It had been a busy time. The Buchenhof people had become much quieter than usual, and they all walked side by side like strangers.
Liese had moved away from the Buchenhof and lived with her aunt down in the village. And on a cloudy autumn day, Hannes had also said goodbye. He had entered the living room with his small suitcase.
“I – I’m just coming to say goodbye. It’s time to get on the train. ”
Heinrich shook hands with him warmly.
“Live well, Hannes! Have a good time with the soldiers! And thank you very much for everything! ”
Hannes turned away.
“I – I thank you for everything!”
“We will miss you, Hannes. Me the most! But when the two years are up, you’ll come back to us. ”
Hannes stood with bowed head. He didn’t say yes or no. He tried to control himself, but he found it hard to breathe and shivered slightly.
»If you are missing something, write! You mustn’t suffer hardship. Do you hear, Hannes? ”
He didn’t say a word and just stood there with a pale face and crushed his hat between his fingers.
“Do you have anything else to tell me, Hannes?”
“No! – I have to go! – It – it’s time. Goodbye, Heinrich! ”
“Farewell, dear Hannes!”
He turned around. Lene sat on the bench in the stove peeling potatoes.
The girl wiped her hand on her apron and held it out to him.
“Live well, Hannes!”
She didn’t look up. So he went out of the room and Heinrich accompanied him into the courtyard. There the old Schaffer sat as a coachman on the little basket wagon and acted quite indifferently, but his head was dark red.
Soon after, the horses began to pull. Goodbye, old home!
A “mission” had been held in the village. A couple of competent, strange clergymen had given several sermons a day, and people had gone to church in droves.
An old Franciscan monk had also spoken about the “profession” and thus concluded:
“God has put his calling in the heart of every human being. But you, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts! ”
Then Liese and her father had a final discussion.
Mathias had suffered most of all in the past few months. He must have noticed the change that had taken place with Heinrich. He had seen the young man struggle with himself; how he never entered Schräger’s house again and always sought the company of Liese. He was so friendly with her in all things, and the wise Mathias knew well that Heinrich was looking for a way, a possibility, that he wanted to conquer himself, and finally, if he had a warmer feeling for Liese, he would still have his heart’s desire of Mathias to meet.
And then one day the Liese had unexpectedly asked her father to leave the Buchenhof and go down to her aunt in the village.
Mathias knew what that meant and he had submitted. He could no longer deny the silent girl anything. And whether the child had fought against all his earthly love and was now kneeling in the church every day – the question tormented her tender conscience: whether she was still worthy to become a servant of God.
Then came a very quiet, melancholy evening. Outside on the village meadow, the wind played with withered leaves, carried it through the dust of the road and lowered it over into the deep, slumbering pond.
The Liese had looked out for a long time, including the gray clouds that hung in the sky. Then she turned slowly.
“Father, I want to go to confession today, I want to ask.”
Mathias said nothing. He had been waiting for it.
He turned away and hardly heard what the Liese said to him again about profession and grace, about love for one’s neighbor and peace of heart.
At last he just said the words:
“Go in God’s name!”
Then he went away – out into the autumn, across the bare fields to the yellow forest. But after he had wandered for a while, he was seized with a terrible anxiety and an exhausting longing for his child, and he turned around and went to where she was.
The church was dark. The eternal light just burned red and magical in front of the altar; here and there a little light flamed in the benches of those praying, and great shadows flitted over the old pictures.
Mathias Berger knelt in a bench and lived through the hardest minutes of his life.
In the corner over there in the confessional, with the Franciscan, was his liege, and there was a decision about her and him.
Time passed painfully slowly. It was so long, so long! True, her question was difficult.
Now she came.
He turned around – looked at her – questioningly – pleadingly.
She smiled faintly and bowed her head in the affirmative.
Then she knelt by the picture of the painful Madonna.
Mathias Berger laid his face on his hands.
And outside the evening bell rang.
The kerosene lamp was burning in the large living room of the Buchenhof. As almost always in the evenings, Heinrich was sitting over a textbook and Lene was sewing. Otherwise nobody was there.
Mathias Berger came in. Lene rose:
“I’ll bring you the food in a moment, Mathias.”
“Leave it, Lena, leave it! I don’t want to eat. ”
She looked at him in dismay.
“What about you, Mathias? Are you sick? Your face is white as chalk. ”
“No, I am not sick! But it – something happened and I need to talk to you, both of you. ”
The siblings looked at him questioningly. Mathias Berger sat down. He looked at her with his good, faithful eyes, sore and painful. – So he choked out:
“Amal thinks: My – my Liese is going to the monastery!”
It was quiet for seconds.
“It’s been about for a long time, and I should have said something too, but today it was only really decided.”
“Mathias, that – that’s not true, it can’t be, what you’re talking about is nonsense.”
“It is true, Lene, it is really true!”
Heinrich had stood there petrified until now. Now he spoke tightly:
“Why? Why is she doing that? ”
Mathias Berger lowered his eyes.
“She says she has a job. And that’s true; she was always a pious, good child, not at all for beautiful clothes and pleasure, and she was always fond of the sick, that’s true! ”
“Is that why it is?” Asked Heinrich. “Just about that?”
Mathias didn’t answer. Lena had her apron pressed to her face. Again there was silence for a while. Then the girl looked up angrily and passionately: “No, not just because of that! She was good for him – him! She did everything for his sake, always friendly, always so friendly, but he didn’t want to know anything about her. For days, weeks, a didn’t talk to her – and there – and there – ”
She burst into a torrent of tears. And before the impassioned accusation, the one whom it was concerned fell silent, as did the other who did not know a word of the reply.
“Did you know, Mathias, what we are? We are rascals! You – you should have let us go begging back then – let us throw us out – degenerate – there – it would have been much better for you! Now thank you! ”
“So – it can’t be taken like that, Lene! You have always been kind and grateful to me – oh yes! – You don’t have to reproach Heinrich like that; a can’t help it. ”
“Well a can for it! A is a man! A can get what A wants! And I would have had a pretty, good woman at the Liese. No, a didn’t want to! A gazes across the alley to the gang, at the graceful goose. ”
Heinrich called out, who had not yet said a word in defense.
“Lena, I forbid you to do that! You can do what you want to me, nothing to the girl – nothing! I offer rest! She has done nothing to you, done nothing to me, done nothing to any of us! Roll your eyes as you want, attack me on my account if you dare. I’ll tell you straight to your face, including Mathias: I can’t help it, I couldn’t marry Liese because we’d both have been unhappy. ”
“Man, do you really dare to say that now, now? No! Because you cling to the other, to the – to the – «
“Yes, I love her! Very fond of! I’m not afraid to say that too. I like her and I’ve learned enough to know that things like that can’t be changed. But I’ve made an effort; I fought with myself, God knows! It didn’t work. ”
“Unsuccessful? And is that all? And you – at least you are not saying now – in the last hour, Before it is too late that you want Liese, that you want to receive it from Mathias? ”
“No! I can not! Whatever happens – I can’t! ”
“Then you are a completely dishonorable fellow!”
She turned to the door, but Mathias held her back.
“Lena, don’t go away! Stay here! You’re doing him injustice, Lena! If you wanted to, it would be too late. Liese doesn’t want him anymore, hasn’t been for a long time, Lena! ”
The bitter girl did not answer Mathias, but turned back to Heinrich.
“A dishonorable fellow! I’ll say it again! To the man to whom we thank everything, without whom we would have starved, lousy, lumpy, take his child and then pretend to be cocky and say nothing else than talk about the other, not a single good word – ugh – he would Bites of bread get stuck in my throat, which I still eat here. We’re done together, the two of us, done forever! ”
“Lene, but Lene, listen -”
“Mathias, leave me! I dread! I dread that one! I’ll come to you tomorrow and Liese down to your house, here’s time for me to get away! ”
“Lena, wait -”
She was out. Heinrich went up to Mathias and held out both hands.
“Mathias! Now we want to talk to each other, now that she’s out – she’s great – now you have to tell me, Mathias, whether you think I’m a dishonorable fellow. ”
Mathias shook his head.
“No, Heinrich! I know you can’t help it. ”
Heinrich trembled with excitement.
“Mathias, I swear to you: I can no longer respect a man and be more grateful to anyone than you, that goes without saying, and I loved Liese and had an admiration for her like no other girl – but , Mathias, getting married requires real love, and if I – if I – no, that was not possible! Mathias, that’s true, I told myself day after day that I can marry Liese, and sometimes it seemed to me that it would work, but then – if I just happened to see Lotte from afar – there – there – – Mathias, it wouldn’t be a matter of whether I am happy or unhappy; I’ve been little or not at all happy all my life, but could I cheat you and the Liese like that, could I? – And that she would go away to the monastery,
Mathias Berger looked calmly at the extremely excited young man.
“Sit down, Heinrich, sit down with me! We want to talk to each other calmly. It is good that you are so completely open to me, and I want to tell you everything too. – Yeah, I was hoping for it. I don’t know how that happened. I already told you that I was good to your mother when I was young. I was a poor guy and couldn’t have her. I know, Heinrich, what that means, I know! Then I married someone else. She only lived a year; but I think we’d be good got along together. When you are young, you think that you can’t do without such a great love. Oh yes, it works, sometimes it works better than with people who are very fond of each other before the wedding. I thought of that when I saw that my Liese was attached to you, and that you knew nothing about it and never thought of it. I always hoped it could be, it could be good. Now everything turned out differently. I’m not hiding from you, Heinrich, I feel like dying today because it’s my only one. ”
“Mathias! Mathias! That I had to do this to you is terrible! This is desperate! ”
“Heinrich, don’t whine! I’m not angry with you at all. I already know you. It just came as it had to come. And look, Liese won’t be unhappy. She goes to the monastery; she is happy about it, that’s my consolation. I always took my hat off when I met a nurse. And once I have settled in better, I will be completely satisfied. It’s just difficult for now. ”
Heinrich suddenly looked frightened at his old friend.
“Mathias! But you will stay with me too? ”
“No! Don’t be alarmed! The best thing is, we’ll talk everything out today. ”
‘You want to leave? Away from us? ”
“Yes, Heinrich! Don’t get so upset! We want to talk calmly. Look, I have to go! ”
“That is the punishment? The?”
“But no punishment, Heinrich! We part in peace and friendship. ”
A desperate laugh broke the young beech farmer’s mouth.
“In peace and friendship! And I stay alone! And at last I haven’t got anyone in the whole world! And lose my only friend! In peace and friendship! ”
He jumped up, went to the window and looked out into the night. Suddenly he turned around. In a bitter voice he said:
‘Is that why you teased us, built up the farm, put everything in order so that you want to leave now because one thing went wrong? And you say yourself, I can’t help it! ”
“Yes, Heinrich! Look, man is man! I couldn’t be here anymore. I would always have to think of the Liese. And then, it’s too lonely. It has been difficult for me at times. Now I couldn’t take it anymore. Believe me I’ve thought about it. It doesn’t work! I would purely gloom. I want to go back to people. ”
“But not again -”
“As a scoundrel? Yes, Heinrich! Especially that! That also helped me back then. ”
“You can’t do that, Mathias? What will people say? ”
“The people? May you say what you want. I don’t care. I’m used to it. ”
Heinrich hurried over to the old man and took him by both shoulders:
“Mathias! If you do this to me, I don’t know what to do. Mathias, can’t you forgive me in your heart? You say yes, you are not mad at me; But you don’t stay with me, you want to go away, leave me alone, you know that I need you like my daily bread, not just in the economy, no, a thousand times more as a person and as a friend, and you want to leave! Think about it, Mathias, think about it differently, and if I were a really bad guy – stay with me! ”
The old man turned his head to one side.
“Stay there, Mathias! I ask you to kneel! ”
“I – I can’t, Heinrich! I can’t do it. It’s beyond my strength. And it wouldn’t be good for you if you always saw me like that, and then, when you married Lotte, I would go anyway. ”
“Who says I want to marry Lotte? I can’t change the fact that I’m good to her. But I don’t want to marry her! That’s just what Lene thinks! ”
“It will come, Heinrich, it will definitely come! But it’s better we don’t talk about it. For me there has been a bit of a lot today. But I had long made up my mind to tell you soon if Liese had decided that I wanted to leave. And I don’t want to change anything about that. It has to be now! ”
Heinrich stepped back and leaned pale on the table.
“So go! Go all! Leave me alone if you think I deserve it! – So we’re both done together. “-
There was a heavy pause.
“And you don’t want us to continue to be friends, Heinrich?”
“No! If you do this to me, you will do more to me than my worst enemy! ”
“So – so live healthy, Heinrich!”
Heinrich did not answer him.
Mathias Berger then left the Buchenhof.
Lene Raschdorf was sitting up in her little room, writing a letter. This read:
The Liese goes to the Gray Sisters. Mathias says she has a job and likes going to the monastery. But I know that our Heinrich liked the Liese and that he didn’t like her. He says he was unhappy with her. But that’s not true, because Liese is a good, capable girl. And he only did it because he is in love with Lotte Schräger and wants to marry her. Dear Hannes! It is such a shame that Heinrich does such a thing and that he gives our good Mathias such a heartache that from now on he is no longer my brother. And that’s why I write to you that I will marry you when you are free from the military and when we are one Have got by. I think you are going to the coal mine. When you have settled in, you earn 15 marks a week. And I’ll sew for the people. We’ll be fine with that. Dear Hannes! I want to write to you today that I love you and that I really like to get married. But back then, when you came back from the job, I couldn’t tell you because I thought I would have to stay with Heinrich and help and support him as it always was. But Heinrich is bad and doesn’t deserve it, and that’s why I’m leaving, and I don’t care what happens to our court now. I’m going to aunt Emilie in Waldenburg. I will learn to sew there and stay there until we get married. Dear Hannes! But you have to promise me that you will always be good and orderly so that we can get by. Otherwise you should be funny, because that’s what I always liked about you, because I can’t be funny myself. And I won’t annoy you either, I’ll be good with you.