There were only two men in it: Hermann Raschdorf, the beech farmer, and Julius Schräger, the landlord. You could hear the flies trapped on the sticks of glue on the window sill trembling. But the sun, which despite all the work still finds time to have a little fun, like all great people, allowed itself a wonderful game. She lit the large liquor bottles that stood in the cupboard and drew wonderful lights from them; and whoever looked closely at the flickering bodies of the bottle could think that he was seeing a lot of large gems. There was the Benedictine, dark as an orthoclase, and next to it the cherry bottle shone like a huge ruby; the green bitters certainly felt like a fairytale to itself Emerald, and the cognac was so milky and had such soft moonlight reflections as a real opal. But the brandy, of real “water and fire,” considered itself to be a diamond without undue modesty. It’s a shame that so many people don’t pay attention when the sun is funny. Neither do the two men.
“The main thing, Hermann, is that you don’t blame me,” said the landlord.
“But it was you who most persuaded me that I bought the damned stocks!” Replied the beech farmer.
“Persuaded, what does persuaded? I would have persuaded you if I hadn’t thought it was a good thing, wouldn’t I? Would I have that? What? I would have bought some myself if I had had money lying around at the time. ”
“And me? Did I have any lying around? Did I have it? Didn’t I take out a new mortgage? Five thousand thalers, man! Five thousand thalers! What does that mean for me! ”
The innkeeper jumped up angrily, put his hands in his trouser pockets and went to the window.
“That’s it! When people are unlucky, they always blame others. ”
He turned back quickly.
“Well, man, don’t you see that I meant well? That I just wanted your best? What?! If things had gone right – ”
“If! You shouldn’t get involved with such rascals. God, if really, weird – – it is – it is not even imaginable – ”
The fat little innkeeper put a reassuring hand on the big, handsome farmer’s shoulder.
“Hermann! What use is all this! Wait! wait and see! ”
“Wait! You speak well. Wait! I – I – my time becomes eternity; over there lies my wife sick, she doesn’t know anything about it, I still owe the interest from Johanni, – I – I – ”
“You know, Hermann, let’s have a cherry!”
“I don’t like, I don’t want, I’ve already had enough!”
“Let’s just have a cherry! You wouldn’t refuse me, Hermann! ”
The landlord went to the mantelpiece and the ruby went into hiding.
“Well then!” Said Schräger, slowly coming back with the filled glasses. “Just don’t lose your head! Everything will work out. So there! Well, have a drink, Hermann! On your well-being!”
There were footsteps outside in the hallway.
“The postman,” gasped Raschdorf, knocking over the full glass. He got up and leaned heavily on the table. A country mailman stepped over the threshold, heated and covered with dust.
“Good day!” Said he; “A grain and a glass simple -”
“Is there something about me?” Asked Raschdorf, heavily uneasy. The landlord also looked at the black leather bag with great interest. “Yes, Herr Raschdorf, there is a letter!”
“From the lawyer,” said Raschdorf softly and reached across the table.
“Come into the room with me, Hermann!” Advised the landlord.
The two men went into the host’s living room. With trembling fingers, Hermann Raschdorf detached the envelope from the letter.
“Sit down, Hermann, sit down!” The landlord forced him onto the sofa.
And Raschdorf read. Then the face turned pale, the corners of the mouth twisted, the lower jaw trembled, and a red stain burned on the forehead like a wound.
“Cursed! Oh – oh – damn it! ”
The paper sank away from the strong man, and he fell face down on the sofa, digging his fingers into the upholstery.
“What is it, Hermann, for God’s sake, what is it?”
No Answer. The gigantic body twitched convulsively up and down, the hands went back and forth like mad, and the head bored into the sofa seat.
The landlord bent down, picked up the letter and read it.
There was a long pause.
“Fifteen percent, only fifteen percent!”
Slanted down on a chair. He watched the unfortunate man in silence, who broke out in dull sobs. There was a strange twitch in the host’s gray eyes. He remained very quiet for a while, then crept out on toes and sold the waiting postman over there for ten pfennigs of schnapps and beer.
“For the time being, don’t say anything about the letter in the village,” he said to the postman, and took the ten Penny colliery. Then he went back to the living room. He opened the door carefully. Raschdorf was leaning on the sofa, his feet stretched far away.
‘What did you say? Have you read? Fifteen percent! What? That works! This gang of pigs! ”
“But there must be a law, Hermann!”
»Give law! Sheep’s head! Law! If you let a dog run around without a muzzle, or if you’ve forgotten the sign at home, there’s a law, they’ll get you; but when speculators fool little people about their money, about thousands, about many thousands, about everything – there is no law, no cock crows over it, no devil cares – gang of pigs! ”
Striker stepped close to the coffee table.
“It’s terrible, Hermann! And worst of all: now I’ll be blamed. ”
Raschdorf looked up.
“Get the blame! You? Huh Of course it’s your fault! ”
“Hermann, I apologize for that -”
“Oh shut up! What’s the point if I blame you? Will I get my money back? What? No! It’s gone! But that you advised me, that you lay in my ears day and night, that is written on the other board, weird! ”
“Well, it’s fine, Hermann! Is good! I won’t advise you anymore! I don’t say any more mortal words, and if you – ”
“And if I go broke! I know, weird, I know! It’s also quite good that way. ”
“Well, that’s right! I just deserved it for you! ”
Slanted to the window and looked out onto the dusty street. Raschdorf got up and stretched his arms.
“So! Now I’ll tell my sick wife, and afterwards we can close the flap and go fencing. ”
Oblique turned slowly around.
“Hermann,” he said, and his voice sounded warm, “Hermann, if you need a friend!”
Raschdorf looked at him with a bitter smile.
“If I need a friend, I’ll come to you. Rely on it, weird!”
They met each other’s eyes for a few seconds.
“Goodbye, weird!” – –
Raschdorf went across the street and across his yard. He neither saw nor heard. When he came into the hall, he stopped as if he had to take courage. A hollow cough sounded from above. Then the man pulled himself up. He slowly climbed the stairs and opened a door. “How are you, Anna?”
The gentle, tender woman who lay in bed looked at him in astonishment and asked fearfully:
“What is it with you, Hermann?”
“Me? – What should be with me? ”
The patient straightened up.
“Hermann, something happened! You are something; Hermann, what is it to you? ”
He sank into the chair next to her bed and leaned his head on the cool pillow. And just as a confession of guilt is always difficult and painful to break loose from a man’s lips, so also now.
“Anna, I – speculated – and I lost.”
A hot blush ran over the white woman’s face. She didn’t say anything right away, but then she asked:
“Is it a lot, Hermann?”
“A lot, Anna! Very much! Over – over four thousand thalers. ”
The patient sank back on the pillows and put her right arm over her forehead and eyes. And the man sat by her bed in gloomy silence. No sound. Only the woman coughed a couple of times. And the humid sun shone in the room.
There was a strange sound in this sadness of death. From the garden below came faint children’s singing: “In the prime of your years”.
Raschdorf rose wearily. He didn’t have the courage to look his pale wife in the eye. So he went gently to the window and leaned against the wall.
A strange picture presented itself to him down in the garden. He didn’t see everything, not Hannes, who was standing down there dressed up like a comic, not the strange children; he saw a dead chicken, adorned with myrtle branches and blue ribbons, standing over a pit, he saw his beautiful child, Magdalene, and he saw his only son, who stood downstairs dressed like a clergyman and said loudly: “ Vita brevis! Vita difficilis! «
“Life is short! Life is hard!”
The word hit the man in the heart. He went back to the sick woman’s bed and covered his face with both hands.