All around were tables, cupboards, chairs, beds, clothes, and household utensils scattered in the garden.
The unfortunate market!
The torches of doom lit him. The peaceful foliage of the trees trembled with the glow of hell, turned red and sank to the ground. And the bare branches stared at the fire like quivering animals quivering with coiling snakes.
“Heinrich! You have to go into the house! Look, the house doesn’t burn down – that’s over now! You have to go to the warmth, Heinrich! ”
“I don’t want, Mathias – I – I have to carry water!”
“You can’t go on anymore! You are soaked, your whole body is trembling. ”
“It’s our farm – I – I – oh – oh – Mathias – -”
The boy passed out.
Berger called across the garden:
“Ehrenfried, hey – Ehrenfried!”
A farmer came up.
“Ehrenfried, take care here that nobody steals anything! I have to get the boy warm; otherwise he will kill himself. ”
The farmer was happy to serve.
“Take him over to the tavern,” he advised.
Berger shook his head and carried the passed out boy into the house. The people shyly gave way to him.
A thunderous crash boomed through the courtyard. A high wall had collapsed. Sparks flew around the passed out child and his savior.
In the living room the big stove was still warm, and the dog and cat lay peacefully under the stove bench. Otherwise everything was cleared up. Only the kerosene lamp was still on. But its familiar light was terribly outshone by the red fire that shone in from outside.
Berger put the boy on the floor and went back to the garden. There he picked up a large number of beds and carried them into the room.
Carefully he put the sick child into bed after removing the dripping clothes. Then he knelt by the bed and kissed the boy’s cold forehead.
Then the door opened. A woman stepped slowly into the room. Her forehead was marble white, but on her cheeks the fever burned and the outside fire lit them.
“Berger! What is it? Oh God, what is it? ”
The rag man got up and was startled.
“Frau Raschdorf, you! – You should stay in the inn! It is not good for you – ”
‘What about Heinrich? Berger, what about Heinrich? ”
“He passed out, just passed out. He tried so hard, and then the excitement – ”
“Heinrich, my dear Heinrich!” And the woman knelt down beside the bed, crying.
Berger crept out. He found the armchair and a blanket out of the chaos in the garden and carried both into the room.
“I’ll bring you your armchair, Frau Raschdorf.”
She got up. “Mathias, he’s not coming to. What will happen What will happen to him? ”
The rag man leaned over the child.
“It’s getting warmer. I think he will wake up soon, he is well covered, he will sweat and nothing more will happen to him. ”
The woman stood facing him, trembling. Her eyes lit up hot when she looked at him; a tremor flew over her body, and in an excited voice she said:
“Mathias – you – you saved the only thing I still have.”
She reached out and clapped her hands over his shoulders, and her face sank faintly against his chest in a faint.
Mathias Berger stood like someone who suddenly dies and has only one hot, last wave of life still beating painfully and warmly through his heart.
But he quickly pulled himself together. “Sit down, Frau – Frau Raschdorf and watch over him!”
He walked slowly out of the room. –
And the doom cloud still stood over the Buchenhof. The flames of fire beat up to her and painted bright red lights on her black background. The soft rain fell like drops of blood.
Fire from full sheaves and fragrant hay! The flames of fire rose in mad, drunken, staggering joy. Outside lay the quiet, harvested fields, and now it was as if every stalk in the barn, every dried-up flower dying in the hay wanted to greet the quiet spot in the field once again, since it had been green and blooming and tasted with butterflies and tender winds . Now proud, jubilant flame signals flickered across the robbed hallways:
“Triumph! We die a red, glorious death! We are spared the threshing floor and the mill. Nature is great and man is nothing! ”
The people who had wrestled with nature in the long, arduous struggle, who chased the prey from it with cunning and diligence: they stood pale as the vanquished, the defeated, and the prey was snatched from them and their bulwark was destroyed.
Mother Earth looked on in silence, but the widow’s veil, which was still white and gray around her damp during the day Foreheads drooped, turned red. The stalks and flowers are their favorite children, and man is the stepson. – –
The farmer Raschdorf was sitting on an upturned cart. He watched the devastation with dark eyes. He did not lift a finger to help. From time to time his face just grimaced; his hands clung to his legs and often dug painfully into the flesh. And next to him crouched, horror in the beautiful children’s eyes, Magdalene, his likeness, his darling.
The two barns lay desolate; now the great stable was on fire. The cattle went down to the village. Their roars sounded dull through the night.
There were four or five syringes from the village and the neighboring towns. When the barn burned, they had tried to save the house and the servants’ house. They had succeeded because the wind was favorable. But the gables were blackened, the windowpanes shattered.
And apart from those who were hit by the accident, the crowd stood with their feelings. A paralyzing shock ripped them out of the room when the bell from the tower whimpered and the call of fire howled through the streets. But when they convinced themselves that they were not in danger themselves, the fear quickly subsided. Pity came, lust to help, lust to see, lust to experience. None of these people was tired, everyone was enlivened by the sensation, and so it happened here, as always, that right next to the horror and the annihilation, the humor stood among the onlookers and made its own saying. Nothing was closed now rescue; but whenever a new syringe arrived, it went into action, and so the jets of water drove merrily into the hopelessly burning stable and produced a lot of hissing and steam.
At a very late time, when the fire was already subsiding, the syringe came from a neighboring village, which was only a quarter of an hour away.
“They’re already lively!” Said one loudly.
“It’s not a shame about her,” remarked his neighbor, just as clearly. “Her syringe is unique. The brass valves always dry out in the summer. ”
The delayed rescue teams made grim faces at such a cheeky and very applauded speech. But since the scoffers were right, they struggled a little with their syringe, pumping, screwing, shaking, looking at it with sensible expressions from all sides, but convinced themselves that nothing could be done, and therefore drove home shaking their heads. And she was accompanied by the beautiful awareness of at least wanting the good.
There was a lot of noise where the women stood. Every high, proud flame was accompanied by much shouting; Everything that happened was discussed loudly, moaned, moaned or laughed.
When Mathias Berger carried Heinrich into the house, there were calls of pity, even when Frau Anna crossed the street, tired and sick. But when Berger got the chair and the blanket, a few women winked at each other without a word.
And then the farmer Raschdorf walked past them in silence without looking at them.
The women looked after him and breathed more heavily; but they were silent until he was far enough. Then they all wanted to talk about him, but none had the courage to start. Reluctantly, beginning drop by drop, but always growing, her speech emerged like an artfully drawn waterfall.
“Oh dear,” sighed the bravest and most impatient.
“It hits him really well,” said a second.
“Nu, there!” Said a third. “And when you consider how he – how he actually -”
Break. She didn’t want to finish – the third. But everyone was excited, charged, overflowing with an inner urge to talk.
In the meantime another wall came crashing down with a roar. A cloud of rubble, through which millions of sparks flashed, whirled upwards. The women had startled at the bang, but that made them not forget what moved them. For a few seconds they looked at the smoking heap of rubble, then their interest returned to Hermann Raschdorf.
“Well, God forgive me my sin!” Said the first, the bravest, the most impatient. “You shouldn’t say anything bad about anyone, at all, but Raschdorf was proud -”
She could not finish, the spell was broken, the lock pulled, the tides roared. It was a mess. An ugly, skinny woman came across the garden. She stood with her fellow sisters, heard their noise and smiled finely. They were all stupid geese against what she knew.
Gradually the waterfall roared weaker – it got lost. The women looked at the new one. They sensed with subtle instinct that she knew something special.
“What’s the matter, Glasen?” Asked one. “Did you see or hear something?”
“She knows something!” “Of course she knows something!” “Well, look how she’s doing!” “Why doesn’t she want to say it?” “We don’t say anything!”
So it bubbled together.
Frau Glase billowed with pride and superiority.
“What I know nobody knows,” she said coolly.
Now the chaos broke loose again.
It would be wrong not to say something like that. You don’t have any secrets. There would be nothing wrong with it. At all, it is not at all right to pretend to be. Nothing would be passed on. Everyone was always very friendly to Glasen. One was even her godfather. And yet they are so among themselves. Or maybe she doesn’t know anything at all.
The last argument alone sparked; Frau Glase straightened up. She looked contemptuously at the doubter and then turned to the general public.
“But don’t tell anyone anything!”
Over a shock fingers swept affirmatively to the area of the apron.
“I looked through the window, just because of the boy, I’m sorry for a child like that, it was soaked through -”
“Of course you’re terribly sorry. Continue!”
“Well, first the salvor was alone and then -”
“Then? Go on, Glasen! ”
“Then the woman came.”
“We saw them! We saw it! Go on, Glasen! Then the woman came. And what was there? ”
Mrs. Glase took a break from art and enjoyed the tension of her fellow sisters. She had never felt such a great and proud feeling in her life.
“Go on, Glasen! Tell me more! ”
“A took her around her neck.”
“Tucked around your neck!” They neighed.
“Taken around the neck and kissed!”
The word came from all at the same time. Then it was quiet. It worked too hard in these women; they couldn’t talk. Fright, joy, sensation rushed over their flat souls like a sudden storm, and their own mud stirred and threw bubbles.
Gradually they just calmed down. But now they were quieter. They came closer together and whispered and whispered and acted indignantly and hid a laugh and were all very happy.
A giant approached the group; he carried two heavy buckets of water in his hands. He wanted to pass in silence, without even looking.
Then a sound reached his ear that confused him. He looked awkward and thought he was wrong; but he caught a second and third word against his will. The buckets became heavy for him, and he put them on the ground. Another bad word, another one. Then the giant stretched.
“Dirt-hurling, dirty ones! Do you want to shut up! Do you want to shut up ?! ”
And a bucket of ice-cold water poured over the heads of the women, followed by the second in a flash.
Screeching, yelling, hasty flight, laughter or even angry shouts from the men, and August Reichel, the conductor, stood alone and trembled for the first time in his life.
For a while he stood there, completely silent and stupid. He looked helplessly into the empty buckets. It was right, he had poured it out and made a loud, long speech about it. He was surprised that he had said something. He found the pouring in order without further ado. He gave no answer to a man who came up laughing and asked what the worker was doing with the women. He just picked up his buckets and went back morosely to the brook from where he had come.
There should be few things in the world as embarrassing as when someone who is curling with lust and enthusiasm is unexpectedly doused with water. With some heathen people the god of justice once had the idea of introducing the unexpected bath of water from heaven for all people who abuse and slander; but the God of wisdom advised him against and said that the world would no longer come out of the flood.
Some of the women crept home quietly. Those were those who were not only cold, but also ashamed, because there were also many good-natured ones. The others ran up their husbands and scolded more than before, and the men took on the drenched wives and scolded them with them.
So August Reichel, the stupid, good giant, had not extinguished anything with his two buckets of water, he had only poured oil into a bad fire.
The excited withdrew a little and stood together for advice.
And someone came up who had previously stood very close to the fire with his mouth open and stupid, gleaming eyes – Gustav Schräger, the innkeeper’s idiotic son. Always after three steps he stopped and stared into the blazing embers. And then he put his hands in the air as if he wanted to encourage the flames to hit higher and higher.
“Oh dear, it’s getting smaller! It is not big! Uff! Uff! Hu! Brr! Aah! ”
The women pointed at the idiot and laughed. Then they called him. He came slowly closer, grinned and suddenly said:
“Herr Raschdorf set it on fire!”
The company started at the word.
“Gustav, you will be quiet! You don’t say that! But Gustav! ”
The idiot made a face.
“I know it! He lit it! O! Ah! There, that’s fine! High! High! Brr! ”
He wanted to go back to the fire, but a woman held his arm.
“How can you say that, Gustav? You can’t do that. ”
He looked at her grinning.
“It’s nice! And one more man will burn! Watch out! And they will wear it! Do you see! Do you see! There! Ooh – oooh! ”
He wanted to tear himself away, but the woman held him tight.
“Gustav, you have to tell us. How can you say: Mr. Raschdorf set it on fire? You’ll be locked up if that comes out. ”
The idiot looked at her and made a tearful face.
“I won’t let myself be locked up! I don’t want to! I want to go to the fire! I tell my father! Let me go! You’re pinching my arm! ”
“But how did you know that about Herr Raschdorf, Gustav?”
“He wants to kick me out! Nothing to say! It was cold! It was so cold! ”
“But a didn’t light it, did you?”
“A said it. A said, a won’t light. Let me go! A said it! And I should get out – out – you pinch me like that – old goose! ”
The idiot started howling. The women tried in vain to calm him down. He tore himself free and ran home.
The innkeeper Julius Schräger came up panting.
“What have you got with the boy? What have you got with the unhappy child? ”
He was very excited. A man stepped forward.
“Mr. Schräger, we just talked him kindly because a – because a said something -”
“What did a say? What did a say? ”
They were silent.
“I want to know what a said! I want to know what you have with my boy! ”
A man took courage. “Well, I’ll just say it! I’m just saying it. Nobody can harm me. ”
“I want to know what a said!”
Weird turned fiery red. Then the man came up to him and whispered something in his ear. The others were dead silent.
“That’s nonsense! That’s what the stupid boy says. Maybe a didn’t understand that correctly. Raschdorf said something; but it was certainly not meant that way. ”
He followed his son more obliquely, and the crowd remained excited in whispering conversation. The fire slowly subsided, but the misfortune cloud over the Buchenhof was blacker than before.