She had been here sometimes as a little girl, but not since. The picture of old Raschdorf looked down at them. She looked at it calmly. Everything was paid dearly.
Now the wagons rolled into the yard. In the hallway, the bride and groom were greeted by the servants, then the little party climbed the stairs.
“What? – What? – Where?”
It was him. Soon afterwards he went into the room in his wedding suit, top hat in hand. For a few seconds he stood in front of Lotte without speaking; then she took a few steps towards him and said quickly and hastily: “Please forgive me, but I have to ask you again personally to visit my father, he is a dying man and he urgently needs to talk to you. ”
He looked at her with wide eyes and deeply shocked and didn’t say a word. Then she blushed and began again:
“Just for a few minutes, he’s a dying man -”
“I will come -”
And she left the room quickly. He stood motionless in his seat when she was back across the street.
He spoke a few more secret words with Mathias, then went to the beech crepes.
He met Schräger and Lotte alone. The patient closed his eyes when he entered, he opened his mouth a little, and the heavy, ailing body rose in the chair. Lotte leaned pale and motionless against a cupboard.
Heinrich went quickly through the room and held out his hand to the sick man.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Schräger! How are you?”
The excited man looked at him fearfully.
“Thank you, very good – I’m fine.”
The guest sat down on a chair next to the sick person and talked to him about his illness. Schräger answered and began to tell himself. Minute after minute passed. Not a word of the confession! Heinrich looked at the large wall clock and got up.
“My time is very short. I wish you, Herr Schräger – ”
“You want to go?”
The patient asked fearfully.
“I have to go, I stayed with you a little longer -”
“I have to – I have to tell you something -”
There was a terrible attack of pain and Lotte had to rush to her father’s help. Heinrich watched the scene with a pale face.
“Lotte – Lotte – tell – tell him – you tell him – I – I – ooooh -”
“What is it – for God’s sake, what is it?”
Lotte turned to Heinrich. In a flat, fast voice she said:
“My father has a commitment to make you. He knew from the start that my brother had set fire to the barn, he knew it before the trial – he swore wrong – he wanted the Buchenhof – hence everything – now you know! ”
She held on to the table; the patient stared at Heinrich, who was standing there like a statue.
“I wanted to bring a Raschdorf in – with the shares – and later too – and I swore wrong.”
Heinrich slowly sat back on the chair.
“Well – well go to the police – I – I – I’m over! Out! Before they bring me into town, I’ll be dead. ”
There was a long pause. The three people just stared at each other.
“Are you saying that to my face?”
“The – death – you don’t know – if one is supposed to die, afterwards everything will suddenly be different – different from usual -”
“And you really drove my father to his death? You – you – ”
“No – that – that he shoots himself, I don’t want that – I don’t want that – just – just a yard – a beautiful yard!”
Heinrich Raschdorf rose. A curse floated on his lips, a curse that was to accompany the man into the grave and into all eternity.
Lotte knelt before him and kissed his hanging hand with twitching lips.
“And you, Lotte, did you know that too?”
There was a horror in the question.
“I’ve known since the night I left.”
He stared at her. A light dawned on him.
“Therefore?! – Is that why you left? Not because of the brother? Because of the father? ”
He slowly nodded his head.
“Yes, then I will understand! You had to go! Had to! It’s clear!”
As if he had to calculate himself, he spoke in a low voice, and his eyes stared:
“My father in prison – close to the penitentiary – in death, all of us in misery, in need, hatred, enmity – ooh – die – die as you want, you wretched creature!”
Lotte jumped up.
“Now we don’t ask any more, father! Not any longer longer! Enough now! Now we have confessed and atone! Go, Herr Raschdorf! ”
He stared at her.
“Yes! Go, go! ”
»Don’t go – don’t go – oooh – the pain – the death – the Raschdorf! – Don’t go, Heinrich! The fear -”
The patient got up from the armchair, wanted to approach Heinrich and fell heavily on the floor.
A twitching, moaning, dying mass!
Then came the horror, stronger than anything else, and united them. Together they took hold and lifted the sick man back into the armchair. His face was blue and his hands felt in the air. And Heinrich Raschdorf, who looked death in the contorted face like this, was seized with immeasurable fear, a horrific horror. Like many an unfortunate person, he felt the same way: When a severe shock bursts the bark of the frozen heart, then the holy source of mercy jumps again, strong and clear.
“Mr. Schräger, come to yourself – to yourself – Schräger! Don’t die, not like this! ”
“Father! Oh God, do you hear? Do you hear it? ”
He didn’t hear it. He lay unconscious in his bed. The Stenzeln came. They all took care of the sick person. Nobody could speak, only Heinrich muttered incomprehensible words. There – after a quarter of an hour, Schräger came to. He looked at Heinrich and groaned in horror.
“Mr. Schräger, give me your hand, everything is good, everything is good!”
He looked at him blankly.
“I just rushed, only talked like that in the first shock – I forgive you – you can be calm, very calm -”
A stammering laugh came from the patient’s mouth.
“Mathias – Lene!” He slurred.
“They will forgive you too. Shall I tell you, persuade you? Do you want them to come? ”
The patient nodded.
“Come! Come soon!”
A few minutes later Heinrich was in the Buchenhof.
Lena cried hard. Then she took the bridal wreath from her head and went over to the Kretscham with Mathias and Heinrich.
The patient looked at those who entered with wide eyes. He held out his hands, which they silently took. Then he sank back and closed his eyes.
They all stood silent and shaken. The clock counted beat by beat. It didn’t count far, it was more slanted. Lotte knelt down by him, and Heinrich went over to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
The others went out quietly.
And the clock counted – counted.
His hand was heavy and hot on her.
She got up. She closed one eye of her father to and he the other. Now he lay with his eyes closed, now he could no longer see anything.
The two living looked at each other.
Vengeance is small!
Yes, human vengeance is small!
He led her out.
Out in the hallway, he kissed her forehead.
“The fight is over, Lotte! Now finally there must be peace! ”
Julius Schräger was buried three days later. He found his final resting place next to his son. Old Raschdorf was not far away. So they were neighbors even in death.
At the funeral, the Buchenhof people stood in full at Schräger’s grave. And the village community saw it and saw in it an example of how people should forgive and forget.
On the way home Heinrich went with Lotte. He stopped at the top of the wild cherry tree.
“Lotte, now in this difficult, serious hour I ask you for the third and last time whether you want to be mine!”
She was frightened and wanted to talk.
“Don’t speak, Lotte! What you can say against it doesn’t count – nothing anymore! Everything has been thought often, often said with passion. I thought everything myself, said everything. But life and death have all disproved us. The fathers who argued are down there; there is nothing between us that separates us. ”
The black veil fluttered around her; the wind whistled coldly over the fields. Before her lay the way into the foreign, into a dreary, difficult future. And next to her walked the one she loved and who could save her from all sorrow, who alone could lead her out of this night on the shining road of happiness.
Then she spoke softly:
“If you still want me after all – I would be happy – I would be so happy!”
He said nothing, he didn’t kiss her, he just took her hand tightly and led her home to the Buchenhof.