And in the old struggle for the homeland, the allies moved a step away from him. His sister Lene far! She no longer spoke to Heinrich; she always went around with a dark, closed face. It offended her pride that she had threatened and then failed to carry out the threat.
She had been weak and inferior.
And it wasn’t just insulted defiance that her will hadn’t got through; this girl also had a subtle feeling that a breach had been made in the strong position of the Buchenhof people through her own fault.
Mathias knew that too.
Once it was he himself who preached peace, back when the dead woman was still lying on the stretcher, when he took over the children and looked for a way for them to go home. Then his wise mind recognized salvation only in peace with the people.
At that time the Buchenhof seemed to him like a proud, half-destroyed fortress, a very weak place that could not be held when the opponents down in the valley besieged him with tenacious hostility and starved him in agony for love and joy.
A day had to come when the castle people gave in to mercy and disgrace in order to go into exile.
That’s why Mathias wanted to compare. But when he was looking for a way over, with the white flag in hand, he and Heinrich were attacked insidiously, and they also threw their filthy projectiles at the dear dead.
Mathias then knew nothing of peace, then resentment, defiance, and he rebuilt the Buchenhof, strong, inviolable, as he thought.
So it had gone well all these years. Well?
Hadn’t they all suffered an excruciating hunger for love, for kindness, for human community?
A fortress is not a home. Home needs open gates, wide, free streets where there are no trapping irons and no warning signs, but friendly signposts.
So now the young gentleman went to the enemy camp. He did not go to betrayal, he only went to show trust and gradually gain trust.
Wasn’t he to be praised?
But Mathias was agonizing that the young gentleman from the Buchenhof was going to have an accident over there.
The strife had come to the Buchenhof for a tiny reason. The Schaffer was also gloomy and didn’t say a word. He was deeply angry with Lene, and it was to be assumed that he would never forget in his life the bad trick she played on his son.
Hannes behaved quite unruly. First of all, he decided to make a day “blue”. He also made up his mind to go to the beech kretscham the next day and begin a life of drunkards, in spite of Lena. But since he was finally ashamed to go back into the bar in which he had played such an unrewarding role, he went to the neighboring town, drank three glasses of beer in an inn and came home really badly drunk.
During the night he was very ill, and his stocky father looked worriedly at the son, who he assumed was now close to the abyss of physical and mental ruin.
The next morning Hannes himself believed that his gradual dissolution was near. The illness in its wild manifestations was over, but a condition had set in which made him fear that his strength would slowly and completely weaken.
He was all the more pleasantly surprised when he got hungry around noon and felt quite tolerable again after the meal. So he decided to slowly get used to life again and to go back to work.
He sulked with Lene for a week, then he couldn’t take it any longer and said to the girl: “Lene, that’s too dumb in the long run. Let’s talk again! ”
Lena laughed and spoke to Hannes again, but she thought to herself: “He’s not a real man. He couldn’t put up with that. He should have let me go; so he’s a fool. ”
Meanwhile, good Hannes whistled happily and had no idea that he was a fool. He didn’t know life, he didn’t know beer, he didn’t know woman. He was a harmless, jolly fellow who must have had another bad time before he would give up that good-natured, silly whistling.
It was a hot summer day in May, barely a week later. Heinrich had gone to town to get some things. Now he was on his way home. He sat all alone in the little cab and let the horse leisurely go on its way. He could indulge in his thoughts undisturbed.
That made him think that young Riedel was applying for Lotte. And although the beech farmer said every two minutes that the matter was none of his business, he tried again and again to prove the absurdity of such a connection with a hundred reasons and objections. And he talked to himself in great anger.
So it happened that he was violently shocked when he suddenly saw Lotte walking barely three hundred paces in front of him on the street. Apparently she had been in town too. She carried a small package in her hand.
The reins of the beech farmer wiggled and he did not know whether this meeting was lucky or bad.
What should he do? What should he do?
Ask you to come along, he and she all alone – she, the weird Lotte, and he, a Raschdorf? His people, what would they say? It came out, it couldn’t be concealed. Mathias, Lene – all – what would they say?
Heinrich tugged on the leash and the horse crept slowly in step. It was a comfortable little horse, which in turn did not resist a cautious, wait-and-see pace.
But still – he must have caught up with her in a few minutes! So what? Should he drive past her? Do you run in this dust and in this heat? You who had once carried the heavy suitcase for him? And quite apart from that – driving past, being rude, rude – that didn’t work, that didn’t work!
Immediately resolved, Heinrich moved up tightly and hit the horse. And in less than two minutes he was at Lotte’s side.
“Good day Miss! May I ask you to come with me? ”
She looked up at him. Her face glowed from the exertion of running, and she trembled a little as she said:
“I – I thank you, Mr. Raschdorf – I’ll be walking down the dirt road right now. It’s only half an hour home. I thank!”
“Is that how you refuse me?”
“I – I don’t want to cause you any trouble, Herr Raschdorf!”
“Inconsistencies? How so?”
“Yes! You know – it’s about yours – I was so terribly embarrassed when I saw that you were behind me – ”
Then he jumped into the street.
“Lotte, you have to come with me, yes, you have to! You will offend me if you refuse me. We have nothing against each other – nothing – nothing – absolutely nothing! ”
She looked at him for a second with her large, dark gray eyes.
“No, we probably don’t have anything, but it’s better, thank you, Herr Raschdorf, I’ll be home in half an hour.”
He took her hand.
“Lotte – Miss Lotte, do you remember – eight years ago when I came home the same way that we carried the suitcase, you remember?”
“Yes, but we were children there – now – it’s better if I walk.”
He let go of her hand. He said without a sound:
“Yes, maybe it’s better; maybe it would be a shame for you to lead with me. ”
“What are you looking at me like that? It is like this! Nobody in the village likes anything about the Raschdorf Heinrich Courtesy, no small service, no kindness; he’s outcast. ”
“Mr. Raschdorf! Don’t say that! I drive with!”
“Lotte, I want to thank you for that!”
He helped her onto the wagon and followed her. Shivering, he took the reins again. There was only one seat. So they sat close together. They drove down the street for minutes without anyone finding a word. And the May sun laughed, and the little horse walked so gently.
The young beech farmer had never felt like this in his life. His heart was full, and yet he couldn’t find a poor word. Finally he pulled himself up:
“You still have to tell me, Fraulein Lotte, whether you were angry with me about the bouquet!”
“Oh, I was very angry then. But I know now that you didn’t throw it away! ”
“No, really not, I wish I still had it now.”
“The poor children’s bouquet?”
“Yes, because it was a better time then. I wasn’t so lonely then. ”
“Are you feeling lonely?” She asked softly.
“Oh, Lotte, you don’t even know, you can’t believe what that means: to live like me.”
“You have a sister and good friends.”
“Yes, I know that, I appreciate that too, but that won’t do, that won’t last for so many long years. A little bit Trust, a little friendliness from the people, you see, I miss that. ”
She was silent.
He looked at her painfully. Then he spoke passionately:
“And yet I swear to you, Lotte: I was innocent of the misfortune, and so was my dead father!”
She was deeply shaken. She said softly:
“I know that, I always believed that too.”
“Lotte, that’s good of you!”
He squeezed her hand. He held her so tightly for a while, then was frightened and released her.
For a few minutes they drove back in silence, then Lotte said softly:
“And how do you think I’m doing?”
He was looking for an answer. He remembered the drunkard father, the idiotic brother, and he realized all of her desolate abandonment.
“Yes, I know, I sense it, I’m sorry, Lotte, but the people in the village respect and honor you.”
“The people in the village! If I had a real home, I wouldn’t need any people from the village. I do not want her.”
He noticed the contradiction between her and himself.
“Lotte, I think we’re both not happy. We both have a house in which we live and yet neither have a home. ”
She looked up at him. She had had similar thoughts before; only she had not been able to give them this clear form.
“Yes,” she said, “you are right!”
Then they spoke of childhood, of those golden days when they were still happy, when they both still had a home.
In this way they forgot their grief, and sometimes they looked each other quickly and secretly in the eye – just as one gazes at an old, homecoming happiness with a pounding heart. And they were both red in the face, and deep in their eyes it shone like a very faint hope of salvation.
The road led through the forest. Then they were silent again.
Individual golden lights flitted across the shadowy path, and far away a little fountain sang through the midday silence.
The vehicle drove very slowly along the soft road, and the two young human beings looked down at the flowering edge of the road. He stopped where the lilies of the valley were blooming, jumped down, plucked three stalks and handed them to her.
“We have no enmity, Lotte!” He said, moved.
“No – no, Heinrich!”
And then on again, along the green spring forest, which quietly gazed at the two with blooming friendliness with eyes deep in a fairy tale. Two strange, brightly colored butterflies fluttered before them; They watched them with dreaming eyes, and their hands were close together and touched softly.
That was fine with them. You were at home. Home was on this little wagon.
But when they came out into the light and saw the beech courtyards, they shivered in the glaring, hot sunlight. Then they knew that they would both be there again in a foreign country.
He took her hand again.
“Lotte, if we could talk sometimes – only sometimes, that would be lucky!”
“It’s not possible!”
“It must be possible, Lotte! We want to be friends! ”
“Hi there! Hi there! Hi there!”
The idiot jumped out of the forest. He was holding a huge bag full of cockchafer.
The two were frightened, and the idiot stopped, astonished. He opened his mouth.
“And – and – and a dog,” he grunted in surprise, the only thing that always occurred to him when he saw someone from the Buchenhof.
“My brother! O God, my brother! ”
Heinrich was also embarrassedly surprised.
“Lotte and that – and that – and a dog, a big dog!” Crowed the idiot.
“Let me get down, Mr. Raschdorf – I have to talk to him.”
Heinrich Raschdorf stopped. “Stay, Lotte! – Gustav, Gustav, come here once! ”
“Nice dumb! You throw me in the fire You lock me up And a big dog! ”
“I want to go down, Herr Raschdorf – I have to see him, good-bye – you don’t know -”
“When will we see you, Lotte?”
“I do not know! Let go of my hand, I want to get off. ”
The idiot had meanwhile crept up and all of a sudden threw the bag with the cockchafer at the horse’s head. The horse started, moved forward, and sped away while Lotte, dismounting, rushed into the street with a cry.
With desperate strength Heinrich brought the trembling animal to a stop and ran back the way.
Lotte Schräger was lying on the street. The rear wheel had gone over her left foot.
“Lotte, for God’s sake, what happened?”
“My foot – my foot – run over – oh, I get dizzy -”
“Lotte, dear Lotte!”
He felt for her foot; blood oozed from the lower shoe. So he picked up the girl and carried her to the car.
The idiot stood there with a horrified face and shouted:
“It bleeds! It bleeds!”
And he crawled into the forest.
Heinrich carefully lifted the wounded man onto the wagon. A shiver went through his soul.
Years ago, Mathias Berger loaded his dying father onto his little sledge in the same place. And now, as in the past, we went carefully down the hill to the Buchenhöfe.
She clung to him tightly.
“Lotte, Lotte! Beloved Lotte! ”
She passed out.
He put her to his chest and wrapped his right arm around her. He held the reins with his left hand.
She was so pale and so beautiful, and she breathed heavily, but not more heavily than the young beech farmer. He always looked at her sweet, pale face. And once he hurriedly bent over her shyly and kissed her on the mouth. A chill of bliss glowed through his body. –
When they came near the Buchenhof, two were walking through the garden – Mathias and Liese.
They kept a lookout. And now they saw him. They put their hands over their eyes so they could see better. So they stood motionless like statues.
But suddenly both people came to life. They talked excitedly, pointed to him, and suddenly Liese turned and ran into the house.
But Mathias Berger walked slowly to the next tree and leaned against it.
Heinrich had seen all of this, but it seemed to him that it was none of his business. He just nodded in greeting and drove by, over to the Kretscham.
Two maids and the old housekeeper looked through the kitchen window and ran out screaming. Heinrich briefed them and handed them Lotte. Then he asked about weird.
He sat in the dining room and slept. He was drunk again that morning.
Heinrich shook the sleeper. He opened his eyes, saw the young Raschdorf and grunted.
“Don’t be alarmed, Herr Schräger, an accident has occurred. Fraulein Lotte drove a little with me, and when she wanted to get off, Gustav made the horse shy. Then she fell and her foot was run over. ”
He stared at him obliquely, uncomprehending.
“Herr Schräger, someone has to go to the doctor at once!”
“To – to – go to the doctor?”
Heinrich saw that the man was drunk.
“Yes, there is no time to waste! Listen, Herr Schräger, I’ll get the doctor myself. Listen?”
“Yes – yes – the – doctor -”
Heinrich was already outside. He instructed the housekeeper to carefully remove the shoe and stocking and to keep cooling the foot with cold water. He’s going to the doctor.
Then he jumped on the cab and drove to the Buchenhof. Hannes and Lene stood on the steps in front of the front door. Mathias and Liese could not be seen.
“Hannes, quickly harness the two black horses! I’m going to the doctor. Miss Schräger has had an accident. ”
Hannes and Lene looked at him wordlessly.
“It doesn’t say so stupidly! She drove a little with me and when she tried to get off she fell and ran over her foot. ”
“You have a wagon over there yourself,” said Hannes.
“Yes, but it all takes too long; I’m driving, that’s a Christian duty. ”
Lene laughed loudly and mockingly.
“Hannes, do you want to help or not?”
“Woe to you, Hannes, if you move a hand!”
“Hannes, am I the master or she? And do you let a woman command you? ”
Hannes was very embarrassed. But finally he said: “It’s nonsense, but I’ll help!”
Lene gave him a contemptuous look and went into the house. A few minutes later Heinrich’s vehicle whizzed into town.
In a relatively short time he brought the doctor.
He was standing down in the hallway waiting for news. The housekeeper came.
The foot would be broken, but there was no danger. With good care, everything would heal quite nicely.
“Will you take good care of the young lady, too, Stenzeln?”
The old woman gave the young man a friendly look and promised her best. He gave her a coin.
“Here, take this! But don’t tell anyone about it! And say hello to the young lady! She shouldn’t be angry with me. I am very sorry for the accident. And, Stenzeln, you come to the front door every evening at nine o’clock. I want to ask you how it’s going! “