As if he had the fever, it had shaken him. He had gone to the door a couple of times, but kept turning back; a couple of times he had had his hand on the window swivel, but not opened it.
Then, when she was gone, he threw himself on the sofa. He was deeply unhappy. A grave contempt for himself rose in his heart. He was not a man, not a character, he had no will. Why didn’t he go? Why didn’t he ask the Stenzeln? Why didn’t he keep his promise?
Why? He was not allowed to; it was against his conscience. He had to exterminate this love with stump and stem; he was not allowed to give her the slightest nourishment.
Because it was impossible! Quite impossible!
He would lose the home he still had, the few people who were loyal and honest to him held, he would become estranged and he would take their homes away from them too.
So he had to sacrifice himself, himself and – her.
She? No, not her! She didn’t know about love. When her foot healed, she would be fine again.
But she was also unhappy, that’s what she said.
The young beech farmer spent a night of fighting.
He wanted to get his way quickly and strongly to justice and peace. The soft young man! He did not know what such fights mean, the fights that all people with a clever mind or a soft heart have to endure, and in which victory does not come at all or often late when many wounds have already been struck.
Liese brought him coffee for breakfast. She was a little paler than usual, but her face was friendly as always.
Before she went out she said:
“When I came out of church earlier, I met the Stenzeln. She says that Lotte went very well yesterday, but that night she had a fever. ”
The beech farmer turned red.
“Yes – yes – I thank you, Liese – it is very nice to me that I – that I hear something!”
“Yes, and then let Stenzeln say that she doesn’t want to come down at nine in the evening because you didn’t come yesterday and because it might cause a stir.”
Heinrich stared at the girl and was unable to speak a word.
“Do you want more bread, Heinrich?”
He jumped up and took her hand. The girl was startled and backed away.
“Liese! You are so angelic and I am an unhappy, bad person! ”
“What about you, Heinrich? You are not bad! What do you have?”
He released her hand.
“I know, I’m ungrateful, don’t speak, I know; You all do me good, and I – ”
“You are doing us all good too, Heinrich!”
She was very red and very confused and left quickly.
He watched her go. At that moment there was a high feeling for her in his chest. He would have been able to sacrifice anything he owned for her. He was filled with immeasurable gratitude, as well as deep compassion.
She brought him news from the other. How unselfish was this being! He only thought of himself, always of himself.
It had to be different. He wanted to be friendly to everyone, he wanted to overcome himself.
What would Lene say if she found out that he had ordered the Stenzeln? – She said nothing when she met him. The Liese hadn’t revealed anything. And then he was grateful to the pale girl again.
Mathias Berger went out into the field alone. He went very slowly. It was as if something had died in him. An old, bygone time occurred to him, as he was deep underground as a young miner and thought of his lost love with a thousand torments.
He felt the same way again now. Basically, lost love is always lost faith.
Where was there another prospect for him?
But he wasn’t just thinking of himself. Today or tomorrow he could lay his tired head to rest. But the other’s life was long …
A man spoke to him – the barber.
“Mathias,” he said hypocritically, “I don’t know if you would like to talk to me. I actually didn’t do anything to you, well, but you know – ”
“What do you want from me?”
“Mathias, it’s actually difficult to say. Look, you know that I was weird back then – ”
“Yes I know that!”
“Of course you resented me. But I really thought that the weird guy was completely innocent and that he was wrong. ”
He paused and watched his companion. But he didn’t say a word.
“Yes, but now -”
Mathias couldn’t prevent him from looking up.
The barber tempered his voice.
“I don’t want to assert anything, you have to be very careful, but it’ll stay between us.”
“Barber, it’s best you keep your secrets to yourself. I don’t want to know. ”
The harsh rejection did not affect the other person.
“It’s not really a secret. But I would like to say that in confidence: I no longer hold onto a weirdo such large pieces; I don’t believe anything anymore. Well, you can believe what you want – what? ”
The simple, honest man hated the hidden hints.
“Just say what you want from me; I don’t care what you have with the weirdo. ”
“Well, I have nothing with him. But I will tell you that, the stranger speculates again that the courts should come together – ”
“What? How so?”
The barber was glad that he had finally aroused the interest of his companion. That’s why he said eagerly: “Well, Mathias, I always felt as if I had something to do with you. You used to say that the stranger wants the two courtyards; You were punished and the people were happy, well, and I: I wasn’t happy, but I thought the stranger was right – ”
“Why the old stories?”
“Well, I’ll tell you: yesterday the weird guy in the public inn said that he wanted to bring the farms together.”
“How can a say that? The Buchenhof is in firm hands. ”
The barber laughed confidentially.
“I’ll say that too. The Buchenhof is in firm hands, in good hands, and how long will it be before Raschdorf Heinrich will marry your daughter and then – ”
“Barber, I forbid that! That’s nobody’s business! I don’t want to hear that! Do you understand?”
The old man’s voice trembled. The other stayed limber.
“Yes, don’t take it badly, it doesn’t matter to me, that’s true, and I don’t talk about it, really not a word, but it goes without saying -”
“What of course? Who says that? Who can say that? ”
“Well, yes, people say you have done so much for Heinrich, and it makes sense.”
“The people! We don’t care about people – nothing! Now finally tell me what all this means and what are you actually aiming for? ”
“Well, I’ll just say it straight out: Schräger boasted in the open pub yesterday that Heinrich is about his Lotte.”
Berger started a little.
‘Famed? Why praised? The stranger wouldn’t admit that at all! ”
»Admit? Well, don’t be mistaken, Mathias! When the stranger senses money, a is capable of anything. And a has it yes publicly said. A said that the rag boy would snatch the goldfish away. ”
Berger lost his composure.
“Barber – that – that – my daughter doesn’t want Heinrich at all – you understand – doesn’t like him at all – tell people that! And now go your way! How do you even come to betray your boyfriend to me? I don’t want to know anything more – nothing! ”
He turned into a side path and the barber watched him go.
“He’s got his cut,” he thought, “it’ll be quick now. Would be the vulture if we couldn’t get rid of Raschdorf. That might just suit me in Kretscham. And then – the fifty thalers from the Riedel farmer! ”
Singing young men marched along the street. They had been in town for the dig. This is a turning point in these people’s lives. Coming to the military or not means a lot.
So these people did what our good German comrade always does when something extraordinary happens to him – they drank. Whether out of pain or joy, it remains the same for thirst. People drink, and the more important the event, the more people drink.
This is already a purring fellow, Mr. Alcohol. He is a little at home all over the world, cheats on Mohammed in the beautiful Turkish country and is the only person in the Greenlander’s hut for whom something substantial is being spent becomes; he swims on all seas, clambered on all mountains and marched on all roads.
Even in dear Germany he has honorary citizenship rights, because he pays most of the taxes, is popular with the people and persona gratissima with nobles and princes. He spreads out at christenings and funeral feasts, sits between the groom and the bride, sharpening the hooligan knife for one and acts as a cozy witness of honor for two others who drink brotherhood.
And he commands the young recruits recruited by the king on their way home for a long time before they are disguised and clad like a very humorous sergeant, sometimes “swiveling right”, sometimes “swiveling left”, sometimes “raising legs”, sometimes “Extend your arms” and sometimes “bend your knees” or “lie down”. –
One went aside – Hannes. He hadn’t gotten drunk and hadn’t pinned colored paper ribbons to his hat like the others. And yet, according to the customary term, he would have had the right to do so, because he had been “distinguished”.
Hannes went on his way with very mixed feelings. He was pleased that he was going away into the city, away from loneliness, and wearing a brightly colored uniform with shiny buttons. A wealth of ideas, plans and hopes buzzed through his head. And yet there was also great anxiety in him.
Then he met Lene who had carried people’s sandwiches into the fields. He told her that he was now “lifted” and was leaving for the autumn.
The girl turned slightly pale when she heard this.
“You were probably happy that you were finally getting away?”
“Oh yes! I’m looking forward to it, Lene! It’s supposed to be very pretty with a soldier! ”
She didn’t answer and walked on quickly.
After a while he said, “I’m not really looking forward to it, Lene.”
She replied somewhat hastily and in jerks: “Why not? You get away to people; You see and hear something, and on Sundays you can go dancing with a town girl. You’ll like that. ”
He jumped down from the high edge of the path and took her arm excitedly: “No, Lene, no! I don’t dance with a town girl, I don’t dance with a single one, I’m just good to you, just to you! ”
“Well, Hannes! What are you thinking of? ”
“I have to tell you, Lena, before I get away! Otherwise I can’t stand it; otherwise I will run away on the first day. I am so very good to you, and if you are not good to me again, it would be better if I were dead. And you have to marry me, you have to, Lena! ”
She looked at him and burst out laughing.
“Lena, don’t laugh! Don’t laugh, Lena! I’m serious! Stop laughing! You make me Crazy!”
But she kept laughing.
“Why are you laughing at me? Because I’m the poor Schaffer boy, and you’re Raschdorf Lene? Is that why? ”
Then she got more serious.
“Well, that’s not exactly why! But that you imagine you’re good to me, that’s funny. I have to laugh at that. Nobody is good for me. I know that! And last of all, because I annoyed you the most. ”
“But I’m good to you, Lena! I must know better than you do. Always! Already when we were still going to school – ”
“Because you don’t know anyone else! When you’re in town you’ll find someone else. ”She laughed out loud again; then she continued: “You are a strange guy, Hannes! So really, do you want to marry me? Live from what? You have nothing, I have nothing! And you don’t even know that I have to stay with Heinrich? ”
“Lena, if I were a rich toddler, would you like me there?”
“O yes! May be! We’d have something to live with! Because it has to be, Hannes! Nothing is nothing. Look, that’s no different. You have to be practical, and the two of us as servants at the Buchenhof, that wouldn’t suit me. ”
“Well, there – wait until a rich man takes you!”
Her face softened and her voice softened.
“I didn’t say I wanted someone else. You’re sure! Because there you have the first right to me, where you have helped us. ”
He laughed bitterly.
»Help! If that was it! The father got his wages and I got mine. You owe us nothing. ”
With that he turned away. She said very seriously:
“If you don’t believe it, I’m sorry. I would, but it doesn’t work, and what doesn’t work has to be out of your mind; otherwise you are stupid! ”
She waited for an answer; but he sat down on the field and didn’t say a word.
“Hannes, will you leave me in anger like that?”
“And you will think I’m bad, Hannes?”
“No! I’ll just think that I’m too poor for you and that you don’t like me, and that it would have been better for me if I had never been to the Buchenhof. ”
She thought about it a little. She said softly:
“Hannes, if I could, I’d take you, even if I couldn’t stand you.” I already have so much gratitude in me, even if nobody believes it. But it doesn’t work, we’re both too poor, and there’s no point. And that you say it would have been better for you if you had never been with us, you are right, because there is nothing to get here like work and grief. ”
She paused for a few seconds and waited.
“Are you coming with me?”
There she went. When she was far enough away, “merry Hannes” threw himself on the flowering field and wept bitterly.
Over in the street some guys were singing:
“When I had to go to the flag,
Has she kissed me so tenderly
Adorned my hat with ribbons
And pressed me to the loyal heart! ”
Lena stopped down by the mountain and listened to the song too. Water got into her eyes.
“That’s what they get out of it, Liese and Hannes and also Schaffer and Mathias. They have that for their drudgery all the time! Ingratitude! Ingratitude! Heinrich doesn’t want to, and I can’t! “