –
At the instigation of the old cantor, Mathias Berger had been appointed legal guardian for the two children Heinrich and Magdalena Raschdorf.
There was a tumult in the village when it became known that Berger was buying the estate for Heinrich Raschdorf and that he was Boy “arguing” with his sister. The estate had been appraised, not much beyond the total debt that Heinrich Raschdorf assumed. The girl received a small sum that was firmly invested.
“When we’re better, Lene,” said Mathias, “then you will get as much as we can give you voluntarily. Now we mustn’t burden the yard any more, otherwise we can’t hold it. ”
The girl did not understand anything about it; it was satisfied that it was allowed to remain on the paternal good. –
And around this time it happened that Hannes had to be beaten again. It came this way:
He had a pack of boys who sang the mocking verse of the “six threesomes” in his ears, angry and yet shouted triumphantly that Mathias Berger had more money than the villagers’ whole “rag bag”, he “five-fingered the whole village «, Because he had 40 or even 100,000 thalers, and nobody knew that. And when the boys laughed, he asked them snippily, where would the debts of the weird and the miller be paid with such “fixity and ease” if Mathias didn’t give the money. Because no one else borrowed.
This street debate had three follow-up events:
1. Mathias Berger was used for income and local taxes; 2. A new sensation, perhaps the strongest of all, arose in the village, and 3. Hannes received blows.
The last event took place on a gloomy, gloomy March evening in the Schaffer’s room. The father was very silent about it, the son not. After the catastrophe, Hannes went out, stared into the dim evening light and leaned his extended back against a cool wall. Then Lene came across the courtyard, looked at him contemptuously and spoke only one word: “Nonsense”.
With that she threw something at his feet. It was the ring he had once worshiped her.
Hannes didn’t move. He didn’t deserve to be treated so shamefully for his fighting spirit. He made it up to himself that he would never speak a word to his father, Mathias, or Lene again in his life, and then he crawled into his bed and fell asleep with a sore heart and back.
In the village below, however, a romantic tale was told after three days. Somewhere – nobody knew the exact place – lived an old, very stingy woman who saved all her life and sewed a large amount of paper money into an old, woolen petticoat. Nobody would have known anything about the precious lining of the old coat, which the woman had always worn on her body, not even her own children. One day the woman suddenly died of a heart attack. The skirt, along with other worthless stuff, had been sold to a certain scoundrel, and anyone could think of that.
Mathias Berger did not learn anything about this story for the time being. He knew that the sympathy he used to enjoy in the village had waned since the day he took on the Raschdorf affair. He had himself at odds set with public opinion, and he must have felt it. He had no idea that he was being accused of tremendous dishonesty; he was rather pleased that people would pound their heads about how he had gotten so much money.
Meanwhile he did not have time to bother with the talk in the village. The huge workload of helping the shattered Buchenhof back up was on his shoulders. And with the task his strength grew. For the first time in his life he was faced with such difficult demands, and they steeled him.
Construction of the building began in early spring. Mathias Berger had found a capable, conscientious master mason who produced his work solidly, quickly and cheaply.
Berger worked from early in the morning until late at night. Now he was in town for negotiations, now he was standing outside in the fields, now he was sitting brooding and arithmetic in the room, and then he was again among the henchmen stirring in lime or carrying bricks.
An emergency stable was set up, the necessary field horses were bought, the farm equipment was added, and field work could begin again. Reichel the giant worked for three. But he did more. He offered Mathias Berger his savings, which amounted to a few hundred marks.
“Reichel,” said Berger, “I don’t need your money yet. Maybe later! Then I’ll pump you up, I solemnly promise you that! Now I just need you yourself. But very necessary, Reichel! ”
The giant blushed at the praise that lay in those words and worked again as if trying to pull the world together. It was as if he had changed his character, for he did everything with great haste when he walked and worked, ignoring the majestic calm that was otherwise inherent in his nature.
The children also helped diligently to the best of their ability, and Hannes behaved perfectly during these days, for during the day he did not have a minute to do allotria and in the evening he was dead tired.
Heinrich was the only one missing from all this hustle and bustle. He was back in school. A couple of times he wrote urgent letters that he wanted to go home, wanted to help. But Berger, his guardian, did not respond. He hardly answered him. Only once did he write on a postcard: “Dear Heinrich, if you are just as hard-working at school as we are all here, everything will be fine.”
So it came about that Heinrich was able to carry home the transfer certificate as “third of the class” at Easter, despite the violent psychological shocks that had inhibited his student work.
Nobody picked the boy up at the station. There was no horse left for the load. But a carriage from Heinrich’s home village stopped over there. A farmer got someone off the train. Heinrich stood there with his heavy suitcase and always waited to see whether the farmer would ask him to come along. But he didn’t say a word, and the boy was ashamed to ask. So the farmer drove home in his half-empty cart, and so did Heinrich took the suitcase and made his way home heavily laden.
The suitcase tugged at his arms and shoulders. But the boy felt as if his heart was even harder to bear in his chest. He came home for the first time since the deaths of both parents.
How difficult it was! Difficult and without any joy. Even now he had no desire to see the changes that had been made since then. It was already too many changes for a home.
When he could see the Buchenhof, he stopped, breathing deeply. Then he began to cry violently. Was he at home down there? Was that really the place he’d longed for in his homesick hours? Or had he not gone astray, wasn’t that the stranger?
If his father went down there now and only nodded up once, that would be nice.
But there was the churchyard. Father and mother lay there. Heinrich had to go there if he wanted to get home.
And the child’s tears flowed more profusely.
Something rose from the edge of the road, a little way down the path, and came running quickly towards Heinrich. It was Lotte Schräger.
“Good afternoon, Heinrich! Good day! Oh, is it nice that you are coming! You see, I made a bouquet. There – take it! Why don’t you say anything? Don’t you like it? There aren’t any prettier flowers yet. ”
“Oh yes, Lotte, he’s very handsome. So, where do you come from?”
“I knew you were coming. And nobody picked you up, so I wanted to meet you a bit. ”
He was embarrassed.
“Well, Lotte, I see someone I know.”
“Come on, I’ll carry your suitcase for you. Oh, it’s hard! ”
“Leave it, Lotte, you can’t carry the suitcase, I’ll carry it myself!”
“Well, put your hand away! I carry the suitcase! You must be terribly tired! ”
“Lotte, it doesn’t work! At least let me touch the handle, it’ll be better! ”
So they came to an agreement and carried the suitcase down the path together.
Spring laughed out of the forest, and Heinrich Raschdorf suddenly felt good in his heart. The anxiety was gone and, as if by a miracle, the joy of the holiday had entered his heart.
“Lotte, I’m so happy that I met you.”
The girl looked innocently in his face and laughed.
“Yes, look, Heinrich, that’s because I’m actually your bride. Do you still know about the fire back then? ”
“I still remember!”
The boy had blushed. He was more mature than the child, and now he felt like a slow paralysis through his limbs. He had always considered those classmates to be bad subjects who talked about being a “flame” would have. There were five to ten of them in the class. And a few even wrote poetry. Something like that was not allowed to come out; someone would have simply been “sawed off”. A bad number would have been the least.
Heinrich was seized with fear without shedding any secret feeling of happiness. And the young Hercules did not even know that he was walking around with his trunk on a crossroads.
Lotte started talking again.
“Now after Easter I’m going to school too. In a secondary school for girls. You know, I’ve had a lot of lessons, including French, but now I’m supposed to learn the right education. Maybe for four years I’ll be away. ”
“So, so, Lotte. You will be a fine lady there. ”
“Yes, the father will. I don’t have much fun. But I think if you learn so much, I don’t have to be so stupid if we get married someday. ”
The girl did not abandon her marriage project.
“You haven’t told anyone anything, Lotte?” Asked Heinrich anxiously.
“Should not I?”
“No, Lotte, you mustn’t tell anything – nobody! Do you hear – nobody: that doesn’t fit! ”
“That doesn’t fit?”
The girl became thoughtful. For the first time a dull awareness struck her that this was something that no one should know. And she was sorry for that.
“But – but you could also give me such a cute ring.”
The boy became sultry, and he looked around anxiously to make sure that no one was around.
“I want to, but I don’t have one, and if I can, I’ll give you one.”
“Oh, I’d be happy, you! I would be terribly pleased! ”
Heinrich began an everyday conversation and they continued until they said goodbye a distance from the Buchenhof.
Heinrich stopped under the courtyard gate. He hardly knew his father’s homestead again. Much had changed. A lot of building materials were piled up in the courtyard and a crowd of workmen was busy.
Hannes and Lene sat off against a wall. They each had a hammer in their hand, and with it they knocked lime off old bricks.
When they saw Heinrich they came quickly up to him. They greeted the returnee with warm joy.
“Yes,” screamed Hannes, “now nobody thought of the suitcase. Well, you could haul well there. Give it to me! Schwerleck that pulls! Well, you see, Heinrich, you don’t always have to put so many books in, because they are heavy and you don’t cram on vacation!
“Who got the bouquet from?” Asked Lene.
Heinrich blushed and looked for an excuse. But then he said with the greatest possible equanimity:
“Oh, I met the weird Lotte and she gave it to me!”
“The weird Lotte?” Lene asked sternly.
“The weird Lotte?” Repeated Hannes indignantly. “Well, thank you, you still hang out with her and get bouquets? I wouldn’t have thought that of you! ”
“But what – what is it?”
Hannes and Lene looked at each other.
“He doesn’t know yet. Well, I’ll tell you, Heinrich. Guess where our Mathias is! «
“Our Mathias? At home! Where else?”
Lena came very close to him and whispered in his ear:
“There’s a in prison!”
“In prison – that’s not true!”
“Yes! The stranger sued, and a got ten days. Because of the insult! ”
The boy stood frozen.
“Well, and you let Lotte give you a bouquet?”
Heinrich couldn’t say a word, not a poor word. A piece of home had opened up before him when he was hiking with the neighbor’s child. And that was taken from him so cruelly.
“How long has he been gone?” He finally managed to say.
“Today is the fourth day. A has just let himself be locked up over the holidays so that A can then work again. You see, the weirdos, they’re all rascals. ”
Beyond the courtyard gate came a croaking voice:
“Locked up – locked up! – Six threes and a dog, a big dog! ”
“This is Gustav, the stupid notebook! – There! Here you have your crap back! ”
And Hannes snatched the bouquet from Heinrich’s hand and flung it over the gate.
“What are you doing, Hannes, what -”
But outside the idiot was yelling again: “Flowers! Flowers! O beautiful flowers! A Pukettel! A Pukettel! I clean myself! I’m doing fine! Six threesomes and a dog – one big dog! ”
With that he disappeared singing into the Kretscham.
Heinrich stood with bowed head.
“Our Mathias! But that wasn’t right, Hannes! Lotte can’t help it. ”
His sister Lene gave the answer.
“It doesn’t matter! You are not allowed to take a bouquet from the weird people. That doesn’t fit! ”
“You’re not going to stick with them! Mathias would have just earned that. Come on, Lena, we have to scrape off bricks again. Just go into the room, Heinrich. ”
The children left and Heinrich took the suitcase and went into the house.
Nobody was in the large living room. The room was empty and lonely. Heinrich Raschdorf then felt that home was no longer here.
Wearily, the guest sank into a chair and leaned on the table. And so he sat without any clear sensations. There was only one great fear in him.
He was probably hungry too. But nobody came to ask him if there was anything wrong with him.
The mother’s armchair stood by the window – empty. Finally, Heinrich approached with hesitant, shy steps and sat down in the chair. He pressed his face against the armrest.
And home was not in that chair either. Only a wild, tormenting longing came while it was slowly getting dark outside.
Over the street, however, a childhood went under.
Who knows how long childhood lasts? With some beings it is lost early; for some it lasts for life.
Whoever became a knower is no longer a child. Only those are children who stand in front of the veiled images of life and do not ask questions.
Whoever lifted the veil with a doubting hand, or whoever a storm revealed the great, desolate images, is far from childhood.
And those who are far from childhood are near death.
Shame had come to this girl like a dark red light that brought a dim recognition, the recognition that love and loyalty can be mistreated.
O you withered anemones!
O you dead, sad violets!