It struck midnight down in the village. The Buchenhof people had not yet found the peace of their sleep. And yet everyone had been in his room for long hours.
Up on the first floor the young beech farmer was leaning against the window and looking over at the gable of the Kretscham.
A light shimmered across the night.
There she was!
The young dreamer closed his eyes.
There he saw a sea and in the sea a distant island. From this island the light shone like a waving beacon that shows the way to a home port.
But when Heinrich Raschdorf opened his eyes, he saw the village street. It lay between him and her like an unbridgeable abyss. He opened the window. A heavy scent struck him, the silver light flickered before his eyes, and a bird nearby sang a delightful song.
Then love struck the young blood, and all its tumbling, intoxicating happiness fell upon the lonely one. A hot blush flamed Heinrich’s face, and a resolution formed in his heart to seek his fortune. And again and again he went through the few minutes that he had spent with her, remembered everything she said and was completely beside himself with sheer excitement, love and pity.
Then there was a knock on the door.
Heinrich listened, but did not move.
Now he went and opened it.
His sister Lene was standing outside, fully dressed. Heinrich’s astonishment was great; the sister had not spoken to him since the day he was at the helm in the beech kretscham.
“Is it you, Lene? What do you want?”
“Talk to you! I saw that you were still awake. ”
He closed the door behind her. She looked around and immediately noticed the open window and the light across the street.
She looked at him sharply and he couldn’t stop him from blushing. He had to think of his father, how proud and cold she stood before him.
“Do you want to marry her?” She asked suddenly. Her voice was hoarse.
She laughed sharply and briefly, went to the window and closed it. Then defiance came over him again.
“Lena, I want to tell you something: I won’t be treated like that. Do you understand? What I do or don’t do is ultimately my business. ”
“No!” She said loudly and vehemently. “It is not your business, it concerns us all! We all worked for you. What you have, you have from us! ”
“Of you! I know that. So you come to tell me what I owe you, come to do the math for me? ”
Any sentimentality was alien to her.
“Yes, that’s why I’m coming! You owe us enough, most of it! Almost everything! And I’m not talking about myself, but I’m talking about Mathias. ”
“From Mathias? What harm is it if I – if I – ”
“If you run to the weird? Are you after Lotte? It’s true! It will look nice when you go to the wedding with Lotte. ”
“Shut up, Lene! That’s none of your business, I’m not sorry for such talk! ”
She wasn’t bothered.
“Yes, and the drunk weirdo will follow as a father-in-law.”
“Lena, I’ll throw you out!”
“I’ll talk first! It will be nice when you pass by father’s grave, which the gang has on the conscience, and – and Mathias will also have to watch, that they put in jail. It will be very pretty! You’re a state guy, Heinrich! ”
“Stop it, Lena! You make me Crazy!”
He sat down on a chair. She said nothing, leaned against the wall and looked at him sternly, even full of hate. But she had hit him with the only reference to her father. Then he finally began: “Nothing has been proven!”
“It has been proven that the father is dead!”
He didn’t know what to say to that. At last he said: “The father has had an accident.”
This “no” sounded terrible in the stillness of the night. Heinrich was hit like a blow, and he shivered. He had never been able to face this terrible question without using all his might to force a conciliatory answer. This bitter girl gave the answer. He looked at her shyly.
“How can you – how can you say that, Lena? From the father? ”
For a moment she fought back tears. Then the resentment came over her again.
“Father’s death is very clear. And the stranger wanted it. He killed our father, then he swore wrongly, and in the end he gave notice of the money. Then the father didn’t know what to do. And now – now you run over there – the only son – ”
It was over with her composure. She sank into a chair, covered her face with both hands, and began to cry passionately.
He sat opposite her in a slumped position and with an unmoved face. At last he said flatly: “Stop crying, Lena. Nothing happened. I don’t want to deny that I’m good to Lotte – for a long time, longer than I know myself, but that – that can be overcome – because it must – because it must – ”
He got up and turned away. Suddenly she was behind him, clasped his neck and kissed his cheek hotly.
“Heinrich, didn’t know anything – nothing about Liese?”
“As? What? What should I know about the Liese? ”
“That she is so infinitely good for you, Heinrich!”
He spun around. “Me? The Liese? I’m fine? Lena! ”
“And Mathias always hoped for it.”
He looked at her in amazement. A glaring, painful realization came to him. “O Lena, that – I would not have thought that!”
He sat down heavily on the chair again.
She put her arm on his shoulder.
“You don’t have to think, Heinrich, that Mathias did everything just because of that. That would be bad to think of him like that. But I know that a was hoping for it. And nu – Heinrich, it turned my heart how a went around today, so white in the face, and a didn’t want to show anything, and a always wanted to be funny with Liese – that was pity –
He stared at her, shook himself, and closed his eyes.
“Lene, that – you can’t ask that of me.”
She looked wistfully to herself.
“We don’t ask for that, but the other thing, Heinrich, you can’t do that to us.”
There was a long pause.
Outside the little bird was still singing its sweet song. And the warm light shimmered across the street.
The girl was changed. She took her brother’s hand with shy tenderness.
“Heinrich, is it so difficult for you?”
He replied hoarsely:
“I only know now – now that I am not allowed to have her, how much I love her, how foolishly dear!”
And after a while he sobbed:
“Lene, we have a terrible life!”
Her face twisted.
“I know, I am ugly to you and to everyone, I annoy you all – everyone, but I can’t help it.”
He didn’t answer.
“But I mean it well, just I can’t show it like that, I’m such a terribly gross, stupid thing. And nobody likes me! ”
She began to cry passionately again. Despite his own grief, he felt that his sister too was lonely and hapless.
“Lena,” he said, “let’s try to get on better now. I already know what I owe you. I’ll try, Lene, try in every way! ”
And over across the street?
Old Stenzeln had fallen asleep at the ambulance. Now she was startled.
“Oh God, I am – I have fallen asleep? Is something wrong, Lotte? ”
The beautiful girl shook her head.
“I am quite satisfied.”
She too heard the little bird singing outside. And she too thought of driving through the forest with Heinrich. How they were both so quiet and blissful there. The lilies of the valley, which he plucked from her, stood in a small vase by the bed. They were dear to her. And she was glad that when she fell from the car she had only lost her golden brooch, not those three flower stems.
“How did it come about, Stenzeln, that Herr Raschdorf went to the doctor and not one of us?”
“Oh my goodness, that would have taken a long time! Well, you know, Lotte! But the young gentleman over there drove like a madman. ”
“Does he already know that I broke my foot?”
“Of course, of course! A waited downstairs in the house until I told him everything. Well, and a sends his regards to you, and he is terribly sorry! ”
Lotte smiled again.
“Yes, Stenzeln, I think he’s sorry; he’s a very good person. ”
Die Stenzeln nodded and paused for a while. Then she coughed and said, “Well, actually I should don’t say anything, but you won’t tell anything – look there! ”
She showed a five-mark piece and tempered her voice to a whisper: “A gave it to me, young Raschdorf, and I should only look after you, he said -”
A deep blush passed over the patient’s face, and a happy glow broke from her eyes.
“Yes, and every evening at nine o’clock a will come and ask me at the front door how you are.”
“Did he say that?”
“Of course a! A has a terrible anxiety about you. ”
The Stenzeln sighed.
“It’s a shame! It’s a shame that Raschdorf is just now. Otherwise you really are a very pretty person. ”
Lotte did not answer; only her hand wandered back and forth on the duvet, and the blush burned her cheeks.
“Yes, and I was surprised that your father didn’t say anything more. Well, but with that one it might come. Oh, that will be a stir in the village! They’ll talk to each other again. But it doesn’t matter. Because there is nothing else to think about here. ”
Lotte lay very still. Her eyes grew serious and sad.
“There is nothing else to think about here!”
There was a hot, excruciating restlessness that hurt more than the pain of the diseased foot.
The young girl stared straight ahead. There – right through her heartache it shimmered again and again fragrant and silver –