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Full text of "Seldwyla folks; three singular tales"

SELDWYLA FOLKS 
THREE SINGULAR TALES 



SELDWYLA FOLKS 

THREE SINGULAR TALES 



BY 
THE SWISS POET 

GOTTFRIED KELLER 



TRANSLATIONS BY 

WOLF VON SCHIERBRAND, Ph.D. 




NEW YORK 

BRENTANO'S 

PUBLISHERS 



COPYRIGHT, 1919 

BRENTANO'S 



All rights reserved 



Ql 



K 



r'- 



PREFACE 

GOTTFRIED KELLER may fitly be called the 
greatest narrative writer that Switzerland has 
ever produced. Born July 19, 1819, near Zurich, 
he was reared in direst poverty. By dint of the 
hardest labor and by practicing the utmost frugality, 
his father was barely able to provide bread for wife 
and children. But in the midst of this penury the 
genius of his young son Gottfried expanded. As a 
mere child he gave already unmistakable evidence 
of being a dreamer, a thinker, a philosopher, a "fabu- 
list," an artist. Just able to write, the little boy 
forever scribbled poems and fanciful tales, made 
rapid sketches with pencil and pen, portraits, cari- 
catures, landscapes. At the village school he imbibed 
knowledge like a sponge. Soon the gnarled old school- 
master, half peasant, half teacher, looked aghast at 
his little scholar: he had no more to teach him. 
Generous friends sent the youth to Munich, there to 
study art. For at that time his desire was to become 
a great painter. Desperately and with fiery energy 
the young fellow devoted himself to study, and his 
attainments were considerable. They would fully 
have sufficed for a career as a mediocre portrait painter. 



vi PREFACE 

But his very excess of zeal led to surfeit, to exhaustion, 
to a period of lethargy. "All work and no play 
makes Jack a dull boy." This fit of listlessness lasted 
even for some time after Gottfried^s return home. 
All effort with him slackened. 

Patrons finally intervened. With their aid he 
went to Heidelberg, and for two full years, 1848- 1850, 
he there pursued literary and historical research. 
The historian, Hettner, took great interest in the 
young Swiss. Next he went to Berlin, and during 
the ensuing five years he wrote and studied in a desul- 
tory manner there. Great attention was paid him 
by Goethe's intimate friend, Varnhagen von Ense, 
and the latter's wife, the "seeress," Rahel, who drew 
the shy young man into their wide literary circle, 
comprising for two decades the beaux esprits of the 
capital. But his bluntness of speech, his sturdy 
Swiss republicanism, often gave offense. 

For that was one of the remarkable points about 
Gottfried Keller: despite his long residence on Ger- 
man soil and the flattering reception accorded him 
by the intellectual Slite there, he remained a thorough 
democrat, an uncompromising friend of the plain 
people, a fearless champion of Swiss free government, 
a hater of tyranny in any form, a despiser of monarchs 
and their favors. Among his poems, later collected 
into a bulky tome, there are many that breathe defiance 
to royalty by "divine grace." 

Much of this sentiment of anti-monarchism has 



PREFACE vii 

crept into his first great work, the "Gruener Hein- 
rich." This, a sort of autobiography in guise of a 
big novel, alive with adventure as well as thoughts 
on men and things, he first published from 1854 to 1855, 
but it was afterward recast in characteristic fashion, 
1879-1881. In a manner of speaking, his "Gruener 
Heinrich" is also a confession of faith. There are 
many didactic passages in it; the whole book, in fact, 
breathes the convictions of its author. This is still 
more the case with the last great work from Keller's 
pen, "Martin Salander,'' where the frequent poHtical 
and social precepts interwoven into the text of the 
story form, from the purely artistic viewpoint, a 
serious blemish. 

* It is generally conceded that Keller's masterpiece 
is "Seldwyla Folks" ("Die Leute von Seldwyla"), 
which appeared in two sections, the first of these 
in 1856, the second in 1874. From this group of 
weird, fantastic tales the three forming the contents 
of this book are taken. About the origin of the 
title Keller himself has written in his inimitably 
oracular and whimsical style. The name and the 
town itself are wholly fictitious. They represent a 
sort of collective traits of a number of ancient, un- 
progressive Swiss towns, left head over heels in 
medievahsm, in outworn customs, with some peculiar 
features exclusively their own. Each tale is a jewel 
cut and polished, a distinctive literary entity, some- 
thing that may not be duplicated elsewhere in the 



viii PREFACE 

whole realm of letters, with a full flavor of its own. 
Where, for instance, in the literature of any tongue, 
is to be found a humorous-sarcastic story of the raci- 
ness of "The Three Decent Combmakers"? 

From 1 86 1 to 1878 Keller filled, to the eminent 
satisfaction of his countrymen, the important and 
remunerative ofhce of "Staatsschreiber," one that 
combined the duties of secretary of state with those 
of custodian of documents and librarian for his native 
canton, which was offered him in direct recognition 
of his literary merits. As such he utilized for a cycle 
of semi-historical tales some of the most curious 
records in his keeping, which are embalmed in his' 
"Zurich Stories'^ (Zuericher Novellen), 1877. I^ 
the year after that he retired from office, and in 1882 
appeared "The Epigram" (Das Sinngedicht) , in 
1883 his "Seven Legends," based on some of the 
Lives of the Saints, singularly humanized and modern- 
ized, and in 1886 finally "Martin Salander," an in- 
tensely patriotic and peculiarly Helvetian novel. 
He was also a master of the short story, a sadly ii^g- 
lected field in Teutonic literature. 

Meanwhile, wherever German was understood or 
spoken the writings of Gottfried Keller had found in- 
tense appreciation, at first slowly, then more rapidly, and 
eminent German critics and authors, such as Theodore 
Storm, Berthold Auerbach, F. Th. Vischer and others, 
had pronounced themselves ardent admirers of his. 
But in 1890 he died, after a lingering illness. 



PREFACE ix 

The question may well be asked how it is that the 
literary lifework of such a man as Gottfried Keller 
has for so many years been denied the most sincere 
form of homage, that of translation, by the whole 
non- German-speaking world. There may be addi- 
tional reasons for this seeming neglect, but I believe 
the chief one lies in the fact of the unusual difficulty 
of the task. To cast the thoughts and conceits of 
an individualistic writer into another vehicle of speech 
is in itself no easy matter. But in the case of Gott- 
fried Keller it is especially so. For the man, as I 
took pains to point out, was a Swiss, not by any man- 
ner of means a German. And not only is the subject 
matter of his lyrical and epical output strongly tinged 
with Helvetism, but his very language as well. The 
Swiss- German vernacular is more than a mere dialect; 
it is almost a tongue of its own. On all but on the 
few solemn and formal occasions of life the Swiss 
expresses himself in what he terms "Schwyzer- 
Dutsch," which is indeed scarcely understood by 
persons habituated to German proper, and even when 
the Swiss author perforce drops into the latter he 
uses so many peculiarly Helvetian terms and modes 
of speech, so many archaic saws, his whole method 
of handling the language is so different that to reshape 
what he says into another tongue without doing 
violence to the spirit, the soul, the flavor and thus 
marring the translation irretrievably and doing gross 
injustice to the original becomes doubly hard. 



X PREFACE 

I can only say that I have done in this respect what 
was humanly possible. What the final result has 
turned out to be is for the court of last resort, for the 
final arbiter, the reader, to say. 

W. V. s. 



PAGE 
V 



CONTENTS 

PREFACE 

THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS .... i 

DIETEGEN 8i 

ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VH^LAGE . 193 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 



THE THREE DECENT 
COMBMAKERS 

THE people of Seldwyla have furnished proof that 
a whole townful of the unjust or frivolous may, 
after all, continue for ages to exist despite changes of 
time and traffic; the three combmakers, though, dem- 
onstrate as clearly that not even three decent himian 
beings may manage to live for a long stretch under one 
roof without getting their backs up. And with decent, 
with just, is not by any means meant heavenly justice, 
nor even the natural justice of the human conscience, 
but rather that vacuous justice which from the Lord^s 
Prayer has struck the plea: And forgive us our debts, 
as we also forgive our debtors! And this simply because 
they never contract any debts whatever and cannot 
stand the idea of debts. Indeed, also because they 
live to no one's harm, but also to no one's pleasure; he- 
cause, true enough, they work and earn money, but will 
not spend a stuyver, and find in their laboring task 
some small profit but never any joy. Such soberly 
decent chaps do not smash window panes for the 
wicked fun of it, but neither do they ever light any 
lanterns of their own, and no enlightenment proceeds 



2 seli!)Wyla folks 

from them. They toil at all sorts of things, and one 
thing, to their minds, is as good as another, so long 
as no risk or danger be involved. But they prefer to 
settle in such places where there are many unjust in 
their sense. For if left to themselves, without any 
mingling with the said unjust, they would soon grind 
each other sorely, as do millstones which lack corn be- 
tween. And if at any time some piece of ill-luck be- 
falls them, they are greatly amazed and wail and 
whine as though their last hour had come, inasmuch 
as they, so they say, have never done harm to anyone. 
For they look upon this world of ours as a huge and 
well-organized police department in which nobody 
need fear any fine or punishment so long as he unfail- 
ingly sweeps his sidewalk, does not leave flowerpots 
standing loosely on his window sill and does not pour 
any water into the street. 

Now in Seldwyla there was a combmaking establish- 
ment the owner of which habitually changed every fifth 
or sixth year, and this although it did fair business 
when taken proper care of. For the small traders and 
stand-keepers who attended the fairs in the neighbor- 
hood, obtained there their horn wares. Beside the 
horn rasps and files, the implements of various kinds, 
the most marvelous ornaments and back-combs of 
every description for the use of the village belles and 
servant maids were made there out of handsome trans- 
parent ox horns, and the rare skill of the workmen 
(for, of course, the master never actually toiled him- 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 3 

self) consisted in branding and searing the close coun- 
terfeit of the most artistically designed clouds of red- 
dish brown tortoise shell, each according to his con- 
ceit and fancy, so that, when admiring these combi. 
as the light played on their fantastic cumulations, 
looked almost as though the most magnificent sun 
and sundowns were concealed within the polished 1 
surface, rubicund gatherings of cloudlets, thur 
storms and tornadoes, as well as still other varicol 
manifestations of the forces of Nature. 

In the summertime, when these proud artisans 
to wander over the surface of the land and when 
were scarce, they were treated with courtesy by 
masters, and received good board and wages. 1 
during the winter, at a time when they were lookii 
for shelter and were plentiful, they had to be humble, 
had to turn out combs till their very pates smoked 
with the effort, and all for slender pay. During that 
inauspicious season the mistress of the house one day 
after another would put a big dish of sourkrout on 
the table, and the master himself would then say: 
" These are fish! " And if at such a time any fellow was 
rash enough to remark: "With your permission, this 
is sourkrout!" he was instantly handed his walking 
papers and had to issue forth into the dreary winter 
landscape. However, as soon as the meadows once 
more turned green and the roads became passable, 
they all said: " All the same, it's sourkrout! " and made 
U;D their bundle. For even in case the mistress in- 



4 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

stantly threw a boiled ham on top of the smoking 

sourkrout, and the master would murmur: " Goodness, 

I thought all along it was fish! But this time, surely, 

•t is a ham! " nevertheless the workmen were not to be 

opitiated any longer. They longed for freedom and 

open, as during the long winter all three of them 

had to sleep in one bed and had grown thoroughly 

of each other because of the continual kicking 

bs and because of frozen and numbed bare sides. 

it it so happened that once a decent and gentle 

came that way, from out of the Saxon lands, and 

good fellow complied with everything, worked as 

d as any ant and was absolutely not to be frozen 

:, in such fashion that finally he became so to speak 

part of the furnishings of the house and saw the owners 

changing several times, those years being somewhat 

more given to changes than of yore. Jobst (such was 

the creature's name) stretched himself in the bed as 

stiff as a ramrod and maintained his particular place 

next the wall, both winter and summer. He likewise 

willingly accepted the sourkrout for fish, and in the 

spring received with humble thanks a mouthful of 

the ham. His lesser wages he put aside as he did his 

larger ones. For he never spent anything; rather 

he saved every penny. He did not hve like the other 

workmen: he never touched a drop of wine, did not 

associate with any of his own countrymen nor with 

other young fellows, but stood evenings under tlie 

house door and joked with the old women, lifted t!ie 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 5 

heavy water pails upon their padded heads, at least 
when he chanced to be in good humor, and went to 
bed with the chickens, except at such times as he could 
do extra work against extra pay. Sundays he also 
toiled until late into the afternoon, no matter if the 
weather was fine. But do not assume that he did 
all this with pleasure and alacrity, as did John the 
merry Chandler in the well-known song. On the 
contrary, he was always cast-down and of ill-humor 
because of these voluntary abstentions from the 
amenities of life, and he was forever complaining about 
his hard lot. Come Sunday afternoon, however, 
Jobst went in all the disarray and filth of workaday, 
and with his clattering sabots across the lane and 
fetched from the laundress his clean shirt and his 
neatly ironed "dicky," his high linen collar or his 
better handkerchief, and proceeded to carry these 
things in his hands to his room, stepping the while 
with that rooster-like majesty which used to distin- 
guish the prideful artisan of former days. For it 
belonged to their privileges, when walking attired in 
leather apron and heavy slippers, to observe a very 
peculiar stride, affected and as though they were 
floating in upper spheres. And of them all the highly 
instructed bookbinders, the jolly shoemakers and 
cobblers, and the rarer and queer-mannered comb- 
makers excelled in these mannerisms. But arrived 
in his little chamber Jobst once more took thought 
to himself, ruminating and seriously reflecting as to 



6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

whether it was really worth while to don the clean 
shirt and the snowy "dicky." For with all his gentle- 
ness and moral decency he was, after all, somewhat 
of a swinish fellow, and thus doubts arose in his penu- 
rious little soul as to the advisability of the whole 
proceeding, and as to whether the soiled linen would 
not do just as well for another week or so, in which 
latter case he would simply remain at home and work 
a little more. Then he would sit down with a sigh 
and begin anew, teeth clenched and mien fierce, 
cutting into the horn, or else he would transmute the 
horn into pseudo-tortoise shell, in doing which, how- 
ever, he never forgot his innate sobriety and want of 
imagination, so that he always put but the same 
odious three splotches into the smooth surface. For 
with him it was always thus that he would not use even 
the sHghtest trouble if he was not specially bidden 
to do so. 

On the other hand, if his resolution ripened into 
the actual taking of a walk, he spent first one or two 
hours painfully adorning himself, next he took his dap- 
per Httle cane and stalked stiffly towards the gate of the 
town, and there he would stand around humbly and 
tediously and would carry on stupid gossip with others 
of the same ilk, some of those who did not know any 
more than himself how to kill time pleasantly, perhaps 
ancient and decrepit Seldwylians who had neither 
money nor gumption to find their way into the gay 
tavern. With such godforsaken old fossils he was 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 7 

in the habit of placing himself in front of a house 
in process of construction, or near a field in seed, 
before an apple tree injured in the last storm, or per- 
haps next to a new yarn factory, and then he would 
discuss with an infinitude of detail these things, the need 
of them, their cost, about the hopes entertained as to 
the next crop, and about the actual condition of the 
fields, of all of which he would know no more than the 
man in the moon. In fact, he did not care whether 
he did or not; the main thing with him was that 
time thus sHpped away in what to him appeared the 
cheapest and the pleasantest manner. And thus it 
came about that these, the old and decrepit Seld- 
wylians, only spoke of him as the "well-mannered 
and sensible Saxon," for they themselves understood 
not a whit more than he himself. When the people 
of Seldwyla founded a large brewery on shares, hoping 
therefrom for huge business in their town, and when 
the extensive foundation walls emerged from the 
ground, Jobst used to make it his task of boring into 
the soil thereabouts with his cane, talking like an 
expert and showing the keenest interest in the prog- 
ress of the work, for all the world as if he were the 
most assiduous toper himself and as if the success or 
non-success of the enterprise were a matter of life 
and death with him. "No indeed," he would then 
exclaim in his lisping voice, " this is a shplendid under- 
takking. Only, the devil of it is it costs so mooch 
monnee! So mooch monnee! It's a pity! And here, 



8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

this here vault ought really to be a leetle, yoost a 
lee tie bit deeper, and this wall a leetle bit thicker." 
And the other idiots sided with him and said he 
knew all about it. 

However, for all his enthusiasm he never failed 
to show up in time for his Sunday supper. For that 
was indeed the sole chagrin he inflicted on the mis- 
tress at home that he never missed a meal, Sunday 
or any other day. The other workmen would go to 
the tavern with their comrades and friends, dance, 
play cards and amuse themselves. But not so Jobst. 
On his account alone the master^s wife was forced to 
remain at home Sundays, or else to provide his lone- 
some supper. And then, after chewing as long as he 
could his portion of bread and sausage or cold meat, 
he would spend another considerable while pawing 
over his slender possessions, fingering them as though 
they were the treasures of Aladdin, with bated breath, 
and then he would retire to his strictly virtuous couch. 
That according to his notions had been an enjoyable, 
a roystering Sunday. 

But with all his humble, decent and inconspicuous 
ways, Jobst was not lacking in a species of inner, 
hidden irony, as though in his own peculiar way he 
were making fun of the world with its vanity and 
its foolishness. Indeed he seemed even to have 
strong doubts as to the grandeur and worth of things 
in general, and to be conscious of harboring within 
his own soul plans far more momentous and stirring. 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 9 

On Sundays, notably when delivering his expert opin- 
ions on creation as a whole, he often showed a face 
alive with superior, with almost owlish wisdom. 
It was plainly to be seen in his pinched features how 
he carried within his inmost ken plans of immense 
importance, plans compared with which the doings 
of the others, after all, were but as child's play. The 
great, the overwhelmingly great plan he cherished 
day and night and which had been all these years his 
loadstar, ever since he had first appeared in Seldwyla, 
amounted indeed to this: To save his wages until 
there would be a sum sufficient to present himself 
some fine morning, on an occasion when the business 
would be once more for sale, with the money in his 
hand and purchase it, himself at last becoming owner 
and master. 

This darling hope lay at the bottom of all his schem- 
ing and contriving, as he had not failed to notice how 
an industrious and abstemious man could not fail to 
flourish in Seldwyla. He, to be sure, was such a 
man, one who went his own quiet way and who was 
bound to profit from the carelessness of the people 
thereabouts without falling into the same errors as 
these. And once master and owner of the establish- 
ment, it would not be difiicult for him to acquire 
citizenship and then, he calculated, he would spend 
the remainder of his life more sensibly and economi- 
cally than any previous citizen of Seldwyla had 
ever done, not bothering the slightest about anything 



lo SELDWYLA FOLKS 

which was not likely to increase his wealth, not spend- 
ing a penny, but accumulating more and more money, 
watching all the time his chances among the spend- 
thrifts of the town. This plan was indeed as simple 
as it was sensible and well-considered, especially as he 
had begun to realize it, in his own slow but sure way, 
for a number of years past. For he had already 
saved up quite a neat little sum; this he had hidden 
away securely, and with things going on as they had 
hitherto, it was but a question of time when his scheme 
would attain full fruition. 

But there was one point about his plan which seemed 
to brand it as almost inhuman. That was the fact 
that Jobst had conceived it at all, that is, in Seldwyla, 
for nothing in his heart really inclined him to Seld- 
wyla, and nothing compelled him to remain there. 
He cared not a fig really either for the town or its 
inhabitants, either for the political condition of the 
country or its manners and customs. All this was 
as indifferent to him as was his own native land, and 
which latter he did not even care to ever see again. 
In a hundred other places of the world he might have 
equally well succeeded with his diligence and his 
habits. However, he had discarded all sense of 
free choice, and with his grossly grasping senses he 
had seized upon the first tendril of hope that offered, 
in order to keep hold and suck himself through it 
full of wealth and vigor. The saying, it is true, is: 
" Where I fare well, there is my home," and this may be 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS ii 

true enough in the case of those who can really show 
some good and sufficient reasons why they love their 
new country and who of their free and conscious will 
went out into the wide world in order to achieve 
success and to return as men of weight, or of those 
who escape unfortunate conditions at home and, 
obeying a strong tendency, join the modern mi- 
gration across the seas; or of those who somewhere 
have found better and truer friends than at home, 
or who discovered conditions abroad that suited their 
ideals and secret hopes better or who became bound 
by stronger ties abroad. And this new home in any 
case, this second home where they found things more 
to their taste and where they succeeded well, they 
necessarily must care for, so long as there they are 
treated humanely and fairly. Jobst, however, scarcely 
knew where he was; the institutions and customs of 
the Swiss he was unable to understand, and he merely 
said sometimes: "Why, yes, the Swiss are strong on 
pontics. Maybe that's good, so long as one hkes it. 
But I don't, and where I'm from nobody ever bothered 
about political things." 

The customs of the SeldwyHans he hated, and he 
felt afraid of their noisy demonstrations when they 
organized a political procession or had mass meetings. 
At such times he sat in the rear of the workshop and 
feared bloody riots and murder growing out of it all. 
But nevertheless it remained his sole object and his 
great secret to stay on in Seldwyla until the end of his 



12 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

days. Such just and decent persons like him you 
will find scattered all over the earth, and where they 
are for no better reason than that it just so happened 
they got hold without trouble of their own of one of 
these sucking tubes guaranteeing a satisfactory in- 
come. And this they do steadily, giving no thought 
the while to the land of their birth, but without loving 
their new home, without a glance to right or left, 
and thus resembling not so much a freeman as one 
of those lower organisms, odd animalculae or vege- 
table seeds, which by the whims of wind or water are 
accidentally carried to the spot where they flourish. 

Thus Jobst had lived year after year in Seldwyla, 
slowly but constantly adding to his secret store which 
he had buried under the tiles of his chamber floor. 
No tailor could boast of having earned anything 
through him, for he still possessed the same Sunday 
coat in which he had arrived in town, and the garment 
was still in the same condition. Neither had any 
shoemaker done any work for him in Seldwyla, for 
the soles of his boots were still intact. The year, 
after all, has but fifty-two Sundays, and only the 
half of these were utilized by him for a walk. Nobody, 
in fact, had been the better for his stay in town; as 
soon as he received his wages the money went to the 
hiding-place mentioned, and even when he went off 
on his Sunday excursions he never put a coin in his 
pocket, so as to foil any temptation for spending. 
When hucksters or old women came to the shop 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 13 

with goods or fruit, with cherries, plums or pears, 
it was amusing to watch Jobst, who tenderly felt of 
the quality of the fruit, entered into discussions with 
the vendors, thus leading these to indulge false and 
extravagant hopes, only to be disappointed. He 
would, however, advise his comrades as to how to make 
the most of their purchases, how to bake their apples 
in the oven, to peel them or to stew them, without 
ever asking for or receiving one mouthful himself. 
But though nobody ever saw the color of his money, 
neither did they ever hear him swear, show any anger, 
demand anything not strictly within his rights, or 
give vent to ill-humor. He was the very essence of 
pacifism. He carefully avoided quarrels or argument, 
and he did not even make a wry face when anyone, 
as happened frequently, would play tricks on him. 
And while indeed eaten up constantly with curiosity 
as to the issue of every kind of gossip, disputes or 
wrangling he had come to know about, since these 
furnished him with one of his chief amusements, and 
while he would keep a strict account and inquire in 
a mild way about them and the right and wrong in 
each case, the while the other workmen were indulg- 
ing in their rude brawls or tavern orgies, he neverthe- 
less was mighty careful never to interfere or to take 
a decided part for or against. In short, he was a 
most curious medley of truly heroic wisdom and 
persistence, coupled with a gentle but pronounced 
want of heart and feeling. 



14 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

At one time he had been for many weeks the sole 
workman in the estabhshment, and he had flourished 
under these circumstances like a green bay tree. 
Nights especially he rejoiced in the exclusive tenancy 
of the big, wide bed. He made full use of his oppor- 
tunities, and went through incredible contortions 
while stretching his lank limbs in the bed. He in a 
manner trebled his person, changing his posture 
ceaselessly, and indulged in the hallucination that, 
as usual, there were three of them and he were ur- 
gently requested by the other two not to stand on 
ceremony and to take things easy. The third one 
being himself, he voluptuously complied with the 
invitation, wrapped himself completely in the feather 
bed, or else straddled his legs, lay across the full 
width of the couch, or in the harmless exuberance of 
delight would even turn a decent somersault or two. 

But alas! the day came when he, already indulging 
in some such innocent capers, after having retired 
early, suddenly saw a strange workman sedately 
enter the chamber, being led thither by the mistress 
of the house. Jobst was just lying in measureless 
comfort with his head at the foot of the bed, his not 
quite immaculate feet on the pillows, when this 
happened. The stranger unfastened his heavy knap- 
sack from his back, stood it in a corner, and then, 
without loss of time, began to undress, since he felt 
very tired. Jobst quick as a flash assumed the proper 
position in bed and stretched himself along his accus- 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 15 

tomed spot next to the wall. While doing this the 
thought rushed through his head: "Surely he'll 
soon clear out again, since it is summertime and fine 
weather for roaming about." 

This hope on further consideration took firm root, 
and with sundry sighs and grunts lulled him to sleep. 
He dreamt, though, of a speedy resumption of the 
kicking and rowing in bed, and a nightmare woke 
him in the middle of the night, an evil omen. He was 
amazed, however, when dawn came, and he had 
felt neither pokes in the ribs, nor had been feloniously 
deprived of his share of the covering. Not only that; 
the new arrival, although a Bavarian, was inordinately 
polite, peaceable and well-behaved, for all the world 
like a counterpart of his own self. This unheard-of 
fact cost Jobst his calmness of mind. He could not 
drive the misgivings thus engendered from his head. 
And while the two were dressing in the dim light 
of early morning, he scrutinized his new fellow-worker 
closely. It seemed a singular case to him. He 
observed that this new man, like himself, was no 
longer quite young, but cleanly and decent in speech 
and manners. The Bavarian on his part with words 
well-set and sober inquired of Jobst about the circum- 
stances of life in Seldwyla, just about in the same way 
in which he himself would have done it. As soon as 
this became apparent to him, Jobst grew secretive 
and kept to himself the simplest and most harmless 
things, opining that, of course, the Bavarian must 



f 



i6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

have some occult motive in coming to this town. 
To ascertain this secret now became the prime object 
with him. That there was a deep secret he never had 
the sHghtest doubt. Why else should this man, just 
like himself, be such a gentle, smooth-spoken and 
experienced sort? Only by the theory of his harboring 
a deep-laid scheme, of being a designing person, could 
he explain matters to himself. And thus began 
a kind of silent, never-sleeping warfare between these 
two. Each did his best to find out the "secret" 
of the other; but it was all done with the greatest 
precaution, in words of double meaning, by amiable 
subterfuges and in peaceable ways. Neither ever 
gave a clear answer to any question, but yet after 
the lapse of but a few hours each of the pair was 
firmly convinced that the other was in all essential 
respects his own double. And when in the course of 
the day FridoliJi,the^- Bavarian, several times visited 
the chamber and busied himself with something, 
Jobst seized upon the first chance to go there likewise 
at a moment when the other was fully occupied with 
his work, and hurriedly made a search of Fridolin's 
personal property. However, he discovered nothing 
but almost precisely the same articles owned by him- 
self, down to a small wooden needle case, except that 
here he found it in the shape of a fish, while his own 
bore a sportive resemblance to a baby; and, further, 
in lieu of a somewhat dilapidated conversational 
grammar for popular use in which Jobst sometimes 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 17 

studied French, the Bavarian could boast of a neatly 
bound copy of a book entitled "The cold and the 
hot Vat, an indispensable Handbook for Dyers." And 
in it there was a penciled note on the margin: "Pledge 
for three Stuyvers which the Nassau man borrowed 
of me." From this Jobst judged that he was dealing 
with somebody who knew how to take care of his own, 
and thinking so instinctively cast searching glances 
along the floor. Soon, too, he noticed a tile which 
seemed to have recently been removed. And sure 
enough, when he took this out, he found the man's 
treasure, folded and wrapped in the half of an old 
handkerchief tightly wound about with tough twine, 
almost as heavy as his own, although his was encased 
in an old sock. Trembling with excitement he 
replaced the tile in its yawning hole, trembling at 
the thought of such admirable foresight and wise 
economy in the case of another, a rival, a competitor. 
He flew down the stairs, and in the workshop he 
set to as if it depended on his exertions to provide 
the entire world with combs for generations to come. 
And the Bavarian did the same, as if Heaven itself 
must also be combed. During the ensuing week each 
found full confirmation of his first suspicion. For if 
Jobst was industrious and frugal, Fridolin was active 
and abstemious, and with the same regretful sighs at 
the difficulty of these virtues. And when Jobst was 
_^rene and sapient, Fridolin was jocular and knowing. 
If the one was humble, the other was even more so. 



i8 • SELDWYLA FOLKS 

When Jobst showed himself sly or ironical, the other 
was sarcastic and almost astute. And if Jobst made a 
face betraying his peaceful disposition, his double suc- 
ceeded in putting on an air of incomparable asininity. 

The whole was not so much a race between the two 
as it was the simple exercise of conscious mastery in 
all these arts. Each was fully permeated with the 
conviction that the other would excel him if not 
constantly on the watch. Neither disdained imi- 
tating the other. Each of them was forever on the 
lookout to perfect himself, taking the other as a model 
in any traits which he himself might yet lack or be 
deficient in. And with all that they looked most of 
the time as though each was perfectly incapable of 
seeing through the other. Thus they resembled two 
doughty heroes who behave towards each other with 
knightly courtesy and even assist one another until 
the moment shall arrive when they begin to hack away 
at each other. . 

However, after the lapse of this week a third came, 
a^^Suabian, by name ^ietrich, whereat the two in 
silence rejoiced, as at a jolly foil against which their 
own greatness of soul could best be measured and 
compared. And they intended to place the poor 
little Suabian between their own selves, to make the 
contrast between him and their own patent virtues 
all the more striking, about as in the case of two 
stately Kons with a tiny monkey between, with whom 
they might deign to play. 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 19 

But who can describe their astonishment when 
they observed that the Suabian behaved precisely 
in the same manner as themselves, and when the 
recognition of a kindred soul took place by the identi- 
cal processes as had been the case before. The same 
adroit system of standing sentinel over each other 
was repeated. But with this signal difference, that 
now it was a triangular game, whereby not only 
they themselves altered somewhat their own attitude, 
but the third man his also, and that they all three 
finally stood towards each other in distinctly different 
positions. 

This became first apparent on the night of his 
arrival when they took him between themselves in 
bed. The Suabian demonstrated his entire parity. 
Like a match he lay within the slim space, so per- 
fectly poised and without the flicker of an eyelid that 
there actually remained a bit of room, of neutral 
territory, on either side. And the bed cover remained 
spread over the trio as tight and smooth as the wrap- 
ping paper over three herrings. He was evidently 
their match. The situation now commenced to be 
more serious, more complicated, and since all three 
now faced each other like the three corners of a tri- 
angle, and since no friendly or confidential relations 
were under these circumstances feasible between them, 
no armistice or courtly tournament, they got into a 
state of mind where they with malice aforethought, 
each in his own way and with his own weapons, gently 



20 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

and slily began to try ousting each other out of bed 
and house. 

When the master of the house saw that these three 
queer customers would put up with anything, if only 
they were allowed to remain in his service, he first 
lowered their wages, and next gave them scanter fare. 
But this only led to an aggravation of diligence on 
their part, and that again enabled him to flood the 
whole surrounding district with his goods, and he 
got orders upon orders, so that he made a pile of money 
out of their cheap labor and possessed a veritable gold 
mine in them. He let out his leather belt around the 
loins by several holes and began to play quite an im- 
portant part in the town, while all this time his foolish 
workmen slaved like beasts of burden in their dark 
and ill-ventilated shop at home, striving, each of 
them, to force the other two out of the race. Die- 
trich, the Suabian, although the youngest of them, 
proved of the same calibre as the other two. The 
only difference was that he as yet had scarcely a.iy 
savings, inasmuch as he had not yet traveled around 
much, having been a prentice until recently. This 
would have been an unfortunate obstacle for him in 
the race, for Jobst and Fridolin would have had greatly 
the start of him, if he as a Suabian had not been 
inventive in stratagem. For although Dietrich's heart, 
like that of the others, was wholly bare of any sinful 
or earthly passion, always excepting the one of per- 
sisting to remain in Seldwyla and nowhere else, and 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 21 

to reap all the advantages of that plan, he nevertheless 
bethought him of the trick of falling in love and to woo 
such a maiden as should possess about such a dowry 
in size as the respective treasures which the Saxon 
or the Bavarian had hidden under their tiles. 

It was one of the better pecuHarities of the Seldwyla 
folk that they were averse to wed unattractive or 
unamiable women just for the sake of a somewhat 
larger dowry. There was no very great temptation 
anyway, for wealthy heiresses there were none in 
their town, either pretty or homely ones, and thus 
they at least maintained their sturdy and manly 
independence even by disdaining the smaller mouth- 
fuls, and preferred to unite themselves rather with 
goodlooking and merry girls, and thus lead for a few 
years with them at any rate a happy Hfe. Hence it 
was not hard for the Suabian, spying about for a 
suitable partner, to find his way into the good graces 
of a virtuous maiden. She dwelt in the same street, 
and in conversation with old women he had soon 
ascertained that she possessed as her own undoubted 
property a mortgage of seven hundred florins. This 
maiden was Zues BuenzHn, the twenty-eight-year- 
old daughter of a washerwoman. She Hved with 
her mother, but could freely dispose of this legacy 
from her deceased father. This valuable bit of paper 
she kept in a highly varnished trunk. There, too, 
she had the accumulated interest money, her baptis- 
mal certificate, her testimonial of confirmation, and 



22 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

a painted and gilt Easter egg; in addition to all this 
she preserved there half a dozen silver spoons, the 
Lord's Prayer printed in gold letters upon transparent 
glass, although she beheved the material to be human 
skin, a cherry stone into which was carved the Passion 
of Christ, and a small box of ivory, lined with red 
satin, and in which were concealed a tiny mirror and 
a silver thimble; there was also in it another cherry 
stone in which you could hear clattering a diminutive 
set of ninepins, a nutshell in which a madonna became 
visible behind glass, a silver heart, in a hollow of which 
was a scent bottle, and a candy box fashioned out of 
dried lemon peel, on the cover of which was painted 
a strawberry, and in which there might be discovered 
a golden pin displayed on a couch of cotton wool 
representing a forget-me-not, and a locket showing 
on the inside a monument woven out of hair; lastly, 
a bundle of age-yellowed papers with recipes, secrets, 
and so forth; also a small flask of Cologne water, 
another holding stomach drops, a box of musk, another 
with marten excrements, and a small basket woven 
out of odoriferous grasses, another of beads and cloves, 
and then a small book bound in sky-blue silk and 
entitled " Golden Life Rules for the Maiden as Be- 
trothed, Wife and Mother"; and a dream book, a 
letter writer, five or six love letters, and a lancet for 
use to let blood. This last piece came from a barber 
and assistant surgeon to whom she had once been 
engaged, and since she was a naturally skillful and 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 23 

very sensible person she had learned from her fiance 
how to open a vein, to put on leeches, and similar 
things, and had even been able to shave him herself. 
But alas, he had proved an unworthy object of her 
affections, with whom she might easily have risked 
her temporal and heavenly welfare, and thus she had 
with saddened but wise resolution broken the engage- 
ment. GiftSMjere returned on both sides, with the 
exception of me lancet. This she kept in pawn as 
pledge for one florin and eight and forty stuyvers, 
which sum she on one occasion had lent him in cash. 
The unworthy one Claimed, however, that she had no 
right to it since she had given him the money on the 
occasion of a ball, in order to defray joint expenses, 
and he added that she had eaten twice as much as 
himself. Thus it happened that he kept the florin 
and forty-eight stuyvers, while she kept the surgical 
appliance, with which Zues operated extensively 
among her female acquaintance and earned many 
a penny. But every time she used the instrument 
she could not help mentioning the low habits of him 
who had once stood so close to her and who had almost 
become her partner for life. 

All these things were locked up in that trunk, and 
the trunk again was kept in a large walnut wardrobe, 
the key to which Zues had constantly in her pocket. 
As to her person, Zues had rather sparse reddish hair 
as well as clear pale-blue eyes; these now and then 
possessed some charm, and then would throw glances 



24 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

both wise and gentle. She owned an enormous store 
of clothes, but of these she only wore the oldest. 
However, she was always carefully and cleanly dressed, 
and just as neat was the appearance of her room. 
She was very industrious and helped her mother in 
her laundry work, ironing out the finer and more 
delicate fabrics and washing the lace caps and the 
jabots of the wealthier Seldwyla ladies, thus earning 
quite a bit. And it may be that it was due to this 
sort of activity that Zues always exhibited the peculiar 
stern and dignified bent of mind which women show 
when they are dealing with laundry work, especially 
with the work over the tub. For Zues never unbent 
at all until the ironing began. Then, it might be, 
a species of sedate cheerfulness would seize upon her, 
in her case, however, invariably spiced with words 
of wisdom. This sedate spirit, too, was recognizable 
in the chief decorative piece on the premises, 
namely, a garland of soap cakes, square, accurately 
gauged cakes, which encircled the large living room 
on shelves. The soap was thus exposed to the warm 
air currents in order to harden and become fitter for 
use. And it was Zues herself who always cut out the 
cakes by means of a brass wire. The wire had fas- 
tened to it at either end two small wooden knobs so 
one could seize them there for a more commodious 
cutting of the soft soap. But a fine pair of com- 
passes used in dividing the soap in equal sections 
was also there. This instrument had been made for 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 25 

her and presented as a valued gift by a journeyman 
mechanician with whom she had at one time been 
as good as engaged. From him, too, came a gleaming 
small brass mortar for the pulverization of spices. 
This decorated the edge of her cupboard, right be- 
tween the blue china tea can and the painted flower 
vase. For long such a dainty little mortar had been 
her special desire, and the attentive mechanician was 
therefore extremely welcome when he appeared one 
afternoon on her birthday and likewise brought along 
something to put the mortar to its legitimate use: 
a boxful of cinnamon, lump sugar, cloves and pepper. 
The mortar itself he hung, before entering at the 
door, by one of its handles to his little finger, and with 
the pestle he started a gay tinkling, just like a bell, 
so that out of the adventure grew a jolly day of fes- 
tivity. However, shortly afterwards the false scoun- 
drel fled from the district, and was never heard of 
more. Besides that, his master even demanded the 
return of the mortar, since the fugitive had taken it 
from his shop, but had forgotten to pay for it. But 
Zues did not deliver up this valuable object. On 
the contrary, she went to law for its undisputed pos- 
session, and in court she defended her claim valiantly, 
basing her rights on the fact that she had washed, 
starched and ironed a set of "dickies" for the vanished 
lover./ Those days, the days when she was forced 
to deiend her rights to the mortar in open court, were 
the most conspicuous and painful of her whole life, 



26 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

since she with her deep feelings felt these things and 
more particularly her appearance in court for the sake 
of such delicate affairs much more keenly than others 
of a lighter disposition would have done. All the same 
she scored a victory and kept her mortar. 

If, however, this neat soap gallery proclaimed her 
exact working tactics and her passion for toil, a row 
of books, arranged in orderly fashion on the window 
ledge, did honor to her religious and disciplined mind. 
These books were of a miscellaneous description, and 
she read and reread them studiously on Sundays. She 
still possessed all her school books, never having lost 
a single one of them. She also still carried in her 
head all her little stock of scholastic learning acquired 
at school; she knew the whole catechism by heart, 
as well as the contents of the grammar, of the arith- 
metic, of her geography book, of the collection of 
biblical stories, and of the various readers and spellers. 
Then she also owned some of the pretty tales by 
Chris toph Schmid and the latter's short novelettes, 
with handsome verses at the end, at least a half dozen 
of sundry treasuries of poetry and gatherings of popu- 
lar fairy tales, a number of almanacs full of speci- 
mens of homely wisdom and practical experience, 
several precise and remarkable prophecies of tre- 
mendous events to come, a guide for laying the cards, 
a book of edification for every day of the year intended 
for the use of thoughtful virgins, and an old and 
slightly damaged copy of Schiller's "The Robbers," 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 27 

which she slowly perused again and again, as often 
as she feared she might begin to forget this stirring 
drama. And each time she read it, the play appealed 
to her sentimental heart anew, so that she made 
constant references to it and commented in a highly 
praiseworthy manner on the various personages pre- 
sented in it. And really all there was in these books 
she also retained in her memory, and understood 
exceedingly well how to speak about them and about 
many other things as well. When she felt cheerful 
and contented and did not have to hasten her labors 
too greatly, speech flowed continuously from her lips, 
and everything under the sun she knew how to judge 
and to put into its proper category. Young and old, 
high and low, learned and unlearned, they all were 
compelled to listen and to receive instruction from her. 
First, she would hear everybody out, meanwhile 
smilingly and sensibly straightening out the case in 
her wise little head. And then, having now perceived 
whither all these plaints or fears tended, she would 
solve the more or less knotty problem at a stroke. 
Sometimes she would speak so unctuously and elabo- 
rately on matters that irreverent criticasters had 
compared her to learned blind persons who have never 
had sight of the world and whose sole solace it is to 
hear themselves talk. 

From the time she went to the town school and 
from her lessons of instruction before she was con- 
firmed by the pastor, she had retained the habit of 



28 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

composing, from time to time, essays and exercises, 
and thus it was that she would, on quiet Sundays, 
laboriously write out the most marvelous compositions. 
One of her favorite methods in doing this was to seize 
upon some melodious title that she had heard of or 
read in the course of the week, and taking this, so to 
speak, as her text, would proceed to pile up from it 
the most wonderful conclusions and deductions, not 
infrequently culminating in very odd or nonsensical 
dicta. Page on page of this balderdash she would 
perpetrate, just as it issued from the convolutions 
of her silly brain. Such themes, for example, as 
"The Various Beneficent Uses of a Sickbed," "About 
Death," "About the Wholesomeness of Resignation," 
"About the Giant Size of the World," "About the 
Secrets of Life Eternal," "About Residence in the 
Country," "About Nature," "About Dreams," "About 
Love," "About Redemption and Christ," "Three 
Points in the Theory of Self -Justification," "Thoughts 
about ImmortaHty," she often solved in her own easy 
way. Then she would read aloud to her friends and 
admirers these productions, and it was a supreme proof 
of her special regard and affection for her to present 
one or the other of them to a close friend. Such 
gifts, she insisted on, had to be placed within the 
pages of a Bible, that is, if the recipient happened to 
have one. 

This leaning of Zues' nature towards religious ec- 
stasy and contemplation had once gained her the 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 29 

profound and respectful affection of a young book- 
binder, a man who read every book he bound and who 
was, besides, both ambitious and enthusiastic. When- 
ever he brought his bundle of soiled linen to Zues' 
mother, he deemed himself to be in paradise, for he 
swallowed greedily all of the maiden's thoughts, and 
her boldest figures of speech now and then, he shyly 
said, would remind him of things he had dared to 
think himself, but which he had never had the skill 
and the courage to frame into words. Bashfully 
and humbly he approached this talented virgin , 
who was by turns severe and eloquent, and she deigned 
to suffer this modest intercourse and held him in 
leading-strings for a whole year, not, however, without 
making the hopelessness of his suit plain to him, 
gently but determinedly. For inasmuch as he was 
nine years her junior, poor as a church mouse and 
awkward in gaining a living, men of his calling not 
being in clover in Seldwyla anyhow, since people 
there do not read much and, consequently, have few 
books to bind, she never for a moment hid from her- 
self the impossibility of a union. She merely found 
it pleasant to develop his mind and character and to 
furnish her own as a model to strive after. Her 
own powers of resignation were all the time for him 
to take pattern by, and so she embalmed his aspirations 
in an iridescent cloud of phrases. And he on his 
part would listen modestly, and once or twice find 
heart to risk a beautiful sentence himself. This she 



so SELDWYLA FOLKS 

invariably answered by instantly killing his obser- 
vation with a finer one. That year, when she calmly 
received the adoration of this youth, was reckoned by 
her the most ethereal and noblest of her existence, 
since it was not disturbed by a single breath from 
the lower and material spheres, and the young man 
during it bound anew all her books, and with infinite 
pains wrought night after night toward the ultimate 
completion of an artful and precious monument of 
his adoration for her. This was, to be plain, a huge 
Chinese temple of pasteboard, containing innumer- 
able tiny compartments and secret receptacles, and 
which might be entirely taken apart and reconstructed 
on following carefully previous instructions. This 
miracle was pasted all over with the finest samples 
of varicolored and glazed paper, and everywhere 
ornamented with gilt borders. Minute mirrors inside 
colonnaded halls of state reflected the gay colors, 
and by removing one section of the structure or open- 
ing another one there were more mirrors and hidden 
pictures, nosegays of paper or loving couples. The 
curving or shelving roofs were everywhere hung with 
little bells. Even a small stand for a lady's watch 
was there, with hooks to hang it up on and with other 
hooks to trail a slender meandering chain through. 
Only up to now no watchmaker had yet offered a 
pretty watch or a chain to decorate this altar with. 
An enormous deal of trouble and skill had been wasted 
on this pasteboard temple, and its ground plan was 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 31 

just as correct as the work itself. And when this 
monument of a year passed jointly so pleasantly 
had been duly accepted, Zues Buenzlin encouraged 
the good bookbinder, doing violence to her own well- 
regulated heart, to tear himself away from the town 
and to set once more his staff for a wandering life. 
She Tainted out with perfect justice that the whole 
wod^M:ood open to him, and she assured him that 
now/naving schooled and ennobled his heart by 
improving his acquaintance with herself, happiness 
elsewhere would certainly be in store for him. She 
would never forget him and retire into solitude. And 
indeed, the young fellow was so much affected by these 
moral exhortations that he shed a few melancholy 
tears in passing the town gate on his way. His master- 
piece, however, since stood on top of Zues' old- 
fashioned clothes press, daintily covered by a veil 
of green gauze, thus defying dust and profane gaze. 
She considered it so much of a sacred relic that she 
kept it intact and without even placing anything what- 
ever into those many tiny recesses of the temple. 
In her memory he continued to live as ^(Emmanuel,'; 
although his real name had beenJVeit. And she told 
everyone with whom she discussed the case that 
Emmanuel alone had completely understood her 
inner self. This she said now that he was gone, but 
while he had been with her in the flesh she had been 
of different opinion, for she had rarely admitted to 
him that he was right, deeming it wiser to thus urge 



32 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

him OR to higher and ever higher endeavor in his 
search of a perfect agreement of mind with his idol. 
Indeed, she had more than once intimated to him, 
at times when he hoped he had at last fully entered 
the arcana of her soul, that he was farther and farther 
from it. 

But he, too, Veit-Emmanuel, played her g^little 
trick. He had placed in a false bottom, ii]^B| of 
the diminutive apartments of his pasteboard^ fairy 
palace, the most touching of all love letters, bedewed 
with his tears, wherein he confessed his bitter grief 
at parting from her, his love, his worship and his 
subHme steadfastness, and in such passionate and 
sincere terms had he done this as only genuine feeling 
can find, even if it has lost itself in a cul-de-sac. Such 
touching, such moving things he had never said to 
her, simply because she never would give him the 
chance, having always interrupted him when he was 
on the point of doing so. But as she had not the slight- 
est suspicion that any such document had been put 
away within the temple, she never found the missive 
and thus fate for once dealt justly and did not let a 
false beauty see that which she was not worthy of. 
And it was also a symbol that she it was who had not 
fathomed the somewhat silly, but devoted and sincere 
heart of the youth. 

For a long while she had been praising the doings 
of the three combmakers, and had called them three 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 33 

decent and sensible men; for she had closely observed 
them. When, therefore, Dietrich, the Suabian, began 
to linger longer and longer in her dwelHng when bring- 
ing or fetching his shirt, and to pay court to her, she 
treated him in a friendly manner and kept him near 
her for hours by means of her lofty conversation. 
And Dietrich talked back, of course, to please her, 
jjist as much as he could; and she was one of the kind 
that could stand more than a fair measure of laudation. 
Indeed, one might truthfully say that she liked it 
all the more the more spiced and peppered it was. 
When praising her wisdom and kindness, she kept 
still as a mouse, until there was no more of it, where- 
upon she would with heightened color pick up the 
thread where it had been dropped, and would touch 
up the painting in those spots where it seemed to 
require a trifle of additional color. And Dietrich 
had not been going back and forth in her house for 
any great length of time when she showed him that 
mortgage of hers, and he thereupon began to exude 
a quiet, sedate species of self-satisfaction, and began 
to behave toward his rivals with such stealth as though 
he had invented the perpetuum mobile. Jobst and 
Fridolin, however, soon unearthed his secret, and 
they were amazed at the depth of his dissimulation 
and at his cleverness. Jobst above all clutched his 
hair and tore out a good handful of it; for had he 
himself not been going to the same house for a long 
while, and had it ever occurred to him to look for 



34 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

anything there but his clean linen? Rather, he had 
hitherto almost hated the washerwomen because 
he had been forced to dig up a few stuyvers every 
week to pay them. Never had he thought of marriage, 
because he was unable to conceive of a wife under 
any other aspect than that of a being that wanted 
something out of him which he did not deem her due, 
and to expect something from such a feminine creature 
that might be of advantage to him had never entered 
his thoughts, since he had confidence only in himself, 
and his calculations had so far never gone beyond 
the narrowest horizon, that of his secret. But now 
reflecting deep and serious he reached the determi- 
nation to outdo this sly little Suabian, for if the latter 
should really succeed in getting hold of Dame Zues' 
seven hundred florins, he might become a keen com- 
petitor. The seven hundred florins, too, suddenly 
shone and glittered very differently, in the eyes both 
of the Saxon and of the Bavarian. Thus it was that 
Dietrich, the man of invention, had discovered a 
land which soon became the joint property of the three, 
and thus shared the hard lot of all discoverers, for the 
two others at once got on the same track and likewise 
became steady callers on Zues Buenzlin. She there- 
fore saw herself surrounded by a whole court of decent 
and respectable combmakers. That she reUshed 
greatly; never before had she had a number of admir- 
ers at one time. It became a novel entertainment 
for her shrewd mind to handle these three with the 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 35 

greatest impartiality and skill, to keep them at all 
times within bounds and cool reason, and to thus 
influence them by frequent speeches in favor of the 
beauties of resignation and unselfishness until Heaven 
itself should by some act of intervention decide matters 
irrevocably. 

As each of the three had confided to her his secret 
and his plans, she immediately made up her mind 
to render happy that one who really would attain 
his goal and become owner of the business. And in 
thus deciding in her own heart how she should proceed, 
she from that hour on deliberately excluded the Sua- 
bian, since he could not succeed except through and 
by her money. But while thus actually discarding 
the Suabian as a possible candidate for her hand, 
she reflected that, after all, he was the youngest, 
handsomest and most amiable of the trio, and thus 
she would spare for him many a token of regard and 
confidence, and lull him into the belief that his chances 
were the best. But while so doing, she knew how to 
arouse the jealousy of the other two, and thus spur 
them on to ~gf eater zeal. And so it came to pass that 
Dietrich, this poor Columbus who had first sighted 
and nearly taken possession of the pretty land, became 
nothing but a mere pawn in her game, nothing but the 
poor fool who unconsciously assisted in the angling 
for the real fish. Meanwhile all three of them assidu- 
ously wooed and courted the coy maiden, running a 
close race in the difficult art of showing all the time 



^6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

devotion, modesty and sense, while being kept by the 
bridle. She on her part was in her element, for she 
forever told them to be unselfish and to practice 
resignation. When the whole four now and then 
happened to be together, they made the impression 
of a singular conventicle where the queerest remarks 
were being expressed. And despite of all their timidity 
and humility it would happen once in a while that 
one of the three, suddenly dropping his hosannahs 
in praise of the rare gifts and virtues of the maiden, 
would plunge into a measure of self-laudation. At 
such moments it was edifying and truly touching 
to see Zues gently interrupt the rash one and chide 
him for his breach of good manners. She would then 
shame him by forcing him to listen to a homily on 
his rivals. 

However, this was really a hard sort of life for the 
poor combmakers to lead. No matter how much 
ordinarily they had themselves under control, now 
that a woman had entered as a factor into their game, 
there would occur wholly novel spurts of jealousy, 
of fear, of misgiving, and of hope. What with a fury 
of work and increased economy, they almost killed 
themselves and certainly lost flesh. They became 
melancholy, and while before people — and especially 
before Zues — they endeavored hard to maintain the 
appearance of the utmost harmony, they scarcely 
spoke a word to each other when alone together at 
work or in their common sleeping chamber, lay down 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 37 

sighing in their joint bed, and dreamed of murder, 
albeit still resting quietly and immovably one next 
the other as so many sticks. One and the same dream 
hovered nightly over the trio, until really once it 
came to one of the sleepers, so that Jobst in his place 
by the wall turned over violently and kicked Dietrich. 
Dietrich avoided the kick and gave Jobst a hard 
push, and now there was among the three sleepy 
combmakers an outbreak of elemental wrath. The 
most, tremendous row ensued in the bed, and for fully 
three minutes they treated each other to fearful lunges, 
kicks and pushes, so that all the six legs formed an 
inextricable tangle, until with a thundering crash 
they rolled out of bed and began to howl like 
savage beasts. Becoming fully awake they at first 
thought the devil were after them or else thieves had 
entered their room. Screaming they rose quickly. 
Jobst took his stand upon his tile; Fridolin planted 
himself firmly upon his own, and Dietrich did the 
like upon that tile beneath which his still rather slender 
savings reposed. And thus standing in a triangle, 
they worked their arms like flails and shouted their 
loudest: "Get out; get out!" until the master came 
rushing up from below and after a while quieted the 
three frenzied fellows. Trembling then with fear, 
shame and anger, they crept back into bed, and then, 
wide-awake, lay there mute until dawn came and 
forced them to rise. 
However, the nocturnal spook had only been the 



38 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

prelude to something worse. For at breakfast the 
master let them know that for the time being he had 
no longer need of three journeymen, and that two of 
them would have to pack up their bundle. It appeared 
that they had defeated their own object by hurrying 
and hastening work, so that now there were more 
wares than the boss was able to dispose of, while on 
the other hand, he, the master, himself had taken 
advantage of the extreme mood for work his men had 
shown for months to lead on his part an opulent 
and disorderly life, spending nearly all his extra gains 
in riotous quips. Indeed, when the details of his 
doings became public it turned out that he had run 
into such an amount of debt that the load of it came 
well-nigh smothering him. Thus it came about that 
he, looking over his own situation, was unable to 
employ or support his three workmen, no matter how 
abstemious they were and how intent on his further 
profit. For consolation he told them that he was 
equally fond of all three of them and loath to tell 
either to go, wherefore he had made up his mind to 
leave it wholly to them which of the three should 
leave and which should stay. All they had to do, 
he remarked smilingly, was to agree among themselves 
upon that point. 

But they were unable to come to a decision as to 
this. Rather they stood there pale as ghosts, and 
simpered timidly at each other. Then they became 
tremendously excited, since they clearly perceived 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 39 

that the most momentous hour of their existence was 
approaching. For they judged from the words of 
the master that he would not be able to continue 
the business much longer, and that, therefore, it would 
soon become an object of sale. The goal, then, each 
of them had striven for with such infinite patience and 
cunning seemed in sight, and to their heated fancy 
was already glittering and shining like a new Jeru- 
salem. And now came this awful decree, and two of 
them would have to turn their backs upon the heavenly 
prospect. It was almost more than they could bear. 
After a very brief consultation and reflection all three 
of them went to see the master, and declared with 
tearful voices that rather than leave him they would 
stay on, even though they would have to work gratis. 
But then the master declared jovially that evei^ 
that case he had no further use for all the three. / 
of them, he again assured them, would have to quit 
the house. They fell at his feet; they wrung their 
hands; they asked and implored him to let them stay 
on: only for another three months, for one month, 
for a fortnight. The master, however, after at first 
enjoying the humor of the situation, at last lost all 
patience. Besides, he was perfectly aware what their 
motive in all this pretended loyalty for him was, 
and that soured his temper. Suddenly an idea oc- 
curred to him, and he did not hesitate to make them 
a proposition. 
"Why," he smiled, "if you caimot agree among 



evej^in 
^ /Two 



40 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

yourselves at all as to who is to remain and who to 
go, I will tell you how we will decide this matter. 
But that is absolutely the last proposal I shall make 
to you. To-morrow being Sunday, I shall pay your 
wages; you pack up your belongings, get ready to go 
forth and take your staffs. Then you will in all good 
faith and perfect harmony leave jointly, going out by 
whichever gate you may agree upon, and march on the 
highroad for another half-hour, no more, no less, and 
then stop. Then you will rest yourselves a trifle, 
and if you care to do so, you may even drink a shop- 
pen or two. Having done so, you will all three of 
you turn once more and walk back to town, and who- 
ever will then first ask me for work, him I will keep, 
but the other two must wander forth for good and 
all, wherever they might choose to go." 

Hearing this cruel decision, they three fell once 
more at his feet and begged him most pitifully to have 
mercy on them and to desist from his plan. But the 
master, who by this time began to anticipate some rare 
fun in his wicked soul, was obstinate and would not 
listen to them, hardening himself. Suddenly the 
Suabian sprang up and ran out of the house like a 
man demented, across the street to Zues Buenzlin. 
Scarcely had Jobst and the Bavarian observed that, 
when they ceased to lament themselves and followed 
the youngest. Within a very brief space the three 
of them were seated in the dwelling of the frightened 
maiden. 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 41 

Zues felt rather abashed and undecided by reason 
of the adventure taking such an unexpected turn. 
But she calmed herself, and viewing the matter from 
her own particular angle, she resolved to make her 
plans subservient to the master's odd conceit. In 
fact, she regarded this new aspect of affairs as a special 
dispensation of Providence. Touched and devout 
she fetched out one of her volumes, then with her 
needle at random pricked among the leaves, and when 
she opened the book at the spot, she found a passage 
that spoke of the persistent following of the righteous 
path. Next she made the three guests turn up pas- 
sages blindfolded, and all that was found treated of 
walking along the narrow way, of advancing without 
looking backwards, in short, of nothing but running 
and racing. Thus, then, she decided. Heaven itself 
had prescribed the projected race for to-morrow. 
But since she was afraid that Dietrich, as being the 
youngest and the ablest in jumping, walking, and 
running, and thus most likely to win the palm if 
left without supervision, she made up her mind to go 
herself along with the three lovers, and to watch for 
an opportunity for bending or influencing possibly 
the outcome of this undertaking in accordance with 
her own secret desires. For she wished, as we must 
recall, one of the older men to be the victor, she did 
not care which of the two. 

In furtherance of this plan she insisted that the 
three be quiet for a spell and cease slandering and 



42 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

berating each other, but rather summon themselves 
to acquiescence in God's will. She put on her judicial 
air and said: 

"Know, my friends, that nothing happens here 
below without the direction and sometimes direct 
interference of Providence, and no matter if the plan 
of your master be unusual and singular, we must look 
upon it as ordered by higher powers than he, although 
it may be that he has not even an inkHng of this. 
He is the dumb and unconscious instrument in the 
hands of the Ruler. Our peaceable and harmonious 
intercourse here has been too beautiful altogether 
to have been prolonged much farther. For, behold, 
all the good things in life are but transitory and 
pass away, and nothing is lasting but evil things, 
the loneHness of the soul and the persistence of sin, 
whereupon we feel impelled to consider all this and 
to try and grasp their meaning in this life and in the 
life to come. Hence, too, let us rather separate 
before the wicked demon of discord raises its head 
amongst us, and let us bid each other farewell, just 
as do the soft zephyrs of springtime when they swiftly 
move along high in the sky, and let us do this before 
the rough storms of autumn overtake us. I myself 
will accompany you on the first stage of your hard 
road, and will be the eyewitness of your trial race, 
so that you will start on it with a good courage and 
so that you know behind you a gentle propelling power, 
while victory winks from afar. But just as the victor 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 43 

will forbear to show a spirit of undue pride, those who 
have been defeated will not permit themselves to 
become despondent nor to load their souls with grief 
or wrath because of their lack of success in the ven- 
ture. They will depart feeling affection for him 
who bears the palm, and will enshrine him and us in 
their inmost heart. They will fare forth into the 
wide world with joyous disposition. They must 
reflect on the fact that men have built cities galore 
that outshine in their splendors and beauties Seldwyla 
by far. There is, for instance, a huge and memorable 
city wherein dwells the Father of all Christendom. 
And Paris, too, is quite a mighty town, where may 
be found innumerable souls and many fine palaces. 
And in Constantinople there rules the Sultan, of 
Turkish faith is he, and there is Lisbon, once destroyed 
by an earthquake, but since reconstructed finer than 
ever. Again we have Vienna, the capital of Austria 
and called the gay imperial city, and London is the 
wealthiest town of all, situated in Engelland, along 
a river the name of which is the Thames. Two mil- 
lions of human beings, they say, have their habitation 
there. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, is the capital 
and imperial city of Russia, whereas Naples is the 
capital of the kingdom of the same name, near which 
is the Vesuvius, a high mountain forever breathing 
fire and smoke. On that mountain, according to 
the version of a credible witness, a lost soul once upon 
a time appeared to a ship's captain, as I have read 



44 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

in a curious book of travel, which soul belonged to 
John Smidt, who one hundred and fifty years ago 
was a godless man, and who now commissioned the 
said captain to visit his descendants in Engelland, so 
he might be redeemed. For look you, the entire 
mountain is the abode of the damned, as may also 
be read in the tract of the learned Peter Hasler where 
he discusses the probable entrance to hell. Many 
other cities there are indeed, whereof I will still men- 
tion Milan, and Venice, built wholly upon water, and 
Lyons, and Marseilles, and Strasbourg, and Cologne, 
and Amsterdam. Of Paris I have already spoken, 
but there is also Nuremberg, and Augsburg, and 
Frankfort, and Basle, and Berne, and Geneva, all 
of them handsome towns, and pretty Zurich, and 
besides all these still many more which I have neither 
leisure nor inclination to enumerate here. For every- 
thing has its limits, excepting the inventive genius 
of man, who goes everywhere and undertakes any- 
thing which seems to him useful. And if men are 
just everything prospereth with them; but if they 
are unjust they will perish like the grass of the fields 
and vanish like smoke. Many are called, but few 
are chosen. For all these reasons and because of 
others to which our duty and the virtue of a clear 
conscience oblige us, we will now submit ourselves 
to the voice of fate. Go forth, therefore, and prepare 
for the time of trial, and for the period of wandering, 
but do so as just and gentle beings, who bear their 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 45 

worth within themselves, no matter whither they 
may go, and whose staff will everywhere take root, 
who, no matter what their calling may be and no 
matter what business they may seize upon, are always 
in the right in saying to themselves; *I have chosen 
the better part.'" 

Of all this the combmakers really did not want 
to hear just then, but on the contrary insisted that 
Zues should select one of them and tell him to remain 
in Seldwyla, and each one of them in saying so only 
thought of himself. She, however, was careful to 
avoid a premature choice. On the contrary, she told 
them bluntly that they must obey her on pain of 
forfeiting her friendship forever. At once Jobst, the 
oldest of the three, skipped off, right into the house 
of their ex-master, and to perceive that and follow 
him in haste, was the work of an instant, since they 
were afraid that he might be planning something 
against them on the sly, and thus the trio acted all 
day long, whisking about like falling stars, hither and 
thither. They hated each other like three spiders in 
one web. Half the town witnessed this queer spec- 
tacle, observing the three strangely excited comb- 
makers, they who until that day had always been so 
orderly and quiet. The ancient people of the town 
could not but feel that something evil, something 
tragic was underway, and they would nod and whisper 
to one another of their fears. Towards nightfall, how- 
ever, the combmakers became tired and spent, without 



46 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

having reached any definite conclusion, and in that 
mood they retired and stretched out their limbs in 
the old bed, with chattering teeth and half-sick with 
impotent rage. One by one they crept beneath the 
covering, and there they lay, as though felled by the 
hand of death itself, with thoughts in turmoil and 
confusion, until at last sleep came like balm for their 
uproarious minds. 

Jobst was first to waken, at early dawn, and he saw 
that spring was weaving its garlands and that the 
great orb was rising in the east, in a mass of cloudlets 
of dainty hue. The first rays of the sun were already 
penetrating the dusky chamber wherein he had been 
sleeping for the past six years. And while the room 
assuredly looked bare and unattractive enough, it 
seemed nevertheless a paradise to him, a paradise 
from which he was about to be driven thus unjustly 
and unfairly, it appeared to him. He let his eyes 
wander all over the walls, and counted on them the 
traces left by all the preceding journeymen that had 
been harbored under that roof. Here there was a 
dark stain from the one who was in the habit of rub- 
bing against the wall his greasy pate; there another 
one had driven in a nail, on which he used to hang 
his long pipe, and, sure enough, a bit of scarlet tape 
still clung to the nail. How good and harmless had 
they all been, all those that had come and gone, while 
these fellows now, spread out their whole length next 
to him in bed, would not go. Next he fastened his 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 47 

glance upon the objects nearer his field of vision, 
those objects which he had noticed thousands of times 
before, on all those occasions when he had lain in 
bed in a contemplative mood, mornings, nights, or 
daytime, and when he had enjoyed in his own peculiar 
way the bliss of existence, free of cost and with a 
serene mind. There was, for example, a spot in the 
ceiling where the wet had damaged it. This spot 
had often set his imagination at work. It looked 
like the map of a whole country, with lakes and rivers 
and cities, and a group of grains of sand represented 
an isle of the blessed. Farther down a long bristle 
from the painter's brush attracted Jobst's wandering 
attention; for this bristle had been held back by the 
blue paint and was embedded in it. This phenomenon 
interested Jobst greatly, for it was his own handiwork. 
Last autumn he had accidentally discovered a small 
remnant of the azure paint, and to utilize it had 
proceeded to spread it over that portion of the ceiling 
nearest to him. But just beyond the bristle there 
was a very slight protuberance, almost like a chain 
of mountains, and this threw its shadow across the 
bristle over against the isle of the blessed. About 
this rise in the scenery he had been brooding and 
speculating the whole of the past winter, because it 
seemed to him that it had not been there formerly. 

And as he now cast searching glances for this pro- 
tuberance and could not find it despite all his pains, 
he thought he must suddenly have gone daft when 



48 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

instead of it he discovered a tiny bare spot on the 
wall. On the other hand he noticed that the small 
bluish mountain itself was moving. Amazed beyond 
measure at this miracle, Jobst quickly sat up and 
watched the cerulean wonder march steadily on: the 
conviction dawned on him that the prodigy was 
nothing but a bedbug; his logical deduction then was 
that he must have unawares applied a coat of paint 
to this insect, at a time in its Hfe when it was already 
in a state of coma. But now the little creature had 
been reawakened under the warming influence of the 
spring sun, had started on a tour of adventure, and 
was actually and bravely ascending the steep path- 
way on the wall, ready for business, without in the 
least minding its blue back and Jobst's astonishment. 
Jobst watched the meanderings of the dear little 
thing with concentrated interest. So long as it cut 
across the blue paint it was barely visible; but now 
it issued forth into the region beyond, traversing 
first a few remaining splotches of paint, and next 
wandering diligently among the darker districts. 
With softened feelings Jobst sank back into his pil- 
lows. Generally rather indifferent to quips of mere 
fancy, this time sentiment struggled uppermost. 
He took the enterprising bedbug as an omen for 
himself. He, too, must be wandering forth again, 
seeking new pastures. And thankfully and resignedly 
he thought of this insect as a model for himself to 
strive after. In this frame of mind he resolved to 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 49 

put a good face on the matter and to bow to the un- 
avoidable. He meant to start at once. Indulging 
these wise reflections his natural wisdom and fore- 
thought slowly came back to him, however, and 
resuming his train of deliberations he at last con- 
cluded that there might not be any necessity for 
clearing out at all. By reassuming his habitual 
modesty and resignation and submitting in that 
spirit to the trial at hand, it might come to pass, 
after all, that he would overcome his rivals. Softly 
and slowly, therefore, he now rose, and began to ar- 
range his belongings; but above all he dug up his 
hidden treasure and started to pack it away, lowest 
in his knapsack. While thus engaged the others 
also awoke. And when they observed Jobst packing 
up his things in that matter-of-fact, unobtrusive 
manner, they grew more and more astonished, and 
this feeling increased when Jobst spoke to them in 
a conciliatory tone and wished them a good morning. 
More than that, though, he did not say, but con- 
tinued peaceably in his task. Instantly, however, 
not being able to explain to themselves his behavior, 
they began to suspect a ruse, a deep-laid scheme, and 
to imitate him. At the same time they closely watched 
him, curious to find out what he would do next. ..-^^ 
It was ludicrous as well to observe the other two 
now exhuming their hoards quite openly from under- 
neath their own tiles, and to put them away, without 
first counting them over, in their knapsacks. For 

/ 



50 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

they had known for long that each was aware of the 
secret of the others, and according to the old-fashioned 
honorable traditions of their guild not one of them 
suspected the others of theft. Each of them, in fact, 
was fully convinced that they would not be robbed. 
For it is an iron-clad custom among traveling journey- 
men, soldiers, and similar folk that nothing must be 
locked up and that there must be no suspicion of 
foul play. 

In this way they at last were ready to start. The 
master paid each his wages, and handed them back 
their service booklets, wherein on the part of the 
town authorities and of the master himself there were 
inscribed the most satisfactory certificates as to good 
behavior and steadiness of conduct. A minute later 
they stood, in a state of soft melancholy, before the 
house door of Zues BuenzHn, each dressed in a long 
brown coat, with a duster above that, and their hats, 
albeit by no means new or fashionable, covered with 
a tight casing of oil cloth. Each carried a tiny van 
strapped to his knapsack to enable him, as soon as 
long-distance walking should start, to pull his heavy 
baggage with greater ease. The small wheels belong- 
ing to this contraption stood up high above their 
shoulders. Jobst was assisted in walking by a decent 
bamboo cane, Fridohn by a staff of ash painted all 
over with red and black stripes, and Dietrich by a 
fantastic baton around which were curling carved 
branches. But he was almost ashamed of this absurd 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 51 

and bragging thing, since it dated from the first days 
of his pilgrimage, a time when he had not yet attained 
to the sober view of Hfe as since. Many neighbors 
and their children lined the way and wished these 
three serious-minded men godspeed. 

But now Zues showed at the door, her mien even 
more solemn than usual, and at the head of the little 
procession she went on with the three courageously 
to beyond the town gate. In their honor she had 
donned some of her choicest finery. She wore a huge 
hat draped with broad yellow ribbons, a pink caHco 
dress trimmed in a style of ten years ago, a black 
velvet scarf and shoes of red morocco with fringes. 
With this costume she also carried a reticule of green 
silk filled with dried pears and prunes, and had a 
small parasol in her other hand on top of which there 
could be seen an ivory ornament carved in the shape 
of a lyre. She had also hung around her fair neck 
the locket with the monument of hair, and in front of 
her chaste bosom had pinned on the gold forget-me- 
not, and wore white knit gloves. Dainty and pleasant 
she looked in this guise; her countenance was slightly 
flushed and her bosom heaved higher than its wont, 
and the departing combmakers scarcely were able to 
conceal their feelings of utter woe and sorrow at the 
prospect of losing her. For even their extreme situ- 
ation, the lovely spring weather, and Zues' exquisite 
finery, or all of it together mingled with their senti- 
ments of expectation and anxiety something of what 



52 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

habitually is denominated Love. Arrived beyond 
the town gate, though, the winsome maiden encouraged 
her three admirers to place their heavy knapsacks 
upon those tiny wheels and to pull their loads, so as 
not to tire themselves needlessly. This they did, and 
as they steadily began to cHmb the steep heights that 
rose just outside the town, it looked for all the world 
almost like a train of light mountain guns moving 
slowly upwards, in order to form a battery for attack. 
And when they had thus proceeded for half an hour 
they reached a pleasant hilltop, where they halted. 
A crossroad was there, and they sat down beneath 
a linden tree, in a semicircle, whence a far view was 
obtainable across forests and lakes and villages. 
Zues brought out her reticule and handed to each one 
a handful of pears and prunes, in order to restore 
themselves. Thus they sat for quite a while, solemn 
and silent, merely causing a slight noise by the slow 
degustation of the sweet fruit. 

Then Zues, throwing away a prune pit and drying 
her hands on the grass, drew breath and began to 
speak: "Dear friends," she said, "only see how 
beautiful and how big the world is, all around full of 
fine things and of human habitations! And yet 1 
should wager that in this fateful hour there are no- 
where else seated together four such decent and just 
souls as are seated here under this tree, four who are 
so sensible and so gentle in all their doings, so inclined 
to all useful and laborious exercises, so given to virtues 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS $3 

like economy, peaceableness, and dutiful friendship. 
How many flowers are surrounding us here, of 
every kind, such as early spring produces, especially 
yellow cowslips, from which a wholesome and well- 
tasting tea may be prepared. But are these flowers, I 
ask you, as decent and as diligent, as economical and 
cautious, as apt to think correct and useful thoughts? 
No, indeed, they are ignorant and soulless things, and 
without benefiting themselves they waste time and 
opportunity, and no matter how nice they may look 
in a short time they turn into dead and useless hay, 
while we with our virtues are far superior to them and 
also do not yield to them in beauty of outward shape. 
For it was God who created us after His image and 
blew His divine breath into us. Ah, would it were 
possible to keep seated here in this spot for all eternity, 
in this paradise and in our present state of innocency. 
Indeed, my friends, it seems to me that we all of us 
at this hour are in a state of innocency, although 
ennobled by sinless consciousness and intelligence, 
for all four of us are able, God be praised, to read and 
write, and we have, each of us, likewise acquired a 
craft, a useful calling. For many things, I am aware, 
I have talent and skill, and would engage to do many 
things which even the most learned young lady would 
be unable to do, that is, if I were inclined to go out- 
side of and beyond my proper station. But modesty 
and humility are the dearest virtues of a decent maiden, 
and it is enough for me to know that my intellectual 



54 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

gifts are not worthless nor despised by the judicious 
and those of a keener discernment. Many have 
before this wooed me, men who were not worthy 
of me, and now I see three just and decent bachelors 
assembled around me, each of whom is as worthy 
to win me as are the others. From this, my friends, 
you may measure and imagine how my own heart must 
long for a solution in view of this unheard-of abundance, 
and may each of you take pattern by me and think 
for the moment that he, too, were surrounded by 
three virgins, each equally lovely and worthy to be 
loved, and all three desirous to wed and possess him, 
and that on that account it might happen that he 
would be unable to make up his mind to incline to this 
or that one, and therefore at last unable to wed any. 
Only place yourselves in your thoughts in my stead: 
fancy that each of you were courted simultaneously 
by three Miss Buenzlins at once, and were thus seated 
around you the way we are seated here, dressed as 
I am, and of similarly alluring exterior, so that I 
in a manner of speaking would exist ninefold, and that 
they all were regarding you with love-lorn eyes, and 
were desiring to possess you with great strength of 
feeling. Can you do that?" 

The three lovers ceased for a moment to chew their 
dried prunes, and made an attempt to follow the 
maiden's flight of fancy, their faces meanwhile assum- 
ing a peculiarly sheep-like cast. But after a while 
the Suabian, as the greatest thinker and inventor 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 55 

amongst them, seemed to grasp the idea, and said 
with a voluptuous grin: "Well, most beloved Miss 
Zues, if you have no objection, I should indeed like 
to see you hover around here not only threefold but 
a hundredfold, and to have you look at me with love- 
lorn eyes and to offer me a thousand kisses!" 

"Nay, nay," Zues replied, rather put out by this, 
"do not talk in this unbecoming and extravagant 
style! What is entering your head, you overbold 
Dietrich? Not a hundredfold and not offering kisses, 
but only threefold and in a virtuous and honorable 
manner, so that no wrong may be done me!" 

"Yes," now cried Jobst, brandishing a pear stalk 
and gesturing with it, "only threefold and behaving 
with the greatest chastity do I see the beloved Miss 
Buenzlin walking about me and greeting me while 
placing her hand on her heart. Your most devoted 
servant, thank you, thank you!" he said, smiling with 
great urbanity and bowing thrice in different directions 
as though he really perceived these hallucinations in 
the air around him. "Thus you should speak," 
rejoined Zues, with a seductive smirk. "If there 
really exists any difference between you three, it is 
you, after all, dear Jobst, who are the most gifted, 
or at least the most sensible." 

Fridolin, the Bavarian, had not yet succeeded in 
conjuring up in his slower brain all these figments of 
imagination. But now seeing Jobst evidently scoring 
a hit, he was afraid that he was losing in favor, and 



56 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

so shouted in haste: "I also notice the lovely virgin, 
Miss Zues Buenzlin, perambulating right here in my 
vicinity and throwing voluptuous glances in my 
direction, while putting her hand on — " 

"Fie, you Bavarian," shrieked Zues wrathfully, 
turning her face aside out of very shame. "Not 
another word! Where do you get the courage from to 
talk to me in such a tone of impure grossness, and to 
allow your fancy to indulge in such smuttiness? Fie, 
fie!" 

The poor Bavarian felt abashed, reddened under 
this reproof, and looked about foolishly, not knowing 
what he had done amiss. For really his imagination 
had not been at work at all, and he had merely meant 
to repeat about what he had heard Jobst say a moment 
before and what the latter had been praised for. 
But now Zues once more turned and remarked: "And 
you, dear Dietrich, have you not yet been able to 
reshape that last observation of yours in a more modest 
guise? " 

"Indeed I have," the young man made answer, 
glad to be forgiven, "I now perceive you only in three 
different shapes, regarding me pleasantly but in a 
quite respectable manner, and offering me three 
white hands, on which I imprint three just as re- 
spectable kisses." 

"Well, then, that is proper," remarked Zues, "and 
you, Fridolin, have you recovered from your fit of 
libertinism? Have you not yet calmed your ram- 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 57 

pageous blood, and are you now in condition to con- 
ceive of an image not so obscene?" 

"Begging pardon," murmured Fridolin greatly crest- 
fallen, "I also can now clearly recognize three maidens, 
each of whom has dried pears in her hand and offers 
them to me, not being quite at variance with me any 
longer. One of these is as handsome as the others, 
and to make a choice among them appears to me a 
hard matter indeed." 

"Well said," remarked Zues, "and since you in 
your fancy are surrounded by no less than nine equally 
desirable persons, and nevertheless in spite of such 
delectable superabundance are suffering in your hearts 
from a lack of love, you may easily conceive of my 
own condition. And as you also saw how with modest 
and pure heart I know to tame my desires, I trust you 
will take me as a model and will vow here and now 
to further live in amity and to separate when the 
hour comes just as pleasantly and without a grudge, 
no matter how fate may deal with each one of you. 
Rise and come hither. Let each one of you place his 
hand in mine, and pledge himself to act just as I have 
indicated!" 

"With perfect good faith," said Jobst in reply, 
"I at least will do precisely as you suggest!" 

And the other two, not to be behindhand, likewise 
shouted: "And so will I!" and they all three pledged 
themselves as she had requested, secretly, of course, 
each with the proviso to run as hard towards the goal 
as he was able. 



58 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"Yes, indeed," Jobst once more interjected, "I 
at least will live up to my promise, for from my youth 
upwards I have unfailingly shown a conciliatory 
and equable disposition. Never in my life have I 
had a quarrel with anyone, and would never suffer 
to see an animal tortured. Wherever I have been 
I was on good terms with my fellows, and thus earned 
much praise because of my peaceful ways. And 
while I may say that I, too, understand many things 
passably well, and am usually held a sensible young 
man, at no time have I interfered with things that did 
not concern me, and have always done my duty 
with consideration for others. I can work just as 
hard as I choose without losing my health, since I 
am sound and strong and abstemious in my ways, 
and have still the best years before me. All the 
wives of my masters have said that I was a man in 
a thousand, a real treasure, and that it was easy to 
get along with me. Oh, indeed, Miss Buenzlin, I 
beHeve I could live with you as though in Heaven, in 
uninterrupted bliss." 

"That would not be hard," broke in the Bavarian 
at this, "to live in concord and happiness with Miss 
Zues. I also would undertake to do the same. I am 
not a fool, either. My craft I understand as well as 
the best, and I know how to keep things in order 
without ever having to get excited about it. And 
although I also have dwelt in the largest cities and have 
earned good wages there, I have never got into trouble, 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 59 

and neither have I ever killed as much as a spider or 
thrown a brick at a mewling cat. I am temperate 
and easily pleased with my food, and am able to get 
along with very little indeed. With that I am in 
full health and of good temper and cheerful. I can 
stand much hardship without losing my bland mind, 
and my good conscience is an elixir that keeps me in 
excellent spirit. All animals love me and follow me, 
because they scent my kind heart, for with an unjust 
man they would not stay. A poodle dog once fol- 
lowed me for three entire days, on leaving the town of 
Ulm, and at last I was forced to leave it in charge 
of a peasant, since I as an humble journeyman comb- 
maker could not afford to feed such a creature. When 
I was traveling through the Bohemian Forest stags 
and deer used to come within twenty paces of me, 
and would then stand and watch me. It is wonderful 
indeed how even such wild beasts know by instinct 
what kind of human beings they have to deal with." 

"True," here sang out the Suabian. "Don't you 
see how this chaffinch has been fluttering around me 
this whole while, and how it is anxious to approach 
me? And that squirrel over there by the pine tree 
is constantly glancing towards me, and here again 
a small beetle is creeping up my leg and will not go 
away. Surely, it must be feeling comfortable with 
me, the tiny thing." 

But now Zues grew jealous. Rather nettled, she 
spoke: "Animals all love me and like to stay with 



6o SELDWYLA FOLKS 

me. One of my birds remained with me for eight 
years, until unfortunately it died. Our cat is so fond 
of me that it forever purrs about me, and our neigh- 
bor's pigeons crowd about me every day when I scatter 
some crumbs for them on my window sill. Wonderful 
qualities animals have, anyway, each after its kind. 
The lion loves to follow in the footprints of kings and 
heroes, and the elephant accompanies the prince and 
the doughty warrior. The camel bears the merchant 
through the desert and keeps a store of fresh water 
in its belly for him. The dog again shares all the 
dangers with his owner and pitches himself headlong 
into the sea just to prove his devotion. The dolphin 
has a strong love for music and swims in the wake of 
vessels, while the eagle accompanies armies. The 
ape bears a strong resemblance to the human species 
and imitates everything he sees us do. The parrot 
understands our speech and converses with us just 
like any person of sense. Even the snakes may be 
tamed and then dance on the tip of their tails. The 
crocodile sheds human tears and is consequently in 
those parts esteemed and spared. The ostrich may 
be saddled and ridden like a horse. The savage 
buffalo pulls the carriage of his human master, as 
the reindeer does the sledge of his. The unicorn 
furnishes man with snow-white ivory and the tor- 
toise with its transparent bones — " 

"Beg pardon," interrupted all the three comb- 
makers together, "herein you are slightly in error. 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 6i 

for ivory comes from the teeth of the elephant, and 
tortoise-shell combs are made out of the shell of that 
animal and not of the bones of the tortoise." 

Zues colored deeply and rejoined: "That, I believe, 
remains to be proved. For you certainly have not 
seen of your own knowledge whence it is obtained, 
but only work up its pieces. I as a rule make no 
mistakes in matters of that kind. However, be that 
as it may, just let me finish. Not the animals alone 
have their peculiarities implanted by the hand of God, 
but even dead minerals that are dug out of the sides 
of mountains. The crystal is clear as glass, marble 
hard and full of veins, sometimes white and sometimes 
black. Amber possesses electric properties and at- 
tracts lightning; but in that case it burns and smells 
like incense. The magnet attracts iron; on slates 
one can write, but not upon diamonds, for these are 
hard as steel; the glazier, too, uses the diamond 
for cutting glass, because it is small and pointed. 
You see, dear friends, that I can also tell you a few 
things about minerals and animals. But as regards 
my relations with them I may say this: that the cat 
is a sly and cunning beast, and that is why it will 
attach itself only to persons possessing the same char- 
acteristics. The pigeon, however, is the symbol of 
innocence and simplicity of mind, and may only be 
the companion of those similarly constituted. And 
since it is certain that both cats and pigeons are at- 
tracted by me, the conclusion must be that I am at 



62 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

the same time sly and cunning, simple-minded and 
innocent. As Holy Writ says, Be wise like the ser- 
pent and simple like the dove! In this way we are able 
to understand both animals and our relations to them, 
and to learn a deal, if we only look at things in the 
right manner." 

The poor combmakers had not dared to interrupt 
her more. Zues had got the better of them, and she 
went on for some time longer at the same rate, talking 
about all sorts of intellectual things, until their senses 
were in a whirl. But they admired Zues' spirit 
and her eloquence, although with all their admiration 
none of them deemed himself too humble to possess 
this jewel of a woman, especially as this ornament of 
a house cam/" cheap and consisted merely in an eager 
and tireless tongue. Whether they themselves, after 
all, were worthy of this that they valued so highly, 
and whether they would be able to utilize this gift of 
hers, that class of idiot seldom inquires. They are 
more like children who reach out for anything that 
glitters, who lick off the vivid paint on a multicolored 
toy, and who put a mouth harmonica into their 
little jaw instead of being content with listening to 
its music. But while drinking in the high-flown 
phrases that dropped so mellifluously from her lips, 
the three of them goaded on their imagination more 
and more, sharpened their greed to own such a dis- 
tinguished person, and the more heartless, idle and 
parrot-like Zues' chatter became, the more melancholy 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 63 

and depressed became her swains. At the same time 
they felt a terrific thirst in consequence of having 
swallowed so much of this dried fruit. Jobst and the 
Bavarian looked for and found in the near-by woods 
a spring, and filled their stomachs with cold water. 
But the Suabian had slyly taken along a flask of cherry 
brandy and water, and with this he now refreshed 
himself. His plan had been to thus gain an advantage 
over the others when making the race, for well he knew 
that the other two were too parsimonious to bring 
along a stimulant Hke that or to turn in at a tavern 
on the way. 

This flask he now pulled out of his pocket, and 
while the others drank their water he offered it to 
Zues. She accepted it, emptied the flask half, and 
regarded Dietrich while she thanked him for the 
refreshment with such an affectionate glance that 
Dietrich felt more than recompensed and tremen- 
dously encouraged in his suit. He could not with- 
stand the temptation to seize her hand courteously 
and to kiss the tips of her fingers. She on her part 
lightly touched his lips with her hand, and he made 
belief of snapping at it, whereupon she smirked falsely 
and^ pleasantly at him. Dietrich answered similarly. 
Then the two sat down on the ground close to each 
other, and once in a while would touch the soles of the 
other's shoe with his own, almost as though they 
were shaking hands with their feet. Zues was bend- 
ing over slightly, and laid her hand on his shoulder, 



64 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

while Dietrich was on the very point of imitating this 
little sport when the Bavarian and the Saxon returned 
jointly, observed this philandering, and groaned and 
lost color both at the same time. 

From the water they had drunk on top of all this 
dried fruit they had become uneasy, both of them, 
and now that they saw the playful pair indulging 
in their little game, everything seemed to turn around 
them. Cold sweat began to break out on their fore- 
heads, and they nearly gave themselves up for lost. 
Zues, however, did not for an instant lose her self- 
possession, but turned to the two and said: "Come, 
friends, sit down a little while longer here with me, 
so that we may enjoy, perhaps for the last time, our 
harmony and our undisturbed friendship." 

Jobst and Fridolin pressed up quickly, and sat 
down, stretching out their thin legs. Zues left her 
one hand in the Suabian's own, gave Jobst her other 
one, and touched with the soles of her shoes those of 
Fridolin, while she turned her face to one after the 
other, smiling most enchantingly. Thus there are 
skilled virtuosi who know how to play a number of 
instruments at once, who shake bells with their heads, 
blow the Pan's pipe with their mouths, touch the 
guitar with their hands, strike the cymbal with their 
knees, with the foot a triangle, and with the elbow a 
drum suspended from their backs. 

But now she rose, smoothed out her dress very 
carefully, and said: "The hour has now come, I think, 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 65 

my friends, when you must get ready for your great 
race, the race which your master in his folly has im- 
posed on you, but which we ourselves have agreed to 
regard as the disposition of a higher power. Run this 
race with all the energy you can muster, but without 
enmity or rancor, and leave the crown of the victor 
willingly to him who has earned it." 

And as if stung by a vicious wasp the three sprang 
up and stood up ready and eager on their legs. Thus 
they stood, and they were now to try and vanquish 
each other with the same legs with which until now 
they had made only slow and thoughtful steps. Not 
one of the three could even recall ever having used 
these legs jumping or running. The Suabian, perhaps, 
was most inclined for the venture. He even seemed 
to be impatient for the struggle, and an eager look was 
in his eyes. At that moment of severe crisis they 
three scanned each other's features closely; the 
sweat had gathered on their pale brows, and they 
breathed hard and spasmodically, as though they 
were already running at full tilt. 

J "Shake hands once more, in token of good feeling," 
said Zues. And they did so, but in so lifeless a man- 
ner that the three hands dropped to their sides as if 
made of lead. 

"And are we really to start on this fool's errand?" 
asked Jobst in a voice thick with suppressed emotion, 
while wiping the perspiration from his forehead. 
Some single tears were slowly crawling down his 
hollow cheeks. 



66 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"Yes, indeed," chimed in the Bavarian, "are we 
actually to run and jump like apes on a rope?" and 
began to weep in good earnest. 

"And you, most charming Miss Buenzlin," added 
Jobst, "how are you going to behave in the circum- 
stances? " 

"It behoves me," answered she and held her hand- 
kerchief to her eyes, "to keep silent, to sniffer and to 
look on." 

"But afterwards," put in the Suabian, with a sly 
smile, "afterwards. Miss Zues, when all is over?" 

"Oh, Dietrich," she responded softly, "do you 
not know what the poet says: 'As Fate decides, so 
turns the heart of maid 7" And in introducing this 
quotation from Schiller she regarded him so temptingly 
aside that he again lifted up his long legs and shuffled 
them, feeling like starting off at once. 

While the two rivals arranged their little vehicles 
on their wheels, and Dietrich did the same, she re- 
peatedly touched him with her elbow, or else stepped 
on his foot. She also wiped the dust from his hat, 
but at the same time threw inviting glances towards 
the others, pretending to be highly amused at the 
Suabian's eagerness. But she did this without being 
observed by Dietrich. 

And now all three of them drew deep breaths and 
sighed like so many furnaces. They looked all about 
them, took off their hats, fanned themselves and then 
once more put on their hats. For the last time they 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 67 

sniffed the air in all the directions of the compass, and 
tried to recover their breath. Zues herself felt deeply 
for them, and for very compassion shed sundry tears. 

"Here," she then said, "are the last three prunes. 
Take each of you one in the mouth, that will refresh 
you. And now depart, and turn the folly of the wicked 
into the wisdom of the just! That which the wicked 
have invented for your confusion, now change into 
a work of self-denial and of serious enterprise, into 
the well-considered final act of good conduct main- 
tained for years, and into a competitive race for 
virtue itself." 

And she herself with her own fair hands shoved 
a dried prune between the cramped Ups of each, and 
each of them at once began to gently chew the prune. 

Jobst pressed his hand upon his stomach, exclaim- 
ing: "What must be, must be. Let us start, in the 
name of Heaven!" 

And saying which and raising his staff, he began to 
stride ahead, knees strongly bent and nostrils high in 
air, dragging his little load after him. Scarcely had 
Fridolin seen that, when he, too, did the same, taking 
long steps, and without once looking behind him. 
Both of them could now be seen descending the hill 
and entering the dusty highway. 

The Suabian was the last one to get away, and he 
was walking, without showing any great hurry, with 
Zues at his side, grinning in a self-satisfied way, as 
though he felt sure of victory, and as though he were 



6S SELDWYLA FOLKS 

willing, out of mere generosity, to grant a little start 
to his rivals, while Zues praised him for this supposed 
noble action and for his equanimity. 

"Ah," she now sighed, "after all, it is a blessing 
to be sure of a firm support in life! Even where one 
is sufficiently gifted oneself with insight and clever- 
ness and follows, besides, the path of rectitude, all 
the same it makes it much easier to walk through 
life on the arm of a tried friend.'^ 

"Quite right," the Suabian hastened to reply, and 
nudged her energetically with the elbow, while at the 
same time he watched his rivals so as not to let their 
start become too great. "Do you at last notice that, 
my dear Miss Zues? Are you becoming convinced? 
Have your eyes opened to the truth?" 

"Oh, Dietrich, my dear Dietrich," and she sighed 
more strongly, "I often feel so very lonesome." 

"Hop-hop," he now laughed light-heartedly, "that 
is where the shoe pinches? I thought so all along," 
and his heart began to leap like a hare in a cabbage 
patch. 

"Oh, Dietrich," she again breathed low, and she 
pressed herself much tighter against the young man's 
side. He felt awkward, and the heart in his bosom 
grew big with pleasure, and joy began to fill it alto- 
gether. But at the same instant he made the discovery 
that his precursors had already vanished from his 
sight, they having turned a corner. At once he wanted 
to tear himself loose from Zues' arm and hasten after 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 69 

them. But Zues kept such a tight hold of him that 
he was unable to do so, and she grasped him so firmly 
that he thought she was going to faint. 

"Dietrich," she whispered, and she made sheep's 
eyes at him, "don't leave me alone at this moment. 
I rely on you, you are my sole help! Please support 
me. 

"The devil. Miss Zues," he murmured anxiously, 
"let me go, let me go, or else I shall miss this race, 
and then good-by to everything!" 

"No, no, you must not leave me just now. I feel 
that I am becoming very ill!" Thus she lamented. 

"I don't care, ill or not ill," he cried, and tore 
himself loose from her. He quickly climbed a rock 
whence he was able to overlook the whole highroad 
below. There they were, he saw the two runners 
far away, deep below towards the town. And then 
he made up his mind to a great spurt, but at the same 
moment once more looked back for Zues. Then he 
saw her, seated at the entrance to a shady wood path, 
and motioning to him with her lily hand. This was 
too much for him. Instead of hurrying down the 
hill, he hastened back to her. And when she saw him 
coming, she turned and went in deeper into the cool 
wood, all the time casting inviting glances at him, 
for her object was, of course, to draw him away from 
the race and cheat him out of his victory, make him 
lose and thus render bis further stay in Seldwyla 
impossible. 



70 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

But Dietrich, the Suabian, was, as pointed out 
before, of an inventive and resourceful turn. Thus 
it was that he, too, quickly made up his mind to alter 
his tactics, and to score victory not down there but 
up here. And thus things came to pass very much 
differently from what had been calculated on. For as 
soon as he had come up with her in a sheltered spot 
in the depth of the forest, he fell at her feet and over- 
whelmed her with the most ardent declarations of 
his love for her to which any combmaker ever gave 
expression. At first she made a great attempt to 
withstand his wooing, bade him be quiet and desist 
from his violent protestations, and to befool him a 
little while longer until all danger of his winning should 
be past. She let loose the torrent of her wisdom and 
learning, and tried to awe him. But the young 
Suabian was not to be caught with this chaff. Paying 
not the slightest regard to all these rhetorical fire- 
works, he let loose Heaven and Hell in his stormy 
suit, lavishing caresses and blandishments on the 
surprised maiden by which he finally stifled the voice 
of her severely attuned conscience, and his excited 
and ready wit furnished him with enough of love's 
ammunition to overcome all her scruples. His elo- 
quence and his bold and ever persistent wheedling 
and dandling gave her not a second's respite nor leisure 
to reflect and deliberate. He first took possession 
of her hands and feet, to kiss and fondle them, despite 
her strenuous protests, and next he flattered her to 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 71 

the top of her bent, lauding both her bodily and mental 
charms to the very skies, until Zues was in a very para- 
dise of self-glorification and satisfied vanity. Added 
to this was the solitude and the sense of security 
from curious and peering eyes in the leafy shade 
of the forest. Until at last Zues really lost the com- 
pass to which hitherto she had clung as her safe 
though rather selfish guide through life. She suc- 
cumbed to all these allurements, not so much by 
reason of exalted sensualism, as because for the 
moment she was overcome and helpless against the 
stronger and more primitive passion of this young 
man. Her heart fluttered timidly up and down, and 
vainly attempted to find its former balance. Her 
thoughts were in a perfect storm of contradictions, 
and she was altogether like a poor impotent beetle 
turned over on its back and struggling to recover the 
use of its limbs. And thus it was that Dietrich van- 
quished her in every sense. She had tempted him 
into this impenetrable thicket in order to betray him 
like another Delilah, but had been quickly conquered 
by this despised Suabian. And this was not because 
she was so utterly love-sick as to lose her bearings but 
rather because she was in spite of all her fancied wis- 
dom so short of vision as not to see beyond the tip 
of her own nose. Thus they remained together an 
hour or more in this delectable solitude, embraced 
ever anew, kissed one another a thousand times, 
thus realizing the vision of the Suabian not long 



72 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

before, and swore eternal faith and unending affection, 
and agreed most solemnly, no matter how the affair 
of the race should terminate, to marry and become 
man and wife. 

In the meanwhile news of the curious undertaking 
of the three combmakers had spread throughout the 
town, and the master himself had not a Httle aided in 
this, for the whole matter appealed strongly to his 
sense of humor. And hence all the people of Seldwyla 
rejoiced in advance at the prospect of a spectacle so 
novel and unconventional. They were eager to see 
the three journeymen arrive out of breath and in 
complete disarray, and laughed heartily in antici- 
pation of the fun they counted on. Gradually a 
vast throng had assembled outside the town gate, 
impatient to see the arrival. On both sides of the 
highroad the curious people were seated at the edge 
of the trenches, just as if professional runners were 
expected. The small boys climbed into the tops of 
trees, while their elders sat on the grass and smoked 
their pipe, quite content that such an amusement had 
been provided for them. Even the dignitaries of 
Seldwyla had not scorned to put in their appearance, 
sat in the taverns by the wayside and discoursed of 
the chances of each of the three, and making a number 
of not inconsiderable wagers as to the final result. 
In those streets which the runners had to pass on their 
way to the goal all the windows had been thrown open, 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 73 

the wives had placed in their parlors on the window 
ledges pretty vari-colored cushions, to rest their arms 
upon, and had received numerous visits from the 
ladies of their acquaintance, so that coffee and cake 
was hospitably provided for them all, and even the 
maid servants were in a holiday mood, being sent to 
bakers and confectioners for goodies of every descrip- 
tion with which to entertain the guests. 

All of a sudden the little fellows keenly watching 
from out of their leafy domes dimly saw in the dis- 
tance tiny dust clouds approaching, and they set up 
the cry: "Here they're coming! They're coming!" 
And indeed, not long thereafter were seen Jobst and 
Fridolin rushing past, each wrapped in his own hazy 
column of dust, in the middle of the road. With the 
one hand they were pulling their valises on wheels each 
by himself, these rattling over the cobblestones with 
a noise like drumbeats, and with the other they held 
on tight to their heavy hats, these having slid down 
their necks, and their long dusters and coats were 
flying in the breeze. Both of the rivals were covered 
thickly with dust, almost unrecognizable; they had 
their mouths wide open and were yapping for breath; 
they saw and heard nothing that transpired around 
them, and thick tears were slowly rolling down their 
fac^s, there being no time to wipe them away, and 
these tears had dug paths in criss-cross fashion in the 
grine on their countenances. 

' c'hey came close upon each other, but the Bavarian 



74 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

was just about half a horse's length ahead. A terrific 
shouting and laughter was set up by the audience, 
and this droned in the ears of the racers as they sped 
on in insane haste. Everybody got up and crowded 
along the sidewalk, and there were cries raised: "That's 
it, that's it! Run, Saxon, defend yourself: don't 
let the Bavarian have it all his own way! One of 
the three has already given in — there are but two 
of them left." 

The gentlemen who were standing on the tables 
and chairs in the gardens and roadhouses laughed 
fit to split their sides. Their roars sounded across 
the highway and streets, and woke the echoes, and 
the affair was turned into a popular festival. Small 
boys and the entire rabble of the town followed densely 
in the wake of the two, and this mob stirred up thick 
volumes of biting dust, so that the racers were almost 
stifled before they arrived at the near goal. The 
whole immense cloud rolled towards the town gate, 
and even women and girls ran along, and mingled 
their high, squeaking voices with those of the male 
ruffians. Now they had almost reached the old town 
gate, the two towers of which were lined with the 
curious who were waving their caps and hats. The 
two were still running, foaming at the mouth, eyes 
starting out of sockets, running like two run-away 
horses, without sense or mind, their hearts full of f^ar 
and torture. Suddenly one of the httle street b< ys 
knelt down on Jobst's small vehicle, and had J( 'st 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 75 

pull him along, the crowd howling with appreciation 
of the joke. Jobst turned and pleaded with the 
youngster to get off, even struck at him with his staff. 
But the blows did not reach the urchin, who merely- 
grinned at him. With that Fridolin gained on Jobst, 
and as Jobst noticed this, he threw his staff between 
the other's feet, so that Fridolin stumbled and fell. 
But as Jobst attempted to pass him, the Bavarian 
pulled him by the tail of his coat, and by the aid of 
that got again on his feet. Jobst struck him upon 
his hands like a maniac, and shouted: "Let go! Let 
go 1 '* But Fridolin did not let go, and so Jobst seized 
him also by the coat tail, and thus both had hold of 
each other, and were slowly making their way into the 
gateway, once in a while attempting to get rid of the 
other by venturing on a bound. They wept, sobbed 
and howled like babies, shouted in the agony of their 
grief and fear: "My God, let go!" "For the love 
of Heaven, let go!'' "Let go, you devil; you must 
let go!" Between whiles each struck hard blows at 
the other's hands, but with all that they advanced a 
little all the time. Their hats and staffs had been lost 
in the scuffle, and ahead of them and behind them the 
hooting mob was accompanying them, their escort grow- 
ing more turbulent and violent each minute. All the 
windows were occupied by the ladies of Seldwyla, and 
they threw, so to speak, their silvery laughter into this 
avalanche of noise, and all were agreed that for years 
past there had not been such a- ludicrous scene as this. 



76 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

As a matter of fact, this crazy free show was so 
much to the taste of the whole town that nobody took 
the trouble to point out to the two rivals their ultimate 
goal, the house of their old master. They themselves, 
these two, did not see it. Indeed, they did not see 
anything more. They reached their goal and did 
not perceive it, but went past and hurried crazily 
on, on and on, always escorted by the shouts and 
yells of the mob, fighting each other, their faces drawn 
and pinched as though in death, on and on, until they 
reached the other end of the little town and so through 
the second gate out into the open once more. The 
master himself had stood at the window of his house, 
laughing and greatly amused, and after patiently 
waiting for another hour for the victor in the strange 
tournament, he had been on the point of leaving the 
house and joining some of his cronies at the tavern, 
when Zues and Dietrich quietly and unobtrusively 
entered. 

For Zues had meanwhile been busy with her 
thoughts, combining, after her wont, this and that. 
And thus she had reached the conclusion that in all 
likelihood the master combmaker would be willing 
to sell his business outright on a cash basis, since he 
could not continue it himself much longer. For 
that purpose Zues herself was ready to give up her 
interest-bearing mortgage, which together with the 
slender savings of Dietrich would doubtless suffice 
and thus they two would remain victors and could 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 77 

laugh at the other two. This plan, together with 
their intention to marry, they told the astonished 
master about, and he, readily seeing that thus he 
could cheat his creditors and by concluding the bar- 
gain quickly would also get possession of a considerable 
sum of money to do with as he pleased, was glad of 
the opportunity thus afforded him. Quickly, there- 
fore, the two parties were in agreement as to the 
terms, and before the sun went down Zues became 
the lawful owner of the business and her promised 
husband the tenant of the house in which the business 
was being conducted. Thus it was Zues, without 
indeed having intended or suspected it in the morning, 
who was tied down and conquered by the quick- 
witted Suabian. 

Half dead with shame, exhaustion and anger, 
Jobst and Fridolin meanwhile lay in the inn to which 
they had been taken when picked up limp and spent 
in the open field. To separate the two rivals, thirsting 
for each other's blood and maddened from the whole 
crazy adventure, had been no light task. The whole 
of Seldwyla now, having in their peculiar reckless 
way already forgotten the immediate cause of the 
whole turmoil, was now celebrating and making a 
night of it. In many houses there was dancing, 
and in the taverns there was much drinking and 
singing and noise, just as on the greatest Seldwyla 
holidays. For the people of Seldwyla never required 
much urging to enjoy themselves to the top of their 



78 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

bent. When the two poor devils saw how their own 
superior cunning with which they had counted on 
making a good haul had, on the contrary, only served 
these careless people in all their folly to make a feast 
of it, how they themselves had been the immeidate 
cause of their own downfall, and had made a laughing- 
stock of themselves for all the world, they thought 
their hearts would break. For they had managed 
not only to defeat the wise and patient plans of so 
many years, but had also lost forever the reputation 
of being shrewd men themselves. 

Jobst as the oldest of the three and having spent in 
Seldwyla full seven years, was wholly overwhelmed 
and dazed by the collapse of all his secret hopes, and 
quite unable to reconstruct a new world after having 
lost the one of his dreams. Utterly dejected he 
left his sleepless pillow before daybreak, wandered 
away from town and crept to the very spot where the 
day before they and Zues had sat under the linden 
tree, and there he hanged himself to one of the lowest 
branches. When the Bavarian, but an hour later, 
passed there on his way into strange parts, such a 
fit of fright seized him that he ran off like a lunatic, 
altered completely his whole ways, and later on was 
heard to have become a dissolute spendthrift, who 
never saved a penny, and who was in the habit of 
cursing God and men, being no one's friend any more. 

Dietrich the Suabian alone remained one of the 
Decent and Just, and stayed on in the Httle town. 



THE THREE DECENT COMBMAKERS 79 

But he had Httle good of it, for Zues left him nothing 
to say, and ruled him strictly, never allowing him 
to have his way in anything. On the contrary, she 
continued to consider herself the sole source of all 
wisdom and success. 



DIETEGEN 



DIETEGEN 

TO the north of those hills and woods where 
Seldwyla nestles, there flourished as late as the 
end of the fifteenth century the town of Ruechenstein, 
lying in the cool shade, whereas her rival Seldwyla 
basked in the full glare of the midday sun. Gray and 
forbidding looked the massed body of its towers and 
strong walls, and upstanding and just were its council- 
men and citizens, but severe and morose also, and 
their chief employment consisted in the execution 
of their prerogatives as an independent city, in the 
exercise of law and justice, the issuing of mandates 
and decrees, of impeachments and committals. The 
greatest source of their pride was the fact that there 
had been conferred on them the exercise and en- 
forcement of the power over life and death of all 
subject to their sway, and so eager and willing they 
were to sacrifice for this power their all, their privi- 
leges and their substance, as entrusted to them by 
Empire and supreme ruler, as other commonwealths 
were to achieve their liberty of conscience and the 
freedom of worship according to their faith. 

On the rocky promontories all around their town 
wore conspicuous the emblems of their dread sov- 



84 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

ereignty. Such as tall gallows and scaffolds, sundry 
places of execution, showing the wheel where mis- 
creants had their limbs broken, the stake where here- 
tics or other evildoers were made to suffer, and their 
grim-faced town hall was hung full of iron chains with 
neck rings; steel cages were exhibited on the towers 
of the walls, and wooden drills wherein loose-tongued 
or wicked women were being stretched and turned, 
could be seen at almost every corner. Even by the 
shore of the dark-blue river which washed the walls 
of the town, sundry stations had been erected where 
malefactors could be drowned or ducked, with tied 
feet or in sacks, according to the finer discriminations 
of the decree of judgment. 

Now it need not be supposed that because of all 
this the Ruechensteiners were iron men, robust and 
inspiring terror by their looks, such as one would be 
inchned to think from their favorite pastimes. That 
was indeed not the case. Rather were they people 
of ordinary, philistine appearance, with thin shanks 
and pot-bellies, their only distinctive mark being 
their yellow noses, the same noses with which the year 
around they used to besniff and watch each other. 
And nobody indeed would have guessed from the 
more than commonplace and scanty semblance of 
their whole physical being that their nerves were 
like ropes, such as were absolutely required not only to 
view all along the grewsome sights offered to them by 
their authorities in the putting to a shameful and 



DIETEGEN 85 

lingering death of scores and scores of felons and other 
poor wretches condemned by their councilmen, but 
actually to enjoy the sight. These cruel instincts of 
theirs were not apparent on their faces; they were 
hidden away in their hearts. 

Thus they kept spread like a dense net their judici- 
ary powers over the dominion subject to their fierce 
rule, always eager for a chance to apply it. And in- 
deed nowhere were there such singular crimes to punish 
as in this same Ruechenstein. Their inventive gift 
was fairly inexhaustible. It seemed almost as though 
their talent for discovering ever new and hitherto 
unheard-of crimes acted as a spur on sinners to commit 
the latest delinquencies threatened with penalties of 
the severest type. However, if despite all this at any 
time there was a lack of evildoers, the people of the 
town knew how to help themselves. For then they 
simply caught and punished the rascals of other towns. 
And it was only a man with a clear conscience who had 
the hardihood to cross at any time the territory of 
Ruechenstein. For when they heard of a crime 
committed, even if done far away from their own area, 
they would seize and hold the first landloper that 
came along, put him to the torture and make him 
confess his guilt. Not infrequently it would happen 
that such enforced confession related to a crime that, 
as later turned out, had only been based on hearsay, 
and had really never been done. But then it was too 
late. The supposed malefactor had been hung in 



86 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

chains on the gallows or otherwise disposed of, and 
could not be brought to life again. Of course, it was 
unavoidable that because of this incHnation of the 
people of Ruechenstein they would often get into a 
more or less acrimonious controversy with other towns 
whose citizens they had thus overzealously dispatched, 
and they even had constantly pending a number of 
such cases before the Swiss federal council, and had to 
be sharply reprimanded, but that did not cure them. 

By preference the people of Ruechenstein liked calm, 
sunny, pleasant weather when indulging in their 
favorite amusement of holding penal executions, 
burnings at the stake, and forcible drownings, and 
that is why on fine summer days there was always 
something of the kind going on there. The wanderer 
in a far-off field might then, keeping his eyes fastened 
on the greyish rock buttress high up on the horizon, 
notice not infrequently the flashing of the headsman's 
sword, the smoke pillar of the stake, or in the bed of 
the river something like the glittering leaping of a 
fish, which would usually mean the bobbing up and 
down of a w^'tch undergoing the solemn test. And the 
word of God on a Sunday they would not have relished 
at all without at least one erring lovers' couple with 
straw wreaths before the altar and without the read- 
ing out of some sharpened moral mandates. 

Other festivals, processions and pubHc pleasures 
there were none; all such were prohibited by numerous 
mandates or ordinances. 



DIETEGEN 87 

It may easily be supposed that a town of that stripe 
could have no more distasteful neighbors than Seld- 
wyla, and behind their woods, too, they would forever 
think up new methods of interfering with and annoy- 
ing them. Any Seldwylian whom they caught on 
their own soil was seized and tortured to get at the 
facts regarding the latest breach of the peace or any 
other misdemeanor charged upon their neighbor's 
score. And on their account, to get even, the Seld- 
wyla people made fast every man of Ruechenstein 
and, on their pubHc market square, administered 
to him six choice blows with the rod, on the spot which 
they deemed specially adapted for that purpose. 
This, though, was as far as they ever went, for they 
had a prejudice against bloody spectacles, and amongst 
themselves never indulged in corporal punishments. 
But in addition to this mild chastisement they would 
also blacken the long nose of the culprit, and then 
they would let him run home. That was why there 
always were in Ruechenstein several specially dis- 
gruntled persons with noses dyed black that but 
slowly were recovering their pristine hue, and these 
naturally were particularly zealous in trying to unearth 
miscreants that could be dealt with severely and 
subjected to castigation or torture. 

The Seldwylians on their part kept this black paint 
constantly ready in a huge iron pot, and upon this was 
limned the Ruechenstein town escutcheon, and they 
denominated this pot the "friendly neighbor." This 



88 SELDWYLA FOLKS 



and the huge paint brush belonging to it was always 
suspended under the arch of the gate fronting towards 
Ruechenstein. When this tincture had dried up or 
been used up it was renewed and the occasion utilized 
to get up a frolicsome procession ending with a gay 
banquet, all with a view to rendering the neighbor 
ridiculous. And because of this at one time the 
latter became so wrathful that their whole town 
turned out, banners flying, to inflict punishment on 
the SeldwyHans. 

But these, informed of this intention, quickly 
issued forth and waylaid the Ruechenstein hosts, 
attacking them unawares. However, the Ruechen- 
steiners had marching at the head of their column 
a dozen of graybearded and fierce-looking civic soldiers, 
with new ropes tied to the handles of their long swords, 
and these wore such an unholy mien as to scare the 
merry Seldwylian blades. The latter, in fact, began 
to back out, and they were on the point of losing the^ 
fight if a clever conceit had not saved them. For 
just for fun they had been carrying along the punitive 
pot of paint, etc., "the friendly neighbor," and instead 
of a banner the long paint brush. With quick in- 
tuition the bearer of the latter dipped his brush deeply 
into the dark Hquid, bounded ahead of his comrades 
like a flash, and bedaubed the faces of the leading 
rank of foes a sable hue before these knew what he 
was about. So that all those in front, threatened 
immediately with this indelible paint, turned and 



DIETEGEN 89 

fled, and that nobody of them all further felt like 
marching in the van of the host. With that the 
whole outfit began to sway, and a strange terror fell 
on them all, whereas the Seldwylians now, their cour- 
age restored, manfully went up against the men of 
Ruechenstein, pressing them back towards the rear, 
in the direction of their own town. With savage 
laughter the Seldwyla people took advantage of the 
occasion, and wherever their foes dared to defend 
themselves the dreaded paint brush came into instant 
action, handled with supreme skill by means of its 
long shaft, and in the melee there was indeed no lack 
of real heroism. For twice already the daring painters 
had been pierced by arrows and fallen to rise no more. 
But each time some other equally courageous fellow 
had sprung into the gap, and had treated the foe 
in the same ignominious manner. 

In the end the Ruechensteiners were totally de- 
feated, and they fled with their banner towards the 
clump of woods which led to their town, with the 
Seldwyla people on their heels. Barely were they 
able to find refuge in their town, and to close the gate 
thereof, and the latter, too, was painted all over by 
the pursuing foe with the black paint, together with 
its drawbridge, until the Ruechensteiners, somewhat 
recovered and collected again, threw potfuls of white- 
wash upon the heads of the uproarious painters. 

But because a few Seldwylians of note who in the 
heat of combat had penetrated into the town and there 



90 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

been taken prisoner, and also about a dozen of the 
Ruechensteiners had Hkewise been seized and held 
by the victors, there was effected an armistice after 
the lapse of a few days. The prisoners were exchanged 
on both sides, and a regular peace was concluded, 
in which both sides gave way a bit. There had been 
fighting enough to suit them for a spell, and there was 
a desire for a mutual adjustment. So it came to pass 
that both sides made fair promises of future good 
behavior. The Seldwyla people bound themselves 
to give up the iron paint pot, and to abolish it forever, 
and the people of Ruechenstein solemnly relinquished 
all rights of seizure against SeldwyHans out walking 
or strolling in the Ruechenstein territory, and all 
other privileges and prerogatives on either side were 
carefully weighed and mostly abolished. 

To confirm this agreement a day was appointed, 
and as place of meeting was chosen the mountain 
clearing where the chief fight had occurred. From 
Ruechenstein came a few of the younger councilmen; 
for their elders had not succeeded in overcoming their 
strong feeUngs of reluctance to consort with their 
ancient foes on terms of quasi friendship. The Seld- 
wyla people on their part showed up in goodly numbers, 
brought the "friendly neighbor," the heraldic paint 
pot, as well as a small cask of their choicest and oldest 
wine, grown on the municipal vineyards, with them, 
and also a number of their finest silver or gilt tank- 
ards and trenchers which belonged to their munici- 



DIETEGEN 91 

pal treasure. In this way they nicely befooled 
the delegates from Ruechenstein, glad to escape for 
even a short spell the rigid regimen of their own town, 
and they were so charmed at this reception that they, 
instead of immediately returning after the consum- 
mation of their errand, allowed themselves to be 
inveigled in following the tempters to Seldwyla itself. 
There they were escorted to the town hall, where a 
grand feast was awaiting them. Beautiful ladies and 
maidens attended the occasion, and more and more 
tankards, beakers, and flagons were set up on the 
banqueting board, so that with the glitter and sheen 
of all this precious metal and the gleaming of all 
these bewitching eyes the poor Ruechensteiners clean 
forgot their original mission and became as gay as 
larks. They sang, since they knew no other tunes, 
one Latin psalm after another, while the Seldwylians 
on their part hummed wicked drinking songs, and 
finally they wound up in the midst of the noise by 
inviting their new Seldwyla friends to make a return 
visit to their own town, being most particular to in- 
clude the Seldwyla ladies in the invitation, and promis- 
ing them the most hospitable reception. 

This invitation was accepted unanimously, amidst 
great enthusiasm on both sides, and when the dele- 
gates from Ruechenstein at last departed, they did 
so under the happiest auspices, smiling blissfully 
from all the choice wine under their belts, and deem- 
ing themselves conquerors of the handsome Seldwyla 



92 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

ladies besides, since a number of these, laughing and 
in rosy humor, gave them safe conduct as far as the 
gates of the city. 

Of course, things took on a somewhat dijfferent 
hue when these jolly young councilmen of Ruechen- 
stein on the following day awoke in their stern city 
and had to give an account of their stewardship and 
of the whole proceedings on the day previous. Little 
was wanting indeed, and they would have been in- 
carcerated and subjected to ardent tests on the charge 
of having been bewitched. However, they them- 
selves had also a right to speak with authority, and 
notwithstanding that the whole matter already seemed 
to them a mistake on their part, they nevertheless 
stuck to their bargain, and strongly represented to 
their elder colleagues that the very honor of the city 
demanded a resplendent reception of the Seldwylian 
folks. Their views gained acceptance among a sec- 
tion of the citizens, especially when they described 
the magnificent table silver that had been brought 
out to honor them, and when they spoke of the hand- 
some Seldwyla ladies and their gracefulness and beauti- 
ful attire. The men were of opinion that such 
ostentatious hospitality must not go unrebuked and 
unrivaled, and that it was necessary to reciprocate 
at the coming return visit of their ancient foes by a 
display of their own wealth, jeweled and precious 
tableware glittering in their own iron safes aplenty. 
The women again were itching to circumvent on such 



DIETEGEN 93 

a favorable occasion the strict decrees against too 
profuse finery from which they had been suffering 
so long, and under the guise of civic patriotism to 
make a gaudy display of all their hidden trinkets and 
gorgeous silks. For in their coffers and lockers there 
was slumbering enough of costly stuffs to outshine 
the Seldwyla ladies tenfold, they thought. If that had 
not been the case they would surely long ago have 
rebelled against the severe sumptuary decrees in vogue 
and brought the regiment in power to its fall. There- 
fore, everything considered, the promise made by the 
Ruechenstein emissaries was formally approved, to 
the great grief of the elder and sterner members of 
the council. 

To offset this piece of laxity they were unable to 
hinder these latter, the graybeards of the city, resolved, 
however, to enjoy another kind of spectacle on their 
own account, and thus they began to make their 
arrangements to have an execution performed on the 
very day when the Seldwyla people were to dwell 
within their walls, and thus to dampen at least, so 
far as they could, the unseemly spirit of merriment 
which otherwise would go unchecked. And so while 
the younger members of the council were busy with 
their preparations for the feast, the others quietly 
made arrangements for another show after their own 
heart, and for that purpose they selected a young, 
fatherless boy who was just then caught in the net 
of their barbarous laws. It was a very handsome 



94 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

boy of eleven, whose parents had both been engulfed 
in the recent wars, and who was being educated and 
taken care of by the town. That is to say, he had 
been put to board with the parish beadle, a conscience- 
less and pitiless scoundrel, and there the little fellow — 
a slender, vigorous and well-formed child enough — 
had been treated just like a domestic animal, the wife 
aiding her husband in the task. The boy had been 
named Dietegen, and this his baptismal name was 
all he really owned in the world. It was his sole 
piece of property, his past and his future. He was 
dressed in rags, and had never even had a holiday 
garment, so that if it had not been for his good looks 
he would have presented a miserable appearance. 
He had to sweep and dust, and to do all the tasks 
that usually fall to a maid servant, and whenever the 
beadle's wife did not happen to have anything to do 
for him in her own house she lent him out to women 
neighbors for a trifle, there to do anything that might 
be asked of him. They all thought him, in spite of 
his strength and skill to do any work demanded of 
him, a stupid fellow, and this because he obeyed 
silently all the orders he received and because he never 
remonstrated. Yet it was the truth that none of the 
women was able to look him in his fiery eyes for long, 
and these eyes would often wander about as keen as 
an eagle's. 

Now several days before Dietegen had been sent on 
an errand to the cooper in order to fetch some vinegar 



DIETEGEN 95 

for a lettuce salad that his foster parents wanted to 
prepare. Their vinegar the couple had been keeping 
for a long time customarily in a small jug, and this 
was almost black with age and had always been deemed 
cheap tin, having been bought many years ago by 
the mother of the beadle's wife for a couple of pennies 
from a peddler. But in reality the little jug was of 
silver. The cooper of whom the vinegar was to be 
purchased dwelt rather far, in a lonesome place near 
the city wall. As now the boy came walking along 
with his small vessel, an ancient Hebrew came past 
him with his bag, and threw a rapid glance at the 
curiously fashioned little jug, and stopped the boy 
with the request to be allowed to examine this vessel 
more closely. Dietegen handed it to him, and the 
Jew quickly and secretly scratched the surface of the 
vessel with his thumb nail, offering then to the aston- 
ished boy a pretty crossbow in exchange, and this he 
produced at once out of a bag made of moth-eaten 
otterskin, with a few bolts to boot. Boy-like, Diete- 
gen at once seized the weapon and relinquished his 
small jug to the Jew, who then at once disappeared. 
Rejoicing in his good fortune the boy now began to 
aim and shoot at the small gate of the near-by door 
of a tower, and without being at all disturbed he con- 
tinued this enticing sport, forgetting everything else, 
until dusk came and then moonlight, improving his 
aim steadily, and shooting by the bright light of 
the orb. 



96 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Meanwhile the beadle had also made a last inspec- 
tion tour around the inside of the town walls, and had 
met with and held the Jew with his bag. Examining 
the latter he had with amazement recognized his 
own vinegar jug, and questioning the Jew the latter, 
in fear of his own neck, owned at once that it was of 
silver, and pretended that a young boy had forced 
it on him in lieu of a fine crossbow. Now the beadle 
ran and consulted a goldsmith, who on testing the 
vessel likewise pronounced it fine pure silver and of 
rarest workmanship. Thereupon the beadle and his 
wife, the latter now having joined him, became ex- 
ceedingly angry, not only because they had had, with- 
out knowing it, for so many years such a valuable 
piece of property, but also because they had almost 
lost it. 

The world to them seemed to be full of the grossest 
wrong; the child now appeared to them as their 
archenemy who had almost cheated them out of their 
eternal reward, the reward for their infinite merits 
and frugality. They suddenly pretended to have 
known for a long time that the small jug was of silver, 
and that it had always been so considered in their 
house. Cursing him bitterly they clamorously charged 
the little fellow with larceny, and while he, entirely 
unconscious of all this, was still engaged with his 
crossbow practice, and was hitting his goal more and 
more often, two groups of searchers were already out 
looking for him. At the head of the one party was 



DIETEGEN 97 

the beadle, while the woman, his wife, was heading 
the other. Thus they soon found him, still busily 
engaged with his bow and bolts, and unpleasantly 
wakened from his occupation when surrounded by 
the thief-takers. And now only he remembered his 
errand and at the same time the loss of the small 
vessel. But he believed he had made a good bargain, 
and handed the beadle smilingly his crossbow, in 
order to pacify him. Notwithstanding this he was 
instantly bound and gagged, carried off to jail, and 
then examined. He admitted at once having ex- 
changed the little pitcher for the Jew's crossbow, and 
did not even attempt to defend himself. 

The poor little child was condemned to the gallows, 
and the time of his death set for the very day when 
the Seldwylians were to visit the people of Ruechen- 
stein. 

And indeed they did appear on the appointed day, 
making a gorgeous procession, in luminous colors and 
rich finery, with their town trumpeter to lead them. 
They were, however, all armed with swords and 
daggers, although that did not hinder them from bring- 
ing along a dozen of their most fearless ladies. These 
rode in the centre of the cavalcade, charming and 
richly attired, and even a number of pretty children 
were with them, costumed in the colors of Seldwyla 
and bearing gifts. 

The young councilmen of Ruechenstein, their new- 
won friends, rode out some little distance without 



98 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

the city gates to welcome them, and led them a bit 
crestfallen within. The strong entrance gate had had 
that ominous black paint scratched off as much as had 
been found feasible, had then been plentifully white- 
washed and decorated with wreaths. But just within 
this gate the guests found the whole contingent of 
Ruechenstein's town mercenaries in rank and file, 
clad in full armor and looking like brawny warriors 
indeed. These escorted the guests, rattling and 
clanging in their iron harness, through the shady and 
rather dark streets, with fierce mien. The people of 
the town peered mute but curious out of their windows, 
as though their guests had been beings from another 
world. When one of the gay Seldwylians gazed up- 
wards at the ladies leaning out of their windows, 
these would at once duck and disappear. Their 
menfolk, though, flattened the tips of their long noses 
against the greenish window panes, in order to observe 
as closely as possible the spectacle of bare female 
necks, such as the Seldwyla ladies offered. 

Thus, then, the whole cavalcade finally reached the 
huge hall inside the town house, and that looked ornate 
but forbiddingly austere. Walls and ceiling were 
decorated entirely with black-tinted oak, here and 
there gilt. A long, long banqueting board was cov- 
ered with beautiful linen, and woven into it were 
foliage, stags, huntsmen and dogs of green silk picked 
out with thin gold wire. Above this were further 
spread dainty napkins of snowy white damask, and 



DIETEGEN 99 

these again on nearer sight exhibited patterns woven 
into them representing rather broadly joyous scenes 
from Roman and Greek mythology, such as would 
have been least expected in this grave concourse. 
Thickly grouped there stood on this festal table every- 
thing which at that time belonged to a gala meal, 
and what particularly claimed the attention of the 
Seldwyla observers was a number of truly magnificent 
pieces of tableware — some of them being in repousse 
work, some round and some in relief, a glittering world 
of nymphs, fauns, nude demigods and heroes, with 
lovely feminine forms intermingled. Even the chiel 
table ornament, a warship in soHd silver, with sails 
spread and bellying in the breeze, otherwise very 
respectable and officially stiff, showed as its emblem 
a Galathea of the most opulent forms. 

Along this table of enormous dimensions a number 
of the wives of councilors were slowly pacing to and 
fro, all of them dressed either in black or scarlet silks 
and satins, heavy lace covering bosom and neck up 
to the very chin. They did wear many gold chains, 
girdles and caps, encrusted with jewels in many cases, 
and on their fingers they had, over their gloves, price- 
less rings. And these ladies were not ugly to look 
at, but rather in most instances handsome and of 
regular features; many of them, too, showed a dehcate 
complexion and their pretty oval cheeks were rosy. 
But nearly all had an unpleasant glance, severe and 
sour, so that it seemed doubtful whether they had 



loo SELDWYLA FOLKS 

ever smiled in their lives, save perhaps at nighttime 
after fooling their gullible husbands. 

The mutual introductions were therefore not very 
cordial, and everybody seemed indeed glad when 
this ceremony was over and guests and hosts both sat 
down at table and the feelings of embarrassment could 
be concealed by the engrossing charms of eating and 
drinking. The Seldwylians were the first to recover 
their natural equanimity, and then there could be 
heard among them frequent outbursts of hilarity as 
they admired the dazzling table trappings. That 
indeed was to the liking of their hosts, and they were 
just on the point of starting a formal conversation on 
that topic, when the matter took a turn wholly un- 
expected by them. For the Seldwyla people, accus- 
tomed always to use their eyes, had quickly discovered 
the amorous and graceful topics which the weaver's 
art had embodied in the woof of this linen and the 
goldsmith's in the silver and goldware so Hberally 
displayed before their eyes. After allowing, therefore, 
their ribald glances to dwell with a close scrutiny 
on the lustful scenes depicted here, many Seldwylians 
called the attention of their neighbors to it all, all 
smiles and good humor, and interpreted the true 
meaning of the scene in each instance, often naming 
Ovid or some other heathen author as the original 
source. Even the Seldwyla ladies did not refrain, 
but shared in this amusement of their husbands. 
The hosts at first were slow to understand this and 



DIETEGEN loi 

were inclined to think it one of the childish tricks for 
which they were forever blaming their merry neighbors 
of Seldwyla, but as they finally likewise bent their 
glances on the things occasioning the outbursts of their 
guests, they were as though smitten with palsy. For 
it had never entered their minds before to look with 
attention at these table appointments, and had merely 
accepted, when ordered by them, the exquisite prod- 
ucts of the loom or of the goldsmith's skill as finished 
ware without ever bothering their heads further about 
it, and nothing had been further from them than to 
cast critical glances at the subjects represented by 
these artisans, and it was thus reserved for their gay 
guests from Seldwyla to sharpen their vision so to 
speak. Now when looking closer and closer, they 
perceived what pagan horrors they had chosen to 
ornament their own board with, and they were struck 
dumb with painful amazement. But what irked 
them still more was what they deemed the lack of 
tact and decorum on the part of their guests who, 
instead of purposely overlooking such an involuntary 
blunder of their hosts actually magnified it and drew 
it into the full glare of publicity. According to their 
way of thinking what the Seldwylians ought to have 
done under these peculiar circumstances was to praise 
and pay attention to the costHness of the stuff out of 
which these implements had been fashioned, and not 
to go beyond that. The Ruechensteiner grandees 
now were obliged to smile with faces as sour as vine- 



102 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

gar when a Seldwylian neighbor would call their 
attention to an exquisitely wrought silver Leda and 
the Swan, or to a Europa on the back of her bull. 
Their wives, however, showed their displeasure more 
openly, blushed and paled by turns with wrath, and 
were just on the point of demonstratively leaving 
the banquet when the mournful sound of a bell quickly 
reassured them. For it was the poor sinners' bell of 
Ruechenstein. A dull and confused din in the streets 
gave notice that young Dietegen was now being led 
to his shameful death. All the company rose from 
the table, and hastened to the windows, the Ruechen- 
steiners purposely making room for their guests to 
enable these to view the sad spectacle plainly, while 
they themselves stood in the rear, an insidious grin 
on their sallow features. 

A priest, a hangman with his helper, some court 
ojficials, and a few armed attendants of the council 
went slowly past, and at their head walked Dietegen, 
barefooted and clad only in a white, black-edged 
delinquent shift, his hands tied in the back, and led by 
the hangman at a rope. His golden hair fell in a 
shower down his white neck, and confused and appeal- 
ingly he looked aloft at the houses which he passed. 
Under the portal of the town hall stood the boys and 
girls from Seldwyla, who had, after the manner of 
children, left the table and the weary banquet, and 
had hastened into the open air. When the pitiful 
delinquent saw these pretty and happy children, 



DIETEGEN 103 

the like he had never yet perceived before, he wanted 
to stop a moment and talk to them, while tears were 
streaming down his pale cheeks. But the executioner 
roughly pushed him on, so that the train passed on and 
had soon disappeared from view. The Seldwyla 
ladies lost color when they watched this scene, and 
their men were seized with a deep dismay, since they 
at no time loved to see sights of this kind. They 
felt out of spirits and not at home with their hosts 
after such an exhibition, and thus they soon yielded 
to the urging of their womenfolk, and as politely as 
they could took leave of their grim hosts. The people 
of Ruechenstein, on the other hand, were satisfied 
with the triumph they had scored against their volatile 
guests, and thereby rendered almost complaisant 
towards them, so that both sides parted amicably. 
The hosts even escorted their honored guests, as 
they put it, to the town gate, and were talkative, 
gallant towards the ladies, and courteous. 

Outside the gate the Seldwyla cavalcade met the 
small group of hangmen and their assistants, who 
passed them morosely. Behind them there came a 
single helper pushing a small cart whereon lay, in 
a plain pine coffin, the young delinquent's body. 
Shy and bitten with curiosity to watch this number 
of brilliantly attired persons, this fellow stopped for 
a moment, and turned aside, in order to let the pro- 
cession file past him. He was placing the loose lid 
of the bier in its proper place, it having almost slid 
off and exposed the sight of the hanged. 



I04 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Among the children of Seldwyla there was a seven- 
year-old maid, bold, pretty and curly, who had never 
ceased to weep since seeing the poor boy being led 
to the gallows, and refused to be consoled. And as 
the train of Seldwylians now slowly swept on, the 
child at the moment she came up with the cart and 
coffin, quickly sprang towards it, stood on its large 
wheel, and threw off the lid, so that the lifeless Diete- 
gen lay exposed to view. At that moment he opened 
his eyes and drew a breath. For in the confusion 
of that day he had not been hanged according to 
traditional rules, and had been taken off the gallows 
too early, because his executioners were in a great 
hurry in the hope of returning to town in time to get 
some of the remnants of the feast. The bold little 
girl loudly exclaimed, "He is still alive! He is still 
alive!" 

At once the women of Seldwyla surrounded the bier, 
and when they saw indeed the handsome pale boy 
move about and give signs of life, they took possession 
of him, removed him from the cart, and fully recalled 
him to this world by rubbing his stiffened joints, 
sprinkling him with water, making him swallow some 
wine, and using all their endeavors in other ways. 
The men indeed also gave their assistance, while the 
gentlemen of Ruechenstein stood by dazedly, and 
did not know what to say or do. When at last the 
boy again stood on his own feet, and gazed about 
him as though he had waked in paradise, he suddenly 



DIETEGEN 105 

caught a glimpse of the hangman's assistant, and 
quite astounded that he, too, as he thought, had gone 
to heaven, he fled and squeezed in among the crowd of 
women. Touched and moved to tears, they begged 
with great earnestness of their stern neighbors to 
pardon the boy and to make them a gift of him, as 
a token of their new friendship. Their husbands 
joined in this petition, and finally, after a brief con- 
sultation amongst themselves, the Ruechensteiners 
yielded assent, saying that henceforth the youthful 
sinner was to be theirs. On this the pretty Seldwyla 
ladies and their young children rejoiced abundantly, 
and Dietegen went along with them just as he was, 
in his poor delinquent's shift. 

It happened to be a fine mild summer evening, 
wherefore the Seldwyla folks, as soon as they had 
reached the crest of the mountain and therewith 
also their own territory, resolved to amuse them- 
selves here in this delightful grove, on their own ac- 
count, and to recover from the frightful experience on 
their neighbors' ground. And this all the more be- 
cause there now approached a numerous reenforce- 
ment from Seldwyla itself, full of curiosity to learn 
what their luck had been in Ruechenstein. Thus it 
came to pass that the musicians had to intone a merry 
tune and next a dance, and the goblets and tankards 
were filled with the wine they had brought along, and 
then circulated quite rapidly. 

During all these scenes Dietegen let his eyes roam 



io6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

all around, and all who saw him perceived clearly 
that he was indeed nothing worse than an innocent 
and harmless child, a notion which his tale, when 
asked to state the facts, amply confirmed. The 
Seldwyla women could hardly get their fill of the 
sight, wove a wreath of wildflowers for him, and 
placed it on his young head, so that in his long and 
ample shift he looked almost like a little saint. He 
won their hearts, and at last they kissed him to their 
full content, and when he had thus passed through 
the concourse of rivaling femininity they began anew 
with their kissing. 

But the Httle girl who really had saved Dietegen 
from a horrible and premature death did not at all 
approve of this proceeding. Quite wroth she suddenly 
placed herself between the boy and the woman who 
just that moment was on the point of kissing him, and 
took him by the hand, leading him to a group of other 
children. Then the whole company burst out laughing, 
saying : "That is quite right. Little Kuengolt clings to 
her property! And she has taste likewise. Only see how 
well she and the boy look alongside of each other!" 

Kuengolt's father, however, the chief forester of 
the town, remarked: "I like the looks of that boy. 
He has eyes that speak truth and good sense. If you 
gentlemen have no objection, I will take him along 
for the time being, since I have but one child, and 
I will try and make an honest huntsman out of him." 

This proposal met the unanimous approval of the 



DIETEGEN 107 

Seldwylians, and thus Kuengolt, well contented, did 
not let the boy's hand slip out of her fingers more, 
but kept tight hold of it. And indeed, these two 
did make a very comely pair. The httle girl also 
wore a wreath on her head and was clad in green and 
red, the town's colors. Hence they went at the head 
of the whole merry procession like a picture from 
fairyland, in the midst of the gay townspeople. And 
thus they all in the glow of sunset poured down the 
mountain side on their way homewards. Soon, how- 
ever, the chief forester separated from the procession 
and went on with the children on side paths to his 
cosy residence, which lay not far from the city itself 
in the forest. A double row of tall trees led to the 
main entrance, and there the demure wife of the 
forester sat now, and saw with amazement the ap- 
proach of the two children* 

The household servants also gathered, and while 
the wife gave the two hungry children an abundant 
supper her husband related in detail the adventures 
of the boy. The latter was now completely exhausted, 
and with that he felt cold in his flimsy costume, and 
hence the question was put who would share over- 
night his bed with him. But the servant maids as 
well as the men anxiously avoided to answer. They 
dreaded as unlucky and impious close touch with 
any one who had just been hanging from the gallows. 
But Kuengolt cried: "Let him share my bed. It is 
large enough for both of us." 



io8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

'"^ And when everybody was laughing at this, her 
mother said pleasantly: "You are quite right, my 
little daughter." And looking closely at the boy she 
added: "From the very first moment I saw the poor 
little chap enter the door a strange foreboding crept 
over me, as though a good angel were coming who 
will yet bring us a blessing. That much is certain, 
according to my idea: he will not be of evil to us all!'' 

With that she took the two children into the ad- 
joining bedchamber, next to the large one, and put 
them to bed. Dietegen, who was so sleepy that he 
scarcely noticed what 'was going on around him, 
instinctively went through the motions for disrobing. 
But since he was already, in a manner of speaking, 
in his shirt, his drowsy motions made such a ludicrous 
impression, especially upon the little girl, that she, 
already under her blanket,* could not help screaming 
with mirth: "Oh, just watch the comical shirtmanni- 
kin! He is always trying to take off his spenser and 
boots, and yet he hasn't any!" Her mother, too, 
had to smile and said to the boy: "In God's name, 
go to bed in your poor sinner's shift! My poor boy, 
that shift is quite new and really of good linen. Truly, 
these wicked people of Ruechenstein at least do their 
atrocities with a certain amount of decency." 

In saying which she wrapped the two little ones up 
well in their blankets, and could not forbear to kiss 
both of them, so that Dietegen was really better off 
than he had ever been in his whole life. But his eyes 



DIETEGEN 109 

were already tightly closed and his soul in deep sleep. 
"But now he has not said his prayers at all/' whispered 
Kuengolt in sorrow. Her mother replied: "Then 
you will do it for both of you, my Httle daughter!" 
and left the two. And indeed, the girl now said the 
Lord's prayer twice, once for herself, once for her new 
bedfellow. And then quiet reigned in the httle 
chamber. 

Some time after midnight Dietegen woke up, be- 
cause only now his neck had begun to pain him from 
the unfriendly rope of the hangman. The chamber 
was flooded with moonlight, but he was perfectly 
unable to recall where he was and how he had come 
there. Merely this he was conscious of, that he 
aside from his sore throat, was far better of! than ever 
before in his young life. The window stood open, 
a spring outside murmured softly, and the silver night 
blew whisperingly through the tree tops; over them all 
the moon shone in gentle radiance. All this to him 
was wondrous, since he had never before seen the 
solitude of the forest, neither by day nor by night. 
He gazed sleepily, he Hstened, and finally he assumed 
a sitting posture. Then he perceived next to him on 
the couch little Kuengolt, the moon's beams playing 
right over her small face. She lay still, but was 
broad awake, since excitement and joy would not 
let her sleep. Because of that her eyes were opened 
to their full extent, and her mouth was smiling when 
Dietegen peered into her face. 



no SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"Why don't you sleep? You ought to sleep," 
said the girl. But he then complained of the pain 
at his throat. At once little Kuengolt weaved her 
tender arms around his neck and full of pity put her 
own cheeks against his. And really it soon seemed 
to him that his pain subsided under such sympathetic 
treatment. And then they began to chat in a low 
voice. Dietegen was asked to tell about himself. 
But he was reticent because there was not much to 
tell that was pleasant, and about the misery of his 
childhood he also was not able to say a great deal, 
since no contrasts were within his ken, with the single 
exception of that evening. Suddenly, however, he 
recalled his pleasant sport with the crossbow, which 
had slipped his mind before, and so he told the little 
girl all about the Jew, and how that one had been the 
cause of his imprisonment and unjust sentence, but 
also about how he had taken great delight in shooting 
with the crossbow, for over an hour, and how he now 
longed for just such a weapon. 

"My father has crossbows and weapons of every 
type in plenty," commented Kuengolt breathlessly. 
"And you may start in to-morrow and shoot all you 
wish." 

And then she set out to tell him about all the nice 
things in the house, and she included in these her 
own pretty knicknacks, locked up in a casket, espe- 
cially two golden "rainbow" keys, a necklace of 
amber, a volume full of holy legends, illustrated with 



DIETEGEN iii 

pictures showing saints in their beautiful vestments, 
and also a multicolored medallion in which sat a 
Mother of God clad in gold brocade and vermilion 
silk, and covered with a tiny round glass. Also, 
she enumerated further, she owned a silver-gilt spoon, 
with a quaintly turned handle, but with that she 
would be permitted to eat only when she was grown 
up and had a husband of her own. And when it 
came to her wedding she would get the bridal jewelry 
of her mother, together with her blue brocade dress, 
which was so thick and heavy that it stood up without 
any one being inside of it. Then she kept still a short 
while, but pressing her bedfellow more closely against 
her heart, she said in a very low voice: "Listen, 
Dietegen!" 

''Well, what is it?" he answered. 

"You must be my husband when we are big. For 
you belong to me. Will you, of your own free will?'' 

"Why, yes," he replied. 

"Then you must shake hands on it," she remarked, 
in a peremptory voice. He did so, and after this 
binding promise the two children finally fell asleep 
and did not wake till the sun stood high in the heavens. 
For the kind mother had purposely refrained from 
rousing them, so that the poor boy should have a 
thorough rest. 

But now at last she cautiously crept into the little 
chamber, bearing on her arm a complete boy's suit 
of clothing. Two years before her own son had been 



1 1 2 SELD WYLA FOLKS 

killed by the fall of an oak tree, and the clothes of this 
boy of hers, although he had been Dietegen's senior 
by a whole year, were likely to fit him, since he was 
just his size. And it was her lost boy's holiday attire, 
which in a saddened spirit she had preserved. There- 
fore she had risen with the sun, in order to remove 
from the doublet some gay ribbons ornamenting it, 
and to sew up the slits in the sleeves which let the 
silk lining peep forth. Her tears had flown anew in 
doing this labor, when she saw the scarlet silken lining 
that glinted from below the black jerkin gradually 
disappear from view, as jocund spring vanished in 
sorrow, and become of a piece with the black trunks. 
The tears were shed because of the death of her own 
dear boy, but a sweet consolation tinctured her soul 
since Fate now had sent her such a handsome, lovable 
little fellow, one who had been snatched, so to speak, 
out of Death's hard grasp, and whom she now could 
clothe in the habiliments of her own son. And it was 
not from haste or fear of the task that she left the 
gay silken lining under the sable outer covering, but 
on purpose, as the hidden fire of affection in her bosom 
moved her. For she was of those who mean better 
by their familiars than they dare show openly. If 
the new boy proved worthy of it, she vowed to herself, 
she would open the seams of the sHts again, for his 
joy and pride. Anyway, on workadays Dietegen 
was to wear this suit but for a few days, until one of 
stronger and more suitable material should have been 



DIETEGEN 113 

made for him to measure by the tailor, one that he 
could expose to rough usage during his ordinary 
occupations. But while she instructed the boy how 
to put on this fine suit of a kind to which he was 
quite unused, Httle Kuengolt had slipped out of bed, 
and in a spirit of childish mischief had got hold of 
the gallows shift, which she now put on and was 
stalking gravely in about the room, trailing its tail 
behind her on the floor. With that she kept her 
little hands folded behind her, as though they were 
tied by the hangman. Then she sang aloud: "I am 
a miserable sinner now, and even lack my hose, I 
trow." At this the kindly woman fell into a great 
affright, grew deadly pale, and said in a low, soft 
voice: "For our Savior's sake, who is teaching you such 
wicked jokes, my child?" And she seized the ominous 
shift from the little girl's hands, who smiled at this, 
but Dietegen took it, being wroth at the scene, and tore 
it into a score of pieces. 

Now that the two children were dressed they were 
taken along for breakfast in the adjoining room. 
Early in the morning bread had been baked, and 
with the milk soup the little ones received each a 
fresh loaf of cummin seed bread, and in place of the 
one sweet roll which on ordinary days was specially 
baked for Kuengolt, there were two that day, and the 
Httle girl would have it that the boy received the 
larger of them. Dietegen ate without urging all that 
was offered him, just as though he had returned to 



114 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

his father's house after an enforced stay with evil 
strangers. But he was very still throughout, and he 
keenly observed everything around him : the pleasant 
mild woman who treated him like her own son, the 
sunny, light room, and the comfortable furniture with 
which it was fitted up. And after having eaten 
his breakfast with a good appetite, he continued these 
observations, noticing that the walls were wainscoted 
with smooth pine, and higher up decorated with 
painted wreaths and flowers, and that the leaded 
window panes showed the arms both of husband and 
wife. When he also carefully inspected the handsome 
closets and the sideboard with its load of shining 
vessels and tableware, he suddenly remembered the 
dingy silver jug that had almost brought him to his 
death, and the cheerless house of the beadle in Ruechen- 
stein, and then, afraid that he should have to return 
there again, he asked with a tremor in his voice: 
"Must I now return home? But I don't know the 
way." 

"There is no need of your knowing it," said the 
housewife, moved by his evident dread, and she 
stroked his smooth chin. "Have you not yet noticed 
that you are to remain with us? Go along with him 
now, my little Kuengolt, and show him the house and 
the woods, and everything else. But do not go too 
far away!" 

Then Kuengolt took the boy by the hand, and 
first led him into the forester's armory where he kept 



DIETEGEN 115 

his weapons. And there hung seven magnificent 
crossbows and arquebuses, and spears and javelins 
for the chase, hangers and dirks, and also the long 
sword of the master of the house which stood in the 
corner by itself. Dietegen examined all this, silently 
but with gleaming eyes, and Kuengolt mounted a 
chair to take down several of the finest crossbows 
from the wall, which she handed him so that he could 
look them over more at leisure, and he was delighted 
with these, for they showed ornaments inlaid in ivory 
or mother-of-pearl, daintily done by some expert 
artisan. The boy admired it all, in a silent sort of 
ecstasy, about as would a rather talented prentice in 
the studio of a great master painter while the latter 
might be absent from home. But Kuengolt's quick 
proposal to have him try his marksmanship outside 
in a meadow could not be realized at the time, because 
the bolts and arrows were locked away in a separate 
receptacle. But to make up for that she gave him 
a fine hunting spear to hold so that he should have 
a weapon of some kind to take along into the green- 
woods. Near the house she showed him a hedged-in 
space full of deer and game, in which the town con- 
stantly kept its reserve of stock, so that at no time 
there should be lack of venison and other fine roasts 
for public or private banquets. The girl coaxed 
several roes and stags to come to her at the hedge, 
and this was astonishing to Dietegen, for so far he had 
seen such animals only when dead. With his spear, 



ii6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

therefore, he stood attentive, his eyes fixed on these 
pretty denizens of the woods, and could not get 
his fill of watching them. Eagerly he held out his 
hand to fondle a finely antlered stag, and when the 
latter shyly bounded aside and leisurely trotted off, 
the boy scurried after him with a joyous halloo, and 
ran and jumped with the animal around in a wide 
circle. It was perhaps the first time in his life that 
he could use his young limbs in this way, and when he 
felt how his tendons stretched with the violent exercise 
and how he was able to race with the swift stag, the 
latter apparently taking as much pleasure in the 
sport as Dietegen himself, a feeling of untried strength 
and agility first woke within him. 

But as they later on stepped into the domain of the 
deep forest, high up on the hill, the boy resumed once 
more his usual air of thoughtful quiet and deliber- 
ation. Up there mighty trees grew closer together, 
leaving hardly a fragment of sky to discover from 
below — tall pine and gnarled oak, spreading lindens, 
beeches, maple and spruce, all growing in a semi- 
darkness where the sunlight seldom pierced. Red 
squirrels glided spectrelike from trunk to trunk, 
woodpeckers hammered incessantly for their fare, 
high up birds of prey shrilly pursued their quarry 
in the open, and a thousand forest mysteries were 
dimly at work. Below, in the dense underbrush, 
hares and foxes, deer and smaller game were waging 
war, and song birds twittered or warbled in a chorus 



DIETEGEN 117 

of multiform sound. Kuengolt laughed and laughed 
because the boy knew nothing of all these secret 
doings in the forest, although he had grown up in a 
mountain fastness surrounded by the very life of the 
woods, but she at once began to explain to him these 
things of which he was so profoundly ignorant. She 
showed him the hawk and his nest, the cuckoo in his 
retreat, and the gay-clad woodpecker as he was just 
clambering up a thick trunk with bark promising him 
rich harvest. And about all these things he was 
highly amazed, and wondered that trees and bushes 
should bear so many names, and that each should 
differ from the next. For he had not even known the 
hazelnut bush or the whortleberry in their haunts. 
They came to a rushing brook, and disturbed by their 
steps, a snake made off into the water, and the girl 
seized the spear in the boy's hand and wanted to stick 
it into the rocky nook. But when Dietegen saw that 
she was going to blunt or break the edge of the finely 
tempered weapon, he at once took it out of her fingers, 
saying that she might damage the spear. 

'^That is well done," suddenly came the voice of 
the chief forester, his patron; "you will prove a help 
to me." With a gamekeeper he stood behind the 
two children. For the noise of the rushing water 
had drowned in their ears all other noise. The game- 
keeper bore in his hand a woodcock, just shot, for the 
two had gone forth early in the morning. Dietegen 
was permitted to hang the stately bird to the tip of 



ii8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

his spear, flinging it over his shoulder, so that the 
spread wings of the bird enveloped him, and the for- 
ester gazed with approval upon the handsome young- 
ster, and made up his mind to make an all-around 
woodsman of him. 

Just now, though, he was to learn somewhat the 
difficult arts of reading and writing, and for that 
purpose was obliged to walk every day to town with 
the little girl; there in a convent and in a monastery 
the two were taught as much of these mysteries as 
seemed good for them. But his chief lessons Dietegen 
had from the little girl herself when coming and going 
from town, Kuengolt delighting in informing him as 
to all that was going on in the world, so far at least 
as she herself knew, and more particularly as to the 
ordinary things of life, as to which Dietegen had been 
left in deplorable ignorance by his former taskmaster, 
the beadle. 

But the little instructress was in her way a ruthless 
practical joker, and followed a unique method of her 
own in teaching the boy. She exaggerated, distorted 
or plainly misstated the facts as to most things in 
talking to her pupil, and abused grossly the credulity 
and trustfulness of the boy, merely for her amuse- 
ment, and she did this as to most things. In this she 
showed a wonderful gift of invention, an exuberant 
fancy of the rarest. When Dietegen then had accepted 
her fictions, and would perhaps express his wonder 
at them, she would shame him with the cool state- 



DIETEGEN > 119 

ment that not a single word had been true. She 
would scornfully blame him for believing such palp- 
able untruths, and then, with a show of infinite 
wisdom, she would tell him the real facts. Then he 
would redden under her sarcastic remarks, and would 
endeavor to avoid her pitfalls, but only until she saw 
fit to make sport of him once more. However, in 
the course of time Dietegen's powers of judging facts 
began to widen, and he ceased to be so gullible, and 
this another boy who attempted to emulate Kuengolt^s 
example found out to his sorrow. For Dietegen 
simply slapped his face when he came out with a 
particularly outrageous whopper. 

Kuengolt, rather taken aback at witnessing this 
castigation, was curious to ascertain whether this 
wrath under given circumstances would also turn 
against herself. She made a test on the spot, feeding 
him with some of her choicest fairy tales. But from 
her he accepted everything without a murmur, and 
so she continued her peculiar method of instruction. 
At last, though, she discovered that he had acquired 
enough independence of thought and a large enough 
stock of knowledge to enable him to play with her 
himself. He would answer her inventions with 
counterinventions, and would argue from her non- 
sensical statements in such shrewd fashion as to turn 
her first doctrines into ridicule, and he would do this 
in perfect good-nature, proving the untenableness 
of her own theories. Then she came to the con- 



120 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

elusion that it was time to give up her nonsense. 
But in place of that amusement she now indulged in 
another. Namely, she began to tyrannize over him 
most unmercifully. It grew so that it was almost 
worse than things had been with the beadle's wife. 
His servitude was deplorable. She made him fetch 
and carry during all his spare time. He had to haul 
and hoist and labor for her in a truly ridiculous man- 
ner. She constantly required his presence about 
her; he had to bring her water, shake the trees, dig 
in the garden, crack open nuts after getting them for 
her, hold her Httle basket, and even to brush and 
comb her hair she wanted to train him — only that 
is where he drew a line. But then he was scolded 
by her for refusing this, and when her mother took 
sides against her she became quite obstreperous with 
the latter as well. 

But Dietegen did not pay her back in her own coin, 
never lost his patience with her, and was always 
equally submissive and indulgent with her. Her 
mother saw that with vast pleasure, and to reward 
him for his fine conduct she treated the boy like her 
own son, and gave him all those finer hints and that 
almost imperceptible guidance and advice which else 
are only saved for children of one's own, and by means 
of which children finally acquire without knowing it 
those habits and better manners which are commonly 
comprised under the name of a careful education. 
Of course, she herself gained in a way from this; for 



DIETEGEN 121 

her own daughter thus acquired unconsciously many 
of her lessons, Dietegen being there as a sort of mirror 
of what was expected of her. Truly, it was almost 
comical how little Kuengolt in her restless temper- 
ament veered and shifted constantly between imi- 
tating her better model or else becoming jealous and 
wroth and scorning it for the time. On one occasion 
she became so excited as to stab at him with all her 
might with a sharp pair of scissors. But Dietegen 
caught her wrist quickly, and without hurting her 
or showing any anger he made her drop them. This 
little scene which her mother had espied from a 
hiding-place, moved the latter so strongly that she 
came forth, took the boy in her arms, and kissed him. 
Pale and excited the girl herself left the room with 
out a word. "Go, follow her, my son," whispered 
the mother, "and reconcile her. You are her good 
angel." 

Dietegen did as bidden. He found her behind the 
house and under a lilac bush. She was weeping wildly 
and tearing her amber necklace, trying, in fact, to 
throttle herself by means of it, and stamping on the 
scattered beads on the ground. When Dietegen 
approached her and wanted to seize her hands, she 
cried with a great sob: "Nobody but I may kiss you. 
For you belong to me alone. You are mine, my 
property. I alone have freed you from that horrid 
coffin, in which without me you would have remained 
forever." 



122 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

As the boy grew up marvelously, becoming hand- 
somer and more manly with every day, the forester 
declared at breakfast one morning that the time was 
now ripe to take him along into the woods and let 
him learn the difficult craft of the huntsman. Thus 
he was taken from the side of Kuengolt, and spent 
now all his time, from dawn until nightfall, with the 
men, in forest, moor and heath. And now indeed 
his limbs began to stretch that it was a pleasure to 
watch him. Swift and limber like a stag, he obeyed 
each word or hint, and ran whither he was sent. Silent 
and docile, he was forever where wanted; carried 
weapons and tackle, gear and utensils, helped spread 
the nets, leaped across trenches and morass, and spied 
out the whereabouts of the game. Soon he knew the 
tracks of all the animals, knew how to imitate the 
call of the birds, and before any one expected it, he 
had a young wildboar run into his spear. Now, too, 
the forester gave him a crossbow. With it he was 
every day, every hour almost, exercising his skill, 
aiming at the target, shooting at living objects as 
well. In a word, when Dietegen was but sixteen, 
he was already an expert woodsman who might be 
placed anywhere, and it would happen now and then 
that his patron sent him out with a number of his 
men to guard the municipal woods and head the 
chase. 

Dietegen, therefore, might be seen not alone with 
the crossbow on his back, but also with pen and ink- 



DIETEGEN 123 

horn in his girdle upon the mountain side, and with 
his keen watchful eyes and his unfailing memory he 
was a great help to his fosterfather. And since with 
every day he became more reliable and useful, the 
master forester learned to love him better all along, 
and used to say that the boy must in the end become 
a full-fledged, an honorable and martial citizen. 

It could under these circumstances not be otherwise 
than that Dietegen on his part was devoted soul and 
body to the forester. For there is no attachment 
like that of the youth for the mature man of whom 
he knows that he is doing his best to teach him all 
the secrets of his craft, and whom he holds to be his 
unapproached model. 

The chief forester was a man of about forty; tall 
and well-built, with broad shoulders and of handsome 
appearance and noble carriage. His hair of golden 
sheen was already lightly sprinkled with silver, but 
his complexion was ruddy, and his blue eyes shone 
frank, open and full of fire. In his younger days, 
too, he had been among the wildest and merriest of 
Seldwyla's choice spirits, and many were the quaint 
and original quips he had perpetrated at that time of 
his life. But when he had won his young wife, he 
altered instantly, and since then he had been the 
soberest and the most sensible man in the world. 
For his dear wife was of a most delicate habit, and of 
a kindness of heart that could not defend itself, and 
although by no means without a spirit and a wit of her 



124 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

own, she would have been unable to meet unkindness 
with a sharp tongue. A wife of ready wit and pug- 
nacity would probably have spurred this naturally 
sprightly man on to further doings, but in contest 
with the graceful feebleness of this delicate wife of 
his he behaved like the truly strong. He watched 
over her as over the apple of his eye, did only those 
things which gave her pleasure, and after his busy 
day's work remained gladly at his own hearth. 

At the most important festivities of the town only, 
three or four times a year, he went among the council- 
men and other citizens, led them with his fresh vigor 
in deliberation and at the festive board, and after 
drinking one after the other of the great guzzlers 
under the table, he would, as the last of the doughty 
champions, rise upright from his seat, stride quietly 
out of the council chamber, and then with a jolly 
smile walk uphill to his forest home. 

But the chief comedy would always come the next 
day. For then he would waken, after all, with a head 
that hummed like a beehive, and then he would rouse 
himself fully, half morosely, half with a leonine jovial 
humor that indeed had the dimensions of a lion when 
compared with the proverbial distemper of the average 
toper. Early he would then show up at breakfast, 
the sun shining with strength upon his naked scalp, 
and ignoring his symptoms, he would jest and make 
fun of himself and his achievements of the previous 
night. His wife, then, always hungering after her 



DIETEGEN 125 

husband's humor, he being usually rather reticent, 
would then answer his sallies with a merry laughter, 
so bell-like and wholesouled as one would never have 
suspected in a being so demure as she. His children 
would laugh, also his gamekeepers and huntsmen, 
and lastly his servants. And in that way the whole 
day would pass. Everything that day would be done 
with a bright smile and a salvo of hearty laughter. 
And always the chief forester leading them all, han- 
dling his axe, lifting heavy weights, doing the work 
of three ordinary men. On such a day it was once 
that fire broke out in the town. High above burning 
roofs a poor old woman, in her frail wooden balcony, 
forgotten and disregarded, was shrilly crying and 
moaning for help from a fiery death, and above her 
shoulder her tame starling went through the drollest 
of antics, likewise claiming attention. Nobody could 
think of a way to save mistress and bird. The flames 
came nearer and ever nearer. But our chief forester 
climbed up to a protruding coping on a high wall facing 
the old woman's nook, a spot where he stood like a 
rock. Then with herculean strength he pulled up 
a long ladder to him, turned it over and balanced it 
neatly until it touched the window where the old 
hag was struggling for breath. He placed it securely 
within the opening, on the sill, and then he strode 
across it, firm and unafraid, back and forth, carrying 
the ancient woman safely across his shoulder, and the 
stuttering starling on his head, the greedily licking 



126 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

flames and the swirling clouds of smoke beneath his 
feet. And all this he did, not by any means in a 
heroic pose, as something dangerous or praiseworthy, 
but as though it were a harmless joke, smiling and 
laughing. 

After a solid piece of work of that kind he would 
feast with his family in jolly style, dishing up the best 
the house afforded. And at such times he always 
was particularly tender to his wife, taking her on 
his knee, to the great amusement of the children, and 
dubbing her his "little whitebird," and his "swallow," 
and she, her arms clasped in pleasurable self-forget- 
fulness, would laughingly watch his antics. 

On a day like that, too, he once arranged for a dance, 
it being the first of May. He had a musician fetched 
from town, and got likewise some merry young folks 
to increase the sport. And there was dancing aplenty 
on the smooth greensward in front of the house, right 
under the blooming trees, and dainty dancing it was. 
The chief forester opened the merriment with his 
smiling young wife, she in her modest finery and with 
her girlish shape. As they made the first steps, she 
looked over her shoulder at the youngsters, happy 
as could be, and tipping her foot on the green sod, 
impatient to be off. Just then Dietegen, who for 
much of the time past had kept to the men entirely, 
threw a glance at Kuengolt, and lo! he saw that she 
also was growing up to be a handsome woman, as 
pretty a picture as her mother. Her features indeed 



Dl£TEGEN 127 

strongly resembled those of her mother, small, regular 
and charming. But in her figure she took more after 
her father, for she was trimly built like a straight 
young pine, and although but fourteen her bosom 
was already rounded like that of a grown-up damsel. 
Golden curls fell in a shower down her back and hid 
the somewhat angular shoulderblades. She was clad 
all in green, wore around her neck her amber beads, 
and on her head, according to the fashion of those 
days, a wreath of rosebuds. Her eyes shone pleasantly 
and frankly from a guileless face, but once in a while 
they would flash wilfully and glide casually over the 
row of youths whose eyes hung on her youthful beauty, 
with a slightly critical bent, and at last rest for an 
instant on Dietegen, then turn away again. Dietegen 
looked as though hungering for recognition, but she 
only once more glanced back at him. But that glance 
seemed to have somewhat embarrassed her, for she 
stopped to arrange her hair, while he flushed deeply. 

That indeed was the first time when they two 
felt they were no longer mere children. But a few 
minutes later they met and found themselves partners 
in a country dance, hand in hand. A new and sweet 
sensation pulsed through his veins, and this remained 
even after the ring of dancers had again been broken. 

Kuengolt, however, had still the same feeling re- 
garding him; she looked upon the youth as upon some- 
thing all her own, as something belonging to her, 
and of which, therefore, one may be sure and need not 



128 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

guard closely. Only once in a while she would send 
a spying glance in his direction, and when accident 
would bring him into the close neighborhood of another 
maiden, there would also be Kuengolt watching him. 

Thus innocent pleasure reigned until an advanced 
hour of the evening. The young people became as 
sprightly as new-fledged wood pigeons, and soon even 
excelled in their merry humor their bounteous host, 
and the latter on his part delighted to pleasure his 
amiable young wife, while soberly encouraging his 
youthful guests in amusing themselves. She, the 
wife, was serene and happy as sunlight in springtime. 
And she even became playful enough to call her brawny 
husband by intimate nicknames. 

But harmless and decorous as all this was, it may 
be that the citizens of other towns where merriment 
was not the natural birthright, as in the case of the 
Seldwylians, would have deemed it a trifle beyond the 
proper limits. The spiced May wine which was 
served the guests had been mingled in its elements 
according to ancient usage, but just as in their joy 
itself there was a bit too much license, so also there 
was a trifle too much honey in the drink. The hands 
of the young girls lay perhaps somewhat too fre- 
quently upon the shoulders of the youths, and now and 
then, without meaning any harm, a couple would 
quickly kiss and part, and this without playing at 
blind man's buff, as do the philistines of our days 
under similar conditions. In short, what these young 



DIETEGEN 129 

people of Seldwyla lacked in their diversion was the 
gift of attracting without seeming to; but with this 
gift, on the other hand, Dietegen, as a regulation 
Ruechensteiner, was plentifully endowed. For al- 
though he was already in love, he fled like fire from 
the fondling and caressing which with these Seldwyla 
couples was by now rather freely indulged in, and 
preferred to keep himself out of the danger line. All 
the bolder and provoking was Kuengolt who, in her 
childish ignorance and after the manner of half-grown 
girls, did not know how to control her affections, and 
who went to look up the frigid youth. She discovered 
him seated in the shadow of a group of darksome 
trees, and sat down beside him, seizing his hand and 
playfully twining his fingers. When he submitted 
to that and even, gently and almost in a fatherly 
way, spun her ringlets in his palm, the girl at once put 
her arms around his neck and caressed him with the 
innocence but also with the abandon of a child, whereas 
in truth it was already the maiden that spoke out of 
her. Dietegen, however, no longer a child, essayed 
to use his maturer judgment for both of them, and thus 
was strenuously trying to loosen her hold on him, 
when his fostermother, the chief forester's wife, came 
joyously running up to the bench, and noticed with 
particular pleasure how matters stood apparently. 

"That is right," she cried, "that you, too, are of 
accord," and she embraced them both tightly. "I 
hope and trust, my dearest daughter, that you will 



130 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

love and cherish Dietegen with all your might. He is 
deserving indeed, my child, that he not only has 
found a new home in our house, but that you, too, 
will give him a home in your little heart. And you, 
dear Dietegen, will, I know, at all times be a true and 
faithful protector and guardian to my little Kuengolt. 
Never leave her out of your sight, for your eyes are 
keen and observant.'' 

"He is nobody's but mine, and has been for long," 
said Kuengolt to this, and she kissed him boldly 
and lightly upon the cheek, half like a bride and half 
as a child caresses a kitten which belongs to it. But 
now the situation for the poor bashful youth, thus 
hemmed in between mother and daughter, became 
unbearable, and he flushed and awkwardly loosened 
their combined hold of him, stepping back a few paces 
to escape their blandishments. But Kuengolt, in 
her wilful mood, pursued him laughing, and when in 
his retreat from her he came into close proximity 
to the pretty mother, the latter jestingly caught him 
by the arm, saying: "Here he is, my little daughter, 
now come and hold him fast." 

When thus entrapped anew by them, his heart beat 
excitedly, and while finding himself thus wooed, so 
to speak, by both feminine tempters, he at the same 
time felt intensely his lonesome condition in the 
world. The odd conceit overcame him that he was 
a lost soul shaken from the tree of life, which while 
cherished by soft hands, was nevertheless to be forever 



DIETEGEN 131 

deprived of its own existence and individuality, a 
state of mind which with callow youths thus beset 
may be more frequent than commonly supposed. 
Therefore, a prey to two conflicting emotions equally 
powerful, of which one necessarily excluded the other, 
his strong sense of personal freedom struggling within 
his breast with the new-born sentiment of tender 
regard, he stood mute and trembling, half in rebellion 
against the sudden intimate aggression of the two 
women, and half strongly inclined to draw the young 
girl into his arms and to overwhelm her with caresses. 
His Ruechenstein blood was against him. While he 
loved the mother with a wholesouled and most grateful 
devotion, her thoughtless encouragement of him to 
play a lover's part towards her daughter seemed to him 
strange and unbecoming. He looked upon himself 
as really Kuengolt's property, as truly belonging to 
her by reason of her having saved his forfeited life. 
But at the same time he felt himself seriously respon- 
sible for her moral conduct, for her maiden chastity 
and her correct manners, and when now Kuengolt 
strove to kiss him on the mouth, he said to her, in 
perfect good humor but withal in the tone of a crabbed 
schoolmaster: "You are really still too young for 
things of that kind. This is not suitable for your 
age.'' 

At these words the girl paled with shame and annoy- 
ance. Without another syllable she turned away 
and joined once more the throng of merrymakers, 



132 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

where she danced and sprang about recklessly a few 
times, and then sat down a little distance away by 
herself, with a face that betrayed clearly how hurt 
she was at the rebuff. 

The chief forester's wife smilingly stroked the 
strict young moralist's cheek, saying: "Well, well, 
you are certainly very strict. But the more faith- 
fully you will one day take care of my child. Give 
me your promise never to desert her! Only don't 
forget, we Seldwyla folk are all of us rather gay and 
debonair, and it is possible that in being so we some- 
times do not think enough of the future." 

Dietegen's eyes grew wet, and he gave her his 
hand in solemn vow. Then she conducted him back 
to the others. But Kuengolt turned her back on him, 
and instead in real grief gazed into the mild May night. 

He on his part now marveled at himself. Strange, 
now of a sudden this girl whom but a minute before 
he had misnomed a mere child, was old and grown-up 
enough to cause him, the moralizing youth, love pangs. 
For sad and confused he too stood now aside and 
felt still more ashamed than the girl herself. 

"What ails you? Why do you look so sorrowful?" 
asked the forester, when he in the best humor in the 
world now approached the group. But Kuengolt 
at the question broke into passionate tears, and ex- 
claimed before everybody: "He was a gift to me by 
the judges when he was really nothing but a poor 
lifeless corpse, and I have reawakened him to life. 



DIETEGEN 133 

And therefore he has no right to sit in judgment on 
me, but rather I alone am his judge. And he must do 
everything I want, and when I love to kiss him it 
is his business to simply keep still and let me do it." 

They all laughed at this odd statement, but the 
mother took Dietegen's hand and led him to the 
child, saying: "Come, make up with her and let her 
kiss you once more. Later on you, also, shall be her 
master, and shall do as you see fit in such matters." 

Blushing deeply because of the many onlookers, 
Dietegen offered his mouth to the girl, and she seized 
him by his curls, quite in a frenzy, and kissed him hard, 
more in wrath than in love, and then, having once 
more thrown him a look that betrayed anger, she 
quickly turned on her heels and dashed away in such 
haste that her golden ringlets fluttered in the night 
air and in passing brushed his face. 

But now the reluctant fire of love had also been 
kindled in his own young soul, and soon after he left 
the throng and went in search of rash Kuengolt, 
striding rapidly and gazing all about for her. At last 
he discovered her on the other side of the house where 
she sat dreamily at the well, and was playing with the 
amber beads of her necklace. Advancing quickly 
he seized both her hands, compressed them in his 
vigorous right, and then laid his left on her shoulder 
so that she shuddered, and said: "Listen, child, I 
shall not permit you to trifle with me. From to-day 
on you are just as much my own property as I am yours, 



134 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

and no other man shall have you living. Keep that 
in mind when some day you will be grown up." 

"Oh, you big old man," she murmured slowly and 
smiled at him, but pallor had overspread her features. 
"You indeed are mine, but not I yours. However, 
you need not mind that, because I don't think I'll 
ever let you go!" 

So saying she rose and went, without first looking 
at her old playfellow once more, over to the other side 
of the house. 

But this was not all. The forester's wife caught 
a cold in the suddenly chilled air of this very May 
night, and an insidious disease grew out of it which 
carried her off within a few months. On her deathbed 
she grieved much about her husband and her child, 
and expressed great anxiety on their behalf. She 
also denied till her last breath the real cause of her 
illness and death, deeming it scarcely a fit thing for 
a housewife and a mother to thus go out of life merely 
because of a surfeit of riotous pleasure. 

But while she thus lay lifeless in the house, all that 
had loved her mourned for her; indeed the whole 
town did so, for she had not had a single enemy in 
the world. Her widowed husband wept at night 
in his bed, and at daytime he spoke never a word, 
but only from time to time stepped up to the coffin 
in which she lay so still and peaceful, looking and 
looking at his sweet partner, and then, shaking his 
head, slowly walking off again. 



DIETEGEN 135 

He had a heavy wreath of young pine twigs fashioned 
for her and placed it on the bier. Kuengolt heaped 
a perfect mountain of wildflowers on top of that, 
and thus the graceful form of the dead was borne 
down from the hillside to the church below, followed 
by the bereaved family and a crowd of relatives, 
friends and members of the household. 

After the burial the chief forester took all the mourn- 
ers to the tavern, where he had caused a bounteous 
meal in honor of the dead to be prepared, according 
to ancient custom. The roast venison for it, a capital 
roebuck, and two fine grouse, he had shot himself, 
grieving all the while at the loss he had sustained. 
And when the gorgeously feathered birds now appeared 
on the long board he minded him again of the dense 
grove of mighty oak and maple, high up on the moun- 
tain side, in which she had sat awaiting his return 
from the chase, and in which he, his heart full of love 
of her who now rested in the cool ground, had many 
a time been stalking the deer. The image of her 
stood before his thoughts like life itself. But yet he 
was not to be left long to brooding, for strict laws 
of custom called for his active services as host on this 
occasion. .When the claret from France and the 
golden malmsey had been uncorked and poured into 
capacious goblets, and the heavy table been loaded 
with sweets and cakes that scented the precious spices 
from the Indies, the guests grew lively and clamorous, 



136 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

and he had to propose and answer many a toast, 
despite his sincere mourning, and the noise soon 
drowned the still voice within him. Life and death 
were twin brothers in those days of our forbears. 

The forester was seated at table between Kuengolt 
and Dietegen, and these two because of his tall and 
broad-backed person were unable to catch a look of 
one another save by bending over or behind him, and 
this neither of them wished to do for decency's sake, 
for they were the only ones who among this crowd 
of buzzing guests remained sad and serious. Across 
the board from him sat a cousin, a lady of about 
thirty named Violande. 

This lady indeed could not well be overlooked, for 
she wore a singular costume, one which did not seem 
fit for a person satisfied with her lot, a person living 
in happy circumstances, but rather one who is restless 
and hollow of heart. Yet she was handsome, and 
knew well how to impress people with her charms, but 
ever and anon something selfish and mendacious would 
flash out of her handsome eyes that destroyed all these 
efforts at enforced amiability. 

When but fourteen she had already been in love 
with the forester, her cousin, merely because amongst 
those young men that came before her vision he was 
the best-looking and the tallest and strongest. He, 
however, had never noticed the preference shown for 
him. Indeed he had not given a thought to this 
overyoung cousin of his, since his serious choice lay 



DIETEGEN 137 

altogether among the more adult persons of the other 
sex, and wavered among several of these. Full of 
envy and jealousy, this unmature cousin, though, 
was already so skilled in feminine intrigue as to be 
able to destroy the chances of two or three young 
women that the forester had looked upon with favor, 
using for that purpose that poisonous weapon, gossip 
and backbiting. Always when he was on the point 
of proposing to a beauty that had won his regard, this 
sly half-woman skillfully understood how to spread 
rumors calculated to entangle the two, fictitious 
words uttered by one or the other seeming to show 
mutual dislike, or something equally efficacious in 
bringing about a rupture. If her designs miscarried 
with him, why then she spun her threads so as to make 
the other believe that the swain was false or fickle, 
full of guile or not dependable. Thus it came to pass 
repeatedly that without his ever discovering the 
author the lady of his suit would suddenly swerve and 
leave him out in the cold, while another, of whom 
he had never thought in that connection, would as 
quickly show him her favor — all owing to the arts of 
this Macchiavell in petticoats. And then impatiently 
and disgustedly he would turn his back on both the 
willing and the unwilling and plunge once more for 
a spell into his easy bachelordom. In this way it was 
that, one after the other, all his wooings came to 
nought, until he at last happened to meet the mild 
and amiable lady that subsequently became his spouse. 



138 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

This one, though, kept hold of him, since she was 
just as guileless as he himself, and all the artifices 
and stratagems of the little witch were in vain. Yea, 
she never even noticed the other's cleverest schemes, 
simply because she kept her eyes all the time fixed 
upon him she loved. And indeed he too had been 
grateful to her for her singlemindedness, and held her all 
the years of their happy union as a jewel of rare price. 
Violande, however, when she saw the man whose 
love she had aspired to married, after all, to another 
had not given up the frequent use of her talent for 
mischiefmaking, for fear she might get out of practice. 
The older she grew the more artistic became her 
endeavors in that line, but without success for herself, 
since she remained a spinster, and since even the 
men themselves whom by her wiles she had alienated 
from other women turned away from her as from a 
dangerous person, feeling in their hearts only contempt 
and hatred for her. Then it was she turned her face 
heavenwards, giving it out that she was on the point 
of entering a convent and becoming a nun. But she 
changed her mind in the last hour, and instead of 
a convent entered a house devoted to some holy 
order, but such a one as would permit her, in case the 
chance of becoming a wife should unexpectedly present 
itself to her, to leave it. Thus she disappeared for 
years from view, since she was in the habit of going 
from one town to another at short intervals, and no- 
where feeling rested or contented. Suddenly, when 



DIETEGEN 139 

the forester's wife was lying sick to death, she re- 
appeared again, in Seldwyla, and in worldly dress, 
and so it had come about that here she was as one of 
the guests at this funeral celebration, seated opposite 
the widower. 

She put restraint on her restlessness, and now and 
then looked modest and almost childlike, and when 
the women rose and walked about in couples, the while 
the men remained seated at table drinking and talk- 
ing, she went up to Kuengolt, kissed her on both 
cheeks, and made friends with her. The half-grown 
girl felt honored by these advances of a semi-clerical 
woman, one who had apparently great knowledge 
of the world and had been about a good deal, and so 
these two were at once involved in a long and intimate 
conversation, as though they had known each other all 
their lives. When the company broke up Kuengolt 
asked her father to invite Violande to his house, in 
order to manage the big household, a task for which 
she herself felt not equal and entirely too young and 
inexperienced. The forester whose mood at that 
moment was a curious compound of mourning and 
vinous elation, and whose thoughts still belonged 
altogether to his departed wife, raised no objection 
to this request, although he did not care much for his 
cousin and thought her a queer sort of person. 

Thus in a day or two Violande made her formal 
entrance into the widower's house, and had sense 
enough to take the place of the dead wife at the hearth 



I40 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

with judicious modesty and not without a spice of 
sentimentality, the reflection no doubt occurring to 
her that here she was at last, after long wanderings, 
where the desires of her first youth seemed at last 
on the point of being realized. Without undue elation 
she opened the closets and presses of her predecessor, 
examining in detail their contents: linen and home- 
spun cloth piled up in orderly rows, and provisions of 
every kind arranged for instant or occasional use, 
such as preserved fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, stored 
away in carefully tied-up pots; many flitches of bacon 
and salted beef and pork, smoked hams and potted 
venison, and hundreds of bunches of flax hung up to 
dry under the ceilings of the roof. Her heart beat at 
a more lively gait when inspecting all these domestic 
riches speaking so eloquently of the forester's easy 
circumstances, and almost tenderly she handled these 
hundreds of vessels and receptacles, dreaming of a 
near housewifely future. And in this peaceable 
frame of mind she remained for a number of weeks. 
But then her old restlessness seized her again. It had 
to find a vent. And so she began to turn everything 
topsy-turvy, starting with the pots and kettles, each 
of which she assigned to a new place, mingling the big 
and Httle, shoving about the bolts of linen and cloth, 
entangling the flax carded and uncarded, and when 
she finally had done all this she had also managed to 
seriously interfere with human affairs in the house, 
upsetting them as much as she dared. 



DIETEGEN 141 

Since it was her design to become, after all, the 
forester's wife, so as to acquire a more dignified and 
assured position in life, it became clear to her that 
what above all would be necessary was to part per- 
manently Kuengolt and Dietegen, as to whose in- 
clination for each other she had soon satisfied herself. 
For she argued quite correctly that Dietegen, once 
he married Kuengolt, would doubtless become the 
forester's successor, and thus not only remain per- 
manently in the house, but that in that case the 
forester himself, in view of his strong affection for the 
memory of his departed wife, would never wed again. 
But, she reasoned, if both the children in some way 
could be made to shun the house, it would be much 
more likely that the forester would marry again, feel- 
ing lonesome all by himself. 

And as now, as she discovered, Kuengolt every day 
grew handsomer and more womanly, she took care to 
make the girl constantly conscious both of her own 
beauty and of the gifts of her mind, as well as to further 
develop in her an inborn leaning towards coquetry. 
To do the latter she skillfully manipulated Kuengolt's 
natural vanity, insinuating to her that every young 
man with whom she came in contact was smitten with 
her charms and a ready suitor for her hand and love, 
and this with such success that Kuengolt actually 
learned to look upon all the youths of her acquaintance 
solely from the point of view whether they readily 
acknowledged her preeminence in beauty and intel- 



142 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

lectual gifts or not, while by her shrewd maneuvers 
Violande on the other hand made every one of all 
these young men think that the girFs affections were 
centered wholly upon himself. 

Another trick used by Violande with the same end 
in view was to cultivate social intercourse with a 
number of other young girls of marriageable age, 
who were frequently invited to the house for parties 
to which young men were encouraged to come, and 
under her guidance and leadership there was much 
courting and gallivanting going on at these meetings. 
Thus it came about that Kuengolt, when less than 
sixteen, had already assembled around her a circle 
of unquiet young people, each more or less an expert 
in playing the love game as a species of delightful 
sport. 

In the pursuance of her one aim Violande, too, 
arranged all sorts of festivities, great and small, at 
the house, and there was mongering in scandal, stories 
more or less compromising this or that couple or in- 
dividual, many quarrels and much noise and singing 
and music or dancing, and it was usually the most 
objectionable of the customary guests on these occa- 
sions that were also the boldest and most foolish, and 
at the same time the most difficult to get rid of. 

All these things were not to Dietegen's taste. At 
first he was a mere onlooker, indifferent and still in 
the grasp of his sincere and deep mourning for the 
death of his fostermother, making a melancholy face 



DIETEGEN 143 

which to a growing youth is not the most becoming. 
But when all these pleasure-mad young people were 
rather amused by a seriousness which seemed un- 
suitable to his age, and as Kuengolt herself took the 
same attitude towards him, the youth tried to revenge 
himself by awkward attempts at dignified silence. 
But these tactics were even less successful, and ended 
one day with Dietegen's clearly perceiving that he 
among them all was out of tune. In fact, on one 
occasion he observed Kuengolt seated in the midst of 
a group of scornful youths all of whom were deriding 
him and she, instead of disapproving, evidently siding 
with them against him. 

When Dietegen had experienced this, he turned 
silently away, and from that day on avoided the whole 
company. Anyway, he had now attained the age 
when vigorous youths begin to think of making strong 
men of themselves. Upon the holding upon which 
stood the forester's house there was, from time im- 
memorial laid the duty of maintaining three or four 
fully equipped fighting men, and this obligation the 
forester himself had always carried out most scrupu- 
lously. With great pleasure he found that Dietegen, 
shot up straight and nimble, would soon fill the same 
fine armor in which he had once hoped to see his own 
son. 

Thus Dietegen with other young gamekeepers and 
helpers on lengthy winter evenings went to fencing 
school, where he learned to make proper use of the 



144 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

shorter weapons, according to the methods of his 
home, and during the spring and summer seasons he 
spent many a Sunday or holiday upon spacious fields 
or forest clearings where the youths of the district 
learned to march in closed formations for hours at 
a stretch, and to attack, leaping broad trenches by 
the aid of their long spears, and in every other way 
to render their bodies supple, active and strong, or 
else, perhaps, to practice the new art of the musketeer 
whose weapon is loaded with powder and shot. 

Since by all these changes mentioned above life in 
the forester's house altered greatly, and since particu- 
larly the feminine doings there disturbed him sadly, 
although he paid scant attention to the latter, it 
happened that he little by little acquired the habit 
of frequenting the taverns where his townsfellows met 
much of tener than had been the case during his married 
life. And while absenting himself from the childish 
folly practiced at his own house, he succumbed to the 
maturer folly of men, and it would happen now and 
then that he would carry his head like a heavy burden, 
but always upright, to his forest home as late as mid- 
night or more. 

Things went on in this way until, on a sunny St. 
John's Day, a network of events began to close in. 

The forester himself went to town to the head- 
quarters of his guild, where on that festive day all 
were summoned to attend the settlement of important 
affairs concerning the craft, to conclude with a great 



DIETEGEN 145 

annual feast, and he intended to remain and join 
there in the carousal until the advance of night. 

Dietegen on his part went to the sharpshooter's 
meeting place, intending to spend the whole long 
midsummer's day in perfecting himself as a marskman. 
The other assistants of the forester and his servants 
of the household also went their own way, the one to 
visit his relatives some distance across the country, 
another to the dance with his sweetheart, and the 
third to the holiday fair to buy himself cloth for a new 
coat and a pair of shoes. 

So the women were sitting all by themselves in the 
house, not at all delighted with the rude manner in 
which the men had left them to their own devices, 
but yet eyeing every passer-by and peering out at the 
sunny landscape in the hope that some guests would 
show up and with their help a festivity of their own 
might be arranged. 

As a suitable preparation for that or any con- 
tingency they began to bake spice cakes and prepare 
all sorts of sweets> and they brewed a huge bowlful 
of heady May wine flavored with honey and herbs, 
so as to be ready for either chance comers or to offer 
a night cup to the men returning home. Next they 
decked themselves in holiday finery, and ornamented 
head and bosom with flowers, while other young maid- 
ens, bidden to join them in a feminine festival time, 
one after the other also came from town, and even 
the very last and least of the serving maids belonging 



146 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

to the household was freshly attired to look her best. 

Under broadspreading linden trees, right in front 
of the house, the table was set for a dainty meal, the 
westering sun sending his last golden rays like a bene- 
diction abroad over town and valley. 

There the women now were seated about the table, 
relishing all the good things prepared for them, and 
soon the chorus of them were intoning folk-songs 
with melodious voices, songs telling in many stanzas 
of the delights and despair of love, songs like that of 
the two royal children, or "There dallied a knight with 
his maiden dear," and similar ones. All the tunes 
sounded the longing of love-lorn hearts, the faith kept 
or broken, the eternal drama of passion. Far out into 
the evening the sweet voices were carrying, alluring, 
inviting. The birds nesting up in the dense foHage 
of the linden trees, after being silenced for a spell, 
now joined in, rivaling their human competitors, 
and from over in the forest other feathered songsters 
assisted. But suddenly another band of choristers 
could be heard above the din. That new volume of 
sound came floating down the mountain side, a min- 
gling of male voices with the more strident notes of 
fiddle and tabor pipes. A troop of youths had come 
from Ruechenstein, and this instant issued from the 
edge of the woods. Thus they came, striding along 
the path that led past the forester's home down to the 
valley, a number of musicians at their head. There 
was the son of the burgomaster of Ruechenstein, 



DIETEGEN 147 

rather a madcap and therefore a great exception to the 
overwhehning majority of his townsfolk, who clearly- 
dominated the noisy throng. Having left the uni- 
versity abroad, he had brought with him a few fellow- 
students after his own heart, among them being a 
couple of divinity students and a young and jolly 
monk, as well as Hans Schafuerli, the council scribe, 
or secretary, of Ruechenstein, who was a scrawny, 
bent figure of a man, with a mighty hunchback and 
a long rapier. He was the last of the train, all walking 
singly because of the narrow path. 

But when they set eyes on the row of singing ladies, 
their own music ceased, and they stood all there, 
listening attentively to the charming tune. However, 
the ladies likewise became mute, being surprised and 
wishful to see what now was going to happen. Vio- 
lande alone retained her presence of mind, and stepped 
to the burgomaster's son, who in turn saluted her with 
elaborate courtesy, and telling her that he with his 
friends purposed to pay a flying and amusing visit 
to the merry neigjiboring town, in order to spend 
St. John's Day in a manner agreeable to them all. 
But, he continued, having had the good fortune to 
meet with these ladies in this unhoped-for way, they 
counted on the pleasure of a dance with them, if they 
might make so bold as to offer themselves as partners, 
in all honor and decency.. 

Within the space of a few minutes these formalities 
had been complied with, and the dance was in full 



148 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

swing on the floor of the big banqueting hall of the 
forester's house. Kuengolt led with the burgomaster's 
son, Violande with the jolly monk, and the other 
ladies with the young scholars. But the most expert 
and ardent dancer proved to be the hunchback scribe. 
And despite his crooked back this valiant devotee 
of the terpsichorean art understood marvelously well 
how to advance and retreat with his long shanks in 
the maze, these legs of his seeming to begin right 
below his chin. 

But Kuengolt's humor was no joyous one, and when 
Violande whispered to her to aim at the conquest of 
the burgomaster's son, in order to become herself 
one day the mistress of Ruechenstein, she remained 
frigid and indifferent. But suddenly she perceived 
the herculean efforts of the artful hunchback, and this 
extraordinary sight restored her spirits, so that she 
laughed with all her heart. And she instantly de- 
manded to dance with the crooked monster. Indeed 
it looked like a scene in a curious fairy tale, to see 
her graceful figure, clad in green and the head set off 
by a wreath of ruby roses, flitting to and fro in the 
arms of the ghastly scribe, his hump covered with 
vivid scarlet. 

But swiftly her mind altered. From the scribe she 
flew into the arms of the monk, and from those into 
the keeping of the young students, so that within 
less than half an hour she had taken a turn or two 
with each one of the young strangers. All of these 



DIETEGEN 149 

now centered their gaze upon the beautiful damsel, 
while the other young women present attempted in 
vain to recapture their partners. 

Violande seeing the state of the case, quickly sum- 
moned all the couples to the table beneath the lindens, 
to rest there for a while and to be hospitably enter- 
tained. She placed the whole company most judi- 
ciously, each young man next a damsel, and Kuengolt 
beside the burgomaster's son. 

But Kuengolt was tormented by a craving to see 
all these young men subject to her will and under the 
complete influence of her charms. She exclaimed that 
she herself wished to wait upon her guests, and has- 
tened into the house to get more wine. There she 
quickly and surreptitiously found her way into Vio- 
lande's chamber, where she rummaged in her clothes 
press. In an hour of mutual confidences Violande 
had shown her a small phial and told her that this 
contained a philtre, or love potion, called "Follow 
Me." Whoever should drink its contents when served 
by the hand of a wdman, would inevitably become her 
slave and victim, being bound to follow her even to 
death's door. True, Violande had added, there was 
not contained in that potion any of the strong and 
dangerous poison denominated Hippomanes, brewed 
from the liquor obtained from the frontal excrescence 
of a first-born foal, but rather it came from the small 
bones of a green frog that had been placed upon an 
ants' nest and cleanly scraped and gnawed off by 



I50 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

these insects, until ready for occult use. But all the 
same, Violande had stated, this preparation was potent 
enough to turn the heads of a half dozen of obstreper- 
ous men. She herself, Violande said, had obtained the 
philtre from a nun whose whilom lover had succumbed 
to the pest before the philtre had had time to work, 
so that she, the nun, had resigned herself to a convent 
life, and now Violande had possession of this sovereign 
remedy without knowing exactly what to do with it. 
For she did not dare to throw it away for fear of the 
unknown consequences. 

This phial Kuengolt now found after some search, 
and poured its contents into the jug of wine she car- 
ried, and with a beating heart she hastened outside 
to her guests. She bade the youths all quaff their 
drink inasmuch as she would offer to them a new and 
sweet spice wine, and when serving out the contents 
of the jug she knew how to contrive matters in such 
wise that not a drop of the fluid remained. To accom- 
plish this she had first evenly distributed wine into all 
the goblets, and afterwards poured something more 
into each man's, in every instance sending an alluring 
glance into the soul of every swain, so that the sorcery 
should have its full effect, as she thought. 

But indeed the magical workings of the philtre really 
consisted in these impartially and enticingly subdivided 
glances of her roguish eye, so that the youths all 
vied, blind and selfish with passion, to gain her sole 
favor, as will always happen when a goal striven for 



DIETEGEN 151 

by all in common lies temptingly there for the boldest 
and luckiest to achieve. 

All the young men without exception participated 
in this love game, leaving their partners rudely to 
themselves, and the latter, feeling deeply the disgrace 
and humiliation of being outstripped by Kuengolt, 
paled with anger and disappointment, casting their 
eyes down and vainly trying to cover their defeat by a 
whispered conversation amongst themselves. Even 
the monk suddenly abandoned a dusky serving maid 
whom but a moment before he had embraced tenderly, 
while the haughty scribe, the hunchback, with ener- 
getic steps crowded out the burgomaster's son who at 
that instant held Kuengolt's lovely hand in his own, 
caressing it subtly. 

But Kuengolt showed no favors to any one in particu- 
lar. Cold as an icicle she remained towards each and 
every one of her young guests, and like a smooth snake 
she glided about among them, with head and. senses 
cool. And when she saw that thus she held them 
all in the hollow of her hand, she even attempted to 
reconcile anew the other women, speaking pleasantly 
to them and urging them to return to the table. 

Darkness had fallen. The stars glinted high in 
the heavens, and the sickle of the new moon stood 
above the forest, but this gentle light now was wiped 
out by the gleaming and wavering flames of a huge 
St. John's bonfire that had been lighted up on the 
summit of a lone hill by the peasant population, 
visible from afar. 



152 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"Let us all go and look at this bonfire," cried Kuen- 
golt. "The way to it is short and pleasant through 
the woods! But we must have it done as beseems 
us all — the women and girls first, and the young 
men in the rear." 

And so it was done. Pitch torches lighted up the 
path for them, and song cheered the company. 

Violande alone had remained behind as custodian 
of the house, but more especially to await the coming 
of the chief forester. For she, too, meant to make 
her catch that day. And she had not long to wait. 
He came in the roused mood of a toper, and with his 
senses only partly under control. When he saw the 
tables under the lindens before the house, he sat 
down and called for a sleeping draught at Violande's 
hands. 

Without loss of time she went to do his bidding. 
But she also first disappeared into her own room to 
get the small vial containing the love potion which she 
meant to serve the man who had scorned her so far. 
However, her hasty search for it was fruitless. Neither 
did she discover it in Kuengolt's chamber, whither 
instant suspicion had driven her. For the truth 
was that that serving maid who had been carelessly 
pushed aside by the monk when Kuengolt had 
triumphed over her rivals, had picked it up on the 
stairs where it had been cast by the haughty girl. 

But Violande lost no time in searching further. 
Instead she made his cup all the stronger and sweeter, 



DIETEGEN 153 

and then she bent over the man of her choice while 
he slowly and rapturously emptied the tankard. 
Violande was dressed for the occasion. She wore over 
her skirt a tunic of pale gold, the edges and seams 
picked out in red, and allowing her delicate white 
skin to peep forth here and there. Her bosom heaved 
stormily and she showed a tenderly caressing humor. 
Thus she leaned on the table in close proximity to him. 

"Ah indeed, cousin," said the forester, when acci- 
dentally he cast a glance in her direction, "how hand- 
some you look to-night." 

At these words she smiled happily and looked full 
at him with eyes that spoke eloquently, saying: "Do 
you indeed like my looks? Well, it has taken you 
a long time to find that out. If you only knew for 
how many years, in fact, ever since I was a child, 
I have cherished you in my heart." 

That had a greater effect on the good man than any 
love potion made of frog^s bones, and he seemed to see 
before his eyes dim recollections. Of a pretty girl 
child he dreamed, and now he saw her before him 
at his side, a matured beauty in the full development 
of her womanly charms, and it was as if she had come 
to him from a far distance, bringing to him unsolicited 
the splendid gift of her fine person. His generous 
heart became entangled with his excited senses, and 
reshaped and formulated all sorts of enticing images. 
Through his hazy brain ir its vinous exaltation there 
floated a Violande who suddenly had been metamor- 



154 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

phosed into a winsome being that, after aH manner of 
sufferings, had been offered to his arms as something 
that to embrace and call his would not only make 
herself happy but would Hkewise entrust to his care 
a chaste and loving woman that would render himself 
happy once more. The memory of his dead wife 
paled for the nonce before this glittering picture. 

He seized her hand, fondled her cheeks, and said: 
"We are not yet old, dear Cousin Violande! Will 
you become my wife?" 

And since she left her hand in his grasp, and bent 
nearer to him, this time, seeing at last the realization 
of her ambition, actually glowing with her new-found 
bliss, he loosened the bridal ring of his wife from the 
handle of his dagger where since her death he had 
worn it, and placed the trinket on Violande's finger. 
She thereupon pressed her own face against the leonine 
and ruddy countenance of her middle-aged lover, 
and the two embraced tenderly and kissed under the 
whispering linden trees which were stirred by the 
night breeze. The shrewd man, ordinarily of such 
sound judgment, thought he had discovered the 
sovereign blessing of life itself. 

At this moment .Dietegen returned home, bearing 
his weapons in his hand. Since he went towards the 
house across the greensward, the fond couple did not 
hear his approach, and he saw with confusion and 
amazement the whole scene. Shamed and reddening, 
he retired as quietly as he could, so that they did 



DIETEGEN 155 

not notice him, and he went around the whole house, 
in order to make his entrance by the back door. But 
while still on his way he heard suddenly loud calling 
and noise as though someone were in peril and hot 
dispute. Without a moment's hesitation Dietegen 
hurried off in the direction of the hubbub. And soon 
he found the same company that had ere now left the 
house in the happiest humor in a terrible uproar. 

It seemed that the young men, half-crazed by the 
strong wine and by jealousy of each other, on their 
way back from the St. John's bonfire, being now 
mingled with the young women, had begun to quarrel 
among themselves. From words they had come to 
daggers drawn, and more than one was bleeding 
from serious wounds. But just the very moment 
of his arrival he had seen the Ruechenstein scribe 
furiously attacking the burgomaster's son, and run- 
ning him through with his long rapier. The victim, 
also with sword in hand, lay prone on the grass and 
was just giving up the ghost. The others, unaware 
of this, had seized each other by the throats, and the 
women were shrieking and calling loudly for help. 
Only Kuengolt stood there pale as death but watching 
the horrible scene with open mouth. 

"Kuengolt, what is up here?" asked Dietegen, 
when he had made her out. She shuddered at his 
address, but looked as though relieved. However, 
he now vigorously began to interfere, and by dint of 
rough handling of some of the worst fire-eaters he soon 



156 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

succeeded in separating the struggling and cursing 
mass. Then he pointed to the dead youth on the 
ground, and that sobered them even more quickly 
than his remonstrances. Then they all stared like 
mutes upon the dead man and upon the grim hunch-^ 
back, who seemed to have lost his wits completely. 

In the meanwhile some peasants from the neighbor- 
hood as well as the homecoming gamekeepers from the 
forestry had appeared on the scene, and these bound 
securely the raging Schafuerli, the murderous scribe, 
and arrested the remainder of the Ruechensteiners. 

And that was a bad morning that now followed. 
The forester was engaged to the wicked Violande, 
and his head buzzed unmercifully. One dead Rue- 
chensteiner lay in the house, and the rest of them were 
kept in the dungeon. Before the noon hour had tolled 
a delegation from Ruechenstein, with the burgomaster 
himself, the father of the slain, at its head, had arrived 
in order to inquire carefully into the whole matter and 
to demand strict justice and punishment of the guilty. 

But already the imprisoned secretary of the Rue- 
chenstein council, the grim Schafuerli, knowing that 
his neck was in peril, had made a deposition in his 
tower in which he charged responsibility for the whole 
bad business upon the women of Seldwyla whom they 
had met on the previous day, and more especially 
upon Kuengolt, whom he accused of sorcery and black 
art. 



DIETEGEN 157 

That maid servant who had become disgruntled 
for a cause mentioned before had passed on the empty 
vial that had contained Violande's philtre, to the 
monk, and the latter had hastened to put it into the 
hands of the scribe, who now used it as a powerful 
weapon. 

To the grave dismay of the Seldwylians the whole 
matter in the course of that first day even turned 
against the forester's daughter and against his house- 
hold. Everybody in those days, and not alone in 
Seldwyla, firmly believed in sorcery and love potions, 
and the members of the Ruechenstein delegation 
behaved so menacingly and hinted at such terrible 
reprisals that the popularity and the respect in which 
the forester was held could not prevent the imprison- 
ment of Kuengolt, especially as he was still severely 
suffering from his excesses of the previous day, 
and felt like one paralyzed. 

She instantly made a full confession, being more 
dead than alive from terror, and Schafuerli and his 
boon companions were liberated. And then the 
Ruechensteiners made the formal demand to have the 
girl delivered up to them for adequate atonement, 
since she had injured a number of their townsfolk 
and caused the death of one of them. This, however, 
was not conceded to them, and then the Ruechen- 
steiners departed in an angry mood, threatening dire 
reprisals. The body of the burgomaster's son they 
took along. But when later on they heard that the 



158 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Seldwyla authorities had sentenced the girl but to 
a twelvemonth's mild incarceration, the ancient en- 
mity which had slept for a number of years now re- 
awakened, and it became a perilous adventure for 
any Seldwylian to be caught on Ruechenstein soil. 

Now the town of Seldwyla counted as a fit penalty 
for misdeeds which according to their notions were 
reckoned among the lighter ones and which conse- 
quently required no severe treatment, not imprison- 
ment proper but rather the awarding of the culprits 
to persons that became responsible for their further 
conduct. In the custody of such persons the culprits 
remained during the length of the sentence, and these 
custodians were held to employ them suitably and to 
feed and shelter them adequately. This mode of 
punishment was used most often with women or youth- 
ful persons. Thus, then, Kuengolt, too, was taken 
to one of the chambers of the town hall, and there 
she was to be auctioned off, at least her services and 
keep. And before that ceremony she had to submit 
to being publicly exhibited there. 

The forester, whose sunny humor had altogether 
disappeared with these trials, said sighing to Dietegen 
that it was a hard thing for him to go to the town hall 
and watch there in behalf of his daughter, but some- 
body surely must be there of her family during these 
bitter hours. 

Then Dietegen said: "I will go in your stead; 
that is, if I am good enough for it in your opinion." 



DIETEGEN 159 

His patron shook hands with him. "Yes, do it!" 
he said, "and I will thank you for it/' 

So Dietegen went where some of the councilmen 
were seated and a few persons willing to take charge 
of the prisoner. He had girded his sword around 
his loins, and had a manly and rugged air about him. 

And when Kuengolt was led inside, white as chalk 
and deeply chagrined, and was to stand in front of 
the table, he swiftly pulled up a chair and made her 
sit down in it, he placing himself behind and putting 
his hand on the back of it. She had looked up at him 
surprised, and now sent him a glance fraught with 
a painful smile. But he apparently paid no heed 
looking straight on over her head, severe of mien. 

The first who made a bid for her custody was the 
town piper, a drunkard, who had been sent by his 
poor wife in order to help increase their receipts a bit. 
This, she calculated, was all the more to be expected 
because Kuengolt would probably receive from her 
home all sorts of good things to eat, and these, 
she considered, they would secure wholly or in part. 

"Do you want to go to the town piper's house?" 
Dietegen curtly asked the girl. After attentively 
regarding the red-nosed and half-drunken fellow, she 
said: "No." And the piper, with a bhssful smile, 
remarked laughing: "Good, that suits me too," and 
toddled off on shaking legs. 

Next an old furrier and capmaker made a bid, 
since he thought he could utilize Kuengolt very handily 



i6o SELDWYLA FOLKS 

in sewing and making a goodly profit out of her serv- 
ices. But this man had a large sore on his thigh, 
and this he was greasing and plastering with salve 
all day long, and also a growth the size of a chicken's 
egg on the top of his pate, so that Kuengolt had already 
been afraid of him when she passed his shop as a child 
going to school. When, therefore, Dietegen put the 
query to her whether she was willing to go to his 
house, and the girl decidedly negatived that, the man 
went off loudly venting his spleen. He grumbled and 
growled like a bear whose honeycomb has been snatched 
away. 

Now a money changer stepped up, one who was 
notorious both for his greed and usurious avarice and 
for his lewdness. But scarcely had that one leveled 
his red eyes upon her, and opened his wry mouth 
for a bid, when Dietegen motioned him off with a 
threatening gesture, even without asking the terrified 
girl herself. 

And now there were left but a few more, decent 
and respectable citizens, people against whom nothing 
could be urged reasonably, and it was these between 
whom the final choice and decision lay. The smallest 
bid was made by the gravedigger of the cemetery next 
the town cathedral, a quiet and good man, who also 
possessed an excellent wife and, so he thought, a 
suitable place where to keep such a prisoner in safe 
custody, and who certainly had already had charge 
of several other prisoners before. 



DIETEGEN i6i 

To this man, then, Kuengolt was given in charge, 
and was taken at once to his house which was situated 
between the cemetery and a side street. Dietegen 
went along in order to sefe how she would be housed. 
It turned out that her quarters would be an open, 
small antechamber of the house itself, immediately 
adjoining the graveyard ^x^ only separated from 
it by an iron fence. There, as it seemed, the sexton 
was in the habit of keeping his prisoners during the 
warm season of the year, while for the winter he simply 
admitted them into his own dwelling room, a slender 
chain fastening them to the tile stove. 

But when Kuengolt found herself in her prison and 
was separated merely by a fence from the graves of the 
dead, moreover saw near by the old deadhouse filled 
with skulls and bones, she began to tremble and 
begged they would not leave her there all through 
the night. But the sexton's wife who was just drag- 
ging in a straw mattress and a blanket, and also hid 
the sight of the graves by suspending a curtain, 
answered that this request could not be listened to, 
and that her new abode would be wholesome for her 
moral welfare and as a means of repenting her sins. 
And she could not be shaken in this resolve. 

But Dietegen replied: "Be quiet, Kuengolt, for 
I am not afraid of the dead or of any spook, and I 
will come here every night and keep watch in front of 
the iron fence until you, too, will no longer fear." 

He said this, however, in an aside to her, so that 



i62 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

the woman could not overhear it, and then he left 
for home. There he found the saddened forester 
who had just reached an understanding with Violande 
that they would not celebrate their wedding until 
after Kuengolt's release from prison and after the 
scandal created by the occurrence should have had 
time to blow over. During all their discussion of the 
matter Violande kept still as a mouse, glad that she 
as the prime author of the whole mischief should have 
escaped all the consequences, for the magical philtre 
had been hers, as we know. 

When the early hours of evening were over and 
midnight approaching, Dietegen began to make good 
his promise. He started unobserved, took his sword 
and a flask of choice wine along, and climbed from the 
high slope down into the valley and so to town, and 
there he swung himself fearlessly over the graveyard 
wall, strode across the graves themselves, and at last 
stood in front of Kuengolt's new abode. She sat 
breathlessly and shaking with fright upon her straw 
mattress, behind the curtain, and listened with freez- 
ing blood to every noise, even the slightest, that struck 
her ear. For even before this ghostly hour of twelve 
she had undergone several convulsions of dread and 
unreasoning fear. In the deadhouse, for instance, 
a cat had slyly climbed over the bones, and these had 
clattered somewhat. Then also the night wind had 
moved the bushes growing over the tombs, so that they 
made a weird noise, and the iron rooster that served 



DIETEGEN 163 

as a weather vane on top of the church roof had creaked 
mysteriously, making an awful sound never heard in 
daytime. So that the girl was in a frenzy of terror. 

When she therefore heard the steps nearing more 
and more, Kuengolt had a new fit of fright, and shook 
like a leaf. But when he stretched his hands through 
the iron bars of the fence and pushed back the curtain, 
so that the full moon lit up the whole dark space 
around her, and in a low voice called her name, she 
rose quickly, ran in his direction and stretched out 
both hands to him. 

^'Dietegen!" she exclaimed, and burst into tears, 
the first she had been able to shed since that ominous 
day; for until that hour she had lived as though 
smitten with paralysis, dazed and benumbed. 

Dietegen, however, did not take her hand, but 
instead handed her the flask of wine, saying: "Here, 
take a mouthful! It will do you good." 

So she drank, and also ate of the dainty wheaten 
bread of her father's house that he had brought along. 
And by and by her courage was restored, and when 
she clearly perceived that he had no mind to con- 
verse any more with her, she retired silently to her 
couch and cried without a stop, till at last she sank 
into a quiet sleep. 

But he, the young man, in his narrow youthful 
ideas and in his inexperience of real life had made up 
his mind that she was a being turned completely 
to wickedness and evil, and one that was unable to do 



1 64 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

right. And he served as her sentinel during this and 
other nights, seating himself upon an ancient grave- 
stone leaning against the wall solely out of regard 
for her departed mother and because she had saved 
his own life. 

Kuengolt slept until sunrise, and when she awoke 
and looked about she observed that Dietegen had 
softly stolen away. 

Thus one night after another passed, and he faith- 
fully watched and guarded her, for he indeed held the 
belief that the place was not without danger for any- 
one without a good conscience and shaken with fear. 
But each time he brought her something of a relish 
along, and often he would ask her what she desired 
for herself, and he would carry out her wishes if at 
all justifiable. 

He also came when it rained or stormed, missing 
not a single night, and on those nights when, according 
to the popular superstitions then universally held, 
the dead walked and which were considered particu- 
larly perilous to the living, he came all the more 
promptly. 

Kuengolt on her part by and by managed to arrange 
things so that during the daytime she had her curtain 
drawn, in order, as she said, to conceal herself from 
the curious who went to the cemetery to spy on her, 
but in reality to sleep, for she preferred to remain 
awake at night, to keep her faithful sentinel in view 
all the time, and to ponder the things that had brought 



DIETEGEN 165 

her there, and how he had conducted himself towards 
her these last few years. But Dietegen knew nothing 
of all this, believing her to be sound asleep. 

She felt herself engrossed with a new and unexpected 
happiness, and while he diligently kept watch over 
her during the hours of darkness, she enjoyed his mere 
presence, and all her thinking was of him. She had 
no slightest suspicion that he judged her so harshly, 
and was living in hopes that she could reestablish 
her claim on him, seeing that he proved so faithful 
to her. Her father, however, did not share her dreams. 
He visited her at least once every week, and when she 
on these occasions nearly always shyly mentioned 
Dietegen's name, and he marked that she indeed had 
again turned to him in her thoughts, he would sigh 
and groan in spirit, because while also wishing for a 
union of those two, and feeling convinced that his 
fine foster son alone was able to again rehabilitate 
his daughter, it appeared highly improbable to him 
that Dietegen would wish to woo a witch that had been 
punished for her uncanny doings by his fellow citi- 
zens, and as it seemed to him, justly. 

In the meantime another caller had put in an ap- 
pearance with Kuengolt, no less a person than the 
secretary of the council of Ruechenstein himself. 

This highly enterprising and venturesome hunch- 
back was unable to forget the beautiful being on whose 
account he had committed murder. The blood coursed 
through his veins more rapidly than in those of a 



i66 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

normally shaped fellow, and waking or sleeping her 
image did not lose its hold on him. His belief was that 
the image of this witch dwelt in his heart by virtue 
of her black art, and that it was shooting along within 
his blood vessels as does a frail boat in a powerful 
storm, all in a magical way. 

The more he reflected the more convinced he be- 
came of this, and since he had daring enough and to 
spare, he finally made up his mind to seek alleviation 
of his tortures from the primal source, the witch 
herself. At the Capuchin monastery, where he had 
first gone for a ghostly cure, he had failed, and thus 
one moonless, dark night he started out, across the 
mountain and as far as the cemetery where he knew 
her to be kept a captive. 

Kuengolt heard his approaching steps. Since it 
was not yet the hour when Dietegen used to come, 
and also because these steps did not seem to be his, 
she took fright and hid behind the curtain. But 
Schafuerli now lighted a candle he had brought along, 
and thrust his hand with it through the aperture, 
searching the dark space with his eager eyes until 
he had finally discovered her crouched in a corner. 

"Come here, witch maid," he muttered excitedly, 
"and give me both thine hands and that scarlet mouth 
of thine. For thou must quench the fire thou hast 
caused." 

The girl was frightened beyond words. By his 
crooked shape she had recogni^jed him in the dusky 



DIETEGEN 167 

half-light, and the recollection of the sufferings this 
misshapen recreant had occasioned her, together 
with the repugnant presence of the man himself, 
drove her almost to madness. Powerless to utter 
a sound, she sank down trembling in every limb. 

Seeing this, the bold knave began to shake the 
iron bars of her grate, and since it was by no means 
very strong but rather intended only for the keeping 
of less vigorous prisoners, it began to yield, and he 
was about to tear it out of its staples. But just that 
instant Dietegen arrived on the scene. To notice the 
whole proceeding and to seize the madman firmly 
by the shoulder was the work of a flash. The enraged 
scribe yelled like one possessed, and was for drawing his 
poniard. But Dietegen kept an iron hold on him, 
grasping his hands and wrestling with him until the 
humpback owned himself beaten. Then Dietegen 
was uncertain whether to hand the maddened creature 
over to the authorities or to let him go. Not knowing 
the circumstances of the case and unwilling to cause 
new compHcations for Kuengolt, he finally allowed 
the scribe to escape, warning him, however, on pain 
of death, not to return again to the place. Next 
Dietegen woke the sexton and induced him, since 
autumn with its cool nights was approaching, to 
afford shelter to his prisoner henceforth within his 
own dwelling, in order to avert repetition of a scene 
like the one of that night. 

Therefore Kuengolt that very night was taken in- 



i68 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

side, and secured by a light chain to the foot of the 
stove. The latter was a trim structure built of green 
tiling and showing in raised outlines the biblical story 
of the creation of man and his fall from grace. At the 
four corners of this stove there stood the four greater 
prophets upon twisted pillars, and the whole of it 
formed a somewhat attractive monument. Against 
it and tied to it by her gyves Kuengolt now lay stretched 
out on a bench for her couch. 

She was glad of having obtained a more sheltered 
spot, and more still of having been rescued out of the 
hands of this evil hunchback, and she ascribed the 
whole of Dietegen's efforts to his devoted feelings for 
her, and this despite the fact that he had not spoken 
a syllable to her through it all and had gone away 
immediately after the new arrangements had been 
effected. 

When, however, Kuengolt had thus been installed 
in a more convenient place, a new admirer of her 
charms turned up in the person of a chaplain whose 
duties obliged him to attend to a number of small 
matters in the church building close by, and to whose 
obligations it also belonged to offer ghostly counsel 
and consolation to the sick or imprisoned. This 
young priest came, once Kuengolt was an inmate of 
the gravedigger's household, more and more frequently, 
not only to exorcise her and to expel from her soul 
all inclination towards magic, sorcery and witchcraft, 
but also to enjoy incidentally her rare feminine charms 



DIETEGEN 169 

and beauty. He strenuously endeavored to dissuade 
her from using any more love philtres and similar 
means forbidden by the canons of the Church, but in 
doing so became thoroughly imbued with her physical 
attractions. 

For of late, that is, since these trials had overtaken 
her, the maiden had wonderfully grown in beauty. 
She had become a more mature, slender and spiritual- 
ized being, albeit pallor had succeeded her former 
healthy complexion, and her eyes now shone with a 
gentle and lovely fire, encircled with a shadow of 
sadness. 

Save for her being tied to the foot of the warm stove, 
she was being treated in every respect like a member 
of the sexton's family, among the members of which 
there were several children, and when the chaplain 
came to visit her, he was usually regaled with a tank- 
ard of ale or a flask of drinkable wine, these being 
supplied by the forester, Kuengolt's father. But 
whenever the reverend divine had sufficiently indulged 
in his admonishments, had partaken of the refresh- 
ment provided for him, and still remained behind, 
evidently to enjoy the society of the charming peni- 
tent, there would be some queer goings-on. For 
the chaplain would squeeze and caress the pretty hand 
of his spiritual daughter, would sigh and groan audibly, 
and then Kuengolt, comparing this sniffling priest in 
her thoughts with the stately and handsome Dietegen 
whom she considered in truth her lover, was prone to 



I70 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

scoff at the inconspicuous Levite, but in a good- 
natured and gentle manner. 

In this way it came about that Kuengolt, after 
displaying all day long her cheerful and somewhat 
sportive disposition, would be the declared favorite 
of the sexton's household in the evening, the big 
family table invariably being pushed over towards 
her where she perforce sat tied to the stove. So also 
it was on New Year's Eve, and the young priest was 
one of the company, so that the sexton, his wife and 
children, together with the chaplain, were seated near 
the prisoned girl, all of them munching walnuts and 
sweet honey cakes, and Kuengolt having just laughed 
at something the priest had said, the latter meanwhile 
holding her hand, when Dietegen entered the room. 
He brought for his patron's daughter and his own 
whilom playmate some dainties from home. In 
coming he had yielded to the instinctive promptings 
of his heart, a mingling of pity, sympathy and affection, 
an unconscious longing for her company, and the 
desire had been strong within him to spend at least 
an hour that evening with her, this being the first 
time in her young Hfe she had to pass away from 
home on a night like that. 

But when he saw the merry scene and caught sight 
of the chaplain's caressing hand, his blood seemed to 
freeze within him, and he left her after just a couple 
of words in explanation of his mission, without any 
more ado. In going, perhaps unconsciously, Dietegen 



DIETEGEN 171 

muttered as though to himself: "Forgotten is for- 
gotten !'' 

Only now Kuengolt suddenly felt the full force and 
meaning of these words and of his previous devotion, 
and her heart seemed to stand still. Pale and faint she 
sank down on her bench at the stove, and the jolly 
gathering broke up. Even before the midnight bells 
tolled out the new year the light in the sexton's win- 
dow was gone, and the girl was weeping bitter tears 
of sorrow. 

From that night on she remained almost forgotten 
by the forester and his household. Great days were 
on the way. The Swiss federation was humming 
like a beehive with war's alarum. Those events were 
in the making which in history are known as the Bur- 
gundian War. 

When spring had come and the great day of Grandi- 
son approached, the town of Seldwyla, too, like Rue- 
chenstein and many others, sent her embattled citizens 
into the field, and it was for the forester as well as for 
Dietegen a happy release to be able to leave the dis- 
turbed harmony and comfort of the house and to step 
into the clear, rugged atmosphere of war. 

With firm tread they both went along with their 
banner, though perhaps more silent than most, and 
joined with the other hurrying detachments the 
mighty battle array of the federated Swiss allies, 
coming most opportunely to the armed aid of the 
latter. 



172 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Like unto an iron garden stood the long square 
of the fighting men, and in its midst waved the stand- 
ards and pennons of the cantons and towns there 
represented. In serried ranks they stood, many 
thousands of them, each in his independence and 
reliability again a world in himself; in fearlessness 
and will each could depend on his neighbor, and yet 
all of them together, after all, but a throng of fallible 
human beings. 

There was the spendthrift and the light-hearted 
side by side with the curmudgeon and the cautious, 
each awaiting the hour of supreme sacrifice. The 
quarrelsome and the peaceable had to stay on with 
equal patience. He whose heart was heavy within 
his bosom was no more taciturn than the talkative 
and the braggart. The poor and indigent stood in 
equal pride next to the wealthy and domineering. 
Whole squares made up of neighbors ordinarily dis- 
agreeing were here one single unit. And envy or 
jealousy held spear or halberd as manfully and firmly 
as did generosity or reconciliation, and unjust as just 
aimed for the nonce both of them to fulfil the duty 
immediately urgent. Whoever had done with life 
and meant to sacrifice without regrets the mean rem- 
nant of it, was no more or less than the reckless red- 
cheeked youth upon whom his mother had built all 
her hope and in whom rested the future. The morose 
submitted without protest to the silly sallies of the 
jester or buffoon, and the latter on his part saw without 



DIETEGEN 173 

ridicule the prosaic conceits of the small-souled philis- 
tine. 

Next to the banner of Seldwyla was visible that of 
Ruechenstein, so that the serried ranks of the inimi- 
cable neighbors closely touched each other, and the 
forester who was leader of a section of his fellow citizens 
and formed the cornerstone of their whole formation, 
was the very neighbor of the council scribe of Ruechen- 
stein, who on his part stood at the tail end of one of 
the ranks of his townsmen. But at this hour not one 
of them all seemed to recall reasons for differences or 
to remember the past. Dietegen was among the 
sharpshooters and "lost fellows," somewhat outside 
these regimental formations, and was already in the 
very heat of combat when the main body of the Swiss 
suddenly began to move and to plunge right into the 
midst of battle, in order to administer a stupendous 
defeat upon one of the most brilliant warrior-princes 
and his luxurious and splendid army, and to drive 
him to ignominous flight like a fabled king. 

In the pressure of the hard-fought battle the for- 
ester with some of his gamekeepers had been separated 
by Burgundian cavalry from his banner and now 
fought his way through the latter, but only to en- 
counter on the other side enemy foot soldiery. In 
meeting his new foe the doughty warrior set to work 
hewing and carving out for himself a roomy corner 
of his own, and he had already achieved this task 
when through this new opening a belated and spent 



174 \ SELDWYLA FOLKS 

cannon ball from the hosts of Charles the Bold came 
smashing and crushed the broad manly chest of the 
man, so that within another moment or two he had 
found in peace his eternal rest, and nothing more 
troubled him. 

When Dietegen, sound and hearty, returned from 
the fight and from following the fleeing Burgundians, 
inquiring for his friend and father, he found his body 
after but a short search, and he buried him together 
with his trusty sword within the mighty roots of a 
far-spreading oak, not far from the battlefield on the 
edge of a grove. 

Then he returned home with the remainder of the 
Swiss hosts, and because of his intrepidity and the 
ability shown by him during the campaign he was by 
the town authorities made provisional chief forester, 
and was given the house that had been his home for 
so long as his new abode and to supervise the assistants. 
With the death of his dear old patron his household 
had been dissolved. His savings and accumulated 
wealth had vanished during the last few years pre- 
ceding his death, owing to careless management, and 
now Kuengolt had nothing left in the world save her 
own self and the care of Dietegen, provided he was 
able to give it, for he himself was but poor. 
, She sat day after day at her stove, leaning her cheeks 
against its tiles representing, in four or five groups 
that recurred around the whole surface, the loss of 
Paradise, the creation of Adam and of Eve, the Tree 



DIETEGEN 175 

of Knowledge, and the expulsion at last from their 
blessed abode. When the girl's face ached from the 
rough imprint of these raised images, she shifted it 
by turning to the next series, always and always con- 
templating them, and between the intervals shedding 
tears over her lot. But even then she could some- 
times not help laughing outright when her glance 
traveled to that scene showing the expulsion from the 
Garden of Eden. For by reason of the potter's in- 
advertence this picture had been so modelled as to 
give to Adam instead of a real navel on his abdomen, 
a round Httle button and this protuberance repeating 
itself twentyfold on the surface of the stove excited un- 
failingly her playful humor, though it also heightened 
her discomfort when leaning against it. 

In the midst of her fit of laughter, however, at this 
harmless blunder poor Kuengolt was invariably over- 
come by the weight of her misery, which would con- 
strict heart and throat alike, and this conflict of 
thought and impressions produced a keen physical 
pain, so that her eyes grew wet and her face would 
look like that of a person wanting to sneeze yet unable 
to. So that at last she avoided looking at all at this 
particular group. 

Meanwhile the great battle of Murten had also 
been fought, and at the same time Kuengolt's term 
of imprisonment was ended. Dietegen had given 
instructions for herself and Violande to keep house 
provisionally at the forestry lodge. Violande of 



176 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

late had become rather modest, contrite and well- 
behaved, for to her feminine sense of pride it had 
been a great gratification that the late forester, although 
he had postponed the wedding indefinitely and per- 
haps unduly, yet had wooed her and proposed marriage. 
But Dietegen himself did not remain at home. On 
the contrary, he drifted back and forth at the various 
scenes of the great war that had not yet ended. 

And it must be owned that he, too, during all these 
troublous times, was not without faults. The rude 
customs of war, combined with the ever gnawing 
grief of what he had lost of his one-time hopes, had 
molded him afresh, so that a certain savagery and 
relentlessness had crept into the very fibre of his 
being. He joined that throng of adventurous young 
lads who under the name of "The Giddy Life" had 
started out on their own behalf to force the town of 
Geneva to pay out that amount of ransom which in 
the peace treaty was specified as its share. Out of 
Burgundian booty that had fallen to him he had had 
luxurious garments fashioned for himself. Trailing 
behind the banner of the Wild Boar (token of the 
aforementioned wild brotherhood) he wore a magnifi- 
cent surcoat of roseate Burgundian damask, and the 
cross of the Swiss Federation on chest and back was 
made of heavy argent stuff and trimmed with seed 
pearls. His broad velvet hat was all about covered 
by a load of waving ostrich plumes, taken from knightly 
plunder in camps stormed during the campaign. 



DIETEGEN 177 

Poniard and sword were suspended from costly girdles 
ornamented with blood-red rubies or emeralds. And 
beside a ponderous musket he carried a long spear 
which he used to balance himself with when striding 
along. His broad shoulders and straight, sinewy 
body looked formidable when his hawk eyes peered 
forth under his beplumed hat at a cowardly braggart 
or in order to strike terror in controversy. He was 
fond those days of seizing perhaps a shrieking maid 
by her braids, glancing a moment at her startled face, 
and then letting her go again at a venture. 

Dressed up in this gorgeous style he had also, before 
joining the companions of The Giddy Life, paid a 
short call at the forestry lodge of Seldwyla. He was 
the very image of a nobly descended, pure-blooded 
warrior, so bold and strong, elastic and sure of himself 
he seemed. 

When Kuengolt saw him thus, receiving from him 
just one short cold smile in passing, such as stern war 
had fixed on his features, her eyes were dazzled. And 
while subsequently he was in foreign parts she loved 
nothing better than to ponder the past and to live 
over in her thoughts the happy days of her childhood. 
And almost at all times her recollection dwelt upon 
that hour up on the steep slope where the Seldwyla 
ladies had caressed and fondled little Dietegen, clad 
in nothing but his poor sinner's shift and just escaped 
from an ignominious death; how they had crowned 
him with wildflowers, and made him their darling. 



178 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Then she would hasten up to the summit of that hill, 
and would scan the far horizon towards the Southwest 
where, as people said, that unconquerable throng of 
youths, with him amongst them, was doing deeds of 
valor. 

But in that same mountainous landscape, bifurcated 
as it was by the Ruechenstein territorial limits, that 
ominous scribe, Schafuerli, was frequently roaming 
about. This man was still thirsting for revenge 
because of the injury done his soul and his reputation 
alike, as he deemed; for though he had escaped that 
time any penalty he was yet looked upon with dis- 
favor by most of the Ruechenstein citizens on account 
of the homicide committed by him. He still lived in 
hopes, therefore, of making amends by capturing 
the "witch" and turning her over for expiation to the 
authorities of his home town. When then one day 
poor Kuengolt was seated carelessly upon the very 
boundary line stone, deep in her meditations, with her 
feet resting on Ruechenstein soil, the vengeful hunch- 
back quickly stepped out from some bushes, and assisted 
by a municipal guard, took her prisoner and brought 
her securely bound to Ruechenstein itself. And 
there she had to submit a second time to a penal 
trial for having with her witchery caused the death, 
wholly unatoned according to their notions, of the 
burgomaster's son. 

In Seldwyla there was, notably in those stirring 
war times, nobody who felt at all any obligation to 



DIETEGEN 179 

interfere in her behalf, even if there had been much 
of a hope for her. Hence the rumor soon spread that 
Kuengolt's life would soon pay the forfeit. 

And it was Violande, once false and wicked, who now 
alone began to bestir herself for the rescue of her 
young relative. Pity and repentance moved her 
to the resolve to go in search of the only human being 
from whom prompt aid might be expected. Thus 
she went off, being on her errand night and day, ever 
going in a southwesterly direction, in order to find that 
band of overbold adventurers yclept "The Giddy 
Life," with Dietegen in their midst, as she knew. 
And since rumor was at all times quite busy with that 
mettlesome brotherhood she soon found herself in 
the right neighborhood, and at last came across Diete- 
gen himself, just as he was throwing dice for money 
and booty with some of his hardy companions in a 
tavern. 

Violande at once let him know about the ill-starred 
excursion of Kuengolt and about the danger now 
threatening her on the part of the Ruechensteiners, and 
against her own expectation he listened attentively. 
But his reply was discouraging. 

"I am powerless to do anything in this case," he 
remarked, rather coldly. "For this is a matter of law, 
and since the Seldwyla people themselves do not 
choose to intervene, I should not be able to find even 
ten trusty comrades-in-arms to follow me and help 
free the child." 



i8o SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Violande, though, with that special knowledge which 
she had acquired from her former experiences, inter- 
rupted him. 

"There is no need of force in this case," quoth 
she. "The Ruechenstein people have from old a 
law which says that any woman sentenced to death 
may be saved by a man and delivered over to him if 
he is willing and able to wed her on the spot." 

Dietegen gazed at Violande long and in amazement 
wearing the while his sneering soldier's smile. 

At last he spoke. 

"I am then to marry a sort of courtesan," he growled 
darkly, twirling his small moustache daintily and 
putting on an incredulous mien, while yet at the 
same time a look of tenderness beamed forth from his 
eyes. 

"Do not say so," put in Violande, "for it is not so." 

And bursting into tears she seized Dietegen's hand, 
and continued: "In so far as she is to blame it is my 
own fault. Let me here confess it, that I wished to 
separate you and her, for I wanted you two out of the 
house in order to marry the father. And that is why 
I led the child into all sorts of folly." 

"But she ought not to have let you do so," exclaimed 
Dietegen. "Her parents indeed came of good stock 
and deserved respect, but she has gone astray." 

"But I swear to you on my hope of salvation," cried 
Violande, "it is as if a cleansing fire had passed over 
her, and all that once disfigured her has been removed. 



DIETEGEN i8i 

She is good and true, and she is so much in love with 
you that she long ago would have died if you also had 
left this world like her father. Besides, have you quite 
forgotten what you owe her? Would you now stand 
here in front of me, strong and handsome, if she had 
not rescued you out of the hangman's coffin? And 
mind you too of Kuengolt's kind mother and of her 
excellent father, who have educated and loved you 
like their own son. And are you entitled to be judge 
over the failings of a frail woman? Have you your- 
self never done wrong? Have you never slain a man 
in battle when there was no need of it? Have you 
never laid in ashes the hut of a defenceless and poor 
person during these wars? And even though you 
have not done any of these things, have you always 
shown mercy where you might?" 

At this earnest plea Dietegen reddened, and then 
said: "I will not owe anything I can pay off, and will 
leave no debts behind me. If it be as you say re- 
garding this Ruechenstein legal custom, I will go and 
help the child and take her to my heart. May God 
then help me and her if she is no longer able to conduct 
herself properly!" 

Then Dietegen gave a sum of money to Violande, 
who was quite exhausted from the fatigues of her 
journey, and who needed rest and nourishment to 
strengthen herself for her return home. But he him- 
self, only seizing his weapons, started off instantly 



i82 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

right across the country, and had no rest or sleep until 
he discerned the dark towers and walls of Ruechen- 
stein rising before his eyes. 

There they had not delayed matters. They had, 
after the lapse of a few days consumed with legal 
formalities, condemned Kuengolt, who had mean- 
while been confined in an old tower, to death. But 
inasmuch as her father had been of blameless life and 
reputation and had, moreover, fallen as a hero 
battling for his country, the sentence was that she 
would, as a sign of unusual mercy, be merely beheaded, 
instead of being brought from life to death by fire 
or the wheel, or by some other of their customary 
procedures. 

Accordingly she was taken to the place of execution, 
just outside the great gate of the town, barefooted 
and clothed in nought but a delinquent's shift. All 
adown her back and neck floated her heavy golden 
strands of hair. Step for step she went her death path, 
in the midst of her tormentors, several times stumbhng, 
but of good heart and steady courage, since she had 
quite submitted to her sad fate and had abandoned 
all hope of life or happiness. 

"Thus luck may turn!" she was saying to herself, 
with a slight smile, but just then she was thinking 
again of Dietegen, and sweet tears rained down her 
cheeks. Memory came back to her of how he owed his 
vigorous life to her, and, so good and unselfish she had 
grown in adversity, she felt glad of it and kindly 
towards him. 



DIETEGEN 183 

Already she had been placed in the fatal chair and 
was, in a sense, thankful of the chance to renew her 
drooping strength before receiving the death stroke. 
For the last time she gazed ahead at the glories of the 
land, at the hazy chain of mountains and the dark- 
some woods. Then the headsman tied up her eyes, 
and was on the point of cutting off the wealth of her 
hair, or as much of it as protruded from under the 
cloth. But he held his hand, for Dietegen was there, 
only a short distance away, shouting with all his 
strength and waving his spear and hat to draw atten- 
tion. At the same time, though, to insure delay, 
he tore his musket from the shoulder and sent a shot 
over the executioner's head. Astonished and af- 
frighted both judges and headsman stopped in their 
doings, and all around the spectators took firm hold 
of their weapons. But Dietegen did not hesitate. 
In a few bounds he had arrived at the place, and had 
climbed to the bloody scaffold, so that under his 
weight it nearly broke. Seizing Kuengolt in her 
chair by the hair and shoulder, since her hands were 
already fastened behind, he for a moment had to re- 
cover his breath before being able to speak. 

The Ruechensteiners, as soon as assured that there 
was but a single man and that no murderous attack 
was intended, grew attentive and waited for further 
developments. When at last he had stated his busi- 
ness, the judges retired to take counsel. 

Not only their own habit of always strictly con- 



i84 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

forming with customs firmly rooted in the past, but 
also the reputation enjoyed by Dietegen himself in 
those warlike days and his whole appearance and 
demeanor, were in favor of adjusting this matter 
according to his wishes, once the first annoyance at the 
unceremonious interruption of so solemn a spectacle 
as an execution had been overcome. Even the ran- 
corous scribe, Hans Schafuerli, who had put in an 
appearance to make sure of the death of the witch, 
hid from the grim man of war, whose heavy hand he 
feared despite his ordinarily daring temper. 

The same priest who a short while back had been 
praying for the poor delinquent, now was told to per- 
form the wedding ceremony on the very scaffold 
itself. Kuengolt was untied, placed upon her swaying 
feet, and then asked whether she was willing to marry 
this man who sought her as his lawful wife, and to 
follow him through life. 

Mute she looked up to him who, after the cloth 
had been removed from her eyes was the first object 
she saw again of this world that she had taken leave 
from a few moments before, and it seemed to her 
that it must all be a delicious dream. But in order 
to miss nothing even if it should only turn out a dream, 
she nodded, being still unable to speak, with great 
presence of mind, three or four times in rapid suc- 
cession, in a ghost-like manner, so that the severe 
councilmen of Ruechenstein were touched, and to 
make quite sure she repeated her nodding another 



DIETEGEN 185 

few times. And tremblingly Kuengolt was supported 
during the wedding ceremony by the same sinister 
men who had come to witness her shameful death. 
But she became his wife according to all the established 
forms of the Church. 

And now, this done, she was handed over to Dietegen 
"with life and limb," as the phrase went, just as she 
was, without any later claim of dowry or recompense, 
damages, or excuse, against his payment of fees for the 
priest and of money for ten gallons of wine for heads- 
man and assistants, as a wedding gift, and of three 
pounds of pennies for a new jerkin for the headsman. 

After paying all this, Dietegen took his wife by the 
hand and left with her the place of execution. 

Since he had to take her, however, just as she was, 
and she was not only barefooted but merely clad in 
her death shift, the season also being early and the 
weather chilly, she was suffering from this and unable 
to keep step with her husband. He lifted her, there- 
fore, from the ground to his arms, pushed his hat back 
from his forehead, and then she put her arms around 
his neck, leaned her head against his, and immediately 
fell asleep, while he used his long spear as a staff in 
his other hand. Thus he walked swiftly along on the 
mountain path, all alone by himself, and he felt how 
in her sleep she was weeping softly, and how her breath 
grew less agitated. At last her tears ran along his 
own face, and then a strange illusion as though blessed 
bliss were baptising him anew came over him. And 



i86 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

this rough, war-hardened man, for all his self-command, 
felt his own tears staining his ruddy bearded chin. 
His was the Hfe he bore in his arms, and he held it 
as if God's whole world were in his keeping. 

When they arrived on the spot where he himself, 
a small child, had sat among the women in his scanty 
garb and where more recently poor Kuengolt had been 
taken prisoner, the March sun shone clear and warm, 
and he concluded to take a short rest. Dietegen 
sat down on the boundary stone, and let his burden 
slowly glide down on his knees. The first glance 
which she gave him, and the first poor words which 
she stammered, were proof to him that he not only 
had truly fulfilled a sacred duty towards her by what 
he had done, but that in addition he had undertaken 
another, an even more sacred one, namely, to conduct 
himself through life in such a manner as to be worthy 
of the happy lot that had fallen to him in becoming 
the husband of the charming creature at his side. 
And this he silently vowed to do. 

The soil around the boundary stone was already 
thickly speckled with primroses and wild violets, 
the sky was cloudless, and not a sound broke the 
still air but the cheery song of the finches in the wood. 

So they spoke no more for some time, but both 
breathed the soft air that filled their lungs with new 
hope and life, but at last they rose, and because from 
now on there was but the velvety moss-covered ground 
to traverse which led through the beeches down to 



DIETEGEN 187 

the forestry lodge, Kuengolt was able to walk by his 
side. Suddenly she touched her golden hair, being 
afraid that it had been shorn by the headsman. But 
as she still found it unharmed, she halted for a mo- 
ment, saying: "May I not have a little bridal wreath?" 
And she looked at her husband with a half-roguish 
smile. 

He let his eyes roam all about him, and discovered 
a bunch of snowdrops in full bloom. Quickly he went 
and cut off enough of the flowers to weave into a 
coronet for his bride, and then he carefully placed 
it on her head, saying: "It is not much. It is out 
of fashion. But let this wreath be a token to us and 
all the world that our domestic honor will remain 
as spotless as these. Whoever by word or deed will 
harm it, let him pay the penalty!" 

Then he kissed her once, firmly and with a look that 
boded ill to any disturber of his peace, right under 
the wreath, and she looked up at him, satisfied and 
with confidence, and then they two resumed again 
their walk. 

The forestry lodge they found empty and deserted. 
The house servants had left it unguarded, partly 
from mourning Kuengolt whose death on the scaffold 
they had assumed as certain, partly from neglect of 
their duty. None of them returned under its roof that 
day. But Kuengolt and Dietegen did not miss them. 
She now with every minute recovered more and more 
from the numbing effects of her recent miseries, and 



i88 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

to feel herself at last in truth the mistress of this house 
and clothed with wifely dignity poured balm into her 
soul. Like a squirrel she busied herself, hurried 
from chamber to chamber, from closet to closet, 
counting her treasures, investigating all. Soon she 
returned dressed in the splendid bridal costume of 
her mother, the one she had told Dietegen about that 
night when they, both small children, had shared the 
same cot on the night of his first arrival, and she 
shone like a queen in it. But next she set the table, 
using the linen which her mother had always reserved 
for festive occasions, and placed in platters and dishes 
on the snowy surface what she had been able to find 
in the house. 

All by themselves, with no noise from the outside 
world to disturb them, they then sat down, she in her 
wreath, and he with weapons laid aside, and ate the 
simple meal prepared by her. And then they went 
to bed just as peacefully. 

"Thus luck may turn!" she said, the second time that 
day, as she lay content by the side of her beloved. 
For after all there was a bit of roguishness left in her 
heart, despite all she had gone through. 

Dietegen rose to be a man of great and generally 
acknowledged reputation as a warrior and military 
leader in those troubled days. He was not much 
better than others of his ilk in those times, but rather 
subject to similar failings. He became a doughty 



DIETEGEN 189 

captain in the field, taking service with or against 
various countries and belligerents, according to what 
seemed to him good and where his own advantage 
lay. He hired mercenaries, earned gold and rich 
booty, and so he drifted from one war to another, 
conducted one campaign after the other, always 
fighting and seeing the horrors of warfare closely. 
And in so doing he did precisely what the first men of 
his country did in those warlike days, and he grew 
steadily in power and influence, and his word and his 
mailed fist were held in awe in all those parts. 

But with his wife he lived in uninterrupted con- 
cord and affection, and the honor of his hearth was 
never questioned. And she bore him a number of 
strong and militant children, all endowed with the 
vigorous spirit alive in father and mother. And of 
their descendants there are flourishing even at this 
day a number in sundry countries, rich in substance 
and potency, in countries whither the warlike gifts 
of their forbears had blown them. 

Violande on her part soon after Dietegen's and 
Kuengolt's union, which latter had been in such 
large part brought about by herself, retired to a veri- 
table convent, and became a nun for good and all. 
To the children of the couple she sent quite often 
all sorts of goodies and tidbits. She also rather re- 
tained her habit of being interested in the great events 
of the day, and in influencing them by dint of feminine 
intrigues more or less. She liked to sit along with 



iQO SELDWYLA FOLKS 

other guests of distinction, respected as a woman 
of shrewd and subtle mind and with a huge golden 
cross on her bosom, on banquet days at Dietegen's 
house, and she would demurely advise Dietegen, 
now adorned not only with a long and majestic beard, 
but also with the heavy golden chain denoting knight- 
hood, in matters of state. Her counsel would still 
flow as mellifluously as ever, and her politeness re- 
mained proverbial. 

How Kuengolt looked at the beginning of the six- 
teenth century, after many years of happy married 
life, may still be studied from the painting of a great 
artist which hangs among others in a well-known 
collection and which is expressly designated as her 
portrait. One sees there a slim elegant patrician 
woman, the beautiful lineaments of the face bespeak- 
ing plainly deep seriousness and uncommon under- 
standing, but tempered by a gentle and somewhat 
roguish humor. 

She also died before old age had claimed her, like 
her mother in consequence of a chill. That was when 
her husband, in one of the campaigns for the posses- 
sion of Milan, had perished and was buried in the 
cemetery next a small chapel in Lombardy. Kuengolt 
hastened there, intending to have a monument in his 
honor erected; but indeed she spent two long nights 
at his tomb, with a ceaseless rainstorm raging, thus 
contracting a fever that carried her off within a couple 
of days, and she thus lies next to her husband in 
Italian soil. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 

NEAR the fine river which flows along half an 
hour's distance from Seldwyla, rises in a long 
stretch a headland which finally, itself carefully culti- 
vated, is lost in the fertile plain. Some distance 
away at the foot of this rise there lies a village, to 
which belong many large farms, and across the hillock 
itself there were, years ago, three splendid holdings, 
like unto as many giant ribbons, side by side. 

One sunny September morning two peasants were 
plowing on two of these vast fields, the two which 
stretched along the middle one. The middle one 
itself seemed to have lain fallow and waste for a long, 
long time, for it was thickly covered with stones, bowl- 
ders and tall weeds, and a multitude of winged insects 
were humming around and over it. The two peasants 
who on both sides of this huge wilderness were fol- 
lowing their plows, were big, bony men of near forty, 
and at the first glance one could tell them as men of 
substance and well-regulated circumstances. They 
wore short breeches made of strong canvas, and every 
fojd in these garments seemed to be carved out of 
rock. When they hit against some obstacle with 
their plow their coarse shirt sleeves would tremble 



194 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

slightly, while the closely shaved faces continued to 
look steadfastly into the sunlight ahead. Tranquilly 
they would go on accurately measuring the width 
of the furrow, and now and then looking around them 
if some unusual noise reached their ears. They would 
then peer attentively in the direction indicated, while 
all about them the country spread out measureless 
and peaceful. Sedately and with a certain uncon- 
scious grace they would set one foot before the other, 
slowly advancing, and neither of them ever spoke a 
word unless it was to briefly instruct the hired man who 
was leading the horses. Thus they resembled each 
other strongly from a distance; for they fitly repre- 
sented the peculiar type of people of the district, and 
at first sight one might have distinguished them from 
each other only by this one fact that he on the one 
side wore the peaked fold of his white cap in front and 
the other had it hanging down his neck. But even 
this kept changing, since they were plowing in oppo- 
site directions; for when they arrived at the end of 
the new furrow up on high, and thus passed each other, 
the one who now strode against the strong east wind 
had his cap tip turned over until it sat in the back of 
the bull neck, while the second one, who had now 
the wind behind him, got the tip of his cap reversed. 
There was alsa a middling moment, so to speak, when 
both caps of shining white seemed to flare skywards 
like shimmering flames. Thus they plowed and plowed 
in restful diligence, and it was a fine sight in this 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 195 

still golden September weather to see them every 
short while passing each other on the summit of 
the hill, then easily and slowly drifting farther and 
farther apart, until both disappeared like sinking stars 
beyond the curve of the rise, only to reappear a bit 
later in precisely the same fashion. 

When they found a stone in their furrows they threw 
it on the fallow field between them, doing so leisurely 
and accurately, like men who have learnt by habit 
to gauge the correct distance. But this occurred 
rarely, for this waste field was apparently already 
loaded with about all the pebbles, bowlders and rocks 
to be discovered in the neighborhood. 

In this quiet way the long forenoon was nearly spent 
when there approached from the village a tiny vehicle. 
So small it looked at first when it began to climb up 
the height that it seemed a toy. And indeed, it was 
just that in a sense, for it was a baby carriage, painted 
in vivid green, in which the^cJiildreJX-QfJthe jtwo plowers, 
a sturdy little youngster and a slip of a small girl, 
jointly brought the lunch for their parent's delectation. 
For each of the two fathers there lay a fine appetizing 
loaf in the cart, wrapped neatly in a clean napkin, 
a flask of cool wine, with glasses, and some smaller 
tidbits as well, all o^ which the tender farmer's wife 
had sent along for the hard-working husband. But 
there were other things as well in the little vehicle: 
apples and pears which the two children had picked 
up on the way and out of which they had taken a bite 



196 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

or so, and a whplly-. naked (doU with only one leg and 
a face entirely soiled and besmeared, and which sat 
self-satisfied in this carriage like a dainty young 
lady and allowed herself to be transported in this 
way. This small vehicle after sundry difficulties 
and delays at last arrived in the shade of a high growth 
of underbrush which luxuriated there at the edge of 
the big field, and now it was time to take a look at the 
two drivers. One was a boy of seven, the other a 
little girl of five, both of them sound and healthy, and 
else there was nothing remarkable about them except 
that they had very fine eyes and the girl, besides, a 
rather tawny complexion and curly dark hair, and the 
expression of her little face was ardent and trustful. 

The plowers meanwhile had also reached once more 
the top, given their horses a provender of clover, and 
left their plows in the half-done furrow; then as good 
neighbors they went to partake jointly of the tempt- 
ing collation, and meeting there they gave greeting, 
for until that moment they had not yet spoken to 
each other on that day. 

While they ate, slowly but with a keen appetite, 
and of their food also shared vith the children, the 
latter not budging as long as there were eatables in 
sight, they allowed their glances • o roam near and far, 
and their eyes rested on the town lying there spread 
out in its wreath of mountains, with its haze of shiny 
smoke. For the plentiful noond?y meal which the 
Seldwylians prepared each and every day used to 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 197 

conjure up a silvery cloud of smoke surrounding the 
roofs and visible from afar, and this would float right 
along the sides of their mountains. 

"These loafers at Seldwyla are again living on the 
fat of the land," said Manz, one of the two peasants, 
and Marti, the other, replied: "Yesterday a man 
called on me on account of these fallow fields." 

"From the district council? Yes, he saw me too," 
rejoined Manz. 

"Hm, and probably also said you might use the 
land and pay the rental to the council?" 

"Yes, until it should have been decided whom the 
land belongs to and what is to be done with it. But 
I wouldn't think of it, with the land in the condition 
it's in, and told him they might sell the land and 
keep the money till the owner had been found, which 
probably will never be done. For, as we know, 
whatever is once in the hands of the custodian at 
Seldwyla, does not easily leave it again. Besides, the 
whole matter is rather involved, I've heard. But these 
Seldwyla folks would like nothing better than to re- 
ceive every little while some money that they could 
spend in their foolish way. Of course, that they 
could also do with the sum received from a sale. How- 
ever, we here would not be so stupid as to bid very 
high for it, and then at least we should know whom 
the land belongs to." 
f^ "Just what I think myself, and I said the same 
thing to the fellow," 



.198 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

They kept silent for a moment, and then Manz 
added: "A pity it is, all the same, that this fine soil 
is thus going to waste every year. I can scarce bear 
to see it. This has now been going on for a score of 
years, and nobody cares a rap about it, it seems, for 
here in the village there is really nobody who has 
any claim to it, nor does anybody know what has 
become of the children of that hornblower, the one 
who went to the dogs." 

"Hm," muttered Marti, "that is as may be. When 
I have a look at the black fiddler, the one who is a 
vagrant for a spell, and then at other times plays 
the fiddle at dances, I could almost swear that he is 
a grandson of that hornblower, and who, of course, 
does not know that he is entitled to these fields. And 
what in the world could he do with them? To go on 
a month's spree, and then to be as badly off as before. 
Besides, what can one say for sure? After all, there 
is nothing to prove it." 

"Indeed, yes, one might do harm by interfering," 
rejoined Manz. "As it is we have to do with our 
own affairs, and it takes trouble enough now to keep 
this hobo from acquiring home rights in our com- 
mune. All the time they want to burden us with that 
expense. But if his folks once have joined the stray 
sheep, let him keep to them and play his fiddle for a 
living. How can we really know whether he is the 
hornblower's grandson or no? As far as I'm concerned, 
although I believe I can recognize the old fellow in 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 199 

his dark face, I say to myself: It is human to err, 
and the slightest scrap of a legal document, a bit of 
a baptismal record or something, would be to my 
mind better proof than ten sinful human faces.'' 

"My opinion exactly," opined Marti, "although 
he says it is not his fault that he never was baptized. 
But are we to lug our baptismal fount around in the 
woods? No indeed. That stands immovable in the 
church, and on the other hand, to carry around the 
dead we have the stretcher which is always hanging 
from the wall. As it is, we are too many now in our 
village and shall soon need another schoolmaster." 

With that the colloquy and the midday meal of the 
two peasants came to an end, and they now rose and 
prepared to finish the rest of their day's task. The 
two children, on the other hand, having vainly planned 
to drive home with their fathers, now pulled their 
little vehicle into the shade of the linden saplings 
close by, and next undertook a campaign of adventure 
and discovery into the vast wilderness of the waste 
fields. To them this wilderness was interminable, 
with its immense weeds, its overgrown flower stalks, 
and its huge piles of stone and rock. After wander- 
ing, hand in hand, for some time in the very center 
of this waste, and after having amused themselves 
in swinging their joined hands over the top of the 
giant thistles, they at last sat down in the shade of 
a perfect forest of weeds, and the little girl bega: 
to clothe her doll with the long leaves of some of these 



)t 



200 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

plants, so that the doll soon wore a beautiful habit of 
green, with fringed borders, while a solitary poppy 
blossom she had found was drawn over dolly's head 
as a brilliant bonnet, and this she tied fast^with a 
grass blade for ribbon. Now the little ^dojl looked 
exactly like a good fairy, especially after being further 
ornamented with a necklace and a girdle of small 
scarlet berries. Then she sat it down high in the cup 
on the stalk of the thistle, and for a minute or so the 
two jointly admired the strangely beautified dolly. 
The boy tired first of this and brought dolly down with 
a well-aimed pebble. But in that way dolly's finery 
got disordered, and the little girl undressed it quickly 
and set to anew to decorate her pet. But just when 
the doll had been disrobed and only wore the poppy 
flower on her head, the boy grasped the doll, and threw 
it high into the air. The girl, though, with loud 
plaints jumped to catch it, and the boy again caught 
it first and tossed it again and again, the little girl all 
the while vainly attempting to recover it. Quite 
a while this wild game lasted, but in the violent hands 
of the boy the flying doll now came to grief, and 
sustained a small fracture near the knee of her sole 
remaining limb. And from a small aperture some 
sawdust and bran began to escape. Hardly had he 
perceived that when he became quiet as a mouse, 
with open lips endeavoring eagerly to enlarge the 
little hole with his nails, in order to investigate the 
inside and find out whence the scattered bran came. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 201 

The poor little girl, rendered suspicious by the boy's 
sudden silence, now squeezed up and noticed with 
terror his efforts. 

"Just look!" shouted the boy and swung the doll's 
leg right before his playmate's nose, so that the bran 
spurted into her face. When she tried to recover 
her doll, and pleaded and shrieked, he sprang away 
with his prey, and did not desist before the whole leg 
had been emptied of its filling and hung, a mere hollow 
shell, from his hand. Then, to crown his misdeeds, 
he actually threw the remains of the doll away, and 
behaved in a rude and grossly indifferent manner 
when the little girl gathered up her treasure and put 
it weeping in her apron. 

But she took it out after a while and gazed with 
tears at what was left. When she fathomed the full 
extent of the damage, she resumed weeping, and 
it was particularly the ruined leg that grieved her; 
indeed it hung just as limp and thin as the tail of 
a salamander. 'When she wept aloud for sorrow the 
sinner evinced evidently some qualms of conscience, 
and he stood stock-still, his features suffused with 
anxiety and repentance. When she became aware 
of this state of the case, she stopped crying and struck 
him several times with her doll, and he pretended that 
she hurt him and exclaimed in a natural manner: 
"Outch!" So naturally indeed did he do so that she 
was satisfied and now engaged with him in the great 
sport of further and complete destruction. Together 



202 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

they bored hole upon hole into the martyred body, 
and let the bran out everywhere. This bran they 
collected with great pains, deposited it on a big flat 
stone, and stirred it over and over to ascertain its 
mysterious properties. ^ 

The sole part of the/ciqll still in its former state was 
the head, and thus of course it attracted the special 
attention of the two children. With great care they 
separated it from the trunk, and peered in amaze- 
ment at its hollow interior. Seeing this great hollow 
the thought occurred to them to fill it up with the 
loose bran. With their tiny baby fingers they stuffed 
and stuffed by turns the bran into the empty space, 
and for the first time in its existence this head was 
filled with something. The boy, however, evidently 
deemed the task incomplete; probably it required 
some life, something moving, to satisfy him. So he 
flj, and while he held it tight he 
instructed the little girl to let out the bran once 
more. Then he placed the fly into the hollow head, 
and stopped up the exit with a small bunch of grass. 
The two children held the head to their ears, and then 
put it solemnly upon a great rock. Since the head 
was still covered with the scarlet poppy, this receptacle 
of sound now closely resembled a soothsaying oracle, 
and the two Hstened with great respect to queer noises 
it emitted, in deep silence as if fairy tales were being 
told, holding each other close meanwhile. But every 
prophet awakens not only respect but also terror and 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 203 

ingratitude. The odd noises inside the hollow head 
aroused the human cruelty of the children, and jointly 
they resolved to bury it. They dug a shallow grave, 
and placed the head in it, without first obtaining the 
views of the imprisoned fly on it. Tjien th£y,£rect€4. 
over the grave a monument of stone, But awe seized 
them at this instance, since they had buried something 
living and conscious, and they went away from the 
scene of this pagan sacrifice. In a spot wholly over- 
grown with green herbs the little girl lay down on her 
back, being tired, and began singing, over and over 
again, a few simple words in a monotonous voice, 
and the little boy sat near and joined singing, and he, 
too, was so tired as almost to fall asleep. The sun 
shone right into the open mouth of the singing girl, 
illuminating her white little teeth, and rendered her 
scarlet lips semi-transparent. The boy saw these 
white teeth, and he held her head and curiously in- 
vestigating them he said: "Guess how many teeth you 
have." The little girl reflected for a moment, and 
then she said at random: "A hundred!" "No," said 
the boy, "two and thirty." But he added: "Wait, 
I will count them I" 

And he started to count them, and counted over and 
over, and it was at no time thirty-two, and so he 
resumed his count. The girl kept patient for a long 
time, but at last she got up and said: "Now I will 
count yours." And the boy lay down amongst the 
herbs, the little one above him, and she embraced 



204 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

his head, he opened wide his mouth, and she began 
to count: One, two, seven, five, two, one; for the 
little thing knew not yet how to count. The boy 
corrected her and instructed her how to go about it, 
and thus she also started again and again, and curiously 
enough it was precisely this little game that pleased 
them best of all that day. But at last the little girl 
sank down on the soft couch of herbs, and the two 
children fell asleep in the full glare of the noon sun. 

Meanwhile the fathers had finished their job of 
plowing and had changed the stubble field into a 
brown plain, strongly scenting the earth. When at 
the end of the last furrow the helper of one of the two 
wanted to stop, his master shouted: "Why do you 
stop? Turn up another furrow 1" "But we're done,'' 
said the helper. "Shut your mouth, and do what I 
tell you," replied the other. And they did turn once 
more and tore a big furrow right into the middle, the 
ownerless, field, so that weeds and stones flew about. 
But the peasant took no time to remove these. Prob- 
ably he considered that there was ample time for that 
some other day. He was satisfied to do the thing 
for the nonce only in its main feature. Thus he 
went up the height softly, and when up on top and the 
delicious play of the wind now turned once more the tip 
of his white cap backwards, on the other side of the 
fallow field the second peasant was just plowing a 
similar furrow, the wind having also reversed the tip of 
his cap, and cut also a goodly furrow pff from the same 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 205 

fallow field. Each of them saw, of course, what the 
other did, but neither seemed to do so, and thus they 
once more strode away one from the other, each falling 
star finally disappearing below the curve of the ground. 
Thus the woof of Fate spins its net around us, "and 
what he weaves no weaver knows." 

One harvest after another went by and the two 
children grew steadily taller and handsomer, and the h 
ownerless fields as steadily smaller between the two 
neighbors. With every new plowing the section 
between lost hither and thither one furrow, without 
there being a word said about it, and without a human 
eye apparently noting the misdeed. The ^fohefe and 
rocks became more and more compact and formed 
already a perfect and continuous ridge the whole 
length of the field, and the shrubs and weeds on it 
had already attained such an altitude that the two 
chSSren, although they, too, had grown, could no 
longer see each other across them. 

They no longer went to the field together, since 
ten-year-old Salomon, or Sali, as he was mostly called, 
now kept with the bigger boys or the men, and dusky 
Vreni,^ though a fiery little thing, had already to 
place herself under the supervision of those of her 
sex, for fear of being laughed at as a tomboy. In 
spite of all that they improved the occasion of the 
harvest, when everybody was out in the fields, to 
climb once on top of the huge stony ridge, or breast- 
*Vreni, Vreneli, Vreeli; Swiss diminutive forms of Veronica. 



2o6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

works, which ordinarily divided them, and to wage a 
toy war, pushing each other down from it, as the cul- 
mination of the battle. Even though they had no 
longer anything more to do with each other, this 
annual ceremony was maintained by them all the 
more carefully since the land of their fathers did not 
meet anywhere else. 

However, now the fallow field was to be sold, after 
all, and the sum realized provisionally kept by the 
authorities. The day came at last, and the public 
sale took place on the spot itself. But beside Manz 
and Marti there were present only a few curious ones, 
since nobody but they felt like buying the odd piece 
of ground and cultivating it between the property 
of the two peasants. For although these two belonged 
among the best farmers of the village, and had done 
nothing but what two-thirds of the others would also 
have done under like circumstances, still now they 
were looked at askance because of it, and nobody 
wanted to be squeezed in between them in the dimin- 
ished and orphaned field. For most men are so 
made as to be quite ready to commit a wrong which is 
more or less in vogue, especially if the circumstances 
of the case facihtate the wrong. But as soon as the 
wrong has been perpetrated by some one else, they are 
glad that it was not they who had been exposed to 
the temptation, and then they regard the guilty one 
almost as a warning example in regard to their own 
failings, and treat him with a delicate aversion as a 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 207 

sort of lightning rod of evil itself, as one marked 
by the gods themselves, while all the while their mouths 
are watering for the advantages thus accrued to him 
by means of his sin. 

Manz and Marti were, therefore, the only ones who 
seriously bid on the ownerless land, and after a rather 
spirited contest, during which the price was driven 
up higher than had been supposed, it was Manz 
to whom it was awarded. The officials and the 
lookers-on soon drifted away, and the two neighbors 
who had been busy on their fields after the sale, met 
again, and Marti said: "I suppose you will now put 
your land, the old and the new, together, halve it, 
and work it in that way? That, at least, is what 
I should have done if I had got the land." 

"That indeed is what I mean to do,'' answered 
Manz, "for as one single field it would not be easy 
to manage. But there is anothei: thing I want to say. 
I noticed the other day that you drove into the lower 
end of this field that has now become mine, and that 
you cut off quite a good-sized triangle. It may be 
you thought at the time that you yourself would soon 
own the whole of it and that then it would make no 
difference anyway. But since now it belongs to me,/ 
you will admit that I cannot and will not permit 
such a curtailment of my property rights, and you will 
not take it amiss if I again straighten out the right 
lines. Of course you will not. There need be no 
hard feelings on that score." 



2o8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Marti, however, replied just as coolly: "Neither 
do- I look for any trouble. For my opinion is you 
have purchased the field just as it is. We both ex- 
amined it before the sale, and of course it has not 
changed within an hour or so." 

"Nonsense," said Manz, "what was done formerly, 
under different conditions, we will not go into. But 
too much is too much, and everything has its limit, 
and must be adjusted according to reason in the end. 
These three fields have from of old been lying one next 
to the other just as though marked with the measuring 
tape. You may think it funny to put in such an 
unjustifiable objection or claim. We both of us would 
get a new nickname if I let you keep that crooked end 
of it without rhyme or reason. It must come back 
where it by right belongs." 

But Marti only laughed and said: "All at once so 
afraid of what people may think? But then, it^s 
easily arranged. I have no objection at all to such 
a crooked-shaped bit of land. If you don't like it, 
all right, we can straighten it out. But not on my 
side, I swear." 

"Don't talk so strange," replied Manz with some 
heat. "Of course it will be straightened out, and that 
on your side. You can bet your bottom dollar on 
that." 

"Well, we'll see about that," was Marti's parting 
remark, and the two men separated without even 
looking at each other. On the contrary, they gazed 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 209 

steadfastly in different directions, as if something of 
enormous interest were floating in the air which it was 
absolutely necessary to keep an eye on. 

On the next day already Manz sent his hired boy, 
also a wench working for daily wage, and his own boy 
Sali out to the new field, to begin removing the weeds 
and wild growths, and to pile them up at certain places, 
so as to make the loading up and carting away of the 
crop of stones all the easier. This noted a change 
in his character, this sending the little boy, scarcely 
eleven, whom he had never before driven to hard 
work such as weeding, out to field labor, and this 
against the will of the mother. It seemed indeed, 
since he defended his order with solemn and high- 
sounding words, as if he wanted to daze his own better 
conscience. At any rate, the slight wrong thus done 
to his own flesh and blood in insisting on onerous and 
unfit labor, was but one of the consequences growing 
out of the original wrong done by him for years in 
regard to the field itself. ^ One bY_ Qne more wrong, 
more evil unfolded itself. The three meanwhile 
weeded away industriously on the long strip of ground, 
and hacked away at the queer plants that had been 
flourishing on the soil for so many years. And to the 
young people doing this hard work, albeit it taxed 
and tried their strength greatly, it really was something 
of an amusement, since it was no carefully graduated 
and scaled task, but rather a wild job of destruction. 
After piling all this vegetable refuse up in heaps and 



2IO SELDWYLA FOLKS 

letting the sun dry it, it was set afire with great jubi- 
lation and noise, and when the murky flames shot up 
and broad swaths of smoke waved irregularly, the 
young people jumped and danced about like a band of 
wild Indians. 

But this was the last festival on the ominous new 
field, and little Vreni, Marti's young daughter, also 
crept out and joined the revels. The unusual occa- 
sion and the spirit of rampant gaiety easily brought 
it about that the two playmates of yore once more 
came in contact and were happy and jolly at their 
bonfire. Other children, too, gathered, until there 
was quite a crowd of youthful, excited merrymakers 
assembled. But always it happened that, as soon 
as the two became separated in the throng, Vreni 
would rejoin Sali, or Sali Vreni. When it was she 
it was a treat to watch her face when she slipped her 
little hand in that of the boy, her animated features 
and her glowing eyes fairly brimming with pleasure. 
To both of them it seemed as though this glorious 
day could never end.' Old Manz, though, came out 
toward evening, to see what had been accomplished, 
and despite the fact that their labor had been done 
well and as directed, he scolded at the childish jolli- 
fication and drove the young people off his ground. 
Almost at the same time Marti visited his own section 
adjoining, and noticing his little daughter from afar, 
he whistled to her shrill and peremptory, and when 
she obeyed the summons in frightened haste he struck 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 211 

her harshly in the face without giving any reason. 
So that both little ones went home weeping and sad; 
yet they were both still so much children that they 
scarcely knew at this time why they were so sad or 
knew before why they felt so happy. As for the rude^, 
ness of their fathers they did not understand the 
underlying motive of it, and it did not touch their 
.hearts. 

■^ During the next days the labor became harder and 
more strenuous, and some men had to be hired for it. 
For the task was this time to load and clean off the 
huge crop of stones along the entire length of the 
field. 

There seemed to be no end to this work, and one 
would have said that all the stones in the world had 
been collected there. But Manz did not have the 
stones carted off entirely from the field, but every ^ 
load was taken to the triangular piece of ground in / 
dispute, where it was dumped. It was dumped on.^ 
the neatly plowed soil that Marti had toiled over. 
Manz had previously drawn a straight line as boundary, 
and now he loaded this spot down with all these thou- 
sands upon thousands of pebbles, rocks and bowlders 
which he and Marti had for whole decades thrown 
upon ownerless soil. The heap grew, and grew for 
days and weeks, until there was a mighty pyramid 
of stone which, as Manz felt convinced, his adversary 
would surely be loath to trouble with. Marti, in 
fact, had expected nothing of the kind. He had 



212 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

rather thought that Manz would go to work with 
his plow, as he used to do, and had therefore waited 
to see him appear in that part. And Marti did not 
hear of the rocky monument until almost completed. 
When he ran out in the full blast of his anger, and saw 
it all, he hastened home and fetched the village magis- 
trate in order to protest against the accumulation of 
stones on "his" ground, and to have the small bit of 
ground officially declared as in litigation. 

From that sinister day on the two peasants sued and 
countersued each other in court, and neither desisted 
until both were completely ruined. 

The thinking of these two ordinarily shrewd and 
fair men became fundamentally wrong and fallacious. 
They were unable to view anything henceforth as 
unrelated with their quarrel. Their arguments fell 
short of the mark in everything. The most narrow 
sense of legality, of what was permitted and what 
not, filled the head of each of them, and neither was 
able to understand how the other could seize so entirely 
without reason or right this bit of soil, in itself so 
insignificant. In the case of Manz there was added 
a wonderful sense for symmetry and parallel lines, and 
he felt really and truly shortened in his rights by 
Martins insistence on retaining hold of a fragment of 
property laid out on different geometrical lines. But 
both tallied in their conceptions in this that the other 
must think him a veritable fool to try and get the 
better of him in this particular manner, in this impu- 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 213 

dent and unparalleled manner, since to make such an 
attempt at all was perhaps thinkable in the case of 
a mere nobody, of a man without reputation and 
substance, but surely not in the case of an upstanding, 
energetic and able man, of one who was both willing 
and able to take care of his interests. And it was this 
consideration above all that rankled and festered in 
the heart of each of the two once so friendly neighbors. 
Each felt himself hurt in his quaint sense of honor, 
and let himself go headlong in the rush of passion 
and of combativeness, without even attempting at 
any time to stop the resultant moral and material 
decay and ruin. Their two lives henceforth resembled 
the torture of two lost souls who, upon a narrow board, 
carried along a dark and fearsome river, yet deal 
tremendous blows at the air, seize upon each other and 
destroy each other finally, all in the false belief of 
having seized and trying to destroy their evil fate 
itself. 

As their whole matter in dispute was in itself and 
on both sides not clean or lucid, they soon got into the 
hands of all sorts of swindlers and cutthroats, of 
pettifoggers and evil counselors, men who filled then- 
imagination with glittering bubbles, containing no 
substance whatever. And especially it was the specu- 
lators and dishonest agents of Seldwyla who found 
this case one after their own heart, and soon each of 
the two litigants had a whole train of advisers, go- 
betweens and spies around him, fellows who in all sorts 



214 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

of crooked ways knew how to draw cash money out 
of them. For the quarrel for that tiny fragment of 
soil with the stone pyramid on top on which already 
a perfect forest of weeds, thistles and nettles had grown 
anew, was only the first stage in a labyrinth of errors 
that little by httle changed the whole character and 
method of living for the two. It was singular, too, 
how in the case of two men of about fifty there could 
shoot up and become fixed an entire crop of new 
habits and morals, principles and hopes, all of a kind 
which were foreign to their former natures, how men 
who all their lives had been noted for their hard 
common-sense could become day-dreamers and gullible 
oafs. 

And the more money they lost by all this the more 
they longed to acquire more, and the less they pos- 
sessed the more persistently they endeavored to be- 
come rich and to shine before their fellows. Thus 
they easily allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by 
the clumsiest tricks, and year after year they would 
play in all the foreign lotteries of which Seldwyla 
agents were praising to them the splendid chances. 
But never so much as a dollar came their way in prizes. 
On the other hand, they forever heard of the big 
winnings in these lotteries made by others; they also 
were told that it had hung just by a hair that they 
would have done as well, and thus they were constantly 
bled by these leeches of their scantier and scantier 
means. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 215 

Now and then the rascally Seldwylians played a 
trick on the two deadly enemies which for its peculiar 
raciness was specially relished by them, the people 
of Seldwyla, that is. They would sell the two peasants 
sections of the same lottery tickets, so that Manz 
as well as Marti would build their hopes of a rich 
strike on precisely the same fallacious foundation, 
and also in the end would feel the same despondency 
from the same source. Half their time the two now 
spent in town, and there each had his headquarters 
in a miserable tavern. There they would indulge 
in foolish bragging and bluster, would drink too much 
and play the Lord Bountiful to loafers that would 
flatter the simpletons to the top of their bent, and all 
the while the dark doubt would assail them that they 
who in order not to be reckoned dunces had gone to 
law about a trifling object, had now really become 
just that and furthermore, were so reckoned by general 
consent. 

The other half of the time they spent at home,, 
morose and incapable of steady work or sober re- 
flection. Habitually neglecting their farm labor, at 
times they tried to make up for that by undue haste, 
overworking their help and thus soon unable to retain 
any respectable men in their employ. 

Thus things went from bad to worse little by little, 
and within less than ten years both of them were 
overburdened with debts, and stood like storks with 
one leg upon their farms, so that the slightest change 



2i6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

might blow them over. But no matter how else they 
fared, the hatred between them grew more intense 
every day, since each looked upon the other as the 
cause of his misfortune, as his archenemy, as his foe 
without rhyme or reason, as the one being in the world 
whom the devil purposely had invented to ruin him. 
They spat out before each other when they saw the 
adversary approaching from afar. Nobody belong- 
ing to them was permitted to speak to wife, child or 
servants of the other, on pain of instant brutal punish- 
ment. Their wives behaved differently under these 
circumstances. Marti's wife, who came of good 
family and was of a fine disposition, did not long 
survive the rapid downfall of her house and family, 
sorrowed silently and died before her little daughter 
was fourteen. The wife of Manz, on the other hand, 
altered her whole character. Only for the worse, 
of course. And to do that all she needed to do was 
to aggravate some of her natural defects, let them 
go on, so to speak, without bridling them at all. Her 
passion for tidbits and sweets became boundless; 
her love of gossip deteriorated into a veritable craze, 
and she soon became unable to tell the truth about 
anything or anybody. She habitually spoke the very 
contrary of what was in her thoughts, cheated and 
deceived her own husband, and found keen pleasure 
in getting everybody by the ears. Her original frank- 
ness and her harmless delight in satisfying her feminine 
curiosity turned into evil intrigue and the inclination 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 217 

to make mischief between neighbors and friends. 
Instead of suffering patiently under the rudeness and 
changed habits of her husband, she fooled him and 
laughed behind his back in doing so. No matter 
if he now and then behaved with cruelty to her and 
his household, she did not care. She denied herself 
nothing, became more luxurious in her tastes as his 
money affairs grew steadily more involved, and fat- 
tened on the very misfortunes that were rapidly 
leading to complete ruin. 

That with all that the two children fared any better 
was scarcely to be expected. While still mere human 
buds and incapable of meeting the harsh fate slowly 
preparing for them, they were done out of their youth 
and out of the hopes and advantages incident to their 
tender years. Vreni indeed was worse off in this 
respect than Sali, the boy, since her mother was dead 
and she was exposed in a wasted home to the tyranny 
of a father whose violent instincts found no check 
whatever. When sixteen Vreni had developed into a 
slender and charming young girl. Her hair of dark- 
brown naturally curled down to her flashing eyes; 
her swiftly coursing blood seemed to shimmer through 
the delicate oval of her dusky cheeks, and the scarlet 
of her dainty lips made a strikingly vivid contrast, 
so that everybody looked twice when she passed. 
And despite her sad bringing-up, an ardent love of 
life and an inextinguishable cheerfulness were trem- 
bling in every fibre of Vreni 's being. Laughing and 



2i8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

smiling at the least encouragement she forgot her 
troubles easily, and was always ready for a frolic and 
a romp if domestic weather permitted at all, that is, 
if her father did not hinder and torture her too cruelly. 
However, with all her lightheartedness and her buoyant 
temperament, the deepening shadows over the house 
inevitably enshrouded her all too often. She had to 
bear the brunt of her father's soured disposition, and 
she had hardly any help in trying to keep house for 
him after a fashion. On her young shoulders mainly 
rested the embarrassments of a home constantly 
threatened by importunate creditors and wild boon 
companions of her dissolute father. And not alone 
that. With the natural taste of her sex for a neat 
and clean appearance her father refused her nearly 
every means to gratify it. Thus she had great trouble 
to ornament her pretty person the way it deserved. 
But somehow she managed to do it, to possess always 
a becoming holiday attire, including even a couple of 
vividly colored kerchiefs that set off marvelously her 
darksome beauty. Full of youthful animation and 
gaiety she found it hard to mostly have to renounce 
all the social pleasures of her years; but at least this 
prevented her from falling into the opposite extreme. 
Besides, young as she was, she had witnessed the 
declining days and the death of her mother, and had 
been deeply impressed by it, so that this had acted 
as another restraint on her joyous disposition. It was 
almost a pathetic sight to observe how notwithstand- 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 219 

ing all these serious obstacles pretty Vreni instantly 
would respond to the calls of joy if the occasion was 
at all favorable, as a flower after drooping in a heavy 
rainstorm will raise its head at the first rays of the 
reappearing sun. 

Sali was not faring quite so ill. He was a good- 
looking and vigorous young fellow who knew how to 
take care of himself and whose size and physical 
strength alone would have forbidden harsh bodily 
mistreatment. He saw, of course, how his parents 
were sliding down-hill more and more, and he seemed 
to remember a time when things had been otherwise. 
He even carried in his memory the picture of his father 
as that of an upstanding, determined, serious and 
energetic peasant, while now he saw before him all 
the while a man who was a gray-headed dolt, a quar- 
relsome fool, who with all his fits of impotent rage 
and all his brag and bluster was every hour more 
and more crawling backwards like a crawfish. But 
when these things displeased him and filled him with 
shame and sorrow, although he could not very well 
understand how it all had come about, the influence 
of his mother came to deaden this feeling and to fill 
him with an unjustified hope of improvement. She 
would flatter her son in the same extravagant and 
wholly unreasonable manner which had become her 
second nature in dealing with the new troubles that 
were gradually overcoming the whole family. For in 
order to lead her life of self-indulgence the more easily 



220 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

and to have one critical observer the less, and to make 
her son her partisan, but also as a vent for her love of 
display, she contrived to let her son have everything 
he had a desire for. She saw to it that he was always 
dressed with care, and entirely too expensively for the 
means of the family, and indulged him in his pleasures. 
He on his part accepted all that without much thought 
or gratitude, since he noticed at the same time how his 
mother was juggling with and tricking his father, and 
how she was continually telling untruths and vainly 
boasting. And while thus allowing his mother to 
spoil him without paying much attention to the 
process itself, no great harm was yet done in his case, 
since he had so far not been much tainted by the vices 
and sins of mother or father. Indeed, in his youthful 
pride he had the strong wish to become, if possible, 
a man such as he recalled his own father once to have 
been, a man of substance and of rational and successful 
conduct of his life. Sali was really very much as his 
father knew himself to have been at his own age, 
and a queer remnant of respectability urged the 
father to treat his son well. In honoring him he 
seemed to honor his old self. Confused reminiscences 
at such times drifted through his beclouded soul, and 
they afforded him a species of subconscious delight. 
But although in this manner Sali escaped some of the 
natural consequences of the process of domestic 
decay which was going on around him, he was not 
able to genuinely enjoy his life and to make rational 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 221 

plans for an assured future. He felt well enough that 
he was resting on quicksand, that he was neither 
doing anything much to bring himself into a position 
of independence nor to look for any secured future; 
nor was he learning much towards that end in the 
broken-down household and on the neglected farm of 
his father. The work done there was done hap- 
hazard style, and no systematic and orderly effort was 
made to get things done in season. His best con- 
solation, therefore, was to preserve his good reputation, 
to work with a will on the farm when he could, and to 
turn his eyes away from a threatening future. 

The sole orders laid upon him by his father were'*^ 
to avoid any sort of intercourse with all that bore 
the name of Marti. All he knew about the matter 
personally was that Marti had done wrong to his 
father, and that in Marti's house precisely the same 
bitter enmity was felt towards the Manz family. 
Of the details involved in this state of affairs, of the 
manner in which the old-time good-neighborliness 
and friendship existing for so many years between 
the two families had been turned into hatred and scorn 
Sali knew nothing, these things having shaped them- 
selves at a period of his life when his boyish brain had 
been unable to grasp their true meaning. He had 
perforce been content with the verdict of his father, 
obeying the latter's prohibition to further consort 
with the Marti people without attempting to ascertain 
the underlying causes of the quarrel. So far he had 



222 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

not found it difficult to do as his father told him, 
and he did not meddle in the least with the whole 
business. He made no effort to either see or avoid 
Marti and his daughter Vreni, and while he assumed 
that his father must be in the right of it, he was no 
active enemy of the Martis. Vreni, on her part, was 
differently constituted from the lad. Having to 
suffer much more than Sali at home and feeling more 
deeply than he, woman-fashion, her almost total 
isolation, she was not so ready to let a sentiment of 
declared enmity enter her young and untried heart. 
In fact, she rather believed herself scorned and de- 
spised by the much better clad and apparently also 
much more fortunate former playmate. It was, 
therefore, only from a feeling of embarrassment that 
she hid from him, and whenever he came near enough 
to perceive her, she fled from him. He indeed never 
troubled to glance at her. So it happened that Sali 
had not seen the girl near enough for a couple of 
years to know what she was like. He had no notion 
f that she was now almost grown-up, and that she was 
distinctly beautiful. And yet, once in a while he would 
remember her as his httle playmate, as the merry 
companion of his carefree boyhood, and when at his 
home the Martis were mentioned he instinctively 
wondered what had become of her and how she would 
look now. He certainly did not hate her. In his 
memory she lived in a shadowy sort of way as a rather 
attractive girl. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 223 

^ 1 It was his father, Manz, now who first had to go 
under. He was no longer able to stave off his creditors 
and had to leave farm and house behind. That he, 
though somewhat of better means originally than his 
neighbor and foe, was first to collapse was owing to 
his wife, who had lived in quite an extravagant style, 
and then he, too, had a son who, after all, cost him 
something. Marti, as we know, had but a little 
daughter who was scarcely any expense to him. Manz 
did not know what else to do but to follow the advice 
of some Seldwyla patrons and move to town, there 

2jto turn mine host of an inn or low tavern. It is always 

^ a sad sight to see a former peasant of some substance, 
a man who has been leading for many years a life of 
unremitting toil, it is true, but also one of independence 
and usefulness, after growing old among his acres, seek 
refuge from ill-fortune in town, taking the small 
remnants of his belongings with him and open a poor, 
shabby resort, in order to play, as the last safety 
anchor, the amiable and seductive host, all the while 

' vieeling by no means in a holiday mood himself. When 
the Manz family then left their farm to take this 
desperate step, it was first apparent how poor they 
had already grown. For all the household goods that 
were loaded on a cart were in a deplorable state, 
defective and not repaired for many years. Never- 
theless the wife put on her best finery, when seating 
herself on top of the crazy old vehicle, and made a 
face of such pride as though she already looked down 



224 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

upon her neighbors as would a city lady of taste and 
refinement, while all the while the villagers peeped 
from behind their hedges full of pity at the sorry show 
made by the exodus. For Mother Manz had settled 
it in her foolish noddle to turn the heads of all Seld- 
wyla by her fine manners and her wheedling tongue, 
thinking that if her boorish husband did not under- 
stand how to handle and cajole the town folks, it 
was vastly different with herself who would soon show 
these Seldwyla people what an alluring hostess she 
would make at the head of a tavern or inn doing a 
rushing business. 

Great was her disenchantment, however, when she 
actually set eyes on this inn vaunted so much in ad- 
vance by her addled spirits. For it was located in 
a small side-street of a rather disreputable quarter 
of Seldwyla, and the inn itself was one in which the 
predecessor, one of several that had gone the same 
way, had just been forcibly ousted because of being 
unable to pay his debts. His Seldwyla patrons had, 
in fact, rented this mean public house for a few hun- 
dred dollars a year to Manz in consideration of the 
fact that the latter still had some small sums out- 
standing in town, and because they could find nobody 
else to take the place at a venture. They also sold 
him a few barrels of inferior wine as well as the fixtures 
which consisted in the main of a couple of dozen 
glasses and bottles, and of some rude and hacked 
pine tables and benches that had once been painted 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 225 

a hue of deadly scarlet and were now reduced to a 
dingy brownish tint. Before the entrance door an 
iron hoop was clattering in the wind, and inside the 
hoop a tin hand was pouring out forever claret into a 
small shoppen vessel. Besides all these luxuries there 
was a sun-dried bunch of datura fastened above the 
door, all of which Manz had noted down in his lease. 

'/'Knowing all this Manz was by no means so full of 
hopes and smiling humor as his spouse, but on the 
contrary whipped up his bony old horses, lent him by 
the new owner of his farm, with considerable fore- 
boding. The last shabby helper he had had on his 
farm had left him several weeks before, and when 
he left the village on this his present errand he had 
not failed to note Marti who, full of grim joy and 
scorn, had busied himself with some trifling task along 
the road where his fallen foe had to pass. Manz 
saw it, cursed Marti, and held him to be the sole 
cause of his downfall. But Sali, as soon as the cart 
was fairly on the way, got down, speeded up his steps 

f and reached the town along by-paths. 
' ' "Well, here we are," said Manz, when the cart had 
reached its destination. His wife was crestfallen 
when she noticed the dreary and unpropitious aspect 
of the place. The people of the neighborhood stepped 
in front of their housedoors to have a look at the new 
innkeeper, and when they saw the rustic appearance 
of the outfit and the miserable trappings, they put 
on their Seldwyla smile of superiority. WrathfuUy 



226 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Mother Manz climbed down from her high seat, and 
tears of anger were in her eyes as she quickly fled into 
the house, her limber tongue for once forsaking her. 
On that day at least she was no more seen below. 
For she herself was well aware of the sorry show made 
by her, and all the more as the tattered condition of 
her furniture could not be concealed from prying eyes 
when the various articles were now being unloaded. 
Her musty and torn beds, particularly, she felt ashamed 
of. Sali, too, shared her feelings, but he was obliged 
to help his father in unloading, and the two made 
quite a stir in the neighborhood with their rustic 
manners and speech, furnishing the curious children 
with food for laughter. These little folks, indeed, 
amused themselves abundantly that day at the ex- 
pense of the "ragged peasant bankrupts." Inside 
the house, though, things looked still more desolate; 
the place, in fact, had more the looks of a robbers' 
roost than of an inn. The walls were of badly cal- 
somined brick, damp with moisture, and beside the 
dark and poorly furnished guest room downstairs 
there were but a couple of bare and uninviting bed- 
rooms, and everywhere their predecessor had left 
behind nothing but spider's webs, filth and dust. 

That was the beginning of it, and thus it continued 
to the end. During the first few weeks indeed there 
came, especially in the evenings, a number of people 
anxious to see, out of sheer curiosity, **the peasant 
landlord,'' hoping there would be "some fun." But 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 227 

out of the landlord himself they could not get much 
of that, for Manz was stiff, unfriendly, and melancholy, 
and did not in the least know how to treat his guests, 
nor did he want to know. Slowly and awkwardly 
he would pour out the wine demanded, put it before 
the customer with a morose air, and then make an 
unsuccessful attempt to enter into some sort of con- 
versation, but brought forth only some stammered 
commonplaces, whereupon he gave it up. All the 
more desperately did his wife endeavor to entertain 
her guests, and by her ludicrous and absurd behavior 
really managed, for a few days at least, to amuse 
people. But she did this in quite a different way from 
that intended by her. Mother Manz was rather 
corpulent, and she had from her own inventive brain 
composed a costume in which to wait on her guests 
and in which she believed herself to be simply irre- 
sistible. With a stout linen skirt she wore an old 
waist of green silk, a long cotton apron and a ridiculous 
broad collar around the neck. Out of her hair, no 
longer abundant, she had twisted corkscrew curls 
ornamenting her forehead, and in the back she had 
stuck a tall comb into her thin braids. Thus made 
up she mincingly danced on the tips of her toes before 
the particular guest to be entranced, pointed her 
mouth in a laughable manner, which she thought 
was "sweet," hopped about the table with forced 
elasticity, and ser\dng the wine or the salted cheese 
she would exclaim smilingly: "Well, well, so alone? 



228 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Lively, lively, you gentlemen!" And some more of 
such nonsense she would whisper in a stilted way, for 
the trouble was that although usually she could talk 
glibly about almost anything with her cronies from 
the village, she felt somewhat embarrassed with these 
city people, not being acquainted with the subjects 
of conversation they liked to touch on. ? The Seld- 
wyla people of the roughest type who had dropped in 
for something to laugh at, put their hands before 
their mouths to prevent bursting out in her face, 
nearly suffocated with suppressed merriment, trod 
upon each other's feet under the table, and afterwards, 
in relating the matter, would say: "Zounds, that is 
a woman among a thousand, a paragon!" Another 
one said: "A heavenly creature, by the gods. It is 
worth while coming here just to watch her antics. 
Such a funny one we haven't had here for a long while." 

Her husband noticed these goings on, with a mien 
of thunder, and he would perhaps punch her in the 
ribs and say: "You old cow, what is the matter with 
you?" 

But then she gave him a superior glance, and would 
murmur: "Don't disturb me! You stupid old fool, 
don't you see how hard I am trying to please people? 
Those over there, of course, are only low fellows 
from among your own acquaintance, but if you don't 
interfere with me I shall soon have much more fashion- 
able guests here, as you'll see." 

These illusions of hers were illuminated in a room 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 229 

with but two tallow dips, but Sali, her son, went out "j 
into the dark kitchen, sat down at the hearth and / 
wept about father and mother. 

However, these first guests had soon their fill of 
this kind of sport, and began to stay away, and then 
went back to their old haunts where they got better 
drink and more rational conversation, and there they 
would laughingly comment on the queer peasant 
innkeepers. Only once in a while now a single guest 
of this type would drop in, usually to verify previous 
reports heard by him, and such a one found as a rule 
nothing more exciting to do than to yawn and gaze 
at the wall. Or perhaps a band of roystering blades, 
having heard the place spoken of by others, would 
wind up a jolly evening by a brief visit, and then there 
would be noise enough, but not much else, and the 
old couple could often not even thus be roused from 
their melancholy. For by that time both wife and 
husband had grown heartily sick of their bargain. 
The new style of living felt to him almost as lonesome 
and cold as the grave. For he who as a lifelong farmer 
had been used to see the sun rise, to hear and feel 
the wind blow, to breathe the pure air of the country 
from morning till night, and to have the sunshine come 
and go, was now cooped up within these dingy, hope- 
less walls, had to draw in his lungs with every breath 
the contaminated atmosphere of this miserable neigh- 
borhood, and when he thus dreamed day-dreams of 
the wide expanse of the fields he once owned and 



230 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

tilled, a dull sort of despair settled down on him like 
a pall. For hours and hours every day he would 
stare in a dark humor at the smoke-begrimed ceiling 
of his inn, having mostly little else to do, and dull 
visions of a future unrelieved by a single ray of hope 
would float across his saturnine mind. Insupportable 
his present life seemed to him then. Then a purpose- 
less restlessness would come over him, when he would 
get up from his seat a dozen times an hour, run to the 
housedoor and peer out, then run back and resume his 
watch. The neighbors had already given him a 
nickname. The "wicked landlord," they dubbed 
him, because his glance was troubled and fierce. 

Not long and they were totally impoverished, had 
not even enough ready money left to put in the little 
in drink and provisions needed for chance customers, 
so that the sausages and bread, the wine and liquor 
that were ordered by guests had to be got on trust. 
Often they even lacked the wherewithal to make a 
meal of, and had to go hungry for a while. It was a 
curious tavern they were keeping. When somebody 
strolled in by accident and demanded -refreshment 
they were forced to send to the nearest competitor, 
around the corner, and obtain a measure of wine and 
some food, paying for it an hour or so later when they 
themselves had been paid. And with all that, they 
were expected to play the cheerful host and to talk 
pleasantly when their own stomachs were empty. 
They were almost glad when nobody came; then each 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 231 

of them would cower in a dark corner by the chimney, 
too lethargic to stir. 

When Mother Manz underwent these sad experi- 
ences she once more took off her green silk waist, and 
another metamorphosis was noticed. As formerly 
she had shown a number of feminine vices, so now she 
exhibited some feminine virtues, and these grew with 
the evil times. She began to practice patience and 
sought to cheer up her morose husband and to encour- 
age her young son in trying for remunerative work. 
She sacrificed her own comfort and convenience even, 
went about like a happy busybody, and chattered 
incessantly merrily, all in an attempt to put some 
heart into the two men. In short, she exerted in her 
own queer way an undoubted beneficial influence on 
them, and while this did not lead to anything tangible 
it helped at least to make things bearable for the time 
being and was far better than the reverse would have 
been. She would rack her poor brains, and give this 
advice or that how to mend things, and if it miscarried 
she would have something fresh to propose. Mostly 
she proved in the wrong with her counsel, but now and 
then, in one of the many trivial ways that her petty 
mind was dwelling on she was successful. When 
the contrary resulted, she gaily took the blame, re- 
mained cheerful under discouragement, and, in short, 
did everything which, if she had only done it before 
things were past repair, might have really cured the 
desperate situation. 



232 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

In order to have at least some food in the house and 
to pass the dull time, father and son now began to 
devote their leisure time to the spo rt of fishing , that 
is, with the angle, as far as it is permissible to every- 
body in Switzerland. This, be it said, was also one 
of the favorite pastimes of those decrepit Seldwylians 
who had come to grief in the world, most of them 
having failed in business. When the weather was 
favorable, namely, and when the fish took the bait 
most readily, one might see dozens of these gentry 
wander off provided with rod and pail, and on a walk 
along the shores of the river you might see one of them, 
every little distance, angling, the one in a long brown 
coat once of fashionable make, but with his bare feet 
in the water, the next attired in a tattered blue frock, 
astride an old willow tree, his ragged felt hat shoved 
over his left ear. Farther down even you might per- 
ceive a third whose meagre limbs were wrapped in a 
shabby old dressing gown, since that was the only 
article of clothing he had left, his long tobacco pipe 
in one hand, and an equally long fishing rod in the 
other. And in turning a bend of the river one was 
apt to encounter another queer customer who stood, 
quite nude, with his bald head and his fat paunch, 
on top of a flat rock in the river. This one had, 
though almost living in the water during the warm 
season, feet black as coal, so that it looked from a 
distance as if he had kept his boots on. Each of these 
worthies had a pot or a small box at his side, in which 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 233 

were swarming angle worms, and to obtain these they 
were industriously digging at all hours of the day not 
actually employed in fishing. Whenever the sky 
began to cloud up and the air became close and sultry, 
threatening rain, these quaint figures could be seen 
most numerously along the softly rolling stream, 
immovable like a congregation of ancient saints on 
their pillars. Without ever deigning to cast a glance 
in their direction, rustics from farm and forest used 
to pass them by, and the boatmen on the river did not 
even look their way, whereas these lone fishermen 
themselves used to curse in a forlorn way at these 
disturbers of their prey. 

If Manz had been told twelve years before when he 
was still plowing with a fine team of horses across the 
hillock above the shore, that he, too, one day would 
join this strange brotherhood of the rod, he would 
probably have treated such a prophet rather roughly. 
But even to-day Manz hastened past those fishermen 
that were rather crowding one another, until he stood, 
upstream and alone, like a wrathful shadow of Hades, 
by himself, just as if he preferred even in the abode of 
the damned a spot of his own choosing. But to stand 
thus with a rod, for hours and hours, neither he nor his 
son Sali had the patience, and they remembered the 
manner in which peasants in their own neighborhood 
used to catch fish, especially to grasp them with their 
hands in the purling brooks. Therefore, they had 
their rods with them only as a ruse, and they walked 



234 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

upstream further and further, following the tortuous 
windings of the water, where they knew from of old 
that trout, dainty and expensive trout, were to be had. 

Meanwhile Marti, though he had still nominal 
possession of his farm, had likewise been drifting from 
bad to worse, without any gleam of hope. 

And since all toil on his land could no more avert 
the final catastrophe, and time hung heavy on his 
hands, he also had taken to this spoxl„j;)l.fishing. 
Instead of laboring in his neglected fields he often 
would fish for days and days at a time. Vreni at 
such times was not permitted to leave him, but had 
to follow him with pail and nets, through wet meadows 
and along brooks and waterholes, whether there was 
rain or shine, while neglecting her household labors 
at home. For at home not a soul had remained, 
neither was there any need, since Marti little by little 
had already lost nearly all his land, and now owned 
but a few more acres of it, and these he tilled either 
not at all or else, together with his daughter, in the 
slovenliest way. 

Thus it came to pass that he, too, one early evening 
was walking along the borders of a rapid and deep 
brook, one in which trout were leaping plentifully, 

iag rlnudfrj arhen without any warning he encountered 
his enemy, Manz, who was coming along on the other 
side of it. As soon as he made him out a fearful 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 235 

anger began to gnaw at his very vitals. They had not 
been so near each other for years, except when in 
court facing the judge, and then they had not been 
permitted to vent their hatred and spite, and now 
Marti shouted full of venom: "What are you doing 
here, you dog? Can't you stay in your den in town? 
Oh, you SeldwyHan loafer!'' 

," Don't talk as if you were something better, you 
scoundrel," growled Manz, "for I see you also catching 
fish, and thus it proves you have nothing better to do 
yourself 1" 

"Shut your evil mouth, you fiend," shrieked Marti, 
since to make himself heard above the rush of waters 
he had to strain his voice. "You it is who have 
driven me into misery and poverty." 

And since the willows lining the brook now also were 
shaken by the gathering storm, Manz was forced to 
shout even louder i^^'^TT that is true, then I should feel 
glad, you woodenheadl" 

And thus, a duel of the most cruel taunts went on 
from both borders of the brook, and finally, driven 
beyond endurance, each of the two half -crazed men 
ran along the steep path, trying to find a way across 
the deep water. Of the two Marti was the most 
envenomed because he believed that his foe, being 
a landlord and managing an inn, must at least have 
food enough to eat and liquor to drink, besides leading 
a jolly sort of life, while he was barely able to eke out 
a meal or two on the coarsest fare. Besides, the 



236 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

memory of his wasted farm stung him to violence. 
But Manz, too, now stepped along lively enough on his 
side of the water, and behind him his son, who, instead 
of sharing his father's grim interest in the quarrel, 
peeped curiously and amazedly at Vreni. She, the 
girl, followed closely behind her father, deeply ashamed 
at what she heard and looking at the ground, so that 
her curly brown hair fell over her flushed face. She 
carried in her hand a wooden fishpail, and in the other 
her shoes and stockings, and had shortened her skirt 
to avoid its dragging in the wet. But since Sali 
was walking on the other side and seemed to watch 
her, she had allowed her skirt to drop, out of modesty, 
and was now thrice embarrassed and annoyed, since 
she had not alone to carry all, pail, nets, shoes and 
stockings, but also to hold up her skirt and to feel 
humiliated because of this bitter and vulgar quarrel. 
If she had lifted her eyes and read Sali's face, she would 
have seen that he no longer looked either proud or 
elegant as hitherto his image had dwelt in her mind, 
but that, on the contrary, the young man also wore 
a distressed and humbled mien. 

But while Vreni so entirely ashamed and discon- 
certed kept her eyes on the ground, and SaH stared in 
amazement at this dainty and graceful being that had 
so suddenly crossed his path, and who seemed so 
weighed down by the whole occurrence, they did not 
properly observe that their fathers by now had become 
silent but were both of them striving in increased 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 237 

rage to reach the small wooden bridge a short distance 
off and which led across to the other shore. 

Just then the first forks of lightning were weirdly 
illuminating the scene. The thunder was rolling- in the 
dun clouds, and heavy drops of rain were already 
falHng singly, when these two men, almost driven out 
of their senses, simultaneously reached the tiny bridge 
with their hurried and determined tread, 'and ~as 
soon as near enough seized each other with the iron 
grip of the rustic, striking with all the power they 
could summon with clenched fists into the hateful 
face of the adversary. Blows rained fast and furious/ 
and each of the combatants gnashed his teeth with rag^. 
^ It is not a becoming nor a handsome sight to see 
elderly men usually soberminded and slow to act in 
a personal encounter, no matter whether occasioned 
by anger, provocation or self-defense, but such a 
spectacle is harmless in comparison with that of two 
aged men who attack each other with uncontrolled 
fury because while knowing the other deeply and well, 
now out of the depths of that very knowledge and out 
of a fixed belief that the other has destroyed his very 
life, seize each other with their naked fists and try 
to commit murder from unrequited revenge. But 
thus these two men now did, both with hair gray 
to the roots. More than fifty years ago they had 
last fought with each other as lads, merely out of a 
youthful spirit of rivalry, but during the half century 
succeeding they had never laid hands on each other, 



238 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

except when, as good neighbors and fellow-peasants, 
they had grasped each other's hand in peace and con- 
cord, but even that, with their rather dry and un- 
demonstrative ways, but rarely. After the first two 
or three frenzied blows, they both became silent, and 
now they struggled and wrestled in all the agony of 
senile impotence, their stiffened muscles and tendons 
stretched with the tension, murder in their glaring eyes, 
each groaning with the supreme effort to master the 
other. They now attempted, both of them, to end the 
fearsome fight by pushing the other over into the 
rushing flood below, the slender supports of the rails 
creaking under the pressure. But now at last their 
children had reached the spot, and Sali, with a bound, 
came to his father's help, to enable the latter to make 
an end of the hated foe, Marti being just about spent 
and exhausted. But Vreni also sprang, dropping 
all her burdens, to the rescue, and after the manner of 
women in such cases, embracing her father tightly 
and really thus rendering him unable to move and 
defend himself. Tears streamed from her eyes, and 
she looked with silent appeal at Sali, just at the mo- 
ment when he was about also to grasp old Marti 
by the throat. Involuntarily he laid his hand upon 
the arm of his father, thus restraining him, and- next 
attempted to wrest his father loose. The combat 
thus grew into a mutual swaying back and forth, and 
/ the whole group was impotently straining and pushing, 
without either party coming to a rest. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 239 

But during this confused jumbling the two young 
people had, interfering between their elders, more and 
more approached each other, and just at this juncture 
a break in the dark bank of clouds overhead let the 
piercing rays of the setting sun reach the scene and 
illuminate it with a blinding flash, and then it was that 
Sali looked full into the countenance of the girl, rosy 
and embeUished by the excitement. It was to Sali 
like a glimpse of another, a brighter and more heavenly 
world. And Vreni at the same instant, too, quickly 
observed the impression she had made on her one- 
time playmate, and she smiled for the fraction of a 
second at him, right in the midst of her tears and her 
fright. Sali, however, recovered himself instantly, 
warned by the energetic struggles of his father to 
shake off the restraining arm of his son. By holding 
him firmly and by speaking with authority to his 
father, he managed to calm him down at last and to 
push him out of the reach of the other. Both old 
fellows breathed hard at this outcome of their desperate 
fight, and- began again to heap insults on one another, 
finally turning away, however. Their children, though, 
were now silent in the midst of their relief. But in 
turning away and separating they for a moment 
glanced once more at each other, and their two hands, 
cool and moist from the water and the rain, met and 
each noticed a slight pressure. 

When the two old men turned from the scene, the 
clouds once more closed, darkness fell, and the rain 



240 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

now poured down in torrents. Manz preceded his 
son upon the obscured wet paths, bent to the cold 
rain, and the terrific excitement still trembled in his 
features. His teeth were chattering, and unseen 
tears of defeated hatred ran into his stubbly beard. 
He let them run, and did not even wipe them away, 
because he was ashamed of them, and had no wish 
for his son to see them. 

But his son had seen nothing. He went through 
rain and storm in an ecstasy of happiness. He had 
forgotten all, his misery and the awful scene just 
witnessed, his poverty and the darkness around him. 
In his heart there was a happy song. Light and 
warm and full of joy everything within him was. 
He felt as rich and powerful as a king's son. He saw 
nothing but the smile of a second. He saw the. beauti- 
ful face lit up by the miracle of love. And he returned 
that smile only now, a half hour later, and he laughed 
at the beautiful face and returned its gaze, looking 
into the night and storm as into a paradise, the face 
shining through the murk of rain like a guiding star. 
Indeed, he beUeved Vreni could not help noticing his 
answering smile miles away, and was smiling back at 
him. 

Next day his father was stiff and sore and would 
not leave the house, and to him the whole wretched 
meeting with his foe and the whole development of 
the enmity between them, and the long years of misery 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 241 

that had grown out of it suddenly seemed to take on 
a new form and to become much plainer, while its 
influence spread around even in his dusky tavern. 
So much so that both Manz and his wife were moving 
about like ghosts, out of one room into another, into 
the cheerless kitchen and the bedchambers, and thence 
back again into the equally bare and dark guest 
room, where not a person was to be seen all day. 
At last they both began to grumble, one blaming the 
other for things that had gone wrong, dropping into 
an uneasy slumber from time to time from which a 
nightmare would waken them with a start, and in 
which their unquiet consciences upbraided them for 
past misdeeds. Only Sali heard and saw nothing of 
all this, for his mind was entirely engrossed with 
Vreni. Still the illusion was strong with him of being 
immeasurably wealthy, but beside that he had a 
hallucination that he was powerful and had learned 
how to conduct the most complicated and important 
affairs in the world. He felt as if he knew all the 
wisdom on earth, everything great and beautiful. 
And forever there stood before his dreamy soul, clear 
and distinct, that great happening of the night before, 
that wonderful creature with her enticing smile, that 
smile which had shed a blinding flash of happiness on 
his path. The consciousness of this great adventure 
dwelt with him like an unspeakable secret, of which 
he was the sole possessor and which had fallen to his 
share direct from heaven. It afforded him constant 



242 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

food for thought and wonderment. And yet with all 
that it seemed also to him that he had always known 
this would happen to him, and as if what now filled 
him with such marvelous sweetness had always dwelt 
in his heart. For nothing is just like this happiness 
of love, this sharing of a mystery between two persons, 
which approaches human beings in the form of un- 
speakable bliss, yet in a form so clear and precise, 
sanctioned and sanctified by the priest, and endowed 
with a name so mellifluously fine that no other word 
sounds half so sweet as Love. 

On that day Sali felt neither lonesome nor unhappy; 
where he went and stood Vreni's image followed 
him and glowed in his inner self; and this without 
a moment's respite, one hour after another. But 
while his whole being was engrossed with the lovely 
image of the girl at the same time its outlines con- 
stantly became blurred, so that, after all, he lost the 
faculty of reproducing it clearly. If he had been 
asked to describe her in detail he would have been 
unable to do it. Always he saw her standing near 
him, with that wizard smile; he felt her warm breath 
and the whole indefinable charm of her presence, 
but it was for all that like something which is seen 
but once and then vanishes forever. Like something 
the potency of which one cannot escape and yet which 
one never can know. In dreaming thus he was able 
to recall fully the features of her when still a tiny 
maiden, and to experience a most pronounced pleasure 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 243 

in doing so, but the one Vreni of yesterday he could 
not recall as plainly. If indeed he had never seen 
Vreni again it might be that his memory would have 
pieced her personality together, little by little, until 
not the slightest bit had been wanting. But now all 
the strength of his mind did not suffice to render him 
this service, and this was because his senses, his eyes, 
imperatively demanded their rights and their solace, 
and when in the afternoon the sun was shining bril- 
liantly and warm, gilding the roofs of all these black- 
ened housetops, Sali almost unconsciously found him- 
self on the way towards his old home in the country, 
which now seemed to him a heavenly Jerusalem with 
twelve shining portals, and which set his heart to 
beating feverishly as he approached it. 

While on his way, though, he met Vreni's father, 
who with hurried and disordered steps was going in 
the direction of the town. Marti looked wild and 
unkempt, his gray beard had not been shorn for many 
weeks, and altogether he presented indeed the picture 
of what he was: a wicked and lost peasant who had 
got rid of his land and who now was intent on doing 
evil to others. Nevertheless, Sali under these radi- 
cally different circumstances did not regard the crazed 
old man with hatred but rather with fear and awe, as 
though his own life was in the hands of this man and 
as though it were better to obtain it by favor than 
by force. Marti, however, measured the young man 
with a black look, glancing at him from his feet up- 



244 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

wards, and then he went his way silently. But this 
encounter came most opportunely to Sali. For seeing 
the old man leaving the village on an errand it for 
the first time became quite clear to him what his own 
object had been in coming. Thus he proceeded 
stealthily on by-paths towards the village, and when 
reaching it cautiously felt his way through the small 
lanes until he had Marti's house and outbuildings 
right in front of him. 

For several years past he had not seen this spot so 
closely. For even while he still dwelt in the village 
itself he had been forbidden to approach the Marti 
farm, avoiding meeting the family with whom his 
father lived on terms of enmity. Therefore he was 
now full of wonder at what, just the same, he had had 
ample opportunity to observe in the case of his own 
father^s property. Amazedly he stared at this once 
prosperous and well-cultivated farm now turned into 
a waste. For Marti had had one section after another 
of his property sequestrated by orders of the court, 
and now all that was left was the dwelling house itself 
and the space around it, with a bit of vegetable garden 
and a small field up above the river, which latter 
Marti had for some time been defending in a last 
desperate struggle with the judicial power. 

There was, it is true, no longer any question of a 
rational cultivation of the soil which once had borne 
so plentifully and where the wheat had waved like a 
golden sea toward harvest time. Instead of that now 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 245 

there was a mixed crop sprouting: rye, turnips, wheat 
and potatoes, with some other ''garden truck" inter- 
mingling, all from seed that had come from paper 
packages left over or purchased in small quantities 
at random, so that the whole cultivated space looked 
like a negligently tended vegetable bed, in which cab- 
bage, parsley and turnips predominated. It was 
plainly to be seen that the owner of it, too lazy or 
indifferent to do his farmer's work properly, had mainly 
had in mind to raise such things as would enable him 
to live from day to day. Here a handful of carrots 
had been torn out, there a mess of cabbage or potatoes, 
and the rest had fared on for good or ill, and much of 
it lay rotting on the ground. Everybody, too, had 
been in the habit of treading around and in it all, just 
as he listed, and the one broad field now presented 
nearly the desolate appearance of the once ownerless 
field whence had grown all the mischief that had 
wrought havoc and brought the two neighbors of old 
down so low. About the house itself there was no 
visible sign at all of farm work. The stable stood 
vacant, its door hung loosely from the broken staples, 
and innumerable spider's webs, grown thick and 
large during the summer, were shimmering in the 
sunshine. Against the broad door of a barn, where 
once were housed the fruits of the field, hung untidy 
fishermen's nets and other sporting apparatus, in 
grim token of abandoned farming. In the farmyard 
was to be seen not a single chicken, pigeon or turkey, 



246 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

no dog or cat. The well only was the sole live thing. 
But even its clear water no longer flowed in a regular 
gush through the spout, but trickled through the 
broken tube, wasting itself on the ground and forming 
dark pools on the soggy earth, a perfect symbol of 
neglect. For while it would not have taken much 
time or trouble to mend the broken tube, now Vreni 
was forced to use the water she needed for her domestic 
tasks, for cooking and laundry work, from the trick- 
lings that escaped. The house itself, too, was a sad 
thing to see. The window panes were all broken 
and pasted over with paper. Yet the windows, 
after all, were the most cheerful-looking objects, for 
Vreni kept them clean and shiny with soap and water, 
as shiny, in fact, as her own eyes, and the latter, too, 
had to make up for all lack of finery. And as the curly 
hair and the bright kerchiefs made amends for much in 
her, so the wild growths stretching up toward windows 
and along the jamb of the doorsills, and almost cover- 
ing the very broken panes on the windows, gave a 
charm to this tumbledown homestead. A wilderness 
of scarlet bean blossoms, of portulac and sweet-scented 
flowers ran riot along the house front, and these in their 
vivid colors clambered along anything that would 
give them a hold, such as the handle of a rake, a stake 
or broken rod. Vreni's grandfather had left behind 
a rusty halberd or spontoon, such as were weapons 
much in vogue in his days, for he had fought as a 
mercenary abroad. Now this rusty implement had 

I 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 247 

been stuck into the ground, and the willowy tendrils 
of the beanstalk embraced it tightly. More bean 
plants groped their way up a shattered ladder which 
had leaned against the house for ages, and thence their 
blossoms hung into the windows as Vreni's curls hung 
into her pretty face. 

This farmyard, so much more picturesque than 
prosperous, lay somewhat apart from its neighbors, 
and therefore was not exposed so much to their in- 
spection. But for the moment as Sali stared and 
watched nothing human at all was visible. Sali 
thus was undisturbed in his reflections as he leaned 
with his back against the barndoor, about thirty paces 
away, and studied with attentive mien the deserted 
yard. He had been doing this for some time when 
Vreni at last appeared under the housedoor and gazed 
calmly and thoughtfully before her as if thinking 
deeply of only one matter. SaH himself did not stir 
but contemplated her as he would have done a fine 
painting. But after a brief while her eyes traveled 
towards him, and she perceived him. Then she and 
he stood without motion and looked, looked just as 
if they did not see living beings but aerial phenomena. 
But at last Sali slowly stood upright, and just as 
slowly went across the farmyard and towards Vreni. 
When he was but a step or so from her, she stretched 
out her hands toward him and pronounced only the 
one word: "Sali!" 

He seized her hands speechlessly, and then con- 



248 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

tinued gazing into her face which had suddenly grown 
pale. Tears filled her eyes, and gradually under his 
gaze she flushed painfully, and at last she said in a 
very low voice: "What do you want here, SaH?" 

"Only to see you," he replied. "Will we not be- 
come good friends again?" 

"And our fathers, Sali?" asked Vreni, turning her 
weeping face aside, since her hands had been imprisoned 
by him. 

"Must we bear the burden of what they have done 
and have become?" answered Sali. "it may be that 
we ourselves can redeem the evil they have wrought, 
if we only love each other well enough and stand to- 
gether against the future." 

"No, Sali, no good will ever come of it all," replied 
Vreni sobbingly; "therefore better go your ways, 
Sali, in God's name." 

"Are you alone, Vreni?" he asked. "May I come 
in a minute?" 

"Father has gone to town for a spell, as he told me 
before leaving," remarked Vreni, "to do your father 
a bad turn. But I cannot let you in here, because it 
may be that later on you would not be able to leave 
again without attracting notice. As yet everything 
around here is still and nobody about. Therefore, 
I beg of you, go before it is too late." 

"No, I could not leave you without speaking," 
was his answer, and his voice shook with emotion. 
"Since yesterday I have had to think of you con- 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 249 

stantly, and I cannot go. We must speak to each 
other, at least for half an hour or an hour; that will 
be a relief to both of us." 

Vreni reflected a minute. Then she said thought- 
fully: "Toward sundown I shall walk out toward our 
field. You know the one I mean — we have but the 
one left. I must pick some vegetables. I feel sure 
that nobody else will be there, because they are mow- 
ing all of them in a different direction. If you insist 
on coming, you may come there, but for the present 
go and take care nobody else sees you. Even if no- 
body at all bothers any longer about us, they would 
nevertheless gossip so much about it that father could 
not fail to hear it." 

They now dropped their hands, but once more 
seized them, and both also asked: "How do you do?" 

But instead of answering each other they repeated 
the same phrase over and over again, since they, 
after the manner of lovers, no longer were able to 
guide or control their words. Thus the only answer 
each received was given with the eyes, and without 
saying anything more to each other they finally sepa- 
rated, half sad, half joyful. 

"Go there at once," she called after him; "I shall 
be there almost as soon as yourself." 

Sali followed this advice, and went at once up the 
steep path that led to the hill where the busy world 
seemed so far away and where the soul expanded, 
to the undulating fields that stretched out far on both 



250 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

sides, where the brooding July sun shone and the 
drifting white clouds sailed overhead, where the ripe 
corn in the gentle breeze bobbed up and down, where 
the river below glinted blue, and all these scenes of 
past happiness filled his soul after a long dearth with 
peace and gentle joy, and his griefs and fears were 
left below. At full length he threw himself down 
amid the half-shade of the upstanding wheat, there 
where it marked the boundary of Marti's waste acres, 
and peered with unblinking eyes into the gold-rimmed 
clouds. 

Although scarcely a quarter hour elapsed until 
Vreni followed him, and although he had thought of 
nothing but his bliss and his love, dreaming of it and 
building castles in the air, he was yet surprised when 
Vreni suddenly stood at his side, smiling down at him, 
and with a start he rose. 

"Vreni," he exclaimed in a voice that trembled 
with love, and she, still and smiling, tendered both 
her hands to him. Hand in hand they then paced 
along the whispering corn, slowly down towards the 
river, and then as slowly back again, with scarcely 
any words. This short walk they repeated twice or 
thrice, back and forth, still, blissful, and quiet, so 
that this young pair now resembled likewise a pair 
of stars, coming and going across the gentle curve 
of the hillock and adown the declivity beyond, just 
as had once, years and years ago, the accurately 
measuring plows of the two rustic neighbors. But 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 251 

as they once on this pilgrimage lifted their eyes from 
the blue cornflowers along the edge of the field where 
they had rested, they suddenly saw a swarthy fellow, 
like a darksome star, precede them on their path, a 
fellow of whom they could not tell whence he had 
appeared so entirely without warning. Probably he 
had been lying in the corn, and Vreni shuddered, 
while Sali murmured with affright: "It's the black 
fiddler!" And indeed, the fellow ambling along be- 
fore them carried under his arm a violin, and truly, 
too, he looked swarthy enough. A black crushed 
felt hat, a black blouse and hair and beard pitchdark, 
even his unwashed hands of that hue, he made the 
impression of a man carrying along an evil omen. 
This man led a wandering life. He did all sorts of 
jobs: mended kettles and pans, helped charcoal 
burners, aided in pitching in the woods, and only 
used his fiddle and earned money that way when the 
peasants somewhere were celebrating a festival or 
holiday, a wedding or big dance, and such like. Sali 
and Vreni meant to leave the fiddler by himself. 
Quiet as mice they slowly walked behind him, thinking 
that he would probably turn off the road soon. He 
seemed to pay no attention to the two, never turning 
around and keeping perfect silence. With that they 
felt a weird influence coming from the fellow, so that 
they had not the courage to openly avoid him and 
turning aside unconsciously they followed in his 
tracks to the very end of the field, the spot where that 



252 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

unjust heap of stone and rock lay, the one that had 
started the two families on their downward road. 
Innumerable poppies and wild roses had grown there 
and were now in full bloom, wherefore this stony desert 
lay like an enormous splotch of blood along the road. 

All at once the black fiddler sprang with one jump 
on top one of the irregular ramparts of stone, the rim 
of which was also scarlet with wild blossoms, then 
turned himself around, and threw a glance in every 
direction. The young couple stopped and looked up 
at him shamefaced. For turn they would not in 
face of him, and to proceed along on the same path 
would have taken them into the village, which they 
also wished to avoid. 

He looked at them keenly, and then he shouted: 
"I know you two. You are the children of those who 
have stolen from me this soil. I am glad to see you 
here, and to notice how the theft has benefited you. 
Surely, I shall also live to see you two go before me 
the way of all flesh. Yes, look at me, you little fools. 
Do you like my nose, eh?" 

And indeed, he had a terrible nose, one which broke 
forth from his emaciated swarthy face like a beak, 
or rather more like a good-sized club. As if it had been 
pasted on to his bony face it looked and below that 
the tiny mouth, in the shape of a small round hole, 
singularly contracted and expanded, and out of this 
hole his words constantly tumbled, whistling or buzz- 
ing or hissing. His small twisted felt hat, shapeless 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 253 

and shabby, pushed over his left ear, heightened the 
uncanny e£fect. This piece of his apparel seemed to 
change its form with every motion of the queer- 
looking head, although in reality it sat immovable 
on his pate. And of the eyes of this strange fellow 
nothing was to be noticed but their whites, since the 
pupils were flashing around all the time, just as though 
they were two hares jumping about to escape being 
seized. 

"Look at me well," he then continued. "Your 
two fathers know all about me, and everybody in 
the village can identify me by my nose. Years ago 
they were spreading the rumor that a good piece of 
money was awaiting the heir to these fields here. I 
have called at court twenty times. But since I had 
no baptismal certificate and since my friends, the 
vagrants, who witnessed my birth, have no voice that 
the law will recognize, the time set has elapsed, and 
they have cheated me out of the little sum, large 
enough all the same to permit my emigrating to a 
better country. I have implored your fathers at that 
time, again and again, to testify for me to the effect 
that they at least believed me, according to their 
conscience, to be the rightful heir. But they drove 
me from their farms, and now, ha! ha! ha! they them- 
selves have gone to the devil. Well and good, that 
is the way things turn out in this world, and I don't 
care a rap. And now I will just the same fiddle if 
you want to dance." 



254 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

With that he was down again on the ground beside 
them, at a mighty bound, and seeing they did not 
want to dance he quickly disappeared in the direction 
of the village; there the crop was to be brought in 
towards nightfall, and there would be gay doings. 

When he was gone the young couple sat down, 
discouraged and out of spirits, among the wilderness 
of stone. They let their hands drop and hung their 
poor heads too. For the sudden appearance of the 
vagrant fiddler had wiped out the happy memories 
of their childhood, and their joyous mood in which 
they, like they used in their younger days, had wan- 
dered about in the green and among the corn, had 
gone with him. They sat once more on the hard 
soil of their misery, and the happy gleam of childhood 
had vanished, and their minds were oppressed and 
darkened. 

But all at once Vreni remembered the fiddler^s 
nose, and his whole odd figure, and she burst out 
laughing loud and merry. She exclaimed: "The poor 
fellow surely looks too queer. What a nose he had!" 
And with that a charmingly careless merriment flashed 
out of her brown eyes, just as though she had only 
been waiting for the fiddler's nose to chase away all 
the sad clouds from her mind. Sali, too, regarded 
the girl, and noticed this sunny gaiety. But by that 
time Vreni had already forgotten the immediate 
cause of her gleefulness, and now she laughed on her 
own account into Sali's face. Sali, dazed and aston- 



I 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 255 

ished, involuntarily gazed at the girl with laughing 
mouth, like a hungry man who suddenly is offered 
sweetened v/heat bread, and he said: *' Heavens, 
Vreni, how pretty you are!" 

And Vreni, for sole answer, laughed but the more, 
and out of the mere enjoyment of her sweet temper 
she gurgled a few melodious notes that sounded to the 
boy like the warblings of a nightingale. 

"Oh, you little witch," he exclaimed enraptured, 
"where have you learned such tricks? What sorcery 
are you applying to me? " 

"Sorcery?" she murmured astonished, in a voice 
of sweet enchantment, and she seized Sali's hand anew. 
"There's no sorcery about this. How gladly I should 
have laughed now and then, with reason or without. 
Now and then, indeed, all by myself, I have laughed 
a bit, because I couldn't help it, but my heart was not 
in it. But now it's different. Now I should like to 
laugh all the time, holding your hand and feeling 
happy. I should like to hold your hand forever, and 
look into your eyes. Do you too love me a little bit? " 

"Ah, Vreni," he answered, and looked full and 
affectionately into her eyes, "I never cared for any 
girl before. And I have never until now taken a good 
look at another girl. It always seemed to me as 
though some time or other I should have to love you, 
and without knowing it, I think, you have always 
been in my thoughts." 

"And so it was in my case," said Vreni, "only more 



256 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

so. For you never would look at me and did not 
know what had become of me and what I had grown 
into. But as for me, I have from time to time, se- 
cretly, of course, and from afar, cast a glance at you, 
and knew well enough what you were like. Do you 
still remember how often as children we used to come 
here? You know in the little baby cart? What small 
folk we were those days, and how long, long ago 
that all is! One would think we were old, real old 
now. Eh?'' 

Sali became thoughtful. 

^'How old are you, Vreni?" he asked. "I should 
think you must be about seventeen?" 

"I am seventeen and a half," answered she. "And 
you?" 

"Guess!" 

"Oh, I know, you are going on twenty." 

"How do you know?" he asked. 

"I won't tell you," she laughed. 

"Won't tell me?" 

"No, no," and she giggled merrily. 

"But I want to know." 

"Will you compel me?" 

"We'll see about that." 

These silly remarks Sali made because he wanted 
to keep his hands busy and to have a pretext for the 
awkward caresses he attempted and which his love 
for the beautiful girl hungered for. But she continued 
the childish dialogue willingly enough for some time 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 257 

longer, showing plenty of patience the while, feeling 
instinctively her lover's mood. And the simple sallies 
on both sides seemed to them the height of wisdom, 
so soft and sweet and full of their mutual feelings they 
were. At last, however, Sali waxed bold and aggres- 
sive, and seized Vreni and pressed her down into the 
scarlet bed of poppies by main strength. There she 
lay panting, blinking at the sun with eyes half-closed. 
Her softly rounded cheeks glowed like ripe apples 
and her mouth was breathing hard so that the snow- 
white rows of teeth became visible. Daintily as if 
penciled her eyebrows were defined above those flash- 
ing eyes, and her young bosom rose and fell under the 
working four hands which mutually caressed and 
fought each other. Sali was beyond himself with 
delight, seeing this wonderful young creature before 
him, knowing her to be his own, and he deemed him- 
self wealthier than a monarch. 

"I see you still h^ve all your teeth," he said. "Do 
you recall how often we tried to count them? Do 
you now know how to count? '' 

"Oh, you silly,'' smilingly rejoined Vreni, "these 
are not the same. Those I lost long ago." 

So Sali in the simplicity of his soul wanted to renew 
the game, and prepared to count them over once more. 
But Vreni abruptly rose and closed her mouth. Then 
she began to form a wreath of poppies and to place it 
on her head. The wreath was broad and long, and on 
the brow of the nut-brown maid it was an ornament so 



258 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

bewitching as to lend her an enchanting air. Sali held 
in his arms what rich people would have dearly paid 
for if merely they had had it painted on their walls. 

But at last she sprang up. "Goodness, how hot 
it is here! Here we remain like ninnies and allow 
ourselves to be roasted alive. Come, dear, and let 
us sit among the cornr* 

And they got up and looked for a suitable hiding- 
place among the tall wheat. When they had found it, 
they slipped into the furrows of the field so that nobody 
would have discovered them without regular search, 
leaving no trace behind, and they built for themselves 
a narrow nest among the golden ears that topped their 
heads when they were seated, so that they only saw 
the deep azure of the sky above and nothing else in the 
world. They clung to each other tightly, and show- 
ered kisses on cheeks and hair and mouth, until at 
last they desisted from sheer exhaustion, or whatever 
one wishes to call it when the caresses of two lovers 
for one or two minutes cease and thus, right in the 
ecstasy of the blossom tide of life, there is the hint of 
the perishableness of everything mundane. They 
heard the larks singing high overhead, and sought 
them with their sharp young eyes, and when they 
thought they saw one flashing along in the sunlight 
like shooting stars along the firmament, they kissed 
again, in token of reward, and tried to cheat and to 
overreach each other at this game just as much as 
they could. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 259 

"Do you see, there is one flitting now," whispered 
Sali, and Vreni replied just as low: "I can hear it, 
but I do not see it." 

"Oh, but watch now," breathed Sali, "right there, 
where the small white cloud is floating, a hand's 
breadth to the right." 

And then both stared with all their might, and mean- 
while opened their lips, thirsty and hungry for more 
nourishment, like young birds in their nest, in order 
to fasten these same lips upon the other if perchance 
they both felt convinced of the existence of that lark. 

But now Vreni made a stop, in order to say, very 
seriously and importantly: "Let us not^ forget; this, 
then, is agreed, that each of us loves the other. Now, 
I wish to know, what do you have to say about your 
sweetheart?" 

"This," said Sali, as though in a dream, "that it is 
a thing of beauty, with two brown eyes, a scarlet 
mouth, and with two swift feet. But how it really 
is thinking and believing I have no more idea than the 
Pope in Rome. And what can you tell me about 
your lover? What is he like?" 

"That he has two blue eyes, a bold mouth and two 
stout arms which he is swift to use. But what his 
thoughts are I know no more than the Turkish sultan." 

"True," said Sali, "it is singular, but we really do 
not know what either is thinking. We are less ac- 
quainted than if we had never seen each other before. 
So strange towards each other the long time between 



26o SELDWYLA FOLKS 

has made us. What really has happened during the 
long interval since we grew up in your dear little 
head, Vreni?'^ 

"Not much," whispered Vreni, "a thousand foolish 
things, but my life has been so hard that none of them 
could stay there long." 

"You poor little dear," said Sali in a very low voice, 
"but nevertheless, Vreni, I believe you are a sly little 
thing, are you not?" 

"That you may learn, by and by, if you really 
are fond of me, as you say," the young girl murmured. 

"You mean when you are my wife," whispered 
Sali. 

At these last words Vreni trembled slightly, and 
pressed herself more tightly into his arms, kissing him 
anew long and tenderly. Tears gathered in her eyes, 
and both of them all at once became sad, since their 
future, so devoid of hope, came into their minds, and 
the enmity of their fathers. 

Vreni now sighed deeply and murmured: "Come, 
Sali, I must be going now." 

And both rose and left the cornfield hand in hand, 
but at the same instant they spied Vreni's father. 
With the idle curiosity of the person without useful 
employment he had been speculating, from the mo- 
ment he had met Sali hours before, what the young 
man might be wanting all alone in the village. Re- 
membering the occurrence of the previous day, he 
finally, strolling slowly towards the town, had hit 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 261 

upon the right cause, merely as the result of venom 
and suspicion. And no sooner had his suspicion 
taken on a definite shape, when he, in the middle of 
a Seldwyla street, turned back and reached the village. 
There he had vainly searched for Vreni everywhere, 
at home and in the meadow and all around in the 
hedges. With increasing restlessness he had now 
sought her right near by in the cornfield, and when 
picking up there Vreni^s small vegetable basket, he had 
felt sure of being on the right track, spying about, 
when suddenly he perceived the two children issuing 
from the corn itself. 

They stood there as if turned to stone. Marti 
himself also for a moment did not move, and stared 
at them with evil looks, pale as lead. But then he 
started to curse them like a fiend, and used the vilest 
language toward the young man. He made a vicious 
grab at him, attempting to throttle him. Sali in- 
stantly wrested himself loose, and sprang back a few 
paces, so as to be out of the reach of the old man, who 
acted like one demented. But when he perceived 
that Marti instead of himself now took hold of the 
trembling girl, dealing her a violent blow in the face, 
then seizing her by the back of her hair, trying to 
drag her along and mistreat her further, he stepped up 
once more. Without reflecting at all he picked up a 
rock and struck the old man with it against the side 
of the head, half in fear of what the maniac meant 
to do to Vreni, and half in self-defense. Marti after 



262 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

the blow stumbled a step or two, and then fell in a 
heap on a pile of stones, pulling his daughter down 
with him in so doing. Sali freed her hair from the 
rough grasp of the unconscious man, and helped the 
girl to her feet. But then he stood lifeless, not know- 
ing what to say or do. 

The girl seeing her father lying prone on the ground 
like dead, put her hands to her face, shuddered and 
whispered: ^'Have you killed him?" 

Sali silently nodded his head, and Vreni shrieked: 
"Oh, God, oh, God! It is my father! The poor 
man!" 

And quite out of her senses she knelt down along- 
side of him, lifted up his head and began to examine 
his hurt. But there was no flow of blood, nor any 
other trace of injury. She let the limp body drop 
to the ground again. Sali put himself on the other 
side of the unconscious old man, and both of them 
stared helplessly at the pale and motionless face of 
Marti. They were silent and their hands dropped. 

At last Sali remarked: "Perhaps he is not dead at 
all. I don't think he is dead. That blow can never 
have killed him." 

Vreni tore a leaf off one of the wild roses near her, 
and held it before the mouth of her father. The leaf 
fluttered a little. 

"He is still alive," she cried, "Run to the village, 
Sali, and get assistance." 

When Sali sprang up and was about to run off, 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 263 

she stretched out her hand towards him, and cried: 
"Don't come back with the others and say nothing 
as to how he came by his injury. I shall keep silent 
and betray nothing." 

In saying which the poor girl showed him a face 
streaming with tears of distress, and she looked at her 
lover as though parting from him forever. 

"Come and kiss me once more," she murmured. 
*'But no, get along with you. Everything is over 
between us. We can never belong to each other." 
And she gave him a gentle push, and he ran with a 
heavy heart down the path to the village. 

On his way he met a small boy, one he did not 
know, and him he bade to get some people and de- 
scribed in detail where and what assistance was re- 
quired. Then he drifted off in despair, wandering 
at random all night about the woods near the village. 

In the early morning he cautiously crept forth, in 
order to spy out how things had gone during the 
night. From several persons early astir he heard 
the news. Marti was ahve, but out of his senses, 
and nobody, it seemed, knew what really had hap- 
pened to him. And only after learning this his mind 
was so far at ease that he found the way back to town 
and to his father's tavern, where he buried himself 
in the family misery. 

Vreni had kept her word. Nothing could be learned 
of her but that she had found her father in this con- 



264 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

dition, and as he on the next day became again quite 
active, breathed normally and began to move about, 
although still without his full senses, and since, besides, 
there was no one to frame a complaint, it was assumed 
that he had met with some accident while under the 
influence of drink, probably had had a bad fall on the 
stones, and matters were left as they were. 

Vreni nursed him very carefully, never left his 
side, except to get medicine and remedies from the 
shop of the village doctor, and also to pick in the 
vegetable patch something wherewith to cook him 
and herself a simple stew or soup. Those days she 
lived almost on air, although she had to be about 
and busy day and night and nobody came to help her. 
Thus nearly six weeks elapsed until the old man re- 
covered sufficiently to take care of himself, though 
long before that he had been sitting up in bed and had 
babbled about one thing or another. But he had not 
recovered his mind, and the things he was now saying 
and doing seemed to show plainly that he had become 
weak-minded, and this in the strangest manner. He 
could recall what had happened but darkly, and to 
him it seemed something very enjoyable and laugh- 
able. Something, too, which did not touch him in any 
way, and he laughed and laughed all day long, and 
was in the best of humor, very different from what he 
had been before his accident. While still abed he 
had a hundred foolish, senseless ideas, cut capers and 
made faces, pulled his black peaked woollen cap over 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 265 

his ears, down to his nose and his mouth, and then he 
would mumble something which seemed to amuse 
him highly. Vreni, pale and sorrowful, listened 
patiently to all his stories, shedding tears about his 
idiotic behavior, which grieved her even more than 
his former malicious and wicked tricks had. But it 
would nevertheless happen now and then, that the 
old man would perform some particularly ludicrous 
antics, and then Vreni, tortured as she was by all 
these scenes, would be unable to help bursting into 
laughter, as her joyous disposition, suppressed by all 
these sad events, would sometimes rend the bounds 
which confined her, just like a bow too tightly strung 
that would break. 

But as soon as the old man could once more get out 
of bed, there was nothing more to be done. All day 
long he did nothing but silly things, was grinning, 
smirking and laughing to himself constantly, turned 
everything in the house topsy-turvy, sat down in the 
sunshine and blared at the world, put out his tongue 
at everybody that passed, and made long monologues 
while standing in the midst of the bean field. _^.--' — 

Simultaneous with all this there came also the j''^.< 
end of his ownership in the farm. Everything upon 
it had, of course, gone to wrack and ruin, and disorder 
reigned supreme. Not only his house, but also the 
last bit of land left him, pledged in court some time 
before, were now seized and the day of forced sale 
was named. For the peasant who had claims to these 



266 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

pieces of property, very naturally made use of the 
opportunities now afforded him by the illness and the 
failing powers of Marti to bring about a quick decision. 
These last proceedings in court used up the bit of cash 
still left to Marti, and all this was done while he in his 
weakness of mind had not even a notion what it was 
all about. 

The forced sale took place, and at its close, Marti 
being penniless and bereft of sense, by the action of the 
village council, it was decided to make him an inmate 
of the community asylum that had been founded many 
years before for the precise benefit of just such poor 
devils as himself. This asylum was located in the 
cantonal capital. Before he started for his desti- 
nation he was well fed for a day or two, to the eminent 
satisfaction of the idiot, who had developed an enor- 
mous appetite of late, and then was put on a cart 
drawn by a phlegmatic ox and driven by a poor peasant 
who besides attending to this community errand 
wanted to sell also a sack of potatoes at the town. 
Vreni sat down on the same vehicle alongside of her 
father in order to accompany him on this day of his 
being buried alive, so to speak. 

It was a sad and bitter drive, but Vreni watched 
lovingly over her father, and let him want for nothing; 
neither did she grow impatient when passers-by, 
attracted by the ridiculous behavior of the old man, 
would follow the cart and make all sorts of audible 
remarks on its inmates. Finally they did reach the 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 267 

asylum, a complex of buildings connected by courts 
and corridors, and where a big garden was seen alive 
with similarly unfortunate beings as Marti himself, 
all dressed in a sort of uniform consisting of white 
coarse linen blouses and vests, with stiff caps of leather 
on their foolish old heads. Marti, too, was put into 
such a uniform, even before Vreni's departure, and 
her father evinced a childish joy at his new clothes, 
dancing about in them and singing snatches of wicked 
drinking songs. 

"God be with you, my lords and honored fellow- 
inmates," he harangued a knot of them, *'you surely 
have a palace-like home here. Go away, Vreni, 
and tell mother that I won't come home any more. 
I like it here splendidly. Goodness me, what a palace! 
There runs a spider across the road, and I have heard 
him barking! Oh, maiden mine, oh, maiden mine, 
don't kiss the old, kiss but the young! All the waters 
in the world are running into the Rhine! She with 
the darkest eye. she is not mine. Already going, 
little Vreni? Why, thou lookest as though death 
were in thy pot. And yet things are looking up with 
me. I am doing fine. Am getting wealthy in my old 
days. The she-fox cries with him: Halloo! Halloo! 
Her heart pains her. Why — oh, why? Halloo! 
Halloo!" 

An official of the institution bade him hold his 
infernal noise, and then he led him away to do some 
easy work. Vreni took her leave sadly and then 



268 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

began to look up her ox cart with the peasant. When 
she had found it she climbed in and sat down and ate 
a slice of bread she had brought with her. Then 
she lay down and fell asleep, and a couple of hours 
later the peasant came and woke her, and then they 
drove home to the village. They arrived there in the 
middle of the night. Vreni went to her father's 
house, the one where she had been born and had 
spent all her days. For the first time she was all 
alone in it. Two days' grace she had to get out and 
find some other shelter. She made a fire and pre- 
pared a cup of coffee for herself, using the last rem- 
nants she still had. Then she sat down on the edge 
of the hearth, and wept bitterly. She was longing with 
all her soul to see and talk once more to Sali, and she 
was thinking and thinking of him. But mingling with 
these desires of hers were her anxieties and her fears 
of the future. Thus sat the poor thing, holding her 
head in her hand, when somebody entered at the door. 

"Sali!" cried Vreni, when she looked up and saw 
the face dearest to her in the world. And she fell on 
his neck, but then they both looked at one another, 
and they shouted: "How poorly you look!" For 
Sali was as pale and sorrowful as the girl herself. 
Forgetting everything she drew him to her on the 
hearth, and questioned him: "Have you been ill, or 
have you also fared badly?" 

"No, not ill," said Sali, "but longing for you. 
At home things are going fine. My father now has 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 269 

rare guests, and as I believe, he has become a receiver 
of stolen goods. And that is why there are big doings 
at our place, both day and night, until, I suppose, 
there will come a bad end to it all. Mother is helping 
along, eager to have guests of any kind at all, guests 
that fetch money into the house, and she tries to bring 
some order out of all this disorder, and also to make 
it profitable. I am not questioned about the matter 
at all, neither do I care. For I have only been think- 
ing of you all along. Since all sorts of vagrants come 
and go in our place, we have heard of everything 
concerning you, and my father is beside himself with 
joy, and that your father has been taken to-day to the 
asylum has delighted him immensely. Since he has 
now left you I have come, thinking you might be 
lonesome, and maybe in trouble." 

Then Vreni told him all her sorrows in detail, but 
she did this with such fluency and described the 
intimate details in such an almost happy tone of voice 
as if v/hat she was saying did not disturb her in the 
least. All this because the presence of her lover and 
his solicitude about her really rendered her happy and 
minimized her anxieties. She had Sali at her side. 
And what more did she want? Soon she had a vessel 
with the steaming coffee which she forced Sali to share 
with her. 

**Day after to-morrow, then, you must leave here?" 
said Sali. *'What is to become of you now?'' 

"I don't know," answered Vreni. "I suppose I 



270 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

shall have to seek some service and go away from here, 
somewhere in the wide world. But I know I won't 
be able to endure that without you, Sah, and yet we 
cannot come together. If there were no other reason 
it would not do because you hurt my father and 
made him lose his mind. That would always be a bad 
foundation for our wedded state, would it not? And 
neither of us would ever be able to forget that, never I" 

Sali sighed deeply, and rejoined: ''I myself wanted 
a hundred times to become a soldier or else go far 
away and hire out on a farm, but I cannot do it, 
I cannot leave you here, and after we are separated 
it will kill me, I feel sure of it, for longing for you 
will not let me rest day or night. I really believe, 
Vreni, that all this misery makes my love for you 
only the stronger and the more painful, so that it 
becomes a matter of life or death. Never did I dream 
that this should ever be my end.'' 

But Vreni, while he was thus pouring out his bur- 
dened mind, gazed at him smilingly and with a face 
that shone with joy. They were leaning against the 
chimney corner, and silently they felt to the full the 
intense ecstasy of communion of spirits. Over and 
above all their troubles, high above them all, there 
was hovering the genius of their love, that each felt 
loving and beloved. And in this beatitude they 
both fell asleep on this cold hearth with its feathery 
ashes, without cover or pillow, and slept just as peace- 
fully and softly as two little children in their cradle. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 271 

Dawn was breaking in the eastern sky when Sali 
awoke the first. Gently he woke Vreni, but she 
again and again snuggled near to him and would not 
rouse herself. At last he kissed her with vehemence 
on her mouth, and then Vreni did awaken, opened her 
eyes wide, and when she saw Sali she exclaimed: 
''Zounds, IVe just been dreaming of you. I was 
dreaming I danced on our wedding-day, many, many 
hours, and we were both so happy, both so finely 
dressed, and nothing was lacking to our joy. And 
then we wanted to kiss each other, and we both longed 
for it, oh, so much, but always something was dragging 
us apart, and now it appears that it was you yourself 
that was interfering, that it was you who disturbed 
and hindered us. But how nice, how nice, that you 
are at least close by now.'' 

And she fell around his neck and kissed him wildly, 
kissed him as if there were to be no end to it. 

"And now confess, my dear, what have you been 
dreaming?" and she tenderly caressed his cheeks and 
chin. 

"I was dreaming," he said, "that I was walking 
endlessly along a lengthy street, and through a forest, 
and you in the distance always ahead of me. Off 
and on you turned around for me, and were beckoning 
and smiling at me, and then it seemed to me I were in 
heaven. And that is all." 

They stepped on the threshold of the kitchen door 
left open the whole night and which led direct into the 



272 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

open, and they had to laugh as they now saw each 
other plainly. For the right cheek of Vreni and the 
left one of Sali, which in their sleep had been resting 
against each other, were both quite red from the 
pressure, while the pallor of the opposite cheeks was 
engrossed by the coolth of early morning. So then 
they rubbed vigorously the pale cheeks to bring them 
into consonance with the others, each performing that 
service for the other. The fresh morning air, the 
dewy peace lying over the whole landscape, and 
the ruddy tints of coming sunrise, all this together 
made them forget their griefs and made them merry 
and playful, and into Vreni especially a gay spirit of 
carelessness seemed to have passed. 

"To-morrow night then, I must leave this house,'* 
she said, "and find some other shelter. But before 
that happens I should love to be merry, real merry, 
; just once, only once. And it is with thee, dear, that 
' I want to enjoy myself. I should like to dance with 
you, really and truly, for a long, long time, till I could 
no longer move a foot. For it is that dance in my 
dream that I have to think of steadily. That dream 
was too fine, let us realize it." 

"At all events I must be present when you dance," 
said Sali, "and see what becomes of you, and to dance 
with you as long as you like is just what I myself 
would love to do, you charming wild thing. But 
where?" 

"Ah, Sali, to-morrow there will be kermess in a 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 273 

number of places near by. Of two of these I know. 
On such occasions we should not be spied upon and 
could enjoy ourselves to our heart's content. Below 
at the river front I could await you, and then we can 
go wherever we like, to laugh and be merry — just 
once, only once. But stop — we have no money." 
And Vreni's face clouded with the sad thought, and 
she added blankly: "What a pity! Nothing can 
come of it." 

"Let be," smilingly said Sali, "I shall have money 
enough when I meet you." 

But Vreni flushed and said haltingly: "But how — 
not from your father, not stolen money?" 

"No, Vreni. I still have my silver watch, and I 
will sell that." 

"Then that is arranged," said Vreni, and she flushed 
once more. "In fact, I think I should die if I could 
not dance with you to-morrow." 

"Probably the best for us," said Sali, "if we both 
could die." 

They embraced with tearful smiles, and bade each 
other good-by, but at the moment of parting they 
again laughed at each other, in the sure hope of meet- 
ing again next day. 

"But when shall we meet?" asked Vreni. 

"At eleven at latest," answered Sali. "Then we 
can eat a good noon meal together somewhere," 

"Fine, fine," Vreni cried after him, "come half an 
hour earlier then." 



274 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

But the very moment of their parting Vreni sum- 
moned him back once more, and she showed suddenly 
a wholly changed and despairing face: *' Nothing, 
after all, can come of our plans," she then said, weep- 
ing hard, "because I had forgotten I had no Sunday 
shoes any more. Even yesterday I had to put on 
these clumsy ones going to town, and I don't know 
where to find a pair I could wear." 

Sali stood undecided and amazed. 

"No shoes?" he repeated after her. "In that case 
you'll have to go in these." 

"But no, no," she remonstrated. "In these I should 
never be able to dance." 

"Well, all we can do then is to buy new ones," 
said Sali in a matter-of-fact tone. 

"Where and what with?" asked Vreni. 

"Why, in Seldwyla, where they have shoe stores 
enough. And money I shall have in less than two 
hours." 

"But, Sali, I cannot accompany you to all these 
shoe stores, and then there will not be money enough 
for all the other things as well." 

"It must. And I will buy the shoes for you and 
bring them along to-morrow." 

"Oh, but, you silly, they would not fit me." 

"Then give me an old shoe of yours to take along, 
or, stop, better still, I will take your measure. Surely 
that will not be very difficult." 

"Take my measure, of course. I never thought of 
that. Come, come, I will find you a bit of tape." 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 275 

Then she sat down once more on the hearth, turned 
her skirt somewhat up and slipped her shoe off, and 
the little foot showed, from yesterday's excursion to 
town, yet covered with a white stocking. Sali knelt 
down, and then took, as well as he was able, the meas- 
ure, using the tape daintily in encompassing the 
length and width with great care, and tying knots 
where wanted. 

"You shoemaker," said Vreni, bending down to him 
and laughingly flushing in embarrassment. But Sali 
also reddened, and he held the little foot firmly in 
the palm of his hand, really longer than was necessary, 
so that Vreni at last, blushing still a deeper red, with- 
drew it, embracing, however, Sali once more stormily 
and kissing him with ardor, but then telling him 
hastily to go. 

As soon as Sali arrived in town he took his watch 
to a jeweler and received six or seven florins for it. 
For his silver watch chain he also got some money, 
and now he thought himself rich as Croesus, for since 
he had grown up he had never had as large a sum at 
once. If only the day were over, he was saying to 
himself, and Sunday come, so that he could purchase 
with his riches all the happiness which Vreni and hial^ ^^ 
s^If^ere dreaming of. For though the awful day after ^^^f^'^^^ 
seemed to loom darker and darker in comparison, the 
heavenly pleasures anticipated for Sunday shone with 
all the greater lustre. However, some of his remain- 
ing leisure time was spent agreeably by him in 



276 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

choosing the desired pair of shoes for Vreni. In fact 
this job to him was a most joyous diversion. He 
went from one shoestore to another, had them show 
him all the women's footwear they had in stock, and 
finally bought the prettiest pair he could find. They 
were of a finer quality and more ornate than any 
Vreni had ever owned. He hid them under his vest, 
and throughout the rest of the day did not leave them 
out of his sight; he even put them under his pillow 
at night when he went to bed. Since he had seen the 
girl that day and was to meet her again next day, 
he slept soundly and well, but was up early, and then 
began to pick out his Sunday finery, dressing with 
greater care than ever before in his Hfe. When he was 
done he looked with satisfaction at his own image in 
his little broken mirror. And indeed it presented an 
enticing picture of youth and good looks. His mother 
was astonished when she saw him thus attired as though 
for his wedding, and she asked him the meaning 
of it. The son replied, with a mien of indifference, 
that he wanted to take a long stroll into the country, 
adding that he felt the effects of his constant confine- 
ment in the close house. 

"Queer doings, all the time,'' grumbled his father 
with ill-humor, "and forever skirmishing about." 

"Let him have his way," said the mother. "Per- 
haps a change of air and surroundings will do him good. 
I'm sure to look at him he needs it. He is as pale as 
a ghost." 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 277 

"Have you some money to spend for your outing?" 
now asked his father. "Where did you get it from?" 

"I don't need any," said Sali. 

"There is a florin for you," replied the old man, 
and threw him the coin. "You can turn in at the 
village and visit the tavern, so that they don't think 
we're so badly off." 

"I don't intend to go to the village, and I have no 
use for the money. You may keep it," replied Sali, 
with a show of indignation. 

"Well, you've had it, at any rate, and so I'll keep 
the money, you ill-conditioned fellow," muttered the 
father, and put the coin back in his pocket. 

But his wife who for some reason unknown to herself 
felt that day particularly distressed on account of her 
son, brought down for him a large handkerchief of 
Milan silk, with scarlet edges, which she herself had 
worn a few odd times before and of which she knew 
that he liked it. He wound it about his neck, and 
left the long ends of it dangling. And the flaps of 
his shirt collar, usually worn by him turned down, he 
this time let stand on end, in a fit of rustic coquetry, 
so that he offered altogether the appearance of a well- 
to-do young man. Then at last, Vreni's little shoes 
hid below his vest, he left the house at near seven in 
the morning. In leaving the room a singularly power- 
ful sentiment urged him to shake hands once more 
with his parents, and having reached the street, he was 
impelled to turn and take a last glance at the house. 



278 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"I almost believe/' said Manz sententiously, ''that 
the young fool is smitten with some woman. Nothing 
but that would be lacking in our present circumstances 
indeed. '* 

And the mother replied: "Would to God it were so. 
Perhaps the poor fellow might yet be happy in life.'' 

''Just so," growled the father. "That's it. What 
a heavenly lot you are picking for him. To fall in 
love and to have to take care of some penniless woman 
— yes indeed, that would be a great thing for him, 
would it not?" 

But Mother Manz only smiled slightly, and said 
never another word. 

Sali at first directed his steps toward the shore of 
the river, to that trysting-place where he was to meet 
Vreni. But on the way he changed his mind and 
steered straight for the village itself, hoping to meet 
her there awaiting him, since the time till noon other- 
wise seemed lost to him. 

"What do we have to care about gossips now?" 
he said to himself. "And they dare not say anything 
against her anyway, nor am I afraid of anyone." 

So he stepped into Vreni's room without any cere- 
mony, and to his delight found her already completely 
dressed and bedecked, seated patiently on a stool, 
and awaiting her lover's coming. Nothing but the 
shoes was lacking. 

But Sali stopped right in the centre of the room 
and stood like one nailed to the spot, so beautiful and 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 279 

alluring Vreni looked in her holiday attire. Yet it 
was simple enough. She wore a plain skirt of blue 
linen, and above that a snow-white muslin kerchief. 
The dress fitted her slender body wonderfully, and the 
brown hair with its pretty curls had been well arranged, 
and the usually obstinate curls lay fine and dainty 
about head and neck. Since Vreni had scarcely 
left the house for so many weeks, her complexion had 
grown more delicate and almost transparent; her 
griefs also had contributed toward that result. But 
at that instant a rush of sudden joy and love poured 
over that pallor one scarlet layer after another, and 
on her bosom she wore a fine nosegay of roses, asters 
and rosemary. She was seated at the window, and 
was breathing still and quiet the fresh morning air 
perfumed by the sun. But when she saw SaH she 
at once stretched out her pretty arms, bare from the 
elbow. And with a voice melodious and tender she ex- 
claimed: "How nice of you and how right to come 
already. But have you really brought me the shoes?. 
Surely? Well, then I won't get up until I have them 
on.'' 

Sali without further ado produced the shoes and 
handed them to the eager maiden. Vreni instantly 
cast her old ones aside, slipped the new ones on, and 
indeed, they fitted excellently. Only now she rose 
quickly from her seat, dandled herself in the shoes, 
and walked up and down the room a few times, to be 
sure of their fit. She pulled up a bit her blue dress 



28o SELDWYLA FOLKS 

in order to admire them the better, and with extreme 
pleasure she examined the red loops in front, while 
Sali could not get his fill of the charming picture the 
girl presented — the lovely excitement that beautified 
her the more, the willowy shape, the gently heaving 
bosom, the delicate oval of the face with its pretty 
features, animated with feminine enjoyment of the 
moment, eager with the mere joy of living, grateful 
to the giver of this last bit of finery that her childish 
soul had longed for. 

"You are looking at my posy," she said. "Have 
I not managed to pick a nice one? You must know 
these are the last ones I have managed to find in 
this wasted place. But there was, after all, still left 
a rosebud, over at the hedge in a sheltered spot a few 
of them and some other flowers, and the way they are 
now gathered up and arranged one would never think 
they came from a house decayed and fallen. But now 
it is high time for me to leave here, for not a single 
flower is there, and the whole house is bare." 

Then only Sali noticed that all the few movables 
still left were gone. 

"You poor little Vreni," he deplored, "have they 
already taken everything from you?" 

"Yes," she said with a ludicrous attempt to be 
tragic, "yesterday, after you had left, they came and 
took everything of mine away that could be moved 
at all, and left me nothing but my bed. But that I 
have also sold at once, and here is the money for it — 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 281 

see!" And she hauled forth from the depths of an 
inside pocket a handful of bright new silver coins. 

"With this/' she continued, "the orphan patron 
said to me, I was to find another service in town 
somewhere, and that I was to start out to-day." 

"Really," said SaH, after glancing about in the 
kitchen and the other rooms, "there is nothing at all 
left, no furniture, no sliver of fuel, no pot or kettle, 
no knife or fork. And have you had nothing to eat 
this morning?" 

"Nothing at all," answered Vreni, with a happy 
laugh. "I might have gone out and got myself 
something for breakfast, but I preferred to remain 
hungry, so I could eat a lot with you, for you cannot 
think how much I am going to enjoy my first meal 
with you — how awfully much I am going to eat 
with you present. I am almost dying with impatience 
for it." And she showed him a row of pearly teeth 
and a little red tongue to emphasize what she said. 

Sali stood like one enchanted. 

"If I only might touch you," murmured Sali, "I 
should soon show you how much I love you, you 
pretty, pretty thing." 

"No, no, you are right," quickly rejoined Vreni, 
"you would ruin all my finery, and if we also handle 
my flowers with some care my head and hair will 
profit from it, because ordinarily you disarrange all 
my curls." 

"Well, then," grumbled Sali, "let us go." 



282 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

"Not quite yet; we must wait till my bed has been 
fetched away. For as soon as that is gone I am going 
to lock up the house, and I am never to return to it. 
My little bundle I am going to give to the woman to 
keep, to the one who has bought my bed." 

So they sat down together and waited until the 
woman showed up, a peasant woman of squat shape 
and robust habit, one who loved to talk, who had 
a stout boy with her that was to carry the bedstead. 
When this woman got sight of Vreni's lover and of the 
girl herself in all her finery, she opened mouth and eyes 
to their fullest, squared herself and put her arms 
akimbo, shouting: "Why, look only, you're starting 
well, Vreni. With a lover and yourself dressed up like 
a princess." 

" Don't I? " laughed Vreni, in a friendly way. "And 
do you know who that is?" 

"I should think so," said the woman. "That is 
Sali Manz, or I am much mistaken. Mountains and 
valleys, they say, do not meet, but people most cer- 
tainly do. But, child, let me warn you. Think 
how your parents have fared." 

"Ah, that is all changed now," smilingly replied 
Vreni. "Everything has been adjusted, and now 
things are smoothed out. See here, Sali is my 
promised husband." And the girl told this bit of news 
in a manner almost condescending, and bent toward 
the woman one of her bewitching glances. 

"Your promised husband, is he? Well, well, who 



ROlViEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 283 

would have thought it?'^ chattered the peasant woman, 
feeling highly honored at being the recipient of this 
interesting intelligence. 

"Yes, and he is now a wealthy gentleman," went on 
Vreni, "for he has just won a hundred thousand 
dollars in the lottery. Just think!" 

The woman gave a jump of surprise, threw up her 
hands, and shouted: "Hund — hundred thousand 
— Hund— " 

Vreni repeated it with a serious face. 

The woman grew still more excited. 

"Hundred thousand — well, well. But you are 
making fun of me, child. Hund — Is it possible? " 

"All right, as you choose," went on Vreni, still 
smiling. 

"But if it is true, and he gets all that money, what 
are you two going to do with it? Are you to become 
a stylish lady, or what?" 

"Of course, within three weeks our wedding takes 
place — such a wedding." 

"Oh, my goodness, is it possible? But no, you are 
telling me stories, I know." 

"Well, he has already bought the finest house in 
Seldwyla, with a fine vineyard and the biggest garden 
attached. And you must come and pay us a visit, 
after we're there — I count on it." 

"Why, what a witch you are," the woman went on 
between belief and unbelief. 

"You will see how nice it is there," continued 



284 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Vreni unabashed. ^*A cup of coffee you'll get, such 
as you never drank before, and plenty of cake with it, 
of butter and honey." 

"Oh, you lucky duck!" shrieked the woman, "de- 
pend upon my coming, of course." And she made 
an eager face, as though she already saw spread before 
her all these dainties. 

"But if you should happen to come at noontime," 
went on Vreni in her fanciful tale, "and you would be 
tired from marketing, you shall have a bowl of strong 
broth and a bottle of our extra wine, the one with the 
blue seal." 

"That will certainly do me good," said the woman. 

"And there shall be no lack of some candy and 
white wheaten rolls, for your little ones at home." 

"I think I can taste it already," answered the 
woman, and she turned her eyes heavenwards. 

"Perhaps a pretty kerchief, or the remnant of a 
bolt of extra fine silk, or a costly ribbon or two for 
your skirts, or enough for an apron I suppose will be 
found, if we rummage in my drawers and trunks 
together sometime when we are talking things over." 

The woman turned completely on her heels and 
shook her skirts with a jubilant yodel. 

"And in case your husband could start in the cattle 
dealing way, and needed a bit of capital for it, you 
would know where to apply, would you not? My 
dear Sali will always be glad to invest some of his 
superfluous money in such a manner. And I myself 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 285 

might add a few pennies from my savings to help 
out a good and intimate gossip, you may be certain." 

By this time the last faint doubts had vanished. 
The woman wrung her uncouth hands, and said, with 
a great deal of sentiment: "That^s what I have 
always been saying, you are a square and honest and 
beautiful girl! May the Lord always be good to 
you and reward you for what you are going to do 
forme!" 

"But on my part, I must insist that you, too, treat 
me well." 

"Surely you have a right to expect that," said the 
woman. 

"And that you at all times offer me first all your 
produce, be it fruit or potatoes, or vegetables, and to 
do this before you take them to the public market, 
so that I may always be sure of having a real peasant 
woman on hand, one upon whom I may rely. What- 
ever anybody else is willing to pay you for your 
produce, I will also be willing to give. You know me. 
Why, there is nothing nicer than a wealthy city lady, 
one who sits within town walls and cannot know 
prices and conditions there, and yet needs so many 
things in her household, and an honest and well- 
posted woman from the country, experienced in all 
that concerns her, who are bound together by durable 
friendship and a community of interests. The city 
lady profits from it at all sorts of occasions, as for 
example at weddings and baptisms, at seasons of 



286 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

illness or crop failure, at holidays and famine time, or 
inundations, from which the Lord preserve us!" 

"From which the Lord preserve us!'' repeated the 
woman solemnly, sobbing and wiping her wet face on 
her ample apron. "But what a sensible and well- 
informed little wife you'll make, to be sure! Without 
doubt you will live as happily as a mouse in the cheese, 
or there is no justice in this world. Handsome, clean, 
smart and wise, fit for and willing to tackle all work 
at any time. None is as good-looking and as fine as 
thou art, no, not in the whole village, and even some 
distance further away. And who has got you for wife 
can congratulate himself; he is bound to be in paradise, 
or he is a scoundrel, and he will have me to deal with. 
Listen, Sali, do not fail to be nice to Vreni, or you will 
hear a word from me, you lucky devil, to break such 
a rose without thorns as this one here!" 

"For to-day, my dear woman," concluded Vreni, 
"take this bundle along, as we agreed yesterday, 
and keep it till I send for it. But it may be that I 
myself come for it, in my own carriage, and get it, if 
you have no objection. A drink of milk you will not 
refuse me in that case, and a nice cake, such as perhaps 
an almond tart, I shall probably bring along myself." 

"You blessed child, give it here, your bundle," 
the peasant woman quavered, still completely under 
the influence of Vreni's eloquence. 

Vreni therefore deposited on top of the bedding 
which the woman had already tied up, a huge bag 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 287 

containing all the girl's belongings, so that the stout- 
limbed woman was bearing a perfect tower of shaking 
and trembling baggage on her head. 

*'It is almost too much for me to carry at once," 
she complained. "Could I not come again and divide 
the load in halves?" she wanted to know. 

"No, no," answered Vreni, "we must leave here 
at once, for we have to visit a whole number of wealthy 
relatives, and some of these are far away, the kind, 
you know, who have now recognized us since we have 
become rich ourselves. You know how the world 
wags." 

"Yes, indeed," said the woman, "I do know, and 
so God keep you, and think of me now and then in 
your glorious new state." 

Then the peasant woman trundled off with her 
monstrously high tower of bundles, preserving its 
equilibrium by skillfully balancing the weight, and 
behind her trudged her boy, who stood up in the 
center of Vreni's gaily painted bedstead, his hard head 
braced against the baldaquin of it in which the eye 
beheld stars and suns in a firmament of multicolored 
muslin, and like another Samson, grasping with his 
red fists the two prettily carved slender pillars in front 
which supported the whole. As Vreni, leaning against 
Sali, watched the procession meandering down be- 
tween the gardens of the nearer houses, and the afore- 
said little temple forming part of her whilom bed- 
stead, she remarked: "That would still make a fine 



288 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

little arbor or garden pavilion if placed in the midst 
of a sunny garden, with a small table and a bench 
inside, and quickly growing vines planted around. 
Eh, Sali, wouldn't you like to sit there with me in the 
shade?" 

"Why, yes, Vreni," said he, smiling, "especially 
if the vines once had grown to a size." 

"But why not go now?" continued she. "Nothing 
more is holding us here." 

"True," he assented. "Come, then, and lock up 
the house. But to whom will you deHver up the 
key?" 

Vreni looked around. "Here to this halberd let 
us hang it. For more than a century it has been in 
our house, as I've often heard father say. Now it 
stands at the door as the last sentinel." 

So they hung the rusty key of the housedoor to one 
of the rustier curves of the stout weapon, which was 
fairly overgrown with bean vines, and sallied forth. 
• But after all Vreni grew faint, and Sali had to sup- 
port her the first score steps, the parting with the 
place where her cradle had stood making her sad. 
But she did not look back. 

"Where are we bound for first?" she wanted to know. 

"Let us make a regular excursion across the coun- 
try," said Sali, "and stop at a spot where we shall be 
comfortable all day long. And don't let us hurry. 
Towards evening we shall easily be able to find a 
dance going on." 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 289 

"Good," answered Vreni. "Thus we shall be to- 
gether the whole day, and go where we like. But 
above all, I feel quite faint. Let us stop in the next 
village and get some coffee." 

"Of course," said the young man. "But let us 
first get away from here." 

Soon they were in the open, fields of ripe, waving 
corn or else of fresh stubble around them, and went 
along, quietly and full of deep contentment, close to 
each other, breathing the pure air as though freed from 
prison walls. It was a dehcious Sunday morning in 
September. There was not a cloud to be seen in the 
sky of deep azure, and in the distance the hills and 
woods were enwrapped in a delicate haze, so that the 
whole landscape looked more solemn and mysterious. 
From everywhere the toUing of the church bells was 
heard, the harmonious deep tones of a big swinging 
bell belonging to a wealthy congregation, or the 
talkative two small bells of a poor village that made 
fast time to create any impression at all. The lovers 
forgot completely as to what was to become of them 
at the end of this rare day, forgot the disturbing un- 
certainties of their young lives, and gave themselves 
up completely to the intoxicating delights of the mo- 
ment, sank their very souls in a calm joy that knew 
no words and no fears. Neatly clothed, free to come 
or go, like two happy ones who before God and men 
belong to each other by all rights, they went forth into 
the still Sunday country side. Each slight sound or 



290 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

call, reverberating and finally losing itself in the 
general silence, shook their hearts as though the 
strings of a harp had been touched by divine fingers. 
For Love is a musical instrument which makes resound 
the farthest and the most indifferent subjects and 
changes them into a music all its own. 

Though both were hungry and faint, the half hour's 
walk to the next village seemed to them but a step, 
and they entered slowly the little inn that stood at 
the entrance to the place. 

Sali ordered a substantial and appetizing breakfast, 
and while it was being prepared they observed, quiet 
as two mice, the interior of this homely place of enter- 
tainment, everything in it being scrupulously clean 
and orderly, from the walls and tables and napkins 
to the hearth and floor. The guest room itself was 
large and airy, and the window panes glittered in 
the furtive rays of the sun. The host of the inn was 
at the same time a baker, and his last baking, just 
out of the oven, spread a delicious odor through the 
whole house. Stacks of fresh loaves were carried 
past them in clean baskets, since after church service 
the members of the congregation were in the habit of 
getting here their white bread or to drink their noon 
shoppen. The hostess, a rather handsome and neat 
woman, dressed in their Sunday finery all her little 
brood of children, leisurely and pleasantly, and as she 
was done with one more of the little ones, the latter, 
proud and glad, would come running to Vreni, showing 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 291 

her all their finery, and innocently boasting and brag- 
ging of their belongings and of all else they held 
precious. 

When at last the fragrant coffee was brought and 
served for them, together with other good things, at 
a convenient table, the two young people sat down 
somewhat embarrassed, just as if they had been 
invited as honored guests to do so. But they got 
over this mood, and whispered to each other modestly 
but happily, feeling the joy of each other's presence. 
And oh, how Vreni enjoyed her breakfast, the strong 
coffee, the cream, the fresh rolls still warm from the 
oven, the rich butter and the honey, the omelet, and 
all the other splendid things dished up for them. 
Delicious it all tasted, not only because she had been 
really hungry, but because she could look all the 
while at Sali, and she ate and ate, as if she had been 
fasting for a whole year. 

With that she also took pleasure in the pretty 
service, the fine cups and saucers and dishes, the 
dainty silver spoons, and the snowy linen. For the 
hostess seemed to have made up her mind about these 
two, and she evidently regarded them as young people 
of good family, who were to be waited upon in proper 
style, and several times she came and sat down by 
them, chatting most agreeably, and both Sali and 
Vreni answered her sensibly, whereat the woman 
became still more affable. And Vreni felt the whole- 
some influence of all this so strongly, and a sense of 



292 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

snug comfort coursed so pleasantly through her veins 
that she in her mind found it hard to choose between 
the delights of wandering about in the woods and 
fields, hand in hand with her lover, or remaining for 
some time longer here in this inn, in this haven of 
rest and creature comfort, honored and respected 
and dreaming herself into the illusion of owning such 
a nice home as this herself. 

But Sali himself rendered the choice easier, for in 
a perfectly proper and rather husbandlike manner 
he urged departure, just as though they had duties 
to fulfil elsewhere. Both host and hostess saw the 
young couple to the door, and bade them good-by in 
the most orthodox and well-meaning way, and Vreni, 
too, showed her manners and reciprocated their 
courtesy like one to the manner born, then following 
Sali in most decent and moral style. But even after 
reaching the open country once more and entering an 
oak forest a couple of miles long, both of them were 
still under the influence of the spell, and they went 
along in a dreamy mood, just as though they both 
did not come from homes destroyed and filled with 
hatred and discord, but from happy and harmonious 
homes, expecting from life the near fulfilment of all 
their rosy hopes. 

Vreni bent her pretty head down on her flower- 
bedecked bosom, deep in thought, and went along 
the smooth, damp woodpath with hands carefully 
held along her sides, while Sali stepped along elastic 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 293 

and upright, quick and thoughtful, his eyes fastened 
to the oak trunks ahead of him, like a well-to-do 
peasant reflecting on the problem which of these 
trees it would best pay to cut down and which to leave. 
But at last they awoke from these vain dreams, glanced 
at each other and discovered that they were still 
maintaining the attitude with which they had left 
the inn. Then they both blushed and their heads 
drooped in melancholy fashion. Youth, however, 
soon reasserted itself. The woods were green, the 
sky overhead faultlessly blue, and they were alone 
by themselves in the world, and thus they soon drifted 
back into that train of thought. But they did not 
long remain by themselves, since this attractive forest 
road began to be alive with groups and couples out 
for a bracing walk in the cool shade, most of them 
returning from service in church, and nearly all of 
these were singing gay worldly tunes, trifling and 
joking with each other. For in these parts it so hap- 
pens that the rustics have their customary walks and 
promenades as well as the city dwellers, to which they 
resort at leisure, only with this great difference that 
their pleasure grounds cost nothing to maintain and 
that these are finer in every way, since Nature alone 
has made them. Not alone do they stroll about on 
Sundays through fields and meadows and woods 
with a peculiar sense of freedom and recreation, 
taking stock of their ripening crops and the prospects 
of the harvest to come, but they also choose with 



294 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

unerring taste excursions along the edge of forest or 
meadow, hill or dale, sit down for a brief rest on the 
summit of a height, whence they enjoy a fine view, 
or sing in chorus at another suitable spot, and certainly 
obtain fully as much, if not more, pleasure out of all 
this as town folk do. And since they do all this, not 
as labor but diversion, one must conclude that these 
rustics, despite of what has often been claimed to the 
contrary, are lovers of nature, aside from the strictly 
utilitarian view of it. And always they break off 
something green and Hving, young and old, even 
weak and decrepit women, when they revisit the 
scenes of long ago, and the same spirit is seen in 
the habit that these country people have, including 
sedate men of business, of cutting for themselves a 
slender rod of hazel, or a snappy cane, whenever they 
walk through woods or forest, and these they will peel 
all but a small bunch of green leaves at the point. 
Such rods or twigs they will bear as though it were a 
sceptre, and when they enter an office or public place 
they will put them in a corner of the room, and never 
forget to get them again, even after the most serious 
and important matters have been discussed, and to 
take them along with them home. And it is then 
only the privilege of the youngest of their boys to 
seize it, break it, play with it, in fine, destroy it. 

When Sali and Vreni noticed these many couples 
out for a holiday stroll, they laughed to themselves, 
and rejoiced that they, too, were such a happy pair; 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 295 

they lost themselves on side paths that led away from 
every noise, and there they felt protected by the green 
solitude. They remained where they liked, went on 
or rested again for a spell, and in unison with the 
sky overhead which was cloudless, no carking care 
came to disturb their serenity. This state of perfect, 
unalloyed bliss lasted for them for hours, and they 
for the time forgot wholly whence they came and 
whither they were going, and behaved with such a 
degree of decorum that Vreni's little posy actually 
remained as fresh and intact as it had been early 
in the morning, and her plain Sunday dress showed 
neither crease nor stain. As to Sali, he behaved 
all this time not like a youthful rustic of less than 
twenty, nor like the son of a broken-down tavern 
keeper, but rather like a youth a couple of years 
younger and quite innocent, withal of the best edu- 
cation. It was almost comical to observe his conduct 
towards his merry Vreni, looking at her with a touch- 
ing mixture of tenderness, respect and care. For these 
two lovers, so unsophisticated and so entirely without 
guile, somehow understood how to run in the course 
of this one day of perfect joy vouchsafed them 
through all the gamut of love, and to make up not 
alone for the earlier and more poetic stages of it but 
also to taste its bitter and ultimate end with its pas- 
sionate sacrifice of life itself. 

Thus they thoroughly tired themselves running 
about part of the day, and hunger had come a second 



296 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

time that day when, from the crest of a shady moun- 
tain, they at last perceived, far down at their feet, 
a village of some size lying there in the glow of the 
westering sun. Rapidly they made the descent, 
and entered the village just as decorously as they had 
done the other earlier in the day. Nobody was 
about that knew them even by sight, for Vreni particu- 
larly had scarcely at all mingled with people during 
the last few years, nor had she been off on visits to 
other villages. Therefore they presented entirely 
the appearance of a decent young couple out on an 
errand of importance. 

They went to the best inn of the place, and there Sali 
at once ordered a good and substantial meal. A table 
was specially reserved for them, and everything need- 
ful was there laid out and they sat down again de- 
murely in the corner and eyed the trappings and fur- 
niture of the handsome room, with its wainscoted 
walls of polished walnut, the well-appointed side- 
board of the same wood, and the filmy window cur- 
tains of white lace. The hostess stepped up to them 
in a sociable manner, and set a vase full of fresh flowers 
on the table. 

*' Until the soup is ready," she said pleasantly, 
"you may like to feast your eyes on these flowers 
from our garden. From all appearance, if you don't 
mind my curiosity, you are a young couple on their 
way to town to get married to-morrow?" 

Vreni blushed furiously, and did not dare raise her 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 297 

head. Nor did Sali say anything in reply, and the 
hostess continued: "Well, of course, you are both 
still very young. But young love, long life, as the 
saying is, and at least you are both good-looking 
enough and need not hide yourselves from people. ■ If 
you will but work and strive together like sensible 
folk, you may succeed in life before you know it, for 
youth is a good thing, and so are diligence and faith 
in one another. But that, of course, is necessary, 
for there will come also days you will not like, many 
days, many days. But after all, life is pleasant enough, 
if one but understands how to make a proper use of 
it. And don't mind my chatter, you young people, 
but it does me good to look at you two, so handsome 
and young.*' 

Just then the waitress brought in the soup, and 
since she had overheard the concluding phrases, 
and would herself have liked to get married, she 
regarded Vreni with envious eyes, for she begrudged 
her what she assumed was so soon in store for this 
young girl. She retired precipitately into the adjoin- 
ing room, and there she let her tongue go clacking. 
To the hostess who was busy there with some house- 
hold task, she said, so loud as to be distinctly heard 
by the young people: "Yes, these are indeed the 
right kind of people to go to town and hurry up marry- 
ing, without a penny, without friends, without dowry, 
and with nothing in view but misery and beggary! 
What in the world is to become of such people if the 



298 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

girl is still so young that she does not even know how 
to put on her frock or jacket, nor how to cook a plate 
of soup! Oh, what fools! But I feel sorry for the 
young fellow, such a good-looking fellow he is, and then 
to get a little ignorant doll like that!'^ 

"Sh-sh — will you keep your mouth shut, you evil- 
mouthed slut," broke in the indignant hostess. " Don't 
you dare say anything against them. I am pretty 
sure that is a deserving young couple, and I will not 
hear them wronged. Probably they are from the 
mountains where the factories are, and while they are 
not dressed richly they look neat and cleanly, and if 
only they are fond of each other and not afraid of work, 
they will get along better than you with your bitter 
tongue. And that I will tell you — you'll have to 
wait a long while before anybody will take you, unless 
you change considerably, you vinegary old thing!" 

Thus it was that Vreni tasted all the delights of 
a bride on her wedding trip: the well-meaning con- 
versation of an experienced and sensible woman, the 
jealousy of a wicked and man-crazy person, one who 
from anger at the bride praises and sympathizes with 
the lover, and an appetizing meal at the side of this 
same lover. She glowed in the face like a carnation, 
her heart beat like a trip hammer, but she ate and 
drank nevertheless with a perfectly normal appetite, 
and was all the more amiable with the waitress who 
served them, but could not help on such occasions 
looking tenderly at Sali, and whispering to him, so 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 299 

that he also began to feel rather amorous. However, 
they sat a long time over their meal, delaying its 
end, as though they were both unwilling to destroy 
the lovely deception. The hostess came and brought 
them for dessert all sorts of sweet cakes and other 
dainties, and Sali ordered rarer and more fiery wine, 
so that the choice liquor ran through Vreni's veins 
like a flame, albeit she was cautious and sipped it 
but sparingly and kept up the semblance of a chaste 
and prudent young bride. Half of this was natural 
cunning on her part; but as for the other half, she 
felt indeed as if the role were reality, and what with 
anxiety and what with ardent love for Sali she thought 
her little heart would burst, so that the walls seemed 
to her too narrow, and she begged him to go. And 
they went off. It was now as if they were afraid to 
turn aside from the main road and into side paths, 
where they would be by themselves, for they continued 
on the highway, right through the throng of pleasure 
seekers, not looking to right or left. But when they 
had left the village behind them and were on their 
way towards the next, where kermess was being 
celebrated, Vreni linked her arm in his and whispered: 
"Sali, why not belong altogether one to the other 
and be happy!" 

And Sali answered, fastening his dreamy eyes upon 
the sun-flooded valley below where the meadows 
showed like a purple carpet of wildflowers, "Ah, 
why not?'' 



300 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

And they instantly stopped in the road, and wanted 
to kiss each other. But suddenly a group of passers-by 
broke out of the near woods, and then they felt shy 
and desisted. On they went towards the big village 
in which the bustle of kermess was already noticeable 
from afar. The lanes were crowded, and before the 
most considerable tavern of the place a multitude 
of noisy, shouting people were assembled. From 
inside the tavern the strains of a lively, gay tune were 
heard. For the young villagers had begun dancing 
shortly after the noon hour, and on an open square in 
front of the tavern a market had been established 
where all sorts of sweets were for sale, and in another 
couple of booths could be seen flimsy bits of finery, 
ornaments, silk kerchiefs and the like, and around 
these were to be seen children and some others who 
for the moment were content to be mere observers. 

Sali and Vreni also stepped up to these booths, 
and they let their eyes travel over all these things. 
For both had instantly put their hands in their pockets 
and each wanted to present the other with a little 
gift, since that was the first and only time they had 
been together at a fair. Sali, therefore, bought a 
big house of gingerbread, the walls of which were 
calsomined with a mixture of butter and melted sugar, 
and on the green roof of which were perching snow- 
white pigeons, while from the chimney a small cupid 
was peeping forth clad as a chimney sweep. At the 
open windows of this wonderful house plump-cheeked 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 301 

persons with diminutive red mouths were embracing 
each other most affectionately, the kissing process 
being represented by the gingerbread artist by a 
sort of double mouth, or twins, one melting into the 
other. Black points meant eyes, and on the pinky- 
red housedoor there could be read the following touch- 
ing stanzas: 

Enter my house, beloved, 
Yet do not thou forget 
That all the coin accepted 
Is kisses sweet, you bet. 

His sweetheart said: "Oh, dear one, 
This threat does not deter! 
My love for thee is greater 
Than any kind of fare. 

"And come to think it over, 

'Twas kisses I did seek.'^ 
Well, then, step in, my lady, 
And let thy lips now speak. 

A gentleman in a blue frock coat and a lady with an 
expansive bosom thus complimented each other by 
these rhymes into the house; both were painted to 
right and left of the wall. Vreni on her part presented 
Sali with a gingerbread heart, on which on either side 
these verses were pasted: 



302 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

A sweet, sweet almond pierces my heart, as you see, 
But sweeter far than almonds is my love for thee. 

When thou my heart hast eaten, 
Oh, let me not disguise 
That sooner than my love can break 
Will break my nutbrown eyes. 

Both of them eagerly read these verses, and never 
had rhymes, never had any kind of poetry, been more 
deeply felt and appreciated than were these ginger- 
bread stanzas. They could not help fancying that 
they had been specially written for them, for they 
fitted so marvelously their requirements. 

"Ah, you give me a house," sighed Vreni. "But 
I have first made thee a gift of one myself, and of the 
real one. For our hearts are now our sole dwellings, 
and within them we live, and we carry our houses 
about with us wherever we may go, just like the snail. 
Other abode we have none left now." 

"But then we are snails really, of which each carries 
the house of the other," replied Sali. 

"Then we must never leave each other, for fear that 
we lose the other's house," answered Vreni. 

They did not notice that they themselves were 
perpetrating the same species of humor as was spread 
out on the printed pasters of the gingerbread liter- 
ature. So they continued to study the latter with 
deep interest. The most pathetic sentiments, both 
agreed, were found on the heartshaped cakes, whereof 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 303 

there was a great choice, both plain and ornamental, 
small and large. All the verses they read seemed to 
them wonderfully apt and appropriate to the occasion. 
When Vreni read on a gilt heart which like a lyre 
bore strings: 

My heart is like a fiddlestring, 
Touch gently it and it will sing, 

she could not refrain from remarking: "How true that 
is! Why, I can hear my own heart making music!" 
An image of Napoleon in gingerbread was also there, 
and even this, instead of speaking in heroic measure, 
symbolized a love-smitten swain, for it declared in 
wretched rhym.e: { • 

Terrific was Napoleon's might, ' 

His sword of steel, his heart was light; 
My love is sweet like any rose. 
Yet is she faithful, goodness knows. 

But while both seemed busy sounding all the depths 
of these appeals to the muses, they secretly made a 
purchase. Sali bought for Vreni a small gift ring, 
with a stone of green glass, and Vreni a ring fashioned 
out of chamois horn, in which a gold forget-me-not 
was cleverly inlaid. Probably both were moved with 
the same idea, that of a farewell gift. 

However, while they thus were entirely engrossed 
with these things they had not remarked that a wide 
ring was forming gradually around them made up 
of people who watched them closely and curiously. 



304 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

For as quite a number of lads and lasses from their 
own village had come to the kermess, they had been 
recognized, and these all now stood at some little 
distance away from them, regarding with astonish- 
ment this neatly dressed couple that in their intense 
preoccupation had eyes for nothing else in the world. 

"Just look," the murmuring went round; "why, 
that is Vreni Marti and Sali from town. They surely 
have met and made up. And what tenderness, what 
friendship for one another! Only notice!" 

The amazement of these onlookers was strangely 
mingled of pity with the ill-fortune of the young couple, 
of disdain for the wickedness and poverty of their 
parents, and of envy for the happiness and deep 
affection of these two, f For it struck these coarse 
materialistic rustics that the couple) were fond of each 
other in a manner most unusual in their own circles, 
excited to an uncommon degree and so taken up with 
one another and indifferent to all else, as to make them 
almost appear to belong to a more aristocratic sphere, 
so that altogether they seemed singular and strange 
to these gross villagers. 

When therefore Sali and Vreni finally awoke from 
their dreams and threw a glance around, they saw 
nothing but staring faces. Nobody greeted them; 
and they themselves knew not whether to salute 
anyone of these former acquaintances, whose show 
of unfriendliness was, just the same, not so much 
design as astonishment. Vreni became afraid and 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 305 

blushed from sheer embarrassment, but Sali took 
her hand and led her away. And the poor girl fol- 
lowed him willingly, bearing in her hand the huge 
gingerbread cottage, although the trumpets and 
horns from inside the inn sounded so invitingly, and 
although she was most anxious and eager to dance. 

"We cannot dance here," said Sali, when they had 
been going some little distance aside, "for there would 
not be any amusement in it under the circumstances.'' 

"You are right," Vreni said sadly, "and I really 
think now we had better drop the whole idea and 
I will try and find a place for me to stay overnight." 

"No," Sali cried, "you must have a chance to dance 
for once. For that, too, I brought you the shoes. 
Let us go where the poor folks are having a good time, 
since we, too, belong to them. They will not look 
down on us. At every kermess here there is also 
dancing at the Paradise Garden, since it belongs to 
this parish, and we are going there, and you can, if 
it comes to the worst, also find a bed to sleep there." 

Vreni shuddered at the thought of having to sleep 
for the first time of her young life in a place where 
nobody knew her. But she followed without a murmur 
where Sali led her. Was he not everything in the world 
to her now? The so-called Paradise Garden was a 
house of entertainment situated in a beautiful spot, 
lying all by itself at the side of a mountain from which 
one had a view far over the whole country. But on 
holidays like this only the poorer classes, the children 



3o6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

of small farmers and of day laborers, even vagrants, 
used to resort to it. A hundred years before a wealthy 
man of queer habits had built it as a summer villa 
for himself, and nobody had succeeded him as tenant, 
and since the house could not be used for anything 
else, the whole place after a while began to decay, 
and so finally it got into the hands of an innkeeper 
who managed it in his own peculiar way. 

The name alone and the style of architecture had 
remained. The house itself consisted of - but one 
story, and on top of that an open loggia had been 
erected, the roof of which was borne on the four corners 
by statues of sandstone. These were meant for the 
four archangels and were wholly defaced. At the edge 
of the roof could be seen all about small angels carved 
of the same material and all of them playing some 
musical instrument, the angels themselves showing 
monstrous heads and big paunches, fiddling, touching 
the triangle, blowing the flute, striking the cymbal 
or the tambourine; these instruments had originally 
been gilt. The ceiling inside and the low sidewalls, 
as well as all the rest of the house were still covered 
with rather dingy fresco paintings, and these repre- 
sented dancing and singing saints. But all of it had 
suffered from the weather and the rain, and was 
now as indistinct and chaotic as a dream itself. And 
besides, all over the walls clambered grapevines, and 
at this time of year purplish ripening grapes peeped 
forth from between the foliage. All about the house 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 307 

itself there stood chestnut trees, and gnarled big rose- 
bushes, growing wildly after a fashion of their own, 
just as lilac bushes would grow elsewhere. 

The loggia served as dance hall, and as Vreni and 
Sali came in sight of the building they could notice 
the dancing couples turning around and around 
under the open roof, and outside, under the trees, 
drinking, shouting and noisy men and women were 
disporting themselves. It was a merry throng. 

Vreni, who was carrying in her hand, demurely and 
almost piously, her wonderful gingerbread palace, 
resembled one of those ancient and sainted church 
patronesses sometimes seen in missals, with a model 
of the cathedral or other devout foundation displayed 
which would earn her the Church's benediction. But 
as soon as she heard the wild music that came down 
in a tumbling stream from the loggia, the poor thing 
forgot her grief. Suddenly all alive she demanded 
rapturously that Sali should dance with her. They 
pushed their way through all these people that were 
crowding the environs of the house and the lower floor, 
these being mostly ragged people from Seldwyla, 
with some who had been making a cheap excursion into 
the country, and all sorts of homeless vagrants. Then 
they ascended the stairs and at once after arriving 
on top they seized each other and were whirling away 
in a lively waltz. Not an eye did they give to their 
surroundings until the music came to a temporary 
halt. Then they stopped and turned around. Vreni 



3o8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

had crushed her gingerbread house, and was just 
going to shed a few tears on that account when she 
noticed the black fiddler, and now felt a veritable 
terror. 

He was seated near them, upon a bench which itself 
stood upon a big table, and he looked just as black and 
tawny as ever. But to-day he wore a bunch of green 
holly and pine in his funny little hat, and at his feet 
there stood a big bottle of claret and a tumbler, and 
he did not in the least touch either of these with his 
feet, although he was forever kicking up his legs to 
keep the tune while fiddling. Next to him sat a 
handsome young man with a French horn, but the 
young man looked melancholy, and a hunchback 
there also was, standing next a bass viol. Sali also 
had a fright in seeing the black fiddler, but the latter 
greeted them both in the friendliest manner and 
called out to them: "You see I knew that some day 
I should play to your dancing, just as I said when 
I last met you. And now, you darlings, I trust you'll 
have a good time, and take a drink with me." 

He offered the full glass to Sali, who accepted it, 
emptied it and thanked the fiddler. And when he 
saw that Vreni was badly scared at seeing him, he 
did his best to reassure her, and jested with her in 
a rather nice way, until he had made her laugh. There- 
upon Vreni recovered her courage, and both of them 
felt rather glad that they had an acquaintance there 
and were in a certain sense standing under the special 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 309 

protection of the black fellow. Then they danced 
steadily, forgetting themselves and the whole world 
in the constant twirling, singing, shouting and general 
noise, a noise which rolled down the hill and over the 
whole landscape which gradually began to be shrouded 
in a silvery autumn haze. They danced until twilight, 
when most of the merry guests disappeared, unsteady 
on their feet and shouting at the top of their voices. 
Those still remaining were the vagrants and stragglers, 
houseless and strongly inclined to turn night into day. 
Amongst these there were some who seemed on very 
friendly terms with the black fiddler and who for the 
most part looked outlandish because of oddities of 
costume. There was, for instance, a young man in a 
green corduroy jacket and a tattered straw hat, who 
wore around the crown of the latter a wreath of wild 
scarlet berries. He again had with him a savage 
sort of female who wore a skirt of cherry-red chintz 
and had a hoop made of young grapevine tied around 
her temples, so that at each side of her face hung a 
bunch of grapes. This couple was the joUiest of all, to 
be met with everywhere, and was dancing and singing 
without a stop. Then there was a slender, graceful 
girl there, wearing a thin silk dress and a white cloth on 
her head, the ends of which fell on her shoulders. The 
cloth had evidently once been a napkin or towel. But 
below this doubtful cloth there glowed a pair of mag- 
nificent eyes of deep violet hue. Around her neck this 
extravagant person wore a sixfold chain of the same 



3IO SELDWYLA FOLKS 

autumnal berries, and this ornament suited her com- 
plexion marvelously well. This strange woman was 
dancing perpetually with none but herself, whirling al- 
most unintermittently, with great grace and a very 
light step, refusing every partner that offered himself. 
Every time she passed in her dancing the sad horn- 
blower she smiled, and the musician turned away his 
head. 

Some other gay women or girls there were, together 
with their escorts, all of them poorly or fantastically 
clad, but with all that they assuredly enjoyed them- 
selves greatly, and there seemed to be perfect accord 
among them all. When it had turned completely 
dark the host refused to furnish light for illumination, 
since the wind would blow the candles out anyway, 
and besides the full-moon would be out in a short 
spell, and for the present company, he claimed, the 
moonlight was ample. This declaration, instead of 
being opposed, caused general satisfaction among 
this mongrel crowd; they all stood up at the open sides 
of the dance hall and watched the moon rise in her 
full splendor, and when the new golden light flooded 
the wide hall, dancing was resumed with great earnest- 
ness. And so quiet, good-natured and well-mannered 
was it done as if they were turning under the light of 
a hundred wax candles. This singular light, too, made 
them all more intimately acquainted with each other, 
as though they had known them for years, and thus 
it was that Sali and Vreni could not very well avoid 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 311 

mingling with the rest and dancing with other part- 
ners. But whenever they had been separated for 
just a short while they flew and rejoined the other 
without delay, and felt delighted thereat. Sali made 
a sad face at this, and when dancing with another 
person would turn toward Vreni. But she would 
not notice that, but would glide along like a fairy, 
her features transfigured with pleasure, and her whole 
soul enraptured with the swaying motions of the 
dance, no matter who her partner. 

"Are you jealous, Sali?" she asked smilingly, when 
the musicians took a longer rest. 

"Not the least," he replied. 

"Then why are you so angry when I'm dancing 
with somebody else?" she wanted to know. 

"I am not angry because of that," he said, "but 
only because I am forced to dance with another person 
but you. I cannot feel pleasant towards another 
girl. In fact, I feel just as though I had a block of 
wood in my arms if it is anybody but you. And 
you? How do you feel about that?" 

"Oh, I feel as though I were in heaven so long as 
I merely can dance and know that you are present," 
replied Vreni. "But I believe I should at once fall 
down dead if you went and left me here by myself." 

They had gone down from the dance hall and were 
now standing in the grounds before the house. Vreni 
put both her arms around his neck, pressed her slender 
trembling body against him, and put her burning 



Jr 



312 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

cheek, wet from hot tears, to his, sobbing out: "We 
cannot marry, and yet I cannot leave you, not for a 
moment, not for a minute." 

Sali embraced the girl, pressed her ardently against 
his heart, and covered her with kisses. His confused 
thoughts were struggling for some way out of the 
labyrinth that encompassed them both, but he saw 
none. Even if the blot of his family misery and his 
neglected education were not weighing against him, 
his extreme youth and his ardent passion would have 
prevented a long period of patience and self-denial, 
and then there would still have been his misfortune 
in having injured Vreni's father for life. The con- 
sciousness that happiness for himself and her was, 
after all, to be found only in a union honest, blameless 
and approved by the whole world, was just as much 
alive in him as in Vreni. In her case as in his, two 
beings ostracized by all, these reflections were like the 
last flaring up of their lost family honor, an honor that 
had been blazing for centuries in their respectable 
houses like a hving flame, and which their fathers had 
involuntarily extinguished and destroyed by a mis- 
deed which at the time had been committed more in 
thoughtlessness than with malice aforethought. For 
when they, in the attempt to enlarge their holdings 
by a piece of dishonesty that seemed at the time wholly 
without risk and not likely to entail serious conse- 
quences, had been guilty of a wrong to a person that 
had been universally given up as lost, they had done 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 313 

something which many of their otherwise correct 
neighbors would, under the same circumstances, 
likewise have done. 

Such wrongs as that are indeed perpetrated every 
day in the year, on a large or a small scale. But once 
in a while Fate furnishes an example of how two such 
transgressors against the honor of their houses and 
against the property of another may oppose each 
other, and then these will unfailingly fight to the death 
and devour one the other like two savage beasts. 
For those who furtively or forcibly increase their 
estate may commit such fateful blunders not only 
when they are seated on thrones and then apply a 
high-sounding name to their lust and their misdeed, 
but the same in substance is often done as well in 
the humblest hut, and both categories of sinners fre- 
quently accomplish the very reverse of what they 
aimed at, and their shield of honor then becomes 
overnight a tablet of shame. But Sali and Vreni 
had both of them, when still children, seen and cher- 
ished the honor of their families, and well remembered 
how well they themselves were taken care of and how 
respected and highly considered their fathers had 
been in those days. 

Later they had been separated for long years, and 
when they met again they saw in each other also the 
lost honor and luck of their houses, and that instinctive 
feeling had helped to make them cling to each other 
all the more tenaciously. They longed indeed, both 



314 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

of them, for happiness and joy, but only if it might 
be done legitimately and in the sight of all; yet at 
the same time their ardent affection for each other 
could not be suppressed and their senses, their bound- 
ing blood, called loudly for the consummation of their 
desires. 

"Now it is night," said Vreni in a low tone of voice, 
"and we will have to part." 

"What, I am to go home now and leave you alone?" 
retorted Sali. "No, that can never be." 

"But what then?" said Vreni, plaintively. "To- 
morrow morning by daylight things will look no 
better." 

"Let me give you a piece of advice," a shrill voice 
suddenly was heard behind them. It was the black 
fiddler, who now came up to them. "You foolish 
young things! There you are now, and you know not 
what to do with yourselves, although you are fond of 
each other. Yet nothing easier than that. I advise 
you to delay no more. Let one take the other, just as 
you are. Come along with me and my good friends 
here, right into the mountains, for there you need no 
priest, no money, no documents, no honor, no dowry, 
no bed and no wedding — nothing but your mutual 
good will. Don't get frightened. Things are not at 
all so bad with us. Pure air and enough to eat, pro- 
vided one is not afraid to work. The green woods are 
our home, and there we love and keep house just as 
we wish. During the winter we He snug in some warm. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 315 

cosy den of our own contriving, or else we creep into 
the warm hay of the peasants. Therefore, lose no 
time. Keep your wedding right now and here, and 
then come along with us, and you are rid of all your 
cares, and may belong to each other forever and 
aye, or at least as long as you want to. For have no 
fear — you'll grow old with us; our style of life pro- 
cures good strong health, you may well believe me. 
And don't think, you silly young folk, that I am bearing 
you a grudge because of what your fathers have done to 
me. No indeed. Of course, it gives me pleasure to 
see you arrived there where you now are. But with 
that I rest content, and I promise you to help and aid 
you in all sorts of ways if you will only be guided by 
me. 

He said all this in a sincere and well-meaning tone. 
''Well, think it over, if you wish, for a spell," he en- 
couraged them still further, ''but follow my counsel 
if you are wise. Let the world go, and belong to each 
other and ask nobody's consent. Think of the gay 
bridal bed in the deep forest glade, and of the com- 
fortable hay barn in winter." And saying which he 
disappeared again in the house. 

But Vreni was trembling like aspen in Sali's arms, 
and he asked her: "What do you think of all that? 
To me it seems indeed it would be best to let the 
whole world go hang, and to love each other without 
hindrance and fear." 

But Sali said this more jokingly than in earnest. 



3i6 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Vreni, on the other hand, took it all seriously, kissed 
him and replied: "No, I should not like that. These 
people do not act according to my notions. That 
young man with the French horn, for instance, and 
the girl in the silk skirt also belong together in that 
way, and are said to have been very much in love. 
But last week, it seems, she has been, for the first 
time, unfaithful to her lover, and he grieves greatly 
on that account, and he is angry at her and at the 
others, but they merely ridicule him. And she is 
imposing a kind of self-inflicted and ludicrous penance 
on herself by dancing all alone, without any partner, 
and without speaking to anyone, but that, too, is only 
making a fool of him. However, one may see that 
the poor musician is going to make up with her this 
very night. But I must say, I should not like to be 
with a company where such doings are common, for 
I never could be unfaithful to you, although I would 
not mind undergoing all else for the sake of possessing 
you.'* ' , 

For all that, poor Vreni, being held in Sali's arms, 
became more and more feverish, for ever since noon 
when that hostess at the inn had mistaken her for a 
bride, and she herself had not contradicted, this 
alluring prospect had been burning in her veins, and 
the less hopeful things seemed to turn for a realization 
of this idea, the more relentlessly her pulses were 
hammering with expectation and desire. And Sali 
was experiencing similar hallucinations, since the 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 317 

fiddler's enticing remarks, while he meant not to 
listen to them, had also been fuel to his passion. So 
he said in embarrassment to Vreni: "Let us go inside 
for a spell. At least we must eat and drink some- 
thing." 

They were greeted in entering the guest room where 
nobody had remained but the fiddler's friends, the 
vagrants, which latter were seated about a poor meal 
at table, by a merry chorus: "There comes our bridal 
pair!" "Yes," added the fiddler, "now be friendly 
and comfortable, and we will see you married." 

Urged to join the company the two young lovers 
did so rather shamefacedly. But after a moment they 
began to brighten, and were glad to be at least rid for 
the moment of the darker problem that was yet to be 
solved. Sali ordered wine and some choicer dishes, 
and soon general merriment spread among them all. 
The heretofore implacable lover had become recon- 
ciled to his unfaithful one, and the couple now fondled 
and caressed each other in reestablished ecstasy, 
while the giddy other pair ceaselessly yodled, sang 
and guzzled, but they also did not forget to give 
plain evidences of their amatory disposition. The 
fiddler and the hunchback accompanied all this with 
a great deal of cheerful noise. Sali and Vreni kept 
very close to each other, tightly holding hands, and 
all at once the fiddler bade all the company be quiet, 
and a jocular ceremony was performed signifying 
the union of the two young people. They had to 



3i8 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

clasp hands, and the whole audience rose and, one by 
one, stepped up to congratulate them and to bid 
them welcome within their fraternity. They placidly 
submitted to it all, but said never a word, and regarded 
the whole as a jest, while all the while a shudder of 
voluptuous feeling ran through them. 

The merry company now became louder and more 
excited, the fiery wine spurring them on, until at last 
the black fiddler urged departure. 

"We have a long way before us," he cried, "and it 
is past midnight. Up, all of you! Let us solemnly 
escort the young bridal couple, and I myself will open 
the procession. You will hear me fiddling as never 
before." 

Since Sali and Vreni felt perfectly dazed, and 
scarcely knew what they were doing in this hurly-burly 
around them, they did not protest when they were 
made to head the file, the other two couples following, 
and the hunchback, with his huge bass viol on his 
shoulder, being at its tail end. The black fiddler, 
though, strode in advance, playing like a man pos- 
sessed, skipping down the steep hill path like a 
chamois, and the others laughed, singing in chorus, 
and jumping from rock to rock. Thus this nocturnal 
procession hastened on and on, through the quiet 
fields and at last through the home village of Sali 
and Vreni, now sunk in deep slumber. 

When they two came through the still lanes and past 
their abandoned homes, a painfully savage mood 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 319 

seized them, and they danced and whirled along with 
the others behind the fiddler, kissed, laughed and 
wept. They also danced up the hill with the three 
fields that had tempted their fathers to their ruin, 
the fiddler all the time leading, and on its crest the 
dusky fiddler fell into a frenzy of fantastic melody, 
and his train of followers jumped about like veritable 
demons. Even the poor hunchback acted like de- 
mented. This quiet hill resounded with the infernal 
noise of the whole crew, and it was a perfect witches' 
Sabbath for a short while. The hunchback breathed 
hard and in a muffled voice squeaked with delight, 
swinging his heavy instrument like a baton. In their 
paroxysm none saw or heard the next. 

But Sali seized Vreni and thus forced her to halt. 
He imprinted a kiss on her mouth, thus stopping her 
shouts of joy. At last she gathered his meaning, and 
ceased struggling. They stood there, right on the 
■Ar spot where they first had encountered the black fiddler, 
listening to the wild music and to the singing and 
shrieking of the demoniac cortege, as the sounds 
gradually swept onwards down the hill towards the 
river below. Nobody evidently had missed them in 
the midst of the whole spook. The shrill tones of the 
fiddle, the laughter of the girls, and the yodels of the 
men resounded for another spell through the night, 
fainter and fainter, until at last the noise died away 
down by the shores of the river. 

"We have escaped those,'' now said Sali, "but 



320 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

how are we going to escape from ourselves? How 
shall we separate, and how keep apart?'' 

Vreni was not able to answer him. Breathing hard 
she lay on his breast. 

"Had I not better take you back to the village, and 
wake some family in order to make them take you in 
for the night? To-morrow you can leave and look 
for some work. You'll be able to get along anywhere." 

"But without you? Get along without you?" 
said the girl. 

"You must forget me." 

"Never," she murmured sadly. "Never in my 
life." And she added, glancing sternly at him: "Could 
you do that?" 

"That is not the point, dear heart," answered Sali, 
slow and distinct. He caressed her feverish cheeks, 
while she kept pressing herself against his bosom. 
"Let us only consider your own case. You, Vreni, 
are still so very young, and quite likely you will fare 
well enough after a short while." 

"And you also — you ancient man," she said, smil- 
ing wistfully. 

"Come!" now said Sali, and dragged her along. 
But they only went on a few steps, and then they 
halted once more, the better to embrace and kiss. 
The deep quiet of the world ran like music through 
their souls, and the only sound to be heard around 
them was the gentle rush and swish of the waves as 
they slowly went on further down the valley below. 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 321 

"How beautiful it is around here! Listen! It 
seems to me there is somebody far away singing in 
a low voice.'' 

"No, sweetheart; it is only the water softly flowing." 

"And yet it seems there is some music — way out 
there, everywhere." 

"I think it is our own blood coursing that is deceiv- 
ing our ears." 

But though they hearkened again and again, the 
solemn stillness remained unbroken. The magic effect 
of the light of a resplendent full moon was visible in 
the whole landscape, as the autumnal veil of fog that 
rose in semi-transparent layers from the river shore 
mingled with the silvery sheen, waving in grayish or 
bluish bands. 

Suddenly Vreni recalled something, and said: "Here, 
I have bought you something to remember me by." 

And she gave him the plain little ring, and placed 
it on his finger. Sali, too, found the little ring he had 
meant for her, and while he put it on her hand, he said: 
"Thus we have had the same thought, you and I." 

Vreni held up her hand into the silvery light of the 
moon and examined the little token curiously. 

"Oh, what a fine ring," she then said, laughing. 
"Now we are both betrothed and wedded. You are 
my husband, and I'm your wife. Let us imagine so, 
just long enough until that small cloud has passed the 
moon, or else until we have counted twelve. You 
must kiss me twelve times." 



322 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

Sali was surely fully as much in love as was Vreni, 
but the marriage problem was, after all, not of such 
intense interest to him, not such a question of Either 
— Or, of an immediate To Be or Not To Be, as it was 
in the case of the girl. For Vreni could feel just then 
only that one problem, saw in it with passionate energy 
life or death itself. But now at last he began to see 
clearly into the very soul of his companion, and the 
feminine desire in her became instantly with him a 
wild and ardent longing, and his senses reeled under 
its potency. And while he had previously caressed 
and embraced her with the strength and fervor of 
a devoted lover, he did so now with an incomparably 
greater abandonment to his passion. He held Vreni 
tightly to his beating heart, and fairly overwhelmed 
her with endearments. In spite of her own love 
fever, the girl with true feminine instinct at once be- 
came aware of this change, and she began to tremble 
as with fear of the unknown. But this feeling passed 
almost in a moment, and before even the cloud had 
flitted over the moon^s face her whole being was seized 
by the whirlwind of his ardor, and engulfed in its 
depths. While both struggled with and at the same 
time fondled the other, their beringed hands met and 
seized the other as though at that supreme moment 
their union was consummated without the consent of 
their will power. Sali's heart knocked against its 
prison door like a living being; anon it stood still, 
and he breathed with difficulty and said slow and in 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 323 

a whisper: "There is one thing, only one thing, we 
can do, Vreni; we keep our wedding this hour, and then 
we leave this world forever — there below is the 
deep water — there is everlasting peace and ful- 
filment of all our hopes — there nobody will divorce 
us again — and we have had our dearest wish — have 
lived and died together — whether for long, whether 
for short — we need not care — we are rid of all 
care — " 

And Vreni instantly responded. "Yes, Sali — what 
you say I also have thought to myself — not once but 
constantly these days — I have dreamed of it with 
my whole soul — we can die together, and then all 
this torment is over — Swear to me, Sali, that you 
will do it with me!'' 

"Yes, dearest, it is as good as done — nobody shall 
take you from me now but Death alone!'' Thus 
the young man in his exaltation. But Vreni's breath 
came quick and as if freed from an intolerable burden. 
Tears of sweetest joy came to her eyes, and she rose 
with spontaneous alacrity and, light as a bird, flew 
down towards the river side. Sali followed her, think- 
ing for a moment she wanted to escape him, while 
she fancied he would wish to prevent her. Thus 
they both sprang down the steep path, and Vreni 
laughed happily like a child that will not allow her 
playmate to catch her. 

"Are you sorry for it already?" Thus they both 
apostrophized the other, as they in a twinkling had 



324 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

reached the river shore and seized hold of each other. 
And both answered: "No, indeed, how can you 
think so?" 

And carefree they now walked briskly along the 
river bank, and they outdistanced the hastening waves, 
for thus keenly they sought a spot where they could 
stay for a while. For in the trance of their enthusiasm 
they knew of nothing but the bliss awaiting them in 
the full possession of each other. The whole worth 
and meaning of their lives just then condensed itself 
into that one supreme desire. What was to follow it, 
death, eternal oblivion, was to them a mere nothing, 
a puff of air, and they thought less of it than does the 
spendthrift think of the morrow when wasting his 
last substance. 

"My flowers shall precede me," cried Vreni, "only 
look! They are quite withered and dusty!" And 
she plucked them from her bosom, cast them into the 
water, and sang aloud: "But sweeter far than almonds 
is my love for thee!" 

"Stop!" called out Sali. "Here is our bridal 
chamber!" 

They had reached a road for vehicles which led from 
the village to the river, and here there was a landing, 
and a big boat, laden high with hay, was tied to an 
iron ring in the bank. In a reckless mood Sali in- 
stantly set to freeing the ship from the strong ropes 
that held it to the landing. But Vreni grasped his 
arm, and she shouted laughing: "What are you about? 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 325 

Are we to wind up by stealing from the peasants their 
haycock?" 

"That is to be the dowry they give us," replied 
Sali with humor. "See! A swimming bedstead and 
a couch softer than any royal couple ever had. Be- 
sides, they will recover their property unharmed 
somewhere near the goal whither it was to travel 
anyway, and they will hardly trouble their hard heads 
with the question how it got there. Do you notice, 
dear, how the boat is swaying and rocking? It is 
impatient to start on the journey." 

The ship lay a few paces off the shore in deeper 
water. Sali lifted Vreni in his arms high up, and 
began to wade through the water towards the boat. 
But she caressed him so fervently and wriggled like 
a fish on the angle, that Sali was losing his footing 
in the rather strong current. She strained her hands 
and arms in order to plunge them in the water, crying: 
"I also want to try the cool water. Do you remember 
how cold and moist our hands were when we first 
met? That time we had been catching fish. Now 
we ourselves will be fish, and two big and handsome 
ones to boot." 

"Keep still, you wriggling darling," said Sali, 
scarcely able to stand up in the water, with his sweet- 
heart tossing in his arms and the current pulling at 
him, "or it will drag me under!" 

But now he lifted his pretty burden into the boat, 
and scrambled up its side himself. Then he hoisted 



326 SELDWYLA FOLKS 

her up to the hay, packed in orderly fashion in the 
middle, sweet-scented and downy like a vast pillow, 
and next he swung himself up to her. When they 
both were thus enthroned on their bridal bed the ship 
drifted gently into the middle of the stream, and then, 
turning slowly, it headed sluggishly in an easterly 
direction. 

The river flowed through dark woods, shadowing 
it; it flowed through the fruitful plain, past quiet 
villages and hamlets and single homesteads; there 
it broadened out like a still lake and the ship moved 
but slightly downwards, and here it turned tall rocks 
and left the slumbering landscape quickly behind. 
And when dawn broke there was in sight at some 
distance a town rising with its age-worn towers and 
steeples above the silver-gray river. The setting 
moon, red as gold, cast a quivering track of light 
upstream towards the dim outlines of the ancient 
city, and into this luminous bed the ship finally turned 
its prow. When the houses of the town at last ap- 
proached closely two pale shapes, locked in a tight 
embrace, glided in the autumnal frost of early morn 
from off the dark mass of the ship into the silent 
waters. 

The ship itself shortly after fetched up near a bridge, 
unharmed, and remained there. When sometime 
later the two bodies, still locked in each others' arms, 
were found, and details about the young man and his 



ROMEO AND JULIET OF THE VILLAGE 327 

sweetheart were learned, one might have read in the 
newspapers that these two, the children of two ruined 
and impoverished families that had lived in bitter 
enmity, had sought death in the water together after 
dancing with great animation at a kermess. This 
event probably was connected with the other fact that 
a boat laden with hay had landed in town without 
anyone on board. It was supposed that the young 
couple had cut loose the boat somewhere in order to 
hold their godforsaken wedding on it. "Once again 
a proof of the spread of lawless and impious passion 
among the lower classes." That was the concluding 
paragraph in the newspaper report. 

THE END 



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